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31 March 2013

13 Action Items for 2013

It is a bit late in 2013. Here are 13 action items that I will be putting into practice in 2013.

  1. Pray five minutes every day before going to bed
  2. Meditate for five minutes every day between 5.55 and 6.00 AM
  3. Read two self-help books every month
  4. Spent lots of time with family. 
  5. Spent quality time with my son helping him to do well in his studies 
  6. Work very, very hard. Work to my fullest potential
  7. Plan and review: I will spend two hours every Sunday preparing Weekly plan. Prepare to do list and follow it up rigorously. Before going to bed, review the plans for the next day. 80 Percent of my time will be spent only on planned activities every day.
  8. Go to Gym every day from 6.15 AM to 7.30 AM. To ensure that I exercise everyday, I will carry my Gym Shoes wherever I travel.
  9. Eat well: I will eat at least one fruit every day, eat only 'Sattvik' food.
  10. Write at least two blog posts in my professional blog (http://erp-consultancy.blogspot.com) and personal blog (this blog) every week
  11. Review and update my Linkedin Profile once a month.
  12. Prepare Budget and Cut spending. Get a mail approval from self before spending more than 1000 rupees. Plan for any expense above 1000 rupees.
  13. I will always think positive and maintain my sense of humour. I will repel negativism all the time.

17 March 2013

Obesity: The silent killer

I was listening to a panel discussion on the Bill Maher Show. The topic dealt with Obesity related illnesses.

Did you know that for the first time in the history of the world, in this year, more people died of Obesity related illnesses than due to poverty? This is a fascinating statistic.

Why are more people becoming obese? Is it bad food habits?

The reason according to the expert is that people eat more calories than nutrition. The reason is not that people like to eat calories. The reason is that Calories are cheap and nutrition is expensive. Calories provide the 'bang for the buck' that the nutrition do not provide. For example, for 3 dollars, you can get a MacDonald burger with all its fats and preservatives, but you can hardly buy anything nutritious with 3 dollars.

It seems the world over, calories are subsidized by the governments. The calories are big business. The calorie business is organized and is manned by some of the most high profile companies like MacDonald, KFC, PizzaHut, Dominos etc. These bring huge revenues to the governments in the form of taxes and they get a lot of tax breaks from the government. 

However, the nutrition industry is still disintegrated world over. The fruit and vegetable industry is still manned by small and marginal farmers the world over. So they do not have the organizing and lobbying capability of big businesses. 

Out of 100 Dollars of Subsidy, 70 Dollars go to the Calories food industry, 29 Dollars go to Calorie Drinks industry and only 1 Dollar goes to the nutrition industry.

So to me it seems that it is very easy to fight obesity. Just reallocate the subsidy in favor of nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables.

Be a vegetarian...

What say?

15 March 2013

How do you influence people on a large scale?

Every day morning, while coming back from the gym, I see the rising sun.

Nowadays, summer is setting in here in India and the morning Sun, even at that early morning, shines bright and .... well.... sunny.

Watching the sun rising in the morning is an awe inspiring sight. Also it is wonderful and never ceases to amaze me to watch sun rise and shine its light on the entire world.

Nowadays, I have started praying to the Sun God. The prayer goes like this.

"Oh my sun god, just like the way you shine your light on the entire world, remove darkness and bring clarity to the world, I also want to shine my light on the entire world and influence the universe. Please help me to fulfill my wish."

I analysed as to how Sun was bringing light to the world. The objective was to understand and learn any lessons from the Sun God on how to influence huge number of people at the same time.

Here are a few of the lessons that I think are relevant.

1. Focus: The Sun is a very small speck in the entire universe. While shining, it doesn't try to light up the entire universe. The focus of the sun is to light its planet earth. The entire light of the sun is focused on lighting up the earth. Likewise, if you want to achieve anything, you need to focus like a laser beam, let your 'Teesari Aankh' see only your goal and the whole internal energy should be focused on the goal. 

2. Consistency: Every day in the morning, like a clockwork, or shall we say 'Sunwork', the sun rises in the east, lights up the earth and sets in the west. At night when we (the people in the earth who are beneficiaries of the God's munificence) know that the Sun will be there the next day, next month, next year, till eternity, lighting up the mother earth. This helps people to plan their activities years in advance. Imagine what could have been the outcome if the Sun was inconsistent. You would never be able to plan anything. For example, try going out without an umbrella in a rainy season. You will not be able to plan. Consistency of sun provides the opportunity to plan your work effectively. 

Likewise always be consistent in whatever you do. Another word for consistency in personal life is Integrity. A person who has integrity will have consistency in his thoughts, words and deeds. Like the consistency of  sun allows others to plan, the personal integrity allows others to plan their personal life around you. Be it in business or in personal life, always fill yourself with integrity and also, always associate yourself with people of integrity. 

3. Perpetual Motion: Right from the time it rises to the time it sets, the sun is always on the move. The movement allows the sun to shine its light on various areas of the planet. There is nothing called inertia as far as the sun is concerned. The movement allows the sun to spread its sphere of influence.

Take cue from the sun, always be on the move. Never fall pray to inertia. Never fall pray to lethargy and lassitude. No amount of personal competence can help you if you fall pray to inertia and procrastination.
Be alert, be aware, be like sun.

4. Remember your limitations, don't spread it too thin, don't cast your net too wide: No matter how hard the sun may try, it cannot light up the entire earth at the same time. At any time, the sun can light up only one side. Just like sun, which works within its limitations, analyse and evaluate yourself and identify your strengths and weaknesses. Always work within your strengths and avoid the weaknesses. Remember, even sun cannot light up the entire earth at the same time !!

5. Take enough rest, chill out!: The sun works for about 12 hours in giving light and takes rest for the remaining part of the day. Similarly, ensure to plan your tasks in such a way as to factor in rest and relaxation.

6. Pace yourselves: One of the characteristics of sun is that at the beginning of the day, it is less bright, becomes brighter as the day goes by and gradually cools down and winds up. This is an excellent lesson. Marathon runners never start off at a great pace. They start slowly and builds up pace. As another example, a gym instructor always asks you to 'Warm Up' before you start doing rigorous exercises. We sometimes tend to forget these basic lessons. We start off at a great pace, soon gets tired and stop. And then blame the tool!.
Learn from Sun on how to pace yourselves so that you can exert the maximum influence.

13 March 2013

Success philosophies of West and East...

Ever heard of Jean Petit?

She is an American Lady who did her first Skydiving from a height of 13000 feet at the ripe young age of 84. Former President of the United States, George H W Bush, did his first skydiving at the age of 80, slightly younger.

Why am I saying this?

Jean Petit, in the interview with an American Magazine told that she felt that she will be missing something if she did not do Skydiving at least once in her life. She said that she had only this life to live and that she wanted to fulfill all her wishes before she dies. 

While reading this I was thinking an average Indian of her age. From the age of 70, they will be doing the rounds in various temples. Their 'Bucket List' will include visiting Vishnodevi shrine, Kailas Parbat if possible, Char Dham and having a dip in the Sangam. They will want to go on a pilgrimage to 'Kasi' ( a sacred place in North India) to do penance and follow it up with a dip in Rameshwaram (Southern most tip of India). The  objective is to wash off all the sins that they committed in their life. 

Indians believe in the concept of Reincarnation. We believe that every soul have to be born 7 times in this earthly world as any living being (it can be a human being, an animal or even trees and bushes). This birth and rebirth is called the 'Cycle of Life'. If you do good in this life, you will be born to a better environment in the next incarnation. After the seven incarnations, the soul attains what is known as 'Nirvana' or 'Moksha' which is the liberation from the 'Cycle of Life'

It is obvious that this difference in perspective between west and Indians have significant behavioral implication. One of them is illustrated in the story of Jean mentioned above.

Some of the other implications to the belief in the 'Cycle of Life' are,

1. Not helping poor and the suffering: People in the west believe that they have a moral obligation to help the poor and the needy. We in India believe that the poor person is undergoing suffering because of the sins committed in the previous incarnation and that it is his destiny to go through this suffering. The thought is 'I also would have suffered like you in my previous Janam. One has to go thru this suffering for the soul to be purified'. More than any one, Gunther Grass, a German born Indophile, has pointed out this aspect in many of his writings on India.

2. Different concepts of time: For Indian's the concept of time is straddles across 7 lives. Due to this belief, he do not show any urgency (for example related to their careers) for completing important tasks. Westerners, on the other hand are always in a hurry, to the extent of even hurrying to relax ('make haste slowly'). The stretchable concept of time a lot of stress related disorder, where as Americans, in their wish to complete all the important tasks in the current life (creation of 'Bucket List') are susceptible to much more stress in their quest to fill their life with targets and meet them quickly.

3. Different 'Bucket Lists': The Bucket List of westerners is filled with material goals and physical tasks to be completed in this life. The Bucket List of many of the Indians include visiting as many temples and places of worship as possible. 

4. Perspective of death: For most Indians, death is the liberation from the current suffering and a step forward towards the attainment of the ultimate goal of attaining 'Nirvana'. For westerners, death is the end of you as a person and it has an air of finality attached to it. Indian looks at it with detachment and possibly anticipation (after a particular age, I think) while for an average westerner, death is dreadful no matter what your age is. 

It has to be noted that Indians are not alone in their belief in Reincarnation. Most of the ancient civilization believed in it as well. Egyptians believed that their dead will come back and hence they embalmed their dead.  Mayans and Incas believed in it as well. Even now, many of the South Americans, despite being Catholic by religion, believe in the concept of reincarnation. This concept is best illustrated in the novel 'The Aleph' written by Paulo Coelho.

What are the implications of the above to the quest for success? I think the most important one is that Success in India is viewed in more Spiritual terms rather than in physical terms as is the case in west. There are other implications to this difference in perspective, such as:

1. Sense of Urgency V/s. 'Chalta Hai' attitude: The western culture, with its focus on Yolo, or one life to live, attaches a lot of urgency to accomplishment of material targets. The focus is on achievement, material possessions, and quickly climbing the corporate ladder. Material possessions like bank balance, palatial home, beach front apartments etc are viewed as symbols of success. Since you have only one life to life, the focus is on filling it with as much material possessions as possible. There is a sense of urgency to the way in which westerners view the tasks to be accomplished

Where as in India, the concept of time is stretchable. You know that you have seven 'opportunities' to accumulate material possessions. What that means is that an average Indian do not set material goals and even if he sets it, do not follow it up with the same level of dedication as an average american.

2. Lack of Stress: As mentioned previously, the sense of urgency to achieve material targets creates a sense of stress. For a westerner, an opportunity lost is an opportunity lost. Whereas an Indian do not go through similar levels of stress. For an Indian an opportunity lost is only an opportunity postponed.

3. Focus on 'Self Awareness': One of the concepts of Indian philosophy is the focus on 'Aham', loosely translated as 'I' or 'Self'. The philosophy encourages you to spend time understanding self. Understand your strengths, understand what you know, what you do not know, what are your goals both material and spiritual etc. 

4. Internalizing the pain and suffering: Since Indians think that whatever bad that happens to them is retribution for the sins that were committed in the past incarnation, there is a tendency to internalize pain and suffering. Pain and suffering are considered to be some of the ways in which you wash of your sins so that you get a great life in your next incarnation. Other cultures on the other hand externalize their pains and suffering thru verbal and sometimes physical assault.

5. Passivity to the wrong that is happening around you.: This is same as the point I mentioned sometime ago. There is a sense of passivity to people in trouble, to the bad things that happen around you, to take corruption in stride...

6. 'Sub Kucch Dekha Hai' (Have seen it all) attitude: India is a culture that has seen more than 5000 years of ups and downs. This means that they have seen virtually any calamity that is possible and have bounced off from these calamities. Whenever something bad happens, the collective consciousness know that this too will pass. This provides the culture with an eternal optimism, which sometimes lead to passivity and inaction.

Success philosophies or East and West differ, in my opinion, on the different perspectives relating to Finiteness of time. West work from a finite time perspective, whereas east, especially India, work from the perspective of extensibility of time. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Smartness lies in integrating the perspectives and creating your own concept of time.

12 March 2013

Perspectives....

1. Bachelor
Takdir hai magar kismat nahin Khulti,
Taj Mahal banana chahta hun, magar Mumtaz nahin milti

2. Lover
Takdir hai magar kismat nahin khulti,
Mumtaz mil gayi hai, magar Shadi nahin karti

3. Married
Takdir hai magar kismat nahin khulti
Taj mahal banana chahta hun, magar Mumtaz nahin marti

09 March 2013

My friend Sharma...

Sharma, full name Ravi Singh Sharma, is my friend.

He was my colleague when I was working as an engineer in SAIL. Those were the days.

Nice guy, this Sharma friend of mine. Kind of intense, though. Kind of ridiculous as well.

He wants to impress everyone. He wants everyone to like him. He always tries to be nice to people in a mushy kind of way. 

Such kind of people always give you good stories. Here are a couple of such incidents. 

-----------------------------------------------------------------

It was the early 90's. Sharma and I were working in the Power Plant as Operations Engineers. Our manager was Brijesh Gupta. 

Nice guy, this Brijesh Gupta. From Kanpur. Suave and polished in a 'Nawabi' kind of way. Always calls people with the suffix of 'Ji', like SharmaJi, SinhaJi etc. 'Ji' is a mark of respect.

Except that Guptaji always called me Ramu.

Guptaji's wife's name is Kamal and he and Kamal has a son, Rahul, who is about five years old.

Please note, Kamal is normally a man's name in India.

One day evening, Shamaji reached Guptaji's house. A casual visit.

Guptaji lived in a small, one bed room apartment. As you enter the house, you first see the kitchen. Just opposite to the kitchen is the bathroom and the hall. The bedroom is to the right of the hall.

Small apartment, that.

Anyways, when Sharmaji reached the house, Kamal was in the bathroom. Rahul was playing at a corner in the hall.

Guptaji welcomed Sharmaji in that effusive, suave way of his. 

"Come on Sharmaji, come on in. Please be seated".

Just to ensure that Kamal is aware that Sharmaji, a visitor, is in the house, Guptaji shouted, "Kamal, see who has come? Sharmaji is here".

Kamal heard this in the bathroom. Being the honourable Bharathiya Nari that she is, she did not respond. With that mysterious communication channel that exist between husbands and wives, Guptaji relaxed, knowing that the message has reached the bathroom.

No, not Sharmaji...

Sharmaji heard Guptaji talking to Kamal. Shamaji could see only a kid playing in the corner. Sharmaji thought that that kid's name was Kamal.

Sharmaji decided to unleash his charm offensive. If you want to impress your boss, start with his child.

"Come on Kamal, how are you Kamal?" Sharmaji set the charming process in motion.

If Guptaji was taken aback by the surprising turn of events, he did not show it. Impassive as Buddha, was Guptaji.

"How are you Kamal, my boy? What do you like, Kamal? Want to play with uncle? Come to Uncle Kamal. Come to me. Sit on uncle's lap, Kamal..." Off went Sharmaji on and on.

This is where the situation reached the limit as it were. Who knows where it could lead to from 'Uncle's Lap'? 

Guptaji suavely intervened. "Shamaji, that is Rahul", Guptaji trailed off, feverishly hoping that Sharmaji takes the hint.

People like Sharmaji do not take these hints so quickly. It took about a minute or so before Sharmaji got it.

"Oh....", muttered Sharmaji like a deflated balloon or something.

"I am very sorry, Guptaji, I am very sorry", Sharmaji would have probably apologized and continued apologizing hadn't Kamal come with some Chill drinks.

Ramu, Guptaji? Really?. Why not Ramaji or something?

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sudeshda was another of our managers.

Sudeshda's name is Sudesh Bannerji. Adding 'da' to the first name is a mark of respect and affection in Bengal.

Sharmaji reached Sudeshda's house.

Sudeshda welcomed Sharmaji. Sharmaji's experienced eyes espied a lady in the kitchen and a kid playing around in the guest room.

Sharmaji added two and two together.

"Sudeshda", Sharmaji began his charm offensive, "Your son looks very smart. Looks just like you"

An embarrassed silence in Casa Sudesh. Sudeshda looked at the lady, the lady looked at the Kitchen Chimney...

"Sharmaji", replied Sudeshda, "This is my brother's son. My brother stays with me. I am not married yet"

Pregnant, uncomfortable moments.

"Oh", said Sharmaji

That said it all...

The 'Parent' Trap...

There were three of us in that restaurant

Ana Lina, Suren and me.

Well there were other customers in that restaurant, but when Ana Lina is there, others pale into insignificance.

Ana Lina is a very beautiful woman...(What additional ingredient did god add to make these Latina Ladies so beautiful and sexy? )

Tall and lean and with a naughty smile on her pretty face...

No wonder Suren and I were besotted. Sitting on either side, with radiant Ana Lina in the middle, we were as excited as little children in the first day of the school

This was our project team party. We were doing a project in Bogota, Colombia. We were in an Italian Restaurant, sipping Wine, Beer and Champagne.

Suren was having red wine, I was imbibing my beer and Ana Lina, the 'Oh, the lovely Ana Lina' was having her share of Champagne.

It cost us a bomb, getting her to drink this expensive fluid,  but we didn't mind.

Suren, as is his wont, started off by asking intrusive, personal questions. I thought the questions were offensively personal, but the Champagne Chugging La Chica Bonita didn't seem to mind. 

In fact she was enjoying all the attention from a couple of smitten admirers from across the two Oceans (The Atlantic and Indian Ocean).

"Are you married, Senorita?" asks Suren.

'Wrong question !!' I think to myself. Never start by asking a woman if she is married. Think of the implications man. What will she think? That we are trying to hit on her? Of course we are trying to, but be a bit Suave.

Ana Lina, surprisingly did not seem to mind. She laughed her pretty laugh, showing off all her pearly whites, elated to be called 'Senorita', which is Spanish for 'Young Lady ' (normally referring to an unmarried girl). 

"Do you mean mi Casada?. I am married?" she wanted to confirm.

"Yes", responded the stubborn Suren. "Are you married?".

"Si, yes", Ana responded like a Spanish interpreter or something. Pretty paraphraser, though.

"What is your husband's name?", Suren persisted.

"Nombre de mi Esposo? Name of my..., what do you say, Spouse?" responded the ravishing lady.

"Yes", responded Suren.

"Nombre su hombre" (Name of your man), I butted in, just to show my command over Spanish Language.

Ana Lina gave me a cold look. She definitely did not like the interruption.

"His name is Haavierr (Javier)", whispered La Mujer Linda in that sexy voice of hers, stretching her 'Rrr' (like Kareena saying 'Namkeen Butterrrrr' in the 'Fevicol Song').

"Every man in Bogota is either Javier or Jaime. If you throw a stone in Bogota, it will fall on a Javier or a Jaime...Ha ha ha...." I laughed at my own joke. No one did. My ebullience trailed off.

Ana Lina gave me a cold look. Suren gave me a cold look. I looked at my Beer, trying to see my image. 

The beer felt hot.

Not a day for jokes, this.

Suren and Ana Lina continued as if I did not exist.

"Do you have a photograph of your husband?" queries Suren.

I groan. Suren is getting more and more personal. And he is spoiling a good day with a beautiful lady by asking to see her husband's photograph. Why does he want to do that? Now she will come up with her husband's photograph, with a couple of photos of her kids thrown in for good measure. A bonus. She wants to show to world her husband's potential. 

"This is my husband Haavierr", responds the lovely Lina, as if on cue. "And this is my son, Adrian". Ah, the bonus.

Just keep on saying Haavierr, you dazzling damsel. I can spend the whole day listening to you stressing your Hs and stretching your Rs.

What is Suren's next move?

"Your husband is quite handsome. Broad forehead, smiling eyes...", Suren was definitely going somewhere with this though I did not have a clue as to where.

"Your son looks just like Javier", continued the fatuous fellow. "Boy is very handsome, definitely taken from his father, you can see the same broad forehead", Suren threw in a compliment for good measure.

Ana Lina smiled her bewitching smile. "Adrian is my son from my first husband. I and Javier are married only since the last six months..."

I spilled my beer.

02 March 2013

MSP: Of Moon and Six Pence...

The book 'The Moon and Six Pence' written by the great writer Somerset Maugham  deals with the story of Charles Strickland, a middle-aged stock broker in London, who leaves his wife and children and moves to Paris in search of Art and Beauty.

After struggling for a long time in Paris, Strickland moves to Tahiti, where he spent his last few years before dying of Leprosy.

During his years in Paris and Tahiti, Strickland created many works of art. The best of them, his magnum opus were painted on the walls of his house, just before his death. After his death, as per his last wishes and the custom in Tahiti, the house was burnt down.

The story starts off when Strickland's wife, convinced that her husband left her for another woman, asks their mutual friend, Maugham, to go to Paris and convince her husband to return to London.

Maugham travels to Paris and meets Strickland. His interaction with Strickland make fascinating reading. In his restrained and subtle way, Maugham elicits the best or worst out of the various characters in the story.

When Maugham tells Strickland that it is wrong to leave his wife for another woman, Stickland replies that he just left his wife, not for any other woman. There is no woman in Strickland's life.

This puts Maugham in a spot. 

He doesn't know if it is right for him to inform the lady that her husband just left her and is indifferent to her. 

The question is, what will hurt the lady the most. Is it the thought that her husband left her for another woman or the knowledge that he is indifferent to her.

I don't remember if Maugham informed her of his findings. I think he did not. He decided that it is more hurtful if the lady knew that her husband was indifferent to her than if she remains with the thought that her husband left her for another woman.

Fascinating...

Someone said, 'The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference'.

What a profound statement !!!

If you think that someone hates you, you feel that in the other person's mind, you are important enough for him / her to hate you. If someone hates you, obviously she is thinking about you. You are a part of her life, and you feel that you should mean something to the other person for her to hate you.

In a perverse way, you feel important, you feel happy.

But if the other person is indifferent to you, that is very hurtful. Obviously, in your mind you are important 'For Him' to have you in his life. But, the knowledge that he doesn't care about you enough to hate you? That can be depressing. 

Knowledge that a person hates you do not hurt as much as the knowledge that the person is indifferent. 

Indifference hurts.

01 March 2013

AOL: The Art of Loneliness...

Depressed because you are feeling lonely? These quotes will help.

1. The loneliness you feel with the another person, the wrong person, is the loneliest of all.

2. Sometimes you have to stand alone just to make sure that you still can

3. The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself

4. Loneliness is the poverty of self. Solitude is the richness of self

5. Being surrounded by the wrong people is the loneliest thing in the world

6. 'Loneliness' is the pain of being alone. 'Solitude' is the glory of being alone

7. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself

8. Solitude is a chosen separation for refining your soul. Isolation is what you crave for if you ignore the first.

9. I have never found a companion that is so companionable as solitude