Thoughts Sans Boundaries

Life… (cont.)

Posted in life, musings by Aditya Moorthy on December 23, 2009

I posted the link to my previous post on facebook and I received the following comment:

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning)

Dutifully, I googled Viktor Frankl and his book Man’s Search for Meaning. I have linked them to save you some time to search. After reading through that and also mulling over the statement above for a while, I re-read it many times for two reasons – one, as to what exactly the author is trying to say and two, why was the comment posted as a response to my post. Anti-climax; I am still trying to figure out the answer for both the points. But, it did get my thoughts to run along other paths, which I thought I’ll write them up as a continuation to my previous post.

The author summarises that we have the onus to determine what our life is supposed to mean by being responsible rather than seek it as a external purpose that we collect (or realise) and apply it on our lives. Which makes sense if we look at the meaning of life from an individual’s point of view – a point of view that is taken by most people when they lack purpose due to an externally imposed circumstance like adversity. Part of my reason for the previous post is taken not from an individualistic view but rather at an existential level as to why evolution provided reason to humankind and is there a purpose behind it. Of course, I realise now that it probably did not come across as clearly as it should have. But as I said before, the comment put me through another path of thinking about the meaning of life from one’s life’s perspective.

The pondering of this question, in most cases, arises when the environment imposes an adverse situation on us. This is not to say that during happy occasions we don’t think about these questions, but more often then not, we are busy being happy that we let little such philosophical questions arise in our minds, lest we lose the moment of happiness we possess. That brings me to one of the key root causes of these thoughts – adversity. Now, adversity has many a forms that you could write a thesis on them but I am particularly intrigued by one element – pain. Pain as in mental agony and not anything physical. Pain that’s caused because of the loss of a dear one, defeat in a cause etc. Let’s narrow this down even more and try to focus on pain that is caused solely because of a situation where you don’t have anything external to blame it on. To quickly draw a contrast to the book by Viktor Frankl (note: I’ve not read the book and my brief knowledge comes from a quick glance at Wikipedia), he talks about the state of mind that exists when one is in a concentration camp and how do deal with such a situation. We need to note here that this adversity and pain is caused externally by a force that you don’t and can’t control. What I am referring to is a situation, where you seem to be the only one that could potentially be ‘blamed’ for the pain that’s causing you.

I think mind here takes an interesting form. Speaking from personal experiences, it first desperately seeks something external to put the blame on. Not finding any, one starts to introspect to find what could have caused the situation. Many a times you realise that the one suffering is pretty much the cause of it as well. Like failing in an examination simply because one did not prepare well for the same. But on some occasions, you actually don’t find yourself to be responsible as well for the situation causing the pain. Or let’s say, the degree of your responsibility it not high enough for you to take the full blame. Then you face a roadblock where you are unsure what to do next. You ponder more, examine the situation with multi-various lenses, simulate the incident in different forms and from different perspectives but still the answer eludes. If the degree of pain being suffered is all encompassing you then it leads to a state of paralysis, where you don’t function in the way you normally do. Then the metaphysical questions are raised as to the purpose of life. The interesting conundrum is that at a holistic level you know you need to take responsibility for life but are paralysed by an event that prevents you from taking the next step of being responsible. You are still bemused by the situation which seems to have no form.

We all come across such incidents in our lives and we get through it somehow – fading memory being one of them. But some leave a lasting impression on you that keeps coming back like a boomerang every now and then to haunt. What do we do under such circumstances – many seek religious help, some seek medical etc but these are safe deposit boxes that temporarily hold on to your issue giving you the illusion that it has been resolved. But depending on how intensive the issue is, it always comes back.

I do not know the answer to deal with them and I have my own demons to fight but I see a clear purpose in raising a metaphysical question here and follow the path of seeking the answer. The reason I say this is not because, I need an excuse to stare at a blank wall in the premise of thinking but rather that this approach could potentially put us on a path of dissecting the problem in a methodical way and peel the skin of the onion, one at a time. In the end, will it help tide over that situation and give you lasting peace… I don’t know. But you could potentially peel the last bit of skin and realise that there is nothing left anymore to peel. The sense of nothingness in everything could help you deal with it. Maybe…

Peace.

Life…

Posted in life, musings by Aditya Moorthy on December 21, 2009

Bismillah,
(Arabic phrase from Quran that means ‘in the name of God, the merciful, the beneficent’)

Like many people, I muse about life. I ask some of the cliched questions such as the meaning of life, is there purpose for human life, what should we strive for, is evolution a mere accident in the unimaginable size of this universe etc. And, like most people who ask these questions, I don’t have a definite answer. In fact, there is not even a glimmer of hope that I would find a definitive answer.

I come from a culture that is known for pioneering this study and many a treatise have been written from time immemorial trying to address these and other questions. This innate nature to question would probably not be as strongly entrenched in me, had I not been born and brought up in this microcosmic society (I beg for pardon if this usage of microcosmic society in the sentence is a wrong usage, but I hope you get the point I am driving at). This has an even bigger impact on me since my parents have brought me up with the independence to raise these questions and boldly try to find the answers however rational it may or may not seem. Here I should digress to say a bit about the people who have had the most profound impact on me. I have been blessed with some of the best people one can have the opportunity to know in their life. This includes my parents, my brothers and one friend (whom I consider my teacher and brother in more than one way) and his family in India. I do not wish to name anyone to guard their privacy. But this digression is important to emphasise that few people have this opportunity to meet so many great souls and learn from them to differentiate the different shades of grey that we encounter in our lives.

Coming back to my earlier point on whether these questions are rational enough to ask or not and the reason for which I say that is because, I have had the opportunity to experience scientific way of approaching and the loosely put religious or spiritualistic way of approaching on various aspects of life that portray the different shades of grey that we very often encounter. The thought of rationality appears in this discussion because, science demonstrates to you through the concept of reasoning (and hypothesis and proofs) that the universe is an immensely vast place and the fact that life exists in this piece of rock that we call earth among the uncountable number of such rocks is a mere accident and unavoidable given our knowledge of chemistry. So, if science were to hear my appeal to it to find the answers, it would reply back that there is simply no point in asking this question as it is merely philosophical in nature and having an answer (if an answer exists) will have no bearing on existence (or life as I term it here) itself.

On the other hand, humans have conceptualised (or experienced) God which has given birth to religion in many forms depending on the environment in which it was born. This is not a debate about whether God exists or not but more a philosophical inquiry in what is the purpose (if there is something called a purpose) of life. So from this perspective, if I raised this question to ‘religion’ (and I put this in quotes because that is probably the easiest way to collectively refer to any form of thinking that is not scientific in nature), the answer would be quite different depending on which school of thinking that I raise this question to. But most of these diverse group would agree that self realiasation and experiencing God is the key purpose of life. Now we can debate in length about the concept of God itself and many scientific minds would immediately dismiss it to be a brainwashed concept handed over through many generations. But I do not wish to dismiss it likewise. I think, merit should be given to those thinkers who claim to have experienced God and achieved self-realisation and tried to hand over their experiences so other may also experience the same. I can specifically speak for (if momentarily I take upon that arrogance) the thinkers in the today’s Indian sub-continent. The reason why I do not dismiss like the many scientific minds, even though I reasonably understand the scientific process is because, the thinkers and philosophers in this region did not attempt to teach dogma but rather urged everyone to think, ponder, question and challenge their hypothesis and seek the ‘truth’ for themselves. They provided the tools for people if they needed but never insisted that they use their tools. And this broad minded approach akin to the scientific approach of allowing theories to be disproved by others, does not allow me to throw away their claim of vivid experiences simply because I cannot demonstrate that in a laboratory.

We have all been trained well in the scientific process – learning all branches of sciences in our school curriculum, has enabled us to easily embrace the scientific method but the same cannot be said about the self inquiry school since none of their tools have been taught to us in a structured manner for us to embrace or dismiss the benefits that you can achieve through self-realisation or realisation of God. If for example we take the simplest of the tools – Faith, most of us do not have the greater strength to sustain faith. Even though we try it at different points in our life, we soon lose confidence in it and relapse to our scientific method of approaching a problem. I am not suggesting here that when someone is suffering from a cardiac arrest, the people around that person sit next to him / her and say that we’ll keep faith and hope it cures. That would be madness at least in the context in which we deal with our lives. But faith as one of the tools, here takes a larger role to sustain it to achieve self-realiasation among the using of other tools such as self-inquiry, meditation etc.

I have many a times tried to use these tools to try to understand or seek answers to the questions in my mind. But like most people, I give up, because it is hard, does not align with my predominantly scientific mind, does not have interim results to encourage me to sustain etc. Here, people who solely follow the scientific approach would pooh pooh me saying that there is no point in even trying as one is never going to achieve anything through this. But I resist the temptation to agree with them and give up for reasons stated above. Even if I never see the light of the day in this approach, I think I would be contented that I did experiment with a non-scientific approach to experience the elusive self-realisation or enlightenment and was not pigeon holed into thinking only in terms of hypothesis and proofs in a laboratory.

So, why do I seek answers in the first place? I don’t start asking these questions to achieve enlightenment as I think that is at a farther point of my journey of life but rather to deal with the unexplainable experiences – painful and pleasurable that goes on in our lives and to deal with them with more maturity and with innate strength especially if the experience if painful. When I usually have these discussions with my brothers, I try to give an analogy that people are, in some sense behind a huge wall blocking their vision. So when you attempt to jump up and have a look on the other side, you get a glimpse of it depending on how high you can jump. The ability to jump higher comes from the eagerness to pursue the objective of knowing what is on the other side of the wall and also by gaining more awareness about what you saw during the previous glimpse. So effectively, the more aware you become and more eagerness you have, you can jump higher and higher, until one day you can jump over the wall and maybe that’s what many who have jumped over call it as enlightenment.

The sheer act of attempting this is an enriching experience in itself. No matter if you believe in God or not, or believe in the concept of enlightenment or not, but the journey to self-inquire and peel the skin of abstractness and unexplainable episodes in your life is an exciting one. I constantly endeavour to do this albeit I lose the strength to pursue, but as I said before, being blessed with the some of the great souls in your life, helps you to regain your lost path and pursue it again with new vigour.

Peace.

Me and my first Marathon

Posted in endurance story, life, musings by Aditya Moorthy on February 2, 2009

I ran a marathon last December and completed it in about 8 hours. I never really prepared for it although I thought I was reasonably fit to complete it in 5 hrs 30 mins. Running a marathon is a funny thing. There is lot of excitement and optimism at the beginning that you will meet the target you have set for yourself. As the run progresses and you become tired, you tell yourself that this is an incredible challenge and that you are attempting something that many don’t. And when you cross the mid-way point and your legs start to cramp, you develop thoughts that it is better to give up than to damage something in your legs and that it is not shameful to give up and try next year. But if you somehow convince yourself to carry on and reach the 30-34 KM range, you start to ask in your mind some profound philosophical questions about life and pain and the meaning of our actions; most questions for which you never get an answer. But if you still manage to drag yourself towards the final few kilometres of the run, then you get to a stage where there is nothing in your mind. It is blank with no thoughts, all you feel is a dull lingering pain that seems like it will stay with you for ever and you are no longer bothered about anything. There develops an insensitiveness that you have never experienced before or thought that you were never capable of. And then the finish; for one glorious moment, you feel at the top of the world, elated, as if you have been the first ever to attempt something like this and that you are the One. But this feeling vanishes as soon as you begin to revel and it follows by an incredible amount of pain that you have never experienced before. Pain you thought that human body was not capable to withstand and that you are probably going to have some permanent damage to your body. You start to look for a corner to sit and then just pass away.

At least this was how I felt during my ‘record’ 8 hours run. But I did finish. Right after I finished I looked for my brother who ran the same marathon and he finished just under 6 hours. He seemed to be doing quite fine except for some pain in his legs and here I was completely hopeless and wishing that life would just stop there. After a couple of days, I started to get back my usual spirit and the pain started to ebb away. I am now getting ready for my second attempt at the marathon called the Sundown Marathon in May. I hope to be better prepared this time and I am still aiming for that 5 hr 30 mins finish.

Tagged with:

Low hanging clouds in CBD area Singapore

Posted in life, photography by Aditya Moorthy on December 5, 2008

Tagged with: ,

Leftover pumpkin becomes pumpkin sambar (curry)

Posted in life by Aditya Moorthy on December 2, 2008

I had a big piece of pumpkin left, after the pumpkin soup that I made on Sunday. So, I decided to make pumpkin sambar and here is the recipe for it. For those of you who don’t know what sambar is, let me explain. It is a simple South Indian curry / gravy which is usually mixed with white rice and eaten with some vegetables on the side. For first timers it can be a bit daunting to make it, given the number of ingredients but take my word, it is worth the effort and you will soon become an addict like me. The good thing about South Indian sambar is that you can substitute it with any vegetable and it becomes a different sambar and the taste and fragrance is different as well. So, here is the ingredients list and the method.

Ingredients:

1. Sambar powder – You should be able to get this in any Indian provision store – 2 tea spoons
2. Toor Dhal – Also known as Yellow Pigeon Peas – 1 cup
3. Mustard seeds – half a tea spoon
4. Pumpkin – 200-300 grams – cut in small pieces (1 cm cube approximately)
5. Canola / Sunflower oil – 3-4 table spoons
6. Tamarind – This normally sells in an Indian store in processed fleshy form – 1 cm cube
7. Salt
8. Red Chilli powder
9. Coriander leaves

Method:

Boil the toor dhal, preferably in a pressure cooker (I like it that way) or you can use an electric cooker as well. I boil it with the ratio of 1:3 water, that is, 1 cup dhal and 3 cups water. While you are boiling the toor dhal, soak the fleshy tamarind in warm water and after a while, mash the tamarind so that all the essence of the tamarind comes out. Keep this aside for the time being and let it continue to soak. I would use about 250 ml of water for this.

In a wok, take pour 3-4 spoons of oil and add the mustard seeds. Heat the wok till the mustard seeds starts to burst. Add the pumpkin cubes and sambar powder and sautee it a bit. Then pour the tamarind water (use a filter so that the fleshy portion of the tamarind does not fall into the wok). Add salt and let it boil till the pumpkin is soft. Now take the toor dhal from the cooker and mash it nicely (make sure that it is fully boiled). Then add the dhal into the wok and allow it to boil for a little while (about 5-8 minutes). You can add red chilli powder if you like it spicy or alternatively you can add a little bit more sambar powder. Taste it to see if there is enough salt and sourness in it. It should not be sour but you should be able to feel the tingle in your toungue.

Switch off the heat and add the coriander leaves chopped into small pieces. Voila! the sambar is ready. You can eat this by mixing it with white rice and some cooked vegetables on the side. Baby mango pickle would go well with this as well. Try it and let me know your comments.

Tagged with: , ,

Pumpkin soup made easy

Posted in life by Aditya Moorthy on December 1, 2008

I tried my hand at pumpkin soup on Sunday and here is the way I did it in case you would like to try your hand at it.

Ingredients:

1. Red pumpkin – half a big one or one small one – approximately 1 kilogram
2. 3 Onion – purple or white – depending on what you like. I like the purple ones
3. 3-4 red chillies – You can use the green ones but it affects the colour of the soup
4. 3-4 cloves of garlic
5. Cayenne pepper – in powder form – half a table spoon or depending on how spicy you like it
6. Salt
7. Corriander leaves
8. Coconut milk – 150 milliliters 

Method:

Remove the seeds of the pumpkin and the skin and cut them into small pieces – just so that it boils quickly. Boil the pumpkin chunks until they are soft. Cut the onions into small pieces. Keep it small so that they are not too chunky while eating the soup. Sautee the onions until they are golden brown. Don’t make it too brown as it will affect the colour of the soup.

Add the chillies, garlic, corriander and boiled pumpkin in a blender and make it into a nice paste. Pour this into the wok in which you sauteed the onions and let it simmer a little. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste and keep stirring. Just before it begins to boil, add the coconut milk and let it simmer a little. Don’t keep it too long as the coconut milk will start to separate and will make it taste bad. After you add the coconut milk, do not boil more than 5 minutes.

Add some corriander leaves and ground black pepper to garnish. Voilà the pumpkin soup is ready.

Let me know if you tried it and leave your comments below. Would appreciate it much.

Tagged with: ,

What is your take about the $100 laptop?

Posted in life, society, technology by Aditya Moorthy on July 24, 2007

The $100 laptop the brain child of Professor Negroponte (OLPC)is ready for mass production. It has come a long way since it was first proposed five years back. I have been sporadically reading about it in the news about the progress. At first when I heard about it, I felt it was a brilliant idea although I wondered why a $100 cap was put to it. The developing and under-developed countries suffer mostly because of lack of education and direction in life in general. Most people don’t have opportunities and worse don’t have opportunities to create opportunities. I know it sounds like a play of words but what I mean is that when a society is given the opportunity for the younger generation to educate themselves then they in-turn create more constructive opportunities for themselves and for others to improve their standard of living and more importantly reduce the violence which is so rampant in these parts of the world.

Professor Negroponte has a very holistic project on his table when he took upon the task of providing education and the laptop is only the means for it and not an end in itself. If the product is as usable as it is claimed then most NGOs and NPOs can come forward to fund its production and distribute them in the remote corners of the world to help children learn. The cost in itself then becomes immaterial since an organisation which supports this cause will surely come forward to fund it even it it going to cost a little more. Currently the cost is at $175 and they are trying to bring it down to $100.

I think it is a great project, what do you think about it?

New neighbourhood…

Posted in home@sg, life, society by Aditya Moorthy on July 20, 2007

I am moving into a new neighbourhood called Hougang. Since I came to Singapore, I have been living in the East Coast area which is most people’s envy. East Coast is self sufficient, it has the beach, a huge variety of cuisines, closer to the airport, great neighbourhood, good connection to the city via the East Coast Parkway highway, nice shopping malls and all the jazz that you look for in a neighbourhood. The only thing it is missing is access to the MRT which is the local train network for commuting and sort of a nerve center for Singapore. I love this place and I am sure I will miss its convenience.

The new place I am moving into is in North East of Singapore and locally it is known as the ‘ghost town’ as traditionally a lot of gang wars took place in this part of the country and the locals still don’t vote to the ruling government which practically has all the seats in the parliament. They seem to be fiercely independent and don’t want to succumb to the carrots dangled by the government. Anyway, the apartment is about ten minutes walk from the MRT station and located in a cozy place next to the Sungai Serangoon ‘river’. The term ‘river’ in Singapore is to be taken with caution as it is not fresh water flowing rivers as we normally associate the term with but back waters of Mallaca Straits. It is stagnant water and until recently it had a very famous foul smell which the residents were putting up with for several years. But now it is cleaned up and at least does not smell anymore. There is a jogging track along the river and a zillion HDB buildings everywhere. HDBs are government built housing complex which only Singapore citizens can buy and sold in a way that there is proportionate racial mix in each build complex.

The apartment we live in is an executive condominium which is an upgrade to the HDB flats but a level below regular condominiums. It is built by HDB and targeted at young wealthy professionals who would like to grow out of HDB lifestyle and move into a condominium infrastructure. This property comes with a swimming pool, a gymnasium and a tennis court. The neighbourhood boasts of nothing that I am used to in East Coast. There is just one shopping mall about 10 minutes walk from my building, next to the MRT. Traveling to the city is now much faster as I can take a train straight to Doby Ghaut, which is pretty much the shopping nerve center of Singapore. Other than these two, I haven’t see anything that appeals to me. Cycling should be good as the roads are wide but I fear that the traffic lights are going to play spoil sport when I am riding.

Overall it is not a bad place but not great either. My commuting time to office it cut down by half which is a major plus point for me but for my brother it still stays the same. I hope to see more of the brighter side in the days to come where I will be trying to re-adjust my lifestyle to this neighbourhood.

I hope not to write too much about the house as that was not the intent of this blog but a post once in a while, will not cause any harm I suppose.

Moving in adventure… almost I’d say

Posted in life by Aditya Moorthy on July 20, 2007

So, finally we moved all our stuff to the new house. The whole packing process was quite draining on me even though I did not do much work as such. I had to put my things in boxes and tape them around. The movers finally came in around noon yesterday and the speed in which they put all the stuff together, bubble wrap fragile stuff and put them all in the truck, was amazing.

They dropped all the boxes in the two extra bedrooms that we have in the new place. One bedroom was completely packed with no space to move around and some of the immediate necessity was put in the second room where we planned to sleep for the night. We had space just nice for the mattress and after shoving all the things in the other room including our bicycle, we finally managed to catch some sleep around midnight.

Yesterday, we copied the keys of the bedroom since we wanted to lock them up during the day so that the contractors can work during the day in rest of the house. The main door is locked with a padlock for which the contractors have the key so they can let themselves in and I wanted to make a copy so that I can enter and leave at will. My bother already has one. So, the adventure begins here. We copied two keys and came home around 10.00 PM and found that the main door padlock key that was duplicated was the wrong one. So we are still left with one key to the main door and that is with my brother. We decided that he will retain it and I will just take all my stuff in the morning and lock the bedrooms as all the things are in there and leave without locking the main door. A minor risk but given Singapore’s safety standards, we didn’t mind taking it.

I had a fitful sleep being new place and the air conditioner was blasting sub-zero air which kept me freezing most of the night. I woke up in the morning and I realised that I don’t have my toothbrush and shaving kit and they are locked up in some boxes which I have no idea of. I didn’t have any shower gel but luckily my brother had one and I managed to wash myself up. My clothes were crumpled in the shifting and I had to iron them. The iron box was buried deep in one of the boxes and I had to dig it out and iron the clothes in the morning.

Finally I managed to get out of the house and reach office albeit about 30 minutes late, unshaven, without my belt as I still don’t know where it is and hungry, had nothing for dinner except an ice cream. But all is well and I think it was a memorable experience as my new neighbour quipped when I was telling him how tiring it can be to move houses. The good thing about the new house which I am already enjoying is that my travel time has been reduced by 30 minutes one way, which means that I save about an hour each day traveling. So, more time available for running and biking which I hope begins today!

Caught in the Google’s view of the web

Posted in life, musings, technology by Aditya Moorthy on July 17, 2007

The title borrowed from the statement made by a friend of mine. Well, the background is that my friend who made this statement is German and apparently he has been building a house for his family. Recently the roof of his house started to vibrate during heavy winds and later found that the concrete mixture used to build it was not correct and it had to be re-built. So he is moving out of the house now to live in a hotel for few days before the roof could be repaired. Obviously this is quite a discomfort given that he also has a toddler to take care of. To ease his position a bit, I told him that there is an Indian proverb (used in my native tongue) which effectively says that when you start a project and have numerous problems in the beginning, then the later part of the project life would be much as ease. This arises out of the belief that more problems you face in the beginning then more incorrect things are set right at the beginning itself, leading to a much smoother sailing later. Of course you can philosophically apply this to life itself. The more you struggle in the younger days, the middle and older days will be relatively at peace.

He asked me for the source of the proverb and a link on the Internet. I was searching for it and got a mail from him that he is looking at the Wikiquote for Indian Proverbs while I was doing the same thing. When I told him that I was doing the same thing, he came up with this comment that we are caught in the Google’s view of the web.

How true! For me increasingly the gateway to Internet has become Google. Even if I know the URL of a site, I sometimes type the keyword of the site on Google toolbar and then click the first link that props up, which invariably is the right link. Isn’t amazing that we have become so reliant on Google and potentially Google can skew our views just by being a gatekeeper of the Internet? Thank goodness that their motto is ‘do no evil’ or are they really sticking to it…

Weary weekend

Posted in life, musings by Aditya Moorthy on July 8, 2007

It’s been an tiring and emotionally draining weekend for me. I don’t want to get into the details but the process of going through such emotions gives you the ability (or rather opportunity) to put life in perspective and make assessment of various aspects of the life. This is a chance where you can take a pen and paper and list things in order to find out what the issues are and how you can deal with it. It is easier said than done as I am currently going through it, I can imagine how hard it is to objectively put everything down including one’s own deficiencies and face it with total humility. It is very hard to the point that it becomes impossible. The mind is completely blocked with the issues that you can think no further. It is like getting caught in a quagmire and you have negative energy left to fight it. The more you fight, you seem to go deeper into the quagmire. The sinking feeling makes you worse as it seems that even though you are doing everything humanly possible, the very same effort seems to sink you more.

But having said that, the solution is not to get weary. I am writing this being still in the quagmire and I can assure you that I haven’t still implemented any of the things that I am writing about. I am hoping that writing this down at least gives me an opportunity to keep the manual in front of me and reflect and hopefully get out of the quagmire. The helplessness in dealing with issues with life is because we get confused when we face a situation that stands like a mountain in front of us and we have a small chisel to bore a hole through the mountain and get across the obstacle. Rationality tells you that you are never going to make it with that chisel in hand. On the other hand, the problem is none other than oneself. The mountain is an obstable that you create in your mind and give it shape and size. We somehow deep inside want the problem to be big and face with the helpless situation. I can’t explain why, but I have great confidence that this is true. If I am wrong, you tell me.

Now when we recognise that the problem is our own mind, then it should be easy, since you can simply snap out of that mode and put the problem outside of you and have a different perspective to it. The moment you do that, you realise that the mountain is no longer a mountain but a small pebble that you can easily kick it out of your way. The difficult part of it is taking the problem out of you and putting it in front and treat it as a different entity, separate from you, and you are an observer. Great minds will be able to do it easily, but most of us are not. I am for sure not but I strive to be there. I must reiterate here that the problems that I am talking about here are more mental rather than problems created by the environment. Things like a flood or an earthquake cannot be solved like this although this process can play a small role in addressing such issues as well. I have been fortunate to have met and known people who have the capability to view their problems dispassionately with no emotions or baggage attached to it. I am like that in most cases, but being human, I am confounded with certain issues whereby my ability to view it dispassionately fails badly. This is such an occasion.

I am going to work on it and I am sure I will figure out a way.

Meet ego

Posted in life, musings by Aditya Moorthy on July 6, 2007

I was having coffee and chatting with a friend of mine when we hit upon a great browser toolbar application and we talked about how we can start a company together. I then quickly suggested that the name of the Internet domain to be the last name of mine and his. Immediately after I said that it struck me that I put my name first before his and not the other way around. Not that there was anything wrong but I was musing on the fact that how our thoughts revolve around us being in the center of everything we think and do. However minuscule the manifestation might be but the ego still persists. Some argue that a measured quantity of ego is in fact a necessary evil as otherwise we might lose our self-identity and respect which we owe ourselves, if we were to perceive everything while putting others first instead of us. Of course there are pros and cons to this argument but the problem is where the measured quantity stops. Who gets to decide how much minimum ego a person should have, beyond which it displays its ugly tentacles.

In any case, it was an interesting mind journey that I took musing about ego. By the way, he also pointed out that there is a German proverb which many use quite commonly in Germany and it goes like this – “Der Esel nennt sich immer zuerst”. It literally translated means that the donkeys always names itself first!

Tell me your view points on ego.

Priorities

Posted in life by Aditya Moorthy on July 6, 2007

I was on my way home and in the train I was thinking what could make one’s life simpler, happier and contented. I can image what you are thinking after reading this line, that there is no one single solution to this requirement, that these states are a perception and not tangible reality etc etc.

But we all in some sense seek them in our life. We want our life to be simple, happier and contented among other things. Let’s for a moment set aside the argument that these are mental states and they morph depending on the environment and situation. To explain this better, a person trying to summit a difficult mountain is not thinking about simplification of life, happiness or contention but his mind is completely occupied by the sole aim to reach the summit. But doesn’t reaching the summit give him the satisfaction which in turn results in one or more of these states? Let’s also take into account that there is no single solution which yields these results. Having given credit to these and other doubts that you might bring up given my first statement, I now propose one way by which we could give a shot at achieving these. The magic formula that I propose is Priorities.

I come from a very traditional background with a significant ‘baggage’ of tradition and culture in my formative years. My culture has a very fuzzy way of answering life’s conundurms. It never offers a clear path (or answer) to address the situations in life which baffles us most of the time. The solutions are very nebulous, open for argument and not conclusive. So it is left to the interpretation of the listener and the choices he or she makes. It is in direct contrast to the western philosophy which is precise, logical, assumption-less and mostly limited only to the problem at hand. As I grew up and had the opportunities to compare and contrast the two perspectives on a given problem, it started to dawn on me that neither is right or wrong. Now, many of you can quite quickly come back and tell me that this is not rocket science as no path is absolute and in fact the concept of absolute is in itself debatable. I agree, but do put this in perspective when I tell you that it ‘dawned’ on me. First I was very young when I realised this and I come with a belief system that encourages and coaxes me to accept that the path laid out in front of me is absolute and the only way to lead a life. So it is indeed quite a feeling when I realised that everything is up for debate and nothing is in fact the total truth.

Along my path of learning (which I am still in), I took all possible effort to try to understand the different perspectives and make sense of it and figure what applies best given a specific situation. Among the possible answers, I realise that making priorities in life can first simply it, offer happiness when the simple life objectives are achieved and provides a sense of contention. Now how does this help? Simple, I apply a certain dimension of western philosophy. Make a list of things that are currently important for you and which you think is important to achieve. This is not nebulous since what you are currently doing is obviously important for you. Like your job, your education, relationship, etc. Thinking about the future is always very hard as everything about it uncertain. So, the easiest thing to do is to simply take what you are doing NOW. Let’s take for example you just finished your education and starting a new job. Now, it is obvious that the job is important for you as if it is not, you would be doing something else. Having taken job as one of the priorities, look again and see what else you are doing. Maybe you are engaged with one of the local social organisation about keeping the environment clean. Why you put that in your list of priorities – because you are doing it and you are doing it because you like it and you like it so it is important enough to be put in the priority list. So, keep adding all the things you are currently doing. You might be doing somethings which you may be forced to do, like for example you are forced to organise a picnic for your office colleagues which you have no interest in doing it. The question now is do I put it in the priority list or not. How do you decide? Simple, look at the reason which prompted you to take up the responsibility – the answer could be that doing it gives you better leverage among your peer group and puts you in prominence or you are doing it becuase no one else is doing it etc. Once you find out the reason for this, then the solution is quite easy, does it have a bearing on any other things that you are currently doing and will it affect those things in the existing priority list. If the answer is yes, then put this in your priority list as well. If the answer is no, then simply don’t bother and ignore it.

Once you have this priority list, the next is just obvious – what is the most important among them. Put that in the top of the list. Put the second most important next to it and so on. There you have your life’s priority list! Now how does this give you the stated objectives viz., simplicity, happiness and contention. This is the tricky part. In order to achieve the stated objectives, it requires you to do a very important thing – ACT.

Act on it. It is simple to read and assimilate, but don’t take it that way. It is not. Action is one of the most complex part of any problem because it not only requires you to move your butt off the couch and do something but it also involves gazillion variables that you have no control over. If you are studying and that is on the top of your list and you are willing to put the necessary hard work to perform better and you find that the book you need to prepare for the exam is not available. Now such variables can throw a spanner in your works. But even before you hit those external road blocks, the key thing here is to ACT. That way you clear one of the biggest road block – YOU.

One may never achieve the said objectives in the priority list even with all the above steps, but the simplicity of the priority list is such that you still achieve the life’s goals – being simple, happy and contented. How? Because you removed the single most difficult variable – which is you. You now know that you can act and you know you gave your best shot and you know within yourself that you left no stones unturned. This in my opinion gives you the greatest happiness and contention and the process of perceiving life this way makes it very very simple.

Kalpesh Lathigra’s striking pictures

Posted in life, society by Aditya Moorthy on July 5, 2007

I am feeling better today after yesterday’s bout of sudden weariness. I still haven’t quite figured how to deal with an emotional side of myself if that was the reason for weariness. But as I said, I am a learner and I am sure I will learn eventually.

maintains a blog where he refers and writes about other photographers whose works affect him. Recently he wrote about Kalpesh Lathigra, a photographer from London and I was going through his project titled “Brides of Krishna” where he photographed the widows from India in the state of West Bengal. It immediately struck a chord in me about my own experience about meeting such people. In fact I remember one of my relative who became a widow when she was very young went through the same ordeal and lived all her like with a stigma that she is a widow and shunned by the society.

Brides of Krishna by Kalpesh Lathigra

I can come to terms with things that might seem ridiculous to the West about certain traditions and practices in the East which defies their logic. I have grown up here and I can empathise with the culture and tradition that old cultures have several practices which does not make sense in today’s context even though it defies logic because of the simple fact that everything is very very old. It is so old that couple hundred years ago would sound like just the previous generation to many simply because that several other things that are used in context as benchmarks are several hundred years old. Most Western people will find it hard to assimilate this simply because their “civilisation” is very young when compared to that of India and China. So to bring about change in an environment like in the East is not a simple task. If we start to make effort to change the minds of people and consistently persist, we would achieve some success in couple of generations. But if you take the West for example, a few years of persistence is enough to get the people to see the reason and change their attitudes and behaviour. USA did not let women to vote until the 1940s and once the legislation was passed for them to be eligible to vote, in 40-50 years we see a phenomenal amount of empowerment of women and the entire attitude of the populace has changed so completely that we see no trace of such behaviour that was in existence just 40 years ago. Such a change would be nearly impossible to achieve in the East due to the entrenchment of culture and tradition that goes back several hundred years and even more than couple of thousand years in many cases.

Having said that, the question of why widows were treated like that in the past – there can be no convincing answer which can seem reasonable today. What I could think of is, maybe the level of social security that we have today was not present in the past and the justice system was also questionable in a male dominated society. So in order to protect women’s modesty and from other forms of physical abuse especially if she is a single woman (widow in this case) it would be easier if she does not look attractive. So, shaving her head and making her wear unattractive clothing would deter malicious men from taking advantage of a weak, unprotected women. Also attaching the stigma that she has sinned and hence her husband has passed away will also deter such men who, afraid that her “unluckiness” would affect them as well, will not attempt to have any physical relationship or abuse her physically. There could have been several reason why this practice was initiated and allowed to evolve. None justifiable today.

What struck me is that such women spend their entire life in humiliation. I cannot even begin to fathom the level of mental agony a person would go through, who has been forced to shave the head, wear clothing that is not fit to be called clothing, undergo social stigma and stares and and horrible comments from public, in many cases beg for food and live in charitable institutions when they have a thriving family. The images by Kalpesh evoke a significant amount of such feelings in me and my own interactions with such people who have gone through this. He has captured their life in the most striking way that is possible through photography. People who have met such widows and interacted with them would be able to feel it much more than a casual observer of the photograph for whom it is just another social issue that needs to be brought into limelight.

What do I believe in?

Posted in life by Aditya Moorthy on July 4, 2007

I am blogging now immediately after my last post. I thought I would express myself hoping to see reason. What do I believe in and where do the weeds of doubt creep in. Or rather should I ask what should a person believe in, in order to be in peace with oneself. I list the following which in my perspective should be applicable for all humanity:

1. Be honest. It is not just about “telling or speaking” the truth. It is about being honest in ones thought, intention, action and in speech.

2. Be kind: It it not about compassion or pity. It is about kindness in thought, intention and action

3. Be inquisitive: It does not mean prying. It is the continuous pursuit of knowledge which can help a person be better than what they already are.

4. Be rational: It does not mean being unemotional. It is about chasing the ever elusive reason which sets you on the path of truth, and accepting and acknowledging the fact that there can be never be something that is known as absolute truth but never giving that presumption a chance for one to act in an emotional way.

5. Pursue knowledge: It does not mean only academic knowledge. It is about the knowledge that makes you understand the unknown. Chasing the unknown with reason and knowledge is what can be true justice for evolution. It is what nature expects.

6. Take a break: It is not about vacation. It is take oneself out of the above frame of mind to reflect one’s thoughts and actions and to determine if one is on the right path that does justice to humanity and nature and if required take corrective steps.

I believe I adhere to the above and I also believe that it applies to all of us. But still there is some element that escapes my understanding at this point that is causing my energy to drain totally.

Is it emotion…? I have never truly comprehended it… will I?

Drained the last ounce of energy…

Posted in life by Aditya Moorthy on July 4, 2007

This is one of my most tiring days. It is not the work that made me tired. I have been working quite a lot these last few weeks keeping my spirit up but today it has just drained totally. The reason – I can’t explain myself.

I have always been a workaholic in some sense (not a total workaholic for sure) and I have never ever felt drained because of the work I do. So goes for today but this feeling of tiredness simply escapes my reason. I feel like I am at the edge of a huge cliff given a choice to take the leap of faith or turn back meekly.

A tough conundrum eh…

My E65 camera sucks

Posted in life, technology by Aditya Moorthy on July 2, 2007

I am utterly disappointed with my phone camera. I mean when Nokia can make such spectacular camera for N95 why not make something half decent for E65. The pictures have lots of noise even in bright light. Well, can’t do much about it now. But I am gonna save money for the iPhone next year 😉

Below is a picture of the washing machine I am buying for our new home next month, shot from E65. Click on the picture to see the full version

30062007_washingmachine_2.jpg

9 course dinner at a Chinese wedding

Posted in life by Aditya Moorthy on July 2, 2007

I love cooking and I love food. Cooking and tasting food is very meditative for me. But all that passion was put to test in a wedding dinner that I attended yesterday. A colleague of mine got married (she is a Chinese Singaporean) and we (the rest from office) were all invited for the dinner yesterday night. There were at least 500 guests and the dinner tables were arranged for 10 persons at a table.

As I am a vegetarian, she made some special arrangement for me and that was indeed very nice of her and I guess I was the only vegetarian in the entire guest list. The evening kicked off with a some slide show presentation of the couple’s wedding pictures followed by an animation movie. It was about how they met and studied and partied together and finally how the guy proposed to her and how she accepted. It was nicely made and it was followed by a short video of the wedding day morning episodes.

In a Chinese wedding the groom is supposed to go to bride’s house with gifts and ask her hand in marriage. And he has to face all the tasks set by the bride’s maids who demand that he accomplish them before they let him inside the house to meet his bride. In this case the groom was asked to eat parts of the bread slice in a way that the left overs slices appear like alphabets and he apparently had to say that he loves her with bitten pieces of bread. I recon it was at about 4.00 AM. Tough job.

Anyway, the dinner started with appetiser, followed by soup and a whole host of different dishes most of which I had no idea. To top it all up the chef made all the vegetarian dishes to look and taste like the meat and fish that was offered for dinner. I am not a big fan of mock meat (apparently it is very popular in Singapore and else where in SE Asia) and I ended up eating only the vegetables in them. Although I did not eat much, I felt terribly full and was completely sapped out by the experience. I must say though I enjoyed most part of it. It was my first Chinese wedding attendance and thinking retrospectively, it was a good experience. I missed taking pictures of the food but next time I am going to remember it.