“Serena Awarded Nobel Peace Prize for Misbehavior” A Satire By Musafir

OSLO/Timbuktu: Serena Williams was declared the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 for her efforts in ridding the world of women‘s inequality in tennis circuit, moral values, and intellect, refusing to accept penalty from referee Ramos during the US Open Tennis finals match against submissive Naomi Osaka of Japan, throwing and breaking her tennis racket in anger and telling the referee that he was a thief.
There was widespread celebration all over the world after this announcement. “We’re having a blast,” said some peace-loving citizens of ‘Free the Nipple’ and ‘Happy Period’ communities. Many others took a break from tattooing, piercing and binge drinking to join the revelry.
“Serena has been the key to transforming our society “from a world of hate to a world of love,” committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said while announcing the award in Oslo.
“We specially laud her work in connecting with the young rowdy tennis fans,” he added.
The ex-VP, Al Gore is said to have welcomed the news. He was later heard asking some reporters if he would be entitled to a second Nobel Prize in physics this time. He then addressed a press conference and said: “Serena is the ultimate symbol of women’s equality and she has brought the gender discrimination in tennis world to the world stage through her foul mouth and misbehavior.”
In the midst of all these celebrations, a controversy has broken out. The New York Post reported this about Naomi Osaka, “It’s hard to recall a more unsportsmanlike event. Here was a young girl who pulled off one of the greatest upsets ever, who fought for every point she earned, ashamed.”
Another champion of women’s rights, Rosie O’Donnell criticized New Your Post and shamed Naomi Osaka by stating, “Of course, Osaka should be ashamed for her timid behavior — at least, needs to apologize to all the women of the world. Women like her are the reason for male dominance. These Japanese girls need to learn expletives, filth and profanity from American women like Serena and me.”
Famous tennis player Billie Jean King and a pioneer of open lesbianism among women tennis players expressed dismay at umpire Carlos Ramos’ treatment of Williams on Twitter, writing that female players are often treated differently than male players in all kinds of sports.
There is a nationwide protest planned against referee Ramos for saying that, “He has penalized male players like Djokovic and Nadal in the past. He also cited how McEnroe was disqualified from Australian Open and given a three-month suspension during the US Open.”
The woman president of US Open was upset over Ramo’s remarks, “For better or for worse… we have made someone a poster child for women’s equality. No one can snatch that honor from Serena.”
Meanwhile, Americans have praised the choice of award and are living by Serena’s maxim, “I’ll keep on abusing referees until we reach to an equal playing field for women.” Some intellectuals have recommended the Pope to beatify Serena for her insight into theology, “Men and women are created equal.”
“I’ve seen some scary things,” she said at the time. “I’ve seen people being locked up and put in jail for taking drugs, for being gay, for not practicing religion, for not dressing the proper way. Yeah, it’s scary. But what it made me realize is how lucky I am to defy every norm. We still have a long way to go.”
Shrivastava ‘Musafir’, Anil. Humor Happens: My Witty Encounters (Kindle Location 371). Think Club Publication. Kindle Edition.jan 19 osaka


“Equanimity, another Favorite Word of Mine” By Musafir

It’s very upsetting to me. A big chunk of our shower tile in the master bedroom broke loose and fell on the floor. It’s such an inconvenience. I have to climb stairs every day and use bathrooms on the second floor. It’s expensive to fix the tiles. One contractor told me that this doesn’t happen in a normal course. My house must have some structural problem. The possible problems, inconvenience and expenses are giving me restless nights. Should I just sell my house and move to a condominium? Should I sacrifice my lifestyle? The possible consequences have taken away my peace of mind.

Suddenly I get reminded of life in the old country where I grew up. I return there vicariously. I see young boys and their mothers working on construction sites carrying bricks on their heads under unbearable heat. I see anemic laborers working in paddy fields in the hope of bringing dry chapatis (Indian bread) for their family to eat. I see passengers riding on the roof of the train compartments to reach their destinations risking their lives. I see women and children begging for pennies with a smile.

It is that smile that separates suffering from joy and connects one human to another. With poverty a way of life in these parts, many have come to embrace their situation in life with equanimity—a calm acceptance of what is. Rather than struggle against what is going on, always seeking more and better in a never-ending cycle of desire, through acceptance, life can become a joy despite the circumstances.

I also see middle-class Indians exposed to the extreme wealth of the western world. They are as unhappy as I am now. They are desiring faster computers, bigger houses, luxurious cars and other gadgets. They are unhappy because for them acceptance of the situation is not a way of life. They are becoming just like me.

I should learn to have respect for the people who have the ability to accept the “good” and the “bad.” Trivialities like “it’s raining so I can’t go outside” or “there’s no Splenda for my tea so I can’t drink it” shouldn’t even register. It’s raining, accept it. There’s no Splenda, accept it. Rather than getting bothered by such things, I should look to people who come from less material cultures spend more time enjoying what is than complaining about what’s not.

After all, if I get into the habit of looking for what’s wrong, I’ll always find something wrong. Saving that time complaining about difficulties or worrying about problems should open me to gratitude for the things I do have. I should learn from the toil and grind of a difficult life most of the world goes through. The most important part is finding a balance that comes from equanimity and gratitude.

“Victory and defeat are a part of life, which are to be viewed with equanimity.”
– Atal Bihari Vajpayee, just deceased former Prime Minister of Indiajan 19 atal

Religion: “Life Is Good” By Musafir

Religion: “Life Is Good” By Musafiroct 18 religion

The other day I got this sad news that one of my friends’ son in India committed suicide. He was a successful computer engineer with all the gizmos and amenities in the world that he could have. How could a young man so successful decide to end his life? Did a dark emptiness lie hidden under the material achievements of his exterior self, something that I could not comprehend? This question kept tormenting me from inside.

Very recently some suicide cases made big news. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. They were people that millions aspire to be. An international fashion designer of high repute, Kate, was beautiful, successful and full of life. Why even people so resourceful couldn’t handle their depression and ended up wrecking their lives and ending them? I am pretty sure that they must have consulted counselors and psychologists. Maybe science has not found a lasting cure for depression yet or, maybe, it’s not permanently curable by counseling and medicines alone.

Science has its limitations until it is complemented by religion. Science provides us comfort and convenience through material advancements, but it doesn’t teach us how to relish them for a lasting pleasure. In other words, science provides us means to be live but only religion teaches us the art of living. Most of us achieve bodily comfort without cultivating inner knowledge and intellect. And that is the problem.

Our educational system and parents teach us how to make a living not how to live life. We must teach our children and learn ourselves about other two faculties, mind and intellect through religion. Religion is not only about rituals and stories. Religion teaches us how to obtain harmony in our lives by balancing body, mind and intellect. If the religious practices we follow are void of this essential ingredient (harmony through balancing body, mind and intellect) then it is not religion. Probably, it should qualify as a myth or something akin to black magic.

Lastly, religion also teaches us that happiness is the true nature of man, fear is not. We should decide to remain happy in all circumstances. What will ultimately happen will happen. We can only do our karma and hope for the best. Not only Gita and other scriptures but even Shakespeare said:

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,”

Life is good; enjoy it. Just thinking!

Religion: “An Idiot’s Guide to Hinduism” By Musafir

We hear complaints from Hindu diaspora about western leaders and institutions circumventing Hinduism in their statements and discussions. Many westerners including some law-makers characterize Hinduism as a pagan religion that is the practice of worshipping many gods and their idols. The Abrahamic religions namely Christianity, Islam and Judaism condemn polytheism and idolatry. They equate Hinduism with inexistent Greco-Roman religions where many gods and their strange myths were devotionally and blindly accepted by the masses.

There are fallacies and some truth in the above statement. Let’s deal with the fallacies first. Hinduism may appear as a pagan religion to the outsiders due to the images of many god forms displayed in temples and Hindu homes. The truth is that the Hindus pray to one God despite accepting many images of the same Almighty. The Hindus believe in harmony, so they accept different forms of the same God from different regions and cultures. As a matter of fact, even images of Christ, Mahavir and Buddha can be found in many Hindu homes. Thus a plurality of gods does not denote polytheism in Hinduism but rather the plurality of the forms in which the same one God might appear. When I visit a South Indian temple, I pray to Venketesh, at the same time I pray to Vishnu in North Indian temples without ever distinguishing between the two.

Hinduism cannot be equated to old pagan religions as the latter didn’t have core beliefs which define Hinduism. Some key beliefs of Hinduism are mentioned below:

1. Hindus believe “eka brahama dwitiyo nasti,” there is one true God who is a real entity that encompasses everything (seen and unseen) in the universe.
2. Truth is one though the wise may express it in a variety of ways.
3. Everyone should follow dharma which consists of right conduct, righteousness, moral law, and duty.
4. Soul and Moksha. A Hindu believes that the individual soul (atman) is neither created nor destroyed; it has been, it is, and it will be. Actions of the soul while residing in a body require that it reap the consequences of those actions in the next life — the same soul in a different body. The goal of the individual soul is Moksha that is liberation- release from the cycle of death and rebirth. It occurs when the soul unites with Brahman by realizing its true nature. Several paths can lead to this realization and unity: the path of duty, the path of knowledge, and the path of devotion.

Unfortunately, many of the misconceptions are created by Hindus themselves. Many Hindus have no concept of the above mentioned facts. They also believe in ridiculous myths similar to the Greco-Roman pagans. There are open infights between various cults in Hinduism. We should not only preach true Hinduism, we must also understand its true nature and follow in our daily lives.
Moreover, all the Hindus should be able to understand and explain the differences between Hinduism and the Abrahamic religions. Monotheism in Abrahamic religions represents the denial of gods in God, while the monotheism of Hinduism represents the affirmation of gods in God. Failure to recognize this tempts the followers of Abrahamic religions into branding Hinduism as pagan.

oct 18 pagan

Idle Thought on A Saturday Afternoon By Musafir

I have noticed that I have begun to avoid making or receiving phone calls. In the beginning it felt odd when my boss and I (next door) started communication through voicemail (VME). Now not talking on phone is a second nature to me. I love to hide behind the sanctuary of my screen. I was not like that before.

I remember weekend chats with my siblings, cousins and elders. Now we communicate through social media instead. I don’t think that I am alone in the adopting this new social norm. No one picks up the phones anymore. Businesses do everything they can to avoid picking up the phone.

We are not to be totally blamed for this new social attribute. We simply have a myriad of communication options today than had before. Text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Email, Instagram have made the ring obsolete. I personally have started feeling more comfortable with asynchronous communication than appearing vis-à-vis. That doesn’t interrupt with what I may be doing currently and I feel more prepared to answer any questions that the other party may have for me later.

There are also other reasons for avoiding phone calls.  Perhaps 80 or even 90 percent of the calls coming into my landline phone are spam of one kind or another. Now, if I hear my phone buzzing from across the room, at first I’m excited if I think it’s a text, but when it keeps going, and I realize it’s a call, I won’t even bother to walk over. There are unsolicited telemarketing calls. There are straight-up robocalls that merely deliver recorded messages. There are the cyborg telemarketers, who sit in call centers playing prerecorded bits of audio to simulate a conversation. There are the spam phone calls, whose sole purpose seems to be verifying that your phone number is real and working.

Well, I am not alone. According to an article in The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal writes, “This happened 3.4 billion times last month, where someone had to make the decision to pick up or to let it go.” Despite all that, I prefer to talk to my loved ones, especially my five-year old grandson face to face. I dread the day when he will stop communicating with me face-to-face and will use social media instead. I’ll certainly miss the feel and warmth of his personal touch then.oct 18 phone

Book Reviews The Coalition Years 1996-2012 Author: Pranab Mukherjee Published by Rupa (India) Kindle Edition

oct 18 pranabPranab Mukherjee is a former President of India who chronicled his political experiences in a series of memoirs. The Coalition Years – 1996-2012 is one in the series with some profound revelations about his party and political colleagues.

Pranab Mukherjee has been in in Indian politics for four decades as a parliamentarian and a key member of the Congress Party that ruled India for six decades. Many in his political party dominated by Nehru-Gandhi family believed Mukherjee was the man who should have become Prime Minister. When it became clear that the party leadership would not give him that job, he accepted the Presidency.

The years 1996 through 2012 were a very dramatic period in Indian politics. It was the time when the Congress Party’s leadership (Sonia Gandhi) decided to forge alliance with other regional parties to challenge the growing influence of BJP, the current ruling party of India. Pranab Mukherjee was the only leader who dared to voice his opposition to this decision. Congress lost prestige and influence as a result of ignoring him.

In his preface he has shown concerns about Sonia Gandhi and his successor and son, Rahul Gandhi ascending to the throne of the party in a muffled tone. He is open about his differences with Manmohan Singh (then Prime Minister of India) and with Sonia Gandhi on their approach to politics and economics.

He has openly criticized Sonia Gandhi (a Roman Catholic of dubious reputation) for her role in imprisoning the Kanchi Shankaracharya (equivalent to a Hindu Pope) for a prolonged time stating that “if Indian secularism didn’t allow for the arrest of a Muslim cleric before Eid, the same principle should apply for Hindu priests as well.”

The Coalition Years is written in a lucid English covering the years in turmoil – a good read for history enthusiasts. – Reviewed by Musafir

Commentary: ‘Beware of Groupthink’: By Musafir

oct 18 groupthink

While I was growing up in India, Hindu-Muslim riots occurred very frequently. Strangely, we had very close family friends who were Muslims, but they used to become indifferent during the riots. Though they didn’t directly participate in violence, they were sympathetic to the Muslim rioters. Similarly, we Hindus didn’t express any antipathy towards the Hindu rioters.

Our behavior used to change because of Groupthink.

Groupthink is a subconscious occurrence in which one starts thinking the way people around them think. This has to do with us maintaining conformity with others in a group. It is always easier to agree with the general majority than disagree, even if it is not the right thing to do. Eventually that behavior becomes a social norm and acceptable. The same happened with Nazi Germany as more and more civilians either became Nazis or silently supported their power. That Groupthink phenomenon got worse as the Holocaust started. It became something that hardly even weighed on their conscious, it seemed so normal to them.

The term Groupthink was coined by Irvin Janis, a social psychologist in 1972. He blamed the fiasco at Bay of Pigs to Groupthink by John F Kennedy and his advisers. Jani suggested that what had happened in the White House might be similar to what happened among ordinary citizens in the groups he studied for his research. He stated that participant in Groupthink often develop a “pattern of concurrence-seeking . . . when a ‘we’ feeling of solidarity is running high.”

It can be said that decision to invade Iraq was a result of groupthink. Groupthink in the Bush administration led the nation into war. Bob Woodward wrote that in moments when the president “had someone from the field there in the chair beside him, he did not press, did not try to open the door himself and ask what the visitor had seen and thought.”

Today we see more and more signs of groupthink both in conservative and liberal arenas alike. This can have a very dangerous outcome if we don’t realize the peril and change our behavior.

There is a growing trend among neoconservatives to blindly abide and respect authority. There are increasing incidents of belligerence, combative approach among them toward people they find threatening. They seem to support authoritarian aggression, which is favoring the use of strict, tough, harsh, punitive, coercive social control. Their thinly veiled racism and blunt, bullying language are becoming more and more apparent.

The same is true for ultraliberals. They seem to resort to name calling rather than debate the issues. Ultraliberals attempt to shut down or ban conservative speakers from coming to college campuses. All they need is an authoritarian leader to lead them to bring violence and division in our lives.

We must recognize the symptoms and dangers of Goupthink which include the illusion of invulnerability, rationalization of superiority, the tendency to overlook negatives, and the fear of challenging authoritarian decisions. If not checked, it may destroy us in the long run.

“Cry Havoc! And let slip the dogs of war,

That this foul deed shall smell above the earth

With carrion men, groaning for burial.”

(Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar)

Observation: “In a Dark, Endless News Cycle, the Thailand Rescue Gave Us Light” By Musafir

The US news media didn’t talk much about this because it happened in an area that is not considered strategic in their point of view. Nonetheless, that doesn’t diminish its sigoct 18 thailandnificance. I am talking about the rescue of twelve boys and their soccer coach in Thailand.

The rescue team and the whole nation of Thailand undertook a heroic mission as it strained every nerve to save the 13 who were trapped inside a cave. Laughter and tears go together. Humanity is still relevant and alive in Thailand today.
However, the rescue is not without grief. In the midst of the celebration by the 13 families, there is an unmistakable sense of gratitude as Saman Gunan, a former Thai navy diver who lost his life in the rescue effort. A nation thanked and grieved for its hero who set an example of altruism for all of us.

The 18 days were marked by dimming hopes, a sudden discovery, and the race against time to save the lives of the boys and their coach. Yet what made this story so powerful and absorbing was seeing humanity at its best. The rescue is a true inspiration. It has underlined what can be done when humans overcome their fears, pull together and put others first.

Twelve children were swallowed by the darkness last month. They have re-emerged into the light, and this was palpably evident from the visuals of the rescued that have gone viral for close to a week. The boys themselves, with their coach’s encouragement, have shown extraordinary fortitude.
In a divided world, the rescue has been a model of international collaboration. US military personnel, British rescue experts and specialists from China, Australia and Japan worked alongside the Thai authorities and the people in a heroic effort.

In an era of greed, many involved are unpaid volunteers. In an age of narcissism, they have shunned the spotlight. Amidst division, rancor and killings in different parts of the world, the successful mission to save the boys’ football team offers inspiration. There may be hope yet in a strife-torn world.

Friday Fun: Pleasure of Air Travel: By Musafir

oct 18 princess

The year was 1982. There were no online bookings or pre-checking at that time. Not having any luck finding a cheaper flight on my own, I called the airline.

Representative: “Okay, so there are two fare options on that ticket: $287, which is non-refundable and can’t be changed or $431, which can be changed with the applicable change fee and is our recommended ticket,” said the agent on phone.

Me: “That’s not bad. How much is the change fee on this kind of ticket?”

Representative: “$200.”

Me: “…I’ll do the $287 ticket.

Representative: “But it can’t be changed. You’ll lose the full amount if you change plans. If you get the $431 ticket, you can change the ticket and just pay the change fee.”

Me: “Which is $200, yes?”

Representative: “Yes, Sir.”

Me: “I’ll take the $287 ticket.”

Finally on the day of travel I made it to the security line when the agent asked, “Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?” To which I replied, “If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?” The agent was so mad that he put me through special screening and further interrogation. That made me miss my flight.

I went to the ticketing again where I had to pay extra for another flight. I was signing the receipt for my credit card purchase when the clerk noticed I had never signed my name on the back of the credit card. She informed me that she could not complete the transaction unless the card was signed. When I asked why, she explained that it was necessary to compare the signature I had just signed on the receipt. So I signed the credit card in front of her. She carefully compared the signature to the one I had just signed on the receipt. As luck would have it, they matched.

On boarding, I was seated next to a young mother with an infant in her lap and a toddler seating next to her. Soon the stewardesses started their safety routine, “In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are travelling with more than one small child, decide which one you love the more.

“They are cruel,” the mothered murmured.

“I know, must have watched Sophie’s Choice” I replied and pretended to go to sleep.

After the flight reached its cruising speed, the mother next to me pushed the call button and asked the stewardess if the pilot could shut off one of the jet engines so his children could sleep peacefully.

Stretching up from my seat, I scanned the plane. As far back as I could see, people were pinched between fellow passengers packed like cigarettes. Suddenly the mother had to change infant’s diaper. She got out of her seat with a great difficulty. I realized that child birth couldn’t have been more difficult than her ejecting from her seat. The narrow aisle of the plane was jammed with passengers lining up for toilet. Having no other option, the mother lay the infant in the aisle in an attempt to change the diaper. Soon I heard the scream of the stewardess,” Get out of my way, so I can finish serving drinks to the other 70 passengers on board.”

To add to the misery the plane suddenly dropped violently because of an air pocket while we were eating. The woman next to me cuddled both her children and started making scary noises every time the plane went down. “Ask the pilot to find a different route,” she shouted.

“He won’t,” I replied, “they are dare devils and obstinate.”

“Doesn’t turbulence bother you?” She asked.

“Turbulence? That’s OK, I’m used to it. I’m married.

“I was married too.”

“What happened?”

“He died two years ago.”

“How ‘bout this infant?” I was curious to know.

“I said he died; I didn’t,” she answered.

The landing was worse – the plane was shaking when we were descending and then we just landed with this really big thump that felt like the wheels were bouncing on and off the runway.

Finally the pilot announced, “Thank you for flying with us. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”

Commentary: “Putin 4, Trump 0” By Musafir

Oct 18 TrumpRussia may not have won the World Cup of soccer but it certainly beat the United States squarely during the summit between President Trump and President Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Putin, a seasoned politician and a trained KGB operator manipulated and dominated over a novice politician and a successful real estate magnate, Donald Trump. I am an independent thinker and am independent in my political views. Knowing the quality of leaders and their hidden agendas in both the political parties, I consider clinging to any one party as an insult to my intellect.

One of the many reasons I voted for then candidate, Donald Trump was his stance on a strong America and because he came across to me as someone who would not be compromising when it came to America’s interest. Disappointingly, Mr. Trump not only looked enervated coming from a tough European tour, I never saw his picture so filled with ennui before. In terms of a soccer game Putin beat him 4-0.

Goal 1: Mr. Trump declined to side with US intelligence over Putin: “”I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said during a joint news conference. Trump’s statements amounted to an unprecedented refusal by a US president to believe his own intelligence agencies over the word of a foreign adversary and drew swift condemnation from across the partisan divide.

Goal 2: President Trump sounded flattering to Putin whereas the latter was steadfast and restricted in his views about his relationship with The US. Here are the excerpts for comparison.

In answer to a reporter’s question, “Do you hold Russia at all accountable or anything in particular?” This is what Trump said, “Yes I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. And I think we’re all to blame.”
He further added, “I think that the United States now has stepped forward, along with Russia, and we’re getting together and we have a chance to do some great things, whether it’s nuclear proliferation in terms of stopping, have to do it, ultimately that’s probably the most important thing that we can be working on.”

When a reporter asked the following question to Putin,” If I could follow up as well. Why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election, given the evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies have provided? Putin answered,” As to who is to be believed and to who is not to be believed, you can trust no one – if you take this — where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him?”
He defends the interests of the United States of America. And I do defend the interests of the Russian Federation.

Goal 3: “Well our militaries do get along.” Instead of criticizing Russia over supporting the Assad regime’s massacre of 400,000 adults and children in Aleppo, Syria, Mr. Trump seemed pandering to Putin with these words, “In fact our military is actually have gotten along probably better than our political leaders for years but our militaries do get along very well and they do coordinate in Syria and other places. Ok? Thank you.”

Goal 4: Annexation of Crimea was not discussed: Russia in 2014 annexed Crimea from Ukraine, eliciting widespread international condemnation. The U.S. and European Union enacted sanctions against Russia for its role in the annexation and Russia was removed from the Group of Eight, now Group of Seven (G-7), over the move.

However, Crimea was not mentioned in the press conference by either leader because Peskov, a Russian diplomat said Putin may be willing to compromise on other issues but not Crimea. Prior to the summit Mr. Trump had implied the U.S. could discuss recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea during the summit in Helsinki, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Crimea is off the table.

In conclusion, Putin got what he wanted –prestige at home and a world audience. The fact that Putin made Trump wait for an hour before the summit started, and that the American spoke in glowing terms about their future relationship—without mentioning Crimea, election meddling, or the Novichok poisoning—makes Putin seem in control. While Putin put America down mentioning the assassinations of Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. and by condemning police brutality against minorities (One-on-one with Chris Wallace), Mr. Trump appeared as a sycophant at his best.