Unforgiven

It is easy to forgive others but so much more difficult to forgive your own self. Conscience can be such a devil. You can convince any jury in the world that you are not at fault. But deep down inside, you always know what you did.

No amount of arguing can change what a heart truly believes. Hell, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Sometimes, good people do bad things, and when they do, they find out they can’t live with it.

But then, you don’t always get what you want, you just get what you get. We all make mistakes and we all pay a price.

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Insulting Nirbhaya; Insulting Women

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Today, another frivolous insult has been hurled at the dead daughter of India, Nirbhaya, who was brutally gang-raped on 16th December 2012 in New Delhi. Today, the man in the limelight is an uneducated, unscientific but prominent self-proclaimed godman called Asaram Bapu.

This man has had the audacity to claim that the 23-year-old was herself equally responsible for what happened to her. Why? Because he thinks she should have “begged to the rapists to spare her,”  and “should have immediately accepted them as brothers” so that the brotherly spirit in the men was invoked and they would have spared her.

Have you ever heard anything as outrageous as this remark? Who is this man? What are his credentials? Is he a psychologist? Is he a social scientist? None. He is just another fraud who calls himself a godman and just happens to enjoy the unquestioning following of a section of believers of Hinduism. Otherwise, he is nothing.

Which brings me to the main point that compelled me to write this post in the first place. Here is an example of how religious people take their beliefs so seriously that they do not bother who they follow. For believers, having faith in EVERYTHING is a virtue. Questioning ANYTHING is a sin. So, for decades, this man claims to provide moral guidance to thousands who flock to his satsangs (religious gatherings) leaving their homes at the drop of a hat. People follow him, and many others like him, blindly and dreaming of salvation and of achieving God. But why is it that in order to achieve God, man needs to become intellectually blind? Why do the masses not question the moral standards of who they follow?

Today, this man has exposed his dirty standard of his thinking and I am sure a large number of people must have opened their eyes to this. But I think this will only get worse in the future because the most reliable way to really fool innocent people into following you is to flaunt the religion card. People don’t care whether someone is educated enough or not, literate enough or not, has any morals or not. They just care if that someone invokes religion enough.

So, it doesn’t matter if you have to insult a dead girl, so long as you use religion to cover it up. After all, don’t all religions already treat women as objects of man’s desire only? Do I even need to give any examples at all? So, how can we expect anything moral from people who claim to be living lives of devotion, abstinence and forbearance but when you really look at them you find they travel in the most expensive and luxurious cars, have the richest ashrams and temples in their “trusts” and the same ashrams become the source of most horrific crimes, like the murders of numerous children that came as revelations out of the ashrams of the same godman as mentioned above.

If we really care for the spirit of Nirbhaya, what we need is change, not only of laws and administrations, but also of standards of our own conduct in our lives relating not only to what we do to others, but also who we follow.

For the good of society, our country and specially, our women, who have the right to just as much independence as men, we must recognize and follow, against all odds, our own inner moral compass.

When God cheats

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Whenever a sportsman or a sports team claims that they won because God was on their side, shouldn’t the result be cancelled and spectators’ money returned?

Imagine what would happen if a team started thanking the referee for their victories. Wouldn’t you call it cheating?

What do you think?

The benefit of falling ill

illnessFalling ill is not always that bad, so long as you don’t catch anything nasty. Specially, if you are regularly working hard and are hardly ever with free time to do what you would otherwise do on an ideal day off. There is always “something” to keep you occupied and away from what you want to do.

So, today was that day for me. I’ve been feeling ill all throughout the day but it isn’t fever or anything. Seems some internal tiring or exhaustion, I cannot say.

Anyway, I spent most of the day working from home, since most of the work was unavoidable, but afterwards I did what I had wanted to do for years. I remained in bed and watched TV for almost 5 hours straight. And, I was watching my favorite channels like Nat Geo, Discovery and Animal Planet. Every hour passed by in a soothing manner, watching new and wonderful things these channels showed today, right from Air Crash Investigation to wildlife programs with snakes, lizards and crocs. It kept me relaxed for a very long time and I really enjoyed everything. I also wanted to read a bit but I knew that would stress me even more because I would need to sit in a proper posture, whereas watching TV was the laziest thing possible.

Now, it is close to midnight and it has just occurred to me that I could perhaps blog about it and encourage others to take a break for their own sake and do something calm and enjoyable even if it is as simple as reading a book or just watching TV. It really charges up your batteries and gives your mind a break from the everyday hassles of life.

I have switched off my TV now and would probably fall asleep next but I would like to know from you if you would also fancy the idea of falling ill once in a while to escape the grilling demands of everyday life and just relax. Do leave me your comments and tell me if you like this.

The Joys of Stargazing

Star Gazing

It was almost 4 AM on a chilly December night (or morning) in Delhi a few years back and I stood on the open terrace of my house gazing up at the night sky with my telescope. The sky was clear at last, there was no moon and so it was a good time to look for those otherwise hard-to-spot stars and star-clusters. To read the sky map, I had a torch double wrapped with red cellophane paper so as to prevent it from ruining my eyes’ acclimatization to the darkness.

Astronomy, or rather Amateur Astronomy, was a new hobby of mine, only a few months old. I had recently been reading as much as I could on the subject, joined the local Astronomy club, met and spoke to other passionate enthusiasts and even bought myself a 5-inch Newtonian reflector scope, which has become one of my most prized possessions. Reading on the subject and then spending time contemplating that knowledge gave me a new perspective.

Tonight, as I was gazing at the stars and contemplating the vastness of the universe beyond those skies, I started to get goosebumps. There are about a hundred billion stars in each of the hundred billion galaxies in our universe and I guess almost all of the stars will have their own solar systems – some big, some small. So that makes the number of planets in the universe so large that it is beyond comprehension of ordinary human brains. And yet, despite this vast number, we know of not a single other planet, except our own, to bear life.

“Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”

Of course, being the only known (to us) life bearing planet, makes our place quite special in the universe. And what makes us even more special is the fact that we are able to contemplate our existence and ask questions about our own origins and the origins of the universe and then seek answers to them using our own intelligence. We were formed out of the same starstuff that makes the rest of the Cosmos – the planets, stars, comets, asteroids as well as the galaxies billions of light years away from our own – and we have evolved to think and ask questions about ourselves.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

Yet, on the other hand we also know that the reason why we haven’t been able to find life elsewhere in the universe is not because it does not exist, but because we are not intelligent enough and capable enough of finding out. The vastness of the universe trumps our little brains. The gigantic interstellar distances dwarf by trillions and trillions of times any distances we have seen on our earth or even in our solar system. The cosmic clock runs on a scale that trumps the longest lifetimes of humans and make us insignificant. And so, as the contemplation went on and on in my head, I lost myself into an even longer train of thoughts and it was as if I was slowly being removed from the earth. And finally, I truly realized that my relation to the universe was far greater than I had ever imagined before. I had become one with the Cosmos, not in the usual religious way, but in a much deeper and meaningful way. Because as Carl Sagan said it so beautifully:

“The Cosmos is also within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.”

It is a unique perspective because it also makes me realize how precious our planet really is. We have our friends, family, idols and enemies all here on this planet. It is our home. Everybody we have ever known lives or lived here. Outside of it, there is just loneliness in the vast universe. That also makes everybody I know here that much more special. The apparent insignificance of my own existence is in itself the reason why I should continue to live because this is the only life I have and will ever have. And I am lucky to be here today. When I learn something about the universe, it is basically the universe learning about itself. When I look out at the Cosmos, the Cosmos looks back into me.

My thoughts are interrupted by a sudden strong cold breeze and I realize that I am now shivering. I hear a truck pass by somewhere in the distance but otherwise the night is very quiet. It is almost morning and the darkness is fading away. A bit like the darkness of my ignorance is fading away because of the knowledge of my own real self?

I am quite tired now so I gather my stuff and head back inside for bed, leaving my telescope behind as it continued to gaze endlessly at the cosmos beyond.

Remembrance of things past

Sometimes, I look back into my life to see how much of it was real and how much was made up. It is an important question and applies to everyone who ever lived. Not that I am a liar, but I admit that sometimes our sheer vulnerabilities make us believe in something that isn’t true. Sometimes we know that, and sometimes we don’t.

Make up a lie, and believe in it with all your heart and repeat it for a really long time, and you will see it becomes the truth. Children do this all the time. They imagine a world and then believe in it such that it becomes the truth for them. When you were a kid, don’t you remember taking credit for jokes that someone else said, or a story that someone else told? And over the years, at some point, didn’t that joke or story become truly yours? Or what about believing someone else’s ideas as your own?

Likewise, even as adults we are not so far behind. Every journey into the past is complicated by delusions, false memories, false naming of real events. Words that were never said, fights that never really happened, love that was only in my mind, plans that were never made, feelings that were never felt, letters that were never written and friends that never were. But repeat them often enough, and they become real. Our memories also deceive us.

“When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now, and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the latter. It is sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do it.” ~ Mark Twain

Yes, every life has it. We all remember that which never happened. It is tough to admit it, but its true. Each life is like a book but with some untrue short stories. And many of these, we don’t even know are lies.

“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” ~ Marcel Proust

Reader’s Block

Is there such a thing as a Reader’s Block?

About 2 months back I wrote a blog on Writer’s Block that I was suffering from, and still do from time to time. And about 4 months back, I wrote another Blog called OverBooked, in which I described another situation similar to my Reader’s Block but with a peculiar difference.

In Overbooked, I spoke about how I felt spoilt for choices when it came to choosing what book to read simply because I have too many books and could not make up my mind on any one of them. But now, I write about my Reader’s Block, wherein I do want to start reading, but I want to know that with every page I turn I am gaining something important. I want to know that my life is much better, even by the tiniest bit, because of the last page I just read. I just don’t want to read for the pleasure of reading, for that pleasure I will inevitably find in whatever I read. I want to read because I would be miserable if I did not. And so, the book needs to be one which can remove that misery and fill the hole that is there in my heart.

For instance, when I read “A Demon Haunted World” by Carl Sagan about a year ago, every line I read gave me sheer pleasure of the wonderful writing of Dr. Sagan and every page I turned made me feel my life was that much more enriched because of what I’ve read. Similarly, there have been books like “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins, “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan, Sherlock Holmes, “IACOCCA” by Lee Iacocca, “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank and (oddly enough) “Confessions of a Conjuror” by Derren Brown, all of which have made me feel better about having read a book from which I am taking away something.

And, so I started reading “Relativity” by Albert Einstein this evening, hoping to understand the world much better and peep into the mind of the man who stunned the world with his genius. It is a good book and challenges your intelligence but it isn’t what I want, though I will still finish it very soon.

But now, I am stuck again, this time not for choice but for content. The book I read needs to give me something of intellectual value, where each page turned makes me happier than before. Something, that I should be proud of having read. A book that gives me a reason to be happy or a book that destroys my closely held prejudices. But most importantly, a book which upon opening makes me forget the world. It’s a tough choice because what I might see as an intriguing read might be boring to someone else. I keep remembering this quote I found on the internet:

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.  ~P.J. O’Rourke

So, please dear reader, help me out and suggest a book that you think I will open and then lose myself. Please leave your suggestions in the comments section.

Thanks for reading!

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