But The Colors Could Not See The Grand Picture

It is out of its inherent throbbing joy that white burst into a myriad colors. It is out of its inherent throbbing joy that the land danced and there were highs and lows. As the land was high and low, the colors flowed. And so a grand picture was formed.

And the colors loved themselves. The green was proud of itself, and rightly so, for it was beautiful. The blue was proud of itself, and rightly so, for it was beautiful. And the colors flowed. Little particles of joy were embedded into the colors which made them move ahead.

But the colors could not see the grand picture. As one color flowed into the other, the other felt threatened. Its identity was threatened. Its territory was threatened. The deep flaming red would turn into a milder orange if the yellow flowed into it. That was not acceptable. And the yellow did not like it at all either, that its natural flow was being inhibited. The whole land was his to explore after all. Its inner joy particles were asking it to move forward.

So some colors flowed, some did not. And there was a muddy pool. For the colors could not see the grand picture. They could not see the big orchestrated dance and be in awe at what they were creating together.

But the force that was there in the colors, was there in the colors, whether they liked it or not. So they continued to dance and flow, albeit reluctantly. Their reluctance made them heavy. And as as they danced and flowed, they mixed together and turned into black. A deep velvety never-ending black.

And white was filled with amazement. This is also a form of me? A reverse side of me? For white had seen the whole dance, the beauty and the resistance. It knew the black emerged from its own self. There was a deep wisdom that seemed to emanate from the quiet all-absorbing black, that white found so beautiful.

And it felt a kind-of peace, resting in its own black reverse self. And it rested there for long. It felt good. The black held the same power that white had. As white rested, black kept nourishing it, black kept nourishing its own reverse self. That felt good. A smile spread on the lips of the sleeping white. As it was nourished more, it was energized. The smile converted into a fountain of joy. Then out of its inherent throbbing joy white burst into a myriad colors.

words are small pathways

Words are like small pathways.
They take you somewhere and then they themselves fade away, leaving you in the space of that feeling …

IMG_20160429_071754Words are like small pathways.
They take you somewhere and then they themselves fade away, leaving you in the space of that feeling …

then another thought comes by –
word it and its fructified
is it possible to stand
on the mat of just one word?
just one thought?

choose a word a thought a feeling
shining forever for you
make it your Alladin’s carpet
see where it will then take you

let stuff happen there below
you can make infinite space
your own country, your own land
ever in the lap of grace.

~ vani murarka





Where Ideas Interconnect

Two days in February, people gather in Goa. Ideas gather in Goa. In total camaraderie, zero competition, zero cynicism.

This is thanks totally to Imtiaz Ali’s movie Tamasha. Right through the movie there was this throbbing voice telling me again and again, ‘Go to The Goa Project this year. Go!’

So, I went. To #TGP2016

IMG_20160219_102704562_lrTwo days in February, people gather in Goa. Ideas gather in Goa. In total camaraderie, zero competition, zero cynicism. To enable each other, to share what positive they have discovered in their profession, creativity, life. People from the age range of 20s to 50s (maybe more) interacting seamlessly. How come? Because it is ideas interacting. For ideas don’t have an age. They are simultaneously age old and fresh new.

Ideas do not have any gender either. Nor does The Goa Project.

While elsewhere the issue is discussed threadbare about the inequal gender participation in science, technology, corporates, parliament – TGP simply just achieves it. Probably without even trying (I should ask the organizers).

No other professional / creative gathering have I encountered where the presence and interaction of men and women is so equal normal natural as at The Goa Project. Be it amongst the organisers, speakers or delegates.

IMG_20160219_151517648The Goa Project is an unconference. Unconference because it is not about any discipline in particular. Which means probably every idea belongs, depending on how you present it (remember camaraderie, positive energy, enabling each other). There were talks and workshops related to ambient music, being a voice-over artist, storytelling, performing arts, set design, impacting social change through positive news, poetry, sexual lifestyle, entrepreneurship, photography, mythology, writing your first (tech) book, cake making (this last one was in some previous year) … – i.e. a place where diverse ideas naturally co-habitate, interconnect and integrate.

While sessions are so widely varied, they are carefully curated.

The Goa Project is an unconference because it is informal. It is perfectly OK to get up and walk out of a session to some other session running simultaneously in the other tents.

Yes, tents. Out in the open. The event is very tastefully designed and organised (totally by volunteers) in an elegant secluded venue at the edge of the waters.IMG_20160220_162629182_lr

First I used to feel bad that I am interested in so many things that I am unable to raah pakad ke ek chalaa chal paa jaayegaa madhushala. Then I declared to my counselor – I am a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none and that precisely is my gift to the world – interconnectedness. Then I found the people of my tribe. I found the madhushala called TGP.

And while TGP loves to guzzle beer maybe next year it will be more unconference and unmadhushala by additional ly guzzling tons of nariyal pani!

Wannabe coconut water sponsors for TGP 2017 please contact Udhay Shankar!

shining gateways into infinity

My appreciation for language and literature keeps increasing steadily, while I remain constantly aware of the insufficiency of words. Feelings and experiences are like continuous fields that fade …

My appreciation for language and literature keeps increasing steadily, while I remain constantly aware of the insufficiency of words. Feelings and experiences are like continuous fields that fade out into the horizon (tending to zero but never getting there), while words are discrete and very crude approximations of those feelings and experiences.

Yet, the particular arrangement of words, the finesse of the reader, and the particular configuration of time when she reads – all these together has a capability of taking the reader into a deep intimate garden of those feelings and its continuous field. Intimate with the person who wrote those words, intimate with the reader herself, intimate with our world in general, into a suspended realm of pure wordless experience that is totally independent of time.

As the appreciation for language and literature grows, even writing a business email starts feeling beautiful to me.

Each and every word is a shining gateway into infinity, worthy of loving focused attention. Attention not with furrowed brow, but attention as a mother may gently hold a baby in her arms, relaxed, with ease, knowing the baby is holy. Attention as one may listen to all that tree trunks tell us.

Learning to Love Marketing

Why marketing is spiritual and how I learned to love it –

If you have a product or service you believe in and you don't do everything you can to market the heck out of it, you're stealing from those who need you most. ~ Marie Forleo

Wow. That totally flips things, doesn’t it? This is what my teacher Marie Forleo told me in her B-School program this year.

bschoolB-School is an 8-week online course focusing on online marketing. I enrolled in it to receive guidance to market my project MeULib: The Public Library by Me and You. The program consisted of 6 modules –

  • Profit Plan
  • Website
  • Communication
  • List Building
  • Offerings
  • Marketing

The first and last were POWER-packs. Everything that B-School contained requires fermentation- repeated cycles of contemplation-implementation-re-evaluation on the canvases of one’s business and heart. The nice thing is that the way that Marie taught (crystal-clear thought, excellently structured, compassionately delivered), I am feeling as-if that practice of contemplation-implementation-re-evaluation is seeping inside me and may well become my innate nature!

The Public Library by Me and You
The Public Library by Me and You

At such an early stage, maybe it is not very wise to say this. It is sounding rather premature and pompous. Specially when I have no results (read $$$) to show for it, but then “Start before you are ready” is another thing she said. 🙂

No, not start being pompous before you have reason for being pompous (you never will!) – but, in this case, start sharing your feelings of success before you are successful. 🙂

From the exercises given in each module, I am here to share with you my output of one exercise. I felt so good with what I wrote. That good feeling is still rippling inside me.

Many of us cringe from marketing. That sure has been the case with me. So it is important to revisit those words she said –
If you have a product or service you believe in and you don’t do everything you can to market the heck out of it, you’re stealing from those who need you most.

The key here is “product or service you believe in”. This requires self-belief. That I am a worthwhile entity in this world. And it requires belief in what I am doing. That it is of value, it is a meaningful contribution in this world.

Yet, self-doubt and that cringing from speaking-out remains, doesn’t it? 🙂

So she asks in an exercise:
What fears, beliefs or misconceptions will you need to let go of in order to be a top-level marketer and make the income and impact you deserve?

The answer that flowed naturally from me:
The fear of looking stupid.

That is it. That is the one single inhibition that holds me back. The answer seems so complete I feel no need to add anything to it. In its exactness, it feels freeing. It is after all, a form of explicit self-communication.

And then she continued on to say –
Whenever you change a negative belief, it’s vital you replace it with something more aligned with the life you want, and stay connected to why it’s important. This will help you anchor in your new belief and reach your goal. In the space below, create ten powerful reasons why gaining a new level of mastery in modern marketing will create a positive change in your life, and in the world.

And this is what naturally flowed from me –

  1. To connect with the world – for that is fulfilling. 
  2. To voice my voice – for that is fulfilling. 
  3. To exercise my creativity. For marketing provides a wonderful canvas on which I can unleash all my creativity. 
  4. To offer myself to serve – for to serve is fulling. 
  5. To have fun. Aah! That is just so beautiful. To have fun. Just that one reason itself makes me feel so satisfied. What more can one want? 
  6. To expand myself, my capabilities – it feels good to stretch. Challenges are tasty. 
  7. To learn to be humble. When I genuinely connect and interact with the world, it makes me widen my perspectives. That brings in a humility as well as a gratitude for being part of this big wonderful Universe. 
  8. “Why are you kissing me? Go kiss the world” (Mother Teresa). To go kiss the world. To get up and step out and stand openly in my world with my arms stretched out – to give and to receive. 
  9. To be One. 
  10. To do what He has asked me to do.

Looks like I am already in love with marketing! Exactly what she had said will happen. 🙂

If you dear reader are contemplating starting your own business or already have one and need guidance, I recommend you check Marie out. It will resonate with you specially if you are a woman, but it is in no way restricted to women. I spied a male dentist running his own clinic among the students of this year.

And dear reader, make sure you visit MeULib: The Public Library by Me and You. An unlimited library in the making and the root cause of this post!

I received impeccable service in Kolkata

He works for a pathology clinic. If you ring him up, he will come to your home to collect blood samples for the blood test that your doctor has prescribed.

I used to think Kolkata is not a place of work ethics. It felt like the only time when one can see an overflowing of dedicated work is during the Durga Puja, or in the beautiful artistic show-off world of the Kolkata Marwaris.

Recently I am came across an example of dedicated dependable yet understated service that is so inspiring.

He works for a pathology clinic. If you ring him up, he will come to your home to collect blood samples for the blood test that your doctor has prescribed. His name is Tapan. The charges for this at-home blood-collection service depends on which part of the city you are in. Where we stay, in Hastings at the banks of the river, it costs Rs. 250/- or so (in addition to the blood test charges itself). For Salt Lake, the rate is something like Rs. 500/- if I remember what Tapan Da told me right.

tapan_bloodTapan Da’s dependability is exemplary. My family has experienced it again and again. Say you ring him up on a Tuesday evening, his Wednesday schedule is full and he says he will come on Thursday morning at 9. Since he said so, he will be there on Thursday morning. You do not need to call him again.

This might seem like but-obvious for someone who lives in cultures where such dependable service is the norm. For a Kolkata service provider, this admirable. If I have come across one such person, I am sure there are other such examples in Kolkata too. Thanks to him, Kolkata is not a place of shoddy service in my eyes anymore. It is simply that some provide good service, some do not. It is possible to provide service at the level you want wherever you are.

If you call Tapan Da on a Saturday evening, requesting him to come on Sunday morning, often that works too. Four other people are also employed by this clinic for similar at-home service, but it seems Tapan is very popular. Once he starts going to a house, people prefer him to come, rather than any of the others. The routine act of drawing blood from a person’s vein is also a skill to mastered, else it is possible to rupture the vein and cause a blue arm that lasts for up to a month. At our place, he is the but-obvious go-to point for all blood test requirements. Seeing him come so often, my 7 year old niece was also able to overcome her fears and give her blood for testing. Yes, her brother had to sit beside her for moral support. 🙂

His ability to show up as promised is despite the fact that his day is often full with many visits scheduled across the city, which he fulfills zipping around on his motor bike. Unlike many at-home service providers who seem grimy, he presents himself in professional clean garb that feels respectable. Of course the sweat and grime of the city is not selective towards him. Nevertheless.

His service is a thing to be experienced. There is nothing flashy about it but I was impressed enough to write to you about it. For it quietly grows on you.

Happy Art Play Day

Recounting the experience of my first ever art stall …

Sing Together: painting
Sing Together

It is that boy’s eyes. That is the main reason why I am writing this post.

It was a wonderful day. Truly a blessing for me. An experience of directly reaching out and connecting with so many people via art, via the art stall I put up at the Diwali Dhamaka (a fun fest) in Manipal this weekend. At the stall, I was selling some of my paintings and also had all the paraphernelia ready for people to come and make a painting themselves.

Time and again I am pulled back to the memories and snapshots of those facial expressions of so many people and it fills me with so much gratitude and a sense of fulfillment. I feel amazed: “connecting with people in such a way is possible?!” Well yes, it is possible. It happened girl.

There was this small girl, 6/8 yrs or so, beautiful face, enticing smile. She kept hovering around my stall. Someone asked me finally, “Is she your daughter?” I said, “No, she is my admirer.”, and her permanent sweet smile got even brighter broader. She had been waiting for me to finish painting the pizza box side that I would give her for free to use as a bookmark.


A young man – a pharmacy college student here at the university. He was so enamored. He stood there and pondered long at the wares I had available. When he finally sat down to paint one himself, he pondered over that for long, along with his lady friend. I quipped a bit with this guy with a tip, “don’t apply your head so much” and later shared another painting tip with him too late, “backgrounds first, water first, coconut tree later.” That he was having a go at it with childlike enthusiasm despite being very clueless about it was so fantastic. Most adults do not do that. I realized later, I should have been gentle with him as I was with the children, rather than mocking joking.

I learned first-hand from a boy the impact of holding the paintbrush from far even when painting on a tiny canvas – and his mother had whispered to me that he does not know painting!

A lady admired the art on display and spoke of how she loves painting, has tons of art material at home but can only do copies. That is a struggle I have seen many adults have. Their technique is great, they can make beautiful paintings, but only copies. I told her to go home today and let her hand move any which way it wanted. She seemed inspired by my suggestions and said so too. I hope she tries.

There were many many wonderful expressions and human connections, saved in my heart. Each one precious and beautiful. I want to share each one with you, but will come now to those boy’s eyes. It is that boy’s eyes. That is the main reason why I am writing this post.

A small boy, again, maybe 6 8 10 years old. In school uniform, wearing glasses. Probably the first child I have seen here wearing glasses here in Udupi-Manipal, for that feature stands out in my memory, apart from his eyes. There was something troubled about it, his eyes. He came again and again and admired the stall, asked me how I paint like this (to which I wish I had an answer that would have soothed him and brought a happy smile to his face).

Phoenix: painting

He came again and said “I have come to watch you paint.” I offered several times to him, “would you like to paint?”, he shook his head. After my nth asking, he said, “some other time.”. There was something very adult about the way he said “some other time”. It was sad.

He came again with his elder sister, a smartphone and a request expressed by his sister and not himself, even though he had been talking to me so far.

“He wants to take photos of the paintings.”

I said sure, and he took some photos of some, individually.

Whatever it was that was touching him so intensely, I hope and pray it finds self-expression.

That sounds like a sombre boy and encounter, but the whole day was a very happy art play day. Several dreams and wishes fulfilled: to sell my paintings, to share a “Art Play Place” with people, to earn some money after a hiatus of some 2.5 years.

Facebook status: feeling blessed. 🙂

Moon Shower: painting
Moon Shower

Art Stall Manipal 2014 Vani Murarka

The Apprehensions and Satisfaction of Contributing

On the psychological experience of contributing one’s effort in another’s initiative.

Recently I contributed a few changes to two technical initiatives / GitHub repositories. Huh what?

GitHub is a place where people can collaboratively build code and content. Kind-of like Wikipedia but these are creative initiatives (as compared to information). It is a service used by software developers to maintain and build their code together. The together can be with just about anyone anywhere on the globe (human beings, dolphins not supported yet).

I have been using GitHub for a few months now to maintain my code of OurLib and Geet Gatiroop – but recently I made a few contributions to other peoples’ repositories. The process was psychologically rather interesting (rewarding).

The Apprehension
Am I doing it correct? Am I doing it in keeping with the creator’s overall style of work? It was quite fascinating watching these concerns in me as I went about offering a tiny addition to the technical documentation of a software I have come to admire. It also felt like I am butting-in into someone else’s work!

So one just tries to do one’s best. Observe what is already there and try to offer the change in keeping with the overall approach taken. Then the creator of that initiative can always accept/reject that contribution. Absolutely no hard feelings whatever. How beautiful.

The Satisfaction
It is subtle but immensely satisfying – to have the means to directly help improve a human initiative and make it that tad bit more beautiful – and to go ahead and do it. Then if the offering is accepted, it is a wee bit more satisfying – but the bulk of the satisfaction comes from the doing and offering itself.

One does not have to be perfect. If there are errors (or room for improvement), no issues – someone else can always come along and improve upon your tiny bit.

This is what we are all here for. To hold hands and be one. The साथी हाथ बढ़ाना (saathee haath badhaanaa) ethos.


Image credit: Lutheran Church of the Resurrection website.

Art: My First Observe Teacher (SAM Series)

Life has bestowed many blessings upon me. Among them is my first and very excellent Observe teacher. He came to me during my crucial formative years in high-school.

Summary of previous post of the SAM Series: To do Science, Observe. That is the duty of the scientist. Problem statements and solutions follow from that.

Life has bestowed many blessings upon me. Among them is my first and very excellent Observe teacher. He came to me during my crucial formative years in high-school.

We had to choose an additional subject in grades 9 and 10, in addition to all our regular subjects. The additional subject options were: Economics, Psychology, Art.
I chose Art.

Then on, for grades 11 and 12, we had to choose a stream: Science, Commerce or Humanities. While subjects were clearly specified for each of these streams, two options were offered for the Science stream:
Physics, Chemistry, Maths & Biology
Physics, Chemistry, Maths & Art
I chose the latter: Physics, Chemistry, Maths & Art.

The result: heaven for 4 years – grades 9-12.

There she goes again. Heaven? What does that have to do with Science?

Sorry sorry (garam kachauri). We are here to talk of Observe- the duty of the scientist, and my first observe teacher.

So, surprise of suprises! My art teacher taught me to observe.

Again and again, via his words, via the exercises he asked us to do, he gave us this message and hands-on training: to observe. It was there everywhere in our art classes. In those hours, we lived and breathed observe as an explicit action to be performed.

“When your parent buys fruits and vegetables and brings it home – pick it up, see it. Pick up the apple, turn it around, see it.”, he used to say.

Most of our drawing exercises consisted of “still life” or “nature study”. This meant drawing models sitting on the table in front of us. The model sitting on the table would be a vase, pot, bottle (still life) or simple arrangements of flowers, leaves, fruits, vegetables (nature study).

From blog: One hundred drawings

This was a science lab of a different kind. The lab apparatus: our eyes, pencil, paper and a thing to be observed.

So, on the one hand, in my Physics class I learned about light, optics and that mankind has identified two regions of shadows and named them “umbra” and “penumbra”. On the other hand, in my Art class, I directly experienced the impact of shadows. I experienced the combined effect of light and the curvature of objects. I learned to look out for and be aware of the predominant direction of light on my model. I experienced how light and shadows highlight form, depth and also the texture of surfaces.

Science classes talked of properties of materials. Their brittleness or malleability. How light interacts with materials via different refractive indices. Internal atomic structures. In my Art class, while drawing clay pots or glass bottles, I experienced these materials and their stark characteristics in a direct intimate way. Making a shaded sketch of objects of different materials can be a very fascinating experience. I did not learn of their atoms. However, when a person has to do a realistic large size drawing of a model, full pencil shading and all, she does end up penetrating that model and its behavior in a very real way. Add just one drop of water to the model, and she gets to learn and experience the impact of surface tension of liquids.

Flowers Pencil Sketch

In Biology class there was talk of compound leaves and other kinds of leaves (I’ve forgotten) and the count of petals on flowers. We tore the hibiscus apart and saw its tummy where new baby hibiscus eggs are laid. In Art class, we experienced those leaves and petals directly, touching it intimately all over with our eyes. To tune into leaves, petals, barks – their shape, texture, shades – has become a part of my being and years after those years it continues with me even now.

I could, if I am so inclined, write a P.G. Wodehouse series with a casting of all the quirky leaves and petals that are there out there.
I am not inclined. Typing on a keyboard while I keep my body inclined is tough. Right-angle works better. Inclined keyboards are fine though.

Art classes taught me to observe and gave me hours and hours of hands-on practice doing it. This learning via observing is so direct, experiential and intense, one does not forget it. One may forget technical scientific terms and concepts – refractive index, surface tension etc. that mankind has labeled nature and its dance with, but this experiential learning beyond words does not go away. The knowledge or experience garnered by observing is important, yes. The practice inculcated of observing itself is even more important.

It is only in the last few years that I am beginning to understand the many ways in which art impacts my life. All of them contributing in the scientific pursuit. I may visit some in future posts. Right now, only this –

Art was my first explicit observe teacher and an excellent one at that!

Thank you Mr. Mishra!

Drawing by Sir
Drawing by my art teacher for me, at the time of graduating from high-school.

Dear Reader, please give me feedback, share your thoughts – on the point made, the writing style, or whatever else catches your fancy (other than Nirvana inducing drugs). There are question marks blinking top-speed in my head: is it ok? is it good? is there another perspective? etc. etc. etc.

Observe. The Duty of The Scientist. (SAM Series)

I wanna join the Science club. It is a mighty prestigious club I hear. So how do I join Science the club? How do I “do Science”?

So Science is beautiful. It has the beauty of open-mindedness. It is beautiful in other ways too …

Ok ok. Cut out the preamble. I wanna join the Science club. It is a mighty prestigious club I hear. How do I join the Science the club? How do I “do Science”?

You are so sweet. Asking such nice questions!

What was the question again: How do I “do Science”?

Here is the answer: Observe.
girl observing
That is what you have to do, to do Science. Observe.
Just simply, observe.

That’s it? Really? What about Physics and Math? And Biology? I like Biology. And Chemistry? Don’t I have to do Chemistry?

Hmm… they are nice sorts. Physics, Math and all that. You are hereby granted permission to make friends with those guys. They indeed are nice sorts. Very good company to keep.

But to do Science, you must observe. No getting around that one. Its a big plain in-the-face secret about Science. People don’t say it in school or at college. We are friends. Sharing secrets is our way of cozying up. So here we are, in our pyjamas, away from admonishing voices asking us to go to sleep, we whisper in each others’ ears: To do Science, you must observe.

What about problem solving? Analysis? Strategic thinking? Deductions? Don’t I have to do any of those? And think? Don’t I have to “think”? That guy Descartes, he said “I think therefore I am”. That means if I do not think, I am not? If I don’t think, I won’t exist? That’s scary! I must analyze. I must think! Else, I won’t even exist! Forget about doing Science. I wanna exist. I must think!

Easy does it. Let’s not get pulled away by our own pant straps.

There was this other guy too. He was called Krishna. He said, “कर्म कर, फल की चिन्ता मत कर”.
Ya, that sounds greek. Not to worry. English translations are available.
Translation: Do your duty. Don’t worry about the results.
Book reference: Bhagavata Geeta.

Duty of the scientist: observe.
Results: problem statements, solutions, strategies, deductions …
One duty, so many results. How cool is that! But do not worry about the results. Don’t gun for the results directly. Observe.

If we gun for the results directly (as often people do), if we explicitly try to analyze, try to solve, chances are we will get all entangled in with our own two left feet, dancing a never-ending dance drama. That is not exactly the Science dance idea. Gunning for analysis, gunning for solving, chances are we will miss the target altogether! It will seem like we are doing something, but the actual solution will be sitting elsewhere, happily tapping its fingers on the table. Why? Because the thought in our mind was, “I must solve/analyze”, rather than, “I must observe”.

When we observe, the problem states itself (half the problem solved!), the solution emerges (yay!), the analysis self-happens (and you will get to strut and feel, I am a smart dude!), the deductions deduce. Plop! You shall find them all in your palms. Like mangoes. And then you can place the mango in front of the world: Here. This is the result I got. Tan-ta-dang!

(Btw, go ahead – eat some of the mango yourself. Mangoes are tasty.)

This is the way I see it. Krishna did not say this, so we’ll keep that dear innocent guy out of this. With me, you are welcome to disagree. (Btw, with Krishna too, you are welcome to disagree.)

We spoke about replicating results, right? What if there are no results? What do you replicate? You are the only scientist here. Everyone else has lost it. The world is looking up to you. She shall produce “results”! How do you get results? Bang. From scratch.

This is what I have to say. To do Science: observe.

That’s it. Its really simple. Anyone can do it. You, I, anyone. We can all be cool dudes.

boy observing

Image credits:
Mama Smiles. Reliving Childhood.
Kids Gardening
Getty Images