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Sunday, 18 December 2011

VRVD Musikings

My musings on music and the kings of Carnatic classical music are presented in a separate blog. See and hope you enjoy at VRVD MUSIKINGS (

Monday, 31 October 2011

Break out of Catch 22

We can classify people into two groups based on the specific Catch 22 cycle they are caught up in.  Some people work hard, follow the processes they know and get the job done the same way, all the time.  The other group of people work smart, keep learning, try new things, make things efficient and end up doing well & learning a lot at the same time.  Both these groups are following Catch 22 cycles.  One is a negative Catch 22 and other a positive Catch 22.

Two different Catch-22 cycles
First group: The people in the first group get the job done.  They may even get the job done in time, all the time.  The effort they spend, though, is not efficient or effective.  You find many people in this group working late hours.  They end up being tired & not able to add other activities outside of work to the schedule.  Definitely there is very little time or motivation to learn new things. The person does not want anything related to work in their sight, after the long hours.  The end result is that the person continues to use methods learnt months or even years ago.

Second group: The people in the second group spend time to learn new ways of doing things in efficient manner.  This ensures that the job gets done on time, or even ahead of time.  Mostly regular work hours are sufficient to complete their job.  They have energy to branch into new areas & ideas.  They learn from books, articles, the web or even from others’ experiences.  This gives them more ideas to try & execute their tasks quickly.

If you feel that you are in the first group & feel that you are not able to get out of the cycle, here are some ideas to change it.

  1.  Before taking any task, take a little time to know the task well.  Understand all aspects of the task & the different view points.
  2.  Plan your work well, based on the understanding of all the aspects of the task.
  3.  If you are going to use a new software or tool, first spend time in understanding all the features of the software & tool.  Some of the features could make things easy for you.  Remember the saying “A job well begun is job well done.”
  4.  Repeat tasks must be automated.  Let the computer do the job for you.  Write macros or similar processes to ensure your efficiency increases.
  5.  Finally, learn from others ideas, tools, utilities & experiences.  Share your utilities, tools & ideas with others.

Another aspect to this change: (a) Change by self-motivation or (b) Change by external pressure.  It is better to make this jump on your own, instead of waiting for external factors to push you into the learning process.  At that time, the effort to change may be lots & lots more.  This provides even further de-motivation.  Jump now, from the first cycle into the more efficient, effective & fruitful second cycle.

Remember: The initial effort spent to learn, plan and execute, on a tangent, compared to the immediate task at hand, helps you to shoot out of the orbital path & reach for the stars.

(First published in a private magazine in October, 2000)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Change with Time

Conversation between father & son
Father: Don’t do this on Fridays.
Boy: Why should I not do it on Fridays.
Father: Don’t ask questions. This is how it should be done & always has been done.
We all would have heard this or a similar conversation time and again in our homes.  Read ahead and find out how the following experiment is similar to above conversation.
Primate Committee Thinking Experiment
NOTE: Don't try this with your own apes.
Start with a cage containing five apes.  In the cage, hang a banana on a string and put stairs under it.  Before long, an ape will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the Banana.  As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the apes with cold water.  After a while, another ape makes an attempt with the same result - all the apes are sprayed with cold water.  Turn off the cold water.
If, later, another ape tries to climb the stairs, the other apes will try to prevent it even though no water sprays them.
Now, remove one ape from the cage and replace it with a new one.  The New ape sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs.  To his horror, all of the other apes attack him.  After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.
Next, remove another of the original five apes and replace it with a New one.
The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked.  The previous Newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.
Again, replace a third original ape with a new one.  The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well.  Two of the four apes that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest ape.
After replacing the fourth and fifth original apes, all the apes which have been sprayed with cold water have been replaced.
Nevertheless, no ape ever again approaches the stairs.  Why not?
"Because that's the way it's always been around here."
Sound familiar?
Most of us would have come across this attitude in our life.  It would have happened in our home, work or in social environment.
The reasons for such a negative attitude may vary. Here are a few of them:
1.    Some love to stay in the comfort of using known methods, even if it takes longer (like the above Primate excuse “That’s the way it’s always been around here.”)
2.    Some people focus on finishing the current task, rather than becoming efficient in the long run.  There is no exploration for quicker or easier methods.
3.    Someone Else’s Idea syndrome (SEI syndrome – pun unintentional).  Many people tend to not use a better method, simply because it was passed on to them from a peer / junior.  Their ego prevents them from using the better process.  (As an aside, did Americans come up with SEI because ISO was someone else’s – European – idea?).
4.    Some people love to exercise their muscles more than their brain & are adamant about it.
It is important to discourage such attitude among friends & colleagues.  We should encourage people to look out for chances of improvement.  Efficiency and effectiveness on the job must be constantly improved.
Action Plan
1.    Discourage people from using the “history” excuse.
2.    Don’t allow people to follow processes blindly.  Ask why a method was chosen & its merits.
3.    Encourage people to work smart, rather than work hard.
4.    Inculcate a good atmosphere to share ideas & encourage healthy competition.
5.    Give credit / reward for learning new methods.
6.    Give time for creativity & don’t add too much of pressure to deliver (pressure forces people to finish the job at hand rather than look for improvement).
7.    Push people to automate manual tasks.
After all, in this fast world, the quick learners and efficient people will shoot ahead fast.  Such people will also take the whole team / company along, given the right environment & impetus.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Make a difference

Do you feel that time has flown by and you do not recall how?  Are you saying to yourself “It seems just like yesterday I got my first job?” or “I feel that I finished college only a week ago?”  Where has all the time gone?  What have you done with it? When asked “How’s life?” many say “Chaltha hai.” or “Getting along.” or “OK.”  Life seems to have become mundane, from day to day and from week to week.
Experts, who have analysed the patterns in life, have explained that if we feel that time has flown, it is we who are to blame.  If we fall into a very simple routine, on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, then our brain compresses the information into a single occurrence.  There is no difference between 1 day to next, and it compacts days into 1 day and weeks into 1 week.  Voila, suddenly you feel time has flown by you, and your memory just holds a week’s information – everything else is just a repetition.
Change: Make a difference
What should we do?  It is in our hands to voluntarily change the patterns we follow on a daily basis.  Do something different everyday.  Put some effort to learn new things every so often.  Bring in interesting changes to plans everyday.  Stimulate the weekends with variety from one to next. Change the routines on a regular basis, without affecting your priorities and values.
You will find that when you start doing this, you keep good memories.  Do not stick to very strict routines from morning to night, on a day to day basis.  Have minor variations to the general routine – and be conscious of your actions and routines.  Then, every day will be different and will be recorded as such.  Every week’s learning, fun & joy will be remembered for weeks, and maybe years, to come. Spend time with children & younger people, as they teach us a lot of simple things that we forget as we grow older.
Another aspect is reflected, now-a-days, in many companies’ policies.  The reason that more and more companies are forcing people to avail their vacation days within each year is that it makes a difference in morale for us.  We break out of the standard course we set for ourselves.  Avail your vacations at an appropriate time and enjoy with some exhilarating or relaxing activities.
But . . .
The first question that many may ask is “In my organisation & planning classes they asked me to create a clear plan and stick to it, so that I can become more efficient.”
Yes, we should plan and then stick to the plan.  The modification should be in the plan itself, on a regular basis, so that the days and weeks do not become monotonous.  We can come early to work on some days.  We can leave a little early on those days and add some activities to the evenings.  Come to work or go home using varying routes on some days, consciously.  Those are the differences that will make the weeks colourful and your life memorable.
“But if we have to change routines and check-lists, then what happens to ISO and CMM.”  This is a very valid question indeed.
It is important to follow a method / routine in small sets of activities within a short period.  This will help us accomplish the task in an efficient & correct manner.  It is the bigger scheme of things that we should change.  We should juggle the tasks that we do everyday.  On some days, let us finish our tasks quicker and spend the spare time in helping others, or reading / learning things.
Here is another point of view.  If we fall into too strict a routine, we start believing our memory and methods.  Soon we do not consciously follow the routine / checklist.  That is precisely when mistakes creep in.  Hence, even in following routines and / or checklists, it is important to change things consciously, slightly, ever-so-often, so that it does not become dull and involuntary.
Past Experience with these thoughts
Many of my friends, after discussing the above ideas, have come back with positive comments on how small differences on a day-to-day basis make things more long-drawn and enjoyable.  They believe that time has been utilised well.
It seems like it has been years since I went to Ooty (went in April 2011), because every day is unique, either at work, home or external activities. Every activity is done consciously with a difference and it makes a difference.
Make a difference, in your days, weeks and career.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

VRVD Tour Tips

Started a blog to cover some information on vacations, tour tips, etc.

See it on


Thursday, 29 September 2011

Samacheer Kalvi - Equal education utopia

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

The concept of Equal Education to all is definitely an utopian dream. It is also a useless goal. It is like everyone trying to be a part of every conversation on earth. Such equality is not necessary, not useful, not practical and total waste of energy in trying to plan and implement such a dream.

It is moreover, unfair to 90% of the people. One size fits all does not fit 90% of the people. The same goes for education.

There are differently abled children. They need different levels of education, speed of progress in education, etc. To survive in this world & to provide some service to fellow people (in order to earn for daily bread, shelter and clothing) different people need different skills.

We cannot have 1 billion prime ministers. We need all kinds of people performing different tasks working for a united mankind. For that, the belief has to be that many people are born with different skills. Those skills need to be honed by education - and for that we need different types of education. Moreover, there are slow learners, autistic children, dyslexic children, mentally retarded children and others who need special care and education at a more relaxed pace.

For these to be catered for, we need State board syllabus (easiest and simple base education) to Matriculation, to Anglo-Indian, to CBSE to ICSE boards of education, along with National Open School (more flexible for people who wish to take up other professions at early age, like sports / acting), International Baccalaureate (not to be confused by International school term, which is used intentionally to confuse & which usually follows CBSE / ICSE syllabus) and local language schools (most important, in my opinion).

Better still is the Gurukulam style of education where every child is given more focus (again not to be confused with modern Gurus "collecting" disciples).

One other drawback with equal education is that the brilliant students are dragged down to an average level, while the slow learners and others feel pressured and left out of "learning". We will spoil the children and reduce the chances of having great leaders, scientists, philosophers and other great people required for our country.

I hope, pray and request the appropriate authorities to not look into Equal education as a goal. We should look into strengthening the strong points & improving on the weaknesses we have in the different systems.


Sunday, 18 September 2011

Living in Denial

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

The current generation of parents with children in school and colleges seem to have higher expectations of everybody and everything. The parents contend that their children must be the top scorers, the school must ensure they are the top scorers & the teachers must also have the same goal for the children.

If the top score is not achieved, then it is the school's fault or the teacher's fault. The child is not at fault & the parents are not at fault. The abilities of the children are exemplary and the parents have done outstanding job in raising the kids. This seems to be the attitude.

Parents live in denial that their children could be above average or average. They live in denial that they also need to put in some effort. They live in denial that the children probably are not paying attention in school. It is also possible the children are not really getting the attention from parents themselves. The child may need some special assistance - but no, that is not at all possible in the eyes of the parents.

When people live in such denial, they are postponing the in-evitable - that is the results that come out showing the true colours of the children & parents' efforts and abilities. The earlier people realize their own abilities and efforts, along with the children's abilities and efforts, the better they can shape the future. That is why it is said "Wise are those who understand themselves".

Improve on the child's strengths and bolster the weak points to make it stronger - that should be the goal and for that people have to get out of denial that the child has weaknesses and the child's real current capability is not assessed properly.

For a better future, we should be open to understand ourselves first & ensure the next generation is given a good chance for a bright future.


Friday, 16 September 2011

Why we blame others

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

One of the bad habits that the parents and relatives teach children even before they can learn to speak is that we should blame others for our mistakes.

A simple example, is when the child stumbles while walking and falls. It is the child that made the misstep. Or it did not see an obstacle (or observe, if we wish to split hairs). The immediate reaction of people around is to say "It is the floor that made the mistake, let us beat it." This is just the beginning. Just to stop the child from crying, or from feeling bad about its mistake, we start teaching it to blame others.

Of course, when the child grows up and blames the lack of motorcycle, or expensive jewellery on their parents, it comes back to roost where it started.

Right from young age, children should be taught to be responsible for their actions. They need neither fear the floor, nor blame the floor for their missteps. Children should be educated about taking care for each step, responsibility, etc.

Moreover, any excuse from parents citing lack of time, or quick solution of quietening the children's cries, then they are spoiling their children in the long-run.


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Practice makes perfect

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

"Not all of us have to possess earth-shaking talent.  Just common sense and love will do." - Myrtle Auvil.

To be good in any field, one has to practice whatever has been learnt. One has to practice many variations and applications of the learnings. That is the simple, common-sense based method of learning to be an expert or even a master.

If we talk about programming, it is important to practice developing small tools, applications or components, even if it has been done before. Each of us have to learn the basics and fundamentals with examples to be able to equip ourselves for the challenges in executing projects. The more examples we work out, we are exposed to lot of algorithms and data structures. The more variations we are aware of, the better the chances that we will come up with efficient solutions to the real-world applications.

Here I would like to point out how this concept of "practice" was incorporated and ingrained in us at school. Our teachers of English and Mathematics used this concept to ensure not only the bright students, but all students get to know the basics of the subjects.

For example, the mathematics teacher would teach a concept, say solutions to quadratic equations. Later in some of the classes he will hold impromptu tests where in he would dictate 25 problems in 5 minutes and ask us to return the results after another 5 minutes. By repetition of many problems, even the average student was good in solving the problems and the bright students were able to solve all problems very quickly.

In English, grammar exercises were given special importance. Even though the lessons had only a dozen exercise items, our teachers used to give us 100s of challenges for various concepts including (a) convert from active voice to passive voice and vice-versa (b) convert from direct speech to indirect speech and vice versa (c) metaphors, similies (d) idioms. These were covered so much so that we had learnt conjugation of pretty much all transitive and in-transitive verbs and ability to deal with these language elements with ease.

Not only did we learn the basics and fundamentals well but an important lesson that 'Practice makes us perfect' was inculcated into most of us. This has been valuable and stood by our progress in life as the foundation to help us develop into solution providers for challenges in our jobs.


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Long term view is more important

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

All parents want their children to be successful in life. But success itself is relative. For the children to be successful in their own way, parents need to give the necessary tools in life for them to be reach their goals (not the parents' goals for their children).

1. Basics and Fundamentals are more important than marks.

2. Improve creative thinking of the children. Only creative thinking will help children to solve life's problems.

3. Set good role models for the children to follow.

4. Virtues that will help the children in long term must be imbibed into them.

5. Give good guidelines for the children and ensure it is ingrained into their brains.

6. Show love and affection in a balanced way to provide them self-confidence.

7. Build trust in the children and ensure they trust the parents first for all issues, problems, etc., that they face.

8. Success in 1 step is not guarantee of life-long success. Failure in 1 step is not a life-long failure. So, marks in 10th or 12th or College is not the only criteria for success in life.

So, give "education for life", instead of "rote-learning for marks".


Friday, 9 September 2011

Short term view - the reason for chaotic schooling

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

The reason for the state of education, especially the schooling upto grade 12, is the short term view of the parents (primary), teachers & school management (secondary, but quite close on heels of first) and easy route taken by students who don't have good role-models.

Parents are the first role-models. Hence, if the parents are going to have crooked views, short-term blind plans, etc., the children take that as the "life-time goal". First damage is done there. Secondly, the parents hand-in-hand with teachers look at just the number of marks & the number of students who pass the exams (100% pass) as the goal to be reached. Learning for "life" is forsaken in order to learn for the sake of marks. Next generation has learnt the wrong ideals and not only dont fare well, but they also follow same methodology with their next generation.

With high population, it is difficult for the limited supply to be apportioned to candidates. Hence marks have become the only way to win the race. No one seems to look at the fact that most students who are at the top in school are not so in life - they end up being pretty average in performance, goals, position, earnings, etc.

Many of the students who were scoring average, but had learnt the important points in life - communication, networking, being part of a team, natural leadership, etc., have become the leading lights in every sphere.

So, parents and teachers should really build the "citizens of tomorrow", rather than use that term only as a cliche in every public parade of their wards, while practising otherwise. One generation has to start this education of all 3 sets of people parents, teachers+school management and students. Then future generations can reap the fruits - fruits don't come on 7th day after planting a Mango sapling...


Sunday, 4 September 2011

On top, add 25 marks for everyone for the tough question paper

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

As a sequel to the last post, here was a scenario where all the parents and some of the teachers thought that the paper was inappropriate in many ways. Either it was too long, or had questions that could not be understood by average student, blah, blah.

After so much pressure it was decided that 25 marks be awarded to all students. I am at a loss at the logic for this decision. What if some students had solved those questions that were being discussed & scored full marks on those questions, but their total is 175. They would get the full 200, in spite of having scored 0/25 other marks.

What happens to the really good students who may have scored 195 or 199 or even 200? Will they get 220, 224 or 225 out of 200?

What do these decisions help? Who is it helping? Just to keep away from the angry parents, some decision is made. What happens to the really good students? They are bracketed with the kids who have slightly lower abilities (not solving the tricky / out of portion questions) - is that fair to them?

Merit must be rewarded and India needs to find the brilliant kids to promote them up the ladder and make them good leaders in their areas of strength. Others can do with the next rungs - not everyone can be a PM or President - we need ministers, officers, guards, peons, coffee boys, farmers, sports persons, cooks and other kinds of service providers too. Let us work towards each individual's strength and stop going after "marks" (2nd only to going after money & status).


Out of Portions - Hilarious

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

In the past few years, I have been hearing from parents that "The paper was very tough," or worse still "Some of the questions were out of portions, the children could not even understand."

Many times I find that the questions are clear and need the application of the mind, using the concepts and fundamentals taught in class. Sometimes the application of multiple concepts in sequence or in parallel is required, which is somehow not being encouraged at home (in most cases) and at school (in some cases). The fact that they ask the questions in first place makes us feel a little better that the school wants the children to think about the subjects learnt.

Some teachers explicitly instruct the children to learn the answers by heart and award marks only on exact reproduction. This is directly killing the thinking brain in the children. We are explicitly encouraging memorization and discouraging understanding of concepts and fundamentals.

One incident in my college in the very first year, about 25 years ago, was with first test of Modern Physics. The first two chapters had been taught in about 15 classes (3 classes per week) and all the freshers (mandatory subject for about 500+ students) were eager to tackle the paper. There were only 4 questions, where the application of the concepts had to be done either repeatedly or combined across the two chapters. We got to know the school education that had blunted the brain, in the results, where-in 108 students scored ZERO and the average for the whole batch was 4 (out of 18). There were a few who scored full marks having applied the concepts learnt rather than wonder why the question does not resemble anything that was taught singly.

Life is not going to give us lessons and then ask questions within the portions. So, to prepare children for life, application of mind is important and to be encouraged. Creativity to be encouraged by making them think over-and-above the portions.


Thursday, 1 September 2011

Fundamentals and Concepts are important

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

Education in India has become more and more tuned towards rote learning, rather than learning of fundamentals and concepts. This is leading to a dangerous trend as the creativity of children are suppressed. When importance is given to repeating the given answers, then children learn them by-heart instead of learning the fundamentals and concepts.

As we move into higher classes, application of concepts should be encouraged, but is not, in Indian system of education, especially the majority of education boards like the state level boards. In real life, can we say that we are facing ONLY the scenarios that we have learnt answers for? We have to work with the fundamentals and concepts we have learnt to deal with the situation.

It is the same for technical areas, commercial areas, business areas, financial areas, etc. We take the concepts and fundamentals and use them to build our work / solutions using them. The people who can do this well are usually successful, while the others who learnt only by rote learning will have to adapt and start learning from scratch.

Hence, it is important to imbibe in children the requirement of learning concepts and fundamentals instead of rote learning. They will be more successful in life and in dealing with life's variety of scenarios.


Talking proudly about negative characteristics

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

One of the frequent mistakes made by parents is talking proudly about their wards' negative aspects. This usually reinforces the ward's thinking that it is OK to be like that.

For example, one mother may say "My son does not listen to his father at all. But he will never cross the line I draw. He obeys me all the time." The son then takes more advantage of the father in not heeding his words. He also takes advantage from the mother by having a good name - sometimes we never know whether the child is just abiding time as long as he needs mother's care.

Sometimes the statements are with other qualities. For example, "My son is clever in saving money when dealing with barber / flower deliverer, etc." In effect, the son uses some devious methods to trick or even cheat the others from their due. This is being encouraged and many times comes back to roost as a very negative character, which the parents rue after a few years.

Parents should have the wisdom of highlighting only the good points in public and chide the children in private when they take the wrong path. This is the best for the long run for the children.


Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Parents must have all answers

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

In the long run, for the children to trust their parents, the parents must first win the confidence of the children. One of the important steps in that is to have all the answers for their children's questions. There will be tough questions, embarrassing questions, questions in areas that we are not exposed to, new progresses in science, economics, geography, civics, etc.

Irrespective of our knowledge in the area, we should have an answer that will continue to keep the bond with children. If we are not familiar with the area, we can always look it up in the world wide web and respond to the children. If it is embarrassing questions we should have the clear thinking on whether it is time for the child to learn the truth behind certain areas - is he/she of appropriate age to start learning these things.

A sure way of losing children's confidence is dismissing their questions with any kinds of answers like "Don't ask me all this, ask your teacher", "I don't know these things", "Ask Maths to your mother" or "Ask Science to your father", etc. Since the parents are the main support for the children long into the future, it is important that they be seen as role models.

For that, build confidence by giving as many answers as possible and keep the candle of creativity in the child burning bright. And for the rest "Please wait, while I look it up in the internet, so that I can also learn" would be a good way of reinforcing the feeling that they can come to the parents for any items / issues.


Monday, 29 August 2011

Education at home - with an anecdote

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

What is the role of education at home?

Now-a-days, many people think that education is done only in schools and colleges. Parents would love to just dispatch the children for this grand purpose of education at schools. Can the teachers / professors really complete the education of children? I think not.

Education starts at home, even before the child reaches age of attending school (which varies from 2.5 to 6 years, depending on the country in which the child is growing up). Children are mostly learning every minute that they are awake. Hence, education starts at home and continues with relatives (second most influence), friends, schools & colleges.

Recently during a discussion a parent was complaining that the school was not teaching maths properly because the boy could not do the specific portions as part of home-work. When asked whether the parent could not have taught him themselves, the retort was "Then the school will take credit for what I teach the child." Whoa! It is your child that needs to learn - if the specific method of teaching this particular aspect of Maths has not been grasped by child, don't you think the parent needs to add to it? For the sake of own child? God save the child! Or maybe the child will automatically at some point, by not depending on parents for learning!

Such episodes open our eyes as to how parents are viewing schools and education of their own children. In Tamil we could say "இப்படியும் சிலர்" (such people too exist).


Sunday, 28 August 2011

But the Neo Temples...

With the views of temples in the previous post, a natural question that arises is what do I think of the new age temples. What are these new age temples?

Well, for one, temples where the garba griha is more like a stage of a play / music performance - flood lit or enough light that the idol is easily visible from 100s of metres from the temple.

Another is that fully air-conditioned sanctum sanctorum are seen more often - no longer conforming to "garba" conditions (warmth of the womb). I wonder - shouldn't a little sweat not be good for us?

Deepa Aradhanai now performed from well outside the inner sanctum-sanctorum - now that the idol is well lit, the deepa aradhanai has become like a useless ritual. The priests also do it with as much involvement as reading newspaper while drinking coffee.

So, now there is no search for God within or outside. He is presented on a platter for a fee. And you will be as cool as a cucumber while going through all this.

Finally, the attention given to the devotee is dependent on the money that is placed on the deepa plate. One may call it "human nature" of the priest, but I would rather the priest show equal respect to everyone. And I hope the priests and administrators put the money to good use in the temple upkeep and the necessary requirements to retain the energy centre that the temples are for us all.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Temple helps search for...

There are many reasons for temples, and the rituals followed there. Some are documented well, while others are interpreted for us by many learned people. Here are some views, borrowed / synthesized, copied / plagiarized - just something to churn in our mind.

The idol is in the dark Garba griha and maintained in similar temperature to the womb. It symbolizes the God/Goddess within us. It has got the few lamps lit and that adds to the warm temperature. The idol symbolizing the God / Goddess is also dark - cannot be easily viewed. This teaches us that God cannot be seen easily. He has to be searched with dedication and alertness in seeking within us.

Secondly even with the lamps he is not easily visible. The priest performs different abhishekams and tries to show the God in different forms using the Deepam Araadhanai after each. This teaches us that we see the God in the form that we decorate him/her. We see the truth in the way we decorate the truth. Like viewing with tinted glasses, we see every information with our own prejudice and decorations. Hence we need to understand that to really see the truth or God within we have to remove our own prejudices and decorations.

Thirdly the bell that is rung either at entrance of some temples (devotees can ring it) or during Deepam Araadhanai, is to wake up the God within us. It is not to call out to God & ask for money, status, promotions, etc.

Fourthly we tap our cheeks also to improve our alertness and wake up to the truth that is tried to be displayed within the Garba Griha by the priest using the deepam aradhanai.

Hence, every action is to help us seek and wake up the God within us. It helps us understand what is truth, how we look at truth and how we should look for truth in everything around us. It is not a place for negotiating deals with the God as some seem to do at temples.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Uncles of Boy born in Rohini star will get ill effect is it?

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

One of the superstitions with respect to boy born in Rohini star is that the mother's brothers would have ill effects. Also the mitigation of ill-effect is supposed to be, by not looking at the boy directly. They see the son in a reflection of oil.

Now, let us get to the reason for this superstition. Kanha / Krishna killed his own uncle Kamsa for his bad deeds.

Can't we look at the moral of this story, rather than come to superstitious conclusions? In our culture the maternal uncles are placed in high pedestal and given lot of importance. The relationship is special. The moral to be learnt here is that any person should be willing to punish a person doing ill deeds against self or family, even if the person happens to be own maternal uncle. That is the moral that people should learn from the story of Krishna & Kamsa. Hope the superstition dies out some day... and sons born in Rohini star are boldly looked at by their maternal uncles...

And anyone born in any star be bold enough to punish even revered persons if the mistake is grave and against the self or family.


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Out of reach - increases curiosity... kills the cat?

Article moved to Guru Raj blog

A small experiment we have done with our child has worked out well. We never took anything from their normal places & placed them higher, as the child grew. The child could reach all the items and curiosity is usually immediately satisfied. A careful eye on the child to ensure that things are not broken, etc., was always there & a firm loving disapproval in case of wrong actions (like hitting things with the item in hand) was enough for the child to learn what not to do.

Our computer, printer & wires were all strewn at ground level. After the first venture received a firm "No", the child did not go near that area at all. A glass top tea-table was our choice knowing we had a 1 and 1/2 year old - nothing hit on it or broken at all. Luckily this kind of treatment left a level of "satisfaction" for the child's curiosity. There is less urge to get somethings at all costs - as the child is assured that if required it will be provided. Needs will be provided - wants may or may not be provided.

Overall it has left our home like, just our home, instead of some homes where we see things go higher and higher as the child grows and is able to grab things...

Like I said in the beginning - it just worked out well in this case. We believe the character of the child and the models around them are also important on how such actions are taken forward as lessons, learning, experiences, prejudices, etc... But if curiosity is increased, does it change the character to increased wants, rebellious nature, etc? We don't have the answer... others should comment, I guess...


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

29 of 29 - Revathi

27.                 Then why astrology for beginning any event, function or process?

Answer: A job well begun is job half done.  If the influential objects are going to be in beneficial positions, the job “takes off” like a rocket.  If the influential objects are not so, then it may have problems. 

We should also keep in mind, that there is no guarantee of “high, higher and highest” achievements.  There will be ups and downs.  By starting at good time, we are setting a positive frame of mind for all & positive environment for increased probability of success.

(29 of 29 - Revathi)

28 of 29 - Utthirattadi (Uttara Badrapada)

26.                 Does progeny predictions come out correct?

Answer: The progeny predictions depend on the combined horoscopes of the parents.  Hence, early predictions before marriage may have to be modified with the combined view of the spouse who enters the house.

(28 of 29 - Utthirattadi - Uttara Badrapada)

27 of 29 - Poorattaadhi (Purva Bhadrapada)

25.                 With so many caveats, is it worth matching horoscopes?

Answer: There is no other system of prediction, which is scientifically based on “effects of the influential objects” (big heavy celestial objects’ effect, just like gravity) & “effects of people around you” (marriage, brings a strong force close to you, which modifies the effects of own horoscope). 

Yes, it is worth checking horoscopes for the purpose of mitigating big ill-effects by horoscopes that are magnified (something like resonance of same effects at same time).

(27 of 29 - Poorattaadhi / Purva Bhadrapada)

Monday, 22 August 2011

26 of 29 - Sathayam (Shatabisha)

24.    Then why is not every matched married life happy?

Answer:    Many caveats here – (a) Happiness differs from person to person – one may want many children, another may want more money, a third may want powerful position in job, another may want a powerful position in society, etc.

(b) Birth times may not have been accurately noted (see earlier answers where great people have said that don’t let horoscope “dictate” life)

(c) Some half-baked astrologers being bad apples and

(d) Human nature of astrologer (as described at earlier point of this q & a).

and many more have been discussed in previous posts...

(26 of 29 - Sathayam / Shatabisha)

25 of 29 - Avittam (Shravishta)

23.                 Will that married life be happy?
Answer: Every marriage, every life is full of ups and downs.  If the horoscopes of the two people are complementary, then they are likely to balance out the negative effects in one with the strength in the other.  If the horoscopes have similar ups & downs, the effect may be magnified and lead to severe problems.  Hence, the matching of horoscopes is to help that the two together have a better life.

(25 of 29 - Avittam / Shravishta)

24 of 29 - Tiruvonam (Shravana)

22.                 Should we use Astrology for matching horoscopes?  How does it matter?

Answer: The idea for checking horoscope is to see if there are drastic negative effects, like early death, health disorders, scope for progeny, etc.  This is to just try to ensure that the spouse together with the son/daughter of the person seeing the horoscope will have a long married life.

(24 of 29 - Tiruvonam / Shravana)

23 of 29 - Utthiradam (Uttara Ashada)

21.                 In that case, when does the effect of the celestial objects start for a human being?

Answer: For our calculations, we say that it is at birth.  When the child comes out of the womb, it starts to directly get affected by changing temperatures, heat, rain, cold, bacteria, virus, etc!  Hence, then on, it has become independent & has to be reactive to the environment, including the (a) gravity, light & heat of sun, (b) gravity, light of moon, (c) gravity of the bigger planets and (d) azimuth position of moon with respect to the place (Rahu and Ketu), etc.

In fact, the “protective” shield of parents is said to be there for a longer duration.  Some astrologers say up to 27 years the negative effects are protected – that is, for example, the first 7 ½ year “Saturn” effect is supposed to be less due to this protection (heresay only please - don't quote me).  The true effects are expected to be in the second cycle when Saturn is in the same zodiac as the birth zodiac! 

Hence, the effects are not simple as x is here, y is there – so this is good, or that is bad. All factors have to be taken into account, which comes only from experienced astrologers who have learnt all the facets of Astrology.

(23 of 29 - Uthiradam / Uttara Ashada)

22 of 29 - Pooradam (Purva Ashada)

20.                 Since the time a baby is conceived there are events happening.  Why are they not taken into account upto time of birth?

Answer: This is a good point to think about.  When the baby is tiny, the items that affect the baby the most are the food, chemicals that are around it.  Hence, we have the view that the mother should have good thoughts & good food.  If the mother has tension / depression during pregnancy, then baby is going to get some chemicals that are going to give a different effect during those growth stages.  Now, that is why the “mother’s” horoscope “affects the child”!  If the mother is going through tough period in pregnancy, it does show in the growth, development, genes, organs and limbs of the child.

Then why is not the “sun” and “moon” at time of conceiving not considered.  The effects of the sun and moon are less compared to the two huge bodies within which the two parts join to get conceived.  The mother’s womb protects the child from sun, rain, cloud, heat, cold, bacteria, virus, whatever!  Hence there is no change to affect it, in my opinion!

(22 of 29 - Pooradam / Purva Ashada)

Sunday, 21 August 2011

21 of 29 - Moolam

19.                 Are you again trying to twist words to favour your arguments?

Answer: This is not an attempt to hide or let astrologers hide behind the “words” – but people have to objectively analyze “science”.  Whenever science includes “itself” the problem starts for itself!  Since “astrology” can be used to predict & change the “future” such predictions have to include the “possibility” that such a reading itself is included in the end results predicted!

Yes, I don’t have an answer as of now, but hope rest of the questions help us arrive at a good approximation to the reality of Astrology as Science!

(21 of 29 - Moolam)

20 of 29 - Kettai (Jyesta)

18.                 Can we control destiny just by birth date & time – by Caesarean section at particular time?

Answer: This is difficult to answer.  I will try to give the generalities and hope everyone can work it out from these points.

First we are already a small individual in the magnitude of universe, whose “specific events” cannot be predicted (see uncertainty principle).  If we can predict that, then world becomes “deterministic” – no free will!

Second fact is that any “self-referencing” system has a problem (see Godel’s theorem or related points).  The question is, if astrology is a valid system which is fairly accurate, then can it include the fact that astrology will be used to “change the happenings” based on a study of astrology. 

Then, if for a moment a “blind spot” is created in the astrologer, he makes wrong calculations / predictions, which leads to a different outcome – which may have been the “correct destiny” (actual destiny of the child)! This is later confirmed by a different astrologer on reworking the correct horoscope.

It is also possible that one person is told, due to astrology, that he is expecting a certain problem, which makes the person plan well accordingly.  The person reduces / avoids the problem.  Now, this could be construed as a failure of astrology itself.  It is also possible that other aspects point to a longevity in that activity – which in itself says that “finally successfully tackling."

Another usual occurrence is that the person worries about the problem, works hard and solves it – hence the worries & headaches were the negative & not the “end result”.

(20 of 29 - Kettai / Jyesta)

19 of 29 - Anusham (Anuradha)

17.                 Is there any other possibility for wrong predictions?

Answer: There are many along the lines of “human angle”.  Let us move on to other possibilities, like science’s limitations!  As mentioned before, science itself uses approximations.  Science itself keeps changing as and when we see observations different from “known system”!

Over and above the scientific progress, there is the proven Godel’s theorem.  In any complete system there will be statements that cannot be proven true or false!  Hence, even if we were to find “a system” that is accurate, some aspect of the system will not be provable one way or other!

(19 of 29 - Anusham / Anuradha)

18 of 29 - Visakam

Here is a long one on the human aspect...

16.                 Then what is the reason for wrong prediction from reasonably ‘good’ astrologers?

Answer: There are many aspects to look at. One aspect of astrologer is that he is also human, which means that there are possibilities of mistakes.  For example, let us say the astrologer’s father-in-law is coming to town and astrologer has to pick him up in 30 minutes (father-in-law is bringing 40 gram gold necklace for the astrologer’s daughter).  The appointments are running late & you enter.  The mind is now a “little hurried”.  A small detail is overlooked in the hurry – don’t we all make small mistakes.

8x8 is 16, yes, I reviewed it, and again at end of the exam also – totally 3 times! When the paper comes back we bang our head & know that during the exam “our mind” was elsewhere and kept calculating 8x8 was 16!  It happens to astrolgers too!  We can call this a “temporary blind spot”!  In thamizh we say “kannai maraichudum”! (It is also used in context that the truth is shown in chart, but temporarily the astrologer misses it - like car's blind spot in rear view mirror)

If we look at even great people, they make blunders.  Experts in sports fail in some crucial situations!  How?  Sometimes “over confidence” or even “arrogance”, sometimes called EGO, takes more control than the “reasoning” leading the individual away from the “reality” or “truth”.  This leads to errors / mistakes.  This leads to the downfall of a specific event or even a series of steps down leading to a permanent fall from grace.  The same “blind spot” due to ANY number of reasons can happen to astrologers as well!

Second aspect is that astrologer is also human in that he/she “holds on” to earlier words (Jalpa vada - I said so, and hence I will hold on to it for ever)!  For example, if you visit an astrologer and he says be careful in October.  When you visit in November, he will try to “project” (from memory) that October “would have been” bad!  Astrologer already knows what has been said earlier!  So, astrologer is holding on to same line of thinking – instead of looking afresh (in some cases intentionally hides the fact that he calculated 8x8 as 16, maybe)!

Astrologer also by now knows more about what is happening in your life (office, parents, spouse, children) – and this influences predictions.  So, have to guard against that aspect of “human touch” of attachment to clients – trying to “go along” with past predictions OR known flow of your own life!
This is not “escapism” – it is just “explanation” after the fact.  It is NOT an excuse for the astrologer – it is an explanation of events that arises due to the human nature of the astrologer!

(18 of 29 - Visakam)

Saturday, 20 August 2011

17 of 29 - Swathi

15.                 Some astrologers are able to specify your past, but routinely give wrong predictions. How is that?

Answer:  Astrology can be used to plan for “good beginnings”, including time of marriage, time of starting a venture, time & direction of change in life, etc. 

At the same time, most people go to an astrologer when there is a problem / difficulty in their life.  They would like a “quick fix” to their problems.  This is being taken advantage of by some bad apples.  There are half-baked astrologers, who have a knack of finding your difficulty in either their sweet talking or by just reading non-verbal signs (what you dress, who you go with when meeting astrologer, your face which is the window to your mind), etc. 

They usually come up with “all-encompassing” sweeping statements like “you are now going through a rough period”!  If you fall for it, then “Astrology” cannot be blamed – it is both “half-baked astrologer” and the individual who has gone for guidance who are to be blamed! Pariharams are prescribed, certain good periods in future are prescribed, fees paid, everyone somehow is satisfied for the time-being.... Isn't it so?

(17 of 29 - Swathi)