Jai Jai Shiv Shankar …

If you know where to look, you’ll find a lot of science buried in our mythology.

Our Vedic rituals have evolved over centuries and were designed to codify and preserve our country’s intellectual property, especially our vast herbal wealth.

A fine example of this Vedic wisdom is the festival of Mahashivartri.

The tithi and nakshatra of each festival, that is the date and the star, mark the specific positions of stars and planets. At a time when the people of America and Europe were living in savagery, Indian astronomy was a fully developed science. The Hindu calendar that we follow today began way back in the beginning of Kaliyuga, around 3100BC.

Contrary to what many people think, Mahashivartri is not Shiva’s birthday. Shiva is without beginning or end, and hence is neither born nor unborn. Mahashivaratri is Shiva’s favorite day of the year, as defined by Shiva himself. It falls on the 13th day of the second half of the month of Maagha. This corresponds to end-Feb/early March, and is the day before the second new moon of the month.

Certain herbs and rituals are associated with the worship of Shiva.

Homa: The term ‘homa’ refers to Vedic rituals in which offerings are made to a sacred fire.  Homa goes back to the early Rigveda. Homa is derived from the Persian word ‘soma’, a herb that was used to make somarasa, a hallucinatory drink that priests drank before and during Vedic rituals. Modern day Parsis, who also have descended from the Aryans, have fire-based homa rituals that are similar to ours.

Samagri: A specific mixture of woods and herbs that is burnt during a homa. The fumes emitted by samagri are an ancient form of aromatherapy. The smoke fumigates the house and removes germs and pests.  Unfortunately, authentic samagri for Shiva Homa is rarely available these days, and the original ingredients are either lost or no longer grown in India.

Rudraksha: Believed to have sprung from the tears of Shiva, hence the name.  The technical name is Elocarpus ganitrus.  Rudraksha seeds occur in several varieties depending on how many grooves and facets they have. The most common one is the five-faced rudraksha, called panchmukhi.

Each variety is believed to have different mystical powers and electromagnetic properties, not one of which has been conclusively proven. However, there is considerable evidence that rudraksha extract is good for hypertension and inflammation. It is also a strong antioxidant.

Bael:  Also known as bilva, wood apple, and officially as Aegle marmelos. 

Shiva is particularly fond of the fruits and leaves of the bilva tree. The leaves have a peculiar shape that closely resemble Shiva’s trident and the fruit has several medicinal properties. Bael is considered sacred in Ayurveda. It is especially useful for gastro-intestinal ailments like dysentery and dyspepsia.

Bhang (marijuana, Cannnabis sativa): Known in the North as Shivji ka prasad, bhang is actually a pretty useful herb, if used as prescribed in the scriptures.

In India, Bhang has been in use since three thousand years. It relieves stress, promotes alertness, reduces pain and fatigue, improves the digestion and in higher doses, it can induce euphoria that might seem like a spiritual experience to some people.

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Ayurveda has several formulations that include bhang, and the Indian government officially sells bhang through authorised shops.

Bhang is best taken in the form of thandai, a refreshing milk drink with several interesting ingredients. It’s just the right drink to keep you cool and alert during the long night of Shivaratri. If you drink enough of it, you might see Shiva himself!

Nothing wrong in enjoying Shivji’s prasad, if you do so in moderation.

Join the voluptuous Mumtaz as she guzzles bhang and gyrates to ‘Jai Jai Shiv Shankar’, the hit song from Aap ki Kasam. This song topped the charts on Binaca Geetmala through 1974. Please disregard Rajesh Khanna as he tries to dance with Mumu. Kaka was a fine actor, but he never could dance.

Happy Shivaratri.

Bham bham Bhole!

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In your taps soon … Sandaas ka pani.

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See this river of stinking foam? This is Byramangala. One of the largest water sources in Bangalore.

To say that Byramangala is polluted is a gross understatement. Filled with industrial effluents, delicately spiced with sewage from India’s “Garden” city, and with tons of garbage added for good measure, the waters of Byramangala are not polluted – those waters are lethal.

This water is used for irrigation by all the villages around. This water is used to grow the “organic” vegetables and rice that you feed yourself and your children every day. Pay a visit to Byramangala reservoir. Stand there for more than five minutes and you will puke or faint. The vegetables and rice grown here are filled with deadly toxins, worms, bacteria and heavy metals. Farmers are fed up, livestock is dying, consumers (like you) get sick.

Across India’s silicon valley, every single lake, every stream, every source of water is in the same state.

But hey, don’t worry. The scientists are busy doing their research. Sticking their probes everywhere they can. Producing impressive Sankey diagrams and awe-inspiring Powerpoint presentations, attending international workshops on your money, publishing research papers, accepting awards – while also accepting funding from the same industries that poison your water.

And all that hard work and “science” has paid off. The “scientific” solution to our water crisis is apparently quite simple.

No need to stop those industries that merrily dump effluents in our water. No need to arrest the mafia that dumps garbage in our lakes. No need to arrest those illegal developers and builders.

Just “recycle” all that poisoned water and send it back to you. Simple. This is the “master plan” concocted by the scientists your taxes pay for and the government you elect.

No need to make even a token attempt to decongest the city. Instead, let more and more people and corporates come rushing in. By 2030, the population of Bangalore will be 20 million. That’s the population of Australia, by the way.

I’m not joking. Wastewater usage for Bangalore is almost official policy. It’s not enough that Bangalore’s garbage is dumped on surrounding villages. They are forced to use Bangalore’s foul water as well. That toxic water is in turn used to grow the food that you eat. And your own sewage water comes back to you in your own taps.

Yeah, shit happens. Your own shit.

Whose fault is it? Yours.

You had it coming to you. You do not question the scientists who influence policy. And you do not question the government that makes policy. The “scientists” bamboozle you with science. The government deceives you with promises.

Between the two, the bigger culprits are the scientists. I’ve been dealing with them through my career, and I know just how they think. Not all of those ecology scientists are dishonest. A few of them do have the right answers. But they are throttled by those whose primary interest is not in solutions, but in personal glory – and in funding.

During a recent water workshop, I saw those scientists and their cronies in action. I had to accept that what I had suspected all along was unfortunately, true.

Bangalore is doomed.

Crores of rupees spent on research, on all those foreign-trained, award-winning scientists. And their astonishingly simple solution for Bangalore’s water woes – use your own sewage.

Yeah. Science to Man’s rescue. Drink sandaas ka pani.

SKSrinivas

Shit! It’s your food!

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Two months ago,  it was plastic in our rice. This month, it’s shit in our sweets.

Once again, I was involved in a panel discussion on a local TV channel (TV9 – Bangalore), about the safety of our food. TV9 mounted a sting operation on major sweet shops across Bangalore. Diwali is the most important Indian festival, and the demand for exotic sweets is especially high at this time of the year.

Manufacturers of sweetmeats take full advantage of the high demand – and the government’s lax attitude – to peddle all kinds of shit on unsuspecting consumers. And I mean that literally.

TV9 went around the city purchasing sweets and sent them to a reputed food testing lab. I know this lab well, and I can tell you this lab is one of the best in India. Can’t disclose the name of the lab, because the channel asked me not to. But they did show me the lab reports.

And those lab reports were horrifying. Horrifying, but not surprising. I’ve been in quality control and R&D since thirty years, and I know very well how badly our food is adulterated – and what evil lurks in the minds of those who manufacture our foods.

Without execption, all the sweets tested had high amounts of coliforms in them. Coliforms are bacteria that are found exclusively in the colons of warm-blooded animals (like us). Human and animal shit are filled with coliform bacteria. There are about a hundred species of coliforms and many of them are harmless. But a significant number of coliform species are deadly pathogens and can cause severe gastro-intestinal infections. To make matters worse, coliforms are usually accompanied by other deadly bugs like viruses, protozoans and fungi, all of which can make you crap yourself to death.

To make matters even worse, coliforms are resistant to most antibacterial medicines, thanks to indiscriminate prescribing by doctors. And to make matters still worse, several coliforms have long incubation periods, upto a week in some cases. That is, if you eat contaminated sweets, you may get severe diarrhoea a week later, and you will never know what caused it.

The presence of coliforms in your food therefore, is a clear indication of fecal contamination. In other words, you are literally eating shit. How does shit get into your sweets, you ask? Obviously, through bad water, bad handling and bad storage. And zero safety standards and zero enforcement by the authorities. And of course, bribery and corrupt officialdom.

The worst culprits are koya based sweets like peda. Did you know that koya is usually stored for months in the open before use? I am always scared of round sweets like laddoos, because I’ve seen how filthy are the hands that pat those sweets into a round shape.

And beware of all sweets coated with ‘vark’, i.e. silver foil. It’s not silver in the first place, and that foil is made by pounding whatever metal they use, between slices of raw intestines taken from slaughtered goats and lambs. That’s right, raw intestines. Filled with coliforms. And remember that an innocent lamb was butchered so that you could enjoy that kaju katli.

Not just coliforms, all the sweets had high amounts of lead – another indicator of bad water being used.

I’ve saved the best for the last. All the lab reports showed that not one of those sweets had sugar in them. No sugar. All had ridiculously high levels of saccharine in them. But no sugar. Saccharine is an unsafe artificial sweetener that can cause cancer, but you already know that, don’t you?

So. Your sweets have shit in them. Bacteria. Fungi. Worms. Heavy metals. Stale milk solids. Artificial flavors. Unsafe dyes. But no sugar.

As I said, horrifying, but not surprising. Our food has always been contaminated and heavily adulterated. But no one seems to care.

In spite of dire warnings by experts (like yours truly), in spite of sting operations by the media, in spite of validated reports by certified testing labs, morons like you will still pay Rs.500/- a kilo for those sweet little packets of shit.

Can’t you make simple sweets at home, to celebrate your festivals? That’s what our festivals are about. Home-made sweets, sharing with family and friends, enjoying simple pleasures.

The real criminal is not the thug who makes these packets of shit. The real criminal is the jackass who buys them. You.

Happy Diwali.

Srini.

BTW: If you can follow Kannada, you can see the entire TV report and panel discussion here.