Saturday, 26 November 2011

Types of Love

Swami Chinmayananda 

No activity in human life is taken up with so much sincerity and elaborate preparation as is man's search for the joy of love and yet, no enterprise of man fails so constantly with such regularity, as his quest for love. He helplessly waits to receive love and yet everyone is always disappointed. 

In a nutshell, the love that leaves us with agitation is lower love and the love that leaves us with profound peace and joy is higher. In true love, every action and sacrifice you make towards the object of your love reduces your egocentric desires and calms the agitation in your mind. When love is directed towards a Higher or Nobler object or person than yourself, it is called prema. When it is towards a lower object, it is called sneha. Higher love alone can help us come out of our sense of incompleteness and alienation.

 The lower type of love called sneha is an escape from a person's sense of loneliness. Without this protection the person feels lonely, isolated and helpless. Some people demand love, they need to receive it--they cannot give love. Such an individual depends entirely upon other objects and beings for his existence: his home, work, money, friends and relations. With these, he makes a prison for himself and ever willingly suffers in it. This refers to both passive and aggressive type of sneha. They are both unconsciously seeking freedom from their sense of loneliness.

The higher kind of love is called prema. Here, love is dynamic. The lover is not waiting to be loved by others. He is not a beggar of love. His dynamic love floods forth from his heart and in its irresistible onward dash, it breaks all walls around others, storms into their hearts and therein seeks and discovers a blissful fusion of oneness. In this dynamic love, the lover ennobles the beloved and at the same time retains his own individuality. In such a blessed lover relationship, the two become one and still neither dominates the other. In dynamic love, it is a willful "dashing on" to love, rather than an unconscious accidental "falling into" love. It is a consistent passion to give, not a meek persistent hope to receive. True love is not a passive taking, but a dynamic giving. 

This idea of giving is often dreaded and misunderstood as a giving up of something--a painful renouncing--a state of being deprived of everything pleasant and sweet. But actually, it is a giving up of all the anxiety to enjoy the fruits of actions. Love, when it is true and unconditional, is its own regard. Very few realize it, none dare to live it. Some of us love only if we are loved in return. That is, we give love in payment for love received. This is a very commercial attitude, a shopkeeper's mentality. To give love is freedom; to demand love is nothing but an example of pure slavery.

The human mind always runs in the direction of His love. The object of love reflects his vasanas, his tendencies. It is important to fall in love when your piece of mind is gone and your abilities are distracted. Similarly, it is equally important to rise in love to any ideal, profession, art, science or person that makes you integrated and created. Devotion gives you more intellectual capacities, abilities improve. You become dynamic--a person to be reckoned with. 

Hence, if you want others to love you, be lovable. Love cannot be lust. In lust, there is abject dependence upon the physical object. In lust, there is a subordination of one's personality to the enchantment of the object; while in love, the personality of the lover is tuned to the personality of the beloved. Love brings an expansion of being, while lust ends in an existence loaded with darkness and exhausting fatigue. Love is the victory of the spirit, lust is the cry of the base flesh and low mind. Love lives the joy; lust only seeks it.

Very few are indeed rich in love. How can they love, who have none in themselves? Love transforms work into inspiration with efficiency as its result. Love is the heart of all religions, the theme of all classical works of art and literature, the song of all devotees. Scientists know only what love does--not what love is. Love can indeed empty our asylums, perhaps all our prisons, maybe all our hospitals. People suffer in life due to the lack of love. Love is, therefore, to the human heart what the sun is to flowers! 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Harnessing Potentials

Swami Tejomayananda 

Most of us will agree that we are born rich and yet somehow we are unable to truly realize and harness our true potentials. In order to harness the great potential that lies within each one of us, it is important to manifest it and for that it is necessary to have a great goal in life. Our potential lies in the body, speech, mind, intellect and also through external means. Indeed, the treasure that we possess is vast and invaluable. It is due to this reason that psychologists would agree that we are not entirely using the true potential of our brains which is why we remain as extras in our own movie.

Much of our potential has been manifested out of necessity to survive or thrive. A police officer once tried catching a weak-looking thief who escaped. When asked why the thief outran him, he said, "I ran as part of my duty. He ran to save his life. His motivation was greater." Great potential may at times manifest out of sheer necessity but usually if your goal is only to survive, you work enough only to survive. If you just want to pass, you study just enough to scrape through.

If we have to lift and carry six bricks, it is common knowledge that that we need more strength which is needed in order to be utilized completely. We can also our increase our ability to lift heavier and heavier objects by practicing. But why should we practice, when, for most of us the heaviest object that we need to lift is just ourselves? A singer who aspires to sing in front of the President would have to practice immensely before achieving that level of perfection. Similarly, a weight lifter who decides to win in the Olympics practices day and night in order to lift the gold medal! For he is aware that the aspiration of his countrymen lie in him. The higher the goal, the greater is the potential that we manifest. Goals enable us to perform to our potential.

Sir Edmund Hillary said, "I did not conquer Mount Everest. I conquered myself." When the great mountain stands ahead of us beckoning us, it is important that we take notice of that call. We can more easily overcome our moments of weakness. Therefore, the higher the goal, the greater is the ability we manifest overcoming the obstacles within and without.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Control Freakery

Arun Jaitley

The chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, lost little time after his appointment to make known his contemptuous views about the Indian media. The obvious danger of talking out of turn in order to crusading is that one ceases to be objective. You only have to tabulate the weak points of the target institution and emerge as a reformist yourself. 

While doing so Katju overlooked the fact that despite many weaknesses, the Indian media is a key protector of our democracy and does not need to be regulated. The argument that every institution in a democracy needs to be regulated is not a valid one. It is this mindset that produced the Indian Emergency of the mid-1970s. Has anyone dared to suggest that the Supreme Court is unregulated and hence needs to be regulated? This "control" psyche is destructive of democracy.

The media, both print and electronic, is today judged by the readers and viewers. It is for this reason that some newspapers and channels manage to consolidate while others are marginalized. The viewer is the king. He has a remote in his hand and the viewer is the best regulator of a channel. I would rather trust him than a retired judge seeking more powers. Freedom of choice and rejection to the unacceptable is a preferred option to a Big Brother who watches and intimidates the media. 

As an active participant in politics, I have no hesitation in admitting that besides one's own ethical preferences, a vigilant media is an additional deterrent in the conduct of public and private affairs of a public person. The possibility of being exposed by an intrusive media may be an irritant for a politician, but it has played an important role in keeping politicians on their toes. 

The media surely has its own share of problems. Its campaigning zeal leads to a lynch mob mentality. It has tended to create an environment of prejudice against media targets and influence free and fair trials. The remedy for this can be greater editorial control or, in extreme situations, even judicial intervention. However, the remedy cannot be government intervention. 

The past one year has seen several ministers carry on a campaign accusing the media of being hostile to the government. The recent move of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to renew a licence to operate a channel depending on the number of violations of the broadcasting and advertising codes was the result of this governmental irritation with the media. Media licensing is repugnant to press freedom. Thankfully, the move was short-lived. Institutions like the legislature, the judiciary and the media must adopt an attitude of statesmanship while dealing with each other. There is no place for an attitude that entails teaching the other a "lesson" in order to establish its own primacy. In this context, the recent judicial order of a court imposing Rs. 100 crore as damages against a news channel and its editor in a libel section raises serious questions. 

The channel in question, Times Now, was telecasting a news report relating to the involvement of a retired judge of a High Court in the provident fund scandal in Ghaziabad. It correctly pronounced the name of the judge, who has since retired from the Calcutta High Court. The operator of the channel's database was asked to provide a photograph of the judge that could be flashed on the TV screen. He erroneously pulled out a photograph of a retired Supreme Court judge whose name was phonetically similar to the judge whose photograph he was searching for. Instead of Justice Samantha, a photograph of Justice PB Sawant was flashed for a few seconds after which the retired judge's office protested. An apology was carried on the scroll, though belatedly. A Pune court awarded Rs. 100 crore as damages in favour of the former Supreme Court judge for loss of reputation.

As someone having familiarity with the quantum of damages Indian courts award, this order appears to be somewhat unusual. Observers are still unable to come to terms with the quantum of damages awarded even in cases of death or disability caused by Union Carbide in the tragic 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy. The quantum awarded in various death cases, be it an accident or otherwise, in India, is normally modest. The quantum awarded recently in the 1997 Uphaar Fire Tragedy is a case in point. If a former judge is entitled to Rs. 100 crore for his photograph being flashed erroneously on account of being mistaken with another phonetically similar name, will this precedent be applied by Indian courts to other ordinary mortals who complain of loss of reputation on account on account of far more serious allegations? I am not aware of a single case where even 1% of this amount has been awarded to an ordinary citizen or a public person for loss of reputation. There is no better way of shutting down Indian media than by awarding punitive damages against journalists, newspapers or TV channels that are completely disproportionate to the value of money in Indian society.

Each media organization is expected to exercise due care and caution. Errors, however, will take place on account of the very nature of the news circulation business. If channels or newspapers are to suffer such an order, on the assumption that Rs. 100 crore are to be the normal damages awarded to a citizen, we may in the next 10 years become a nation without media organizations. 

Citizens deserve a free and fair media. We cannot have a free and fair media by having the Press Council act as the Big Brother, or with the government threatening to de-license news channels, or with the judiciary imposing unreasonable punitive damages on them. We just need an independent and a vigilant media as much as much as we need an independent judiciary.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Movie Review: Traffic

The 2011 Malayalam film "Traffic" is a multi-narrative thriller that intertwines multiple stories around one particular incident. The narrative of the film has been told in the hyperlink format dealing with plot twists, interwoven storylines between multiple characters. The film follows the life of six main characters--an aspiring journalist Raihan (Vineeth Srinivasan) and his friend Rajeev (Asif Ali), who are travelling in a bike and are fatally hit by a speeding car at a signal, a superstar Sidharth Shankar (Rahman) who is getting ready for the release of his new film, a young cardiac surgeon Abel (Kunchako Boban), City Police Commissioner Ajmal Nazar (Anup Menon)  and a traffic constable Sudevan (Srinivasan). 

The story takes place on a certain September 16 at a crowded traffic junction in Kochi. It has been an inspired from a real-life event that happened in Chennai. As the film follows the hyperlink format, an accident changes their lives forever and how they tackle with it is what the story is essentially about. I'd like not to spill the beans here by furthering the story here.

As a film by itself, it is a complete edge-of-the-seat thriller movie with the screenplay which progresses really fast. If you tend to deviate a bit, you lose track of the film. It completes hooks you in by almost taking you to the middle of the action in the screenplay. Every character in the movie has an equal importance as the story moves ahead and they are etched out quite well. The film progresses in a very brisk manner. The interval punch is brilliant which makes you keep guessing till the end. The positive trend in the movie is the absence of a regular hero and an actress since everyone has been given equal role. 

The brilliant background music by Mejo Joseph does wonders for the movie as it helps takes the story forward and also accelerates the level of tension in the film at the right places. The cinematography by Shyju Khalid deserves accolades for so capturing the intricacies of a busy traffic junction and then following the journey.  Traffic is a brutally brilliant film in which the filmmaker lends colour to coincidence and unveils before us a cognition on the dynamics of chance. It is a strikingly crafted film which is raw and genuine, it crawls right under your skin and stays there. 

Summing up, there is an inherent sincerity about it which makes Traffic a genuine movie of recent times. It is a perfect entertainer which provides the thrills at the right places and instills a sense of fear and does not fail to amuse you as a viewer. Though the film has average production values, it is an overwhelming experience. If you like edge-of-the-seat thrillers, don't miss Traffic!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Movie Review: Ananthabhadram

The 2005 Malayalam film "Ananthabhadram" concerns ghosts, black magic and spirits. The film begins with little Ananthan hearing a folk tale from his mother Gayathri (Revathy) telling him that his family comes from a line of powerful magicians and that they are responsible for protecting a "nagamanickyam", a jewel on a serpent's head. The jewel, she narrates in the ancient village of Sivapuram in a house guarded by snakes, including a tiny snake called Kunjootan. 

Years later, Ananthan (Prithviraj) returns to Sivapuram with his deceased mother's ashes. His mother wanted him to light the lamp at Shivakaavu, a dark and mysterious temple of Lord Shiva. During his stay in Sivapuram, he meets his cousin Bhadra (Kavya Madhavan) and encounters the local black magician Digambaran (Manoj K. Jayan). Soon enough, we are shown that Digambaran is not a friendly character as he opposes the lighting of lamps on the grounds of local superstitions in order to get his hands on the nagamanickyam. Digambaran has serious issues with Madambi "tharavadu" (family) which spans generations as he is in pursuit of the nagamanickyam and is resolute in his quest. 

Digambaran has an enemy in Chemban (Kalabhavan Mani), a blind martial arts expert who stands in the way of Digambaran's hunt for the nagamanickyam. The evil Digambaran manages to remove Chemban from his way by blinding him and leaves a trail of blood. Digambaran also lures Chemban's sister Bhama (Riya Sen) into black magic. He repeatedly boasts about the fact that he has the power to perform the parakayapravesam (the process of transferring one's soul into another body) to attain the nagamanickyam using Bhama. 

The highlight performance in this film is by Manoj K. Jayan as the evil black magician Digambaran. No one could have essayed the role with dignity and panache the way he has done. Kalabhavan Mani also has done a wonderful job. Prithviraj irritates a bit with his English dialogues but acting wise, he is efficient. Kavya Madhavan looks beautiful but needs to slim down a bit. Riya Sen appears to be the most confused actress in the movie as there is no clarity on what the role demanded from her. As far as casting goes, the film sticks to the formula of a regular Malayalam film.

Visually, the film is a treat as it draws heavily from the local myths and tales. Certain aspects of dance used by the choreographer Aparna Sindoor draw inspiration from the Theyyam and Kathakali dancers of Kerala making it evident that we have a rich visual culture. The film also uses Kalarippayattu, the traditional martial arts of South India, for the fight sequences between Digambaran and Chemban choreographed by action director Arash. The director also pays a tribute to legendary painter Raja Ravi Varma by using three of his paintings as an inspiration to film the song.

The sound recording of the film is very good but the screenplays tends to progress in a hurried manner as though there is an urgent need to finish the story somehow. As the pace increases towards the second half, it becomes a bit difficult to follow the story. Nevertheless, it is a sincere effort by cinematographer Santhosh Sivan. Watch the film for its high production values and its folk tale which seeks inspiration from the rich visual culture.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Decline of The West

R. Vaidyanathan
IIM Bangalore

Ten years ago, America had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash. Now, it has no Jobs, no Hope and no Cash. Or so the joke goes. Only, it's no joke. The line is pretty close to reality in the US. The less said about Europe the better. Both the US and Europe are in decline. I was asked by a business channel in 2008 about recovery in the US and I mentioned 40 quarters and I was never invited for another discussion. Recently, another media person asked me the same question and I answered 80 quarters. He was shocked since he was told some "sprouts" of recovery had been seen in the American economy.

It is important to recognize that the dominance of the West has been there only for the last 200-and-odd years. According to Angus Maddison's pioneering OECD study, India and China had nearly 50 percent of global GDP as late as the 1820s. Hence, India and China are not emerging or rising powers. They are retrieving their original position. The dollar is having a roller coaster ride at present. In 1990, the share of the G-7 in world GDP (on a purchasing power parity basis) was 51 percent and that of emerging markets 36 percent. But in 2011, it is the reverse. So the dominant west is a myth.

Similarly, the crisis. It is a US-Europe crisis and not a global one. The two wars--which were essentially European wars--were made out to be world wars with one English leader commenting that "we will fight the Germans to the last Indian". In this economic scenario, countries like India are made to feel as if they are in a crisis. Since the West says there's a crisis, we swallow it hook, line and sinker.

But it isn't so. At no point of time in the last 20 years has foreign investment--direct and portfolio--exceeded 10 percent of our domestic investment. Our growth is due to our domestic savings which is again predominantly household savings. Our housewives require awards for our growth not any western fund manager. The crisis faced by the West is primarily because it has forgotten a six letter word called "saving" which, again, is the result of forgetting another six letter word called "family". The West has nationalized families over the last 60 years. Old age, ill health, single motherhood--everything is the responsibility of the state.

When family is a "burden" and children an "encumbrance", society goes for a toss. Household savings have been in the negative in the US for long. The total debt to GDP ratio is as high as 400 percent in many countries, including UK. Not only that, the West is also facing a severe demographic crisis. The population of Europe during the First World War was nearly 25 percent and today it is around 11 percent and expected to become 3 percent in another 20 years. Europe will disappear from the world map unless migrants from Africa and Asia take it over.

The demographic crisis impacts the West in other ways. Social security goes for a toss since people are living longer and not many from below contribute to their pensions through taxes. So the nationalization of families becomes a burden on the state. The European work culture has become worse with even our own Tatas complaining about the work ethics of British managers. In France and Italy, the weekend starts on Friday morning itself. The population has become lazy and state-dependent.

In the UK, the situation is worse with drunkenness becoming a common problem. Parents do not have control over children and the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation in London said: "There are all signs of arteriosclerosis of a culture and a civilization grown old. Me has taken precedence over We and pleasure today over viability tomorrow." (The Times: 8 September).

Married couples make up less than half (45 percent) of all households in the US, say recent data from the Census Bureau. Also, there is a huge growth in unmarried couples and single parent families (mostly poor, black women). Society has become dysfunctional or disorganized in the West. The government is trying to be organized.

In India, the society is organized and the government disorganized. Due to the disorganized society in the West, the state has to take care of families. The market crash is essentially due to the adoption of a model where there is consumption with borrowings and no savings. How long will Asian savings be able to sustain the western spending binge? According to a recent report in The Wall Street (10 October 2011), nearly half of US households receive government benefits like food stamps, subsidized housing, cash welfare or Medicare or Medicaid (the federal state health care programmes for the poor) or social security.

The US is also a stock market economy where half the households are investors and they have been hit hard by bank and corporate failures. Even now, less than five percent of our household financial savings goes to the stock market. Same in China and Japan.

Declining empires are dangerous. They will try to peddle their failed models to us and we will swallow it since colonial genes are very much present here. You will find more Indians heading global corporations since India is now a very large market and one way to capture is to make Indian sepoys work for it.

A declining West is best for the rest and also for the West, which needs to rethink its failed models and rework its priorities. For the rest--like us--the fact that the West has failed will be accepted by us only after some western scholar tell us the same. Till then, we will try to imitate them and create more dysfunctional families.

We need to recognize that Big Government and Big Business are twin dangers for average citizens. India faces both and they are the two asuras (demons) we need to guard against. The Leftists in the National Advisory Council want all families to be nationalized and governed by a Big State and reform marketers of the CII variety want Big Business to flourish under crony capitalism. Beware of the twin evils since both look upon India as a charity house or as a market and not as an ancient civilization.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


The song "Nee" is certainly one of the well-composed non-film songs in recent times. The lyrics for the song have been written by Aisoorya Vijayakumar and sung by my childhood friend Jaya Vidyasagar, a talented and classically trained singer from Mumbai who has lent her voice for this song. It has been composed by Rishi S. for an independent music label called "Sonore Unison".

I imagined the song as an expression of a young girl waiting by the window as she was disillusioned and depressed since the boy whom she was in love with had moved to the city for higher studies. However, it was on a rainy morning, when her lover returned as a true gentleman from the city, it was as though the young girl almost received a new lease of life. On the joyous occasion of his arrival, she breaks into this song and sings it as tears roll down her eyes as she welcomes him back into her life. The song is a wonderful tribute to her lover's arrival back into her life.

The rough meaning of the song would read something like:

The pain residing in my eyelids ended because of you
The sprout residing in the seed has reached the sky
Did my heart spring back to life because of your arrival?
My eyes broke into sweat because of our relationship

The pain residing in these eyelids
That feel of shock, laughter and admiration with a mild tremble has ended because of you
The solitude that existed in the scattered mind stood behind a veil here.

Frozen moments moved fast
The days of depression disappeared,
The pain residing in these eyelids
The feeling of shock, laughter and admiration with a mild tremble
Partially due to joy and partially due to warmth
Has ended because of you.

Song Name: Nee
Singer: Jaya Vidyasagar
Lyrics: Aisoorya Vijayakumar
Music and Mixing: Rishi S.
Label: Sonore Unison

Illustrations: Krishna Kumar Kandi