Future Plans

April 24, 2012
About 6:45 PM
Near AOC, Secunderbad

“Nimal! What do you want to become after you grow up? How about a solider like these people? Join military and become an Officer?”


“Something like Airforce? Do you want to become a pilot? Fighter pilot? Then you can fly planes. What do you say?”

Silence again.

After a few seconds,

“Dad. I don’t want to join military.”


“You know, sometimes planes fall down from the sky. Then everyone inside it die. I will also die. Then you will cry. I don’t want all that. That’s why I don’t want to become pilot.”

After a few minutes,

“Dad, if you want, I will become an engine driver. I will drive trains. That will be good.”

“Mmm. How about boats and ships? You can join Navy. Then you will get to be on boats and ships.”

“No Dad. They also sometimes go down the sea. Then I will also go down. I don’t want all that. That’s why I am saying. Engine driver is very good. I like it. Adhudhaan yenakku sugam!

The End! At least for the time being.

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Demystifying The Tamil Calendar – The Basics

All of my 35 years, I never understood the Tamil Calendar. And I never cared to understand it, too. It always seemed confusing. It meant people peering over the almanac and discussing terms that I found very difficult to remember and repeat. For most part, it used to get mixed up with astrology and superstition – good time, bad time, auspicious time, rahukaalam, yamagandam, and so on. To add to the confusion, my Tamil birthday would sometimes come ahead of my date of birth, and sometimes later. All this and more meant that I hardly gave it a second thought.

All that changed when my son started going to school. One of the first things that he learned in school was ‘January, February, March ……’ One of the first things that he wanted to figure out on his own was, when his birthday would come. It was pretty easy for him to figure that out. Month and date. Just two parameters. He was clear.

I suddenly wanted him to know about the Tamil Calendar too. Why? Don’t know. Just wanted him to. May be because I wanted him to be aware of our culture, even though I wasn’t aware of the same. And so, because I had to know it first before I could share it with him, I started to check what the Tamil Calendar was all about. And to my surprise, I didn’t find it that complicated. Making me wonder why it took me so long to look at this.

People who are already familiar with the Tamil Calendar, may find this post meaningless. However, I know many people who are, like how I was just a few months ago, totally clueless about the Tamil Calendar. Should they wish to know, here are a few basics that could introduce them to the Tamil Calendar. And, as mentioned above, I would like my son to know it too. And because I often fail to explain anything properly to him, I leave my understanding here so that he may get to know of it whenever he is ready.

At the outset, I want to make it clear that:

  • this post has nothing to do with astrology or any other related field. The idea is only to get familiarized with, and understand how days are tracked in the Tamil Calendar. And nothing more. It has got nothing to do with calculating auspicious or inauspicious timings, which day is good and which is not. I will leave that to experts
  • for the sake of easy comprehension, I refer to the Gregorian Calendar as ‘English Calendar’ here
  • there are still many elements related to the Tamil Calendar that I am not clear about. I will also leave my doubts here, with a request to anyone who comes across this post and knows about them to please enlighten us.


Basic Parameters

The basic parameters for tracking a day/date in the English Calendar are Year, Month, Date, and Day. Ignoring Year for a moment, to track a day in the English Calendar, we refer to the Month and Date. Eg. March 27.

In the Tamil Calendar we have the Year and the Month. After that there are 3 separate tracks:

  1. Date,
  2. Star or Nakshatram, and
  3. Thidhi.

Depending upon the purpose, days could be tracked based on Month and the Date; or Month and the Star; or Month and the Thidhi. Eg.:

  1. First day of Thai Month, or
  2. Panguni (Month) – Uttaram (Star), or
  3. Chitirai (Month) – Pournami (Thidhi), etc.

We will get to know them – Stars and Thidhi – as we go along.

Let’s understand the months first. Twelve months. Often confusing. Which one comes when? To remember them easily, we can have some reference points in relation to the English Calendar. I have given a sample below. You can work out your own.

Tamil Month Corresponding English Period (Approx.) Reference Points
Thai Jan 15 to Feb 14 Our Republic Day comes in Thai. Valentine’s day, too?!
Maasi Feb 15 to Mar 14 March 1 is Maasi.
Panguni Mar 15 to Apr 14 My son’s birthday comes in Panguni. So does All Fools Day!
Chittirai Apr 14 to May 14 May Day is in Chittirai
Vaigaasi May 14 to June 14 Schools reopen in Vaigaasi. I got married in Vaigaasi.
Aani June 15 to July 14 July 4, American Independence day comes in Aani.
Aadi July 15 to Aug 14 August 1 is Aadi.
Aavani Aug 15 to Sep 14 Sep 11 is in Aavani. Independence Day? Aadi or Aavani?
Puratasi Sep 15 to Oct 14 Gandhi Jayanthi generally comes in Puratasi.
Aipasi Oct 15 to Nov 14 My wife was born in Aipasi.
Karthigai Nov 15 to Dec 14 December 1 is Karthigai.
Margazhi Dec 15 to Jan 14 Christmas is in Margazhi. Always.


Tracking Birthdays – What is a Star/Nakshatram?

Let’s leave the technicalities for a moment. Stars are about 27-28. They follow one after the other in the same sequence. Birthdays are calculated against the Month and the Star which prevailed on the day you were born. So if you were born in Panguni and your birth star is Bharani, your birthday based on the Tamil Calendar would be on March 26 this year. Pretty Simple, right. Just Month and Star.

However, because there are only 28 stars, and there are more days in a month than that, couple of stars could get repeated each month. So what do we do if your star comes twice during the month in which you were born? Not clear, but in my home, they celebrate on the day towards the end of the month as opposed to the beginning of the month. Could be the same everywhere. Could be different somewhere.


More in the next post:
Thidhi – How to track anniversaries?
How to track festivals?

To be Continued …..

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Wishes on a Birthday

Dear Son,

You are turning 5 today. You are growing up fast. It seems like it was only yesterday that we celebrated your 4th birthday, which was of course, a very silent affair. Just the 5 of us at home. You cut a cake for your satisfaction and then we all went back to our work.

This year, it seems, would be a little different. You are all excited about your birthday. You have informed about it to everyone you know. You are eager to invite your neighbourhood friends and have a birthday party at home. Want to give them gifts. Want to receive gifts too. All this is going to be new in our household where we often don’t even remember our birthdays.

As you enter your 6th year on the planet, I want to share a few things that we have been noticing about you. Lot of things about you have changed over the last one year – your interests, your choices, your behavior, and more. Perfectly normal. We expect many more such changes.

These days, television has taken over you. And you have taken over the remote. The battle to regain control of the remote has been fought against you by everyone else in the family. And lost. Now, there is peace at home. You wouldn’t mind watching ‘Chota Bheem’ 24 hours a day. Because of you, we are also forced to watch it. And forced to watch the same episode numerous times. Vexed, we no longer come near the TV. What my father failed to achieve in over 35 years, you have done in just one.

When no television, you want to go to the park. Or go cycling. Or want others at home to tell you stories. If nothing else, then, you want to call someone on the phone. You are also starting to build you a friend circle of your own, in the neighbourhood. We now have your ‘friends’ visiting us.

At school though, it is the same old story. You know the names of hardly 5 or 6 of your classmates – out of a total of 40. The rest all ‘boys’ or ‘girls’. Next academic year, it is going to be even tough. You will be in a new section, with new classmates. Hoping that you make friends soon. Also, it would be a full day at school for you from the next academic year. And a lot more subjects – languages, science, computers and more. You are going to have your hands full. Hoping that you would enjoy all that.

Your Mridangam class is coming along fine. You continue to be playful there, and picking up things at your own pace. But it’s not going to all rosy for long. Soon, your teacher is going to start demanding things from you. Exposing how your preparations are not enough. You wouldn’t practice at home, though. That’s ok. We will wait.

Your demands are also going up. You now want to ‘purchase’ everything that you see. Samosas while traveling, toys sometimes when coming back from Mridangam class, something or the other whenever we take you to any shop. You even want a car, at times.

But one thing hasn’t changed. In your hands, toys seldom retain their shape or utility for more than one day.

There are times when your actions frustrate us, annoy us. But when I look a little closer at the situation, I realize that you are not a problem child. The problem is with us. With our inability to match with the pace of your play. With our limitation in understanding your eagerness. And with our failure in understanding your needs. I realize that we need to look at you as a 5-year-old. As much as we realize that, when the testing situation comes, we are back to our old self.

That also makes me wonder if you feel frustrated by our actions. I am sure you are. May be most of the time. So, let’s see what we can do about it.

Anyway, always feels happy to see you smiling. Let your journey continue in the same positive spirit.

Wish you a very happy birthday.

– vijven

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2012: Let The Play Begin!

Beginning of the New Year, and I am as nervous as a novice opening batsman, taking guard on the first session of an important series, against a pair of fast bowling legends, under perfect bowling conditions. And no, it has got nothing to do with whether or not the world will come to an end in 2012!

2012 brings with it for me, some of the gravest challenges that I am yet to face. Challenges that I feel can only be overcome with the support, cooperation and efforts of many others surrounding me. Support, cooperation and efforts, which at the moment, do not seem to be forthcoming. I hope and pray that I be blessed with strength and perseverance to continue working on these challenges without quitting, and also be blessed with strength and understanding to accept all that emerges out of this exercise.

On a personal note, lots of happy moments to look forward to in 2012. Marriages, new additions to the extended family, and more happy occasions. Trips, as usual. But nothing yet planned to Vizag and Tirupathi. And, not hurrying on them, as well.

In the public arena, guess Lokpal would continue to hog the headlines. Along with elections in UP. And all the high-profile corruption cases. And without any need to mention, Telangana. And many people seem to be working hard to make 2012 too, the year of the Protester. Hope we stop here and don’t push it further in an attempt to register the ‘Decade of the Protester’.

2012 is not only a leap year – it is also the Olympics year. Think many people will start celebrating the event once the center stage shifts from the agitations against DoW’s sponsorship, to main event itself. A few however, many never celebrate at all. So, how will the nation of 1 billion perform?

Also wondering, will Sangeeth be ready in 2012? At least, looks like it would!

I would guess that in 2012 too, much like 2011, the economists are going to be discussing about Eurozone, intellects are going to be discussing about right to free speech and protests, government is going to be engaged more in protecting the government than governance, and the common man will be standing alone fighting inflation.

So, no doubt, the novice batsman is going to be tested. But, amidst all that nervousness, there is also an instinctive feeling, and confidence flowing out of such feeling, that he will emerge victorious. Will he or won’t he? Not long before we find out the answer, for 2012 is already in its stride to deliver the opening salvo. Game On !!

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2011: A Year in Review

2011 has come to an end. So, how good was it?

The year was filled with many memorable moments. Lot of marriages and happy family gatherings. Got more closer to the few who mattered, and more distanced from the rest. Plans and experiments falling in place. And giving rise to newer ideas and focus items.

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In the political arena, 2011 was the year of Anna. Lokpal, Jan Lokpal, Team Anna, I am Anna, India against corruption, Swami Agnivesh, Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Ghoongat, Kashmir, Travel claims, and so many other things that, half way through, I totally lost track of what was happening. And in many sense, it really doesn’t matter much to me now.

2011 was also the year of scams. CWG, 2G, Cash for Votes, Mining, CVC appointment, and more. Tihar hosted some high-profile visitors. FIRs, charge-sheets, and bails competed with inflation for newspaper headlines. And government strayed from one crisis to another, leaving it with little time, resource or inclination for policy issues.

In the states, the Telengana confusion continued. It’s now a year since the Sri Krishna Committee report was submitted. The 40-odd day general strike in the region was near total. And just for the record, Amma and Didi were voted to power, Yeddy was asked to vacate, and Rahul continued his lunch and dinner at dalit homes.

2011 will also be remembered as Steve Job’s last year on this planet. Cyrus Mistry was announced as the successor to Ratan Tata. google launched google+. And if you too, are ignorant about economics like me, then you can just refer to ‘that Eurozone debt crisis’ and leave it there.

2011 was a bit unkind to the art world. Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, MF Hussain, Shammi Kapoor, Jagjith Singh, Bhupen Hazarika, Mario Miranda, were all called to discharge their duties in heaven, along with Sathya Sai Baba and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi. 2011 also exposed that Dev saab was not immortal. And that Osama was not invincible. And that Gaddafi cannot be always victorious.

The year saw some big movies hitting the screens – Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Bodyguard, Don 2, Ra.One, Dhobi Ghat, Delhi Belly, Rockstar, Dirty Picture, Aarakshan, to name a few. It will also be recorded that 7 Khoon Maaf and Mausam too, hit the theatres this year.  But for many, 2011 will exclusively be the year of Mangatha. And one thing that all these movies share in common – I didn’t get a chance to watch any of them! At least, not yet.

Along with Lokpal, 2011 also introduced many new terms to pan-India public – Beti B, Dhanush, Kolaveri, Soup Boys, and more. No doubt we will be hearing more of these terms in the years to come.

2011 placed India on the F-1 map. The much awaited Cricket World Cup was here, and it didn’t disappoint – at least result wise. The year also saw the ‘imposter’ following the legend in notching a double-century in ODIs. And on the other side, 2011 also saw the sentencing of Pakistan cricketers on match-fixing allegations, the Peter Roebuck tragedy, and the thrashing we received in England. Scales appear even!

2011 was also the year of the Joker. He scored 3 out of the 4 Grand Slams leaving just one for Rafa, and none for Fedex. On the women’s end, though, there were 4 different Grand Slam winners, with all, except the super mom, doing it for the first time.

All in all a very eventful year. A year full of activity, noise and engagement. Now, was it also a year of progress? That, my friends, only time will tell.

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Virtues for a Successful Life

Dear Son,

Here is a list of 10 virtues that I wish you would cultivate. Leave alone mastering them, I cannot even claim to possess them. Yet, I wish you would strive to make them a part of you. It is my belief, based on my experience in life, that these things will help you carry out your tasks, overcome challenges, and help you lead a happy, meaningful, and fulfilling life.

  1. Self-belief.
  2. Integrity.
  3. Respect towards fellow humans.
  4. Courage to do what is needed.
  5. Honesty in relationship.
  6. Candor in speech.
  7. Ability to forgive – both others and yourself.
  8. Perseverance.
  9. Doing, whatever it is that you do, with love, conviction and complete engagement.
  10. Trust in the divine plan – especially when things are appearing bad.

These are not in any particular order. These are by no means exclusive. And also, more of one of these will not make up lack of another.

Along with all those virtues that I want you to imbibe, I also want to share with you a few vices that you should be careful about, and not fall for:

  1. Don’t be angry about anything in life. Its never worth it. If needed, show that you are angry. That may be necessary as you grow up. But be clear – exhibit anger, don’t be angry.
  2. Don’t be judgmental. Some people will be better than you, and some people will not be as good as you. That’s how we all have been made – by God, or nature, or by various other forces over which we have no control.
  3. Never insult, belittle, any person. No one forgets it when they are insulted. You can never become big by making an another person look small. Also remember – insulting a person is insulting his creator.
  4. Don’t lose faith in miracles. I have seen them happen. I have seen the worst challenges blow over. I have seen people become successful, working back from seemingly hopeless situations. Don’t lose faith. Don’t lose hope. And don’t fall for the short-cuts.
  5. Never be tempted to get away by doing what is easy. Instead, aim to do what you know is right.
  6. Never allow yourself to be satisfied with anything sub-standard.
  7. Never be afraid to experience pain or disappointment.
  8. Don’t end up doing things merely because they offer you some material rewards. You may need to be doing a few of such things, but make sure you don’t end up doing them all the time.
  9. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated – be it out of fear, greed or love.
  10. And finally, don’t fool yourself, don’t cheat yourself. Being true to yourself is the least you can do for yourself.

Success is widely pursued. It is also mostly relative. Contrary to what many people may say (and may be, what you may yourself feel at times), there are no short-cuts for success. Nature’s laws are pretty simple. To get something, you have to give something.

Also, even after giving everything, you may not always like what you receive. But that does not mean much. Tomorrow will be another day. Wake up, and continue your journey.

I know that the above things are not easy to follow. You may fail at times. These may appear meaningless at times. But you could continue trying. And I will be beside you, trying to do them myself.

Happy living.


– Vijven

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Journey of a River

He found the wait agonizing. The river sitting beside, however, hardly seemed to care.

 “So, what brings you here?” he attempted to strike a conversation.

 “Same as you”, the river replied. “My journey is over, and I am before Him to be adjudged.

 “I never knew that even rivers have this ordeal”, he chuckled. “So, how was your journey?” he prodded.

 The river reflected on its story.

  “I was born in isolation, with only loved ones close to me when I was born.

 “When young, I was more a stream. I was small and insignificant, and remained so, as long as I journeyed alone. However, I started growing in size when I started embracing fellow streams and rivulets that cuddled up to me. Together, we became a force, and gained respect and recognition.

 “My journey in life took me through various places. I passed through different landscapes, overcoming different obstacles. At times I was ferocious, at times I was serene. But never resting and always travelling.

 “My journey introduced me to many people, allowed me to touch many lives – some directly and many indirectly. I brought joy to some, sorrow to some. I entertained a few, united a few. I separated a few, too. Some revered me. Some polluted me. Some exploited me, and some fought for me.

 “I sustained life. I also took away life at times.

 “In short, my long journey blessed me with many experiences and memories – some positive, some not so positive, but all unique and personal.

 “Finally, it all ended one day. I reached my destination. I surrendered my identity and sought a merger. The ocean welcomed me with open arms and I experienced peace. Relieved that I was able to carry out what was ordained for me.

And, now, I am here.

 “So, how different was your journey?”. It was now the river’s turn to enquire.

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Books: Parables – The Genie and The Brahmin

Here is my recollection of an unforgettable fable ‘The Genie and The Brahmin’, of Swami Chinmayananda:

During difficult times, a poor brahmin with a large family sought the help of sage and begged for his blessings. The sage enlightened the poor brahmin with a mantra, upon reciting which, a powerful genie would appear to carry out the wishes of the brahmin. There was a condition though! Once the genie appeared, he had to be constantly engaged. The brahmin had to make sure that there was enough work for the genie to carry out, failing which the genie would eat the brahmin up.

The brahmin did not know how powerful the genie was. He was busy listing out the various things that he wanted to get done through the genie. And the list appeared unending.

The brahmin went back home and recited the mantra. The genie appeared. The brahmin sought all that he could think of, for himself and his family – a palace to live, servants, sumptuous food, expensive clothing and more. The genie had all that delivered in a flash.

He then went a step ahead and asked for something similar for the entire neighborhood. That too, was delivered in a flash. Within a few moments, the entire village became prosperous and soon the brahmin was left with nothing more to seek.

The genie now started pestering the brahmin for more work. “Give me work, or I will eat you!”, the genie was focused. And the brahmin could think of nothing more to ask. So, the genie declared that it would eat up the brahmin. Terrified, the brahmin ran back to the sage and sought his guidance.

The sage advised the brahmin to get a huge pole erected in front of his house. He further advised the brahmin to instruct the genie to keep going up and down the pole, till it was called for again by the brahmin. And when the brahmin had any further work for the genie, he could call the genie, get his work done and instruct the genie to go back and follow the up-down routine on the pole.

The brahmin thanked the sage, went home and did as advised. The genie was brought under control, and everyone was happy.  

Now, our mind is the genie. While it can help us acquire all that we want, it will also eat us up, if we don’t have it under control.

And Swami Chinmayananda’s suggestion on how to keep our mind in check – when we are not engaging it in any productive activity, we must engage it in a thought of the Lord, just like the up-down routine on the pole. So, keep dwelling on the Lord, when you have any productive work to carry out, call up the genie like mind, engage it in the work, and after it is accomplished, direct it back to the thought of the Lord.    

I heard this fable long back. When I was a child, a student of a Chinmaya Mission School. The story itself would have been first preached by His Holiness decades ago. However, its wisdom makes it timeless and ensures that it stays relevant.

For more such fables and enlightening stories by Swami Chinmayananda, please read “PARABLES from Swami Chinmayananda”, published by the Central Chinmaya Mission Trust.

Hari Om!

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The Secret of Salvation

“It is a secret that only angels and dead souls know”, the angel spoke. “And now that you are dead, I will reveal it to you.”

“After death, one’s soul must abandon one’s body and present itself before the Lord and be accountable for all the sins and positive deeds committed by it during its lifetime.”

“This is no secret, we all know about it!” his frustration got the better of him. After all, dying was new to him. And he had hardly asked for it.

“Yes,” the angel was calm, “but what you don’t know is that how quickly and effortlessly one’s soul abandons the body, depends on how many people cry at one’s funeral.”


“Yes, how many people cry at your funeral!”

“And you will not be judged until you shed your body.”

He was angry. He was sad. He was never told about this while he was alive. He had paid donations, visited temples, performed pujas, and did whatever that anyone and everyone told him would reserve his place in heaven. But will anyone cry at his funeral? He was not sure. And how should that matter? “This is unfair.” He protested.

The angel smiled. “The problem with humans is that you read the words but don’t care for their wisdom. Here, let me explain,” the angel volunteered.

“When the Lord created man and woman, he directed them to help each other, to reach out and connect, to touch as many lives as possible, to spread ‘sharing and love’ which are the foundation of life. Humans, instead, started playing with words and their interpretation, and started assuming that the Lord could be misled. And they conceived an easy way out.”

“They started donating, hoping for salvation rather than working to reach out. They attempted to buy blessings instead of spreading love and concern. They started to pray, in anticipation of rewards rather than in submission.”

“They donated to charities, but troubled their neighbors. Adored movie stars, but abused loved ones. Worship to the Lord became a ritual instead of being a desired way of life”

“While all that you were asked to do was to connect with fellow humans”, the angel explained.

It then went on to question,

“So, how many people cried when you died?”

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Long-Lost Friendship

While surfing through television channels recently, I was suddenly reminded of a long-lost, childhood friend. He is still close by. Available and ready to engage me at all times. Only, I got too busy with my life and stopped noticing him. And I often do that to many.

Like all childhood friendships, ours too, was all about innocence. He entertained me, made me laugh, made me wonder. He amazed me, gave me aspirations, hope and dreams. He let me know of the happenings around the world. At times he even tried to educate me.

Our meetings were mostly in the evenings, and I always looked forward to him coming home – every evening. And weekends were special. At times, he was even more important to me than my family. Often, I risked being rebuked by my parents by excessively indulging with him.

Things change with time, and preferences transform as one gets older. As I grew up, I got introduced to new friends – friends who were more in tune with the times, more cool, fashionable and more entertaining. Grownups need purpose and justifications to sustain and remain in a relationship. I saw none with him. I started ignoring him.

My old friend though, did attempt to change. He did try his best to catch up with changing times. I, however, was not sympathetic enough to wait and support him through his struggling journey. And so we drifted apart. Slowly, without realizing, without acknowledging. And as I look back now, we stand separated by quite a distance.

Today, even while appreciating my attachment with him, I am not certain of making amends in the very near future. But fond memories of our friendship compel me to explore ways in which I can get back with him. And so, as I get working on that, here is my promise to you, my dear friend. That I will begin visiting you, again start smiling with you, as early as I can. In the meantime though, kindly bear with me. Bear with my absence and indifference, my dear friend, Doordarshan.

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