Jun 29, 2017

A trip to Hyderabad - Part I

11'o clock. Prakash desperately opened the PNR checker website and typed the 10 digit number eagerly to witness a miracle of getting confirmed berth in Konark express that will take his wife and himself to Secunderabad for a vacation. He had missed the chance an hour ago to get himself a confirmed ticket through tatkal mode in Air Conditioned compartment. His only alternative is to book the ticket in Sleeper compartment, which he knows is like "paid" general compartment. Only he knows how he dreads traveling by 2nd Sleeper every time he finds himself in a situation like this!

"Did you finish packing?" he asked Sathya, his darling wife.

"Yet to start", came the reply in a jiffy. "Were the tickets confirmed? Are we really going to Hyderabad?" she countered him.

Not yet. The PNR status still shows that our ticket is in waiting list 11 and 12, but final charting is yet to be done.

"But the train would arrive two hours from now!" she exclaimed.

Yes. But what if the tickets are confirmed by then? Let's better go pack and be ready.

Time ticked at its own pace, moving the minute hand slowly past 30 notches. Prakash and Sathya grabbed their essentials and stuffed them inside a couple of bags, unsorted. "We will have enough time in train to sort them out", Prakash commented. 

"But only if we get in that train", Sathya replied skeptically.

"Let me check the PNR status again. I wonder why they are yet to finalize the chart", he lamented.

Charting done. Final status: Ticket 1: Confirmed, Ticket 2: WL

He jumped in joy. "We are traveling for sure", he hasted their packing. 

"But what about the waitlisted ticket?" she asked while packing her sundries.

"Don't worry. We have partially confirmed ticket. I can talk to TT and get a berth for myself. Let's go".

They rushed towards the main gate to catch an auto to railway station. Fate intervened again. There was not even a single auto! "Damn", he banged his fist on the other hand. "We do not have much time. Let me get our bike. We shall park it in station itself", shouting thus, he took long strides towards the parking lot.

"Your kind attention please. Train number 11020, Bhubaneswar to Pune, Konark express via Visakhapatnam, Secunderabad has just arrived on Platform No. 1", they both heard the announcement as the bike entered the railway parking lot. He quickly parked the bike and both of them ran towards the train that was about to depart.

"We made it!" he said while she was still gasping for air. They made their way through the narrow passageway to find the allotted berth. "Side Lower", he said after finding the seat. "We can share the seat till a berth is allotted for me. Let us wait for the TT", Prakash said keeping their bags below the seat while Sathya was getting ready to settle down.

To be continued in Part II...

Mar 25, 2017

Ego sum, ego existo

No matter where you are,
no matter what you do,
always remember this...

What is important in one's life? Money? Wealth? Fame? 

I believe, of all the things what is important in one's life is life itself. Everything else loses its value the moment life ceases. And the key to life is breath. Breathing is the only way to prove our existence. But mere existence will not lead us to a happy life. The key to happiness lies in synchronization of mind, body and soul. Breathing connects with mind, body and soul. 

How to breathe? There are numerous articles on the world wide web explaining the right way to breathe, of which Pranayama is most popular. I am going to focus on one method which I practice.

Walk. You may also try to run, jog, labor yourself or do any physical activity you feel comfortable with. Any of these activities will make you catch your breath. When you catch your breath, your awareness increases. Awareness leads to synchronization of mind, body and soul. When mind body and soul are synchronized through breathing, you become intelligent. In simpler terms, you live.

Wealth and fame does not make us happy. Only breathing does. The joy of living lies in realizing what Rene Descartes said, "ego sum, ego existo". In simpler terms, "I am, I exist".

Dec 27, 2016

5 arrows: Krishna and Arjuna

A brief recap from Part 1: Duryodhana felt enraged as eight of his brothers were killed so far after the end of eighth day battle in Kurukshetra, while Kauravas were not even close to capturing Pandavas. His provoking accusation leads Bhishma to take a vow to kill all the Pandavas before next dusk with five golden arrows on which he had imbued his life’s penance.
Krishna was pacing back and forth when Arjuna entered.

“You have ordered me to come immediately Krishna. What is the matter? Why so urgency? Has something happened to you or someone I know?” Arjuna straightaway shot questions at Krishna impatiently.

“Have I ever called you if there is no pressing matter for discussion Arjuna?” Krishna asked with a meaningful smile. “But first come inside and have a seat my dear friend”, he welcomed him in.

Arjuna strode across the room, seated himself on a makeshift chair and said, “I am all ears. Please tell me what is so important that you sent out for me at this hour?”

“Don’t you know the reason yourself by now Arjuna? I am surprised! How can you not know about the immediate threat to the life of five Pandavas?”

Arjuna knew that Duryodhana was enraged when he left the battlefield at the end of Day 8. He in fact sounded his eldest brother Yudhistra and commander Dhristadyumna when both were busy making strategic plans for the next day battle. But he was so confused when Krishna talked about immediate threat.

What could be the reason behind Krishna words of caution? Did Duryodhana prayed to Lord Brahma or Shiva and got immortality as boon? Even so, of what use is such boon when Lord Krishna, the supreme personality is fighting by his side? “My beloved Krishna, please explain me the situation. I could not comprehend any immediate threat”, he begged.

“Hear me out Arjuna. Your great grandfather Bhishma has taken a vow to kill each of the five Pandavas in tomorrow’s battlefield. He had imbued his life’s penance on five golden arrows and informed Duryodhana that he will use it tomorrow to kill each one of you”.

Arjuna’s heart skipped a beat! The whole world knows about the strength of Bhishma’s vow. At the same time, he wondered aloud what made Bhishma to take such a disheartening vow after fully aware of the consequences! Sure of Krishna’s potency to stop this from happening, Arjuna immediately raised from his seat and said,

“My dear Krishna, I do not know what made my great grandfather to take such a vow. But if he had taken it, I believe it is the duty of Pandavas to fulfill it. The world knows that Bhishma never failed in his endeavor. To avoid embarrassment to my beloved Pitamah, Pandavas are ready to lay down our life in front of Bhishma at the stroke of first ray tomorrow.”

“Do you think that will solve the problem Arjuna? In fact, this is exactly what Duryodhana wants!”

After deep contemplation, Arjuna gave up and said, "Please show us a way out Krishna”, his voice choked out of surrender.

“Do not worry my dear friend. I know exactly what needs to be done. At present, Duryodhana is having those five golden arrows under his custody since he did not trust Bhishma completely. All you have to do is to go to his tent and ask for those five arrows”.

“What? Why would Duryodhana give me those arrows if he knows for sure that those arrows will certainly bring victory to his side?” Arjuna sounded more confused now.

“Do as I say Arjuna. Do not even hesitate for a minute”, Krishna warned Arjuna briefly recapping his sermon from Bhagavad Gita he just spoke at the beginning of the war.
“Please accept my sincere apologies for doubting you my lord. I will obey your command”.

Saying thus, Arjuna left Krishna’s tent and headed towards Duryodhana’s. Having lost eight of his kinsmen already, will revengeful Duryodhana receive Arjuna with warm greetings? Even so, will Duryodhana give those five arrows to Arjuna knowing well that it will only lead to preparing his own grave? The third part of this five part series will uncover more mystery.

Aug 23, 2015

Smart Bribe

"Sir, do you want your vehicle to be packed?", a labor asked him as Vinod entered through the parcel office of Bhubaneswar railway station". I will charge only Rs. 450 and my work will be neat", he continued. 

Vinod thought about the offer for a minute and nodded his approval. In the next 30 minutes, his bike would be neatly packed and ready to be parceled by a train. He was not in a hurry though. The train would only leave at noon on the next day.

Leaving his vehicle to the labor, he proceeded towards a counter at the parcel office to get the booking done. A railway clerk was looking through his rimmed spectacles at the computer monitor as if a movie is being screened.

Vinod waited to get the clerk's attention. "Perhaps he is still busy with a past booking", he thought. A few minutes went by, but the clerk neither took his eyes off from the monitor, nor he acknowledged the presence of Vinod.

"Sir, will you please do the parcel booking of my bike which is being packed at your office?", he asked politely and waited for his response. 

The clerk let a glance at him as if to let him know that he was aware of his presence, but did nothing. Vinod continued to wait. Meanwhile, the labor had finished his job and demanded for money. 

Vinod went with the labor to inspect his bike and gave him the money after he felt satisfied with the work. "The packing is so secure that the vehicle would be well protected during its 1500 km journey down south", he felt. The labor took the money and offered to pull the vehicle to the loading platform. Vinod came back to the counter and waited for the clerk's attention.

"Sir, please take this", he heard a voice from a man who pushed Vinod aside to give Rs. 500 cash to the clerk. Vinod let a sigh, but felt relieved with the fact that the clerk was at least doing some work and finished one booking while he was away with the labor.

But his happiness was short lived when he saw the clerk taking Rs. 500 and asked him what he wanted. "I came first", Vinod wanted to yell at both of them. But he kept quiet and waited for the business to get over so that he can proceed next.

"I want to parcel some items", the person replied with a grin.

The clerk took the parcel items, weighed and calculated the charges. After feeding some data on the computer, he replied "Rs. 1100", to the man over the counter. While the man was counting rupees, the clerk completed the transaction, printed the bill and hand over a copy to him.

Picking up the copy of bill, he pushed 6 Rs. 100 bills through the counter and left hurriedly.

"Where is the balance amount?", the clerk yelled at him as an attempt to stop him.

"That is what I gave to you at the beginning", he shouted back with a grin and walked away.

May 21, 2015

A Review of Shattered Dreams (Book II: Ramayana - The Game of Life)

Shattered Dreams is a sequel to the first book in Ramayana - The Game of Life written by Shubha Vilas, a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker. Honestly, I have not read the first book titled Rise of Sun Prince, which was based on first chapter or Bal Kanda of Ramayana. But then, a book based on one of the most popular epics is like packing old wine in a new bottle. What really matters is the way it is presented.

Unlike works of fiction, epics like Ramayana does not revolve around a central theme; rather myriads of sub plots are involved. The sub plots themselves are so subtle that it requires a qualified scholar to interpret and tell the story, while retaining its original meaning intact. However, new authors/publishers are more interested in popularizing epics, just like scientific findings reached the common man through popular science series. The advantage is that it makes many young readers "read" the work. The flip side is that only the essence can be captured through such "fast read" works.

Through The Game of Life series, the author has made an attempt to rewrite Ramayana in a "readable" way targeting young Indians. I must say that the author has done a commendable job in achieving this. The book is surely a page turner, so fast that one does not realize that he/she is reading from a classic epic story. This itself is a great achievement in my opinion, as the original work was written ages ago in a language which now barely a few speaks.

In order to add more spice to the story which many of us have already read or heard through different sources, the author has written anecdotes at every page. Though adding spice would excite more taste buds, a food which is entirely made of spice can never be had. As the saying goes, “too much of anything is good for nothing”. While some of the anecdotes were interesting to read, most of them are philosophical.

In a work of fiction, it is not common for a reader to say that I had to read a particular paragraph twice to understand what the author is saying. In my case, I had to read several anecdotes twice to understand what the author is saying! The flow gets affected due to this and that makes the “readable” book non readable. But then, what makes these anecdotes irksome is their presence in almost every page. It sometimes made me wonder if I am reading two books at the same time, instead of one! My suggestion to new readers; ignore the anecdotes and read the story first. After you are done with reading, go through the anecdotes.

We live in an era at which our youngsters do not have time to read classic epics nor to hear them from their granny’s. A few decades ago, Rajagopalachari (popularly known as Rajaji) wrote a simple and yet concise version of Ramayana. Shubha Vilas has reproduced a similar version, but this time catering to the masses.
This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

PS: I should have written this review ages ago! However, I could not find time to sit and compile my views due to prior work commitments. I sincerely appreciate blogadda's patience and tender my apologies for such a prolonged delay.