On doing Nothing ..

yet dreaming of doing very possible thing in this world. Ironical, isn't it. That's how I feel at the beginning of a break. I often think of what all I could do on this break and opportunity presents itself not in plurals but plethora. Go exploring this vast country, learn all there's about different types of saris and garments woven in India, learn a new language, convert abstractions in colours with paints, freeze the silent moment of a private sun-set in my camera, learn to bake cakes and mix pickles, teach at a professional degree course, and so on..

Just what all was I doing all these years in my life, Living in a hole of some kind ?

The price I pay for doing it is this anxiety attack.

Why do we fight ?

We, as individuals, as nations, as communities - Why? Why do we fight ?
The on going talk is that the recent economic resurgence and the prosperity in the private sector will increase the economic divide and may cause violence and unrest.
But do we really fight because we have unequal incomes or unequal opportunities. Every sane person today would know that industrialization would create opportunities and ultimately help their next generation live a better life. More often than not we fight because we have still not liberated ourselves from shackles of the caste system, designed very many years ago by our ancestors to manage society rather than partition it.
In Rajasthan, in Punjab or in case of the frequent Maoist attacks in the eastern and north states, its the demand and the need of identifying oneself with certain privileges ( reservations, higher status, etc) that spurs up violence.
Its our bias , the thought process we gain in our homes ( this doesn't suit our tribe, this is against our custom) that damages more than the economic policies that is creating the drift and laying foundation of the next generation of gullerias. We fall into vote bank politics and throw out one incumbent government for another, failing to realise that the poster boys and girls of every party very efficiently remind us of our races, ethnicity and castes and not of ways to uplift ourselves our of poverty.
No doubts, Education, one means that could help us shed our prejudice and be tolerant, is the next target.With reservations in this sector and in the government, we are doing little to help eliminate the root cause of communal violence- which does nothing more than claim innocent lives and create instability.

The evolved civilization

A while ago I read Thomas Friedman's widely acclaimed book, The world is flat. I particularly liked the initial chapter where he has outlined significant events that have helped 'flatten the world'. While he wrote more from a economic perspective, I took to thinking of evolution in a rather different manner.

Swiping our cards, hitting the keyboard and sipping sodas, do we realise what forces acted to make us the man of the modern times ?A quick run down 2000 years of human history - social, economic,political and technological, I came to conclude the following,

After the dark ages, Europe rebelled and we saw the birth of the Renaissance.Like Nehru says, The character of religion is enforce obedience and that of science to seek explanation and that makes these two faculties contradict each other forever. In the whole scheme of 2000 years since man has existed, this is particularly a very important event for, from this time reason has started to over-power belief. The Renaissance, in one way or the other, is the mother of all inventions and ideas that have made life easy today. The literary works, the laws of physics and universe and the reformation of the church, development of the languages and the birth of the bourgeois and industry - all make us what we are inclusive of our opinions, judgments and comforts.

None of us is unaware of the contributions of the Industrial Revolution to the ease of humanity - the steam engine, the power-looms and so on. To all these there was a subtle undercurrent that, in my opinion, went relatively unpublished in history because of its catalytic nature and because it was not a result but rather an element. I am referring to the birth of the ubiquitous 'chemicals'. To overlook the power chemistry is like demeaning the force that keeps us healthy. What a science it indeed is ! Combining raw and seemingly dull matter ( air, water, ores, oil ) into an array of materials - necessities and luxuries equally. Of these most significant are drugs and polymers. The former, has if you view it in that light, eliminated belief, superstition and brought the status of gods to humans- the doctors ! The latter is too much a part of our life that I can't imagine one thing that lacks it- be it the funky Friday shirt adorning your broad chest, or the bottle of soda in your hand, the pen in your pocket,the wheel in your car, the tar on the road, the pan in the kitchen -everything you can imagine has been polymerised today including your money.

Since forever, war, greed and conflict have shaped the human thought. The early Greco-Persian wars to the crusades and the world wars and the present day Kosovo, Middle-East and Indo-Pak conflicts - each has been a the fulcrum of the our perception of religion, of other humans on the planet and of everything sharable in general - be it energy resources or knowledge or utility goods. These wars have also been the parents of the numerous foreign polices and treaties that decide opportunities, food and attention available to the citizens all across the world and consequently play a major but hidden role in the continued evolution of man.

The very fact that I am sharing my opinions here for everyone to read speaks for the power of Internet. To an extent its mitigating the ill effects of the wars - skrinking the entire world into click of a button. On a very large scale, it is revolutionising what makes a man of an animal - the faculty of the mind , of knowledge and thought. It seems as if 'the mind' or minds have been digitized forever. Its changed the way search, we shop and also the way we spend our leisure. Its the one thing that integrates every factor changing this world today. Politics, polices, science, common-mans opinions, angst and perception, cross-border business, pleasure, fantasy, charity and so on. Information rules!

From being microbes, to being settlers around the Indus and the Mediterranean, to irrationals following an abstract religion ( whose teachings we comfortably afforded to overlook) and fighting for it , to rebelling against the same religion and embracing science, generating comfort and ease,then again misusing the enlightenment of science and society in Wars and conflicts to win land and achieve ethnic-cleansing, we gradually discovered peace( which still remains illusive in certain pockets) and co-operate to share information, the availability of which to the masses further springs another era of evolution of the human civilization !

Isn't this world absolutely fantastic ?
Isn't our rise from creatures to human scintillating?

An economy of Ideas

Growth rates, increasing GDP and all positive indicators are all that consume global and local airtime these days. Analysts are busy discussing the next big boom, Web 2.0 and all that. While all of us are living amidst high-profile cross-border billion dollar deals, I took to think a little differently while I was in Mumbai a couple of months ago.

Mumbai local trains are a country in themselves, if I should say so. Vendors, Office goers, Stock analysts, working women and a whole miscellany of other people. A particular hawker caught my attention there. What he was selling was an extremely simple toy. Two elliptical pieces of magnets when flung into air attract each other, dance and produce a cracking sound. Now that was ingenious. All that entertainment for INR 10 ! In minutes he's sold about 20 of them to the crowd in the compartment. No ad campaign, marketing plans, sales force, distribution network et al. I agree, he would not have manufactured the toy for certain. It must have been a produce of some far unknown place very much possible in China but in the scope of his business , he was the master - get the goods, know where to position them and sell it. But ofcourse, our household incomes increased in this rushing economy so that we have more cash at hand to engender a market for these toys.

Aren't we as people developing new and simple business models unique to the Indian environment ? eg . Mumbai trains and hawkers selling clean, cut and diced vegetables to women rushing home from downtown. I am aware of hawkers who's business depends totally on Gujarat bound trains from Mumbai and they could be selling anything, trinkets for your relatives your visiting or clothes or sarees or anything. Aren't we becoming an economy of individuals with a higher degree of smartness, of simple ventures and one man armies ? Though, not comparable to other developed nations, our belief in our own ideas and in translating them to ventures has increased a great deal in the last couple of years, call it reaping fruits of the liberalization. The agricultural growth rate of the country having gone down and a significant number of people that sector striving to make a living, migration to urban cities has increased and this has triggered these mini-businesses.

In whatever capacity, within limited resources, amidst large realty and infrastructure projects and IT companies growing into double billions, we are becoming a economy of not only of people, of industry but also an economy of 'Ideas'.

PS : After a long hiatus, I am back.

Midnight musings of the meandering mind

At a familiar railway station on 29th June 2006 at 12.00 am

11.45 pm: She leaves home for the railway station.Its raining heavily
"How could I have traveled if it were not for 'Dad's big car' ?".

12.00 am : She reaches the railway station, walks to the window to buy a platform ticket for dad .There were atleast 50 people sleeping on the floor near the window

"Boy !Its raining cats and dogs and these people are sleeping sound, when I am hurrying up and down to reach pune tomorrow to make it to office on time. Money that I have -can afford a 3 tier AC journey of 500 Km and peace that they have-makes them absolutely indifferent to people like me"

12: 15 am: She gets the ticket and thereafter reaches for the station master to inquire about the arrival of 0673 DN Yeshwantpur Express. He tells her its further delayed by 1.20 minutes.
"Indian railways- this the biggest public enterprise. Manages a mammoth volume of passengers and freight every day.In weather as such, the train is bound to be late.How can someone blame the railways ? Each system follows its own maturity curve and so will the railways. The progress is visible in the internet based reservations and otherwise affordable passenger fares."

12:20 am : She took the overhead bridge to reach platform number 3. A group of young lads were gambling on the bridge.
They beg or work all day, cleaning cars on stop signs,cleaning floors on train compartments, selling water, tea , etc and when the night dawn they gamble on the sweat. It that the purpose of earning , is it pure entertainment,a chance to prove your skill with a pack of cards, or a attempt to dominate. Whatever it be, there was an enthusiasm in the group, a joy! Their way of ending the day in laughter and satisfaction.

12:23 am: She finds herself a seat on a lonely bench on platform number 3
Recollecting all the college days -I traveled unreserved in general compartments for years. All the trains , railway stations and hawkers seemed so trivial then . Alas! Now there is a new perspective to those elements. There is a 'what can be done to ease passenger comfort on trains ?', 'How much this the ROI of hawkers on the vada pau?'. Its just so much more than a
railway station - a sleeping ground, an earning place, a betting field

12:45 am: A Frontier Mail train zips through the Track no 1.
Those three seconds are the best definition of speed. As it rushed pass the track, it quaked the platforms and took with it the some rags and polythenes. How effectively does power pull and disturbs ! It virtually forces the inferior to follow its travail in action and in thought over time.

12:50 am: A couple of Platform residents pick up a quarrel. She watches from a distance as drunkards blabber and get in position to beat each other. Just then another rowdy character rises to dominance and settles the dispute.
Sure he was the king out there, one of the card playing lads who grew up to be the leader of the gang. Amazing that he didn't ignite further fights. Just settled the whole thing in peace. I thought peace was the business of the UN and the center piece of summits.

1.00 am : A Freight carrier rattles away along Track 3. A colourful sitting of Maersk's and Hanjin' pulled by a dull slow engine keep her eyes still for 3 minutes.
The track is the same and so is the engine power. Different things designed and destined to run at different speeds at different times. Freight trains run slow - Its a prejudice.Why ?Aren't there are freight carriers that have priority over the fastest of trains. Exceptions presenting themselves to an otherwise biased mind !

1:20 am : She hears a computerized voice announce -'The train arriving on Platform no 3 is 0673 UP Ajmer Yeshwantpur express '
Finally it will be time to catch up some sleep on S3 Middle berth no 2. Hope the train reaches Pune by 9 without further delay.

How amazing are the trails of thoughts ! She is me and the station is none other than the one in my hometown. I'd lived in the town for 18 years and had been to that particular railway station innumerable times in the last 25 years and I never noticed the life it bred or the saw a perspective it had to offer. It was not about the station. Just a maturity of sight and thought

Beyond concern

In our day to day dealings, we hardly take time to think or rather feel the little tasks, such as boarding a bus or talking to one's milk-man, that we undertake. Running through some of these hectic days, I have myself paid least heed to such miniscule events. It all becomes so in-grained in the urban mind - to wakeup at dawn, rush to office, juggle with keys and mice and head back home, surf around the TV and then back to sleep,that the grey cells are rendered incapable of lateral thoughts about people.

Just day before yesterday, I gave up the keys to the maid so that she could clean up my home as per her availability. Hectic schedules and Odd office timings made it impossible for me and Vanita to adjust our schedules. Its been months that I have talked to her at length about what needs fixing and cleaning in the house. Affected by the urban syndrome - lack of empathy towards people you know, I never took too much time to understand her thoughts ( Let that alone, I never made a conscious effort to talk to her). She was just my house-maid and I an employer. I'd been thinking all week long on getting my place in order but it never materialized. Finally I gave the keys to Vanita so that she could manage the place on her own.

After a hard day at office when I got home,I could not believe the job Vanita did. The whole place looked as if I had arranged it ( I suffer from an obsessive compulsive cleaning and organization disorder). The kitchen, the hall and the beds ; everything was done as I would do it. My mind went blank for a minute. It indeed was one of those moments when I realized that there is a lot beyond urbanism, fat-pay cheques and fancy parties. Though I never went out of my way to help Vanita, she had invested the last whole year in understanding my lifestyle and my preferences. What was her incentive ? Apparently nothing. I hadn't promised extra wages for knowing the preferences. The pay increase I offered would account for any extra work she had to do but not atleast for the investment in my lifestyle.

Reminds me ,how unempathetic we are to people who run our day to day lives? Imagine a day when the milkman doesn't turn up or when your cable operator cuts out telecast.,we get enraged so easily and yet there are people like my maid who do more than they should for no greater incentive.She did something more nobler than taking care of your loved ones or donating to relief funds and that makes me feel 'lucky'. To give is satisfying but to receive is bewilderering