Have you ever wondered about how you take critical decisions in your life? If not, do think once in a while. Did the decision and the subsequent action of yours amount to anything? Did it achieve its desired objective? Did it make the change that you hoped from a situation? Did it change your life for the good or the better? Was it necessary to make such a decision? What would be your rationale in making such a decision? Yours truly asked a few people about this issue. Most of them said that the most important criteria in making decisions to them were to do what they felt was right for them. Then I asked, have you ever thought about the consequences of your decision? The answer I received was that, No, as long as the consequence dint affect us, we dint bother. When the dear reader of this post thinks about this assertion, please think for a moment what would you be doing?

Our decisions are important components of our legacy that we leave on this earth. If there is something that is really certain in this life is the fact that we would have to leave this earth one day. Since that is the only thing that can be assured in this mundane life, why don’t we make a conscious effort to do the right thing?

Why is it important to do the right thing? Because in the end, only that is right and just will endure. For example, I have heard tales of people facing difficult choices when it comes to their career, relationships, family life etc. Most of the time, the choices are down to the following.

  • The right thing I feel is apt to my immediate (short-term) interests.
  • The overall right thing which may not be apt to my interests but looks right in the long term

The good thing about the former is that results are known beforehand and the chances of anything to the contrary are very remote. But deep down inside, you know that it’s not a lasting choice and you might consciously end up regretting the decision for a long time. However in the case of latter, it may cause deep and profound short-term pain but has the potential create lasting long-term gains.

In the end, the simple question that one needs to ask him is that, what is the point of gaining the world and yet losing your soul? It is important to take decisions that are right not just for yourself, but that which is the absolute right thing to do. Your intuition, conscience, beliefs and experiences will guide you as you make this choice. But remember you will die once and never leave for yourself a grieving soul.

Never ever say NO

We live in a risk averse world. These days, whenever something of significance is announced, one can find a million dissenting voices that threaten to drown the ones that support them. Living in North America and working in oilsands, I am no foreigner to these type of voices. Anything we do, or not do, are analyzed with a nanoscopic lens and criticized heavily. You want a new road, NO. You want to upgrade the airport, NO. You want a new vehicle, NO. You want a new home, why? NO. Everything ends in a resounding and relentless NO.

Why have we become a generation of naysayers. Where is the flying cars that were promised to us in science fiction? Where is the space exploration campaigns exploring new worlds? Where is the promise of time travel? In a rhetoric accentuated by paralysis by analysis, our time in this world will be known by what we haven’t done or failed to do.

Read the news today. All we can see is tales of leaders who have failed to act when it is needed, tales of big business and their countless and meaningless mergers and acquisitions, an impatient shareholder community that is risk averse and focussed on quarterly profits, startups that promise too much in the beginning only to be brought by bigger business and shutdown later, only because the founders did not have the spine for the long haul.

This picture is absolutely not right and extremely frightening. We are creating a culture of being absolutely and extremely risk averse. I have worked as a Process Safety Engineer and we believe in executing work by understanding the base risk and installing safeguards to make the risk as low as reasonably possible and then executing it. But what we do see today is that, people are scared of the risk associated with any task or project, that they shy away from planning or even executing it.

Oilsands development is a classic example of human ignorance. Here we have one of the largest natural crude oil deposits in the world, second only to Saudi Arabia (based on the current extraction methods). This valuable resource is highly important and valuable in the onward march of human progress and development. The struggles this industry faces from environmentalists and vested interests to deny its development has been well documented earlier in this blog. Rather than assemble together as a team focussed on the sustainable extraction and development of this valuable resource, the debate has veered to its total decimation and its harmful effects to environment.

‘Fortune favors the brave’ is a belief that I have believed since childhood. It exhorts us to go ahead and do something. Whatever or whoever you are, think about something great and DO IT rather than say NO and back off. ‘Just Do It’ is a famous tagline by NIKE that was coined in 1988. Nelson Mandela used to exhort by the following saying, “It is always impossible, till it is done”. I believe it is easier to say something is impossible, but the sense of satisfaction that one receives after getting something done is simply unparalleled.

Concluding, before we say NO or it is not possible, let us for a minute think, WHY NOT?



Happy New Year. Edmonton is here.

Hello all and welcome to a brand new year. Hope you have a great time this year.

Greetings to you from the winter city of Edmonton. Edmonton is the capital city of the prosperous Canadian province of Alberta. I have been a resident of this city for the past 7 years and has been witness to its excellent growth and progress. Previously known as the ‘Gateway to the North’, this city owes its boom to a vibrant and disciplined oil and gas industry that manages oil reserves which is second in comparison to Saudi Arabia.

Edmonton is now what I call home. I have experienced the best and the worst that this city has had to offer me. Being an immigrant, in all my time here, never did I ever feel that I was unaccepted. The people are warm, friendly and full of hope for the best that life has to offer. Being a winter city this city has its share of winter joy and helplessness. In spring, summer and fall this city is an absolute paradise. The air is clean and crisp and the feeling is beyond words.

Edmonton is also a sunny city and has the maximum exposure to sun that any city in North America. Having a diverse mix of residents from all over the world, this city is a true global city.

It is this diversity and hope that The Raya seeks to epitomise. We seek to help our readers in defining the next big opinion that would change themselves and contribute in the progressive march of our society. It is with this intention that we have decided to dedicate a significant section of the blog to all things Edmonton commencing from this year onwards. Before you begin to worry, please be advised that all the other sections would also be addressed with equal vigour.

Edmonton being a global city and an absolutely incredible place to live in, it would be befitting that the stories from this city are resonated in this blog for our readers from all over the world. These stories would seek to inspire, provoke and define your opinion as we move to a society that is in fact a melting pot. In such a society, everyone is equal in spite of their colour, caste, creed or sexual orientation.

Enjoy The Raya this year for some simple and inspirational writing.


Why do modern societies need any armies ?

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“An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot.” Thomas Paine

Armed forces are the pride of any nation. Millions of armed men keep a constant vigil on our borders so that you and me can get along with our business of making a living and creating value added lives. From time immemorial, man has always been prone to constant bouts of war and peace. If the 19th century was dominated by the world wars and the cold wars, the 20th century just a decade into its existence has already seen armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Libya, Syria and now finally Egypt. In addition to huge losses of life and property, these wars have also altered our modern society due to a never before seen penetration of information, thanks to advances in technology.

Being a silent spectator to many of these wars from the safe confines of my home, I’ve always felt for those tales of incalculable  losses and sufferings. I have keenly observed many of these wars and found that people talk till they fail, then fight till they tire and then talk till they compromise. This has been the scenario in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In many other cases, talks or diplomacy have prevented many an outbreak of war. This leads to an important existential question. If wars don’t result in a resolution of conflict and talks do, then shouldn’t we be trying for the latter, rather than the former?

In other cases, just as what is playing currently in Egypt and many other countries like Pakistan et. al, is the fact that the army becomes an existential threat to the whole idea of a nation, when it goes beyond its mandate to protect its citizens and grab the power. Most of the time this happens because of an over ambitious army chief with an insatiable lust for power. When this happens, the country finds itself in a descending spiral of gloom and disrepair.

A good percent of a country’s GDP goes in maintaining these huge armies. Look at the case of the developing countries and potential superpowers of tomorrow, India and China and the huge amounts of money that is being spend to maintain their huge armies. Their contribution here is about 2.5% (249 billion) and 2% (119 billion) respectively of their GDP. All these amounts can be used to bolster the social spending in these nations, rather than the upkeep of a few.

It is easy to sit in the confines of one’s home and write about millions who toil day and night to ensure that we live well, work hard and have a good night’s rest. The intention of this blog is not either. When a good amount of the financial and human resources of a country is invested in maintaining a huge governmental enterprise such as an army, it needs to be structured in a way that it benefits the citizens and not the other way round.

Having a reserve force is a great idea. Compulsory military training along between the ages of 18 and 25 is even better. This would instill in the youth of a country a sense of love and belonging in addition to the advent of a disciplined and responsible society. These trained individuals would form an integral part of a reserve force that would be assembled in case of an emergency. Diplomacy should be the first step in the face of an external aggression. If it fails, the reserve force should be used to enforce peace.

In today’s world, wars are destructive, brutal and leaves a trail of devastation, hopelessness and depression. The objectives of a modern society cannot be met by killing each other in name of an idea or ideology. It doesn’t need a large standing army that gobbles up much needed capital which would have benefitted the least fortunate.

Image courtesy:

The tale of a Walkman

The recent news of Sony discontinuing the Walkman brand marks the passing away of a fine legend. The other day while loitering through the world wide web, yours’ truly came across this news item announcing the news. The brief article written by a nostalgic fan, made me go back in time, to a period when computers were hardly there, when we had physical music collection, when a cassette had 12 songs, nothing more, Apple was almost dead as a company, the list goes on.
It was one time. A fine time. Yours truly was celebrating his 15th birthday. Due to my unruly attitude towards electronics, I just screwed up both my portable radio and cassette player. I got both due to my successful ability to collect merchandise, in this case Nido milk powder tin caps.
The story is like this. I just decided to leave the comforts of Abu Dhabi for the comforts of a boarding school in my native state in India. For my 15th birthday, I requested my dad a Sony Walkman, fully promising that I would take good care of it, to which my requests were granted, fortunately no questions were asked.
I decided to take good care this time of my Walkman. It had a great FM player (at that time FM stations were becoming popular in Abu Dhabi), it played original cassettes lovely, screwing up the duplicate ones, it lasted with me for 6 years before I gave it to my sister.
These 6 years chronicled a great time in my life and that Walkman stood with me throughout. Even these times, mp3 became a standard. I liked the Walkman as well. Simply because. you would listen to song in full; rewind it back hoping you will reach the beginning of a song, not any excerpts from the earlier song; fastforward a song hoping you will reach the end of the song, not wanting to spoil the beginning of the next song; the list goes on. The best thing was, there was no scrollbar, there was no spin wheel, just pure manual operation.
Just as today is good, those days were good too. BASF tapes from Germany were known for their superior sound quality. People knew about Tips. T-Series, HMV cassette companies and so on. You used to get the original Hindi MC for 50Rs, English 150Rs and a fake one for 20RS. The fake ones were marketed well, they lasted for a good one time hearing and I remember how I cleaned the head with WD40 after each time I heard a fake cassette!
Another aspect of the Walkman was that, it stood out. Jogging, walking etc., clipping the walkman to belt buckle ensured that you not only listened to the song, passers-by mistook you for someone special. Owners of zune and ipod would agree, you won’t get that feeling now..
Whatever said, these timeless players had their mark on time. They spearheaded the innovation of making music personal to everyone, cassette collection in addition to music collection was a hobby (remember those white, opaque BoneyM cassettes, or the transparent Taal cassettes). Who could forget Made in India or Thriller cassettes ? Can today’s iPod, Youtube, iPhone generation beat that following?
Let me conclude. Walkmans were truly legendary. As they say, all good things in life come to an end one day. So did you. RIP.

The iRevolution

Recently yours truly had a chance to buy the iPad. The revolutionary new device that seems to have taken the world by storm. Selling 2million units just into two weeks of it’s release is not a mean thing, but the ingenuity behind it’s very design, the guts to create a market for a device finally the incessant ability to create value from nothing is meant to be appreciated.

At this time, like millions of people who are awed by this device and the magnitude of what it can do, yours truly decided that a blog entry this time should be using this device.

Like many out there of my generation, I myself began my journey years ago riding the bandwagon on a Windows 3.1. How I loved that OS with it’s simple layout that included windows laid out in a linearly fashion. Windows 95 was a stunner which was quickly followed by Windows 98, both impeccable pieces of software. Windows I remember in the wake of the Internet revolution was the tsar of creativity. Though the Windows me and 2000 models failed to excite, Windows xp till the coming of Windows 7 remained my favorite os ever.

It was during this time I came across Apple as a company, tired of Windows and it’s clones topped with a never ending sense of corporate greed. I had seen the earlier iMacs and it’s colorful design but I was least impressed with the software. With my first job however, I decided that I would buy anything other than a Windows laptop, after getting confused with Linux, settled on an Apple and it’s Tiger OS.

In software, the biggest risk one can take is to try to be different. At that time when I brought my fiesta MacBook, though it looked like a toy, fancy in design and glossy in it’s functioning, compatibility issues raged. Either the softwares were highly priced or it was incompatible. Got lost would be the apt word with it for sometime before resigning to the very fact that Windows is the undisputed ruler of the desktop and laptop market, mainly because of the Goliath productivity suite-MS Office which is best always on a PC.

Apple went a different path. It brought out iPods, iPhones, MacBooks etc. However, they all seem to be focussed on one particular area or the other. Then came the AppStore with the iTunes store and a new developer ecosystem was created.

The power of any device is fully exposed and tested when it’s functionalities are fully stretched. All the devices in the market for playing music or calling were closed to outside developers. I am not sure whether Apple is the first one in this area, but to bring value to people for their creativity was first ensured by Apple.

For a long period in my life, I believed in free software, ultimately Linux. As one grows up we realize the potential for creativity to grow when value can be obtained from it. The power of inspiring someone when value can be created from it is amazing. The very reason why the free software evangelists never had their way was exactly because of that. In a commercial world and a global market, if money can be made from a product, why deny it?

iPad is the culmination of the journey for that ever promising ecosystem where money and content both can be made and distributed. Of Android, I would like to echo the words of Steve Balmer, it’s a freaking cancer and it will meet it’s death and I personally would love to see Google stick on to it’s core area of search and other related applications. The failure of Nexus One, Google Wave is a testimony.

Concluding iPad is nothing short of a revolution; it is an amazing web browser, multimedia device, ebook reader and it’s out there with real genuine interest to chosen our way of thinking with regards to mobile computing technology.

Sent from my iPad