Wednesday, January 29, 2014

British Indian Interactions

Nainital In Himalayas
Attracted by exotic spices and jewels of India, the British arrived in India more than two hundred years ago. Thus began an exchange of cultures and civilizations that has changed the world ever since then. India lies at the extreme eastern end of the ancient Indo-European language speakers of the world, whereas, Great Britain and Ireland are at the extreme western end. Traditionally, India is also the eastern extremity of the Caucasian races while Great Britain the western one. Indians are however, a fairly even mix of three of the major races of our planet – Caucasians, Mongoloids and the Australoids (an ancient branch of the Negroid races that migrated eastwards out of West Africa) – with the Caucasian strain dominating in the north-west, the mongoloid in the north-east and Australoid in South – a mix that began in ancient times due to the fertile lands and moderate climate of India as described in another blog of mine:

After the British arrived in India, they stayed and ruled over the country for more than two hundred years. In this period perhaps the greatest cultural exchange of modern history began. The British breakfast and language has become a permanent part of many Indian households whereas the Chicken tikka and curry a part of many British dinners. British wear the Indian Pajama at night while many Indians wear the British trouser during the day. When Queen Victoria, inspired by the Himalayan goddess Parvati, chose white as the color of her wedding gown, that color became the color of wedding gown of most British women. This is described in more detail in my book – The Babaji Affair- and another blog.

It was not merely a mixing of cultures but also a physical one so that one of ancestors from my mother’s side seems to be of European origin  (A blue blooded Free Mason Britisher perhaps but a family secret locked in our DNA and family resemblances) whereas the British Prince William is a direct descendant of a feisty and pure blooded Indian lady, that perhaps gave Princess Diana, his mother, some of the gait and looks of the robust North-Western Indian rural lady. Today’s newspaper described that even Cameron is an Indian descendant. I had for long felt, by looking at him, that he bears a distinct resemblance to some from the Bengali community of North India, the same puffed up cheeks with which the Bengali round many vowels. There are numerous other famous and ordinary Indian as well British personalities with origins from each others country, that would be tedious to mention here.

Those who believe in spirituality, believe that many British who were born or died in India were reborn as Indians in Indian homes. Most certainly some behave as one, making someone (I forget the source) to remark that there are some Indians who are more British than the British. Some towns in India that came up during British times bear a distinct British Stamp. One of these is Nainital, the town of my childhood, on which I have an entire blog –

One of many stories of Anglo- Indian friendship here:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Trickle up Vs. Trickle down Capitalism

Flemish painter -

There was a time when some humans developed the notion that all humans are created equal and that it is unjust for some to amass huge amounts of wealth while others grind their butts out. This notion gave birth to the idea of communism. However, the communists forgot that trees in a nearby forest are not all of equal height, that a certain amount of inequality is natural and trying to enforce an unnatural equality may kill the forest. Sans incentives and the need to strive, many humans would rather sit and grow obese. The result was that entire economies slowed down severely and bread lines became longer and longer until they became longer than the communist manifesto. It was therefore soon discarded into the trash can. Some political parties still call themselves communist but that is simply out of nostalgia. They neither mean it nor live by the philosophy any longer.

Capitalism thus marched across the world gloriously with the fond notion that if some individuals are allowed to grow exceptionally rich, it is good for business and prosperity for all would trickle down, bit by bit, as water does from a leaky jug. This gave birth to the notion of trickle down capitalism.

But, alas, humans, those blinded by greed, can be extremely exploitative given the opportunity. They have now invented a trickle up version of capitalism. In a free for all, some discovered, one can have it all, especially when it was so easy to share the booty with those who make the laws and have them not only turn a blind eye to bonuses and CEO compensations that hit the roof, a limitless profit on medicines the essentials which must be purchased to save lives, arms and guns for fun and profit that go bang bang through children that scream in pain and horror,  the growing lines of homeless and starving, but also have some of those in power actively assist in the game. In this system it is not the case of water leaking down a jug but rather a case of a vampire sucking up the blood of the poor until they are snuffed out on homeless street, before they move on to the next victim, approaching very lovingly on the face of it, as happens in Dracula movies until the teeth are securely latched on. In fact the trickling up has been so severe over the past thirty years or so that now less than hundred individuals in the world own wealth equal to half the humans on the planet according to a report by Oxfam. For more on how the wealth of the world is distributed see this

How does one distinguish a trickle down version of capitalism from the trickle up version? It is not all that difficult really. If the average income and wealth of the few at the top keeps rising while that of others remains stagnant or falls (in real terms adjusted for inflation) then it is the case of a trickle up economy. It happens when the income of those at the top keeps rising while average incomes do not, or in brief if inequalities are rising. They have been doing so ever since around 1980 in USA. (For precise data on this supported by figures and graphs see here)

Trickle up or Trickle down?
How can a trickle up economy come about? It can easily be organized when the taxation system, salary structures, bonuses, corporate profits, national resources and the printing of currency are in the hands of a few. They can create a cosy club to scratch each others back and circles. One can permit unlimited bonuses or salaries so that banks do not have to be robbed with a gun or add hidden taxes such as excise tax on goods that the poor purchase or all one has to do it is print a lot of extra notes and make sure that it is only the rich that are grabbing most of them. The extra currency would no doubt cause inflation but the rich will not mind because they would have ended up with a lot of extra dough whereas some of the poor would be driven out to homeless-street unless they have chosen suicide. A few wily ones would take to theft so that they are caught and then lodged in a free and secure board and lodging facility paid for the rest of their lives at public expense. A Trickle-up happens when  the top executives of corporations and government are allowed to behave like the  greedy brat who eats most of the cake at a tea party (pun intended) leaving little or none for the rest of the family and friends. More details on the inflation phenomenon are in a much older post here,

How does one know if a government is printing more money than necessary? Well is there inflation of more than one or two percent around in your area? If it is then be sure that is what is happening although the guy controller up there called it something exotic like quantitative easing, something as glorious as happen when persistent constipation is suddenly released in massive quantities :). 

How can you find out if your country is into easing more than other countries of the world? Well! that is easily determined by checking if your currency is devaluing or appreciating with respect to other countries.

How can this trickle up phenomenon be prevented in capitalistic economies? Well there are several methods to do it. Some are,

  1. Pass a bill to tax the rich more at a time when most conservative minions of the wealthy are on a holiday to the Bahamas sponsored by corporation club.
  2. Restrict the top earnings of corporate executives and prevent casinos buffs from managing your bank. A method to do this called the rule of ten, was introduced in this blog a long time ago (search older posts) and the Europeans led by the Swiss have taken a fancy to that notion. or see this older post
  3. Introduce regulation so that governments can confine themselves to constipative easing (when there is deflation for example) but not quantitative easing so that inflation is kept within a band of one percent.
  4. Introduce progressive taxation not just for individuals but also corporations that are raking in huge profits. 
But then the question arises why should they do it , they are having a great time are they not?
For more precise recommendations on how to fix inequalities see this

UPDATE January 29, 2014

Just a few minutes ago I heard Aaron Heslehurst on BBC describing some aspects of the State of the Union address by President Obama. We are friends and follow each other through twitter and emails. The address seemed to echo the sentiment of this post – the trickle up nature of the American Economy, a serious concern although discussed in the lighter vein in the post. This is what President Obama had to say,

“Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all. So our job is to reverse these trends.”

“Today the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. And Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. It's easy to remember: 10.10. This will help families.” 

Although the concern of President Obama in these statements is the same as this blogger, this author has reservations. The raising of minimum wages can backfire. It may discourage small businesses from hiring more people and may help to shut down struggling one. The galloping horse of inequality has to be tamed from the head too rather than just the tail. Cap the maximum salaries of executives, raise taxes on the rich and consider a rule similar to the ‘Rule ofTen’ described in this blog.

In conclusion, the world does not need communism but it does need justice and a move away from unfair inequalities, because it is the latter that has led to such extreme responses through human history as communism or severing the head of the queen from her torso when she suggested that  people could eat cake when they ran out of bread.

From the author of A brief Introduction to the Economics of Greed and Exploitation

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Back to Gardening

Flowers in Garden

After deliberating on how much money it costs to extract the shit out of some of the leading lights of our one percent world in the previous post, whether it be on wall street or whether it be in a government planning department, I suffered from a perception that my soul too is getting filthy, for whatever a human focuses on, he tends to partake a bit of it. A cleansing exercise was needed and what better an instrument for it than flowers. 

This year because of a severer than usual winter, there were fewer flowers in the garden than in most January. Therefore this morning I visited a nursery and brought an assorted mix of flowers to plant in an empty patch. A humming bird hiding in the bushes was thrilled. She immediately jumped on the flowers to suck the nectar. The bird is not in the photo because she moved away when I approached for the click.

The flowers planted today were enteranium, flocks, petunia, shasta daisy and marigold. There are already several poppy plants, very small at the momnet in the same flower bed. They should begin to bloom in a month and fill up the flower bed.

UPDATE: A friend and Poet, Vinod Khurana, has left the following words in a comment to this post

Lovely flowers and a very beautiful garden
Nature rests not
Be it dusk or dawn.
How beautiful it is
Whether one looks or not.
In silence it unfolds
And boasts not.
What is there to learn from it?
Ask me not. 
See it for yourself, 
A better teacher you findeth not.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mahatma Gandhi and the latter day temporary political saints of India

Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal

A saint is born when a human overcomes to substantial extent things such as lust, greed and anger that tend to pull most humans down; not just lust, greed and anger but other more subtle evils that are equally damaging such as pride and hypocrisy. A saint is rare amongst humans but when one walks the earth he is so charged with love, truth and simplicity that millions are drawn by his charisma and in this he wields the power to change the course of human history. Jesus Christ and Buddha are some of the most well known saints if not the greatest of spiritual beings that have appeared on our planet in historic times.

In recent times, a saint in India was Mahatma Gandhi. He is referred to as a political saint here because a major mission of his life was to get political freedom for India from the powerful British Empire that spanned the globe at that time. Such was the power of love and truth wielded by him that merely with the help of his weak half naked frame and a walking stick, not only did he free India from a powerful colonial rule, but his methods succeeded in freeing much of the world from colonial rule and racial oppression, from Kenya to Uganda and from Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela whom he inspired.

Although saints are rare amongst humans, a much larger number may behave or even become one for brief periods simply because the condition of a human mind and soul varies while a human lives as does random turbulence or the vagaries of climate. There are also conditions like temporary psychosis that can be induced through chemical or other agents that can make a human behave in unusual manner, even saintly for a limited portion of his or her life. It is persons in such a condition that have been referred to as temporary saints in this article. Whenever this happens,  it would be wise of other humans to recognize it as such. An absence of such recognition has led to tragic consequences all through human history e.g when such  pseudo saints start a cult, religious or political, but continue to develop the cult even after sainthood has vanished. When charisma and the force of truth vanishes, the previously saintly leader may introduce evil practices in the same cult, a cult that was fully sincere to begin with and propagate it through evil methods such as violence, restricting free flow of information and speech the communist revolutionaries did, maintaining all the while that it is the rule of the people in a people's republic.Whenever free criticism or speech is suppressed it is a sure sign that something evil is afoot.

 It took the oppressed people of countries like Rumania and East Germany to come out on the street one day to tell their dictators that they are the people, not the leaders from Rumania or Saddam Hussein or even the cute princess of France who advised her people to eat cake when bread ran out. But the leaders continued to cry out that they were the rulers and owned the people and country until their heads were severed from their torsos or their voice choked by the noose, such was the extent of their psychotic convictions. Using the name of the people as a popular ploy has been the principal clutch of evil and delusional rulers since the beginning of civilization. People must ever be on guard not to fall for such popular phrases and words such as Peoples rule but rather make their decisions based on performance and facts on the ground.

In recent decades, although freed of foreign rule, India has been suffering much because of widespread corruption and a governance deficit arising directly or indirectly out of it. Moral decay may have been a part of the Indian landscape for over a thousand years.Therefore when two persons, Anna Hazare and another Arvind Kejriwal appeared on the scene in recent years, who at least temporarily wielded the same power of love and truth, millions beckoned to their call. But, alas, many forgot that whereas sainthood is a rare thing, temporary and brief sainthood is not as rare. Anna Hazare’s sainthood appears to have been a brief lived one.  Sure enough with that has vanished the charisma and the crowds. Many now fear that his protégé, ARVIND Kejriwal is following in the footsteps of his Guru and also losing his sheen rapidly. Neither of the two may be able to sustain their power and charisma as Gandhi did over a life time.

One may look deeper at the cause of why humans who reach the heights of sainthood, albeit temporarily, fall away from it quickly. It is not that they are overcome with dishonesty suddenly, because honesty is a reasonably durable thing with humans who acquire it, rather it appears to be something more subtle such as pride and hypocrisy that pulls down a human.

Recently when a close associate of Arvind Kejriwal rebelled because he was not being recognized as a minister in the newly formed Delhi government, Arvind’s response was that his newly formed political party has no place for those greedy for a political position. Such an attitude smacks of hypocrisy because whereas there are a sufficiently large number of persons who are committed to earning their bread honestly, there are few who walk the planet that are not ambitious for recognition and more. Only a saint can do that and as said saints are rare. Therefore, to pretend or suggest that Arvind leads a group of disinterested philanthropists is sheer hypocrisy. If he had been real he would have expected no more than honesty and a freedom from corruption from his followers and associates.That would have been enough to free India from decay as it has done on the best of places on our planet. Unrealistic and unreal expectations are delusional at best and a fraud at worst.

More recently when another Minister of Arvind, his law minister, was caught with a series of inappropriate actions, even some illegal ones (albeit with a good motive), Arvind has refused to listen to voice of reason from many quarters, even his well wishers and supporters.  Some of his defenders have been saying that an enquiry is on and the accused minister cannot influence the enquiry and should be allowed to persist. But, being able to influence enquiry is a minor reason why representatives step aside. They do so as to be above suspicion. When a human refuses to listen to voices of wisdom it is a sign that he has been overtaken by pride. Arvind forgot that if illegality can be justified for a good end who is to stop illegality from a bad end? If popular sentiment is the last word on a matter concerning minorities than all the minorities of the world would have been long extinguished.

"The AAP, especially Arvind Kejriwal,  must realize that fascination of people with it is because of the high moral and ethical ground it has taken in the past. On all other counts such as stability and maturity, existing political parties are way ahead. If the AAP deviates from its moral stand, it shall come crashing down and disappear in the mists of time"

Saints never forget the means to an end, if they do then one ends up in a situation similar to the Siberian labor camps. Spiritual strength arises from giving attention to the means and not the ends and the most highly regarded spiritual text of the sub-continent - Bhagavat Gita - makes this amply clear, stressing that the result of any action is never in one's control but doing the right thing towards any desirable end is. Arvind Kejriwal says that he has come to raise the voice of the people, the ordinary citizen called Aam Aadmi in India but refuses to listen to any voice except his own (or an isolated section that agrees with his views). Unlike the charismatic leaders of lore such as Gandhi,  whose countenance always shone with a smile or brilliant bliss with scarcely an angry or unloving word escaping their lips even for their sworn enemies, his is now often found twisted in an irritable frown and unkind words pour out from his mouth while necessary actions fail to flow out from his pen.Saints like Jesus spoke words of love and compassion for prostitutes and criminals too and prayed to the lord to forgive his murderers. True humans can not expect to reach similar levels but the extent they do is a measure of their spiritual strength.

Thus it seems that even the saintly phenomenon of Arvind Kejriwal may have been a temporary one, a blip on the landscape of time. However, to be fair to him, whereas temporary sainthood is far more common than a sustainable one, even the best of saints fall away from their path on occasions. However true saints are quick to admit their mistake and make course corrections rapidly.

While an unfair and exploitative monopolisation of the worlds resources by  a few, the one percent, is a worldwide phenomenon, it exists to inhuman levels in developing countries like India. While some have manged to isolate themselves in prosperity and comfort, very many survive through life in subhuman conditions.What is most tragic is that a portion of them are the sweetest thing in creation -children. A recent TV program on a news channel (NDTV) showed a sweet four year old child lifting heavy bricks in a brick klin with his parents, just to survive, doing it happily, because he knows nothing different, while legislators tour abroad staying in five star facilities all paid for by the public, from taxes extracted from the poorest of the poor in India, from their very blood, sweat and tears, speaking metaphorically. The taxations system of India is such that even the poor starving millions pay a hefty amount because of monetisation driven inflation and hidden excise duties on goods that the poor purchase.A much older article in this blog explaining how inflation amounts to the hand of the rich in a poor man's pocket is here

The people of India have been freed from cheats and shamelessly corrupt exploiters by saints since ancient times, shameless because not only do they do it but they flaunt and defend it proudly.   India desperately needs a saint in modern times too. The desperately oppressed people of India still hope that Arvind Kejriwal's fall from grace may  be a temporary one. If not, they do not yet deserve to be freed from the yoke of corruption and exploitation. When they are ready, a saint in a shining and durable armor for his heart and soul shall arrive on the scene to free them from a yoke more oppressive than foreign rule, that for the large part was not as unjust as exploitation due to corruption and one's own.

There is perhaps no doubt to the old adage - people get the leaders they deserve, but what about the children? Do they not deserve the same life, health, education and food as the children of the minister sitting in a comfotable Bungalow in Lutyen's New Delhi designed by an architect from afar, about to take off for another European or Latin American holiday to strut his tiring stuff, a bungalow that the engineers of his own government were incapable of designing because they were too busy collecting commission from suppliers and contractors with perhaps a share for the minister, a government where the rulers spend more than a hundred dollars a plate for their lunch while arguing shamelessly on the media that half a dollar a day is enough for a citizen to live without being regarded as poor.

The Planning Commission of the second most populous nation on earth, headed by the Right Honorable Dr. Manmohan Singh, P. M. of India and colleague Montek Singh Alhuwalia, that came up with the half dollar a day poverty escape figure spends millions on expenses and when one of them goes to excrete a hundred hundred dollar lunch it is at times in a toilet that cost more than a forty thousand dollars, all built from the taxes of the blood and tears of poor who suffer the highest infant mortality rate in the world. As mentioned earlier, the taxation system of India is such that even the poor starving millions pay a hefty amount because of excess monetisation driven inflation and hidden excise duties on goods that the poor purchase; However, to be fair the Planning commission of India is not the only place in the world with a forty thousand dollar toilet as this link shows

The following description and conversation is imaginary but realistic

As this post was written a  few miles from these lush bungalows and comfortable dwellings of the rulers, some poor children shivered in frightful cold as their desperate mothers, driven out of their homes perhaps because of a riot in their village sponsored by politicians for votes, tried to comfort them and ten more people died in the cold night because they were homeless. It would have taken just ten minutes of a minister's time and just a teeny weeny bit of compassion to write out an order that the night empty school buildings or stadiums built upon the stench and filth of corruption are authorized for use at night by the homeless in the most bitterly cold months of winter until a shelter is built, but perhaps thus spake the minster,

"Gee Whiz, it was a busy day with the election campaign and media thing,  it was not intentional,  I never though of that! "
"Have you really thought of it now Mr. Minister or will you think more about it after the dance show or your foreign study tour? " asks the homeless hungry mother with two hungry infants by her side as she wipes a few tears from her eyes with a corner of her tattered sari. Earlier in the day she buried one of her infant children who died of cold the previous night.

UPDATE: BREAKING NEWS: Jan 27, 2014, 1.30 p. m. : It has just been reported on TV (IBN7) that the Delhi High Court has taken note of the issue of death of children of homeless families due to cold in Delhi and reprimanded the AAP Delhi government for it, ordering it to take certain alleviating steps and to file a reply. This blog post may have contributed to this court action. It was widely publicized yesterday with strong, even inappropriate words, born of anguish at the injustice meted out to the most vulnerable in society, even children, on some important sites of Facebook and Twitter.

UPDATE 2: January 29, 2014:  One of the things described in this post was the insidious impact of inflation on the common man. This author posted a link to this post on a face book fan page of Shri Raghuram Rajan, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. He is also a former student of this author from IIT. One day after that the Governor announced measures to control inflation. The move has been described as a surprise move because both the government and corporate lobbies were against it (the reason for that has been explained in a link in the same post to an earlier one on inflation). This blogger would like to think that at least in some small way, if not a significant way, this blog post has contributed to the decision. The Governor needs to be congratulated for not getting cowed down by these lobbies and doing the right thing. The incident also shown the tremendous power the internet holds for undertaking actions towards common good. It provides a platform to carry independent voices to the portals of power, something that in days of lore people had to visit the Himalayas for.

An article on Arvind Kejriwal is here

Photo is due to Ramakrishanan Ramanathan

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Portrait of a Grandmother

Hari Rani Sahni, nee Sethi (1890-1924) 
Aside from Environment, food, spirituality, economy and much else about life, I have from time to time included sketches of my immediate family too in this blog. Recently a cousin Manoj Sahni who now lives in San Francisco, USA sent me a family heirloom, a photo of my grandmother dating from around 1916 or so.

My mother (Nand Rani Sahni) had described her as a beautiful and graceful lady who died a month after the birth of my mother in 1924. I am not certain of her birthday but it may have been somewhere around 1890. She was the daughter of Lachman Dass (Sethi) and wife of Lala Gurdas Ram Sahni. At a relatively young age in his early forties her father Lachman Dass became the Chief Administrative and Judicial officer (Sherishtadar) of the Quetta –Pishin Districts of Baluchistan. This was the most developed of the six districts of the large province of Baluchistan which had been a part of the Sultanate of Oman, British India and now Pakistan. In 1915 Lachman Das was awarded the title of Rai Sahib by the King Emperor of India, George the fifth on his birthday as recorded in Biographical indexes (also on Wikipedia). After 1920 when the British permitted native Indians to occupy the senior most positions in administration he rose to become the Political agent (Deputy Commissioner) of Quetta-Pishin and also functioned from time to time as the interim Political agent  (Commissioner) of the entire province of Baluchistan (a position mostly reserved for the British Peerage and their descendants during British rule of India) as per the history I could gather from the family and the little research I was able to do on the topic. Historical records from that era are few and scanty and difficult to obtain..

After her marriage, my grandmother came to live with my grandfather in Lahore who too belonged to a leading family of North-Western India until her demise in 1924. After the death of her mother, my grandfather arranged a wet nurse for my mother. When she was a little older, he sent her to live for sometime with her grandfather and grandmother in Quetta so that she would find motherly love. Later she joined boarding school and then college for girls in Lahore coming home to my grandfather in holidays. My mother had a kind heart and every time before returning home from boarding school she would give away her quilt and blankets to a poor worker around the boarding school and my grandfather had to get new ones made every year. He would tease her about it but she would insist that they were very poor and needed that bedding. Another thing my mother described is that grandfather would order a clothing merchant to arrive every year with his wares and my mother was ordered to select six new suits every time. However the year she was to get married, 1943, their were bumper crops on his lands and he was flush with cash that he passed on to her to shop to her hearts content for jewellery and clothes in the largest market of Lahore - Anarkali. Two of her purchases were saris woven with wires of pure gold and fine silk. One of these remained with her till her demise in 1999 and as per her earlier instructions, she was cremated in that sari.

My grandfather lived on the income from his Landholdings that were sporadic. He lived very well with a retinue of attendants and staff but there were times when it was a bad agricultural year he fell short of cash. Nevertheless being a spiritual man he never worried about tomorrow believing that the Lord will take care of him. On one such occasion when he ran out of money for shopping he was wondering what to do when a pigeon flew by dropping a silver coin in the yard. He grabbed the coin and yelled out to the servants to go to the market for the day’s dinner that included for him everyday the soup of a six month old chicken, mutton cutlets and a dish of spinach along with lentils and seasonal stir fried vegetables served on his large dining table where besides the family, guests would arrive from time to time, that included the Premier of the Province – Khizer Hyat (sp?) his father Major General Sir Malik Umar Hayat Khan Tiwana who acted as honorary aide-de-camp to George V and George VI, and son, nephew besides. His son/nephew Shaukat was about the same age as my uncle and his mother too had died when he was young remained life long friends, meeting in UK after India was divided. The friendships in the group were strengthened because they were all Freemasons. My mother said that the dinner was the best of dinners but the attendant cum butlers ensured that everyone got fixed portions and no more than two small mutton cutlets each. My uncles who were tall and big built did not mind though because they frequently snacked up on nuts before dinner so they were not hungry at dinner time and pine nuts (Chilgoza) were the favorite of my uncles. My mother on the other hand loved the humble roasted peanut in shells most and loved to dip that in salt before eating. She would however never eat shelled peanuts and it seems that just the act of shelling them was a meditative exercise for her as was her knitting and she would knit for any new child being born in the family. She did that for my two daughters too when they were infants.

After her wedding to my father my mother moved to the North West Frontier province around 1947. At that time India was suddenly split into two countries India and Pakistan and a hurried movement of Hindu and Muslim population began across the borders as riots broke out between the two communities that had lived together largely in peace for a thousand years. The insensitive division of countries by colonial powers have left countries in strife from Palestine to India. My father was then already in Roorkee India on a military assignment and he arranged a large bungalow in Roorkee for the family. My mother (Nand Rani Sahni) with her two children (my elder brother and sister) and in-laws caught the train for Delhi. At Lahore however my mother disembarked because she wished to visit her father. At that time there were riots on in Lahore and a curfew through the city. She was trapped at the railway station when the thought occurred to her to call the Premier Khizer Hyat, the family friend for help. On receiving the call, Khizereryat sent an official cavalcade to take her to my grandfather and back after the meeting. My grandfather sent her back saying that he would follow later but he was killed in the following riots and never made it to India. A life-long attendant ( by the name of Gurditta) who reached India later said that a posse of Muslim fanatics had broken into the home and asked my grandfather to read some verses from the Holy Koran or lose his life. The servants read those and urged my grandfather to do the same but he refused and was killed on the spot. Unlike me and my mother who had liberal religious beliefs believing in the goodness of all religions, my grandfather was somewhat rigid about his.

It was later, one of my mother’s brothers PN Sahni, who too became one of the senior most administrative officers of Northern India who helped to rehabilitate the attendant Gurditta in his hometown of Ferozepur for retirement as he did with his own life-long attendant by the Name of Dharma many years later. Presently I am in the process of setting up my own attendant – Shyamu – true to the best of traditions of the family. The present photo of my grandmother was preserved by my other younger uncle Dr./Prof. R.N Sahni and was passed on to his son Manoj mentioned at the outset.

More about me and family:

A bit about my childhood
A Portrait of my Mother is here:
A bit about my father is here:
Portraits of my brothers are included here:
And finally about me is here:
A Spiritual incident from my life is here: 
Some pictures of  my home and family are here:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How Modern Humans are missing Sunshine and Good Health

Prehistoric humans full of sunshine
With advance of human civilization human clothing has increased not just as a protection against the elements but also as a statement on life. The result is a reduced exposure of the human body to sunshine. With invention of large homes, apartment style living, motorized covered transportation this exposure has reduced even further. The result is that human bodies are not getting sufficient exposure to sunlight as required for the best possible health nature has destined for man and woman.

While all realize that plants cannot survive without sunshine, few realize that animals including humans too cannot. It is not just vitamin D that is produced through sunlight but a host of other hormonal and chemical changes are induced by sunshine not all yet discovered by modern science that is far too young for this sort of discovery. It is true that an excess of sunshine, especially in wrong weather can produce health problems, even cancer, which is true for an excess of any good thing, its deficiency on the other hand could lead to serious health problems ranging from depression to arthritis and a plethora of other conditions modern humans suffer from. It is for this reason, modern man has to depend on modern medicines that bring along with a cure a side effect leaving the human worse off in the long run in very many cases. Therefore, whenever a human attempts to sun the body ensure that the experience is not painful but joyful and pleasant i.e. to the right extent in the right climate.

An indication of excess sunshine is if the body undergoes visible and significant color changes. A Famous BBC business reporter and friend Aaron Heslehurst, when he visited Sydney sometime back for a holiday returned looking like an African and I communicated my concern to him. His reply was that it was just a bit of holidaying in Sydney.  While persons who visit a beach and sun their bodies eliminate sunlight deficiency, very few humans get to do that. In either case they must be careful not to overdo it. Further few beaches are nude beaches and there are parts of the body that could go without exposure to sunlight for a near lifetime. Common conditions like crotch itch due to fungi and bacteria that survive in moist dark spaces) and certain other maladies associated with private parts would be reduced if it was not so. In the west there are some nude beaches and in the East Mystic sects that dress in nothing but the sky as brought out in my novel ‘Nude besides the lake’ ( it is available with Amazon and most online retailers), but these are mere exceptions to what is considered civilized modern behavior. There was a concept of nudist health camps introduced in some countries but the preponderance of lust on the human mind has caused such camps to produce more health harms than benefits in many cases. A better option for a modern human is to find a private space for the same.
"Would you that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment, for the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind" Khalil Gibran
May the Sun, the most visible symbol of Gracious Divinity on the planet, bring health and happiness to  readers of this post. To bring more benefits of the sun in your life and to the world, try the 'Sun Inspired Yoga'

Monday, January 6, 2014

How to Improve Fruit Orchards, Oil Plantations and the Planet

Image source:
In the previous post it was mentioned that in future farm owners may be obliged to reserve a portion of their farms for trees that could well be fruit orchards. One disadvantage of orchards as compared to natural forests is that they are low on bio-diversity and as a result they do not contribute as much to improvements in environment as  natural forests. However there is a very simple way to improve both the environment as well as fruit yield from orchards by introducing bio-diversity.

If twenty per cent, or even up to 33% of evenly distributed trees are different from the primary crop in an orchard then both the yield and the environment improves. Such orchards may yield up to one and half times the normal yield over the life of the orchard as per the author's estimate just because of improved bio diversity and soil health despite the fact that there are fewer trees of the primary crop. In addition there is the joy of a different fruit for the personal consumption and distribution by the owner if not the market. All that has to be ensured is that the other trees are not taller or wider in girth (with the exception of palm plantations where the girth would be wider) than the primary orchard tree. This method had been employed in traditional Iraq in date plantations north-east of Baghdad for centuries where other fruits of colder climates have been growing shaded by the date plantations for centuries resulting in huge yields of  good quality fruits and dates. If some or all of the other 20 percent are nitrogen fixing trees the gain is likely to be greater, read this:

Quite frequently, seeded by animal, bird or breeze a wild tree will come up naturally within an orchard. It is a good idea to leave it in and nurture it as one of the fifth trees. Being natural to the area it will contribute most to bio-diversity. Allowing or introducing wild flowers, berry bushes and mushrooms through the orchard would be even better. The bees will love the flowers and multiply faster. In orchard spaces exceeding ten acres in area do consider a pond with a stream leading to it meandering through the orchard with some fish of an edible variety in it to create the ideal ecology and ground water table as befits our wonderful Mother Earth. May She Bless such an orchard. Lakes help to store rain water and when ground water tables are high due to lakes and dams nearby, the roots of trees can find their own water from the ground even in dry months and do not need to watered. if blue water farming is done in the lake, it becomes a source of income too.

Lakes are a friend of trees

Trees that can attract bees to nest are an additional bonus for pollination and that occasional jar of honey to brighten up breakfast and the after dinner desert and health of the farmer and his family. It may be mentioned that neither the fruit nor the honey from single source orchards have the same health benefits as that from a bio-diverse source. The same strategy is recommended for almond, apple, palm and olive oil plantations. Farmers into organic farming may label their produce as oragnic and 'from a bio-diverse orchard' for that additional oomph in their marketing.

To create such an orchard, just plant every fifth tree in a row of a different fruit or timber. In an existing orchard selected trees may be removed to be replaced by others and when a forest is cleared for a plantation just leave in some original trees so that in the end one fifth the trees are the original ones. It may be worth considering if orchard owners should be compelled by law to introduce this bio-diversity.

An orchard owner may worry that it would make it difficult to manage the orchard but it would not be so with  the proper layout. A row of other trees can be planted after every two, three or four rows of the primary tree and then the primary tree can be maintained row-wise

Recently infestation is taking place in some olive groves in Europe. Such damage takes place from time to time especially in tree groves lacking bio-diversity. In the past the chestnut groves in USA were destroyed similarly. The chances of such infestations are reduced in bio-diverse orchards. In warmers regions just planting the Neem tree as some of the alternative trees reduces infection and the need of pesticides.

bio-divesre palm oil plantations are better for the planet.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The 1:20 Green Earth Initiative

 The Twenty-twenty Tree Initiative

The Twenty-twenty Tree Initiative
Since its inception around seven years ago, this blog has discussed several spiritual concepts as well as ideas that attempt to contribute towards improving the quality of life on our wondrous planet. Some of these ideas have caught the fancy of many on far off shores including a 1:10 initiative that has been taken up by the Europeans enthusiastically after appropriate modifications. This particular initiative had seeded the idea of linking maximum salaries of executives in any organization to the minimum salary within the same organization. Encouraged by such responses, this blogger is encouraged now to put forth a new idea that is not concerned directly with economy but rather with the health and beauty of our lovely planet. It is called the 1:20 Green earth Initiative here, or one may call it the Twenty-Twenty Tree Initiative.

Very simply put the idea is that it may be prescribed by law that every person who possesses or controls land of one acre or more shall ensure that he or she plants a least twenty trees per acre on his land. This law, wherever implemented in a region, province or country would apply to all individual land owners as well as organizations such as farms, homes, schools, universities, industries, trusts etc. if they own or control a piece of land of one acre or more through lease or grant. Actually a far larger number of trees can be planted on an acre of land. This law merely prescribes the minimum. In his home this author presently has more than twenty trees and a home on less than one tenth of an acre and there is a driveway and two lawns besides.

While many initiatives are afoot around the planet to increase tree cover such initiatives have lagged behind the deforestation that has been taking place on the planet over the last century. The present initiative would add oomph to such attempts and help improve climate stabilization efforts. The law briefly put would be something as follows:

Every person or organization that possesses an acre or more of land shall ensure that at least twenty trees of a height of at least ten feet from the ground grow on this land. Those following short of this prescribed minimum shall pay an annual tree deficit tax proportional to the number of trees that are short of twenty. In the first five years after this act is promulgated the height of the counted tree may be less than ten feet.

It is not necessary that the trees be distributed evenly on land. Thus a farmer with a ten acre lot can plant an orchard of 200 fruit trees in a corner of his farm to satisfy the requirement. The location of trees and the choice of trees is up to the owner and farmers may prefer timber or fruit trees. Incase they wish to harvest the timber at some later stage they may, provided they have planted or otherwise have more than twenty trees to begin with on their land. Some thought has to be given to the appropriate and simple implementation of this law because a law that is not implemented is only a piece of paper. An easy implementation is possible through a voluntary counting and submission of number of trees on their plot in January of every year. They should retain a receipt of this submission because if a surprise random check is made and the submission found to be incorrect there would be a penalty. Half the penalty would be a reward for the person who reports them. Certainly there would be several details of this law that would need to be worked out but that can be done quickly by a group of experts assembled for the purpose, once the idea is accepted. This blogger shall volunteer to be a part of such a group, if necessary, if called to do so by any region within feasible traveling distance.

This blogger was encouraged to publish the present article after listening to a prominent political leader of India Shri Narendra Modi who brought out the importance of farmers planting more trees for economic benefits in a keynote address televised on National TV in India yesterday. He is currently the chief Minster of a large progressive province/state of India- Gujarat. It is the intention of this blogger to communicate the link of this article to him. In case this initiative begins with this province it would be a fitting tribute to human civilization everywhere because as revealed by archeological evidence and ancient history, the southern coastal region of this province may well have been the originator of settled human civilization on the planet. It has been postulated that civilization spread from this southern end of the Indus civilization first toward Sumerians and then Egypt before reaching Athens and then Rome. Articles on this can be found in a companion blog by this author at

An extended version of this article along with extensions for smaller urban plots is here

More on trees in this blog here:

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mother’s Bounty Bread -Goosefoot Weed

Drying Gossefoot leaves
Today as I spread some goosefoot weed on a dining table to dry, the thought occurred that it would be a good idea to share a recipe called Mother’s Bounty Bread with readers. The name was made up for this post seeing that in an earlier post we described the Mother’s Bounty Chutney made from coconuts and almonds which is an excellent accompaniment for this bread. However it has been a common form of bread in our home for several decades.

The White Goosefoot weed (called Bathua in Hindi or Chenopodium album technically) grows wild in many parts of the world. In Asia and India in particular, it creeps into wheat fields and is removed continuously by small farmers for a healthy dish or even as cattle feed since it is so profuse and so healthy for man and animal. It is available for free in the countryside. However, it comes up only for a few months a year. Therefore, it is a great idea to dry some for the rest of the year. To do that on a small scale just spread it out on newspaper sheets or a clean cloth sheet on a dining table or any other space available to you in shade. In a few days it will dry out. It can then be collected and stored in a jar. There are several  types of this weed that grow around the world including a fleshy one in California that may be be equally healthy but my experience is limited to the White Goosefoot variety.

To prepare the mother’s bounty bread, mix about five to ten percent by volume of crushed dried Goosefoot leaves and another 20 percent by volume (one fifth) of black gram flour (called Besan and available in East Indian stores) with refined wheat flour and then go ahead and prepare your bread just the way you would prepare an ordinary bread.

Do not worry if the mix proportions are not precise. The bread will come out fine any which way just as long as you are in the indicated ball park area.  My favorite is unleavened pan fried flat bread with this. Besan may be replaced with dried pea flour but if neither is available use a little milk or butter milk to moisten the flour before preparing the bread. Each ingredient would produce its own unique flavor.

If you wish to spice up the bread, it can be seasoned with cumin seeds, crushed garlic, chopped onions and cilantro but do add a little salt for taste either way.

The best accompaniments for this bread with a meal are as mentioned, the Mother’s Bounty Chutney or if that is not around yoghurt used as a dip and a green salad. A dip made of half and half sour cream and butter milk is delicious too. It makes a complete and nutritious meal that can be had frequently to sustain a healthy and natural meat free life style.


If you are going to bake a bread in an oven out of this, begin with the amount of flour you use for your average sized bread loaf,  add the Goosefoot weed and butter milk as before, a heaping table spoon of butter, a tea spoon of salt and another half of sugar, two cloves of finely chopped garlic to the flower mix. You may add some additional seasonings lightly according to taste. Do not overdo the seasonings though, there is already enough flavor in there. The flat pan fried version comes out better with pea flour but the oven loaf is nicer and lighter with butter milk.  Mix everything very well along with a raising agent that you are used to and then bake in precisely the same way as you would an ordinary bread after wetting the mixture enough to a consistency you are used to. Even with the additions as suggested, the bread will come out about the same size because it will rise less.

For those not very familiar with baking bread yet, try out this simple recipe available online elsewhere by changing the flour to our flour goosefoot mix with two more changes. Cut down the sugar in that recipe to one fourth and use real butter instead of margarine..

It will be great toasted with just butter or Marmite for lunch. If you would like to make a dinner out of it, lay two toasted slices on one side of a dinner plate and heap on stir fried mushrooms or tuna from a can - stir fried with sliced onions and your favorite seasonings. Fill the other side of the plate with a green tossed salad with just a vinegar and olive oil dressing with a heaping tablespoon of tartar sauce on the side. I call this dinner tuna on mother's bounty toast with a tossed green salad.  A guest would love this dinner with a glass of white wine, followed later by a cup of tea and chocolates.

The Mother's Bounty Bread can be prepared by using Spinach or Drumstick leaves instead of  Goosefoot. If the leaves are not available in dry form but fresh then steam them for a few minutes and run through a blender before mixing with the bread mix. If you are worried about oxalic acid in these healthy leaves (both spinach and goosefoot have some and persons with kidney stones in the family worry about them), add a little excess water before steaming and drain away the water.
Peeping into the author's kitchen from a rear door