Saturday, April 30, 2011

Please vote for Adi as Shipra's Face of the Mall contest on Facebook

Dear Friends, 

Adi's taking part in Shipra Mall Face of the Mall contest. He needs maximum number of 'Likes' on the Shipra Mall's Facebook page. Please help him win.

Step 1: You have to open your Facebook account, search for Shipra Mall is my Favorite Mall. 

Step 2: When you spot it in the FB search results, go to that exact page and press the Like button. That registration will entitle you to vote for Adi and you can visit this Adi's pic and press the "Like" button under his pic.

If you believe Adi deserves to win, please share this with friends and others in your circle to help Adi win. He is so excited about this contest and I hope he reaches the top slot and wins.
He wants an unlimited supply of Kurkure as the grand prize - an impossible demand to accommodate of course. Does any one want to volunteer?

Looking forward to your thoughts and 'Like' votes!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some more Dubai Pics

Bringing you some more Dubai pics.

In this pic below, you will find Jyotiraditya gearing up to raid the Disney toy store. Do you see the enthusiasm with which he's all set?




Levels of enthusiasm tend to dip when its time for Adi to eat....hmm! Unless its french fries, fried chicken or sausage.


Adi liked the French toast.


Adi loved the desert safari like anything as you can see below. When Adi insisted on doing this, I was really frightened that he'd get hurt. I kept telling him not to do this but he was insisting and well, the rest - you can see it for yourself. I was so frightened the bird would claw at him or something. They looked at peace with each other, thank God.






What do you think?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Five Practical Tips from Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

We are all busy with our personal and professional lives. Conflicts, contradictions and problems are a part of both realities. We deal with it in our own way, depending on our values, perspective and emotional state. Each to his own. How you react to a personal complaint/insult may be different from another person's reaction to the same. 

How you handle conflict will be different from what another person does. Some people talk to friends to resolve a situation. How you talk to those who may be socially or economically beneath you also speaks volumes about the person that you are. 


We spend so much time reacting to what others tell us, criticize us.  Don't these kind of statements ring a bell?

"Look at her dress. She must have spend a fortune on it. Wonder where the money comes from."

"She said my hairstyle is not suiting me. She's so mean and jealous."

"He said he's got a Merc. He's not even a graduate. He must be smuggling."

"He has five cars. Must be illegal money."

"She has no kids, her husband left her, serves her right. Her character was so bad."


"My parents/friends/relatives don't care for me."

Baba says that it is a big sin to criticize or complain about others. Firstly, because we see flaws in others that are latent in ourselves. So, why do we waste time criticizing others in the first place? 

Secondly, Baba says that time is the one commodity that every one in the world has at their disposal in equal amount. 

Every one has just 24 hours each day. If part of it is wasted, it is gone forever and can never be retrieved. That's why it becomes so important to value time and make the most of it, every day, throughout one's life. He says, "Start the day with love, spend the day with love and end the day with love."

In my personal and professional life, the following tips from Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba have always helped me to grow spiritually strong and materially wise. 

You don't have to believe me. You can still read and assess for yourself whether it makes practical sense.  

ONE -  Do not criticize people and look for their faults all the time. Improve yourself first. You cannot change people but if you put enough love into any situation, it will work out right in the end.


TWO - There are huge rocks on many sea shores. Huge waves constantly dash against these rocks but the rocks remain firm. You must be like the rocks. You may be constantly bombarded by worldly problems but your faith in God should remain firm like a rock. That is true devotion.


THREE -  When the mind is polluted, reactions are polluted. Adopting the reactions of others is certainly not desirable. You must resolve on any action only after intelligent discrimination and inquiry. Don't think, "Some course of action is being followed by some of our acquaintances; so we shall follow that course ourselves." This attitude is a sign of weakness. It is the consequence of basic ignorance.


FOUR - Past is past and cannot be undone. The future is always uncertain.  Forgive and forget those who have hurt you. Do not hurt others. If you hurt others, it is you who will suffer much more and even your family will have to suffer the consequences of your actions. Help ever. Hurt never. Live in the present and work towards a meaningful, awareness-filled existence.


FIVE - Never cause pain to your parents under any circumstances. Make them happy. The food you eat, the clothes you wear, the life you lead are all gifts of your parents. It is one's primary duty to please one's parents. Only thus is the debt to the parents discharged. Nor is that all. The debt to the parents has to be repaid by acting properly and rendering service to the society.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pranams at the Lotus Feet of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba


 I offer my humble Pranams at the lotus feet of our beloved lord, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Forgive us, Lord, for everything.


This is one of my favorite pictures of beloved Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba during his early years. He would sit near the banks of Chitravathi river and spend time with the early devotees. Sometimes He used to compose and sing songs for them, joke and play pranks with them. Those were known as His golden years because devotees had complete access and freedom with Him.  

Thank you, Bhagawan, for giving us and this world such unconditional love and accepting nothing at all in return.  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Come back, Sathya!

It is not the magician that I fell deeply in love with, as much as I did with a little Brahmin boy called Sathya. Even as a child, He always put his happiness on the backburner because He believed that making His little friends happy and the villagers happy is far more important. He  would take mangoes, oranges and whatever fruits they asked for from a single tree. They loved him for his miracles and I loved Sathya for the smiles he brought around in their little hearts, for serving their happiness with such unconditional love. 

Sometimes, I felt jealous I was not one among them, not blessed enough to taste one of those magical moments that marked the early beginnings of a glorious life. Of course today, it is the magician the world is more interested in than the remarkable spirit of love that beloved Sai gave this world by transforming young and old hearts to one simple message - Love all, Serve all.

When the young Sathya told a foreigner and showed the exact places in Puttaparthi where He would establish the Superspecialty hospital, colleges and mandir, the person thought that this was the fanciful thinking of a poor village boy.

Years later, when Sathya told this to those who believed in Him, even they were finding it difficult to believe such a thing could be made possible. Sai Sankalpa is vajra sankalpa, they were told. Nothing and no body can stand in its way. 

Young Sathya's mother feared that she would lose Him to the hordes of devotees who were insisting that He should go to other countries. Knowing her agony, He gave her a promise that He would remain in Puttaparthi. The word that He kept was not for His mother but for this motherland. This country is where He chose to be throughout His life. This is that sacred soil on which He chose to live his life. As Indians, we never really respected or cared about it much. 

I am mentioning this because when I wanted to go to the UK for further studies from Africa, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba told my sister, not once but thrice, "Tell her to come back to India. Tell her come back to India."

I came back to India only because of Baba. I am staying because of my love and promise to Him. I will keep my word to Him as long as I live. And the truth is, I don't want to go anywhere. He lived here in this country, and so will I.

These buildings that He established are situated in the very same spots he had first pointed out. The fanciful thinking of a village boy, indeed! More importantly, these institutions served people who are ill, in need of help and care. 

The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Services was established for the people of India. With its 11 Operation Theaters, state-of-the-art medical and surgical care for all, it enabled people to have access to the best doctors and the finest health care services without spending a paisa at all. This has continued for more than 20 years. 

Did the magic cease? Did the magician swindle your money or property and disappear? Sorry to disappoint but the magic's still there and so's everything else. No person is charged money, no person is asked to change his caste, belief or religion and no one is asked to pledge their beliefs and belongings to avail these free educational and health care facilities. In a way, yes, you can call it magic, if that's the best way to describe it.

The young Sathya used to carry on his frail shoulders pots of water to give the householders in his village because they had no proper access to water. Decades later, He brought forward water to 731 villages in Anantapur District, 320 villages in Medak, 500 villages in East and West Godavari districts. For the people of Chennai who were suffering terrible water supply shortage, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba ensured water supply to 10 million people. 

The life of Sathya was always under threat. At least thrice, he was poisoned and He suffered the pain knowing exactly who did it and never naming those who had. The media and the nation didn't care then but the devotees did. That faith, that trust - that is under speculation today after all these years.

The little village boy called Sathya declared at the age of fourteen that He is an Avatar and is destined to change the destiny of many by one simple message - Love all, Serve all.
Truth is that whether we knew him or not, He served humanity with total love.  Millions of people benefited from His service activities whether they knew him or not. 


Doubting Thomases have always existed and they have been remembered for what they represent. We have a choice. We can still insult and call him a magician and curse him. We can take joy about the scandals and controversies that we enjoyed reading about Him. Some one you know, love or care about has loved Him deeply. Maybe that doesn't matter, but we can still pray fervently for a miracle. 

Remember, Jesus Christ could have saved Himself. He chose not to. That was not cowardice. That was a choice that left the world with a message that continues to inspire - the resurrection.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A story from Issac Newton's life

 
In Chaitanya's Journal (Vol 1, Issue 3, March 2011), it recounts a story from the life of Issac Newton, whom we all know discovered the law of gravitation and went on to formulate the laws of motion that underlie classical mechanics. 

The story goes like this. Newton had a friend who was an atheist scientist. Newton showed him his solar system making machine and the friend started cranking the handle of the machine and the planets went round.

"Who made this?" He asked.
Newton: No body did.
The friend said, "You didn't hear me. Who made this?"
Newton: I told you. Nobody did.

The friend said, "Listen, Issac, this marvellous machine must have been made by somebody. Don't keep saying that nobody made it."

To this, Newton said, "Now, isn't that amazing? I tell you that nobody made a simple toy like that, you don't believe me. Yet you gaze out into the solar system, the intricate marvelous machine that is around you - and you dare say to me that no one made that. I don't believe it."

This was Newton's way of conveying that God was behind the laws and systems found in creation. 

Newton's famous quote goes like this, "God created everything by number, weight and measure."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Traffic Review - Malayalam Movie Review

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A pacy, interesting film from Rajesh Pillai – that’s what I’d say and many cheers to the writers - Bobby and Sanjay! The visuals by Shyju Khalid are awesome, so is the music. It is almost unbelievable that Rajesh Pillai has made such a remarkable comeback, following the pathetic debut that he had made with the movie Hridayathil Sookshikkan – a movie that is worth not remembering at all. He’s made the best kind of comeback in the movie industry – churning out a big superhit.  

Traffic Malayalam Movie Review: The Story
The story unfolds on a day that changes the lives of four families whose diverse lives cross paths because of an accident that takes place, something we can easily relate to.

It begins with a young budding journalist, Rehan (starring Vineeth Sreenivasan) is thrilled to conduct his first interview with a super star (starring actor Rahman). Alongwith his best friend, Rajeev (starring Asif Ali - budding talent, great potential), Rehan sets out to conduct the interview. Aditi (starring Kaadhal Sandhya), is the special girl in Rehan's life though she is struggling emotionally after her divorce, and she sees him off. Meanwhile, Dr. Abel (Kunchacko Boban) travels with his dear friend (starring Krishna) with plans to surprise his wife Shwetha (starring Remya Nambeesan) with a brand new car to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

Two central characters are played by Sreenivasan as Sudevan, a police constable who resumes service after suspension for having accepted bribes and Rahman donning the role of a superstar named Siddharth, and the role of his wife is played by Lena, who is constantly worried about their daughter’s critical health condition. A small but meaty role is played by Roma as Miriam, Manager at an FM Radio station.

Traffic Malayalam Movie Review: Urban Life in Kerala

On the way, there is an accident that throws into our focus several diverse issues touching the lives of those who are affected. The ripple effect is captured beautifully, so are the implications. Bobby and Sanjay's script reveals some of the most disturbing problems facing the growing elite class in Kerala, a conservative state once known for its simple and healthy way of life but fast becoming a highly material state, where cyber crimes and divorce rates are competing neck-to-neck along with pornography rackets that target upper class girls and making it unsafe for women to travel in and let alone, have ice creams in ice cream parlors!

For example, it exposes the social hypocrisy and ‘recommendation’ malaise that is hugely spreading across Kerala. For everything and anything, we have the tendency to get recommendations. In this film, a police constable who was suspended for taking bribes uses local political pressure to get back into service again. Again, another instance in the same movie shows how a boy’s father is harassed by politicians and bureaucrats who come with recommendations asking for the boy’s life to be permitted to end! Then, again, the police force in the state is pressurized by political and medical recommendation to take a huge risk in manipulating traffic to safeguard the interest of an influential Superstar. In this movie, every minute is made to count because it involves constant twists and turns and as a film viewer, you wouldn’t like to miss any of it. 

While the habits and lifestyles of the growing upper middle class of Kerala is interesting to watch, it is hardly inspiring because they get things done with an unfair advantage, that too ironically, in a Communist State! The paradox is unfortunate and it tells us that those who have power, whether as media, film stars, politicians or doctors, can get what they want using their power of influence and the rest of us end up getting nothing.

Traffic Malayalam Movie Review: Some brilliant performances and some are not 
In this movie, the story telling was brilliant and one of the best written screenplays in recent years. 

We saw some brilliant performances from Sai Kumar, Sreenivasan, Sandhya and in particular, Anoop Menon, whose performance was subtle, classy and totally extracting the best out of him as an artist.

Personally, I felt that the characterization of certain roles could have been exploited fully and been better etched out by the writers, if they had looked beyond storytelling and towards the growth of the actors involved. Writers and directors share the responsibility of extracting the best out of their characters, a rare strength displayed by wiser veterans like MT Vasudevan Nair, Lohitha Das and others.

For example, the role played by Kunchako Boban, who is an actor with several strengths, was not good enough to add depth and substance to the body of work that he has done earlier. His key strengths were not exploited fully.

The role of Remya Nambisan is vague and unclear, giving us no insight that justifies her behavior in the latter part of the movie. But I have to say this: she looks stunning in her new sexy avatar. She has not had such a sensational makeover in any Malayalam movie before Traffic. 

A drawback in the Traffic movie plot - All the assumptions we make are from the song sequences and that is not a fair way of depicting a character that triggers extreme reactions towards the second half of the movie.


Traffic Malayalam Movie Review: Rehman & Lena
Rehman is natural and definitely effortless in depicting the obvious snobbery of a super star. His acting is flawless, as always. However, as a loyal Rehman fan, I would prefer not to see him doing negative roles. 

Lena too acts well in some scenes where her maternal instincts take over her complacence but there is clear inconsistency in the overall sketching of her character. At most times, she resists her husband’s narcissism and is critical of her husband’s ‘super star’ attitude but when it comes to her daughter, she becomes more assertive of exploiting his stardom to get over regulatory obstacles.

Perhaps this can be justified as how any normal mother would behave, but then as a star wife, she constantly complains and never encourages her husband’s work, yet she takes utmost advantage of that to keep her daughter alive. Something is just not consistent in the character sketching. Or perhaps, the writers were attempting to portray her as a woman of strengths and weaknesses with equal weightage.

Traffic Malayalam Movie Review: My Verdict
Like in a painting, a book or even a commercial advertisement, as a film viewer, I look forward to receiving a hidden message through a movie. Sometimes, the message is there and it is up to the viewer to decode it and at other times, it is right there, staring at you in the face but in an unforgettable way. The films made by some of Malayalam’s classic directors such as Padmarajan, Bharathan, Sibi Malayil and Sathyan Anthikad are examples of this school of thought. This movie had everythingelse.

Traffic Malayalam movie is a good, thought provoking, one-time watch and best seen in theaters.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is my Father's birthday.

I called him early this morning to wish him. My father, as usual, is working. He is a simple man who is totally committed to his work.

Today, he is conducting his weekly Sunday medical aid visits to far off islands around Kochi. He has to travel by a boat and then take a ferry to reach these islands. With a team of like minded, highly committed doctors and pharmacists, he spends his birthday helping and healing many neglected and sick people who have no access to doctors, hospitals or medicines.  The expenses are borne by him and this team. He has been doing this for more than twelve years. 

Today, too, though it is his birthday, he is with them. There is no cake, no celebration, nothing to felicitate the remarkable man that he is. But his life is his message. There is no artifice to him. He is as simple and humble as a person can be. He doesn't like any kind of ostentation. He believes in simplicity, like a religion or something. He takes it very seriously. And the only time you will find my dad in a 'party' or 'celebration mode' is when his daughters are with him. Otherwise, he withdraws into his world of work.

I remember an occasion, an inauguration of a project for mentally handicapped children with which my father is closely associated. The occasion had Dr. K.J. Yeshudas inaugurating it. The doctor in charge introduced the great singer to every one and to my father, as well, who stood in the background, never wanting to catch the limelight in anyway.

Suddenly. Dr. KJ Yeshudas exclaimed to the doctor who was introducing them, "Hey, you are introducing me to my friend who studied in the same school with me? I have eaten from his place more than my own. His sister, Shantha teacher is my favorite teacher and almost like my mother."

Then he said, to Dad,  "Raghu, its been so long since we met, let me talk with you and I want to meet Shantha teacher now."

The doctors there were so surprised because Dad had never told anyone that he knew the singer since childhood.
But you know what? That's one of the reasons why I adore my dad, as do so many people. He never tries to hog the limelight. In fact, he hates any kind of unnecessary attention on himself.

When we decided to go on the Dubai trip, a Muslim patient came home in distress - a young lady in purdah - and she said to us, "If Doctor goes, whom do we have for our children when they are sick? We have no one if Doctor goes." That trust, that love - it cannot be bought with money. It comes from the heart.

The first time one of my articles was published, I was one proud teenager. While my dad read it and said, wistfully, "I feel so happy to see your name in print and that my name is next to yours. Of course, it will change with time."


I told Dad right there, "My name will never change with time, I will always have your name next to mine no matter what." I've kept my word to him.


It makes me proud to be Swapna Raghu. The truth is that without his name next to mine, I would never be me.  I'd not be existing.

Happy Birthday, Dr. C.R. Raghu! I love you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Request to devotees of Bhagawan Sathya Sai Baba

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, revered and worshipped by millions across the world, is reported to be on life support. That is the most ridiculous news reporting I've heard. Because I have been part and parcel of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization for over twenty years and Bhagawan has never never needed any support from anybody. All devotees know that too so I am not trying to make a sensation by saying so.

What the Press does not tell you is that He, who has saved and brought back to life, millions of people from their death beds, needs no saving from anybody. If He has chosen that His body should suffer, He knows best. He needs nothing from anybody. Doctors worldwide report to Him when they are faced with distressing situations because He has always guided them to do the right things and save lives, and now they are reporting about His condition in order to placate His devotees and their growing concerns.

My request to all those who follow Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba - Everything in our life happened because He made it Happen. Today, He is saving somebody's life or suffering for one among us. Do not cause Him more embarrassment please by doing exactly the opposite of what He says. Maintain discipline at all times. Do not take law into your hands. Do not panic. Nothing can stop Bhagawan from healing Himself. For so many of us, He has brought us back to life. Do you think He needs our help? No.

Pray to Bhagawan to not put Himself through such suffering but do not attack, hurt or protest against others in the process. Do not violate Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's message of loving all, in the process. I am begging you. Maintain discipline, nothing can happen to Bhagawan without His will. You know it so don't take law into your own hands. Do not blindly trust Press reports - they just want to sell more copies and misusing Bhagawan's name helps them sell more.

Request to the PRESS - You know NOTHING about Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba because you have only seen Him from a distance and He has never permitted you to go closer.  Do some homework first. Find out about His life, what He has done to save and help millions of people, talk to those who have served Him and know Him rather than talking to people who know and have nothing to do with Him. Then do what you are best at doing - reporting to sell more copies. In the process, for now, because your reporting leaves out accuracy and churns out what you want the masses to hear about him -

LEAVE HIM ALONE. LEAVE US ALONE.

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