Monday, 20 July 2015

Meet your final backlash!

It's very easy to define what a life is. It is constant struggle and intermittent success fondling and mingling with each other in an everlasting way. You try, you falter, you try again, and you keep doing so till you either switch gears and move beyond a bound, or till you switch the domain itself. Life is tough, but life is equally rewarding. Life is unfair, but everyone does have some share of life changing opportunities. Life is much more than what you, me, and everyone else will spend. It's just a manifestation of life. Life is actually a phenomenon that far transcends the timeline between a birth and a death. So in our quest for our final destination, we keep trying, we keep moving ahead, and there is something or the other which keeps pulling as back as well. And our response to that element is a backlash. It's a kind of revenge on life itself. It can be as tepid as taking umbrage and shouting out aloud, and it can also be equally extreme like committing suicide. Everyone has a different intensity of these backlashes. People tend to take out the exasperation on their religion, their partners, their parents and what not. And some may actually weep and whine in soliloquy. But irrespective of how we deal with these backlashes, there is one final backlash we all wade through. And this message is addressed to that. 

When we were small and our scope of control was pretty limited, we didn't even know what to do when situation ran out of control. Irrespective of how much dotes motivational speakers are with the idea of one always being able to change our destiny, there are certain moments when we have to accede. And it is precisely in those moments, when we move beyond our normal ways and character and lash out at life. Consider a stock market investor who lost it all. His backlash would involve either a complete abdication of all kinds of trading, or maybe he'll trade again but may became bullish instead of bearish or vice versa. A backlash is pretty much a tipping point when your faith, your belief and even your values might go for a toss or in a state of hibernation. And at the end, you either renounce or even denounce them and adopt new ones, or your faith in the existing set emboldens. 



So backlashes are important. They change us, they evolve us, and they make us better or worse. But they're necessary because otherwise everyone will forever be who they are. And change is the essence of transformation. But what about that one final backlash that most of us are likely to encounter in our lives. While some people are heralded as hallmarks of success because they kept fighting, and struggling against the odds till the very end. There are many who ostensibly "give up". But it's not giving up! It's not that life and its vagaries literally usurped and defiled them beyond reparation. It's just that life forced them to kneel and grovel and accept the hurled situation as their final backlash.

The final backlash makes a marked change in everyone's character. A man who spent his whole life haggling and crying may suddenly become a placated hermit. Or a person who remained laconic and stoic may suddenly become a little too aggressive and loud. What makes the final backlash special though, is that it changes a human being for the one last time. You might recall how your parents would've commented many a time during your upbringing that you have changed substantially. They may actually notice small changes even today. Everyone goes through a series of changes throughout their lives because of these sporadic backlashes. However, the final backlash is the one post which the mold of your character becomes fixated and nothing changes post that. 

It is these final backlashes that not only define a man's character in the most complete state, but which also defines society's biggest milestones. Gandhi went through a series of humiliations, contemplations and character building moments before he finally chose to embrace non violence once and for all and changed the world forever. Hitler on the other hand, was a pretty labile and submissive kind of a guy before his boiling point in his mental cauldron reached and he took the steam on all the world. While the backlashes these men had throughout their lives may have had a bearing on what their final backlash did. The final backlash had the most profound of impact mankind ever witnessed. 

So as both you and I live with the hope of attaining prosperity, it makes sense to see if we've already gone through the final backlash. While some people may never get one because they just surrender themselves to the vicissitudes of the world, some may instead chose to form character upfront and lead life in a well defined way. And if we haven't, we should know that this one final upheaval of our persona, our countenance and our soul is yet to arrive. IF life's going good, know that our final backlash may bring with it a wrath of its own for our unknown sins and to give us our comeuppance. And if life is nettlesome, know that on one fine day, you won't remain a minion anymore. While your position may not improve substantially, you may go on and become a person with a will of steel. You may still struggle but now you may still have the zeal and gusto. And while you may still be forced to fight, at least you may fight with some conviction. Finally, irrespective of whatever you've done and whatever you're into right now, look out for the final backlash, and respect it. For when it arrives, you'll be changed forever!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Endangered feelings, extinct expressions!

Rewind to when you were maybe just 6 or 7 years old. When your dreams mounted up to make an edifice, and when your expectations from life were smaller than a mole hill. When every new thing you learnt brought immense satisfaction, and every mistake pointed out brought a barrage of regret. Goals and objectives didn't seem to be having any place in our lives. Life was so simple. You just had to follow some rules and there was a guarantee that you'll be happy. And hence happiness and mirth were the only things sought, and not their means or manifestation. We didn't know what happiness meant, for there was no definition. And as for making or setting one, we were too small to do that. We were just dallying with life, dabbling with everything savory. We were inquisitive, curious to find our how something works, without knowing if we'd even come across it again. And we were easily surprised, easily disappointed, and easily assuaged again as well. Things were pretty easy, because it was so easy to feel things. And then it was so easy to express them!

Love could be expressed by just cuddling around your parents arms when they picked you from the sofa after you fell asleep. Despondence could be exhibited by curling the lower lip downwards, restraining from crying, and then weeping and stopping only when your parents plonked you on their laps. Inquisitiveness could be expressed without any hesitation because it was your god damn job to ask questions. And even anger was expressed honestly and with utmost conviction.

One thing about that epoch of our lives, was that feelings used to be genuine and authentic. We didn't have a prism of any long term goals and objectives to view the world and its inhabitants from. We didn't have a lot of qualms and quandaries which mired and muddled our thoughts all the time. Feelings were heartfelt because they aroused in that one evanescent instant when something occurred to evoke the feeling and we just felt, as opposed to thinking before feeling. Thinking, and thinking too much can make us ask questions about how we feel, instead of allowing us to relish the feeling itself. And that also precludes the expression for that feeling. 

Today as the world is much more prosperous, love is supposedly found in more abundance. It is believed if there are so many people and if there is so much of progress and happiness, love too is supposed to be found in surfeit because people are enraptured. But love instead has become an onerous task for as long as people are ostensibly in love. Love has become a game of manifestation in the form of rituals, instead of love remaining the unbridled and unmatched feeling it once was. Take any celebrated love story and the essence of it was love itself. And today it as become a means to tag one in a relationship on Facebook, and about getting tattoos embossed over your bodies. Love has become rather tangible, and everything materialistic is insipid. The true joy of love would've been in the happiness one found in the company of their beloved. And since we can't feel happiness, pretty much like we can't feel many more things that lead down to happiness, we can't feel love!

Like a cascade of lost feelings, every feeling we're losing out on is making us more and more vapid as a human being. Some feelings could be so strong and so sublime that they could both excite and instigate a man to do things. And these maybe things that society may categorically state as being odious and unacceptable. But if the feeling is strong enough, it uses a human being as a medium to express itself. However it's possible only when we surrender and accede to the feeling. Which we won't do because we start thinking. We as a society might take pride in the fact that we are progressing and becoming more structured and suave. But in reality we are just a veil of sophistication and urbanity over a cradle of imperfections and even perversion. The more we can't feel the genuine and humble feelings that define our true character, the more those feelings grow stronger till the time they flip and become the absolute opposite of what they were. And we are then too docile not to allow the negative version of the same feeling to express itself, So I don't really know what people feel when they say they're happy, when they can't even feel it, let alone express it. So at the end of this one single post, do you feel anything? 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

2 Years since JS Hall, 2 months since separation...

They say if you stay at a place long enough, you become that place. Being a guy who never had to stay away from home for more than a couple of weeks at a stretch, the prospect of adapting in a new abode was both exciting and debilitating. But with time, JS Hall, the celebrated Mumbai University boys hostel situated right next to the lavish Marine Drive, embraced me like anything. And as I complete two long months since I permanently moved out of the hostel, courtesy me not being a student anymore, I decided to reminisce the good old times, yet again. 

Class is so evident. Talking about mitra. :D

Induction into a coveted B school was always going to be interesting, but induction into the closely knit coven of hostel mates was definitely a bit more demanding! Details of the induction shall be omitted to keep it as interesting and invigorating as it is. So as we all forayed into the vibe of JBIMS, we were told our laidback attitude was not going to work anymore. So we had to rev up during the day at the college, and during the night in those hostel rooms. Everyone was putting in the effort and so did we. But while we all were toiling individually to transform ourselves, we didn't realize how much we were getting acquainted with each other. And that is when it happened! 

#HavanKarenge

We knew life at a B school would be tough and challenging. We had the best minds of the country at JB, and we all were now getting into the biggest slugfest of our lives. Everything was new, and we surely had to pump ourselves up. So that was the time when I was exposed to the culture of staying up till stuff was done. We all struggled individually, but as we stayed together, our collective woes always fizzled out with a burst of laughter that would come up when one of us announced something bizarre. "Wipro also makes computers. Computers! Computers!". And then what happened when someone just had 4 minutes to shave his beard off, wear formals and get his shoes polished for a very unique endeavor is a different story altogether. And then the one single guy who'd laugh subtly but whose laugh would incite laughter on everyone's face even when they were not supposed to, added a different dimension. And finally that one moment when everyone was hurling abuses and swear words at something as innocuous as a ceiling fan, was definitely a moment to relish. #Havan soon became a part of our life, and those first few days toughened us as individuals, and bonded as a family. 



Getting in the groove

A renowned professor once said "Everything is culture", and JS hall was no different. We all soon realized there is a way in which life has to be lived in the boys hostel. There is a reason why someone from the music faculty would take his harmonium out at 2 in the night and there is also a reason why you shouldn't eat at the hostel canteen. I guess FSSAI would've been flummoxed if they inspected our canteen because they wouldn't have known there are so many additional ingredients whose tests they didn't have technology to carry out! Including ants! Then there was the ritual of getting the security guard to connive in letting you come back to the hostel late on some mate's birthday by handing him a cup of Natural's sitafal ice cream as a truce. And finally there was the graffiti all over the inside of the elevator doors, which was definitely not artistic, and which included some really nice words and praise for the warden of the hostel. But I definitely didn't imagine a guy would drink and smack so much that he'll end up in his stupor in the inside of the toilet, and would carry out a GD with no one but himself! Man do I miss all the mania.
#FireInTheHole

And suddenly when we were staring at the first sem exams, wherein we had a couple of horrendous subjects to wade through the wrath of, we decided not to be saturnine. Instead, we chose to make the most of the time. We decided to carry out mammoth counter strike gaming sessions night in and night out. In fact the closer the time for the end sem exams came, the more and more we indulged in the game. And suddenly we found heroes who were invincible. The guy who was a champ with the sniper and the guy who could kill with knives. And as we got so engrossed in the game with having tested our expertise on every map, there would be one occasional guy screaming random derogatory terms from his room because we forgot that some people would actually prefer to sleep at 4 o clock. So as we played without earphones, a bomb explosion was definitely enough to rack someone's brains off! More so when the guy was high and no sleep would've meant a hangover throughout the next day!

#BilliPav 

So the boys hostel had a little too much of manhood residing inside and you sure as hell don't have no chicks. So people felt pretty lucky when they finally found some pussy! Pussy cats, actually! Real ones! So as the quotient of nothingness rose by a bit, something new was to be sought in those very 4 walls of JS Hall itself. So as the cats brought up their fury by actually causing damages worth 7K by being the reason why a guy's tab's screen got shattered(Some people liked it!), they were the obvious targets. So while cats should have felt the agony of penance, we all were humans and we kept our treatment gentle. We just made sure cats did not spread diseases so we forced some of them to a take a bath(Alternately with hot and cold water! Pasteurization you see!), and we also gave some cats the opportunity of skating with their skittering feet in pools we specifically made for them in their lobbies, And last but not the least, we named a dish after them. And while no one would still believe it but there is in fact a dish called #BilliPav which you'd find only in JS Hall and that too only if you're a part of the secret brotherhood. You can identify the group by their leader who has a pretty raunchy and wicked smile! 

<<<Second sem results, internships, coming back to the hostel, finding new places to eat, and a lot of gallivanting and idling around later>>>
#JSPL

Fuck! This gives me goosebumps. So as the amount of activity at JB went down and now that most of us were out of the hegemony that wreaks havoc during the very demanding first two sems, we had to make sure that #Buck***** reached a whole new level. Now being the budding managers we were, we decided to come up with the inaugural and the much ballyhooed ***JS Hall Premier League***. While not a lot many people knew JS hall had one large and colossal central field, we thought that we should better utilize our predilection for playing our own version of cricket on it. Ours was very different from the usual form of the game, but we bet ours was more challenging. And while we had one single indomitable champion who'd score more runs than entire teams, we also had a self proclaimed aggressive Sehwag, and players who were more about style and less about substance. So all in all we had all that it takes to be a successful cricketing tournament, and so we set a proper procedure for captain selection and team auctioning and carried out two successful seasons with round the clock action. And we also had all the media frenzy and the usual requests from the commons to be a part of this fantastic format. But then JSPL was exclusive and you had to earn your place!

Stars of JSPL having a light moment at the second JSPL Auctions held at the Oberoi Trident in March this year.
Main hoon sabse bada struggler

So as we were moving into the last couple of months at our most beloved abode by now, we just didn't have many things left to do by now. We already knew that we had a diehard Salman and Sunny fan and a unfettered Hritik fan who didn't quit even after Bang Bang! But now we went out to watch almost every movie that was there to be watched. And since we didn't have much to do, we'd wake up at as early as 6 in the morning(Which no one would've done on an exam day as well) and either go to the Oval grounds for a full format JSPL game, or go to Merwan's for a delectable breakfast. And we'd often come back to our rooms and sleep for hours again. But when we had absolutely nothing else to do, we'd have discussions on who has been the biggest struggler and who fought the most bravely. And then while someone would say that he never got a girl and his Switzerland dream got flushed because of inadvertent deterrents, the Hritik fan said he had to witness the tripe of lavatory where the level of water was a little too high for anyone's comfort! 

Goodbyes! Not really! 

So the last couple of days went with us just dallying around. While we were happy knowing we'd enter the professional realm again and now with no exams, the prospect of leaving Borivali(Room no. 79) seemed too hard for me. And so was the case with the residents of Kandivali, Bandra, Karjat, and even Bhayander(This was on a different floor altogether where the most alienated hostelite would put nets all around to protect himself!). And as we witnessed that the time to bid adieu has come, residents of Borivali and Kandivali who were the most ardent anti-felines, came up with a pact of reconciliation as two newly born kittens circled their rooms all the time, and they thought they'd caress them to leave things on a happy note!

The global cat fraternity extending their thanks to the residents of 78 and 79.
We all took up our jobs, and all moved on to different places. But somewhere in the stream of time, and in the cogs and sprockets of destiny, we were supposed to stay together in those hallowed rooms, amid the sultry chimes of the waves embossed all over Marine Drive. I don't know how I felt when I stepped inside JS Hall for the very first time. I was apprehensive, that's for sure. But when I stepped out and looked back, for hopefully not the one last time, I felt a tingling sensation telling me I'm leaving a part behind. The part that now belongs in those rooms, the part that now belongs in those lobbies, and in that sprawling center court, and the part that I'll recall all the time, and get the most heartiest smile I'd ever get! 

The first ever celebration when Mama got to taste the sitafal ice cream for the first time. :D

Saturday, 11 July 2015

How Modi became Media, and Media became Modi. .

Decades ago when George Orwell picked up his pen and paper and prophesied the state of Oceania, his book '1984' was just another novel full of high end gadgetry and fanaticism about human future. But as the world moved on, and more and more democracies were heralded, and more and more praise was poured over the society for collective progress, some realized that Oceania was not a state built purely out of fantasy. In fact Oceania was gradually becoming a very succinct and deft way to depict our reality. And while media was supposed to be the ombudsman and the catharsis for bringing out the truth. Somewhere in the middle, this necessary pillar of every democracy crumbled and gave way to its own Parallel Universe. One it built itself.

While media in the Orwellian Oceania largely comprised of a steady stream of messages, all adulating and praising the Big Brother and his ruling party, our media might still be in some stead for improvement. Now a lot has already been said about media houses becoming puppets of the government or top notch corporate czars, but there is something that might actually be worth paying attention to. While we already know that media is a master of manipulation and can twist a tale to such an extent that the original piece may actually get lost in the media sleight, what if media has moved beyond their petty ways and has done something larger than we could ever imagine? 

Everyone knows that media and movies play a big role in influencing the general opinion of the times and the epoch. But what if suddenly media assumed the much more profound role of not just being a mere influencer but becoming a force that turned us into believers. Imagine an anti incumbency wave sweeping a democracy. The doom of the current government was pretty much inevitable but no one knew who was going to be the much needed hero. So the opposition throws up a face. A state level politician who was once besmirched by the media, comes with the agenda of emancipating the millions of the nation in a downtrodden state by doing many different things, all under the umbrella and the ambit of bringing #AccheDin. 


Now while the initial idea was just to propound the potential glory on media through plain advertising, you were exposed to the ads between pieces of news, and news that largely pertained to this one single upcoming hero of the masses. While the reporting in the news might raise questions about the claims of this man and all his followers, about him being the much awaited hero who'll steer the tide in their favor, the media itself seemed to tell the answer by airing ads that were intertwined between those questions, telling the people that this indeed is the guy to vote for. It all works because half of this country's population didn't really capture the moment when the channel switched from a news report to an ad, and the mind just ended up witnessing a flurry of information, which ultimately suggested that #AchheDin will arrive only when this one single man comes into power.

While the much lauded guy with this massive campaign went on to sweep the ruling party out of the house, everyone was happy because the verdict ,meant what people wanted. They wanted the only man they believed could bring the #AccheDin. Now it was the media which at first led them to believe that he's rather concomitant with their panacea and the things that they needed in the future, it was once again the media which had to play the pivotal role in shaping public opinion. In a way the media was the first one to tell everyone about the problems which included coverage of all the scams, inflation and what not, which miffed the people during the UPA era. Then once again the media raised questions about the credibility of this man with a 56 inches chest. And finally it was the media again which aired ads that made people believe that yes, he is the answer. So once again the media had the onus.

The media here could've either decimated the newly found leader by saying they themselves were wrong initially, through constant negative reporting, or could have accentuated the faith in the fact that #AccheDin have finally arrived by just stating optimism. So while some news channels retorted to the surfacing of multiple scams and all, other news channels went with a barrage of information which the government itself wanted to get aired. So the Make In India campaign, the Swach Baharat campaign, multiple visits to foreign countries, Mann ki baat, and even the recently introduced Digital India were just ways of giving the media ubiquitous content to share. Once again, in one way the media was not at all stating the new regime as being effective or as being a harbinger of happiness. But with this one single baton holder of the government always present on the media and on the news channels in some way or the other, talking about initiatives and vision, people were suddenly made to believe that yeah the new guy is walking the talk. Because if media, which otherwise is the platform and the pulpit from where a debate is to be shaped, was just having this one single guy speaking all the time, maybe the only reality one had to digest was just the activity and the panache that were associated with him. 

Though the new government was definitely involved in getting stuff done and executed, but they had the massive support for all of their campaigns. In fact the entire public sentiment was going to stay their way and even despite the recently surfaced slew of scams like Vyapam and Lalitgate, the amount of belief that the voters have on theirs having made the right choice, has only been marginally dented. People are still feeling sanguine and happy, and in their own aplomb of believing that #AccheDin are here. People went upbeat when the Pradhanmantri Jandhan Yojana was launched, and no one noticed that a paltry 8.5k accounts opened this ended up with any deposits. All people noticed was that a humongous 10 million plus accounts were opened on a single day. And as that was the only thing even media reported, it was the only thing people had to go with. After all, who has the time to carry independent research for information deficit. And the media must be telling the truth, right? 

And so suddenly, despite many smear campaigns and many attempts by the opposition, the #AccheDin wave is still strong as a vortex and pretty much intact. Yes, to some extent the image of a clean leader with clean members has been tarnished, but the media is yet to come up with the perfect remedy. Their unflinching incessant coverage of everything from the PM's visits to foreign countries to the ever growing investments in the country(Which once again comes as a result of investor optimism primarily), with no real comment on the efficacy, would once again lead the factotums believe that life is going good and that #AccheDin are still here!

As I move on to conclude this post, I'd like to say that I hold nothing against the government and our PM and his council of ministers. However, I was just too bemused to see how our media that so rancorously led charge against the ruling UPA for so long with AAP and BJP calling the shots, was suddenly in a way commiserating with the campaigns of both AAP and BJP, which definitely would've paid millions to media to do just that. The media while never being judgmental about how good these new leaders are, just allows the gentlemen to speak for themselves And since news channels enjoy a deeply entrenched sacrosanct perception, we believe that the gentlemen are speaking nothing but the truth. And as no one ever seems to question anything, the media houses are not schmucks to get their funding blocked by starting a campaign against the ruling parties.  And where did UPA spend their funding then? Maybe on the handful of channels which did negative reporting but whose argument got quashed because UPA's media management has always been hopeless and because their scam earned money is already gone! 

In short, please be careful about what you side with after seeing a piece of news. The reporting may not be as honest and innocuous as it once was, and don't ever fall for media's own parallel universe. Question, debate and stay in the real one where you actually belong!  

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Who do you preach, God or religion?

Who is god, or rather what is god? Is it manifested in the prayers you make at that hallowed space in your apartment, your workplace or at your shrine, or does it reside in the earthly idols and lockets you wear? Can it be summoned by merely reciting verses out of sacrosanct books, or could it be evoked with singing of mellifluous rendition. Or is it merely an omnipresent entity, which is prescient and knows when and where it has to make itself available, without its patrons making explicit and marked attempts of doing so? If you're a zealot, you'd have already left reading this by now, but if you're genuinely perplexed by the idea of seeking the ultimate truth pretty much like I am, you might just read forward. Not because I have the answer, but because both you and I share the same plight! The great odyssey of knowing we can never find god if we go with the current ways, but also not knowing how we'd find god otherwise. 

So how do we know if god is available with us at any moment or not? Only post addressing that can we come up with ways of ascertaining if the almighty can actually be felt in certain ways. While praying in countless temples, there is one thing I have realized. It's not as much in the grandeur of the temples or the redolence of flowers that evokes the feeling of being close to god. It is the fact that many others along with you are veraciously involved in an attempt to strike a connection. While most of them are genuine believers, some maybe like me and you, who'd do it because we don't know how else we can feel god by our side. And while we have different proclivities, propinquity, and beliefs, we still end up, at least for a couple of seconds, believing that god is around! And maybe that's all god needs and that's why some of us cherish that moment when our prayers are heard. So if you were to ask me, it is not in blindly praying in front of human imaginations of gods that work. It is in the act of believing in the very existence of god, that puts us in the realm where god might actually live. 

So with this mindset, I started some kind of an experiment. So I occasionally visit temples and pray just like everyone else does. While I don't really know what people preach in temples, I was told that god is sought to rescue and resuscitate us from all of our rigmaroles. So I always had an entire list of things to ask for. And truth be told, I got a lot of those things eventually. But with time, as life became more and more turbid and esoteric, I didn't even know what to ask. So my rare visit to the temples was becoming a bit of an attendance related fair which didn't seem very pleasing. I'd just go, roam around, comply with all the tacit and writ instructions and come back. But in essence, I just didn't know how to feel or what to feel in order to establish that divine connection. I was in quite a dilemma. I've always attributed a huge part of my success to my faith in the almighty and now I was turning dolorous because I didn't even know what to ask for. That meant no expectations all!

Now the question that struck me was; If there are no expectations and I go to pray just with the hope of staying happy and content, how would I feel god's presence around. Till now, god was felt through any accomplishment in which I got assistance from that 'invisible hand' that helped me. But now with no pursuit for god to assist me on, have I left god bereft of any chances of rendezvous? And it was precisely then when it struck me. God is not a manager chasing targets on a roughshod who'd think he made us happy so he should be happy. God is the happiness that comes without any expectations at all. And god is also the melancholy that comes to make us realize the worth of the happiness for and when it arrives. So it took took me in a state of utter contemplation which resulted in quite a realization. 



I'm a very woebegone kind of a person. I don't like the giant population traveling in metro trains and buses, I don't like the summers, don't like the rains either, and don't like working as much as the common man does. So with these being problems that even god raised to the power god can't solve, I didn't know what would come of my life when there wasn't anything else that I was otherwise expecting. So then on one fine day when I traveled in scorching heat for hours with the sun lingering over all the time and then was told to wait for another hour, I felt dejected and broken, and yet not expected a thing. And it was precisely then when clouds came all over, a mild zephyr started billowing and my the whole of my sweat drenched shirt now provided a comfort like none else. It was totally unexpected and I found that god is not in expectation, god is in surprise!

Then on another day when it was raining pretty heavily and I was to work on the field, I kept cursing the weather all the way and was getting hit by shreds of rain here and there, showing me signs of things to come. And when I was just 5 minutes from commencing my work on that rainy day, clouds began to disappear and the weather cleared. And I realized god is not in endowment, god is in redemption and salvation. But in essence I realized that god is ubiquitous. God is as much there in my dreams of owning a Porsche, as much god is there in the drudgery I have to go through every day to become capable enough of owning one. And god is as much in every brick of my home and my workplace, as god is in that earthly idol in the temple. And I found out that maybe god was with me, with you, with us, and with everyone all the time, waiting for us to take cognizance of the presence. And we were just a little too busy praying with closed eyes, neither seeing him in the manifestations kept in front of us, and nor finding him in the darkness. Because god could actually be found with open eyes, and that too in broad daylight!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Is technology really making us more 'connected'?

Back in the 1980's with the explosion of financial markets and investment institutions, the evolution was heralded as the removal of roadblocks in the easy movement of capital within and across countries. It was believed that with massive deregulation and financial innovation, more and more people will have access to easy capital for mortgages, and felicitous instruments for investments. In fact everyone was so upbeat that people began seeing hope of universal prosperity on the cards. Developed nations like united states went with the flow and the tandem, and now even the finance secretaries and federal reserve chairmen were all ex bankers because everyone thought they ought to be fondled for the spectacular task of global financial progression and integration they were involved in. Now I don't really need to tell you what happened of that dream of millions who had to bear the brunt. Post multiple small financial fracases and the final nail in the coffin in 2008. millions lost their homes, their savings and their investments, leaving the world maybe more unequal and spiteful than it was. So I ask this very question, what if this otherwise impeccable technology and communications revolution is also no less vulnerable?


Consider what technology has done since the days of Usenet in 1996. First let's talk about the obvious merits. Now you can not only manage all your contacts of people you know using a mere pocket device, you also have various ways to communicate with them. The idea of video calling and chatting is obviously much more alluring than dialing them up on landline connections full of melarkey with potential eavesdropping. Moreover, communicating with lost friends is now a possibility with social networks bringing more and more people under their ambit. And the fact that you can now directly follow celebrities and befriend random but like minded strangers might kill any argument or case I may make against this technological revolution. But my altercation is not against the progression. It is against the way we humans are shaping it via our usage!

People used to have lesser friends in the past.(Technically, actually! If you consider every friend on Facebook as a genuine friend, even an average user might end up having more friends than even the most gregarious guy from the last generation!) But the 'connection' used to be much more real. Even a telephonic conversation that our fathers and grandfathers rejoiced the newly offered mirth of, is no match for in-person conversations. It is believed that only around 10 percent of our communication is comprised of our words, around 20 percent is the way we use the words, and around 70 percent is inhered in our body language and visual cues to the listener. So in essence while video chatting may come pretty close,  it's nowhere near as good as a jovial conversation over tea with a good old pal. 

Now talking about writing. While modern technology offers much more on this, there are still points worth considering. We can now save all the rework with one single edit, can now avoid usage of countless sheets of paper and can also get our written message across in microseconds as opposed to the days it once took. But in reality, we still lack the essence that a fine letter written on a piece of paper had. Everything from the scribing of the address on the envelope, the kind of envelope used, the kind of paper, the number of sheets, the number of folds and what not! Everything had an authentic enigma to it. And then the way the letter was scribed, with the strokes, the furrows made by the tip on paper, and the occasional smudge of maybe a tear or two. There was much more to a handwritten letter than the mere words, and that dear reader, is something that no written communication on these modern platforms could ever even come close to matching. And then the signature and name at the end of the letter is something I'll dedicate the entire next para on. 

While email has been around for very long, texting and chatting amalgamted with the writing etiquette later on. Emails were initially scripted in full length with no substantial use of abbreviations or acronyms. Emails were just a convenient adaptation of normal letters with all other elements of conventional letters preserved. But with the advent of contemporary ways to make life all the more convenient, short forms became the norm rather than the exception. Suddenly, Emails became more and more shorter and the "Hope this mail finds you well" and "regards" at the end, were now automatically inserted. So much we became dependent on technology that even a mail we wrote in a snide and angry mood might end up having a ''thanks' at the end. Now it either perplexed the worried reader, or probably the reader too knew this was automatically inserted and was indolent towards it!

Essentially, the human element in emails was getting lost amid a new set of rules laid down by the users collectively. It was either because people did not have the time to write full length mails, or probably because now there was texting and chatting which were based on the very premise of short and concise communication. So the telegraph and letters which remained distinct for decades and served very different purposes till now, got merged when Emails and text/chatting became somewhat integrated. Now the only difference between the two is that email remains the only officially certified correspondence. But in terms of how we use them, a PFA and a default greeting maybe the only extra thing that you find on the emails nowadays. And as no one really cares, why should you? 

So my basic question is that while we now communicate much more and with many more people, either out of choice as in an office, or out of volition as I'm doing through this blog, our communication is more and more non-human and fragile. We are just concerned about the words anymore, but all other elements of communication that formed the framework for those words, are fast disappearing. Now you may say that video chatting may actually mean much more for a solider than a tear drenched letter sent to him on the frontier. But while the video chat is live and gives him a chance to see his mother or wife, the tear doused letter becomes his sole companion when he goes on a mission, because it can be touched and felt, and it ensnared and trapped the real emotion, unlike what the video chat could have when the wife or the mother would have actually pretended to be happy when they actually felt like crying! 

In a nutshell, communication is losing its essence. While communication is becoming more omnipresent, it is losing out on some of its facets that really mattered. It seems like the connections that were made because of communication being so open, so honest and so heartfelt, are now made in haste and hence are frail. You could express true emotions while meeting someone in person and in a letter, but you can actually bluff on phone calls and portray a facade on email. But thankfully some sense prevails as we move ahead. While we largely communicate through bits and bytes transferred through the Internet, we still have the more important office meetings in real conference rooms as opposed to taking place on video con calls. And even today, I don't think that we've gone to the extent of making proposals online. Though that day too may not be far away. I so very wish communication could once again become as earnest and untrammeled it once was. And I only hope that technology doesn't kill its essence completely in the name of allowing us to communicate much more!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Why we actually need more Rahul Yadavs!

Over the last couple of months, a very frivolous storm took shape in the Indian startup community. With the Bansals still holding reigns at the top and with Ratan Tata and Softbank funding more and more promising ideas, Rahul Yadav, the founder and erstwhile CEO of Housing.com, has been doing the rounds of the Internet with his trolls. He actually developed the reputation of being a bit of a bigot months ago when he resigned as the CEO while lampooning his own board members as not being worthy of working with anymore. And while later on he was reinstated on the top, everyone knew that he and the board were at loggerheads and that his ultimate removal was a mere inevitability. So while Mr. Yadav has been dubbed 'arrogant', 'haughty', 'senseless' and what not, here's why we should actually have more like him! 

Fearlessness

While it's right on our part to be hypercritical of Mr. Yadav and his obvious lack of temperament, he is exactly how talented and qualified folks have to behave to curb the hegemony that exists in the work culture of our corporations. While all companies still tout themselves as being harbingers of 'open' and 'collaborative' work cultures, seniors secretly expect the juniors to address them as 'sirs', and the one odd guy ends up breaking his back while many others rejoice at the pub! In a nutshell, we all are a little too afraid to say a 'no' to our bosses, and when we become the latter, we are conditioned to not accept noes ourselves. So while Rahul Yadav may appear as a mischievous leprechaun, he has made it a habit to say 'no' when he means it, with a blatant disregard for the consequences. And one who is going to be under the media scanner all the time, really has to be very bold to say noes and get away unscathed. But in reality, if we know how and when to say noes, we're likely to get lesser woebegone and more interested in our work by the day. Do we do it? "Boss se pange nahin lene yaar!"

Heresy

One of the biggest criticisms of Rahul is that he doesn't seem to be following the book. But it's a little too stupefying to expect someone to follow the book when the very provenance of a successful startup is to nullify all that's in the book written by the big boys. There are clear cut differences between him and his board members, and so much that there is no scope of any reconciliation anymore. But that's largely because while the board might expect the business to be founded on fundamentally sound principles, a heretic guy may not see any value in them. Yes all businesses have to follow some well defined ground rules, but Housing currently operated in a domain that's not well defined. So unless someone takes the onus of experimenting and seeing what works, no one shall ever find the right way. And yet some of the biggest corporations take pride and vanity in their structures, and processes and operations, without being privy to the fact that every 10 years 50 from the  fortune 500 companies disappear! 
 

Candour

We Indians often confuse this much needed trait with an ostensible disregard to hierarchy. People at top positions have an appetite for having an aura around them. So they deliberately try to make themselves inaccessible, so as to reaffirm everyone's faith that they are exclusive. Rahul Yadav tried to abnegate that by reaching out to the employees, and also portraying himself as being as whimsical as he was, which I believe is the most unsullied characteristic in a nascent organization. The "Media Cocktail" mail which saw the final nail in the coffin for his supplanting, was addressed to everyone. He didn't like the status quo with the media, and he wanted every guy and gal in the company to know what they were in for. This was so very unlike the typical Indian CEO who'd send out collective admiration mails at the end of the year, citing only achievements, and never saying a word about the 10 different things the top leadership failed at. 
 
 
 
India is a country obsessed with the concept of being 'Adarsh'. Everyone at a position is expected to adhere to a select list of rules and caveats. And while we have no reason to believe they're hallowed and sacrosanct, we just seem to be too infatuated with them to try out anything new. Rahul soon is going to become a pet example of how a brilliant guy screwed his life. I don't even know if Rahul was as brilliant as people say he once was, but I know for sure that his attitude is precisely what the youth of this nation lags. We all will follow the path till the end, and only a handful would be genuinely happy. But we'll be happy that we did everything as per the rule sheet. While we don't even know who created the rules and if they're really worth following or not. At least someone tried changing that! 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Grexit & How Austerity killed Athens!

Athens, the supposed birthplace of democracy, shall witness yet another plebiscite, in a series of referendums organized over a lot many years, all eventually leading to the double whammy the country is all set to face. In one of the most vile of all choices to make, the people have to choose a path they believe will bring lesser tragedy and gloom. And all of this when a substantial portion of the people were not directly responsible for the events that led to the extirpation of the erstwhile Macedonian supremacy. While the once star studded economy of Greece was a facade of fakes, it makes sense to see how despite the initial fallout, the government in Greece could have prevented their current tribulation. One that they knowingly, or unknowingly didn't work towards!

Part 1: When the time's right, only the wise see the wrong.

Just before inclusion into the Euro Zone, Greece was sustaining a never ending economic doomsday. Growth was not present anywhere, unemployment figures didn't seem to improve, and govt.'s promises acted as a mere placebo. Then Greece entered the Euro in 2001, abjuring their former drachma, in which it still held billions in debts. Greece, which was often referred to as the "Sick man of Europe", now became a one stop shop for investments. Suddenly, the poorest state in the union of Europe was the cortege's blue eyed boy.

Massive investments made capital flow into the country and infrastructure became the cornerstone of the Greek tragedy's apparent reversal. Tourism too picked up with Europeans, Americans and Australians alike, flocking to the some of the most spectacular of vistas holding relics of the glory of Greek's past. And then with the 2004 Athens Olympics, it seemed like the Greek turmoil shall finally come to an end!


Everything seemed fine, the country's banking system was credited as being robust, and everyone seemed upbeat. The country had received 24 billion $ from European structure funds, and German lending and investment institutions heralded Greece as a pinnacle for return generation. And the Country did indeed clock a GDP growth of 7.6 in 2006, while Spain and Portugal, also strugglers, managed around 2. And precisely when it all looked so rosy and exultant, came the biggest financial crisis since the great depression. The 2008 recessions knocked Greece out for once and for all. 

As US, UK, Germany and France all tipped over, Greece started facing indirect heat as investments from all these countries came to an absolute halt. What seemed like a stupendous growth story, was actually an investor paparazzi. The Greek government was running heavy deficits every year, and all of it had to be paid someday. The irony is that, no one realized the bubble was going to burst so soon. As recession gripped the developed world, not only the investments, but also all the tourism revenue coming from the same developed world stopped. No more lavish trips to Greek islands were made anymore and poof! Greece no longer had any capital inflows. So it was obviously not in a position to pay back the investors. 

What made the entire scenario more turbid was the revelation that Greece's books were cooked. EuroStat, the European union's prime auditing body, found out that Greece was a gone case for a lot of time. But the government hired the magnificent Goldman Sachs to make their books and financial position appear much better. And as a result, no one knew that the funds that were going to Greece were actually utilized only to a small extent. Private coffers were filled up, and no development really took place. So when the party got over, the same Germany that once sang panegyrics and praise for Greece, was the most ravenous in demanding a payback!

Part 2: The Troika! 

When the time's right, you've other lenders. When the time's wrong, you've the IMF to make it worse. Just like it did in the cases of various other recession hit nations like Iceland, the IMF proposed a bailout package for Greece as well. So this time, the trio of the European Commission, the European Central Bank(ECB), and the IMF, came up with a 110Bn Euro bailout for Greece, but the strings attached were all to much for acceptance! 


Since a great portion of the Greek construction bubble was financed by German and French banks, and Germany and France were also the most powerful members of EU. It was decided that half of the bad debt to these banks shall be written off. But on the other hand. Greece was literally placed in gallows of perdition. In lieu of the bailout, Greece had to cut 23Bn Euro on public spending, and had to sell off various state run enterprises for another 60Bn Euro. All in all, Europe tagged it as the price Greece had to pay for its supposed debauchery and gallivanting. But in reality, Greece was just jettisoned off a French aircraft with a German engine! 

Part 3: Austerity kills! 

Greece accepted the bailout with various strings attached and it was known to everyone that the citizens were going to be in for quite many hardships. Unemployment figures skyrocketed, number of suicide attempts went up. HIV outbreak in the middle of Athens made international headlines, there was a Malaria outbreak recorded in southern sections, and the country was in absolute doldrums. And while austerity was already undertaken, the cuts in spending on medical care took the blasphemy to a whole new level.

The total healthcare budget of Greece was cut down from 24Bn to 16Bn Euros and that too amid the highest infant mortality and other recorded pandemic outbreaks. Govt doctors were laid off, and private practice now shot the rates making medical care unaffordable and inaccessible for more and more. Elderly forewent necessary medical care and the first case of maternal HIV transmission was recorded after decades!


So while austerity ruined the lives of people because of massive public sector layoffs and ever rising unemployment, the social protection net of medical welfare that people needed the most was being deliberately downsized so that the troika's stated caveats on budgetary slashing could be met. And while the nation was crippled under all the cuts, the auditors and regulators and everyone praised that the healthcare for "it was being modernized and had become more efficient". While in reality, some queues in front of private clinics were so long that people decided to actually let go. 

Part 4: Endgame Athens.

As the citizens of Greece waded through the years of austerity with exacerbating health and a ruined social safety net, they thought maybe their penance and their ordeal shall dawn upon a new and more delightful era for Greece. But instead of Greece's debt lowering, their deficit kept increasing. And there is only one way this could have happened. Massive connivance and corruption! And secondly, the bailout capital was simply funneled back to the European creditors who caused the massive malice.


When Greece was forced to undergo another round of IMF's proposed budgetary cuts, the then Prime minister proposed a referendum. But Europe opposed and used chicanery and influence to force the PM from stepping down and putting the referendum in a casket. Democracy thus was blatantly murdered in its birthplace. And the citizens of Greece were forced to flagellate for sins they didn't know they committed! This finally put the country in a never ending economic despondence which was outright avoidable, but which was necessary for some appetites to be satiated. 

Part 5: A way out?

In retrospect, this gargantuan Greek tragedy had its provenance in lack of preparedness. Everyone ballyhooed Greece when it roared, with no one noticing the Lion was terminally ill. Greece gave into austerity and could never get itself out of the imbroglio. IMF itself had data that suggested that austerity is not needed always. And in fact financial stimulus in the form of increased and not reduced govt spending may bring an economy back on track, In fact IMF later admitted their mistake. They believed that the investment multiplier(How much every unit of investment can produce) was 0.5, hence indicating that a stimulus would mean further loss. But later on they found out it was more than 1, thereby negating the very premise troika forced Greece to give in to. 

But then Greece was in a bad position. They didn't even have money to pay the salaries of municipal personnel to collect litter. The future looked so moribund that Greece accepted the bailout with the strings attached, hoping they might see some economic remission. But things just aggravated and now finally, Greece doesn't have the money to pay the IMF, and is all set to default on all payments to the ECB.


Greece is on the verge of being eliminated from the EuroZone which means dastardly consequences for an already ailing economy. And the second choice is to take another bailout expiry extension with another painful dose of austerity. While the latter has the only hope Greece can ever have, they'll inevitably fail to stimulate their economy again and once again they'll be forced to undertake more budgetary cuts sometime later. Sooner than later, the citizens will crumble under the lack of any state welfare and hence a doomsday is inevitable. 

On the other hand, exiting the Euro shall bring an impeding disaster with first the restructuring and transition to the former drachma or a new currency, as well as massive losses as various European partners will move out leaving Greece astray in the middle of a growing continent. However, it may be possible that the country will finally get a way to utilize whatever resources it has in whatever ways it pleases them. And while the amount of money and resources may be a morsel, the country will still have freedom to do things for their people, as opposed to making more and more cuts and making lives worse. The country will either bounce back and show some growth, which is a bleak possibility but a possibility nonetheless. Or the country will spiral out of control, go rampant and bizarre, and may witness a self immolation of sorts. But whatever it'll be, it's people could finally feel some dignity within them for the first time. And dignity is something surely worth fighting for!