Happy Independence day India!

Happy Independence day India. And Congo, Korea, and Liechtenstein – all of who celebrate their Independence day today.  And “happy independence celebrations” wishes to every other nation in the world. For independence celebrations not only have an aspect of “independence from something” but an aspect of providing “independence to something” – truly a world that is independent is interdependent – and happily so. We cannot have “independence in a box” – it has to be underpinned by inclusiveness.

Independence from external invaders is what our forefathers fought valiantly for and achieved bequeathing to us a country that has immense resources, culture and a grand people. Thank you – to a generation that lived and died for the concept of freedom – a fruit they earned not for themselves but for all of us. Indeed thank you doesn’t do justice – perhaps a salute is more appropriate. A reassuring “we will take care of India” is something that would bring even more of a smile to our illustrious brethren I’d think?

And we haven’t done too badly – honestly. For while corrupt Politicians, bureaucracy, illiteracy, social ills make headlines – they aren’t  really the only or even major truth. Green villages, the girl child outshining the boy at school, a successful journey to mars, Indian-CEOs leading the technology wave, spiritual leaders taking the message of peace and meditation globally, a bank account for everyone, an army that is the hallmark of grit and innovation to other super-powers, helping our neighbors when they go through calamity, our artists recognized as some of the finest in the world – these are things to be proud of – and shared. There’s no doubt India has its doubts and its challenges, but in spite of that she is walking a journey that is making the world a better place. It’s truly a privilege to be a citizen of this country.

Each one of us bequeaths a destiny for the generations to come. While our forefathers battled territorial freedom – we battle issues due to a strange mix of consumerism and poverty – at the same time. Carbon footprint, work-life balance, artificial ripening of fruits, unhealthy lifestyles, a large population devoid of basic benefits, literacy – are all aspects that demand our attention today than ever before.

The inspiring note really is that many of our fellow beings are doing something about it – and having fun while at it. Kahlil Gibran was right when he said “ work is love made visible” – and when we work in this spirit we include not just great output but also sincerity, compassion, a touch of irreverence and a dollop of fun

Isn’t it time we joined the movement – if we haven’t done so – of leaving the world a little better – and our succeeding generations a world that’s interdependent and happily so? And isn’t it time we shared the stories of success a little bit more – it may bring a spring to someone’s step, a tear of joy and provoke an act of courage. Let’s start with an act of kindness. Today. Jai hind!

Of cars, charging docs and shiny new gadgets!

My laptop (a thinkpad) after faithfully serving me for 3 years was replaced with a newer, thinner and smarter-looking piece this week. The laptop has been a wonderful workhorse – serving me well after a brief starting period when the machine threw power tantrums and going into freeze mode ever so often. Many visits to the local IT doctor did not work, it played truant to all his geeky remedies. Finally, he clenched his teeth and with a determined chin took it to a closed room and I suspect from all the noises within undertook the hardware equivalent of cntl+alt+del – a procedure that made the machine a ready convert. The machine has been behaving well ever since – I suspect resigning itself to the fact that irrespective of all its intel chips/ big memory /graphic cards and such wizardry capabilities, its owner would only engage it to do powerpoints, spreadsheets and documents – and then more of the same. It’s like having Dhoni confined to the little league you say? Well, such is life – into each life some rain must fall!

The new laptop, it definitely seemed lighter – however the bag it came in weighed a ton. Wondering if they added a mini-bar as an accessory, I (hopefully!) open the bag – and out tumble tons of shiny new stuff. The DVD drive comes in a separate box, the wireless keyboard and mouse, half a dozen cables (only god knows for what), a docking station – and very importantly a contraption that looks like something out of a bruce-lee movie. This is a veritable buffet, and you can pass a very diverting hour or two simply trying to figure how they all fit in! And sadly, no mini-bar there.

Onto the machine now – I boot it and the windows OS asks me for the password, decides I am Aladdin, puts on its blue home face and goes into configuration mode as a prelude to opening its wonder wares. The “Dude, I am hungry, charge me up” low battery light blinks up and I fish around – pull a cable, connect it to another (thanks lego for teaching me skills that are relevant a few decades hence!) – I suddenly realize I don’t know where to plug in the charger. They have changed the ports! Ten minutes of searching, swearing and experimenting later, I find the new port – it’s a little squarish hole now placed at the top-left corner (it was a round pin-type contraption on the bottom-right corner on my earlier machine). So 3 years and 2 levels up, someone changed the charger ports.Talk about innovation!

This is the topic I wanted to muse on. Charging ports are like fuel cables at the local petrol station (or if you are in the us, gas station). You need them to fill your device up so it does what its supposed to – so why do they make it different on every machine? No matter which car you buy – a Ferrari, a corolla or even a hummer – you can always get it charged at any station around the world – how odd would it be if we had to carry fuel hoses everywhere I travel? Cars seem to get them, but devices don’t – and isn’t that a shame?

Or talk about docking ports – think of them as car parking slots – at most you have a small, medium and large (and if you are a burger outlet owner, perhaps you may want to bung in an extra-large version) – you don’t have a parking slot that is dedicated to a particular model and year? If you did, traffic would go nuts (where it hasn’t already that is!).

Thinking deeper, memory cards come in only a few varieties. As do sim cards (a full, micro or nano!). Software platforms (like dropbox, gmail, twitter etc.) work across as well – its only stuff that device manufacturers make that’s so unique to them.

Which brings me to the central question – why do they not standardize hardware essentials like charging ports and docks to a few types? Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place for absent-minded people like me who are always forgetting chargers – we could find a replacement in a thrice no matter we travelled to? And on that note, how do they manage all their travel – do they check in two bags everytime – one for their travel ware, and another for all the cables?!

By this time, the device is configured and inviting. I logon and am delighted. The track pad is cool. The buttons work very well. The laptop is spaced out well and the wrist feels comfortable. I like it! And yes the powerpoints and documents come up brilliantly – it passes all the regular tests with flying colours. Nice job IBM – but for that charger!

As I fire up my mails, I see a headline about Apple working on developing a car. I go day dreaming again. Come 2017 (or whenever they launch it )I’ll probably break my bank and buy the car – thinking about everyone I can demo it to and make them gasp in admiration. Driving from the showroom, I would look at the delightful interiors and rave on the performance –-at which point an elegant light on the dashboard would let me know that my tank’s near on empty. Rushing into the nearby station (remember the car is rumoured to be electric!) – I’ll breathe a sign of relief – only to have the attendant smile at me wickedly and ask me if I have brought in my charging cable? Ok that’s more a nightmare than a dream!

Musings on Life’s purpose

The last few weeks have brought on smiles, chuckles, frowns – a rainbow of emotions – an invariable event when the World Cup is on. This blog too tended to stay away from brooding for a few weeks, however a question from a friend got me reflecting back on more heady matters.

The question was one of those really simple yet profound ones that keep popping up unexpectedly, race around the brain for a while and then just disappear.

“What really is driving us – and how do we define success?”

Philosophers – I know – have engaged this question in plenty of detail and come back with detailed explanations. I thought I’d ask a few acquaintances – and here’s what I came up with:

Most live their lives for a future result – in many cases, one they may not live to experience in the flesh in this life. Consider:

1. Many are driven by the legacy they will leave behind:
– Biological genes (As in kids and grandkids who will change the world).

– Ideas (these are the guys who hope to leave behind an invention that will propel mankind further)

– Sagas (People who leave behind stories that will inspire future generations by their deeds)

2. Some are driven by a belief (from religion/ society) –

– Many devout christians live so they are called to the right side of the ledger on judgement day, many hindus live so they earn the right karma for a favourable rebirth and so on..

– Some live propelled by the vision of a better world they can help establish – usually by eradicating some blemish of society. Feminists, Caste(race)-free and Minority-right crusaders all live for a cause they believe in very strongly – though they know they may not live to see it happen in their lifetime

Interestingly, there are some people who don’t live for the future – but live in the present. Consider:

– Sages – they live as witnesses, unaffected by life but fully contributing to it.Think “ramana maharishi” for instance.

– Many scientists and even technocrats live by this credo – where they live not for the success of their experiments but for the joy of participating in the experiment and driven by curiosity more than anything else. This is best of course exemplified by Steve Job’s quote “The journey is the reward”. Or Robert Pirsig’s view that “sometimes its a little better to travel than to arrive”.

The majority of us however seem to live defined by our constraints. If you were to ask such folks what propells them, they’d not be able to define it – they can however very clearly define what constrains their journey (we would have all heard these sometime!):
– financial dependence
– inadequate family support/ need to support family
– not the best childhood/ pedigree..

Some actually define their life in terms of sacrifices made – these are the career “victims”. They always a have a story of how much nature/ world/ family/ Colleagues/ fate always stunted “what could have been”. Many a time, “the what may have been” is vague – leaving life unfulfilled….

I am of course unqualified to say which one of these is the best one – or even if there is a better set that I haven’t been exposed yet to. What I do know is some of this exchanges today’s joys for a belief in what tomorrow would bring – though in many instances, its these belief’s that underpin actions to provide us with a stable society. This is the “mind” winning over the “heart” – conservative, thoughtful, planned.

In sharp contradistinction, the other option brings in joy today – with a neigh a care for what will happen tomorrow. There’s an acceptance of “what will be, will be” – no point worrying about it. Those from this group often have a song in their hearts and their joy inspires our spirits as well. This is the maverick at work – joyous, spontaneous, wild.

The question really I guess is – which one of these are we? And is that who we want to be…

On the brink of something special – an immersive future

A quiet weekend sees me doing nothing in particular but ruminating on how ancient man seems to have been inspired by nature, with some enormously beneficial outcomes:

1. Yoga asanas and martial arts inspired by our animal kingdom to tone the body and keep the mind alert. Cobra pose, monkey style kungfu..you get the idea

2.Incorporating a knowledge of the seasons, the stars, the plan and the animal kingdoms into taking holistic decisions (effect of watching “The Gods must be crazy” I guess!).

3. Meditation gleaned from understanding spontaneity and stillness (yes together!) of nature (think about observing a flower in bloom, a dew drop at dawn or the limitless sky). These have been perceived as doorways into the infinite for aeons…

Man has looked at himself and his relationship with nature to derive meaning.And while it has worked wonderfully well, for the most part the experience is limited to the practitioner.So while the yogic man can experience the bliss of relaxation gleaned from a reading of a cat in repose, and the man who understands the effects of an eclipse on his body and mind is at advantage.

For the unaware, this is of no help at all. You need to participate to reap the benefits for the most part.

On the other hand, Science and society seem to have partnered with a focus on objective outcomes as opposed to participant-centric-holistic outcomes (quite a mouthfull!). So aeroplanes allow people to get from destination a to destination b – which was the end objective – but the bird’s sense of freedom during flight was not important, and therefore not built into the experience. Categorisation was not on ability of a person to experience flight but on ability to pay for the journey and hence we have “business class” but not “athlete class”!

But I guess this is evolving again further. Participation is again becoming a critical component in newer models while keeping objective successes on the anvil as well – fuelled by science’s forays into immersive experiences and technology ubiquity.

A few examples:

A bunch of students recently Built a car that’s powered by likes and shares – a “social” car if there ever was one!

Airlines are speculating options of incentivizing passengers to lose weight.The Nike Fuel band is allowing people to take control of their own life habits. Your performance and not your bank balance will allow you a preferred membership status!

Wii and Kinect are transforming the video gamer from a couch potato into an athlete

Groups like the “slow movement” are teaching people to savour their life better. “Externalities accounting” ensures accountants can no longer take the environment for granted and push down one dollar burgers which cost our environments USD 200 in damage!

All of which makes me think that science and spirituality (for want of a better word) are coming together to make our lives (and our ecosystem) better and sustainable. Now that’s a nice thought?

Mindfulness – we aren’t talking about mind’s fullness!

You can watch the future pass you by, if you live in the past.

Watch the future unfold through you as you live in the present.

“Living” today is better than the “dreams” of yesterday…

Mindfulness requires an empty mind (not a mind full of thoughts and dreams!)

– a blog that wrote itself post a very inspiring browsing session…. Two sites you may want to check out with some great stuff on mindfulness:

Five reflections : some awesome haikus to get you reflecting on life in general

OnlyhereOnlynow – Also runs the “Present MOment Book Project”. Need we say more…