Saturday, December 13, 2008

Life is too short for the wrong job


Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive." --- Harold Whitman


I once happened to be introduced to an old man. I said "Hello Uncle", shook hands etc etc. Next came a question from him which took me a little by surprise. "What are you?"

"Well, can't you see??? I am a Man. And if you didn't know, Man is a subset of the species called Human Beings" I wanted to answer. But that would be rude. So I said "I am a Software Engineer". I understood that by "What are you?" he meant to ask "What is your profession? What do you do for a living."

I realized how deeply ingrained it is in our psyches this concept of "What I do" being synonymous with "What I Am".

Can't we think about our work/profession as one leg of the table than the table itself? Why can't we keep ourselves, our family and friends at the center of our lives and let the other things like work, travel, hobbies revolve around us rather than keeping our work in the center of our lives and design our lives around it?

I like this quote from Napolean Hill : "Neglecting to broaden their view has kept some people doing the same thing all their lives"

Some more ideas here.

It's all in the SUN

The weekend of 29Th and 30Th Oct 2008 were two memorable and glorious days for me and my friends Tanmoy, Muntuli, Jay and Nimmoo.

While Mumbai was burning under the after effects of the terror attacks, 5 of us drove down from Bangalore to Calicut to meet up with a delightful 72 yr old "young" man. Mr. Hira Ratan Manek.

Believe me, I don't Hero-Worship anyone. I don't believe in it and I think it's foolish. However, this man is really special and we ought to listen carefully to what he has to say. Read on to know what's so special about him that he finds a place on my blog :)

All was not well before the trip began. I had just got my car back few days ago after having left her for 15 days at a workshop in Mysore following a messy highway accident. I was still a bit shaken up about the whole thing and little scared to drive on the highways. No train tickets were available and bus was not feasible because we wanted to take a break in Mysore. And I hate traveling by bus. Its too tiring. Chennai was under threat of cyclone and some part of the city was experiencing water logging. What if the same story applies to the Calicut coast too? Mysore(en route to Calicut) had heavy rains. Bangalore hadn't seen sunlight almost the entire week. The weather was really gloomy. I was not sure how the roads of Kerala would be. From my past experience, during rains, Kerala ends up with more potholes than roads. One of my friends who was to travel with us was not well. I gave her time till 5 PM on Friday to recover from her illness and join the rest of us :). Dad was very angry and disappointed that I was making a "fun trip" when India was in a state of war with the terrorists.

I was really upset the whole of Friday. To go or not to go was the question. Lots of things going against us. What if its heavily raining on the ghats. What if the roads are blocked? Was it wise to travel when there have been massive terror attacks just a few days back in Mumbai? What if this, what if that. My usual broken record of negative thinking and doubts.

Like they say "There can be 100 reasons to stop you from doing a thing. Just one reason is enough for you to go ahead and do it". And that one reason was this question I had running in my mind all this while: What if all that this old man is going to tell us is really true? What if it works? I really wanted to see this man in flesh and blood before I make a decision.

I called my friends and asked if they wanted to drop the plan considering the unfortunate events happening around us. Everyone was ready to go. Everyone had the same question in mind. What if it works and is true ? Lets meet the man "in real" and see what he looks like. BTW, Jay who was ill till afternoon was all set to travel by evening. She complied with my get-well deadline. :) (Read The Power Of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer. It works).

So off we went.

Mr. Hira Ratan Manek.

That's the man. HRM, as the Western world calls him. I heard about him almost 3 years back from a good friend Chaitanya. I didn't believe Chaitanya when he told me that Hira Ratan Manek lives only on Sunlight. Later I learnt he drinks water too. So Mr. HRM has only water and Sunlight on his daily menu :). And occasional tea, coffee etc to satisfy others. If that's not enough, he claims that he can teach others also to do that. Well, actually living on sunlight is not the real purpose. The real purpose is to achieve absolute 100% health of mind and body using Sunlight through a process called Sun Gazing or Solar Healing or Sun Yoga.

Don't you already think that this is too good to be true and I am a fool to believe this and write it on my blog ?? Same pinch !! I had the same opinion in the beginning. I thought HRM is just another "Guru" misleading people in the name of health and spirituality like many do in India. But I am glad I was wrong.

Well, remember, very smart people said things like "There's no need for more than 5 computers in this world" , "Why would anyone want to use a telephone to talk to someone far away. Telephone is a useless invention" etc etc. And what's the truth about these statements now, which looked very true when they were made? You get my point, don't you? So hang on a while before you pass Sun Gazing off as quackery.

You might wonder why I am making this look like a big event. 5 people met one old man over a weekend. So what ? Is it such a big deal?

Our meeting him is not a big deal at all. But in "today's world" having people like HRM around us is for sure a big deal. He has one quality (which actually is a summation of many other qualities) I greatly admire and respect him for. "You can't corrupt him". HRM doesn't want money, he doesn't want fame, he doesn't want followers, he doesn't want to establish an organization or institution on his name, he doesn't want to write and publish fat books. His only purpose is to propagate the Science of Sun Gazing (also called Solar Healing) to as many people as possible. His single minded dedication and devotion to this one cause without expecting anything in return is worthy of praise. How can you corrupt such a person?

Now, why do I call HRM an old young man? You have to meet him to know why. Old because he has lived 72 years. Young because age hasn't caught up with him yet. (Except for his bald head and white hair). :)

To know more about what this is all about, visit his website www.solarhealing.com
You can also watch his videos on YouTube. Just search for "Sun Gazing" or "Hira Ratan Manek" on youtube.com

The 2 hours we spend with him and his family will remain fresh in our memories for a long long time. Down to earth, generous, happy, genuine, graceful are some of the adjectives we would give to Mr HRM and his family. It was surprising to see that all 5 of us who were tired after the journey were bubbling with energy by the time we finished talking to HRM.

Having said that, the big question : Are we going to do Sun Gazing as suggested by HRM ? Isn't it dangerous to look at the Sun? Well, we've decided to go against "popular opinion", risk our retinas and give this a try for 6 months. We have already started.

And we have fallen in love with the Sun already !!

If you are interested to know the results, ask me one year from now. Or watch out for my upcoming posts.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Coolest Village in Town

It's been my experience that most decisions you make that end up being very good for you are usually made against "expert public opinion". It's like that Ad which comes on TV channels now a days starring Abhinav,A.R Rehman etc "Apne dil ki suno"

I think one of the wisest decision I have taken ever since I landed in Bangalore (apart from deciding not to migrate to US) was to buy a flat in National Games Village, Koramangala. (Well to be honest, I was just being obedient. It was my dad who made the suggestion).

I am not flaunting my priced possession. Its not such a big deal after all. But I am trying to make this very important point:

When you have a very important decison to make and what the deep-subtle-voice-coming-from-your-gut tells you to do is very different from what people around you suggest to be right, be very careful before you silence yourself and follow the crowd.

The "public opinion" in my case was: "These are Govt. constructed buildings. Not worth it, Quality is not good, There will be water leakages(this ones true for some flats but nothing which warrants holding an umbrella to keep yourself from getting wet while watching TV), not worth investing your money, the buildings might just crumble and fall down etc etc".

Fast forward a few years from the time these opinions were made and now I have some of those very people regretting not buying one themselves. People come from nearby areas come just to take a walk in the NGV garden or the compound itself. It's a refreshing experience to sit on a bench under the cool share of a tree and watch children play, people jog, vehicles pass by, older generation take walks or just read a book.

There's no other apartment complex in Bangalore which is in the heart of Bangalore city, has a swimming pool, a club house, badminton courts, tennis courts, a gym, basketball court, football ground, flood-lit garden with walking tracks, a BSNL office, 2 banks, Bangalore-One, a medical store, a computer hardware store, grocery shops, barber shops, Nandini outlet, Hopcoms outlet, a school, chai-cigarette joints, lots of trees, open spaces, wide roads, ample parking, and which costed the original buyers only 1000 Rs per sq feet !!

So that makes it the coolest village in town. I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay here so far.

There's been one more very big decision I made which has met with opposition and a lot of ridicule from my friends and well wishers. This time too I went against "intelligent and convincing opinions" and followed my unrealistic looking dream. I will blog about it when I have some tangible results coming out of that decision. And this time as well, not with the intent to self-glorify, but to add some meat to my theory of "listening to your intuition".

I don't trust myself all the time. But whenever I have done so, I have been delighted with the results :)

So, when in Rome, you don't "have" to do what Romans do. Listen to what your heart tells you to do.

Next time someone tells you "don't do that because it won't work", "you are being a fool", "listen to me, I know better", what will you do? Who will you listen to?

Take a chill pill. This time around, why don't you believe in your dream, trust your intuition ,give your inner voice a chance and let the experts be what they really are : ex-perts?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Paradigm Shift

I had a not-so-good opinion/experience of salesmen, credit card sellers etc. I usually consider most of what they say to be untrue, said just so they can make the sale. I had one experience years ago which I can say resulted into a "Paradigm Shift" (to quote from 7 habits book). Paradigm shift is a fundamental change in the way we see things, a fundamental shift in our perception of the world around us or the people we interact with.

This happened when I bought my car from Maruti's Mandovi Motors Lavelle road. After almost a month and a half from the time I took delivery of the car, I got a call from the car salesman @ Mandovi who processed my papers.

I think his name is Sachin. After exchanging the usual greetings, he said "Sir, I have a surprise for you. Can I come to your place and meet you?". I asked him what it is. But he insisted on meeting me in person. So I called him home.

He came home and handed me a cheque of 10,000 Rs. I asked in surprise what it is for. He said that I being a Wipro employee am eligible for a corporate discount while buying a car from Maruti. I didn't avail it while buying the car. When he realized this while filing my papers to be sent to Maruti, (I had given my Wipro ID card for Id proof), he spoke to his boss and arranged for the money to be returned to me.

Now, I am not sure if this was an initiative in honesty from his side or it is a part of Maruti's process. Maybe when my documents were being sent to Maruti, there must have been a check-list or something to be filled up. And one of the items might have been whether the customer has been given the corporate discount. And if not maybe Maruti will penalize the dealer for it.

Whatever the case, this experience made me realize that I was judging all salesmen alike based on my "image" of them based on my past experience. I also remembered this same guy had driven my car to my house on the evening of the delivery since I didn't know driving then. And he even refused to take a tip from my dad. I was unexpectedly impressed.

I engaged him in a conversation to get to know him better. He turned out to be a B.E. in Mechanical Engineering from RV college of Engineering, Bangalore. I was stunned. "You are a B.E Mechanical from RV?? Why the hell are you wasting your career selling cars?". He mentioned that he is a fresher, didn't get a job in campus, is looking for a better job and will quit once he gets it. He is as qualified as I was when I finished Engg. And here I was treating him like a not-so-educated, not-so-honest salesman !!

So much for my preconceived ideas about people.

Triple Filter Test

Someone sent this on Blore Vipassana mailing list. Worth reading and following ....
=============================================================


In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, " Do you know what I just heard about your friend ?" " Hold on a minute," Socrates replied. " Before telling me anything, I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test."

" Triple filter ?"

" That's right," Socrates continued. " Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you're going to say. That's why I call it the Triple filter test.

The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true ?"

" No," the man said, " Actually I just heard about it and…" "All right," said Socrates. " So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good ?" " No, on the contrary…" " So," Socrates continued, " You want to tell me something bad about him, but you're not certain it's true. You may still pass the test though, because there's one filter left : the filter of usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me? " " No, not really." " Well," concluded Socrates, " If what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all ?"

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Silence Is Golden

The traffic jams in Bangalore are a favorite tea-time topic of discussion. But hardly do we hear people talk about the noise levels in Bangalore. Except for a few passing remarks here and there in the media about "Noise Pollution".

A few months ago, I had given my car for servicing and ended up taking the auto to office. And what happened during this auto-ride to office made me realize that we are living in a highly noise-polluted environment. We don't notice it simply because we have got used to it.

I got into the auto from near Sony World signal in Koramangala. Just out of boredom, I pulled out my Ipod and plugged in the Shure earphones. Now the Shures are unique in that they are noise-isolating earphones. Noise isolating earphones fit tightly into your ear canal and effectively cut out all the outside noise so you can hear only music. This gives you a better listening experience and also you can listen at a much lower volume since you don't have to raise the sound level of the music higher than the surrounding noise to hear it clearly.

It was a good 30 mins, "noise-less" ride to my office. When I reached near my office building in Shanthi Nagar, I pulled out the earphones. The very next moment, I was startled at the surrounding noise. For a few moments I felt as if something went wrong around me.. as if I have been dumped into a battlefield with loud guns firing from all sides. I even thought engine of the auto I was in was unusually loud.

After having sat in relative silence for 30 mins, the ordinary traffic noise was almost unbearable for a few moments. Made me realize for the first time how noise polluted Bangalore is or any other crowded city for that matter.

Makes me wonder is Bangalore traffic jam a bigger menace or the resulting Bangalore traffic noise?

Maybe we ought to take a few days off once in a while and run off to a nearby jungle or a village and bask in one of the simplest and greatest pleasures of life : the experience of silence. And give some rest to our over-burdened ears !

Monday, August 04, 2008

Landmark Education -- Part 2

Earlier I blogged about "Landmark Education". Now that I have completed the entire "Landmark Curriculum For Living" which took me almost a year, another blog is due.

Coming soon.....

Thought For The Day...

Chanced upon this "Thought For The Day" entry on easwaran.org
Considering the events "eventing" in my life...timing seems to be just right for me to happen to read this ....
===========================

Where there is injury, let me sow pardon.
– Saint Francis of Assisi

Once, in wintertime, it is said that Francis and his disciple Brother Leo were making a hard journey on foot through the snowy countryside of Italy. They had been walking along in silence for a long time when Brother Leo turned to Francis and asked him, “How can we find perfect joy?” Francis stopped and replied, “Even if all our friars were perfect in their holiness and could work all kinds of miracles for others, we still would not have perfect joy.”

He turned and walked on, and Brother Leo ran after him. “Then what is perfect joy?” Francis stopped again, “Even if we could speak with the birds of the air and the beasts of the field and know all the secrets of nature, we still would not have perfect joy. Even if we could cure all the ills on the face of the earth, we would still not have found perfect joy.”

Brother Leo was practically shouting: “Then please, Father Francis, what is the secret of perfect joy?”

“Brother, suppose we go to that monastery across the field and tell the gatekeeper how weary and cold we are, and he calls us tramps and beats us and throws us out into the winter night. Then, Brother, if we can say with love in our hearts, Bless you in the name of Jesus,’ then we shall have found perfect joy.”

Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year 2008

A brand new year is here. 2008. Time for new years resolutions, dreaming, goal setting, noisy drunken parties, and all the other things we do on 31st December.

And yeah time to wish the people in your life "Happy New Year".

As I write this, I am sitting in my room working up my goals for 2008 (Goals, not new year resolutions J ) with yet again the firm resolve that "This year I will do it". I just had this "instinct" to pull out one of my favourite books and give it another read. "SuperSelf by Charles Givens". This book is supposedly out of print. Not available in bookstores. I don't know why.

The very first chapter talks about this principle. "To design and control your future effectively, you must first let go of your past". And that gave me the idea for this blog entry: "What better time to put this into practise but on 31st Dec 2007."

So, before we step into 2008, there's one more important thing to be done. "Let go of 2007". I don't mean to be disrespectful to and disregard all the good things and the tragedies of 2007 (like T20 World Cup and terrorism).

But I mean ...well, yeah, I know, you know what I mean.

So, lets begin with a clean slate...

And a Happy New Year 2008!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Landmark Education

Participating in the Landmark Forum and Landmark Advanced course has been one of the most life changing days I have ever spent ( next only to Vipassana meditation).

I first heard about Landmark I think 4 - 5 years ago from a collegue when I used to Work with Wipro. Landmark was conducting some courses for Wipro employees. He attended something which now having been through Landmark I guess was the Introduction program. He came back and told us something like "They make you come on stage and tell your personal problems in front of everyone". I was immediately put off. "Why in the world would anyone want to do that ??". I decided Landmark does something weird and it was not for me.

5 years later, sometime in Aug/Sept '06 one of my very trusted friends from Mysore, Nimmoo spoke about Landmark. I parroted the same opinion that I formed during Wipro days. I was surprised to hear something different about Landmark from her. She recommended me to talk to another friend of hers Rachana in Bangalore, who had done the entire Landmark "Curriculum for living"(the core set of programs of Landmark education). When I spoke to Rachana I was immediately struck by the power in her language. She wasn't speaking like yet another "you can do it" motivational speaker. Her language really was powerful and hit me real hard. Moreever, this was the first time I was talking to her. And I felt as if I knew her since ages. I realized that maybe there is something about Landmark that I have missed. I immediately decided to do the program. The very next day I met Rachana and did the registration for the next Landmark Forum in Dec 06.

During the Landmark Forum, I really understood what my collegue was talking about 5 years ago. Firstly, I realized, when my collegue was talking, I was not listening. I was busy making my own "interpretations". Secondly, he was talking about these awe-inspiring "sharings" people do during the Landmark Forum. (IMO, One of the most powerful aspects of the Landmark Education) They share the breakthroughs and immense benefits they get out of participation in the Landmark forum. They share what they were going through in their lives and how participating in the Landmark forum helped
them overcome it. And now that they have won over the problem what great possibilities have opened up for themselves and for the people in their lives. This not only is a remarkable display of courage on the part of the participants but also acts as an example and inspiration for others. "If he can do it within the Landmark Forum, I can do it to".

So, looking back, participating in Landmark has been a very very good decision, one of the best investments I ever made in myself. I wish I had done it 5 years back itself.

I also made another decision afer talking to Rachana. Now on I will never close my eyes to a new idea that comes my way based on first impression. I will be ever grateful to Rachana and Nimmoo for bringing Landmark into my life.

Stay tuned .. more to come....

Friday, August 18, 2006

Some of my favourite quotes.....

This will also change -- S.N. Goenka

(Xlated from Hindi) Every moment is so previous... Human life is so precious...Opportunity of pure "Dhamma" in human life is even more precious. -- S.N Goenka

When S.N.Goenka speaks, the world listens. -- Times of India

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. -- Stephen Covey

No matter what the clock shows, the compass always shows North. -- Stephen Covey
I am what I am. If noone else in the world be aware, I sit content -- Walt Whitman.

Everything happens for a reason. And everything happens for good.

Success is a journey , not a destination. --

Success is the progressive realization of worthwhile goals. --

There are no failures, only results. - Dr Wayne Dyer.

It is fun to do things which others think is not possible -- Michael Dell

Thoughts are things. Choose the right ones -- www.tut.com

The enemy of a great life is a good life. -- Nancy Dornan

Money does not bring happiness. Neither does poverty -- Jim Dornan

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Jump Of My Life

The day I saw a documentary on "Bungee Jumping" on National Geographic, I promised myself to experience the thrill of it. I knew one guy in Bangalore who had done it when the event was organized in Kanteerva stadium. "If he can do it ... I can do it too !!"

Not a single person except Sankha thought it was a sane idea. What if the string breaks? what if your heart fails due to fear? what if your ankle bones break of the shock? ... were some of the possibilities suggested by people around me. But Sankha said "I know one girl who has done it. If a girl can do it .. what's your problem". That was encouraging enough. "If man can fly in a plane... man can jump with a harness on his legs too." I thought to myself.

I was excited when Sankha found out a place where I could do Bungee jumping. This was when we were in Ottawa, Canada. My return to India was just 2 weekends away. So I had only one weekend to plan for it and the next one to go and take the jump. I maintained a high pulse rate and high BP all throughtout those 2 weeks.

The entire day was simply unforgettable. The Bungee jumping site (Picture below) is a beautiful quarry named "Morrison's Quarry" and the jump point is the tip of a rock named "The ROCK". It over looks a beautiful blue lagoon. I foolishly thought it was a good idea to have a bungee jump over water. If the string breaks I would fall into the water. Even though I didnt know swimming then, the life guard would save me. Only a year or so later my dad told me that falling into water from great heights could be as fatal as falling on ground.

They have a website too : "www.bungee.ca"

We thought the OC transport (Ottawa City transport) will have a bus going to that place. We had passes so we thought it would be cool. But when we realized that it was in the neighbouring state much away from city limits, we were disappointed. I didnt know to drive then and was dependant on buses and cabs. My squash partner, a Canadian guy offered to drive with me there. He had done bungee jumping once and ended up going to the doctor because some blood vessels in his eyes had burst. He didnt want any more trouble so backed out later.

We calculated the approx price to reach there in a cab to be 80-100 $ , the same for return and the jump would cost 85 $. In all approx 285 $. Almost 8500 Rs. "It's too expensive. It is not worth it" an opinion Sankha maintained all the way till the end. I told him it was my game so I will pay for half of his share too. I was even ready to pay the full amount. 300$ wasn't too much for me to let go of my cherished dream.

No matter what the price I made up my mind to do it. I started "preparing". I would go to the terrace of "Algon Quin" Apartments, the building we stayed in Downtown Ottawa, 12 storeys and would peep down just to get a feel of what height does to my heart beats. I would ask myself "If I had to jump off the terrace, into a safety net below, do I have enough steel to do it?" Ha ha ..

Anyways, after a lot of arguments with Sankha and buttering him, I convinced him to come with me and take pictures. I told Sankha that we take the bus till whereever it takes us and then take a cab from there. Little did I know that the place where we were going, there would see no trace of any cabs and even phone booths.

I asked the guy at the ticket counter "There is this Bunjee jumping site somewhere near Wakefield. Do you know where I should get down to reach it ?" He give me a strange reply "I am here to sell tickets. I cant tell u where you want to go". I thought "Oh!! this is not Bangalore". and quickly said. "Ok please give me two return tickets to Wakefield". It was some 100$ plus I remember. I bought the tickets and confusingly looked at the maps. I noticed Morrisons Quarry is less than half the distance to Wakefield. I went back to the counter. The guy got irritated,scolded me, cancelled my tickets and gave me new ones. This time it was 26$ return tickets for one seat. And since there were two of us the second one came at half the price. I was excited at the savings and ran to share the good news with Sankha who was uninterestingly sitting on a bench fiddling with his camera.

The bus took around 2 hours. Sankha told the driver where we wanted to go. He said "There is no official stop at Morrisons Quarry. But I can stop for you guys." We were happy. Now like me Sankha also started to look excited. Maybe he started feeling it was not such a bad idea to accompany Sajit. There was lots of greenery around and Sankha loves nature.

The bus stopped and the driver called for us. Very sensibly Sankha asked him "How about the return trip? From where will we get the bus to go back to Ottawa.??" The driver said "No bus stop here. Just a KM away there is a restaurant. Come and wait there. I will return at around 7:00 PM. Wave your hand when you see the bus and I will stop for you." We thanked him for his generosity. But we did not realize what a mess we were getting ourselves into. This was a highway where vehicles cruize at 100 + miles an hour. And there are no street lights too. More about this unexpected adventure later.

When we came to the entrace of the quarry, we could hear the screams of people jumping off the cliff. They looked like small dolls falling off the sky. The moment I saw the height of the drop point, I panicked. I said to Sankha.."Look at the height man !!!.. do you think I can do this??". He laughed his loud characteristic laugh.

The place was so beautiful we could not believe it. Sanka was really excited now. He started thanking me for dragging him along because he got what he wanted. A nice beautiful place to capture in his camera. But my heart was still beating like a drum. Sankha no more bothered what I was thinking. He got busy doing what he loves to do. Taking pictures. So now I had no one to talk to. I had to make up my mind on my own... no more encouraging words.

"This is much more than 200 feet. Atleast 500 feet.. I thought to myself". 6 footer Canadians looked like small stones from where I stood. I really wondered if my heart was strong enough to sustain the whole drama.

But now there was no looking back. The ridicule and leg-pulling I would have to face back in Algon Quin apartments if I didnt do what I came for was unacceptable. And I couldnt give up on myself either.

I went to the counter to register. They gave me a disclaimer to sign. "I am doing this at my own risk. I relieve the organizers of all obligations towards me in case of any injury or even death". Thats what it meant. I signed it not knowing if I was doing the right thing.

The guy at the counter told me that there is a "rip ride" too. If I am taking a bungee jump for the first time , it is a good idea to go for the "rip ride" first just to get used to the height. I registered for both.

The "rip ride" was a free slide over a cable tied at the ends on two rocks. The rope hung in air at a height of approx 100 feet. They would tie a harness over my shoulders and thighs and I would side on the cable over the waters hanging on the rope at a peak speed of approx 100 miles an hour. Starting from one cliff sliding all the way to the other one. "Just like Spiderman" thats the words he used. Sounds like a crazy and stupid thing to do isnt it ?? All adventurous activities are like that. They have no logic behind them.

( Picture )
In a few minutes I was at the drop point. Shaking from head to toe with self imposed fear. I was the first one to go. So I had no one ahead of me to see how they are doing. The guy tying the harnesses on my back told me to trust them and just jump into the air at the count of 5. Ha Ha Ha... I could hardly stand straight. And he was asking me to jump. 1...2...3..4...and 5.. I was still standing there thinking what to do.. "Come on man...Go..Go...Go" they screamed from behind. I closed my eyes and just fell forward. Before I knew, I was sliding super fast on top of the water face down. By now I was sure the harnesses are strong and these guys know what they are doing. "They wouldnt risk my life just to make a few dollars." I repeatedly re-assured myself.

At the other end was a resistance band to slow down my speed. It stopped me and I was hanging in air face down 100 feet above water. I was sure I am safe. I waved towards Sankha. I could see him a little bigger now. They lowered the rope and a guy came in a small boat and ferried me to the shore. I was too excited to see Sankha again and to be back on ground.

So the unplanned Mission was accomplished without much noise. Now for the planned one.

Like for the rip ride, I had to climb the cliff on foot. There was a special pathway for that. The walk up the cliff itself was tiring. There was a big platform extending into air from the top of the cliff. (Picture above). The walk to the tip was scary. The whole thing was shaking because of people walking on it. The iron was rusting in many places and I was scared the whole damned thing would just break and fall into the water.

There was a team of young college kids behind me who seemed to be veterans at this "sport" of Bungee Jumping. One of the girls was talking about doing a reverse jump. I was stunned.

Every time someone jumped and screamed their lungs out... I would get more scared. I tried to look for Sankha ... he looked so tiny.. just like an ant.

The guy called me. He checked my weight and made some measurements on paper. And then he started selecting the string to tie me onto. And what he said next I will never forget : "This rope ... we havent used it in ages. Lets see how this works for you.. Lets try it.. We'll have some fun !!!". I almost dropped. Here I was scared like never before in my life and this guy was experimenting on me with a new rope. I asked him if he was sure about it. He said "Dont worry. This thing can take 6000 pounds without breaking. You are not even 200 . I felt relieved. I was all set to go. He gave me some instructions. To keep my arms wide open. And jump into the air face down. Otherwise I would tangle myself with the rope and it would be trouble. I stood there with my mouth open and not knowing what to say. I had no grip over my mind to make it follow any "instructions". He guided me to the tip of the drop point. I looked down. I decided to give up. I turned around and said to him. "I cant do it. This is too high. I want to go back. I will come back later when I am prepared" The picture below, Sankha took it right when I was turning around to go back. ( Picture )

The guy flatly refused to let me go. He closed the small door behind me. And said . "The more you think the more tough it will be. Dont think...Just JUMP !!". The same counts again.. 1...2...3...4....5 End of the count and this time too I was standing there motionless. "Jump...Jump...Jump".. they screamed from behind. I had no courage to take a leap into the air like they said.. I just stepped down like we step down a staricase. And the next few seconds of free fall ... I really cant explain the feeling in words.

( Picture )
In a few seconds I hit the water and bounced back. I was thrilled. I couldnt believe that I jumped off a cliff 200 feet high and am still alive !!!!

After 2 - 3 rebounces.. like a ping pong ball , I stopped in mid air. The same boat guy came and ferried me to the shore. The rebound, approx 160 feet itself is considered the higest in all of Canada. That was really a proud moment for me.

(picture )

I scremed when I met Sankha again. He had a wide grin on his face.

We went back to the registration counter. They had recorded the whole thing on a video cassette. The played it back for me. I was pleased. They also gave me a T-shirt which had this printed on the back side : "Certified Bungee Jumper" He he .. I have never worn it till now though. I have it safely kept at home.

It was almost 5:30 by then. We had a coke. Thats all that was available there in the name of food. Sankha suggested me to go for one more jump. I wanted to but was too exhaused by then. The only thing I regret is that I did the whole thing fearfully. I didnt have the courage to throw myself into the air. I had just dropped myself into air. So it was really a "Bungee drop" not a Bungee jump" for me. So I have lessons for my next jump whenever that happens.

We spent some time walking around the place and watching other people taking the jump. There were people taking tandem jumps. i.e. 2 -3 people tied on the same rope and jumping together. It was fun to watch the excitement.

And now for the best part. The return trip....

We asked the counter guy about the bus. He said the last bus passes at around 6 and stops only at the nearby town. Which we cant reach unless we drive down. It was 6:20 or so by then. We got a little worried. But the driver had told us that he would come by 7. So we started walking towards the "restaurant". The walk itself was tough. It was getting dark ... no street lights...the road had slopes up and down... so we could see only till the next dip in the road. Vehicles were passing by like bullets. Only then we realized what mess we had got into. We reached the restaurant at around 6:45 PM. It was closed. So we stood at the road side and started looking for the "bus". By then it was almost dark and all vehicles had their head lights on. In the glare of the headlights it was not possible to distinguish between a truck and a bus. Sankha had a white cap. He stood as close to the road as he could and started waving at everything that passed. We took turns doing that. We thought someone if not our bug guy will stop and give us a lift. Almost one and a half hours and no one seemed to bother. No phone booths around no people ..just us stranded on the highway and a hell a lot of mosquitoes. We thought we will have to stay there thorugh the whole night and wait for the restaurant to open the next morning to get help to go back to the city.

Suddenly to our surprise, at around 8:15 or so, a car screeched to a halt a little ahead of us. Took reverse, and stopped right in front of us . The guy lowered the glass and asked. "Do you guys want a lift to Ottawa???" . We were stunned. It was the same guy who was at the counter. He was going back home after closing down the whole site. And he luckily spotted us waving to the passing vehicles.

We got in. He told us that he was the owner of the place and operates it only during summers since during winters the lagoon freezes into ice. We had a good talk with him about the intricacies and the risks of the job he was doing. He told us a few things about how they handle the risks and dangers of bungee jumping. He even does some stunts for movies.

We reached Ottawa in just 20 mins. I was impressed with the speed of the car...its pick up etc. I wanted to see what car it was. When we got down after thanking him in the city... I looked at the car...I was stunned ... It was a BMW.

So here we were... we started thinking the travel alone would cost over 200 $. But not only had the cost been less than 25$ .. we got a 20 mins ride in a classy BMW. We even got the return ticket refunded from the bus stand since we had replaced the bus with a BMW !! . WOW !! me and Sankha were on top of the world.. we were jumping like mad kids. That was the best day I spent during my entire stay in Canada.

The place he dropped us was close to our apartment. We reached home after a 20 - 30 mins walk.

People were waiting there .. to hear me say "I got scared and came back without doing the jump". And just to tease them thats what I said.. they all laughed at me like mad. I quitely put on the video and asked my roomies to watch. Sankha narrated the whole story to them. I got lots of "great job" pats on the back !!

So finally, it was a day well spent...harnessing the power of a simple dream !!!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

My Bombay Trip .. Day One.

Dilip, Sunil, Praveen , Shivaji, Tarun, Joseph , Santosh ,Jyotsna , lots of good and lots of not so good memories.. That's what Bombay means to me.. Aamchi Mumbai !!

I was in Bombay for Praveen's marriage reception. Ditched my usual Jet Airways for Kingfisher Airlines this time upon recommendation by Mahendra for obvious reasons. But nothing special about it except the new and good airplane. Mr Mallya built an airline selling beer(amongst other things maybe...which I don't know of). So kudos to all beer drinkers !!

KF started 20 mins late on Friday evening and arrived 1 hour late at around 11 PM thanks to the incessant rains in Bombay. My usual escort Praveen, stays close to the Airport. So I usually call him as soon as my plane lands and he rushes to receive me. He asked me to do the same. But this time I knew he didn't mean it. So I didn't call. He wasn't a free bird anymore. Neither did he want to be. He married because he wanted to and not because it was "time" and he had to. So we all decided to leave him alone for a while till he comes back calling on us. As always Jyotsna came to the airport with Sandeep and their 2 year old Divya. My good old friend Dilip was there too. Like every other time, Dilip had annoyed Jyotsna about something and they were fighting. Divya was visibly disturbed because she had been repeatedly threatened by her parents that Sajit mama is coming to take her to Bangalore for not obeying them. So this time she kept a comfortable distance from me.

So after the usual backlog of gaalis from Dilip for reaching late, not sending mails, not calling Bombay friends enough times etc etc we went to our "Airport Hotel" just for a place to sit and talk for a while. I hadn't attended Jyotsna's wedding. So once more the girlish scold of hers came : "You have come all the way from Bangalore for Praveen's reception but you didn't come for my marriage. Yaad Rakhungi"

After promising to call Jyotsna the next morning with the logistics for attending Praveen's function, me and Dilip took an auto to Dilip's house. Half way through I realized I should have taken the local-train. A Bombay trip is incomplete without stepping inside the local train.

It was time for Dilip to give me the inside news of Bombay...what all my punters had been upto. Who went where, who did what sensational, who got beaten by the police etc..etc..( no..not really. All my friends are good law abiding citizens). Everyone was just leading a routine life. No one seemed to shake up things and make noise anymore. Very uncharacteristic of Bombay Boys. Those days are over I suppose. Now it is wife, kids, school admissions, promotions and savings. I remember my Engg study leave when I used to come home from hostel and we would all gather at Dilip's friend Sushesh's office and have a nice night long party. Joseph would sing old hindi songs upon request from each one of us. And of course there were cigarettes, Whiskey, Rum and lots of home made food. I once got an earthern pot from somewhere, kept it upside down and told Joseph. "Here...some tabla would go well with your singing". Within an hour or so, the pot was broken. He still remembers it fondly. Its been ages since we had one of these events.

On the way Dilip stopped the auto in Kandivali, went into his fiends building and bought out his Yamaha. I was stunned. He laughed. He said "I always carry one key of his bike. I take it whenever I want". I asked "don't u have to take his permission?". "Chalta hai", said Dilip. That's the Bombay spirit , I thought to myself.

I took the riders seat. It felt really good ..first ..to ride a bike after a long long time. And second the good feeling that I am in "Aamchi Mumbai" with my childhood friends. I suggested to Dilip that we roam around the whole night. I was in no mood to sleep. "Chalega", said he. I said I want to visit our school. Me and Praveen once decided to do something for our school. KV INS Hamla has given us so many good things, especially lifelong friends, we should give something in return. And that we will.

We reached Dilip's house at around 2 in the morning. He has a 5 bedroom flat. And a special room for guests like me. His parents, himself and his 3 brothers stay there with their families. It is the only joint family I know of. Its a mansion according to Bombay standards. Everyone was asleep and the door was left unlocked for us. I felt relieved that I don't have to go through the guilt of waking up his family members at this unearthly hour.

The food was ready. But Dilip woke up his wife to get it hot or something. I scolded him for that. We could have done it ourselves. I told him it would have been great if we had a car. I suggested him to hire one. I don't enjoy two wheelers now a days. We got a Tata Indica the next day from a travel agent friend of his and of course without a driver.

The next morning was the same setup which happens in his house every time I visit. One by one his brothers peeped in to the "guest room" to look at me as if I am some almost extinct animal brought in from the zoo. Two of his brothers are doctors. They both gave me a much deserved lecture on importance of exercise and how out of shape I looked. I could no longer point to my stomach and say "Sign of prosperity". It simply was the result of a lazy and sedentary lifestyle.

After exchanging the usual greetings with his parents and his wife, I called upon my entire gang one by one. We all planned to meet at the reception. I told Dilip I want to buy a nice pant since the one I got with me is no good. He took me to the Inorbit mall in Goregaon. Its been ages since I bought clothes. Dilip forced me to buy more than I planned to. He made me buy one size smaller so I would loose weight to wear them. He looked particularly annoyed with my screwed up dress sense.(I am annoyed too). He selected the clothes and I just bought them.

Now and then Jyotsna kept calling. She was having a tough time at work. She wanted to quit to look after Divya and her boss wouldn't let her go. I am her part time underqualified mentor in job and career matters. She trusts me a lot. I once told her I bought a Mercedez Benz and she believed me!! Just because I was a topper in school she thinks I have gone to Bangalore and become some big shot. She finally made it her last day @ work. I told her I might come to her house on Sunday. This time unlike earlier, I didn't promise because there were very good chances I would break it. And she scolds me for that every time.

We went into almost every shop that looked inviting. He dragged me into the Benetton showroom. It was crowded since there was a sale. He painfully picked some t-shirts for me which I bought again without complain. I asked him to buy one. He said "Yeah I will just to wear at home". I screamed "Abe Khajoor, this is Benetton. 500 Rs Its not for home use". But Dilip has his own ideas about life.

He gave me the good news that Santosh Uthaman is also coming to the reception. I had seen him hardly once or twice after I left school. He joined the Indian navy and now is posted in Bombay. I was excited to hear the news. He used to give a tough time to our English teacher Savant madam . She gave up after trying hard to make him speak to her in English. Not that he couldn't .But he simply wouldn't. Our 10th "B" division had a soft corner for Hindi. We are proud Indians. So we unanimously decided we will give more respect to Hindi speakers. Santosh is also known for his notorious acts in the Navy. It would be nice to hear about his adventures and how he annoyed his seniors.

We reached back home with a big booty of clothes. Rajesh bhaiya asked,"Oye .. shaadi Praveen ki hai ya tumhari ?? BTW Sajit, When are you getting married?" The question no one gets tired of asking me. I gave a contentless answer like I always do "jaldi hi kar lunga...setting chalu hai".

Dilip went inside to get lunch for me. I get pampered in his house.I have known them since the day I stepped my foot in Bombay at the Air Force Base in Madh Island where my dad was posted from 1981 to 1986. That's where I met Dilip and his family. Dilip's father, Sahini uncle was the first person me and my mom met in Bombay. His mother spoke to me for a while about how good times were when we were in the Air Force. She told me for the nth time how many cigarette packets my dad used to buy from their shop. Santosh bhaiya laughingly commented, again the nth time on the "2 sizes bigger than my fit" trousers I used to wear in school.

We finished lunch , and I had a bath . While I was inside my "guest room", I heard a familiar loud voice. I knew it was Santosh. I rushed to the hall. He saw me but could not recognize me. He looked at me the second time, got up and screamed "Abe Sajit!!!... tu kab aaya". I am glad he didn't call me with the nick name Sunil gave me in school. And we hugged like long lost buddies. He looks just like a fauji. With short trimmed hair and no extra fat. Santosh is due to retire from Navy next year. He plans to go to Kerala and settle down there. I wish I could do that.

And now the reception. A lot of known faces. Nikhil, Harish, Pranit, Rakesh Guliya. Sunil's mom was also there. She was very happy to see me. Sunil still lives in the Railway quarters next to the railway station. While coming home from my Engg college in Pune, I used to visit Sunil first with my suitcase full of books and clothes before even going to my home. Sunil was the closest to me in school. We used to sit on the same bench since I met him first time in 6th standard. He used to come to my colony bus-stop and wait for me. Then we used to go together from there. No cell phones those days. But I never kept him waiting. He used to carry a aluminium suitcase to carry his books instead of a school bag. During our Unit tests we used to keep books open one above the other in it. It was very easy to copy. Just open the lid, pull out the book, transfer the data to the answer sheet and slide the book back in. And that's why he never stopped using the box. I never let him buy a school bag. Sunil's suitcase was our insurance against a tough question paper. With Sunil, Praveen, Amitabha, Dilip, Santosh, Biant Singh, Yogesh exams time was fun time. If you are not prepared. No problem. Sunil's aluminium dabba will protect you. I used to pass on my answer sheet to others, it would circulate among the back benchers and come back to me in a few minutes. I was the book worm and class topper till Amitabha joined us in 10th. He is a born genius. I used to study only because of my mothers beatings.

Our lunch used to be a true team event. One guy would open his tiffin and everyone would pounce on it. No sharing.. only grabbing. Only the strong would get anything to eat. So we changed strategies. We started having lunch during the 5th period itself. That gave us the full recess to play cricket. We would sit with food in our mouths and munch slowly like cows. So the teacher wouldn't know. Of course we still ran the risk of the teacher asking anyone of us a question and we would have to open our mouth. It once happened that I foolishly dropped on the floor the lid of a steel tiffin box during Livingstone madams Maths class. It made a loud noise and rolled over two benches ahead of me. I still remember the laughter the entire back benchers had. The front seaters didn't know what was happening behind their backs. The teacher didn't say anything. I think because I was a rank holder. I was forgiven some sins. Atleast till 9th std. 6th period after the recess was Bhatnagar madams history class. Our entire gang used to come 10 minutes late. Our excuse always was that the cricket ball over shooted the compound wall and went into Patelwadi, the small locality adjacent to our school. And we had to go searching for it. I don't remember how we managed with that silly excuse.

Jyotsna didn't attend the reception. Sandeep had gone on a offsite with his team at work. She didn't feel comfortable coming alone.

After we finished dinner we went to Praveen. Some leg pulling was due. He was sitting with his wife. We pulled him aside and drilled him for a while. Well we didn't trouble him much. He got away easily.

It was time to leave. We all assembled outside the hall and everyone started sharing their "discoveries" and questions. Who was the one in the white saree ? And the one in jeans ??. How many sisters Praveen's wife has ? When are they going back to Delhi? How about going to his house and getting an intro ??? Joseph had to keep quite because his wife was standing right next to him. But he still managed to pass on a few comments when she was not watching.

After few minutes of jokes and laughter.. we parted ways. I told Joseph if I come to Malad, I will drop in to see him. We hadn't spoken in ages. Joseph was the only guy working in a Software company when I was studying. I used to have endless discussions with him about life in a software company. My dream during college was a 15 K job in SEEPZ in Bombay and a bike. That's all I wanted from life. But I got much more. I had never even dreamed that I will settle down in Bangalore. And that I will prefer Bangalore to US. Sunil had come with 2 of his office friends so he had to be with them till they went home. We decided to meet later in the night after Sunil was free.

Santosh wanted to rush home because he had to report to work next morning at 7. For the Indian Navy, 7 A.M means 7 A.M ... not 7:03AM or 7:04 AM or 7:05 AM . No flexi timings. Me , Dilip and Sunil planned to roam around Bombay in our newly acquired Indica. Its no fun to drive an Indica but it was ok. The company of friends mattered more. I told Dilip we could go all the way to Colaba and drop Santosh and on the way back visit Marine Drive and Taj. But Santosh calculated that he will reach faster if he takes the train and was in no mood to trust my driving skills. So we dropped him to Andheri station and waited for Sunil to call us.

We met Sunil and his friends and sat in some restaurant called Harish ...somewhere in Andheri I guess ...which is supposedly well-known for its sea food. It was 1 AM when they finished food. They hadn't eaten anything in the reception. We goodbyed Sunil's friends and the three of us got in the car and Dilip suggested we go to Bandstand in Bandra. Bandstand is Bombay's famous seashore where Shah Rukh Khan has his controversial bunglow. I was excited at the thought of getting to see my Junior college again which is close to Bandstand. We took the link road...We reached Bandra but lost the way. Sunil screamed at me..."You don't even remember the roads??. This is the place where you, Shivaji and Alok loitered for 2 years during your junior college." I said "I am not a Bomayite anymore. You are . You should remember the roads". But that argument didn't work. Anyways we asked for directions and finally reached the sea shore. We parked , got out and went to a "cycle wala" who was selling cigs and coffee. He had no tea. Sunil took coffee and a cig. We talked for a while and they gave me a detailed account of Praveen's marriage in Delhi. And some tips on how I should conduct mine. Almost 30 minutes later the police came and started chasing away people. There were college kids in big gangs walking on the shore at this unearthly hour. Sunil made a passing comment on them and we got into the car and drove away. He said .. "Lets go to Carter road .. we will surely get tea there". What an important beverage tea must be for 3 grown up adults to search for it on Bombay roads in the middle of the night !!

We drove all over the place ..talking.. mainly me asking them lots of questions about their lives and the lives of my other friends. They were both getting too tired and sleepy to answer my insignificant questions. Bombay was daily life for them. But for me was something I always wanted to get back to. So I was very curious to know. And unlike them, I was wide awake. "I didn't come to Bbay to sleep.." I said to myself.

By the time we dropped Sunil to his house in Kandivali, it was 2:30 in the morning. I was sure his family wont mind him coming late this one night because "Sajit had come from Bangalore". Since I am not around most of the time, whenever I am , I get more attention than I deserve. He gave me a time to meet him again the next day afternoon in Andheri and we said goodbye.

We headed towards Dilip's house. Dilip said "You said you wanted to go to "ek number"???" That's the name of township I used to live in. It is in the suburb called "Malad". I enthusiastically said "Yesss!!!" and immediately took a U turn. He gave me directions till we reached Malad. Then on it was "my area".

I thought of Allwyn as we drove through Orlem. That's where he used to live before shifting to Panvel. How many hours me and Allwyn spend there making up big dreams for a bright future. Of course we haven't forgotten anything. It will all come true one day. I was planning to meet him the next day.

Next came the locality called "Midh chowki" and Shivaji's Asmitha Jyothi apartments. Dilip was asleep by then. I felt bad for dragging him along with me through the night. But I guess I don't do that often so it was ok. And then came the fire brigade and the "Ek number" bus stop ... the place where me and Joseph used to stand till late in the night and talk about our concepts of life. How to make it big in life and how to live a good life etc..etc..And also give hidden looks to good looking passer-byes..girls I mean..of course. I slowed down the car to notice if anything has changed since the lasttime I was here. Bombay nothing seems to change only new things come up. Old ones remain the same. Deepmala .. the banner on the first gate... Yes I remember that name "Deepmala Building". Few gates ahead was the gate of "Unity apartments". The building I used to live in. I looked at everything carefully trying to recollect my old days. I bent down and peeped through the windshield to have a look at the window of Apartment number "4-B/40" on the 4th floor of Unity Apartments. The flat we used to live in. "The extra grills on the windows are still there." I thought. "The new owner hadn't removed them.It looks just the same" I shook up Dilip and said: "Dilip... dekh mera ghar!!".. He opened his eyes slightly and went back to sleep again. I was excited but he wasn't. Bafhira Nagar and Unity Apartments mean nothing to him. Bahl nursing home in the adjacent building still stands in all his infamous glory. I thought about asking Rajesh bhaiya about Dr. Bahl.

I drove all the way to "Cancer Pisces" building and turned. Reminded me of the long walks I used to take with Alok and Vishal on these same very roads. I didn't feel like going towards Jankalyan Nagar..I had seen what I wanted to see in "Ek number" and was in a hurry to hit the road for "INS Hamla", the Indian Navy's base where my school was located. By the time I reached back to the bus stop Dilip woke up. I asked him "Are you too tired ? Shall we go to Hamla? I don't know when I will be able to come to Bombay again. I want to visit all those places once". He said "I have no probs. But you cant see anything. It is so dark". I replied "Its ok...I don't want to see anything. I just want to be there once".

I took the right turn and headed off towards my school which I really miss very much. Looking back I realize, I forgot to look for "Chachu ki dukaan" which was behind my building. The small 2 X 2 cigarette and paan shop. I wonder if he is still around. My father used to send me there to buy "half a packet of Wills" for him when I was small. In a few years I upgraded and started buying them for myself. Wills was my brand too. I am sure if Chachu is still around, Joseph gives him good business.

Soon we reached the locality called "Malvani Church". Shivaji, Sunita, Manoj, Vinod.. the place belongs to them.

I was excited to see the narrow road go down towards "Marve beach" ... It was still the same.... beyond Malwani Church... all the way till the end .. it was all the same....nothing seemed to have changed. It was all greenery just they way it was in my school days.

The Marve bus stop brought back some good memories . Sometimes we used to walk down from our school to Marve bus stop ...a good 30 - 40 mins walk....to catch buses which started from Marve. One day Sunil said we will not go to Marve today. We will wait till we get a bus from our school bus stop itself. We waited from 5:30 till 8 in the night. Not a single bus stopped for us. My mother send Balram uncle and Kannan's father to look for me. We were still waiting at the bus stop when they both arrived. So Sunil and I got a free ride on their scooters back home. And we also decided to not make that mistake again.

We reached the main gate of Indian Navy's base "INS Hamla". It still has maintained its old glory and the whole thing looks just the same. No change. Some navy guys were taking their routine rounds along the boundary wall. This Navy base also housed our old school. We shifted to the new one .. I don't remember when. Must be in my 3rd or 4th std. It would be great if I can go in and see what state our old school is in now. Probably the building has been broken down by now.

A few minutes more and we crossed "Mulchand's Store" the place where we used to buy books... toffees.....magnets ...ice creams...etc. We used to call him "Kanjoos Marwadi". Because he was known for his stinginess with money.

And then came the most beautiful place in Bombay (for me)...my school.."Kendriya Vidyalaya INS Hamla". I slowed down and peeped into the narrow lane which leads towards my school gate from the main road. A gate which I had entered every day for 10 long years. Every single friend of mine is very senti about our school and has great respect for all our teachers .. no matter how much fun we made of them during school and no matter how much they tortured us. The sight also re-strengthened mine and Praveen's decision to give back some value to our school.

I wanted to stop for a while. But Dilip had asked me not to stop anywhere. It was 4ish in the morning and there was not a single soul around. I woke him up again and said I want to go all the way to Madh Island. That was the tip. No road after that. Only sea. Around 10 km from where we were. He said go wherever you want to go. Just make sure u drive fast and don't stop for any reason. He slanted his seat further back and went into sleep again.

I was wide awake. Not a bit of tiredness or sleep in my eyes. I was feeling like I was in some wonderland.

Drove past JJ, Patelwadi.. Aksa beach.. Resort. Dilip was fast asleep.

"Erangel" .... that sounds familiar. I almost forgot a place like that exists. What else have I forgotten ? There was a time when I remembered each and every turn on the road from my school all the way to Madh Island IAF base. Because that were the 2 end points my whole life was restricted to for 10 years. And some occasional shopping visits to Malad once or twice a year.

Soon I reached Madh Island. Saw the temple on the hill top behind which was the Indian Air Force's Madh island base where my dad was posted since 1981. It was truly like re-living my childhood.

I drove all the way to Jetti. I had forgotten the word Jetti also. It was when Dilip mentioned it that I recalled. Some where on the road to Jetti was Shivanand's house. Shivanand is the only guy who became a Doctor in our gang. He even did his M.D. I feel proud of him. He is the only guy who did what he said he will do when we were in 10th. Rest all of us followed the easiest available option. It was Deepak bhaiya, our tuition teacher who made us think what we wanted to do with our future. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't have even given a thought to this mysterious thing called future. I was too uninformed about life in those days.

I reached the dead end at Madh Jetti. Madh Jetti is 2 kms from the Madh Island bus stop. And finally I stopped to decide which way to go. Dilip got up looked around and said. "This is L&T. Take a U turn". I did. Reached Madh Island back and asked Dilip: "Can we go to the Quila?" , There was a fortress next to the Air Force base which has appeared in many hindi movies. He jumped .. "No!!!!.. it is not for civilians any more. But u can go till the Air Force gate and return". Ah !! Civilian.. yes that's what I was. I drove up to the Air Force station main gate. And started taking a U turn. The guard looked towards us with curiosity. Little did he know that this place belongs to me as much as it does to him.

I decided to drive fast now. I had seen what I wanted to see. Now I had to plan who all I had to meet on Sunday. I decided to spend a good chunk of time with Jyotsna, Sunil and Allwyn. Sunday was for the three of them. I had already postponed my return flight from 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM to make time for Allwyn.

I didn't think much as I drove back. Wanted to reach home fast so Dilip's torture could end and he could sleep comfortably. Just as I reached Charkop, I woke him up for directions. "Your old memories !" he smiled and said in Hindi.

We reached Dilip's house at around 5 in the morning. By then I had started planning for the next day. "I want to meet Sunil , Jyotsna and Allwyn tomorrow. I will leave as soon as I get up in the morning , meet them and go straight to the airport at 7:30 in the evening." Dilip replied "Chod na yaar. Kal ka kal dekhenge" He just asked me to shut up and go to sleep. And switched off the lights.

End of Day 1.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Beginning of Man's search for knowledge

Some food for thought from a translation of Bhagvad Gita...

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Some years ago, when I studied biology, neurology, and allied subjects, I found one wonderful truth and that is , no animal, not even a chimpanzee, can oppose the thumb to the forefinger, but only the human child can do this.

In all animals, the thumb does not know how to co-operate with the other fingers, particularly with the forefinger.

However , at the human level of evolution, for the first time, the human being learnt to oppose the thumb to the forefinger. That is the beginning of humanity's technical efficiency, his or her capacity to handle tools, his capacity to manipulate the world around him, and acquire knowledge. The human being entered into the world of knowledge with this initial physical capacity.

This is why this opposing of the thumb to the forefinger is highly symbolic of man's search for knowledge from the most ordinary to the most extraordinary levels.

Now, how to represent this search for knowledge through a particular posture. Our ancient sages discovered this wonderful "mudra" which can describe the entire gamut of this search for knowledge. This is a remarkable concept in Indian Vedantic philosophy and spirituality. It holds that there is a deep significance for this particular "Gyana mudra", knowledge pose, when the thumb is opposed to the forefinger and all other fingers are stretched out.

I found this perfectly valid from the scientific point of view. I found that the number of brain cells needed to manipulate these two fingers is the largest compared to all other fingers. If the thumb is cut off , the manipulating efficiency of the hand will suffer automatically. In Mahabharata, we read of Drona, the teacher of archery, asking Eklavya to cut off his thumb and offer it to him as his guru-dakshina. So that he does not successfully compete with his favourite student Arjuna

The British rulers of India have said to have cut off the thumbs of our Decca weavers, who wove fine Decca muslin, so that they may not compete with their own Lancashire weavers.

The importance of thumb and the capacity to oppose it to the forefinger, is the beginning of man's march to knowledge, secular and spiritual. There is no distinction between secular and spiritual so far as knowledge is concerned; all knowledge is sacred.

A human being is human being because he has the organic capacity to seek knowledge; no animal can seek knowledge. Animals have only an instinctual apparatus within, and are compeletely controlled by the genetic system. The human being however, has been put on the road of making research into the world of knowledge.

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The Three Questions....

We hold on to our feelings rather than the feelings holding on to us. Its like we hold on to our uncomfortable emotions and complain that we dont feel good.

Try asking yourself these three simple questions when you are faced with an unwanted emotion ... like fear....depression....anxiety....etc...

First identify what you are feeling right now.. whatever it is ...in this moment ....and then : Ask yourself :

1. Can I let it go ?
meaning : Can I just let this feeling drop off me ? Both yes and no are good answers. Even if your answer is no, trying these questions a few times will still help you drop the uncomfortable feeling.

2. Would I ?
meaning: Would I rather let this feeling drop and be free OR Would I hang on to it and feel miserable ? A kind of reminder that it is meaningless to hold on to something which we dont want and is not good for us.

3. When ?
i.e. Usually the answer is "now". This is just a prompt to let the emotion drop off right now....

Please dont get bogged by its simplicity... all good things in life are simple ! It in a very subtle way helps us to "look" at our feelings as something different from ourselves. ( Which they really are.. we are not our feelings. Its like saying: I "feel" hungry ...and not... I "am" hungry

This questioning process is popularly known as the Sedona Method ......

Regards,
Sajit

Vipassana Meditation

Hi,

Please read about Vipassana Meditation on this web site: www.dhamma.org

Also below are my 2 cents.

Vipassana is a meditation technique discovered and taught by Gautam Buddha 2500 years ago. Talk about Buddha,and Buddhism comes to mind. Also bald headed, saffron draped, not-interested-in-this world, monks. But Vipassana has nothing to do with Buddhism or any "-ism" for that matter.(Buddha did not establish the religion called Buddhism, contrary to popular belief). Buddha was a scientist in the true sense of the word. A super-scientist of the mind who taught pure science. The science of mind and matter. How the human mind works. How it interacts with the body and vice versa. He taught the universal laws of nature; how to train our minds to live life in tune with the eternal and universal laws of nature resulting in real peace and real happiness. He taught Dhamma (which means Truth or law of nature, in Pali language). Over generations people "tweaked" it and made "-isms" out of it. We like it this way so this is our "X-ism". They like it that way so it is their "Y-ism" etc etc. Unfortunately additions and deletions to Buddha's teachings to make "-isms" destroyed its purity and the real purpose was lost. Instead of focusing on the TRUTH, the focus was now on conforming to the "ism". The packaging became the purpose. The core essence was lost.

Fortunately for all of us, the real teachings of Buddha have been preserved in their purest form through a chain of teachers for over 2500 years !! and are
now available to us to learn. Through the great work of Sri Satyanarayan Goenka and the Vipassana Research Institute. (Details on the web site).

Vipassana teaches the real ART OF LIVING. It is a practical, scientific meditation technique, the regular practise of which leads to true peace of mind and happiness. No gurudom, no blind faiths, only pure science of mind.

We all know we are creatures of habits. Our habits make or break us. But what about the other way around? What makes or breaks the habits?. Dr. Maxwell says in his landmark book Psycho-Cybernetics, do anything consistently for 21 days and it becomes a habit. Repeating a particular good or bad behavior over a period of time becomes a habit. But how ? What is this mystery going on inside our minds that makes us automatically do some things "out of habit" so to speak. What does a habit mean in the realm of the mind ? Are they neurological pathways which gets written over and over again with repetition? With Vipassana practise, we understand the so called mysteries of the mind by actual personal experience not just through lectures and reading about behavioral research.

Like Anthony Robbins says in his book "Awaken the giant within","All actions of man are either in the pursuit of pleasure or the avoidance of pain". But what we don't know is : why man runs after pleasure and runs away from pain. Simple answer would be pleasure makes me feel good and pain makes me feel bad. But then why is it that what gives me pleasure gives pain to my best friend? My friend loves coffee. I hate it. Is it to do with cofffee? No. it has something to do with me, my mind, my conditioning, my paradigms. What is this "something" ? Vipassana answers that.

Dr Stephen Covey gives an excellent analogy in his brilliant book 7 habits. "Between stimulus and response lies the power of man to choose". "What hurts us is not what happens to us but how we react to what happens to us". What makes us react that way and how to change the reaction?? We can either work on our behaviour and consciuously control our responses to external stimulii with tremendous will power and determination. And make our responses in line with principles. Which more often than not is a quickly lost battle for many of us.

The self motivated, inspired people go ahead and do what is taught. Others(like me) do it for a few days; slowly life takes over; the motivation dies off and I go back to my previous lifestyle. And the training stays remembered as a "good experience".

There must be a practical way to make the nature's laws a integral part of our DNA, so to speak. So I don't have to every time consciously and forcibly behave in a new way against my old character. I should be able to change my character at the root level and "BECOME" the new person so the new behavior is automatic and natural. Of course bad habits can be changed by consciously practising good ones over and over again with discipline. With time new habits will be formed. But the old ones are still buried deep inside the mind like a sleeping volcano. To be really free of them, we need to eradicate them. Not just master them. So, instead of drawing a fresh picture on an old canvas, we need a method to clean the canvas first and then draw the new picture. Vipassana cleans the canvas, our minds.

We talk about stress management... but why focus on "Managing" stress at all? Why not eliminate it ..? How to eliminate stress? Cut it at the roots where it all begins. After all "Its all in the mind" !! Vipassana helps us eliminate stress from within. External circumstances might still remain the same. The same pressures, setbacks, traffic jams etc. Vipassna trains our minds to stay calm and happy inspite. Ultimately, isnt that what we all want? to be happy and peaceful? to be composed and in control even when everything seems to be falling apart?

We hear concepts like "self-awareness", "Know thyself"."The source of happiness and sorrow is within..look within" Sounds good. But the question is HOW ?? What does it mean by looking within in the first place. Look within ...but how and where???

It is like saying "Open the bonnet and fix the engine". But how ? What tools should I use? First tell me how the engine is designed. How it is supposed to work? What are its various components? What are the engineering principles behind it? Without knowing all this if I look inside the bonnet and fix the engine, I will create more problems than I solve.And to do that to my own mind without understanding the science of mind?? Dangerous, isnt it ???

Vipassana helps here. It is like a practical step by step instructional Bible of the mind. Vipassana gives us a practical method to look within. And what a wonderful method it indeed is!! Which is grounded in reality,in Truth. No imagination, no verbalization, no visualization, no blind faith, only observing the Truth as it is, not as you want it to be, not as your guru says it is, not as the religious scriptures say it is, but just as it is. Just as you experience it in the present moment. TRUTH is TRUTH. It is above all. If a guru says this is Truth, and I accept it because he is my guru. I am at risk. Because the guru might be wrong. How do I become my own guru ? Thats what Vipassana does. Vipassana teaches you to become your own master, your own guru. You still need a teacher to teach you Vipassana, to teach you the technique to experience the truth within. So that you understand the truth with practical experience and not with intellectual discussion.

We need something which is Universal. Because the problem is universal. Sorrow is universal, grief and sadness is Universal. It impacts all human beings alike whether rich or poor, Hindu or Muslim. So the solution also has to be Universal, which is common to all. Buddha said observe your breathing. Breath is there for everyone. No Hindu breath, no Christian breath. breath is breath. (more about the technique is available on the website).

Now, what is this truth? What is the technique? To understand it one needs to practise vipassana. And to learn vipassana one needs to take up a 10 days residential course. Courses are conducted at many centers across India and abroad. Explanations, articles, Q&A and information is available on the web site.

Talking about Vipassana, I feel like a new born ant describing the bigness of the Himalayan range of mountains. But, at the same time. I feel fortunate to have come across it.

Hope that helps ..
-Sajit