Question the guru. Question the sanskars.

Indian newspapers recently carried stories of the police allegedly using mumbo-jumbo tantriks to talk to the dead to solve murder mysteries.  Soon after came stories of a reputed media house publishing a book that claimed to unravel the journey of the soul and life after death. Later a well-known computer scientist supported the police’s attempts to talk to the dead. A few months prior to this was the Unnao gold dig where archeologists started digging for gold based on a seer’s dream. These are just a few of the countless cases of irrational behaviour that are so blatant and mainstream in India.

Why is it that despite science being such a prized subject in schools and colleges, do Indians do so badly at adopting a scientific approach? Continue reading “Question the guru. Question the sanskars.”

Pune Loksabha Candidates Comparison – Elections 2014

Pune is fortunate to have been offered decent candidates by most parties. However there are significant differences in their profiles. While several candidates have criminal cases against them, it needs to be noted that the cases against the major candidates are related to political protests and defying police orders in the process.

Below is my quick assessment of the major candidates. It is ofcourse based on my perception. I do not claim to be unbiased or objective. Do add comments with any additional inputs / info.

Continue reading “Pune Loksabha Candidates Comparison – Elections 2014”

Internet For Business Development

My presentation on ‘Internet For Business Development’ at Barcamp Pune, Nov 2009. The learning was part of my preparations while designing the Internet For Business Development & Internet Entrepreneurship course for IndicThreads Education.The session gives an overview of how the Internet has changed business and business development activities forever & how today’s entrepreneurs & business development professionals need to harness the power of technology and the Internet to deliver better sales, stronger brands & a larger customer base for the enterprise.

Continue reading “Internet For Business Development”

Austerity – Business Class vs Cattle Class Discussion Does Matter

I was resisting writing on the austerity talk that has sprung up in India. But the media has now taken the discussion in such a nonsensical direction that I feel forced to air my views. Not that my views matter, but just feel better that way. Continue reading “Austerity – Business Class vs Cattle Class Discussion Does Matter”

Was MJ The Last English Star In India? Has India Gone Back To Its Roots?

Michael Jackson, the ‘king of pop’ was today finally laid to rest, 10 weeks after his death. Michael Jackson was easily the biggest global entertainer ever. Through the 80s and 90s he enjoyed unfathomable levels of popularity across the globe and India was no exception. Thinking of MJ got me thinking of impact of western culture & entertainment on Indians, and it suddenly dawned on me that MJ was perhaps the last English superstar in India. Continue reading “Was MJ The Last English Star In India? Has India Gone Back To Its Roots?”

Pune LokSabha Seat Candidates – India General Elections 2009

Candidates contesting for the Pune Loksabha seat in India’s General Elections 2009. Continue reading “Pune LokSabha Seat Candidates – India General Elections 2009”

For The Cause Of The Taj

The Taj Mahal wasn’t the beneficiary of your votes, the phone companies were

The monument wasn't the beneficiary of your votes, the phone companies were If you are a true Indian patriot, send me a 100 rupees. Sounds ridiculous, right? But
that’s exactly what’s being done by one of the most ingenious yet dubious campaigns
in recent times, The New7Wonders Poll. Every medium around has been campaigning
for Indians to vote for the Taj and ensure that it gets on the list of the New 7 Wonders
of the World. By the time you read this, the Taj might even have got on to the
New7Wonders list and the media would be flashing victory messages and interviewing
all and sundry about how they feel on the Taj being chosen…

(Continued in the scanned article image on the left). Published as part of my column for the Maharashtra Herald that’s published on alternate Saturdays.

Blind Belief Brings No Relief

Herald Column 14 April 2007 - Blind Belief Brings No Relief

“We are complicating our lives with superstitions. Instead, let logic and science be our guide.”

Lately I have been spending some time looking for an office space. Apart from the sky rocketing prices, the other thing that has struck me has been the popularity of “Vaastu Shastra”. Vaastu compliance is mentioned as a key feature in many property listings and apparently is an important factor based on which people are buying property today.
In one recent interaction, I asked the owner of a place about the direction of a window, so as to figure out the light and wind that the room would get. In reply I got information on how the place was “Vaastu” perfect and how all previous owners and their families had prospered because of the Vaastu merits of the place.

For quite some time I was under the false impression that Vaastu Shastra only consisted of logical guidelines for construction. Although there are some practical aspects involved, Vaastu Shastra as it is practiced today also leverages religious beliefs; it claims that the changes suggested affect the health, wealth, marital success and even longevity of life of the owner. Vaastu suggestions are based on not only the building specifications, but also on things like the birth date of the owner and his/her astrological sign.

Vaastu Shastra’s claims about how it affects wealth, health, well-being, etc. have nothing to do with science or mathematics. However the feel given by the name and proponents of Vaastu Shastra is that it’s a complex topic that relies on precise science and mathematics.

If a person makes a decision based on which card a fortune teller’s parrot picks, he is well aware that there’s no science involved and he is just relying on superstition to help him make a tough decision. But with things like Vaastu Shastra, an attempt is made to make it seem like a science and so the ill- informed might actually rely on a Vaastu Shastra suggestion believing that it’s a precise science. Moreover,Vaastu Shastra claims to be based on the Vedas and most Indians tend to have blind faith in anything which makes such a claim.

People today are bringing down portions of their dwellings, redoing their interiors and going to remarkable lengths for Vaastu reasons. Look for Vaastu Shastra on the Internet and you will find a number of experts giving Vaastu advice that will solve problems ranging from debt, sorrow, stress, accidents, robberies and even untoward death. True believers I am sure can find some logic in most suggestions but it sure would be difficult to justify how robberies can be caused because my kitchen faces a certain direction.

Looking at current trends, architects who have studied the subject in colleges might soon become irrelevant. Vaastu Shastra experts will decide the layout of a building and the builder would then build it. Who needs architects? Vaastu Shastra however can be a great profession as you can become an expert without any specific qualifications.

Despite repeated efforts we still haven’t been able to pass any anti-superstition laws. So it would be far fetched to expect the government to pass some law that would regulate things like Vaastu Shastra. Many leaders right from the President of India talk of the need of a scientific temper, but on the ground we are further sinking in the superstition quick sand.
TV channels seem to have made a habit of contributing towards spreading superstitions rather than education. Not just the faith-based channels, but even mainstream entertainment channels are airing entire programs dedicated to Zodiac Signs, Tarot Card, Vaastu Shastra and what not. Believe it or not there’s even a book that claims to tell you how to develop websites which are Vaastu Shastra compliant!

There’s no denying that it is only human to seek divine intervention or help from super natural forces in times of calamity. However in today’s time when we are far more aware of the science inherent to nature and our surroundings, we need to try and take as best a scientific approach as possible. Science does keep changing and sure is still ignorant about many things; yet taking an approach in line with the science of the day is our best option.

Dr. Jayant Narlikar in his book “The Scientific Edge” talks at length about science in India and also a little bit about Vaastu Shastra. He says “Can Vaastu Shastra be called either architecture or science? Both the architects and the scientists reply in the negative. These rules have neither rational justification nor proof of their efficacy, but believers think that defiance could cost them their well- being”. “The Scientific Edge” is a must read for any educated Indian. One of the important learnings I took from the book was that it’s really up to aware citizens to stand up and voice their opinion against superstitions. If we keep turning a blind eye to superstitions, we are only contributing to the decline of Indian society.

I am no scientist but I don’t think it takes much science to see that a bathroom door can affect my health only if I accidentally bang into it. Vaastu Shastra is one example, but other fads like zodiac signs, numerology or Feng Shui are standing on just as shaky a foundation.

On a lighter note, there’s one way to make Vaastu Shastra beneficial to society. One house owner in my neighborhood recently brought down an unauthorized construction because it was improper as per “Vaastu Shastra”. So Vaastu Shastra achieved what the administration couldn’t in years. We can do wonders for Indian cities if somehow we can sneak in a tenet into Vaastu Shastra that says “If you build or stay in a structure that is not in compliance with the law of the land, it will lead to instant ruin of your health and wealth”.

Finally coming back to my search for office space, I am now considering if I should specifically advertise for properties that are fine as per architectural principles but are not “Vaastu Shastra” complaint. I might just be able to land a super deal.

(Continued… Click here “Blind Belief Brings No Relief” for the entire article). Published as part of my fortnightly column for the Maharashtra Herald)