Bolivian Snippets

I was clearing the immigration at Viru Viru International Airport, Santa Cruz, Bolivia,  and it seemed like a normal day. Little did I know that it was going to be anything, but I was ‘welcomed’ by the International Criminal Police Organization, or I.C.P.O., popularly known as Interpol. It was my maiden face-to-face with the international police. I was elaborately checked by the Interpol officials, and they even checked the picture-gallery of my mobile handset for any clue. What clue? Bolivia is a trafficking route for Colombian cocaine and contraband drugs. So checking is intense at the immigration points. It took a lot of time for me to get out of the Interpol check, but the officials were courteous. Good way 🙂 to begin my debut visit to Bolivia way back in 2012.

Bolivia is the only country in the Americas that has more indigenous population than the descendants of the Spanish settlers. There are five tribes: Inca, Andina, Chiquitano, Guarayo and Camba in Bolivia. This is just a mention of the ethnic mix of the country for the information sake, and there are no divisions among the people on tribal lines — homogeneous community. The country has a governance system which is tuned more to socialism, but the people have freedom to do business and to carry on with their lives as we see in a capitalistic system. It is a welcome point that the country does not have a hard-line command system. Bolivia, however, is counted as one of the few remaining bastions of socialism. Hence, all those who are wedded to the socialist ideology can toast a drink for Bolivia! Some of you may be aware of the recent developments in Bolivia. The long-time president, Evo Morales, who ruled Bolivia for 14 years, had fled the country last month and sought asylum in Argentina as there were violent public protests against him in the aftermath of an allegedly flawed presidential election, with the military withdrawing its support for him.

It seems that ice cream is the national food of Bolivia!  I could see many ice cream shops in Santa Cruz, the commercial capital that is 469 km North East off Sucre, the capital city. Even cafes and restaurants have many variants of it in their menus. I had one variant each during my one-week stay, and they were delicious. Bolivia is a land-locked country, so the weather is mostly hot which is probably an incentive for such a high level of ice cream consumption. It was hot climate — not that terrible but welcome one, with daytime temperature being around 30 degrees centigrade — in Santa Cruz, which I was happy about as it was a respite from the cold days I faced in Brazil and Chile last week. Bolivia has three main weather conditions — winter months of June and July, rains in December and January and the remaining months are of summer.

Plaza 24 de Septiembre in Santa Cruz is a lively town square. The Plaza has got its name as a honor of the anniversary of the uprising that led to the independence of Santa Cruz from Spain. A life-size statue of Ignacio Warnes, the local hero of the Independence War imitated in 1810, stands gallantly at the center of the Plaza. People — families, youngsters, elders, children, lovers, couples  — throng the place in countless numbers. We can smell life here: children playing with pigeons and other birds; trees, flowers and greenaries; concrete benches to sit and chat or idle your time; shoeshine boys; uniformed coffee waiters — reminded me of the waiters of Indian Coffee House — selling delicious Bolivian coffee; hawkers; lights and sounds, music bands; and many such lively scenes. Adjacent to the Plaza, there is a huge Spanish-era cathedral, The Cathedral Basilica of St. Lawrence. The Plaza  is huge — the size of around six football fields — clean and well-maintained. A perfect place to forget all worries and enjoy the small things of life! I felt good, sitting on a bench, savoring Bolivian coffee and seeing lots of spiriting lives around. There are many eateries by the side of the Plaza. If you happen to visit Santa Cruz, do stay near this Plaza.

There was a dance performance by youths and children at the side road of Plaza 24 de Sepriembre, and the road was closed for traffic to have this performance. It was a fantastic mix of Salsa, traditional stuff and fast-breaks. I was delighted to watch the flowing and glowing sight of children, looking as young as five years, dancing effortlessly, along with elders. And the surprise was a couple of Bollywood numbers; they danced to the tunes of songs like “Salame ishq ishq” as the Indian stars do on films. I felt proud  to see and hear India in Bolivia.”

I had a magical experience! Near to Plaza 24 de Septiembre, we can see many individual money-changers, standing with bunches of currency notes, and I had a strange experience with one such guy. The running exchange rate was 1 USD=6.80 Bolivanos, and I changed USD100. The guy first COUNTED four 20 Bolivanos bills, FOLDED and gave to me. He COUNTED in both Spanish and English. I also counted, and it was 80 Bolivanos. Excellent! Then he COUNTED, in both Spanish and English, six 100 bills, FOLDED and gave to me. In normal course, I did not have to count the bills again because I saw him counting twice, plus there was trust from the counting accuracy of the initial 80 Bolivanos. But I counted it, and there were only four bills, not six bills. Without any argument, he gave me two more 100 Bolivanos bills. His COUNTNG was magic!! I changed money with others, but there were no such problems. That episode had reaffirmed one thing I believe: Amidst many good souls, there is always a bad guy who is out to cheat unsuspecting souls.

One always gets filled with feelings of miss or loss when one has to leave a place which has endeared itself to one, and this was how I felt when I was leaving Santa Cruz, Bolivia. It is a nice country; less modernized; simple people; and peaceful ambiance. I do not know much about this country, but I felt very comfortable here and would like to come back. I was born and brought up in a village in Kerala, India, so, probably, that similar imprint quickly made “the frequencies” match seamlessly! I found that the Bolivians very lively and cheerful, and “Plaza 24 de Septiembre,” with all its festivities and jubilation, could be considered as a microcosm of Bolivia. I like  Bolivia and the Bolivians. A few pictures of Bolivia and the Bolivians through my mobile camera eye are there in the following link:

Balancing The Life

Many a time, I come across people who complain that they do not have a balanced life. While chatting with a friend, he lamented, “I am not able to find equanimity in life, for I can not strike work-life balance.” I probed, “Will you have equanimity if you are able to do a balancing act between work and life?” He answered, “I am not sure.” A woman once told she was not able to find a balance between household chores and her personal life. I asked her whether or not she would a have balanced life if she were able to manage household works and personal life without troubles. Her answer was the same as that of my friend. Both answers reflect one thing that when you say that you want a balanced life, you do not actually know what are the elements that need to be balanced in order to have a balanced life. It is like you are unable to identify Gandhi ji from a picture of him because you never saw him alive or in a picture — no algorithm can help you in this process. To have a balanced life, we need to KNOW the elements that form the DNA of a balanced-life, then, algorithmise it to make it a default setting.

Behavioral scientists say that human nature exists in four forms: physical (body) mental (mind), emotional (heart) and spiritual (soul). All these four natures have two dimensions each: Taking care of IT and Using IT. Furthermore, they are all interconnected. Somewhere I read something about our body that went like this: “Our body is a temple where divinity resides, so keep it clean.” A healthy physical being is the cumulative effect of taking care of one’s own body through right food habits, an exercise regime and non-exposure to harmful habits. Discretion in using our physical strength is utmost importance, otherwise, we might end up with nothing left. The life of Mike Tyson, multiple-time world heavy weight boxing champion, is an example on how one can end up as a pauper and lose all but nothing in life from uncontrolled use of physical force.

Being sensitive to human suffering is a virtue that flows out form your heart — emotional nature. Imagine that someone comes and tells that s/he has not had food for the last two days. Your immediate reaction will be to give him/her money to buy food because your response came from your heart. At the same time, it is important how you manage this emotional outpouring in order to avoid being exploited by vested interests. But our heart can not do this because we are wired to respond emotionally than mentally to human sufferings. Then, how do we right-track our emotional being? Yes, we need the help of mind for that.

Look again at that example of the person who came with the story of starving for two days. Before giving her/him money, do have a look at the person again to see whether s/he is telling truth or not. Do an evaluation — a process involving your mind — by a quick observation. Suppose you see a packet of cigarette in his shirt’s pocket or that she is well attired and ornamented, etc., and these are the signs to come to the conclusion that the person is lying that s/he did not have money to buy food. But if you find truth in her/his words, let your emotional nature persists and do help that person. Take the help of mind to take care of your heart from exploitation.

Mind is a bundle of thoughts that originate from brain. Latest medical research shows that cerebral cortex is actually where the mind is located. Our brain has two parts: left-brain and right-brain where the former handles logical thinking, number crunching while the latter is the seat of creativity. It is very important that we strike a balance between these two parts so that we will not be logically biased against creativity or creatively biased against logic — this is notwithstanding the fact that the world is highly left-brain dominated. A balanced use of our both brains will enable and empower us to see issues and problems holistically, so utilize the treasures housed at both sides of your brain. Coming to the question: how do we take care of our mind? Our mind can think on its own — example of helping the heart — and can also be consciously stimulated to think. “This consciously-stimulated-to-thinking” is one way of taking care of mind. And the way for that? Tens of thousands of wise souls had walked the earth before us and had shared their wisdom — an output of intelligent thinking — through their writings. Catch hold of those books, read and go deep into those wise men’s thoughts, and you will harvest plenty of seeds from those books, which will consciously get sown in the fertile depth of your mind, forming the stimulative impetus for new ideas to sprout and develop into a canopy of wisdom branching out from you.

Steve Jobs used both parts of his brain to develop iPhones, iPads and similar products. Mark Zuckerbeg also used both parts of his brain to come up with facebook. Still, both these great people had not had a balanced life at some point of their lives, and that made them to travel all the way from the U.S.A. to India to seek advice of spiritual gurus. This proves that using mind alone can not give you a balanced life. And the way forward? Our soul will come to the help of our mind!

It is very characteristic for spiritual gurus to discourse that spirituality — do not confuse spirituality with religion as they are two different things — is the panacea for a contented life. I have one question to those gurus: If all people follow this only cure called spirituality for a contented life, who will work at agricultural farms, paddy fields and factories to generate food to feed the mankind, including you? And, ultimately, spirituality can not light up a bulb, we need science for that.

Go out for a phiysival exercise to enrich your body(physical) and develop a disciplined exercise regime for you. A study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or M.I.T., showed that an exercise regime of 452 minutes in a week was the saturation point beyond which there would not be any incremental benefits. Read self-help books and (auto)biographies of great souls to stimulate your mind. Do charity like visiting hospitals to see terminally ill people and help them in whatever the way possible; help someone who needs money to buy medicines; visit elderly homes and help the inmates to carry out their daily life, etc. Such actions will give you a lot of happy feelings — emotional — to you. Once in a while go to a quiet place that is away from maddening crowds, sit alone, pray — talk to yourself — and meditate — talk to the divinity, the supreme power who resides within you.

In order to have a balanced life, we need to give room to all these four natures in our life. These four are born to be interconnected; hence, let it be so without blocking their inter-linked wiring. In other words, they need to be synergised to create a seamless-being — balanced life — in you

Have a balanced life 🙂

Peruvian Pages

In Latin America, Peru is the country that I visited maximum number of times, seven visits. And incidentally, it is also the country that I liked the most from a plethora of countries which I visited as part of my job from 2004. My maiden visit to Peru was in 2008, and I fell in love with the country during the first visit itself for a myriad of reasons. Among these reasons, Peruvian cuisines and its people are the ones that made me an affectionate fan of Peru.

If you are visiting the capital city, Lima, Miraflores is the best place to stay as it is “a happening place.” The best attraction at Miraflores is the Kennedy Park: a large area in the size of around 5-football grounds and located in the heart of the city. The park has many attractions to savor around: a majestic cathedral named Parroquia La Virgen Milagrosa – it is an architectural marvel with ornate interiors; a low-grounded and round-designed amphitheater which is the venue for music bands, dancing and various other shows, with spectators sitting and staying around it to watch the shows; another amphitheater of polished concrete short-pillars for people to sit and chit-chat, and I saw a competition of wordy-duel  — similar to the Indian Anthakshari —  taking place here; painting exhibitions by local artists; makeshift souvenir shops; mobile fast-food units that sell traditional food; and many such attractions. Evenings are the times when the park is in its maximum capacity utilization as people throng it in hundreds. On either outer-side of the park, there are plenty of restaurants, pubs, discotheques, etc. to unwind at the end of the day. The park also has tourist-information office which arranges city-bus tours.

I did such a bus ride that took me to Huaca Pucllana, an 800-year old archaeological site having the ruins from pre-Inca era. It is completely built with mud-bricks and has seven uneven platforms. The archaeological records show that the advancement of the Lima culture has its foundational base on this structure. A 15-minute walk from Miraflores will take you to Larcomar, a shopping center built on the seaside mountainous-elevation of Lima, and you can have panoramic views of the beautiful shoreline from here. The shopping center and its accompanying-surroundings stretch a few kilometres, and there are walkways all along for you to take a stroll and enjoy the place. The center has both indoor and outdoor areas with many eateries and other shopping spots. You can get a curved view of the shoreline from Larcomar and an illuminating view in the evenings when the lights go live. 

Centro de Lima – Central Lima –  is the main commercial area in Lima, dotted with many Spanish-era architectures and bristling with hustle bustle of business activities. If you are a business traveler, you cannot miss this place. For tourists, too, the place offers a lot of shopping avenues. Do visit the China Town at the Central if you are fond of Chinese cuisines as they are many Chinese restaurants here. Peru has  a small  population of Chinese, Japanese and Africans, who or their ancestors immigrated to Peru and got themselves integrated into the society and the culture – they are now Peruvians. Remember Alberto Fujimori, the ex-President who had to flee to Japan in order to escape from imprisonment? Well, his daughter, Keiko Fujimori, is active in the Peruvian politics.

Peru is a foodies’ paradise! Fasten your seatbelt for a gastronomic ride 🙂 Peruvian food is the tastiest food in the world! I had traveled across the world and savored many cuisines like Chinese, Far-Eastern, Vietnamese, South Asian, Mexican, African and many others but would rate Peruvian culinary as the most savoring one, even keeping above the cuisines of my own country, India. What makes Peruvian food so delicious? One interesting aspect about Peruvian food is that it, unlike Indian or Chinese cuisines, hardly uses oil in its preparation, resultant that we can feel the taste of the ingredients in their natural flavors. In India, we use lot of oil in food, and in that process, we miss out the natural flavors of many ingredients — oil partially takes ingredients off their natural flavors and gives a different taste. Furthermore, overuse of oil makes the Indians more prone to high rate of heart ailments. Recently, I read that the Indians were genetically prone to heart-attacks, and it might be because of our food habits over thousands of years. Another factor that makes Peruvian food irresistible is that Peru has lots of tasty curry-ingredients that are only bearable-spicy, not spicy or very spicy like Indian curry-ingredients.

Let me present before you a tantalizing array of Peruvian cuisines: Cold-cooked Ceviche, Mariscos (seafood), Pescado (fish based varieties), Pollo a la Brasa (Roasted Chicken), Arroz con Pato (Rice With Duck), Aji de Gallina (Creamy Chicken), Chicha Morada – a natural delicious juice – Inca Kola etc. Coca Cola company could not beat Inca Kola when it launched Coke in Peru, and even today Inca Kola is the market leader. But the corporate giant had its strategy clear so bought the Inca Kola company. Still, Coke is behind Inca Kola in terms of market share. That is the kind of  tasty value of Inca Kola!!

Peru experiences frequent but mild tremors. On an average, around 50 mild tremors happen in a month, but there is nothing to worry, for they are mostly innocuous and of less magnitude. There was an earthquake of 5.50 magnitude in Peru, 120 km SE of Lima, around 3 p.m. on a day when I was there. No casualties were reported as the hypocenter was 74 km, thankfully. I was inside an office building at that time in Lima, and a tremor was felt — first as a bang on the building, then, the building shook for a few seconds. It was my first experience with a tremor! Wow! We all ran out of the building but went back soon as it was back to normal quickly. Peru is situated within the “The Pacific Ring of Fire,” the most active seismic region that passes through Asia, Russia, New Zealand, Antarctica, North America, Central America and South America. Wikipedia says, “About 90% of the world’s earthquakes and 81% of the world’s largest earthquakes occur along the “Ring of Fire.”

As I experienced from many trips to Peru, the people are friendly who welcome visitors with a warm hug and a peck on the cheek. I felt them honest and straightforward. They walk that extra mile to help strangers and acquaintance. And I experienced this magnanimity while I was prospecting for a customer, when someone, for whom I was a stranger and who had become a good friend of mine later, selflessly helped me a lot to reach to the customer with whom we are doing business now. Whenever I visit Peru, I make it a point to meet her and say ‘thank you.’ Also, I noticed that the Peruvians are go-getters, take life easy, work five-day week and unwind during the weekends with fun and frolic. Peru and its people offer jovial, memorable times for visitors. Notwithstanding the works, I enjoyed my Peruvian days and have a treasure trove of beautiful memoirs. So the blog ends here. No, how can I close the blog on Peru without saying about Mach Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World?  Well, I made a trip to Machu Picchu, but those mesmerizing experience deserves a separate blog. Stay tuned, coming soon 🙂 

The following are a few photo and video links which have some of the nice moments I captured from Lima:

Some Healthy Thoughts

A drive from my home village, Chavara Thekkumbhagom in Kollam district, Kerala, India, to another city, Cochin, where I did my graduation and had settled down now, is a 3-hr journey. During such a drive recently, I gave way to more than 10 speeding-ambulances each in either way!! There were not many ambulances on the road  in the yesteryears, I remembered from my student days. Nowadays, scenes of speeding-ambulances carrying patients-in-critical condition became a common feature, sadly.

Dialysis was only a topic in Biology classes while learning about kidneys. Now, there are many who have to undergo artificial dialysis once or twice in a week to continue to live, for their kidneys are no more capable of doing that function — dialysis has become a common word in day-to-day life. What happened to our health? 

Poisonous vegetables resulting from rampant use of pesticides and other dangerous chemicals during both cultivation and post-harvest phase; food adulteration; over dependence on processed food; uninhibited consumption of junk food; and sedentary lifestyle are some of the reasons that are killing our health, with people reaching elderly stage much earlier and dying prematurely. 

Processed food and eating from restaurants are playing a bigger damaging role. In this fast-pitched life, dining out has become an unavoidable part of our food habits. How safe are the restaurant foods? For the purpose of understanding, let us take tasty food as the one that has natural ingredients in the right mix and very-tasty food as the one which has additives for enhancing taste. My friends referred a few restaurants to me, saying that food served there were very-tasty. Yes, they were right as I had dined at those restaurants and found that the food served were very-tasty: fish curry, sambar and all the food tasted much better than they ought to have been; even the colors of the curries were more intense than the combined color-strengths of the ingredients. The question that came to my mind: what tricks these restaurants have up their sleeves that make food very-tasty compared to the tasty food that my mom used to make at our kitchen and that I ate sumptuously?

Any food that is tastier than it should naturally be is a possible sign of adulteration with colors and taste-enhancers. We should shun such restaurants that serve very-tasty food because they enhance tastes by artificial additives like Mono Sodium Glutamate, or M.S.G., a chemical that turn dangerous when used in excess. By having food from such restaurants, we are chewing down a future disease. Let us keep our eyes open and taste buds responsibly responsive to differentiate between tasty food and very-tasty food.

A few worrying statistics from my province, Kerala, India: around 50,000 people get cancer per annum in Kerala, and that means 137 people go cancerous everyday. Cochin, a district in Kerala, has a population of 3.28 million, and those who are doing artificial dialysis stand at 126,000 — in every 26 persons, one person is living on artificial dialysis. I think the situation will be more or less similar in other parts of India as well as the world.

As it stands now, food-safety check on vegetables at myriad vegetable shops is impractical. And even if samples are taken from shops, laboratory tests take a week to give results, but by that time, the vegetables would have been already digested. Is there an easy way to find out at Point of Sale, or P.O.S., pesticide levels on vegetables? To cite two parallels:  pH paper is an inexpensive, quick method to decide the extent of alkalinity or acidity within a minute; similarly, chlorine paper for the level of chlorination. Is it possible to develop a.n instant, inexpensive method like these for checking pesticide levels in vegetables at P.O.S. by consumers? I think governments across the globe and organisations like Food and Agricultural Organization should invest in R&D to develop such a P.O.S. material and give them free of cost to peoples. If this happens, people will stop buying poisonous vegetables when they see “through their eyes.” No scope for corruption or political interference by vegetable-trade mafias in this simple method, besides, saving the precious lives of people as well as reducing the burden on the national exchequers on public health care. 

What do we do to save ourselves from this all-pervasive, rampaging health hazards at personal level?  Changing to organically cultivated vegetables, eating at homes and limiting dining outside, and sweating it out in exercises are some of the things we can do at personal level. We should take the responsibility of our health into our hands  by having enough discretion on the type of food we eat. 

Let’s resolve and act to keep ambulances and artificial dialyses out of our lives.

Global Warming, Antarctica and My Village

I was born in a village named “Chavara Thekkumbhagom” in the Kollam district of Kerala, India. It is an island, and my home is on the bank of a brackish water body called “Chavara Kayal,” which is an offshoot of a bigger “Ashttamudi Kayal” that estuaries with the Arabian Sea. The Arabian Sea connects to the Indian Ocean that extends to Antarctica. The Indian Ocean touches the Atlantic Ocean, which reaches up to the Arctic. You may be wondering why I am talking about all the oceans and waters.

I met my childhood friend, Santhosh, when I visited my village last time, and he told me that nowadays the water levels were going up and encroaching onto our village land. I told him it was because of the melting of ice in the Antarctica and the Arctic due to global warming. He was perplexed and asked how ice-melting at thousands of miles away could inundate our village. I paused for a while and told him that almost all the oceans and seas were interconnected and that nature of the topographies of the oceans and seas was same. 

He was not answered, so I explained: Imagine that you are walking down from a beach to sea. As you walk down and further down, water level rises as depth increases, and this gradual increase of depth from beach to sea or ocean happens up to 200 nautical miles off shore. This 200-nautical mile area is called continental shelf. From the end of continental shelf, the depth-sloping becomes steeper and this area is called continental slope, which is located between 3000 – 4000 meter water depths. After the continental slope, there is continental rise, which is formed by the cascading sediments form continental shelf and slope. The continental slope and the continental rise together are called the continental margin. The end of continental margin touches the floor of ocean/sea called Abyssal Plain. And this is the general topography of all the oceans and seas on earth.

Abyssal plain have trenches — deeper pockets. The Marina trench in the Pacific Ocean is the known deepest point on this earth with a depth of 10,994 meters from the Abyssal plain. Though the volume of water that an ocean holds varies among oceans, the surface levels of the oceans and seas are almost at the same level as they are all interconnected and that they have the same topographical structural format. So when ice melts in Antartica, it releases water to the Indian Ocean that, then, pushes extra water — after holding what it could — to the Arabian Sea. I told my friend to imagine like he is walking back from the Abyssal Plain to the beach, and it is exactly like this waking-back that oceans/seas push water to the shores, thus, water encroaching onto the land.

As our village is connected to the Arabian Sea, a part of the Antarctica water reaches to our village, too, as seen in the increasing water levels and its encroaching onto our village lands. I also told him the same thing happened when ice melted in the Arctic. 

He asked me what we could do to reduce or stop global warming. I told him that there were lots of things our governments could do to bring down global warming. But at personal level, we can do many things: walk, instead of hiring a taxi or auto rickshaw, if the distance is small — this will bring down fuel consumption, hence, less production of greenhouse gases that cause global warming; avoid wasting electricity by switching of electric gadgets and lights when they are not needed — less coal or diesel burning to produce electricity; car pooling; using public transport whenever possible; demanding from our legislative and parliamentary representatives to bring laws needed to cut down carbon-footage; planting trees, etc. are some of the ways we can contribute at personal level to mitigate global warming.

As more and more ice melts in Antarctica and Arctic, my friend, me, my villagers and scores of villagers around the world and all of us are getting affected, irrespective of how far away we are from those places. We need to fight global warming as a society as well as do our bits at personal levels.

Some Physics and Biology of Living A Life of Positivity and Youthfulness

Space is a significant physical factor that plays a dominant role in deciding physical properties of matter — what is there in a given space and how they behave within that space under certain conditions. If we adapt this concept of space to understand human attitude, space is our Intellectual Sum, or I.S. and that what we manage within that space decides our characteristic attitude, with the exception that we have the power to choose, hence, can overcome conditions to change the course for better or worse. And the constituents of I.S. are a conscious decision by us. Likewise physical space, I.S is also an infinite space which, as you fill it with more and more constituents, expands more and more to create even bigger space to fill.

It is a known physical fact that positive forces create forward momentum while reverse/negative forces can negate and/or counter-balance such momentum — examples like accelerator and breaking-system; centrifugal and centripetal forces, etc. Similarly, positive thoughts generate and radiate the energy needed to propel us forward while negative thoughts bog us down mentally and physically.

A few self-engulfing and debilitating negative thoughts are jealousy, hatred, lack of self-esteem, revenge and unappreciative outlook, and these thoughts shrink our I.S. to occupy themselves as the domineering forces which produce only negative energy — uneasiness and a disturbed mindset. We get tied down in that negative state, with each of these negative forces feeding by itself as time passes, negating needed-progression in our life.

Love, kindness, forgiveness, appreciating-mind and humility are some of the thoughts that take us forward because these thoughts produce positive energy — peace and tranquility. The negative forces not only bridle our progression in life but also cause irreparable damage to your physical and mental health. On the other hand, if you fill your I.S. with positive thoughts, then your life will be filled with energy and youthfulness, even extending your lifespan. Let me bring some biology to illustrate this with an example as detailed below.

I happened to read a piece written by a doctor a few years back, and it goes like this: Human body is the largest chemical factory in the world. When we get angry and have negative feelings like hatred, jealousy, etc., then certain enzymes — chemicals — will be produced in our body, and these chemicals will get accumulated in our body over a period of time, leading to diseases like ulcer, etc. On the other side, when we are happy and filled with positive feelings like kindness, forgiveness, love, humility, then also certain enzymes will be produced in our body. And these enzymes smoothens our cell-membranes. As you may know, hardening of cell-membranes — wrinkles —  is a sign of aging. In Malayalam language, there is an adage:”ഒരുപാട് ചിരിക്കുന്നവർ ഒരുപാടു നാൾ ജീവിച്ചിരിക്കും.” It translates like this: “Those who laugh a lot live longer.” Well, laughter is a sign of happiness. The medical explanation given by the doctor is the essence of this adage.

Do realize that when you get jealous of anyone, then nothing happens to that person, but you are damaging your health, besides, wasting valuable time to think about and act to progress in life; similarly, anger kills you, not the person you get angry at. Buddha knew it 2500 years ago, and he said, “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” When you do a charity — a form of kindness — you help someone as much as you help yourselves; when you smile at and talk to someone politely, you are generating goodwill in that person as much you do in yourself; and when you forgive your enemy, you generate as much peace and tranquility in you as you do in your enemy.

Fill your Intellectual Space with positive constituents and lead a life with positive energy — peace and tranquility —  and youthfulness. If you find that your Intellectual Space is filled with negative constituents, get rid of them and fill it with these positive constituents because you have the power to choose. Live a life of positivity and youthfulness!

Ideological Limitations

It is hard to find anyone who does not follow an ideology. We are born with no ideology, but as we grow up, we are bound  to get tied up  — or down? — with one or other ideology. And this is a natural course that our social upbringing takes us through. However, following an ideology or getting blindly tied to an ideology does not allow you to explore the full potential of your existence, for human life is so complex and multi-dimensional that it would not be possible for one ideology to capture its meaning fully. Furthermore, humanity faces multi-dimensional problems, and one stand-alone ideology can not provide solutions to all such problems. 

The richest man, Bill Gates, who made millions of people rich and created jobs for millions, started Bill Melinda Charity Foundation to provide aid to the poor sections of the society across the globe. Why a person like him, who champions capitalism which does not have anything called charity but profit as the sole mantra, started a charity organization? Because he knew that capitalism — an ideology — alone could not solve the problems of humanity. Around 30 years back, Deng Xiao Ping started a new model for his country, China: a blend of  economic capitalism with political socialism. Deng realized that the ideology of socialism could not solve the problems of the Chinese people, more specifically: poverty alleviation. So he decided to bring in capitalism, though in a controlled way, and allowed it to play its part to solve the problems of his people. Both these are examples of visionaries who understand that it is futile to insist on one ideology — and pooh pooh other ideologies — to solve all the problems of humanity.

The biggest harm that an ideology does to man is it blinds him from seeing truth . Man came first, and ideologies were made later. So man is more important than ideology. Still, why people kill others because of ideological differences? Knowledge predates man, so man acquired knowledge which actually form the foundation of any ideology. Even when you follow multiple ideologies, you can can still end up in serious differences with people who follow other ideologies. Why so? The answer for both questions is the same:  ideology ties you down to a limited knowledge base and stops you form seeing truth. Why are you, even when you possess knowledge, not able to see truth?  Because truth is beyond knowledge, so beyond ideologies. As long as you are bound to an ideology or ideologies and  even when you posses massive knowledge on these ideologies, it is highly likely that you will miss truth, so the judgment, too. 

The ultimate bliss a man can have is the ability to find and see truth because that gives him freedom to be human beyond all ideologies. So go beyond the limited knowledge-bases of ideologies and enjoy the ultimate freedom to be a human. Let me conclude by a quote from a address by Steve Jobs during a convocation: “Don’t be dogmatic, create your own milestones.” To create your own milestones, you need to go beyond the existing knowledge base, seek more knowledge and travel further that will ultimately takes you to truth.

A Possible Way to “Nothing is Impossible”

You would have used this adage, “Nothing is impossible” at least once in your life; I did it many a time. What do these three words mean? A straight answer: Everything is possible. But if you think a bit more, you will get a better answer that there is no problem which evades a solution. We use this adage as a self-assuring encouragement when we confront seemingly insurmountable situations or to motivate others to overcome uphill tasks. However, these three words, especially impossible, open the gate to a much deeper thinking and understanding. Can you think this way that I love impossibles because they are my window to new opportunities to progress in life? 

Impossibles offer a hitherto unexplored future value. But how do we unlock this future value?  Or, what is there inside?

Impossibles that offer future value? Impossibles are not impediments but triggers and reasons for innovations. Possible comes with a solution while impossible comes with ways to a solution that is yet to be found. Unless we find those ways, we can not overcome impossible. In other words, impossibles put break on our natural course and force us to change the course. But if we confront impossibles head-on, our mind will start to innovate to find ways to overcome impossibles. For this to happen, it is, however, inevitable to develop a mindset that sees impossibles as positive hurdles which come in our way to kindle our thoughts and unleash their potential to explore hitherto unexplored areas of our mind. How to develop such a mindset? Let me explain it with an example of a famous dream that made immense contributions to Organic Chemistry, resulting in the inventions of many medicines that save precious lives.

August Kekule, German chemist, discovered the benzene ring structure in a dream in which he saw a snake biting its own tail. For days and months preceding this dream, he was not able to arrive at the fact that carbon atom can bond with itself, so the following remained as impossible before him: how six carbon atoms — carbon has incongruent bonding-valency with hydrogen —  can bond with six hydrogen to form benzene?  This stood  as a wall before him. So, how the dream that revealed the structure had happened?  

If we keep a problem —  an impossible that we are not able to crack —  in the active frame of mind, over a period of time, our mind will reveal an answer to that problem. Active frame of mind is that part of our conscious mind where thoughts connected with daily routines happen, and this part of the mind works out various permutations and combinations to solve problems that come up in our daily life. Bring your impossible to this active frame of mind and let it be there — this is a conscious action which demands your deliberate thinking. As time passes, your active frame of mind will keep the problem in an active state of thinking, and at some point of time, your mind will reveal the answer to that problem — impossible becomes possible. Kekule kept the question: how six carbon atoms — carbon has incongruent bonding-valency with hydrogen —   can bond with six hydrogen to form benzene in his active frame of mind, resulting in revealing to him that carbon atom can bond with itself through the dream of a snake biting its own tail — carbon bonding with itself.

I have experienced revealing of answers to many impossibles that I faced whenever I kept them in my active frame of mind. I, still, practice it, and many of the thoughts that I expressed through my blog page and other social media like fb were the results of this practice. Be happy when you confront an impossible, for an expert has arrived to set your mind on fire to clear the way for a new path. Welcome impossibles with open arms as they are here to open the doors of possibles in you for a better future.  Let “Nothing is impossible” be dearer!

Happiness

Someone asked me how to be happy in life. I told him to do good things without expecting anything in return. He did not leave me, saying that good and bad are relative terms and that it is difficult to differentiate good from bad. I explained to him that any action of ours that generates positive energy in us is a good thing. Not convinced, he continued to be dogging. I have further explained that happiness is not an adjective but an output of our actions. And those actions witch can be justified against the yardstick of righteousness are good things. It is not possible to be happy without being righteous because both are mutually inclusive.

Many a time, people misunderstand pleasure for happiness though these two are different. Pleasure is an effervescence that gives temporary feel-goodness but fades away over a period of time. A spray of perfumes can give you a feel-good confidence about your personality, but the scent fades sooner than later; liquor can give you momentary high, but that also runs out within hours. On the other hand, happiness is the feeling inundated in you from doing a good thing is stable and long-standing. Try to remember a good thing that you did like providing succor to a friend or helping a stranger to tide over a financial problem and that you did both without expecting anything in return. Even if these things happened years ago, you could still be feeling the happiness of them. You can remember a pleasure but not feel, but happiness can be remembered as well as felt.  

Coming back to his point of how to be happy in life, he conclusively asked me this: so happiness is derived from doing good things without expecting anything in return. Right?  I smiled 🙂 at him, and he smiled back 🙂

Bits and Bytes from Mexico City

As part of my job, I was in Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, for the last five day. The city has a population of 8.80 million, so one can find many people on the road but not like the waves of people in Mumbai or Shanghai. I had a long haul journey of 30 hours to Mexico City from Dubai. And in this way, I was fortunate to have two Saturdays last week! The travel was uneventful, with a trouble-free passage out of the airport. I was received by the warmth of the winter that had just set in at the city. This narration is intended to be only informative to someone who may visit the city sometime in future.

I stayed at Reforma Avenue, the safest part of the city as well as the city center — a place where one can venture out even during night as there are regular police patrols at this area. Mexico City is not that safe as we wish, so one needs to be a bit careful while going outdoor. In that aspect, Reforma Avenue is an assured place. I landed on a Saturday so got a Sunday to roam around and see the place. When sought help, the hotel staff directed me to Alameda Central, and I had an entertaining walk of 20 minutes from Reforma Avenue to the Central. The hotel staff advised me not to take a taxi but walk to not miss roadside-performance by artists and other Sunday-specials.

As I walked, there were many things that caught my attention: a thoroughfare that is completely closed for the vehicular traffic in order to allow cyclists to have a carefree cycling day — children, youth, elderly, men and women cycling their way to wherever to; and a man sitting at the pathway, playing clarinet and entreating a crowd.— he is making his livelihood as the box kept by him was weighing in with coins and notes proffered by the onlookers. And there were many similar performances along the way. 

As i walked along, I reached a place where the city’s main cultural centre:: The Palacio de Bellas Artes was located. Its ambiance is a panoramic place for photo-ops. Visiting this edifice is worth as it has its inside floor-walls painted with beautifully portrayed and informative murals, depicting the colonial times, besides, many other historical and contemporary artifacts and similar materials that will add value to your knowledge. It is also an Opera House. If you are in Mexico City, do not miss out this precious one.

From this edifice-junction to Alameda Central, there is a well-laid, cleanly maintained lane that had a sea of humanity flowing like a river last Sunday. It was enthralling to be a drop of that river, flowing along with the crowd, sometimes being temporarily stopped by roadside-artists like the ones who dressed up as cartoon characters and those who disguise themselves by painting their body in various colors and standing still like statutes, etc. The crowd walked into the Alameda Central like a river estuaries with a sea, so did I. 

At Alameda Central, there are many Spanish-era architectural wonders: a majestic, towering cathedral named Catedral Metropoltana De la Ciudad de Mexico; a large building that is the presidential office; City Palace; and many such wonderful edifices. The Central square is a large one, like the size of around four football grounds.  It is a place for military parades during occasions like National Day, etc. You can walk around and enjoy the place. This place has currency exchange centers — no need to show passport to change currency. This is the best place to buy souvenirs. If you are fortunate, you can see the dance performance by Aztec tribals. I had that fortune, and it was a visually sumptuous meal to watch their traditionally choreographed dance sequence  — I have no hesitation to say that watching their dance was the best moments I had at the city. You can hang  around for 4 to 5 hours as there enough to see and learn.

On my way back, I had the opportunity to relish some traditional Mexican food. When it comes to Mexican food, one that you get at roadside eateries are as good as that you get at a fine restaurant.  Azul Historico  is a fine restaurant to dine — it has am ambiance of a naturally-set trees inside a building. One can savor the Mexican delicacies like Tacios, Tostadas, etc. If you wish to unwind at the end of the day, visit Sona Rosa, a place where you will find many pubs, discotheques, etc. It is situated at Reforma Avenue. 

Metro trains, buses and taxies are the main modes of transport. I have traveled by bus which has a dedicated corridor to ply and are clean, well maintained with two connected-cars. While hiring taxis, one has to be careful as there can be a possibility that taxi guy may waylay you. It is better to use Uber or hotel taxi or a taxi that has the complete details of the driver pasted on the side-window.

At Reforma Avenue, there is a spot called Alameda Plaza, where, on Sundays, temporary food-stalls are put up and people come in to dine and dance. It is a square where they play music and  people dance to their glory. — youth and elderly alike do sequencing dance movements like a flow, and it is a moment when you feel like to go out and dance.  As I was there on a Sunday, I had the chance to witness the dance and to dine at the place. 

I have only good memories of Mexico City, and some of which were captured through my mobile camera. But I am unable to upload those photos and video here, hence,  giving the fb-links of them below.

From Short Temper to Maturity

One of the shortcomings I confront in life is short temper. Everyone wishes to have maturity, the diametrically opposite of short temper. How can one overcome short temper and be a matured person? To find answer to this question, we need to understand what exactly short temper and maturity are.

Short temper is the impulsive — thoughtless — reaction while maturity is the state of being completely aware and self-assuring of what one talks or does in a given situation. In order to understand further, let’s call this impulsive reaction as First Response, or F.R., and maturity as Second Response, or S.R. A close look at our reactive dynamics shows that short temper is inherent in our personality, hence, unavoidable but not inevitable. In other words, if we are able to contain F.R., then we can overcome short temper. 

For easy understanding, let me explain the difference between unavoidable and inevitable. Unavoidable is something that is almost certain to happen, still, can be avoided through conscious action; inevitable is something that is certain to happen, hence, can not be avoided under any circumstances. Our actions can be unavoidable, but consequences of our actions are inevitable. Let us look at the following example: If we throw a stone at a certain velocity, at certain angle of elevation and under certain atmospheric conditions, it will fall at a certain place. We can repeat this experiment with the same stone falling at the same place if we maintain all the conditions same, so the falling of the stone — a consequence of the action of throwing the stone — at the same place is inevitable. This is the basic principle of missile technology. But to throw a stone or fire a missile to an enemy territory can, still, be avoided — an avoidable action.

As short temper is an impulsive response, the best way to contain it is to NOT express it to the outside world but express within ourselves, followed by quickly evaluating if the F.R, is appropriate and befitting to the given situation, and if such evaluation asks us to make necessary changes to F.R., do it quickly. In this way, you can modify your F.R. and develop it into a new response which can be your S.R. If you find that F.R. is totally inappropriate, then abandon it completely without looking to modify it and come out with an appropriate new response — S.R.  And in both these cases of S.R., our thought-process is in action, so S.R.  is a thoughtful outcome, unlike F.R. A thoughtful response is a sign of maturity.

Once we internalize the above habit and put it into practice, time gap between F.R. and S.R. will get smaller and smaller, for our speed of thinking gets accelerated as a consequential default.  Over a period of time, such internal conversion of First Response into Second Response will happen in seconds and that we will start to express our Second Response as almost quickly as First Response that we, otherwise, would have given.

Develop an internalizing habit where you initially express only to yourself and that you will modify your thoughtless First Response to a thoughtful Second Response or that you develop an altogether new Second Response to eliminate short temper. Is Second Response an all-inclusive, one-shot panacea to be a matured person? The genius writer, James Allen, in his best-selling book titled “As A Man Thinketh” —  the most powerful book that I had ever read — says, “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.” As I stated earlier, our thought-process is in action during the formation of S.R. As the Second Response is an outcome of our thoughts, it will be a natural coursing down, as James Allen says, that you will start to act in a matured way in accordance with your thought. Hence, the realization that Second Response is the way to your maturity.

Curiosity

Curiosity is probably the most valuable boon that man is blessed with, for without curiosity we stand still and stagnated. Curiosity is that what took the hunter-gatherer Homo Sapiens of more than 90000 years old to the present-day Artificial-Intelligence-producing man. All the inventions and discoveries that mankind had seen were the results of the effort put in by the people to find answers to satisfy their curiosity. Aeroplanes that enable you to cross distant frontiers in time shorter than ever imagined; medicines that save us from illness and diseases, fridge that keeps food away from spoilage; and name anything before your eyes, all are the results of satisfying the curiosity by asking questions that were never asked or answered before.

Curiosity is the inner urge to know. In order to satisfy your curiosity, you need answers which demand you to ask questions, and to ask questions, you need to have a fearless mind. And a fearless mind is the product of socio-politico-cultural freedom that an individual enjoys in a society. This translates into freedom to think and express the thoughts without the fear of retribution or victimization by the social, political and cultural institutions in a society.

Any system that stops people from asking questions is inherently designed to stagnate. A nation where individuals are afraid of the political and cultural systems and that such fears kill their curiosity will not be able to innovate anything for the progress of humanity. Have you ever wondered why inventions and discoveries are happening in USA, Europe and in similarly socially and politically progressive nations and not in authoritarian counties like China or Russia? Why new ideas that resulted in the inventions of aeroplanes, computer, Internet, Uber, Amazon, google, facebook, came from U.S.A., not from China or Russia?  

Shale oil is there beneath the seabed of most of the oceans, but no country had the technology to take it out on a cost-effective basis. Then, the Americans invented the fracking technology which changed the entire crude oil dynamics, including the Middle-Eastern geopolitical impact on crude oil price. Today, USA is the largest producer of crude oil, with more than 12 millions barrels per day, or bpd — a giant leap from 4-million bpd during the pre-shale time — being pumped out. And that keeps crude oil price very much in check. So, why the Americans, not the Chinese or the Russians, invented the fracking technology? Well, the Chinese then followed the Americans and are now using the same fracking technology to pump out shale oil. 

All these and similar inventions — all are the results of satisfying of the curious minds — came from these progressive nations because the peoples there were not afraid of anything while asking questions to satisfy their curiosity. China and Russia are not innovators — except in the military  and military-related sectors like space where these governments allow asking questions unreservedly, for it benefits their regimes —  but mostly followers of ideas that were already invented and in practice. This is not because the Chinese or the Russians are less intellectual than the Americans and the Europeans, but the political systems in these countries did not give them the freedom to think without fear.

It is important for the peoples of the world to remain vigilant against the attempts to stifle our freedom to think without fear.  Otherwise, humanity will be artificially-destined to stagnate, not to progress.

Choose Erase Over Delete

Delete and erase are two words that the computer-world had given to me to ponder over. Prima facie they sound the same, but technically and meaningfully they are not. When we were students, we had pencil, rubber and eraser; not pencil, rubber and deleter. Why eraser, not deleter?

I searched in vain for the word: unerase or its synonym on my computer menu. I, however, was easily successful to find undelete button. So computer allows “delete” to have an option to undelete, but “erase” was not given such a chance. In other words, whatever deleted could be brought back to life, but those that were erased were gone forever. These two meaningful words are very much in action in our life.

Painful past, disappointments, let downs, unfulfilled promises, ill-treatment meted out to us, backstabbing done to us and all such debilitating baggage of the past should be subjected to erase, not undelete, for they should never be given an opportunity to come back and disturb our peaceful life. In his best selling book,“The Road Less Traveled,” M. Scott Peck says that our brain is like a computer hard disk which has limited space to store memory-bytes and that if we allow our unwanted past memories to clutter this limited space, there will not be enough space to store new things that you learn in our life. Have you heard about the term: past history? How is it different from history? Past history is that part of our history that we had buried and laid to rest forever with absolutely no chance of them coming back to haunt you. 

How to erase bad memories? It is easier said than done. Let’s go back to computer and see how it erases. It has a software program that enables erasing — permanent, irreversible removal of unwanted stuff — when you click the erase button. And in the same way, you can do it in your personal life. For that you have to take a conscious decision — program your mind — that all those unwanted, bad memories have no place in my life and they are made to leave me forever permanently and irreversibly. If you take such a conscious decision, I repeat conscious decision, it WILL happen.

Our mind has two chambers — conscious mind and subconscious mind. Conscious mind is a thinking mind while subconscious mind is a reactive mind. Subconscious mind can only respond to conscious mind; subconscious mind CANNOT think on its own. It reacts and follows exactly what your conscious mind — thinking mind — asks for. If you keep your conscious mind active with the thought that bad memories have no place in my life and keep that active state for a period of, say, 90 days and tell yourself that thought 3 times a day, your subconscious mind will develop a program that by default erases things which you do not want as and when you give such a command to your subconscious mind. This 90-day technique is the one I learned from the book: “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” by Joseph Murphy, and he has explained with lots of examples how to have a life without worries if you utilize the power of your subconscious mind. I strongly recommend to all to read this book.

Like a little child who used the eraser to efface all those not-good drawings from your drawing books, you must erase all your not-good histories — convert history to past history — and live a life that will have enough space to learn and internalize new things in order to progress forward.

Arm’s-Length

We shake hands with people when we meet them as a matter of courtesy but do not embrace them; we do not embrace even acquaintances but only shake their hands. And embrace is reserved for friends who are intimate and who, we trust, will not do any harm to us. So the phrase of arm’s-length teaches us one thing: Keep people at a SAFE distance if we are not sure that they are trustworthy.

I happened to see my neighbor’s  daughter wearing spectacles, saying that she had short-sight. I was surprised to hear it as she was too young to have such a problem. To my query, she replied that she got an eye problem after using laptop-computer regularly. But I explained to her that the frequency of computer-usage was not the real cause of such a problem as people like me, who use computers regularly for work, should have got the same problem if it were so. I see many such children and youngsters wearing spectacles due to similar eye-sight problems though such problems normally visit people when they begin their journeys from 40.

How can we save our children and also us from such avoidable problems? Some technologies are like acquaintances that should not be embraced. Hence, we should keep an arm’s-length — SAFE distance, literally — while dealing with such technologies. Do teach and make our children, even ourselves, to practice to keep electronic gadgets like computers, mobile-handsets, etc. at an arm’s-length so that a SAFE distance is ensured to avoid any harm.

Advertising Hoodwinks

Honesty is most tested when it is least demanded. When I want to hear lies, I watch TV adverts; there are plenty for indigestion: an advert showing a man wearing a boxer short, jumping from a multi-storeyed building and landing perfectly in a car which is ready to be driven by a blonde. Wow, the girl is impressed with the man, thanks to that brand of boxer short. Another one: an array of brands of Ayurvedic products which claim to give you protection from diseases though I am not aware of any Ayurvedic doctor prescribing any such products.

Dark-complexioned woman becoming fair-complexioned in a span of 7 days; dirt is good, so wallow in a pool of muddy water if you happen to fall in it; children growing taller when they take a particular brand of health-food – an insult to our DNA; etc. And these adverts are endorsed by celebrities, with thousands getting paid in millions to create these true-lies in the name of marketing and millions spending billions to buy such brands.

When strength of reality is too weak to support a product, marketers rely on steroid-advertising. Alas, when will consumers have the realization?

%d bloggers like this: