The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near, let it roll

A 250 miles planned road trip on a torrentially rainy day, some musings and pointless observations!

Reading Time: 10 minutes

The wipers kept oscillating at the speed of an inverted runaway pendulum, while the water kept pouring in abundant glory from the bulging clouds. It was raining torrentially, but I was scheduled to move some 250 miles south on that day, and driving in this vast country is always a pleasure and one of my favorite activity. So, there was no looking back, and not a remote chance of canceling the rare and unexpected, one way car rental deal. After exchanging the customary pleasantries with the rental clerk, and obviously falling prey for the extra collision and liability insurance coverage which they insist, in spite of the credit card seemingly covering such rare accidents, I find myself with minimal luggage, a backpack with laptop and the faithful and extremely useful yoga mat, facing a shiny green vehicle, fondly named Kia Soul. Its a small 4 cylinder, 200 hp engine, involuntarily massaging my head with its cheap upholstery but gives a good mileage. Not all statistics about the car are vital or preferred by me, but seems like it will do the job well. I load the vehicle with the luggage, start the push button engine, check the wipers for any residual water marks while rolling, check the headlights, push the driver’s seat all the way back for a semi-comfortable feeling, as my legs easily reach the pedals without the knee getting the required relief. But, you get what you pay for, and I am relieved that I don’t have to spend a lot, and still can drive and reach my destination, instead of schlepping the luggage in any other formal modes of public transport, cramped in an equally tight seat along with my stereotypically pompous fellow brethren.

The ride was quite fascinating, as I squeezed out of the airport facility, and rolled onto the magnificent interstate freeway, along with the fast moving traffic. It was a Sunday, and I wasn’t in a particular rush to reach, although I wanted to maintain a constant speed.

I’ve always admired the tortoise, in the famous “Hare and the Tortoise” story, not necessarily for winning the race, but more for his doggedness in sticking to a process or strategy without allowing boredom or impatience to creep in, and although on many occasions, as required, I’ve enacted the hare too, but the tortoise-like temperament suits my non-gregarious and observant personality.
I traveled through the Appalachian hills, amongst the vast ocean of greenery of trees and grass to the sides of the freeway, and passing by few minor cities and many more inconsequential small towns, which might have had a consequential role to play in the past presidential elections. The freeways are adorned with signage which lures one to take pitstops for leaks, purchases and more often some terrible tasting coffee breaks, unless of course, you’re lucky to hit “Starbucks”, without having to go to the centre of the town a few miles away. Starbucks brand is my personal favorite, not only because of the taste, but because it has a nice range of sugary sides to go along with the dark roasted pike, without cream or sugar. It is also my favorite brand because we’re invested in the company’s growth story for a few years now, and in spite of Howard Schultz announcing his departure from the firm after a long run, possibly to run a bigger political race per rumors, I consider it to still have substantial growth potential remaining, especially in foreign shores, where they’re just about beginning to cast their footprint.

SB

Having said all this, I would jump on to the opportunity of investing 7% of the equity portion of my portfolio into Starbucks, if it ever falls down in the 42 to 45 range, augmenting the yield substantially, and not to forget that the coffee, pastries and the overall experience at the store is never inexpensive yet always fabulous.

I was tempted to pull out of the freeway, and indulge with a Starbucks experience, but the ride was smooth, traffic scarce, and scenery superb, and I decided to let go of the pulling out, stopping to get dehydrated and pulling in again business. Instead, I continued the journey, immersed in being with the roads, its bends, dents and meandered the journey with my own singing, chanting and silence, instead of blasting some advertisements on the FM radio interspersed with some fast paced hip-hop or reggae. Admittedly, this was the first time I chose to drive like this, the entire 250 miles, as usually, the radio or a personal selection of songs on the phone, is what fills the car with various sounds and noises. It was indeed a sweet transition from listening to someone else’s music, to composing your own personal and random playlist, based on the moods and fancy of the driver.

It was all worthwhile and flowing, until the much needed bio break was in order, and I pulled over at one of the the well-designed and massive “Rest Area” of the famous “Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways”, which to its credit was designed during President Eisenhower’s time, way back in the 50’s and covers roughly 50,000 miles of pothole free roads by now, is expertly maintained, and connects this huge nation from one end to another, with a matrix of interstate freeways, enhancing commerce, transport, communication and many ill fated accidents.
The average driving speed of the vehicles on these highways is 65 mph, and I was in no mood to accelerate over the limit more than 5 mph, firstly, to avoid getting any expensive tickets, because that would defeat the entire purpose of keeping this trip a low cost journey, also making the penalty on the ticket more than the rental car cost, and secondly, because I was absolutely enjoying this rainy drive of 250 miles, heading west for 100 miles and southeast the remaining 150 miles.

Dogs

It was very interesting to notice the love people have for their dogs, especially in such “Rest Areas”, as along with themselves, the dog owners, which there were plenty, and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if almost all, at the rest area where I stopped, had various dogs of differing sizes, were ensuring that their dogs managed to get a reasonable stretch and they get to pick their fresh droppings, before hopping onto their respective vehicles again to continue their journey.

It was a bit amusing to see some signs pointing out to “Dog Exercise Area” as I felt many of their owners needed equivalent or certainly more exercise and stretch than their cute puppies, and it was also very obvious that dogs naturally knew when and how much to stretch their bodies, as and when necessary, above and beyond the scheduled Rest Area stops, and that’s why the “Dog Pose” in yoga.

But, of course, I wasn’t judging anyone, I was simply observing and being amused, and my obvious smirks perhaps must have generated some strange frowns from folks around me. Any who, I took off once again to finish the remaining journey, amongst the rains, and after paying a meagre toll, for using the freeway, continued southeast towards my new destination, where I am planning to spend a week, before heading out west to the magnificence of the Rockies. The rest of the trip needed much more alertness and care, especially when changing lanes at 70 mph, in hazy conditions, due to the incessant rains and as such was uneventful, but for me as a driver, it was anyways fascinating to be traveling on the roads at fast speeds, humming to my own tunes, without the iPhone connected to the USB or wondering if the bass, treble or balance could be adjusted any further, for a better surround sound experience.

GA

On the way, I crossed Gettysburg, and some portions of the violent and turmoil filled history of this nation flashed into my mind’s eye. It was here that Abraham Lincoln had delivered his famous “Four score and seven years ago…” Gettysburg Address, at the end of the Civil War in 1863, and is considered one of the best known speeches in American history.
It really were troubled times during the formation of a new nation, to be battling amongst themselves, and eventually having to settle after a terrible war, to create the foundation of a United States. I’ve read plenty on the topic in the past, have a fond admiration for Lincoln and respect his role during those times, but decided against visiting the ceremonial visitor’s center, partially because of the rains, and mainly because I felt like continuing the journey forward.
HH

Now, I was in the final section of my journey, and I had to make a judgment call, as it happens to many of us in life, especially just before arriving at the destination, whether to stop for one more bio break, or hold tightly, literally speaking, and reach the final place. It was no different for me, and I wanted to be the “hare” this time, and go for it.

In many ways, it was an arguable decision, but I did go for it, passing a few cars in a rush, changing lanes with acute care, the rains were still on, and to my utter surprise, it was pouring harder and with some amount of gust, which made the visibility harder and the possibility of skidding a little more certain.
Nonetheless, I had put on my “hare hat”, and I was determined to not stop and reach on time, before any accidents happened, and I don’t mean with the vehicle.

Overall, I’m a careful and prudent driver, and like every other subjective space of my life, I’ve strategies on fast driving too, where uncontrolled passion doesn’t overrule any desperate wish to fulfill particular outcomes, and I know where to cut sharply, allow the other to go ahead, discreetly change lanes on an exceptionally rainy day, not irk any fellow drivers with my need for speed etc. – yet maneuver the vehicle in a systematic way to be ahead of others, covering a fair amount of distance much faster, and in spite of wearing my “hare hat”, remain settled within myself with a tortoise-like composure to maintain consistency and balance, both inside and outside of me.
All this didn’t take any effort, it was achieved silently, with the humming or full fletched singing, it was just that it takes awareness and sensitivity to be fine inside, and prudently aggressive on the outside. Its an application of a trick, to trick the mind, to not be ruled by its own gyrations, but instead, meander with a gentler and centered sense of alertness, which brings the desired outcome, in this case speed, but without allowing the mind to get excited or go berserk. Its certainly a finesse, and I have begun to enjoy it, without sacrificing on the desired experience and still achieving the desired outcome!

RHB

So, here I am, 250 miles south from my previous location, intact, and having finished an exciting trip, looking forward to spending a week amongst the flora, fauna, friendships and waters of a new neighborhood with old friends. The trip was necessary, exciting, and revealing and much to my surprise, I didn’t realize how the four and a half hours went by, traveling through three different states, amongst the jaw dropping torrential rains, enjoying the greenery, amused by the rest area musings, imagining the tough times during a civil war, admiring the foresight with which the interstate system of highways was built, rejuvenating with personalized singing and chanting and above all driving a decently built car, optimizing its potential by appropriately racing its engine, interspersed with deliberately slowing down when necessary, especially when it was obvious that the M4 or Sequoia, driving next to me, is neither going to slow down, nor allow me to pass, even if they wished to, considering their superior engine, but it doesn’t matter, as I’m aligned and in tune with “The Doors”, and humming to their lyrics “The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near, Let it roll, baby, roll, Let it roll, all night long” 🙂

Until next time, Ciao!…

To Binge or Not to Binge

Binging on Schitt’s Creek, a model on incremental productivity and Isaacson’s biography on Einstein.

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Reading Time: 7 minutes.

I finished a very well written and interesting biography on Albert Einstein by Walter Isaacson, titled “Einstein: His Life and Universe”, having started the book a few weeks ago, this long weekend. I used to put off biographies for some reason, not knowing why I should be reading about anyone’s life, when I can explore and experience the dynamics of my own life in depth. But, it turns out, like many other realizations, I was wrong in my thinking. Walter Isaacson’s captivating stories of Einstein’s life, was not only mesmerizing, but also has many things one can learn from his life. The book is beautifully structured, and although, a long read, it is engrossing throughout and kept me intrigued. The style is very lucid and I had heard about Isaacson’s penchant for writing beautiful biographies, but it was the first time I had a chance to indulge and enjoy his work. It was quite intriguing how flamboyant Einstein was in one sense, and completely aloof in another, both in his professional and personal life. It seems, he could be very quiet and lost in his scientific work and be equally vocal and gregarious in his expressions, be it politically driven matters or writing a recommendation for his colleague. He did not seem to mind getting involved with media and political dramas or backlashes, if he believed in the cause. He remained equally a wanderer and wonderer, and lived in few countries, was focused and determined to find a unified field theory till the end, attempting to explain the mysteries of the universe, and remained witty, focused, humble and humorous until he passed away at his Princeton residence in 1955. My timing couldn’t have been better in finishing this book, as I am stationed just 10 miles away from his Princeton residence, and am daily walking some trails around his neighborhood.

Walter Isaacson captures few of his final utterances from various sources, few days before his death, quoted below:

To a group of doctors recommending seeing a surgeon for his health condition: “It is tasteless to prolong life artificially, I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.”

To his assistant, when asked: “Is everything alright?” Einstein replied: “Everything is alright, but I am not.”

To his son, Hans Albert, on America: “Everything – even lunacy – is mass produced here. But everything goes out of fashion very quickly.”

To his friend, queen mother of Belgium: “The strange thing about growing old is that the intimate identification with the here and now is slowly lost. One feels transposed into infinity, more or less alone.”

Isaacson ends the book with this observation – He could be serenely self-confident in his lonely course yet also humbly awed by the beauty of nature’s handiwork. And Einstein remarks: “A spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort.”

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It has been such a long time that I haven’t binged a particular activity, and I don’t think I’ll ever binge, per the technical definition of the word. Last fifteen years, I have particularly managed a schedule in such a way that, I get involved with an activity, deliberately for short durations and keep hopping to the next relevant activity, which could also be conscious inactivity. Its an arranged experiment to not get hooked onto anything particular for a long time and instead allocate my energies in a deliberate manner to keep changing activities every few hours, remain involved with the new activity and just when it is settling, move on to the next relevant activity. The reason for such an experiment is simple, I want to accomplish various things, incrementally, which I am choosing to bring into the daily routine, but allocating sufficient yet not extensive amount of time to it, so that I can get sufficiently involved but immediately move on to the next one with equal involvement.

The idea is to train the mind to not get hooked on to any particular activity, and simultaneously get unidentified with the need to have an immediate outcome of that activity.

It also helps in retaining attention since I’m not stretching the activity beyond a certain point, knowing very well my capacity to loose attention if the activity takes longer. It also helps me in bringing multiple activities within the realm of the same day, and thus I get the benefit of incrementally building up on the plans for my activities, which have a long term essence for me. As an example, in a given day, I could be allocating my energies to be doing the following things, with much involvement, knowing very well that I would be hopping to the next activity soon – yoga, walking, reading, work, writing, eating, siesta, chanting, sending personal messages to friends, watching my breath, chatting on phone with a close friend, reading shortlisted articles on the internet. Now, none of these activities individually, per se, has much meaning, or at least, that’s how it is perceived by most of us, if that is the only activity we do in the whole day. But, when you keep on doing this routine, day in and day out, over a matter of few weeks, you feel quite super, probably because it brings about a sense of deeper fulfillment, and more importantly, the brain adapts to a pattern which is less stressful, linearly meaningful, with an easily achievable mode of functioning. At least, that is my experience and hence I stick to such routines.

A good friend suggested watching “Schitt’s Creek”, a pretty much Canadian production, with the lead actors being Canadian too, three of them from the same family. Its kind of a dry humor situational comedy, based on sarcasm and satire. Its been delicately created and to me, who’s kind of on holidays, babysitting the progenitors, it was a perfect time to binge the show. Netflix has bought the rights for three seasons and each season ironically has thirteen episodes and each episode is roughly twenty minutes. So here I am in the land of opportunities, after a superb daily long walk in the woods, close to Einstein’s home place as mentioned earlier, I would come back, have a nice home made meal and binge – not on food though. It was indeed very different from the experiment I mentioned earlier, and it was quite amusing to see the confusion which it created in the brain the first few hours, as routinely, my mind was demanding for me to move on to the next task. It didn’t get any, except an occasional and terrible choice of Doritos chips, just for old times sake. So, I broke the routine of the mind, allowed the binging to happen and finished the three seasons in a matter of three days, leaving my friend behind in the unannounced race for completion. I enjoyed the binge, but the drag which comes along with such acts, was easily felt and thanks to the daily dose of yoga and walking, I managed to keep up some aliveness. Watching TV has become a far off and distant activity, which I usually don’t do, not because I don’t like it, but because we don’t have a TV anymore. So, occasional binging like this is remarkably entertaining but I don’t think I can do it very often. I like the small doses of intense activity or inactivity, as I find it more productive, with major long term benefits, and in which I can retain my attention much better. Of course, this works for me only because I have managed to arrange my life in a manner where such things are possible. But, it is worth experimenting with for anyone wanting to incrementally make their lives more intense and productive over a long haul, in my opinion.

Thanks for reading, until next time, Ciao!

Art, Commerce and Science of Relentless Traveling

Exploring traveling as an effective tool for self exploration, if applied with the right intention.

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

Traveling is rarely about rest and relaxation, especially if one does not know how to rest and relax, while not traveling. It does give an illusion when we’re in a rut, that traveling to some exotic location, will take off some steam and bring unending pleasantness. And it does, for a short time, which may even end before the first day of holidaying is over, and I’ve been with some people and heard from many, the confirmation to this hypothesis, that they’re unable to stick to the pleasantness they had anticipated by taking up the travels, to a far off place which looked beautiful and serene, and could’ve provided relief to their distress. The mind seeks constant stupor and provides various illusions on how things can be different somewhere else. And the irony of holidaying for most of us is, we end up either stressing more – while leaving, after first few hours or days of reaching the dream location, and definitely after we come back to the rut. I’m sure there are many rational reasons for such behaviors which most of us will avoid digging into.

After all, providing fuel to the mind’s incessant ability to wander and create stupor is a full time activity for all of us, we’re trained and come preprogrammed for such a compulsively engrossing task.
Although, I’ve never had this problem, whether I’m traveling or otherwise, but again, I’ve been with people or heard from them, about how they needlessly wonder about their work while on holidays, and dream about a perfect holiday while at work. Its quite amusing for me as an outsider, but I’m sure, for the people exhibiting such behaviors, it can be heavily taxing on their system, since most of the conserved energy is getting frivolously spent in active hallucinating and thus possibly leaving one exhausted and confused.

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I think, I would have considered myself very fortunate, if I would have ever had the pleasure of meeting Mark Twain, when he was around, either in his hometown, or while he was traveling on the Mississippi, in San Fransisco or the Indian subcontinent. It would be indeterminate whether his experience in meeting me would be equivalent. I obviously like his style of writing, and consider his work solid, witty and revealing. But beyond the general praises, I like the insights I get whenever I read his elaborate work or the numerous quotations which float around on the internet under his name. He was certainly well traveled, and observed the various facets of life and lifestyle very closely, while smoking his favorite cigars. Traveling during his times, definitely was risky, and not returning back to where you started from, was a possible uncertainty. With my current lifestyle, I find myself traveling for about four to five months in a year. It might be due to actual holidaying, visiting friends and family, or sometimes working. My current work requires me to think more than act, when it comes to how I actually use my energies. Having said that, over the years, I’m realizing how it is extremely important to know “How to think” versus knowing only “What to think”. 

Thinking is subtle action and a precursor to visible action, while visible action is a consequence of subtle thinking.
I’m beginning to realize the significance of this correlation, and it would be probably incorrect to assert that the two activities are actually separate or distinct. Analogically, they’re kind of like the beginning and ending rungs of a ladder or beginning and ending frequencies of a light spectrum etc., and it would be certainly unwise to categorically consider thinking and acting as two separate phenomena. They’re not, but in general parlance, we make the mistake of looking at them separately, and finding ourselves helplessly struggling with creating life situations in any elegant manner. The amount of energy which gets wasted, literally, in not knowing or not being alert of this fact, leads to an exhausting and confused life, where we remain clueless as to how things are occurring around us.

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On the current travel schedule, which is part of my 4 month gig for 2018, requiring crossing couple of continents and oceans, I’m traveling without the missus. Traveling with or without one’s significant or insignificant other, has its own repercussions, after having clarified my initial take on traveling, not necessarily being an act for rest and relaxation.

As individual human beings, we are largely in a state of flux, and conceptualizing us within a framework of how we are or should be, is simply an expensive mistake, often done, rarely inspected and one has to pay a hefty price for such uncanny generalizations.
The biggest advantage of traveling together, assuming a relationship where both partners are actively willing to learn about their own idiosyncrasies and limitedness, is you grow as an individual and your affection and love for each other scales up non-linearly, in some form of quantum leaps, perhaps, equivalent to Einstein, Bohr or Bose’s findings about the random quantum leaps of electrons within matter. The key in this kind of processes is the aforementioned observation: “assuming a relationship where both partners are actively willing to learn about their own idiosyncrasies and limitedness”. If this willingness is missing, good luck in traveling with any partner who is close to you, either physically, mentally, emotionally or in business. It doesn’t work well for the simple reason, we as humans are not a concept, we don’t function based on recorded observations from the past, or theological assertions from books, or any forced moral values imposed by society, parents or teachers.

It is my contention that, humans are uniquely organic, they cannot be predicted, just like ‘em electrons, and if one expects traveling with such humans will automatically and always bring the serenity for which you spent the thousand dollar tickets or ten thousand dollars excursions, good luck with that line of thinking. Disappointment will be the least of the worries, and coming back being emotionally wrecked or physically exhausted will probably be a distinct certainty.
But, if the partners consider growth and togetherness as important, not as a derived benefit of the other’s changing attitude, but in wanting to dig within themselves actively, to investigate the nuances and compulsions of our own behaviors and attitudes, traveling can become a phenomenal tool for self exploration – defeating our ignorance and freeing us from regular stupidity. Having said all this, traveling is probably a good thing, regardless of one’s individual or combined goals of growth or compatibility, because it provides the opportunity to come in contact with an exposure to difference on the outside and indifference on the inside. The experience of traveling, on the other hand, will certainly depend upon one’s wanting to mature and that fact cannot be altered, because the core nature of traveling is to be amongst the anomalies of change and variations.

Whenever fate or sponsored tickets brings me to America, after the initial fright at the immigration counter, and pretend exchange of pleasantries with the officer, I like to seek out and immerse with the land and water of this beautiful country. America is known for its consumerism, prolific research in advance technologies, magnificent buildings of prosperous megacities, channelized transportation, flourishing commerce  and extraordinary display and affording of comfort, convenience and luxury.

I don’t have any particular opinion about the economy of this country, or the freedom the constitution is supposed to provide which the denizens are supposed to enjoy, the excessive dependency on market economy to create wellbeing for the individual, the almost mandatory need for insurances of all types to be substituting the individual’s need to be living responsibly, the categorically challenging atmosphere created by wanting to live extravagantly, considering it as a wise choice and only eventually realizing that it takes off 35 to 50 years of adult life to build such a lifestyle, hinging on borrowed resources, while the average life expectancy is still only a tad bit over 75 years.
So, obviously, I don’t have any issues with any of these observations, which I insist is not an opinion, but I think every thought, action, compulsion and concept over which we build our life, has an innate consequence, and it is my general observation, most of us are not familiar, nor are willing to read into the consequence of our actions based on a long term view of a fleeting life, which actually could end abruptly, accidentally or to bring some sense of relief, eventually. Anyways, the point I was trying to make is simple, whenever I visit America, the first thing I want to do over here, is go and walk in the beautiful and underutilized state parks, amongst nature, which still has 50 to 100 years old trees, creeks, flowing rivers etc. It brings me immense joy and a sense of freedom to be doing that, which is unparalleled and usually unavailable in other developing countries. I like to walk the trails, sit by the water body, take photos, write about the experiences, be with the silence of the sky and simply immerse with the elements, which are so present and bountifully wanting to involve.

To me, traveling is another tool to come closer to myself. It exposes me to the different cultures and milieu of the human species. It also exposes me to my inherent biases and reluctance to accept diversity. It shows me the compulsive need to be constantly forming opinions about other people and places, compare them with my own ideas about how life should be, and most importantly, traveling offers me an unique opportunity to scale myself up as a human being, who is profoundly waiting to evolve, wanting to seek dimensions beyond his own opinions and beliefs.
Traveling is a simple tool for all this. But, so is silence and sitting quietly without moving much, and allowing the madness of the mind to settle on its own accord, by not reacting for its need to move. Obviously, these are two very different methods for self exploration and I personally like to apply both of them simultaneously, since I’m only married to the missus, not any methods, and hence I see no particular issue with applying both styles, in trying to figure out some existential answers to the elusive manners of the mind wanting to create constant stupor, while the obvious manners of the body, takes me straight to the grave in a matter of time.

In my opinion, and this is an opinion, because it pertains to my own outlook of life, these are not small or insignificant matters, which can be avoided in pursuit of happiness, as written in the US constitution. These are significant matters, which requires one to question the incessant stupor of the mind and movement of the body, in perennially wanting to create a world of our own liking, while simultaneously with time, both the faculties of mind and body, take upon a diminishing curve of efficacy, leading to their eventual collapse into oblivion, upon the arrival of death. I personally attach significant importance, to such quests and inquiries, and find that because of this attitude, the engaging travels or the still silence, which I partake, has a beauty of its own, as for most part, I disallow – stress, aggressiveness or compulsive rushing – to dilute my experience of them.

Thanks for reading, until next time, Ciao!

Roads, Parks, Cars

Blabbering on the magical mundane!

 

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Reading Time: 7 minutes

I love driving cars on nice roads and walking in fine parks, particularly stateside. The roads, parks and cars there are outstanding, in comparison to most other nations. Needless to say, their initial investment in creating a flawless infrastructure, as a core objective of nation building, has brought some outstanding results, in terms of booming commerce, unparalleled connectivity, effortless travels etc. and its a pleasure to use all three – roads, parks and cars – here with comfort and pride. Organizing my planning and activities, in conjunction with the anticipated effects of jet lag due to long distance traveling, I had planned this weekend – with adequate resting and hydration by drinking lemon and ginger water, followed by lightly roasted cumin and coriander seeds tea, followed by some deep work of capital allocation analysis, on a gyrating portfolio due to volatile markets, having to recently bid adieu to a strong and reliable fixed-income instrument disappearing suddenly to vagaries, continuing reading the current book by Isaacson on Einstein’s life, driving nearby locales to get acclimatized with the right side driving and going for an hour walk in the nearby park. All this was planned a few weeks ago, since I already know how the body and mind will react to jet lag and how to organize their affairs, to bring them to more robustness, as I’ve done several of this kind of travels in the past. I prefer not to be too pushy and rush into any important business in the first few days of crossing oceans, as the outcomes are invariably unpredictable, given the sluggishness of the body and mind, and my inability to be sharp and alert in any constructive decision making.

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As expected, I reversed the supersize car in a supersize country, out of the garage and started driving on the local roads, which were quite empty, as most people were celebrating Mother’s Day and probably were inside their homes. It turned out to be a boon, as I drove around the beautiful roads in the suburban neighborhood where I’m parked for a few days, and felt quite bloated, in a non-gaseous manner, which the joy of driving a nice car on a fine road can bring. Perhaps, its a guy thing, but it surely exists and there is no particular reason to deny or defend it. I personally do not prefer driving in other congested countries nor consider having a car in highly populated countries to be a joyful thing and many times, people close to me get confused, because I exhibit joy of driving a car stateside, but do not wish to have or drive one in other countries.

To me, the experience of the drive matters the most, firstly, the fine quality of the machine, the smoothness of the ride, delicate contact of the tyre on a finely banked road, the voluptuous curves and bends the car manages, the breeze I feel when the air gushes in from the window, then secondly, the fineness of sound system in the car, the quality leather of the seats, the frictionless maneuvering of the power steering, the automatic adjustments to the light of the rear and side mirrors, proper design of the seat to ergonomically support the body to feel cozy etc.
Having described all this in details, it is not easy to find all the combination right all the time, and I’m obviously fine with that too. The practical part of using a car for transportation, to reach from one point to another, is also a matter of significance, and I do acknowledge that, but do not necessarily succumb to it.

04

So, here I was, driving on pretty empty roads, and the spring is just about getting ready to spring here, although admittedly it is still quite cold and cloudy, but most trees have come out of their winter hibernation, have lush green leaves dressing their nakedness all over again, and the nicely mowed lawns add to the  charm of the scenery, while the Dogwoods and the Cherry Blossoms just keeps me mesmerized and wanting to stop and take a selfless photo. I resist the temptation and continue the ride with much amusement and listening to a deeply lyrical and fantastic tune, composed and sung by Nasrat Fateh Ali Khan, titled “Mere Rashk-e-Qamar”, which apparently means “one who makes the moon envious”. I swirl around, windows rolled down, unworried about any polluting clouds, fumigating the leathery interiors of the car or the delicate bronchioles of the lungs, and suddenly to my utter surprise, I come across this 150 acre of greenery, lined with many more then 100 year old trees, in this beautiful park of the neighborhood, which I’m used to walking, whenever I visit this suburb. The only reason, I expressed surprise, is because I was driving without the help of Aunt Sandra’s nagging on the Google Map app of the borrowed iPhone X, which by the way, is another fine piece of technology and delight, perhaps a topic to discuss for another time.

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The park has a well defined 3 mile round trip trail, nothing rigorous, with many curves and turns, mostly flat and open, nestled amongst the tall trees and manicured lawns. Its a beautiful sight to behold and there is a stillness in the air, which is quiet and intoxicating. I’ve walked this trail so many times that I do not need directions and I can guess quite accurately when I’ll be reaching the pond, most affectionately named as “Walden Pond”, where there are plenty of geese dirtying the trail with expected droppings, and lacking the availability of tissue papers, washing their behind with a dip in the semi-freezing Walden Pond. In amusement, a thought did occur to my usually devilish mind, especially while walking in nature, if Thoreau would have run behind them or considered them a nuisance? Regardless of the mannerism, the wild geese and squirrels, domesticated and designer-outfit wearing dogs, and the variety of colorful birds, formed an outstanding ensemble of beauty and serenity.

Unlike the picture perfect shots, there was something wild and brazen in the air, which was hard to comprehend, and the trail seemed to simply offer an opening into oblivion.
It was cold, not brutally, but I was ill prepared for the weather without any jumper, and I actually found myself feeling cold and yet a bit sweaty due to my habit of getting excited with anything green and walking fast. I could feel the muscles getting used to the terrain, and rhythmically enjoying the coming out from the sluggishness, from a long jet journey across a few oceans.

The body and mind in general started rejuvenating from the freshness and purposeless existence of this beautiful park, and I could not help but shed a few tears to be immersing amongst such relentless beauty and quiet, which was overwhelming and caressing at the same time.
I finished my enduring walk, avoiding the possible stare by the onlooking comrades on the benches, perhaps having mixed opinions about my flowing, rather long and beyond safety limits of neatly groomed facial hair, took back to the beautiful suburban roads and went back home with a combination of content, gratefulness and aliveness – an unique cocktail which distinctly gives a natural high without the baggage of an annoying hangover.

05

Lately, I’ve been distancing from the doughy delicacies and adjusting towards easily digestible alternatives including fruits and veggies, softer grains like some millets and quinoa, cooked lentils and pulses etc., in preparation of the aging onslaught. Overall, sometimes it is hard to follow the concept of a healthier diet, due to old habits and compulsions, or because of unavailability of simpler foods during travels, but have also been able to slowly move over to this concept, with small doses of alertness and awareness, and in general, the food eating habits are getting better than what it used to be just a few years ago. I usually don’t waste time with deep feelings of regret or guilt, as it is a serious waste of energy and indicates a severe lack of intelligence, and hence on occasions, like the one I’m expressing in this blog, I had planned, thanks to my wonderful hosts, to indulge in a home-made pizza where the dough and sauce were freshly prepared, the toppings – mushrooms, peppers, olives, jalapeños, basil leaves – were procured organically and the mozzarella cheese was obtained from a fine Italian grocer. I’m off any sodas, mainly for the overuse of sugar in it, not for the taste, and indulged in one can, with the fantastic pizza, served warm and subjected to personal care and attention. The entire day turned out to be uneventful, simple, serene, and I feel ready to face the rest of the music, for the purpose I’ve crossed two huge oceans, offering the body and mind newer possibilities and perhaps disguised challenges.

Thanks for reading, until next time, Ciao!…

Wanting to be at ease

Is “wanting to be at ease” an excuse for laziness, or is there another perspective to it?

Note-to-self-ease

Reading Time: 7 minutes

‟It’s not easy to differentiate between wanting to be at ease and being lazy, just like it is very hard to differentiate between wanting to be busy and being restless.”
It’s my observation that, most of us are conditioned to start our adult lives, with varying ideas of working hard, making a secured living, and finding expressions in fulfilling those ideas, by vaguely calling them our “dreams”. We also invest a tremendous amount of energy and spend a colossal amount of time, in fulfilling the plethora of unquestioned and usually conditioned dreams which we have about life in general and our individual life in particular. It is also not unusual for most of us to insist on keeping an active working schedule, as long as possible, and simultaneously find it difficult to not have any free time for hobbies, holidaying or creative works we might want to indulge in. Life feels fast, exciting, meaningful, purposeful, hectic, stressful and usually cumbersome with the way we’ve chosen to structure it, and many a times we find ourselves in a rut and frustratingly label it as a “rat race”. Many a times, we feel helpless and just don’t know how to get out of the routine, which we created, and seems to be working like quicksand, sucking us away into some oblivion, while all the possibility of finding expression to our pending dreams remain unfulfilled and distant. Amongst all this cacophony, in the meantime, we keep on aging, the body and mind begins to show a dwindling capacity, what seems to be a natural consequence of being born.

We pretend to hide the truth about our individual death, somewhere deep into an unaddressed space of our psyche, skirting the subject incessantly, and instead remain focused on wanting to solve the umpteen challenges we face in wanting to fulfill our dreams, assuming they can be resolved some day in the future, and we can possibly live a happy life sometime then.
Amongst the mayhem of all these fluctuations, it becomes almost impossible to see that our being born is perhaps the primary reason for our imminent death.

I like to be at ease as much as possible. I create devices and make use of them, to enhance that experience within me. I usually succeed many times, but also fail many times, when challenged by conflicting situations and troubling people. But, that doesn’t deter me from my intent to maintain a conducive and eased atmosphere within me, where I am not succumbing to the prevailing ideas of remaining challenged constantly to vagaries. To that effect, I am fine by doing things which align with my intent and brings me that experience of being at ease and not doing things which do not align. Which means it may involve taking up tasks, which I’ve better understanding of, feels natural, and in which I can maneuver the direction easily.

I don’t find “wanting to work hard and fulfilling my dreams at any cost” as an ideal definition of a challenging life, instead, I find dealing softly and wisely with situations and people detrimental to my “wanting to be at ease and playfully fulfilling my dreams only when favorable opportunities arise” as a workable definition of a challenging life.
It may sound like an unorthodox, pompous or cocky description of a challenging life, but that is fine, since I’m not writing to convince. I’m simply writing to find an expression for improving my writing skills and sharing some ideas on how I conduct my life. Obviously, it’s unadvisable to consider this note as an advise for appropriate living, unless of course, someone wants to experiment with this kind of stuff, then, this note might have some value.

I like to think that one of the fundamental and foundational device for “wanting to be at ease” is to find creative ways of enhancing our relationships – platonic, carnal, cryptic, or otherwise. The reason is quite simple, for it seems that, all of us living species, are interconnected, interdependent and probably cannot coexist, unless we realize this natural fact.
The first device I apply, is to manage my affairs of the world, namely the need – “for accumulating money, comforts, conveniences, ideas”, for survival to a calibrated degree of “Optimal-isM™”, an active balance between biting minimalism and unscrupulous hedonism. This device gives me the leeway of freeing myself from the burden of accumulating things, ideas, concepts or philosophies and instead, opens up an unique doorway to continual learning, enhancing perception, enabling capabilities of the body and mind, and probably the most significant thing, to remain unidentified with the “preprogrammed and conditioned” need for accumulating so as to feel safe and secured of my survival.
The second device I apply, is to allow and accept a healthy dose of randomness and uncertainty, in my planning for most survival related matters. This enables and usually enforces me to have a very long term vision for my life (usually until my death), and help plan my life in a manner where I expect randomnesses to occur occasionally, not freak out about it, identify alternate approaches to fix something, only if required, focus on staying balanced and at ease since I’m expecting and have accepted occasional randomness as part of life, and above all, bring myself to living presently in a deep state of availability to life, as much as possible, since I have a very long term vision already visualized in my mind’s eye and have kept my focus on “wanting to be at ease” over “wanting to give expression to all my dreams at any cost”. This kind of experimenting releases me from the burden of wanting to attempt at “actualizing reality” and instead slides me into a realm where I am looking forward to experiencing “existing realities” which does not need excessive effort, nor extensive resources and planning.

This kind of stuff and experiments are not very popular and I tend to occasionally get blamed or lectured for being lazy, unambitious, inconsiderate, dependent or simply antilife. I don’t mind the labeling, as I understand how the game of mainstream living works, where unquestioned individual dreams reign and realms beyond one’s own self remain unexplored. I don’t get bothered by most of the labels, except when it comes sharply from someone close, and that’s when I find myself using my third and most powerful device over such happenings – the few powerful “techniques of meditation” which I’ve learnt over the years from Masters, which bring me closer to myself using breath, sound, postures and attention. These are creative devices, subtly calibrated to bring one towards balance and ease, and whose relevance cannot be fathomed easily unless experimented with right intention and regularity.

I am a big proponent of meditation in one’s life, for the simple reason that, it offers the possibility of coming to a state of conscious non-doing, a profound ease, an undoing from compulsive movements due to repressed fears or excessive self-importance, and thus reconnects me to “existing realities” over any desperate and erroneous attempts at “actualizing realities”.
Contrary to popular belief, this crucial device is a killer of any attempt at wanting to remain ignorant. Meditation kills false ideas, acts as a catalyst to reveal the potential of the state of conscious non-doing, thus exhibiting existing realities, and obviously I consider that a big deal as it is an action aligned to my initial statement: “It’s not easy to differentiate between wanting to be at ease and being lazy, just like it is very hard to differentiate between wanting to be busy and being restless.”

I’m in transit, embracing some randomness, ready to cross few oceans, have been reading Isaacson’s biography Einstein: His Life and Universe, keeping up with the yoga practices, writing whenever possible, walking daily for an hour, eating various fruits, drinking plenty of buttermilk and finally before bidding adieu, I must clarify that “wanting to be at ease” is an inner experience, which happens within, and should not be confused with any particular action of shying away from responsibilities for one’s survival. It is simply a technique to be in contact with existing realities, lest I forget that, by wanting to take lofty flights, I might miss out on life itself in hope of creating my own realities, whose possibility I’m not too certain about!

Until next time, Ciao!

Dhulikhel

Immersing with the material and mystic at beautiful Dhulikhel!

 

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

I am not sure if I like traveling as much, as much as I end up traveling. Having said that, I think I must explain. I like traveling after I reach the destination, and consider the transit in between, quite a bit of hassle. We visited a quaint little mountain town, in the Himalayan kingdom over the weekend, called Dhulikhel, located at 1500 meters above sea level. The hills here are not majestic, but they roll and have terrace farming to their display and charm. It was very quiet and the place we stayed was superbly done, subtly allowing to experience the mystic without making any noise about it. It was crafted by removing very few trees and thus keeping the density of the forest intact, perhaps adding many more trees, which is a rare sight nowadays. All the cottages were nestled within the beautiful and aging trees and had the feeling of merging with the ecosystem. The room within the cottage looked out to the beautiful rolling hills at far, and the valley downhill gave the necessary contrast on how things in nature keep balance with what we usually understand as opposites.

In a sense, the valley and the hills were a single unit, but could be very easily differentiated as separate entities. Only when we view things from far and are at ease, can we see things properly. This is an observation, not an opinion.

Coming back to the traveling bit, I usually feel settled where I already am, or upon arrival where I intend to be, and have a certain inertia towards “unnecessary” movement. The keyword is “unnecessary”, because I am beginning to realize that, most of us confuse ourselves between what is necessary and what is not. The portion where I need to transit is what I resist, and would prefer faster methods of transport and am thus saying “I am not sure if I like traveling as much”. The transit and the normally glorified anticipation of travels, which many get excited with, is unexciting for me. Not that anyone should agree with it, I’m just expressing an opinion now. I am perfectly fine not getting to see the sights in between the source and destination, not being jammed in a train or a flight with fellow human species and the transit does not thrill me either. I am not denying that I might be missing many things on the way with this attitude, all I am saying is, I am fine with it. I get jittery in between, and perhaps am not the best company during those times. But, once I reach the destination, and am sitting with the knowing that I have a week or five to spend at the same location, a different beast brews out of this mug. I suddenly could be charming, jocular, impatient, imbalanced, ludicrous and many more things, and its hard to predict. But, I do assure the fellow companions, if any, usually its the affected missus, that upon arrival, they’ll not have many things to complain about me. This is how I am structured and unlike the whole movement of everyone should change themselves for the better, I don’t care to change myself in this department, and I’m perfectly fine being a bit grouchy and nervous, in transit. The missus has suggested many a times to carry some Benadryl, and I’ve always wondered to what might she be hinting?

 

 

Coming back to Dhulikhel. The entire weekend was quite relaxing, as we put sincere effort to being at ease. The cottages and the various facilities for meditation, yoga, pranayama, spa, pool, restaurants etc. were dispersed amongst the various terraces of the hill. So, it meant, going up and down from the pool to the Himalayan Salt room, to crystal room, to the yoga room, followed by the Chakra room and finally the Pranayama room. The restaurants and the lone shop were all the way at the bottom, and we reckoned that we were walking at least 500 steps everyday, going up and down. At the top level, there was a quiet and serene road which brought us to the most amazing sight of vegetable gardening at 1500 meters, on one of the terraces, facing the beautiful Himalayan hills. It was a magnificent sight to behold (play above video), and we were in awe at the various cabbages, zucchinis, chillies, chards, kales, lettuces, bananas, rosemary, and many variety of flowers, which were being organically grown there in a systematic way and being taken care of with drip irrigation system, and lots of love and affection.

The whole place was charged sensuously, and was emanating a sense of inclusiveness which doesn’t come by very easily.

 

It was a wonderful weekend of working without rushing, getting the caretakers of the place initiated into Isha Kriya and many other Isha Yoga practices, reading, sauntering and indulging with an unique 100% vegetarian Japanese food. Its a great location to unwind, and to be in an ecosystem where the experience of the material and the mystic are intertwined nicely, and many avenues for being meditative and learning clay pottery,  painting, yoga etc. are easily accessible. We would recommend this place to anyone visiting this Himalayan Kingdom!

 

Until next time, Ciao!

 

Reading Synergies

Can regular reading, a powerful yet dying art, help in improving our lives by increased neuronal functionality?

Reading Synergies

 

Reading Time: 10 minutes

It was indeed a long gap, but I’m finally gathering the courage, maturity, aptitude, intelligence and manners to getting it filled, and embarking once again, upon reason and insight to lead life. I don’t know what took me so long to fill the gap, perhaps, the lure of shinny city lights, dollops of romance for the ephemeral, intimate affairs with ignorance, or a super tasty concoction of everything I must consider lucrative and immediately beneficial. I used to enjoy it for the longest time while growing up, must have spent so many hours with it, learnt so many valuable lessons while being with it, admiring and analyzing it, all alone, in solitude, sometimes lost, but mostly finding myself through the written words of many, who took the noble task of sharing their ideas with the world, in the simplest form – non-verbal, imaginative, enlightening, subtle, exposed to interpretations – reading and learning from books.

 

 

Information is undeniably real, it has relevant properties and functions, which influences our patterns of living, and only now, after everything is going digital, we are realizing its potential and possibilities. In the analog world, it wasn’t that hard to visualize its efficacy, but not many were able to, and I think, I fell prey to it. During my growing up years, there was no immediate access to television, but there was immediate access to playing board games and sports, occasionally climbing small trees to pluck mangoes and gooseberry, reading books, getting wet in monsoon rains etc., which seem to have become extinct tasks, even with the immediate next generation. I ain’t sad or critical about it, but the charm which those activities had, is not only nostalgic, but it had certain physical and mentally uplifting characteristics which is not easy to replicate in the current ways of digitalized living. The digital world brings a whole new range of qualities which are sharper, faster, random and can be argued, makes ones mental abilities agile while the physical agility can be purchased by yearly memberships at the gym or a club. Anyway, the point of all these blabber is not to compare one era against another, and feel nostalgic about the previous one, while lamenting about the present one, and like our grandparents, have a long face about how things have gone wrong and how in our times, things were different and better. There’s a whole lot of hogwash to those kind of dramatizations, which I ain’t party too. My point is quiet and quite simple, I recently reacquired my old habit of regular reading, which I’m thrilled about, and simply wanted to jot a few things down and share it, now that I’ve a blog to fill, and a reason to infiltrate everyone’s inbox and WhatsApp groups with a gentle rigor. I find the whole process quite exciting and frankly an avenue to be in touch with you, maybe not literally but literately, which otherwise, is getting very difficult, as friends and families seem to be getting unusually busy with exhaustive activities, which many of them are unable to explain.

Munger

I grew up next to a library, a small one, or a “kutti” one, as my Tamil friends would say. It actually was a small room in a flat, which was converted into a library, just two blocks away from my television-free home. My brother and I were members, and I’m simply indebted to my brother amongst many other things, to introduce me to unsullied laughter, via the delightful ploys of Captain Haddock, twins Thomson & Thompson, dog Snowy, professor Calculus, butler Nester, singer Bianca Castafiore and of course, the young and dynamic detective Tintin, amongst the myriad of books at the library. Tintin, was so engaging and comical, it would be hard and insulting to Hergé, not to laugh uproariously, while the rest of the tribe around us were seriously helter-skelter making a living. In some ways, it was actually inappropriate that we were laughing while reading comics, and being inconsiderate to the immediate plights of others nearby us. Of course, we didn’t mean to be impolite or inconsiderate, it was just that we were learning joy and togetherness from a comic book, which although sounds like a silly idea, has proven to be an absolutely benevolent gift of incomparable magnitude in my life, and I owe it to Hergé and everyone else who I can give credit to, including the beautiful people who had the brilliant idea of an active library, in a dense residential neighborhood, where there were only few takers, whose interests were aligned towards books. While most people in the neighborhood were actively renting their extra rooms to paying guests,  this particular family, must have changed quite a few lives, surely mine, by renting books instead. I’m eternally grateful to them, and on my next visit to my childhood neighborhood, have intentions of stopping by and seeking out the truth behind such dynamic brilliance.

 

 

So, very silently and without fuss, reading became a source of entertainment, staying out of trouble, knowing how to sit alone at one place and be fine with it, enjoying some time with myself etc. and before I could tell, I had started reading novels of various sizes from different authors. The genres kept on changing over the years, but the value derived from the books never faltered or failed me. Reading was a way to bring myself back to me, borrow valuable relevance from others, have a chat with the author, learn and apply a few hints from their lives, adapt to some ideas they were sharing into my life, and I realized it all started making a lot of sense and was actually a powerful and dynamic way to create situations, guide my life, anticipate hurdles, express gratitude and thus come much closer to life. It didn’t feel freaky or unusual to do this, to the contrary, any other way of approaching life, started feeling very long, aloof and many a times helpless, as it would mean I had to reinvent the wheel all alone, not sure of the outcomes, when I could very easily get help from the carefully chosen books I had in the pipeline. It turned out to be a brilliant symbiosis between various authors and myself, and I started making choices with refined clarity and deeper insights as time passed, I supposedly grew, and life started unfolding and offering glamorous opportunities.

 

 

America was instantly fascinating, barring the daunting interview with the immigration officer at JFK, to be traveling under a bridge in my brother’s Mitsubishi Mirage, while a huge British Airways Boeing 747, was being taxied and pulled right above us, on the bridge. The tall buildings of Manhattan, the glamor, pace, sales, shopping, corporate opportunities, easy loan accessibility, power to immediately purchase etc. must’ve taken me on a different trip, and although reading was on my mind, it didn’t hold the position I’d given it earlier in life, and I started moving away from it for a long time. Of course, I never gave up the habit, it just wasn’t regular, nor was it used effectively, as I had managed to in the previous dramas of my life, before reaching the American shores. Life started unfolding various crossroads, and I started doing many gigs in corporate America, and enjoying the plethora of activities a fast-paced and accumulating culture with access to excess and instant gratification provides. In hindsight, I could tell, I wasn’t all that sharp amongst the unfolding of various dramas, as I could have been, if I had kept up with regular reading, in the land of opportunities. Life unfolded even more, traveling, partying, marrying, backpacking, yoga, meditation and many more things happened, until one day, after some 12 years of irregular reading, I came across the website Farnam Street Blog (http://fs.blog) where the blogger (Shane Parrish) advocated a habit of reading regularly, by committing to some pages of daily reading, to get into a habit. This opened up a completely new outlook to life, I immediately realized the opportunity cost of having loosened up on one of the most lucrative and creative habit I had developed in the formative and adolescent years, and with immediate intent, along with the daily yoga, I committed to reading 25 pages daily, and slowly realigned my life back, with authors who shared their ideas, from where it was easy to pick up methodologies, to reorient and align my own life, in a systematic and channelized manner.

 

 

I don’t consider myself an intellect, nor am I a voracious reader, because, as I explained earlier, I read to bring some guidance and direction to my own life. The act of reading is not so as to read a lot, know a lot or even discuss a lot. I actually am quite quiet and given a chance, would remain quiet and consider silence and observing the breath as a fun activity, which brings joy and connectivity, not the wifi kind, but human kind. In some ways, I could be easily labeled as an introvert, but over the years, I’ve realized the need to be an extrovert too, as life situations demand, and hence have picked up valuable hints from few books and oriented myself to balance between the two “verts” and could now be considered an “ambivert”, with a preference towards introversion, jumping on to extroversion upon provocation, because that’s the requirement of a gregarious society. Reading fine books, recommended by successful people is what I go after. I trust in the wisdom of Seneca and Aurelius and have their books in the pipeline. I am charmed by the wisdom of Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett, Richard Dawkins, Yuval Harari, Sadhguru, Osho amongst others, and I either read their books or the books they recommend. I don’t fret over how much I read, I instead work upon slowly extracting value from their insights, develop a strategy to keep it meaningful and available for use in my awareness, work upon my levels of alertness through daily yoga, and as and when situation calls for, I experiment and apply those readymade meaningful insights, borrowed from various authors, to provide guidance and direction to my own life and perhaps guide a few other lives. It all looks very cumbersome and convoluted, but once the knack is established, on the basis of a genuine intent to live wisely, it does feel like, this is one of the cleverest way to bring in wisdom and insight into one’s life, and it is really not difficult nor expensive. IMHO, any other way would be much more difficult and certainly more expensive.

Quote Series Chalkboard

It is my opinion that regular reading, on various topics, from trusted sources, enhances our neurological circuitry, challenges it in perceiving reality in a better manner, significantly improves the interconnectivity through a neuronal massage, maintains a healthy and robust brain function and in general, leads to making much wiser life-centric choices and better decision-making capabilities. It exposes us to the work of stalwarts from the past, who had the courage and insight to record their stories in the form of information in books, and to keep it alive for the future generations to make use of. It is in our interest to seek them out, use their time tested wisdom and enhance the quality of our own living in the present. It is my humble observation that “information is real”, it never dies, it floats and just like the genes, keeps propagating through various mediums from one generation to another, which I believe in the modern terminology maybe labeled as “memes”. It is in the interest of the modern man to pick up the hints, mistakes, observations, lessons which the people in the past have recorded, and shared with us, for us to make better decisions and not repeat the mistakes, nor spend energy on reinventing the wheel. It is a simple and wise way to conduct life and I hope, you, the reader agrees with it. I am benefitting hugely with such simple habits and have all intention to keep up with my 25 pages of daily reading to enhance my perception, learn from others, and guide my present life. If you feel alike, do drop me a note and we can correspond, for others, I’m leaving a set of links below, for further exploration on this topic.

Thanks for reading!

 

USEFUL LINKS:

Insightful Blogs:
https://www.fs.blog/
https://www.safalniveshak.com/

How to find time to read:
https://www.fs.blog/2013/09/finding-time-to-read/

Book Recommendations by Charlie Munger:
https://www.fs.blog/2014/06/charlie-munger-recommended-books/

Bearded Guides

Some bearded guides come unannounced, to knock you down, and one should consider it their fortune!

Bearded Guides

Took me 33 years of toil and set the sail

Took him 90 minutes to foil and take the reign

Took him for a guide hoping to sail shores

Only to begin a journey towards a vague core

His eyes revealed a sort of compassion

Only to realize it was silent dispassion

First bearded guide rescued me from plights

Only to drop me in the lap of unknown flights

Second bearded guide seemed on a mission

Only to realize he was out to kill false vision

Everything happened fast and felt like a dream

With only me left to hear my scream

I felt worried could I be missing out on life

Only to realize I was hooked on to strife

Its futile to resist and dream of other place

When I could be at ease and miss the rat race

They showered their blessings and showed the way

Without giving a chance to bow down and pray

I know bearded guides don’t care for any praise

Still sharing this poem and song in honor of their abundant grace

🎼Song Credit🎼
Nasrat Fateh Ali Khan & Tanishk Bagchi

Intangible Affairs

Some affairs are meant to be intangible for it to be valuable, and can’t be qualified or romanticized.

Reading Time: 8 minutes

We accidentally moved to a location, several years ago, which is surrounded by beautiful hills. The hills are rolling, energetically powerful  with many lore about it, and it wouldn’t be totally inappropriate to say, we don’t have a backyard, we simply have a back-hill. Every morning after I wake up, I usually remember to see the sun rise on the east, take a turn, fill some drinking water in the generous Ikea cup, and look out to the hills on the west, to see how magnificent they stand, tree-covered, canopied by randomly strolling clouds, and simply staring back with a smirk. They just seem to be there, although I know for a fact, they’re very organic and growing. Its a pleasure to have that few minutes of silent conversation with them every morning, while I consume the water, getting ready for the daily chores. It is also reassuring that they’ll be there the next day, and day after too, to continue this quiet romance, without much fuss on why I’m late, or whether I bought any gifts, or if I’m not paying sufficient attention to them, or I’m not romantic enough etc.

The point I’m trying to make is, the hills aren’t inanimate as normally understood, they’re alive, communicating, and are available to connect anytime, don’t expect much, and provide a daily assurance of their presence, which is quite remarkable and soothing.
When we moved here some eight years ago, we also planted saplings of various flower and fruit bearing plants, including Avocado, banana, pomegranate, sapota, guava, bougainvillea, hibiscus and some local varieties, which are all growing nicely now, providing shade, greenery, clean air and beauty to the area. It has been a remarkable journey of observing them closely, and I can claim that I have established a relation with them, where we enjoy each other’s presence, without having a need to talk about our individual problems. Strangely, I don’t tend to them often, except when I intuitively hear their call of being thirsty. It is very rare that I’ve let them stay dry without being watered for a long time, as somewhere deep within my psyche, they express their thirst, after adequate waiting, and I heed to that soft and gentle call with an immediate response. When they were little, I used to water them using a watering can, but now, as they all stand taller, firmly rooted, we’ve moved on to water them with a hose. I get this distinct feeling that they love this act of being offered water, partly because they’re thirsty, but partly also because they’re quite aware, they cannot walk far, and express their gratitude with that peaceful nod of approval when I pass them by. I also don’t know if you, the reader, has ever spent substantial time in a tropical country, but the heat is usually strong and I personally prefer not drying myself completely after a shower. It leaves me with some residual moisture over the body, which provides a relaxed and cooling effect, which is much appreciated! I feel when the plants are mulched properly with some organic material, like dry leaves, they similarly feel a relaxed and cooling effect, as the moisture gets retained under the layer of mulch. I’ve often felt this chemistry between the plants and me, and as hard as it is to describe, it is very vivid, and I cannot even claim that I’m any strong tender or lover of plants, except when it comes to harvesting the fruits and herbs from them.
Over the years, because of the denser and safer habitat, we get occasional crawlers like a rat snake, scorpion, lizards and many variety of birds in the area, who sing their tunes in the mornings, and the feathered peacocks don’t seem to mind strolling around the area, unbothered by our presence. Little do they know, it is our pleasure and pride that they’ve chosen to visit us, and feel safe living amongst us. Admittedly, they eat up all the arugula and basil leaves before we can harvest, and there is this unwritten tug of war on who can make it first to harvest the herbs. The cottages in the area, are also nestled amongst one of the finest trees, from the palm family, the coconut tree. Its an amazing design, where pretty much every part of the tree can be used for something, either edible or decoration or some other utility. The tender coconut water is just out of the world, although, we still haven’t managed to figure out how to harvest the coconuts without having to climb the tree, and usually drink it during our evening walks from the local vendor.

I have learnt many things from this organic and rather intimate affair with the hills, plants and birds over time. The significant lesson I’ve learnt is, that we really need not care about each other as much, to be in an intimate relationship. Perhaps, I should elaborate! I really do care that the hills, plants and birds sustain and live well, and also realize that my clandestine affair with them can only continue if they exist. So, in that manner, I do care for them. But I am prudent enough to also realize that they sustain based on some grander interconnected universal laws and movements, which I am not aware of, and I’m beginning to get a very good feeling that even I’m sustaining based on some grander laws which are unclear to me, which has an enormous influence upon me, beyond the monstrous effort I put to sustain on my own, based on the limited understanding of existence.

My connection with all these species is platonic, silent, intimate and its quality cannot be measured, and as such is intangible, cannot be qualified or romanticized. But, based upon my personal experience, I can easily say that they feel equally touched by my presence, as I am by their’s.
Its a mutual affair, where we do not bother each other with mundane matters of individual survival, and instead connect with each other, without any intent of seeking pleasure or profit from each other. In that sense, it can either be considered as a pure or a lame relationship, depending on how we choose to look at it.

The point to all these blabbering is that if we wish, we can create an organic relationship with many things around us and it is not necessary to be depending on fellow human species only. Not that, the fellow humans are inorganic or cannot be friendly, its just that there is no need to restrict ourselves to one single species.

Also, the quality of relationship with other species, once established, is remarkably quiet, because the noisy verbal chatter and pretense, is suddenly removed from the equation, which in general is a big barrier when it comes to connecting with fellow human species.
One of the biggest problems that human relations have, is we feel dissatisfied with each other after some time, and we never wonder what the root cause of such feelings could be. We feel disconnected and incomplete in many ways, and with that baggage, we embark upon wanting to connect with fellow humans, without really realizing that no one can fulfill or complete us by their physical presence. It seems like a daunting and unrealistic idea, which cannot find fruition, simply because we are trying to fulfill our physical or mental needs of feeling incomplete, by making use of other fellow humans who themselves have similar needs, and thus everything leads to a comical stagnation or pretentious status quo.

I find a distinct sense of involvement, togetherness and intimacy in silence, beholding, walking and really do not care much about the feelings of incompleteness or lack of fulfillment which lingers in my psychological scape.

I am in no ways suggesting that humans should not have physical or mental needs, because I don’t think that is possible. Although, my experiments with other species do reveal to me that giving unrealistic attention and importance to cultivated feelings of incompleteness, is perhaps the primary reason we have violent streaks in human affairs. As long as our affairs are rooted in trying to feel complete by using others, there is no scope but to remain subtly violent. But if we recognize this fact, and understand that we can intimately connect at other subtler levels, not only with fellow human species, but pretty much everything around us, there is a sudden sense of freedom, and all our petty attempts of finding fulfillment seems insignificant, futile and silly. I also think, these experiments and realizations cannot be conceptualized and everyone has to figure out the truth behind it on their own. To that effect, I would not suggest anyone to accidentally move to a location surrounded by rolling hills, banana trees or flock of peacocks, but instead, wherever they’re, to simply observe their needs, without wanting to alter them, the struggles and compulsive behavior which it brings in wanting to satisfy those needs, and simultaneously plant some flowering plants in a pot, look up to the sky more often, feel the occasional breeze and warmth of the sun more often, go for walks in nature during the weekends or evenings, enjoy some home cooked meals prepared together etc. and I also feel it is really not necessary to domesticate a dog and bring them home either, unless of course, its a Labrador.

I think simply being aware of our compulsive needs, clubbed with being conscious of our movements amongst all species, without altering anything, can bring us towards relations, which need not be fulfilling, but can be very intimate.
Perhaps, this could be the missing link towards having a peaceful individual and a harmonious world, where we’re not ceaselessly working towards the build up for the next war!

Udagamandalam

An impromptu trip to the nearby beautiful Nilgiri hills of Ooty.

 

Reading Time: 5 minutes

It is 15°C and feels really nice. We are about 7000 feet above sea level, and it took us 100 kms to get here in about 4 hours. The roads were windy, making us giddy, also because we had chosen to start early, at around 4:30 AM, to beat the Sunday traffic, see the magnificence of the sun rise, and perhaps catch some mountain mist and bisons during the ascend. It was indeed nice upon arrival, the pleasant breeze, the radiance of the tea plantations over the rolling hills, bunch of houses stacked next to each other in cozy patterns of amoebic forms, and the unusually gentle intensity of the sun at that height, making it a memorable ensemble in this present moment, to experience the elemental nature of existence. It does get crowded at this “hill station”, a word perhaps borrowed from the British during their forced occupation, but nonetheless, the cooler climate makes it all worthwhile, considering the plains where we live has already started blazing at 36°C, and its only early April, the sun having just crossed the equator in its rhythmic ascend towards the Tropic of Cancer. The Northern hemisphere is going to receive a lot of sun in the next three months, and the temperatures have been soaring, particularly over the past decade, and it probably will reach the early 40’s°C by late May, where we stay. The one day impromptu trip to the hill station turned out to be a benediction worth noting for a long time to come. Just escaping to a 20°C drop in temperature, can put perspectives in order, and today was one of those significant days.

Any impromptu trip, which does not involve a planned assortment of “masala chai”, sandwiches lapped with pesto and tomatoes, and alternated with peanut butter, is probably going to face many challenges in its successful outcome, and neither of us four were known for such dorky mistakes. It meant getting up really early, to get things rolling, and it was not like we were trying to get up early to do yoga, in the auspicious “brahmamurath” (3:45 AM till sunrise, when the human system is in sync with the solar system), it was an impromptu day off, and it seemed quite easy to get up, shower, get the sandwiches rolling, bottle filled with filtered drinking water, thermos filled with masala chai, get the dishes cleaned, relevant oil lamps lit, decent clothes ironed, watermelon packed, bed cover spread appropriately, and get out of the cottage, at the appointed hour. It seemed ridiculous to be hitting the snooze button of the alarm, considering we woke up three minutes prior to the usually annoying buzzing of the alarm clock.

Impromptu holidays have a charm on the human mechanism, which can even awaken the nocturnal amongst us, to be pleasantly awake at the unearthliest hours of the morning.

We drove through the town, ensuring the pizzeria we wanted to have lunch at, still existed, and the owners and staff had the equal pleasure of our company, as we would have of their pizza and services, only after ensuring that the sandwiches and masala chai were savored affectionately, much before reaching the center of the town. It was only 9 AM and the town seemed buzzing with tourists from all over the country, attempting to escape the heat, and we were left feeling silly, that we weren’t the only clever folks who used such escape strategies. But, we had the territorial advantage of being from a nearby region, and knew the places which would be less crowded for our next move – a relaxed picnic in a meadow like setup, nearby the eucalyptus trees. We intended to relax, and we were not stressed about it by any means. It took another half an hour of driving up and down the windy streets, a few stops to take several selfies with the lavender-colored flowering trees along the rolling hills, and finally found a secluded spot, undisturbed by fellow brethren, surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees and pretty clean patch of decently and naturally mowed grass – our private meadow. It was the nearest resemblance to a meadow and we were not going to pass it by. We quickly cleared the trunk, picked up the nonalcoholic liquids, remaining sandwiches before the afternoon lunch, spread the cover, and before we could count ‘em ten sheep, I in particular was told to have disappeared in a dreamy state, with my favorite afternoon siesta, which lately I’ve been referring to as a “power nap” – some strange lingo I must have picked up, perhaps, during my corporate “hamstering” days.

It turned out to be an absolutely pleasant siesta, followed by significantly insignificant blabbers, random doses of laughter and giggles, sharing of stories, taking some selfies and some selfless photos, and simply being with friends for no particular reason, at this lovely  spot, on a rolling hill, somewhere in the western ghats of southern India.

It was not like we spent a lot of time together, or drove the distance only to gobble some pizza, with any serious planning for spending a day out away from routine work and blistering heat. It was a simple and impromptu holiday, mostly unplanned and giggly, going with the flow, keeping it light and fun, amongst friends, with some deliberately greasy and delicious choices of platter. We also managed to reach the pizzeria on time, ordered the sumptuous pizza, along with some pasta, gobbled them down along with continual laughs, and the pleasure to be amongst friends on a holiday, away from the 36°C plains weather, and submerging ourselves to the rosy 15°C weather for one day. Cheers to more impromptu holidays, time well spent with friends, relaxed and leisure moments in nature, and remembering that the softer and subtler moments in life, provides an immediate opportunity to experience the profoundness of life, which in itself is a fleeting and ending experience! 🙂

Friendships

The aggregate bounty of involving friendships and uninvolving acquaintances.

Friends 2

#Friendships #Sowing #Involvement #OldSchool #Vulnerable

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’ve always been fond of growing amongst friends, and be unbothered with what we do together. We may end up doing something – play board games when bored, sing or listen to songs, read comic books, play outdoor games, chat, go for walks, watch TV etc. – or simply do nothing.

The choices of “doing” something together is endless, but simply “being” together is priceless.

There is a purposeless transaction which manifests, when friends come together regularly, want to be with each other aimlessly, and create a sort of merging, where words are meaningless, actions futile, and an existential alignment occurs where the hidden divinity of being human finds expression, unbeknownst to its recipients.

 

 

Usually, I ain’t shy of expressing my fears, confusions and vulnerability to selective friends, not because I trust them, or they are my best friends, or I am loyal to them etc., but just because, I feel they’re my friend and I want to share. It never bugs me that they can’t solve my problems, or guide me in any particular direction. I am usually overjoyed and overwhelmed that they are simply available to listen and pay attention. To me, attention is intrinsically more valuable, than any sordid ideas we exchange, in the name of helping.

I never really care for answers from my friends, instead, feel very comfortable that we can reach out unplanned, make ourselves available, and be willing to listen – that’s enough involvement!

 

 

Friends 0

Lately, friendships seem to have taken a strange turn, “we feel connected with each other, only to the extent we need each other“. Its a rigged affair, where we think our affairs should be towards gaining something, for ourselves, from others, else it is useless partaking it. Well, times are changing fast, and over the years, I’ve met many, who come near, but are unable to come close.

Something is different, people are frightened and burnt, unreasonably busy and stressed, and expressing vulnerability is considered an embarrassing sign of weakness. Hardly anyone listens, most want to talk, and everyone takes selfies. Distances seem shortening, friendships seem broadening, and social media allows friends to be made in frenzy. We seem to only talk about our problems with work, people, spouses, children, bosses, employees, employers, staff, shopping etc., and turn our involved friendships into uninvolved acquaintances.

We only consider coming together, if there is something to do, somewhere to go, or something to buy. Beholding, genuinely asking “how are you?”, engaging in silence without interference of words or action, is considered useless and waste of time, while only hanging out, catching up and binging is considered exciting and useful.

 

🍂

 

I must be old school, who values vulnerability over confidence, silence over boisterous, listening over talking, feeling over discussing, beholding over binging, and although considered old fashioned and naive, I don’t mind, as the values I seek in friendships, allow me to offer myself, connect purposelessly, involve intelligently, indulge consciously, speak diligently, advice hesitatingly, avoid frivolousness, encourage intimacy and thus experience friendships based on real lessons from life versus pseudo ideologies.

Arguably, I feel friendships need sowing, involvement and tender caring which goes beyond the “addictive need” to be hanging out, catching up, doing things or binging somewhere. It is an inclusion of energies over ideas, effervescence over effort and patience over preponderance.

 

🍂

 

Although times have changed, and we live in an era of assumed advancements, relentless activities, impatient communications, narcissist attitudes, prejudiced opinions, it doesn’t seem wise to destroy certain core values so sporadically and drastically. Nature offers few free tips and immediate methods to retrace ourselves when lost, and involved friendships is one of the easiest method to bring back our sanity and balance.

I like to think that, involved friendships, stemming from vulnerability and not usefulness, assists in dealing with the animal within, brings forth our humanity, provides emotional stability, protects from ignorance, keeps us grounded to identify and indulge with real opportunities of growth, in a world of rampantly diminishing intimate values, where there is an inherent confusion between well being and ill being.

 

 

Friends 1

I don’t hesitate or feel ashamed of being vulnerable, seek vulnerability, exhibit involvement, avoid the uninvolved, distance from the toxic and thus invariably have fewer friends, even on Facebook, no Twitter account, and seldom responded WhatsApp messages, yet I remain reasonably confident that the next time we pick that phone impromptu, to seek for advice, rant or pleasantries, it will be enthusiastically answered, and the voice on the other end will be tender, attentive and knowing the purpose of calling, without having to text first or subjecting to an uninvolved or hurried response much later. And, of course, it would be blasphemous to write anything about actually meeting in person, impromptu 🙂

Sauntering Hues

Who knew sauntering amongst the spring hues could be so enriching! 🙂

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I am naturally nocturnal, born around 2300 hours, with a flair for being creative, attentive and tolerable, only in the wee hours. Other times, I have to exert effort to invoke socially acceptable doses of creativity, attentiveness and tolerability, and pretend my normalcy. Except, when the first rays of the sun starts hitting, in the early weeks of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when there is a slightly higher moisture content in the air, and the fragrance of the blossoming flowers & fruits gets mixed with the moist air particles, along with the aroma of the soil, which awakens upon receiving concentrated doses of consistent sunlight. There is something about this concoction of moist air, fragrant flowers & fruits and aromatic soil (AFFS – Air, Flower, Fruits, Soil) which wants me to get out in the morning for sauntering, although, admittedly, before it gets really warm. Living in a tropical belt of the planet, augments the early spring experience like no where else, just because of the sheer number of buds which start blooming, and the AFFS factor dripping serendipity unabashedly.

The trick I realized is to get out early, perhaps, 20 minutes before the sun is visible at the horizon, to soak in the cool darkness of the night, and experience the transition into the morning, as the orange fiery ball starts glowing from far, distinctly polarizing the planet into light and darkness.
Its a phenomena worth soaking in, and I have often found, I fall for it in the early weeks of spring, defying any nocturnal qualities.

Last week has been a series of such morning and evening walks, interspersed by a completely random afternoon downpour, of the cloudburst kind, figuratively speaking. Sauntering around in the 10 km radius, with nearby hills as witness, and soaking the sunrise and sunset has been a devout and revealing experience. This will all end soon, as I pull myself out of here for a few months, traversing countries for specific purposes, hopefully returning by the fall equinox, entering the calmness and inertia of autumn. The summer is avoidable where I’m based out of, and this seems like a decent plan, except, I’ll miss the morning and evening hues of the sky, and the incomparable beauty of the rolling hills which embrace me every time I step out, away from the useful world of computers, phones, tablets and books.

I have also found that sauntering the body and mind near sunrise or sunset, by making it available to the natural elements, has an undeniable impact of awakening them to experience the profoundness of life. The phenomena is unexplainable, and I’ve learnt over time, to stop analyzing it, and instead reap the benefits, with some nice walks whenever possible. Even the experience of drinking water and eating a nice healthy breakfast or meal, after such sauntering, has some special significance, which I’ve not been able to understand and prefer keeping it an existential mystery.

It just seems more delightful, as if the body and mind came back from a cosmic shower, released the collective cellular stress, embraced some natural enzymes from the atmosphere, and managed to sit humbly upon the throne of ease, to accept the rigmaroles of life with an embracing quality.
Well, I might simply be hallucinating all this for all I know, but it doesn’t bother me, since this is how I would like to feel anyways, with all the other striving I subject myself to.

Amongst all this blabbering, I have also realized that, such sauntering, at specific times, invokes an important dimension of being able to simply “wait”, and be available to the present forces of reality. As with other things, this too is unexplainable, but the feeling of being not scattered, not rushing, not forcing, willingly waiting, without a purpose or goal, becomes a welcoming tune within myself.

Its hard to express in words, but it perhaps is the closest experience of death, in a manner of speaking, where an undirected and purposeless silence and stillness dawns within, which naturally brings calmness, and slides me into an unique state of quietness and alertness, almost as if everything merged, and there is no where to go and nothing to get.
Its not eerie or debilitating in any way, instead, it is empowering and enabling in many ways.

Who knew, such sauntering hues could be so enriching, but its best not to believe these probable hallucinations, and instead wander out and get a whiff of the serendipitous dawn and dusk around spring time. Do drop me a line if you find the “wait” to be real, while I pack up soon and move on to the next phase of activities.

Pheasant and the Bull

Pheasant and the Bull

Here’s a hilarious joke with a solid punch, applicable for all of us, which Sadhguru shares in the Inner Engineering program. It is so relevant and worthy of reading again, that I thought of posting it today as a reminder 🙂

 
Pheasant and the Bull

It once happened, on a certain day, a bull and a pheasant were grazing on the field. The bull was grazing on the grass, the pheasant was picking ticks off the bull; they are partners, you know?

Then the pheasant looked at a huge tree which was at the edge of the field, and very nostalgically said, “Alas, there was a time when I could fly to the top most branch of the tree, but today I do not have the strength even to fly to the first branch of the tree”

The bull very nonchalantly said, “That’s no problem! Eat a little bit of my dung every day, you will see, within a fortnight’s time you will reach the top of the tree.”

The pheasant said, “Oh, come off it! How is that possible?”

The bull replied, “Really, please try and see. The whole humanity is on it, you could try, too.”

Very hesitantly, the pheasant started pecking at the dung, and lo, on the very first day it reached the first branch of the tree. In a fortnight’s time, it reached the topmost branch of the tree. It just went and sat on the topmost branch and just enjoyed the scenery. 

The old farmer saw a fat old pheasant on the top of the tree. He took out his shotgun and shot him off the tree. 

So the moral of the story is: “Even bullshit can get you to the top, but never lets you stay there.”

Welldone Pond

An immediate indulgence with nature is an opportunity to merge with the real, the pristine, on a non-causal basis!

Surprisingly, leaving a hectic city lifestyle, and trading it with a lifestyle which offers many pauses, opportunities for randomness in daily routines, and extensive possibilities of remaining silent, needs a lot of work upon oneself. It took me a while to realize, that the human in the human being is severely conditioned, usually restless, and regardless of where he lives or what he leaves, simply being ain’t easy, and unless, he puts in considerable effort to realize his conditioning and compulsions, its all the same, as far as his experiences of life is concerned.
 
There’s a nice pond nearby, seldom visited by anyone, where I cycle sometimes in the evening, where I’ve been casually accosted by a goat, snake, few lovely birds, frogs, dogs and peacocks.

The surprising visit by the 5 feet long snake, some three feet away, was startling, although I managed to stay calm after the initial burst of fear, to enjoy his wiggly movements and casually passing away, uninterested in any of my ongoing stories in the head. 
 
I’ve always admired Thoreau’s experiments at the Walden Pond, and have visited the site where he chose to remain a recluse for over two years, and have wondered many times if I had that kind of strength or will to stay away from everything, procure my own food, build my own home etc. I doubt if I’ll ever actually take up such an experiment, but this nearby pond, has been attractive and serves the purpose of visiting alone every once in a while, be with myself and my thoughts, see the lovely sunset over the hills, accost some beautiful species and of course, get that 11 km exercise, either after an idle or hectic day, perhaps immersed in books, banking, bantering, bickering or bending.
 
Affectionately, in memory of Thoreau, and his courageous experiments, I’ve named this water body, Welldone Pond, and would love to take anyone who would like to visit, in a heartbeat. I’ve asked many, but rarely found anyone taking an interest in such a local outing, which doesn’t require an airline ticket or hotel accommodation, and wonder if traveling far has some special significance or a rhetoric which I don’t understand.

I like to think, a simple & immediate indulgence with nature, is a choice which cannot fail, because it offers an opportunity to merge with the real, the pristine, on a non-causal basis! 
 
It would be my honor to take you to Welldone Pond, infrequently visited by any, and available for immediate indulgence with nature! Do take me up on this offer sometime, it will be my sheer pleasure to introduce you to Welldone! 🙂 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The American Dream

Its not how he says that matters, its what he says. George Carlin, on the American Dream!

 

#Carlin #America (Watch Time: 11 minutes 👀🔉💻📱)
Rated R for language

By George! Carlin knows how it really is, but please excuse his profanity, mainly used for emphasis! As always, satire & sarcasm is deeply rooted into his “reflective insights of reality”, when an ancient player like #Carlin starts talking about matters which are so relevant!

Here’s George Carlin expounding in the 2005 TV show “Life is Worth Losing” on HBO – upon the lifestyle, mess, choices & domination of the most affluent country in the world, in his assiduous style, as he reminds us its: “The American Dream – because, you have to be asleep to believe it!

Sapiens Moronic Index (SMI)

Lets blame ‘em original sapiens for the soaring Sapiens Moronic Index, or learn the nuances, and choose beauty over annihilation?

 Moronic Behavior (1)

 

Reading Time: 11 minutes

I didn’t grow up in a rich family, although, I did grow up in a rich neighborhood, filled with famous celebrities, super successful businessmen and ancestrally rich folks, who walked around with big tummies and shiny shoes & clothes, haggling over the price of corn from the local street vendor, during the monsoons of the sub tropical neighborhood, some 11 minutes walking distance from the Arabian Sea. When I was growing up, the neighborhood was filled with nicely decorated and named bungalows, interspersed with few two-storey buildings, with crunched up flats, which housed my kind. Strangely, trees were still respected then, and I’m not even terribly old yet, and variety of them planted on the roads, as well as in the compounds of the bungalows and buildings, the most common one called Peltophorum. The bungalow owners always had a “Mali”, a caretaker of their garden and plants. They would manicure their lawns, prune the plants and provide manure for the flowering plants and get the whole area filled with colors, fragrance and beauty. It was a sight to behold, in spite of the bungalow owners, being MIA, uninvolved and unavailable to the beauty of their own homes and the fragrance of this tender blossoming flowers, which would wither away the same day, a very brief offering from Nature!

Richness must be an interesting thing, seems to take quite a bit to keep it up, and seems enjoyable to the extent one doesn’t feel poor within themselves!
🍂
Sapiens 0
Money seems to be hanging high in the cloudy awareness for most of us. It gives us the ability to purchase things, and somewhere, purchasing and having many things, makes us feel good about ourselves, doesn’t make us feel empty, gives us a purpose to our existing, gives a feeling of being fulfilled, accomplished, satisfied, and content – for the time being. No wonder, a whole lot of us have chosen to spend a substantial amount of time of our lives, on a daily basis, on the obscure process of hoarding monies, without doing a quality check, if the initial hypothesis around such a popular accumulation process, actually fulfills, accomplishes, satisfies or provides content, as planned. It would be preposterous to claim that money is the source of any problems, or its an evil, or it makes us spend way too much time running behind it, as if it was flirtatious to begin with. Money has a tremendous and unarguable utilitarian value, which cannot be offset by anything else. The reason is not anything else, but the simple fact, that is how we have arranged our affairs, to assist our survival needs, where currency, allows us to trade, purchase or sell commodities, giving an outright lift to our instinct of self-preservation. It’s a simple arrangement , gone berserk in our minds. The grandeur of accumulating and hoarding money, perhaps, comes from some other source, not limited to our ignorance and unwillingness to change, and it maybe worth investigating.
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Sapiens 1
It must have all started, a very long time ago, when the species evolved to the point of being now named Homo Sapiens. The lore goes to lure and inform us, we used to be four-legged, then the spine and brain evolved, forming various types of apes, and amongst them monkeys, most took off to search for some alluring keys to success, while the rest dropped all search for keys, and became monks instead, in search of the inner keyless locks. Well, jest apart, when the spine became straight, brain got adorned over the delicate neck, which probably had a helluva job balancing the bouncy 3 pounds, which was supposed to unlock tremendous value for us, and a definite realization must have dawned upon the fresh homo sapiens brand, that they are freaking on their own now, in the vastness of the cosmos, where they must have struggled to find daily food, without any supermarkets or Amazon buying Whole Foods, and Joe wanting to become a trader etc. Their contemporary species, the animals, birds, insects, plants, worms, reptiles, on the other hand, had no such problem, and must have seemed pretty clever and efficient at finding food for themselves and although considered evolved, the sapiens probably must have found out, much to their own chagrin, they did not have the nails, teeth, strength, agility or knowhow, as yet, about procuring their daily food, unless, they start developing some tools, which can be used to enhance their single most advantage as an evolved being, their awareness of self.
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Armed with this new insight, some naked smarty-pants, figuratively speaking, must have created the pointy spears, daggers, swords etc., something reasonably sharp to tear some other creatures apart for food, found out how to light a fire from a spark, without the matchstick, and thus, so many other creative and absolutely fantastic discoveries, must have happened in the wild, which we now take for granted, in today’s day and age, and instead struggle with fabricated nutrition labels and wonder whether we’ll be diabetic or a cardiac patient first. Tools must have been the real deal.

Without tools, there was no reason for the sapiens to have survived, as they were no match for the other creatures, who they were food for. Every stronger and agile animal could have gobbled down ‘em sapiens, without much thought or beef about it.
The spear and spark, were incredible discoveries, with a beautiful design to protect, defend, feed and attack when needed to hunt a kill, and relish the booty. The sapiens were finally ready to become a formidable force, equipped with tools and slowly picking up the knowhow on surviving well.
🍂
With the newly found strength, sapiens must have eventually realized, the arduous nature of their existing – nomadic, uncertain, risky and another smarty must have thought on wanting to relax at one place, not roam around as a nomad in hunt for daily food anymore, and must have consulted few wise guys with long beards, unless they had chopped it off with the same dagger, ignoring aftershaves or deodorants.

Together, the wise sapiens, probably not physically agile, but mentally sharp, a rare find for those times, must have observed the process of seeds becoming plants and fruits hanging out, which can be harvested in certain seasons, be stored for future use, and must have put two and three together, and come up with a four, and the first business plan of settling at one place, a big risk for those times, and thus forayed into the world of agriculture, with the promise of peace and prosperity.
We, the 21st century folks, live in a culture which agrees to everything, on the basis of inherited knowledge, but back then, the sapiens must have been very sharp, in developing agriculture and strategizing the storage needs, risking staying at one place, in order to stop wandering and instead start wondering about the pleasures of relaxing and food growing in the backyard, along with the occasional kill for taste or due to bad harvest, with an uninterrupted view of the natural scenery, avoiding ‘em realtors.

The seed for accumulation was probably born in this arrangement. Complacency breeds inertia.
It was easier to accumulate grains, store them, grow food using the (soil+water+tending) combination and create babies, raise them, domesticate some milky species, defend from carnivorous species, and you have a whole society going right there, with a defined modus operandi and prospective plans for growth, except…
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Sapiens 3
Besides the wise guys, the remaining lot, must have seen the merit of living with such comfort very quickly, and must have started replicating similar behaviors. The underlying need to hoard must have started from the fact, it provided comfort and a non-nomadic life, which seemed easier and less risky, or so one would think. But, when the neighbors also started doing the same thing, fencing their living arrangements, calling their baby makers their own, and popping out a bunch of children and calling themselves family, their struggles probably must have multiplied, unbeknownst to the ideas of peace and prosperity they had previously envisioned. Families, must have become tribes, and different tribes must have formed communities and cultures, which at some point must have clashed for wanting to steal resources, and an umpteen number of unpredictable risks must have surfaced for them. Using the same tools, the sapiens had created for their wellbeing, they must have started fighting to kill, conquer and steal. The idea of course, was always self-interest and self-preservation, which must have led to such actions and in general, the feeling of, the more “I possess, the less I’ll need to work” and be secured with provision for food, shelter and occasional clothing, or lack of, for those times. And it is also worth noting that, if the sapien found an edible hunt, it was in his interest to hoard and consume as much as possible, considering the uncertainty of finding immediate hunt the next day.

The psychological basis of our hoarding habits goes back a long way, to the spine-erected sapiens, although, they lived in conditions where this habit was perhaps justified and served them well. It is an obviously irrelevant and destructive habit for the current times, which is neither justified nor serves us well.
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Sapiens 4
So, here we are in the 21st century, tightly attired in slim-fit suits and gagged at the neck, attempting to choke the fundamental passage of our breathing apparatus, labeling it as fashion, making much hoopla about going to work at a street with a wall, and trading, exchanging billions of electronic certificates, as a symbolic gesture of our advanced state of living, and making thousands and millions of dollars and not having to worry about how to procure our daily food for surviving. A tremendous leap from the earlier sapiens, who were out in the wild, while we the civilized lot, are simply wild in the out. Its hard to argue though, if the basic instinct of today’s sapiens, is any different, then when they stood up, so to speak, and started walking on two. The fears, apprehensions, darkness, uncertainty and the constant need to defend etc., still seems to persist and forms the foundation on which the current sapiens organize their lives and construct their present.

We have undeniably built the comforts and conveniences, and in a manner of speaking, the first business plan, to relax and stop being a nomad, hunting for food etc., is a super success, but it could be certainly argued, that the human in the human being, who was physically an evolved version from his tailed ancestors, has either completely forgotten to evolve mentally or simply enjoys his distress and distractions, which still makes him behave the same way, when he was created, except in a more civilized manner, hidden behind suits, ties, shoes, purses, makeup, hairdo, watches, gels, belts etc.
He’s always looking for more, to store, save up for a rainy day, wants to feel less fearful by collecting more than his share, doesn’t want to share with others, feels scared within and goes to work daily in his borrowed car and mortgaged home.
Perhaps, accumulation is an instinct, which erroneously gives a sense of freedom, while shackling us even more to our unevolved brains, which we probably forgot to pay attention to when created, just because we could suddenly walk, run, hide, think, and slowly be more powerful than other species, because of the ability of creating tools to hunt, fight, defend and destroy others.
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Its even more distressing to know that, after all the accomplishments in the various fields of energy, space, health, genetics, biotechnology etc. and having organized our food, water and shelter, the sapiens never learnt or wondered where to stop, because they were rushing fast with the newly equipped brain, not knowing for what purpose or to what extent it should be harnessed, without looking back and doing a quick quality check, on whether it was serving the purpose.

The present sapiens needs to take a pause, take a real break, be conscious of his movements, lack of stillness, compulsions to create at all cost, wanting to hoard even more, not addressing his fears, temperaments, confusions and thus pushing the entire world towards the brink of annihilation.
So, its not the money he is after, nor the fame or the power, success, or whatever title the sapiens gives, its fundamentally the unawareness about himself, his compulsive behavior which replicates his earliest ancestors, who lived in a different time, different circumstances, without the knowhow of how to survive, which the current species, after all these years of inherited knowledge, need not be bothered with. But, he behaves the same way, unwilling to admit his erroneous, or more aptly his ignorant ways of behaving, not wanting to take a pause, organize better in his head, and actually come to terms with the fact, he needs to invest much more in learning how to operate the faculty he’s been blessed with, his mind, which currently has become his curse.

If he doesn’t do so, the future of his species, and all others too, is in total jeopardy, and for some strange reason, if the planet doesn’t explode, including the alternate Planet Hollywood, the next generation of his species will be even more dangerous, destructive, unaware, existentially irrelevant, while seriously soaring the Sapiens Moronic Index (SMI) to greater heights than the combined Dow Jones Industrial and S&P 500 indices.
Its time for us to STOP, reevaluate, admit our ignorance, create beauty, smell fragrance, slip into nature, be more elemental than mental, and make the dream of our long gone ancestors true, where we can finally say, we know, how to relax, live in harmony amongst communities, respect every species and understand the ecosystem works for us, only if we are aligned to its ways, not the other way around.
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PS: Many ideas in this post came after the reading the amazing book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari: 👉 https://www.amazon.in/Sapiens-Yuval-Noah-Harari/dp/0099590085/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1521911384&sr=8-1&keywords=sapiens+a+brief+history+of+humankind+by+noah+yuval+harari

A Tilted World

Spring Equinox, one more opportunity to align with natural existential processes of our solar system!

Earth's Tilt
[SPRING EQUINOX]

A single tilt decides the fate of everything that happens on Planet Earth. Perhaps, a single tilt can also decide the fate of everything that happens to a human being.

 

Traveling approximately at 1000 km/hr, our planet spins around its own axis, while simultaneously taking an elliptical orbit around the sun, in the vastness of the solar system. Its quite a speed to travel at, roughly equivalent to a Boeing Dreamliner (950 km/hr) or an Airbus A380 (1020 km/hr), and not to mention that it is also spinning around the sun at approximately 100,000 km/hr, for it to finish one year in roughly 365 days. So much movement seems to be happening with the planet, in a very still manner, designed in a brilliant way, and we earthlings enjoy the benefits of it, primarily the various seasons it brings us. The most interesting part of the design is that the planet rotates and wobbles on a tilted axis, and oscillates between the tilted angles of 22.1° and 24.5°, to give an average tilt of 23.4°, and this tilt is the primary reason, we experience the variation of solar energy absorbed by the planet, which in turn brings about the various seasons.

A slight tilt, a little wobble, jet speed, and the planet still manages its orbit around the sun, on time, every time, to bring organic life on earth. There is no reason for us humans to assume we are anything but organic life and keep on orchestrating an organized life instead. Quite a precise design with some allowance for margin of error and imprecision.

 

Its another spring equinox, and the position of the planet during its orbit around the sun, distributes equal amount of solar energy to both hemispheres, to bring balance and freshness to all organic life on the planet.

 

As hard as we try to believe, we are separate and can live whichever way we like, this is another periodic reminder and boost, by the planet, for us to get aligned, so as to enjoy the free booty of life, and that a simple tilt of axis can bring about a phenomenal twist of fate for us earthlings.

 

The planet never stops reminding us of our ultimate fate, as seasons and years roll by, and the body in essence will be taken back after a few for some or several for many, trips around the sun. Just like an enjoyable rollercoaster ride, its fun to go around in circles, get the giggles, but the ride for sure, ends. A wise mind always learns to enjoy the rollercoaster ride, but remains aware and guides his curiosity towards wanting to know, what is beyond the enjoyable rides. A curious mind too, never stops seeking answers to existential realities, and attempts to align to the grandeur of existential processes over the more frequent psychological processes, to understand their relevance to our existing, inside the cocoon of the solar system, and perhaps humble ourselves towards being more focused on simply living and withering away, into this fleeting offering of life in a tilted world.

Systems, Solutions and Stressors

On Systems, failed attempts at sustainable solutions and two missing ingredients, “Consciousness” and “Stressors”.

 Systems, Solutions and Stressors

 #Antifragile #BlackSwan #Stressors #Systems #Taleb

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We humans are a significant and strange lot! We coexist, but have our own quirks, and when we are so many, we need to be guided. Guidance brings systems, which we have to follow to co-exist, but which we resist to mono-exist. We dislike addressing our quirks, and end up creating systems, to manage us herds, along with the mixed motive of co-existing & mono-existing, thus introducing loopholes to manipulate systems and get our own way.
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We humans also seem a desperate lot, and currently in plenty, on this planet.

It is a known fact that when something burgeons, be it our population, profit, pessimism, or bellies, beliefs, buttocks, any system created around it, is eventually bound to produce an extreme consequence on the darker side, creating a Black Swan (idea credit: Nassim Taleb).
It is difficult to attribute prospective extreme consequences (Black Swans), while designing present systems, to be stemming from our quirks, unwillingness to address it and an element of design flaw which gets overlooked, called “stressors”.
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A solution to any problem, falls under the premise, that the underlying problem is real, can be solved, and has to hold good for the majority, over a long range, else it defies the logic of efficacy, and is considered not much of use, as it ends up using resources, not worth investing in. Most solutions need a stimulus for it to be activated. We humans create systems as a solution to our problems, with hope of maintaining sanity amongst us to coexist, especially since we’re a rampantly burgeoning species. We have so many familiar systems, which abound either organically or designed with well-intended motives, although with asymmetric benefits to specific groups. Some popular systems around us are: medical, political, educational, legal, family, monetary etc., which have evolved from the hunter gatherer days, until now, in varied manners, some unscrupulously, many gracefully.
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The human quirks mentioned earlier are not too many, but the few that exist, are enough to render any system and its intended solution, to malfunction over time, and eventually become ineffective, to the point of collapse, causing extensive mayhem, a directly opposite outcome from its original intention. Its worth mentioning that we humans have also self proclaimed our dominance over other species, under the assumption that, we’re the most evolved species and hence we naturally understand the functions and complexities of the ecosystem, without need for any extra training, awareness or quality checks. Its worth pointing out some obvious issues in the current systems, which were all well-intended and their current challenges, with specific examples:
📌 Medical
escalating and unaffordable costs, heavy reliance on insurance driven programs, symptomatic addressing of health etc.
📌 Political:
gridlock in policy making, unbridled fiscal deficits, systematic rise in taxes upon the middle class etc.
📌 Educational:
inability of instilling curiosity in students, inability to attract talented teachers, interference of state to drive the programs etc.
📌 Legal:
extensive delays in verdicts, escalating costs, ambiguous outcomes based on varied factors etc.
📌 Family:
subtle dominance and violence, uncharacteristic instilling of feudalistic qualities, lack of long term commitments etc.
📌 Monetary:
unreasonable favoring of debt instruments for growth, unbridled infusion of consumerism, hefty hidden charges on credits etc.
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There are other well-intended systems which probably are not listed here, but the message is clearly indicative.

In spite of creating extensive systems based on plethora of choices and hired minds, we humans repeatedly seem to fail in creating solutions, which holds value over a long range.
And what’s even more daunting is the fact, we don’t want to stop and wonder, whether we are missing some basic understanding, because of which we are unable to provide sustainable solutions to the problems of coexisting amongst the billions.
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A basic human trait which gets instilled in us right from infancy, is the strong idea of individuality, based on the systematic rub off from our family and society, along with the strong idea of constantly enhancing and prolonging our survival needs, no matter what the cost.

We are brainwashed, to think that we exist as an individual, bounded to a family, loosely connected with few others and everyone else remains separate from us, and our coexisting in the world is independent of anyone else’s wellbeing.
This training seems like a colossal mistake, as that is not how other species or activities in nature seem to be functioning. We are ill trained from the beginning, and our ill habits are formed very early on. This amounts to us living unconsciously about our nature, and the significant journey of exploring our original nature remains a side to nil affair. This leaves us lacking inclusiveness, where only “I” matters to “me”, and everyone else’s wellbeing is arguably their problem. This divides us from one another, and what should have been a natural coexistence, remains a sad journey of violence, intolerance and morbid attempts at living one up in relation to someone else. This is the foundational quirk in us, which never allows any system to create solution for our wellbeing, in the long term, because the same human who is using the system is constantly eyeing to fail it, based on his conditioning.
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A system designed with built-in stressors, has a higher chance of becoming anti-fragile (idea credit: Nassim Taleb), neither misused by humans, nor allowing us to depend on it.
It functions like a push-pull technology, where the system offers value, but by design, prevents its misuse or total dependability for solutions, thus enhancing the human and strengthening itself, in net. In a way, these stressors, are catalytic, and prevent the system from being either fragile or robust, instead catapults it towards an anti-fragile quality, asymmetrically gaining from any disorder (idea credit: Nassim Taleb). It requires a balanced and conscious mind to create such systems, which are in sync with the natural ecosystem and with inclusive qualities, which considers wellbeing over profits and sustainability over skewed immediate outcomes.
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Some indicative ideas of stressors in a system are (this is a concocted list, not a one size, fits all solution):
📌 Medical:
onus on individual in staying healthy, basic doctor visits discouraged, insurance and industry responsibility shifting towards holistic and preventive research versus symptomatic remedies only etc.
📌 Political:
discouraging or completely avoiding debts as an active instrument of growth, adjusting programs to fit within budgets rather than vice versa, identifying voters to participate actively versus passively with policy makers in demanding outcomes at various governance levels etc.
📌 Educational:
emphasizing play time and creatively instilling curiosity in students, parents & teachers expectations to shift from grades to child, teacher & parents’ combined joyfulness as a criteria for bringing out student’s potential and success, awakening to the limitations of education and it being a stepping stone towards fulfilling survival needs etc.
📌 Family:
emphasizing weekday outings in nature, one parent fulfilling the role of provider while other a nurturer for the entire family, introducing meditation, yoga & physical games in daily routines, discouraging unbridled demands by a member over common resources, encouraging creating a vegetable garden and cooking with home grown food etc.
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While systems and solutions are necessary, as the world burgeons with human species, creating imbalance, the inverted effect of size on systems becomes a genuine concern for its imminent failure, and eventual collapse, partly due to our unwillingness to expand in consciousness using inner technologies and partly due to lack of stressors in the design of systems. It hence seems impossible to create an anti-fragile solution, to make us responsible and forward looking versus becoming complacent and dependent upon systems. It is a matter which affects everything we do, right from our personal growth, individual relations, to family affairs, living in community, being part of nation and the various stimuli living in the world offers. Yet, these attempts at systems and solutions, have been tried over generations, and they always fall short, and the need to look at it from the perspective of stressors and expanding human consciousness, is ever more grave and urgent today, as we’ve copulated and populated beyond the limits of available natural resources, and have significantly empowered humans with an arsenal of technological benefits, which can turn out to be a benediction or bane, depending upon what kind of stressors we create, for the human race to either flourish or perish!
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PS: 
The central theme of this post stems from Nassim Taleb’s excellent work on Randomness, Black Swans and Antifragile, on which he has written three remarkable books, which I would highly recommend.
Here are the links:
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Unraveling Death

#Sadhguru #Euthanasia #Death #Decision
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Poet, lyricist and screenwriter Prasoon Joshi, probes Sadhguru, on a topic which is common, yet unexplored and quickly swept under the rug. As usual, Sadhguru, with the depth of his insights, expounds on this topic, and may have some very interesting points for all of us new-age folks, who cleverly avoid seeking answers to such topic.
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The entire video (1 hr, 54 mins), titled “Unraveling Death: An Insider’s View” is a must watch, and the HD version of the conversation can be downloaded, by naming your own fair price, & clicking on the following link: https://www.ishashoppe.com/downloads/portfolio/unraveling-death-insiders-view-english-video/
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Baba Bulleh Shah

Bollywood song “Bulleya” paying an awesome tribute to Baba Bulleh Shah.

#BullehShah #मुर्शिद मेरा
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Any creative endeavor around the 17th century mystic, Baba Bulleh Shah, is usually magic, and the song “Bulleya” from the arguably lackluster movie “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” is no exception. Bulleya (Baba Bulleh Shah) must have been an extraordinary mystic during the Mughal era, to be still remembered & providing relentless intensity to any Sufi-style music.
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AAPS (Amitabh Bhattacharya – lyrics, Amit Mishra – singer, Pritam – composer, Shilpa Rao – singer) have created an amazing song in Bulleya, where the lone seeker eventually, helplessly seeks for his disguised lover to be his guru (guide), and in a defying moment of abandonment, the seeker realizes that not everything worthwhile is attainable by effort, anything subliminal, needs surrendering into ease, and this leaves us suddenly submerged in Bulleya’s gentle presence in an undulating manner.
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It’s fascinating how the composer mixes the traditional & modern instruments to create a “heavy style” of music, in contrast, revealing the surrendering emphasis of the lyricist, and appropriately adulating Baba Bulleh Shah with much reverence.
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Hats off to 28 years young Lucknowi, Amit Mishra, for pouring his heart & talent, all over this deep, intense, soul-searching  song.
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मेरी रूह का परींदा फड़फडाये, लेकिन सुकून का जज़ीरा मिल न पाए, इक बार को तजल्ली तो दिखा दे, झूठी सही मगर तसल्ली तो दिला दे, मुर्शिद मेरा,मुर्शिद मेरा|