Make Good Music with Shankar Tucker via Kickstarter

And no, it does not involve learning an instrument, practicing it for 10,000 hours and being visited by the muses. Just support Shankar Tucker via Kickstarter!

Before we get to the how, do sample what sort of music am talking about here.

“Jaane Kaise” – Shankar Tucker ft. Shashwat Singh (A Cappella)

“Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo” – Shankar Tucker ft. Rohini Ravada

 

So if that appeals to your musical sensibilities, there is awesome news for you..Shankar Tucker, a musician from the US, trained in Western Classical and Indian Musical styles has launched a Kickstarter project. Below is the introduction.

Am going to support this project.

Shanker via his Shrutibox YouTube channel has given me untold amount of joy and I sincerely hope with our support he can make this project happen. Visit the Kickstarter project and sponsor his effort, we need people like him to bring out more India inspired music out.

And am curious to know which of Shankar’s songs are your favorites. This rendition of Bharatiyar’s song, or this one completely move me.

Hear Voices from Colonial India

Bharath as it was

The British undertook a linguistic survey of Bharath, as it was before the partitions. Recordings were made as part of the survey. Hear these voices, preserved in Gramophone records. The recordings were lost since then but were recently found and digitized.

The entire archive of recordings are nothing short of splendid. Grouped by region and language family, it has people recite common stories, parables or episodes from the epics.

I, for obvious reasons, listened to the languages I know or whose sounds I am familiar with – telugu, tamil, malayalam, kannada and bengali. But the real surprise is listening to languages you know nothing of. Without knowing the words and their meaning, you get to savor just the modulation of sound. Its beautiful, trust me.

You can find more coverage here, and hat-tip for pointing goes to LanguageHat.

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Hinduism with Spine

Swami-Vivekananda

Hinduism is often portrayed as a religion of peace and pacifists. Its legion of world shunning monks and yogis(the genuine ones anyway), reinforce this perception. Sometimes its not even a religion but an Eternal Dharma, a rule of living rightly that goes beyond the worship of its hundred thousand gods.

But all this other-worldliness, the excessive disregard of the world and the adoration of the Eternal and all its manifestations has had an unfortunate side-effect. And that is of lacking a spine, or a true measure and understanding of its own identity.

Origin of our Weakness

I would not be an expert to categorically state whether it was the many hundred years of Muslim rule, or the many hundred years of British rule, or perhaps a weakness that predated both these aggressors that allowed these aggressions to happen. But bottom line we have turned out to be a people lacking a spine.

We spout words about our ancient culture that we have no effing clue about. When our brothers from other religions convert our folks we quote the constitution that allows conversions. When more of our brothers from other religions of peace slaughter us, we quote mantras for peace and convince ourselves to let bygones be bygones. After all an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, as a leading light of the nation had said. When one of us decides to give others a taste of their own medicine we are the right wing!

Don’t get me wrong. If you know me or attempted to read and understand what I have written you will know am all for universal brotherhood and I mean it sincerely. But each culture has to stand up for itself, no one else will come to its aid. Or we will go the way of the Tibetans, the Mayans and all the other peoples that have perished under the onslaught of more ignorant cultures.

Do we understand our religion?

Each of us who profess to be Hindus will have to understand our heritage truly. Not the crap shown on TV serials, or the clueless nonsense spouted by the traditionalists, or the ones that give you certificates. Nor should we believe that spirituality is to be done at the last stage of life, it is such moronic thinking that has given rise to a nation without spine. That allows some so-called secular element within our founding members to interpret our subtle notion of universal brotherhood as a free for all, to come and do as they please. Enough is what I say.

What we need

From now, let each of us vow to understand our identity and our true heritage by going back to the original sources, the Vedas, Upanishads and the Puranas. Not as intellectuals, not to spout verses without understanding or realizing them. But as students and aspirants to the living truth of these scriptures, the One Divine who transcends everything.

The Method

I want us to do this not as Sanyasis or renunciates, not as intellectuals far removed from reality, not as arm-chair custodians of our heritage. I want us to uphold our values in the thick of material life. To build out the wealth of our nation again and not to see Narayana in poverty alone. To create art that once again captures the myriad infinities of the soul’s beauty. To engage our brothers in strength and pride of our identity and heritage. To churn out perfection in every thing we do and take our place once more at the forefront of civilizations.

The Impediments

It is not easy, this double mode of existence. Long has been our enslavement, impoverished our spirit and our members weak. A little wealth and little success rocks the boat of our pride too much. We are as children, who go into rapture at the smallest bauble. We are not a nation of Arjunas and Ashokas anymore. Even our villains are not fit to take the world stage, we have no strength to even do evil on a grandiose scale. Our Balis and Hiranyakashipus are just myths now.

But this need not be the case anymore. And it can start with us. Today. Let us reconnect with the Self within, in our own way. A little perfection in all that we do, a little service to elevate humanity, a little strength to stand up for our identity and a lot of humility is all it takes to offer as sacrifice to the immanent Divine.

The Guide

After all, as Sri Aurobindo states, “He who seeks the Divine is sought by the Divine”. Let us offer our works, paltry though it be, and Sri Krishna shall be with us. We have endured a lot until now, it is time for us outgrow our limited self-conception.

This post is dedicated to Swami Vivekananda.

Does Steve Jobs Do Yoga?

Usually the search terms that lead the handful of people to my site are fairly standard. But few days ago the title of this post led someone here. If that was you dear reader, then sorry I did not have a ready reply then and will address it now.

Before moving to the answer I will have to state some assumptions. By Yoga I take it to mean something more than the physical aspect of it. Not the smattering of breathing exercises done for physical well-being and balance in life. Yoga is a mystic yearning for the Divine, a perspective that acknowledges the superficiality of material forms and seeks to exceed it into the truth that sustains everything. Yoga is state that the Vedas and Upanishads describe and offer the roadmap for. Yoga is a world-view that sees the connectedness of things and more.

There are two parts to the answer, we move from the abstract to the precise.

All Life if Yoga…

..says Sri Aurobind0. So read that again. All life, not just the virtuous and the religious, all of life is Yoga. This statement, as with many of Sri Aurobindo’s statements, reveals both i) an immanent and essential truth and ii) an available end goal.

The former points to the fact that any life, literally anything, to exist would be impossible without the tacit support of the Divine. (This is a moral minefield when viewed from the stance of day to day life, let us not consider that aspect in this blog post. If you are interested we could return to it later.). The latter is the explicit affirmation of the possibility that all of life can be Yoga or an union with the Divine. Not just the supra-normal states of consciousness like various Samadhi states but even the mundane moments of our lives too can be in Yoga, can be experienced union with the Divine.

With this definition, not just Steve Jobs but even you and I are in Yoga!

Now that is sort of nice but it does not give a method to get to this state in the first place. And besides answers our original question with too abstract a framework. We can do better, so let’s continue.

Yoga is Skill in Works..

..says Sri Aurobindo. This is a more accessible definition and something we can work with. Like a Vedic or Upanishadic mahavakya this little thought’s illumination belies its size! Yoga is said to be skill in works. There is no mention of what works, it does not matter. I could be a serf serving the whims of a landlord  and following instructions to the dot or its modern day equivalent of sitting in a cubicle and following processes to the letter. And still could exceed the conditions of my birth, outgrow the mortal limitations placed upon me and grow into the consciousness of the Divine. All of this while performing the normal works of a human existence.

The divisions set up by society with the Chaturvarna or the Four Fold Caste System, that condemns me to a class of works determined by birth and heredity, though a sham and a corruption of the principle Manu had in mind, do not limit my potential to attain the highest states unavailable to the priest who chants litanies for years.

Skillful execution of work, like the pursuit of a moral living, has no end to its perfection. And beyond a certain threshold of skillful work one is invariably widened and soon see ourselves touching the borders of heaven. What began as work is transmuted into Yoga.

With this approach one would easily agree that Steve’s extraordinary skill for producing, or at least orchestrating the production of, beautiful things he most definitely is doing Yoga. Not in the sense of being seated in meditation and chanting a mantra but more like Arjuna who though in the thick of battle is in union with Sri Krishna due the skill of his craft and devotion to his dharma.

Relevance for India and Indians

The path of salvation through works is especially relevant for us Indians. To do this with all the rigor and perfection and devotion we can muster will yield both material and spiritual rewards. Long have we viewed yoga as something performed after we are old, the current material and moral poverty is a direct result of this world view. 1000 odd years of foreign rule and influence have destroyed our self-identity. It is time now to unshackle ourselves, not just with the mantra and deity but also with the skill that yields material abundance and strength.

Institutional Hypocrisy

Sometimes, well oftentimes, India, my beloved country, seems to be a nation of hypocrites. If you just nodded in sage understanding, you can stop reading right away.

Imagine, the nation got into a huff about Gandhi’s belongings staying in foreign lands, away from these holy shores. So much planning and expense went into ensuring it was returned back to India. That too for belongings that Gandhi himself did not bother to keep!

If only our people had got themselves into a fit for not following Gandhi’s principles, how much better this country would have been!

Before you think this is a stray incident of oversight, let me assure you it is not. This rot runs deep.

The caste system is one of my favorites. The brahmin, at the top of the social pecking order, the guardian of knowledge chants his mantra and hordes his learning.

The brahmin dwells on the omniscience and omnipotence of his chosen Deity or Principle and yet acts in the real world as if his deity were a holed up only in specific statues and words. Imagine that, confining the Infinite to specific forms!

As if the Absolute would be sullied by dirt and tainted with sin because some time-bound social norm was not followed, or because of the place one was born or color of their skin. What use is knowledge if it does not reflect in ones actions?

To take another case, the monarchy and kingdom states that India had in abundance prior to independence is a another blight on our past. Just see what we have replaced it with, a system of dynastic politics under a democratic mask.

We as a nation and peoples seem to have a inherent weakness and subservience to perceived authority. We grovel, shiver and kneel at the first sign of purple.

Our politicians and family-held corporations seek to bequeath their scepter to their children. Suitability and skill for the task be damned. After all, it must have been ordained somewhere in their karmic past!

The accident of biology is turned into an unquestionable fiat of fates.

One stands baffled at the magnitude of this mess. The heart quakes in helplessness. But hope remains. After all, we have overcome 600 years of foreign rule, at least partially, and have an identity of our own.

What we make of ourselves now will determine the course of what we shall be many hundred years hence.

The Two Indias

Forget the question of how Gandhi’s belongings landed with a private collector and then at an auction house. The real joke was the reactions it evoked from the Indian polity earlier. They discussed and ranted and raved. All to little effect.

After much wrangling, today it emerged that Vijay Mallya, a liquor baron, had paid $1.8 million to win these items.

Am not sure if you can see the irony in this. A liquor baron wins back the personal artifacts of Gandhi “for the country”!

But I am happy for one reason. That there exists a class of people in India who have the street smarts to play the game by a different set of rules.

Not the old sentimental prattling. Not the self-defeating disgust at a culture that puts a price sticker on every relic. Not old bureaucratic forms floating around and petitions to a constitutional authority.

This is action. In the thick of the battle, a game played by the rules of the marketplace. This is the emerging India.

Are We Indians Any Better Now?

mpindan21

The past is immutable. However bitter, painful and shameful there is absolutely nothing one could do to change what has been. The past is immutable.

Today I had come across a recollection of the past of my nation. The recollection itself was done with a rare empathy and honesty, however brief its coverage.

But pain does not need acres of text to manifest itself. A splinter of memory can lodge itself in the crevices of our self and torment more than any physical act can ever hope to achieve.

A proud cluster of nations, united by a common heritage and spirituality, wanting for nothing, was ruled for 300years by the British and almost double that by the previous Muslim invaders.

Whatever revisionist versions of history is thrust upon us, the truth remains that we were ruled under a foreign yoke for almost a 1000years.

The nation was bled dry. They arrived for our wealth and left us destitute, an under-developed nation reeling in poverty and ignorance, devoid of self-confidence.

A nation of Sages, Rishis, Warriors and Artisans was reduced to this sniveling, groveling mass of spine-less ignoramuses of now.

I have no bitterness towards the actions of these foreign races but reserve my utter disrespect and hatred for my own countrymen who were willing to sabotage the future of this country for their selfish motives.

There are quite few descendents of these leaches still sucking this nation dry.

So you see, I was forced to introspect.

Now to you dear reader, are we any better now?

Meaningless Patriotism

The $10 laptop went the meme in the blogging circuits.

This was ostensibly in response to the $100 laptop of the OLPC project.

Hopes of doing a ‘Nano’ must have risen up in the minds of readers. But the cost suggested was so ridiculously low that it was difficult not to be skeptic about the whole affair.

And then came the update from here. The whole thing was a sham. No laptop but a storage device. And why a government should muck about with a storage device is something I don’t have a clue about! Perhaps some cheap publicity to satisfy the whim of some politician or bureaucrat somewhere.

Even assuming India could build such a device, say after 5-10 years, given the natural reduction of cost of materials etc., imagine the opportunity cost of missing out on so many years. Time in which kids could have had access to more information, picked up crucial computing skills and armed themselves with useful knowledge.

Just so we get this straight.

I am patriotic. Very proud to be an Indian, proud of its heritage, culture and spirituality. And firmly believe that India is yet to give her best.

But that best will not emerge by methods such as these.

Innovation is not building something cheaper. Of course it takes some creativity to do things cheaper. But it is ultimately an act of copying, a semi-intelligent copying. Nothing more.

Original ideas, ideas that define a race and culture and act as the seeds of lasting prosperity do not issue from mimicking.

India might have discovered the idea of Zero, might have had astronomers who peered further than most into the dark spaces of our Universe, might have sent its heart out in a hundred waves of spiritual impulses.

But all this counts for nothing in my book.

The field is material and not some abstract world of the spirit. The field of battle is here. There are no longer the impediments of lack of opportunity, or tools, or the colonial restrictions of the past.

We restrict our own capabilities by aping. Our pride is a false one when all we can muster up is to gather the scraps of a reflected glory.

The next time someone says the youngest kid to do a Microsoft certification is from India, or India will launch the $10 laptop, I suggest we, the blogger community at least, refrain from talking it up or feeling proud about it.

It is a time for shame when a many thousand year old culture has only its infantile babblings to be proud about.

Vande Mataram.

The Symbolism of Indian Art

Great minds have weighed in on the nature of Indian art. Its grandeur, the suffusion of riches, sometimes even a suffocating bewildering maze of beauty heaped pell-mell. Check the excesses of this race here.

It seems there was not the clear path, a logical progression, like say the clearly delineated phases of styles like in western art. The Indian method, if there ever was one, was like the actions of spy who had gone rogue. There are hints of a method, but its context, the conditions and its aims seem foreign to the mind of the modern viewer.

The Indian mind lived a dream world and out of it birthed forms of wonder.

To one who does not posses the key to this dream vocabulary the works of magnificence appear even as the labored efforts of a primitive race – snatches of beauty appear to gleam out from a few perspectives, we appreciate the scale, the engineering aspect of hewing rock and stone, but the piety that birthed gods from inert nature is unseen.

Yesterday I stumbled upon an instance of art so simple in its execution that it instantly yielded a clue to the nature of Indian mind.

Lord of Beginnings

A simple rock, rough and unfinished. Much like the unregenerateness that is man. With no characteristics that would distinguish if it were to lay by the street corner. Perhaps even serve as a stepping stone to span a pothole on a crowded pavement. A simple stone that patiently bears the footfalls of men, men more inert than itself perhaps.

Hosted on a frame. The shape is irregular. Almost like a triangle, or is it a parallelogram?, but one that did not yield to Greek world view.

Upon this stone were drawn three short parallel lines in white, with a red dot right in centre.

Four strokes is all it would have taken. Like the meaningless incantations of an Occultist. Gestures that made no sense to our pragmatic world-view. But that dipped into some mystic sky to gather some of its hue and splash on stone.

Lo, now we have Ganesha, the Lord of Beginnings.

In a flash the mundane is made profound. A time-born inertness stands as a monument in time to the eternal. From now, Indian society would revere this stone. Offer its devotion, oblations from its prayers and let the light from a sacred fire leap out and touch the God in time. From now this would be a symbol, a conduit for the mind of the aspirant to pass through.

And in this symbolic world-view resides the key to understanding ancient Indian art. Not to compel nature into regular forms, to suffocate her infinite variety within the confines of geometry.

No, the Indian mind allowed nature, and hence art, to course the free skies of the intuitive mind. Every object it saw- cow, dog, tree, stone, could be made profound. The temples were the artistic assertions of Kings. But the devotee did not need them, not essential to the progress of his soul. In the thickness of the jungle, or beside the banks of a stream, the pebble shaped as the form of his devotion would do. By that devotion the God will be brought down into the pebble. A temple more grand and sublime than any made by hands will be erected in the vastness of his heart. And the mantras that burn through his mind shall create the pedestal, the flowers, the offerings. Every ritualistic injunction shall be followed, no rule overruled. Here will prayer be made perfect.

This is the key. Every object could aid in the soul’s turning to the Divine. Here at last was a race that could practically live out the idea of a Divine’s Omnipresence. Every object could be God. All it took was a flash from the intuitive mind.

Ignore this symbolic thinking, and one is as a child wandering the halls of heavens wondering if the shining hosts were the legends of his comics come alive. One would still enjoy the color and flash and splendor. And in doing so walk away from doors of eternity because it did not speak the rational language of men.

Indian IT Services Provider, Campus Recruits..Follow Up

A large Indian IT services provider changed offers made to campus recruits by downgrading their salary and the role. I have covered this in a previous post here.

In thinking about this, few more thoughts occurred to me on what else the service could have done.

 

The Contracting Model, With a Twist

Hire the recruits for reduced pay. Or put them on a profit share for work delivered. Provide them tools and resources, much of them readily available on the net for free, to be independent contractors. Let them work from home. The cost of a computer and connectivity are negligible. The recruit gains valuable work experience and has your brand name in addition. And you get work done for a much lower cost.

For a little risk, you put them on a pay for performance, without the usual overheads of a full-time employee.

High Risk, High Reward Ventures

Be an innovation hub. You have the customers, market visibility and global presence. Choose areas that are a little ahead into the future for exploration by these resources. Tie them up with NDAs etc., pick an area for them to attack.

Become a incubator for new products and services, decentralize and encourage the hacker ethic.

Indigenous Markets

Build the next market. The bottom end of the pyramid has need of your intellectual power. Use it to provide solutions to the rural market. Let the resources think out how they could use IT to better the lives of the people in the villages and towns.

Invent your own markets and name your profits.

That is it from me, what would you propose?