What I was reading……….

My quest for life and knowledge continues and I continue to be surprised and humbled by the life and ideas of some outstanding individuals and scholars.

This week, I listened to the interviews of Samuel Huntington, the author of Clash of Civilizations. He says that the euphoria which had built after the end of Cold War and demolition of Berlin Wall was petering off now and the states were aligning inter-alia on cultural lines. He says instead of western model or North America led alliance dominating the world we are witnessing alignment of countries along cultural lines. He says we are witnessing the growth of North America-European alliance, Islamic Cultural alliance (though fragmented and fighting too), Indian cultural alliance, Chinese cultural alliance, Japanese alliance and Latin America and African alliance. He says that these alliances will consolidate further as they resolve their issues and progress or modernise without following the western model per se. He believes that many countries want to modernise but essentially not westernise. For example, Japan is a modern country but not western. Likewise India may modernise even more without following the western cultural ways. He says Westernism and Modernism are different. Though he also believes that western model of modernism which included, rule of law, separation of state and religion, respect for Individual rights and human rights has proved to be a good way of growth since 15th century and that this model in past has catapulted these nations on the path of progress ahead of its compatriots. He also highlights that if China continued to grow at the same pace for next one decade more it will posture herself as a hegemonic power in East Asia more often and that China believes that it has every right to do that as it was exactly that hegemonic for hundreds of years up  until middle of 19th century. The churning which the whole world is going through will test the hypothesis more in years to come. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

2. I am also reading Pandeymonium written by ad-man, Piyush Pandey. He has titled the book after the whatsap group of his family, a trend which I think every family is following. Piyush born and brought up in Rajasthan, had a family of 7 sisters and two brothers (Adman Prasoon Pandey being other brother)  and that includes her sister Ila Pandey known popularly as Ila Arun, the famous film and TV personality and folk singer. Piyush started as a serious cricketer and played for Ranji along with Arun Lal and Kapil Dev and admits in the book that after initial successes got carried away with the minor milestones of representing his state in Ranji, while players like Vengsarkar and  Kapil Dev did not rest and paused till they got national and international fame. A very valuable lesson of life indeed. He though used his love of cricket in designing some of the most popular ads of Cadburys chocolate in which a lady praying for a six from his love playing a shot in the middle of the stadium and then rushing merrily towards crease to congratulate the batsman. He has been associated with many more ad campaigns pertaining to cricket and also with campaigns for bidding for hosting the cricket  World Cup in Indian Sub Continent. He has been a permanent fixture in most of the campaigns of IPL teams too. He learned the hard lessons from not working hard enough for cricket but used the experience in his alternative career.

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3. Piyush owes many of his most popular ideas to his middle class upbringing and family values. His work on Fevicol is inspired by the enthusiasm he had when their family got their first dining table after days of woodwork done by a carpenter and watched closely by him. He says that Fevicol is a very important ingredient of the furniture but he says that it is always invisible as it is concealed to the inside of the furniture. He calls his mother Bhagwati Pandey to be ‘Fevicol’ of the family till she was alive. His association with Pidilite group through the famous ads of a dhoti clad South Indian villager man applying fevi-quick on his local stick to catch fishes easily while a professional anglers with all mannerism waits furtively, is one of the most memorable of his ads. So are the ads of unbreakable eggs of hens eating poultry food out of a reusable Fevicol box. He is also credited with one of the most memorable ad on Indian Television, Mile Sur Mera Tumhara in 1990s. This ad had captured the imagination of the country in a huge way in those years and it touches the raw nerves of us all. Piyush is very proud of this ad and he did it with a very paltry budget.

There is so much to read…..

I read for my job; I read for my life…..

Last week I was trying to explain to my staff that whenever I was free, why did I keeping reading books back to back. Out of sudden I made an interesting statement. I said, “Deepak, earlier I used to read for my job, now I read for my life.” He did not say anything on this, but I looked back at those lines and found them to be good. The truth for me has been that while I was studying prior to getting a job, I was studying for my professional career, through which, I could earn enough to have a decent living.  I was thinking physically only. Coming from a middle class family, the primitive instinct was to survive and to survive well. There were no high moral grounds back then. I wanted to be successful so that I could afford to feed, cloth and shelter me and my family well and the path to that safety went through the good and strategic quality of reading competitive stuff. I earned my graduate and post graduate dovetailed to the knowledge and exigencies and intricacies of competitive exams which obviously was my ticket to financial independence and subsequent saturation of basic survival needs. My reading list therefore centered around, Political Science, History and General Studies. I had mugged up the capitals and currencies of all countries found on globe-big and small from Burundi to Burkina Faso and from Chili to Chad. I would have mugged up the length, breadth and width of all sport grounds and of all important boundaries. I had mugged up the distance between moon and earth and between earth and mars and many more. I had to excel and beat those who were competing with me memorizing the GDP and inflation rates and distances of stars of even Proxima Centauri!. I had to beat the heat. I did that and by the grace of God, clicked to get selected. I was very proud of the knowledge but was it all one needed to live? Is the distance between earth and moon so important for non-astronauts like me?  Does it really matter that I know the capitals of Latvia or Liechtenstein. I don’t think so, now. I had actually surrendered to the needs of the hour but all that I had amassed as knowledge was really very insipid.

So once I had settled in to job and got some sense of economic safety, I started looking around and tried to ascertain, what I knew about my life and people around me. I soon realised that I did not know much. While I knew about Akbar and Sikander or GDP or BPL, I did not know about how should I behave with my boss or with my ex-college friends or in job colleagues. I did not know about Psychology of a child or a father and this mattered. I did not know that Men were from Mars and women were from Venus. Even when I had become a proud father of two, I did not know how to be a parent to kids. I had learned from life but that was not enough. Suddenly I realised that I was the most ignorant and least educated person, I knew. Realising my limitations was first step.

This feeling of  ‘knowing nothing’ started to sink in me and I was really feeling disgusted if not depressed. This was really interesting that despite being the proud topper of the Provincial Civil Services, I was feeling like a dodo. I was not mentally prepared for this. I was feeling like a deer lost in the wilderness of Amazon jungles. I could have been mauled by anybody. What I had learned till now was inadequate. I therefore needed to go back to my basics once again.

I started to talk with close friends and family members but most of them despite being successful were not able to realise my predicament of having low knowledge quotient despite being a successful individual. I asked my parents and teachers. Hitherto, the key factor of me, getting success in this life had been that I was good in studies and could mug up a lot and even most tasteless knowledge of Africa or Europe. I decided to go back to books. The different books. The topics were different this time. The first noticeable book I laid my hands on and which changed a lot of my behavior, was Dale Carnegie’s ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People’. I bought this book waiting to catch a train at Aligarh Railways station from a wheeler book stand. I read the book and realised that it had a treasure trove of information regarding human relationships and friendship. I could also use the lessons of the book in conducting day-to-day affairs of my life, like in convincing the principal of Sophia School in Meerut in 2004, why my daughter should get admitted to that prestigious school mid session or why to listen first about people themselves than to speak, if you wanted the attention of busiest and most successful doctor of the city. It was a new tool in my hand and it worked. I smiled again.

There have been many more books since then including the most religious of Gita Press Gorakhpur. I have gone through the Upanishads and Puranas to Kalyan to Ashtavakra Geeta to books on food to those on travel and leisure. I have read books on marriages, sex, friendship, psychology, snakes, photography,  and what not. My book shelf is getting richer and I am feeling more satisfied every day. Every penny spent on these books has been useful and caused serenity and peace inside me. I have found many answers and quest goes on. Now, though I have started forgetting the names of capitals and currencies, I feel I know few things about life. I need to know more…………

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Happiness is in moving from XXL To L

Ralph Lazar and Lisa Swerling in their book Happiness is in ……………write most simple but most striking ways of feeling happiness. They believe you don’t need a billion dollar to buy an Antila in Jhuggis infested Mumbai to feel happy. Nor everybody can afford to make Shahrukhs and Katrinas to dance at their daughter’s wedding like Miitals. Author duo highlight that there are simpler and zero expense ways of feeling happy. One can feel happy say by looking at his school days’ group photographs or by jumping into a pile of leaves or by blowing bubbles of soap water or when I publish a blog and get my first like. All these pleasures or happy moments of life are least expensive but most precious. They give you million dollar pleasures every day and if you start counting your gains, you will go to bed smiling more often not.

One of my most recent ways of feeling happiness is when I go for shopping now. Till last year I was close to a Quintal (Yes, I touched the magic figure). I had ignored my health quite badly despite many nudges and politically right warnings from friends and family, I did not mend my weighty ways. Though I did good work and was quite busy, physical fitness and health was not my priority. I was (still am) fond of eating and with many friends and college buddies posted together, we had a hell lot of time together, with whatever we could eat and whatever we could drink. Party today and party tomorrow was the motto. In those days, no party of us ended without fixing the next venue and menu. We were happy and so were our bursting from seams bellies.

This could not have continued for long. During to my visit to Valley of Flowers last August which involves a good trek of almost 5 Km, I realised what a poor sack of weight I was and after the Helicopter ride in which I was weighed in before boarding (the normal practice in hilly areas), I was badly exposed, more than the poor Sandip in Delhi. I was looked at almost disdainfully by the man who allowed me to board the chopper. I survived the valley track somehow, but came back with a resolve to change. With few other factors helping me, gradually I started to lose my flab slowly but steadily. In last one year, I have sweated more than perhaps a good over head water tank of a small colony, but it has paid off. The results are to be seen to be believed. I have lost almost 20 kg in this period.

Now when I go for shopping for cloths and the shop keeper looks at me and asks me to try a L or M size shirt, I feel like I have scaled Mount Everest or as If I have resolved the Kashmir problem for India ( much to the chagrin of separatists; sorry folks). The satisfaction I derive now, while trying for those M and L size shirts is a million dollar one for me. I bask in my new-found glory by trying as many shirts as I can. I am getting bolder now and egged on by my wife, I don’t mind disrobing mannequins (Dushashan is not my favourite character still) wearing my sizes, so as I can try them (I was told in a showroom that almost all mannequins do wear an M Size only!) This was unimaginable till last year as at that time every showroom I went to, used to raise their hands soon, as they did not have those many plus sizes clothes to try. Some of them were blunt enough to suggest me to get a good personal tailor to stitch and some of them suggested me specific brands for plus size people (read hopelessly fat) like me. While earlier my shopping used to be centered around XXL and sometimes XXXL, now there is no X factor in it, it is a simple L and M. This seems to be most mundane, but those who have not ever been XXXL sizes may perhaps not understand this. But believe me, I am zillion dollar happier now when I try M and L sizes. Life is really best in  L & M size!. Happiness is in losing Xs. I don’t think building another Antila could have given me those many smiles.

The Reality Bites

In 2009, I was posted as a Sub Divisional Magistrate at Aligarh. I was a happy less than 40 young man and enjoying my life. I was reading lots of book and with luck on my side, was reading and talking a lot about the power of positivity. I had just finished reading the Joseph Murphy’s best seller ‘The Power of Subconscious Mind”. This great book talks about the power of positive thinking through our sub conscious plane of mind which works in a transcendental way to make possible in physical world ,the changes you want to see in real world through your mental energy and thoughts. It is a good read and unless and you are the die hard friend of Einstein only, you will believe a good part of it if not all. This despite what you read and appreciate is not as per known parameters of real sciences. I was enamored by book and since I always believed and still do, there is a science beyond what we know today and that if we can’t demonstrate the metaphysics, it does not mean that its is not there and it is all unreliable occult only. I still believe that there is demonstrable physics and non-demonstrable metaphysics also.

So with these strong beliefs, I once met my senior colleague (whom I would not name for privacy purposes) whose wife was ill for some reason. When I came to know that she was ill, I quoted few examples from Murphy’s book to tell him that apart from the medicines he and his wife should read that book themselves and see the miracles. He was not sure but being one of the most outstanding gentleman I know in entire cadre, he gave proper  hearing and respect to my opinion and said that he would read the book. I was dead sure that book would hit the bull’s eye and all diseases could be helped if not cured by the power of positive thinking. Sometimes, if you are feeling good yourself, you become too positive and that’s not bad but still the world is too huge and complex fall into patterns of sureties. The Gurus flaunting their knowledge are not in short supply in India, they have never been actually. I was of the same state of mind and was not ready to see any alternative aspects of life and without being sensitive to him, prescribed solutions as the most authoritative doctor of meta-physics (this disease is still not exorcised out of me).

I met him again after few days and repeated my unsolicited gyan. He listened to me again patiently and said that he concurred with me but since his wife had been diagnosed of cancer and it was quite late, he was skeptical about the magic of sub conscious mind. But loaded with my recently gained knowledge, I continued to extol the virtue of a positive mind and suggested him to accept what I was saying. After listening to my harangues for some time, he invited me to visit his home and meet his wife personally and then advise him. I was eager to spread my gyan to his house too and the ailing lady.

After a day or two I reached his house and sat in the drawing-room. He invited me to his bed room where his wife was lying on the bed and was recuperating. I was fully ready to prescribe my metaphysical gyan/medicines and was rehearing my lines. But the moment I faced her actually, I was shocked. I was unprepared for what I saw. In front of me was a woman of 40 years but her weight was not more than 40 kg. A side of her face was swollen due to cancerous growth and as she tried to straighten up her body to give her attention to me, she had to struggle. I was petrified. I had not seen a cancer patient in this shape ever in my life. She was not a normal patient in any form, my mind could imagine. She was badly sick. To add to my agony, on one side wall I could see a portrait of a beautiful married lady, which I was told was her’s. She was really beautiful some time ago. I was dumbstruck and could not say a word for few seconds. My throat parched at the sight of a serious cancer patient. My colleague, seeing my state of affairs broke the silence and introduced me to his wife and said to her that I was a good officer and wanted to say something about positive thinking. I was still frozen and was feeling short of words and oxygen. I could hardly say anything except my rudderless greetings. Seeing my discomfort my colleague said few things about my approach and education, but I was speechless. I could not utter a word. Only thing I could say after much effort, was that I hoped everything would be fine. I knew I was lying and felt like a liar in uttering those words. Now I knew nothing about positivity. I felt I had never read anything about that. I soon came out of the room as I could not bear the deafening silence.

Once out, I took a deep breath of fresh air. I had no words to say. My colleague offered me some tea which I had, but I was badly shaken from inside. I was feeling very hollow. I had been prescribing nonsensical positive thinking without fully knowing the back ground and the disease. I was extolling virtues of positive mind as a machine without understanding the real situation. I tried to look back at the events of last few days. I could not guess that my senior colleague would be in so much pain and still doing his official duties that diligently. He was patient enough to listen to my talks and never yelled at me to stop my rubbish. He should have been going through a lot of emotional churn while listening to my dogged defence of power of sub conscious mind. The power of positive thinking is right, but I had to be sensitive about the scenario in which I was to utter and prescribe those tawdry formulas. I was feeling like an idiot at my nearsightedness. I was actually not able to see eye to eye to my colleague.I came back humbled and belittled.

The lady died next year. My colleague did not remarry and is a proud father of a boy and girl and doing his best to ameliorate his pain by taking care of his children. I have not been able to forget that incidence and many times still, her collapsing body reminds me of this ephemeral world and our short sightedness in living in this delusional world. That reality bites me still.

How Little I know…….

As I read more and more in my spare time at Saifai, I am realising that I know so little about this world and outstanding human beings inhabiting it, who are enlightening us everyday through their work and knowledge. Socrates was not only humble but bang right when he confessed that he knew nothing except his own ignorance. I am no Socrates of course, but am gradually realising that I know almost nothing. Exposed of my limitations, I got to learn about following pearls of wisdom this week;

1. About the idea of “Imagined Communities” given by Benedict Anderson through a book published with the same title in 1983 and revised in 2006. He says that nation states are basically imagined communities with real political boundaries but with intangible entity like air or weather. While you can’t see air or weather they are there. Likewise nation states have been created by grouping a people-community within a specific boundary and by selling the idea to people that they have common language or culture or cuisine or religion. People start identifying with nation after they are consistently bombarded with the symbols of nations in form of a common flag, common cuisines, common language, common anthropology etc. These symbols try to gloss over subtle differences in practices of culture from one area or region to another. He says advent of press and media have particularly strengthened the idea of nation-state as they have effective medium (the representative images) to posit before a common clientage as the ubiquitous and pervasive symbols. These symbols in turn handicap their vision of alternative ideas and visions of uncommon things and diversity which otherwise is the hallmark of the human diaspora. He introduces the idea of ‘Print Capitalism’- a marriage of capitalism and mass printing technology and says that the growth of vernacular languages like English and Dutch vis-a-vis classical languages like Latin and French led to gradual depletion of class boundaries and enriched the concept of common identities which in turn help build the idea of nation states.

2. Read an article ‘Pakistan without Tears’ published in ‘Independence Day’ issue of magazine ‘Open’ written by historian Ram Chandra Guha. Enriched by his own 3 personal visits to Pakistan, he eloquently dissects the idea of Pakistan and compares it with the idea of India. About Lahore he writes, “Lahore is the Salonica of the East, a multicultural city in living memory that is now dominated by people of single faith.” Lampooning the lopsided history writing of Pakistan which crudely disassociate itself from the non-islamic past of the country, expresses his doubts whether India would also repeat the mistake if the respect for diversity of opinions and multi-ethnicity continued to decline due to political compulsions. He says unlike India, Pakistan was created as a homeland for Muslims and thus the  faith of the majority had, in lesser or greater degree, to be reflected in the policies and practices of the state.

3. I read about First  Anglo Afghan War (1839-42), one of the worst defeat of England (East India Company) exemplified by gruesome killing of ex  British origin Indian Civil Servant, William Hay Mcnaughten and his troops while fleeing Afghanistan. Author William Dalrymple says that Afghanistan has always been surrounded by big powers like Russia, China and India and has been a hostile, inhospitable and  least productive territory inhabited by one of the most fiercely independent minded Pashtuns which remains relevant even in 21st century. He says that unlike in Iraq, in Afghanistan you would not find oil to finance your conquests and costs of holding territory in such a scenario. He says whoever tried to occupy and rule Afghanistan has bled away to defeats and death as exemplified by failed Anglo attacks in 19th century and aimless attempt of USA in 21st century during 2001 to 2014. He says, eventually Osama Bin Laden was captured in Pakistan and not Afghanistan and America suffered a huge economic cost and loss of face (not for the first time; remember Vietnam?). It has also led to destruction of any semblance of law and order in the Afghanistan leading to more chaos and export of terrorism in all shapes and sizes. Very interestingly, USA is negotiating with same Taliban in 2016, destruction of which was the raison detre of pounding with bombs every inch of Afghanistan in the name of finishing Taliban in 2001 (post 9/11)! The world would have been a better place, only if America had read about Anglo-Afghan War!!

4. I read about Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and Space X, the only private person except USA, Russia and China with capacities to launch satellites into space and then retrieve them too. He has vision of affordable space mission and though has suffered some failures including destruction of Falcon 9 this week, is planning a mission to Mars. Elon was born in South African, had schooling there before migrating to USA through a stint at Canada. He has a single big campus where he designs and constructs and then assembles all parts into a space rocket. NASA has multiple units to design different parts and later assembles them at Cape Canaveral. Musk has employed ex NASA pilots and recruited other team members to realize his goal of non governmental entrepreneurial mission to Mars and beyond. Musk is also producing most efficient electric cars for daily use and is using his experiences of space technology of building lightest but stable vehicles to run on the road. This man not only dreams well but has the guts to realise them too.

5. I am reading about India’s best known sociologist, Andre Beteille’s ideas on Indian society and liberal democracy and various contradictions plaguing it. Ram Chandra Guha writing about Andre opines, “Beteille has written insightful about all the major questions of the days: India’s encounters with the West, the contest between religion and secularism, relationship between caste and class, the links between poverty and inequality, the nurturing of public institutions, the role and responsibilities of the intellectual.”

About democracy he says that India adopted Westminster model of democracy as it(India) had seen that in practice in colonial times. However our growth and perceptions about that are different from British model and he says that this is normal also. We are bound to follow our own growth model through our intricacies and experiences. He says in India, we have the qualitative arguments but we lack in the sound institutions of democracy and that will be helped by social movements and growth of other democratic institutions. He says social movement like ‘India Against Corruption’ proselytizing into the political party as AAP, is normal and welcome. He says there will be and should be more social movements for our growth. He also says that growth curve can not be a sign wave, it may be tumultuous too. We should not be over worried by the unexpected growth trajectories. A lot more has to happen before we mature as a democracy.

Though I know little, I will continue to strive to know more till I am here….

Systemic Feast of Vultures In India

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I was attracted by the title of the book. I read about it in a pre release article and after going through the  short interview of the author, opted for pre-release order of the book written by The Hindu correspondent Josy Joseph. It took me some time to start reading the book but when I started it, could not hold myself from reading back to back. By the time I finished it, I felt exhausted at the systemic failures and loot, married as per convenience.

Author while exposing the corruption galore  in India credits his various sources who are ordinary and also sometimes beneficiaries of the system but still had some nobleness in them. He writes about them, ” Everyone here lives with a little bit of guilt and a lot of contradictions. Most regret paying bribes, many are angry at themselves for accepting bribes, everyone is irritated with the way people use influence to scuttle the rightful claims of others and almost all of us find a way to influence someone to jump the queue.” The lines are poignant and apply to us all perhaps.

The author starts the book with a prologue on the  wrenching story of village development of Hridyachak in Bihar. It is scary start of the journey ahead for any sensitive human being and particularly who has seen it from close quarters like me. It may remind you of mountain-man Dasarath Manjhi. He then shifts to chapter wise narration, starting with the power of ubiquitous Middlemen in India and their movement in the corridors of powers. He writes a chapter on the most powerful typists of India exemplified through the lives of R K Dhawan and Vincent George. The latter was winner of the fastest typist in a contest in his native city in Kerala, ending as the personal staff of a P M and the subsequent powerful first family scions ruling the roost. R K Dhawan who started as an assistant to Smt Indira Gandhi in 1962 (She was chosen as the chairperson of ‘New York World Fair Committee’ in 1962) and later prospered into the most confidential and most powerful politicians for decades.  Had you ever seen a typist with this angle?

He then traverses the arena of arms market and the middlemen involved in it. They are scores of authentic examples. While most of us know about Bofors, there are many interesting but shocking stories about the rich and powerful and how have they operated in the cover of their official positions through their English speaking foreign educated corrupt sons and daughters.

His most detailed exposure is about the corporate battles that have been fought silently in the Indian aviation sector. By the end of the book, you may start hating the chief of so-called biggest airline and his humble ways. He finds him to be a silent killer indeed literally. Interestingly much of this is documented in the dossiers of our own intelligence agencies, but still nothing is happening against him and many more for the reasons known and unknown. The way every arm of government  and state has been used and misused to monopolise  the sector is mind-boggling. You will understand perhaps for the first time, what a white-collar criminal is. I don’t know if some good storyteller/director may think of shooting a movie on the subject soon! Although he may not be courageous and lucky enough to survive the ordeal.

He writes about the plunder and loot of natural resources taking place in mineral rich Central India, all in the name of development. Development for whom? The local inhabitants in these most mineral rich areas have got two things only. One, the jobs of security guards and other lowest paid sundry jobs to fight against their own and the second, unparalleled amount of environmental destruction leaving them covered in tattered clothes and black soot.

He mentions about Ambani’s Antilla and the abject poverty around and also reveals that there was  an orphanage earlier there. It’s hard to miss the realities and believe me, it will bite you.

Author’s words keep on hitting you as you traverse through the book and feel anguished and sometimes even depressed at the way the whole system has been taken for a ride explained through authentic real examples by the investigative journalism of the man credited inter-alia with exposing Navy War Room Conspiracy, CWG scam and many more. He opines that the dismantling of License-Permit Raj is only a misnomer  and unless something most extraordinary happens we may be doomed sooner than we think and we may have to be satisfied by just sending summons to the plunderers sitting pretty in London.

Disclaimer: Don’t read the book if you are too sensitive and you can not digest the hardcore realities of Indian Democracy.

Do you talk to your children about life?

My week 35th started with an official meeting at Lucknow on Monday, giving me an opportunity to spend the previous weekend with the kids. At the start of the week, I read a beautiful quote in HT Lucknow. It said, “Knowledge comes from learning and Wisdom comes from Living.” I read it again to realize the value of the quote. It’s bang on in distinguishing between ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Wisdom’. The former comes from devouring the books as much and as many as you can and also by reading news, periodicals and online sources etc, but the latter comes out of real life i.e. by actual living. Your day-to-day living over the years gives the most valuable lessons of life and also bestows upon you the intellect and knowledge to navigate through the by-lanes of life. You gain wisdom everyday by using the knowledge you have accrued from multiple sources. So wisdom is more important than the bland knowledge. Over the years, as I have grown (I think so!) and continued to read as much as I can (I sometimes read more in a day presently than I used to while appearing in competitive exams). Now as a father for last 17 years, I have found that one of the best usage of your time and knowledge is to share with young and impressionable children the knowledge acquired by you through learning and the wisdom emanating from real life experiences.

Parents do talk to their kids but it is usually about the school and homework and what they ‘should’ become in life (I am writing from my own experiences). On the other hands the kids and specially teenagers are already burdened by expectations of their parents, siblings and teachers. Everybody is talking to them about their future and how can it be improved from good to better and from better to best and even beyond. But in the race to care by preaching and by pressurizing to perform, the overall upbringing of the kids takes a back seat perhaps. He may get some good scores and that is also important, but it’s not the only important thing in life. The increasing rate of depression and BP even in teenagers baffling but quite noticeable. Kids are facing unbearable pressures from all directions with no milestones to refer to, they are cracking up as seen in some unfortunate suicides at coaching factories of Kota. With increasing  number of such cases and with more and more studies on the topic, it is better we take note sooner than later at our own home. One can ignore it only at his or her own peril.

The overall development of children in my view depends on discussing and sharing with your children about relationships with your relatives, friends, brothers & sisters and parents and teachers. It is important to give them reference points to evaluate their real bread and butter life issues. You can add to their scores and knowledge by discussing about the global and local events as they are unfolding  around the globe. As parents you can create curiosity in them by discussing about diverse issue like about  bio-diversity or about gender discrimination in India and female winners at Rio Olympics. These are real issues and unless you handhold your kids, they may develop their ignorance and resultant biases before attaining even adulthood.

It is also important to discuss with them about their health and the latest studies on nutrition like the harmful impacts of processed and junk foods. You can tell them about recent studies, backed by facts on these issues. Encourage them to check on those issues themselves  and ask them to discuss again. They will scrutinize the facts and once convinced, will trust you more. They will look forward to spending time with you if you talk to them beyond their scorecards and school ranks. After all nobody would be their better well wishers than their own parents. You have to transfer your hard-earned values through talks and by answering their queries. Don’t forget to give them time and liberty to arrive at their own conclusions. It is better to ‘nudge’ them than to ‘coerce’. I know by now that latter is bound to doom.

As I am writing these words online so that my kids or anybody can read them instantly, I am feeling more convinced to read more and live more so that I gain more wisdom and bequeath for my children not only some perishable property but some nonperishable wisdom as well.

The Week That Was

My desire to make the most of my solitary existence at Saifai kept on pushing me to try learn and do more over the week 34th of 2016.

1. It started with 70th Independence Day festivities and my first at Saifai as registrar. The VC who is a retired Brigadier Doctor unfurled the flag with pride and gusto. It was his first too as VC of whole University, earlier ones being with him as the director of the institute.

2. It was followed by one different humbling experience; of distribution of fruits to the in house 1000 odd patients of the hospital. To be honest, I had not anticipated the emotional rather tumultuous joyride that followed. Along with Boss and team, we went to different wards of different types of patients. There were sick man and women, old and young, kids and mothers, serious and very serious with all possible diseases you can think of. Right from a broken leg to an open stomach, from an ICU patient to CCU patient, from a Dengue patient to those having venereal diseases(Gupt Rog will convey the right feel), from a just-delivered mother to a would be mother soon, from a small children being operated for a small injury causing a blood bath sort of at trauma centre to a still patient who had just died with a white sheet covering his face. It was really energy sapping and exhausting for me, just short of a trauma. Actually on this day, I understood the real meaning of often heard “Pahala Sukh Nirogi Kaya”. I also noticed a pair of female twins lying in a cradle. The woman lying on the bed was in a somber mood and when I inquired further, came to know that she had a daughter already. It was 3 now( Detailed in a separate Blog published already).

3. In the afternoon, I also enjoyed the cocktails hosted by JCOs. I came to know that in armed forces, there is a tradition of junior officers hosting seniors on 15th Aug while on 26th Jan it is the seniors who play the host. Its a lovely idea actually.

4. I listened to the interview of James Cameron, ace director of biggest hits like Titanic and Avatar. This Canadian borne visionary director invents his own technology before starting filming like deep-sea underwater shooting and facial expressions reading technology. This man is a super-expert Scuba Diver and has clocked more than 3000 hours of scuba diving! This man has so much time for his hobby. He takes years to conceptualize his ideas and even draws pictures sourced from his own dreams. Nobody can forget the master pieces created after this process Titanic and Avatar. What a man of perfection and vision really.

5. Gone through an article about David Kirsch, the author of ‘Ultimate Family Wellness”. He believes in the idea of living in the moment and says that, ” Today is the first day of the rest of my life.” Well said really. He enunciated principles like, Be Accountable, Believe in Yourself and Don’t Let Stress Sabotage Wellness Goals and Connect Mind and Body. An impressive list really.

6. The biggest event of the week of course was the Raksha Bandhan. My sister has been like a second mom to me and therefore myself and brothers make it a point to gather either at Lucknow or at Dehradun for celebrating it with gusto. It happened this year too creating once again one of the best memories of the life. Gathering of the whole family and those chats(real) with everybody contributing and with cups of tea vanishing one after another is priceless and unforgettable. The sweet taste of these moments of togetherness remains for weeks perhaps.

For me the week was enjoyable with some travelling thrown in between Saifai and Lucknow.

Rio to Saifai: Bend it(Gender) like Sindhu

After Sakshi Malik broke the jinx and India got its first medal of ongoing Rio Olympics in form of a bronze in wrestling, P. V. Sindhu won a Silver medal for India on 19th August, the first one by any Indian woman athlete and best so far by an Indian in this Olympics. Everybody is celebrating the victory as that of whole of India and is raising a toast to the girl-power. Exactly 4 days ago on 15th August in Saifai, Etawah the native village of the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, I was engaged in fruit distributions to the patients of the Saifai medical college  and was doing a round of the hospital with the Vice Chancellor and rest of the team.

In the course of my round, I came across a bed in a female ward on which a lady was lying on the bed in sort of silent mode with her head covered(symbol of a lady who has delivered a baby recently). Just beside her, was a cradle having two sweet little baby girls. Attracted by the beauty and Godliness of twin little fairies, I stopped by to have a closer look. An elder woman was sitting nearby and I asked about the babies. She was not enthused by my queries and said in a resigned tone that those two 6 days old girls had followed another baby girl born to same mother earlier and therefore now they had three daughters. She was having a very long face and took a deep breath after sharing with me this anguish laden information. I looked at the mother who was also not very happy and was not radiating any happiness or cheerfulness despite delivering safely two little princesses. I was non-plussed at their reactions and tried to cheer them up by saying that those two and the first one would not only bring glory to the family, but also take care of the parents when they are old. But as we have seen in our society often, my words could not bring much cheer on the face of older lady or the mother herself. She was getting influenced by the reactions of her near and dear ones. The little princesses on the other hand who were just 6 days old were sleeping with a smile on their faces and were oblivious to the sheepish reactions of the world outside. I don’t think I have seen more beautiful creation of God in last few years( my sweet daughter is 17 and the younger son is 14 already). I just smiled at the twins and prayed God for taking good care of those two angels.

Now as the whole nation is celebrating the victories of our two daughters at Olympics, I am rewinding my experience at the hospital on the 70th Independence Day. Have we still not matured as society or nation? I think we(India) have miles to go before we can sleep. India(we) has to do a lot to come out of sick slumber of the male bias. Thank you Sakshi and Sindhu for showing to us all, that Girls are better if not equal to sons. Long Live Olympics. I hope that mother of Saifai hospital would be more proud of her  twin angels four days after 70th Independence Day.

The Poor Rich and the Rich Poor

If you are one who can afford a driver( my uncle living in USA once commented that in USA only the President can afford to have a personal driver!) then have you noticed that when you go to visit a friend or a family in your driven car, you leave your driver very casually behind to wait for while you are busy socializing and gossiping and enjoying your time. And as soon as you go inside, your driver would normally start lining up or parking and you get ensconced  in to the comfort of your friend’s or family’s home. Unless you are an un-homo sapient or from Mars, you hardly look back to see what your driver would be doing or how would be spending his time? He is left behind to take care of himself and sometimes in residential areas about which he would not be knowing and would not be even sure that how much time he has at his disposal to relieve himself or find some water to drink or tea or food etc. He has to remain alert to your anytime reappearance. In between he is left to the mercy of your host who would very rarely be concerned about those sundry needs of a poor chap, who otherwise is very trusted ally or Sarathi of you.

Now, I am going to tell you a secret. If you ask your driver that given a choice, where would he like to drive you to? To a rich friend or to a not so rich or even a poor friend of you? The answer if given honestly would be, he would like to carry you to a poor friend and not to a rich one. Really? Yes, really.

Except on very few and rare occasions you would notice(if you chose to really care) that only when you visit your not-so-rich friends or acquaintances your driver is sure to get a chair to sit upon inside the house in varandah or near a need or some other street tree or some other suitable place. Your host unblinded by the sick richness while taking good care of you would also be careful and humane to offer him a cup of tea and even whatever food he would be able to manage. Unhelped by any domestic help the children of the house would be asked to carry food and water to your driver. In fact your driver can never return thirsty or hungry from a poor friend’s house and unfortunately would not never return fed( exceptions and I mean that literally) from the house of your rich friend. He would find door closed at your rich acquaintances as soon as you get in to the cozy comforts of AC or heaters depending upon the weather, and he would be seen only when you get out to board again. Nothing in between. This despite the fact that he might need to wait from 15 minutes to 5 hours or even more. The duration of the wait and his resultant suffering is inversely proportional to the riches of your host!!!. Is it not true?

I don’t have clear cut answers to this unbearable enigma but I have noticed this now too many times to call it by chance. So, if you care about your driver too, please visit your poor or not so rich friends of yours more. And if you want to or have to visit rich ones too, please don’t forget to take care of your trusted ally yourself. Don’t forget to look behind while going in.

Do you really care or ‘being human’is a slogan only??