Comprehending the Cosmos

     If the question of ‘when we came’ is passionately controversial, then the issue of ‘what we are’ is absolutely incomprehensible. Our Beginning is a complex topic of assumptions, calculations, and postulations with a variety of groups from tribes to religions to scientists claiming absolute knowledge and each discrediting the other’s claim of understanding and belief. When finally, we emerge out of the dispute with mixed emotions or even feel pleased that we have won the argument, we start looking around trying to understand who we are, where we are and what it is all about, we are led to an unconditional state of inexplicable awareness; an extremely astonishing status of alertness.
     The complexity of the Cosmos is stunning; way beyond comprehension and assimilation of human intellectual capacity. Each of us owes it to our own existence to periodically envisage the enormity and complexity of the immense family that we belong to and contemplate on the magical nature of the whole reality; or at least the notion of it all. Beyond the infinitesimally minute understanding of the immediate concept of our belonging, it will be fascinating to imagine, explore and dwell on the magnitude of our connections and the precise place we occupy in the enormous context of the colossal cosmos.
     Where should we even begin or attempt to begin? Should we start at the very outside of the farthest entity of our concept and zero in or is it more interesting to approach it from the deepest, the smallest entity and let our analysis grow outwardly and away to the limit of our imagination? Perhaps from the convenience 226 of reckoning an established standard, it may be prudent to initiate our exploration from the element that we understand and naively boast as ‘our body’. Assuming that unit to be the most admired and precious to most humans, it will be effortless for our imagination to soar in either direction as we attempt to locate our position in the grandiose design of existence. With the available assistance of modern technology and the information it can offer us, we presently have the ability and the luxury of enjoying an unprecedented understanding of our physical being as it relates to our surroundings. That perhaps is a meaningless assessment and statement as we begin to realize that the limits of our grasp of things could continue to vary as we progress in our ways of gathering more information. Anyone with any sense of reason and element of humility should easily arrive at the conclusion that our enthusiastic imagination and limitless urge for knowledge eventually fade into submission and a total surrender to an Ultimate Reality resting within our consciousness. With that notion assimilated and purely as an exercise of limited yet satisfying rewards, let us explore the perspective of our place within the vast confines of the cosmos.
     If we imagine traveling upwards and outwards into space, looking at our home the earth and enjoying our views at the power of ten at height, in meters, the sight can take us from micro to macrocosms. We can continue the trip as much as we desire until we get convinced about the limits of our knowledge or a clue about our ignorance. At about a meter height, we could see the leaves in a garden and at ten meters height, we see the foliage which at hundred meters becomes the extent of the forest. At a kilometer height, we see the land like from a parachute, but at ten kilometers the city is visible, but not the houses as units. At a hundredkilometer height, the shapes of states can be visible and at a thousand kilometers we get a view as if from a satellite. At 10,000 kilometers, we can see the shape of the globe with its curvature, the shapes of continents and oceans with the clouds in between. Ten times beyond that, the earth begins to appear small; at a million kilometers the orbits of the earth and moon appear white, which changes to blue when we travel to ten million kilometers. At a hundred million kilometers, orbits of Venus and earth appear and at a billion, that of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter can be visualized. At ten billion kilometers we see the solar system and the orbits of the planets which begin to appear small at a hundred billion kilometers. At a trillion kilometers, the sun becomes a small star in the middle of thousands of others. At the distance of one light year, the solar system becomes tiny and beyond ten light years, we do not see anything in the infinity. At a hundred light-years of distance, only nebulae of the spread of stars are visible and at a thousand light years, we get into navigating the ‘milky way’ of our galaxy. As we continue our sojourn to 100,000 light years, we begin to reach the periphery of the milky-way and at a million light years we can see the other galaxies as well. At ten million light-years of distance, the galaxies appear small with huge empty spaces.
     If we reverse the journey of imagination and dig deep inside the matter, we end up ultimately with the similar experience of emptiness. Inversely from our starting point of the leaves, we go to 10 centimeters, where we can differentiate the leaves, then at 1 cm. We can see the structure of the leaves and closer the cellular structure becomes obvious. At 100-micron level, the cells and their union become visible and at 1 micron the nucleus appears. Changing the unit, at the Angstroms level, we can see the chromosomes; at 100 Angstroms
     (10-8) DNA chain is visible and at 10 Angstroms chromosome blocks can be studied. At 1 Angstrom, clouds of electrons comprised of Carbon atoms that formed the world begin to be visible, thus the microcosm resembling the macrocosm. At 10 Picometers, we can see the electrons orbiting the nucleus and further down at 1 Picometer, we see an immense empty space between the nucleolus and the electron orbits. At 100 Centimeters, we see the nucleolus of the atom and at 10 to the power of -14, the nucleolus of the carbon atom can be observed. At 1 Centimeter, we are in the field of scientific imagination, face to face with a proton. Going even further down, at 100 Atometers level, we can examine the ‘quark’ particles beyond which there is nowhere to go, where we reach the limit of present scientific knowledge and the limit of ‘matter’.
     With the knowledge that we gained from our exploration, we can sit back and decide where we really belong, the center of the entity being ‘the human being’, the special creature of creation that he fits in the totality of existence. We can even strain our brains imagining what is beyond the limits of our imagination. Are we alone in the universe or are we part of an immense conglomerate puzzle? How much a single entity, the body, the mind, the intellect, and the soul and anything beyond that fits into the puzzle, can claim to be separate and functioning on its own? To what degree or extent can we claim to be controlling our own deeds, decisions, and outcomes, or are we made to believe that we are totally in control of our destiny. The reality, the truth, as we often address such a concept, will ever be revealed or will it ever remain an enigma to any intelligent understanding? Such an understanding may be exclusively reserved for a selected few soul with enlightenment bestowed on them or even be excluded beyond the grasp of the human mind and its limit of perception. Perhaps ‘the entity’ in control has meant it all along to keep that information beyond the concept and confines of perception.
     Interestingly, such information is a privileged subject that religions may want to explore but at the risk that such revelation may go against the theory and philosophy that may not be best suited for their promotion or even existence. It may appear prudent, even appealing and productive that if an earnest attempt is made by the various religious leaders with philosophical, altruistic inclination was to congregate, discuss, analyze and advocate a combined understanding and declare the outcome to the benefit of humanity in general. Perhaps such an effort is never initiated or attempted on grounds that the objective of religious entities is to stay independent, each claiming distinctive dominance and conceptually different ideologies.

My Thoughts about Creation

     Since there is no simple, abbreviated way to pass it on, pardon me if this gets lengthy and hazy. I am attempting to deal with a topic of discussion based on millennia-old writings, assumptions, imaginations, speculations, folklore and my faith along with some scientific observations. Every human being is at liberty to accept and believe a theory which they are comfortable to believe.
     According to Hindu concept, which is basically the Indian concept, all the information is derived from old scriptures – the Vedas, believed to be of divine origin, compiled by sages from 6000 B.C, onwards, classified into hundreds of disciplines and each comprised of many volumes. These are so hard to understand and not taught in schools or religious institutions and only taken up by scholars who are well versed in Sanskrit. It is said that even to understand and study the classification of all the scriptures, it takes about six months. Many of these have been lost to time and invasions by aggressors from other countries.
     About creation, there is a hymn in Rig Veda “None knoweth whence creation has arisen, and whether He has or has not produced it. He who surveys it in the highest heavens, he only knows, or perhaps he knows not.” This hesitancy to claim superiority and exclusiveness of thoughts, beliefs, and practices have minimized dogmatism in the Hindu religion, leading to belief in religious tolerance.
     Hindu belief is that the universe is without a beginning or end, but rather 223 projected in cycles each lasting about 12 million years and ending in a cosmic deluge. According to the Upanishads, the universe arises from Brahman, the Supreme Reality which has no attributes and forms the Ultimate Principle underlying the universe. Regarded from the point of view of Time, Brahman is Eternity or Immortality; measured from the point of view of Space, He is Infinity or Universality; regarded from the point of view of Causality, He is Absolute Freedom.
     There are five great elements (Panchabhutas) which are the ingredients of all observable matter in the universe, including our physical bodies. They are Ether (Akasha – gravitational energy), Air (Vayu – kinetic energy), Fire (Tejas – radiation or light), Water (Ap- Electricity), and Earth (Prithvi – Magnetism). Advaita (non-dualism) philosophy holds that the Brahman (supreme reality) and Atman (individual soul) are identical even though they appear to be different as a result of universal ignorance. As per the belief, there is divinity in every living organism. Sankhya is a system founded by sage Kapila, which advocates an evolutionary view of the universe based on continuity of life from the lowest to the highest level of existence. Since modern science does not yet recognize the concept of an individual soul of Hindu philosophy, the discussion about creation can only apply to the evolution of the observable matter. Hindu concept holds that the soul, depending on the good or evil deeds of each life, as dictated by the ‘karma’, can act as a catalyst in the subsequent life cycles.
     Now the explanation of Male/Female concept: The Primal Existence turned toward manifestation has a double aspect – Male and Female, Purusha and Prakriti, Positive and Negative. The process of manifestation of the Brahman for expression is executed by a Power which is inherent in His Being. It is this Power that turns the wheel of Brahman. That Power is Sakti, the Energy of the Divine self, which is the female aspect. Her relationship with the Lord is spoken of in the Upanishads in terms of the Female and Male, the executive and creative aspects of Manifestation. The Man and the Woman, Universal Adam and Eve are really one; each one is incomplete without the other, inactive without the other. Purusha the Male, God, is that side of the One which gives the impulse towards phenomenal existence; Prithvi the Female, Nature, is that side which is and evolves the material of phenomenal existence – both are unborn and eternal.
     The doctrine of ‘sin’ is not accepted in Hinduism. According to the Hindu view, man commits sin only because of his ignorance of his own true nature. Due to ‘avidya’ (ignorance), man perceives himself as an independent entity, separate from ‘Brahman’. This ignorance makes him forget his real nature and his intimate relationship with the Divine. Under this delusion, man behaves in petty ways and attaches himself to fear, craving, anger and so on. In the Hindu view, ‘ignorance’ of ‘Self’ is the root cause of all evils in the world. Self-knowledge is thus essential in eliminating evil since knowledge destroys ignorance.
     Interestingly, it is mentioned that many of these concepts go alongside with the modern understanding of theoretical physics. Principles of Relativity and Quantum theory have alluded in connection with the Hindu philosophy about the universe. I found a mention of Sage Sankara, who already started writing where Einstein ended centuries later.
     Because of the enormity and complexity of the writings, very few Indians (Hindus) even bother to delve into the scriptures. In fact, Hinduism is not a true religion in the broader sense, but a philosophy towards understanding the meaning of human existence, as scholars have narrated centuries ago. Scholars in every religion have promulgated theories about life and the universe, which to the common man, may be too hard to fathom. Eventually, we can identify similarities between all the concepts from different observations and if someone is willing to and makes an effort to write a treatise bridging all the gaps, perhaps we can see something close to the total reality.
(December 24, 2008)

The Beginning – Or

Beginning; origin; start; source; foundation; basis…

     Is there a Beginning on its own? Is there ever a beginning from ‘nothing’? Is there an origin or a start of anything from nothing? Has anyone seen, observed or felt anything new, anything original born out of nothing, without a previous form or feeling? To our common understanding, there always exists a substance or substrate or experience for anything to originate from; be it another substance or be it a sensation. Always it is a transformation, a modification, or an alteration of something pre-existing for anything to evolve; anything at all. For water, it is either ice or steam or Hydrogen and Oxygen; for a plant, there is a seed, for a creature it is an ovum or a cell; for a sculpture, it may be a block of wood or clump of clay. For Life, essentially, there must be something vital as its origin. For an inanimate object, there usually has a precursor form. For a feeling, there always is a reason; for hunger, it is the empty stomach, for fear, there has to be a scare; for love, there will be an objective reason, a focus.

In the case of ‘the Universe’, is it any different?

     For the beginning of the Universe, for the Galaxy, for the enormity of all that exists, there is bound to be a previous state or perhaps at least a valid explanation, which we may or may not be able to comprehend; yet, it has to be there. It is very unlikely, at least from the perception of human experience that Cosmos originated out of Nothing. If we can figure out a definition for that ‘Nothing’ or if we can come up with an explanation that there was ‘Something’ prior to ‘Everything’, then the process can be understood as a phenomenon without a real beginning or an end. For one to assimilate the concept of origin there has to be a substantial faith convincing to that conscience or a logical theory postulated and accepted by the scientific circle. For the former group, those who approach it through sheer belief, or accept it as an act of faith, every religion has their account of creation revealing their belief how everything began. For the scientific mind, inquisitive of proof, volumes are available explaining the various theories about the origin of cosmos and that of evolution. Often most of us come up with our own comfortable conclusion depending on our upbringing and the extent of information we are exposed to which make a meaningful inference to our probing minds.
     While dealing with a subject which is understood in a variety of ways and the details of which are so obscure, hard to be explained or be proved, it makes reasonable sense to look at it with an inquiring mind and with a broad attitude. Another option is to be dogmatic and deceive one’s own judgment.
     As an interesting, educational exercise let us journey through the various ways the different religions approach the concept of the ‘very beginning’ and how they compare or conflict with the truly scientific findings that are on record.

     Hindu belief is that the universe is essentially without beginning or end, life being in the midst of an infinite cycle of cosmic deaths and births, dictated and controlled by an enormous concept, God. Hindus consider that the creator is transcendent, ruling beyond the dimensional limits of the universe, beyond time and space. In that context, the Hindu view differs from the “big-bang” theory, which proposes that the entire universe, all the matter and energy and the dimensions of time and space, exploded into existence from an infinite density, approximately 15 billion years ago. Accommodating into the Hindu belief, perhaps such big-bang explosions can just be the ‘beginning’ of every cycle in the ongoing cosmic evolutions. Such a theory would give credence to the notion of a steady state of affairs rather than of a one-time occurrence, even if such an event were to repeat once every few billions of years.

     The ancient Hindu scriptures, like the Rigveda, Manusmriti, Upanishads, and others, devised by sages of antiquity, describes the universe as going through a continuous, cyclical process. God creates and destroys this universe in a cycle of eras, named Krita Yuga (1,728,000 years), Treta Yuga (1,296,000 years), Dwapara Yuga (864,000 years) and Kali Yuga (432,000 years). Our present universe is considered to be in the Kali-yuga for the last 5,000 years. After each cycle, there is a transitional period where the universe is deluged by huge flooding. One combined unit of the four yugas makes one cycle and 71 such cycles comprise one ‘Manu’. Since this creation, it has been six different Manus and the current period is the 28th cycle of the seventh Manu, which has 43 more four-yuga cycles remaining. Then there will be seven more Manus before the universe will come to an end and will be recreated again. A thousand four-yuga periods (Mahayuga) comprise one day of the Creator Brahma and another thousand such periods make one night for him. The universe lasts for the duration of the creator’s one day (4,320 Billion years) and it stays unmanifest for the duration of his night. When He wakes up, the universe is in motion again. The day and night of Brahma are called a Kalpa, which is equal to 2000 Mahayugas. It is said that when Brahma starts his day, all entities become manifest from the un-manifest state and when his night starts, they all go back to the un-manifest state. The 15 billion years as stated in the big-bang theory is only two days to Lord Brahma, the God of creation. When modern astronomy deals with billions of years, Hindu creation concepts deal with trillions of years, yet with no beginning or end, but going in an everlasting circle. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna states, “At the beginning of time or Kalpa, I create everything and at the end of time Kalpa, the whole creation 217 merges in me; the whole universe is created and annihilated by my will”. “I am life, cause of all life and I am death, devoure of all”.

     The Biblical understanding about the Beginning of the Universe is very clear, according to Genesis 1: 1-4; that God created the universe in six days, thousands of years ago. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth and the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”
     The Bible informs us that time is a dimension that God created, into which man was subjected to. God exists in eternity outside the dimension He created (2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2) and He is not subject to time. Because we live in the dimension of time, it is impossible for us to understand anything without a beginning or an end. Believing in the concept of God’s eternal nature, we believe the concept of space having no beginning or end.
     Even though there are differences of understanding between various fundamentalists and liberal groups among Christians as to the actual length of days mentioned in the Genesis, essentially the belief attributes God as the creator. Also accommodating scientific theories especially of evolution versus creation is a topic of controversy, with varying degrees of opinion among different groups. The belief is driven purely by the love of God and not by an objection to science.

     As per Quran, the divine revelation of Islam, Allah created the universe from nothing and brought into existence all the creatures. It makes unmistakable reference to the fact that Allah created it from a single entity, and He is All-capable over all things. Allah then ordered the ‘single entity’ to split, which it did, and turned into a cloud of smoke. From this cloud, Allah created the heavens and earth. (2:117, 21:30)
     The descriptions in the Quran are not intended as dry historical accounts, but rather to engage the reader in contemplating the lessons to be learned from. The act of creation is thus frequently spoken of as a way of drawing the reader into thinking about the All-knowing Creator Who is behind it all.
     When describing the creation of the ‘heavens and earth’, the Quran does not discount the theory of a “Big Bang” explosion at the start of it all. In fact, the Quran says that “the heavens and earth were joined together as one unit before we clove them asunder” (21:30). The elements and what were to become the planets and stars began to cool, come together and form into shape, following the natural laws that Allah established in the universe. The Quran further states that Allah created the sun, the moon, the planets and the rest, each with their own individual courses or orbit (21:33).

     According to Jewish legend: “In the beginning – before the beginning – God’s light filled the entire universe. When God decided to create the world, He had to withdraw some of His light from the universe, so that there would be space for the land and the seas, the trees and the corn stalks, the butterflies and the lions, the ladybugs and the sea otters. So God breathed in some of the Divine light so that there would be room for all the things He wanted to create.
     And then God began to create: the sky and the earth, the drylands and the waters, the fiery sun, the shimmering moon and the twinkling stars, the forests and the deserts, the creepy crawly things and the birds of the air, the fish of the seas and the animals roaming from here to there. Each of the little shards of light, the sparks of God, became the soul of a human being. God declared that the crowning works of creation were these humans, created in His image, created with a spark of His Divine Being. And to man and woman, God assigned a divine task and a sacred mission.
     ”The traditional Jewish interpretation of Biblical creation differs from that of Christian creationism. The more science discovers, there may be more of a convergence of science and that of Jewish interpretation of Genesis. The controversy between the six days of creation according to Genesis when compared to the 15 billion cited by science may have some compromise if the ‘day’ as mentioned in Genesis is a ‘divine day’, which is actually 365,250 years long. “A thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday” (Psalm 90:4), since each year contains 364 ¼ days, the calculation may put the two figures approximate each other.

     At the very beginning, what existed was void; Chaos, according to Greeks. A void is emptiness, a dark emptiness where nothing is visible, endless, and bottomless. Then earth appears; Gaia as the Greeks calls it, the floor of the world. Earth rises up in the very heart of the void and then shapes up like mountains and oceans and the rest. Primordial love is the next to appear, Eros. Then two offspring Uranus and Pontus, Sky and Sea are born from where the rest is born.

     According to “Egyptian cosmology” by Moustafa Gadalla, they have monotheistic mysticism, go along with the Big Bang theory that started the universe and applies it to a concept of cosmic consciousness. The Big Crunch would end the universe and the Big Bounce would start creation all over again.

     The Chinese concept of the origin of the universe is from that of space and time, reflected by the term yu-zhou, meaning a continuum without bounds and limits. The concept is compatible with the modern theory of the universe. Before the existence of heaven and earth, there was complete chaos. Silent! Empty! From the chaotic state, the universe entered a state of order in which all things were produced in accordance with the spontaneous dao, the ‘mother’ of all things.

Then there are numerous thoughts about the Beginning and about creation from many corners of the earth as believed by different tribes like the Zulus, Efics, Apaches, Aztecs, Mayans, Australian Aborigines, and others.

     Based on the findings of modern research, most scientists at the moment favor the Big Bang theory as the beginning of the Universe. It states that the Universe in its current shape is only a phase of a process that started with a gigantic explosion about 15 million years ago. The entire matter and energy were condensed into an infinitely small volume, which blasted into the matter, energy, space and time. The period ‘Before’ the explosion does not exist because, ‘time’ and ‘space’ did not exist before that.
     After the explosion, the ‘space’ created was filled with ‘energy’ and had an extremely high temperature. Instantaneously, ‘elementary matter’ came into existence, followed by protons, neutrons, and electrons which all started expanding. Since the beginning, it is said that the universe is constantly cooling and expanding simultaneously. This era is called the ‘radiation’ era since electromagnetic radiation was the most important phenomenon in the universe. After several thousand years, the temperature was cool enough for atoms to develop from elementary particles, especially hydrogen and helium; the era was called that of ‘matter’. After more thousands of years of cooling, the galaxies arose.
     The evidence of Big Bang theory came with the observation of Edwin Hubble and his space telescope, which could monitor activities in the space and follow the behavior of the planets and stars. It is observed that as the universe is expanding, the galaxies are drifting farther away from each other. There seem to be two possibilities to follow: either an Infinite Universe, if the expansion continues forever until all the galaxies form isolated islands in an infinite space-ocean, or, an Oscillating Universe which after the expansion stops, begin to shrink again and end in a thick mass of ‘singularity’, the opposite of Big Bang which can be called the Big Crunch.
     It will be relevant to make mention of Newton’s Laws, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Quantum Dynamics and the concept of Black Holes in the context of the Big Bang theory. Newton’s Law states that there needs a force acting on the mass to change its velocity. The General Theory of Relativity changed the basic concepts and showed that gravity is a property of space and not just a force between masses. It says that time is not a constant feature but will be expanded at high velocities like the speed of light or areas with intense gravity. It calculates the relationship between the dimensions of space and time. Quantum theory is the new branch of theoretical physics evolved to understand the properties of matter, which could not be explained, by classical mechanics or electromagnetic theory. It deals with the nature of sub-atomic particles and the heat radiation or the energy emitted by them, which are called quanta. Electrons revolve around the nucleus of the atoms, just as planets revolve around the sun. A Black Hole is an object whose gravity is so strong that the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light; the matter, which spirals into it, disappears extremely compressed and heated to extreme temperatures.
     The interesting findings of modern-day Physics seem to explain the cosmological events in many ways similar to those mentioned in eastern scriptures; that all observable and describable realities are manifestations of the same underlying ‘divine’ principle. In the multiplicity of things, there is unity; matter is many things and one thing at the same time.

     It is impossible to enumerate all the different viewpoints about the ‘beginning’ fostered by the numerous groups of believers around the world, from major religions to small tribal establishments, only a few of which could possibly be mentioned here. Faith is something very precious and personal to every individual, no matter how it may appear to others with an entirely different conviction. On issues with no concrete finality about the accuracy and assuming civility in our approach, such matters are best left at the discretion of the believers.
     Scientific theories are based on observations, analysis, and inference from data collected using systematic methodology, accepted by the scientific circle. Even though their findings may all be reasonably acceptable as facts, using the same examples of Newton’s Law is proved to be not all the truth and the Relativity theory being influenced by the Quantum Dynamics, scientific information will remain ‘true’ until the next ‘truth’ is invented in due course of time. Science also may remain elusive to understand and explain matters beyond a certain sphere of ‘time and space’. It will be prudent and sensible for any student who is honestly curious about knowing the truth without bias or preconceived notions to give scientific findings the respect they deserve. Perhaps much more complex, is for anyone seriously inquisitive yet accommodative, to respect the postulates put forward by the various religious circles, purely on the basis of faith. It is likely that the majority may be content and even comfortable to live with the limited understanding of the dictations of the faith they are brought up without doubting or questioning the authority of such teachings. When one is devotionally loyal to the ultimate submission to the concept of divinity they have subscribed to, all other explanations and pieces of evidence will automatically cease to impress them. After all, since no one has claimed for an ultimate truth unequivocally based on proof, scientific or otherwise, it will remain to be the call of the individual to believe whatever he feels comfortable to live with. Applying the same sentiments, it will be desirable for all of us to honor the others option on such preferences and respect their freedom to choose the way every individual feels at ease with. Arguments to establish the superiority of a certain philosophy and animosity over others who prefer to follow a different path is perhaps the basis of most of the turmoil that we face in today’s world.

What if you are a Hindu and living in the West

     Is it a boon or a bane; a blessing or a burden; is it a challenge, a liability, or an obligation; or is it really an opportunity and a responsibility? It could be any of it or all of it if you have a conscience about your religion or none at all if you do not care.
     Divine destiny has designated the West as our land of domicile. As we often boast the decision to be purely our intelligent choice, we are consciously cognizant of the many factors beyond our control that contributed to the reality. Having come to this ‘promised land’ with a dream and a desire to enhance our interests, we have struggled in getting educated, succeeding in careers, raising families and choosing to establish permanence here.
     Having accepted that reality, it is important for each of us to subject our minds to some degree of introspection, regarding our duty in our new homeland, towards Hindu Dharma, the religious faith that we have been born into and been raised. Even though it is imperative for every human to periodically brood over such a responsibility, it becomes all the more urgent and critical for those of us who chose to navigate our lives away from the natural habitat of our religious traditions. In spite of destiny that pulled us away from our base, deep within most of us, in our fundamental elements, in our innate emotional habitudes, there lurks an intense desire, an affinity, and love of the unique, fundamental traits of being a Hindu. That certain virtue, as subtle as it may be, is distinctly felt by most of us, brought up in our traditions. The attribute should lead us to cultivate a deep sense of moral conscience to uphold our faith with reverence, as much as we care about our profession, our family and the society we live in. It should not be just an option; it should be embraced as an opportunity. It is our privilege, our blessed entitlement to recognize and do our little part.
     Each of us should do some soul searching as to how we can be effective in our adopted land to perpetuate our traditional practices and prevent them from perishing. It is crucial that we sincerely establish our lifestyle, perhaps within 181 reasonable limitations, yet always adhering to the fundamental teachings of our glorious traditions. It is important that our children see us walking the talk, that it will instill in them a sense of belonging, security and even pride. Unlike in India, where no one questions about the rationale of the rituals and everyone is immersed in the same lifestyle, here we need to have a fundamental understanding of the basic principles of our Dharma and the symbolic meaning of certain practices. It takes an earnest effort, but it will be amply rewarded in our old age, as we watch the younger generation carry over the customs. I would like to add, regretfully, that many of the Hindus do not have a clue about the basics of our faith, often passionately speaking of our weaknesses and even boasting of their ignorance. These groups are the nemesis to our religion and are often beyond any scope of correction.
     Hindu Dharma is a discipline of life-based on observation, inference, and evolution of understanding it. Its tenets are principles imbibed from Nature, studied and recorded by sages and philosophers for many millennia. Its basic principles rest on simple, yet the Ultimate Truth; its complex philosophy may often exceed limitations of our comprehension. It is a ‘way of life’ advocated on principles of Eternal Righteousness, “Sanatana Dharma’. To envisage the meaning of Sanatana Dharma is an accomplishment in elucidating the true meaning of existence. The axiom of Hindu belief is the universal presence of Divinity in everything that exists. The ultimate goal of life to a Hindu is realizing that fact and merging with the Original Presence, escaping from the cycles of life and death. We believe in ‘Karma’, the inevitable yardstick evaluating our performance and tabulating scores required to earn such salvation.
     Living here, we have to be our own ambassadors to help promote and preserve our faith for the next generations, in a land alien to our traditions. It is essential that we make an effort to explain to non-Hindus, the principles of our Dharma, the meaning of our many rituals; invite them to attend our festivals and share with them the joy of our festivities. Extend our role beyond the rituals, crossing over our celebrations but projecting the principles of Hindu teachings in helping the ones in need, in getting involved in worthy causes of the community we live in
     Hinduism gets often accused of multiple gods, idol worship and caste differentiation, mostly out of ignorance or from purposeful distortions. We believe in one God, who can be worshipped in Its numerous manifestations, just as water is seen as ice, steam or flowing river. Idols are objects to allow one to visually concentrate on an identifiable focus for practical comprehension of an enormous, nebulous concept. Castes and class differentiations were originally instituted as a means of division of labor but got abused by vested interests.
     Hinduism does not have any traceable origin (anadhi) unlike most of the prominent, popular religions in the world, most of which originated about two to 182 three millenniums ago. Hindu Dharma neither does have a founder (apourusheya), unlike the other religions, which emerged from some very divine souls who started spreading the praise of the Creator to educate, to enlighten and to guide the masses through the path of righteousness. They gathered followers who spread their message across, preaching the philosophy and campaigning for inclusions and conversions.
     It is important for every Hindu to consciously and deliberately attempt to make our principles understood, that our Dharma upholds lofty ideals, that it is based on basic doctrines of good living, that it is open to all, whether a Hindu or not, that it extols well being of entire humanity, that it is a religion of allencompassing love, not of hate or fear.
     Each Hindu should be involved in the local temples if they are fortunate to have one nearby. Sri Meenakshi Temple has set an exemplary example; our humble dream has blossomed into an enormous reality. To have been committed from its inception, to watch it grow and to have its services available for our various needs, has been a blessing beyond emotional expression. Throughout the United States, many temples have been created, catering to the needs of Hindus in the area. It is heartening to note that most of us have a temple within a reasonable driving distance.
     As a group with enormous patronage of the temple as our base, it is time that we take initiative to formulate guidelines and spearhead a divine obligation, that of disseminating the fundamental philosophy of Sanatana Dharma. Such an effort is essential in the present climate and in the foreseeable future, to expel misconceptions about the integrity and magnanimity of our faith. It will be our generous gesture to make such a treasure available to the entire humanity, as we concomitantly establish an effort to conserve our heritage and preserve our posterity. (July 26, 2006)

The Healing: Manisha Koirala in conversation with Sanjoy K. Roy

     ‘Health is Wealth’ assumes vaster dimensions when heard from a supreme star who has lived through the sentimental quote. And when such a story is candidly narrated with assurance and humility, the audience can get drawn into an intimate sense of reality that can be both intimidating and encouraging.
     ‘Healing’ is the poignant life story of Bollywood actor Manisha Koirala, as she shares the highs and lows of her life, her career and her battle with ovarian cancer. The compelling presentation was perhaps one of the most personal and reflective sessions of JLF Houston, as the famous actress portrayed her celebrated life and shared it with the listeners, in an unpretentious manner. Born into an illustrious family of leaders and politicians, raised in luxury, sheltered as a princess without the struggles and vicissitudes of the commoners, she reached the pinnacle of fame as one of the most sought-after and highest award-winning Bollywood actresses. Unlike most who have to strive and hustle to enter a field like movies, and in spite of some apprehensions of a Koirala girl getting into a field of some questionable repute, Manisha was invited and accepted by Shekhar Kapur, one of the prominent directors in the industry. And with her stunning looks and inherent theatrical spark, she shot up to the acme of acting through role after role.
     But malady struck her in a flurry, crudely and mercilessly. It was a sudden deviation, a swift, shifting of gears from superstardom to struggle for survival. The trip from gleaming movie scenes to the Sloan Kettering operating room, eleven hours of an elaborate surgery, the agonizing ordeals of chemotherapy and its cruel aftermath, and eventual recuperation reclaiming her life, were aspects enumerated by Manisha in her naturally outspoken manner. As she endured through shock and disbelief, switching from hope to hopelessness, her eternal optimism, a sheer defiance against being a victim, and an attitude of accepting defeat with dignity were perhaps her eventual saviors, in addition to abundant, endearing family support. She mentioned a particular incident where a cyclist on the road recognized her and encouraged her to beat her nemesis and get back to life, as she was treading Mumbai streets with hesitation, hiding her baldness and her depleted beauty. That moment was a revelation for her.
     Her forthright answers during the interview by Sanjoy Roy revealed the frailty of humanity, and a reality that through her optimistic approach and perseverance, Manisha Koirala overcame the ultimate challenge in her life. Whether ‘The Emperor of all Maladies’ helped her to discover the indomitable resilience in her or if her inherent, robust temperament got her over the dreadful illness is for up to the readers to surmise. (September 18, 2019)

Looming Shadows

There comes a time to count and take account of
What we earned in life and what passed us by
A time to ponder over the sweet glory of gains
And the sore sadness of misses lingered by

Time to recall the things we made to change
And many of those which we tried, but in vain
Of occasions that brought us happiness and glee
And of the failures which soaked us in a gloom
It is that time when our physical limitations

Tend to blend and merge with mental acceptance
When maturity lets us face facts with ease and repose
As we receive reality with reluctance, yet with resolve

When we pause to reminisce and glance over the past

Which vanished faster than a gleaming flash of light
And as the future looms before us, imminent and near
Posing and staring as a huge unknown, impending haze

Savor the delights of wisdom and that of dignity

That we gracefully gained through the sheer event of living
As we unravel the fragile filaments of our memory
And gauge it to evaluate life, as to what it means after all

Be ourselves, remain strong, genial and confident

Be concerned, yet with candor that carried us all along
Stay stoic, tranquil and unruffled as times move along
Accepting the changes as they approach and demand

Be proud of the deeds we did and the feats fulfilled

Be hopeful that our progeny will praise us with pride
Be content with the tiny triumphs of our little life
That most humans may not venture, even to dream

Be at peace, rejoice, share with the world around you

Be the kind, caring and concerned human that you can be
Be grateful to the mercy of God for his blessings and boon
For all the good in life that He has kindly bestowed on you

As our shadows stretch in the golden twilight

Singing stories of past, that of rapture and ruins
Let the cargo we compile, loaded with love and grief
Be not a burden to choke, but to offer solace we need

Get set and ready to relish the days that are yet to come

And as they arise, pray for peace, poise and a little ease
When the world moves along, striding by our side with noise
Let us laud in silence, our destiny, to have had this life to live.

(July 2002)

A Patient that I Lost

     Our life as doctors spanning over perhaps half a century would have touched thousands of lives, most of them in a positive way and a few with bitter endings. We may have processed the encounters as casual routine in our line of work; but there will be many who will ever remain grateful to what we have offered and how we had made a difference.
     As my specialty dealt with treating asthmatics and ones with a variety of allergy problems, I can claim to have kept a few of them alive, being able to breathe and leading a normal life. To many, allergy is just a nuisance or inconvenience, but to the few, it is a matter of life and breath.
    To pick the most memorable ones is not easy, out of the many who have left indelible impressions that will never fade from my memory. I want to share such an episode from my professional life.
     It was a routine evening on a moderate Houston spring, about twenty or so years ago. Had my dinner and was about to go to bed. Since I was not on call, I was expecting a good night’s rest.
     Then the phone rang. Surprised, I picked it up expecting to caution my answering service to contact my associate on duty that night. To my surprise, the call was not from my answering service. It was from the father of one of my patients, one of the few who had my residential telephone number. His voice was quietly stern, intense with fear and anxiety, yet, almost cold with a grim assumption.
     He spoke “ I just got a call from the ambulance people, Pradeep has been taken to Texas Children’s hospital from the Summit”. Then hurriedly, he added. “It doesn’t sound good”.
     I pulled my thoughts together in a hurry. Pradeep is not yet eighteen, a precocious freshman at the prestigious Rice university and would still be eligible to be treated at the Children’s. And Summit being a sports arena where professional basketball was being played, he must have been attending such a game.
    The father apprised me in short, gasping, agonizing bursts: He must have been exposed to a lot of smoke (this was before all the facilities were ruled by no smoking ordnance); his Proventil may have been old and expired, or even empty. I assured the father that I would rush to the hospital and meet him at the Emergency room of TCH. He was also on his way to the hospital.
    It took me about fifteen minutes to drive, park and get to the Emergency room. I made a quick glance at the parents in the waiting area, but I walked straight into the patient room. But it was all over. Pradeep was gone. He was on the rigid, steel ER cot, a white sheet covering his entire length, save his face. And his face! His face was still, staring straight up, cold, blue, bare, and vacant, with no life. He was gone, and nothing else mattered anymore.
    The reality was beyond bearable. The parents lost their only brilliant child. They lost all their hope, their life, and their future. I lost one of my pet patients, my satisfaction of having kept him well for many years, had suddenly become my professional letdown. But such failures teach you to be humble; it is the warning, a caveat that you are human.
    I stayed with the parents for a while. We did not speak. They were not even crying. They were stunned, stoned, and unable to think. …I did not go to the funeral. I could not.
    After a break of about three months, I received a subpoena from a couple of attorneys: Das vs. the Summit; Das vs. the ambulance company; Das vs. the insurance companies. I have never been more scared in my life. Only relief was that I was asked to report as the witness. I do not recall whose witness!
    The anticipation before giving the ‘deposition’ was torturous. I could not function without thinking of it even for a second.
Finally, the day came.
    The process was arranged in our elaborate conference room. I will never forget the clutter as I walked in. There were about twelve people in the room, but not the parents. All total strangers, with no smile on their faces. And absolutely no expression of friendliness. There were about three huge cameras with professionals handling them. There were many microphones set up to mop up all that I spilled. But I felt my mouth as dry as a rock, as if a blotting paper had wiped up all my saliva.
    I sat at the end of our huge table. The vultures circled around me. Eventually, the grilling began; and it continued for about three hours. They asked every imaginable question about my taking Pradeep as a patient, my qualifications, my background, where I learned Medicine, when I came to the US, if I could speak English, my training and my Board certifications, and then, what was the diagnosis, treatment, response, office visits, hospitalizations, his co-operation, his performance as a student, as a patient etc, etc.
    Fortunately, after the initial lump in my throat, and the nervous stammering, I grew comfortable, then confident, and eventually I was in charge. I felt, I am the doctor and the one who knew about Pradeep. I had given everything within my ability to help him as a patient, seen him as often as was needed, explained to him and his parents everything about asthma, instructed them about the various medications, their actions, technique of usage, the possible side effects; and the danger if he did not follow those instructions. I knew what I had done for him; and I wouldn’t let these lawyers intimidate me.
    I saw Pradeep initially as an eight-year-old, undernourished and diminutive with scaly eczematous skin, dry parched lips and an unoccupied, almost belligerent look. Slowly we became friends, the family remained very concerned about the proud, only possession in life. They followed the prescribed therapy with all the nuances. Pradeep was an exceptionally bright child, performing at the top of his class, and a gifted piano player who was invited to perform at the White House in front of the President of the United States. He was only 9 years old.
    I was wrong. He was rebelling, refusing to get treatment and to get refill of his inhalers and other medications. He thought visiting the doctor was not important.
    It turned out to be, that on that fatalistic day, the inhaler in his possession was too old or empty. He choked with the smoke filling that huge sports arena. By the time his friends realized and called the ambulance, the game was over, the basketball game and Pradeep’s game of life. The crowd of 16,000 was rushing through the many doors to get home or to their girlfriends or boyfriends. The ambulance people had a tough time to get in and navigate their way to Pradeep, who ran out of breathing, access to his little bronchioles totally tightened up, dry with mucus and swollen membranes. And finally, when they got to him, all that remained was mechanical routines. The epinephrine, the oxygen, the beta stimulants, the steroids, the Ambu bag, was all of no avail.
    But the verdict had to wait until they diagnosed it in the fully mechanized Emergency Room of Texas Children’s, equipped and ready to handle any emergency.

But this was a case, they couldn’t.
Pradeep was pronounced dead. Dead on arrival?
A young, promising life was extinguished before it started.
But the attorneys wanted to keep the story going.

Wrong Things Happen when the Good People let them Happen

     Snow could fall in the tropics. ‘Even a crow can fly facing upwards!’. The intense political saga that is spanning out is perhaps the ‘most disturbing and dangerous’ development that I have experienced in my lifetime. It is reminiscent of a scene in Mahabharata. After the Kurukshetra war, after all the Kauravas are killed and after Ashwathama massacres the sons of Pandavas, Sri Krishna makes a statement.
     He declares to Panchali that the ultimate calamity, the war, the entire annihilation ensued not because of bad people, not because Dhritharashtra was favoring his sons, not because Duryodhana was mean and revengeful, nor because Dushysana was licentious, or of Sakuni’s cunning tactics. Krishna says, it is because the good people did not protect virtues and righteousness, that they did not stand up against the morally wrong, against malice, against avarice, and against all the evil that happened. It is because Bhishma the most revered Pithamaha, chose to side with the Kauravas, Drona, the sage teacher wanted his son to be the hero, and Karna was fuming because Arjuna took all the laurels…all of them good and virtuous people did not stand up against the wrong.
     The ongoing Washington chronicle should remind us of Sri Krishna’s wise words. Spoken a Yuga away.
     For whatever reasons convincing to each of the voters who chose him, we have a leader inclined to be a megalomaniac; a power-hungry, racist, sexist, deceptive, self-centered leader who would go to any length to stay there, whose only political party and interest is self against that of the country, who would trample every principle or eradicate anyone who stands in his way.
     Presumably good, ethical voters chose a leader, a self-centered, habitual hypocrite with delusions of grandeur, and an abhorrence for others, who would go to any length to stay in power, whose only political party and interest is self against that of the country, and who would trample every principle or eradicate anyone who stands in his way. And sadly, the ‘good’ people continue to compromise their 120 principles, enduring and endorsing the disgrace.
     The memo in question brought in by the Republicans and approved by the WH may have some validity that the FBI overlooked certain legal requirements in exposing the treasonous rascals working with foreign governments, laundering money, and committed disastrous things. All the uproar is only a means to an end that the GOP wants to donate ammunition for ‘their new-found god’ to mess with the investigation that may find him guilty. They are least concerned to find the truth; their power and personal agendas are more significant than our national interest. It does not matter if it is Comey or Rosenstein or Mueller or Straus or the FBI or DOJ, it does not matter if they were all picked and approved by their own party, they would be trashed and replaced by someone who would relish to scratch where their hero itches.
     The memo in question brought in by the Republicans and approved by the WH may have some validity that the FBI overlooked certain legal requirements in exposing the treasonous rascals working with foreign governments, laundering money, and committed disastrous things. All the uproar is only a means to an end that the GOP wants to donate ammunition for ‘their new-found god’ to mess with the investigation that may find him guilty. They are least concerned to find the truth; their power and personal agendas are more significant than our national interest. It does not matter if it is Comey or Rosenstein or Mueller or Straus or the FBI or DOJ, it does not matter if they were all picked and approved by their own party, they would be trashed and replaced by someone who would relish to scratch where their hero itches.
     The ‘men of god’, the priests and the evangelicals, who were vehemently eloquent about Clinton and Monica’s obscenity, are suddenly condoning the hush money paid to silence a prostitute. Many among us remain loyal to the new leader since the stock market is up, (it is tanking, sooner than I thought), the new tax laws would save us a few bucks or the Muslims would not be allowed to enter the country, or the Mexicans and the dreamers would be kicked out, or the blacks may never come out of their ghettos, or they can save the money printing food stamps. They are callous about the millions who may lose their health care coverage, or pensions or disability allowance or mortgage payments or fees remitted for their children in college. Many of us even think that certain brown skin may be considered white by the leadership. Wishful thinking! go, ask the rednecks.
     All the tiny details about Ohr, Strozok, Lisa, or Steele are inconsequential. The FISA, the Fusion, the GPS, the Memo, the Russian Collusion, are all fragmented pieces of our apparently shattered system. People like Page, Manafort, Papadopoulos and Stormy Daniels are little pawn villains on the big table playing opposite the roles of bishops and rooks impersonating the likes of Comey and Mueller and Wray and FBI as the ultimate beneficiaries move their pieces sitting in their estates, golf fields, fancy aircrafts or the highest offices of the countries they rule. Suddenly, our legal system, national security, news media, freedom, democracy and all that this great country has accomplished in the last two centuries could be trampled for tyrannical objectives. The ‘United States’ is beginning to look like the ‘Banana Republic’ and a mocking stock to the rest of the world.
     One could choose to be fatalistic, accepting the entire charade as an inevitable, impersonal event beyond us. Some may even choose to feel a sense of winning. But as Krishna commented, if the good people were to stand up with the right, there is hope that the Special Counsel may establish the truth. And that justice prevails!

Hurricanes of Life

          The month of September this year was an enormously eventful period for many of us. The cataclysmic fury of nature in the name of Ike was battering the physical landscapes from the Gulf of Mexico all the way up to Canada when the financial markets found an opportune time to plummet. When thousands found their homes and dear possessions flooded or blown away by the wrath of a hurricane, the subtle comfort that many had from their hard-earned savings of life dwindled away from a barrage of economic disasters. If we were to carefully clump and chronicle a customized convention of calamities, it couldn’t conceivably surpass the anguish that many have experienced through these ordeals. After the events crawled over us, as the damaged elements are restored or catalogued into history, the remnants of fatigue will linger in our minds forever.
          This has been an unusually hectic year for the hurricanes, each with its own personality and temperament, behaving with an agenda only known to nature. Those of us living along the Gulf, are subconsciously attuned to the season of storms as we watch and follow them during their journey through the high seas. Weather channels constantly advise and hurricane trackers provide us with ongoing reports. Every season, we raid the grocery stores and clean up the shelves with items sufficient for a battalion, water bottles, canned foods, bread, eggs, batteries, flashlights, and the like. Windows are boarded up; loose objects are removed from the yards and all the hanging pieces are tightened and tied up. Many a time, we pack as many valuables that we can into our automobiles and hit the roads, often each family member driving a vehicle a piece. We rise early and take off, assuming to be wiser than everyone else to occupy the road ahead of them. Each time we end up with hundreds of others stranded with miles of vehicles edging ahead of us.
          Hurricane Ike started off big in the Atlantic, assaulting the islands of Haiti and Cuba. As it approached the US coast, there was hope that the warm air from the land may go into the sea to meet and persuade him to mellow, but Ike had plans of his own. He was relentless as his seven hundred miles colossal body roiled and whipped up angry waters and wind as he pounded into the Galveston Bay and Bolivar Peninsula. The ferocious force of the perimeters of its eye swept and agitated through massive areas of land, consumed many towns, cost many lives and many dollars of ruin. Its vicious winds thrashed and screamed along Texas and Louisiana, raked up miles of the gulf coastal line and churned angry tides along the shores of Alabama and Mississippi. Within a day, the behemoth of the storm had traveled through the entire nation and on to Canada, leaving behind dead and devastated people and billions in destruction.
          Miles and miles of land were swallowed up by the tides, townships of dwellings and buildings disappeared as a civilization in those parts succumbed to the war with nature. Mildew, mud, rust, and rot settled when the waters receded and the land began to emerge opening up the soaked scenery which may never again regain the status of habitability. There has been no power for weeks after the hurricane and normal life falters without power; no running water, no refrigerated food, no air conditioning, no television nor communication with the outside world. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands of homes got filled with water, gradually creeping up and rising higher and higher, immersing all of the contents and climbing onto the second floors as most inhabitants fled while an occasional few crawled on to higher planes and perhaps even died.
         There were reports and stories of many coincidental episodes from the tentacles of the hurricane. The ecology may be hugely affected, excessive amounts of salt water ripping through the island barriers and soaking up the marshes, making it risky for the survival of the fish and vegetation, insects and mammals in a vast area which essentially needs fresh water. The migratory birds may not find their favorite mulberry trees and having to seek refuge somewhere else, misplaced and angry snakes and alligators taking on to unfamiliar territories and thousands of cattle wandering free having lost their grazing grounds. The loss of buffers from damaged landscapes may allow future storms unimpeded access deeper into the land. Burial grounds ripped up by gushing waters had caskets with dead bodies surfacing up and floating around. Thousands of acres of farming land and ranches will be affected and will become unproductive. Cruise ships had to be shifted and parked in areas of gulf not threatened by Ike, causing a ‘traffic jam’ of ships in the open sea.
        Almost parallel to Ike’s game plan, a sinister development was brewing in the American monetary institutions, perhaps with more intensity and ramifications disturbing the very fundamentals of this nation’s economy. The domino effect of the collapse was spilling over to devastate the pension funds, the job markets, the national productivity and service industries, even the remotest agencies and institutions feeling the impact and the entire standing of the once mighty United States in the global market being jeopardized. The scenario was timely as a tool and ripe as an opportunity for the political parties to claim the White House in January.
        The financial warfare is a story of human design, brought on by the corrupt, incompetence of leaders who disregarded the basic elements of responsibility in fulfilling their insatiable hunger to amass wealth. This country is blessed with exceedingly enormous resources, vast and fertile geographic land mass, the best of brains from universal input and perhaps the most efficient and hardworking people on earth. We enjoy amounts of comforts and luxury the rest of the world used to enviably admire and often detest out of jealousy. With sensible leadership, proper planning, and discreet guidance we had everything going in our favor to stay on top and help the rest of humanity. But we are fast losing that edge – if we already have not – because of indiscriminate policies coupled with misconceived perception about the rest of the world amounting to an egotistical philosophy. That is the ironic reason which landed us in the present deplorable predicament.
       Once the inevitable plunge happened and financial giants like banks and loaning institutions were closing, merging, or being swallowed by yesterday’s competition, the government and political leaders jumped into the runaway bandwagon to reverse its crash or at least arrest its momentum. As each of them groped to educate themselves with new knowledge and expertise to salvage their face and the security of their positions, many theories started surfacing. Somehow, they came up with an assumption that if tons of money is pumped into the market, perhaps they can revive the engine or apply the brakes.
       How did such a giant collapse? What were the ingredients which brought on such an appalling collapse of the mammoth monetary machinery? We are told that Wall Street and regulators had complex mathematical models to follow the amount of risk that is safely allowed. Since the perpetrators were obviously getting richer, there was no incentive to follow such guidelines or change their course until the bottom fell off. After much debate, on their second attempt, the majority in Congress decided to throw in a lifeline to the drowning market by pumping in a chunk of funds. The President eagerly signed a bill and heaved a sigh as if he has done his duty. As of this writing, the status continued to nosedive and there is no guessing of how and when the situation will stabilize and recover.
       Quite ironically and purely on a personal note, the same morning as the hurricane winds were pounding on us, I received news from India that my dearest physician friend of fifty-two years had succumbed in his fight against a deadly illness which consumed him only within three weeks from diagnosis. This was a man who loved life and loved others. He made an awesome presence in those around him by always being available to those who needed his help with never a hint of any demands in return. I had remained in constant contact with him once the diagnosis was made and as we silently accepted that his days were numbered. Slowly his sensorium slipped into layers of cloudy crevices as haziness replaced the clarity of his judgment and the basic functions of his organs came to a gradual halt.
       The news was agonizing to bear, hard to accept, yet the reality left no options. Perhaps Providence has a way of balancing its acts and often loves to play taunting games to tease us for a higher purpose. I felt that event was resolutely dumped on me just to throw me off focus and away from my perspective of the two other imposing ‘hurricanes’. As all my concentration stayed engrossed on my dear friend, as all my emotions drained from the terrible loss, the rest of the experience did not make much impact as they could have, at another juncture.
       What motivated and prompted me to write this, is a curiosity and humility of insight as to how little we are prepared to face unforeseen calamities of life which seem to pounce on us in spite of all the planning, the knowledge and technological advances that have endowed modern day living. As we are forced to face difficult times in life, they should also allow us, even enforce us to ponder and adapt to an attitude of total surrender to a power beyond our comprehension and control. It does not matter if such events are orchestrated with a higher purpose or happen at random by pure chance, but it will be desirable if they could shape our attitudes and influence our approach towards life in a pragmatic way so as to meet such adversities with better aplomb. (November 1, 2008)

About Being

From the silence of darkness to the bang of blinding light
Freezing, frigid cold clashing with the burning, blazing heat
Enormous, absolute zero pushing infinity beyond meaning
Expanse of galaxies reaching into intricate webs of DNA

The hot sun, cool moon, trembling stars, and cosmic quiescence
Spatial constellations, orbiting terrestrials, everlasting emptiness
Milky ways, meteors, comets, and collage of vague unknowns
Morning stillness, soothing breezes, gales, and twisting tornadoes

Red sunsets, dark eclipse, blue skies, white snowy hilltops
The seasons, rainbows, blooming buds, and the butterflies
Glaziers, avalanches, stalactites, and endless sweep of deserts
Prairies, jungles, serene lakes, volcanoes, and dazzling waterfalls

The celestial parade punctuating dark expanse of lonely skies
Mountain crowns descending to the depths of oceans
Valorous lightning romancing the vaporous, nebulous clouds
Glowing, lurid lava erupting from the golden, molten peaks

Hues of autumn, radiant dewdrops, and redolence of flowers
Divergent myriad of shapes and natures of Nature’s creations
No two leaves nor plumes alike, each emanating exuberant variance
Prevailing in harmony of balance, stable in contrast of existence

Sharp thorns, soft petals, the fragrance, all meshed in one
Salty waters of the seas and the sweet honey in flowers
Tiny seeds concealing essence erupting into mammoth trees
Throbbing life packaged for ceaseless, rhythmic functions

Make an effort to marvel at the miracle of this cosmic concoction
The concept, origin, purpose, theme, direction, or its fancy notion
Whatever the reason, ritual or significance to make some sense
For logical speculation and a rational role of our immanence

Meaning of existence, with an astute goal or devised definition
Perhaps a chance occurrence versus a focused manipulation
Power that keeps the balance and guides the constant motion
Installing the incessant race, with purpose and flawless precision

Humans may belong to the equation or ensued by freak accident
We may have a role, an occult, inherent undecipherable intent
Are we the glorious feat of Creator or images of Her imprudence?
Brought in to life, to sing Her glory or to destroy, bring it all to ruin

Perceive Creation with purpose and its candid beauty surrounding
Savor the sights, sounds, scents, tastes, and innate feel abounding
Soak up the radiance and brave to figure out the fascinating mystery
Worship the magical endeavor as it may fool the intellect or fade

Pause, ponder, meditate, and offer gratitude for this gift of life,
Model of ultimate perfection enhanced through infinite times
A random gesture, a gleam from the soul, a nod to recognize
The splendor bequeathed, the precious treat kindly conferred

A soul obscure, sheltered within a flimsy and transient frame
Longing to grasp, roaming its free, imaginative reflection
And ruminating over mystic myriads of its fancy hallucination
Imposing a verdict, dictating wisdom of selfish justification

Failing to fathom the beauty in contrast and harmony of variety
Is wasting a lifetime, a gift bestowed with a precious opportunity
Faith is to realize the enormity of evolution and its majestic magnitude
To accept and tolerate with respect all within the realm and far beyond reach

Awaken to comprehend your deep, slumbered senses to reason
Motivate kindness to confer courtesy and compassion all around
Share the favor and freedom to allow all to choose as they please
For each creation has the worth from divinity dwelling within them

Make your sojourn meaningful, ethereal, and ethical as you deem it to
Not out of concern of surveillance nor from fear of being penalized
Just to satiate own conscience, the unforgiving, scrupulous monitor
Whom if you disregard, you have squandered your existence in vain.
(May 1, 2003)