Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I WANNA BE A SECURITY GUARD

Every time I visit a museum and enjoy the beautiful paintings, the same thought strikes my mind...I should get hired as a security guard at the museum.


My idea, would never be accepted in the real world. However, my fantasy is this.


I work as a security guard in a museum. I work a day or maybe two to three days in one room. I would stroll around the gallery/room, enjoying the art work and also doing my duty i.e. keeping an eye out for mischief amongst the visitors. Once I have had my fill of the paintings in one room, I should be transferred to another gallery in the museum until I have finished gazing to my heart's content all the art work in one museum.


Then I should get transferred to another museum, until I have finished all the museums in one city(NYC or Washington D.C. or Ottawa or whatever city in the world), one province, one country and then moving on to another museum in another country.


It's possible I will become sick of the paintings by the time I am done with a couple of museums and would be  wanting to resign my job. But right now, that is my fantasy.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

PLEASURE OF EATING


Eating and drinking are two universal sources of pleasure for all living things..humans and animals, for adults and children, rich & poor, the sophisticated and the ordinary folks, men & women and people of all cultures from all over the world since ...forever.

 Since, I am not adventurous I don't try out a lot of new foods.

Since I am a bit of a miser, I dont eat out a lot.

Since, I eat mostly to satisfy my hunger, I am not much of a food fanatic.

I am lazy and not 'crazy' about cooking. Ergo, I  cook as I have no other choice.

 I cook a few dishes well and as I dont get bored eating the same things over and over again, I end up eating the same stuff for years and years ! Some relatives are annoyed about my lack of variety but I am   happy eating the same things as they taste so good to me!  My sister loves trying new cuisine, new restaurants, she will travel far to try some new food, but not me!

My favorite foods are neither exotic nor expensive. Most or all of my favorite dishes, are the type appreciated by people with simple tastes and some dishes can be classified as rustic even.

One fault I ought to overcome is that I gulp down the food and drinks. I simply cannot slow down. This probably prevents me from savoring the food and drink. I keep telling myself I should practice mindful   eating but for some reason (ADHD?), the moment I see the food or drink, all ideas of slowing down go out the window and the food rushes down my chute!

Here is a list of the foods and drinks that have given me great pleasure and happiness when I was eating them and even later when I was thinking or talking about them!

Vobattus or holige: Any Kannadiga will know what this is. It's made using cooked toor dhal (i.e. the dhal is boiled in water in cooker until it's softened), jaggery, coconut, &cardamom ground together into a thick pasty mix (shop bought vobattus dont have cardamom and it drives me insane!)  and then covered with maida flour dough (maida is refined wheat flour) and flattened like chapatis  and this is fried on a pan with lots of ghee or oil. Holiges  were made by my mother and grandmother on festival days such as Ugadi. Though I felt sick of the smell of the groundnut oil, pervading the entire house on the day the vobattu was made and I felt too sick to eat them, I ENJOYED hogging them the next day when the smell of oil was gone! I feel homesick for vobattu in Canada and it makes my mouth water, simply thinking about it.  Of course, when I visit India, my mom makes tons of it and I eat them greedily! I am not partial to the sugar and coconut vobattu my husband's family make. I find that sugar and the thin crispness of the sugar-vobattu awful but eat about half a vobattu so as to not hurt  feelings.

Vobattina saaru: The water used to cook the toor dhal is used to make the vobbatina saaru, a spicy liquedy soup sort of dish, eaten with rice. I love the taste of this saaru. This saaru tastes great the day it's made but even this perfect deliciousness improves with age! It tastes even greater about three-four days later, perhaps due to some sort of a fermentation process.

Yel-neeru/tender water of coconut: This is another thing I miss about India and my farm. In Toronto, the only place one can get to  tender water of coconut  is at Chinese stores which sell  coconuts whose outer green has been shaved and the white tender covering on the shell (this white covering is the future dry coir) is wrapped in that thin transparent plastic. It costs about 2.50$ (in 2014-2015) each. But the taste is not as good as the tender water from my farms coconuts. Neither is the quantity of water great. There is hardly a cup of water per coconut form the Chinese stores of Toronto.  However, the tender water of the trees of my farm was so sweet! Also the coconuts were huge and a single coconut yielded about half liter to maybe even one litre of water! Drinking from one coconut from my farm filled me up, leaving room for nothing else! I found that the water  from a tree which grew right next to the water canal was the sweetest of all. Maybe the continuous flow of water  on the tree's roots made the water from this tree's nuts sweeter?

It was heavenly to sit in the shade of the coconut trees and wait for my cousin or uncle or whoever to climb the tree and bring down a few nuts and hack them open with the macchu(an iron ax like thing) and hand the coconut to me to drink up. The cool breeze blowing on my face, when I am sipping the tender water, the birds making their noises in the trees, my uncle forcing me to have more though I was full with just one coconut's water are great memories! (Actually not many birds sing in the hot afternoons.)

A less memorable experience is buying the tender coconuts on the streets of Bangalore, haggling to get the price reduced, grumbling that the water is not much and is not sweet enough or 'sappe'.

I thought tender water of coconut was a perfect drink which  needed no additions. Yet my mother who plied me with coconut water daily morning as soon as I woke (when I visited India) would  add a bit of lemon juice and sugar to it and it tasted great ! I would never have thought of trying this but she made it work.

Here in Canada, the only time I have bought tender coconuts was when I was very sick, had lost my appetite  and the only thing acceptable to my tongue was coconut water. I have lived on coconut water until I recovered. It was the same in India too. The belief was that when one is sick, one cannot 'taste' food and one should drink coconut water as it has all the nutrients one needs and coconut water is the only thing a sick person can have without throwing up.

It is definitely worth retiring in a coconut growing country if one can have affordable coconut water , morning noon and night! Maybe I should retire in India, or one of the Carribean islands or some such place.

Another delicious favorite of mine is  Panchamruta:  Pancha means five and Amrutha means "nectar of immortality" in Sanskrit. Panchamrutha  is a combination of ripe banana, cold milk, curds, honey & ghee and poured on the idols of Gods and then collected and distributed to the devotees after the Pooja. . The Panchamrutha is consumed  with reverence as it is now Prasada or food blessed by the Gods and eating it is supposed to lead to the blessings. Whatever the story behind the Panchamrutha, I simply love the taste of it and though I tell myself that it's fattening, I cant resist eating/drinking this concoction! My husband eats chappaties with panchamrutha but I simply drink this up. This is  very simple and easy to make as there's  no cooking involved. All you have to do is  mince the bananas and add the rest of the stuff and wait for them to blend. One ripe banana, one cup of cold milk, a few spoons of curds, a table spoon of honey and a table spoon of ghee is enough. (In north India, I think they use sugar instead of  banana but I prefer banana).
 If you think, mixing ghee with curds seems weird; or mixing curds which is sour with sweet tasting items like honey and banana seems odd. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, these 5 things go so well together!

Rose gulkand: During my childhood, I had a neighbor who grew rose plants at home and he collected the rose petals and made gulkhand. I loved this gulkhand! It had the most amazing smell...it was the gentle sweet smell of roses and it tasted heavenly! It was so amazing this taste, smell, texture, this gulkand should have got some sort of an award! Instead, it was something enjoyed by a few of us and remains untasted and unknown to the rest of the world. The rose petals were strictly from his own plants...this is because, if he bought roses to make the gulkand, he would not know for sure  that the roses were never sprayed with pesticide. (I still remember reading an article in a Bangalore newspaper  years ago of two working girls, who plucked rose petals from some garden on their way to work and dying after consuming the petals)
 This person is in his 80s now. He was a self-taught horticulturist who grew several plants in the limited space of pots on his roof! He had the amazing ability to graft plants sand come up with new plants; he was unashamedly and un-embarassedly doing cooking at a time(1960s, 70s, 80s) when Indian middle class men would not lift a finger to do chores at home. And he made this amazing gulkand! His other amazing and RARE virtue is his scrupulous honesty at his job as a KAS and later as an  IAS officer. He worked in the cess-pool of the Karnataka government, and was rigidly honest. To me, he was a diamond surrounded by filthy, rotten, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.
One last word,...this gulkhand was far far FAR superior to the shop bought gulkhands! The shop gulkhands were too sweet or felt wrong in some unidentifiable way.  I now never eat gulkhand as they will not taste like  my neighbor's gulkhand.




Mangoes: the Pakistani mangoes one gets in Iqubal store of Toronto and the Totapuri half raw and half ripe, one gets in Bangalore and other parts of India

Sweet  sapotas eaten at the perfect stage of ripeness: The sapotas are perfect for eating only on one single day. One  day the sapota may be too raw to eat and two days later it may be too soggy and over-ripish. You have to find  the right day for eating, by gently squeezing it daily until the right day. On the right day, it will dip in just the right extent. If it resists, it's too raw and if your fingers go deep in despite your gentle touch, it's over-ripe.So, one has to check daily for the right time to eat it!

The Sapota(Sapota is Mamey sapote) milkshakes, Seethaphala milkshake( Seethaphala is Sugar-apple i.e. the fruit of Annona squamosa),  of Ganesha juice centre in Gandhi bazar of Bangalore tasted like heaven on hot evenings when I returned from work. I would rate the seethaphala milkshake a tiny bit above the sapota milkshake only because I disliked the white sticky sap clinging to my lips when I  had finished the sapota shake.

Coming to alcohol, my experience is once again extremely limited. My tastes may be labelled as naive by the experts! But hey, I dont care. I drink for my happiness, not to impress you!

I loved the Mojitos I had in Havana. My husband and I  wandered the streets  until we were hot, tired, hungry and unable to take another step! We would  then enter the nearest resturant we saw. We would order Mojitos and whatever food the resturant had. I loved the taste of this drink. And since I was hungry, tired and hot, the drink would go straight to my head and I was plesantly dizzy with just one drink! The drinks invariably arrived first followed much later by  the food in almost all the places. I dont remember the food being exceptional but I loved the Mojitos!

I would love to be able to sit in the shade, somewhere outdoors, sipping Mojitos while weaving nice daydreams. Even my own backyard in summers would do.

Another amazing alcoholic cocktail I have enjoyed is the 'Hair of the dog' at a pub called by the same name on Church street of Toronto. It had some alcohol, tomato sauce sort of thing, salt, pepper, a slice of pickle, cucumber, a baby tomato and maybe other things too . I loved this drink! I have never ever had alcohol with 'hot and spicy taste' like Indian food and this was fantastic. I just looked up the meaning of hair of the dog and it means drinking alcohol to get rid of a hangover. Another article states that hair of the dog recipes contain protein (such as eggs) and vitamins in the form of fruit & vegetable juices to help recover from the dehydration, headaches, etc of the hangovers.


To be continued...other favorites of mine:

Ragi  mudde with bas-saru

Mosaranna with uppina kai

Mosaranna with chutney pudi

Vidhyarti  Bhavan masala dosa


Dwaraka bhavan set dosa

plate idli and chutney

Dhood peda or Dharwad peda or Mishra pedha

Besan peda

dedeer uppina kai made and served in weddings

hot spicy boneless chicken biryani(the bones in any dish are annoying and interfere with my enjoyment!) from Lahore Tikka (a resturant on Gerrard street in little India in Toronto...but these days it's gotten expensive and not spicy/hot enough for me)

Jackfruit/halasina hannu

Thursday, March 19, 2015

CANADIAN TELEVISION SHOWS I ENJOYED/would like to see

Corner gas: Comedy.
Dan for mayor: comedy. I like this
Da Vinci's inquest: I want to see this. crime
Da Vinci's city hall: Not yet seen this
The border(I have not seen this yet)
Comedy Inc:I like this.
Cracked:crime.okay
Durham county(should see) crime
Flashpoint:Okay

Stuff by Finkleman
The newsroom 1996-97, 2003-04,2004-05
Escape from the newsroom:2002
Foreign objects :2001
Married life1995
 More tears 1998
 Good dog/Good God :aired March to May 2011 on HBO 
At the hotel:2006
Foolish heart: 1999 on CBC
Of all the Finkleman projects listed above, I have seen the newsroom series. I would like to see the other shows as he is quirky and different. I loved the Newsroom by Finkleman. It is dark comedy and intelligent!
-------------------------
Hatching, matching, dispatching: comedy. I have seen a few episodes of this.
Hiccups-comedy/I liked this.
JUST FOR GAGS I love this show!
The listener: Okay. not great
Little mosque on the Prairie: I don't like this much. It's annoying.
Murdoch mysteries: Okay.
Mr.D-I love this comedy!
Republic of Doyle: I like this a lot for many reasons. I love the cast, the humor, the respect for women, the place it is set in.
Rick Mercer report:Nice
Royal Canadian Air Farce
Schitt's creek-Nice/comedy
This hour has 22 minutes: Comedy. I enjoy this
This is wonderland: I like this. quirky and unusual
Trailer Park Boys: I like this a lot but it deteriorated over time.

If one looks at the list of British or American TV shows, the list appears INFINITE! Look under the letter a and the shows starting with A made in UK runs into pages and pages. Similarly look under any letter, you will see endless shows.
 But the complete list of Canadian shows seem to be less than 5 pages...including children's TV shows, science fiction TV, reality TV, drama TV, sitcom TV,  news and every type of show!

The Canadian government ought to invest and encourage Canadian TV and movies. Movies and Television are a great source of income to the country where production takes place. It generates jobs, encourages creative talent and yet, there is minimal damage to nature and minimal use of non-renewable resources. 
When I compare the Canadian shows to the American or British ones, the Canadians are a bit different. I am not able to articulate the differences. I would sound as if I am criticising the Canadian shows if I try to articulate the differences and I don't mean to. I hope someone some day,  will articulate  the differences between Canadian and American shows, which all of us sense but cannot express.
 Of the Canadian shows I love, for example, Trailer Park Boys, the acting is good, the plot is good, the music is okay, the casting is apt, the direction is good and so on. But there seems to be less drama and I don't know if I mean  this as a good thing or a bad thing. I am myself not sure if I am accepting  or critical of the lesser drama.










My cat communicates better than my folks!


Many people I know have very  poor communication skills. They are not clear when they want to ask for something. They are blind to other people's cues delivered through body language, moods, emotions and facial expressions. When I see my cat communicating with me and getting all it's needs met, I am convinced that it is much better than the humans I know!


When my cat wants to go to the mud room: It approaches the door to the mud room and sits facing the door. If I don't open the door, it looks at me and the door back and forth, trying to get me to open the door. If I still don't open, it mews. When I don't respond to the mews, it jumps up and acts as if it's trying to open the door ! Sometimes, when it's really impatient that I did not open, it jumps on me and tries to get me to open the doo for it.
When it wants to jump on the bed: It simply jumps or it sits below the bed and looks at me. I look at it's eyes and nod my head and it jumps on the bed. Sometimes I click my fingers and it comes up. Sometimes I stroke it's head and it jumps up after the head stroke.
When it wants me to massage it's head: It sits on my chest or stomach and pushes it's head into my hands. it stops pushing only when I start stroking it. If I stop, it paws me or head butts me until I restart the stroking. Sometimes it licks my hand if I stop and I assume it is licking me to thank me for the massage or to get me to continue the massage. If I am wearing glasses when in bed, it pushes it's head into my face until I take off the glasses! It does not want me to wear glasses when it's kneading it's face into my face or when I am massaging it.
If I am reading a book in bed, it bites the book or tries to push the book out of my hand. It's as if it wants me to be completely focussed while massaging it. It does not want me to multi-task when I am attending to it!
When it wants to be covered by the sheet: On cold nights, it simply puts it's head under the sheet or pulls at the sheet with it's paw. I then pull my bed sheet over it and it lies under the sheet with me.
When it wants me to play with it: It gives me a 'mischievous' look while having it's body braced for running. I look at it and yell "let's catch this cat" and I run after it..it runs away from me! It loves being chased and if I stop, it comes near me again, trying to get me to restart the chase. After I chase it a few times, round the living room, dining room and kitchen, it may run into the basement and hide. It loves to hide and wants me to find it. The moment I say, "I cant find you, I am going up. Bye-bye", it darts out of it's hiding place and I give chase again!
It gives me a 'look' and this look is for getting me to throw cotton q tips at it. It loves to jump,catch & chew these q tips. It's pretty good at catching the q tips with it's forelegs and mouth.
It plays alone at times  by rolling a rubber ball (which is a little smaller than a table tennis ball) back and forth on the ground with it's paws and chasing the ball when it rolls down the stairs or elsewhere. I sometimes think it's encouraging me to play with it by starting the game by rolling the ball)
Sometimes it seems to get into a frenzy of energy and it runs berserk around the house, jumping from one sofa to a chair to another room and up the stairs, on a bed and off the bed in a few seconds! If I chase it, it runs with even greater gusto!
Out in the garden: I take it out to the garden daily, at least twice a day (morning and evening) if not more, from May to end of October. (It's too cold to take it out between November and April due to the winter & snow) It loves to be out in the garden and hates to come back in! It enjoys exploring the different smells around the garden, chasing the butterflies, birds & animals. It tries to chase after my neighbour's cat if it ever spots it. It sits under the tree watching the squirrels and refuses to move when I try to go back in as I have to go to work/cook. It starts 'nagging' me to take it out by jumping on my bad at 5 am and pawing me until I wake up. I tell it that I am not waking yet and it stops for a while and then again, starts mewing and pawing me until I wake up! I then walk down the stairs and it walks ahead of me and it stops if I stop walking and looks back at me to make sure I am following it!
I tell it, "I have to make & drink my tea. Please wait.' It looks at me and shakes it's tail and it looks at the door and at me! I tell it in a firmer voice that I have to make tea first and it waits. When I finally finish my tea and ready to open the door, it's too restless for me to put the leash on it. But I am not going out without the leash as I will not be able to catch it if it gives me the slip!
When it's time for me to bring it back, it refuses to come! I pull it and it strains in the opposite direction or rolls on the ground refusing to get up. It also bites my legs or hands until I have to simply grab it and carry it in.
When I come from work in the evening, it starts mewing and looking at the kitchen door. I have to again tell it, I have to make tea and only then can I take it out. It waits impatiently until I am done.
The only thing this cat cannot communicate  is when I have forgotten to fill it's bowl with food or water. It is very very very rare that we forget to fill it's bowls with food and water. Yet it has happened. I feel terribly guilty about it. This cat has not yet figured a way to indicate to us that we have forgotten it's food or water. We discover we have not filled it's bowl only when we check the bowl and find it empty.
Either my cat has to figure out a way to tell us we forgot to fill it's bowl; or I have to figure out  my cat's communication signs for hunger and thirst.

Why is codeine (Hydrocodone) so damn expensive in Canada?

I got a terrible sore throat and cough this last week. The doctor asked me  if I had a drug plan as the medicine he was going to prescribe was expensive. I said yes and then he prescribed hydrocodone which cost me a whopping 45 dollars for a mere 150 ml!


This price is outrageous! $45-00 is almost  4-5 hours of wages of those earning minimum wage ! How the hell can low income folks afford this if it's so bloody expensive? In India the same amount of codeine  costs less  than 2-4 Canadian dollars.


I was told that it is priced  high in order to deter addiction. But this sounds like bull shit to me. I believe this is merely an excuse for the pharmaceutical companies to rip off people.


Imagine, those poor people who have to use public transport as they cant afford cars. They catch these colds, coughs or whatever contagious illness from other passengers on the public transport. Then they are suddenly faced with  huge health and economic consequences for no fault of their own! Many people don't have health insurance from their employers and have to pay for their own medicine.  Imagine having to shell out 45$ for a bottle of cough syrup out of the paltry money one makes on minimum wages. If they continue going to work without medication, they  spread their  infection or get dirty looks from their co-workers, who fear getting infected. And those in temp jobs without any benefits, don't get sick days and will have  either have their pay cut if they take time off to recover or even lose their jobs.


In Canada, a simple cold is a simple thing to deal with if one has a permanent job with health benefits such as a good drug plan, a sensible number of sick days per year, etc. On the other hand, if you are struggling to support yourself and your family on minimum wages in a job without benefits such as health  insurance & sick leave , a simple cold could screw you.
It is high time the government talks to employers in Canada and stop them from denying health benefits to their employees.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

HISTORICAL CRIME FICTION

I have read a few historical crime fiction but can recall only the books of C.J.Sansom at present. He has written a fictional series set in 16th century England ruled by Henry the 8th. The main protagonist is a hunch backed lawyer Matthew Shardlake  and there are 6 books in the series.

Dissolution 2003
Dark fire 2004
Sovereign 2006
Revelation 2008
Heartstone 2010
Lamentation 2014


I have read and loved each of these books! Hats off to this writer ! The characters are so believable. I learnt a lot about life in those days i.e. the life of ordinary people and royalty.

Since childhood, I have always wondered about life in ancient times, in India and all over the world. But the absolutely shallow social studies texts I had in school, which only focussed on names of kings, dates of deaths of kings and  dates of wars, with zero information about anything else, left me dissatisfied & ignorant. I also had a terrible memory and barely scraped through the tests! If the history lessons had some depth of information, I am sure I would have enjoyed and learnt and remembered a lot more ! The  DRY, B-O-R-I-N-G texts never gave any information about how people lived in those days, the prevalent economic system, agricultural practices, etc.  I am referring to the social studies text books  published or prescribed by the Karnataka State Government in the years 1971 to 1980. I also think that the kids who had access to Amar Chitra Katha comics probably scored more  in social studies tests than the ones who had only boring texts,  boring teachers and boring notes to rely on!
I had several questions in childhood and  I never got answers until decades later when the  internet came to India. My questions were also answered when  I  borrowed history books by British authors from the  Toronto public library.  (I learnt about Indian history in Canada...no access to books and no books in India about India! The Indian public libraries are appalling and people cannot afford to buy all the books they want to read). I am now getting information about life in India, the caste system, the superstitious beliefs, the agricultural practices by reading online things like the Karnataka Gazette, etc. There is such a wealth of documentation of all aspects of life in all parts of India, done by the British and now available online! One can also read from the British library archives online.

Some questions I had in childhood for which I never got answers from my history text books for a long time were:
(1)How did people stitch blouses for women and shirts for men? Needles were invented in the west and we were apparently wearing clothes even before the British came. So how did we stitch?
(2)Another question which bothered me was how did we know where to dig for iron, gold, diamonds, etc?
(3) I know that villagers shit and piss in the fields. But I was always curious about where the people in cities and the kings and queens especially went to shit and piss in the past centuries. This question haunted me for years of my childhood but no one knew the answers! Even with lots of 'educated' people around me,  I could not get this answer. The elders would say things like, " Why do you want to know?" or say "Indians were smart. I am sure they had some  sort of toilets".

(4)How did we know we had to melt the stuff to get metal? ( I never had any questions about diamonds as I was ignorant enough to think that the diamonds were shiny and we simply dug them out! I blame Indian movies for my ignorance.

Reading historical crime fiction by good authors makes history fun and exciting instead of dead and boring.  And C.J.Sansom is one great author!

I will add other books to this list as I recall. I know I have read a few others related to Christianity (Knights Templar) but cannot recall now.

The Far Pavilions by M.M.Kaye is a  romantic and  adventurous historical fiction set in British India I   enjoyed ! I have read it more than once though it is a huge book. I am sure all Indians who love romance, adventure and want to know about life in India in British times would enjoy this . I am saying Indians as I think Indians would be more interested than others in reading this.

I am looking forward to reading three crime fiction set in British India by Australian writer Brian Stoddart i.e.
A Madras Miasma 
The Palampur Predicament
Straits Settlement

Other books set in Pre-independence India are:
Barbara Cleverly's
The last Kashmiri rose
Ragtime in Simla
The Damascend blade
The palace tiger

Leigh Copeland's
Where Gods dwell
The body in the Bokhara

Upendra Dharmadhikari & Changali Anand
The princess in Black:An unheard story of the Mughals(2014)

George Macdonald Fraser
The (Harry Paget Flashman)Flashman series by this author are more funny adventures than crime fiction and there are 12 books in this highly acclaimed series.
The ones set in pre-independent India are
The Flashman papers book one 1969
The Flashman series book 4 Flashman and the mountain of light 1990
The Flashman papers-book 8 Flashman in the great game 1975


Rudyard Kipling:
|Kim(not sure if this would be crime fiction exactly)


Sharath Kommaraju
The crows of Agra(set in the times of Akbar, Mughal emperor of India)

Michael Kurland
The empress of India(British India)

Alun Lewis
In the green tree (some short stories are crime fiction set in British India)

Madhulika Liddle
The Englsihman's cameo
The eigth gang and other Muzaffar Jang mysteries
Engraved in stone
Crimson city

John Masters
The deceivers 1966(set in British India)
Bhowani junction 1954
The lotus and the wind 1953


Abir Mukherjee's
A rising man

Currently(fall 2015) I am reading a crime fiction set in New York of  the 1890s  called Murder on Washington Square by Victoria Thompson. I am enjoying it and it's a pleasure to know the life of people, especially women in those days. The days when women were not considered equal to men and good enough for work men did such as police work.
There is a whole lot of historical crime fiction being written all over the world and I will add to this list as I read them.
 I hope these historical crime fiction set in New York of over 200 years ago will keep me happily engaged this cold fall!

I finished Murder in Gramercy Park and I find her style of writing very similar to Georgette Heyer's. Many phrases and words to capture certain emotions are exactly the same as Georgette Heyer. I am enjoying these books as it's a pleasant way to discover New York's history..the life of the rich, the middle class and the  poor, the rich, women's lives and the challenges they faced due to society's attitudes toward them, the life of the immigrants such as the Chinese and the racism they faced, even the racism faced by Europeans such as  the Irish in New York about 100 odd years ago!
 I am sad that many of the current New Yorkers are ignorant and remain uncurious about New York's fascinating history.
The entire list of 17 crime fiction books by Victoria Thompson, set in New York of 19th century are:


Murder on Astor Place 1999
Murder at St. Mark's Place 2000

Murder on Gramercy Park 2001
Murder on Washington Square 2002
Murder on Mulberry bend 2003
Murder on Marble Row 2004
Murder on Lennox Hill 2005
Murder in Little Italy 2006
Murder in China Town 2007
Murder on Bank street 2008
Murder on Waverly Place 2009
Murder on Lexington Avenue 2010
Murder on Sister's Row 2011
Murder on 5th Avenue 2012
Murder in Chelsea 2013
Murder in Murray Hill 2014
Murder on Amsterdam Avenue 2015
Murder in Morningside Heights 2016

 
Every single one of these Thompson books emphasizes the corruption in the New York City's police force of those days. I believe that today's NYPD  is not corrupt. These books give me some hope that one day, the Indian police force  too will change and be more honest.
As of now, the Indian police is a lot more corrupt than the police force depicted in the Victoria Thompson's New York of a century ago.

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HISTORICAL CRIME FICTION IN TV AND MOVIES

There is quite a bit of historical crime fiction movies and TV shows being aired these days. I am using historical loosely and am adding any show set even early 20th century here.

I have seen many episodes of a Canadian TV show called Murdoch mysteries set in Toronto, Ontario where I live!
It is nice but for some reason, I always find something lacking in Canadian shows when compared to American TV shows. The Canadian shows have good acting, good plots, good direction, etc but they seem so lacking in fieriness or drama and seem so understated. I like this show but if a different show was being aired at same time as this, I would go for the other show! But I do like the main character, his boss, his assistant and the lady doctor in this show.

I saw a few episodes on Netflix an Australian show called Miss Fisher's murder mysteries where a female is the main protagonist set in 1920 Melbourne, Australia. I saw a few episodes and for some reason, I cant explain, I stopped seeing it. I really cannot explain why I stopped...the acting is good, the costumes are great, the actors are nice looking and act well, yet, it din't hold my interest. Maybe, just because it's set in Australia, I could not feel like relating to it.
LA Confidential a movie set in 1950s LA is one of the best crime movies I have ever seen.



Friday, March 13, 2015

CRIME FICTION RELATED TO FINANCE

Here are a list of books whose theme was financial crime. I loved these books. Some of them are not available in the public libraries as they are 'old'.




Lawrence Sanders's Timothy Cone series
The Timothy files
Timothy's game
I love  Timothy and have read these books multiple times.  I love this guy! He is so different from the polite backstabbers of today!


I had been to the Toronto Public  Library recently and a book by Christopher Reich was kept on display right in front i.e. THE PRINCE OF RISK. Liking the blurb and the synopsis, I borrowed the book and discovered a great author! The book was fast paced and crime in the world of finance which is new to me (sort of new...I have read a long time ago, the  Lawrence Sanders's Timothy Cone series which I loved)
I read this book in the same month that (1)my friend's son joined a bank as a finance analyst and he would tell his mom, who in turn told me about his job, which seems pretty exciting(2)My friend's son recommended a movie called Margin Call , also related to finance and I saw that movie, online around the same time(3)And then I saw the Wolf of Wall street...which is also related to crime in finance!
And then I happened by pure chance to see this book and picked it up

I then went on to read other books by this guy Reich starting with his first book i.e. Numbered Account . I loved this book. This book too is about finance i.e. crime in the world of Swiss banking. I then borrowed another  book of his...I loved this one too  i.e. Rules of Betrayal...But this book is NOT about finance...it is about  terrorism, Gulf countries, Pakistan, etc. I am now reading The Devil's Banker.
 What was amazing about The Devil's Banker was the accuracy of his description of certain places in Pakistan. I have never been there but I have been to places in India, which are similar and he has got the men's attitudes towards women, exactly as it is..and the description of their unwashed bodies, stinking of sweat is real. I wonder if Reich has been to Pakistan and experienced all this. His description of an Indian villain in The rules of betrayal captures the behavior of  Chauvinistic men, with feelings of inferiority, who abound in many eastern cultures.(I am from the east and so if I sound racist, so be it..I have first hand experience of Indian men's behavior). The scene where a lady in a burka is surrounded by men and attacked by one, with the rest watching or cheering him on, is scary and unfortunately, all too.......I hope a lot of people read this book to understand the life of  Pakistani people in general and women in particular.

There is one minor error in Devil's Banker,(first line of chapter 10) where he says the Bay of Bengal is near Karachi, Pakistan. It should read Arabian sea  and not Bay of Bengal.
Thank you Christopher Reich!


Christopher Reich's

The prince of risk
Rules of Betrayal
Numbered account
Devil's banker
Rules of deception

Dick Francis's
Banker


Dick Francis has written over 50 crime novels with horse racing as a theme in all books and one other art or craft in each book. Banker is about horse racing and banking crimes.

Margin Call &  The wolf of wall street are two  movies I saw which is about financial crime. Not sure if they are book based movies. I found the wolf of wall street disgusting and it is disgusting to realize that it is based on true events! How unethical, callous, greedy, can humans get?


The book,  "The financial expert" written by R.K.Narayan is NOT crime fiction. It's a book set in a small town in south India. The life of people is refreshingly simple(compared to life today) simple and is a contrast to life today! This book is more about this financial expert, his family and the people of the town and there is a tiny bit  about finance.
Comparing this 1952 book about life in a small town in south India  to the crime fiction listed above set me thinking.


Someone should compile and review crime fiction (or any other genre) of literature  written over the years and then write about the changes in the plots over the passage of time. Just comparing books written in the 50s such as Chase's books, books written in the late 80s such as Timothy Cone's game, I see that the crimes are getting more and more sophisticated. The one constant in all these books written decades apart is  human behaviour! Human indecency has remained the same since for ever I think!

I will add to this list as I recall the ones I read. Right now, nothing more pops into my mind! adios!




















Thursday, March 12, 2015

Why dont people "like" on Facebook?

After writing why people 'like' on Facebook, I realized there are many weird reasons why people don't click on 'like'...even when they like!


1) Most of the time people don't click on  like(at least the ones I know) when they don't feel very excited by the post.
2)When they like the post but not the person posting it!
3.)When they are angry with the person who is posting it and want to 'take him/her down a notch'
4.)When the person who's posting does not  click on like for their posting! (tit for tat)
5)A sudden attack of jealousy...Hey why I am I liking others post always and no one likes mine? I am going to stop liking others' posts until they like mine!
6)You don't want your friend to get annoyed by liking his rival's posts!
7)You are taking a break from FB and it appears to others as if you have stopped liking...but you are actually not checking your FB
8)For reasons unknown to you, the posts don't show up on your FB. (but the person posting may get hurt, without realizing the posts are not visible to you...this can lead to a lot of 'real' hurt feelings, due to this half-real, unreal network of Facebook!
9) You were liking some posts at first but now you have reached saturation point. or you dont like the stuff anymore.
10)Damn! I wish I could think of a 10th reason, simply to round off this piece!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why do people click "like" in Facebook?

1.Because they truly and  really like the photo, video, quote or whatever
2.People   'like' not because they  'like' but because they feel obligated...
When do people feel obligated... when they feel guilty ...for example when they have forgotten to call a person or when they have had an argument and now feeling messy about it ...and many other such reasons
3.When the 'boss' puts up something, many people feel it's safer to 'like' than remain silent
4.When a person has had a huge fight with another and stopped talking...Then 'liking' something put up by the other person on Facebook is a kind of overture  to reconcile
5.People know that some people simply crave for likes! They oblige these ' like' collectors by clicking on like, for every thing put up by these people. Sometimes they don't even bother to read or open what they have liked!
6.Sometimes, people are bored and having nothing better to do, scroll through Facebook, clicking like to posts they normally don't.
7. Some click like to things put up by a stranger, to start a dialogue and get to know the person or befriend them
8.Sometimes people like everything put up by a young person such as a child or a teen to be encouraging, like everything put up by a best friend, niece or nephew, a son or a daughter or someone they really care about.
9.Some people 'like' in order to encourage  the person who has put up the post if the person is troubled with self-doubts.  I always click on  like for anything put up by people I perceive as 'underdogs'.
10.Some people compulsively click like.
11.Some believe that they are making a difference by clicking on like. This is one lazy ass way of feeling good because you think you did something to improve the world!
12. I have liked posts and photos put up by people I have not contacted for years and years...I cant explain why. But I feel uncomfortable if I dont click on 'like'. I cant see a clear reason for this discomfort though I am trying to analyze myself.






What about the psychology or the logic behind the 'likes' pressed by  'crazy people' . The reasons why a crazy person likes or not likes something on FB could be really weird and interesting. Delusions, jealousies, anger, ecstasy, love, misunderstandings and misperceptions could influence the clicking on simple 'like' button !





Monday, March 2, 2015

What is happiness?




Everyone wants to be happy and so do I . But, what is happiness? I have been thinking about happiness a lot and  find that it's  one elusive emotion! I can easily define and recognize  other emotions such as thrills, excitement, nervousness, relief, fear, depression, and anger . But happiness is something which I either 'rarely' experience or can't recognize it when I do.  Yet, like everyone else,  I  seem to do things because I want happiness or  want to avoid unhappiness.
Daily, I go through a range of emotions(and thoughts). And like most people, I try to do whatever it takes to experience pleasant emotions & avoid unpleasant emotions.
Listed below, are the pleasant emotions I feel when I engage in some activities. I wonder if  happiness is simply  another word for these emotions? or is happiness something else?
  • Pleasure: when I eat something tasty like a Tobelerone chocolate or any other favorite food. But this pleasure is brief...the pleasure ceases when I have swallowed the chocolate and the taste is no longer on my tongue...so this pleasure is as brief as a few minutes. Pleasure can be got through any of the 5 sensory routes...taste, touch, smell, hearing and vision. Yet, happiness is more complex than what we experience through our 5 senses. The touch of a massager is pleasurable; the smell of aromas we like is pleasurable; Listening to music we enjoy is pleasurable; seeing a lovely scene can be pleasurable.
  • Mild pleasure: smelling rain on earth, any pleasant smell like flowers or perfumes you like. This too is brief and after a couple of minutes, I either stop feeling that pleasure or my attention is not on the fragrance anymore.
  • Laughter & smiles: when I make a joke or hear one, when I watch funny stuff on TV or read funny stuff or a witty conversation. Here the sense of joy is much longer and the wittier and longer the show/book/whatever, the longer the duration of laughter/happiness. Recalling and retelling the jokes of the show later brings about the same elevation of mood as when I was watching the show. Here the sense of joy lasts for half hour or an hour and the happiness can be re-experienced by the memories. (Recalling the taste of the sweet does not create the same  pleasure/happiness as when actually having the sweet sitting on the tongue)
  • physical kinesthetic sense of pleasure: while coming down when on the giant wheel...this again lasts for 3-4 seconds. Being on a swing. 
  • Thrills, excitement & an adrenalin rush: when reading a crime fiction book or watching an exciting TV show/movie especially when at an exciting junction. Here the emotions of thrill, etc. last for the duration of the book reading and may last for many hours. The thrills wax and wane depending on whether the part of the book being read is exciting or not.
  • Relief: When I have been holding my urine or poop for ages and finally reach a "decent" toilet! The feeling of relief is exquisite! This can last for up to a minute or more. Or when I have been working for hours and finally get to bed...that moment when I get to lie on the bed, flat on my back is wonderful! Other mildly pleasurable reliefs are : when you sneeze and the tickle in your nose stops, untying your tightly braided hair and vigorously rubbing your scalp, picking at dried scabs, ...finally getting to remove the edge of your finger-nail which has been painfully growing into the nail bed with a nail cutter and rubbing the sore spot, etc. This list of 'relief-giving' things may look ridiculous to some. But I find these experiences note-worthy! 
  •  Physically pleasant sensations for which I cant find  descriptive words: 1.Scratching when it feels itchy or 2. getting a good massage when a muscle is hurting. That feeling is so great! I can get a massage for ever and a day! 3.The pleasurable pain of digging a nail deep into a painful swelling(swelling caused by an insect bite) on skin is another great sensation. 4.when something, weightless and light, touches my skin, like a feather or thread, I love that sensation too. But I cant find a word to express what that feeling is!. The emotion/feeling last for the duration of the experience i.e. many seconds or minutes. 5. Tickles...but I don't think tickles are 100% pleasurable as I start screaming for the person to stop tickling! Maybe some things like tickles are a pleasure, only if limited.
  • The emotion I experience which is a combination of Pride, excitement & joy: When I win a prize or praise especially from someone 'high-up' or from someone who rarely praises. This feeling lasts for many seconds at first and maybe a few minutes. This emotion can come and go depending on how often I recall the moment of  achievement or winning the prize/praise, etc.
  • A sense of achievement and satisfaction: when I have completed some creative task or finished some difficult job. When someone thanks me for my help or praises my cooking while eating. This sense of achievement and satisfaction too is for a few seconds, but can be experienced again and again when I recall it.
  • Sense of purpose: I am not sure if this is an emotion or an 'aim' or a thought. But this is very very important for us humans to carry on with our lives. I experience this sense of purpose when I am helping someone and it is intensely satisfying! I have helped my family a great deal financially and otherwise. I have helped family, friends and clients with psychological counseling and it has made a big difference in some of their lives and given me great satisfaction.
     I think having a purpose in life is the one vital element which prevents a depressed person from attempting suicide.
    Sense of purpose makes life meaningful for adults . Life is difficult to continue when we don't feel a purpose. {one reason rich people should not make too much money and property for their kids is that the wealth will rob the children of the drive to strive; they may become bored as they have everything and there is no-need to struggle or work for anything i.e. no purpose in life...then they may slip into naughty stuff like drugs for thrills and to avoid boredom}
    Sense of purpose is different from and superior to other emotions because, it is something which keeps me striving, even when I am experiencing difficulties.
    Sense of purpose is one thing which makes people  sacrifice things which make them happy or do things which they find painful or boring or dangerous.
     I am trying to analyze if sense of purpose is an emotion but it does not feel like one. It seems to be a combination of thought, ambition and efforts. But since all human action is to attain emotional satisfaction, I am trying to figure out what is the emotion I am aiming for through sense of purpose. I think the emotion I experience is a combination of sense of satisfaction and avoiding the experience of guilt (feeling guilty because  I am 'only enjoying' my life and not 'achieving' something). I am not able to pinpoint the precise moment when I experience this emotion of satisfaction. Maybe at the moment of a milestone such as completion of a task or someone I helped reaching a stage of recovery...it's difficult to say when I experience the emotion, how long it lasts, is this emotion ever experienced at the conscious level or not...it is difficult to identify, pinpoint, define, label and  measure! (The west has this great need to label and measure every single thing, even those which cannot be such as poetry....and I am trying to do the same here!)
  • Enjoyment: The state of enjoyment I experience  is longer than other emotions and sensations mentioned above; however  the intensity of enjoyment  is not 'consistently' high all through the activity. Some activities I enjoy are: spending time with a few friends(by my choice),eating favorite foods, sleeping especially when I have had a long hard day, reading a book I really like, watching a TV show or movie I really like, travelling on a vacation, meeting and  playing some games either alone or with people, penning down a great idea which flashed to me. This sense of enjoyment lasts for the duration of the activity. But it is tricky in some ways. I eat fast when I love the food and try as I might, I simply can't slow down to make the enjoyment last longer! Similarly, when I read a good book, I race through and cant slow down to prolong the pleasure.
  • Feeling good: This emotion is felt when I look in the mirror and like what I see. I also feel good when complimented either with words or looks by strangers or friends.  I feel good and happy when someone talks well of my relatives or friends. If I analyze 'feeling good' I think it's a combination of pleasure, pride and joy. Feeling good too is something which lasts for a matter of seconds. I am not going to have the image of myself looking good, for the entire day and feel happy the entire day! My attention will be diverted to many other things the entire day and so I  feel good when I pass a mirror..i.e. for a few seconds. My comment to men and women who work so hard to buy expensive stuff is this...whether you own a million dollar pair of emerald earrings or a cheap pair of green glass earrings, the happiness you experience when you wear them is momentary. So, is it worth, the trouble, to struggle so hard for such a momentary feeling of happiness?
  • Joy: when I am waiting for someone and they arrive. I feel such a joy when I see them and then the emotion subsides. This is what I mean by saying that happiness is elusive. With the exception of 'enjoyment', all of the above mentioned pleasant emotions last for seconds or perhaps a minute. I don't experience these emotions for several minutes or hours at a time.
  • Feeling 'relaxed' or feeling a 'pleasant buzz": A few minutes after a tea spoon of codeine, I feel pleasantly dizzy, my mind is calm, I experience zero anxiety or sadness; there are neither happy nor sad nor neutral  thoughts racing through  my mind ...instead I am able to focus on the activity I am engaged in completely. I am not a codeine addict yet but it felt great when I had the sore throat and  had to take this codeine!
  • Excited anticipation and wait: This is one of the most pleasurable states to be in! When one is waiting for something good, one's mind is in a pleasant, excited state. I have experienced this many times but not as often as I would like! Waiting for the summer holidays or Dusseera holidays when I was in school was one fantastic mood elevator! Waiting for a letter from a friend who has promised to write is another. Waiting for my birthday and the presents especially in my childhood was another pleasurable wait. Similarly waiting for things I have bought on Ebay to arrive, books I have ordered in the library, friends from distant places, cousins from another country. The rich people miss the pleasure of getting something after a long wait. I think I have brought up this issue in another article in this blog(the pleasure of poverty). Sometimes, the  excitement of waiting is more pleasurable than the happiness one feels when the object arrives. It's like the hunter...the hunt is more exciting than after the animal is caught. The pleasure
  • Brain numbness through addictive games: There was a time when I played 2 card games on the computer for hours and hours ! Solitaire and free cell.  The games were a time consuming, brain numbing addiction! When I try to recall and explore, the emotions I experienced when playing these games,  I cant find any emotion at all...not pleasure, not happiness, nothing. Yet I played these games, hour upon hour and the only emotion I can recall is feeling irritated if called away from the game before I was ready to stop. There was no 'jump of joy' if I won; there was no anger if I din't. I simply kept on playing and playing and playing. I wish I could label the emotion I had when I played these addictive games;
  • I would like to state that many of these emotions disappear, when I stop to 'analyze' or think about or understand the emotion I am experiencing at the moment. As you all know, emotions cease when thinking starts and vice versa. Rarely can one  feel and think at the same time.
    Below are other pleasant emotions I have experienced; However, they are emotions which didn’t strike me as I was writing the article… I got the emotions below by googling ‘pleasant emotions’ after I finished writing the above
  • Curiosity: When I see something amazing which I don't understand, my curiosity is piqued and I enjoy the process of hunting for the answer. It may be a sense of marvel and wonder when I see a magic show or some miraculous thing I don't understand. Joy, amazement and wonder mixed with awe and curiosity is experienced when I see someone do something exceedingly well or exceedingly fast...Like when I see my husband make Bisibelebath in the time I take simply to wash the coriander leaves!
  • Admiration: I have experienced this when I see skilled people at work. I have admired and longed to watch forever a psychiatrist interview a patient! This psychiatrist is so respectful and humble and sweet that the patients love him and talk freely and it is such a joy to watch this guy! The joy of knowing and interacting with a fantastic person who is not only highly intelligent and skilled and humble is such a fantastic happiness. This happiness is wonderful as such people are as rare as the Kohinoor!
  • Joyful learning: I have had the great good luck to have had amazingly good teachers. It was a joy to sit in their classes. I loved their classes so much that I would not miss their classes even when I was sick. This joy was the joy of learning, hero-worship, love and admiration. I had these amazingly good teachers who loved their subject(English and psychology lecturers), who were fantastic teachers and great human beings. Their classes were something I never wanted to end.
  • Love, tenderness, laughter, wanting to protect, playfulness: This combination of emotions I feel when with babies or pets. This too is a great feeling and I can play with a pet for as long as it wants to without feeling bored or wanting to stop.
  • Relaxation: I feel this when I get to sit and stretch my legs  after a long walk, when I wake on a Sunday morning, knowing that  I don't have to get out of bed. This too is a great feeling but it does reach a saturation point.
  • Satisfaction: When I got good marks with the remark, 'good' in red ink on my school tests! When I taste what I have cooked and it's good. When I wrote a great skit and read it.
  • Thrill of the chase(similar to excited anticipation and wait listed earlier) This is a low-key prolonged sense of joy and thrill and pleasure when ends when the object I was hunting for is found. The joy of owning the object is so brief, it's sad! I experienced this when I was buying used books for my collection, searching for old coins and stamps, bird nests, rocks, antique brass and copper vessels and whatever else I collected over the years. I had this nice feeling when I was roaming in various areas of Bangalore  looking for used books, when I was in my village searching for birds nests such as the weaverbirds nests, hunting for unusual rocks in villages, by the sea and rivers, etc. I also experienced this when I went to used book stores and thrift stores in Toronto. I had this fantastic thrills when I was bidding on a set of books on Ebay! I have now realized that the thrill of the chase is a greater happiness and the pleasure lasts much much longer than  the happiness of finding the searched object. Even if the chase is long, the thrill never wanes for me. The thrill of the chase is greater than getting the object of the chase for me; I have searched for books on the internet, shops and other places. But once I get the book I don't read it for quite a while! Why the heck did I chase it for so long if I am not going to read it? I think the chase was satisfying and once I get it, I tell myself, now that I have it, I can read it any time...I need'nt read it right now.
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    Paradoxical emotions: Paradoxical emotions is feeling the opposite of what one should logically feel. For example, one should feel happy when one gets a job. One should feel happy if one is getting married. But paradoxically, I felt  stressed  at the time I started work after getting the job and  stressed before the wedding. I felt  relief  along with  some happiness after the events. I may have felt  satisfaction but at a much later time! I wonder if others feel the same as me.
     I feel a lot more of pure happiness and satisfaction about small things. But anything big, the stress while doing is more than the satisfaction after completion, even if the job gets done.

    Below are a few other positive emotions, akin to happiness I have experienced at various times.
  • Quiet joy: Good memories bring a quiet joy to my mind.
  • Feeling of being energized: I get this when a vacation is decided. On a vacation, I am bursting with energy, even if I have not eaten for many hours! I simply cant understand where I get my energy from when I am on a holiday, roaming around some foreign city.
    I get this sense of energy when I am window shopping or looking in a used book store or antiques store!
  • Orgasm:  There is no 'emotion' word for the intense joy during orgasm. It's brief, intense and great.
  • Peace: I don't know if I ever experienced peace after a positive event. I seem to experience peace after a fight has been successfully resolved between family members. I wish I could experience peace without peace being the outcome of a conflict.
  • Hope: I am not sure if it is a positive emotion for me or a mixed one. This is because I am pretty pessimistic and when I feel hope, I also feel hopelessness and that things will not work out! Due to my intense pessimism, I vacillate rapidly between hope and hopelessness and so this is not a purely  positive  experience.(I picked hope from Dr.Fredrickton's list on the internet)
  • Gratitude: I have felt this many many times when I have received help from various people. I have also felt pleased when people expressed gratitude to me.
  • Freedom: I felt this when I passed out of a department with a very controlling HOD, got out of a family with a very controlling head and got out of a job with a very controlling & bossy boss. I felt relieved and enjoyed my freedom after my exit, but I don't remember feeling elated or ecstatic....I think it took me a lot of time to recover from the negative emotions which had piled up during the unfree phase and it took time for me to 'stop being wary' and start enjoying the freedom. (I picked freedom from a list on the internet and did not come up with this emotion myself)
  • Interest: I have felt interest often and this goes with curiosity. (I took this emotion off a list of emotions on the internet).
  • Spirituality: I cannot really describe what I experience when I pray. My daily or almost daily morning prayer is nothing but asking God(I read out a list of God's names) and ask them to bless me and my family and friends( I read out a list of names of family and friends too). I notice a definite reduction in anxiety or anxiety type feelings and feel calm and sort of have the belief that all my family and friends will be safe and problem free; this emotion of calmness lasts for a few minutes/seconds after my prayers. Then I am engaged in  whatever activity after my prayers and I am neither anxious or happy or whatever. On the days I miss saying my prayer, but I am aware that I didn't  pray, I have a few seconds or minutes of uneasiness but this vanishes as my mind gets busy with some other thoughts or work. Sometimes I think my praying is simply an anxiety reduction activity and not really one which makes me experience joy or spirituality or any of those 'better' emotions. It would be nice if I could get something more out of my prayers emotionally.

    The very few places where I feel calm and in a prayerful mood is when I am in a temple which is empty or almost empty, quiet and the temple should be of a "certain type". The two temples which fulfil this criteria are: The Kadumalleshwara temple in Malleshwaram in Bangalore in the afternoons when it's empty(I don't know how it is these days but in the 70s and 80s it was empty and quiet in the afternoons). The Gutte Anjenayah temple near LalBagh west gate is another temple where I am not distracted and I feel  able to focus at least a few seconds/minutes thinking of God and well-being of all living things. If I visited the temples alone, I would be able to focus more; However, I hardly ever go anywhere alone and often my companion is my chatterbox of a husband, wo keeps talking non-stop and so my limited ability to  focus or pray is further reduced!
     The  temples in the villages I have visited (my village and the villages neighbouring my village) are also places where my mind spontaneously experiences a  devotional feeling;  I really feel spiritual in these temples due to the quietness and the ambiance. 
    The features in these temples which I really like and which possibly contribute to my thoughts about God are:
    a. Quietness . I cannot focus on God with distractions such as lots of people, lots of noise, even if it is prayers or devotional songs over loud speakers, etc. These days, most temples in cities and 'popular' temples are terribly noisy. I go to them because someone at home, has forced me to go and not because I want to go. My question to the temple authorities is this,"Do you think God is deaf? Does he need to hear your devotional songs on the loud speakers? Will these songs be heard in heaven or where ever God is ? If God is every where, then why are the songs so loud. He can hear it if he is every where; even if God is not everywhere, surely, he(or she) is in the temple and he can hear it without the loudspeaker, can't he?
    b. Absence of people or presence of very few people; the people in the temple, should be or at least appear to be focussed on God and should behave quietly.(I can get irritable, forget completely about God if the people are noisy, behave badly, etc! When I visit temples, I am often angry and disgusted and  become distracted from God when I see the priest favouring the 'richer' devotees; the priest yelling at someone; etc. These things put me off completely and I am not in a 'spiritual' mood but angry-disgusted mood in temples!
    c. I prefer the temples which have not been 'modernized'. but most temples these days have been modernized. The old designs are changed and I simply don't feel spiritual in the modernized temples.  There is something about the simplicity and minimalism of the old temples and village temples, which really improves my mood. 
    The most off-putting thing about modernized temples for me is the porcelain tiles on the walls which to my mind are 'bathroom' tiles. I always associate the shiny, plain white porcelain tiles with bathrooms, toilets and hospitals as I have seen them in only those 3 places during my childhood. Someone came up with the bright idea that tiling the walls of the sanctum Santorum of temples will keep them clean or easy to maintain. And all temples I have seen (in Bangalore) seem to have adopted this idea! Looking at the white porcelain tiles on the walls makes me think that the Gods are in a bathroom and it simply puts me off, until I can distract myself!
    d. The disco lights some temples put is another thing which puts all spiritual thoughts out of my head!
    e. The plastic wrappers of the Agarbattis i.e. incense sticks and the wrappers of the Camphor lying around is another thing which irritates me and puts all thoughts of God out of my head and thoughts of plastic pollution in!
    The smells don't bother me thank God. I love the smells of temples in fact. The smell is an interesting mix of flowers(fresh, dying and dried), burning camphor, burning incense sticks, coconut water and fresh coconut, vermilion & ash, burning oil and burning til seeds. These smells are not so much present in North Indian temples. The north temples seem cleaner, drier & have less odors and this maybe because their worshipping rituals don't involve so much of offerings of fruit, camphor, incense sticks, etc. by devotees.  
    f. The use of disposable plastic cups and plates in temples is another thing which makes me feel less spiritual. For me to feel spiritual, I would like to have the Prasada on  a piece of banana leaf like before or the dried leaf-cup instead of the current plastic containers.


    The aspects of the old fashioned temples which really appealed to me are:
    The walls whitewashed with lime and reddened with red-oxide. There is something appealing in the simplicity of the white and red walls of temples of the old days. 
    Today, temples are painted with modern paints and look glossy. I do know lime & red-oxide is probably not so easily available and modern paint lasts longer and temples have to change, but it really cuts my spirituality. I wonder if I am simply someone who cannot accept change?
    I loved the uneven ground inside the temple (compound) walls and just outside the temple building. The ground was covered by roughly cut granite slabs; our village temple did not even have granite slabs but had sand and thorns grew there and we had to walk carefully so as to not step on those damn thorns when we did the three rounds pradakshe-ne. Today, rich devotees simply pour money into temples and temple authorities feel compelled to use to money to 'improve' the temple. Unfortunately, they seem to have more money than good taste or aesthetics and the temple gets 'improved' and over-built. 
    Previously, temples had really thick walls. I dont know if they had thick walls because thicker was considered as better in those days. I loved those thick walls! In some spots, the walls would crumble into muddy-sand, when you touch them. But I loved those thick walls, I dont know why. They were almost a foot or more thick.
    Most old temples had the Peepul tree, Neem tree and Parijata tree growing in their premises or nearby. Many or all temples, have the Tulsi plant growing inside the temple premises. These tress were worshipped daily by both priests and devotees. Some of these trees are hundreds of years old and huge. What I love most about these trees is their hugeness. I also love the sound of the rustling leaves of the Peepul tree and the sound of the coppersmith(crimson breasted barbet)bird in this tree, I could never spot this tiny bird but what a wonderful/powerful song/voice it had! It was a a repetitive sound and maybe that is why it's called coppersmith... the vocals of this bird sound like a continual hammer on copper... 
    To me, there was something so relaxing and comforting in the sounds of this bird combined with the rustling peepul tress leaves while sitting on the steps of the Kadumalleshwara temple. 
    Now with India's population, growing out of control, space is limited, trees are getting chopped and new temples, have no space for trees!
    In south India, devotees have installed statues of the snake God near the trees as they seek some favour from the Gods. These are often, about one to two feet in height, beautifully carved of granite and I loved these statues, installed between the trees(at least at Kadumalleshwara temple). In a country, where everything which is not nailed gets stolen, I am amazed that these beautiful statues are not stolen, though they are sitting in open places, unguarded!
    The other things about old temples have not changed much or at least I cant notice any changes. The rituals are the same, the Gods continue to be that I don't know whether to be amused, amazed or put off! It is like a mall in some ways and they sell Prasada which are not typical Prasada at all.  made of Panchaloha and are still beautifully carved/moulded, the Teertha and Prasada are the same. 

    ce any changes. The rituals are the same, the Gods continue to be  It is like a mall in some ways and they sell Prasada which are not typical Prasada at all.  made of Panchaloha and are still beautifully carved/moulded, the Teertha and Prasada are the same. 
    The ISKCON temple in Bangalore  is completely different! It is so modern, (read commercialized)that I don't know whether to be amused, amazed or put off! It is like a mall in some ways and they sell Prasada which are not typical Prasada at all.
     Yet, we humans labour so much and so long  for these exceedingly brief moments of happiness.
    Why am I writing this? Why am I analyzing what I feel?
    Recently, I have asked myself whether I am happy or depressed? Thinking about my feelings, I discovered a few things about myself.
     One. When I am awake/conscious, my mind is never blank. It has a thought or more likely a stream of thoughts or an emotion. Like most people, I find it impossible to be both  conscious and  without any thought in my head.
    Two. Often, I seem to fill my mind with thoughts, simply to keep out worries. My mind seems to be an empty space which HAS to be filled... if left vacant, worries will fill up the space. So I have to make a conscious effort to fill it with neutral or positive things.
    Three: Most of the time, I am either 'neutral' emotionally or experiencing 'negative emotions' such as anxiety or worry, sometimes, anger, sadness, frustration, jealousy, irritation. The positive emotions mentioned in this article seem to last for a few seconds at a time, a few times per day. I am sort of shocked and sad that no-emotion or negative emotions are filling up most of the time in my mind! Do all others feel like me or am I inclined to depression?
    Four: Should I do something to reduce my negative emotions?
    Five: I have come to the idea that true and pure happiness can be experienced only by children below the age of five or six. They can be experience pure happiness because they are as yet ignorant of the world. They are in the 'here and now' and if the here and now has what they want i.e. playmates, toys, good food, they can be totally involved in the activity and enjoy. However adults, are aware that unhappy things are happening in the world and to be happy, they have to block out the world and enjoy whatever is making them happy at the time; later they go back to remembering all the unhappy things happening  in the world. For example, how can I be happy knowing that my friend is struggling without money or my sister is having a tough time or work or my dad is having health issues? These thoughts may not be on the forefront but are definitely in my mind and memory all-the-time. Ergo, happiness, for me, is an extremely brief period of time, probably lasting seconds,  when I  forget  the problems of the world to enjoy whatever joke-I-am-listening or chocolate-I-am-eating. I don't think I can be 'fully' or 'truly' happy, knowing that there is so much suffering in the world.
    Maybe this is what comes close to happiness for me :
    (a)when my attention is fully focussed on some enjoyable activity, so engaged that I am oblivious to all else. 
    (b)those brief periods of time, I am able to successfully block out worries about my families and friends current problems such as worry about a close relative's unemployment, another's financial problems, my own problems at work, etc.  The stream of consciousness, for some reason, has zero negative thoughts for several seconds to a few minutes at a time and it is this period that I am labeling as happiness!
    (c)The emptiness or calmness I feel for a few seconds after my morning prayers. ( I don't mean emptiness in a negative way, I mean empty as in absence of any thoughts or emotions). My prayer is a single sentence (Devare-kapadappa...)  in which I ask a whole list of Gods(including the scary Shani... I dont dare miss his name out of my list!) to bless me and a whole list of family and friends.

    Since the last few years, I have stopped reading newspapers online and otherwise, simply because they triggered so much of sadness and anger and frustration in me. The news about animals and children and women are especially disturbing to me. I have reduced the triggers of my sadness by avoiding news but the increase in my happiness is not much.
    Six: I have had my share of blessings or maybe greater than most people's share. Yet, I wonder why I am not as happier than I am at present. I have a great husband, a great job, lots of good friends and a wonderful family, no health issues, no money problems. I have a few hobbies. I have a lovely pet. I enjoy some activities.
     I am now wondering, what is the source of continuous happiness? As mentioned earlier, I experience daily, these brief moments of happiness...when the taste of the food is on the tongue, when reading a book, when talking to friends and so on. But I wonder
     if I can be happy without a cause i.e. happy for no reason?
     Can I be happy, even if I don't have what I want?
    Can I be happy, even if there is misery in the world?
     Can I be happy, even when my family and friends are suffering?
    Can I be happy, even if I am suffering or in want?
    Can I be happy, even if my mind is blank i.e. no thoughts, no ideas?
     Is it crazy to be happy without reason? or is it  Moksha?
    If I ever reach a stage of 'prolonged happiness' will I then slip from  this 'state of happiness'  into 'boredom', simply because my human mind reaches saturation point for happiness?
    Happiness is also 99.9% of the time, 'tainted'.  I am not sure if tainted is the word I am looking for but I will give a few examples to explain what I mean. I am happy that I won the slogan writing competition but not fully happy as my best friend did not also win; I am happy I got the job but my happiness is sort of tainted because   the guy with 2 kids to support, who took the interview with me dint get the job. 
    Reading this article, I discovered three things about myself
    (1) I am a f****** neurotic ...with some symptoms of anxiety & depression.
     (2) I want the impossible in order to be happy...I want Utopia; I won't get it; so I will remain unhappy.(3)I may never be happy...because I want 'other' people to change for me to be happy; I want 'things' all over the world to change for me to be happy...for example I want a complete end of trapping, hunting, poaching, fishing for me to be happy or to  'stop worrying about animals' sufferings'.
    (4) I am not generating  happiness by my actions; instead I am depending on others making changes or circumstances changing for me to be happy...and that will not happen in a million years!  ergo...I am doomed to unhappiness !
    Or I change and I actively seek  the best ways to be happy.


    A major reason for exploring the theme of happiness is that I feel so enraged when I read news about crimes such as robbery, murder, rape, fraud, etc. When happiness is so elusive, but pain is so long lasting, why the hell do people hurt others...is the so called 'happiness' the perpetrator experiences, worth causing so much pain for the victim ?Pain which is so long lasting to the victim, but the act gives the perpetrator only momentary pleasure? That is one un-understandable thing for me! Take rape for example...whatever pleasure the rapist gets is so brief...but the pain he/she causes the victim is so severe and damaging and permanent with ripple effect affecting others. So why does the rapist commit this act when he can get only this brief  moment of evil joy ?
    What triggered me to write this piece?
    I have been meaning to write about happiness since many months. But a major trigger was the killing of elephants for their tusks. I know this sounds like an awful and really weird reason to write about happiness.  But let me explain. I HATE HATE HATE the poaching of wild animals for their skin, ivory or whatever. Humans have populated the world and taken over the entire planet, which ought to be shared with all the species. We are putting all other animals, birds, insects, plants and trees to unimaginable suffering by looting this planet. And when I saw elephants, those glorious giants being killed for their tusks I cried with shame and grief. I asked myself, why do people want that ivory? What kind of happiness do you get by owning that ivory when you have caused immense pain not just to the one animal whose tusks you stole but to it's entire family?
    So you got the tusk? Now are you happy? No. The tusk is carved into some ornament or statue and it looks beautiful but how long does it's beauty give you happiness? Until your interest  moves over to the next item of interest. The ivory statue may be beautiful forever. But you are not going to be happy forever. You get bored and your mind wanders over to something else. Your mind wants something else to be happy now. So, for the few moments of joy you get by looking at a beautiful object, you killed a great and gentle animal?  
    This makes me burn. Why do people kill and torture animals and birds? Why do they trap them through cruel snares and put them to intense pain and torture? The happiness you get is disproportionately brief to the pain you put the animals through. Why cant you simply give up those few moments of  pleasure of enjoying the beauty of their ivories or skins or feathers?
    I know people get a lot of joy and pride by 'owning' these things. The rarer the thing they own, greater their joy and pride.
    Why cant they tell themselves, " I am but a traveller on earth, here today and gone tomorrow. For this brief journey, why do I want to own things? Why cant I enjoy the things without this need to own them? I am not able to take it with me when I die. I cant own anything forever. Why do I kill and hurt to enjoy the brief pleasure of ownership?
  • I HATE THE RICH WHO FEEL THE NEED TO OWN THE IVORY OF ELEPHANTS, TIGER SKINS, LEPORD SKIN SKIRTS, CROCODILE SKIN SHOES, BEAR CLAWS AND SO ON.
  • I read that a lot of this stuff is going to the rich people in China. the killing of animals in Asia and Africa is due to demand of rich Chinese and of course impotent Chinese men who think that eating the powdered horn of the Rhinoceros would make them virile.
  • I pray that people all over the world understand that animals and birds deserve to lead a life in peace and without being tortured and killed. Their skin or ivory 
    
      contributes very little for your happiness. You should seek happiness WITHIN yourself. 
    • YOU WILL NOT FIND YOUR HAPPINESS  IN SOME POOR ELEPHANT'S TUSKS.
    • YOU CAN FIND HAPPINESS ONLY IN YOURSELF