Monthly Archives: July 2011

On email signature quotes

Like most of you, my office life revolves around emails. I don’t consider myself a socially active person, but even then I get about 20 mails a day. Some of these emails interest me deeply, because of something that they carry beyond the email itself. That’s a ‘quote’ (I think it’s called an email signature quote) that some people put beautifully below their signature. Every time I see such a quote, I think of the person and almost every time there is a huge disconnect. This is something that has interested me for a long while.

Today I happened to meet someone for a discussion. This was the first time we met, though we have exchanged mails before. There was a quote under his signature that said “Only strength can cooperate. Weakness can only beg”. The message was clear enough – I am of the first type in case you don’t know (or at least this is what I thought it conveyed) and I was skeptical when I went to meet him (thanks to past experiences on the similar lines). The meeting was a complete disaster. I presented him the plan for an initiative that we had undertaken and there was one area where I wanted his support. He cut me short and showed me a plan that he had prepared and presented to the CEO sometime back. The key difference was in his approach the long-term plan and the short-term plans were sequential while in mine, they were sort of parallel. I tried to explain to him why would a parallel approach work and finally meeting ended up with him making a statement like ‘I am not used to being told how to do something’.

As I walked to desk post the meeting, I was thinking again about the signature quotes. Why do people put them there? And for what purpose? Are they trying to convey something ? And why is it that there is always a contradiction?

Interestingly most of these signature quotes are about intangible things like creativity, commitment, attitude etc which people generally like to associate with themselves but at the same time are hard to prove or disprove. I have not yet seen a quote that says – come to office on time or switch off lights when you leave, which would have made more sense practically. But as it so happens all these quotes are about higher levels of consciousness and super human qualities! My take on the purpose of putting these quotes in the mail is this – to convey that they are of a different league or they are at a higher conscious plane. This is where I find the contradiction. Almost in every case I find the person badly lacking the quality that the ‘quote’ is trying to highlight.

One possibility is that these people are aware (unconsciously may be) of this lack and they are trying to project it the other way to skillfully hide it from others. Or is it that they sincerely want to possess those qualities and publishing it like this will in a way force them to imbibe that quality? That would be a more positive way of looking at it.

I sincerely hope so.

Superstitions and Intuition

This is an afterthought from the previous post….

Superstitions involve some beliefs that aren’t logical but yet you believe them to be true. If you observe, that’s the same case with Intuition. In intuition, you know something but may not know how or why.

There are two aspects to such ‘illogical’ beliefs. One is the ability of the mind to believe in it and second is the outcome and the environment. It’s likely that it is the same quality of the mind that believes in superstitions and also intuitive thoughts.

 What distinguishes them is fear

 Fear works in two ways. Fear comes when you already know the outcome of something. Fear restrains you from doing that activity because the outcome is unacceptable/unpleasant/dangerous. This fear is sometimes good because it helps you avoid danger and survive

Fear also works the other way. When the future looks uncertain (or the probability of success is very small), certain blind beliefs could help to reduce the anxiety. In India most superstitious people are film stars, politicians and business men; because all their professions involve a lot of uncertainty.

 But when the uncertainty is acceptable, intuition dawns. In the case of blind superstitions, you are trying to make your uncertain future predictable, while in the case of intuition, you are not conditioned by the fear about the uncertainty.

 If you basically have the quality of blind beliefs, it is likely that you can become very intuitive. It’s said that consciousness exits at three levels: Instinct, Intellect and Intuition. At the level of instinct the thinking is conditioned by fear, at the level of intellect, the thinking is conditioned by intelligence and when these conditioning are removed, you become intuitive.


How we become superstitious?

A cat crossing your path is considered a bad omen in India, more so if the cat is black ( I think this belief also exists in many other cultures too). Not sure why, but my take is that this must have come from the times when human beings lived in close proximity to jungles. A cat is endowed with very good instincts that helps it to sense danger earlier than humans. For someone walking on a jungle path, a cat running would have meant that there is some danger close by; perhaps a wild animal.

But it is interesting to see how wide-spread this superstition is and how it has managed to survive for such a long time. Our logical minds will definitely refuse to accept superstitions, but there are always some incidents that shake our logic. Let me narrate my experience.

Last week I was driving my father to the hospital from my hometown. All of a sudden, a black cat crossed the road right in front of my car. Instinctively, I pulled off and parked the car on the road side. (This reaction was based on a very old experience. Few years back I was driving with a friend of mine when a cat crossed our path. I ignored it and continued further and sometime later had a very close encounter with an elephant. Then my friend advised me that the right thing to do when the cat crosses your path is to just stop for few moments; it has got something to do with time)

As I stopped and picked up a bottle of water to drink, I was glancing at the rear view mirror. In a second or two, a bike that was coming in the opposite direction collided with a bicycle right behind my car. All the people fell on the road and in a flash I was out of my car running to help them.

 Nobody was seriously injured.  But as I continued to drive further, I was thinking about the cat. Did it really sense that there was something bad going to happen.

One thing I am sure, the next time I have a cat crossing my path, I am going to stop for a while. Hell with the logical mind!

A ghost story – Part 1

What happens to us after we are dead? Do we exist as ghosts? Can the ghosts come back and interact with us? Do ghosts harm us? If they do, what’s the purpose?

I know there are no right answers to these questions. But let me narrate an incident that’s taking place in our apartment complex.

I live in a 64 flat, 5 storied apartment complex. The incident I am about to narrate began about two weeks back. We have two guards for the night security. Couple of days back they started sensing something strange in the car park area. More than once they saw a shadow of a man moving in the parking area at odd hours. On many occasions, somebody was trying to open the door of a car parked in the parking area. Twice the security alarm of the car went off at night.

Two days back someone from the 1st floor called up the security late night complaining that someone was dragging a luggage trolley on the corridor and they suspected it for a thief. The security guards went to investigate and found nothing.

Day before yesterday the guards heard the sound of the trolley from the first floor and upon inspection found no one there. Suddenly there was the smell in incense in the air. They heard the noise of someone banging on the plastic sheets on the terrace and again couldn’t see anyone. This happened at about 3AM. The guards were terrified and decided to stick to each other and sat on two chairs facing each other. Then a terrible thing happened. One of the guards suddenly felt someone pressing his neck from behind and froze in horror. The other guard who noticed this shook him fiercely to bring him back the senses.

There is some background to this story. One of the residents of our apartment, who was living on the first floor, succumbed to death about 6 months back. The car, around which the problems began, belongs to him. And the noise of dragging the trolley came from the floor where he used to live.

The problem got worse yesterday. We had made arrangements for all the lights to be turned on. The guards, now beyond their wit’s end, sat together on two chairs facing each other. A strange loud noise brought the guards from the adjoining complex to come to our apartment and to their horror they found both the security guards frozen with fear and out their mind.

Both the guards reports that someone caught hold of their neck from back and tried to thrust a finger in to their mouth and this time they saw who it was. It was the person who passed away 6 months back.

This is where the story stands as of now. I am not sure if the security guards were hallucinating or there is something really unnatural taking place. These security guards come from the north-east India, where such beliefs might be very strong. I don’t know.

I am leaving this post incomplete. I will continue the narrative if there are further developments.

But there is something that I don’t understand at all. Why should this gentleman, who was quiet reserved and harmless, now intend to harm someone? That too the poor guards.