My breathing was shallow, my mind was running at full throttle and my body distracted with the pleasures, aches and pains of living; and I realized that the guru’s teachings were beyond me, to implement in this state. I needed to take those deep breaths and quite the restless mind and relax the body, if I wanted to attain a meditative state and this was not the place or time for it, as desire and craving were driving me wild. I needed to get into the light of the soul and only then would the lotus within me open and reveal the serenity of the moment. I remembered the story of the two brothers Banta and Santa and their quest for what they had lost.
It was a dark night and Santa was returning home when he came to a street light and was angry to see his brother Banta crawling around on all fours in the dust under the light, getting his beautiful white clothes all soiled up in the process. He yelled at Banta and said “Oh Bantaya what are you doing crawling around on the street in the mud and getting all dirty. You know Ma is going to get mad, as she keeps saying what an idiot you are. Now come on and listen to me as she has always said I am so much smarter than you; and get up and let us go home to Mom, as it is past dinner time.”
Banta looked up at Santa and said that he was looking for his lost rupees and why couldn’t Santa help him find them. Hearing about the Money; Santa also got down and started crawling around, looking for the dropped money. After 10 minutes of crawling and looking everywhere he told Banta, “This is quite hopeless, I have looked everywhere but I do not see it anywhere, and now all of my clothes are as dirty as yours. Are you sure you dropped it here?” By now Santa was hungrier and even angrier at Banta for delaying them.
Banta looked at him innocently and said “Of course I didn’t drop it here Santya, I dropped it back in the dark field but it is too dark to look there now, so I am looking here under the light where I can see much better. Do you think I am idiot to do the hard work to look around in the dark?” This made Santa get up in anger and he was truly furious now, “Banta, mom was right that you are an idiot, get up right now and let us go home and eat dinner you moron. I will make it much easier for you to find it tomorrow”
Banta reluctantly brushed himself off mournfully looking one last time around for his lost sum and as they walked away he asked Santa, “Santa, If you think you are so much smarter than me, how do you plan to make it easier to find my money tomorrow?”
Santa puffed out his chest and thinking aloud said “We will go home and eat and drink our fill and sleep well tonight and don’t worry. Tomorrow when the sun comes up and it is nice and bright and we are refreshed and less tired, we will look for it again dear Banta. I will even save you this long trip; as in the bright light of day we can look for it right outside the house, and won’t even have to tire ourselves and travel this far from home.”
Banta was duly impressed and said “Santya I agree with mom; that you were so much smarter than me, why can’t I be more intelligent and think more like you and save us all this trouble? You can always find the easy path for us.”
The moral of the story is that true knowledge is hidden in the dark recesses of the soul and we need inner faith to find it, and oftentimes a good guru can pass the flame on to us. It is a hard path to walk on; and in finding ourselves we will discover the whole of creation, and then we can pass the torch to the next generation. We should not be distracted by the so called smart ones who are seeking for it in an external light. Their intellectual path may seem easier but it will only leads us deeper into the manifold manifestations of Maya.
The limits of human endurance are not defined by the body alone and it is the power of our minds that determine how far we can go. The body is often weak and needs training and dedicated effort, to realize its own strength. Many years ago I remember a time when my cousin and I were stuck at a monsoon landslide in the local bus; on the way to Dalhousie and asked the local Himachali paharia (The state of Himachal Pradesh’s mountain man), how far was it to walk. He said that it was not too far and said as there was no idea how long the road repair would take, he planned to walk up the mountain paths to his village that was close to Dalhousie. Having found a guide we also decided to lumber our luggage on to our shoulders and trek up the mountain paths following him to our summer home.
It was still late morning when we started following the long strides of the paharia and the views were beautiful, as we climbed one hill then descended into a valley and then climbed up the next hill and the grade would get steeper progressively, and we kept on going. After four hours of walking my legs were getting sore and there was no sight of Dalhousie on the horizon. The Afternoon passed into evening and we passed many beautiful villages where only the stray dogs barked at our approach, and the life had probably not changed here for millenniums. The people were friendly and smiled and often exchanged news with our guide, as we continued our climb up the mountains. We passed beautiful streams and fields carved out of the hillsides and saw cows and sheep grazing on the meadows, attended by young boys and women working in the fields in their colorful costumes. The men walked upright in their white clothes often carrying heavy bundles with an easy gate; that just ate up the miles of the paths that we climbed on, as they passed us cheerfully, as I was clearly struggling to keep up.
Evening turned to dusk and we approached the village of the man who was our guide. When we asked him how far it was to Dalhousie he pointed optimistically up the hill, and said you are not too far now and it is just over the next hill above. I told my cousin that we are better off just spending the night at this village; as I was exhausted and my legs had turned to lead, and would not move another step. The Pahari just laughed and said that I was just fine and would make it easily, as we had done most of the long walk already. At the urging of my cousin we trudged on and dusk soon turned to night and still the elusive lights of Dalhousie did not appear above up on the hill top. We went down another short valley and climbed into a pine forest which was a welcome sign, as I knew that Dalhousie was above the line of the pine trees. Each step by now had become something my body would not take; and my poor feet protested in pain, as we passed another village and I was ready to crawl into a hut and sleep.
The smell of the pine and the feel of the needles on the path kept me going, as my cousin refused to yield and insisted we continue on our quest to get home. The light packing by now seemed like a heavy boulder across my back and any light we saw, gave hope that civilization was just around the next corner. In the night a man came down the path and gave us the good news that Sadar Bazaar, was just past the next hill. This was the lower market of the town and it cheered me up; and my strides became longer and the struggle a little easier, as we crested another hill and saw the lights of the Bazar on the top of the next hill. It was a welcome sight and now I was determined that we should sleep there once we got to the bazaar, as I knew that our house in Middle Bakrota hill was still a few miles away and another long climb.
We found one straggling shop still open and ate quickly and I was happy to sit on the hard wooden bench and consume whatever the man served us in his little shop, on the wooden table made of planks. The food tasted so fresh and tasty and even the cool spring water was a welcome relief. This I reflected was the perfect place; and dreamed the welcome thought of clearing the table and just curling up and passing into a deep sleep, soon as the meal was over. The food obviously revived my cousin more than me and he paid the cook and owner and shouldered up his pack and dragged me off to start the final ascent despite all my protests, complaining that I couldn’t possibly walk another step after the arduous and harrowing experience that we had just gone through. Mercilessly he just headed on up the bazar’s winding lanes and I had little choice but to follow.
We passed Charing Cross and the convent after climbing out of the bowls of the bazaar and then took the relatively flat but ill lit road on the warm side of the next hill and our strides were longer on the asphalt, as we were back in our elements. Being in more familiar territory gave me barely enough strength to keep moving; and we reached the post office and Gandhi Chownk and the library, where I had read To kill a mocking bird just two years ago. We took the road up to middle Bakrotta and the last couple of miles; as we knew this area by heart and each turn of the road and each house on this hill, had a history and familiarity that only the old Punjab town dwellers knew. We are the children of this town and now the weight of the journey was not heavy, as we are headed home again. Eventually we crossed Feroze Villa and then Chimney’s old house and there finally after countless hours; below us was the twinkling light of the upper left flat, of Ganga and Tej Niwas.
We climbed down the pathway to the house and there we were welcomed by the eldest Khanna clan member as he sternly asked “Where have you two boys been and why are you turning up so late in the night? The bus arrived at the Agency hours ago and Chattru the caretaker came back saying you were not on the bus? These kind of shenanigans may be allowed by your loving parents but I will not tolerate such lose behavior in our house.” He then proceeded to graciously offer us another meal which we gladly consumed; as he roused Chattru from his quarters below, to come and make our beds. We slunk off to our rooms after the delicious meal and heard him muttering to himself about spoiled brats; who have no sense of hard work, or how life must be lived. Weaklings, who have no moral fiber left in their bodies, and are spoiled to no end by their doting parents. In his times things were different and men were men and acted responsibly and did not go wandering aimlessly in hill sides in the middle of the night. He would have to talk to his sisters as these spoiled soft boys, would not come to any good end, at the rate they were going.
We crossed over to our flat across the connecting walkway in the other building; glad to get away from our uncle and just the fear of his authority, as the head of our clan. Chattru had found and unrolled the bed rolls left by my mother and made our beds on the cots and the white sheets and the woolen comforter was a welcome sight. I took off my shoes and felt the blisters that did not look all that pretty in the low voltage hilly light. Changing into cleaner clothes I washed my face in the cold mountain water and brushed. My cousin talked about heading to Khajjiar which was only a 20 mile or more hike to get away tomorrow, and I snorted in disdain at the suggestion. I climbed into bed just glad that I was alive and had made it home; and pushed the thoughts of the next hike just over the next hill into the future, and passed into a blissful and deep sleep.
The concept of Kismet or fate is ingrained into the Hindu psyche; as we accept a lot of things in life that others of a different faith, may not take as easily. We allow our sanskars (past lives and actions) to define what our life will serve up to us, and then try to make the best of what it has provided to us. I reflect back on the 33 years of my marriage and how we came together more by happenstance than by choice, and know in my heart that all is still exactly as it was meant to be. Waking up in a strange town all alone on this fateful day; I can feel that while we are each alone, we remain bound together in the silken threads of a holy matrimony, tied together so long ago. These threads have often frayed and become weak; but the underlining principles of kismet have held us together, through thick and thin over the years.
Why does a man take on a mate; and then through the rest of his life struggle to maintain a loving relationship with a stranger will remain a mystery, that I will not try to solve here. Suffice it to say that such relationships are built on a mutual trust and if we do not honor our spouse with her rightful dues, then it is a wasted effort. Life passes in a strange myriad of colors and children come to the blessed ones, and the bonds strengthen as one deals with its ups and downs, often drowning and overwhelmed by its shear force. The relationships become more diverse; but at the core is the singular reality that because of this previously unknown stranger, life is now more than it was before her arrival on the scene. Her arrival may not have been grand or ethereal but in the darkest of times when all seemed lost, it was she who was my strongest ally and gave me the strength to plod on into the next moment. The currents of high and low that reality brings to us, are often of our own making and we are tossed around in a tempest and cling together to survive, and if lucky we sometimes prosper and our dreams come true.
Yet beyond Kismet is also the founding belief of Dharma and Karma; where one must always act to fight whatever fate may throw at us; and still fulfill our duty through our actions, and live a righteous life. Now that the early tumultuous years have passed; we can reflect on what this reincarnation has brought to us; and how we can strive to proceed on our path towards the paramatma, where our atman will eventually merge and be joined in eternal bliss. Our physical bliss is nothing compared to that eventual merging of the soul with the creator; and each of us is only the stick we lean on, to make this journey fruitful and easier. We can make this journey into whatever we want through the willful choice of our actions; which will defeat kismet eventually, and we will pass on to a state where there is no past or future. She is my shining light and creates our path and while I am often easily distracted and led astray by maya’s tempting offerings, she coaxes me in her small sweet ways to return to that Dharma, which is the eternal truth.
So on this day as I sip her gift to me of pure white tea and listen to the chirping of the birds in the cool morning, I reflect on that fateful day that she entered my life. She was full of a pure aspiration of what our life should be and I was as usual confused and muddled and struggled with just understanding this new responsibility that I had taken on. Ill prepared I made many mistakes over the years, and it is a miracle that we have survived so long together. Life’s gifts are taken lightly only by the fool and I am indeed one, and should have shown more humility and expressed better my need for her. Maybe one day she will understand what all she has meant to me, and what I could not express as time is fleeting, and we are weak and easily distracted from what is important in life. I wallow in my sensual pleasures and plunge into pools that are often forbidden, and in no way enhance the value of my life. She just laughs at my antics like the Neem Karoli Baba did in his wisdom; when Dr Richard Alpert gave him LSD to test him, and looks at a future that I have not seen. It is her foreseen future that has brought us to this place; where even though our physical presence is separated, we remain together in spirit. The Almora guru turned Richard into Baba Ram Dass and showed him the path of bhakti and bliss. She has turned me into this writer and I can only put words down on paper; and watch them disappear into the increasing data of the internet, lost perhaps forever. I wish her a beautiful life and look back on mine today; as I realize that these words had no meanings, until I met her. Love just is…, and words are too miserly to describe the experience and I embrace her to my heart, and may happiness be her companion for ever.
The war for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) talent is being taken to new heights. I was amazed at the extremely high (stratospheric, unprecedented) prices that Silicon Valley and other high tech companies were paying; for small of unheard start ups, that suddenly command billion dollar valuations. I remained puzzled by these phenomena; as it made no sense at all to pay for these unheard of companies with negligible revenues and profits, which some venture fund was supporting out of small offices with smaller staffs. Then I read Vivek Wadhwah of Duke’s article and realized that these are actually “acqui-hires.” They are paying ridiculously high prices for top talent as they are starved for innovation and bright people. He went to explain that “According to the National Science Foundation, only 37,000 Americans graduate each year with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and another 10,000 with a master’s degree. Moreover, the Conference Board calculates, that there are roughly four job openings for every unemployed computer worker.”
His much earlier research based on sheer number of engineering graduates; had pointed to the demise of the Indian IT industry, and that the next Goliath would be China with its huge numbers of graduates, and the US will do fine. He has found that the ground reality is quite different; as when he got out of his ivory tower and in his words, “Data may say it’s a sunny day, but you need to open the window to make sure that it isn’t actually raining.… Subsequent research that I performed by traveling to India, China and Silicon Valley revealed that India’s IT industry was booming, China’s graduates could not innovate and U.S. tech centers were starved for engineering talent.” He also found that contrary to popular belief of folks opposing immigration reform on the ground that immigrants reduce wages, steal American STEM graduate’s jobs, and do not add value in the US; that “immigrants founded 52 percent of Silicon Valley’s technology companies and contributed disproportionately to the patents filed by leading tech companies such as Qualcomm (72 percent) and Cisco (60 percent).” With the severe reduction in allowing immigrant graduate students to study and stay on in the US; we find a brain drain and companies are increasingly forced to move their research and development centers abroad, to chase the fleeing talent. It is proving to be a boon for the countries that welcome and groom this talent; as the innovation and new centers of creativity develop with these entrepreneurs, pole vaulting them into the new economy.
As a nation of immigrants we have had alternate waves of protectionism and liberalization, over the past two centuries. When immigrants are welcomed, they work harder to make a place in society; and compete with the existing population, for jobs and opportunities. When the opportunities are not there then they create new opportunities; just to survive, and innovation and creativity flourish. While the big unions and majority of the middle class may find this an attack on their status quo; and their hard earned positions, they are actually holding their own future to ransom. America needs to evolve; and grow out of the doldrums and the only thing that drives this is human ingenuity and talent. Turning the spigot off on new talent; to protect the current state, will only lead to a downward spiral as productivity will stay the same, and eventually decline. When Bill Clinton signed NAFTA a huge vacuum cleaner, sucked a lot of manufacturing jobs across the border to Mexico and Canada. When China signed the WTO, a bigger suction pump pulled more jobs to their huge factories and abundant cheap labor. The net effect is that US GDP still grew; along with that of its major trade partners, and prosperity spread. Bush and the conservatives wanted to build a huge wall on the Mexican border to stop the illegals from crossing over; and we can look back in history to the other Great Wall in China built at a great cost, which did not stop the greatest empire from falling and the Manchu’s from ruling it. Misguided ideas waste resources, time and human talent; in building the tower of Babel, instead of the highways to the future.
American ingenuity and innovation has just bought us a century of energy; from shale oil and natural gas, in an abundance unimaginable in the dark Carter years. GE the poster child and bellwether for the American economy; today derives a majority of its revenue, income and innovation from its global operations. GM is now so embedded in China that their car sales there will outstrip their American sales, and the same is the case with many other multinationals. America remains the largest economy in the world, but it is only a matter of time; before they will be overtaken, and it is up to the leaders of our corporations and politicians to make a brave new world. The future is bright only if we stay open and allow bright young people to come to our shores, and share in our prosperity. Growth comes from new cultures and thoughts bringing renewal, to the old. Each new immigrant will contribute in his or her way, and make the next Google or be the next Einstein. We only have to provide the opportunities and society will benefit from new ideas, innovative thinking, creative problem solving, breakthroughs in new technical fields and continued leadership in the global markets and pave the way to new horizons unknown to us today; and all the naysayers will be left stuck in their hard-line positions. I am only an immigrant and know nothing of the American Psyche; except I would hate to see the hard working people around me, led astray from their destiny, by the regressive ideas of some conservative leaders. We must remain the leaders by riding this beast of innovation’s rising spiral; or resign ourselves to the fate of being consigned to history’s forgotten civilizations.
With the passing away of Virginia Johnson; we have lost both the pioneers, who led us to a better understanding of healthy, pleasurable physical relationships. Masters and Johnson developed the practice of sensate focus, which helps couples refocus on each other through emotional skills and body awareness. In sensate focus therapy, sex is removed while the couples reconnect through touching and developing a heightened sense of sexual self-awareness. They did not use drugs or surgery or any of the new technical techniques or modern methods; and were able to sill help reduce anxiety and misunderstandings between couples, that led to more fulfilling relationships, in their taboo breaking cases. Much of what has become common knowledge since then; originated with Virginia’s down to earth approach, in handling Dr. Masters’ patients and research volunteers. It just goes to show that you do not need an advanced degree to use common sense and observation; to solve some of the most complex problems; of human physical and emotional interaction.
With all this talk of the sexual revolution and the liberal post pill world; I feel that we can still learn a lot from their original studies, which seem outdated today. With the increased stress of modern life; we probably have more problems today, than we had when the research was carried out, to maintain a healthy and joyful sexual relationship. Where is the time for today’s couples to really connect emotionally, and enjoy just the simple touch of basic human interaction? With the pressures we put on our time for achieving more and having more; we lose the simple pleasures of a soft caress, or a moment spent in just speaking our minds, or listening emphatically. We are prone to predispositions of what a mate should be; and quickly move on to pronouncing verdicts and laying down edicts, of what our life together should be like. Long gone are those lazy days and nights when couples just had each other and none of the intrusions of TVs, phones or electronic gadgets; and touch and talk was the only entertainment.
I love Facebook; but a single hour of just talking about our life with a loved one, is worth more than a year of posts, likes and comments.We need to be able touch the face of the person we care about; and just the passing of the fingers softly over the skin, can develop more trust and emotional well being, than all the therapy sessions in the world. My feeling is that we have to shut out the external world for a number of hours each week; just to talk, touch and heal ourselves. I have too many friends who are suffering not because they do not care for each other; but because they have forgotten how to reconnect to the magical time, that built their relationship in the first place. We must never forget Virginia’s lesson that simple touch and understanding our internal conflicting emotions; can do more to for repairing the ills in a relationship, than all the plastic surgeries, drugs, therapies or counseling. To have a fulfilling relationship each of us has to invest the time to be with the other, and slow the world down to just being you. You do not have to be a Greek God or Goddess to satisfy your partner; but just have to be yourself and all else will fall in place (we can always use our imagination and make our partner or session into anything we crave). Life should be about simple pleasures and not driven by a paranoia of phobias and expectations that will remain unfulfilled even in our death. Play the games that you like and become children again; just like a mother’s loving touch is something, which lasts a child all its life. The light on this previously forbidden path was shone by these pioneers; and all we need to do is walk on it to find happiness, thus enriching our soul with natural and pleasurable acts.
Above me the skies are blue interspersed with myriad patterns of clouds lit up into strange hues by the setting sun. I walk barefoot across the grass looking up at the wondrous vista; and do not mind the spray from the sprinklers, as they shower me with drops that feel cool on my warm skin. I realize that I have nowhere to go; and no one to meet, and this moment is all for me, and my world is this spray colored by the fading sun like a prism into the vibgyor colors of the rainbows. Life is plain and simple; and I do not know why we try to make it so complicated with our phobias, perceived needs and complicated relationships. The most enduring concepts of human existence; can be reduced to a minimalist approach, much like the US constitution that our 40 wise founding fathers signed, and is all of 33 small pages (with all the subsequent amendments included) that fits into my back pocket. It is a miniature book and is thinner than my wallet, I have to carry around to keep my identity as a person.
‘Forming a more perfect Union’ to ‘secure the Blessings of Liberty for ourselves and our Posterity’ are simple yet powerful words and all 44 presidents have gone on to ‘establish justice’ and ‘promote the general welfare’ each in his own way, backed by the legislative and judicial arms of the government. Today the 50 states are provided a ‘common defense’ and enjoy a level of prosperity protected by the Constitution. It does not take long to read the whole constitution and its VII articles; nor does it take much more time to read all the 27 amendments (the last one took 202 years from proposal to enactment), that have been passed in two subsequent centuries. Their power lies in their simplicity and even when all is said and done the constitution still retains its power with the opening words of ‘We the people of the United States’ and does not reduce the peoples’ ‘immunities and privileges’.
The Declaration of Independence which preceded it was unambiguous on these personal rights when it stated “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” So now I walk barefoot on the grass, uninhibited in a state that allows me to be free to pursue my dreams; with all the immunities possible, and I have the free use of the privilege of being a citizen.We must take up the path of compassion and bring happiness to the huddled masses. Education and knowledge remain the first step to self actualization and we need to ensure that each child is given the this choice, to learn to walk on this path. The future is for them and we are only the means to provide it.
The sun has long set while I wrote this and a brilliant full moon has risen, and I look down and see two shadows cast on the side walk. One shadow is from the moon and the other from the mercury street lamp; and I realize that I similarly have two duties to fulfill in this life, one to my creator, and the other to my fellow citizens. The rights they have given me, are also privileges, to lead a higher life and to be myself. My freedom to pursue happiness is not constrained by these laws; as they are an aid, for natural and human laws must be obeyed, in a civil society. There is still much I can accomplish and more I can contribute to life and liberty, by following my inner calling. I will not let dogmas, prejudices and bigotry to cloud my mind and only allow the clear light of reason, perseverance, and being here now, become my mantra for success. I start my journey to my goals refreshed; and hope to gather other kindred spirits along the way, as together we can be a force for greater good, much more than what we can each accomplish apart.
A report by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization in 2011 said: “They (soot and urban smog pollution) disturb tropical rainfall and regional circulation patterns such as the Asian monsoon, affecting the livelihoods of millions of people.” A neighbor’s father visiting from Seoul was complaining bitterly the other day; of the soot and acid rain and pollution raining down on them from the giant coal burning plants in neighboring China, destroying their air quality. Increasing urbanization and populations needs massive amounts of energy, and we have to make some hard choices on how renewable forms can be increased with minimal pollution. This year an unusual pattern of the monsoon advancing towards the west of South Asia; confronted strong westerly winds for an unusually long time and with an extraordinary intensity, which resulted in days of torrential rains. The westerly and monsoons do not normally coexist and the war between such massive weather systems ;brought devastating floods as currently faced, in India’s Uttarakhand state, Nepal and areas of Pakistan.
Variations in monsoon precipitation are predicted for the coming decades; and while no one points to global warming, the amount of rain and snow that falls will become more difficult to predict reliably. We see similar random events happening all over the world; as seen in the torrential cloud bursts and downpours in Canada, China and we can look at the ominous black dots spreading across the USGS flood mapping system, for more proof. Black means the high flood levels that streams and rivers have reached in the current records. The realists will say that this is the weather, and there is no way to predict how the massive Eco-systems of the Earth will behave. The long droughts in once green lands of Africa, Nevada and Australia are just symptoms of an earth deciding what to do, with its human provided power, and she is sending us subtle signals like a good mother. Warming oceans have a belligerence; we do not want to experience, as they unleash typhoons, cyclones, hurricanes and tornadoes rushing down on hapless populations. A majority of these storms rise and fall in the seas and we do not experience them first hand; and only occasionally when they make land fall, do we seek shelter in awe and pray for them to pass with minimal damage to life and property. While the global warming will aid the growth of crops and fauna when the weather gods are kind; it will be when in their fury they unleash their awesome power, that we will come to know the Pandora’s Box we have opened.
There is still time to reverse some of this; but it will take years of dedicated effort as a yearning multitude has to be fed, housed and cared for at the same time. The earth is gracious and kind to allow us to exist and grow on it, but it is also our responsibility as its children, to take care of our mother or else she may turn on us, and make us homeless. We live in this garden of earthly delights, and our decisions and actions today will decide whether our future generations will continue to live in this paradise, or the mother banishes them to burn in hell. Unfortunately the rich conservatives are busy fighting the wrong wars, and leading us down the wrong path. We have the technology and can come up with innovative ways to solve our problems, but the allocations of resources are controlled by the few, who remain clueless to our progeny’s plight.
The whispered notes of the sitar player merge with the introductory alaap of the tabla player; and the beats form a rhythm that slowly expands, as I half listen to the build of the Megh Malhar raag, as classical Indian music is not really my thing. Then the maestro starts in his deep voice and suddenly I am mesmerized by his words. He seems to reach deep inside me and open windows to my soul, that I thought even I had forgotten long ago. The raag takes on a body and the sitar player seems to have suddenly strung his sitar with my heart strings and the tabla player is pounding out my hidden emotions with his rapidly moving fingers it feels, and I forget all that I was doing. The maestro’s voice takes on a different hue and the urgency of his words take on a sinister mood; as he sings to the approaching dark clouds of the monsoons. He evokes a time and place that is primordial, and now I know I am lost and he has me and my world at his mercy.
He takes the words right out of my inner being; and asks the clouds to stop, and the thunder and lightning that accompany the coming showers to go away, and leave him to his loneliness. They have no business to bring this beautiful weather, while my love is still away, he sings. Now the beat is stronger and the melody faster; and my breath is shallower, as he pines for the lover that is away, but the rains do not stop. The maestro has now taken complete charge of my being and environment and a tear forms at the corner of my eye, as he brings the raag to a climax. How could this ancient song of a monsoon estrangement speak to me here in this southern state, I do not know? What is the magical power of this maestro to bring down the rains from the heavens and make my eyes flow freely at his pining. All I know is that I wish that he would stop; so I could breathe again, but he just goes into a faster and higher rhythm and the tabla and the sitar are now building up to a crescendo, which leaves me breathless. I weep with his pain and the pain of all the lovers who are thus parted over the eons, during this weather of love. The thunder and lightning flash and the earth is soaked under the onslaught like the sudden summer storm bursting outside my window, and I can feel the raw pain of his desire and the tempest just rises higher. I am thrown from a cliff and lie exhausted in a fetal position, as the maestro finally brings the raag to a close. I fall into a dreamless sleep; too exhausted from the baring of my soul, by a few strings of music and an ancient melody that magically controlled my environment, and left me defenseless in this storm of epic proportions.
As I sip my chilled light beer bought on sale at the local Walmart; I think of the 90 billion other such aluminum cans, which will be used in the US this year alone. We look for bargains and try to save money on a daily basis; but unknown to me I am paying Goldman Sachs for the privilege of storing 1.5 million tons aluminum at their Metro company, which is increasing the price of each sip I take. The next step is going to be the buying up of 80% of the supply of copper (a much more essential commodity); by financial behemoths like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Black Rock. Who let these top dogs out into these areas, are the misguided policies of recent libertarian-ism. For example multiple petitions from the top paid lawyers and economists wore down our very own regulator Mary Shapiro of the SEC, to allow the copper deals by big banks. Wealth is now concentrated with such power; that it roars for stabilizing prices and availability, allowing the moneyed to take another small percentage from our daily consumption in the name of free markets and competition.
These small percentages are slowly sucking the money from every single hard working individual and even the poorest of the poor contribute mightily as these small premiums on essentials like oil, aluminum and copper affect each and every one of us. Suddenly the sip of this cheap brew swill seems to turn even bitterer in my mouth; as I just saw that the quarterly earnings of most of these huge financial institutions increase mightily from such legal trading activities. The rich as the saying goes are getting richer, while I realize that my pension has gone the way of the dodo bird. We might as well change the name of Aluminum to Sach’s silver and Copper to Morgan’s gold; as we will be paying a tiny fraction to them, in the long run in any case.
I love free enterprise and the capitalistic society, as it has brought so much development and progress in the modern world. These financial institutions are hallowed and I remember looking in awe at the great chandelier that JP Morgan had installed in his lobby across from the NYSE during the great depression; while I was a young, and not as bright MBA student. The greatest corporations would not be around like GE, GM, IBM, and Exxon without their financing. I wish that they would go back to the business of growing corporations, infrastructure, homes, consumer goods, neighborhood small entrepreneurs to allow free enterprise to thrive, rather than this grubby money grab that is ill conceived and poorly executed. Risk on should be their slogan to encourage entrepreneurs to bring their ingenuity and innovations to the market. JPM took over Thomas Edison’s company and made it into GE when Edison insisted on sticking with outdated DC current; and not the more viable AC proven by Westinghouse, and thereby changing history. He also became the lender of last resort when the markets panicked, based on his real gold holdings. Hope that the captains of these institutions become true financiers of enterprise and growth; instead of the assured bets that make every day commodities more expensive for each of us; and only make the rich richer by hoarding necessities, and misusing the Feds easing policy. Earning quasi rent is easy; and building more rent-able production is hard, yet it remains the right thing to do for the future of humanity, to give the poorest some respite from their plight.
From my early youth I can remember that the trappings of wealth and greatness impressed me greatly. Whether it was watching the doctor riding a horse in a hill station, while I trudged along on tiny sore legs and feet up the hill; or on seeing the chauffeur driven Mercedes in the city, while I rode a borrowed scooter, it left a deep longing in my soul for more. Dependent on the mercy of others in the joint family; we young ones would be at the bottom of the pyramid and live off the scraps handed down in a benevolent mood, and consider ourselves lucky as another man’s trash was our found treasure. I dreamed of having the convenience of air-conditioning, refrigerators, color TVs, fancy cars and presidential suites in five star hotels, where champagne flowed freely and beautiful women gathered around me; and laughed their giddy laughter at my humor. I knew that the day was not far off when my brilliance would dazzle the world; and great champions and kings of industry would fall at my feet acknowledging defeat, and surrender all their wealth for my pleasures.
Later on it was the famous that attracted me like a moth to flame; from the musicians, actors, writers, artists with their glitterati lifestyles and their over the top drugs and antics. Oh my! I thought if only I could be more like them; then it would truly be a dream, that has come true. Instead of sailing the serene oceans in a luxury yacht from one famous island to the next more beautiful one; discovering the joy of everlasting love, my life has been a little different. I seemed to have been tossed on a leaky boat in a tempest; that tossed me from shore to shore, and I was too busy bailing out the water, to even notice the beauty of the islands as they sailed by. After years of struggle with my demons of excess, I find myself in a small southern town and can finally breathe for a while. I drive a Honda, turn the AC on sparingly as needed, and drink the occasional light beer on sale at Walmart. Living in Tornado alley I enjoy the irony of the fading of the tempest and find that wealth and the symbol of greatness was Sam with his dogs; and an old pickup truck used for hunting, and everything else. In the end the invisible hand of Adam Smith will take over and everything that we spent our whole life craving and gathering, will be distributed out to others. I sit like the fool on the hill surveying my peaceful world; and take a deep drag on the ten thousandth cancer stick, enjoying the harmony of my dreams going up in smoke.