Monday, January 31, 2005

Flying an Airplane

This came to me as a total surprise. I was in a restaurant with my good old friend and Darshan (Sai Young Adult) called and asked me if I was interested in flying an airplane as his brother Pranay, who is a pilot, was in town and they were renting a jet. I delightfully agreed.

The next day I got into the 4-passenger jet at Chandler Municipal Airport with Pranay, Darshan's Dad Manmohan Uncle, and his cousin Mini. Mini was the pilot as Pranay helped her as a copilot. We flew to Scottsdale airport where we exchanged ourselves with Swami, Vish and Sai Madhavan uncle. While Manmohan uncle, Mini and I were waiting at the Scottsdale airport, they flew for sometime and came back. Then we got into the plane and this time I was the pilot, with Pranay helping me out from the copilot's seat. That was a truly amazing experience. I made so rigorous turns and twists with the plane that Mini who was sitting at the back got sick. The controls were very sensitive and the plane was turning really fast. I had to try hard to keep the movements to the minimum, yet directing it to the destination. Pranay helped me out whenever I was going overboard and things were going out of control. Sometimes it was scary as were more than 3000 feet above the ground. I took off the plane from Scottsdale airport and safely landed back in the Chandler airport. It was a memorable experience for me. You can find the photos from the whole event here.  Posted by Hello

Monday, January 17, 2005

Protecting Religion

This week's study circle is lead by Priya with the topic 'Protecting the Religion', which turned out to be a very useful discussion about why and how religion is important and why certain rituals are followed. Some of the questions that were asked are given below. The discussion given here is by no means the summary or the consensus reached in the study circle, but merely my interpretation of the questions and what I got out of the study circle.

1. How should we protect the religion?
2. If the religion is all about moral values, why are the various rituals followed in different religions?
3. What is the reason behind one converting from one religion to another religion? Should we prevent this conversion and if so, how do we prevent it?

Many people agreed that the main way to protect the religion is by understanding and practicing it perfectly, so as to say 'lead by example'. But another question that needs to be answered here first is 'Why should we even protect the religion?'. If one understands the religion properly, it is merely a set of moral values and by not following the moral values or by misunderstanding them, the religion can lead to dangerous effects, for e.g., Bin Laden preaching that he is doing the job of God by killing fellow human beings. He may be doing the right thing in his own way, but religion never says that revenge or taking human lives is a way to set things right.

The next question was the most important and useful one as I thought. Even though the moral values are the essential goal of any religion, the rituals are like maps are guidelines to follow the spiritual path or to achieve the destination. A common layman may better be able to understand the essence of spiritual scriptures like Vedas, Bible and Koran by following simple daily practices or rituals than sadhana or self-meditation. Every ritual in each religion has a deeper meaning and good moral values associated with it, and is yet simple enough to follow by everyone.

If we put the conversions that are happening due to money, hunger, and other related matters aside, everyone agreed that the main reason for conversion from one religion is due to ignorance and lack of love. The one who is converting from one religion to another one is ignorant of his own religion and does not understand the true meanings of the rituals and practices followed and is attracted by the loving nature and the knowledgeable personalities from the other religion. The person who is influncing the other person to convert to his religion is ignorant his religion and feels that his religion is superior to the other religion and forgets the important fact from his own religion that there is only one God. Religion is merely a way to realize the true self and merge in God by following different spiritual practices.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


Yesterday I got a call from Meseret, my recruiting manager from Microsoft that I have been offered a summer internship with MSN Search team at Microsoft. Since my dissertation research closely relates to the goals of the MSN Search group, this provides me an opportunity to see the real applications of my research and contribute it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

No More Courses!

As I was talking to Martha (Graduate student advisor at ASU), I realized that I have completed my PhD coursework (I initially thought I had to take one more). So I don't have to take any more courses, heyy.. From now hopefully I can spend more time in research. I plan to defend my proposal in the end of Spring 2005 or during the Fall 2005 semester. Lets see how that goes.

Monday, January 10, 2005

New Year Resolutions

From now onwards, I plan to blog regularly about our weekly study circles. For those of you who don’t know, I participate in (mostly) weekly study circles with other Young Adults from the Sai Group, where we discuss about various spiritual, personality related, and general topics. Last week’s study circle topic was New Year Resolutions. Darshan lead the study circle with the following questions.

  1. What is important in your life?
  2. How much time do you spend in trying to achieve these important things?
  3. What would happen if you found out that you were to die in 7 days?
  4. What would you try to do in those seven days?
  5. How much time would you allocate in the day for achieving these things?
This was a very interesting study circle because the first few questions made me think about my material, career and life oriented goals (like my PhD proposal defense, summer internship, life partner, life after my PhD, etc.) but as the study circle progressed the attention shifted entirely to the character. The things I thought of when I will die in 7 days were service and life partner (quite interesting, isn’t it) unlike many others who thought about their family. The service aspect of my answer related to the research and teaching career I want to pursue and the summer campaigns I want to hold. So in order to mould myself in order to accomplish them in the end, the change has to come in my character, in terms of being more kind to people, controlling my emotions and help whenever possible. Swami (Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) always says ‘The End of Education is Character’ and this study circle enforced the need to develop that character.

A New Addition to My Room

This is the new picture of my room with the new baby being the world map. I was never good at geography, especially with Europe and Middle East. Hopefully this will quench my thirst. As I look at the world map, I noticed that Russia and Canada are such big chunks of land, yet we often dont hear much news from those parts of the world. Possibly the cold makes those places harder to live (remember the famous story of Napoleons attempted invasion of Moscow?). Most of the famous places in the world are concentrated on the lower part of Europe (where the countries like UK, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, etc. are located), US, and Indian subcontinent :) I guess its high time to plan for a Euro trip. I have to see how soon that will happen.

Looking back at last week, it was a lot of fun. Research wise, we submitted a journal paper, which is gratifying. I started off my new year by a visit to the sin city. You can check out the pictures here. The others in the pictures are Ramya, Pavan, Sanjay and Pradeep. More about that trip later. Later in the week, thanks to the potluck at Anand's place, after a very long time I went to a bar (didn't drink anything though), tried to go to a dance floor and finally settled in a middle eastern restaurant called Oasis. This is an amazing place, located on the Apache road in Tempe. It features belly dancing, hookah and good food. This is a good place to hang out if you are living around Tempe area.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Cool Gadgets in 2004

As I was reading today in News about Samsung’s OLED panel TV, Motorola’s technie jacket, Sony’s portable playstation, etc.., I thought about some of the cool gadgets I owned in 2004. I am really fascinated about electronics and I always lose myself when I go to an electronics store. These are some of the electronic gadgets I purchased in 2004.

  • Well the coolest gadget I bought in this year is an Olympus C-5060 Wide Lens Camera with 5MP and 4x Optical zoom. That camera was truly amazing, it provided me an opportunity to explore about various photographic concepts and technologies. You can read a review about the camera here. I could not certainly afford this camera, but the Imagine Cup prize money came in handy when I wanted to buy this.
  • I wouldn’t say this a cool gadget, but it was certainly a very useful gadget. I purchased a Dell Inspiron 8600 Laptop with a built-in DVD Writer before I started my summer internship. It was more of a media center to me than a work machine, though I often remote desktop to my school computer and work.
  • Another cool gadget I bought towards the end of the year is a Sony Dual Alarm Clock Radio with CD Player. After the WWW paper submission in November and finals, I started sleeping for more than 10 hours a day and I thought its time to buy a good alarm clock and this one sounded pretty nice. It replaced my Sony boom box and I am quite happy with it, although I wished it had a headphone jack.
  • Some of the other gadgets I bought in this year are a Logitech Home Theatre system and a Sony Ericson cell phone which replaced my Samsung black & white phone.

All this makes me look like a material person. Well, if you live in this material world, you can't help but be a little bit materialistic. And one of my new year resolutions is to become less materialistic and reduce my expenditures.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy New Year 2005!

I wish you all a very Happy and Wonderful New Year 2005. I hope this year brings success, peace and happiness in your lives. I want to keep my tradition of analyzing the past year and being hopeful for the New Year and here is a brief summary of my experiences.

Good Bye to 2004:
With all of your blessings, this year has been a pleasant journey in my life, except for the year-end tsunami effects. Even though there are many important moments in this year for me, I will describe some of the key things I have gone through in this year. Firstly the HoldingHands project (which most of you know, this project has won us the third prize in Microsoft's Imagine Cup competition) helped me both personally by providing an opportunity to work with a wonderful bunch of team mates and professionally in terms of meeting several successful personalities in the industry. I finally got to taste some of the flavors of industry through my summer internship at Humana Inc. which I enjoyed very much with a wonderful team and in a beautiful city. I managed some progress in my research, as our poster got accepted at a good conference, and we submitted another paper towards the end of year. This paper ate out all my resources to the fullest extent and tested my limits. And I also had some fun in the year in terms of writing a skit (inspired by another skit we did at previous year's Sai retreat) and participating in it as part of Ugadi celebrations. I also completed the vicious circle by taking all the courses offered by my favorite professor at ASU (which are actually not required for my program of study) and managed to perform decently. Overall, the year 2004 has seen some of the best in me and hopefully helped me to make some progress in my spiritual journey.

Welcome to 2005:
Looking forward to the year 2005 and continuing my journey at ASU, I am hopeful that this year would be as good for me as the previous one. Some of the important things I will be dealing with in this year are my PhD Proposal Defense which may be either at the end of Spring semester or at the end of Fall semester, summer internship which hopefully be in one of the research institutes, and finally finding a life partner :). With the blessings from all of you, I hope to achieve a little bit of success in each of these things and discover new heights.


Recipe for a Happy New Year. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Anonymous

Take twelve fine, full-grown months; see that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor and hate, cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; pick off all specks of pettiness and littleness; in short, see that these months are freed from all the past-have them fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of Time. Cut these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts. Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time (so many persons spoil the entire lot this way) but prepare one day at a time.

Into each day put equal parts of faith, patience, courage, work (some people omit this ingredient and so spoil the flavor of the rest), hope, fidelity, liberality, kindness, rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing- don't do it), prayer, meditation, and one well-selected resolution. Put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of good humor.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Aryan Invasion Theory

Well, I must agree that I am not a regular blogger. You can see that from the frequency of my posts. My last post was on 12th February. I have been following some blogs recently and was just curious to maintain my own as I have enough time to kill. I will try to be regular in posting my blogs from now.

Yesterday, I had a discussion about Aryan Invasion to India with my roommate. I was never a strong believer of that theory, but this discussion questioned my beliefs. For those of you, who are not familiar with this topic, it is about the history of India and Hinduism. The following links will help you understand the background.

According to this theory, the Hindu culture prevalent in India is due to the migration of Aryans from European countries,
somewhere between 1800 and 1500 BC. This theory further says that the Aryans would have brought with them their own Vedic religion, which was codified in the Vedas around 1500 to 1200 BC. However there were many disputes against this theory, especially in traditional Hindu community. To get a feel for the other side of the coin, let me point you to the sources that contradict this theory and prove why this theory is invalid. But if you observe carefully, most of the sources that contradict the Aryan Invasion theory are from Hindu societies and organizations like ISKON. So these articles may be biased.

Ultimately, I think that we are too limited with knowledge and resources in order to decide what exactly has happened in past. But whatever the history may be, the only thing we need to agree upon is that there is only one religion, the religion of mankind. All different kinds of practices in various religions are just various ways to help us follow the right spiritual path.

Let me know what your views on this topic are.