Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

206. Notes: 1

Here I briefly introduce the books that I read. The main purpose is to keep notes for myself. I would be happy if  readers of this blog find these books interesting. I also hope that other readers would share “their” books for my benefit. 

January 2014

1. Vhaya, Mee Savitribai (Marathi): “Yes, I am Savitri”: Sushama Deshpande. (pages 57)
For the last twenty five years Ms. Sushama Deshpande has been performing this “one character” presentation. The book is the script of this performance. It gives an idea about the environment in which Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule carried out their mission. It also throws light on the history of the evolution of the work, which I had forgotten over the years. The language of the old days is interesting and is appealing.      

2. A Tale of Two Cities: Charles Dickens (pages 237)

I don't need to introduce this well known book. For me it is one of the "all times great". On the background of French Revolution, the story moves on narrating various dimensions of human emotions; thoughts and personalities. Till the end, one gets completely engrossed in the story.

Here is one of the paragraphs at the beginning of the novel, which I like very much.

      It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
      It was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness.
      It was the epoch of belief; it was the epoch of incredulity.
      It was the season of the Light; it was the season of Darkness.
      It was the spring of hope; it was the winter of despair.
      We had everything before us, we had nothing before us.
     We were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way –

In short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. 

3. Gospel of Sri Ramkrishna: Mahendranath Gupta (pages 322)

This is one of the books, I like to re-read.

Mahendranath Gupta (M) was a disciple of SriRamkrishna Paramhamsa. The book was originally written in Bangla. These are the conversations of Sri Ramkrishna with his disciples – witnessed by M. These conversations tell us the philosophy of Sri Ramkrishan and more than that how his behavior was influenced by the philosophy and how there was never a gap between his preaching and practice.

I always used to wonder why Swami Vivekananda is so grateful to Sri Ramkrishna; the first time I read these conversations, I understood. The simplicity in expression of complex thoughts; the everyday real life examples; the clarity of thoughts; tolerance and flexibility without compromising with the values; innocence and wisdom …. these facets of Sri Ramkrishna surprise me every time I read these conversations.

Here are two examples:

Once Sri Ramkrishna asks his disciples to discuss whether God is with attributes (Form) or without. They discuss. Then Ramkrishna remarks, "There is no harm in looking at Him from this point or that point of view. Yes, yes, to think of Him as Formless Being is quite right. But take care you do not run away with the idea that that view alone is right and all others are false." Alas, if we all follow this rule!

We should carry on our duties with full dedication, but that does not mean we should forget the purpose of life. God should be always in our heart. While explaining this thought, Sri Ramkrishna says, "A rich man's maid-servant will do all her duties, but her thoughts are always set upon her own home. Her master's house is not hers. She will, indeed, nurse her master's children as if they were her own, saying often "My own Rama", "My own Hari". But all the time she knows fully well the children are not hers."

This book reminds me to understand the difference between wisdom and scholarship; information and experience; art of giving speeches and conversation. 

If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it to you. 

4. Life Beyond Death: Swami Abhedananda (pages 240)

I don’t remember when and how this book came to my collection – whether I purchased it or whether someone gave it to me as a gift. Looking at the title of the book, I had never felt the necessity of reading it. I have enjoyed reading “Lecture on Geeta” by the same author and so could not throw away the book without reading it. Finally I decided to take a decision about – whether to throw it away of keep it with me.

The book starts with a comparative review of Modern Science and Spiritualism. It introduces us to ancient belief that “there is life after death” (Egypt, Hindu, Bible, Zoroastrian etc.) and the author elaborates “scientific” views on “life after death”. The author shares his experiences of “talking to souls (of the dead) through a medium” – his own experiences and experiences of others.  While reading this section I was doubtful about reading the remaining book, but somehow I went on.

Swamiji then takes the reference of Vedanta philosophy and explains that: soul never dies, it is without beginning and without end; body is destroyed but sour never is. He is against recalling souls to the earth as that hampers the journey of the soul.

Frankly speaking, I was caught in two minds while reading the book. I did not accept all the ideas the author has presented; but some of them I could not reject whole heartedly. So, presently I have decided to continue keeping this book in my collection. Maybe, during the next reading, I will get another perspective.

And who is Swami Abhedananda? He was disciple of Sri Ramkrishna Paramhamsa. For years he was in USA, Canada and Great Britain to spread message of Vedanta. In 1901 (o2?) California University offered him honorary doctorate. He was born in 1866 and passed away in 1921.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

205. 6174

I was reading “Our Scientists”; National Book Trust Publication of 1986. Reading this book was long overdue, so I was determined to finish it. As the title says, the book introduces various scientists – from past to present – very briefly. If NBT has brought out this book for children, I wonder whether they would find this engrossing enough.

I came across an article where a process of finding a “Constant” is described.
Let us see it.

  1. Take any four digit number; which uses at least two different digits. Numbers like 1111, 2222 will not serve the purpose. (I write 4632)
  2. Arrange the digits in descending order. (I write 6432)
  3. Reverse the order of the digits. (I write 2346)
  4. Subtract step 3 from step 1. (4632-2346= 2286)
  5. For the number arrived at step 4, repeat steps 2 to 4.

So, I arrange the digits in descending order: 8622
Then I reverse the order of the digits: 2268
I subtract: 8622-2268= 6354
Repeat steps 2 to 4.

Here it goes.
6543-3456 = 3087

Repeat steps 2 to 4.
Here we go.


Go on.


7641-1467= 6174

Oh! 6174 is reappearing.

Let us try another number;


Third try:

This number 6174 is known as Kaprekar’s Constant.

I don’t know what the constant is used for. But it is fun.

I don’t know how and why Mr. Kaprekar arrived at this constant. Need to know more about him and his work.

For those who are interested, here are some links to know more about the number and the man.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

204. Void

Readers of this blog know that I have a poor memory. As is my habit, I must have shared this fact with you a number of times. I hardly worry about poor memory – but on some occasions it creates embarrassing situation for me. Today was one of those days.

Today I started early for office. I had to prepare for a meeting and in the evening I was planning to leave early. Taking advantage of ‘flexi-time’ facility, I took Metro early than my usual time. I had a different crowd around me. Everyday though I do not have conversations with my co-passengers, we do exchange smiles. If someone is in good mood, she would ask me where I was last week and then I share travel experiences with her. Today too, I was taking Metro after a gap of couple of weeks. But as I mentioned, this was not my usual time, so there was no possibility of meeting someone.

I entered Metro and found a vacant seat. The route I take is underground, so there is nothing to watch through the window. As the journey takes hardly 20 minutes, I generally don’t read book in the Metro. I close eyes and just relax – that is what I was planning to do even today.

Suddenly a young woman sitting opposite to me said “Hello” and smiled. I too smiled spontaneously, but I did not reply. I realized that I did not know this woman. I assumed that she must have addressed to some other woman. So, I kept quiet. Smiling to strangers is alright, even I talk to strangers, but today I did not want and so kept quiet.

I noticed that none of the women sitting either to my left or right spoke to that young women. I was curious. Of course, it was happening in an instant – I am take much longer time to write it; even your are taking more time to read it. I was looking at that women but did not respond to her. Suddenly she showed a feeling of insult and stopped smiling. Her eyes showed frustration and anger. She stopped looking at me, and adjusted her earphone for music on mobile handset. It was clear from her body language that she was not comfortable.

By that time, I too wasn’t comfortable. Part of my brain was trying to find out ‘whether I know this woman and if yes, where have we met.’ The more I thought about it, the more I felt that I have met this young woman earlier. In knew her face, her eyes, her voice … I was sure that the women had said “hello” to me and to none else.
So, I wanted to initiate dialogue with her and started looking at her. But now the woman was not at all looking at me. As if the one-two feet distance between us has suddenly become one or two kilometers. For a moment, I thought of leaving my seat, approaching her and talking to her. But I noticed that the woman was completely ignoring me. That created another wave of doubt. Was she really addressing me or someone else?

I kept on staring at the woman and with every passing moment, I was sure that I knew this girl. She must have been aware of my gaze, because next moment she looked at me. I was fully ready for that moment, and I asked, “Do you everyday catch the same Metro?”

She nodded – indicating ‘no’. I said, “I am surprised that we have never met on the Metro.”

Now she was completely relaxed and gave a big smile. I said again, “How is it that we have never met on the Metro? I travel everyday around the same time.”

She explained about car servicing and said, “Are you coming to Chanakypuri office today? We have to gate down at Race Course station.”

Listening to her, it dawned upon me that this young woman was none else but Shehanaz.

I was ashamed of myself.

I know Shehanaz for more than a year now; I have met her at least 25 times during the year. At for hundred times I had tele-conversations with her. She is receptionist –cum –telephone operator in one of my offices.
Shehanaz is a good natured woman. She is efficient and proactive. Her work is always of a good quality. She has offered me help on many occasions. Whenever I visit Chanakypuri office, Shehanaz is always kind to me. She always asks about my wellbeing, offers me coffee and helps me to sort out my work in that office. What I have observed that Shehanaz is good with everybody around. She is a kind soul. I have a very good opinion about Shehanaz and I have written good words about her to her seniors.

I speak to Shehanaz. We hardly get five minutes. Shehanaz is now in good spirit and she is smiling. Metro arrives at Race Course. Shehanaz gets down. Doors close. Shehanaz moves away but turns back and smiles at me, waves her hand. I too smile and wave back.

However, I am engrossed in thought. Why did not I recognize Shehanaz immediately? If I meet someone after a long gap or someone whom I hardly know and like – I can understand poor memory. But I like Shehanaz and I keep on meeting her regularly – still I failed to recognize her.

It is possible that as I had never met Shehanaz on the Metro, I least expected her to meet here. Well, if I was surprised, it would have been natural – but I failed to recognize her cannot be justified in any manner. Generally we picture people in a given set up – it is hard to recognize postman in civil dress and without postbag; or a vegetable vendor at a movie theater. So, maybe meeting Shehanaz here was not at all expected by me.

Am I equating human being with his/her work? Am I looking at them as machines and not as human beings? Am I too selfish or insensitive to existence of others? Am I always lost in my own world? Am I getting disconnected from the reality around me?

Life has its own speed. There are always new happenings in life, so the old ones are easily left behind. But is it just a game for me – to replace old memories by new? Am I looking at life as a game? What will it lead to me? Until I get old, new persons, incidents, memories will keep on entering into my life – so I can afford to forget the past – persons, incidents, memories and what not. Because I am still active, my senses are working alright, I can play this game; as if it the only one of any significance.

What will happen if I get long life? By law of nature, my senses will become weak; a time will come when nothing new would be added to my life. When the inflow of new persons, incidents, memories etc. stops (and it will stop one day); what will I remember? By that time past will be dead and there will be hardly exciting ‘present’. If I remember something from the past, will that past have any place for me? Will those people, incidents, memories of the past mean anything to me? Will there be only a vacuum – where there will be no past and there will be no present. What will I do then? With the Mind, with the Body and with the Ego?  

Will I be able to live happily in that void?