Happy New Year

January 1, 2019. A new year.

Another cycle of 12 months has just passed us, and a new year has arrived at our doorstep. As human beings we get charged up every time there is something new in front of us. Having something new is exciting as there is lots of potential to make a true difference. It brings in hope and a new-found optimism. The energy and the power that comes henceforth is raw and needs proper channelling before it ends, and January 2, 2019 starts to feel just like December 31, 2018.

How do we prevent something like that from happening and allow the benefits of the ‘new-found optimism’ to prolong over the next 12 months or even greater? This question has always dazed people especially when resolutions that one set forward in the new year collapse within hours, days or even months after they come into effect.

I believe that ‘intention’ is the first step in a process to ensure that resolutions live or last longer. Resolutions are seeds of newness one finds in the new year. To cultivate or grow them takes some hard work, yet it is not impossible.

I am a strong believer in the principles outlined by Charles Duhigg in his path breaking book ‘The Power of Habit’. In the book, Charles explains the habit loop that has three stages: the cue or the trigger that causes the habit, the routine which is the behaviour and the reward. The thing with most resolutions is that we are good in defining the ‘What (trigger)’ and sometimes the ‘Why (reward)’. Most of the time we fail to define the ‘How (routine)’ which causes the resolutions to fail. For example, just by taking a gym membership doesn’t mean that you lose body fat or weight. At the same time if you work 15+hrs a day and are tired by the time you reach home, you will have only yourself to blame if you cannot find the time to burn the fat, because there is a disconnect between what you want and what you have.

So how then one gets around and use the power of habit in meeting resolutions? That’s where the power of intention comes into play. Intention is the foundation stone of behaviours. Behaviours are key to the success of any habits. It is important to define and agree upon the routine prior to embarking on any habit — or resolution. So how do you define the routine?

Stephen Covey’s habit (2) states that ‘Begin with the end in mind’. If you clearly define the end (reward) by being specific about it, you begin the journey to a successful resolution. For e.g., ‘I want to be 90kgs by the end of December 2019’ by ‘____ (?)’. This is where one needs to define a meaningful routine. For example:

– By going to gym by myself and then get bored and drop off in a week OR

– By employing the services of a fitness trainer and work with him in meeting my objectives?

By having clarity on the routine i.e., challenging it so that it is robust and do not fail, there is a better potential to succeed.

To summarise, resolutions work well when developed as a habit. Any habit needs a strong definition (‘What’), reason (‘Why’) and behaviour (‘How’) to succeed. Start with the ‘why’, define the ‘how’ and see how the ‘what’ starts to make sense.

Happy New Year.

The image problem

We worry about our image all the time. How did we reach here? It may not be a bad thing.

We live in an image conscious world. Thanks to social media, everyone (including yours’ truly is on a quest to show themselves as cool, outgoing and an amazing person to be with. We love to click selfies, show ourselves as always happy, fun loving and having a blast at all times. This to me is one of the blessings of the modern era. No one will know the inner you. The filter that you put on can help conceal what you are really within yourself.

I consider myself fortunate to have spent valuable times with my grandparents in my youth. They came from a generation that preceded the baby boomers. These people witnessed the world wars, the cold wars and every conflict that has come to define the 20th century. They have been through hunger, famine, struggle-everything you name it. These experiences shaped them to rough and tough people who called a spade a spade and walked the talk and talked the talk. Economic prosperity was however denied to them during their time on the earth. Fate did compensate them later with a change in the circumstances of their own children/ grand children.

I’ve had many colourful conversations with my own grandparents about life then versus now. Due to extreme hardships they faced, they valued people and money dearly. They would ensure that relations were maintained and money was spent wisely or not even spent all. They valued things and they abhorred waste.

For a moment consider the 21st century. We thrive in the era of commercialization. We thrive in an era of buying and spending beyond our means. For us economic prosperity was attainable due to the relative peaceful conditions that we live in. We love our gadgets and our instagrammed portraits of ourselves. There is nothing wrong in loving oneself and some may argue it is wise to mind one’s own business in a world such as today.

We live in different times. The human race of my grandfathers evolved into the one of mine that we see today. People would like to lament how good things were back then- but today is even better. It may be crowded and noisy today. But one can find true peace and harmony within oneself. Being image conscious may not be a bad thing after all. It is always better to be the best of what you can be each day.

I have learnt a simple lesson in life which I admit I learnt from my own grandparents. It was years ago and I still remember when my grandmother passed away and her body was moved from the home to the cemetery. My grandfather said he did not want to come and chose to stay home alone. As everyone made their way out, I went and had a look at my grandfather. He was really close to his wife of many years. She completed him and was there with him through thick and thin. He might have dreaded that day when they had to bade goodbye – and today it was here. There was sadness and a sense of fear in his face. Life is never going to be the same again. The realization that in the end, you are all alone by yourself- and your time could be next.

I think it is important to understand that your life is all about you and not anyone else. But I will never say that your world is all about you. The world has never owed anything to anyone and will continue despite you. It is wise to give importance to yourself rather than have a feeling of self importance or entitlement. You will be disappointed if you believe that latter is the case. The old adage holds a self evident truth – ‘Live and let live’. Always remember the first word – ‘Live’.


It is good to return

It has been 4 months since I penned my last post. Life has been good and hectic during this time and it is good to be back to what I know best- blogging.

It is always good to return.

Throughout human history we hear tales of people leaving their homes, their friends and family to embark on a journey- one that which their lives called them to do. Often titled as A Hero’s Journey, tales from religion, folklore, legends to even movies is when this journey commences. The whole sum of life is the time when this journey commences to when it ends.

During this journey, we meet a lot people, see a lot of places, stay in strange places and settings- but we do not remain there forever. We continue on our journey-as our soul is a restless one. One that cannot be quenched or silenced. It will not rest till it reaches its ultimate destination.

Mass and energy are inexplicably interlinked. Our bodies constitutes of the same ingredients found across the cosmos. When we die, the mass (body) decomposes or if cremated is ultimately destroyed. Our soul leaves and it is often believed connects itself back with where it originates. Masculine religions like Christianity or Islam believe that it reaches Paradise. Feminine religions of Hinduism, Buddhism believe that it gets reincarnated and the cycle of life continues.

No one knows for sure.

However it is the return that is important. We all return one day-to our homes, our loved ones, friends and family. We should always strive for that and pray that we are fortunate – to return.

Returning is good. Fulfilling our purpose in life is noble and quintessential.

Let our spirit lead us forward. Never look backward. We often return to the place where we started. That is life.

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The End Times

We are at crossroads. Never before has history repeated itself as one can see looking at the world around us. More than ever before, there is growing distrust and unhappiness in the world around us. We are in the midst of the crumbling of an old world order where people were divided or encouraged to divide themselves in the name of caste color or religion. In today’s world, such divisions are starting to crumble. The proponents of the old world order look at it alarmingly and try to rescue what they were used to, but they know that the time is definitely up.

If you look at the narrative of the past, one can definitely see how religion was cleverly used whenever there was a major power in the world. When the British empire ruled the earth, they used a form of Christianity which the missionaries took around the world so that the colonised people did not become self aware. They were successful. Later on after the fall of Berlin Wall, the American empire having vanquished its only enemy, used Evangelism as a fast food tool, to conquer the masses into its own narrative. As the oil boomed, Saudi Arabia used similar techniques to effectively subjugate Iran, remove all the moderate narratives of Islam and replaced it with a hardcore, ultra-conservative Wahhabi inspired version. With the advent of the information technology revolution, these world views have been threatened severely.

Yet today, we are definitely at crossroads. Brexit, Trump and now the emerging alternative movements in Europe and elsewhere do threaten to return us to the dark chapters preceding the Second World War.

For example. remove the word jew and replace it with muslim  and as you revisit the chapters of the past, you can see where this narrative may potentially lead us. I am not hinting that Trump may be the next Hitler, to me he looks more like a protectionist. But I do fear that the real reincarnation of Hitler will emerge in Europe which by its location and history is at a dangerous precipice today.

There will definitely be an implosion. Which may be a good thing as the world would need to move on from centuries old definition of religion to a new modern era of spirituality. May be that is what the end of times may actually mean from the holy books.

Cover photo: Auschwitz

Photo Credit: Lazenby43 Flickr via Compfight cc

It is more or less the same

Eight years ago, as the world welcomed the first Afro-American president, yours truly was one among the millions glued to their television set as the purported (as it feels now) dawn of a new era commenced in the United States. It was a momentous and a historic occasion. Ever since the United States heralded the world into a brutal and bloody recession, all eyes were on the new incoming president with the hopes that he would reverse the tide, bring the perpetrators who were the reason for this in the first place to justice, change the way we see the 21st century and so on. He made tall promises that he will get it done, differently and responsibly.  Eight years later as he bows down from the office, nothing has changed. The world has become a more dangerous place to live in, the gulf between the rich and poor have grown, the middle class has been crushed and the excesses of the 21st century have grown to alarming proportions. When he took office, he promised to change all these, including fixing Wall Street. He did nothing.  To clearly show how nothing really changed during the Obama presidency, it is interesting to note that the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) that directly contributed to the 2008 financial crisis has been reborn today as the bespoke tranche opportunity, the number of convictions in Wall Street fraud is one, and the national debt grew the largest (dollarwise) in his presidency at 7 trillion dollars.

Obama came to power on a platform that was based on change, hope and belief. Hence it is safe to state the following: Do not be fooled by the allusion that things have changed – they have not. They may get better eventually there is a pattern to this madness. Everyone would like to proclaim that they want change- change themselves (I have a slogan for the year- #unbecomeyourself), change their way of life, change their family, change their car etc. But do you think that anything changes? It is all but an illusion; a perception of change. Nothing changes for real- especially when it is hoisted upon artificially.

Then there is a natural pattern to things. The change that is foisted upon by the universe- sometimes gradually or sometimes disrupting. It is like the classic Aesop’s tale of the hare and tortoise. Humans yearning for change are like the hare. They start the race and sprint like the hare. Midway on seeing how far they have come with regards to everyone they have left behind (tortoise) – friends, family, circumstances, home etc., they just get complacent and go into a rut. Once they come out of that rut, they open their eyes and realize that the tortoise has reached the destination and patiently await their return. The defeated hare will again challenge the tortoise for another race at another day and place. However, the results don’t change.

I am a student of history. Nothing excites me more that reading history and drawing parallels with the exciting times that I currently live in. The founding fathers designed the United States of America in the shape and form of the values exhibited by the Roman Empire. The difference was the timely inclusion of the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence where it was explicitly stated that the land of the free will grow and prosper based on the simple premise that-

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Did you know that Washington DC, the capital was built referring to the erstwhile Rome before it was ransacked by the barbarians? If the United States turns a blind eye to justice, equality and fairness, the fate of the erstwhile Roman Empire awaits it. Because that is all it takes for history to repeat again and for us to recollect later that- it was more or less the same!.

Photo Credit: Geoff Livingston Flickr via Compfight cc

About Race & American Crime

I have just completed watching two seasons of American Crime which premiered on ABC in 2014 and continued on in 2015. Told in the context of racial tensions in the present day United States, the series presents tales of crime juxtaposed with suffocating yet haunting realities of racial tensions in the modern day. Watching this series and based on my countless experiences while travelling across the border and while living in a country not so north of the US, there are some observations that I have to make:

  1. Nobody should deny that there aren’t any racial or religious tensions

It is indeed easy for the media to paint a rosy picture, but globalisation has polarised people like never before. There is too much unequal division of wealth happening across the world. The inherent biases that comes into the discussions regarding the immigrant or refugee crisis can bear a clear testament to this. Politicians love to bring in more immigrants or refugees because they are a lucrative vote bank. However, the new people who make their way to the Western world are ditched quickly without any conscious efforts being made to migrate them to the new culture and society.

Therefore, the cultural shock that inevitably follows causes many of these refugees to stray away from accepting the conditions imposed on them by the new host country. They then tend to look within themselves, become closed and more conservative and then try to impose on others what they consider to be right and wrong. These efforts cause tension because they will simply not work in the new setting. The tales of the Mexican father in Season 1 and how he ended up at the receiving end of his fellow Mexicans despite having done things correctly (apart from them) to migrate to the United States shows how one needs to assimilate eventually to the culture of its host country, however difficult it may be. His friends failed to do so and ended up stereotyping the entire community that they lived in causing great harm to the former and his son who was implicated.

Living only as an expatriate in the Middle East for a longer time than as an immigrant to Canada, I would say assimilation is not a choice but a necessity and it takes a long, long time.

  1. Racial feelings can be contradictory

Regina King plays the role of a person who tries to do what is morally right in terms of racial and religious divide that is being seen across the Western world, but gets trapped in her own contradictions. When her company decides to transfer her to a different place, partly due to the leaked emails showing her racial bias and the backlash it received because of her son, she plays the racial victim card to deaf ears.  Early in the season, she rebuked her assistant who played the racial card and terminated her employment for doing so-before the same episode could end, she played the same card at the police investigating the misdemeanour that involved her own son.

I had a similar experience once in Detroit, where there was a racial response to a simple request. I chose to ignore it because that’s all you can do in a time such as these. It is indeed about acceptance- accepting both sets of people- those who would like to play the victor or the victim card. We can talk hours and hours about doing the right thing-but often our judgement of what it is gets clouded due to our experiences. The recent shootings in US and the turmoil it has wrought on communities are a testament to it.

  1. Racial feelings can wreck havoc in a society

American Crime in both seasons showed a divided society which has deep fractures every time there is an issue with race. The backlash faced by the principal of the public school in season 2 when he expelled a Mexican student for beating up a black student, without doing proper follow-up. Later he himself admitted that he was provoked by his own bias when he heard a racial slur uttered at him. This shows how racial feelings made him even forget his own duty as a principal. In the first season, such racial feelings caused the society to take sides, subverting both truth and justice and eventually split the couple to their own tragic ends.

American Crime is a very difficult series to picturize. It only shows a fragment of the real racial tensions that plague America and the Western civilisation. The issues that the series shows arise from unacceptance of the differences among each other.

Summarizing, the series conveys a consistent message throughout that just because something is different, doesn’t mean that it is bad or wrong. It is simply the way it is. Acceptance is that which only matters.

Picture courtesy: http://atvfest.com/2016/screenings/american-crime


There is anger everywhere

Before leaving for Canada I remember a decade ago, my dad telling me these words “Tenny whatever you do, never get angry”. I tried to live up to his expectations but was never successful. I have been obedient to him mostly yet for instances when not, my anger has always caused me irreparable damage.

Today’s world is no different. There is anger, frustration and despair everywhere. Globalisation has clearly overstayed its welcome. Countries if not continents are collapsing. People are losing jobs in large numbers and economies everywhere are on the decline. The current government model is clearly losing its sheen because of its inability to understand the pulse of its citizens. Taxes are increasing, inflation is rising and if one looks at the social media, trolling and abuse have reached newer depths of shame.

If you look at the election scene in the world’s most powerful democracy, one can clearly see why the whole political system is headed for a crash. The crazy ascension of Mr. Trump and the selection of a very dubious Mrs. Clinton has clearly caused concern to observers and polity around the world. The terrorist attacks that have crippled Europe and the shocking and never ending refugee crisis from Syria, the downward spiral of oil prices have created a dangerous situation which some observers have begun comparing to the days before the two main World Wars.

Is this going to be all doom and gloom? Will there ever be a time of calmness and peacefulness? I think there will be. In my opinion, the only solution to this whole problem is that humans need to shift from the current economic model to a new knowledge and spiritual model where we need to seek for ourselves what lies beyond us. We need to look up to the stars and understand reasons why we were created and are we the only ones residing in this cosmos. We need to revisit our spirituality and shed away the psuedo secularism that brought us to this condition. We need to rise above organized religion, organized groups and structures and seek new and meaningful partnerships where we learn to respect each other and reconcile with one another. We need to stop this anger…and this hatred.

There needs to be love everywhere…

Photo Credit: Francesca Lo Piccolo via Compfight cc