Thursday, 19 March 2015

A trip of many firsts

I am in Melbourne, Australia. Came here for a business trip – just for four days. I was thinking about this trip and realized that this is a trip of many firsts.

It is the first time that I
  • … had to travel abroad pretty much unplanned – at the drop of a hat, you can say though none of us wear hats now a days.
  • … traveled unplanned out of a planned trip. 
  • ... traveled with Malaysian Airlines. I was feeling a bit odd about the flight MH199 – must be recent news related to Malaysian Airlines. But it turned out to be a smooth flight.
  • ... was served something that I asked for that was not available. I asked for tomato juice. It was not available. So I was given orange juice. After about two hours, the air-hostess handed me a cup of tomato juice and smiled. And we tip those who don't deserve it. 
  • ... traveled via Kuala Lumpur
  • ... traveled via Malaysia - truly Asia?
  • ... was served the smallest quantity in the largest container!! It was not as worst as serving a single pea nut in a bucket. But a bit similar. I asked for something vegetarian to eat at a noodle shop. I went there as I had work to do on my laptop. That noodle shop was the only empty one. Vegetable Soup was the only thing I could eat - so I ordered. It was delivered in the deepest, widest bowl I have seen! In India, we would have called it anything else but a bowl.
  • ... have traveled to Australia
  • ... saw from air end of the ocean and beginning of land
  • ... cleared immigration in under 10 seconds. He saw, he opened and he stamped my passport. No questions asked. No eye contact. No verification. No response. Of course no smile.
  • ... have crossed the equator and stepped into southern hemisphere. 
  • ... have reached both southernmost and easternmost point of my travels.
  • ... am watching cricket in a non-home country. I have watched cricket at Bengaluru, Bristol and Cardiff. Both were my home countries. In fact, it is the first time I have watched cricket in a place where I have not lived.
  • ... have blogged from the middle of a cricket match
  • ... was working while watching a live one day cricket match
Hmm ... who cares for such details! I do. Or I did. For a while, at least.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

My definition of singularity

I often wonder about "singularity". I don't mean lonely hearts though. You know that I am talking about that single entity into which all known matter and meaning converge. It is said to exist deep inside a black hole. It is a place of infinite gravity and its size is - well - singularity.

To me, singularity in this real physical world is a place or a point in time where you witness a great merger of science, beauty and philosophy. It is that intense experience of joy into which all of the known meaning vanish and no explanation remains. Either everything silently ends there or whole new possibilities begin with a big bang.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Understanding and Appreciation

We often say, “No … you don’t understand”, especially while arguing. More often than not, we do not mean so. What we really mean to convey is “No … you don’t appreciate”.

Understanding and appreciating are becoming mainstream skills in both the workplace and personal life.

Transforming society and new human understanding thrust many concepts upon us that test our ability to understand and appreciate. Among them, we have our favourites and taboos. We understand the dichotomy in some occasions and we do not care in many others. When pushed, we hide our confusion by simply accepting a viewpoint and avoiding judgement or additional thinking called for by the situation.

I see several commonalities and differences between understanding and appreciation.

Commonalities include

  • We need both understanding and appreciation. We are capable of providing and receiving them. Yet, each one remains a privilege. 
  • We understand and appreciate when good things happen to us. Likewise, when things go haywire, we do neither. 
  • In some scenarios, like retrospection, the boundary between them hardly matter. 
  • In some scenarios, like rage, we are blind to both. 
Endless questions come to mind when we think about differences between understanding and appreciation. It is a very personal list. I have listed a few of mine and quoted a few scenarios and examples to better understand the question.
  • Many times, we understand but do not appreciate. Yet, is it easier to understand than to appreciate
    • We understand begging and stealing but cannot appreciate either. 
    • We may never understand personal transformations in some people but may appreciate the outcome.
  • Should you understand in order to appreciate? Looks like it. Nevertheless, I do not understand art and the Universe – especially the Universe. It looks as if we are not worthy of understanding its origins or a few of its secrets. But I appreciate both.
  • Does appreciation apply to the act and understanding to thoughts behind the act? Though we say “I understand what you did” – we often mean, “I understand what triggered you to act this way”. 
  • When you understand, do you accept? Not necessarily, as one may understand but not appreciate. If that is true, then, does appreciation mean acceptance? Perhaps yes. But not when you are delivering appreciation assuming the role of a dispassionate actor. 
  • Is understanding a silent process whereas appreciation involves some kind of action? Looks like it. You cannot convey your appreciation without taking an action. However, you can communicate your understanding by remaining silent. 
  • Do we appreciate understanding? We do. We reward people who understand better. We also invite people to appreciate more. 
  • Do we understand appreciation? We are capable of detecting blind appreciation such as needless celebrity followings. However, we under-estimate the need for genuine appreciation. Hence, we do not deliver it more often. 
  • Through appreciation, can you understand better? It may be hard to appreciate without better understanding. 
  • Do understanding and appreciation map to reward and recognition systems? There is a relation but no direct mapping. Understanding and appreciation are core principles that drive reward and recognition systems at workplace. 
We balance understanding and appreciation most of the time. However, it is wiser to be sensitive to the dichotomy and individual needs.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Primrose Path

All I asked was to meet
Shake some hands and greet
But he didn’t walk the street
Stuck to his hotel suite

I drove here quite so long
How could he be aplomb
This lead to a strife
Between me and his wife

"You are a friend of mine
Let us not combine
Choice is his not to meet
He need not come and greet"

I said "this attitude is not right
We should keep it straight
I am his friend too
We have had a chat or two"

"Take a simple path
Needs no complex math
Let go" was her advice
Guided by some inner wise

Simple was her only saying
But not the actual doing
As she brought up my wife
Referring to our past life

It seemed like hypocrisy
Of self assumed aristocracy
Should I bell this cat
Or hit it on its face flat?

But I stuck to present facts
For which she reacts
Choosing a few words
That cut me like swords

She even poured hot sludge
"You are a hopeless judge
You don’t shift perspective
And often so invective

You run a memory train
Full of so much vain
It’s not quite so strange
That you do not ever change

Please don’t imagine things
Adding a pair of wings
To anything that springs
In your mind the size of king’s

Or let’s go separate ways
Seeking happiness rays
I can’t handle this trauma
Don’t think it’s my drama"

Was a hello too much to ask
Or did I uncover a mask
What was my actual fault
To face this assault

With these trends
We ended up at opposite ends
Of a street that pretends
To link two old friends

Feeling hurt of some sort
I cut the conversation short
I knew it was a torn cloth
Yet I wished her a primrose path.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


Retire eternal judge
Waiting for a big nudge?
You’re indeed a fudge
Don’t ever judge.

Retire O road hog
Waiting for a hug?
You’re indeed just a cog

Don’t ever so drag.

Retire old rogue
Waiting for a drogue?
You’re so bogue
You’ll never be an apologue.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


I prayed for
But was granted

Sunday, 10 October 2010

MK Gandhi and IF-THEN-ELSE clause

A few people seem to have misunderstood the phrase pseudo-intellect that I have used in my post Saint from Sabarmati. Also, I came to know about a few reasons for not “fully respecting” Gandhi. Hence I wrote this post.

The phrase 'pseudo-intellect' does not apply to all those who hold a negative opinion about Gandhi. I have applied it only those who take the extreme view of justifying murder of Gandhi.

Many things have happened during the heat of post-independence months. Perhaps people saw Gandhi as a mere tool to get the independence - and - not to formulate free India. Perhaps once India was free, a few were strong enough to push their own agenda and Gandhi was sidelined - being unable to influence this new lot of "awakened" followers of his. Wasn't Gandhi almost alone in his ashram when India was being shaped up - as if he became irrelevant suddenly? Other seemed to behave like a shop keeper whose attitude towards you changed as soon as you paid for the item. 

It is also said that Gandhi, given his calibre, should have got us a better India! Can we define what it is? On one hand we say that he is not a factor in getting us independence and he isn't that great. And, on the other hand, we say that he should have gotten us a better India given his calibre! Aren't we contradicting ourselves? 

Some people say that Gandhi should have predicted the Jawaharlal-Indira-Rajiv-Sonia-Rahul power-train of leaders and the adverse impact of the same on India. Isn't it a bit too much to expect?

Other point against Gandhi is that he should have made Patel the Prime Minister rather than Nehru. Patel was the Deputy Prime Minister and did play a key role in shaping India till his death. Perhaps he had a chance in the first general elections of succeeding Nehru and may be Nehru would have looked at a career at a different level. But Patel passed away in 1950. How is that not a significant factor? Who knows what could have become had Patel been alive! And let's assume that Gandhi had "made" Patel the PM and Nehru something else. Would that have forever stopped Nehru from becoming PM of India and build his dynasty? To formulate an opinion, we must take into account all other possibilities too - not just those that we like. An integrated view helps to formulate a justifiable opinion. Since we are not dealing with manufacturing and engineering, we cannot draw a straight line - linking cause and effect - between Gandhi making Nehru PM - and - Nehru building his dynasty. 

Charisma plays a big role (not the one from RK family) in choosing a leader. Nehru was more "attractive" compared to others. Look around in your own workplaces - for how are the leaders chosen and people promoted? Based on their true merit? Do you blame the company's founder for what is happening in reality - all within established legal frameworks?

We cannot blame Gandhi for not building the nation "properly" because

  1. It is we who named him as the "father of the nation" and it is we who have failed over the 60 years to properly govern ourselves. It is Nehru's strength that made him to stick to power. If other elected people did not have strong personalities to shake up the Nehru dynasty, how is Gandhi responsible for that? It is like crying "Oh shoot - I cannot take Ricky Ponting's wicket in this test match. I blame Bradman for this situation". 
  2. We didn't give Gandhi a chance to influence Indian policies and Governance because we killed him at the earliest. It took him several decades to build up crowds behind him. Isn't it fair to give him 3 to 5 years to shape up India?

If Gandhi had lived beyond 1950s and failed to influence Indian Governance, then yes, let’s blame him. But, expecting Gandhi to play a vital part in getting independence and then to get everything right during the hot days of post-independence is too much in my view.

My question is this: Hasn't Gandhi done enough to command our respect? Can't we say "Sirjee you are wonderful. I bow my head in respect. Thank you for what you have done." Heck! We say such things to Tendulkars and Khans of Mumbai! But poor Gandhi has to pass through several IF-THEN-ELSE structures, SELECT-CASE clauses and look right (even after 60 years and two generations) against all labels that we give him! He has to get thousands of other parameters correct before we could say - yes - he is great!

IF-THEN-ELSE or SELCT-CASE predicates are not needed for Gandhi bashing. The logic is smooth and direct. Some examples

  • Want to name the class where the poor sit - be it a movie or a train? Call it Gandhi Class.
  • Need to make fun of someone who plays things by the book? Sarcastically call him Gandhi. Get the angle of your hand right when you point him in the face.
  • Need a solution for a problem that we were unable fix in the last sixty years? Don't hesitate, blame it on Gandhi whom we killed 58 years ago.
  • Looking for a reason to express frustration against the reservation system of India? You are right - It is Gandhi again - because it was he who called the untouchables as Harijans out of love in the first place. Wasn't he?
  • Can't get a girlfriend? Stoop low - make fun of Gandhi who had had his arms around two young women while he walked to prayer meetings! (Yes - I had the misfortune of hearing this logic from an educated crack who was also a team leader!)
I accept – there were things that Gandhi wasn’t equipped or able to do during his days. That doesn’t bother me much. What bothers me is that we are “not hesitating” to circulate Godse glorifying articles on October 2nd and seem to look for reasons to put down Gandhi. The fact that we have sunk this low is more relevant for us now, than what Gandhi did or did not do sixty years ago.

Don’t you think so?

[PS: IF you don't know what IF-THEN-ELSE or SELECT-CASE clauses are THEN catch hold of a passing-by geek and ask ELSE ignore them and SELECT the easier CASE of assuming them to represent a few obstacles]