Teerth Yatre

The Yatre (journey) took us through four different worlds. All at the same time. We kept flipping from one world to another. Each of us were going through the worlds independently, yet we seemed to meet in one of the worlds (let’s call this one “reality”) once in a while. Time moved extremely slowly. It was like TDMA (time division multiple access) was going through our minds, as we went through the four or five worlds simultaneously.

Parts of the human brain are sequential and parts are parallel. I discovered during the course of the Yatre that our minds are equipped with a parallel, maybe even superscalar, processor. However, certain features such as context switches are not very well developed in human minds so this capacity is seldom used. The human mind prefers linear processing and thus most of the time, all but one processor is shut. And there is a continuous stream of thought that allows us to “execute”.

Those like me with ADHD seem to have an easier time in context switching. While this results in a generally higher level of mental output, it also means that there is greater discontinuity in thought. This discontinuity in thought leads to what psychiatrists term as ‘lack of executive functioning’. “Executive functioning” as us humans have defined it depends on a single train of thought working continuously to get things done.

The Teertha (holy water) however ensures that all human beings, ADHD or the lack of it, become equal, and opens up the superscalar processes in people’s heads. It is like everyone who imbibes it reaches a state that is an advanced level of ADHD. Four or five streams of thought. Parallel inhabition of four or five different worlds. And constant switches between the worlds. One moment you have a sense of achievement. The next you are paranoid. Paranoid about getting through the madding crowd and back safely to the dirty hotel room.

Fifteen minutes past six, we are on the way to the river bank to watch the world-famous aarati. An eternity later (but with the watch only showing six twenty) we see a chaat shop on the way and decide to imbibe some chaat. Another eternity later, some parallel thoughts drive us to the aarati, the rest recommend stopping at the restaurant for an early dinner.

I order pav bhaji. Four pieces arrive. In my journeys through the various worlds, I think I’ve spent an enormous amount of time eating it. During fleeting visits to “reality”, though, less than one piece has been eaten. The rest of the table also consists of plates with a lot of leftover food. I break a piece of pav. By the time I bring it to my mouth I’m in another world. And when i return to “reality” the piece of pav is still in my hand, uneaten.

The final bit of the teerth yatre is the most surreal, when we have to get back to the hotel. We are in no mental state to tell our driver where to reach us. We decide to take cycle rickshaws. To get to a cycle rickshaw, though, we need to go through a sea of humanity.

We don’t know where we are going. We hold hands. In the moments when we are in “reality” we check if we are still together. In the fleeting between-moments, we worry about losing each other. We do our independent trips of the other worlds (I think we have our own set of worlds and the only intersection is “reality”). We independently worry where we are going. The sea of humanity means that traffic is rather slow and there is little chance of being run over. Yet, we worry.

The teertha in question is a product of this tiny store at Godowlia Chowk called “Mishrambu”. It came highly recommended by a friend who had studied at the Banaras Hindu University. It was sweet, laced with dry fruits and nuts, and dollops of butter. “Shall I put a little or more?” asked the kindly shopkeeper as he displayed a dirty-looking green paste from a small stainless steel box. In one of those collective fleeting moments of bravado we asked him to put ‘lots’. Maybe our inexperienced showed up there.

So what if we had gone to Varanasi and not seen the famous Ganga Arati? So what if we didn’t take the boat-ride to see the various famous ghats, and instead settled ourselves in a rooftop cafe on the banks of the Ganges (we were the only Indians there)? So what if we went all the way to the Kumbh Mela and spent our time mostly clicking photos and walking around, and didn’t venture close to the river?

We’ve undergone the most exhilarating Teerth Yatre ever. I’m not sure any of the religious experiences could match this parallel journey across four worlds.

On reliably asking for help

Last evening while I was trying to teach the wife to ride a geared motorcycle, a middle-aged woman accosted us. She told us that she was a teacher from Hiriyur (Chitradurga district) and had lost all her money and needed help for her bus charge to go back to town. This sounded suspiciously similar to the couple from Nagpur with a similar story that I’ve encountered a few times, and so I told her off, rather rudely I must say.

She seemed to be taken aback, and hurled some curses on me as she walked away, and then my wife pointed out that there were some things about this woman’s story that made it sound genuine. So now I wonder (given that it is a finite possibility that I might be stuck in an unknown city without money) what one needs to do in order to reliably ask for monetary help – given that fraudsters abound (if I had been convinced that this woman wasn’t a fraud I would’ve helped her out, so let’s take that as a given).

Here are some points that I can quickly think of:

  • Location – would you think someone who would come to you in a residential area (Jayanagar) where not too many people were walking around, and ask for help if they really wanted money? Wouldn’t they rather try at bus stops, or even get on to buses and try get the ticket off a conductor or a fellow-passenger? Or considering that this lady had to make an inter-city journey, wouldn’t it be more reliable for her to have somehow got to the bus stand and asked someone there?
  • Persistence – after I’d told this woman off, she just kept hanging around, and refused to go after I told her in no uncertain terms that I’m not helping her out. Wouldn’t you expect people who are really in need to be more rational and try and look for other sources rather than hanging on to the one person she sees on the street?
  • What you ask for – again ties back to the first point that it might be easier to convince people to buy you a ticket than give you money. Or if you were to walk up to a shop and ask to use their landline phone? (mobile doesn’t work, since that’s a well-known method of swindling mobiles; was once tried on me in Bombay)
  • Abuses – when you are really in need, and someone doesn’t help you out, you don’t loudly abuse them when you go. You’d rather quietly slink away and try your luck elsewhere .

I must say that the woman was rather “respectably dressed”, and before she started abusing she spoke “good Kannada”. It’s just that I wasn’t convinced she wasn’t a fraud so didn’t give her any money.

In any case, what signals would you look for when someone were to come and ask you for monetary help? And what signals would you try to give out if you were to ask for monetary help?


Happy Birthday 2

So today this blog (on this website, not the earlier avatar on LJ) celebrates its second birthday. I request you to join me in wishing this blog a happy and prosperous second birthday.

It has been an interesting journey since I moved my blog to this website exactly two years ago. Initially, readership just took off, but for a combination of reasons I had to slow down the pace of my blogging sometime late last year so you don’t see this blog as prosperous as it used to be last year. Oh, talking about monetary prosperity, this blog has to date earned a sum total of two dollars in Google Adwords earnings.

I have a resolution to celebrate the second birthday of this website. Starting today, I’m going to make an effort to set aside at least ten minutes every day and write one post on this blog. I must warn you that the quality of writing might go down, that there might be occasions where I might be forcing myself to write which might compromise on quality and stuff, but at least there will be stuff to read. It saddens me looking at the amount of NED that I’ve been putting (on a website of the appropriate name) over the last few months resulting in a fairly barren blog, and strong resolutions like these, I think, are necessary to take this blog back to its glory days.

I still stick to my promises – no more posts here either on arranged scissors or on studs and fighters. Another disappointing thing I need to mention is that I haven’t really been able to do much work in terms of those two books. I hope to start some positive work in that direction towards the end of this year, I hope.

I must take this opportunity to thank you people, my readers, for helping me make this blog successful. I hope you continue to enjoy reading the stuff here and that my readership will grow.