Sunday, December 25, 2011


Humility comes from greatness of character. The more a person learns about the world and themselves, the more they realize that they don’t know anything. Once that realization hits, then one starts to get more curious and the long journey of learning begins. As one gets more knowledge one gets more mature and thus becomes more humble.

One should know the difference between knowledge of information and knowledge of self. Information are facts that one learns to progress in career whereas knowledge of self is for self improvement. Humility comes from the latter type of knowledge. Acquiring of information does not always lead to humility, it can lead to pompousness and egoistic behavior. This type of behavior leads to destructive nature of self.

Individuals who are humble can be recognized by their self contentment, quiet nature, respectful behavior and open mind.

There are many people who don’t know that they are ignorant.  They think they already know everything so there is nothing more to learn from the world.  If they do learn it is not really to improve themselves, but to show off to other people about what they have learnt. They keep touting their own knowledge and promote themselves as if they are the only ones who know anything. The sad part is that they don’t even know they are ignorant. These people are shallow and cannot see beyond themselves. There are many sayings about such people in hindi – but here is one in English which is similar:

Coins always make sound….but the currency notes are always silent.
So…..when your value increases, keep yourself calm and silent..

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


The dictionary meanings of acknowledge is:
recognition of the existence or truth of something
an expression of appreciation

We have become so busy in our lives that we forget to acknowledge the people around us; whether it is our family, friends or colleagues or even strangers for that matter. We brush them off and go about our lives as if these people will always be there. Not so......there is no relationship in this world that is immune from withering away. Once you start taking anyone for granted then you can take it for granted that the relationship is over. And suddenly one day you will wonder – how did that happen? How did I lose this person from my life?

We all want to be acknowledged yet we don’t want to give any acknowledgment – why? Because we are too busy? Or we don’t know how to appreciate people? What the heck are we busy with?? Life? Life – that is so fickle that it will not stay with you longer than it has to. It will pass us by without a second thought and leave us thinking about what we lost during the time we were busy.

Acknowledging someone is also the easiest way to make someone happy, including yourself. In this day and age of hyper communication sometimes there is no communication.

Regarding HOW to acknowledge someone....well...the easiest way of acknowledging someone is by sharing your time with them. As Americans say, “Time is money,” so yes, you are giving something valuable. But the value of this is immeasurable. Most people just want a little bit of your time. As soon as you start spending time with whomever you care about, you will see the difference in your relationship with them. Keep in mind – don’t expect anything in return!! You are doing it for them, if you matter to them they will reciprocate in kind!

No one likes being ignored. Even kindness to a stranger or from a stranger makes both the parties feel good! Make the change in your life......acknowledge and appreciate the people around you:
  • Do something nice for your parents every day. Spend a little time with them.
  • Play with your kids, or study with them.
  • Do something that your better-half likes for a change. 
  • Write or call your friend who you have been meaning to...
  • Say a kind word to your colleague.
  • Give a compliment to someone.
There are so many more ways to make someone feel appreciated - I can't possibly write them all.  Living alone for so long has taught me the value of relationships (contradictory eh!!). And I do hope that in my own way I make my friends and family feel appreciated.

Relationships are so fragile; so easy to break and so hard to maintain.  So if you want to keep a relationship then care for it like you would as if you were growing a tree. Water it, fertilize it with proper minerals and don’t forget to remove the bugs! The flowers, the fruits, the shade of the tree, all will be for you. Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly, otherwise why even bother?

And if you don’t want to keep a relationship.....just ignore it! That is the easiest way to end it. The other person will get the message that you don't have any need for them, that you don't have any time for them and will acknowledge your wishes and go away.

To end today's thoughts.....I selected this quote, because so many times we acknowledge, but not with heart.

“I like her because she smiles at me and means it.” ~Anonymous

Saturday, December 10, 2011


This is possibly the worst quality in anyone. There is no shortage of people or books giving advice on the fact that anger is the least desirable quality. When one is angry there is no control over what one is saying and to whom. And most times the person in anger will have regrets after their anger has subsided. But by that time the damage has been done.

The person who gets angry usually has no control over their emotions and are usually emotionally weak. What is even worse is when an educated person gets angry. One of the purposes of getting an education is also to be disciplined in ones actions. Why does one not control their anger? In my life I have observed that somehow people who chose to use anger as their self defense tend to belittle people around them.

I have also noticed a number of times that anger is misdirected. One is angry at one thing but they take it out on someone else or something else. The recipient of this anger is most times not aware what hit them. Even if they know that they did not cause this anger, they are still unable to do anything about it. It is the most pathetic sight to see. This behavior clearly shows that this individual (getting angry) does not have respect for people around them. Even if they are remorseful later in time, the deed has been done and after a few times of forgiving them for their anger, it becomes harder.

Is anger an environmental effect or genetic? How does one learn to get angry? From family? From friends? I will not be presumptuous to know the answer to that question but I do think it is more from home. If one comes from a stable, loving home where everyone is respected for their opinions and decisions then there would be no reason to be angry. So, anger in my opinion is a learned behavior and therefore can be controlled by discipline and appropriate support from family and friends.

As I have grown up, and hopefully matured in my thinking and developed some self confidence, I have learned to deal better with people directing their anger towards me, and I getting angry at other people. Dealing with people getting angry with me is much easier:
  • Depending on the person who is fuming at me, if I can, I just walk away.
  • If the person is close to me, I try to get to the bottom of their anger and help them by getting to the bottom of their problem. Most times I have been able to calm people down by just listening patiently. Sometimes they don’t really want a response – just an audience.
  • If I cannot go away and I don’t really care to give a response (or should not give a response), then I listen with patience without losing my own temper. I just sit, look at the person and think about what is going on in their mind to get so upset.  They usually don't have a problem from me, but some of their own issues.  (Sometimes these are the students who come and sit in my office trying to tell everything that is wrong with me and my teaching, when really they are the ones who have not put forth the work needed for the course).
  • The best phrase I learned from one of my colleagues is to say, “I understand”, and listen. Sometimes angry people are trying to get a response out of me and I know they don’t deserve a response. So I keep my cool and just smile.
I usually don’t get angry at people anymore as much as I used to. I have realized over time it is not worth it to ruin my mood and someone else’s day over a useless emotion and especially over a situation that I may not have had any control over. So better to smile, realize that there is no positive outcome from anger and eat chocolate.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, that is the common saying. Ok then, what is the beholder looking for? Physical beauty, personality beauty or intellectual beauty? Does having one kind of beauty make the other ones less important or less required? Does the beholder look only for one or more? That only the beholder knows. (And the beholder is quite fickle!!)

Physical – this is probably the most superficial of the three types. It is only on the outside and does not last; it tends to fade with age. An accident may also change the physical appearance. Then what? Does that make the person less desirable? To some, yes. How shallow! Besides how long does a relationship last if is based on such a superficial trait? However, for most people it is a key requirement in relationships – especially marriages and friendships.

Personality – this is an inner beauty. It shows up when we talk, how we behaves or when we make a decision. The actions here make the beauty. And here we bring another saying, “actions speak louder than words”. Which means you have to be careful about your actions. These will reflect your personality.  I think sometimes this one is hard to see for superficial people, however they will also acknowledge that some people are just "nice". A good personality goes a long way. People with a good personality have a good disposition, positive outlook and will always make people around them happy.

Intellectual - the takers for this one are very few, obviously, since not everyone can have or understand an intellectual conversation. One has to be well read, articulate to have an intellectual conversation.  It takes a good personality to have an intellectual conversation without sounding pompous.  A very delicate balance is needed otherwise people might think you are a smart ass!

I believe to be a good person you need a good balance of a good personality and intellect. Both of those will never go out of fashion.

So what kind of beauty do you like?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What Bugs me About India

India is a great country! There is so much to love about it, and there are so many irritating things about it.  Some might think I have become an American, but I would say, I have a different outlook.

I have been travelling to India every 3-4 years, but this year was different becuase I got to stay in one place for two months; I was working in that one place; and for the first time, I travelled and lived on my own in India. This gave me a different perspective on things than when I travelled earlier with my father. 

Most times I was okay however there were times when I would get completely frustrated by certain situations or people. So these are the things that bugged me and they are not in any particular order....(do remember that my experience is that of north India....although some of it is true all over India)
  1. Garbage: this is always the first thing that I notice.  There is garbage everywhere.  How can Indians bear to live in a trash can? Most homes don't even have a garbage bin (dustbin).  Most places where the large trash collection points are, just stink because the trash never gets picked up.  The stench and sight are unbearable  Every place is littered with trash. No place is sacred.
  2. Traffic rules: or lack thereof.  It seems that knowing driving or the rules for driving are not a requirement to be on the road, only a vehicle and someone to operate it, are needed.  Everyone on the road believes the road is made only for them. (I try not to look at the traffic when I am in the car, but I could not help morbid of me to just keep looking)
  3. Interruptions: no matter who you are talking to and where you are, it was quite normal for a third person to come and start talking to me or the person I was talking to, without any regard to whetherI was having a private conversation, or without any concern for interrupting someone's conversation. Status of the person also does not matter. There is no expectation of privacy anywhere.(Even doctors' offices are not private.  Everyone can hear everyone's conversations.) It got to a point where in some cases I would just get up and leave. What is the point? The person you were talking to obviously is not able to keep up with two conversations! And quite honestly, it is so common that people don't even realize they are doing it...or offending anyone.
  4. Rudeness: there is no politeness in anyone's voice anymore.  Very few people are actually nice to talk to.  It seems to me that most people are trying to just get rid of you so that they can get back to......whatever.
  5. Staring: why do people stare so much in India? Or are they just staring at me? (that would be embarrassing)
  6. Time: no one is on time for anything.  Enough said.
  7. Cell phones: these should be now taught in Anatomy as an appendage to the human body; especially in Indian text books.  No one can breathe without a cell phone.  Indians have not figured out where the "silent" or "off" switch is on their phones; and everyone takes their call no matter where they are or to whom they are talking to. And no one seems to care about this rude behaviour, they just wait for the other person to finish talking.  (Why is this acceptable?)
  8. No personal space: people stand so close in lines and sit so close in buses and other public transportations.  Men and women usually don't sit together in temples or parties; but in these lines and public vehicles no one cares if the poor woman gets crushed between two guys.
  9. No respect: there is a general errosion of respect in the society. People push each other, elbow each other, cut lines, are rude to each other......all for what? who knows? 
As good as India can be, its people are not up to its greatness.  There is so much culture in "Indian Culture" but culture in its people is eroding.

The best expresssion for the lack of etiquettes and culture is what I heard from a comedian, Merill Markoe, "There are so many socially acceptable ways to show a lack of empathy".  So seems we are caring less and less about other people's feelings or how we behave in public.

PS: I am still always ready to go to India!!

And go here to enjoy some fun images of India....(I did not take them :-))

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pragyopnishad Part 5 (1-7)

Chapter 1 – Karm

There are tow things that come to test a man – sankat and glory. Problems test our patience, humanity and courage, while glory tests our humanity, courage, politeness and control. Anyone who passes these two tests is great human being.

With adulthood comes rights.
With rights the responsibilities.
If one is responsible then prizes are there but not then he is punished.

A cleaner has small responsibility whereas the captain of a ship has a lot more. All karm are accounted for even if humans have the freedom to make choices and take decisions. There are two sides for everything in this world; day-night, truth-lie, heaven-hell, greed-charity. Both are powerful and attractive. We have to decide which one to follow. Man also has both raakhas and dev qualities.

Humans should have the foundation of truth and search for the truth.

Chapter 2

Why does man not take the path of truth and God?

Because he does nto want to. If one really wants he can change himself e.g. Valmiki, Kalidas etc. one has to think right as well as do right – just one does not work. Character and thought are two strengths of humans.

Chapter 3 – Yog and Tap

The five qualities that are a must for a great human being:
  1. Hard work
  2. Mit vyayita
  3. Shaalinta
  4. Sehkarita
  5. Sangharsh shilta
Be serious by heart, your work and word.

Discipline and love should be balanced, excess of anything is bad.

Chapter 4 – Soul

Knowledge is supreme. Understand yourself – aatm gyaan. Four things hold a person tightly:

  • Old values
  • Present information/experience
  • Love of close ones
  • Environment
If environment does not change then it is hard to change the point of view. That is one purpose of teerth yatra (pilgrimage), satsang and meeting and reading about great people. Just reading and knowing is not enough one has to live it, implement in their life.

Atma and body have each their purpose. Just like father wants his son to do his will, god also wants that from his creation. Vaisudev kutumbhkam – see yourself in everyone and everyone in you. The whole world is one big family. If you have a good view on life – then you can find good in everything. Love everyone – bhakti generates love in people.

Chapter 5 – Dharm

These days the meaning of dharm has been changed. Dharm has become religion but dharm really is your duty. Dharm is:
  • Truth and intelligence
  • Control and responsibility
  • Maryadapaalan and discipline
  • Saujanya and parakram
  • Sekhaar and parmaarth
Chapter 6 – sarvdharm sambhaav

Two kinds of dharm – religious and duty. But if humans do duty with religion then it is the best dharm.

Chapter 7 – upaasna, saadhna and araadhna

There are many things that come in threes:
  • World: God – Human – Nature
  • God: Bhrama – Vishnu – Mahesh
  • Human Body: Sthool – suksham – kaaran
  • Goals: Satya – chitta – aanand
  • Thathya: Saytam – Shivam – sundaram
  • Worlds (lok): Devlok – Dharti
  • (3 – gun)
Gayatri is also three –



exists in
exists in
exists in
Is Upaasna Is Saadhna Is Araadhna
Is Brahm Is Life Is the

Sit next to God make life changes seva dharm for good of the world
You get strength from this sun, moon, rivers – they all do seva
Once you give, you will see you have more.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pragyopnishad Part 4 – Pilgrimage (4)

Chapter 4 – Teerth (pilgrim places)-Devalay

Purpose of temples and pilgrimage: to evoke shraddha (devotion/faith), knowledge and loyalty.

There is only one god. One who understands god will know this. Each place of worship has a charitable place which is to help with human awakening and believe in religion (dharm dhaarana). They are also supposed to make one able and have bhaavna (emotions).

Just like sun gives its rays to everyone, wind blows to everyone to help them breath etc. humans who are devta like will go out and help people with all good heart and intentions. A sadhu person should do pilgrimage journey as it is good yog as well as aradhna of dev. Only good can come out of it.

Sleeping person is kalyug
One who gives up sleep is dwaapar
One who gets up is treta
One who walks is satyug

Going to pilgrimage used to be a huge event and journey.

Even the people who are not very religious should do pilgrimage because it increases knowledge, experiences, change in behavior and helps to network. It also helps with tourism, business, your realize the greatness of yourself and everyone seems to be part of one family.

One should go with pure heart to pilgrimage – just like a fish does not benefit from Ganga water you will also learn anything. Even criminals get peace when they do pilgrimage. One should try to do some sanskaar during the teerth.

True sant (saint) and good human beings make pilgrimage journey meaningful. If one gets good company of a true sadhu then that is equivalent to pilgrimage, e.g. company of Yudhister and Vidur is like going for pilgrimage.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pragyopnishad Part 4 – Death, Belief and Pragya (5)

Chapter 5 – All about Death

One should think of death as a place of rest rather than end. Think of everyday as a new life and night as new death.

Death is like changing clothes. After death heaven-hell have their own happiness and sadness and punarjanam has its own. In either case one has to deal with their good and bad actions. After human life is devta life. Sometimes humans become nastik because of delay in karmphal, but believe in god and then there is no fear. Just the way people with physical body enjoy happiness/sadness so do sooksham bodes. Our forefathers will benefit from our karm. There was a great explanation of shraadh….

Chapter 6 – Astha-Sankat

Why do cultures fight for religious reasons? It is disgraceful.

Just like you have to wash dirty clothes, clean rooms etc..this way religions also get dirty. Things should be changed because times are different. One should not think old is gold – these things (parampara) should be changed.

Dev sanskriti is like milk – humans bad thinking make it dirty. All sorts of bad habits and rituals have entered religion. There is dirtiness, dissatisfaction, unsafety, disharmony, distrust everywhere. Culture and rituals which were pure have become corrupted. Gangas is pure in Himalyas but becomes salty and dirty by the time it reaches the sea, but then water evaporates and comes back to Himalayas and becomes Ganga again.

Faith is needed to make man devta. In scientific development there was no thought for culture. That is why science has no shraddha. Because of science, faith was lost. One needs spiritual knowledge to get back the faith.

Chapter 7 – Pragya Avtaar

Will the situation change? Or is pralay here?

When situations are like this then change happens itself and situation arises when things start to look bright again. This is because of the avatar.

(description of the 10 avtaars). 10th is supposed to be Kalki. Its main purpose is to change thought – chetna. New thought, beliefs will be established by removing the old ones. The problem now is of whole humanity – not just one person as it was in the earlier times.

Pragya avatar will be shapeless because it is vyaapak. There will be many pragya sons who will bring new thought process to this world.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pragyopnishad Part 4 - Values (3)

Chapter 3 – Values (sanskaar)

Humans can be:
Animals – only live for eating and reproduction
Devils – terrorists and law breakers, greedy
Human – obey law of karm and is lawful
Divine – focus on responsibility rather than their own rights. They do for others as they want for themselves.

The Divine Human – god appears in human form also. Devtaa is representation of nature (prvritti ka pratinidhitva) i.e. does his duties happily, he is happy from within so he does not need any external stimuli. He does not need anything in return.

Humans are all alike but association and environment makes them one or another. Vidya makes a human cultured. Humans are lucky that they can get vidya. Education helps a person in his professional and personal development. So just because a human is educated, does it mean he can reach the dev level? Because sometimes it does not happen. According to dev sanskriti there are 16 types of sanskaars (ceremonies/rites). All these make humans divine – e.g. Puvsan, Naamkarna, Annpraashan, Mundan, Vidyaa-arambh, Diksha, Upnayan, Vivah, Vaanprasth, Janamdin votsav, Wedding anniversary etc…

There are many parv (festivals). Festivals are meant to

1) energize, bind people, make them cultured and create a sense of community.
2) do yagya on an occasion.
3) have a celebration during change of seasons.
4) for entertainment.
5) to celebrate a hero or literary person etc.

All of the above are part of being in a community. There are ten main festivals: basant panchami, shivratri, holi, ramnaumi, gayatri jayanti, gurupoornima, shravani, janmaasthmi, vijayadashmi and diwali.

All these promote energy, good will, happiness, and there is kirtan-bhajan (devotional songs) which promotes good thoughts in humans. Tell each other stories during these festivals teach culture.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pragyopnishad Part 4 – Dev Sanskriti (1 & 2)

Chapter 1 – Dev-sanskriti (divine culture)

The gurukul type school was the best of its kind. Gurukul used to be a family like environment, where the teacher was like the father and the teacher’s wife was like the mother to the students. Kids were taught not only content, but culture, behavior etc.

The teacher’s character also plays a big role. Teachers should become what they want their students to be (in character etc.). Teachers should have the heart of a mother.

Difference between shiksha (knowledge) and vidya (education) is that shiksha is just getting information while vidya teaches us the value of life that helps us live a meaningful life. Shiksha is more for material gains while vidya is for self development. Siksha is outward whereas vidya is inward growth. Both have their place and value in a good life. Man has to try himself to get vidya otherwise it is just knowledge and it is like giving a sword to a monkey. Just like iron has to go through extraction proves to become useful, man has to do the same thing. Without developing from inside life is incomplete.

You cannot grow a mango tree from a babuul (tree with thorns) seed. A farmer looks for the best seed to grow. Parents have to do the same with their kids. If parents have high thinking and good character then in their company children become the same way. Parents are the first teachers. By seven years, kids have a good personality development.

Indian culture and dev sanskriti (divine culture), go hand in hand. This is also the Rishi’s way of life. Dev (divine) is someone who gives while devil is the one who takes. Anyone who has given more and taken less from this world is dev. Devil is greedy while dev is charitable. So man has to try to become more dev-like.

Chapter 2 – Aashram of Life and Cast

Basically there are four castes and four divisions of life.

The Caste

Everyone is born the same, but their karm (actions) decides what kind of classification they get – not the other way round. Castism is not a good system now – it has been misused and should be abolished.

Brahmin class is the voice of society. One has to be this quality by character not birth. (Raavan was bhramin and Ram and Krishna were kshatriya). Bhramin works for the betterment of the society – he can open libraries, schools, training places, child care, women centers and etc. so that people can learn and also participate in seva (service to people). He should stand up against injustice.

The Four Divisions of Life

In the four divisions of life ghrasth aashram is the highest one. In this a person has energy and strength to take care of family and society. In bhramcharya and grahastashram: physical, mental, societal and work are prime during this time. The rest half of the life is for spiritual, emotional, character, good nature and selfless work for others.

Vaanprasth is the most important because a person can support himself by this age and can only give back to the community instead of taking from it. People have no more responsibilities by this time.

Upaasna is necessary for all times in life. You should develop like sandalwood – that itself smells good and makes everything around it smell good too. Upaasna is sitting next to god. If you sit next to god you will try to get more god like qualities.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Inventory of Life - Friends

Friends are some of the most important people in our lives.  I feel sorry for anyone who has not experienced good friendship.  Life is lonely without friends.  I have been blessed with good friends wherever I have lived (and I have lived in many places!)

As we all know, we don’t have a liberty to choose our family, but we do have the liberty to choose our friends. Many times our friends are closer to us than our family. We will tell intimate details of our lives to our friends rather than our family. 

There is a popular sayings about friends: “You have friends for a reason, a season, or a lifetime”. 

We encounter people in our lives who sometimes help us through the darkest of our hours and then dissappear.  They were there for only one reason - to help us. I have felt so many times a sense of loss in meeting such people.  But, I think these souls are never meant to stay in our lives; it could be a debt they are repaying from a previous life or a divine person who appeared to help us.

Some friends are seasonal.  I remember during my Ph.D. days, I could not have had such a good experience without the group of my very close knit friends.  We depended on each other socially, professionally and personally.  Yet now, most of us have moved on in our lives leaving the past as pleasant memories.

My lifetime friends? Well.........there are some and I still have some life to live.

Sometimes we have a variety of friends to fulfill the different aspects of our lives; some to socialize with, some to watch movies with, some so that the kids can socialize etc. Our needs and requirements keep changing as we are growing and so people keep coming in and out of our lives. The ones that "click" - stay, the superficial ones disappear quickly.

Friendships can be so rewarding as well as challenging just like all relationships.  But if a friendship is strong, it will meet all the challenges and keep growing.  A true friend will adjust, tolerate and be there through good and bad times without asking for anything in return (although its never a good idea to have a one sided relationship - one person will get tired of giving all the time.)

Speaking for myself: I have many friends and I care about them all and will help out as much as I can; but only a few of them really care about me - and those are my true friends.  Living alone has its own challenges, so when I become friends with a person, my friendship grows on the basis of respect, dependability and trust.  As time goes on, all other pieces should fit in place.  I know I am not perfect, and I don’t expect my friends to be perfect either, but if certain qualities are not there then I know that the friendship will also be fragile.  There are qualities I will compromise with and some that I will not.

Here are the qualities I think are valuable in a friend.  These work both ways - I myself should also have these qualities to be a good friend.  (These days you don't even have to live in the same city to be good friends.)
  • Dependability - Be there for for each other.  What is the point of a friend if they are not there for you?
  • The ability to listen - Listen to each other so we understand each other.
  • Trust - The ability to confide in each other with complete trust.  I really don’t want them to gossip about me.
  • Honesty - Goes right along with trust.  Lies can destroy any kind of relationship and freindships are held together by invisible bonds. Once broken, that bond is tough to remake. 
  • Non judgemental – accept each other as they are without wanting to change them in a selfish way.
  • Support – Support each other emotionally and physically. In these days of increased communication there is no excuse for being an absentee friend. 
  • Inspirational – Help each other grow; we should be able to learn new things from each other as the friendship develops.
It seems like there are too many qualities needed to be a good friend, but in reality if you really care for someone's friendship you will adjust and be the kind of person your friend needs. Otherwise .... was never meant to be.   If you look carefully these qualities are also that of a good person :-)

There is also another popular quote “You are known by the company you keep”. 

Nothing can be more right than this. You are influenced more by friends than family (peer pressure rules!!).  If you keep good company, that is how you will become. So for your personal self-development you should want to surround yourself with people who can help you go forward in your life, rather than backward. If your friendship is leading to depression, anger or frustration then better look for another friend. These are not the habits one should develop in life.

Our life is given to us to grow into better person. You get your education to learn new things in order to make your life more disciplined, be able to support yourself in this life, and live within the community while fulfilling all your civic duties.  Your friend should inspire you to do all these things.

A very wise Indian, Chanakya said, “One should not have a fool for a friend or wife, both will ultimately lead to sorrow.

One thing I have not mentioned above is gender in friendships. Women have very different friendships than men do. Women tend to view friendships as connecting with each other.  Talks turn into therapy sessions and women will share almost anything and everything with their good friend. Their friendships are emotional and are entirely based on trust and loyalty. Men may not share so much. They are not as communicative and tend not to share personal and intimate part of their life. They tend to shut off whereas women end up talking about stuff to get it out of their system.

One last thing about gender: men and women can never be "just friends" - that is my firm belief. There will always be that physical attraction. And if one or both are married - to other people, then the spouse might get the wrong impression even though its all innocent. There is that occasional "work wife" or "work husband" with whom one can discuss all their "work" related issues which the spouse may not understand. But I think that can get also into the danger zone - simply because men and women cannot be "just friends".

Take this quiz to see if you understand how men and women communicate differently.

In conclusion:
Friendship is a strange relationship: it has no religious boundaries, no educational restrictions, in fact friendship has no restrictions whatsoever. It is a pure relationship between two people who want and do the best for each other all the time. Each friendship is unique, so no two friendships can be alike. Each friend is also different: each different friend satisfies a different need for the one person. Friends can bring out the best in each other. True friendship is rare. So if you find a friend you connect well with – hold on to them!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Inventory of Life

Some days we just have to sit down and take an inventory of what is going on in our life.  What have I accomplished so far?  And was that my goal?  For me my life goal has always been to grow into a better person.  We have this gift of life to make something of it.  We usually lose this opportunity by running after materialistic things and looking for accolades all our life. The accolades are not just the awards at work but also the need to always please people around us so that they like us. (There is a difference between pleasing others for others and pleasing others for ourselves.)

One simple way we can improve our life would be to periodically take an inventory of self and see how much we have grown or changed during our life. We know ourselves the best. (If you don't know your own qualities/characteristics then you have a long journey ahead of you!)  However, if we do know ourselves, then we should take some time to dwell upon our progress: as a person of materialism and spirituality.

Materialistically speaking:
  • Have we acquired new items?
  • Do we keep having the desire to buy things in order to keep up with the times?
  • Do we keep wishing we could get more money just to see our bank balance grow? or more money so we could buy new things? 
  • When we go to work - do we feel like we have some higher purpose to serve? or are we just there to earn money for our family and ourselves? 
  • Do we crave for awards and promotions?
  • And many more things that we can touch and put a price on.....

Spiritually speaking:
  • Have we made anyone happy lately?
  • Have we done anything good for anyone lately?
  • Have we kept up our end of the bargain in a relationship - any relationship: brother, sister, son, wife, friend, etc.?
  • What do we ask from God when (if) we pray? (Be honest now!)

As I have gotten older I have realized that taking inventory is very important in life.  It helps me to filter out the good from the bad and keeps me on track of where I am going. So somedays (like today) I will sit and reflect on what I have done and how I have changed over time.  My goal of improving myself personally has a lot of flexibility since I don't really need to go to a college for this.  If I know what the good qualities are then I can incorporate them in my life myself.

For some people it is important to go to spiritual talks, listen to spiritual songs, do jap, or go to the temple.  For is to look inward in my heart. Which is why this is my favorite bhajan (with a bonus - my favorite actress - Meena Kumari). 

Coming up Next: This big group of people in our life called "friends".

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pragyopnishad Part 3 – Family – Culture and World Family

Chapter 6 – Culture

One should keep improving oneself and create and environment in which good habits are created by themselves. Families should do the some religious activity together daily or frequently. Every home should have a place of worship in the house and should belive in god.

Keep good books in your home library; inspirational and cultural. Just like we clean clothes and utensils, ones hearts should also be cleaned of any bad thoughts towards each other. Good books are for the mind what food is for the body.

The whole family should sit together during puja or katha. Read books that help change your mind about things and also help you learn some good habits and good behavior.

Faith in god keeps emotional, aspirations and actions in control. There is fear of god in doing the wrong thing. One should practice Upaasna (sitting next to God), Saadhna (discipline) and Araadhna (implementing good in life forever).

One should give one part of themselves – either in money or time to community welfare, that is how communities are build and progress occurs. Only those who serve others live a successful life. Give money, food, time or knowledge.

Chapter 7 – World Family

One should not limit themselves to just their families – he will be like frog in the well. He should think about the welfare of his society, country and culture. Teach family members that their work load includes all of the above.

People should have aastikta (believing in God), adhyatmikta (spirituality), dhaarmikta (religiousness) in life in addition to upaasna, saadhna, araadhna. With all of this a person’s thought, character and behavior gets uplifted.

One should think that we are everyone’s and everyone is ours, then only he will get the love and respect of everyone. Whatever is in this world belongs to everyone so learn to take care of it all and share it all. Don’t assume rights on anything. Have a cooperative attitude. Just like you take care of your family – take care of this world. Don’t think just locally – think globally. In the next era, there will be only one type of culture/religion – humanity. There will be just one big family.

Times right now are that of pralay – the world after this will be one world family.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pragyopnishad Part 3 – Family – Elderly

Chapter 5 – Elderly

Elders should have a new life when they are old rather than just waiting to die.  They can be crucial contributing members of society.  To stop living life is in itself death.

This part of life should go in social service especially after having lived and done only for family, it is time to give back now.  Try to collect some goodwill for next life. 

It is advisable to have a few kids and stop having them soon so you can take care of them.  Teach kids about debt to forefathers and fathers – that way in their golden age kids will be able to repay the debt they have gotten from their parents. 

If you have done any wrong in life try to correct it, keep trying to change your behavior to better, change your environment so you can grow.  If you are healthy and able – go to the aashrams and learn about religion and go on teerth yaatra

Expand your family role to other families and community.  Don’t limit yourself. Don’t consider yourself head of the family, only a trustee.  Give advice but don't be disappointed if it is not followed.  Whatever money you have left should be used to uplift community not on your child beccuase he should already be self sufficient. 

Change with the new generation.  Give freedom to the new generation and respect their wishes. Keep yourself happy and love everyone.  Increase your duties but limit your rights and keep decreasing your rights.  Don’t differentiate between family and strangers.  Be disciplined and show control and try to help with good nature whenever you can.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pragyopnishad Part 3 – Family – Child Rearing

Chapter 4 – Child Rearing

Healthy children should be brought into this world – handicap and mentally challenged children are a burden on the society.   Anyone bearing children without taking on the responsibilities will only be hurt and sad and so will their children.

  • You don’t need to have kids to be successful in life. 
  • Healthy parents produce healthy babies – physically and mentally. 
  • Kids will learn from their environment from seeing their parents.
  • Sons and daughters should be treated equally; daughters sometimes better because she is part of two homes. 
  • Pregnant women should take care of what they eat, listen and talk during pregnancy as the unborn kid can be affected by it. 
  • Give kids good education, love but keep a good discipline. Don’t beat or scold kids but do maintain discipline. 
  • Kids should be taken to travel with parents to new places so they can grow to be inquisitive. 
  • Make sure kids keep good company.
  • Kids should be well rounded regarding their surroundings, education and world. 
  • Kids should work at home as members of the family. 
  • Kids are affected less by hot and cold and sickness but more by good and bad behavior. 
  • Don’t get kids married until they are earning.
  • Girls should be educated and self-reliant so that after marriage, if needed, she can work.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pragyopnishad Part 3 – Family - Women

Chapter 3 – Women

A woman’s role in a family is key for the progress of the family. She is the real maker or breaker, man is only the helper in keeping the family. So a woman, in whatever role she is in – daughter, wife, mother or sister should be educated, happy, healthy and cultured. She should be self reliant as early as possible. 

The woman is the heart and life of the family. She is Bhramvidya, shraddha, skakti, purity, art etc. She is murtiman, kaamdhenu, Annapurna, siddhi, riddhi and is everything that can save mankind from all problems.

Whatever effort is put in developing a female will be returned infinity. In a home:
Man is kanisht – woman is varisht
Man is khanij – woman is khadaan

Whatever woman makes man will take out whether it is iron, gold etc. So woman is the mine of elements whereas man is the miner. You cannot grow a farm in the sand, so woman is the soil where a home grows.

Woman is shakti, that is why she is called devi. If you have to make the world a better place then you have to respect women. If a woman is left behind in any society then she is like a raw diamond – valuable but uncut. It is for the benefit of all men to respect and keep the woman happy.

Make a woman self reliant. She should get educated and also get the self confidence to speak her mind when needed. She should not be treated as a slave.

Man should help out women at home. Woman is the future of the new world. They have been suppressed for so long. They need to be healthy, have a balanced mind.

Because of this suppression mankind has not progressed. Men have to help uplift women. Half the population of the world has been suppressed and deemed useless – this should not be the case. Both women and men have to lead and walk together, woman cannot be behind. If woman were bad then Ram and Krishna would not have come near women. Lakshmi, Kali, Durga would not be worshipped.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pragyopnishad Part 3 – Family and Couples

Chapter 1 - Family
Family is like a small country. Society make up is dependent on family makeup.  Family members should each understand their responsibilities to make a good family.  They should care for each other.

Small family size is good otherwise woman’s health is endangered and the man also keeps thinking about earning more money to support all instead of other big ideas.  Children will not be able to grow up well if the family is too large.  One moon is enough for the night.  Lots of stars cannot do what one moon can do for a dark night.

Keep the house clean.  Clothes, people etc should all be clean.

Chapter 2 - Couples
As one is growing up he learns a lot from his society, so when he grows up and has a family he should not forget that debt.  Meaning he should give back to the society.

Marriage should neither be too early nor too late.  People who don’t earn money should not marry. Always look for values and character before marrying the person.  Weddings should be a simple affair not flamboyant.
  • Couples should be one life with two bodies.
  • They should be affectionate, cooperative and respectful of each other.
  • They should trust each other. 
  • Keep mending mistakes and forget the past ones. Don’t be vengeful.
  • They should politely and softly settle any disagreements.
  • Neither should be obstinate or take sides.
  • They should keep themselves in the other person’s shoes when listening to problems so they can be more thoughtful of each other.
  • Don’t get mad if you don’t get your way.
Live a simple life otherwise all the money will go into looking pretty and there will not be enough to live on.

One should not waste too much time on useless friends.  It is waste of time and money.  Chose your friends as the ones who help you grow intellectually.

One can live in a joint family with love and respect.  Because of changing times there is a generation gap.  Just because an elder is telling you to do things does not mean it is always right. Do it only if it is right for the times.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pragyopnishad Part 2: Dev Maanav

How to become a divine person.

Dharm is only one kind and is the same for everyone – humanity and social responsibility. One should have: rishi chintan, good character and shalinta by nature.

Just like sun has many rays and oceans have many waves – we are all rays and waves from the same source.

Dharm has ten characteristics
  • Truth and intellect
  • Control and responsibility
  • Anushasan and vrat dharan
  • Sneh sounjanya and parakram
  • Sehkar and paramarth
One has to control the five gyan indriyan and the five karmindriyan.

Chapter 4

  • Body should be without disease.
  • Heart (man) should be balanced.
  • Character should be clean and bright.
Biggest thing to have pride is about doing your duty (karm)

Chapter 5 (Discipline and culture)

Your values should be strong even in the toughest times.

There is strength in numbers that is why culture is important, otherwise everyone will behave in whichever way they want causing all sorts of problems.

Every soldier understands the meaning of discipline. Even the smallest creatures like ants and termites know the benefit of discipline.

It is easy to spot a disciplined person.

Chapter 6 (About civilized behavior)

Your own behavior will echo for you in the other person – just like an echo in the well or a bouncing ball. (if you are rude then the other person will also be rude etc.)

One should not be lazy. Do the work for good, think good thoughts. The more the person is lazy the more he will think bad thoughts and lose everything.

Don’t do injustice and don’t tolerate injustice and don’t ignore injustice.

Chapter 7 (Sehkaar – cooperation)

One can only win and accomplish anything by cooperating with others. One should have charitable habits.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pragyopnishad Part 1: How to make the world better

Naradji came to visit Vishnuji because he can see that human beings are lost in the business of life and have not been able to understand the spirituality in life.

Naradji asks Vishunji: how can man learn about spirtiurality and sadhna while staying in the comfort of his home? Vishnuji is happy that Narajji asked this question because he was thinking the same thing.

Vishnuji says: it is a Kalyug now, situations are not good. To solve this we have to get to the bottom of the issue. To save a dying tree you have to take care of its roots, not the leaves. There is increase in diseases, crime etc., such that this world is almost at war. Astha is the issue.

Once can find only insects in dirty water, bad blood will only produce boils and pimples, so we have to clean these elements. In such times when all bad things have increased God will be incarnated. This incarnation (avataar) will be “Pragyavtaar”. This incarnation will have to bring idealism, socialism (community feeling) and such ideas to create a satyug type of environment. This incarnate’s work is very tough so it has to come down with all 24 attributes. Because of increase in scientific discoveries and such a widespread of egoism and greed God has to come only in form of consciousness (chetna).

I will inspire people in this incarnation is such a way that they can change the world. God’s consciousness and self-aware souls will make a good combination.

Naradji asks – so what do we do now?
Vishnuji says – souls that are aware will not keep quiet, they will come forward and we will meet.

  • Tatvagyaan leads to pragya.
  •  An idealistic person then starts to work on his soul cleansing. Whoever can do this can help the world.
  • Knowledge is karm.
  • Gayatri is kalpvraksh and kamdhenu, it is the amrit of the times.

Self aware souls never miss an opportunity to do things. They will always finish the matter at hand. Later other people wonder – why did I not do that? 
People of courage and ideals bring awareness through sacrifice. They will always have satisfaction, they will always have the respect of all and devi anugrah. They are just like fruit bearing trees, always giving no matter how much you take from them.

Pragyopnishad - Disclaimer

Pragyopnishad is one of the great books written by Shriram Acharya ji. I heard about it in the 9 day shivir and had promised myself that I would read this while I was in DSVV.  This book gives a detail description of how to live your life as a member of your family, community and globally.

My notes don’t do justice to the book and I may not be able to convey all of its meaning because of my poor understanding of Hindi, but I am trying to do my best to give you an idea of what this book is about. Some of the text may not flow into the other and that is all my fault. But I really wanted to jot down some of what I could understand and found important in the book.

As with any “granth” it is divided in parts and chapters.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lesson from Anhinga

Anhinga is a bird of Florida.  I had never seen it before in my life and now I see it all the time.  The stream next to my house brings plenty of wildlife around the house and most days, when the weather is nice, I just sit outside and enjoy nature.

(the stream/canal next to my house...with egrets in this picture)

Anhinga is a beautiful black bird with a beautiful long neck, so elegant.  I was sitting out one morning having my usual morning tea when I noticed a quick fluttering in the water.  In dove an anhinga into the water and its head came up in few seconds to breathe and then it dove into the water again.  It did this a few times.  After this ritual of finding food under water, the anhinga came on the grass, spread its beautiful black wings, dried itself in the sun only to get ready for its next dive.

(photo by Sapna Gupta taken at Loxahatchee Refuge)

Anhinga don’t have oil on their wings like other birds to repel water and keep dry, and that is how anhinga can swim under water unlike other birds.  Because of this it has to periodically dry its wings in the sun.  You can read about them here.  See an anhinga in underwater action in this video (I did not shoot this - I wish I's so beautiful)

Looking at this cycle of getting wet and drying of anhinga, I was thinking to myself that I have a lesson to learn here.  Anhinga lives both in air and water, it needs both to survive.  Going under water makes it wet and soggy, but it comes out and dries itself in the sun and goes right back to what it has to do – get under water to eat!  Why can't I be like that?  I have a part of life that I enjoy and some parts of life that I tolerate and get through.  Sometimes I feel that a lot of people are tolerating a lot in life and enjoying very little of it...(although I do hope we always have lots to enjoy in life!).

On occasions there are incidents that get me a little depressed or frustrated.  This is where I need to learn from the anhinga: I should find my sun, dry myself off from these feelings and dive right back into life.  Then the big question is: who is my sun or what is my sun?  Is there something I can do that will make me feel better?  Who can lift me up when I am down?  Who can I trust enough to tell them how I am feeling?  Who will give me the right advice?  Who will be true to me and help me dive back into life?  Do I need someone else’s help to do get up in life?  Or maybe my sun is really inside me and I don’t need to look outside for help.

The last option is of course the best one.  We should look inward to make our own sun shine for ourselves, whatever our sun might be. This can be very hard for an extrovert (like me), but we have to balance our introvert and extrovert personalities so we can learn to shine perpetually.

What I would really like to ask the anhinga is whether it likes being under water or in the sun!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Routine at DSVV

Having decided to give my time for two months, I was ready for anything and everything.  My nature is that I hardly ever get bored.  I always find things to do, whether it is socializing, going out to see places or simply finding a good book to read.  And I was in the perfect place for all of the above.

My Daily Schedule

Getting up early has never been my strong suit, so here also I was happy to sleep in.  Of course since the sun came out early, I had no choice but to be up by 7:30 am (is that late?).  And then spending another half hour in bed just lying, thinking about what to do that day and listening to the birds outside, was very enjoyable.

Breakfast at the guest house was lovely, especially since I did not have to make it – BTW – that goes for all the meals!!  I completely enjoyed not being in the kitchen for two months.  Mornings were for me; emailing, facebooking and socializing.  There were always some or the other guests at the guest house, so I would just spend time chit chatting with them until I had to go to work.

I would work from 11 am to about 12:30 pm or so and come back for lunch.  Usually I would have very little to eat for lunch because I was not hungry in such hot weather.  And after a while food got a little repetitive, which was just fine with me since I did have mild obesity (wink!!).  Some days I would take a 20 min nap after lunch, other days I would go to the Registrar’s office and be there until whenever they needed me.

Usually I would finish work by 5 pm in time for evening tea.  I would try to sit at the Mahakaal during the 6 pm meditation on campus.  After dinner at 6:30 pm, my student would come over and we would study chemistry till about 9 pm.

After 9 pm I would get time for myself again.  Since I get up late, I go to bed late too, sometimes past 12 am.  And that was the time I would spend reading books and writing about my day.  One of the books I really wanted to read was Acharya ji’s Pragyo-upanishad and I did.  My only problem was that I don’t understand Hindi very well and I could not appreciate the text in its entirety.  But I did finish it and I did wrote some key things for myself.  I will post those in my blog, as I understood them, as time goes on.

My Social Life

I never thought I would make so many friends in such short time.  The guest house was a great place to meet interesting people no matter whether they were Indians or foreigners.  The international students I made friends with were amazing.  They had such passion for being at DSVV and learning about Indian culture.  I could also feel the challenges they were facing in being at a place where hardly anyone speaks English (it reminded me of when I was in Brazil and could not speak a word of Portugese!).  I would help out as much as I could, but ultimately they were meeting their challenges themselves.

(Dinner with foreign students)

Between my rounds to the offices during work I met some really wonderful faculty and students of DSVV.   Again, thanks to emails and facebook that we can all keep in touch.

Almost every other evening I was on the phone with a family member or a friend.  Since I was not planning to visit any of my relatives, we would talk a lot on the phone.  It was really good for me!

Perks of DSVV

The library was a great resource for everything on yoga and Acharya ji’s literature.  Once I got my library card made, I had no shortage of books to read.

(Photo by Sapna Gupta.  Library at DSVV)

DSVV has many mango groves on campus and one the best perks of living there was an unending supply of fresh, naturally ripened mangoes.  Why would I eat any other fruit??

(My mangoes!)

The canteen was convenient; I enjoyed an occasional chaach, samosa or paraantha. Not to mention that I found a dhobhi, Naveen bhai, also on campus. He became my new best friend on campus.  Oh! Doing laundry for myself was such a waste of my time in India!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Evenings at DSVV

When I planned to go DSVV for volunteering I had no idea what I would be doing or what my routine would be. I knew I would be doing the 9-day shivir (camp) at Shantikunj. But after that was over it was going to be an adventure. So I was just doing what I was asked to do. The only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to stay at the university campus rather than at Shantikunj, because being in academia all my life that is the only place that I could think of being at.

During one of the earlier days I was taken to visit the Gayatri Vidyapeeth, the elementary through twelfth grade school sponsored by Shantikunj. I visited the chemistry labs there, which were great. The entire school was recently built so everything was new. The only thing that intrigued me about the chemistry labs were the fans….how do you operate a Bunsen burner under a fan? Alternatively how do you do experiments in sweltering heat without the fans? I suppose you build your lab schedule according to summers and winters (haha).

I also had the pleasure of visiting the 12th grade chemistry class at the school. I did not feel like teaching so I just talked with the students for 45 mins (yes I do have the gift of gab in class!). This turned out to be very useful 45 mins for me for the next six weeks.

One of the students from that class took the initiative to talk to me about getting tutored for chemistry while I was there. I can never say no to anyone, especially if a person makes an effort to ask me for something….. so I tutored her for the next six weeks. She was a such pleasure to teach – so smart, curious and a sweet personality! She would come over to see me every evening around 7 pm for two hours to learn organic chemistry. And after completing her studies (and sometimes even during) we would talk about everything under the sun; she was great company! It was a good experience for me to teach a student in India after teaching in USA for so long.

She was my boon in disguise because I don’t know what I would have done with my evenings if she had not been there (my Krishna really takes care of me in his own ways:-)). We spent so much time with each other and I really miss her now. Thank God for emails and facebook!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Projects at DSVV

My work at DSVV was divided in two major parts: work in the Training Cell (office), a new office with new responsibilities and the second was to work at the Registrar’s office. My day would start at around 11 am and I would be done with my work around 6pm.  Of course these hours were not so set as my projects were quite flexible.  I would use the morning time to do some reading, personal work etc.

At the Training Cell I worked on three major projects and some small ones that came about here and there. These projects kept me busy for at least 3-4 hours per day in the morning. One of my projects was to go around taking photos of the DSVV campus and write a description about the buildings. I really enjoyed doing this project. I got to do what I love – taking photos and I saw the campus intimately and talked to more people I can think of to know about their work and programs.

The other projects I had involved visiting several offices for some specific information. Again I really enjoyed this project as it allowed me to go around campus and meet and talk to people, especially since I was living alone at DSVV and it was nice to get out and socialize.  It is amazing how people open up once you start asking them about their work and challenges. Of course there were some who were introverts :-).

The challenging part sometimes was to introduce myself and tell them what I was doing. People could not believe that I would come from USA to volunteer for two months. Well….even some of my family did not!!

My afternoons were spent working at the Registrar’s office. The work I did was quite diverse. Everyone at the Registrar’s office was so wonderful. Initially the biggest treat for me – believe it or not, was having a cup of tea daily!! I was still staying at Shantikunj during my first few days of volunteer work at DSVV and I hated to stand in line to get tea. So tea at the office was the best part of the day for me! Luckily I was there at the time of admissions so I got to see a lot of behind the scene action at an Indian University. Great experience!!

As time went on my work schedule would change and also I learned a lot about the university. I was really impressed by the Polyclinic that I decided to undergo some alternative therapy treatment myself. I was just so curious I just wanted to try out some things in any way possible. So I visited the Polyclinic and the doctor had me undergo Pranic Healing, do Yoga and Naturopathy (my diagnosis was mild obesity!). So during the latter part of my stay I went to about 9-10 days of my alternative therapy treatment. Everything was super. Yoga at 6:30 am was the hardest because I could not enjoy it when I was sweating so much. But I know all the treatments had a positive effect on me.

I liked everyone I met. Everyone was very friendly and caring. Overall I learned a lot about myself, about alternative medicine, about good living habits (some of which I have implemented in my life already). I am so moved by my whole experience at DSVV that I want to go back there again as soon as I can.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

About DSVV

I volunteered at Dev Sanskriti Vishv Vidyaalay (DSVV), Haridwar, for two months this summer.  I thought I would write my experiences down before it all just became a pleasant memory of yesterday.  

While I was at DSVV my daily routine was quite relaxed.  As I did not have to do any cooking, cleaning or driving to do I had plenty of time to do my volunteer assignment and work on my personal growth (although I don’t know how much I grew up!).  

My residence, the guest house, was on the DSVV campus and conveniently surrounded by the administration building (my main volunteer location), the canteen (chaach was great in during the hot summer afternoons!!) and the library.  My B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees are also from India and being here brought back many memories of my college days ....mostly good.  

DSVV is a residential university, and all faculty, staff and students live on campus.  It is really like having a huge family living together (yikes!!).   Everyone knows everyone!! I got to know so many people during my two months there and by the end they did seem like my family to me.  The residence halls (hostels) were very comfortable and again I was taken back to my B.Sc. days in my hostel in Meerut (fun times!).  The students at DSVV are lucky to be in a great place with such a safe, beautiful and clean environment. 

The university’s mission is not only to educate students to help them get a job but also to make them a good well rounded human being.  They all learn the philosophy of Acharya Sharma ji and hopefully they will all become good citizens of India. 

One of the unique aspects of the university was the three month internship that all students have to do after they finish their certificate or degree.  I have not heard of that requirement anywhere.  It is an opportunity for the students to go out to a different part of India (could be anywhere) and demonstrate what they have learned, academically and spiritually.

During my two months at DSVV I did a variety of little projects and some major ones.  There were some days that were a little slow but overall I was quite busy…..

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Single Female in India

This whole thought process happened when I was coming back from Har Ki Pauri on 5th June.  I was sitting in front with the driver of the Vikram, and he could not help but ask, “Are you alone?” and I said, “No. My family is at Shantikunj.”  He proceeded to ask, “Do you have any kids?” What is his problem?? I said, “No.” And then he proceeded to advise me, “One should have kids in life, they are your life support when you grow old.  I have four boys and you should also have kids.”  So….just because “he” thinks his sons will support him in future, which I seriously doubt, he thinks I should have kids – without knowing anything about me!!

All of this conversation started churning my brain cells and I had to write my thoughts down.  And since that incident I was a little more observant of how people act around me.  For most part it was okay, but there were some that were not so okay. 

Why do Indians have a hard time with single Indian female? Why does everyone ask – “Who is with you? Where is your husband? Where is your family?” Why is it compulsory for an Indian woman to have a husband and kids?  I am person on my own, or am I not?  Do they ask the same question from a single man?  I am quite sure that even widows have a hard time living in India, but at least at one point they had a husband…but these caretakers of the society will still shake their heads if she does not have any children.  (These same people will not help a woman who is being abused by her husband or if her husband has left her for another woman).

But a single, never married (or divorced) woman, is not acceptable in the Indian society.  We can accept single devis: Saraswati, Gayatri etc but not a single female.  Why? Why is it so critical for a woman to be with someone? I understand that it is good to be married and have a family, but just because one does live with family does not make them a sociopath. 

So here are my two cents of what I think about a woman being married for old age and having kids. (And just because I am not married does not mean I am against marriage or kids.  I believe everything happens on its own time….)

I have seen many women who have been widowed in their 50s or 60s – not really an old age these days.  Men usually have a shorter life span than women, so women are generally left alone by the time they are getting old.  And it is not acceptable in our culture for a woman to marry a younger man so in general, women will more likely be widowed.  Most people say, oh you don’t feel the loneliness now, but you will feel it when you are older.  Well okay, but the husband has died by then.  So no matter whether you are married or not, most women are still left alone when they really need someone’s assistance.  Men don’t stick around to give company to their wives in old age. 

And it is not acceptable in our culture for widows of any age to get married again, forget about going out with other men or women for company sake.  The only acceptable social outing for a widow is temple or satsang!

Now for the children:  I have yet to see parents living harmoniously with their children.  Everyone is independent and wants their freedom – so even though couples have well earning children, they would rather live alone.  In fact these days there may be more American parents living with their children than Indian parents.  And if the Indian parents are living with children they are miserable.

So why push so hard for marriage and kids?  Why not promote self sufficiency in a person?

People living alone learn to manage things by themselves.  They become better in dealing with various kinds of people, taking care of their own finances, their career, homes and day to day chores.  How many wives can do all these things? Do they even have the freedom to take care of all these things? Granted they may not need to all those things as they have a husband who may do some of the work, but it is a good idea to be self reliant (remember, guys die sooner than the gals). 

And what about the widowed mother living with her children? Does she, after living a long life of only giving, have the luxury of doing what she wants to do in her old age? Can she spend some money on whatever she wants to?  Does someone take care of her like she took care of her family? I am afraid that the answer may be no to these questions.  So what was the point of her life then – just to give birth and live the cycle of life?

I noticed young women and girls these days are smart and talented, yet they are still expected to stay submissive and accept the decisions made by their fathers and husbands.  It is very contradictory.  On one hand you are giving them education to stand on their own feet yet on the other hand you are telling them they are not capable of making their own decisions.  Girls should be allowed to participate in family decisions with freedom and confidence, just like boys do. That is how they will learn to make good decisions in future.

In many cases I don’t see even women supporting each other in life.  They are trying to pull each other down – mother to daughter in law, daughter in law to sister in law – all these complex relations in our society!  Sometimes even total strangers will say for a woman who is going through trouble – oh she must have brought it upon herself, rather than helping out.

All of this is quite frustrating to watch. And the worst part is that there has not been much progress for women in India.  Granted we have women in some leadership roles, but how many are really good role models?

My vision for girls  is that of self reliance, whether they are single, married, divorced, widowed - whatever.  I think with a little effort from both men and women it is possible to have IT all (whatever that “IT” is for anyone). 

I would love it if girls were empowered in any and all of the below.
  • Be educated, so in time of need they can become financially independent.
  • Take their own decisions for something as simple as what they want to eat.
  • Give all relationships their due respect.
  • Live a balanced family life.  This can happen only when they are taught how to do everything and also to multi-task.
  • Be healthy and keep their families healthy.
  • Be financially capable.
  • Believe in "self" and stand up for themselves.
  • Stand up against injustice and old fashioned traditions.
  • Support other women and speak up for women who cannot speak for themselves.
Just because someone takes their own decision does not make them disrespectful or aggressive. Neither a man nor woman is above the law of humanity.  Taking away the freedom of another human being is not humanity.

Men should not fear an independent woman but welcome her, she can take so much burden off from him and then they both can have a successful partnership in life.  But I think it is all about control and power struggle for everyone!  The ego comes in the way – for both men and women.

Strange thing is that I encountered these same questions (about me having a family) from everyone throughout my two month stay in India. Most married women were very happy to know I was single and well….I don’t know what the men thought J …or maybe I do but just don’t want to write too much about it.