Saturday, May 23, 2015

Culture of Conformity Could be a Drain on Productivity



Recently I saw this scene on TV (I forgot if it appeared in some movie or in some TV show; perhaps in Game of Thrones) where a soldier was expressing some doubts to the military commander; who in turn asked him, “Do you wonder about this world? The way it is going and about its things in general?” “No”, replied the solider. The commander concluded plainly, “It is better not to start now.” The soldier’s eyes showed fear and he quietly went back to follow his orders.

This snap-conversation made me reflect and think about my own attitude towards “world in general”. It seemed that the conversation could also be perfectly meant for me. I have this habit of thinking or reflecting about “this world in general”. This conversation kept lingering in my mind for many days during which I was not writing anymore; until I made up my mind about it. I knew that somehow I had felt the same “fear” the soldier had felt. More than anything else it was the fear of consequences in case of ‘nonconformity’.

Psychologists say that people in general ‘like’ others who are ‘like them’. Perhaps that explains why so many great individuals in our history were not understood in their own lifetimes and it was only centuries later that people went on to ‘worship’ them. People did not like them because those great individuals were not ‘like them’ (nonconformity); perhaps they were much better and lived up to higher principles. But people had no problem ‘worshiping’ them later on when those individuals were dead (and hence no threat anymore), because they would worship those individuals after elevating them on a higher platform; which essentially separated them from common masses. This meant that the common masses did not necessarily have to carry a burden of ‘trying to be like them’. World history tells that society has not been too kind towards ‘nonconformists’, be it the social reformers who thought differently or scientists who made radical discoveries.

I think not everyone needs to be chained by conformity; the military commanders who say, “do not think” and “do only what is told to you”. This is why someone famous said, "The opposite for courage is not cowardice; it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow." So true. If you try to do anything great; or better; you have to break ‘conformity’ of your family, friends, or colleagues. But no innovation or breakthrough is ever possible without breaking the ‘conformity mold’.

While working in organizations I have seen conformity doing so much harm! Many a time an employee knows a better way of doing something which is both cheaper and less time-taking; but due to prevailing ‘culture of conformity’ one decides to keep doing it the way it was told by the boss. And if an employee comes out with an idea to change things radically for the better, the idea is shot down as soon as possible by a committee or by the higher management, again because there is pleasure and comfort in the status quo! Worse is when the bosses or management ‘fake’ it that they respect new thinking; perhaps this may be called being conforming to appear nonconforming. If it goes on like this for a long time, the organization builds a very strong ‘culture of conformity’ with unshakable foundations. In the long term, it does much harm to the organization’s top line as well as bottom line; even driving it towards losing competitiveness or to bankruptcy!

Culture of conformity also plays a role in other areas of organizational management. It plays a role in recruitment where companies have fixed ideas about what type of employees they want to hire and what type they do not. It plays a role in selection of suppliers; or in deciding compensation, or in addressing demands from employee unions. The way it works, it goes well for a certain time after which the trouble starts showing in the form of different symptoms. Very often the organizations don’t really know what is wrong until some real damage is already done.

I think this is one area where the HR managers and senior management have to be very watchful. They should intervene at early signs of such a culture of conformity and also make transparent and fair policies and systems to avoid it in the first place. When John F. Kennedy said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth”, he meant it!

***


[Kumar Rahul [BE, MBA], works as Senior Consultant at Infosys Limited; based out of India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect views of the organization the author is or has been associated with. Examples cited are for illustration purpose only. This article is also published on LinkedIn Pulse.]

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book of Short Stories: 'Mutthi Bhar Akshar'

Happy to share with you that my short-stories are included in just published book 'मुट्ठी भर अक्षर'. This is the first time my prose or stories are published. Before this my Hindi poems were published in two books.

'Mutthi Bhar Akshar' is a Hindi Short-Stories collection of 30 writers. It has total 180 short stories written on various aspects of society. I am sure all writers combine to make this book a great read.



(I am in third row from top; third from left)

Book review published in Lokmat Samachar, Pune, on 13 May’15:




You can order the book online at this link for only Rs 84 after discount + shipping with other offers/discounts.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Woman Attacks Policeman with a Brick; He Retaliates


"Policeman attacks woman with a brick" - news headlines were everywhere. It was certainly a provocative news. Of course men and women can legally attack policemen with bricks (it happens during every ‘protest’ be it in Jammu by anti-Indians or on Agra Highway by farmers), and it will never be “news”. But if a policeman attacked a person with a brick, it should be a big news. Just like a man biting a dog is news while dog biting man is ‘un-news’.

So where did this event happen? Delhi. The same Delhi which elected an ‘Anarchist party’ to power with a ‘mad majority’! So there must be more to the news; there must be some ‘drama’; I thought. From farmer hanging himself while CM and his troupe recited poems; to an Officer being sacked for chewing ‘evil’ pan-masala – Delhi has ‘gone nuts’ literally. So I decided to read the whole news; instead of scanning headlines, which everyone including news ‘traders’ take for granted these days. The event happened like this:

A woman was riding her scooty (female of scooter; i.e. weaker and leaner than ‘male’ scooters) with “three” of her kids. These are perhaps days of “have scooter, will ride” even if total 4 human beings cramped over one; after all who cares about legal limits? And obviously only mother’s life was precious (we just celebrated mother’s day) and hence only she was wearing a helmet. She also did not have original driving license with her but only a zerox copy which one can buy from any shop. Then she jumped a Red signal; she said it was because she was getting late with her kids. Very well justified! A traffic policeman stops her and she refuses to stop (she was getting late you know) and hence he hits at the front of her scooter to stop her. The woman gets down and says, “You hit my scooter, I will hit yours”; picks up a brick and hits the policeman’s Bajaj CT-100 motorcycle. Wow! After this bravado no one should doubt if women are empowered in this country. Perhaps if all women were as brave as her, the crime capital of India would earn a better name. So is this all? “A woman hits a traffic policeman’s bike for daring to stop her while she was trying to escape after jumping a red light”? Next, the policeman loses temper, after all there were other people watching him being humiliated in this manner, and crime is stopped by “fear” not by merely writing laws on paper. He loses his temper, picks up a brick piece too and hits the woman who by then had turned back. She must have played ‘Pitto” a lot in her childhood.

What both these ‘brick warriors’ did not notice was that a curious onlooker (i.e. spy) was recoding their quarrel in his cellphone camera. He must have run away after the quarrel got over, perhaps fearing a combined attack from both sides, most probably with ‘bricks’. But he did his damage by loading the video on the internet and hence all media houses got their free content to do ‘time pass’ on screen.

The woman alleges that the policeman also asked for Rs 200 as fine for traffic violation; but when she demanded a receipt, he said in that case she will have to pay more. This is a pretty common scene all over the world, and we all know that no one hits a policeman with a brick merely for asking a fine, whether with receipt or without receipt. If she did attack the policeman’s bike, it was because she lost her temper. But the fact that she lost her temper “first” and threw a brick “first” should be totally ignored – after all news has to be sensational enough and we don’t want to miss sensationalism by going into facts of the case.

“Policeman attacked woman while her children watched” was also a very popular news headline. So did not the policeman also have kids who would have watched the quarrel on TV? And what kind of example did the ‘good’ woman made for her own kids when she jumped red lights and hit a policeman’s bike with a brick? In fact this ‘brick game’ was her own design – if she had not picked up a brick piece, the policeman won’t have bothered to get down from his bike to pick up a brick piece too. Let us blame Newton for teaching us about reactions to actions.

To me, the woman appears to be just a female version of a biker (in Delhi of course) who beat a 42 year old Delhi Transport Corp Driver to death when his bus accidently touched his bike. Interestingly that biker was instigated by his mother. If this scooty woman was so violent to hit a policeman’s bike with brick while her kids watched her, she could have aimed for his head if she were a Delhi male like the ‘driver-slayer’.

In my opinion, this was a case of “road rage” where the woman was also responsible for what happened, along with the policeman.

After this incident and media rage, the traffic policeman Satish Chandra has been dismissed from service and a case has been registered against him. He was also arrested. As a grey-haired middle aged man, most probably he has kids at home and a family to support. I think the Delhi Police has acted harsh on him by arresting and dismissing him from his job as an “image makeover” and “PR” tactics. At first there should have been some investigation – what was the need of dismissal as well as an immediate arrest when the woman did not have any further threats from the policeman and clearly she had violated multiple traffic rules and had started the scuffle too!

In the age of media-trials, former head constable Satish Chandra is one more victim of quick urban mob justice. We sit over computers and TV screens, read and watch selective aspects of news and make up our quick opinion which we share with great enthusiasm. And hence Satish Chandras of this world and their families have to suffer while the Delhi woman and her likes not only get scot-free after violating rules but also gain sympathies and fame.


- Rahul

PS: Views expressed are personal. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Third Battle of Panipat in 1761


I was reading about the Third Battle of Panipat which was fought between India's Maratha empire Vs Afghanistan's Ahmad Shah Abdali's alliance with Rohilla Afghans and Nawab of Awadh in 1761.

The original reason behind the battle was Ahmad Shah Abdali (Durrani)'s invasions in Punjab region. At that time Marathas ruled over most of India and under leadership of Sadashivrao Bhau they had just finished their victory over Nizam of Hyderabad. Abdali had been invading India; and Marathas thought to end the matter forever. In 1758, the Marathas had occupied Lahore and evicted Timur, the son of Abdali and hence Abdali also sought revenge. Also, Shah Waliullah, an Islamic scholar of Delhi invited Abdali and asked all Muslim forces to unite to destroy dominance of Maratha's Hindu empire. Since Abdali was promised a grand alliance, he raised an army from Afghan tribes and started for Delhi.

Marathas had started their travel from Maharashtra in March 1760 and reached Delhi on 1 August 1760, taking the city on the same day. They had bigger army than their opponents. But Abdali+ forces cut Marathas supply lines and Marathas were surrounded from all sides without food and supplies reaching them. In the end when soldiers started to die with starvation, they declared attack on the opponents. Even with initial military successes, as the war continued for some time, Maratha soldiers started falling with exhaustion.

Marathas were led by Sadashivrao Bhau, nephew of Peshwa Baji Rao I, as commander-in-chief, who died fighting till last breath. At death, he was only 31 years old. Vishwasrao, the eldest son of the Nanasaheb Peshwa was heir to the title of Peshwa and also participated in the war. During the war unfortunately a stray cannon shell hit him in the head and hence he died. He is said to be extremely handsome and at the time of sacrifice he was only 19 years old! When Bhau saw Vishwasrao gone, he got down from the elephant and started fighting on a horse with a great force; but the Afghans started shouting that Bhau had fallen, and when Maratha soldiers saw the elephant with missing Bhau on its top, they panicked. After the battle both their bodies were recovered and cremated according to Hindu rituals.

An interesting side of the war was the manner in which alliances were made or not made.

Marathas tried to take Nawab of Awadh as ally, since Marathas had protected the Nawab many times in the past. But Nawab Shuja-ud-Daulah of Awadh ultimately chose to join the Afghans as their Muslim army was being called "Army of Islam". Rohillas were of course Afghans by race and hence joined Abdali. Abdali had come to India at invitation of Shah Waliullah of Delhi who had called for all Muslims support for him.

Rajputs did not join Marathas because they were angry at them for taxing them heavily and interfering in internal matters. Raja Suraj Mal, the Jat ruler of Bharatpur joined Maratha forces but left midway due to conflicts in opinions. Sikhs also did not support the Marathas because of their own regional aspirations. To some extent Marathas were over-confident; but there were reasons for that since their army was many times more than Afghans. But they depended on others for their food and supplies and this is where not having alliances hurt. It is interesting that Sikhs did not support Maratha forces against Abdali, when Abdali had made his forces attack the Golden Temple in the past. I think Sikhs and others, even if not supporting Maratha forces should have at least helped them with food and supplies. But there were reports that Marathas had decided to punish them after defeating the Afghans and hence they did not share mutual trust.

What happened to those who did not support Marathas during third battle of Panipat?

Sikhs: After winning the battle of Panipat against Marathas, Abdali turned to Sikhs again and resorted to a big holocaust where thousands of Sikhs were killed within 2 days (February 5 & 6, 1762). Abdali sacked Golden Temple, filled the sacred pond with slaughtered cows and soil. Sikhs had to rebuild and clean the water tank. Abdali was furious with Sikhs because whenever he invaded India and returned to Afghanistan, Sikhs attacked their caravan and looted money and freed prisoners. Sikh forces had also attacked and looted Abdali's forces when they were returning to Afghanistan after winning against Marathas!

Jat Raja Suraj Mal: He initially gained for not joining Marathas - as he gained immense power in the North after Abdali returned to Afghanistan. However he soon found himself amidst several conflicts and he himself was killed in battle against Najib-ud-Daula just in 1763.

Shuja-ud-Daulah, Nawab of Awadh: Later on he regretted joining Abdali as his Shia forces got into clashes with the orthodox Sunni Afghans. He is said to have sent secret letters to Peshwa repenting. His forces had played crucial role in cutting off Marathas' supply lines even when in the past Marathas had helped save his father from his Afghan enemies. He died in 1775.

Rohilla Afghans: After the war they gained many regions. But after death of Najib Khan in 1770, the Rohillas were defeated by the British.

Shah Waliullah, Islamic scholar of Delhi: He died in 1762; ironically only a year after the famous battle he called for.

It is said that if the Marathas did not lose this battle, the British won't have gained power in India so soon.

After losing the battle, Marathas witnessed a resurrection which is called 'Maratha Resurrection'. Within 10 years’ time, the Marathas returned to Delhi under leadership of Peshwa Madhavrao I in 1771 and restored their power in North India. This revenge was the ultimate climax in the events related to the third battle of Panipat.


- Rahul

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Return Strong and Honest from Jail, Dear Salman!


Despite being a Salman Khan fan, I am happy that he would get punishment for his crime. So that his sins won't haunt him till his next births. I am also disappointed because I expected him to speak the truth in the court of law. But he tried to save himself, even throwing his driver to the gallows - which was like attempting another murder in full consciousness - when he knew that his driver Ashok Singh did not do the crime. Salman proved himself as just another rich celebrity trying to manipulate the system for personal gains.

This case has once again proved how corrupt and dishonest the members of the film industry are (a generalization). In fact this realization has been dawning upon me for some time and I don't feel proud anymore in promoting and being a proud fan of any actor (over reaction). It seems easy money, power and fame can make any good man into evil (philosophizing).

With Salman Khan going to jail, I also wonder how bad-days would come for so many models and pretty faces whom he regularly tries to rehabilitate into the film industry (sarcasm). When actresses do MBAs from good universities but then settle down to doing item-songs in Bollywood, it does not look right (selective higher-standards).

In the jail, Salman would meet the bad characters he sometimes played in his movies, and then he would see the true and complete meaning of "being human". Repent, dear Salman, repent; be good, remain strong and add more to your life apart from playing puppets on the screen for money.

I wish Salman Khan good health and calm during his upcoming stay in the jail. May you come back soon to tell us some good stories. May you live an honest life, happily ever after.


- Rahul

Sunday, May 3, 2015

New Short Stories Collection: Mutthi Bhar Akshar

Happy to share with you that my short-stories are included in just published book 'मुट्ठी भर अक्षर'. 'Mutthi Bhar Akshar' is a Hindi Short-Stories collection of 30 writers. This is the first time my prose or stories are published. (Before this my Hindi poems were published in two books). Thanks to the publishers and editors for the opportunity. I am sure all writers combine to make this book a great read.

It is available at Infibeam.com: 

  

(Among pics on the back cover; I am in third row from top; third from left)

Book Launch coverage in media:



You can order the book here: (Only Rs 84 + shipping with discounts http://www.infibeam.com/offers/) 


- Rahul

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Are ‘Startups’ Less Sensitive than ‘Traditional’ Companies?



In the event of ongoing Nepal crisis (2015 Nepal Earthquake), BSNL has offered free calls from India to Nepal; and recent updates tell that even Airtel and Aircel have also followed suit and offer free calls for next some days. Other ‘traditional’ telecoms like Vodafone and Idea have also slashed their calling rates to Nepal substantially. Even Google opened up its people finding service for Nepal and Facebook introduced safety check; which though of limited use due to technology reach, are still noble gestures. All such changes cost companies efforts and money; mostly without immediate commercial gains.

In very contrasting terms with this episode, stands what we witnessed in Australia during Sydney hostage crisis last year (in 2014). Immediately after the terror attack, Uber had dramatically increased its fares for traveling in Sydney. Users cried foul on online forums and the company had to go on defensive. Uber clarified that the fares increased 4 times automatically due to system "logic". Of course the company won't have allowed any such system logic to reduce fares by 4 times than normal and their clarification cut no ice with many customers.

I know I am making a generalization; and to declare I have nothing personal against anyone in this; but what comes to my mind is that the 'startups' tend to be more insensitive and more commercial minded than their so called 'traditional' counterparts. 'Traditional' companies generally have a much larger employee base and more diverse customer base, and hence are more community sensitive and many times show more responsible behavior. But the 'startups' are more commercially driven, largely due to their funding structure and challenges on the business plan front and also because their employee bases are small and they have not spent much time in the world to allow enough community feeling and sensibility to seep into the system.

On the face of it, this assertion may appear radical. After all, we are used to hear more polite and ‘friendly’ voices when we call a startup firm’s Customer Care number. Also, their user interface on the World Wide Web are often more transparent and easier to use; even though their ‘traditional’ counterparts have worked well to manage the gap quickly. But, it appears that even when our startups are thinking to help customers and being polite to them, their single most important motivating factor at the back of their mind is in fact ‘commercial gain’.

For example, there is also a difference in the way companies react when faced with huge losses, or any serious threat towards business disruption. When faced with such prospects, a ‘traditional’ company is more likely to decide to live with the losses; to fight another day. On the other hand, the ‘startups’ or their promoters are more likely to call it quits. It may appear that this difference in behavior is largely because of the financial challenges and since it is much easier for a startup to wind up and start afresh in some other form than a traditional company. But it is also true that the difference in behavior is also due to the difference in their engagements with their stakeholders, be it partners, employees, or customers. This is the same reason why many organizations have ‘trust deficit’ with regard to startups.

I am nowhere suggesting that our world would be better off without ‘startups’. Such a world would be hopeless. But I am definitely saying that in our business ecosystem, we do need ‘traditional’ firms to remain strong and to keep playing vital roles. And the ‘startups’ along with the much hyped ‘startup culture’ have a lot to learn from their ‘traditional’ counterparts.

***


[Kumar Rahul [BE, MBA], works as Senior Consultant at Infosys Limited, based out of India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect views of the organization the author is associated with. This article is also published by Rahul on LinkedIn Pulse at below link: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/startups-less-sensitive-than-traditional-companies-kumar-rahul?trk=hp-feed-article-title

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Great Empires of India

It is often said that the British united India and shaped it into a country. But when we look at many of the great empires of India across history, we realize that India had been in integrated form for a long duration of time. Of course there have been smaller kingdoms and many kings controlling smaller states but it was just a matter of time before those were integrated into the form of a great empire; which often consisted of regions like Afghanistan too!

Maurya Empire

Look at the below map. This was the size of Maurya Empire around 250 years Before Christ! 


The Capital of Maurya Empire was Pataliputra i.e. modern Patna in Bihar. The Maurya Empire was one of the largest empires of the world in its time.

Gupta Empire

Below is the map of Gupta Empire (गुप्त साम्राज्य); the period during which is called Golden Age in Indian History. It existed from 320 to 550 AD. 


The Capital of Gupta Empire was Pataliputra i.e. modern Patna in Bihar. Samudragupta is called "Napoleon of India" for his great conquests. He conquered what is now Kashmir and Afghanistan. He was a devout Hindu and worshiped Lord Vishnu. 

Btw, the Gupt Kings were not Kshatriyas by birth but were Vaishya/Bania - the same Gupta Surname which many of our friends have.

Maratha Empire


Below is the map of the Great Maratha Empire, around 1758; in orange shade. It ruled over most of Indian subcontinent in 18th and early 19th century before the British East India Company took over. 


Marathas even defeated Tipu Sultan of Mysore. Peshwa Madhavrao-I defeated Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan's father, twice in 1764 and 1767. In 1767 Peshwa Madhavrao defeated both Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and entered Srirangapatna, the capital of Mysore. Hyder Ali accepted the authority of Madhavrao who gave him the title of Nawab of Mysore. Tipu Sultan used to pay Rupees 1.2 million every year to Marathas who in return recognized the rule of Tipu in Mysore region. 

After Marathas defeated Nizam of Hyderabad, the Nizam stopped being a force in North Indian politics and got confined to Hyderabad. Even Mughals used to pay tax to Marathas. 

Marathas controlled present day Pakistan, Bangladesh as well as bordering Nepal and Afghanistan.

*** 

These were some of the great empires of India. In terms of their sheer size, these have been mammoth, often one of the biggest at their time in this world. And then there have been so many other great kingdoms, which even though smaller in size, are still remembered and venerated for many good reasons. 

India has been a land of great people and great kings. A lot of people remember India only because of the spiritual light it provided to the world; and the religious tolerance Hindus practiced which was worth emulating all across the warring world. But even in terms of military might, India has not been without excellence. After all, it was India from which even the 'great' Alexander returned disappointed and empty handed! 

- Rahul


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Beautiful Orchha (Madhya Pradesh)

You must have seen this ad of 'Slice' (Pepsico's mango 'drink'; contains only 13% mango pulp) on TV; and did you notice some beautiful temples and buildings in the background? 


Wondered where these buildings are located at? This is at Orchha in Madhya Pradesh. The buildings in the above picture are beautiful Chhatris on the bank of Betwa River:


Orchha has a very old Chaturbhuj Temple where main deity is Lord Vishnu. Chaturbhuj Temple (Orchha) was constructed by the Bundela Rajputs of the Kingdom of Orchha. Its construction was started by Madhukar Shah Ju Dev (1554 to 1592) and completed by his son, Vir Singh Deo in the early 17th century: 




There is also a wonderful Lakshmi Temple at Orchha: 



Palace or Raj Mahal of Orchha itself is a huge attraction:


In below picture, Palace is seen along with Chaturbhuj Temple:


Orchha also has Ram Raja Temple. This is said to be the only temple where Lord Ram is worshiped as a King and that too in a palace. A Guard of Honour and Armed salutation is provided to Lord Ram every day. King Madhukar Shah Ju Dev brought the idol from Ayodhya.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dahi Wale Kaka




Today I learnt two sentences in Marathi from our neighborhood kid.

A hawker selling curd visits our locality every morning (yes, we are still blessed with such old world charms) attracting his customers by shouting “Dahiiii…”. As he came visiting today, the kid went to his balcony (which is below one of our window’s) and called out, “दही वाले काका - थांबा! मम्मी आली!”. Now imagine if the kid had said the same thing in English. He would say, “Wait Curd Uncle (i.e. Uncle with curd), mom is coming!” Will it carry even an iota of the little kid’s cuteness and beauty?

Btw, we have seen this kid from his younger days – when he was so small that his grandma used to fill water in a wide-mouth bucket and keep him inside it to play and take bath! Before that, grandma would do massage (tel-malish) to him and he was too little even to speak. He is learning words and sentences, and sometimes he entertains his occasionally snooping neighbors like us without knowing.

Very soon, this little Govinda will be big enough to take a break with curd during “Dahi handi” festivals…


- Rahul

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

God’s Own Children


I was traveling in a public bus when something out of ordinary happened. It is not usual that the public bus’ drivers stop at undesignated places (sometimes they don’t even stop at marked bus ‘stops’). When the bus halted, I saw a kid getting in from the wrong door (which is meant to get down). The bus driver kept shouting until two more kids got into the bus and were all asked to get seated (so that they don’t fall down); and then only the bus started. When I could see the three kids’ faces, I could not stop observing a little more than expected.

All three kids were poor (as their clothes and appearances told). The eldest of them was of about 5 or 6, and he sat down only when the two younger kids (perhaps all were siblings) had got seated. He carried a rugged bag (‘jhola’) in his hand and also a confidence which made him appear strong. Second eldest was a girl who was about the same age as of the boy. When she raised her head and I could see her eyes – I was startled. Her eyes made a kind of gaze which was of an adult’s and it spoke of struggles and pity – which I have seen in the eyes of very poor people… The youngest kid was a pampered little plaything; he kept laughing showing his three missing front teeth, feeling happy and content in the company of his elder siblings. In fact all three kids were laughing and seemed pretty happy. Why they should not be? Was I expecting them to be sad just because they were appearing poor (by general standard)?

The ‘conductor’ reached out to them and sat down himself on a nearby seat. When the kids saw him, the girl brought out a twisted ten rupee note in her fist (she held it tight) and offered him. The conductor received the currency in his hand, then said something while talking to the kids with a paternal empathy, and then returned the note to her. I felt hugely relieved. Then after talking to the kids who kept laughing and enjoying the ride, he got himself distracted in other things.

After a while the driver asked the kids where they would get down; but the kids did not answer. The conductor gave them some choices to choose from; the girl selected one of those as her destination and when the place came; the driver stopped the bus (at the undesignated stop again), made sure that the kids got down safely and then started further. I looked at the three kids going away from the bus. The two boys were jumping and looking ahead while the girl looked back at the bus and its driver. Perhaps she was trying to ‘remember’ the bus and its compassionate driver and conductor. But more than anything, her eyes told as if she was blessing the bus for the kindness which she won’t be encountering so often…

These were God’s own children I met today.

- Rahul 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Importance of Wearing Bindi

A 'bindi' or 'bindu' means drop or globule. In Indian/Hindu culture it is supposed to be a sacred symbol of the universe, depicted as a dot or the zero. Applied between the eyebrows, it is position of the sixth chakra, a place which is also the exit point of kundalini energy. Red bindu which women wear also symbolizes fire as per tantra. 


An author writes that while Muslim women in Pak/Bangladesh also wear bindi quite often it is comparatively rare in Indian Muslim women perhaps due to its religious significance. 

From health point of view, bindi is worn between the eyebrows where the pineal gland lies which is an important nerve center and applying sandalwood or ash keeps the nerves cool and conserves energy. But it helps in this aspect only if bindi is made of natural sources and not of plastic. 

The bindi also represents the third eye (of wisdom/enlightenment). The Nasadiya Sukta of the Rig Veda mentions the word vindu/bindu.

[Source: Books and online resources; Picture © Andre Susan]

Friday, April 10, 2015

How India Got Freedom at Midnight

All of us know that India got independence at midnight of 15 August 1947; but there are more interesting aspects to it.

The British Parliament had resolved to set India free on 15 August, which was the second anniversary of Japanese surrender leading to end of WW-II. But as per Indian astrologers, 15 August 1947 was an inauspicious (ashubh) day and a nation born on that day could face breaking-up and great hurdles. Astrologers said that 14th Aug'47 was auspicious but British were adamant about 15th Aug. (also because their authority had to be in Pakistan on 14th morning). So K.M. Panikkar, a historian and astrology expert finally came up with a solution - he suggested that the Constitution Assembly should meet and start the proceedings an hour before the midnight. Pt. Nehru's talk is mentioned as 14-15 August even in speech notes.

We know that as per Hindu Calendar, a date changes with sunrise and not at midnight and hence 00:00:00 of 15 August was actually 14 August by Hindu calendar! And it worked out well - a nation which Western experts claimed won't survive, continued to remain one and prospering...

.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Colleagues Offering Paid Carpool Ride: It is Business!

Recently there was a discussion in office about the colleagues who offer paid carpool rides to and from office daily, to other colleagues. They pick up and drop colleagues who pay them anything from Rs 10 to 40 or 50 depending on distance. As per company policy, company does not allow commercial solicitations inside office and hence it becomes tricky affair since the car-owners post ads offering paid carpool rides in the company’s online message portal. The car owners definitely like to say that it is not a commercial activity and they are merely “sharing the fuel expense”. Is it really so simple? A lot of people don’t agree with it. At the same time many colleagues who take up this paid carpool ‘service’ complain that the car-owners are often rude towards them and never agree to slight requests for example of taking a slight different route.

I think the person charging money for a car ride essentially means he wants to “earn money”; something which car-owners don’t want to accept. Because from fuel expenses to insurance cost, total expense almost remains the same no matter if they pickup colleagues or not. Hence whatever they get out of colleagues’ pockets is their “income”. Fellow travelers don’t have a problem in paying; because in all alternative modes of transport they were to pay anyway. But it is the car-owners’ ‘inferiority complex’ at accepting the fact that they are taking ‘money’ which is revealed in lots of indirect manners and gestures. Sometimes it shows in the manner they try to “justify” why one doesn’t really take money while taking money; sometimes it shows in their rude manner and attitude towards fellow travelers, which in a way is exerting their right, in a way telling the other guy who is the boss who makes decisions here, and hence we have this scenario where fellow passengers sometimes feel that the car-owner is not civil enough.

If you are running a business by running a carpool; what is the shame in accepting the fact that you are earning money? The moment one is not ashamed of taking money; his/her ethics will follow; as one would accept the “rights” of the fellow travelers. If only we think that we are not really taking money; we would like to believe that the fellow traveler does not have any right to demand (e.g. change of route). So the bottom line is – car owners, don’t be ashamed of the fact that you are earning money; and behave accordingly.

As soon as someone mentions that car owns take money and hence should be a bit more polite; they become angry and refute strongly the fact that they are earning money and they try to taunt at the persons who question them by claiming that they want “free rides”. This annoyance at a mere mention of the monetary part is interesting. I don’t think anyone is asking for free rides. But the monetary part is mentioned to drive the idea that the occupant is not beyond his humor to ask for a bit of flexibility (e.g. by going via a different route) from the car-owner.

Coming back to the rude behavior of car owners; I think basic courtesy is much needed. Kindness is very much missing these days of inflated egos. People offer carpools to earn a few bucks – but when it comes to take a bit of trouble to help a fellow person – they act as if their royal ego is hurt if the person dared to make a request. It is easy to guess that they are driven by greed (money) and not by compassion or make-the-world-green kind of ideas which could do any greater good for the world.

Even if the occasional lift-givers who act out selflessly (without taking money) appear rude, if they would, it could be tolerated or ignored. But the professionals who I think are more likely to have learnt and perfected the tricks of the trade and having optimized their route, picking points and timing to start and drop they are less likely to be flexible when occasional customer makes a demand; also fearing that other participants may learn to ask and may start demanding stuff which would need frequent changes in plan. If it were a matter of one day or occasional days, they still may oblige but since this is their daily routine, they don’t feel encouraged to be flexible.

Someone asked what should be a fair price to ask so that the persons taking the carpool service find it not in excess. I think there are no calculators but one could use benchmarks to estimate. One figure is the public bus’ ticket rate; another shared-auto rate; so one could charge slightly higher than these two other options which occupants have.

Now I am going to make a few strong points:

1) Carpools are not eco-friendly. A lot of people can’t afford to come to office daily in their own cars; and they are coming only because they are “subsidized” by fellow occupants. If fellow colleagues stop taking their carpools, such guys will find it too costly to pay for fuel from their pocket alone, and hence will take up “buses”. So carpools are actually cannibalizing “bus” service and if we have to promote buses, we should discourage cars as well as carpools.

2) People who earn money from offering carpools are basically making “black money”; because otherwise they should be showing the income under “income from other sources” field while filing IT returns – and I guess none of them would be doing it…

3) It is still better to take Cab service than this paid-carpool from un-acknowledging colleagues, because – taxi services ultimately pay taxes to the govt and hence all their earnings help in our country’s economic growth. But our colleagues only earn black money and it does not help our nation. So I think it is better to take any Cab service than carpool.


Have you thought about this issue before? What is your opinion on this? Let me know what you think using the comment box. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Why to Get Employment: The Sense and Sensibility Way

For long I have fantasized to be rich enough and reckless enough so as not to be 'working for money'. These days I am reading 'Sense and Sensibility' by Jane Austen. It is tempting to know that in those days in England (also) there were men who inherited fortunes and their estates granted them 'freedom' to remain idle. :) And the language in which Jane Austen writes about it, makes it so glorious. 

Mrs. Dashwood wants to tell Edward, who loved one of her daughters, that it was better if he was employed (perhaps that would be more comforting to her as a could-be mother-in-law). So how does she tell it? She says, "You would be a happier man if you had any profession to engage your time and give an interest to your plans and actions. Some inconvenience to your friends, indeed, might result from it - you would not be able to give them so much of your time. But you would know where to go when you left them."

So interesting! To be employed, so that "you would know where to go when you left a place"! :)

Edward replies including, "I always preferred the church, as I still do. But that was not smart enough for my family." (no one wants to give her daughter to a man who is rich enough to need to go only to a church). "They recommended the army. That was a great deal too smart for me". (they are fine sending sons to army than seeing them at at home!?) "The law was allowed to be genteel enough; but I had no inclination for the law." (What is the use of arguing for others when one can't for oneself?) "I was therefore entered at Oxford and have been properly idle ever since." (as always true - confused people go to college and return more confused).

Now Mrs. Dashwood says, "The consequence of which, I suppose, will be, that your sons will be brought up to as many pursuits, employments, professions, and trades as Columella's".

Edward says in a serious accent, "They will be brought up to be as unlike myself as is possible."

Now this proposition - to work and get employment - so that our kids can also get into same vocation and hence we could make sure they don't trade unseen waters, is so boring and yet interesting. Thanks to Jane Austen's classy humour...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Dear Diary and Other Miscellaneous Stuff

For a change I am writing this post as a ‘dear diary’ format; something with which many of us had got initiated into the blogging world. In fact one of the first blogs which I had come across on internet; I think that was around year 2004-05 and hosted on rediff, were in the same ‘diary’ format. In fact I remember the first such blogger on rediff which had appealed to me and opened a new world to me – she was a girl from Delhi and in her blog she wrote about her days and what she did – especially I loved about her descriptions where she told about how she tutored some kids who came to her house for tuition. She was a student but used to teach kids simultaneously – and this was highly inspiring for a lazy person like me :) Anyways, I should move on to what I have planned for here. I am not really going to describe what comes my mind, but I am going to retrieve and recycle some of the thoughts which have gone through my mind in the last few days.

It should aptly or tragically start with politics; depending on whether you like or dislike political news and analysis. The biggest news recently has been the manner in which Delhi’s CM Arvind Kejriwal has been exposed; with explosive revelations coming out in the open about his real intentions after last elections and the manner in which he was ready to sell his soul to the devil to somehow get back his chair. Also, the manner in which Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were ousted from their party, for their sin to having their own individual opinions which did not match with Kejriwal’s, was depressing. People’s biggest fear – that this party and its self-proclaimed honest leader will also become power craving monster after tasting power; has come true. I guess people in Delhi must be feeling hurt and cheated – and they should. Still there is hope at the end of the tunnel. If public can maintain these events in its memory and does not get swayed by some other Kejriwal’s gimmicks before next state assembly elections, next elections although too far from now should be the best way to teach lessons to the sinners. In democracy there is never a final victory or defeat and one pays for one’s karma if people are vigilant.

Now I would like to touch upon a book I have finished reading. It is “For God’s Sake” by Ambi Parameswaran. This is a wonderful take on how religions are impacting people and media of our country. I recommend this book highly if you are interested in this subject. 



Btw, it is troubling the manner in which Pakistani actors and artists have infiltrated Indian entertainment industry in particular and so frequently appear in our movies, TV shows, music albums, Ads, event hosting, etc. We can certainly wonder how they treat us "in return". Ambi Parameswaran, ED and former CEO of DraftFCB Ulka is an industry veteran and here is what he says in his book "For God's Sake":

"Pakistani television would discourage ads being made in India also because they did not want their marketers to route their advertising production money to India and to Indian models. Television authorities in Pakistan insisted that none of the actors were of Indian origin. When Indian agencies made ads for their Pakistani partners, they had to ensure the actors had non-Indian passports, copies of which had to be sent to Pakistan for approval."

Indians think that if they support Pakistani actors, it is because of our "big heart". I think it is because we have "small thinking". If I watch a Pakistani actor's movie/show; s/he will get more roles in India and earn Indian money; one, there is opportunity lost for one Indian actor/artist who could have got that role; two, the Pakistani artist goes back to Pak and spends his income there; part of income goes to Paki govt as taxes; Paki govt uses some of its tax money to fund terror against India; and hence we can't truly claim to be not funding terror in India indirectly by supporting Pakistani showmen!

Recently there was a huge buzz around the news that Maharashtra government has banned beef in the state. Mostly people applauded the decisions except a few who protested. Trivia: Do you know that "till 1947" cow-killing was punishable by death in Jammu & Kashmir? 



All of us know that India got independence at midnight of 15 August 1947; but there are more interesting aspects to it.

The British Parliament had resolved to set India free on 15 August, which was the second anniversary of Japanese surrender leading to end of WW-II. But as per Indian astrologers, 15 August 1947 was an inauspicious (ashubh) day and a nation born on that day could face breaking-up and great hurdles. Astrologers said that 14th Aug'47 was auspicious but British were adamant about 15th Aug. (also because their authority had to be in Pakistan on 14th morning). So K.M. Pannikar, a historian and astrology expert finally came up with a solution - he suggested that the Constitution Assembly should meet and start the proceedings an hour before the midnight. Pt. Nehru's talk is mentioned as 14-15 August even in speech notes.


We know that as per Hindu Calendar, a date changes with sunrise and not at midnight and hence 00:00:00 of 15 August was actually 14 August by Hindu calendar! And it worked out well - a nation which Western experts claimed won't survive, continued to remain one and prospering...

Another thing which has caught my attention is the interesting manner in which word-meanings change and sometimes it is sad; for the changes appear to be trivializing grave or touching moments. These days a Punjabi word "Siapa" or "Syapa" is gaining popularity in Films and TV. The word is being used to indicate any "trouble" or "problem". May be movies picked this meaning up from recent popular culture.

But the actual meaning of the word "siapa" is "Beating of breasts as a sign of mourning." When someone died in that region, it was a custom to conduct a siapa (mourning) ceremony; where women used to gather and weep, crying in grief. That was called "siapa".

In a way it is sad that the word has been turned into something different and trivial. But the custom of original "siapa" (mourning) ceremonies may themselves be extinct now; or getting extinct; and hence popular culture and cinema picked it up. Still, the manner in which they speak "siapa" at the drop of a hat on TV; many times in comedy shows; as if it is a funny word; does not appear right to me. One of my friends informed that the word has been used in trivial and funny sense for a long-long time. But that is the phrase "syapa padna" which means "rona cheekhna machaana"; the instances I mentioned from TV are not "syapa padna" but merely "syapa". Perhaps I should not expect such purity and care from TV and media. 

A lot has also been happening on international front. After Iraq, what has happened in Yemen is heartbreaking. ISIS is a great challenge to the civilized world and I think our world including its leader USA and President Obama are not doing enough. Also the manner in which Islamic terrorists attacked a university and killed more than a hundred students, shakes one’s faith in humanity. 

In this light, the below picture may not break the internet but it can break your heart:




Let us hope some sense returns to this world soon. I wish USA does more than it has done in some recent years to control such events. 

- Rahul