An observational and exegetical look at eclectic topics of interest such as books, travel, entertainment, medicine, mental health, religion and spirituality.
All open-minded enthusiasts are welcome to peruse, share, learn and teach. Views expressed here may be different, strong, amusing, or personal opinions - all in keeping with the principles of free speech.
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An open plea to the relevant Government departments:
The Sentinelese have shown us the way. They have shown you, the Government, the way to deal with unwanted intrusions and unruly behaviour by foreign elements.
Shame on our national defence and security systems, that one missionary could bribe local fishermen and gain access to the protected island not less than five times.
That the Sentinelese have a protected area - however tiny - to call their own and to follow their own customs and regulations in their own space, is revealing.
It also shows that on the so-called civilized and secular mainland, we are unable to safeguard our own interests from the virus of conversions and misdemeanours of illegal immigrants and foreign criminals.
Over the last few months, there have been several incidences of crime by these very same visa-dodgers and over-stayers. Many illegal immigrants have procured passport/Aadhar/voter cards through racketeers.
In certain parts of Bengaluru, for example, foreign elements have formed enclaves of their own - 'foreign Sentinelese' areas, if you like, that are no-go areas for 'locals'/'natives', as they call us.
Go through page three crime news in any newspaper these days. Nepalese, Bangladeshi and/or African nationals figure prominently in such crimes as drug-dealing, prostitution, petty theft and drunken driving.
Are those foreign criminals that are caught - if at all - by the police, deported to their country of origin, after they are punished by our legal system - if at all?
While law and order problems continue unabated, the other unseen breaking-India force, to quote Rajiv Malhotra, continues its surreptitious accumulation of masses of gullible public into its dragnet. I am talking about evangelism and religious conversions.
The Andaman incident is only the tip of the iceberg; one that made it to news reports because of what happened to the missionary. Unseen, unchecked, unabated, other missionaries carry on in their merry ways all across the mainland - from coastal Andhra and Orissa, to northern Karnataka, to even Punjab. Indeed, no state is exempt from their proselytizing activities.
What are you doing to check these threats to national security and Sanatana Dharma?
Cutting off foreign funding to these so-called NGOs was a good move, but it does not seem to be enough anymore. Declare all conversions illegal. Put the onus of proving willingness to convert on these NGOs by officially registering and/or restricting their activities. Send officials/volunteers to remote areas where missionaries are most active, to counter-educate the gullible public as to the futility of conversions. Even better, improve the living conditions of vulnerable populations, and provide them with good healthcare and education so that they do not have to depend on proselytizing NGOs.
Kick out visa over-stayers and illegal immigrants. Come down hard on the passport/Aadhar/voter card procurement racket. Make sure that foreign criminals are compulsorily deported with no chance of return, after they have served out their prison sentences.
For god's sake, do something. And do it NOW, before it's too late.
Else, be prepared to deal with race-riots and Sentinel-type direct action even on the mainland.
We know that India's got talent... oodles of it, both within Bollywood and outside.
Now India's got #MeToo...
They say everything happens at the right time. Ten years ago, when the said actress was sexually harassed, had she made her revelations, they may not have had such an impact as they have done now.
(I am, of course, assuming that the allegations are true; but that's something the courts would have to decide. But the very fact that the issue has been brought out by one individual is to be welcomed.)
Now that cat's out of the bag, we need to make the most of it. Thank goodness that #MeToo happened in Hollywood - indeed, for a change, that's one good thing that needs to be welcomed to our shores.
Let's hope the movement gathers steam here too and more sacrosanct skeletons tumble out of the hitherto locked up Bollywood cupboard.
Indeed that cupboard was so tightly shut and its inhabitants so much in denial about the transgressions of the high and mighty that it was all bordering on a collective psychotic state.
Even now that the issue is finally out in the open, the reactions have been reflective of this psychotic state.
The glorious superstars of Bollywood have completely denied to comment on it, or to even acknowledge that such incidences could occur in their hallowed citadel. These are hypocritical, self-serving, fake superstars who are only thriving in the industry due to the blind adulation of their equally psychotic fans.
One hopes that at the very least, the other women of the film industry finally find their long-suppressed voice and come out in support of the movement. And not only women, men who have been abused should come out too.
There was a recent post on social media that showed a battered face of a goddess with the tagline that went something like this: 'For the next 10 days the country that abuses its women will celebrate female power' (with reference to Dussehra). Sad, but true!
One may be super talented and highly regarded, yet guilty of sexual harassment at work place. Like many of the other legal directives, the Vishaka Guidelines exist mainly on paper, with companies loath to fully implement them, and employees blissfully unaware of their existence.
Now that the #MeToo Ravana has been dragged out kicking and screaming into the spotlight, here's hoping that the #MeToo movement drags out more such Ravanas from other citadels too: sports, politics, corporate and yes, even medical field.
Then there can be the collective burning of the #MeToo Ravana effigies, which would light up this year's Dussehra like no other.
A Harvard professor has gone on record declaring coconut oil to be "pure poison."
That's it for you Keralites.... you have been consuming poison all these thousands of years! Now that the good professor has declared it, you will soon be extinct.
Apparently professor's nutty video has gone viral... it might as well have gone bacterial.
For it is typical of the toxicity and condescending attitude western academicians have towards all things eastern. This stems from a deep level of ignorance of the frogs in the western well for whom there isn't anything worth considering outside of their own narrow well.
Even if coconut oil were to be rich in saturated oil, to declare it to be pure poisonous is... well, rich, coming from the society that loves its Coca Colas, Pepsis, McDonald's and KFCs.
Yet people go about merrily indulging in all these on a daily basis.
In India, it is inconceivable to imagine life without the coconut tree and its many products featuring prominently in daily affairs.
From cooking to hair oil to rope making to fuel to religious rituals to even carrying you on your last journey to the crematorium, the ubiquitous coconut tree is as useful, versatile and sacred as the cow.
Coconut oil has more fat than lard, the professor says. But we haven't yet arrived at the most perfect health-friendly food suitable for the entire population... research is ongoing.
You can't gulp down bottles of olive oil just because it has more PUFA. Oil is oil. Use it sparingly and judiciously. Whether it is sunflower, safflower, olive, canola, groundnut or coconut oil.
That's the thought that remains with you as you finish Osho's 'autobiography'. Although Osho has been credited as the author of Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic, it has been put together by his followers. I was interested in finding out about the life of the man behind all those seemingly outrageous opinions and meditative techniques. And it makes for a fascinating read.
Equally fascinating, and some might say, titillating, are the 2 Netflix documentaries on Osho: Wild Wild Country and Guru: Bhagwan, His Secretary & His Bodyguard.
From these readings and viewings, the philosophy of the most charismatic spiritual leaders of our times becomes apparent - somewhat. It is not possible to glean his entire thought process and methodology even if you happened to be a close confidante.
Perhaps, in many ways, it is meant to be that way. Spiritual mystics are meant to be inscrutable and unfathomable - one of Osho's methods was to shock/titillate his followers into some kind of awakening.
Hence you find him, at various times, being jovial, being disinhibited, being cantankerous, lashing out at religious practices, advocating dynamic meditation, advising followers to have sexual contact with each other, owning a fleet of Rolls Royces, using drugs, etc, etc.
But at no other time was his controversial philosophy debated, abhorred and targeted more than during his disastrous stay in America. This is addressed very well in the 2 documentaries, especially in the 6-part Wild Country.
One can't help wondering, in hindsight, why his secretaries ever select this place for his commune? Did they honestly believe that the conservative Christian local population would put up with such practices as personal meditation and sexual expression (as opposed to repression)?
Promptly, the Americans - both the general public and the legal/administrative leaders - reacted as they continue to do towards anything that they see as a threat to their faith, culture and nationhood (remember WMD?). They came down like a ton of bricks on the nascent community with multiple legal proceedings and forced Osho to agree to flee US.
His commune did not help its own cause with its in-your-face attitude and infighting - mostly by Osho and his two groups of close confidantes. When it mattered most, Osho himself could have practised silence, as he most often did in his commune. But he came out with allegations against his secretary, Ma Ananda Sheela, which opened the doors to the final, decisive legal proceedings.
What's not shown in the documentaries (but is mentioned in the book) is that Osho was hounded by the US, and had to move from country to country after his legal settlement in US because he was denied asylum wherever he landed. Sadly, he experienced this even in India, thanks to the bullying tactics by the 'Policeman of the World'. It is particularly disgusting to know how the US president arm-twisted the president of the one country that did give him asylum - Uruguay (by threatening to impose sanctions), and compelled him to expel Osho.
As if that weren't enough, it is also said that Osho died from the effects of thallium poisoning carried out by the US state during his incarceration in US jails. I wouldn't be surprised if the Vatican influenced the US government in persecuting Osho, as later media reports speculated.
Coming to more positive findings from my Osho study. Osho's philosophy struck me as being crystal clear with regards to what matters and what does not in spiritual life. This is evident even from his early life experiences. In the book, he gives a vivid description of his enlightenment moment. There are also hilarious anecdotes of how the child Osho confronted a Jain monk at his grandparents' house with unanswerable questions; and how he conducted his classes when he later became professor at a college - very informally and irreverently, much to the chagrin of his exasperated principal. He also gives rational explanations to most of his seemingly outlandish whims and fancies.
Osho dedicates a chapter to understanding mental health issues, as they are studied and practised in the West. He says, 'Sigmund Freud introduced psychoanalysis into the world. It is rooted in analyzing the mind. It is confined to the mind... The goal of Freudian psychoanalysis is not very great. The goal is to keep people normal. But normality is not enough...' Instead, Osho advocates standing out of one's mind - or ecstasy, or transcending the mind itself.
Broadly, I agree with two particular philosophies of Osho: his critique of organised religions, and the need to address repressed emotions and sexual impulses.
Osho is unsparing in his criticism of organised religions; none of the major religions of India and the world escape his irreverence towards them. And here's the thing - his criticism does not feel exaggerated; indeed one would be hard-pressed to come up with an acceptable counter-argument to his criticism. Basically, Osho advocates stripping Faith of all its unhelpful coverings - rituals, rigidities and falsehoods - leaving only the spiritual core that really matters.
For repressed emotions, he advocates (among many others) a meditative technique that involves 'boiling up' oneself through rapid breathing, letting go of pent up and repressed emotions through crying/yelling/thrashing out, and finally observing a period of silence.
He rightly points out that it is only after these repressed emotions are sublimated, the mind becomes conducive to meditation, which requires stillness and silence from within.
Some of the other Osho gems that I picked up from the book are given here:
Why is every language called the mother tongue? Because the mother speaks and the father listens - and that's how the children learn. That's how I learned.
On living life:
Once you are ready to say, "I don't care about respectability," then the society is absolutely impotent to do anything against your will.
All holy books are corpses, dead flowers and nothing else... Truth, the living truth, has to be discovered by each individual by himself. Nobody can give it to you.
The moment truth is organized, it becomes a lie. An organized religion is nothing but a hidden politics, a deep exploitation by the priesthood. They may be shankaracharyas, imams, rabbis, or popes - it makes no difference.
True religion has no name, it cannot have any name. Buddha lived, Jesus lived it - but remember Jesus was not a Christian and Buddha was not a Buddhist, he had never heard of the word. The truly religious people have been simply religious, they have not been dogmatic.
...Christianity has not developed the science of meditation in any way. It has remained a very mediocre religion; so is Judaism.
Enlightenment is a very individual process. Every person passes through different phases, because every person in many lives has gathered different kinds of conditionings.
You cannot do meditation, you can only be in meditation... Dhyana is dropping all contents of the mind and just being.
I am an incurable dreamer. But I can say to you that whatever I have dreamed in my life, I have managed it without doing anything. Just a proposal to existence.
Be in the world, but don't be of it. Live in the world, but don't allow the world to live in you. That's my message...
So, here's what I have to say:
Osho may have been killed. But Osho-hood continues to thrive, and draw in adherents by the millions; his message lives on. You can adore Osho; you can hate Osho. But ignore him and his message at your own peril.
This year, one expected a lot from IPL since there was a general rearrangement of teams following the big auction. One would have thought that we would get to see a more balanced contest, instead of the same old teams dominating others.
But, no such luck... the same old teams dominated others. CSK and SRH continued in their merry way, in spite of the former coming back after the two-year hiatus, and the latter losing its Aussie captain due to the ball tampering row. Even more familiar: RCB continued its woeful run in the IPL.
Here's a low down on this year's edition; the hits and misses; the good, bad and the ugly part of the annual cricketing event that fills our summer holidays, and that we have come to love so much.
If you leave out the doubters and naysayers. They are usually bothered by 'commercialization,' 'match-fixing,' 'loss of purity of cricket,' and what not, all conjured up and exaggerated to vilify India's sporting sensation.
I ask them these: When was the last time an Indian sporting event garnered so much global attention? When did foreign players ever show so much interest in an Indian sporting event, so much so that getting picked in the auction is a matter of pride and fortune for them? When was the last time, a rattled global (read mostly English) cricketing community pour out so much vitriol towards an Indian cricketing phenomenon, a sure sign of their underlying insecurity and jealousy?
That's right... NEVER!
So peeps, take the chill pill, sit back and enjoy the cricketing action. As with every other sport, there are bound to be the bad apples that are up to no good, which of course does not mean that the other players, the game itself, or the fans should pay the price.
Here are my observations from the 2018 contest, some good, some bad.
Even though the usual suspects dominated, the two best teams in this year's tournament - CSK and SRH - made it to the finals. It was good that the other lesser teams did not sneak in due to some fortuitous twist in the tail. My tweet:
2 best teams #CSKvSRH have made it to the #IPL2018Final and 4 of the calmest minds in cricket - MSD, Fleming, Williamson & Moody are at the helm; just goes to show that even in the rough & tumble, slam bang version of cricket, calmness of mind matters
6:53 PM - 27 May 2018
The very fact that the broadcasting rights were given to Star Sports was good. Great escape for the viewers from the hideously incompetent presenters of Sony TV (bar one or two). Star's Mayanti Langer is such a welcome relief!
If going away from Sony means Sidhu would also not be a part of the team - he wasn't on Star this year - then all the better for it. It's better he sticks to entertaining the political dynasty.
Star came up with quite a few innovations this year: the dugout commentary, star commentators playing street cricket, etc. Indeed, Star had lined up as many as 30 commentators throughout the tournament, most very good with their comments and opinions (especially my favourite, Harsha Bhogle).
The addition of DRS is good in terms of reducing umpiring errors. Perhaps IPL can innovate further by adding more technology to get decisions right, and to enhance the viewing experience.
The one-off women's IPL match. Let there be a tournament just for the ladies! Too bad, the people of Mumbai kept away from this game.
The cheerleaders: To me, IPL is all about good cricketing action. I care very less about the celebrities or the non-cricketing entertainment. Don't get me wrong - I've nothing against the girls themselves. It is the concept that I am dead against. Consider this: each time a player (a man) hits a six or takes a wicket, the women have to get up on the stage and dance in skimpy clothes. Has nobody - especially the feminists - considered the sexism inherent in this cheerless act?
I am afraid, Star Sports has fallen prey to the familiar temptation of
publicizing its other programs during the cricketing action. So we
had characters from the Star serials inflicting themselves on the hapless
audience. They got to sit in the front seat along with some Star
Plus contest winners and gesticulate madly to garner attention. On
one occasion, 'Himanshu' from Khichdi was doing his
trademark hand-over-head wave, and Bumble (David Lloyd) who was
commentating, asked incredulously, 'What did I just see there?!'
These Star characters were part of the awards ceremony also, in keeping
with the godawful Star Parivar Awards... ridiculous and redundant.
Star, please get rid of them!
@StarSportsIndia ridiculous to see characters from star
serials in post match presentations..please stop this silly publicity
8:42 PM - 17 Apr 2018
has also fallen prey to the age-old Doordarshan tactics of cutting to the
action just as the ball is about to be delivered by the bowler. It
has to cash in during the ad-break, you see. I tweeted about this,
but to no avail:
@StarSportsIndia #IPL2018 kindly don't cut to the action when the ball is about to be released by the bowler... we want to watch the action in the middle - not ads!
7:57 AM - 8 Apr 2018
Consider this irritation: you are blissfully watching a game, you are trying to concentrate on the action and the commentary. Suddenly, the resident stadium-DJ bursts out with something that sounds like, 'aaayyeeeeEEEEEEEEE!!!!,' to which the audience responds by shouting. Then he continues to holler like a man on Ecstasy, raising the (already increased) decibels in the stadium. It gives you a splitting headache! I tweeted to Star Sports about this mid-match, and I would like to think that the DJ was muted out during that particular match:
@IPL @StarSportsIndia trying hard to listen to #IPL2018 #MIvRCB TV commentary..but unable to because ground DJ is SHOUTING his lungs out..
9:53 PM - 17 Apr 2018
0 replies0 retweets0 likes
But the shouting DJ returned in the later matches, and
continued lunging it out in the rest of the tournament. Please Star, in the future, stop
this atrocity on the TV audience, at least!
@IPL @StarSportsIndia here we go again with the
hollering ground DJ at #SRHvKXIP game...please mute him in ALL games..thanks
9:18 PM - 19 Apr 2018
I still feel that there is a case for 5 overseas players in a team. This way, more international players of quality will get a chance instead of warming the benches. And, the Indian youngsters will have to compete harder to make it to the playing eleven, which can only be a good thing for the national team.
I also feel that there should be an earlier start to the second games of the day; say 7 p.m. If the games start at 8, then the conclusion may be delayed by interruptions such as DRS reviews, checking the boundary/catch. Many games this year went on till midnight. I believe starting early was discussed before IPL began, but MI had objections to it, since the people of the city-that-never-sleeps can only watch the games late in the night. But I say, one city does not make up the country. We do have to get up the next day!
So there you have it... the highs and the lows. You'll find more lows in the lists above because I want IPL to get better. I hope that IPL goes from strength to strength, turning its harshest critics into fans and followers.
I want it to be the first to innovate, rather than catch up with what other leagues are doing. So, pink balls, more technology, early starts, more overseas players, less non-cricket entertainment, women's league are all welcome... hell, even mixed men-women IPL, why not?!
The pain... the suffering... the agony... of being an RCB fan is beyond description.
Consider this: Glamorous big-ticket franchise - on paper. Marquee players, with 2 best batsmen in the world - on paper. Hype and hoopla, bold proclamations - on paper. #eesalacupnamde and #playbold - on (e-)paper. 'Pirate' cheerleaders with the guy in the middle (!), trying to be funny with the slogans with godawful dance moves - on paper... okay, the last one is on stage.
But NOTHING on the ground. Zero results to show. Not a single silverware in the cupboard since the last 11 years.
No doubt, RCB have come close on a few occasions, but have not provided the finishing flourish. If ever there was a team in the IPL that flatters to deceive its fans, it must be RCB.
Kevin Pietersen said during the beginning of this year's (2018) IPL that 'the potential of this team is sky high'. Sadly that potential has also remained only on paper.
They may yet turn a corner this year, but it is highly unlikely (they have just lost the return match against CSK on 5th May as I write this).
Year after year, for the diehard RCB fan, it is a familiar story: more misses than hits, agony as the batsmen fall cheaply to innocuous bowlers, further misery as bowlers get tonked and are not disciplined enough to maintain a steady line and length, wides-galore down the leg-side, no-balls at inopportune moments, dropped catches...
Having said that, one also has to consider the luck of the team; the X-factor, or the mysterious element that is required to win a cricket tournament - especially considering the topsy-turvy nature of cricket - is eminently missing for RCB.
I have closely watched RCB's performance in this year's IPL, and what else but ill-luck could be the reason for these fiascos:
1. Out-of-form batsmen of other team regain their touch and suddenly start playing extraordinary shots (have you ever seen Sanju Samson play a better innings than the one against RCB?).
2. NONE of the changes in the RCB side - whether it is batting order, field placements, or bowling options - work out when it matters. One loses count of the number of opening options RCB have tried in this edition of IPL. They are still searching for the ideal playing 11.
3. Retained players have been failures. Sarfaraz Khan and Pavan Negi, who were retained have not delivered.
4. On the other hand, those that were let go - Shane Watson and Chris Gayle - are in the form of their lives and have notched up centuries for their respective franchises.
5. Some players have ended up being mere travellers with confusing roles. Why was Washington Sundar picked? He is said to be a good power-play bowler, but he has not bowled often at any stage of the innings, let alone power-play. He is said to be a good batsman who can score briskly, but he has not been tried as a pinch-hitter opener.
6. Much was said about the improvement in the bowling department after the purchases in the big auction in April this year. But it continues to be a familiar sob story: bowlers getting thrashed in the death overs.
7. RCB boasts of having the 2 best batsmen in the world. Indeed, many non-Bengalureans are fans of RCB only because of Virat Kohli and A B deVilliers. Sadly, even 2 koels do not a monsoon make. It takes more than these 2 to win the matches. If these 2 fall early (as it happened in today's match against CSK), you can pretty much forget about the rest of them stepping up.
One also has to ask what is it that the other teams are doing right that RCB aren't? Granted, that the format is tough and 'it is not an easy tournament, man' as Ashwin put it after King's XI's loss against MI. But still there is something that the others are doing better than what we are.
Take Chennai Super Kings for example. They are returning to the tournament after 2 years. But they didn't have to 'rebuild'. They just teed off where they left off, and started winning matches straight away. Dhoni, who must be an avatar of Cricket God, has led them well, and whatever the man has touched has turned to gold - especially against RCB, whom he has simply tormented this year. Kolkata Knight Riders, who had a poor run in the first few years, brought in changes in the team management and structure. They turned around their fortunes and went on to win the cup twice.
Mumbai Indians are masters at nearly exiting the tournament and staging remarkable comebacks; they are well on their way to doing this again this year. King's XI Punjab have changed their team considerably and built a balanced batting/bowling unit. Even Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals have performed well at times. Sun Risers Hyderabad have been good as gold in spite of the fact that they do not have David Warner. They are sitting pretty at the top of the table. In fact, as things stand now, it may be tempting to hold the finals between SRH and CSK, and be done with the whole damn thing!
In all this, the frustrated, agonized RCB fan may well tear his hair out and say, WHY NOT RCB???!! Why are they not improving?
In the absence of any other sane or rational explanation, one is left wondering if the fortunes of the main man at the helm of affairs of RCB - the inglorious position of its owner-in-exile - has anything to do with the fate of the team itself.
A cursory look at the RCB website suggests that United Spirits Limited are still the 'founding partners' of the franchise. One has to question where this franchise is headed. What is the fate of this franchise that promises so much, but delivers so little? Who are the men behind the team; the think tank, the people who matter, those who call the shots behind the scenes? What are they doing, year after year, as the franchise flounders from one disastrous outing to another?
All we get to see is the coaching team: Daniel Vettori who is always inscrutable, Ashish Nehra who is always seen saying something to Vettori/Kohli (what does he talk about?!), and now they have added Gary Kirsten to the team (what is his role, exactly?).
Empty proclamations about 'play bold', go green initiatives, birthday dedications, harping about flash-in-the-pan performances, and even individual records of marquee players are not going to cut it.
We need that elusive cup!
Yes, the fans are asking for changes. They are getting impatient. Heads may have to roll. Radical changes may have to be made to the team management, ethos, team constitution.
Dare I say it, the franchise probably needs rescuing from the owner/s. Yes... play bold RCB. Do something... soon.
Otherwise, forget eesala, yaavasalaanu cup namdagalla!