Feast Not Fast.

Many years ago in an organisation that I worked in, we had a lunch room which would serve nutritious lunches every day.  Whenever I was in town, I would have lunch there.  The peculiarity of this lunch room was that on Thursdays, it would offer sabudana khichdi along with the normal fare for those who observe a fast on Thursdays.

While most of my colleagues would restrict their intake to the khichdi, I would take everything else on offer as well as the khichdi, much to the bewilderment of the fasting fellows.  I would tell them repeatedly that for them the khichdi may be fasting food whereas for me it was feasting food.  I have always liked both the khichdi and the vada versions of this delicious Maharashtrian dish.

While Urmeela was as fond of the khichdi, our son Ranjan never took to it somehow and we therefore did not make it at home whenever he was in.

For the past few days, I had been longing to have the khichdi version which I had not had for quite some time now, and when Ranjan left for an outstation trip this morning, I suggested to Manjiree that we have it for lunch and that is what we did.


As I write this a good four and a half hours after the meal, I am yet to recover from doing more than justice to a fantastic preparation made by our help Mangal. A veritable feast indeed.



My blogger friend Jody has left this comment on my post on Writers’ Block.

“I was just thinking of you yesterday because I’ve begun to meditate again, and I was remembering that you have a practice that’s been going on for a long time. One day, can you share how it works for you? Before or after morning tea, how long, what do you feel it does to/with/for you?”

Beside that request another young lady Mona who receives my posts by email advice has asked me to write on meditation and other spiritual matters and so this post is dedicated to both these ladies. Mona has recently started to meditate and I am delighted that Jody has revived her discontinued practice.

To start with, I request Jody and Mona to visit my blog post Meditation which I wrote just over a year ago. More than the post itself, the comments and responses are more interesting in my opinion.

Let me however start off by sharing how it all started and come back to answer the specific questions that Jody raises.

In 1977 I was burning both ends of the candle when a friend suggested that I try Transcendental Meditation.  (TM).  I took to it in earnest and that was also the beginning of my spiritual journey as I inevitably started to study the Bhagwat Geeta that Maharshi Mahesh Yogi recommended. TM was of great benefit to me and I became quite an evangelist for the technique with my colleagues and friends. That led my then mentor and immediate boss to challenge me to go for a ten day Vipassana Meditation camp in 1984 and I got hooked. There was no looking back and till the year 2000 I attended at least one and sometimes two, ten day camps and a couple of short three day camps every year. I could not attend them anymore due to my preoccupation with my caregiving duties but I have kept the practice going without a break.

There is a significant piece of information that I must share here.  During both the TM and Vipassana initiation stages, my late wife enthusiastically joined me and got initiated too. Till she died five years ago following an eight year long convalescence from multiple cardiac and cerebral infarcts,  she practiced Vipassana every day without fail and I am convinced that her peaceful convalescence despite her dementia was due to the practice.

To come to Jody, my normal waking-up time, without the help of an alarm clock is 4.45 am every day. After a wash, I sit down for an hour long meditation session on an empty stomach. Morning tea and other chores are all only after this session. It is now a habit and I miss it if I don’t get the full hour’s session. Sometimes it does happen that I have to be satisfied with shorter sessions, like when I have to drop someone off or receive someone coming from the airport or railway station or I myself having to go out of town. Sometimes, I also meditate at some other part of the day but those sessions will be for shorter durations, from between 20 minutes to thirty. I also meditate while I travel as long as I am not driving that is! These sessions will be after at least an hour after any kind of food intake.

How have I have benefited? Let the Buddha answer!
Buddha and meditation

Mona who has met me personally will vouch for these to be true in my case.

Medically, I am blessed with a natural low blood pressure system and meditation has certainly helped in keeping it there. In fact my two surgeons who have operated on my hip joints on five different occasions have remarked on this at each operation. I am also naturally endowed with a cheerful disposition and I think that meditation has enhanced this aspect of my personality too.

In Vedanta, there are four states of being , waking, dreaming, deep sleep and a state that is simplyh called the fourth.  The last is being in a state of consciousness where one is  consciously witness to all the three states. Advanced meditators reach this stage of awareness. I am not at that stage yet but am sure to reach there eventually. I am in no hurry. It will happen when it has to, but I do get moments of intense clarity and awareness off and on and it is happening more and more frequently since the last surgery three years ago.

No, I am not a saint. Not yet anyway! I do occasionally flare up in anger but that does not last longer than a few moments and I am back to normal in a trice. I occasionally do go into whymeitis but here again my recovery is rapid and without rancour or regret.  I was the sole caregiver for my late wife till she died and was able to manage that responsibility as well as running my household without stress.   Between end 2008 and end 2012 I went through a mentally and physically challenging period due to another caregiving responsibility.  I am convinced that I would not have survived that period had it not been for my practice which helped me in keeping my sanity intact.

The spiritual journey that started with the initiation into TM way back in 1977 has taken me into the study of Vedanta under a Guru / Sishya parampara system. This consists Shravanam, Mananam and Nidhidyasanam. The first is to listen and learn from a qualified teacher, the second is to internalise the learning by study and the third is to reflect on the learning through meditation. My Guru has now released me from the first requirement and has instructed me to focus on the second and third aspects. Eventually, this path will lead me to Samadhi and Moksha. The last may not be in this lifetime but it will happen now that I am on the path.  It is said that Religion is belief in someone else’s experience and spirituality is having your own experience.  I would rather call myself as a Spiritual person than a religious one.  To a large extent, I have evolved into one over a period of time largely influenced by my meditation practice.

I trust that Jody and Mona find this useful.  I will be happy to respond to questions from them as well as from others who may want to explore this topic further.

Ganesh Chathurthi.

ganesha-symbolism (1)
वक्रतुण्ड महाकाय सुर्यकोटि समप्रभ
निर्विघ्नं कुरु मे देव सर्वकार्येषु सर्वदा

Vakra-Tunndda Maha-Kaaya Surya-Kotti Samaprabha
Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarva-Kaaryessu Sarvadaa

O Lord Ganesha, Of Curved Trunk, Large Body, And With The Brilliance Of A Million Suns,
Please Make All Our Actions Free of Obstacles, Always.

Today is Ganesh Chathurthi.  As long as my late wife was alive, every year we celebrated the festival for all the ten days.  Since her death I just do not have the heart for it and restrict myself to the daily prayers.  I however have every intention of getting some Modaks anon to celebrate.


I Wish I Hadn’t Done That.


As strange as it may sound to my readers, there is only one thing about which I have regrets and which in retrospect I could have handled better.  And that is the last four years of my father’s life when he had come to live with me and the way our relationship, not the best at any time, kept deteriorating despite my best efforts to keep it peaceful and cheerful. During that very stressful period, I did loose my cool on a number of occasions and got into arguments with him. I was astounded every time at his total indifference to the issues involved till I went back to my library and found that it was typical behaviour for a narcissist.

I wish now that I had been more compassionate. This would have been easier said than done, but try I did on many occasions.  The way he kept manipulating me and the environment that I had provided for him made it next to impossible not to react and lose my cool.  He had either  shut down or was incapable of the emotional make up that would have enabled  a quid pro quo relationship.  He needed to be the alpha male in my patch of green and that was galling. Galling because he had never been the father that he could have been for me and my siblings and towards the end of his life and when I too was no spring chicken, it was all too much for me. Had it not been for my regular meditation practice, which kept my sanity intact, I doubt that I would have been here today writing this post.

I did the best that I could under the circumstances.  But I still have the odd moment when I wish that I had been more compassionate and yielding to his demands.

This topic has been suggested by Shackman for  the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where currently five of us write on the same topic every Friday.  I hope that you have enjoyed my contribution to that effort.  The four other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order,  AshokgaelikaaMaxi, and Shackman. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, or not at all this week, do give some allowance for that too!

Book Review, India And Pakistan.


I am glad that the Indians called off the Secretary level meetings last week following “unacceptable” behaviour by the High Commissioner of Pakistan to India.  But, there is something that I find rather unsettling that the same day that the meeting was called off, the High Commissioner of Pakistan to India hosted a dinner at a 5 Star  Hotel in Delhi and guess who attended?  What is going on?

bookIn the meanwhile here is a book review in the Hindu that concludes with “Shah’s painstaking research confirms long-held suspicions on this side of the border: that there can be no meaningful peace initiative between the two countries without the blessings of the Pakistan military; that to protect its special status and corporate interests, the military may not be inclined to endorse such initiatives; and, in the event that it did acquiesce in peace with India, it would strive to preserve undiminished its institutional influence.”  The review by Govindan Nair is worth studying carefully.  The book itself should be worth reading and I intend getting it once it hits Indian book shops.

Military Inc

I had found the eariler book Miliary Inc, Inside Pakistan’s Military economy by Ayesha Siddiqua quite fascinating and her conclusion is that Pakistan is a state run by its army. Siddiqa shows how the power of the military has transformed Pakistani society, where the armed forces have become an independent class. The military is entrenched in the corporate sector. So Pakistan’s companies and its main assets are in the hands of a tiny minority of senior army officials. Siddiqa examines this military economy and the consequences of merging the military and corporate sectors. Does democracy have a future? Will the generals ever withdraw to the barracks? The latest standoff between the two countries is most certainly something engineered by the Pakistani army which has a vested interest in keeping the India bogey alive.

Yesterday’s TOI had two items that will be of interest to like-minded Indians who think that the Kashmir problem can be solved with modern marketing tools, if the establishment in India wants to.  There are too many vested interests making too much money in keeping the pot boiling for that to happen.  Sad.  The first one is an editorial on the strategy of BJP for the forthcoming polls in J & K and the other is an interview with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

I get the feeling that things are happening behind scenes and some interesting developments can take place in the near future in Kashmir and also in the Indo Pak relationship areas.

Chennai, Madras And A Bookshop.

I was born in Bombay now known as Mumbai but after my younger brother Arvind was born a year later, our family moved to Madras now known as Chennai. Though my family moved back to Bombay for a little over a year when I was in Fourth Standard, I was left behind in Madras with my uncle to study there. Till I finished school in 1958 I therefore lived in Madras during my formative years and though I moved to Hyderabad I returned to Madras again for a few years till I left for good in 1965. I have never lived there since then, but have been visiting regularly almost every year and on some occasions more times too.

I have family and very dear friends who live in Madras and I enjoy going there. I always return with my battery fully charged, though I really wonder if something like air conditioning the whole city cannot be undertaken for that beautiful city.

Madras was established way back in 1639 and Madras now Chennai is right now celebrating its 375th birth year with a great many events taking place there.

My post is however to talk about something else altogether. When I was there for a few days last month, I bought myself a book at the airport on my way back based on a recommendation made by my nephew Jai. Here is an extract from that book. The context is the Chola Empire which can authoritatively be dated back to 300 BCE and which lasted till 1300 CE.

“…..The Greeks referred to the region as Damirica, possibly a corruption of the word Thamizhakam – abode of the Tamils – and had some interesting notions about South Indians. The great Herodotus had this to say about them;

These Indians whom I have described have intercourse openly like cattle; they are all black-skinned, like the Ethiopians. Their semen too, which they ejaculate into the women is not white like other men’s, but black like their skin, and resembles in this respect that of the Ethiopians. These Indians dwell far away from the Persians southwards, and were not subjects of King Darius.

How utterly inaccurate. As any resident of the region will tell you, intercourse is not only rare but almost universally forbidden across most South India. Instead, locals are encouraged to spend their time in prayers and IIT coaching. ………”

Fantastic. I love the writer’s sense of humour.

Apart from thoroughly enjoying reading the book, the name of the book shop at the airport took me down on another long nostalgia trip.

Can you imagine the fun this name would have generated for generations of Madrasis? This was Mecca for all book lovers of Madras when we were young and Higginbothams had branches in all railway stations in the South where the only entertainment that travellers like me had was available in the widest possible selection. To buy a book from another Higginbothams branch was like icing on the cake to round off a great visit to the city that I still like to call Madras.

Before I leave my readers, here is a recommendation to my Indian readers. Please get a copy of the book The Sceptical Patriot by Sidin Vadukut and read it. I would rate it among the best that I have read on India. Since I liked his writing style so much, I have also bought his three fiction books for my Kindle. The reviews are good enough for me to indulge!