Accept the Right Challenge

We consider our daily engagements with various aspects of the material world as beautiful, bringing us great joy (and sorrow). Consider our desires for ALL things and beings that can be described by our five senses. These temptations ever goad us to aspire more, more and more such beautiful material things. Neverendingly. This results in an endless cycle of desires, our machinations to attain them, eventual dissatisfaction and sadness. That same desire, which we aspired for so much, eventually leads to disappointment and sorrow. This continuous cycle of sprouting of desires and their death, is what we need to #Cancel. Continue reading “Accept the Right Challenge”

Do you feel younger or older than your age?

In the comments, please tell me why you feel that way: Is it due to your diet, work, active lifestyle, cultural heritage, your mother, or something else? How does this affect your life view and ambition? Your relationship with others? Continue reading “Do you feel younger or older than your age?”

11 Secrets to Success

pics of colorful roses in a vase at home by Arun Shanbhag

Decades ago when I subscribed to the Investor’s Business Daily, they had an inside section called IBD’s 10 Secrets to Success. I clipped out that section, and every so often would go over the list to make sure I was following it. I am sharing it with you all, and archiving this valuable, yellowing scrap of newsprint.

Here the authors do not provide any philosophies or elitist quotes, but simple gems. Not to write in your diary with flourishes, or share on twitter or Facebook, but to apply to your life, every day. This is the real stuff. My pithy comments in parentheses. And could not resist adding a 11th.

  1. How you think is everything:
    Always be positive. Think success, not failure. Beware of a negative environment. (Avoid gossip and don’t believe it.)
  2. Continue reading “11 Secrets to Success”

You are Not Special ~ David McCullough Jr.

A fabulous graduation speech from last week by David McCullough Jr, English teacher at Wellesley High School. Very inspiring!

See complete text of speech from (The Swellesley Report) below; I draw your attention to my highlights in red. Continue reading “You are Not Special ~ David McCullough Jr.”

Steve Jobs commencement speech, 2005

Thank you for a great ride, Steve. We’ll miss you.

Notable: Click here for commencement speech by David McCullough Jr at the Wellesley High School Graduation (2012).
Continue reading “Steve Jobs commencement speech, 2005”

Video: Embrace Life

As you get ready for the Holidays, here is a British public service announcement encouraging riders to wear seat belts. WoW! What a beautifully executed video!

Not boring and no scare tactics here; just beautiful acting and the full play of emotions. A tear was ready to well up in my eyes. Stunning!

Video produced by the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership, UK.

Don Meera

Pictures of Don Meera, Mumbai 2010
When Meera was a baby, every time I wore my shades, she would reach for them. I would then mime Main Hoon Don, Don, Don! Soon, Meera came to associate dark glasses with Don!

When we passed stalls on Colaba Causeway selling dark glasses, she’d point and say, Don, Don, Don! SO I had to get her these oversized shades. She’d wear them all the time.

Here is Meera at a gathering in Mumbai. It was well past her nap time and she was super tired, but she persevered and did not get cranky. Verily Don Meera! Continue reading “Don Meera”

Video: Jana Gana Mana, List of Performers

With democracy comes a serious responsibility.
What are you doing with your democracy?

Happy Independence Day!

Continue reading “Video: Jana Gana Mana, List of Performers”

Embrace Infant Incubators

A global partnership for children, including the WHO and UNICEF, report that annually, 4 million babies die within the first 30 days of birth. Why are 4 million babies dying? Concise 2 and 1/2 page article. The common causes are infection, birth asphyxia and premature (including low birth weight) births. Premature and low-weight babies are particularly susceptible to hypothermia and need to be kept warm.

In the well-off world, such babies are placed in expensive incubators (costing upwards of $10,000), while vital signs are monitored and stabilized. In much of the developing world such luxuries do not exist and babies continue to die off. Multinational medical device companies are quick to donate expensive equipment to far off locales. Consider that in places where infant mortality is very high, there is likely no electricity to power incubators and no trained personnel to operate them. Most of the equipment is completely useless and gathers dust.

This lack of understanding local constrainsts leads me to believe that most expensive equipment donations are made primarily for tax right-offs and a way to showcase social responsibility to shareholders. But thankfully, social entrepreneurs in small teams are continuing efforts to develop baby incubators for the developing world.

Here is a creative solution by EmbraceGlobal: A sleeping bag-like device with an add-on warming pouch. It does not require electricity, is portable and costs $25. At that price, they are near disposable and can go home with the baby. Most likely, parents don’t have anything nicer to put the baby to sleep in.

A Neonatologist I spoke to voiced concern that for critical babies, it is important to be able to see the chest of the baby rise and fall as it breathes. I think this can be addressed by a zipper (or velcro) on the sides of the bag. These will also make it easier to get the baby in and out of the bag, and provide ventilation.

I think $25 is still a steep price for essentially a wrap-around quilt. If folks can build a laptop for $100, then such a sleeping bag should not cost more than $1! Yes, One dollar!

Any of you have ideas for modifying the designs to address local needs? Can this be made of locally sourced materials? How about involving micro-finance based women’s groups to fabricate/assemble them locally? This could improve their livelihood as well. Perhaps this may trigger other solutions in the local populations.

Make it for $1! Any takers?

Shri Rām: The Holy Name

Shri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram japa mantra by Arun Shanbhag
For city bred siblings, summering at our grand parents’ home in Bhatkal was essential nirvana. In the orchard we tied strings to dragon flies and watched them jet away. We foraged for bird eggs in old trees. With sling shots we brought down mangoes, not because our aim was any good, but because the trees were laden with fruit. Listening to abbu (grandpa) in his pharmacy store, we learnt a smattering of Kannada and many more swear words. On dark nights without power, gazillion fireflies flickering on mud walls, guided us home. Continue reading “Shri Rām: The Holy Name”

Meera Sleeping

meera shanbhag

This tiny girl amazes me! She’s got me completely wrapped around her little finger – twice over. She only has to coo and I start babbling baby talk like a blithering blidiot. I love it! When she is a sleep, I gaze at her. What is she dreaming? Is she happy? I wonder at this miracle and our good fortune to be enslaved by her.

Here, she is napping after her bath, which as you have all witnessed is a chaotic experience. She smells of Mysore sandalwood soap which has bathed scores of the Shanbhag clan. I cannot help but breath deeply. I had to memorialize this. As I reach for the camera, M berates me not to use the flash – it might awaken Meera!

I agreed and proceeded to compose the pic. M, ever suspicious of my acquiescence, waits and watches, hands on her hip; ready to pounce and tear me to smithereens. What do I do? Of course, I don’t use the flash! My survival instincts are definitely honed!

I am glad, the natural light diffusing in the room cast Meera in a soft glow. M was right, but don’t tell her that!

Previous Posts on Meera:

Meera turns One

Meera turned ONE in her new home. We had a small gathering with cousins, nephews and nieces. Gorged on South Indian delicacies and helped welcome Meera. Here are a few pics.

One of our friends casually asked the other day. “Do you have any pics of Meera?” Then added as an after thought, “of course she is going to be the most photographed girl on this planet.” I was shocked.

The birthday girl; one of her aunts got this tiny dress stitched for Meera.
Here’s looking at you, kid. pssss! pssss! *anti-nazar spray*
pics of Meera's first birthday by Arun Shanbhag
Continue reading “Meera turns One”

Lunch at the Shanbhag School

In 2007, the Shanbhag School in Kumta (and their parent, the Konkan Education Trust), started to provide lunch for all their students. In the midst of a long day, the students had previously rushed home during their lunch hour. There are no cafeterias or restaurants near the school.

The school made a significant investment in cooking equipment and prepares a nutritious, vegetarian meal for the ~ 850 primary and secondary school students. Lunch is simply rice, sambar or daal, a lentil curry or vegetable and pickles (see actual student plate above).

During my meetings with parents of Scholarship recipients, and listening to comments at the Parents Teachers Meeting, parents absolutely love the school lunch program. Parents are relieved of the pressure to pack a lunch every morning, or have it ready for the lunch break. Parents are also surprised (and glad) their kids actually eat the variety of vegetables and lentils the school serves. The school subsidizes the lunch and charges students Rs 80 per month (~$2 per month, Rs 4 per meal or ~ 10 cents per lunch!). Students not on the meal plan can eat occasional meals and drop cash in an unmanned donation box.

Kids love the food too. Meals are taken in the company of friends (and associated peer-pressure to finish their plate). Lunch is done within 20-30 minutes, and since they still have an hour break, they get to play around, gossip, or browse the library.

I showed up just before lunch time to “test the quality of the school lunch program.” I always have interesting reasons to be present wherever free lunch is served. Very delicious food and a primary reason why we included lunch as part of the scholarship package for needy students. If your travels bring you to Kumta, you are welcome to join in for a delicious lunch.

Note: In this post from 2014, you can see new pics and video snippets of students in the primary Saraswati Vidya Kendra, lining up for lunch and chanting the blessing.

See pics from the Lunch, below
Continue reading “Lunch at the Shanbhag School”

Scholarships for the Needy

I have previously written about the Shanbhag School, an academic beacon in Kumta and surrounding villages.

The Shanbhag High School, managed by the Konkan Education Trust does not receive any governmental aid. But it follows the state determined academic syllabus and guidelines. While we attract many students who can afford fees, our family wanted to make good education particularly accessible to the poor. Thus last year we gave 16 scholarships to very needy students to attend either the Shanbhag High School, or the affiliated primary school, Saraswati Vidya Kendra. At a new site dedicated to our Scholarship activities, (, you can browse the list of Scholarship Recipients for 2007-2008.

You can also read about my personal challenges in identifying needy girls: Where are all the needy girls?

We did not rest, last December (2007) during my travels to Kumta I visited most of the scholarship recipients in their homes. The visit served two purposes: (a) to meet the families and convince them of our commitment to support their child’s education ~ and in turn expect them to make education a priority; and (b) to ensure that these were indeed needy families, which I could determine from their living conditions.

They lived in simple 1 or 2 room homes, or with relatives, and it was emotionally overwhelming to experience the gratitude of these families. Below, I share with you some of the scholarship recipients in their home settings. Appropriately I have omitted their names.

We supported the boy in the center, flanked by his father and cousin sister. Being poor, the girl was enrolled in the local government run Kannada language school. She wanted to attend our English school, but being in 8th std (grade) it would have been academically disastrous for her to switch the language of instruction a year before the State Board Exams. This was an important reason why we started giving scholarships to students in primary school!

Continue reading “Scholarships for the Needy”

13 Dangerous Days of Monsoon

Following a newspaper tip:
The US Embassy has identified 13 days most likely to lead to flooding in Mumbai, during the monsoons.

This info is important for all Mumbaikars (not just US citizens), and the City Government should have been disseminating this info in the first place, rather than planning and sniping about a statue in the sea!

Excerpted from an email sent to registered US citizens. See the entire note from the Consulate here
Continue reading “13 Dangerous Days of Monsoon”

THIS is a Saree

A bit dated, but saw this recently on a forward.

Arun Shanbhag Silk Saree

Chennai Silks, India has woven the world’s costliest silk saree worth Rs. 40 lakhs (96,000 USD). The weavers incorporated gold thread as well as precious stones into the saree. Not only will it lighten the wallet, wearing the 8 kg saree (17.6 lbs) may cause the wearer to lose weight.

The exceptionally stunning sari is woven with 12 precious stones including diamonds, ruby, emeralds, yellow sapphire, topaz, pearls and corals. Gold, platinum and silver threads are used in the weave and together with the gems depict 11 of Raja Ravi Varma’s popular paintings. Woven on the “pallu” is ‘Lady Musicians’, one of Ravi Varma’s famous works paying tribute to women of diverse cultural backgrounds. It took 30 weavers, seven months to make the saree.

This Reuters video has more images and details of the saree (Reuters)

I am thankful that during M’s saree shopping binge in Chennai, we did not come across this saree!

Prarthana: A Book of Hindu Psalms

After five years of research and writing,
Prarthana: A Book of Hindu Psalms
was released on Ganesh Chaturthi, September 15, 2007.

This was my second book. When you see both my books juxtaposed on Amazon, you will nod: yup! only a Gemini could pull this off!

I am grateful that I was given this gift of compiling Prarthana in this form. With that also comes a responsibility of taking this message of our dharma to a wider audience. So I ask you to support this by purchasing a copy for yourself and your family.

With the festive season of Diwali soon approaching, you may want to pick extra copies for your friends and colleagues. Prarthana makes an excellent gift!

Get more details of Prarthana, as well as text excerpts at
There you can also see details of the special pricing and how to buy it by credit card or check.

Prarthana is also available at Amazon for the List price.

I leave you with part of a review from Ellen Duranceau

… these prayers speak to something common to all of humanity: a spiritual impulse for light to dispel darkness; for connection to nature, to other people, and to the universe itself; for the courage to rise above our anguish or fears, to find hope and the best within ourselves, and to share our best selves with the world. In a time of great divisions, it is heart-warming to dip into another faith tradition and find common bonds, rather than alienation.

Live Well, Today

M napping on the train in Austria

Today is what you will be nostalgic for, in a few years.

Occasionally, I am overcome by fond memories of childhood in Mumbai; visiting cousins, relatives and grandparents in the rural Karnataka towns of Bhatkal, Honavar, Hosad and Kumta. From what I remember, then I was busy running around, chasing dragon-flys, seeking bird eggs, stoning mangoes, or herding cows.

Now I miss my grandmother – I see her working the orchards, taking care of the household, and scribing “shri ram jaya ram jaya jaya ram” in her notebook every evening. Even when the power went out – which it did most evenings in the summer – she'd light an oil lamp and continue writing. Once more I'd like to peek up at her and see her furrowed brow, the violet bindi and reading glasses perched on her nose. Once more I'd want to be scolded by her. Continue reading “Live Well, Today”

Custom Google Page

Thank you Larry Page and Sergey Brin for making a Google Home Page for MEEEEE! 😛

A little narcissism never hurt anybody! Indulge yourself. Get one here. Thanks to David Pogue (NYTimes) for the link.

Life Meme: Things you always wanted to know but were too chicken to ask

What was I doing:
10 years ago: In Pittsburgh! I was comfortable and coasting at work; life was good and I was getting fat.

5 years ago: In Boston, ready to change my career. Enrolled in an MBA, got a great business plan, … and then I hated the business school types. Yuck.

1 year ago: Still looking to change careers. Have a long list of things I have considered but don't want to do! Oooh! Was planning our india trip 🙂

Yesterday: was a busy day.
Got a manuscript ready for publication.
Ran 6 mi – was completely pooped. A slight ache in my right knee – this aging thing sucks.
Got a haircut,
… and made dinner.
Sliced round whole wheat sourdough bread; tomato pesto, sliced tomatoes, roasted garlic cloves, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers saved in olive oil; a few rings of red onion; fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper to taste! And added a little bruschetta on M's sandwich! Yumm! Sorry no pics as I was super hungry.

Wondering what I want to do when I 'grow up'. Being a travel writer is my current “To Be” craze!
But in the words of Swami Chinmayananda from the Chinmaya Mission, “This too shall pass.” Maybe I will end up with my book store and coffee shop in Colaba! BTW, “this too shall pass” is a handy phrase to recollect. Equally pertinent whether you are riding the peaks of euphoria or wallowing in the dark recesses of despair!

5 snacks I enjoy relish:
1. Eda-mame in the pod, and/or shelled (my new craze!)
2. Britannia cream biscuits (mango and pineapple flavors)
3. Baby carrots
4. Apples
5. Ginger orange granola (Trader Joe's)

5 artists that I know the lyrics of most of their songs:
1. Ooops, I don't know the lyrics of any song. Maybe a couple of lines of some. 😦

5 things I’d do with $100 million:
1. Move to the Ritz full service luxury Condominiums in Boston's downtown. (M would appreciate the maid service!)
2. Buy a flat in Colaba, Mumbai
3. Donate generously to schools and orphanages in konkan-land. Or better still – build and manage my own; then I will have something to do when I 'grow-up.' Or this 'growing-up' thing will have to be postponed indefinitely! :-))
4. Buy a Mamiya 645AFD with digital back and a slew of lenses.
5. Take M to a jewellery store and then to an indian dress store.

5 locations I’d like to run fly away to:
1. Kumta, Karnataka
2. Interlaken, Switzerland
3. Ponda, Goa
4. Ladhak
5. Manhattan

5 bad habits and pet peeves I have:
1. Perfectionist
2. When I want it done, I want it done, … like NOW!
3. Hate soft drinks guzzling, couch potatoes!
4. I am either “hot or cold”; nothing in between
5. Impatient with mediocrity

5 things I like doing:
1. Munching
2. Gabbing
3. Working Out
4. Reading
5. Being Outdoors

5 things I would never wear:
1. Never say never, particularly if you offer me $100 million!
5. Women's clothing! Though I have on occasion pinched M's plush, olive green with a burnt sienna windproof liner, polartec vest for a winter run!!!

5 TV shows I like:
1. ooops again! Don't watch TV

5 movies I likelove:
1. Casablanca
2. Cinema Paradiso
3. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
4. Silsila
5. Love Actually

5 famous people I’d like to meet:
1. Swami Chinmayananda: Don't know if he is alive. I treasure his pocket phrase book titled, 31 pointers for a (something) life. It is the size of a matchbox!
2. Warren Buffet
3. Steve Jobs
4. Nicole Kidman
5. This 'Atman' that I have been reading about lately!

5 favorite toys:
1. Nikon camera gear
2. iPOD
3. collection of fountain pens
4. book collection
5. anything made by apple

3 people I'd like to see complete this :
who so ever has not done it yet!

I’d Pick More Daisies

Pics of Daisies from a road side stall in Montreal Canada, pic by Arun Shanbhag

I’d Pick More Daisies

If I had my life to live over,
I’d try to make more mistakes next time.
I would relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been on this trip.
I know very few things I would take seriously.

I would take more chances. I would be crazier.
I would take more trips,
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I am one of those people who lives life sensibly and sanely;
have done so hour after hour and day after day.

Oh, I have had my moments;
and if I had it to do over again, I'd have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else.
Just moments, one after another,
instead of living so many years ahead each day.

I have been one of those persons who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a swiss army knife, a raincoat and a parachute.
If I had to do it over,
I would go places and do things and travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over,
I would start barefooted earlier in the spring
and stay that way much later in the Fall.
I wouldn’t make such good grades except by accident.
I would have more dogs;

I would have more sweethearts.
I would go to more dances, and
I would ride on more merry-go-rounds.
I’d pick more daises.

Author: Nadine Stair

Note: This is not in the form the author originally intended; There are a few lines which do not appear in the original.

Enjoy my other life-related posts:

Pics of Daisies from a road side stall in Montreal Canada, pic by Arun Shanbhag

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: