Caste System: Series-Perception & Fact (Part 2).

Over the years there has been a systematic assassination of our rich and deep culture, both by our invaders, the foreign traders who eventually paved the way for us to be ruled and by ourselves. I also propose that that India and Indian beliefs have been singled out, when the Caste System is alluded to. This happens for a myriad of reasons, the most important being that it is we Indians, under the influence of a continuous onslaught of invasions over generations, throughout history, were quick to distance ourselves, abandon and even ridicule our own traditions, beliefs, and culture. This isn’t really surprising as each invasion had plenty of cultural ramifications, apart from just the war or armed conflict related ramifications. Thus we adapted to the ways preferred by our invaders.

Picking up where we left off in Part 1 where I’ve said that there is fallacy in the way the Caste System is perceived and understood, what I’m about to reveal to you now is what the true essence is.

As promised, I’m inverting the order in which people usually speak about this and therefore I will start with talking about the Shudras.

Shudras, are the section of society or a class that accepts another’s employment whereas other varnas are occupationally and financially self-sufficient. Shudras, were or perhaps even now, are people who either had a natural talent or skill and developed or practiced a particular skill or trade. They are the artisans and workers, usually working with their hands. It was the Role and Duty of the Shudras to take pride in their work, to be loyal and to follow general moral principles. If we were to look at their qualifications, traditionally, it wasn’t necessarily formal, but in this day and age, formal education has played an important part in assisting them to move out of their Shudra classification and we see them emerge as lawyers, doctors and take up professions that give them the economic means and respectability. But, for mindsets to change it may take generations as it needs to find its way into the gene pool.

What I am about to say will certainly earn me few friends, but think about it! So what I find as a really amusing perspective is that, the vast hordes or armies of Indian Knowledge Workers who literally run tech globally are also Shudras, because if we go by the definition of the Vedas, ANYBODY who works for someone else is a Shudra. 

“for the śūdras there is labor and service to others”.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Text 44

Where does it really say that Shudras are to be ill treated and discriminated against? If we’re practical, there is the haves and have nots and its really an economic issue not really cultural or spiritual.

So doesn't that clearly imply that Shudras aren't merely the heavy lifters, ie. the knowledge workforce is also recognized as a substantial contributor to organizations and the economy? The only real difference is that they are subservient to masters, ie. the business promoters for a fixed wage.
Later in the series you will also see how there is a pecking order even within the Corporate, right from the line and rank workers through to the very top of the Corporate ladder.

Whereas I’ve presented fact about the true meaning of Shudra, we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that discrimination is the dreaded Caste System’s handiwork and the people who abused it have no role to play and therefore the rebellious thought and attitude!

Let’s take a step up the so called social order and look at Vaisyas.

Vaisyas are by definition, Farmers, Merchants and Business folk. Their role is wealth creation, providing employment, sustainable livelihoods and paying taxes from their income to the Ruler or Government. They are the economic engine of society. They are required to be ethical, to be productive and to grow and nurture crops, grains and livestock.

Here I quote from authority that Vaisyas engage in farming, cow protection and business.

Bhagavad Gita-Ch18, text 44.

Kshatriyas are rulers, leaders, warriors, administrators and enforce the laws of the land. They are supposedly the nobility, the protectors of society and permitted a number of privileges, however, it is expected that they display considerable strength of body and character. They are expected to provide protection to the weak and less fortunate, ensure that citizens perform their prescribed duties and also advance spiritually. To levy and collect taxes (from the vaishyas only) and to never accept charity under any circumstances.

So that their legacy continues, there was always an expectation that they maintain a strong bloodline and therefore, they usually married only amongst their peers and equals. So you see that we’re talking about genetics or the DNA. We will be talking more about that in Part 4 of this series.

Despite the fact that they are Leaders, in order to play their role effectively, it was expected that they conduct themselves in an exemplary manner and remain above reproach and controversy. 

To rule isn’t easy and Rulers are expected to be intelligent, but at the same time, to maintain a balance and to ensure that they have adequate guidance on every aspect of their roles, duties and responsibilities, they have recourse to the guidance of the scriptures, the Artha-Shastra and the intelligentsia or who are popularly referred to as Brahmins.

Here I quote that their qualities and attitude are, heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership, to be true to their royal word, to never refuse a challenge of honor, to be noble, chivalrous, generous and to deal uncompromisingly with crime and lawlessness.

Bhagavad Gita Ch 18, text 43

Tell me your thoughts on this…write to

Do you think that our current rulers or so-called Kshatriyas are fulfilling their roles and responsibilities in this day and age? Isn’t it just all about politics? Do they seek counsel from those more knowledgeable than them in matters of state, welfare, religion?

Brahmins, are intellectuals, priests, teachers, seekers of the truth, philosophers and thinkers. So what exactly are the classification criteria for this Class of People?

Brahmins were expected to study and follow the vedas and provide education, spiritual leadership and be the moral compass by setting vision and values of society. Due to their knowledge and aptitude they are expected to provide guidance to all strata of society, including ensuring that the Rulers and Administrators followed their prescribed duties. In other words this was a means to provide a system of checks and balances. And they were expected to provide this service free of charge, or for whatever the recipients could afford to give them by way of “dakshina”.

What qualified them to take on such a pivotal role? What qualities were they expected to have? What kind of attitudes were they expected to exhibit?

Brahmins were expected to be peaceful, have self-control, practice austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, study and disseminate knowledge, wisdom, be pious, have integrity, be clean in body, mind and soul. 

Being purified by his intelligence and controlling the mind with determination, giving up the objects of sense gratification, being freed from attachment and hatred, one who lives in a secluded place, who eats little, who controls his body, mind and power of speech, who is always in trance and who is detached, free from false ego, false strength, false pride, lust, anger, and acceptance of material things, free from false proprietorship, and peaceful.

Bhagavad Gita Ch 18: texts 42, 51-53).

Therefore we see that the Brahmanas were NOT just priests, they were so many other things. Why!!!! In fact they even taught the Art of Warfare and Combat!!! 

In the Mahabharata we read that KRIPA (KRIPACHARYA), Son of the sage Saradvan, was taught Dhanurveda, the martial arts by his father, and he became one of the Kurus’ martial teachers. He survived the Kurukṣetra war and counseled the Pāṇḍavas when they ruled the world. Later, they appointed him preceptor of their grandson, Parīkṣit.

We all need the means to survive and make at least a basic living. Being austere and spending their time in deep reflection and serving society, they had little time to engage in commerce or trade, or for that matter find any other means to earn an income. Therefore, they needed to be taken care of.

Traditionally they lived very frugally and therefore they had the most basic needs. They accepted whatever charity or Dakshina recipients of their advice and counsel could give and they lived off the charity of others.  They never accepted paid employment. Accepting any formal or predetermined payment, would mean selling their knowledge and this in itself would dilute their fundamental beliefs, role and position of authority.

It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly.

Every endeavor is covered by some fault, just as fire is covered by smoke. Therefore one should not give up the work born of his nature.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, text 47 & 48

And then we have what are knows as outcastes, or Dalits. The fact is that, at the time of the scriptures, there were only four castes. All these were like parts of a human body, working together for the common good and all equally important. Over time the caste system came to be abused, and a fifth class of people – the Dalits – were identified. So what are Dalits in reality? “Dalit” is actually Sanskrit for a person or pesons who work against societal interests and are outside the social structure, but somehow it came to be used to describe a Class that is downtrodden, exploited, those who have the least privileges. This is purely a concoction based on the convenience of people who wanted to ostracize a certain set of people. There is no mention of Dalit in our Scriptures. In fact Krishna says that, a learned man will look upon everyone as equal.

Decision-making Process.

So how were these occupations decided? There was already in place an aptitude based evaluation criteria or process, whereby the Guru or Teacher observed and evaluated several aspects of the child and then made recommendations based on such evaluation. These recommendations were then used by the parents and the student in deciding what the child would eventually end up doing.

“According to the rules and regulations mentioned, one who is twice-born, namely a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya or vaiśya, should reside in the gurukula under the care of the spiritual master. There he should study and learn all the Vedic literatures along with their supplements and the Upaniṣads, according to his ability and power to study. Then following the master’s order, the disciple should leave and accept one of the other āśramas, namely the gṛhastha-āśrama, vānaprastha-āśrama or sannyāsa-āśrama, as he desires”.

Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 7, Chapter 12, Texts 13 & 14.

A Systematic Assasination

Over the years there has been a systematic assassination of our rich and deep culture, both by our invaders, the foreign traders who eventually paved the way for us to be ruled and by ourselves. I also propose that that India and Indian beliefs have been singled out, when the Caste System is alluded to. This happens for a myriad of reasons, the most important being that it is we Indians, under the influence of a continuous onslaught of invasions over generations, throughout history, were quick to distance ourselves, abandon and even ridicule our own traditions, beliefs, and culture. This isn’t really surprising as each invasion had plenty of cultural ramifications, apart from just the war or armed conflict related ramifications. Thus we adapted to the ways preferred by our invaders.

Balancing the Scales

It would be very unfair on my part to not complete the picture on how things got this way. The backlash hasn’t originated just out of ignorance, instigation or then vested interests. It is also a fact that it is also because how certain castes ended up treating or dealing with the other classes.

Take for example the Aaryans. They arrived in India and formed 3 groups of people, namely warriors, priests and farmers. As the warriors and priests fought for leadership roles, it was the priests who emerged victorious and eventually farmers, craftsmen, warriors and locals were led by Brahamans or priests. We’ve seen this through history as well. Much smaller armies have emerged victorious by exhibiting great courage, resilience and coming up with strategies to counter adversity or for that matter, emerging victorious. Similarly the priests used their knowledge, intellect and influence to emerge as the leaders in the time of the Aryans.

Classifications and Segregation are a fact of life and that’s not just peculiar to India and therefore it is indeed most unfortunate that we seem ignorant that almost all cultures, civilizations and even political systems have some form of caste system or the other. Here I propose yet again, that we use Class instead of Cast.

In the next instalment, I will speak about how ancient and modern societies, cultures and civilizations classified, segregated and even discriminated based on various criterion. So stay tuned and read all about it here but don't forget, you can also go to my podcast channels on all major platforms, Apple, Google, Spotify and Breaker.
Write in and tell me what you think about this! I can be reached at or you can even leave your comments here.

Guru Means Heavy….hmmm

There are some things that just set me off, one of them is misinterpretation of age-old Indian traditions, culture and doctrine handed down through generations from Father to Son, from Guru to Disciple, from Mother to Daughter. So when people start banding the institution of Guru, I get set off.

So today my friend Kimberly said something about people calling themselves Guru, and the number of people she’s come across recently, who call themselves “Guru”. She went on to opine that something wasn’t quite right about that. People calling themselves, Guru.

Kimberly then, is this Gori Chori, interpreted as “fair skinned foreigner). American India. Not to be mistaken with Red Indian. She just chooses to live, learn and teach in India. Kimmy is a teacher in her own right, so when she says something isn’t quite right with people calling themselves Guru, then we take notice.

So her post or rather comment on said topic, resulted in a flurry of comments, suggestions, opinions from the cognoscenti (self excluded from cognoscenti), about what Guru means. Self is included in one of the people responding to said comment from Kimmy. Being a response on FB, I had to keep it brief, though I had been set off! To summarise, someone said, Guru is within you, and someone else said, self-styled Gurus are just that, self-styled, or even worse, self-appointed, blah blah….

There are some things that just set me off, one of them is misinterpretation of age-old Indian traditions, culture and doctrine handed down through generations from Father to Son, from Guru to Disciple, from Mother to Daughter. So when people start banding the institution of Guru, I get set off.

One other thing makes me even more ballistic is the modern-day interpretations and indeed practice of “Yoga”. Just because they teach you to say the Gayatri Mantra at Yoga class, don’t mean you are learning Yoga! Yoga for weight loss? It will work, but if all we are learning is a form of exercise, and some really limited breathing exercises, then should be really say we are learning Yoga?

Let’s save my rant on misinterpretation of Yoga and all the malpractices surrounding it for another occasion, and in its stead PLEASE let me rant about misuse, misinterpretation and abuse of the word “Guru”.

I did say PLEASE, didn’t I?

For the ignorant….yes, this is a strong word (but then I do intend it to sting), Guru is limited to “teacher”, or let’s just say that this is the basic level of understanding most will have. I really don’t accept this, as Teacher is Acharya. Guru is so much more!

It’s really quite simple, learn from an authority before you seek to teach. And who exactly authorizes one to teach? Do we authorize ourselves? Does someone who exists at a higher plane authorize one to spread the good word? Clearly this is common sense! So what gives and where do people sum up the courage and gumption to appoint themselves as Gurus?

Guru is “Eternal Father”, and finding a Guru is the single most significant event in life. 

Sacinandana Das aka Sumir Nagar – Receiving Dhiksha

Finding your Guru, begging to be taken on as student and disciple, serving your Guru, the process of observation and learning, and this whole thing of the Guru and Disciple accepting each other is a process in itself. Both, the Guru and Disciple test each other and it is only then, that a formal association takes place.

So apart from being set off, and in addition to this rant, let me humbly submit that we be careful when us use the word Guru, and when we accept people to be Gurus.

Whereas Indian tradition describes this in great detail, if I were to allow some degree of latitude, then I would say that at the very least, let us agree to accept that the process of transmission of knowledge HAS TO BE from an authority on a particular subject, to a student, at the very least, worthy and capable of absorbing that body of knowledge and practice, let alone transmitting lessons learnt down the line.

Not meaning to get too technical, and in the interest of keeping this brief and (not necessairly light), I will merely touch upon the origins of Guru as per Indian thought and culture.

There are four Sampradayas or orders qualified and authorized to disseminate Sanatana Dharma, not to be confused with Hinduism. Sanatana is “a way of life”, based on higher principles of existence, Hindu is merely a geographical derivation to describe people south of the Hindukush mountains.

It is possible to have more than one teacher or Guru, but it is possible to have just one Spiritual Master or Guru in the truest sense of the word. Lot’s more to be said on subject, but I would relegate that to your desire to know more, and leave you with a simple way of looking at it….

First Time Out – Jumping Out of an Airplane – Solo Effort?

Take Skydiving….serious business this….do we just jump out of an airplane at the very first instance? Do we not do tandem jumps first? Don’t we investigate that the chappie inducing us to jump out of an airplane from a considerable height….that exhilarating first jump, is properly qualified and indeed certified? Don’t we take driving lessons, get a drivers licence and only then go on to teach our kids? Get the ratio?

Self styled Gurus, modern-day Gurus, just set me off! The relationship with Guru in the parampara or tradition of Guru-Shishya is deep and profound, and having experienced this,
it’s just difficult to let people off the hook when they go around concocting their own agendas and meanings.

End of Guru rant, you can wait for the next rant, till someone sets me off again 🙂


How I Got the ICICI Infotech Job

This true telling, begins with me having been out of work for several months now, and I am getting rather desperate. Family to support, mouthis to feed. It was the bottom of the spiral caused by tech bubble that had gone bust, and jobs were not easy to come by. I literally sat each and every day and scoured every advertisement in various publications, and finding anything remotely suitable, I applied, crossed my fingers, my toes and pretty much everything that could be crossed, so much so that reading, and working long hours at the computer, did leave me blurry and cross-eyed at times.

This part of my life picks up directly from a time when I was at that stage in life called, “in-between” jobs (read unemployed). I was looking for my second job. My very first job as Chief Financial Officer of atcom technologies limited  had lasted all of eleven months, and that is a tale in itself. So let’s save that for another time, not here.

This true telling, begins with me having been out of work for several months now, and I am getting rather desperate. Family to support, mouths to feed. It was the bottom of the spiral caused by tech bubble that had gone bust, and jobs were not easy to come by. I literally sat each and every day and scoured every advertisement in various publications, and finding anything remotely suitable, I applied, crossed my fingers, my toes and pretty much everything that could be crossed, so much so that reading, and working long hours at the computer, did leave me blurry and cross-eyed at times.

Enter Radha, as he is fondly called. Radhakrishna Pingali had been a very dear friend, going way back, when he was with a tech company that had been involved in the computerization of the Bombay Stock Exchange, and I was Managing Director of Integra Funds Management Limited.

I met a friend at Otters Club, who mentioned Radha, and that’s how I get his number and I reconnect with Radha, after a gap of too many years. Called him I did, and quicker than you can say “jumping jack flash”, he was en route to meet with me.

I gave him the lay of the land, and instantly he was thinking about how he could get me a job quickly, well almost instantly. For those who know Radha, that’s how he is.

You see, Radha had really made it, and was then the Joint President of ICICI Infotech, his startup having been acquired. His startup team became what was later known as the BPG, or Banking Products Group, and at some time was called the Intellectual Capital Group.

He organized a couple of interviews, with one of his direct reports and with the Head of HR (we didn’t hit it off at first, but became friends over the years), and I received an offer. The offer in terms of money, was far less than what I was making in my earlier role as the CFO, and the role and title did not cause excitement. The role was somewhat indeterminate to begin with, and the title was Senior Manager. From Managing Director to Senior Manager! Well such is life.

When Radha told me it was a “functional” role, these are the thoughts that ran through my head. I know little about technology, didn’t really know how to write a functional specification, and I barely know how a treasury product is designed or built. I know nothing about formal IT, but I did understand the basic tenets about design and development, albeit only from the myopic point of view of having completed a course at Aptech. I guess developing a  high level specifications for a bleeding edge, Decision Support System, conceptualized by me, solely for the purposes of running my own financial services business, was somewhat of a saving grace. In that respect, I was ahead of the curve, and was a thought leader.

I think this is how Radha and I became close.

Ever since I was introduced to Radha, we spent hour after hour talking financial markets, and at some point I guess, we started talking technology in financial markets. This is where the epic discussions and exchange of ideas took place, at my office, at the bar, at dinner, in the car commuting, and pretty much everywhere. I think I only learned and learned and learned about technology, and what it can be made to do, and this is the time Radha was exposed to my seemingly layman ideas of what I wanted to do in terms of business automation, and decision support and MIS. You see, back in the day I did manage money and advise some pretty senior executives and some leading businessmen. I needed information at my fingertips. I knew exactly what I wanted, I just needed a system to bring that information to me at my fingertips.

At some point he brought in vendors and spent hours explaining to them, making them understand what I wanted, and we spent quite a bit of time discussing functional specifications, technology, and finally we got to the point of getting in proposals that Radha helped me vet.

Oftentimes I do think about how we were THE first movers in conceptualizing and actually taking up development of such a system. Way before these were finally brought to India, way before they were finally adopted. Nostalgia.

Since the victim of this piece is not the “Mother of all Decision Support Systems” that we were contemplating, let’s carry on with how I came to work for Radha later in life. Well not directly for Radha, but a few levels below him. The tables had turned you see.

One of the other things that brought us close (I think), was our discussions about spirituality, my deep exposure and my very visible (back then, not now) spiritual practices. To the extent that when Radha lost his beloved wife to irreversible disease, I was asked to perform some part of the last rites, since Radha was deep in shock.

Finally life kicked in and I was out of a job, as I stated at the beginning of this blog, and I reconnected with Radha, who had grown to be a dear friend. Picking up that lost thread, was a matter of moments. There was no awkwardness about his great fortune, of my reversal, about the fact that I would be a minion as opposed to be a senior member of the team.

Radha did what he could, Radha was true to himself, he was true to a friend in need, he got me a job, and at that point in time, that was exactly what I needed.

Such is the humility of this great human being, that he said to me, I know that you have great intellect, I know that this is a bit demeaning, but just come work for me, I need you. Truth be told, he didn’t….he could have found someone like me, or even better than me to take his product forward, but he instead chose to place his trust in a friend in need, in an untried and untested resource.

In later meetings, he said he knew what he was doing in passing me the ball, but all I can see in that gesture of a friend, was that he came through. I was humbled and proud at the same time, when much later he introduced me to his now grown son, a professional in his own right, as one of the few people whom he respected as having unparalleled intellect. It isn’t not so much the compliment, it is where it was coming from. This was from Radha, a man far far ahead of his times, a man of great intellect himself. Wow, I was simply blown away, and in terms of compliments, this is the one I will always cherish.

This is how I happened to come into hard-core, main stream technology, which would serve me well in later years, and serves me well until this day. From not being able to write a functional specification that a technical resource could understand, I came to a point where I did become Head of Product Strategy for Treasury and Risk Management Products. I did end up designing from scratch an Investment Management System, and went on to design and build several such systems.

I have one man to thank for that opportunity, but I do have to thank many other people who were patient with me, who helped me learn (albeit quickly), who placed their friendships, trust and faith in my abilities to deliver, under the most daunting of circumstances. If I am every subservient to anyone, it is Radha, whome I consider my benefactor, and I can say, other than him I’m subservient to none, have not been, and don’t think I’m ever going to be.

I think Radha and his team, Babu, Bhanu and Ms. Atre (who was later my lady boss) carried me for at least two years, before I was able to carry my own weight, and deliver value to the organization that had seen it fit to employ me.

I’ve always been helpful by nature, and try to be a pillar of support to people at times when all seems bleak, but this experience really made a profound impact and the way I am with people today, comes largely out of this experience.

The ICICI journey spans five years, and the subsequent series of blogs will reveal more about that journey. This is where my professional international exposure commenced, this was the stepping stone.

A Mix of Culture, Religion, Political & Economic Systems.

The era of the monarch or king  or ruler in general being the representative of God has ended in most countries, and where it does exist, it is mostly  in title only.

I thought I’d write about something different today. My thoughts today were triggered by a debate or rather an argument I overheard about intolerance. Religion and politics seemed to be the underlying topics. I thought I would share my thoughts on these subjects. As I thought about this, I soon realised that we cannot look at religion and politics in isolation, but rather we should also look at the social and economic aspects as well, and how these are intertwined. So here goes.

The era of the monarch or king or ruler being the representative of God has ended, and if at all it exists, it remains  merely in title.

Even when the monarch was deemed to be the representative of God, there was a reliance on a High Priest, who was supposed to be an authority on religious thought and belief.

Thus even way back then, there was a separation between the ruler or administration and the church or religion. This was a way to instill checks and balances.

The role of the High Priest has ended, their counsel is no longer felt to be a necessity and is no longer available, nor is the purity of the priestly advisors or the monarch intact.

There is in general, even today, a separation of the church or religious bodies from the state, even where countries have as their foundation, a religious belief or ideology.

I propose that with the advent of time, Money with a capital M, has replaced both the Church and the State. Money is the state and the church, it is a way of being and a law unto itself.

Less isn’t more, there is simply more, more, more. Look at the progression from a self-sufficient nomadic, agrarian or hunting existence, to expansion of the tribe, leading to acquisition of turf, defending that turf by any means, producing or acquiring more, to feed more mouths. The Iron Age saw the advent of technologies of mass production, predominantly to support the needs, the cravings and wants of runaway population growth.

A way of life which was far simpler, more innocent, more wholesome has ended.

This was inevitable because with the advent of what  “Hindus” call  “Kali-Yuga” or the age of darkness and deceit, and the diluted following of higher religious principles, the quality of the representatives of the monarchy and the priestly advisors also deteriorated.

The general population is no longer able to take direction, nor follow, nor leave their welfare in the hands of a diminished leadership.

It is a wonder then, that the vacuum created  by the absence of a strong ruler, was filled by a variety of guiding principles that finally ended up in the sociopolitical systems that came into existence. ?

Communism was based on the commune, and its underlying principle was, 
From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs (Karl Marx). Now what is so wrong with this, especially since it talks about needs rather than wants.

Democracy in the words of Abraham Lincoln, is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Sound in principle all right, how about its practical application, more on this a little later.

The principles of Communism and all its varieties, Socialism in all its flavors and Democracy took root, grew, flourished, and fell by the wayside, one by one. Not one sociopolitical system has been able to address modern-day needs.

Whereas the center pin of Democracy is adult franchise, or the voice of the adult population in its destiny, though an admirable concept, it too has several fallacies.

Simply put, when we empower the general population to vote, we don’t in any way, shape or form, determine the level of intelligence or knowledge levels of that population to make a judgement based on intelligence or knowledge. Are we educating sufficiently the poor sods to take informed decisions? Isn’t the vote swung by sentiment, perception and a lot of influencing and lobbying?

Let us take the examples of two great functioning Democracies, the United States and India.

It is a well established that American isn’t New York or Chicago or its big cities. America is essentially its small towns and cities, where the population is largely ignorant about anything outside of the United States, or for that matter, the very towns where the bulk of its population lives. Looking at that slightly differently, anything outside of the purview of the American dream, whatever that is, is largely unknown to small town America. Read Kurt Vonnegut, a popular American author, and he says it much better than I ever can.

Now this population votes for a President of a Democratic Government based on the ignorance of its own population as to the world around them. And foreign policy of one of the most powerful countries on the face of the planet is left  to a Democratic Government, that was elected by a population largely unaware of the world around them in the first place. Very comforting isn’t it?

To be balanced take India, where the population is largely uneducated in the modern sense of the word, largely agrarian, and they in turn elect politicians to Government Office based on their lack of education. It is little wonder then, that a large percentage of the politicians in Government are corrupt, have criminal cases pending against them, and corruption runs rife! Somehow, I believe that our diverse but rich culture plays a large part in keeping the country running. I wouldn’t be too far off if I say, God runs India directly!

Has not each political system proved to be inadequate as the test of time has been applied? No sociopolitical system has withstood the test of time.

Ditto for economic systems, which are generally tied in to the political systems that are prevalent. Take capitalism, which is largely tied into Democracies. Take closed or protectionist economies which are dominant in countries that are communist. The Social-Democrats are the hybrid between Capitalism and closed economic systems.

Economic events in recent years have proved that pure capitalism, where pure profit or capital generation  rules the roost, is a failure. Money and power go hand in hand. Therefore the saying “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” applies to political or economic systems. Similarly the goal of pure capitalism  being money (and that too concentrated in the hands of few, with the good old 20:80 rule in full force), defeats the very principles or reasons why Monarchies and Church States were overthrown by a disgruntled population.

So have the concepts of mass production, economic growth, opening up of markets, faster, bigger, done any real good? Who have they served? Incomes have gone skyrocketing, so have taxes, so has the cost of living. We’ve moved from a  local, or regional economy to a global economy, yes? The world is flat, yes? But at the same time, have we not become economies of mass consumerism, of want rather than need?

Democracy in its purest form says that Governments should do just that Govern, and leave the business of money to the financial markets. So there is a tacit and implied separation of State and  Financial Markets. The only tie in its purest form is when the Government taps into financial markets to raise capital, and regulate markets when financial greed sets in.

But  for all intents and purposes regulation has been a failure, as events have repeatedly demonstrated. So has the separation of Government and Financial Markets really worked for the layman, or has he had to see  his tax money used to bail out greedy corporations?

Therefore I propose, that there cannot be separation of culture and religion, in the same way that there cannot be a separation of Government and Financial Markets, under an ideal Democracy.

We also talk in general terms that Culture and Religion are distinct. I disagree, there are overlaps. With those of you, who confuse modern day living (devoid of traditions and culture), a cultural experience, I have no desire for a debate. But for those who think that Culture comes from an inheritance of experience, of “Samskaras” of knowledge handed down via the Guru-Shishya (Master-Teacher) succession, then  we can have a very interesting and positive debate.

After the barbarian, or nomadic times, (I forget what Age that is called, ah yes – The Stone Age),  as man became more civilized and evolved, a need was felt  for Governance. Well the governance was provided by the biggest bully, and is it really any different now? Strip away the facade and that still pretty much the case in large parts of the world. The bullying emanates from wealth, from physical force, from misinterpreted religious doctrine.

Governance,  was all-encompassing, covering social and economic, principles. Administration of the principles of Governance was left to a set of people who were in tune with the Gods, or nature, or whatever they believed to be a “Higher Power”.  As feudal lords became more powerful, they became Monarchs, or Religious Heads. They Governed on certain “higher principles”, catering to the greater common good. However, history tells us that each time a Monarch became a “Despot” and sooner or later there was a change, an overthrow, a coup.

In the modern state, the higher principles have proven to be money, power and military might, all in the name of progress, and in the most prescriptive manner possible.

In ending I can just say, that I believe, that all systems of Government have failed, all economic systems have found to be inadequate, when examined under the lens of “The Greater Common Good”.  Is there an answer, yes, but one that is hard to digest. A return to a state (I mean state of existence), based on  “Higher Principles”. I don’t believe that the guiding principles of any of the political systems or religious doctrines are bad.

In fact quite the opposite. They were created according to the time, place and circumstances prevalent.

Take the example of being able to have four wives. How and when did this come about? This came about during the crusades, when the Christians and Muslims were at war for the longest time. At this time, because the male population was diminishing, in order to protect women and children and to provide for them, it was permitted to take more than one wife, lest unprotected women are exploited. That principle was a time, place and circumstance thing, and look at how this got so contaminated later.

Do the leaders of the required stature, of the required intellect, of the required nobility exist? Rarely so.

The answer lies within each an every one of us, to rise ourselves to that standard through a process of inner reflection, of study, of purification to  equip ourselves to pass on that vast body of knowledge to the GenNext as we call them these days.

Memories of Happier Times – Love for My Sister

Shruti, my kid sister, well not so kid anymore, but still……
she is fourteen years younger than me, so kid holds.

The day before yesterday was August 2 or as people from India would remember, Rakshabandhan. Literally translated “Raksha=Protection”, and “Bandhan=Ties”, or in terms of significance “Protective Tie”.

I was out that night with clients in from Nigeria, and over dinner at Mainland China, the talk turned to Rakshabandhan.

What is this Ra….sha… something, said the client, not quite able to pronounce the word! Is it some kind of holiday?

My heart stopped for a moment or two on account of the deep pain I felt, my eyes welled up, and I hastily excused myself to go to the washroom. So you’re probably going, what gives! Allow me to come back to that please.

Back from the “washroom”, I attempted to explain to my guests something about Indian culture which can be a mite difficult at times. “Ra….sha….” or Rakshabandhan, I explained was an ago old tradition, steeped in deep symbolism, sentiment, and a very practical custom.

In Indian culture, religion, and in general in our way of life, a woman needs to be supported and protected all her life, right from the time she comes into this world. As a child she is under the protection of her father and brother. The “Kanyadaan” or “gift of the daughter“ ceremony during her wedding, is the time that the mantle of protection transfers from the father to the husband. When the husband is no more, the role passes to her son.

But even when she is married checks and balances have been built into the social fabric, where an “inspection”, is carried out by the girl child’s parents, and brother via several sociocultural, and religious festivals each year, where the girl’s parents and family are provided the opportunity to check on the now married girl’s life, and her situation post marriage.

The brother is given pride of place, and twice a year, the brother and sister are drawn together under the old traditions, to validate and ensure that the sister is happily married, that she is being taken care of, that she is not in some financial, or social or physical disadvantage.

Rakshabandhan, usually comes around the month of August and at this time, brothers visit the home of their sisters to renew their ties. This is symbolized by the sister tying a silken thread, on the right wrist of her brother, and in return the brother renews his vow of taking care of his beloved sister.

The selection of the thread is not without meaning, it is silk whose fibers are strong. The ceremony is sanctified by a sacred fire, vermillion powder “kumkuma”, and a few grains of rice, an age-old Indian tradition. She feeds the brother sweets, and the brother usually gives her some gifts, which could be jewelry and cash. If during the “visit” to the sister’s home the brother finds that the sister is unhappy, or is facing some financial impediment, or is not appropriately treated, the brother “intervenes” to set things right.

The in-laws and the husband are sent a message in this fashion, that they need to beware, this is my sister, she is under my protection, don’t mess…..

As I narrated the significance of this “Ra….sha….” to my client, he was amazed, and said with immediate effect he was going to adopt this tradition into his family back home in Nigeria! Talk about cultural inclusion across boundaries.

The tears in my eyes were not without reason.

Shruti, my kid sister (all of fourteen years younger), is happily married to Dhiraj, a really great guy, has two kids, Pralhad and Dhruv (lovely boys), and is settled in America.

I traveled to the US of company business frequently, and visited their home as often as possible, and it was always a great couple of days with Shriti and her family.

We were later estranged due to some indiscretions on my part, and several years ago, I walked out of her home in America after a massive argument and we were barely on talking terms.

I just felt so hurt when we argued, that my kid sister, who was hardly in a position to comment or for that matter pass judgement about my character, not being privy to the reasons behind my indiscretions, was making pronouncements and passing judgement. The hurt was not really because of her reaction, or her comments, but had more to do with the fact that in one fell swoop, I was the bad guy. I was thinking, that I have brought her up, I have changed her diapers, I have bathed her, I have picked her up and dropped her to school, and now suddenly I am a bad guy? Whatever happened to all that?

With the several years of hindsight from the time of that incident, I can understand that she was suffering as well. She worshipped me, her brother was someone she really looked up to, and someone she thought could do no wrong. She must have struggled with the fact that her brother was human too, and it was possible for him to make mistakes. I think, added to the fact is that Shruti, is really close to my kids, especially Krishanu, my eldest, who she’s spent quality time with, and my indiscretions had impacted my family quite adversely.

So dinner over, I dropped the guests to a cab, and as I strolled along the promenade I saw a very strange SMS from my dad. It said something like, “I have been thinking about him since morning”, “I tried to call him”, “I’m going to the hospital to see a friend”. On seeing such a SMS would you blame me for being a bit confused? I called my dad and asked him what that SMS was all about, who was in the hospital, etc. He then told me that is was an SMS that he received from Shruti my sister, and that she had been trying to call me! That SMS was about me!

Maybe I should skip over the eyes welling up again bit, but you know what? I’m not ashamed. I love my sister dearly and I have really missed her sorely these past few years. So I tried calling her but wasn’t able to get through. Instead sent her a SMS letting her know that I had fond memories of the happier times we had together when she was a kid (still is for me).

Almost instantly comes her reply, saying that time and distance have separated us long enough, and she wanted to talk to me. I tried calling her again, but to my dismay no one answered. I guess I will have to wait to talk to her some other time, but I’m hoping that the bridges can be mended.

Today is Sunday, the only day really that I get a chance to reminisce, and today all I’m thinking is of Shruti, my little sister, who is not so little anymore.

I’m thinking about the time I crashed my car in the great hurry to get her to school on time. I’m thinking about the time when I almost ran over the marching contingent from her school that was marching on the road as I came tearing around the corner. I’m thinking about the time when I ran over a hen as I made that daily dash to get her to school on time, and how I had to contend with a mob who was looking to lynch me. I’m thinking about the time when I was in Abu Dhabi and got a call from her telling me that she had delivered her first child, and decided to name him Dhruv, knowing that I would just love the name, it being from scripture. The second boy Pralhad, was also named based on scripture. I’m thinking about her wedding, and the fact that I had so much professional adversity at the time, that I couldn’t spend those last few days with her before she went away.

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I remember clearly, when one Saturday afternoon Shruti and Bhavna asked me out to lunch, and Bhavna tells me that Shruti wants to tell me something. I can still remember the look on her face, when the first thing I asked her is “so who is the boy”, without even knowing that she was seeing someone! So I got the low down, and I ask that the boy is summoned to see “The Bhai”. The boy presents himself, and is to be confronted in a rather hostile interview. This is my baby sister for cryin’ out loud. The hostile plan was a damp squib, and was no fun at all. I instantly liked this guy, and so my approval is readily given.

See I follow this five second rule, and if someone doesn’t cut it in the first five seconds, that person won’t ever make it at all.

She was engaged in a ceremony at our home, and a few months later she was married, and a few months later she was gone. Gone to live with her lovely husband Dhiraj. I don’t think I have ever told her this, but I really missed her.

I remember that when I was much younger and Shruti was not yet born, each Rakshabandhan day I would be most upset because there was nobody to tie me Rakhi, except my dad’s sister, which wasn’t really the same as having a real sister. And then fourteen years after me there was Shruti!

I can remember the day she was born like it was yesterday! It was in my last year in high school, and it was exam-time. I woke up and my grandmother told me that mom and dad had gone to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning. I was so excited that I could barely write my exam! I finished my paper about half an hour early, ran to the principal’s office and told him I wanted to leave. Good old Father Aleu, it happened to be his birthday too, and he let me go. So my best friend Darryl and I get on to our bicycles and rushed to the hospital. Shruti had not yet popped out, and so I was allowed briefly to see my mom who was undergoing a C Section. And in just a little bit, out came Shruti. I spent days at the hospital, gazing upon this little creature that I had waited so many years for.

I so distinctly remember all her friends, and to all of them I was also Bhai, or big brother. Hell, I’m Bhai even to my parents and my kids, and their friends as well.

She and her family visit every couple of years and the house is full of activity and laughter for a few days. The boys are so loving and well-mannered, and its no real wonder. Dhiraj and Shruti are wonderful parents.

This year as I turn fifty I know that over half my life has passed me by. I’ve seen some amazing times, and then I have seen adversity. At such times, I’m ever so grateful, that I can fall back on memories of a time when life was less complicated, I wasn’t married, there was just my kid sister and me! Memories of Happier times.

I have three lovely kids, the KKK as we sometimes call them, Krishanu, Keertana and Kartikeya. I really want them to realize that they need to make the most of the time they have together right now, before they get responsibilities thrust upon them, and at a time when they are free to enjoy each other’s company without the overheads that a family life brings.

And then when they all go their own separate ways, as is bound to happen soon enough, they too will be able to look back on simpler times and cherish the memories of happier times.

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