I, like most others, did not have a choice when I first chose a religion to follow. I was….er….born into one. After spending quite a while seeing it being practiced, practicing some of it myself, defending subtle nuances in quasi-intellectual arguments with friends, thinking about it for quite a while, I gave up on conventional religion. This decision was driven by conscious rational thought and emotionally charged events.

From the outside, this gave me a chance to look at religion as a concept. I respect conventional religion for its ability to give solace to helpless minds. There have been times when I wished I could enjoy religious comfort. I am amazed at how religious thoughts have united various peoples across time. One’s belief in religion constitues a big amount of one’s identity.

Of course, the importance of religion could be accepted if religion were to be defined by its followers as “code of conduct in ALL aspects of life.” I am sure most religions define codes of conduct for most aspects of life. Rules and consequences of (not) following them are written down with great clarity. “Popularly understood religions” have unambiguous rules and even more unambiguous consequences. This is what makes them popular I suppose.

However, to understand the “whys”, the “how exactlys”, the “what ifs”, and other questions, deeper thought and more importantly, deeper study into religion is required. This, unfortunately, takes a lifetime. The irony of the situation is that religion tells us how to live, and its takes a lifetime to understand one religion. So, what is the way out?

It is evident that we have been leading lives. Without much problem, that too. Codes of conduct have been easy to follow. We do not break legal rules in most situations. People, mostly, are fair to others. So, why this fuss about religion?

This is because people mostly lead double lives. The life of day to day actions, intuitively selfish decision making, profit maximizing, etc. The other life of love, fear, insecurity, emotional traumas, indecisions, ego, inner-conflicts, peace-seeking, theorizing, etc. Of course, these two lives are closely intertwined, and with some people, are not separable at all. Religion, at some level, helps the latter life, and brings the two together.

Out of all the knowledge I had acquired over the years I have been thinking, and the built-up emotional reserve that had some thoughts of its own, I had come to the conclusion that I could formulate my own religion. Of course, an informally specified religion will have its own pitfalls during testing times, and mine was no different. Formally specifying religious tenets proved to be extremely hard. Achieving completeness seems intractable, if not undecidable.

So, currently, I am thinking about respecting centuries of distilled wisdom. The best approximation seems to be Hinduism, as it seems more liberal than other choices. Approaching a religion with absolutely no pre-conceived thoughts seems to be impossible. But I am giving it a try, and lets see where it leads me.

On an aside, I think that human thought has not been able to generate really significant movements for the last so many centuries because I do not see any new religion that has been developed. Have we really advanced in terms of thought and its corresponding conviction? Einstein supposedly believed that God is a “natural order of things.” He could have made a religion out of it. Formulated a set of principles, etc. But I guess he didn’t fully get it to make it into a full fledged religion.

No clue.


I was told once that we make a lot of special days: Birthdays, Anniversaries, Valentine Day, New Year’s Eve, etc. We expect a little too much these days, we want things to turn around from how they are, and suddenly become utopian, we want surprises, we want perfect days. All this, all the while sets us up for some kind of disappointment at the end of the day. Sometimes, the foreboding thought that expectations will not be met is enough to induce sadness.

Inspite of a lot of rationalization and tons of realistic expectations, I have felt the agonies of these days. Each time, I have been bemused at my own thoughts of these days, and how ironically, I have made them far worse with these overwhelming thoughts, instead of just having fun.

Here’s to having fun through the year, and without expectations, putting in more personal effort on these days instead, and making them memorable, for all the good reasons. Its my friend’s birthday today, and I want him to have the best of times.

Jules: We happy? ….. Vincent!! we happy?
Vincent: Yeah, we happy.

Someone else

I am mostly someone else to the world. I am not what others consider I am. This might be true with most of us, but what surprises/saddens/shocks/intrigues me is that I am mostly someone else to myself.

A simple question settled my doubts on this regard. How many times have I told myself that I was good (bad) at something because of some (lack of) intrinsic ability, while time and experience had shown me otherwise? I have fooled myself many times this way. A game of football, chess, academics, work, physical abilities, and mostly – events of everyday life and my having total control over all of them. Everyday events are strange; they don’t mean much in the long run, but they have shown me that my level of control over things are somewhat hazy, mostly absent. I don’t have full control, but it doesn’t seem to matter very much.

Hold on.

As I am typing this, I am being faced with a very familiar but creepy situation. I know I have some train of thought in my mind about fooling myself, control, pretense, etc. But, what is happening is that this thought is based on half buried axioms, half baked theories, and incomplete experiences. This fuzzy mix of thoughts has happened to me many many times. I have made a fool of myself trying to defend some viewpoint from this mixture in many an argument. I have built more screwed up theories on these fuzzy thoughts. I have gone to the extent of defining some life policies based on these fuzzy thoughts.

What are fuzzy thoughts? Here is an example. Take my love for everything India – Indian politics, dingchak movies, pride about roadside mostly un-hygenic food, vernacular languages, my compassion for anyone who looks Indian, the deeper amount of pain I feel for those who died during the 1947 Partition as compared to the more academic pain I feel for the 1940s Nazi Holocaust victims. This sense of one-ness with India is a classic Fuzzy Thought. I really cannot explain this love for India fully – This is because rationality tells me that location of birth is incidental, and love for one’s birth country is unfounded. This is how the classic fuzzy reasoning goes, and goes nowhere after a while……Fuzzy thoughts define important priorities. It seems unfair that so much is decided by them, but well……I don’t know whether I can dub that unfair without figuring out what these thoughts are, and what they mean…..

So, as for whether I am someone else? A lot more has to be figured out before I get here….

A song is worth a thousand theories

I am listening to Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koyi Shikhwa Nahin from Andhi, sung by the I-can-so-imitate-him-but-he-still-remains-elusively-inimitable Kishore Kumar and Lata. It is so easy to lose myself in this song, in the lyrics, and in all those emotions and memories that take over and transport me someplace else.

This particular song has a curious mix of pathos and elation. The protagonists feel bad about the lost years that they couldn’t be together, but in their glances and gestures they display a love which transcends age and which speaks of a hope about the future. This paradox of emotions is captured in the first 2 lines of the lyrics –

Tere bina zindagi se koyi shikhwa to nahin, shikhwa* nahin…
Tere bina zindagi bhi lekin, zindagi…toh nahin, zindagi nahin, zindagi nahin…

*shikhwa == complaint

I resist the urge to ponder about why I feel so strongly about a song; what it is that results in a rush of blood to the head, a rush of blood to the heart. Literally.

I ponder about listing all those moments when I have felt similarly. Can I figure out some pattern? I am anyway not able to deduce any deterministic theory to explain emotions…..but I do sense a very strong link between music, memory, and emotion. Music moulds memories around dominant thoughts and emotions about current events as I listen to it. The same music is able to recall those memories or emotions about the same events in a jiffy after ages. What baffles me is that simple commands are enough to recall facts, but recalling emotions seems to be much harder. But music and smell have helped me recall emotions. They have made me re-live some of the same emotions now; I am re-living one right now.