Tuesday, May 14, 2013


"Time is an illusion" thundered Professor.

It was a special night with Professor Rajkumar on the topic of "Time". Rajkumar was highly skilled not only in his chosen subject (Physics) but also in spiritual topics (particularly those relating to Hinduism), and their parallels. All the attendants of the session were listening with rapt attention. Pin-drop silence.

"Have you not heard the famous Einstein quote that an hour sitting with a pretty girl on a park bench passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour? That's relativity. Everything is only relative and there's absolutely nothing absolute." Some of the audience, their mouth agape, wondered at the professor's word play.

Professor went on. "What science and religion are saying is one and the same. That time is just a perspective based on the frame of reference. So never worry about anything in your life. There is nothing urgent. Life is your own. Learn how to enjoy it in your own terms and in your own time."

Crowd was now very quiet as if in trance. Professor continued to milk them. "Now, close your eyes, and take 5 deep breaths."

Everyone instinctively started breathing and closing their eyes. Then, the professor's mobile vibrated.


"How did you feel? Let's try one more thing to understand the illusion of time better. Now, close your eyes again, take few deep breaths for few minutes and keep listening to the sound around you till I ask you to open your eyes." With this statement, professor went to the backstage to check his mobile.

It was a reminder. On reading the reminder, the professor's eyes started dilating. He immediately placed a call to his best friend Santhosh.

"Hey Prof, how are you man? Great to hear from such a busy fellow!" said Santhosh with a joyful tone.

"Santhosh, I have an urgent request. Can you ..."

"Hey, just a minute. My grandson is asking for my attention. Achuchu, jijipa, you wet the diapers so frequently uh?" Santhosh started changing the diapers of his grandson.

Now, professor's patience went through the roof. He was praying Santhosh to get back to the call quickly. "Tell me prof" Santhosh said. Professor was relieved. "Great, I ..."

"Oh no, sorry prof. Hey kutti, don't climb that .... Oh God!" Santhosh was gone again. Professor was now feeling helpless. Time was moving ahead.

After another minute, Santhosh came back to the line. "Sorry prof!"

"You idiot! I need Rs.10000 urgently in my HDFC bank account. There's an ECS pending mid-night, and I already missed it twice in the past year. I don't want my name in CIBIL and get into more troubles with loans in future. You got it? Can you transfer now or not? I'm running out of time!" Professor blasted his friend in muted anger.

"Cool down buddy. I'll do it right away. Ok then, how is..."

"Fine, I'm in the mid of a session. Talk to you in a minute. Be on the line."


"Please open your eyes. See, how you feel? What happened to you? What happened in this world that you missed? Nothing! So, remember, time is an illusion!"

Santhosh was chuckling on the other side of the phone.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Money, Economy and Maslow's Hierarchy

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

While I was traveling to work this morning, I thought of Abraham's Maslow's hierarchy of needs for an individual and how the society as a whole could be impacted by that.

Once I reached the office and did my routine of checking mails and looking through new content in Internet, I was slightly surprised to find that someone just wrote about this recently. What does this tell? Perhaps, hundredth monkey effect. I'm digressing.

But though the broad strokes are similar, what I thought specifically is something different and the topic of this post.

Broadly, Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs says that human beings have certain needs at various levels in the order of physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualization. Many of us may not agree with the exact representations (particularly in upper levels of pyramid), but the underpinning of this hierarchy can't be ignored.

I have an observation. With the formation (and the eventual dominance) of money (which is a placeholder for value promised by a party you trust), it became easy for people to satisfy the needs at lower levels. Let me explain.

While bartering was the main source of fulfilling needs, people might not have known the value of product (whether products or services) that they needed. Hence, in all probability, they would have given more value than they got. (I agree this is subjective, since value in those days depended more on the utility than an artificial assignment as it is today. Still, it's possible that the buyer might have been exploited by the seller, if the seller was able to extract better value for himself by his smartness.) It is relatively tougher (though not impossible) for farmer who barters rice for a dhoti to figure out what quantity of rice could be bartered for a given number of dhotis. (Let's even leave out the quality issue here.) Unless there was a system of values maintained and controlled by government, bartering was based strictly on utility.

With the advent of money, the exchange of value mainly based on utility diminished. But a fixed rate (i.e. fixed by market) became the norm and it was easy for people to exchange information on values far more easily. This now makes it clear to people how much money (i.e. value) they need to satisfy their basic needs and hence strive to earn that much through producing/creating something or selling labour for money (also called "employment"! :)). 

But by the same measure, it has now become difficult for people to satisfy the needs at higher levels. Why? For the simple reason that needs at lower level are more concrete and as we go higher, they become more abstract. Obviously, it's difficult to put a value on an abstract thing.

During bartering days, every one had to be a seller. And most of the people would have naturally tended to sell lower level things (as they are concrete, hence easy to understand, produce and sell compared to the higher ones). Nevertheless, due to lack of information on exchange value, such lower level things should have remained "expensive" compared to higher level things. Simply put, it was simply hard to find something that fulfills higher level needs. So, people naturally tended to find ways (by cooperating with others, organizing competetions that were not for prize-value but for pride-value) in order to satisfy those needs. And hence arts would have flourished.

Now, with money being a clear placeholder of value, but higher level stuff remaining as abstract as they were earlier, people only tend to become more confused. Now that buyers have a clear place holder of value, they naturally think there should be a clear value for higher level stuff also. Because, money (information) not only enabled the buyer to easily spot value of lower things and keeps them confused on the higher things, the sellers of higher level stuff take advantage of this and sell their stuff for a high-fixed value money (i.e. not based on utility).

I arrive at a conclusion that as much as we try to "buy" stuff that's high in Maslow's hierarchy, it will remain elusive. So, "buying" that is not best way, but "finding" it is better!

If you're still here, kudos to you! :)

Sunday, May 05, 2013

May Be, I'll Probably Try To ...

Have you been in a status/pre-sales call in IT service companies? If so, you might have noticed one thing - that words like "may be", "probably", "try to" are used very often. (Few years back, I once deliberately counted the number of "probably" in one of the calls, and it was 17 in that 1-hour call). What's more, they are not used in proper context, but only as fillers. Let's give these words a collective name - words of ambiguity.

These words are meant to be used in situations where we don't have clarity. Not having clarity is not crime per se, but saying something that has a clear meaning and making use of these words is "probably" not good. ;)

Let's assume I'm saying "I'll send you a mail by 5 pm". It has a clear meaning. But saying "I'll probably send you a mail by 5 pm" is irksome. Why? Because:
  • I'm not convinced myself that what I said will happen.
  • It might give me a comfort feeling that I can't be held responsible for what I said, but for the listener, the expectation is that I'll take responsibility for what I said. (Ultimately, it's obvious that I'm responsible for what I said despite my use of "probably".)

So, in situations where it's not apt, let's probably try to avoid the use of these words.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

What You Dream Of?

What you dream of? Angels, demons, that beautiful girl who's your neighbour? ;)

There are some things that become a regular in our dreams. For example, I often dream of airplanes (particularly crashing airplanes, but strangely without any fatalities), of shit not cleaned up in closets (really!), of himalayan mountains, to name a few.

So, do we dream of things that we like or hate? Or, of things that we wished for, but didn't achieve in our life? Or those that are just routine aspects of our life?

All the above could be true to some extent. But what I noticed was that things I'm obsessed over appear regularly and forcefully in my dreams.

I love flying, but till this date, I'm slightly afraid of flying despite all the statistical evidence that flight is one of the (if not, the) safest mode of transport. Still, I can't wait for the day when I get a chance to fly. I even wish I could fly unaided some day. In short, I'm obsessed over flight.

Same for that "shit" stuff. Whenever I happen to visit a toilet and notice some shit not cleaned, it beats the shit out of me! Simply, I'm obsessed over shit not cleaned.

Talking about Himalayas, who wouldn't love even just watching the magnificent peaks rising far above as if to touch the sky! And the tranquil gardens and large, open plains! Same here - I'm simply obsessed with Himalayas!

This also taught me something: if obsession over something can affect an activity (e.g. dream) on which you don't have control over, think what it can do for activities (e.g. reading, coding, eating) on which you have absolute control.

Then I also recollected that whatever I could call as achievement in my life, they were all because I obsessed over them. Ofcourse, one can't go far with just obsession, but nevertheless it's a good (probably the only feasible) starting point.

So, what are you obsessing over?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Legality vs Ethics

I'm confused. Totally confused. On IAC and Arvind Kejriwal in particular. I'm not able to decide whether I support him or not.

(Disclosure: I'm a supporter of BJP. But, I don't support corruption like every other citizen of this great country.)

Let me explain the reasons for my dilemma.

Today, I heard the news that IAC has decided to form an independent ombudsman to probe its prominent accused members. So, few questions here:

We know that IAC has formed an independent ombudsmen consisting of three retired judges enjoying a reputation of high integrity and independence to inquire into any charges made against key members of IAC.

  1. How is this "reputation of high integrity" of these judges going to be evaluated? If at some later point, some one finds out the "reputation of high integrity" of these judges are flawed or not true, will there be another ombudsman to inquire into the charges made about the "reputation of high integrity" of judges?
  2. Also, it's mentioned that "if any member is found guilty of any illegal or immoral activity he would be expected to resign from the proposed party". They can make the technical-wordings better. So, do they "expect" such people to resign or will they "mandate" the people to resign?

I have more such questions that are along similar lines, but I stop here to not to sound nit-picky or a pessimist.

Let's assume that no one questions the reputation of high integrity of the 3 retired judges appointed by IAC. With such an ombudsman that will inquire to find if any member is guilty of any illegal or immoral activity, I'm sure there'll be at-least few from IAC that will be penalized. You ask me how I jump to conclusion that there'll be few from IAC that'll be penalized because of illegal or immoral activity? Read on.

When asked about her land dealings, Anjali Damaniya's answer to Indian Express:

“The plots were bought in 2007 as agricultural plots and soon after, I applied with the collector’s office in Raigad to change the user type of these lands from agricultural to non-agricultural. In 2011, these applications were approved following which 37 plots were sold to different buyers. I can produce all the required papers to prove that everything was done legally. If someone thinks this is wrong, the problem then actually lies with the government’s policy in changing the land-use from agricultural to non-agricultural. I am being targeted now because I raised my voice against a corrupt system.”

Great. She has certainly done everything legally. But as she says, "the problem then actually lies with the government’s policy in changing the land-use from agricultural to non-agricultural.".

At the time of the purchase of land, if Anjali Damaniya expressed to the farmers that she was buying it for non-agricultural purposes (like building villas), do you think farmers would have given it at the price they mentioned? Is it not ethical to give the farmers a chance to know what they are selling it for? So, is she not misusing the government's policy in changing the land-use from agricultural to non-agricultural?

It's also found that there was no agricultural activity for the period between 2007

Now, Mr. Vadra too can get technical like this, and say that the law doesn't prevent the license being transferred to some one else, and hence the problem "actually" lies with the government's policy of not explicitly controlling the license transfers.

Note that I don't support Vadra, since what he has done is just plain wrong. Neither do I support Yeddyurappa who has given free reins to his sons and played an important role in corruption in Karnataka.

When it comes to dealing with something through legal means, we all know how capable our politicians are.

Coming back to the topic - what do you do then once you find a person guilty of doing something immoral as in the case above? Common sense can tell you that there will not be just once Anjali Damania that's an exception. (I haven't read about Prashant Bhushan in detail, so I can't comment on him.) So, how do you run a party with such people?

In my opinion, if Arvind Kejriwal starts to keep such people out, going by his current trends, he may have to "expect" atleast a few such people to go in future.

So, the next logical step would be to keep these people out but continue to run the party. Right? But there are already parties running in such a way. BJP, CPI and CPI(M) to name a few. (If you start on BJP's corruption, I can still point out that it's easily the least corrupt and most capable party in current situation; may not be the best, but best among the lot. But that's another big topic and hence another post.) If Arvind Kejriwal wants to do the same, most welcome!

My point - Everything can't be spelled out legally. So, only if people know what is ethical and stick to it, we will NEVER be able to solve the social problems related to corruption.

In the words of popular Tamil poet and lyricist Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram:

திருடனாய்ப் பார்த்துத் திருந்தா விட்டால்
திருட்டை ஒழிக்க முடியாது!

(Translated loosely as "Unless a thief corrects himself, the evil of theft can not be eradicated.")

So, is there no way to prevent the corruption rampant in India? I believe it's possible to a practical extent, but it's a bitter pill. I'll discuss that in another post.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Oh, IPL fever again!

Many urban Indians feel proud when they see even moderate success in an undertaking that's a mimicry of a concept/event from western countries. And if it's a massive success (measured by popularity/monetary terms, of course), they go crazy; and the people who supposedly invented(!) it in India(!!), are demi-gods. I'm talking about the IPL auctions in particular, and the IPL event in general.

This whole IPL s*** is about business/entertainment than cricket. Let's be candid - has IPL ever been about cricket/cricketers? In spite of all the hoopla about being a platform for budding cricketers, this event has always been a platform for some people to gamble, and for some others to profit like owners of casinos. (I know you can quote instances i.e. names of young players, where it's been a revealing, but I'm coming to that shortly.)

Right from the beginning, the owners of IPL have gambled with the players. Most often, people weren't given a second chance; because, the whole model of this event doesn't allow you to do so. It's quick fix, buddy! Quick money, quick satisfaction!  Of-course, they need winners, so it's their preference. I certainly agree. But why make it look like a platform for spotting talent?

Coming to that "spotting talent" part. Let me ask you one thing. Do you think I'm a good writer? (Or instead of me, think of any one of your favorite bloggers; do you think he/she is a good writer?) If you think I am (or your favorite blogger is), I pity you and let's stop it here. Enjoy your life. If you think I'm not (or your favorite blogger is not), can you tell me why? It could be due to one of these two reasons:

1). I haven't blogged much, so I can't be judged.
2). Even if I have blogged much, I can't be called a good writer because blogging alone doesn't make me that.

You get it? Blogging is a showcase. It's just where you share something quickly. (We're not even discussing facebook and twitter). But being a good writer means a totally different thing. Am I digressing?

Ok, this "talent spotting", you can't really spot talent in an event that's primarily a "quick fix". T20 is an event where the player need not be on the ground for even an hour but can still make an impact, appear on the top of next day's Sports page and be forgotten in the day after that. Easy? I'm not saying so. Difficult? Neither. (considering we're talking about real "talent").

All I say is this - understand that events like IPL are entertainment for you and money for some one else.  Just like movies, T.V. serials, and other forms of entertainment. Don't delude yourself that it's the pinnacle of sporting in India, and that it takes our country to the big league of sports.  Bull s***!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Chennai Book Fair 2011 - Preview

Chennai Book Fair 2011 has started today. Unlike previous years, I went right away with my dad to checkout the books.

Chief guests who declared it open were Jegathratchagan, Justice Lakshmanan and Nalli Kuppuswamy Chettiar. I didn't listen to speeches, save Jegathratchagan's. My legs were really tired after some scouting, so I took a chair in the audience and happened to hear Jegathratchagan's speech.  Though not exceptional, he was far better than many others who take it rea.....l slow and bore the audience. 

This year, the fair is relatively bigger. Around 640 publishers/sellers have put up shop. In many stalls, the books were still being stacked as I was going around. Also, the variety seems to be good. Among them, categories of IT, literature (mainly Tamil and English), fiction(both local and international), education, business, kids studies, social studies and religion have got a fair share of representation.

Today there were not many food/snack stalls. Also, the variety of the eatables is not as good as that of the books. One glaring drawback, I could say so, is the lack of proper arrangements. The ground even near the chief guests diaz really soggy, and there were not any index/markers to guide us to the stalls of our choice. I'm not sure if it's because this is the first day. But still, I couldn't believe the kind of lackadaisical attitude followed overall by the organizers even with dignitaries visiting in the evening.

Overall, if your goal is only the books and not the general entertainment of visiting the fair with family, friends et al, I think you'll be in for a treat.

IT guys: Checkout the post on my professional blog about the IT section of Book Fair. I've elaborated a bit on the kind of books and also listed the names of some surprise (atleast to me!) titles found.