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Who hasn’t heard President Obama’s 2008 electoral pitch – “Yes, We Can”? Although I’m not planning on contesting an elections any soon,I firmly believe in the power of the “Yes, We Can” attitude – Yes, We can, but only if we want it; Yes. We can, only if we persist. Yes. We can, only if we strive for it..
I am reminded of a Samskrta subhashita of Bhartrhari which classifies people into three categories -The people in the lowest rung, who never try because they are scared of failing. The mediocre people who start off with their task, but stop when faced with hurdles and finally those excellent men and women, who despite of being hunted and haunted by troubles and hardships, do not stop in their endeavor, and work towards achieving their goals.
On March 8th, the world celebrated the International Women’s Day.That day, I remembered, Nagamani, a very remarkable woman. Nagamani was born about a century ago in a middle class family in village in south India. As a young girl, she was trained in Indian classical music along with regular schooling. However she wasn’t encouraged to be a performing musician and was married at an young age. To her sorrow, she wasn’t allowed to take the Veena, the musical instrument she was trained on with her because it was considered a family heirloom, one that could only pass to a son. Nagamani moved on to join her husband. Since her husband was a forest officer, that meant she would now live in extremely remote locations, surrounded by the wild and the beautiful but without the music a town life could offer. As a remedy, Nagamani decided to make some of her own, got herself a harmonium and taught herself playing it. She played hours on end, just for herself, and perfected the art.
Life wasn’t a bed of roses for Nagamani: 12 childbirths out of whom 4 did not survive; one of the children became a victim of brain fever and ended up being disabled and needing constant care. But Nagamani did not let go of her music. As the children were growing, she kept playing the harmonium, for herself, and for her kids, and to instill the love of music among them. Years rolled by, and some of her children indeed become performers, something she herself could not do earlier. And her addiction to Indian classical music was passed to many of her grandchildren and great grand children too. She was an example of the “Yes, We can” spirit to engage in activities that are close to our hearts even if there are obstacles on the way.
It’s almost three decades since Nagamani passed away. I was very young then, but I still remember glimpses of her mastery over the keyboard that created wonderful music; and I still carry the love of music that she made a family heirloom. Nagamani, was my grandmother.
Now, let me switch gears to something more contemporary. Susan Spencer Wendel, a journalist left her job as a legal reporter when she was diagnosed with a serious condition called ALS in 2011. The disease left with her muscles dying and now she can barely talk and move her fingers. With her health fast deteriorating, she decided it was time to live the last couple years to the fullest. Last year, she went to the Yukon territories up North to see the northern lights with her best friend. She started writing her memoir typing only with her index finger on her iphone as that was the only functioning finger by then. This memoir, titled “Until I say Good Bye” goes on sale today, March 12th, 2013. Susan is a living example of the “Yes, we can” attitude doing things that we love to do, about in spite of the most grueling hardships.
How many times have we told ourselves that we don’t have time for things we wanted to do or wanted to do better, and blame external factors? “Only if I have more time” – “only if I had more money”, “only if the weather was not so cold” , “only if the neighbours dog didn’t bark so much” – Oh well. I made that last one up. But you get the idea!
Come on, let’s stop making lame excuses and move on! To do things that we really love. To do things that we care about. To do things we enjoy. And to say with pride and satisfaction , “Yes, We Can”.
(This is the text of a speech I gave at my Toastmaster’s club contest today: March 12th, 2013)
Last couple months we’ve seen some nice conjunctions of Jupiter and the Moon. On January 21st, they will come closest seen from the Earth. They would be seen about half a degree apart at the closest. As a comparison, the full Moon is about half a degree in diameter.
Here is a simulated view of the conjunction.
This conjunction is well placed seen from the western hemisphere, because it happens during the early part of night for this side of the Earth. The closest point being around 7:00 pm Pacific time. If you remember the Moon moves almost 13 degrees in one day,the conjunction may not appear so close from the eastern hemisphere unless you wait until late in night/early morning. In any case, don’t forget to look up at the Moon on 21st January 2013
This conjunction is also a good time to observe the movement of the Moon in the background of stars on the Ecliptic. Jupiter being farther away does not move much in a few hours. But the Moon is much closer, and also there is a the advantage of a bright Jupiter close by – So if you see the Moon at an hours interval a few times in the night, you will easily be able to see how the Moon has traveled towards East in the background of stars.
A bonus this time is the conjunction occurs in a very star-studded region of the sky – surrounded by prominent constellations such as Orion, Taurus, Auriga and Perseus. And by the way, the orange-red star close to the Moon & Jupiter is Aldebaran, also known as Alpha Tauri in sky-terminology, and is the 4th nakshatra Rohini, in the Indian lunar Zodiac.
Yugaadi marks the beginning of the traditional lunar new year celebrated in several states of India such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Literally, Yugaadi means Adi – “the beginning of” and yuga – “an era”. As per current understanding, a yuga is a measure of time, associated the term with long periods – as in Krta, Treta, Dwapara & Kali yugas, each spanning thousands of years.
However, if we go back in time for about thirty five centuries, we find Indians had a very different interpretation of the term yuga. Vedanga Jyothisha compiled by Laagadha around ~1400BC very clearly defines a yuga as a period of five years. The very opening verse of Vedanga Jyotisha has the following verse:
pa~ncha saMvatsaramayam yughAdhyakSham prajApatim |
dinartvayana mAsAngaM praNamya shirasA shuchih ||
which approximately translated to the following:
“I bow to thee, Oh Prajapati, one who has the day, season and the half-year as limbs, the over-seer of the five-year long yuga”
Vedanga Jyotisha also tells us when the five-year yuga began based on the alignment of the Sun, Moon and stars (specifically both meeting at the star Shravishta) in the sky. Also, according to the text, five years of a yuga were called samvatsara, parivatsara, idaavatsara, anuvatsara and idvatsara. Incidentally, this beginning of a new yuga took place at winter solstice, and not at (or close to) Vernal equinox as the current yugaadi is.
Things change over time. Now, we call every year a samvatsara, and the five-year long yuga is almost unknown to most people! If you are more interested on this topic, I suggest you to read this paper by B.N.Narahari Achar is a good resource.
Wishing a very happy Yugaadi to all visitors at ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ!
Today is the first day of Vasanta – the spring season. Although spring can’t arrive in an instant, for the calendar, we need to have an official start of spring, and that is the Vernal equinox. From today, the days get longer everyday, till the summer solstice. In India, spring is associated with koels singing in mango trees, and the smell of jasmine flowers.
In California, there is no dearth of flowers during spring!
Unfortunately, there aren’t that many singing birds. But to make up for that deficiency, I’m posting here a recording – of my composition, sung beautifully by “Arvind”.
Arvind, is known as IndianMusicFan on Twitter world, and his website is http://www.aboutindianmusic.com/
Click on the play button to listen to the composition.
The composition is in rAga kAmavardhini, that is also known by other names as Kashi Ramakriya & Pantuvarali. You can read why this rAga has so many names, in this old post here.
Your feedback & comments on the composition are welcome!
Ever wondered what would you see on a Full Moon day, if you were on the Moon?
Answer: It depends.
It depends on where you are standing on the Moon. If you are on the far side of the Moon that is always turned away from the Earth, then you would be standing in the lunar night. Pretty much you’d see what you would see from Earth in a dark night sky. Except that there won’t be the Moon. And of course, there won’t be Earth too, because you are on the far side.
If you are on the near side of the Moon that always faces the Earth, then it is your daytime! So you would see the Sun, and you’d see a New Earth – which actually can’t be seen, unless of course, it is a solar eclipse occurring at your location on the Moon (which in turn means it is a lunar eclipse for your friends on the Earth).
Since there is no atmosphere, and no dispersion of light, you could see stars and planets, if you can somehow block the sunlight!
Stellarium makes it easy to visualize that. Here is a screenshot from a time few hours from now, when the Moon appears full for earthlings.
You can see the “New Earth” pretty close to the Sun, but not close enough to cause an eclipse. As an aside, there are three planets, and parts of three constellations of the zodiac visible in the screen shot. Click on the image for a better view.