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Mental Atrophy

In Biology classes, students learn a phenomenon called atrophy, which is physical organs losing their functional value due to the decay of their cells arising from constant non-use over a prolonged period of time. A few years back, I read about an incident of a Romanian girl who was chained down for a large number of years, and that made her bodily movements almost naught. By the time the rescuers reached out to her, she was physically worn out with her legs and hands almost losing their functional value. The doctors, subsequently, had to do a lot of therapy sessions to get her back on her feet. If you are confined to a dark room for an unusually long period of time, with no access to light, it is highly likely that you will lose your eyesight as your eyes go atrophy. In the deep waters of oceans, fishes do not have eyes because sunlight does not reach there, leading to a situation where eyes have no function to do, so over a period of time, the fishes’ eyes went atrophy.

Similar to physical atrophy, there is something called mental atrophy which is equally dangerous. Mental atrophy is tapering of one or more faculties of mind to non-functional mode when they are not put into use for a significant period of time. Unlike physical atrophy which is evidential, mental atrophy happens beyond man’s visible spectrum, and that makes it even more potent for self-debilitation without his conscious knowledge. In other words, mental atrophy pushes all that part of your intellect, which you do not use, into the no-man’s land in your brain and makes you gradually oblivious of them — the scientific community is almost in unanimity that cerebral cortex is the seat of mind, so the no-man’s land that I have mentioned is somewhere in cerebral cortex.

In simple definition, mental atrophy is memory loss arising from mental absenteeism. Hence, mental atrophy can be better understood using memory as a yardstick. Have you experienced like you knew and remembered something till a few moments back but cannot remember now? I am sure you did, so did I. This has nothing to do with mental atrophy as it is a temporary but recallable loss of memory. However, we also experience inability to remember things which we used to do or were in the realm of our immediate mental space till recently but had not been used for a while. And we fail to remember them even after constant efforts to recall, or sometimes we, finally, might succeed in our effort to recall. This is the first sign that some of our mental faculties are preparing to go atrophy because they have been pushed into the direction of the no-man’s land in cerebral cortex. Continued penchant to not put any effort to revisit the mental faculties will lead to them miniaturizing themselves into non-functional mode.

We are used to people saying that they lost track of the things that they were once good at doing. As a matter of fact, they are referring to the attrition happened to their skillset with which they excelled in their respective fields. The faculties that are prone to such attrition are abilities, capabilities and skills. Intelligence and wisdom, however, cannot be decayed by atrophy, rather, like the therapy sessions the doctors undertook to get the Romanian girl back on her feet, intelligent thinking and wise decisions are the therapy routes to reverse atrophy of the decayed faculties. Imagine that you were once an excellent chef who could dish out, without the aid of any culinary manual, cuisines savored by one and all. The recipes were in your active memory in ready-to-use mode. But a prolonged break from that profession did deplete your culinary expertise, for the skills of recipes that were active in your immediate memory had been pushed into the non-man’s land, i.e., went atrophy — an illustrative example of what happens to your skills when they are not used for a long period of time.  

I came across many people who excelled during their studentship but, subsequently, had failed or did not live up to the mark in their post-university life. Though factors like hard work, discipline, etcetera, matter, their decline in performance has something to do with mental atrophy, too. The vigor with which they used their mental faculties took a downward turn as they went through the rigors of life. They had stopped using some of their skills that made them the best students of their class or college. Over a period of time, they even forget that they used to use some of  their faculties in sterling ways, and thanks to the idling and the consequent atrophy of such built-in faculties, they will not be able to churn out results as they used to do at the colleges.

What makes us to undergo mental atrophy? Confiding to comfort ones and the resultant routinization of the way of living are major contributors to mental atrophy. Comfort zone is the personal enclave in which man feels satisfied with the way he is going about his life. Comfort zone creates a false identity of all-good, hence, a trap of being a perfect ground for mental atrophy. The zone allows us to put into use only those part of our intellect that is needed to generate the comforts as defined by the zone, and we get sweet-slumbered within the zone. A school of thought in Anthropology argues that every man carries inside him the repertoire of knowledge and information from the time the modern man had started to roam around the earth, i.e., 93000 years. If we go by this argument, human intellect is unfathomable. In addition to decaying the faculties that we stopped using, comfort zone draws a line on the usage of this unfathomable intellect, consequently, makes the faculties beyond this line to go atrophy. Over a period of time, if you feel discomfort inside the comfort zone of your life, that is an indication that unused part of your intellect — both that which you stopped using and the never used — is making noises as they are struggling to retain their relevance in the face of the continued fall into the abyssal plains of atrophy. If you listen to such discomforts, you can reverse mental atrophy, like the doctors did therapy sessions to the Romanian girl.

Listening to the discomforts of your comfort zone means that you have started to think intelligently about the limitedness of the comfort zone that you cozied yourself in. In other words, you become aware of the damage being happened to your intellect as you continue to stay in the comfort zone. Intelligent thinking opens up new avenues to break out and explore and, wisdom chooses the best avenue for you. In order this to happen, do not miss out the last noises of hope made by your fading-out intellect.

Determination: the Invisible Element in Decision-Making

There are many factors that are characterized by different people as the most important things in life, and a few of them are love, living in harmony and happiness. Though there exists cross-linkages — like one leads to another, mutual inclusivity among these factors — each one of them exists on its own merit, meaning each one’s presence contributes qualitative value to life. Here, the operative word is presence because whether to have these qualities in life or not is a personal choice, so is a decision. Hence, whether man considers love or happiness or harmony as the most important thing in his life, there is a decision behind it. Without a decision to possess them, they will remain as virtues that have only conceptual value while a decision to own and make them a part of his personality will bring their habitual value to man. So, where do I stand now? I stand where I have to say that the most important thing in life is to decide to have the most important things in life.

The maxims like life is a bunch of decisions, your present is the decisions of your past, your future depends on your present decisions and decisions can make or break your life underscore the important roles decisions play in shaping up man’s future. It is preferred to say decisions rather than decision because a decision is closely followed by a consequential decision in its execution. For example, setting alarm to wake up at, say, 6 a.m. is one decision, but to get up when alarm rings is a consequent yet another decision. Similarly, stopping to while away time is one decision while choosing to invest that time in productive use is another decision though the latter is an aftereffect of the former; calling it a day is a conclusive decision while starting a new life past that decision can be a life-changing decision. Every decision follows another decision, not by default but by conscious choice. So it is not unrealistic to say that man is living by and through decisions taken one after another, with each having an impact on the way his future unfolds before him.

It is interesting to look at how the word: decide is made. If we split decide, we get de and cide. We are used to the terms like pesticide and insecticide which mean that which kills pests and insects respectively. Hence, cide is connected with killing or exterminating. Cide as a combining form, according to Google, is denoting an act of killing. When the term: de is prefixed with a word, it gives the antonym for that word. Activate and deactivate, watering and dewatering, escalate and deescalate are a few illustrative examples in this regard. So the term: de means reversal. Hence, decide is reversal of an act of killing if we strictly go by the binary meaning of the word. That brings me to state that in decide, there is a reversal of a killing. What is that that was dead but made to be reborn when man decides? You can not bring the dead to life unless you are Jesus Christ! So I am talking about an inanimate death and its reversal in decision process.

What man does not achieve if he did not decide is that what gets killed in the pre-decide phase. So the fruits of a decision that should have been taken but was never taken were made to die by the cide part — this state is called dithering or indecision. But this imaginary death before birth is stopped by the “de” factor – the factor of reversal. I will say that ‘de’ stands for determination. Determination reverses the killing of an action — so its consequential fruits — that a decision is intended to achieve. Decisions are preceded by determination. In other words, determination acts as a platform that triggers decision. A mind determined to achieve a certain goal or task gets seasoned to take decisions toward the fructification of that set-goal. That makes determination, the de factor in decide, as an inevitable prerequisite of decision-making because the fuel for such seasoning is provided by determination. What is determination?

One factor that stops man from taking decisions even when he has almost all the inputs needed for the decision-making is fear – the fear of the consequences of an unexpected outcome. That is why we have this cliché: he or she is afraid of taking decisions. This fear has to be taken out in order to have decisions taken, and it is done by determination. Determination is the self-affirmation that you will hold onto perseverance till you accomplish your goals. People who are determined are fearless in their journey toward the goals. The “de factor determination” not only firms up the ground for decision-making by removing the fear but also works as the prompt to visualize the fruits that a decision brings in.

How does one remain determined? Passion is the answer. Passion is the fuel that kindles you from inside, and the energy from that internal kindling runs determination. Where from does this fuel come? After you set a goal, if you visualize the glittering ceremony or moment during which you will be acknowledged and awarded the fruits of your goal whether it is a graduation certificate or an employment intimation or anything of merit, then you will see yourself with a lot of satisfaction and joy. The present value of that future satisfaction of accomplishing a goal is the fuel — passion — that kindles you from inside. And passion is a prerequisite to hold onto determination, the invisible de factor in decision-making.

Competition or Complementarity: Which One to Choose in Unavoidable Interpersonal Relations?

At the outset, I make a bold statement that being complementary is the only way to sustain interpersonal relations. The term: interpersonal relations that I use on this blog refers to personal relations that are unavoidable. We are caught between two competing forces: competition and complementarity as we wade through interpersonal relations, and these two forces respectively have the potential to aggravate and mitigate conflicts which are possibly the most rampant yet convulsive factor in human relations. If a man says there are no conflicts in his relations with others, then he is putting truth behind him.

Conflicts are inevitable in human relations because out there, there is no one who is exactly like someone. There are no two people who are similar in every aspect; for example, even identical twins have different fingerprints and retinas, the two scientifically-proven morphological characteristics that differentiate one human from others. Hence, as people are different, conflicts in interpersonal relations, howsoever close two people are, are inevitable. In this blog, I am making an attempt to look at competition and complementarity from the perspective of their dynamics in interpersonal relations.

In general, competition brings out the best, depending on how the competing forces are allowed to play the game. In other words, competition is like a wind, and it can either inflame or douse the fire in you, with the key lying in managing the fuel. And this is how competition plays out everywhere except in interpersonal relations. Competition in interpersonal relations brings out both the best and the worst, with the latter drowning the merits of the former. So if we attempt to define competition from an interpersonal perspective, then it can be defined as the process that evens out two best possibles, eventually producing a worst. This definition sounds oxymoronic because how two best possibles can produce a worst! It, however, is true that competition in interpersonal relations ultimately produces the worst, not the best, irrespective of whatever best inputs are put into it. Why is it so? The simple answer is ego whose functional definition can be the inherent unwillingness to acknowledge and appreciate goodness when that goodness is a winner against you.

Even magnanimity is not fully capable of overcoming the ego generated out of an interpersonal competition, for, as I explained, such ego is inherent, meaning it can directly or indirectly ruffle the net worth of your merit. It, hence, is illusory to think that a competitive track is the right path to drive the vehicle of interpersonal relation whether it is between spouses or friends or siblings or family members of two generations. Being competitive not only does hinder the progress of personal relations but also has the potential to break or bruise them. Competition has a winner — who takes it all — so does a loser. While in the larger macro world, a winner can afford to unaffectedly ignore the plight of the loser, the micro world of interpersonal relations does not offer such a luxury because whether the winner likes it or not, she/he will get affected in one way or other by the loser’s plight.

Complementarity, the distant and disconnected cousin of competition, plays an entirely different role in interpersonal relations yet produces the same result that competition is intended to produce in the larger macro world, i.e., the best. In complementarity, there is no best as an input but two goods come together to produce a best or a better bettering a good to produce a best. Complementarity is adding value to another without losing anything. Complementarity is adding that extra bit to make something or someone complete or perfect or correct without the feel of an individual loss. In this process, the protagonist who plays the role of complementarity relishes, with or without his/her knowledge, the perfection or correction that the other person achieves. So complementarity is gaining though none loses anything for that gain to happen.

In complementarity, ‘I’ is pushed back by we. On the other hand, there is only I in competition. When man is confronted with the Hobson’s choice of maintaining personal relation with someone, he has to drive that relation through complementarity track because only can then he get relational link to the other person. This is not a compromise because unavoidable interpersonal relations move “on and with” we, not I. In other words, complementing each other, not competing with each other, is the way forward for personal relations to sustain. But one big question arises: what do we have to do to make complementarity as the default mode in unavoidable interpersonal relations? Or to put the question in another way: How do I weed out competition from unavoidable personal relations? To answer these questions, we need to look at what competition gives and what complementarity achieves.

Ultimately, competition is synonymous with efficiency while in complementarity, effectiveness takes precedence over efficiency. In competition, efficiency, a personal attribute, decides to make solo trip to effectiveness while in complementarity, individual-efficiency is offered to offset the shortfall in the efficiency of the other person so that a journey-together to effectiveness is achieved. Competition reduces while complementarity adds when it comes to interpersonal relations.

Efficiency is the ability to achieve a certain target with the least inputs. And these inputs can be space and/or time, both of which have scalable costs. Effectiveness is the ability to achieve a certain target. And in effectiveness, the variables of time and space are not counted meritoriously and what only matters is reaching the target. Coming back to the question of what has to be done to make complementarity as the default mode in interpersonal relations, do not look for efficiency in personal relations, rather make effectiveness as the defining attribute. Your spouse or friend may be less efficient — less competitive — than you. Do add your efficiency to make up the shortfall in the efficiency of your spouse or friend so that the effectiveness of a sustainable relationship is achieved — counting of individual efficiency giving way to effectiveness of interpersonal relations, meaning complementarity, not competition, being made the defining attribute to manage interpersonal relations.

Onam and Its Message

Some of you would not be aware of Onam, so before getting into the message of Onam, let me brief what Onam is. Onam is the traditional harvest festival of Kerala, the southern most state in India. The legend is that there was a king named Mahabeli alias Maveli, whose reign was the best Kerala ever witnessed, with the subjects living happily and peacefully. His governance was so spectacularly good that it convulsed the heaven with envy and that gods became restless, fearing that they would lose the tag of “the Best.” Hence, gods came together and decided to do a regime change in Kerala. As the people were on the king’s side, the strategy of evoking a popular revolt was ruled out. Also, waging a direct war to effect regime change was outside the realm of possibility for gods as it would make them look brutally unfair. So gods designed a plan and entrusted Lord Mahavishnu to do a soft ambush on Mahabali.

Mahavishnu took a new incarnation: Vamana and descended onto Earth, with a clearly-defined action plan of getting rid of Maveli. He visited Maveli and requested to offer three feet land. Looking at Vamana, the short, pigmy-height man, and without realizing it was a disguised-god who was out to put an end to his reign, Maveli immediately told Vamana to take three feet land wherever he wanted. And the moment he got the permission, Mahavishnu gave up the cover and grew to a mammoth figure revealing himself. With the first two feet of land, the entire earth and sky were covered, and there was no land left for the third feet that Maveli promised to give. Maveli, a man who always stood for integrity in his words and actions, immediately kneeled before Mahavishnu and offered his head as the third feet of land. Magnanimous, isn’t it? With no reported compunction, Mahavishnu put his foot on the head of the king and sent him to the netherworld. Before leaving the terra firma, the king asked for a boon — which was granted — to visit his subjects once in an year. Onam is the festival that the Keralites celebrate the annual homecoming of their once much-loved king Mahabali.

Amongst the many ubiquitousness of Onam, a folk song that details the goodness of the Maveli’s rule is much popular, and the message of Onam is embedded in it. The song in Malayalam language and its roundabout translation are as follows:

“മാവേലി നാട് വാണീടും കാലം 
മാനുഷരെല്ലാരും ഒന്നു പോലെ
അമോതത്തോടെ വസിക്കും കാലം
അപതങ്ങാര്‍ക്കുമോട്ടില്ല താനും 
ആധികള്‍ വ്യാധികള്‍ ഒന്നുമില്ല 
ബാല മരണങ്ങള്‍ കേള്‍ക്കാനില്ല 
കള്ളവുമില്ല ചതിയുമില്ല
എള്ളോളമില്ല പൊളിവചനം 
കള്ളപ്പറയും ചെറു നാഴിയും 
കള്ളത്തരങ്ങള്‍ മറ്റൊന്നുമില്ല ”

During the reign of Maveli
The people were like-minded
They lived with happiness
No danger struck anyone
Anxiety or diseases were absent
Never heard of infant mortality 
No lies or cheating
Not even a grain of lie-manufacturing 
No spurious weighing tools, nor deceptively under-volume measuring
Not any other kind of lies 

The people of his kingdom were happy and that there were no dangers lurking in the corner to strike them. When society is devoid of dangers of any form, there is no element of fear of unknown, and that is a prerequisite to happiness of people and wholesomeness of society. There were no dangers lurking because lies were absent — the people were truthful. There are two types of lies: telling the opposite of truth as well as telling manufactured-lies. The poet was intelligent enough to cover both these forms of lies in the lyrics. He corroborated the point of honesty by mentioning that no dishonest business activities through fake and spurious weighing and measuring — it must have been barter trade then — and the fair trade practices, the poet thought, were the best symbols of a honest people. The poet left no stones unturned to drive home the message of Onam, i.e., honesty. Honesty — enlivened by the absence of fear of lies — contributed to the sound mental and physical health of the people in the Maveli’s kingdom.

Honesty, the principle of telling truth, is the cornerstone of good governance. When honesty is the unwavering hallmark right from the top to the bottom layers of a society, it defaults a people of health and happiness. As Kerala celebrates the homecoming of its King Mahabali today, let’s resolve to create a wholesome society of health and happiness by inculcating the message of Onam: honesty in our thoughts and actions. Happy Onam!


Imaginary Fear

The most enticing thing in the world is success, for it is the culmination of man’s aspirations. So if you ask me, “What do you want in life?” my answer will be, “I want to succeed in life.” There are well-known and non-negotiable ingredients of success which, if man puts into use, will ultimately lead him to success. Goal-setting, determination, passion, hard work, perseverance, discipline, attitude of positivity and receptiveness are some of these success ingredients. There are also fringe elements like smartness, skepticism, perfection, correctness, ignorance, carelessness and jealousy which play no less important role as they have the potential to augment or derail man’s journey to success.

Apart from the ingredients and the fringe elements, one factor that we more often tend to overlook while talking about success is imaginary fear. Working in the opposite way, the inhibiting powers of imaginary fear are as much potent and all-consuming as the impetus and tempo generated by the success ingredients. In other words, imaginary fear and the absence of courage to act to nullify it are powerful enough to thwart or delay man’s progress to success even when he acquires and puts into use a perfect mix of the success ingredients.

Fear is a debilitating feeling arising out of absence of knowledge as well as presence of knowledge. This definition is apparently confusing as it accommodates two diametrically opposite sides. But it is only presumably so as I have deliberately used “as well as,” instead of the coordinating conjunction: and, to signify the fact that there are fear of known and fear of unknown. Both these fears are real and objective to a large extent. It is real because it is about something or someone for which some knowledge is present or absent — absence of knowledge is only want of knowledge but not non-existence of knowledge. There is another type of fear: imaginary fear whose existence varies from person to person as it is completely subjective.


Fear of known is based on the knowledge about someone or something, hence, gives the room to overcome it by another set of knowledge that can obfuscate the fear through remedial measures, so explicable fear is counterbalanced by the courage generated by equally explicable knowledge. Fear of unknown is based on little or limited knowledge about something or someone, so speculative and guesstimate thinking, bridled by intelligent-questioning — attempt to arrive at the answer by asking questions from all possible angles — in varying degrees, is involved in fear of unknown. On the other hand, imaginary fear has neither the support of the knowledge-base of fear of known nor the power of intelligent-questioning of fear of unknown. So we can quickly say imaginary fear as fear of unknown sans intelligent-questioning.

On the surface of it, imaginary fear stands with a simple definition of a fear that is not real. But a look at it in fathom reveals a more complex buildup. So the task of detailing imaginary fear is not much less than arduous. Imaginary fear is the fear generated by an image that is built on a false knowledge base. Human mind has the amazing power to create images out of a simple, single-line information about anything. It can weave a net out of a few meshes. But when the meshes used are of incorrect information or false knowledge that escaped the intelligent questioning of man, fear-creating unreal images are formed. Further fed by rumors, such images turn themselves into monsters living and thriving in his thought-process and frightening him without borders.

Imaginary fear is debilitating because it sucks confidence out of man. It can only grow from strength to strength because human mind is inclined to allow snowballing of false images, not vice versa, unless man makes deliberate attempt to obliterate imaginary fear. This is because images can keep themselves as they are or keep growing on our mind till they are confronted by one’s own volition powered by factual knowledge. So imaginary fear about something or someone lives and grows with man as he lives with them. Feeling that something bad will happen sooner or later, feeling that there was so much happiness in life so bad days will have to follow, feeling of an impending defeat even when all signs of success are in the offing, feeling that probability of doing things in an incorrect way is more than doing in correct way and feeling that oneself is a complicated person though one is actually not are some of the imaginary fears that man usually finds himself with.

What are the dangers of imaginary fear? Even when a man is physically fit and mentally balanced, if he is suffering from imaginary fear, then he scores low on mental health which can be defined as equanimity of mind with a positive outlook. Both fear of known and fear of unknown are contagious, meaning people around a man are susceptible to be infected by the fear the man expresses. For example, children, whose parents are habituated to get upset and go tense with various incidents in life and do not show courage to confront such incidents, are likely to have fear as a major element of their character as they grow up. On the other hand, imaginary fear is not contagious as it a hidden fear, with man hardly expressing it. This makes imaginary fear more difficult to address because we do not know who is or who is not suffering from it.

Imaginary fear destabilizes man’s thought process so much so that he feels like carrying an enemy whom he is unable to deal with. It maims and bruises every step before it is taken in the journey of life, condemning man to stagnate, if not degrow, for no other reason. The inhibiting powers of imaginary fear are so powerful that it frightens man of looking forward and progressing — stops mind from working in the way, otherwise, it would have — even when he is fully equipped to tread a successful path, for imaginary fear travels ahead of him, much before he takes the first step. Imaginary fear is like sleeping with an enemy whom man is clueless about.


How can man overcome imaginary fear? The only way to defeat imaginary fear is confront it head-on. In other words, batter and shatter the image that creates this unreal fear. But, how? Barring the omnipotent, nothing is omnipotent, meaning all earthly phenomena are packed with susceptibility to break, so is the demon called imaginary fear. If man can hit the baseless fear-generating image within him with the right tool, it will have no option but to fall asunder. And the tool is the knowledge powerful enough to prove the falsity of the image. So this knowledge has to be indisputable facts called truth. Only does truth have the all-consuming power to overwhelm and nullify imaginary fear. Whatever be the factor that creates fear-causing unreal image in you, grab as much factual knowledge as possible that can counter the raison d’etre of that image, and from the position of that knowledge-strength, question the imaginary fear without fear. As you do it, you will see the image falling dead before you like peeling the rings of an onion because imaginary fear is built on falsities, hence, can not weather the storm of truth.

Never do live with imaginary fear but confront it and eliminate it as it is second to none in stopping you from succeeding in life.

Credibility

The last thing a man wants to lose is his credibility. But, is it that which gets his first priority? If credibility is not the first priority for a man, then it cannot be that last thing to lose. In other words, credibility is not an accident but a default output of deliberate and consistent choices that a man makes in life. Since it is an output by default, it cannot be manipulated. Howsoever hard a man tries to hoodwink others about his credibility, he will ultimately fail in it as credibility is not an end in itself and that the means to the end were already set in by him.

What is credibility? In one word, credibility is trustworthiness. A man of credibility is a man who can be trusted for his words and actions — he will irresistibly abide by the meaning that his words expound and that his actions will be in congruence with his words. If we break the word: trustworthy, it reads worthy of trust. This element of worth is added to the variable: trust not overnight but over a period of time through a process where your belief in something or someone gets tested repeatedly. There is difference between trust and belief. Believing someone or something can be a one-off incident while trust is the intangible set of tried, tested and succeeded beliefs accumulated over a period of time. For example, when you buy a brand of soap or perfume or any product for the first time, you decide to believe in the benefits it claims to deliver, but these claims can be true or false. If they are true, your belief in the brand has succeeded, and if not, failed. The succeeded-belief will be tried and tested during repeat purchases over a period of time, and if each time your belief in the brand – belief in the benefits it claims to deliver – succeeds, you develop a trust in the brand. I do not believe what you say, and I do not have trust in you: these two often-heard sentences echo the not-so-subtle difference between belief and trust.

Trust is not a dead end but a live wire, meaning trust can be shaken and even broken. Trust in someone or something is shaken when your belief is tested and failed once while trust is broken when your belief is tested and failed repeatedly. Trust shaken can be repaired and restored while trust broken is broken forever. In order to elucidate further on the difference between trust shaken and trust broken, I wish to cite an incident without any prejudice to the protagonist in the incident. A few years back, CNN suspended the program: Global Public Square, or G.P.S., because in one of the episodes, the anchor and program creator was found to have done a little bit of plagiarism. I used to watch this program — and also after the incident – and the viewers’ trust in the program was shaken by this single event. Subsequently, the anchor apologized and the channel reinstated the program. Since it was a one-off incident where the viewers’ belief in the program was failed only once, the trust in the program was shaken but not broken. Had the probe by CNN revealed that the program was doing plagiarism over many episodes it would have made viewers’ trust in the program battered and shattered, leading to trust in it broken forever.

There are three factors: ideology, ignorance and credulity that have the power to make a man lose his credibility even when he has the noble intention of being on its side. Trust can sustain worthiness only when truthful actions emanate from a man. When there is tussle between truth and falsity in an ideologically charged environ, ideology forsakes truth if it is not in harmony with the tenets of the ideology. In other words, falsity gets a moral push under the cover of ideology and looks triumphed over truth. An ideology-wedded man, who is honest and trustworthy in the larger domain of life, does vouch for the ideology even when he knows that it is not in harmony with truth. Such repetitive aberrations from his otherwise trustworthy quality of consistently holding on to truth can make him a man whose credibility is seriously dented.

Ignorance does not make a man less, for it is not being aware of. Nonetheless, ignorance can cost a man heavily, including a hit on his credibility. However, the real danger is not ignorance but being ignorant about the ignorance, autopiloting a man to continue with his ignorant actions leading to the loss of credibility. Temporary setback to credibility from an ignorant action can be set right, but loss of credibility from continued ignorant actions is all but restorable. “You do not know what you do not know until you know it,” the famous quote sums it all about being ignorant about ignorance.

What is the biggest casualty of credibility? The answer is credulity. Credulity is the proclivity to assume that something is true. Being credulous, instead of seeking and verifying the veracity, can lead to actions bereft of credibility. After all, credibility is truth-centric. Assumption is a gateway to either truth or falsity with equal probability. But if you can replace assumption with presumption, the possibility of being on the side of truth is much higher. Presumption is informed assumption, meaning when truth is beyond the comprehensible spectrum, man tries to find the perceived linkages of truth and take decisions based on such information. The most damaging aspect of assumptions is that they have irrepressible powers to go incognito into the thoughts of a man and influence his thought process. And this can cause damage to his credibility without his knowledge because assumptions can be false, hence, the consequent decisions will fail against the yardstick of credibility. Ultimately, only will credibility be judged, not the assumptions behind decisions. Guard yourself against the proclivity to assume. Discard credulity and use the power of presumption as a way forward when truths are beyond the reach of comprehension.

It is within the possible realm to evaluate the credibility of a friend or acquaintance by the sheer fact of myriad opportunities of interaction with her/him. However, how do we evaluate the credibility of the words and actions of strangers with whom we have no option but to interact with for reasons of necessity? This is the most difficult part while dealing with strangers. There is no silver bullet to manage this difficulty except that we can take some quick notes of the person. In this regard, let me mention a couple of known psychological portrayals that are debatable either way. Over-humility is a sign of deception, and people showing such a character are highly likely untrustworthy. Consistent inability to look at the other person’s eyes during interpersonal interactions is a sign that a person is not straightforward and needed to be more cautious about — signs of lack of credibility. I have one point from my observations: People who possess the quality to laugh loudly are able to do so because they do not have a hidden personality and that they are not fearful that there is something untoward in their personality which might come out during their no holds barred laughter, thanks to their candid nature — a sign of trustworthiness.

I have to end this blog with the same sentence I used in the beginning of the blog with a small change: The last thing a man wants to lose must be his credibility.

Ease of Doing Life

Many of you will be familiar with the term: Ease of Doing Business, or E.O.D.B., an index that measures regulations which directly affect business. It has ten subindices like starting a new business, dealing with construction permits, getting credit, etc. with which the regulatory framework — hence, the consequent easiness or lack of it — of doing business in a country is evaluated and ranked. New Zealand, for example, has been consistently topping the list since 2017.

Is there a set of regulatory code of conduct for man that directly impacts easiness or difficulty with which he lives his life? This thought flashed my mind while I was reading an article on E.O.D.B. recently. Such a code of conduct ought to be there, for doing life with ease is not an easy thing and that it is highly likely that nature has postulated a set of criteria for man, like it did for other creatures, to do a life of easiness. Understanding those regulatory criteria can tell us where we stand with respect to the easiness that life offers; also, it can be used for midcourse correction if any. This, however, is easier said than done because though understanding the nature’s parameters of easiness is not an uphill task, practicing them is undoubtedly a difficult feat. Nonetheless, the scope for its practice is alive because many rightly say that life is not easy, as well as due to the fact that easiness and difficulty lie on either side of a single spectrum.

A universal truth that I am obliged to consider at this stage is that physical well-being, barring physical labor, is a consequence of mental easiness. Ease of Doing Life, or E.O.D.L., therefore, is the direct output of mental easiness. So the factors that have a regulatory influence on easiness in life have unfailing influence on our thought process. It is unfailing because not only does their presence have an assurance of easiness but their absence can also produce diametrically opposite and disastrous outcomes for a man. Hence, the regulatory framework of living a life of easiness is a proposition of live it or leave it, with no relative gray matter like in a black and white chessboard.

More clarity about the definition of easiness — hence, E.O.D.L — is required to further read through this blog. Easiness is the integral attribute that ensures wholesome flow of life through a logically consequent track when the related, guiding and binding variables are steadfastly met. So Ease of Doing Life is the life’s assembly line whose flawless movement is regulated by unequivocally established, non-negotiable and inherent factors capable of ensuring that when events and incidents happen, they pass out in their natural flow. These factors, like the subindices of E,O.D.B., form a set of criteria which we can call as the nature’s code of conduct for man. And they are forgiveness, honesty, integrity, righteousness and optimism. Let’s look in detail at each one of these regulatory codes of easiness, along with their possible linkages.

Forgiveness is the capability to absorb, neutralize and disperse injustice meted out by others by overcoming the feeling of retribution. It is a win by man over himself, independent of who causes injustice to him. The most striking saying about forgiveness is this: forgive and forget. Forgiveness is complete when you can forget the incident for which you forgave someone. But man has a penchant to not completely disengage himself from the past sour incidents even after he walked past them, so it is possible that the sour incidents can inadvertently flash through his mind. Along with forgiving, if you can completely forget the incident, then it is the best service you can do to yourself. However, if you succumb to that flash through the memory line, and as long as the flash disappears at the same speed with which it hits you, you are as good as a person who can forgive and forget. In this context, it is interesting to look at the difference between history and past-history. When an incident is buried beyond the redemptive powers of memory, history becomes past-history. If you can convert the history of sour incidents into past-history, then you have mastered the art of forgiveness.

The virtue of forgiveness offers plateful of returns beyond man’s expectation. It gives man equanimity of being at ease with himself, a prerequisite to be at ease with his surroundings. Forgiveness gives man more time for himself — to plan and do things for his future — by freeing him from wasting his valuable time in preparing plans of retribution. The eternal contribution of forgiveness is it gives man the feeling that he has no enemies in this world because his mental-make is such that anyone who considers himself/herself as his enemy and does harm to him ceases to be an enemy as far as he is concerned — injustices will be absorbed into and neutralized in the default pot of forgiveness, so his ease with himself will be nonchalantly protected.

Honesty is the principle of telling truth. Being honest or not is a personal choice and has its consequence; this consequential effect is a regulatory factor that generates or degenerates Ease of Doing Life. We need to differentiate between comfort and easiness as both are not one and the same. Let me illustrate the difference by asking a question: are you comfortable with being dishonest? If the answer is yes, it means that you can comfortably live with dishonesty, but that does not mean that this comfort can bring easiness in your life for, otherwise, there is no room for realization for a dishonest person. Indisputably, dishonesty can give comforts, but these comforts will always have questions seeking the reasons for their existence, and the inclement answers for these questions have the potency to take the easiness out of the comforts. On the other hand, easiness that honesty offers is non-subsiding and non-disappearing because it does not accompany ruffling questions.

Integrity is that part of your being without which you are as good as walking dead. It is something with which man identifies himself, so does the world. Integrity is the repository of elements that stems up the values with which a man operationalizes his character. In short, integrity is the base on which all other virtues are built up. It is impossible for a man to be honest or ethical after compromising his integrity. Integrity is the foundation of values that form the DNA of man’s character. It regulates your behavior as much as you allow it to do so, meaning if a man is a man of integrity, he is bound to attract and reflect all other virtues of goodness, guiding the life to move through the natural path of easiness.

Righteousness is the judgment based on facts, so it is irrefutably objective. Righteousness does not need a reason to exist as it is the reason by itself. It is the yardstick to segregate the deserved from the undeserved. Righteousness is so important a factor that its absence is tantamount to a man without soul. The Holy Bible asks, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” The answer is nothing as man becomes a thinking machine of flesh and blood but hollow from inside if he loses the soul. Righteousness is the soul’s regulatory intervention to guide man along the path of truth in the material world.

Optimism is the practical side of hope. It is the energy drawn from the hope for a better future. Hope, even when it is a ray, creates so much energy and enthusiasm that man tends to forget the drudgery he is in. Optimism does not optimize the radiant energy from hope, rather it is the maximization of hope in present value terms — so optimism is the net present value of hope. How does optimism have a regulatory influence on man? To get up in the morning and begin the day on a positive note needs something to look forward to — the hope of a good day or the feeling that something good is on the way for you. That optimism has a huge bearing on how a man conducts himself during the course of a day.

Though these regulatory attributes of life of easiness are not mutually exclusive, effectiveness of each one has a considerable peripheral influence on others. For example, without possessing integrity, a person’s penchant to be honest can be debilitated because honesty is most tested when it is least demanded. Similarly, it is possible of being honest without being righteous, but man can never be righteous without being honest. Forgiveness and optimism are indirectly linked as forgiveness can kill pessimism, and when pessimism is dead, it is most conducive for the seeds of optimism to sprout. Irrespective of counting or discounting the linkages among the five factors for Ease of Doing Life, each one offers its own share of easiness when man puts it into action. Which of the attributes gives more or less easiness is only an academic question, but each gives energy to live life with easiness.

It will be an incomplete attempt if I try to give numerical value to human virtues. However, to draw a parallel with E.O.D.B., let me assign nominal values to the five factors of easiness. Unlike the subindices of E.O.D.B.. the factors of East of Doing Life can be given nominal values of only 1 and -1 as the highest and the lowest metrics respectively because they are characteristically come under ‘either or’ clause. You can be honest(1) or dishonest(-1) with no option of being a partially or occasionally honest person as similar as there is nothing called half-truth, for truth is absolute. Similarly, you do or do not have integrity; you are optimistic or pessimistic; and your sense of righteousness is either operationalized or shelved. So a numerical value of 5 is the best score for Ease of Doing Life, and -5 being the worst. Here, the positive and negative scores do not neutralize each other, meaning loss of easiness of one factor, say, righteousness, can not be compensated by the easiness of the another factor, say, honesty. For example, a score of 3 is always accompanied with -2 in a non-neutralizing combination: similarly, 2 and -3, 5 and 0, etc. Lower the positive score, lesser the easiness of life man enjoys. And a minus 5 score completely scores out the easiness that life offers. On the contrary, when a man scores a rank of 5 across these factors, he unquestionably and impeccably lives with the easiness life offers.

Life is not easy and has given us the tough task of finding and following the unflinching factors of easiness to live with. So Ease of Doing Life is a choice whose efficacy is regulated, hence, guaranteed when man lives his life under the guiding factors of forgiveness, honesty, integrity, righteousness and optimism.

Message of Easter

Many of us will quickly answer: ‘Easter eggs’ if asked to tell something special about Easter. I am not sure how many will be able to answer the question: what is the message of Easter? Easter is 2021 years old, so is its message. No one will have any doubt that Easter is the celebration of the sacrificial death as well as the resurrection of Christ. Some may raise questions about His rise from the death, and it is okay to do so, even such a question will be all right with Jesus. Christ’s resurrection unequivocally establishes that he is the Son of God. Nonetheless, the message of Easter is embedded in the sacrificial death.

If you read the New Testament of the Holy Bible, then you will notice that the biggest miracle Christ did was that He never did any miracle for Himself! He did many miracles: healed the sick, raised the dead man Lazarus and brought him back to life, fed 5000 people with five loaves and two fish and so on. But Christ did not do any miracles for Himself, including saving Himself from the painful death! Why? Had He done any miracle to save Himself, the very purpose of His journey to earth would have been defeated, and we would not have been celebrating Easter as it then carried no message.

How did Christ die?  We know the answer is  crucifixion. Yes, but if we go a bit deep into His death on the cross, He died from the inability to breathe. When a man is hanged with his hands stretched out and fixed to and legs affixed on a cross for a long period of time, it will be difficult for him to breathe because the functions of lungs will be severely impaired.

As He gasped for breath and took the last breath before leaving the world, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” The message of Easter is forgiveness, and it is the essence of Christianity. Christ told his followers to take the cross and follow Him. The cross of forgiveness, and this journey is not an easy one but very painful. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turning to him the other also needs ability to accept the physical and mental pain with calmness and without any tinge of vendetta, even in the thoughts. And that ability comes from forgiveness.

Even if you are able to memorize the whole Bible and even when you are a frequenter of churches as well as an active member of church activities, if you are not carrying the cross of forgiveness, you are no way near to Jesus, who will tell you whenever you meet Him, “I don’t know you.” He will show you your name missing from His supercomputer. Throughout the verses, He emphasizes forgiveness. If I am allowed to paraphrase one such verse, it goes like this: When you come to the place of worship to offer prayers to me, if you still have enmity toward your neighbor, leave the offerings at the worship place, go to your neighbor, forgive and reconcile with him, then only will I accept your prayers. Christ taught only one prayer to the people around Him, and it was a prayer to the Holy Father. I am afraid to recite that prayer because it has a sentence “… forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us…” So when I recite this prayer, I am telling God to forgive my sins the way I forgive those who did bad to me. Do I forgive people? If not, my sins will not be forgiven. What a sentence to ponder on!

I wish you all Happy Easter. May the virtue of forgiveness take root and flourish in you!

Inherent Differences of the Astonishing Similar

There can be similarities between two things or two persons but never sameness. For example, even when they have so much morphological similarities that make them not easily distinguishable physically, identical twins have two physical marks: retina and fingerprints whose scrutiny can reveal their individual identity, hence, uniqueness. Uniqueness is the nature’s way of telling that everything and everyone are different, with each having a raison d’être. This nature’s rule is all-pervading across both tangible and intangible things — every physical as well as non-physical existence has unique individual identity. Uniqueness is a sign of difference! In this blog, I am looking at a couple of these inherently different yet strikingly similar intangible twins: strength & health and education & learning.

Are strength and health one and the same? They are not, and even though they have similarities, each possesses uniqueness that makes it different. Strength of a man is the sum total of his physical and mental powers, and health is the sum up of his physical and mental well being. In other words, being in a state of physical and mental wellness is health while strength is the harnessed-power of body and mind. Strength can contribute to health, but strength alone is not health as the latter has additional contributory elements to it.

Wellness is being in harmony with oneself as well as with the surroundings. Mental wellness is the reflection of what goes into your thoughts — healthy thoughts produce a mind of wellness. Mental wellness is a prerequisite for physical wellness. Sweating it out at gymnasium can make you strong but not necessarily healthy; keep your mind in healthy thoughts, your body will follow. A man, through his deliberate choice of harmony over disharmony for his mind — hence, consequently for his body — will also clock harmony with his surroundings.

Elon Musk is a global icon of breathtaking entrepreneurial skills and disruptive thinking. One such innovative thinking: he is ready to recruit a school dropout for a high-profile job provided that the person demonstrates deep learning of the subject, which Musk tries to understand by asking intelligent questions that also include the ones unrelated to the functional domain.

“There is no need even to have a college degree at all, or even high school,” Musk said in 2014 during an interview with the German automotive publication ‘Auto Bild’ about his hiring preferences. He is saying at point-blank that education is not relevant but learning is. With such an approach, Musk is looking for a ‘learnt person,’ not an educated person, and the underlying assumption behind this approach is that education and learning are not one and the same.

Though there is some level of clarity about their distinguishability, many fall prey to the ambiguity and do mistake learning for education. Education and learning are not one and the same as education is only one of the ways toward acquiring knowledge — the end result of learning. But it is not necessary that an educated person is a learnt person. That is why we call someone, who possesses knowledge and demonstrates it through intelligent thinking and wise decisions, as a ‘learnt person,’ not an educated person.

Nothing stops an uneducated man from learning from his experience and turning himself into a learnt person while it is possible that an educated one can miss learning from the education and continue to live a life of educated-ignorance. Why so? Because getting educated is a social obligation thrust upon a man by his kith and kin while learning is an individual choice.

Learning has two steps: acquire and learn from knowledge; and learn from the learning. One needs to travel from the first step to the second step through volition and practice. The second step is highly rewarding as it is the place where learning keeps all its valuable trophies. Learning from the learning gives a man the power to understand a different, brand-new and difficult situation easier and faster. All the wise quotes and philosophical discourses from the luminaries of yesteryears are the results of the learning from the learning.

It is a default design of our character that we notice and take note of the differences — uniqueness — among the tangibles even when they have astonishing similarities but often miss the uniqueness of intangibles. It is difficult to exhume the uniqueness of intangibles, for they do not come in shapes and sizes but as concepts, with only virtual existence in our thought process, resulting in a situation where we might mistake one for the other. Such mistakes come with a cost, sometimes heavy, on us as we hardly realise the wrong selection, hence, keep living with something though the actual requirement is something else. This may be damaging as ‘that something’ not only can not meet our needs but also gives us, without our cognisance, a pseudo-satisfaction of correct selection.

Lies Incognito

Even when man is scrupulously being on the path of honesty, he can be hoodwinked by lies-incognito and be made to feel comfortable with them though he is not conscious about such quick conditioning he undergoes. This thought struck me when I came across the news that North Korea had hacked the Pfizer computer systems to get access to the vaccine secrets. In the news, I could not see the word: steal or its synonyms, with the the explicit tenor being trivialising the issue, as well as glorifying North Korea’s hacking abilities. So I was initially comfortable with the news and did feel praiseful of North Korea’s hacking prowess. Then, it suddenly flashed my mind that I was being okay with the news of stealing — beautifully masked in the term: hacking. The most common forms of lies-incognito that try to sway us are favours, sycophancy and convenient-thinking.

Favors are takeaways or giveaways that defy natural reasoning. In the context of favour, reasoning has two dimensions — natural reasoning: credits go to where they are due; and preferential reasoning: credits go to where the giver’s preferences point him/her to. So favours are the outputs from the triumph of man’s partiality over natural justice. Let me bring in God, the embodiment of natural justice, into the picture and illustrate an imaginary situation as follows;

There are ten candidates for one job position, and out of the ten, five are believers. All the believers prayed to Him before the interview. Now, whom will God prefer for the job? The believers? If yes, which believer? Or, will He prefer non-believers? Or, will God do nothing and let the natural reasoning of the most meritorious candidate take home the job? Whatever be your answer to these questions, it is to be noted that God is truth and justice, hence, an edifice of natural reasoning.

Favors are lies sweetened enough to fail us in discerning the preferential reasoning behind them. But if you think a bit deeper, then you will realise that sweetness begins at the point where bitterness ends. Hence, it is not impossible to pause and take a bitter call on favours.

Sycophancy is serving a man’s false-pride through lies which comprise both non-existing facts amd inflated or deflated facts. Lying is of two types: telling things which are diametrically or partially opposite of the existing facts; and manufacturing lies and presenting them as facts. Sycophancy is different from praising which works on the basis of cause and effect, meaning for every praise a man gets, there is a compelling and deserving reason behind it. On the other hand, sycophancy does not have a corollary reason for its existence. It stagnates a man because it feeds his false-pride which is a bigger hindrance to progress in life. False-pride is the inability of a person to accept reality and behave, accordingly, prompting the person to over do beyond the wherewithal in his/her possession. A man of pride will not tolerate sycophants around him, but one with false-pride fails to discern them. Unfortunately, we have more people possessing false-pride than those who hold pride.

We have a proclivity to convenient-thinking. Given a few choices, most of us will choose the one that is convenient and advantageous for us. Although the argument of being rational can be put forth, we often fail to discern facts in such situations. I will illustrate this with an example: Suppose that you have got a PCR positive result in a Covid-19 test and that you are completely asymptomatic so have decided to quickly do another PCR test that gave a negative result. Between the two diametrically opposite test results, it is highly likely that you will accept the negative result because that is convenient and advantageous for you. And in this process, you fail to think in this way: one of the test results was wrong; which one was wrong, the first result or the second one? Unlike favors and sycophancy that are external, convenient-thinking is an endemic flaw of our character, hence, does need a lot of recalibration in our thought-process to overcome it.

Why do lies come incognito? In other words, why do lies-incognito have acceptability? The single most overriding reason is that they have a facade of semblance of truth, hence, can be perceived as truth, thereby tricking even an honest man to accept them as truths. Lies-incognito are flavoured lies and very attractive but not irresistible as many honest people repudiate them. And, how do they save themselves from getting tricked by these truth-resembling lies? In their thoughts, they remove the top layer of flavours covering the lies and discern the lies lying flat on the back. Unless this thought-process happens, it is highly likely that even an honest person can be tricked into by the lies-incognito. It is difficult but not impossible to lead an honest life, and that difficulty is exacerbated by the unseen enemy called lies-incognito. Beware of lies-incognito!

This is my 100th blog, and I am thankful to all the visitors to and readers of my blog.

Respect

What is that one thing that man can effortlessly give to another? It is possible that elements like love, money, time, etc. would have flashed your mind had you paused for a while to ponder over the question I raised. I am sure that most of you had come across the term: unconditional love. Whether it is possible to give unconditional love or not is a moot point, and the answer in either way demonstrates that a lot of investment is needed in order to give love. So giving love is not effortless. Money, one of the few exceptions to Diminishing Marginal Utility, is, though not the last thing to give up, not an easy commodity to part away with. Lesser amounts of money for global charity works as compared to the wealth getting accrued to the rich and the new-rich is a testimony that money is a hard-to-giveaway article. Those who know about the value of time rightly and wisely choose where to invest the limited time available. The fact that we are largely configured with a 3-stage cycle of sleep, work and recreation in almost equal scale, investing 8 hours available under recreation in our likes and dislikes is a judicious decision. It means that our time is also not easily and effortlessly available for anyone. So, what is that which we can give effortlessly to anyone? Respect. Yes, man can effortlessly give respect to others. 

What  is respect? Or, how do we define respect? Respect is honoring one’s own commitment to the norms governing human values. Respect is also honoring others’ commitment to the norms governing human values. If we club these two, respect is honoring one’s own commitment as well as others’ commitment to the norms governing human values. So it is clear that respect has two dimensions: self-respect and respect for others, and the former is a prerequisite for the latter. It is highly unlikely for a man to respect others — their values — if he does not respect himself — his values. In the same breath, we need to understand that it is not possible for a man to have a set of values, still, not honor them because the only sign of life that values possess is the honor with which they are upheld. Values are sitting-dead if they are not upheld. The elements of value system that man has to have in order to keep himself on the default track of self-respect mode are honesty, righteousness, humility, kindness and similar virtues of goodness.

Though understanding increases the level of respect, it is not necessary that someone has to understand someone else to show respect toward him or her. Manifestations of respect are acknowledgment and appreciation. Acknowledgement is making the other person aware that you have taken note of his/her presence and that you are willing to listen to him/her. Appreciation is one step ahead from acknowledgement, where you recognize and applaud the goodness and achievements that the other person had brought onto the table. Only can a man who acknowledges and appreciates the goodness in him show the willingness to honor the goodness in others. In other words, those who cannot acknowledge and appreciate, i.e. respect, others have their own values sitting-dead inside them. 

Unappreciative mind as well as appreciation bereft of enthusiasm — half-hearted gesture — possibly reflect an element of jealousy. To appreciate others, man needs a lot of courage to overcome the inbuilt inhibiting element called jealousy. Jealousy is a big hindrance to progress in life; it ties down a man to the narrow confines of his mind, where he, instead of competing to acquire the attributes of success, gets obsessed with his limited knowledge about others’ success, thereby absenting himself from exploring the times that offer opportunities for progress. It is impossible to fake ourselves because our subconscious mind takes inside and responds to the dominant thought dwelling on the top of our mind. You may have experienced that irrespective of your desire to have a positive mindset, you often tend to have the opposite. This happens when the strength of the negative forces like jealousy is more than those of the positive desires. If you want to be a man of virtues, you have to be a man of virtues as there is no other go — you can possibly game all but yourself.

Appreciation, the integral soul of respect, is also a two-way journey as it gives a return in proportion or more to the investment you put up for it. For example, if peer jealousy can be replaced with appreciation, then it has the potential to be a powerful factor that motivates you to succeed in life. Let me explain this with an example. Our life is like a river. All rivers get born in the mountain-highs as pools of water, and in order to become rivers, they break their way out through hard rocks as streams, take a plunge of thousands of feet down along the rocky mountains, land on plains with cuts and bruises. Yet they quickly organize themselves to begin the new journey as rivers. As stream begins new journey and flows down the plains, it grows in length and breadth as tributaries get added to them, finally, becoming a full-fledged river. We are all pools of waters as we begin our life. As we flow, tributaries of knowledge get added to us, and we become rivers of length, breadth and depth, churning out fertile soils from underneath – the fertile soils of life’s reflections as we experience. Why do some people continue to remain as pools of water while others stream out and flow as rivers?

The internal pressure generated from the success ingredients is the force that breaks the hard rocks of life’s tests and tribulations, enabling us to stream out from the pools of our self-inflicted limitations. But this internal pressure will be created only if we are on a positive mental framework which also includes acknowledging and appreciating the feats of streaming out by our neighboring pools. We can learn from their success — how they managed themselves to stream out to become rivers — and use such learning as an impetus adding to the internal pressure. But for this to happen, our dominant thought should not be jealousy but of showing respect toward the success of others — acknowledging and appreciating their feats.

As we all know, change is inevitable, but changing oneself is neither inevitable nor unavoidable but optional. Over the years, we change physically by growing older, but that does not guarantee a transformative change in emotional and mental spheres. Unlike physical growth, growing mentally and emotionally is tumultuous and painful, but it is a regenerative process where you molt and shed off the inherent inhibitive and unwholesome habits that stagnate you in the pool and adorn new traits that commensurate with or exceed the physical growth. It is a transformative change involving sprouting of positive mindset. Do make respect — acknowledging and appreciating — for others a part of your mindset as it adds value to and hasten your own progress in life.

Rio de Janeiro

There is no exaggeration that Rio de Janeiro is known as Cidade Maravilhosa or Marvelous City as it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world! Its magnificent mountains dotted in the vicinity of beautiful beaches are enough to justify the marvelous nomenclature. I was fortunate to have visited the city two times, in 2010 and 2011, and both times, my friend, Jamil, was magnanimous enough to take me around the city to explore its myriad beauties. The attractions of Rio, as tourists fondly call the city, are many — Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana Beach, the Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião; Sugarloaf Mountain and so on.

Jamil:

For the city inhabitants who constitute the Brazilian ethnic mix of European, African and mixed ancestries, mountaineering is not only a sport but also a pastime. Tourists take a cue from this and also join the folks. I, too, went for hiking a mountain named Morro da Urca with Jamil, and there were pathways and unmarked highs during that uphill journey. The mountain has an elevation of 722 feet, and we took around 2 hours, I remember, to reach the peak. From the top of the mountain, the views of Rio are stunning!

The climb was strenuous but enjoyable. I am as pictured after the climb, and Christ the Redeemer is visible in the faraway mountain backdrop:

While resting on a mountain peak, it is not uncommon that you could possibly sight a group of hikers popping up beside you. I saw the following hikers as I was resting after reaching the peak where Christ the Redeemer was located:

Skipping a visit to Christ the Redeemer, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, while being in Rio is unthinkable for a tourist, so I also visited the iconic symbol of Brazil. There is train service from the plain to the mountain top, but on the day of our visit, there was a long queue of commuters; hence, we took taxi to the statue located on Corcovado mountain — 2300 feet high — in the Tijuca Forest National Park. The 98-feet statue of reinforced steel and soapstone, created by the Polish sculptor, Paul Landowski, and built by the Brazilian engineer, Heitor da Silva Costa, is mounted on a 26-feet pedestal, and Christ’s stretched-out hands have 92 feet width in between. After alighting from the taxi, we walked uphill for sometime to reach the statue. Though 10 years passed by, the feelings of wow and exhilaration that I experienced while being at the mammoth sculpture are still palpable in me. The visit to the site is one of the cherished moments of my life.

A beautiful 4-km confluence of land with the Atlantic ocean, Copacabana Beach is a happening place brimming with onshore and offshore activities round the clock. It has vast beachfront area where people engaged in sports like beach volleyball, cycling jogging, etc. could be seen day and night. Canoeing in the immediate offshore vicinity is a common sight during daytime.

The views of the majestic seaside mountains from the beach are extraordinary! I had many standstill-moments as I got consumed by the towering beauties that stood tall and sprouting out of the water!

Forte de Copacabana, situated at the southern end of the beach, is a military base and does house a military museum. It is open to the public. The fort was built between 1908 and 1912 by the Brazilian Military.

Copacabana beach has a colorful nightlife with clubs, pubs and restaurants located in and around the beach. Along with a few friends, I visited a salsa club.

Rio is the first place where I had seen something unique in restaurant business: diners need to pay in advance in accordance with the weight of the food they chose to eat. It is followed in buffet where one can choose any food — including fruits, chicken, meat and fish — available on the table, get it weighed and pay as per the weight, so one price for all types of food. In this process, people, I noticed, did not waste food as they had to pay for every bit on the plate. It is a good system to prevent food wastage. I had seen such buffet system of weigh-and-pay also in countries like Argentina and Bolivia.

A few random clicks from the city:

Another hard-to-miss attraction in the city is Sugarloaf Mountain, which derived its name, it is believed, from its resemblance to the traditional shape of the Brazilian concentrated sugar loaf. Brazil is one of the largest producers of sugar in the world. To reach the mountain which stands 1299 feet high out of the water, one needs to take cable car. The cable car, built in 1912, is an engineering feat of international acclaim and runs along a 4600 feet route. It starts from the base of a hill-station named Morro da Babilônia, then, has a stopover at the mountain Morro da Urca. Passengers do not have to alight from cable car at Urca, and I think the stopover is an engineering requirement.

Sugarloaf Mountain is a monolith, meaning a single rock, sprouted straight out of the water. Geologically, Wikipedia says, it is considered part of a family of steep-sided rock outcroppings known as non-inselberg bornhardts.

On the way back, getting down at Morro da Urca and spending time at this peak are irresistible attractions of this outing in the sky. There are coffee shops and restaurants at this peak. And witnessing sunset from Urca Mountain is an awesome experience!

Roadside entertainments and funs are the untold elements of the city’s hospitality:

Overall, I had wonderful times at Rio, thanks to Jamil. I still cherish all those nice Rio moments. If you ever get an opportunity to be in South America, do not miss to make a trip down to Rio as it will be more than worth the time and money you spend. The icing on the cake of a visit to Rio is witnessing Rio Carnival, during which the city will be adorned with men and women in colors and costumes that challenge one’s imagination. I have not had an opportunity to be in the city during carnival time, so I am looking forward to have a trip to the city during such a jamboree.

Simple, Complex and Complicated

On facebook, I come across people who show their relationship status as “it is complicated.”  It is a fact that this is a willful selection by them as facebook does not give it as a default option. So being in a state of complicated is man-made. Why does not facebook have a status option of “it is complex?” Complexity is naturally occurring while being in a complicated state is artificial. So we have an option to not complicate our life, and at the same it is inevitable that we need to pass through the complexities of life. Simplicity and complication are two modes of life, and which mode is to be chosen is a man’s decision. This decision has a large bearing on how he carries on with his daily life so on his life itself. A downside part of this selection is that many fail to understand correctly the complex elements of life, resulting in them leading a life of complication, instead of simplicity. In other words, a man misses simplicity to complication when he fails to learn the elements of complexity.

We are used to the saying: “keep life as simple as possible.” What does this mean? Many people lament that life is never easy for them. And that stands correct as life is not simple or easy, but it can be made easy and simple. In the same breath, life is simple and can also be made complicated depending upon what a man does with and in his life. Hence, it is possible to have simplicity in life without getting it complicated. So, what do we have to do to have a life of simplicity?  In order to move further on this, we need to understand the meaning of each of these terms: simplicity, complexity and complication as well as the linkages among them. Though they seem to be diametrically opposite, simplicity and complexity are related to each other in as many ways as possible. Complexity, in fact, is the way to simplicity and vice versa. For easy understanding, let me make two statements: life is as complex as simple, and life is as simple as complex. Although they sound different, complexity and simplicity, in the ultimate analysis, share the same thing. And failure to understand the nitty gritty of the relation between simplicity and complexity leads to the state: life is complicated.  

Simplicity is the way that offers the shortest space and time to reach the natural setting. In other words, a life of simplicity means that a man leads a life of being in harmony with his natural settings without inimically manipulating them so that he can understand and is understandable without any discounting or inflating. So there cannot be any “short of or excess” in the realm of simplicity in life. Albert Einstein stated that the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line. Simplicity, though has the shortest space and time in its amphitheater of understanding, does not offer everything straight on a silver platter but comes as strings in the webs of complexity. So complexity is a web of simplicities but intertwined in all the possible permutations and combinations, thereby making it difficult to untangle and understand it. Though the task is difficult, sometimes extremely difficult and looking impossible, it is still possible to accomplish unravelling of complexities because complexity is ultimately a web of simplicities. I will illustrate this with a couple of examples from Mother Nature.

Nature’s complexity has a mark in all its creations, but it always kept simple ways to understand its complexities. But finding these simple ways is as complex as the creation itself. Food Web is a complex network of food chains, and a Food Web is too complex to understand unless we go through the related food chains. A lion hunting a bear or a snake preying on frogs does not have direct connection with the food on our tables. But our food chain is definitely meeting the food chain of frogs and snakes through the insects and weeds at paddy fields and other crop fields. However, if we do not understand and learn from the complex web of these food chains, then our Food Web, which comprises innumerable food chains that have countless animals and plants with no direct contact with us, can be in danger. For example, plastic pollution of oceans and seas can destroy many fauna and flora which have no direct connection with our food chain though they could be the members of our food web. Unless we understand this complex web of connections that our simple food chain is linked to, we are not understanding the complexities of leading a simple life that offers sustained supply of foods on our tables.

Another example is the Universe. Starting with our planet Earth, the other planets, the satellites and the sun of the solar system which itself is a member of the galaxy Milky Way, the Universe is a complex web of galaxies of stars, planets and other spatial objects — all following a definite pattern showing the Universe in its simple yet complex dimensions. Science tries to unravel these complex webs by understanding the simple building blocks and patterns of the complex Universe.

Coming back to the issue of people having relationship status: “it is complicated,” they chose to be in that state because they have not understood the simplicities that form the web of complex human relationships. Looking at this issue directs me to the question I earlier raised: what do we have to do to have a life of simplicity? Being in a complicated state means that the person is not able to understand the dynamics of complexity. He/she fails to see through the curtain of complexity by not understanding the elements of simplicity with which complexity is made of. And the resultant situation is ambiguity and confusion leading to a debilitating state of painful indecision called “it is complicated.” Whether it is a marital discord or dealing with a troublesome neighbor or official drudgery, one can get out of the complicated situation by understanding the web of simplicities that form the complexity of the particular situation. Such understanding clears ambiguity and gives elbow room to take decisions lifting you out of the complicated state. Do understand that if you are in a complicated situation, it is made by you, hence, can be rectified by yourself by diving down into and understanding the web of simplicities that forms the complexity, failing of whose comprehension led to your complicated situation.

Try to lead a life of simplicity because it is the most harmonious and seamless way to experience life in its natural setting, and in this process, you will tame complexity and avoid being in a complicated situation.

Proportionate Growth – A Learning from International Business

James Allen is one of the thinkers who influenced me in a big way, and his thoughts are pearls of wisdom — detailed in his book: ‘As a Man Thinketh — which played invaluable contribution to my life’s progression. Amongst them, this one: “Man is a growth by law” has profound meaning. In this aphorism, he says something without telling it though a careful reading of the book evidences its presence felt, and that is the word: proportionate. The growth needs and ought to be a proportionate one, for it is a nature’s rule applicable to every creature without exception in order to experience a wholesome — balanced — living, Hence, man is also bound by this Hobson’s choice if he wants to live a life of wellbeing. The rule is equally applicable to a system if it wants to have a sustainable growth. James Allen’s words crossed my mind as I confronted an operational challenge in my profession.

For the last few months, our company has been experiencing a major stumbling block in the export business: lack of enough shipping space to accommodate containers to various destinations. Almost all the shipping lines had cut down their sailings and/or pooled their sailings together to minimize voyages on various routes and also had replaced bigger ships with smaller ones leading to a situation where getting a container-berth on a ship had become an extremely difficult and long drawn process. This is resulting in a situation where we are not able to ship out the goods within the targeted month and that the shipments have to be rolled over to the next month. The case is further exacerbated by the congestions at various seaports. Though our problem is micro when drawn on a bigger international business canvass, if I am allowed to look at it as a matter of fact from our side, then I can say that our growth as a company is temporarily stymied by a single element of disproportionate growth of the shipping industry.

To make it easily understandable, let me illustrate how this challenge of a macro dimension affects a country. India had done a bilateral trade of US$ 145 billion with the United States of America in 2019, and India’s Commerce Minister recently set an ambitious target of US$500 billion bilateral trade with the States as doable in the next five years – an annualized growth of 28% which, as the minister said, is achievable. Similarly, India has set ambitious trade targets with the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, the EU block, etc. What does India have to do to achieve these ambitious targets, with a larger economic objective of pushing up exports more than the level of imports as India is currently a trade-deficit country?

Well, India has to make many business-friendly decisions with regard to its macroeconomic policies to enable increased investments in infrastructure; liberalization of polices to encourage value addition through manufacturing; being more open to inflows of foreign capital as well as technology; beefing up its service sector to face increasing competition from countries like the Philippines, Vietnam; etc. Imagine that India has done all these, besides, complied with all the bilateral obligations with perfection, but barring force majeure, will it surely lead to India achieving the trade targets? Till I confronted the operational problem, I thought that the answer to this question was yes. But the problem shows me that the answer is a no because there is another element called logistical infrastructure that also needs to grow in tandem — grow proportionately — with the growth of the macroeconomic measures that India undertook.

In order to achieve its stated trade targets, India needs to invest in its ports and affiliated infrastructure so that bigger mother ships can call at Indian seaports as well as frequency of sailings through the Indian trade routes can go up. Furthermore, to avoid any logistic shocks, India should encourage domestic shipping liners to strengthen their international operations, especially in establishing direct sailings from India to the trade-targeted countries. In a nut shell, India needs to have proportionate growth in all the elements, including its logistic infrastructure, that are intrinsic and inevitable to achieve its stated trade goals.

Allen’s words are a living testimony if we look at how nature grows its creatures. Nature does its wholesome act of proportionate growth in perfection. Let us look at the way a tree grows. The time from its sprouting to the phase of aging out, a tree grows in length, breadth and depth to maintain its wellbeing that enables its survival through the life cycle. And this wellbeing is achieved by the proportionate growth of its body parts — branches grow, sometimes stretch themselves out, to get required sunlight, roots go down as tap root or spreads out horizontally in fibrous to have enough hold onto the ground and trunk firming up to make itself a strong body — all happen ‘in the order’ as required by nature to have the beauty and balance to maintain itself as a tree. This proportioning of growth is applicable for even inanimate things of natural origin, and storms are a classic example of this — the seed of a low pressure region surrounded by a system of high pressure growing in leaps and bounds in proportion to the pressure gradient.

Coming back to the aphorism that man is a growth by law, with its larger meaning of proportionate growth, it is imperative that man grows in all his natures in a proportionate way to experience a life of wholesomeness. In his book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ Steven Covoy elucidates this point emphatically, and I am paraphrasing his words: Man needs to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in the right proportion in order to have these four natures coexist in a balanced mixture without one overriding the other. This balanced growth is a prerequisite to have a life of wellbeing; otherwise, states like these can arise: man can be brutally analytical and miss the holistic view, meaning he can be grown to a being guided only by reason, leaving emotions unattended; it can be other way round, too, — totally emotional with no room for reasons. It can also be ignoring the bodily requirements like sleep, rest by working for longer hours to satisfy his materialistic ambitions connected with reason and emotion. Man can peak his bodily, mental and emotional well being but can still feel empty if he looses his soul as the Holy Bible says.

Proportionate growth is the nature’s rule, leaving man with no option other than embracing the rule to live a life of wholesomeness. Does he listen to this nature’s rule?

New Year Message

From a bruised and buffeted 2020, we are stepping into an year of hope and revival. The year of 2021 is destined to be an year of vaccination with the governments around the world busy inoculating their peoples against a virus which proved that through overwhelming, a less potent danger can be more damaging and devastating beyond our imagination. As a society, 2021 will not be a bull but a bear that is configuring to get up and start walking. Vaccine will inject the energy to get up, but to walk and run, a lot of reversals of the reversals that happened in 2020 is needed.

Looking back at 2020, nature gave man more to introspect, more to pause and ponder than to pace up. Was it long overdue from nature? It was! It is estimated that in 2019, we consumed nature’s resources like soil, clean air and water 1.75 times more than what the earth could regenerate. This level of consumption is not sustainable, so nature stepped in and did the correction by reining in man. The versatility with which the virus spread and its edging out of him in the cat and mouse game of the stop and spread demonstrate that nature was well in preparation to do this midcourse correction. But, has man learnt any lesson from it? Only will time tell if the answer to this question is affirmative or not.

There will not be a single person who had not experienced some sort of inconvenience due to the pandemic. Many lost lives, many are still losing and many more will till we get over the pandemic. One day the world will see the end of this trauma, and we will have smile, instead of masks, back on our faces. But a lesson that we should not miss to learn from this pandemic is this: live within the needs defined by necessity rather than excesses and extravaganza. Man’s greed to have more has to be curbed as all his excesses put extra and costly pressure on nature beyond its regenerative capacities.

When man exceedingly consumes beyond what nature can provide, nature presses reset button, and Covid-9 is one such reset press. If every man and woman can take a resolution to live within the needs defined by necessity and follow through it, we will be in harmony with nature and that the world will be much more livable. On this New Year’s eve, I invite all of you to take and live through this pledge: I will live within the needs defined by necessity.

My Best Wishes to you all for happy and harmonious days in 2021!

Clean Your Mind Before the Dusts Become Visible

I was on Work From Home, or W.F.H., for the last five and half months and had rejoined the office a few days back. Spending time with the family is the most beautiful thing, and it was great being at home for such an extended period, thanks to Covid-19 putting a break on my international travels which is a part of my profession. The new W.F.H. phase was a learning period, and I wish to share with you something that I learnt. We have a day-time housemaid who visits us twice a week, and she has a schedule of cleaning the non-floor structures like tables, shelves, bedroom light-stands, etc. once a week. I noticed that by the time the weekly cleaning day arrived, it was all dust on these structures. Hence, I decided to clean all the non-floor areas daily in the morning, using a piece of cloth – 15 minutes were enough to complete the task. I felt good and happy seeing the cleaned areas.

Courtesy Covid-19, mask has become a part of our attires. After one-time use, I soap-wash, dry and dispose them off. Accidentally, I found that such used-masks were good at absorbing dust, hence, started to use them, instead of clothes, to clean the home. It made huge difference as compared to the cloth, for mask’s micro cloth could remove even smaller dust particles and clean the surface very well. Yes, the dusts that were not visible to my eyes were captured and removed by the used-masks. I did it every day, relieving the maid from that work. Spending 15 minutes every day in the morning made the home much cleaner without allowing it go dusty. In effect, I was able to clean the home before dust became visible, thanks to the used-masks.

One subject that took my overwhelming attention during the graduation was freezing; I graduated in Fisheries Science from College of Fisheries, Panangad, Cochin, Kerala. Freezing is an interesting topic in the sense that, as the word amply pronounces, it only freezes and does not kill. Freezing freezes only water!

A little bit on post-death physical spoilage: Corpses of animals go through a process called Rigor Mortis, or R.M. When an animal dies, no physical change happens to its dead body in the first 2 to 6 hours — depending on the type of animal — and from the 3rd/7th hour, R.M. sets in. Rigor Mortis is death stiffening, meaning dead body gets hardened due to anaerobic chemical changes and as evidenced by the loosing of its natural softness. Rigor Mortis lasts for 6 to 8 hours, which means that no spoilage happens to a dead body within the first 14 hours after death if we consider the upper thresholds. From 15th hour, spoilage brought about by enzymes and bacteria begins. Freezing stops this spoilage through arresting the activities of bacteria and enzymes by freezing their water contents into ice as without water, both bacteria and enzymes cannot work. This is the reason that you have to quickly cook a thawed-product because thawing releases the frozen water and reactivates the bacteria and enzymes, hence, the spoilage. Everything has a shelf life so does freezing. Freezing can inactivate bacteria and enzymes only up to six months to an year, and beyond this timeline, the spoilage agents find ways to sidestep freezing and start spoilage.

A lot of dust in the forms of hatred, anger, jealousy, disappointment, frustration, etc. falls on or generates in — whichever the way we look at it — our mind. This is unavoidable — though not inevitable — as we are being human, and it is almost impossible to stop oneself from having these negative thoughts. So they do crop up more often than not and would not be palpable to oneself initially. However, over a period of time, they snowball into something bigger capable of self-destruction. This unknowingly-suppressed negative thoughts are like the spoilage-causing bacteria and enzymes, and the suppression is like freezing. The suppression neither kills nor neutralizes the negative thoughts but only temporarily freezes and shelves them in your mind-fields. Like freezing, the suppression runs out of its fuels at some point of time, hence, loose its shelving abilities, thereby allowing the suppressed negative thoughts to do mayhem with renewed vigor and damage your physical and mental health. But if you can clean your mind off the negative thoughts before they snowball into visible chunks, i.e., before they get into the self-destructive mode, then you can make your life shine like a perfectly cleaned surface that is devoid of any dirt. How do we do it?

A routine of self-reflective correction before you hit the pillow in the night is a perfect way to avoid the suppressive-freezing of negative thoughts. The cleaning-mask of self-refection should generate corrective — positive — thoughts to wipe your mind off the dirt of negative thoughts. Such an introspection lasting, say, a few minutes, involves you doing an impartial assessment of yourself about how badly you were dusted by the day with negative thoughts and followed up with wiping the negative thoughts out with the positive thoughts like love and hope as well as with the feeling that there is enough in this world for everyone. If you can do this on a daily basis without waiting for the dusty negative thoughts to become visible like a frozen chunk, then you will be successful to make your life shine like a clean surface.

Covid-19 Reloaded

It is with alarm that the world is hearing the news of the emergence of a mutated Covid-19 in the United Kingdom. Not much information, barring that the mutant version  — named as B.1.1.7 —  is 70% more transmissible than Covid-19, is available with the scientific community. But scientists are working on the mutant, and we would have more information sooner than later.

What does 70% more transmissibility mean in terms of the behaviour of the mutant virus? We are yet to know the answer(s). But there are a few questions that this 70% mark raises. As of now, in an open space, keeping oneself 6 feet  away from an infected person brings down the chances of infection to almost zero. But, will it be 10.2 feet — 70% more — for the mutant virus? Scientists told us 15 minutes’ cumulative close-exposure within 24 hours to an infected was needed to have enough viral load to infect a person, so, would the exposure time get reduced to 4.5 minutes for B.1.1.7.? Or, is it that 70% less viral load will be enough to infect a person? Will the known metrics like the livability of the virus on surfaces like plastics, stainless steel, paper, etc, get increased by 70% more time? Many such questions, and we do not have answers for any of these questions at this point of time.

The new mutant was first reported in September in the U.K., and by mid-November, 50% of the cases was from this version. And by middle of this month, the cases by the mutant surged to more than 60%, forcing the UK health authorities to say that the version was out of control. The new version had already reached the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, Italy and South Africa. Incidentally, in Australia the mutant virus was found in a person who came from the U.S.A. So the mutant already made a transit in America. Did it make more contacts in America? As there was a window of two months between the first reported case and the alarm bells ringing, it would be highly likely that the new version had travelled both vertically and horizontally from the U.K. to large parts of the globe. Has it arrived in your country? Guess! So we need to be more careful about this virus.

Will the vaccines already developed work against the reloaded version? It will most likely do, scientists say. A virus needs cumulative mutations over many years to create an “escape route” from vaccine. This is the conventional scientific understanding. But, will it be applicable to Covid-19? We do not know. The new mutant went through 23 mutations, it was reported. One positive aspect of the vaccines developed against Covid-19 is that they can be tweaked to accommodate genitival changes from mutations. Will this hold true for the reloaded version? We will have the answer in a few days as the American scientists are on it.

As of now, there are too many unknowns about the mutant virus. Hence, it is worrying. However, scientists say there is no reed to be panic. But we have to be more cautious about the virus by strictly adhering  to the socializing and hygiene protocols that are in place. Let’s tune more information from our scientists, the saviors of humanity.

Sierra Leone

If you can visualize yourself in a speedboat, cruising through the Atlantic Ocean in the wee hours of a day, then I will present you with a few haunting moments to conjure up an immaculate morning like the one I had experienced during the journey from Lungi, a small coastal town, to Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone River, which estuaries with the Atlantic Ocean, separates the town and the capital, and the most famous attraction of this sparsely populated town is Lungi International Airport. Hence, one needs to cross this 40-km long river to reach the mainland Sierra Leone if one is flying to Sierra Leone.

I landed at Lungi International Airport around 3 a.m., and the airport premise had an office selling tickets for the speedboat service to cross the river. The ferry-agency took us by bus to the boat jetty, and by the time the driver powered the boat, it was 5 a.m.

Boarding the speedboat:

It was still dark with the virgin sky dotted with fading stars, and behind the blue curtain, the sun was showing the signs of getting ready for the day.

As the boat sped away from the beach to more depths, factory-fresh sea breeze blew whatever residual sleep left off from my eyes. In the midway, the line demarcating the limitedness of the river and the vastness of the ocean started to blur out, showing all-round choppy waters hugging and kissing the speedboat in hard and fast ways.

As I enjoyed the virginity of the day in the middle of an ocean of pristine beauty, the shady shores of the mainland started to become visible: the buildings and structures standing in front of the still-waves of mountains encircling Freetown. I savored the rare morning! And it is one of the finest mornings I had treasured over the times.

The following are from another occasion during which I undertook a daytime passage:

A country canoe under construction:

In 2008 when I visited Sierra Leone for the first time, there was no speedboat service but helicopter service to the mainland. I was fortunate to travel — 7-minute flight — by helicopter then, thereby fulfilling a long cherished dream of travelling in a chopper. In 2009, the helicopter service was suspended as it failed in the airworthiness-evaluation by the International Civil Aviation Authority. Subsequently, the speedboat service was introduced. There is also ferry service by barge between Lungi and Freetown.

What do you know about Sierra Leone? Google will tell you that it is one of the biggest producers of diamonds, gold and many other precious minerals and metals. Diamonds are found in a quarter area of the country, and that is around 7,700 square miles. And this precious resources were once used to finance the civil war that broke out in the country in 1991, lasting 11 years and killing around 50,000 people. The infamous term: Blood Diamonds — illegal mining of diamonds to finance civil wars — is a product of this civil war.

The cityscape of Freetown and its suburban areas are starkly different in terms of infrastructure availability and their qualities.

Cityscape:

Suburban Areas:

Freetown has beautiful beaches which attract domestic and foreign tourists alike, and one such beach is Number 2 River Beach, which I visited in August 2016.

Before getting onto the beach, one can not miss out the adjoining creek. It is beautifully placed in the backdrop of distant mountains.

It is a white-sand beach, clean and with bluish to bluish-green waters, making it as one of the beautiful beaches that I had come across. Beaches were clean except that there was residual fringes of aquatic plants.

It is a paid-beach, costing 5000 in local currency named Leone, and this amount is equivalent to US$1. The beach management-company arranges shows of entertainment for the visitors. On the day I visited, the piece of performance was a traditional acrobatic show spiced up by the sounds of indigenous instruments.

With friends:

Beside the beach, there is lot of vegetation unlike the regular beaches. A couple of clicks from that area 🙂

If you are a business traveler, visiting the hustle and bustle Sani Abacha Street at the wholesale market is unavoidable. An aerial view of the street:

A few times, while returning I took barge to reach the airport. The following are from one such trip from Freetown to Lungi:

I had visited Sierra Leone a few times between 2008 to 2017, and unfortunately, this was one of the few countries where I did not find much development over this period. This is unfortunate, for the country is bestowed with immense natural resources. I found the people of Sierra Leone cordial and never had any safety issues there. Hope to see a better developed and progressing Sierra Leone during my next visit.

Liberia

Way back in 2004 when I started my career in International Sales, Liberia was among the few countries that I visited in the same year itself.  Liberia was then just emerging from a civil war under the guidance of an interim government, with the United Nation’s Peace Keeping Force being actively on the ground to hold the fragile peace. Two successive civil wars flattened Liberia, which was the first ever republic in Africa, all but completely. The wars destroyed almost all the infrastructure of the country. I saw the capital city of Monrovia running on generators as there was no regular electricity production in the country, thanks to the destruction of the entire power generation and distribution infrastructure during the civil wars. I could also see many charred and bullet-pockmarked buildings,  including a 5-star hotel, in the city, each telling untold stories of human sufferings. It is estimated that around 250,000 people — 8% of the then population — perished in the civil wars. There was no smartphone then, so I had no pictures from my first visit.

I visited the country again in 2010. Six years of democracy brought some semblance of normalcy! In 2010, electricity was available in many areas of the city and water scarcity was almost tackled. More signs of rebirth of the nation were visible: paved roads, construction activities were picking up and so on. Since then, I visited Liberia many a time, with the last being in 2019. Once I undertook a 30-hour journey by road from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Monrovia, with an overnight stay at the frontier town, and saw well-paved tarred roads from the very moment I entered the Liberian side, a much better state than what I had seen on the Sierra Leone side. Through these years, Liberia had seen Madam Ellen Johnson as the President for two consecutive terms, more hotels and other tourism infrastructures, electricity reaching most part of the country, the U.N. winding up its peace keeping mission and the incumbent President George Weah, an ex-footballer who amassed a fortune from the playgrounds, assuming the office. The most noteworthy point over these transformative years is that there was no violence in Liberia once the peace took its roots after the civil wars.

Monrovia:

Liberia has all-round greenery. Nature has showered it with pristine beauty, and the landscape looks like that of Kerala. I was fortunate to experience this beauty during my travel to Monrovia while undertaking that trip from Freetown. Furthermore, it takes around 1:30 hours to travel by taxi from the airport to Monrovia city, giving inescapable opportunity to enjoy the sparsely populated panoramic hinterlands. The land is so fertile that grass and trees are everywhere. Nonetheless, barring rubber plantations by Firestone Company, the nature’s bounty is not utilized through scientific farming. There is no agricultural university in Liberia, and the farming is still on brick and mortar mode.

I travelled by auto rickshaw — you might ask: so what? I made this travel not in India or in any Asian country but in Liberia. I was pleasantly surprised to see plenty of these three-wheelers plying in Monrovia, supplied by TVS, an Indian company. One thing I noticed was that here, too, auto rickshaw drivers followed the same pattern of their Indian counterparts: taking sudden turns without putting indicators; maneuvering their vehicles through the just-road available; and abruptly stopping to take a quick-in-passenger. I felt happy to see that Indian vehicles offering an affordable public transport option in Liberia. Apart from Liberia, I saw Indian auto rickshaws plying on the roads of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Peru, Ghana and a few other countries.

Getting a homely atmosphere when you are away from home is a boon. This is what I used to have in Liberia during most of the times of my visit, thanks to my “Mallu friends.’ In Africa, Liberia is the country where I saw the maximum number of the Keralites working. I have many Mallu friends here: Binu, Kannan, Anoop, Aneesh, Rejith, Rineesh, etc. During the last trip, culinary expertise of Anoop’s wife was a real treat, besides, Biriyani by Aneesh and Rejith Babu was mouth-watering. These guys made my days in Liberia memorable and fun-fulling!

Views of the Broad Street, a thoroughfare in the city.

As my trips were for business, visiting the wholesale markets was an inevitable. There are two wholesale markets in Monrovia: Waterside Market and Redlight market. The following pictures were captured from Waterside market during a rainy time:

The Liberians are a warm and friendly people, and I never experienced any dificulty in the country though there are safety issues, the remnants of the civil wars. Liberia, a country of 5 million people, has immense natural resources like iron ore, timber, diamonds, crude oil and many minerals and metals. But the country had not made progress as it should have been if we considered the abundance of natural resources and a smaller population. Hope that Liberia would develop further and take its due place in the comity of nations.

The Triumvirate of Self-Kindling

There might have been occasions when you bought a pair of shoes or a few dresses for your children while you were out but later found that they were not of fitting-sizes as the kids tried them. Even during these times of online purchase, you would have sometimes returned unfitting goods and asked for replacements with bigger/smaller sizes to suit you. Is it possible to avoid, if not completely, wastage of time and effort in selecting something that will be suitable for you even when you are bereft of the metrics of the object to be selected? It is possible through equipping oneself with the powers of visualization which is one among the triumvirate that kindles a man from inside, with dream and imagination being the other two. Self-kindling is the process of intellectual churning in a man, which energizes and automates him on a mission-mode. It is the internal light that shows the ways of life.

Visualization is the power of mentally creating an imaged-replica of something that exists as an idea which is developed from a physical object or an intangible. It is the outward projection of a concluded-idea by giving physical features to it on your mind —a mock-up by the mental makeup. It is the bridge from theory to practical. If science is theory, then technology is its practicality, and that which is built on the mind of an inventor who transforms science into technology is visualization. Stephen Covey in his much famed book: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” cites ‘everything is created twice’ while explaining the habit: ‘Begin with the end in mind,’ by saying that first creation is the visualization of second creation, i.e., output.

Visualization is as difficult and involving as the actual creation of an object, for every nitty-gritty of the creation has to be worked out and perfected in the realm of thoughts before a man can venture out to create the object physically. These difficulty and involvedness are imbibed in the word: visualization itself as its break up will give us visual — see — and ization — the process of making or doing. The founders of the English language were so brilliant that they did not make the noun of visual as ‘visuality’ or ‘visualness’ but visualization because ization in visualization captures the word’s essence: the process of — the process of seeing something in the mind-field in its physical format based on an idea about it. Visualization has two cousins: dreaming and imagination. All three are related to the extent that they are different faculties of mind, with each one serving its own purpose in the overall scheme of self-kindling.

‘Dare to dream’ and ‘ Dream Big’ are motivational prodding making a man to think uninhibitedly and unrestrainedly to leapfrog in order to better himself. Dreams preexist ideas, meaning man can dream for and about anything even when he does not possess any idea about how to go for it. We live to actualize our dreams, so it is important to have dreams. But there is not-so-subtle difference between dreaming and dreamer. A dreamer perpetually lives in dreams and fails to move forward to actualize the dreams. But a man who dreams — dreams big — comes out of his dream to generate ideas to fructify his dream.

Dreaming is the preamble to the foundation of achievement that one aspires for. It is the pre-foundational energy that kindles you from inside. Dreaming can be compared to groundbreaking ceremony for construction of a building. A dreamer will continue to live in groundbreaking ceremonies, one after another, with none taking shape as they intended to be. But one who dreams will further move forward to build the foundation, then, the edifice of one’s dream by generating and actualizing the ideas that are needed for it. Late Abdul Kalam Azad, one of my heroes and a great humanist, exhorted the youths to dream and dream BIG as he knew that unless ‘the ground’ was ‘broken,’ no construction of future could begin.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” the great words from the genius Albert Einstein. Implied in the words is that imagination is more potent than knowledge to slingshot you to infinite heights in whatever arena you are engaged in. I wish to say that imagination is creating something out of absolute nothingness but have to restate it as imagination is creating something out of nothingness, for there are peripheral seedings of knowledge that lie around the nothingness, which may or may not have consequential impacts on imagination. Imagination does not have an idea to begin with, rather idea is the first output of imagination. The idea grows as your thoughts weave on it, taking shapes and forms which were oblivious hitherto, ultimately leading to the creation of an image that captures the essence of the idea. Imagination has limits so long as the boundaries are set by you. Imagination takes its logical conclusion when you are able to add flesh and blood to it. In other words, if the initial output of imagination, that is, idea, can be shaped up into an image that can go functionally alive in terms of rewarding, then your imagination has been paid off.

Are there any linkages among these three faculties of mind? In the sequencing of kindling that happens inside a man,  dreaming comes first, followed by imagination and visualization. Dream aspires you for the sky, and imagination weaves the ways to the sky. Unless you dream, you do not get inclined yourself to imagine, so imagination begins from where dream stops. In other words, imagination is the creation in the offing once the laying of the cornerstone for the foundation of your future gets over. Visualization stands on its own and is independent of dreaming or imagination, but I am for characterizing visualization as a byproduct of dreaming and imagination dynamics.

The triumvirate does not come from external source but a deliberate and conscious effort by a man to set himself on fire internally. A man who dreams big without being perpetually in his dreams and that who continues from the groundbreaking done by dreaming through imagination gets energized from inside. Such a man is tracked to push his imagination beyond frontiers and bring fruition to it with ideas as well as aided by importunity and hardworking. Do practice visualization as it takes you to a rewarding level without having to be there physically. Let loose the triumvirate to kindle you from inside in your journey of life.

Becoming an Expert

There are two incidents that prompted me to write this blog. A few years back, I was diagnosed with Crohns disease at a clinic in Sharjah. It is an incurable, autoimmune disease needing lifelong medication, and I was under medication for almost an year. While vacationing in Cochin, Kerala, my wife told me to consult Padmashree Doctor Philip Augustine, arguably the most renowned gastroenterologist in Asia, who is credited with the diagnosis of Crohns disease for the first time in India. When I told him I had Crohns disease, within seconds and by just looking at me he told, “You do not have Crohns disease.” A few tests later proved what he said was correct — I had another gastrointestinal problem which was diagnosed and cured under his treatment.

While playing football with the kids at our housing society recently, I sprained my leg and had to consult an ankle and foot orthopedic doctor, Dr. Rajesh Simon. During the first consultation, he closely examined my sprained-ankle and prescribed 3-week rest with a supporting ankle brace. I met him after three weeks, and by just looking at my ankle he said that my problem was solved. I was surprised because he did not do any close examination of my ankle. So I asked him, “Doctor, how are you able to say I am cured without examining my ankle?” He said, “I knew it from the way you walked into my room.” He further explained that he almost diagnosed “as and from the way” people walked into his room and that further checks were more or less to reconfirm his initial diagnosis.

Not all gastroenterologists are like Doctor Philip, nor have all ankle and foot orthopedic doctors the skills as Doctor Rajesh. These two doctors are experts in their respective areas of specialization. Haven’t you heard about mechanical engineers who can tell which part of an engine has the problem by listening to small aberrations in the sounds of an engine-on-work? All mechanical engineers cannot do it. If we take any field like photography, sales and marketing, farming, teaching, fishing, masonry, cooking, etc., we will find people who stand out with their extraordinary performance. They possess expertise. Why are all engineers or doctors or others in their fields not experts but a few? How did they become experts though their academic credentials were only as good as their non-expert counterparts?

The emblem of my alma mater: Institute of Rural Management Anand, or I.R.MA., one among the many gems of institutions founded by the Father of the Indian Dairy Sector, Dr. Verghese Kurien, is a half-bloom lotus. Once we asked a professor why the emblem was so and that why it was not a full-bloom lotus. He explained that every pass-out, though equipped with management skills, was only half-baked to manage the ways and means and that the petals of the other half were to be added up as he/she progressed in career, leading to a full-bloom professional. Every profession is a march to add petals to the half-bloomed flower called education.

We are familiar with the terms: ‘means to an end’ and ‘an end in itself,’ with the former indicating something is done in order to be led to something else while the latter means that there is only something in something, no something else. It may sound oxymoron to say that every piece of knowledge is an end in itself as well as a means to an end. In other words, every piece of knowledge has as much its own meaning — a purpose to fulfill — as its external linkages. And this purpose to fulfill is the end while the external linkage is the means. A fully-bloomed professional is habituated to understand the end of knowledge but largely misses out the means. But an expert does catch hold of both the end and the means and give due weightage they deserve. Hence, becoming an expert is a journey further and farther ahead from the full-bloom. So, how does one make this journey and become an expert? It is through something I call as Deep Learning.

Deep Learning is understanding “the purpose to full-fill” of a piece of knowledge as well as its “external linkages” in their entirety by acquiring every bit of the knowledge through going deep into its core. Knowledge is shrouded in layers over layers, with each layer adding fruition to your understanding of the knowledge-in-acquisition. As you make this deep-diving into the core with your eyes wide open, you will see the linkages — means — as offshoots from the layers that cover the core. A closer look at the these offshoots will divulge their inalienable connections to the means of other pieces of knowledge around. Furthermore, the layers reflect the characteristics of the core that have congruous or incongruous impacts on the means of adjoining knowledge-area. And the theatre of this process of diving is the profession you are engaged in.

Deep Learning takes a man to the core where crux of the matter is placed. In this process, not only does he understand the end but the means also. The crux of the matter, the layers of and the offshoots from a piece of knowledge together form expertise, and one who possesses them is an expert. This deep and wide diving out to the core is the journey that one needs to undertake to become an expert. You are tracked to add the remaining layers of knowledge as you progress in your profession, but to become an expert, you need to take the journey of Deep Learning.

Crohn’s disease happens deep inside the gastrointestinal tract, which can be studied and understood through internal examination and biopsy, but there are linkages —means — like a person’s overall vitality, facial expressions, etc. based on which an expert like Philip Augustine can quickly read the crux and diagnose the disease. Reading the subtle elements of leg movements, along with layering and offshoot factors like easiness of or difficulty in other bodily movements, can make an expert like Dr. Simon to do a quick diagnosis of the problem in the bones, so does identifying of and reading from an incongruent sound alert the expert in a mechanical engineer. In all these cases, the expertise, i.e., the end and the means of knowledge, acquired through Deep Learning makes them experts. Dive down to the end of the end and the means of the knowledge at stake and become a Deeply-Learnt person, for that is the way to become an expert.

Optimization Vs. Maximization

Management students are taught about optimization and maximization as two closely-linked-yet-differing approaches to the ultimate aim of profit-making in business. Optimization, teachers tell them, is the process of finding the best-possible alternative under the given constraints by maximizing the utilization of helpful factors and minimizing the usage of unhelpful factors. In other words, be effective to get the desired output without compromising efficiency — a difficult task for a manager, where the sum total of the management skills in him/her will be tested as well as put into use in order to get that best-possible outcome. On the contrary, maximization is an all-out effort to get the ‘all but none’ of the intended output without any regard for cost element, so efficiency is not a limiting factor and what matters is only effectiveness in reaping the maximum. In this blog, I will try to look at how optimization and maximization play out in our life and that what impacts they can have on our behavior.

Let me try to explain what these two terms mean in our life — leave professional life. Maximization is the functional attempt prompted by psychological mooring to have all and in full. So maximization is more psychological than functional. Nothing should be left off and that everything needed to be in my pocket is the mindset behind maximization. This mindset is driven more by emotion and less by logic. Hence, maximization can easily be anyone’s baby. But to adopt the child of optimization and make it a part of your character, you need a different approach which is not a default but deliberate. Optimization is adapting to a lean and meaningful way of living, arising out of the realization that what matters the most is the usability and utility value. Let me bare the two words: I meant efficiency by ‘lean’ and effectiveness by meaningful.

A dilemma that can have a lot of bearing on the way we behave in our daily life is whether to choose optimization over maximization or vice versa. By nature as well as by the seasoning from childhood, we are configured to go for maximization, instead of optimization. Maximization is more attractive than optimization because the former touches our most sensitive note — the longing for more. I will illustrate this with an example. Why do people buy new dress? Barring those who are crazy of wardrobe collections and fad-mongers, people buy new dresses when their existing dresses become unusable. Now, the question: do you discard the old, unusable dress after you get new dress? An honest answer from many will be a NO. Why is such an answer? Because people, by nature, want to maximize, not optimize, their possessions. A wardrobe full of dresses gives the satisfaction of maximum although the usability of old and unusable robes is naught, besides, them giving the burden of occupying a sizable portion of the wardrobe. Do you have materials like your old books, old shoes, old combs, etc. for which you already got replacements but continued to clutter your home?

Reluctance to discard the unwanted is at the heart of living with worthless things. Whether the old unusable clothes in your wardrobe or the thoughts about an unsavory incident/person, they occupy significant place in your wardrobe or on mind respectively without having any salvage value. So it is futile to keep unusable things. Discarding the unusable will free up space that will make your life leaner. For example, decluttering of unusable from your wardrobe will make available space to the extent that you might even find that a few cabinets of your wardrobe can be used for storing other things. And continuing with this, if you throw away unusable things from your home, you will find a lot of free space — making your home-space leaner — which can be put into some other meaningful use. Similarly, discarding by obliterating the unusable — so unwanted — thoughts and people from your life will unchain the space being taken by and the time spent for them, which can be used for some other meaningful purpose.

Usability is a part of utility-value. Usability denotes if something is usable, but utility-value is the sum total of all tangible and intangible returns that something can offer. So the tangible part of utility-value is usability. Your wedding dress in your wardrobe can become unusable, but you might draw happiness of seeing and having it in your wardrobe. This intangible happiness is unmeasurable to say that, though unusable, you derived utility-value of happiness by having your wedding dress in your wardrobe. Similarly, there are memories of good things and good people that passed through your life. Though these memories have no usability value, you still derive the utility value of happiness from them, which can act as an impetus encouraging you to succeed further as well as do more good things. The contributions of optimization get amplified if we consider the cascading effects it creates post its adoption. Human brain has around 2.50 petabyte storage capacity — 1 petabyte = 1 million Gigabyte. So the storage capacity of human brain is a limiting factor. Hence a deliberate decision of optimizing the usage of your mental space by uncluttering the unwanted thoughts about incidents and people will give the much needed room to think about better things for your life.

As stated earlier on the blog, maximization is anyone’s baby by default. It offers you the most, and in its pursuit you get cluttered with many things that bog you down. Besides, such cluttering takes away the precious, limited space on your mind or at home, which, otherwise, could have been put into meaningful use.  In other words, you miss the rewards of the beautiful concept called optimization as you go after maximization! Optimize your thoughts to utilize your space and time for a leaner and meaningful life. Optimization is the way for life!

Assimilation – the Grinding Power of Knowledge

There are many factors like goal-setting, determination, passion, hard work, perseverance, discipline, attitude of positivity, receptiveness, etc. that form the ingredients of success. Nonetheless, even when one has all these ingredients, there are chances that one does not succeed in proportion to the success ingredients one puts into work. To put it in a different perspective, imagine that there are two persons who have all these success ingredients at the same levels but that one is more successful than the other. I agree that it is not right to evaluate success in relative terms. But I did it deliberately to address one fundamental question: is there a factor that gives additional mileage to success ingredients , thereby giving a person an edge to have a better harvest of success? Yes, there is one, and it is assimilation. 

Knowledge has informative value as well as inferential value. It is a cosmic fact that a piece of knowledge does not have a marooned-existence but is a link in the continuum of an all-encompassing knowledge-spectrum. We study, for example, Biology and Mathematics as two streams of science with no apparent interconnection. But Computational Biology, Bioinformatics, etc. prove that these two streams are connected and are the tributaries of a bigger stream of knowledge called science that connects with other streams of the knowledge-spectrum. The raison d’etre of assimilation is this cosmic fact. Assimilation is the internal process of mixing and grinding of knowledge acquired from multiple sources to find the interconnecting links among them as well as their linkage to the wider knowledge-spectrum, generating multiple inferences that contribute to a single decision-making inference. Let me explain this with an example.

Imagine that there are two Indians, A and B, who are currently involved in retailing of shoes. Let them have the following information about the ongoing pandemic over a period of, say, two months: vaccines for COVID-19 will be available by December 2020; most of the vaccines under trial are two-shot vaccines; 7.80 billion population — the infected and recovered also needs to be vaccinated as nobody knows how long their immunity toward the virus lasts — of the world needs 15.60 billion vaccines; the vaccines under development need -20 to -80 degree centigrade freezer facilities for storage and transportation; almost all the vaccines in the last stage of the trials are pre-purchased by the governments of the U.S.A, the U.K., the European Union, and China; 70% of the world’s installed capacity for production of vaccines is in India; the Indian government had already alluded that at least 50% of vaccines — foreign or domestic origin — for COVID-19 produced in India would be for the Indians; and a statement by the Indian Union Minster of Health that by July 2021, 0.250 billion vaccines would be made available for the Indians. 

Now, let’s have a look at how A and B respond to the above information with a rider that A does not do assimilation while B has an internalized assimilation process. In the absence of assimilation and based on the knowledge that came in, A will be optimistic that a vaccine by December 2020 and its distribution by July 2021 will restore the status quo ante of pre-pandemic way of living by soon, say, the third quarter of 2021. So A will plan his business, accordingly. 

With the assimilation of the knowledge about the pandemic, B’s thinking will go this way: The Union Minister’s message of making 0.25 billion shots of vaccine available to the Indians by July 2021 is based on the estimation that India can produce 0.50 billion shots of vaccines by using the current production capacity by July 2021, with 50% being allowed to be exported and the remaining for domestic consumption. Since it is a 2-shot vaccine, 0.25 billion shots can vaccinate only 0.125 billion people. India has a population of 1.35 billion, meaning that by July 2021, India will still have 1.225 billion people to be vaccinated. And at that rate, it will take 4.90 years to vaccinate all the Indians against COVID-19. That is 2025. But this period can get advanced to, say, 2022 or 2023 if we consider that Europe and the U.S.A will stop importing vaccines from India once all their peoples are vaccinated. Again, this can be further extended to 2023 or 2024 if we consider the population growth of 22,000 additional people — number of births minus number of deaths — per day in India, as well as India’s commitment to help its neighbors like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, etc. with the supply of vaccines. The logistical nightmare of ensuring availability of the vaccine @ -20 to -80 degree centigrade can compound the timelines. Based on this assimilative thinking, B makes an inference that status quo ante of people having pre-pandemic lifestyle is not going to happen in 2021 or 2022 but in 2023 or 2024 in India unless the virus disappears on its own and/or installation of additional production capacity for vaccines happens. Based on this assimilative thinking, B will plan his long-term business strategy, accordingly. 

The process of assimilation opened up an entirely different window for B as compared to A. Their knowledge levels were the same, but the assimilation made the difference, with the possibility of B facilitating herself/himself with a harvest of success that will be better than that of A. Assimilation of knowledge is the mother of inference. Knowledge come in now and then, which may get stored in you as something that I call as “know-ledger. You need to let yourself open all the pages of your know-ledger inside the grinding and mixing cauldron of your thought process in order to reap the combined-inferential value that those pages offer. Inside the cauldron of your thought process, the entries in the know-ledger will get connected among themselves as they unwind themselves. The output of this churning process called assimilation is a ‘single powerful inference’ carrying the combined inferential might of all that there is in your know-ledger. And this powerful inference arising out of assimilation of knowledge gives you wings to branch out into a different world of better success than you, otherwise, would have accomplished.

What makes a person to assimilate the knowledge? What made B to assimilate while A did not? Have you seen how a concrete-mixer or cauldron works? A concrete-mixer needs electricity to rotate it while it is heat energy that creates conventional currents in a cauldron. Both concrete-mixer and cauldron give new outputs that carry  the combined might of all those went into the churning process inside them. What is that  that prompts assimilation process in us? The answer is partially there in the initial part of this write — the cosmic fact. The prompt for assimilation is the realization that every bit of knowledge that comes in our way is a link in one of the chains of the bigger knowledge-spectrum and that effectively connecting these links will give a better picture of the matter of fact. It is electricity for concrete-mixer, heat for cauldron and realization of knowledge-linkages that brings about assimilation in you. Do  you assimilate your thoughts?

Land of the Honorable People

Many of you would not have heard of a country called Burkina Faso. I never heard of Burkina Faso till a couple of months preceding my maiden visit to the country in March 2005. Burkina Faso is a land-locked West African country having borders with Ghana, Mali, Niger, Togo, Ivory Coast and Benin.

If you are a student of international politics, you would not have missed out the political explosion that happened in Burkina in October 2014 when the people stormed the parliament, which was in session to amend the constitution for extending the President Blaise Compaore’s 27-year rule, and set ablaze the parliament building. The ensuing public upheaval forced Blaise to flee and take refuge in the neighboring Ivory Coast. Subsequently, there was an interim government that conduced free and fair presidential election leading to the victory of Roch Marc Kabore in December 2015.

This introduction, however, shall not be construed as the Burkinabes being a violent people, for they are not. The storming of the parliament was a desperate attempt to get rid of a president’s prolonged misrule. Burkina Faso means “Land of the Honorable People.” The Burkinabes are among the most honest peoples of Africa. They are peaceful and friendly, and I experienced their hospitality many a time, as recently as October 2019. Before renaming as Burkina Faso on August 4, 1984, the country used to be known as the Republic of Upper Volta.

Kwame Nkruma Road area is the main tourist attraction in Ouagadougou — pronounced as vagadhughu — the capital city which is hardly three kilometers away from Thomas Sankara International Airport, with many hotels based beside and slightly-off this road. The area has a few good Lebanese restaurants, road-side eateries, music, lights and sounds — all that a visitor wishes to have to cool down after a day’s work.

From in and around Kwame Nkruma Road:

Some of you might be aware of an attack by Al Qaida in Ouagadougou in 2016, and it happened at this road. A well-known cafe, CAPUCINO, was devastated with gunfire, killing many. I used to take my evening-teas from this cafe during my visits. It stood as a charred left-out when I saw it in 2017, and passing beside it sent a chill down my spine as the attack happened during the evening time on that fateful day. During the terrorist savage, a nearby four-star hotel named the Splendid Hotel and Taxi Brouse, a popular and economic open air bar situated adjacent to this hotel, were also attacked, killing a few. If you draw a triangle with these three firms as the joining points, they are separated by a few meters only. So you can imagine the area of the attack. Taxi Brouse was a favorite place for me to enjoy African music with beer. None of the attackers were from Burkina, they came from a neighboring country. When I visited Burkina in 2018, the city was back to business as usual — CACPUCINO and the Splendid Hotel were reopened, Taxi Brouse was humming with music. I had my beer and music again!

It is pleasing to say that during my visits from 2005, I could see signs of progress in Burkina like the airport getting a facelift by a largescale renovation, much construction activities, more cars on the road, new restaurants and more such good things in Ouagadougou. The city does not boast of many big buildings. The pictures of a few:

The outskirts of Ouagadougou:

Women hawkers:

With Indian friends in the city:

A click from the premise of Thomas Sankara International Airport, Ouagadougou, in 2017:

Bobo-Dioulasso is the second-largest city in Burkina Faso, around 325 Km South West off Ouagadougou. Though known as a city, it is a small place, closer to a “sleepy village” definition — no hustle and bustle of a city. I visited Bobo a couple of times, with an interregnum of 5 years, and could recall the place during the second visit without any hard-peep as the landscape had not changed much. You may paint me as a negative person, but it is true that I could not see any progress in the city. On the positive side, yes, I had a very smooth bus-ride from Ouagadougou to Bobo as the road was very good — 6-hour journey.

The wholesale market of Bobo:

An important point, as I always noticed, is that the people of Burkina, especially of Bobo, are courteous, showing praiseworthy-hospitality toward visitors. There is so much poverty visible and under-development around, but amongst all these drudgery, the people are peace-loving and courteous! Many misunderstand Africa as a dangerous place, but it is not, and Burkina is a testimony of a peaceful Africa.

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