My new book: Offshore

My new book on the Offshore services business is out soon in India. Here is more information:
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Often caricatured and mislabeled in popular media, India’s Offshore services industry has emerged, within a single human generation, into the industry that defined India’s image to the world—a young, vibrant, upcoming nation. But how does the industry really work?

Industry veterans Gaurav Rastogi and Basab Pradhan explain what is really going on, using simple language and without resorting to jargon or code. Offshore: How India got back on the global business map, raises and answers some powerful questions. Why did this industry come about in the era when socialist and bankrupt India was almost written off; its population bomb ticking ominously? Why should India be proud, and what has the industry done for the country? What gods have conspired to make this industry so profitable? Are the industry leaders really well managed or merely the beneficiaries of a flattening world? Will the industry find itself high and dry when the rising tide of globalization recedes, marooning the millions who work in and around this industry?

Whether you’re already in the industry, invested in the industry, or know someone who will soon be, this book is a necessary companion to make sense of the relentless news cycle.

An Unpronounceable Volcano

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was stuck in London for 6 days on account of the unpronounceable Icelandic Volcano.

It is no small miracle then, that I find myself, a week later, at home writing these series of posts from the comfort of my home. This was one of the most stressful events ever in my life, not because I was in any immediate bodily danger, but because I was not in control of my return trip. The trip to London was meant to last 2 days, but when the European airspace was closed indefinitely, it calamitously brought my world to a halt. I was rendered helpless by the turn of events around me. I could no longer choose how I wanted to leave, let alone choose when I would leave. The stoppage of air traffic meant that I could be stuck in UK for weeks, or even months. It's this helplessness that caused me much grief. And I wasn't alone.

Speaking with other folks from my company who were similarly stuck in London with no exit options, I found that they mirrored my state of mind almost exactly. Neither of them was looking at this sudden shock as a "free vacation", where they could take time out to enjoy London, or to just focus on work. Each one of my stranded compatriots were looking at ways to escape from this island jail, and to reach home where the families are. As one colleague joked (wryly, no doubt) to his wife, "Why don't you buy two ads in the India news should be my Obituary, and another should be a Matrimonial ad for yourself"! No jokes were off color!

No choices were too undesirable, as we share alternate means of return. We heard that Paris airport was open one day, and Madrid and Barcelona were open on other days. We heard that the British Royal Navy was sending ships to Spain to get their citizen back from Spain...and the ships may have room on the ride out. Eurostar trains to Paris ran on a certain schedule, and may have room in a couple of days. We found out that a taxi ride to Paris was 5 hours, and Madrid was 24 hours. We even discovered that in the event of a complete shutdown of European airspace for the next few months, there were cruise ships (a la The Titanic!!!!!) that ran across the Atlantic.

The media circus was not helping at all. In the six days I stayed extra, I became quite familiar with the British press- print, online and television. The press was tossed between reporting on the Volcano disaster, and the forthcoming elections. The reportage on the air travel chaos was full of "breaking news" that was essentially regurgitated across all media. Authentic news was mixed with rumors, opinion and conjecture.

I experienced firsthand that there is a clear link between the mind and the stomach. It's called psychosomatic stress, and it's a not a pleasant roller coaster to be riding. The stress and anxiety in the mind affects the stomach, where the stomach is made to create excess stomach acid. Now, the stomach is upset for days. On day 2, when the external anxiety has abated (after all, there was no immediate risk to me or my family), but the stomach is still producing excess acid. This trips the brain into thinking that, "Hey! The body is upset about something. What could it be upset about"? Conveniently, the brain finds much to be upset about, and the whole show gets into it's second season. This cycle worsened every day, until I realized that the only way to fix the mind is to fix the stomach first. A couple of days of Zantac later, I was ready to take on official conference calls with the ferocity of a tiger.

(Look up books by Robert Sapolsky to learn more about stress in human beings and other animals. Here's a starter lecture on youtube).

Count your blessings. The benefits of a devout early education is that I still remember the morning assembly prayers about "Count your blessings, name them one by one...". Very clearly, if I HAD to be held up for an indefinite period, London would be the best place to be at. I had friends and family in the city, was put up in a hotel, had an office to go to, and was personally quite safe and happy.

Even more importantly, it was clear that there were much larger entities at work that would get me out of London quickly. All the airlines were losing money every day they didn't fly, and there is no way they would give up their battle to open up the airspace. Also, there were more people stuck OUTSIDE the UK trying to get in, than there were INSIDE the UK trying to get out. Which means that it would be easier to get out of the place than it would be to get.

I am treating this episode as a wake up call. Maybe the global jet-setting lifestyle needs to be re-thought. There is a price we pay, every time we fly away from our family and loved ones. Should we have stayed home?

Lava + Ice = Fear + Longing in London

As a rule, I don't watch disaster flicks on long flights. To me, being inside a metal tube high in the air while breathing recycled air and continuously fed insipid pseudo-food, is like carrying around a can of highly flammable vaporized liquid in my right hand. Adding a bad disaster flick (of the type of, say, "2012" or "I am Legend") is like holding a lighted match in the left hand. Bring the two together, and the combination is explosive. No thanks...I'd rather watch "The Men Who Stare at Goats" or "Sherlock Holmes".

Ironical, then, that I should find myself in London last weekend. The volcanic eruption of Iceland had just taken place, and the entire European airspace shut down for an unspecified period of time. Here I was, alone on a crowded island, with no means of escape, and no way of getting to my lovely wife and adorable kids. No idea when I would see them next. Maybe next week, maybe next month, maybe next year...

"This is how it was in '2012'," Mojo said helpfully, "all we have to wait for is a large earthquake in California". Oh No! I thought. Not California!!! My family is out there. They don't know where the disaster recovery kit is in the garage. They will need less drinking water (since I'm not home), but cellphones won't work in that case, and the water mains will need to be closed along with the gas valve...The frenzied imagination of a troubled mind continued late into the night. I slept very little that entire week, worrying incessantly about worst cases, and praying for an escape route to get back home. Being amongst friends was hardly a consolation, let alone being with friends who wished to share their fore-knowledge of forthcoming disasters.

I will write a series of posts about the time I spent in London agonizing about the life I once had, and the meaning and impact of this incarceration. For now, treat this as a starter post...

Write, Write, Write

Earlier this year, I was at my parents' home in Delhi, and came across a paper that said, simply,

"A Busy Man Has Time For Everything".

I took this as a sign from above. Sometime earlier on this blog, I had already come to a realization that writing is my thing. It's what I am good at, and it's the muscle that gets least exercise in a corporate job. So, in order to flex them writing muscles, I took on an oath to write everyday.

Writing is like gym, best done with a partner. Building a capacity to write requires ceaseless discipline. It is said that if you want to stick to a routine, find a friend. In my case, I found two friends to write with, and have calls in to others. Collaborating makes writing easy work- there is that much creative tension, and that much more flow of ideas. The jugalbandi that you can do in a collaboration creates a lot of energy.

Alternate different formats to ensure that the "writing muscles" don't get bored. So, now I tweet (@Alpharust), I have written fiction earlier on this post, have written on philosophy, am co-writing a business book , co-started a light-hearted business blog,, and have made commitments at work about contributing to a couple of work-related-compilations. Then there's the other longer term non-fiction books I intend to work on once I am done with these commitments. ( I figure that Robin Sharma can't be the only bald Indian dood writing inspirational books).

Feedback is important. Over time, of course, I hope to become good at writing. Even as I write, I can sense a better ability to conceptualize new ideas and write about them. Book publishing would give me a better sense of how that racket works too. All this, however, depends on the feedback from you, the reader.

So write back, please!

GodMen Chronicles Part 4 (of 4)

The Ignorant Spokesman

(Fictional. Continuing The GodMen Chronicles)

A scandal had broken out the previous night. Some es-Mishtiqiyas had gone to the media with printouts of bank transcripts, land records, and a video that showed someone looking like Swami Mishtick in, shall we say, "a compromising position" with several female, blond sanyasins. The story had traveled like wildfire, trending into the top of Twitter overnight. TV channels were all over the story, some endlessly streaming an old BBC expose documentary on Swamiji and the "dark mishtiqiya cult", as they put it. The 24-hour news cycle was relentless, and late January is one of the slowest news periods of the year. Most business news channels too diverted their attention from the annual Davos love-fest, and featured stories about this new scandal instead. It made for great television.

(originally posted at

By 8am, the ashram gate was surrounded by TV crews, their satellite connections beaming out images into homes all across India, and perhaps, out into the wider universe. The mela outside the ashram had taken a festive look, with reporters competing for square footage that covered the maximum of the "Himalayan Retreat" building behind them.

"Built like something out of Disneyland, this grotesque building is testimony to the massive extent of this swindle. Our sources estimate that this building was built with Twelve Million Dollars worth of donations. Donations that were meant to go to the poor and needy in India, but were spent on these luxuries for the fake Swami and his troupe. For KGB-32, this is Lakshmi Jain".

And another...

"The rumors of mis-management and mistreatment of inmates have surfaced every few months around the 'Mishtiqiya' community. Our anonymous sources, some of whom were high ranking officials inside this mysterious cult, have tipped us about the murders of four young men, and six young women at this very ashram in the last four years. It is said that the orange building that you see inside..", and here the camera zooms out to reveal the super-specialty hospital, " is the site of these crimes. The local police has refused to register the cases, and are said to be hand in glove with the ashram authorities...".

By 10am, quite a crowd had gathered. Some of the protesters were members of the local Satrang Bal, under the control of the local strongman. Very deliberately, and under the watchful gaze of the 24-hour TV crews, the protesters burnt effigies of the Swami, and started to tear down one of the walls of the ashram. Local police had arrived at the scene, but seemed to be under instructions to do nothing on camera. They watched on as well.

Unaware of the developments at the ashram gate, or even the news storm since previous night, Deva Ananda walked over to the ashram office inside the Himalayan Retreat at noon. He walked over to Andaracharya's plush office and smiled gently, "Shal-Aum Andaracharyaji. Swamiji's blessings on us".

Andaracharya turned off the 60" LCD television on his wall, and turned towards Deva Ananda. "Shal-Aum Deva Anandaji. Swamiji's blessings on us. Please come in and sit here". He gestured towards the deep orange sofas inside his office, as he himself sat down on his black leather sofa. "You are very lucky. Swamiji has chosen you for a very special task. Are you ready?"


At 12:30pm, Deva Ananda nervously touched his glasses, as he entered the MishTV media room. He looked again at the paper in his trembling hands, trying to memorize the text before him. He had never faced a live news camera, and this seemed like a bad time to start. He walked over to the center of the media stage, and took one last look at the crowd around him. Cameras had started flashing as soon as he had opened the door, and now the whirring of two dozen TV cameras filled the room. The room went quiet as he settled into his seat, the silence punctuated with the flash of still cameras, and the background hum of the TV cameras. They waited.

Hello. I am Dr. David Freeman, and I am the official spokes-person for the Mishtiqiya Ashram.

We would like to say that we are dismayed by the baseless allegations made recently in the press, and deny them completely. We would like to assert that Swami Mishtick is a divine soul and a renunciate. He does not have any earthly belongings.

We would also like to deny Swamiji's connection with any form of bodily involvement with any member of the community. We are aware that there are some videos claiming to be Swamiji, and would like the public to know that Swamiji is celibate. These videos are obviously fake propaganda created to sully Swamiji's name and good work.

The Mishtiqiya Ashram is a public service community. We would like to remind the public that the community runs 39 state-of-the-art hospitals, and 12 institutions of higher learning. We have a record of service to the community that cannot be tarnished by these baseless accusations.

Swamiji himself is away for his Maun Vrat, a vow of silence, in the Himalayas. He will not be available for comment on this matter until his meditation is over.

Copies of this statement are available on the table to my right. We will not take any more questions.

Thank you, and Shal-Aum".

GodMen Chronicles Part 3 (of 4)

Swirling Rumors

(Fictional, continuing the GodMen Chronicles)

Next morning, Deva Ananda set out for the hospital for his daily duties at 6am. As Deva Ananda walked the ashram, he was in the habit of looking at the granite paved pathway and silently reciting Swamiji's "heart calming mantra". Today, he heard someone call him from behind. Shal-Aum, Deva Anandaji! Folding his hands, he replied back instinctively "Shal-Aum to you brother! Swamiji's blessings on us!". He turned around to look for the source of this greeting, his greeter was walking towards him. It was the white-robed Swami Andaracharya, the head trustee of Swamiji's public service organizations.

(Originally posted at

Thinking that he might get a few answers from Andaracharyaji, Deva Ananda waited for him to catch up. Swamiji's blessings on you, Deva Anandaji. You look unusually worried today. What is on your mind?

"Andaracharyaji, with Swamiji's blessing I live a contented life. However, I have been troubled by the mischief that some outsiders are making, and their slanderous accusations about Swamiji. How could it be true that Swamiji has crores of Dollars in Swiss bank accounts? Swamiji has renounced the world, and he doesn't even own more than one robe."

Andaracharyaji looked calmly at Deva Ananda, as if to size him up. After a long pause and a sigh, he said with a studied and measured tone, "Deva Anandaji, this is all part of Swamiji's leela. He had said many years ago that he will create such a situation, where the true belief of his followers will be tested. He is trying to test us. The truth is what it is. We have to pray to Swamiji that we have the courage and belief to ride through this. He had said that only his true followers will find the path to eternal heaven. Do you want to pass this test, Deva Anandaji?"

"Of course, with Swamiji's blessings, I have been with him for many lives," Deva Ananda said, "but I worry about so many of our brothers and sisters who have left the ashram after falling pray to these vile and vicious rumors. Before she left, Sister Prema Carol had told me that she met some people who Swamiji had" Deva Ananda hesitated as he said the last few words, not sure if even repeating these things would be proof of his lack of belief.

What he didn't tell Andaracharyaji was that Sister Prema Carol had told him many other things about Swamiji. She told him that Swamiji's real estate empire was now worth $1.2 bn, and that the hefty donations from international and rich devotees to the hospitals far outpaced the value of the medical service the specialty hospitals were giving out. She also said that the rumors of murders on campus were true, and that some ex-Swami followers had set up a website to expose the truths about Swamiji's business and carnal affairs.

She had also told him that Swamiji had hand-selected him to be initiated into the ashram because he was looking for a free cardio-surgeon! Deva Ananda could not believe this at all. "I am cardiologist, not a surgeon!", is what he said at the time. The connection he felt to Swamiji was real, and there was no doubt in his mind that he had known Swamiji for many lives. This must all be a pack of lies, he had thought to himself as he waved goodbye to Sister Prema Carol at the golden gate on the south side of the ashram. That was 2 months ago.

"Deva Anandaji, this world is Swamiji's leela! We mustn't give in to these temptations. Let us pray to Swamiji for courage." Andaracharyaji smiled benignly as he said this. Now he put his right arm on Deva Ananda's shoulder and leaned forward- "Swamiji has blessed you with a new mission. Please come into the ashram office today afternoon".

Not sure of whom to believe, Deva Ananda walked on to the hospital. "I should call Sister Prema Carol and seek her counsel as well. Maybe in the evening when it's morning on the east coast". He had cut his connection with his past life, and his new, invented life seemed to be moored next to fictional buoys. Exit was not much of a choice.

Continued here...

GodMen Chronicles Part 2 (of 4)

The One Who Brings Joy to the Gods
(continuing The GodMen Chronicles)

Bespectacled, thin and tall, Dr. David Freeman looked every part the respectable cardiologist that he was. He had a very successful practice in New York before he attended Swami Mishtick's Meditation Retreat in northern California. He had spent his youth fascinated by eastern mysticism, and had dabbled in Buddhism for a few years. He had come across Swami Mishtick's followers a few times in his trips to India, and one of then convinced Dr. Freeman to attend the Retreat. Even at the time, $5,000 seemed a high price to pay, but he found the session absolutely worth it.

(Originally posted at
Swamiji had the clearest eyes, clear as the bright blue New Mexico sky. His long flowing hair were a reminder of his previous birth as the Buddha and Krishna. His smile was radiant and disarming. And his words...oh! His words made easy the wisdom gathered over a thousand births. His voice could make time stand still. He talked about the time he spent meditating in the Himalayas. 12 years of silent contemplation gave him an inner fire that burns only in the most enlightened. He had the power to heal the sick, and bring back the dead. Such was his meditation in the Himalayas. There he discovered his past lives, and his future lives. He divined the reasons why his soul had descended to the Earth into this body. He had work to do in this life.

After he came back from his self-imposed exile from humanity, he took the name of Swami Mishtick, and he declared that he was an incarnate God, a true Avatar of the Buddha and Krishna. His duty in this life was to take humanity back to its' glorious ways, and show the world the true way to eternal bliss. He got busy setting up his first ashram in southern India. Then, he took his message internationally. When Dr. Freeman first met him, Swamiji's community was present in 32 countries, with 43 ashrams. About 21 million people counted themselves lucky to be Swamiji's followers.

"Shal-Aum", Swamiji had said to him. At first Dr. Freeman thought this was a little reference to his Jewish heritage. Later, he realized that this is the greeting Swamiji used with everyone. The Mishtiqiya community had it's own language, it's own customs, and it's own lifestyle.

Those 21 days were bliss-filled for Dr. Freeman. Swamiji paid special attention to Dr. Freeman, recognizing within him his old disciple from a previous birth. It was there, right there, that Swamiji inspired him to give up his earthly ambitions and join the ashram. "You will become 'Deva Ananda', the one who brings joy to the Gods", Swamiji said. Dr. Freeman sold off his practice, renounced his family ties, dedicated his entire life's savings (about $3.1 million) to Swamiji, and became Deva Ananda, the one who brings joy to the Gods.

Once in India, Deva Ananda was pleased to learn that Swamiji has recently blessed the creation of a super-specialty hospital in the very ashram he had been ordained at. Being a cardiologist, he could resume his practice at this ultra-modern hospital. This time, he would work for free, and his services would be available to the lowest strata of the society- the sick, the tired, the needy.

Soon, Deva Ananda settled into his ashram routine. Five years had gone by. Ashram life was all consuming. Swamiji was a strict disciplinarian and a hard taskmaster. The day began at 5am with meditation and prayers to Swamiji, and went on without stop until 10pm. There was no moment to rest. Swamiji wouldn't tolerate it in his ashrams.

In Swamiji's absence for meditation and travel, the affairs of Swamiji's trust and ashrams fell onto Swami Andaracharyaji. He had been a banker in his past life, until he was taken in by Swamiji, and initiated into the secret yoga. Swami Andaracharya was no ordinary Sanyasi- now dressed in flowing white robes, and a gray beard that were a sign of his years and his purity. It was Andaracharyaji who had Swamiji's blessing and a capacity to organize and manage the trust's community activities. He managed the flow of funds, and the build out for new ashrams.

Continued here...

GodMen Chronicles Part 1 (of 4)

The Restless Sanyasi
(Fictional, continuing the GodMen series)

Deva Ananda Mishtiqiya was distraught. Late January in southern India is as pleasant a time as you can get on the plateau. Nights are nippy, slightly cold, and the days smell of Valentine roses. Deva Ananda had been sleeping fitfully for the last three nights, and had been restless and sweaty all day. He couldn't think of anything specific that was causing this. Like an unexplained itch that scratching won't relieve, this restlessness was gnawing away at the serenity that had become his cloak at the ashram.

(Originally posted on

His sanyasi's (one who has renounced the world) quarters at the ashram were spartan. Bare ochre walls, adorned only with 3x8' photos of Swamiji (smiling in one, blessing pose in another), a small television perpetually tuned into Swami Mishtick's MishTV channel, a single bed, small desk fan, a dark blue BeeTel phone, and a wooden chair. Deva Ananda mindlessly turned the TV on. He didn't feel like listening to the "Shal-Aum to You" program that was on MishTV. Out of habit, and not really hoping to see anything more interesting, Deva Ananda changed the channel. Business news on CNBC. "...Every attempt made to eliminate the gap failed. As the promoters held a small percentage of equity, the concern was that poor performance would result in the takeover, thereby exposing the gap. It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten...". They were discussing another depressing financial scandal, this time in the Indian IT services industry. Nothing Deva Ananda could relate to. Never ridden tigers before.

He turned off the TV and picked up an old magazine...“It’s all just one big lie,” Madoff told his employees on Dec. 10, according to a statement by prosecutors. The firm, Madoff allegedly said, is “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme.” "That's great! More crummy news..." Deva Ananda muttered to himself, "all the world needs is more crummy news about cheats and swindlers". He decided to go out for a walk in the ashram.

The ashram was set in a 67-acre area, surrounded by trees and giant granite boulders, and 15 kilometers away from the busy industrial city nearby. Kept clean by an army of workers and resident sanyasis, the ashram was a modern day architectural wonder. Looking as-if dreamed-up by yogi on a soma-induced high, the ashram had all the trappings of a modern corporate campus. The "Himalayan Retreat" was designed like the lofty mountains that Swamiji was said to have spent 12 years of his youth meditating in. There was a super-specialty hospital on the ashram, as were the living quarters for the 500 or so sanyasis who lived and worked at the ashram. This was paradise. And where there's paradise, often comes trouble.

There had been rumors about Swamiji in the past too. The usual chin-wagging by self-righteous left wing types complaining about the "luxury" ashram, the expensive hospitals built on donations, and the "excesses" of the $6000 retreat that Swamiji held for the new initiates. No. These new rumors were far more sinister. New allegations were swirling around like dry leaves on a hot summer day. A redux of rumors of an unexplained series of disappearances and deaths in the ashram. Some new stuff had come up about Swamiji's sexual escapades and Swiss bank accounts. Don't they know, Swamiji's inner circle said, Swamiji is God incarnate! He doesn't need their money- he's here to show us all the way to heaven!

Deva Ananda reached back to his room, and picked up the phone to call his mother at her Jewish old age home in Parsippany, NJ. Please leave a message for Mrs. Freeman... "Mom! It's me- David. It's been years since we spoke. I'm fine. Just wanted to hear your voice. Love Deva's David. Bye!"

Continued here...

A few Godmen!

It is divine intention, then, that as I started my next set blog-meditations on the subject of "belief", I am blessed by the coming out, so to speak, of several all-too-familiar shock-news stories about Godmen in India. And thus, this post was written, by the will of the creator!

(Originally posted on

If you've been following me, I had posted a few weeks ago about my deep resoaking in traditional India. There, I realized just how deep is our urge to connect with something divine, and how far each of us is willing to go to believe. In my many recent trips to India, I have continued to be surprised by the prodigious rise of the Godman culture. There are TV channels, billboards, posters, pocket-calendars, internet darshans, blogs, temples, satsangs, and Youtube channels that proclaim the divinity of an alarming number of self-styled Babas, Gurus, Mahants, surplus Shankaracharyas, Swamis and other ochre-robed manifestations of divinity.

Not one to make fun of someone's faith- and risk eternal hellfire and internet flames- I kept my opinions to myself so far. However, I suspect it's well within reasonable limits to think about the reasons behind this phenomenon. What is driving it?

Let me anticipate my future posts here, briefly, and then leave you with a snapshot of the week-that-was in the much loved serial: "GodMen...plyng evrywhrTM".

Believing in something is easier than knowing everything: First off, there is too much information in the world around us. I'll research just how much in a future post, but we know that the scientific and information revolution in the last couple centuries has expanded the "information quantity" by several orders of magnitude. The human brain, unfortunately, has not kept pace. Hence, we have to limit ourselves to knowing only a fraction of the stuff that's out there, and we have to believe the rest. That means, if someone is simplifying reality for me, he's doing me a favor, and I must call him my Guru. Problem solved, no!

Everyone's doing it
: Belief is like the swine flu- it's infectious. If my neighbors have it, and their neighbors have it, then I would be foolish not to have it! I start believing partly to fit in, and partly because it helps simplify my life (see above). Then, I become a vector of this belief and through my inspired anecdotes and miracles, I infect others with my belief.

A few good Godmen: Like honest politicians, not all Godmen are out to cheat, swindle, and defraud (Gawd! I love the Thesaurus). There are quite a few Godmen who are honest, and are interested in the public good. That's what keep the engine moving. I think.

The long tail of spirituality: Think about it- with so many channels of information, you can find just the guru that you were looking for. You can get a north Indian guru, a south Indian guru, a pan-hindu guru, a post-hindu guru, a cancer-curing guru, a cute kid guru. There are all types of gurus out there, and with the information distribution that's possible with TV and internet, each small niche will be fulfilled.

GodMan-liness is a scale business- big is better: If you read the news articles about the fake gurus, you will conclude-as I did- that there is a lot of money and power at stake here. All those lavish ashram's need money to build, and all those news channels need content that they can play. The bigger a guru's following, the more money they have, and the more they are likely to attract new followers and crowd out the smaller, local types. You know, the ones who cared about spirituality and other soft stuff!

Escalation of commitment: And finally, once you have taken a ride on a guru band-wagon, there's no getting off. You have learnt their lingo, you have got into their community, you have attained the Guru's blessings, and you have brought your friends and family into this circle. Now, what would you do if you found your Guru was a fake? You'd hush it, because there's no way you can get off that juggernaut without getting trampled. You've joined into the lie.

Mo' Money: As India gets richer, people (a) have more money to spend on spirituality (!), and (b) have more reason to try to prevent a slide back into the cesspool of poverty they recently climbed out of. This means good business for those that promise continued good fortune because, ahem, they have a direct line into you-know-who.

In sum, I would say this whole business is a Ponzi scheme. Think about it.
Here's some news feeds to tell you more about the state of this business. No peeking, kids. This stuff is PG-13.

A long journey with breaks

Originally posted at

"How would I know it's you?", I remember asking the Monarch desperately, as he was about to disappear into the wind. "I will know you..." were his last words.

The month of February had been unusually cold and rainy in northern California, and the sun barely peeked through the clouds all month. The day the Monarch left with his followers, the winds were blowing at a breezy 10-15 miles an hour, much calmer than the storm in January that had brought in the clouds. He was headed east, towards the Sierra Nevada mountains. He had this calming effect on people, making them smile and reminding them of sunshine, warmth and love. Now, he was gone with no forwarding address.

The Monarch taught us that a journey worth taking, is a journey worth taking over many life-times.

His life was an example of his particular form of mysticism. "This body is a colorful cloth", he often said, "but your soul is even more luminous. You learn to love your clothes, but you are ready to discard them when they get old. Just like that, learn to love this physical body, but be ready to discard it and take on another one. The endless cycle of living and dying will continue. Your soul has to take a journey over many life-times to reach it's end state. Don't stop moving forward".

We went east to the Sierra Nevada to look for him, but he was gone. Some had heard that he had died there. Distraught and disbelieving, we kept watch for signs of him all over the mountains. Some said he lived by the fragrant milkweed plant, and we should go look there. Others said that he had reincarnated in a small, hapless little hungry creature. Still others remembered his talk of his insatiable thirst for the nectar of life that nourished him. No sightings, and certainly no way that I could find him now.

Months later, we got word from some friends in Oregon, just north of the California border. We rushed over to the grove where the Monarch was rumored to have gathered. As we got there, the air was aflutter with orange banners, floating freely in the sky. This was a familiar gathering. My heart jumped with joy at the thought of meeting the Monarch again. But how will I know him?

Like a floating angel, I could see his new form appear floating in front of me. "You are here, my friend", he said as he lightly dusted my shoulder. "You look a little different", I said weakly, "but it's always good to see you. Is this your final stop"?

"My soul will go on in this endless cycle, until I learn to break this cycle and stop this journey", he said. "Maybe that's something you should learn from a butterfly".

- - -
The Monarch butterfly is famous for being beautiful in orange, not different from the color donned by Hindu and Buddhist monks. This butterfly has a 4 generation annual migration. The generation that heads out from California goes to Sierra Nevada to have children and then die. The children then proceed on their migration to Oregon, where there give birth and die. The grand-children of the California monarchs spend two generations in Oregon and Washington states, whence they start their return trip to California.

My family was lucky to view the Monarch grove one winter in the Ardenwood farm in Fremont, CA. These memories have a big role in this story.

There are a lot of web resources to study these beautiful souls. My favorite is the PBS:NOVA program, and these couple of links. My original post on afterlife is here.