Shaving Cats.

I reproduce a paragraph in my post on Time.

In the South of India there is an adage which is often used to explain what happens when someone has enough time on hand without anything to fill it. It goes like this – A barber without a customer will catch hold of a cat and shave it.”

I am delighted to learn that there is at least one barber in Virginia who has heard the same adage and has taken action.

‘Shaving Cats!!??’ Virginia police probe seven pet abductions.

Police and townsfolk in Waynesboro, Virginia, are trying to figure out why someone is abducting pet cats and returning them with hairless underbellies.

Since December, at least seven cats have suddenly shown up at their homes with shaved belly, groin and leg areas, Waynesboro Police Captain Kelly Walker said on Friday.

“The shaving appears to be almost surgical,” Walker said.

No harm was done to the animals, but they “seemed a little skittish” after the curious incidents, he said.

The occurrences came to the attention of police when an owner asked about posting flyers to encourage the public to report suspicious activity to authorities.

“Shaving Cats!!??” says the poster in Waynesboro, a city of 21,000 about 140 miles (225 km) southwest of Washington, D.C.

“Several neighborhood cats have been ABDUCTED and had their lower abdomens and groin areas SHAVED. This is very upsetting to the cats and their owners,” the poster says.

Walker said the cats were collar-wearing, well-groomed pets, not strays or feral cats, although some were outdoor cats. All of them had been either neutered and spayed before the shaving incidents, he said.

Movies Or The Theater?

Let me start off with a confession. When Shackman suggested this title for our weekly LBC Friday posts, there was no question mark at the end of it. Being the coordinator I added it to add some spice to the topic. I hope that Shackman will forgive me.

For me it is not Movies Or The Theater, but Movies and the Theater. I am using the latter term here as one would use in the West though in India, even movie houses are called theaters!

My exposure to either started with the latter because in Montessori school, play acting is a very normal activity and I had acted in a few plays in school. That continued right till I finished high school, though from about the fourth grade in school, I had also started seeing movies primarily English ones, like Tarzan etc.

During the High School days, it was also quite normal for me to attend theater for Tamil plays which were very popular in Chennai where we lived then. During the same period, I also saw a great many Tamil movies but very few English ones, as they were screened by and large as Sunday morning shows due to lack of viewers.

After school life took very funny turn for me and I started seeing Hindi movies as we had moved to the North by then. From that time till about the mid nineties, I saw a great many Hindi and English movies but theater just dropped out of my orbit. By that time we were in Pune where I now live and it is a place where theater is a vibrant force, though I have not been to see a play in over seventeen years. One needs an appreciative companion to go and I simply haven’t found one since my late wife took ill and subsequently died.

I did not see any movies too during that time except for what came on in the TV. Since the last five years however, I have been catching up for the lost time by going regularly to movies in movie houses as well as via DVDs or Youtube. I am yet to start going to plays but I have every intention of when something nice comes along which should be a kind of a starting gun to get me into the mood. I will also have to find someone to go with and I think I know just who.

Shackman had suggested this topic for the weekly LBC blog posts. You can see what the other writers of the LBC have to say in their respective blogs.  Maria, Pravin and Shackman.

Einstein And Tagore.

This was sent to me by a cousin who thinks that it will be “uplifting” for me. I have verified that this conversation took place in reality as there are any number of references to it in the web. Enjoy!

Albert Einstein in Conversation with
Rabindranath Tagore.
Rabindranath Tagore visited Einstein’s house in Caputh, near Berlin, on July 14, 1930. The discussion between the two great men was recorded, and was subsequently published in the January, 1931 issue of Modern Review.

TAGORE: You have been busy, hunting down with mathematics,
the two ancient entities, time and space, while I have been
lecturing in this country on the eternal world of man, the universe
of reality.
EINSTEIN: Do you believe in the divine isolated from the world?
TAGORE: Not isolated. The infinite personality of man comprehends
the universe. There cannot be anything that cannot
be subsumed by the human personality, and this proves that the
truth of the universe is human truth.
EINSTEIN: There are two different conceptions about the nature
of the universe — the world as a unity dependent on humanity,
and the world as reality independent of the human factor.
TAGORE: When our universe is in harmony with man, the eternal,
we know it as truth, we feel it as beauty.
EINSTEIN: This is a purely human conception of the universe.
TAGORE: The world is a human world — the scientific view
of it is also that of the scientific man. Therefore, the world
apart from us does not exist; it is a relative world, depending
for its reality upon our consciousness. There is some standard
of reason and enjoyment which gives it truth, the standard of
the eternal man whose experiences are made possible through
our experiences.
EINSTEIN: This is a realization of the human entity.
TAGORE: Yes, one eternal entity. We have to realize it through
our emotions and activities. We realize the supreme man, who
has no individual limitations, through our limitations.
Science is concerned with that which is not confined to individuals;
it is the impersonal human world of truths. Religion realizes
these truths and links them up with our deeper needs. Our individual
consciousness of truth gains universal significance. Religion
applies values to truth, and we know truth as good through
own harmony with it.
EINSTEIN: Truth, then, or beauty, is not independent of man?
TAGORE: No, I do not say so.
EINSTEIN: If there were no human beings any more, the Apollo
Belvedere no longer would be beautiful?
EINSTEIN: I agree with this conception of beauty, but not with
regard to truth.
TAGORE: Why not? Truth is realized through men.
EINSTEIN: I cannot prove my conception is right, but that is
my religion.
TAGORE: Beauty is in the ideal of perfect harmony, which is
in the universal being; truth is the perfect comprehension of
the universal mind. We individuals approach it through our
own mistakes and blunders, through our accumulated experience,
through our illumined consciousness. How otherwise can
we know truth?
EINSTEIN: I cannot prove, but I believe in the Pythagorean
argument, that the truth is independent of human beings. It is
the problem of the logic of continuity.
TAGORE : Truth, which is one with the universal being, must
be essentially human; otherwise, whatever we individuals realize
as true, never can be called truth. At least, the truth which is
described as scientific and which only can be reached through
the process of logic—in other words, by an organ of thought
which is human. According to the Indian philosophy there is
Brahman, the absolute truth, which cannot be conceived by the
isolation of the individual mind or described by words, but can
be realized only by merging the individual in its infinity. But
such a truth cannot belong to science. The nature of truth which
we are discussing is an appearance; that is to say, what appears
to be true to the human mind, and therefore is human, and may
be called maya, or illusion.
EINSTEIN: It is no illusion of the individual, but of the species.
TAGORE: The species also belongs to a unity, to humanity.
Therefore the entire human mind realizes truth; the Indian and
the European mind meet in a common realization.
EINSTEIN: The word species is used in German for all human
beings; as a matter of fact, even the apes and the frogs would
belong to it. The problem is whether truth is independent of
our consciousness.
TAGORE: What we call truth lies in the rational harmony between
the subjective and objective aspects of reality, both of
which belong to the superpersonal man.
EINSTEIN: We do things with our mind, even in our everyday
life, for which we are not responsible. The mind acknowledges
realities outside of it, independent of it. For instance, nobody
may be in this house, yet that table remains where it is.
TAGORE: Yes, it remains outside the individual mind, but not
the universal mind. The table is that which is perceptible by
some kind of consciousness we possess.
EINSTEIN: If nobody were in the house the table would exist all
the same, but this is already illegitimate from your point of view,
because we cannot explain what it means, that the table is there,
independently of us. Our natural point of view in regard to the
existence of truth apart from humanity cannot be explained or
proved, but it is a belief which nobody can lack—not even primitive
beings. We attribute to truth a superhuman objectivity. It
is indispensable for us—this reality which is independent of our
existence and our experience and our mind—though we cannot
say what it means.
TAGORE: In any case, if there be any truth absolutely unrelated
to humanity, then for us it is absolutely non-existing.
EINSTEIN: Then I am more religious than you are!
TAGORE: My religion is in the reconciliation of the superpersonal
man, the universal spirit, in my own individual being.

Meaning / Purpose / Happiness.

This Mark Twain quote was shared by a friend on facebook and led me to muse over it and the result is this post.

In Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl often quotes Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” The “why” is what he calls the meaning of one’s life, which according to Frankl is the patient’s will to strive, succeed, and to live.

Man can also find meaning by suffering. When one is faced with suffering, and there is nothing he can do to change his predicament, the only remaining option is for him to change his perspective, to change the way in which he views the situation. An example that Frankl gives is of a story of a grieving widower who had lost his wife. The man came to Frankl to ask for advice. Frankl asked the man, “What would have happened…if you had died first and your wife would have had to survive without you?” Through this question, the suffering the man was enduring gained a new purpose, he was mourning, but his wife would not have to mourn him.

This story of the widower helped me overcome my own grief of losing my wife and friend of 48 years, but understanding that the relationship was because I was happy in it and the grief was in losing that state of happiness, came about by my study of Vedanta about which I shall elaborate a little later.

I had posted a video post of the Dalai Lama and in commenting on it, Monk had given me a link to one of her old posts that is very interesting on the subject of finding meaning.  She had written it before I started visiting her blog and so was not aware of that post.  Having read it, I was inspired to include the link here for reference, as the subject matter is the same as that of this post.

My regular readers will remember that I am a student of Vedanta. For a Vedantin, ie one who is a follower of the Vedanta system of philosophy, the purpose of one’s life is to find Moksha (Liberation) which is to get released from the cycle of births and deaths. A student of the system, tries to achieve jivan mukti, which is to find the liberation in this life itself. What this implies is that he finds and abides in the happy himself during this life itself. So, the purpose of finding out why he was born is to recognise that he was born to become a jivan mukta.

If all that sounds very mumbo jumbo, simply stated, it is to reach that inner space which is naturally a happy state, but which has been overwritten by other impressions which need to be discarded. The process of discarding those impressions and abiding in the released state is the purpose of, at least, my life.

If you are interested in probing further about your own purpose / meaning, you can try the twenty minute formula that Cheerful Monk shares in her post a link to which I have given above.

How Old Do You Behave?

A friend suggested on facebook that I answer a quiz to find out how old I behave and I did.

This is the result that I got.

You Act Like You Are 98
You try to keep your movements to a minimum, doing just what is absolutely necessary, in order to be as healthy as you can be. You’ve been through a lot in life, so much so that hardly anything surprises you anymore. For you, family is the be-all and end-all. You feel blessed beyond belief to share time with your loved ones – and you know that love is the most important thing there is.”

Others around me do not agree that I act like I am 98, nor do I think that I do. I think that I act my age and within my physical limitations. I however agree with the rest of the analysis.

If you are interested in attempting the quiz, you can do so here.


Time is the biggest joke that our Creator has played on us. Just about every philosopher and scientist has had something or the other to say about it yet it is an aspect of our lives that is the biggest enigma in them.

Let us just take one example of the joke. The nearest star that we can see from our earth is the Alpha Centauri which is about 4.37 light years away from us. In other words, when we see the star now, the light that enables us to see it left it 4.37 light years ago. For all we know it could be dead! But for us it is real this moment!

Let us take another example from my favourite Management Guru, C Northcote Parkinson. “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Thus, an elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and despatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent in finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half-an-hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the pillar-box in the next street. The total effort which would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety and toil.

Just to impress on my readers how Indians view time, let me refer them to this Wikipedia entry.

There was a time when I did not have enough time to do all the things that I wanted every day. Now, I have so much time on hand that I have to keep finding things to do to fill it. I do that fairly efficiently but there are many who cannot and go through very frustrating times every day.

In the South of India there is an adage which is often used to explain what happens when someone has enough time on hand without anything to fill it. It goes like this – A barber without a customer will catch hold of a cat and shave it.”

I was recently called by the wife of a friend for some help. Let us call her UM. My friend is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and she is the full time caregiver for him. Her car needed to be attended to and she sought my help to get a mechanic to take it away, do what needed to be done and brought back. They live about 15 kms away from where I live and I did not know any mechanic in that part of the town. I called another friend who lives in that part of the town who recommended a very good mechanic and just to cross check I called another friend, let us call the latter ML, who also recommended the same fellow. I duly made all the arrangements and the car was taken away by the mechanic.

In the meanwhile ML called the mechanic to find out whose car had to be repaired and when he found that it was UM’s car, he immediately called her as he also knew her and her husband. A fact that I had no knowledge of. ML scolded UM and berated her for not having sought his help and instead, having gone to me. That poor lady called me up and related the story. As soon as she had disconnected, I got another call from ML who berated me for not having told him that the mechanic was to help UM! Since then, he has also been regularly calling both the mechanic and UM to keep track of the progress being made in repairing the car. UM is not amused as she clearly indicated that she had called me because she did not want to call ML precisely for his over eagerness to get involved.

Imagine the comedy! ML obviously has so much time on hand to make all these totally useless telephone calls just to talk to someone! He has so much time on his hand that he has been doing the equivalent of shaving a cat!

On the other hand, when I tried to get an appointment with a surgeon for consultation, I was told that the earliest I could get an appointment was a week hence. A man who obviously does not have enough time for all his patients to consult on one day!

I had suggested this topic for the weekly LBC blog posts. You can see what the other writers of the LBC have to say in their respective blogs.  Maria, Pravin and Shackman.