A dusty path meanders towards an ancient house. The door is half opened and leads to a dark hall room with mantels in every corner. On a chair to the right, sits a bent figure in a white saree, quietly contemplating.
She is absolutely still, as if a part of the decor. Nothing is exceptional about her wrinkled features and sagging form. There is more death in her than life.
What’s the value of such an existence…?
She turns her head gently and looks at me straight, as if reading my mind. A little smile alights on her lips, which widens into a gentle laugh.
Startled, for the first time I see her for what she is: a link to the past, and the future… an eternal memory.
She is the keeper of the ancestral line and carries so many ancestors inside her. Those wrinkles, movements, expressions, habits, patterns, are not just hers. They also belong to the ancient ones before her.
Behind her stretches a long chain of traditions, events, stories and beliefs, which she subconsciously wraps as gifts for those who will come later – those who will carry it forward. May be those are for someone like the mighty Bhagirath, who will appear down the line and liberate them all by bringing in Ganga like virtues.
Till then the treasures have to be safeguarded! She has learned to tap into the wisdom of the past, and into that collective consciousness of ancestors that watches over posterity like a guardian angel.
She knows the importance of waiting, stillness, life & death.
Her existence has value not just during her lifetime but beyond. She knows it. Her laughter says it all!
Like many other immigrants, I am naturally curious to know more about others who came before me from India to the US, especially to Minnesota. Today, my search led me to an extraordinary individual, Dr. Vaman Ramachandra Kokatnur (1887-1951), a University of Minnesota alumnus and a brilliant chemical engineer, who had more than 30 patents to his credit.
What was extraordinary about him were his efforts to revive the glory of India in the field of chemistry. This was the time when India was under British rule.
In the 1920s, Kokatnur shared many pertinent and astonishing scientific findings with the Western world, which made them sit up and acknowledge the scientific advancement of ancient India.
His works related to astonishing knowledge from India, include, “The Hieroglyphics Findings of the Origin of Chemistry,” “Were Priestley and Cavendish the First Discoverers of Oxygen and Hydrogen Respectively?”, “Chemical Warfare in Ancient India”, “The Scientific Basis of the Ancient Hindu Conception of Cosmogony”, “The Egyptians and Their Possible Relation to Sanskrit Devnagari Characters”, and “Practice of Pharmacy in Ancient India”.
My sole intention in putting together this blog is to provide references to Kokatnur’s revelations, in the hope that someone somewhere digs further and builds on them because the world is definitely missing out on some hidden, invaluable knowledge. We cannot write off Kokatnur’s works as the zealous findings of a man romanticizing his roots; rather, he was a man of science and based his works on solid evidence.
According to Wikipedia, Kokatnur was born in Kokatnur, Athani, and after a BSc from Bombay University (1912) he moved to the US, graduating MS from the University of Minnesota in 1914. He received a Shevlin fellowship during this period.
He became an American citizen in 1921 and lived in New York. He was also a member of a major scientific group in America and was on the Advisory Board of the Watumull Foundation.
In the 74th meeting of the American Chemical Society in Detroit, Michigan from September 5-10, 1927, Dr. Kokatnur read two important papers which had evidence to prove that Henry Cavendish and Joseph Priestley were not the first men to discover hydrogen and oxygen, but that these gases had been known to the Indian sages, and then he read a second paper to show that chemistry was of Aryan and not Semitic origin.
“While working on his study of hieroglyphics, he came across a Sanskrit book which contained four pages of an old but well-known manuscript which was written in 1350 and contains the collected writings of Agastya. These few pages were discovered by Vase in the library of an Indian prince, in 1924, in Ujjain, India.
Agastya is a sage whose name has been mentioned in Indian writings as far back as 2000 B.C. Consequently, this manuscript, which is known as “Agastya-Samhita” if authentic, is extremely old as far as source material is concerned, belonging to post-Vedic and pre-epic times.
Being a chemist, Dr. Kokatnur naturally seized this manuscript with avidity for the sage Agastya is credited with being the discoverer of hydrogen and oxygen, the dry electric battery, electro-plating, kites, hot-air blimps and propelled balloons. In fact, he is named variously after his discoveries, in contrast with the present practice naming the discoveries after one’s name. Thus he is called “pot-born” (dry electric battery); “cathode-anode” (electricity); “conquerer of kites and blimps”, and so forth. It is as if we should call Henry Ford, “Flivver”, and Mr Edison “incandescent lamps”, “movie” or “Dictaphone”.
Chemists at the convention gasped when Dr. Kokatnur read to them the following translation of the method of making a dry electric battery which was written centuries before the Christian era:
A well-cleaned copper plate should be placed in an earthen-ware vessel. It should then be covered first by moist sawdust. Mercury amalgamated zinc plate should then be placed on the top of the saw-dust. By their contact a light known by the twin-names Mitra-Varuna (cathode-anode or electricity) is produced. The water is split up by this into gases, Vital and Up-faced. The joining together of hundred such vessels is very active or effective.”
From his knowledge of Chemistry, Dr. Kokatnur recognized that this was the method used in making a dry battery, but did not know what part the mercury amalgamated zinc plate had in the reaction until he consulted a battery maker who explained that it prevented polarization.”
This is the shloka from Agastya Samhita talking of process – (संस्थाप्य मृण्मये पात्रे ताम्रपत्रं सुसंस्कृतम्। छादयेच्छिखिग्रीवेन चार्दाभि: काष्ठापांसुभि:॥ दस्तालोष्टो निधात्वय: पारदाच्छादितस्तत:। संयोगाज्जायते तेजो मित्रावरुणसंज्ञितम्॥ source: Aabhas24)
The Science News, Washington, reported, “The word chemistry and the names of such chemical materials as toilet articles, perfumes, dyes, textile fibers, precious stones and metals have been traced back to an Aryan source by Dr. W. R. Kokatnur, consulting chemist of New York City.
He cited hieroglyphic records as well as archeological and ethnological evidence to support his conclusions concerning the origin of chemical terms.”
In a reprint of an article from the Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 25, page 286, May 1948 titled “Chemical Warfare in Ancient India”, Kokatnur examined the ancient Indian literature and claimed that the ancients must have had amazing knowledge based on his interpretation of various arms mentioned in translations of the Ramayan and Mahabharat. (Read it here)
The Minnesota Weekly had mentioned that his work was to be published in the science history journal Isis. But according to Wikipedia, “possibly due to the doubtful provenance of sources and the rather vague interpretations, his work was not published.“
Considering that Kokatnur had established himself as a prominent inventor, it was a pity that his works did not get the credibility, they deserved.
I tried to include links to the paper presented by Kokatnur during the 74th meeting of the American Chemical Society in Detroit, but could not find it online.
Here are a few newspaper clippings to demonstrate that Kokatnur had established himself as a prominent inventor. His works prove that ancient India was far ahead of its time and that its scriptures and texts are not just literary or spiritual in nature but a gift for the scientific advancement of the entire human race.
It was a curious meeting where I was summoned – A gathering in the “Land of no thoughts”. I was sitting idly when someone whispered – “Come to the Land of No Thoughts where Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Jiddu Krishnamurti and Osho are present.”
This meeting was crucial because I had always wanted to know if there was a way out of unhappiness. And these great men could show me the perfect way. But first, how was I to reach the “Land of No Thoughts”?
My mind was clouded with thoughts. The moment I closed my eyes, even more thoughts poured in – some extremely urgent, some less relevant, and others irrelevant. But since I had to reach the no-thought stage, I began to suppress them. Unh-unh, wrong move!
The more I suppressed my thoughts, the stronger they became and blocked my path. But then an unknown, someone whispered, “Allow the thoughts” and “Just be”. I allowed and offered no resistance to whatever was coming to my mind and slowly but surely, the thoughts moved and gave way. And I reached the peaceful no-thought land.
There, I saw the luminous bodies of the revered men who had summoned me. They were all seated on rock-like structures. They motioned me to sit on a vacant structure and I sat down.
“What is your question”, seeker? They asked in unison.
“I want to know how to escape from the unhappiness, chaos, grief, evil and diseases of the world”.
They said in unison – “Just know who you are”.
“Who am I?”, I asked. But their answers were not in unison this time.
“What is this thing inside you that is aware of your thoughts? What is this thing inside you that claims it’s perceiving objects outside of yourself? Let come, what comes, and let go of what goes and see what remains”, sage Ramana Maharshi encouraged me to inquire myself.
Nisargadatta Maharaja, added, “As you watch your mind, you discover your self as the watcher. When you stand motionless, only watching, you discover your self as the light behind the watcher. The source of light is dark, unknown is the source of knowledge. That source alone is. Go back to that source and abide there. You are already that.”
Then, Jiddu Krishnamurti, the philosopher, hinted, “In oneself lies the whole world and if you know how to look and learn, the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either the key or the door to open, except yourself.”
Osho, the mystic spoke next. “Who am I?” has no answer to it; it is unanswerable. Your mind will supply many answers. Your mind will say, “You are the essence of life. You are the eternal soul. You are divine,” and so on and so forth. All those answers have to be rejected: NETI NETI – one has to go on saying, “Neither this nor that.”
He continued, “When you have denied all the possible answers that the mind can supply and devise when the question remains absolutely unanswerable, a miracle happens: suddenly the question also disappears. When all the answers have been rejected, the question has no props, no supports inside to stand on anymore. It simply flops, it collapses, it disappears. When the question also has disappeared, then you know. But that knowledge is not an answer: it is an existential experience.”
They were all talking in riddles. I knew they were pointing at the same thing, as so many great men have done since time immemorial. Artists have hinted at it through art, poets through poetry, and philosophers through theories – and every human has interpreted in their own limited ways, and mostly the understanding has been peripheral. I also felt miserable because I was only partially comprehending them. Before I could ask deeper questions, I was dismissed from the meeting. It was the next seeker’s turn.
I came back into the physical world, feeling worst than ever, and thoughts clouded my mind once again. I had lost the chance to know more.
Then, an unknown someone whispered again, “Who is a better person than you, yourself to answer the question about who you are? What is that center, which is thinking the thought? Who is noticing your life story? What is the source of your I? It is very simple – experiencing the source of “I”, and just being in that home, is the first step in the process of removal of misery. You are already residing in that home, but you don’t notice that since you believe that you live in a different home. This is the root cause of your struggle. Once you know your real home, every effort, and struggle dissolves while peace and guidance for living blessedly start coming to you, on their own.”
I noticed the Whisperer this time, his whispering had a peace-like quality, something that descends on you while holding a baby or watching a beautiful sunset.
I was still confused and had so many more questions to ask. But I was happy as well. Because I no longer felt lonely on my path. I had many guides and masters, including my very own Whisperer, showing me the way to meet my self.
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is time for home”. Here are some absolutely gorgeous pictures of homes in the #winterwonderland called #Minnesota. Hope these marvels envelope you with a sense of wonder, magic, joy and peace.
“Celebrate endings—for they precede new beginnings.” May this New Year brings for you sukh (happiness), samriddhi (wealth), shanti (peace) and saubhagya (good fortune). Hope you have a glorious New Year 2023. Hare Krishna🙏🏻@storiesbyshivangi
(P.S. – My older and little brother took over mom’s blog and they helped me to put together and publish this version of Paw Things!)
WOOF WOOF from Happy!
You know what, there is a man who’s making whirring noises in my basement! It’s crazy! I am currently freaking out.
I don’t know why, but mom and dad are fine with the man. In fact, they seem to have been inviting him inside. Although I hate the mind-boggling, torturous sounds he makes, there seems to be a new change in the basement every time he comes.
When he first came, our basement was all united, no room and no barriers. Next thing I know, the man waltzes in, and makes our basement full of rooms in two days.
One thing, I like about this change is the fact that the floor is warmer. I used to freeze when I lazed around on the wooden steps, even with all my fur… but now, there is carpet on the steps, which make it more comfy. Although this man’s arrival is terrifying for me, it’s worth it seeing the basement being cozy.
There is another crazy thing going on for a while now. What’s with people getting sick at this time of year? Why do people get sick so easily? Thank God, I am a dog, and I don’t get affected by circulating viruses. My brothers got sick a while back and are still unwell! My parents were discussing the newspaper and how many people in Minnesota are sick.
They were also talking about the shortage of over-the-counter medicines. I don’t want to go back to 2020, when my favorite dog parlor closed. But the good thing was, mom wrote a book on me!
Talking of books, mom is busy with some sort of new project and she has not been working on her blogs and books – that’s why I and my brothers took over her blog. Hmmm… I hope she gets time to finish the second book on me.
The third crazy thing, I want to write about is the snow. It snowed here as it always does in November but today it has melted away. I personally like the snow because it’s fun playing outside when brothers throw snow balls at me in their winter gear.
I don’t like Summer so much because it feels super hot with that extra fur which I have on my body. I always prefer cold stuff…
Anyways, I think the man in the basement has left, and I need to go! I am looking forward to eating some leftover snow in the backyard. I hope dad doesn’t catch me in the act.
Love bark until the next woofy update… stay safe and keep smiling you guys!
I am delighted to share that my short story ‘Note on the Cup’ got selected for #TellMeYourStory Review Sept 2022 in association with York Centre for Asian Research, #yorkuniversity.
The ebook and paperback versions are available on Amazon (order your copies for research/reference/reading at – Amazon India and Amazon US). The scholarly publication presents some excellent thoughts and creative works on how food & drinks shape cultural identity and ideology.
My story ‘Note on the Cup’ is about an immigrant Indian woman’s interactions with an American Handyman and how ‘chai’ plays a role in strengthening their bond.
I am grateful to my readers community for every small and big achievement. It is for you and because of you that I write!
Thank you and Happy Diwali from storiesbyshivangi.
“Somewhere between living and dreaming… there is New York.” I don’t know why but New York reminded me of New Delhi. May be because I got a similar ‘dream big’ vibe and infectious vibrancy that compels you to dream bigger and better.
There was so much to experience in NYC – great street fashion, enthralling entertainers, amazing architectural wonders, fabulous street food options and so much more.
Also we were in company of great friends and we had done meticulous planning & research before our trip. Comfy shoes, Subway card and Google map aided us to cover every famous spot well within the time frame.
Here are some pictures straight from the maze-like streets of New York! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
As the gods of Bollywood stand in front of disgruntled and disillusioned movie watchers with #boycottbollywood trending every other day on social media, it’s time for them to introspect rather than be defiant.
Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor, Deepika… they no longer inspire obsession, frenzy, or devotion in the general public, but rather unsettling hashtags, and boycott trends! Interestingly, films from the South like RRR and Pushpa are going on to be smashing across India and abroad.
The transition from extreme devotion to contempt did not happen overnight. And there is a big list of reasons for the dwindling fortune of this industry. I will give you the 5 major ones.
#1 – Nepotism rocks Bollywood – Every famous or new face in the industry is a daughter, son, nephew, niece, grandson, or relative of some bigwig of Bollywood. Agreed, some of them are talented but so are many other outsiders, struggling to find a footing – who might never get a chance. If you are looking for an upcoming generation of nepotistic stars, check out Zoya Akhtar’s upcoming Netflix film ‘The Archies’.
The result of nepotism is mediocre talent and below-average films that do not speak to the audience. Why would intelligent viewers want to spend money looking at lackluster performances when several alternatives are available for free online?
#2 – The pandemicand the rise of OTT platforms – During the lockdowns, the popularity of OTT platforms like Netflix, Prime, and Hotstar grew manifold and viewers’ tastes changed as they found quality content and a different kind of cinema & content, just a click away. The Family Man, Panchayat, Arya, The Fame Game…plus some great movies from around the world entertained everyone.
The covid situation changed our attitude towards Indian film stars and films…perhaps forever. Our eyes learned to look beyond the sheen of glamor and examine the cinematic experiences critically.
#3 – Deglamorization of Bollywood – Once upon a time, film stars exercised enormous influence over us – in matters of thinking, dressing up, styling and glamor. But now, every other person is a star on social media. We are learning from each other on Instagram and YouTube.
We don’t want some film star to advise us when we can do better on our own with the help of google, forums, DIY videos, and chat exchanges. Our next-door influencer has more credibility than stars who sell useless brands and sometimes harmful products. Instead of the public taking a cue from the industry, it is now important for the industry to get inspired by common people to survive.
#4 – Defiant Bollywood – When the sad demise of actor Sushant Singh Rajput shook almost every movie watcher and the ugly underbelly of Bollywood was revealed, the industry remained silent.
In 2022, the actors are still stoically silent on several relevant issues related to society or the film industry (Read mafia, drugs, black money etc). When confronted or asked about their opinions on important issues, they shrug, ignore those questions or act defiantly. In every other trade, customers or audiences are treated as God. But something is extremely wrong in our filmdom, where actors do not seem to value viewers. Well, that is the impression they give these days.
#5 – The ever-increasing power of social media – The power of social media is increasing at an amazing (and alarming) rate. People have discovered what a simple tweet or a hashtag could do. It could pull big men down or impact a world-famous brand.
Some netizens, especially on Twitter, could be vicious and are experts in bringing up a past inconsiderate comment by actors or posting a decade-old video to negatively influence the fortunes of a film – no matter the budget, stardom, or publicity! And they have started enjoying wielding their newfound power. The struggle is on and the stars seem to be losing!
It is evident that after the debacle of some of the biggest Bollywood flicks like Aamir’s ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’, Ranbir’s ‘Shamshera’, Akshay’s ‘Prithviraj Chauhan’, Ranveer Singh’s ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’, and Ajay-Amitabh’s ‘Runway 34’ – it’s time for the industry to pause, introspect and overhaul the system. Otherwise, the industry will continue to go downhill! Viewers don’t hate good films and great stories, they just hate the ways of the industry. The onus is on the industry to work it out creatively to woo hostile viewers back.
It is a glorious day for all Indians as we celebrate Independence Day this 15th August. It’s a day to remember and salute all those who sacrificed their lives to ensure that we live with complete freedom. Happy Independence day everyone! May India keeps striding ahead. Jai Hind!
“Why can’t an elephant go on a trampoline?” Tootoo, the Indian elephant wondered.
Why was Tootoo not allowed to go on a trampoline at the Forest Book Park while his friends were having fun? It was not because of his floppy ears, large body or big teeth, then what was it?
Find out all about Tootoo and his adventures in my upcoming book – Elephant on a Trampoline!
The ebook version of the book would be free for a certain number of days. So, you will have a chance to download it for FREE from Amazon (available globally – coming soon)! Follow this space and stay tuned. Thanks for checking in 🙂
I am happy to share the cover of ‘Elephant on a Trampoline’ with you. It will be published soon on Amazon and the e-copy would be available for #free for a limited time. So don’t miss out on subsequent announcements!
Elephant on a Trampoline is a fun animal adventure book for kids between 5 – 8 years. It celebrates friendship, diversity, and creative problem-solving!
Synopsis of Elephant on a Trampoline – “Since 1934, elephants are banned from jumping on trampolines at the Animal Book Park.
But despite this, Tootoo, the elephant really wants to go on a trampoline. But will his heart’s desire lead him to danger or will he find an amazing new way for elephants to jump on a trampoline?”
Hope you like my efforts as always. Many thanks for your support 😉