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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.

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Mind and uncertainty

Over lunch today, my friend Dileep narrated to me an interesting incident.
Yesterday, he had been to a Cake Exhibition in Bangalore with his family. While he was standing in the queue for purchasing tickets, a board that said ‘Tender exact change’ caught his attention. The ticket was priced at 49 Rupees. He had two 1000 Rupee notes and one 500 Rupee note in his purse. He needed to buy 4 tickets, which would cost him 4X49 = 196 rupees. He would naturally would have given the 500 Rupee note for purchasing the tickets, which meant he had to get 304 Rupees back.

The board made irritated a bit when he thought of the 4 rupees. Was it something logical to expect everyone to carry exact change? Wasn’t the authorities responsible to keep enough change with them? Then he wondered whether they would give him the 4 rupees back or round the amount to 200 rupees. That would be very likely, but quite unfair. What was he supposed to do? Demand four rupees back? Will he look silly making a scene for just 4 rupees? He should make it clear that it was an issue of professional dealings and nothing to do with that insignificant amount…..

In no time his mind was caught up these thoughts going back and forth. The uncertainity was unbearable. Once at the ticket counter, he gave the 500 Rupee note and purchased 4 tickets. Unable to hold back any more, he asked the lady at the counter –‘Aren’t you going to give me the change’. ‘Yes’ she said and gave him four rupees back.

What a relief, the uncertainty that had gripped the mind for few long minutes suddenly ended.

It was only the today morning, when he checked his purse, did he realize that he had forgotten to collect the remaining 300 rupees at the counter yesterday. He was so caught up with the 4 rupees that everything else did not seem to matter.

Not that it was a goody story (at least for him), but I liked it immensely for the deep meaning. This is a snapshot of what keeps happening in our lives. The mind does not like uncertainity.The objective of all that thinking, planning, aggression, action and logic is to make life as certain as possible in the future. Therefore even the slightest uncertainity poses a threat that the mind need to fight with all its might. It pushes everything to the background and takes possession of thinking, however trivial the uncertainity is. No wonder we never hear the birds sing, feel the breeze, sees the sun splashing the evening sky with magnificient colours. They are all not important; will the next meeting, next task, next investment go as anticipated. That all that matters.

The famous philospoher Jiddu Krishnamurthy was asked, just before his death, what was the secret of his happiness. While the audience waited with a bated breath to hear that great secret from Jiddu, he simply said ‘ I don’t mind what happens’.

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 !

Secret of Happiness

My friend grows a ‘money plant’ on her desk in our office (Money plant is a beautiful creeper with green leaves laced with yellow stripes that is believed to bring ‘money’). She takes good care of it : watering, charting out a course for it to creep (it’s grown quite big now), regularly checking the cellophane tapes that hold it to the cubicle walls and often telling us about how good it looks.

Today she was attending to her plant and I was talking to her while she was at it. She normally asks me several doubts – for e.g why do the leaves become bigger as they go higher- and I generously give her my views.

She suddenly saw that one leaf (out of 47 leaves -she told me) was slightly damaged and was concerned about it. When she pointed it to me and asked me how that would have happened, I said smiling ” It’s because you have just one plant, these trivial things matters to you so much”. I have several plants at home and I would never have paid attention to a damage of a leaf -that was insignificant in the whole scheme of things.

Of late I have been doing some thinking on happiness (unhappiness to be precise) .Our identity (what we call ‘me’) essentially consists of few components (such as job, family,friends etc) which are given different weightages based on their relative importance.  For us to be happy, they all need to be as close as to the desired levels as possible. But if some of them are not as expected, they exert a proportionate downward pull on the overall ‘level of happiness’.

That would be to say the ‘overall level of happiness’ is the result of a pull between things going good vs things going bad. If the weight of bad things is more, we would be largely be unhappy.

When I had made the comment to my colleague that such trivial things matter because it was the only plant she had, I was suddenly struck by a revelation. The same truth holds good for life too. When we have few things that make up our life, each of them becomes so important that we cannot afford to have even one of them going against the expectation. A single component of our life (the identity to be precise) going wrong would be sufficient to make us completely unhappy.

The key to happiness may be then, to have several things that makes up your life so that the relative weightage of each of them would be small and even if one goes wrong, you wouldn’t become unhappy / depressed. This is quiet contrary to what experts in the field tell us – they ask us to pursue that single passion in our lives and that would make us happier. 

May be some future studies will show that people whose life is made up of several components are less unhappy (even if not more happy) than the  rest of the population!

But then what if  ‘being happy’ is the only thing that matters to us? I think that’s where the road to enlightenment leads to.

Boredom and creatiivty

I decided to pick a coffee during a meeting today. Since the office boy wasn’t there, I had to pick the coffee my self from the vending machine.

When I went to the coffee vending machine, something on the wall caught my attention. There were these beautiful flower designs and on a closer look, I realised that they were made of paper cups.

These were quite attractive and as I later figured out they were the handwork of the ‘office boy’ who manages the vending machine. This guy’s only job is to serve coffee/snacks at regular intervals whenever there is a meeting (and they don’t happen everyday). So he has lots of free time at his disposal. But, at the same time he is expected to be around the vending machine always.

I think that’s where these creative designs come from.

So most likely, boredom alone doesn’t lead to creativity, but it should be a combination of boredom and inability to escape from it.

I didn’t meet the guy though, but this is a tribute to that unknown designer

Plants do understand…

There was this plant in our balcony (I do not know what is it called) which bears (supposed to)small beautiful flowers in white and reddish-brown. For whatever reason, the plant had not borne flowers for last 2 years or  more. Eventually I had moved it to a corner which didn’t have as much sunlight for me to keep other plants.

Since my family was away for the whole of May, I was taking care of the plants. It had been a while and I tried to make some changes like shifting some plants here and there, pruning etc. Then I noticed this plant and realized that I hadn’t seen it flower for a long time. Instinctively I told the plant – See, I will give you two weeks and if you don’t flower, I am going to throw you out of this place and plant something else instead.

I said it as if I say to another human being and really meant it. I had recently read an article on the great scientist JC Bose, who had proved that plants also have emotions like humans, which can be measured. I had also read about an experiment where a scientist repeatedly assured a cactus plant that there was no danger and after some time the plant shed its thorns. May be they were at the back of my mind.

I had forgotten about all this until yesterday when my wife (they are back now) showed me that the plant was blossoming. When I remembered what I had said, I could sense a mild shock travelling up my spine. The plant had buds on almost every branch.

I can’t believe that this is a coincidence. Did the plant understand what I said? If yes, what is the magnitude of the error we commit by cutting trees, pruning, uprooting and the host of other crimes that we inflict upon them?

I would like to believe that the plants choose to be silent; in the state of pure being.