Thursday, December 20, 2007

Something to Talk About

I had stopped writing mush stories sometime back and had gone for deeper topics. But I couldn’t resist the temptation for long. Many of my friends also told me to get back to stories. So yesterday while climbing down the stairs, on my way back home, I got this story idea. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did penning it down.

They were standing in front of the tall building that housed their office. Their office was located on the 11th floor of the building. And that day the lift had broken down. So the only way out was to walk up the 11 floors. Pheww....that was a hell lot! Most wouldn't be able to do it. But even of those who would, will be panting like crazy.

They walked towards the stairs and he looked up at the seemingly never ending spiral of stairs. "I look up and feel this is not possible. Then I look at you, and everything seems possible," he said smiling at her.

She blushed. And then quickly regaining her stoic composure looked back at him and said, “ know they say it is better to keep quite while going up stairs. So, shut up!” And then she walked ahead of him and smiled to herself.

He was an act in himself. Slowly he placed a finger on his lips and started to walk behind her. Not saying a word, he just kept his eye on her, knowing fully well that she was smiling to herself too.

After two flights of stairs, she asked without looking back, "How long would we take to reach the office?" He smiled to himself but didn’t reply. His finger was firm on his lips.

She looked back and laughed, "You are such a drama act. Ok, you can speak. But only what is necessary. Got it?"

He nodded his head and removed his finger and said, "We will take as long as we want to." And then he smiled. She knew he was smart and may be that’s why she liked him too. But he hadn't asked her yet. May be he thought they were just friends. But if they were friends, why did he flirt with her so much? She was now confused and slowly walked up.

Sensing a prolonged silence, he asked, "Why are you angry with me?" As if waiting for a chance to speak, she pounced back, "I have all the right to be angry with you. You didn't tell me he was leaving?” She was referring to another colleague who was leaving the company.

"Well, he is like my kid brother, I have to protect him. I thought would tell you everything in time", he answered.

She stopped in her steps. This was enough. She stomped down to where he was, two stairs behind her, and looked deep in his eyes. She was angry. "That’s a bad answer Sir!! If he is your kid, then who am I to you?" she asked.

He was suddenly taken aback. And she too realized what she had said. May be he hadn't got it, you know the way guys are. No, she thought, he would have understood it, he was smart. Damn!!

He raised his face to hers and smiled. In a very soft voice, he said, "I know what you are to me; it’s for you to decide."

As if through the veil of anger a smile escaped her lips. She blushed. He knew, she thought, how to make her go weak in the knees.

"Feeling very romantic, aren't you today? I think its better you shut up and walk quietly. No more talking for you." she said.

And then she started to walk back again. She was happy at herself and what she had heard. May be the tide was turning, but she shouldn't give in easy. So, she thought, its better not to talk till we reach the 11th floor.

He kept on walking up behind her, but fell back a few paces. His finger was on his lips as he looked at her intently. Suddenly, through the corner of his eye, he saw that the lift was working. She had not seen it. They were on the 6th floor and had 5 more floors to go. He softly slipped through the door without letting her know and entered the lift to go to the 11th floor.

Meanwhile, she was in a world of her own, walking up. A few times she thought of talking to him but didn't. Unaware of him having slipped away she kept on climbing the stairs.

Finally, when she saw the 11th floor marker, she stopped and looked behind. He was not there. She quickly scanned downstairs, not to find him. He had given her a slip again. Suddenly the lift chimed and a few people got in. So he had seen the lift, and didn't tell her. She was now so angry with him. She turned towards her floor, still a few stairs up.

And there he was standing with his hand extended. He did not speak but mouthed an apology in silence. "Am sorry," he said, "I wanted to surprise you, but now realize how difficult it was for you."

She was too tired to fight. She did not take his hand and silently climbed the last few stairs. May be, she thought, I would teach him a lesson tomorrow. He had this habit of making her angry.

As she moved ahead of him on their floor, he suddenly pulled her back. She was taken aback. Surprised! What was he doing? She started to say something, but he held his finger on her lips.

"I have not told you something else too. I like you. You rock my world, like no one has ever done. No one can come close to be in the vicinity of being near to sharing the same space as your thought in my heart."

Tears were flowing down her cheeks. She was happy. He looked at her and smiled, suddenly realizing what had happened. As if caught, he smiled and rubbed his head in nervousness.

She ran her fingers through his hair and said, "Thank God, you said it. I would have died waiting."

He countered her. And then she countered back. This continued for sometime. They were looking so cute together, I thought. I tucked my bow and arrow in, and flapped my wings in happiness and flew away.

After all Cupid never misses although sometimes I have to break down lifts to make stories happen :-)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Being Stupid

Do we get stupid with age? Or is stupidity a natural and ever present phenomenon which occurs in all of us in varied proportions? Sometimes questions like this make me wonder, is being stupid good, bad or generally stupid? That’s actually a lot many questions to start a discussion on stupidity!

Before I take you forward on this stupefying journey, let us understand what exactly is stupidity or what actions can be termed stupid. As per some definitions stupidity is lack of intelligence or an act committed by someone lacking in intelligence. Being stupid is in itself both a categorization and a state of mind. But that’s not what I call as stupid. Being stupid is a sense of bliss where what you commit or be is simply unexplainable and a logical reasoning would spoil the party.

Sometimes, it so happens, we see someone special and go weak in the knees. A feeling of warmth spreads over and the mind takes a flight of dreams. The love which slowly starts budding always makes one wonder what would it be like to get a little more stupid with her once. You can’t explain such situations with logic as it would take away the fun of it and might invite flack from certain sections of the society.

It is often said that people stop seeing reason in love. Everything seems rosy and it’s autumn throughout the year. Even illogical ideas and ways make sense. There is a happy bliss look on their faces and even the boss screaming at them seems beautiful. These people may sound stupid but they aren’t. They are actually happy and very much in love.

Behaviour which most consider akin to stupidity is most commonly found in the professional sphere. People end up taking targets which are way beyond their teeth for various reasons. They might have been caught unawares in a honey trap (like a CEO calling the sales team for drinks, lauding their efforts, and then taking a public commitment of raised targets) or there is (not in much cases) a self need for doing something which no one has done before. These actions are most often termed stupid in hindsight but if the targets are achieved they become part of the folklore and more people get trapped.

Sometimes whilst involved in serious situations people end up committing acts which in all aspects are illogical and stupid. Once a lawyer, in the thick of argument asked a witness whether the stair-case which went down also came up. The unassuming witness was taken aback and so were all rest present in the court. In another instance an IT support person told me that the office LAN was now up and the network would reach me in 2 hrs. Dumb-founded I said ok and tried looking for another source of help.

Another such situation is while driving when people commit hara-kiri. They drive as if the road was their own and everyone else was trying to beat them. Especially young kids who feel their bikes as an extension of their body and do acts which to some may some amazing acrobatics but to all else as acts of stupidity.

There are people who even on small knick to their vehicles stop the entire traffic just to pick up a fight with others and if the other one is not so well built, to hit them too. One of my friends shouts profound obscenities at anyone who over-takes him while another shoos people away by saying she would tell her daddy. All these acts of stupidity were committed in tough professional situations.

A very important instance when people are said to commit stupidity is shopping. Especially women, when they reach a market or a mall, go berserk. I have seen women run amok when exposed to a big shopping complex. They buy things which might not even be required; for example shoes. Women love shoes like crazy. It seems to me all of them are actually in an unannounced race to own the maximum number of pairs. This is stupid but when you ask a woman and she would ridicule it and call you stupid instead.

Stupidity does not grow with age. It is a mental state in a particular scenario or situation. As in the above examples I have tried to explain, stupidity is not even related to a particular sex. It is omni-present.

There is nothing wrong with stupidity. It is completely normal to be stupid about something or somebody. Major problem is when you are perfect or project yourself to be one. Now that is what I call extremely stupid.

Stupidity comes to us naturally. All of us are stupid in our own little ways. For those whose stupidity is not digestible by a larger set of people are sometimes termed as eccentrics.

I have used the word stupid 29 times in this essay (now 30 times). People might call me stupid, in-fact I may be one. But the fact of the matter is, you read this stupidity. And by now even if don’t update the count of stupid here, you would mentally count it as 34.

Be Stupid……Love Life!!

PS – That’s 35 times J

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Random Thoughts

There is something about happiness
It makes me fearful when its with me
Losing it always only to find later.

All stories strive for happiness.
All stories with a happy ending are incomplete stories.
All stories with a sad ending were once happy stories.

Some come close but fall short.
Others fall too short.
Only very few get there.

But as is the transience of time
None of them end up happy
They are more often sad imitations of happiness there once was.

I often wonder if happiness is real
Or is it a state when sadness ain't there?
Or just another mystic illusion?

Happiness is a difficult virtue to hold on to.
A slippery feeling of contentment
Slipping out as easily as it slipped in

The more firm your grip is
The easier is it for to slip out
Leaving you wondering what happened

Key is to cherish every moment
To spread it around
For it is infectious, and comes back when you are feeling low

So what if all stories with a happy ending are incomplete
They are the beginning of more happy incomplete stories
Happiness is not a destination, but a journey

Enjoy the journey more than the destination
This pursuit I know is a reality
'cause destination was never my destiny

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Soul Searching

It is a part of our distinct romantic selves to go after things or acts which defy logic. Be it cheering for the weaker side in a competition or striving for improvement against all odds, we love it when rules of logic and science are defied. Life after death is such a topic which goes beyond the walls of science to a zone where only belief exists. And my inquisitive nature is now getting translated into an essay.

Someone once said that our bodies are just the clothes the soul wears. The flesh is not the self but just an exterior to the self. It is the carrier which inhabits the world. It carries the soul through its journey of life till death and then further the soul inhabits another flesh. This essay is based on this very premise.

Every living creature from insects and other smaller life forms to humans are made up of 2 basic ingredients. As mentioned above one of them is the flesh and the other is soul or the Jeeva. Most discussions end at the soul, as if it is a black box. Here let us open up the soul for further analysis.

The soul or the Jeeva is made up of 2 major parts. Firstly it comprises of the experiences from past lives. These are the impressions of the previous births that are carried on. These impressions include the virtues and viciousness of the acts done before the current birth and are referred to as Avidya.

Secondly, there are the mind and senses of the current birth. These are honed and improved as we grow up. From childhood to old age, everyday and every action have an impact on them. And in the next birth these append into the Avidya.

Sometimes we have premonitions or prior knowledge of events, although as a very hazy picture. This is because the Avidya is at work in the subconscious. The mind and senses of the present life reside in the conscious self while the Avidya resides as the subconscious. The Avidya keeps on showing contextual references to the events of life and advising the mind and senses.

When one is about to die, breathing becomes difficult. The body becomes weak. The Jeeva leaves the body and flows away. Point to be noted here is that the body or the carrier becomes weak. The Jeeva cannot ever be weakened as it does not have a shape.

Different religions have described various ways in which the Jeeva leaves the body. For example, as per Hindu mythology, if the person has done more good deeds in his life, then the Jeeva leaves the body through the eyes, with the least pain. Sometimes it leaves through the mouth when the body makes death sounds and tries to hold on to the Jeeva. There might be some unfinished tasks, but the body has become too weak for the Jeeva to complete them. Taking the unfinished business as a part of the Avidya, the Jeeva travels away.

The Jeeva does not have a shape or as it is mentioned in Hindi as Niraakaar. The deeds we do in our present life define the shape the Jeeva would take in the subsequent births. Thus the mind and senses of the present life form the Aakaar of the next birth.

This knowledge of knowing the movement of the Jeeva is beyond the realms of science. It falls in the zone of beliefs. There have been many attempts to understand and logically prove these beliefs but each is beset with doubts and questions of logic by the scientific community.

Sometimes there are certain fallacies or problems which cannot be corrected medically. The source of the problem is definitely not medical, for example extreme reactions to fire, sudden feeling of falling down etc. It is in these situations that sometimes doctors advise regressing the person’s mind to understand the real cause of the problem. The problem may or may not be of the current birth and lie in the domain of past life.

Those who have experienced past life through regression claim to have seen their present day acquaintances and people who have helped shape up their personalities in their previous births. Many might throw this claim out of the window, but some scriptures do mention that we are born in the circle of souls we have known for ages. But how does that explain seeing faces during regression when in your previous birth you could have been of the opposite sex.

I think what these people see is mannerisms and the way people carry themselves in the brief glimpses of their past lives. And the subconscious allows tie up these mannerisms to the people in our present lives. The fit to personalities is so clear that we feel as if we have seen the person in our previous lives. This act of regression to ascertain past lives should not be treated as a wild goose chase but as a medical necessity.

The idea of this essay is not to make it lengthy and bulky with a lot of jargon thrown into it. This essay is my attempt to claw down the walls or restrictions that logic and science have built in our lives. There is a belief and it is there because somewhere inside us lays the knowledge that it is correct. So those who tell you to listen to the voice from within might just be talking sense. Go on listen to your soul and you may find answers to your problems.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

By God!!

(Today while having lunch Anil, one of my colleagues, mentioned about the idea of God’s as Brands. This seemed to be an interesting idea to write on, so here I am. All credits to Anil for this very interesting idea, but all brickbats on its implementation are strictly mine.)
Ever since childhood we have been exposed to God and their tales by our elders. We have been told how to pray and why it is necessary. This has been ingratiated to such an extent into the fabric of our psyche that when in difficulty, inadvertently we end up remembering god.
They say knowledge is for good as it prompts questions. Sometimes these questions become difficult to answer and hence lead to frustrations. And that is exactly what happens when I take my poker face to my parents and compare gods to brands. But nosey that I am, and patient that my folks have become, I decided to write on it and clarify myself to a larger audience.
I feel gods are the best examples of brands. So before I go further, let me define brands for the uninitiated.
As per Wikipedia, a brand includes a name, logo, slogan, and/or design scheme associated with a product or service . Brand recognition and other reactions are created by the use of the product or service and through the influence of reinforcements like advertising, design, and media commentary. A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to the product and serves to create associations and expectations around it.
Having said that let us now look at gods of any religion. There is a story associated with each of them, along with a set of values and features. There is extensive positive reinforcement through religious music, paintings and idols, and of course commentary in terms of mythological and new age texts / translations.
These reinforcements play a critical role in building up the overall persona. There is celebration of every small reason; more and more disciples are trained, along with having ever increasing places of worship. This is where brands and Gods merge together.
In the case gods, just like as in a brand, the concept of its absence makes one insecure. And it feeds on this insecurity.
I am not against the idea of God and do not lay much belief/credibility on just the Big Bang theory to be the reason for the existence of the solar system. There must have been some force or reason which made all this happen. Beyond the realms of science, there are some things which cannot be explained. And in such realms is where god exists. And in this single source of all creation I believe in.
If god is the solitary creator, then how do we explain the ranging multiplicity of gods across various religions? There are gods for every moment, reason, cause and what not. And this is what makes me believe, they are nothing but brands; actually the best brands of all times.
If you look more recently there has been a surge in the count of god men and reincarnations. I feel all these are feeding on a basic human trait. In reality there is nothing right or wrong. What may be right for me may be wrong for someone else. But there are some certainties like respecting your elders, treating all humans with respect etc. In our daily lives there are chances that we might miss them, and hence when a good orator says them, he is automatically placed on a higher pedestal. And if the reinforcements are proper, soon the orator becomes a Guru.
I have seen many new age gurus are qualified and educated and use the best of electronic, print and online media to promote their ideologies, all in the name of God. They build up big followings which in turn donate more money to this multimedia machinery. Their birthdays, and sometimes even their parents’ birthdays and anniversary’s are made as festivals and promoted. This builds up a myth around these people.
All such new age gurus, propagating anything from yoga to sex, have in themselves become brand franchise’s as they enjoy a critical mass of positive sentiment in the market place. I sometimes wonder if we are seeing the emergence of future Gods in these gurus.
After reading all this some may feel I have gone insane while others might blame pop culture. Whatever be it, I stay a firm believer in the oneness of god and his role as the creator. Instead of listening to the right certainties from others it’s always better to listen to our own souls. Whatever we go out to listen and imbibe is already inside us, it’s for us to explore and utilize.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Long Awaited Trip

I had been planning a trip to Mathura and Vrindavan for the past 2 months. Every time the plan was cancelled at the last moment. So when my friend Vineet asked if we could make it this weekend, I promptly agreed and got tickets booked for both of us.

Catching a morning train has always been a fight for me as a traveler and for my parents who insist on dropping me to the station. Being a Sunday the train was a sell out and we somehow managed way to our seats. The tilting latch on the seats had been broken, so at the price of a normal seat we had a near fully reclining bed. If that was the beginning of a memorable Sunday, we sure were right. Although the person travelling on the seat behind me kept cribbing why was I reclining so much. By gones be by gones, the train journey was smooth and was interspersed with a stale omlette breakfast and some ultra strong coffee to gulp it down. Never the less, the train reached on time despite all the stoppages.

Just like most stations in India, Mathura station is not much of a pretty sight. Jumping and scooting our way out of the platform we finally reached the main gate of the station building. Here we were met by a number of auto and taxi drivers trying to lure us into plying with them. Finally we struck a deal with one auto driver to take us to both Mathura and Vrindavan, across all the temples, and back in just Rs. 350. Not a bad deal indeed!!

Vrindavan is about 15 km from Mathura city and the temples there close for an afternoon siesta for the deities at 12:30 pm. So we decided to head straight for Vrindavan. During the journey, our auto hit a few bumpy patches of the road, and I think that’s when it hit upon me to write about this trip. Those pot holes do have an effect!! Then a bee flew into the auto and we had to get off to avoid getting stung. Well, nothing much else happened during balance 15 minutes of the journey.
As soon as we entered Vrindavan, our friendly auto driver and guide took us to the Glass Temple (or kanch ka mandir). The main shrine is built in glass and is a sight to be seen. Skirting our way through people trying to sell Lord Krishna photographs we entered the temple. There was a beautiful setup of Lord Krishna holding the mighty Goverdhan Mountain on his index finger. Post clicking a few pictures and acting like tourists we bought a 3 rupee ticket and entered a small cave which had beautiful models of Lord Krishna's life and times.

Once out of the kanch ka mandir, we headed of to The Katyayni Devi temple. The temple is located slightly off the road through a small alley into a big grand courtyard. As per our guide, Devi Katyayni's hair fell here. Before alighting from the auto, we were advised to secure our camera, bags, and mobile phones due to a severe monkey menace. We did the same and visited the beautiful temple. Some of the pictures we clicked are shown here.

Soon after we drove to the Gobind Dev temple. The temple had so many monkey’s that I was asked to remove my spectacles before entering the temple. Nearby a monkey snatched a bag from someone, thus proving the caution by our auto guide to be true. Inside the temple I just clasped my hands, as with the absence of my spectacles, there was nothing much to be seen, except for what seemed from a distance to be the deity. Also, there were a lot of shouting monkeys. Afraid of them we soon left and drove of to Bihariji's Temple, also located in a small alley with a near stampede like situation.

Just outside the temple there were vendors who were applying sandal-wood paste on the foreheads of interested devotee's. Keeping in mind the weather and balance of the journey, we avoided that. Instead we decided to buy Peda prasad worth Rs. 50 per half kg.

Once inside the temple, there was a sea of humanity trying to get the best glimpses of Bihariji’s.
But there were priests close by who offered your prasad to the deity at just about any fee you would be willing to shell out. We paid Rs.20. Near the main sanctum there was a not a place to set your foot on. I stepped back but Vineet managed to make his way to be as near to god as possible. I just walked back to the entrance and got a clear view of the lord.

With our prayers said, we moved back through the alleys to our auto driver to go to the Angrez Mandir or the ISKCON Temple, frequented by a lot of westerner's and hence the local name, Angrez.

Our auto driver was an expert at handling the narrow alleys and roads, through the ever so annoying traffic jams. Enroute, near the ISKCON temple, we started seeing a lot of westerners in Indian clothing.

The proceedings at ISKCON were a little more organized. Although photography is prohibited, no one was enforcing. Result was that we got some very beautiful photographs.

The temple in itself is spread over a large area. We visited the main shrine, the parikrama marg and the shopping center. Bought some beautiful pictures of Lord Krishna. Then came the 30 minute aarti. A memorable event. Hare Rama Hare Krishna chants made it to be a beautiful event. Soon after this the deities would sleep, and prasadam would be served.
Once free from there we literally ran to the Govinda restaurant located in the temple premises. We had a sumptuous lunch at just Rs.50 per plate, and then proceeded for Mathura.
On our way back to Mathura, we stopped at the Birla Temple, which is exactly like its namesake in Delhi. Despite this striking resemblance, we still managed to make the most of the time by clicking photographs like lost tourists exploring Indian spirituality.

On entering Mathura, our now tiring auto driver showed us the Gayatri Temple before parting ways at the Krishna Janmabhoomi. He was a nice man, and was helpful mostly for the fact that he had earned his day's salary through just one customer.

At the Janmabhoomi, my friend played a prank and told an inquisitive on-looker that I was a journalist from Delhi. That gentleman happened to be a priest at one of the temple's at the Janmabhoomi. He took us around with much gusto explaining that what is thought to be the contentious site is actually not the original Krishna Janmabhoomi. He showed us some documents to prove his pitch. We played the role properly by clicking and asking some timely questions which in turn interested him more.
We saw a water reservoir close by where Lord Krishna's clothes had been washed and which had subsequently been rebuilt by the great Maratha ruler Mahadji Sindhia. We saw the prison where Lord Krishna's parents had been kept captive by his own uncle. Our friend, the priest, has been fighting a losing battle to the extent that it has resulted in an identity crisis for him.

Bidding adieu we went to the official Janmabhoomi site. We were advised to deposit all electronic items and eatables at a Government Cloak room. Wearily doing that, we entered the slow queue to enter the Krishna Janmabhoomi site. Here the security was more stern and strict than in an International Airport. The overt display of arms and ammunition was a put off. The frisking could have taken any weak hearted to file a case with the National Human Rights Commission. On the hindsight I feel it was necessary. An untoward incident here has the potential of sending ripples across the country, case in point being the Ram Janmabhoomi issue.
Once inside we went and saw the officially acclaimed birth site of Lord Krishna, which had been destroyed in 1669, and a mosque built on it. There was no idol, just a place where pictures of Lord Krishna were kept to signify importance.
We then decided to leave and did some shopping for the family at the shopping area inside the Janmabhoomi area. After leaving the Janmabhoomi we rushed back to the Railway station, stopping enroute at the Bus Stand. We had confirmed tickets for a night train which left Mathura at 8 PM. By this time we were dead tired and had no scope of visiting the balance 2 temples which opened after 2 hours. So we decided to call it a day.
Since now we had completed most of our journey 4 hours early, we decided to get them cancelled and leave early by bus. The next bus left in 30 minutes, so this left us with a little less than 30 minutes to get it cancelled and return back to the bus stand. We did make to the station in good time but heard announcement of a train in 15 minutes which had seats available. So we somehow bought tickets and were advised that our original return tickets would be cancelled in Delhi.

So friends, after finishing a hectic day of travelling and visiting temples, our day came to end 12 hours after we had started it. It surely was a great time and as Vineet puts it, "we have cleansed ourselves of all the wrong deeds of our past 10 lives". I don't know about that, but it was surely an enriching experience, likes of which one should attempt occasionally to keep some bit of sanity in our other-wise insane lives.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Keep the Faith

Friedrich Nietzsche had once discussed that the tragedy in our lives often is not in the conflict with the times but rather in our inability to postpone them, as they cannot wait. Some things and activities cannot wait for the patient and great men to come in and take their own sweet time to execute. They need a split second decision. And a moment lost once, is mostly a tragedy for the rest of our lives.

Ever since our childhood, we have been told about the virtues of patience. That it is a virtue to be imbibed has been told again and again to ingratiate it into our moral fiber. We have grown to believe that all that is patient is good and the rest is bad. Every time we get angry or frustrated, it is blamed on lack of patience and the influence of modern culture of two-click results.

Patience is often described as the ability to endure waiting and delay without becoming upset, when faced with difficulties. As per Buddhism, it is a perfection which is difficult to imbibe. But when we are faced with multi-dimensional pressures of the modern day life, all these definitions and explanations seem theoretical.

I have tried to build on to my patience levels and have always credited myself to be an extremely patient person. But off and on certain situations take the better of me. I don’t think that is bad, but it sure is a matter of concern.

In the modern business driven times, every thing, every person, and every activity is basis the materialistic benefit it entails. So when faced with a stiff unflinching opposition, one tends to lose control.

When I was getting frustrated at a situation recently, a friend told me that patience was not about passively biding time, but about going on inch by inch, chipping away at the problem. It’s a very romantic idea, but in real life some situations present themselves as a dead end. And that is when such romantic ideas are most relevant but make least sense.

I don’t deny that patience can be good in some facets, but is it always good? Patience with bad choices and decisions that they may correct with time does not seem to be a correct idea. But most teams work on this belief. As they say, to err is human, but to forgive is not company’s policy. Not acting in such situations can cost the team heavily in terms of resources, which as per economic theory are always scarce.

In cases of conflict, one has to determine the right time to act. If the two parties involved might be able to wait a little longer, then it should be done. But if it is beyond that, it is always better to act rather than being patient and appease. This appeasement and wrong judgment resulted in World War 2.

The idea is to set aside the brashness of youth and think quickly on your feet. I read somewhere that most people pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it. So it is important to be decisive and ruthless when acting in such situations. If you know you are right, and the time is ripe, act and remove the problem.

The keyword above was time. And building on this time is patience. So be patient till you can take it. Give the other party due credit and time to correct themselves. Try and empathize with them. Try and help them correct the situation. But if this does not happen, its time to move in boys!

I am hoping that my frustrations over a situation do not prompt me to act fast. I want to give time to the problem, but not too much time to let it chip away at my sanity. Rather I would blow the problem away. Amen!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Office Spouse'

For an outsider looking at the corporate culture is just like looking at the earth from outer space; everything is serene and there seems to be no reason to suspect otherwise. But as you start zooming in more and more, you get to see people, and their lives.

Professionals, as most of us are, should strictly mean business when it comes to the work environment. Though our basic human nature and the social system we are brought up in ensures that apart from the profession, there are further interactions in the work space. Most of us end up spending close to 10-12 hours or more at work, which means that the effective time to relax the mind is reduced. So some amount of relaxation has to be found within the office space. This interaction is in terms of networking which includes gossiping, chatting etc. As I had discussed in one of my earlier essays, this social interaction in the office, is useful in replenishing the positive energy within us. So, these interactions and friendships in the office space make the job more interesting and comparatively less taxing.

These office friendships become a mutual support mechanism and discuss anything ranging from work to movies to sports, food etc. So when, among these office friendships, comes across an interesting person with whom it feels nice to be with, with whom flirtation is a given, yet the sub layer under currents are attractive, the end result is a bond which is very much a personal life within the professional life. This phenomenon is what I call as office spouses.

Running back to my oldest resource, the Wikipedia, I found some good understanding on the subject. And I club it here with my thoughts and try to bring some sense to the subject.

An office spouse is a co-worker (usually of the opposite sex) with whom one shares a special relationship, having bonds similar to those of a marriage; such as, special confidences, loyalties, shared jokes and experiences, and an unusual degree of honesty or openness.

The office spouse is a potentially key relationship when one's actual spouse or boy/girlfriend is not able to understand the nuances of the workplace.

Office spouses are the embodiment of the merging of our personal and professional lives. It is an essentially a platonic relationship which is different from friendship, but has in it what it takes to blossom further. This relationship may or may not result in an extension to the personal life. They might just be present in the office space, or in other scenarios grow into something more special. Not commenting on their chances for the same, I do feel it is one interesting proposition to explore.

So now the question arises, is it a modern phenomenon, or has it been present in earlier times too? Well, I feel the phenomena is not new, but a recognition of its ever increasing presence has been accorded in the recent times with the blurring of the office working hours. Office spouses are the answer to the sense of claustrophobia which sets in due to long working hours. A study in the US mentioned that such relationships may not only make one happier with the job, but also increases the chances of promotions and raises. In 2006, a similar study in the US showed that 32% of respondents in the corporate world had office husbands and office wives. Although no such data is available for India, I do feel the figures might not be that much different.

Some people try to tie down office spouses phenomena as a joke. They make fun of such office couples when they see. Not to blame them for their shortsightedness, I think it is completely a matter of personal choice and liking. One might vehemently deny its sheer existence, but once faced they see light.

Through this essay I am stating a social phenomenon, and in no way propagating them. But, wait a minute, on hindsight, even if I am propagating office spouse’s phenomena, so what? I am writing about it because I see it and see no wrong with it. As mentioned earlier, the sheer support one feels in presence of their office spouses, makes working worthwhile and enjoyable.

I knew two colleagues and realized they shared a special bond. They had respect for
each others likes and dislikes and always used to enjoy their company. They never romantically committed but missed the other one when he/she was on leave or away. They helped each other in their office tasks and ensured the work did not suffer. I never asked them about this relationship, lest I become just like others who winked and smiled when they saw them together, happy in each others company. This was my first brush with the phenomenon of office spouses.

Cinema has off late started to talk about such relationships but being the medium it is and the audience it caters to, most such depictions are frivolous and lack sound understanding. Most of these relationships are often confused as extra-marital. But in fact they are not. There is a very thin line of difference between office spouses and extra-marital relationships. As I said earlier office spouses essentially share a platonic relationship which might or might not grow. So clubbing both these phenomena is wrong.

Having read all this, you must wonder, should you look for office spouse’ or that you haven’t ever felt such connect with anybody, is there something wrong with you? Well, nothing is wrong with you. It is just like love, it might just happen when you least expect it. So don’t mess up with your friends after reading this, and wait for the right moment :-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Withdrawal refers to the characteristic signs and symptoms that appear when a drug that causes physical or psychological dependence is regularly used for a long time and then suddenly discontinued or decreased in dosage. Easiest example of this being people leaving smoking, alcohol, and other psychotropic drugs.

Having mentioned what exactly is withdrawal, let us just look at withdrawal in terms of relationships. Now I am in no way saying that a relationship is like a drug, but it does make one physically or psychologically dependent. So when time comes to move on in life, it may result in certain withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal is difficult in both cases, be it drugs or human relationships. It is painful and depressing. But where and when exactly do these withdrawal symptoms occur? Are these visible, and if yes, can we observe, and correct the same? This led me to Wikipedia, where I resort for most of my research, and this time I found Withdrawal broken down in to four stages. As complicated as these may sound, they are plausible and one can figure through personal examples whether it is drugs or human relationships.

The first phase is called intrapsychic phase where the individuals involved in a relationship privately evaluate the relationship in terms of its quality and alternatives. Basically this can be referred to as the beginning of disillusionment, although it is more controlled and held in thoughts.

This is followed by the dyadic phase when these thoughts become public, and is characterized by increase in the frequency of conflicts. Here the partners actually shift back and forth between amicable resolution of the conflict issue and complete dissolution of the relationship. This is actually the last point of re-call in a relationship. Beyond this, the relationship is headed for complete withdrawal.

Now comes the social phase when both individuals acknowledge the social repercussions for separating. The social phase is followed by the somewhat aptly called grave dressing phase, involving a more optimistic, and what seems to be a more objective, evaluation and remembrance.

Withdrawal symptoms occur in the Social phase. In human relationships withdrawal is sometimes characterized by confusion among the partners. Common truth about the relationship is seldom resorted to, and mostly conflicts are blamed on to individual hallucinations, although both know what the truth is. In human relationships and other drug abuse situations, this phase is characterized by severe mood swings.

This leads us to the question that is withdrawal mutual or individual. Fact of the matter is it can be both, but I do think, withdrawal is mutual. It is totally dependent on how soon can one reach acceptance of the fact. No doubt break-up can be sudden, but one should here look at the sub-conscious, which already has started observing withdrawal, but is not ready to accept.

But does withdrawal occur suddenly or is it going on under the surface for long. Frankly, I think withdrawal process is going on inside the mind for a long time. The mind is already taking the individuals through the various phases of withdrawal without them even being able to accept. And when this acceptance occurs in the social phase, the mood swings, confusions and so called hallucinations occur.

It is a difficult phase and one needs to be objective in handling such situations. Although I understand, it is easier said than done, but mostly break-up’s go wrong in the transition from the dyadic to the social phase. It is here when all plausible solutions are exhausted and realization dawns that the end is near. Here as a last ditch effort to save what is going out of control that people show withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal is sometimes characterized by acute depression also. And soon can become a medical problem. Depression is generally fed by lack or excess of sympathy. So in handling withdrawal around us or for ourselves too, the basic idea should be to make it gradual and mutually least hurting for both the parties.

Withdrawal is a reality and all of us at some stage in life go through it. Be it in relationships or other wise we do feel a sense of withdrawal. One has to realize here that an end is always followed by a new beginning. Even though sometimes we may not see what the source for the new beginning is, just have faith that there is one, and sooner or later we will find it.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Social Convection

For long I have had this theory that, everyone we see, meet, or talk actually changes us. In the past, I have tried to explain relationships with this principle, but never has this been proven. This essay is an effort to prove this theory.
Let me start by a small incident to set the mood.
There is an old coffee shop in the city. I was there with a friend having coffee, wearing our tracks and not shaved. We were looking not much out of place due to the presence of some foreigners. But then came, an old gentleman, dressed in a suit and a tie. We heard muffled laughter. Some people including us thought that he looked so much out of place.
Seeing us quip, one of the waiters told us, that in early times, in the elderly gentleman’s times, people used to put a lot of emphasis on dressing up for coffee rendezvous. And he still carried that tradition.
Interesting, as in those times, a good cup of coffee in a respectable restaurant was costly, and dining there was just a once month affair, unlike these days. This sounded plausible, as we saw the elderly gentleman sipping his coffee with so much satisfaction and pride. Soon, I and my friend felt a lot under-dressed in front of the elderly gentleman. He had changed us. This is what I call, Social Convection.
Now let us try and break the concept of social convection into parts. The waiter’s description converted our negative impulses into a positive thought. Others could have ridiculed him further and gone ahead. This further would have created a lot of negative energy.
So are we arriving at a thought that the human brain actually builds up energy? I think, yes!! The human brain does create energy!!
Just consider Newton’s law that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. A law of physics, but if you apply it to our daily lives it does prove the negative energy theory of the brain. All action we do as a part of our daily routines and professions, takes its toll on us in the form of stress. This stress is actually the reaction, as mentioned by Newton.
The energy thus created is generally negative as it is the outcome of our efforts to complete the tasks at hand. It is a by product of our efforts. And the human brain builds an automatic positive-negative energy balance.
Different people deal with this negative energy build-up in different ways. Some people sleep to relax, some feed this negative energy with more negative energy and get caught in a vicious cycle, while some others use it for a positive outcome.
Let us first take negative use of this negative energy. This is visible in people who crib and subsequently are prone to depression. These people feed this negative energy with more negative energy, thus breaking the positive-negative balance.
Second is through Positive action, creating something, helping someone etc. This visibly reduces the stress. I felt the power of positive action, when I wrote my first story. There was a visible relief as I felt energy leave my body as sweat.
Having said all this about the positive-negative balance, are we saying that maintaining this positive-negative balance is a once a day affair? No, actually we replenish our positive energy resources many times during the day.
If we consider, the fact that most of us take a break during our daily routines and chat with people, eat, smoke, read, write etc., and then we are actually replenishing our energy. The basis of social networking is replenishment of the positive energy to act and perform our daily tasks. This should make most of us happy, who swear by chatting with friends at work :-).
The social interaction is nothing but convection. Consider keeping a glass of hot tea in a room. In some time the tea gets warmer, and then cold. That is because everything around is constituted of particles. The hot particles of the tea cup, pass their heat to the cooler particles present in the air. And soon, the tea is warmer.
The same principle of convection is valid our daily actions. Let us come back to the incident at the coffee shop. Our beliefs and those of others who had laughed were negative energy particles in the room. The waiter’s intervention had soon given way to positive energy particles to replace them. Without us knowing, convection had taken place, and the unknown old gentleman and the waiter, had changed us forever.
As another example, if we are angry, we tend to lose our anger by talking to others. One of my friends came out angry after a meeting. She had been blamed for something which according to her was unjust. She was fuming and came out to speak to the rest of us. By just mere speaking, the anger slowly dissipated and she started to look for a way to get back. This is dissipation of the negative energy to lead to a much better and positive outcome.
Having said all this, I think the idea of positive negative balance in the brain is similar to Yin and Yang. We have to channelize our energies for the good of others and also maintaining sanity and physical balance. And all this will automatically happen through social convection, we just have to channelize to be positive in our approach.
May be through this essay, some particles of my social convection theory have passed on to you. In case, you don’t think so, I think, you need to channelize your energy for a positive outcome and think more :-).

Monday, July 16, 2007

Flight of Creativity

The other day, someone who had read my stories told me that I was in the wrong business. According to him, I was a creative person and should find a different and more plausible recourse to my life. This set me off thinking, was I in the wrong profession or was their something more to creativity that my friend was missing?
There were two basic questions I was searching an answer for:
• What is Creativity?
• Is Creativity bound by vocational topics or is it present elsewhere too?
In this write up, I will try and answer some of these questions armed with a self created theory and more supporting information from the Internet.
Creativity is a mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts. George Kneller has aptly put that creativity “...consists largely of re-arranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know.”
Creativity is moving knowledge and information to another level, where answers are found and reasons given to problems. It has been attributed to cognitive processes, social strictures, personality traits, and sometimes accident. Newton was hit by falling apples, to bring about gravity as a concept.
From a scientific point of view, the creative outcome has both appropriateness and originality. An alternative, more everyday conception of creativity is that it is simply the act of making something new. So can creativity be mixed with innovation?
Creativity for starters, is the act of producing new ideas and methods or actions, while innovation is the process of both generating and applying such creative ideas in some specific context. Innovation by virtue of its name includes completion of a creative thought to existence. Innovation and creativity have a reverse correlation between them. Innovation encompasses creativity, whereas creativity might not include innovation.
That brings us to the question; does one have to be intelligent to be creative? I guess not, although creative people historically have shown traits different than common. Some researchers believe that creativity is the outcome of the same cognitive processes as intelligence, and is only judged as creativity in terms of its outcome, i.e. when the outcome of cognitive processes happens to produce something novel.
Fred Balzac, in his study in 2006, said that creative innovation requires, “ activation and communication between regions of the brain that ordinarily are not strongly connected.” He further illustrates that creative people, have three important traits –
1. They have high level of Specialized Knowledge.
2. They are capable of divergent thinking, mediated by the frontal lobe of the brain.
3. They are able to modulate neurotransmitters in the frontal lobe.
If the above traits and the language do not mean much to you, then it is perfectly okay. All Fred Balzac was trying to say was that the frontal lobe of the brain appears to be the nerve centre for creative impulses in a person. On a lighter note, it is imperative to understand creative people do not have horns protruding from their foreheads, thanks to the hyper activity of the frontal lobe.
Fred Balzac was trying to creatively solve the problem of the essence of creativity. So that brings us to creativity as a tool to problem solving. Creative problem solving requires more than just the knowledge and thinking. It is a process, where the solution is independently created rather than learned with assistance.
Creative process and thus the result, is multi-dimensional. Once solved, it seems that the solution was always visible; it was just that we had to relook at it. This mystery keeps creativity just the inch beyond the grasp of conclusive scientific investigation. Due to this mysterious reason, reliable and quantitative methods of calculating the creativity quotient have not been made.
So what are the qualitative trademarks of a creative person? As my father puts it, humility to learn is the most basic. The person has to be humble enough to put his knowledge aside and think of better ways to achieve the goal.
Let me explain this topic with an example. Planets revolve around the sun in an orbit. Sun due to its immense magnetic field attracts them. But planets do not fall into the sun. They maintain course of their orbit, due to a certain orbital velocity, which creates a force which negates the sun’s magnetism.
But if one day, a planet decided to be creative and leave its orbit and breakaway from the solar system, it would need force to cancel the sun’s magnetism. This force would be generated from a velocity, which is called the break-away velocity. The value of this break-away velocity actually would define how far the planet would be able to go. Thus, we can say, that the delta or difference between orbital and break-away velocities, defines creativity of the planet.

In our daily lives, we are like the planet, running around bound by societal, industry, or work strictures and norms. Those of us, who are content in living in defined boundaries, would continue with their orbital velocity and survive. But those of us, who say, enough is enough, and decide to do something new and stranger to fiction, are called creative. These people are sometimes referred to as dreamers, pioneers, or idiots, as per the maturity levels prevalent in the society. These people are always looking for their break-away velocity.
I had once read that most progress is made by those who hardly work than those who are hard working. On the outset, the thought is interesting and nothing more. But look at it with the light of this theory of orbital and break-away velocities in our daily lives, and you try and find the theory to be plausible.
The theory promotes radical thought as recourse to survival within strictures. And history has shown that radical thought is creativity in action. It brings a new order and thus creates new balances.
Imagine if someone would not have thought of wings for humans to fly, Wright Brothers would have invented the aero planes. And if, Turner had not thought of breaking away from the Cricketing fraternity by promoting his brand of Colorful cricket, we wouldn’t have had the high adrenaline one day matches.
Radical thought is important for growth of the mind and personality. But all this is true, if used for the good of the society. And this is where the dark lining in the otherwise sparkling white cloud of creativity comes in. It makes creativity a double edged sword. If used in negative connotation, creativity can be more lethal than any weapon. Every time a new weapon is created to protect, a new weapon comes up for destruction. So the important point is to use creativity intelligently.
But wait a minute, we started off by this vague comment by a friend on me being creative, and where have we ended up at? We have gone scientific, philosophical, and explored ambiguity in this flight of creativity. After writing all this, I sure think, that the horn on forehead theory is correct. It’s just that it is not visible to mere mortals.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Krishna – The Strategist: A Viewpoint

In my last write up I had spoken about how Arjuna had taken the cushion of the teachings of Karma Yoga in the Bhagwat Gita, to fight the war of Mahabharata. It was a clinching argument for all those who shut themselves off from reality to retain their sanity, but were in no way escapists.
Yesterday, while chatting with a colleague, it occurred to me that in the current scenario, Lord Krishna and his political maneuverings in the Mahabharata had a lot of relevance. Hearing me speak about Lord Krishna as a human-like, political strategist did not go down well with him. When I came back and discussed the same with my family, they blamed it all on the pop culture. So I decided to understand and put forth my view-point of the life and times of Lord Krishna through the most political literature of Indian mythology – the Mahabharata.
When the Pandava’s acceded to the throne of Indraprastha, they honored their cousin Krishna. They were indebted to Krishna’s support in getting them to power, when the kingdom was ruled by their blind uncle Dhritrashtra, who was keener to pass on the throne to his son Duryodhana.
Pandava’s and Kaurava’s were faced with sibling rivalries since childhood. Be it while learning weaponry or the shastra’s. Since, their father was at the helm of things in the kingdom, the Kaurava’s led by Duryodhana, did not appreciate their paternal cousins, hogging all lime-light due to sympathy on the demise of their father Pandu.
This rivalry grew with age and became increasingly evident. Dhritrashtra was now faced with a difficult question of dividing the kingdom between his sons and those of his late brother Pandu. At this moment, entered Krishna, who was a cousin of the Pandava’s and had by then earned a name for himself, through his accession to the throne in a neighboring kingdom. He had since childhood displayed some actions which had earned him great respect amongst his kin. He had truly risen to be Lord Krishna – an incarnate of Lord Vishnu.
Krishna was gifted with a great sense of understanding of the inter-play of emotions between his fellow humans. He had a good timing and used it well too. So, when he saw Dhritrashtra’s dilemma he entered the scene. He advised the two families that continuing with the single kingdom would not be possible for long. A partition was necessary. Dhritrashtra was a blind king and did not have the courage to handle a discord of mammoth proportions. So after many maneuverings, he divided the kingdom between the Pandava’s and the Kaurava’s.
Krishna had arrived in the political scene as a cousin, and now a statesman. His hands on approach and good judgments had earned him enough respect from the Pandava’s and a section of the Kaurava’s.
At the coronation of the eldest of the Pandava’s, Yudhishtra, Krishna was the center of attraction and was being showered with praises. His contemporary, Shishupal, who was present there, did not like this special attention being accorded to Krishna. He was jealous.
Krishna, like any of us, could not take the increasingly incendiary abuses from Shishupal. He wanted to teach the man a lesson, but could not. He and Shishupal did not go well since childhood. Krishna’s meteoric rise irked Shishupal. This did not go amiss from Shishupal’s mother, who made Krishna promise her that he would forgive a hundred blemishes of her son.
At the coronation, Krishna’s hands were tied. He could not do anything to Shishupal, who was abusing him hard and fast. Krishna’s reputation was taking a hit. He had to do something to redeem him, and that too in a big way.
He let Shishupal abuse him a hundred times and then told him that his hundred lives were over. He told all who were attending about his promise to Shishupal’s mother. And then he killed him. This was Krishna’s first test and had done well to establish himself as a no nonsense player. Soon Krishna’s popularity rose and he became known as a trusted aide of the Pandava’s.
But fresh power and prosperity led to Yudhishtra becoming complacent. He did not consult Krishna much now. He wanted to assert himself as the King. And he committed a grave mistake by accepting Duryodhana’s invite to a game of dice. He did not consult Krishna, who did not take it nicely. He backed off and let the Pandava’s lose and commit hara-kiri.
When a distraught Yudhishtra lost Draupadi in the game everyone present was taken for a surprise. Krishna was sent an urgent message for help. But since he had not been consulted or invited to the game, Krishna refused. Draupadi and her family begged him and after much convincing, Krishna agreed to help. He came to the scene as a trouble shooter and retorted all attempts at Draupadi’s disrobing.
Having lost in the game of dice, Pandava’s were struck with the reality, that they had lost their land and wife both. They asked Krishna for help and begged forgiveness for ignoring him earlier. Krishna accepted their apologies as it redeemed his stature now.
He negotiated a deal with Dhritrashtra and the Kaurava’s. As per the deal, Pandava’s would go for an exile for 13 years and Duryodhana would be the King of Indraprastha. On his side, Duryodhana and Kaurava’s would absolve their claim on Draupadi. Krishna’s deal was acceptable to the Kaurava’s, and Pandava’s did not have an
While Pandava’s proceeded for the exile, Krishna stayed back in his kingdom. After 13 years when Duryodhana refused to give back the land to Pandava’s, Krishna faced his first setback. He told all that an all consuming war was looming large. His credibility as a statesman and negotiator was hurt. Duryodhana led Kaurava’s ridiculed the idea of returning even five villages to the Pandava’s.
The war was now a reality. Both Kaurava’s and Pandava’s had built alliances amongst their friends.
Krishna expected support for Pandava’s from his brother Balrama. But he refused to side with either of the parties. This was another jolt to Krishna’s strategy.
So hurt with two immediate setbacks, Krishna needed to redeem himself. So he gave the army to Kaurava’s and himself took up the role of a driver and guide for Arjuna. He had to use his full political guile to win for the Pandava’s and for himself too.
Rules of engagement were decided amongst the advisors and the on the day of the war, just before first light Arjuna led by Krishna arrived at Kurukshetra.
Arjuna had 2 motives for the war. He wanted his land back, and also had to fight for Draupadi’s honor. But being an intelligent strategist he knew, his opponents were his brothers, relatives, and teachers. And if, he fought and subsequently killed them, he would go down history as a villain. So he played to Krishna’s honor.
Krishna, who had been hurt by the twin setbacks earlier, got Arjuna’s dilemma as a third quick hit. He had to ensure a clear cut victory for the Pandava’s for everybody’s sake. But primarily a victory would be beneficial for his stature amongst his kin and Yadava brothers.
So he preached Arjuna, the Bhagwat Gita, thus giving him a shield to hide behind if faced with historical backlash. When Arjuna’s dilemma was not diminishing, he showed him his “Virat Roop” as a nudge to join him for the war; if he would not join, Krishna now had the resolve to win the war on his own. Now Arjuna had a reason to be back in the war or be called a coward in history. Krishna had maneuvered his first small victory.
More than being Arjuna’s driver, Krishna was now manipulating the entire goings on of the war. He knew Arjuna had two real nemeses in the opposing camp – Karna and Bhishma.
He tricked Karna through Indra, who disguised as a beggar, asked Karna to give him his armor. Karna was caught off guard with his generous self ruling in favor of the beggar’s request. With his special armor gone Karna was a sitting duck for Arjuna’s attack.
When Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu was tricked into the Chakravyuha by the Kaurava’s, Krishna had to ensure a quick and equally emphatic retaliation; else the Pandava’s would have been lost due to their grief.
He tricked Jaidrath, a Big Kaurava General, and continued the war well into darkness when a solar eclipse was happening. As per the rules of engagement the war had to stop at sunset. Jaidrath who by now was surrounded heaved a sigh of relief. But suddenly with the sun coming out of the eclipse, ensured his killing by Arjuna to take revenge of Abhimanyu’s merciless killing at the hands of Kaurava’s. Krishna through his guile and knowledge had ensured to reduce the loss of Abhimanyu.
Now with Karna out of the way, and Jaidrath’s revenge killing, Krishna had to play a master move to remove Bhishma from the play of events.
Bhishma was now very old and was not very much in favor of the war and Kaurava’s. He was supporting whoever sat on the throne. Knowing this Krishna sent messengers to ask Bhishma how to kill him. Bhishma quipped that only Shikhandi could make him set down his weapons. This let down by Bhishma was enough for Krishna to bring Shikhandi into play by asking her the question of honor and revenge on Bhishma. With Shikhandi present with Arjuna, Bhishma let down his weapons, only to be injured into submission by Arjuna’s attacks. Krishna had now removed the biggest hurdle in the war.
With all major players out of the way, Krishna sent Bheema after Duryodhana. And in the final fight between the two equal warriors, Krishna advised Bheema to break another rule of engagement in the war. He reminded Bheema of Draupadi’s insult by Duryodhana, and advised him to hit his thigh. Hit below the belt, a bewildered Duryodhana lost the fight and was killed.
The Kaurava army was now in disarray and Krishna extracted revenge and put himself as a King-maker and master strategist. He had used guile and chinks in the rules of engagement of the war to ensure victory for the Pandava’s.
With the war over, Pandava’s got their land, and also that of Kaurava’s. Krishna had played his role the prime. Soon after he moved to his state and continued to consult and benefit from the Pandava’s.
Like all best laid plans have an error, he too had miscalculated one important point in the war. His kin, the Yadava’s were now a divided lot. Part of them who had supported the Kaurava’s, denounced Krishna.
A war ensued between Krishna supporters and nay sayers leading to a destruction of the entire dynasty. A shaken Krishna went to the forest to plan his return, in this suddenly gloomy political scenario. But as luck would have it, he was accidently killed by a hunter who mistook his toe thumb as the eye of a deer.
But how does a toe thumb resemble the eye of a deer? I believe the entire killings in the Mahabharata and subsequent internal strife between the Yadava’s had taken its toll on Krishna. He left for the forest, never to return.
Krishna used his guile and in depth knowledge of the Raj Dharma, to help him out through all situations. His teachings of Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga have been of immense importance to one and all. And all throughout, his approach was almost common sense that one can relate to it in similar contemporary situations.
Once, after establishing his kingdom at Dwarka, he sent his good friend Uddhao to invite Radha and her friends. But Radha and her friends chided Uddhao away, telling him that Krishna lived in their hearts. Like wise, as I sum up from his almost human like existence and common sense approach to life, I feel Krishna resides in all of us. Most of our actions at work and outside, although contemporary and inspired are just like his; all we have to do is to find him from the depths of our hearts.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Closed Eyes

I had gone to see a relative at a hospital. While waiting in the reception area, we saw a doctor who had put a funny laughing ring tone to his mobile. Being in a grim mood after meeting our friend, the strange ring tone brought us back to reality with a weird thud. What was he up to? Had he forgone all decency or was he just plain mad? Frustrated we left the hospital to take a thoughtful ride back home.
Later that night, discussing the topic with my dad, it dawned that may be he was shutting himself off. He worked at a place where death and grief was a part of daily routine. Unless they drew themselves apart, they could lose all sanity.

So what all people do to shut them off from the situations they are faced with?

One of my teachers had once told us that our eye lids are the most basic defense mechanism. When we don't like anything, closing our eyes to it is a most innate and basic act. In a sense, we block out the problem, and bargain a temporary respite.
Some people smile at adversity while some go silent. I have people oscillate between extreme offences to cowing down defense. Some become so strong that they become immune to the problem. There have been instances when each one of us has had to take refuge in to one such blocking mechanism to maintain our sanity.
There is nothing wrong with this. Mythologically speaking, the Bhagwat Gita is the biggest example. Arjun had been faced with a difficult problem in the war at Kurukshetra. He had to fight and kill his own relatives, teachers, and friends to win the war of the righteous. Like any of us, his conscience did not allow this. So he told Lord Krishna about this dilemma. Lord Krishna told him to do his job and not worry about the results. He was a warrior and his job was to fight for the righteous. Even if it meant, killing his loved ones. That’s how he would justify his mission in life and would go to heaven. Arjun used the learning’s of the Bhagwat Gita as a shield to block himself against his dilemma.
All of us are faced with such a war everyday. We are worried how to block a problem out of our system but unlike Arjun, there is often no Guide like Lord Krishna present with us. So we get worried and sometimes take refuge in wrong ways.
Some evil forces use these situations to manipulate people into a treading a downward spiral. They justify it in the name of god, and some hardline translations of religion and culture.
On the other hand, some people make their own defense mechanism. They might not be completely correct, but still they are trying to save their sanity. I am in no way trying to defend the doctor at the hospital, but am putting another thought into his actions. Whenever terminally ill patients come to such doctors, they know the deadlines of these patients. Like all of us these people also feel sad and helpless. So what do they do? They find other means to preserve their sanity.
If you ever ask a soldier about war and killing, he would be dead against it. But his job requires him to do it, so he does it after making a protective shield around him.
This write-up is an effort to understand this basic human problem. I have tried to use my limited understanding of human behavior to explain it and feel have done a good job of it. Is it true, or am I building a shield against sharp criticism!!

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Feel Good Story!!

(I had thought the break from writing would be longer and would be able to keep myself away from it. But as luck would have it, in less than a month am back to my old ways. As I have always maintained, there are episodes around us that warrant a re-look to save them from being lost in memory. And that is what I am doing here. Apologies are due to all my friends whose real life situations have been used and changed here with the help of powers of creative freedom vested in me to achieve a lot of aspirational value for all of us. Hope I live up to your expectations and in turn mine.)

There is something called the marriageable age. Different people have different definitions and age bracket for the same. It is different for both men and women.
The marriage market works on the phenomena of demand and supply. With the dismal male to female ratio in the country, men face a stark shortage of the right women. On the other hand women face a surplus. But once we build in the social, physical, intellectual, and so many other requirements, the resource base actually reduces to very minimal quantities. And that is exactly where the problems arise.
Some go in and find someone for them, while others are helped by friends and family. The latter is commonly termed as the phenomena of arranged marriages.
That is exactly where both of them were. Their families had after a lot of mails, telephones, and visits to the priests had decided that this was a great match. They matched 30 off the requisite 36 points, 6 more than his parents, and definitely a lot more than her parents. Socially, and intellectually the pair was suitable. He was 29 to her 25. Hence, by all standards it was a good match. So they decided to exchange the photographs.
The two were called by their respective parents and shown the photographs. The photographs were good and they Okayed their parents to arrange a meeting. The meeting was fixed in a restaurant in a secluded by lane in the centre of the city.
On the designated Sunday, at the apropos time the two met with the families in tow. The restaurant was empty and all of them sat in a corner with a television playing the local news channel which specialized in gossip more than actual news. And as providence would have it at that moment the channel was playing a story on why more and more arranged marriages were falling apart in the society.
Still the meeting went on perfectly with small talk being made on the weather and the effect of climate change on the city. Both of them were jittery and conscious of the situation. With nothing better to do she went into a discussion with his and her mother, while he discovered that the good old life insurance building just across the road had small lights on the walls.
Soon after the tea served was consumed, the parents decided to give them a break. They were asked to go out and take a short walk and talk. So they got up and left the restaurant. Once outside, reality struck. There was no good place to walk. There was a hustling and bustling market outside, and the only landmark there was the municipality building. With nothing better to do, and nowhere else to go they started to walk, soon realizing that the families lingered, not far behind.
In whatever little time on hand, they discussed music, movies, books, jobs, and like/dislike to shopping. They also brushed on the topic of their respective emotional pasts. Soon the walk ended and they were back in front of the restaurant to bid farewells. Phone numbers were exchanged as the two clans happily left with promises of meeting again soon.
Once back in their respective homes, both were asked the dreaded question, “What do you say?” And the answers were exactly in the way men and women are built. He did not find anything wrong, so he said yes, while she wanted sometime, and a few more discussions/meetings with him.
If you don’t understand why I said, “the way men and women are built,” then remember last time when you saw a man and women go buy a pair of jeans. The man would buy it because it fit fine, while the woman would not like the design of the back pocket, and hence hackle with the salesperson on the possibility of getting it changed. Well, women being women don’t understand that they would not be able to see their back pockets, and those who will be able to see, would be least interested in the pocket.
Let’s leave it there, and return to our two friends. The parents communicated the decisions to each other, and the wait started. It was akin to a game of holding eye contact. They waited for the other person to blink. And he being himself sent an innocuous looking text message after 2 days. The message was a gentle nudge.
She reacted and they spoke on the phone. She needed more time to think. Besides she was doubtful of his belief in the institution of arranged marriage. He had not even denied having a past. And to add to the confusion, he had rambled on the question. So she needed more time, and would decide once back in town. By the way, she had to leave for a business trip in a few days.
The stalemate continued and he started to get jitterier. He wrote a lot many text messages on his phone and erased more than what he had written.
On the day she had to leave, he was surprised to get a call from her. She was at the Airport and the flight was delayed by 3 hours. She had checked in and got herself a boarding pass. And the darn mobile had run out of battery.
He was thrown off the track on receiving a sudden call from her. He rambled on the phone. She had repeated the 3 hour delay twice, and he being so self conscious had overlooked it. Trying to hide the call from his mates, he in turn advised her to while away the time in the lounge on the first floor of the airport.
She was astonished. Was this guy dumb or was he just ignoring her. She clicked off the call after thanking him for the wonderful advice. She hated herself for having called him. The guy was nuts. Didn’t he understand that she wanted to talk? Clattering her heels she walked off into the airport and did what women do best when angry; she shopped.
Meanwhile as soon as the call ended, he realized what blemish he had committed. He had in his own self conscious trip, missed an open invite to talk. She would think of him as a jerk; a stupid jerk – that’s better. He walked around the floor in haste. His hands in the pockets were getting sweaty.
He banged his head gently on the wall, and struck a framed poster. It was a Dennis (the Menace) poster, which said “Don’t Quit.”
This got him thinking, and he ran to the car park. Having pushed the attendant out of sleep, he took his car and drove to the airport like a maniac. Once there he parked the car and walked to the terminal.
The guard at the gate asked him for a ticket. Ticket? He didn’t have a ticket. He was there to meet her. All through his frantic run to the parking lot, cursing the sleeping attendant, the maniacal drive, he had not once given a thought, how would he meet her.
Even she had not thought how he would enter the airport without a ticket. Realizing this she couldn’t help chiding herself. She started to replay their conversation, soon to realize that she had been very abrupt with him.
Meanwhile, he tried to explain to the guard the urgency of the reason. He explained it as if explaining a matter tantamount of National security. The guard laughed and called his mates to hear this stupid man.
Angry with herself, she walked out of the lounge. She passed the terminal entrance to go to the pay phone to call him. There was some commotion at the entrance, but she was too lost in her thoughts, reprimanding herself.
She called him from the pay phone. And a phone started to ring nearby. She ignored it and tapped her feet in anxiety, waiting for him to pick up.
His phone rang, and the display blinked with her name. He was scared, she must have called to tell him that he was an idiot and she could not marry an idiot.
“Pick up…..pick up….please,” she was saying to herself.
Dreading a censure, he picked up the phone. Not wasting a minute he started to explain how he had messed up and was so sorry for it. She was saying something, but he wanted to apologize before she got angrier.
Her voice was warm and soothing. He was impressed, that even in such anger she could maintain her composure. She was saying how she had forgotten and had been abrupt with him.
Abrupt? Forgotten? He went silent, and heard her. He had got her completely wrong. She had also realized later that he couldn’t enter the airport without a ticket. He told her he was at the gate.
She threw the pay phone and ran to the entrance. Smiling to herself. He had come. He was still stupid, why had he come as he couldn’t enter without a ticket. But she liked that he had come. She waved at him. Her cheeks were blushing.
And then as luck would have it, they announced the security check for her flight. They both heard it. He smiled and so did she. They waved. The guards smiled too. As she walked back, she turned around to see him still looking at her. She patted her head, walked back to the pay phone and rang him up.
“I will be back on Wednesday. And then we can tell the parents together.”
He smiled and nodded his head, as he saw her looking at him. They smiled for the times to come.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Au Revoir!!

The idea of putting my thoughts on paper had never crossed my mind. In fact, till late 1998, I did not even read books. But then, while I spent my days under the hot summer sun at Nagpur, that a friend introduced me to the wonderful world of stories and novels.
Like most starters, I too started with the usual Sidney Sheldon’s. Thrill, titillation, and a small challenge, that I could finish a book per day, made me into a habitual reader. Slowly I graduated to Mario Puzo and Tom Clancy’s books. Mario Puzo’s, “Godfather” was a natural read, and impressed me no ends. Tom Clancy gave me my share of thrills and adventure with his high adrenaline endings.
But what really impressed me was the opening chapter of Mario Puzo’s “Fools Die.” The chapter was an autobiographical verse, where the protagonist called himself, “Master of Magic.” So much did the phrase impress me, that I wrote, my own “Master of Magic” in 1999. It was a self appreciating verse, where time is shown as the real Master of Magic.
As I moved back to Delhi, the usual freedom which comes with staying alone went away. Everyday after my post graduation college, I came back to spend time with the family. Somewhere, I reconciled, that my “Master of Magic” was just a flash in the pan and would never be able to repeat it. In fact, in absence of any fresh piece, I used the write –up in college magazines, and later, when I started working, in an office magazine.
It was around this time, when family responsibilities increased, that I started to lose patience. A lot of pent up fury, anger, and depression needed a vent. And so came, the first of my chapters, “Ramblings of a Confused Mind”. This name described my writing to the “T”, and also became as a protective shield for what was store in the future.
When I finished writing my first Ramblings, something strange happened. My mind and body, which had been engulfed in depression, suddenly became free. As if a cobweb, which had been built on my soul, slowly got torn off. What were left was a lot of sweat, and a urge to cry, to celebrate my first step in understanding myself. I had torn myself away from the cobwebs of depression.
This became my mantra, as this single writing took me along safe and sound for about a year or so. And then slowly when the things became difficult, I resorted to writing. Ramblings became my permanent story title, as it galvanized me from the reactions of people who detested my works. May be, there was a very low confidence level or whatever, but adverse criticism, I never liked.
Just to keep my writings in a place, and also to feed on my need for recognition, that I created my blog during this time. Blogging during this time was picking up in India. So, this became an additional source of happiness for me, as people appreciated my blog and a bit of my story telling.
During this time, a period of about 2 years, I wrote, just 3 chapters. Then during early 2006, whilst on hindsight, I realize, my professional life was just picking up that I wrote again. This time the idea was a bad dream, a hallucination. Not such a good piece, but it clearly depicted what was going through my mind.
Two days from finishing this latest piece, that I got my first bit of good news on the professional front. The mood was on an upswing. It was during this time that I wrote two more. Both of them were based on the current goings on in the political and the social climate of the country.
It was during this time that movies, which had always been an indelible influence, on my writings, were for the first time, in over 20 years, were influencing the youth in a very positive way. The idea of revolution, and justice for all were well imprinted in my mind. India was changing, and during this time, that for the first time, my writings started to have more of me. “I” became more and my beliefs, ideas, and outlook on certain social events, weaved into stories, brought about a lot of appreciation from my friends, and a sense of achievement.
During this time, did I really start to harness my creativity. This is further accentuated in an autobiographical account on “Understanding my Anger.”
All through out my brief writing stint, I had seldom travelled on exploiting the emotional equations between two individuals. The thought of writing dialogues, and that too adding romance into them, was an unexplored territory. But as I said earlier, movies play a pivotal role in my stories, that the journey through this unexplored territory became easy.
I became the central character, and the goings on around me, at work, at home, and from the past, became the stage. I started to churn out stories and stories, and within the last 3 months, a total of nine stories were written. All these stories had a lot of aspiration value. They were about what could not happen to me, but how I would like it happen.
2007 started with a bang. I wrote 11 stories in 4 months. Most of them were romantic as I had really taken to this idea. During this time, there were a few contractual stories; stories which friends requested. I was happy to write as there was not much to think about.
People around me started to think of me as a romanticist. Well, nothing wrong with that. I am a romantic at heart. I revel in exploring the emotions and the tension between two people, in my stories. My stories have a part of me, in the sense of aspiration, and are my take on such scenarios.
Having been into Marketing, I now know my target audience, viz. Women, and men like me. They like Sweet Nothings, and anything that moves them. So I write for them, and they read because I make them read. I am a honest writer who loves to explore his creativity. That is why last 4 months, saw me trying free verses, a dark love story, an anti-authoritarian note, and mushy romances.
Since one month, not a single new story has been written. There are few half written pieces, which I would not upload, till I am satisfied. But now satisfaction is difficult to come by. As I feel the time has come for a break. I will write again, but some other time. May be this year, may be next, but I will definitely write, as there are lots of things around us, that warrant a re-look. Also, every time, I have come back, my content has improved.
So in anticipation, of finding satisfaction, till we meet again…….Au Revoir!!