Tuesday, July 31, 2007

the fear of 13

why is 13 considered to be so unlucky? and if the 13th of a month falls on a friday, it is supposed to be a double whammy.13th july this year was a friday. according to hindu mythology,it is actually a lucky number. the mayans worshipped 13 gods of the upper world. the aztecs climbed thirteen steps to their sacred places. the buddhists pay homage to their thirteen buddhas.the jewish prayer book holds the the thirteen principles of faith. friday 13th has significance in the islamic culture.

there are many who have gone on record to state that the number 13 has been lucky for them.and recently a 75 year old catholic who claims that he has lived his life with the friday 13 culture has met with lots of success.he was expelled from school on friday the 13th(he never went to school thereafter), he got his first job on the 13th, the second job on the 13th, the third as well on the 13th and a court case was decided in his favour after a struggle of 13 years. he concluded by saying that it is the attitude that you adopt that really matters. he believes that 13 is lucky for him and success follows.

a wheel-chair bound member of the legislative assembly from kerala is an anglo indian. simon britto. recently,he was allotted room no 12b in the mla's hostel. he does not want to circumvent 13. he wants to take it head-on. he is unwilling to succumb to such unfounded fears and superstitions.he is a marxist and a rationalist.he is having his room number changed. but the kerala high court does not have a judge's chamber numbered 13. aren't judges supposed to be rational?

alexander the great wanted to become god.he decided to have his statue built.there were already 12 for twelve gods(months).he died soon.jesus christ's last supper had 13 people on the table. and he was crucified on friday the 13th. apollo 13 met with an accident on 13th april 1970 due to an explosion of an oxygen tank. the 'upahaar' tragedy at new delhi occurred on friday 13th june 1997. those who have read agatha's christie's mystery novel thirteen@dinner know what havoc the number can play.in japan, 13 is considered unlucky. 13=4+9. 4 is pronounced as shi which means death. and 9 is pronounced as ku which means torture. there is a thirteenth friday every year while some years have more. year 2009 will have three of them. in brazil and columbia 13th is considered very unlucky. known as triskaidekaphobia,the fear of 13 appears to be universally prevalent.

on the other hand,manchester christian hospital recently celebrated the raising of 35,000 pounds sterling over a period of 13 years for its cancer research centre. they, therefore, consider 13 as a lucky number. i too am with them. i have had many good things happening to me on the 13th. the last one being a purchase of a flat bearing no 13. indian buildings skip the thirteenth floor and also do not have a flat no 13. mine was an exception. do i have any regrets? no.not so far. its value has nearly tripled in the last three years.

different cultures have different superstitions.and many events confirm what the people believe. it then becomes sacrosanct for the people of these cultures. however,it is best not to carry the superstitious baggage.as the wise say, it is all in the mind. think positive and you will do positive. think you will become the happiest person and you will become the happiest person. it is the secret of secrets. read rhonda byrne like millions of others and your life will be transformed. no more fear of 13 or friday the thirteenth.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

tattoo is no more taboo

it's no more a nubile teenage model's fad. the fever has spread far and wide.neither sex nor age is any bar.the coolest thing to do nowadays is to get yourself imprinted for life.that got reinforced in the 10th annual new york city tattoo convention held in june this year.people from various walks of life-lawyers,architects,doctors,engineers were seen queuing up to get tattooed.and they were willing to pay a heavy price to the tattoowala.it is reported that there were about 90 tattoo parlours from all over the world participating in making a killing out of this latest trend.the desire to buy a very personal art work for an amount which would be equivalent to buying an expensive painting from say christie's.

tattoos date back to about ten milleniums though it is only in the last fifteen years or so that a large number of people have been going in for tattoos in india.in addition to the usual bikers and musicians, the craze has spread to the yuppies and to the old.a flight attendant,a banker,an artist who lost his jhola,a teetotaller.all from mumbai recently showed off what they have in common.gone are the days when tattoos were associated with only hippies and junkies.

tattoo parlours have mushroomed in mumbai with the three most popular tattoowals being ben irani at tardeo,sameer patange at bandra and al alva at bandra too.starting from rs 2000 the cost could go up to the sky depending upon the complexity of the work.you pay for the pain.more the pain the more you pay!there are many amateur artists and fakes too. so if you have that gungho attitude and wanrt to get yourself tattooed,beware. study the scenario carefully before you embark on your mission.

mandira bedi and esha deol ran into controversies for tattooing themselves with the 'ek onkar' sikh religious tattoo and the 'gayathri mantra' respectively.five hollywood females have 43 tattoos on their body. and that includes angelina joile who has the maximum.like the rush of a mind-altering drug,the sense of being able to have an artwork on one's flesh is just propelling this craze.it is not just one tattoo on the body.it is in dozens.sunil dutt and shobha dey have also gone in for their own distinct tattoos.sanjay was seen with a lion's mug with the word 'simba rules'on his rightwrist.and shoba dey had a oriental tattoo in a pair.on her right shoulder.the upper one symbolises motherhood.the lower one represents the female principle in the cosmos,says shobha dey.

it is not irreversible.once you are tattooed you remain always tattooed is true no more.modern technology makes it possible to erase your tattoo.that will,i am sure, spawn another industry.

i will let you into a small secret.many years ago,i got myself tattoeed.don't get scandalised and don't think i was justifying what i did with what i have said so far.i was tattooed by my guru. i have the discus and conchshell,the insignia of lord vishnu tattooed on my right and left shoulders respectively.it was a simple process and i also gave a humble gurudakshina.i am proud of my tattoos.they are visible though not coloured.they constantly remind me to tread on the right path.what more could i ask for?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

hail king bhutta!

we must thank the portugese for having introduced the maize crop in india in the 17th century.a cereal grass widely grown like wheat and rice.maize has a high nutritious value.has high fibre and low fat.lovers of punjabi cuisine will never miss an opportunity to have 'makki di roti' with 'sarson da sag'.this popular food crop is now extensively grown throughout india.

'corn on cob' is the flavour of the monsoon season. in mumbai you will find makkaiwalas or bhuttawalas with their standard equipment of a wooden cart,coal stove and a handmade fan dotted throughout the city.the smell of freshly roasted corn is enticing. when you open the husks and pierce a few of the kernels you can test the corn and the bhuttawallah will put your selected corn on the 'chulha' and roast it for 3 to 4 minutes. 3 or 4 at a time. as normally there is a long wait.

the smoky smell was too tempting for me when i was returning from work yesterday.added to that smell was the aroma of moist earth.something that compels you to get outdoors and bond with nature.i normally buy from balkrishna yadav, a up guy, who has been selling 'corn on the cob' for many many years at the entrance to cooperage bandstand.the moment he saw me there was a large smile on his face and he decided to make four of them for me. one for me and the other three for the family. we live within a stone's throwaway from where he functions.after the bhuttas had reached the tinge of gold and black and when it looked properly roasted, after continuous fanning, he took it out and applied a scallop of butter on the full length of the husk and thenplaced the corn on it; thereafter,he smeared salt, red chillipowder and squeezed a small lemon on to it to give it that tanginess and ran the lemon over.he knew i liked it spicy and he added that extra bit of mirchi.wow,it was just terrific! worth the twenty rupees i paid. at home,gb also roasts bhutta on the gas stove but in comparison to the bhutta over the smouldering charcoal embers it is no patch.

you can grill it,microwave it,steam it or boil it.do what you like. but eat it. you can't but be grateful to nature for providing you with such a manna! and to the portugese too!!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

water is the soul,camel milk is life

many months ago, i had read a newsitem about a 88 year old man from rajasthan who had just then fathered a child. virmaram jat attributed regular intake of camel's milk as one of the main reasons for his virility and longevity.almost immediately,demand for camel's milk shot up in and around his village.the word spread like wild fire throughout the state of rajasthan as it was considered to be an aphrodisiac. supply couldn't keep pace with demand and the price skyrocketed from rs 20/litre to rs 40/litre. virmaram's achievement was impressive.i contributed a short write-up on this subject in my wife's magazine for senior citizens and later forgot about it.till the other day,when i happened to read another article extolling the virtues of camel's milk.

in early 20th century,mahatma gandhi had recommended goat's milk to our countrymen for regular consumption.he consumed it quite frequently.but i don't think there were many takers.in rajasthan, which has the largest camel population in india,it seems camel milk is now becoming quite popular. the worldwide population of camels is about 19 million.camel population is highest in somalia where the camel to human ratio is 1.the indian camel population is only 0.66 million.i.e about 3.5% of world camel population.indian scientists are working on camel milk to turn into a skin care product.to lighten one's complexion and to even out wrinkles.the government run r&d organisation in rajasthan where the scientists are developing the wrinkle-free face cream has already successfully developed camel milk ice cream.

camel milk is believed to have more calcium,minerals and vitamins than cow's milk. a recent bbc report mentions how it has caught the imagination of the english people and that it is expected to fly off the supermarket shelves once retailing of camel's milk begins. the fao(food and agriculture organization) wing of the un has made exhaustive reports on its benefits, how the productivity of the milk yielding camels can be increased fourfold and how it could bring more prosperity to the camel owners.there are many humps no doubt in making camel milk products commercially viable.however,technologies are being developed to tackle these issues.at the end of the day, whether it will take off commercially is yet to be seen.

in the the middle east,camel milk drinking is quite common.it is considered to be the elixir of life.appropriate technologies,increased production and productivity and clever marketing can bring in prosperity to the poor people of these countries. as someone jokingly said,when the oilfields of saudi arabia go dry,camel milk will bring in the dollars.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

the monk and his fondness for fish

i read an interesting article this morning about a monk who according to the writer would not give up his 'weakness' for fish. the monk is a bengali. he has been eating fish almost from the time he was put in the cradle.the writer was shocked and confused that having reached a high level of spirituality why was it that the monk still persisted in eating a living being.one who could sacrifice everything and lead a life of a monk,could he be a slave to his palate? she then sought the bhagavad gita for an answer.

i was immediately reminded about an oscar nominated animation movie produced by michael didok de wit.i think it was in 2004 that this 6 minute film was produced.the story is amusing and profound too.a clever way of conveying a message. a monk sees a fish in the tank of the monastery.he decides to catch it.the fish doesn't give up easily.there is a long chase.the more the fish eludes the monk,the more exasperated and agitated does he become.he is determined to catch it.he jumps into the pond,requests likeminded monks to join him in this big chase.the fish finds it way into a canal and then moves out of the premises of the monastery. they follow the fish.finally they start moving in sync and drift off into the sky together.one could interpret this story in many different ways.

do you have to be a vegetarian to realise your self? as per our shastras,the food consumed by human beings can be divided into three categories.saatvik,raajasic and taamasic. tamaasic is the worst of the lot.old,cold and decayed food. the body of one who eats such food gets polluted with toxins .the person becomes lazy and an unfit member of society. raajasic food is rich food-spicy,.bitter,sour,saltish,hot,pungent and dry. saatvik food is whole,nutritious,soothing and consists of minimal cooking of vegetables and has plenty of natural products-dry fruits,milk,curd etc. the shastras say you are what you eat. food works on the mind. mind works on the body.so if you eat saatvik food you rise yourself to a higher plane.there is minimum toxicity in your body,you are more active and agile,your brain functions at a super-efficient level and you tend to become spiritual and generally you are in peace with yourself.it augments life. raajasic food unleashes tremendous energy and generally the type of food preferred by fighters(modern day managers).taamasic food is a no no for anyone if he wants to lead a happy life. and fasting once or twice a month helps you to cleanse your intestines besides helping you to becoming more spiritual.

eating vegetarian food is certainly not a sine qua non for attaining self-realisation .at that stage you eat minimal food, just to keep your body and soul together.as you ascend in the plane of human existence,you are expected to shed off your worldly attachments,material and otherwise and lead a life more attuned to spiritual quests.as man is continuously evolving, he reaches higher planes in different points of time. just because you are a monk does not mean you must become a celibate or give up alcohol or nonvegetarian food or stop smoking. though it is desirable to wean away from these habits there is no perfect state or time for such withdrawal.when you have attained selfrealisation you are likely to be living on a very saatvik diet.

the monk who stiill enjoys his fish has yet to evolve to that stage which will help him to give up fish eating.he may do so in this birth or maybe in the next birth. therefore,there is no need to be alarmed or shocked when a monk expresses his love for eating fish. a monk or an ascetic is expected ultimately to sacrifice everything which according to our shastras is the surest way towards liberation. that would need time and concentration. whether the bengali monk whom our journalist friend met will give up his love for his favourite 'maach' time alone will tell.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

mr slim is mr fattest

what an irony that the world's fattest cat(read richest person) should have a name called slim. till yesterday i thought bill gates is the world's richest man.i was surprised when i read in a financial daily that one carlos slim,a lebanese mexican tycoon had overtaken him and is now the world's top dog. his net worth is estimated at 67.8 billion us dollars against 59.2 billion us dollars of bill gates. a lead of 8.6 billion us dollars. with that polevault jump of slim, warren buffett slides down to no3 position among the world's richest.

known as the "telecom king" of mexico, slim is the chairman of telmex,mexico's largest telecom company. thanks to the boomimg mexican stock market which has grown by 58% in one year, his fortunes have also swelled. also known as "engineer" because of his engineering degree, he has a diversified range of interests- real estate,construction,banks,cigarettes,components for oil platforms, hospitals,etc. so much so, that it is said in mexico that from the time a mexican child is born,money is being put in slim's pocket.

mexico like india has a wide rich-poor divide. a fraction of mexico's population is rich and the massive majority is poor, half the population living on less than 5 us$ a day. slim and his family are estimated to own assets worth 8% of mexico's gdp. a simple calculation shows that for bill gates to achieve the same status in the united states, would mean that his fortune will have to go up to 13 trillion us$.

will he also be as philanthropic as bill gates and warren buffet and become the world's largest donor? that remains to be seen. charity begins at home,they say. to be fair to slim, he has already shown his readiness to do something for his people. bicycles to rural school children and free operations for the poor are some of the projects he has undertaken. he has set up various trusts and foundations through which schools and hospitals are being run for the poor and needy. he is investing through a for-profit organisation into infrastructure which would help his country to lift itself from the present morass. with vast financial resources at his command, he is in the best position to do so. after all is he not known for his midas touch? he would then be justifiably hailed by his people for not only being the world's richest man but also the one with the biggest heart. the 67 year old man with a head for numbers knows that when he dies he cannot carry his fortunes with him. after all he has lots of 'sentido coman'(common sense) which incidentally is also the name of the financial publication he founded.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

hooha about 'crezendo'

hindustan latex corporation(hlc), a public sector undertaking,found its sales of condoms somewhat dwindling.it had to come out with a marketing gimmick to revive the sagging sales.the marketing heads got together and the result of the pooling of the brains was the vibrating condom,appropriately called 'crezendo'. a ribbed condom and a separate ring that can be attached and which vibrates with battery power. sales zoomed. but puritans from bjp in madhya pradesh,the party in power, raised a hue and cry.condom cannot become a sex toy they said.they wanted the product to be withdrawn. a letter was sent to the pm to ask hlc to stop marketing the sex toy immediately.

minister of health ramadoss intervened and said condom use was a must for safe sex and if a vibrating condom helped to give pleasure,condom usage would increase and it would help in curbing the population growth as well as prevent aids. bjp health minister in mp would have nothing of this argument and he blamed the congress and other parties who supported it, of damaging the hindu way of life.

eroticism is nothing new to hinduism.it has been there for milleniums.kama sutra and many other treatises encouraged the use of different types of apparatus that gave pleasure while having sex.there are various sexual and ritual tantric practices as well as their sacred teachings on what passion is all about and how to reach the pinnacle of ectasy while having sex.in the olden days there were many toys of different shapes and sizes which were used for enhancing pleasure during sex.

aids experts estimate that by 2020 one in every three indians will be affected with aids .after africa, india is standing in the queue to become an aids- afflicted nation. safe sex must be encouraged at all costs, if we have to save ourselves from self- destruction. the hullabaloo is totally uncalled for and should receive the contempt it deserves.