Sunday, 15 October 2017

Diwali Crackers - On or Off?

The Supreme Court's ban over sale of firecrackers in New Delhi until November 1 has activated enormous debates. The environmentalists have welcomed the move but some sections of society feel that there is a curb on local cultural traditions
There are two sides of the coin. Let us look at both these sides-

Arguments favouring ban-
  • Delhi's pollution is so bad in winter that it has overtaken Beijing as the worst. Delhi's air quality is very poor and rapidly worsening. True, air pollution levels had dangerously spiked after Diwali last year and SC had imposed a ban on sale of firecrackers last November – the apex court has reinstated that order. 
    -In 2016, the ideal PM (particulate matter) of 10 had reached toxic levels of 999 (more than 10 times higher than what is considered safe to breathe). This steep rise in pollution levels happened suspiciously close to Diwali celebrations. 
  • This not only releases a deadly generation of fumes into air causing extreme air pollution but also causes severe noise pollution.
  • Medical evidence suggests that severe air pollution in Delhi is leading to multiple diseases and other health related issues among the people. The city has seen an increase in respiratory diseases like asthma, lung cancer, bronchitis primarily attributable to the worsening air quality in the National capital.
  • Foreign diplomats complain about the sacrifices their children are making due to their posting in Delhi. Some of them even refuse to get posted in Delhi
    -In passing the ban order, the court may have departed the conventional way of celebrating the festival, but the choice was not a difficult one to make - since it concerned with the lives of the people.
Justifying the ban on sale of firecrackers, the court says that it needs to test, whether banning sale of firecrackers during Diwali will have a positive effect or not on air quality in Delhi.
  • further,  the cracker making is not well regulated  in India and Chinese crackers create number of safety issues
  • When the Diwali celebrations began in the mythology days, no cracker was invented and hence addition of crackers must be a subsequent event and not a  original tradition

Arguments against ban-

  • Are we not denying the joy and celebration (that we enjoyed) to our children?
  • - Are we not tinkering with the tradition?
  • Is it not to be driven by a public debate followed by legislation, which in turn has to be followed by action? Now we take action first, before legislation or public debate. Is that fine?
    -It should be noted that the court has banned the sale of crackers in the National Capital Region, but not their bursting. There is also no ban on buying crackers from outside Delhi and bringing them to the city for use. This specifically affects Delhi's cracker traders and in no way serves the purpose of minimising pollution, since purchases can be made in border areas. 
-With millions of vehicles emitting gases into the atmosphere on a daily basis, would banning a single night of Diwali festivities make that much of a difference? 
   -In fact, the two largest sources of pollution in Delhi are road dust (38%) and vehicles (20%). Plans to tackle these have not proved effective yet. 
-Then there is the annual problem of crop stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana and UP. With no economically viable solutions worked out, the burning still continues. Trucks not destined for Delhi continue to transit through the capital due to lack of alternative routes. The need is for evolving holistic solutions that address the root causes of the problem.
Where do we go from here?
  • Do we try a community watching of cracker burning carried out by licensed professional companies like USA? No, we need not have to import our tradition from USA. Needless to add, USA may have their crackers regulated but not their guns. Let us not try to xerox copy their culture and fit into our tradition. 
  • We cannot question the tradition- Whether something like this cracker burning added in the later stage etc. This cannot be argued as the celebration and joy have been expressed in some way over the years and questioning such tradition is a touchy subject.
  • Then we need to respect the tradition but still find solutions for pollution.         
What do we do?  
We have to find pollution free crackers. It is a new opportunity for start ups. Perhaps during the interim period, we may have to allow limited hours for cracker burning. We have to engage the community and evolve the acceptable way of burning crackers. 

Happy Diwali. 
God bless all. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Indian History in text books: Rewrite or Retain?

India has the longest unbroken civilization that dates back to more than 10,000 years. But still there is an unceasing end to the debates and controversies on several aspects of its documented history especially as described in the text books. Distortions as we see are of three kinds – 
1.       More coverage for some while others are overshadowed
2.       Painting a very black or white pictures of characters while they have a combination of both.
3.       Absolving some characters of their barbaric crimes Illustrations on blackouts and distortions.

More coverage for some while others are overshadowed.

Maurya, Ashoka and Mughal era have been given more prominence in text books but the Vijayanagara Empire which ruled almost entire South India and lasted for 300 years as against Mughal Empire of 170 years has hardly any mention. This kingdom was formed by two brothers who got reconverted from Islam to Hinduism and formed this kingdom to take on Muslim invaders. How many of you know this?

Maratha Empire which ruled from Western Shores to Cuttack in the east founded by ChharapatiShivaji nearly brought the end of Mughal rule. The Peshwas and Queen of Jhansi resisted the East India Company. Barely few paragraphs were allotted for them in text book history.

The Sikh empire (18th Century) and their great MaharajhaRanjit Singh and his great general Hari Singh or Ahom empire of Assam which ruled Assam region for nearly 600 years and who defeated Mughals at the banks of Bramaputraare not given any importance. The Chola dynasty (950-1150AD) which conquered Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, is confined to only Tamil Nadu textbooks. Kalinga Empire ( KingKaravela who destroyed Pataliputra and regained Kalinga kingdom) ,Chalukya,Gangas,Pandyas, Cheras and Dogras were not given coverage in the pan India text books.Only some local states covered them.

Even some of the local heroes who deserve national coverage such as VeluNachiyar (who defeated Hyder Ali and took on British army, PritolataWaddedar, the female tiger of Bengal who bravely fought the British, Begum Hazrat Maulali, the unsung heroine of first war of Indian independence were completely overshadowed by text book history. Have you even heard of these names?

Painting a very black or white pictures.

I can give several examples here- I was given to understand from my school text books that Rajputs were either defeated by Afgans or Mughals or they assisted Mughals in their wars and showed their bravery. But between Gazni and Ghori there were 150 years during which invaders could not get an inch of territory in India due to the brave Rajput warrior SuhalDevPasi Who decisively defeated Gazni's nephew General Masudh in 1033 AD. Many Rajput victories if highlighted will portray their winning nature.

MarthandaVerma of Malabhar region decimated the Dutch navy in the Battle of Kolachal in 1776. Had he not done that India would be speaking Dutch language today as the Dutch were the world’s greatest naval force at that time. Instead, MarthandhaVerma has been presented as a king of a small place who encountered a routine small battle.

Following World War II, the returning sailors of Indian navy took control of Bombay city. The British tried to engage gorkha’s to control them which they refused. Following this issue a British officer submitted a report that colonial rule in India is not sustainable any more. These navy officers were not given the recognition of the freedom fighters.

Even if we look at Aryan theory planted on us, Aryans from central Asia invaded and destroyed Harappans, the natives were shifted to Ganges from Indus river belt. As per this theory the JNU geniuses call the demons described in religious scriptures as natives who were driven away by those referred as gods who were invaders! In fact no great war of that time could be establishedwith clear evidences.

Absolving some characters of their barbarian crimes.

KingAshoka was said to convert to Buddhism after seeing the devastation of Kalinga war. But the fact is that he was a Buddhist much before Kalinga war. He continued his massacre even after Kalinga war. He declared he will give one gold coin for every person killed from Jain religion. During younger days he killed all the male clan of Maurya dynasty barring one of his brothers. His cruel deeds were too many, some of them can be inferred from his own inscriptions. Still we paint only the good side of him in the history text books.

During Mughal era, King Hemu was portrayed as a villain who tried to bully 13 year old Akbar. Babar was portrayed as a great king but actual accounts suggest otherwise, given the cruel atrocities committed by him on citizens belonging to other faiths. Why such distortions happen? Well, any conqueror presents a picture and claims that before conquest the region lacked civilization and only the invader brought the civilization.

The biased historians add their shades of grey. For example Greek historians claim that Alexander the great won King Porus. Some Indian historians claim that King Porus won the war and Alexander's wife Roxana tied Rakhi to King Porus and tactically averted the war as a Rakhee brother should not kill his sister's brother. These are biased versions.

When I interacted with some well educated people of Pakistan, they told me that they were taught in their history books that Pakistan won the Bangladesh war of 1971!! Bias of the greatest order!! In India the texts were written with a psuedo-secularist mind set. The Hindu cultural sentimentalism was under played due to this.

Where do we go from here?

Don't give judgments and make it biased with any 'isms'. Only when evidences are crystal clear, we should present one version. Otherwise we have to present all alternative thoughts and versions. Give complete facts and picture. Even if alternate picture exists present them, let the students decide. If particular ideology is shoved down the throat of the kids, they tend to believe it to be true throughout their lives without checking other beliefs.Do not edit out great heroes or present a tainted version of characters.

In short the Indian text book history has to be rewritten to factor the above thoughts. This is a serious issue and I request each one of you to think objectively and not paint a rightist or leftist tag on me. My view is the view of a common man who found a huge gap between what was taught in his school and what he came to learn several years after his school.

In the internet age, information is available online. It would be better that this gap is bridged and textbooks are more representative of actual history.

Friday, 11 August 2017

The best tweets for National Book Lovers Day

Twitter on Wednesday morning was ablaze with people sharing their favorite quotes about books, reading and writing, so much so that #BookLoversDay became the top trending hashtag.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Aadhar IN… Privacy OUT.. Is Privacy a Fundamental Right?


Ever since the GOI tried to link Aadhar with Pan Card and Bank Accounts, debates on privacy have become a norm at various forums.

-          Can the government condition the receipt of public benefit on waiver of Fundamental rightand do we waive the right of privacy for a greater benefit?
-          Is the right to privacy absolute and can a government, which cannot give right to privacy uphold the principles of democracy
-          Is Privacy just a human right or aFundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of India?
-          Do the scan and fingerprints of Aadhar violate citizen’s privacy?
-          Is the right to privacy absolute or can the Government  even snoop into my bathroom?

The techies (from data protection angle), the activists (human rights angle), lawyers (fundamental right angle), the politicians (based on their party position), the economists (empowerment & governance angle) – each one of them debate from their angle. A nine-judge bench is revisiting the question of privacy 55 years after the Supreme Court decided that it was not a basic fundamental right for citizens. Amidst all these active debates, let us explore the concept of privacy in finer details.

What is Privacy?

 The essence of privacy is reflected in ancient Hindu culture. Aspects of privacy of thought, respect to bodily integrity, physical space/property, information and communication and identity did find a place in Hindu scriptures such as Manusmriti, Yanawalkya Samhita &Chanakya’sArthashastra. Further, the references to privacy exist in the Bible, Hebrew, Greek and ancient Chinnese cultures. These perceptions focused on right to solitude.

In the modern context, privacyis seen as a way of drawing the line as to how far society can intrude into a person’s affairs – aspects of personal body, information, communication and territory. Privacy is a Human right recognized in the U.N. Declaration of Human rights.

Various definitions arose in the modern context regarding privacy –
-          “Privacy is a right to be left alone”
-          “Privacy is a value which underpins human dignity, freedom of association and speech”
-          “Privacy is a three-part product – Secrecy, Anonymity and Solitude”

Right to Privacy:

“Even the crown cannot enter the poorest man’s cottage, inspite of its being ruined by storm, wind or rain” (Parliamentarian William Pitt, U.K)

Any personal information has to be obtained fairly and lawfully, used only for the original specified purpose, adequate and not excessive, tothe purpose, accurate and up to date.

Many countries have recognized the UN Declaration but in many other countries like the USA, Ireland and India, the courts have found that right as a derivative from other fundamental rights.

Right to privacy is not explicitly stated in the Americanconstitution, but right to privacy is protected by specific statutory laws and also by several amendments assigning a“Derivative Fundamental Right” status to privacy.

The Constitution of India also does not specifically guarantee “Right to Privacy”; but various judgments over the years have given limited rights to privacy through Aritcle 21 - The Right to Life and Liberty. Reasonable restrictions can be imposed on the right to privacy by the State subject to Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.

Threats to Privacy To-day:

Globalization, Convergence of data, and Multimedia have dismantled the barriers. Technology has thrown up identity systems, and surveillance of communications, andwork place which were adopted by Smart cities, Smart airports and Smart offices, contributing significantly toinvasion of privacy.
In India, many opted for Aadhar voluntarily, but amendments to Finance Bill, 2017 expand the scope of Aadhar beyond welfare services to PAN, Bank accounts etc., making it almost mandatory.

Arguments for and against:

For Aadhar:

-    It is a governance cum empowerment cum surveillance tool, not just an effective welfare administration tool.
-          It enables a clean responsible behavior of citizens, as all information is wired. (The precise reason why USA is able to reach its citizens effectively)
-          Black money prevention, eliminates multiple PAN used by same individuals, better tax collection and better KYC for all stakeholders are all facilitated by Aadhar backed identity.
-            Making it voluntary will create exclusions from the Aadhar Data base. Even a small gap can be used by Tax evaders who may start re-energizing cash economy again. The cash outside the system can get strengthened which is turn will circulate into cash based assets building.A jobless paper growth will emerge as in the past. Hence Aadhar backed transactions makes the whole eco-system cleaner.
-          Aadhar enabled economy facilitates cleaner governance and therefore it is a pre-requisite, as we march towards a developed nation status.

Against Aadhar:

-          Aadhar being mandatory, different data bases are getting linked by common ID, exposing personal information to hackers and government surveillance. (Mitigation strategy: Better Data protection & Security system & Law)
-          The lack of privacy and pervasive surveillance environment has a negative impact as the society (These people who argue this way have unhesitatingly grown all their private data for USA visa. Why not for our own country? Also consensus on protective measures can evolve. Debates should focuson ‘How to protect data, once we give them? than ‘Do we get into Aadhar systems?’
-          There is no provision to opt out of Aadhar. (The system of exclusions permits leakages in the overall system, hence no exclusions)
-          The lack of proper informed consent for allowing Aadhar data with law enforcement bodies. (Aadhar act can bring safety measures for protection, once it evolves)
-          The capability of government’s bureaucracy to handle the huge Aadhar database is a question mark. (India gives IT experts to outside world and therefore has the  ability to develop this strong IT architecture)
-          Aadhar act was passed through money bill in the Lok Sabha avoiding Rajya Sabha voting thereby no open debate took place before adoption (This is a matter of political majority. The same can also be debated and passed in Rajya Sabha once the ruling party has the required majority in Rajya Sabha as well later. That will delay the benefits of Aadhar outlined earlier)
-          India’s Aadharcannot be compared to the American social security number.  US security number does not call for bio-metrics, is not an identification number, it does not link data bases, it has adequate privacy safeguards, and its use is getting restricted as against the expanding use of Aadhar (Social security number enables credit rating and the private sector uses this security number extensively in USA. We cannot replicate the American system in India.   American citizens are taxed on global income unlike their Indian counterparts.  There are enough tracking mechanisms in USA – Communication tracking, Drill down of data of US citizens from commercial data bases, limited cash economy enabling adequate financial transaction tracking, finger prints of people with FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Department of State consular services (VISAS) monitormore than 75% of the USA population, - all these give enough tracking options for USA government. India, with an intent to march towards a developed nation status needs to have these tracking done, hence expanding use of Aadhar is justified)

Where do we go from here?

There was a time when regular and honest tax paying Indian citizen had to accept the uneven wealth growth in the hands of unscrupulous tax evaders and bribe seekers, and we reconciled to the fact that sinless wealth is an optical illusion. Bottom line growth only was considered as business ethics. We started accepting being cutthroat as smartness. In this environment, comes a ray of hope,and a march towards clean governance.Today I register my take on Aadhar card in this public domain;
-          As a honest tax paying and patriotic citizen of India,
-          As an ardent fan of dharmic governance where the two horses viz, the capitalism driven wealth generation and the socialism driven wealth distribution are monitored by the reins of dharmic accountability and control,
-          As a follower of compassionate capitalism, the sustainable wealth generation happens with fairness to all stakeholders,
 would like to unhesitatingly declare that I would rathersacrifice my privacy instead of sacrificing the goal of fast tracking India to a developed nation status.
Judiciaries may debate, activists may raise human rights issues, but I call for waiving the right of privacy for agreater national cause and a greater vision.
If flying in aeroplane is risky, we cannot banaeroplanes. This century comes with certain risks. We need to build ample safeguards for data protection and privacy and not call for abandonment or dilution of Aadhar.
The ultimate resolution of this present controversy has to recognize.
-          the need for Aadhar to provide efficient and honest governance to its citizens and
-          the stringent safeguards to protect the data and preserve the privacy.

In short, “privacy”has to open the door when “public interest” knocks the door.
Are you hearing……?

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Who is Rudra? - Part 3

The Macedonians and Greeks came with Alexander the Great to the Hindu Kush range. They were mesmerized by the land of the gods, snow-covered, forested mountains higher than Olympus. The sun rising and setting among the glistening peaks painted a breathtaking picture. They were enchanter by the stories of the magical kingdoms of the air; of the heavens; of Vishnu and Shiva; of cities in the sky inhabited by sky demons. They were fascinated by the story of Surya, the sun god, who galloped across the sky each day in his golden chariot, pulled by the seven horses, while down below in the dark bowels of the earth were giant serpents, red-eyed, flesh-eating demons and other creatures of the underworld.

It was at this time that the people of Bharat were looking inwards, while the Macedonians aggressively explored outwards and wanted to conquer the world. The kingdoms of Bharat were threatened by the aggressive Macedonians. No king or kingdom was free from the aggressor’s attack. Fragmented kingdoms, disunity and distrust among the rulers made these kingdoms an easy target for the Macedonians.

During this period, several events are shrouded in mystery—what brought Alexander to India? How did he die at such a young age? What were the origins of Chandragupta Maurya? How did a young lad of humble origins take on a mighty king? How did a poor Brahmin pundit help a poor young man rise to power from nowhere? What extraordinary powers did Chandragupta possess that made him so successful? Who were his key generals? Who won wars for him? The questions are endless.

There are several seemingly unconnected dots, as the history of this time is shrouded in deep mystery. ‘Rudra’ effortlessly unlocks the ancient secrets and aligns the unconnected dots. Mystery unraveled; secrets decoded…

In the second avatar (Janam Two) as ‘Rudra’ during the tumultuous times of Alexander and Chanakya, he offers stunning clues and revelations. His decrypting skills leave a trail that answers several mysteries in our rich history.

At last, Rudra, heading the Nine Unknown Men Army (NUM), has arrived to decode the secrets to save humanity from cataclysm and extinction.

How Rudra could do all these? To know grab your copy of ‘The Indus Challenge’ available on all leading book stores and Ecommerce sites.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Who is Rudra? - Part 2

3000 BC...

For Illustrative Purpose Only
The heroes who saved the planet from cyber terrorists could not avoid succumbing to this physical terrorism. Why? Why? This is what Shiv’s (NASA Scientist) unconscious mind questioned.

His mind was filled with the chorus of a great army crying out the name, “Sagar, Sagar, Sagar….” He was lying on the battlefield, a wounded solider covered with deep cuts. It was a bloodbath all around.

He was holding back his last breath, waiting for his beloved wife and newly born son. It was the battle between the Kauravas and Pandavas, in the land situated between the two rivers, the Sarasvati and Drishadvati, the land where Manu wrote his Manu-smriti and the land where the Rig and Sama Vedas were compiled.

His calm mind resisted the image. “This battleground is not the land of my birth or my beloved kingdom. This is not the place where I spent my joyful childhood. This is not the beautiful place where I come from. I need to find the place of my birth.”

His comatose mind continued to wander further into the past. Having identified the city of his birth, he stumbled onto his colorful life as “Sagar”, the great warrior of the kingdom of Krishna in 3083 BC!

Sagar, in his first karmic avatar, was given the “Shudra varna” tag but was patronized by a Brahmin guru. He was given the status of a Shudra by society but the status of a strategic warrior by his leader, Abhimanyu. He grew up with three Brahmin friends (the sons of his Guruji), the Kshatriya leader Abhimanyu and another friend, a Vaishya. A close bond developed between them in the gurukul. The three sons of his Guruji were also blessed with mystic powers.

All the Pancha bhoodas—earth, water, sky, air and fire—danced to the tunes of the three boys who had been born as triplets to his Guruji. Only when the three were together would the Pancha bhoodas obey them. They were warned of a threat to their lives at the age of fifteen. As they grew older, they joined Abhimanyu’s ‘Yuva Warrior Team’.

Sagar was the chief strategist of the Yuva army, marshalling resources for his leader Abhimanyu. During the Kuru war, on Yuva Sena, the fateful day of the chakravyuha, Sagar had been advised by his Guruji that he should not send his three gifted sons to the field. According to their horoscopes, their lives were under threat.

But fate took the decision away from him.

A nine-layer chakravyuha had been formed by Guru Drona. All of Duryodana’s greatest warriors were in the inner circle, while the outer circle was protected by the mighty Drona. The Pandava warrior Arjuna, the only one who knew how to cleave the chakravyuha, had been dragged off to a different field. Now the onus of breaking the chakravyuha fell to the young Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son. He knew how to break the chakravyuha; he did not know how to exit it.

The Yuva Sena headed by Abhimanyu volunteered to enter the chakravyuha, assigning the seniors the task of ensuring that the breach remained open to allow for a clear line of retreat. A contingency plan was made.

The three Brahmin boys’ powers would be used to create an underground tunnel through each tier, so that the soldiers would be able to retreat in case anything went wrong. A portion of the army could also use the tunnels so that they could be shielded from arrows while moving ahead and defending the broken edges of the tier. Also, even if the tiers were closed due to any reason, the mouths of the tunnels would provide a ready exit for Abhimanyu.

But Sagar could not accompany them as he got the news of the birth of his son at that time. He left the group even though he promised to his Brahmin guru that he will protect his sons.

In the war that followed, the three boys were split and they could not execute their tactical plan as the Pancha bhoodas will listen to them only when they were together.

Abhimanyu and the three boys died in the Chakravyuha. Sagar had to earn the wrath and the curse of his Brahmin guru.

“You will be highly competent on land, sea and air matters in each of the three births. You can win a war but you cannot avail the fruits of it. Let these nine births forever remind you that you killed my sons in the nine-tier chakravyuha. Each of the nine circles will represent one birth for you. This is my curse”.

A new journey was about to begin for the soul of Sagar. The Indus Challenge: Janam Two. The hero of ‘The Indus Challenge’, Rudra, was born in 330 BC with a new karmic agenda. Would he be able to break the shackles of destiny and overcome the curse…? To read place your order online at

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Who is Rudra? - Part 1

2008 AD...

A terrorist group attacks the world by planting viruses into global computer systems from a satellite orbiting the earth. This act of cyber terrorism disrupts air traffic systems, interferes with the control system for water and electricity, blocks commercial communication, crashes various network systems, gains access to secret military information and defaces websites. In light of this cyber-attack, the world is facing a chaotic situation.

Shiv, a young, celebrated NASA scientist destroys the group’s moves and saves the earth from cyber-attacks. To honor Shiv’s extraordinary performance, a felicitation function was held at Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai on the fateful day of 26th November 2008. Shiv, the cyber warrior, becomes a victim of a physical terrorist attack at the Taj Mahal. His mind flashes with several images while he lies in a coma in the ICU of a leading Hospital in Mumbai. The images of war, weapons and weeping widows swamp his mind. Are these flashes from his previous births?

To know more read "The Indus Challenge", a historical fiction. Place your order at 
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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Fasting for the Body and Soul!!

For Illustrative Purpose Only
ON October 3, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discovery of mechanisms for autophagy. The word auto means self and phagein means to eat, essentially self-eating.

The human body is made up of billions of cells. And each cell has certain components including the nuclei, various organelles, proteins and cell membranes and walls. Over time the overall cell might be good but certain components of it may not work at hundred percent. Just like in a car, sometimes the batteries fail or the tires wear out. In such times you service the car and replace the battery or change the tires. Similarly at a cellular level the body identifies such broken audience or cell components and actually does its own servicing.

For a car it’s a mechanic, but for your body it is a highly specialized organelle containing enzymes that degrades proteins called as a lysosome. This lysosome will actually convert the dead components into cell waste and send it for recycling. The cell makes a new component with the nutrients supplied to it by the blood.

It’s a beautiful system, whatever is old and useless is removed and a chance is given for the new to grow and regenerate. It seems that some how your own body treats those components which are no longer working fine. But that is what life is. A philosophical outlook towards autophagy may be the best outlook. Autophagy actually ensures that you have a healthy and essentially a younger body at cellular level without redundant components. It is the body’s healing touch for itself.

Now we come to a question, What kicks off autophagy? Research shows that it is a hormone called glucagon. When the level of glucagon goes up in the body the body starts to kick off the autoclean cycle. Autophagy is activated and cell damage is repaired. What is the key driver of glucagon production? It is nutrient deprivation. In simple terms, fasting!! Depriving your body of essential nutrients actually can ensure that autophagy can take place. The best way to do it is intermittent fasting. Fasting actually has the dual effect of autophagy and of stimulating the growth hormone. You are not only getting rid of the old parts but also ensuring the body makes some new ones! There cannot be a better deal than this.

The beneficial effects of fasting was surely a part of the ancient knowledge, that not only Indians but all civilizations understood it in some form or the other. All religions have got fasting as a feature of the religious beliefs and tenants. Islam has the month of Ramadan in which the devout are encouraged to fast from dawn to dusk. Christianity also has fasting days and days of renunciation. Fasts are kept on certain days like on the birthdays of saints and feasts happen after the midnight mass. Fasts in these religions are not only an obligation. It is also regarded as a means of getting closer to god and being more spiritual.

The most abundant use of fasting would be in Hindu traditions. In earlier times fasts are common, people used to pick a day of the week and fast. Additionally, there were fasts on various religious occasions. Every 11th day of the lunar calendar was also considered to be a good day for fasting. Fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. Upa means “near” and vaasa means “to stay”. Upavaasa therefore means staying near (the Lord), meaning the attainment of close mental proximity with the Lord. The theory as per ancient texts being that deprivation of the nutrients has a beneficial effect on digestion as well as gives more time for contemplation of God.

Unfortunately, all fasts in modern days have left their ancient roots and have become mere rituals. From the eating heaps of food that is permitted during fasting like sago and fruits, to the meat and oil laden feats at sunset and midnight after the days fasts. All religions, have lost the spiritual component at a certain level.

Perhaps it is instructive to read this verse from the Bhagwat Gita, one of the key religious texts of Hinduism.

नात्यश्नतस्तुयोगोऽस्तिनचैकान्तमनश्नत: |
नचातिस्वप्नशीलस्यजाग्रतोनैवचार्जुन ||

The meaning is “O Arjuna, the science of uniting ones consciousness with that of the supreme consciousness is not for one who eats too much or for one who eats too little or for one who sleeps too little or one who sleeps too much.

Moderation is the key. What this years Nobel prize has done is that it has shine a light on the benefits of fasting and re-validated the ancient wisdom of the ages.

Sadly, the most ancient wisdom of the Indian subcontinent, may be lost to us forever. The ancient secret sciences that were hidden from humanity for its own benefit may have many good things along with destructive ones. To know more about the secret sciences, Why they may have been lost? Why do ancient temples still hold such a collective sway in the conscience of the people? Why the times of Chandragupta  Maurya and Chanakya may have been our last shot at knowing the ancient sciences? read “The Indus Challenge”, a historical fiction coming soon to bookstores near you and available  for pre-order on

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Hunt for the Rosetta Stone of the Indus Valley!!

 For Illustrative Purpose Only
THE ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian and the Indus Valley civilization are considered to be the oldest of organized civilizations. Due to its massive monuments and a comparatively long reign the Egyptian civilization continues to leave on the face of the earth its traces in some of the most recognizable forms. The pyramids and the massive burial chambers and the wealth of artifacts discovered enshrined the civilization into the collective minds of humanity.

The Indus Valley civilization on the other hand was discovered purely by accident. It was during the laying of a railway line during the British times that perfectly fired bricks in huge quantities were discovered and reported. These were perfect as ballast for the railway tracks. An ancient historical site became a quarry for bricks!! Only when some intrepid archaeologists in the 1870s went and discovered some seals with various symbols did the interest in the civilization peak.

This interest was partly due to the excitement in the archaeological circles because the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs were being confidently translated only in the last few decades. The key to this translation was a stone edict in three different languages which was rediscovered by a soldier who was a part of Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt. This stone with some other fragments turned out to be the key for translating the Egyptian hieroglyphs. During the Anglo-French wars, the stone was taken to England where it continues to be displayed in the British Museum almost continuously since 1802. It is the most visited artifact in the British Museum. The wonder and awe that the translated hieroglyphs generated in the general public and in the archaeological circles was beyond comparison. A lost civilization was speaking to the modern world. Those were the golden days of Egyptology.

In this charged climate, when another ancient language was discovered the interest among archaeologists was very high and the race to decipher the script was on. This enthusiasm met harsh reality. The Indus Valley civilization did not have enclosed sealed spaces such as the tombs of kings which yielded the bulk of the Egyptian artifacts. The civilization was a functioning efficient city made out of mostly mud and bricks. Utility and efficiency were the guidelines for the city and they will devoid of major architectural landmarks.  Most of the finer things in the cities would have long ago crumbled and would have been converted to dust. Most of the writings and the scripts discovered were only on various seals. These proved to be too little for any serious research.

Also, the language in question turned out to be very arcane and in the absence of a Rosetta Stone, a key or a clue that connected the ancient to the modern, the search for meanings of the ancient script turned out to be a frustrating endeavor. As of date, we do not have any means of deciphering what the ancient seals and symbols mean.

Between 400 and as many as 600 distinct Indus symbols have been found on seals, small tablets, ceramic pots and more than a dozen other materials, including a "signboard" that apparently once hung over the gate of the inner citadel of the Indus city of Dholavira. Experts are currently at a loss as to how to progress in this matter.

What can be safely said is that this ancient language would have had some knowledge of it being passed down generation to generation. Computer models have opined that the script supported a phonetic spoken language. The language is expected to be Dravidian in nature. The presence of the many Dravidian languages not only in the southern India but also in Pakistan in the form of Brahui language does give credence to this theory.

Somewhere during the last 5000 years, either the language was lost naturally or some cataclysmic event could have led to all evidences of the translation of the language being lost. Students of ancient Indian sciences point out that the knowledge of the ancient sciences would have been coded in such an arcane language. It would have ensured that only a select few will have access thus ensuring secrecy and avoiding misuse.

What sciences would ancient India be proficient in? Why somebody like Alexander would come all the way to India? How the arcane knowledge of the Indus script turns out to be a major obstacle in the hunt for the sciences? How does Rudra, the right-hand man of Chandragupta Maurya and a disciple of Chanakya surmounts the odds and deciphers this script. To know more, read “The Indus Challenge”, a historical fiction coming soon to bookstores near you and available for pre-order on