August 9, 2010

Family Vacation - I found Bali better than Phuket

I have been telling all my friends that I liked my 7 night vacation in Bali a lot. I liked it better than Phuket. Though I wont say I liked it more than Maldives trip as I guess Maldives was my first vacation with my wife.

Now though some of my friends and colleagues have asked me what you liked so much in Bali and why it's better than Phuket. I have replied them what ever came to my mind then. Now It's almost a month so if I still feel Bali is better than Phuket for a family vacation then I guess I have been right and it's not the infatuation(If I may use the word) with Bali. Let me try to put down things that we liked so much in Bali.

[1] To start with the weather. I was there in July end and it was quite hot here in Singapore with frequent bouts of showers. During the day in between the showers sun is scorching the earth.. In Singapore it's more of tar road and the high rise building around it. Though I know most of us are in our dingy cubicle with a/c on so don't feel this but on few days like week-ends and if you move out and cross some open area for lunch outings in between office then you will agree. I was expecting something similar over there in Bali. After all it's just about 2 hours of flying from Singapore to Bali. Both are islands in with some other small islands which seems like a walking/swimming distance when viewed from airplane window. But when we landed in Bali in early evening that was not to be, weather was nice, pleasant, cool bridge. In the back of my mind I felt I guess that's so because it's evening time and it could have rained early on. Tomorrow would a hot day as it's in this part of the world. But this tomorrow never came and we were back to Singapore. Then just a day before leaving for Singapore I asked one of the local on the beach - Is this how the weather is over here in Bali most of the times. He told me more or less YES but some times it's hotter. May be I was lucky to have booked the holiday in right season then. But then I came on and did some googling and found indeed Bali enjoys similar weather in terms on temperature round the year. Check this simple non technical link which captures the temperature, rain, humidity and sunshine - things that makes a place weather wonderful or awful !!

[2] Next would be people. Other natural or even man made wonders will follow but I feel local population, their attitude towards tourists and towards each other make a difference. Local population is mostly Hindu but then it's a bit different form of Hinduism then what you will see in the land where most of Hindus in the world reside. I guess Hinduism must have taken shape as well in India, Nepal and I guess to some extent even Srilanka/Myanmar and what's Pakistan and Afghanistan today. Sadly today Af-Pak region is known in the world for radical Muslims instead of being associated with moderate Hinduism. Anyways for that matter even some view Indonesia[Bali is part of] also in similar light. However local population their eschew radicalism and hate it as it has hit their bread & butter twice. If you all remember Bali have been bombed twice in past as this heavenly island is frequented by tourists which doesn't go down well with radical thinking.
People are very welcoming and soft spoken. Not just soft spoken but even their behavior and action reflects this flexibility and accommodating nature of the local society. I guess LA too has great weather but I wont the Yankees good set of accommodating and soft spoken people. Taxi drivers, Local souvenir shop-keepers, Staffs working at eateries and restaurants, Beauticians and masseurs at Spas and Massage parlors, all are very warm and nice people. You will love to frequent their outlets.

[3] Next would be the beaches and glorious sea-views, Volcanoes, Serpentine Hills, Lakes the top of the hill, Lakes beside the Volcano, Sea facing cliffs, Sun-sets from the cliff top into the wavy sea, Temples on the those cliffs, Temples in the sea, Temples inside the lakes, Dinner on the beach. These are things I enjoyed over there during my stay. I know there are host of similar stuffs that I didn't try. Like what every beach vacation spot offers - all kind of sea sports. But above stuffs that I mentioned was amazing. I loved being at those places.
In fact there are numerous beaches in Bali which are just great. Sea surfers love coming to Bali for sea surfing. you will find people of all ages rushing with surfing boards on bikes, motor-bikes, cars etc... Two beaches I liked most are :- Beach in Nusa Dua - Opposite to Bali Connection. This is a rocky beach - Water moves about 200/300 meter depending upon whether it's low tide or high tide. Good thing is that it's smell rotten when water retreats like beaches in Singapore. Go to any of the beaches in Singapore including Sentosa and it smells awful when water is receding. At Nusa Dua beach you can start seeing lot of small creatures coming out and moving into the clean rocks exposed by receding water. You will start seeing people trying to catch them for food in poodles of water left behind. You will love to see how slowly the water is moving forward to drown the rocks with incoming wave or going back depending upon at what time you have arrived. 2nd beach I liked most is named Dreamland beach. It really felt like a dream land. Just one big wave with blue-green water and then you are in relatively calmer seas. Full white sandy beach - with cliffs on both side protecting/marking the beach. Sea curves and you can see the houses perched on the hills as if any objects falling from the house will definitely hit the waves in the sea. I don't like entering into salty sea water - I hate the itchy feeling because of salty water. But this view soul satisfying. In fact I started looking and thinking is there a possibility that I can own a house on the hills facing the beach. Though when I researched that Indonesian law doesn't allow foreigners to buy landed property, at best you can lease property over there.
First time view of Volcano was great. Technically it's an active Volcano but it hasn't been smoking for last 5+ years. Last time it spewed ash and lava was about 70 years back. Still from the near by hill when you see it - you can see all the black lava around from the crater. Chilly wind hitting you as it's on top of a hill about 2 hours drive from Nusa-Dua/Jimberan area where most of the tourists prefer to stay. There is a lake beside the volcano. If you are not there at right time then you can't get a good view of the volcano as the cloud covers the crest. Lunch is a definite there facing the volcano. There are 2/3 good restaurants facing the volcano.
When you are standing on the cliff facing the sea and warm, moist, humid air hitting your body. It's a amazing feeling. Sun setting down.. Sky looks reddish, water ahead down looks greyish black, water immediately below looks greenish and bluish depending upon the rock structure below. It takes some courage to look immediately below because of the height of the cliff you are on. Especially if you are a Hindu and them you would have come out of the ancient temple on the cliff hanging into the sea, you feel the nature's motherly nature and beauty of the nature's creation. You can feel the might of nature. There is a local dance program there on the cliff. Whole package and combination makes it just fascinating and gets entrenched in your memory. You feel so satisfying on your journey back to the hotel from this place. It's like a feeling that entire Bali trip was worth it just because of this sight seeing visit.
Not to forget dinner on the Jimberan beach. There are number of restaurants lined upon the beach. Ambiance is still totally non-commercial. Normally at such a place you see restaurants folks trying to get customers. Here it's nothing like that. You just walk over into one of them and it's you will not sit in the rooms but on the open sandy beach. There is very limited lighting along the beach. Most bright thing would be the stage where some local dance and music would be ongoing. You can sip your drink along with it take in some local culture music also be sinking in to you. After the dance you will prefer to turn 180 and face the sea instead. Lot of colorful flickering lights in the sea as I guess many night fishing and boat dinner programs are organized for the tourists. Near by you can see waves crashing on the shores and breaking into white lathers out of otherwise darkness in the sea. This dinner is like more for thirsty soul than for the body. And so it really didn't matter if I was vegetarian sitting in restaurants famous worldwide for gourmet seafood.

Coming to my Phuket trip which was more than a year back in May of 2009. Phuket has all of this minus the temples, sea facing cliffs and Volcanos. Phuket has hills too but not as elegant as you see in Bali with step framing being practiced. There too sea is great for surfing. In fact it know as a little more notorious and so surfing should done by experts mostly. Hills are there too - I remember the view from the hill. It's still very clear in my mind. I was biking towards Potong beach from Mai Khao where I was putting up at Mariotts. From one location very close to Potong beach, view is awsome. Clouds on the one side and greenish sea on the other end. Potong beach has it's own commercial sporty business charm but Dreamland beach in Bali makes you feel majestic. I guess two things unique to Phuket and can't be found in Bali would be :-
[1] Dance by Elephants. Full one hour program with dinner being served.
[2] Caves and lagoon in the sea. This was a nice exp for me and my kids. Specially towards the end in the evening you can see in the Andaman sea light flashes in water if you splash. I think this is unique to Andaman sea in Asia.

I am going for my next Bali trip again next year I guess. And may be Phuket too as it's a nice expensive spot but costs just a dime for me.

July 10, 2010

Human Emotions and Chemistry

Sorry friends it's going to be messy post as it's difficult to convey such complex thoughts in writing. Complex to convey in writing but quite clear in my mind as to what I am experiencing - What I am wondering about.

Almost every week-end me and my wife watch one or more movies. Mostly it's the Bollywood latest releases which ever has a good picture quality and voice quality. It's important as it has been that we have almost stopped going to theater for watching movies and we see the movie on net. Last one in Theater was "Avatar" - It wan enjoyable as movie was nice and importantly it was first movie with my kids. Sadly my kids are in Bangalore for good reasons[which is a bit hard for a father] but I am sure other wise our small family would have visited theater more often as it was one of our desires that when can we start going to theaters again with our kids and our kids will understand the movie and enjoy it and we will enjoy the togetherness.

Today we tried two latest movies which were of good picture quality but sound was very low so we switched and my wife brought out one of the oldie-goldie "Rajnigandha". She is a Amol Palekar & Deepti Naval fan. I watched the entire movie [Which is atypical of me as I find old movies very outdated in concepts of contemporary living]. While I was watching - I felt how much have the times changed. We[Mankind] has been moving at good speed. The trains, houses, streets, people, parties, talking style, dressing style every thing was so different than what it's today. It felt like watching old movies definitely will allow some one to figure out how has man changed over time. Two thoughts was in my mind when I was watching the movie.

[1] I started with it when the movie started and it remained till end. -- Some of us don't want to change. We don't even want others around us and the surroundings we grow up in to change. I feel my wife belongs to this group of people. I wont write much about it as it's a well know topic that change is only thing permanent and it's mostly for good. Though some feel insecure with the thought of change and don't want to see that happening.

[2] Based on the movie subject my mind was racing and observing how are the characters in the movie are reacting in the situation. Good thing was that movie was complete reality kind - unlike Bollywood type unreal characters and movies. And my mind started comparing it to one of the article I had read on TOI about human behavior and brain functioning related to LOVE and MIND. I can't find the link to the article but article was trying to connect some part of brain or rather brain activities that makes a person sad or heart broken when he/she is dumped by his/her partner.

Essentially if you think about it = it's so true. It may be complex and beyond our logical understanding still as to how does it all work. But it's for sure that we are all chemical machines. All living being are nothing but chemical machines. All the action, movements and thoughts of our mind are nothing but some form of chemical interaction between complex chemical compounds and I guess many times chemical interaction over a period of time. e.g. our memory. And like chemical reactions which are mostly bounded by law so is human and animal/plant behavior predictable to a large extent. It's just that end result we want to predict e.g. Will a person show love, or will keep mum and not answer to the question, or will choose fight or give up in a situation is a result of lot of chemical interaction and possibly over time and at times in anticipation of influencing the results of some possible chemical interactions. Over time because in past in form of some atomic/electronic movement it would have been stored that this Individual I am going to fight against is stronger so better for me to run away. In anticipation of affecting future chemical interaction because an animal might like to load up with more food now assuming that none of it going to be presented to him for foreseeable future. Hence the chemical reaction of our chemistry text books are so predictable that we observe them in the school/college/uni chemistry labs but these animal/plant behavior are predictable to large extent but not completely as theory is well known yet.

How interesting the thoughts of exploring something like this is. It excites me a lot. But again some reactions in my brain are telling - Reign your wild horses -- Think of the how are you going to get the bread on the table for you and your family first...... Many times I tell my friends that I want to earn enough and retire. They are amused by the thought why do you want to retire. If I don't retire how can I let wild thoughts just go wild and think of all this.

June 19, 2010

(Incomplete) Reality - Limitation of Human Mind

Few days back my wife was telling me about ghost stories(or is it reality) that her colleagues had told her. In brief she was told about the experience of her old colleagues - few of whom are still working with her in their Singapore suntec office and few of whom have been transferred to other countries but all of them involved with the ghost affair are still with the firm. She called up to ask the transferred colleagues if what she has been told is right about their experiences :) I guess it's natural for we folks to do so as ghostly stuff are not a common phenomenon in day to day life here in Singapore or in urban India.
All her colleagues has two common things in their narration - (1)Presence of colorful moving shadow on the wall/curtain (2)Anklet and key ring chimes reverberating in the office
Somethings which again is common in their narration but they didn't tell but I could infer it after hearing it from my wife are - (1) All of them experienced this para normal behavior late in night while working still in office (2) They were alone in office
and as usual the story goes that except one guy no one had experienced it thrice as they didn't had the fortitude to face it again after a repeat, so mostly late and lonely workers/staffs have experienced it twice. How ever one of them seems to really brave enough to ignore and focus on work of course with help of alcohol in spite of these scary events around him or rather especially for him:) he has lost count how many times he has experienced this phenomenon.

In fact I too have one close experience that I didn't know was a ghostly paranormal experience till next day. Let me put this in brief. I was born a village bumpkin and then put on to a school in city to become smarter as it's felt that I guess rightly so(when measured in terms of monetary wealth) city dwellers are smarter and wiser than villagers. I use to love the long summer and winter vacations that we use to get in my boarding school. And in teens listening to local radio playing just(soon to be) released Bollywood numbers was satisfying and thrilling. So there I was lying on a cot in a hut amongst the village greenery about 200 meters away from the thick village settlement. Radio was tuned in to "vividh bharati" and placed on the earthen floor below the cot. One of the village boy around 4 years younger to me comes running and rushing to the hut and tries to get beside me, rather hide behind me on the cot. There was another empty cot lying there, it would been a more comfortable place to lie down and enjoy the Bollywood music for some time before having some food and sitting for a few hours of playing cards session. More ever I was a little amazed that instead of strolling thru the paddy fields he had come running... anyways.. So I told him let me rest in piece and you go and lie down on the empty cot and don't talk - just listed to the songs. He didn't say anything just looked into me as if he didn't like me asking him to move on to other cot. So I thought let me give up this cot to him and told him that I will be back in 15 minutes. I am going to tube-well ahead for a dip in fresh under ground water. He just nodded his head and I proceeded towards the tube-well. Another 200 meters farther away from the tube-well lies the village crematorium. And in about 15-20 minutes I was strolling back towards the hut. Breeze was nice and cool, It had rained the day before but rain was not enough so all diesel tube-wells were on duty pumping to water thirsty paddy plantations. Now when I imagine it feels like it's a different world and pleasure to walk on the grassy ribs separating the paddy fields amongst the natural greenery when summer is not at the peak and in rains in between but not enough to create mud pools all around the village. And I see this guy who had disturbed me on cot running towards the tub-well. I called out for him but it seems as if he had gone dumb. I called out response. He kept his pace towards the tube-well. then I thot of chasing and catching him up to ask. and I did so... when I was holding his hand which he was trying to get free and asking - Tell me what happened, where are you going.. no response except for some muffled incomprehensible sound. After 2-3 minutes when my questions didn't yielded any result and I got confused my self - I pulled/dragged him towards the village and handed over to his folks. I rushed to the hut to listen to sweet Bolly numbers :)
And next day I meet this guy again - and I have heard in mean time that When I handed over, he was possessed. I asked him - what had happened yesterday. He candidly explained me - I was bemused !!!! He told me - He came running to the hut because the spirit was chasing him and so he wanted to hide beside me. Then I asked why he didn't tell me that yesterday I would have helped him (I was a hero - I dont know If I am ;)). He tells me that he couldn't think that I am not able to see the spirit who was standing standing beside the cot waiting to get hold of him. For some reason the spirit was not touching him when he was in contact with me. And as soon as I left (In fact I had just walked passed the spirit when I got up to go to the tube-well), spirit challenged him - So now...what do you do !!!! He doesn't remember anything there after.

In fact there are many stories but these two are something which are not stories but reality.

Reason I am writing above story is not to say ghosts (what ever you call) it exists and is TRUE/REAL. Over time in last few years, I have got to kind of understand that we humans have developed this concept of REAL/UNREAL. By doing this we have boxed our self. As soon as we feel/think something as UNREAL we box/close ourselves. Boxing something or in other words drawing a boundary is the way to go when you want to achieve or work on a specific stuff and want to achieve a given result/outcome. In general we all have to keep our self open. Open to something like ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. If this thought hasn't been in your head/mind then it may be more difficult to accept. If you plant this up now and then with time you will see this idea taking root and you will start to see everything rhyming and synchronous with this thought all around you.

Think of it - earlier EARTH was thot to be center of universe. At that time everyone who would have thot themselves to be wise would say REALITY is - Earth is center of universe. Then it must have taken some effort to break this notion and say no SUN is center of universe. What was once REALITY in mind of humans became UNREAL but REALITY still remained and now this context as sun in center of universe. With time what was once REALITY became UNREAL but a new REALITY emerged and concept of REALITY still remained and now it took the form as milky-way is all that exist and sun is one amongst the few billion stars in milky-way. Then came the concept and REALITY as people believe is today universe is ever expanding and milky-way is one amongst the billion galaxies floating away. So this cycle will continue. If you think of it this pattern of new discovery will apply in every walk of life. Your home, office, Medicine, sociology, psychology, human/animal behavior etc...

It's just instinctively we humans all start of put something as REAL. In other words we start to classify somethings as FALSE/UNREAL. We need to accept and start to live with the thought ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. At times task on hand would be to explain what was observed or what is being observed. At times task would be to predict what would happen in future given certain set of input. These are the times when you can draw boundary and work in limits of those boxes.

There should be nothing what we should call as LAW, everything should remain as THEORIES. These theories hold true under certain boundary. i.e. boxes have been drawn and these will likely hold if the boxes and boundaries have not been violated and boundaries and boxes have been understood and drawn correctly. What intelligent man kind had learnt and thought of as newtons law of motion and gravitation fails to explain movement of certain planets and where as Einstein's relativity theory predicts and explains all of these including bending of lights in a picture perfect way it fails to explain sub atomic particle movement and behavior. If you see what is happening is that human kind was looking at something as solution to explain and define new REALITY and he stumbles upon something what remains unexplained. So it may be at certain time what man observes can well be explained by certain theories but again mistake has been made to recreate REALITY. Sooner or later it will fall apart. So it's best to realize and work based on notion ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Thought of REALITY makes the human mind to go to rest. Like seeking for a long long vacation as I am ever in search of:) REALITY creates a limitation for our mind and psyche to stop thinking. It's what brings us to the illusion that we now know the TRUTH and REALITY. I feel there is no TRUTH, no REALITY.

Seems like I am still confused and sorry to have confused you - but I hope the idea has been planted and you will start seeing things from this view point.

February 26, 2010

Why don’t we worship Brahma

Sorry freinds. I read it somewhere so posting it.. I have been too lazy these days to blog - I guess partly because I am perched on a sunny patch in lifes journey.

Why don’t we worship Brahma? We know he’s part of the Hindu trinity as the creator, but we worship Vishnu, manager of the cosmos, and Shiva, its eventual destroyer. The answer lies not in religion, but in culture. But in what way does our religion shape our culture?
Max Weber explained the success of capitalism in the US, Germany and Britain as coming from their populations’ Protestant faith. This ethic, or culture, was missing from the Catholic populations of South America, Italy and Spain. Protestants, Weber said, extended Christianity’s message of doing good deeds, to doing work well. Industry and enterprise had an ultimate motive: public good. That explains the philanthropists of the US, from John D. Rockefeller to Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates. What explains the behaviour of Indians? What explains the anarchy of our cities? To find out, we must ask how our behaviour is different.

Some characteristics unite Indians. The most visible is our opportunism. One good way to judge a society is to see it in motion. On the road, we observe the opportunism in the behaviour of the Indian driver. Where traffic halts on one side of the road in India, motorists will encroach the oncoming side because there is space available there. If that leads to both sides being blocked, that is fine, as long as we maintain our advantage over people behind us or next to us. This is because the other man cannot be trusted to stay in his place. The Indian’s instinct is to jump the traffic light if he is convinced that the signal is not policed. If he gets flagged down by the police, his instinct is to bolt. In an accident, his instinct is to flee. Fatal motoring cases in India are a grim record of how the driver ran over people and drove away.
We show the pattern of what is called a Hobbesian society: one in which there is low trust between people. This instinct of me-versus-the-world leads to irrational behaviour, demonstrated when Indians board flights. We form a mob at the entrance, and as the flight is announced, scramble for the plane even though all tickets are numbered. Airlines modify their boarding announcements for Indians taking international flights.

Our opportunism necessarily means that we do not understand collective good.Indians will litter if they are not policed. Someone else will always pick up the rubbish we throw. Thailand’s toilets are used by as many people as India’s toilets are, but they are likely to be not just clean but spotless. This is because that’s how the users leave them, not the cleaners.

The Indian’s reluctance to embrace collective good hurts his state. A study of
income-tax compliance between 1965 and 1993 in India (Elsevier Science/Das-Gupta, Lahiri and Mookherjee) concluded that “declining assessment intensity had a significant negative effect” on compliance, while “traditional enforcement tools (searches, penalties and prosecution activity) had only a limited effect” on Indians.
The authors puzzled over the fact that “India’s income tax performance (was) below the average of countries with similar GDP per capita”.
We do not think stealing from the state is a bad thing, and our ambiguity extends to corruption, which also we do not view in absolute terms. Political parties inIndia understand this and corruption is not an issue in Indian politics. Politicians who are demonstrably corrupt, recorded on camera taking a bribe or saying appalling things, or convicted by a court, can hold legitimate hope of a comeback—unthinkable in the West.
The opportunist is necessarily good at adapting, and that explains the success of Indians abroad. We can follow someone else’s rules well, even if we can’t enforce them at home ourselves. The Indian in the US is peerless at the Spelling Beebecause the formula of committing things to memory, which in India passes for knowledge, comes naturally to him. But this talent for adapting and memorizing is not the same as a talent for creation.
The question is: Why are we opportunists?
In his great work Crowds and Power, Elias Canetti observed that the rewards
religions promised their faithful were all far off, in the afterlife. This is because a short goal would demand demonstration from God and create skeptics instead of believers. There is an exception to this in Hinduism. Hinduism is not about the other world. There is no afterlife in Hinduism and rebirth is always on earth. The goal is to be released entirely and our death rites and beliefs—funeral in Kashi—seek freedom from rebirth. Christianity and Islam are about how to enter heaven; Hinduism is about how not to return to earth, because it’s a rotten place. Naipaul opens his finest novel with the words “The world is what it is”, and Wittgenstein ( “The world is all that is the case”) opens his Tractatus similarly.
Hinduism recognizes that the world is irredeemable: It is what it is. Perhaps this is where the Hindu gets his world view—which is zero-sum—from. We might say that he takes the pessimistic view of society and of his fellow man. But why? The Hindu devotee’s relationship with god is transactional: I give you this, you give me that. God must be petitioned and placated to swing the universe’s blessings towards you. God gives you something not through the miracle, and this is what makes Hinduism different, but by swinging that something away from someone else.
This is the primary lesson of the Vedic fire sacrifice. There is no benefit to one without loss to another.(Theory of Isostasy?++) Religion is about bending god’s influence towards you through pleas, and appeasement, through offerings.
Society has no role in your advancement and there is no reason to give back to it (in any way, including leaving the toilets clean behind you) because it hasn’t given you anything in the first place. That is why Indian industrialists are not philanthropists. Rockefeller always gave a tenth of his earnings to the Church, and then donated hundreds of millions, fighting hookworm and educating black women. Bill Gates gave $25 billion (around Rs1.2 trillion), and his cause is fighting malaria, which does not even affect Americans. Warren Buffett gave away $30 billion, almost his entire fortune. Andrew Carnegie built 2,500 libraries.Dhirubhai Ambani International
School has annual fees starting at Rs47,500 (with a Rs24,000 admission fee) andMukesh Ambani’s daughter was made head girl.

An interesting thing to know is this: Has our culture shaped our faith or has our faith shaped our culture? I cannot say. To return to the question we started with: Why is Brahma not worshipped? The answer is obvious: He has nothing to offer us. What he could do for us, create the universe, he already has. There is no gain in petitioning him now.