Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When I read 'The Bhagwad Gita'

There was a time when I read a substantial portion of 'The Bhagwad Gita'. It was when I was about ten or eleven years old. (I am talking of ancient history here.)

One afternoon I was playing some distance away from my house, throwing stones in the air, trying to see how far they will go. (Apparently the frontal cortex, which keeps our emotional part of the brain from going out of control, develops fully only by about age thirty.Perhaps that is the reason why we do so many daft things till that age.) The sun was shining, the birds were singing and all the other things were happening that novelists write to indicate that it was a perfect day. But as everyone knows, every silver lining has a cloud.

One of these stones took on a life of its own (like the bullet that killed Kennedy) and went and hit a glass sheet in a neighbouring house. Glass sheets have this nasty habit of breaking into a million pieces with an unhealthy noise when struck with sufficient force. This sheet was no different. I stood literally transfixed to the spot, staring at the apocalyptic scene in horror. (If Wodehouse was writing my biography, he would have informed you at this point that something similar happened to Lot's wife when she looked back instead of walking straight ahead.)

The next instant, I ran to my house. Luckily, no one was in the front room to ask me uncomfortable questions about the concerned look on my face. I cautiously parted the curtains and peered out of the window, fully expecting to see a horde of Neanderthals bearing machetes and clubs and baying for my blood. To my surprise nobody was outside. But I was sure that this was just the lull before the storm. I had just seen the film 'Sholay' and Dharmendra's dialogue kept flashing through my head, 'Police coming, budiya going to jail and in jail budiya chakki pissing and pissing and pissing'. I looked around the room wondering what I could do to avoid the long arm of the law.

I saw a copy of 'The Bhagwad Gita' lying on a shelf. I suddenly got the idea that reading 'The Bhagwad Gita' wold keep me out of jail. I took it down and started reading. The left side had Sanskrit slokas and the right side had the English translation. I did not know any Sanskrit and the level of the English was far higher than what a ten year old could understand. But I remembered someone telling me that reading a religious book was good even if you did not understand anything.He was a Daniel come to judgement showing the way out of a very sticky situation.

It was a hard slog. After a few pages I kept the book aside, intending to read a few pages everyday. After coming home from school, I used to read some pages from the book before going to play. My mother must have been pleased about my sudden religiosity but I don't remember her saying anything about it. But I soon started tiring of it. Anyway the police were nowhere in sight. So I put the book back on the shelf where I had found it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Khan Academy

Recently, TED posted online a talk by Salman Khan. Not that Salman Khan. This is the Khan of Khan Academy. If you have not seen the site yet, now is the time. A friend brought the site to my notice and it has saved me a lot of time and effort in teaching a variety of classwork to Sujit. Thanks Anitha.

Talking of educational videos, here are some physics lectures. I haven't seen them all. They seem to be good.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Looking back with regret

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

-from 'To a Skylark by Percy Bysshe Shelley

It was the time when I had just passed from a coveted institute, tweaked my sense of humour, had a good job, was happily married, lived in a good house in Mumbai (everyone who has stayed in Mumbai know how important that is) and was about to conquer the world. At this time, my mother and sister came from Kerala to stay with us for a couple of months. It was their first visit to Mumbai.

One day I was taking them around the city, showing them the sights which they had seen only on postcards (they always look better on postcards). Sometime during the trip, I got miffed at something (I don't remember what it was; it must have been quite trivial) and I started acting like a million dollars. I was in a huff and did not speak much for the rest of the trip. Jaya doesn't remember the incident. Most probably my mother and sister also don't remember it.

In this TEDtalk, Daniel Kahneman talks about the dominance of the remembering self over the experiencing self and that what we remember is the ending of an experience. I remember the unhappy note on which the trip ended but I don't remember the pleasant occurrences that must have happened earlier. (This blog is being written by the remembering self. The experiencing self must have been quite different. And memories can play tricks.)

Oft, when on my cot I lie in vacant or in pensive mood, the incident flashes upon that inward eye which, Wordsworth assures me, is the bliss of solitude. But my heart with pleasure does not fill.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Faking tragedy

I saw an interesting post about a strange phenomenon called Factitious Disorder.