Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pamela to Sarvepalli - biographies by descendents and my thoughts

While reading a review of a book ‘India remembered’ by Pamela Mountbatten, my thoughts went back to a news report that I had read long ago in Marathi Newspaper. This was about Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Ex President of India – a brilliant scholar, profound teacher and academician India has produced. I had read about Dr. Radhakrishnan not being in contact with his mother as a punishment of his disapproval of her moral behavior. I tried to verify this from a biography written by his son. Amazon does have this book listed but without any excerpts and there is only one review written by Sriniwas. However during my digging efforts, I came across a biographical sketch written by Antony Copley that fueled my speculations further. It says “officially he was the second son of middle-class poor parents, Sarvepalli Veeraswami, a minor revenue official, and his wife, Sitamma. At least, this is the official version. More probably, he was the illegitimate son of a visiting Vaishnavite official: certainly he was physically quite different from his four brothers and sister. His capacity to absorb both the anti-Brahman prejudice that clearly slowed down his early academic career, and the Bengali hostility to southerners which isolated him in his early years at the University of Calcutta, might well have acted as a screen for coming to terms with the deeper pain of illegitimacy.” It further states “In May 1903, Radhakrishnan married Sivakamu with whom he sired five daughters and one son, the distinguished historian Sarvepalli Gopal; but he was unfaithful, and his sexual philanderings deeply hurt his wife.” I am very curious if the biography written by his son, Sarvepalli Gopal would have mention of this? I would be keen to read the biography written by his son.

Can a son or daughter openly talk about love affair of ones mom or dad? It does require a lot of courage to that. Edwina and Lord Mountbatten's daughter Pamela did have that courage. In the above book ‘India Remembered’, she claims that while her mother was in love with others, including Ex Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, her love for her husband never wavered. In a section titled A Special Relationship, Pamela writes “My mother had already has lovers. My father was inured to it. It broke his heart first time.” Perhaps, the glue of flamboyance was necessary to stay together with her family on mundane daily drudgeries. I can see traces of this trait in Lady Diana's life too.

Lord Mountbatten’s words from his letter to Pamela’s sister made me thinking. He says ‘She and Jawaharlal are so sweet together, they really dote on each other in the nicest way and Pammy and I are doing everything we can to be tactful and help. Mummy has been incredibly sweet lately and we have been such a happy family. Does such a reaction from husband towards his wife be termed ‘abnormal’ or ‘benevolent? Can love be termed in purest form if one allows one’s loved ones to love others unabashedly? Most of us get hurt when we see love gets shared. We consider our love as our sole possession and often take a stance that either its mine or someone else. This is very normal and accepted behavior. Perhaps such an act represents more of sense of ownership and less of genuine love. Is it that true love need not and should not have any tinge of jealousy ? Our love for our favorite god or religion doesn't get diminished when we see countless others love him/her. Why does it not happen with human beings? Is love for human beings less pure or love for god or religion is not wholesome? But again, I also see many people’s love towards god and religion get very possessive. They don’t let anyone else enter their Pooja room or touch their gods or even want anyone talk about them.

I often get such weird and crazy thoughts in the middle of night when I am suddenly awakened. But by the time I catch up sleep and get up, these crazy thoughts lose its intensity in the humdrum of daily activities. Aleque Padamsee keeps his Dictaphone next to his pillow and records his thoughts as they emerge. I punch keys on my blackberry. I am more comfortable punching my thoughts than spoken words on Dictaphone. In any case, I don’t have one!

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Who do you marry ?

A decision paramount to most people in their life time . A lot of possibilities gets thrown at this question. Marry someone you love, Marry with whom you are friend with, Marry with whom you share philosophy or Marry someone who is tuned with your cultural and work ethos.

David LeVine, the director of Warm Wisdom Press, says. Never get married because you’re in love. This may sound crazy and weird but I tend to agree with his views.

If we look at our own life, we can observe how many times we have been in love . Timespan of love endurance may be different but every time, we were in love – it was intense, pure and genuine– at that moment of time. But what we termed ‘love’ then, it wasn’t love today. Was it attraction, infatuation or sheer physical liking ? all depended on the state of mind prevailing then.

David says, “Chemistry ignites the fire, but character keeps it burning. Chemistry – physical attraction – is not something to be ignored. But a deeply loving relationship based on mutual respect cannot stand on chemistry alone. That can only happen with someone whose character you can value and appreciate.”I agree when he says, the only way to have a lasting relationship is to really look at the quality of the person you’re seeking as a prospective marital partner. This means, one should seek for specific character traits, both positive and negative.

He states : The top four qualities to look for are humility, kindness, responsibility and happiness.

Humility. What is humility? Well, it is not being a doormat. Letting people walk all over you is not necessarily a sign of humility. It’s a sign of weakness. Humble people are not weak. Humble people want to do the right thing rather than their thing, and that takes a lot of confidence and inner strength. Someone who is humble will put values above convenience. They can accept criticism without being defensive, because they’re committed to personal growth rather than to comfort. A humble person will not get angry easily, because they don’t feel that anybody owes them anything. That’s the reason they also tend not to be materialistic.

Now, you may think that the above description applies only to angels. And it would be a mistake to narrow your search down to someone who has mastered all of the above qualities that go along with humility. Nobody’s perfect. But you should look for someone who values humility and is striving to achieve it. At the very least, ask yourself if the person you’re dating is arrogant. You definitely do not want to marry an arrogant person who feels that people owe him or her the world.

Kindness. Kindness is more than just being a nice person. If you ask most engaged couples if their intended spouse is kind, they’ll probably say yes. But the divorce rate is over 50%. If everybody is so kind, then why is the divorce rate so high? Because although people think that they’re kind, they really lack a depth of kindness.

So, what’s kindness? Being a kind person means being a giver, someone who’s committed to giving pleasure and minimizing other people's pain. If two people like this get married, they are much less likely to suffer serious problems in their relationship. That’s because each one is dedicated to the other’s well-being.

How do you know if someone is truly a kind person? Look at how they treat the other people in their lives. How do they treat their parents, siblings and grandparents? Do they feel a sense of gratitude to their parents? If not, what makes you think they’ll feel any sort of gratitude towards you after you’re married?

Watch how they treat the "little people" towards whom they have no obligations – waiters, busboys, doormen, secretaries. How do they treat their employees? What’s their business reputation like? Are they ruthless? Does the person you’re dating do volunteer work? If not, do they give charity? If the answer to both questions is no, that isn't a good sign. Do they drive courteously? What happens when they drink, when they lose control a little bit? How do they act?

Take note of the answers to these questions. Write them down so that you’ll have a whole picture in front of you when you need to make a decision about whether or not to continue a relationship.

Responsibility. First thing, ask yourself: Is this person irresponsible? If the answer is yes, be careful. You do not want to marry an irresponsible person. If your first, off the cuff answer is no, then check them out. Do they have a stable work history? Do they have stable friendships? Do they have long-term friendships, or do they need to move around a lot? Ask yourself: Can you rely on this person? Do you feel safe and secure with them? Another good question is to ask yourself is if you can trust what the other person says. Do they stand behind what they say? Do they live up to their commitments?

Happiness. You might be stumped on that one. Since when is happiness a character trait? That all depends on how you define happiness. A happy person is someone who is basically content, who focuses on what they have, not on what they don’t have.

Life has no guarantees. Anyone can be dealt a hard blow. But a person who is internally happy will be able to get past life’s obstacles, whereas someone who is constantly focused on the negative will have a much harder time. And you want to be married to someone who can smile at life.

So remember: Never get married just because you’re in love - focus on character, not on chemistry. Look for a quality person to share your life with, someone humble, kind, responsible and happy.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Move over hyped Taj Mahal, for me its Kailasa of Elora

Indian media is generally obsessed by Bollywood, Cricket and Personalities. What did Amitabh Bacchan do today? Has Azim Premji or S K Mittal figured in top 100 billionaires or if Sania Mirza slipped in her ATC ranking. It was respite to see the absence of Sachin Tendulkar’s on TV screen but soon this was replaced by hundreds of hours projecting Taj Mahal as a strong candidate for seven wonders.

Taj Mahal won the race not because Indian media hyped it but the process itself was skewed in her favour. When you have selection based on people voting on Internet, India with a million plus net population has an unfair advantage and also was with China, Brazil etc. So when Taj Mahal made it, I wasn’t as much elated with Taj being selected as I was disappointed by Angkor Wat of not being chosen. Those people who have seen both Angkor Wat and Taj Mahal perhaps agree with my feelings.

Why Indians are so passionate about Taj Mahal? Does it represent India? It was built by Mughal invaders borrowing design and skills of Islamic architecture from Persian and Arab world. Angkor Wat may not be in India but it represents the essence of India. Some may argue that Taj Mahal resides in Modern India and therefore we must advocate it. There is another architectural masterpiece in India that would surpass Taj Mahal in all respects . But it didn’t even figure in top 20. How can it be? The answer is obvious. When it is not accorded the rightful place by Government or is not supported by media, it is easy not to find a place in the hearts and minds of her very own Indian people . This place is Elora caves in the western part of India.

I sometime feel that in order to embrace secularism, people in the political seat of power wholeheartedly pushed Taj Mahal as a symbol of India. Promoting Angkor Wat or Elora caves would have meant a tacit consent to a Hindu religion because both are temples and have Hindu deities and Buddha. Taj Mahal was a safer bet as it wasn’t any mosque but a mausoleum. I feel sad that Elora can’t be the symbol of India.

Sculpture as an art would always be notched above any creative arts. But when thousands of sculptural creations are put together as a monument, the result is truly spectacular. Creation of Taj Mahal, Michael Angelo’s Pieta and David, Athena Panthenos is a hallmark of individual human endeavour at any given time But creation of Angkor Wat and Elora is an embodiment of generations of people spanning several centuries. One can’t capture Angkor Wat and Elora through camera lens; even a wide angled lens is not enough; it needs to be felt or would need a book to sum up its creativity. I was fortunate to visit Elora Caves, Angkor Wat and Taj Mahal and with conviction can say that Taj Mahal comes pale in the comparison to both of them. India’s pride should be Elora and without Angkor Wat, seven wonders are meaningless

The name of Elora caves is a misnomer but these are not the natural caves for yogis to sit and meditate but a series of 34 temples spanning 1.6 kms and all are exquisitely carved out of massive granite hillside. Generations of artisans over eight centuries toiled and created this spectacle. How they passed on the architectural secrets from one generation to anothershall remain a mystery. The Buddhist caves came first during 200 BC - 600 AD followed by the Hindu 500 - 900 AD and Jain 800 - 1000 AD. Just compare this with Taj Mahal that was built from 1631 till 1648 years. But out of all 34 temples, one temple named Kailasa is a hallmark of sculpture that has no parallel in its time either in India or all over the world. Kailasa temple complex was excavated from top of the hill. Only when someone goes to the site, one can appreciate the colossal endeavor that has gone in the creation of Kailasa. A part of the hill is vertically excavated to create not just a temple with exquisite carvings but also surroundings of sanctum, pavilions, basement, pillared halls balconies, bridges that connect the chambers, and all these are adorned with carvings of fascinating mythological stories, Vedic connotations on all this is a part of one single rock without any joints or support. Result is 52,00o sq ft creation with 100 ft. high shrine. The excavation must have gone simulteniously with the carvings. This is double the size of pantheon. As one stands in the open space of Kailasa temple and look up, the rock-cut aesthetics would make anyone spell bound. Kailasa Temple in Elora is a definitely a benchmark for school of architecture and sculptural design.

I do feel, if any Indian hasn’t been to Elora, he has wasted the opportunity to be born in India. Hopefully, when all hula bulla of seven wonders settle down, media would start recognizing other Indian monuments such as Elora, Ajanta, Konark, Khajuraho and Tanjore instead of harping on Bollywood, Cricket and Taj Mahal.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Akshta - in her 3rd month


Monday, July 02, 2007

Melting Entrepreneurs of India

There is a shortage of 1 Rupee coin in India, particularly in the eastern part of India. All this is because of great business opportunity to export shaving blades to a neighbouring country. In Bangladesh, sales realization of a shaving blade is Rupee 3-4 per piece. Innovative entrepreneurs in Kolkatta, melt 1 rupee coin, make shaving blade and export to Bangladesh. Poor Government of India, it cost them more than 1 Rupee to make 1 Rupee coin

There is another product marketing situation where Govt of India is at the receiving end. And that product is Condom. Population of India is a billion but it also has nearly 6 million people afflicted with HIV and that’s why Govt of India to control ballooning population of India and restrict spread of HIV provides nearly 900 million free condoms. But most are usurped by entrepreneurs for variety of profit making product applications than it was intended for. Smart innovative Indian entrepreneurs have made availability of condom into a free available raw material and transformed into multi-product business for variety of industries ranging from toy, construction to defence. Millions of condoms are melted to turn into latex and made into Toys. Some are just dyed and sold as balloons. Toys and balloons are finished products but road contractors use this as an intermediate to strengthen road – they mix condoms with concrete and tar to create a smooth surface. City slum dwellers use it as a waterproofing for leaking roofs in monsoon season. Villagers find them useful to carry water from far away water taps. Even Indian soldiers cover their gun barrels with condoms as a protection from dust.

Over the years, Govt banished all coins below the denomination of 1 Rupee (1, 2, 3,5,10, 25 paisa) as it was expensive to make them than their worth was and also rising inflation made this denomination ridiculous. With rising shaving blade export, soon 1 rupee coin may also get extinct. But like rising shaving blade export benefits are multifold. Indian road will be smoother, slum dwellers will have leakage proof roofs, villages will have an efficient water transportation and kids will be cheerful and happy but all at the expense of population and growing HIV patients!!.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Cathedral of La Sagrada Familia – 120 years of on going unfinished project

We were travelling from Forum (conference centre) back to hotel in Yellow Black metered Barcelona taxi. When taxi stopped at one of the traffic signals, my boss who was sitting with me at the back seat, asked me to look out from a window. I could see part of dark brown coloured minaret jutting out in between two apartments. I dismissed it as one of the possible mosques that may have been existed during Arab occupation of Spain. Between two Japanese, I could make out some conversation with the name Gaudi but didn’t pay much attention.

After reaching our hotel, my colleague and I decided to use few hours seeing places in Barcelona. He was keen on Joan Miro and Antonio Gaudi – both names I was unaware. Joan Miro – gallery and park- was closed being Sunday, we decided to visit Church of Gaudi. I was little perplexed with the comment of hotel receptionist that that it could take several hours to see this church. I couldn’t imagine how a church could consume so much time. Would it be bigger and grandeur than Notre dam in Paris or Crystal cathedral in Anaheim?

When our taxi stopped next to this church, I could glance part of the façade of this monumental structure, and my expressive awe was parallel to the one when I witnessed Grand Canyon. But as my eye sight shifted from grandeur sculptures of biblical figures, I was intrigued by Disney style minaret with bunch of colourful globes that looked like strawberries hanging in the sky.

Slowly, mystery of this funny half made cathedral fell into place as I entered the place and started reading about this grand design. Not many monuments make efforts in explaining the visitors about the creator. This cathedral is as much a tribute to Architect Antonio Gaudi as towards glorification of ‘holy family’. A museum that is housed in the premises explains the concept behind such a design and also has a section about Japanese Architect who devoted his life on Gaudi and even formed a fan club in Japan.

Gaudi – like most creators wanted his creation spectacular and different. Perhaps that’s why he chose towers in shape of spindle. In order to symbolize essence of Christianity, he chose to represent all symbols of Christianity in this monument. He built 18 tall towers in ascending order of height and this represented the twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. The Evangelists' towers are surmounted by sculptures of their traditional symbols: a bull (St Luke), an angel (St Matthew), an eagle (St John), and a lion (St Mark). The central tower of Jesus Christ is to be surmounted by a giant cross; Lower towers are surmounted by communion hosts with sheaves of wheat and chalices with bunches of grapes, representing the Eucharist.

He decided to have different façade for different direction symbolising the Nativity façade to the East, the Glory façade to the South (yet to be completed) and the Passion façade to the West. Work on Glory is yet to begin. The Nativity facade was built before 1935 and done by Gaudi himself. I wondered why the towers on the Nativity were crowned with geometrically shaped tops but later learnt that were probably influenced by Cubism. The Passion façade is of modern design and represent 2000 era. Amazing is the sharp contours of structures. The towers are decorated with words such as "Hosanna", "Excelsis", and "Sanctus"; the great doors of the Passion façade reproduce words from the Bible in various languages including Catalan; and the Glory façade is to be decorated with the words from the Apostles' Creed.

There is still lot of work to done. It says, part of sanctuary will represent various saints, virtues and sins, with decoration to match. The works are expected to be completed around 2026, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death. The construction work uses many pieces of stone to be machined to unique shapes, each distinctly different from the rest, the site illustrates these stones with sample piece, its characteristics and utility.

In my initial days, I used to get intrigued by funny and weird style buildings where structural walls were not uniform but in the shape of contours. It would be like dried molten wax from candle- unusual in shape. Like anything different from traditional set rules, we catch the attention but we resent it as this is against our established beliefs and habits. In initial days, I stopped when I saw this structure more out of curiosity and wondered why people would stay in such weird buildings. But slowly, I started admiring the very same grotesque design as the days progressed. .Later I learnt that these were Gaudi’s unique work and people flock to see and admire them.

Here is a brief of Antonio Gaudi –
Antonio Gaudi was born in Spain in 1852. He studied Architecture in Barcelona and set a precedent for his future work. He developed a sensuous, curving, almost surreal design style which established him as the innovative person. With utter disregard to formal approach of architecture, he juxtaposed unrelated systems and altered established visual order. Gaudi's characteristically warped form of Gothic architecture drew admiration for creating an entirely original style. As his weird creative designs, He died in bizarre fashion by coming under the Tram in 1926

And a brief of Gaudi’s architecture:
Gaudi is someone who actually put into practice fundamental tenet of good architecture, ‘architecture's need to be true to nature’. But Gaudi broke from convention - he "banished right angles and straight lines” from his work. This resulted in a style of whimsical, flowing architecture that he felt would blend with nature smoothly and naturally. He used bizarre mix of colours and materials -- smooth grey stone, bright tiles, circular designs, unfinished brick and wrought iron. Though Gaudi’s work is extremely unique, untraditional, and, in a sense, modern, I am squirmed to see the structure yet get drawn to his creation.

I am glad that I spent few hours at Cathedral of La Sagrada Familia, stood in queue to take elevator to go on top of the structure, visited museum and read about the structure and Gaudi. A visit to Barcelona without being at Cathedral is like visiting Agra and not seeing Taj Mahal.

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