Category Archives: Pictures Speak

The Story of Holika

Prahlad, Holika, 13 the century Keshava temple

On the very auspicious occasion of Holi- the ‘festival of colors’ where we welcome Spring and smear each other with color while saying “Bura na mano, holi hai” (Don’t mind, its holi) I’d like to share the story behind the festival.

There are some wonderful stories in the Puranas and one of them is about Holika. 

Hiranyakashipu

Hiranyakashipu,was the king of the daityas, a clan of the asuras (danavas or divine beings with an evil quality who are always at war with the suras or benevolent devas). His brother Hiranyaksha, had been killed by Lord Vishnu, in his Varaha (boar) avatar.  Thus angered, he wanted to with gain immortality. He performed years of penance and obtained a boon from Lord Brahma that he couldn’t be killed by human or animal; indoors or outdoors; during day or night; and no weapon could bring him harm. Hence he became arrogant and believed himself to be the mightiest, more than all the devas and even Vishnu, the Supreme Being himself. He commanded everyone to pray to him and regard him as their supreme lord. But his son Prahlad, did not. Right from when he was born, Prahlad remained a devout follower of Vishnu and wouldn’t be convinced otherwise. This irked Hiranyakashipu so much that he decided to kill his own son. But all his attempts were thwarted by the mystical powers of Vishnu. One of these is the story behind Holi.

Holika was Hiranyakashipu’s sister, who had been given the boon that fire couldn’t harm her. Thus, she sat in a burning pyre with Prahlad on her lap but Vishnu intervened. A strong breeze removed her protective cloth and draped Prahlad instead; protecting him while Holika was charred. A few other theories exist– one states that Holika was actually good and sacrificed herself to save Prahlad while another says that the boon was granted on condition Holika wouldn’t use it to harm anyone. Regardless, the story symbolizes the victory of good over evil as does the festival. On the first day, Holika dahan (Choti (small) Holi) is performed and people gather and burn bonfires at crossroads. The ash from the pyre is then smeared on the forehead.

Holika Dahan

The following day is the more well known colorful or Rangwali Holi, when everyone forgetting all differences smear each other with colored powder. ENJOY! HAPPY HOLI!

“Make America Great Again”

Illustration by Santiago Caruso

Yes, let’s make America great again not by ensuring health care to all, food for the hungry and homes for the homeless, but by giving weapons of mass destruction to our kids so they can murder their friends in order to deal with their frustrations because no one is willing to listen to them.

It’s a perversity and nothing less than a disgrace that citizens of the most advanced country in the world have to lead their lives in fear. We are so worried about government tyranny that we don’t trust law enforcement to protect us instead we have to carry guns to defend ourselves. We have become a nation of gun toting vigilantes, who shoot first and pretend to ask questions later. And if some of us happen to die in the crossfire; well a great wall of greed and impotence is the perfect consolation besides of course ‘thoughts and prayers’.

This is exactly what we envisioned- a classic case of hypocrisy. On one hand we talk about advancements in technology, AI (artificial intelligence) etc making our lives easier; on the other we train our kids to prepare for the eventuality of being killed. We send them to school not to get a sound education but to participate in active shooter drills. But don’t you see it’s a ‘mental health’ problem. Isn’t it always?

Okay let’s talk about mental health. Yes undeniably it’s a huge problem in this country. I know first hand as a physician because I deal with it everyday. In fact the system is overburdened. But most people with mental health issues aren’t violent. Even those who are don’t go around shooting down innocents with AR-15s. They do so because we put the idea in their heads and provide them access. And tell them it’s okay to do so because thoughts and prayers will solve everything.

According to me and I dare to say “ there’s no place for guns in civilized society,” in the least AR-15s. According to a radiologist who treated victims in the Florida shooting said the high velocity bullets from an AR 15 cause significantly more damage than a typical handgun and should be banned. I agree. But are we ready for a conversation? No. Not even the educated and rational  want to discuss it. They love their guns. Some of my colleagues own AR-15s and say they use them for hunting and target practice. It’s a hobby. 

The right to a hobby vs that of a child to go to school and be safe. What is more important? You be the judge.

Happy 70th! What ails my country?

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I wish A Very Happy 70th Independence Day to all my fellow Indian brothers and sisters 🙂 On this momentous occasion I’d like to briefly discuss about what ails India and Indians in general. It is not meant as a criticism but as an opportunity to reflect.

Its inertia. 

Yes that’s what it is. We are so used to a life of drudgery that we have no desire to get out of it. Its become a way of life for us. We are so used to corruption and handing out bribes for every little thing that we can’t envision a life without it. Like my father (rest his soul) used to say whenever he happened to visit a government office armed with a few thousand rupees and then proceed to dole them out incrementally starting from the peon to the officer in charge: “You have to or the job won’t get done.”

People are lackadaisical. They will stand around and stare at a dying man on the street and observe a helpless girl as she gets harassed by a bunch of goons but they won’t step in to help. Why? Because its a tamasha. A spectacle like that which unfolds in a movie theater. Why buy trouble?

And we have lost our voice that independence provided us. We feel empathy, shake our heads with regret but we don’t speak when we need to.

But all is not lost. Right now I feel a new India in my veins. We are waking up and perhaps realizing that the bonds that held us down for so long are old and rusty. They can be broken. Freedom is not a fairytale. It is a reality. Jai Hind!

Jugaad–Innovation the Indian Way!

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Necessity is the mother of invention. This is no more true in India where the lack of resources and the unquenchable aspirations of the common citizens prompts them to come up with ingenuous and often insane inventions. Here is a tiny sampling 🙂

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No electricity required- ‘Mitti fridge’ (a refrigerator made all of clay)

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The Beautiful Art of Kolam

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Kolam is an age old tradition in Southern India. These are temporary geometric designs consisting of curved loops drawn around a grid of dots employing rice flour/chalk/chalk flour or oher types of white or colored powders. Female members of Hindu families draw Kolams in the front of their houses. These are also known as Rangolee in Maharastra, Hase in Karnataka, Muggulu in Andhra Pradesh and Golam in Kerala.

While living in Chennai, I have watched with fascination my mother along with several other women on our street, drawing a fresh new Kolam every morning. This would be done after cleaning the floor with a broom and then with water. They would draw what appeared to be very complex designs in a jiffy, sometimes without lifting their hands off the floor. During the day the Kolams would get eroded by people’s feet, and the wind. But not to worry. A new one replaced it the following morning.

As always these Kolums are not just decorative. They have a cultural sginificance. They are meant to bring prosperity to the house and are symbols of welcome as well. There are many other purposes, but the following is what I found particularly endearing and is probably also true. In days of yore rice flour Kolams were drawn so the ants did not have to travel too far for food. They also attracted small birds and likewise other small creatures, hence welcoming other forms of life into the home and everyday life symbolizing harmony and peaceful coexistance with nature.

Below are a few Kolam designs drawn by my cousin and her friends 🙂

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Happy Republic Day!

Happy-republic-day

On January 26th, 1950, India adopted its own constitution and officially became an independent republic. Today, when our most fundamental right of Freedom is being threatened, let us all get together, not just Indians but global citizens of the world, and celebrate this very important day and determine to fight against all those forces who wish to snatch away what we hold most precious from us.

HAPPY REPUBLIC DAY! 

ind_constitution_premble_orgThe preamble of The Constitution of India

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First Republic Day Parade in 1950

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The Indian Tricolor setting the skies ablaze.