TED Talk: East vs. West — the myths that mystify

We often compare our Indian culture, values and traditions with the West. We always look at a culture through the values and the lenses of our own culture, our own definition of values and morality. There is no surprise, that we are often biased in our observations. This bias can be conscious or subconscious, our views are seldom neutral.
In this interesting TED talk, Devdutt Pattanaik takes an eye-opening look at the myths of India and the West. The speaker explains how these two fundamentally different sets of beliefs about God, death and heaven help us consistently misunderstand one another.

The speaker links the the business aspect to our culture and our myths. How we look at our business and operation is through the eyes of our own culture. The best ways to deal with dynamic and diverse markets is through the culture of our customers.
So, what is the ‘right’ or ‘suitable’ way to approach a situation or a business problem? It depends. It depends on the situation and it depends on the ‘eyes’ of the culture and mythology. Continue reading “TED Talk: East vs. West — the myths that mystify”

Pride

No matter where we live, there are always things to complain about; plenty of people to blame. It is human nature. Different culture, different place, and different values – yes, things are different when you live abroad, different from back home.

No matter where we live, Indians are good at adjusting and adapting, and ultimately competing toe-to-toe in every aspect of life, in every corner of the world. The same applies to those settled in USA.

Success is a part of Indian culture. We strive to accomplish high goals; we fight to prove ourselves. It is in our blood.  Just look within US boundaries: two reigning governors in the highest state offices, countless Indians in NASA and other prestigious research facilities all over. The same is true for a large portion of highly skilled occupations – doctors, scientists, engineers…. the Indians are everywhere in America, in every walk of life.

There are plenty of things to complain about. But, there are plenty of reasons to be proud of, if we look around!

Indian American population in America is a growing and prosperous section of US society. If you get the chance to walk through the corridors of any leading US corporation – banks, medical offices, engineering firms….., you will notice that Indian Americans hold every level of positions including officer and executive jobs. Indians are contributing to the US socio-economic dynamics from every aspect. The numbers and ratios of Indians employed by the leading companies – the like of Google, Microsoft, Apple, Citibank…. continue to grow. Continue reading “Pride”

Price of True Love exceeds $100K in 2011 !

Every culture, every place has its own unique traditions, some meaningless, some plain weird. We follow many trivial customs as a part of our culture, not because they are important but because it is part of our past!

Here is another tradition, followed every year soon after the Thanksgiving holidays: the calculations of ‘True Cost of Christmas’, or the cost of True Love, as some call it.

This ‘True Cost of Christmas’ or the price of True Love is calculated based on the current price of the items or commodities mentioned in the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

To refresh your memory of the carol, it goes like this:

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me
a partridge in a pear tree

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree….. Continue reading “Price of True Love exceeds $100K in 2011 !”

Gurpurab and Guru Nanak Dev’s Message

Guru Nanak Dev: A poet, a philosopher, a saint…!!

“So kyon Manda Aakhiye Jit Jamme Rajan” (On female gender equality: “why call ‘her’ inferior? From her, the Kings are born”) ~ Guru Nanak dev

November 10, 2011 marks the birthday anniversary of the Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469 – 1539 CE) and is commonly known as GURPURAB. This is one of the most auspicious days for the Sikh religion.

Guru Nanak Dev lived an exemplary life. He was a poet, a philosopher and a saint – all combined into a human being that was above and beyond any religion. His writings came long before the Sikh religion was born. His contributions go beyond Sikhism and beyond Punjabi culture.

Guru Nanak Dev lived his life to the fullest. He traveled all over the places, meeting saints and sufis from all casts and creeds along the way. Some of his journeys lasted many years. On one of his journeys to the west, he went all the way to Mecca, Madina and Baghdad. His another journey to the south touched Sri Lanka. His extensive travels were not only to spread the message of God, but to learn from the wisdom of those he encountered along the way. Continue reading “Gurpurab and Guru Nanak Dev’s Message”

Yes, Life is different here!

Living Abroad – Different strokes for different folks!

Yes, life is different here, very different!!

Here, people come from all over the places! They have different skin tones, different heights. They walk different, they talk different. Some have local accent; others are outsiders for sure. Some speak in a monotone while others are too dramatic in every expression. Some stand still and deliver their opinion in a quiet but firm voice, while others use their hands and gestures more than their tongue.

Some dress sparingly and reveal everything, very outdoorsy to say it modestly! Others are too covered, as if protecting themselves from a wintery chill, even in the summer months.

People speak so many different languages here. Just walk down the street and you will get an earful of gibberish dialects for sure; many of those you have never heard of!

Yes, life is different here, very different!!

The food choices are quite interesting, or strange. Some like it plain and others, spicy. Some eat only vegetables while others hunt for meat. Some can afford it all, while others live from hand to mouth. Some like it exotic and show off their feasts while others struggle to feed even two times a day. Continue reading “Yes, Life is different here!”

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

Is Santa Claus Real? – A timeless question and a timeless response!

Source: By Francis P. Church, first published in The New York Sun, Sep. 21, 1897. [The People’s Almanac, pp. 1358–9.] In the spirit of the holidays season and Christmas celebrations!

“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

“VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
“115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.”

Here is the editorial response to this innocent inquiry from an 8 year old girl. It beautifully summarizes the importance of human faith – what we believe in or not is totally up to us! Re-printed below is the timeless reply from the newspaper editor, that has become a part of the Christmas folklores! Continue reading “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!”

Karma and Rebirth – The logical choice

This is a guest post from Vanamali Thotapalli, sharing thoughts and views on Karma, Rebirth and Life

Karma and Rebirth is the only logical choice – no more Hell, thank God! This can be proven by the following examples:

A child continues to misbehave in a store despite the admonitions of his parents. Eventually he breaks a product. Do the parents simply forgive the child? Then the child learns nothing. Or do you give him a beating? Use physical violence against a child? In the olden days this was quite common, but today this action might get you jail time! So, what do present-day parents do? Today we talk to the child, make him see why his actions were wrong, have him apologize to the store owner, and then make him do odd jobs to help pay for the cost of the product. This way the child learns the right lesson, imparted by loving parents using non-violent methods. This is essentially Karma and Rebirth in action! If a Hindu were to commit an error but was unable to correct it before his death, he is given another chance to do so in the next life. He is not going to be physically punished, but he is not going to get away with his error either.

A second example: A driver makes an error on the highway resulting in horrific consequences. He dies; the occupants of the other cars survive but endure terrible injuries. They go through multiple surgeries; some of them lose their life-savings and houses, and are forced to live in home-less shelters. Some religions teach that God forgives everyone, but can one be so callous as to enter heaven knowing that the victims of the accident are suffering? This brings to mind some of the henchmen of Hitler who escaped to countries like Argentina and lived a happy life while their victims were left to deal with the pain and suffering.

What if God gave you a choice? Either go to heaven or be reborn and maybe help the victims of the car accident or others in a similar situation? Which option would you choose? For me, honestly, there is only one option. Karma and Rebirth is the only logical choice. Continue reading “Karma and Rebirth – The logical choice”

Spiritual but not religious

Spirituality without religion is a growing trend!

Every religion is based on the principles that cater to the welfare of its followers. Most of the religions provide a guidance or knowledge -the enlightenment- on how to get closer to the God. The religion and spirituality often go hand-in-hand. The religion provides commandments or ‘rules’ on how to be a better human being; a basic foundation of spirituality.

However, there is trend amongst modern generations of finding ways to be spiritual without being religious. According to a Newsweek Beliefnet poll in USA, about 24% of the population identifies itself as ‘Spiritual but not religious.’

Rather than looking for God, more and more of us are looking for ‘how to improve ourselves’ or ‘how to be better human being’ or ‘how to find peace in life’. If you look around, more and more of us are searching for a balance in life.

In today’s society, everybody is very busy – may be too busy for no reason, but that is a topic for some other time. Gone are the days when going on pilgrimage was part of ‘thing to do’. Instead, most of us are looking for some answers in our own backyard, within our own soul. Rather than saying an hour-long prayer, without knowing the meaning of the words in it, the focus is shifting to self improvement – being a better person.

Our priorities are shifting with time. Instead of looking for ‘enlightenment’ or searching for ways to guarantee a place in the ‘heaven’, the focus is on the present life and what comes with it – the daily challenges, the daily dilemmas, the daily rewards, the daily karmaContinue reading “Spiritual but not religious”

Sikh Kirpan bill vetoed, now Chai time!

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes ‘Sikh Kirpan Bill’!
So, a suggestion for Governor to host a ‘Chai Summit’ 🙂

The California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed the ‘Sikh Kirpan Bill’, a bill that was intended to educate law enforcement officers about the religious significance of ‘kirpans’. The Governor found the bill “unnecessary”, and therefore rejected it.
The Sikh community has been celebrating the earlier success of the same bill, when it was passed unanimously by the state lawmakers. This veto was particularly surprising given the bipartisan votes in favor of the bill in both houses of legislature earlier this year.
“This loss for the Sikh community is a reminder of our serious lack of political clout in this state. After months of hard work and 100 per cent support from our lawmakers, the Sikh voice was still not strong enough to overcome the whim of one man,” said Sikh Coalition Board chairman Prabhjot Singh.
To be clear, the Kirpan bill is not intended to allow or permit to carry the kirpan. The bill was focused only on educating the law enforcement departments about the Sikh tradition, and avoiding legal battles resulting from any meaningless arrests where police mistakes kirpan as a weapon.
The reason for the Governor’s veto seems to be that it is not necessary to pass a bill just for the sake of raising awareness.

Chia Time -Tea or Coffee anyone? Continue reading “Sikh Kirpan bill vetoed, now Chai time!”

Eat, Pray, Love – Julia Roberts in India

‘Eat, Pray, Love’ – Actress Julia Roberts in North India for a Hollywood movie shoot!

“Life’s like a play: it’s not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters.”~Lucius Annaeus Seneca

We all know our favorite Indian mantra – Khao, Pio, aish karo! -Eat, drink, Enjoy life. And, now listen to this:
Superstar Julia Roberts has been in North India lately shooting for a Hollywood movie ‘Eat, Pray, Love’.
It seems as if they took our desi slogan above and twisted it.

Well, may be not the same slogan, but close!

Actually, the movie and the title is based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir. The book – ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ – is about her travels through Italy (Eating), India (Praying) and Indonesia (and love ) in search of personal restoration. It is an interesting and a brave journey; she leaves behind everything, including her marriage, and ventures on a journey of self-discovery, looking for a balance in her life after the divorce followed by a failed love affair. Sounds movie material, right?

Julia Roberts, the Academy award winning actress kicked off the shooting for the Indian portion of the movie in a Hindu style, with a ‘hawan’ -the ritual with fire, prayer and the whole nine yard…
While little kids climbed the trees and rooftops, she filmed for the movie all over the places including in a small village in North India. It is a safe guess that there were lots of ‘praying’. The author, as per the memoir, spends many months in an Indian Ashram (religious hermitage) cleaning the floors and praying – searching for spirituality. Continue reading “Eat, Pray, Love – Julia Roberts in India”

California legislature passes the kirpan Bill for Sikhs!

California state legislature passes the ‘Kirpan bill’ to support Sikhs dress code

Most of us -from India or those of Indian origin- need no introduction to ‘kirpan’. It is a small blade that resembles a sword in shape, and is carried in a shoulder strap by many Sikhs. It is one of the Sikh articles of faith, or a religious symbol that Sikhs wear after baptism. Over the years, many Sikhs have been questioned and arrested overseas for carrying a kirpan. The police, for example in USA, can compare the kirpan to carrying a concealed weapon if they don’t know the Sikh tradition.

In an effort to recognize the Sikh dress-code, the Californian state legislature unanimously passed a bill to train law enforcement personnel about Sikhs and the religious significance of ‘kirpans’.

Summary and the excerpts from the bill:

SUMMARY:Requires the Commission on Peace Office Standards and Training (CPOST) to create and make available to all law enforcement agencies a training component on how to recognize and interact with a person carrying a “kirpan”.

Excerpts from the Bill:

“Sikh Americans form a vibrant, peaceful, and law-abiding part of the United States community. California was one of the first places that Sikhs settled in this country over 100 years ago. Today, California is home to a large number of the Nation’s 500,000 Sikhs….” Continue reading “California legislature passes the kirpan Bill for Sikhs!”

O Karma! Where Art Thou?

As she has planted, so does she harvest; such is the field of karma.~Sri Guru Granth Sahib, The Holi Book of Sikh Religion

Me and my karma often talk to each other. Well actually, I do most of the talking.  And, I hope and wish that my karma listens to my one way communications, at least once in a while!

‘The karma has a mysterious way of responding’, so I was are taught. I have never been able to figure out how it works. Our karma is the result of our actions – good or bad; but when, where and how will you see those results is a not a planned outcome, as far as I can tell from my own experience!

To solve these mysteries of my karma, I have tried some out-of-the-box ideas for a long time. I even once befriended a Punjabi dude with the same name – Karma. However, I found out that my karma had nothing to do with my new friend,  so we have drifted apart since. Now and then, I still get calls from him, some times in the middle of the night, due to time difference between Jalandhar and Chicago. He mostly calls me to ask for more money; “it will ‘clean’ my karma and make it better”, he says. I tried it a few times a while back, but I did not win any lottery; nor did it help me with any other stuff that would prove this ‘karma cleaning’!

Since I came to USA,  I have realized that my overseas karma is no sharper or better than what it was back in India. Everybody used to tell me, “Going to America is a sign of good kismat and good karma”. So, I thought my good karma would follow the glory of my new NRI status. However, I am not-so-happy to report that the whole thing, – this going to America – may be a bit over-hyped. My karma has been quite sluggish, especially during the first few years of my farang experiences. Just like most of the new-comers, I have had my share of overseas hurdles and challenges.. Continue reading “O Karma! Where Art Thou?”

The Karma Concept

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
~ Unknown

‘As you sow, so shall you reap.’
‘The present is nothing but a result of our own past actions.’
‘Our present and future is affected by the cause and effects of our past.’…
All this is karma, the reflection or effects of our own doings from the past. Over time, we are expected to be punished or negated for the bad deeds, and rewarded for the good ones. The concept of Karma is the basis of world equilibrium, a way of balancing the universe. The inequalities are related to the constructive or destructive actions of human beings.

As we all know, a person’s true identity is not based on his words but his actions. In very basic terms, someone with good intentions and clear conscious living a noble life is expected to have good karma. Any incident that adversely affects our life is blamed on bad karma – the result of destructive or ‘bad’ deeds from the past.

Of course, this is simplification, but our karma can be directly related to our conscience.A person with clear conscience always thinks twice before doing something hurtful or bad. He/she often sticks to a positive outlook and prefers ‘right’ actions, instead of the ‘wrong’ ones. The conscience provides us the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. The karma eventually rewards him/her for all the beneficent or ‘right’ actions. On the contrary, someone without a conscience would be more inclined to be selfish and sinful, less thoughtful while taking advantage of a situation with no regard for others’ welfare. Those actions eventually catch up with us, and the karma is bound to punish sooner or later for ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ deeds. Continue reading “The Karma Concept”