Friday, November 22, 2002

Are we aliens...?

Last night I was watching the movie 'Contact' - a story about a little girl who loves radios and grows up to be an astronomer and comes in contact with the messages sent by aliens in a distant star. Sadly I couldn't watch the full movie but as I hit the bed I was wondering if we are aliens.

Ok look at it this way. Ants (my favourite little creatures :p ) are highly civilised. They live in families, colonies, have their own kingdoms and a queen to rule them. They practice slavery and casteism. They recognise the seasons and accordingly store their food. They care for their little ones and even have their own nursery to leave the kids when they go off to work. In some ways they are like what humans were - say about 10,000 years back.

Now when was the last time you actually bent down to speak to these ants? Probably never right? They are insignificant to us. I mean they can't even contact or communicate with us (except for the fact that they know exactly where we are when we go for a picnic). They live in their own two dimensional world oblivious to the fact of how high and wide things can be. A cube of sugar is a diamond mine for them.

And how would they feel if one of us bent down and talked to them? Would they say "Whoa! look its an alien! Run!!" And probably they would go tell rest of the colony and most among them would say "yeah, yeah, shaddup!!". And so the chapter of aliens gets closed in that colony till someone else spots one of us humans again. Some intelligent ants in those colonies might be wondering if there are any other ants - beyond the group of colonies that they know of. When was the last time an ant from India made a contact with ant from Russia? There are ants on every continent but none of them know each other. The distance is too far and their science is limited.

But we know that ants exists all over. Likewise maybe the aliens fly past our earth everyday in their spaceships and a baby alien might say "hey look.. human colony!!". And the papa alien would say "leave em alone - you are already late for school" and they would fly on. And probably the aliens already know where all the humanoid creatures exist on various galaxies. And maybe one professor alien visits earth once in a while to study us. Just like how Suku looks at bugs and studies them. Maybe the ants look at Suku as an alien ;-)

Thursday, November 21, 2002

War or development??

How do you think this Jew felt? His parents, his kids and his wife have all been shot right in front of him. He was asked to dig the pit and dump their bodies in there and then asked to step inside. And this photo shows him just moments away from being shot.

Off late I have been doing a lot of reading on wars and all - especially WW II. I actually picked up reading about WW II planes and fighter aircrafts but that led me onto the atrocities and all such sort of stuff. I fail to understand how mankind can ever digest the fact that they glorify war and war 'so called' heros.

Well that said, the irony is that most of the research and man-kinds major discoveries have taken place in times of war. Is that any type of trade-off that can ever be justified. Wars for development?

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Invisible burden

I guess most of us, if not all of us, do turn philosophical once in a while. I have noticed that it is more so when we are in pain. Ha! Pain! What a small word but yet something that has drastic connotations to different people. Something that suppresses our flow of thoughts and makes us behave in a manner that we ourselves would question if we were not in pain. We all become cynics in one-way or other.

You know what the worst thing in life is? It’s our stupid faith - that in time we will get what we want. And when we don’t get what we want and in the manner that we had dreamt of – we question not our desires but the manner in which this world behaves. We ask – why should so and so have that? What have I done not to get that? We even tend to compare the grandeur of the silver screen (where ironically the good, the bad and the ugly all takes place within a few hours) to our every day mundane lives. We have the audacity to dream but not the courage to question our dreams.

In short we get attached. We are so attached to that thing or person that we weave our lives around the memories or fabricate imagined lives around it. We would have fewer cynics around us (including myself) if we were to learn the art of dropping those attachments instantly. But alas, life is funny. It never displays the slate in between our ears so that we can erase memories, which we don’t want. On the contrary it tends to project our desires / dreams – just when we least expect it and makes us compare the situation in hand with our self imagined lives.

Here, as usual, is a story (taken from Zen teachings):

Once upon a time many moons ago, two monks were walking in silence through the forest; a younger monk, Anjan, and an older monk, Ananda.

Eventually their path led to a stream. There they saw a beautiful young lady, exquisitely clad, standing on the bank. She was in great distress because she wanted to cross the stream, but did not know how, without getting her fine long robes wet.

Without hesitation, Ananda scooped her up, crossed the stream, and set her down on dry ground. She thanked him and continued on her way, and the monks continued on theirs, again in silence.

Anjan was uncertain, distressed, and confused. He became more and more restless and then finally he spoke.

"Brother Ananda," he said, "I do not know what to make of it. You know our order is an austere order, and we cannot so much as speak to a woman. But... but... you saw that lady, you... uh... picked her up and... carried her across the stream! And yet..." he continued, almost choking, "You just keep on walking as if nothing happened!"

"It is quite simple," Ananda replied. "I set her down on the opposite bank, but you, Brother Anjan, are still carrying her!"

That my dear friends - sums it all up! Maybe we don’t carry pretty girls – but we carry a source of attachment. We carry what we shouldn’t. A burden that is not visible to others – but very likely to be the cause of being a cynic. Honestly, I am yet to get over my own memories, but I think (and hope) I am on the right way to become a non-cynic and accept life first and then my dreams.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

The pear tree

A couple of days back I wrote a bit on courage / stupidity and today I am going to do a take on wisdom. Please don't confuse this with knowledge. I think these two are distinctly separate. In my opinion most of the wisdom comes from the real life experiences of applying the knowledge that we have. Ok ok.. I won't bore you with all that mumbo jumbo but listen to this story - again from my life in Kodaikanal.

Kodai school was pretty huge. Our main campus was 18 acres and thats just classes. Our dorms and play grounds spread over other parts of town were literally hundreds of acres and we had to walk quite a distance at to get there.

Mrs. Engineer was an old woman or so we felt because she was in her 80's. Otherwise she was as energetic as any one in their 60's. Short in stature, she was a dorm-parent. Along with her husband she resided in one of the dorms caring for the students and made them feel that their dorm was indeed their home. She would ensure that everyone did their homework and at night the lights were turned off before she herself retired.
It was a routine that after having dinner at the school cafeteria I had to walk to my dorm. I usually took the short cut passing through the campus of this dorm, though it only saved about one minute of extra walk. There was a pear tree, which she had nurtured and grown. This pear tree, which stood right in front of her bedroom window, had very low branches and any one who could walk, could climb it and pluck the pears. Though a small tree - it would bear hundreds of fruits in its bosom. Mrs. Engineer loved it, kids loved it and so did I.

Everyday I would notice one scene - Mrs. Engineer chasing little boys and girls with her cane stick who had come to steal the pears from her pear tree. She would chase them a few yards and the boys and girls would scream and run and when they felt they were a safe distance from her they would stop and giggle. Mrs. Engineer would challenge them to come again, wave her stick in the air, and walk back inside her house. The kids, of course, accepted the challenge.

It so happened one day that while chasing the kids Mrs. Engineer tripped and bruised herself. I picked her up, gave the cane stick back in her hand and ensured that she was steady. As I walked her back to the door I asked her:

'Mrs. Engineer, why don't you let the kids eat your pears? After all you are aged and you can't possibly eat all of them. Look at all those ripe pears which have fallen on the ground because no one plucked them.'

She stopped in her tracks, adjusted her glasses, and looked at me. She said: 'My son, I want those kids to eat the pears. But if I don't chase them, they will never come back.'

That in my opinion is what wisdom is all about...

Monday, November 18, 2002

What in the world is .tv

One of the strangest things (or atleast I find it strange) in London is people distributing pamphlets to one and all. You find such people usually on the exits of tube stations. They distribute pamphlets on varied subjects from - 'how to get thin in 24 hours' to 'save the black-panda'. And yesterday as I came out of the Oxford St tube station, a lady with a very strange accent, thrust a pamphlet at me. I usually recieve them and dump them in the next bin without bothering to read. I know that many students do this as a part time job and they are paid by the number of pamphlets they distribute. So its my way of helping them - by taking and dumping those pamphlets.

But yesterday there was no bin nearby and so as I walked I went through the pamphlet which initially looked like a anti-global warming issue. I thought it would be a amusing read but the fact was - it was more about a country called Tuvalu and how it was submerging every year because of global warming. I was like "yeah right.. it will take ages for any town to sink, let alone a country.. why do people panic??". A litter further reading the pamphlet pointed out that the highest point in that country was only 4.5mts!! That really caught my attention. I wanted to know more about this country (which was the first time I had ever heard of) and so I walked back to the gal.

As I spoke to her she seemed more than happy to talk to me about her country and all. She told me that her country had population of just about 15,000 and it was located near Australia. A small group of islands that faced havoc every time there was storms - despite the feeble dikes they had built. And the only income they had was through tourism and bit of fish and palm exports. She was a UK sponsored student and she was doing her bit to help her country by spreading information. And the pamphet gave out another intersting story. The .tv internet suffix!! (for India - .in is the internet suffix). And because .tv is good for television and media companies - they earn royalty revenue by letting others use it! Wow!! Anyways.. I thought how nice to see a girl do so much for her nation - despite have loads to study and so little funds.
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