Category Archives: Life Around

Intelligence

I had stopped at this small roadside shop for a coffee and a smoke. As I was waiting after placing the order, my attention was drawn to a gentle nudge on my right leg. It was very distinct, but also very gentle. I looked down to face a dog with its eyes fixed on my face intently. It was silently telling me ‘buy me something to eat’. It was a very clear communication and there was no mistaking. I bought a packet of biscuits and offered him. He ate them briskly, gave me a look of ‘thanks’ and moved on to another person.

Intelligent Dog

Intelligent Dog

I have seen trained dogs do all kinds of things like picking newspapers and even do some shopping. But they are always doing something repeatedly and I never thought there was so much of intelligence in it. But here was a stray dog, healthy (you know why) and it had learned exactly how to communicate with humans. Did someone teach it ? very unlikely. My best guess was that it saw some children persuade their parents to buy them something.

Undying spirit of expression

Bangalore is a riot of colours in Spring. Here is a Yellow Tabebuia (Caribbean Trumpet) tree in full blossom near my home.

Caribean Trumpet Tree

While I was returning to my car after taking this photo, another Tabebuia tree on the other side of the road caught my attention. It is a victim of the ‘beautification’ drive in the city. They had concreted the pavement where this tree stood depriving it of everything needed to survive. The branches had dried, leaves gone and its imminent death was visibly very close.

Even then, there was this single bunch of flowers that it proudly bore on one the last green branches. I assume the tree knew of its fast approaching death, but that in no way did diminish its enthusiasm to express itself the best possible way.

It was saying silently to the humans – you can kill me, but not my spirit.

Yellow Tabebuia in Bangalore

Yellow Tabebuia in Bangalore

YellowTabebuia

 

Maya

I was looking up for something and landed in this website of Sivananda Yoga Centre. What caught my attention first was the quote ” “That which truly is not, but appears to be, is Maya” by Swami Sivananda on the page. And then followed the error message ‘404: The page you requested does not exist!’

What better testimony could I have for the quote : The webpage appeared to be there, but was not in reality !

Maya

Postscript: In Hinduism, three two-syllable words – Maya, Leela, Karma – explains pretty much everything. What happens to you beyond your control is Karma, what happens around you without your involvement is Leela. When you were involved and suddenly realize that you are not involved, that’s Maya. While an understanding of these potentially liberates a person, the beautiful contradiction is that they can be used as excuses to cover-up anything in life !

 

The smile of nature

The bright sunny days following the rainy season are the days in tropics where nature is at its best. It’s as if the nature has been impatiently waiting to express itself through everything – colours, sound and fragrance.

There I was, watching butterflies in our garden dancing in the bright sun. There were hundreds of them – bright and big, colourful, small and timid, black and white – briskly hovering over the lantana flowers. Shooting them with a mobile phone camera was tricky; still I gave it a shot. I had to get very close to get a good photo, but the cautious butterflies would never let me get close enough.

Butterflies

There was this cute black and white one that I tried to shoot. It flew off just in time, letting me just capture it in the frame. But definitely that wasn’t a great picture.

IMG653

The disappointment gave way to my astonishment as I was going through all the pictures later at Bangalore. There was something unusual and inexplicable concealed in the picture. It was a gentle smiling face inside a Lantana flower. The face was very clear and it seemed as if it was smiling at me having missed the butterfly.

Face_in_flower

No wonder most elements in nature where worshipped by humans through centuries. I am sure many would have had a glimpse of nature smiling at them when they were close enough.

Rains and a tragic story

I love rains in Bangalore. If you can get to a height of about 40 meters, you can watch the grandeur of the nature without any obstructions. This is not possible in most of the south Indians towns as hills and hillocks crisscross the peninsula.

It rained and rained on Friday and this is what I saw, standing in the 13th floor balcony of my office building

Rain_in_Bangalore
Rains are unwelcome in Bangalore. It takes a good shower to throw the city in to absolute chaos. But in any case nature chooses to make a mockery of the great human plans once a while.

If you thought it was only humans who disliked rains, here is a tragic story that would reveal some truth.

While we were away few weeks back, a pigeon family quietly settled down in the balcony of my apartment. By the time I had found them out, behind some containers placed on the balcony, the lady had already laid two eggs and was incubating them. I decided not to trouble them. Every time I stepped on to the balcony I used to curiously peep in to their home to find her sitting on her eggs and trembling with fear. I used to talk something to her, just to convey to her that I meant no harm (I guess she got the message soon and was looking more comfortable). The male used to only make intermittent visits (which sort of forced me to assume that he was having another affair somewhere else)

As I stepped in to balcony the morning after the rains, she was sitting on the railings and was weeping. There was no mistaking for the agony in her voice and in a flash I understood what happened. As I peeped in to their home, I discovered that both the eggs were drenched in the down pour.

The pigeon flew away and sat on the next building for a long time. It was alone, wet and very sad.

The two eggs were lying there, abandoned, like two crystallised tear drops.

Pigeon eggs

Spiritual Marketing

There is no dearth of festivals and auspicious days in India. 13th of May was one such. It was the auspicious “Akshaya tritiya”, the third day of the bright half of Vaishakh month (April-May) important for both Jains and Hindus. The belief for ages has been that any activity initiated on this day is bound to meet with success and it has been a custom to perform pujas, make charity or worship Lord Ganesha or Lakshmi on this day.

Until some years back when an idea struck some marketing genius. The news quickly spread that it was very auspicious to buy gold on this day. Indians love gold and any reason to buy gold is always welcome. But this connection was even irresistable; two birds with one stone. Indians caught on to this idea and now Akshaya Tritiya is almost synonymous with buying gold (in tonnes literally)

This is a collage of ads that appeared in Times of India on the May 12th, reminding you that buying gold was the most important thing to do the next day.
Akshaya Tritiya

For those unfortunate people who can’t afford to purchase gold on this special day, the paper also offers some pieces of wisdom that they can try with their wives (the only issue being that this is on page 5, that is generally r read only by those who have nothing much to do than reading newspapers)
The scholar does not consider gold and jade to be precious treasures, but loyalty and good faith – Confucius
The most pitiful among men is who turns his dream in to gold and silver – Khalil Gibran
The desire for gold is not for gold. It is for the means of freedom and benefit – Ralph Emerson

While the genius who came up with this brilliant idea (hats off to him) remains unknown, there is definitely a magic formula that he invented. If you want to sell anything in India, you can apply this magic formula and that is sure to work. Here are the basic rules
1)Create some mystic feel around whatever you are offering. It should have a benefit in the spiritual dimension that is incomprehensible and unquantifiable. And most importantly you shouldn’t spell out what the benefit is. Indians prefer to have their own interpretations
To add to the mystic effect, you need to spice up the matter with lot of things that sound totally illogical (More in the example below)
2)Indians love special days and occasions. (If you are doing something every single day, what is so special about it?).Make your product look special by attaching it to a special occasion ( For the activity to look special, the minimum frequency is weekly)
3)And you should never say when the benefit will come. Again Indians like to fill up that part on their own. It is also acceptable that the benefit will come after death or in the next life. More mystic it is, more the fun

For example, if you want to make Indians drink your cola, this is what you need to do.

First you make up a story like this:

Every Wednesday (Tuesday and Wednesday are generally the only the days of the week to which an average Indian has no rituals attached to) you should drink this brand of Cola 3 glasses on empty stomach along with a neem leaf and Tulsi leaf (that give more effect) and walk to the nearest temple of ……..god (choose from the widest collection of 33,000 crores) barefoot. You should be carrying a lemon, red flowers, camphor and a coconut in a basket. Offer them at the temple. (More rules make it more attractive, so spice it up with many of them. But none of them should make any logical sense). Do not eat rice on the entire day (rice in the south India, wheat in the north). Drink about 10 cans before noon and then again start drinking after sunset. Remember do not drink between lunch and Sunset. It is very auspicious to do this every Wednesday. (You can add a quote from some scripture saying that the Gods drink some nectar. Then you say that that nectar is your Cola. That makes it even more easier to sell)
You can add some hints about the benefit if you choose to. Anyways if people drink so much of cola, they may not live long enough to verify them.
If you package it like this, Indians will gulp down any stupid drink, eat any junk food, or use your soap or shampoo. All you need to do is keep repeating this till people believe it.

There is only one important point to note here. There should be nothing logical at all about the whole thing. Being overwhelmed is the key; logic spoils it

Grass root Innovation

In India, kids enjoy a long summer vacation; typically for the whole of May and June. This is the time the kids and their mothers go to their native place leaving the husbands alone in Bangalore.
While some people find this forced solitary life unbearable, I find this very interesting. The most interesting part is that I get a glimpse of a life with ‘no strings attached’. Usually this is also the time I do lot of introspection and sometimes simply space out.
When I am alone, there are few daily chores that I need to attend to. This involves some amount of exploration around the house, especially in the kitchen. And it is when I come across some simple innovative ideas that amuse me. For e.g,
1)our washing machine is in the work area and that’s where naturally the washing powder is kept. But then you don’t always wash in the washing machine, sometimes you wash certain things (like socks) in the bath room. To your pleasant surprise, you find washing powder is also kept (though in smaller bottles) to cater to such needs. This eliminates the need to walk to the work area just to get the washing powder.
2)Things in the kitchen cabinet are arranged in such a way that all those things that are used frequently (sugar, salt, tea powder etc) are ketp in the cabinet that is closest to the stove.

Working in large corporations, we generally tend to look down upon our wives as the ones who mechanically do the same things over and over again. But I am afraid that’s far from truth. If you aren’t convince yet, here is a simple illustration.
I had put the cloths in the washing machine yesterday. Since in a tropical hot climate like in India, the collars and cuffs become dirty and they need to brushed once before washing in the washing machine. I looked around for the brush and found something interesting. My wife had affixed a small piece of soap on the other side of the brush.
Washing Brush
Now, imagine the situation. The cloths are in the washing machine, and one needs to pick some of them, apply soap to the collars and cuffs (and some other places where there is extra dirt) and then brush them. If you were to use a soap and brush separately, it will involve lot of work to pick the soap, apply it, keep it back, pick the brush and brush it. All this extra effort is eliminated by this simple solution. All you need to do is just reverse the brush to apply the soap and turn it around to brush..
Washing Brush
I do not know if such a brush is available in the market, if not it is a good idea..

I think to see real practical innovations, one need to go not to the corporates (with all complex techniques for Systematic problem solving), but in to homes (more in to the kitchens) and you will simply be amazed at how the housewives have optimized everything possible.

No wonder you get your bedcoffee, breakfast, ironed cloths etc on time everytime.. They have optimized better than any CMM 5 companies..

Even a police man will know this

The phrase ‘even a police man will know this’ is used often to ridicule someone’s ignorance on some trivial matters or if they are slow to grasp something. For some historic reasons that I am not aware of, policemen are considered somewhat slow in their head.

But I think it’s time to give this a second thought.. Here is a very creative poster on road safety from Bangalore.

Ganesha in Traffic poster Bangalore

Ganesha in Traffic poster Bnagalore

If you don’t quite get it, you may want to read the story on How did Lord Ganesha get elephant’s head? here.

Cricket

Over lunch today, I was a mute spectator to a very intense discussion between my colleagues. The topic obviously was cricket.Cricket is like a second religion in India and there are on a handful of people (me being one) who has no clue about it.

The interesting thing about cricket is that the whole joy seems to come from discussing about it – speculating, commenting, arguing, analyzing matches, expressing anger/frustration, exchanging scroes, checking updates etc. Many of these enthusiasts do not watch any matches (except when there is a match when India is playing ofcourse) and most of them do not play cricket at all.

This is confusing to me. When someone loves a game, I am naturally inclined to believe that he would love to play it. But that not being the vase mostly, why so much enthusiasm about cricket?

I think the reason is this. Cricket is what most Indians use to strike a conversation and you could simply initiate a conversation with a stranger by asking the latest score. This is the most common topic of discussion in any gatherings. Any one who cannot discuss cricket is simply left out. I think it is the fear of being left out is what drives people to be crazy of cricket than the love for it.

Few weeks back, I walked in to the living room in my apartment to find this group of children huddled up together on the sofa. A young cousin of mine had come to visit us and had brought his portable Play Station with him. He was playing a T20 tournament in that and the enthusistic children from our apartment, including my daughter, flocked around him to be part of it.

Cricket

The children were cheering different players. My daughter was shouting ‘Sachin…, Sachin…’. There are also some arguments (minor though) on whether Sachin was better or Dhoni was better. As far as I know, none of these children had any clue about cricket (I am dead sure of my daughter). But each of them had to be part of the group and not left out. So they were sort of faking with the minimum stuff they could gather. And it was OK for them, they were just learning the trick. And for an outside it just looked like a great group of enthusiasts.

I am sure, this lesson about ‘being left out’ is going to remain in their hearts for their life and when they grow up, they are going to feeding on any news about cricket just to be able to be part of the discussions.

Putting numbers, targets and rules around the games was definitely a brilliant concept; it makes you indulge for longer times chewing on them. Otherwise the pleasure would have been there only while you ingulged in it. Prolonging pleasures beyong indulgance has been a great achivement for humanity as a whole. Because it has taken the pleasure from the body to the mind.

Indulging is fine, but feeding on it outside of it is what creates the problem. I think this definitely has influenced the psyche of the nation negatively. It is this mind set that creates the perpetual longing for indulgance. I am sure if a study is conducted, the sexual offenses in India would be much lesser during the cricketing season than rest of the year.

Our Shame

The New Year celebrations in India were dampened by the recent incident at New Delhi. A 23 year girl who was gang raped by 6 men in a moving bus, succumbed to the injuries on the 29th of Dec after a 10 day brave battle. No other crime in the recent past has caused so much of a public reaction and the nation’s capital has witnessed protests of unprecedented scale in the last few days. The protestors had called for a nationwide ‘Bandh’ today, perhaps the first of its kind for a crime. This incident was is not something the world’s biggest democracy would be proud of.

The crime against women has been on the rise steadily and post the Delhi incident, the public, politicians, film stars and other leaders are unanimous on the opinions that there needs to be more severe punishment for sexual offenders. At the moment the nation seems to be divided between gallows and castration for the Delhi crime accused. This demand obviously comes from the logic that the fear of punishment would discourage people from committing such crimes.

But how true is that? Even post the Delhi incident (which attracted so much of attention across the nation), there has been dozens of similar offenses reported every single day. There was even another attempt of rape in a moving bus in Delhi. Considering what happened after the Delhi incident, one would expect a decline in such crimes atleast for a few days or weeks.But that’s not the case; sexual crimes continue to be committed on every single day.

Once the crime is committed, it is easy to label and accuse the criminals and there is a strong judicial system to take care of them. But the real question is – were they not criminals prior to committing this crime? ? The answer is Yes, they were. The potential was with them. But unfortunately there is no way to know of it, unless the crime is actually committed. In fact there are millions and millions of people who carry the potential to commit such a heinous crime, given a chance. Some of them might get a chance (god forbid) while most may not get a chance. These people who carry the potential to commit a crime are actually the nation’s worry than the ones who have actually committed it (which is a very small percentage). They are just waiting for that moment in dark street corners, their own houses, class rooms, trains and every other place imaginable.

Will fear prevent them from doing it? I guess not. Because these crimes are actually done several times in the mind and when the opportunity comes their mind is completely taken over by the impulse.

India was the home for world’s most ancient civilizations and taught the world love and compassion. Contentment is the natural result of love and compassion. Those days and gone now and in this new era of information technology and globalization, greed has taken over the society. Greed is the motivator in a capitalistic country and is always accompanied by a perpetual and insatiable lack and desire. We have moved from a world where people believed one could be perfectly happy without any possessions to a world where one is unhappy even with every possible comfort. And all these potential criminals carry this insatiable need for fulfillment in them, waiting for the right opportunity to satisfy it.

May the victims soul rest rest in peace.

Grass root innovation

I was in Sabarimala over the weekend for the annual pilgrimage. Sabarimala is one of the most popular pilgrimage spots in South India, attracting over 50 million people every year and undoubtedly one of the largest human gatherings in the globe. The temple is situated on a hill-top and has been facing difficulties accommodating devotees who pour in at the rate of about 90 people per every minute. Several initiatives have been taken by the authorities in the recent past the manage the increasing crowd, de-congest the place to make space for the pilgrims. One such initiative has been to relocate the shops beyond the periphery wall.

This naturally should have hit the sales and the shops are invariably forced to think out of the box to boost sales. Here is one such shop

Sabarimala

What you see below is a pilgrim shelter the boundary of which is indicated by the yellow line. There is a shop that sells steel vessels (used by pilgrims to carry the offerings back home) above the boundary wall  indicated by the red arrow. The pilgrims spent time in the shelter and it is likely that they would buy the vessels there than to walk up the row of shops above.

So this shop people have figured out a way. Firstly, they have displayed all the vessels on the walls for pilgrims to choose. Then there are two people sitting on the wall mid way. The pilgrims can communicate with them – choose a vessel, enquire the price, bargain etc. Once the deal is fixed, the transaction is carried out using a bucket and a rope

The money is put in to the bucket and the change and the vessel is delivered back.

Sabarimala_1

This is called grass root innovation.

A policeman who saw me taking this picture simply smiled, because the law only forbids selling anything within the shelter and the wall definitely was not covered under the rule !

Moving in the other direction

Kalasipalayam is undoubtedly one of the filthiest localities in Bangalore. It’s also a transport hub and several private bust operators have their office here.  This means that once a while a city dweller will need to make a visit to this place, either to drop or pick someone up.

I was here at 6:00AM today morning to pick some guests who were coming from my hometown. Upon reaching there, I learnt that the bus would be coming only by 8’o clock or so because of some problems on the way. Now I had to wait and having nothing to do I took a stroll around the place. It had been a long while I was here and never have I spent such a long time here.

Unable to bear the filth and the stench  I abandoned my stroll and decided to settle down somewhere with a pack of cigarettes. I sat in front of a close shop and started watching the crowd moving in front of me. There were sleep travellers, workers, rag pickers, auto riksha drivers and several men and women who didn’t seem to have any identity. What caught my attention was a few mad men who were also moving along. Soon I realized that there were in fact many of them. Some of them were extreme – laughing and talking to them selves, some aloof with an expression of deep grief and most of them looked disconnected from rest of the world. The peculiar thing was that unlike the other crowd, they had some identity about them.

As I sat watching these mad men, I could help wondering where they all suddenly appeared from. We normally don’t see mad people in the posh areas of Bangalore, in malls or on the busy main roads. We see rag pickers at the most and not really mad men. And suddenly here were many of them floating in the crowd in front of me.

Is it that it was the filth that attracted them all to Kalasipalaya? Can’t mad people put up with a clean surrounding?

It was about 7:45AM now and I got up to take some photos for the blog. I started looking around for some mad men to take some pictures. But soon to my surprise I realised that most them had vanished. While there were so many at the day break, I could hardly see any now. I walked through some of those narrow lanes to see if I could find some one to take some photos. And my guess was right, there were quiet a few who had taken shelter in some of the narrow alleys.

The locality had by now woken up and was getting ready for the day. And the mad people had vanished quietly from the scene.

My notion about mad people so far has been that they are just disconnected from everything else and live a life within themselves. But I realise that, that’s may not be the case. These mad men avoid the civilization; they prefer to live in places that the civilized people despises and they slowly withdraw in to darkness when the civilised society comes to life.

They are just moving in the opposite direction.

Why? Is it because it the civilized society that calls them mad people? Must be.

A lesson on dignity

Another weekend in my hometown; I spent my day watching butterflies, birds and lazily strolling amidst trees.

I have grown some creepers over the fence that bears beautiful violet flowers. There was this large beetle visiting the flowers to drink nectar. As I was watching, the beetle would gently circle over a flower, lands on it, tucks its wings, gently enters the flower and disappears ( the flower is conical shape in with a small tunnel that is just big enough to accommodate the beetle), spends few seconds inside (enjoying the nectar for sure), retreats gently and takes off to another flower.

As I stood watching the beetle going from flower to flower, I was awe struck with the simple elegance the beetle carried with it. It was strong enough to actually tear the flower apart, drink the nectar and leave carelessly. The flower was completely defenseless. But the beetle chose to be so gentle that there was absolutely no trace that it had actually entered the flower and spend few seconds drinking the nectar. Every movement of him had so much grace of grace.

How much dignity every being in nature carries and the respect they give to each other.

For a moment I felt so insignificant to be a human – the only thing in nature who does not treat anything else with any trace of respect.

Bandh

Today we had a ‘forced holiday’ throughout India.a Bandh. The opposition parties had called for a Bandh (Bandh means a General strike. The word literally means ‘a tying up’ in Hindi) to protest against the recent steep hike on petrol prices.

Bandh is a big affair in India. Shops remain closed, offices do not function, roads deserted and people pretty much stay indoors. The severity depends on the party that has called for Bandh. The communists are notorious for making Bandh a big success and the Communist ruled states in India enjoy at least one such ‘forced holiday’ every month.

Are Bandhs the right way to protest or are they simply causing damage to the nation’s progress by losing millions of hours of productive work? It’s hard to say. On one side is the right of every man to protest against what he thinks is unjust and on the other side is the huge losses incurred by Corporations and the economy in general (Not to mention about people unable to reach hospitals on time, marriages postponed, people stranded in Railway stations etc. and the inconvenience caused. They don’t matter much; it’s at the personal level and people will need to sort it out themselves) I leave the question here for your to ponder, that’s not the point here.

 There is another side to it. Bandh has an un-seen spiritual significance. It’s a sort of meditation at a grand scale.

On any normal day, this is what you see in Indian cities: People running around because they are late to work or some other important appointments, people making frantic calls demanding updates, giving instructions, people honking restlessly at traffic signals, vehicles trying to squeeze through the almost-standstill traffic, people trying to pile in to elevators, follow-up meetings, midnight con-calls…..

 The message that everyone is conveying: I am someone important, I need to be somewhere at this point in time, otherwise something is going to go wrong. What I need to do is important.So I need to rush. Hurry.

People are always running; because they are important, what they need to do is important, time is important, commitments are most important.

 And then comes the Bandh. Everything comes to s stand still. No office, no tasks, no commitments, you don’t need to be anywhere. No one cares.

And nothing happens.

What is the message?: Relax, even if no one does anything here for the whole day, NOTHING happens.

The Bandh makes a mockery of our ‘inflated self-esteem’ and reminds us how insignificant we are.

 We try to pretend otherwise. The next day Newspapers give the estimated loss caused by the Bandh and that’s somewhat satisfying – we are important. Aren’t we?