All posts by kanchana Ayyar

Recognize your privilege

Recognize your privilege: A Human Perspective


In the history of any country, through time, one way the ruling class controlled the masses was by establishing privilege. And they guarded and protected that privilege at all costs. If you glance into India’s colonial history, it boggles the mind when you realize that just a handful of white people established power over millions of Indians. They did this by placing themselves at the top of the caste system, even above the brahmins, making the general populace quake in fear and in awe. Every educated Indian longed to be included in this inner circle, often rejecting their own kind, and over time, they came to be known as Brown Sahibs: white man wannabes. They emulated the white man only to be spurned by them as darkies. This has been our legacy as Indians. And we continually deny our attempts at being accepted in white circles and deliberately adopting their values, which includes their attitude to certain races.

Today, we understand this group of the privileged as a fraternity, a brotherhood who protect one another and hide the truth. These groups permeate society in an intertwining web of control and manipulation, pushing their narrow, self-seeking agenda. Their presence is everywhere, from police unions and judicial benches to politicians and lobbyists, working hand in hand with big industry. For years they have preyed on society, looting the economy with unwarranted tax exemptions and dividends for themselves, all of which completely legal because lawyers, lobbyists and politicians are handsomely paid to make it so. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. When the divide between the rich and poor deepens, when the wealthy focus solely on their own amassing of wealth with little or no care for the poor that support society, when the law designed to protect, instead becomes an instrument of oppression and police officers commit murder fearlessly, safe in the cocoon of state protection, when the political and economic system stops working for the underprivileged, then people revolt. They take to the streets, many peacefully, and some violently, and voila! We have a revolution.

Whether it is a clash of classes or ethnic groups, racism is ugly, and it has simmered under the surface, like lava waiting to explode. Why? Because while slavery was abolished on paper, the sentiment remained deeply entrenched in their DNA, never acknowledged as wrong or heinous. In order to combat racism, you first need to acknowledge its existence. This in the language of meditation is what is referred to as mindfulness. Unless you are aware of a thought pattern which induces stress, you cannot eradicate it. Similarly, voicing it brings buried supremacist tendencies to the surface allowing you to acknowledge its existence. Only then can you repent by taking the knee in sincere apology.

We love to believe that they are at fault. They are the racists and we have no connection with everything that is happening. Yes, we really feel bad about it and something should be done, but it is not our fault. This is completely wrong. We are all responsible for whatever takes place in our community. We are all guilty of privilege.
• If you have a home, a roof above your head, you are privileged.
• If you have food stocked in your refrigerator, you are privileged.
• If you can shop in a store without being followed, you are privileged.
• If you can walk the streets without fear of being killed, you are privileged.
And we maintain that privilege by remaining silent.

We are in the grips of four devastating epidemics: Coronavirus: the health epidemic, Unemployment: the economic epidemic, Revolt: the social epidemic and the fourth, the most heinous is the pandemic of Racism. What justifies your silence? The time is not for remaining silent, but for you to reach out and help in any way you can, using your money, your time, your energy, and your compassionate thoughts.

Use this time to deeply reflect on your privilege and on how we all build walls around us based on deep identification. Where does your identity lie? My country, my religion, my skin color, my gated community? Meditate each day, knowing that everything you think and say becomes collective thought. Use the power of your positive thoughts and feelings to create harmony around you, accepting and embracing people around you without exception. There is only One consciousness manifest in different bodies and what affects one, affects us all. Recognize your privilege and then share that privilege with those who need it, who have never been given the opportunity, and then, who knows, maybe we can leave this world as a better place for our children.
Watch the full video on Hamsa Meditation’s You Tube channel

A Tribute to Kamu Ayyar: Gone in a blaze of Brahmakamalams

My mother Kamakshi, alias Kamu Ayyar, reached her heavenly abode on Friday, August 24, 2018 after valiantly battling renal failure.

My Inspiration and first love

She has been my inspiration, my reason for writing. At times, I felt we were part of the same soul energy in two bodies. She was in my eyes the epitome of love, her love for me was not tied to any condition; it was selfless and didn’t waver no matter what I did or said. And I felt exactly the same way about her.

In 2008, I began writing When the Lotus Blooms to tell the world the story of her incredible birth, the outcome of a divine blessing from Parama Shankaracharya graced by magical Kamakshi Meru. During the writing process, I would have long conversations with her several times a day where she would bring to life the customs and traditions of the time, creating a beautiful painting in my head about all of my ancestors, some of whom I had never met. She was a natural storyteller and it is her stories that finally became the books I wrote in her honor.

In 2009, she fell ill. She was undiagnosed for several months and would call me unable to sleep or focus. I would sing to her, chant with her and guide her with meditation into slumber, night after night. There wasn’t a moment in the day when my thoughts were not filled with worries about her well being. It gave me physical pain to even think of her suffering and I focused all my energies willing her into better health. Then, in May of that year, I went to Bangalore determined to heal her with the power of my intention, the purity of my meditation and the universal force of my positive thoughts. For nine weeks I sat by her bedside editing my manuscript which I had then entitled Rajam. Having completed only half of it, there was a niggling fear within me that she may not live to read the completed book.

The Magical flower blooms

Then one night, nine Brahmakamalams bloomed in her garden and as I slipped out with a flashlight to witness its magical blooming, I knew in my heart that she would recover. And I had the title of my book; When the Lotus Blooms. I decided to create a myth about the blooming of this rare and beautiful flower and connect it to her birth. And thus was created the myth of the Brahmakamalam. So it was no surprise to me that she went out in a blaze of 11 Brahmakamalams blooming.

Her final days

For the last four months she was battling renal failure brought on by her heart condition. For six weeks that I was with her this summer, I tried to motivate her to fight and get back to her earlier health again as I had done over a dozen times in the last decade. But this time I knew in my heart that she was not going to recover. I persuaded my sister to prepone her ticket and come to care for her which she did, and was able to help Mummy get a lot better, able to speak and walk. For a while, she seemed to be recovering but in the last few weeks prior to her passing she was losing the ability to move her legs. She told me that every night my father was sleeping next to her. I knew then that I had to stop praying for her to live, but instead plead with the Universe to end her earthly suffering. She had lost the will to fight.

The Monday before she went, she told me she was tired of battling her illness and wanted to go. Lack of sleep, inability to eat and digest her food, open wounds in her leg and crippling body pain  combined with the strain of dialysis had depleted her strength. I listened to her and realized that we were all being selfish attempting to prolong her life when she was in so much discomfort. I then told her to give herself permission to die and ask Appa (my father) to help her release herself from earthly bondage. And she said “Kanchi can you teach me how to do that?” Unfortunately I had no clue.

The final blooming

That night, the first batch of flowers bloomed in my patio and I knew that she was going to pass on very soon. That afternoon in a dream, I saw my father taking her away. His face was blazing with tejas, beaming in joy. After several years he had appeared in a dream and I was at peace knowing she was finally going to be reunited with him. When she passed that Friday, August 24th on Varalakshmi Nombu, I knew that all her Devi Puja, the hundreds of songs she had written dedicated to Devi had finally borne fruit, and she had merged with the Divine.

I felt a wave of relief. She had passed, and her suffering was finally over.

Kamu’s story

Kamu, daughter of Parthasarathy and Rajam, was born on October 11, 1935 in Chidambaram. As I have described in my book she was a vivacious person and touched the hearts of anyone she came across. When she met Kandu at the age of 16, they fell deeply in love and remained that way for the next 44 years until his untimely death one Diwali night when he was hit on the forehead by a firecracker. I never thought she would survive his death, so deeply committed were they to one another, but her resilience astonished me. She learned to meditate and slowly started living once again. She had for twenty years run a

bhajan group called Shaankari, and the ladies came faithfully each week venerating her as their spiritual guru. Her love for music and her “Devi Kataaksham” (her aura as the divine mother) was perceivable, and resulted in 400 wonderful keertanamas and bhajans, compositions which will remain as her legacy. Karunai Pozhiyum Kanngal was written about Shankaracharya who had blessed her mother with Kamakshi Meru resulting in her miraculous birth. It has been popularized by the late Maharajapuram Santhanam, who was a family friend.

But it was the Internet that completely transformed her life. One day, she called the Help Line which is a directory inquiry, and told them she was 75 year old lady who wanted to learn to use the computer and could they help her. Young Syed came to the house twice a week and taught her to use Facebook and Gmail. She learned to upload pictures and for the longest time typed Like for every picture she liked on FB!! LOL. But her favorite was Whatsapp.  Every morning she sent a video or Vedio as she called it, and I really miss waking up to her messages.

In spite of not having a formal education she was a social butterfly, as much at ease throwing a formal dinner for the Chairman of Rolls Royce and shaking Prince Charles’ hand as she was conversing with her relatives in Mylapore. She had the uncanny knack of being able to discuss a wide variety of subjects (from her tamil Magazines) to people of all ages, talking to them at their level with what interested them. Her zest for life was apparent in her appearance. She took pride in dressing up and bought saris for each season. Malmals one year, kalamkari printed silks the next and when she walked into a room in a whiff of perfume, you had to stop and look at her. No one could ever ignore her. Her double Mookuthi, the silver keychain at her waist, her sari draped impeccably with matching necklaces and adornments. In her later years when she switched to colorful kaftans, she wore matching beads and plastic bangles and just last year forced my sister to buy colorful watchstraps to match.

And she took pride in her home. Everything was impeccably arranged. Each week she would bring out her collections. Bells from around the world one week, brass lamps the next, dolls from every country, quartz grapes and eggs from Mexico. She never lost her enthusiasm till the end.

Her devotion to God was admirable. She celebrated every festival  making Subbu the cook, make the necessary food items that were customarily prepared. Navarathri in our home was always spectacular with one room cordoned off for the Golu doll display. She initiated me into performing Varalakshmi Nombu and in our last conversation I told her about all of my preparations for the pooja including Maavu Kolam which I normally would skip. She had even given me the menu a few days before and even though she had passed, I still prepared each item in her honor. Instead of placing the Amman in the altar I had the misfortune of placing a photograph of Amma and worshipping her, for she was  daivam(God) for me. Always has been, always will be.

She lived a full life and enjoyed her six grandchildren and even saw great-grandchildren. She had a special relationship with each grandchild and many of her traits live on through them. She was the matriarch, the role model for all of us and we all miss her vibrant personality. All three daughters loved and cared for her in their own special way. My husband was the son she never had and he made sure that she never lacked anything. No expense was spared when it came to her comfort from getting her business class air tickets to the US to attend her grandchildren’s wedding, to buying her a bed, a TV and a computer and so much more. She only had to mention it and he would ask me to buy it.

When she lived I had the rare privilege of taking care of her completely and now I leave her in the loving care of my father, her one true love.


Her life has been immortalized in my two books, When the Lotus Blooms and A Rose from a Dream. If you haven’t already, please do buy a copy in her memory.

When the Lotus Blooms: 


A Rose from a Dream 
















Ten great reasons to meditate everyday

If you are on a spiritual path an important tool is meditation. Often, people take to meditation when they hit their down-cycle, and leave it by the wayside when things get better. While meditation is not for all, it is not because they cannot meditate but rather because they will not. Many believe they will begin after retirement when they have nothing else to do and to them I say don’t bother, because meditation is a tool to help you face life, and is better learned when you are young, before life’s difficulties hit you. Take to meditation, to pranayama and knowledge in the up-cycle. That way, the down-cycle will not affect you as deeply. Meditation is easy and effortless if you are guided into it skilfully and then, like any other technique it grows with practice. Here are some positive effects of meditation.

  1. It stops unnecessary mental chatter: Meditation clears the monkey brain and gets you less involved in thought ladders. Thoughts are very common in meditation, the crucial difference  is that you become aware of these linked thoughts.(thought ladders) Once you are aware and you break the cycle and climb back down into your meditation, you sink into peace. This has the dual effect of  calming agitated thought loops and creating awareness about the quality of thoughts that typically pop up.
  2. It fills you with enthusiasm:  Breath and prana must not be confused. While breathing begins in the nostrils, prana ascends from the base of the spine and on its journey upward through the 7 chakras it affects different emotions and energies.  Activity through the day causes prana to descend making a host of negative emotions reign supreme. Meditation causes a reversal of prana and this rising prana fills you with enthusiasm especially as it passes the Swadishthana (2nd) Chakra.
  3. It wipes out accumulated karma and prevents illness:  Negative emotions like jealousy, envy, greed, anger, lust, grief etc cause aural vibrations in the body which get absorbed by the chakras. In other words, chakras store accumulated stress and depending on which chakra we store stress, illness develops accordingly(a heart attack for one, pneumonia or cancer for another) Certain meditations that focus on chakra cleansing, clear out glitches within the system which translates to less illness. More importantly, connecting to the source automatically clears past impressions which are your karmic roots. If you think back before the onset of a cold or stomach flu, you can most often recall a period of mental disturbance and elevated stress.
  4. It energizes you through the day: Deep rest while fully awake refreshes and energizes you. Meditation is the fourth state of consciousness, the other three are wakefulness, sleep and dreaming. Meditation is a cleansing process that is the only true rest you can give to the mind. Through the day the senses receive hundreds of images and impressions which get embedded in the brain, revealing themselves as thoughts and emotions during wakefulness and dreams and nightmares at night. While sleep gives the necessary rest for the body, it does not give complete respite for the mind. The mind does get periods of involuntary rest during non-REM sleep,  different than meditation because it is rest with no awareness whereas meditation is rest with awareness. In deep REM sleep, the mind is most active and you are likely to awaken with elevated blood pressure and pulse rate. Meditation is as necessary for the mind as sleep is for the body. It rejuvenates and energizes the body and mind, allowing you to have an active and fruitful day.
  5. It makes you more responsible: To have thoughts and sensations and do nothing trains you for life situations, where you respond with full awareness rather than react. Measured response to a situation has shown better long term results, forging deeper and better alliances and relationships. It puts into practice many axioms one knows about changing situations, acceptance and surrender.
  6. It lowers blood pressure:  While the body is considered as being merely the instrument to access the mind. the act of relaxing the body completely has the physical consequence of lowering systolic blood pressure significantly almost as if you popped a calming pill. If one chooses to become the long-term meditator you can actually replace anti-anxiety pills with this much healthier option.
  7. It fills you with love therefore no hate or fear:  One of the real benefits of meditation is that it brings awareness of thought and once this understanding is sharp,  you cease to be a puppet of your mind. The mind continually throws habituated thoughts of past and future fears. As long as you buy into your conditioned mind you will live in constant fear with resultant anxiety. Hate is nothing other than a bi-product of fears as the mind grapples to protect its deepest fears. At your source there is only love and when you access love you cannot feel hate or fear at the same time. It’s that simple.
  8. It taps into your creative source: The period right after meditation can be your most creative as you tap into that silence; the birthplace for ideas. Studies have shown that meditation increases the density of grey matter in the brain which may result in clarity of thought and idea. The period right after meditation is usually your most creative, as concepts originate intuitively from your inner self; and most often those are the best ideas. In memoirs of all great inventors, their groundbreaking ideas were an expression arising from their source. Almost all of them express this spontaneous revelation of truth as sprouting from pure intuition.
  9. It brings balance into your life: All emotions begin as sensations within your body. The more you meditate, the more you realize your inner state seeks outer validation. If you feel angry, then you search for a situation outside of yourself to validate that emotion. Once you are aware of the continual rise and fall of emotions you are then able to merely observe them while maintaining an inner balance at all times. You understand that your outer reality is nothing other than a reflection of your inner feelings. This is how meditation keeps you free from the opposites: cravings/aversions, pleasure/pain and leaves you with a centered, balanced attitude crucial for decision -making.
  10. It allows abundance to flow in your life: Perhaps the most important side-effect of meditation is that of grace which flows like a river of honey in your life. No other spiritual practice can bring in this state of well being so quickly and so efficiently.  This happens because you slip into the present moment more easily  and this PMA(Present moment awareness) is like a flowing river going from moment to moment . As long as you sail down this river, you live free from the burden of life.  With PMA you realize that happiness is your birthright and in the moment all you need is a fistful of faith, courage and gratitude. The results can be life-changing.

Independence and A Rose from a dream

A Rose from a dream spans the decade 1942-52, a very special time in India, pre and post independence. I wrote about this particular era because for the present generation growing up in India and the US, freedom is sometimes taken for granted . They cannot even begin to understand the mindset of those who struggled and died so we could be free.

The book gives you a perspective from many angles:

Famous revolutionaries like Vanchinathan and Bharathiyar whose stories are legendary, known and recognized for their patriotic fervor  and the lesser known Swaminathan and Salih, ordinary folk who worked under the British yet longed for freedom.

The freedom movement was quite different in Bengal as compared to the south. In fact, young Kamu had no idea what was happening or that she was privy to a very special moment in time.  What  is refreshing is that for the first time you read about Indian History  from the perspective of the women of that time.

A Rose from a dream carries a piece of my heart: my love of country. Buy the book and walk through history.

Rose on Amazon


Here is a small excerpt

The atmosphere in the city was particularly festive. Thousands of people were in the streets, already holding paper tricolor flags and wishing one another Happy Independence Day, although that momentous event wouldn’t take place until midnight. Every government building in the city was lit up, the illumination particularly impressive against the darkening skies. There was a prediction of thundershowers and a collective hope that this wouldn’t dampen the festivity. In preparation for the grand moment, the entire street had been covered in a shamiana decorated with festoons of orange white and green. Tonight no one would sleep. It would be a night of celebration.

Rajam and Kunju had tears in their eyes as they watched the friends greet each other. They knew this day meant something really special to these folk. This was a group of people who had  fought for the freedom of the land with a passion. Perhaps never again would this spirit of patriotism rise in the nation against one common enemy. No one could ever understand the depth of feeling and the deep love for the land shared by this band of revolutionaries. Never again in their lifetimes would the longing for Swaraj (self-rule) inspire poetry that tugged at one’s heart strings making tears stream down one’s cheeks. These were very special people, this a very special time, and they were indeed privileged to live through it.

Cries of Jai Hind and Vande Mataram rang all around them, and then they stood, one nation, one voice. For the first time as free Bharat, they heard and sang Janaganamana, the melodic and evocative song written by Rabindranath Tagore, and adopted as the nation’s National Anthem. It was indeed a very special day, one of hope and of dreams as they stood together singing the national anthem. Every citizen, rich or poor, would have tears in their eyes, a combination of painful remembrance and visionary imaginings.

They were all in the streets greeting each other, laughing and cheering. The temple doors were open and people were pouring in to give thanks to the gracious God that had granted them the honor of this momentous day. Sweets were distributed and firecrackers lit the sky. The family was going to see the city lights, but for others, fatigue crept in and slowly the streets emptied and everyone found their way indoors, exhilarated yet exhausted from the emotional festivity.

As Swami lay down he couldn’t sleep for a long time. He led a sedentary life, and this was too much excitement for him. He thought about all the great martyrs who had died for this cause from Bhagat Singh in the north to Vanchinathan in the south, and he reminisced about his attempt to aid the struggle despite wearing a British uniform. For many, their minds had been kidnapped and brainwashed, leaving them with diminished self-esteem and questionable loyalty. Added to that was so much pain. The searing pain of communal riots and hatred, the partition of the land and the creation of Pakistan.. The nation had suffered, and it would take tremendous effort to begin the healing process. The scars of colonial slavery would take a long time to mend. But people had faith that the leaders were good and were ready to follow the guidance of stalwarts and erudite intellectuals like Nehru, Gandhi and Patel who would lead them from darkness to light. India would awaken to freedom and enterprise, to belief and tolerance, to hope and dignity.

The Devadasis

The History

The practice of dedicating young girls to temples was prevalent in many parts of India but in the deep south, the Chola kings by their patronage to the arts elevated the status of mere Devadasis to that of Rajadasis or  royal courtesans.

Rajaraja Chola I is supposed to have recruited around four hundred dancing girls from all the temples of the Chola country to be employed at Brihadeeshwara temple in Thanjavur.
Devadasis were called ‘devaradiyal’ or ‘servants of God’, which was corrupted to ‘thevadiyal,’ a derogatory term still in use. Eventually,  devadasi was a Sanskritized version of  Devaradiyal.
Devadasis were not typically Brahmin but could have patrons  from the upper classes. Most often they were mainly dancers who would have one or maybe two patrons in their lifetime, some girls born as Devadasis others offered to the temple fulfilling some sacred vow. The beautiful learned dance and music and the less endowed unfortunates, were relegated to various tasks connected with the temple.


The initiation ceremony of the devadasi began with  the pottukattu (tying of the sacred thali or thread round the neck as in a conventional marriage ceremony).  Following this the devaradiyal was officially married to the deity and considered a Nityasumangali (one who never suffers the curse of widowhood) and was specially sought after during marriages to bless the bride.

Devadasis who enjoyed the patronage of the king and the temple were women of considerable wealth in the form of gold and landed property. The community was  dominated by women under the supervision of the matriarch known as thaikkizhavi. Daughters were naturally preferred as they were an asset to the family. Devadasis were highly emancipated women and were treated with great respect. Some famous modern day Devadasis are M.S. Subbalakshmi, Balasaraswathy and Kishori Amonkar.


But the advent of the British changed everything. With no royal patronage their status was reduced to that of mere prostitutes.

For those who have never heard of or don’t know much about Devadasis, this book promises to be a real eye opener.

In “A Rose for a dream,” I have introduced a new stream about Devadasis. As usual most of my imagination is fired by my mother, who always told me really colorful stories about a Devadasi family that lived very near her growing up in Thanjavur. The “Madam” was a good friend of her grandfather Swaminathan, who used to arrange police bandobast whenever there were big events like Pottukattu ceremonies or Arangetrams. Strangely enough, although traditionally brahmin women didn’t mix with Devadasis, her mother Rajam and aunt Kunju became friends with Koviladi Valamba. This is the origin of Koviladi Kamalamba and her niece Balamani.

In this excerpt, Balamani is preparing for her pottukattu ceremony and her Arangetram, but she longs to be free and live the life of a normal girl, to love and marry and have children. But more than anything, she longs to unravel the deep, dark secret of her birth.



“I’m so tired of all this. I don’t want to do the pottukattu and I don’t want to have a patron.” Bala ranted, raising her voice in sheer frustration.

“Shh. . . .” said Vasanti quickly closing the door. “Someone will hear you.”

“Why can’t I be like other girls and have a normal life? Meena next door goes to school. I want to do that too; I want to learn.”

“Shh,” Vasanti said, cradling Bala’s head in her lap and wiping the sweat off her neck and face with a soft towel.

“You and I, we can’t do anything to change our destiny. We are born Devadasis and we will die like that. Everyone around knows which caste we belong to. Even if we try to run away, they will not let us live normal lives. Amma has so many friends in the police who will find us no matter where we run. You know how Muthu beat Vyjayanthi when she ran away last year? You remember that don’t you?”

How could Bala forget? It was she that was assigned to wiping the blood off the floor after Muthu was done with teaching Vyjayanthi a lesson. It took more than six months for her wounds to heal before she looked normal. Even before Vyjayanthi’s psychological lesions  healed, Amma had found a rich Mir?zd?r from Salem to visit her. The three girls slept together and were unfailingly woken up by Vyjayanthi’s  nightmares and sobbing. No. There was no escape.

“Don’t even think of running away. It’s just not worth it. Just accept your destiny and maybe one day you will have your own home and be an Amma like Kamalamba Amma.”

“I would never do that. I would rather die than make small girls dance and entertain fat, old men. I want to marry and have a family. Why can’t I marry like other ordinary girls?”

“You will. And what better husband than the Lord himself?”

“But he isn’t real and he can’t love me and hold me or even talk to me. I don’t see the point in that.”

“Don’t aspire for love from a man, foolish child. That is not for Devadasis. We love each other and that’s all that matters. The most dangerous situation for us is to fall in love with our patrons. They are all married men and would never consider leaving their wives for us. Don’t even entertain that thought. You know what happened with your own mother, don’t you?”

Bala stared up at her with a blank expression and Vasanti knew she had made a mistake. Amma never liked to talk about it, but the gossip grapevine held no secrets. Obviously no one had said anything to Bala, and she was not about to be the first. If Amma wished, she would reveal the story.

“What happened to my mother? Tell me.” Bala pleaded.

“Nothing. I meant to Kamalamba Amma, not your mother. You know about her first patron don’t you?”

“Why can’t you tell me? I know you are hiding something. I want to know her story.” Bala pouted angrily, annoyed at being treated like a child and kept in the dark.

“I can’t tell you. Muthu would kill me. Just know that she was fortunate to be loved by a real man and she tasted paradise on earth. Now come on, take a quick bath and I’ll rub some coconut oil with camphor on your legs. It will ease the pain.”

Bala sat up and stared vacantly across the room. She sat down in front of the large wooden carved mirror and looked at herself. A few stray locks had escaped from the tight bun and framed her heart shaped face. She leaned forward and admired her grey, doe shaped eyes with naturally curled lashes. Then she ran her fingers along her long arched eyebrows and down her pert and slightly hooked nose until they outlined her full lips and pointed chin. In the glow from the candles, her skin shone like polished ivory. She was beautiful. She turned around and looked at Vasanti.

“What do you do at night with the patrons? Do you dance for them?” she asked innocently.

Vasanti dropped her shaking head into the palms of her hands. No one had told this poor child what her destiny was. In what words could she explain to a twelve-year-old what her main occupation would be for the rest of her youth?




The Brown Sahibs


A Brown Sahib according to Wikipedia is a term used to refer to natives of South Asia who imitate Western—typically English—lifestyle. It is also used to refer to those have been heavily influenced by Western—usually British—culture and thinking.

When the British came to India they were the rulers of the land and despite making several institutional changes, were unable to make a dent into the social structure. And so, they did what served them well: devious and insidious infiltration into the psyche of the colonized mind. They chipped away at local self-esteem demeaning the authenticity of anything native while simultaneously making “white life” and everything that went with it, enviable. They literally placed themselves at the pinnacle of the caste system, converting every educated Indian into a colonial slave, who longed to be white but was trapped in brown skin, unable to decide between loyalty to the crown and love of land. They imitated western ways and did whatever it took to blend in and be “as British as a Britisher,” but in the eyes of the white man they were always just “darkies”.

And so you have it: the legacy of the Brown sahib…

In “A Rose from a Dream,” Mahadevan fits in perfectly into the role of the classic Brown Sahib. I have also introduced hints of this mental tug-of-war in certain vignettes with Inspector Swaminathan who worked for the British police and faced this dilemma on a daily basis.

The following excerpt occurs after independence when Mahadevan truly examines the inner workings of his psychological conditioning and comes face to face with his own racist beliefs.

Mahadevan placed the medal back in the blue velvet container and sat down at his desk. He wasn’t really sure how he felt, but he realized he was troubled. For more than forty years he had worked as a civil servant loyal to the crown, and his allegiance to the British astonished him. The advent of independence resulted in an upsurge of many conflicting emotions within him, and it was unpleasant and disconcerting because he was customarily clear thinking, and was usually not swayed by his emotions. He wasn’t quite sure if he felt any national pride with the British leaving India. As soon as that thought popped into his mind, he felt guilt and shame, for every citizen in this land longed to be free from the British. Why was he feeling this sense of doom on their departure?  For so many years, by adapting to British ways, something within him remained comfortable and content. He loved his Johnny Walker Red label and Yardley talcum powder and hated bidding farewell to them in addition to the other host of British goods the family had used and enjoyed for so many years now. How foolish to give so much importance to trivia! After all, whiskey and talcum powder didn’t compensate for deliberate depletion of the country’s national resources. Even so, he could not shake off the melancholia that had attacked him like a slow and painful virus.

Slowly but deliberately, he had become a colonial slave. Somewhere deep within him was an acceptance of his inferior status and an admiration for the white skinned. This didn’t happen overnight. Over time they had chipped away at his confidence and placed themselves at the pinnacle of the caste system. The pride he took at being Brahmin paled in significance to being English. Speaking the language, hobnobbing with British officers, being included in the inner circle, had over time become paramount for his self-esteem. Every time he was insulted or humiliated by his British superiors, he silenced that little voice within him, muffling the protest. He could think of a dozen times he stood on the brink of throwing it all away and joining the fight for freedom, but the cowardice within him triumphed each time, never allowing him to act on his bold impulses. Yes, I am a second-class citizen in my own country. He could never allow that thought to manifest and take root within him because pandering to the British, and a deep need for acceptance by them, took precedence. Intellectually he knew he was wrong, but this was an intuitive choice he made without his own volition, and now here he was, wondering if the new India cabinet of ministers was good enough for him. He had turned into an intellectual snob! That was appalling! He cringed inwardly at this consideration.

For the first time in his life he reflected on the values that laid the foundation for his work ethic and wondered how he would adapt to the new way. Change was imminent, and he was the quasi-white-skinned-Britisher looking down on natives.

What were his choices? He could either remain utterly miserable working for those he believed were a cut below his caliber or he could adapt. Somehow the second choice was the prudent one. After all, transforming into a British bumsucker was his way of surviving within the system, and it had worked well for him. He just needed to change his mindset. Work was work. What difference did it make whom he reported to? He would silence the superiority dialogue in his head and move on. It was time for a reality check. The British had left. It had been good for him while it lasted, and now, he needed to ensure his mind was steady. No more audience to those ugly voices that longed for the past and were scared for the future. Just like Appanshayal always told him, he would bring it all back to the present. Now, now, now! That was all he had. And it wasn’t so bad. A great job, an accomplished wife, and three healthy children. Life was good. The mental shackles of colonial slavery needed to be released. Mahadevan sat at his desk and wrote three liberating words.

I am free.

An Excerpt from A Rose from a Dream


The Art of decision Making


Decision-1All day, every day, we make decisions which vary in intensity and importance. Some are really small and inconsequential involving routine matters like what to wear and what to eat, and these are really first world decisions. We seamlessly make these based on our past conditioning, guided very powerfully by the strength of our desires. So we do what gives us pleasure and stay away from that which causes pain. Which is why it becomes extremely difficult to decide on something which doesn’t give us any pleasure and may even cause us some pain. Those are the tough resolutions we loathe but have to take while mired in stress. Breaking a ten-year long relationship, giving up a job with no alternative source of income, eliminating sweets from your diet because you have diabetes and the list goes on. Decisions are nothing other than life choices. Taking tough decisions is character building. It’s easy to decide when the repercussions are less earth shattering but we certainly need to pause and deliberate while making the tough choices and that inevitably leads to stress, especially in those that have a difficult time making hard decisions.Desicion-2

Categories of decision makers

  1. The Type A “My decision”

This type of person likes to be in charge and is the ‘decider’ in the group. We all have one of those in the family or in the office. They are the ones who have very good reasons for deciding everything from the next family vacation, to the airline they pick for business travel. They always take charge and know how to get things done. This person will never eat Chinese when the mood is for Indian cuisine especially if the suggestion comes from someone else. They need to have complete ownership of every decision. Highly strung and emotional, these individuals function at a very high level of anxiety and pass on their sense of urgency to others while continually reminding them who the decider was.

  1. The non-rufflers

This person loves someone else to take decisions and just follows suit without exerting any aspect of his personality. It doesn’t matter to him either way. He could eat Indian or Chinese or Azerbaijani food and it’s the same. It makes life easy when someone else is making the right decision leaving him with plenty of time to spare for other relaxing activities. Most often non-rufflers are easy going and relaxed, apparently unfazed by life situations. They live within their comfort zone and don’t take on any additional responsibility.

  1. The Flip floppers.

People in this category really suffer because they cannot take any decision and stick to it. They are convinced that their first choice was good but at the first hint of opposition fall deeply into the canyon of self-doubt and immediate back out of the decision, taking an opposing view. But that doesn’t last long either. Yo-Yoing constantly between doubt, regret and the other choice, they drive themselves and others around them crazy. They live in their heads all the time doubting their circumstances, their situation, people and events, and for sure suffer from continual elevated stress and lack of self-esteem.

Not Black and white categories

Each one of us moves fluidly between these categories depending on where our priorities lie. A person might decide very easily about financial decisions in the office but make everyone crazy as he sluggishly picks from a menu. Similarly, one might flip flop between career choices but may make very good, unwavering, healthy, food choices. A decision is not this gigantic, phantasmal, nebulous shroud hanging heavily over you; it is nothing but a choice.

 Types of decisions

Informed decisionsinfo

Decisions can be informed only when there is ample reaction time and one doesn’t have to act immediately. When you have to make important, life altering choices it is important to have some sort of mental map or plan. There is no substitute for due diligence which is the magic ingredient in creating the #marketingguru #greatdesicionmaker, great buzz words a.k.a. must-haves on one’s resume.

Gather information

Before making a choice gather as much information as possible. Begin by making a list of your requirements and priorities. This will help you organize your thoughts, your needs vs optional luxuries.

Have a Plan B

Inform yourself about the other options as well. A good decision is weighed against other routes where based on your needs you pick the best alternative. Such decisions are most often not entirely cerebral and often enter into the realm of intuitive decisions. Always have something to fall back on in case your first choice doesn’t pan out.

Time factor

Take a decision as quickly as possible. There is a direct relationship between time and stress. Quite understandably. The longer you take, the more time you have to chew the cud and the longer you stay in your head, the greater the stress. Give yourself a cut-off date which might increase the pressure in the short run but will be a relief looking back, once the choice is made.


Once you take the decision, commit to it. Take ownership of that decision. It was yours to make and was taken after measured thought and now you have to possess your situation completely. Second guessing your decision will lead to poor execution unhappiness and frustration.

Intuitive decisions.Desicion-3

All life situations can never be purely clinical and intellectual. There are many circumstances where we have to sink into our source and function from the heart rather than the brain. Decisions that are tough and life-changing usually have the best results if they sprout from the source. Intuitive choices do not have logic and rationale backing yet tend to have the best results as they stem from your source which most often is your best resource. Intuitive choices feel natural and right and align with universal energies. It is that feeling when you step into a house and know it was built for you although it may not satisfy your specific criteria. However, no decision is stress free.

Stress in decision-making

Stress arises while making decisions because we fear the unknown. What if it doesn’t go the way I want it to? What if I fail? What if this is the wrong thing to do? What if I lose all my money? And Family? What if they disapprove? Trying to please the whole world leaves you in state of utter confusion and shrouds you in stress, making you doubt every decision you make.

Fear paralyzes you.

Know that fear is nothing other than situations in your head about the future that may or may not happen. We don’t know the outcome for sure. Bring yourself back into the moment and do a fear check. Are they immediate or imagined? Awareness of fear reduces its intense hold over you and allows more balanced decision making.

Commit 100% to the choice and go with the flow of life.

Know that if this journey does not work for you there is always another choice. Life is filled with endless possibilities. And the Divine has filled you with deep reserves of abilities that only come up to the surface under pressure. At every turn there are hundreds of choices you could make. Pick one and go with it. Know that you are never in a situation you cannot deal with. There is never a problem without a solution.

Accept your situation

Sometimes the Universe decides which path you need to take and in the short run there is no alternative. In such situations acceptance is key.

Drop your doership.

Realize that life is just a series of events and experiences, all of which inform, educate and enlighten you. Live in the moment with faith that you can and will live up to the high standards of excellence the Divine expects from you. That makes any decision, intuitive or informed, so much easier. Lighten up a bit, it’s not so difficult to decide. “And if things get too much for you, just take a pillow and go to sleep.”

The legend of the Brahmakamalam

In the summer of 2009, my mother fell seriously ill and I was with her in Bangalore. At the time I was halfway through writing WTLB and called the manuscript Rajam. It was an extremely difficult time. I was writing the book for my mother yet I wasn’t sure she would live to read it. Then one night in May, nine Brahmakamalam flowers bloomed in her garden and I knew she would be fine and live to enjoy my dedication to her. My book and my life is for my amazing mother. I had the title for my book and in three months the manuscript was written.

Last year a friend sent me two leaves from this plant which I planted and for the last year have been watering faithfully  like Rajam in my book. I don’t know what the future holds but I believe the blooming of the lotus will change my destiny and manifest my dreams.

Here is an excerpt from the book which explains the legend I have created from the Blooming of the Brahmakamalam

A tiny bud
A tiny bud
To a flower
To a flower

Brahmakamalam, the exotic Himalayan beauty, is called by many names — the Fragrant Queen of the Night, Golden Heart, and Star of Bethlehem. A plant, which, by a whim of nature grows only in the Himalayas, the abode of the god Shiva, around Mount Kailash and in the verdant valleys of Mansarovar. Ancient Hindu Texts refer to this flower as being special to Shiva, although the word Brahmakamalam translates to Lotus of Brahma. Perhaps this was the golden lotus on which Brahma was seated as he emerged from the navel of Vishnu to create the universe. So incomparable is this flower that it symbolizes every aspect of creation, expressing itself in the world we live in as a tribute to the creator. It creates from within itself in a design so complete that it overloads the beholder with emotion, sensation, and passion — a lotus that includes aspects of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva within its physical form. A unique plant, the likes of which is not found in any other part of the world, a flower which some say, belongs to the sunflower family, while others swear is an epiphyte, a cactus, or a lotus.

The first impression is deceptive, as its long drooping leaves look like any common foliage. But its magic lies in leaves and flowers growing out of the leaves themselves and not from a stem. It has been seen in full bloom in spring and winter, and those who have the honor of seeing the Brahmakamalam flower, never forget the experience. At first a limp pinkish bud appears, and for a while nothing happens, then all of a sudden, mirroring the miracle of life, it unravels in white splendor. The outer petals are thin and pointed, revealing within its folds a round petalled mound that uncannily resembles a Shiva Lingam. Over this mound are white stamens tipped with yellow, resembling the hood of a cobra suggesting Adishesha, the hooded serpent associated with Vishnu.

Once a year it spreads elation and joy as it opens its face in the delicate moonlight for humans to admire. It blossoms only once a year, only for three or four hours, after which the petals wilt and fall to the ground. While the plant is in full bloom, its consummate fragrance is unparalleled, defying description, leaving the privileged gasping at its magnificence.