27 Apr 2011

The Thing About Silence Is...

We are used to it by now – watching people listening to their iPods, music players or talking on the phone when jogging, taking a walk, travelling, etc. alone. Maybe some of us are even a part of this recent fad! Music and friends keep us company when we are alone; they ensure that our minds are constantly occupied, that we are having fun, and that we feel connected to the world around us, and so on. Most people we see who have adopted this culture are until about the age of 40 years.
But why?
It’s probably the fear of being left alone. Today, no person wants to be left alone for the fear of negative thoughts engulfing his mind. Pressure at work, tussles with friends, ups and downs with family, road rage and much more probably are circulating in people’s minds when they have time to themselves. The thought of thinking now seems to frighten us and we constantly look for other things to keep us busy. Or maybe we don’t want to think anymore. This clutter of TV soaps, social networking sites, music channels, radio, etc. has made us so used to chaos that the calm now disturbs us. We reason that these so – called entertainment channels actually keep us informed about what is happening in the world. But is it really? There were a whole lot of generations who came and went before the idiot box and iPods took control of our lives; they turned out ok! Do we need to know how much is being imposed on us? And how much of what we know is actually true? Noted author Robin Sharma states that it is important for an individual to spend at least 30 minutes every day in complete silence. How many of us are able to achieve a target of even 10?
We now are proud to be a part of Gen Y – the Impatient generation, who get whatever they want in a jiffy. We are ready to substitute our need for human relationships with materialistic ownership and that is probably reducing tolerance in us. We do not want to adjust to others; rather vice versa. This is further reducing the overall life span of marriages, which seem to have hit an all time low recently. All this, because we don’t want to take sometime out to be silent, to think, to be with ourselves and reflect.
It is great to have things you want to possess; after all, they are made for you and that is what most people earn for. But it also helps to spend some time in silence. Maybe while travelling, or at night before going to bed, or anytime which you can squeeze in. It allows you to reflect on what happened in the day and what you could have done better. You can probably find where you erred or some situation you could have handled better to your advantage. It not only increases your focus, but also ensures you give back to society and enrich yourself - something I believe everyone wants to do. Invariably it helps in making you a better person. Almost all successful people I have known have adopted this technique of remaining silent for sometime in a day. Isn’t it about time we started doing the same?

11 Apr 2011

Is it Criminal to Think Small in India? (An article by Gurcharan Das)

There are two spaces in the politics of India. And one of them is empty. The two spaces reflect the classic division between those who look ahead and aspire versus those who look back and complain. Our political parties cater to the second--to the victim in us through their politics of grievance. The present gridlock in the parliament is also symptom of the same dispirited politics—no party is sufficiently hungry for reform to break the logjam. No one reflects the spirit of a rapidly growing India. Nor is anyone thinking big--and it’s criminal to think small in India. Until the second space is filled, our politics will not be whole.

Congress appeals to the victim in the ‘aam admi’ with an ever expanding menu of job guarantees, food, gas and kerosene subsidies, and more. The BJP panders to the sufferer of historical Muslim misrule and to Congress’ minority vote-bank politics. Mayavati and caste parties focus on the historical injustice to Dalits and OBCs. The Shiv Sena gratifies the injured pride of the ‘Marathi manoos’. All of this is about the politics of grievance and injustice.

India, however, is changing dramatically. It is nothing short of a miracle that it has become the world’s second fastest growing economy in the midst of the most appalling governance. With high growth, mobility, and a demographic revolution of the young, Indians who aspire will soon overtake those who see themselves as victims. Pew surveys show that a majority of Indians believe that they are better off than their parents and that their children will do even better. The person who got the 750 millionth phone number last month was a village migrant whose dream keeps slipping as his calls keep dropping partly because A. Raja corruptly handed out the 2G spectrum. India’s 100 millionth internet user in 2013 will have information which only the most privileged could access twenty years ago. No one in India’s political life captures their hopes.

China’s politicians do a far better job. While we debate if growth is pro-poor, China talks about growing rich. It understands that performance is a function of expectations. Those with higher expectations get higher performance. China no longer thinks itself a Third World country—it is challenging America today. In India, only a few politicians-- Nitish Kumar, Sheila Dixit, and Narendra Modi--appeal to the aspirers. They speak the language of governance, roads and schools. But we need many more of them.

When I put this to a powerful Congress politician, he said that ‘India shining’ had died in the 2004 election. I gently reminded him that India’s high growth economy had delivered 300 million into the middle class; another 250 million had been lifted out of poverty since the 1980s. So, a total of 550 million aspirers are surely worth fighting over. ‘Ah, but there are still another 550 million whiners, and their votes are more reliable than the shiners!’ he said. If poverty were to magically disappear in India, the Congress party might lose its reason to exist.

Aspirational politics would tackle our problems differently. Take, for instance, food inflation. The politics of grievance applies short term bandages--it tries to catch hoarders, stops forward trading, forbids export of grains when the country has had a bumper rice harvest and expects a record wheat crop (while ignoring Rs 17,000 crores of grains rotting under the tarpaulins of FCI). The politics of aspiration would recapitalize and reform agriculture and raise long term supply—it would allow competition against FCI in the warehousing of food, permit foreign investment in retail to establish cold chains, and allow farmers to lease their lands in order to raise productivity.

Who will fill the empty space in Indian politics? None of our parties understands that we live in a time of revolutionary change. Could it be Rahul Gandhi? But so far he hasn’t given any hint that he thinks big. India has doubled its cotton crop in the past five years; yet there have also been suicides of farmers in the cotton growing areas. Both facts are correct. Rahul Gandhi has chosen to focus on suicides. The future, however, will be built by those who focus on the first, who think big and give young Indians a sense of limitless possibilities.

Courtesy - http://gurcharandas.blogspot.com/

4 Apr 2011

Some Welcome News in Testing Times...

The last few months kept springing unpleasant news for us. Scams being unearthed, unrest in East Asian countries, petrol prices rising again, natural disasters in Japan, the SENSEX constantly falling, speculations of below expectations Q4 results and many more. Amidst all this negativity, we witnessed something exceptionally pleasing; India won the 2011 ICC World Cup.

India had started as favourites for the Cup, and they made it amply clear that they wanted to win this World Cup for Sachin Tendulkar, but the momentum seemed to be losing steam as time progressed. Some great batting displays at the top of the order were all that seemed to be making the team hold on against the opposition. Middle and lower order collapses and a seemingly toothless bowling attack saw India lose to South Africa and just about hold out against England and Ireland. The batting let India down against West Indies also but the bowling seemed to be striking some sort of form. Fielding was nothing to write home about in most of these matches. India had comfortably made it to the quarter finals, but I felt they were staring down the barrel here as they had to face the World champions next.
However, we witnessed a different team India from the quarter finals onwards. India’s fielding went up by notches against every opposition, and the bowlers seemed to strike some form as well. For the 1st time in 12 years, the cricket world would witness a new world champion. After eliminating Australia, India performed very well against Pakistan under tremendous pressure to keep up the tradition of beating Pakistan in every World Cup match until date. Amir Khan was spot on when he said that India was facing 3 final viz. Australia, Pakistan and then the finalists. For the 1st time, a home team had made it to the finals of the World Cup. The toss did throw up some controversy and the Indians did seem dejected. However, none of this impacted India when they bowled and fielded like a team possessed. While batting, it was very reassuring to see the youth brigade stabilize the innings and then Dhoni silenced his critics by scoring when it counted the most. India looked like the Aussies did for so long – INVINCIBLE. After 28 long years for us, and for the 1st time for a team at its home venue, we are World Champions.

India’s efforts saw many of us Indians living a dream of feeling proud of having bagged the ultimate prize. The Indian team had stated they wanted to win the World Cup for Sachin, and they did. Not just the Indian cricket team, most of the country watching was also teary eyed as the fact started setting in. The team put up a brave face in all adverse conditions and almost every time came out on top. These last couple of months united all Indians, and the euphoria after victory can simply not be put into words. This World Cup has given us a lot to celebrate in these trying times. Forget the sarcasm, the criticism, the cynicism, match fixing allegations, etc. You guys did what you set out to do! You guys made us proud and made sure Sachin does not leave the game without the ultimate trophy. It is nice to see some people achieve what they promise, especially you promise to reach the very pinnacle. We are now no. 1 in Tests, and have won the T20 and the ICC Cricket World Cup. Dhoni and boys, take a bow! We love you!
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