Blog Opinion

The Idea of India – Part 1

India celebrated its 74th independence day on the 15th of August 2020. We have come a long way since then. India is seen by the rest of the world, as a stable democracy, as a secular and a diverse country, and as a country with great human capital and market share that can reshape the global economy. This is exactly the kind of environment that can attract FDI, and can bring about good fortunes for the country and its people. Yet somehow we haven’t made quite made it yet. While shiny malls, large multiplexes, and urban parks light up the cities, there are several fundamental issues still to be addressed in the Country. Poverty is still rife, access to fundamental rights such as education, health still are limited to many. No one wants to be held responsible for the state of things, yet they have found a multitude of reasons to shift the blame to. Largely, the rhetoric seems to be one of the two things. It is Either that we have floundered the ways of Ancient India or that the the leaders of Post Independence India are responsible for not helping India reach her full potential.

There seem to be  many who want to hold on to an idea of India from the past. The Golden years they say, and remind us of our history, culture and civilization via social medial platforms at every single opportunity. India has been blessed with stellar mathematicians and scientists whose work in Mathematics, Astronomy, and Medicine has laid the foundational ground work for many to follow. There is no denying this.  But i do find it a bit farfetched when claims are made by prominent politicians that the Vedas and religious books hold explanation for every modern day scientific phenomenon. I always look to take these with a pinch of salt and ignore many of the outlandish claims. But it is discerning to note that many others seem to blindly believe these. The sheer number of fraudulent messages that are being generated by social media campaigns is mind numbing. Several “yogis and godmen” have created a thriving business model that convinces the masses of the pseudo sciences. I also have no intention of making this post a lengthy historical lesson or a discourse about Ancient India, all i want to do is to understand how history and experiences have shaped the Idea of India has evolved over time. In order to do so i had to rely on the work of a historian. I understand the nuances of being a historian, history like news needs to be reported as it happened. Any bias or modification in reporting would make it fiction, not fact. I chose Ramachandra Guha’s book “India after Gandhi” to help understand contemporary history and to see if there was any truth to the complaints about the Post Independence India leaders.

The Great Indian Mystery

When the Indian independence movement was reaching a climatic stage several prominent British personalities such as Churchill, Kipling doubted the Indian’s ability to govern and  feared that the country would erupt in Chaos. The East India company had thrived under the Divide and Conquer Policy and the British could not comprehend as how a government could unite the independent princely states that were divided along multiple axes such as language, caste, religion, etc.

Scotland is more like Spain than Bengal is like the Punjab. – Sir John Strachey.

The Brexit of 1947: ‘Scotland is more like Spain than Bengal is like the Punjab’ (

Jawaharlal Nehru became the first prime minister of Independent India and his government included a woman, and members from different parties. The governments first task was to get the 500 odd princely states united under a single Flag. Sardar Vallabhai Patel, along with K.M. Panikkar and V.P Menon coaxed and drafted policies to get the princely states to accede to the union of India. The constitution drafting committee was headed by  B.R Ambedkar and represented a diverse group of Individuals who worked on the constitution of India. Sukumar Sen, the election commissioner of India was responsible for conducting the elections across the country and is seen as the unsung hero of the Indian Democratic process. I couldn’t help wonder the sheer will and effort these leaders had to put in these fundamental guardrails to help govern a unified country for the past 73 years. In spite of early warnings and worries, the Indian democracy continues to be a model process for the rest of the world. 

The Great Divide

As Mohammed Jinnah pushed for a separate state for Muslims, he polarized the community and instigated riots in several parts of the country. Violence spilled over onto the streets of Punjab and Calcutta. Gandhi and Nehru’s voices of reason and pleas to unite the country fell on deaf years. The Britishers before leaving decided a two country solution was and decided to split Bengal, and Punjab between India and Pakistan. While the Hindus of Bengal took the West and the Muslims took the east (now Bangladesh), it was not straightforward in Punjab as the state had a strong Hindu, Muslim and Sikh population. As violence continued to increase the central government decided to agree to the Two State solution. The partition caused massive displacement and claimed millions of lives as violence escalated. M.S. Gowalkar and the R.S.S movement primarily hold Nehru, Gandhi and Patel responsible for the injustice to the Hindus of Punjab and Bengal. It is also interesting to observe that while M.S Gowalkar and the Sangh did not support the Quit India Movement founded by the Indian National Congress they were up in arms at the idea of partitioning India. Inspite of the bloodshed the division brought about to the country it is worthwhile to note that Gandhi and Nehru did more to quell the violence in the country than any other leader. The British ordered the Company army to stand down and protect the European citizens rather than quell the riots in the country. The partition forced Gandhi and Nehru to think about the safety of Muslims who chose to stay back in India and this thought did influence his politics and policies. This issue becomes a bone of contention between the Sangh and Nehru. The Sangh hated Nehru for giving in to the demands of Jinnah, and Nehru developed a distrust of the Sangh for instigating violence against Muslims in India.

India is divided she will be lost forever. Therefore . . . if India is to remain undivided, Hindus and Moslems must live together in brotherly love, not in hostile camps organized either for defensive action or retaliation. . . .

The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology, edited by Louis Fischer, 1962

India for Hindus was the rallying cry for the RSS. Nehru and Gandhi did not want India to be a religious state, like Pakistan. They understood that the strength of the country was in its diversity and did everything to ensure that the Muslim citizens of India were protected equally. Nehru did not want his ministers to partake in religious ceremonies or create an illusion of being pro Hindu. Nehru also had an modern outlook on life and wanted to push India to be Secular. Along with Ambedkar, het set about an agenda to impose religious reforms in the constitution of India. Nehru excluded the Muslims from the scope of his reforms and pushed forth reforms to serve rights for women (Choice of marriage and divorce), enforced monogamy for Hindus, made untouchability illegal and eliminated restrictions on caste based marriages etc. Though the reforms seem to be forward thinking, the right wing parties that their beliefs and rights were being infringed upon. The divide along Religion and Caste was too big a chasm to bridge in India for Nehru.

Inspite of the laws and reforms some of these practices seem to have persisted well into the 20th century. The Fact that India has enjoyed considerable democratic stability on account of its diverse and secular background does go on to prove Nehru right in this regard. Pakistan being a religious state has had to contend with a bumpy democratic process and has seen its share of authoritarian leaders.

As the various princely states started to accede to the union of India, Kashmir and Hyderabad held out and did not readily accede. Both states had a significant Muslim population and that fed into the Sangh theory that the Muslims could not be trusted. Both states eventually sided with the Indian republic. If the religious reforms were a thorn in Nehru’s flesh, then the Kashmir issue was a smoking gun. Kashmir is unique in the fact that the state was ruled over by a Hindu King, had a large Muslim population and bordered China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Jinnah wanted Kashmir to accede to Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh had to turn to Nehru for help when tribesmen attacked the state and committed atrocities against the general population. Nehru agreed to send the military on condition that the Maharaja accept the Indian government. Inspite of the king agreeing to do so Nehru did not force the matter and agreed when Sheik Abdullah pushed for a plebiscite to determine if Kashmir was to be part of India. The people of Kashmir voted to remain with India. Kashmir had secured considerable autonomy in governance as part of the demands while acceding to India. Sheik Abdullah (Omar Abdullah’s grand father) who took over from the raja as the interim PM of Kashmir had imposed land reforms that favored the Muslims over Hindus. This obviously did not sit well with the Hindu population in Jammu. S.P Mookerjee (founder of modern day B.J.P) and M.S Gowalkar thought Nehru was being weak and wanted Kashmir to Integrate completely with India. The status quo held until in 2019, HM Amit Shah passed the resolution in the cabinet that removed the protected status for the state of Kashmir and integrated the state completely under the Indian union. The fact that it took more than 70 years and a majority BJP central government to impose the change, highlights the delicate state of things in Kashmir. The Kashmir issue has continued to plague the Indian and Pakistan governments, wars have been fought on account of Kashmir and the issue remains to date a major source of disagreement, and distrust between the two countries. Of all issues plaguing the country, nothing can come close to splitting the country along the seam like religion.

It is to be noted that the indecisive nature of Maharaja Hari Singh, the stubbornness of Sheik and the pride of the governments all have lead to the unfortunate state of affairs in Kashmir.

To be continued…


To Infinity and beyond

On May 31st 2020 Doug and Bob, two astronauts from NASA, set foot on the International Space station. They were welcomed by Chris Cassidy and his crew. What made this event truly special was that they made the journey in the Dragon space shuttle, designed by SpaceX a private firm. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX is considered by many to be the real life Tony Stark. What his firm has done is truly a remarkable feat of engineering. The Falcon-X rocket that powered the space capsule landed back on a drone ship named of course, i still love you. The sheer ingenuity of the team to pull this off deserves kudos. The fact that i was able to watch their journey (bits and pieces) live from the comfort of my living room made this a truly wonderful personal experience. The image below is a screenshot of the live-feed i was watching soon after the astronauts made it into the space station.

It was so exciting to watch the liftoff, and I was mind blown by the sheer precision and the maneuvers the NASA SpaceX team had to resort to put them safely on board the space station. I guess there is a space geek inside of me somewhere and i was just curios enough to think about the various things that helped cultivate this interest.

As a young kid, i was enamored by the tales of the Devas and the Gods in the sky. Nordic mythology has tales about “All Father Odin” and the Mjolnir wielding “Thor” protecting the realms above us. I have always had this weird tendency to look up at the sky for relief during testing times. There is a sense of comfort in the looking at the sheer vastness that lies up and have felt a weird kinship with other souls who have expressed this same thought. Anne Frank describes the exact same emotion in her diary.

Space seemingly holds the key in unlocking several mysteries. Religion has the concept of heaven and promises a better life to those who believe. Astro physicists, theoretical physicists and scientists look to the deep space to help understand the origins of the universe and life. Creative folks have spun several innovative tales that has intrigued us for the last several years through films and stories. Spiritual gurus look to the unknown and attempt to answer fundamental existential questions. A few hyper imaginative people also have attributed several things in our world to super intelligent alien life forms. I have been fascinated by all of the above said concepts and my beliefs have definitely wavered across all of these concepts over time.

Mythology does play a large role in setting up the premise for the “Heaven and Hell”. The stories we learn at a young age make us understand that good deeds are rewarded and bad deeds are punished by invoking natures most powerful forms. I developed a sense of awe and an understanding of how powerful nature is from these shows. The comic books and the cartoons of the 90s helped establish the basic premise of the possibility of life outside earth. Every kid who has read the Marvel and DC Comics will know about planets such as Krypton, Asgard and Titan. The creative liberties that these writers took have helped shape the fascination of many young minds. With the advent of technology, filmmakers were able to visualize the wonderful imagination of these writers. George Lucas’s Star Wars series continues to serve as an inspiration to numerous folks this day.

The fascination shifted from a mystical nature to an inquisitive nature over time. While A.W Tozer in Pursuit of God uses natural phenomenon to describe the almighty’s power, Thomas Paine in Age of Reason use these same phenomenon to help explain foundational scientific temper. We learn from history that the 16th century scientists faced the wrath of the church while pursuing their studies of science. The advent of the modern century has definitely helped alleviate some of the tension between Religion and science. Galileo, Bohr, Newton, Planck, Einstein have all undertaken remarkable studies that have pushed mankind’s knowledge level on the unknown several notches above. Some of their mathematical and scientific concepts still remain open problems that modern day scientists are attempting to solve. The books of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Carlo Rovelli, Brian Greene, Stephen Hawking all look to educate the average reader on the concepts of space and time. I do admit some of these books were very difficult to read and many concepts flew right out of the window as i read them. But i still think that attempting to understand the universe works around us will help build a solid scientific temper and will help eliminate the ignorance that plagues many these days. Guy Raz’s NPR TED Radio hour has several podcasts that seemingly break down many of these concepts for simple minds like mine. The one below is a personal favorite of mine as well.

Inevitably all this talk of science moves one towards the path of questions that attempt to explain “The Why”. I am no expert in any of the afore said subject and i have no intention of turning this into a spiritual discourse but it has made me realize as how inconsequential certain things seem when compared to the grand scheme of things.

It was a pleasant experience to relive how my interest has evolved over time and has enabled me to keep an open mind to the possibilities this world has to offer. I wish the national space agencies and the SpaceX team the very best and do hope their explorations will help unlock the mysteries of this world. To quote Buzz lightyear from the film Toy Story here is to “Infinity and beyond”.


Life in the times of COVID-19

In Jan 2020, when i first read a few reports on the COVID-19 Virus in Wuhan, I was not immediately concerned. I mean, this is the 21st century, surely the scientists of today can come up with something to counter the virus, right. Well, now i know how incorrect my original assessment was. The disease has spread across the globe and gone on to become one of the deadliest pandemics in the modern century. COVID-19 has reshaped the way the world lives, breathes and moves.

As the reports of the outbreak started to make news headlines in Feb, the general public mostly remained oblivious to the dangers of the virus. Most of us probably treated this as fiction. People shared snapshots of novels that seemingly had predicted this outbreak in 1980, people shared video clips that indicated that the virus was made in a lab and so forth. The Virus is believed to have originated from the live animal markets in Wuhan, China. As there were reports of increased infections and deaths, China forced the city of Wuhan into a lock-down, shut down its factories and implemented massive travel restrictions to help control the spread. Turns out the effort came in a little too late. Wuhan was a transport bub and millions of people who came in contact with the virus had already traveled to Europe, Asia and America. This NY Times article shows how the virus got out.

By early March, countries like Italy and Singapore started showing signs of becoming the hotspots. Many countries imposed travel restrictions to and from China. The fact that China was a global manufacturing hub and its economy had to take a hit meant that the global supply chain started showing signs of strain for the first time. All of us were shell shocked by the exponential increase in the number of infections and deaths across Europe and other Asian countries. As more countries started to impose lockdowns and restrictions, we started to notice weird behaviors in consumerism. Grocery stores started having massive lines. People started stocking up on Frozen food items, sanitizers, cleaning supplies and Toilet papers. Stores would empty out in a few hours after they opened. Houston showed no sign of slowing down, the Rodeo was on, the woodlands marathon was on. I ran the woodlands half, that too with a personal best time.

Soon after the first cases started to pop up in Houston, the city decided that it would advise all people to stay home as much as they can. There we no lockdown per say but the general guidance was to practice social distancing and stay at home as much as we could. The schools closed down and we were notified that the kids would have to adapt to an online curriculum. All malls, theaters and bars were closed. Though restaurants were open for take out, we decided not to venture out. I also decided that i would refrain from running outside. For the first few days, the whole stay at home concept had an interesting dynamic. The family enjoyed the company, I was still being productive at work, the kiddo started to adapt to home schooling and the wife started to experiment with food. I had to make a few adjustments and get the home work environment setup. But once done, the only thing i missed was the sit-stand desk from work. As the days stretched to weeks, the sheer repetitive nature of the days started to wear us down. We had massive newfound respect for what the teachers did. It is not easy to teach a kid. I can tell you that now.

The kiddo has stayed at home for all the while, and looks at us as playmates. As a young kid, i remember playing catch. I would imagine that i was a slip fielder (a fantastic one at that!), and then would throw a tennis ball against the wall and catch it. I literally used to do this for hours, yet i feel so bored when i do the same with kiddo. There are no games that i can play with the kiddo for long. I either get tired or frustrated. I had decided earlier that i would not go out to run and risk anything, but the sheer mundaneness forced me to throw caution to the wind and go out. Well, I was not exactly being reckless, the routes i take to run are pretty desolate and i rarely come in contact with anyone during the run. I also make sure that i wipe down any surface i touch with sanitizing wipes after i come back. Anyways adding this back to the life has helped me manage the stress a bit i would think. I also have started to take the kiddo out for a walk around the building in the evenings, so that she could get some exercise and fresh air. It is not really fun to answer questions though! Does it ever stop?

We have limited our grocery shopping to once a week. I go out, get the things in the list and get out. I don’t linger or even shop around. Our cost of living has fallen drastically, considering we don’t eat out, or shop casually anymore. The internet usage has shot way up, but the internet provider has been considerate enough to not track limits during this time. The two day delivery is no longer reliable, as Amazon has prioritized the supply chain, so we have drastically reduced our online shopping as well. The lockdown, definitely has resulted in fewer vehicles on the road. I am gladdened by the reports of reduction in the pollution levels across the world. I understand this is not enough to fight the ongoing battle against climate change. But these small victories are important right? I don’t know if it is the reduced traffic, or the fact that we spend a lot more time home, We have noticed that our apartment complex is a hub for a wide variety of birds. So, the kiddo and i have started to spot birds regularly. Our apartments are close to the River crest estates a multi millionaire neighborhood. The roads are well paved and and has fantastic tree cover. This also is a birding hotspot. We have identified 17 unique species in the last few days. The Audubon app is a great tool to identify boards and also track sightings. I decided to buy binoculars to help see the smaller birds clearly and thus made the first online purchase in a while. The sky genius is a fantastic one, the sheer clarity of the image and the build quality is astounding. The little moments we share doing things together as a family will hopefully stay in their minds forever. I definitely would cherish these memories for years to come.

We are two months into the lock down now, while i have been lucky enough to hunker down safely there are many others who have not been so lucky. The general slowdown in life has impacted the economy and the industries negatively. The tourism industry and the restaurant business have been hit the hardest. People have lost jobs, and are unable to pay their mortgages and rents. The uncertainty factor is at an all time high. At this time there are 307,486 deaths (on 5/15/2020) recorded across the globe. Doctors, nurses and grocery store workers are hailed as heroes. They are in the frontline taking care of the sick and reporting to work while we stay in the comforts of our home. While some politicians have stepped up and shown true leadership skills, many other have been exposed for what they truly are. Governments are scrambling to restore order but all operations so far have been chaotic. I read a quote in Twitter that i completely agreed to “The pandemic did not break the system, it just exposed a broken system”. Unfortunately, the under privileged seemed to have taken the brunt of the disease. The images of the daily wage labourers who are trying to walk hundreds of kilometers to reach their homes as they have no access to food or money is truly saddening. The sheer callousness of those in power to not care for the rights of people is unethical. The only thing i can do for now is to keep all in my prayers.

I do not know how long this is going to last, do not have any plans and can only thinking of facing one day at a time now. Stay Safe, Stay Healthy!




Understanding Privilege

I would like to believe that I am a self made man. Don’t get me wrong, I know very well that I have not rewritten history, I am not a influencer or a trend setter in any way. I work for a living, and absolutely will need to do so in order to build a stable environment for my family. But I would like to think that I have come a long way from growing up in Tamil Nadu to some guy in Houston, Texas. I want to be clear here. I am not implying that living in the USA is making me a better person than somebody who lives in India. I am talking about measure of progress in the journey of life. I do genuinely think that the effort I have put in to make myself better is the primary reason that I am what I am today.

I went to the school nearby home. I absolutely had no idea of what the world beyond school looked like. I was a studious kid and all, I played a few sports and hung out with other 15 year olds doing stuff that only 15 year olds can. Yet, when it mattered, I was able to pull away from the bad company, focus and do well enough in the exams to earn a shot at an engineering college. College was nothing like life portrayed in movies that I grew up watching. There were a ton of kids who had better grades, a lot of them played sports at a different level and honestly put me to shame with their sense of fashion and knowledge of the world. Their interests in books, music and cuisines were varied and I was amazed at the confidence with which they wooed the ladies. At first I struggled to adapt, but soon I was able to pick up the pieces and used the time to transform myself as a person. My grades improved, I got better at sports, I developed a taste for music, books, and I found love. A final year flourish ensured that I had a job before I left college, had a university rank and an opportunity to go further ahead. You might be thinking, wait none of this is special. What is he touting about. Fair point. But what you need to understand is I had made the transition from doubting myself to knowing that I belonged. That feeling made all the difference at work. I was able to quickly master new things. I set myself to pursue various interests and put in the time to make myself better at many tings.

So when some folks tell me that I was lucky enough to have these abilities I don’t take that statement very well. I think that I am being disrespected as my efforts were not being acknowledged. I tell them we are all created the same and the only thing that differentiates one from another is the effort. They do not seem to understand that at all. I am upset and I decide to go out for a walk. The rhythmic cadence helps me calm down. I get an overwhelming urge to write about the experience. As I relive my personal moments of success I notice that it is not always me on the podium. I am never alone. I am always surrounded by my friends, by family or well wishers. In the pictures, some are even more happier than I am at my success.

I put my thoughts on hold as I get ready to combat the daily routine of life. My kids school wants us to donate non-perishable foods to help homeless people. I had a hard time explaining what being homeless meant to my daughter. She was just not getting it. Where are their parents? What happened to their home? As I struggled to answer her questions, I couldn’t help think about the turns their lives must have taken. While there is a general sense of pity, that feeling disappears as you move on. It is said that you can have empathy only when you have experienced similar situations yourself. A person like me has not even entertained a thought about the same. So will I be in a position to really understand their plight?

I think, I have calmed down enough to realize two things. I always have had a stable support system and that definitely has enabled me to push myself a little more. I will be unable to understand completely the experiences of others, I can empathize but that does not mean that I understand their pain. Malcolm Gladwell in his book outliers looks to describe what makes special people special. It starts of being fun but then towards the end you see how generic factors such as birth month, neighborhood you grow in, and “being at the right place and the right time” can help shape a person’s career. He does not belittle their personal skills and drive, but just points out that these people had access to opportunities that others did not. The outliers just maximized their opportunities. I couldn’t help but draw parallels here. I guess everyone really is a product of their own environment.

Once you admit that base premise it is astounding to see how factors such as race, gender, religion, skin color can affect a person’s life. I mean going out for a run should not be special right, I don’t for a moment think of any bad outcomes before I go out. But now I can see that many folks cannot take that freedom for granted. I am not thinking about getting shot, not afraid of being harassed sexually and in fact I don’t even ask my wife if she had made any plans before I go out to run. You would have thought your country would welcome you with open arms considering your birth right and all, but to hear that my citizenship is assured in my country because of my religion is not essentially an argument that I am ready to bite.

I guess my social standing, educational qualifications and gender helps me navigate these constraints but can every single person in this planet be assured of the same sense of security i have. Chance or fate has landed me on a side where I did not have to be concerned with many things. Maybe that is what allowed me to pursue my own interests, and to build on my skills. Next time when someone tells me that I had lucky breaks I will still tell them that they were wrong. I was not lucky I was privileged.


2019, Year that was

Blog Opinion

The one about Identity

A few years ago, I had made note of an essay by Prof. Amartya Sen who talked about the need for humans to embrace broader identities. He thought that this would break barriers and promote the spirit of oneness around the world. The idea that I could shape my identity through my interests fascinated me. I have always felt a kinship with like minded people and was quite happy when I realized that these broader strokes could help me find my place in a global society. The internet and social media fueled my quest. Social media websites such as Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Blogs, Podcasts made me see a side of things that I had never had the chance to experience before. My taste for global cuisines grew, I started reading a wide genre of books, I discovered music artists from around the globe.

While I don’t think that these experiments fundamentally changed me as person, it made me more aware of things that I had not really paid attention to before. And the more attention I paid, I started to become more biased to experiences that fascinated me. My online social media circle became limited to a carefully curated set of personalities that I found appealing . My  real world social interactions became increasingly limited to folks who subscribed to my view of ideals. On one hand, I wanted the people to see and hear about the things that I was discovering, and yet as I found out that many did not particularly care or had other interests that seemed unworthy to me I wanted to go be left alone. The struggle manifested itself as impatience,  frustration. There was no end to the list of things that could annoy me. I thought that I could control things by indulging in my own interests. The harder I tried, the less fascinating the experiences were. I started to feel like a disoriented cave diver in the dark waters. I had no sense of direction and I was swimming around in circles. I knew I had to reorient myself quickly. I have the privilege of having a very stable support system to get through some hard times. I knew I could rely on that to haul me out of my predicament.

One of the things that I had trouble agreeing to with many was the definition of Identity. What is one’s Identity? The answers that I could come were I am a father, a husband, a son, a brother, an immigrant, a programmer, a runner, a bibliophile, an Indian, a foodie. I could have gone on and added generic terms that described my nationality, my mother tongue, my sexuality but I am still not convinced that these helps define Me as a person. If you walk into a room full of people and call out people who match these identities I can assure you that there will be more than one who fits the bill. So how do these things uniquely identify me? Another thing that was bothering me was the obsession with “I”. Was I becoming a victim of my own ego?

The answers randomly seemed to come to me through the Principal Upanishads. The book talks about the importance of realizing the value of self. It seemed ironic at first that I would go back to the oldest known books to validate my thoughts. On the contrary this took me down a path of extreme learning and made me understand the nuances of Dharma (Righteousness), Artha (Wealth), Kama (Desire) and Moksha (Liberation). The key lessons were around the importance of senses and consciousness. The clarity of thought in these books amazed me. I learnt that while the senses helped focus on the outward aspects of life the consciousness allowed to focus on the inward aspects of life. When one questions oneself, then he invokes his consciousness and strives to balance the four phases. Ultimately, everyone pursues the four to varying degrees, and it is extremely important to understand that the others need not have the same spectrum of interests as you do. This was the ray of light I needed to reorient. While I still cannot answer the question as What am I, I am no longer weary and now I understand that to understand what I am I need to be what I am.

I come from the land of people where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high and where Knowledge is free. I do wish that others  wake up to such a heaven.


2018, The Year That Was


The one about Día de los Muertos

I recently watched the Pixar-Walt Disney movie Coco. The movie won several accolades and focuses on the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). The holiday serves as a day to offer prayers and to remember friends and family who have left us from the mortal world. I had the feeling that the subject was going to be a bit dark for a children’s animation movie but it was definitely a fascinating movie. The subject of death is not welcome topic of discussion in my home. The wife believes talking about the subject is inviting trouble and her idea is that this is a subject best left alone. It is not my intention is not to write a critique of the movie, or dwell on the subject of death by itself but there was this scene that made me feel vulnerable. In the scene, one of the characters in the nether world, longs for someone in the mortal realm to think about him, so that he does not drift into the nothingness of the dark. The scene was extremely poignant to me.

Family, friends, colleagues, associates and many strangers strive to form a web of connected circles around you. Some of these connections stay strong over your lifetime, some linger on the back of your mind as part of your experiences, and some stay forgotten. Yet, there is always a chance, for these connections to change and that is what makes our life so precious. However, with Death there is a certain finality to it. There is nothing that you can do to alter the connection as you are left only with their memories. Losing someone to death is an absolute life altering experience. You can never view the fabric of time with the same lens.

Losing my grandfather was one of the most difficult moments of my life. I felt as if I had lost the guide to my moral compass. I do have my friends and God to thank for helping me deal with the tough times. Death has brutally ended a friendship,  but also brought together a beautiful friendship that I cherish to this day. It has taught me several valuable lessons about the importance of goodness, kindness, and other virtues that I had not cared about earlier. I hope I have put some of these virtues to good, by helping others get through their tough times. I can only hope that I have lived up to the expectations of those who are no longer here, and through my actions and thoughts have managed to keep the bond as strong as it was when they were here. As long as life flows through me, I will cherish the memories, and the bonds between us. I know you all are there somewhere and in that i find solace.


I, Read

I try to read as much as I can when I get a chance. The 45 minute bus ride that takes me home gives me ample time to get a few pages in, and the activity also keeps me away from unwanted conversations with other passengers. However, a few weeks ago I did get into a very interesting conversation with a fellow passenger who also happens to be the librarian at the Central library. As the conversation drifted to the favorite books and authors section, I realized my reading map was all over the place and I was unable to recollect several things about the books I had ever read. I decided to us this opportunity to catalog the books I had read, and throw in some data analytics to try squeeze some information out.

I have used Goodreads to catalog the books I have read in the recent years. I had also retroactively added many books from my college days into the website. I did not bother to add many of the Fairy tales, Famous Five, Secret Seven or the Hardy Boys books. Sure, those books set me up to become an active reader later in my life but I think it is safe to say that I have outgrown those books. I was able to export the Goodreads shelves to a spreadsheet and I had in my hands a definitive list of books I had read, and wanted to read.  The plan was to throw this dataset into an analytic platform such as spotfire, or powerBI and study my reading habits.

The First thing that bothered me about the list was the number of books I had read. Currently as of September 9th 2018 I have apparently read 275 books. (Excluding the books earlier seems stupid, now!) According to a study done by lithub the average reader reads 12 books a year. I averaged 8. I have always been shocked at how extraordinarily ordinary I have been my entire life. While the Goodreads website has a couple of useful tools like Reading Stats and Most Read authors I was disappointed to see that the exported list did not associate a book to a genre. I have started to read more in the recent years than in the past, so hopefully I will catch up to the average number.

I later found out the as Goodreads allows a book to be cataloged under multiple genres, it does not support the genre field in the exported list. Another challenge that i faced was to figure out how to keep my local copy updated with the books i update on the website. As i was pondering over the problem, a colleague showed me a pet project that he had done with Excel. I was actually surprised at the data processing and analysis ability Microsoft has added into excel in the recent years. No wonder, it still remains as the favorite go to tool for several engineers.

So i set up an excel spreadsheet that was connected to the “Exported” file from Goodreads. This allowed me to refresh my core dataset every time i had a new file from goodreads at the click of a button. I set up a secondary data set that mapped each book title from the exported dataset to a Genre. This i had to do manually, it was tedious but in about an hour i had mapped all the titles i had to a genre. The final step was to setup a “join” in excel that combined the titles along with the genres. Doing that gave me a final dataset of what i wanted. The books i had read, along with metadata like dates read, author names, genre and publication year. I had struck gold in terms of data analysis. I threw this information into the Pivot table of feature and this is what i found.


Fiction was by far what i read the most. I also apparently have a strong preference for Thrillers, Fantasy Fiction and also have a preference for books on philosophy, religion and biographies. Who knew? It seems that i have picked up on the range in the last few years. Hopefully, i will hear about more fantastic books and so will you in the near future. In the mean time do visit Literary Hub and Maria Popova’s blog. You might well be surprised. Happy Reading.


The Existential Crisis Phenomenon

Time flies! Busy Day! I hear these statements a lot. I have also wondered as how I can spend days, weeks, months and yet have the overwhelming feeling that I have done nothing special. In the recent past, I have found solace in order. I have a schedule that I have tried to keep up (for the most part). I set myself up to only do things I absolutely cared about at this point and I go about my day taking care of business one at a time. While, this approach has kept me busy doing thing I have wanted to do it also has given birth to a nagging line of thought. It is exactly like a fly that is in your house. It does not bother me for the most part, but when it does start buzzing near me it drives me nuts. May be this is the existential crisis phenomenon! So just like that just to bring some purpose back in life and to get the nagging thought away from my head I signed up for a half marathon. 13.1 miles. The race is in 12 weeks. Over the course of the next twelve weeks let us see how we get going. I think I probably will write a post to cover the progress for the week, If something memorable happens I will share that too.