Category Archives: Culture

Maya

I was looking up for something and landed in this website of Sivananda Yoga Centre. What caught my attention first was the quote ” “That which truly is not, but appears to be, is Maya” by Swami Sivananda on the page. And then followed the error message ‘404: The page you requested does not exist!’

What better testimony could I have for the quote : The webpage appeared to be there, but was not in reality !

Maya

Postscript: In Hinduism, three two-syllable words – Maya, Leela, Karma – explains pretty much everything. What happens to you beyond your control is Karma, what happens around you without your involvement is Leela. When you were involved and suddenly realize that you are not involved, that’s Maya. While an understanding of these potentially liberates a person, the beautiful contradiction is that they can be used as excuses to cover-up anything in life !

 

Spiritual Marketing

There is no dearth of festivals and auspicious days in India. 13th of May was one such. It was the auspicious “Akshaya tritiya”, the third day of the bright half of Vaishakh month (April-May) important for both Jains and Hindus. The belief for ages has been that any activity initiated on this day is bound to meet with success and it has been a custom to perform pujas, make charity or worship Lord Ganesha or Lakshmi on this day.

Until some years back when an idea struck some marketing genius. The news quickly spread that it was very auspicious to buy gold on this day. Indians love gold and any reason to buy gold is always welcome. But this connection was even irresistable; two birds with one stone. Indians caught on to this idea and now Akshaya Tritiya is almost synonymous with buying gold (in tonnes literally)

This is a collage of ads that appeared in Times of India on the May 12th, reminding you that buying gold was the most important thing to do the next day.
Akshaya Tritiya

For those unfortunate people who can’t afford to purchase gold on this special day, the paper also offers some pieces of wisdom that they can try with their wives (the only issue being that this is on page 5, that is generally r read only by those who have nothing much to do than reading newspapers)
The scholar does not consider gold and jade to be precious treasures, but loyalty and good faith – Confucius
The most pitiful among men is who turns his dream in to gold and silver – Khalil Gibran
The desire for gold is not for gold. It is for the means of freedom and benefit – Ralph Emerson

While the genius who came up with this brilliant idea (hats off to him) remains unknown, there is definitely a magic formula that he invented. If you want to sell anything in India, you can apply this magic formula and that is sure to work. Here are the basic rules
1)Create some mystic feel around whatever you are offering. It should have a benefit in the spiritual dimension that is incomprehensible and unquantifiable. And most importantly you shouldn’t spell out what the benefit is. Indians prefer to have their own interpretations
To add to the mystic effect, you need to spice up the matter with lot of things that sound totally illogical (More in the example below)
2)Indians love special days and occasions. (If you are doing something every single day, what is so special about it?).Make your product look special by attaching it to a special occasion ( For the activity to look special, the minimum frequency is weekly)
3)And you should never say when the benefit will come. Again Indians like to fill up that part on their own. It is also acceptable that the benefit will come after death or in the next life. More mystic it is, more the fun

For example, if you want to make Indians drink your cola, this is what you need to do.

First you make up a story like this:

Every Wednesday (Tuesday and Wednesday are generally the only the days of the week to which an average Indian has no rituals attached to) you should drink this brand of Cola 3 glasses on empty stomach along with a neem leaf and Tulsi leaf (that give more effect) and walk to the nearest temple of ……..god (choose from the widest collection of 33,000 crores) barefoot. You should be carrying a lemon, red flowers, camphor and a coconut in a basket. Offer them at the temple. (More rules make it more attractive, so spice it up with many of them. But none of them should make any logical sense). Do not eat rice on the entire day (rice in the south India, wheat in the north). Drink about 10 cans before noon and then again start drinking after sunset. Remember do not drink between lunch and Sunset. It is very auspicious to do this every Wednesday. (You can add a quote from some scripture saying that the Gods drink some nectar. Then you say that that nectar is your Cola. That makes it even more easier to sell)
You can add some hints about the benefit if you choose to. Anyways if people drink so much of cola, they may not live long enough to verify them.
If you package it like this, Indians will gulp down any stupid drink, eat any junk food, or use your soap or shampoo. All you need to do is keep repeating this till people believe it.

There is only one important point to note here. There should be nothing logical at all about the whole thing. Being overwhelmed is the key; logic spoils it

Do we choose the good or the bad?

The results of the assembly elections in the state of Karnataka (the state in India where I live) was announced today. The ruling party was voted out of power and a party that was not in power for more than a decade emerged victorious with an absolute majority. This is very typical in India. Any party that comes to power gets embroiled in corruption, scams, scandals and in-party power struggles and by the time of next elections people are fed up and look for a change. While it seems as if people chose a party to win, the truth is the reverse. People choose that a party should not win.

Last week, I met a friend of mine. Both of us had gotten out of our cars and were walking towards the lift. He told me that he was planning to change his car and asked me how my car was. I told him that it was good and it was the power (128 BHP is pretty high for Indian standards) that I really liked. He had not made up his mind as to which car to buy. So we had a short discussion around the topic while we were in the elevator.

‘Why don’t you look at Renault Duster’, I said. Renault has recently launched this SUV that was doing pretty well in the market.
‘Duster does not have the third row seats’, he told me.’So it is not really worth the money’
‘Ertiga (from Suzuki) is selling well’, I observed.
‘I am not happy with Ertiga’ he said ‘the third row is cramped and the interior is very plasticky’
‘You can have a look at Honda Amaze’, I said. Amaze is the first diesel car from Honda recently launched in India.
‘The engine is quite noisy’. he told me.
It was time for me to step out of the elevator and we had to end the conversation. I told him that there would be many more new models in the market by the time he decides to buy and wished him good luck in finding a good one.

As I was walking to my apartment, I was thinking about this conversation. I was really amazed by the fact that his choice was not really based on what is good, but rather what is bad.

It makes perfect sense logically. In a given set of choices, it we go on eliminating the ones based on bad qualities, we would ideally end up with the best. But then the problem is most of the good and bad are in fact pure perceptions that we carry in our head.

This process of elimination works in every aspect of our lives in India, from choosing a government to choosing a life partner.

While it might seem that we all tend to choose the best things in life, it could be far from truth. Our minds are actually choosing the bad ones to avoid.

Or is it that we do not know what we really want?

Grass root innovation

I was in Sabarimala over the weekend for the annual pilgrimage. Sabarimala is one of the most popular pilgrimage spots in South India, attracting over 50 million people every year and undoubtedly one of the largest human gatherings in the globe. The temple is situated on a hill-top and has been facing difficulties accommodating devotees who pour in at the rate of about 90 people per every minute. Several initiatives have been taken by the authorities in the recent past the manage the increasing crowd, de-congest the place to make space for the pilgrims. One such initiative has been to relocate the shops beyond the periphery wall.

This naturally should have hit the sales and the shops are invariably forced to think out of the box to boost sales. Here is one such shop

Sabarimala

What you see below is a pilgrim shelter the boundary of which is indicated by the yellow line. There is a shop that sells steel vessels (used by pilgrims to carry the offerings back home) above the boundary wall  indicated by the red arrow. The pilgrims spent time in the shelter and it is likely that they would buy the vessels there than to walk up the row of shops above.

So this shop people have figured out a way. Firstly, they have displayed all the vessels on the walls for pilgrims to choose. Then there are two people sitting on the wall mid way. The pilgrims can communicate with them – choose a vessel, enquire the price, bargain etc. Once the deal is fixed, the transaction is carried out using a bucket and a rope

The money is put in to the bucket and the change and the vessel is delivered back.

Sabarimala_1

This is called grass root innovation.

A policeman who saw me taking this picture simply smiled, because the law only forbids selling anything within the shelter and the wall definitely was not covered under the rule !

Moving in the other direction

Kalasipalayam is undoubtedly one of the filthiest localities in Bangalore. It’s also a transport hub and several private bust operators have their office here.  This means that once a while a city dweller will need to make a visit to this place, either to drop or pick someone up.

I was here at 6:00AM today morning to pick some guests who were coming from my hometown. Upon reaching there, I learnt that the bus would be coming only by 8’o clock or so because of some problems on the way. Now I had to wait and having nothing to do I took a stroll around the place. It had been a long while I was here and never have I spent such a long time here.

Unable to bear the filth and the stench  I abandoned my stroll and decided to settle down somewhere with a pack of cigarettes. I sat in front of a close shop and started watching the crowd moving in front of me. There were sleep travellers, workers, rag pickers, auto riksha drivers and several men and women who didn’t seem to have any identity. What caught my attention was a few mad men who were also moving along. Soon I realized that there were in fact many of them. Some of them were extreme – laughing and talking to them selves, some aloof with an expression of deep grief and most of them looked disconnected from rest of the world. The peculiar thing was that unlike the other crowd, they had some identity about them.

As I sat watching these mad men, I could help wondering where they all suddenly appeared from. We normally don’t see mad people in the posh areas of Bangalore, in malls or on the busy main roads. We see rag pickers at the most and not really mad men. And suddenly here were many of them floating in the crowd in front of me.

Is it that it was the filth that attracted them all to Kalasipalaya? Can’t mad people put up with a clean surrounding?

It was about 7:45AM now and I got up to take some photos for the blog. I started looking around for some mad men to take some pictures. But soon to my surprise I realised that most them had vanished. While there were so many at the day break, I could hardly see any now. I walked through some of those narrow lanes to see if I could find some one to take some photos. And my guess was right, there were quiet a few who had taken shelter in some of the narrow alleys.

The locality had by now woken up and was getting ready for the day. And the mad people had vanished quietly from the scene.

My notion about mad people so far has been that they are just disconnected from everything else and live a life within themselves. But I realise that, that’s may not be the case. These mad men avoid the civilization; they prefer to live in places that the civilized people despises and they slowly withdraw in to darkness when the civilised society comes to life.

They are just moving in the opposite direction.

Why? Is it because it the civilized society that calls them mad people? Must be.

The Law of Attraction

Over the lunch I was listening to the story of my friend caught and ‘fined’ by the traffic police.

This was not the first time that my friend was caught by the traffic police; I have listened in the past too to several such stories. In one case he was actually fined in another state; the reason – the size of the letters on the number plate of his car was not as per the specification.

It would be appropriate at this point to also mention about how the traffic police operate in India. Ideally one would expect that you violate a rule and the police catch you. But it’s actually the other way round. They catch you and then try to find a reason to slap a fine. And commuters are not actually caught for violating the traffic rules (in India rules are more of a matter of convenience) but for not carrying the relevant documents.

But then, a large number of drivers in India do not carry proper documents with them; at times by mistake and at times deliberately. This has, over a period of time led to two things: Firstly, police have figured out a way to identify who is having documents or not, just by scanning the commuters’ faces. Secondly, the people have figured out how to ‘sense’ the presence of ‘traffic police’ on the way; if there is ‘police checking’ ahead, the traffic takes a specific pattern that people have learnt to sense. 

Back to the story. Typically, this is how the traffic police conducts their operation. Two policemen step on to the road and scans the drivers by looking at their faces. They stop the suspects who need to then go to the team (normally the head of the team) who stands by the parked vehicle.

But my friend actually travels with all the necessary documents. But then if he was being stopped by traffic police so often, it does mean that by looking at him the traffic police gets a feeling that he does not have the documents.  

I told my friend that there must be something in his ‘face language’ that’s giving him away. But that actually seemed a remote possibility, because he had all his documents with him. But then where is the problem?

 After some discussions and reflections, we found where the problem is (possibly). Some years back, my friend was driving a motor bike in the city. His salary wasn’t great, so it so happened that the insurance of the bike was not renewed and the pollution test not done. This remained so for several years. During that period, he had so much fear for the traffic police and had to be constantly on the lookout for them. In his own words – whenever he would see a while shirt, a panic alarm would go off.

 Years went by and he moved to better paying jobs and now is driving a car. But the fear for policemen was deeply rooted in his unconscious mind. This fear is what the traffic police men were looking for when they scan the drivers and that explains why he was being caught so often.

 How true is the law of attraction! It’s the fear of something that attracts it – fear of danger brings danger, fear of insecurity makes one insecure, fear of  suffering makes one suffer… It’s negative spiral that reinforces itself. Here the fear actually attracts danger and the danger in turn creates more fear.

Plants do understand…

There was this plant in our balcony (I do not know what is it called) which bears (supposed to)small beautiful flowers in white and reddish-brown. For whatever reason, the plant had not borne flowers for last 2 years or  more. Eventually I had moved it to a corner which didn’t have as much sunlight for me to keep other plants.

Since my family was away for the whole of May, I was taking care of the plants. It had been a while and I tried to make some changes like shifting some plants here and there, pruning etc. Then I noticed this plant and realized that I hadn’t seen it flower for a long time. Instinctively I told the plant – See, I will give you two weeks and if you don’t flower, I am going to throw you out of this place and plant something else instead.

I said it as if I say to another human being and really meant it. I had recently read an article on the great scientist JC Bose, who had proved that plants also have emotions like humans, which can be measured. I had also read about an experiment where a scientist repeatedly assured a cactus plant that there was no danger and after some time the plant shed its thorns. May be they were at the back of my mind.

I had forgotten about all this until yesterday when my wife (they are back now) showed me that the plant was blossoming. When I remembered what I had said, I could sense a mild shock travelling up my spine. The plant had buds on almost every branch.

I can’t believe that this is a coincidence. Did the plant understand what I said? If yes, what is the magnitude of the error we commit by cutting trees, pruning, uprooting and the host of other crimes that we inflict upon them?

I would like to believe that the plants choose to be silent; in the state of pure being.