Why do we celebrate Yugadi?

copy_of_gudi-padwa_300The Indian calendar can be baffling to many people. The gist of it is quite simple though. There are twelve months in the year and 30 or 31 days in each month. Leap years are accurately accounted for, as are other astronomical events like equinoxes and eclipses. The significant difference between the Indian calendar and the Western calendar (or the Gregorian calendar) is that our calendar follows the phases of the moon. The Western calendar follows the revolution of the Earth around the Sun.

That is why Indian festivals seem to fall on different days each year, with reference to the Gregorian calendar.

In the Indian calendar, there are certain days that are especially important, since they mark epochal events in Indian history.

The death of Krishna marks the end of an era. Kaliyuga, the age of Evil, began from the moment of Krishna’s death, and according the scriptures that day was sometime during end-March in 3102 BC. Hence, this day is called Yugadhi, the first day of an Era.

Yugadhi also marks the beginning of a new year. Unlike the Gregorian calendar that calculates the passage of each year based on the Earth’s annual revolution around the Sun, the Indian calendar is based on the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn. As these two planets move through the heavens, they seem to transit across the twelve Zodiac constellations, starting with the constellation of Aries (Mesha rashi). Jupiter takes one year to move from one Zodiac constellation to the next and therefore takes twelve years to complete one round of the Zodiac. Saturn takes thirty years to complete one round. And once in sixty years, both planets wind up at the starting point, i.e. Mesha rashi, at the same time.

Hence, the Indian calendar follows a cycle of sixty years. Each year is called a Samavatsara and is assigned a specific name, like in the Chinese calendar. Last year was Jaya Samavatsara, and it began on March 31, 2014.

The new year, the 29th year in the cycle, begins today, i.e., March 21, 2015. The new year is named after Manmatha, the Hindu god of love.

Yugadhi falls on the first day of the first half of the first month in the Hindu calendar, i.e. the month of Chaitra. The official Indian calendar, that was adopted by India on March 22, 1957, and starts from that day, is based on the Shalivahana Saka.

Shalivahana, also known as Gautamiputra Satakarni, was a mighty king from the Shalivahana-8973-16Satavahana dynasty, that ruled much of South India for about four hundred years, from 230 BC to 220 AD. Shalivahana was the greatest of them, and the date of his coronation is the beginning of Shalivahana Saka. This was during the year 78 AD. The month of Chaitra is reckoned from that date.

Therefore, the Indian national calendar officially began on Chaitra 1, 1879 (Saka era) i.e. March 22, 1957 (Gregorian era).

And therefore March 31, 2015 is Yugadhi, Prathami (first day), Shukla Paskha (Bright half), Chaitra (first month of the year), Manmatha Samvatsara, Shalivahana Saka 1937, Kaliyuga (age of Kali).

Yugadi is celebrated across India. In Maharashtra, it’s celebrated as Gudi Padva.

Happy Yugadhi everyone!

Cheers … Srini.

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Dost, dost na rahaa … Six friends you must dump!

bad friend2“Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.”

Yeah. You are known by the friends you keep.

Friends, by definition, are supposed to be with you forever. But that’s not how it is in real life, is it? At some point in your life, you will wonder if some friends are worth keeping.

Then take some advice from Yours Truly, based on a lifetime’s experience of having bad friends. Each of the ‘friends’ below are real people from my life.

The friends that you should dump…

The ‘Reformed’ Bully:  He made your childhood a living hell, stole your pocket money, made you carry his bags, clean his locker, pushed you into the dirt whenever he felt like, made sure you were never selected for any games or social events.  And he probably gave you that gross and physiologically inaccurate nickname that you carried through your childhood.

After years of trauma, you finally get him out of your head – only to run into him again in adulthood. He’s mellowed with age, greets you like the dear friend that you never were, tries to get back into your life.

Psychologists and sociologists are welcome to their opinions – but there is no justification whatsoever for bullying behaviour.  And in my experience, there is no treatment for such people.

Take my word for it … once a bully, always a bully.

No matter how nice he seems to be today, dump him. A bully leaves emotional scars that last a lifetime. Your childhood bully being apparently remorseful and nice to you in your adulthood won’t erase the trauma he caused you in your formative years. His very presence in your life will remind of your childhood pain. Dump him.

If you’re so inclined, and you feel the need for closure, then confront him and let him have a large piece of your mind or a large piece of your fist (if you have a good lawyer).

And dump that son of a bachelor.

The Social Pirate:  This one is unadulterated poison. She diligently extracts intimate details of all your other friends and professional contacts, then gets herself invited to their events, and in turn invites them to her events – and cuts you out of both.

Social hijacking of this kind is far more common than you think. Such friends are difficult to catch, because they are really nice to you. They keep cutting you out, but they’re still nice to you. If such a friend is also a professional colleague or a fellow businessman, you can be sure she is stealing customers and prospects from you.

It will usually take a few months for you to realise what this friend is up to, and by that time, the damage to your social and professional life may be considerable. But as soon as you do find out – dump her. The only way to deal with an old friend who is a social hijacker is to do unto him as he would do unto you. Cut her out. Ruthlessly. Doesn’t matter how many years you’ve known her.

A real friend would never steal from you. Dump her.

The Public Jerk: This is the jerk who knows your dark secrets. The stupid antics you pulled as a kid, the teacher you were madly in love with when you were 15 years old, the time your pants fell down in school, the girlfriends (or wives) who dumped you and why they did, that wild afternoon behind the bushes with the neighbourhood tomboy, and all the other weird/kinky/possibly illegal mischief you did when you were too young to understand what you were doing.

Now, as an adult, he takes great pleasure in making you a source of entertainment for your friends and colleagues. He airs out all your dirty linen during any gathering of friends or professional contacts. And if one of your ex-flames happens to be there, then God help you.

Invariably, he or she will be the one person you’ve known from your earliest days in this world. But a long-standing friend like this who respects neither social conventions nor your privacy, must be definitely dumped.

Once, I took a childhood friend of mine to a business meet, after he begged me for an introduction to my client. He turned up ten minutes late, dressed in jeans and T-shirt, spoke only in Bambaiya slang throughout the meeting and kept addressing me as ‘Shendu’, my childhood nickname. I never allowed him to contact any of my clients, ever again.

The ‘Harmless’ Flirt.  There is no such thing as harmless flirting, especially when the flirter is your childhood friend – and the flirtee is your wife.

This is the friend who considers it his birthright to share ribald SMS jokes with your wife, ‘accidentally’ brush her arm, or give her a ‘brotherly’ hug or a ‘friendly’ peck on the cheek – and all in your presence. If that’s what happens when you’re in the house, then you really need to wonder what may happen when you’re not.

I’m not being old-fashioned or narrow-minded. There is a visible difference between the behaviour of a friend who is friendly but respectful to your spouse – and one who has something else in mind. And if you can’t make out that difference, you do not deserve to have a spouse.

Don’t blame your spouse. In most cases, she (or he) may be tolerating your friend’s behaviour just for your sake.

Blame yourself instead. And throw that SOB out of your life.

The Moral High-grounder:  A friend who judges you, is no friend. This is the friend who makes it a point to let you know what a loser you are, by constantly reminding you of (a) his five bedroom-three garage-two glorious kids-two Mexican maids-one Caucasian wife-one swimming pool mansion in Houston or Hebbal or wherever,  (b) his Vice-Presidentship in the world’s largest MNC,  (c) his personal friendship with Bill Gates/Warren Buffet/Lord of the Rings/whoever, (d) his priceless Renaissance paintings of naked women, bottles of vintage booze, his commode made of solid gold and so on.

A friend like this, who does not know or care about the hard decisions you had to make in your life, the tough choices you had to take for your loved ones, the obstacles you had to overcome, the pain that you went through to reach the modest station that you are at today, is simply not worth your while.

A friend who would judge you by your net-worth, is of absolutely no worth to you. His net-worth is more than yours, but believe me, you are far more valuable to this planet than he is.

Do your self-respect a huge favor. Dump him.

The Ex’s friend: Remember this – a mediator does not need to choose between two warring parties. A friend does.

He’s either your friend.  Or hers.  He just cannot be both. This is a fundamental fact of broken relationships.  No matter how cordial your relationship with your ex may seem to be, he or she is your enemy.  Period.  No one really ‘moves on’.  There is always residual enmity and resentment.  It is simply human nature.

And your friend needs to choose.  One cannot be equally loyal to two enemies.

Whether he chooses you over your ex, or not, is immaterial. It is entirely in your interest to know if he’s your friend or hers. If he chooses her, be thankful he showed his true colors. It really is in your interest. And if he remains undecided, then you decide. Dump him.

The Booze-head: I don’t drink. Been two decades since I last had any beverage with alcohol in it. It’s just a personal choice. There was a time though, when I did not mind watching my friends have a drink or two. I was happy to nurse a mocktail or a soft drink as they enjoyed their tippling.

However, I have a simple rule. If you can’t hold your drink, don’t drink.

Watching a friend make a drunken fool of himself in public, pacifying him as he flies into an abusive rage, holding him steady as he pukes his guts out in my lap, trying to convince him he’s too drunk to drive, somehow managing to drive him home in spite of his best efforts to kill me on the highway, and then at the end of it all, facing an angry cop or worse, his angry wife – is NOT my idea of a fun evening.

I did this far too many times for my friends, until one fine day, I told myself that enough is enough.

Keep such brainless booze-heads completely out of your life. There are better ways to commit suicide.

Integrity, loyalty and respect form the bedrock of friendship. Friends are expected to be loyal. They are expected to be there for you. They are expected to stand up for you. They are expected to respect you.

Even stray dogs and donkeys stick together. Homo sapiens is expected to do much better.

Truth is, if you implement all this advice I’m giving you, you’ll probably have to dump 80% of your current friends. But the truth also is, the remaining 20% are the friends who really matter.

The question I have to answer to myself now is, are you in my 20% – or not?

Cheers … Srini.

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Stay Single, you fool!

being-single-cushion-36148Yeah. Singleness is great.

My married friends can furiously deny this and vehemently curse me as much as they like. The fact is, the benefits of being single are very real – especially for someone like me who has suffered the consequences of being non-single.

Here are fully one dozen staggering benefits of being your own man:

1) C’est ta vie. It is YOUR life. That’s the biggest benefit of being single. You can lead your life as you wish to.

2) It’s good for your health. There are peer-reviewed studies that clearly demonstrate the beneficial effects of singleness on an individual’s health. In any case, it is far better to be single than be trapped in a bad marriage.

3) It’s good for your career. You can pursue the career that you really want to, irrespective of how much it pays or does not pay.

4) What you earn, you keep. And if you’re a frugal man like me, you can keep a lot.

5) Your social life improves greatly. One of the great fallacies about single people is that they do not have social lives. On the contrary. You can be with people whom you really want to be with, i.e. those who share your interests and hobbies. You are not obliged to socialise with people whom you absolutely detest, just to keep your wife happy.

6) It’s much easier to get a passport or any other legal document. Much, much easier. As I found out recently.

7) You lose weight. You get fit. That’s because you can spend quality time in the gym or in any enjoyable physical activity. That is, if you wish to.

8) You will never have any issues with your issues. And you will never have any grouse with your spouse.

9) You can leer without fear, and flirt without guilt. And that’s actually healthy for your self-esteem. The health benefits of flirting are well documented. Provided, of course, you flirt with the right people in the right situations, and not with complete strangers on the Internet.

If you’re married, try telling your wife that you were flirting with that hot nymphet at the office party, purely for health reasons.

10) You do sleep better. Go ahead. Snore all you want. There’s no one next to you.

11) You dress better. You look better. You eat better. You can take that IT course you always wanted to. You can go back to college to get that Master’s degree you deserve. You can visit the Andamans. You can really invest in your own self.

12) Most important benefit of all. If you are single, you will never have to worry about being legally victimised. If there is one single argument in favor of being single, this would be it.

And no one knows this better than I do. No one.

Make no mistake about it. Stay single. Stay free.

If you’re happily married, well then, good for you.  But if you’re single and worried about it, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Get off your butt and celebrate your singleness.

And if people point fingers at you, then point just one finger back at them – your stiff, upright middle finger.

“Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave or lose.”  Jo Coudert, American author.

Cheers … Srini.

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Maaf karna behenji – Five Indian women you must walk away from.

Anne-Cherian-A-Good-Indian-WifeRejection goes both ways. If there are Indian women who find you avoidable, then equally, there are some Indian women whom you should avoid – at any cost.

Contrary to what Indian women choose to believe, all Indian men are not wife-beaters, drunkards, womanisers, gamblers, dowry-mongers, perverts and misogynistic rectums.

And totally contrary to what Indian women claim, all Indian women are definitely not Sati Savitris, Jhansi ki ranis and paragons of virtue.

In my life, I’ve seen five types of Indian women that are best avoided. While marrying such women is far from advisable, be thankful if you get dumped by any of the women described below. They’ve done you a favor, believe me.

One speaks from hard experience, very hard experience!

Thus:

The Enigmatic Super-Tease: Some Indian women have the idea that by being dark and mysterious, they are extremely alluring to men.3954051-mysterious-indian-woman

Nonsense.

The Tease will never give you a straight answer to a straight question, she takes at least 24 hours to respond to any message, she is vague about what she does for a living, gives you a mysterious smirk when you ask her out and implies there are several other suitors in the queue, cuts off your calls, ignores you for weeks and generally treats you like dung.

The intention is to drive you wild with desire and make you chase her indefinitely. Such women are either extremely insecure or extremely arrogant. Either way, you deserve much better.

Walk away, my friend. Take out your mobile phone, locate her number – and press delete.

The Super-duper Corporate Amazon: Aggressive, rude and raucous, her phone constantly rings, she drives only a Mercedes or the like, pays more attention to her iPad than to you, and makes it very clear to you and the world that she has ‘arrived’.

In an Indian society dominated by foul, boorish men like yourself, she has carved her own special place using her superior intellect and by sheer determination.

Obviously, she will accept only a Bill Gates or equivalent, as her royal consort. It is very unlikely, as I pointed out to one such super-duper amazon, that a Bill Gates or equivalent would want such a woman in his life. But that simple logic never occurs to these women.

I admire women who are successful in their corporate careers, especially those who are more successful than I am. But, I prefer women who allow success to speak for itself – and I prefer successful women with good manners.

Turn around and walk away, mon ami. And don’t worry. Bill Gates doesn’t want her, either.

gold diggerThe Not-so-subtle Gold-digger: Manliness, according to this type of Indian female, is proven by the possession of expensive gadgets, fancy cars, multiple villas, a few kilos of gold and diamonds, and especially, a US or Canadian citizenship.

If you have none of the above, you’re not ‘man’ enough for her. She accepts only the best, you see. By herself she is a pathetic, pretentious loser who has nothing to offer you in return, but that is beside the point.

Characteristic symptom of the gold-digger: She never offers to pay the bill.

The hard fact is, there are far too many gold-diggers in urban Indian society. To give them benefit of doubt, I suppose these women have been taught by their parents that only a rich man can keep them happy and is worthy of respect. That is what one self-admitted gold-digger once told me, before dumping me for a richer man.

Whatever. Walk away, amigo. And save both your money and your self-respect.

The Grimly Brave Woman of Misery:  Life is hard. For men and women alike. And misery is contagious. Whatever be the reason, and however justified she might be, you do not need a whiner in your life. Just as no woman wants a whining man, no man deserves a perennially miserable woman.

She always complains about how tough her life is, how bad her job is, how cruel her ex was, how her back always hurts, and how bravely she copes with all her problems. If only, she says, if only there’s a good man who can take care of her – and listen to her whining for the rest of her life. Sigh!

And guess what, you are that fortunate man! You are the only good man she’s ever met who listens to her so patiently.

Yeah buddy, you two will live happily ever after!

The Mistress of Malice: Vain, vicious, vengeful, and manipulative, this type is motivated by sheer malice. Her entire existence is centered around her own self, she craves attention and praise at all times. Woe betide any man who, according to her, does not please her ego enough. She enjoys inflicting emotional hurt on her man by snubbing and humiliating him in public.

By far, this is the most dangerous type of Indian woman. She will stop at nothing to achieve her ends, even it means abusing the law to get you.

Jails in our country are filled with men who’ve been trapped in fake dowry and domestic violence cases.

Yes, these women do exist in our society. And it is quite difficult to spot them.

Malicious women are very clever at hiding their malice from you – until it is too late. And no one knows this better than I do.

There are good Indian men. There are bad Indian women. Which one you land up with, depends on you.

A good woman is one who is with you simply because she is happy to be with you.

She will be just as happy to get into a crowded bus with you, as into a fancy limo. Just as happy to share idli-vada sambar at the local darshini, as a buffet at a 5-star hotel. She’s just as secure in her career as she is proud of yours.

A good woman is comfortable about her body and mature about bodily matters. Gracefully accepts that you will age and wither – and so will she.

A sexy body will decay. Character will not. Flesh and bone will rot. Inner beauty will not. Wealth will vanish. Values will not. A devout person is not necessarily a good person. A moral atheist is far better than an immoral religious thug. A good woman will understand all of this.

There is absolutely no shortage of good women in our country. Especially in our country. You just need to look in the right places.

And if you are lucky enough to get a good woman in your life, please hold on to her very tightly.

Or I might take her away from you!

Cheers … Srini.

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The science of Sankranti.

Dawn on Sankranti. Note the sun's position at the southern end of the horizon.

Dawn on Sankranti. Note the sun’s position at the southern end of the horizon.

What exactly is Sankranti?

Many of our religious festivals originate from ancient Indian astronomy. These festivals commemorate important astronomical events.

Actually, there is a Sankranti every month of the year. The term ‘Sankranti’ is not religious, but an astronomical one. It is used to denote the apparent movement of the Sun from one constellation to another.

The Sun, of course, does not really move with respect to the Earth. Its lateral movement across the skies is an illusion caused by the tilt in the Earth’s axis.

The Earth, as you know, rotates around its own axis, making one circuit every twenty four hours. It rotates at an astonishing speed of about 1600 km/hour. That’s much higher than the speed of sound.

The cycle of day and night is due to the Earth’s rotation. But that doesn’t explain why we have so many seasons in a year. If the Earth’s rotational axis were vertical, then each side of the planet would have the same temperature, during the day or night. And we would have only one season throughout the year.

The Earth’s axis of rotation isn’t vertical, but slightly titled at an angle of 23.5 degrees. That results in a phenomenon called precession and causes varying temperatures across the globe, and the creation of different seasons in a year.

Indian astronomers knew about the precession of the Earth’s axis. They even had a mathematical formula to precisely calculate precession and they had an official term
for it – Ayanamsa.1200px-Earth-lighting-winter-solstice_EN (1)

In addition to creating seasons in a year, the Earth’s precession also results in the apparent lateral movement of the Sun, with respect to the horizon. Ancient Indian astrologers would track this movement by using stellar constellations as reference points. Thus, the Sun would apparently move from one constellation to another during the year. This transition was referred to as ‘Sankranti’ or ‘Sankramana’.

With respect to the horizon, the Sun apparently moves to the north or south, during the year. You can observe this movement at sunrise. Over a period of months, the Sun will appear to move to the north or south, as it rises.

So, if there’s a Sankranti every month, what’s the big deal about Makara Sankranti?

Well, in Indian astrology, Makara Sankranti is given great significance because this particular Sankranti marks the beginning of the Sun’s movement to the north. From this Sankranti onwards, the Sun enters the constellation of Capricorn (known as Makara in Sanksrit). And moves into the northern hemisphere.

This northern transition of the Sun is called Uttarayana. From today, for the next six months, the Sun will continue its northerly movement. And six months later, the Sun will begin its apparent movement to the south, called Dakshinayana. This Sankranti is known as Karka Sankranti, and falls between July 14 and July 18.

Makara Sankranti marks the end of winter, and the start of the harvest season. It also marks the end of an inauspicious period.

In the Mahabharata, this is the day on which Bheeshma chose to release himself from his body – after he was assured that the kingdom of Hastinapura was in the safe
hands of Yudhistira and his brothers. Before he left the Earth, Bhishma imparted the secret of the Vishnusahasranama to Yudhistira. Vishusahasranama, or the Thousand
Names of Vishnu, is considered one of the most powerful incantations in Sanatana Dharma.

Makara Sankranti, therefore, is considered a sacred day, a day on which the rays of the rising Sun bring enlightenment to human beings.

On this day, the Sun is worshipped throughout India. Til, or sesame seed, is used across India as part of the rituals. In Maharashtra and Karnataka, people distribute laddoos made of til and jaggery. In many parts of west and north India, people mark the festival by flying kites of all shapes and sizes.

So, til-gul ghyaa, god god bola. And go fly a kite.

Happy Makara Sankranti, everyone.

Srini.

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