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Sunday, 7 May 2017

Some book reviews for DO not believe in God till you Experience Him

Hi Friends

I thought of putting the links for some of the book reviews at one place. These are the links to the book review for my book by some of the well known bloggers.
So here they are:

Read when you have time


Saturday, 6 May 2017

Settling the little controversy around the title of my book

Hi Friends,
It has been a while that my book has been out in the market and I am pleased with the volume of feedback and reviews that I have been receiving. One of the common themes baffling many of my readers is the long title of the book – Do not Believe in God till You Experience Him. “Do not judge the book by the Title” someone said. “The title doesn’t connect with the content of the book”. “Was it a marketing stunt to choose such a lengthy title?” “No comments”, “pseudo spiritual”. Some reviewers have taken potshots.
                I understand the dilemma of my readers. Will attempt to elaborate on why I chose this title for my book. In reality the title came to my mind first and then the book followed. In the beginning, I was not sure of how the story would flow but I was convinced that this is going to be the title of my book.
As George Carlin said, “Everyone appreciates your honesty, until you are honest with them.”. That was my experience. I was perplexed by how many religious sects, cults, and spiritual groups encourage you to be critical about other practices while give an absolute unquestionable authority and righteousness to their own religion or sect head. How do you react when someone with a small Bible in his hand stops you on the high street and asks you to repent for leading a sinful life as Jesus is the only way? The blasphemy law that certain groups follow to exercise sovereignty over everyone’s freedom of expression?
There are cults led by real sociopaths who would make their followers believe that their authority is unquestionable and the followers would garner bad karma if they have an iota of doubt in their mind. This may sound very trivial but it happens for real. In south of India, a God man claimed to be Lord Shiva and asked his female devotees to submit to him as Parvatis. A father and son duo in West India, now languishing in prison had applied similar tactics with their disciples. The protagonist in my book encounters similar self-proclaimed God Man in Europe who claimed to be Greek God Mercury among many other manifestations.
With this book, I attempt to remove guilt from mind of any follower of such sects and cults if they doubt their leaders.  It cannot be blasphemous to seek answers and establish the truth by questioning.
As Buddha said; “Believe Nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

Do you agree to my view points? Do you have more such questions on my book?
I would love to attempt to respond to your queries. Do write them as comments.


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Excerpt 3: Do not Believe in God Till You Experience Him

The students from my high school formed yet another social circle for me, after home. School provided me a space to create the second layer of my personality and value development. I was able to achieve good results without putting in much effort. Many classmates had private tutors who came to their homes to teach them. They had exotic reference books for each subject and other fancy things. Yet, I continued to score better marks than most of them.
I used to come second in my class. Rajarshi was a very serious and studious boy and he would score better than me overall in my section. Our school used to have three or four sections in each class with about fifty students in each section.
The fifty students in each section were like a tribe. We grew fiercely protective of each other because of our shared sense of belonging to the same section. We would have friendly fights with other sections of the same class in the school. Every new academic year, there would be some adjustments in our sections as someone would drop out and some new students would join the class. There would be one or two adjustments where someone from one section had to move to another section of the class. We loathed the moment and dreaded letting go one of our own into the enemies’ dominion. Children would cry and plead to remain with the same section but would have to go. For the next couple of years, that child would still keep coming back to the original section for lunch breaks and any social gatherings. Slowly, he would be assimilated into the new section.
Some of the best students from the entire state would be admitted to our school each year; that would result in a dip in my ranking, as I was not studious enough to go that extra mile to retain my rank in class. Since my school was one of the best schools for boys under the central board of secondary education, many parents preferred to move their children to this school. 
It was a Parent Teacher Meet in school; my mother was hyper-active since the morning.
“Take me to every teacher. I need to know what goof ups you do in your class.”
My mother had a friendly rivalry with me. She was a keen critic of mine. She enjoyed finding fault with me as much as I loved to prove her wrong.
“Come and see for yourself. I have already told you, the Biology teacher punished me a couple of times for talking in the class. Apart from her, everyone will praise me. This time I have got more marks than Rajarshi!” I beamed with confidence. This time around, I was especially excited about bringing my mother to school. Something rare had happened. I had fared better than Rajarshi in the exams. Mathematics and Hindi had always been my forte. We were equally good in Science. English and Social Sciences were the two subjects where Rajarshi would take the lead over me. The lead in those two subjects would be far more than my modest superiority in Mathematics and Hindi. This time around, I had more marks than Rajarshi and I was extremely happy with my performance.
My mother dressed in a plain sari and looked shabby. If you did not know her, you could write her off as an illiterate woman, although she had a master’s degree. My mother entered my classroom with me.
Father Dominic, a Catholic missionary, was our English teacher. He smiled kindly at my mother and me. He talked softly in broken Hindi to my mother
Aap Angrezi samajhte hain?”
My mother’s eyes lit up when she saw Father Dominic addressing her.
“Yes Father, a little bit.” She replied promptly.
Father pulled out my answer sheet from the bundle and passed on. “Your son has performed well.” He spoke in a reassuring tone.
My mother got down to the business of scrutinizing my papers. She caught some mistakes. There were a couple of questions from English grammar where one had to convert an active voice sentence into passive voice. I had committed some minor mistakes that Father Dominic had overlooked.
“Father, this conversion is wrong.” My mom called Father Dominic’s attention to this. This took Father Dominic by surprise. He smiled somewhat shamefacedly as he had initially assumed my mother did not know English.
“Please deduct his marks.” My mother requested in a firm tone.  Father Dominic had no choice. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Excerpt 2: Don't Believe in God till You Experience Him

At home, I learnt some tough lessons in life. I had a teenaged cousin, Sanjay, who was very strong and stubborn. He had alpha male characteristics like my father and perhaps he was eyeing my father’s position in the clan. He would bully me and my other cousins a lot. I was the special focus of his tyranny. He would devise all sorts of torture methods and punish me. One day, on some pretext, he decided to whip me with a stick made from the branch of a date tree. I would get goose bumps imagining the pain I feel while he dragged me to the date tree by the road. He had a knife that he had tucked into his waistband.
“Stand here while I cut a branch.” Sanjay ordered me.
He climbed skilfully onto the trunk. He fixed himself below the canopy of date branches, took out his knife, and started cutting one of the thin branches. I was looking at him tilting my head skywards. There was no point in trying to run away. He would jump from the tree and catch me in no time. I would be subjected to more severe punishment. I was imagining the beating marks that I would get on my body. In the beginning, they would be red and turn blue-black in a day’s time. Perhaps it would take a couple of weeks for the marks to go away. People would ask me how I got them. Was there any way I could escape? Not even the village elders would be able to save me from the tyranny of my cousin. He would not listen to them. Only my father could save me. Would he come to my rescue? There was a slim chance. My father would never return to the village at this time of the day. He would come home by 8 pm only. I was lost in my thoughts.
The date tree fibre was tougher than Sanjay had anticipated and it took more time to cut through the branch. I sensed that he was getting impatient and tired with his task. He was sweating and some of his sweat fell on me. He was distracted for a moment and the knife slipped. It ripped through his left hand. He lost his balance and came down with a thud. His hands and legs were scratched and bruised badly as they rubbed against the bark of the date tree trunk. In my village, defecating in the open was a common sight. All the streets and lanes would be lined with human and animal excreta; if you were careless, you could easily step into them. My brother fell on the excreta. When he got up, he was covered in blood and shit. He was a figure far worse than I was imagining myself to be.
Sanjay was a strong lad. He got to his feet and asked me to walk back home with him. He bathed after fetching water from the well in our house and entered one of the rooms. He took out an old sari from his mother’s trunk, tore it into many pieces and wrapped these around his bruises. Then he looked at me. “Get me a bottle of Dettol, Handiplast and cotton from uncle’s medicine shop. Do not tell anyone about this incident.”

I went to my father’s medicine shop. I waited patiently for my father to take a toilet break. I slipped some rolls of cotton, the Handiplast and a bottle of Dettol in my pocket and came back home. Sanjay did not trouble me for some time after that.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Excerpt1 from my book Do not Believe in God Till You Experience Him

The big day arrived. I was ready. I wore the new clothes after bathing. We went to the initiation ceremony.
“Maharaj, please forgive my stubborn son. He has put a condition that he will ask you some questions before initiation.” My mother pleaded. 
 I glanced at the landlady. She had a constipated look on her face. I asked some of my toughest questions, which I was sure that Ramanujan Maharaj would not be able to answer. He was not perturbed by my questions. His smile remained intact throughout the conversation. He looked at me with lots of care and spoke slowly, “We have very little time at this moment. I would like to give you only one piece of advice at this junction. Do not believe in God till you experience him.”
Then he paused. “But do not write off the possibility of his existence.” Then he turned to my mother and other ladies who were sitting on one side. “Your son is not an atheist. He is trying to understand God with his intellectual capacity and that is positive.”
“Hinduism is probably the only religion in the world that accepts atheism.” Ramanujan Maharaj continued. “At least there are three lines of philosophy that talk about the nonexistence of God. You can find references to atheism in the Rig Veda and our Upanishads. In non-dualistic Advaitya Vedanta and Jnana Yoga, the method of neti-neti is prescribed. Neither this nor that. A seeker is advised that it is probably very difficult to identify Atman or God at first; but probably it is easier to identify all that which is not God. The aim is to reach the ultimate by the method of exclusion. Dayanand Saraswati practiced it, Ramakrishna and Vivekananda practiced it too. Your son is on the right path. Encourage him to have these doubts in his mind.”

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

What Happens in Vegas has Happened Before

Last 2 weeks passed in a frenzy.  A colleague pulled out of a conference at the 11th hour and I was asked to fill in. There was a slight problem. The conference was in Las Vegas and I did not have a US visa.
“Business Visas come quick. Give it a try.” I was asked. Mysteriously my visa got processed in 5 days.
Things cut so close that I received my passport with visa on Friday evening. This also meant that I did not have the luxury to book my flight tickets in advance. I returned from the US consulate in Amsterdam and placed a request with my office travel agent for the tickets. The only flight I got was for Sunday morning at 8 am. It was Delta Airlines via Detroit. Not a very convenient timing. I remained awake on Saturday night and took a taxi from my home to Schiphol Airport at 4 am.
It all went smooth from there and I boarded the flight at 7:30 am. I could not realize when I slipped into slumber while the plane was still taxiing. I was half asleep and had some awareness that the flight was taking off.
Half sleep and half awake; I felt that the plane was flying in a strange manner. It was taking sharp turns; it would nose dive in a moment and shoot up the other. Suddenly I realized that the flight almost brushed past a cliff. The plane was flying in a reddish mountainous terrain at dangerously low heights. I could see a curvaceous river meandering below.  “A passenger plane doesn’t fly this way. Something is seriously wrong!” In a state of panic I looked around for clue. I was surprised to see some colleagues from my office though I was sure that I boarded the flight alone. Then I realized that there were more belts strapped on my body than the normal flight seat belt. To my horror, I realized that there was no base below my feet. My shoes were dangling above the clouds in the sky.
Strangely, I was not hurt. The flight was able to manoeuvre without hitting the mountains.
“This is definitely dream.” I told myself. I struggle to open my eyes but not able to move. It was as if I was paralyzed. With struggle, I shake off my slumber and open my eyes. It was dream indeed. Tiredness from the day took its toll. I was dreaming in a tired exhausted state. The flight was fully air borne by this time flying at a height of 30000 feet.
 I found Delta Airlines hospitality to be good. They served very generous portion of food. Even the water bottles they served was of half litre size. Lots of drinks, snacks and ice creams every now and then.
I arrived in Las Vegas and checked in MGM Grand Hotel and Resorts. That was the venue for the conference. It was all surreal. Next 4 days passed quickly. The schedule for the conference used to be pretty tight. We would have our breakfast from 6:30 am and then get consumed in the proceedings for the day. After attending the keynote speeches from the host company; we would man our booth in the exhibition area, collecting leads from prospective clients who would visit our booth and enquire about our offerings.
On the last day of the conference things wrapped up by 12:00 noon and we got free early. People had been departing since morning. I and a few of my colleagues had flight for next day morning so we wanted to see around the city. Till now we had just got glimpses of the glittery city in the night. We had some short walks on the famous strip at night passing by those iconic hotels and casinos and brushing against some crazy people on the street.
“Shall we visit the Grand Canyon?” A colleague from India was very enthusiastic in particular. My knowledge of American geography is not very good. I still do not remember which cities are on the east coast and which ones are on the west coast. I had no clue that the Grand Canyon is nearby.
We went to the hotel information desk to enquire about day trips to the Grand Canyon.
“All the road trips to Grand Canyon start at 6 am in the morning. It is a 14 hours return trip. You can only get helicopter trip now.” The lady at the desk explained.
“How much does it cost?”
“There are multiple tour companies that cover the Canyon. The cheapest one would be 400 Dollars.”
“No way am I going to spend that money.” I made a resolve internally.
My other two colleagues seemed to be excited about the trip even after hearing the price.
“Let’s go out to the strip and enquire at some tourist offices on the street. Everything in this hotel is pricey.” One of the colleagues suggested.
We went out and found an agency booking the helicopter trips.
“You are late! Let me still call up all my contacts to find out if there is any possibility.” An energetic middle aged lady talked with gusto.
“I will not go; you two please carry on.” I suggested my friends.
The lady at the desk was making calls frenetically. I observed her. She had got a lots of Botox on her face and lips and had applied heavy makeup.
“There is only one helicopter left. It has 3 seats available and they will give out those seats to a group of 3 passengers.” The lady announced.
To give my friends a company I conceded.
I was not very excited though. We had to wait for a couple of hours at our hotel and a cab would come and collect us from the reception and would take us to the helicopter base.controls
The cab came and we reached the helicopter base. The helicopter could take 6 passengers apart from the pilot.
The pilot and the crew gave us some safety instructions before the flight. We were asked to follow the command of the pilot diligently and abide by all the rules.
“You cannot touch any of the controls on the dashboard at the front. Only the pilot has authority to touch them.” The instructor spoke in a stern voice.
We were clubbed with a group of 3 people from Saudi Arabia. The Pilot had to decide who would sit where.
“People from Saudi Arabia; please take the back seats.” The pilot announced. I got the front corner seat by the window.
The helicopter took off and moved steadily towards the Grand Canyon. In the beginning it flew over plane terrain. Slowly the helicopter entered the mountainous zone. The pilot would take sharp turns along curves to give us the best view of the canyon. At one juncture he almost took a nose dive to show us the Hoover dam below.
I gazed below and saw my legs dangling in air. The bottom of the helicopter was made of glass and I could see the sky underneath. It was déjà vu! I looked up to realize that I have more straps on my body than the normal airplane seat belts.
I hurriedly switched the video mode on my camera and took amateur video of the flight. The scenes from dream seemed to be replaying. This time I was wide awake.