Ravi Shankar and Albert Einstein-Uncovering our Greatness

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Two Opinions on Uncovering Our Greatness
This is a monthly column on uncovering our greatness, co-authored by Michael Thallium from Spain and Dr Amit Nagpal from India. We aim to share the success stories of great human beings and wish to inspire the readers to uncover their greatness too.
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Michael Thallium, Spain
Ravi Shankar-Music to my Ears

It has been a little bit more than half a year since our last post. Personally, I decided to take a break and distance myself from the social media for a while and use my time over the summer, here in Europe, in order to listen to myself, to find myself, to become my own “instrument” and explore my “performance possibilities” (work still in progress, I must say). I took the chance to take a short trip to Edinburgh in Scottland to visit some old friends. Then I spent some time with two very good friends of mine in Cantabria, in the north of Spain, and in Extremadura, in the southwest.



But now we, Amit and I, are back with this series of articles on great people. And I decided to speak about Ravi Shankar, who died in December 2012. We usually speak about people who are alive. So, take this as an exception... but I think it is worth it, because Ravi Shankar’s exeptional work lives on in his two daughters: Nora Jones and Anoushka Shankar.



For those of you who never heard of Ravi Shankar, let me give you a little bit of background. Shankar was a musician, composer and virtuoso of the sitar, although in his childhood he was also a dancer, touring internationally at age 13 with his brother, the choreographer Uday Shankar. He gave up dancing and took on various Indian instruments becoming a virtuoso of sitar under guru Allauddin Khan. I don’t need to tell you how hard, demanding and strict the training as an Indian classical musician is!! No wonder Shankar is an example of endurance for me. His international career expands over more than 60 years... Not bad!! And this is the reason why I decided to speak about him. Not only because of his so many years touring around the world, but also because he exported Indian classical music and collaborated with different artists and musicians from all over the world. He highly contributed to unite Eastern and Western cultures.



If you want to learn more about Ravi Shankar’s life, I recommend you to read the book his daughter Anoushka Shankar wrote back in 2002 “Bapi: Love Of My Life”. She dedicated her book to the best sitar player in the world. In Anoushka’s words: “Let me be shamelessly adoring for a moment: I think Bapi is the most wonderful man in the world. He makes the most beautiful music I have ever heard. His integrity and connection to his instrument is unparalleled by anything I have seen. He has to be the funniest man on earth who isn't a professional comedian. As a father he is more loving and giving than I ever dreamed was possible. And I doubt I'll ever be lucky enough to find a man for myself who is as romantic and passionate as my father is with my mother. To be honest, I'm not sure I'll ever be really happy with any man in my life because I would want him to measure up to my dad!”



All I can say is that you would be amazed to find out about Ravi Shankar’s extraordinary life and the role that forgiveness played in it. Let me finish with a letter Ravi wrote to his daughter Anoushka:



“My 'Hey-Smoochka'. I miss you! I want to hug you and cuddle you and give you all the love I feel for you—which I was stupid enough to not give to you for various reasons (we must talk about all that, please!) when you were very young! It is never too late—and you are such a wise young lady! Our roles as Guru, father and a friend—and disciple, daughter and friend is not so easy—I know! But enough is enough—and we have wasted too much time and must make up for all the time lost! You will see how much it will improve my health and gloom and how much happier we all would be with you, me and mum as "S P G" chord, we will F(oops!) conquer the world!! I send my hugs and kisses and prayers for all in the world for you. Love Bapi”


Well, now you know! It is never late to mend the broken pieces and start again. So, just become a pebble, throw yourself into the pond of life and watch the ripples!


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Dr Amit Nagpal, India

 Albert Einstein-Genius with the Balance
I woke up murmuring, “E= mc2” and I realized I had a chat with Einstein in my dream. “What the hell?” I thought in my partial sleep, “Are there not better people to dream about in life?” Soon I woke up and realized (thanks to my friend Jennifer Sertl), Einstein had become my hero in 2011.


I once posted on a humourous note, “Einstein’s wife once asked him, ‘How much do you love me?’ He replied, ‘You can calculate my loving energy at different points of time using E= mc2. ‘“ It might have been true.


Instead of introducing the genius, I would rather say, “Here comes Albert Einstein, who needs no introduction.” But I will still remind you that he was a German-born theoretical physicist credited for developing the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. The story goes, "His father once showed him a pocket compass; Einstein wondered that there must be something making the needle move, despite the "empty space". No wonder he began to build models and mechanical devices for fun and showcasing his talent for mathematics"


Albert Einstein is known as one of the greatest geniuses of all time. But there is a part of his personality unknown to most of the people. He was a very balanced person in so many ways. He believed firmly in both matter and energy, science and religion, intuitive and rational mind (soul and mind in eastern parlance) and saw a genius in everyone. No wonder he believed that science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind. He saw the hidden potential everyone has and pointed out, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”


In spite of doing some of the most complicated research ever done, he was a believer in the power of simplicity. No wonder he said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” He also emphasized that any intelligent fool can make things bigger or more complex and it took touch of a genius and courage to move in the opposite direction.


People don’t know the funny side of Einstein. He used to believe that creativity is nothing but intelligence having fun. He said, “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it is longer than any hour. That’s relativity.” He remarked with a humourous touch once, “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.” 


Here is a better one coming, “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl, is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” He once joked, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is, an empty desk a sign?” In fact that is more dangerous, an empty desk and an empty mind (By the way, I am overjoyed to hear this because my desk is cluttered too, and that means I don’t have an empty mind). He said it with a pinch of humour that gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love. (And very few rise, for that matter. Don’t curse me ladies, this is on a humourous note).


He also had a strong spiritual side. He held that a happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future. He said, “I live in that solitude which is painful in youth but delicious in the years of maturity.” No wonder he refused life support systems to carry on and died peacefully at the age of 76. He also knew the importance of having a life purpose (deep passion) and suggested that if one wants to have a happy life; one should tie it to a goal and not to people and objects. 


He hinted at raising our level of consciousness and wisdom and understood that we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used, when we created them. After all doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results can only be insanity. In spite of being such an acclaimed scientist, he humbly accepted the mysterious side of the Universe. He says, “Human beings, vegetables or cosmic dust-we all dance to a mysterious tune intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.” He spoke with everyone in the same way, be it the garbage man or the president of university.


He understood the powers of conscious and subconscious mind and pointed out a very sad truth of our times, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.” In my view, this is the reason behind all the ills in human society.


Einstein was really fond of creativity and imagination. He believed that imagination is more important than knowledge. He says, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. “ Sometimes Einstein could be a poet too. He says, “A question sometimes drives me hazy, Am I or are the others crazy?” (You were not crazy dear Einstein, we are).

At times, he was brutally honest too. No wonder he said, “Two things are infinite, Universe and human stupidity…and I am not so sure about the Universe.” And probably he saw the future and commented, “I fear the day when technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”


I pray that we develop wisdom before that and such a day never arrives.

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