Inch By Inch

1. “Look hard at the darkness and you will start noticing rays of light.”

— Judith Marlow

2. “You cannot control your thoughts, but you can control the actions they result in.”

— Iain Bradshaw

3. “Yesterday shines a light onto our tomorrow.”

— Leslie D’Souza

4. “Positive thoughts are their own reward. There is nothing you cannot achieve with positive thoughts.”

— Sook Yi Ng

5. “I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, lest I look at the pessimistic side and get consumed by it, never to come out.”

— Alyssa Amin

6. “Positive thinking will show you the path. Negative thinking will show you the obstructions on the path.”

— Roger Johnson

7. “Pessimism leads to pessimism, optimism to optimism.”

— Swami Charitranand

8. “If you make positive choices, the environment around you will respond and make your future choices easier, more natural, and more enjoyable.”

— Lee Chopra Bravinsky

9. “Positive thinking is more than just thinking. It is a way of life. Indeed, it is the only way of life. We have not been put on this planet to wallow in the misery of our negative thoughts. We are here to be positive, as being positive not only makes me better, but it also makes those around me better.”

— Haruto Nagoya

Inspirational? Motivational?

What is wrong with Ankur? No satire? No sarcasm? No highlighting any absurdity? Has the 45 degree Celsius (113 F) heat in Gurgaon got to him?

Scroll

Scroll

Scroll

If you are one who looks closely at motivational quotes, you might find that none of the quotes bear any resemblance to anything said in reality ever and offered as motivational quotes. Would a close looker at motivational quotes notice, or care, even assuming there was a way of finding out? But, let me not over-reach. Let me add, ‘…and not seen by me.’ Who knows, motivational quotes of these exact words, words that I just conjured up by some mixing and matching and imagining, might be on offer as, well, motivational quotes.

Will the motivational quoters take me to the cleaners for playing with their words? Motivational quoters who? The attribution is to names made up by me on the spot, and  adding a sprinkling of names from around the world to give a global look and feel. Would a close looker at motivational quotes notice, or care? But again, it is entirely possible that there may be real people answering to these exact names, sitting with their lawyers at this very moment, waiting for someone to make up a name exactly like theirs and slapping that someone with a legal notice.

Hopefully, the combination of the exact motivational quote and the exact name will be too much of a coincidence for me to worry about.

There is a Nike ad doing the rounds these days with people, perhaps close lookers at motivational quotes, gushing over it. This ad has footage of famous athletes in slow motion, set to the beat of music. Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, and several other American athletes who I could not recognise. The message, “You are never too far down to get up again,” or some similar words.

There was an ‘inspirational’ Coke ad that I received a few days back. With rave reviews from many people, perhaps close lookers at motivational messages.

Seriously, are these two different from millions of other ‘motivational’ messages and advertisements developed by millions of businesses constantly looking for ways to gain mind and wallet share of their target customers? Of course, they are, different. The athletes are different. The background score is different. The narrator is different. The wordings are different. So what if there is some music, some slow motion, some high-quality footage, some nice sounding words in a deep voice saying something that translates to, “Hey you consumer, you idiot. Let me mess with your emotions, get you to associate my brand with ‘positive’ feelings, and help you make me rich beyond your wildest dreams.”

You and I could write those words. And put together that footage. Someone like you and I has perhaps done it for these businesses. Don’t believe me? Check out the ‘motivational’ quotes earlier in the post written by me. I am sure any of us can conjure them up. But I assume many people would rather a consumer than a producer be. Watch a promotional video of a fast food or garment business that has some music, some slow motion, some high-quality footage, and an audio in a deep voice belting out an inane truism that they would never have known otherwise, like “You can do what you want to do,” rather than making the effort to do what they want to do.

And then, there is Al Pacino. Always Al Pacino.

During my corporate life many years back, it was inevitable that one participated in events known by various names like Workshop/ Training programme/ Outbound training/ Seminar/ Offsite, etc. There were many objectives for these events which I will not go into here, but one common theme running through each was that, as an outcome of the event, all participants should be able to make more money for the organisation that employed them and probably paid for their participation. And the methodology for training them to do so was also disarmingly simple. Showing an ‘inspirational’ clip from a Hollywood movie with Al Pacino. Always Al Pacino. Asking his team to “Claw inch by inch, play by play” in Any Given Sunday, or telling the jury “And that, my friends, is called integrity! That’s called courage!” in Scent of a Woman.

And we would spend the rest of the evening talking about how that video clip changed our life, which would change back to its pre-event shape the moment we hit the workplace.

Don’t we get it that it is a setup? We could have made anything happen. It was all in the hands of the makers of the movie. Al Pacino could have sacked his team and took on the opposition single handedly. And won. And we would have cheered and said it was such a great example of belief in oneself, no matter what the odds. He could have changed three players at the last minute and still won. And we would have cheered and said that it was such a great case study for future generations for ‘decision making under adversity.’ He could have debated with a referee on a technicality and held up the game for an hour to enable a key player recover from a bout of dizziness. And we would have cheered and said it was such a great example of negotiation skills. All to be shown as ‘inspirational’ videos at the next Workshop.

What is it that keeps driving people to consuming these ‘motivational’ quotes? Looking constantly for external motivation? Acting as super-spreaders and spraying these messages liberally amongst their near and dear ones, even not so near and not so dear ones? Is it an unwillingness to face up to what we may consider to be the unfairness and hard facts of our life? Lack of self-respect? Trying to get someone else, anyone, to solve their problems?

I am not an expert. In fact, I am pretty much out of my comfort zone here. I am not questioning the likes and dislikes of others. If reading motivational quotes and watching motivational videos is what sails your boat, who am I to complain?

In fact, if it is so good, why don’t we just get all the business corporations and all governments to stop doing whatever they claim they are doing, and just keep churning out motivational videos and messages all the time and the world will be a better place. Right?

What I am saying is that it does not sail mine.

The question is – Did it (the producing and consuming of the motivational) message make the world a better place?

 

Our Books, My Stories

My stories made it to two books that have been published recently. Both are collections of stories contributed by different people, and related to their own life and experiences.

What is common between the contributors in the two books and in each book? They are all alumni of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), the coveted institution of higher learning dedicated to business education.

In “A Chapter Out of My Life,” the contributors are drawn from different IIMs, from different cohorts in different years.

In “Reflections,” they are all a part of the same cohort, the batch of 1987, who spent the same two years at the IIM in Ahmedabad.

What is common between the two books? I believe I am the only author contributing to both.

Over to the books then. If you do read them, please try to leave a ‘Review’ on either Goodreads or Amazon or any place online you are comfortable with.

1. A Chapter Out Of My Life: Gems from the lives of ordinary people

A Chapter

This has been published by Salil Agrawal, a senior by a few years from IIM Ahmedabad and the founder president of IIMAGES which is a society of the alumni of IIMs. He has been instrumental in creating the ‘network’ impact of the IIM alumni and hence, in many ways, the most suitable person for putting together a book of this nature. The contributors have been drawn from different IIMs, from different cohorts in different years.

In Salil’s words:

“There are extraordinary people and then there are ordinary people. People like you and me. People who are accomplished in their own way and who have had interesting lives. But they are not extraordinary, they are not celebrities. Their stories do not get published even though they are very inspirational.

This book brings to you stories from the lives of nineteen such wonderful people. All of them are alumni of Indian Institutes of Management. They write about an experience from their life that made a difference to them.

These stories will be very useful for younger readers – management grads in the first few years of their career, students of management, those aspiring to do an MBA and also those planning to join the corporate world in the near future.”

Kindle edition on Amazon India (Rs. 49- with proceeds to charity): https://bit.ly/sllbk1

Kindle edition on Amazon US ($0.65): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087XBMWBL

Paperback anywhere: still to be released

2. Reflections: Life Reloaded. Class of ‘87

517onSQNJ2L

This has been published by Sanjeev Kotnala, a classmate at IIM Ahmedabad, from the 1985-87 batch that graduated in 1987. The contributors are all classmates of ours. People who spent the same two years of their life in the hallowed precincts of IIM Ahmedabad, pursuing an MBA programme, amid the iconic exposed brick architecture of Louis Kahn.

Sanjeev is the founder of INTRADIA World and a Marketing and Branding professional devoted to enhancing potential and capabilities of clients’ team. He runs 2-day workshops on Ideation and Innovation and is a certified NLP practitioner and an ICF accredited life, Mid-life transition and Master Spirit Coach.

In Sanjeev’s words:

“Eighteen Authors, from CLASS OF 1987, IIM Ahmedabad, share more than 28 real impact stories from professional and personal life. These are small, compelling incidents that challenged their thinking, making an impact in their lives.

Read their ‘aapbeethi’ (self-experiences) as they transparently open up to allow you a behavioristic peek into their lives.

Yes, you can question their Approach and Learning, or maybe you could end up questioning your approach to life. Who knows, which incident here mirror’s your life and touches a chord? Why wait for Self Experience when others’ experience can help guide your approach.

What you gain from these stories presented in five sections; ‘Business’, ‘People’, ‘Encounter’, ‘Life’, and ‘Institute’, is all up to you. Happy reading.”

Kindle edition on Amazon India (Rs. 199-): https://amzn.to/2RsA3Ln

Paperback on Amazon India (currently out of print): https://amzn.to/36qDYg3

 

EconoMix

People are no longer buying things they don’t need. And that is apparently bad news for the world.

I have always been awed, and perplexed, by the working of the great Economic brains of the world. How they always seem to know what will happen after it has happened. And how, mostly either through a Rate Cut, or Rate Increase, they can solve the most internecine problems plaguing our world.

But how does it work? In order to not further tax the already busy brains of the Economists who are probably working out how they already knew about the impact of the Corona pandemic, and to decide whether it should be a Rate Cut this time or a Rate Increase, I decided to work it out for myself.

Let us take the example of the travel industry, one of the industries often cited as an example of being deeply impacted. As we are not travelling, they must be going through a torrid time. Airlines and hotels must be losing money because travellers, the people who would be paying them for their services, are not paying them. In short, because travellers are not coughing up money, airlines and hotels are getting poorer.

If they are getting poorer because travellers are not spending money, then travellers, who are not spending the money they would normally have, much be getting richer.

Makes sense?

Some of these travellers getting richer could be the people who run small businesses. Like restaurants. In Japan.

But people who run small businesses like restaurants are losing money because they have to shut down, and customers cannot come to them and buy their services. In other words, they are getting poorer.

If they are becoming poorer because customers are not coming and buying their services, then the customers who would have come to them must be getting richer because they are not spending that money.

Some of these customers getting richer could be makers of protective face masks. In Kenya.

Makers of protective masks are making money because there is huge demand for these masks. They just cannot make them fast enough. Hence, they are getting richer.

People buying these masks are becoming poorer as they now have to pay for an item that was not budgeted in their original scheme of things.

Some of these people becoming poorer could be employees of a software company. In Mexico.

On account of uncertain business outlook, the software company that employs them has offered a choice of retrenchment or pay cuts to employees. Hence employees are becoming poorer still.

If there are fewer employees and they are being paid lesser, and are becoming poorer as a result, then the employer, because it is spending less money, must be getting richer.

At the same time, the software company getting richer is seeing its carefully built business crumbling. The investment in creating a sales pipeline seems to be wasted as clients are unwilling to place new orders and even cancelling existing ones. If orders are not coming through and existing ones are being cancelled, it will gradually become poorer.

As clients of this software company are not paying money for new orders and saving money on placed orders, they must be getting richer.

Some of these clients getting richer could be mid-size garment manufacturing units. In India.

Mid-size, or any size, garment manufacturing units are seeing a steep decline in orders and are losing money because of that. Not only are they not getting orders, they have to keep paying salaries which is what the government has mandated. As is the business of governments in free markets to do. Mandate. Hence, they are becoming poorer twice as fast.

If they are becoming poorer because customers are not placing fresh orders and buying their garments, then the customers who are not placing fresh orders must be getting richer because they are not spending that money.

Some of these clients cancelling orders and getting richer could be retail clothing stores in Europe.

Retail clothing stores are losing money because footfalls have totally dried up on account of the lockdown and people are restricting purchases to essential items. Hence clothing stores are getting poorer.

Customers who are restricting purchases to essential items are paying lesser for clothing items and hence getting richer by saving money they would otherwise have spent on clothing.

Some of these customers getting richer could be people working for online platforms that facilitate video meetings and interaction over the Internet. In Canada.

They have been offered overtime pay and bonuses because their employer’s business is booming. Hence they are getting richer still.

Their employers, the businesses that own and run these online platforms, must be getting poorer as they are paying more to employees than was budgeted.

Online platforms that facilitate video interaction over the Internet getting poorer are experiencing a surge in demand and cannot seem to be expanding fast enough to keep up with it. Their revenues have seen a spike and they are getting richer.

People buying these services are becoming poorer as they now have to pay for an item that was not budgeted in their original scheme of things.

Some of these people getting poorer could be farmers growing food for the teeming millions. In Brazil.

Farmers are continuing to grow and sell food as people need to eat. They are neither getting richer nor poorer as people continue to buy food and eat. If anything, they could be getting marginally richer as the focus on buying and consuming food is now much higher than just a few weeks back.

People buying and consuming food would be getting neither richer nor poorer as they continue to buy and consume food like they have always done. If anything, they could be getting marginally richer as the more expensive eating-out options are not available at the moment. Not only that, they could experience an unforeseen improvement in health as the home-made food being consumed these days might be healthier.

Some of these customers getting neither richer nor poorer could be employees of a large corporation that operates an airline. Because there is no demand for travel, the airline has sacked a large number of staff. Without jobs, these staff members are getting poorer.

The airline that employs them must be getting richer as it no longer is paying what it had expected to pay in the form of salaries.

But we already learnt at the start that the airline is getting poorer because nobody is travelling and their capacity lies unutilised.

Clear? As mud? Or, using an Indianism, ‘as a jalebi?’

Are we getting richer and poorer at the same time? Or, are we getting neither richer nor poorer at the same time?

And I haven’t even begun to decide whether it will be a Rate Cut or a Rate Increase this time.

I think I better leave it to the Economists.

But all is not lost. At least I have been able to establish that, like the oceans of the world, we are all connected. You wouldn’t have known that, would you?

The Quest for Home – Virtual Book Launch

I am thrilled to announce the launch of her new book by my long time blogging friend and popular author Jacqui Murray.

The Quest for HomeQuest for Home

Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind her African homeland, leading her People on a gruelling journey through unknown and perilous lands. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that her most dangerous enemy isn’t the one she expected. It may be one she trusts with her life. 

The story is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, the one destined to obliterate any who came before.

Based on a true story, this is the unforgettable saga of hardship and determination, conflict and passion as early man makes his way across Eurasia, fleeing those who would kill him. He must be bigger-than-life, prepared time and again to do the impossible because nothing less than the future of mankind is at stake.

This is Book 2 in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga (Genre: Prehistoric fiction), and is available at:

Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU

About Jacqui and how to reach her:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for  NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2020, the final chapter in the Crossroads Trilogy.  

Amazon Author Page:        https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                       https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                             https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn:                                http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                                http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                                   http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                                 https://jacquimurray.net

Jacqui will be visiting blogs September 16th – 30th to chat about The Quest for Home. She answers some questions about the book here.

  1. What’s the relationship between Xhosa (and Homo erectus) and animals?

Early man had no idea animals weren’t simply another intelligent creature who spoke a different language. Why would they think differently? Man wasn’t the alpha in this environment. Mammoth or Sabretooth were. Man thought he could learn from these animals and become stronger. He respected them.

  1. What one characteristic would you say allowed Xhosa to survive in a world populated with Sabretooth Cats, violent volcanoes, and predatory species who liked to eat man?

 Really, with our thin skin, dull teeth, and tiny claws (aka fingernails), Xhosa had no right to survive against the thick-skinned mammoth or tearing claws of the great cats of that time. But she did. The biggest reason: Even then, Xhosa and her kind were problem solvers. They faced crises and came up with solutions. Where most animals spent their time eating and sleeping, Xhosa had time left over. This, she used to solve problems.

To me, that thoughtful approach to living, one no other animal exhibits, is why we came to rule the planet.

Here’s wishing success to Jacqui Murray and The Quest for Home.

 

#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: 12 Survival Tips for Writers

via #AuthorToolboxBlogHop: 12 Survival Tips for Writers

My guess is that many of the readers of my blog are writers themselves.

And, much like me, I have no doubt that as writers, you would be facing your share of difficult days for writing.

Sharing a post from my long-time blogging friend Jacqui’s blog that might help us through some of those days. She is a treasure trove of nuggets of information for writers.

 

After Math

The best time to prevent a problem from happening is after the problem has already happened.

Just the other day people in our housing society got into a heated argument, almost verbal fisticuffs, over a video circulated over, what else, WhatsApp, of a child being run over by a car within the secure boundaries of a housing society. Somewhere. May have been in our building or may have been in some other. No way of knowing for sure. May have been in our colony or may have been in some other. May have been in our city or may have been in some other. May have been in our state or may have been in some other. Such was the relevance of the video to our society residents. The only certainty, based on the physical features of the people involved, and the car model involved, is that it was recorded in India, if we assume for a minute it was a real video.

It might have been recorded yesterday or it might have been recorded last week or it might have been recorded last month or it might have been recorded last year or it might have been recorded any time before that. The only certainty is that it was perhaps recorded after the time when video recording technology started becoming commonly available, perhaps twenty years back. Moreover, it seems that neither of two main characters in the video, the child and the driver, were known to any of the people involved in the heated discussion. Over this undated and possibly morphed video, with unknown characters, residents of our housing society got into a real-time heated argument, with name-calling and walkouts from the virtual group.

But that is us. We Indians, at least most of us, are caring, sensitive people. We will not shy away when a needless fight, at least a verbal argument, looms, particularly over events already transpired, at an unknown time, involving strangers. We will not turn away like cowards when there is an opportunity of offering homilies that shed a new, well researched light on the situation, like “people must drive carefully” or “parents must ensure children play in safe areas” or “traffic lights should work”. How would we know if they did not tell us? Did you?

And always in a timely manner. Like for a few hours after a child has been hurt by a careless driver. Like for a day after a fire in a building that firefighters were unable to access because of the path being blocked with castaway furniture. Like for a few days after firecrackers have been burnt on a festival adding to atmospheric pollution in the winter months.

We don’t waste time in preventing problems before they have happened, or even offering homilies. How would we squabble over it afterwards if the event was not allowed to happen? Forcing others to discover for themselves that “people must drive carefully” or “parents must ensure children play in safe areas” or “traffic lights should work”.

In the days, months, and most thankfully, years when a child did not get hurt, how many times have we seen residents get into a huff about someone driving rashly inside the society? Or been careful themselves while driving? How many times have we come across a resident chiding an irresponsible parent for letting their young children play without supervision? Or not let their own children play without supervision? Never, right? In fact, some residents of our society wanted to permit holding skating classes for young children on a section of the road. Since an accident had not happened in the skating class in the past as there was no skating class, it was safe to allow an accident in the future. “We just need to be careful.” “We just need to post a guard there.” “The trainer is an adult, he will ensure children are not hurt.”

When an errant driver hurts a child of irresponsible parents, all hell breaks loose with insightful observations that should have been implemented earlier. Mostly by someone else. Like the society management. Or the traffic police. Or the government.

But complainers abound. Trying to fix a problem even before it has happened. Trying to prevent people from living their life. Always complaining.

To all those complainers who complain about overcrowded vans picking up even more children going to school, I say, “Why should they not? Have you heard of any accident involving overcrowded vans ferrying school children in the last twenty four hours? So what if there have been accidents earlier?”

To all those complainers who complain about people blocking corridors with big planters and bicycles and spare furniture and impeding passages for emergency services to operate, I say, “Why should they not? Have you read about a fire breaking out in the last few days where firefighters were unable to access a flat on account of corridors being impeded? So what if there have been instances earlier?”

To all those complainers who complain about traffic cops turning a blind eye and letting cars drive in the wrong direction on roads designated as one-way, I say, “Why should they not? Have you seen an accident in the last week in which a vehicle driving the wrong way was involved? So what if there have been instances earlier?”

In any case, if a problem does happen it is someone else’s fault. Like it was the train’s fault that it  continued to move on the tracks laid out for it instead of getting down into the fields to avoid people standing on tracks to watch a performance near Amritsar. Like it is the government’s fault when devotees rush to the most crowded places in the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad to get the most bang for their holy buck and a stampede ensues.

I feel safe. If I ever get hit by a speeding truck or a car travelling in the wrong direction on a one-way road, or get caught in a stampede at the Kumbh Mela, I know well-meaning people will try to solve the problem by squabbling about it and offering well researched homilies for almost twenty four hours.

Stay Blessed

As if the goodness thrust upon us by leaders of various types was not enough. We now have goodness coming at us from family and friends as well. You could have too much of a good thing.

It could be in the form of:

“Smile more than you cry

Give more than you take

And love more than you hate.”

OR

“Don’t overthink things

Don’t stress about what might not happen

Just chill out.”

That make you go HOW.

Smile more than you cry;” great idea, but please explain how.

…love more than you hate;” what a great piece of advice, but can you please elaborate and tell me how.

Don’t overthink things;” you are the best, please help me understand how.

A bit like the popular cook-book that publishes a recipe for cooking “delicious hare meat” but forgets the crucial first line, which is, “First catch your hare.”

Did it not strike our benefactors that they should also have provided an instruction manual? To answer the crucial HOW.

It could be in the form of:

“That being who neither runs away from disagreeable karma (unpleasent work, which causes bondage to itself or its fruits) nor gets attached to agreeable karma (pleasant work, duties), without any doubt such pure Satvik being is intelligent & true renunciater. As none of the human can renounce, entirely & completely, all the karmas, one who doesn’t gets attached to the karma & doesn’t desire fruits from Karma, is the true renunciater.”

OR

“Beings who dont get free from attachment & desire of fruits from Karma, get good, bad or mixed fruit of their karma after their death (in terms of how & where they r born in next life). The one who doesn’t attaches himself with karma & doesn’t desire fruits from Karma, doesn’t face any fruit of it (as enlightened ones move out of circle of life n death).”

That make you go WOW. How come I did not receive this advice earlier (even discounting for the spelling and grammar issues)?

…one who doesn’t gets attached to the karma & doesn’t desire fruits from Karma, is the true renunciater.” You know I have been dying to become a true renunciater, no pun intended (on “dying”).

Beings who dont get free from attachment & desire of fruits from Karma, get good, bad or mixed fruit of their karma;” so it seems there is a choice of fruit available, please tell me where I need to click to indicate my choice?

Anyone can see that the advice dished out is so unique that nobody in his right mind would ever even dream of it on his own. Let’s be honest, without these messages, would you have guessed that you ought to “smile more than you cry?” Or even “don’t overthink things?” And it talks directly to that part of us that has been waiting for it eagerly from the time we were born, like becoming a  “renunciater” when we die.

Yes, we are talking about the greatest tool for peace, goodwill and harmony invented by mankind, Jan Koum and Brian Acton to be specific; the Group messenger on WhatsApp, the Wonder App, as christened by my friend N V S Sastry, and the favourite tool pf people who bombard unsuspecting, inveterate do-badders with these messages of love and goodness.

For years I have been bombarded with these messages, I believe they are called “inspirational”, on WhatsApp Groups, and for years I have been ignoring them.

It is not difficult to understand why I have not become a “true renunciater” or I don’t “smile more than cry”.

Suspicious as I have been of these messages, I have to reluctantly admit that they have been an invaluable source of strength for me in the most trying of times. Like at work, where they have helped me consume the tedium of office life by pretending to secretly read messages and responding, thereby appearing to be busy to others. They have also helped me in rapidly consuming my phone memory and equally rapidly upgrade to a phone with a memory, and cost, several times larger. And, above all else, by randomly forwarding messages that very few recipients will read, I suspect I have become a far more popular member of society. As has I believe everyone I know. Everyone has become more popular in equal measure.

And the do-gooders continue to boldly go where no WhatsApp Group message blind forwarder has been before.

They now blindly forward Good Morning messages. With the picture of a flower too.

Not any flower, but a rose. Not to me but to the whole group. Not to one but many many groups. And mind you, yesterday, it was yellow roses. And tulips a day prior.

They blindly forward videos of spiritual gurus, many of whom will probably later end up behind bars on account of sexual misconduct, on these groups.

Even inspirational quotes from unknown people, people who may have never existed.

All to reinforce the HOW and WOW effect.

In order to atone for past sins (some of them) and become a “true renunciater”, which I could not earlier, and to “smile more than cry” which, again, I could not earlier, I have started reading these forwards.

The first one I read was “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Almost immediately thereafter, the phone beeped again and came “Dreams don’t work unless you do” into another group.

Can someone please explain if I should dream or I should work.

The next one said “If someone points out your mistake, be happy that at least someone is interested in your perfection and success”, immediately followed by “Stay away from negative people, they have a problem for every solution.”

Can someone please confirm that someone who points out your mistakes is a positive person.

Then came “The secret of success is to know something nobody else knows.” I swear even my wife does not know the Password to access my bank account. I am waiting for the success that is about to envelop me in its fold.

I was afraid these messages might stop after the Madras High Court recently foolishly ruled that forwarding a message tantamounts to deemed ownership of content and the person forwarding can be held accountable for spreading slander and misinformation if that be the case.

I spent many a sleepless night with my mobile clutched tightly to my chest. Each blindly forwarded message in every group being reason for me to eagerly lap it as if it would be the last.

But I had reckoned without the tenacity of the forwarders. They took as much notice of the forwarded message announcing the Madras Hight Court ruling as they have been doing of other messages they have been forwarding.

Needless to say, the goodness continues unabated.

I am nominating WhatsApp Group messages for the Nobel Peace Prize with an honourable mention for everyone who has blindly forwarded such messages to foster goodwill, peace and harmony in the world.

Like the ending of many of the blindly forwarded messages, “Stay Blessed!”

How?

Season of Surprise

‘Tis the season to be merry?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But ‘tis certainly looking like the season to be surprised.

Once again.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has set the ball rolling by predicting that large parts of the country will reel under temperatures higher than normal and that the seasonal average temperature is set to be higher than normal by over 1 degree Celsius.

We are surprised.

After years of rapid development, with millions of fossil fuel burning cars added to the roads, agricultural and forest lands being consumed to build wider and wider roads in an effort to get those cars moving and so that the common man feels like he is living anywhere but in India, building shiny new energy-guzzling highrises, putting many water bodies out of the misery of their daily struggle for survival, transporting food and water from greater and greater distances, we are surprised.

We are surprised that this is happening again. Because it had happened just last year in the summer, which was one of the hottest recorded in recent memory. And the previous year in the summer. And the previous year again.

Despite doing nothing to prevent a recurrence, it is recurring. Isn’t it surprising?

It is a surprise that summer is coming back at all. With its many surprises.

We will be surprised to see peak load requirement going up in the summer as more and more people switch on their air-conditioners.

We will be surprised to experience frequent failures in the grid-supplied power as the grid buckles under peak-load demand.

We will be surprised when residential societies as well as commercial developments switch on their diesel-powered generation sets and produce their own power to offset the grid failures. We will also be surprised that noxious fumes emitted by these generators will add to the pollution woes of the city.

We will be surprised when, despite uncontrolled drawing of ground water for industrial and other uses, the water table plunges further.

We were expecting November-like bracing conditions to prevail through most of May and June, but looks like IMD had other ideas. If putting out realistic and reasonable facts and figures is all it can do, does a rapidly developing nation like ours really need an IMD? But that is for our political leaders to answer. Let us enjoy the beauty of life while we can. With its ability to throw up surprises every day and every minute.

Summer will be followed by monsoon. Yet another surprise. Seriously, did anyone know about this?

Come monsoon and we will be surprised to realise that water can flow from higher to lower level of ground. And that constructing in its path without adequate assessment of capacity will lead to impeding the flow of water and cause water-logging.

We will be surprised to know that open ground absorbs rainwater much faster than land that has been constructed over. As a corollary, we will be surprised to realise that slower absorption of rainwater leads to a slower recharging of groundwater resources.

We will be surprised to know that that poor quality material used in building of roads leads to the surface being washed away leaving gaping holes for traffic to navigate. We will be equally surprised to understand that gaping holes in the road surface and water-logging on roads leaves only narrow usable channels for traffic on otherwise wide roads, which leads to massive traffic jams with people leaving office at 6 PM reaching home 15 km away at 5 AM the next morning.

We will be surprised to realise that rainfall does not have a mechanism through which it can stay away from areas prone to water-logging and poor drainage.

We will be surprised to know that random dumping of waste and stagnant water is a toxic combination that leads to breeding of mosquitoes, among other vectors, that leads to the spread of malaria, chikangunya, dengue and other diseases. As a corollary, we are even more surprised to learn that preventing collection of stagnant water and keeping our surroundings clean can prevent vector-borne diseases to a great degree.

It is a surprise that these are happening again. Because they had happened just last year during the monsoon. And the previous year in the monsoon. And the previous year again. Despite doing nothing to prevent a recurrence, they are recurring. Isn’t it surprising?

The beauty of life. Knowledge and learning at every step. The faster one is able to forget past learnings, the more one will keep learning. As long as one is open-minded. And not repeatedly asking “why is this not fixed?” or “who is responsible for this mess?”

And if that is not enough of surprises, winter, which just about got over, will come back. Did you know that?

We will be surprised that the cold winter air, with all noxious fumes and other pollutants emitted into it, will hang low and not get dissipated as easily as in the non-winter months, when it blows the pollutants away to unsuspecting people in other geographies.

We will be surprised that respiratory issues will abound in the winter months and that the masks people wear are not a natural adaptation of the human species to environmental stimuli.

We will be surprised that the days are short and nights long.

We will be surprised that it gets cold.

It is a surprise that these are happening again. Because they had happened just last year in the winter. And the previous year in the winter. And the previous year again. Despite doing nothing to prevent a recurrence, they are recurring. Isn’t it surprising?

And then, surprise of surprises, maybe even a shock, summer will be back. Who could have predicted that?

 

Living Dangerously

I opened the door leading out with trepidation. I did not know what to expect. It was not a situation I, or, for that matter, any other modern human, had been in, ever before.

I breathed in. Tentatively at first. Half expecting the atmospheric oxygen to have turned to chlorine, burning up the trachea even before the passage was traversed. And a painful death. Fists clenched and eyes shut, I braced for the burning sensation.

“Are you feeling OK?”, a passer-by enquired solicitously.

I could hear. I was alive. The air had not turned to noxious fumes while I had started that fateful journey almost an hour back. I gulped mouthfuls of air greedily.

I did not see the speaker as I was looking down. Even if I was looking up I would not have seen the speaker as my eyes were shut. But I managed a weak smile.

I was in the open now. I looked up, still cautiously, to see the setting sun, which was higher when I had gone inside. Evidently, the Earth had not stopped rotating during that hour.

I have never jumped into the cage of a tiger. With the tiger present. Or without.

I have never dived down to the Marianna Trench, stripped down to my shorts, just holding my breath.

I have never cartwheeled down Mt. Everest. Or Kanchenjunga and K2 for that matter.

I don’t know if others have, but I have not.

It is not that my life has been a series of predictable, boring events, bereft of those magical moments of human endeavour, flirting with danger and excitement, that give meaning to life. I have been brave, when the need for being brave has arisen.

‘Twas me who, once upon a time, in college, had answered “Present sir” on behalf of a classmate missing from an Accounting class.

‘Twas me again, chipping in from a point just off the green from where I could just as easily, and with better results, have putted.

I get goose pimples just thinking about these incidents and look forward to the time when I will recount stories of these extreme adventures to my grandchildren, with a fire crackling in the background.

It is the daring and adventurous spirit of motivated individuals that has made the human story that much richer. Individuals who sailed the deepest oceans, climbed the highest mountains, trekked through the densest jungles, with scarcely a thought for personal safety. In short, boldly went where no man had been before.

Mankind has often found itself at a crossroads, where selfless sacrifice and the daring spirit have lit up the way for future generations.

Another such crossroads had been reached by mankind.

Unanswered questions had been gathering. Dust. The thought that mankind might never know, had been disturbing me no end.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

Not one to be cowed down in the face of danger, as readers would have realized by now, I made the ultimate sacrifice. So that future generations do not have to live in the dark. So that the human story can continue.

Throwing caution to the winds, I left my mobilephone in the locker when I went to the gym for resuming my losing battle with creeping unfitness. For an hour.

Yes. You read that right. I left my mobilephone in the locker when I went to the gym. For an hour.

To seek an answer to the question that had been disturbing humanity ever since the invention of mobilephones, and one that no human had dared to seek an answer to, “What disaster would befall humanity if I stopped peering into the mobilephone for a short while?”

As soon as I shut the locker door…Silence…More silence.

Imagine images, perhaps blurred, moving in circles in slow motion and incoherent sounds emanating from them. As happens at a momentous turn of events in real life, as we know from Hollywood and Bollywood movies. Like when Harry Potter went looking for the Horcruxes. Like when Ram unleashed the arrow that eventually felled Raavan.

By now we all know that I survived the ordeal. But only I know how long that hour was. Everywhere I turned, there was a caring human tightly clutching his mobile to ensure that atmospheric oxygen does not turn to chlorine; or one looking at his mobile screen every three seconds to ensure the Earth does not stop rotating; and yet another continuously talking on it to prevent an alien invasion. I felt like a total misfit there. I was surrounded by accusing eyes inside the gym. Right under the myriad signs pasted on the walls that said “Do not use mobiles inside the gym”.  

The effort, the moments of self-doubt, the hours of indecision, have taken their toll on me. My nerves are shattered. I don’t know how many more posts I can write.

How will posterity judge me? I hope as a person who made the ultimate sacrifice. Of staying away from his mobilephone for an hour to seek answers to questions important for mankind and light up the way for future generations. And not as one who put mankind in danger because of his cavalier attitude. After all, anything could have happened in that hour.

At least I will have another story to tell my grand-children. I stayed away from my mobile for an hour. Do you think they will believe me?

Before signing off, a note of caution for readers, who would do well to understand that the acts of bravery described in the article were performed by experts. Or, at least people claiming to be experts. Any attempt to perform them unsupervised could lead to grievous injury and harm.

Moreover, in order that mankind is not put to any more undue risks, people should ensure that the following guidelines are religiously adhered to: 

  • Do not, ever, attempt to walk across a busy road without being glued to a mobile screen.
  • Do not, ever, go without your, or anyone else’s, mobile, to the gym where signs of “Do not use a mobile” are plastered on the walls around you.
  • If your mobile does not ring noisily inside the cinema hall, make sure you let other viewers feel safe by making a call every few minutes and talking loudly so that they know you are “on the watch for mankind”.
  • Drive a car only when you have text messages to type on your mobile. Even better, drive a two-wheeler while typing text messages.

Is a little bit of individual sacrifice for the greater good of mankind too much to ask for?

Face to Face

ECS (name changed), one of India’s largest IT companies, probably the largest, engineered a coup of sorts a few years back when they setup a female-only BPO unit in a country in the Middle East, well known for its treatment of women.

They engineered another coup when they got the Indian PM, during his recent visit to the country, to visit this Centre.

As we all know, conditions and regulations in a host country need to be respected. Even if you are the PM of a big nation. The Indian PM, full marks to him, has never been known to be non-accommodating, especially where uninterrupted oil supplies are at stake.

Though it was a secretive visit, with no coverage in the media, for obvious reasons, some photos of the PM’s visit to the centre seem to be emerging.  We bring these images to the readers of darkofficehumour for their reading and watching pleasure.

Remember, you saw them here first.

The PM walking in with the CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons, the majority owner of ECS

The PM walking in with the CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons (name changed), the holding company of ECS

PM having High Tea with staff, alongwith serious discussions

PM having High Tea with staff, alongwith serious discussions

A worried CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons wondering how to locate the PM in the crowd

A worried CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons wondering how to locate the PM in the crowd

The PM in the crowd

The PM somewhere in the crowd

 

Moment of alarm as an unidentifiable object sighted in the background; subsequent investigations revealing it to be a male of the species

Moment of alarm as an unidentifiable object sighted in the background; subsequent investigations revealing it to be a male of the species

 

Management team of the Centre standing separate from the staff, like in any self-respecting organisation

Management team of the Centre standing separate from the staff, like in any self-respecting organization. These people are quick learners!

Posing with the PM. Looks like an amateur photographer!

Posing with the PM at the end of the visit. Looks like an amateur photographer!

 

These images underscore the importance of this visit. From the expressions on the faces of the participants it is clear that historical changes are afoot.

Remember, you saw it here first!