Saturday, March 20, 2021

Question ... 2021

 

(Written with apologies in advance to artificial intelligence/ machine learning experts. This is a confluence of AI/ML with the philosophy of life)

Armed with all answers
I ask - what is the question?

No dearth of data and information
What do I do with it - that is the question

What matters and what doesn't
Does anyone know - is the real question

I'll shoot arrows from my quiver
Where's the bull's eye - is the question

My quest is not really for answers
It really is - for the question!


Monday, February 22, 2021

Five-fifty or Two-twenty ... 2021

 


Five-fifty or Two-twenty?
Who cares when life is good?
Who cares when life is bad?
An arbitrary measurement
From an arbitrary reference

Silly lifelong conditioning
To be driven by the clock
That things have to happen
When they are meant to be

So we strive in school
To get a double promotion
To get an extra year
For life's rat-race commotion

As I ramble along
It's well past Five-fifty
Let me end here
Before it becomes Two-twenty


Sunday, January 24, 2021

Faith and the State ... 2021

 


First, let me emphatically say that I am ecstatic about Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at the helm of the nation. Normalcy, decency, truth, transparency, trust, respect and many other characteristics of human integrity have returned to the White House and the Administration.

What has, however, irked me is the over-emphasis on President Biden's devout Catholicism. (Don't get me wrong - I would rather see a President regularly go to church, than call someone a p@$$#.) In this Democracy that stands for secularism - the separation of church and state, a Constitution from two centuries ago whose foresight we are awestruck with, I am seeing too much of godliness in the past few weeks.

Faith ought to be a deeply personal phenomenon. One may believe or not believe; believers may believe in whatever they want to believe. If one needs to seek strength from faith to overcome trauma from personal tragedies - that is a Constitutionally granted freedom in this nation.

But, let deep faith not be a metric of personal integrity! And, as a corollary, let the faithless not have additional burden to prove their integrity.

I say all this in this "one nation, under God" and while gleefully enjoying the green-back that says "In God We Trust".

Amen!



Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Never Again .. 20 Jan 2021

 


Never again a bully
Never again a misogynist
Never again the sycophants
Never again an insurrection

Never again any nepotism
Never again gun violence
Never again police brutality
Never again children in cages

Never again a global disgrace
Never again alternative facts
Never again "it is what it is"
Never again living in denial

A new day, a new song
A new beginning, a new reality
The light at the end of the tunnel
Is, at last, not an oncoming train



Monday, January 11, 2021

Black and White and Shades in Between ... 2021

 

We are all reeling from the miserably failed January 6, 2021 coup d'etat attempt on the U.S. Capitol that the entire world watched in disbelief in real-time as it unfolded. As more details are coming to be known from the evidence, tipsters and arrested suspects from the insurrection, we cannot but be shocked to see the extent of white supremacy that was on garish display - a confederate flag, anti-Semitic inscriptions on t-shirts, and slogans of racial and religious bigotry. The world is laughing us - the self-appointed custodians of democracy and world order. Is there any silver lining to this dark cloud?

The answer, undoubtedly, is YES. It is in the sentiment of abundance and sharing that still exists in the hearts of many - 
  • You see it when white Americans (including the President-elect Joe Biden) decry white supremacy and make a case for fairness and representation for people of all types, by gender, race, color, any other difference
  • You see it when men march for the status of women
  • You see it when Jews protest against the "Muslim Ban"
  • You see it when everybody marches for Black Lives Matter
This happens only in America! Despite all the vileness around us, there is much to be proud of.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Trumpty Dumpty sat on a wall ... 2021

 


Trumpty Dumpty sat on a (Mexican) wall
Trumpty Dumpty had a great fall

They tried hard to do a steal
Reading only The (f)art of the Deal

Wile E Coyote disguised as Mitch
He, for sure, delivered only the ditch

The democracy wouldn't take him as an obstacle
He went down in history as the biggest spectacle




Monday, January 4, 2021

A new sunrise ... 2021

 
(Sunrise across the San Francisco Bay, as seen from the SFO Marriott)

A new sun rises on my day
And burns the darkest night
A new leaf turns in my book
With the quill eager to write
 
A new tune comes across the breeze
From a lute that shed its dust
A new canvas ever so eager
For a bold stroke of the brush
 
The glass has held its wine
Awaiting the soothing sip
The mirage eluded for long
The parched, but deserving lip
 
I stand at this turn in the road
With my arms stretched to thee
Come, my friend, be my light
To start a life of glee

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

With My Eyes Wide Shut ... 2020

 


With my eyes wide shut

With my eyes wide shut

I see through my cataract

With my eyes wide open

It’s a dark grey blur


With my eyes wide shut

I can see your tear-drops

With my eyes wide open

It’s the beauty of your mascara


With my eyes wide shut

I can see you from afar

With my eyes wide open

A big faceless crowd


With my eyes wide shut

I see the depth of your sadness

With my eyes wide open

Only the giggles and the laughter


With my eyes wide shut

It’s the stark, dark reality

With my eyes wide open

It’s the bright elusive illusion


With my eyes wide shut

I see a clear method

With my eyes wide open

It's an infinite madness


Context: 

This poem took root during a week of a one-eye-shut life due to a painful stye.

One close friend, Satish Nawathe, was kind enough to look at an earlier draft and provide an interpretation that I loved; one comment made it into a verse in the poem. I am sharing his other comments below:

The shut eye renders an opportunity to visualize without seeing, while the open eye continues with the apparent view of things. The visualization is envisioning ... and can reach the emotional state of the subject person ... and can even connect with him/her in a sublime manner. The open eye merely responds to the physical action of light on the retina. The shut eye is not blind ... it is a chance to internalize and contrast with the superficial inputs .. perhaps find the real meaning behind what appears to be!

It dispels the concept of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)!

I must also acknowledge another close friend and good poet, Satyen Hombali, whose influence of style and depth I cannot deny. An example is a different slant with a "satire with a strong message" in his Marathi poem, माणूस maaNoos (human).

Sunday, December 13, 2020

There will be a doctor in the house .. finally

 


Yes, there will be a doctor in the (White) House, and that makes many of us proud. And, it is despicable that the Wall Street Journal - a publication of repute when I had last checked - allowed an Op-ed by a (sore ?) essayist, Joseph Epstein, "Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not, if You Need an M.D."

Really, Mr. Epstein? All you could find to disparage an incoming President is to go after his wife's credentials? Let me tell you a thing or two about Doctorates. People get these after doing eminent, ground-breaking work in their respective fields. People with doctorates do know a thing or two - but they also know that there is much that they don't - and, that is important. Let me put before you another towering personality with a doctorate, Martin Luther King, Jr. If you don't know what he did, what he is known for and you would like to disparage him in the same way as you did Dr. Jill Biden, I forgive you for your ignorance.

And, do you want the likes of an M.D. like Scott Atlas in the (White) House? Let alone the White House, I would not like to have him in my house, peddling counter-medical opinions. Fortunately, M.D.s like Scott Atlas are in an extreme minority. Physicians who I have crossed paths with - from the pediatricians who treated my children, to specialists that have provided their expert opinions - are those who I hold in high regard.

Even if you had an M.D. in your house, and (s)he is not a radiologist providing you bad virology advice, they know their area of expertise as well as their limitations, and they would know or try to find out other experts who may know a thing or two about the medical situation.

So, chill, Mr. Epstein! It is really not important whether there is an M.D. in the White House. It is extremely important, however, that adults with high integrity and good judgment are in the White House - and this country is celebrating that.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Space 'n Time ... 2020

 

(Sketch inspired by the "Love Is" girl and "Amul Butter" commercials)

Space 'n Time


An old skit said,

“The bus is here, the bus is here”

“It’s not our bus, it’s not our bus”


Will a bus stop for me?

Will the bus take me there?

Am I awaiting a train at a bus stop?


Has the bus left?

Or, is it yet to come?

Will I ever know?


Will (s)he join me on my bus ride?

Has (s)he left on another bus?

Is (s)he waiting at another stop?


It’s not just the space, it’s not just the time!

It’s the simultaneity of space ‘n time

Is for the two of us, the rendezvous


Context: Upon re-reading the poem, I realize that are many subtleties in the poem that may warrant contextualization; though I believe that having to explain a poem speaks to its deficiency, as beautifully brought out by the Urdu verse:


Izhar-e-tamanna hee tauheen-e-tamanna hai
tum khud hee samajh jao, main naam naheen loonga


इज़हार-ए-तमन्ना ही तौहीन-ए-तमन्ना है,
तुम खुद ही समझ जाओ मैं नाम नहीं लूँगा।

The enunciation of my desire is itself an insult of my desire
(Beloved) - you figure it out yourself, I shall not elaborate it

In 1960s-70s Bombay, way before mobile phones, or even well functioning land lines were common, courtship in the middle-class society involved the lovebirds to meet out-of-sight of family and acquaintances, at locations like bus stops and involved long waits for the other person to arrive.


The sketch brings together the lovelorn girl from Love Is comic-strip awaiting ..a bus or her boyfriend or ... at a bus stop that sports the Amul Butter ad - another iconic hoarding in Bombay popularized by the Amul girl.


The poem then extrapolates to the concept of the "waiting for her/him" to an elusive life opportunity. The setting is the same - the bus stop - but the situation is that you see a bus coming in, get elated that it may be your route, and then get disappointed that it is not - a common phenomenon from those days!


Finally, the poem resorts to the physics concept to time and space, the simultaneity of both being necessary for a rendezvous to occur.




Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Dreamer Dilemma ... 2020

 

Undoubtedly inspired by Rodin, and also by a quote:

"It's impossible," said pride. 
"It's risky," said experience. 
"It's pointless," said reason. 
"Give it a try," whispered the heart.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Quadrants of Thought (credits to Navin Ramachandran)

 

Finding Nemo ... oops, I meant Navin ... has been a fascinating experience. Not that he was lost (any more than the rest of us are), but I didn't know the life thinker side of him and his eagerness to let others benefit from his evolution.

Thus, some interesting thoughts posted by Navin and the ensuing discussion resulted in an insightful chat with him a couple of Fridays ago, and this blogpost is an elaboration of one of the frameworks Navin suggested - almost literally, as a "napkin sketch." In his humility, he calls this universal wisdom that has no ownership - just that I must have gone to the bathroom while the universe enjoyed such wisdom ;-)

In a framework that can turn a management scientist on, the premise is that you live in memory or in thoughts built on memories - and this influences your behaviors, actions, and attitude towards life. On the (horizontal) time scale, you may divide your thoughts into the Past and the Future; on the (vertical) effect scale, you may divide your them into those that are uplift you and those that drag you down. You can find yourself constantly in one of the four quadrants and that has its respective effect on your energetic state of being.

If your dominant narrative is Reminiscing or Daydreaming, it can be an uplifting experience; if it is Regret or Anxiety, it can drain you down. Being seldom in awareness of the present, you can find yourself out of synchrony with life - that you are auto-engaged in the Regrets or Anxieties - a consequence of the natural conditioning of self-preservation.

Trying to force yourself into Reminiscing and Daydreaming can bring with it narratives of regret and anxiety.

The strategy, therefore, is to let go of the narratives that drag you down - in totality, in acceptance, and without shame. Then, you find yourself in balance in the center - with a state of awareness. The narratives don't disappear - it is just that we learn to be centered and awake/aware in an effortless way.

More Fridays with Navin can result in a sequel to a 2000 bestseller, and it could well be called Fridays with Navin!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

COVID-19 Vaccination - Equitable Distribution ... 2020

 


The demand for the vaccine far exceeds the supply. To quantify the gap, the initial batch booked by the U.S. Government can cover no more than 15% even if all patient access issues are addressed, much smaller if you take the patient access factors into consideration. The U.S. represents about 5% of the world population. As a pandemic that needs to cover every person on the face of this earth (as polio vaccination has mostly addressed), the demand-supply disparity is even more dire. I limit the remainder of this post to the U.S. context.

Rationing is inevitable when a scarce resource has to be equitably distributed to a large population. Who gets how much? We have heard of criteria (a) health care workers and first responders, (b) other essential workers, (c) high risk individuals. At first glance, these criteria seem reasonable. The rubber meets the road in the execution.

Having lost all faith in the checks and balances in the U.S. judicial and executive branches, I pose the following (possibly, rhetorical) questions, so we as conscientious citizens navigate the challenge.

Using affluence and influence to beat the system is not uncommon - whether it is for dodging the draft, or getting a not-so-accomplished child into a top-notch school, or declaring the Vice President as an "essential worker" so he can campaign for the election.

Even if the corruption factor doesn't exist (or, we ignore for a moment), how does one say one person needs to be ahead of another when they are in the same categories as above? Who makes those determinations? Does it open up a laborious legal procedure, as we have seen with frivolous lawsuits to question the recent election results?

Perhaps, the imminent change of leadership will help, as the leaders will lead by example. However, they cannot carry the entire burden of fixing the fabric of the nation faster than COVID-19 will ravage the country. 

We have civil ways of addressing someone who cuts the check-out line at the grocery store or the check-in line at an airport gate - following generally accepted principles. The need of the hour is such collective, social conscience. There is too much at stake to let bullies of any sort take charge .. again.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer ... 2020

 


Rudolf, the Red Nosed Reindeer
Had a streak running down his cheek
And if you ever saw it
You would break into a shriek 

All the other Republicans
Laughed and looked the other way
They never let such clowns
Join in their devious games

Then one hot summer eve
Tutar interviewed him in a hotel room
His mic got stuck in his pants
Borat had to threaten him with a broom

The Pinocchio of the New World
Tries hard to defend the Chief Liar
He's only a joker, just a court jester
Far from the semblance of a lawyer




Sunday, November 8, 2020

Ideology Changes and Damped Systems ... 2020

 

Trying to understand the dynamics and outcome of the just-completed US Presidential election, memories of systems behavior from the engineering days came to my rescue.

The behavior of a system such as a spring-loaded door with a damper behaves typically in ways described by the above graph. If the door is ideally supposed to be adjusted to be "critically damped" - in this setting, the door gradually but without much delay settles into its equilibrium state. If overdamped (as can happen in cold weather), the door takes an unusually long time to reach that state. In an underdamped (as can happen in hot weather), the door comes in faster than ideal, and may oscillate back and forth before settling into its equilibrium.

Applying this analogy to today's society, consider the area under the dotted line as Conservative or Right-wing; the area above the dotted line as Liberal or Left-wing. In the last four years, we find our society stretched too far to the Conservative side (threats about reversing Roe vs Wade, conservative judges in the Supreme Court, ...) and the hype is high due to the rhetoric from the departing President. This has resulted in today's society to be near the origin of the above graph. Examples of the rhetoric are - condoning white supremacist and other racist behaviors, instigation of armed militia through incendiary statements during rallies and debates. 

Now that this compressed spring is released, it is natural to see society to swing too far left before it overcompensates for a few cycles. The advantage of this is that normalcy is achieved sooner, albeit through swings of smaller amplitude.

I would rather have this, than an overdamped system where "wanting to do the right thing" takes an inordinate amount of time to figure it out. The impatience to come into a normal zone is high, and I am ready for some swings!



Monday, November 2, 2020

Cynicism 2020

 


There is a reason why I write this a day before the Presidential election in the USA. That is because I don't want it to be perceived as written in jubilation if the side I am rooting for wins, or in despair if it loses. I write this as a full-fledged member of a democracy - a form of government of the people, by the people, for the people - taking accountability for whatever is along with the hundreds of millions of other participants

No matter who wins the election, my cynicism runs high today about
  • heels dug deep in the muck that preclude any other point of view. "My way or highway" is contrary to the fundamentals of democracy, and has resulted in "you belong in the majority, or you don't matter"
  • checks and balances that live in name only, and we have witnessed a blatant abuse of power
  • the motives of the politicians in running a country - a boost to their ego, I can accept; widespread nepotism and corruption, I cannot
  • the years it will take to recover from the damage to the fabric of the nation - whether it is a form of government, or respect for science, or acceptance of a different-looking/thinking/worshipping person
  • .....
The father of democracy, Cleisthenes, and the founding fathers of the United States are spinning in their graves. Cynicism is a negative emotion. I have it today. But then, knowing the problems to be solved and accepting them is necessary to work towards resolving them.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Not quite a haiku ... 2020



Not quite a haiku (5 syllables)
By its strict definition (7)
Is it a trio? (5)

Pitch darkness around (5)
I have my clean glasses on (7)
Can see so well now (5)

Today, a good day (5)
Tomorrow, another day (7)
Its own surprises (5)

No boring life, this (5)
Enjoying its every deal (7)
Twists, turns aplenty (5)

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Vasanti Chandavarkar (1933-2020) .. the little engine that could

 

With the passing of my mother, Vasanti, we celebrate a life dedicated to service and rehabilitation.

Fortunate to be one of the first women in her family to earn a college degree, she pitched in to the family cash flow by working at a Burshane (cooking gas cylinders) distribution store and the Handloom House back office until she got caught up full time with the rehabilitation of her younger child who got paralyzed at the age of one. Whether it was carrying him to therapy with his crutches and other paraphernalia through uncooperative crowds on Bombay's buses and trains in rain or shine, or running after snake-oil and spiritual remedies around the country suggested by anecdotal stories brought to her by well-wishers - she left no stone unturned. Looking ahead to the time when they will not be able to care for him, my parents joined forces with other families with similar situations to establish of a permanent residential facility for the physically and emotionally challenged.

Drained by the intensity of her life, she passed the last couple of decades in constant proximity of my father, who ensured that all her needs were met, as we saw her memory fade away in recent years.

She will be remembered not only by the extended family and friends but also those whose paths she crossed in the rehabilitation and elder care worlds.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Is this real, or is this an exaggeration? ... 2020

 



A close friend asked an almost rhetorical question triggered by an eye-opening article Arundhati Roy: Two Conspiracies and a Cremation. This motivated the title of this blog-post, "Is this real, or is this an exaggeration?" Arundhati Roy's article addresses situations of religious extremism and sexual violence in India, using some shameful examples from the recent past.

While most of us despair about the societal degeneration that manifests in such barbaric incidents of violence, I find it more sad that the real answer to this question is "It depends on who you ask".

Such despicable behaviors and thinking is not limited to the largest democracy in the world. It is as prevalent in the most prosperous democracy in the world. Ask the leaders in today's USA, "Is there systemic racism/ white supremacy in the country?" As witnessed by recent events, the President and the Attorney General have claimed not to know what the question means. Ask the same question to Rev. Al Sharpton, or Van Jones or Martin Luther King III, or the families of African Americans asphyxiated or shot down by Caucasian police, you'll get a very different answer.

We do want to solve the problem, but we first need to acknowledge the problem. Living in denial of the problem is no less criminal than the problem itself.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Humpty Dumpty Wore No Mask ... 2020



Humpty Dumpty wore no mask
In the limelight, he liked to bask
He spewed and cursed with no filter
He mocked everyone in his banter

The big bad Flu was lurking near
First he took away his Hope dear
Chris, Thom, Mike, Ron, and Bill
Nick not spared, neither Kellyanne's will

The mice scurried to get a story straight
72 hours. No, 36. No, 24. No, forty-eight.
The oxygen is low. No, the oxygen is high.
Whatever they say, it's a lie hiding a lie.

...to be continued

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Even so, my love, let us meet someplace else (Sahir Ludhianvi's Taj Mahal translated by Mustansir Dalvi)

 




For you, my love, the Taj may well be the quintessence of ardor
while full well may you adore this exquisite vale 
Even so, dear one, let us meet someplace else

What worth, these lowly ones, loitering in the halls of the lords,
where on every path lie etched remains of pomp and glory?
What worth then, the passing of lovelorn souls?

My love, behind the veils of love’s proud proclamations,
did you see the signs of imperious grandeur?
You, who revel in mausoleums of dead kings,
did you not heed the dark hovels that fostered us?

Beyond count are those, in this world who have lived and loved.
Could anyone deny the truth of their passions?
But they, like us, stay destitute, without the means
to erect monuments to their love.

These edifices, these tombs, these battlements, these forts,
haughty relics of the conceit of emperors
are left behind like resilient creepers on the face of the world,
seeped in the blood of our forefathers.

My love, those artful hands who created this beauty
would have lived and loved too; 
but their lovers are long gone, nameless, without a trace.
To this day, no one has lit a candle in their memory.

The lush gardens and palaces, the Yamuna’s edge;
the exquisitely carved portals, the arches and niches,
the handiwork of the one emperor who, buttress’d by infinite wealth
has mocked our very love, our impoverish'd, destitute love.

Even so, my love, let us meet someplace else.

..and the original by Sahir Ludhianvi

taaj tere liye ik mazhar-e-ulfat hi sahii

tujh ko is vaadii-e-rangeeN se aqeedat hii sahii

merii mehboob kahiiN aur milaa kar mujh se!

 

bazm-e-shaahii meiN GhariiboN kaa guzar kyaa ma’anii

sabt jis raah pe hoN satwat-e-shaahii ke nishaaN

us pe ulfat bharii ruuhoN kaa safar kyaa ma’anii

 

merii mehboob pas-e-pardaa-e-tash_heer-e-vafaa

tu ne satwat ke nishaanoN ko to dekhaa hotaa

murdaa shaahoN ke maqaabir se behalne vaalii

apne taareek makaanoN ko to dekhaa hotaa

 

anginat logoN ne duniyaa meiN muhabbat kii hai

kaun kahtaa hai ki saadiq na the jazbe un ke

lekin un ke liye tash_heer kaa saamaan nahiiN

kyuuN ke vo log bhii apnii hii tarah muflis the

 

ye imaaraat-o-maqaabir ye faseeleN, ye hisaar

mutla-qulhukm shahanshaahoN kii azmat ke sutuuN

daaman-e-dahar pe us rang kii gulkaarii hai

jis meN shaamil hai tire aur mire ajdaad kaa KhuuN

 

merii mehboob! uNheiN bhii to muhabbat hogii

jinakii sannaa_ii ne baKhshii hai ise shakl-e-jameel

un ke pyaaroN ke maqaabir rahe benaam-o-namuud

aaj tak un pe jalaa_ii na kisii ne qaNdeel

 

ye chamanzaar ye jamunaa kaa kinaaraa ye mahal

ye munaqqash dar-o-deevaar, ye mehraab ye taaq

ik shahanshaah ne daulat ka sahaaraa le kar

ham GhariiboN kii muhabbat kaa uRaayaa hai mazaaq

meri mehboob kahiiN aur milaa kar mujh se!


Friday, September 11, 2020

Nerdy Love ... 2020

Mobius strip | 3D CAD Model Library | GrabCAD

You’re as smooth as the 2.π.r
You give me all the mc2
Our love is at such a unique λ
Free ions craving for a covalent bond
Sharing electrons in our own orbits
Am as confused as the Mobius strip
What seems right is at times left
What is left, is it really right?