Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Travel to places connected with Sri Ramakrishna

January 7, 2014

For a long time I wanted to go to Kolkata and visit places connected to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: Belur math, Kamarpukur and Jayrambati.  This became a possibility when a friend called up inviting me for his marriage in Kolkata! I booked tickets but the train was full and I was kept on waiting list (WL).  I could have tried to get the tickets through the emergency booking facility, tatkal but I thought I will leave it to destiny. I will travel only if the tickets get confirmed!  Air travel was possibility but too expensive given my current financial condition. I did not book hotel accommodation thinking that, if at all my train tickets are confirmed, I would stay at an old friend’s house.  I sent a mail to this friend informing of my visit.  This was 21 days before travel.

3 days before travel date my booking status was updated from WL to RAC.  So I could travel but I have to share the berth with another passenger!  There was no mail from my friend with whom I expected to stay in the even that my tickets get booked.  So I call him and tell him that I would be around for 4 days but mostly will be touring places connected to Sri Ramakrishna.  He thinks! and tells me in the most humble way that it will be difficult to accommodate me!   But then he also informs me that Belur math has a guest house and that I could book it.  I did not know about it. There is no information on the Belur Math page about the guest house! I search again but in vain.  He searched and found a page where one could give feedback about the Belur Math website.  In the ‘feedback’ he wrote about my need for a guest room gave my name, email address and phone number.  We decide to wait for a day before taking any other action.  A day later I get a message that my request is forwarded to the Maharaj(Swami) who takes care of matters pertaining to the guest house!  Another day later I get a message from the Maharaj asking me to give arrival and departure details in an attached form.  I am excited. I fill the form. A day left for my travel and no communication from the Maharaj. I consult my friend. We agree that absence of a confirmation mail implies that it is confirmed!  Looking back I can see how optimistically deluded we were.

Location of Belur math guest house

Location of Belur math guest house

The train reached 1 hour late. It is 6:45 in the evening but already dark.  The taxi-wallah takes me to Belur Math and asks where I wanted to be dropped. I had no idea that Belur Math would be such a huge campus.  We went inside the big arch entrance and then I got down thinking I could walk and ask for directions to the guest house.  To my good fortune I crossed a young monk who tells me that if I have not got a confirmation mail then I do not have the guest room.  In fact I am supposed to be carrying a print out of the confirmation! The guest house keeper would not accept me without a printed confirmation letter.  Besides, the procedure is to apply 2 months in advance!

However, since I am single and with only a backpack for luggage the guest house authorities may consider me on compassionate grounds!   The monk takes me to the math office for guest house accommodation.  It is closed. They close at 6:30 pm. Then he takes me to the guest house. It is a small walk outside the math compound on a lane that leads to the ferry ride to Dakshineshwar.  He leaves me at the guest house gate indicating that now it is between me and the guest house keeper.  Here is the google map showing the location of the guest house. It is useful because the guest house building does not have a name board!

As pointed out by the monk, the guest house keeper asked me for a print out of the confirmation e-mail.  I told him I had not received any.  He was visibly unhappy; I did not have a document and I was ignorant of the procedure!  He called up the Maharaj  in-charge of guest house related matters.  I told him I had come from Bangalore, had intimated the math a few days ago about my need for a room, and that I had not received any reply from the math office.  He must have got annoyed,  ‘we also have other works to do’, but quickly recovered and asked me to hand over the phone to the guest house keeper. I was allowed to stay but should vacate the following day.   A single room, probably reserved for monks, was given to me!  I was supremely grateful; I was saved from the trouble of going in search of a guest house that late after 26 hours of train travel. I would have agreed to sleep even in the courtyard!

A board inside the single room accommodation.

Instruction board inside the single room accommodation.

Breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and lunch at 11:30 a.m. are served in the guest house. In the morning I toured the Belur Math campus: temples, museum, Sw. Vivekananda’s room and the place where remains of several of the first disciples were interned.  When I was back for lunch I was told that I was to meet the Maharaj.  Though, it was closing time for the office the Maharaj agreed to meet me immediately because I had decided to pack off late afternoon.  The Maharaj took down my name, searched Microsoft Outlook and gave me the print out of my mail. Then he took asked me to accompany him to meet another monk, his superior.  I sat outside the office, when he went in and spoke to the senior monk.  The senior monk apparently dismissed it; it was not necessary for me to meet him.  There was more good news for me.  I could come back the day after the marriage and another room in some other place could be arranged for me! I was humbled at his efforts to accommodate me even after I had thrust myself on him, though out of ignorance. Truly grateful.

I was back early next day.  The guest house keeper who had by now become friendly gave me the key to a different single room in the same guest house.  I had no sleep the previous night-the marraige got over by 2:30 a.m.  So I slept. A lot.   The guest house keeper told me meet another Maharaj if I wanted to book the car to Kamarpukur and Jayrambati.  But before that I wanted to got Dakshineshwar.  However, by the time I came back from Dakshineshwar it was time for the prayer in main temple at Belur Math.  The office closed by the time I was out of prayer hall.   When I returned to the guest house for dinner the keeper was annoyed that I did not meet the Maharaj. How was I to go now? I pleaded. He spoke to the Maharaj and yet again he obliged,  ‘was I ok with joining 3 others in the car to Kamarpukur the next morning?’  Of course, I was. The Maharaj also suggested I stay at Kamarpukur. The accommodation in Kamarpukur could be arranged!

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa source:

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

The car was ready at 7:00 a.m.  The 3 others were a devotee, his mom and nephew from Andhrapradesh. The driver was good at conversation and regaled me with stories related to Sri Ramakrishna’s life.  He was driving devotees since 1974! and knew Ramakrsishna’s life story like the back of his palm.  Among other things he told me the story of Rani Rasmani, which is not in the Gospel (at least not in the English version).  We reached Kamarpukur at 11:00 a.m. after a break for tea-the best tea I had in my 5 day trip, on the way.

The Maharaj in-charge of the Kamarpukur math was happy to note that I had a research background,  ‘more students should pursue science’.  He was aware that the nation highest honour, Bharat Ratna, was conferred upon the leading scientist Prof. CNR Rao.  I informed him that it was possible now to do good research because more funds are allocate for research. ‘Yes, but it is not enough.’ I was surprised.  It is the first time I heard a non-scientist saying that more funds should be allocated for research.  Usually it is the scientists who complain of the lack of funds.  There were others waiting to meet him.  So we decided to meet again but for now I was allotted a room usually reserved for monks!  I was given a special lunch coupon with VIP written on it!  It being a weekend a large number of people would queue for lunch. With the coupon we could skip the queue. It did help me save time.  It was unbelievable. Having a degree in research can also be an advantage. Who could have thought in India!

In Kamarpukur, after seeing the Jogi Shiva temple, Haldarpukur (the pond) and the main temple, which is built in the place where Sri Ramakrishna was born, we went to Jayrambati a few kilometers away.   Holy mother was born here and spent several years after the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna.  We attended the evening prayer there and were back before dark to Kamarpukur.  I spent the evening until dinner in the prayer hall where a Maharaj was reading from the Gospel. It was in Bengali language; I tried to follow the language but soon realised that I cannot understand beyond the simple pleasantries in Bengali.

Places to see in Aantpur. Board in Aantpur math

Places to see in Aantpur. Board in Aantpur math

The next day we had breakfast and started for Aantpur as suggested by the driver. It was in Aantpur that the idea of starting the Ramakrishan math and misson occurred to Swami Vivekananda.  The Maharaj in-charge of Aantpur math offered us fruits and asked to leave only after having lunch.  We saw Swami Premananda’s house (now belonging to the math) and the dhuni (fire place) where Swami Vivekananda along with other monks decided on the idea of the math and mission.  We then went behind the house to see the pond that was used by Swami Vivekananda.  There seemed to be ponds everywhere and in fact all along from Howrah to Kamarpukur and Jayrambati.  Having spent my childhood in a relatively dry region of Maharashtra I found this much water beyond imagination.

I was back in Belur by early evening.  There was time enough to visit the Kali temple at Dakshineshwar once more.  But before that I met the Maharaj, who had arranged the car, and paid the car charges.  My stay and food in the guest house at Belur Math and Kamarpukur and food at Aantpur was free!  I donated modest amounts for my own satisfaction in all these places.

  • I have not included descriptions of the places here.  Please read here and here for exhaustive and minimal information, respectively of both the places.
  • There is a private lodge in Kamarpukur.  It looks good though I haven’t checked the rooms. Here are the details: Relax Lodge, Ph. no. 03211 244699
  • On a walk around the Belur Math compound I came across a good lodge near the main gate. The rooms are good. They even have AC. It is called ‘Om Plaza’ , Ph. no.  26540378
  • If you want accommodation in the math guest house please contact the math office 2 months in advance.  The guest house is available for devotees. It helps if you come with a recommendation from a monk. For instance, if you are from Chennai you should have met or known the Maharaj in the Ramakrishna Math in Chennai.

Kanjilal and Sanyasa Diksha

October 27, 2013

Today at Ramakrishna Math, a junior swami gave the lecture.  The following anecdote is from the notes I took during the lecture.

Kanjilal was a householder devotee of Sri Ramakrishna and frequented the Belur math.  During those visits he spent time conversing with Swami Brahmananda and other monks.  One day he asked Swami Brahmananda for sanyasa diksha. Swamiji told him that sanyasa was not for him. However, he kept asking time and again for sanyasa. Eventually, Swamiji obliged but told him that he would be given the Kaul Sanyasa diksha and not the Dashnami Sanyasa that the Ramakrishna order follows.

The date for the sanyasa was fixed. It was an amavasya. The time was middle of the night or past midnight.  Someone who knew the procedure was called to perform the rituals.  The time to offer the bali came.  However, when the bali was offered out of nowhere two huge jackals came picked the bali and threw it in the ganges river. This was a bad omen. The bali should not be touched by anyone and here it was thrown into the ganges! So the ritual was called off. Swami Brahmananda remarked to Kanjilal that he had warned him that sanyasa was not for him.

However, later after Swami Brahmananda passed away, he got sanyasa under the grace of Holy mother and Swami Sharadananda.



Asthma and Health

September 10, 2013

He had attacks of asthma from his youth. A few puffs from the inhaler and it used to subside. When the dose from the inhaler did not help he would go to the doctor and get an injection. That always brought down the asthma and he would be healthy enough to go to the office the following day. He is nearing 75 now and the same inhaler or the injection work without fail.
Recently, he had a severe attack and, as he later told me, he could breathe-in only up to the bottom of the throat! He was unable to  talk and conveyed only through hand movements that he should be given oxygen externally. He was admitted to the ICU. A day and half and about 30 injections later he could breathe normally. The BP had shot up. It took a couple more days to stabilize.
Before the attack he had severe abdominal pain and that had yet to subside. It was diagnosed as due to Pancreatis. The pancreas were generating enzymes at a level far exceeding the normal. The excess enzymes were attacking the pancreas. This inflamed the pancreas which put pressure on the intestine (the pancreas are just above the intestine). The gastroenterologist brought the enzyme levels to the upper limit of the normal range in a few more days by intravenous medication. The pain had subsided but not disappeared. It would take a month and treatment from another doctor, a general physician, to disappear completely.
The doctors say that the cause for pancreatis could be genetic. He does not recall any of his relatives having pancreatis. Then they say it could be alcoholism. He never had alcohol! Well, then it could be smoking. Did he smoke? Yes he did. There you go. It could be smoking! He was a heavy smoker; 3-4 cigarette packets a day. But he stopped in his 40’s, i.e. nearly 35 years ago.

He stopped smoking 35 years ago, but there is no sign of its effect on his health or on the occurrence or severity of asthma.  Did stopping smoking really help?! I wonder. I am also reminded of a friend’s grandfather.  He was a farmer. He smoked unfiltered tobacco (wound up in a leaf) all his life.  He died aged 92 perfectly healthy.

Synchronicity with music

January 28, 2013

I check e-mail (gmail) once or twice a day. After going through my mails I often check the tab on Google Reader to see if there are any updates. I have subscribed to the content of several academic journals, magazines, blogs and comic strips. Usually, I read through only one or two of these, so there will always be a huge backlog. But the other day I happened to read a friend’s blog where he mentioned an artist (vocal) of  the Hindustani Classical genre, Pandit Venkatesh Kumar, and linked this article that appreciates him. It caught my interest. I had not heard about this artist as the article rightly pointed out about him being not famous. But now I wanted to listen to his music. I live close by a Univ. campus where music concerts are not uncommon.  So I checked their website and was pleasantly surprised. His concert was due the very next day at a time that was suitable to me! Needless to say, I attended the concert and was impressed. He has an amazing voice and range. Unfortunately, the concert was arranged only for 2 hours.  I dare say that going by traditional concert times he would have just warmed up. There was no doubt in my mind that had it been an all night concert, like a traditional concert would have been, he would have dazzled us with his full potential.

Pt. Venkatesh Kumar (center) supported on Tabla by Ravindra Yavagal and on Harmonium by R. Katoti.Apologies for the blurry picture. I could afford only this picture with my mobile.

Pt. Venkatesh Kumar (center) with R. Yavagal (to his right) for Tabla &  R. Katoti (left) for Harmonium. Apologies for the blurry picture. I could afford only this picture with mobile camera from my seat.

Those familiar with Julia Cameron’s book Artists Way know that she believes those who undertake the 3 week course experience synchronicity. At the end of every week, in the Tasks or in the Check-In’s we are asked to write down the synchronicity that we experienced. Synchronicity did happen to me on several occasions earlier (for e.g. see here) i.e. before I knew about the Artists Way. Then I use to think about it as a kind of Deja Vu. Music being closer to my heart, the urge to describe this particular synchronicity was greater

This got me thinking and I googled synchronicity to learn more. Interestingly, I came across another word that encapsulates this phenomenon. It is Pratityaya Samutpada (Sanskrit).  Pratityaya means interdependence. Samutpada means co-arising. So Pratityaya Samutpada means interdependent co-arising. It is a concept in Buddhism and in lay terms it means that things arise depending on more than one reason or condition. It makes fascinating reading. Wikipedia has more on this including excerpts from the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh. But I leave you with this picture that I took at one of the monasteries in Ladakh.

Wheel Of Life or BhavaChakra. Probably, from the Thiksey Monastery.

Wheel Of Life or BhavaChakra.
Probably, from the Thiksey Monastery.

The Bhavachakra(Wheel of Life) depicts the twelve chain of causes that lead to other causes: dependent-arising.

Sensitive teeth, pain after hot or cold drinks

August 23, 2012

My tooth used to ache whenever I had hot tea or warm water and also when I had cold drinks.  I saw this commercial for toothpaste that promises relief from exactly the same problem. Though I am quite cynical of the promise that advertisements offer I went ahead and bought the toothpaste.  I did not sense any change after the first use (contrary to what they show in the advtst.), however on the second or third day I found that I could take cold and hot drinks without pain! I stopped using it and changed to the regular mint flavoured toothpaste after a week and it’s been  more than a couple of months now. I am perfectly alright having cold and hot drinks. It’s amazing. Using it for just 3 days cured me permanently.  If only all other advertisements lived to their promise. However, since the effect has been almost magical I wonder if there is any permanent damage done to the teeth. I mean it’s unbelievable that it actually works. Huh. …Cynical me.

Gym Ball

August 6, 2012

I first bought the gym ball to use it as a replacement for my chair at the desk! The gym ball was from ‘GAIAM’ and it came with a cd – full of exercise videos that i could use to shape up. I did try some of them for a couple of weeks but then discipline is not my forte and i was happy using it as a chair. But soon i missed reclining back and got back to the chair chair.  The gym ball i would use for occasionally sitting on it and bouncing. Some of my visitor friends too found it entertaining to sit and bounce till the door resonated with it. Meanwhile i had to leave back to India. I posted the gym ball along with several books that i had collected in 3 years. Back home i received the cargo but most of the boxes were torn up-that’s what happens when the customs guys search through your goods, and unfortunately the gym ball was punctured.

I bought my second gym ball from PRO-FORM. This ball was unique in that it would not roll away. This ball came with a one year warranty and was anti-burst! However, in exactly 1 year and 3 months it punctured. It did not burst but slowly gave away!  Bought my 3rd gym ball recently from I.CARE. This is the cheapest of the three. The pump to fill air that came with the ball broke before the ball could take the spherical shape. So i used the PRO-FORM pump and blew the ball to shape. This one does roll away but i am okay with it.

By the way, i like to use the gym ball as a support for inverted back exercise (kind off urdhva dhanurasana). This asana gives my back and lower back especially a great and instant relief. In fact right now it is about the only use i do of the gym ball.  I do it only when i feel some discomfort in the back.  I am not an expert in asana so i would not recommend it to anyone.

My experience at Dr. Batra’s-4

May 11, 2012

My earlier articles on this topic are here. After one and half years of treatment i can say that i did not see any perceptible difference in the baldness. There was a period during the treatment when it felt like hair loss was more! When i informed the doctors they were able to reduce the hair loss. The density of hairs, that is the  number of hairs in a given area did not increase. The doctors say that dead cells cannot be revived. They use a microscope and have a procedure of making a hair count. Based on the hair count they have classified the level of the problem. They tell me that when i had joined 1.5 years ago i was in the danger level (these are my words, i dont know the exact words they used. ..but it was very convincing) which means that hair will continue to fall and eventually i will be fully bald.  Now they say i am between safe and danger levels. I should take the treatment 2 more years to get into safe level. But i have got tired of this treatment and have discontinued it. Though i was skeptical of this treatment  i was hopeful when i joined.  Alas…there is no magic treatment for hair loss.

Another way to live

June 11, 2011

The picture of a sadhu, with ash smeared face and a large naamam (a U with a line bisecting it arising from the center) on the forehead, on the front cover got my attention to this book.  It is an account of Professor/Dr. Kapur’s experience with yoga and yogi’s. I use the word yogi here synonymously with sadhus swamis and sanyasis. There are extracts and summaries of several of his interviews with yogis. However, in all his travails Dr. Kapur never came across a yogi with powers (siddhis). So there are no stories about magical/supernatural powers or even mind reading. The one sadhu who was shown to him to be a realised soul Dr. Kapur suspects to be schizophrenic! In his interviews he asked the sadhus  why they chose the path.   The answers are varied ranging from “i was on the path from childhood” to “i took it to avoid misfortune” and “it was a way to meet the challenges of old age”!  There are detailed accounts of some of them and they form interesting reading.

Dr. Kapur also joined as an apprentice with a Guru to learn yoga. He narrates his experience during training and also the effects after continuing it when he was back home. These chapters make interesting reading. There is also an account on changes in his behavior at home after and before yoga in his wife’s words.  To quote her ” Having observed my husband’s practice for an year, i came to the conclusion that regular practice of yoga enhanced the positive aspects of his personality and reduced the negative aspects. However, interrupted practice proved to be  more harmful than not practicing at all”.

The comments and guidance from his guru are listed as bullets in a couple of pages. They are real gems. I skipped the parts which dealt with the theory of yoga and details on psyco-analysis.  On the whole this book is a good read.

My experience at dr. Batra’s-3

April 18, 2011

(read about the earlier parts here and here)

Today i visited the doctor a week earlier than scheduled. Thats because my scheduled visit falls on a long weekend and i will be out of station. The doctor asked the same questions i had the same answers but i found myself talking a bit louder. In between giving the same answers i told her a bit firmly that i didn’t think there was any reduction in hair loss.  She had a camera with her this time and she fished out the snaps that were taken in one of my earlier visits about 6 months back. A comparison of the snaps taken on this visit and then showed no difference.  There seemed to be some new hair growth near the fore heard( in the region where the hair loss forms the shape M). But there is a catch.  When the earlier photograph was taken my hair was oiled and easily grouped together. But this time i had not oiled the hair and they were not grouped.  The dr. said that the fact that there is no further growth of bald area is a positive sign.  And that my thinking that there was no hair loss could be more out of my anxiety! and need not be taken seriously. I was however asked to take a blood test for iron content and something connected to thyroid. Though, she said the latter was not of concern with males.

So i am supposed to take a blood test. I will get back a month later on this.

My experience at dr. Batra’s-2

April 16, 2011

(read the first part of this series here)

I had started with a 6 month course. At that time i thought i would continue for more time if i see any improvement in hair fall/growth at the end of 6 months.  Well, i can say that as a result of the treatment the hair grew faster-i had to visit the hair cutting saloon earlier than normal. However, i could not say whether the hair loss had reduced. Nevertheless i paid for extension of the treatment by one year.

Every visit, which is monthly once, the doctors ask the same questions. Do you see any improvement? Is there a decreases in hair loss? And every time i would say that i could not conclusively answer those questions. The reason being that before i started the treatment i used to wash hair once a week whereas now i was, on the doctors suggestion, washing hair every alternate day. And then i would ask the doctor if he/she thought that there was an improvement in the hair condition.  As i had mentioned in a previous post i had asked this question everytime to a different doctor because the doctor who attends to you is decided by when you go and how much rush is there and how many doctors are available on the day you visited.  The answers were never a clear yes or no. One of the doctors said my hair was now stable ( after 6 months).  Another said that i was 60% cured and that i had to continue until i was atleast 80% cured.  This suggestion was based on the number of follicles that still had fungus at the root.

The last visit about a month ago when i was asked if saw any improvement i gave the usual answers but then added that the dandruff was increasing. I never had a visible dandruff problem. But ever since the treatment started i could see white particles falling of my hair whenever i dusted it. There was also a little itch. To this suggestion the doctor asked me to stop using the liquid they had asked me to apply before hair wash.  She also give some other homoe medicine. And this medicine worked immediately. I cant say though whether it was the medicine that cured me of dandruff or it was because i stopped applying the liquid. But the dandruff did stop! So homoe does work.

About the reduction in hair fall, i am not so sure. I think that though the hair is growing faster, the density of hair (the number of hair on the scalp) is decreasing. I have meeting coming Monday. I have to get this doubt cleared.

%d bloggers like this: