Monday, April 12, 2010

What's up with the Regional Pride?

I still remember when Madras changed its name officially to the Tamil version- Chennai. Before you knew it, Bombay became Mumbai, Calcutta became Kolkata. Now all this Bengaluru/Bangalore business. I fail to see the point of it all. I'm sure there are people out there who would consider me less Indian for it, and perceive this as a betrayal to our culture, but I really don't see why the names of cities change how much more "Indian" they are. If people would stop caring about all the superficial crap, and start focusing on ACTUALLY showing regional pride, they would pay more attention to how they can conserve their languages, explore literature, safekeep art. Isn't that what regional pride should be all about? Making it so that the culture is secure? And not worrying about outdoing each other and worrying about something as small as political bullshit? Bitter. Yes, I am. I feel that people sometimes thrive on bigotry, and come up with any reasons they can to create differences and unnecessary and unhealthy competition to set themselves apart. India has a lot of broken processes. Even with how much advancement there has been, and I'm just as proud as the next person, that in a time where US and Europe are reeling from the hits to the economy, India has emerged, not just as the "little country that could", but really as a country that has fought for and earned the right to be respected as a world power. India has a voice, and everyone is listening. But there is a lot that remains to be fixed. I wish there was more focus on that, because now is the time, it can really be done. Growing up in an India suffering from "Brain Drain"- the tendency of young, capable, educated people moving away (usually to the US), it is pleasant to see that plenty of people choose to actually go back to India, and there are a lot more people sticking around to give back to the motherland that gave to them. But, I don't know how beneficial that's been. I think all in all, India has become a lazier culture. People don't need to study as much to get a decent job. All the twenty and thirty somethings, continue to live with their parents (which is good in a sense, because there is a severe lack of space and housing), working, and with a large, disposable income that is blown on frivolous things. There I said it. And quite honestly, I am stuck somewhere between revulsion and envy of that life. And with all the brains that India has retained, and the drain having been clogged up a bit, doesn't show in practice. The poor remain poor, and the rich get richer. The middle class has been benefited for sure. I wonder if I would feel differently living in India.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Eastern Approach

Elephants and camels. Strange rituals, languages and customs. Half naked ascetics sitting on a bed of nails. A dark and mysterious river, running through lands of mystique. Cultural histories as old as time itself. The East (most of Asia) is seen as a specter, veiled in fabulous precious gems and fine silk. The history and culture is definitely worthy of admiration, and there is a lot that can be learned from these cultures. Western cultures have in the recent past embraced ancient techniques used in Eastern cultures for overall well-being. This paper will evaluate briefly some of the benefits of what the Eastern approach has to offer, in health, general well-being and the magic of the Eastern philosophy.
The most obvious element that has been absorbed by Western cultures, and is the current fad is Yoga. An ancient Indian practice, this combines stretching, postures, deep breathing and physical manipulations to attain good health. Yoga has been known to treat obesity, high blood pressure, hypertension, among hundreds of other illnesses and the permutations of “asans” or postures available make it possible for the whole body to relax and at the same time get a workout. The best part is that it combines mental de-stressing techniques with the physical manifestation of the workout. It is used to discipline the body and mind at once, and individuals who regularly practice Yoga swear by it. In addition, the latest craze of the day is natural and organic. People are now ready to try alternative medicines such as herbal medications and natural remedies. My own great grandfather was a doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine (Indian Herbal Medicine). Ayurveda, literally meaning the “Ved” or science of living, is the use of ancient knowledge about the healing qualities of natural ingredients (especially in plants) to treat diseases. This can be as simple as using turmeric as a disinfectant, or cloves to treat a sore throat, or can be as complex as mixing 36 roots, berries, seeds, and tree bark to treat a chronic condition, like asthma. There is much scope remaining for Ayurveda to gain prominence in the west. It is effective, natural and potent. Of course, the drug companies might demur.
There is always meditation. Perfected by the poster boys for the cause, the Buddhist monks in monasteries in Nepal, India, and Tibet, the powers of meditation remain sadly unexplored. The Dalai Lama eloquently explains the processes and benefits of meditation in an interview. Meditation is a channeling of the mind that allows for greater focus, improved ability for calmness, introspection and rational thought, sharper reasoning and problem solving abilities, greater alertness, better observation powers, greater capacity for abstract thought, and teaching oneself determination and patience.
In the same realm of Eastern philosophy vs. Western practicality, cognitive scientist George Lakoff dicusses the distinct differences of both ways of thought and the benefits and dangers of each. The mind-body connection in particular is a debate that has been at the forefront since Rene Descartes. Lakoff specifically points to the use of metaphors in science and in philosophy. There can be multiple causes to anything, and the use of metaphors is essential in both science and philosophy to even begin explaining causation. The main difference in western and eastern thought and ideologies is that the west seems to focus on clear cut connections, and the east tends to focus not on the black or white, but the most dominant grays of life. There is value considering the eastern methods of thought because these ancient cultures take the mind body connection very seriously, and encourage feeding and healing both mind and body- an improvement in each, it is thought, has no choice but to cause an improvement in the other. In addition, as Lakoff states instinctively, “…in most cases, the answers to the deepest questions of human existence will most likely be metaphorical answers. There is nothing wrong with this. We just need to be aware of just what our metaphors are and what they entail.” So it seems that while entirely eastern philosophical thought is too abstract to make for scientific advances, and uber-practical western thought is too precise to allow for leaps of growth in possibilities, the answer points to a combination of both where we maximize possibilities and opportunities. The answer is the simplest among the choices given? Shocking.

Buddhism. Retrieved October 30, 2009, from
Lakoff, G. THE THIRD CULTURE. EDGE. Retrieved October 30, 2009, from

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