Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Trip to Delhi, Kanpur & Lucknow: First Glimpses of Hindi Heartland

Having already been twice at Delhi, I had thought I had nothing much to explore or do. But, it indeed had few best things in store to throw at me.
Crisis- when written in Chinese is a two letter word, where first letter denotes ‘Danger’ and the second, an ‘opportunity’
I concluded my talk and walked away leaving audience ponder over deeper philosophical meanings! This was at a recent IEEE conference held at Amity University, Noida where I presented a research paper that I had co-authored. Conference was titled as “INBUSH ERA- 2015: International Conference on Futuristic Trends in Computational Analysis and Knowledge Management”- basic reason for my trip- thanks to SAP for encouraging research work. Presenting in front of Professors, Academicians and PhD students is indeed a challenge, since you need to convince them and any attempt to confuse will cost dearly. This being my third research work, good amount of mistakes already done in past, I worked really hard on my 15min presentation, thanks to my fellowship days, I have learnt a trick or two to get audience engaged! And thankfully, it worked!!
Mughal Garden at President House

Tasting Kulle Chaat or Fruit chaat: I got out of Chawri Bazaar metro station of Delhi, entered a road that had more cycle rickshaws & row-shops leaving hardly any space to walk! It wasn't tough to identify tiny Heera Lal chaat shop famous for it’s Kulle Chaat- innovatively sliced fruits like banana, papaya, watermelon, orange and others, with Indian spices added to it! Hats would go off for the Creativity and no ambience- the real street food!

Jama Masjid is built around 1650 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, it is the best-known mosque in India. I ended up here at around 6pm and what a time to be there! We bought tickets to climb up the narrow pillar and bumped into a Bangladeshi bureaucrat who taught me a lesson or two on our own culture! It did inspire me to learn Bhagavata! Coming back, views of Red Fort & Delhi were just marvelous and every penny worth. Do visit this Masjid for it’s serenity, birds and sacred feelings it invokes!
Jama Masjid

Hauz Khas Village and Deer Park looked like lover’s paradise. Basking on it’s 13th century history, you'll encounter quite a few structures which will tell the tales of past. Walk is quite healthy with best of air and best of cool breeze from lake. Apart from some lake birds, ducks keep sailing in the waters which looked polluted. Park is pretty big and I managed to get out at a random gate, one of many! Hauz Khas village houses many eateries, I had initially planned to try one of them, but getting out at a random gate ended me up at a restaurant in Green Park market area! No complaints!

Mughal Garden at President House or Rashtrapati Bhavan was serene! It is open for public just after Republic Day (Jan 26) for a month. I was thankful for the privilege I got. Taking a walk in this beautiful garden was a dream come true! President's house was FEW yards away. Majestic tri-color kept flaunting! What a feeling! Apart from patriotic feeling that you get, nearly 10,000 Tulips in vivid colors was be the main attraction spread across Spiritual Garden, Herbal Garden, Bonsai Garden and Bio-diversity Park. Names of flowers are as well very amusing- few like- Black Lady, Double Delight, Eiffel Tower, Granada, Mr. Lincoln, Sadabahar and Taj Mahal!
Kulle Chaat at Heera Lal chaat 

Jhumroo at Kingdom Of Dreams was my second show at the venue. Now I undoubtedly say that KOD is the bestest of best! Jhumroo was a tribute to Kishore Kumar and seeing him live on stage gave Goosebumps. This show was technically very rich and I have no words for the stage settings & music!

Rahagiri Day, is a unique celebration that is catching up. I got a chance to experience it first hand at Connaught Place in Delhi. Rahagiri Day mostly happens on Sunday mornings where citizens get together to celebrate the fun and freedom to walk, sing, dance, exercise and play on the street! Though the rain screwed up with set up there, enthusiasm of participants & over lookers was infectious! Big salute to people who organize this and who participate on Sunday mornings!

I stayed at Kanpur for 2 days since was there to attend a wedding {held at Hotel Landmark with amazing ambience} of my friend’s{Arpit} brother. It was great to get royally treated and enjoyed super-duper hospitality! Had great time exploring Kanpur and experiencing British leftover culture like Indianised version of British names! Meanwhile, Arpit made sure that I had tea in an earthen pot cup at famous Banarasi Tea Stall and ate some street food like Matka Bread Maakan {a glass of butter milk tasted best with wooden pan fired bread-butter- I was bowled over!} and Chole Bhature.
Hazratganj at Lucknow

My trip to Lucknow was limited to 18th century creation, Hazratganj. I took a quick stroll and grabbed my hands on unique Basket Chaat, Aloo Tikki Chaat at Royal Cafe. Though I caught glimpses of the Legislative assembly and Ambedkar Park, wasn't lucky enough to explore more, thanks to canceled train and quick trip back to Delhi on Uttar Pradesh state govt. run bus that played Bollywood music throughout the night. Lucknow, will come back soon to see you with more luck!

I sincerely thank Arpit, his family, Pranshu, GS team at SAP Labs and Archi for making this trip happen and memorable!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Living Faith: Bliss of Srimad Bhagavata

I recently got a chance to attend “Bhagavata Saptaha” hosted by Ambalpady Padakannaya family, discourse that ran across 7 days covering 12 skandhas (chapters) of Sri Veda Vyasa composed (not written!) Bhagavata- treasure of knowledge that has every detail pertaining to God, need for avatars, life, purpose of life, science, universe, birth and future of universe, famous Mahabharata and Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, Psychology {to an extent to educating the fetus}, Philosophy, medicine and what not! It was life-time delight listening to very well-known scholar, Padma Shri, Shri Bannanje Govindacharya, who logically and scientifically answered those questions that any non-believer may ask {I was surely one among them!}. During the course he busted many myths, misinterpretation, British influence surrounding Indian mythology and indeed inspired many of us for a better way of life. Hope the learnings that I am writing here will help you set off to a journey to explore more on life and yourself! I have personally started one now! Note, I am keeping in mind what Acharya told- “Easy paths to attain hell are being the ‘misleading pundit’ and ‘misguiding with false purana stories’” I have no intentions to go to hell!
Stage set for Discourse!

Although there are many interpretations of Bhagavata available, they largely suffer from “Swabhava” {the personal attitude of composer/interpreter} and “Prabhava” {social influence on composer/interpreter}. To understand beauty of Bhagavata you need to have a teacher who understands Sanskrit and Science! I was so fortunate to listen to one such kind of teacher. No doubt, many false interpretations have led to great disbelief about religion & Gods. The discourse cleared many questions that were haunting me for long and made me firm believer of Greater Power and Greater Cause! Clearing some disbeliefs from my learnings-
  1. Our land was known as Anjanabha, land of black soil that included entire Indian sub-continent. We follow “Sanathana Dharma”. Foreigners called us Hindus, since Sindhu river flowed in our land and later it got modified to India. Hence Hinduism is a culture, not a religion. There is no harm referring people living in sub-continent as Hindus!
  2. Aryans & Dravidians- is a great misconception created to divide and rule by invaders. Dravida comes from “dramila” or “tamil”. Hence Dravida means only Tamil, not any other languages!
  3. Bhagavata is a work that correlates geographical and physical aspects. For instance, 7 oceans in “Samudhra Mantana” story refers to 7 ductless glands of human body, and “mantana” or taking them into control can lead us to spiritual awakening! Similar concept of idol worship.
  4. Today’s Big Bang theory was more accurately explained in chapters of Birth of Universe in Bhagavata. It contained 9 stages of creation. Stage 1 to 5 explains how the matter in vacuum came together, how the creator- Chaturmukha Brahma’s 12 hours is equal to one cycle of yuga’s {concept of inception!} and occurrences of pralaya {deluge}, what is Shiva and other assigned Gods for different aspects that directly correlates to our body parts. Stage 6 is the curtain which basically hides the creation process that has happened in previous stages. Next stages explain evolution. Stage 7 is creation of various plants, stage 8 animals and birds, and finally, in stage 9 is creation of human beings- including good ones and demons {terrorists!}! 
  5. Bhagavata is written on calculation basis. Sage Kapila gave mathematical proof for everything related to creation process. Bhagavata believed in calculations, not on language since it can be misinterpreted, but 2+2 can never be equal to 5!
  6. According to Bhagavata, Currently we are well 5000 years into Kaliyuga and it has 4 lakh more years to go! It also gives accurate life of it’s creation, mentions about pre-historic man {Adam}, pinpoints at the center of universe- star called Dhruva with his beautiful story. Gravitational pull and two occurrences of Earth falling out of it’s trajectory {Varaha avatar of God at rescue} finds place in Bhagavata, and scientists have recently vindicated the fact!
  7. Our ancient political system believed in Monarchy that was democratic! There are instances where sages have dethroned King for welfare of state. Bhagavata also mentions about creation of first civilization by Prathu {hence our land is called Prithvi!} and not surprisingly, industries!
  8. Women were treated at par with men and they had all rights for education. They played equal role in everything.
  9. There was no hour-long Draupadi’s saree drama by Dushasana shown on tv’s these days during Mahabharata. Logically it wasn't possible. In Fact, during those times there were no sarees! Similarly, Ganesh wasn't born due to dirt from Parvathi’s body and was not beheaded for not allowing Shiva. Similarly, Narasimha didn't break the pillar to come out and save Prahlada. These have unfortunately become popular bedtime stories and are easily the cause of disbelief toward God and Religion!
  10. According to Bhagavata, we need not throw money and beg for favours from God. Then it is equivalent to corruption and God is no businessman! Instead, God is like the Sun and all of us are like reflections of Sun in innumerable ponds on earth. There are so many of them and so many varieties- all unique & diverse. We need to respect lives and work for betterment of all. Hence the 12 qualities for ideal human being were defined. It can be attained by anyone and they can become Brahmin. Son of Brahmin may or may not become Brahmin! It is not a caste; it is a distinction/qualification! By working for those 12 qualities, anyone can attain Moksha, the ultimate Nirvana, free from punarjanma. {Even Old Testament of Bible mentioned about punarjanma or reincarnation of the soul!}
  11. Lastly, Sanskrit has no written form and more importantly, can be expressed in three forms- Samadhi {back with facts}, Uhahei {predict} and Darshan {tell what you see}! Hence find yourself a scholar who can narrate Bhagavata in Samadhi form! Unfortunately, the books & teachers today mostly employ the latter two and hence there is great disbelief and lack of knowledge on God & Religion! Current Indian education system introduced by British is not helping the cause either. 
    Let there be Peace and Prosperity!
We, Indians are living in despair and failing to recognize our own strength, knowledge, legacy and potential! Hope things change. I hope I have triggered some thoughts in you. Note, this is completely incomplete! Thank you for reading! Hope it was worth your time and I could pass on the joy I had listening to the master! With this, I am marking my 100th blog post. Thoughts, comments and advice- Welcome!