Diary of an ex-smoker: Day 31

Yes, it’s been a month and I have been absolutely smoke free.

One major thing I realized in this period is the need for a proper physical exercise routine in order to tackle the following:
a. weight gain (yes I have gained around 1.5 kilos or 3.3 lbs), which for some reason manifests itself as an ever increasing tube around the waist 🙂
b. excessive energy (yes, now with carbon monoxide not a part of the body, oxygenated blood reaches all parts of the body and one feels more energetic than normal)
c. head-aches/ cold and cough

For some other symptoms please refer to this site. I did not encounter any other side-effects apart from the three mentioned above.

Plan of Action
I have started (plan to start) with  the following:

a. Yoga Breathing exercises
 – First sit comfortably with a straight back and folded legs and breathe in and out slowly for 2-3 minutes
 – Then perform Kapalbhati, i.e breathe in slowly but breathe out forcefully for 2-3 minutes
 – Finally perform Pranayama, i.e breathe with left nostril and release from right nostril and vice versa for 5 minutes (As Hindus, we normally do Pranayama during our daily morning worship)

b. Yoga exercises
I perform three Yoga Asanas for 3-5 minutes each.

c. Brisk Walking
Twice a day for 10-15 minutes.

d. Jogging/Running
Planning to start soon.

Sometimes when I have really bad headaches and cold, and can literally feel the mucous clogging my nose and the sinuses, I resort to the old tried and tested steam inhalation technique which provides quick relief.
Except for these few, I feel much healthier now after stopping smoking.

The Quest for the Teacher

Its not that I have not searched far and wide. Yet even after seven years I have not found a worthy Teacher or Guru, as he would be known in Sanskrit, the devabhasha, the language of the Gods.
Everyone worth his salt says: “Do not perform these rites unless instructed well by your Guru ..” or “A guru needs to hand-hold you at every step of your spiritual journey” or something similar. In fact there is an entire stotram on the importance of Guru, where the
Seer repeatedly says, “tasmai shrI gurave namaH”, or “My regards to That
Teacher”.

Yet I am guru-less, after seven years since the
Awakening.


But to be honest, many people don’t even know what they are talking about. when it comes  to the importance of Guru. India unfortunately abounds with too many fake babas and gurus.

More importantly, its not about a Teacher, it’s about The Teacher. While there were times when I felt, “Aaah .. I found my teacher at last”, I soon realized that they were merely tour guides (mostly directionless themselves) in this great journey we call Life.

The only person who has come close to being The Teacher, as described in our Vedic texts , would be my father. He made me realize something very early on that – there is no teacher, there is no Guru. If there is anything that can teach, it is That Indomitable Spirit within every Man, it is that Fire, that Agni within every man which propels the intellect from mediocrity to sublimity. A Teacher can merely show you the direction, it is upto the person to find the Way.
Yes it is this Supreme Will which has guided humans from time immemorial, it is this Will that made man discover fire, domesticate animals and write the most elegant poetry and develop the most sophisticated philsophies.
This Supreme Will, or the soul of the soul, the eye of the eye, the ear of the ear, the Ultimate Principle, inherent in every atom in this Universe – That Truth, That Will is our Teacher, our God.

Division by Zero

So what exactly happens when we divide by zero?
Excel throws a #DIVO/0! error and mathematical functions explode or implode in the vicinity of a division by zero. The simplest function of this sort is 1/x, which works beautifully everywhere except at x = 0.
The relation of zero (or nothingness) with infinity (everything-ness) is perhaps best observed through division. The explosion that I was talking about, as illustarted below.
1/0.1 = 10
1/0.001 = 1,000
1/0.00001 = 100,000
….. …..
and so on.
1/0 = Boooom !!! — > Something bad happens here!! Undefined !!!
What is clear is that the smaller the divisor, the larger the resulting number. For divisors tending to zero, the result tends to infinity. Thus division is the link between zero (or tending to zero) and infinity.
Why does 0 behave in such a way?
For centuries, zero or nothingness has confounded the thinkers of every civilization. In fact, had it not been for the ancient Hindus who “discovered” zero, we would still have been in the dark ages perhaps. The Indians passed on zero to the Arbas who passed it on to the west. The west became civilized (sort of), the Arabs became more primitive, while the Indians continue to be primitive, after having conceded the benefits of the zero to the west through the Arabs. But that’s a different story altogether (just remind me, I’ll talk about it in a latter post).
Coming back to the matter in hand – as of now, we have two entities linked by one operation – zero and infinity or undefined related through division. One way of looking at this is to consider the following analogy. 
God as we* perceive is potentially Infinite and is undefined in the unperceived (unperceivable) state. And men in their raw state are personifcations of nothingness.
Is there one such operation similar to division which would link us (the zero) to God (potentially infinite or undefined)? Wouldn’t it be great if we could figure out such a thing?
Can we humans (the zero) “divide” our way to God (“infinity or undefined”)?
————————————————————————-
* We refers to the Advaita Vedantic Hindus. Jews, Moosulmans and Christians with their notion of an external benevolent God will not be able to relate to the God described in Advaita Vedanata. For us, God is the Universe and not external; God is the container as well as the content; the creator as well as the creation; the potential as well as the kinetic and so on.

A Time to Dream

Sometimes dreams seem so real. You wake up in the middle of the night and start wondering which world is real and which is the dream world. In fact there is a very thin line of difference between the dream world and the real world. I particularly love the twilight zone – that dreamy state between sleep and wakefulness – when every moment seems so pronounced, when every wish comes true, when a lifetime of events transpire in a few seconds and you float in an ocean of repose and serenity.

But not that evening when the nine-year old boy bumped into me as I was walking back home. I stay in a hilly area and some of the slopes are pretty steep and the terrain is undulating in general. So you can’t really see something unless it’s upon you – and on that particular day, Poka was upon me – Poka – the nine year old boy – the bad boy of the neighborhood, the black sheep of his family of daily wage workers; Poka, who always played hookey from school, Poka who never liked wearing shirts and who preferred walking barefoot, the same Poka who neighborhood kids were told to stay far away from and the same Poka who generally left a trail of disturbance wherever he passed.

I don’t know who was more surprised when he bumped into me.

“Bffuuu ..”, I grunted. He paused for a few seconds, glared at me with his fiery eyes – but his expression changed momentarily, a questioning look came into his eyes and he paused for a few moments.

“What’s the matter? Can’t you see where your’e going?”, I asked him and not in a very polite way. This wasn’t the first time that Poka was running away from something – there were plenty of complaints against him in the neighborhood.

He didn’t answer but gave me a strange look as he resumed his running – I couldn’t recognize the look at that time, but later – much later I realized the look as that of one misunderstood, a look of pain and anguish, the look of someone who is not able to communicate with the world or relate to this world like we do.

And then as he ran away, I heard a commotion – a huge hue and cry in the direction from which Poka had come running. And within a few minutes I heard the sounds of the footsteps of people running and finally saw a group of community people running towards me – some middle-aged men, a few young lads and a few kids.

“Oi … Mr Oi … did you see Poka?”, asked Mr Somak breathlessly. “That Poka has kidnapped our cat and run away – we saw him coming this way .. “

“Kidnapped your cat? Huh ??”, thats the only thing I could manage to say. And then I remembered seeing something in Poka’s hands while he was running – and that could definitely be a cat. But I also remembered the look in Poka’s eyes as he had made the sprint past me.

“I think he went that way”, I said and I pointed to the direction which Pokar was supposed to have taken. The wrong direction.

“But why would he steal a cat? I’m sorry .. I mean – why did he kidnap your cat?”, I couldn’t help but ask.

The “cat-search” group started moving in the direction towards which I had pointed. As the group moved forward, Mr Somak dropped back a little and told me in a low voice – “I think he’s trying to get back to us. A few days back we accused Rikon (Poka’s dad) of fraud. Anyway, I have to move on – you know how worried my wife is without the cat – she’ll cry all night and won’t sleep unless Tudlu comes home safe and sound”.

As soon as they left, I decided to investigate the matter on my own. I took the direction which Poka had taken and walked along the dark winding road. It was pretty dark and the road-side lamp-posts instead of illuminating the path actually illuminated small pockets of the road and made the other portions of the road darker, if that’s possible.

I had a pretty god idea where Poka would have gone and knew exactly how to deal with him. No scolding, no punishment, no reprimands – they never worked anyway. If indeed Poka had stolen the cat, I would first try to get Tudlu back in pristine condition to his rightful owners, without Poka getting affected in anyway; then try to understand why he stole the cat and then as a punishment make him do community service – as the Community Leader, I could do as much. Poka had to realize that as a member of our community, or any community for that matter, he needed to abide by certain minimum rules and standards.

So I climbed over the wall of the children’s park (which was locked after 7:00 pm) and walked towards the tank-end along the shadowy paths when I heard a mew and saw two pairs of eyes. Poka and Tudlu.

“Poka .. don’t be afraid. It’s me, Oi.”, I said gently and started walking slowly towards them. Neither of them moved.

“Don’t run. Just give me Tudlu and tell me what happened”, I said and switched on my pen torch. After 7:00 the park lights were switched off and except for the moon-light there was no other source of illumination.

As I inched even nearer to them, Poka said, “You can have him”, and handed Tudlu to me, quite reluctantly – in fact even Tudlu was unwilling to come over to me.

“Okay. So tell me what happened”, I asked gently. Things were going fine – Tudlu seemed unharmed and okay and Poka seemed very calm. The lull after the storm, I believe.

And then nine year old problem child Poka started with his tale. And when I heard the story, I felt ashamed of myself  – ashamed of myself as a human being, as a judge of character and as a Community Leader. Poka narrated slowly and in stutters (he had a slight speech deficiency) how 3-4 days back he had heard Tudlu meowing in a strange way and how the right side of the Tudlu’s face seemed to have swollen. Apparently no one in the Somak family had noticed that the cat was meowing in pain and that it had stopped eating.

So Poka had gone into the Somak’s house (by climbing over the wall) and discovered that the cat had a fish-bone stuck in it’s gum and was not able to get it out by itself. So  when he had tried to remove the fish-bone from Tudlu’s gum, he was seen by the security guard and chased away when he had tried to explain the situation. He had been barred from entering the Somak residence and how had not been allowed to explain why he had done what he had done. And then he decided that the only way to help Tudlu the cat and stop its pain was to remove the fish-bone, somehow, and if that entailed stealing the cat, he would do it. And he had done it – he had stolen the cat, removed the fish-bone and subsequently when someone saw him with  Tudlu and raised a hue and cry, he picked up Tudlu and started running towards the only safe place he knew – the tank-end of the children’s park.

The cat started fidgeting in my hand and jumped out and ran to the grass and started chewing selected blades of grass – a sign that it was on it’s way to recovery. Let Tudlu enjoy his grassy delight – I had more important matters to deal with.This was time to act and not to talk.

I went near Pokar and held him closely and then patted his head. And then along with Tudlu, who had once again stationed himself in Poka’s arms, we started walking home, after scaling the park walls. This was no twilight zone – but it was a moment of peace and serenity.

That day I made a promise to myself about Poka and all other Poka’s of the world. Now was their time to dream.

Microeconomics and everyday life

This is an article I had written during my MBA at Great lakes Institute of Management, Chennai for a Microeconomics assignment. I was graded “C” –  so be careful before using/ copying the material for your assignment.

Inefficiencies abound everywhere, yet the world goes on. Chaos, confusion, information asymmetry, scarcity, demand and supply side constraints rule the roost and it is only the discerning purists who are able to fruitfully utilize the value differentials to their best advantage. Competitive advantage is a function of these value differentials and it is only the leanest, meanest and most insightful value-seekers who survive and thrive in the chaotic interaction environment which people call market. Microeconomics provides a very broad conceptual framework to understand and appreciate the dynamics of everyday life occurrences in the context of the parameters alluded to above.

Contrary to popular economics lore, rational people hardly ever think at margin. For if they did, markets would have been subjected to perfect competition and the world would not have been such an exciting, inefficient and unpredictable place. Nobody would have heard of Buffet, Bill Gates or Soros. People respond to incentives. Incentives are, incentives have been and incentives shall continue to be what motivates people or firm to do what they do. Coupled with scarcity, natural or induced, information asymmetry, social, economic and political constraints, the effect of these parameters in entirety is an exercise that would be better off relegated to the realms of chaotic self-propelling non-linear dynamic systems. However human mind likes to project order and system to chaos and thus we have a simplistic conceptual framework of microeconomics based on a number of (questionable) assumptions of thinking at margin, perfect knowledge and commodity product. However, this framework is capable of answering many queries, of both simple and complicated nature.
Why do I prefer McDonald’s Big Mac burger and not Burger King’s Whopper? Microeconomics does not answer this question, but through its elegant demand and supply theory and theory of marginal utility would explain, why I would pay, what I would pay if Big Mac were to become unavailable for some reason. Opportunity cost is a common terminology associated with this subject. I left a high-paying job and very comfortable lifestyle in order to pursue MBA from Great Lakes Institute of Management and be subjected to bad vegetarian food at the Sodexo run college canteen, antics of Rajhinikanth emulators and MGR look-alikes. My total course fee is therefore an aggregate of the actual course fee plus the salary and lifestyle expenses I have forsaken for my intellectual pursuits.
The effect of Microeconomics does not stop here – it is because of Microsoft’s monopoly in the operating system market that I use a poor quality operating system like Windows XP, it is because of information asymmetry that stock prices start moving up or down much before actual results are declared (on account of insider trading) and I lose money whereas other people make money, it is because of lack of perfect information that auctions at Sothbey are considered so prestigious. From waking up in the morning till going to bed, every action is dependent on some form of microeconomic parameter. The dynamic changes in the market forces have brought about a tectonic shift in degree of control microeconomics exercises on our daily lives.

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God as I Know – 04 : Through the eyes of a Blind Cat

“Master, where are you?”, I mewed. But my master could not hear me. It was getting late and I was all alone. I was lost and roaming around aimlessly somewhere, but I was all alone. Once in a while, I would mew, but no one heard me. The crickets were chirping so I knew that evening had descended and that it was probably night and I was all alone. When I mewed, the crickets stopped for a while and resumed their chirping after some time. I was tired, exhausted from roaming around, trying to find my way back home, longing for the warmth and love of my Master. It had been many hours seen I had last been home. I had taken one too many wrong turns and now I had no idea where I was. The trees smelt unfamiliar, the walls felt different, the ground seemed alien – everything was unfamiliar to me.
One of the beetles said, “Kanu, accept the inevitable. Your master has forsaken you.”
“Nooooo”, I screamed. “That is not possible. My Master will never leave me.”
“Get real. You are a blind cat. Do you think your master really cares? He is after all a Man. Men are cruel – they kill each other all the time. They would not think twice between stamping me, or leaving you, a blind cat to die – just be grateful to God that he fed you all these years and gave you shelter. In this world of Men, we other creatures live a life of misery. Men are monsters”, the beetle proclaimed.
I did not believe him. My master was a good man. He was the only family I had. My mother had abandoned me at the doorstep of my Master’s house after my birth. My Master had taken me into his family. My other friends have told me that when I was a kitten, smaller than even my Master’s palm, he used to feed me milk with the help of small ink refills. My eyes have always been weak and now I am blind – but Master used to apply medicine and clean my eyes with a soft cloth. I used to poo in Master’s house, but Master never punished me.
He has fed me, nursed me when I was sick, looked after me every day of my life. When I used to stray afar and could not find my way back home, Master would always find me and carry me back home. He has protected me from the stray dogs and other humans, fed me fish and milk every day.
“No. I do not believe you. I have full faith in my Master. He will find me and take me home. He will never abandon me”, I told the Beetle firmly.
“Whatever!”, said the beetle and resumed his chirping.
I started walking towards what felt like a wall and curled myself against the wall, and began to wait. Either my master would come and find me, or Fate would take me with her. I started thinking of my life gone by. I have heard that every creature thinks of his past before death and life just flashes past in an instant before the inevitable. Would today be the last day of my life? I felt sad, but I would not mind dying. I had lead a good life in the cocoon of my Master’s love and compassion. I was sure that he had not abandoned me – I had strayed too far from my house and now Master was not able to find me. I had full faith in him. I was exhausted, hungry, thirsty but there was nothing I could do – I could not hunt for food as I was blind – the world had always been a dark place for me, but for my Master’s love which made my world bright.
An hour passed and I dozed off. I woke up again after some time. It was quite late as even the beetles had stopped. I again began to reflect on my life gone by.
I had no complaints in life. I had had food, shelter, a family and the love of my Master. As a cat and especially a blind one to boot, I could not have asked for more. It was God’s infinite grace that He gave me my Master. My only regret was that I could not tell my master, show my master for the last time, how much I loved him, how much I trusted him. I wish to God that I get born as a cat again and again and always as my Master’s pet.
I began to pray to God, “Whatever happens to me, I do not care. Let nothing ever happen to my Master. God, by your Divine power, please let my Master know how much I love him”. Time went by, and I dozed off once again, exhausted but at peace with myself and full faith in my Master.
“Kanuuuuuuuuuu ….”
“Kanuuuuuuuuuuuu …. haram jyada kothay geli ? (Kanu, where are you?)”
I woke up with a start. I heard my name.
“Meowwww”, I called, but my voice was weak from exhaustion and dry from thirst.
“Kanuuuuuuuuu …. aaaaye aaaaaye aaaye !! (Come here !!)”
It was Master’s voice! Master had found me !!!
“Meaaowwwwwww, meeeeeeeeaaowwwwwwww …”, I started calling out aloud and started moving towards the voice.
“Oi to Kanu, oi gachtaar pechoney …(there he is, behind that tree)”, a second voice came.
The next thing I knew, I was in the arms of master. In those trusted arms I found my world once again – the warmth, the love, the concern and the care enveloped me again.
They all say, trust in God. I say, Trust is God.