Sunday, December 30, 2007

Barter as a medium of exchange...

Met my friend Akumal today, who is curating a painting exhibition. While the gallery is being doneup, we were discussing where the artists are going to be housed. The twelve artists are travelling from Kolkata to Bangalore for over ten days and accomodating them close to the gallery is important.

We noticed an empty house near the gallery ( which is in a very pleasant part of the city) and decided to check to see if the house could be "bartered out" for a week or so. The deal would be simple : house the artists for the duration and get a first-rate painting from them in return for the hospitality. Not a bad deal ! Considering that each of the artists who are exhibiting has the potential to make it big; and the works themselves are increadiblity beautiful, this is not a bad deal at all.

The discussion then veered towards how barter in some societies has replaced currency and how it can even in today's complex world be used effectively as a means of exchange. without enough "hard cash" many people feel strapped and cannot do things they really want to do. Barter can come to their rescue and be of great help in such situations.

A travel agent can offer free travel to a hotelier friend who can host the agent's friends for a few days; an artist can barter his paintings for some service or even hospitality. Even corporate firms can use this tool ( and i have seen this in practice) already. While barter in itself seems simple; the mechanism is susceptible to flaws and is not foolproof.

But in simple terms and among individuals, it can work very well if we mutually decide to share the resources we have. Something to think about on a sunday afternoon !

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The making of a hero...

Saw Lawrence of Arabia yesterday. I had seen the movie a few years ago; but not entirely and was always intrigued by the character. I finally sat down with the DVD of the movie and managed to see the movie last night.

It is a fascinating account of a romantic, a person who believed he could make a difference and unite the Arabs. My reading of his character is of someone who went beyond the boundries of skin, race and nationality and saw human beings for what they were - flesh and blood like himself. In this, he saw their pain as his and their struggle for freedom as something that he could relate to.

How much of his actions were motivated by greed or any other emotion, no one will ever know; but his integrity does come across quite strongly in the movie. T.E. Lawrence definitely comes across as a hero, who braved all odds to do what he believed in. A remarkable character indeed.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A bird, bullshit and more...

As i entered office today, i met my friend Ravi - a colleague and a "smoke buddy". We sat down over a cigarette and spoke about several things - and Ravi told me a story...

Once upon a time, there was a little bird. It was winter and the bird was sitting on a branch, almost freezing to death. Suddenly there was a snow storm and the bird could stand it no more and fainted and fell from the tree. As it fell unconscious, Ice started forming on the bird, and the poor little bird almost gave up hope.

Suddenly, a bull came from somewhere and accidentally shat on the bird. With the warmth of the shit, the bird gained consciousness and gathered strength. It woke up and started chirping in joy. As it was singing and dancing in joy; a cat passed by and ate the little bird.

Moral of the story : Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.

Bigger moral of the story : When in shit - keep your mouth shut !

Friday, December 14, 2007

Schizoid geographical identities...

I am an Indian living in Bangalore. Bangalore is probably the most cosmopolitan city in India and continues to grow at a rapid pace. While my sensibilities and emotional connection with India is strong; i dont think like many "Indians". So, does that make me an outsider ??

Europeans think Europe is the centre of the world. Americans believe that the world begins and ends with America. Indians like to believe that USA is the centre of the world and rest of the world is just a necessary add-on. As globalisation is sweeping the world with its un-relenting fury; i feel we are all becoming schizophrenic when it comes to our geographical identities and are confused about where we really belong.

I had a long chat with a very dear friend who called from Austria. He is what i would call "IBCTD"- Indian born confused traveller Desi. He is based in USA but is currently serving a stint in Graz, Austria. As our conversation veered towards home and where the heart belongs; one thing became clear - that both of us share similar confused mindsets about what really makes a place "home". Is it the emotional connection, the geographical place itself or a combination of both.

The Terminal - an interesting movie starring Tom Hanks brings out this dilemma clearly. The hero is travelling from an unknown country; which has been de-recognised when he lands in USA and he is here to perform an important task. He is forced to stay in the Airport and make it his home until his situation is sorted out.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

No time to live....

Strangely, I had a fight today. Fight with myself. It was not the person who caused the fight which was important; but this was more an "internal affair" and i cried...silently. As tears rolled down my cheeks and i tried to calm down.....and stop feeling sorry for myself; i realised that most of us have forgotten how to live. And this "most of us" included me too...

We set up artificial goals, chase mirages, love heedlessly and are hurt. It is as if these "things" out there - people out there can fill the void within us. Unless we fill this void with a meaning - our own meaning for life...we will forever be hurt, depressed, bored. No matter how much money one makes, how loving one's partner is, no matter how famous one is; if this void is not filled; one will forever be restless.... and sad - as I felt today.

What was making me sad ? Unreplied emails ? someone ignoring me ? Someone not caring enough to give back what i expected - time and attention ? someone not making the effort to invest in me as much as i expected ?

It made me laugh for a while....I could imagine myself - looking as a passive observer and laughing at the absurdity of the situation.

The sad truth is that we are all alone. Alone and fast approaching our mortal end. If only we realise this and stop placing so much importance on someone/ external goals and success. Only if we realise that chasing mirages is not going to take us anywhere.... And to imagine that we give ALL of our waking time - waking hours to chase these mirages seems so stupid....almost childish...juvenile and taken to its extreme, it is madness.

I think ( and feel) some simple principles can make life easy for all of us :

1) Identify what is "meaningful" and important in your life
2) Give of what you can to these "meaningful" things or people...
3) Do not despair if you do not get back
4) Believe in natural order ...nature gives to everyone...what he/she deserves....even if it is delayed; eventually one gets what one deserves
5) If one is a believer in God, believe that God is loving, caring and he knows what he is doing...and it is for the best
6) place these priorities in order and dont give too much time and do not be too attached to anything

As a parting thought, i read this quote : "The enemy is not the other, the enemy is you" by J Krishnamurthy. I cannot disagree. All conflict begins and ends with the self.

You are the world..

Monday, December 3, 2007

Meaning of Dr Vicktor Frankl

"Hopelessness comes when there is no meaning in suffering. Man must recognise this responsibility that lies with one"

"Despair = Suffering with out meaning . As long as we see some meaning in the suffering; we can endure anything...". "People can turn their tragedies to personal many ppl cant find any meaning in life...and more often than not..have something to live by, but not life for".

Do i need to say more ??? watch this video

Carl Jung and study of the human mind...

Quite by chance i picked up a book by Carl Jung, the great Swiss thinker and founder of Analytical psychology. The book " Aspects of the feminine" deals with the female psyche and how the archetypes have shaped human consciousness.

Jung speaks about the Anima and Animus as the female and male archetypes. His approach appealed to me more than that of Freud ( though i must confess i havent read much of both of them). But Jungian psychology seems to derive from the dreams, archetypes and other symbols which are part of the unconscious part of us...

Strange that i saw a very lucid and beautiful dream of being on a beautiful island and swimming in the ocean just the night i finished reading the book...

Here is an interesting video of Jung talking about death, which he says should be approached like a goal and not something one has to run away from...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tim baba...a blue eyed Hindu

On my way to Istanbul from Delhi; i met Tim baba. A blue eyed Hindu, a hippie, a freak - call what you will.... I first saw him when waiting to board the flight and saw him sitting on the floor - with his legs neatly folded; the way only Indians can sit comfortably.

I ignored him as a freak. A confused white man - looking for his soul in India...or a possible hedonist seeking salvation in sex, drugs and rock and roll at one of the Osho ashrams. But he had a beautiful smile....when he did smile - his eyes lit up. Dressed in orange, with a bandana and teeth which were almost yellow - the colour of sugarcane...he had a few beads hanging from his neck and was barefoot. Long flowing hair, which looked unkempt completed the scene perfectly.

As i kept my cabin baggage in the overhead compartment, i looked around and noticed that Tim baba was sitting next to me. I cursed my luck and swore under my breath. I was to share my almost seven hour flight with this freak ! The lord save me... I told myself.

The first half of the flight was spent in what i do best when i travel - Sleep. when i woke up; i noticed that Tim baba was still sleeping and i had missed my breakfast. I called the Airhostess and requested for breakfast. She obliged and in a few minutes; i was served my first sample of Turkish food.

Tim baba woke up a while later...and smiled his characteristic smile. I responded back and being characteristically polite; asked him if he would like to have his breakfast.

"Oh yes, sure why not ! " he responded.

The shared breakfast started the conversation....Tim told me of his travel back home. He was giong back to the UK. To his father's funeral. Tim was a 50 year old brit who had found salvation in India and in Hinduism. After a life long search for meaning and what he had to do; Tim accidentally came to INdia and found his true calling...

"Bhagvan ( God) brought me to India" he kept saying... "It is all his doing....destiny decides who you meet; what you do, how you live and what happens to you" he added.....

As someone living a life of coincidences, accidents and near disasters -yet, living with an open heart; i could not disagree. I somehow felt i liked this man. This guy who seemed so uncouth, savage, ugly....yet had a beautiful smile...a warm heart and an innate sense of life and what it means to live... He deeply loved his family and was going to say his final good bye to his father.

Tim was living in Hrishikesh and running an ashram, school and a medical centre for the poor.

We spoke about many things....both rational and irrational. Tim opened up to me...he responded to what was human in me. I responded to him. It was a good exchange - two strangers swapping stories of their lives....

We reached Istanbul a few hours later....and i gave him my card and we parted ways.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

why are we eating so much ?

India Today- India's national magazine did a survey recently and its findings are shocking. Indians eat every 2 hours on an average...and most of our eating is influenced by boredom, friends and everything other than hunger.

Does this explain why we are so obese ?? In my personal experience, I believe that we Indians are the most obese people on Earth ( with the exception of over-fed Americans). That is something we have in common with them other than the fact that for both of us - size matters ! The bigger the better seems to be the mantra....quality comes secondary in most aspects of life. The bigger car, the bigger house, the bigger bank account.....big, big , big ..............

We constantly eat, and then worry about losing weight. Weight loss is a national obsession in India. Right from TV ads on weight loss, the proliferation of weight loss clinics, the sheer amount of ad space dedicated to weight loss ads in newspapers, the amount of conversation that we have on weight loss is staggering. If we were to spend the same amount of energy on discussing India's poverty; iam sure we would have come up with some very concrete ways to eradicate it.

Middle class India's obsession with materialism is shocking...and this manifests itself in gluttony. Few people remember that it is one of the seven deadly sins.

So, before we address the question of why we Indians are becoming so un-healthy and why we are spending so much on cardiac surgeries; the simpe question to ask is : Why are we eating so much ?? This may provide many answers .......

Thursday, November 22, 2007

An age of new innocence...

What does this century need ? what skills, attitudes does this new age demand from us ? While the last century and early decades of this century were concerned with productivity, growth and increased wealth; this new century offers new challenges and is bringing us to a new crisis - one of a loss of innocence. Human innocence which cannot be quantified, taught or even cultivated. It either exists or it doesnt.

while industrialistaion and technology have made life more productive, faster and far more complex; something that remains constant is the need for human values. One of the biggest threats of technology is to human innocence.

Mobile phones, internet - are robbing us of our personal space. While there is more talk, there is less conversation. There seems to be an incessant chatter - an almost endless non-stop talk with no meaning most of the time.

Social networking, online dating, second life make it possible for us to live online without actually connecting with anyone in the "real world". Like one of my friends said "the only physical relationship i have is with my computer". This seems ironical but true that with greater technological advancements; we are becoming more distant.

cynicism, mis-trust and impatience with all aspects of life are becoming all-pervasive. It is so hard to be an optimist. We have lost faith in governments, the media, corporates. Religion offers solace to a few. There is limited faith in our relationships, friends seem to offer some solace; but all too often they drift apart.

The answer I think is an ability to have child-like simple faith in relationships. A simple faith in all things good and in human nature. A positive outlook towards life and people and the belief that ultimately human nature is good...despite the small deviations.

It is a new age of innocence that the world needs and the place to start is with oneself....

Monday, November 19, 2007

Listening to life...

Though we plan, work towards our plans and do all we can in our power to reach certain goals; at times it all seems to be aimless....

Life flows with its own force and its own direction and to force it to go in a different direction - by sheer will power seems foolhardy at times. While we need to be alert to the possibilities of what life can offer...i sometimes feel one must not so be stubborn so that one doesnt listen to life.

Every life is telling something.... though there is silence within; each life resonates with the divine or natural echo of what it is meant to do..

"Silence is the language of God, all the rest is poor translation" said Rumi. Perhaps we must just stop making so much noise...shut up and listen to what life is telling us.

Each experience, each person who has passed through our lives leaves something indelible. Only if we were to stop, reflect and listen ....