Friday, August 31, 2007


Mc Kinsey, Merill Lynch, BCG, J. P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley... or any other big name that is coming to IIT for recruitments this year - ask for one thing from the candidates in their 'What we look for in you' section - Leadership. I was intrigued by this demand of theirs'; maybe because I don't know what they mean by leadership. What then is leadership? I thought instead of looking at this from their perspective, let me analyse 'leadership' from my own perspective.

Arnold Toynbee once said these famous lines (courtesy 'Against the tide') "If a democratic regime is to work satisfactorily, it needs a leader... who is a person of such manifest ethical and intellectual worth that his fellow citizens will follow his lead without having to be either coerced or emotionally excited." But is this what leadership implies today? In IIT, the student community looks upon leadership to be something related wholly to holding an office as a student; be it a Councilor post in one's hostel, or the Department General Secretary post, or the posts of organizational heads for IIT's festivals - Mood Indigo and Techfest. Is this what Toynbee meant by leadership? Did he say, that leadership merely signifies leading a group of people towards achieving a common goal? Well, he didn't; but leadership does signify that. But the term holds in itself a hidden purport as well.

It isn't just about leading a bunch of people to do some task. It is far more than that. We happen to focus more on only the role of a leader these days. We tend to forget the whole process of functioning of leadership. Besides, the concept of leader is baseless without the concept of a follower; which again is grossly misunderstood today. Every one of us is a leader. We are really poor followers. The result - the collapse of the very values that our culture has been founded upon. A poor follower cannot become a great leader. How can a leader cause 'his fellow citizens to follow his lead without having to be either coerced or emotionally excited' when he was a bad follower himself?

In the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord (Krishna) tells his follower (Arjuna), after having imparted him with all the knowledge there is in the Gita, to reflect over it fully, and act in the way he pleases to. In response, Arjuna says that his delusion is destroyed, that he is firm and that all his doubts are gone. And he says 'Lord, I'll do thy word'. In my view, this is the highest level of the leader-follower relationship that can be seen. The manipulative, ego-centric, supremely powerful image of a leader that we harbour today is replaced in here by one of a powerful yet humble, noble, and progressive personality. Sadly, today we take our stand based on what the lord said. We never turn to what his follower had to say.

And that is what bothers me - the image of a leader we students have at IIT. Is it also shared by the companies who will come to our institute for campus recruitments? Well, we'll come to know soon.

Monday, August 27, 2007

This will pass

There is commotion all around me. I am sure that all this is just a dream, a bad nightmare rather. 'Life can never be so cruel, this can't be the world that I live in...' Yet somewhere deep in my heart I know I could be wrong. I have always heard of things like this happening to others, but had never given it a thought, probably because I never was directly in the line of fire. 'I cannot die in my dream'. I know for sure, that one does not die in one's dreams. It is this mysterious programming of the human mind that prevents us from experiencing death in dreams. Is it because we have never experienced death in life before, and that our dreams are based just on our experiences in life hitherto? But then, I wondered about all the dreams about her, things I wanted badly, but had never experienced, at least in this life.

I am surprised at how my mind could wander amidst all the horror. There was blood all around me. I don't know if it is mine or someone else's. Is this the blood of that child who was sitting next to me a while ago? No! It can't be... I cannot even imagine something so horrible happening to that beautiful thing. Such gore cannot belong to such beauty. Surely this is a dream, a product of my vile thoughts perhaps. Pinch me! I pinched myself. There is something wrong now... By now I should have woken up, perplexed and sweating perhaps, and mightily relieved. But I am still here. I am still covered with this blood.

I see a man crying out from a distance away. Hey wait! I am not able to hear him... oh no... I am unable to hear anything... I never noticed this until now. Can we listen to others speaking in our dreams? Or does our mind pretend it is listening, all the while aware unconsciously of what the next chain of events and thoughts is going to be? I try to listen to his cries. I can see that he is in great pain, but I cannot listen to his pain. However odd this may seem, I thank God for not allowing me to listen to him... I just couldn't have taken it. All I can hear is a deafening silence.. I notice he is covered in blood too. Everything around us is black and red. I am reminded of the movie 300. Blood everywhere. The demonic side of humankind. Blood... death.

I remember I wasn't sleeping. This is not a dream. Sadly, this is all happening. And this time, it happens to me. A Saturday evening gone horribly wrong. What started out with joy, and children cheering to a laser show ends in this gore. Why? Why me? Why us? Why that kid who sat next to me? Why this man who I can't listen to? Why do this at all? I don't want to live through this. I cannot take this pain. I cannot accept such a life, which doesn't distinguish between beauty and gore. I don't want this. I want to die. I should have been killed too. I weep. I cry.

Then I hear a voice. Oh how calm it is! How very soothing, yet so authoritative, so dignified. Is this what they call the voice of the mind? The voice of God? The voice calms me. Just listening to it is sufficient to drive away the pain, the agony, the misery. This can't be a mortal speaking out. This isn't merely a voice, this is knowledge in all its glory, making itself heard at a time I need it most. The voice tells me to calm down and accept what has happened. It tells me all that happens, happens for the best. I can see no sense in what it tells me. What good is there in this? Clearly it's rubbish. But somehow, I am drawn towards it and I listen to it intently. It tells me that this will pass. The world was not this cruel at a time not too long ago, and this cruelty cannot last long as well. It tells me that the world is going to change. It asks me to trust it on this. 'The world will change. Trust me. All this will pass. I will not tolerate such terror in my creation. I wish as much as you do that this ends. But giving up and submitting to such terror won't help. Stand up. Fight against this. It is then that I can see the change that I know will eventually dawn. If you cannot fight, at least don't give up. Don't let your spirit die. These people, these elements, they can take your body, your happiness, all the beauty and peace there is; but they cannot take your spirit. Your spirit is under your control. It is upto you to defend it, or to surrender it. Listen wisely, and choose with care. Never give up.'

No, it still doesn't make sense. The world will change? Can it then bring back the little girl in whose blood I am covered? Can it give me back my hearing power? Can it give that man the peace of mind he lost? No. It surely can't. It told me that all this is for good. It happened for good. Where is this good? I don't see any good here. There can be no good where there is such horror. But now I don't want to die. It told me never to give up. I have to live on to change things. I don't like this. I hate all that just happened. I shall fight against this. I choose not to submit my spirit.

- Dedicated to the victims of the recent Hyderabad twin blasts. Let us vow to change the world. Let us vow that there shall be a day when such horror is done away with. And that day I shall realise what the human spirit is all about.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Against the tide

A nice read this book. I haven't yet finished reading the whole text, but from whatever I have read, this seems to be an excellent compilation of thoughts by S. K. Chakraborthy on the East-West distinction on world views. He presents the thoughts of 8 great thinkers on these aspects, 4 from the East (Gandhi, Tagore, Vivekanand and Aurobindo) and 4 from the west (Griffiths, Toynbee, Rolland and Frawley).

Laying aside the thoughts and the impressionistic words which conveyed them, the thing I liked more about this book was the insights it offered into the current situation of the world in light of these views, some of which are more than 100 years old. The other day I was asked to write an essay picturing myself at the age of 50 and that seemed an uphill task to me. And here were thoughts on the human condition after a century, by some of the most intellectually superior minds we have ever known. Given the author's professional background (Convener, Management Centre for Human values and Professor, IIM Calcutta) in the domains of management and ethics, this book affords both flavours in ample measure to the open minded reader. I feel really lucky to have been introduced to some really good books over the last couple of weeks (this and 'The Life of Pi' by Yann Martel, 'Business @ the speed of thought' by Bill Gates, 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' by Robert Kiyosaki) which have rekindled the passion I once had for substantial reading before I got hitched on to Grisham.

I would recommend each one of us to read this book once. The name is quite profound itself - it is a text that claims to help one realise that there is a way against the tide too; it isn't always imperative to drift like a straw with the tide. Before I sign off, here is a memorable quote from the book, originally by Tagore:

"... When things go wrong, the peoples brought up in the spirit of modern culture furiously seek for some change in organization and system, as if the human world were a mere intellectual game of chess where winning and losing depended upon the placing of pawns. They forget that for a man, winning a game may be the greatest of his losses."

Think about this. You are welcome to share your views here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On my 50th birthday

Had to write this essay for the O. P. Jindal Scholarship application. The topic was what would I want the critical stakeholders in my life to say about me on my 50th birthday. This is what I had to say:

Well, that’s an interesting question. More so considering that I haven’t yet lived to even half that age! So where do I see myself on my 50th birthday, and what do the most important people in my life perceive me as? Well, for one I can be sure that I’ll be living in a totally different world then from what I am living in right now. So I think I’ll focus more on what kind of a person would I like to be rather than what I would have achieved by then and the like, which would be pure speculation, to say the least.

The quintessential characteristic of my personality then, and always at that, should be that I be known as a good human being. What purports does this epithet encompass from my point of view? Well, there are several aspects to this, and let me focus on some of the key ones for now. I would like to be known as a friendly, responsible and a diligent personality to all persons whose life I touch, directly or indirectly. For my children, who would have grown up to be fine young adults by then, I would be a good father, ever so loving and encouraging and supportive and also critical about their views and thoughts. They should know and be proud of the fact that I will always be there for them whenever they may need me. I would be a good husband to my wife, always beside her through thick and thin. She should also look upon me as a loving spouse and be as much my strength as I would be to her. At 50 years young, I would love her as much as I always did, if not more! My friends and my colleagues should consider me a good team player and a very supportive companion. I should also be looked upon as a good listener, and even though I might be opinionated on most issues, I should not be derisive of the opinions of others. I should have a wide and a happy social network, and be looked upon as an influential person among the circles of which I would be a part.

I should also be looked upon as a dynamic personality and a significant agent of change. At the age of 50, I believe that I would have reached the autumn of my active professional life, which is a fair assumption I guess, as I certainly wouldn’t like to be striving to earn for my daily bread at that age! As such, I should be looked upon as a good mentor by my younger generations, and they should trust in my advice on issues that they think are critical for them and for others. I should have lived to have contributed my fair bit to the development of the world in general and my country in particular. The development and progress we long for today should have been achieved by then and I should have played an important part in getting there. My activities, both in my social and professional life should inspire other people towards achieving the highest strata of excellence. I shall live to have my critics, who would always push me on to do even better at whatever I do. I would like to have lived up to their criticism by then.

I am not sure of what the life expectancies would be 30 years down the line, though I am pretty much sure that I would still go on to live on for quite a few more years! So what should my goals be then? What should I aspire for? As of now, I would like to have achieved all that I want to in my life by then. So what would the future hold for me, and what would I have to offer? For a start, I can then retire from my professional life and become a lobbyist for the issues that I always would have supported. That would be a good way to dedicate my wealth and time to everything that I respect and love. For instance, I can travel around spreading goodwill and the message of love and peace, which I am quite sure, would be far from achieved even by then! For my grandchildren, I would be everything that we picture in a nice grandpa; a loving playmate to a faithful protector. Essentially, I should not so much desire wealth and power in my life then, as the love and respect of the people who I care for.

Well, it really is tough picturing myself at such a distant stage in the future, though I feel I have presented a fair picture of how I would like to be then; all that ranging from being an achiever to being a noble human being. To put everything in a nutshell, I would like to have lived to have created a greater impact and brought more smiles to faces than I could have ever possibly imagined.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


If I ask you where do you see yourself on your 50th birthday, what would you have to say? Well, for one you cannot comment on what/where you will be (given you are about my age now), as 29 years is a long way into the future. I will share my views on this soon, but meanwhile I will like you to think on this for yourself, and maybe share your views with us all here.

Good bye.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lasting trends (?)

Came upon this great way of optimising your living costs and saving your time. Wow! I mean, what's new? Such things are pretty common in govt hospitals out here I believe. One thing concerns me though - who caught this shabbiness habit from whom - the Brits from us, or we from the Brits?

How would it be like to turn over your dirty bedsheet, that has been there for probably a month or so, and pretend its all washed up and lie down on it. Well, you could also go to the extent of imagining the fresh scent of the soap used to wash that sheet emanating from that thing while you try smell it. What would you do if someone comes over and is ignorant of this new cost cutting scheme of yours and passes an awkward comment that spurs up giggles in those who happen to be there at that destined moment. Well, if I were you, I would pretend as if the commentator passed a dumb comment of which even he isn't sure of. To avoid suspicion you could probably spray some deo or something on that sheet to simulate that fragrance we talked of earlier.

What would you do if your Mom were to walk into your hostel room suddenly, presenting you one of her 'surprise visits', maybe a trend she has recently adopted, after finally realising the nature of the life hostelites live. What do you do then? For one, you could pretend that this isn't your room and walk into that wing's-good-boy's room where all is calm and well. But what if that fails? What contingency plan do you probably employ? Well, you could explain this new cost cutting trend to your mom, and pray she appreciates it (Trust me you don't want her trying out that back home).

Think about the sweat and dust creases that form on sheets that are not washed for a long time. No, they are not disgusting. As a matter of fact, (few people know this) the creases can be copied and pasted to other parts of the sheet. All you have to do is to hold the two portions in contact for a fairly long time (even rub them together to help matters). Don't you see it? You have your very own graffiti board; pardon me, graffiti sheet for yourself. Trust me on this too - no one else would want to claim ownership to this either.

What we looked at were some pros and cons(?) of the habit of turning over used sheets and reusing them instead of dismissing them off to a nice wash. Coming back to the topic, this is one trend I don't see would last long.

Monday, August 13, 2007


What do we mean by knowledge? Is it just a collection of facts? Or is it just an awareness of some ideas? I feel that a more correct description of knowledge could be that it is the absence of ignorance. Knowledge reigns where ignorance ceases to exist. Knowledge is not just born out of nothing; all the knowledge possessed by mankind today is a result of accumulation over ages; accumulation of experience, facts, theories, ideas, beliefs and all that we regard today as knowledge.

What exactly again is ignorance? A quantitative way of describing it would be to say that it is the failure to understand something in its actuality; in the way it actually exists. When do we say that we understand something as it is? Well, one could say that we do so when there is a common agreement that it is this way; when we have no contradictions to it. For example, 2+2=4 is an axiomatic statement in mathematics; we believe that it is this way, as we have been told so, and we don’t seem to find any established idea contradicting this. Thus, it seems as if our knowledge is based commonly on our agreement on certain facts and ideas.

Agreement upon something universally is not an easy thing. When a new idea or fact is presented, we do not accept it without reasoning. There are counter arguments and theories. This is the way it has always been to a large extent. Most of western scientific knowledge was founded when a few ambitious men challenged the statements of the Church, which the laity had till then accepted as the supreme truth, unthinkable of being challenged. Had it not been for the daring of these courageous few, the world would have been drastically different from the way it is today. Why, there are always those who disagree upon any new idea upon its introduction.

Disagreements don’t imply an end in themselves; they pave the way for further enquiry into the topic and lead to a deeper understanding of the same. If all of us choose to agree upon something, there would be hardly any need for further study into the intrigue of the idea under consideration. Better put, we may not be exaggerating in saying that disagreements lead to more concrete agreements.

But is disagreement always justified? Is it necessary that there should always be a section of mankind opposed to common agreement upon an issue? Rather, is knowledge founded solely on the basis of disagreements alone? Consider this – We reassure ourselves of our knowledge by disproving those who oppose it. What if all of us agree upon something, without anyone questioning it? Would we ever bother to test the authenticity of our belief? Even if it be this way, what about the generations who follow our own? Will they blindly accept whatever is laid in front of them? Certainly not, as it just makes a mockery of knowledge. The example of the church’s beliefs and the enquiry of scientists mentioned earlier fits aptly here.

It thus seems that for a certain knowledge to pass on to generations and to survive through the ages, it has to be questioned time and again, and it should come out shining each time. Such enquiry based upon disagreements would certainly strengthen it. I certainly believe that most of our knowledge is due to those who disagreed rather than those who agreed. Because, if it weren’t so, we would have no right to differentiate between what we call our knowledge, and what we call blind faith.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Adventures of Sam

I have been away from blogging for a long while now, thanks to more pressing matters in my life. But now that I have become busy with my routine at IIT, I finally find myself left with enough time to spare for my blog. It's this thing with being kept busy that amuses me; I always feel that I have lots of free time to kill then. Give me nothing to do and I become preoccupied with boredom.

Most of you may know Sam from a previous post. Sam is our typical personality who has the not so uncommon knack of making me laugh with his quotidian colloquialism. The other day he told me that he was tired of wasting time in bathing. I asked him what other options did he have, to which he happily told me he would dry clean himself. He has these clear cut solutions to simple issues in life that intrigue him as hell. If you want to see the height of stupidity, you just have to ask Sam how tall he is. Sam tells me he wants to become a doctor, so that he can help humankind. I feel that he is helping more humans than he can ever do by becoming a doctor the way he is now; at least no lives are endangered due to his stupidity. He once stumbled upon a fortune cookie that said "Seek your fortune in another cookie". And he did.

Sam I believe, was born only with a single brain cell, that has now been reduced to half following repeated usage over all these years. He was trying a guitar in the store the other day.

Sam: Hey it's been so long since I played a guitar.
Me: Sam dear, you have never played a guitar.
Sam: Exactly.
(Plays around with it for a while. Then, )
Sam: Hey how do you play this chord again? I forgot.
Me: I thought you don't know how to play the guitar.
Sam: Ah! That's why I keep forgetting.

Yesterday he came to me holding a cool Federer-autographed tennis ball in his hand, and asked me

Sam: Ain't this cool?
Me: Good, but whose is it?
Sam: It was lost. I found it.
Me: How do you know?
Sam: Well, the kid next door is still looking around for it.

Sam owns a car that he says has never had a wreck since 5 years. I don't want to disappoint him by telling him the truth - that he owned a wreck and has never had a car. Sam is also quite good at a dance called the elevator; he avoids the steps. Lately, he feels that everyone has been ignoring him due to his stupidity. So he went to see a counselor.

Sam: Everyone ignores me. What should I do?
Counselor: Next please!

Ha ha.