Apr 14

QnA – 6 (v short for a change)

Q. Gurudev’s vision is one world family… but what to do when in your won family, there is a lot of strife, tension, jealousy, etc, and it seems as if things will never be alright… How do i handle this?

All families have some problem or the other, and typically while you are in the problem, its going to feel as if its been there forever… and will go on forever… but remember circumstances and people do change over time, and something that you thought was a big problem may be trivial over time… and may even teach you new skills, and bring out new talents in you…

Practicing Art of Living techniques and Knowledge doesnt eliminate problems from our lives, it simply gives us efficient ways to cope with them… We, through our actions (which are now much more dynamic and effective) manage to handle the problems in our lives… of course Guruji’s Grace does bring us that unseen, unfelt good luck and great timing… but thats another story :)

So Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or a One World Family is possible, and we can all make it happen, even if there are problems in our own family… we just need to expand the definition of family :)… and in my personal experience i have seen, when i take on bigger challenges, bigger problems, then the ones i have pale into insignificance and almost manage to solve themselves :)

There was another question about a person having trouble doing Kriya in a small room with lots of people… for that person, i would say dont worry, some people have very low tolerance for this type of physical conditions, and you leaving before the Kriya starts is absolutely fine… Do find a bigger hall, or a better ventilated place for all the people there, they will surely thank you for it :)

There was also a question about viewing the TV episodes if you are outside India… i really dont know if its possible, i think ETV is a subscription channel… but we do have people taping the programs and should soon have a DVD/VCD with all the episodes which you could get for yourself :)

Jai Gurudeva!

ps Sonia, you said there was a poem you sent about Curious Lives and i didnt publish it, and so you were scared to comment more… you could have thought about the possibility that i didnt recieve the poem :)… btw, if its bad, i wont publish it :) :) :)!!

Apr 13

TV Schedule

Some time ago, during the YES!+ Winter break last year, dinesh and i recorded some talks (episodes) for ETV… They are going to be aired… here is the schedule:

The Art of Living Special episodes in Yuva Bharat

12- April Study for knowledge

19-April Social Responsibility

26-April Energy Management

03-May Youth & Spirituality

10-May Leadership & Team-building

17-May Self-management

24-May Stress management

31-May Communication & Creativity

07-june Q&A special

Channel Name Telecast Time
ETV- Bangla 9.30a.m
ETV-M.P. 9.30a.m
ETV-U.P. 9.30a.m
ETV-Bihar 9.30a.m
ETV-Rajasthan 9.30a.m
ETV-2 (Telugu) 10.30a.m
ETV-Oriya 10.30a.m
ETV-Gujarati 9.30a.m
ETV-Kannada 8.00a.m
ETV-Marathi 10.05a.m
ETV-Urdu 10.30a.m

Do watch and post here about how you liked them :)
Also wirte to ETV about the programs …

Jai Gurudeva!

Apr 13

QnA – 5

Q. I was to meet my friend and when she told me her cousin was going to be coming too i cancelled out cos her cousin was my classmate in school and i don’t much like him. I guess she told him and he sent me a very very vulgar message in yahoo.
I cant get it out of my head. Its keeps haunting me over and over..
How do i cope?
And also how do you know so much?!!

Vulgarity of any sort should simply be ignored, it shows an immature, unsophisticated consciousness… take it as spam and just forget about it and feel good that you didn’t go to meet your friend!
Move on… relax and smile :)
Jai Gurudeva!

ps i know so much, coz i have a terrific sense of curiosity and i love to learn more and more about many many things :)… And I love teaching things to others about all I know, so the knowledge stays with me fresh…

Q. Until now, till I did YES!+, I have been quite a shy person. Probably I would have never asked you this question before. I am well educated, have been a studious person through my life, did MTech from IIT Delhi and now working in a good company.
See, I like this girl, but I don’t know her name or any other information about her. We did Seva together in the ashram during the advance course but as the silence was broken she had to leave and I never ever got a chance to talk to her…another reason was, that I was a bit shy. I just want to talk to her and find more about her and keep in touch. I don’t have any lust or any bad feelings about her but just wish toto talk her. What should I do?

Do another Adv course! And another and another, she is bound to come back for one :) and next time if you like someone on a course, open your mouth and go and introduce yourself and exchange info :)… Just observe how throughout your life, this shyness of yours has cost you so much. I would say drop it! You have much to say to the world…

Q. Good afternoon sir, i m doing my b-tech (2nd yr) from nit-trichy. but am not at all interested in my core subject or getting into any software company. so its no point wasting 2 more years for this degree, and i have no reason why i should go for an mba.
i have never attended ny aol course, but am very sure that i m very interested in such things (spiritual n all n serving others) and i do believe in them……
Now, i want to know bout having a future in it. i mean means of living as a volunteer with some monthly income. actually money is no great deal 4 me but i will have to send something to my parents. i am in no hurry. its ok if i dont earn anything for 2-3 yrs(full service without income). i m ready to devote all my time to aol. i m ready to do seva n serve all day as my payment 4 aol courses, coz i dont think my parents will pay 4 it. unless i assure them of my future security,they wont allow me to chuck my college n go for aol n all…and i m quite sure tat this is d only way i can b happy in my life….
i want to b a part of ur institution….n only u can help me find some way……
waiting 4 ur reply very eargerly…….thanks a lot……

Hi varun and Jai Gurudeva!
First off, please do a YES!+ course… You say you are “interested”, well then go ahead and do something about it! If you feel your parents will not give you money to do the course, earn it! Please dont ask me how… Use your intelligence and skills… There is always the market research bureaus, thats how I used to earn money during the time I was studying… That and giving tuitions…
Next, giving up something simply because you dont ”like” it, is an attitude of a loser. There are going to be plenty of things in life that you may not like, but that you have comitted to do! Its your job to see to it that you finish what you have started. Guruji had beautifully put it, Move from success to success, not from failure to failure! However uninterested you are in the degreee you have chosen to do, first finish it before starting anything else. You also say you want to give up your degree, my friend, how can you give something you dont have?! Cmon finish it off… While you are doing it, you can organise YES!+ courses in your campus… Get into some hobbies, whatever, but see to it that you have completed what you started.
Do not join AOL to earn money. If you want to earn money there are millions of other options available. At the same time, if you are working with AOL, you will be taken care of financially… I like to put it this way, your needs will be taken care of, and maybe some of your greeds :)
According to me, AOL can be a viable career option, if your intention is to be happy, make others around you happy and not bother too much about finances… In time, money does come…

Q: When ever I tell my friends(who haven’t yet done YES!+) about the seva activities happening in AOL, and ask for their contributions, they ask me how do I trust this organization ? And they reason out that in every NGO, lot of money gets wasted in the middle tracks and what reaches the needy is not even 40 %… I believe the money will reach the right people at right time in AOL. How do I make them believe ?

Take them to the places where Seva is happening. Our school in the slums of Dharavi and other places, villages where stuff has been put into place… Bring them to our Bangalore Ashram school and let them interact with the children studying there, Take them to jail courses and let them see for themselves what happens. Also, note that AOL is not liable to do Seva with the money collected on the courses. Thats the money we have earned! Its not a donation.
But Guruji is truly a philanthropist and so a huge percentage of even this money is ploughed back into society for reform where it is needed.
Finally, understand that there are a few people who will see flaws and defects everywhere… They have corrupted minds :) and there is just nothing you can do about it, other than bring them on a course and pray :)

Q:I am single and not married, working in a software company. I used to see gals who are very bad in behavior. I have seen gals who get engaged with one guy and have physical contacts with some other guys even after their engagement. I am very afraid that the gal whom I might get married to will also be of same character. Please help me to overcome this.

Not all women (or men) are like that. Also, once a woman (or man) is in a steady relationship, she may completely change her ways… Get out of this mind set that all women (and men) are unfaithful. Some definitely are, but most are not. Do be careful in selecting the one you want to get married, and treat her as she has a great character. Dont already assume she is not nice, simply because you know many women who are “bad”… Whoever you are going to get married to, make her do the YES!+ course and the Adv course :) and treat her with respect, not with doubt…

Q:The youth in the north east region of our country are in total strife. There is communal and spiritual discord. And the fact remains that there are many who want to be different and who want to make a difference. If i were to initiate action in the north east with your help do you think we could make it happen…?

Definitely… Things have been looking up now in the NE of India. There have been 3 YES!+ courses so far and many more will happen. Deepak Sharma is our teacher who is in charge of bringing about a miracle over there… Do contact him, his email id is d_s@email.com

Q: I am a ‘fresher’ in this world of AOL…and like everyone else even I am so inspired by you and especially by your speech. Its difficult to match the amount of knowledge that u have, but i surely want to have a vocab like yours. I am good in talking but i fall short of words…can u please suggest me how to get over this.
I have recently incorporated the AOL in my life and i can already see the difference n hope to make some contributions too.
Now that I am about to enter this world with my engineering just getting completed, I am a bit confused about AOL, Infosys, MBA n wht not…
I just dont wnt to get disconnected with AOL but at the same time worried about carrer. I know guruji will d der behind me..
Also all my good wishes to your mom. I hope she gets alright soon.
It was nice to write to u for the 1st time.
If u found it a bit boring….Just accept people as they are :)

Hi Rishab… Jai Gurudeva! And no, your question was not the least bit boring :), and i do accept people and emails as they are!!
and thanks for your wishes to my mom. She is still not completely alright, keeps going up and down, but these days it much more up than down, so I am pretty sure she will be absolutely fine soon! (She has already started sending her crazy SMSes to everyone she knows, thats a great sign:))
Being confused about what to do is perfectly natural… If you ask me, get the job while you decide what to do…
Come and meet up with me or any YES!+ teacher and talk about it… Like I said earlier, Art of Living and teaching YES!+ can be considered as a very viable career option… We do need many young and dynamic people to take Guruji’s special message for the youth all across the planet. So if you like being happy and making others happy and travelling all over… And not worrying too much about finances, believe me the money will come, then becoming an Art of Living teacher is perhaps the most satisfying and fulfilling job in the world! :)
You touch so many lives… So many smile because of you, so many are healed through you… It is a really wonderful and meaningful way of living. Dont get me wrong, there are challenges and problems, and its not all roses, but in the end, I personally would not do anything else :)

Q:I wanted to ask you about the Latest world summit held to anticipate different views given by Scientists in various countries. They have given very frightening declaration regarding the consequences of the Global Warming. Is it really happening?

Yes, It is really happening, and many people because of the immensity of the problem choose to just ignore it or shiver about it. You dont make that mistake. Take it up, and start talking very loudly about it wherever you go. Its our planet. We do need to fight for it!
More people learn to meditate and regularly practice meditation will automatically help them take responsible, intelligent action, instead of the thoughtless environmental rape that they are propogating… I had read in a journal recently, that 27% of global warming happens because people eat non veg food! Thats something we can all cut out. Its more than all the pollution caused by all the vehicles and airplanes all over the world!
So some of the solutions to this mega problem are fairly basic… And something each person can right away implement, if they only cared enough… And I am very proud that Art of Living is actually showing people a better lifestyle, than simply making a movie about it and ignoring the most important cause of global warming in it :)

Q: i m feeling very alone nowadays….i dont have a single person by whom i can spend time when i m bored…..does this life need a companion to go along.???……i keep feeling as though i m being let out by my mates…..a sense of being alone in this world constantly surrounds me…..i keep feeling as though this life is very dull….i m uselesss fellow….as though i m missing a lot of fun….

For sure this is going to happen, when all you can think is only about yourself… Poor me, poor me. Cmon, stop this! Get out of your shell and take a deep breath and get interested in life! Do some Seva, go on an Adv course at Bangalore Ashram, attend some swinging Satsangs, take up a new hobby, and maybe find some new mates! :)

Q. Bau I recently did the UTSAV ACT II with you and Dinesh bhaiya in Mumbai. First of all thank u sooo much for all those wonderful moments. Well I used to come there for the course on my bike due to which I missed a chance to have the cake n soup which u prepared, fortunately my friend did get a chance to have it n he was with full of praises which made me feel all the more jealous, Bawa when will i get a chance to meet u in person and have food with u (something which u have prepared)??? n Dinesh bhaiya man, he’s too good.. Please do convey my special thanks n regards to him also…… Really looking forward to meet u both. One small question why is it that whenever I feel like asking u somethin’ I go blank? (kaan mei batana kissi ko nahi bolunga)…jgd

You can come and hang out with us… But be warned that you will suddenly find yourself neck deep in some work or the other. Both Dinesh and me are extremely busy making a difference in people’s lives wherever we go and having loads of fun in the bargain :)
Going blank when you are in the vicinity of any person who meditates regularly is normal… For years I couldnt ask Guruji anything meaningful, then I started writing out the questions on paper before going to see Him… That worked until I started loosing the paper… :)

Q: I have done my first yes plus @ varanasi last sept. I have a problem – whenever any body approaches me for any work, though I know that I will not be able to complete that work I still take commitments ….(and as being a medical students more n more ppls approach me with their works:)… now the problem arises when even from deep inside I wanted to help all of them …it all just results into UNMET COMMITMENTS …. n that gives a guilt feeling ….. how to get out of all this???

Very simple. Learn to say NO once in a while. Another way is to learn to increase your capacity to do stuff. Sudershan Kriya, Meditation, Pranayama, Satsang and Seva do just this!

Q: Bavuu!!!!!
Distress here in chennai..My very close friend Shiva has a younger brother…Swami. Swami is mentally imbalanced..has fits of anger..and delusions and breaks stuff at home. He even beat up his mother when Shiva was not at home. Shiva and swami had lost their dad some time back. Shiva is married and is even more distressed in not being able to do anything about his brother’s behavior. Psychiatric treatments of no avail..they even took him to Kerala for mystic treatment. Those people have “diagnosed” him to be possessed.
P.S. both of them haven’t done the basic course.
Please help

Really dont know what to say, other than beware of quacks… And maybe bring them to Bangalore Ashram for some treatment. A good homeopath or Ayurvedic doctor could also help a lot… Make all the people in the family do the course. Chanting Om Namah Shivaya may also help… And finally tell them to pray that things sort themselves out…

Jai Gurudev Bawa!!!!!!
Bawa we are all eagerly awaiting for utsav1 which will take place in mumbai from 24th!!
oh baau i cant explain it feels so great to see our friends getting into this amazing, superbly fantabulous “roller coaster”ride for he first time which they would be enjoying throughout their life thereafter! i have pulled in 7 of my friends in just one day to do the course!and i ll get as many as possible!! i dont coax them i literally force them(ofcourse in a friendly manner :)) to get themselves enrolled for the course) lol
its simply feels wow to gift someone such a miracously beautiful experience and make them aware tht an outstandingly amazing loving and caring Guru is always behind them!
on the other hand clean up mumbai is in full swing!! its so damn fun and cultivates a sense of responsibility to work for society n mother earth and by he end of tht day brings tremendous satisfaction!
bawa it feels great to read ur blog everyday!
do keep posting everyday!
jai gurudev! (let the victory of the big mind prevail forever!! :) )

Thats not really any question, but its written so well, and reflects so accurately what a lot people who do Utsav feel, that I felt it should be included here :)
Jai Gurudeva! May many many people come to this superb Knowledge through all of you… I mean all of us! :)

Q. I was working in company it was life insurance company since december 2005. There is lot of politics which was being played with me I mean I am being tortured mentally mostly. I have won all rewards and recognitions of the company but they still want more business. Since 28th march 2008 Iam not going to office. I feel suffocated there. I had given my resignation to them but they did not accepted it. What should be my next step how to react to them am very confused now. our office timing are rubbish it starts at 8 in morning and ends at 12 or 1 in night with standing Cextending for 2 hr regularly. I am not even getting leave to do course. so at end of day I feel very tired and depressed. I am eager to do seva but because of our office timing not being able to manage it.. we have very untimely meetings and we are tracked every hour. where we are what we do? Even calls go to customer asking if we have visited them or not?
i had happen to attend your session at nasik during pds and i am almost fixed to start a business in financial consulting but still i need your guidance as this is first time am thinking of business and need guruji’s blessing we are starting business in name of mudra.
but please do guide me how to solve my office problem.
the impact of office work has increased lot of personal problem in my life.
now as am not going to office am also volunteering for utsav nasik may course

Just quit! Dont bother to go to such a place. Talk to rashmin (rpulekar@rediffmail,.com) about alternative sources of income. Believe me there are plenty! :)

Q. Bawu, I am looking forward this as an opportunity for me to communicate the thoughts in my mind. Please read through.

Bawu, Inspite you being a great inspiration for me and the respect I have for you, there is a factor fear in me towards you. This fear factor pulls me back from raising any question in your presence and clearing my doubts.

The fear may be started because initially I did not have complete faith in the activities of the World which I belong to now, i.e. Art of Living. In the earlier days of my involvement in the activities of Art of Living, an incident occurred in which I sensed that you were aware of these negative thoughts in me. Now in spite me having full faith, the guilt has remained within me in the form of fear. I am sure when you were able to recognize the negative thoughts in me, you will also be able to bring me out of this situation.

Dont bother about feeling negative or fearful or whatever… Relax, take a deep breath, smile and you are fine! :) :) :)

Q. Bawu, here is another issue which I am facing at my work place. There is a small conflicting idea between my Manager and me. Wherein I am not satisfied with what my manager is offering for me (Process), as I feel there is not much scope. This offer was also rejected by one of my colleague who is a new joiner (I don’t know if this is ego). At the same time my manager is ready to offer what I am looking for keeping in consideration that my colleague (new joiner) accepts his offer.

I am in a perplexed state, between my manager, my colleague and my aspirations. Should I go ahead and accept the offer given?

Bawu, advice me.

You have to decide. Only you can decide anyways. Do you see that even if i give an answer, you have to make up your mind about taking it or not… so only you can decide :) Also know that there are lot of alternative ways of earning money… Maybe I should start up a blog on that :)… Meanwhile do talk to rashmin about it. His email is rpulekar@rediffmail.com

Q: I have a strong intention of helping my friends and other people, but hardly have any influence over them which makes any advice of mine to them useless. Till my high school I used to be the kind of guy who is silent, sitting in a corner totally cut off, helping my friends who are weak in studies, hoping they would progress and knowing that it is best to share knowledge.Should I give advice or knowledge which has helped me in solving a problem without being asked for, though I know that it is most likely to be ignored?

Start being a bit more assertive… Take leadership is some Seva project like organising a course… You will see people will start to take you seriously when they see that you are a “doer” not just a “talker”

Q. I’m from Punjab, was moved to Nottingham in UK for my LLM since then missing my AOL family. I realize that AOL will not only bring me back to my family but the youth here need it as well.

Nottingham is a city full of youths from different countries, as there are 4 universities so, there are number of youth here doing their graduation and post grad……….
Why not give your magic to them. so, they all get do well away from their home and lead a stress free life………

Looking fwd for your reply

Please talk to Dr. Kapil Mathur (kaps108@yahoo.com) in London for courses in Nottingham. Get a big enough group and maybe me and/or dinesh will come there to teach it… London is one of my favourite cities in the world :)

Q. Which Olive oil should I use in my cooking? There are so many types, I get confused about which to buy…

Look out for Extra Virgin, Cold Pressed Olive Oil. It’s is my favourite…
Any Brand is fine, i look for which bottle will go best with my kitchen decor :)

You can also buy a bottle and put some basil leaves in it. Leave to stand for more than a month. and you will be surprized at the taste. You can replace basil leaves with red chillies, fresh rosemary, a mixture of fresh herbs… whatever for a very different flavour to your Olive Oil.

Finally, do drizzle a little bit of olive oil on salad (even our simple indian kachumber is fine) and on pizza for a very different taste…

Experiment with different types, they do have different tastes, sometimes quite subtle, sometimes very obvious…

Apr 13

Olive Oil

Which Olive oil should I use in my cooking? There are so many types, I get confused about which to buy…

Look out for Extra Virgin, Cold Pressed Olive Oil. It’s is my favourite…
Any Brand is fine, i look for which bottle will go best with my kitchen decor :)

You can also buy a bottle and put some basil leaves in it. Leave to stand for more than a month. and you will be surprized at the taste. You can replace basil leaves with red chillies, fresh rosemary, a mixture of fresh herbs… whatever for a very different flavour to your Olive Oil.

Finally, do drizzle a little bit of olive oil on salad (even our simple indian kachumber is fine) and on pizza for a very different taste…

Experiment with different types, they do have different tastes, sometimes quite subtle, sometimes very obvious…

Apr 12

Soya Chunks

An innovative way to cook soya chunks, inspired by Prasanna Prabhu’s mom

A packet of Soya Chunks boiled for about 15 minutes and squeezed dry
2 Packets of curds, to which you add 100 gms of Dhania-Jeera powder and 50 gms or so of Tava Masala, and mix it up really well
Add the boiled and squeezed chunks to the dahi mixture and let it be for about an hours, more if possible.
Now, here is the surprise… You fry them in hot oil until golden brown and serve piping hot… eat immediately!
You can garnish with some finely chopped coriander
We even put some thinly sliced zucchini and small chunky broccoli into the dahi and fried those as well… they tasted great!

Not too healthy ofcourse coz of the frying, but hey, it tastes wonderful, and a few Suryanamskars will fix those extra calories…

The Soya chunks can be made in many many ways, if you know how to cook non veg food, simply replace the meat in the recipe with soya chunks and you will be absolutely amazed at the results!

Jalandhar Utsav almost done, tomorrow last day… am on a hunt for really good shoes, they should not be made of leather, and should be comfy and snug, be nice for the spine, very light, look real cool and i should be able to slip them on and off without any fussing with laces,etc… Will be mainly using them for walking…
Been to shops in Bangalore, Mumbai, Nagpur, Nashik, Surat and Chennai… am going to continue my quest in Jalandhar and Delhi… hopefully will find something here… you guys have any ideas? My last shoes which i really liked were Reebok Air Pumps… they got stolen in Surat :(

G’night… Jai Gurudeva!

Apr 12

A very quick and easy Hummus

Food time again!

I am in Jalandhar, and Minnie’s mom had boiled some cholle, for a typical punjabi dinner… I thought about feeding our hard core punjabi friends here, some hard core lebanese food!
You guessed it, i made Hummus, and remembered to take the attached photo too :)
Its so very simple to make and tastes so completely different from Cholle, i guarantee you will have people simply not believing the taste of what they are eating!

Here goes:

You will need:

1 Kg Cholle (Chick Peas)
1 full generous cup of Olive Oil
Juice from 2 limbus (Lemons)
3 Pods of garlic
1 Tomato finely chopped
1 small bunch of coriander leaves finely chopped
few black olives thinly sliced
Salt to taste
a sprinkling of red chilly powder

Get about 1 Kg of Cholle (Chick peas) and boil them till nice and soft, adding just a spoon of olive oil and salt to taste. You can even pressure cook them.

Crush or finely chop 3 cloves of garlic and fry till golden brown in olive oil.

In a blender, add the boiled cholle, the garlic and the olive oil, and just half a glass of water. To this add the juice of 2 lemons (limbu) and about 1/4th cup of Olive oil as well. Blend to a smooth paste. You may add some more water to make the mixture thick and of dropping consistency. It should plop into the bowl, remember to keep it thick, don’t ruin it by adding too much liquid and making it too thin and watery. Be miserly with the water :)

Empty the entire mixture into a glass serving bowl (any bowl will do, glass just makes it look really nice). Add another 1/2 cup of olive oil to the mixture and mix it up really well. Smoothen the surface with a ladle. Make some circles on the surface with your finger, Sprinkle some red chilly powder into the circles. This is just decoration, dont be liberal. Add about 2 table spoons of olive oil to the surface. Add some very finely chopped tomato and coriander to the surface. And if you want to be proper about it, some thinly sliced black olives.

Serve with hot roti, or pita bread or toasted multi grain bread. Hummus can also be chilled, though i like it warm…

The recipe takes far longer to write about and read than actually make. Its really quick, once you have the cholle boiled, it takes less than 10 minutes to whip this up… Serves more than 8 hungry people as a start up to dinner. We had a thick and hearty carrot and broccoli soup for dinner after this and it was most filling and satisfying!

I remembered to take a photo too with bansal’s brand new Canon Rebel XTI camera… enjoy :)
(umm… reduced the image size drastically, so please dont blame the camera for the resolution, i am on dial up here!)

For the record, no one could imagine that cholle could be made to taste like this! :)

Apr 12


Have missed posting here, but i am in internet challenged Phagwara, little place, lovely farmhouse, cool swimming pool, near Jalandhar in Punjab… We are teaching about 3000 young people the Utsav Act I in Jalandhar… in a farily big university campus called (you won’t believe it!) “Lovely Professional University”. It has 15,000+ students studying here!!

But this post is not about Utsav, its about games, so lets get started! :)

So far i have talked about Art of Living and Guruji, books, music and food… one of my other passions is games, PC games as well as board games. Most people on my side of the world limit themselves to either mindless shooting or mindless driving games on the PC. Snakes and ladders, ludo, chess and monopoly are perhaps the only board games that most people have played or even heard of…

So in this post, contrary to most people’s expectations i am going to talk about board games! :)

A few years ago, when dinesh and i were teaching in Australia, I had ventured into this very small “hobby” shop in Melbourne and saw over there this whole host of games in big boxes… very attractive to look at, they seemed to promise a different world of interaction and excitement, and so i bought my first game: Elfenland. Beautiful board, superb pieces, terrific gameplay. Utter value for money, especially when we group of 5 adults got beaten by a 12 year old (all of us were playing for the first time!). Turned out to be one of the most difficult games to play, requiring intense concentration and ruthless cunning. Not recommended for a lazy afternoon, but definitely a game where a group of friends can pit themselves against each other over strategy.

So excited over the purchase, i went online to find out more and lo! an entire world unfolded before me… just google board games and you will see what i mean. The next game that i got which was highly recommended on the net was Settlers of Catan. Couldn’t understand the rules, and gave up on it, until i reached Montreal in Canada and went to stay at Antoine’s lovely home. Turned out that he was a board game enthusiast. His favourite game Settlers! He taught, i learned, we played. When i got back to India (with the expansion pack, and another game from the canadians Elasund as a gift), i taught the game to friends here, and it remains one of the best games we have ever played. It has almost everything a great game should have: Strategy, luck, fun, interaction between players, you name it… and the way the game is designed, the game board changes every time you play (it’s random), so a strategy that worked in one game, simply will not in another! This taught me that i should read and re read the rules and give any game a fair chance before giving up on it. btw, Elasund was a great game too, though Settlers was far superior.

Then on our next trip abroad, dinesh and i went board game shopping. Remarkably difficult to actually find a board game shop! We couldn’t find any in LA and New York( there must exist some, we just couldn’t find them). So we resorted to online shopping. Though if you ever have a chance to visit and buy stuff from a proper store, please go! It’s usually full of people who love these games and are extremely opinionated and love to share their views with anyone who cares to ask. The owner too is usually very enthusiastic and will rarely point you to game you will not like. They can be expensive, $40-$80, so its nice to read up on the games, listen to people in the shop about the game and then buy.

Between dinesh and me, we own many games now. Here is a partial list and brief description of the more memorable ones:

Ticket to Ride Europe (comes in 3-4 flavours, Europe is the best), it’s perhaps the best introduction to board gaming. Very well balanced, with nice strategy elements, a brilliantly designed board and pieces, it’s really good fun to play with 4 players. One of the games we keep coming back again and again to. This is a game anyone can learn to play in a matter of minutes, and is suitable for ages between 9 and 99 :). I would heartily recommend buying this one and playing it many many times!

Age of Empires III: The board game. not the PC game. Another very cool game. Lots of little interesting twists, nice board, many, many pieces. Its an attention grabbing and very beautiful game, has a huge board…

Colosseum, set in ancient Rome, a very nice fun game about being a manager of the Roman Circus.

Hoity Toity, a very different type of a game by the makers of Settlers. Its soooo much fun to play about 7-10 times. Then the novelty wears off unfortunately, but definitely worth playing a few times. (I will gladly lend my copy of it to anyone provided i get it back)

Power Grid, a fairly riveting strategy game, not too pretty to look at, and the paper money used in the game sucks, but has classic gameplay and nerve wracking choices to made…

Maharaja, a game set in Northern India about building palaces (palaces are represented by beautifully coloured marbles) is a nice blend of luck, fun and strategy. Not played it as often as i thought we would play it…

Pirates Cove, a game which has huge doses of luck and is unbelievably fun to play. I never thought after playing it once, we would play it so many times, it actually gives ticket to ride a run for it’s money in terms of how many times we played it!

Ra! The ultimate fun auction game. Everyone should play this one!

Caracsonne and its many expansions: a Tile Laying strategy game, can be pretty interesting and is a nice way to spend a rainy evening… very easy to learn and another quickie intro to board games.

Thuirn and Taxis, a transportation game in Germany (one of the places on the game board is Baden Baden, where our German Ashram is). It’s another of those strangely simple yet utterly addictive games.

Pillars of the Earth where the action takes place in the shadow of a Cathedral being built, and you conspire to contribute to its building while making money and getting fame… the premise is based on Ken Follet’s novel of the same name. Made me want to read the novel, but have not yet got around to doing do :)

Princes of Florence, is where you are a prince with an estate, and how you develop that estate to attract geniuses, who then make works of art to make you famous. The point of the game is get fame, but to get the geniuses to come to your estate, you need to spend money… so quite a nice tight rope walk between money and fame. Play it with a gujju and you will definitely win, coz he will be so busy making the money and not paying attention to the fame points! :) :) :)

Puerto Pico is one of most tight fisted games i have ever played. You have to really make every penny count, and its cut throat competition till the very end. Not a game for beginners, and definitely for a patient, mature audience.

Notre Dame our newest acquisition is quick to learn and fun to play. Only played it once so far, so can’t really comment too much on it, except that i lost by 4 points. rashmin won :) and we didnt notice that 3 hours had gone by…

All these games that i have written about take between 2-3 hours to play the first time you play. After the first 2 times, when everyone knows the rules, its definitely more fun and much quicker to play, and can take between 1-2 hours to finish.

There are a few games that even after knowing the rules take a solid 4-5 hours. We own only one of those, its called Railroad Tycoon: The Board Game (Not to be confused with the PC game of the same name which btw is absolutely brilliant but i will talk about that game on some other post). Its good fun to play, fantastic strategy, changing starting conditions make each game completely unique. But if you make a mistake earlier in the game, the game mechanics are unforgiving and its impossible to catch up, and people just give up. A game only for very mature players.

There is another game called Shattered Galaxies, which takes an hour to set up, a week to learn and about 10 hours to finish….

In this time of electronic and individual entertainment, board games are very refreshingly basic, loads of fun, mentally challenging, and can be just plain addictive. When Guruji is not in Bangalore Ashram (physically), we have had many sessions and everyone who has come and played with us, has come back again for more… They do require patience to learn and teach, but you will be rewarded for the time you spent :)

Unfortunately none of these brilliant games are available anywhere in India as far as i know… infact if anyone knows where such games can be bought in India, please post a comment here… and so you will have to start being really nice to friends in the US, Europe (European board games may not be in english, but you can download instructions), Canada, Australia and New Zealand… They may be available elsewhere, but i don’t know… In Singapore for example you have to order and wait 40 days before they get the game for you at almost double its US price!

Finally, Thanks a lot to Sarang and Abhishek, my buddies in the US, for keeping us supplied with all the games we have asked for :)

Happy Gaming!!!!

and i hope that post makes up for the few days of silence from my side… Tuesday, i will be in Delhi, with more reliable inernet connections, and so postings here will become regular again… hope to see you guys soon… please do keep leaving comments, i love reading them and it gives me encouragement to write! :) Leave questions on the YES!+ website, i get a collated list from there which i answer in the QnA series…

and oh yes, Dinesh has written a huge post on Shivaratri in Surat, he is a perfectionist and so is polishing it up before he posts it here :)… hopefully we will all get to read it before next Shivaratri…

Apr 7

A lunch in Chennai

Yesterday we went for lunch to a restaurant called Sanjeevanam… blazing mid day sun notwithstanding…

They dont take reservations, its only on a first come first served basis… we went in at about 12 noon, had had no breakfast, so was very hungry :), and there were tables available… we were 5 and had our meal at a table designed to seat 4, but that was alright…

Its a complete health food place, and the meal is quite elaborate… There are 26 items in all, and they are all to be eaten in a specific order only… and no water is served between the meal (which is good i dont have any either)

First Raw banana thinly sliced (3-4 slices) with just a hint of dessicated coconut
then 5 petit glasses, just 3 gulps big, of date milk, veggie soup, rice bran water, lassi and one more which i forgot… quite nice
The they put the banana leaf and serve 4 raw veggies, the raw mango salad was delicious… then you get four semi cooked vegetables, i loved the raw papaya and the petha sabjis and finally you get 4 fully cooked veggies, there was something to do with palak and amla which was quite delicious…
Then you are served the rice (unpolished v good for health red rice) with a paste of cooked moong dal, finally a choice of red and normal white rice with rasam and dahi kadhi (which has an unpronounceable malyalam/tamil name and was really tasty)
next buttermilk (v yummy) and payasam (made with jaggery)
Then a glass of hot jeera water appears when you have finished your meal to wash it down (had 5 sips)
Finally a spoonful of honey is poured into your hand and you slurp it signifying the end of the meal!!

All the food is cooked in bronze, copper or earthen ware, the kitchen was clean, the service a little slow but quite friendly… when extra portions were asked for they were given quite stingily :)

It was very nice food, very different… some of the sabjis were not hot (maybe they were not supposed to be, but i would have preferred them so)… the rasam was cold which was quite unforgivable…

Would i recommend this place?… yes definitely quite an experience, with mostly very tasty and really nutritious food… felt very light after such a long drawn out meal, though later in the evening i had almost no appetite for dinner… the ambiance could have been much better… thankfully there was no music, and you can properly focus on the food…

When we left there were quite a few people waiting in queue, so if you are planning to go, go a bit early, then you dont need to wait in the heat(waiting area is not air conditioned)… am pretty sure i would have left if i would have had to wait…

Would i go there again? Maybe once in every two trip to Chennai…

Bon Apetit!

PS Followed the lunch with juice in the fruit shop at greams road (thats the name, they have branches at a lot of place but still call it at greams road, we went to the fruit shop at greams road in spencer plaza, i am pretty sure it is something to do with the heat in chennai:))… really really yummy juices and milkshakes served here… if you goto chennai, please do go here and taste as many as you possibly can! :)
i had a flosberry flop (pineapple, lemon and mint), kavi had a pink panther (lemon, ginger and some other stuff to make it pink), Seema had a milkshake Ban the Banana (hint of banana with strawberry and milk and something else… they dont tell you its a secret), and we took home a sheik shake for dinesh (dates whirrled in with ice cold milk)…
many more really exotic juices and shakes to experiment with… my only complaint about this place is that they are not uniformly good… a juice on one visit will taste divine, on another terrible… but its far more likely to taste great than bad, so do go for it and if you have not too good an experience, give them one more chance :)
The other complaint: terrible loud music :)

Apr 6

Andrew LLoyd Webber

His music is almost uniformly fantastic!
One of the only composers of our times who effortlessly manages to combine various music types in one single play with gusto and elan… He has managed to come up with some of the most endearing music i have ever listened to and would sincerely recomend everyone to hear it and fall in love with it like i have :)

Here is a list of his musicals which have done brilliantly on broadway (in New York) and westend (London)

1. Joesph and the amazing technicolour dreamcoat (very old one, is now on a revival and playing right now in London… one of the best reasons to go there!)
2. Starlight Express (i have seen this one live atleast 4 times :), its about a train that gets enlightened :)!! )
3. Evita (yup, scored by ALW, the very famous Dont cry for me Argentina is from this musical)
4. The Phantom of the Opera (still running in London, perhaps the longest running musical in know of, running since 1986!!)
5. Sunset Boulevard (very depressing with some really brilliant music)
6. Jesus Christ Superstar (a rock opera, depicting the last few days of Jesus’s life as seen thru the eyes of Judas… fantastic, but can leave you quite shaken)
7. Cats (Terrific show, classy music Super hit song Memory is from this one)

8. By Jeeves ( A musical based on the characters of P.G. Wodehouse… i couldnt stop laughing… top notch music, somehow didnt do too well on the box office to my eternal wonder… if it ever comes on DVD grab it!)

Love changes everything is a beautiful song from Aspects of Love (didnt quite like any of the other music in that one)

He has written a few more, some of which i personally didnt like too much… There are some great DVDs and CDs which are available of his shows and music and make really great entertainment value…

Michael Crawford, Joesph Donovan and Sarah Brightman do super justice to ALW’s music… though i have even heard Antonio Banderas sing ALW’s music brilliantly! :)

The other musicals i have throughly enjoyed… i will leave that for another post… another day! :)

Apr 5

In Chennai

one word: Hot!! :)

its an absolute mystery to me how people can choose to live here… i wouldnt buy a house here… i would expect to be PAID to live here :)

But Raji aunty (Harish’s and Kavi’s mother) makes it all worthwhile by cooking up an avalanche of the most delicious dosas!!

i finished reading 2 books today… have been reading one for some time now, its called the Unwaba Revelations by samit basu… its the third part of his gameworld trilogy, and while the other 2 were absolutely fantastic (The simoqin Prophecies and The Manticore’s Secret), this one drags along… one big fantasy was after another interspresed with a few extremely funny and ingineous pages! I would keep reading to get to those parts… a very disappointing book, given the author’s earlier work… its a good read in the toliet or a long boring journey, but not much else…

The other is called Garlic and Saphires bu Ruth Reischl who used to be the New York Times food critic… utterly delicious and almost unputdownable for any person who enjoys food and some great humour… the only big problem i had with this book was that she talks about alsmot only non veggie restaurants and almost all the superb recipes in the book are non veg… will see how to convert some of them to veggie versions and post them here after cooking and tasting them for all of you :)… A throughly enjoyable read, i would recomend it quite wholeheartedly…

Cheers to the people who designed and made the Air Conditioner!!

Jai Gurudeva!

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