Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Monday Musings319: Conscription - Indian Isstyle!!

Monday Musings: Conscription - Indian Isstyle!!

Conscription- is the mandatory enlistment in a country's armed forces, and is sometimes referred to as “the draft.”
I read that Sweden is introducing compulsory conscription. I hear so is France toying with the idea under its new president Marcon. I am caught in a general mode of ‘I feel like doing nothing’ (which some might argue is a default setting) so I decide to board the flight – the flight of fancy that is.
(Only for those who love their tongues when it is in their cheek)
How the subject of conscription would be dealt with in here in our country.
#1. We don’t need a formalised version of conscription- we are already fighting most of the time.
Everyone is fighting everyone – particularly on the social media and on the TV debates. If these two are anything to go by, then we already seem to be at war.
Politically speaking Left is fighting the Right. Extreme left is fighting with the nominal left. Extreme right is fighting the nominal right. The Centre is fighting a losing battle for survival. The business folks are fighting in the court rooms if they are not fighting the battle on the streets. Men and women are fighting for either being men and women or wanting to be more of the other. LGBT et al are fighting for being just themselves. Borders are fighting because they are at the front end and hinterlands are fighting because they are the backend. Cities are fighting for wanting to be idyllic and villages are fighting to be city like. The deprived are fighting to have more and the well endowed are fighting to have more meaning. The jobless are fighting for jobs and those with jobs are fighting for better/different ones. The majorities (of all kinds) are fighting for the privileges of the minorities and the minorities are fighting for the heft that comes from being the majority. We are fighting for air, water and land all around us. Some have rivers but no water – others have water but don’t own the rivers. I shall not venture to offer an insight about the incidence and frequency of fight in holy matrimony for the risk of inviting another bout of fighting – but suffice it to say that peace is an aberration and peace of mind is a myth. With all of this and more, who really needs conscription? Aren’t we already conscripted enough?
#2. Conscription will need fitness – now that is just too much to ask for.
One of the basic demands of conscriptions is physical fitness. It is no one’s guess as you look around we are perhaps the most well endowed gene pool. Most are horizontal in the garb of being vertical. The middle of all shapes that move around is well protruded, well rounded and in a manner of speaking, the middle announces their arrival in a room before they themselves. Walking a short distance is an effort, running is a lofty goal. Long distance running is from bedroom to bathroom and lifting weights often means lifting ourselves up from the couch. Such high standards of physical activity and fitness do not lend themselves very well with the spirit of conscription. Now before many would lunge at my throat let me also add, fighting on a video game is not a boot camp for conscription in this context – you cannot mention the hundreds of hours on the terminal as relevant work experience on your CV for being enlisted. 😂
#3. Conscription – it might actually work here.
There are a few preconditions to conscription to work as I see it. Two come to my mind – one, we must be passionate about something and two, that things need to be defended – against enemies real or imaginary. It is no one’s guess that both conditions are in great supply with us. Some would say an oversupply – but that is just a matter of detail. I think we would be a great bunch to be conscripted. Now the only question left to be decided is – conscripted for what? I am sure we shall figure it out in due time. 😀

Monday Musings 318 : Taxing conversations!

Monday Musings: Taxing conversations!

I have written about interesting conversations during taxi rides here many times, particularly those which happen with the drivers at the wheel – most of them had inspirational hues. I could not help telling those stories because they were examples of individuals who were negotiating the bends and bumps in lives as deftly as they were negotiating the bends and bumps on the roads.
However this story is of a very different hue – and it’s written based on the recount of a friend of mine who happened to go through this experience. Enjoy the possibility of a smile.
First the facts – the friend in question is a lass in early thirties, quite a looker I must admit, usually nattily dressed – almost stylish come to think of it and blessed with a well gymed toned structure; however like most such people who are blessed being this way but are constantly unsatisfied with their ‘weight’ and who almost make others who have genuine ‘weight issues’ cringe in part envy and part irritation (the same feeling we used to get in school when we found someone who had scored 91% having a gloomy look because the highest was 91.3%!!)
Such a person as described above hails a cab and is busy on the phone describing her (imaginary) weight woes to a fried and how she wear checks and deep colours to hide her (imaginary again) girth. In normal circumstances I am all for kindness and forgiveness and everything else associated with a good human being. However for such people who at 63 kgs bemoan their being fat and having weight issues I recommend the highest possible penal punishment for atrocities against humankind who are blessed with 63 kgs or thereabouts only the middle of their body – rest being evenly distributed in the extremities. Hence what happened next can only be described as poetic justice or may be karmic retribution. I am convinced now that there is a God and who believes in justice. 😀😀
The taxi driver overhears the weight issues being described on the phone – and quickly (I am sure only after due diligence of observation and assessment) declares – ‘’Madam – I don’t think you are fat”. Silence!
It is a known human peculiarity that we often give more credence to stranger’s assessment than those given by well wishers.
Some people are not satisfied by only giving opinions. They must go for the jugular – by giving suggestions too.
“Madam, have you seen that TV ad – in which they show the belt that helps to lose weight? I think you should use that”. Well done my boy. To my friend in question - Serves you right. Now you know how we feel when YOU talk about weight loss!!
There are yet others who will not stop at suggestions. They must go all the way to commit the highest sin of all. They will also give alternatives – each more diabolic than the rest.
“ madam, you should do lie on your back – raise legs and keep trying to touch them – in one month you will lose all weight.’’. The poor soul forgot that the minimum requirement to lose weight is have it in good quantity in the first place. He would not know it but angels will circle around his taxi because in his own way he became a divine instrument in delivering justice of the kind I described above. Well done my boy.
I asked my friend, filled with joy as I heard this story, how did this whole thing feel to her. She is a sport and was quite amused by the attention and advises her innocuous phone conversations had generated.
I, on the other hand, always in search of a story, have this to say – A weight has been lifted off my soul while some continues to be deposited on the body. 😀😀

Monday Musings 317 - The cheeky shades of minimalism.

The cheeky shades of minimalism.

Things do lie in the eyes of the beholder, amongst which beauty was an early occupant for sure as Margret Hungerford had let us know long back. Having been warned of the infinite horrors that the eyes of the beholder can carry in them and all that is so often mysteriously beholden, particularly through a decade of extreme domestication which holy matrimony often entails, I can only look back and say “I should have known better !”
So what else... lies in the eyes of the beholder? Intelligence, utility and performance often lie in the eyes of the beholder. The beholder which matters between a boss and a subordinate is often the boss! As a beautiful whatsapp that my team member recently sent says evocatively – “Employee: Sir, what about my promotion? Boss: maine tumhe kabhi us nazar se nahi dekha”.
I think he was trying to give me some kind of message, which despite trying I am not able to decipher. I am also wondering why he did not send it on my personal window but chose to send it on my team group. Whatever be his reasons, I can only say in my defence – meri nazar kamzor hai !😀
Being stuck in Mumbai rains is torture. Being stuck with colleagues can be fun though. Recently we were four of us stuck for a few hours and the discussions ranged from the sublime to the stupid. I took care of the sublime and left the rest for others.
At some stage and it is difficult to remember which exactly, the discussion veered towards minimalism. I highlighted that it’s been two decades I had not been wearing a watch and for the last year of so I sleep on the floor – these two as my qualification for being minimalistic – ignoring of course a dozen or so evidences that puncture the claim. And as soon I had made the claim, pat came a very confident counterclaim from the lone lady in the cab, ‘I think I am also minimalistic’.
Now let me begin my clarifying there is nothing wrong per se in the claim of being minimalistic. However we were not prepared for it when she announced a few micro seconds later – ‘’I have 15 watches’’. The next one hour in the cab was spent in the roller coaster ride of deciphering this peculiar shade of minimalism that she practised. Minimalism acquired maximalist tendencies when it was discovered that the collection of the 15 included a smart watch and a Rado. As i look back at that hour I think she actually believed that she was minimalist and by some strange logic owning 15 watches was consistent with that claim. Logical consistency was definitely a casualty but that is such a small price to pay to be in good company while being stuck in traffic. I discovered that like beauty, even minimalism lies in the eyes of the beholder. Fellow passengers in the cab can take a walk outside!
I have decided never to claim that I have minimalistic tendencies. I have discovered it has strange effects on people.

Monday Musings 316 - The FIFA lunacy.

The FIFA lunacy.

For someone who has been away from the television for many years now (disclosure: Movies are not TV; only News/reality shows/ serials/ and most importantly SPORTS are considered TV for the purpose of above claim) the whole brouhaha about the highs and lows of sporting spectacles is difficult to understand.
My social conversation dipped to all time lows during IPL because I just did not know (or cared) what really was happening. My situation is similarly gri...m during the FIFA world cup.
I have come to the conclusion that the sports are the biggest contributor to world obesity – junk food is the hapless scapegoat. Only about a few play while many millions watch from their cosy couches; while the players accumulate greatness, the watchers accumulate girth.
I have great academic interest in the sociology of a huddle which is glued to the TV during a game – my friends who otherwise are pretty sane fellows start showcasing behaviour which is quite difficult to believe. One should hear their grunts and moans when a goal is missed – as if someone just plucked out their kidneys.
Those who cannot decide which socks to wear in the morning spend hours debating the relative greatness of Messi and Ronaldo. Those who cannot go to the washroom from the bedroom without taking rest in between fret over a missed pass. I just cannot get it – so I have found a way to take revenge.
Here are the some of the things I would often say to interrupt a group huddled around the TV watching FIFA or talking about FIFA – (disclosure: I do some of this stuff even for cricket)
1. What are you guys watching? (as if I don’t know that some important stuff is coming)
2. Which tournament guys? – Santosh trophy is it?
3. India – Pakistan match is it?
4. Even Brazil has a team is it? (ask the same question for Argentina also)
5. What kind of a name is Messi? Why does he mess things often is it? (btw – looks like he indeed did)
6. When is India’s match?
Enjoy guys – Messi is out; Ronaldo is out. We still have Virat Kohli.

Monday Musings 315 : Nuggets from Philosophy # 1

Monday Musings: Nuggets from Philosophy # 1

They say one must be ready for a book. When you are ready, the book will find you. I could not move beyond a few pages of the Will Durant ‘Story of philosophy’ more than a decade ago when I picked it up the first time. I am making some progress this time. Here are some nuggets from chapter on the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1818).
Agree or disagree buy Enjoy !!
1. In some men egotism is the compensation for absence of fame; in others egotism lends a general co operation to its presence.
2. It is impossible to solve the metaphysical puzzle, to discover the secret essence of reality, by examining matter first, and then proceeding to examine thought; we must begin with that we which we know directly (or ought to know) and intimately – ourselves.
3. There is uselessness in logic; no one ever convinced anybody by logic; and even logicians use logic only as a source of income. To convince a man you must appeal to his self interest, his desires, and his will.
4. Men are only apparently drawn from in front; in reality they are pushed from behind. They think they are led on by what they feel and see; in truth they are driven on by what they feel – by instincts of whose operation they are half the time un conscious.
5. Intellect tires, will does not. The intellect needs sleep, but the will works even in sleep, Fatigue, like pain has its seat in the brain; Muscles not connected with the brain never tire (like the heart)
6. In general the wise in all ages have always said the same things and fools have in their way too have acted alike, and so will continue. As Voltaire says ‘’we shall leave the world as foolish and wicked as we found it’’
7. The total picture of life is almost too painful for contemplation; life depends on our not knowing it too well.
8. To be happy one must be as ignorant as youth, Youth thinks that willing and striving are joys; it has not yet discovered the weary insatiableness of desire and the fruitlessness of fulfilment it does not yet see the invevitableness of defeat.
9. The fear of death is the beginning of philosophy and the final cause of religion.
10. Our happiness depends on what we have in our heads than what we have in our pockets. Even fame is folly; other people’s heads are a wretched place to be the home of a man’s true happiness
Post script – A pearl by the great philosopher particularly for the workplace – “Talent hits a target no one can hit; genius hits a target no one can see”

Monday Musings 314 - The Aristotlean Mandate.

The Aristotlean Mandate.

 (First published in People Matters may 2018)
Apparently it was Aristotle who said something to the effect “Act virtuous and you shall be virtuous”. It is not lost that he did not say “think virtuous and you shall be virtuous”. Here is a tongue in cheek rejoinder to Aristotle reported from the cubicles.
At the cost of over simplifying Aristotle, what he might be saying is that ‘behave good and you shall be good’. It does not matter what you think but as long as you are behaving right we are fine with it even if you are thinking wrong !
So what does it really mean? It would mean is that if a criminal does good, he is good to the extent of this specific action. Cut to the organizational context – as long as a leader is behaving right, nothing else matters. One can always argue that he will not behave right as long as he thinking is not right. I will deal with this subsequently but at this stage what it would mean is that if by some way we create a template of agreeable behaviors or desirable behaviors and there is a strong governance around that, so much less energies will be spent trying to ‘change the thinking’ of folks. (As I am writing this, I cannot believe this line of thinking because it goes against the grain of everything that I have learnt so far – but why argue with Aristotle – the bloke was a genius!)
In the line of work I am in generally and otherwise too, we hear so much about the need to ‘change the thinking’. The underlying algorithm is the classical Feelings>>Thoughts >>Behavior >> Action>> Results. There is so much scream on this subject all around that the result is actually a cacophony, without the results of course! Most behavior transformation programs without fail begin with attempting a reflection on understanding our own wiring and how that wiring is governing our behavior. It is no one’s guess how much this effort is yielding fruits.
May be we should listen to Aristotle. May be the answer is to shorten the path and focus only on action or behavior. Thinking is like sedimentation rocks, layers get created over so much time and events that the whole pursuit of wanting to change it might be annoying at best and frustrating at best. A leopard rarely changes his spots! Why not tell the leopard to behave in a certain manner and lo behold we have a cat instead! A leopard is a leopard because he is violent and prone to attack all and sundry. What if he is told to behave himself, which in the beginning he is unlikely to agree to, but on suitable carrot and stick based taming I am sure his ‘actual behavior’ can be controlled – although I must admist his basic instinct might remain the same. I am sure that is how the lions are tamed in circus. Imagine all the wild beast we see in the circus or say whales who respond to instructions were put through ‘thinking changing’ programs. How ridiculous. Cut the chase – focus on behavior – what you think be damned. I am beginning to see the brilliance of Aristotle!
Is it really that simple? Not sure. I am also aware that this is goes against the established wisdom which will be up in arms saying ‘’…but that is the point; behavior does not change without change in thinking’’. Aristotle might have had a better handle on human behavior millennia ago by arguing that it is better to make people act right.
How does that get done? Let me check with Aristotle again.

Monday Musings 313 - The supremacy of Verbs – An Israel Vs India story

Monday Musings - The supremacy of Verbs – An Israel Vs India story

A study published in Psychological Science by Michal Reifen-Tagar and Orly Idan from Israel has confirmed that a good way to use language to reduce tension is to rely whenever possible on nouns rather than verbs.
According to the Economist, which in a recent issue carries this story has the following things to say about this – ‘’...using nouns more often shapes behaviour”. For example ‘’I am in favour of removal of settlers’’ will be more palatable to negotiation rather than using ‘’I am in favour of removing settlers’’ (Note that the researchers are from Israel and hence they are using this research to solve real life problems of Palestine, Gaza strip et al), I cannot but smile at this.
In India such research would fall on its face. We are the kings & queens of verbs. In fact we use our nouns also with the effect of verbs. Let me illustrate.
Verbs provide imagery – you can practically touch the situation unfold in front of you. Parents to Children (at least during my times) would be commonly heard saying ‘’if you do not study you shall end up begging on the streets’’ Please note the imagery of the verb is so vivid that the child has no choice but to pick up the books. The noun form of this sentence is so utterly unimaginative ‘’you shall become a beggar’’. Nah – does not work at all.
When I look back at all the reprimands as a kid I was subjected to or got to hear them, the most effective of them have always had verbs in them. Nouns somehow do not evoke the same melodrama. Sample this. On seeing an unkempt room – ‘’bilkul junglii ho gaye ho tum - ye kamara jaanwaron ke rehne layak bhi nahi hai’’ (i always wanted to ask back – aapne dekha bhi hai jaanwar kaise rehte hain !!. I mean who compares a slightly disordered and malodorous room with a stable or a kennel; melodrama is a weapon Indian parents have long used to cover up for the lack of logic and factual accuracies.)
Verbs have another distinct quality in them. They are extremely action oriented. For example ‘’maar maar ke kaddu bana dunga’’ or for that matter ‘’khaal kheench ke usme bhoosa bhar dunga’’ is so precise in the outcome that it has no choice but to be effective. A hapless child prefers the trauma of studying to the prospect of the skin being peeled – smart choice I would say.
What parents could not achieve, often bosses try to accomplish – with varying degrees of effectiveness of course. On submission of a project or a work one can hear many versions of feedback and many of them are sublime verbs. ‘’you are BS-ing’’ is far more personal than ‘’this is BS’’. The idea of a feedback is to make it as personal as possible. ‘’You are crossing the line here’’ has a better chance of being heard than ‘’a line is being crossed here’’. Eventually ‘’I am sacking you’’ is far more gratifying than ‘’you are sacked’’. The Israeli researcher should have checked with us before wasting their time.
The Israeli researcher may not know this, but for us language is often a weapon, preferably of mass destruction type. Words must inflict maximum impact (read damage). Subtlety is for the meek and faint hearted (i.e. videshis; swadeshi must scream to be heard is the belief in some quarters).Look at our abuses for instance. They are explicit, descriptive, creative and quite action oriented. They are filled with verbs – of what the abuser intends to do. An abuse is worthless if it is an idea in the abstract – it is a piece of gem when it specifically tells you what shall be done (voila – a verb!).
Post script: There is only place the superiority of the verbs over nouns got tested during my childhood. I must give it to the nouns as a post script. ‘’You are a donkey’’ was infinitely more precise, accurate and effective than any verb form of it. My parents will strongly disagree with the Israelis!