Archives

All posts for the month August, 2017

Book Review : Harappa – The Curse Of The Blood River

Published August 29, 2017 by vishalvkale

The fantasy genre seems to be the in-thing for Indian writers nowadays; we have seen a series of books around this theme, a few having reached my blog as well. This is in keeping with a rising trend among Indians, a fascination for our past – which  has both positive as well as negative overtones and ramifications. One of the positives is the emerging trend of fiction writing using our past as a backdrop; this is a significant factor, as these writings influence the public to seek more of the truth, as well as get regarded by some as based on truth.
Written By Vineet Bajpai

That is why it is incumbent on the authors who are indulging in this genre to be as close to the truth as it is feasible for them to be – and give a proper bibliography at the end of such  books so that fact can be separated from “literary licence” – that is, the padding used by the author to flesh out the story. East or west, most writers {save one} have failed on this score; they just neglect to give a proper bibliography or notes so that readers can, if interested, look up the reality. This book fails on only one point – the absence of end-notes giving links or book references to sources of facts. That has cost it one star.
THE BOOK
Harappa – The Curse Of The Blood River by Vineet Bajpai is a fantasy novel {I wont label it as Historical Fiction} that is based on The Sindhu-Saraswati Civilization, and the mythical Aryan Invasion Theory {fed to us as gospel}, and their modern ramifications. The story is told in two parts – one from 1700 BC, and the other from modern India, with a strong connecting thread. The ancient story tells the sequence of events that lead to the destruction of Harappa, and the modern one takes off from there, dealing with its implications, effects and resultant conspiracies arising from the ancient event.

In the ancient part, the story is that of a Demi-God, who is targeted and destroyed by jealous rivalry in the city of Harappa, and how he rises from the ashes to swear revenge on the city and its people; it is the story of naked greed and ambition. The modern part deals with his descendant, who is fabled to be his re-incarnation, and how he deals with his legacy; for the ancient tale has left a curse that will be fulfilled, and a secret that cannot  be unveiled – which has managed to garner significant interest among powerful modern vested interests and sects / groups. The problem is that the modern vested interests have powerful backing, even more powerful weapons and the will to use them to kill the current Demi-God, a reluctant Demi-God who is now a digital expert, top Industrialist, and ultra modern to boot!
THE ANALYSIS
First-  the classification; I place this as Fantasy due to the treatment of main characters as Demi-Gods, and there being small but significant differences from the truth of The Sindhu-Saraswati that make it less of historical fiction, and more of fantasy. That said – the overall gist, rather 80-90% of the basis is factual. For example, The AMT, and its rebuttal is reasonably correct; as is the fictionalization of our history, which isn’t limited to The Sindhu-Saraswati, and many other points. The Sindhu Saraswati Civilization had started declining from 2500BC, and was dead by 1900BC, whereas the timelines uses 1700 BC. Next, The Sindhu-Saraswati was decimated by creeping drought, unlike as stated in this book.
That said – let me be clear, some of this research on which I have based the above facts is still only the preliminary stage findings, and need peer review; some of it is still being actively researched and so on; in light of that, the author is perfectly within his rights to take literary leeway for the creation of a story.  This will also have the benefit of kindling the desire to read up on that time in us, thus overall, it is a good thing that these historical fiction and fantasy novels are being written!
Coming to the book – this is an excellent tome; a superb edge-of-the-seat spell binding pace has been kept throughout the book. You will desperately want to skip to the end to see how it turns out, and yet – the pull of the narrative is compelling, preventing you from doing so. The author has used an interleaving style – having a chapter from ancient as well as modern storylines alternating; this is actually a good style, as it adds to the suspense as each chapter ends at a cliff-hanger, leaving you wanting for more – but then you go into the other storyline, which is also on a cliffpoint!
Overall, I rate this book 4 stars, and a very richly deserved 4 stars at that. This is an excellent piece of fiction – and it also avoids the vulgarity totally. The story is well put together, without any holes that I could spot; the entire plot comes together as one whole quite convincingly. There are no needless detours : almost everything written is relevant, making for a very taut narrative and flawless flow. The various characters stay within the prescribed plots, and the story draws you in, making for good entertainment and a great read! 

“This Book Review/Interview is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program and Book Promotions” to know more log on to http://thereaderscosmos.blogspot.in/.”

Advertisements

Book Review – Navigating India, A $18 Trillion Business Opportunity

Published August 22, 2017 by vishalvkale

When I read a book titled “Navigating India – A $18 Trillion Opportunity”, I expect to be feeling positive and invigorated about India; at the very least, I expect to know a lot more about the why, what etc about India and its Business opportunities. Sadly, this is not the case in this book. Not that it isn’t well written – that it is, yet it does precious little justice to its title. There is nothing in the book that is inaccurate, and yet it is an unbroken chain of negative and, in some cases, irrelevant aspects regarding India – cultural observations that have no connection with Business per se, beyond a certain point


So much so, that I am at a loss to pen anything on this review; for I cannot say the content is inaccurate – it isn’t; most of it is very accurate and includes astute observations, data and analysis. Most of it is relevant – and yet, most of it is also very well known and understood. There is no value addition for the most part, it is like regurgitation of the same scenario – but with fresh data, facts, observations and a fresh approach. While it is relevant, how relevant it is to business and economics is debatable.
THE BOOK
The first chapter is a summary of the overall economic scenario of India, and does a good job of summarizing it, all said and done. It also includes the schemes of the Modi Government, though without any real analysis. It then abruptly changes track to using anecdotal evidence, abandoning for the most part the data driven approach espoused in the first chapter. The second chapter purports to be on Market, but is a series of demotivating examples of cases like the Satyam Fraud, Coke’s experiences – and it uses this highly negative demotivating approach throughout.


The third chapter is on our Democracy – giving a short summary of the GST, Taxation, FDI Policies, and a set of anecdotes on foreign policy and its relation to Business. The fourth chapter is on our Demographic Dividend, look at the the caste-education-religion factors in our country. The fifth chapter is on the ease of doing business in India, again almost purely anecdotal though with a small useful section on steps taken by the current Government. Problem is the excessive use of anecdotes, and the negative examples, which feature in this section.
The 6th chapter contains segments on Intellectual Property, Contract enforcement, Law and order etc – again with limited relevance. The 7th chapter is exclusively on corruption. The last chapter is a small short summary analysis of why India is set to get better. The difficulty is the overall lack of connecting arguments and proper detailing; all of these above is short and anecdotal, with a few supporting data sets here and there.
THE ANALYSIS
As I said above in the introduction section as well as in the Book Blurb section – the problem is not with the accuracy of the content; it is, most of it – along one side of the argument. It lists a series of pitfalls of doing business in India with anecdotal evidence- evidence of individuals, or companies that faced problems. It also digresses into areas that have at best a highly limited relevance to business, and is a listing of what to avoid while doing business in India.
While that is indeed important – it could have done a far better job even in this approach, had it gone into detailed analysis of the well known business failures of MNC companies – like the Kellogg’s example, which is a case study in business schools. In place of short anecdotes, like in Kelloggs example stated in the book, what was required was a detailed analysis of what went wrong. Other such examples could have been gone into – that looked at the overall business scenario; most of the content pertains to the regulatory or legal or related environment and the difficulty it poses to International business.
The lack of sufficient detailing and proper arguments in support lessens the learnings and the impact; thus, despite the correct facts used & a different approach, the impact is just not present. Overall, the tone become, in my opinion, slightly negative; maybe for other readers it will come across as different. Also, the inclusion of a few irrelevant aspects, in one or two chapters, does leave you wondering at the same, and feeling slightly disoriented.

If you are writing a book on a Business Opportunity in a country, or the prospects of growth for that country – it is vital that it should come across to the reader as to specifically what makes this country such an attractive proposition – as well as lay out the pitfalls. It should look not just at Democracy, Regulations, Corruption, Contracts, Laws, Demographic Dividend etc; the book should have looked at India as a Market – what makes it attractive; what makes a business succeed here in a sectoral analysis, cultural examples of success in consumer category, as well as in B2B / Core / Industrial category. This is does not do, which is a major shortcoming…

The Three Levels Of Consciousness {Sanaatan Dharm Series}

Published August 20, 2017 by vishalvkale

This is the next in the series on Sanaatan Dharm; these articles are my reflections as I attempt to understand myself, my religious affiliation, and the world around me – it is the chronicle of my path of self-discovery… I make no assertions on a collective scale


WHY DO WE PRAY?
This is one question that has come to my mind only very recently; it is one of the triggers for penning this article. Why do we Humans pray? For what purpose? I can make no assertions for you – but I can examine and analyse myself, and try to determine why I pray. What is it that drives me to prayer? In my case, I can truthfully state that prayers started as a means, an effort, to get divine assistance to smoothen my rather difficult, or rather uncertain life and its attendant problems. That is how it started out – and it would probably have remained at that level, had life not had other ideas.
That is the best way I can put it – for I can find no other reasons for the sequence of events that has lead to this deep self-examination that I subject myself to in writing this chronicle of self-discovery. Being a person with deep seated, strong belief systems based on values – Integrity, Honesty, Loyalty and so on; living in a world which thrived on “gamesmanship”, selfishness and materialism – not having a coping mechanism meant I had to build one of my own. My response – building my mental ability to disconnect; my hobbies, which have enabled me to keep afloat, even achieve a lot despite being rather strict in my values, was one aspect; but, in difficult times – the answer I had usually had was a combination of my hobbies and being able to disconnect, and prayer to deal with the resultant stress.
FEAR
That brings me to what I can call the first level of consciousness – Fear. Fear is can be said to be a driver of action – this is well accepted by science. Fear is also what drives humans towards Prayer, as uncertainty raises worries, anxieties and stress levels.  That drove me increasingly towards Prayer – something I almost never did right till my late 20s, despite not having a Job, or any career clarity. I wasn’t built that way. Well-wishers, family advised me and directed me towards Prayer – thus, Prayer is also a learned response, it would seem. One does need a Guru, a Guide to set a person on the right path. Praying kindled hope, it also kindled action, as somehow I acted much better with the confidence of a firm hope behind me.
DESIRES
Life went on; I advanced in age, in my career, in my personal life; this kindled in me my desires. Initially, these desires were materialistic in nature. However, it needs to be noted that Fear outpaces, outdistances Desire; fear is a far stronger emotion. Desires and ambitions lie dormant, and are drivers of longer term action, whereas fear-driven responses are shorter term, in my experience. These never drove me to prayer; Desires and Ambitions spurred me to action – in my life, in my career.
These operate at two different levels, as I have observed keenly over the past 2 years – fear is always on the top of the mind, whenever present; and desire lies dormant, together determining life choices and decisions. In good times as well as bad, this hold true. These drive what you are today, what you want to be tomorrow… not what you will be tomorrow, which is the result of a combination of your actions & your circumstances and your decisions. Understanding how, why to take these decisions is a life hunt for each individual. The gap between what you want to be and what your direction is taking you towards stress, kindling, once again – fear and desire, taking you back where you started. Fear keeps you on your toes in the real world, while desire enables action and response mechanisms, together leading towards your life materialistic goals. These are thus two different levels of consciousness!
TOUCHING DEEPER INTO YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS
Most of us go through life in these levels of existence – fear & desire. So far, we are in safe territory even from a perspective of psychology and known science. And yet, I have always looked out into the sky at night, wondering why we are here; why we are alive; who am I; what is life; and having a deep dear of dying – as long as I can remember. I have no idea why I had these thoughts. I have always wondered who is God, how did this Universe come about – maybe all Humans do have these thoughts. Assuming that is so, I, like other humans, did nothing about these except suppress them.
THE THIRD LEVEL – SELF CONTEMPLATION AND EXAMINATION
I have no recollection or idea what drove me towards reading The Bhagwad Geeta in several translations, The Upanishads, or The Vedic Texts; but it was connected to my habit of reading, when I came across an excellent book – What India Should Know, the 2nd half of which was based on The RugVed and YajurVed. I have always been a voracious reader; so that wasn’t a surprise. But till this day I have no answer to why I picked up my first Bhagwad Geeta translation, or my first Upanishad. Maybe it was God’s hint; I don’t know – but I was lucky to pick up the one by Geeta Press.
And it is through studying these scriptures, which I have been doing for 3.5 years now, repeated alliterations of the same, that I can arrive at a faintly glimmering look at the 3rd Level of Consciousness, a level deeper than these above 2. From a perspective of Psychology – fear & desire cant answer your value system, which is the core of human personality. Lying dormant, but the determinant of all actions as well as deep thoughts is your core value system.
What is the connect? Simply this : I have always wondered how I can stay cool, calm and reasoned even under extreme stress and difficulty, of which I have seen far more than my fair share? This isn’t my observation, by the way – several friends have observed this in me, and it is they who brought my attention to this factor. If fear & desire are the two levels, then there has to be a third level of consciousness that determines your behaviour, attitudes and your actions, which has to be the bedrock of your nature & your personality.

This is where we diverge from accepted Psychology so far as I am aware; and paradoxically, this is where Psychology and our scriptures also come together. As we shall see in the next part of this series, whenever I get around to penning it, this 3rd level is extremely hard to put into words, let alone understand. And yet – it is there, it is present, as you yourself have no doubt realized in the quiet contemplative moments of your life. This is a level that transcends fear, desire and existence; and goes to the core of the intersection of Psychology and Scriptures – as we shall see in the next part of this series of personal thoughts on Sanaatan Dharm…

GST & Subsidies – The Pluses, and how to mitigate the Minuses

Published August 6, 2017 by vishalvkale

In the midst of these seemingly hopeless times with nearly every economic parameter going down, it is heartening to see a small, tiny uptick in credit offtake from banks {Business Standard ,”All Eyes On RBI Today”,  2nd August Credit Chart – See Chart below}. I haven’t seen many people note this : but the chart is clear. There is a small uptick – this may of course be irrelevant, and unsustainable; but it is present. It is now for the Government to ensure this uptick is sustained; increasing Credit Offtake is a prerequisite for a sustained Economic Recovery. 



However, it is with regret that I admit my article isn’t about recovery prospects; as most of my readers will no doubt be aware – I don’t indulge in speculation; that requires detailed data trends which are not available to me, as well as tools. This present writeup is more about the risks that are facing us in the current situation, which taken individually or together can derail this small beacon of hope. The beacon of hope isn’t just the Credit Growth, but rather the GST as well as the increasing Tax Base; and of course, not to forget the welcome initiative of this Government to take some hard decisions. As to whether these hard decisions are enough or not, is another story, for another article. As I said, speculation isn’t my style, neither is it my current forte.
HARD DECISIONS
Lets us tackle this most prickly of issues straightaway. Article after article is claiming-  in the Pink Media {I freely admit I have stopped reading White Media, as I find them not upto the Mark. I count Livemint in Pink Media, as in Economic Media} – that the current dispensation is not taking hard decisions, or real reform moves. I respectfully submit that the reality is the exact reverse – they are not only taking Hard Decisions, they are doing so with a single minded determination. Let us give credit where credit is due.
The GST is itself a hard decision; fine – it is, well, let us say not upto the mark – but it is a start. {Libs, hold on please – will attend to GST in a separate section here}; yet, the Government went ahead, warts and all. This will unlock future potential, as I analyse in a strategic analysis of GST impact subsequently in another article. Next, the rather unfortunate tendency of this Government to target subsidies with a single minded determination and focus brings a new atmosphere in the country and among the people.
THE GST
Bhakts are over the moon over this reform; Libs are cautiously optimistic, while being wary of the downsides of this move – which are, quite frankly, way too many and way too technical to be stated in a short summary. Both sides are right. The news on the ground isn’t great; the move has choked the economy, as we can see in the trickle of information that is now coming out. While there is logic in the claim that these are temporary, this needs a careful look at.
Trucks – one article said 20-30% – are not getting loads; Chemists are not ordering some key drugs in sufficient quantity as they fear input credit will not be passed on; SME order books are empty, and they are paying a temporary price; Hotels business is down 20; Manufacturing sector took a big hit in July – which is the sharpest decline or hit in nine years; Housing and Real Estate is showing signs of stress due to RERA and GST; Textile Segment – esp the small units – is also showing stress due to GST. You can of course claim that these are short-term changes, but there is more to it, as we shall see.
SUBSIDIES & FACILITIES
The Government, at long, long, last – has shown some signs of attacking our crippling subsidy problem. We are a developing country, and the more we spend on Subsidies, the lesser we have for Development and Capital Expenses. In that light, it is beyond argument that this is one area that required attending to. At last, we are doing it – but is our approach right? There are some indications that the Government is thinking of tinkering with the kerosene subsidy, and the fertilizer & Gas subsidy.
On the face of it – this looks a great move. But go deeper, and problems emerge. The government has announced that the price of subsidised kerosene will be raised by 25 paise per fortnight until the subsidy goes. But look elsewhere – 40% of Kerosene is diverted, true. What of the balance 60%? That is used by those whom it was meant for. Second, cooking gas subsidy is being phased out. Third, railways – where catering and Blankets etc might be phased out.
THE KEY POINT
First of all, as all indicators point out – as I look at in this article of mine on my blog – The Indian Economy has not been faring too well. On top of that, demonetization created massive disruption particularly on the SME and Unorganised & farming sectors of the economy. Adding to this potpourri was a potent cocktail called The GST, which created further disruption. Point to be noted here – this was bound to be felt highest in the SME and Unorganised sectors, as the Larger players had the time, knowledge and the money to implement change processes as well as whither the short term storm. Also remember that the contribution of the Small and Unorganised sectors to the Indian Economy is to the extent of 40-50% of GDP as well as being the major contributor to Savings as well as employment
While the overall direction’s utility and benefits are actually beyond argument – the bhakts have it right there; the downside risks outlined above need to be taken into consideration. The Smaller players in various sectors, who together make a large segment – how long will it take for them to feel the benefits of the new regimen of the Economy? Do they have to ability to whether this storm? If not – what will be the impact? Joblessness – how many people will lose their jobs? {There is evidence of this, look in links enclosed} Or how many companies and operations will have to shut shop? And quite apart from the economic impact, what about the human side of the story? The two taken together, make a strong case for a more Human approach, for reasons of pure economics, as I look at in the next part..
The human side is what worries me the most, followed by the ability of the small sectors to engage with and emerge victorious over the challenges thrown at them. That they will win eventually is beyond argument – history is mute proof of that. But the process of change can be painful. It will require deep strategies, executed to perfection, to mitigate the impact, involving re-skilling, re-training, and a very soft handling. As on date, there seems to be no evidence of this happening. What will happen to the people who will get hurt in the interim is open to question; they will just have to cope on their own.
The other critical factor is the ability of the smaller players to weather the change. Take subsidies; sure – some of it is a waste. But large portions do reach the intended beneficiaries {read Kerosene article below}; to this category of people, people like you and me perhaps, the small amount of help through subsidies is actually quite large from their point of view. Instead of devising mechanisms to reduce misuse, the Government is doing away with them altogether. Similar is the case of the facilities example – instead of finding ways to improve, the Government might just do away with them.
CONCLUSION

Sure, these are hard decisions – some of them are bound to be beneficial, given they are based on solid logic. But does the on-ground reality in industry amenable to such gut-wrenching changes? If it isn’t, it doesn’t mean we don’t do the changes – all I am saying is that there is way to take hard decisions – and this isn’t it. Once again, it boils down to the most tricky of all things in life : implementation. Further, there is also a distinct feasibility of markedly improved strategisation as well as tacticalisation. I refer to strategic ways of mitigating the downside, and the precise tactical roll-out plan of such far-reaching changes; many, many methods are feasible, which given the audacity and correctness of the overall objectives and the strategy, will certainly lead to benefits for all… but is anyone listening? I fear not…

BIBLIOGRAPHY AND REFERENCED ARTICLES

And several others over the course of my regular readings… 

Book Review – Inkredia : Luwan Of Brida

Published August 4, 2017 by vishalvkale

I wish I could rate this book 7 stars out of 5… pity that I can only give it 5. End of review – now go and read it. {Probably the best review I have ever written!}



THE GENRE
Ok, still here?  Fine – lets look at some more details. Surprised at separate for the Genre? The reason is that this is, to best of my knowledge, a new genre with very few books {at least in my knowledge} that have been written in; at the very least – a new genre for me. There is no politics, no hint of religion, and no hint of anything remotely objectionable, neither are there any real world linkages or race and culture issues. This is a fantasy book – and a fanstasy book quite unlike any I have ever read! The land is new, the people are completely imaginary, the culture is totally imaginary, the names new – everything about the book and the story is fresh!


THE STORY
The story is something that we have read in many stories in many genres before; A young boy, in the late teens, living alone and making a living for himself off the land, in the town of Brida of the Kingdom of Inkredia. He has a sister with whom he is estranged; she is also late teens – 19, and lives alone in the same locality. The children’s parents are no more; what is more, the father had handed the boy a small pendant, a letter, a magic book and some instructions to meet someone in a far-away city. This is as simple as it gets; it is a real challenge to craft a riveting story and book that holds your attention – and this has been achieved.
The story moves into a classic hunt and chase, as the kids are forced to flee when, apparently, the boy refuses to pay tax as he has no money left. The persecuted young folks run for their lives, chased by the what they believe to be local feudal lord’s people. On the way, they are helped by a kind man and common friend, and then by a total stranger, who turns out to be far more powerful and adept at combat and survival. As the story progresses, the questions start bothering the kids : namely, why would anyone set such powerful forces for just a few coins tax? How are they responding and rising to the challenge so naturally? Why is the magic book guiding them at the precise moments? These, and other questions come to their minds, as the chase draws to a close near the city…
THE CHARACTERS
LuwanNow who is this chappie – how come his reflexes are so natural, and where does he get his natural skills and courage from?
MegSurprise package. Don’t mistake her for the normal elder sister
KiliarnHelper, and for hire…Wont say anything else. Read the book!
THE REVIEW
Fantastic book! Simply awesome – make no mistake of that. This is an incredibly written piece of pure fiction, and absolute nonsense {I use that word for effect, not as an insult}. Nonsense, yes, –  but riveting, logically flowing and logical, interesting and captivating nonsense. I say nonsense because there is no cultural reality – the culture is imaginary, the names imaginary and fresh, the land {Brida, Inkredia, etc} imaginary, the magic, the animals and the weapons completely imaginary and so on. It takes imagination of a very high order to imagine such a land and people, and craft this into a coherent story! Many other authors have tried this – I have read a few – but no one has created something totally new. Full marks to the author for crafting this!
Next, the characterization – beautifully, skillfully done. While some deeper physical characteristics  would have made it better, it is nonetheless excellent. One is able to relate to all characters, their behaviour and the resultant actions without any dissonance. Each character is well-etched and defined, a task of some skill, with deep tones and clear lines. The reader, over time, begins to relate to the main characters, and live the story with them – that is the power.
The pace is rapid, breakneck almost, right from the first few pages. The story proceeds at a relentless pace, a hectic pace with one event following another in blinding speed, making for riveting reading and an absorbing connect. The best part is that this has been achieved without sacrificing plot or characterization intricacies. In fact, the action and the event flow has been used in places to give a background, a trait, or a line to the character, deepening our understanding as well as our connect.
The best part in this imaginary story, told in an imaginary magical world, of a young brother sister on the run is that there are no cliched or expected situations – to give an example, no girl getting kidnapped just to create tension – a normal ruse in such storylines as the moment you see a girl character you know she will get into trouble; each action sequence and event is fresh and superb. Not only that, the discerning observing reader can spot moving lessons scattered throughout the book, as the icing on the cake. One of the finest fiction books I have read in a long time – written by a completely new author, a man who will bear watching in future – Mr Sarang Mahajan… don’t keep us waiting too long for the next one!
THE AUTHOR {Credit – Website}
Sarang Mahajan is a successful Indian writer in the fantasy genre. Along with imaginative fantasy elements, the highlights of his work include strong character building and real-life drama. He is the author of the ongoing series, Inkredia and has written two TV shows in the fantasy genre including the successful show, Hatim that aired on Life OK. He is currently working on shows to be aired on Star Plus and Colors Bangla…

INKREDIA {Credit  – Website}
Inkredia is a fantasy universe created by Sarang Mahajan. Inkredia, as fondly called by its people, is one of the most powerful empires in this universe. The real name of the empire is Fal Doram. There are many other empires spread across the Floran Bak, the shape of which is debated by the scholars. In the Inkredia Universe, magic is literally in the air. 

There are dark and fair elements in the air that give life to the supernatural sort, just like air gives life to humans. Two of the most common elements among these are Ilmor and Elmor, the dark one and the fair one. Supernatural beings in humanoid form are either called nonhumans or demons. There are also various creatures with different abilities. All the supernatural folk in Inkredia are unique to Inkredia Universe and won’t be found in other fantasy universes.

Sanaatan Dharm And Hinduism – Questions & Comparisons

Published August 3, 2017 by vishalvkale

MY SILENCE

It was a discussion over Whatsapp that spawned a series of thoughts in my mind, given that the topic was: Hinduism… or as I like to call it – Sanaatan Dharm, which may well be the rightful name for our religion. The topic hinged around the concepts of our religion as it is given in the scriptures vis-à-vis as it is commonly understood. I normally prefer to keep silent on such matters, as they are matters of faith, and I refrain from forcing my beliefs on other people. There is, in fact, solid basis for this in our scriptures as well, as I have pointed out earlier.

Hinduism
Hinduism / Sanaatan Dharm
While the discussion was on a tangent that is not relevant to our hunt here – which is a hunt to understand Sanaatan Dharm, as I have documented earlier on my blog. To reiterate, I will use my blog as a tool to document my thoughts as I try to come to terms with my identity, my self in totality. This current article is the next in the series, and has been brought to my mind by two or three people who deserve a mention – my childhood friend Aparna, and my college senior, strongest critic, and strongest supporter – Amitabh D Sinha Sir. Without these two, I would very likely have not come to these thoughts, and these realizations. I must also mention Sandipanda – who inadvertantly guided me to the next point in my hunt, namely Swami Vivekanand.
SANAATAN DHARM OR HINDUISM?
Anyways, to come to the point : the discussion veered around to Hindutva, Hinduism and the concepts of Sanaatan Dharm; my confusion relates to correlating these, and my complete inability to see them as part of the same whole. How do you reconcile these – and a reconciliation is essential – for the perfectly simple reason that the society I live in does not recognize a difference between Sanaatan Dharm, and Hinduism. But my problem has always been that while the latter is around specific Gods, the former is amorphous in content; the latter is specific & vivid with clear imagery and identities you can relate to; while the latter is philosophical, intense and seemingly vague.
How can these two diametric opposites be part of the same, and indeed the identical same? That even lead me to exclaim in resignation :  “My Religion is not Hinduism – it is Sanaatan Dharm” to Amit Sir, Da and some others. I would like to claim that I don’t identify with Hinduism as it is understood in some minority niches, while I do identify completely with Sanaatan Dharm; but there is an issue in that proclamation, as we shall see later in further articles. That said, I do find some of the practices among the public & some beliefs to be beyond my comprehension. Thus, since I straddle both boats, Hinduism and Sanaatan Dharm, and given the centrality of Religion to a human personality, a reconciliation between these two diametric opposites becomes essential.
And it is in this reconciliation of these two extremes that I feel learnings can be hidden for my readers – just as by the mere act of penning these words in free-flow, I am also realizing through contemplation. On the one side, we have a specific, definable set of identities, imageries and figures that we relate to on a deep personal level – be it Sai Baba, Hanuman, Lord Ramchandra, Saraswati, Ma Durga, Bholenath, Shri Krushn {Krsna} etc. On the other hand we have the amorphous Parabrahm of the Upanishadic texts. While on the one hand we have Lord Ganesh, on the other we have the infinite wisdom of The Geeta.
RELATING THE TWO…
I find myself relating to on a successively deeper level with each iteration of The Geeta that I read; with each iteration of the Upanishads I read; and now, with the writings of Swami Vivekanand. And yet, I feel an equal pull & attachment towards the specific identities given above, known to be Avatars of the Lord. These are the ones I have grown up with, these are the ones I have prayed to, and these are the ones I have sought solace in and thanked, as the occasion may be. They are as much a part of me as my Atma is, they are central to me and my very existence. And it is this which gives an incorrect impression to outsiders – that our religion is amorphous, has  many dieties, and so on.

QUESTIONS… AND THEIR SOURCE
The question then arises – why should I find it a question, and why cant I leave well enough alone? Why should I be concerned if my religion has two aspects – one specific and one seemingly amorphous? The source of my discomfort are many; viz – the ideological usage of our Gods & Avatars, the political intermingling, the rising need of cohesion in a section of my fellow-religionists, and so on. On a deeper, more personal level, my readings and my life experiences have lead me to ask some hard questions, which weren’t so easily answered by my then-existing belief systems.
One – the hunt for peace of mind. No amount of success, happiness, sadness or any emotion could give me  my peace of mind; even in a temple, I was full of thoughts – (nay, desires – as I now realise); the inability of existing prayer to enable me to de-stress; I was full of either desires & ambition, or fear. Going further, existing belief systems simply failed to answer basic questions – who am I? Where did I, we, this world come from? Why am I here? What is the purpose? The fear of death would always be paramount & everpresent, whenever it arose.

A REALISATION
Out of all this arose a rising and absolutely stunning realization – this inability to answer & cope had nothing to do with my external situation. The more I introspected, the deeper the realization that my discomfiture had precisely nothing to do with  my personal ambition and needs. My rising discomfiture was due to the prevalent politicization of an intensely personal topic; it was due to my own unanswered internal questions & fears; it was due to my inability to understand how & why praying, or temples would exterminate the evil I had perpetrated – and many other similar questions and observations.
GOING DEEPER INTO QUESTIONS…
When I looked around, I spotted a pantheon of Gods; so who do I pray to? I feel no special connect with any over another God; and I cannot believe Lord Ganesh would mind if I pray to someone else, so long as I do it properly! So, who do I pray to? Is it wrong if I pray to only one? And so on and so forth. Not only  that, I also cannot fathom that if our Gods are Gods, what, then are the Gods of the other religions? The prevalent theology present simply failed to answer this. If my Gods made me, who then has made the Muslims, The Christians, The Parsis, The Sikhs? And if that is indeed so, that the one true God made us – what are the humans? And if they are praying to their Gods, aren’t their prayers being listened to? Don’t they believe? These and many many other questions came crashing into my mind with a gale force every so often. Questions to which I was not able to formulate any answer.
I am a man of science; I have studied evolution, and in depth. I have a hobby of Genetics, and once fancied an MSc – PhD in Genetics. I am aware of the theories of Astronomy as well – well aware. Nothing – not religion and certainly not science answered my question, my most basic question – who am I? Where did I come from? Where did this world & this Universe come from? Many other questions hurtled through my mind on a daily basis – why this poverty and inequality all around us? Every time I saw a poor person, my heart would stop, and I would cry, quite literally. Every time I saw a heated discussion over Religion, I would wonder how and why can someone fight or argue over that?
CONCLUSION…
Putting all of these questions together into one coherent whole, – or incoherent whole, depends on your POV – took all of 4 – 5 years of thinking. This is as far as I have got, or rather had gotten, before a chance discussion with the 3 aforementioned people led to a series of thoughts, learnings and realisations. And while some people insisted on coherence among co-religionists, across religions,  this gave rise to further questions, as the breadth, scope of what was called Hinduism simple overwhelmed me. People said it was a way of life, a path; if that is so, what is that path? And how should I follow that path? Am I currently following that path? This question is what I tackle next, insofaras it pertains to me… do stay connected with my thoughts. If you have found this rambling & confusing, the reason is that it is both. My apologies for the same, as well as any hurt I may have caused, which was not intentional.