Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Believe.....




Every year, in the month of January, huge colossal crowds of men gather in the dense forested hilltop of Sabarimala, in Kerala. Some have come as far as hundreds of miles to witness a spectacle, that occurs only once a year, when the sun begins its transit into the zodiac of Capricorn (Makara).
On this day, from across the horizon, people witness the flickering of a bright light known as the Makara Jyoti (the light of Capricorn). Now this light emits from within the dense forests of Sabarimala, across the landscape briefly three times, signifying the divine presence of Lord Aiyappa (a popular South Indian deity).
And on this very day, people throng amongst thousands, to witness this divine spectacle.
A spectacle that has occurred year after year, since time immemorial.

Now as all things pertaining to faith, this spectacle too has not escaped the throes of controversy. At least in recent times. Rationalists and atheists have debunked this spectacle as being man made, and not divine, much to the chagrin of the believers across the country.
Of course this is not the first time, where this accusation has been made.
Nevertheless, year after year, the crowds grow and the spectacle continues.
Sometimes I wonder, so as to what the so called rationalists aim to achieve.
I believe that everyone is entitled to his beliefs and doubts.
Its only when people choose to stick their beliefs down others throats, it gets annoying.
India, is a land of a multitude of faiths and beliefs.

Faiths that have grown accustomed to being amongst each other for centuries. And as a consequence, there is a strange, nevertheless chaotic balance that connects every individual in this country.
Every village has a local legend. A local deity, local miracles, a haunting, and the sort.
Everyone has his or her version of the history of creation, mythology and philosophies pertaining to life.
Children are taught tales of mythological heroes of old, and stories of generosity and virtue. Creating a role model for them to look up to in their infant years.
No one has seen the heroes of old. Nor has anyone viewed their exploits. But its the belief, that at one point of time, there might have existed such an individual, known for his daring exploits. A role model to look up to, during the most darkest of our days, during the most trying circumstances.
And that's the purpose a belief serves.

In the current era, the most easiest thing to do is question, to doubt and to be skeptical of everything that goes on about us. To be rational about everything.
And how does being rational help?
It gives you answers.
It tells you fact for what it is. It unravels the truth.
So hypothetically you now do know the truth.
You now know that the heroes of old probably never existed. All the legends and stories are a sham.
There are no miracles. Just accidents and coincidences.
So there you are,
the truth is right before you.
Now what?
What remains in an existence that is bereft of belief and hope?
Where do you go, in the darkest hour of your need, when you do not have the strength to face whats before you, and your loved ones are stand helpless?
In a world where belief is non existent, and faith is a thing of the past, now that you have everything figured out, all you have left, is to succumb to your fate.
That's it.
End of story.
People underestimate the power of belief.
The power the human mind holds over sentient life.

One of the best known examples, in medical science is the placebo effect. Where test subjects were administered dummy pills with the belief that it will cure their migraines or cold or other assorted maladies. Though the pills contained nothing in them, the subjects reportedly felt better after their administration. The placebo effect is a small but sure example of how the human mind responds to even the most trivial of beliefs.
Basically, a system of beliefs, creates a feeling of well being. A feeling of purpose and direction in life, which no amount of rational explanation can achieve.
Even if some beliefs might sound ludicrous to a good deal of people, as long as it helps the individual in question, why take it away?
Whether or not a spectacle is divine or man made, whether or not legends and myths are real or fabrications, it is irrelevant, as long as it gives one hope, and feeling of being special to a great multitude of humans.
You cannot take away belief from us, because that is the one core thing that separates us from the other species. Its the one thing that makes us human.
Parents tell their children that they are special. Can you imagine a rational perspective where a child is told, "you are just like everyone else, there's nothing special or different about you".
Then what can the child possibly aspire towards?
Its something tot think about.
Beliefs are necessary.
Personal, spiritual or religious.
I choose to believe.
I believe in a purpose, an ideal and whatever legend or incident, that serves to guide humanity as a beacon of light through the darkest of days.
If there's one thing I do not believe in, its accidents and coincidence.
The world seems a lot more magical that way.
The rationalists can have their world. Mundane and devoid of any hope whatsoever.
I choose to stick to mine.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Of Service And Servitude



Of late, I have been bit by the lazy bug. And frankly apart from hitting the gym in the evenings, there's nothing much I do of late. I suppose I'm in a phase of absolute mental hibernation, where I just practically lounge around all day, without any agenda or commitment. The postings in the hospital are light and so I decided to give my self some time to cool my heels.
But certain things are easier said than done.
I take my phases of absolute indifference and apathy rather seriously, and frankly it irks me a good deal when circumstance, forces me out of my revere and thrusts me back into the mundane aspects of reality.
Thus, I was interrupted from my meditative state of indifference, by the shrill screeching of a woman's voice.
I turns out, that my mother was arguing with a maidservant over her wages.
Now, normally I'm the sort of a person who doesn't care a damn. But in this case, the woman managed to arouse my curiosity, by increasing her screeching to an earsplitting crescendo that would probably give a banshee a run for her money.
As it turns out, the female in question, was asking an astronomically obscene amount of money for doing an infinitesimal amount of work.
Now it was my turn to start screaming, much to my own surprise.
It took a while for my baritone to tone her down to a shrill squeak and after much pointless haggling, she left muttering curses and hexes under her breath.
Now this whole incident has left me quite unnerved if not exasperated to say the very least.

I hate servants.
I despise them, detest them, abhor and loathe them with all my heart and soul.
They do really shoddy work. They have come really close to destroying my Russian souvenirs countless times while "dusting" the shelf. And to make matters worse, I cannot find anything in my room once they are done "cleaning" it.
Of course they are quite eager to please, and it causes the average Indian chest to swell a few notches higher, when servants practically run like loyal minions, to lift their grocery bags.
To me, its nothing but fiddlesticks!
Frankly I just cannot bring myself to terms with the great grand Indian tradition of ordering people about.

Indians are masters at being masters. They love to be serviced and served.
Our house as of now has two gardeners, one driver, two maids, two security guards and a female who comes in the evening to lend a hand in the kitchen for my mum.
This might seem as an extravagance to those in western countries, but in India its usually the norm.
Its a far cry from living in Russia for the past six years.
I had to do things by myself. Shop for groceries, do the laundry, cook, clean my room and in the "spare time" study.
I don't regret it one bit.
I loved every instance of it.
It gave me a sense of self control. A control over my life. The ability to do things when I wanted, the way I wanted. Not depending on anybody for anything.
It was just so wonderfully simple. No hassles, no squabbles and no pointless waiting for someone to swoop down and help you with your chores.
In India on the other hand, almost every household, ranging from large bungalows to pea sized apartments have servants.

Its almost as if people here have a phobia of doing their own chores.
Here the real effort lies in ordering people about.
No matter what, I just cannot give my self the self authoritative pompousness that is needed to yell at the night security guard for dozing off at 9pm or the gardener for not watering the rose bushes. I just don't care a damn, much to the exasperation of my parents.
Now I can understand the basic need for a domestic help, if the house in question is rather large, and difficult to maintain, or if both spouses are working.
But it flabbergasts me so as to why hideously obese Indian housewives who are not working, need servants for their moderately sized homes.
Someone might cry hoarse saying that women are not objects of labor.
But frankly, I doubt picking up your own stuff and keeping your own house clean can be akin to slave driving. The same would go for Indian men as well.
There is a certain dignity and independence in doing your own chores. Where you truly become the master of your home.
I have therefore specifiably forbidden any servant to enter my room.
As a consequence, my room is a mess. The clothes are lying about, the desk is unkempt.
But in short, its my mess.
Its my space, and that's the way I like it.There is an aspect of blissful independence when you know you are in control of your surroundings.
Instead of waiting upon some loon to come and redistribute your "mess".
Of course its something a good deal of Indians don't feel. I suppose its some sort of Maharaja hangover, where one likes to be waited hand and foot for everything.
The problem with this country, is that everything you say or do is an aspect of your "status symbol".
The amount of servants you own, whether you are chauffeured or chose to drive by your self.
Its maddening but true. As I kid I remember being ridiculed among fellow third graders in my for once coming to school in a rickshaw.
The amount of human dependence is ridiculously large in India.
Its ironic that it was in India that Gandhi propagated the thought of self help and self service.
Though the only place self service currently exists in India are the McDonald's and Dominoes franchise.
Well, with all the sarcasm apart, at least its a start!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Life On Autopilot


It has been quite a while since I wrote something. And while in the past I have attributed numerous reasons for my writers block, I can only say that looking back none of those reasons have anything to do with me not writing. People always blame circumstance for whatever state of mind or condition they happen to be. But sometimes in life, I believe that things turn out because of the mindset you have rather than the force of circumstance.
As of now, the circumstances couldn't be more favorable. Most of my major postings are done with, so I have more free time on my hands. So technically and ideally nothing ought to thwart me from writing. And yet, day after day I struggle to come up with ideas to put into writing, because lets face it, a writer needs more than just time to produce his or her work.
Back in St.Petersburg, in spite of my classes, my tests, shopping for groceries, doing the dishes, and cooking, I always managed to write something. Because I was never bereft of ideas.
Back in India on the other hand after a while, I have a dearth of them.
Somehow I decided to fight my state of my mind and tried my best to come up with something, only to end up with an article that ended up insulting my friends, and another one that made me look like a juvenile ranting lunatic.
So technically it would have been better off if I hadn't written them in the first place.
This is what happens when you fight with time.
If something isn't meant to be it isn't meant to be.
If I wasn't meant to write back then that's how I ought to have kept it.
This is not an escapist philosophy, but a strong epiphany I felt this morning.
Sometimes, life is a lot more comprehensible, when you just let things take their course, and not stand like a stubborn rock before the tide of time. You'll just end up being swept away.
And no one can know this better than me, because I have lived all my life as a drifter.
Like a log of wood, caught in a river stream.

In short, a significant portion of my life has always been on autopilot.
I do not recall making even one conscious decision my whole life.
Things just seem to happen, and I just mosey on.
For instance, I never made a conscious decision to take up blogging. It just happened. I did not get up one fine day and say,"from now on I'm going to blog, and I will blog once each week."
It just happened. There was no decision and no commitment. And I managed to come up with some really good articles no matter how busy I was.
My co interns keep asking me why did I decide to go to Russia. I swear to God I have no clue. I just did. But I'm glad I did. In Russia, I was kept away from every crises my family was facing back then, and frankly, had I stayed back stubbornly in India fighting the tide of time, I would have been severely affected by whatever problems we had then and might not have even graduated. I was safe, secure and kept aloof from whatever was transpiring back home.
Things as a consequence turned out just right.
Like I said, I seem to drift from one place to another, without making a conscious decision.


Back in the 11th grade, my school principal asked me what career would I like to pursue. I just blurted out "medicine". To this day I have no idea what made me say that. I had never seen doctors at work. I hated hospitals, and I hated doctors even more. Even now in my internship, the sight of blood makes me queasy, and I detest human physical contact.
And yet here I am.
Why am I here, when I could have pursued so many other things careers like arts, singing, journalism or even computer science? As always I have no clue.
All I know, is there is some higher force that made me say I wanted to pursue medicine, the same force that took me to Russia and the same force that made me unconsciously take up blogging.
It may sound mystical to a good skeptical few but this is what I believe. To quote Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda, "there are no accidents". In spite of how much I cringe going to the hospital as an intern each day, the very fact that I have ended up in the field of medicine is not an accident. There is a purpose. And perhaps not now, but somewhere in the future I will know why. The best thing to do would be to let go, and let life take the course it wishes to take.

Most of my friends know me to be a nervous wreck before and after an examination.
And yet after giving my medical license exam, which has a mere 20% passing rate, I felt strangely calm.
Not because I knew I did well. I thought I performed awfully. But I was calm because I didn't care any more. I knew I had given it my best shot, and frankly the result didn't matter to me anymore. And needless to say I passed.
Its when you stop caring and when you let go, life goes on auto pilot and takes you where you need to be.
As much as all of us, including me, like to be in control of our lives and like to rigorously plan everything, things never turn out the way we intended them to.
So whats the point of it then?
I never planned to go to Russia, and yet I spent six wonderful years there.
I never planned to be a doctor, and yet here I am.
I never planned to take up writing, nor did I plan to stop it.
But I did start writing, and I did stop it as well, for the time being.
No reason. It just happened.
Its only when we realize that our lives are not in our hands, we can be relived of that self appointed responsibility.
Since you have no idea, where you are destined to be, the best you can do is kick back and relax and let life take its course.
And trust life to take you where you need to be.
None of us can pilot our lives. We are just the passengers, who can make simple decisions about whether you want to be seated in the aisle or near the window. The major decision of where you need to be ought to be left to the course of time.
All you need to know, is that you're on autopilot, and you will reach your final destination, sooner or later.
Que Sera Sera!