A year later

Yesterday was the वर्षश्राद्ध (i.e. the special first-year rites or memorial service) for my late mother. In Maharashtra, the calender we follow for any spiritual matters and festivals is one of the lunar ones, and so, for the first year, the anniversaries comes some 10-odd days earlier as compared to the modern (i.e. Gregorian) calender.

Last year, some time after my mother passed away, I had browsed Internet sites having Marathi poems and songs or so. I had saved a few pages. Today I browsed that folder and found this poem. It’s by the well-known Marathi poet: Kusumaagraj, i.e., V. V. Shirwadkar. He has penned some of my most favourite poems. Also, as a matter of trivia, he hailed from a village which was within some 30–40 km radius from my maternal grandfather’s place. You can find a few references to that region (i.e., Nasik, “Saptashringi gaD”etc.) slip in, a few rare times, in his poetry. That made him even more special than he even otherwise was, to my mother (who had a fine taste in Marathi poetry and songs), and for that matter, also to me.

So, let me share one of his poems—one of my most favorite poems, in fact. It, now, also is pretty well known poem because it comes as a recorded song (Singer: Shridhar Phadake, Music: Yashwant Deo). For my English readers, I will also jot down my attempt at a translation.

First, the original, Marathi version:

काही बोलायाचे आहे

काही बोलायाचे आहे, पण बोलणार नाही
देवळाच्या दारामध्ये, भक्‍ती तोलणार नाही

माझ्या अंतरात गंध कल्पकुसुमांचा दाटे
पण पाकळी तयाची, कधी फुलणार नाही

नक्षत्रांच्या गावातले मला गवसले गूज
परि अक्षरांचा संग त्याला मिळणार नाही

मेघ जांभळा एकला राहे नभाच्या कडेला
त्याचे रहस्य कोणाला कधी कळणार नाही

दूर बंदरात उभे एक गलबत रूपेरी
त्याचा कोष किनार्‍यास कधी लाभणार नाही

तुझ्या कृपाकटाक्षाने झालो वणव्याचा धनी
त्याच्या निखार्‍यात कधी तुला जाळणार नाही


Now, my (as usual prosaic) attempt at the translation

Have something to say

[I] have something to say, but won’t say anything
At the doorway of the temple, won’t weigh with the scales [my] devotion

In my inner realm crowds the fragrance of the heavenly [or all-desires-fulfilling] flowers
But [even] a petal of it won’t flower, ever

I found [or ran into] the buzz from the town of the [unmoving] heavenly constellations
But it won’t get the company of the written [or the expressed] word

A deep purple-blue cloud lives alone [somewhere] at the edge of the sky
Its secret won’t be known, ever, by any one

In the distant port floats a silvery sailboat
Its hull wouldn’t be received, ever, by the shoreline

With one side-look [or a casual but sharp glance] of Your bliss-imparting eyes I became the owner of a wild-fire
In the coals left glowing, I won’t burn You down, ever”


* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

[PS: If I happen to think of some better ways to translate the poem, I may come back and improve this post a bit. … But, in any case, as indicated in my last post, this year, or at least in the near future, I would continue to blog only sparsely.]


Translation seen as an exacting process

You might have heard (or read) about this mantra from the Upanishads:

“असतोमा सद्गमय ।
तमसोमा ज्योतिर्गमय ।
मृत्योर्मामृतं गमय ॥”

It’s one of the most commonly known mantras. Typically, the second line, i.e. “tamaso maa jyotirgamay,” is often adopted as the motto of educational institutions in India. (One of the schools I attended had it, and so does the Department of Mechanical Engineering at COEP, where I did my PhD.)

How well do we (I mean the quoting Indians) know about the exact meaning of this mantra?

Here is a typical translation, coming from, what else, Wiki [^]:

“from the unreal lead me to the real,
from the darkness lead me to the light,
from the dead lead me to the immortal”

Here is another translation, with a write-up that serves to highlight the kind of trickiness that is involved in translating a brief gem like this [^]:

“Lead me from the asat to the sat.
Lead me from darkness to light.
Lead me from death to immortality.”

Here, Vedarat, the translator, simply refuses to translate the terms “sat” and “asat”! Apparently, he cannot make up his mind whether Yadnyavalkya (the Vedic seer who authored this mantra) meant “existence” or “truth” when he uttered “sat.”

It obviously would be “truth” here, but realize the extent to which an acceptance of philosophic fallacies such as the primacy of consciousness and intrinsicism [^][^] help muddy any honest attempts at proper translation.

It would be a different matter if Yadnyavalkya himself were to mean “existence” or “reality” instead of “truth.” But that’s not the case here. And, he also would not intend to deliberately keep the matter ambiguous here; no ancient Vedic sage ever did. … Yes, you can find a lot of mysticism in his other writings as well. Yet, judging from the context, it should be obvious to anyone that the meaning he clearly had in mind here was “truth,” and not “reality.”

Yet, the latter-day mystics confuse the issue.

Translation is a demanding process; it is an exacting process. It requires not just sensitivity to the various possible nuances of a word, but also the clarity of thought as to the exact shade that the original author might have meant. That kind of a clarity in turn requires, at least for translation of abstract statements or statements of general philosophic truth, a sufficient knowledge of the basic philosophical issues and ideas. Far too often, people carelessly bring their own assumptions into translations, and it is impossible to detect their insertions unless you do a bit of philosophic detection.

For example, I am sure that the above Wiki translation was done by some Western guy, not Indian. (Or at least, in case it was an Indian, he was one who had very heavy Western influence on him.) Why do I say so? Simple.

Look at the third line in his translation. The translator offers: “from the dead lead me to the immortal.” Implicit idea here is that there is a realm of the dead, and of the immortals. But this is a very Christian idea (and, possibly, Abrahamic in general).

The ancient Vedic sages never thought in terms of a soul going into a state of limbo after death, or its awaiting the day of the final judgement at the hands of a robes-wearing, electricity-carrying masculine God at some uncertain time in future. Theirs was a far more naturalistic viewpoint; sometimes, it can even be taken to be rather atheistic in nature. They did not necessarily believe in a human-like God dispensing out judgements and deciding on the fate of the soul.

The soul, to the ancient Vedic authors, was a natural phenomenon. The states of the soul, to them, were bound simply by a causal law (such as the law of karma). The very idea of some other consciousness or soul directly affecting even the future course for some time, let alone its fate for eternity, would be unacceptable to them. At the most fundamental level, nothing else in the universe, no other power in the universe except for the wilful soul itself could determine its own “gati” (progress/direction) and its own state, according to their typical viewpoint. (This does not mean that, in principle, prayers wouldn’t be useful. More on that, sometime later.)

Therefore, they simply wouldn’t think in terms such as the realm of the dead—which is, historically, a very, very  recent idea, and specifically Christian (or Abrahamic) in source. Not Vedic.

However, the point I wanted to make today was not about the meaning of “sat.” It was about the form of the statement that every English (or even Marathi/Hindi etc.) translation of this ancient Sanskrit mantra takes. It’s a very curious thing, all by itself. I mean, the form suggested by the part “lead me…”

Implicit in such a form is the idea that there is someone other than you in the picture. He would lead you from A to B, where A are all undesirable things, and B are the desirable ones. You thereby assume a more passive role. It’s his leadership that really counts. It’s almost as if your leader is capable of leading you from light to darkness, but since you have no power left over your own fate, you end up earnestly urging him to do otherwise, to lead you from darkness to light.

And that’s why, I often thought, that the prayer was laughable.

If you don’t have any independent means to figure out whether the journey is occurring from bad to good, and not from good to bad, and, further, if you also essentially need an external agency, a leadership, for that journey, then, these two facts put together, leave you completely at the mercy of the leader. Essentially, it makes a spiritual slave out of you.

From my readings of the Upanishads over the past decade or so, I knew that they could be sometimes completely mystic, but not always so. And, they could easily go to the highest reaches of abstraction, the most fundamental philosophic matters. But precisely because they are so abstract and so lofty in terms of the subject matter and the goals, they therefore wouldn’t be capable of creating a prayer of such a form, I thought. Certainly not when what they were aiming for was the “peace of the soul.”

After all, this is one of the Upanishadic “shaanti mantras”. It is not a mantra for propitiation of whimsical Gods as in the main Vedas; Upanishads come after the Vedas. And, this is one of the mantras that are supposed to be recited either before the commencement of studies or meditations, or at the end of it all—the rituals, or studies, or meditations, so as to consolidate it all, via a moment of peace.

And, so, I decided to look more closely at this mantra.

And, I figured out that my suspicion was right. There is no hint of someone else leading you at all, contained in that mantra. The whole idea is an extraneous, parasitical idea that some translator initially inserted, and then, all the latter-day translators picked up this habit. Obviously, out of some interesting underlying philosophic motivations!

Let me take just one line for illustration, viz., “tamaso maa jyotirgamay.”

First, let us split up the “sandhi” (or jointed) words into their components, and note the forms of the nouns and the verbs.

“tamas” means things such as the inactivity or dullness of the soul, or (the literal) darkness, or the darkness of the soul. “tamaso” has “tam” at its root, and “tam” means darkness. “tamas” is a derived word that means something that derives from or issues from or is a byproduct of, darkness. “tamaso,” in turn, is the modification to “tamas;” such a modification implies that a “from” kind of a relationship applies in this context. So, “tamaso” means: “from darkness dullness [literally, or from darkness or dullness of the soul].”

“maa” simply means “no” or “not”. Think of the modifiers like “un-” “non-“, “in-” etc. in English. They all are negators in various senses. Similar is the “maa” in sanskrit. It is a modifier that serves to negate. (And, if I recall my Sanskrit correctly, it is a strong form of a negation. “Don’t at all!” is the sense conveyed by “maa.”)

What is being negated here? Of course the “tamas.” No “tamas!” That’s what “tamaso maa” means.

The next word is “jyotirgamaya.” It’s a compound word made from two components: “jyoti” and “gamaya”.

When the form assumed by “jyoti” is such that it has the “visarg” (or what is denoted by a colon), resulting in “jyotihi”, and when it combines with something beginning with a vowel like “ga” then the “hi” is to be replaced by “r-.”

“jyoti” is a noun that means things such as: flame, light, brightness, etc. Now, “jyotihi” is the first person (or case) singular form of this noun which would makes “jyoti” the subject, or alternatively, “jyoteehee” would be the second case plural form, which would make it the object. I would rather rely on context than the knowledge of today’s Sankrit typists, and thereby conclude that here it is the first case singular, and so, the “jyot-” here has the “rhasva” (or short) “i”, not the “deergha” (or long) “ee”.

“gamay” is a modified form of the verb “gama.”

“gama” itself means: “to go.” The well-known usages of this root-verb appear in “gaman,” which means “departure” or “going away,” and “aagaman” which means “arrival.” (“aagaman,” literally speaking, only means: “anti-departure;” it is derived by applying the “a” modifier, another negator, to the more basic “gaman.” Now, anti-departure, of course, means: arrival. Sanskrit sometimes seems to work in a funny way, at least initially, but then, realize that if you keep man at the epistemological center of the universe, then from the viewpoint, going is more natural than coming. The actor in coming is someone else—not you. The actor in going, however can be you, yourself. And, thus, departure is not defined as anti-arrival; it is arrival that is defined as anti-departure.)

Now, the modification implicit in “gamay” is all that is left to discuss, and so, you can easily see that the particular form of this modification (as got after starting from the root “gama”) could be the real game-settler.

Unfortunately, my knowledge of Sanskrit is not at all good; in fact, it is barely elementary. (I just had two years of Sanskrit in the 8th and 9th standard, and that too, only as half of one language subject—the other half being Hindi.) And, unfortunately, I could not easily locate from an Internet search any easily traceable document or a text-book that shows a verb similar to “gama” going to the modified form “gamay.” A lot of material is easily found that shows “gama” –> “gachchati” etc., but not “gama” –> “gamaya.” The Spoken Sanskrit dictionary  [^] has “gamayati” but not “gamaya.”

From the best guess that I can make, “gamay” could be something like the “bhaave prayog” implied probably for the plural in Sanskrit, i.e. for many persons (more than two persons) in general. Or, it could be something like a “bhaave prayod” but for a single person. Thus, it would mean something like “may I/we go”

So, “jyotirgamay” simply means: “may I/we go towards brightness.”

Putting it all together, the translation should read something like:

“From darkness, may I/we go towards brightness.”

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. … There is no dark world let alone the world of the dead, and there is no bright world for eternity. And, there is no leader either, not even implicitly.

The words—the roots, their modifiers, the resultant modifications (i.e. the sense of the grammatical person, etc.) and the rules of “sandhi” i.e. of joining parts of words—all put together, go on to state only this much. “From darkness may I/we go towards brightness.” A sense of “being lead” is not even hinted at. There is no leader, not even implicitly, and there is no action of being lead—not even implicitly.

Yet, every English translation goes like “Lead me from…”

The psychology and philosophy of these translators might make for an interesting thought, wouldn’t it? They want to insert something that Yaadnyavalkya (or whoever first wrote that mantra) didn’t obviously have in mind, in the first place. And they do so with a philosophic viewpoint that is mystical, passiveness-primary, and implying of a leader—i.e. mystical, action-negating and therefore virtue-negating, and collectivist.

All the authors and commentators—whether Western or Indian—are guilty of exactly this crime. Via a faulty translation, they at least passively and implicitly further the axis of mysticism, amoralism and collectivism.

And, that kind of an interpretation is smeared on Yaadnyavalkya’s original hymn expressing the exalted human soul’s earnest desire for its own betterment—and, by implication, on its own.

On the occasion of this Diwali, let’s earnestly resolve to reach for the truth from any state of ignorance; to go towards the brightness of gaining knowledge from a state of the inactivity of the soul; and to go from every position or principle (or actions) that is destructible or un-maintenable in the long run (or any position that carries contradiction) towards the positions or principles that are insusceptible to destruction—the positions or principles that are enduring or permanent. Let’s resolve to do that.

And, let’s resolve to do it as a matter of our individual responsibility, and without being dependent on any other person—i.e. independently.

[For obvious reasons, there won’t be “A Song I Like” section—this prayer itself, if said with a proper understanding the meaning of its words, and with sufficient solemnity, is a song. And, it is a song that I do like.]


Ayn Rand. And, Much Else.

Ayn Rand

Wow! It’s her birth-day today!!

If you want to get an integrated view of life and of existence in general, go read her books. Also, her associates’, notably, Leonard Peikoff and others at the Ayn Rand Institute (same link as above).

…If you do not even know what philosophy is (or if all of your philosophic reading has thus far been restricted to only the Indian literature), start with her book: “Philosophy: Who Needs It.”

It’s Been Quite Some Time Now…

I noticed today that the Ayn Rand Institute itself is now into its 25th year, having been established in 1985… Hmmm… How time flies!

… Back to 1986, I was a graduate student at IIT Madras. Though I had begun reading Ayn Rand’s works right in my TE (third year UG at COEP), i.e., in 1981, it was only in 1985 that I had bought my own copy of ITOE (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology) which, then, was still only in the first edition. So, for the first few years, I would read from my friend’s copies of Ayn Rand’s books. Once I graduated BE and  so started earning, I began buying her books one by one…

Anyway, in late 1985/early 1986, I had sent that post-card request for more information. Given the way things work in India, it was hard for me to believe that the card would even cross the seas. But, to my great surprise, in response, I had received materials from many sources in the USA. Some of these sources, I guess, no longer exist. (For instance, Palo Alto Book Service…. I also remember receiving something from The Intellectual Activist (founded and then edited by Peter Schwartz), and The Objectivist Forum, etc.) Anyway, that’s how I had come to know of the founding of the Ayn Rand Institute right back then. …

You must realize that this all was strictly via snail-mail back then. Internet had not been invented. While emails did exist in USA, in India, not all students even at IITs would have their own email IDs—only sys admins would, I tend to think. … Why, programming still was only through punch cards. (I still have a couple of my Fortran punch cards for the old machine at IITM—we would use them as book-markers—still tucked-in in that first edition of my own copy of ITOE.)

An especially funny thing is a letter that I had written to the ARI, but, somehow, never posted. It is still with me. … I mean the letter was not meant to be funny—it was written with all that crazy inner seriousness of my youth. … It’s just that today it looks funny to me…  Some day I plan to have it scanned and send it by email to them! I don’t remember all the contents, but definitely do remember that I wanted to inform Dr. Peikoff how all the intellectuals in India had been sold themselves out on the “Das C/[K]apital.” … This was many years before I would listen to his UO and History of Philosophy courses, and learn better. (As to HoP, unfortunately, due to some circs in 1998—2001 involving my “follow-ups” in/by the American “media,” I could buy and listen to only the Volume I.)

A lot has changed since then—since 1986. I have lost some of my dreams, and have acquired some new ones that I hadn’t even dreamt of in those days! (I mean, who could have predicted back then that one day I would be seriously publishing on quantum mechanics!) …

A Surprising Personal Change in Me—And a Bit about Its Nature

Even otherwise, a lot indeed has changed since then, even as a lot has remained the same…

But if you ask me to single out just one thing, I would have to say that the appreciation of certain things which usually go by the name of “spiritual” is the one change in me that surprises me the most.

No! Don’t let yourself entertain the thought whether I am going mystic (also see: [^] and[^]). Nope! (LOL!!) I have no such intentions. … What I mean by “appreciation” is this: Earlier, based on the evidence I had then available (not to mention the limited capacity of my thinking), I had drawn the conclusion that things such as telepathy, reincarnation simply cannot exist. Today, based on evidence (and the best possible thought that I can bring to bear on them), I do completely believe in the existence of telepathy, and can seriously entertain the thought—call it hypothesis if you wish to do so—about the persistence of certain soul characteristics of human beings after their death.

However, let me hasten to add that we are on a very very very slippery ground here. In particular, do not take this post to mean that I subscribe to any particular view (let alone all of them) published on the topic. No. Not at all. If I were to find even a semi-consistently good piece of writing on this topic, I would have recommended it to you. Unfortunately, despite a long search (and tonnes of paper waste in the form of books on the topic), no such writing exists.

There are many excellent passages, most notably, first and foremost, in the “Upanishads” (though not in “Geeta” despite the frequent and weighty received opinion to the contrary), and then also in the ancient Jain and Buddhist literature, etc. … But what I wish to highlight here is the important fact that the only one way any such a literature can at all be taken in is in a piece-by-piece manner—not as an integrated whole. If you try to get it as an integrated whole, the least you will end up buying is that basis in theory which in fact has been responsible for so much horror throughout history: Platonic realism. (If you haven’t got the implications of the Upanishads or similar works taken as a whole, then do reread the “momentous conclusions” paragraph in the page on the immediately preceding link.) … Overall, the contradictions in such works are so glaring if you try to take in any such a work  purely on its own.

Further, even at the level of passages, even the best among passages are liable to such a wide latitude of interpretations—from the most contradictory to the most acute—that they cannot be taken on a standalone basis: the reader himself has to supply his own rational philosophic premises (e.g., the primacy of existence) and even the more minor interpretative interpolations and extrapolations, before the wisdom in those ancient verses might begin to make some sense. Which means, despite the enormity of the received opinion to the contrary, such works cannot always be taken to be works of philosophy. Which brings us to the next point:

A very important point: Much of this whole thing (the subject matter and its treatment in the ancient literature), to my mind, is (or ought to be), properly, a part of psychology—not of philosophy, or of physics—contrary to the way many physicists believe today. And, psychology, as Rand has commented, is still at a pre-scientific stage. (That’s what the phrase “anteroom” means here. Also see [^] and [^].)

Further, I simply cannot allow myself that special sloppiness whereby just because some new evidence comes to light, you begin throwing away all your previous knowledge. Or, you think that you have got a cognitive license to put that new evidence using whichever new terms you feel like using. I cannot allow myself sloppiness of that sort. (For the opposite of that kind of sloppiness, see the entry on focus.)

Just because I believe that certain soul characteristics do persist after death, I do not therefore necessarily believe in the hypothesis of the transmigration of soul, or in any one of its absolutely sloppy “avatars” such as the fearful thinking that if a man happens to think “lizard” at the precise time of his death, he would therefore be reborn as a lizard in his next birth… That kind of craziness is best reserved for “Rushi”s and “Rushitulyas”—not me.

Another issue. (I am continuing with how I like to approach things). Once I reached the above-mentioned conclusion concerning persistence of soul characteristics, the first thing to pass my mind was not the thought that I should now dutifully resign myself to throwing the premise of “tabula rasa” out the door.  Nope. Not that. And, of course, there never was any question of  wanting a reconciliation of: religion with science.

Instead, the first thing I sought to know was this: What aspect (or what characteristic) of consciousness could possibly allow such a persistence of, say, “memory” (or some form of it) without contradicting that other salient characteristic of consciousness: viz. its “tabula rasa” character at birth. (If you believe that the two cannot be reconciled, think about it this way: the “tabula rasa” nature does not imply a passive consciousness—consciousness is not a material slate.)

Important Note: All such thoughts do form a part of my own serious thinking today. But it obviously is not a part of what Ayn Rand said. To know what she did say, hit her books and get to know about her own ideas first-hand for yourself.

Also, it would be nice if you keep in mind that much of all this is, even to my own mind, variously: loud thinking, speculation, hypothesis, possibilities, that’s all. … Yes, I can certainly think about these things; I can discuss them (or write about them in my blogs, even right in a post about Ayn Rand). But all of this still does not mean that I think that I have found the right words or the right concepts to put them in. Or, that I have reached my final judgments about these things. … If anything, what it all means is that I am willing to consider these as proper subjects for thought—if done carefully enough. … As Ayn Rand had commented, when it comes to consciousness, the mankind is still groping in the dark. I don’t mind shooting a probing glance in the dark here and there…

A Note about CapMag.com

While on this topic of Ayn Rand and all, let me also note down what I have wanted to for quite some time now. … I have been browsing CapMag.com regularly. I want to recall that I had protested here in my blog about there being too much of “synch” about some of the articles (their titles, times of postings, etc.) at that site and my personal life. (I take it that you are aware that “media” had been “following up” on me very crazily for many years, particularly from 1998 through 2008/9.)

I want to clarify that it’s been long time that I have stopped holding such things against those authors at CapMag.com. Indeed, I think the authors in question have been doing a good job of spreading more rational ideas. (Their writing may or may not match the best of Objectivist writings. This does not matter much to me here. I mean, we live in such bad times that even articles that have not been fully consistently worked out can still be valuable to a limited extent if the thrust of the writing, or its dominant tone is rational.)

– – – – –

Coming up (probably) the next time: something on Indian physicists.

– – – – –

A Few Songs I Like [More or less at random]

1. (Hindi) “naa jaane kyon, hota hai…”
Music: Salil Chowdhury
Lyrics: Yogesh
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

2. (Marathi) “chaandaNyaat phirataanaa..”
Music: Hridaynath Mangeshkar
Singer: Asha Bhosale
Lyrics: Suresh Bhat

[Updates: Songs added on Feb. 4, 2010. A couple of paragraphs and hyperlinks to the Objectivist literature added on Feb. 7, 2010.]

[Mostly] Political, [Mostly] Latest

Here are a few (almost) random points…

1. Economics:
Can Swami (of Swaminomics) explain to me in simple enough terms the following phenomena:
1.1 If, at the most basic level, stock investments are done by keeping in view the earnings through dividends, how come Bajaj Auto shares used to be traded at more than 100 times or so during Indira Gandhi’s rule?
1.2 Similarly, for the other cases, in today’s context.
1.3 Clarification: I am not for greater control to rectify the situation.
1.4 There is a dominant streak of pragmatism in every “pro-business” “defence” which I would rather someone exposed—without proposing more government interventions.
1.5 Indeed, I think the extent that the market is overpriced precisely serves to reveal the extent of the government intervention in economy.
More on economics, later… I have an idea for modeling of certain kind of basic economic issues.

2. Sathya Sai Baba:

So much has been written about him that his case has thrust itself into being a curiosity for me for quite some time. … I wouldn’t mind visiting his Puttaparthi ashram (or some place similar) provided he can talk to me on a 1:1 basis. And it would be OK even if this occurs in front of thousands or lakhs; I hardly care for that aspect. But should his weighty followers and he himself at all come to thinking of allowing this to happen, here are the opinions (or the “baggage”) with which I would go to him:
2.1 First and foremost, I don’t believe that he is a reincarnation of the Sai Baba of Shirdi, full-stop. From what I have read of the original Sai Baba, this claim is a complete impossibility—regardless of whether Hirabai Badodekar (and the then Rashtrapati Bhavan) agree with my assessment or not, and whether APJ Abdul Kalam, Shankarro Chavan, Ashok Chavan, Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar, Jayant Patil, Sonu Nigam, Sachin Tendulkar, Suchitra Krishnamurthy agree with me or not.
2.2 I don’t agree with his critics that all he is can be reduced to a few magicians’ tricks. (And, I don’t concern myself with everything that has ever been written, said, or suspected about him on the Internet or on the BBC.)
2.3 He might have some spiritual powers and he could possibly be using it in a way that his followers feel blessed, or at least, relaxed. … Not enough of a reason to take his claim of being Shirdi’s Sai Baba very seriously.
2.4 I am not a materialist in the tradition of the so-called “rationalists” of India (the leftists and left-leaning intellectuals included).
2.5 He shouldn’t expect me to even bow down to him as a precondition of my meeting with him. If he can meet me, as I said, one-to-one, I am eager to talk to him. It won’t take even five minutes for me to place him better (than what I have above) in a personal meeting.
2.6 And, oh yes, I wouldn’t at all mind bowing to him in a manner befitting his place should he want to see me. The point is: He should not mistake my physical bowing with anything else—esp., my acceptance of all his ideas and all his claims—that’s all. Indeed, I would be very neat, just like all his followers, should I go and see him.

3. Indira Gandhi
It’s remarkable that post-Vajpayee years, remembering her is, on the whole, a subdued affair. … I mean I didn’t see full-page photos in the newspapers, and there weren’t huge cut-outs towering over buildings either… All this was welcome, in a way. After all, there still is a huge gap left between remembering her and remembering Lal Bahadur Shastri.

And, BTW, I really can’t remember her without also remembering Durgabai Bhagwat—the real iron lady between the two, if you ask me. … Again, it’s not that I agree with every position that Bhagwatbai ever took in her life…  [And, is issuing such clarifications really necessary?] But, as far as I am concerned, Bhagwat’s principled defence of Freedom during those difficult years of Emergecy was enough for me to conclude that this, in fact, was actually the case….

And, indeed, what quote could they at all find to bring out the supposed “greatness” of Indira in those recent newspaper ads? If you read through it, it’s plain and obvious that such quotes could fit in the mouth of any third-class dictator in any of the third-world countries—all that the speech-writer would need to have is some education in one of those Christian missionary schools, and he would be well on his way to utter what Indira Gandhi, we were especially seriously reminded, did!

Which brings me to another sub-point: Has Barkha Dutt lost her original fire these days? … First, there was this change of the mix of topics as soon as they had that deal with MSNBC or NBC or so. That, by itself was bad already…  I mean, Barkha would get the heat up on some topic, and suddenly that entire topic of discussion would get mixed quite incongruously (and in following with all the worst trends of the Tame Americans) with some other topic that was decidedly luke-warm. (Luke-warm, mind you. Not cold.) … And then, in such a process, the whole tempo of that hot topic would be entirely lost. Plus, they also  reduced the time spent actually debating—not just the content but also the format… All this was bad by itself… But then, esp. since her becoming a Padmashree or so, this lady seems to have lost that fire to confront the government uncomfortably that she used to have. … Or is it the case that she was a Congresswoman in disguise all the time, and that we saw that side of hers only because BJP+ was in power? Any thoughts, Barkha?…

Not that she should be the hanging point for all our worries… That’s not the idea here. If she is tired or bored out of fighting it out, she is entitled to a rest… But then, the decent way to do this is to retire from all that debating—not to dilute it to the extent that one doesn’t even feel like turning the TV on Sunday evening at 8 PM…

– – – – –

Some of the songs that I like:

(Hindi) “yehi woh jagah hai, yehi woh fizayen..”
Singer: Asha Bhosle
Music: O. P. Nayyar

[… More, later!]