Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Argumentative Indian

Amartya Sen's "The Argumentative Indian" is a masterpiece. I have always been a big fan of Amartya Sen's work for the "layman", but this one turned out to be a real gem. I could not put down the book and have finished the book with a voracious appetite for the man's writing skills. His knowledge of Indian culture, history and his ability to weave coherent ideas using these complex and rich canvas is awesome.

In this book, Amartya Sen highlights the heterodoxy and pluralism in Indian thought. I really was amazed to read about the Carvaka philosophy in ancient India that comes closest to Atheism in its current form. I do not intend to summarize the book in anyway in my blog... my intellect is far weaker to match the greatness of his writing.

For those who are interested his other book "Development as Freedom" is also a wonderful effort at the fundamental notion of freedom and what it means in today's world. Happy reading!!!

Coke levani soo che!!

Sathya - was my boss at Pramati and he taught me whatever little I knew about Sales and being a Salesman. I realized the value of much of what he taught, in the past 5 months as I was looking out for my job. I managed to get a few offers from good schools - partly due to my research, partly due to my social equity and more importantly, partly due to me ability to sell myself well or so I feel.

I owe part of this to the hard-earned lessons during my sales stints - at Pramati for a year and at Coca-Cola - Surat for three months. More than the one at Pramati my selling coke to grocers in south-western Gujarat was the ultimate sales experience for me and will always remain so.

Coke levani soo che!!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Polytheist to Monotheist to Agnostic to Atheist to ???

I am confused about religion and my conviction to faith. I was brought up in an extremely religious south Indian brahmin family with heavy emphasis on the influence of god in everyday life. I must have spent countless hours learning stotras or praises for various gods and spent at least an hour or so almost everyday for over 10 years of my childhood in offering prayers to the gods (more on sundays .. as I prayed to Sun god in addition to the others I prayed to everyday).

It is obvious that I was brought up as a Polytheist. I believed in the existence and influence of multiple gods over different domains of my little world. However, I do have to admit that through this polytheism I also gained some knowledge on alternative systems within the greater framework of Hinduism, namely dvaitha - through my exposure to Madhavacharya and advaitha through my exposure to Shankaracharya, mostly through countless stories that I heard from my maternal grandmother. When I look back at my own belief systems and impose a structure on it I can probably say that in my early teens I was slowly transforming to being a monotheist - a believer in none but a "One God". Apart from Shankara's stories, this was also partly due to exposure to other religious faiths - foremost among them Christianity. My cousin had married a chiristian and although they are not both devout church-goers I did start reading quite a bit on Jesus.

As I grew up and my understanding of faith developed, I could not escape from the teachings of the stalwart who redefined Hinduism as a faith - Swami Vivekananda. However, due to my own interpretation of what he said and issues I chose to focus on during my adolescence it seemed to me that there were far more important issues in the world than mere personal faith or religion. The all powerful god seemed not to care about countless millions in this world who suffer due to hunger, poverty and disease. Does Karma explain this..yes.. but it offers no solution to mortals as it chooses to focus on multiple lives and after life filled with wonders. To some extent I believed Christianity did offer solace, but I do not like their indifference to other religious faiths. More importantly all this made me an agnostic - one who believes nothing which cannot be demonstrated by the senses, As Professor Huxley first defined it. To me an agnostic still does not reject the God Almighty, yet places a tougher constraint that such a God has to be percieved through the real physical world.

The transition from Agnosticism to Atheism probably happened as I went through my PhD. A journey of enquiry into cause and effect of reason and logic changed me forever. I am an Atheist not because I reject God, but because I do not have time for God. I guess I am a mix of all these categories of beliefs, for better or worse. I feel guilty saying it, but I realize that's going to be the truth. I believe in contributing to CRY now and working on some grass roots initiatves soon. I believe in understanding welfare economics more than I understand my own faith.

I am confused about faith. However, I am not so confused about what I can do to remove a little bit of trouble in our chaotic world through more practical means.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Politics and perfect timing

I realized that I was laughing out aloud as I heard the BBC correspondent talk about the verdict in Saddam Hussein's trial. A much needed climax for the Republican campaign!!! At first, I took it at face value, thinking it could not have come at a better time - a day before elections! But then, I realized well why would it have come on any other day - IT DID HAVE to come a day before. That's the beauty of politics and perfect timing - I leave the rest to the reader's imagination.