War is either just or unjust. It is never holy. There is no “holy war”. Jihad is the internal struggle with obstacles between oneself and God. It is unfortunate that words lose their intended meaning over time. Goes to show that history is nothing but interpretation and convenience. It is not necessarily the truth.
Posted by Raunak on December 1, 2013
Posted by Raunak on November 27, 2013
In his book “No God But God” Reza Aslan writes,
Admitting that Muhammad might have been influenced by someone like Zayd is, for some Muslims, tantamount to denying the divine inspiration of Muhammad’s message. But such beliefs are based on the common yet erroneous assumption that religions are born in some sort of cultural vacuum; they most certainly are not.
Vacuum. A lot of us seek mental isolation in our efforts to find answers. We feel that creating a vacuum around us insulates us from the worldly disturbances that plague our mind. In our pursuit of inner peace we look for opportunities to cut ourselves from the routine life we live in. I have come across more than a few people who have expressed their desire to retire into the forests or the mountains to discover themselves, people who seek answers to their problems in seclusion. But is that the way to go about it? I doubt it. Yes, a quiet and peaceful surrounding facilitates our mind in collating our thoughts, in putting together the pieces of the puzzle. But a vacuum can never answer the questions that arise in our spiritual and subconscious mind. Those answers are right here, right now in the real world that we live in. The answers lie in the mayhem that surrounds us.
Answers come from learning, not from a moment of inspiration. Learning is most effective when gained by observing outcomes of actions being performed, either by ourselves or by those around us. The quickest way to learn is being aware. And learning inspires answers. Since a vacuum is devoid of any action, it does not provide any learning and hence cannot yield answers, no matter how much the level of awareness.
Hence, do not seek answers where there are none. Seclusion is a place of quiet not of peace.
Posted by Raunak on November 26, 2013
JUST PUBLISHED IN PAPERBACK ON AMAZON
Few concepts in business contain so many powerful truths, and at the same time so much crap, as corporate culture.
35 Years of Asking the Hard Questions and Searching For Answers
"Experience isn't the best teacher, it is the only teacher!" Albert Schweitzer
Inside this new book you will find my views on corporate culture after 35 years of working with senior executive teams and global organizations on the role of culture and performance.
Posted by Raunak on November 26, 2013
I have just started reading “No God But God” by Reza Aslan. Here is a beautiful commentary on the difference between religion and faith.
Religion, it must be understood, is not faith. Religion is the story of faith. It is an institutionalized system of symbols and metaphors that provides a common language with which a community of faith can share with each other their numinous encounter with the Divine Presence. Religion is concerned not with genuine history, but with sacred history, which does not course through time like a river. Rather, sacred history is like a hallowed tree whose roots dig deep into primordial time and whose branches weave in and out of genuine history with little concern for the boundaries of space and time. Indeed, it is precisely at those moments when sacred and genuine history collide that religions are born. The clash of monotheisms occurs when faith, which is mysterious and ineffable and which eschews all categorizations, becomes entangled in the gnarled branches of religion.
I think I’m going to enjoy this book.
Posted by Raunak on August 8, 2013
“Name and Shame” has been a much touted policy in India over the last couple of years. Towards the end of 2012 there were calls to “name and shame” sex offenders. Earlier this year, the Election Commission of India proposed using the same treatment for politicians colluding with media houses. And last month, national banks decided to “name and shame” loan defaulters as well as guarantors of those loans by publishing their photographs and other details in newspapers and at notice boards of bank branches and community centers.
Amartya Sen, in his book “An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions”, highlights the power of media in not only designing the framework of behavior and social norms but also in manipulating human behavior within that framework.
The activism of the media has a definite role to play both in demanding and encouraging institutional reforms, and in influencing human behavior. Human beings respond to incentives. To want to do well for oneself is not the same as cupidity, and there is no dishonor to humanity in accepting that completely selfless behavior is very rare. Incentives include not only financial gains and profits, but also public admiration and praise as a positive influence, and naming and shaming as a potential deterrent. Adam Smith noted that it is ‘praise worthiness’ that should move us most in our moral thinking, but also recognized that it is actual praise that tends to encourage human beings, just as actual blame restrains them.
Over the last few years, the Indian media has displayed activism that is altering the social and political landscape of the country. Scams are being unearthed, the guilty are being exposed. Even though the weak judicial system allows a lot of the culprits to walk free, the drive to “name and shame” is having its desired effect. It is this activism that has prevented skepticism from turning into a “fatalistic acceptance” of the current corrupt state of affairs. We finally have reasons to believe that things can really change in our country.
Posted by Raunak on August 2, 2013
The “untouchables” constituted the lowest rung of the caste system in India. Centuries of reform movements have alleviated the sufferings of those condemned to the bottom of this man made social hierarchy. However, segregation is only too evident in many parts of India. My most recent encounter with such social injustice was during my last political marketing campaign that took me to rural heartland of north India.
While campaigning in villages, I came across demographic distribution that fit a pattern. In every village the “untouchables” lived in a cluster around 200 meters away from the rest of the population. Though disturbing, this did not come as a shock to me. I was aware of the fact that we Indians were far from ridding ourselves completely of the ancient evil. However, what I observed next was disturbing. In every village the “untouchable” cluster would be towards the south while others would be in the northern part of the village. This layout was the same in all of the over 150 villages I visited. No exceptions. This pattern had to have a reasoning behind it. Hence, I inquired.
A local “wise” old man told me that since the wind blew from the northern direction, having the “untouchables” live in that part of the village would mean that the wind would be ”unclean” when it reached the other parts of the village. Winds that touched the “untouchables” would be dirty and upper caste people could not risk becoming “corrupt” by coming in contact with the same wind.
In his latest book “An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions” Nobel laureate and economist Amartya Sen reasons how India, in pursuit of economic growth has neglected expansion of human capabilities and freedom. The neglect of physical and social infrastructure (health, education etc.) has meant that while we have achieved economic growth, real development has not kept pace with it. He couldn’t be more right.
Posted by Raunak on July 14, 2013
“Dedicate everything to God”
Turned on the TV this morning and saw Joel Osteen preaching. Yes, televangelists have taken over the morning slot on Indian television. Some make sense while others make money. Since I regard Joel to be the former, I didn’t change the channel. Of the many things being talked about, the one that left an impression on me was his message to dedicate everything to God; every word, every action, every desire. How every obstacle would be removed if only we began our endeavors in the name of God. I lit an incense stick and began my day.
Later in the afternoon, while reading “Personal Panchanga and the Five Sources of Light” by Komilla Sutton, I came across the following lines
“Agni (the element Fire) was the primary principle through which the gods communicated with the earth and agni feeds from the offerings given to gods by humans. Agni wants the soul to act in the voice of God, to dedicate all its actions and karma to the gods….If all actions are thus dedicated there is no need to worry about getting any negative effects of karma.”
What I like about this message is the fact that mere dedication of something can work as an offering. Gods do not ask for donations, riches, grand sacrifices that have become the flavor of the day in temples across India. All one needs to do, to seek divine blessing is to dedicate every action to God. That in itself serves as an offering.
A beautiful message from a Christian and a Vedic Source, couldn’t have asked for a better Sunday.
Posted by Raunak on July 9, 2013
I enjoy exploring evolutionary explanations for our behaviors. One such fascinating characteristic displayed by human beings is altruism. On an individual level three explanations have been propounded. “The kind of process, where animals help promote the survival and reproductive success of their relatives, is known as kin selection.” Outside relationships reciprocal altruism exists. It thrives on hope for a return of the favor and trust in the sincerity of the receiver. A third explanation for altruism is mutualism where cooperation yields results that individual endeavors fail to achieve.
It is at group level that altruism becomes more intriguing and certain explanations present key lessons for organizations aiming to strengthen teamwork and solidarity among their employees. Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson and philosopher Eliot Sober argue that, “..under certain conditions, it is possible for animal groups to function as the vehicles of selection, where the animals that make up those groups evolve traits that help increase the survival of the group at the expense of other groups or individuals. One of the most crucial conditions to be met is that there must both be competition between individuals in different groups and competition between individuals in the same group….it is crucially important that groups are in competition with each other and not isolated, each living on its own ecological island”.
It is easy to see how such an argument can be used to foster constructive competitiveness among different departments/teams in an organization. I manage a manufacturing unit that houses four different production units, each employing around 35 workers. Until recently they worked as “isolated islands”. Each unit was accountable for production actualization with minimal wastage. Quarterly reviews were held with unit supervisors in “isolation”. To keep workers motivated, best performing workers from each unit were rewarded for their efforts.
A couple of months back, I decided to change things. We put the four units in competition with each other and removed the barriers that we had developed between them. The production teams now compete in monthly ’5S” and Attendance competitions. We no longer reward individuals in the units, but the entire unit team. Quarterly reviews of the four units are held in the presence of representatives of all units. Analytic charts comparing performances of the four units are drawn and their contribution to the company’s top line and bottom line discussed.
While it is too early to judge the outcome of the change, positive signs are visible. Overall attendance of our organization has seen a 12% increase. Unit supervisors have observed stronger camaraderie among the workforce and wastage/defects levels have come down significantly.
While most organizations focus too heavily on dynamics within a team, better results can be generated by adding an external stimulus, an external threat or competition to the team. This will cause team members to evolve behaviors towards each other that will enhance the overall performance of the team.
Posted by Raunak on July 7, 2013
Haridwar is one of the holiest places for Hindus. It is here that the river Ganges descends from the Himalayas and begins its journey along the great northern plains of India. Millions of pilgrims visit Haridwar every year to bathe in holy water of Ganges and wash away their sins. It is here, by the banks of the river, that thousands of Hindus immerse ashes of their loved ones into the Ganges and perform final rites of their relatives. And this is a scene that draws me to the river banks frequently.
Most people visit the holy banks to take a dip in the water or pray at the temples there. Not me. I climb onto an over-bridge and spend more than a few minutes looking down at the portion of the banks dedicated to immersing ashes into the gushing river and priests performing ritual prayers for the dead. I see mourning relatives fold their hands in prayer as they let the remains of their loved ones unite with the divine river. And I think to myself, someday, someone will do the same for me. I will be that ash that dissolves into insignificance in the mighty river. And just like that, I will be gone.
It is this humbling experience that draws me to the Ganges. It is therapy. It makes me realize how inconsequential the things that bother my mind are. And this realization is an awakening, a rejuvenating experience that lifts my spirits unlike anything else. Last rites have a mystic spiritualism attached to them. I just found it.
Posted by Raunak on April 14, 2013
image courtesy of magicalnaturetour.com
I notice he comes out
When the moon is full
I tell him so, to hollow eyes
He has a smart reply, just like he always did
When I thought I adored him a little bit
And when he was still alive.
You have a weakness, said he
You have a weakness for me
You have been humbled by the ghosts…
Posted by Raunak on March 7, 2013
Here is an interesting piece from “Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles” by Ruchir Sharma. It highlights a very subtle yet significant difference between two types of nations/societies, the “high context” and the “low context”. An important lesson for corporates looking to expand business across the globe.
Both India and Brazil are “high context” societies, a term popularized by the anthropologist Edward Hall to describe cultures in which people are colorful, noisy, quick to make promises that cannot always be relied on, and a bit casual about meeting times and deadlines. These societies tend to be family oriented, with tight relationships even beyond the immediate family, based on close ties built over long periods of time. In an environment this familiar, there is a lot that goes unsaid- or is said very briefly-because values are deeply shared and much is implicitly understood from context. The spoken word is often flowery and vague; apologies are long and formal. “Low context,’ in contrast, describes societies like the United States and Germany in which people are individual oriented, care about privacy, and are more likely to stick to timelines and their word. People tend to be on the move, to have many brief relationships, and thus rely on simple, open communications and codified rules to guide behavior.
Business is not just about numbers.
Posted by Raunak on February 23, 2013
…step outside the box.
I have seen several senior executives repeatedly urge their employees to think outside the box. A million minutes each year are spent in meeting rooms to cultivate this thinking in a company and its approach. Sadly, the outcome in most instances is limited to a few momentary flashes of brilliance and then a return to routine.
Most members of leadership teams fail to realize that simply urging their employees to stretch their imagination is just not enough. It is equally important to reveal to them what the ideal state looks like. I cannot expect the manager of a production line in India to meet the expectations of a customer in France unless I have established a channel of communication between the two.
The Innovation Circle at one of the companies I worked with was immensely fruitful. The key to their success was the exposure that the company provided to its employees. Every month, trips were arranged for the line operators. While some of the visits were to other factories in the district, others were fun excursions to neighboring tourist hotspots. The idea was to step outside the factory and expose our senses to something other than the sight and sound of our factory. There was something to be learnt from everything outside. And that learning reflected in the cost reduction and innovation projects that the workers implemented back at work.
The same applies to senior executives. They cannot evolve and innovate until they keep themselves informed about the changes occurring in the business eco-system around them.
No radical change in thought or approach inside is possible without witnessing an equally radical change outside.
To think outside the box, step outside the box.
Posted by Raunak on February 19, 2013
Its not easy to be an immigrant. While in most cases it is in search of a better life, it does come with a price, Sacrifice. An immigrant sacrifices his cultural and family ties, he sacrifices the innate bond that he shares with his motherland, the land where he is born. Its not easy to swear allegiance to a new nation.
I find it bewildering that historical references are cited to support arguments on either side of the immigration debate. Here is a beautiful piece from the book “History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300” by Romila Thapar.
One of the current debates relating to the beginnings of Indian history involves both archaeology and linguistics, and attempts to differentiate between indigenous and alien peoples. But history has shown that communities and their identities are neither permanent nor static. Their composition changes either with the arrival of new people in an area, and the possible new technologies that are introduced, or by historical changes of a more local but far-reaching kind. Some areas are more prone to change, such as borderlands, mountain passes and fertile plains, whereas densely forested areas or deserts may retain their isolation for a longer period until such time as there is a demand on them for resources. To categorize some people as indigenous and others as alien, to argue about the identity of the first inhabitants of the subcontinent, and to try and sort out these categories for the remote past, is to attempt the impossible. It is precisely in the intermixture of peoples and ideas that the genesis of cultures is to be found. Such arguments arise from the concerns of present-day privilege and power, rather than from the reading of history.
The world was never an island, and will never be one.
Posted by Raunak on February 19, 2013
“Publishing a book is like stuffing a note into a bottle and hurling it into the sea. Some bottles drown, some come safe to land, where the notes are read and then possibly cherished, or else misinterpreted, or else understood all too well by those who hate the message. You never know who your readers might be.” ― Margaret Atwood…
Posted by Raunak on February 17, 2013
I know I’m happy when I spend my Sunday listening to this
and knowing that the German Translation of my essay “You Can Be a Buddha Too: Of Desires and Wants” was read by more than 500 online buyers in January You can find it here.
Posted by Raunak on February 16, 2013
We are all God’s chosen people, its just that God doesn’t choose us all at the same time.
For me, being “chosen” means to be able to connect with the Divine, to be able to be one with the other world. And that connection is something that we are born with, but fades away as we blend into the ways of the material world. The opportunity to reconnect with the Divine beckons us again, but not when we want it to, rather, when the Divine wishes. It is at that moment that we become the “Chosen Ones”. For some people this reconnection may be momentary, while for others it may last for several years.
And more often than not, the connection is reinstated when times of prosperity have passed us by. It is in periods of hopelessness and despair that the human ego is crushed and this heightens our spiritual senses, making way for the divine contact.
So embrace the difficult periods of life with gratitude. Connect with the Divine. You have been Chosen.
Posted by Raunak on February 16, 2013
“…most people, when in prosperity, are so over brimming with wisdom (however inexperienced they maybe), that they take every offer of advice as an insult, whereas in adversity they know not where to run, but beg and pray for counsel from every passer-by.”
Benedict de Spinoza, A Theologica-Political Treatise
While Spinoza traces the root of superstition in fear and despair, I couldn’t help but realize how often the above situation plays itself out in the corporate world. While some foolhardy, egoistic CEOs find it demeaning to consult their team members, those on the other end of the spectrum lose sight of the solution in search of way too many reassurances. A true leader is a good assessor of his own judgement and knows where to seek counsel when he lacks the ability to make the right call himself.
On the topic of similarities in geographically separated cultures, here is another one. In Vedic Astrology, every person’s life assumed to be 120 years) is divided into 9 unequal phases, each phase ruled by a planet. One of these phases is ruled by Ketu and has a duration of 7 years. This phase is characterized by the person being stripped off his or her material comforts and being left with the bare minimum required to survive. A seven year period where the person may struggle financially, the material outflow being more than the inflow. Seven years, the duration of the famine in Egypt, stated in Genesis.
Posted by Raunak on February 5, 2013
I’ve been a shy guy most my life. Till graduation I would not even be able to talk to girls without a stutter. But, for the first and very last time, nine years ago, in a small cafe, I mustered enough courage to walk up to a girl and introduce myself. We talked, went on bike rides, drank, talked, drank and got married.
And in the last six months, two of my best friends have found their soul mates in two of my wife’s friends. Yesterday I was at one of the two weddings. As my friend the groom, and the bride walked down the aisle, sweet memories of that beautiful day nine years back flashed across my mind; the day I had daringly walked up to this beautiful girl and said, “Hi, can I join you for a cup of coffee?”
One small step for me, one giant leap for my friends
Posted by Raunak on February 3, 2013
“If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles… if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
In present day world of business globalization, it is equally important to know your “friends” or “partners”.
The past decade has seen an explosion of cross-cultural joint ventures and partnerships as corporations headed to developing countries in search of cheaper labor and a potential market. One of the many vehicles of entry being used is Contract Manufacturing (CM), a quick and low cost way of entering a new market. Unfortunately, CM doesn’t come without its inherent risk, that of being taken for a ride by the local manufacturing partner.
What many companies fail to recognize is that partners in new markets are Capitalists too and they too are in it to maximize profits. Their incentive to stray off the ethical path is strong, and many local companies fail to resist the temptation. In corruption ridden developing nations, statutory compliance is merely a piece of paper signed by a bribed authority. It is impossible to detect by carrying out a day long audit. Entrepreneurs have mastered the art of passing every audit under the sky. Another art that local businessmen have become proficient in is “cover up”. Manufacturing units that in routine business look like hell, get turned into 5 star facilities when there is a client visit. Having a third party conduct due diligence is just not enough. You have to know your partner yourself, not from second hand information.
So if you are a company that is looking to expand operations into a developing country, know your local partner. And the best way to know your partner is to be close to him. While I am in favor of reducing capital costs by sharing machinery and facility with a local partner, I firmly believe that leadership and management should not be outsourced. Have your own hands and feet on the ground. Recruit your own local team that works closely with the local partner. Run your partnership like a marriage and not a long distance relationship.
You can occupy new territory with leased weapons, but you cannot hold it with leased soldiers.
Posted by Raunak on January 29, 2013
“In the state of nature, therefore, sin is inconceivable; it can only exist in a state, where good and evil are pronounced on by common consent, and where everyone is bound to obey the State authority. Sin, then, is nothing else but disobedience, which is therefore punished by the right of the State only….in the state of nature, no one is by common consent master of anything, nor is there anything in nature, which can be said to belong to one man rather than another, all things are common to all.”
Benedict de Spinoza, Ethica
Somewhere along the road, we drifted from living in a state of nature and slid into a civilized society living under a State Authority. This transition is reflected in the way our religions have evolved, from ancient beliefs that were so closely aligned to natural elements to modern tenets that reek of authoritarianism. In India, Vedic Hinduism gave way to the Bhakti and Brahmanic movements. In Europe and Middle East, the Abrahamic religions replaced ancient pagan beliefs. Tortured by the excesses of an authoritative state, people found comfort in the arms of an authoritative God. Only an aggressive protector could save us from the struggles of a life that was now being governed by a State. We did not believe in the “passive” Nature Gods anymore because we did not live in a state of nature anymore.
The bottomline though is that we are intrisically a part of nature. Solutions to problems relating to our bodies, minds and souls cannot be found in the artificial state we have created around us. Hence I encourage people to try to connect with our roots, to connect with the elements that have formed us. Fire, Water, Earth, Air, and Space hold the answers to all our questions. Adding to them the sixth element, our mind, completes the puzzle of life.
Posted by Raunak on January 27, 2013
Came across an interesting piece this morning.
There are only 3 ways in which God responds to our prayers.
2) Not yet.
3) Wait, there is something better in store for you.
Reminded me of my post “Its not about If…its about when”
Posted by Raunak on January 26, 2013
On this day in 1950, India formally adopted its Constitution and became a Republic. The unthinkable was achieved and an unknown future awaited 350 million people. A population that had been oppressed for over thousand years by hundreds of invading armies, was free. Indians finally had a country to themselves and for the first time in history, the right to vote. We became a democratic republic. Were we prepared for it? I doubt it.
My belief in the righteousness of the Indian Constitution is total and unwavering. A country as diverse as ours has been a stable democracy for over 60 years. We have faced no military coups or major religious conflicts. If that was not miraculous enough, we have grown into a significant economic entity and are headed in the right direction. Slowly, yes, but surely. Everytime I look at the demographic spread of India, my respect for the founding fathers and their foresight only grows. The fact that we are still a united country is a testament to the greatness of our Constitution.
But what explains the ills that pervade the Indian society today? Why are we ranked so low in almost all human development indices? Why are women still not safe in India and why is there so much poverty and destitution in the country? Any panelled discussion on the above topics inevitably ends up pointing fingers at our politicians and their corrupt ways. While I do not agree with the attitude of blaming our politicians for all the mess, I am particularly disturbed when the “civil society” raises doubts about our constitutional institutions. And this questioning of our Constitution and our system has become a fashionable trend lately. To all these people my answer is clear, “Ours is a perfect constitution”. We are “Imperfect People”.
In a democracy, the government and politicians are a reflection of the people. In India, I have absolutely no doubt about the verity of this. We have corrupt politicians and bureaucracy because we are corrupt. Women do not feel safe on our cities’ road because we in our houses do not respect our women. The devils that commit heinous crimes like rapes are no strangers to our land. They have come from among us. We do not have good infrastructure, because we refuse to pay our taxes. We have such economic inequality because our caste system has tuned us into accepting an unequal society. We have a population explosion problem because we “f#@ked up”, literally! I could go on and on.
The devil lies within us. Lets not blame the politicians or the constitutional institutions for our own failures. Lets be thankful that our great constitution gives us a chance to become the greatest nation in the history of the world. We can do this. Lets become the greatest human beings in the world, and leave the rest to the constitution.
Thats it. I’m done.
Posted by Raunak on January 24, 2013
Denial is a dangerous state of mind. And most recently I have seen some of the best “leaders” display it.Much to my dismay.
Management consulting is a wonderful experience. I am usually called when something is either going wrong or is already in the pits. And many times it is too late. I wish people called me during there good times instead, because it is then that lasting improvements can be seeded in an organization’s working. I often mention Genesis 41:54 and how Joseph’s plan saved Egypt. In the corporate world it is even simpler. Preventive measures can keep the “famine” away forever. And these preventive measures need to be undertaken during good times.
We live in a world that bombards us with data. True data and false data. All conceivable calculations and estimations are presented to analyse trends and strategize businesses. However, sometimes excessive data is injurious. Especially during times of crisis. And this effect is amplified when the decision makers enter a state of denial. In such a state, people tend to look at data that conforms with their plan of action, no matter how wrong that action is.
If it sounds good, then it must be true. If the data presented to them justifies their ill-planned actions, then the data must be true. If the data does not agree with their plan of action, then it must be false. Alas! Denial is an easy state to slip into. It makes us see things the way we want to see them and not for what they really are.
Do not put the cart before the horse. Do not plan actions before analyzing data, both subjective and objective. Pre-conceived ideas and actions corrupt our analytical appreciation and interpretation of reality.
As always, comments welcomed.
Posted by Raunak on January 9, 2013
Civilizations may be likened to mountain ranges, rising through aeons of geologic time, only to have the forces of erosion slowly but ineluctably nibble them down to the level of their surrounding. Within the far shorter time span of human history, civilizations, too, are liable to erosion as the special constellation of circumstances which provoked their rise passes away, while neighboring people lift themselves to new cultural heights by borrowing from or otherwise reacting to the civilized achievement.
McNeill, The Rise of the West
I find McNeill’s thought very universal. It can be effectively applied to a company’s growth in a competitive market. Market leaders need to realize that “circumstances” which provoke their rise are destined to pass away. Competitors will sooner or later, by either “borrowing” or “reacting”, nullify that advantage. There can be no stronger case against complacency. Continuous innovation and improvement is an eternal truth. Accept it or quit the game.
Posted by Raunak on January 8, 2013
Whatever disconnects itself from the land becomes rigid and hard. High culture begins in the preurban countryside and culminates with a finale of materialism in the world cities. Cosmopolitanism is the essence of rootlessness, because it is not tied to the land.
My father was born in Peshawar, Pakistan. When India was partitioned, he and his family moved to New Delhi. My mother’s hometown is Srinagar, Kashmir. Ethnic cleansing by muslim militants forced her entire family out of Kashmir in the late 1980s. My father’s career in the Army meant that I kept changing cities every three years of my childhood. My work has taken me to several places and today I find myself in Haridwar, a new city, surrounded by new people. Been there before!
So when I’m asked where I belong to, I have no answer. I have no native or ancestral place. Unlike most Indians, I have no unique mother tongue. Is it my yearning to be tied to land that drives my passion for traveling? Am I in search of the Eden that I wish to tie myself to? Or have I developed a fear of tying myself to soil that makes me move whenever I find myself in a comfort zone?
I have often wondered how important the feeling of belonging is. I am still to find an answer. Until then, I remain divorced from the soil.
Posted by Raunak on January 8, 2013
Its cold here. A lot of you may think that 3 degrees Celsius is nothing to fear, but in India, it is scary. We are just not prepared for it. Our houses aren’t centrally heated nor are our workplaces. I walk into a factory and I see the shopfloor workers shivering while they assemble white goods. The pressure is high because its a shipment for the United States. Minimum wage workers earning less than $5 a day, fighting against all odds to earn a living. North India experiences terrible winters every year. Yet, I have not seen a single factory that is centrally air conditioned. I guess the hardships of the shop floor workers are not important enough for the management. Or maybe low cost production doesn’t allow us to install heating for assembly lines. The Indian economy is booming!
The cold wave in North India has claimed several lives. Ofcourse it will. We have millions of homeless who dare below freezing temperatures every night. Imagine going to sleep not knowing if you will wake up. I have been through that once and it is not pleasant. The cold this year is not unique. Every year we face similar drops in temperature and every year we lose lives. The government cannot provide temporary shelters and blankets to all the homeless. The Indian economy is booming!
I have always heard Indians boast that we are very family oriented people. We couldn’t be farther from the truth. I do not come across anyone leaving office before 7pm. In a city like Delhi, most people leave for office at 8am and return home at 8pm. They spend an average of 2.5 hrs in daily commute. While most companies officially state a 5 day week, I have rarely seen anyone free on Saturdays. And even when I leave my office in the evening, I can expect my boss to call me at any God forsaken time. When do we spend time with our families? Family oriented does not mean getting married to the person our parents pick for us. It means spending more quality time with our families. Sadly, very few Indians are truly family oriented today. The Indian economy is booming.
Posted by Raunak on January 7, 2013
The world “is the result of forces inherent in human nature.” And, human nature , as Thucydides pointed out, is motivated by fear (phobos), self-interest (kerdos), and honor (doxa). “To improve the world,” writes Morgenthau,”one must work with these forces, not against them.”…..After all, good intentions have little to do with positive outcomes.
Robert D Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography
I find this thought of realism very interesting indeed. Good intentions have little to do with positive outcomes. Several times I have felt frustrated when my attempts at helping another person out of depression failed. I am sure a lot of us have experienced instances when our good intentions have served no purpose other than turning us into villains in the eyes of others.
And how powerful are fear, self-interest and honor! They truly define human nature and I believe that change in anyone and everyone can be brought about by employing these three forces in varying and manipulative ways. A great learning indeed.
Needlesss to say, the book is brilliant.
As always, comments welcomed.
Posted by Raunak on January 6, 2013
“People with interesting lives have no vanity.They swap cities.Invest in projects with no guarantees. Are interested in people who are opposite of them. Resign without having another job in sight. Accept an invitation to do something they haven’t before. Are prepared to change their favorite color, favorite dish. They start from zero countless times. They do not get frightened of getting old. They climb on stage, shear their hair, do craziness for love, purchase one-way tickets.”
I learnt a lesson last week. Unfortunately, as in many cases, the lesson came a little too late. I was reminded that the present is the only thing we can be certain of. The future is nothing but a hope. It may or may not get realized. Live as if there is no tomorrow. Do things as if they were the last things you will ever do.
I moved into my apartment a little over a month back. The apartment was shown to me by the caretaker. A couple of phone calls with the landlord, Mr.Sharma and the deal was made. I shifted my stuff and started enjoying my new home. Every now and then I would talk to the landlord over phone expressing few concerns regarding faulty plumbing or electricity. And everytime, Mr.Sharma would take immediate steps to ensure my comfort and convenience. In a country like India, finding such a cooperative landlord is very rare and I felt blessed indeed. It just amazed me how he, without having met me in person, allowed me to lease his house and even went out of his way to make me feel at home in a strange town. Our telephonic conversations were very friendly indeed and I sensed a spiritual connection with the jovial spirit.
Every week I would resolve to meet him the coming Sunday but end up being in office and put off the meeting to next Sunday. Five such Sundays passed. Monday 8:30 am, I opened my car door when I heard the caretaker’s voice from behind me, “Raunak, Mr.Sharma is no more. He passed away this morning due to a sudden heart attack.”
I rushed to Mr.Sharma’s house. I finally met him. He didn’t talk. My heart cried.
Posted by Raunak on December 24, 2012
Last Sunday a 23 year old girl and a male friend boarded a bus in New Delhi, India at around 9:30pm. They had just come out of a movie hall and were headed home. Six male occupants of the bus beat the friend until he fell unconscious. Two of them took the girl to the back of the bus and raped her for the next hour. They didn’t stop there. They then beat her brutally with an iron rod till she lost consciousness too. They battered her so savagely that she lost her intestines. They then stripped her of every piece of cloth on her body and threw the two of them out of the bus onto the road.
Today, this 23 year old girl fights for her life in the hospital. I pray that she lives. My hands tremble as I write of and imagine the trauma she went through.
If only she had a gun.
“Free” citizens of India cannot arm themselves and do not have the right to protect themselves. We are dependent upon our government for our security and the results are for all to see.I pay high taxes on my income. Yet, the government diverts funds meant for Police forces to provide social security and subsidies to its votebank.
If only she had a gun…..maybe…
Posted by Raunak on December 23, 2012
I have often wondered how people do things that seem “bad” and do not even recognize it as something not virtuous. Why do people not hesitate even slightly before doing something that I find “wrong”? I truly believe in the goodness of our original being. Then why does a Virtuous creation do “bad” things? Here’s an attempt to answer that question.
“The effort for self preservation is the first and only foundation of virtue. For prior to this principle nothing can be conceived, and without it no virtue can be conceived…..
….No virtue can be conceived as prior to this endeavor to preserve one’s own being”—–Spinoza, Ethica
If we believe in self preservation being the most important virtue, then it is not difficult to see how “bad” can be virtuous. What allows this contradiction to exist is the way in which we human beings have expanded the definition of “Self”. In an ideal world “Self” would mean the collection of body,mind and soul. In the real world “Self” includes another parameter which we shall label as “Ego”.
Proposition 1: People only do Virtuous things. We are innately Virtuous.
Proposition 2: Virtuous actions are Good
Enquiry: Why do People do Bad Things?
Virtue= Self Preservation
In Ideal World, True Self = Body+Mind+Soul (All factors are independent of what lies outside an individual)
In Real World, False Self = Body+Mind+Soul+Ego
Ego adds a 4th Dimension that introduces the influence of the external world into the “Self”. Self-preservation is no longer the survival of only the body, mind and soul but it is now the survival of a false image of the self which is a reflection of how the world around us views us.When we untertake actions that work towards the preservation of this “False Self”, we lose sight and understanding of Virtue.
Nature has trained our minds to instinctly recognize that whatever we do to preserve ourselves is Virtuous. Hence what we do to preserve ourselves must necessarily be good. Hence preservation of the self is a virtue and hence any action undertaken to ensure this is good. But this applies only when Self = True Self.
When Self=False Self, we are tricked into believing that what we our doing to preserve this “False Self” is virtuous. And hence we do not question the nature of our actions that preserve this “False Self”. We continue doing bad things without any guilt because we are tricked into believing that since they are preserving our “Self” they must be virtuous and hence good.
Therefore, in the real world, virtuous actions can be bad, because self preservation is actually the preservation of the “False Self”. People do not regard a bad action as evil because that action of theirs is preserving their “False Self” and hence they do not hesitate before doing such things. Their brains are tricked into thinking that the preservation of this “False Self” is a Virtue.
To rid our world of this “Bad”, we will have to be able to differentiate the “True Self” from the “False Self”. Once this is achieved, we will only be concerned with preserving the “True Self” and since this is a real virtue, all actions emanating from it will be good.
As always, comments welcomed.
Posted by Raunak on November 12, 2012
Proposition 1: Our Life is a sum of Inflows and Outflows.
The more I delve into questions relating to Astrology, God, Fate, and study people around me, a belief is reinforcing itself in me. It is the belief that God fills our lives with equal number of opportunities. Lets categorize these opportunities as “inflows” and “outflows”. Inflows are windows of opportunities that allow entry into our lives. These could be material goods entering our lives, special relationships entering our lives or anything else that gives us positive energy. Outflows are times when we witness a going away of what we feel are important to us and our happiness. The attachment to these things or people being taken away from us is illusory and the pleasure we receive from these things or people is nothing but a product of our senses and/or ego. Our Life is made up of these inflows and outflows.
Proposition 2: Law of Natural Equilibrium
Number of Inflows=Number of Outflows=Universal Constant
We tend to forget that our life is not over till it actually is. Genesis as well as Vedic astrology considers a human’s life to be 120 years long. Thanks to lifestyle changes we have reduced it to around 75 years. So, by natural laws we still have 75 years to live. We should not judge God or His kindness on us by taking into consideration only 30 or 40 years of our lives.
In the long run, the number of inflows that God blesses us with are always equal to the number of outflows. And this number is the same for every individual. This is the universal constant.
Proposition 3: Karma determines the timing of the Inflows and Outflows
While as stated above, the number of Inflows and Outflows is the same, God rewards and punishes human beings for their past life karmas by changing the timing of occurence of these inflows and outflows in a person’s life. If He wishes to reward you during your youth, He will bless you with a phase where a number of inflows will come into your life one after another. Similarly, He might punish you during your middle age by filling your life with consecutive outflows. This, God fixes by judging your past life Karmas and then aligning your astrological planets to reward or punish you accordingly.
Proposition 4: Change is around the corner
Following the above stated propositions, it is evident that one of the keys to Happiness is knowing that nothing is forever. At times when inflows are prevalent in your life, be aware that a time of outflow is around the corner. Save for that time. Recall how Joseph (son of Jacob) saved Egypt by storing grain during the seven years of abundance to provide for the years of famine that followed.
Similarily, during phases in your life when outflows are weighing heavily on your mind, creating anxiety, fear and suspicion, know that God has not abandoned you. Good times are around the corner. Just hold on.
Proposition 5: Happiness is a state of mind and not meant to be connected to inflows and outflows. The one who has achieved this separation of Happiness from Inflows and Outflows, achieves eternal bliss and enlightenment.
It is not a question of “If”, but “When” does God want you to get the things you desire. And your past life karmas have a lot to do with that.
Posted by Raunak on November 11, 2012
David H Petraeus, CIA Director is forced to resign due to the uncovering of an extra marital affair.
Stop. Wait a second. The CIA Director could not cover up his own special ops??? How in the world did he qualify to become the Director of the CIA??? Are you f***ing kidding me!!! Or am I the only one who is stunned. I have no problems with the man and his misdeeds, but how could he not keep it a secret???
So how did he become the head of a Secret Service? Who in the world nominated Petraeus?
That’s it. I’m Done!
Posted by Raunak on November 9, 2012
Shannon, on one of her comments shared, “The happiest and most successful countries seem to be the smaller ones. Their populations are more homogonous, which allows them to have a national identity while still respecting other cultures who are different. Because they are smaller, policies are more efficient and better able to help rather than hinder.”
I couldn’t agree more with her. Small entities are managed better than larger ones and there is no doubt in my mind that small governments are the best governments. If we gift the government even a bit of our freedom, it will enslave us for the rest of our lives. India is a great example of completely diverses states glued together to form a nation. Truly Diverse! Its a big state with a big government, and I see problems with both. Our founding fathers were aware of this drawback and hence incorporated a system of governance that empowered small administrative groups called Panchayats. The aim was to give governance in the hands of small bodies at village levels. However, vested interests in the State and Federal Governments stripped the small bodies of their powers and relevance. Today we are back to becoming a nation of big states being governed by big governments.
So why not treat India like a Private Company and consider a demerger of the enterprise? Why not look at realigning our borders and boundaries? Why not divide it and yet maintain common interests like the EU? A lot of people argue that being united gives us the economic strentgh that we now enjoy in the world. They couldn’t be farther from the truth. Real economic strength is borne out of innovation, intellect and moral excellence. What India enjoys right now is the result of overpopulation translating into cheap labor. This prosperity is not sustainable and it is only a matter of time before China, East Europe and Phillippines overtake us in the services sector we so brag about. Here’s a post I had published highlighting how being a collection of so many varied states is limiting our social and intellectual growth.
Non-kashmiris cannot buy land in Kashmir.There is 90% probability that you and I will have troubles acquiring 100% ownership of land in many districts of Himachal Pradesh. To visit Mizoram, non residents need to apply a permit from the Mizoram House. A permit of 15 days is given to visit the state. Same is the case for Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. Infact until 5 years back, a permit was required to visit any of the North-Eastern states. On the flip side, the residents of these states have no restrictions whatsoever when it comes to mobility and ownership in the rest of I-n-d-i-a.
Where are all the ”intellectuals” who ridiculed Raj Thackeray when he proposed a permit like system to be implemented for Mumbai?Either it was a case of sheer unawareness or convenient ignorance for their utter disregard for this suggestion. The argument that cordoning off Mumbai is against the constitutional ethos falls flat because it exists in several parts of India.
Lets imagine a scenario where all the states of I-n-d-i-a develop a non porous border. Which means that a person from state of Orissa will need a permit to enter the state of Maharashtra and vice versa. In order to do so, he will have to prove what value addition he brings to Maharashtra.
The consequence of such a scenario is pretty evident. The system will ensure,that very few residents of sick states of I-n-d-i-a will have an option to leave their state.This will force the local populace to fore go the escapist attitude that they presently harbor. In doing so, they will be compelled to work on their own soil and hold their local government accountable for the poor condition of their state. Bad governance of the local representatives will no longer be forgiven since the populace will be left with no outlet that they currently enjoy in the form of developing states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu etc.
A system as corrupt, infested and hollow as the one in most I-n-d-i-a-n states can be cured by nothing less than a revolution.To instigate a revolution, generation of profound resentment and anger in the people is a must. Putting a cap on the immigration outlet that people have access to, will build a pressure cooker like situation that, with time will explode into a revolution and bring about the change these states need.
In absence of such controls, we will only end up with suffocating and ailing metros/cosmos that will be fed on by parasites because an immunity system was not built in time.
Walled states could hence result in turning India into a collection of individually rich states. A united I-n-d-i-a is a classic example of an organization where de-merger of its 28 departments(states) could yield a better enterprise value than that of a merged entity slowed down by its size and weight.
Disunited States of I-n-d-i-a may not be a bad idea after all.
Posted by Raunak on November 5, 2012
Irom Sharmila personifies greatness. This social activist has been on a fast for the last 12 years, demanding withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from her state of Manipur. She is being fed through nasogastric intubation to keep her alive.
When the nation of India was formed, it was a collection of extremely diverse provinces and states. Attached to India were the seven states of North East that could not be more different from the rest of India; Culturally, Religiously and Ethnically. Naturally the locals resented and out of this opposition arose several militant movements that fought the state demanding freedom from the Union of India. While most of these movements were quelled, either by bribing the rebels into submission or pumping alcohol and drugs into the veins of their residents, one state remains “disturbed” in the records of the Indian Government. This state is the beautiful land of Manipur.
North East India is “Heaven on Earth”. And Manipur is the capital of that Paradise. The most pristine landscapes, the most breathtaking views, a place hand made by Gods as their resting place. But Gods seem to have abandoned the state since the 1950s. Warring factions, militant rebels, vendetta driven Army have colored the land red. Thousands of lives have been lost, several atrocities committed. Yet, more than 60 years later, there is no peace. Or maybe, that is what groups with vested interests would like us to think. Hence, Manipur is still labeled “disturbed” by the government and this categorization is used to justify the implementation of the dark law that is AFSPA.
The colonial law used by the British in 1942 was adopted by the Indian Union and further tweaked to make it even more draconian. The law gives the Army and supporting operations groups unlimited powers. They can apprehend anyone without a warrant, not even an excuse. It gives Army officers legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. Nor is the government’s judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review. Needless to say, the law has been misused more than a few times.
While it sounds despicable, the law is required. However, it was always intended to be used for a very short time, for three to six months which would let the Armed Forces clean up the disturbed areas. But when the law is applied for a period beyond that, it takes on an evil character. In Manipur, the law has been in force for decades!
So this post is dedicated to the people of North East, who are my fellow Indians and I feel sad that they are being treated as unequal Indians by our government. Worse, no one seems to be giving two hoots about what is going on in land that we Indians should be grateful for possessing. Its a blot on our democracy.
I salute Irom Sharmila. She is the modern day Gandhi! I do wish she ends her fast and uses her energy to bring together like minded people and create a strong democratic forum to fight the system.Her fast is losing its bite. Because, like one analyst said, people have just gotten used to her fast.
But who cares. India’s GDP is growing at 8%. Some Indians are counting their riches while the rest are being bribed by alcohol, drugs and bullets.
Posted by Raunak on November 2, 2012
Today, millions of women across North India are observing a day long (sunrise to moonrise) for long life of their husbands. My wife has remained without food and water for ove 14 hours and it will be another hour or so before we see the moon. She has become fidgety and is giving me the “I can’t believe I’m doing this for you” look :) But she’s taking it well and I’m glad to see her sense of humor coming to the forefront in this time of distress!
This age old tradition has never failed to impress me. The day is filled with beautiful rituals which are conducted by women dressed in some of the most gorgeous Indian outfits and adorned with sparkling jewels and radiating henna designs on their hands. The communal prayers are a sight to behold and nothing is more exciting than the manner in which women break their fast at moonrise. The wife performs her prayers while looking at the moon. She then looks at the moon through a sieve and then turns and looks at her husband through the same sieve. The process is better described here,
The fera ceremony concluded, the women await the rising of the moon. Once the moon is visible, depending on the region and community, it is customary for a fasting woman, with her husband nearby, to view its reflection in a vessel filled with water, through a sieve, or through the cloth of a dupatta. Water is offered (arka) to the moon (som or chandra, the lunar deity) to secure its blessings. She then turns to her husband and views his face indirectly in the same manner. In some regions, the woman says a brief prayer asking for her husband’s life. It is believed that at this stage, spiritually strengthened by her fast, the fasting woman can successfully confront and defeat death (personified by Yama).
Hats off to all wives who go through such a tough ritual for their husbands. I wish there was a similar way for us husbands to show our affection. Too bad the scriptures didn’t address this
You can read more about this wonderful festival and its mythological origins here.
Posted by Raunak on November 1, 2012
In one of my earlier posts I presented my views on what the role and responsibilities of a government should be. Then, I really looked forward to following the Presidential Election Campaigns and see if and how my views would change. Today, ninety days after scripting that post, Istill belong to the centre right. A lot of this can be attributed to the utter lack of intellect and logic in these elections. They have left me completely disappointed which is reflected in the absence of political post on my blog in recent times.
However, seeing that we are so close to elections, I publish a final political post to explain my position. Who would I vote for if I were an American citizen?
The federal response in the wake of Sandy has justified Government’s involvement in domains that ensure the safety of it citizens, both from foreign and nature’s aggressions.
A welfare state seems utopic but it might help to remember that whenever the government gives us an impression that it is giving more, rest assured it is taking more from us in good times. This strip illustrates the same. Imagine the father being the government and the son the citizens.
Entrepreneurship is the key to building a progressive state. I live in a country where the opportunities of becoming one were next to zero in the Socialist era. The country suffered and is dealing with the effects of that era even today. We are creating jobs based on funding from foreign companies looking for cheap labor. However we are not creating enough entrepreneurs. Budding entrepreneurs need ease of business and low taxation. Entrepreneurs create jobs. Government does not create jobs. It creates dependence.
In my country, the government doles out huge subsidies to the “poor”. At the time of independence, Indians were in dire need of this support. The entire system seemed like Utopia. But it was like that only for a short time. The system has been in force for over 60 years and we still have record poverty. Clearly, big government supporting those in need has not solved the problem. It has resulted in more people becoming dependent upon government’s gifts. A heterogeneous society with a sizable population might find a welfare state attractive, especially in current times. But over the long run, such economic positioning introduces lethargy into the public at large. While the short term results seem just, fair and idyllic, the fact is that slowly but surely the competitive and ambitious spirit that has ensured evolutionand survival of the human race begins to wane.
During these times of economic distress, I believe that the Government needs to support the country by increasing spending. I support the policies Obama has employed so far. In these times we need higher government spending and balancing of deficit by taxing the higher earning citizens. These are times that call for sacrifice. Obama is doing the right thing. But that is the only good news I have for my Democrat friends. I would not vote for him again.
Re-election will send the signal that people accept his leftist agenda and this will embolden him to make institutional changes that may change the character of US forever. These institutional changes will put US on the path of Socialism that is bound to result in an undesirable outcome.
I would vote Republican. I am sure that Mitt Romney upon being elected will continue heavy government spending. In spite of his Rightist talk, he will have no choice but to continue government support for the people. He will not be able to reduce spending nor reduce taxes. However, he will not create institutions and regulations that will steer the US towards the Left. He will keep the US in the Centre and that will be a great position for the country to catapult from into economic supremacy once again. US will have a chance to bounce back. With Obama, this chance will be lost.
On social issues, I cannot agree with the conservatives. However, I feel that Romney will reveal his moderate self once he gets elected. He will have to if he wants to get reelected.
I may be way off the mark here. As always, comments welcomed. I have my armor on
Posted by Raunak on October 31, 2012
In line with the cultural theme of my previous post, I had to post this image.
Talking about western intolerance towards new settlers and their ways, I was wondering whether an American woman who migrates to Saudi Arabia (I know it doesn’t happen much but let’s imagine) can walk around the streets of Riyadh in a Tee and Denims? Whether shes can enjoy a nice tan on the Saudi beach? So why does wearing a Hijab become such a big issue if the French government does not want it? Why do minorities have the right to protest and be heard more that the majority? Why is the selfishly devised scale of moralityand ethics more stringent for developed nations than it is for the rest of the world. I repeat, selfishly devised scale of morality and ethics.
I did laugh when I saw the above image. But slowly it revealed a dark side of this world’s hypocricy and evil. And we are all guilty. Just think about it.
Posted by Raunak on October 30, 2012
While a lot of people living in western countries have been blamed for racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance towards immigrants, I cannot help feel that they are not the only ones to blame. Social integration is a grave concern across Europe, and is rightly so. New settlers need to recognize their responsibility in facilitating peaceful coexistence. Culture is a collection of traits and activities that have been formed over centuries of living. Several factors contribute to the nature of a society’s cultural ethos. One critical factor is geography. In what climatic, topographical and conditions a society evolves weighs heavily upon what it eats, what it wears and what it espouses as tradition. Hence, relocation from one’s motherland does not come without sacrificing some of these native habits. Immigration in many cases brings about a change in one’s environment and this demands a change in one’s lifestyle. To expect an immigrant to make this sacrifice is not hateful. It is a practical expectation. Such changes can easily be seen realized in third and fourth generation of immigrants. However, it is the reluctance of the first generation to let go of their cultural identity that creates friction between the settlers and the natives.
The point I am trying to make is clearly highlighted in this joke. Enjoy!
A young Arab asks his father, “What is that weird hat you are wearing?”
The father said, “Why, it’s a ‘chechia’ because in the desert it protects
our heads from the sun.”
“And what is this type of clothing that you are wearing?” asked the young
“It’s a ‘djbellah’ because in the desert it is very hot and it protects the
body.” said the father.
The son asked, “And what about those ugly shoes on your feet?
His father replied, “These are ‘babouches”, which keep us from burning our
feet in the desert.”
“So tell me then,” added the boy.
“Yes, my son?”
“Why the f**k are you living in Bradford , England and still wearing all this shit?”
Disclaimer: This post does not intend to target any one particular community, nationality or religion. The joke is used only to depict a general opinion.
Posted by Raunak on October 28, 2012
While reading Pat’s wonderful post, I was forced to dig deep into my mind and seek my truth. After deep thinking, the only realization that dawned upon me was that my philosophical, sprititual and religious journey has no final destination. The journey on the awakened path in itself is the eternal bliss and joy that I am seeking. A lot of frustrations on this path have arisen due to my inability to reach the ultimate truth. But maybe, I have misunderstood the nature of the ultimate truth. What I have always imagined to be a destination may in fact be the journey.
I now feel that Enlightenment is not a point, but a line. It is not a scalar quantity that can be defined wholly by its magnitude alone. It is a vector quantity that is a combination of magnitude and direction. And in this case, magnitude is represented by logical reasoning while direction is represented by a conscience driven journey.
And I may not be the only one with this truth. Ask yourself if you too find true bliss, happiness and joy by just being on this never ending journey of spiritual and philosophical conquest. This journey has no final destination and realizing this fact can help us overcome the disappointments that we so often come across.
Enlightenment is not a Destination. It is the Journey. Keep walking.
Posted by Raunak on October 27, 2012
Partition of India, the biggest migration witnessed by the world, one of the worst ethnic manslaughters on the face of the earth has unfortunately not received the emphasis it deserves in the annals of historic literature. Somewhere between the trauma of the Second World War, the Jewish genocide and the Atomic Bomb, the world forgot the millions who lost their lives thanks to agreements reached by England educated politicians in their cozy rooms.Indians then were not important enough to be noticed. Unlike now, we did not control the software industry then.My father was part of this utterly uncalled for dislocation. While on his way from Pakistan to India, he witnessed uncountable hate crimes and even saw his uncle burnt alive by a mob from the other side.
In classrooms, debate panels and cocktail get-togethers in many a Indian households, ill informed people share their “accurate” views that are as unbiased as Fox News itself! While religion is considered the primary force that drove this division, people also lay a lot of the blame on leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Jinnah. Some even believe that Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be created so that he could fulfil his ambition of becoming a Prime Minister. Others blame Nehru for not letting Jinnah become the Prime Minister of United India. One aspect that is rarely cited or discussed or even known is the British role in the partition. Did Britain have anything to gain from it? Lets take it a step further. Did the U.S have a role to play in the partition? Maybe.
The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition is a wonderful book written by Narendra Singh Sarila, who at the time of the partition, served as ADC to Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India. He was also the Maharaja of Sarila, a small kingdom in the heart of India. I was fortunate to have been presented this book by his wife, the Queen of Sarila herself. Narendra Singh bases his reasearch on East India Company communication that in recent years has been declassified by the British government. It is interesting to find evidence that points towards British and American collusion in effecting the partition of India.
To strengthen British and US domination in Asia, the English asked Indian leaders if after independence they would allow the British and the Americans to establish military bases in India. Indian leaders including Mahatma Gandhi flatly refused this proposal. They would not compromise India’s sovereignty and also wanted to set an example of Non Alignment in the world. This snub did not go down too well with the British. They then look toward Jinnah and asked him that if they facilitated the partition of India, would Jinnah allow UK and US to use the newly created Pakistan to position strategic military bases there. Jinnah was only too keen to accept. Not only would this help him gain a new country to rule, but American an British presence would safeguard Pakistan’s interests against India. The British and the Americans couldn’t be happier. The location of the proposed land for the Muslims was strategically perfect to influence the politics of Central Asia and most importantly tackle the new enemy, the USSR. Hence, despite opposition from supporters of United India, the English hastily got the two parties to agree to a partition.
The result: displacement of millions of people, ethnic genocide at a scale unimaginable, creation of two mortal enemy states, one blood, two countries. Not that it mattered to the English or the Americans. They had just won over a new ally in Pakistan and had established an invaluably strategic presence in Asia.
I am a great admirer of English and American political thought and wit. Their well thought out, selfishly motivated execution of the Partition does not seem too implausible to me. Does it to you?
Posted by Raunak on October 25, 2012
Every human being is on a journey. Our purpose maybe different but we never stop our pursuits. Professional, Personal, Spiritual, Religious etc. etc. Life is a journey for everybody. While certain travels are easier to undertake, spiritual and religious explorations can be quite testing. In majority of the cases, we quit and abandon our journeys before reaching our destination. I truly believe that in the spiritual and philosophical domains, journey is more important than the destination. Hence, it becomes more important to question the circumstances that force us to quit. One of the main contributors is despair at not having seen the light at the end of the tunnel. At this point, I’d like you all to ask yourselves whether you have made your journey a “Matter of Principles”. Are you ignoring other paths that could make the journey more enjoyable for you? Is it time you change your path rather than give up the endeavor? Is it time to get yourself a new map?
Ask yourself, are you on the right track but on the wrong train?
Posted by Raunak on October 24, 2012
“When states are acquired in a country differing in language, customs, or laws, there are difficulties, and good fortune and great energy are needed to hold them, and one of the greatest and most real helps would be that he who has acquired them should go and reside there.”
Niccolo Machiveli, The Prince
I was reading one of my earliest posts and wondered how it would be if Machiavelli’s golden words could be applied in present day and age. Would it help if President Barack Obama sets up residence in Baghdad and spends three months in a year there? What if the probable next President Mitt Romney builds a million dollar mansion in Kabul and runs the American Empire from there? (no comments allowed on the use of “next president
I think they should. If the strategy worked in medieval times, I see no reason why it cannot now. Superpowers are capitalist empires driven by economic motives. American presence in Afghanistan and Iraq are examples of territorial conquests, and seeing how much tax payer money has been spent in these wars, it would only make sense to continue in these new acquisitions and get a worthy Return on Investment. I would not expect anything less from such a risky venture.
Below is an excerpt from my previous post. Replace “Corporate Acquisition” with “Territorial Acquisition”, “CEO” with “President” and “employees” with citizens and the message is clear.
Now here lies a lesson for all those consulting or undertaking Corporate Acquisition, especially one where entities from different countries or cultures are involved. Just replace “states” with “companies” in the above quote and the message is clear: The CEO or Chairman or Decision Maker of the company that makes an acquisition overseas, must move his office to the acquired company and run his business from there until Integration of the two entities is truly complete.
Further he wrote, “Because, if one is on the spot, disorders are seen as they spring up, and one can quickly remedy them; but if one is not at hand, they are heard of only when they are great, and then one can no longer remedy them. Besides this, the country is not pillaged by your officials; the subjects are satisfied by prompt recourse to the prince; thus, wishing to be good, they have more cause to love him, and wishing to be otherwise, to fear him.”
Proximity to employees of the acquired company will go a long way in allaying their fears and insecurities. Needless to say, this is of utmost importance when you wish to leverage the resources of the acquired firm to the fullest.
As always, comments welcomed.
Posted by Raunak on October 23, 2012
One of my several roles in life is that of a political campaign consultant. I took on this field because it is one of the very few domains out there that combine logical thinking, statistical studies, psychology, emotional manipulation, power, adrenalin rush,money and greed. Having experienced campaigning in the dirtiest and meanest places, I have gained an understanding that I thought I could never ever attain. And with this, my respect for politicians fighting it out for people’s votes has grown tremendously. It is not easy to be a politician. Especially not when you are fighting elections. The process drains you physically, emotionally, monetarily and forces you to shed every pound of ego from your mind. And the worst, there is no second position in politics. Winner takes it all!
There is one institution that has disappointed me to no end. Media. I hold it solely responsible for ruining the political campaigning process and stripping it of any sense, logic and relevance. The TRP driven, sensationalism espousing news broadcasters have absolutely no interest in the interests of the electorate. At the cost of relevant concerns, only those issues are highlighted that tend to generate “noise”. Self proclaimed political gurus and analysts ask questions that are as dumb as their minds. Honestly, these analysts could not be farther away from ground reality. Yet they dominate discussions and do their bit to increasing the “noise”.
Also, the media loses no chance to pounce upon an error by a candidate and turn it overnight into a scandal. Give me a break! Candidates are human too. While the harm caused by this may not be apparent to the electorate, but it is one of the most injurious acts that weaken our democracy and in fact make irrelevant. Under constant media glare, which is not necessarily public glare, the candidates become actors. The most honest individuals are forced to become choreographed dummies driven by campaign strategists such as myself. I too transform into a puppet who’s strings are being pulled by an illusory world created by the media.
Why is it that the media (and not the people) refuses to believe that a candidate can change his belief or stand? Why is it that a candidate is held responsible for what he may have said thirty years back and a change of heart is considered a sin? I don’t mind if a candidate has transgressed in his past,we all have. Why can we not elect a representative who is more like us, more human.
Yes we can. But the media does not let us. It fills our minds with attributes that we would never use naturally to elect our representatives. And why does the media do this? Because it, like all of us, needs to survive and prosper. Nothing wrong with that, only that prosperity in media has been replaced by greed and zealousness.
We need to recognize the difference between expert opinion and truth. Many times the latter is what emanates from our heart. Trust that opinion over any broadcasting attempt to sabotage your thinking. In Democracy, we are the experts. Realize this truth and cast your vote.
But I cannot wrap this post without expressing my utter dismay at the end of today’s presidential debate. It was the first debate that I saw live at 5:30 am local time. Under normal circumstances, I would have never woken up that early to waste an hour of my life, but this morning at 5:00 am I got a call from my logistics company saying that my car had arrived outside my house. What!Who in this world delivers a shipment at 5 am! Nevertheless, I dragged myself out of bed and once the car was safely parked in the garage, it hit me that it was debate time. So I watched. I cringed. And then these lines by DMX ran in my mind in response to what the leaders were saying:
Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind up in HERE, up in here
Y’all gon’ make me go all out up in here, up in here
Y’all gon’ make me act a FOOL up in HERE, up in here
Y’all gon’ make me lose my cool up in here, up in here
That’s it.I’m done.
Posted by Raunak on October 22, 2012
“It has been one of the songs of those who thirst after absolute power that the interest of the state requires that its affairs should be conducted in secret…But the more such arguments disguise themselves under the mask of public welfare, the more oppressive is the slavery to which they will lead…Better that right counsels be known to enemies than that the evils secrets of tyrants should be concealed from the citizens.They who can treat secretly of the affairs of a nation have it absolutely under their authority; and as they plot against the enemy in the time of war, so do they against the citizens in time of peace.”- Benedict de Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus
One of the things that have always intrigued me is why Cabinet meetings of our ministers,that discuss important issues and Bills, are held behind closed doors and hidden from the view of the very public that those legislative actions are going to affect. Are they plotting against the citizens during time of peace?
Lets extend this argument to corporate big-wigs.Several strategy decisions are made in secret and for obvious reasons. One, to prevent sensitive data from reaching competition. Agreed. However, an arrangement should be made to video record these meetings and display them to the shareholders once the results of the decisions have been fully realized in the public domain. Shareholders, like citizens in a democracy should have the right to view the decision making process of the executives they pay huge salaries to “protect their interests”.
After 60 years of Independence, India finally has a Right To Information Act. A bittersweet case of better late than never; generations from now it will be recognized as the one legislation that saved democracy in this country.
Posted by Raunak on October 21, 2012
No! There is no one real Indian. We put the “D” in Diverse. In fact, we put the I,V,E,R,S and E as well. But its not easy being us. Every time we travel abroad, we come across stereotypes that have absolutely nothing to do with us. The first time I did, I was left wondering how in the world did they get that impression of us. And then it hit me that there are million types of us. I am an Indian, but only one type. The general characteristics which differentiate the types are region, language, looks and food. In addition to being an Indian, I belong to a particular region, I speak a particular language, I look a particular way and my food habits too categorize me into a certain type. So far so good.
But things get very irritating when a set of Indians belonging to a particular combination of the above characteristics give rise to stereotypes that are extremely embarrassing for the rest of us. For example, I do not put coconut oil in my hair nor do I shake my head when I mean to nod. Yet, I am an Indian. I do not have a heavy accent nor do I walk holding my friend’s hand. Yet, I am in Indian. I am not an IT Programmer nor a help desk executive. Yet, I am an Indian. I can be a Punjabi and not have to wear a turban. I can be a Kashmiri and yet be a Hindu.
Every wave of immigration carried with it a different type of Indian to the world. And we still have many more headed to a neighborhood near you
Posted by Raunak on October 20, 2012
17:00 The train came to a halt. I picked up my bags and rushed to my compartment. Before boarding, I read the reservation chart and breathe a sigh of relief when I see my name on that list. I knew my ticket was confirmed but my mind has been tuned into being stressed till I see the proof inked on that dreaded chart. Next, I glance at the passenger names around my seat. I am going to be spending the next 28 hours of my life with them, and I like to be prepared for what is coming. The only column that interests me is the Age/Sex column. 82/M, 52/F, 55/M, 57/M, 46/F ; oh no…not again! None of my co-passengers belong to my age group. Why does this always happen to me! I look at my Kindle and can’t help think “Just the two of us.”
17:30: Train starts moving. I bid an emotional goodbye to my favorite city, not knowing when I will return.
18:00: I assume a quiet posture in my seat, eyes glued to my kindle, ears catching every sound wave from the surroundings. Three of my co-passengers are related. 82 year old father (I will refer to him as grandfather) of the 52 year old aunty who is married to the 55 year old uncle. In India, any lady more than 20 years your age is referred to as “aunty” and any man “uncle”.
18:15: Aunty starts slicing apples and passes them on to uncle and Grandfather. And then what I dread, she offers them to me. I courteously refuse but in India you know its not going to work. I soon had four slices of apple in my hand and one in my mouth. Honestly, these were the most delicious apples I had had in a long time. I knew what this meant, I was now obliged to spend the next 26 hours chit chatting with this family. I looked at my Kindle, “Goodbye, mon ami!”
19:00: Grandfather turns out to be the most interesting man. He was a retired Railways official and his postings across the country endowed him with great wisdom that comes with traveling and age. Fortunately, he loved talking and sharing this worldly wisdom. I was all ears.
20:00: The family unpacks its home made dinner and not surprisingly, I am offered their food. By now I am only too glad to accept the invitation. Fried potatoes in a red curry accompanied by Indian bread…heaven!
21:00: By now we have discussed the state of our nation more than the Cabinet ever has. The latest scandal involving the son-in-law of the country has been analyzed from every possible angle. Quality of railways food has been blasted in every sense possible. The danger Walmart poses to our entrepreneurs has been debated thoroughly. Best ways of investing savings have been pondered upon and almost all religious stereotypes existing in our country mentioned at least once.
The next day is a repeat of exchange of gossips, food and jokes. In no time, I reach my destination and bid a grateful farewell to grandfather, uncle and aunty. Grateful for filling 28 hours of my life with such enriching information, wisdom and experience. Grateful for sharing their travels and teaching me a great lesson, “first impressions can be very deceiving indeed.” The next time I look at the reservation chart, I’ll look for an 82/M listing.
P.S: Highly recommend “Business As Usual” by John Childress. 5 stars!
Super Pants lived up to their expectations yet again
Posted by Raunak on October 16, 2012
“Humility is a sadness which arises from the fact that a man considers his own lack of power.Moreover, insofar a man knows himself by true reason, it is supposed that he understands his own essence,his own power. So if a man,in considering himself, perceives some lack of power of his,this is not because he understands himself but because his power of acting is restrained.
Humility is pain arising from a man’s contemplation of his own weakness of body or mind.”
-Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics
In an earlier post of mine, I used this proposition to explore the differences between western and eastern philosophy and attempt discovering the reasons behind their varied approaches. Today, I wish to delve into the reasoning behind this proposition. It is one that challenges a belief I have held on to for a long time and to encounter a theory that labels one of my traits as a “pain” and weakness can be quite disturbing. Unfortunately, Spinoza does not expand on his statement and leaves a lot of the interpretation to the readers.
From where I sit, if I look towards the East I see cultures that have forever celebrated humility and exhibit it in their daily interactions, both personal and professional. If I look towards the West, I observe behavior that exudes extravagance, outspokenness and unbridled confidence. And both are doing just fine. The more I analyze Spinoza’s words, the more I come across logical evidence that supports, as well as negates his argument. It truly is one of the few propositions of his that have been highly influenced by the environment in which he grew up. I am sure if Spinoza was in 17th century India or Cambodia, his views about “humility” would have been quite the opposite.
So at this very moment, and on this very issue, I will lean towards the East and beg to differ with one of my favorite philosophers. Maybe its the ego in me, but I would like to attribute my humility to a spiritually guided thought than to a weakness of body and mind.
Which side are you on?
Posted in Philosophy | Tagged: athenians, baruch spinoza, benedict de spinoza, eastern philosophy, epicureans, ethics, humility, life, logic, philosophy, political philosophy, reason, stoics, western philosophy | 17 Comments »
Posted by Raunak on October 15, 2012
In Hindu mythology, puranic texts mention the story of a great flood,wherein the Matsya Avatar of Lord Vishnu warns the first man, Manu, of the impending flood, and also advises him to build a giant boat. In Genesis, Noah is instructed to build an Ark.
The first man in Hindu Mythology is called “Manu”, while the English word for a male is “Man”. In the Bible, the first man was “Adam”, while the Hindi word for a male is “Adami”.
Ancient Persians on account of their language aspirated the “S” sound and pronounced it as an “H”. Keeping this in mind it is interesting to observe that while “Ahura Mazda” is the Avestan name of a divine being in Zoroastrianism, “Asuras” are considered demons in Hindu mythology. The terms “Ahuras” and “Asuras” are linguistically related. With the passage of time, Ahuras began to be considered as higher beings in Avestha, while in Hinduism the Asuras began to be considered lesser beings.
In Genesis, the Lord said, “My spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh:his days shall be 120 years.” The Vimshottari Dasha system of Vedic Astrology considers a human being’s life to be 120 years long.
I love it when I come across instances in one culture that I can relate with similar stories in other cultures. Some of these similarities are due to cultural exchanges and ancient travelers. Others are mere coincidences. Above are the ones that come to my mind. Would love to know of ones that you can think of.
Posted by Raunak on July 28, 2013
We have finally bought a piece of history. Yes, when Ratan Tata launched the $2000 car, he changed the game forever. Tata Nano will always find a special mention in the annals of automotive innovations. Since 2009, I have wanted to own one, a wish that came true last week. I am happy and so is Appu!
45 miles to a gallon, 650 cc engine that revs up a maximum speed of 65 mph and you have a car great for city driving in India. It doesn’t cost $2000 anymore, yet the price tag of $4000 for a fully loaded version is still worth every drop of gas saved.
It does take sometime getting used to. Sitting in one feels like being inside a “pimped” egg shell. There is enough room for 4 decently sized human beings. You do have to compromise with a mere 80 L boot space. But then again, at this price and mileage, it doesn’t hurt.
So, if any one of you wants a ride in this toy, do come over. We’d be glad to share our piece of joy
Posted by Raunak on March 5, 2013
0:00-1:00: Name all the artists collaborating with you in the song. What sets you apart from other rappers is the you pronounce these names.
Chorus: Tell a fictional girl how badly you want to “do” her and how lucky she would be to let that happen.
1:15-1:45 : Bless the listeners by sharing which neighborhood you belong to, which country you come from, which country your mother and father, brothers and sisters come from (even though in reality they all hold US Passports!)
Chorus: Tell a fictional girl how badly you want to “do” her and how lucky she would be to let that happen.
2:00-2:30 : Glorify suffering, infact glamorize it. Narrate your struggles in life, the drugs, the abuse, the thugs, the gangsta neighborhood you grew up in, the bullets you dodged, the cops you beat up, how many times you’ve been out on bail. (even though in reality you were just another kid growing up in a wonderful family in quiet Farmington!)
Chorus: Tell a fictional girl how badly you want to “do” her and how lucky she would be to let that happen.
2:45-3:15 : Disclose your assets (imaginary as of now, but ones you will actually own once you sell this song)..the blings, the rocks, the bentleys, ferraris etc. Name your enemies and how you plan to kill them, make it sound more like an execution.
3:30-4:00 : End by again naming all the artists that joined you in this song (those poor souls will never be heard of again), and make the listener feel blessed that he has by now memorized every word of your BS!
That’s it. I’m done.