My thoughts, as I learn and unlearn things while trying to make sense of this mad and bad world.

Saturday, 28 April, 2012

Top Secret!

If people where asked what is the most important thing to know in the world, their replies would cover a vast spectrum.  Possible answers include, but are not limited to, things like knowing your passion or knowing that life should be led with humility and goodness.  There can be uncountable replies to this question – but in the end, all replies will only be human speculation and opinion.  So what is the correct answer to this question?  Is there something that can be tagged as ‘the most important knowledge’ and if there is, then what is it?  How do we get to it and take advantage of it?  The answer was revealed long ago by Sri Krishna to Arjuna.  In the Bhagvad Gita, verse 9.4 it has been said –

maya tatam idam sarvam, jagad avyakta-murtina
mat-sthani sarva-bhutani, na caham tesv avasthitah

Meaning, by Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.

The most important thing for us to know is that God cannot be perceived with our material senses.  Our imperfect senses, when functioning under the influence of materialism and maya, are unable to sense the presence of the Lord around us.  To truly understand His all-pervading presence, we have to engage in devotional service under proper guidance.  Even though He is not visible to the naked eye, everything rests on Him.  His energy pervades everything in the material world.  He is omnipresent and is the Supreme – the cause of all causes.  While His energy exists in everything that exists in the material and spiritual world, He is not contained in anything.  He is transcendental to everything around us, and the motive of our existence is to be His eternal servants.

Not everyone has the vision to appreciate the importance of this knowledge.  Most people are informed in external knowledge (or knowledge of the material world).  Only the people who are walking the path of self-realization and are trying to figure out their relationship with the Supreme are well positioned to understand this confidential information and its importance.  Sri Krishna confirms the importance of this knowledge in verse 9.2 –

raja-vidya raja-guhyam, pavitram idam uttamam
pratyakshavagamam dharmyam, su-sukham kartum avyayam

Meaning, this knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.

Not only does the Lord share the most confidential knowledge with us, he also offers us clues about the qualities that we need to imbibe to best understand his message.  In verse 9.1, He mentions –

idam tu te guhyatamam, pravaksyamy anasuyave
jnanam vijnana-sahitam, yaj jnatva moksyase ’subhat

Meaning, The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I shall impart to you this most confidential knowledge and realization, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence.

To best understand His teachings, we have to aspire to be like Arjuna.  We have to accept the fact that we are not masters of anything.  We have to submit to the Supreme.  We cannot be envious of the Lord.  We have to be humble and bow our heads, in reverence, and seek His blessings.  This is the most important knowledge for the human race because this is what will allow us to go back to GodHead and relieve us from the miseries of material life.  

Sunday, 22 April, 2012

Th Fantastic Four

Today’s world would have us believe that we live in an age of interconnectivity.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that it’s only our electronic devices that are interconnected and not us.  Our computers, phones, bank accounts, television sets, cars, etc. are surely connected to one another but how interconnected are we to the people around us, and more importantly to the Supreme power?

In today’s world it’s becoming more and more difficult to be spiritual and to be able to see the spiritual realm beyond the material clutter.  The common man’s senses and intelligence are far too polluted and occupied by his worldly needs to be able to free up his senses to wonder about the real purpose of his life.  So what makes a man embark on a quest of self realization?  What are the kind of people who feel the need of understanding the nature of this universe and our role in it?  I am sure we can hem and haw and come up with some guesses, however, in the Bhagvad Gita verse 7.16, Sri Krishna reveals to Arjuna the four types of people who surrender to the Supreme –

catur-vidha bhajante mam, janah sukritino ’rjuna
arto jijnasur artharthi, jnani ca bharatarsabha

Meaning, O best among the Bharatas, four kinds of pious men begin to render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.

The distressed surrender to the Almighty in hope of release from worldly troubles.  People caught up with material problems such as ill health, relationship woes, and other such problems associated with the physical body (and not the spiritual self) fall in this category.  They turn to the Supreme with the hope that their devotion will please the Lord and He will award them inner peace in return.

The desirers of wealth surrender to the Almighty in hope of financial gains.  People desirous of a stronger bank balance, bigger house, faster cars, or lower debt fall in this category.  They turn to the Supreme with the hope that their devotion will bring them, in reward, the riches that they seek.

The inquisitive surrenders to the Almighty in hope of understanding the true nature of the world that we live in.  He is the philosopher who is seeking answers to questions of our origin, existence, end, and the overall objective of our presence.  He is puzzled by the overarching questions of existentialism such as our role in the cosmos, why bad things happen to good people, what is happiness, etc.  Confused by these questions, and un-helped by modern science, he turns to the Almighty for answers.  He hopes that his devotion will bring him the intellectual peace that he needs.

The one who is searching for the knowledge of the Absolute, or the mystic, surrenders to the Almighty in hope of understanding the exact nature of everything that is and isn’t.  He is driven by the desire to grasp the ultimate truth of existence and knows that the greatest gifts on the path are the ones invisible to the eyes.  He seeks a direct experience of the very source of life and wishes to lose himself in the universal essence of all things.  He hopes that his devotion will bring him the spiritual redemption that his existence craves for.

These are the four types of people who are able to rise above their material existence and free up their minds for higher thinking.  However, even these people are not ready to be called devotees just yet.  The reason for that is they are all still expecting to get something in return for their devotion to the Lord.  As has been mentioned in the Bhagvad Gita verse 2.47 –

karmany evadhikaras te, ma phalesu kadacana
ma karma-phala-hetur bhur, ma te sango ’stv akarmani

Meaning, we are not entitled to the results of our actions.  The above mentioned four categories of men are certainly pious, but they can only be elevated to being pure devotees when they engage in devotional service out of love of God, rather than for a personal motive – regardless of how noble the motive is.  The journey to self realization and God consciousness begins from these four ports.  

Sunday, 15 April, 2012

The Peace Formula

We have a tendency to look at ourselves as the masters of our destiny and seem to believe that we have complete autonomy over how we want to shape and live our lives. Various stories and anecdotes that we have heard while growing up seem to reinforce this message that has often been bombarded onto us by the consumerist and capitalism intensive culture that we live in. MTV style posters that cry “write your own destiny” start pushing us, from a very early age, to believe that we are indeed the ultimate proprietor and enjoyer our lives. If only that were universally true!

We know for sure that we are not the omnipotent proprietor of our lives because if that were true, we wouldn’t have ever let anything undesirable happen to us or our loved ones. However, we all go through numerous situations in our lives that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy – so clearly, the reigns of our lives are in our hands only to a certain extent. This is called free will; rest is all in the hands of the eternal supreme power. We spend our entire lives fighting over material possessions – my land, my money, my home, but we fail to realize that these are just temporary toys that our body has been gifted to play with, in this birth. Our actual identity lies with our soul and not with our material body; hence the false belief that we ‘own’ a material object or relationship is nothing but an illusion.

This illusion of ownership and the belief of being the proprietor bring with it an attachment to material life that leads to bewilderment, anger, anxiety, fear of loss, and dissatisfaction. Such thoughts are the source of most troubles in our lives. The more material connections (money, objects, relationships, etc.) we have, the greater is our attachment to them, hence greater is our internal need to preserve and protect them – which eventually becomes a breeding ground for most of our troubles.
In the Bhagvad Gita, Chapter 5.29, Sri Krishna says to Arjuna –

bhoktāraḿ yajña-tapasāḿ sarva-loka-maheśvaram

suhṛdaḿ sarva-bhūtānāḿ jñātvā māḿ śāntim ṛcchati

Meaning, a person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.

The concept of Karma Yoga clearly explains that we must not mistake ourselves to be the enjoyers and masters of our lives. We are nothing but servants of the eternal power and our only right and duty in this world is to serve Him. That is the only thing that we are entitled to. It is also the only thing that we are expected to do. God has bestowed us with some free will so that we utilize it in figuring out, for ourselves, our relationship with Him. Everything around us belongs to God and He is the only enjoyer of all that exists. We have no right whatsoever to even briefly imagine that we have a right to the fruits of our action, devotion, or efforts.

Knowing that everything belongs to God and that our existence is governed by the rules of the material nature, is knowing the peace formula.

Tuesday, 10 April, 2012

Featuring Today: Matter Vs. Spirit

Since time immemorial, mankind has pondered over the question of what constitutes our bodies. While we may have made tremendous progress in understanding the human anatomy, modern science is still very scared of the C word – consciousness. It is a word that has kept some of the smartest people this world has ever seen awake at night – from the likes of Albert Einstein to Neils Bohr to Erwin Schrodinger. What is that thing within us that makes us unique? What is that thing that makes us different from rocks and sand even though we are all built with the same fundamental building blocks of nature? What does the deceptively simple word – ‘life’ really mean? Modern science is so handicapped in this field that we don’t have the correct vocabulary to even begin framing the question we want to ask. For the lack of a better term, ‘consciousness’ is the often used catch all phrase that describes human beings beyond their material selves.

We live in a material world where we are primed to believe that everything that exists is matter. In fact, we even define vacuum as absence of matter. However, many of us have experienced that there is something beyond matter at play in this world. What is that unknown thing within us that causes feelings? What is this consciousness? Spirituality and modern science generally mix just as poorly as water and oil. However, when science has insufficient answers, even the greatest of scientists look towards religion and spirituality for clues. The elusive explanation to the aforementioned questions has often driven scientists to the Vedas and other ancient Hindu religious texts that hold an explanation for the above – one that material science hasn’t been able to fully comprehend until now.

Of the many verses in the Bhagvad Gita that speak about the material body and the spirit (or consciousness), I have chosen two for the purposes of this text. With reference to the material body in Chapter 2.22, Sri Krishna mentions to Arjuna –

vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya, navani grhnati naro 'parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany, anyani samyati navani dehi

meaning that as a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones. Further, with reference to the spirit it is said in Chapter 2.24 –

acchedyo 'yam adahyo 'yam, akledyo 'sosya eva ca
nityah sarva-gatah sthanur, acalo 'yam sanatanah

meaning this individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.

The Bhagvad Gita clearly suggests that we are a composite of two different building blocks – the material body (matter) which is temporary and the soul (spirit) which is permanent. In the material world, everything that has a beginning must have an end. The material body is also subject to the laws of the physical environment without exception – all humans have to face the realities of disease, old age, and death. This body is not designed to endure and is by its very nature a temporary structure. However, the spirit is transcendental in nature and is not governed by the laws of physics and other laws of nature. It has always existed and will always continue to exist. There is neither birth nor death for the spirit. It cannot be created or destroyed. It cannot be damaged or injured. It will always prevail endlessly and forever.

In Chapter 2.11, Sri Krishna says –

asocyan anvasocas tvam, prajna-vadams ca bhasase
gatasun agatasums ca, nanusocanti panditah

clearly stating that our true identity is not associated with the matter but with the spirit. The material body is nothing but a temporary structure in the eternal journey of our spirits. Our spirits assume the material body (birth) only for a leg of their eternal journey and then this body is discarded (death). Eventually another body will be assumed (rebirth) and this process will continue until the spirit attains moksha.

So where does all this leave us with respect to modern science? Einstein proved that raw energy and mass are interchangeable. We know very well that matter can be converted into energy (for example, by burning a piece of wood). However, it is the reverse process that is more of an enigma. Surely the particle accelerators at CERN have been successful in creating matter out of energy; however, it has only been done by an incredibly inefficient process. This inefficient process is also unfortunately not one that modern science understands completely. Even if we were to, for a second, believe that we will be able to convert energy to mass in a way that is economical by nature’s standards – we are utterly clueless about what provides ‘consciousness’ to matter. Some scientists suspect that we may never truly understand ‘consciousness’ because modern science’s efforts to understand it has only been on a material plane. Einstein also believed that to understand consciousness we need to adopt a different plane of reference – one that is not governed by material laws but by other laws suited to the imperishable and everlasting nature of entities that reside on it.

Of the various theories that may possibly explain the creation of life and matter from energy, one of the leading ones is that of the ‘non conscious observer’. This theory suggests that energy can be converted into matter in the presence of a third entity which makes this conversion process possible. Modern science has no clue about the identity of this mysterious third entity – all we know is that this entity must NOT be matter. Obviously, since this mysterious entity is not matter, it cannot be governed by material laws of physics, biology, etc. We do not have the vocabulary to explain this third entity; and that has led to it getting the name of the ‘non conscious observer’.

So is there really a thing called ‘spirit’? Could the ‘non conscious observer’ be it? Modern science is no better today than Alice in wonderland when she first got there. For the rationalist, the correct answer may or may not come with progress in science. However, for the believer, the correct answer has been there all along.

Monday, 16 January, 2012

She Cried ...

Rummaging through trash for leftover food, she cried. Tears streaking down her pale six year old face, she sorted through the garbage in desperation to find a morsel of food discarded by others. She hadn’t eaten anything since morning and the hunger was now unbearable. Survival is tough for street children and she knew it, however, she was determined to not give up. One trash can to the other, she kept looking for food and she knew that she wouldn’t stop until she had fed herself. All of a sudden, under the flickering yellow light of the street lamps, a small box of half eaten chicken nuggets smiled at her. The box was torn just enough to reveal that it wasn’t empty. Her tiny hands struggled to reach the box, allowing the tip of her fingers to only touch the box but not grab it. She stood up on her toes and leaned forward as much as she could, little bubbles of saliva forming at the corner of her mouth. Nothing! The box stayed put where it was, tantalizingly close, yet so far. She jumped with all her strength, only this time her fingers managed to not only touch the box but also go through it, allowing her to briefly touch the cold pieces of chicken – but still, staying out of reach. She licked her finger tips that had touched her dinner, and felt mesmerized by the taste of oil and salt. “Another try”, she said to herself and plunged into the trash can. This time she managed to grip the box and shrieked in joy when her little fingers managed to grasp it. Smiling from ear to ear she pulled out the box and triumphantly ran towards a cleaner part of the street where she could enjoy her well earned dinner. A large and scruffy street dog appeared out of nowhere and barked loudly, scaring her. She accidently dropped the box and before she could pick it up the dog had already started feasting on the chicken bits. She just stood there, trembling with fear, watching the dog fill up his belly as hers remained empty. Born into poverty, she cried.

Looking for a piece of cloth to use as a blanket in the harsh winter, she cried. Not only did she need something to keep her warm, but also to protect herself from the lusty eyes of men. There are always many who are willing to give a seventeen year old beggar a few coins if she gave them something else. There were also others who were just looking for an opportunity to take what she had by force. Scared, she was, but also determined to not let anyone rob her of her dignity. She spotted a blanket hung out to dry on a tree by the rickshaw puller’s hut. She didn’t want to steal but didn’t know what else to do. The nights had become long and cold and she desperately needed something to keep warm. She looked around to see if anyone was watching and hid behind the bushes to wait for an opportune moment. When there was no-one in sight, she tiptoed towards the tree and just as she was about to reach for the blanket rough hands grabbed her wrist. “You thief!”, mumbled the rickshaw puller. She cried and begged forgiveness, but he wouldn’t let her go. “I will teach you a lesson, you thief!” and dragged her behind the bushes. She tried to fight him away, but she was no match for his brute strength. He cupped her mouth with his hands, rendering her pleas of mercy inaudible. He ravaged her for over an hour and finally when he was done with her, told her that he would kill her if she told anybody. Spitting on her, he walked away with the blanket. Stripped of her honor, she lay half dead on the grass, writhing in a ball of pain and blood. Born into adversity, she cried.

Driven away from the brothel on testing HIV positive, she cried. Covering her weak and fragile body, she walked in the relentless rain, desperately seeking a dry corner. With no roof over her head, she didn’t know where to go. She looked up to the skies and wondered what had she done to deserve such a wretched life. Even though she hated the brothel, it had been her home for the last several years – her only home ever. She couldn’t understand why life was so unjust that it had forced her into the brothel when she didn’t want to go in, and why it had forced her out when she didn’t want to leave. She noticed a small building and thought that she could spend the night under the stairs, but the security guard yelled at her and threatened to call the police. Rejected and shunned once again, she walked on into the dark night thinking if the release of death would be better than this sorry excuse of a life. She kept walking until she reached the steps of the Hare Krishna temple, and sat there. She closed her eyes and thought about her life and ways to end it. Born into destitution, she cried.

When she woke up, it was already morning. Some old ladies had gathered around her wondering if she was dead. They took her into the temple and fed her. They gave her proper clothes and a showed her a place where she could take a shower in private. They talked to her, asked her where she came from, and who she was. As she told her story, one of the women hugged her and said “Don’t worry now. God will take care of you now”. Over the next many days, she continued living in the temple under the care of the kind old women who nurtured her and gave her the affection that she never got from anyone. For the first time ever, she felt the love of a family. She even got a job as a cleaner in the temple that allowed her to make a living. Slowly and gradually, she started feeling at peace and settled into her new life. On the auspicious day of Krishna Janmashtami, she sat down to pray with her new family and closed her eyes. Brought into His grace, she smiled.

Sunday, 2 October, 2011

An Open Letter to Today’s Social Networking Kings & Queens

Dear Social Networking King(s)/Queen(s),

Tongue planted firmly in cheek; mode = ON

First and foremost, let me apologize to you for writing this letter in a language that is probably difficult for you to read and understand. I prefer constructing sentences with complete words and punctuation, and I do realize that such verbose forms of communication may appear pointless to extremely busy and noble people like you. However, it is my humble request that you stay with me as I attempt to share my thoughts through my archaic and abysmally boring language.

Tongue planted firmly in cheek; mode = OFF

Confused and perplexed; mode = ON

As I surf through countless tweets and Facebook conversations, I am often baffled by this new language that you have invented. A language that some of my old-fashioned friends and I struggle to understand the point of. For example, why do you insist on saying, ‘c u l8r’, instead of “see you later”? Is the time saved on a few key presses really critical to your daily schedule of doing whatever it is that you do? Or is it your way of projecting a cool dude/dudette image of yourself into the virtual world? Shortening long words and phrases is understandable, acronyms are also fine, but what is this obsession with making short words even shorter? Sometimes, it’s not even shorter … but just, different! Case in point: ‘kewl’ versus “cool”.

And you don’t stop there. You would rather use ‘n’ instead of “and". For you the three articles in the English language are ‘a, an, d’ instead of “a, an, the”. For you ‘sumthin hapnd cuz of sum1’ instead of “something happened because of someone “. You stay up ‘l8 in d nite’ instead of staying up “late in the night”. You want to have a ‘gud lyf’ and that’s great, but I just wish that you rather had a “good life”. And what’s with you when you ‘suppalyk’ your friend’s FB comments? Is the like button not enough to show your appreciation if you don’t have any other words to contribute? Also, it doesn’t bug me when you LOL, but kindly explain what the hell is ‘lollzzzzz’? Did you fall asleep with laughing out loud?

Confused and perplexed; mode = OFF

Annoyed and irritated; mode = ON

I hate it when you say that things were ‘gr8r b4’. Remember, it’s “never” and not ‘neva’. We are “friends” and not ‘frens’. It’s “whatever” and not ‘wateva’. It’s “with” and not ‘wid’. It’s “right” and not ‘rite’. It’s “what” and not ‘wat’. It’s “today” and not ‘2day’. It’s “phone” and not ‘fone’. D lyst is far frm cmplet, i cud go on foreva …

Here’s a tip to avoid looking like a complete moron: make the extra effort to type the last ‘g’ when you feel like ‘singin wen itz rainin’, or when you use the –ing form of any word.

Annoyed and irritated; mode = OFF

Polite request; mode = ON

PLEASE DON’T TYPE IN CAPS ALL THE TIME. Please use punctuation where you can especially in a long sentence because it increases the readability of the sentence like this one and to make my point I am going to try to make this sentence even longer by saying some unrelated things that nobody cares about see you have started getting weirded out and I did this just to make you realize how disgusting it is to read such poorly constructed language. Please understand that special symbols such as the question mark (?), exclamation mark (!), period (.). etc., don’t need to be repeated a billion times to stress its importance. Do you understand ???????????? I hope you do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Also, please realize that the period is not a substitute for the space bar. It’s perfectly alright to write a sentence like this and …………………………don’t………………need………..write…………like……….this.

Polite request; mode = OFF

Trying to be nice so that you don’t feel bad; mode = ON

Nobody has to be grammatically and syntactically correct all the time while tweeting, facebooking, or IMing. We all use shorthand at times. Things like brb, tc, ttyl, etc. are perfectly acceptable. The problem is when you take it too far with words like ‘wurdz’. The occasional usage of such ludicrous language is also fine, but when you insist on talking in gangsta rap format al da tym – it can get really unbearable for some of us. No, you don’t save any significant amount of time when you talk like this. Neither do you come across as cool.

Trying to be nice so that you don’t feel bad; mode = OFF

Parting words and final shot; mode = ON

Some of you may argue that why make a fuss when what you want to communicate gets communicated anyway, even with your moronic language. Fair point, but I beg to differ. There’s one heck of a difference in what you are asking me to do when you say ‘cum onlyn’ instead of “come online”.

If you want to discuss this further, feel free to write to me at:

Parting words and final shot; mode = OFF

Yours sincerely,

Troubled Social Network User

Sunday, 10 July, 2011

A question with 1.21 billion answers

Cool beads of perspiration trickled down a can of Coca-Cola forming a water ring on the table. The smell of hot samosas spread through the little open air eatery as the cook brought in a fresh batch from the kitchen and placed them in a glass compartment for all to see and none to touch. As soon as the samosas made their way into the public eye, an army of people crowded around the cash counter to pay and get their daily fix of the delightful savory treat. Some shouted at the top of their voices to make their orders heard, while others just pushed and pulled through the crowd to get as close to the counter as possible. A group of American tourists took a break from enjoying the samosas and whipped out their cameras to capture yet another glimpse of chaos in this seemingly maddening country called India. “Why don’t they queue up instead of crowding the counter?” asked one American to another.

Emma Jones took another swig of her coke to wash down the spiciness of her samosa. As a doctorate student studying Indian culture at the University of Oxford and currently on her third trip to India, she smiled to herself at the naivety of the American. Her professor, Dr. Avinash Kumar, had cautioned her long ago that it is futile to try to understand India from a western world perspective. Just like the intricacies of differential calculus are of little use in understanding literature, the concepts of culture and society as formed in the west serve little purpose in understanding the enigma that is India. She had long ago stopped wondering why Indians don’t queue up at the cash counter unless forced to, why don’t they answer a question with a direct yes or no instead of rambling on and sounding noncommittal with frequent uses of words like ‘mostly’ and ‘probably’, and other such things that exasperated most of the western world. She had been rather quick to realize that there was no linear model or well-defined matrix used in the study of cultures that could capture India in its entirety.

The objective of her research work was to make an attempt at identifying the strong but invisible threads that held this land of mind boggling diversity together. By now all she had learned was that India is more than the sum of its contradictions. But how could she go about understanding an ageless civilization that has educated the world’s largest pool of engineers and scientists, yet is home to the world’s largest illiterate population? How does one make sense of a country that has a vast desert (Thar Desert) in close proximity to lush alluvial plains (Indo-Gangetic Plains) believed to be one of the most fertile regions in the world? It never ceased to amaze her how a country that had the world’s largest snow covered region outside the polar caps was also one of the hottest places on the face of the planet. It seemed like any truism about India could be immediately contradicted by another truism. The truth about India, she often thought, is that there are many truths. Multiple truths - once again, a concept that perplexed most of the linearity and standardization obsessed west.

She licked the last bits of the samosa from her fingers and proceeded to wash her hands at the banyan tree next to the roadside dhaba (café) that had now become her regular haunt. A little kid poured water from a steel jug and helped her wash her hands and asked, “Very hot today, no?” She smiled and said “I don’t mind the heat; I am used to it now.” The kid just smiled and she realized that she had spoken far more English than he could understand. It always amused her when Indians used the word ‘no’ at the end of every other sentence. “You had a comfortable flight, no?”, “The taxi driver didn’t charge you extra for luggage, no?” etc. Her favorite still remained, “Please join us for lunch, no!”

She started walking back through the crowded streets towards her hotel absorbing the sights and sounds around her. “The only way to start understanding India is to surrender to it and to embrace it with all its craziness, chaos, and inefficiencies”, Dr. Kumar had said. “As you immerse yourself in this cauldron of diverse geographies, multiple languages, different faiths and ideologies, you will start to realize that it is a society impossible to parameterize for general understanding. In India very few things are black or white and everything is sprinkled across a vast spectrum of grey where even black is thought of as very dark grey and white as very light grey”. Over the years, Emma had realized that the last statement was probably true. Indians did seem very comfortable with chaos and obscurity, something that freaked out most of the western world. They had even coined a word for getting things done amidst total chaos – “jugaad”. It’s a word that doesn’t even have an accurate English translation, simply because the western world probably never thought that it is possible to live life comfortably without standardization and predictability. But how was it that a civilization comfortable with fuzzy logic managed to produce the world’s largest fleet of software engineers who have to adopt binary logic for problem solving? “Yet another unresolved contradiction in the endless list”, she mumbled to herself as she entered her hotel room.

Once again it was the time of the day for the same realization to hit her once again – a realization of getting nowhere with her research work. Earlier she would get depressed when such thoughts hit her but off late she had started not worrying about it. One of the tasks that were assigned to her on this study tour was to maintain a journal and to capture her thoughts about India every day in one crisp sentence. She took out her journal and wrote – “Understanding India requires developing a comfort with fuzzy logic over binary logic, comfort with contextual thinking over standardized thinking, comfort with relative ideologies over absolute ideologies, and opening up to the notion of cyclic reasoning over linear reasoning.”

She closed the journal and heaved a sigh of relief. She had been working hard for the last few days and was going to a night club with some of her local associates to party all night. She promised herself not to think about work until the next Monday and started thinking about what to wear. As she counted the currency notes in her purse she saw the country’s national motto printed on it: Satyameva Jayate i.e. truth alone triumphs. “Whose truth?”, she wondered.

A question that has 1.21 billion answers if the 2011 census hasn’t undercounted us again.