Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Do Not Hit, Do Not Run

When I first learnt to drive, a family member told me, "Driving is about being responsible towards the other people on the road, equally as you are responsible towards your own self." The words have etched into my memory till date.

Driving is powerful. After all, who doesn't want to storm through the streets, overtaking other vehicles. We are all fascinated by speed. We love to lead. We feel good when we are far ahead in the race. It's exhilarating to boast about your high velocity ride. After all, isn't this what we have all seen in movies? And then, as usual, we try to incorporate it into our real lives.

That's when a moment of thrill can, well, kill. That's how lives, other than you, who have nothing to do with your speedometer data, gets risked. That's how there is a hit, and then the subsequent run.

We all are aware of the numerous hit-and-run cases that are on trial for long. Whether justice gets delivered or not, one thing is for sure, the future of the victim is no less than a horror story, something that one would shudder to remember, and yet, can never erase from the memory. If the victim survives, it is only with multiple injuries which threaten his will power, his self confidence and his desire to dream. If unfortunately he doesn't, it's his family, relatives, and friends, who are left to fight the biggest catastrophe of their lives, uninformed, and unarmed.

We can't ban cars. We can't ask people not to drive. How do we then stop this growing menace of hit-and-run incidents?

As a start, we have to promise ourselves never to chase speed. We might be a little late to our destination, but that's fine. At least it's better than taking someone's life, the victim not suspecting what foul play destiny has designed for him. He may be walking home, where his wife awaits him for a romantic candle light dinner, or his parents keeping their sleep at bay until their son returns. It may be his birthday today, or his anniversary, or his parents' birthday, or perhaps just another day in his life, whether it has gone well or not, at least do not snatch the right from him of embracing tomorrow.

Secondly, we have to curb drunk driving. We often return from late night parties, drunk, yet believing ourselves to be sober, and driving in that state. We may have been doing it since years, and the fact that we haven't met with an accident till date has further re-instated our believes that we are fit enough to drive even under the influence of alcohol. DON'T. Never take your position behind the steering wheel even if you had a few pints of alcohol. Why should someone else suffer for your carelessness?

Lastly, do not run. If you hit someone, even accidentally, it's your moral duty to get things right. Take the injured victim as quickly as possible to the hospital. Make sure that your mistake doesn't prove fatal to others. After all, everyone, whether in a car, or not, has a right to live. Use the road, safely, responsibly.

That's why cars were invented, to drive, and not kill.

Sand Art

with bare feet
the dancer swirls at the beach
sand art and rain

This Haiku is shared with Carpe Diem - "Only The First Line".

Monday, July 04, 2016

The Tantric Curse - Review

On an amavasya night, eight-year-old Rhea mysteriously lands at the doors of Shaktidham, a Tantric house of worship, in a trance. Realizing that she is blessed with unusual faculties, the guru of Shaktidham, Satya, chooses her as a disciple over his own son, Krishnam, to carry on his lineage, a privilege previously bestowed only to males. But the lineage has been cursed for generations, and it is up to Rhea to either break the curse or perish in the attempt. Will she succeed in her endeavour? Will her love for Krishnam become an obstacle in her path? The Tantric Curse, an unusual story set in the world of Tantra that aims to dispel most of the myths about the practice, will keep you spellbound till the very last page.

About the Author
Anupama Garg was born in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. She has studied chemistry, business management and law. She has been training under her Guru, Baba Batuk Nathji, a renowned Tantric and head of the Bhoot Nath Charitable Trust, since the last twenty-two years. Today she conducts experiential workshops for corporates, hospitals, college and schools under the name 'Life by Choice'. She also devotes time at the ashram of her Guru, The Bhoot Nath Ashram. Anupama is married and lives with her husband and son.
If you stare at the cover for too long, you might, well, be forced to keep staring at it. Ah, don’t get scared, but the cover of this book seemed to have a hypnotising effect on me, and I was instantly drawn towards the two big eyes and the white silhouette of the girl. A good start one may say, signifying that the cover stands true to the theme of the story – Tantra.

Interestingly, Anupama Garg, the author, has been trained under a renowned Tantric, Baba Batuk Nath ji, which adds an altogether different dimension to the book. Tantra as a subject in India is surrounded by myths and controversies. It is often termed as dangerous to the society, a pre-conceived notion that does not tend to go away easily. The reason can be attributed to the fact that there are many practitioners who have used the knowledge of Tantra for their own selfish deeds, thus maligning the art. ‘The Tantric Curse’ intends to shed light on all misconceptions, clearing our thoughts and bringing Tantra to us in a refreshing and sacred perspective.

Rhea is the protagonist of the story. After the sudden demise of her parents, eight year old Rhea comes to Shaktidham. Satya, the guru of Shaktidham, allows her to live there and loves her like his own daughter. He soon realizes that Rhea is special, and has the power to foresee the future. He decides to make her his disciple, and imparts her with knowledge of Tantra that he possesses. Satya’s son, Krishnam, is a few years older to Rhea, and loves to spend time with her. The feeling is mutual, as they share their stories, dreams, desires and aspirations with each other. As time passes by, love grows between the two. Krishnam makes her feel like a woman, exploring her sexuality, and instigating a passionate fire between them.  Rhea wants to be with him, forever. When he leaves Shaktidham, her heart is still glued to him, knowing that he would always belongs to her.

Tantra is an art that should be worshipped. Anupama Garg brings out several facets of this art that most of us are unaware of. Through the protagonist Rhea, her teacher Satya, and her lover, Krishnam, the author imparts pieces of knowledge about Tantra. The use of meditation, the fruits of Sadhana and the meaning of Kundalini Yoga are briefly described, inviting the readers to learn more about them.

Rhea is a calm, level – headed and mature girl. The book depicts her journey from a little girl to a responsible adult, highlighting the challenges that she faced on her way, and showcasing the rewards that she deserved. She is there in almost all the pages of the book, which strengthens her character, but does not give much emphasis on the others, perhaps, apart from Satya. Krishnam disappears halfway into the book, and only makes an appearance towards the end. Other characters like Rhea’s and Krishnam’s friends come and go for brief periods of time, and are not able to make any lasting impression.

The author tries to introduce a few twists in the course of the story, like the moment when Rhea was attacked by the evil Tantric Bhairava. Though she braves the situation, and with the help of Satya and Krishnam she was able to save her life, I found it difficult to digest that the transformation of Bhairava came across quicker than expected. Dr. Vishnukant’s entry into the plot added another twist, as he slowly became obsessed with Rhea, trying everything to hold her back to him. I found it tough to comprehend that despite Rhea being fully aware of Vishnukant’s feelings towards him, and his sexual advances which she didn’t like, why did she still continue living with him. Perhaps, it was her own way to let him know that however he may try, she can never be his, as her past, present and future was devoted towards Krishnam. However, that doesn’t convince me much.

‘TheTantric Curse’ holds promises, with an unconventional backdrop. The initial chapters are riveting and don’t let you keep the book down. However, as the story progresses, the plot seems to drag a bit, and often sounds preachy. The book does have potential, but fails to linger on to you once you finish it. This is a decent one time read, and can be picked up for some valuable lessons on Tantra and the art of living life with love, peace and happiness.

Title: The Tantric Curse
Authors: Anupama Garg
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
Publication Year: 2015
Language: English
Binding: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
No. of Pages: 256
Price: Rs 295
My Rating: 3/5

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Ramayana - The Game of Life (Book 3) : Stolen Hope - Review

In the evil labyrinths of Dandakaranya forest, human values are put to test. Rama’s righteousness, Lakshmana’s loyalty and Sita’s endurance reflect our own sense of values and judgment in difficult times. The story unfolds the facets of human life – the conflict and the trickery, the praise and the slander and, above all, the hope and the despair in the eventful forest life of the Exiled Royals.
Stolen Hope is about extreme deception and extreme love. It is about arrogant power and deep devotion. With every twist and turn, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana find themselves robbed of whatever and whoever they value most.
Exploring the dynamics of human relations – between father and son, husband and wife, teacher and disciple – and the complex game of power and greed, Stolen Hope mirrors our own dilemmas in the modern world and teaches us how we must overcome them.
Seek courage when everything, including hope, is stolen.

About the Author
Shubha Vilas, a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker, holds a degree in engineering and law with a specialization in patent law. His leadership seminars are popular with top-level management in corporate houses. He addresses their crucial needs through thought- provoking seminars on themes such as ‘Secrets of Lasting Relationships’, ‘Soul Curry to Stop Worry’ and ‘Work–Life Balance’ to name a few.
He believes that a good teacher, no matter how knowledgeable, always sees the process of learning and teaching simultaneously as an inherent aspect of personal and spiritual growth. He also helps individuals in different parts of the world apply the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana and other dharmic traditions in dealing with modern- day life situations.

‘Stolen Hope’, the third installment of Shubha Vilas’s Ramayana – The Game Of Life series, serves as a mood shifter. You feel elated when Rama and Lakshmana defeat the demons in the Dandakaranya forest, relieved when beings under the spell of curse get freed by the divine touch of Rama; you smile when you know that Sita feels happy and contented in the forest solely for the reason that Rama has her full attention here, away from the hustle and bustle of his kingdom, and cry your heart out when she wrongly accuses Lakshmana and questions his character and intentions despite him serving his brother and his sister-in-law selflessly over the years. It’s anger that takes over you when Ravana flies away with Sita to his abode, Lanka, trying to win her love and trust through immoral means, and you start behaving impatiently when the book comes to an end, eager to know what happens next. At least, these are the emotions that travelled within me throughout my journey with this book.

The story of Ramayana isn’t new for most of us. We have read, re-read and listened to the various episodes of this epic from different sources. What then causes Shubha Vilas to stir the readers, engaging them to pick up his latest endeavor? The answer lies in the honesty and the clarity of his efforts. Though we know the basic premise of the Ramayana, we may not be aware of the subplots and the fine nuances that this epic has to offer. In fact, there are several segments, stories and characters which we haven’t heard of, or are acquainted with only a mild familiarity. Shubha Vilas tries to bring these points to the fore, enlightening us with the minutest of details. These pieces of information serve more like a jigsaw puzzle, and when we put the pieces together, we start seeing the Ramayana in a different light altogether, clearer and illuminating.

‘Stolen Hope’ starts where ‘Shattered Dreams’ concluded, in the Dandakaranya forest, highlighting the adventures of the divine trio – Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. As they move from one place to the other, we are introduced to several interesting tales and anecdotes. My personal favourites were the stories about Sage Agastya. Also, true to its essence, this adaptation of the Ramayana is wrapped in learning for our hearts and souls. The footnotes, and the pieces in boxes, are words of pure wisdom, raining the spirit of righteousness and knowledge, and leading us to the path of duty. What is interesting is that these fragments of luminance are relevant even today, and we can adopt them in our day to day activities, making our lives easier, and better.

The book begins on a positive and pleasing note. However, as it reaches its end, we are left enraged by the arrogance and evil of Ravana. As a dedicated reader of this series, I am looking forward to the next volume, where Rama would be able to free Sita from the clutches of Ravana, and punish him for all his wrong doings. Shubha Vilas’s words have magic, his narration simple and fluent, and his story-telling gripping. For all mythological lovers, this book is a must-have asset on your shelves.

Title: Ramayana - The Game of Life (Book 3) : Stolen Hope
Authors: Shubha Vilas
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
Publication Year: 2016
Language: English
Binding: Paperback
Genre: Religious, Mythology
No. of Pages: 312
Price: Rs 299
My Rating: 4/5