Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Faith

An atheist professor of philosophy speaks to his class on the problem science has with God, The Almighty. 
He asks one of his new students to stand and..... 
Prof: So you believe in God? 
Student: Absolutely, sir. 
Prof: Is God good? 
Student: Sure. 
Prof: Is God all-powerful? 
Student: Yes. 
Prof: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him.  Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn't. How is this God good then? Hmm? 

(Student is silent.) 

Prof: You can't answer, can you? Let's start again, young fella. Is God good? 
Student: Yes. 
Prof: Is Satan good? 
Student : No. 
Prof: Where does Satan come from? 
Student: From...God.. . 
Prof: That's right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world? 
Student: Yes. 
Prof: Evil is everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything. Correct? 
Student: Yes. 
Prof: So who created evil? 

(Student does not answer.) 

Prof: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don't they? 
Student: Yes, sir. 
Prof: So, who created them? 

(Student has no answer.) 

Prof: Science says you have 5 senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. 
Tell me, son....Have you ever seen God? 
Student: No, sir. 
Prof: Tell us if you have ever heard your God? 
Student: No, sir. 
Prof: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smelt your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter? 
Student: No, sir. I'm afraid I haven't. 
Prof: Yet you still believe in Him? 
Student: Yes. 
Prof: According to empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your GOD doesn't exist.  What do you say to that, son? 
Student: Nothing. I only have my faith. 
Prof: Yes. Faith. And that is the problem science has. 
Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat? 
Prof: Yes. 
Student: And is there such a thing as cold? 
Prof: Yes. 
Student: No sir. There isn't. 

(The lecture theatre becomes very quiet with this turn of events.) 

Student : Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat.  But we don't have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that.  There is no such thing as cold . Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat . We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy . Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it .

(There is pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre.) 

Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness? 
Prof: Yes. What is night if there isn't darkness? 
Student : You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light.....But if  you have no light constantly, you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? In reality, darkness isn't. If it were you would be able to make 
darkness darker, wouldn't you? 
Prof: So what is the point you are making, young man? 
Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed. 
Prof: Flawed? Can you explain how? 
Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one.To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. 
Now tell me, Professor.Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey? 
Prof: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do. 

Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir? 

(The Professor shakes his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument is going.) 

Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?

(The class is in uproar.) 

Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor's brain?

(The class breaks out into laughter.) 

Student : Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor's brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain,sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir? 

(The room is silent. The professor stares at the student, his face unfathomable. ) 

Prof: I guess you'll have to take them on faith, son.

Student: That is it sir... The link between man & god is FAITH . That is all that keeps things moving & alive. 

NB: I believe you have enjoyed the conversation. ..and if so...you'll probably want your friends/colleagues to enjoy the same...won't you?.... this is a true story and the student was none other than........ .

.. 




APJ Abdul Kalam, the former president of India . 
orwardSourceID: NT0000767E 
ForwardSourceID: NT00006736

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cosmopolitan Mumbai

I make it a point to read Amitabh Bachchan's blog everyday. He writes about anything and everything under the sun and writes very nicely. His language is superb. Sometimes, he quotes from other magazines also. I liked the article he quoted from Mumbai Mirror, written by Rahul Srivatsava.

As Srivastava said, people from all over India have gone and settled down in Mumbai for so many decades now. My doddamma (mother's elder sister) got married at the age of 12 (Balika Vadhu material!) and went to Mumbai some 65 years back. She knew only Kannada, then. Her children studied in Marathi medium with Hindi and English. Along with them she learnt to read Marathi, Hindi, Tamil (she had Tamil neighbours) and English novels too. She had very good Marathi family friends and did not find any difficulty living there, all these years. Why do people - I will not say 'locals', because people who have been there for generations, are also 'locals'- feel insecure now, as Raj Thackeray feels? Mumbai is called a cosmopolitan city because it has got people from all over India who had been living there, thinking that Mumbai city belongs to everybody, who are Indians. Now, my cousins have come to Bengaluru on their jobs and still they consider Mumbai as their native place.

Here, in Chennai, my children had studied in CBSE schools and they do not know to write in Tamil. They had Hindi and Sanskrit as second and third languages. The government does not insist on having Tamil compulsorily, in the state syllabus. The DMK government is against Hindi language and most of the educated people of this generation (who are in their 20s and 30s),do not know Tamil - to read and write! Three language formula is banned here. The other states insist on their local language as second language and you can have any other as the third language. So people who study in Bengaluru or Hyderabad or Thiruvanantapuram, know Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam. We, esp. South Indians, communicate mostly in English, in work place and outside. We should know the local language definitely and respect other languages also, I feel. Hindi is our national language and English is important for education and for our jobs. All our languages are ancient languages with good literary value, which should be preserved. We should be broad minded and learn the language of the place we live. Similarly, we should respect people of other states, who come to live in our state.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mumbai, the once so called 'Financial Capital of India!'

I read an email in last week's edition of 'Outlook' magazine's Letters to the Editor:

'My dharma tells me to treat all who come to my door as godlike guests and feed them. My dharma also tells me that I must provide succour to my children and that when I do not have enough to feed them both, my children get higher priority and I must ask the guest to go elsewhere, especially, when my guest brings with him not just his family, but his brother-in-law, his third cousins, their friends and the village barber.'

I am sad our country is not made up of so many states with so many languages anymore. The states are becoming like individual countries. People like Raj Thackeray are behaving like despot kings. Slowly it is spreading to other states also - e.g. Karnataka.

Here, in Chennai, I have got a neighbour who is from Chatthisgarh. We are living near the IT Highway and I see so many different types of people from all over India - even sardarjis, who have come here to work in the Infosys, TCS, Sathyam Computers etc. The IT bhoom has made this happen. Even I am from Karnataka. All youngsters are going everywhere. Are all Thackeray's family members live only in Maharashtra? Do they speak only Marathi? Don't they go abroad? Bal Thackeray's first bahu was producing Hindi films, I remember. Bal Thackeray is (or was, because he cannot say so loudly now!) a great fan of Amitabh and Shah Rukh Khan.

What will happen to Mumbai if Ambanis, Tata, Birla and other business people leave Mumbai/Maharashtra. Should Bollywood produce only Marathi films? Should only Maharashtrians act in the films produced over there? The MNCs or any business people, think twice before starting a business in Kerala because of the labour unions. Now same thing will happen to Mumbai because of the problems created by the Thackerays. I will think twice before sending my son to Mumbai, for any kind of job. I have seen what happened to the students who went there to attend the Railway entrance exams. They must be in their late teens or early twenties. This will affect them and they might hate Maharashtrians forever.

Only a strong Central Government can bring some sort of peace. All our political parties are into promoting their own parties. We have sent Chandrayan to the moon and proved to the world that we are coming out of the 'Third World Country' label. These Thackerays are pulling us back into that label again.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Twentieth Wife - Book by Indu Sundaresan.

Quite an interesting narration of the Mughal Empire - Emperor Akbar, his son Jahangir, Jahangir and Mehrunnisa's romance etc. In between the romantic tale of Jahangir and Mehrunnisa,(later on Empress Nur Jahan), we can know about the Imperial Place where their women lived in harems, their children (from hundreds of wives and concubines!), their day-to-day lifestyle, how the kings presided the court, about nobles, their slaves ...the fight in-between the princes for the throne...very interesting. Indu Sundaresan has researched well for writing this book.

Ghias Beg and his wife Asmat are fleeing Persia, for their life, to Hindustan. They already have got 3 children and a girl baby is born in the desert, on their way. Ghias tries to leave the child under a tree for someone to bring her up, but a merchant brings her back to him and helps him get a job in the Mughal Emperor Akbar's Court. Then the story narrates how the child, Mehrunnisa grows up, falls in love with Akbar's son Prince Salim (who later on becomes Emperor Jahangir) at the age of 8, when she views his marriage ceremony, from the Imperial Palace balcony. Salim also meets her in his step mother, the Empress's apartment and falls in love with her.

Ghias Beg brings up his children with good education and cultured manners. They learn (even the girls) Turkish, the language of the Mughal Court, Hindi, Sanskrit etc. A brahmin comes to their house to explain Ramayana also! The girls are taught painting, stitching etc. We notice that the Hindus and Muslims lived peacefully in Akbar and Jahangir's rule. They exchanged their culture also - Mehrunnisa draws rangoli with colour powder on festive occasions!

Then comes Salim's greediness to become the Emperor fast and how he fails in his attempts. Akbar loved his son Salim very much, till then. He becomes upset knowing about Salim's behaviour. So when he comes to know that Salim loved Mehrunnisa, he made Ghias marry his daughter off to a soldier of his choice. Mehrunnisa lives with her husband for 13 years with two abortions and then one girl child. Emperor Akbar dies and Salim becomes the the Emperor - Emperor Jahangir.

The story continues till Jahangir marries Mehrunnisa, 4 years after her husband's death and she becomes Empress Nur Jahan, who ruled Hindustan for 14 years with the help of Jahangir.

More than the love story, I liked the way Indu Sundaresan narrated the history of the Mughal empire. Their way of life, the incidents that occurred during that period (16th century). The Portuguese were already settled in India as merchants and then came the East India Company, who wanted to trade with India. The English are mentioned as shepherds and fishermen by the Emperor! Jahangir allows the Portuguese Jesuits to convert his brother's sons into catholics! This way,his sons will have less competition to the throne! The headquarters of the kingdom changes from Agra to Lahore according to the weather and the place of war! Like Akbar wrote (made his minister write - he did not know to read and write and made others to read for him and had a very good memory power, it seems)'Akbar Nama', explaining about the history of his time, Jahangir wrote 'Jahangir Nama', explaining his reign. He was known to be a 'Just King', because his people can ask for justice by pulling a golden chain with brass bells (Chain of Justice) with bells and action was taken. This chain was in Agra and the story is mostly around Agra and Lahore.

The eating habits of that time, the delicacies of the kings, how they were prepared, the ingredients used etc. are also explained in detail. I will try adding rosemary for my dum aloo!

When we read about the life of the harem women, we really pity them. 300 women - wives, concubines etc. - live for a single male. Dress up for him, wait for just a look from him, huh! The king just brings them to the harem or marries them for political reasons, then just keep them locked in the palace! I wonder if our Hindu kings had so many women in their palaces?!

This book of Indu Sundaresan won the coveted Washington State Book Award. We can enjoy reading this book, definitely.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tirupati Tirumala darshan.

We went to Tirupati to have darshan of Lord Venkateshwara on the Deepawali day. We had booked the tickets for 'Archananatara Darshan' (AAD) paying Rs.200/- per head in the month of June itself. They mention the darshan timing in the ticket itself and it was for 28th October '08 morning 5.30 a.m. This darshan starts at 4.30 in the morning every day and goes on till 6.30. Because of the terrorist threats, they do not allow us near the Garbha Gruha nowadays. If the crowd is less, they allow during this darshan, inside. Otherwise we have to get satisfied of the Lord's Darshan (God Venkateshwara is mentioned in the website of this temple as Lord Venkateshwars and Lord sounds funny for us!) from the outer level.

We reached Tirumala on the previous evening after having darshan of the Devi at Alamelu Mangapuram and it was late. Next day early morning, I heard the Nagaswaram at 1 a.m., Venkatesha Suprabhatam at 2 a.m. also. Got up at 3.30 a.m., had bath and were at the Vaikutam queue gates at 4.30 itself. There, a huge crowd was waiting and the temple officials were informing that because of the Deepawali festival, the Lord has got special poojas and so, they allowed people with AAD tickets early - from 3 to 4 a.m. They said that they had been announcing about this from the previous day evening via speakers. These speakers are inside the temple complex and can be heard only by the people who were inside the complex. How can the others hear it, I don't understand. They were asking us to come back at 9 a.m.

We had gone there by car and were able to have darshan afterwards and instead of returning home for lunch, came home late in the evening. There was a big group who had come from Mumbai and their return tickets were booked for 10 a.m. train. They returned back without having darshan.

The temple authorities should not have given darshan timing when the special Deepawali pooja is done every year at the same time. People come there from all over India to visit the temple and their whole plan gets upset and they get mentally upset for going back without having darshan. I do not know if this is the first time it is happening. Anyway, whoever is going to Tirupati have to get confirmed of the darshan timings, at least the previous day, I think.

We had a good darshan later on, though. The ex-CM of Andhra Pradesh, Mr.Naidu had done some very good arrangements for easy movements of the pilgrims and every year, more and more people are coming there! Lord Venkateshwas has to take care of all of us, I think!
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