Business Intelligence and Data Mining

Your Digital Self

In the digital world you are defined by the data exhaust of your many activities. From your communication and movement activities, to your purchase and sales activities, there is a digital record of your actions that can be put together to collectively constitute your digital self.

The data about you can be analyzed and mined for patterns of behavior. Who you talk to, when you talk, what you talk about, and how you communicate … all these can be deciphered from analyzing the text and time-stamps of your conversations. Your pictures and comments and Likes on FaceBook tells a lot about what you do, what you like, and who you relate to. Your tweets are a veritable record of your many proclamations, jokes, and commentary. Smartphone apps like WhatsApp contain a complete record of much sharing among half-a-billion people across the globe.

For instance, a composite profile of a person was made using only 45 days’s worth of data from WhatsApp. It showed who the person talked to, what she talked about, when she talked most, and how she communicated. Advertising companies can perfectly understand her behavior patterns, and sell her what they can. The analysis showed that the person spoke a lot about food, desserts, and weight loss. And that she was online most often at 8 pm. Thus companies could sell her more food, sugary stuff, and then also sell her dreams and products for weight loss.

Our behaviors are far more patterned, and a lot less spontaneous, than we care to believe. Modeling the data about your activities can show that. How can we be better prepared to counter those who may be using many of our unconscious behavior patterns to fleece us? One way is to understand your own digital self better.

The first step is to be open to understanding yourself in a deep data-driven way. The example above shows the value of being self-aware of our behavior patterns.

The second step will be to obtain data about our digital self. Organizations like FaceBook and Google gather all the data, analyze it and then send targeted ads on behalf of businesses. However is is not very clear right now, how an individual can gather the data from the likes of FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and hundreds of other sites. If large organizations can obtain such data, individuals should also be able to do so. I found an application called http://givememydata.com/ that helps you get back your data from FaceBook.

Data about one’s own activities should be made available free of charge to every individual. The data should be made available in a pre-processed form that is easily understandable and manageable by the individual concerned. This should be similar to how all credit-rating agencies need to offer you annually a free record of all your financial profile.

Once the data has been collected, the third step is to analyze the data, along very simple lines to generate a composite dashboard of oneself. That will be our accessible digital self, seen through the digital mirror.

For more on data mining check out my book available on Amazon.

Enlightenment

What is Enlightenment?

Enlightenment is bliss consciousness. It is sat-chit-anand. When you have tasted bliss, you can’t forget the experience.

How to explain the pleasures of winning your first customer to one how has not experienced it? How to describe the tastes and sounds of things that one has not experienced? Thus also about bliss. One can’t explain bliss. When bliss is experienced, everything else pales in comparison. There is nothing to worry about in bliss. There are no relative things with any gunas, that one needs to worry about. There is no distinction of head, heart or hands. It is not correct to say that everything comes together in bliss, because there is nothing separate to begin with. When one is in a state of non-separation, one feels bliss. There is the presence of emptiness. It is not a state of stupor or sleep. One is fully alert and can respond to a soft sound or request instantly, from a state that is established in consciousness.

Enlightenment is to get everything. Not more of this one thing or the other. Not more money, more fame, more health, more beauty, etc. Enlightenment is not to get more intellect, more bhakti, more accomplishments, or more energy. It is to get it all. It is to join (yog) at all levels with that source which cannot be named or described. It is the removal of darkness and turning the light on.

Why aspire for something that you already own? The truth and bliss are already within ourselves. There is no need to buy it. Others not give it to you. Others (through the agency of money) may transport you to some beautiful place, like Maui. However, they cannot give you bliss. It might be easier to feel the bliss in a beautiful environment. But ultimately, it is up to the person himself or herself to open up to connect with the bliss within.

So, why talk about enlightenment if it is already within everyone, and it has no property worth describing? Yet, we feel the urge and the impulse to share with others the inner joy so that they too may enjoy it. We want the best for everyone, whether or not they are aware of it. We want others to extend their vision beyond the immediacy of sense perceptions, and un-distort their perception which may have become distorted by their upbringing or other conditioning.

The perception of hunger is a powerful one. ‘One can’t pray on a hungry stomach’ goes an ancient Indian saying. It is possible to develop a sudden fear of going hungry and dying. Witnessing one physical death could scar someone for life, and one could build a determination that says ‘never again’. Family and society can instill and reinforce this fear like an inheritance. The consciousness of the body and the mind (ego) can temporarily overcome the awareness of our true nature.

One tries to understand and conquer the ‘world’ in many ways. With one foot firmly established in the relative world, one tries to reconnect with the nagging inner consciousness begging to free itself and reconnect with the infinite whole. A Gyana yogi is a man of great intellect and tries to reason his way towards it. A Bhakti yogi knows super-human gods and surrenders the little self to the whole self. Karma yogi works for what he wants, and tries to discover or create a more efficient path for happiness. And so on. But Enlightenment is not a race to the top. It is not an achievement to string into one’s resume. It is a light-ness, in many senses of the word. It is a state without a sense of heaviness (tamas, body consciousness), or darkness (rajas, ego consciousness). It is sattva, purity, consciousness aware of consciousness itself. It is a light that falls on light itself: the particles on the waves, the waves on the particles; the wholeness aware of its wholeness.

Just because this inner self-referral wholeness is not visible, that does not mean it is bereft of value. It is the inner life that enables the outer life. The inner life is the potential that causes the dynamic kinetics on the outside. It is the intelligence that creates forms and structures on the outside. It is the peace and unity that produces a roaring kaleidoscope of song and dance outside. It is the desire and the intention that produces focus and action on the outside.

The inner life just has to be ‘un-leashed’ or ‘re-leased’, as if it is some kind of a precious asset safe-guarded by fear. One has to overcome the fear that this great inner life force will somehow evaporate with the passing of the body. Preserving the body is not absurd. Carrying it to the extreme though is like preserving the box, but never tasting the chocolate inside. It is like never unpeeling the banana to taste the fruit.

The bliss is thus carefully hidden and protected within ourselves. To search for it is like looking for the eyeglasses that one has put on one’s head. A guru or teacher or coach can remind us of whether the glasses are. Once the awareness of our true nature dawns upon us, it should be almost impossible to be not aware of it. But one somehow gets sucked again in the seemingly limitless glittering world of the exterior, the psychedelic show of song and dance and form and structure, and begins to ignore the treasure that lies within.

As masters of nanoparticles, of things extremely subtle like cosmic particles whirling at the speed of light in giant particle colliders, we may find it absurd to imagine that we are ignorant of all that super-subtle treasures within. Where is the proof, we may ask? The proof is in direct experience, unmediated by any concepts or structures. The whole world is within us, and not the other way around. We are the whole, the Brahma. That is the simple shift in perspective that is required to become aware of our true infinite invincible creative nature.

Meanwhile, I must go and find something to eat. Till next time … be the bliss that you truly are!

Comments are welcome!

Creative Writing

Creative writing : making a DENT in the world

Creative writing : making a DENT in the world

Recently I completed writing my first book called Business Intelligence and Data Mining Made Accessible. It is available on Amazon. This book came after 30 years of work experience, after 3 years of my thinking about it, and then the book almost completed itself effortlessly in just 30 days. I like the book, and I enjoyed the process. There are some lessons in this for creative writing projects. Here is a four-step model for making a DENT in the world.

  1. D is for Desire. One needs to have a strong and clear intent to write. There can be an urge to make a difference in the world. People write for many reasons, including recognition, money, and the sheer pleasure of contribution. The desire can come from being pressed, or encouraged, by others; it can come from watching friends become successful authors; or it can just be something that one badly wants to do.
  2. E is for Expertise. One can develop certain areas of expertise over a period of time. It could be scientific knowledge about an area; or it could be a fertile imagination and a way of expressing it in fiction. One can hone one’s talents over a long period of time. This expertise could be self-evident when one is helping others out just for fun; or doing something by oneself in a playful spirit.
  3. N is for Need. There should be a need out there to be satisfied. The need could be a general one, such as a continuous need for good fiction, or a need for a comprehensive reference book on a topic. The need could also be specific, for example addressing the needs of a particular audience known to you, including friends and family, and your students. The now famous Khan academy emerged from Sal Khan creating small video lessons to educate his niece on mathematics.
  4. T is for Timing. The timing too has to be right for it to happen. The writer must find the time to create the content; there should be access to the right channels for expression; and the intended audience should be ready and receptive to the content.

Finally, of course, there is no substitute for hard work … just sitting down and making it happen.

Comments welcome!

Enlightenment

Life as a New Faculty at MUM

I came to MUM a couple of years ago, to become a faculty member in the business school. After my education at top engineering and business schools, I had spent about 30 years working in industry and academia. I had taught at many good universities in the US, and had worked for 20 years in industry including 9 years at IBM. But I was hungry for something else. I came to MUM to pursue my own ‘moksha’, my enlightenment.

There is an unmistakable vibe of tranquility in this place. Everyone is very friendly and compassionate. People who have been living and meditating here for a long time show a strong glow on their faces. All faculty and staff are here to pursue their own evolution towards enlightenment. They are very reverent of Vedic knowledge and the practice of Vedic techniques.

Most of them have been around for a long time. I learned TM about 30 years ago, as a graduate student in India. My wife and I learned the TM-Siddhis program together here at MUM last year. We now enjoy doing our meditation and Sidhi program in the Golden Domes. I am learning more of the pure knowledge of Veda here. I often joke that this place is full of Indians, … and they are all white! Inspired by the spirit of this place, my wife and I decided to visit the auspicious Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad in 2014. An illustrated travelogue is available here.

As business schools in the US go, it is a smaller one. This allows greater interaction between faculty and students. The business school has some very talented faculty, many of whom have earned their PhDs from prestigious schools. We are an accredited PhD granting school.

However, there is much more focus on teaching, and on serving the students. I teach courses in Management Information Systems (MIS) area. My wife is also studying in the business school towards her MBA degree. With a joint appointment across business and computer science schools, I am privileged to teach the Computer Science graduate students as well. I teach a total of about 4-5 courses every year.

I also had an entrepreneurial opportunity here to start a new Online Graduate Certificate program in MIS. The program started in Fall 2013 and is going very well with 9 students in the first cohort. We are looking for a new cohort to begin in Fall 2014 (see mum.edu/MISCertificate for more information and to apply).

We are also starting an MIS Concentration in the MBA program, from Fall 2014. We signed up with IBM’s Academic Initiative program to provide cutting edge tools to our students, for the emerging fields of Big Data and Data Analytics.

There are students from over 70-80 countries on this campus. I volunteer as the faculty sponsor for the South Asian Heritage Club. We hold great celebrations on the big festivals of Diwali and Holi, and events like Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. There are students from all countries of South Asia, including India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.Most of the students are very talented, motivated and industrious. Every student on campus is a meditator, and some are also Siddhas. They enjoy a balanced Conscious-based Education, and then look forward to enjoying a meaning and productive life of freedom and prosperity in the US.MUM offers strictly organic vegetarian food, and is a drug-free, smoke-free and alcohol-free campus. My family feels completely at home in this environment. Everyone eats fresh meals at Annapurna, unless one chooses to cook at home.

We live on campus itself. Everything is at a walking distance. The Golden Dome market is a great on-campus store that serves healthy food items and other necessities. The two Golden Domes are a unique resource for meditation and self-realization.

Most of the university buildings are designed around the health-giving Vastu principles. There are many Vastu houses on campus. We do wish that we can get to live in Vastu housing in due course. We have been enjoying good health, and pray for good health for everyone all the time. For a small town of only about 12,000 people, Fairfield has a lively art scene with many plays and events in the conference center, as well as a monthly Art Walk. There are many different kinds of ethnic restaurants, and there is a wonderful long walking trail. It is also a vibrant entrepreneurial town with many start-up companies in the high-tech area.

Any downsides? Sure. During the winter, we miss the warm weather of Austin TX, where we lived for many years. When needing to travel, we miss the convenience of O’hare airport in Chicago, where we lived for a few years. I sometimes also miss the hustle-bustle and the facilities, of a big city, company or university.
Could MUM do better? Sure. We could evolve our processes a little faster while holding firm on the Vedic bedrock of Consciousness-based Education. Serving on MUM’s Teaching and Learning Committee (TLC), I get to contribute my ideas towards helping move the university’s pedagogical practices forward. Being a newbie on campus, I can effectively act as a change agent. If I can also help in others’ enlightenment, that is a privilege and a bonus.
MUM is one of the most pure places in this country. If one loves inner peace and enlightenment, this university is a God’s gift in the form of Consciousness-based Education.

 

Business Intelligence and Data Mining

Business Intelligence and Data Mining Made Accessible

I published my first book, Business Intelligence and Data Mining Made Accessible, on Amazon Kindle, today on the most auspicious Akshay Tratiya (Invincible Third Day) today.

This book fills the need for a concise and accessible book on the topic of Business Intelligence and Data Mining. It is a conversational book that feels easy and informative. This short and lucid book covers everything important, with concrete examples, and invites the reader to join this field.

BIDM

Business is the act of doing something productive to serve someone’s needs, and thus earn a living, and make the world a better place. Business activities are recorded on paper or electronic media, and then these records become data. There is more data from customers’ responses and from the industry as a whole. All this data can be analyzed and mined using special tools and techniques to generate patterns and intelligence, which reflect how the business is functioning. These ideas can then be fed back into the business so it can evolve to become more effective and efficient in serving customer needs. And the cycle continues. This book essentially expounds of this virtuous cycle.

Data analytics and data-based decision-making are hot topics now. Big Data has entered the common parlance as many kinds of data are generated by business, social media, machines, and more. Organizations have a choice: they can be buried under the avalanche of data, or they can do something with it to increase competitive advantage.

Students across a variety of academic disciplines, including business, computer science, statistics, engineering, and others are attracted to the idea of discovering new insights and ideas from data. This book is designed to provide a student with the intuition behind this evolving area, along with a solid toolset of the major data mining techniques and platforms.

Existing textbooks in this field seem too long, too technical, and too complex. This book has developed from my own class notes, and reflects my many years of IT industry experience, as well as many years of academic teaching experience. The chapters are organized for a typical one-semester graduate course. The book contains many case-lets from real-world stories at the beginning of each chapter. There is a running case study across the chapters as exercises.

This book can also be gainfully used by executives, managers, analysts, professors, doctors, accountants, and other professionals to learn how to make sense of the data coming their way. This is a lucid flowing book that one can even finish in one sitting, or can return to it again and again for insights and techniques.

 

 

Enlightenment, Travelogues

Visiting Maha-Kumbh Mela in Allahabad 2013

Visiting Maha-Kumbh Mela in Allahabad 2013
by Dr. Anil K Maheshwari – September 2013

The Maha-Kumbh Mela is one of the major religious events of the world. It happens only once every 12 years. This is a brief story of our 2-day visit to the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, in Feb 2013.

Background
I had recently relocated to Fairfield, Iowa as a faculty member at the Maharishi University of Management. Set up by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, this university (mum.edu) is seeped in kumba-mela-1Vedic knowledge and tradition. It is full of what one could call ‘white desis’, white people more Indian at heart that Indians themselves.

In the summer of 2012, we had planned to visit India as a family during the December-January 2013 timeframe for some personal and family purposes. Some of our ‘white desi’ friends and colleagues at the university were excitedly talking about visiting India, solely to participate in the Kumbh Mela. I was intrigued. Their general conception was that it was every Indian’s dream to visit Kumbh Mela. However, I had grown up thinking of Kumbh Mela very differently. For me, Kumbh Mela was just a super-crowded place, where the religiously minded people went for rituals. There were fears of hygiene, and security breakdown, etc. Initially, my wife saw no point in visiting the crowded Kumbh Mela. My parents also discouraged me from visiting the crowds at Kumbh Mela, for safety and health reasons. But I was sufficiently intrigued by the enthusiasm of my ‘white desi’ friends in Fairfield. So, my wife agreed to go. I called my best friend in Delhi and informed him of my plans. He and his wife readily agreed to join us. So, the four of us began to making plans for attending the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad.

The preparation
kumbha-mela-2I watched the 2005 movie ‘Kumbh Mela’ to learn all about the event. This movie was made for western audiences and shot during the last Kumbh Mela in 2001. I saw some famous gurus and the amazing feats they were showing at the Mela. One guru called ‘Pilot baba’ really intrigued me … he had retired as a pilot in the Indian Air force after having seen action in the 1971 Indo-Pak war,and then in a few years had built up a robust sadhu career and a big following. One Japanese lady guru went underground for three days without air, water and food and then came out alive and cheerful. And many others like that.

The Kumbh Mela started around the Sakrant day of Jan 15th and ended on Shivratri day of March 15th. During this 2-month period some 100 million devotees were expected to descend upon Allahand for a ‘holy dip’ at the sangam, or meeting, or three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati). We decided to go to the Kumbh Mela on the Feb 6th, the Ekadashi day, which was one of the super-auspicious days for the holy dip. We decided to travel to Allahabad by an overnight train from Delhi. We reserved train tickets a couple of months ahead of time, so we had little difficulty obtaining the tickets. We booked multiple sets of train tickets for difference dates, to allow the flexibility on when to return from Kumbh Mela. However, it was a bigger challenge to get a hotel room for the most auspicious days. Eventually, my friend used his connections to secure a couple of hotel rooms for us for one night in a nice area of Allahabad. The prices were high, and the hotel was a little bit far from the ‘Sangam’, the holy spot where the holy dip is taken.

The trip to Allahabad
The overnight train trip to Allahabad was easy. We learned a lot by just asking questions of kumbha-mela-3our fellow-travelers. One lady told us to see the view from Shastri Bidge (named after India’s second Prime Minister), of the amazing lighting on both sides of the river. Another man spoke about the most auspicious day of the Mauni Amavasya, which fell on Feb 10th, the day when about 40 million people would descend on Allahabad for a holy dip.

Upon reaching our hotel, taking shower, and eating breakfast, we decided to go straight to the Sangam for the holy dip. We walked part of the way to take in the scenery. We used cycle-rickshaws for the rest of the trip. The trip took about 30-40 minutes. When we reached the Kumbh Mela ‘township’, it was amazing that this sprawling temporary township had been built in just a few months. There were colorful tents everywhere. The people seemed very peaceful and cheerful. There was no sign of violence nor was there any kind of apprehension in the air. The public announcement system seemed to be functionally very well, and they were broadcasting common-sense safety instructions in a very pleasant tone. There were big wide, functional roads in the entire city. At each intersection of the roads, there were gun-toting military people in their fatigues, to instill an amazing sense of security. There were also many places for eating and drinking. There were temporary public restrooms along the roads, every 200-250 yards, for men and women. The most remarkable thing was that there was absolutely no smell inside or outside the bathrooms. That is absolutely amazing for public toilets anywhere in India. And here we were in the middle of essentially sand beaches!

The Holy Dip
At the Sangam ghat (beach), there were two options for taking the holy dip. One option kumbha-mela-4was the simple beach option: just walk into water, take a dip, and come back out. The other was the boat option. There were scores of boats that offered you the option to take bath a little more auspiciously, at the center of Sangam, where the rivers actually met. Basically, you rent one of many boats for a few hundred rupees. The boatmen will take you to the center of the sangam area, and park alongside a boardwalk that goes far into the river. You step off the boat on to the board-walk, kumbha-mela-5take off most of your clothes, and jump into the shallow water at that location. The boat returns you back to the shore. We took the boat option.

The river water was flowing, but the current was not too strong. There were ropes to hold on to while dipping. However, the water was very muddy and opaque when we jumped into the shallow area of the sangam. A gazillion people getting in and out of that area were stirring up the mud at the base of the river. There were a number of kumbha-mela-6‘pundits’ sitting on the board walk. They were ready to help us do additional pujas, for some quick money. Then there were other handlers who would help you offer some milk and coconut to the river. All this added up to another few hundred rupees per person, depending upon what one decided. After the dip and the puja etc, we came back to our boat, dried up with our towels, and got back into dry clothes. That was the essence of the holy dip. It was completed in just a few minutes per couple. We had decided to go in kumbha-mela-7one couple at a time, with the other guarding the possessions in the boat. Once we were all back into the boat, the boat left the boardwalk. The entire holy dip experience was over in just 20 minutes. ‘Is this it?’ I wondered aloud. So, my friend asked the boatman to give us an additional boat ride, and take us around the sangam area and all the way to the big bridge in the distance. As our boat slowly moved away from the crowds, we felt the heavenly soothing river breeze. Our wet hair and clothes dried up very quickly. The breeze and the scenery inspired me to take out our SLR camera, and shoot some video.

kumbha-mela-8We also took a bunch of photos of other boats, the ghat, the birds on the water, and ourselves. It was barely lunch time, and we had already accomplished our main purpose for coming here. Is this it? It seemed so easy. There had to be more. After visiting a famous Hanuman temple at the ghat, we decided to go for lunch. We had lunch at a ‘dhaba’ opposite Anand Bhawan, the home of the late Prime Minister Nehru.

After lunch we went back inside Anand Bhavan. That house has a nice Planetarium. In an engaging 45-minute show, it explained in beautiful 3-dimensional way how the dates or Kumbh mela represent the moves of the sun and move from in and out of certain celestial configurations. That was interesting.

On the way to the hotel, we stopped by a famous sweets-and-snack shop. We had a supper of giant kachoris and samosas and milk-cake. Then we took a couple of hours of rest before we started again to see the rest of the Kumbh mela.

Convention of Saints
Having completed the main task of a holy dip, we returned to the Sangam area in the evening with a completely relaxed and exploratory frame of mind. We wanted to see what else was happening there. What we saw couldkumbha-mela-9 only be described as a Convention of Saints. Like a convention of the Academy of Science, but the participants here were the biggest of holy men from India, and a few foreigners. The following of each Baba (slang for a holy man) could be gauged from the size of their pavilion, which were replete with marketing gear in the front, including kinetic neon kumbha-mela-10lights (like at New York’s Times square), and blaring music. Every saint was competing for attention and new followers. The pavilions were most self-sufficient onto themselves, with their own parking for dozens of cars, and dining areas etc. These were huge pavilions which had further sub-sections and tents to host the sub-gurus under the orbit of the main guru. In the smaller tents, sub-gurus of were holding court with his own followers. We visited many pavilions and tents, and took pictures. There was a baba who has been standing on just one leg for the last 11 years. There were babas who were covered with ash from head to toe. There was one who was sitting completely in the nude.

We also visited a large government led pavilion that offered free classical music shows from well-known artists. Later in the evening, we asked our driver to take us across the Shastri Bridge over the Ganges. We stopped in the middle of the bridge for an amazing view of lights on both sides of the rivers. There were endless yellow argon street lights, like diminishing stars, as far as the eye could see. Imagine a completely lighted township, miles long in either dimension; except that it was entirely a temporary creation that would last only for the couple of months of the Maha Kumbh mela. That place would go from sand beach to sand beach in 3-4 months. It was a amazingly functional small town with names streets and all lighting and other facilities, for those few months.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s smarak
The next morning, we packed up our stuff in a rental car and left our hotel. We went on a kumbha-mela-11search for Maharishi’s smarak. We drove around many areas, and eventually found it on the other side of the Ganges river. We reached the Brahmanand Saraswati ashram, the home of Maharishi’s Vedic pundits. A large number of Vedic Pandits live there and do chanting regularly. We told them about our Fairfield connection, and were allowed inside the campus.
We drove to the grand structure of Maharishi’s smarak. It has a nice big dome-like shape in the center, and it also has many Roman style pillars in the front. There is also a stand-alone pillar. The smarak was almost complete, but there were still many workers on the site still placing the carved stones in the right places. We had arrived just about a week ahead of its formal inauguration on Feb 15th. We met inside the construction area a white gentleman who had come from Fairfield to bring the marble stones with carved messages.

The skumbha-mela-14marak is at a height over kumbha-mela-13the river, so the view of the Kumbh kumbha-mela-12Mela township from the smarak was majestic. Looking towards the river, we could see in the distance an uncountable number of colorful tents on both sides of the river. These tents are where the Kumbh attendees were staying. We could also see the busy Shastri bridge over the Ganges, in the distance.

Baba Ram Dev’s five star pavilion
One of the Pavilions at the Kumbh Mela bears special mention. One of the biggest recent yoga phenomena in India is a relatively young Swami called Ram Dev. He is based in Haridwar and has taught Yoga and natural healing practices to over a billion people around the world, through his daily morning 2-hour yoga show on TV. His pavilion was very big, and had at its center a five-star quality tent with shiny colorful walls and pillars. This tent had a huge beautiful stage decked with lots of colorful flowers. In the audience area, there were sofas for dignitaries and thousands of chairs for ordinarkumbha-mela-15y visitors. It was very impressive.

It was lunch time. Utilizing my membership of Swami Ram Dev’s Patanjali’s Yog Peeth, I was able to get us four admitted to their dining hall (or langar). A langar means free food for devotees, and is a tradition at many temples and other holy places in India. At Ram Dev’s pavilion, they offered a wonderful meal of delicacies like kheer, puri and maal-puas (a great dessert). I was astonished to see such high quality of expensive food being served with great order and respect to many thousands of people. Almost a thousand people were served in each sitting, for lunch and dinner, every 45 minutes or so.

After the meal, we returned to the main tent. Soon, Swami Ram Dev arrived and addressed the gathering. Some other well-known sadhus came to the tent and sat down on the plushest of sofas, along with Swami Ram Dev.kumbha-mela-16 Mr. Anup Jalota, the famous bhajan singer, was the main attraction of the afternoon. Anup Jalota came in and was profusely cheered. His sang wonderful bhajans, very melodious and joyous, and very appropriate for the occasion. After listening to him for almost 45 minutes, we decided to go to see other places.

We went into a large pavilion nearby and sought permission to use their private toilets. I was amazed that there were western style bathroom with running water inside those tents! All in a place where there was only a sandy beach a few weeks prior. I was impressed by the quality of arrangements, and also at the resources available for the tents, as well as for fancy pavilions of Swami Ram Dev.

Hindu Convention
We had heard about the convention of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (literally, World Hindu Council) taking place somewhere there. Mr. Narendra Modi, the chief Minister of Gujarat, and potentially the next Prime Minister of India, was rumored to visit and give a pro-Hindutva speech at the convention that afternoon. We went there. It was getting to be early evening, and the crowds were beginning to swell. From outside the pavilion itself, we could hear one fiery saffron-clad lady speaker for a few minutes. We decided it was a little too much for us. Mr. Modi had also changed his plans at the last minute and had decided to delay his trip to Allahabad. So, we decided we had seen enough and left.

Wrap up
We asked our driver to take the next 30-45 minutes to take us around the rest of areas in the Kumbh Mela township. Soon we stopped for supper at a snack shop in the market there. We sat on chairs in the open air to just relax and reflect upon our experiences. We kumbha-mela-17ate samosas and kachoris and besan laddoos, and drank tea and soft drinks, and also took in the crowds. I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment and happiness. We had not felt any worry or insecurity about anything. There were almost 10 million people in town that day, and the system was working like clockwork. This could be seen even on the smiling faces of the workers working on the stone masonry at the Maharishi smarak. The district administration had a done an incredible job of preparing for the event. But more than that, people gave credit to the sense of dedication with which all the organizers … government officials, volunteers, and sponsors … were doing their duty. They felt privileged to serve the devotees coming for their karmic liberation through taking the holy dip.

We drove to a nice Udipi restaurant in Allahabad city for dinner. We had wonderful rasam, and giant 4-foot dosas. The drive back to the railway station was interesting as there was an enormous crowd of cars trying to get into the station. We could have missed our train if we had not got off the car and walked with our baggage for the last 100 yards. We could feel that the traffic had significantly increased in the last 2 days that we had been in town. This was the evening of the 7th of Feb. In 2 days it would be the morning of the 10th, when an astounding 40 million devotees would take a holy dip in just 24 hours.
The train journey back to Delhi on such a busy travel day was surprisingly easy and uneventful. The next day in Delhi we rested for a while and then decided to visit an amazing new religious structure in Delhi called the Akshar Dham. But that would be another story, some other time.
Happy Enlightenment!