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21 November, 2015

Mahabharata Unravelled

Dev was finally there, Kurukshetra, the ground where the great war of Mahabharata was fought. He wanted to make it his life’s work to study and write about the epic. He also knew that it was not possible till he went to the spot where the greatest war took place. It was said in the texts that eighty percent of the fighting male population of the civilization was wiped out in the eighteen days of the war.

He stood on the ground, the sun overhead; it was hot, the wind hiding the far reaches of the grounds with columns of dust. He looked around and wondered if the war really happened, if the ground beneath him had soaked all that blood, if the great Pandavas and Krishna stood where he stood.
“You will never know the truth about that!” said an aging soft voice.
Dev turned around to find an Old man in saffron robes appearing out of a column of dust. He had a long white beard and eyes that could settle an indignant storm.

“I know you are here to find out about the Kurukshetra war, but you cannot know about that war till you don’t know what the real war is about.” the Old man said enigmatically.
“What do you mean?” Dev instantly knew that he was in the presence of someone who knew more about the war than any living person.
“The Mahabharata is not only an Epic, a ballad, perhaps a reality but definitely a philosophy.” The Old man smiled luring Dev into more questions.

“Can you tell me what the philosophy is then?” Dev requested.

“Sure. Here goes,” began the Old man. 

“The Pandavas are nothing but your five senses, sight, smell, taste, touch and sound and do you know what the Kauravas are?” he asked narrowing his eyes. Dev shook his head. “The Kauravas are the hundred vices that attack your senses everyday but you can fight them and do you know how?” Dev shook his head again. “When Krishna rides your chariot!” The Old man smiled brighter and Dev gasped at that gem of insight.
“Krishna is your soul, your guiding light and if you let your life in his hands you have nothing to worry.” Dev was stupefied but came around quickly with another question. “Then why are Dronacharya and Bhishma fighting for the Kauravas, if they are vices?”

The Old man nodded, sadder for the question. “It just means that as you grow up your perception of your elders change. The elders who you thought were perfect in your growing up years are not all that perfect. They have faults.  And one day you will have to decide if they are for your good or your bad. Then you may also realize that you may have to fight them for the good. It is the hardest part of growing up and that is why the Geeta is important.”
Dev sat down on the ground, not because he was tired but because he could understand the enormity of it all.  “What about Karna?” he whispered.
“Ah!” said the Old man. “You have saved the best for last. Karna is the brother to your senses, he is desire, he is a part of you but stands with the vices. He feels wronged and makes excuses for being the vices as your desire does all the time. Does your desire not give you excuses to embrace vices?”

Dev nodded. He looked at the ground, consumed with a million thoughts, trying to put everything together and then when he looked up the Old man was gone. He seemed to have disappeared in the column of dust.

Later, when he checked into the hotel he saw a large painting of Ved Vyasa narrating the Mahabharata to Lord Ganesha and he could swear that the Sage looked exactly like the Old man whom he met in the dusty outdoor.

Does God Exist?

A group of 15 soldiers led by a Major were on their way to the post in Himalayas where they would be deployed for the next 3 months. The batch who would  be relieved waiting anxiously.

It was cold winter and intermittent snowfall made the treacherous climb more difficult.

If someone could offer a cup of tea. .... the major thought, knowing it was a futile wish..

They continued for an hour before they came across a dilapidated structure, which looked like a tea shop but locked. It was late in the night.

"No tea boys, bad luck", said the Major. But he suggested all take some rest there as they have been walking for 3 hours.

"Sir, this is a tea shop and we can make tea... We will have to break the lock", suggested one soldier.

The officer was in great dilemma to the unethical suggestion but the thought of a steaming cup of tea for the tired solders made him to give the permission.

They were in luck, the place had everything needed to make tea and also packets of biscuits. The solders had tea and biscuits and  were ready for the remaining journey.

The Major thought, they had broken open lock and had tea and biscuits without the permission of the owner. But they're not a band of thieves but disciplined soldiers. He took out a Rs 1000/- note from his wallet, placed it on the  counter, pressed under sugar container, so that the owner can see.

The officer was now relieved of his guilt. He ordered to put the shutter down and proceed.

Three months passed, they continued to  do gallantly in their works and were lucky not to lose anyone from the group in the intense insurgency situation.
It was time for another team to replace them.

Soon they were on their way back and stopped at the same tea shop which was open and owner was present in the shop.
The owner an old man with meager resources was very happy to greet 15 customers.

All of them had tea and biscuits. They talked to the old man about his life and  experience specially selling tea at such a remote place.

The old man had many stories to tell, replete with his faith in God. 

"Oh, Baba, if God is there, why should He keep you in such poverty?", commented one of them.

"Do not say  like that Sahib! God actually is there, I got a proof 3 months ago."
"I was going through very tough times because my only son had been severely beaten by terrorist who wanted some information from him which he did not have. I had closed my shop to take my son to hospital. Some medicines were to be purchased and I had no money. No one would give me loan for fear of the terrorists. There was no hope, Sahib".

"And that day Sahib, I prayed to God for help. And Sahib, God walked into my shop that day."
"When I returned to my shop, I found lock broken, I felt I was finished, I lost whatever little I had. But then I saw that God had left Rs 1000/ under the sugar pot. I can't tell you Sahib what that money was worth that day. God exists Sahib. He does."

The faith in his eyes were unflinching.
Fifteen pairs of eyes met the eyes of the officer and read the order in his eyes clear and unambiguous, "Keep quiet".

The officer got up and paid the bill. He hugged the old man and said, "Yes Baba, I know God does exist. And yes, the tea was wonderful."

The the 15 pairs of eyes did not miss to notice the moisture building up in the eyes of their officer, a rare sight.

The truth is...... you can be God to anyone.

(A true story)


I attended a birthday party with a gathering of about 30 people. I sat at the front seat.

A lady started distributing food.She started from the back and unfortunately, it didn't get to us sitting at the front.

Another lady started sharing the drinks, she started from the front but unfortunately I had already moved to sit at the back. Again the drink didn't get to me.

I was so furious that I stood up to take my leave but then I saw three ladies each with a big bowl. This time, I tried to be wise by sitting at the middle.

One of the ladies started the sharing from the front, the second lady started distributing from the back. The two ladies were sharing fried turkey.

When they got to the middle where I was seated, it got finished again!

Feeling so frustrated I bent my head, putting my face in my hands... but then the third lady tapped me and stretched her bowl for me to pick.

I stretched and put my hands inside the bowl... Guess what was in the bowl?

(This story is mostly related for understanding timing in equity markets, but then it applies equally well for our life too.)

20 November, 2015

The Son and The Daughter

My daughter – Jiya, came to my life two years after my son, Rehan. I wanted to be the best mother to her but in the process, what I forgot to do is the biggest regret of my life.

I grew up in a modest Indian household consisting of four siblings, I being the only daughter. A typical story of any other woman in that time and age. My story is no different from theirs. I grew up going to government schools while my brothers went to the elite convents. I came home, helped my mother cook and clean while my brothers had the privilege of playing cricket, watching movies, lazying around all day long, doing nothing with similar non-productive peers, all united by the benefits that came from being born with a certain alternative chromosome.

“You are a girl, you should know household chores. You have to build a home and nurture it all your life.” Amma would always tell me.
Before I could write my third year exams, Baba announced that I would be getting married. The boy’s name was Anil, a qualified Paediatrician. But what about my degree? I wanted to study further and become a professor. Nothing.

“Your true happiness lies in finding a good husband. He will give you a good life.” Amma would say.

Fortunately, Amma was right about Anil. He was a good man. We had a blissful marriage. But part of my dreams, ambitions remained unfulfilled. So I decided my daughter will live my dreams and I will live them through her eyes. I was prepared. She would be equal to my son.

Jiya and Rehan attended the same school. Jiya was always smarter than Rehan. She was talented too. I let Jiya pursue her hobbies. She was a good student, a good swimmer, a good dancer. Unlike what my mother did to me, I never forced Jiya to work on her culinary skills. My Jiya grew up to be such a beauty! She was a straight A student in college! She wore the most fashionable outfits, attended all parties, she hung out with friends, she even had a few drinks sometimes or more and had a couple of serious relationships.

“Girls and boys are equal. You live your life on your terms with your choices. You are a strong, independent woman” I once told her. My perfect daughter whom I had vouched to gift a perfect life.

Today, Jiya is a qualified lawyer and she married her classmate Kunal. They both are a perfect couple with a son. Jiya never left her job, she shares home chores with Kunal. Rehan is also married to a lovely girl Mira, who he met at medical school.

How times have changed for the better! I wish Amma were alive to see how men and women are meant to support each other in an equal relationship. Or not. That day changed everything for me — I felt like a true hypocrite. May be I am, may be every Indian mother is.

I was shopping for my grandson that day when the phone rang — Jiya calling, “Ma” came her terrified voice even before I could say ‘Hello’. “Please come home immediately.”

“What happened Jiya”.

“Just come home soon Ma, I will tell you.” She was sobbing.

The three kilometre ride seemed like eternity then.

When I reached, I saw a police car standing outside my house and random neighbours stood outside whispering. A chill runs down my spine thinking about it. As I entered, Jiya came running to hug me “Ma, Rehan bhaiya has beaten up Bhabhi badly, she called the police. Police have arrested him…Papa has gone there with Gupta uncle…..”

The rest was a blur. What a big mistake! As if my Rehan would ever beat up a woman! He is my son belonging to a respectable, progressive, civilized family like ours! My perfect son. Why is Mira filing a false complaint against my poor baby…?

I reached the police station. I saw Mira – her eye was swollen and black. Her lips were bloody red, a visible cut. Her hand was resting on her stomach, an injury possibly from being “kicked” is what I heard.

Her staged bruises look so real, I thought! Where is Rehan. My poor boy is being framed. Have the police hit him the way they show in Bollywood movies? Oh God! I silently pray, wiping my tears,

“Amma, look what has happened, please protect my son. How our lives have been wrecked! I will get my son out of this mess…My baby..”

Rehan appeared with a constable holding him. Anil is there with Mr. Gupta, his lawyer friend, had managed to arrange for a bail. Rehan looked stressed, but thankfully he was not hurt. I hugged him. We came back home. Jiya and Kunal were also home.

I made him a good cup of tea, I wanted him to relax before I asked him any questions. He already looked so traumatized…that Mira…How could I be so wrong in judging that girl? No no.. She was always Rehan’s choice but still I had liked her, approved of her. But she would do this to us, that came across as a shock. What a lying, manipulative woman! What poor upbringing. Her mother should be blamed for raising such an irresponsible child.

I walked toward Rehan’s room to give him tea. The door was slightly open. I could hear his voice, I wish I hadn’t. He was talking on the phone, to a friend perhaps. Finally opening up to somebody, my poor distraught boy..

…..“She is just impossible…Doesn’t even give me dinner once I reach home…I have to do my laundry myself.. Tortures me with her feminist equality shit all the time…Doesn’t know how to cook. You should see her chapatis…Bloody arrogant idiot.. And just see the way she drinks at parties, the clothes that she wears, like a whore. That woman is completely out of line. I have slapped her so many times to control her but the bitch doesn’t understand she has to behave like a woman. Just because she earns a few bucks, she thinks she wears the pants in the relationship. I whacked the crap out of her this time. And look what the snooty slut did, straight to the police….”

I froze in that moment, struggling to hold the tray even. So I ran to my bedroom and shut it tight, hoping I could shut that moment forever.

I lay in shock in my bedroom amidst the precious moments of my life captured in numerous photo frames hanging on the wall. My whole life came flashing in my mind. I realised, I was so occupied in ensuring that I raised my daughter to be equal to a man, I forgot to raise my son to be human.

My Jiya was taught to study, to play, to not be in the kitchen – her role reversed. But Rehan was never taught to even fetch a glass of water himself. Yes, I thought I progressed as a mother by paving the way for my daughter, out of the kitchen to the study room. But when it came to raising a son, I was no different from Amma.

I remembered to instill a feminist streak in my daughter, but I forgot to delete the inherent chauvinistic mentality embedded in the psyche of my son, possibly the curse of being born as an Indian man. I endeavored to change the society, a better and a more balanced place, enriched by my self-sufficient daughter. But the imbalance that has been created is far more disastrous. I have inflicted another antiquated, chauvinistic, loser with a skewed sense of masculinity in the already wretched society in the form of my son.

Amma’s smile behind that frame garlanded with dry flowers seemed to be mocking me upon my achievement.

(Author - Not Known)

The Karmic Mechanism

There was once a man who got lost in the desert. The water in his flask ran out two days ago, and he was on his last legs. He knew that if he didn't get some water soon, he would surely perish. The man saw a shack ahead of him. He thought it might be a mirage or hallucination, but having no other option, he moved toward it. As he got closer he realized it was quite real, so he dragged his weary body to the door with the last of his strength.
The shack was not occupied and seemed like it had been abandoned for quite some time. The man gained entrance, hoping against hope that he might find water inside.
His heart skipped a beat when he saw what was in the shack: a water pump..It had a pipe going down through the floor, perhaps tapping a source of water deep under-ground.
He began working the pump, but no water came out. He kept at it and still nothing happened. Finally he gave up from exhaustion and frustration. He threw up his hands in despair. It looked as if he was going to die after all.

Then the man noticed a bottle in one corner of the shack. It was filled with water and corked up to prevent evaporation.
He uncorked the bottle and was about to gulp down the sweet life-giving water when he noticed a piece of paper attached to it. Handwriting on the paper read: "Use this water to start the pump. Don't forget to fill the bottle when you're done."
He had a dilemma. He could follow the instruction and pour the water into the pump, or he could ignore it and just drink the water.
What to do? If he let the water go into the pump, what assurance did he have that it would work? What if the pump malfunctioned? What if the pipe had a leak? What if the underground reservoir had long dried up?
But then... maybe the instruction was correct. Should he risk it? If it turned out to be false, he would be throwing away the last water he would ever see.
Hands trembling, he poured the water into the pump. Then he closed his eyes, said a prayer, and started working the pump.
He heard a gurgling sound, and then water came gushing out, more than he could possibly use. He luxuriated in the cool and refreshing stream. He was going to live!
After drinking his fill and feeling much better, he looked around the shack. He found a pencil and a map of the region. The map showed that he was still far away from civilization, but at least now he knew where he was and which direction to go.
He filled his flask for the journey ahead. He also filled the bottle and put the cork back in. Before leaving the shack, he added his own writing below the instruction: "Believe me, it works!"
This story is all about life. It teaches us that we must give before we can receive abundantly. More importantly, it also teaches that faith plays an important role in giving. The man did not know if his action would be rewarded, but he proceeded regardless. Without knowing what to expect, he made a leap of faith.
Water in this story represents the good things in life. Something that brings a smile to your face. It can be  intangible knowledge or it can represent money, love, family, friendship, happiness, respect, or any number of other things you value. Whatever it is that you would like to get out of life, that's water.
The water pump represents the workings of the karmic mechanism. Give it some water to work with, and it will return far more than you put in.