Archive for April, 2013

The Good Book on Parents, Children, Good/Bad Women

Posted on April 28, 2013. Filed under: The Good Book |


With all your heart honor your  father and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother.Remember that through your parents you were born and what can you give back to them that can equal their gift to you.

The Lord honored the father above the children and HE confirmed the right of the mother over her son. Whoever honors his father atones for sin and who ever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure.

For kindness to a father will not be forgotten and who ever angers his mother is cursed by the Lord. The eye that mocks a father and fails to obey a mother will be plucked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by vultures.

My son, keep your fathers commandments and forsake not your mothers teaching.

Your friend and your father’s friend, do not forsake; and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your adversity.


Do not bring every man into your home, for many are the wiles of the crafty. Receive a stranger into your home and he will upset you with commotion and will estrange you from your family.

Do not be like a lion in your home. Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house.


Do you have children? Discipline them and make them obedient from their youth. Do you have daughters? Be concerned for their chastity.

He who loves his son, will whip him often. He who disciplines his son will profit by him. He, who teaches his son, will make his enemies envious.

A son that is untamed turns out to be stubborn. Give him no authority in his youth and do not ignore his errors. He, who spares the rod, hates his son. He, who loves his son, is diligent to discipline him.

My son, do not despise the Lords discourses nor be weary of his reproof. For the Lord, reproves him whom He loves, as a father the son whom he delights. Whoever loves discipline, loves knowledge.


A Good Wife? Who can find? She is far more precious than jewels; the heart of her husband trusts in her and he will have no lack of gain. Happy is the husband of a good wife; a loyal wife rejoices her husband.

Home and wealth are inherited from fathers but a prudent wife is a gift of the Lord. A good wife is a great blessing and will be counted among the blessings of the man who Fears the Lord. A good wife is the crown of her husband.

Let your fountain be blessed and rejoice in the wife of your youth. A lovely hind, a graceful doe, let her affection fill you at all times with delight. Be infatuated at all times with her love. A wife’s charm delights her husband and her skill puts fat on his bones. A silent wife is a gift of the Lord and there is nothing so precious as a disciplined soul. 

A modest wife adds charm to charm and no balance can weigh the value of a chaste soul. Like the Sun rising in the heights, so is the beauty of a good wife in her well ordered home. Like the shining lamp on the holy lamp stead, so is a beautiful form on a stately figure. Like a pillar of gold on a base of silver, so are beautiful feet with a steadfast heart. 

A woman’s beauty gladdens the countenance and surpasses every human desire. If kindness and humility mark her speech, her husband is not like other men. He, who acquires a wife, gets his best possession, a helper fit for him and a pillar of support. Strength and dignity are her clothing and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her lips. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Children and the building of a city establish a man’s name but a blamelesswife is accounted better than both. 

My soul takes pleasure in seeing a wife and husband living in harmony. Happy is he, who lives with an intelligent wife. Do not be jealous of the wife of your youth and do not teach her an evil lesson to your own hurt. Do not deprive yourself of a good wife for her charm is worth more than gold. If you have a wife who pleases you, do not cast her out. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life, which He has given you under the Sun.

The Evil Wife

Do not be ensnared by a woman’s beauty and do not desire a woman for her possessions. There is wrath and impudence and great disgrace when a wife supports a husband.

A disgruntled mind, a gloomy face and a wounded heart are caused by an evil wife. Drooping hands and weak knees are caused by the wife who does not make her husband happy. Allow no outlet to water and no boldness of speech in an evil wife. 

There is great anger when a wife is drunken. A wife’s harlotry shows in her lustful eyes and she is known by her eyelids. Taking hold of an evil wife is like grasping a scorpion. ‘I would rather dwell with a lion and dragon, than dwell with an evil wife’. 

The wickedness of a wife changes her appearance and darkens her face like that of a bear. Her husband takes his meals among the neighbors and he cannot help sighing bitterly. Any wound, but not a wound of the heart. Any wickedness, but not the wickedness of a wife. ‘I found more bitter than death the wife whose heart is snares and nets and whose hands are fetters’. He who pleases God escapes her. 

A steady ascent for the feet of the aged, such is a garrulous wife for a quiet husband.

The Loose Woman

Wine and women lead intelligent men astray. Do not give your strength to a woman so that she gains mastery over you. A gracious woman gets honor; but like a gold ring in a swine’s snout is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.

A loose woman is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home – now in the street, now in the market place. A foolish woman is noisy. She is wanton and knows no shame. And to him who is without shame, she says, “Stolen water is sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant”.

With much persuasive speech, she persuades the fool and all at once he follows her as an ox that goes to the slaughter. This is the way of an adulteress. She eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wrong”. The mouth of a loose woman is a deep pit. The lips of a loose woman drip honey. And her speech is smoother than oil but in the end she is more bitter than worm wood, sharp as a two edged sword.

“Why should you be infatuated, My Son, with a loose woman and embrace the bosom of an adventuress?” Be saved from the loose woman, from the adventuress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God. Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister’ and call insight your intimate friend to preserve you from the evil woman, from the tongue of an adventuress.

Be ashamed of gazing at another man’s wife. Do not desire her beauty in your heart; and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes. For a harlot may be hired with a loaf of bread but an adulteress stalks a man’s very life. ‘Can a man carry fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?’

Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman and do not look intently at beauty belonging to another. Many have been ensnared by a woman’s beauty and by it passion is kindled like a fire.  

He, who commits adultery, has no sense. He who does it destroys himself. Give not your strength to women; your ways to those that destroy Kings.

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The Good Book on Timelessness,Wisdom, Humility

Posted on April 27, 2013. Filed under: The Good Book |


Like a drop of water from the sea and a grain of sand, so are a few years in the day of Eternity.

A generation goes and comes but the Earth remains forever. What has been, is what will be, and what has been done, is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the Sun; it has already been in the ages before us.

There is no remembrance of former things nor will there be remembrance of later things yet to happen. And what is lacking cannot be numbered. But wisdom exceeds folly as light exceeds darkness.

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under Heaven. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to keep and a time to cast away, a time to keep silence and a time to speak.

Under the Sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor victory to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skillBut time and chance happen to them all.

Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. As he came from his mother’s womb, he shall go, naked as he came.

All streams run to the sea but the sea is not full. The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with hearing. Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire.

The sayings of the wise are like goads; and nails firmly fixed are the collective sayings given by one shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these; of making many books there is no end and much study is a weariness of the flesh.


A wise man is mightier than a strong man. Wisdom is better than might. Wisdom helps one to succeed. Wisdom gives strength to the wise,more than ten rulers that are in a city.

The protection of wisdom is like the protection of money. A wise man is cautious in everything. One who trusts others too quickly is light minded.

Whoever despises wisdom and instruction is miserable.

Wisdom cries aloud in the street,

“ How long O Simple Ones, will you love being simple. Give heed to my reproof! I also will laugh at your calamity. I will mock when plague strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind; when distress and anguish come upon you’.

“Take my instruction instead of silver and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than jewels and all that you may desire cannot compare with her’.

“I, wisdom, dwell in prudence and I find knowledge and understanding. Pride and arrogance and perverted speech, I hate. Who ever is simple, let him turn in here.”

Wisdom was created before all things and prudent understanding from eternity.

The man who fears the Lord will do this and he who holds to the law will obtain wisdom.

She will come to meet him like a mother; and like the wife of his youth she will welcome him. She will feed him the bread of understanding and give him the water of wisdom to drinkShe is far from men of pride and liars will never think of her.

“Come to me, you, who desire me and take your fill of my produce, for the remembrance of me is sweeter than honey. Those that eat me will hunger for more and those who drink me will thirst for more. Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame and those who work with my help will not sin”.

For wisdom is like her name and is not manifest to many. Come to her with all your soul and keep her ways with all your might. Search out and seek and she will become known to you; for at last you will find the rest she gives.

Make your ear attentive to wisdom and incline your heart to understanding. Yea, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver and search for it as if for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the lord.

Wisdom is more precious than jewels and nothing you desire can compare with her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace. Happy is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gets understanding; for the gain from it is better than the gain from silver and its profit better than gold.

Blessed is the man who meditates on wisdom and who reasons intelligently. He, who reflects in his mind on her ways, will also ponder her secrets.

Wisdom exalts her sons. Whoever loves wisdom, loves life.“ I loved wisdom and desired to take her for my bride” If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments

He, who rises early to seek her, will have no difficulty, for he will find her sitting on his gate.

My son, eat honey, for it is good for you and know that wisdom is such for your soul. Guard your steps when you go to the House of God.

Be not rash with your mouth nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God. For God is in heaven and you uponDo not let wise proverbs escape you.

Reflect on the statues of the Lord and meditate at all times on his commandments. It is He, who will give insight to your mind and your desire for wisdom will be granted.

The Fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom and humility goes before honor. Many are the plans in the mind of man but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.

See with your eyes that I have labored little and found for myself much rest. As you do not know how the spirit came to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything.

To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. To fear the Lord is wisdom’s full measure. The fear of the Lord is the crown of wisdom and knowledge of the holy one is insight.

All wisdom comes from the Lord and is with him forever. And, whoever loves danger, will perish by it.


 My Son, perform your tasks in meekness and glorify yourself with humility. The greater you are, the more must you humble yourself. The wisdom of a humble man will lift up his head and will seat him among the great.

Humble yourself greatly for the punishment of the ungodly is fire and ashes. The Lord’s curse is on the home of the wicked, but He blesses the abode of the righteous. Towards the scorner, He is scornful, but to the humble, He shows favor.

The essentials of life are water and bread and clothing and a house to cover one’s nakedness.

Those who understand Sayings, become skilled themselves and pour forth apt proverbs.


 I asked GOD for Strength that I might Achieve. I was made Weak that I might learn Humbly to Obey.

I asked for Health that I might do Great Things. I was given Infirmity that I might do Better Things.

I asked for Riches that I might be Happy. I was given Poverty that I might be Wise.

I asked for Power that I might have the Praise of Men. I was given Weakness that I might feel the Need of God.

I asked for All Things that I might Enjoy Life. I was Given Life that I might Enjoy All Things.

 I got Nothing that I asked for – but Everything that I had Hoped For. Almost despite myself, My Unspoken Prayers were Answered.



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Charge of the Light Brigade …

Posted on April 21, 2013. Filed under: Personalities, The English |

Charge of the Light Brigade’ is among the worst ever Battle Field Crimes any Commander of any Country could ever make.

Yet because of one solitary Poem by the then Poet Laureate – Tennyson – this horrific crime of Ordering a Cavalry Charge against entrenched Cannon, became a Heroic, Gallant Act. The Commanders were honored and feted and retired as Field Marshals. Possibly shame in later years made Tennyson try to sideline his authorship!
This is the story where horsed cavalry charged entrenched cannon and were cut to pieces! Russian Battle Field Commanders thought the British were drunk. The French Marshal observer said – ‘Its magnifique madness’.

Extracts from the Poem – Into the Valley of Death Rode the Six Hundred.                ‘Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die: ………. Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them. ……….. Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death,          Into the mouth of Hell Rode the six hundred. …………. Volley’d and thunder’d; Storm’d at with shot and shell, While horse and hero fell, ………… They that had fought so well Came thro’ the jaws of Death, Back from the mouth of Hell’. 
The charge was led by the Earl of Cardigan, who charged so furiously that he went past Russian guns without ever knowing how his men were being cut to pieces. That evening he boarded his yacht in the Balaclava harbor and had champagne dinner. He returned to England a hero and was promoted to Inspector General of Cavalry.                                          

The Army CCommander Lord Raglan, who had given the order, blamed Lieutenant General Lucan for misunderstanding and not using discretion. Lucan said he had no independence in the matter. He did not see active duty again but went on to become a General and a Field Marshal.                  

Some forty years after the charge, Rudyard Kipling wrote a sequel to the poem and called it, “The Last of the Light Brigade. ” It is about the hardships faced by the last 20 soldiers left alive. He addressed it to Tennyson, who was by then close to 80!                  

Kipling laments the way the country glorifies the Charge while being blind to how the survivors were eking out their lives. The last survivor died in 1927 at the age of 96. 

Rudyard Kipling
There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers – the last of the Light Brigade.
They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four!
They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey.
Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, “Let us go to the man who writes –
The things on Balaclava the kiddy at school recites.”
 They went without bands or colors, a regiment ten-file strong,
 To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
And, waiting his servant’s order, by the garden gate they stayed,
A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.
They strove to stand to attention, to straighten the toil-bowed back;
They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;
With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,
They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.
The old Troop-Sergeant was spokesman, and “Beggin’ your pardon,” he said,
“You wrote o’ the Light Brigade, sir. Here’s all that isn’t dead.
 An’ it’s all come true what you wrote, Sir, regardin’ the mouth of hell;
 For we’re all of us nigh to the workhouse, an’ we thought we’d call an’ tell”.
“No, thank you, we don’t want food, sir; but couldn’t you take an’ write
 A sort of  ‘to be continued’ and ‘see next page’ o’ the fight?
We think that someone has blundered, an’ couldn’t you tell ’em how?
You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now.”
The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.
And the heart of the Master-Singer grew hot with “the scorn of scorn.”
And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame,
Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.
They sent a cheque to the felon that sprang from an Irish bog;
They healed the spavined cab-horse; they housed the homeless dog;
And they sent (you may call me a liar), when felon and beast were paid,
A cheque, for enough to live on, to the last of the Light Brigade.*
O thirty million English that babble of England’s might,
Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;
Our children’s children are lisping to “honour the charge they made – “
And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!


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Humor on Ground and in Air …

Posted on April 15, 2013. Filed under: From a Services Career, Light plus Weighty |

Here are some actual tongue in cheek Air Traffic Control (ATC) Instructions to aircraft and their responses …

Tower: “Delta 351, you have traffic at 10 o’clock, 6 miles!”
Delta 351: “Give us another hint! We have digital watches!”

Tower: “TWA 2341, for noise abatement turn right 45 Degrees.”
TWA 2341: “Center, we are at 35,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?”
Tower: “Sir, have you ever heard the noise a 747 makes when it hits a 727?”

From an unknown aircraft waiting in a very long takeoff queue: “I’m f….ing
Ground Traffic Control: “Last aircraft transmitting, identify yourself
Unknown aircraft: “I said I was f…ing bored, not f….ing stupid!”

O’Hare Approach Control to a 747: “United 329 heavy, your traffic is a
Fokker, one o’clock, three miles, Eastbound.”
United 329: “Approach, I’ve always wanted to say this … I’ve got the little Fokker in sight.”

A student became lost during a solo cross-country flight.  While attempting
to locate the aircraft on radar, ATC asked,”What was your last known
Student: “When I was number one for takeoff?”

A DC-10 had come in a little hot and thus had an exceedingly long roll out
after touching down.
San Jose Tower Noted:  “American 751, make a hard right turn at the end of the runway, if you are able.  If you are not able, take the Guadeloupe exit off Highway 101, make a right at the lights and return to the airport.”

A Pan Am 727 flight, waiting for start clearance in  Munich , overheard the
Lufthansa (in German): “Ground, what is our start clearance time?”
Ground (in English): “If you want an answer you must speak in English.”
Lufthansa (in English): “I am a German, flying a German airplane, in Germany. Why must I speak English?”
Unknown voice from another plane (in a beautiful British accent):”Because you lost the bloody war!”

Tower: “Eastern 702, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on frequency
Eastern 702: “Tower, Eastern 702 switching to Departure. By the way, after we lifted off we saw some kind of dead animal on the far end of the runway.”

Tower: “Continental 635, cleared for takeoff behind Eastern 702, contact Departure on frequency 124.7. Did you copy that report from Eastern 702?

 Continental 635: “Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, roger; and yes, we
copied Eastern… We’ve already notified our caterers.”

One day the pilot of a Cherokee 180 was told by the tower to hold short of
the active runway while a DC-8 landed. The DC-8 landed, rolled out, turned
around, and taxied back past the Cherokee.  

Some quick- witted comedian in the DC-8 crew got on the radio and said:  “What a cute little plane. Did you make it all by yourself?”

The Cherokee pilot, not about to let the insult go by, came back with a real
zinger:  “I made it out of DC-8 parts. Another landing like yours and I’ll have enough parts for another one.”

The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are renowned as a
short-tempered lot. They not only expect one to know one’s gate parking
location, but how to get there without any assistance from them.  So it was with some amusement that we (a Pan Am 747) listened to the following
exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747, Call sign Speedbird 206.

Speedbird 206: ” Frankfurt, Speedbird 206! Clear of active runway.”
Ground: “Speedbird 206. Taxi to gate Alpha One-Seven.”The BA 747 pulled onto the main taxiway and slowed to a stop.

Ground: “Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?”
Speedbird 206: “Stand by, Ground, I’m looking up our gate location now.”

Ground (with quite arrogant impatience): “Speedbird 206, have you not been to Frankfurt before?”

Speedbird 206: (coolly): “Yes, twice – in 1944! But it was dark! And I didn’t land.”

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Better Hindu than Hindu India is the Island of BALI …

Posted on April 11, 2013. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

Here are some facts about Bali that came in a mail trail – “When I was called to Bali it was to teach and preach the Vedic teachings. But I came back with a humble realization that I have to learn more from Bali than I can actually teach them”.

 It seems to be a wonderful land with nice people. Bali folk seem to practice all the good things that Sanatana Dharma offers and have discarded all the negative or irrelevant ones. 

Bali is a state of Indonesia, a secular country with the biggest Muslim population in the world. But the majority in the state of Bali, over 93 %, are Hindus. 

Bali is home to 4.22 million Hindus whose ancestors had to flee from other islands of Indonesia, after the great Indonesian Hindu Empire Majapahit was defeated and most of Indonesia was converted to Islam.

Some Facts 

1. Nyepi day, a day of total silence (mauna) once a year, when even the Ngurah Rai International Airport of Denpasar is closed from 6 am to 6 am. No cars, no traffic, no entertainment, no TV. Sit in the house, do contemplation, do prayers. Can we introduce that Nyepi Day in our noisy country?

2. The culture of Bali was begun by the Rishis of India, whose names are no longer taught in the schools of India but which are common in the schools of Bali—Markandeya, Bharadwaja, Agastya – the names we hear in the Puranas but they are part of the way the history of Bali is taught in the schools of Bali. How many Rishis can you name? Do you remember any one of the 402 names of the Rishis and Rishikas (female Rishis) from the Rig Veda (the most ancient and most sacred text of Hinduism), which are our ancestors and the forming fathers of our religion – Vaidika Sanatana Dharma?

3. The national Balinese dress for both, men and women, girls and boys, is Dhoti. No one can enter a temple without wearing a Dhoti. Except in some parts of South India, Dhoti is laughed at in India today. Why are we so ashamed of our heritage? Even most Indian priests change their dress after they are finished with the worship because they feel ashamed in a Dhoti??

4. The social, economic and political system of Bali is based on the principle of tri-hita-karana…three benevolent, beneficent principles— that every human being has three aspects …the duty, the relationship that we have with God [Parahyangan]; the relationship that we have with human beings [Pawongan]; and the relationship that we have with nature [Palemahan] and these are the three principles on which the entire culture of Bali is built. This was all established by the Rishis whose names are just about forgotten in India which are taught in the schools

5. Trikala Sandhya (Sun worship three times a day) is practiced in every Balinese school. The Gayatri Mantra is recited by every Balinese school child three times a day. Many of the local radio stations also relay Trikala Sandhya three times a day. Can we even think of introducing something like this to our schools in India? How many Indian Hindus are aware of their duty of Trikala Sandhya? It is as central to our religion as the 5 times  Namaz is to Islam, yet?


6. In the year 1011 AD, at a place which is now known as Purasamantiga… there was the first inter religious conference of three religions: Shaiva Agama, Bauddha Agama and Baliyaga, the traditional pre-Buddhist, pre-Hindu, Balinese religion. The scholars and the leaders sat down and worked out a system by which the three religions should work together and exchange forms with each other and that is the religion of Bali today. 

7. In Bali every priest is paid by the government. Despite the fact that Indonesia is a secular country with the biggest Muslim population in the world, the priest of every religion is paid by the government so every religion is supported by the government. That is the Indonesian form of secularism. Can we even think of this in India?

8. The national motto of Indonesia “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. One is many, many is one.” is inspired by an Indonesian Hindu scripture Sutasoma Kakavin. The complete quotation is as follows – “It is said that the well known Buddha and Shiva are two different substances; they are indeed different, yet how is it possible to recognize their difference in a glance, since the truth of Buddha and the truth of Shiva are one? They may be different, but they are of the same kind, as there is no duality in truth.” Why can’t we have “Ekam Sad Vipra Bahudha Vadanti” (The truth is one, but the wise express it in various ways – Rig Veda) as our national motto?

9. Bali is one of the world’s most prominent rice growers. Every farm has a temple dedicated to Shri Devi and Bhu Devi (Lakmi the Goddess of wealth and mother earth – the two divinities that stand on the either of side of Tirupati Bala ji in India). No farmer will perform his agricultural duties without first making offerings to Shri Devi and Bhu Devi. That is called culture, that SubakSystem. The agricultural and water irrigation plan for the entire country was charted in the 9th Century. The priests of a particular water temple still control this irrigation plan. And some World Bank or United Nations scientist did a computer model that would be ideal for Bali. And when they brought the model the Balinese said `we have been practicing this since the 9th century. What are you bringing here?’ And I don’t know how many million dollars these WTO, these World Bank people, United Nations people, spent on creating that chart which was already created in the 9th century without any computers…. and that Subak System still continues. Such systems were in place in various parts of the country. Its remnants are still visible here in India. I have visited areas where there is no water for miles due to drought, yet the well at the local temple still provides fresh water.

10. In Bali Hindus still don’t read a printed book when they perform Puja (worship). They read from a Lontar, which have traditionally been scripted by hand on palm leaf. When they recite the Ramayana Kakavin…where the book is kept, worship will be performed. There is a special ritual of lifting the sacred book, carrying it in a procession, bringing [it] to a special place, doing the bhumi puja, worshipping the ground there and consecrating the ground, then placing the book there. Then the priest will sit and recite the Ramayana.


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The Real India …

Posted on April 2, 2013. Filed under: Business, Indian Thought |

This is how Sean Paul Kelley, a travel writer, sees INDIA.

 I’ll start with what I think are India ’s Four Major Problems –the four most preventing India from becoming a developing nation– and then move to some of the ancillary ones. 

First, Pollution. The filth, squalor and all around pollution indicates a marked lack of respect for India by Indians. At times the smells, trash, refuse and excrement are like a garbage dump.

Right next door to the Taj Mahal was a pile of trash that smelled so bad, was so foul, as to almost ruin the entire Taj experience. Delhi , Bangalore and Chennai were so very polluted as to make one physically ill.

Dung, be it goat, cow or human fecal matter, is common on the streets. In major tourist areas, filth was everywhere, littering the sidewalks, the roadways – you name it. Toilets in the middle of the road. Men urinating and defecating anywhere, in broad daylight!

Whole villages are plastic bag wastelands. Roadsides are choked. Air quality that can hardly be called quality. Far too much coal and far to few unleaded vehicles on the road.  People casually throw trash in the streets, on the roads.

 The pollution will hobble India ’s growth path.

The Second Issue, Infrastructure, can be divided into four subcategories: Roads, Rails and Ports and the Electrical Grid.

The electrical grid is a joke. Load shedding is all too common, everywhere in India . Wide swaths of the country spend much of the day without the electricity they actually pay for. With out regular electricity, productivity, again, falls.

The ports are a joke. Antiquated, out of date, hardly even appropriate for the mechanized world of container ports, more in line with the days of longshoremen and the like.

Roads are an equal disaster. I only saw one elevated highway that would be considered decent in Thailand , much less Western Europe or America . And I covered fully two thirds of the country during my visit.

There are so few dual carriage way roads as to be laughable. There are no traffic laws to speak of, and if there are, they are rarely obeyed, much less enforced. A drive that should take an hour takes three. A drive that should take three takes nine. The buses are at least thirty years old, if not older.

Everyone in India , or who travels in India, raves about the railway system. Rubbish. It’s awful. now, when I was there in 2003 and then late 2004, it was decent.

But in the last five years, the traffic on the rails has grown so quickly that once again, it is threatening productivity.

Waiting in line just to ask a question now, takes thirty minutes. Routes are routinely sold out three and four days in advance, leaving travelers stranded with little option except to take the decrepit and dangerous buses.

At least fifty million people use the trains a day in India . 50 million people! Not surprising that wait lists of 500 or more people are common now.

The rails are affordable and comprehensive, but they are overcrowded and what with budget airlines popping up in India like Sadhus in an ashram, the middle and lowers classes are left to deal with the overutilized rails and quality suffers.

No one seems to give a shit. 

Seriously, I just never have the impression that the Indian government really cares. Too interested in buying weapons from Russia , Israel and the US, I guess. 

The Last Major Problem in India is an old problem and can be divided into two parts that’ve been two sides of the same coin since government was invented — Bureaucracy and Corruption.

It take triplicates to register into a hotel. To get a SIM card for one’s phone is like wading into a jungle of red-tape and photocopies one is not likely to emerge from in a good mood, much less satisfied with customer service.

Getting train tickets is a terrible ordeal, first you have to find the train number, which takes 30 minutes, then you have to fill in the form, which is far from easy, then you have to wait in line to try and make a reservation, which takes 30 minutes at least and if you made a single mistake on the form back you go to the end of the queue, or what passes for a queue in India.

The government is notoriously uninterested in the problems of the commoners, too busy fleecing the rich, or trying to get rich themselves in some way shape or form.

Take the trash for example, civil rubbish collection authorities are too busy taking kickbacks from the wealthy to keep their areas clean that they don’t have the time, manpower, money or interest in doing their job.

Rural hospitals are perennially understaffed as doctors pocket the fees the government pays them, never show up at the rural hospitals and practice in the cities instead. 

I could go on for quite some time about my perception of India and its problems, but in all seriousness, I don’t think anyone in India really cares. And that, to me, is the biggest problem. India is too conservative a society to want to change in any way.

Mumbai, India ’s financial capital is about as filthy, polluted and poor as the worst city imaginable in Vietnam , or Indonesia – and being more polluted than Medan , in Sumatra is no easy task. The biggest rats I have ever seen were in Medan ! 

One would expect a certain amount of, yes, I am going to use this word, backwardness, in a country that hasn’t produced so many Nobel Laureates, nuclear physicists, imminent economists and entrepreneurs. But India has all these things and what have they brought back to India with them? Nothing.

The rich still have their servants, the lower castes are still there to do the dirty work and so the country remains in stasis. It’s a shame. Indians and India have many wonderful things to offer the world, but I’m far from sanguine that India will amount to much in my lifetime.

Now, call me a cultural imperialist, a spoiled child of the West and all that. But remember, I’ve been there. I’ve done it. And I’ve seen 50 other countries on this planet and none, not even Ethiopia , have as long and gargantuan a laundry list of problems as India does.

And the bottom line is, I don’t think India really cares.

Too complacent and too conservative.



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A Soldier tours Viet Nam …

Posted on April 2, 2013. Filed under: From a Services Career |

This is by Brig Ranjeet Chordia –

A very short trip to Hanoi two years back had been enough to convince me that one needed to see more of this amazing country which exemplified the phrase “broken but not bowed” that one had read in tales of tragic heroes.

Landing at Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) on a late Nov evening and having completed visa formalities in an efficient manner, I met the tour company representative bearing my name placard.

A young and confident girl with a good command of English introduced me to the van driver and handed me my tour schedule. On the drive into town she informed me  that Saigon was one of the disricts of HCMC. She said that she regretted the fact that my tour for the first three days was with friends from England and through their tour operator. All the same, in case I needed some assistance, I just had to make a phone call.

Check in at the hotel was seamless and I turned in for the night. Soon after breakfast, Ian and Jane arrived and introduced me to Adrian and Corinth with whom they were doing SE Asia. They had visited Angkor Wat and Tonle Sap in Cambodia and then entered Vietnam from the North. Their tour was ending in the South of the country  whereas mine was commencing in the South and ending in the North.

We exchanged notes on their impressions of Cambodia, which I had toured a few years earlier and then set out on a half day city tour of HCMC. Where ever you go in Vietnam, it is impossible to forget that this was a country trying to find its rightful place after having been ravaged by war.

A brief aside would not be out of place here. When one talks of war torn Vietnam, most people think of the long and asymmetrical war USA waged on this country which ended in 1975. Some may recall the French humiliation at Dien Bien Phu three decades earlier (1954).

It is only when you dig deeper that you realize that before their heroic fight against the French, these people had been subjected to famine and brutal repression at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army.

They were subjected to Han domination for 1500 years of which 1000 was in resisting and revolting against the foreign yoke. (This goes back to the third century before the Christian Era.) The Vietnamese are the only people in the world to have defeated the mongols in battle THRICE.

So what is it in their DNA that these people are so determined to resist domination and subjugation in contrast to the accepted view of the supine Asian?

A look at the map would show that a  country once divided into three kingdoms (Tongkin, Annam and Cochin China) and having a huge coastline but with over 40% of the area hilly and mountainous has more negative factors than drivers for integration. The ethnic diversity (there are 94 identified minorities) and the efforts of the French colonizers to use the Catholic Faith as a divisive wedge would again work against a strong feeling of nationhood.

Yet, surprise, surprise, these people have over come all hurdles and stand as one nation. Even their myths are adding to the feeling of oneness.The Viet people are descended from the 100 sons born of a union of a dragon and a fairy. 50 followed the mother(fairy) to the mountains and 50  the father (dragon) to the sea.

Dependence on wet rice cultivation forced a sense of community on Vietnamese society since water was a shared resource. Strong bonds of kinship, ancestor worship and attachment to their land further cemented these ties.

I can almost feel the Question (going fast forward) “What about the Boat People and the huge exodus of Vietnamese people after the Americans vacated Saigon in 1975?”

My short answer is they were running away from the Communist regime and also because of the dubious role of some of these people in the 80 years of French occupation, during the Diem regime and in the period between 1954 and 1975.

I think we have digressed enough. To get back to the tour proper. The French architectural and cultural influence is palpable . We started with a visit to the Notre Dam Cathedral and then visited the beautiful Post Office, a total transplant from Europe but strangely not incongruous.
We then went to to various military museums which trace the proud history of this invincible race. The photographs of the carpet bombing and defoliation caused by the use of Agent Orange made one shudder. No doubt that was the purpose of the display; but the sheer stupidity of “trying to defeat ideology by technology” (in the words of Bernard Fall, famed for his  ‘Street w/o Joy’ amongst others; a war correspondent par excellence but  who sadly died covering this war) hits one hard!

I cannot resist quoting Curtis Le May who threatened to bomb the Vietcong “back to the stone age”. Have we not heard the same words used in Afghanistan after nearly four decades? One only hopes the outcome will be less dishonorable — the American Ambassador in Saigon, Mr Martin was evacuated by helicopter from the roof of the American Embassy. That photograph is milked to the full for its propaganda value,

In all this display there was a poster in Bangla congratulating the Vietnamese people and Chairman Ho Chi Minh on their Victory!! Good old revolutionary Bengal!!

Among the various museums in Vietnam’s two major cities HCMC and Hanoi, (there is even one named after the American B-52 Bomber), the Minorities Museum  and Women’s Museum are refreshingly different. In the former one learnt of a small Hindu minority inhabiting the old area of the Champa Empire in Central Vietnam.The impression one gathers in this country is of the over lapping influence of the Indic and Sinic cultures albeit on a distinct Viet identity.

The next day we visited the tunnels outside HCMC where the small bodied Vietcong burrowed  underground and ingeniously avoided American detection at the same time inflicting painful injuries with booby traps. The frustration of the American soldier can be fathomed though a Mai Ly cannot be condoned.

The third day we had a long drive South past the Saigon River and through lush country side to the Mekong Delta. This great river rising in Tibet flows through China, and then winds through many South East Asian countries empties into the Pacific partly through Cambodia and partly through Vietnam.

On an earlier visit to the region, I was informed that the name Mekong is a distorted version of Ma Gonka (ganga) indicative of the deep impact of Hinduism in  earlier times. The Mekong Delta has been known for its soil fertility and in addition to rice paddies there were extensive stands of coconut and areca along the distributaries and orchards inland.

The area has the highest rural population density. A river cruise was a delightful way of passing the afternoon and savoring the Dalat wines. (There were some good side effects of French colonisation).

We rounded off a memorable day with a dinner at Hotel Rex the famed venue of the five o’clock follies, the name war correspondents had given to the less than truthful briefings during the war when the hotel was taken over by the USIS. Had I not told you that you cannot escape war talk in this country!!

The next morning my friends from England left to bask in the sun on one of the Southern beaches. For my part, I took a Motorcycle tour (riding pillion) which took me to the Emperor Jade Pagoda, China Town and its market and to the downtown market for some shopping and relishing the rich coffee at various bistros. The evening dinner was surprisingly palatable despite my stubborn refusal to take no meat, fish, eggs; the choice is severely limited–tofu, mushrooms etc to the rescue.

After lounging around during the forenoon with a walk to the Opera House and visiting an exhibition of award winning photographs and walking past up market brand outlets putting finishing touches to their X Mas displays, I awaited  pick up and airport drop for the second leg of my trip: destination Hue-the Imperial Capital.

The same lady who had received me came to the hotel and not only drove me to the airport but also helped me with the check-in to over come any language snags. The country makes every effort to be tourist friendly. The Air Vietnam flight to Hue was uneventful and again seamless reception and drop to the hotel was well organised.

A boat ride on the Perfume River took us past the citadel to the serene Pagoda where one admired the ancient bronze drums, proof of the metallurgical skills of Vietnamese from a bygone era. Also on display was the car in which the venerable Buddhist monk traveled when he immolated himself to protest Prime Minister Diem’s anti Buddhist policies. This puppet propped up by U S support was ousted in the coup that followed the wide spread rioting. At this juncture his backers abandoned him and transferred their affections to the Generals and Diem was assassinated. Traces of blood do not leave you in a holy place!!

The Hue citadel, at least those parts that have survived the bombings and the typhoon, are representative of the days when the various emperors ruled, with all the attendant pomp and ceremony of an Eastern potentate. There are fine specimens of bronze urns and drums. The most amazing item on display was a stone gong. The buildings in the Citadel are being restored as part of an International initiative and the red and gold paint is being tastefully used to recreate the ancient ambience.

There are a number of tombs of the emperors in the outlying areas around Hue and they are in varying stages of decay with some attempts at restoration. The obsessive preoccupation with AFTERLIFE meant that tombs were planned and prepared during the life time of the future incumbent. The only other example that comes to mind is that of Ancient Egypt.

The visit to the market brought out strongly the role women have in the economic life of the nation.

Hue would have been a wistful look into a by gone era had it not been for a refreshing visit to an orphanage run by nuns where my lady guide took me. The love and care that these children receive is heart warming particularly in case of some children who would never be able to survive in the world on their own. One felt humbled in the face of such compassion.

Seeing an unmistakable mormukut dhari picture of Shri Krishna, I asked the nun who was depicted and smilingly she said”Buddha”. What a lesson in the universality of all religions!!

Hue to Hanoi again by Air with a late evening check-in at the hotel which just left time for a walk in the streets. Hanoi was colder and more Asian than HCMC. Since I had already visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and seen the Water Puppets in my earlier trip, I just did the museum round and waited for night fall the next day to visit the Flower Market and later the Fruit Market. The latter was nothing much to me having been accustomed to the crowds in India but the flower market was an eyeful.

Left Hanoi for the cruise on Halong Bay.Lying on the Red River. Hanoi was shrouded in mist when we drove out and one was apprehensive about chances of any worthwhile photography at Halong Bay where the various limestone formations which are the thousand odd islands are a World Heritage site.

Mercifully we were blessed with a bright sun and the overnight cruise enabled us to visit fish farms,pearl farms and fishing villages that eke out a living here. The delicate bamboo basket boats do withstand short sea voyages.

Side by side with this traditional livelihood was heard the sound of heavy machinery working metal; a lot of ship repairs are carried out in these calm waters.

On the drive back to Hanoi,one observed numerous graveyards where lie buried soldiers who died in the wars of liberation. Unlike other graves which stand as family shrines in fields belonging to the descendants, these war graves are community affairs and are in good repair.

My last portion of the trip was to Dien Bien Phu, the site of the French defeat in 1954. I was transported there again on an Air Vietnam flight and when I reached the Hotel, I was informed that there was no guide for my sight seeing visit. When I explained my sole purpose of coming thus far was to see the battle field, the receptionist overcame the language barrier and a guide was found.

My guide’s father had taken part in the battle as a young man, and seeing my keen interest in the subject he gave me a grand tour.

Standing in the Valley, it was possible to see the flaws in the siting considering that the valley proper was totally dominated by higher ridges a few miles away. But this is second guessing and being wise after the event. The undeniable fact is that the Vietnamese achieved what the French considered was NOT POSSIBLE.

The so called Hedgehog or baited trap indeed proved to be trap but for the French. Manhandling artillery pieces, digging gun emplacements in the hills, bringing supplies 500 kms over trails and jungle paths on bicycles and on pole slung loads, the Vietnamese people fighting to overthrow the colonial yoke achieved the IMPOSSIBLE.

The French Artillery Commander who had insisted that the only guns firing would be French, went to his bunker and blew himself up with a grenade no sooner the Vietnamese Artillery opened up. The option of a pistol was not there; Col Piroth had only one arm!

It would be great disservice to the French to think that the battle was one sided. They fought bravely but tactical bravery was to no avail in the face of a strategic blunder. The French Government has bought a small plot at the same spot where the Field Ambulance and Hospital was sited during the battle and made a war memorial there. It is well tended by a Vietnamese caretaker who told us that recently two survivors of the battle who died in France had their bones interred amidst those of their comrades in keeping with their wishes.

Soldiers the world over are a strange breed. Normal logic can not comprehend their motives.

As I left Vietnam,I reflected on this trip and what it had exposed me to. It is with great sadness that I say ,”What centuries of foreign domination could not achieve, decades of decadence are able to do”

Thousands of Vietnamese girls are marrying older men from Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. They are part of an international traffic in China, Cambodia and other parts of the world. The girls do all this for the betterment of the family in Vietnam.

Despite the massive strides Vietnam has made to put its economy on a sound footing, and after reconciliation with the USA after President Clinton’s visit, Vietnam is still among the four poorest countries in ASEAN (the other three being Mynmar, Laos and Cambodia).

There is a lot of income disparity and consumerist trends are on the rise which fuel some of the ills that currently plague society. For its own sake I hope and pray Vietnam overcomes this challenge also. Let this be no more than a passing phase in the history of this proud people.

Vietnam Salam–

I Salute You Vietnam

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