Sunday, November 29, 2015

An ordinary man's Sunday chronicles


Herge
Sunday they say, has been derived from the Egyptian astrology as the might of the Sun was honored by associating its name with the first day of a week. After its association with the resurrection of Christ, this day evolved as the day for rest, worship and socializing. 
It’s a fantastic idea to have rest on the first day of the week and then start work. Somewhere in the middle this idea went for a tailspin and Sunday ended up being the weekend. Luckily for us with more people, less work and even lesser natural resources, Saturday too joined as another day of rest... But who’s complaining!
Sunday, nevertheless has brought joy in my life since time immemorial. During my early days, I remember Sunday was fun as our parents did not have to go to work and we could spend time together.
Then came the school, teachers and homework. While I am yet to meet a student who doesn’t appreciate a Sunday, I was ready to trade in any thing for a extra Sunday. But not once, I was given that option. The principle of dealing with holiday then was basic but robust. Complete all school works as early as possible and unlock the pleasure time.
Then came the college days packaged with the hostel life and absolute self-dependence. The line between study and entertainment got increasingly blurred till it was totally invisible. That was not because study was entertaining but because with little or no supervision each day turned out to be a Sunday.
The reality check stepped in as we went out for professional training during our final year at the college. Working 8 hours for 5 days every week, we realized was not our cup of tea. We only could pull along since we knew those days were numbered and we had the weekends.
That stint in Delhi not only taught us how to talk Hindi but also introduced us to the real meaning of the phrase “Thank God It’s Friday”. The weekends were so amazing as compared to those work days that showed very little sign of ending made us wonder if all days counted up to 24 hours. The day to night and back to day day transition during the weekends were seamless and joyful until we  found ourselves on the verge of tears on the Sunday evenings.
The acceptance of this torture after graduation came after lot of resistance taking long breaks from work between changing jobs. Slowly responsibilities increased and men are expected to act responsibly without taking breaks from jobs every now and then. Rolling stone gathers no moss and collecting moss soon become a requirement. At some stage of our life, the living like a king has to end.
Now as I maneuver through the midlife crisis, I am faced with the dilemma of choosing the appropriate of the two contradicting approaches to deal with my much coveted weekly holidays. Should I sleep late and laze around all day doing nothing serious because it’s my time or opt for the option to wake up early to do everything I so desperately want to do during the weekdays.

Which one I have selected, you might curiously wonder.

Well I am fortunate to be blessed with a third alternative. I have the luxury to let my daughter and wife to decide what I should I do or where should I take them on that particular day or any other holiday for that matter.

I know I am not the only one. I am sure someday others will join us …… Happy Holiday Buddies.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

excuse me.. No favoritism please!

I have a confession to make before I go any further. I am unable to select three favorite words. This is besides the point that I do not love favoritism as it amounts to giving preferential treatment to a person or group of people over other people or groups in the same unit and for that matter words. It is because I do not believe it is right in favoring of one person or group over others with equal claims… I mean words.
Even if I had believed in favoritism, I never will succeed in selecting three favorites as I find love and hate so very contextual. I won’t even succeed to zero down the words I hate most if I leave the word ‘hate’ itself out of the equation.
Having confessed at the beginning, I now feel so much relieved as if a stone has been lifted from my chest. This is an awesome feeling! I love feeling awesome, that’s another confession.  
Since confessing made me feel awesome which is a feeling that I really love,  I may be right to presume that confessing could be a favorite. In this context awesome and love are two words that compliment confess to elevate me to this state of euphoria by which I actually mean an affective state of exaggerated well-being or elation.These triplet collectively does qualify to be favorite, technically if not otherwise.
There could be another set of words that I would have loved had the context been different. For example had I been on a holiday mode, I would have all my passions and energy going behind Airport, Hotel and Restaurants to get the amazing feelings all through the holidays.
However, the magic is all around when I am with my daughter. Magic is not only  associated with “once upon a time” that she loves to hear. Its also not limited to the “magic e” in spellings she find so very challenging to learn and would rather leave it to “fate”, which incidentally is an apt example of a word with magic “e”.
The real magic is in the three words that everyone knows from their childhood. Thank you, sorry and please. Only if all of us could use them without prejudice or inhibition, this world would have been so much better place to live. I will not try to reason why, as the guru already said “If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men’s cottages princes' palaces.”

There are men of words and then there are also words off men as the highlighted words of the following sentence. and that could . Will a maverick guy be lynched and end in mausoleum if he was a Casanova? That could also be a set of potential favorites as I have written once before five men of words.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

... and some achieve greatness


We admire some personalities and want to emulate their traits that make them stand out from rest of the crowd. They, as Aristotle once said, are what they repeatedly do and therefore excellence is not an act but a habit. Lionel Messi, one such great was not born with excellent ankle or magic in his feet but he practiced repeatedly to attain perfection and become what he is, an icon for today’s youth.
Greatness may come in many forms and shapes. During the childhood days I was constantly reminded how great a peer, cousins, a distant relative or someone who did extremely well in a board examination were because of their good grades. It was perplexing whether they were comparing me or inspiring me with the greatness of those young souls. The result sometimes was expending negative energy sulking rather than the much desired positivity to better their feat. All those drama aside, we genuinely felt gratitude for all the kindness and love our parents bestowed upon us.
Those memories could not refrain me from applying this great family tradition on my daughter albeit moderation. I am apprehensive but at the same time cautiously optimistic that my daughter will not turn around to inspire me, maybe to own a brand new Maserati or an approved equal, something way beyond my reach.
Not everyone gets intimidated by such enormity of their goals and on the contrary, they successfully reach out for the sky inking their name in the book of greatness. Growing up to young adults, we found our own inspiration around our everyday life awed by the strength of characters, wisdom and vision. If they did not live among us, they were in our books or other forms of our media. More often than not the inspiration was our parents, teachers, older siblings and most of the times unknowingly.
A casual chat with a few colleagues who never set their feet on the Indian shore made me realize that greatness knows no boundary. I was elated that like millions of Indians they too found inspiration in life and achievements of our national heroes from different spheres. Mahatma Gandhi a motivating mass leader, Swami Vivekananda a spiritual guru, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata an industrialist and Sachin Tendulkar a sporting legend are to name a few. We are fortunate to have studied their biography during the early school days. While all of these personalities have inspired me over the years, there has been one solid pillar of strength upon which balances the person I am today.
This personality not only inspired me and my siblings, but his greatness also shone on my cousins and others who came for his guidance or support. The lessons of life that we received from him will not end with us but continue through generations to come. He is none other than my own father whose wisdom, perseverance and strength of character has been exemplary and is undeniably a personality worthy of the tag #madeofgreat.
We were fortunate to be mentored by a personality who lead by example and never preached what he did not practice. Following are some of his traits that have become our life principles destined to forever:
  • He was the epitome of the opportunities that the world offers to the hardworking, honest, dedicated goal oriented and highly motivated individual even if not resourceful. Starting from a humble beginning in a remote place in the Indo-Bangladesh border he went to attain one of the top administrative positions of our state.
  • Being an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) cadre, he enjoyed certain authority and privileges but always referred himself as the son of a school teacher rather than anything else and never let the humility erode or become diluted.
  • Never misused the power or position. He never used his office car for personal use even though it was accepted norm, everyone did so and moreover there was no one monitoring it. Since we did not own a car, we used public transport while the government Jeep stayed parked at home.
  • Following a strict routine and start the day early was his motto. If not unwell, never was a day when he slept late or missed his early morning walk. He also woke us up before he left as early morning was the best time for practice.
  • Respect for parents was not a matter of choice. Never did he leave home even once without telling his mother as long as she was alive. Only when you respect your parents we learnt others others will follow and when our grandmother was alive, guests met her before moving on to the hall.
  • We learnt there can be nothing more important than studies for a student. He so aptly advised there will be ample of time to watch television or for partying after successfully completing studies while the time for studies will not return.
  • He believed there is no harm to retain our basic needs to their basics. He didn’t fancied fancy clothes or desired exotic cuisine as long there was enough to serve the purpose they were meant for.
  • During the 1971 war, there was a large trench dug up in our courtyard for relatives, friends and neighbors to join our family members to shelter from shelling by enemy forces. He cared for others in distress as much as he did for his family.
Not everyone is a messiah or for that matter a Messi inspiring and connecting with millions. But strong men and women with clean heart has been visiting this planet every now and then. They touch others in subtle ways as they could and ensure that our world remains a happier place.

"Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them", William Shakespeare wrote in the Twelfth Night. Not everyone is born great or get lucky to be thrust with greatness but there is no stopping us from achieving greatness.We are blessed to be the children of one such human being and this is my tribute to him for the lessons he left us with for the entire life.


In this blog post on somebody I know who is undeniably #madeofgreat, I am connecting to http://madeofgreat.tatamotors.com/


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Thursday, November 19, 2015

The toilet world - hygiene and efficiency

India is large as well as diverse and not everyone of us have a clear understanding of how things are done or the problems faced by people of various parts of the country. I was not aware of the fact that people defecate in the open till I made my first train journey to the northern parts of the country. Where I grew up, we have had different type of toilets with a western commode on one end and a platform over a pit on the other end of the spectrum.

Constructing a minimum of an improvised septic tank with a closed toilet, I still do not believe is as much a big deal for most of the people from northern India as much as I think it is a cultural issue. I am basing my statement based on my personal experience during my days in New Delhi in the nineties. I had a colleague coming from a very well to do farming family in Najafgarh, a place in the fringe of the national capital. He preferred to have the morning conference in the open field with the vessel they call “lota” rather than use a toilet.

I have also heard stories of our village folks resisting a toilet inside their house compound considering this to be unholy and preferred to dirty the entire neighbourhood instead. It was truly sad that people still thought that way while rest of the world have moved their toilets inside the bedrooms.

I will be naive to imply that everyone in India does not use a toilet out of their own choice. We also heard of many incidents of girls being compromised when they went outside their house after dark to answer to the nature’s call. There are hygienic issues too arising out of this lack of adequate sanitation system. The groundwater as well as the surface water gets contaminated constantly ending up being the single most reason for the spread of diseases.
We should be ashamed of this state of affair as people living in our lands during the bronze age civilizations had proper urban planning. The Indus cities during the 3300–1300 BCE are noted for their urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, and clusters of large non-residential buildings.

The good news is that we are moving in the right direction. Last year PM Modi had pledged to ensure every girl school in the country have proper wash room and I wish him success. We have also noticed big changes in the cities with affordable “sulabh pay toilets” commissioned at all strategic locations within our cities.

We are not alone in this misery as rest of the developing world too has sanitation related issues. I am aware of at least a few places in Africa who are facing similar uphill task to provide basic facilities to their people in cities as well as provinces.

India is caught in the middle of two extremities. On one side we are challenged to provide basic sanitation while on the other we are faced with the demand to make our living sustainable. Water conservation is quite high on the list of sustainable living and therefore we look forward to install affordable pneumatic system to reduce or eliminate the quantity of water used for flushing. A system similar to the one used in the aeroplane toilets. While this is our wish for tomorrow, today we are grey water to flush our toilets. Grey water which is the water collected from the bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines is expensive as it requires a separate holding tank and network.

By the time the whole of India catches up with the sanitation, we should be ready to provide a affordable and effective solution. let's put on our thinking caps to evolve as innovators to be prepared for a bright tomorrow and India is not caught napping when the big change occurs.


Peace - belief, pretense, gimmicks, et. al.

We are human beings and history tells us that we could never agree for universal peace. Only a dreamer could fathom absolute peace in this world. The lesser mortals who form the backbone of our civilization will be content with peace of mind at the individual level.  
I am looking at this portrayal of a scene from the 5th century AD where strong Hun men are killing a woman and her child. It could be for any pretense but unjustifiable. One and half thousands years later, unfortunately very little has changed. The time and place kept changing while the pain remained the same. It's equally unjustifiable today!
"The Huns at the Battle of Chalons" from page 135 of A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times Volume I of VI
Since the beginning of human civilization, our leaders driven by lust for power, wealth or women has been leading groups of strong opportunist and sometimes disillusioned people to kill our innocent population. If you want to give it a name, be my guest to pick any one from the basket containing the words: war, resistance, protest, revolution or to maintain peace and stability in the country. It really doesn’t matter. I have no trust in anything that the leaders of the leading world nations says or does in the name of peace. I see all those as gimmicks, hogwash or a pretense to control resources.
There is another interesting aspect of our choice. We  not only love to kill, we also like to do it with style. That is the only justification that I find behind have the swords and daggers have gold or silver plated designs. The less violent one would probably not mind spending $1000 - 5000 to have a few of those decorated daggers or pistols coolly displayed in their showcases.
Another fact of life is that we also find entertainment in cruelty. Earlier they gathered in the Colosseum to watch gladiators kill one another. Today rather than rushing to the amphitheaters, we stay focused into our television sets where the media keep dramatizing a massacres. They 3D graphics wherever possible to help their audience visualize a murder or a rape. I wonder why does the media has to go with so much of gory details? I am not going to delve into any details for what the perpetrators have committed in Mumbai or Iraq or Paris.

Is everything lost? definitely not.

It's never too late to start bringing in hope for peace. However, we need to start from own self and within ourselves. Let take the first step and pledge together to eliminate all violent thoughts from within our own self. Let this nonviolence flow like a fresh breeze through changing them as it touches rest of our family members, neighborhood, community, so on and so forth.
I believe I am a dreamer. Just as our Johnny boy sang and I know I am not the only one. Together we hope that someday  all will join us and the world will be one, a peaceful one. To reach where we want to reach, let’s start a new cycle by #BloggingForPeace with BlogAdda   





Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Special Agent called “Me”


I faced the brightest light imaginable. It was blinding and I could barely see anything clearly and in midst of all this a strange voice asked who I was.

I said it’s the Special Agent called “Me”. You know, I am the most special person I have ever known, I explained.

“Special, my foot!” came the reply.

I wanted to ask him to show me the feet. Instead I got rebuked for trying to be funny. I realized he was reading my mind and meant serious business. As if to leave no doubt, he authoritatively asked me to explain why I thought I was special.

My life flashed back in front of my eyes as I desperately tried to substantiate my claim of being special.

I have felt sad at the suffering of others at many occasions, I remembered. Sometimes I even donated some money or clothes. Alas! The money was not even a fraction of my then living expense. I am ashamed that handing down those clothes were as much important to clear my wardrobe as to help others. Better not mention this.

I am very special to my mother because I thought as I always miss her and speak to her the every other day. She only see me through her lens laminated with unconditional love. Could it be a reason to feel special? Probably not. I cannot with her for extended period of time as I live in a different country thousands of miles away. I would rather keep my mouth shut, I decided.

I do feel special for the efficiency with which I accomplish my task at the workplace. However the fact of the matter is that it won't take very long to find a replacement once I am gone. This probably doesn’t make me any special either.

I am very special to my child as I consciously try to do all the right things all the time. She believes her dad knows everything and I reassure her at every step. I am worried that sometimes I ignore her mistakes carried away by the paternal affection. This probably is not too fair.

Having pushed to my wit’s end, I contemplated if I was special to my siblings as we have grew together and understand each other more than anyone else. Maybe to those close friends with whom we can laugh at ourselves or nothing at all like imbeciles.

Did I do something particularly special good to the nature my last resort. Perhaps not! I drive to work alone rather than sharing a ride leaving a large carbon footprint. Moreover, I haven’t planted a single sapling over the past decades or even longer. I helped others to get some done, that doesn’t give me any brownie points either.

 “Enough of this nonsense. Stop it here!” The voice commanded and warned me not to even consider those sharing of the touchy stories on my wall and some “likes” on my Facebook philosophies.

“I want to be a special person. The humane philanthropist who is benevolent and big-heart star to the odd unknown person in distress. Show me the way,” I pleaded.

“Now you know what you got to do. Move along but remember to meditate, think and have patience. You are already unique and shall be a special person soon.” The light gradually transformed into the most wonderful sunrise I have ever witnessed.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

P.S. I am special to my spouse in a special way and have no wish to disturb this balance. This is the only reason special reason why any reference is missing above.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Virtual Shopping - You Let Us Down


In 2010, I had blogged about shopping online in my post Bricks and The Bytes. I was then surprised with myself that someone like me could buy air tickets, books to clothing from online retailers. This was no mean feat for someone of our generation who has witnessed the computers evolve to a common mans device. I was upbeat that bytes will completely overtake the bricks as far as shopping goes.

I have a dream today, I told myself borrowing from the famous speech by Martin Luther King, as wrote the post about the virtual shopping.                   

Having associated with design and construction since my college days I had seen the ins and outs of the way we create our shopping experience. I had dreamt that our physical shopping experience will undergo a paradigm shift from the way they do business and so will the online shopping. But what I have seen over the last 5 years saddens me. Our IT industry and online retailers have focused on expanding their customer bases and none to improve their experience. The tribe of physical malls on the other hand continued to grow and thrive unabated.

I have a dream that we could use the power of TV and Internet to select and pay for our clothes in a much smarter way than we do today. I hope there will be affordable 3D cameras available within our homes and devices that could take vital measurements of the purchaser. Those can transmits back that information in real time so that you could see yourself wearing that dress.

How wonderful experience it would be to see how well it fits or how suitable that dress is for you and all these happening in real time. The video in the clip below gives a fair idea of what things could be. There will be some ethical issues but those could be addressed.


I borrow from the same speech and shout out "Now is the time" to make some real improvement and take virtual shopping experience to the next level.

What Would the Expert Say



When the angel finally arrives to our home we are overjoyed. In that euphoria we sometimes miss to take some fundamental yet crucial precautions.
It may sound difficult to accept but true that the adage "less is more" is nowhere more appropriate then when it comes to skincare for the newborns. We need to understand that not only is a newborn baby’s skin delicate, so is the immune system. All chemicals, fragrances or artificial additives should therefore be avoided from all types of clothing and accessories. Ignorance is definitely not bliss and can expose baby’s skin to skin ailments such as dryness, irritation, rashes etc. and leave a long-lasting scar on the skin.

The following interview with an expert is an effort to protect our babies through proper care.

Q: How many times should we bathe the baby?
                
A: Resist the urge to bathe your baby too frequently during first year of the life. Remember baby’s skin has natural oils from birth which protect the skin from external forces. Frequent bathing and particularly with soaps may deplete that protective oil increasing the vulnerability of the skin.

Q: Can I start using new clothes straight away?

A: New born babies have sensitive skin. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that you wash clothes and towels before using those on your baby’s body.

Q: Can I use regular laundry detergent?

A: There are special laundry detergents available that leave fewer residues after washing babies’ clothes. However it is completely alright to use regular detergents.

Q: Do we need to wash baby’s clothes separately?

A: Always wash baby clothes, bedding, and blankets separately and not with regular family laundry

Q: Can I apply sunscreen lotion on my baby?
 
A: It is advisable not to apply sunscreen cream on babies under 6 months. Rather keep them under the shade. After 6 months it is alright to apply sunscreen cream but choose the one with highest Sun Protection factor.

Q: Can you please give some advice on diaper routine.

A: The mechanism that prevents the diaper from leaking also stops air from circulating inside the diaper. This is the principle reason for diaper rash. It is advisable to clean baby’s bottom with clean water and apply diaper cream only when the skin is completely dry. Allow your baby to have diaper free moments once in a while but regularly.

Q: What are other precautions for having rash-free diaper days?

A: Following are some tips to help protect your baby:
  • Remember to check diaper frequently.
  • Immediately change diaper when wet or soiled.
  • Avoid using baby wipes to clean the diaper areas as some wipes contain perfume or alcohol which can further irritate and dry baby's skin.
  • Don't rub to dry the skin. Pat dry the diaper area instead and then put on a fresh diaper.

The above is a humble effort as a pre-emptive measure to safe guard the delicate skin of our babies and the interview with Paediatrician Mr. Imaginary is actually imaginary. 

“Pampers brings you the softest ever Pampers Premium Care Pants. Its cotton-like softness is #SoftestForBabySkin and allows it to breathe, thus keeping baby’s skin soft and healthy, and your baby happy. ”

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Honey, I won a million US$!



“Honey, I won a million US$!” a very few will believe these when they hear something similar from their spouses. Even if someone does, it will be with so much of suspicion and scepticism.
Our household has two female of the species and each of them, I know will react in two diametrically opposite ways. My daughter who still believe in magic as well as miracles will congratulate me and probably request me to buy her a robotic puppy. She wanted to take one for a walk but we told her it was too expensive for a toy. The other woman will convince me this offer was from that distant land in Africa which had built up quite a reputation for itself by promising top dollars in lottery, inheritance or charity to anyone who was willing to bite the bait.

But if it is true and all mine, a million US $ in clean monies will make a huge impact on my life and for that matter anyone's life. A million US dollars is more money than it actually appears to be, it's six and half crores of Indian Rupees. I can argue that the pleasure is in earning and such easy money will definitely not make any self-respecting individual happy, blah, blah, blah.  I will then be naive... to say the least!
It will make a difference...

If you remember the salaries for fresh graduates from engineering colleges during the nineties in our national capital, you remember me. I know how is it not to have money in the bank when the bills start coming at the beginning of the months. All we could do was dream big.

I was not the only one in the league of daydreamers desperate to see even quarter of a million disposable rupees sitting in our accounts. An amount considered good enough to feel secured and content. It did not happen as quickly as I wished though it came earlier than dreaded. It brought in the independence and basic security to the life alibi after giving away 50 hours of each week for a paltry sum and slogging the butt out.
I soon realized how dynamic this world was and how fluid the targets could be. New targets progressively replaced the earlier ones and the transition was so seamless that even I was kept in the dark when my goal posts moved. Then came the realization that the journey is more important than the destination itself. There are many unfulfilled desires and there will be many more that will add up with the passage of time. Some of those, I know for sure will never see the tick on it's right side. Even if a million dollars come my way all of a sudden.

So how much good is that money for me!
I will not imply that a million dollars is no good for me or it cannot buy our desires. It's not just big deal, it's a massive deal. It’s true that I cannot buy me a personal jet or a celebrity mansion with a million dollar but I can easily retire in a decent bungalow by the sea with a shiny sports car in the garage along with a four wheel drive to keep it company. What remains can continue to work for me at various financial institutions to generate steady revenue and sponsor a well-balanced diet of tea, coffee and other liquids hailing from the Americas, France or the Scotland. 

That probably will be a fantastic lifestyle that allows for every luxury without the need for any work.  Eat drink and be merry with the hobbies and other passions close to the heart, as they would say! The million dollars question, however is would we be able to do so or find it too selfish a thought to have crossed my mind. I know the answer. 

We would be much more comfortable trying to make this money work for the needy, less fortunate and the ones in distress. Let's put together a non-profit organization to look after them and in the process generate a few employment opportunities as well. We are game to take up the challenge to make the million dollar work hard and work effectively to allow this machinery move on.

This I can say with conviction, will make the world a much happier place than having one Suman speeding away in his fast car flashing a Zenith, Piaget or for that matter a top of the range Rolex and leaving behind a whiff of Havana cigar mixed with his personalized designer perfume.

 This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.