The year started with a Baby Shower in mid January, after which Divya went to her parent's place - beginning a persistent nomadic life for me for more than 6 months. I would dash through the week, managing groceries, maids and bills and run off to either Indore or Pune over weekends to spend alternate weekends with Divya or my parents. If there were weekends when I would be in Mumbai, there would be enough office work piled over to catch up.
I spent several train and bus journeys working on my laptop sitting in awkward positions, and being the source of the dim (and for my co-passengers - irritating -) light emanating from my laptop screen. I have been on con-calls at all kinds of odd places - the hospital, highway Dhabas, on way to Mumbai-Pune expressway and Food Plaza on the expressway near Lonavla. Also spent several Monday's coming back from work and going straight to the bed.
To cut the story short - along the way Navyaa was born, adding a few joyous sleepless Saturday nights as well, when I was at Indore and she wouldn't sleep the whole night. Both me and Divya would try till wee hours of the morning, finally giving up and handing over the baton to Divya's mother.
Sometime in June, it seemed that this "travel" rush would end when Divya would return to Mumbai; but the ship's course suddenly went into a reroute. We fixed Abhi's marriage on the very next day of Navyaa's naming ceremony and the circle started again - trips to Pune helping my parents plan for the wedding. And so it went all the way till the marriage in December.
The last 3 months have been tiring, and more so trying - while the preparation of marriage was midway - I lost my beloved grandmother. I was her eldest grandson, and probably the most loved; she meant a lot to me - in more ways than being a grandmother. This was my first close personal loss and made me realize the importance of spiritual awakening in life. Truth to be told, I realized that I am far away from being what the Gita calls [Chapter 12, Verse 13-14] - "समदुःखसुखः क्षमी" - "alike in grief and joy".
While my life took these several turns, almost like a bus crossing a circuitous route filled with ghats - public life in India has also seen a lot of change, not necessarily in 2013, but definitely in the past 3 years. 2013 in particular saw the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar, the man who has defined so much for India since the 90s, a man whose career graph can also be said to be analogous to that of the Indian economy.
The past few years have seen a lot of icons of the last 50 years pass away - Bollywood legends like Rajesh Khanna, Dev Anand, Yash Chopra; parallel music icons maestros like Manna Dey, Jagjit Singh; the world lost Nelson Mandela this year. It is as if, the first few years of the 2010 decade are trying to wake us up to the fact that the new millennium is already 10% over and its time for the old guard to retire and a new guard to take over.
This is not all - we saw the rise of people's movements across the globe from Syria to Egypt to Turkey; even a communist, authoritarian and centrally controlled China saw public outburst against Bo Xilai turning him from a modern day warlord to a corrupt criminal. There was groundswell in America as well for Barack Obama, as was the public outburst in UK against Gordon Brown. India saw the rise of public protests over apathy of politicians towards key issues like women's safety and widespread corruption - a groundswell which led to the formation of the 'Aam Aadmi Party' (AAP), which is poised to turn tables in the next general election in 2014 in the world's largest democracy.
These two threads of my personal life and developments in public life have been intertwining in my mind in the last few days and there's a voice which calls out ....
the days of trying are over, take control, your time is here;
the days of taking comfort in being an apprentice are over;
the old guard is no more there to guide you,
beware life is uncharted territory now;
the world is your playground now,
but it is no more a child's play;
Rise up to the occasion, or fade into oblivion,
Shut up and live a life of silent comfort
or have your say and save the day.
2014 clearly looks to me as a watershed - I hope, it will mark a point where a whole generation will mature to take control and another will fade away into past, yet, taking solace in the knowledge that the world is now entrusted into better hands!
There are those who accept this contest as one of personalities, and even try to justify the ideological bankruptcy of Rahul Gandhi as his style of leadership; however most commentators concede [1, 2, 3] that Modi triumphs Gandhi in most sphere's of personality comparisons. Gandhi on his part has tried hard to break the jinx on him; he tried to instill internal democracy within the party, spoke several times against the party's decisions supporting/abetting/condoning corruption, and tried creating a industry friendly image. However, all his efforts - especially the ones aimed towards setting a stand against corruption - are likely to backfire.
The malaise within the Congress party is neither Rahul Gandhi or his mother, nor are their socialist ideals, and neither is the purported "dynastic politics". In fact, 'dynastic politics' is not a cause but a symptom of all that is wrong within the Congress party. The malaise within the Congress came to the fore during the 1996 crisis, when Sitaram Kesri's interventions brought the Congress party to near demise. This malaise is the triumvirate of corruption, opportunism and muscle politics.
Several layers below the national leadership, but starting, in some cases, at the very second rung of leadership lie the powerful satraps of the Congress party, whose very existence thrives on the muscle power they exude in their regions of influence. When I say muscle, I don't necessarily refer to goons and thugs - it transcends beyond goons to strong influences in local bodies, legal systems and police force. Many Congress (and ex-Congress) leaders own their constituencies so much so that, all systems - from Police Force to courts to the Municipalities run on their whims. Those who dare to go against the local satrap are sidelined from all angles.
The reason the Congress party needs "dynastic" leaders like Sonia or Rahul is so that these satraps can continue to run their clandestine empires under the garb of politics. The reason why a Narsimha Rao or even a Kesri was a threat to these satraps was that these 'homegrown" leaders tried to establish their own supremacy within the party, thus challenging these local satraps, and in turn trying to expose their rotten ways.
The reason why these satraps are happy to anoint Rahul Gandhi as a future PM, the reason why they are happy for Sonia to run her Socialist agenda through the NAC is that (a) it keeps the masses happy (b) it keeps Rahul and Sonia feel in-charge of the party agenda. In return for this support, these satraps get the power to misuse government agencies and bodies to fund their businesses, provide them a legal cover and give them the political power to keep their opposition at bay; all this with anonymity provided by the "leadership" of Sonia and Rahul.
In essence, Rahul is his own nemessis - the fact that he is the chosen one - reflects a deeper malaise within the ranks of his party. And if he lifts his head against corruption, especially the condoning of it by his party, he upsets the unique power sharing agreement of acceptance of his own leadership in return for continuance of status-quo (on issues of Lokpal, Reforms etc.). He thus upsets the equilibrium which, more than corruption itself or Modi's (so called) charisma, is likely to become the biggest reason for Rahul Gandhi's fall.
While I don't admire Rahul, I sure feel empathy for him, because there is loss for him on both sides - if he embraces the current ways of functioning of the Congress and its feudal set up - he will fail to impress the populace and hence lose. If he goes against the flow, challenges the corrupt within his party outright, he risks losing support of some crucial king makers on the party, even risks another potential split in the party; and thus is more likely to lose.
However, if Rahul is indeed sincere about changing the Congress, he needs to accept defeat and in spite of it challenge the corrupt within his party - this will result in more than half of his current second line leadership and several state leaders alienated or even legally implicated. They are likely to break away and form regional parties like the NCP; and further weaken the Congress. But is is only once these satraps are removed, their powers taken, legal charges against them chased, proved and many put behind bars - this might take 10 years - that a new Congress party can emerge. A party which has a more sincere leadership, filled more with the likes of Tharoor, Jairam Ramesh and Ajay Maken.
It may even be a Congress which will not anoint him as a Prime Ministerial candidate (a position he looks disinterested in) or even as a Party President; but it will surely be a party which will allow him and his mother appropriate relevance through implementation of the Socialist schemes which they want to implement on the lines of his father and great grandfather's ideals.
But it's unlikely that Rahul Gandhi will wait 10 years, it is also unlikely that he will be allowed to risk the alienation of so many national leaders; and it is equally unlikely that the Congress will win the next Lok Sabha elections.
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- As I have argued in past, in addition to the current network, India needs a parallel high speed railroad network connecting major hubs and based on completely new technology. This will help take the load off the current network from long distance point-to-point services. It will also make traffic between long distances faster and hence, the journey, more bearable.
- Modernization: Railways need modernization in almost everything, from signaling systems to tracks (read: train speeds) to toilets. Where will the money for this come from? Let's face that fares are going to rise, whether due to modernization or due to hidden costs of not modernizing; for example cost of accidents or the cost of spare part inventories, or increasing cost of cleaning staff employed by Railways. It is a choice of what route to take in using the revenue that comes from fares.
- Privatization: Already large set of services in railways is actually in private hands. Catering for example is in hands of IRCTC which in turn hands over contracts to private contractors. Then why not explore the option of privatizing some trains altogether? Just like the government dis-invests its stake in certain public sector units, why can't the railway dis-invest certain trains, like the premium ones - Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi? This can bring in some disinvestment money to railways which can be used in modernization and also help bring some world class amenities to Indian trains such as on board WiFi, working lounges, premium dining cars etc.
- That thought brings me to my last point - Indian Railways needs to get into premium services which will not only add pleasure and comfort to rail travel, but help railways make more money which can be used to fund the deficit from running subsidized services. Such premium services can range from adding an AC coach to local trains to adding a dedicated dining and working lounges to long distance trains or simply adding a slick Coffee Shop to select coaches in intercity trains.
India entered its second phase of development post 1991 - however Indian Railways has not evolved much except some half-hearted incremental changes such as starting irctc.co.in or experimenting with Bio-toilets in some trains. It's high time that railways underwent a more revolutionary transformation helping the nation in its next phase of development.
Increasingly we see more arrogance than humility - whether its the traffic queue or the mall or in a workplace. Many people today thrive on being arrogant (often termed as 'dynamic and demanding' in the workplace).
And the emergence of Narendra Modi is also a part of the same culture we are promoting. While from the same political party - the biggest chasm that separates Atalji from Modi was his humility.
And Sachin, the maestro belonged to Atalji's category. His strength and wisdom, apart from his cricket genius is in his humility. Many of last decades' titans - from ICICI's Kamath to Infosys's Murthy are known for their humility as much as they are for their business acumen.
It is, hence, worth pondering if - as a nation, as colleages, as companies, as a society, and mostly as individuals - we want to promote arrogance as a way of working or as a bevahiour which is encouraged.
|Image from Facebook - credit unknown|
In case of social networks like Facebook, even if a new platform with some differentiating features comes up, your relationships are very difficult to migrate to another platform. Hence, users will not switch from one social network to another unless there is a generational shift in the features between the old and new one (ex. migration from Orkut to Facebook in India), because of the effort needed to migrate all relationships to the new network again. In fact, this is one of the reasons Google plus is finding it so difficult to grab users from Facebook even though critics claim that Google Plus has a better conceptualized social networking features.
However, P2P messaging apps like Whatsapp, Line or Viber - lack any such stickiness because the relationships reside in your own phone address book, unlike a social network, where it resides with the social network. Hence, the moment a Viber offers better voice calls, users can immediately switch to using the service with other users in their address book - no waiting time to "add a friend" and wait for them to "accept" et. al.My theory above is about to be tested. Finally after a long wait BBM is now available across Android and iOS. Facebook is awash with messages of 'my BBM PIN' and cartoons like the one shown above rediculing the whole charade. But, the point stands that BBM has three advantages over Whatsapp:
- It has had a loyal fan following - Blackberry was the smartphone of choice years before Android and iPhone. Though it hasn't kept pace but many of today's iPhone or Android users have been BBM users in past
- BBM has an long experience of messaging - many of its features and its UI has been refined over years of usage. A friend of mine said that he found BBM easier to use than Whatsapp or Viber.
- BBM has built in calling and messaging facility from the beginning.
- Whatsapp has created some stickiness factor in its service by introducing "groups" - yes unlike P2P messaging, your relationships in Whatsapp "Groups" does not reside in your address book but with Whatsapp.
- BBM needs a BBM PIN and does not work on a phone number. So if I have your number stored in my phonebook but don't have your PIN, I will not be able to message you until we exchange PINs. Whatsapp instead works on phone numbers so it matches phonebook with users and makes it easier to discover existing networks
- BBM might gain popularity among older generation of users many of whom are still on Blackberry and even if they migrate to iPhone or Android soon, they'll continue to remain on BBM.
- BBM might also become popular in privacy conscious societies like Europe because of privacy offered by the PIN. You can't find me on BBM even if I share my phone number with you, but not the PIN.
|New Yahoo Logo || Source: Razilabs|
Recently, Yahoo revamped the UI for its (still) most relevant service Yahoo Mail along with a populist looking gift of 1 TB storage. Mayer was probably borrowing a page from her ex-employers' book by offering a bonanza storage along with some other features copied from its service GMail. As Times of India puts it:
Yahoo's free email service is becoming a bit more like Google's Gmail as part of its second makeover in less than a year. The similarities to Gmail probably aren't coincidental. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer helped design some of Gmail's features while she was a top executive at Google.My take on this latest roll out is that it's not going to work! There are several reasons for this - the prime being that most of it is too little too late - introducing "threads" now, which was introduced by GMail when it launched (which it calls conversations) way back in 2005, is really not going to cut any ice with the power users. Also, its too little and too diagonal to the direction of the tech world as such; there's no juice or attraction left in storage space now, because most heavy attachments like photos etc are no longer sent by mail - they are all on Facebook or Picasa or Flickr etc.
That apart, there are Yahoo Mail has 3 big problems to surmount:
- Interface - those who love GMail for its filters, its slick, clean look don't find the new YMail interface good - its clumsy, slow and most of all, non-intuitive.
- Spam - I was using my YMail account for almost 5 years after I started using GMail; at least for non-newsgroup 1-to-1 communications and banking alerts etc. But the reason I moved 100% to Gmail was Yahoo's inability to control Spam.
- Stickiness - I don't use Yahoo Mail also because there is no reason to come back to YMail if I don't get emails - this is more true for the new generation of users like today's teens. For GMail there's Google Plus through which Google is now head on with Facebook (and other upstarts like Whatsapp). Yahoo had (and in a minor way still has) that ability to combine its most loyal platform eGroups and other services like Flickr etc to leverage the audience across platforms on a single platform. To do that, they need something like Google Dashboard to start with and then move on the further integration between these services. I had thought that would be the first leaf Mayer would pluck out of Google's book - but they haven't implemented any integration between services till date.
However, in the movie's climax, Marcus even after realizing his true identity of being a machine, sides with the humans assisting Connor in saving hostages in SkyNet's custody and also finally helping Connor destroy SkyNet. The plot of course, written to please the masses, takes an optimistic's view of which squad Marcus sides with upon being made aware of his identity as a machine. The plot assumes that Marcus sides, not with his identity but his beliefs - his belief in shared human values, in the "goodness" of human race and "evil" in machines.
While the talk of a cyborg, being faced with an identity crisis sounds too far fetched; the philological principles in question are closer home to today's sociopolitical context. The conflict between our identities and our beliefs has never been more prominent in the history of the human race than today. May be it would be more prominent in future but this is the first time such conflict has come out so clearly.
Come to think of it - we all today face this conflict. We are all being brought up to believe in the modern principles of freedom, democracy, independence, libertarian thoughts, egalitarianism and religious tolerance. Our identities in the internet connected world is defined by our use of technology and tools which are a gift of the modern civilization to us.
However, we also have faith systems - an alternate set of beliefs belonging to a deprecated world - which today serve as "Identities" for us: identities such as Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Paris etc. The faith in creationism, faith in destiny over science, faith in religious supremacy, faith in age old sacred myths and age old traditions binding us to our identities of belonging to a religious sect, community, may be caste or creed; and nationalities.
We constantly face the conflict between our identity and our beliefs - we are faced with it when we are told to consult some religious guru to suggest a cure to a disease instead of going to a doctor; we are faced with it when we are told to respect the institution of marrying within one's community / caste (and for Hindu's outside one's Gothra); we are faced with it when we are told that X place is the birthplace of your deity and hence a temple should be constructed at the site; we are faced with it when one is told that our religious scriptures describe same-sex relationship as unnatural or that slavery is a natural state; we are faced with it when one talks of bombing fellow citizens because they don't belong to your religion.
In this conflict of our beliefs in modern institutions of freedom and libertarian thought (which I am assuming are built through the modern education system) and that of our identities as Hindu, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists or Jews - mostly our beliefs win. Most of us remain committed to the modern world principles.
But there are times when our identities win over our beliefs. A David Headley and Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev brought up in the modern secular liberal American society; a Yasin Bhatkal brought up in contemporary, multi-cultured, secular India; and several educated Indian followers of Tantriks and other quacks are isolated but socially costly cases where identity has won over beliefs.
Louis Fischer wrote of Gandhi - 'Gandhiji's ideas can be ascribed to some inner quality of his mental eyesight that kept him from seeing people as a mass. He never saw or judged Indians or Frenchmen or Christians or Muslims in millions. He considered each human being too holy, too important to be the mere instrument of a remote impersonal terrestrial power called state." - See more at: http://www.nikhilkulkarni.in/2006/02/individuals-advocate.htmlJust like Gandhi, we also must strive to think in a way where our beliefs continue to win over our identities and we can create a cohesive, tolerant and vibrant human race without conflict.
|Image by Sean MacEntee|
From: email@example.comOf course I am not interested in MONARCHY RESOURCES (heck! I don't even know what it is) - but no one can argue the logic that any more warmongering by US (or its protege NATO) will only end up increasing the cost of oil and drive up the prices of everything. In fact, if one argues that had the US not attacked Iraq (and may be even Afghanistan), we probably would never have faced the 2008-present day crisis.
Sent: 01 September 2013 20:55
Subject: More to Come?
Do you want to become rich due to armed conflicts? It`s the verytime to do it. As soon as the military attack Syria, oil prices willrise as well as MONARCHY RESOURCES (M O_N K) share price! Go makeprofits on Sep 2, grab M O_N K shares!!!
Whatever! Mental hypothesizing aside - reading such stuff in spam is a unique experiment.
- What does the public want?
- Accept and understand your fears
- Get yourself a mentor
- Take action
- Patience is a virtue
If you happen to have a personal blog, take advantage of it and start asking your readers about their needs and what a great online business could offer them to satisfy these. Think of your blog readers as potential clients of your future online business. If you don't have a blog, another idea is to use Facebook and create a poll in which you ask your friends about their opinion. The third option is to check a free-classified website like sahipasand.com or a Q&A site like quora and take a look at what people are advertising the most, what are their needs? What are they looking for?
It is understandable that you will experience a whole host of different emotions when creating a business online. You are likely to doubt your abilities and worry for your future, so it is advisable to keep a more reliable job when starting out in this field. In doing so, you will have something to fall back on should your online business not be as successful as hoped.
It is incredibly useful to find a mentor who you respect and can draw inspiration from. This person will be able to advise you and steer you away from making any inconvenient errors.
Now it is true that meticulous planning is key, but you must also act and motivate yourself. Otherwise your online business will just be an intelligent idea on paper and will never become a reality. Follow the steps to start a business plan, fix yourself short-term and long-term goals and work at your best to meet all of them step by step.
Yes, the old saying really is true. You cannot expect miracles immediately and therefore, you must be patient if you hope to succeed in this field. Decide on a working sector to open your online business that excites you, as even if you don't make a lot of money, you will still be enthusiastic about your job. Note that even if your business is bound to be a success it'll probably take at least 6 months and a lot of work to start making profit from it. Don't give up if you see it's not growing at the pace you'd wish! Remember that big things take time!
Get organised and do your research to find out how you can use contemporary online viral tools such as YouTube, social networking sites and free classified websites to your advantage in order to market your company and in turn, create a successful online business.
As luck would have it, we reached the monastery just when it started getting dark (after which usually the doors are closed to visitors), but chanced to get entry into the main gate. However, to my disappointment, the doors of the main temple were closed by the time we climbed up. We were about to turn back when my brother spotted a young lama, in his teens, looking down from his room in the premises of the monastery towards us. My brother quickly ran up to him and asked him if the temple could be opened.
I had started tying up my shoe laces again, expecting a nigh in reply - but to my surprise the young lama agreed, and came to open the temple door. We went inside, prayed and then when we were about to leave, the lama called up to come up to their rooms. The rooms were built exactly like the Mumbai Chawls - smallish and side by side; each room meant for one student lama. The small size also possibly helped to keep them warmer in the extreme cold weather of Ladakh.
When we went up, it was getting dark and as is usual in Ladakh, the temperature was dropping a degree every few minutes. The young lama called us in, and then started heating some tea for us - we were pleasantly surprised! We also saw another boy, with Caucasian features, sitting in the same room. On talking to him we discovered he was an Italian student and had come to Ladakh as a tourist. But he had become good friends with our host and had been living with him since past few months.
The young lama was a Ladakh resident, he studied Buddhism as it is preached in Ladakh - he was studying to become a priest and looking at the thickness of the books in his room, it looked like a uphill task requiring extreme discipline of mind and the soul - the physical hardships of living an ascetic's life being apart! I wondered if this young boy even knew about the world outside of Ladakh and more importantly the "joys of life" outside the monastery. If he knew what it meant to live in a city, what night life was, how much and what all he could learn if he logged on the internet, what was the fun in watching movies etc. Probably, for him ignorance was bliss - but I also wondered if he was lucky not to be exposed to all these distractions of the worldly life and to be without being exposed to them, pushed comfortably into an ascetic life; or was it unfortunate that he would become an ascetic without ever discovering what he was missing (or what he was not missing or what troubles he was escaping), by becoming an ascetic.
Philosophy aside, today when I reminisce back on that evening of a few hours, I figured that I learnt many things that day:
- Life gives you chances only if you dare to take them. We could have walked back that day without even entering the temple, leave alone have a unique experience of seeing a lama's little alcove from inside and having tea with him and his Italian friend - but for the chance that my brother took of running upto him for permission.
- When you ask, you often get more than what you ask for! We simply wanted to enter the temple and pray to Maitreya Buddha - the deity of Thiksey Gompa. But the lord blessed us with a bonus experience which none of us would forget for life.
- Life is all about odd experiences! Had we just gone to the Monastery once or during day time, we would have clicked a snap there, remembered the place as a beautiful building and forgotten. But with the unique experience we had - we will never forget the place and the unique hospitality.
- Rules are not always universal. Yes there was a rule that one doesn't enter the monastery after dark, yes there's a rule that the lamas do not usually interact with tourists - but both were broken that day. And it didn't feel unholy in any way. The world is composed of two kinds of rules - the ones made by nature - which if broken lead to disaster, but the second set of rules (which are far larger in number and pervade our lives more multifariously) are made by humans, and these rules can be broken. In fact, such rules also need to be broken once in a while to set into motion a new order of the world - that thought of course is worth a full blog post sometime else.
- Its not about how much money you have or who you are, its always about being in the right place at the right time. Here I let out a secret - part of the reason the lama was generous to us was because my brother was posted in Ladakh then, and he hence could relate to him in some manner. Yet, possibly even an Amitabh Bacchan could not have landed into this kind of an experience as we did. It was sheer stroke of luck! So in conclusion - life is all about taking your chances!
The fact that I am writing about this small incident after more than 18 months is testimony to how deeply it is now imprinted on my memories.