Friday, October 15, 2010

बचपन की कुछ यादें

सर्द मौसम हो या तेज़ हवा के झोंके
या फिर छुपा हो आसमां बादलों के तले
हर शाम नीले आसमां की ख्वाहिश
खीच ही लाती है पंछियों को घोंसलों से

मौसम की सर्द तो शाम के जवां इरादों में गुम  हो जाती है कहीं 
झोंके हवा के सहने को झुंड अपने ही aerodynamic आकार बना लेते हैं
झाड़ियाँ, दीवार और माँ का आँचल तो होते नहीं आसमान में छुपने को
इसलिए बदरिया शाम को ही लुका छिपी का लुत्फ़ उठा लेते हैं
अचानक ही नजर पड़ी जब आसमां में 
आकार बदलते पंछियों के झुण्ड पर कल 
तो याद हो आये मुझे बचपन के वो कुछ पल 
जब इन्तजार रहता था हर शाम 
घडी की छोटी सुई के पांच पर पहुचने का 
और फिर दो मिनट हिम्मत जुटाते थे 
माँ से, खेलने जाऊं, ये साहसिक प्रश्न पूछने का 
हर रोज कुछ अलग shots लगाने की योजनायें 
कुछ बेहतरीन catch  गुपकने के भरसक प्रयास 
उन दो घंटों की अलग ही दुनिया थी 
जहाँ स्कूल के भारी  बस्तों का बोझ नहीं था 
बगल में बैठे दोस्त से छुप कर बात करने में 
मास्टर साहब का खौफ नहीं था 
मजे की बात ये थी कि
वैसे हर घंटे भूख प्यास और न जाने क्या क्या लगता था 
मगर इन दो घंटों में किसी और बात का होश भी नहीं था 
अगर कभी रात को बिजली विभाग की दया हो जाये 
तो हमें भी छुपा छुपी खेलने का मौका मिल जाता था 
कभी पीपल के पीछे तो कभी पडोसी के बरामदे में 
दुबक कर बैठ जाते थे 
कभी चुपके से दीदी से पूछ लेने पे 
झगडे करने में भी बड़े मजे आते थे
मगर अब तो स्कूल के बस्ते और भी भरी हैं 
टयूसन वाले मास्टर साहब भी शाम को ही खली हैं 
अब तो कार्टून और कंप्यूटर ही मन बहलाते हैं 
वीक एंड पे पापा कभी कभी पार्क भी ले जाते हैं 


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Driving force for my actions

There is always some driving force for whatever one does. It is this force which keeps one working for any cause or goal. I may be putting all my efforts for a cause due to some pressure or desire for material gain or some kind of faith (religious, ideological, etc.). I observed, that is the case with many of us very often. Second possibility is that I might be doing something due to my understanding/conviction or self realized interests or motivations. The first one is very much influenced by external factors while the second is originated from within. Let me first take an example to differentiate between the two.

There is a student who has to make a choice between science and arts. The guy is equally good in science and arts but his natural interest is in arts. Therefore, quite understandably, decides to do his further studies in arts. When his parents come to know about his decision, they try to persuade him that since there are many more opportunities in science and better social status for science graduates, he should go for science. His friends are not supportive either. But, the guy ultimately listens to his heart and goes for his genuine interest. This is what falls in the second category of driving force. If he would have been lured by physical gains or succumbed by the peer pressure, this is what falls in the first degree for driving force.

One might wonder what difference does the driving force behind one's action make. The general understanding is the theory of 'whatever works'. If I am successful in whatever I choose to do, nobody is going to ask questions. Many times, it may not be very difficult either to achieve a reasonably good level in your field without having genuine interest in it. But, then comes the question of satisfaction and joy. Furthermore, can I achieve excellence in my work without enjoying it?

Under the influence of first kind of driving force, I enjoy the benefits for which I started pursuing the goal, like status, money etc. But after some time, I start looking for my participation and role in the bigger part of the system, which is very difficult to identify if I am not doing what I really want to do. If I can't find it, I can't really maintain my dedication for long because I can't see my specific importance in the system. It leads to a feeling of unfulfillment and ultimately, dissatisfaction.

On the other hand, right understanding and self realization lead to the understanding of myself, entire existence and thereby, my role into it. Once I can see the bigger picture, I use my creativity and imagination to find myself an appropriate role to contribute to the bigger units of order, i.e. family, society and nature. I can recognize my importance in the larger system and hence feel responsible for it. Whatever I do is just a medium of performing my responsibility which I can choose or find according to my interest.

For example, there is an ordinary office worker. If he can see his importance in the overall system, he does his work with the sense of responsibility. Once that sense of importance and responsibility is lost, he is just working due to some fear of being punished or material loss; he looks for the short cuts and the ways to escape his responsibility. Therefore, the driving force affects the continuity of performance, motivation and dedication towards the cause. I work only if I enjoy it otherwise I am just made to work, i.e. a slave, a state which is not naturally acceptable to any human being.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Enjoying journey as important as reaching destination

Let us start with a story. An athlete had been practicing very hard for a long time for a big competition. As the competition was coming closer, He was very much stressed and nervous about his performance in the competition and was not able to concentrate properly on his practice. So, one day his coach told him to accompany him on a hiking trip to the top of a mountain where he wanted to find a valuable thing. They both started early next morning. They reached the top of the mountain in a hot afternoon after a tough, long journey, both tired and exhausted. Athlete was waiting eagerly for the surprise which his coach wanted to show him. After waiting for a while, he could not hold on to his patience and asked what the thing we came here for was. The coach smiled and pointed towards a random, very ordinary red stone and said that I came here to find this stone. Being puzzled by his coach's answer, athlete asked what is so important in this stone that you traveled such a long and tiring path to get it. In response, the coach asked him whether you enjoyed the journey to reach here. Athlete said, I do not remember much about the journey. My main target was to reach the final destination, so I was thinking only about that all along the path.

The point coach wanted to make is very clear. We keep on working to achieve things at every point of our life. We are driven many times just by the curiosity to reach that state, but most of the times even unaware of the final destination we want to reach. We are so much consumed in our pursuit to achieve the target that we no longer care about our current state. We need to ask ourselves few very basic and important questions: what is my state during the journey to reach the final destination? Am I happy or unhappy? Am I enjoying it or it has just become a pain for me which I have to go through in order to achieve my target? If an athlete can't feel and enjoy his competition and ultimate win over opposing wind, the bending body on the curves of the track, the ultimate joy to see the race end; the demanding and tiring work can simply become a burden for him. Because, it's the feeling of giving your 100% and honesty which gives the ultimate satisfaction. We believe it's the end which ultimately matters. But that's not very fulfilling in the long run.

Another issue is the temporary nature of these successful/unsuccessful moments. For example, when a student prepares for IIT, it is the most important thing he wants to achieve in his life at that point of time. How long does he enjoy his success? 1 week probably after a long, hard journey of 2 years and soon he starts worrying about good grades, a good job or good university and this continues. So another question we need to ask ourselves is, whether this temporary state is happiness or happiness is something different, which I desire for. In my opinion, what we perceive as happiness currently and work for is just a temporary charged, excited state; it is not my neutral state. If I succeed, I am positively excited and we confuse it with happiness. On the other hand, if I don't succeed, I am negatively excited and we confuse it with unhappiness. Happiness is a continuous desire which we need to verify. We don't want it in bits and pieces; our desire for happiness is continuous. Whatever we are doing is ultimately to fulfill our desire of happiness. Success or failure does matter, but it's the journey to these moments where we spend our most of the time. Living harmoniously at every level of being during this journey is equally or even more crucial to be happy. Therefore, enjoying the journey is as important as reaching the final destination.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Opinions differ, relationship remains intact

We were sitting on a nice sunny Saturday and enjoying our special weekend lunch at Vishal's apartment. As usual, during the course of our normal daily discussions a serious issue hit the table. We started discussing the relevance of money in human relationship. I was of the view that money (or physical facilities) is required for fulfilling the needs of our body and relationships requires fulfillment of emotions and feelings in addition to money. While, Vishal was of the view that money alone can guarantee smooth functioning of everything including relationships in the current society. Initially, we were giving arguments in favor of our opinions and responding to each other's arguments. Until now, the discussion was continuing in the spirit to share the opinions and gain some understanding of the issue from the knowledge of each other. Gradually, it started turning into a debate. We started to dig our knowledge base and find some argument to either support our view or counter other's view. Finally, after some time we were no more supporting our view, rather we were fighting for our ego and superiority. At this stage nobody was listening to anybody. We were just engaged in proving each other wrong at any cost. (In fact, you can realize at such times the trueness of the statement that 90% of the quoted facts are made up on the spot). And finally debate ended at a sore note when we realized that it has been 3 hours returning to the same point again and again and it was not going to reach anywhere even if we continue it for another 3 hours. So, better end it here and get back to our business and thus avoid further scars in our friendship.

Well, what happened there? An important discussion which started in a good spirit, why did it end in conflict? Let us analyze the situation. We both start with a feeling of relationship and acceptance for each other. As far as these feelings remain, the discussion goes on smoothly. As the discussion progresses, opinions start differing and that's where the turning point is. If I see opposition to my opinion as opposition to myself, which is not naturally acceptable to me, I throw the topic into the dustbin right away. It is of little concern to me what I or the other person is speaking. From then onwards, my sole aim in the discussion is to prove myself right and the other wrong. The ideal situation would be if I can see that opinions of two people may differ based on their understanding, exposure, surrounding and many other factors, but other person is still my friend. We don't make our friends or for that matter any relationship on the condition that our opinions should not differ. But the difference of opinion should not adversely affect our relationship.

But, the discussion is not over yet without a conclusion. If our opinions differ that means one must be right and the other wrong. So, how to settle the question of right and wrong without any conflict? There is a simple way to do that. Let both of us share our knowledge on the issue and make some proposals. Other may agree with it or not. Proposing does not imply that other will accept it straight forward or even afterwards. So we leave it for thinking and verification of the other. If I have verified the issue and am assured about its universality, but the other is still not able to understand it due to his lack of competence, I don't oppose him or criticize him, and rather it is my responsibility to work for increasing his competence with a feeling of relationship. The bottom line in any conversation is that I don't have to prove any point; nobody accepts that. The approach should be that I have understood something and want to share it. Now it is up to the other person to accept it or not. My relationship with the other person is more important than proving my point. Ultimately, the opinions may differ but the relationship should remain intact.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Living in Present

Last year around April – May, I started planning to write my master's thesis. As is the case most of the times with me, I started with figuring out simplest things at first. So, what is the most basic requirement in writing a thesis? Guess.

I had a 5 year old second hand keyboard which had witnessed 3 years of intensive Counter-Strike and Age of Empires seasons by its original owner and had to undergo few testing moments when I hammered it really hard while getting frustrated after losing close NBA games J. Well, for me the first basic requirement for this task was a good keyboard, where good means its every key should be working. Therefore, I just wanted a cheapest possible keyboard for this very specific and temporary purpose. I went to the shop outside IIT gate and bought a keyboard for a price (Rs 100) which gave me logic to understand the supremacy of China in the manufacturing market. I started working with it soon to explore that few keys were dysfunctional in this as well. When I went back to get it repaired or replaced, the shopkeeper kept it for repairing and gave me an old back up keyboard for meanwhile of more or less same quality and promised me to give the repaired keyboard in a week. It may sound a bit silly, but I was pretty excited to work on my new keyboard after having managed with broken space bar and enter keys for almost 1.5 years. Somebody has very rightly pointed out that sometimes absence becomes necessary to make you realize presence of something, however basic it may be. Probably, I was having similar kind of experience. So, after anxiously waiting for slightly more than one week, I called to the shop. The guy told me to wait for another week saying that it has been sent to the company for the replacement. Can you believe that a keyboard worth 100 Rs is sent for replacement to the company? I guess its transportation will cost more than its original cost. Anyways, I was happy because I was getting a brand new keyboard rather than the replaced one. So, I accepted to wait for another week. In the meanwhile, I got started with my thesis writing under the pressure of running time. Another week passed and I called him back. There was same reply. I told him about my urgency very politely and requested him to make it as soon as possible. One of the thing at which these business men are naturally good at, that is making promises. He promised me of a sincere effort in his capacity in the same polite way. For next few weeks, I got heavily occupied in my thesis writing and few PhD interviews.

Slowly, 2-3 more weeks passed. By this time, I had already defended my thesis and came back from Switzerland after a PhD interview. But my keyboard was getting repaired in the company under the supervision of highly qualified engineers probably. I realized that I had no use of that keyboard now and it costed me only 100 Rs. I could have easily let it go. But, that was not the case. I was irritated and frustrated not because I could not use it for the purpose I bought it but because I felt that I was being cheated and fooled, which is an uncomfortable feeling for anybody. I decided to go to the shop and teach him a lesson. I remember it was around 3 in the hot afternoon of May end, when I reached the shop and it took no time for that heat to get on my head and an argument was turned on. But soon after the initiation of this heated argument, while the shop guy was giving excuses and adapted aggressive stance in my response, I happened to talk to myself just for a while. I could see myself being mean and yelling to a poor shopkeeper who is not even at fault probably. As soon as I could see myself in a state of reaction and charge, which is not naturally acceptable to anybody, the situation was changed. My voice softened, I was more understanding and instead of being aggressive I was trying to pacify the other guy. I somehow wrapped up the conversation on a good note and was quite satisfied while leaving the shop by the fact that I managed the shopkeeper to realize his mistake while maintaining a good acquaintance of mine.

You might be wondering what does the title of the post has to do with this story. Living in present means to be aware of yourself at every single moment. Most of the times we are thinking about something else while doing something else, our thoughts and actions are not in harmony. How many times can you hear the singing birds on your way, how many times do you feel the cold breeze flowing across your hair, how many times you notice your words while talking to your friends? There are innumerable such things which we do not notice in our daily life which can lead to sometimes accidents similar to the ones which I just avoided by being present at the moment. Similarly, we can really enjoy our life if we can exercise this awareness about our thoughts. The main thing to notice is that you can not do anything which is unacceptable to you if you are present at the moment and can see what you are doing.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Living your Desires

We think and desire all the time without any break. These two are innate activities in every human being. Did this thought ever crossed you mind, how many of these thoughts and desires do we pursue in our life? Let us take a simple example. Most of us grow up being taught by our parents, teachers, elders that honesty is the best policy. It seems to be the best way of living a happy and relaxed life in our childhood. But, how long do we live with it? On the other hand, once I learnt "2+2=4", I never get it wrong afterwards. What is the difference in the two? Why could I follow later always correctly and not the former? Because, I did not just hear the latter from my teacher and memorized it; rather I understood and verified it or realized it for myself. Therefore, point which I want to make is clear. Once you realize something, it becomes of your own. You have its authority. In the first case, we heard something from our parents and just borrowed it from them. We assumed it to be true without giving any thought. We never verified whether this is what makes me happy and I want to do. I can never be authoritative about this idea. Therefore, when I go to apply it in my life and face testing circumstances, my belief starts shaking and after a critical point it just breaks.

Conviction is, to have firm belief in a thought, to be without any other option in that aspect, having confidence that it is the only way of life which makes me happy. A thought leads to a conviction only when I verify it for myself on the basis of my natural acceptance as well as ensuring mutual happiness by living it in my behavior and work. Once I have verified and realized a thought and I am sure to pursue it, commitment is necessary to make it work. Commitment is, following a conviction with determination; it is the feeling that "I must do it". If conviction gives you the confidence in your thoughts, commitment gives you the courage to pursue it. It is imperative that once you have a conviction, commitment flows in automatically since you don't have any other option anymore. Consistency of these two is necessary to achieve long term goals. Consistency is pursuing a conviction without any deviation and exception. Consistency of your conviction and commitment always reaps the desired awards in your life. On the other hand, inconsistency always leads to doubt in your determination and abilities. Even a single exception to your views can invite criticism from others, especially if your beliefs are not very common and you are trying to bring some change. Therefore, Conviction, Commitment and Consistency are the keys to live your desires.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What’s the problem in being ‘Idiot’?

I guess there is no need to describe the word idiot anymore. Majority of the people know at least its latest meaning, if not the one in dictionary. Still, I would like to repeat it to avoid any confusion in the following text. A person is called idiot if he/she follows his heart and pursues his life in doing what he loves to do. The concept has been appreciated and issues about the educational system has been acknowledged by most of the people, irrespective of their generation or roles (parents-children, student-teacher). It initiated long debates all over the media about our educational system. No stone has been left unturned by the experts and critiques across ever growing number of news channels to pin point the flaws in our education system.

I have serious doubt whether we are addressing the right problem or what we are dealing with is just a long term side effect of a much serious problem? Majority of the children who are not even 5 years old, want to become an engineer or a doctor or take another socially well established professional role. If one goes one step further into interrogation, it will not be very difficult to find out that majority of them ultimately want to be rich and famous. Do you think education plays a big role in the decision making process of 5 years old children? In a country of 1 billion population, hardly 1% people are pursuing their career in arts or commerce or in other academic streams which are not as promising with respect to employment, out of their own interest. Is it completely the problem of education system? The job of an engineering institution is to provide solutions to your engineering queries, make you capable of solving those problems yourself, not to create your interest in engineering. I do not see our engineering institution lagging much behind in that aspect. Then, what is exactly the problem and where does its root lie?

I think, obsession of physical facilities has become one of the most important factor guiding the interests, aspirations and motivation of a person. It is not possible to single out any single social institution or group of people to take its responsibility. Accumulation of wealth has become one guiding principle of complete social structure. How can I blame a person of not being able to find out his own interest in a society where money is projected as the ultimate solution of every single problem in a direct or indirect way; be it fame, health, relationship, satisfaction or happiness. One compromises with everything in his quest for wealth hoping that everything else will fall in place automatically. Does that happen in reality? I will leave that question for your self-introspection. Hunt for self interest, hobbies, likes/dislikes gets lost in this rat race. Honestly, I really don’t have answer to most of these questions for myself. It is not because I did not have time to think about them, but because of my negligence. I did not find them as important as to prepare for the exams/competitions, to complete home assignments or any other activity even remotely related to my future prospects of becoming socially successful. Outcome of this race depends mostly on one’s luck. If coincidentally, one reaches anywhere close to his natural interest, he excels and succeeds. But, probability of such coincidence seems pretty low to me.

I don’t say that education has not played any role in reaching this stage. What will a child perceive when he sees pictures of happier person in good cloths and sad person in poor cloths, pictures of a ideal house (clean house) to be urban/cemented and dirtier house to be rural, in his text books? Naturally, somewhere in his conceptual world, he will fix that it is necessary to have good cloths to be happy and city houses are cleaner than village houses. As a result, no educated person wants to live in a village or to do farming. What kind of education is this which makes me feel inferior instead of developing sense of pride and ownership about my own origin? In fact, I believe that education system can be the most efficient tool to rectify the situation. Primary school is the most important place after home, where a child develops most of his fundamental concepts about society as well as life. There is need of a major overhaul in the education system and philosophy behind it, especially in basic education. Isn’t it an irony that we are still following same British philosophy of education whose major purpose was to generate educated employees and gain a supporting hand from educated society? Education has merely become a tool of developing skills rather than a learning process. More elaborately, it only tells how to do a particular job. But, it has completely missed a very fundamental aspect before that: ‘What to do’? Education has lost its holistic perspective. Education should be able to make one capable of differentiating between right and wrong. It should be able to make a person authentic to himself, and then only one can follow his heart irrespective of prevalent social norms and assumptions. It should be a tool to impart courage and motivation to recognize one’s interest and pursue it with full confidence. Therefore, even though the roots of the problem are deep rooted in social structure, yet education system has a lot to offer. I don’t know how far this movie will force people to think over the issue but it is the high time to take some concrete steps before it’s really late. Educated and aware people will have to take lead, no government or anybody from outside is going to do it for us.