23 Jul 2015

Why 'Secularism' is making Monkeys Out of Us

Disclaimer: This post is not aimed at any religion or people of specific beliefs. It is aimed at those pseudo-secularists who consider themselves ‘vigilantes’ and ‘protectors of justice’.

In a particularly popular experiment, some scientists put 3 monkeys in a cage. The cage also had a ladder. A bunch of bananas was tied to the celling of the cage. The monkeys could get to it once they climbed the ladder. The catch, however, was that every time a monkey was within touching distance of the bananas, the scientists induced a shock (a controlled shock. Animal activists please don’t wet your pants). Eventually, the monkeys decided that it was wise to not reach for the bananas.

The scientists then added a new monkey to the cage. The first thing it tried was to climb the ladder (duh! Bananas!). But no sooner did the monkey start climbing than it was beaten by the others. Every time the monkey tried to climb the ladder it got whacked. Eventually it stopped trying too. None of the monkeys ever reached for the bananas though the scientists had stopped inducing the shock.

After a few days, the 3 monkeys who were a part of the experiment when it began, were replaced with a new one. This is where things got interesting. Though the monkey which was already in the cage didn't know about the shock, it continued beating the one who tried climbing the ladder. This continued for every monkey who was put in the cage. No monkey was allowed to climb the ladder, but none of them knew why. 

If you guessed that we are the monkeys, the media and politicians are the scientists, and the current ideologies of ‘secularism’ are the bananas, you’ve got it right.

What is your understanding of secularism? I’m guessing it is inclusive living, where every religion has the right to a justice, equality and a dignified life. (Leave a comment if I am wrong). Sanskriti magazine puts it well:

“Secularism in India is not an empty slogan or mere cosmetic - it is the very basis of Hindu beliefs and that is why a common Hindu is still ashamed of Babri Masjid demolition (sic) while a Muslim - of Hindu ancestry - has no qualms or shame of the destruction of tens of thousands of Hindu temples by Muslim invaders.”

However, this… this current environment is not inclusive living. It is divisive politics. We have become so immune to divisive politics that we if ‘minorities’ don't get additional benefits over the majority, we call it anti-secular. We beat each monkey who thinks about challenging the status quo. Why? Because it’s been like this for 60 years of the Congress rule. And we have survived. So this is the only way.

Think this is over-the-top? Think I’m being irrational? Well, let’s look at some scenarios.

Madrasas in Maharashtra don’t teach English, math or science. It wouldn’t be rocket science to imagine their version of history (please point out if I’m wrong with solid proof). The State government still pumps in ₹100 crore each year into these schools, and talks of modernizing the madrasas are always on-going. But when the State government says that madrasas which don’t teach formal subjects cannot be deemed schools (understandably), it leads to an outrage. Define logic.

Over 50 lakh imams have been paid their salaries from the government of India since 1994. Forget Hindu priests getting the same benefit, it is reported that the Karunanidhi-led DMK government swindled about 200 kg of gold in gold-plating vimanas and golden chariots schemes in various temples. Reports also say that while the annual earning of the Tirupathi temple is over ₹3,500 crore, only about 15 percent is used for the development of the temple. The remaining funds are diverted by the State government (which comprises mostly of Hindus) to non-Hindu purposes, leaving Hindu priests poorly paid and pilgrims poorly taken care of. (source)

Let’s take another news which has been in the public eye for too long: Church vandalism. We repeatedly read about how churches are being vandalized, and how the minority Christians are feeling unprotected under the current government. Six specific incidents of church attacks were reported in the media. But upon investigation, the following facts came out; facts which were barely mentioned in main stream media: In one incident a group of kids playing outside threw stones and one shattered the church's window pane (how communal today’s kids are!). Another incident, where a church was ‘set on fire’, was the result of a short circuit. Yet another reported incident where a small group of men allegedly vandalized a church turned out to be a drunken dare. And the fourth was a case of genuine burglary with no communal angle. Speaking of burglaries, while 3 churches (out of about 200 in Delhi) were robbed in 2014, 206 temples, 14 mosques and 30 gurdwaras were burgled in the same period. Does this really have a communal angle to it? Well, if you are one of those pseudo-secularist left-wingers, everything has a communal angle to it.

Let’s also consider the ever-controversial subject of conversion of religion. We have heard of instances of Love Jihad, or how Hindus convert to Christianity for monetary benefits, but never in the media (if this ever is published in mainstream media, it’s in some remote corner of a boring financial news section). But immediately after the BJP government came into power, news of ghar-wapsi started making the headlines, and the pseudo-secularists, led by the Congress, demanded that this be addressed. Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah said that they were ready to graft an anti-conversion bill, and requested the opposition’s cooperation on it. Since then, all the opposition parties have been silent. Only we are screaming about it, saying that the current government is trying to make this a pro-Hindutva country, like this Facebook status update. The work of the scientists (read politicians and media) is done. Now they just have to sit back and laugh while we monkeys continue whacking each other.

Compare this with the absence of news on alleged atrocities against Hindus in Mallapuram and other locations in India.

Current governments dole out loads of cash to minorities to make life ‘easier for them’. In many states, minority girls belonging to the lower economic strata get ₹50,000 each for their marriage. In UP, Akhilesh Yadav has allotted ₹30,000 for every 10th pass Muslim girl to study further, and has created reservations for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutes. Good. But what wrong have Hindus done to not deserve this ‘princely’ treatment? Why are there no calls for equality now?

Another question that begs to be asked: Are Muslim girls better off with the money provided for their marriages? Do these cash handouts reach them in the first place? I don’t know. But I know one thing. Regardless of these doles, the poor end up right back in the hellhole which they want to leave. Only political parties and religious governing bodies get richer. We, on the other hand, applaud their generosity and 'secularist mindset' without knowing whether it actually is beneficial. And if someone challenges this notion, we verbally beat the daylights out of the person. Well done monkeys. Are these your ideas of ‘secularism’ and ‘democracy’?

Yes, Hindus have been more tolerant by nature for centuries. This is probably why Gandhi said “Hindu is a coward and Muslim is a bully.” I don’t agree. In fact, I don’t agree with a lot of things Gandhi said or did. Muslims, Christians, and people of all religious faiths are accommodative, and they love this country which they live in. But I am surprised about how restricted our understanding of secularism is. I’m surprised about how we feel that the ‘Hindutva’ government is doing everything in its power to hurt minorities, but turn a blind eye to the plight of the vast majority at the hands of some misguided groups.

The current government is driven by rationale. Yes, by now you have figured that I am a Modi supporter. Yes, the government makes mistakes and some policies may prove counter productive. And it is good to question them and keep them on their toes. But stop looking at every thing from a ‘secularist’ perspective and start looking for development from a country’s perspective. Stop being a monkey and start being a sensible human.

If you genuinely want to promote secularism, look at yourself as an Indian first. Stop thinking of yourself as a Hindi, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Malayali, Tamil, etc. Support governments which aim to empower people of all religions to live with dignity, rather than on handouts. This dignity comes with growth for all sections in the country. This growth occurs through more jobs, a business-friendly environment and better infrastructure. People will earn more, send their children to better schools, and improve their lifestyles. All this will help our country progress. Look for information in the right avenues, not what mainstream media is feeding you. It does what it does to make money. And then it laughs its way to the bank while we foolishly scream and outrage.

I love my country and countrymen. They’re “my brothers and sisters”, (except the one who marries me). I respect every religion and people’s rights to follow it. As citizens of a secularist country, it is our duty to accommodate and empower every religion to live by its philosophies. But that doesn’t mean that I will give you my other cheek if you slap me on one. It doesn't mean that I believe the crap when perpetrators portray themselves as the victims. I have matured. It’s time you do too.

image courtesy: Google Images

16 Jul 2015

What it Really Takes to Achieve Long Lasting Success

Admiral Jim Stockdale was the highest-ranking United States military officer to be imprisoned during the Vietnam war. He was held prisoner for 8 long years without any rights, release date, or certainty about whether he would survive. Upon release, Admiral Stockdale was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Jim Collins, author of the bestselling book Good to Great, met Stockdale after that. Collins asked him how he survived. “I never lost faith in the story. I never doubted that I would not only get out and prevail in the end but also convert this experience into a defining event of my life”, he said. The next obvious question followed: “Who didn’t make it out?” The answer to the question was as unexpected as snowfall in summer. “The optimists”, answered Stockdale. “They kept saying that we would be out by Christmas. Christmas then became Easter, which became Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again.” The optimists died of broken hearts more than physical torture.

Optimism - the hope that things will get better - is a trait which all human beings possess. What differentiates us is how long we can hold on to it. There are 2 kinds of optimists:

  1. The vast majority who expect things to get better instantly and give up when they don’t. Such people often blame the environment, conditions or other people for their failure, without realizing that they either needed to change their perspective or were remarkably close to success when they gave up.
  2. The almost-negligible minority who possess eternal optimism and eventually succeed. They live by the quote: “Everything is okay in the end. If it is not okay, it isn’t the end.” These people persevere with a goal until they achieve it, no matter what.

But merely possessing the optimism that you will eventually prevail is not enough. You must be able to face the hard, brutal facts, and do something about it. Admiral Stockdale possessed these traits in abundance. He confronted the fact that he wouldn’t make it out of incarceration by simply waiting to be released. So he shouldered command and did everything he could to increase the number of prisoners who would survive the ordeal without breaking down mentally. He realized that no one can face torture indefinitely, and devised step-wise systems to ensure that the men had something to look forward to. For instance, saying certain things after x minutes to a person being tortured, an internal communication system to reduce the sense of isolation among prisoners that the captors were trying to induce. Stockdale and his men followed these systems with military-esque discipline (no pun intended).

There is nothing wrong in being an optimist. In fact, possessing this trait is commendable. But expecting things to magically fall in place is where most people often mess things up. Do you know how many people have quit, and how many companies have failed because they refused to acknowledge what they saw in the mirror and lacked the discipline to fix it? Yes, you need discipline. Discipline is not following a strict routine; it is doing things that matter consistently till you achieve the desired results.

Let me relate a personal experience with you. I own a Yamaha RD350, which also happens to be MS Dhoni’s favorite motorbike. It was in rickety shape when I bought it. I gave it to a mechanic who promised to restore it back to its glory days. To cut a long story short, he fleeced me of a lot of money and left the bike worse off. He also turned a good friend against me. Another friend, who also owns a similar bike, advised me to sell it and go for something more modern. At that time, I underwent a surgery, and lost out on a potential promotion as a result. My whole world was crumbling. I cried for days. But I resolved that I would fix both the bike and my friendship, no matter what it took. For a year, I asked people for help with the bike, but nothing moved. Then, I met an unassuming mechanic who said that he was leaving Mumbai for good in 3 weeks. He surveyed the bike and said that he could fix some urgent issues, and that I could take care of the rest gradually. But getting the other work done from someone I didn’t know could land me in the same soup again. I was faced with two choices. I could either let him finish the difficult part and then find someone else to restore the bike cosmetically. Or I could push the limits and get everything done in 3 weeks. For three weeks that followed, my schedule was: work from 3:30 am - 12:30 pm (I worked at a call centre then), have lunch and leave by 2 with the mechanic to buy parts, return by 5 and work with him on the bike till 9:30 at night, sleep by 11 and wake up by 2:30 to get ready for work. After 3 weeks, when I unveiled the bike to my friends, the sheer admiration in their eyes when they rode it was the icing on the cake. The cake, of course, was that I had a gorgeous-looking beast in my garage which was the envy of many boys and men in the locality. And oh! Everything eventually worked out with the friend with whom my relation was strained. To this day, we remain good friends.

I don’t mean to brag, but I displayed each of the important traits for those 3 weeks: the belief that I would eventually prevail, facing the brutal facts, and self-discipline. If I achieved all this in 3 weeks, imagine what you can do in 3 years!

Remember, you can achieve everything that you set your sights on. It is going to be difficult, very difficult. If excellence was easy or mediocre, everyone would achieve it. And that would make us lose out on the fun of pursuing something with our hearts and minds, sticking to it, and eventually coming out on top. There would be no difference between Beethoven and a rookie musician, or Sachin Tendulkar and any other cricketer. That would suck, right?

I hope you realize that there is a lot more that goes into being successful than what self-help books prescribe. Being likable, having a good posture, maintaining eye contact, speaking well etc. are all fine. But what you really need to do to be respected and successful is to excel at something. And to excel, you have to work your ass off. You have to face the truth, however harsh it may be, possess remarkable self-discipline to do the right thing at the right time, and believe that you will eventually prevail.

What are your thoughts on this? I would love to hear from you.

29 Jun 2015

Why Smart People Play Their Cards Close to their Chests

Smart and successful people have been playing their cards close to their chests (and breasts) since centuries. Why? I’ll tell you why. But first, let’s talk about some incidents.

Something was nagging me. I discussed the case with a friend. I was just looking for someone to hear me out. I had barely spoken for half a minute when he interrupted, “See, I don’t know much about this, but here’s my advice.” “I don’t want it!”, I wanted to scream. Apparently I didn’t, and my face didn’t betray my mood either, because he carried on talking while I dreamt about visiting Iceland.

Another time, I wanted to try something adventurous. I shared my thoughts with someone I know - I want to call her a friend but the incident left me wondering. “Bad, bad idea! You’re bat shit crazy!”, she disapproved. Discouraged and feeling rather low, I proceeded regardless, expecting little from it. The response, however, was the opposite. It was better than what I expected even before speaking to her.

On both instances, when I got something off my chest, I wished I had shut my mouth instead. And these aren’t isolated cases (how I wish!). They frequently occur in daily life. I’ve suggested some brilliant ideas in my previous companies (yeah, I’m bragging) only to get responses drier than a dead leaf. And when I tried to justify the ideas, or push them forth with conviction, people said that I was being defensive. Maybe I was. Who am I, the Dalai Lama to nonchalantly smile while people trounce my ideas and thoughts?

I’ll bet my life’s savings on you having experienced similar emotions too. Many times…

playing cards close to chest

So, why do most people either pull you down or start giving you unsolicited advice, despite meaning well? It’s the feeling of self-importance. People like to plug themselves into every damn conversation and situation. “What would I have done in such a case?”, they think. And they respond without considering that your and their circumstances are different, or that you didn’t ask for their advice. And in case you did ask, they either believe that you will fail or are gripped by sheer jealousy because maybe… just maybe… you may succeed.

“People love you when you’re average. It makes them comfortable. But when you pursue greatness, it makes people uncomfortable. Be prepared to lose some people on your journey”, said Tony A. Gaskins Jr. So damn true. Now you get why people who achieve more often speak little in public?

People who speak less don’t have highly classified, CIA-type plans. Instead, they share those with a few trusted people. This eliminates the pretentious concept of ‘democracy’ where many people state unwelcome opinions and nothing is achieved. Instead, the smart folk put their plans into action, and when those yield good results, the world commends them saying that it knew that they always had it in them. MS Dhoni and Narendra Modi come to mind.

But the discomfort caused by people telling them what to do is not the only reason smart people play their cards close to their chest. Here’s one instance when I shot myself in the foot by being too honest.

I shared a unique thought on a topic for an assignment during college with a friend. He went on to tell the teacher the idea, as if it was his all along. So he created a good impression in her mind (in those days that was important to us), while I was left introducing my forehead to the wall repeatedly.

You get the drift. And again, I’ll bet my life’s savings.

The world has enough people who will take whatever you say or do and twist it to benefit themselves. It is also full of people who will support you in your pursuits and stand by your side rather than ‘advice’ you on what to do at every step. It’s important to find the latter and only have those people surround you. In this amazing infographic, James Altucher states that most successful artists, businesspeople, performers and the likes have surrounded themselves with people who have supported them in their ventures - something that played an indispensable role in them achieving success.

So think before you speak. Take your time before opening up to someone and sharing your beliefs and secrets with them. Be decisive with what you share. Test the waters before you dive into it headlong. Share your deepest thoughts and concerns with a select few who encourage you to do what you intend to. And until you find such people, be tenacious and silent. It not only saves you emotional distress of but also makes you resolute. People may call you stubborn and rude, but you can simply shrug and walk away, knowing that these are the very people who will suck up to you when you succeed.

I can count the number of people I trust on the fingertips of one hand. What about you? Whom do you trust? And why? I would love to hear from you.

10 Jun 2015

Even The Myanmar Attack Can’t Make Us Less Indian

I’m happy. In a hitherto unheard instance, the Indian Army entered Myanmar and avenged the loss of their brothers. Army officials stated that about 100 insurgents were killed and there has been no counter from them so far. Neither the media nor the terrorists’ intelligence sources saw this coming. The operation was covert, carried out in cooperation with the Myanmar government, and has made us Indians feel proud and secure. A lot of credit for this goes to Narendra Modi’s foreign visit policy.

Apparently I am not alone. Millions of other Indians are happy too. Twitter and WhatsApp are filled with updates on how proud the army has made us feel. Some friends and I were discussing this on a WhatsApp group. And then, one of them wrote “Myanmar is okay, Pakistan is different. It’s like the difference between nuke and a hand grenade.” In short, he implied that the army will only have proved its mettle if it attacks Pakistan.

myanmar attack Indian army

At first, I was livid. I seethed for about an hour. Then, my anger turned to pity. It reminded me of my younger days. Once I had scored 60 out of 75 in Algebra. Just once! I was so happy that I mentally was announcing it to the world from atop Mount Everest. Mom, however, thought differently. “Good”, she said “but what was the highest score?” Experience had taught me that when it came to studies, every time my mother said “good”, it was followed with a “but”. And my mom wasn’t the only person, was she? No. Indian parents have a reputation to uphold, and by not doing this, they are probably letting themselves down. 

It’s not just Indian parents who indulge in comparison. This sort of behavior and thinking reflects an Indian resident’s lifestyle. Indians are unhappier than Pakistanis. Can you believe that! We’re more frustrated than Pakistan, though everything we have is a hundred-fold more than them.

I think that globalization has made us Indians take what we have for granted. Nothing is enough, and that’s why Amazon’s Aur dikhao (show me more) resonates so much with us. The outburst of things to possess has driven us insane. If we don’t have more than the person beside us, we have failed (or so we are made to believe). We have become slaves to the media. Traits like appreciation, gratitude and contentment are just good for talks in a satsangh: ironic, considering that our scriptures teach more contentment and less desire. It reflects even in our conversations. Talk to someone about something you did or intend on doing, and they instantly plug themselves into the conversation. Comparisons begin, advice is doled out without asking, you’re often made aware of ‘how wrong’ you are… it’s all about how you stack up against them.

It’s time to evolve beyond the conventional mindset that has been a part of us for decades. Stop comparing events and people. Appreciate unconditionally, and be happy for what you have. Silently thank God (or your stars, if you are an atheist) for small things that you are fortunate to receive. And quit saying that your life is f*cked and you don’t have anything to be thankful for. If you can read this post, it alone means that you are more fortunate than 75 percent of the world’s population. If you earn 5 figures monthly, you are more fortunate than 90 percent of India’s population. If you have an iPhone, you are more fortunate than me ;)

Practicing appreciation is not difficult. This is not about appreciating the Indian army or the Modi government (though you should). Appreciate small things that people do, or their feelings when they share some thoughts with you. Quit undermining someone’s accomplishments by comparing them with yours. Be grateful for family and friends, learn to live with less, and witness your own life become happier. And since you influence those closest to you, you will spread happiness in their lives too. Now isn’t that something worth living for!

21 May 2015

Does Modi Need to Go On Foreign Visits So Frequently?

“The previous PM was on Silent Mode. The current PM is on Flight Mode.” You must have read this message a hundred times by now, right? Narendra Modi has visited 17 countries in his first year, and the ‘tours’ just don’t seem to end. Someone had cracked a joke about how empty Modi’s passport was at this time last year.

So what is this showbaazi about? Senior journalist Renu Mittal slammed every move of Narendra Modi lately (surprise surprise?) and said that Modi is doing what every other Prime Minister has done. In fact, she believes that since he has 4 more years in the office, he should space out his visits and focus more on work within India. Well, she exemplifies the ignorance in a lot journalists these days - something that led to them being tagged ‘presstitutes’ and #GoHomeIndianMedia trending in Nepal and India.

Let’s leave our emotions out of the picture and think objectively about Narendra Modi’s foreign visits for some time.

narendra modi foreign trips

Narendra Modi’s visit to Australia was the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 28 years. His visit left Russia and USA feeling somewhat queazy because of some policy agreements, most importantly a nuclear deal and landmark framework for security cooperation. India will now receive a substantial supply of uranium and collaborate with Australia in generating cleaner energy. This should, to an extent, put a tab on the bullying behavior of USA, and increase the bargaining power of India. Modi also pushed for making a resolve to ‘isolate those who harbor terrorists” and called for a “closer security cooperation, but, even more a policy of no distinction between terrorist groups or discrimination between nations’. The aim is to make India safer from Chinese and Pakistani insurgency.

Closer home, Modi has visited many Asian countries like Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Mongolia, China and South Korea. Come on! These are countries that we common folk visit on a vacation, right? (I hope you don’t mind being called common folk - anyway it’s Hindi translation is aam aadmi.) Why does a Prime Minister have to visit them instead of taking care of your and my petty problems here? Well, here are some points to ponder on.

The Prime Minister is forming good relations with neighbors, thus securing the borders of India from Chinese and Pakistani infiltration. Also, until recently, India was seen as a marketplace of a vast population, where multi-national corporations could sell their wares and make lots of money. Modi is now making India an investment centre. This will help in technology transfer (you MBAs surely know what it means. If you don’t, because you watch TimesNow and read ToI-let paper, you might have to Google it). It will also increase the number of jobs and reduce our current trade deficit because we will import lesser non-essential goods and instead, manufacture them here, and maybe even export them. The Rafale deal is a significant one because India has not had modern fighter aircrafts since the last 17 years, as pointed out by our defense minister Manohar Parrikar. Developed nations like Australia, France, Germany, USA and South Korea have agreed to invest in India. Apart from Australia, Mongolia (which no Indian PM had ever visited before) and Canada have agreed to supply India with uranium to meet the target of 10,000 MW of hydropower generation each year, which will make India less dependent on costly fuel imports. Apart from saving us time spent outraging when petrol prices rises, this will also save us an enormous amount of money and provide sustainable energy to millions of people who don't have access to it.

During his visit to China, Modi exhorted the politicians, civilians, and even students to think about the their hostility towards India. He also pointed out that China’s steel dumping in India was not ethical, something the Chinese leaders acknowledged and promised to address. Would these have been possible without a Prime Minister as dynamic and steadfast as Narendra Modi? Plus, there are talks about positive steps to work together on railway and other projects to improve the infrastructure of India.

So you see? The 3 key aims of Modi through these foreign visits are:

  1. Secure India’s borders
  2. Encourage foreign investment, and
  3. Build a better India

If you want someone to help you, you have to reach out to them and offer them something first. The law of reciprocation kicks in and the person in front helps you achieve what you need. Common knowledge, isn’t it? And it holds true not only for you and me, but politicians and bureaucrats too. And this is exactly what Modi is doing.

Critics say that Modi is doing the same thing done during UPA II - i.e. no talks with Pakistan. However, India has always measured the effectiveness of foreign talks on the basis of interactions with Pakistan, USA and, to an extent, Russia. Should we continue with age old redundant policies or look to implement new and effective ones? It’s time for you to decide. Do you want to live in an India which progresses in leaps and bounds in the coming years? Where people have jobs and the quality of life of billions is better than today? Or would you prefer living in one where you still keep promoting ‘secularism’ and decrying corruption while the world passes you by?

“I have never seen any leader as rapturously received in Australia as PM Modi”, said Tony Abbott. Modi received stellar welcomes in USA, Canada, Europe, Japan and other countries too. We, his own countrymen, however fail to recognize the hope that he brings, and rant about money and time being wasted on these trips. Now this post is not to tell you to start supporting Modi - if you despise him, you won’t see the light even if it is shining right in your face. And if you are a Modi supporter like I am, you don’t need to be convinced about the progress and development that India can achieve in the next 4 (hopefully 9) years.

30 Apr 2015

10 Similarities Between Dhoni and Modi

Despite being anti-IPL, I have been following it a lot this season, partly because I want to rally behind our players who couldn’t win the World Cup. Sounds lame, doesn’t it? But hey, I’m being honest with you here.

A couple of weeks ago was my 32nd birthday. I was thinking of keeping celebrations low-key and chilling at home. Chennai Super Kings were playing Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede stadium and I was going to watch it at home (you can figure out my birth date now). Instead, Ramya got tickets for the Sachin Tendulkar Stand. Thanks to her, I finally saw Mahendra Singh Dhoni live in action.

If you know me (or have read my posts), you know that I am a huuuuge MS Dhoni fan. More than his powerful hitting and habit of winning, I admire his philosophies on life. I consider him as Dhonicharya and myself as Eklavya, though I haven’t learnt enough from him yet.

Dhoni was his typical self in the match - calm, composed and unhurried. It was mind-blowing to see the number of CSK supporters in a stadium in Mumbai, until Dhoni came out to bat. It then hit me like a bullet in the chest. They were all Dhoni fans! While screaming “Dhoni, Dhoni” with thousand others that night, I felt like I had seen this somewhere else. Oh yes, I had seen it on TV. A lot! Only instead of “Dhoni, Dhoni”, people were chanting “Modi, Modi”.

Dhoni and Modi
The similarities are striking

I thought about it on the way back. Are Dhoni and Modi similar? My heart and brain emphatically said “Yes! In more respects than one.” And when your heart and brain agree on something, you really want to talk about it! So I thought of listing 10 similarities between the two veterans in their respective fields.

  1. Both carry the hopes of 1.2 billion countrymen on their shoulders
    One thing that unites India is cricket. And one thing that divides India is politics. Events in both of them impact the entire country massively. Being the captain of the Indian cricket team places a colossal burden on Dhoni’s shoulders, just like being the Prime Minister of India does to Modi. The entire nation’s hopes rest on them. But why do we have high hopes of them? Well, read point number 2.

  2. Both possess unwavering self-belief
    As long as Dhoni is at the crease, any target, however distant, looks achievable. Remember the last time we felt like this? Yes, it was during the Sachin Tendulkar era. Similarly, when Modi galvanizes himself and his team into action, we are left inspired almost always. Remember the wave of delight across the country when the BJP won a landslide victory in the 2014 Elections? How do these 2 real life superheroes make us believe in them? How have they been so effective in what they do? It’s because they believe in themselves. They back their abilities, and deliver more often than not. And since others see in us what what see in ourselves, people believe in Dhoni and Modi too. Their sheer presence exudes a certain charisma and gives us hope - the only emotion stronger than fear.

  3. Both have brilliant perspectives on things
    Yet another commonality between Dhoni and Modi is their enviable intelligence. This intelligence stems from years of mental and physical training, empowering them to have a brilliant perspective on things. They are astute students of life, possessing the ability to look beyond the present and chart out plans to handle situations before they even arise.

    For instance, here is how Modi meticulously plans every action of a strategy down to the last detail. And Dhoni… well, he says “People generally have Plan B to fall back on. I have Plans B, C and D.” Unbelievable!

  4. Yet, both are massively misunderstood
    In this post, Oliver Emberton has beautifully explained that the more you impact people’s lives, the more they will misunderstand you. Since 2.4 billion eyes (and a lot of foreign ones) are watching both Dhoni and Modi closely, every move they make is scrutinized and dissected. And then there are us Indians. The more the world applauds one of our own for being unconventional, the more more we hurl insults at him (APJ Kalam is an exception to this rule, thankfully!). Someone who doesn’t tell us what his intent is, becomes an antagonist. Thankfully, both Modi and Dhoni keep away from the limelight. This saves them time that would otherwise be wasted in explaining their actions to people who won’t listen anyway. How they do it? How do they soak up this pressure and still be retain their amazing attitudes? The next point answers these questions.

  5. Both have mastered the art of detachment
    The Bhagavad Gita preaches about performing action without attachment towards fruit. But how many of us can follow it? Well, Dhoni and Modi are two living beings who do so every single day. "If tomorrow he has to say goodbye to all the trappings of fame, Dhoni will calmly get on his motorbike and go away. He is that rarity who treats both those impostors - wins and losses - in the same way. He simply plays the game”, said Sunil Gavaskar.

    We have read unlimited articles and posts about Modi’s simple and austere lifestyle also. The sheer dignity with which our Prime Minister conducts himself despite what people say about him shows what he thinks of critics. I would love Modi to have 2 more terms as India’s Prime Minister. But if he doesn’t, I’m sure that he will still be at peace, knowing that he gave it his all. Such remarkable clarity of thought and ability to endure cannot be accomplished without detachment - from others’ opinions about them, materialistic pleasure, results and everything else.

  6. Both aim to serve Mother India
    It’s amply clear from the Indian Prime Minister’s and cricket captain's interviews and speeches that their prime goal is to serve their nation. For Dhoni, his country comes above everything else, even above his parents. Narendra Modi has dedicated his entire life to serving his nation, including valiant actions that we don’t know about to keep India united.

  7. Both distrust the media
    It’s no secret that both Modi and Dhoni distrust the media. By now we’re familiar with Modi’s aversion to mainstream media. Thousands of media journos beg for an interview with him, but he and his cabinet air their views only on Doordarshan and All India Radio. And he has substantially reduced the size of the entourage of the press traveling overseas with a Prime Minister, which has pissed off many journos who now write and talk horse shit about him frequently.

    Similarly, Dhoni has instructed the Indian cricket team not to speak to the media. He has shown what he thinks about the media on multiple instances. When asked about his retirement plans recently, Dhoni said “The media should conduct a thorough research, come up with conclusions and write the exact opposite, because that will be the truth.” On another occasion, when Dhoni was asked whether a rumor about the Indian team’s dressing room would be spread, he said “Newspapers like Times of India will do that for us. So I won't bother.” And I’m a sucker for people who don’t trust mainstream media.

  8. Both give credit where it's due and prefer avoiding the limelight
    The Indian cricket team is called ‘Dhoni’s boys’. The current Indian government is called ‘the Modi government’. However, rarely, if ever, do we see either of these evolved souls taking centre stage and hogging the limelight. When India wins a trophy, Dhoni is generally invisible in the team photo, often standing with the support staff in the second row. When a good budget is announced or good policies are implemented, Modi is nowhere in the limelight either. He stealthily goes about his work to make India a better place to live in for you and me. Did you see his response to #ThankYouPM?

  9. Both live in the present
    There is no denying that Dhoni and Modi work with the future in mind. They have to. However, they both possess the remarkable trait of living in the present moment. I have never seen Dhoni fuss about the future - he simply focuses on the current ball of the current over in the current match. Rahul Dravid says, “He has a unique ability to ignore consequences and soak up pressure. This makes it easier for everyone else. He is calm and measured. Win, lose, he can walk away.” And when he is off the field, he simply switches off from cricket and enjoys life outside.

    Modi is no different. Yes, he thinks a lot about our future (as he should), but he works in the present. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that he asks himself “What can I do now to improve our country’s future?”, and works accordingly. The last time developmental work was carried out at such furious pace was 1991. Instead of dreaming about our ideal future, Modi prefers to act in the present. And living the current moment to its fullest is the mark of a great human being.

  10. Yet, we choose to learn from neither
    Both Dhoni and Modi have infinite lessons to teach us; lessons which will make us better human beings. Yet, we refuse to learn from them and instead carry on with our mundane and hollow lives. It’s like we fear the consequences of living like them. But trust me, life is much better when you emulate Dhoni and Modi. The shackles fall off and you no longer feel like singing “I want to break free” because you already have broken free.

Each of us comes in this world to serve a purpose. I think that God sent Dhoni and Modi to inspire millions of us, apart from excelling in their fields. And boy, do they serve their purposes well or what! I hope that someday, I get to meet them and learn more about the core philosophies that govern their lives. If I can be 10 percent as honest, as genuine and as driven as either of them, my life’s purpose will be accomplished.

I’m sure that you can point many more similarities between them which are not listed here. Why not share them in comments? And for heaven’s sake, keep them positive. There is enough negativity in this world, so you don’t need to contribute to it.

24 Apr 2015

A Day Well Spent in the New TATA Bolt

We’re on the Expressway, on our way back from Lonavala. I’m getting ready to take the sweeping hairpin. 80 km/h should be good. So I look down at the speedometer to check whether I need to go faster. 110! Sh*t… must slow down. Gaadi meri nahi hai.

That’s how responsive the new Revotron 1.2 liter engine of the TATA Bolt is. And not just the engine, the whole package delights. The steering and handling, the planted feel, the responsive brakes, roomy interiors… they combine to make this car worth the ₹ 4.5 lakhs it costs in Mumbai. The accessories are good too, though they don’t appeal to a non gadget freak who likes and dislikes vehicles based on their quality of drive.
Image courtesy: Rohan
Before our trip started, I saw the Bolt’s product manager Udit Khanna peering into an Audi R8 parked outside CafĂ© Infinito. His nose was almost stuck to its glass. Good sign - a product manager who is passionate about automobiles. We struck a conversation and I got a sneak peek into the vast knowledge Udit has… something that Inder, the brand manager, affirmed later.

Rohan, Monish and me were paired up together for the day, while Suchir would drive with us as our guide answering all questions about the car. Both Rohan and Monish pulled rabbits out of the hat. Rohan showed marvelous control on the Tata Bolt, effortlessly carving his way out of traffic with precision. And he didn't complain once, which means that the car was just as welcoming of his inputs. And while I knew no blogger at the event, Monish knew everyone. I simply tagged along with him hoping that people would speak to me too. And it worked.

We were allotted the Diesel Tata Bolt to begin with. Rohan took the wheel first. After driving through the mini track (read Rohan’s review here), we headed for Lonavala. The car responded well in traffic (surprising that we found some on a Sunday afternoon) and came into its own on the Mumbai Pune Expressway. Rohan drove at good speeds and the Bolt stayed stable and planted. The diesel car especially bolted forward with additional vigor after touching the 2,500 rpm mark. The exhaust note wasn’t spectacular (I know, I know… too much expectation) but the cabin was quiet. We could keep the stereo volume low and still hear it clearly while having a conversation in the car, which speaks volumes (no pun intended) about the level of car’s cabin noise.

I took the wheel after Food Mall on the Expressway. The diesel didn't really feel enjoyable… can’t quite put a finger on the reason. I stalled twice and felt like the steering was somewhat vague. Maybe it’s because the diesel has to be driven differently from a petrol vehicle and am used to the latter. Anyway, post lunch we got to switch to the petrol Bolt.

Boy, the Revotron engine responded instantly. She was in Eco mode (the petrol variant has 3 settings - Eco, City and Sport) and needless to say, I switched to Sport. The steering instantly felt more taut, the engine had more grunt and the car did her best to stick to the line I was trying to take. The winding road between Bushi Dam and Aamby Valley is my favorite in Lonavala.

Push the limits of the TATA Bolt was fun. The only parts of the car opposing, as if telling me to peg back, were the tyres. But they still held their own. Meanwhile, the rest of the vehicle wanted to know what I was made of. So I tried, and she responded brilliantly on the ghats section. We stopped at Tiger Point, clicked snaps and returned.
tata bolt review
(L-R clockwise): Suchir, Rohan, Monish and me with the TATA Bolt at Tiger Point, Lonavala
It was a lovely event organized by Blogadda… seamless and hassle free. Anikta(s), Pooja, Anuja, Harish and the other team members were fabulous hosts, ensuring that no one felt any inconvenience. I met Ekta, Vaishakha, Deepak, Purujeet, Ankit, Omkar and other equally popular bloggers. Chatting with them was a whole lot of fun. It was a sunday well spent at #BoltDrives with BOLT from TATA Motors in association with BlogAdda.

As I eat the chocolate fudge which I bought from Lonavala, I recommend the Tata Bolt if you want to buy a hatchback. Okay, I didn’t buy the fudge. Monish did, and forgot to collect it. What was I supposed to do? Waste a box of delicious chocolate fudge? Anyway, thanks Monish ;)
badge UA-22264662-1