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Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Revitalising Ramadan




In 2010, the American Public Media's talk show 'Speaking of Faith' (which has been renamed as On Being), produced a very interesting programme called “Revealing Ramadan”. 

The host of this programme, Krista Tippett invited Muslims to share what it means to be a Muslim in spiritual as well as practical terms. There were responses from all over the world – from teens to people in their 70s. Many of them reflected on Ramadan as this is an indispensable and indelible experience of every Muslim. 


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Refixing Cricket to Its True Character



The events unfolding in Cricket India in the wake of the spot-fixing controversy and other related issues in the last few weeks has put every cricket-lover in this country in a fix.

Next time you sit down to watch a cricket match, another game begins in your mind – are these men on the field playing or acting? Are they really putting their heart and soul into the match in the true spirit of sportsmanship or is there something else working in the back of their minds manipulating their moves?

And then you begin to wonder, cricket was not like this when my father or uncle introduced me to this game and we talked endlessly about crease and stance, shots and catches.



So what has changed in this game in the recent times? Has it all got something to do with the way this game has transformed in the past few years?



Back to Pakistan with Love





This is the story of two young hearts from Pakistan who traveled all the way and came to Baba's Hospital in Bangalore seeking health, solace and more important much-needed love. 



“My name is Shayada and I come from Sukkur, Pakistan,” said the middle-aged woman dressed in a light yellow salwar kameez.Clinging to her was the little one, about 6-7 years old in the loose-fitting blue dress that all cardiac inpatients in Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences (SSSIHMS-WF) wear.

“He is Sail, born seven years ago,” she said, her arm tightly around her son. “I have seven children; he is the last one. All other children except him are healthy. Since the time he was born, he has always been unwell with fever and cough. For this reason, I could not even place him in a school. In fact I never encouraged him to even go out of the house because of his frail condition; my eyes were always on him,” the mother confided.

Sai Sadguru - The Preceptor Unparalleled, Part-1



The Unceasing Sun

As we celebrate Guru Poornima in Prasanthi Nilayam - the celebrations starting right from July 14 2013 and extending upto August 1 - it is truly a huge occasion. Understandably this divine hamlet has been teeming with thousands of devotees in the last few days.

Reflecting on the significance of this festival and more important, Baba as the Sadguru, I penned down a piece for Radio Sai website.

This is how it begins:


“Swami, You have looked after me like an extremely doting mother, corrected me like a disciplinarian father, loved me like a most dear friend and also guided me onto the right path like a guru... but of all these, what is the best way to relate to you, Swami? What is it that I should cultivate and foster?”

This student was completing his education in Baba's college that year and the thought of leaving Baba's presence was always bothering him. He was constantly asking himself, “How can I connect with Swami permanently? How can I strengthen this bond with Him?” and he wanted an answer...


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Narayana Murthy's Advice






“The Best Advice I Ever Got” was the cover story of the September 2012 issue of Business Today – a leading magazine focussed on India Inc. 50 of this country's biggest corporate czars wrote about the advice that worked for them – powerful slices from their life which has shaped their personalities and dreams.

N. R. Narayana Murthy (Chairman Emeritus, Infosys) obviously was among the top in the list. “I will just talk about one important lesson I learnt from one of my favourite teachers,” he writes. “The teacher who influenced me most as a high school student was Mr. K. V. Narayan (KVN), the head master of Sarada Vilas High School, Mysore, where I did my 10th and 11th years of high school. KVN was a tough taskmaster, a disciplinarian, and expected a lot from his students. But outside school, he was kind and affectionate. He taught us chemistry in my final year. I sat in the front bench in his class.

“One day, he was demonstrating an experiment for which
he needed to put some common salt into a test tube. He was extremely careful about how much salt he put in, and took quiet some time to optimise the amount. My friend, who was sitting next to me, found it amusing and burst out laughing. 


"KVN stopped the experiment, asked my friend to stand up and explain why he laughed. My friend was very honest and said he was amused at how stingy he was in using salt for the experiment. Even today I remember KVN's words: 

'Children, I want you all to learn one important lesson. That is, this country became a slave nation because we all looked after our families and not our society. Therefore, it is very important for every one of us to treat what belongs to our community much more carefully than what belongs to our family. This salt belongs to the school and I have to be very careful how much I use. Please come to my house and I will give you a large quantity of salt.'”

Mr. Murthy concludes with the words, “In my opinion, this is the most important advice for every Indian – particularly for politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats, who violate this rule so blatantly day after day.”

And why do they violate it? For many reasons. Gecko, a crafty, unscrupulous yet dashing financier from the movie Wall Street (1984) with his signature line “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” became one of the most memorable characters of US cinematic history. 

Unfortunately it led many to believe that a swelling bank account is all you need for a satisfying life. But those who are wise by good chance (thanks to their upbringing) or have become wise after riding through the rigorous rigmarole of life (seasoned set of been-there-done-that people) know that fulfillment lies elsewhere.


Mr. Vivek Naidu, currently Vice President, Private Banking, Barclays Bank in Chennai, was in another prestigious multinational bank where the economic world suddenly came crashing down in 2009.

And his company then ordered finance executives like him to pull the plug on hundreds of clients who were dependent on this bank – this meant atleast a 1000 families would have the sky fall on their heads. “That was just intolerable for me. Swami does not teach us that,” says Vivek, an alumnus of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. 


And so for the next whole year he went about organising alternate finance for each of his bank's clients – all in his personal capacity. “In that one year, I recovered Rs. 100 crores (close to US $ 25 million).” “You are crazy... this is none of our business,” his colleagues chided him. 

“Maybe,” he replied, “But it is extremely satisfying for me when at the end you know that you haven't hurt anybody's life and you haven't put anyone to hardship. As it is, greed has put a lot of people through this mess.”

And Vivek is not the only one. I know of many.

Another alumnus from the same university is Mr. P. S. Gunaranjan, Founder Director of yousee.in – a developmental finance idea that in December 2009 was shortlisted in a global competition on “Marketplace on Innovative Financial Solutions for Development” (MIL) organised by the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the French Development Agency. It was among the 20 commendable organisations out of 800 applications received globally and showcased at the MIL conference held in Paris on March 4-5, 2010.

The assets of Gunaranjan's fledgling company maybe close to a million rupees today but his only possessions literally are two pairs of clothes and a small bag of basic needs. It may sound strange and too idealistic to be true but that is what it is. “There are thousands in this country who do not even have this much,” says Gunaranjan. 

“For me, it is absolutely fulfilling and yes, exciting – everyday is a surprise! I do not know from where my next meal is going to come from. Baba gave me high quality education for nearly 20 years absolutely free – no strings attached. The only way I can translate this learning in my life is by ensuring that more and more children of this country are not deprived of these fundamental needs – education, a clean environment, and so on. And I love to lead by example.”

Whether anybody else has taken heed to Narayana Murthy's advice or not, many Vivek Naidus and Gunaranjans from the Sai University seem to be putting them to action, quite seriously.