Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The fire which enlightens is the same fire which consumes. -Henri Frederic
Amiel, philosopher and writer (1821-1881)
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. -William James,
You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements. -Norman Douglas, novelist (1868-1952)
Conscience is a dog that does not stop us from passing but that we cannot prevent from barking. -Nicolas de Chamfort, writer (1741-1794)
A man can't ride on your back unless it's bent. -Martin Luther King, Jr., civil-rights leader (1929-1968)
What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy? -Ursula K. Le Guin, author (b. 1929)
When you battle with your conscience and lose, you win. -Henny Youngman, comedian and violinist (1906-1998)
Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is. -William James, psychologist and philosopher (1842-1910)
Some people with great virtues are disagreeable, while others with great vices are delightful. -Francois, duc de La Rochefoucauld, moralist (1613-1680)
The artist brings something into the world that didn't exist before, and he does it without destroying something else. -John Updike, writer (1932-2009)
As the pain that can be told is but half a pain, so the pity that questions has little healing in its touch. -Edith Wharton, novelist (1862-1937)
To profess to be doing God's will is a form of megalomania. -Joseph Prescott, aphorist (1913-2001)
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. -Oscar Wilde, writer (1854-1900)
Poetry, indeed, cannot be translated; and, therefore, it is the poets that preserve the languages; for we would not be at the trouble to learn a language if we could have all that is written in it just as well in a translation. But as the beauties of poetry cannot be preserved in any language except that in which it was originally written, we learn the language. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)
Truth, in matters of religion, is simply the opinion that has survived. -Oscar Wilde, writer (1854-1900)
Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous. -Confucius, philosopher and teacher (c. 551-478 BCE)
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? -Epicurus, philosopher (c. 341-270 BCE)
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Following is an account of my first flight to the US of A. It was a business trip and i was living way way beyond my means. It shows in the writing!In retrospect, I'm amazed at my excitement given that I've written such a long narration of just the flight. A part of the credit should probably go to the hours I had to kill in transit. Without further preamble, here's the real deal. Hope you like it :)
Bangalore - Frankfurt - Chicago - San Jose
24.04.08 - Frankfurt, Germany
Here I am, in the lap of luxury at the Frankfurt international airport. I'm within the United airlines red carpet lounge, surrounded by 5 star luxury, in the first class section. I began my trip from Bangalore to San Jose at the Bangalore International airport, technically referred to as the Hindustan airport. Truth be told, it is a pathetic excuse for an airport. I hope the new international airport lives up to the international standards I'm now seeing and saw a little earlier on my trip to Australia.
My first flight on this trip was Lufthansa's LH755 to Frankfurt where I'm currently in transit. I next board a United airlines(UA) flight to Chicago. This was my first experience traveling business class and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Its quite fantastic, the amount of technology thats crammed into a business class seat. I sat upright through my meals, reclined comfortably while watching the programs on my personal screen and slept fully stretched on a near flat bed, being gently massaged in the lumbar region. All this on the same seat. Pure luxury, I say. I can't imagine what better is in store for me on my next flight, where I'm traveling first class (whoa! Probably the only time in a long long time)
So here I am, getting all my batteries charged (literally and figuratively). I arrived here at 9 am, local time (12:30 pm, IST). The flight duration was 9.5 hrs. Now its 9.30 am here and my UA flight is at 12 noon. Once I've charged up all my paraphernalia, I propose to check out any airport tours, if available, though I'd be more than happy to roam around and absorb new experiences.
I'm sipping on bitburger, premium pilsner…its some beer, is all I could figure out since the rest is in German. In flight, I was presented with the daunting task of choosing between champagne, chardonnay, red and white wine and spirits of the highest order. I went for the champagne, the name of which I've already forgotten. The options are so overwhelming and your knowledge so elementary, it's a humbling experience.
Food on the flight to Frankfurt, of course was straight out of an Indian kitchen. Dinner had tomato rice, kumbh palak, thick yellow dal, aloo mint raita (with no aloo), pakoras in a mayonnaise sorta sauce and bread of choice from croissants, tandoori roti, buns etc. It was fab. For dessert, rabri was served. Breakfast had, granola porridge, upma, kanchipuram idli with ginger chutney (delicious) and bread of choice.
The choice of food at the red carpet lounge is mind boggling again. We've got burgers, hot tiny pizza slices and an assortment of bread with a variety of spreadables. There is cereal and milk. There is an assortment of nuts. A good collection of fresh fruit juices; whole green apples too. Tea, coffee without question. Coke and beer. And, last but not the least, an assortment of chocolates including ferrero rochers and toblerone. So without much ado, let me proceed to raid 'em in typical Indian ishtyle. To hell with decency!
I have my eyes on a view drinks here. I think I'll consider myself successful in life the day I speak of them in the same vein as coke/pepsi. I'm talking of Jack Daniels, VSOP champagne, johnie walker – black label premium scotch whiskey.Sigh!
24.04.08, mid-atlantic ocean
Alright! Welcome back as I approach Greenland. We've(the flight is family now) passed Iceland and are cruising 36000 ft above the Denmark strait. We've covered 2898 km since taking off from Frankfurt and are expected to reach O'Hare International airport, Chicago at 2 pm, local time. If I thought traveling business class was something, I had in mind an even better expectation from first class travel. Now stretching on a fully reclining seat in my personal cubicle sort of space, replete with a luggage area and a cabinet, and smoothing off scoops of hagen daaz ( vanilla and chocolate with chocolate sauce, cream and fine sliced nuts), I can comprehend the difference.
Not to mention watching a yet-to-release-in-India Jodie Foster thriller sipping Chivas Regal on the rocks with assorted and freshly roasted(warm) and salted, mix of macadamia and cashew nuts. The movie is "The brave one". Its your regulation thriller; will spare the review for later though.
Whats been excellent this time has been the good fortune to witness something rare and magnificent. So our pilot comes alive on the PA system and points us to a sight outside. And what a site it was! Cruising alongside us (well seemingly!) was another passenger jumbo and further away, yet another one. The nearer one, we were soon told, was a good 2000ft above us. How distances pale, I swear! Anywise, the beauty in the sight lay in the streaks from the steady stream of air being churned out by the other plane. Luckily, I captured the same on video. Lots of brilliant shots of the peeks of landscape through the clouds. Oh! How beautiful are these clouds! You just want to jump out of the plane and float on them.
Food has been a major problem on this journey. There's such an overdose of delicacies, that its painful to choose. I opted for the following
"Spinach and ricotta stuffed tortellini Antonio with creamy chive sauce"
Simply put, rose shaped pasta chunks stuffed with spinach and swathed in creamy sauce. I chose this over my specially arranged Asian veg meal. I was told it contained rice and vegetables and that didn't look too inviting. I was worried that the pasta would be bland, but it turned out to be perfect. For entree I was served as per the special Asian veg course; deep-fried, flour coated cauliflower dumplings. Quite bland they were and hence in retrospect, I feel vindicated in my choice of main course.
One silly thing I notice is that, the first class doesn't have a charge point for the laptop. That means, I'm gonna have to shut this thing down soon before it conks out on me. This seems to be an older aircraft. It's a Boeing 747 for the record. The business class in the Lufthansa craft was snazzier technology wise. I can't imagine what might await the first class of the latest aircraft – a mini golf course, maybe!!??
Alright, so I'll sign off for now. I will catch you in the common waiting area at O'hare if I can find a charge point. No more swanky lounges from here on. Domestic flights are strictly economy class, as per company policy. If the checking for US bound passengers at Frankfurt is anything to suggest, customs at Chicago is gonna be a pain. Strength to me!
See you on the other side of the Atlantic. Ciao!
24.04.08 – UA star lounge, terminal 1, O'hare International airport, Chicago
Welcome back! I was wrong. My first class ticket till Chicago got me into the first class lounge. Its 4 local time and my flight departs at 5:30 to San Jose. Need to download all the pics so far onto the lappy. The videos just suck up the memory, but it's the videos that give so much more effect.
Another beautiful highlight of the flight to Chicago? View of Greenland. The pics and videos will describe in a better way, the beauty of an entire landscape iced with snow; snow covered mountains, snow covered valleys, it was as if the earth below had been painted white. It was a beautiful sight!
Saw another movie titled Dan in real life, starring Steve Carrel and the beautifully sensuous Juliet binoche (of chocolat fame). A nice movie. I started of on the third one "Redemption" starring Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gylenhall. Yes! You guessed it right. They got together on the sets of Redemption. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to compete the movie, but it is a must watch. It's a pity I didn't go for it earlier.
Its 3:15 am back in India, but I'm feeling as fresh as thushar (pun intended, go figure!). Thanks mom for inculcating the nocturnal tendencies in us ;). Sleep is not an issue, but I'm tired of being enticed to eat more than necessary. Add to that, there's hardly any exercise to push the food around. I'll have to probably run a marathon a day to fight the damage so far!
Another 15 minutes to go and I'll board my flight. I just wanna get to my hotel room now. Somebody invent tele-porting!!
A word or 2 about Chicago? Well, o'hare used to be the largest in the world at one time. I landed at terminal 5 and had to take the monorail to get to terminal 1. Now terminal 1 has 3 concourses (I think). Mine is C and the gate is 9. C has gates from 1 to 100. You can do your math. Remember namma HAL bengalooru airport has 1 terminal and 2 adjacent gates all together. Every time I look out from where I'm sitting, I can see a plane landing. Oh! There is this nteresting confluence of modes of transport at the O'Hare. At one point on the monorail ride, we passed under an over bridge. The over bridge is used by aircraft to taxi between the runways and the terminals. Besides the monorail line, the over bridge runs above a four lane road highway. And, at another level below the monorail and the road, run a pair of broad gauge railway tracks along the centre. So at the same spot, we have road, mono-rail, broad-gauge and aeroplane. It's quite a sight to watch a plane taxi right over your head. Right! I'm now gonna head for my flight.
25.04.08, 10:45 pm, in my room
Spent my first day in San Jose. I'm put up in a suite at the Residence Inn Marriott. Had a novel breakfast comprising of waffles with honey, bagels, jelly like scrambled eggs and milk. Went to office which is just half a km away, met all my team mates, whom I all knew but hadn't met before. I've settled down into my cubicle and set up my work environment. I had a colleague with me throughout the day. He was quite eager to father me around. So I didn't have to explore much. We had lunch at a nearby Mexican chain called Baja Fresh. Its final now! I don't like Mexican food!! And to top it, my colleague again took me to another Mexican place for dinner. So next time I need to throw up, please just say "borito". That apart, I've to figure out a lot of Motorola protocol with respect to calling home, car rental etc. Being the first person from office to travel as per Motorola travel policy, everything is a bit hazy. So it'll be a while before I can call you guys. In the meantime please add me on skype. My handle is thushar.kumar. I'll try to be online as much as possible.
The Weather is pretty good except for the wind chill factor. The sun set today at 8:00 PM. I plan to go running tomorrow morning. The area around here is hilly with beautiful mountains looming in the distance. Roads are spic and span as expected and I actually saw a man mowing the grass on the roadside. That then only leaves seeing the roads being washed :P
What else to pen. I'll call everyone soon. Later :)
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The Pancha Shila, or five moral precepts of Buddhist teachings:
1. Avoid killing, or harming any living thing.
2. Avoid stealing -- taking what is not yours to take.
3. Avoid sexual irresponsibility, which for monks and nuns means celibacy.
4. Avoid lying, or any hurtful speech.
5. Avoid alcohol and drugs which diminish clarity of consciousness.
To these, monks and nuns add...
6. One simple meal a day, before noon.
7. Avoid frivolous entertainments.
8. Avoid self-adornment.
9. Use a simple bed and seat.
10. Avoid the use of money.
Some of it obviously makes sense. The rest prompt me to ask 'why?'
Proponents of the above principles would argue against my myopic view of 'happiness', that spending money and enjoying what it can buy is superficial happiness which is fraught with underlying grief.
I agree. The world happens to work such that my happiness is mostly at the cost of someone else'. In other words, humans have devised a system that redistributes a static quantum of happiness amongst the system's members - us
Against that, 'nirvana' is akin to the creation of happiness. It is not borrowed or bought. To that extent, it's projected quantum is infinite. Ideal happiness doesn't come to one at the cost of another's; it increases collective happiness. So then, that seems like a sound goal to have for humanity. right?
"There is only as much light as there is darkness", I can argue. If you don't know how dark it can be, you can't appreciate how bright it is. A person is only as tall as another is short. Most of what life has us deal with cannot be measured in absolute terms. We need a reference for everything and that includes happiness.
However, I'd like to believe that I'm wrong. I'd like to believe that there is something called Absolute happiness, which I cannot comprehend now. At the same time, I don't see myself setting out in quest for it. I appreciate those who do. good for them!
I'm happy with my hedonistic life and accept the bitter-sweet relationship with 'happiness' that 'normal' life offers.
But i see no harm in slowly moving in the direction of absolute happiness. We could surely make collective progress in increasing the quantum of happiness that we share amongst ourselves. This comes from being good and doing good.
So be good! and do good! For now, the Pancha Shila can wait!