Free Will.


“I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”
~ Stephen Hawking.

To start off this post, let me introduce you to Sam Harris and his take on the subject, a very dangerous idea! Please do spend the full hour and twenty odd minutes listening to this very interesting clip on the delusion of free will.

In the Indian system it is addressed in great detail and the crux of the commentaries is in studying the statement: “It is the problem of the eternal conflict between fate and free-will.”

What are their respective provinces and how can the conflict be avoided?”

The answer is brilliant in its simplicity.

Fate is past karma; free-will is present karma. Both are really one, that is, karma, though they may differ in the matter of time. There can be no conflict when they are really one.

The present is before you and, by the exercise of free-will, you can attempt to shape it. The past is past and is therefore beyond your vision and is rightly called the unseen. You cannot reasonably attempt to find out the relative strength of two things unless both of them are before you. But, by our very definition, free-will, the present karma, alone is before you and fate, the past karma, is invisible.

Fate, as we have seen, is the resultant of the past exercise of one’s free-will. By exercising free-will in the past, one brought on the resultant fate. By exercising free-will in the present, we can wipe out our past record if it hurts us, or to add to it if we find it enjoyable.
In any case, whether for acquiring more happiness or for reducing misery, we have to exercise our free-will in the present.

Let me make it simpler. In a game of bridge, the cards dealt is fate and how you bid and play your hand is Free Will.

This topic for the weekly LBC posts was suggested by me.  Please visit Shackman and Pravin who are also likely to write on the same topic.



Nick, in his comments on my blog post Questions Answered had this to say – “You must be remarkably content if you can’t think of a single thing that would improve your quality of life!”

I think that his response was to this question and my answer.

Q : What would improve your quality of life?

Ans : I doubt very much that anything would improve on what I already have.

There is an element of inevitability in my being content with my lot.  I am 73 years old and have been a retired hippy for so many years that I have forgotten how many!  Hippy because,  both my hips have been replaced and one of them  revised twice and the other, once.  The latter is due for second revision and I am hoping that I will pop off before it becomes an absolute necessity.  Obviously then, I can’t have ambitions of getting on a powerful motorcycle to zoom off into the sunset or other equally appealing escapades.

I have built my comfort zone around a home that stands debt free and increasing in value every year.  I live with my son and daughter in love who indulge me my small requirements, lavish love on me and worry about me when I step out of the house.  I know that I can depend on them to take care of me if I get into an accident.  I have enough in the bank to meet any emergencies and get a pension that is adequate to finance my small indulgences, primarily books, movies and periodicals. 

I enjoy being lazy.  Since using local taxis and autorickshaws is not too expensive, and to avoid  hassles of traffic, parking etc, I go where I want without having to search for the keys to the car.  I also have great friends who have chauffeur driven cars who take me around if we were to do things together just as my children and a few other younger friends do.

Solving four crossword puzzles, three good meals, good siesta in the afternoon and sleep in the nights every day;  company of family and friends etc,  makes life quite pleasant.  If I want excitement, I simply get myself a thriller to read on my kindle or to watch via DVD on our home theater system.  I have so many clothes that I don’t have to buy any new ones any more and I am of an age where I don’t really have to be conscious of the latest styles in my attire.

A powerful computer and a smartphone enables me to be in touch with my far flung network of relatives and friends and for them to be in touch with me too.  I have made a great many friends through blogging and with facebook and whatsapp long lost old friends are coming back into my life regularly.

“Money, social status, plastic surgery, beautiful houses, powerful positions – None of these will bring you happiness. Lasting happiness comes only from serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.”

~ Yuval Noah Harari. Sapiens A Brief History Of Humankind.

I think that I have been blessed with enough serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin naturally. What more do I need?

Memory Trigger 8. Old Photographs.

Modern Social Media is amazing. An old colleague from my time in North India between 1980 and 1983, Awadesh got in touch with me through the facebook/whatsapp media a couple of weeks ago and has been in regular touch since then. He retired a couple of years ago and has settled down in Noida near Delhi and spends his time enjoying his grandchildren.

In one of our chats on facebook he mentioned that he was going through some old photographs and was taken down memory lane when I was in the North. He very kindly sent me some photographs through email, another great convenience and I too went down memory lane remembering those very enjoyable days.

I have chosen three photographs where I feature to show my readers how I looked then!

The first one is in the summer of 1980 when I visited Kanpur with the Manager from whom I was taking over and the local Administration Manager.  I am still in regular touch with both the gentlemen featured in the photograph though one is in Calcutta and the other in Delhi.

The next is a group photograph with two expat Managers, one of whom was retiring shortly. I used to wear a tie occasionally!

The next one is when I was handing over charge to my successor in Delhi while visiting Kanpur with the then Branch Manager on the right. You will notice that I am sans my trademark beard. This was due to a bet that I had lost when I had to shave of my beard. I grew it back promptly after a few days of being without one.

Our firm celebrated its 100th year of existence with great pomp all over India while we were in Delhi and the three and a half years that we lived there those days are indelibly etched in my mind for many things least among them the fantastic team that I worked with under severe competitive conditions. We worked hard but also played hard those days. Compared to those days, my other postings were much easier to handle in terms of competition and climate!

Among the other things that come to mind are the death of Sanjay Gandhi, the great train robbery of the Gomti Express when bandits left two of our colleagues alone because they saw the travellers’ briefcases among them and said “these fellows are agents, unlikely to have any money with them”!

There are some more memories of personal nature, the most important one being my hips giving way during our stay there, and others like the holidays that we took all over North India as well as entertaining many relatives and friends who came stayed with us and visited places of interest all over.

Questions Answered.

Nick in his blog post says “(questions shamelessly pinched from the Guardian magazine)”. I have shamelessly pinched them from his post

What’s your greatest fear?
Being unconscious and in a ventilator in a hospital.

Which living person do you most admire?
Narendra Modi.

What trait do you most deplore in yourself?

What was your most embarrassing moment?
Being mistaken for a famous politician.

What’s the dearest thing you’ve bought (other than a house)?
My computer.

What’s your most treasured possession?
My recliner chair.

What’s your favourite smell?

What’s your favourite word?

Which book changed your life?
The Bhagwad Geetha.

What in your life would you have done differently?

What or who is your greatest love?

What do you owe your parents?
Reading and my sense of humour.

What did you want to be when grown-up?
Grown up.

To whom would you like to say sorry, and why?
Can’t think of anyone.

Who would come to your dream dinner party?
The Rat Pack.

Which word or phrase do you overuse?
“Maha Ganapathi, Vigneshwara.”  (It is an invocation to Ganesha)

What’s the worst job you’ve done?
Honorary Secretary to a Non Profit.

What was your biggest disappointment?
My late wife’s death.

What would improve your quality of life?
I doubt very much that any thing would improve on what I already have.

What is your greatest achievement?
Surviving four years of my father’s presence in my life towards the end of his life without going nuts.

Thank you Nick.  It has been fun answering these questions.

Hard To Believe.


For all my American friends. Shackman particularly for the first and second facts.

Movie theater popcorn in America costs more per ounce than filet mignon.

In a typical three hour NFL broadcast, the ball is in play for roughly 11 minutes.

America’s most popular sporting good is the frisbee. It outsells baseballs, basketballs and footballs combined.

Salsa has surpassed ketchup as the top-selling condiment in America.

$77,000 in assets puts you in the world’s wealthiest 10 percent.

Sources: NPR, Wall Street Journal,, and

As reproduced in Reader’s Digest.