Saturday, 29 December 2012

True tribute to the India's daughter

Leave girls and women, no brother, leave brother, no HUMAN Indian wouldn't have not felt a piercing sting in the heart over this tragic - what do I call - incident? rape? murder? moral demolition? beginning of an end of conscience? Whatever it is, it points a finger at us in the face and says - "You can do nothing about me. Can you? Can you?"


This morning my friend told me about her death. Emotions soared high. Feet wanted to move. Palms clutched air. And that's it.

Arnab Goswami on Times Now is asking to maintain calmed demeanor and rightly so "as it will be a great disservice to the martyr to take a violent form on this occasion". We need to introspect. What will happen by protesting at India Gate? Only some visual images would stimulate those on the other side of the camera to give them this (non)sense of something is happening. Like people standing up and calling quotes and displaying posters will change us for the better. Nope, I'm afraid, not. If it were to happen, it would have happened. Aaye din TV pe ye cases aate rahte hain. Nothing taking away from "probably the greatest tragic incident in India" (as quoted by Mr. Jethmalani), I strongly feel such violent upheaval wouldn't prove much benefit to the society. A good example is Mr. Anna Hazare's demeanor against that of Baba Ramdev in the anti-corruption movement and their respective effects on public mood.

Mr. Manmohan Singh is asking us to "channelize our emotions in a constructive way" which means - keep mum like him and see the next parliament session on DD National. We'll do that. Is it? Or is it not? The shame in this "shameful incident" is on us.

Us - The watchful spectator, the silent Indian.

No. Not this moment. Just not this moment. Let's not forget the bravery.

The Braveheart- The very next day the news of gang rape was aired, three of us friends were discussing over the interplay of emotions that that girl would have been facing in case she were conscious. "Should I live? Or should I better die? How can I live with so much trauma for the rest of my life?" Ms. Jaya Bacchhan wept in the parliament empathizing with the girl. And, the fact is that she wanted to live. In such serious condition she battled for 13 days. For life. For dignity. For cause.

"A girl on death bed may have changed the course of young India" said a reporter.

I 'd be happy to think of the positive. So, what is that course? It is not being violent and definitely not being silent. To list few common formulations:
Nationwide violent protests (leads to nowhere, only agitates what is in the bowl)
Talking to friends and colleagues (time pass?)
Candle light marches (temporary arousal of emotions)
Better voting decisions in next Lok Sabha elections (this is a lazy excuse)

Those listed above aren't proper measures in regards to the rape cases. Plus, we as a general public aren't participating in the removal of this social malice. Let me list a few measures whose effectiveness can be discussed over.

1) Every girl over a certain age (may be 15) should be provided with free rechargeable electric stunners, which they may carry in their handbag. Just as the TB patients are being provided free medicines from medical shops. If government doesn't provide free, buy it.

2) Value education - Insert moral builders in the morning pledges of schools such as what Prince Hector says in the movie Troy "All my life I've lived by one code. And that is simple. Love your country. And respect your woman". If the day comes when India registers zero cases of rape, it will only be through value education.

3) This is for the social entrepreneurs. Invent small GPS enabled gadgets like pagers and link it to local police systems. On press of a button from a would-be victim a red alert will be sent to nearby policeman who will be having the receiving pagers. (Policemen are also humans. they are just not inspired enough. If they know of such an imminent incident in the vicinity they will surely run to help.)

4) Compulsory martial arts for girls from class 5th to 12th. In incidents like this one where attackers were a group of men, it may not be useful but in other cases it may be life saving.

5) Make being silent witness to such an incident a crime officially. Indian girl is lot more vulnerable since independence and there must be some necessary changes in law. If such an incident is happening in front of someone, he must try to stop it no matter what.

6) Stop guarding and start arming - Tell your sisters and daughters that they can take care of themselves. Truth is you cannot always protect them. It's about mental strength too. They will act smarter if god-forbid they are cornered.

7) Capital punishment - This is a nuclear weapon. There are problems applying it in the legal system. But again drastic situations calls for drastic measures. Problem is that there may be cases in which innocents can be tricked into a forged rape case. Supreme court stuff.

There can be lot of other improvements and most of us know them. Let us give ourselves a day to think about it and do whatever we can. If we really want something, it will happen.

Condolences to the girl's family and salute to the girl who after the heinous incident faced multiple organ failures, a heart attack and finally cerebral edema, today un-clutched her fist forever.

Time to pay true tribute to the India's daughter through actions.

I'll leave you with following quotes in air related to the incident.

"Abnormal people. Human beings don't do such kind of thing"
"Respect is still so entrenched in the society that the public's anger became evident at India Gate"
"Time bound justice required"
"Must have at least traffic lights on all the roads"
"They must be tried in Saudi Arab style"
"Occasion of speechlessness and grief'
"Not to be taken just as an incident but as an awakening and constant battle"
"We should make sure that we introspect over this loss"

---- Thanks to Shalabh Kumar and Ankur Kalia for their thoughts.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The ideal self

Running across an empty track,
during an afternoon when i was ten,
i had this figure of my ideal self
conquering the seventh heaven. 
A marksman of unknown territories
the protagonist of splendid stories
refracting incoming rays into 
infinite sparkles and opportunities
for them to collect and 
spread across my motherland.
A launchpad of progress,
an inflection point nevertheless,
whose time history will address
and write poetry with finesse. 
I am faster now, I drive
overtaking the crowd
in overdrive 
but can't hear myself aloud;
can't find the one 
with whom I used to run.
An endeavor of restlessness
ate up by the pleasantness
and the constant 
returns to the society's niceness.
Silence silence silence
hold your allegations
answer your own questions
before crossing over my fence
Lit your torches and
journey inwards with patience
Talk to that child first
before reading the next sentence. 
Sparks die if preserved
path to freedom is curved
so don't be reserved 
to the straight horse you served. 
Be a rabbit and 
nibble on the unique berries
chase the past, the dream,
the future of meaningful glories.
Need to fight against
the hesitation, my friend
Sense the action commenced
and determination dispensed.
Head down, back bent. 
jump with force 
and leave a dent.
Take my hand and set forth
if every word I meant
reassures your ideal self
that you'll never repent.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

A message

A faint breeze held me
from shoulder.
Said- "Redeem your direction,
find yourself a shelter.
My source is
on the chosen path
but consoles heart
over that aftermath
of the moments that
fuelled your heartbeats
for ever and ever,
through remorses and feats.
Yes, you were unfortunate,
yet fortunate
to warp a bit of time,
out of incompatible fate." 

Monday, 17 December 2012

The Unsaid

Sliding on the violin strings
it pesters the soul
for what is left
without the goal 
which was one 
who enchanted with sparkles
and brought eddy currents
across a plain monotone.
The unrealized proximity 
before the formed touch
innocently gazes for serenity,
if not much.
Keep it hazy baby
let it sing more.
let it find the meaning
and stray ashore.
Criminal it is to be 
mused of the facade
that was ephemeral 
and kept us in shade.
As we move forward
for an unknown voyage
those words may come of use
which remained unsaid.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Connecticut Analyzed - Why did it happen

Ok, it's been long since I've published any article or story. And I probably wouldn't have done that for another month if the unfortunate event at Connecticut hadn't happened.

This is not another story on the web to report that, but an attempt to analyze what pushed Adam Lanza, the gunman, over the threshold of holding oneself back from executing such heinous crime.

What happened in a line - An odd, 20 year old student open fired at an elementary school classroom with a stolen gun from his mother, whom he killed first the same day while she slept, and thereby killed 28, mostly  6-7 year old children, teachers, a principal and at last, himself.

The officials are still identifying "his purpose" of killing schoolchildren and adding mental disease like aspergers to his portfolio just to give "meanwhile" answers to the demanding media, to the heartbroken parents and to the global community. They probably will never be able to identify the real motive. However, investigation will happen and in the end they will produce a report summary with "some" motive. So, I said, let us help them.

Before I go ahead, let me put in lucid terms, the debate of possession of guns wouldn't help much in this case. It's the doer, his ideas, his actions that produce such results. Guns are just "first option" to achieve them. And Adam, didn't even possess them. He stole them from his mother. If not from mother, then from someone else. If not semi-automatic guns, then simple rifles and use conversion kits to make them semi-automatic. If no conversion kits, then probably bombs. If not bombs, then a masterplan of car-bombs. There are so many ways of achieving mass murder that we'd need wikipedia to chronicle it. We can only stop such incidents by stopping the motives, not identifying and stopping the means of achieving them.

That said, since guns ARE the first option, proper administering the gun possession licensing would certainly reduce the frequency of such incidents. Maybe Lanza would have not even thought of killing if he didn't know that his mother had stored guns in the closet.

Anyway, let's shift the gaze to the main point which is similar to the subject I covered in the post Colorado and Manesar - Signs of 2012

Adam Lanza is characterized as a loner, odd individual, a computer geek, one of those of your acquaintances whom you'd not see for days and on re-appearing they wouldn't even see hello. They are calling him retarded or mentally ill, but he may be just all right technically. May be, just a series of events in his life guided his thoughts, overwhelmed him, to balance his low social activity graph.

I researched about him a bit. He was born on May 26, 1992 that categorize him as a pure Gemini (not on a cusp). And most important characteristics of a gemini are
a) They are dual natured, complex and inconsistent.
b) They demand attention and admiration from people around them.
c) They are high spirited, creative and capable of surprising anyone with their breathtaking ideas.

.............which Adam certainly did.

According to sources, his mother was fond of guns. She would take young Adam to shooting ranges. Now Adam was a high IQ, bright kid. He didn't have friends but a laptop to share feelings with. Probably, everyday he faced social neglect from probable relatively lower IQ kids whom he attests as misunderstanding fools. He played first person shooter games to extract the anger built up from the constant social neglect. He would get double kills, triple kills, ultra kills in Quake or Counter Strike. But he would eventually realize that he was just wasting his time on the stupid games. He had done nothing to demand attention and admiration from his surrounding people. He had done nothing to show those finger-pointers that he isn't a loser, stupid kid. He would turn into a computer geek, learn hacking and become a system destroyer. Will he achieve his aim then? No. He probably would funnel out his anger by disrupting systems but even then he wouldn't teach those early life school acquaintances a lesson. Amidst all these accumulated grievances and self questioning that tortured him night and day, he still had one fascination in his life which seemed to fit him, which he really, really enjoyed a lot. Guns. Every night he would plot, plan and replay the array of events he would perform using this fascination. And when he is convinced of the foolproof planning, he would get a sound sleep.

Grievance and fascination.

But why kill such little school children? There are two possibilities. One. He didn't think of which age group to kill. Just went in to wreck havoc upon the nearest school which had minimum event-barriers. Two. He spent the ugliest years in that age group and was jealous of these school children. Since, he hadn't matured by mind, may be he didn't feel the psychological barrier of those children's innocence.

The police investigated and interrogated the gun sellers, the near shooting range dwellers and whomever they could, if anyone had practiced with guns in the vicinity. Since, to carry out a massacre in even a school, one would need some amount of training. According to the report, no one witnessed such a thing. And probably Adam wouldn't have trained himself physically. Somewhere the time wasted in Counter Strike had to come of use. There are many who learned 90 percent of driving just by playing NFS.

All he needed was a detailed description of the school, classrooms, number of watchmen, teacher staff's sex ratio, number of guns and bullets. So he went to nearby schools for survey and chose a school. With that mental imagery he planned it all, nights after nights. And one night he watched Nike's commercial. So, he quietly stole the guns after his mother slept off and felt them physically. He felt powerful. Adrenaline pumped and right then he had decided to carry out the plan the next morning. But, again, why would he kill his mother. Again two possibilities. One, he held her partly responsible for his "condition". Two. he didn't want her to read the news. So before she woke up, he shot her in the face so that she dies without pain. Next, he stuffed all those guns in a school bag and stepped out of the house to play a real game in 3D.

And he played with his developed instinct. Reportedly, the school principal, a 51 year old lady pounced on him to save the schoolchildren. But was caught in air by the bullets. The teachers ran astray as he caught them in terror. And the tiny children. They wouldn't even have known what they are facing. This single image of those cute little children staring at a gunman in utter ignorance and innocence only to be shot the next second had me in tears when I read the news as it had many others. "My heart goes out to those children" was the most typed tweet in the following day. Add to that the image of those lucky children who were later escorted out of the school with their eyes closed so that they don't witness a lifelong depressing and horrific aftermath. Yes, the heart does go out.

After he had accomplished the mission, either out of quirk of whim or sudden realization of shame, he killed himself.

I wrote reasons for an unreasonable act. One may deem it foolish do. But that doesn't wipe them away. World's population is near 7 billion. Twenty percent of them are children. A percent of them may be are currently living under social neglect which CAN be suppressed. That number can be pretty huge. Putting the age where social media is the most happening thing the effect will only be compounded. Our children can be taught to discourage bullying or laughing upon someone just as ragging is banned from colleges. Every personality which is not in disorder should get the necessary respect.

The solution is not just banning the semi-automatic guns but also providing these easily identifiable neglected children the admiration and attention they seek.

Nobody chooses to be alone. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Photography with the White Knight

That's what I call my bike.

I just tried my first hands with the so-called "photography", which I have never really understood. Why people go crazy after some photographers? Except for some typical Discovery, Nat-Geo pics they all are the same! They pitch for their brilliant sense of "seeing" things which looks so obvious to me :) No offence, I just couldn't understand. So I said, okay, let's give it a shot, a power shot.

As a wannabe newbie, I'd say it's broadly of two types - static and dynamic. If you insert the device categorization then ramify each category with an analog and a digital. That's it. Capturing millionth of a second moment frame-by-frame through burst mode would go under dynamic. Rest Static. Obviously, I had the latter in mind.

Now, I don't have a DSLR or even a digicam. Also I don't plan to buy one in next two years, at least not untill I really need it. The 5 MP camera of my Samsung Nexus S seems good enough. Especially after reading some really impressive photo-blogs running through just a mobile camera, I didn't need any more excuse.  So, this birthday I took a break from work, and roamed in the city with the White Knight and here is what I could click.

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Wednesday, 12 September 2012

12 Inspirational Songs that held me Up

Songs are the catalysts of our moods. Sometimes they bridge the scattered emotions and build a story. Sometimes they answer the old dormant questions lying at the back of our mind. They have now built their own space in the brain, a special place. They command a greater control than language. They have better retention abilities. They stimulate thoughts and emotions like no other communication channels. Can I safely say that they have become a necessity?

No matter how avid listener you are, you must have bonded inextricably with a few of them- old, new, rap, rock, classic, trance or just plain music. You have changed, evolved, restructured, worsened or bettered by the bondage. 

Sometimes the change happens before the encounter itself. Have you ever revolved your entire music library to embody your current mood, looking for that very very specific perfect song? Yes you have. This is a "decoration" habit induced by your brain. The fitting songs shelve and organize the feed data and you happen to like this decoration. A favourite song is thus like a friendly librarian who knows the location of the relevant books in the huge huge library.

Long story short - songs DO help in need, in happy, sad, romantic, stressful or drastic moments.

On that note let me share few of the songs that have helped me. They are listed in random order of likeness:

1. Wind - Naruto 
Naruto is a small kid, kind of ostracised from his community. Every one hates him. He fights and fools around to prove himself. Fails a lot. But he never puts his head down. 

This song was a big reason that I watched the whole mega-series of Naruto. Thanks to Siddhartha Kotru who offered me to watch this beautiful series.

2. Fix You - Coldplay
Coldplay not just touches the heart but supports it. This band might have inspired and saved a million dejected lives. "Fix You" is THE masterpiece that can make a dead up and running. A lighthouse in pitch black night.

3. Everybody hurts - The Corrs
I first saw this HD video back in college and was caught in admiration by the lead singer's beauty and expressions and didn't pay much heed to the lyrics. Only years later I understood the source of those expressions. Title says it all.

4. Chand Taare - Yes Boss
This one is for Hindi song listeners. Every time my small or big desires don't manifest I'd play this one. It reminds me that everyone desires for more. For stars. A process that mostly never ends. But it's good to dream big. Even if you didn't achieve it, you lived big.

5. Lose yourself- 8Mile
Before becoming the king of Rap, the only famous white Rapper, Eminem went through a nightmarish life. He even attempted an unsuccessful suicide. 8 mile, a road separating rags from riches, depicts only a portion of his story. "Lose yourself" in essence symbolizes the ONE jump he could take to get over that threshold. A blinder and arguably the best rap-song ever. Thanks to Abhijeet Khinchi who kept Emitating this song around my room in second year.

6. Gladiator Theme OST
Hans Zimmer is the Mozart of today. He levitates you, he elevates you by stimulating the deepest hidden emotion. Gladiator theme by itself won't say much at first. Even the whole movie needs to be watched 2 or 3 times to REALLY receive the bigger message conveyed by this Academy Award winning movie directed by the legendary Ridely Scott. THAT bigger message (of love, duty and sacrifice) is summarized in this instrumental song without words.

7. Dream on - Aerosmith 
Yes. I had to add it. It's just MADE for this list. No more words. 

8. Patience - Guns n' Roses
The era of GNR was a magical era when Rockstars surpassed Stars as the symbol of popularity. That period was devoid of bullshit materials such as 21st century electronically modified pop songs. Patience, though largely a romantic song, appeases the racing heart in other contexts as well. Listen it when you feel like everything is receding away. 

9. Subah Subah 
Again a Hindi number. Somedays you wake up and feel just happy without any apparent reason. Give that feeling a lift with this song. 

10. Back to you - Bryan Adams
How could I not include Bryan Adams, a singer who has a song for every emotion possible, with whom we grew and with whom we sang from the summer of 69 till date. The best way to live this piece is to sing along with Bryan on top of the voice and the magic will happen. Try it!

11. Eye of the Tiger - Bon Jovi
Oooh... the song that you were waiting for. Though the original is sang by Survivor, I like the Bon Jovi version more. Only the start of this song sets the ball rolling. Add to it the superb motivational lyrics and you get a recipe of an all time best inspirational song. Enjoy with the scenes from Rocky. 

12. Remember the name - Fort Minor
Now this one has all the ingredients of success properly and exhaustively listed in percentages. A thorough quantitative analysis done on the subject and sung by the then emerging group Fort Minor in an emphatic way makes it one of my regular playlist songs.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Swimming and risk taking

Just a week ago I resumed swimming after a pause of two months. Though water in there is getting colder day by day but it’s ok. In fact it’s great as each day I discover a bit more and enjoy a tad more. After perfecting freestyle I’m into breast-stroke now. Inch by inch I’ll continue to learn more techniques and flairs. However, learning to swim for the first time is THE memoir. Some guys do it in 2 weeks, some folks in a month and some just never learn.

It’s a well-known quote that “If you wanna learn swimming, you gotta jump into water”. Now every time a newbie jumps in, there is a certain risk involved. The risk is big – one may get drowned! You don’t get a second chance here. That’s why the economics of swimming is far from cycling which you learn after n iterations of falling and balancing.

To put more sense to it lets shift the canvas to a riverside village. You’re a 16 year old boy who never swam and one lazy afternoon you decide to “just do it”. So you run to the riverbank with your buddies and do a survey.  You observe the pattern of waves, whirlpools, boats, swimmers, weeds and hanging tree branches. You convince yourself that it is doable. So you jump in – you touch the water with your feet and run back home.

That boy just laid the foundation for tomorrow. During this night his sub-conscious will check and validate his learning and impart him courage in addition to another important attribute – CONTROL. It's important here to understand control. Control is the underplay of cognitive and subconscious abilities to perform a task at will - without risk. Sigmund Freud vouched for the higher role of sub-conscious in both daily and rare circumstances, a theory that most scientists previously disbelieved. Only the psychology-research of last two decades have re-established his theories. Role of sub-conscious is probably the biggest reason why one cannot learn swimming in a day. 

Next day the boy enters to knee level, runs back home, day next to waist level, next shoulder, next nose and next full into the water. Remember there is no life guard in place, only his friends watching the show. The river howsoever placid is an enigmatic snake. In next few days he paddles while holding the weeds or hollow branches and in next few starts breathing in and out. The whole learning process becomes a [x] graph of controlled risk taking. The subject's confidence fights fear and stamina matches exhaustion. Key is to keep playing according to these balancing points. But it's all not that smooth. 

Like driving-accidents there are mishaps in swimming too. Tragic drowning incidents happen not only in rivers or sea-beaches but also in swimming pools. Contrary to that of driving, swimming's control path is disrupted by mainly an internal factor- PANIC. Its the main reason why scuba diving is considered more dangerous than sky diving or bungee-jumping. So what causes panic? Panic is just an acceleration of neurotic activity that is automatically triggered to handle extreme circumstances. It's basically a sub-conscious defence mechanism. When in panic swimmers start paddling fast and exhaust early. That's where cognitive senses come into play. If properly practised they judge and forewarn one of a panic-situation. They override the sub-conscious and let you assess. There comes many a times when a newbie falls into a dilemma at 80 percent of pool's length to finish till the deep end or not. Well, don't. Don't trust your new-found stamina. Just back out!

The psychology of risk aversion is worth mentioning here. In that same riverside village, meeting a swimmer would not be rare. Considering the big risk involved, why did so many people learn it? In a noble-prize winning study it was found that people tend not to make bet when chances of gaining wealth is more than chances of losing a comparable wealth. On a toss of coin if there is a 50 percent chance to win 10 bucks and 50 percent chance to lose 8 bucks, people averse the risk. Whereas if there is a 70 percent chance to lose 10 bucks and 30 percent chance to win 10 bucks, they do take it! It's a startling contrast to the rationale but true. The expected gain to swimmers is the useful skill, health benefits and fun while expected loss is you know. But many do take it. Humans on an individual level do tend to engage in an activity of uncertain outcome. [ Though It's a completely different case with an organisation of the same people. A whole another blog topic]

After months of practice, I've realized that effortless swimming is all about rhythm, consistency and a stable mindset. During breast-strokes feel like a frog end to end without jitters and that's it. During freestyle feel like a free weightless soul end to end. So on and so forth. It is no doubt the best exercise both for body and mind. To all those who are yet to learn this beautiful skill, just approach it slower and let it seep in. More importantly stay consciously in control.

P.S. - It might have sound too meticulous and loaded with checkpoints for a seemingly simple activity. Well, you're right. Forget it all. Just go in there and have fun.

Monday, 3 September 2012

A day at TEDx Gurgaon

Picture courtesy - IILM Blog

Providence. On 31st August I googled ideas and events in the city and what did I find- TEDx Gurgaon on 1st September on the theme “Taking Road Less Travelled”, an event that happens once a year in the city! Hints like these just say out aloud that there are things outside the cause-n-effect loop, lying around you but playing a little hide-n-seek, waiting to be discovered. So I followed the white rabbit and registered for the event.

The next morning was a Saturday (sadly a work-day for me). I woke up at the same getting-ready time and drove off to IILM campus, the venue. Now it’s been a long haul since college. So every time I step into one, I get a kick of nostalgia and a wave erupts off the plain and placid self. And if you put a nice cloudy weather, heartily welcoming volunteers, a cheerful college crowd, open spaces between buildings for cultural activities, lawns, trees and a lively cafeteria in the canvas, one just can’t stay on foot. A lovely setting to explore the ideas and their power.

So I was escorted to the Auditorium, one with an optimal size to accommodate the audience and to support proper acoustics. I was an hour late but the event hadn’t kicked off yet. India! Be it TED or Metallica Concert, we always follow the great Indian tradition of “buffer time”. Hereby, I’m taking nothing away from the organizers, for the 9:30 time on a Saturday morning could be too much for some, including me :0.

I quickly grasped a comfortable seat in fourth row. It was my first attendance in TED, so I waited with closed hands and open mind. The anchor greeted the audience and made us aware of the agenda for the day. Following the tradition, the event kicked off with an audio-visual wherein Chris Anderson, the curator of TED conference explains – “Why TEDx and what it means”. In short, TEDx is an independently organized TED event, where eminent thinkers and doers of the society come and speak their mind for the greater good. Anyone licensed under TED can organize it.

Image courtesy - IILM

Soon after the AV, the first speaker, Abhinandan Chatterjee took stage with a slide in background – The road less taken. Abhinandan, who works as an iTrain consultant in the field of learning development is a great story teller. Every next sentence in his story reveals a bit and puzzles a bit. But this little speech was even special and more engrossing as it came straight from heart. He shared how a person who did splendid in his career, tumbled and lost the edge due to health problems, but kept toiling for a better life only to lose breath in the end; the person being his father. The event changed his outlook of life and guided him to a road of his own. He worked himself to identify his past accomplishments and to categorize them according to different parameters- easy, hard, common and unique. The “unique” ones, he said, defines you and is important part of self-assessment. The highlight of this speech was captured in this little story: A decent fisherman was advised by a fellow to go early in the morning to fish. Fisherman asked why? Fellow said to catch more fish. Why? You’ll buy more boats and more fishes. Then what? You’ll be rich. Then what? You’ll be able to relax and be happy. What do you think am I doing now? The message was: do unique and enjoy it RIGHT NOW. I took a note to thank him for this candid and moving speech during the tea break.

The breaks are an important part of TED. Students, entrepreneurs, corporate professionals, tech geeks, hackers and social enthusiasts all converse together on varied topics. For me that is the USP of this event. And yeah, unlimited snacks and coffee are also available.

Image courtesy - IILM

After another filler of TED video, arrived an ever-energetic Ashish Sachdeva, founder of Green Dream Foundation, who talked about “going green as a road less travelled”. He said it’s all there in the media and in our talks. But do we really understand and follow the concept? What forbids those who are not going green? He said some of us are so overwhelmed with environmental problems that we feel our efforts won’t contribute much. We need to change this feeling. He stressed upon changing our costly habits, which are costly to environment, to simpler, cleaner and cheaper habits. His green speech was centered upon getting the public aware about little things – switching off lights, using organic products, conserving water, taking a stroll to market etc. that contributes to a better environment, a better future.

The next presentation was from Abhijit Bhaduri, Chief Learning Officer of Wipro. He delivered a powerful presentation over how should one go about making choices- especially professional choices in life. According to him, it is very easy. Here goes the formula. Talent is the ability to CONSISTENTLY perform something at a competitive level. Now, one’s choices must lead one to identify and build upon one’s talent. If he is confused between something he enjoys and not very good at and something he is good at but doesn’t enjoy much, he must choose the former because skill is the easiest part to learn. “You first identify what you enjoy and then get trained in it.” And there is no age to this identification and changing the course of career. He remarked that he himself did it 3 or 4 times in his career. On first glimpse this idea seems too brave but if thought carefully, it seems more logical and ensures higher guarantee of success in the long run. He shared his story from childhood to present and boasts now of being “in love with what I do”. I thought “Did he just solve the most confusing problem of life”. Right after this speech, I ran up to him and thanked him for his insights.

Image courtesy - IILM

Image courtesy - TEDx

With that we left for lunch in the college’s canteen. The food was too good. I reserved myself to a light and talkative lunch with few friends that I made on that day. Soon after the lunch all TEDers assembled in the lawn in the T-E-D formation posing for the overhead cameras. [Anyone who has these pictures of better quality please notify in comments]

Image courtesy - IILM

On the way back to auditorium, someone told me that next presentation was the most special. It was from the “Tiger Woman of India”. Blessed with a voice full of sympathy, touch, affection and humility, Dr.Latika Rana narrated her story of tiger conservation. At the start, I must confess, I didn’t understand her passion and perspective. I’ve been inquisitive towards few pet dogs but rarely felt a CONNECTION with animals. On the contrary I’ve felt anger towards some as monkeys pestered me a lot during childhood. I understand now that I greatly misunderstood them. She started by showing several snapshots of jungles, tigers and their habitat which were collected over a long period in her research. Tigers like to assemble in groups and socialize, she said, removing the anti-social tag associated with them. Everything from how cubs play, cuddle, tease, compete, and get trained by their mothers showed they are not so solitary predators. They are exquisitely beautiful, definitely important for the ecosystem and India must be proud of this elegant animal. Then came a slide with numbers. The number of tigers in India has decreased from 40,000 in 1947 to just 1700 in 2012. I felt the pain and agony in her voice when she said “….and no one is bothered”. She says we all talk about tiger conservation like it’s a rocket science but it is not. They just need their habitat as it is and be left aloof and nature will take care of their growth. Caging them is not the solution as that way we would be losing the WILD tigers. She detailed how poachers and nearby tribes are killing them illegally just for money. There is just not enough law enforcement in place. She, through her foundation, took steps in coherence with government to rebuild the lost habitat, to provide employment and health facilities to nearby tribes etc. She is still delivering for the cause. I’m certain everyone present in the audi felt a trickle of unformed tears for the condition of our national animal. A stunned silence was followed by a congratulating applause.

Image courtesy - IILM

The last speech was an overwhelming surprise. No, it was not a speech embellished with profoundness but a simple talk that percolates your heart. The anchor called upon Vicky Roy and all eyes set upon a humble boy may be in his early 20s who took stage with deep eyes and greeted all with a Namaste. He delivered in Hindi, the struggling story of his lifetime. When he was very young, his parents couldn’t afford keep him. Vicky fled away from his grandmother’s home who put him to strenuous work when he should have held a copy and pencil. He roamed around railway stations in Delhi and was caught by a social service community. Again, he was captivated and again he fled. He stumbled places to places, did nightmarish work for a boy of his age- picking bottles and doing construction jobs. As fate took a turn he hooked onto a job of assistant to a cameraman. He learnt camera-skills and some English too. He beautifully amalgamated this serious story with humor and made us laugh. In next few years he had clicked numerous photographs that depicted his past life. And were they admired! His efforts saw him host his first photo galleria for public and it was very successful “kyunki papa bhi dekhne aaye the. Unka ladka ghar se bhag ke bigda nahi tha.” said an emotinal Vicky and all TEDers erupted with an emotional applause. Vicky was one of the four international photographers who were called to shoot the Ground Zero and was the only such Indian. He was even summoned for a lunch with Prince Harry! Phew. Indeed the story is a Bollywood flick and Vicky an instant hero. Junta rushed to pose with him!

Image courtesy - IILM

Next were entertainment sessions - first was an awesome performance by the lovely Jasleen Royal, semi finalist of India’s got talent and the second was a Bhangra Dance. I’ll upload the videos that I captured though the quality is not that good.

Later the young junta (including me) joined the Bhangra dancers on stage just like college and danced like mads :) After we drenched ourselves we assembled to cut the TED cake. We even had a B’day boy who held the knife to celebrate his most memorable birthday.

Yeah, the memorabilia was pretty and useful for lately I’ve turned into a coffee addict. Thank you organizers!!

Waiting for the next TEDx !!

For more pictures visit - this page and this page. And if anyone has my pic please share especially while I was dancing :P

Friday, 3 August 2012

Love before first sight

"Go to hell"
He kept driving into nothingness, feeling suffocated.
"with your sorry thinking."
Threw off his helmet, which bounced 5 or 6 times in the middle of the road.
"I can't stay here any more"
Tore off his shirt, which followed him with the wind.
"Priya, wait! Will you tell me what happened?"
It began to drizzle
"Where are you going?"
and a thousand arrows pierced his skin
"Wherever. And listen Akshay. Never try to call me."
The words reverberated in his head and he didn't realize he was already forty kilometres off the city.
The tank dried before he did. He abandoned the bike and looked around in the dark. There wasn't a single gleam across miles. After his eyes settled he saw the road ahead ascending onto a hill. He stood numb and blank. A rattle of nocturnal insects broke the silence. He glanced back at his lifeless bike and decided to move on.
It was cold. He must have hiked for half an hour when he started feeling shaky and thirsty. He kept looking traverse in hope of finding a hut or house. Nothing. He crouched against the trunk of a tree and checked his cellphone. No tower. "Great!" he murmured. He looked straight into the crescent of moon, counted the few stars in the sky and went blank. In a few moments he slept.
A passing noise of a vehicle broke his sleep. He jumped and yelled only to see the tail-light disappear. He sat again. "It descended" he thought and started moving uphill again.
Following the twists and turns he reached a small plateau region, though not the top. In the middle of the field he saw a bonfire, "Ahh finally" he exclaimed within. He ran towards it, finding tyre marks in the way. He reached the bonfire and inspected the area. No one. He sat beside it anyway to catch some warmth.
"Hello!"  "Hello!" an electronic voice erupted from behind. He looked back with a shiver.
"Hello Richa?"
He followed the voice and found a gadget.
"Anyone there?" it cried.
Akshay picked it up.
"Hello, somebody answer please" It sounded female.
After a thought he pressed the only button and answered "Hello?" He didn't know what was he up to.
"Hello Harshit? Thank god. help me please" she urged.
"No. I'm not Harshit. My name is Akshay"
"I found this walkie-talkie lying here beside the bonfire. Who are you?" he asked.
"Sheetal" she replied.
"Ok Sheetal. Tell me where you are and what happened?"
"I don't know. I'm stuck in this pit and I’m hurt. Please help me out. Please" she wept.
"Listen. I'll help you but I need to know where you are. You need to stay calm" He felt adventurous.
"Okay" she whispered.
"What is the range of this walkie talkie?" he asked
"600 metres" she replied
"How did you land up there?"
"I don't know. Last I remember I was lying beside the bonfire with my friends" she clarified.
"Were you drunk?"
"Were you drunk or doped? Someone must have tricked you". His mind was racing.
"No. I.. I just ate a sandwich and ... and.. "
"Lime juice?" he asked while nosing at an empty bottle in his hand.
"Yes. how do you know?"
"Nevermind. Listen I'll shout from here. If you can listen, reply in the talkie with a yes. Ok?"
"Okay but what will you shout?"
"Priya?" she enquired.
"Priya has more range than Sheetal. Ok here I go.."
He released the button and shouted uphill with all his might "Priyaaaaaaaaa"
He shouted again through folded palms in another direction "Priyaaaaaaaaaa"
"Did you shout?" the gadget asked.
"Yes. I guess you are further up the hill"
"How would you know?" she enquired.
"I came from down this hill. If anything happened I must have saw something. Moreover if someone planned to strand you into a pit, then there is no better place than up above"
"I hope you're right. Akshay, do you have a cellphone?"
"Yeah but no network." he replied.
"I'm coming up now. We'll continue talking. Ok?" He assured her.
He switched on the torch of his cellphone and strolled around the perimeter of the plateau looking for a way up.
"Tell me something about yourself?" he asked while he glanced around with squinted eyes.
"I work in an IT company in Pune" she said.
"What about your friends who came here with you. Do they also work with you?" He saw a narrow clearing between the bushes swivelling upwards and followed it.
"I see. And you came here for picnic?" He was running and felt a resurgence of energy within.
"Yeah but the plan was to return before 11 O clock"
"I understand. Sheetal, I've come further up. Now I'll shout again. Ok?"
"What .. Priya?"
"Yes" He stood atop a crest and looked around.
"Is she your girlfriend." she sounded inquisitive.
"Was. Ok I'll shout now. Listen properly" With folded palms he shouted "Priyaaaaa" in four directions. The trees rattled in a breeze.
"Did you hear anything?" He asked
"No. God!" she sobbed.
"Sheetal, how deep and how wide is the pit?" He asked.
"It's around ...three times my height and....... more than a metre in diameter" she said in between sobs.
"Can you see the stars?" he asked
"What?  why?"
"Just answer me. Can you see any of the stars?" He demanded.
"Yes I can" she exclaimed
He laid on his back and tried to emulate her sight. He thought for a minute and said "Can you see the clouds travelling under the moon?"
"Yes. Oh I understand what you are doing!" her voice jumped
"Yeah. Now do as I tell. Lie down on your back in the direction the clouds are travelling with your legs toward the star beside the moon."
"Yeah I did." she said after a few moments
"Now close your left eye and count the no. of stars in the right half of the sky" he sounded relaxed.
"Six" she said.
"Now close the right eye and... "
"Three" she was quick.
"Great! Wait a minute" he said and after much thought he said "I think you're on the other side of the hill"
The clouds gurgled.
"Oh god it's going to rain. Akshay come fast please" she yelled and cried.
"Don't worry. I'm on the way"
He felt his heart pounding now. All his numbness had gone. He ran like he never did criss-crossing between the trees and bushes. It started drizzling. He ran faster, slipped, fell and ran again. In two or three minutes he reached the other side and shouted..
"Sheetal !"
He ran haywire and shouted again "Sheetal"
"I'm here" came a feeble voice "Here. Akshay. Akshay"
He ran in the direction of the voice and found the pit.
"Sheetal" he exclaimed and peeped inside.
The pit was quite deep and dark inside. He saw a girl dressed in black and completely drenched in rain, simultaneously crying and smiling towards him.
"Akshay. Oh thank god." she sobbed "Take me out”
“Wait I need to find something to pull you out. I’ll be back” he yelled over the noise of rain.
He looked around and found a dead branch of a tree hanging down from it. He broke it off, ran back and offered her to hold the other end. She did and he pulled her out. She was limping.
“Ahh ” she cried in pain and fell on the ground.
“You’re hurt.”
He sat beside her. A lightning struck and brightened their faces. “You’re beautiful” he said wondering over the turn of fate.
She couldn’t stop a blush. “What were you doing here? And why did you help me?” she enquired.
“Look I love adventures." He manipulated. "Tonight, I decided to cut loose with my bike and I'm here. Hey, you can trust me” he assured her with a smile.
She stared at him for a few moments and said “Oh, how will I be able to thank you”.
Another lightning struck and the rain got heavier.
“We must go now” he said.
He helped her move up the hill and towards the plateau. They crossed over to the other side and while they were descending through the bushes, a Safari whizzed into the field.
“You came in that car?” he whispered.
She nodded. It stopped beside the extinguished bonfire.
“But why would they come back?” he asked.
Two boys and a girl came out and started patrolling the area with flashlights.
“May be because of this” she poked at the walkie-talkie in his pocket.
“Oh. You’re right. They must have found my bike lying on the road” he exclaimed. “And I think they are armed”
“Armed? How do you know?” she asked
“Because right now they are looking for a stranger who probably now has the talkie” he answered. “And soon they’ll ..”
“…check for me.” she completed with a tremble. “And I can’t even run.” She cried.
Just then two silhouettes rushed towards the pit and one waited inside the car.
“We need that car.” He said.
“I have a plan. Do you have the talkie with you?”
She nodded and gave it to him.
“What’s this guy’s name?”
“Ok. You just wait here and don’t move” he told her while crouching behind the bushes.
He quickly moved along the perimeter and threw one of the gadgets under the car from the bushes and spoke with pressed voice into the other “Hello ! Hello!”
The boy came out of the car and looked around.
He followed the sound and saw the gadget lying under the car.
“Anyone there?” it said.
He glanced around again, picked it up and pressed the button.
“Who are you?” asked Vicky.
"Vicky is that you?"
“How do you know me?”
"Can't you recognize me? Harshit here." said Akshay
“Harshit? Did you find Sheetal?"
"Yeah she is still inside the pit."
"So shoot her and come back fast. We don't have time” Vicky said.
"I dropped my gun. Need yours." came the voice.
"What the hell. We have only one gun and you know that." Vicky retaliated.
As soon as he heard that, Akshay released the button, jumped out of the bushes and pounced on Vicky. He landed three or four big blows on his face and laid him unconscious. He quickly investigated the car. The keys hung inside. He signalled Sheetal to come out. She ran towards the car and jumped in. Akshay turned the key, the engine sizzled and the Safari spiralled downhill.

The car just just reached the foot of the hill. Sheetal was looking at Akshay with eyes full of love and admiration. She caressed his hair as she felt the wave of emotions swinging. She tried to keep herself from erupting it out and it became harder with every passing moment. She then looked straight towards the road and felt Akshay looking at her face with the same emotions. And she said "Akshay, I love you".

The car jolted with a huge deceleration, shuddered and stopped. Sheetal looked right with widened shocked eyes. The driver's seat was empty. Her heart came into her mouth and she cried as loud as she could. Maddened, she flung open the door and ran straight on the road, limping and limping away from the car. She was crying, weeping and yelling fraught with horror.

She must have run two hundred metres when she saw a bike lying beside the road. Something occurred to her and she stopped and looked around. She found a cellphone lying under a tree. With trembling hands and mustered gut she picked it up and flung it open. There opened a message thread in the name of Priya with the last conversation as "Priya, come back. We'll sort it out." & "Go to hell. No one can ever love you"

Her mind flew. With tearful eyes she held the trunk of the tree with one hand and peeped down. Akshay was looking at her with forever opened eyes.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Motorcycle and the Art of Handling Energy Crisis

If you’re a guy, close your eyes (and go to sleep?) and feel the grunt, the thrust of a Harley Davidson (gals can hop-back). Only the roar adds 10 mph to its speed. Its muscle complimenting yours, its beautiful handle blending in your palms, a laser correct stability on-road and a monstrous dominance off-road makes living-in-this-world so much worthwhile. Now imagine 2075. Imagine an “i-Robot” style electric car that is self-manoeuvred, programmed and integrated to the online traffic feedback system. It doesn’t make a sound. It’s fast-n-sexy-n-funky. It has a dozen of triple character technologies that make it safe and non-risky. Well, did you feel suffocated? Maybe The Terminator felt so and came back from future to feel the magic of the former. 

Folks, today we have a beautiful present, but it may be ephemeral. Last century saw the petroleum consumption go twenty folds the consumption in 19th century. Our oil extraction technologies have outgrown the renewable energy technologies in the last two decades. The extractors have also started angling the spoon to get the liquid gold out of its caves. To date world’s population is nearly 7 billion and it is said to stabilize till 9 billion. It takes a million years for those naïve plants to capture sun’s energy and compress it into a high energy density fuel. We are already aware that the fossil fuels will deplete. According to estimates, if we assume that they are reliable, oil will last around 43 years, coal -131 years and natural gas -60 years. If we balance out and predict through mathematical model, the combined fossil fuel content will last around 75 years. But they may deplete sooner than research or perception marks and alarmingly sooner than we are ready. 

I’m writing this piece neither to press the panic button nor to load your mind with a statistical analysis of world’s energy usage. This is an attempt to address one question that has bothered us since childhood but left un-digged – How will we cope without fossil fuels? This is an attempt to convolute action and compulsion in our thoughts and generate a conscience. A widespread conscience.

The recent power outage in Northern India saw – 19 affected states, cancelled trains, stationary Metro, blackened homes, airport & hospitals on backup, AIIMS begging power from Bhutan, unplanned holiday in offices – a jolt at par with a war situation wherein enemy takes control of the arteries and veins of the nation. A necessary jolt though. It at least replaced the #10ThingsToEatBeforeYouDie trend with #BenefitsOfPowerCuts. We, at least, had a talk about the impending energy crisis. It is another thing that talk is not enough. But still.Reports say that such a situation was bound to happen as the major affected states imported heavily from neighboring states. Demands skyrocketed in peak hours and transmission lines got overloaded and tripped. You may look at it in three ways – Utter power distribution failure, improper maintenance of plants or a beginning of the end, inevitability. Having only 6 nuclear plants as against 65 in US, India is just a vulnerable child. More than 85% of its power comes from coal, oil or gas and that too majorly from import. This stat is close to the world average but given the stature of a to-be-superpower nation, it is far from sustainable. Denmark’s  19% energy source in form of wind; France’s 80% in form of nuclear power; and Germany’s over 70% in form of nuclear plus renewable sources is but a laugh at that said claim. It doesn’t need to be re-stressed that nations don’t need only fire power to win a war now.  

But why am I crying about India’s energy security? The blackouts are happening at more places. We have a bigger problem at hand.Yesterday’s Black Monday hurled me to dig the internet, hoping to encounter serendipity in terms of the solution of world’s energy crisis, hoping to find inspiration in affluent nation’s energy usage map, but found myself startled and at utter detest against this one country – United States of America. Let me repeat – utter detest. The reason is this statistical analysis, a must read. I’ll put its summary in 3 points as follows. Number one- Food processing & consumption is an energy cycle. System takes in some energy (that includes fossil fuels) and gives some back to environment. On an average, worldwide, such systems give back 50% of what they take in while US gives back just 13%. In fact it consumes in 2100 W of non-renewable energy to produce 100W of food. Number two – Per capita energy utilization of world is 5kg of energy unit per day; Indians use 1.4, Chinese 6.4 while US citizens – 23.6. Africans – not even worth mentioning. Number three- If every nation starts using energy at US’s rate, fossil fuels will deplete in just 16 years! Now that’s what is called being developed.

One may feel inquisitive now– why no major outcry? There are a group of reasons.

Development of nuclear power plants is the biggest of them. According to estimates, U-235 and plutonium resources would last around hundreds of years if used by current non-breeder type nuclear reactors. If we succeed in developing breeder reactors, we would be able to utilize U-238, which is amply present in oceans to last for millions of years. Then there is mother of all – nuclear fusion (technology of producing energy by combining hydrogen isotopes viz. deuterium and tritium) that may provide energy for billions of years. It is theorized that we’d be able to build fusion reactors in 50 years from now. At first, these facts spring us in air like Uncle Scrooge’s nephews. However, they are hardly an appeasement. Chernobyl incident, recent nuclear plant destruction by tsunami in Japan, under-developed technology to handle nuclear waste, a setup prone to hijack by terrorists all converge to the fact that nuclear plants are not yet safe. More of them mean more chances of mishaps. A recent survey shows that less than a third of sustainable energy experts feel that nuclear energy is a straight answer to problems.

A distant second is a group of these – hydel, solar, wind, shale gas, oceanic, bio-fuel etc. Each has its own limitations. Hydel is non-pervasive and non-perennial. Wind is moody. Oceanic is too under-developed and remains unpromising. Bio-fuel has its own cycle of taking in energy and giving back, though far-promising than aforementioned. Shale gas is new, promising but not everlasting. Solar is still highly inefficient and far from a social success. A lot of research has to go into solar power harnessing. Nevertheless, the sun remains the biggest “star” of future. A no. of nano-technologies are being developed to achieve affordability and efficiency in this medium. Fingers crossed.

After going through all these research, the mood is neither skeptical nor optimistic. The stone in hand has turned into mud but yet has to become sand.

Since long I had a simple code to get through complex situations – come back to nature. Whether it is school, college, office, family, friends or enemies – nature provides a good sample of all situations. In nature, every small entity is important. Everything from bacteria, virus, caterpillar, butterfly, grass, weeds, animals, plants, and what not – every single entity has a role to play. The more the variety of strands, the stronger is the web. The petrol-diesel-gas-solar-hydel-wind-nuclear-ocean-shale-geothermal web is of a similar kind. The longer we hold this web, the better for us. Each small initiative such as self-energy-sufficient villages, zero-energy buildings, solar powered appliances, commuting office by cycle, one wind mill in locality, buying an electric car, global earth hours, planting a sapling and minimizing food wastage matters. Howsoever small, they are important. And the trick to make such initiatives effective is being part of a similar-minded active communityWe will continue to dig and rig till the last ounce of coal & oil remains, we are so inextricably chained with them. But, we CAN slow things down.

OK, enough said. Let me leave you with a thought. On a cool Sunday afternoon in autumn, over a straight smooth road spotted with sun-rays filtered through the shades of eucalyptus, when the fallen leaves whirl incessantly, if you feel playful, what can you do best? 

Just go back to the first paragraph.