Moments, simple and beautiful

Two weeks ago,  my daughter, Divya, was driving through the ring road in Bangalore. I was in the back seat with my toddler grandson, Dhruv. Seeing a store selling organic products, Divya wanted to buy a few things. A few meters ahead I found an apartment building under construction. Its compound wall had a breach, yet to get a gate. I advised Divya to park the car there for a few minutes and visit the shop while I would wait near the car with Dhruv.

Sooner Divya parked the car and walked towards the shop, two security guards stormed frowning, questioning why I had parked the car inside the compound. They were right and I was wrong. With humility, I apologised sincerely for the act and offered to take the car out though it would be difficult with mischievous Dhruv in the company. I would be grateful if they allowed the car there for about five minutes.

The security guards instantly softened. Their anger melted away, giving place to courtesy and kindness.  “We understand you position, sir. How will you move the car out with this small child?” They placed a chair under the shade of a tree and  asked me to sit. They would get some drinking water. Then we chatted for five minutes till Divya returned. I thanked my kind hosts and drove away.

Life can be simple and beautiful.

I remembered the Disarming Technique propounded by Dr. David Burns.

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Lucky, you, Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker writes in his book The Sense of Style, The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century :

“I have the good fortune of having married to my favorite writer. In addition to inspiring me with her own style, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein encouraged this project, expertly commented on the manuscript, and thought up the title.

Many academics have the lamentable habit of using “my mother” as the shorthand for an unsophisticated reader. My mother, Roselyn Pinker, is a sophisticated reader, and I have benefited from her acute observation on usage, the many articles on language she has sent me over the decades, and her incisive comments on the manuscript.”

Steven Pinker refers to some passages from the writings of Rebecca Goldstein as examples of exemplary writing.

The book is dedicated to Susan Pinker and Robert Pinker, sister and brother of Steven Pinker.

I had goose bumps reading the above references in the book!


David Burns writes in his book Feeling Good Together that his daughter that his daughter worked with him in writing the book, reviewing it continuously.


Lucky are the families whose members share common passions and pursue them together.

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Blames My Boomerang

On getting an invitation for a function to launch HSV‘s new book, I eagerly waited for the occasion and refused to commit to any other task that would conflict with the program. HSV is my favourite Kannada writer. Being in the book launch would also give an opportunity to meet several writers and other readers.

The program was in the evening on 24 September. The 23rd night was rainy, and dark without electricity. The sky was cloudy in the forenoon of 24th and it showered a few times. In the evening, the sky was overcast, but no drizzle. As my daughter had taken our car, I set out on my scooter, heading for the function, convincing myself that it would not rain till I reached the auditorium.  If I reached dry to the venue, I do not mind getting wet on my way back. It is still fun to soak in rains. A chance to bathe in pure water.

As I rode a kilometre on my way to the function, the sky turned very dark. The cloud patterns told me that it would rain in a few minutes. It would be foolish to go further because I would not be able to attend the function with dripping clothes. I wove a string of reasons and justifications to return home. After five minutes I was, sipping hot coffee at home, self-prescribed for the weather.

Then I started peeping out of the windows to see if it drizzled, went up the terrace to feel rain drops on my bald head … every five to ten minutes. And lo! I could have been in the auditorium when not a drop of rain fell on the ground yet. I watched the skies every few minutes for the next couple of hours until the time I would have reached home after the program. No sign of rain though the clouds spread a canopy over my area. This was grossly unfair. I felt cheated by the rain for not pouring. Having lost an opportunity of the evening, it would have been a solace if it had rained and proved my predictions right!

 

When I wake up at five in the morning, if it is raining I blame the weather though I am secretly happy for the opportunity to miss the morning walk. The blame is not on me, and I carry no guilt. I can hang it on an excuse, naming it a reason.

I would prepare a set of expected questions and learn the answers. I worked hard, with focus. Is it not unfair if the teachers don’t include all or at least some of those questions in the paper?

Caught up in traffic on my way to the railway station, I curse the fate and also hope that the train would be delayed and I would board. When they are often late, why not this day for my sake? If I make it to the railway platform on time and the train has not arrived yet, how bad of the train! Could they ever be on time? I forget the traffic jam and my prediction of my own delay in reaching the railway station and anxiety about possibly missing the train.

A decade ago I invested in a few shares. For about a year I eagerly monitored their prices, prided myself for the wise investments when the prices of some shares rose and blamed the specific companies whose share prices went South. ROI in one company rose 30 times. A year later the company was bankrupt. I have now left it to chance for the investment to grow or shrink. I can blame the economy or take a philosophical stand that gains and losses do not affect me.

Blame is a potent tool. It is fun to blame others – people and systems. It can guard us against accountability and guilt. Take care that it does not boomerang.

 

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” — Mahatma Gandhi

 

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ECI’s Totalisers are Totally Welcome

Today’s newspapers report that the Central Government has decided to stop announcing booth-wise detailed results of polls and would use totalisers to give results by constituency. This corrects a lapse in the system. Since the EVMs were introduced, CEOs were expected to publish Form-20, which give counts of votes polled by candidates by booth. Looking at these forms, the candidates could know the booths (areas) where people supported them and where they did not. This could have led to victimisation of people in some areas. I am not aware of reported cases, though.

While I welcome this move, I lose some data with which I used to analyse some aspects of electoral process.

  1. Though the count of voters in rural booth should not exceed 1,200 and the urban booth 1,400, about 30% of booths in several states exceeded this limit. I have been reporting the correlation between lower voter turn-out and booth sizes beyond the recommended. Now I won’t be able to show this correlation.
  2. I could also analyse correlation between effect of voter demographics (age and sex) and reservation category on turn-out. In future, this report will be based on more coarse observations.

Though I have been reporting various cases of violations of ECI rules, there was no response from the ECI or any CEO. Also, most of the CEOs did not publish Form-20. Hence, totalisers are totally welcome.

Another welcome development is an initiative by ECI to create centralised voter database, which is currently maintained state-wise. I hope that several anomalies would be corrected in the process of consolidating the data.

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Extra Ordinary Feat by Ordinary People

On 31 July, hearts of audience in Narasimhaiah Memorial Hall, National College, Bangalore, swelled with pride watching a video showing one of the Cartosat-2 series satellites of India tracking the traffic on US roads, each vehicle distinctly visible. This was a part of Bangalore Science Forum lecture by Dr. AS Kiran Kumar,  the Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). This is one of the 20 satellites launched  by PSLV vehicle of ISRO on 22 June – a record, one of the many by the organisation. 17 co-passenger satellites were international customer satellites from Canada (2), Germany (1), Indonesia (1) and the United States (13).

We are among leaders in Satellite technology. From its inception in 1960 till today, the organisation has proved this with series of achievements.

However, if you ask students in colleges about their dream jobs,  working for ISRO is not one of them. ISRO is a government organisation and their starting salary would be less than 40% of what the toppers in good institutes would get in the market. The gap was much bigger before the 7th pay commission, when the current scientists of ISRO had joined.

While ISRO does not attract majority of academic achievers and the industry is happy to poach experienced scientists from the organisation, how do they achieve such great feats? It is not brand IIT and IIM; it is a great culture that makes ordinary people achieve extra-ordinary results and sustain. We have many mediocre companies in public and private sectors, which could learn from ISRO and a very few other such organisations.


PS. I am grateful to Dr. P. J. Bhat, Distinguished Scientist, ISRO/ISAC (Retd) for reviewing this short post.

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Pocket Hercules

Today’s headlines read, “Meet the world’s most desirable man! Mr India beats 46 finalists from around the world to take the Mr World crown… and it’s not hard to see why.” Rohit Khandelwal wins Mr. World 2016 title. Good feeling.

This brings unique memories of a train journey in 1972, in sleeper class from Mangalore to Bombay. Among my co-passengers were Manohar Aich, his wife and a son. Manohar Aich had served in Royal Indian Air Force before independence and was happy to chat with me as I was in the active service of Indian Navy.

As the discussions progressed, I learnt that he was Mr. Universe in 1952 at the age of 40.  In 1951 he was the runners up. All of his 4 ft 11 inches height was toned muscles at the age of 60 when I met him, very active and jovial. He narrated how he slapped a British officer and went to jail, which gave him ample time for body-building. His nickname was Pocket
Manohar_AichHercules. Very apt. He died on 5th June this year at the age of 104.

Manohar Aich seems to be the only Indian to have won Mr. Universe title.  I do not find any other Indian name in the list of winners.

Misses of the world and universe set the Indian silver screen on fire and reap gold. Our Mr. Universe worked in an obscure circus company, touring the country and sleeping in tents. Later, with his sons, he started a gym and fitness centre in Kolkata, where he worked till his end. Today’s Mr. World, already a model, may get to drink some horlicks and mineral water during commercial breaks in TV serials though he may not sign autographs with ball pens. Mistering the world or universe is not as glamorous as Missing them.

 

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No Light, No Sound; Only Melody

Last evening, Akkarai Sisters played violin duet in the monthly event of Girinagara Sangeetha Sabha, Bangalore. It was in a small general purpose hall, not built for concerts. Poor acoustics and ordinary sound-system. The artists’ dissatisfaction with the sound quality was evident on their faces. Bass and treble were adjusted, cables changed, microphones tilted up and down, raised and lowered, and speaker pushed around. Thirty minutes of performance went by trying to make the best of situation with the signal and noise in the modest hall.

Dhub! Power failed. Dark hall of rainy dusk, silenced speakers – only some mild disturbing noise around. Members of management committee ran around and out of the hall trying to restore power, not within their power though.

The hall that could seat 150 was teaming with 200. Someone in front row suggested to the artists, “Please continue. We’ll keep pin-drop silence.” The hall reverberated with strings of violins, accompanied by tabla and ghata. Melody flowed with original high quality and full fidelity directly to the listeners. No transforming sound waves to electrical signals and back to speakers to recreate waves of sound. Fidelity of sound system, lose wires, noise induction … no effects.

What a bliss! None stirred in the audience. A few helped by beaming dim cell-phone-lights on the stage. The artists were soon oblivious of the context, performed with a flow, weaving a magic envelop around the audience.

And, lo! power returned after 30 minutes, speakers booming again. Some in the audience suggested to turn of the amplifiers. That was not to happen. The 3 hours concert mesmerised the audience. The best part was the 30 minutes without tech support.

“Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.”

Not exactly – partly by spirit.

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