Musings for a responsible society




Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my life...in vain!
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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Most viewed blog posts - 2013

Here are my articles published in Cyber Diary in 2013, which got maximum readership.


1

My attempt is to look at their family backgrounds, the ‘significant others’, their schooling and the immediate social environment and understand the influence of each of these factors on their attitudes, behavioural patterns and views of life


Read:
Edward Snowden, Aaron Swartz, and Julian Assange: Who made them what?


2

The Indian Railways (IR) continued to be the single largest settlement for all rats in the world. That is the impression anyone could get after watching the rats going around inside the trains, around the trains, on the railway platforms, and inside hundreds of offices and commercial outlets in the railway stations. There are innumerable bedbugs inside the berths.




Read:
A  Journey with cockroaches: The ‘static’ Indian Railways and the public woes


3

Auto Raja is a living angel. He rescued more than 5000 persons from the streets. A life worth living.


Read (and view the short film at the end):
With Auto Raja- An Angel for the beggars and the unwanted


4

Instead of going to overcrowded beaches and highly commercialized tourist locations, why don't you explore a very serene place in Southern India?



Read:
Have you ever been to Karwar beach?


5


If ‘Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho was a story about a Shepherd boy following his dream, Benyamin’s ‘goat days’ is a real life story of a young man who pursued his dream and ended up as a shepherd in a sterile wasteland.


Read:
Goat Days: A real-life story of a young man's journey to loneliness



6

Sharwari, the young installation artist, is an inspiration for all, not just as an artist, but as a person deeply involved in spreading a message of freedom to women across the globe, especially those who were victims of abuses.



Read:
Why she loves butterflies? A conversation with an Installation Artist


7

He was very shy. She was very smart. He was an introvert. She was a chatterbox. He didn't care how he appeared. She was worried how he appeared.



Read:
The unborn love

8

The debate on the utility or futility of ‘capital punishment’ is vibrant for several decades. Naturally, following one liner I posted in a social networking site evoked varied responses from a few of my friends.


Read:

'Kill the rapist': The state and the death penalty


9


I was shocked to read the following news item in the paper the other day titled ‘Taunted, ‘skinny’ boy kills self’.


Read:
A few birthday thoughts: The suicide of a 'skinny' boy



10

Most of the gifts in today’s world have more than one strings attached to them. Therefore, the less gifts you receive, the less obligated you are.



Read:
Who hates gifts? Of bouquets, gifts, and mementos


11

Just before the examination, three persons came to the examination hall and inquired with the candidates whether they are willing to pay money for getting the post. If they agree, their roll numbers will be noted and they would be ‘taken care of’ while awarding the marks for the written examination. A few of them went near to those job brokers and whispered their ‘offers’ secretly in public view.


Read:
'Marry my daughter if you want to become a babu' : The corruption in the job recruitment



12

All of us want to lead a healthy life. Yet, we don’t want to forego the tasty stuff! Is there any acceptable combination of abstinence and indulgence in our life?I have heard many nutritionists, dietitians and health experts speaking on this subject. But, when I talked to Atraeyee Suman, I found that there is something unique about what she says. I thought, it should be shared with all my readers.


Read:

Eat well to lose weight: Tips from an enlightened foodie! 

13

Whenever I asked my mother to buy any toy or ice cream, the answer would be, ‘No money, we need to pay for the chits’. Me and my sister hated chits so much, as most of my mother’s salary was drained as subscription to chits.




Read:

Chit funds, my mother and the Saradha scam



14

History and related records show that most popes could not succeed in providing spiritual leadership uncorrupted by the material world and accompanying profanity.



Read:
The return of the fisherman: The new Pope and a few hopes for a third Vatican Council


15

There are many books in this library which are not read even by a single person in the last several years. What a national waste of infrastructure and resources?


Read:
Faceless libraries in a Facebook age: Read what is happening inside some of the libraries



16

There is so much written and talked about the abuse of children by individuals. But very less has been discussed about the institutional child abuses. It is worthwhile to mention about two types of abuses on innocent children by institutions



Read:
The institutional child abuse: What is the panacea? 


17
A ten year old’s Holy Week memoirs



Read:
ഒരു പത്തുവയസുകാരന്‍റെ വിശുദ്ധവാര ഓർമ്മകൾ


18

The movie 'Special 26' is not based on any imagination. One should know about repeated incidents of fake searches happening in many places. There are many such cases reported and much more go unreported. Most of these fake searches happen in the name of Income Tax Department.


Read:


19

As we both wait in the reception of the school like ‘guilty parents’ waiting for the judgment, there is a little solace; the sight of many such couples sitting there, without uttering a word between them or between the couples. Not even a smile was exchanged!

Read:


20

Here is a story of a young man who successfully implemented a new business model to bring back all the customers who shifted the loyalties to supermarkets owned by large corporates.



Read:

21

Charismatic and captivating presence have instilled vigour and enthusiasm among the people. Most effective instrument that stimulated and influenced millions was the historic speeches made by these great individuals



Read:

22

For many people, microphone is a weakness. The moment a microphone is given, their main mission is to say something that can amuse the people. Very few have the self-control to abide by the time allotted to them.

Read:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Most viewed blog posts in 2012

Following articles posted in my blog in 2012 received maximum readership among all the blog posts.



1

Google  is almost synonymous with internet for millions of people. Many are not aware that every action in the net are tracked, stored and probably shared with others. Google has notified its new Privacy Policy  which will be effective from 1st March 2012. Here is an attempt to critically examine privacy issues in the net and the new Privacy Policy of Google.


Read:
No privacy anymore? A critical look at Google’s new Privacy Policy



2

Unlike other children who uttered 'pa' or 'ma' as his first word, baby Julian cried 'why?'. And the parents (the mother, father and the stepfathers in his life) weren’t shy of his ‘why?’ He preferred books to toys.  Had to stay in more than fifty towns in Australia and studied in more than thirty schools, mostly in the suburbs. So he was always labelled as a ‘new boy’ in every school.


Read:


  3   


A real life story for every aspiring manager!


Read:


4

You are now confused! Whom you should listen: the freewill or conscience?



Read:


5


What a shame for all Keralites and all malayali men particularly. Also what a great lesson she has given to all women who live in and visit Kerala..



Read:



6

I get really furious whenever there is a demand from my children to throw this car. I ask them, in our city, whether it is a Maybach Exelero or a Ferrari or a Rolls Royce Phantom or a BMW, all can go only at the same speed as the Maruti 800.


Read:





7

Most of the employers check the FB before selecting an employee. Nothing you update, contribute, comment or like in FB is erased permanently. Even after you deactivate your account, the data remains



Read:



8

My journey in search of a Christmas Card, though disappointing, was an eye opener about how 'Christmas' has changed over a period of time....



Read:

Most viewed blog posts in 2011


Some of my blog posts of 2011 had thousands of views. I have given below the top 7 articles published in Cyber Diary (in terms of maximum readership)in 2011. Read them if you have missed. 

1
Have we lost our freedom?: The freedom to talk and the freedom to listen; the freedom to walk and the freedom to rest; the freedom to laugh, or at least the freedom to cry in solitude? 



Read: 
Leave Me Alone:   Right to Privacy in a Snooping World




2
I hate March. I prayed, year after year, the impossible! To get rid of March.

Read:
Why I hate March?


3
Most of us face this dilemma. What should I eat? Let me take you through a tasty journey


Read:
Tell me, what should I eat?


4
January 30th is the International day of Peace. The day also marks the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who was a champion of peace. What better way to spend this day than with a Nobel Laureate. I could make it to the lecture by Dalai Lama on 30th January 2011 at Bangalore on the topic ‘ Finding Happiness in Troubled Times’. Here are some interesting highlights of his talk.

Read:
A Day with Dalai Lama



5
I still get thorns and sharp glass pieces stuck on my feet. But I continue to walk through that road less travelled. I try to enjoy the pain. But let me confess. Concrete, well-lit highways and colourful landscapes still tempt me.


Read:
Today is my birthday


6
It took many years' struggle to deal with the abuse, as an adult. First I had to confront him, which was easier than forgiving him. I had to forgive him, as I wanted to get rid of the feeling of his touch which I could feel even after years. I finally looked into his eyes with God's power of forgiveness and shook hands with him and made peace.

Read:
Aleph, Paulo Coelho and my Friend: The Journey Within


7
 The police found the television and several household articles trashed. Following was reportedly written in the suicide note signed by both mother and son:
“We are damaging a few things (precious) to us. We have already dumped some things in the Cauvery river along with Kumaresan’s ashes. We don’t want anybody to use these goods. Please destroy these damaged items. Our recently purchased ‘Tata Nano’ car, a bike, chit fund investments and other house hold items may be donated to orphanages or for charity.”


Read:
“If anybody wants to see us, you have to break open the door”!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Most viewed blog posts in 2010

2010 was the second year of Cyber Diary. That was the time when blogging tools became more user friendly. Most of the posts in 2010 were re-posts of articles written and published by me in other blog platforms prior to 2009. 

I have given below the blog posts that received maximum viewership in 2010.


There is  an extremely contrasting flip side for the ‘enlightened’ malayali culture. That is its ugly manifestations of the sexual impulsiveness emanated from a sexually repressed community with superficial value system. One can see several men who spread their wings of unfulfilled desires on hapless women in public transports and private domains.

Read:
The Sensual Mallu and the Web Culture



 The corporate scams and scandals happened in the world in the last few years are clear indications of the collusion between auditors and management in accounting frauds. Auditing, though considered as a vital institution has lost the credibility due to the manner in which auditing functions are performed.
cnn expansion.com

Read:
Satyam: A case of worst audit failure


Some of the good movies I watched in 2010.. I strongly recommend these movies. Don’t miss them , if you get a chance to see.


Read:
Movies I recommend -2010



Examine yourself what habit of yours is productive for you? And what makes you unproductive?

Read:
7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Leaders

Friday, October 31, 2014

When God starts staying in your neighborhood

The faithful believe that they have a living God. Some of them look up to the heaven. Some look within. Some wait for the advent. But, what if God comes and stays in your neighborhood?

The crisis of faith most often emerges in a rational mind when doubts arise about the contextual relevance of sermons and scriptures.  For most religious denominations, their creed and the faith are rooted in scriptures that are several centuries old and in events that said to have happened millions of years ago. There could be instances when some of the believers seek from their leaders or explore themselves the contextual interpretation of the writings and oral traditions. Whether it is Adam- Eve, Big-Bang, connection between the microcosm and macrocosm, or any mundane chicken-egg question, the faithful tend to engage in inconclusive debates.

During my sixteen and half hour journey in Rani Chennamma Express Train  to  Kolhapur in Maharashtra state, ‘Joshua’ gave me company. It is a fiction written by Joseph F. Girzon, published by Collier Books (Macmillan, New York) in 1983. That was my second reading of the entire book. Some books do not age. The apt sub title tells it: ‘A Parable for Today’.

It is quite a coincidence to pick up this book to read again on the day media reported with a lot of interest and excitement about Pope Francis’s view on evolution and big-bang. He had said that ‘the scientist must be motivated by the confidence that nature hides, in her evolutionary mechanisms, potentialities for intelligence and freedom to discover and realize, to achieve the development that is in the plan of the creator’. It has always been a challenge for the theists and religious leaders to give divine authenticity for things that happen today. They are asked these questions: What would be God’s view on this? What would God do if he faced such a situation? It needs a lot of courage to admit the truth to the world even if it might be interpreted as a deviation from the existing conclusions.

How is it like if Jesus takes ‘reincarnation’ after 2000 years in this world? What will he do to earn a living? What new gospel would he preach? What would be his attitude towards the religious denominations founded in his name? Will he drive out the people there?   Will he pay a visit to the multitude of churches established in his name and what would be his response to the activities there? What would be his lifestyle? Will he use the modern amenities? What would be the reaction of the people and the authorities? Will they crucify him again or shoot him with a gun?

A poster of the film based on the book


The book ‘Joshua’ is a story about the arrival of a carpenter in the 1980s to a peaceful town with simple people. He taught everyone about the freedom to expand the breadth of inner life. The life was not easy for him though there were many admirers. The book is indeed inspirational and introspective.

Readers get an impression that Joseph F. Girzon wanted to tell his views to the world attributing them to Joshua. A fiction was the easiest and harmless route for that. However the book ‘Joshua’ does not have the flow or style of a good novel. Factually too, the book suffered from several shortcomings. Casual reductionism is very evident while he manifested an oversimplified view of the reality as it existed. One example is his (through Joshua) rejection of the inevitable institutional structure and authority conspicuous in large organized denominations. As a retired catholic priest, Girzon would have known it better.

I found the content thought provoking. The narration could make readers forget the fact that the book is a work of fiction. I fell in love with Joshua just like the way the characters in the fiction viz. Phil, Mary, Charlie, Pat, Herm and many others got infatuated. 

I have jotted down a few of my wishes after reading this book. They are given below:

I wish I could carry a huge cherry log of problems on my shoulders and walk unaware and unconcerned about its weight.
I wish I could notice all those beautiful creations and know how much the Father loves me
I wish I could make my inner life richer and less showy
I wish I could avoid creating human laws to dictate how one can worship the creator
I wish instead of being an expert in law, can I be an expert in love?
I wish I could break my bread and share with a total stranger.
I wish I could make a living just to meet my needs of the day
I wish I understand the fact that 'talent doesn't justify putting on airs and any ability I have comes from my creator, and my recognition of it should make me humble, not arrogant'.
I wish I understand the ' modern unforgivable sin' when I tend to see the 'latest discoveries and creations as reasons to question the very existence of the person who gave them the abilities to discover and create'.
I wish we had leaders who set an example, 'who draw people to God by their own deep faith and by the beauty of their personal lives, not by intimidating people into sterile external observances'.
I wish I tell to myself often that everyone has imperfections as that's the way God made them and “perfection is more a process of striving than a state to be attained"
I wish I could be more humble in my attitude towards those who are less privileged than me
I wish I can lay aside the pettiness and prejudices, even those that have been consecrated through the passing of centuries.
I wish I have more goodness so that I will be chosen to witness better things in this world

An imperfect soul I am, I do not wish to be suppressed by the guilt, threat and fear. Let me be vibrant and joyful to cross the hurdles created by me, accepting the way I am and enjoying the freedom the creator has bestowed.  Then I can be like Joshua: free, simple, courageous, loving and peaceful.


Views are personal                                                     © Sibichen K Mathew

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Save the jeans: Vulgarity is in the mind of the beholder




© Sibichen K Mathew

Today’s fashion is tomorrow’s lifestyle. When jeans entered the neighborhood market, I had thought that it was a dress for the cowboys, for those who were into western music, and those who were ‘deviant’ and promoters of a counter culture. As hippies also got ‘upgraded’ from their bell-bottom pants to the jeans, it was thought to be representing an abnormal way of life. Movies of those days created Jeans clad men when they wanted to showcase drug addicts, deviant urban youth, and rebels of any type. Thus my first reaction to this costume (originally designed for miners and sailors) was negative.

My negativity slowly transformed to curiosity as I saw the rich urban young men wearing jeans that looked torn, shrunk, and faded. I wondered why they couldn't afford to buy new jeans. Only after a while I realized that the jeans were sold just like that and they were not to be washed so often like other clothes. Someone told me that Levi Strauss, a German who migrated to United States in the nineteenth century (collaborated with a Tailor named Davis, to design and manufacture denim trousers) advised the customers not to wash them. I knew only one Levi Strauss till that time. That was Claude Levi-Strauss, an anthropologist about whom I studied in the college. Initially I thought that he was the same person who invented the Jeans also, as he was known as a ‘structuralist’, as per the lecture by my sociology professor. 

Slowly I found not only men, but many young girls in the cities in blue and brown jeans. My professors entered the class rooms in Jeans and Kurtas and lectured Gramsci and Chomski with fervency. That was the ultimate signs of legitimacy for me. I picked up my first jeans from a street vendor in Karol Bagh market in New Delhi. Though I am not sure whether it was a used one (it looked so), I felt that I am also ‘trendy’ in the campus. I was curious how others looked at me for a few days. But for the sarcastic remarks of some of my country cousins (from my home state), most people appreciated my decision to enter the ‘intellectual’ cultural domain in the campus. Yes, in a matter of few years, jeans transformed from a costume of the ‘miners’ and the rebels, to that of urban elites and then of so called intellectuals. 

Now, jeans have become an everyday wear not only for the young but also for the old. There is no other garment in the world which has appreciated and worn by all types of people. Like Pizza and Burger, jeans also turned out to be a universally recognized and globally sought after product. It was reported that a Canadian student named Josh Le used his jeans for 15 months without washing them. He wore it 330 times during that period. When he found that his professor researched on textiles and bacteria, he requested for a bacterial analysis of his jeans. It was mentioned in the test result that "there did not appear to be differences in the bacterial carriage depending on whether the jeans had been worn for 15 months or only 13 days" 

In spite of its huge popularity and recognition, it is a paradox that this particular clothing has invited maximum criticisms than any other attire in the history of textile wears. 

The most recent attack was from the 74 year old music legend from Kerala, K J Yesudas who said that women should not wear jeans as it attracts unnecessary attraction from men and they would get tempted to do undesirable things. I don’t doubt his good intentions, though I prefer to disagree with him. A few years back, a group of girls living in two villages in the Uttar Pradesh state, carried placards against the ‘vulgar outfits’ and collected jeans from all the houses and burnt them at a public place. They said that the skin-tight clothes provoked antisocial elements to attack the ladies. A khap panchayat (union of villages) in Hisar in Haryana State banned wearing of jeans by girls in all the villages under it. 

Not only in India, in many other parts of the world, certain people and institutions felt that skinny jeans are a distraction for men! A school in  United States banned skinny jeans and leggings stating that ‘the action is not meant to objectify girls, but to stop boys from focusing on something other than class work.’

Jeans, unlike many other clothing is an ‘attitude-neutral’ clothing mainly because of its heterogeneous patronage down the history as narrated by me earlier. However, certain jeans manufacturing companies, in their advertisements tend to associate Jeans with sensuality and market it as a tool to exhibit one’s related predispositions. Advertisements put up by Diesel in prominent locations in the cities had to be removed on a protest by a political organization in India.  

Whom or what to be blamed? :Whether the blame lie on the jeans made of denim which is known for their comfort, durability, ease of maintenance and style or the persons who wear it? Or one needs to blame the people who look at the persons wearing it with a lot of prejudices and rigid notions? 

Many argue that by wearing jeans, a woman invites trouble from the hooligans. They say that rapes and other sexual abuses happen in society because women wear jeans. If that is the case, no rape or sexual abuse would have happened in villages where not many women wear jeans. Even if one conducts a study on the sexual assault cases and attempt to find a correlation with the dress worn by the victims at the time of the unfortunate incident, one would not find any! (Don’t know whether any study has been done on this). But there are many reports from different parts of the world which clearly indicated that the way one dresses has nothing to do with being sexually assaulted. 

However, there is a tendency to put the blame on the victim if she had dressed ‘provocatively’ just before the assault. In a study conducted on 352 high school students to investigate the effect of the victim's clothing on subjects' judgments of the date rape, the students were shown either a photograph of the victim dressed provocatively, a photograph of the victim dressed conservatively, or no photograph. It was found that ‘the subjects who viewed the photograph of the victim in provocative clothing were more likely than subjects who viewed the victim dressed conservatively or who saw no photograph of the victim to indicate that the victim was responsible for her assailant's behavior, that his behavior was justified, and were less likely to judge the act of unwanted sexual intercourse as rape’. 

My view is that neither the Jeans to be blamed nor the persons who wear them. The fault lies with the perceptions of people. There is no logic in singling out Jeans out of an array of dresses women wear. In fact, jeans are one of the most protective dresses a woman can have in any unpleasant situation. It could aid in preventing any abuse and most appropriate in case she needs to fight back. Such advantages are not available with skirt, sari, capris, normal pants, leggings or even salwar-bottom.

Any dress can be perceived as vulgar if one does not take care to select the fitting that is appropriate to one’s figure. Another aspect of importance is the awareness regarding what to wear where. One should be clear of the type of attire one has to be in when one goes to the office, to worship places, for shopping, on a picnic, to the gym or for a swim. This awareness is important for women for not to ward off the hooligans or assaulters but to be more attractive and presentable and to be perceived by others as ‘dressed for the occasion’. No doubt, a perverted mind would attempt to figure out the finer structure of a woman’s body even when she wears a long niqab or burqa dress. 

Those who see a ban on jeans as a solution to the sexual assaults on women are clearly advocating a view that, it is natural for men to attack any woman in a vulnerable status and thus the women are both the victims as well as the ones who are responsible for the crime. As long as the patriarchal, chauvinistic and oversimplified approach to sexual assault on women persists in society, there is no hope. 

Let the jeans live long! Let the prejudices die early!

Views are personal.                                 © Sibichen K Mathew




Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ageing with Grace and Dignity: Thoughts triggered in the seminar by the Lundbeck Institute


Plato said: "He who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition, youth and age are equally a burden." Plato (427-346 B.C.)

When we were too young, we wanted to be older. We wanted to dress up like elders while we were in school.  But as we grow old, we try to dress up like young ones. Look at our own profiles in the social networking sites. We try to put the most ‘young looking’ photos as profile pictures! None of us want to become old. We try to Google things and strategies that can make us look younger than what we are. The world cosmetic industry is thriving with sales reaching about $170 billion a year. We see new beauty parlors and cosmetic clinics being opened every other day in our vicinity. Too many companies sell various types of hair colors: natural, herbal and what not! I asked a friend of mine who looked very young but for the grey hair, why he is not dying his hair. He said, ‘I want to die only once’!

“You look just the same!” This is the best complement one can shower on another when they meet each other after many years. I used to see my Grandma putting the cream from the milk all over her face every night before going to bed, even when she crossed 85. She never accepted the fact that she was hard of hearing and always said she was having a bad cold for the past two days and the ‘ears’ got blocked. Why to blame Grandma! I felt uneasy when my daughter displayed my age prominently on the birthday card pasted in the living room hall. I asked her, ‘why do you want to write the age there?’

For people who are getting old there are more worries than the unhappiness of being less handsome or pretty. They worry about their failing health, the neglect they experience and the powerlessness they feel.

Lundbeck Institute, India recently organized a seminar on the topic ‘Ageing with Grace, Dignity and Courage’ as part of its social initiatives. Lundbeck is a global pharmaceutical company committed to improving the quality of life of people suffering from brain diseases. Its products are targeted at diseases such as depression and anxiety, psychotic disorders, epilepsy and Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Mammen Mathew who leads its Team India, took the initiative to bring together three eminent experts to speak on three important topics under the broad area of ‘Empowerment: in spirit and mind’. 


According to the organizers, there are  two dominant views of ageing. First one focusses on the physical decline and the consequent dependency. The other one is about ‘successful ageing’ where physical and psycho-social activities play major role. The seminar projected an alternate view that sees ageing as a ‘spiritual journey’, that empowers to find meaning in one’s  life and, therefore, reason for continued life and hope.

Dr Thimmappa Hegde

Dr Thimmappa Hegde, the Director and Senior consultant Neuro Surgeon at Narayana Hrudayalaya (and former Professor at NIMHANS, Bangalore) had the following to say at the seminar attended by a large number of senior citizens:

In his talk titled ‘From Ageing to Growing’, he said that the brain is the greatest asset. Are you using the most of it?

The purpose of life should be a life of purpose. There is only one 'unrepayable' debt for every human being. That is the debt to the parents. But your achievements in life can bring happiness to them. He narrated the following incident in the life of Buddha:

When Buddha was eighty, he called the faithful Ananda to him and said that he wished to die in the city where he grew up.
Ananda was grief stricken. "O Buddha," he cried, please do not leave us! For so many years you have been our guide. What shall we do without you? Then he began to sob bitterly.
Buddha answered, "Do not cry, dear Ananda. I have always taught that death is a natural part of life. It is nothing to fear. You must understand that. And when I am gone, let my teachings be your guide. If you have understood them in your heart, you have no more need of me."
So Buddha and his disciples travelled back to his home city. Not far from Kapilavastu they passed through the village of Kusinora. The Buddha asked them to stop there and rest.Then he turned to Ananda and said "This is where I shall pass away."Then Buddha went out into the garden and lay down between two trees. His followers gathered around him. Some were crying, but others, their minds completely at peace, looked on silently.
The Buddha spoke for the last time. "Remember what I have taught you. Craving and desire are the cause of all unhappiness. Everything sooner or later must change, so do not become attached to anything. Instead devote yourself to clearing your mind and finding true, lasting happiness."(Source)

Ageing happens at three levels: Chronological, Biological, Psychological. As Buddha said, old age, sickness and death are inevitable.

Dr Hegde quoted from the interview given by  Author/physician Shigeaki Hinohara when he was 97 years and 4 months to the Japan Times.
Shigeaki Hinohara


 'Energy comes from feeling good, not from eating well or sleeping a lot.
All people who live long — regardless of nationality, race or gender — share one thing in common: None are overweight.
Always plan ahead. My schedule book is already full until 2014, with lectures and my usual hospital work. In 2016 I’ll have some fun, though: I plan to attend the Tokyo Olympics! 
There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65. Share what you know. I give 150 lectures a year, some for 100 elementary-school children, others for 4,500 business people. I usually speak for 60 to 90 minutes, standing, to stay strong. 
When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure. Contrary to popular belief, doctors can’t cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery? I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine. 
To stay healthy, always take the stairs and carry your own stuff. I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving.
My inspiration is Robert Browning’s poem “Abt Vogler.” My father used to read it to me. It encourages us to make big art, not small scribbles. It says to try to draw a circle so huge that there is no way we can finish it while we are alive. All we see is an arch; the rest is beyond our vision but it is there in the distance.
 Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it. If a child has a toothache, and you start playing a game together, he or she immediately forgets the pain. 
Don’t be crazy about amassing material things. Remember: You don’t know when your number is up, and you can’t take it with you to the next place. 
Find a role model and aim to achieve even more than they could ever do. My father went to the United States in 1900 to study at Duke University in North Carolina. He was a pioneer and one of my heroes. Later I found a few more life guides, and when I am stuck, I ask myself how they would deal with the problem. 
It’s wonderful to live long. Until one is 60 years old, it is easy to work for one’s family and to achieve one’s goals. But in our later years, we should strive to contribute to society. Since the age of 65, I have worked as a volunteer. I still put in 18 hours seven days a week and love every minute of it.'  
(See full interview reported in Japan Times here)
Dr Hegde also mentioned about the following book. It is worth reading.



(Kathopanishad is a unique Upanishad which starts with a katha (a story) of a young boy who is ready to face the Lord of Death in his quest for Truth to know what lies beyond death. He asks the very pertinent and philosophical question, Is there or is there not, and if it is, what is it? In short, this teaching is an extravaganza of spiritual knowledge and meditation that guides a student step by step to the glorious state of immortality, peace and bliss. You can buy the book from Flipkart)

 Dr Hegde drew attention to four simple Sanskrit words, “Deham Naham Koham Soham”
• Deham = Body (Deh) am (is);
• Naham = I Am (ham) not (Na);
• Koham = Who (Ko am I (ham)?
• Soham = I am (ham) That (So).

We can see below a Christian discourse by a scholar in the above context.

“While they were at the table He took bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19). He also took a cup with some wine and did the same saying, “This Is My Blood”. When Jesus said, “This is My Body” He was teaching the disciples the truth of the Bible and of all the Scriptures: 'I am not this Body - I do not identify Myself with the body. (Deham Naham - I am not the body. Koham? Soham – Who am I? I am that.) Because I am not the body, I break it and give it up for you. In the same way, you should do the same in My memory. You should give up body consciousness. This is a Divine Command.' 

Ven. Tenzin Namdak




Ven. Tenzin Namdak who was an environmental researcher for the Ministry of Agriculture, Netherlands before he took Bhikshu ordination from H.H Dalai Lama spoke extensively on Spiritual Empowerment.

He emphasized the following in his talk:

Every being has the wish for happiness. One needs to eliminate the destructive emotions  to be truly happy. Only by self-awareness, one can  recognize and understand the nature of destructive emotions. Self-discipline can prevent the manifestations of destructive emotions by applying their antidotes. There should be sustained contemplation by reflecting again and again on the reasoning that establishes the faults of destructive emotions and the positive qualities of their antidotes. Loving kindness and compassion can eliminate destructive emotions.

Anger, Attachment and Ignorance (stemming from deliberate action or inaction) are destructive emotions.  There is no weekend course to eliminate anger. One has to learn through the experience that anger is a destructive emotion and then try to take deliberate steps to avoid it.

Every person thinks that he suffers more than others. The fact is that suffering is universal. Ageing is a reality. Understanding that reality is the antidote to ignorance. There is no use  worrying about ageing. Cosmetic industry plays to that worry. Understanding impermanence leads to a better acceptance of ageing. This will lessen the suffering.

Dr S Kalyanasundaram



Dr S Kalyanasundaram, a Professor of Psychiatry at NIMHANS  and past President of Indian Psychiatric Society spoke on ‘Emotional Empowerment’.

He emphasized the following in his talk.

Everyone wants to live longer, without realizing what we want to live for? It is necessary for all to get engaged in productive activities or in social, economic, cultural and civic affairs. This is called active ageing.

Active ageing is the recognition and support to achieve one’s potential, continuous engagement with family and society, independence, and retaining one’s dignity despite the adverse environment.

Autonomy is just a click away with the Information Technology. Senior citizens should not be reluctant to learn to use the internet and the social media.

No point in complaining ‘What is it I can’t do’.  Share happily with others ‘what I can do’. What are the areas in  which there is an improvement in health conditions? What are the things you learned new? What is the knowledge you gained recently? What are the activities you engaged at home, neighborhood and society? These are the things you need to share when you meet your friends rather than sharing the news of your disabilities. Positive ageing is a stage where you are valued by and contributing to community as age progresses. You need to foster social connections.

At home, you should know where to intervene and where not. You should ‘do with’ rather than ‘do for’ other family members. One should not forget the fact that by being older doesn’t mean that you are wiser than the youngsters at home in everything. Try to respect the inputs from them.

There are four major fears for the senior citizens: a) Fear of the process of dying, b) Fear of losing control, c) Fear of letting go and d) Fear of losing life partner. All these fears are to be fought head-on. Accept the reality as it is.

Concluding note

When my mother who is more than 70 years old tells me that she is going to plant teak and jack-fruit trees on her land, she is in fact ‘growing from ageing’. The message that she gives is, it is never too late to contribute to the society and to the future generations. It is sheer selflessness. What else can bring peace and happiness as one grows old?


Views are personal                                          © Sibichen K Mathew    


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Monday, September 29, 2014

Strange Hobbies: What is your hobby?

People usually ask this question not just inside the interview chambers but also outside. ‘What is your hobby?’

Though the rational man has enough freedom to do what he wants, he is tied up many times with work that he dislikes. He is forced to pursue the choices he made (whether they are later proved correct or incorrect) for the sake of bread and butter and to fulfill his commitments. Principles like ‘Work is Worship’ could make him altruistic and the material rewards like financial incentives or promotion could give him the impetus to perform. Except in the case of a proprietary business or a profession, one could rarely find real passion in the performance.

Hobbies provide people positive energy. Studies have shown that people who picked up  hobbies and pursued them passionately had less mental stress.

In most conventional CVs one could find a column about the hobbies. Bio-data prepared by many students who are potential candidates for jobs contain the usual ‘cut and paste’ entries such as  ‘Reading’, ‘Travelling’, or ‘Listening to music’. Once an interviewer asked a candidate to tell the titles of two recent books he read since he has given ‘reading’ as his hobby in the bio-data. Poor fellow could not tell the name of any book (not even the books he studied in school or college as part of the curriculum).

There are thousands of hobbies from which one could pick up. Some of them are cooking, gardening, knitting, painting, sculpturing, games, horse-riding, photography, instrumental music, creative writing, travelling, blogging (which I am doing!), fishing etc. They are stress-busters. 

Let me introduce today, two persons who pursue hobbies that are different from the routine ones. 

Gangadharan

We have seen people collecting stamps, coins, antiques, bottles, cameras, comic books, cell phones etc. But have you come across a person who collects bookmarks? Here is Gangadharan, whose main passion is to collect as many diverse bookmarks as possible. He visits the book fairs, book shops, and literary fests in search of unique bookmarks. He could find some very rare types of bookmarks while searching old books shipped from various countries. He has more than 2500 bookmarks in his possession right now.

He gave a very interesting answer when I asked him how and when he started this: “I am a book distributor and closely connected with many academic institutions. On a business trip abroad in 2008, I read a news item that Hitler’s bookmark was stolen by someone. That news made me think a lot about bookmarks and I started looking for them at various places.”




He has a variety of bookmarks made from leather, metal, and different types of hand-made papers. Bookmarks in his possession contain writings in Arabic, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, and in many Indian languages.

Mr Gangadharan received an award from the India Book of Records in the year 2012 for his achievements. He continues his passion vigorously and aims to enter the Limca Book of Records by collecting as many bookmarks from whatever source. He can be contacted at geedee.65 (gmail).

Joseph Vannery

Most of us write personal diary. But very few persons write a daily diary on whatever happening in the world. Meet Mr Joseph Vannery, young and pleasant at 82, who pursues a very interesting hobby for last several decades. He not only maintains the newspaper cuttings of important events, but also writes his analytical views on the happenings very neatly and systematically.


When I visited his house in a unique small residential colony called ‘Aranyagiri’, designed by him and his friends (Though it is in a metro city, you would feel as if you are in a beautiful dense-green village.), I was amazed to see cupboards full of diaries he wrote for decades. I picked up a few old ones at random. They are treasures of knowledge about the culture, society and events of a world beyond the reach of any encyclopedia or Wikipedia.  





When we write about Joseph Vannery, who was a Surveyor with the Survey of India, we cannot forget to mention one of his important contributions to the city of Bangalore. After reading books in the British Library about decongestion of cities in America and England with connecting roads, he conceived a concrete plan for an Outer Ring Road (connecting Magadi-Tumkur Road and Mysore Road) and suggested it to media and authorities. It took shape precisely years after as suggested by him.

Pick up a hobby


If you feel that you don’t have a hobby, start picking up something that you can pursue passionately and happily. Add one more hobby, if you already have a few. Hobbies can recharge your energy, reduce your stress, bring happiness and make you love yourself and others.


  Views are personal                                          © Sibichen K Mathew                   

Read below more about ordinary people with extraordinary lives. Click the links below

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