“Happy Thanksgiving” -Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

“Happy Thanksgiving” -Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Thanksgiving message with pumpkins on a blue background

Thanksgiving is the best of all holidays. It is the only holiday like a holiday should be. It’s simple, relaxing and doesn’t require much hustle and bustle, hurry-scurry, toeing and froing other than traveling. It has basically two purposes, spending time with family and friends to the delicious feasts and counting our blessings. What can be simpler than that?

Thanksgiving dinner is amazing, of course. Every family has its own unique tradition when it comes to food. In our household we add some ethnic dishes to the traditional Thanksgiving menu. My wife is a vegetarian, I am a selectarian (leaning towards vegetarianism), some don’t eat meat except for fish and some don’t care. So, we prepare an array of dishes to satisfy everyone’s palate. Other than having a typical Thanksgiving meal, we also serve samosa, chat and pizza. Leftovers are even better. The combination of roast turkey, bread, stuffing, and cranberry sauce makes for an unbeatable day-after-Thanksgiving sandwich.

Since Thanksgiving is not affiliated with any religion, it’s one of the most inclusive holidays around. Anyone can enjoy Thanksgiving and the traditions that go along with it. Decorating is easy. It only requires placing some pumpkins at the doorstep. There is no stress of buying or exchanging gifts either. Thanksgiving doesn’t require the worry of finding the perfect holiday gift or spending a ton of money on it.

Thanksgiving really is all about, as its name suggests, giving thanks. Whether you go around the dinner table or even just make a mental note, it’s always nice to remind yourself, and others, what you’re thankful for. So, what can we be thankful for in 2020 when 1.5 million people have already died of Coronavirus and 40 have million have contracted the virus worldwide? In the USA alone, more than 2,000 people are dying of the virus every day. This is a grim statistics.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that thousands of scientists worked insatiably to discover a cure for Covid-19; the nurses and doctors risked their own lives to save others’; grocery stores employees and truckers brought food to us; people donated and delivered food to sick and needy; technology companies keep the families together through video calls; soldiers and police kept us in one piece . Yes, there is a lot to be thankful about this Thanksgiving. Enjoy the day!

“The USA Under Joe Biden, Most Probably” by Anil Shrivastava

“The USA Under Joe Biden, Most Probably” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. (Joe Biden) will be sworn in as the forty-sixth president of the United States of America on January 20, 2021. He’ll be the second Roman Catholic ever elected to the highest office. John F Kennedy was the first.Joe Biden became a junior Senator from Delaware in 1972 at the age of 30. Soon after winning the Senate seat, his first wife and one-year old daughter were killed in an automobile accident. Biden held his Senate seat for 36 years and commuted every day by train to Washington DC from his home in Delaware. He married Dr. Jill Biden, an educator in 1977. Joe Biden’s first son, Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015. He has two living children, Ashley Blazer and Hunter Biden.

Biden went through a brain surgery in 1988 due to aneurysm. Soon after that he suffered from a pulmonary embolism but still functioned as a Senator and Vice President under Barrack Obama. He served on the Senate Judiciary Committee (1987 to 1995) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee (2001 to 2003 and 2007 to 2009).Biden sought the office of President of the United States three times. He was unsuccessful in winning the primaries in 1988 and 2008. He tried again in 2020 and won the election. Once sworn in, he will be the oldest person to assume office as president at the age of 78. President Trump is the oldest person to hold the office, so far. Although he (Biden) proved to be vigorous enough to run a tough campaign against Trump, the prognosis of his health is uncertain considering his medical history and occasional forgetfulness.

So, what kind of president will Joe Biden be? Let’s count the positive first. In my view, we need a president who is experienced in both domestic and foreign policies. As the leader of the free world, one cannot afford someone to learn on-the-job. Take the case of our rivals. The President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping has been active in politics since an early age. While a teenager, he followed his father in exile where they lived in a cave. He joined the Chinese Communist Party (CPP) and became its secretary soon after graduating as a chemical engineer. Xi rose through the ranks and became the governor of the Fujian province in 1999. He developed the skill to consolidate power and became head of CPP in 2012. I am not aware of any US president since George Herbert Walker Bush (the 41st) who could boast to possess enough political experience to match the backgrounds of the leaders of China, Britain and Japan. Joe Biden has 47 years of political experience. That should be a plus in his favor.

In addition to the above, he is a fine gentleman. Recently he postponed negative campaigning against Mr. Trump while the latter suffered from Covid-19. After his son Beau died, then vice president reluctantly decided not to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2015. He confronted Putin once and said to him, “I’m looking into your eyes. I don’t think you have a soul.” I am pretty sure that he will bring civility back to the highest office in the land.

I expect Biden to maintain status quo with the pacific rim countries. As for India is concerned, his policy will be ambiguous as he will try to appease the Muslim countries aided by his pro-Pakistani VP, Kamala Harris.

At the end of the day, there are harsh realities that matter more than personal traits alone. I can foresee some caveats on the horizon that may malign his presidency. The first being Biden may have to live under Obama’s shadow. The Obamas are still very popular among the Democrats. Biden is no match to them in that respect. Mr. Obama is bitter about Trump interrupting his legacy and he may subsequently act like a pedant to Biden who may succumb to him as a sycophant. Mr. Obama has already asked him to give a cabinet position to his UN Ambassador and Security Advisor, Susan Rice who is infamous for handling 2012 Benghazi tragedy.

Unlike Trump, Biden believes more in symbolism than pragmatism. He has already indicated that he’d open the southern floodgate to illegal immigrants and remove the travel ban on thirteen African nations that was imposed by Trump administration for the sake of national security. No wonder, the terror attacks on the US soil from outside the U.S. were almost non-existent during the present administration.

Biden is likely to return international leadership to Europe. The liberals have always been obsequious to the Europeans fascinated by latter’s illusory vision of the world and socialism. Biden will return to Paris Climate Agreement which is more political than practical. With no enforcement mechanisms in place and no repercussions for failing to meet emissions reduction targets, countries are essentially free to do whatever they want, meaning they will continue on their business-as-usual without making much progress. “The initial commitments made by 184 countries that agreed to the Paris climate accord in 2015, it’s found that only 36 countries have made pledges that could conceivably reach the 2030 goal.” (Source: Universal Ecological Fund). “Meanwhile, contrary to popular belief, the U.S. is making progress on climate change. Overall, the country’s carbon emissions fell 1.7 percent last year. Looking at energy-related carbon emissions in the last five years, the U.S. has experienced a roughly 6 percent drop” (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration). We need to know the facts instead of just being overwhelmed by emotion and media spin. Biden will also join Iran Nuclear Agreement. As a result, of all the above, the Europeans will award him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021.The economy will keep prospering under Biden as the economic machinery will revert to its full steam due to the availability of Corona vaccine. That may make it difficult for Mr. Trump to come back in 2024, but no one knows the future which is always unpredictable. Who knew about Corona Virus that became the reason for Trump’s defeat anyway?

“The hand of fate is on me now
It pick me up and knock me down
The wheel of fortune keeps turning round
Turning round, turning round.” -The Rolling Stones

“Let’s Learn from 2020 and End the Agony for Ever” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

American presidential election is a mess and it must be simplified. The biggest problem with the presidential election process is an absence of a uniform directive to govern the election across all states. Every state in the Union has its own convention regarding this matter. This provides room for the Secretary of State of each state to manipulate the process to his/her own party’s advantage. For example, Democratic-run Nevada decided to extend the deadline for receiving the ballots to November 10 – a week past the election day.

Pennsylvania ruled to accept mail-in ballots up to three days after the election day. At least seven states explicitly allow voters to change their ballot if they have voted before election day. Wisconsin even allows voters to change their minds up to three times before the vote becomes official. Although there is no evidence of ever applying this law, Kentucky’s constitution prohibits idiots from casting a ballot, however, a person must be ruled an idiot by a judge.In Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan absentee ballots can’t be counted until 7 a.m. on Election Day by state law. Thus, ballots take far longer to process than many other states. Many states have different rules about allowing observers to monitor vote counting. In some Democratic-run cities such as Detroit and Philadelphia, the ballot-counters were alleged to hide the counting from the Republican observers. Some ballot bags in Philadelphia, surprisingly, contained ballots for Mr. Biden only. I have no evidence to support those allegations.

The United States is the most advanced country in the world in many respects, but when it comes to voting they need to learn from India, the largest democracy in the world. “Many of the Indian politicians may be corrupt and criminals but when it comes to voting and tallying the votes, they run a squeaky-clean machine. Voting in India is conducted by electronic voting machines (EVM). More than 2.3 million EVMs were used in 2019 general elections all across India. GPS devices were fitted in the EVMs to monitor their movement. The EVMs allowed vote counting to be completed in up to three hours compared with manual counting, which could take 30 to 40 hours. The electoral body also used digital cameras, videotaping of speeches and the use of wireless networks during the election process to avoid any foul play. One more thing, Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines were used along with EVMs at all polling stations to allow voters to cross-check the votes.” (Source al-Jazeera)

In India all the voters are allowed to vote on a given date by region and all the results are announced on a pre-determined date. In 2019 General Election, 553 million eligible voters turned out to vote. They all voted and the results were counted on time to give Mr. Modi’s party an undisputed majority. Keep in mind that unlike the USA where we have a two-party system, India fielded 8,251 candidates representing 464 different parties in 2019. The sole inhabitant of the remote Gir National Forest in Gujarat, home to Asiatic lions, had his own polling station complete with his own electronic voting machine.

Thanks to the complications, president Trump has refused to accept Mr. Biden as a genuine winner due to the alleged irregularities in voting and vote counting process. He is suing a number of states demanding either a recount or nullify the ballots received long after the election day. The winner, eventually, may be decided either by the U.S. Congress or the Supreme Court.

To add to the confusion, the next president will not be officially elected until December 14, when electoral college votes will be cast and collected. The United States Constitution doesn’t require that the members of the electoral college vote for the winner. They can vote for any candidate they choose to. Over the years, 165 electors have not cast their votes for candidates who had won in their states.

It doesn’t end there. The electoral votes must be certified by both the Senate and the House on the sixth day of January.

“Congress shall be in session on the sixth day of January succeeding every meeting of the electors. The Senate and House of Representatives shall meet in the Hall of the House of Representatives at the hour of 1 o’clock in the afternoon on that day, and the President of the Senate (the current vice president) shall be their presiding officer.” (U.S. Code 15).

Let’s hope that the present nightmare ends soon and a uniform election law in all the states of the United States of America is implemented before 2024.

“Youth is such a wonderful thing” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

The passing of Sean Connery, the original James Bond 007 today (October 31, 2020) took me back to the decade of sixties. I entered my teenage years as the decade of the sixties began and reached the prime of my youth as it ended. I was just getting aware of the intriguing world of national and international affairs. That was a decade of anticipation – anticipation of completing school, entering a career, romance and marriage and a call to start believing, dreaming and start creating. There was a Peter Pan inside me reminding me that I had the ability to fly and rise up to my truest potential.

I didn’t know that I’d be a part of a generation called the baby-boomers. I don’t particularly like that term, but that’s a label that is stuck with me. I loved the hippies and flower children coming to India from Europe and the USA in search of peace, love and drugs. I met many of them during my visits to Kolkata and Delhi. I grew long hair, extended side-burns and donned bell-bottom pants to conform to the trend.

Sean Connery was an enigma. He was not like today’s movie stars who are in your face all the time. He was so beloved that he was shared like folklore. Who can forget his grand entrances as Agent 007 in James Bond movies? Talking of grand entrances, Ursula Andress, the first Bond girl’s ingress on the beach in Dr. No was the most mesmerizing of all.

In that period, I also gained awareness about the United States of America. I remember following the Kennedy-Nixon election, reading about Cassius Clay defeating Sony Liston and the US falling behind then Soviet Union in space race. I also remember the thrill of America ultimately winning the space race on July 20, 1969 by landing two men on the moon – “That’s one small step for (a) man. One giant leap for mankind.”

Assassinations of John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy left a deep scar in my heart. I didn’t like Americans being that violent. Vietnam war was at its peak. There were lives lost including the My Lai massacre where 500 innocent Vietnamese were killed. There were widespread protests in the US against the war which grew into a broad social movement over the ensuing several years in parallel with the Civil Rights Movement. I was being exposed to the slogans like “Black Is Beautiful” and “Black Power” for the first time.

I saw and watched television (black and white) for the first time and was amazed at the advancement in technology. The decade ended with Richard Nixon in the White House, Indira Gandhi at the helm in India and I being introduced to the daily grind of a working life.

Those memories are still deep down somewhere within my psyche. With the end of the sixties, my bout of fantasy with the world had ended. I was astonished to feel the complexities of the real world. That was quite a rude awakening for me. My innocence was stolen by a thief called age. When I expressed my frustration to a wise man I met on a bus during one of my desultory trips to Shimla (a hill station in India), he said to me, “Youth has no age. There are no limits and anything is possible.” I remember his words and live on with that kick.

“Who Wants to be VP?” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

As we are on the cusp between electing a new president and keeping the present one, partisan voices are relentlessly attacking us from all directions. Those unwanted demagogues are violating our privacy through social media, robocalls, television ads, talk shows, door-to-door campaigning, and unsolicited leaflets.

The fact remains that regardless of who we elect will be as flawed as we are. After all, he will represent us and our conscience. The good news is that the next president will have the freedom to do the right things without worrying about pleasing his base. Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Biden will seek the office again, one limited by the term-limit another because of the age constraint.

Although I wish every candidate a long life, it is important to ponder about the possibility of the elected president dying in office, thus giving way to his VP to the highest office in the land. This is important considering the age factor of the two presidential candidates. After all, nine vice presidents in the U.S. became president after the death of their predecessors.

John Tyler was the first VP to assume presidency when William Harrison (the 9th president) died of pneumonia 31 days after taking the oath of office. Four VPs assumed the highest office due to the assassination of the president. Andrew Johnson, the first president to later become a US Congressman replaced Abraham Lincoln after his assassination in 1865. Chester Arthur became president after James Garfield died in office in 1881, six and a half months after being shot by an assassin. Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt became the youngest president to assume office after William McKinley was assassinated in 1901. He was, probably, the most famous VP to become the president of the Und States. He assumed office when he was 42 years and 322 days old. The next president to be assassinated was John F Kennedy who was the youngest president ever elected to the office of the president. He was 43 years and 236 days old on the day of assuming the office of the president. Kennedy’s VP, Lyndon Johnson got the dubious honor of taking the oath of office in mid-air aboard Air Force One while returning from Dallas after Kennedy’s assassination. This was resented by Mrs. Kennedy and many of Kennedy’s faithful. Other VPs who became president due to the death of their predecessor were Millard Fillmore, Calvin Coolidge, and Harry Truman.

Of all the VPs who later became president, Gerald Ford’s case was unique. He was an accidental president. Spiro Agnew was Richard Nixon’s VP who pleaded no contest to the charges of bribery and money laundering brought against him and later resigned in disgrace. Ford, who never ran for VP’s office was chosen to become VP to succeed Mr. Agnew. He later became an accidental president after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace on August 9, 1974.Only John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin van Buren (the first president to be born in the U.S.), Richard Nixon and George Herbert Walker Bush were elected president as direct successors to the president they served under.

The two vice presidential candidates in 2020 are the current VP Mike Pence (Republican) and Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat). Let’s look at their records to help us decide who will be more suitable to succeed their bosses, if elected.”

In 2003, Kamala Harris became the District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco. Among her achievements as District Attorney, Harris started a program that gives first-time drug offenders the chance to earn a high school diploma and find employment.” (source govtrack.us)Over the course of her nearly two terms in office, Mrs. Harris won a $25-billion settlement for California homeowners hit by the foreclosure crisis, defended California’s landmark climate change law, protected the Affordable Care Act, helped win marriage equality for all Californians, and prosecuted transnational gangs that trafficked in guns, drugs, and human beings.”

“She became a US Senator in 2017. She was one of eight Democrats to vote against the passage of a trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada that would replace the North American Free-Trade Agreement.

“She supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ single-payer bill and Medicare for all. She also proposed a prescription drug plan that would allow setting a fair price no higher than 100 percent of the average price for that drug.

“Harris supports banning hydraulic fracking, but that’s far from her only energy or environment proposal. She co-sponsored a bill to prohibit offshore drilling in federal waters and in the Atlantic Ocean.

“Her first bill introduced as a senator was designed to make sure that people detained by Customs and Border Protection at ports of entry into the United States have access to legal representation.”(source govtrack.us)”Mike Pence was the governor of Indiana from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that he served as a U.S. Congressman from 2001 to 2013. As a governor, he initiated the largest tax cut in Indiana’s history. He also signed a bill to restrict abortion”

Pence is pro-life and believes in Christian values. During his tenure as governor, Pence supported significant increases in education funding to pre-schools, voucher programs, and charter schools.”

As a governor, Pence inherited a 2 billion dollars budget deficit. Later he pressed for a balanced budget amendment to the state’s constitution. He is a defender of the Second Amendment and supports NRA.” (Source: In.gov)As a VP, Pence gained foreign policy experience. On February 5, 2017, Pence warned Iran not to test the resolve of the new Trump administration following their ballistic missile tests. Pence made several trips to Asia-Pacific region meeting with North Korean and Japanese leaders in an effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

On February 26, 2020, President Trump named Pence as the leader of the White House Coronavirus Task Force to combat the spread of the corona virus. Though he has worked relentlessly to combat the virus, the jury is still out on his effectiveness.

As I said earlier, who becomes VP is very important this time. Please give your consideration to this matter and use your judgment.””

Humor: “We Remembered Christopher Columbus” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Christopher Columbus discovered America on October 12, 1492 just like I discovered the United States of America on March 17, 1974. How can anyone discover a place that already exists? Anyway, yesterday was a holiday in honor of Columbus discovering America. For the record, Columbus never actually walked on North American soil; he only went to the Caribbean and Central America.

Regardless, our family and I remembered and honored the memories of Christopher Columbus by lighting Indian Diyas (cotton wicks laced in butter) below his picture and singing devotional songs in his praise. We invited our family priest to sprinkle holy water and rice on Columbus’ picture and asked him to narrate to us the story of Christopher Columbus. This is an Indian tradition. This is how we honor great men and women in our culture.

“We must honor and respect Christopher Columbus. He is the reason we exist on this land today. Had he not discovered this land, we couldn’t have been born or immigrated here,” our priest continued, “Columbus was a great man although he did everything wrong in his life. He was even born in a wrong country. He should have been born in Spain instead of Italy. He Later realized the mistake and corrected the course by first marrying a Portuguese woman and then deciding to move to Spain where he lived with his newly found mistress.”

Columbus wanted to be a spice merchant, but he ended up becoming a slave merchant instead. India was rich in spices, so he set out to go to India after procuring grants from Queen Isabella I of Spain. As a part of his habit, Columbus took a wrong turn and ended up on a wrong continent called the Americas. He was so befuddled that he called the native people Indians.

The New World that Columbus encountered was a wasteland devoid of any spice. Poor Columbus kept on looking for ginger, turmeric and cinnamon. He needed something, at least enough, to fill the kitchen rack of Queen Isabella I back home. Columbus returned home with three boats full of indigenous slaves as he had nothing else to show to the queen.

The queen was preparing a special meal to honor Columbus and needed the spice. Columbus kept on insisting that he had actually found spices, but left the sacks back in India by mistake. So, he was granted another voyage to go back to India and bring the lost sacks of spices. This time Columbus brought a tree bark from Trinidad that looked like cinnamon. He leaked the bark in front of the queen and kept on uttering “yum, yum, yum.” The queen was convinced and sent Columbus on his third voyage.

This time Columbus exterminated the entire population of Hispaniola’s indigenous people by mistreating them and bringing them as slaves to Spain. Those who were left died of European diseases brought about by Columbus and his crew.” The priest, thus, ended his sermon.

In retrospect, Columbus was lucky not to go to India. Sikandar Lodi, then the Sultan of Delhi was moving his capital from Delhi to Agra.  He was looking for a few healthy men as movers. I am pretty sure that Columbus and his crew would have ended up working for the Sultan and would have ended up in the famous mental asylum there.

In the end, all of sang the Oscar winning song “Jai Ho” and feasted on Tacos from Taco Bell, Columbus’ favorite food in the New World. Oh well, It was a nice day. How was your Columbus Day celebration?

Current Affairs: “An Act of Domestic Terrorism” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

The arrest of six members associated with Michigan Militia on October 8, 2020 for alleged conspiracy to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, attack the capitol building and instigate a civil war is reverberating in all corners of the world. Seven conspirators are accused of attempting to find the home addresses of law enforcement officers to target them and making threats of violence intended to harm them.

Private militias are armed military groups that are composed of private citizens and not recognized by federal or state governments. However, the citizens, except in Wyoming, are not prohibited from forming such groups. Militias have been formed by individuals in America since the colonial period. In fact, the Revolutionary War against England was fought in part by armies comprising of ordinary citizens.

“They’re not ‘militias.’ They’re domestic terrorists endangering and intimidating their fellow Americans. Words matter,” the governor said in a tweet which means that she recognizes the right to form militia as long as they are not involved in terrorist acts. The legitimization of militia is embedded in the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment grants the right to bear arms for self-defense and for rebellion against a tyrannical government. “When a government turns oppressive, private citizens have a duty to insurrect, or take up arms against it.” In this case nothing of the sort happened, so this was a pure act of terrorism.

The Constitution recognizes two kinds of militia:

· The National Guard and Naval Militia

· State Defense Force

The National Guard can be called by the federal government whereas State Defense Force is in total control of the state alone. Although the states of the United States can’t wage war against each other, Ohio and Michigan fought the War of Toledo in 1832 over the border issue.

Issues apart, what happened in Michigan is despicable and frightening. This is not the first time that Michigan Militia has attempted to terrorize us. They were also responsible for the April 19, 1995 bombing of the federal building in downtown Oklahoma City. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols of Michigan Militia were the main culprits in that incident. We should all recognize the danger of home-grown terrorism and immediately ban and disarm such organization. They shouldn’t be protected by any party as vote banks. It’s time to be safe and civil.

“Accent and the Man” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

After living in the Midwest region of the United States for 47 years (a lifetime), I still have an accent. And who doesn’t? My problem is that my accent doesn’t fit in any of the familiar categories, New England, Pacific Northwest, Southern, Midwestern, Cajun, Hawaiian, Native American or African American.

I have noticed that the way one speaks a language is heavily influenced by his/her first language. I started out with Bihari-Indian accent (Bihar is a state of India) and that still sticks with me. No matter who we are, we all have accent. John Travolta’s accent is different from Tom Cruise’s and Bill Clinton’s is different from Barack Obama’s. So, what’s a standard accent? Like beauty, it’s in the eyes of the beholder (ears of the listener in this case).Yet people frown upon those who sound different than the people living in the region. The most ridiculous case in point is the superior air with which a person, who has spent some time in Boston, looks down upon the average person of the South.

The last time I visited Boston, I had a hard time ordering food through a drive-through speaker. I got so frustrated that I drove to the window and placed my order with the server. She was a Korean woman who had an accent of a different kind. Her ears were tuned to the Bostonian accent though. We couldn’t understand each other. Ultimately, she called the manager who took my order.

When I sat down to eat, I had a momentary flash of annoyance that a person, whose work is to fashion a sandwich from the ingredients in front of her, should have so much trouble following a simple order. Then I realized that, in a country where English is a second language to 67.3 million people and in a city where 25% are foreign-born, it was I, the customer, who should learn to cope with the limited linguistic skill of a low-wage server.

It is well-known that in the US people are discriminated, if they seem to speak with an unfamiliar accent. There is a bias against the non-native accent. This is true everywhere. When I worked in Delhi, India, I was made fun of at work because of my Bihari accent which was not Punjabi sounding. It happens everywhere in the world.

Of course, we want to be understood when we speak. Our intonation of words must bear a reasonable semblance to the expected sound of the words. This has become easier thanks to the internet. You can click on any word in a dictionary and hear the right sound, and you can do so in any major language. But to strive for the correct pronunciation is a far cry from the inane attempt to ape the ‘correct’ accent. However, I’ll keep trying. Who knows? Someday it may just come to me.

“I Can Sense Spirituality in Someone when I See One ” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Very few among us understand the real meaning of spirituality. At least I don’t. Still we use spirituality ambivalently and indeterminately and often mistake it for religious observances and dictum. When it comes to spirituality, we are like “men in the mist.”

Most people equate spirituality with religion. Religion is about dogma whereas spirituality is about thought and behavior. As a matter of fact, spirituality involves belief in higher form of intelligence and consciousness running the universe. I am not trying to imply that religion is void of spirituality, but religion includes a myriad of other topics too that camouflage the true meaning of spirituality and leave it to various interpretations. If in doubt, talk to two different religious scholars and find out what I mean.

According to some in the West, spiritualism is a speculative and subjective term that may mean medium, ghosts, afterlife, healing, heaven, hell, supernatural and mysticism. Spirituality is also considered a separate arm of religion by some that includes communicating with spirits, paranormal power and witchcraft.

According to Hinduism, spirituality is inner purification by transcending ordinary nature and perceptual consciousness to higher states of consciousness. The Buddhists consider spiritualism as the elimination of suffering through enlightened state and understanding of reality. Most scholars all over the world look to either Hinduism or Buddhism when it comes to defining spirituality.

I have not done any critical study of any book on spirituality except for reading “Mandukya Upanishad” on the recommendation of my friend, Dr. Ramesh Patel. Another time my father asked me to read some of the essays written by Aldous Huxley, the British philosopher (1894-1963 AD) when I was a teenager. (My father often asked me to read passages and write their summaries ). I gathered that Mr. Huxley was not much impressed by the prevalent expressions of spirituality, yet believed that through faith one could transcend dogma. He was an agnostic when it came to religion.

Huxley referred to alternative spirituality that believes in transcendental idealism (Later I came to know that Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller were other proponents of transcendental idealism) and combines both the Hindu view of spirituality and Western materialism.

I personally knew a person who died at the age of 99 in 2014. He was a teacher and lived in a village four miles away from the nearest big city where he taught math in a middle school. I’ll call him Mr. Prasad (his real name was Mr. Parmeshwar Prasad). I recall my first glimpse of him when I was around three or four years old and lived in the same village, at the time, as Mr. Prasad did.

Mr. Prasad lived in a house made of mud and bricks. He didn’t have many possessions other than a bike, a flashlight, a pair of shirts and a small plot of farmland . The village used to get totally dart after the dusk. Mr. Prasad would return to the village in the dark riding his bike holding the flashlight in one hand and balancing the bike with another. He used to do private tutoring after the school for additional income that his wife and two children depended on.

Mr. Prasad had a very pleasant mannerism and was loving to all the children of the village that included me. He was always content with what he had and didn’t ever complain about lack of money or amenities. I saw him for the last time in 2013, a few months before he died in sleep. He had retired from his school job, but still continued private tutoring. He still had the same pleasant mannerism that he permeated decades ago.

That made me think about spirituality. I am neither a scholar nor an erudite by any means but I am perceptive and inquisitive by nature.According to my thinking:

· Spirituality is having faith in something beyond the self. That ‘something’ can be God or a higher power.

· Spirituality is being aware of oneself and knowing how the self is connected with the universe and other organisms around us.

· Spirituality is taking fortune and adversities in stride as phenomena of life. In other words, it is performing one’s duties with a smile while coping with challenges in life (performing one’s karma).

· Spirituality is seeking happiness beyond material possessions or other external rewards; having compassion and empathy for others and wanting to make the world a better place.

As you can tell from my writing, my pursuit of spirituality has been sketchy at best. But I can say one thing for sure that I can sense spirituality in someone when I see one. In my opinion, Mr. Prasad was a spiritual person.