Why is depression on the rise? part 2

Continuing with this topic, there are some common causes for people to often get depressed in life. This includes consistent failures/setbacks, losing a dear one in family ( parents/wife or children), health issues such as incurable diseases, financial problems/debt, and even hereditary from family. There is no perfect one stop solution to address the effects arising from varied sources. But to understand why this generation suffers more than previous can be studied and discussed.

One of the main understanding is the way my generation lives. My generation has been dependent on technology more than all the generations combined. I have already mentioned about the facebook effect, and other social media exposure. But along with that, the lifestyle itself is enormously altered by today’s technology. The way we eat junk/fast food leads to health effects such as obesity and which thereby leads to a bad physique. No wonder then guys and girls feel terrible about their looks, and this acts as a domino effect to trigger their moods. Not being in shape makes them feel jealous of those who are in good shape, and thus the mental trauma starts. People then step into gyms and fitness programs, but not everyone can manage to get in ideal photogenic shape. This all adds up in depressing thoughts and lack of self worth. So, as simple as eating habits can even lead to increase in depressive thoughts.

Failure in achieving a goal or aim in life is one of the most common causes to get depressed or even commit suicide. Failing in competitive exams like IIT entrance or going bankrupt in business, failing to fulfill parents wishes, or even failing to become famous actor or actresses are some of the most common failure driven depression. I have seen one of the friends commit suicide due to low grades in grad school. We all know the infamous Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case. I was shocked to read that India has the highest suicide rates in South-East Asia. And the fact that there is an infamous forest in Japan called ‘Aokigahara’ known as ‘Suicide forest’. All this shows how serious depression can get. But unfortunately, the society always blames the one who does the act. But what conditions made him do the act is hardly questioned. There is one famous movie ‘The Social Network’, based on Mark Zuckerberg’s life. In one of the scenes, Sean Parker tells Mark about the story of Roy Raymond. The case of Roy Raymond is a perfect example of what can failure and depression do. But the movie scene also conveys the underlying message that if we don’t want to end up like Roy Raymond, we need to keep working hard, and never quit. It seems like Mark took Sean’s advice pretty seriously, and that’s why Facebook has become one of the richest companies in the world. But I do feel that not everyone can become Mark, and blaming Roy ( which the movie scene unfortunately does) is not the solution to get away from depression. It was obviously Roy’s mistake to give up, but the situation that made him do so is also equally culpable.

Then, this generation is also living in a nuclear family unlike my parents or grandparents generation, which used to live together. Adding to that, is the nation’s family planning policy ( China’s One child policy or India’s ‘Hum do, humare do’ Two parents and two children policy). Many couples today cannot even afford to raise two children, and hence, many of my generation are raised alone. Due to rising cost of living, it is increasingly becoming difficult to a make both ends meet with a single earning. More ever, we see that the kids and teenagers often spend their time in playing video games, on social media and watching movies. Things even go worse when friends get together and get involved in wrong habits including smoking, social drinking, or even violence. Unlike previous generations, today’s teenagers and young adults often find themselves alone without support from family. Hence, they try to find like minded groups or even to pass time online, by making friends with unknown people in online chat rooms, or on dating sites. This always does not work, and can lead to addiction, or even sexual harassment, which further leads to depression.

Relationships have never been so fragile before as seen today. Just like the hire and fire corporate culture ( better known as Trump’s culture), breakups and patchups have become the current norm in romantic relationships. The options to find a partner have increased through dating apps like Tinder, OkCupid, Aisle etc. Many of them provide a platform for speed dating or even casual dating, with no stings attached. Many of the couples who want to date casually find this convenient, and they carry on a ‘Friends with Benefits’ type relationship. But the problem is human mind does not comprehend such type of relations. Things can speedily go from casual to serious for one of the partners, but the other one might not accept this. And so this leads to breakup, but emotional attachment is something cannot be erased overnight like swiping on such apps. So, such type of online dating and casual relationships often leads to heartbreaks and headaches, and soon they find themselves depressed and undergoing therapy.

Then, I find a sense of serenity missing in my generation. I have seen my grandfather and even parents having a feeling of serenity towards life and its problems. ‘Come what may‘ was the attitude they had towards problems which came in life. They did not get depressed when things did not work out, or when they had to walk on the path filled with thorns. Maybe because the previous few generations had seen some of the toughest time in human history, be it wars, fight for independence from colonialism, fight against poverty & inequality etc. But inspite of all the problems, they were mentally strong. They did not give up easily. But this generation is exceptionally blessed with all the comforts and leisures. This is also the fruit of the hardwork which our parents and grandparents did back then. That’s why we are living a good life, with abundance of resources like food, clothes and tech gadgets. The kids today get whatever they want, many times they don’t even have to ask for it. This lifestyle has led to a loss of value in achieving things. Ofcourse, there are many teenagers and young adults out there who do value what their parents have given them. But the attitude to face problems of life with serenity cannot be taught in richness or through books. Only life’s tough experiences can teach it, and hence, the excessive luxury with which my generation has been living has made them more vulnerable to lose faith or get depressed easily in life when things go on a rough side.

Thats why, we are seeing more and more people getting depressed in life. As discussed, there are many reasons and we do not have one perfect solution to solve it. The combination of modern technology, food habits, family structure, affluent lifestyle, social pressure, boundless aspirations etc have lead to rising cases of depression and even worst in suicides. I do believe that inspite of all the education or technological prowess, my generation should learn about mind and act like social humans. Today’s capitalist and market driven competition makes us run towards more education, better jobs, higher salary, hefty bonuses, enormous profits in business, getting the job done, make and break relationships, fast food and drink culture, and many more vices. As mentioned before about the example of Roy Raymond, it can be said that he was a perfect victim of a capitalist driven system where one mistake can end up losing confidence, hope and life at the end. Ofcourse, there is nothing wrong to work for a better standard of living, which can certainly be obtained with good education, better job prospects and good salary/business only. But only achieving these things is not life. As J K Rowling wisely said in her harvard commencement address,

personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life..

J K Rowling

However, There is No Alternative to go back towards old living like our grandfather’s generation did. We have to progress ahead and we cannot go back. But we can know our mind, and take things calmly. Meditation can be of great help here. Spiritual practices are known for making us calmer, and peaceful inside. But more than anything, the first thing to cater this problem is the awareness and acceptance towards this issue of depression, and thereby suicides with an open mind is extremely important. Only then can we solve this problem, and save lives. This post should not end here, but rather make the readers think and act to do something to help those who need a ray of hope in their life!

Why is depression on the rise?

To find out why are we getting depressed more…

For a long time I have been thinking to write about this topic. 2020 has been a very unfortunate year. Not only due to Covid-19, but also due to large number of suicides in bollywood, and other parts of the world. Most of these deaths are due to either anxiety about uncertainity of future, or relationship issues which also leads to stress. Also, the pandemic has certainly exacerbated the stress levels in most of us. I have been in Art of Living for a while, and one of the main initiatives of the organization is working towards reducing the stress and anxiety amongst the people, as stress often leads to depression. As per WHO, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. And even more disturbing fact is that every 40 sec, one person in the world commits suicide. Most of us are either not aware of this, or very often we overlook these facts, assuming it will never happen in our life. Only, when this hits in our life like a brick in the head, that’s when we realize how serious this problem is.

Stress, anxiety, and thereby depression is not something of a recent change in our life. Even our forefathers, and ancestors have had some element of stress in life. It could be due to poverty, wars, epidemic, or even oppression from colonial masters ( like British did back in India and other parts of the world). I could not imagine how much stress the jews in the concentration camp might have underwent with the constant threat of getting gased, alive! So, I do not say that stress is a modern age issue, or I am not being a luddite to blame technology for this as well.

But what we all are seeing ( especially the medical professionals, mental health experts and even spiritual advisors) is the significant rise in stress and anxiety levels in the last few years. So, I am wondering why would this be, when today, if for a moment we keep aside the dangers of nuclear holocaust, or even avoid getting into the politics of poverty, war or pandemic, we see that human life has reached quite an advanced level when we no longer have to worry about food shortage, staying warm in winter, or cold in summer, communicating with our dear ones over long distance, or fast and reliable transportation etc. Our life has never been so better, simpler, fast and comfortable in the history of human civilization.

Then, the question still lingers is why are we suffering from depression inspite of all the modern technologies and gadgets at our service? This seems like it has to do something with human nature itself. I do not say this is an endemic human trait. Rather, it is more so linked to our habits ( which could be technologically influenced, like for example, getting depressed after seeing goody-goody posts from a friend on facebook or instagram.) or even forgetting about our purpose in life ( which happens when we are too much involved in the joy ride which life offers).

One of the peculiar expectation which we often have is we should never have problems in life. This expectation itself is flawed. We wish all we had is only good times, and bad times should never occur in our life. No one wants to struggle, or witness failure. Though there is nothing wrong to be hopeful of good times, but expecting that we should never see problems is one of the reasons for being anxious, which leads to depression. When we become rich, or successful, we all wish it never goes away. But this leads to consistent fear of losing what we have achieved, and then we do not even enjoy what we have. Rather, we just keep working or worrying to not lose this. If we keep doing this everyday, then I won’t be surprised to see depression knocking at our door!

Similar thing happens when we compare with others. As I mentioned about the facebook effect before, comparison with others is an excellent way to get depressed. And this explains the rise in depression in the last few years. Because we have developed all the perfect tools to compare and thereby get depressed on a large scale. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube are some of the best mediums to express our ideas and thoughts, but at the same time there are also perfect destination to harness the vices of jealousy, envy, comparison and narcissism. Yes, because we just do not look at our posts on the wall, or see our uploaded content. We see others, and we start comparing. Though this can also be looked from the prism of learning, and making us better. But more often, we take it in a negative way, which leads to consistent thinking, worrying, and being obsessed about others. Getting more likes, comments, views, shares, emoticons, followers becomes our obsession and sooner or later, we find our mind occupied with only becoming more famous or good looking than others. Isn’t this a perfect receipe for making stress in our mind?

Gurudev Sri Sri RaviShankar, the founder of Art of Living says, that one of the main causes of depression is thinking ‘Just me, what will happen to me, me, me?’ When we overthink about me, it is the easiest way to become stressed and depressed. And I agree that this has increased enormously in modern age. Why? Because the very fact that we no longer have any urgent problems which will affect our life on a daily basis. Few centuries before, people died from starvation, disease, epidemics, adverse weather conditions, exertion due to physical work etc. Then, We, the Intelligent Sapien developed technology to solve these problems. Today, we do not die from malnutrition as we have produced enough food on the planet ( still people are dying from malnutrition in poorer countries has to do with bad distribution, poverty and politics, but atleast there is no dearth of supply). We no longer suffer from cold in winter, or die from polio. Currently people are dying from covid-19, but then we are rapidly developing the vaccine as well. Hence, we can say that we have solved all the problems atleast for a comfortable living such food, clothing, shelter, education, communication and transportation.

So, what has happened is we do not have any incentive to work for betterment of others. Rather, all we do is just work to get more rich, and famous. The companies and factories which used to produce innovative solutions to make life better, are now either involved in just earning profits, buying back shares, or giving hefty bonuses to shareholders. Ofcourse there are exceptions like Elon Musk, but the bigger pie is simply occupied in looking after themselves. Few decades before, when all the above problems were not solved, the scientists, doctors and engineers used to work day and night to find a solution. Even common people used to find solutions to make things better and help others to uplift them as well. After all, the scientists and innovators did not come from any royal family, or rich business background. They were simple, poor people who just had a passion to solve a problem which bothered humanity, be it darkness, which was eradicated by invention of electric bulb, or a vaccine for polio.

But today, we see most of us have all the basic facilities needed to live life comfortably, and so we are slowly forgetting to help others, and solve problems. We have forgotten that the real purpose of humans is to be in service of humanity. Be it inventing something, or even as basic as volunteering for the weak and old, service keeps us busy and makes our life purposeful. That’s why those who are involved in serving humanity, never get depressed. Iconic personaliities like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford, Charles Goodyear, Robert Goddard, and many more worked and served for making human life better. They never got depressed ( atleast not due to self obsession). So, lack of service and increase of narcissism has been one of the key factors in the rise of depression.

More to be continued….

© Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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The hills of Pune!

I recently moved back to Pune, India. And I have been visiting some of the hills which surround the city. Pune is blessed with many hills or in local language, they are called ‘Tekdi’. Some of the famous ones include ‘Vetal’ hill, ‘Parvati’ hill, Hanuman hill etc. Fitness enthusiasts often visit these hills for running, jogging, walking etc. Due to Covid-19, and the declining number of parks and jogging tracks in the city, these hills stand as one of the last remaining option to exercise besides the gym. They also remain a well known tourist destination for city dwellers to have a quick visit away from the crowded buzz in the city.

I have captured some of the pics which shows the beauty surrounding the city.

This picture is captured with the view of MIT Pune ( which is my bachelor’s college). The college is located on the right which has a dome at the top. The mesmerizing clouds adds beauty to the view.
This lush green landscape is known as ‘panchvati’ area in pune. This forest abodes quite a few peacocks, and its beautiful to listen their song.
This picture is captured at the top of ‘Vetal’ hill, just after the sunset.
This park has a beautiful pond, where we can find many fish, tortoise and frogs. The northern part of city can be seen behind the pond.
This picture is taken from the south, which shows the ‘Sinhagad’ fort faraway. This is a famous spot for joggers and morning walkers.
Picture of sunset on the top of hill. The grassland is a wealth of exotic flowers and plants.
Finally, this snapshot captured before the sunset shows the urban jungle of Pune.

I plan to do some more photography of the city and its beautiful surroundings. I hope this natural beauty is preserved as they are the lungs of the city.

Stay tuned to my blog for future travel updates and nature photography.

#Pune #NaturePhotography #SunsetPhotography

© Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Copyright © 2020 AbhikNotes – Powered by WordPress.com

Finding the right one..

Many of us have missed catching that train where our right partner for life was traveling in!

In life, it is never easy to find true love. Everyone understands this at some point in life. When we are teenagers in school or young adults in college, our thoughts and ideas are often influenced by external world. We start constructing an ideal image of a guy or a girl based on movies we watch, or some character from a favorite TV series. At that tender age, we being young, start assuming that we have lot of time to find a genuine partner. So, most of us just limit ourselves to short relationships, or even a no strings attached kind of relationships. But all this is never accepted by society and neither by life itself.

Because, life is not something to be taken for granted. Similarly, finding a partner is also which needs to be given due attention. And this is where most of us fail, including me. We are told by our parents, or family to concentrate on our education, career and get settled. Then we can look for a suitable partner. But in today’s age, when our education often includes not only a 4 year degree, but also going to grad school ( or post-graduation). Be it working in Tech, or becoming a surgeon, or even working for an investment bank, every profession needs masters degree, or atleast a higher education with credible experience. All this takes quite a number of years, which often gets extended to mid 20’s or even late 20’s.

Now, once a man or woman reaches his/her late 20’s, and if they haven’t seriously thought about relationships, or even finding the right partner before, then it becomes quite a difficult ballgame. I have seen quite a few of friends struggling to find a partner in their early 30’s as well. This is because they have been either too pre-occupied with their education or career, or they have been involved only in short term relationships, which is not a very enabling experience. My story isn’t very different from this. And having seen friend’s situations and experienced myself, I often think whether there is any real need for us to avoid finding the partner just for the sake of career or even for an obsession to find the right partner at the right time?

Because, career is not something which ends after a couple years of experience. We cannot say we know everything in the field of work with only a handful years of working. In career, we never get settled, as today, technology is continuously evolving. There is no beginning or end of career, learning, or working. Unlike few decades ago, when everything was laid back, it was expected to complete education by a certain age, and then with couple years of experience, people used to become proficient or in other words ‘settled’ in their career. So, after that, family used to make arrangements for a suitable partner for him/her, and life moved on. But now, this no longer exists. No one can agree that they are comfortably settled in their job or career with a few years of work experience.

And further, due to social media, internet, movies and OTT media, life is filled with options to explore, know, learn and move ahead. Similarly, in relationships, no one gets settled down for the first choice. We all think we ll find an even better one, because we have options. We compare with our real friends, our social media friends, soap opera actors and actresses. We dream of a perfect partner, and a perfect life. But unfortunately, this rarely happens! While we are busy dreaming about the fantasy life filled with richness and a perfect partner, we often miss the right one in front us. He/She might be in our extended friends circle, or music class, or even living across the street. But we often overlook the ones nearest to us.

Just like in the bollywood movie ‘Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na‘, where Aditi and Jay, who are made for each other friends cum couples, they start finding true love everywhere outside. Only at the end, do they realize how perfect they are for each other. I feel we are like the Jay’s and Aditi’s in life. Many of us have missed catching that train where our right partner for life was traveling in!

They could have become our high school or college sweetheart!. But in this endless game to make a career, get settled down, or under the false impression to keep looking for the right one with an over inflated expectations, we often ignore or turn down the right ones, foolishly! Then after a while, it becomes very late in life and few of us give in to the family pressure to get settled down with the parents choice ( as it happens in India!). But then later, do they realize that they are not compatible with each other, and it opens a whole new arena of problems, fights, quarrels, which leads to divorce at the end.

I know there is no perfect answer for this, and this blog post is only an expression of my views on this subject. But I do sincerely feel this has a lot to do with our over inflated expectations about the partner( maybe like Mr and Mrs. Smith couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, but unfortunately they are also divorced!), our pre-occupation with career, getting rich and getting settled down, or even a string of short term relationships, due to lack of mutual trust between each other, or a no string attached, ‘friends with benefits’ driven mindset between the partners, none of which gives a long lasting, genuine relationship.

Hence, maybe my generation which is obsessed with the social media and virtual world, needs to think and understand that finding true love or a soulmate cannot be done by any algorithm, or using artificial intelligence. A true relationship does not have any checklist which states to have a certain education, or career to qualify for an enduring relation. Love simply just happens, and to know this is the first step.

-Abhishek

Stay tuned for the next post…..

City amidst the hills!

The treasures of Pune!

Pune is one of the top 10 cities in India. Popularly known as the “Oxford of the East”, this city is the educational capital of Maharashtra, and even ranks one of the top cities in the country for living, education and job opportunities. Pune is known for its IT industry just like Bangalore, and is also the automotive hub with several auto manufacturing plants in and around the city. And its my hometown, with my schooling, my college all being completed in this wonderful city.

But the lesser known thing about Pune is that it is one of the few metro cities surrounded by mountains and hills on all its sides. There are many hills and mountains surrounding the city such as Vetal Tekdi ( Tekdi is a local marathi name for hill) in the west which is also known as ARAI hill. The hill is surrounded by regions of Kothrud, Bavdhan, Pune University, Law college and SNDT college. This hill is one of the most beautiful oxygen generating spot in the city. Many people come here for walk during early mornings or evenings. The hill is covered with medium to dense vegetation, and can be accessed by all locations from the city.

Google Maps showing the area covered by the hill

Below are few pictures taken from the Vetal Tekdi which shows different locations of the city.

Picture shows the Kothrud region from the hill
Picture shows the MIT Pune ( this is also my college)
Picture shows the Panchavati area
Picture shows the Chandni Chowk-Bavdhan region from the hill

Besides Vetal hill, there is another small hill called Hanuman tekdi, which is located just near the Fergusson college. It is located in the middle of city, surrounded by Fergusson college and S B Road. Then, there is a famous hill called Parvati hill, which is named after the temple located atop the hill. This hill is quite frequently visited by tourists who visit Pune.

Parvati.JPG

Though the Parvati hill is not covered by dense vegetation, but it is joined by another forest within a few miles, which is known as Taljai Hill, and it is filled with lush green forest.

These hills are all located in the west, central and south of Pune. There are small patches of hillocks in the north and east part of Pune as well. But they are not much accessible for trek or sight seeing. But the eastern part of Pune is fairly plain and barren as compared to the mountains and lush green western part of Pune. If we go further away from Pune, we see the tallest mountains such as Sinhagad fort in the south-west, Katraj Ghat in the south and Dive Ghat in the south east. Trekking through these tall mountains is quite a feat.

Thus, I feel Pune is blessed with being surrounded by hills and mountains. We, Punekars ( local people addressed as Pune-kars) always mock Mumbai-kars as they only have beaches for exercise or jogging. But we have the luxury of several hills and mountains for trekking, exercise, jogging and sight-seeing as well. But considering the growing urban jungle expanding the city, it is becoming more important for the Punekars to protect the lungs of the city from urbanization, deforestation and traffic ( air & noise) pollution. The number of people allowed on the hills should be limited to protect the hill from being over-crowded. Also, well-defined paths for walk or trek should be laid out to avoid the possible destruction of flora and fauna.

I plan to visit more hills in near future, and take more pictures just like the above pics taken from Vetal takdi. I missed Pune’s tekdi for 5 years, and it always nice to visit them back! I hope we all protect the environment, forests, and the lungs of the city!

Anxiety Symptoms — Anxiety

Sharing this important post about Anxiety symptoms.

Summary: Stress and anxiety symptoms can help you identify if you have anxiety to be able to make preventive measures. Each time we feel concerned about certain things or fear about the possibilities of what might happen if, a great deal of ifs- these are what we call stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety is…

Anxiety Symptoms — Anxiety

Loves moves the world…

Having a loved one in our life is the best thing that can happen…

We usually have the habit to extrapolate our sufferings to the highest scale. We think we have suffered a lot in life, and that we have some of the most unsolvable problems in our life. We then get depressed for petty reasons and feel why should bad things happen in our life.

I also go through such feelings sometimes. I then try to calm down my mind’s racy thoughts by either doing “Sudarshan Kriya”, or listening to my favorite music or even writing down something. Then when my mind settles down, slowly awareness dawns. It comes to my realization that how foolish we humans are regarding our concepts which are formed in our minds. We immediately want to give an explanation to whatever happens in our life. When good things happen in our life and we feel we have reached the zenith of success, we immediately jump to pat our back for the hard work we have done, we reach cloud nine and comfortably forget the past, because we crave for the path of roses laid out ahead rather than the thorns of past.

But on the other side, if we fail or do not achieve what we want, we become depressed, lose confidence, and start hating people who are successful out of jealousy. We become desperate for the fruits of success, and having not achieved it, makes us lose interest in the path we followed. We realize the true nature of people during such times, and after experiencing this, makes us aware of the intricacies of human nature. Some people even go to certain extremes out of depression or loss of faith in life.

Be it success or failure, the most important thing to realize in life is that nothing is more difficult in life than a life without love. Yes, indeed. What is the use of any success in life, if we have no one to share with? What should a successful person do if he/she immediately realizes the flock of people going after him/her are only because of their recent success. And they were the same people who had deserted earlier for being a failure!

So, it is better to have true loved ones supporting us during times of failure, rather than fake loved ones praising us during times of success. I feel they are the fortunate ones who have true, unconditional love in their life. Nothing in life is more difficult than living without mother, who is always an unconditional source of love to us. Our parents, even some all weather friends who stand the test of friendship, during the winter of failure or during sunny success, can be counted as true jewels in our life.

Once, we realize this, we will never give importance to ups and downs in our life, because after all, the value or importance of success and failure is only given by us. It depends on who is with us during that phase. Being alone in success or failure has the same meaning. Hence, it simply doesn’t matter even if we become successful or not. There is nothing to be worried about or even get depressed about. Our family, friends, our relations always matters more than worldly accomplishments. So, its the love that moves the world…


Don’t be a football of other people’s opinions

We often tend to sway away by other people’s opinions like a pendulum. But does it really help us? This article highlights wisdom of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, J K Rowling, Steve Jobs and Robert Frost about this.

This is one of the 5 Sutras taught in the Art of Living Happiness program founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I find this principle or sutra to be so relevant in our life. We tend to sway away with people’s opinions, just like a pendulum does. Our life goals, our priorities, our career, our interest, even our food, life partner or clothing is enormously influenced by what people will say or think. Say in a party, or event, if 10 people praise us, and only 1 criticizes us, then we will surely remember only 1 person in our entire life. So much is our personal life dependent on public perceptions.

But if we take a step back, become calm and contemplate on this fact, that does it really matter what people think about us? Does people’s opinions really matter in our life? Should we allow others comments or thinking to affect our thinking and opinions? I think most of us will answer a big “NO”.

This is because everyone changes in life. And so does our opinions and views. Nothing is permanent in life, neither is human life itself eternal. We never know what’s going to happen in the next moment. Similarly, people’s opinions about others are also influenced by their own experiences they have had before. For someone who struggled with poverty during childhood, will most probably become a money saver, or passionate for getting rich in later life. But on the other side, someone who has lived an affluent life, might not care for the comforts he/she have had received, without any efforts. They might not even realize it, how fortunate they are. But we see many of them getting depressed or even obsessed in life due to comments from some friend in a party, or even jealous for not having the desired health, or beauty, or even skin color. Our wishes, our opinions, our views are all a product of the experiences we have had in our life.

One thing I find funny is how much delight the society has in giving their free opinions and comments to others, even when they aren’t asked for. As J K Rowling said in her famous Harvard commencement speech “..but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it”. It is true indeed that the world is more than happy to opine or interfere in other people’s affairs. And we often see that the society never stops in this pursuit. If someone hasn’t achieved a goal like for ex: good job or education degree, then people will keep asking or reminding him/her. Later, when the goal is achieved, the society immediately moves on to assign a new goal which might be job, or getting married. Then after marriage, the next goal is having kids, and so on and on and on. Its simply never stops!

What really happens in this process, is we get entangled due to other people’s expectations, or opinions. We lose our peace of mind. We lose our confidence in our own ability, and we start living a life based on what other want us to live. As Steve Jobs rightly said in his Stanford commencement address Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. “ We get trapped by dogma and which at the end, makes us regret our lost time to work on what we truly loved to do. We regret for the lost opportunities which might have altered the life track differently. Due to other people’s opinions, we take the crowded or easy path, and not the path which is less traveled, which Robert Frost beautifully expressed. We ultimately feel consequences of “The Road Not Taken…”

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost

Hence, lets just allow other people to express what ever they want. But let not allow them to enter our mind, or cloud our conscience. We somehow know deep somewhere down in our heart, what we like, what we want in life. Our gut instincts, our mind, our heart is more powerful to face all the external bombardments which occur in the form of people’s unwanted opinions. Lets just put a filter on our mind which will allow only the good, relevant and positive ideas to enter the mind, and flush out all the negative thoughts, fake news, gossips, people’s expectations etc.

Just like hand washing is necessary to stay safe from Coronavirus, we need a mind washing in the form of meditation, wisdom, reading good books, listening good music to keep the mind away from the virus of other people’s opinions, judgements and expectations.

Need for mindfulness!

History will assess the present as chaotic times. This is because of the ever complex world we are living in. Humans have achieved the highest pinnacle of technological progress in human history, and hence, we are ever surrounded by complex, high-tech machines. On one side it might seem that we are relieved of all the hardwork and sweat, as all the tasks from cooking, transport, calculations, communications, and even intelligence are managed by intelligent machines. We have the best technology at work today.

But on the other side, there has been increase in depression, mental issues, anxiety, unemployment and lack of stable relationships as well. As per WHO, more than 264 million people suffer from depression globally. It is indeed a topic of debate as why are we suffering from high levels of mental and health issues when most of our problems have been solved with the invention of technology. We see that facebook and other social media sites have bridged the gap between the world to easily communicate and share information. But on the other side, we are getting more and more addicted to social media, and even depressed as per Journal of Applied Biobehavioural research.

Adding to this are the incessant bombarding of news reports from mainstream media, news channels, radio, podcasts, youtube channels etc. We live in the information age and its quite in excess. Most of us are unable to get the best relevant data from this ocean of information, and hence, it usually ends up creating confusion and loss of interest. The unceasing tweets from followers, viral videos, and debates have ushered in chaos everywhere.

Adding to this mayhem, is the Covid virus infections. Covid could not have come at a better time when the world is already getting polarized on the grounds of right wing, ultra nationalism vs liberal, pro-globalization order. We see massive BLM rally all over USA due to hightened racial tensions against the Trump supporters rally. Then, we have the Indian-China conflict slowly and steadily rising which might escalate to trigger a full-scale war. The world economy except China has tumbled down, and the fear of long term recession, unemployment and social issues are looming everywhere. I find no perfect word other than “chaotic” to name this!

Hence, when I see this chaos howering everywhere, I find mindfulness or meditation to be a perfect solution to keep our mind calm amidst this pandemonium. Nothing better can make me feel good than meditation nowadays. It is jokingly said during pandemic that if we cannot go outside, then better to go inside ( within us). Yes, indeed. We need to contemplate about our life, our goals, our needs and our future after all this chaos settles down. This pandemic is once in a lifetime event, and hence, it seems that destiny has given an opportunity for us to reflect our life inwards and know the self. The pandemic has already made us aware that our needs are much much less than we usually purchase. As Gandhi used to say, “The world has enough to fulfill everyone’s needs, but not anyone’s greed”. I do agree that this pandemic has proved this right.

When there is no sign of covid vaccine coming in near future, the only way to keep ourselves safe and healthy is by increasing immunity and ofcourse, staying inside and taking all the precautions. Meditation is known to make us strong mentally, and thereby we get the strength to fight against this pandemic. More than health, this pandemic is a test of our mind’s strength. We are more prone to succumb to fear, anxiety, depression, or worst suicide, due to the fear of Covid infections in our family, economic recession and social unrest. So, to keep our mind strong and stress free, we need to spend sometime in mindfulness. We need to meditate everyday for few minutes at least.

I practice Art of Living taught “Sudarshan Kriya Yoga” and it has helped me immensely to keep me mentally strong. Infact, the day I do not do the kriya, I feel nervous, and get angry quickly. Hence, I am glad that I learnt this technique before, and now I can practice it everyday at my home. I will write a separate post about my experience with meditation, and how it works like magic!

I hope this all chaos calms down soon, and let peace delve back into the world.

The Art of Eating

It is famously said that “You are what you eat” Though there are tons of articles, videos and documentaries, explaining the type of food we eat, its benefits and risks, and how they affect the environment etc on the internet, but still people prefer to eat meat based foods in large quantities. This post is not to alter anyone’s food habits, and neither to propagandize any theory. But considering the humongous impact food has on the body and environment, it simply cannot be ignored. Hence, adding my two cents to understand and emphasize the importance of what we eat!

To begin with, I am a proud vegetarian ( recently proselytized to the religion of vegetarianism). Not long before, I used to be an avid meat eater except beef. My reasoning for not eating beef had nothing to do with any scientific reasoning, or environmental impact it does, but simply a family tradition. Because, naturally, when I could eat chicken or turkey, and not beef, it did look curious for people to ask me the reason for not doing so. But then after eating meat based products for a while, I suddenly stopped eating them!

Why? Many reasons, and one of the most important is the fact that why should we eat meat, when we have plants readily available? We are in the 21st century world where everything is just a few clicks away. Same goes for food. When we can buy or make endless varieties of plant based delicacies, why is there a need for eating meat which involves killing of live animal, just to satiate our predatory cravings, which drives our worst behavior! But, it would also be ludicrous to convince the audience that killing animals to eat is violence, but killing plants isn’t? Because even plants have life as proved by legendary scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose.

So, even killing plants for eating would be treated as a violence, isn’t it?. Yes, as plants also have life, and they feel, have emotions, so it would be injustice to harm plants. But for survival, humans need to eat something. So, if violence/killing is involved in both plants and animals, which one is better? Or in other words, which one is less harmful for the body and the environment? Referring to the Can Plants feel pain?, it says that it is far more better to consume plants over animals as eating plants directly, rather than feeding them to animals and then killing those animals for their flesh, requires far fewer plants and hurts fewer animals who, we already know for sure, feel pain. Cows, for example, must consume 16 pounds of vegetation to yield 1 pound of flesh, so by being vegetarian/vegan, we save many more plants’ lives than if we ate meat.

As per the Spiritual Scientist, we see that when we eat plants, they have already reached their maturity stage. For example, we pluck fruits which are ripened and which would anyway fall off, so there is very little if not no pain involved. We harvest the crops that are fully grown – if they are not harvested they will rot and they will get wasted. Hence, this process involves very less harm or pain to plants. But on the other side, animals are often bred and killed before they even get old. If we compare the enlivening atmosphere at the time of harvest in the field with the gruesome atmosphere in the slaughter house when the animals are to be slaughtered with blood and flesh strewn and spewing all around and the animals screaming and writhing in pain, our own conscience and intelligence will indicate to us the huge gulf of difference. Hence, the best path would be the path of minimum violence or pain, which is obviously consuming plants.

Another reasoning can be given with reference to the VeganFirst is where all animal forms can retract, defend, escape or attack when in threat of an attack, and this makes killing animals a terrible act, for they are, for the purpose of killing, overpowered, trapped, incapacitated and eventually slaughtered. On the contrary, plants were not designed to escape or retract – they were given the power to rebuild and grow, their flowers, fruits, seeds and roots are designed to build all over again. Which is why, when you take a fruit off a plant, you call it plucking, not severing or beheading – a new fruit or flower will spring again and the plant delivers continuity of life.

If we look from the angle of spirituality or karmic effect, isn’t it natural that animals which we eat like chicken, cow or goat, usually eat plants. and then we kill those animals and eat them. So, if killing plants is a karma of violence, killing animals is double karma of violence, as animals have already eaten that live plant and we add on to it the violence of killing that animal. Hence, double karma of violence is gained in the act of killing animals. I know this is something out of rationality, but many of us are spiritual, believe in karma and so this might throw some light on the karmic aspect involved as well.

The next question often comes from meat eaters is that they eat meat for proteins. It is often incorrectly assumed that vegetarian eaters do not get proteins from plants and hence are weak as compared to steak or chicken eaters. But this is all wrong and propagandized by Hollywood and wealthy, influential meat industry lobby. As pictured in the movie clip below, we often accept the

Source

wrong theories projected by media and start believing them without any background evidence. I too had once accepted this idea and hence to gain weight and build muscle, I started eating meat. But then, I saw the health based documentary “The Game Changers” which completely changed my perspective. As Dr. James Loomis points out in The Game Changers, “All that protein that you get when you eat a steak or a hamburger, where did it come from? It came from the plants that the cow ate.” Adding to it, in fact, all protein originates from plants, which also contain all nine essential amino acids we have to get from food. If this wasn’t the case, how would the largest and strongest animals on the planet, including elephants, rhinos, horses, and gorillas — all of which are herbivores — build and maintain such huge amounts of muscle? I would recommend watching this documentary which provides more insight on the wrong food assumptions which we have accepted due to media and meat industry dominated advertising.

Another analogy which meat eaters often like to contend is the strength of the carnivores such as tigers and lions due to meat eating. And they even assert the relative weakness of the herbivores such as deers and cows who are plant eaters. So, meat eaters want to become strong like carnivores.

Source

Being social animals, and due to our evolution over centuries it is very natural for us to crave for strength and machoism, and this can be easily seen in carnivores. But we often forget that carnivores are evolved to hunt and eat meat, and again the strength which comes in the carnivores is due to eating of plants ( having proteins and vitamins), indirectly through herbivores. But for humans, simply eating like carnivores, won’t make us strong like them. Else there would have be no reason for our ancestors ( assuming they were meat eaters) to design stone weapons to hunt. It’s been thousands of years since humans have been eating meat, and still there hasn’t been any evidence of any super-human like strength quality being derived due to meat consumption. We still make weapons ( though not made out of stone) even today and are equally prone to being killed by carnivores, just like herbivores.

Also, medically it is proven that human body is not designed for meat eating. As stated by Dr. Richard Leakey, a renowned anthropologist, says, “You can’t tear flesh by hand, you can’t tear hide by hand. Our anterior teeth are not suited for tearing flesh or hide. We don’t have large canine teeth, and we wouldn’t have been able to deal with food sources that required those large canines.”

Our Digestive System Doesn’t Like Meat

Carnivores have short intestinal tracts that allow meat to pass quickly through their digestive system. Humans’ intestinal tracts are much longer, like those of plant-eaters. This gives the body more time to break down fiber and absorb the nutrients from plant-based foods. In fact, our hands are perfect for grabbing and picking fruits and vegetables. We don’t have sharp claws to seize and hold down prey. And most of us (hopefully) lack the instinct that would drive us to chase and then kill animals and devour their raw carcasses. Dr. Milton Mills builds on these points and offers dozens more in his essay, “A Comparative Anatomy of Eating.” Link

After all, we are not carnivores. As per Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Humans originated from ape like ancestors. Humans are primates. Physical and genetic similarities show that the modern human species, Homo sapiens, have a very close relationship to another group of primate species, the apes. Humans and the great apes (large apes) of Africa — chimpanzees (including bonobos, or so-called “pygmy chimpanzees”) and gorillas — share a common ancestor. As per the Rob Dunn’s blog “Human ancestors were nearly all Vegetarians” The majority of the food consumed by primates today–and every indication is for the last thirty million years–is vegetable, not animal. Plants are what our apes and even earlier ancestors ate; they were our paleo diet for most of the last thirty million years during which our bodies, and our guts in particular, were evolving. In other words, there is very little evidence that our guts are terribly special and the job of a generalist primate gut is primarily to eat pieces of plants. We have special immune systems, special brains, even special hands, but our guts are ordinary and for tens of millions of years those ordinary guts have tended to be filled with fruit, leaves, and the occasional delicacy of a raw hummingbird. Hence, for the meat eaters who are in support of paleo diet or food similar to what our ancestors ( who were hunter-gatherers) eat, it is seen that even hundred thousand years ago, our ancestors spent the most time eating fruits, nuts, and vegetables—especially fungus-covered tropical leaves. But its also worth noting, that meat in the form of insects were eaten, though rarely. But again, eating insects differs from eating cow or pig, as simply, our digestive system is not evolved suitably for it.

Besides, if we consume meat for proteins in large quantities, and as the human body does not store protein inside the body like fats, so it gets excreted out of the body and hence, practically if eaten in excess ( which meat usually has) its getting wasted. Economically, eating meat is more costly than eating plant based foods. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition in 2015 found that a vegetarian diet is cheaper than its meat-inclusive alternative. For those “austere” minded people, it would be stupid to spend more money on meat based products as compared to plant based food, which is lot cheaper.

Another economic reasoning for meat eating among the society can be attributed to the growing wealth in the society. As mentioned in the Scientific American, Return to more frequent meat eating has been a key component of a worldwide dietary transition that began in Europe and North America with accelerating industrialization and urbanization during the latter half of the 19th century. In affluent economies, this transition was accomplished during the post-WW II decades, at a time when it began to unfold, often very rapidly, in modernizing countries of Asia and Latin America. As a result, global meat production rose from less than 50t in 1950 to about 110t in 1975; it doubled during the next 25 years, and by 2010 it was about 275t, prorating to some 40g/capita, with the highest levels (in the US, Spain and Brazil) in excess of 100g/capita. As per “The Making of Meat-Eating America” Mark Rosegrant, an economist with the International Food Policy Research Institute, says “All countries eat more meat when their incomes grow and they have the economic wherewithal to eat more meat,”  Even a country like China, whose society relied on traditional rice paddy culture have shifted to more meat eating due to rapid industrialization and enormous wealth generation in last 40 years. The extent of meat eating has crossed the norms of beef/chicken to wild wet markets including all sorts of animals sold for consumption. And this has resulted in the spread of Covid-19 virus from China to the world. It is indeed strange of the society behavior where with more wealth, people prefer meat over vegetables. Rather it should be the other way where the rich society, has the capability to grow and consume vegetables in large amount.

Lets look at this from the medical point of view. A large-scale meta-analysis carried out in 2016 reported “a significant protective effect of a vegetarian diet versus the incidence and/or mortality from ischemic heart disease(25 percent) and incidence from total cancer(8 percent). Vegan diet conferred a significant reduced risk (15 percent) of incidence from total cancer.” Vegetarian diets are also tied to a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer (again), and lower blood pressure and they may fend off childhood obesity.

Source

As per the paper from National Institute of Biotechnology Information, it says that the results show that achieving a sustainable diet would entail a high reduction in the intake of meat and vegetable oils and a moderate reduction in cereals, roots and fish products and at the same time increased intake of legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.

Environmental effect- Meat is undoubtedly an environmentally expensive food. Some of the recent statistics (Source: Happiness Express) shows that

  1. 51% of the land on planet earth is used for meat production
  2. Chicken production releases 25 times more CO2 than grain production
  3. Animal farming ranks no-1 cause of species loss & deforestation, and no-2 cause of global warming
  4. Meat production causes more emissions than all transportation combined
  5. 15000 Ltrs of water is used for to yield 1 kg of beef, while only 3000 Ltrs of water is used to yield 1 kg of rice. In other words, water to feed 1 meat eater = water to feed 3 vegetarians.
  6. WHO places red & processed meat in the same danger level to our health as smoking & tobacco.
  7. 70% of food poisoning is caused by meat consumption including exposure to arsenic.

As per New York Times article, the world’s food system is responsible for 25% of the planet warming greenhouse gases. Meat and dairy, particularly from cows account for 14.5% of world’s greenhouse gases. In general, beef and lamb have the biggest climate footprint per gram of protein, while plant-based foods tend to have the smallest impact. Pork and chicken are somewhere in the middle. Beef and lamb have an especially large climate footprint for another reason: The stomachs of cows and sheep contain bacteria that help them digest grass and other foods. But those bacteria create methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that is then released through burps (and a bit of flatulence). Though chicken and other poultry have a lesser climate impact than other livestock, but industrial-scale poultry operations still create water pollution, and have prompted major concerns about animal welfare. That doesn’t mean that we should not do livestock farming, as animal agriculture does provide useful products like milk, eggs, and also manure from cow which is useful as a fertilizer. Besides, it provides livelihoods for some 1.3 billion people worldwide.

However in places like the United States, Europe and Australia — who currently eat far more meat than they need to for a healthy diet, and if we want to feed a growing population without adding to global warming or putting increased pressure on the world’s forests, it would make a difference if the heaviest meat eaters cut back. If its not completely possible to stop eating meat ( due to old habits, or cultural influence) then another approach would be to simply eat less meat and dairy, and more protein-rich plants like beans, legumes, nuts and grains.

Hence, based on all the scientific, medically proven, economic and somewhat spiritual reasoning as well, I decided to switch over to a healthy, environment friendly, planet preserving, money saving vegetarian/plant based meal. I sincerely hope this post is read and spread widely for increasing our awareness about the foods we eat and its impact on the planet. The sooner we know, the better it would be for everyone’s well being. As rightly said by spiritual leader and humanitarian Sri Sri Ravishankar, “Food being an essential part of any lifestyle, people would like to have the right to exercise their freedom in making a choice; arguing or forcing anyone will not work. The right way is to make people aware and then let them choose for themselves. It may take some time but everybody realizes sooner or later that short term gratification is not worth the long term troubles it brings. Quality of life is enhanced when we make choices that are life supporting.”

Being vegetarian does not just help one’s own life flourish but also that of other beings.


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American Diaries: Trip to San Francisco, California

San Francisco, California

We had always longed to travel to the west. As Joe Flower said: Money lives in New York. Power sits in Washington. Freedom sips cappuccino in a sidewalk cafe in San Francisco.

When we finally visited San Francisco on Thanksgiving weekend, it seemed that this city harboured the freedom and sense of achievement even in confined spaces. The city is full of vibrant colors, with an open culture and welcoming atmosphere. The city has a unique architecture not found in any of the other cities I visited before. The houses are small in size, but the people have big hearts. The language spoken is English, but we could see more Chinese and Hispanic people. We could see the companies dominating the globe by their impact on technology such as YouTube, Uber and Tesla, but all in small buildings. Though the work campuses of Facebook, Google and Apple were huge as their contribution to the world, they still carried a sense of freedom and true entrepreneurship which makes them truly innovative. This article highlights how we came to the west to see the golden state, how we saw San Francisco( we can call it simply SF now), the places we visited such as golden gate bridge and fisherman’s wharf, then traveled to Yosemite, what to carry and what not, our then stay in Monterey, seeing the historic 17 mile drive, then back to SF.

Below is the quick itinerary we followed during our visit.

Day 1 — Flight to SF in early morning from Atlanta. Reached SF around 9:30 am. Checked in the hotel, had lunch and visited Golden Gate Bridge & Lombard street in the afternoon. Visit to Fisherman’s Wharf at night. Overnight stay in SF.

Day 2 — Travel to San Jose(SJ), visit to Palo Alto, mountain view and Cupertino. Lunch in SJ and then travel to Mariposa for overnight stay.

Day 3 — Visit Yosemite the whole day and travel back to Monterey for overnight stay.

Day 4 — Toured the 17-mile drive scenic drive, beaches in Monterey and travel back to SF via the Pacific coast highway.

Day 5 — We had to work remotely and hence, we visited Alcatraz in the evening. Back to Atlanta by overnight flight.


Day 1: Nov 28th, 2019

Visit to Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard street atop and Fisherman’s wharf

We started our journey from Alpharetta, GA to the Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. We had booked an early United Airlines flight which departed around 7:30 AM and which would land in SF around 9:30 AM PST. As we both were just traveling, we decided to take my car to the airport as it will be better for us to commute back while returning to Alpharetta on Dec 3rd.

We got up early and got ready to head to the airport. It was good that we had packed our bags last night. Soon, we reached the airport. Then, I checked my bag, took our boarding passes and headed to the gates. Wow, all set to go to SF, our very first visit to the golden state of California. We were very excited and waiting for this trip for weeks. As it’s said, “Old habits die hard”,so we had done everything needed for the trip at the last moment..lol. We booked the hotels for all the 4 nights including the car rental on 26th, and struggled hard to get the car rental. So, we soon realized we had run out of all the options of the car rental on the first day of thanksgiving ( which was 28th ), and so we finally booked the Budget car rental from 29th morning to be returned on 2nd Dec evening.

Word of Advice: please never book car rental late on a trip to SF during thanksgiving weekend. I will say book it at least one-two weeks before.

Having gone through all these fluctuations in the trip booking, we both were quite anxious for how this trip would go. With all this going in our minds, we reached the gate. We did not have to wait longer and soon, we found ourselves in the flight. Yes….and our trip began.

The United flight experience as many others must have had, was not at the best. But it was still relaxing with some TV shows running on the screen, ( no movies though). I slept for sometime, and then after some coffee and cookies, our flight landed in SF. that’s where we were now. We wanted to shout to the world..hey, hey, hey…there we are, in SF finally!

We collected our bags and then booked an Uber to go to the hotel. As we did not have any car rental for the day, we decided to keep our bags at the hotel, and then head to the Golden Gate bridge. As soon as our Uber came, we moved in the car and both started to look outside to the SF city. It was a 30 min journey from SF airport to the Hilton, financial district. We were surprised to see small houses surrounded by barren hills ( felt like desert), crowded streets and some companies which we knew located in a small confined space. Soon, we reached the financial district and saw our hotel surrounded by Chinatown. This was my first experience of seeing and staying in a Chinatown. I later found that this part of Chinatown is primarily the Cantonese part of china.

Chinatown, where we stayed in Hilton hotel

We then checked in the hotel and went into the rooms. The room with two queen beds was nice, with an amazing view of SF city as seen below.

After watching some Netflix, we headed out to tour the windy city of the west, and our first stop was to have lunch at “Raavi”, an Indian restaurant located at a conveniently walkable distance from the hotel. Just like other Indian restaurants in the US, the food was similar in taste, but just more expensive. Then, we took another Uber, now to see the golden gate bridge. It was very nice of the Uber driver( who originally was from Brazil) that she soon realized that we were new to the city, so she stopped at the Lombard street. Then we immediately went out to see the most crooked street in the world from the top and took some nice pictures. Then she dropped us at the golden gate and we just glanced at the gigantic architecture designed and built by engineers. We took some really nice snapshots and started walking on the golden gate. As usual it was very busy, with lots of people walking on the bridge. Though it was afternoon, the bridge faced cold winds coming across the pacific and as we had read, the waters beneath us were very cold too. There have been many incidents of people committed suicides by jumping off the bridge, and so we could see many signs of counseling assistance, depression assistance contact etc with quotes on life. This made me sad of how tragic that fate would be for anyone who jumped off this bridge into the bay from such a height, with icy waters beneath and cold winds on the top. This bridge was very much surrounded by some of the harshest weather conditions, yet, it stood upright witnessing not only the weather conditions, but also the historic events this city has witnessed for over the past few decades such as world war 2 front against the Japanese, the hippie counter cultural revolution and then the silicon valley boom. At one location, I saw one name “ Gauri Govil” being carved in one of the pillars. Later, I found out that a 2 year old Gauri had suffered the worst fate of falling from this bridge in 1997. It was an accident due to some hidden gap in the bridge structure and that was not realized by anyone before, as this was the first incident after the construction of the bridge. I could not imagine how her parents must have endured this horrific and deeply sad accident, and I pray to God, that no other parent should suffer this fate while visiting this bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge

Then, we walked back across the bridge and went back to the hotel. It was tea time and so we went to “Raavi” and had a nice tea and samosas along with the usual philosophical and spiritual talks we often have at such times. Then, we decided to walk to the Fisherman’s wharf. It was not far away from our hotel and it took us like 20 mins to reach there. While walking across the streets, we could see some of the homeless people, the dirty streets and the old architecture of the city. The walk around the city reminds us of the old hippy days this city witnessed and how unchanged still it is in spite of the world having changed since that time. Anyways, we reached the fisherman’s wharf. It was a nice spot with many restaurants ( mostly seafood ) and a walkway along the bay. But we both being vegetarians, we could not eat anything there. So, we stopped by one of the Indian restaurants — “curry leaf” and had a nice dinner together. After all, it was a long day and we were tired and soon went to the hotel, with the thoughts about how the next day will be. With excitement, we went to sleep.


Day 2: Nov 29th, 2019

Visit to Silicon valley, San Jose and travel to Mariposa for overnight stay

After a long tiring yesterday, as expected we woke up late. Then, we got ready after the morning daily routine and had a healthy breakfast in the hotel. Then, we went to the airport budget car rental and picked up our car. And that’s when our real journey started as we had our car and with our freedom to visit any place, anytime. Hurray!

With excitement, we decided to go to San Jose. But on the way, we had planned to stop by some famous companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google, YouTube, Tesla, HP etc. so, we started across south San Francisco, then Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Cupertino and San Jose. We really liked the small and beautiful town of Menlo Park. It was neat, organized and displayed exuberance and wealth. I remembered from Steve Jobs Stanford commencement address, that this was the town where Stuart Brand had published “The Whole Earth Catalog” and how it inspired Steve Jobs and his generation. I wished I could meet him as I was in his town. Maybe someday later..then, we saw Facebook campus located on hacker way, just as the name says the company had hacked into our personal life and showcased it on the wall with an alias “social networking” (only with our consent…).

The campus was huge and while riding through the campus, we were stopped by the security personnel, and he kindly reminded us that this was a private property. So, we immediately rushed out of the campus and started our journey again through the Menlo park city. We saw Stanford university and I can say only one line for it….”beauty with a treasure of knowledge”. For me, this year has been quite different, having seen Harvard-MIT-BU when I had visited Boston in October and now, I was seeing Stanford, though from outside. I had always wished to see these universities as they have been the beacon of knowledge and innovation for the past few decades. Most of today’s technological innovation can be traced back to the research done in Harvard-MIT-Stanford. This trio has produced the world’s biggest and most innovative companies such as Microsoft ( Bill gates, Harvard), Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard), Apple ( Steve Jobs, as he stayed his whole life near Stanford campus), Tesla (Elon Musk, though not from any of these universities but had enrolled in Stanford for PhD but dropped out after 2 days), Google ( Sergey Brin, Larry page, Stanford), Bose (Amar Bose, MIT), Nike ( Phil Knight, Stanford) and many more. It did not take me much time to sense an air of curiosity and rationality on this campus. I wished to stay more in this place, but we had plans ahead for the day.

Then, we saw some more companies in Palo Alto such as HP, Xerox ( where the first GUI was invented, though they were not pragmatic enough to commercialize it, which then Apple and Microsoft took it from xerox) and Tesla, though they did not have big campus like Facebook. Soon, we started towards Mountain View and saw the gigantic Google campus. Wow, this was quite huge just like the search engine has engulfed the globe. Then, we saw the apple campus in Cupertino. By this time, we had become used to seeing companies on our way and simply admired how much this small place on the west coast of the United States has impacted the world. We daily use the products and services made by these companies. We all have Ihone, we use Fitbit, we do everything on Internet, we connect and share with our friends on Facebook/Instagram/Whatsapp, we use laptops, we dream of buying a Tesla someday, we use Bose headphones, wear Nike shoes, and do our transactions through PayPal ( which was co-founded by Elon Musk). So much of our life is been occupied and even assisted by these products and services.

Finally, we reached San Jose and ate a nice lunch in one of the Indian restaurants. Then, we headed towards Mariposa for our overnight stay.


Day 3: Dec 30th, 2019

Visit Yosemite National Park and then travel to Monterey for overnight stay.

We started early after breakfast to see the Yosemite National Park. We were told by the hotel assistant that due to the snow, we were supposed to put chains on the car. So, we decided to rent wheel chains at a local store in Mariposa.

Word of Advice: bring car wheel chains with you during winter visit to Yosemite.

As we started to travel through the valley, it started getting cold. The roads became narrower, turning in a zig-zag way and the mountains became taller and covered with ice. Soon, we were surrounded by this beautiful valley wearing a thick sheet of snow and sheltering a vast canopy of pine trees. It was mesmerizing! Our car seemed to be such a tiny thing in front of the majestic beauty of nature. Later, as I came to know about John Muir who had been enchanted by this nature’s display at best and had decided to make this place his home. I could agree with John on why this place is so serene, spiritual and a rarity of nature’s creation.

Yosemite valley with the famous El Capitan

It was November, and it had just started getting cold in Atlanta. But here in Yosemite, it had already snowed a lot. It was snowing everywhere. We soon parked our car and started walking through the valley taking photos on the way. We took photos of the famous El Capitan and wondered how Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson must have climbed the dawn wall on the El Cap, that to in the middle of winter. We then visited a local store and bought some souvenirs. Then we had lunch and visited a local museum depicting the history of Yosemite. I got to know about John Muir and how he had convinced the then president of the United States, Theodore “Teddy’ Roosevelt, to make this place a national park. We saw two films on the history and conservation movement of this park.

Yosemite valley museum

Then, while sipping coffee/tea, we kept walking through the valley until we got lost near one of the lakes. Though we were surrounded by few people, as it was getting dark and late, we initially decided to use our memory skills to find a way out. But soon, we could see no one around us and after having realized we had lost our path, we finally came to our savior “Prof.Google” to guide us. We were fortunate enough to have a network on our phones, and so following the path suggested by the omnipresent google, we arrived near our car parked location. Alas! A sigh of relief.

Soon, it got darker and we could just imagine how it would be getting stuck in the middle of wilderness, surrounded by darkness and cold icy weather. Then a thought came about how brave and courageous John Muir must have been to stay alone here for two years. Respect!

After clicking and saving several photos on the phone as well as in our memories, we departed from Yosemite towards Monterey. I wished I would come back here again ,someday, in summer to see this beauty during summer time. The journey to Monterey took almost 4 hours and we landed up in the hotel besides the wonderful pacific coast beach. After an exhausting day, we soon went to sleep.


Day 4: Dec 1st. 2019

Visit to Monterey and travel back to SF

We started our sightseeing of Monterey by having our breakfast at the famous “Googie Grill” at Del Monte beach. The breakfast was simple with waffles and coffee. Then, we visited the nearby Del Monte beach. It was a pleasant experience to wet my feet in the Pacific Ocean. This was the second ocean I was visiting after the Atlantic ocean this year in Miami, FL. Then, we decided it’s time to traverse the famous 17 mile drive. We bought tickets to enter the drive, they gave us maps about each point and we started driving through this Hollywood experience.

Entering the 17 mile drive

The driveway showcased an exhibition of wealth and grandeur. It was beautifully decorated with flowers, trees, big bungalows and palatial houses on our eastside, while the pacific ocean dominated our west side of the drive. We stopped at almost all the 17 points, some were exceptionally worth watching and worth picturing, which we did. Everything was great except the weather. It was raining, though not heavily, but still it rained enough to obscure our camera phones getting drenched somewhat. In addition to rain, there was a strong wind blowing from the ocean and this led to the pacific ocean kind of angry with huge waves and tides hitting the coastal walls. So, this made our drive tour a bit difficult to enjoy, like sitting near the beach for hours, or watching the sunset etc. But we were more than delighted to have got this opportunity to see the scenic drive.

Pebble beach

After touring the driveway, we decided to move out to see some other places nearby. Having read the forecast of rain on that day, I had taken a raincoat and umbrella with me. So, it was a good decision to be prepared for all weather as we understood California has all the seasons with rains in Monterey, cold winds but not snow in SF, and snowy and chilling in Yosemite. ( we had also planned to visit Lake Tahoe, but had to cancel it due to the winter storm happening there.)

So, then we went to the Carmel by the Sea which is a very pretty town near the ocean. We were driving on the pacific coast highway which is one of the best highways in the United States. I wish we were in summer here as it would be sunny and glowing as it’s known to be. Our last stop was at the Bixby Creek bridge which marked our end of journey for the day and we realized it was time to drive back to SF. It was evening time, the sun had already set though due to rains we could not see it and then, so we began our trip back to SF, it was a 2 and half hour journey which we took with a short break at one of the Indian restaurants in San Jose. We reached SF at night and immediately went to sleep.

Day 5: Dec 2nd, 2019

Visit to Alcatraz and fly back to Atlanta

We had to work remotely on that day, so we worked in the hotel until 12:30 pm PST. Then, we parked the car near Pier 33 which is the Alcatraz landing location. We almost reached at 1:30 pm and we were among the last people to board the ferry. The ferry departed and I remembered my last ferry trip to the Andaman islands. How beautiful that time was! I was missing my parents, especially my Mom so much.

Ferry to Alcatraz, view of SF city from the bay

Within 10 min, the ferry reached Alcatraz island. The island displayed the sign of Indian land, and I wondered what this meant. After watching a film on the history of Alcatraz islands, I learnt how the native Indians had occupied this island during the counter-cultural revolution and fought for more freedom just like the African-Americans had been doing at that time. Then, a pretty lady welcomed us and gave us directions on what to see and where. The island is quite small and only the prison for which the island is known for, is open to the public. We watched one film on the history of this notorious Alcatraz prison.

Alcatraz prison

Then we toured some rooms and buildings in the main prison cell. We were provided a portable audio device with headphones to listen to the description of main parts of the prison, which notorious men had stayed here, how the escape attempt was planned etc. We then took some photos around the prison with the glittering SF city which could be seen across the bay. I could just imagine how helpless these prisoners must have been to live near the city yet could not escape this prison due to the extreme cold waters, strong winds and high security. After touring for about a hour and two, we returned back to SF city. This was the last destination of our SF visit.

Finally, it was time to return back home. I could see how much time is important, and how short we have it. We get old fast, time runs away, people change, things change, situations change, and we don’t have time for brooding over the past or fighting with people over petty mistakes, or even just sweating the small stuff. The world is big, and a lot can be learnt when we travel. It is not wrong to say that travel does widen our horizon. It not only gives us experience, but also makes us feel connected to this world. We become aware of our life and stop restricting ourselves in our self-created limits. Though I am not saying that a lot changed for me on this trip, I could see how much changed I was and at the same time, how much things have remained the same in my life. I had seen a part of the west coast yet I knew I have to go back to my home for the same work. But then, I was refreshed to do the same work as if new energy and enthusiasm had been rendered by this joyful city. Though I was staying on the east coast ( not exactly..), I could understand that life on the west coast was not much different than my life. And this can be extended all over the world too. Yes, we are after all humans, connected to each other and yet we fight and discriminate and despise each other. I did not understand why! I know this is somewhat a philosophical talk, but these thoughts kept coming to my mind. I do not know if i would get another opportunity to come to this city again, but i thought that life had brought to me and my friend here, and we had a really good time, traveling the city together. May we travel to more places in the world, and may others also come to this wonderful city and witness the aspects of life which I had seen during those 5 days.

Finally, concluding, when I had visited New Orleans ( Nola.) with my friends last December, I had seen a poster with the following line: “If you want to see America, go to New York, New Orleans and San Francisco”

By this tour, we both had seen all three cities. I compared them and found that if New York has the money, New Orleans has the food & music ( especially jazz), then San Francisco has the philosophy of life, mixed with the beauty of nature and technological innovation. In short, this was a memorable trip, for times to come….