This man is different. He has guts.

It’s good for the economy. No, no, it’s bad. GDP will increase. No, no, people will starve. It will flush out black money. No, no, it won’t. Real estate will come down. No it won’t. Yes it will. No it won’t. Corruption will vanish. Of course it won’t. Indians will be Indians.

Opinions. Counter-opinions. Raving. Ranting. Live telecasts of mile-long queues outside ATM’s and banks. People allegedly dying while waiting in those queues. Table salt allegedly being sold at Rs.400 per kg. Non-BJP politicians yelling their guts out, threatening to bring down the wrath of God upon the nation – but offering no practical solutions whatsoever. A former prime minister who is a PhD in Economics no less, and was at the very helm of India’s economic affairs for forty years but chose to remain silent all through, suddenly finds his voice and presents a speech filled with bromidic criticism – and nothing else – to the nation. Left-wingers and “liberals” gleefully predict the downfall of Modi et al. Etcetera. Etcetera.

It is now three weeks since NaMo’s DeMo. Three weeks since Mr. Narendra Modi shook the nation to its core. Three weeks since 86% of the country’s currency was suddenly demonetised, an event that has happened perhaps for the first time in world history.

As Modi said during his broadcast on Nov 8, with a soft voice and with a straight face, “As of this midnight, your 500 and 1000 rupee notes are worthless pieces of paper”.

The nation-wide pandemonium that immediately ensued was understandable. I received the news via Whatsapp and promptly dismissed it as a hoax. I happily handed over my last Rs.100 note to the autorickshaw driver as I got back home. And got the shock of my life when every TV channel told me that the net-worth of all the cash I had withdrawn just an hour ago was exactly equal to zero.

Mom was blissfully ignorant of all the halla-gulla going on across the nation. I, on the other hand, cannot afford the luxury of ignorance. Heart palpitating, brow sweating, pulse pounding, limbs trembling, I gulped down an extra tablet of my heart medicine and took stock of my situation.

Once my panic subsided after the medicine took hold, I realised things weren’t that bad after all – for me at least. All utility bills for the next three months already paid on-line. Groceries and vegetables were being procured on-line anyway. Henceforth I could pay for my transport only via my phone, so for the time being travelling by bus was ruled out. No big deal. I’m told that BMTC will introduce smart cards for bus travel in two months.

While our elected representatives shouted and screamed and brought the parliament to a grinding halt, ordinary citizens quickly adapted to the situation and went out of their way to help others. While the scion of India’s former ruling family rode around in his air-conditioned million-dollar SUV claiming that he could feel “the pain of my people”, students in my city went round on foot offering refreshments to people standing outside banks and ATM’s.

The cash I had withdrawn was handed over to my local pharmacist, in exchange for six months supply of my medicine, so that took care of that. The local milk vendor told me he’d take “old” Rs.1000 notes till end-December, so that took care of my daily milk supply. The local kirana shop owner told me the same thing, so I could continue to buy daily stuff like bread, eggs and the like. The gas delivery boy proudly showed off his new debit card swiper and his ability to use it. My maid cheerfully told me that I could pay her salary after a couple of weeks. In turn, I helped her out by buying her groceries and veggies on-line. Even my local barber accepted on-line payment for my monthly haircut.

No doubt there are predators who will exploit the situation and prey on the helpless, as there always are. No doubt there are people who curse and suffer. No doubt every Indian citizen has been hit by Modi’s DeMo bombshell. But the vast majority of the people I know are solidly on Modi’s side. No question about it.

While there are people who question the government’s implementation, and perhaps rightly so, few question the government’s intention.

Is Modi’s move right or wrong? Will it eradicate black money? Remove corruption? Frankly, I do not know. I’m not an economist. My auditor and the few bankers and economists I do know tell me that Modi is on the right track.

I fondly hope so. But let me tell you what I feel as a layman.

Modi has guts.

I’m not a BJP man. Not a left-liberal either. Definitely not a political analyst. Certainly not an economist. And most certainly not a presstitute. Just another long-suffering tax-paying Brahmin who has become inured since forty years to politicians who talk a lot, fill up their own coffers at my expense, and do nothing else.

This man is different.

Modi and his team must have known that they would be mercilessly attacked by their detractors. Modi must have known that his own job, credibility and career would be at stake. That they still went ahead with their plan indicates that they know what they’re doing. And this is only the beginning, Modi tells us.

To me, that looks like a man who has the courage of his convictions. He will act, while other men just talk.

I’m not entirely convinced about what he did and what he might do in the future. But for the first time, we see here a politician who is unafraid of administering the bitter pill and the swift kick on the rear that our country sorely needs.

Right or wrong, he will do what he has to do. And for that, he has my respect.

What will happen in the days ahead? Will India’s financial Augean stables get a thorough cleansing? Will this usher an era of prosperity? Will India arise at last to take her rightful place amongst the nations of the world? Will I prove my doctors wrong and actually live past the age of sixty?

Only time will tell. But for now, I can tell you this.

This man is different.

Is PM mein dum hai.

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The silent renaissance of Samskritam

dsc05400Who says Samskritam is a dead language? Far from it.

The usage of Samskrit declined dramatically after the British annexed India. Historically, we blame the British for the near-demise of Samskrit and that blame is well deserved. The Mughals, in their 600-year rule over India, did what they could to subdue Samskrit, but I believe the British did a far better job of it.

That the British were extremely efficient in destroying India’s economy, culture, educational system and language is historical fact. To quote Shashi Tharoor, “In Power, the British were, in a word, ruthless”.

But that is history. To quote Tharoor again, “History is neither for excuses, nor for revenge”.

It is time we stopped blaming our former rulers for the plight of Samskrit, time we moved on, time we accepted the responsibility of preserving our own culture and language.

Thus, I took it upon myself to learn Samskritam. Since I am quite fluent in both Hindi and Marathi, and can read Devanagari script easily, I found it reasonably simple to learn the basics of Samskrit. In the past six months, I have picked up sufficient Samskrit to be able to appreciate some of its nuances, and to be able to dispel the myths associated with it.

First of all, it’s not pronounced Saanskrit or Senskrit. It’s Samskritham or Samskrit, if you will. Pronounced as “Sum-skri-tham”.

The very word means “refined speech“. That indeed was the defining characteristic of those who used Samskrit through our country’s history – they were refined in their manner, refined in their culture, refined in their philosophy.

Myth 1: Samskritam is a very difficult language to learn.

Have you ever heard of an ‘easy’ language? Each language has its own syntax, rules and structure. Each language poses its own challenges to novices. Try learning Mandarin or Japanese. Then you’ll know.

For most Indians, Samskrit comes with a built-in advantage. If you know any Indian language, and it is likely that you know more than one, then you already know several Samskrit words and are already familiar with the basics of Samskrit grammar. Over the past thirty centuries, Samskrit has contributed directly to the evolution of almost every Indian language currently in use.

Try listening to the Samskrit news on Doordarshan and All India Radio. You’ll be surprised at how much of it you can understand, even if you have never formally learned Samskrit.

So don’t you worry about how difficult you think it will be to learn Sanskrit. You are already using Samskrit without knowing it. You do not need to know Devanagari script, although it is preferable that you do. Samskrit speakers use Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali and just about any Indian script they are comfortable with. Remember, Samskrit has always been a phonetic language, with much more emphasis on correct pronunciation than on the script used.

And, it’s not as if you are expected to study Samskrit for decades and become a Vedic scholar, though you can if you wish to. For most of us, even a working knowledge of Samskrit is enough to enjoy the richness of the language, for which just a few months of study will suffice. Since you know one or more Indian languages, you already have a head start.

Myth 2: Samskrit is meant for certain castes only.

Bullshit.

Myth 3: Samskrit is a boring, ancient language and is only about old scriptures and mumbo-jumbo.

Once again, bullshit. That’s like saying that English is only about Shakespeare and the Canterbury Tales. There is no shortage of modern Samskrit literature, scientific publications, articles, fiction, non-fiction and poetry. No matter what your field of interest is, you will find a modern Samskrit publication in that field.

Myth 4: I’m not a Hindu. Samskrit is not my language.

So what if you’re not a Hindu? You’re still an Indian, aren’t you? Samskrit is not a “Hindu” language. It’s an Indian language. In fact, it is the Indian language, the progenitor of all other Indian languages. If you speak any Indian language, you are using Samskrit without knowing it, no matter what your religion is. So what’s the big deal about learning it formally?

I haven’t come across any Samskrit institution that turns away anyone who wishes to learn.

Myth 5: There is no practical use of learning Samskrit. What do I gain from it anyway?

Ah. The million-dollar question. What’s the point, what’s the use, what’s the benefit?

For starters, one does not learn a language solely in order to make money out of it. Not necessarily.

That said, even if you want to learn Samskrit merely for personal gain, you will not be disappointed. No matter what troubles you – business, finance, management, science, philosophy, work, personal life, health – you will find the answers you seek in the Samskrit works of India.

So don’t bother about the material benefits of learning Samskrit. They are already available to you.

Myth 6: There are very few institutions that teach proper Samskrit.

Now that is so not true. There are many institutions that can teach you Samskrit, on-line and otherwise. From a basic working knowledge of Samskrit to PhD programs, you will find top-quality institutions across India, and in some countries outside it.

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My Samskrit class, in session

My new friends in Samskrita Bharati have been teaching Samskrit to all sections of society since 1970. Check out their website here, and choose whatever course suits you. You will be taken aback at the absurdly low fees they charge. Samskrita Bharati regularly conducts 10-day courses in conversational Samskrit, utterly free of cost. That would be a good starting point for your journey into the world of Samskrit.

Across India, a silent renaissance is going on, in case you haven’t noticed. Thousands of Indians have committed themselves to the learning and propagation of Samskritam. And that includes Yours Truly.

I could not see any viable reason to not learn the language of the Gods – and several reasons why I should.

So stop making pathetic excuses and get off your backside, will you?

Pathatu Samskritham. Vadhatu Samskritham.

Cheers … Srini.

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The extinction of Brahminism.

Question: Who is a Brahmin’s worst enemy? Answer: Another Brahmin.

Brahmins will be extinct by 2050.

Brahmins are less than 4% of the total population and declining at a rate that will result in extinction within four decades, give or take a decade.

We won’t be missed after we go extinct. Brahmins are already irrelevant in Indian society. We are out of the mainstream. Neither in government jobs nor in academic institutes are Brahmins wanted. Every year, reservation quotas increase and opportunities for us decrease, no matter which political party is in power. That is because our votes are too few to matter.

Battered, humiliated, hounded and reduced to a negligible minority, we are in fact the most marginalised section of Indian society.

And yet, who is a Brahmin’s worst enemy? Another Brahmin.

All the grief I have faced in my life – personal and professional – has been caused to me exclusively by fellow Brahmins.

This is how we are making ourselves extinct:

1) Exogamy: Simply put, marrying out of caste. Brahmin grooms are no longer preferred by Brahmin brides – especially a Brahmin groom who is not an NRI. It’s called “empowerment” you see.

2) Soaring divorce rates: The divorce rate for upper caste marriages is far higher than other castes. Once again, “empowerment”, you see. Unhappy with the Brahmin you married? Dump him. Abuse the law if necessary. And dump him.

3) Emigration: India not good enough for you, no? Quit India. Whichever country you emigrate to, loudly mock India at every opportunity and on every social forum. And then wonder why resident Brahmins like myself hate you so much.

4) Cannibalism: Yes. Cannibalism. As I said, a Brahmin’s worst enemy is another Brahmin. We are the most intolerant people in the country. Shaiva versus Vaishnava. Iyer versus Iyengar. Vadakalai versus Thenkalai. North versus South. Aryan blood versus Dravidian blood.

Ever seen Brahmins from different sects arguing? They will come to blows over the most trivial differences. The argument about which symbol should be painted on the forehead of a temple elephant has been raging between Vadakalais and Thenkalais since two hundred years. Get that? Two hundred years of war over two hand-painted symbols on a pachyderm’s forehead that differ so slightly that no one can tell the difference unless it is pointed out to them.

Talk to an Iyer and he will vehemently explain to you why an Iyengar is an arrogant idiot. And vice-versa. The Nambudri says his form of Brahminism is the highest in the universe, while the Havyaka says the same about his version. The north Indian Sharma makes fun of the south Indian Hegde because he cannot speak Hindi. The Madras Iyengar laughs at the Palakkad Iyer because his Tamil isn’t “pure”.

We cannot stand each other, cannot tolerate minor differences, cannot even accept other Brahmins as fellow Brahmins. How can we blame other castes for wiping us out?

Thus, extinction is inevitable. Not because of other castes. We will eradicate ourselves.

We have two choices then – either we go extinct, or we don’t. The fundamental question is, are Brahmins worth saving? Does Brahminism deserve to survive?

Why not? Why the hell not?

As a Brahmin, I am unique. My culture is unique. My traditions are unique. My identity is unique. Like most other Brahmins, my bloodline is at least six thousand years old. Who are you to wipe out my culture, my traditions, my identity, my bloodline? Who the eff are you?

Brahmins and Brahminism. We have the right to survive, to live and to prosper. Like anybody else.

How do we prevent extinction then? Isn’t it obvious?

Don’t marry out of caste. At least, marry someone from another Brahmin sect, if you cannot stand your own. Do not marry for a green card. Instead, marry into a family that is rich in culture and values.

If you think marriage is “slavery” and are unwilling to commit yourself to your Brahmin spouse, then do not marry at all. Better that you remain single and not screw up another Brahmin’s life. Committing yourself to a Brahmin marriage also means committing yourself to creating a Brahmin family. If you are against the idea of child-bearing, that’s your choice – but then do not get married, please.

No one is stopping you from leaving the country, and I don’t blame you if you do. But do not abuse the country you left behind.  For thousands of years before you, your forefathers lived and died here. The sterling qualities that made you attractive to your adoptive country are a genetic legacy from those very forefathers. If you cannot honor them, then at least do not abuse them in front of foreigners, you ungrateful dickhead.

Give something back to your sect and your country. What you do for your fellow Brahmins depends entirely on you. Get a job abroad for a fellow Brahmin, help him or her in education, do business preferentially with resident Brahmins who are not as fortunate as you are. Do whatever you think fit. But resolve to help other Brahmins prosper in any way you can.

If you’re an employer in the private sector, hire Brahmins. The private sector is still free from reservation quotas – but not for long. Not for long.

Get familiar with your Brahmin culture, before you make fun of it for the amusement of others. I do not know much about the Vedas and other scriptures. That’s because I’m not very good at Sanskrit. I’m learning Sanskrit now, at this advanced age. But that’s just me. It is not necessary to be a great Vedic scholar, not necessary to recite hundreds of shlokas verbatim, not necessary to conduct Vedic rituals yourself, in order to appreciate your culture.

Even a working knowledge of Sanskrit and an acquaintance with our culture will do. You have no idea how rich our Brahmin culture actually is. Indian science, medicine, surgery, technology, philosophy, art, music, language – created, developed and nurtured by Brahmins over thousands of years.

For example, read the English versions of Kautilya’s Arthashastra or Charaka’s Samhita, and be astonished at how relevant that ancient wisdom still is today.

Invest a small amount of time in learning about who we are and where we come from, and I guarantee you will feel an enormous surge of pride in your identity.

And don’t screw up your fellow Brahmins in their respective jobs and businesses. If you cannot or will not help them, then don’t add to their misery either.

Or, continue to cannibalise your own caste, continue to be trod upon, keep whining about what’s happening to the Brahmins in India – and watch as we are driven into extinction.

I don’t want to be extinct. How about you?

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Diwali … get your fundas right!

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I’ve always wondered … why do most of our festivals celebrate somebody’s death?

It’s usually about some demon who obtains special powers or advanced weaponry by propitiating various Gods. He then goes on a global killing and looting spree, thereby becoming a major nuisance to the general public and incurring the wrath of the same Gods who gave him all those powers in the first place. Invariably, a mighty battle follows between said demon and said Gods, and our unfortunate demon is decapitated, eviscerated and dismembered, as a stern example to other demons with divine ambitions.

And we mortals rejoice, abandon our work, release malodorous fireworks into the atmosphere, eat and drink lustily, burn a lot of money, and generally celebrate the triumph of ‘good’ over ‘evil’.

Yet, most people won’t even know the name of the demon whose death they celebrate.

So it is with Deepavali.  When asked, most of my friends give me a vague reply.  Something to do with Lakshmi puja or Lord Rama or something, they tell me, before rushing off to buy Chinese firecrackers at cheap rates – and stocking up on booze.

If you wish to celebrate a festival, then do it right.

Herewith then, some Diwali fundas …

Diwali is always celebrated during the last six days of  Ashvina and the first day of Kartika, these two being the sixth and seventh months in the Hindu calendar. This corresponds to end-October/early November.

This year, 2016, that period is between Oct 26th and November 2nd.

The Hindu calendar is based on the waxing and waning of the moon. There is one full moon day every month as you probably know. Therefore, each month has two halves – the earth moon phasefortnight before a full moon and the fortnight after it. The fortnight before the full moon, i.e. the waxing period is called Shukla paksha – the bright half, Shukla meaning white in Sanskrit. The fortnight after the full moon is called Krishna paksha – the dark half, Krishna meaning black.

Diwali is perhaps the oldest of the Indian festivals. In some form or the other, India has celebrated Diwali since the past five thousand years at least.

Diwali is not one festival.  It commemorates six separate events from Vedic history.  Over the ages, these six festivals merged into one major festival.

OK, here goes:

The 12th day of Ashvina-Shuklapaksha, is Govatsa Dwadashi. As you can figure out from the name, this day is dedicated to cows and calves. Those who celebrate Govatsa Dvadashi perform a puja for their cows and do not consume milk products on this day, This year, Govatsa Dvadashi falls on ThursdayOct 27th. 

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Dhanvantari, at Art of Living Ashram, Bangalore. Note the leech in his right hand.

The 13th day of the dark half of Ashvina, i.e. Krishnapaksha Trayo-dashi, is the birthday of Dhanvanatri, the celestial physician who appeared during Sagaramanthan, the churning of the ocean. Hence it is called Dhantrayodashi.

People up North also believe that Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth,  is in a benevolent mood on this particular day. People light lamps through the night, in the hope that Lakshmi pays them a visit. For this reason, this day is also called Dhanteras.

This year, Dhanteras falls on October 28th, Friday.

Medical professionals who consider Dhanvantari as their patron god may perform a Dhanvantari puja on this day.

Some others prefer to gamble on this day, in the belief that if they win on Dhanteras they keep winning through the year. They usually lose heavily.

In some parts of west and north India, it is believed that evil spirits are at their strongest on this night, and some perform a Hanuman puja.

– The 14th day of Ashvina-Krishnapaksha, i.e. Chatur-dashi, commemorates the death of Narakasura. The son of Bhoodevi (Mother Earth) and Lord Vishnu in his Varaha (boar) incarnation, Narakasura became a nasty warlord due to special boons given to him by Vishnu himself.

He had to be slain by a later incarnation of Vishnu, i.e., Krishna, or in some versions of the legend, by his wife Satyabhama. Apparently, just before he died, Narakasura requested Krishna and Satyabhama that his death should not be mourned by his subjects, but celebrated with a lot of light and colour.krishna_and_narakasura_ack99

Since he was slain just before sunrise, Naraka Chaturdashi is celebrated with bright lights and a lot of noise in the wee hours of the morning – unfortunately.

Narakachaturdashi, or Choti Diwali as it is called up North, falls on October 29, Saturday.

There is a belief that anyone who has a bath-cum-oil massage (or Abhyangsnana) before sunrise on Narakachaturdashi will avoid going to hell. Now you know why your grandma would haul you out of bed at an ungodly hour and dunk your head in hot water.

Well, if you so believe, the correct time for avoiding hell is 04.58 to 06:15, on October 29.

The 15th day, i.e., No moon day or Ashvina Amavasya, marks the day on which Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya with Sita and Lakshmana. Rama slew Ravana on Vijayadashami. After handing over Lanka to Vibhishana, he returned to Ayodhya eighteen days after Vijayadashami. Since it was Amavasya, the darkest night of the month, the residents of Ayodhya lit up the whole city with oil-lamps.

That of course, is why it is called Deepavali.

On this day, the goddess Lakshmi is worshipped, specifically during the evening hours, or Pradosh kaal.

Diwali and Lakshmi puja this year are on Sunday, October 30. For those of you who are serious about Lakshmi puja, the correct time is between 18:50 to 20:19.

The next day is the first day of the bright half of Kartika, i.e. Prathami-Shukla paksha. This day is celebrated as Govardhana Puja, to commemorate Krishna’s feat of lifting the entire Govardhan mountain on his finger, to protect his villagers from Indra’s wrath.

In North and West India, this day is also celebrated as Bali Padyami, believed to be the day on which Raja Bali returns from the depths of the underworld and visits his kingdom on earth. In Kerala however, this day is celebrated during the festival of Onam.

Usually, the Gujarati new year also falls on this day or on the day before. Traditional Gujarati businessmen close their account books (or Chopda) and open a new Chopda, with a Chopda puja.

The second day of Kartika, i.e. Kartika Dvitiya is celebrated as Bhau Bheej or Bhaya bhaubeejDuj. According to our scriptures, Yama, god of death, visited his sister Yami on this particular day. Brother and sister were very happy with the visit, and Yama assured his sister that any brother who visits his sister on this day will be blessed with long life.

Hence this day is also called Yama Dvitiya.

For those brothers who are unable to visit their sisters (as am I), prayers offered to Yama by the concerned sisters will suffice.

This then is the six-day festival of Diwali.

Note however, that nowhere and nowhere in the scriptures, does it specify that Diwali must be celebrated by intense air and noise pollution, extreme drunkenness, rowdy behavior and by a vulgar exhibition of wealth.

Have a happy Diwali everyone. And let me have a peaceful Diwali – for a change.

Cheers … Srini.

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Diwali … the ‘patriotic’ way.

Diwali is round the corner. Here’s how to celebrate it like the ‘patriot’ that you are:

1) Spend at least Rs.10,000/- on the loudest and most obnoxious crackers available. Thereby making you directly responsible for the exploitation of children who are forced to work 14 hours a day to make those crackers. But hey, who cares? You are contributing to the economy, no?

Better yet, rave and rant against Pakistani film stars acting in Indian movies – and buy Diwali crackers and lamps made in China. Let everyone know how ‘patriotic’ you are.

2) Explode those crackers in the middle of the night and wee hours of the morning. Thereby giving heart attacks to elderly people in your neighborhood. But hey, who cares? They’re old guys on the verge of death anyway, right? You’re doing them a favor, no?

3) Ensure that the air in your neighborhood is filled with toxic gases like sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide and deadly metallic particles like lead, chromium, magnesium, strontium, barium and antimony. Thereby ensuring that asthma
patients (like myself) choke to death and/or end up with lung cancer. But hey, who cares? Diwali is such an auspicious day – and a good time to die, no?

4) Traumatise all forms of non-human life, including pet dogs, cats, migratory birds, cows, horses and every other animal that has the misfortune of being in the vicinity of ‘patriots’ like yourself. Birds and their chicks are burnt alive due to rockets crashing into their nests, dogs go mad with the noise and bite people at random, cows are scared out of their wits and stop feeding their calves. But hey who cares? They’re just animals, no?

5) Ensure that your children burst fireworks without any safety precautions whatsoever. Thereby ensuring that some innocent passerby is permanently blinded by a bomb exploding in his face. But hey, who cares? It’s Diwali, no?

6) Cause at least one road accident, by exploding fireworks in the middle of the road. Even better, explode crackers below a passing car, so that the fuel tank catches fire. And then, you can enjoy some real fireworks, no?

7) Gather all your like-minded friends, have a wild drunken party till 4 am, smash some windows, throw some beer bottles on the road or at someone’s head, intimidate and beat up anyone who dares to complain. Because it is your democratic right to celebrate festivals in any manner you choose, no? Others don’t have democratic rights. Only you do.

8) Take pride in the huge amount of poisonous garbage that you and your kids generate, since that shows your financial status to everyone, no?

Let someone else clean it up. What are you paying taxes for, no?

Let the losers celebrate Diwali in the old-fashioned way – with prayers, reconnecting with our scriptures, seeking blessings from elders, traditional oil-lamps, home-made sweets, reunions with family and friends, quiet traditional meals with loved ones, and all that sort of rot.

You’re a ‘patriot’, my friend! Go ahead, burn money, exploit, pollute, ravage, destroy, get drunk, maim and kill.

Happy Deepavali!

Cheers … Srini.

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