Thursday, March 27, 2008

To Be

I recently came upon a very interesting book by Fritjof Capra. Yes, I have not stumbled upon a discovery, I know, but for me "The Tao of Physics" has been more of an intrigue for a long time since I was a teenager.
My grandfather is one of the most well-read important men in my life. I thank him for introducing me to various kinds of schools of spirituality. I learnt bits and pieces of astrology from him. He also gave me a respectable background in the teachings of Hinduism by giving me all the volumes of "The alpha and Omega of Yoga"- a series of books by Bhagwan Rajneesh on the Patanjali Yogasutras of the ancient Hindu school of thought. Eventually, I was led to the Zen stories and a bit of Buddhist philosophy too.
I always heard my dad and granddad talk about " The Tao of Physics" so recently when I was a bit bored with too much fun, I picked it up from the library.

In one of the chapters of this book, the author quotes
"Science does not need spirituality and spirituality does not need science; but man needs both"
He has drawn analogies to the evolution of Physics from the religious evolution of Spirituality in the far East that happened thousands of years ago.
It talks about simple things that scientists like Einstein had great difficulties in putting into words. Like the dual nature of light for example, when it behaves like a particle in the photoelectric effect and like a wave in interference. I always accepted it when it was given to me in plain English ( mostly because I knew it was worth five marks in a hundred marks paper) but he writes about the helplessness that scientists like Bohr faced when they realized that the Universe was not a big machine like they thought it was and that there were concepts that could not be expressed within the limitations of human language.
Similarly in the Eastern culture, monks have tried to make "Enlightenment" more palpable but it remains a matter of first hand experience that cannot be translated into words in any language. Osho presents several (rather controversial) analogies for the feeling but no one can really put it into words.

I have always been fascinated by the simplicity of Buddhist teachings and the Bhagwad Geeta.
Everything is simple, it is the mind that does the complications. The world is a function of our vision. Sometimes, just changing the way you look at something makes a big difference to how you feel about it. I find this flexibility of vision extremely refreshing.
It seems like the Universe is a big trivia left for us by God. That has little junctures and turns where He wants us to come and take lessons of Life. We send satellites into the space to study Mars. We put a Cassini around Saturn and a Ulysses around the Sun. We send Voyagers into deep space and sit back and write down the nature of Universe in Mathematical poems. Then we dig up the scriptures and realize that this has been done before without telescopes and satellites. People have arrived at the same truth, gone through the same helplessness and come to the same profound faith in God in various other ways. That in itself is their life mission. They write it down and leave millions others to "Analyze" in the West and "Assimilate" in the East.

It is remarkable how when Newton could not explain the aberrations in his laws, he very innocently assumed that God controlled these other unexplained forces. Almost all of the greatest scientific minds have humbly accepted the power of God and stressed it well before they took a graceful exit from this world. It brings us to what the Geeta says about the "doer"- everything that happens is a result of interdependence of natural forces and only a deluded person can think that he is the only reason for the occurrence.
Same is with our everyday life. An atom can be studied in great details with gamma radiations but if we don't want to we can't even see it. We are all however, given our share of gamma radiations. We can use them to study anything we want to. Unfortunately most of us apply all of it to study unnecessary things at an atomic level. :)
Life is full of paradoxes and each Life has a different lesson.
Like the Zen Satori says

"How wondrous this, how mysterious!
I carry fuel, I draw water."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Burglar Alarm!!

Two days back my flatmate Riju walked into our house after her morning classes and found that everything was a mess. Her first instinct told her that Shruti must have come home to look for something and left everything like that. Riju is a bit conceited about the fact that she likes everything folded and stacked ( with little moth balls specially ordered from India to go into her winter clothes) so she must have felt rather superior at that first thought.
When she took a little stroll around however, she found that Shruti had gone to gigantic extents to find whatever she wanted to. All the cabinets were opened and drawers removed from their respective grooves. Each and every piece of clothing was inspected for some unknown reason and all the bedrooms looked like they had been hit by a Tsunami. As she walked out of her room in this wonderful, innocent amusement, she realized that there was shattered glass on the kitchen floor and a big hole in the kitchen door glass with a curtain neatly folded over it for cushioning!
I am secretly glad that at least that got her shrieking mad and she suddenly turned into this highly electronegative anion and started calling everyone one after the other.
She called me at around one in the afternoon and all I could hear was shrieks and sobs. Then when I asked her to take a few deep breaths ( I really felt like a Yoga teacher) and look around for anything missing. She gradually realized that we had one laptop less in our lives, her webcam was gone and the DVD player was missing ( Shit! How are we going to watch DDLJ for the seventeen millionth time now?!).
I called her back and asked to check if her passport was stolen. Thankfully we can still send Riju back without any embassy hassles if she gets on our nerves too much!
Well we had been burgled and thanks to Riju who entered the house first and took the initial shock away I was relatively composed.
We girls have trains in our reflex mechanisms so instead of looking for a taxi right away I looked at my friend Sergio and told him that I would walk straight to the Central Station. In his calm Greek accent he said, " Well, if I were you in such circumstances I would usually go for a taxi but since you insist I will escort you to the train station". Upon which I suddenly remembered the yellow and white species running on the roads of Brisbane. We walked to the nearest police station first and got the instructions about filing a break-in. I got the number and got into a cab. I filed the complaint on the phone and the cab driver doubled the speed, lowered the music and made a really sympathetic face when he overheard my conversation with the cops.
I reached home and when I got out of the cab it was like entering into a scene straight out of a Bollywood movie.
Riju was standing in the door with swollen eyes and a distant mourning on her face. When I walked towards her, she hugged me with such helplessness that I was filled with compassion to the brim. If God had been sampling for genuine goodwill at that time, I would have been his saturation limit.
We had been instructed not to touch anything so I walked around the house in its dire state. Everything was ripped apart. The burglars were specifically interested in Riju's room so they had even ripped off her pillow covers and stolen her new linen. My room had been turned over too but there was hardly anything worth stealing there so they had left it after a preliminary look.
Shruti's trinket case was gone which unfortunately contained her diamond necklace.
There was glass all over the kitchen and those desperate idiots took our knives. I was a little heartbroken at the knife set but I quickly gathered myself.
Shruti came back right after me and the three of us waited in the living room for the cops to show up.
There is something about waiting in a burgled house before the cops arrive. You cannot touch anything, you cannot clean and you cannot look for anything more that is missing. So Riju was getting grumpier and Shruti was getting shorter. I asked them to go to work as I was home for the day.
They left and I switched on the radio and tried not to think about cleaning till the cops arrived.
Finally after a long wait, I had two policemen knocking at my door.
One of them interrogated me.
He was amused when he realized that all of us were born in July.
"All of you are July girls, eh?"
"Yeah. Maybe that is why we are going through a bad time together!"
He bellowed with his beer-bellied laugh and said that this must be some Indian Karma thing.

They took the finger-prints the next day ( After me and my obsessed flat mates had cleaned everything up) and realized that the house was full of our fingerprints. We dutifully handed over one of the cigarette filter packs that the thieves had left behind in their hurry.
I came to the Uni with three band aids on my toes because I had a lot of glass mishaps as I was cleaning up.
It did not leave us any less confident. Nor do we feel violated and unsafe. It is a part of life.
It just teaches you how unpredictable life can be and that you should not get emotionally involved in laptops and webcams. :)
The day after, after all the locks had been changed and the glass was redone all three of us met at this Indian restaurant because we were too tired to cook.
As we were licking our fingers from a Chicken Tikka Masala, Shruti Sain in her breezy voice goes," Lets rent a movie from Blockbuster" and then we looked at each other when it occurred to us that there was no DVD player to put it in and we all burst out into a merry laugh!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chemistry ;)

You and Me
Is just Chemistry
And love is a chemical too
So eat some bread for your seratonin
Next time you feel a little blue
When you think you have thought
A little too much
And you are looking for a place to flee
Try out an easier solution first
A fresh cup of tea!
What is future after all!
All that you want to do
Let it linger at the back of your mind
That dreams are molecules too!
Leftover opinions from the residues of past
The broken heart refuses to leave behind
When you give it a little Buddha thought
The Past and the Future are just in your mind!
You can sit back and sip coffee
Till the time memories and fears lurk
Beneath the shadows of your tired mind
You will know that opinions are just hard work!
And who are you after all?
A sub-atomic particle in this Universe
Oblivious and eager to change
But controlled securely by a nucleus :)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Garam Masala

I am known to have an attitude when it comes to cooking. I think too highly of myself.
Even though I know that people get bored, I insist on talking about the great "cooking heritage" that runs in my family. I can trace back the "great cooks" in my family tree for up to three generations before I was born and I am marginally emotional about being criticized as a cook.

On one of those easy, languid Christmas Break days last year, while I was spending my time at Kenmore with my flatmate Shruti, I had this piercing urge to make Chole ( an Indian recipe with chickpeas). Shruti soaked them for me and we decided to give it MY best shot. We spent this particular break living in this temporarily uninhabited house that belongs to Shruti's uncle who was in India with his family. The house was a dream come true with a kitchen that might as well have rainbows painted on it to make it look like it was- out of a fantasy! Both of us lived like this old couple . Where I cooked my heart out and we watched the entire FRIENDS series ignoring each other. To complete the pretty picture we had a nutty dog called Benz to look after.
Needless to say that my cooking hormones were raging and I jumped at recipes and anything that could be cooked in the refrigerator.

So I started off quite well I must say. With the perfect "atomic chopping" of onions ( this is a term I have invented to describe finely chopped onions according to my standard). I opened the spice cabinet and realized that Shruti's aunt had a collection of ground spices as well as whole spices that mingled in the air around the cupboard and hypnotized me. I don't know how much and how many of those pretty powders I used but the end result was a ear-blocking-tongue-numbing-nose-cleansing hot dish. I could not believe my tongue when I had the first bite and I thought I had accidentally bit it. Poor Shruti could not even express it. I think she was stunned for a while and when she recovered she was too polite to say anything. After a few spoons though she turned red and I could see her stifling her sniffles so that I feel appreciated. Finally I broke the ice by declaring that something was awfully wrong with the peas. I tried blaming it on various things but eventually I just accepted that I got carried away.

We tried adding water and boiling it again but it stayed put. So we left it in the fridge expecting some kind of a messiah miracle the next day but it stayed as hot as it was. So I tried to salvage my reputation by adding potatoes in to it. Unfortunately in my bout of low self-confidence I undercooked the potatoes and they refused to blend in with the peas. So we had hot peas in the background with some uncooked potatoes and a lot more volume to finish.
In order to get everything together I added some more water but then we had hot overcooked peas and potatoes and some more volume.

It was like this perennial pot that kept creating more peas with every meal and no amount of lunches dinners and snacks took the pain and discomfort away from us.
Then we started taking turns. I used to cook something nice and one of us had to have the peas as a punishment for every meal. If one of us had it for lunch, it was the other's responsibility to have her "share" for dinner and leave the other one pea-free.
I have never in my life felt so ashamed of my cooking skills. It was a torture watching Shruti keep a plain face every time she scooped a spoonful into her mouth.
I was genuinely worried that I would be responsible for an ulcer or something very soon.
It took an emotional toll on me too. I lost my bearing in the kitchen for a while after that and I could not even trust myself to make a cup of tea. I must confess that in this psychologically fragile time Shruti stood tall by me and reminded me of all the tasty things that I had managed so well in the past. She assured me that I would get over it with the next successful recipe and she also consoled me that even this was not that bad, it would have been a hit in my birth town Kolhapur and I would actually win a competition with the same recipe. :)

Then one day, about four days from th fateful day of making the recipe I resolved to put an end to it. I sat down with toast and had all of the leftover. I had tears in my eyes and everything I ate for about three days after that tasted like paper but I was glad I put an end to the misery that I had cooked up.
I recovered from the trauma with a successful stint at Banana bread just a while later but the pea-horror still manages to give me goose bumps.
So every time I get a little too full of myself in the kitchen, I remind myself of December '07 and I honestly stay away from Garam Masala these days. :)

Saturday, March 01, 2008


On a crisp, somewhat chilly Sunday morning, I really miss my favorite place in Pune.
As a rule, our Sundays opened in a small, cosy, South Indian restaurant called Vaishali.
Vaishali is not just a restaurant. It is a way of life. We grew up eating there. I still remember our school days. We were an infamous gang from Abhinava Vidyalaya that comprised of girls and boys who were a little full of themselves. We used to go this place on our push bikes and occupy a big table for we used to be a group of fifteen or twenty at a time.
All our high school romances blossomed with the consistently tasty Shev Potato Dahi Puri
( that goes with an acronym SPDP) and cold coffee. About ten years down the line,those "we are forever" couples from high school have split and moved their own ways, but the SPDP is still the same.
As we went from school to undergraduate school, we used Vaishali or "Vaish" as we lovingly call her to meet up and keep in touch ( which was just and excuse because I have never in my life been out of touch with my best friends from school).
We discussed so many heartbreaks over Meduwadas swimming in a big bowl of Sambar.
We wallowed in the sea of failures and shed some serious tears into the very famous Ganga-Jamuna juice.
In the sickeningly happy times we "hi-fived" our greasy Mysore Masala Dosa fingers in celebration. I also fell in love with the Vaish Idli when I used to be on a Ritzy diet and survived on oil-free food.
About five minutes walk from Vaish towards Deccan and there is a replica of this restaurant called Roopali. The funniest thing however is that Roopali is haunted by those typical "small-scale-industrialists" or middle aged Marathi men who are looking forward to talk about all the boring things that a man could talk about. My dad and his best friend Vinu kaka haunt this restaurant. They camp themselves in Roopali on Thursdays ( when the Pune industry takes an off). Their day is spent eating various combinations of Idlis and Wadas and drinking innumerable cups of coffee.
There was a time when my baba used to threaten me that if I do not behave the way he wants me to, he will come to Vaish with his friends the same time as I go there. It was enough for me to listen to everything he said and obey him.
When I was in college and I went to Vaish bunking lectures I used to be extra cautious not to pass Roopali on Thursdays. However sometimes when Vinu kaka saw me on Fergusson road loafing around with my gang, he used to come and tap me on the shoulder and say that he had this compulsive urge of calling up my mom!
Sometimes when Vaish is out of Sambar, you can see the Udpi bhaiyya waiters carrying a big bucket of fragrant Sambar all the way from Roopali!
If a guy asked you out and he took you to Vaish, he was labeled as a "regular-full-blooded-Puneite-who-could-be-taken-seriously". When we sat there twisting our spoons in filter coffee on Saturday evenings, I used to scan the place to guess the number of "first dates" that were happening around me and give my best friend Ameya a detailed analysis of all the awkward and shy moments they were going through.
Vaish attracts a full spectrum of people. You can see salwar-kameez-clad behenjis and skinny alfa women with a tattoo on their arm! The common thread that binds them though is that if you probe into it, the behenji and the alpha woman would probably have the same last name - Gokhale. :)
Whether it is our Joshi Kaka who is seen in Vaish at eight in the morning in his tennis shorts or Kulkarni kaku with her girlfriends at four in the afternoon, Vaishali radiates the joy of being a Puneri. :)
I promise myself that the moment I reach Pune, I would rush to Vaish for a hot piping Idli Sambar!
There are very few things that get me truly nostalgic and Vaish is definitely one of them.
Love you Vaish!!!