Saturday, April 16, 2016

Does God Play Dice?

I am not an Atheist. Maybe an Agnostic but definitely not an Atheist. Now, before you jump down my throat, accusing me of spouting jargon right from the get go, let me explain what these terms mean. An Atheist is someone who denies the existence of God. An Agnostic is someone who believes it impossible to know anything about God or about the creation of the universe and refrains from commitment to any religious doctrine. Something that has been troubling me amongst the religious beliefs is the professed existence of an omnipotent, omnipresent deity. That raises a lot of questions. If the deity is indeed omnipresent and omnipotent, why are all the bad things happening in the world? This simple question is answered via a myriad of justifications all to prove how the deity is infallible and can do no wrong. But what this basically boils down to is that the victims deserved their fate. This is often buddied up with an explanation of how Karma works. He/she must have done something in their lives to deserve what they got. Unsurprisingly, these are the kind of people who on reading news of a rape often holds the victim responsible for their fate. Moreover when they cannot find enough bad Karma to justify the fate of the victim, the search for past sins transcends to the past lives too. A 2 year old baby gets raped and somehow the justification that comes up is that maybe the sins of the past life are being balanced out – because the deity they pray to can do no wrong.

Recently Kerala witnessed one of the largest tragedies it has ever seen – the fireworks mishap at the Puttingal temple in Kollam District. Number of lost lives were 115 at the last count. This fireworks display was conducted against the explicit orders from the district collector. Now, in the days following the tragedy, while the whole state is still trying to wrap their heads around the magnitude of what happened, social media is getting inundated with various kinds of messages

  1.        Even after 115 people died and structural damage occurred to buildings within 1.5 km of the blast site, the temple itself was unharmed. Behold the power of the deity: Really? If you were to argue about the structural design of the temple and the architectural genius which enabled it to withstand the explosion of such a magnitude, that would hold more water. But when you argue that a deity which could not prevent the massive loss of life that happened right within the temple grounds was successful at self-preservation, are you arguing for or against the so called supreme power? If self-preservation is what the so called divine power values more than the lives of the people who come to pray, is it the right power to pray to? Referring back to what I wrote earlier, explanations will come up as to how each and every one of the 115 lost souls deserved what they got and the deity was absolutely right to let the tragedy happen.
  2. .       Video has come out of how the “Thidambu” – the ceremonial symbol of the deity itself fell to the ground when it was being hoisted on top of an elephant. The theory that goes along is that this was a bad omen sent by god and since people ignored this, they were clearing the path for the tragedy that was about to happen. Hence my original question – Does god play dice? Imagine a scene on a pantheon far above the mortal plane where gods have gathered and are putting wagers on whether or not the mere mortals will understand that the Thidambu falling down means a bloodbath is coming if you don’t act fast. The mortals didn’t – and the bloodbath followed. The gods who bet against the mortals seem to have made a literal killing. So when there are a 1001 ways how god could have intervened to stop this disaster from happening, what god chooses to do is to give mortals a hint and sit back and watch the plot unfold – Sorry. I don’t believe in such gods.

Now, don’t get an impression that I don’t believe in gods at all. I do. I don’t believe in gods who live in temples and showers blessings based on how much you spend at the temples. I don’t believe in gods who being supposedly all powerful, prefers to sit back and watch babies getting raped and innocent people blown to smithereens due to the negligence of a few. I don’t believe there is someone up in the sky watching us all taking stock of whether we pray.

To quote Einstein, “I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind”. God is unexplainable. We see god in the inexplicableness of the world around us. Also, I believe in “Thathwamasi” – meaning “That is you”. God exists within each one of us. Like Santiago in the novel “The Alchemist”, who travelled the world to realize that the treasure he was searching for was always present right where he slept, we go searching for god in temples and churches but seldom look inside ourselves. When you are in touch with the essence of god that is within each of us, god exists in your actions. A friend of mine once gave an auto driver Rs. 5000 blindly believing his story of his wife being admitted in a hospital and him being short of money. At that instant, the auto driver may have seen god in my friend. It is that god who exists within all of us and urges us to be more than ourselves that I believe in. To see that god, one needs to open their eyes. For people who pretend to be blind by closing their eyes, the divine glow that comes from within, maybe lost forever.  

Monday, November 02, 2015

Excuse Me... I need to vent..

Disclaimer – The following is an attempt to vent out all my frustrations that have been built up due to the recent events in the country. It might not make complete sense and it sure as hell is not going to be pretty. Anyone with fragile sensitivities please stop reading here. Primal scream is a sort of psychotherapy and I am attempting a written version of the same. Here it goes..

  1. Beef (be it cow, bull or buffalo): Hindus who eat beef – Good for you. Hindus who do not eat beef – Good for you too. I for one love my beef fry and before someone points it out, let me say, I also love my bacon cheeseburger. I do not support conducting beef festivals to specifically provoke the non- beef eaters. But I sure as hell will not entertain someone trying to impose their sensitivities on to my lunch plate. Wherever consumption of beef is banned by law, being an Indian, I will adhere to what the law of the land says. But where no ban exists, don’t you even dare come prodding into what I am eating in my own house or an establishment which offers me the choice of that delicacy. I will not look at your religion or the colour of your party flag before I kick you out. If your religious beliefs get hurt by me eating beef at my house – tough shit bro, learn to live with it.                                                                                       
  2. Arvind Kejriwal – Talk about disillusionment. When the Aam Aadmi Party was in its inception stage, I loved what they stood for. I sincerely hoped that they would bring about a much needed change in the Indian political arena. When they came to power in Delhi with an overwhelming majority, I hoped that this was the sign of things to come and now we would see the power of a common man. Then they went about proving to one and all that even they are after all, just another f***ing corrupt political party. Turns out even being the CM, Mr. Kejriwal is still in the opposition. When he was not the CM, he blamed the then-Delhi CM for the rapes happening in Delhi. Now that he is the CM, he blames the PM for it. Really? I remember reading one of his campaign promises about a commando squad in Delhi with sole directive of ensuring protection for women. Any clue where I can find them?                                                  
  3.       Media – There used to be a time when news channels actually telecast news. Now we are in the days of tabloid journalism. Biased, sensationalist and loud, we get opinions instead of news. In a mad scramble to break each news first, the TV channels are on the verge of another “Dewey defeats Trueman” fiasco. The quick fix recipe for sensationalist crap of the day seems to be – Take any issue, put a communal twist to it, bring in a panel of so called experts with their own biases, put an anchor who can cut sentences before they are completed and can shout louder than all these experts and let the show begin. When disasters and tragedies gets turned into hashtags, tears ought to be shed for the death of journalism.                                                          
  4. Intolerance – A barber beaten up because he cut hair on Tuesdays, A man lynched on the suspicion of him eating beef, a 4 year old girl beaten to death because she forgot to cover her head while eating and so many more such instances cropping up each day. Really? What’s happening to people? Why does one feel the need to become violent in the name of their beliefs? Which god gives them the right to shed another man’s blood or extinguish another human life? If your beliefs and my beliefs don’t match, and I am strong enough to beat you up, does that make me right? The rising intolerance is like a ticking time bomb. You never know what will set it off. But when it does, we will no longer be able to use the word “secular” while describing our country.                                                                                                                     
  5. Politics – The only job where you do not require any educational qualifications or even the basic civil qualifications. If all candidates with criminal cases against them are barred from politics, we would be left with an empty parliament. Bunch of corrupt greedy bastards sucking the marrow out of the country’s bones. When you can make a scam out of even the coffins for dead soldiers, there is no level that you will not stoop to. An honest politician is an oxymoron. I see no hope in the near future of any sort of improvement in the country’s political scenario. I really wish India had some sort of “separation between church and state” thing in place so that 2 biggest poisons known to men – Religion and Politics would not intermingle to create an even more deadly one. But if wishes were horses, beggars would fly. So all I can do is vent it out here.

 Aaaaaarrghhhh…. I’m done. For now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Adventures in Parenting - Chapter 3: Of the Mother and her Moods..

This post is intended for male readers only. Female readers, feel free to stop reading here.

So boys, consider this a heads up for the time when your better half is expecting. Pregnancy is a minefield. All the hormones flooding her body turns your wife into an emotional wreck and her moods swing more times than a pendulum in a grandfather clock.

You would think that everything is going fine and then one innocuous comment and BOOM.. everything blows up in your face. Like I said, a minefield. But each husband has to navigate the minefield on his own. The positions and triggers of the mines might vary from wife to wife. What I am jotting down here are just templates based on which you may try to develop your navigation strategy.

1.       Cravings: This is an inseparable part of pregnancy. You can never predict what she would crave and at what time. Old Malayalam movies have led us to believe that a pregnant woman would crave raw mangoes or tamarind. Let me tell you at least in my case, that is basically bollocks. So don’t go stocking up on raw mangoes once you get a positive pregnancy test. You are more likely to be hit with a “Ben & Jerry’s Rocky Road Ice cream” craving at 12 in the night like Preity Zinta has in “Salaam Namaste”. There are basically 3 ways to deal with such demands.

a.       The Absentee Husband: Make it clear from the get go that she need not expect anything from you. Basically as if you were not there at all. I would not recommend this option at all as this would lead to escalation of emotional states which you want to avoid during the pregnancy. If you are opting for the absentee husband route, make sure you are actually an absentee husband, like if you are geographically separated during the duration of the pregnancy. Otherwise, try this at your own risk
b.      The Tautologist: In logic, tautology is a formula which is true in every possible interpretation. This approach would involve saying “Yes” to all her demands, however outlandish or inconvenient they may be. This will keep you in the good books of your wife and prevent any emotional outbursts (atleast on this count). But the risk in running this approach is the ever escalating expectation threshold. With each outlandish demand you meet, chances are that the next one is even more outlandish. So be aware and know what is set to come your way when you want to be the Tautologist.
c.       The Middle Pather: This is an approach that requires a certain finesse. Your married life prior to the pregnancy should serve as your guide while walking the middle path. In this approach, you basically say yes to her cravings as long as they are doable without much inconvenience. This way, you stock some ammunition for the time when an inconvenient demand comes through. For e.g, you might just be thinking of putting your feet up and relaxing for a bit after a hectic day and a heavy dinner when she might suddenly want to have some ghee laddoos. That’s when you tell her no and to the inevitable complaint that you never meet her demands, you list down all the times you have said yes. Handled correctly, it will keep emotions from acting out and you would have expertly diffused a dangerous landmine.

2.       Temper Tantrums: With the hormone world cup going on in her body, she is bound to lose her temper at times. What you need to do is to ride it out without you losing your own. I admit I have been unsuccessful at it during the initial stages but after a couple of shout-a-thons, I learned how to control myself. The key is not not to lose your temper but not to lose it in front of her. Two lost tempers would resonate like sound waves and produce a whole that is more than sum of its parts. Listen to her with a smile on your face, offer some words of consolation, go to the other room, punch a hole in the wall and return to her with the same smile on your face. Your fists might hurt but believe me, that is a far better option than engaging in a shouting match. You not only aggravate the mother but it also affects the child in the womb.

3.       Sting in the tail: Finally the baby arrives and you breathe a sigh of relief. But beware of the nasty sting in the tail called antenatal depression. With the baby out of her body and the hormones still going hammer and tongs, some bouts of depression are bound to happen. Whether it be regarding her self-image, ability to take care of the baby or just control of day to day happenings, anything might throw her off. Your role to play at that time is of a cheerleader, agony aunt and a best friend. Reassure her that there is nothing wrong with her and the changes happening in her body are just temporary. Reiterate that nothing that is happening will ever change the way you feel towards her. Support her at times when she feels helpless and cheer her up when she is at the verge of tears.

The pregnancy is a roller coaster ride for the woman involved. Some part of the unpredictability, anxiety and frustration gets passed on to the husband too. How smooth the 9 months or so are depends on how you are equipped to handle the unexpected. With the above mentioned tips, I hope you are better off than starting from scratch. Whichever way you handle it, just make sure to be there for your better half come what may, because what you see in front of you is just the start of a journey that will change your life forever.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Adventures in Parenting - Chapter 2: Google-itis

Since Larry Page and Sergey Brin rolled out Google in 1998, the unknowns in the world have shrunk drastically. “Google”, which started as a noun has since then been promoted to a verb and the whole host of techies have taken to the verb in a way that a baby duck takes to swimming.

Google has become the omnipotent – provider of all. Whether it is pirated mp3s of the latest Bollywood flick, DVDrip of the latest Hollywood blockbuster or definitions of complex medical terms like bilateral renal pelvic displacia, google knows just where to find them.

What this has accomplished is that everyone with an access to an internet connection and working knowledge of any browser has turned into a self-taught doctor. Rather than what the actual doctor says, people have now started believing the links that Google dishes out.

The one ritual after we got each of the scan report was to come home and religiously google each of the terms in the report. Who cares that the Doctor told everything was normal? We wanted to have Google’s opinion of the same. First couple of times, this exercise went off without any red flags getting raised. Then came the anomaly scan report.

In the anomaly scan report; there was a mention of mild bilateral renal pelvic displacia. During the scan, the Doc performing the scan had certified that everything looks good and there are no issues. But later, while taking a second opinion from Dr.Google, we found that the meaning of mild bilateral renal pelvic displacia is that the baby’s kidneys are larger than they should be. Cue Panic. On further consultation with other webpages referred to by Dr.Google, we came to know that the kidneys should be only around 4.5 mm while in our case it was 4.7 mm. one fifth of a millimeter was proving to be the cause of concern.

There comes another question. Who decides what is normal? In an age where we didn’t have machines which could measure a yet to be born baby’s kidney up to one tenth of a millimeter, didn’t people have babies? What if the baby has larger than average kidneys? The term average itself denotes that there has to be values more than the said number. Otherwise, this wouldn’t be the average. So who says a 4.7 mm kidney is abnormal while a 4.5 mm one is not? It seems to be with more knowledge man gains, instead of getting more answers; he is faced with more questions.

Anyways, this mild state of panic continued till the next scan, where it was certified that the kidneys are now of regulation length and are well within the “normal” range.

Fast forward 3-4 months. My wife spent her maternity leave at home, in Kerala, waiting for the young one to arrive. In Kerala, we had opted to consult Dr. Prameela Philip at Poyanil Hospital, Kozhencherry. During the first scan conducted there, my wife, with all the knowledge gained from Google, asked the doctor about the amniotic fluid level. With what could have been an amused smile, the doctor replied “ Aavashyathinu undu” meaning there is enough. The succinctly worded message within her response that I could decipher was, “Leave the medical worries to us doctors. You just do what we tell you to do”.

In the world where all kinds of information are available at a mere touch of your finger, if only that were possible.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Adventures in Parenting - Chapter 1: 2 Little lines.

2 Little lines. A “C” under one and a “T” under the other. That’s how it began. Initial jubilation turned into hesitation. What if it was a false positive? Another couple of rounds of “pee on the stick” put that doubt to rest. Yep. Definitely pregnant. First major decision. Which doctor do we consult? Most of the well-known gynecs in Bangalore have waiting times stretching above 2 hrs. And that is when you already have a confirmed appointment. Good luck trying to get through via a walk-in. Better bring your lunch with you.
One argument was that if everything went normal, we do not need an expert Gynecologist to see it through. My policy was, as the saying goes, “Better to have and want not rather than want and have not”. Thus we decided to go with the best in the business, Dr. Praveena Shenoi at Cloud 9, Old Airport Road. After a couple of walk in wait-a-thons, with my wife constantly reminding me that if we had gone with some other doctor, we could have reached back home by then, we succeeded in getting a confirmed appointment for the third visit. The trick was to book the next appointment as soon as you came out of your current consultation.
An array of tests and an ultra-sound scan later - nothing to report, which is actually good news when it comes to pregnancy.

Still, for the first 3 months, each bump in the road, each pothole that the car ran into, was a source of a minor heart attack. Every twinge of pain in the stomach/abdomen area raised the heartbeats. It is said that around 85% of miscarriages happen within the first trimester. And when you have already had one, the worry gets multiplied manifold the second time.

It doesn’t mean that once you cross three months, all worries are lifted and everything is hunky-dory. The cycle I found during this time is, Tension before the scanà No issues in the scan report à Jubilation and reliefà Tension before the next scan.

So basically, you are worried about a scan basically all the time, and you have an array of scans to go through too, Ultra Sound, NT, Anomaly, Interval Growth and so on. All you can do is keep calm and cross all your fingers and toes that nothing abnormal comes up in the scan reports. But even with all that, the worrying becomes an integral part of your wait for the baby. Or maybe life is just preparing you for the lifetime of worrying that lies ahead.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Adventures in Parenting - Chapter 0: Prelude

What does it mean to be a parent? How does it feel to have the responsibility of shaping a human life and by extension a part of society thrust upon someone’s shoulders? How many times should I think before I take a decision that concerns my child? All are questions that will need answers very soon.  While embarking on this exciting journey of parenthood, I plan to leave behind a journal cataloguing my adventures or misadventures in parenting.  This will be a father’s perspective into the exciting, scary new world that he steps into with the conception of his child. You might find these entries a bit male centric because that is the viewpoint from which the story is told. Stay tuned for the first entry in the next few days...

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Back to Life..

3 Years.. It's been three long years since I have written something in this blog. The reasons for this extended period of absence were multiple - Lack of time, other commitments, writer's block.. let's not get into all that.

Since I have left this part of the blogosphere, world has changed quite a bit and so has my life. When the last entry was made, I was still working in Chennai, still an HCLite. Since then, I have relocated to the Garden City of Bangalore and after a short stint with the "High Performance. Delivered" guys, I am currently "Applying Thought". 

From being a newly married guy when the last entry was made, I am now post the 3rd marriage anniversary getting know the ups and downs of married life.

This is my first blog entry in the world where Sachin Tendulkar no longer plays cricket.

My world is set to change further. That particular change provides me fodder for a series of blog entries that I would be making in the coming days. Hopefully, I would be able to find some time to keep this going. With that optimistic thought, let me sign off for now.. But watch this space.. Lots more to come here.