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!


Monday Musings 312 Tampergate: The Many Shades of Ball Tampering.

Tampergate: The Many Shades of Ball Tampering.

(FIrst Published in People Matters May 2018)
Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft have become the poster boys of all that is wrong with the business of winning – winning at all costs. Darren Lehman the coach who has taken the moral responsibility has also quit – as if he had any real choice in the matter.
I studied the coverage of this saga in the Indian media, Australian media and of course on the web – and to my mind at least I found it to be a partial coverage. The dominant narrative has been that this is a case of individual(s) gone rogue. I did not quite see the coverage appropriately & proportionately questioning other dimensions – leadership, system and society with any rigour. As is the wont of these issues, the easiest to blame took the brunt.
Indeed it was a case of individual lapse. Smith, Warner and Bancroft were adults and knew exactly what they were doing. The act was clearly unprofessional and unethical they must be proportionately penalised for it – and they were.
However Smith was not only an individual – he was the captain. He along with the coach, Lehman who irrespective of the veracity of his claim that he was unaware of this plan formed the Leadership team – together they were supposed to uphold the fair play. The breach was right at the top! The breach would have shocked and hurt less perhaps had it been some fringe player who would have indulged in this cheating in the pursuit of individual glory. It hurts more because it was the captain. The leadership lapse was larger than the individual lapse.
There are two other layers of the lapse that really is the area of my attention. The first one is that of the Australian Cricket Board (ACB). I did not see too many questions raised about them – and those who did so, did it obliquely, in the passing and at best, mildly. The ACB is not only the administrator but also the guardian of the culture that cricket is being played with. The Aussies play their cricket with their hearts and they do not like to lose. This fierce desire to win is ingrained in them, although some argue that the desire to win is more an Aussie trait than specific to Aussie cricketing trait – but more on that in the subsequent paragraphs. The rise into the national squad does not come easy to a player. He has to fight his way through the highly competitive club cricketing circuit, state level circuit before wearing the coveted green baggies. The attrition rates are high. The fear of not making the cut is always lurking the shadows. There are so many talented young men who are ready to take your spot that one does not want to take a chance with winning – and winning consistently. It is just a matter of time when this degrades into winning at all costs. The dark shadows of this ultra machismo of hyper competitiveness would not fall too far!
The role of ACB can only be looked in two ways
– either it is not aware of the cultural manifestation or consequences of this hyper competitiveness or it is aware of it and choosing to turn a blind eye because of the payoffs that it is fetching them (who can argue with 3 World Cups !!). ACB has to take some share of the blame of tampergate either which ways. If it is not aware of the cultural dimensions of hyper competitiveness, then I guess the board is being run by amateurs and myopic – who have poor understanding of human motivation. They lack wisdom that the extreme urge to win has to be moderated by the sensitisation of the rule of law, a sense of ethics, fairplay and a constant reminder of the holy grail of all – that we would all be reduced to being barbarians if we start believing the highly romanticised and overrated but misplaced notion of ‘everything is fair in love and war’. In case they were aware of the rot in the cultural fabric – that this hyper competitiveness will one day erupt in something like a tampergate, and chose to turn a blind eye to it, then they must take blame as much as it has been extracted from Warner and Co. The awareness that I mention is not really cognitive awareness of this specific event – but a foresight, the reasonable ability to predict things, given their experience and wisdom, of what kind of culture they had and where the road was leading to. (Obviously this is rhetoric and one does not really believe that the board will ever take this line)
A final word on the Australian public – the fans and the society at large. The players, the leadership and the board do not exist in isolation. They exist in the specific context of the Australian way of life. They must equally fix the gaze inside to ascertain if they had any role to play in this. Cricket in Australia is serious business – the national side carries the burden of heightened expectations every time they step into the greens. Every loss is dissected, every failure scrutinised. In the last two decades they have dominated the world of cricket – and there is backlash and uproar each time the crown appears to be slipping. I can imagine Steve Smiths demons – the nightmare of losing the reputation of the dominators of the willow and the cherry. He would not want to come out on the streets, drink in the pubs and meet a fellow Australians gaze that would have held him guilty of the heinous crime of being the guy who demolished the legacy of Border, Waugh, Ponting, and Clarke. Ah! – the weight some shoulders carry!!
So what failure was this really – of the individual, Leadership, the system or the society? We at workplaces have a lesson or two to learn from all of this I guess.

Monday Musings 311: The worst in the worst in us

Monday Musings: The worst in the worst in us

‘’We have always goodly stock in us of that which we condemn; as only similar can be profitably contrasted, so only similar people quarrel, and the bitterest wars are over the slightest variation of purpose of belief’’ – from ‘The Story of Philosophy’ by Will Durant. The above lines were observed by the author to describe the relationship between Aristotle about his relationship with his teacher Plato, particularly during the later years.
A few years earlier during the course of a very different discussion in a group a point came up – which was roughly to say, that what irritates us about others is often a part of us only; we recognise evil/vile/mean in others only when we have it us in plenty. I am just putting two and two together to weave this musing.
Conflict is all around us. The cause of most of these conflicts would have the humble and innocuous beginnings as mere ‘differences of opinion’. There are some conflicts which remain as mere difference of opinion while others acquire layers and become monstrous – layers of hurt (real or imagined), threats to identities and finally the consequences of insatiable power mongering (fundamentally the need to be one up!) When two people do not get along well, fight, spar and in extreme cases are at each other’s throat, it is really fascinating to know what is making them invest so much of themselves to keep the fight alive.
Generally speaking and particularly at the individual level, keeping a hurt/fight alive is a full time job. It demands so much of us. It demands that we simmer with the hurt at all times, keeping the flames of all the all past memories at high seam lest the savages of the hurt do not get tamed. This all becomes easier when the two are of the same kind with only minor differences (refer to the opening para). It is amazing how easy it is now, with the wisdom of those lines, to understand the nuances of all conflicts around us – for example the conflict between the different strands of the same religion (as against between two very different religions), or conflict between two parts of the same country (as against between two different countries), or conflict between two people very close to each other (as against between two strangers).
I guess the conflict between two people close to each other is acuter and with more ferocity because both know each other too well. The understanding of where things hurt is better and so the blow, when it is delivered, is delivered with maximum impact – because both know what will hurt most and where.
Understood from a different angle the hurt is the highest because the disappointment is the highest when someone so near and so similar is the source. (How could HE/She? I don’t believe it was He/She !;). Strangers do not hurt us because we are not invested in them; we experience the maximum hurt with the ones in whom we are invested in. (I it not expect this from Him/Her!).
Finally and perhaps the heart of the point is as follows – that the hurt emerges from an anger that we have with ourselves (its just that the consequences are directed outwards). In the experience of pettiness, vile, cunningness, meanness and witnessing the ability to be vengeful and remorseless – we are reminded of all of that in us. We know instinctively that we are no better that what we are witnessing or are at the receiving end – and what a fall from grace that moment is! In that fleeting moment when our own lies get exposed, where we become aware of our imperfections, we do not know how to redeem ourselves. Anger is our only recourse – and that anger is directed outside. The higher is our disappointment is ourselves, higher is the manifestation of that anger outside.
The fire that burns inside the blade of grass often ends up burning the forest. If only the blade knew better than that.

Monday Musings 310 - The many hues of Intuition

Monday Musings - The many hues of Intuition
I wish to ask those who can answer this for me- ‘’How do you rate my ability to be intuitive?’’. The answer could either please me or depress me. Actually the question itself is wrong I guess – am I not the best judge of my intuition? May be answering this question is like trying to catch the flutter of the butterfly. May be the butterfly must be allowed to come and rest on the shoulder on its own and not be chased with the pursuit... of catching it (all pursuits are by nature violent). Intuition is allowing that butterfly to land softly on the shoulders.
This question on my intuition bears heavy on my heart – the mere question; looks like it’s not a mere question. I am petrified of the answer so I shut off the question itself. A heavy load is lifted – not having to ask such questions can be such a great relief; at least for the time being it all becomes so much more tolerable.
So i find an easier solution. I google ‘’best quotes on intuition’’ – and here are some that catch my fancy. It helps me take my attention off from the question. See if some of them catch your attention too.
1. ‘’Intuition is seeing with the soul’’
2. “When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.”
3. “Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.”
4. “What good is intuition if your heart gets in the way of hearing it?”
5. “Intuition is a sense of knowing how to act spontaneously, without needing to know why.”
6. “Intuition means exactly what it sounds like, in-tuition! An inner tutor or teaching and learning mechanism that takes us forward daily
7. “Nothing comes unannounced, but many can miss the announcement. So it's very important to actually listen to your own intuition rather than driving through it.”
8. Intuition is the art of the moment. Intuition is always in the moment, in the here and now. While the intellect always moves like the pendulum of a clock between the memories of the past and the fantasies of the future, intuition is always in the moment, always in the here and now.
9. “It’s as though our bodily sensations have voices if we tune in to what they have to say.”
10. Trust your senses most of the time, your intuition some of the time, and your conclusions never.”

Monday Musings 309 :The mythologies of individual narratives

Monday Musings:The mythologies of individual narratives
All of us have a mythology about ourselves. Then there is truth – the layers of which I guess no one will ever know, including us.
Our mythology suffers from all the abuses that classical myths suffer from – they are always partial telling of the events (assuming that the events even happened), the details are often a casualty because after a while no one has any interest in corroborating a story with facts, nor are facts available – only the myth survives, and last but certainly the most diabolical – such mythology is always designed to make us look better than we were.
We like to weave a mythology about ourselves based on how things should be and not really how things really are. We amplify our heroics however feeble they might be and we clinically erase the evidence of our frailties. Luckily time is a great plastic surgeon.
The myth building really begins to happen when the same story gets repeated again and again – the cementing is in the constant retelling – like the jaded party/get together jokes that get retold when school /college friends or even ex colleagues tell every time they meet. . You shall notice the classical signs of mythology at work – all evidence of acrimony, deceit, pettiness, and envy and power struggle carefully sanitised – only the myth of laughter, innocence, bonhomie and undying friendships retold.
(Disclosure- I had a class get together yesterday but this paragraph was written 24 hours before that)
Let me illustrate cases of such mythologies we weave about ourselves – only to get an idea about the phenomena; it is impossible to give a comprehensive account of them as there are as many myths that individuals build as many billions of people on earth – may be more.
The myth of uninterrupted and effortless success (even when you have slogged your way through), the myth of a great professional (even when you are keeping the boat afloat somehow through the skin of your teeth), the myth of being a good company (even when you hate every minute of socialising of any kind), the myth of a good friend (no one ever tells you that in his/her mind you have already been murdered because you are an assault to his/her senses), the myth of a great partner (even Gods will let you down eventually if you are together with Him – it is just a matter of time), the myth of a sacrificing and selfless adult who for others have always given up on his/her ambitions/comfort/desires, – and to my mind the most sinister myth of all – the myth of a victim (of how you were not at fault and how unfair it is for you to be the recipient of the all the unfairness in the world) – so on and so forth.
(Disclosure: I suffer from many of the above)
We all are constant creators, propagators and perpetuators of our own mythology. There are only two kinds of people on this - One who do not have finesse in mythology building and are noticed immediately for their uncouth and crude attempts; others who are artists as they do this subtly and sophistication. There is not much of a difference between these two as both are frauds. The difference only is in the quality of the fraud.
I can imagine why we do it. It makes our own mundane
existence and mediocrity so much more tolerable. It helps in drowning that nagging voice inside us which is trying to remind us of how hopelessly frail our egos have been, how unceremonious our successes have been, how meaningless our gloating’s have been and how utterly forgettable our so called victories have been. (If it helps – ‘’at the end of the game, the king and the pawn both go back in the same box’’).
In that rare moment of wakefulness amidst the delirium whenever I become aware of the (fraud) mythologies about myself that I have gloated or perpetuated about myself , I have one of the two emotions – either I feel very petty and small or I feel the resolve to bridge the gap between the fact and the fiction.
Which of the two happens more often? – well in trying to answer that would be the birth of yet another mythology of self.
Guru || || @musingsbyguru

Monday Musings 308 :Cognitive futility

Monday Musings:Cognitive futility
Some concepts reveal themselves to us as epiphany while some others remain at a cognitive level. We often mistake cognitive appreciation as the final frontier of capability. Things must come alive to really make a difference in our minds and for our lives.
The chasm between what should be and what is tragic and ironic at the same time – and when it’s neither, it is funny. May be a decade back the lack of research into this subject kept thinkers awake at night – now the gap itself should cause insomnia. The subjects of Leadership, Social Change, Cultural Progress et al are all subjects that suffer from this chasm.
My hypothesis is as follows. Cognitive appreciation of concepts may be a necessary condition for awakening but it’s not a sufficient condition. Some may argue that cognitive appreciation is actually not needed at all. Recently I listened to a speaker who was making a case for humility for leaders – and every word he spoke and manner of his elucidation betrayed arrogance. One could not argue with his cognitive erudition but the audience knew instinctively that he was an unlikely practitioner.
Ironically the methodology of leadership education is dominated by cognitive appreciation. Even when it is about the ‘essence’ it is dealt like a concept.
So what makes the penny drop for the rare few for whom it does? Frankly it’s difficult to predict. For some its life threatening circumstances for others an epiphany – either ways it’s a game of chance. If deliberate pursuit of awareness did indeed cause a heightened self awareness, most of us would be saints. Talking about awareness is not the same thing as being aware.
The merchants responsible for ushering in leadership change are equally at sea because no one knows for sure what really works. Everyone has a favourite methodology - and once the favourite is established then that becomes the only methodology. (To the hammer, the world looks like a nail)
We must definitely create spaces for each methodology but not depend on them to create true change of behaviour. Shifts in thinking, behaviour and mindsets have a mind of its own. No one ever changed because the world wanted them to change – we changed when we wanted to change. The same applies to others – particularly those whom we have the onerous task of leading. Believing otherwise is intellectual arrogance.
The deluge of behaviour change literature would want to make us believe that all around us much behaviour changes because it must – either because of inputs given, development process or if everything else fails then a walk with the boss! A casual observation would also reveal that there is more talk about behaviour change than real change – and in worst cases the promoters of such changes are themselves the most unwilling (or incapable?) to change. I would like to believe that such dichotomy is not because of a lack of intent. Everyone wakes up in the morning wanting to be a better version of them. Somewhere along life takes over.
I am gradually veering towards the following conclusions – a)that we have overestimated our ability to understand human change; that no one has any clue why people change and why they don’t; b)that we have arrogantly started to believe that human change is a DIY toolkit that anyone can work with; c)that just because we can describe human change also means that we can control it and influence it; d) that erudition of the subject of human change is not the same thing as the ability to usher it; e)that we must spend time in finding out who in our respective systems are really enabling change rather than those who are only talking about it intelligently – or else we deserve those we have.
(first published in People Matters, April 2018) ||

Monday Musings 307- Of Good Days, Bad Days – and Old Monk !

Monday Musings:Of Good Days, Bad Days – and Old Monk !
(This is an ode to a 25 year old who recently told me this – ‘’I am troubled by the question if there is God; if there is meaning to everything we do, and where am I headed’’. I was amazed at his ability to ask these questions. At 25 I did not know my elbow from my knees!)
There are days when things make sense. There are days when they do not. There are days when there is absolute clarity on where are we headed and then there are days when there is clutter. There are days when we know precisely why we have a spring in our steps and then there are days when we do not know why the feet are dragging. There are days when we feel good enough to conquer the world and there are days when we feel worthless and not good enough. There are days when we feel we are meant for bigger things in life and then there are days when we are not sure if we are good enough for the things we have. Such are the binaries of human mind!
Earlier I used to believe that these binaries define my days; and that there is a clear demarcation of superiority between them - the former always better and more preferred than the later. I am no longer sure about that superiority. I am veering towards the conclusion that later is equally meaningful and powerful. They are the wombs of possibility.
Days that make sense, have inherently absolute clarity and bring spring to the feet, when I feel good enough, nay great enough are easy to understand. These days are the engines that drive life forward – give it positive momentum. Many if not all draw satisfaction and meaning out of them. Things look worth their while at least for ‘today’.
However it is the other type of days, when things do not make sense, when there is clutter and when the feet drag and when things feel directionless and the self feel worthless that are fascinating, even though excruciating. These are days the pall of gloom is all over, the soul is heavy and there is a general shadow of doubt on everything – on what I have done all these years, on how good I have been, on demons I have refused to acknowledge, on my innate inabilities, on the coarseness that lurks just beneath the sheen. These are days when I QUESTION everything – I am truly but brutally reflective. These are days when I see things as they are – not as I want them to be.
What do I do with these days? I try to do the usual thing to make things better – watch a movie, immerse in the social media, shop may be, have a drink or two with friends – the usual you know! The good news is that those days do not last more than a few minutes or a few hours may be – before we fill the vacuum with more meaningless debris, whose only role is fill the vacuum. It’s like filling a landfill- lot of activity but no real outcome.
However those days leave behind questions which if paid attention to for a sufficiently long period of time can lead to something powerful. Disturbing questions may be the power to reveal beautiful answers. I had heard a concept many years ago that comes to my mind – the concept of ‘Positive Dissatisfaction’ – that all great improvements emerge from this feeling that there is something amiss, that all meaningful build ups in life in general emerge from us being unhappy and dissatisfied with the ways things are. I may not have the clarity of what needs to be done or how things can be better or the wherewithal of making a change – but that must not be the reason for avoiding the potential thrill of positive dissatisfaction. Over time I have built a higher tolerance to these kinds of days.
However this piece is not really about good days and bad days – because this binary, like all binaries is misleading. Greater truth is either between the binaries or beyond it.
I am more worried about days that evoke nothing in me – neither joy nor dullness, neither meaningfulness nor drudgery and so on and so forth. I am scared of the days when I wake up blank – that is something I don’t know how to handle – at least yet!
It is those days that I thank whatsapp, FB and if everything else fails – Old Monk! Small Mercies. || ||

Monday Musings 306 - Monday Musings - Taleb Uninhibited !!

Monday Musings - Taleb Uninhibited !!
Nassim Taleb, the erstwhile trader and present day writer cum philosopher has been and continues to be outrageously provocative, to say the least. One becomes either a diehard fan or a fierce critic – never in between. His earlier book like Incerto, Fooled by Randomness, Black Swan, The Bed of Procusteus have all been incisively provocative.
His latest is ‘Skin in the Game’ – and on the expectation of provocativeness, he does not again.
Since my world is that of corporation and leadership, I have culled out those segments which have enough potency and applicability to stir things up a little in this space.
Enjoy – if you can; Enjoying Taleb requires sharp intellect, thick skin and a strong heart – a combination that is rare.
1. Don’t tell me what you think – just tell me what is in your portfolio
2. Bureaucracy is a construction by which a person is conveniently removed from the consequences of his/her actions
3. The curse of modernity is that we are increasingly populated by a class of people who are better at explaining than understanding
4. Avoid taking advice from someone who gives advice for a living , unless there is a penalty for their advice
5. Things designed by people without skin in the game tend to grow in complication (without their final collapse)
6. Understanding the genetic makeup of a unit will never allow us to understand the behaviour of the unit itself
7. Someone who is employed for a while is giving you strong evidence of submission
8. What matters isn’t what a person has or doesn’t have; it is what he/she is afraid of losing
9. People whose survival depends on qualitative ‘job assessment’ by someone of higher rank in an organisation cannot be trusted for critical decisions.
10. The curse of modernity – the IYI people – Intellectual yet Idiot
11. True intellect should not appear to be intellectual
12. People who are bred, selected and compensated to find complicated solutions do not have an incentive to implement simplified ones
13. It is much more immoral to claim virtue without fully living with its direct consequences
14. If your private life conflicts with your intellectual opinion, it cancels your intellectual ideas not your private life
15. Courage is the only virtue you cannot fake
16. How much you truly ‘’believe’’ in something can be manifested only through what you are willing to risk for it.
17. Not everything that happens happens for a reason, but everything that survives survives for a reason

Monday Musings 305- The mysteries of Change

The mysteries of Change
Those who missed the powerful acceptance speech that Oprah Winfrey gave as she became the first ever black woman to win the Cecl B DeMille lifetime achievement award missed something. It is moving at multiple levels – and Oprah dealt with multiple issues delicately and with dignity like a trapeze artist. She spoke powerfully about the narrative of fight back against the twin scourge – sometimes independently and sometimes as a poisonous concoction together – abuse of gender and race. Her words to those who have so far caused such abuse was both a warning as well as a challenge, ‘’your time is up’’ will reverberate for a while.
However I was intrigued by something else. She mentioned a black woman Recy Taylor’ fight against a racial and gender abuse in 1944 – which was supported by ‘The’ Rosa Parks as a volunteer who later became the trigger of the resistance against racial discrimination – who Oprah finds an inspiration in. I was intrigued about the nature of influence and change. It was not lost upon me that once a ripple is made on calm waters – there is no way to know where those ripples will end. This was a classical case of ‘no protest is too small or too insignificant’ – every event counts till it acquires a critical mass. I examined my own tendency to overlook imperfection and injustice in the name of my being a lone voice and felt quite petty.
There is enough literature on change management these days which perhaps fails on this touchstone. True change does not follow a model may be! There must be sufficient dissatisfaction on the streets (or cubicles) brewing for sufficiently long period of time and each dissatisfaction with the status quo must be publically expressed and registered – and nature will provide the spark eventually. That is what the street movements have taught us across times – and more so in recent times. This is what is ‘revolution from below’ would mean. People, masses, us – we are creators of change – only if we add our small splinters of discontent till the whole thing turns into an inferno.
Then I remembered having read a book by the sociologist Dipankar Gupta a few years ago which argued that all great revolutions have been led by a small elite at the top who have managed to forge changes in politics and societies even when those changes weakened the status quo to which they belonged and benefited from. All social reforms, freedom struggles across continents were led by this ‘minority elite’ – the masses only followed the direction. The book is obviously more detailed and nuanced and you must read it if this subject interest you. The limited point is that here was another body of work which was approaching the subject of revolutions and change not from the streets (as in the paragraph above) but from the enlightened drawing rooms.
The implicit argument is ‘if the masses knew any better they would never have ended up with the problems of abuse & discrimination in the first place’. Masses are mindless herds that can be easily led astray as history has proved time and again. Enlightenment, progress and progressiveness are all acts of defiance – and that usually comes from the top and a few - because they have the power in the structure to really make a difference.
Confusing right? So where does the locus of change really sit? Let me throw in another one.
Change management is a heavily researched body of work in the world of management these days. Researchers have studied organised change in organisations and proposed models for the future. The distilled wisdom from such change programs has been converted a ready-to-use, do-it-yourself, off-the-shelf models with an implicit promise that if certain steps are followed then voila – change is ushered in! This is a third take on the subject of change – which all change can be broken down into distinct steps, that each step can be mastered and when those steps are done the change you are seeking in a system can be brought about. There is a huge traction of this view given the popularity of these change models enjoy today.
The trouble with this view is that it reduces the subject of change to a passive entity which is amenable to external influence. It assumes that the subject of change will not fight back or try to deflect, dodge or subvert the attempt. Living systems have an uncanny tendency of preserving the status quo. Change is a dynamic process to say the least – what compounds the issue that it is also an incredible political process. What chances does change has when it is viewed as a clinical process – oversimplified to a model or steps? Change management is very arrogant view of the process of change because it believes change can really be controlled. The outcomes of change can possibly be managed but the inherent process of change has a mind of its own. It must be respected by the ‘change manager’. The revolution often has a different trajectory than what the revolutionaries had originally planned for. Change leaders must be humble about the process, unfortunately which often they are not.
‘There are more change managers than change these days in organisations’ – the sarcastic jibe a colleague mentioned the other day to me says it so poignantly. The reason could be something as simple as this – talking about change management is not the same thing as the ability to bring about change. The ones who brought about real change never knew the phrase but did the job.
(first published in 'People Matters' March 2018)||

Monday Musings 304 - Monday Musings - Starry eyed under the starry skies !

Monday Musings - Starry eyed under the starry skies !
A colleague of mine recommended a night camp that a group of amateur astronomers hold in the outskirts of Mumbai. ‘Khagol Mandal’ as the group is called is a motley collection of astronomy aficionados who have been holding such monthly camps for the benefit of lay people with intent of introducing the mysteries of the skies. It is a non profit group who only drive is to share with others what they find fascinating and inspiring – to gaze into the night sky and be overwhelmed with its enormity. I can never thank my colleague enough.
The evening begins at 7 pm and goes up till 5 in the morning. I came back with the following thoughts.
That it was exposure to a new field of enquiry goes without saying. One got to know about stars, their types, constellations and their peculiar shapes with gaping mouths. One realises that the night sky moves – that the sky till midnight is not the same thereafter, to the naked eye that is.
One came to know that personkind (mankind is pass̩ and sexist you see!) was interested in the mysteries of the skies right from the start Рthe Greeks, the Arabs and ancient Indians had their own perspective on what they saw up there and how they related it to what was happening to them down here. The results were a full range Рfrom moronic to philosophical and from inanity to the sublime.
Astronomy has a lot to thank to the early Arab world – a large number of stars up there have Arabic names. The current Arab world could do well to remind themselves of their glorious past.
Here was a group of 30 years olds giving back to the field of their vocation handsomely. I asked them what got them to astrology (at least one of them was a PHD in astronomy and working with the Bhabha Atomic Centre) – to which they answered that as kids they attended this very program and got hooked forever.
I asked them what makes them do this month after month. They were quite flustered at the stupidity of my question because to them this was quite obvious – that they loved astronomy and they love talking about it even more and that this was their way of sharing with others the joy and the mystique that they experience every time they look up to gaze the night sky.
3o year olds were giving back to their profession! I felt like a petty hoarder. How much more time before I start giving back?
It is quite wrong, philosophically speaking, that the centre of the world is the Sun. Actually we are at the centre of our worlds. Our own narrative is often as follows – that everything else exists only in relation to us, that everything and everyone exists to serve us, to make us feel better, loved and validated. Since in most cases the narrative begins from ‘I’ – it also ends with ‘I’. Our sense of importance, worth and therefore esteem is a convoluted manifestation of that ‘One voice inside one man’s/woman’s mind/heart/soul’. Every time there is a deviation from the script – that that ‘I’ is threatened, our world comes collapsing down. That is more or less the story of every human being who is ‘normal’.
Gazing at the night sky and knowing about its enormity is philosophically speaking, a very humbling and liberating experience. We are a speck of dust on the earth, which is speck of dust in our galaxy, which is a speck of dust amongst all other galaxies. We should stop taking ourselves too seriously.
My big take away was this astronomical trivia. It appears that the universe is expanding, the sun is expanding and just about a billion of years the sun will explode (Supernova), and earth as we know it will be gone.
So here is to all those who are irked by messy traffic, pesky relationships, irritable colleagues, nagging friends, and intolerable bosses; Here is to all that makes you feel so important at times as if you are running the world and all that makes you so miserable about yourself; Here is to all that appears so important to you today without which there appears to be no prospect of happiness and to that which appears the most depressing thing in your life which forms the last frontier between you and your eternal bliss –Remember it will all be gone in a billion years. Don’t fuss over anything too much.
Now Please pour yourself a stiff One ! ||||

Monday Musings 303 - The Land Belongs to the snakes

Monday Musings: The land belongs to the snakes.
Some books become alive to us in unimaginable ways. I have been reading ‘Sapiens’ the fantastic book by Yuval Harari. The book is an amazing story of how we have come about to be what we are – an amazing amalgamation of science and history written almost like a novel. A strong recommendation to the connoisseur of the written word.
The book talks about the transition of Sapiens from hunter gatherers to agriculturists and how that changed so much about us. I cannot go into the details of this for the want of space and expertise but suffice it to say, that is was not only momentous but also fascinating. Our relationship with nature changed forever – from being afraid of it to becoming subjugators. Our relationships with fellow animals also changed from being respectful to being exploiters. This transition to most of us will be an academic point – fascinating at best and boring at worst. Most of us have no memories or experiences of either being hunter gatherers or agriculturists and hence this point serves nothing more than being of academic interest (if at all).
I have been going through the book mostly with a similar frame of reference. I had a surprise waiting for me though.
First a little background. I grew up and continue to have roots in the tribal district of Jharkhand – where in pockets at least the tribal worldview is available for experiences. Incidentally the specific area where I grew up and my parents continue to live has a strong native tribal population who may have modernised themselves in many ways but do retain their native traditions. My family has been living in close proximity to them for three generations and as is the nature of these things, the influences are hard to avoid.
Let me come to the story now. In the small piece of land that my family owns is a colony of snakes for the longest time we know – which is about 50 years if not more. I grew up knowing and seeing this colony less than 30 feet from our rooms within the compound we call our home. The presence of this colony has been a part of us and frankly till now it never occurred to me as unusual. The snakes have changed the location of their colony only twice in my memory but never left the space. Every once in a while a few of them stray into our homes particularly during summers and are ushered out with due respect. Never once was this close proximity considered unnatural, unusual or interfering. The word cohabitation has been in full display. Women in my family dutifully revere them, pray to them once in a year for the last three generations. These days that tradition has been shouldered by my mother as was done by my grand mom before her and my great grand mom before that. The chant of the annual prayer can be roughly translated as – ‘Be with us, bless us, keep coming, keep going but please do not interfere’’. The relationship of mutual respect with nature has been in full display in my backyard and I never took notice of this.
Now to the twist in the tale. A few days back I made the point to my mom that we should get rid of this colony of snakes to make the small piece of land more accessible for growing something. All hell broke loose. I had not anticipated the backlash to what according to her was a preposterous and a sinful idea. The argument against my proposal was not encased in religious terms but in terms of ‘equal rights of animals’ to live on the land that has housed them for half a century. ‘What do they demand of you but the small space?’ – exclaimed she.
Very soon the tone changed from ‘this should not be done’ to ‘over my dead body’ to finally the ultimatum ‘dare not do it even when I am dead’. Now when a mother uses these three tracks, you can imagine how utterly unarguable the debate becomes.
Harari’s narrative of the respect for other forms of life sapiens had during the hunter gatherer times came alive to me. I was taken aback by the strength of the opposition to my idea. I cannot get over the pushback – its tone and strength together. I keep asking myself the following questions. What is my stance on the subject of the right of other species on earth? Does that land only belong only to me or are the snake’s equal owners? When push will come to shove will I respect my mother’s wishes? When push will come to shove will I respect the snakes inheritances and rights?
Right now from the highrise where i live these are academic questions – but for how long!!

Monday Musings 302 - Serendipity

Monday Musings: Serendipity
I experienced the joys of serendipity recently and how !
I experienced that joy In the middle of a noisy bar when someone I knew more than two decades back very briefly and in dramatic circumstances, to say the least, shrieked with joy to exclaim ‘I know you’. I experienced that joy in realisation that after all we are not shreds roaming in space never to meet again – that it is possible for serendipity to make things happen.
I think serendipity has greater joys than planning and achieving, in setting goals and reaching there, in wanting to reach somewhere and actually reaching there. I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that sometimes the worst that could happen to us actually getting what we wanted – that there is more joy in becoming what we never had planned, in doing what we never thought we would be doing, in walking on paths that we never thought we would tread.
It is magical to find something we were not even searching for only to realise that it is exactly what we always wanted to find – to realise that in associations and memories, rather than objects and possessions lies true meaning. No wonder some places we roamed, some fruits we plucked and savouries we ate, some streets we frequented and some cities we live in always manage to evoke an ache for no reason at all. It all becomes even more joyous when all of this happens as serendipity.
I have rummaged shelves for a book and found a handwritten note instead. I have searched for a file and found a book with a notation instead. Serendipity comes with many faces – and all its faces are joyous. A very distant past is mostly rosier in hindsight, even when it was not as rosy then. The sepia toned dog eared photograph always manages to bring a smile – through toothy faces, chubby cherubic cheeks, through bushy hairs, through ribboned pleats. What we lost is mostly more precious than what we gained. We lost years – irreparably and irreversibly. What can be more tragic than that!
Serendipity brings it all back. A deluge. Details and events do not matter. Actually the details are inconsequential. The associations are more relevant.
We rewind and in rewinding we relive. It is the only way to make believe that we reversed the forward march of life. The illusion of it is the only solace. The illusion gives fuel to deal with the next moment – a hope that the next moment is not permanently lost and that I shall meet this moment many years later in a noisy bar and hear it say – ‘I know you’. ||
@musingsbyguru ||

Monday Musings 301 - Sab Maaya Hai

Monday Musings: Sab Maaya Hai !!
It is the New Year time and we must pay homage to this artificial construct of time. There is nothing whatsoever that will change as the digital clock will show zero zero today midnight. The sun will go about its job tomorrow morning just as diligently as it has been doing for the last few million of years and the winds will blow without a care for the revelry in most parts of the earth. Our lungs and heart will go on about their tasks as well - just the way they were doing for so many years; although I must add the liver, kidney and bladder might have to do some extra work for those who might have a few drinks extra. The point is everything shall be as usual. The Homo sapiens needed a justification for celebration and he got one with the change in Gregorian calendar.
I dug out all my New Year writings for the last 7-8 years that I have been writing and I must add I was a tad disappointed to read them. They all read alike – as if I had nothing new to write about most of the time. Mostly the New Year pieces were those of stock taking, of pause and reflection, of closures and beginnings, of resolutions and regrets. Mostly they were pieces of advice and lament, of pontificating and ennui. There were more statements of intent than action and more questions than answers. I did not find much evidence of what had I decoded in the last year when I wrote them. Let me change it then today.
I have figured that things are never as good or as bad as they appear. I continue to be taken by surprise. I realise people are good and bad inexplicably and our attempts to theorise about their goodness and vile is futile. I realise that I have moments of spirited goodness and helpless meanness for no rhyme or reason.
I realise we look great or stupid alternatively although some have some great runs for a longer period of time and others have the misfortune of a prolonged rough patch. This has got nothing to do with their talent, intent, hard work or any other factor that is within reasonable control. For no reason there are clouds and then suddenly for no reason there is sunshine.
There is more randomness than destiny in the world and we should stop looking for cause and effect all the time.
Good happens to the wicked and ‘Sh@t’ happens to the good. In any case who is good and who is wicked keeps changing places just as what is good and what is sh#t also keeps changing shape with amoebic efficiency. I realise there is more drama than sense around. I see the drama even as I write this – a drama that is both meaningful and inconsequential at the same time (or lease has the potential to be both).
I realise we are passengers in every conceivable ways – on the earth, in the country, in the families and in the jobs. I also realise we don’t like being mere passengers. We want our journey to mean something. The more we realise that there is no meaning in it all, the more desperate is our need to anchor a meaning from every association, from every action, and from every event. I realise it is a wild goose chase. I realise that it is as bad not to have a purpose and perhaps it is much worse to be obsessively wedded to a purpose. A few years ago I used to think the other way round.
So much is happening outside the window of the bus in which we are travelling. I realise that both have issues – not having a bus to call our own as well as belonging only to one bus. I realise travelling and staying still have their own issues.
I realise strange is not strange anymore – that strange is the new normal and that my own threshold for strangeness must improve significantly if I have to retain sanity and a sense of normalcy. Predictability is a myth – a mirage, a construct we have created because we don’t know what we would do otherwise. It is better to chase an illusion that we can understand than live with reality that we cannot fathom. Reality never owed us anything and the illusion never had real teeth. We are doomed both ways.
I realise that there is too much talk and too little action. I also realise that sometimes quick action is a substitute for deep thinking – it’s a deflection from people knowing that they cannot really think. Words are prison but so is action. Both can give us a false sense of accomplishment.
I realise that the really all pervasive and all too powerful human instinct is the instinct to survive. Self preservation is not only an art but it has a utility of a Swiss knife in the wild. So when I see a blatant show of self promotion or chicanery, of pettiness or vileness – I see a desperate attempt to survive. I do not get disturbed now when I see this. Something in me understands and allows it to be.
When I see the echo of happy wishes on the new year of 2018 I realise that it has the potential to be happy and sad at the same time; that it has the potential of being a brand new year or just a continuation of the same old days; that the deluge of bland off-the-shelf whatsapp wishes broadcasted as a ‘to do’ would in a way reflect all that is so good and so bad in things around us. I realise it is still ok.
The good old lament ‘Sab Maaya hai’ has acquired a brand new nuance. Happy New Year 2018. ||||

Monday Musings 300 Teachers, Predictions and Sundry Lessons

Teachers, Predictions and Sundry Lessons

I have always wondered how teachers remember all their students. I wonder if they are able to predict well enough how will the lives of the brats that they teach turn out to be. I have always wondered if they have been proved wrong – either when their favourites do not end the way they had imagined or when the ones they had no hopes for surprise them for the good. I also wonder what do they go through when they life takes them by surprise in such cases.
I must make a declaration about what has triggered the above. Two incidents happened too close to each other to be ignored as isolated events. About two months ago I came in contact with someone (lets call him J) who happened to study in the same college as I studied in but at a space of about a decade. We had absolute no common connections whatsoever and our meeting now was complete happenstance. Once our acquaintance was made he mentioned that a certain professor would often make a mention of me (rather kindly) and in the same breath along with the mention he would also make a certain prophecy about me. As J recounts this I am touched and surprised by the fact that my teacher remembered me even after decade of me leaving college - even though we were never in touch after I passed out of the institution. The nature of the prophecy is not material to the point – what is material is that a certain prophecy was made, in absentia and from memory.
Cut to a few days back I came across a professor from another institution that I subsequently went to – a place known for its liberal political views (in contrast to the times we have come to inhabit), liberal business views and overall promotion of inclusive, mutli dimensional and multi disciplinary view to education. The head of the institution there lived, breathed and through staunch practice, promoted and protected those liberal tendencies (never in words – always in actions) in a world around him which was quite the contrary. He is retired now – Let’s call him X. So this professor of mine, whom I met a few days ago, upon knowing my work on and with Kabeer and upon listening to my political beliefs and general stance of things, commented ‘X would be proud of you’. Again a kind opinion – but as I said that the nature of opinion is not material – what is material is how often do teachers turn out to be correct or wrong on such predictions and how do they feel about being correct or wrong – finally what can we in the corporate world learn from it.
I would like to believe teachers - at least most of them, and even when we do not quite like them while we are under their tutelage – are optimistic about their wards. They believe most of us will turn out to be good. I also believe over time they also acquire this wisdom that academic brilliance, a general disposition towards discipline and obedience is not a very great marker of future success. I think they get it even when they do not quite express it. I think most of them develop a sixth sense about these things after a while.
What I am not sure about is the following – what happens when they are proved wrong? Do they regret having predicted to too early the powers of meandering destiny that each kid brings along? Do they rubbish it as exception to the rule or they go back and stop making those prophecies in the rare cases they end up being wrong?
Those of us who are in the professions of leading people – how accurate have we been in predicting the overall success and longevity of the people who come to be associated with us. How accurate have been our predictions – how many times have we been proved wrong. How many times those who we had written off , in another space, place, profession have turned out to be rockstars. What lessons have we learnt from these experiences? As a lot - do we give up on people too soon?
The two teachers remind me yet again – not to give up on people too soon. They might make us proud eventually. || || @musingsbyguru

299 Monday Musings :Smart Coasters and the Prayer policemen!

Monday Musings :Smart Coasters and the Prayer policemen!
Quite recently a close friend of mine shared with me the latest ‘smart product’ – a tea coaster which keeps a track of how much tea have you consumed and perhaps all resultant indicators like calories et al. I had heard of the smart ablution pot (shit pot sounds so gross) – which reads all the vital readings of a urine test and other such stuff thus obviating the need of scoop and ferry. The mayhem started with the of the smart phones and after that there is no looking back – from smart watches, to smart glasses, to smart cars to smart cities and smart robots. With the minor but perhaps crucial exception of making a smart human being, I guess we have begun the process of smartening just about everything, if not actually achieved it.
I am not against smartness per se. It is a good thing to achieve. In fact give where we are it is a lofty ideal certainly worthy of pursuing. The point is that is if the pursuit of making the inanimate ‘smart’ as powerful as the pursuit of making the living smart? Another way of saying it is I wish there was an equal obsession about making the tea smart as much as the coaster. What is the point of having dumb tea and smart coasters?
As I punch these lines I feel like a sermon giver – there are a dime a dozen like that; all equally ineffective overall. I feel like moving away from this track – and then another event comes to my mind. Recently I had gone to a place of worship, a prayer hall and was having a chat with my maker, eyes closed – when I feel a pair of hands on my shoulder. A middle aged gentleman most likely with some formal role in running that institution asked me to go and sit along the wall because apparently my jeans had skid a wee bit lower than where it should have been ideally, creating an exposure which in his mind was inappropriate. I wanted to ask him if my being pensive and meditative was not good enough or why was he policing me or why was he not busy in his own prayers – so on and so forth. I remembered the coasters again – smart coasters, horrible tea.
The example is just an illustration. I find the coasters all around me. Surely I see them in others more ubiquitously than i am able to recognise them in myself – but I know a few of my own coasters. I am also sure I do not know many more.
The trap of being obsessed with form over substance is increasingly likely when everything must be ‘smart’. It will not be a bad idea to be mindful.
Guru || || @musingsbyguru

Monday Musings 298 - What bothers you?

Monday Musings: What bothers you?
I have been bothered about this question for a while now. This is surely not the question uppermost in my mind when I go about my activity obsessed life in any case. The dominant question is never what bothers me – because all the FB/whatsapp early morning motivators hammer me into believing that ‘positive thoughts are a road to blissful life’. The pressure to be positive, eternally optimistic, and perpetually inspired has hit a stratosphere, from where it has actually started to depress me. I feel so puny in my own cocoon of chaos, where things don’t make sense, the road ahead looks hazy and I am engulfed in the delhisque smog of existential questions. As if feeling puny was not enough, I also start to feel inadequate as this barrage of digital inspiration that screams at me 24 by 7. Like all things fake on the digital world – even motivation is. People leading the least inspirational/motivated lives send the maximum inspirational/motivational messages.
I am digressing. So what bothers you the most? Social conversation is mostly about what gives us joy, happiness, contentment and satisfaction. If drones were to capture all the social conversation around us, it will be overwhelmed with the dominance of what people plan to do to increase the joy in their lives. In fact the overwhelm will soon be replaced by perplexity when the drones will realise that for all the talk on joy one would find so little of it. I am not sure all the artificial intelligence that the drones will be packed with will be enough to deal with that amazingly human affliction – confusion. By design tech replicas of human beings cannot handle confusion. They need absolute clarity hard coded in them to function – but we go about living even when we are confused. We thrive, perform, love and hate even when we are confused – or least we are expected to.
I am digressing again. Sometimes I think we should start devoting a little more time on the subject what bothers me more rather than what gives me joy. The debate on this is surely going to be fierce as to which is better line to take – but that is not the point really. The point is do we even know what really bothers us so deeply that we might be egged on to do something about it – if not now then soon. What issues are we passionate enough about that sooner than later we will step out and do something about it?
We are surely passionate about our hobbies at best, the source of our satisfaction or even progress may be – but what problems besiege us, keep us awake at night even if intermittently, or we sometimes worry ‘gosh-is this what my children will grow up to face more of’. It is absolutely ok even if we have done nothing whatsoever so far about it – for we all have issues of survival, accumulation and future to deal with. The big question is – do we know what bothers us enough that at some stage, time permitting, resource permitting – we will actually wake up one day, take the shovel out – and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Do we know THAT list?
These issues may or may not be glamorous – like world peace, global warming, terrorism, banning Padmavati, or even the qualifying criteria of a patriot et al. I am sure these are big problems and someone must solve them – it’s just that,that someone is surely not going to be me. The problems that bother me could be more humdrum, more local, more proximate – whatever it might be like Afroz who was bothered about the mountain of debris on the beach outside his home and one day decided to clean it in Juhu. Stuff like that. I feel very petty when I read stories like these for it exposes the self centred preoccupation of my universe. It is in the nadir or those moments that I particularly ask – what bothers me? What bothers me enough that one day I will do something about it?
What bothers you?
Guru || ||