Dogged Run

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Early morning joggers in Bangalore I think face one major challenge apart from their stamina. Dogs! I personally think that in Bangalore, after IT professionals the next biggest population is that of street dogs.

Two things have to be attributed to dogs, first is that they are not pretentious and second that they are moody. They are not pretentious means you know whether they like you or don’t. However, being moody means you don’t know which day they would like you and which day they won’t!  Which means even on a well-trodden path one can’t be oblivious of them. Every morning I see people carrying a stick or food to ward off dogs or distract them.

I do neither and have to have a battery of tactics to deal with situations that show up with every twist and turn or every nook and corner. Sample a few. If I have to run on a new route, I walk the day before that on the same route so that the dogs in that area get used to my scent. If it is an old route, I ensure a healthy gap between me and the dog to ensure I have time to react in an eventuality. In situations where I see a herd of dogs I take a detour. If no detours exist, depending upon how familiar the dogs look I decide whether to stop running and walk till I am in the clear or to continue running. Of course if I decide to continue running then I think of how I would kick the dog if it were to attack, I keep looking back and don’t relax till I am sure that none of the dogs are interested in me anymore. It is strange that the day when dogs are doing their own thing and don’t pay any attention to me running past them I feel ignored and humiliated. Whereas on days when they do pay attention I feel threatened.

There are also days when there is a faux pas. Like this one time when I was running past a heap of garbage and I could see a dog running in my direction from corner of my eye. I was alarmed, however I tried to settle my nerves thinking that it was certainly headed towards the garbage. I was proved right but not before a few anxious moments both for me and the dog. That day I realized two facts, that dogs prefer garbage over me and if the choice is between me and food, food takes the precedence always! Not that this realization made me to introduce any new strategy but it was just good to know!

I am a dog lover at the same time I love running too. I hope municipal corporation can work out an amicable solution for me and them to co-exist. Or I find a way to lose my paranoia!

Dog

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Blind Spot or Blind Eye

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The world around us doesn’t make a pretty sight does it? The 2008-09 recession has exposed many fault lines that we all were about to forget or were oblivious about. West was leading the way with a consumerist mindset with USA as the leader of the pack. Organizations around the world were feeding this mindset with products of all type with China as the leader of this pack. Assumption was that an Industrialized, inter-connected and consuming world would be sufficient to make the world a just, equal and enriching place. All was hunky dory till we were all woken up from our slumber by a rude shock of the collapse of Lehman Brothers!

We are being told now that the path we had embarked upon was unsustainable and at some stage something had to give. From 18th century onward the world started moving away from a low productive agrarian economy to a high productive industrialized economy. Industrial economy meant usage of fossil fuels with a large carbon footprint. While income levels and quality of life of many improved, environment was being damaged irreparably. If Industrialization has to continue at the same rate, then not only we run the risk of exhausting fossil fuels but also creating an extremely polluted environment. This could lead to severe health issues, life span reduction and eventual destruction of Earth! On the other hand, if we reduce the growth rate, we risk unemployment, poverty, starvation and death of millions. Thus we are stuck in a vicious cycle.  However, anything detrimental to environment would mean leaving an unsafe living condition for our future generation. Is that what it has come to then? Is it current generation vs the future? Is it an “either-or” scenario?

On the other hand, we had financial institutions that have enticed people into borrowing beyond their need. The borrowed money has been used to increase production that did cause increased employment. The increased production yields fruits only if there is enough demand. Demand depends upon earning capability of individuals, which in turn depends upon availability of employment. If for any reason unemployment rises, increased production leads to unsold inventory and hence losses and eventually drives financial institutions towards bankruptcy. Also bankrupt financial institutions mean no availability of credit in the market, without which organizations fail to meet their production requirements further adding to the unemployed workforce. Another vicious cycle that we are perennially stuck with as well!

We thought Governments were by the people, for the people and of the people. However, Governments world over went and helped the financial institutions by pumping in funds. Those funds were used to pay off bonus and salaries to already rich top bosses rather than those who were impacted with unemployment. However, Governments are stuck in a vicious cycle of their own. For Governments to function and help people they need reve55071719nue, taxes are their revenue. To help increasing population they need an increasing revenue. Increase in revenue is possible only if they widen the tax base with moderate taxes or maintain a smaller tax base with higher taxes. Governments cannot widen tax base without increasing income of poor people, to increase income of poor people they need more revenue, to get more revenue they need to levy heavy taxes on a smaller tax base. This often leads to loss of revenue due to black money. Thus most Government officials often use power bestowed upon them to focus on providing benefits to the smaller tax base, earn kickbacks, generate a moderate revenue sufficient for its upkeep and forget the masses. Thus the Governments world over become “by the poor people, of the aspiring to be rich people and for the super-rich people”

What emerges is that We are industrialized but with scant respect to environment. We are industrialized but instead of poverty eradication, cost optimization and profit became the primary concern. We became globalized but with scant respect to the local workforce. We became globalized but with no equality. We consumed but consumed just for the sake of consuming and that too way beyond our means and requirement. The more we consumed the rich became richer and the poor continued to remain poor. The more we consumed, the more we became susceptible to lifestyle diseases. The more we consumed the more a newer deprived classes. Of course, what we’re being deprived off became relative and subjective. In this shadow fight between the haves and have-nots’ humanity has been a casualty!

We have created a strange world. A world that suffers from both its extremes. We have extreme luxury and abject poverty. We have obesity and malnutrition. We have food shortage and food wastage, so on. At least are we happier? We live in a world that has built ways to connect with people across the world but where we are completely disconnected with people next doors! We are becoming a generation of people with attention span of a 5-year-old, lonely and depressed. Are we healthier? Obesity, diabetes and Cardiac diseases. In this bargain have we at least managed to create a safer world? Increasing defense budget of every country each year, including the poorer countries and increasing threat of terrorism don’t indicate so.

Could all of this be because we followed wrong role models all our life?

 

 

 

 

Metanoia


Human emotions are one of the biggest mysteries of life. Within the seemingly calm surface of the lake of human conscious awareness hide the ripples of emotional upheavals. Time to time these ripples disturb the deceiving calmness of the surface and plunge us into a labyrinth of memories. These disturbances, like seismic activity continue for days together.

Two such emotions are Guilt and Repentance. Dictionary definition indicate:

Guilt: the act of having committed a specified or implied offence or crime

Repentance: Act of sincere regret or remorse

Words are incapable of capturing the true essence of any human emotion. Observe the definition of these two words closely, while they do capture what stems these emotions but they fail to capture what it means emotionally for an individual to experience them.  That’s a linguistic limitation that we have to live with.

Let’s look at these emotions beyond the linguistic framework. In life it’s a given that we would err and hence intentionally or unintentionally offend people as well. Most of us with a moderate sense of morality and ethics would experience one of the aforesaid emotion. Interestingly, I think, these two emotions are disparate yet sequential in nature.

After we have erred the first emotion that humans experience is that of guilt, which involves ingredients like disbelief, denial, self-pity, fear, ignorance and recurrence. With conscious and unconscious analysis of the situation this feeling of guilt gives way to repentance which involves ingredients like acceptance, self-assurance, learning and closure. In the fire of true repentance feeling of guilt ends and from it emerges a liberating wisdom. The general human tendency though is to wallow in guilt and languish in the improbable proposition of rolling back time and correcting the error. Unless one accepts that everybody is fallible and learn from the experience one can’t progress towards the stage of repentance and hence liberate from the incident.

No matter how strong the urge of the ego to believe it is right and deny the error, the longer the feeling of guilt lingers and prevents true repentance. Because:

  • Guilt is egoistic. Repentance is Humility
  • Guilt is denial. Repentance is acceptance
  • Guilt is open ended. Repentance is a closure
  • Guilt is ignorance; Repentance is Knowledge
  • Guilt is binding. Repentance is liberating

Next time when faced with a situation one could make the wise choice of progressing to repentance so that one could gain freedom from the incident only after gaining the wisdom.

Repentance

Anti-Fiefdom

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British had to rule parts of the country by force, so they were afraid of dissent and revolt. They needed sedition laws to crush any semblance of protest. However, with independence, instead of having to subject to an external ruler by compulsion, we chose to willingly create a system which had a directly elected Government as an essential component. Importantly, this was our system, a system we created and entrusted it with the responsibility to protect us, accommodate us and make us all feel part of a shared vision. The system we created was also expected to be tolerant to the contradictions that lay within. This system gets its legitimacy because of the people willingly giving it the authority and it must be pointed out here that the people are not at the mercy of the system to gain legitimacy. Under these circumstances, the system and people manning such a system have the greatest responsibility to ensure that it is re-conciliatory, tolerant, accommodating, just and non-discriminatory. Any mistakes in this process could leave sections alienated or disillusioned and make the system appear partisan and self-imposing.

Unlike the British rule, because the system derives its legitimacy from voluntary acceptance by the people thus the system is not above its people. If there are dissenting voices against the people who run the system or the system itself, it is the responsibility of the system to create an atmosphere where dissenting voices, contradictory thoughts could be heard, debated and conflicts resolved amicably. Invoking laws of sedition or using army against its own people appears like the State imposing itself against the wishes of the people leading to the lowering of the legitimacy of the system. There are more instruments at the disposal of the system that could be used to amicably resolve issues than use laws of sedition or army against ones own people. We have seen instances of an over-arching system imposing itself in the past and it has had dire consequences.

The system we talk about comprises of The elected Legislative, the executive, the judiciary. Here, I think there is a need to distinguish the Executive from the Armed Forces. Often questions raised on the decisions of the executive are treated as an insult to the Armed Forces. It must be clarified here that Armed forces are outside the influence of any personal bias and hence are always respected for their dedication and bravery. Armed forces are trained to follow orders and not question it, for a democracy like ours to survive that’s how the system has been designed and I think that is how it should be. It is the executive that is given the responsibility of the running and the upkeep of the system. Any complaints with the system directly goes to the Executive, even in case of dissenting voices whatever part of the system they might be disagreeing with, the executive directly comes in the line of fire. For strengthening of our democracy it is better that ordinary citizens don’t just follow orders given by the system but time to time also raise their voices when they don’t agree with things. In fact our freedom struggle was to break away from a system that forced people to follow and prosecuted who didn’t. If we have replaced one oppressing system with another then the meaning of Independence or freedom is lost.

I believe that more serious issue than speaking against the system is spreading hatred against other communities or members of those communities. The hatred that is spread has often lead to violence. It is something that, I think challenges our unity in diversity theme. Even worse is the scenario where the people who are responsible for running the system and play the role of neutral arbiters become biased by taking sides in a conflict between communities or subvert the entire system to suit a select few. In both these cases both democracy and justice get harmed. Hence, I think that time has come for us to put the laws of sedition away and give respect to all the people who sacrificed their lives for our Independence. We need to treasure this gift. All actions must be considered Nationalistic as it only helps the system to become what it was envisioned to be and that way we become more stronger and respectable as a country.

Jai Hind!

ashok

Even the Odds

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Much talked about Odd-Even formula ended yesterday. As people assess the impact this has had, I don’t want to talk about air quality nor do I want to talk about any political gains for any political party. There is something else that caught my eye during the lead-up to the implementation of the scheme and the aftermath, I will train my focus firmly on that.

As the odd-even scheme was announced during the fag end of last year, it became the butt of many jokes and internet trolls/memes. Without going into details, the central theme of these trolls or memes were about how citizens would work towards defeating the scheme. This, as per me, is very noteworthy. Citizens working to defeat the scheme! Many experts also predicted the failure of the scheme due to inadequate infrastructure to support it and people using their ‘jugaad’ mentality to beat the system.

I thought to myself what have we Indians, made ourselves into? Here is a city that has been reported to have the world’s most polluted air. The citizens of this city are suffering the severe repercussions of the poor quality of air, here was a scheme that was at least trying to do something with honesty and yet the general belief was that its very own citizens would work towards finding ways to beat the scheme! Whose city is this? The citizens or the Governments? On one hand we complain about everything we see around us, and yet when we get an opportunity to participate directly in improving things, we would become self-defeating? Are we becoming a set of people who forget their responsibility immediately after electing a Government and believe that Government would magically improve things without needing our involvement?

Of course, I don’t blame the people who were sure about the failure of the scheme as we have become set of people who park in no-parking, drive in opposite direction in a one-way etc. I believe Nation building cannot be entirely outsourced to Governments run by whimsical political parties. It needs a constant involvement of ordinary citizens like us more than we think.

Nevertheless, coming back to the odd-even scheme. Probably it might not have had any impact on the air quality, however where it did succeed is it made people again part of the nation building exercise. No Government can ever succeed if people don’t participate. Instead of finding ways to defeat the scheme, people found ways to make it work and weathered and inconvenience that came along with it. Of course there were heavy fines that were acting as a deterrent for people to violate, however the success was huge compared to the extent of failure predicted through the circulated jokes/memes or expert opinions.

I believe that we cannot keep complaining about everything and sit and do nothing. More importantly it is not large actions that build a nation, it is small steps taken every day by ordinary citizens like us that will go a long way in building a city/country we want to be in. I congratulate citizens of Delhi in facing the inconvenience and yet, like the capital, showing the way for the rest of the country.

NEW DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 30: A dummy of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is seen on the road promoting odd-even campaign on December 30, 2015 at Ferozshah Road in New Delhi, India. The odd-even number plate policy will come to force in Delhi from January 1 till January 15. Delhiites stand divided over the implementation of the odd-even plan, with some supporting the novelty of congestion-free roads while others mocking the impracticality of it. (Photo by Ravi Choudhary/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

NEW DELHI, INDIA – DECEMBER 30: A dummy of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is seen on the road promoting odd-even campaign on December 30, 2015 at Ferozshah Road in New Delhi, India. The odd-even number plate policy will come to force in Delhi from January 1 till January 15. Delhiites stand divided over the implementation of the odd-even plan, with some supporting the novelty of congestion-free roads while others mocking the impracticality of it. (Photo by Ravi Choudhary/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)