Posted on April 7, 2019
One of the loveliest quote and an important lesson I learned very recently is that progress is messy.
In a recent, tough situation, I found myself learning about this quote. It gave me tremendous confidence at that time and continues to encourage taking risks without worry about how things will turn out. More on the lines of following your heart.
I was not able to express myself in a conversation with a friend because I had some presumptions which fell flat. I had to quit right at what I thought was the beginning of the conversation. It ought to be seen as a failure, I thought. I failed miserably to communicate, but more importantly, I sinned again. I presumed!
In the midst, I recalled the quote I read a while back: progress is messy. Indeed, the perspective I had suddenly turned around. I was alive. I was making progress. I failed, no doubt, but I also made progress when I conversed. I had the guts to say what I wanted to. I was able to gather the courage to say what I have been meaning to say, right from the heart.
Indeed, progress is messy.
Posted on January 4, 2017
Lately, there however, has been a shift in belief and I have inclined myself to believe in the existence of a higher power: a God. It does not relates to any religious deity, just a higher power, who is in control, rather than my self.
But why suddenly, you may wonder?
Life is all about trials, errors and the lessons we learn from them. I wanted to give this option another chance. This change is not sudden but has been accumulating over years and there are a number of reasons that this can be attributed to. It now appears more like a gradual convergence; I share this experience and reasons in the following paragraphs.
Overwhelming conflicts in personal and professional life led to several fronts opening up in my life, and the realization that I am not equipped to handle them all, or have the ability to control the outcome in any.
Trials and unsatisfactory results of various beliefs of the past also contributed to this convergence. Although, even for an atheist, one does not always gets the happiness one seeks in the world, there are always some ups and downs, to me however none felt like real.
Pascal’s wager. I have always found it to be a very reasonable argument. There is only a finite loss in believing in Him if He does not actually exists, but if He does, you score big time.
The pain of unrequited love. Like a trigger to a war in the real world, this was my trigger for the change of strategy in my inner war. It pushed me to rethink, and towards God.
It is a common belief across the spectrum that we cannot control the outcome of situations in our lives. Much like a river, we have to flow along with the currents. We have to maneuver. This gave me the impetus to once again try, this time, with unconditional faith. To believe. To pray.
Therefore, I surrendered.
That night, as I took the backseat in life and sat in meditation, I felt an overwhelming feeling that suddenly dominated and took away all the pain, not just emotionally, but it appeared to have a physiological effect as well.
I felt that the woman I loved so deeply meant nothing to me before the love I was experiencing at that moment. I felt that I had someone much important with me and I don’t need anyone else in life. Absolutely no one. It was a perfect state of happiness, calmness and peace.
At this moment, I do not know what it was. It’s fairly reasonable to term it as a divine intervention of God, or at least is aligned with the unconditional faith I have submitted to. Confirmation bias, perhaps? But then, there is no denial of what I experienced.
The other possible explanations could be that this is a positive energy sweeping through. Remember, scientifically everything is energy, a vibration pattern. What we send out is what we receive back. I sent out positive ones with unconditional surrender, perhaps that’s what returned to me to ease my pain.
I don’t know what lies next and have no intentions of determining the path in long run either. It seems like a good idea to flow along with the river current.
The least this experience gave me is a huge relief from the heartache. How long this will sustain is to be seen, but I am determined to continue with unconditional faith and the explore the territory from the backseat.
Letting go and letting it be, surrendering to the universe the way it is has been one of the personal successes of 2016.
Posted on February 18, 2016
Much has been said and written about the JNU sloganeering and incidents that followed in the courts of Delhi. While it is important to speak and stand up to those who challenge the integrity of a nation, it is equally important to respect the rights of those accused.
Let’s not forget, this is all politics and we, the people are mere spectators of the show that repeats every times there are elections, or a deviation required by one or the other political parties. What is funny is that we allow it to happen and be manipulated, again and again.
In the case of JNU, I have particularly observed the apparent nationalists faction being very abusive to those who have been accused as well those who have any doubts about that. “Jaan se mar dena chaiye”, “joote marne chaiye”, “haramkhoron ko desh se bahar kar dena chaiye…”, “kaminon ko pakistan bhej dena chaise”, “kaat daalna chaiye…” are some of the abuses hurled at those accused or even those supporting the JNU in this moment.
Imagine these words coming from the people you closely know; will not that make you wonder what kind of society you live in? Suddenly, we wake up one day to such a strong opinion of nationalism and surge in impatience that we do not even care about who we are speaking to, be it colleagues, friends or even relatives. What we believe has become the truth and is of utmost importance to us and is undeniable and unquestionable. If you do have guts to counter, then you are in for an abuse.
So much so was my reluctance after what I have experienced these past days that as I read a post from a colleague’s Facebook wall, it took me well above 30 minutes to decide whether to comment on it or not. I did finally, but it makes me wonder if this is the kind of society I want to live where our opinions can have such damaging consequences as to ruined relationships? And that is not the first time I have been so reluctant but is a trend from the last few months as we as a society have grown intolerant and oppressive of others’ opinions.
I do not claim that I am right, nor do I claim that those students did not indulge in sloganeering that is against the national integrity but I simply and humbly reiterate that I do not know. Nor do you, and that is a fact.
Why do we then – as citizens of the largest and most vibrant democracy of the world – forget that everyone has a right to go through due process of judicial review? More so, who are we to judge – sitting on our couches – feeding purely on the news channels to know what is happening around? Are not we the lot that was concerned about the paid media issues a few years ago? Or have we forgotten the acquisitions of media houses by powerful barons to manipulate the information that reaches us as “news”?
What you see in a TV channel news, the breaking-news, the Facebook posts and even the online articles may or may not be true. Use your judgement and gather enough information that makes sense before you take a side.
How many of us were there when the sloganeering took place and can confidently identify the accused? Be fair. You and I only see what is being shown to us and to get to the broader picture, and the truth, you and I need to make efforts. It will not come to us naturally sitting in our homes. And if we choose to do that – for whatever reasons – let’s be decent in our reactions.
Have you wondered that while you and I are so confident about those anti-nationalists and the crime they committed, the police themselves are running shy of course of action. Why is that? Think about it for a minute.
What is Delhi police basing their actions upon is not known to you and I – and they are not going to go public about it any time soon while the matter is subjudice- so why and who are we to judge just because there has been an accusation? Do we not know the biases that political landscape of Delhi brings to the situation? Or do we not know how the politicians manipulate the system? Let the magistrates and the court of law do their job.
And while we let the law run its course, let’s pledge to be decent in our languages and communications. Be respectful of our fellow citizens; we do not want to ruin our relationships because an incident that ultimately turns out to be a political game-plan of some random politician or a political party.
And while we are it, let’s be more responsible and keep our eyes open to what and how others react to the situation. You will find it amazing that none of the so called clippings depict the accused sloganeering against the nation while we do have a notorious lawmaker of the ruling party indulging in actions that are nothing but deplorable. Again, this is not to say anti-national sloganeering did not happen, let’s leave it to judge to decide upon. But can we justify a lawmaker taking law in his hands and thrashing anyone in public and then audaciously appearing on the TV channels to declare “main toh aisa he soon..”? Why you and I have not been raking up this issue as responsible citizens if the integrity is so important to us? Does this not amounts to dividing the people on the basis of perceived opinions as well spreading hatred? Or are we so dumb that we do not see through this?
What is scary is that this kind of hooliganism has been indulged upon as well allowed to be tolerated. Imagine, if these people really get through, what kind of life you and I will live?
If you and I can recall correctly, are not we the lot that spoke vehemently against the lack of security for the women when rape after rape were being reported in the capital? Will you and I like to live in a state that is governed by such lawmakers who thrash people publicly at their whims? Do you support the actions of the lawmaker? Will you and your daughters feel safe from the men whose fathers are like these?
Tell me, if your daughter is eve-teased and stalked and the accused turns out to be one such lawmaker or their kin, what will you do and how will you feel? Being in such situations is one thing and being unable to demand justice for your loved one is another. You and I have also noticed that no action has been taken by the Delhi Police against the lawmaker. Is not that the indication of the treatment you and I will receive if we ever are in a situation opposite to such lawmakers?
What I have learned from readings “and observed” is that JNU stands for its idols and that reflects in the response and reaction of the students and the faculty. It is undeniable. There is hardly any university in this country which comes any close and I have not heard or read it somewhere, the JNU community has proved it with their actions.
More than those few words of the apparent anti-nationalism what is heartbreaking to see that we are so blind to our political inclinations and opinions and so impatient that we do not want to wait for the law to run it’s course to give a fair opportunity to an accused and leave no stone to humiliate and bring down those who are of different opinion than ours, regardless of what our relationship is with those people.
More than those accused, we, the people of this nation have shamed it with our behavior and reaction to this situation.
Hopefully, you and I will see through this, be patient and let the law run its course, and at the same time, be open to healthy discussions allowing everyone to respectfully express their opinions.
We can make this democracy proud again.
Posted on January 11, 2016
As the odd even is being implemented, do we even know what is happening around or do we – like always – just tag the initiative based on our perceived values and the results expected?
We all have biases and tend to look at situations through a narrow lens, which is why mostly our perceptions are not always universal. Much has been expressed about the success and failure of the odd-even scheme being enforced by the Delhi govt. Ask yourself objectively: is it necessary that an initiative be evaluated from the results it sets out to achieve? Is it not reasonable to consider what other benefits the initiative brings to us that we might have overlooked earlier? You know the answer.
The question therefore arises whether we are correctly evaluating the Delhi’s Odd-Even scheme or just juggling with our biases and declaring it a failure (or a success) even as scheme is still in the midst of its planned course for trials.
We, the junta – as usual – has already come out with judgements. For some, the scheme is (or will be) a miserable failure for it gives away too many exemptions, particularly to women and two-wheelers along with a pretty list of VIPs.
Two-wheelers alone account for 33% of the traffic on the road which is why most claim the pollution levels won’t come down. Ask them the count of total two-wheelers on Delhi roads and you draw a blank face. For others, it is (or will be) a huge success because it was able to bring down the pollution levels markedly. Ask them for the numbers of PM 2.5 and you again draw a blank face. For yet another category of citizens who are treading in the middle, even if the pollution is not brought down markedly, having de-congested roads is a sign of success.
What we fail to consider is that Delhi’s Odd-Even is not just about bringing down pollution levels or decongesting the roads. It could well be about changing the perspective and attitude of people. Moulding them from we-can’t-commute-like-that to we-commute-like-that-daily-and-are-happy; from we-won’t-give-a-damn to we-will-and-we-just-did. It’s about the change we expect but always ran away from bringing about, because someone else has to follow it first.
Someone, somewhere has to make a start. It is that opportunity to break the cycle and bring us to the start point. Perhaps the Delhi govt. saw this opportunity before anyone else, perhaps it is an unexpected byproduct of the first step. Either way, with kind of response this initiative has received, it is clear that a change in mindset has begun.
Pollution is not going to vanish overnight, however it is noteworthy that what started out as an anti-pollution movement, turned out to be a huge decongestion catalyst. As it rolls further, it looks more like a movement to bring about a radical change in the mindset of the people, which is what is required for a long-term solution. No law, no amount of penalties can do that as much a change in the mindset of the people. If people of decide that it is time for us to act, things change and an odd scheme becomes a movement. This is what appears to be happening in Delhi. This is what we needed all along.
Lao Tsu has rightly said, Journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step. Delhi odd-even is that step.
People, stand up and make it is a success, this is your chance.
To the good health…
Posted on November 27, 2015
I started out scribbling a short message for friends and family who have been a part of rather tumultuous journey past year. As I started without any idea of what else I wanted to write so as I don’t end up being a sarcastic or emotional fool putting all but one feeling in the message, words started flowing out of nowhere.
And I ended up writing a short poem which I had neither expected, nor imagined. I guess, that’s what happens to what is destined and as they say – when the time is right 🙂
But hey – that also means I have got talent! And knowing that you have it and are worth more, is awesome!
Here is the short poem I wrote.
Posted on November 27, 2015
to those who stood by when I needed it most,
to those to kicked in the rear to make me realize my true worth, or to get me going anyway,
to those who gave me love, and to those who took away,
to those who pushed me to the new boundaries I could reach seldom,
to those who made me laugh and feel welcome,
to those who made this life a learning experience.
I am loving it, and I am thankful. #Thanksgiving
Posted on October 24, 2015
There are some people who have flair of landing themselves in difficult situations with ease; I am an expert in that.
In a difficult relationship (technically, it was only a friendship) I ended up being on the receiving end for doing what I was explicitly prohibited to. But my understanding is that I am not a robot who be told what to do in life. God has given each one of us little brain to use in situations as and when we deem fit. But that didn’t deter me as much the treatment that came post serverance of the ties where everything was gone in a snap, like it never existed.
In my quest to balance my stumbling self-respect and recover, I ended up pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. In retrospect, this is one of the best things that have happened to me.
The situation I faced has led to considerable personal development for me. I have touched more hearts than I wanted to. I went out of my way to connect with more people. I have started conversations with more people than I thought I could or was willing to. I know more people now and my social circle has expanded. I lost one person but I gained so many.
They say, to get love, you must give it first. I did. And I got it back too. Trust me, it may take time but when it is returned to you, the feeling in exceptional. Patience and authenticity is all that is required.
When I came across Neil’s TED talk, I realized I was overlooking the little positive developments in my life during this difficult time. Combined with the idea of 1000 Awesome Things, it was clear that I have enough to be thankful for and there is enough awesomeness in my life. At that precise moment, I felt a kick in my rear and saw my self-worth flying high at 10000 feet. That feeling was exceptional.
And thus began my list of awesomeness and here is #1.
When pain of unrequite love pushes you out of your comfort zone, makes you do what you otherwise could not accomplish, that, my friends, is Awesome!.
1000 Awesome Things blog by Neil Pasricha.
Posted on April 14, 2015
In a world that is turbulent more often than we would like it to be, many of us find it difficult to cope through the unwarranted stress, but at the same time, there are several who are able to sail through with little effort. How do they do it?
Our religious orientations can make a great deal of difference on how we cope through difficult times. If you are a believer, it is relatively easy in the difficult times: leave it to the god and let him take the charge. Believers recite themselves that everything is controlled by him and is his wish and will. That allows many of theists to ease the frustration and stress in their lives because they relieve themselves of the role of calling-the-shots, and the ultimate responsibility for the consequences of those shots.
But what does non-believer (an atheist), or a lesser-believer (an agnostic) do? For them, the idea of god is vague. They like take the ownership and responsibility of their lives, their actions and its consequences. What do such people do? Recently, a difficult situation allowed me observe and explore this question more closely, and clearly. I will try to explain it with an analogy: the analogy of war.
When there is a war, the soldiers who participate – on both sides – are often faced with death. How do they deal with that stress? Those soldiers who believe in god may leave it to him and let their destiny be governed by his will. But what do the agnostic or atheist soldiers do? Not so much “conceptually” different from what their theist compatriots do; they too leave it to someone. This “someone” for them is not god but their “leader”. They trust their lives in the hands of their commanders, their kings and so on.
My observation is that it works in the same way like it does with god. We offload our frustrations and stress by offloading decision making, by telling ourselves that we do not govern or control the situation; we are merely in the flow of destiny. For theists, the destiny is defined by god and for atheists and agnostics, it is dynamic and a combination of actions of theirs and their leaders, depending upon who is leading.
Yes, there is an overlap. We will find soldiers who not just entrust their commanders but also god. However, the overlap is only superficial and the deep down, each person has only one commander, king or the supreme being they entrust at any given moment in life.
Trust is key in sailing through difficult situations – for everyone. Trust your god, the deity you believe in, trust your leaders, the commander you believe in or have faith in their abilities to lead you. If the leader you believe or choose to entrust is yourself, then trust yourself. The moment you do that, you will find yourself relieved of considerable stress you carry. Trust is magical. Try it the next time you are in a difficult situation and remember to offload your frustration to god, or to your “leader”.
Trust someone above you, and your worries will ease away.
Posted on February 25, 2014
Note: This is the original, unedited essay I submitted for an EdX course.
Despite its advantages, the classroom teaching does not meets the demands of the students today, leave alone those who do not have access to quality education. In the last few years MOOCs have helped many people with quality education and will continue to bring in a revolution in the online learning space; it is where the future of education lies.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), as the name suggests, are courses which have open access and are available to unlimited number of people, that is, there no limit on class-size. These courses are accessible to anyone who has access to Internet, and in most cases are free of cost.
The term MOOC was coined in 2008 by Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island and Senior Research Fellow Bryan Alexander of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education for the course named “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” (having shortcode CCK08).
To get you the idea about its massiveness, CCK08 consisted of 25 tuition-paying students in Extended Education at the University of Manitoba and over 2200 online students from the general public who attended the course for free. There are, however, contentions about CCK08 being the first MOOC. Many people contend that the first MOOC was the one that Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun created for their course on Artificial Intelligence at the Stanford University which drew more than 160,000 participants.
MOOCs are popular among netizens, and thus massive, primarily because of the high quality of education provided and the fee, which is zero. Top universities like MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley have come together to form a consortium called Edx which offers free MOOCs along with certificates to those who successfully complete the course, thus giving students value beyond just knowledge acquisition. Besides EdX, there are others like Coursera, Udacity etc.
MOOCs are an amalgamation of online, electronic and distance learning concepts. With Internet access, anyone can take the courses offered by leading MOOCs platforms like EdX, Coursera, Udacity etc.
Each course offered as MOOC is a combination of electronic textbooks, video lectures, interactive quizzes, exercises and homework assignments. All the data including the course material is in electronic form and stored on servers which are accessible using a computer or mobile. There are also fora for peer communication which allow for easier interaction and aid discussions related to the course.
MOOCs are similar to e-Learning with the difference being that it is not necessary to have an Internet connection in e-learning while in online learning and MOOCs, it is. There is no peer interaction in e-learning which is a key component that has made MOOCs so successful. By enabling students to answer questions and doubts raised by their peers, MOOCs are able to compensate for the course-faculty’s inability to answer and attend individual students problems because of their massive scale and reach.
E-Learning in general, including MOOCs also have a common shortcoming. Even though it is fairly easy to change the content of the course assignments, quizzes or exercises being mostly text-based, a change in a video lecture even by a sentence requires a lot of work. However, to make up for this frailty, the focus of developers working on the MOOCs platforms has already shifted to video editing tools to allow easier creation and editing.
MOOCs positively differ from classroom learning in terms of flexibility they offer to students. Students are allowed to read material, answer quizzes, exercises and assignments at their own pace. The students, though, still have to stick to the broader schedule laid down by the course instructors, but within that schedule, they are free to work at their own pace. This is a huge benefit as it allows for flexible learning times.
At the moment, MOOCs do however lack the real taste of classroom learning, but only to certain extent where it is necessary to have physical presence, like in lab experiments. However, increasingly, the platforms are making up for these shortcomings and a prominent example is from Texas University course on embedded systems wherein the students are shipped a kit for a small price and can perform their own experiments at home. At the same time, to further the learning experience and eliminate such costs for kits altogether, platforms are focussing on virtual simulations and labs to allow students work online by simulating the lab experience online using software.
Another key challenge before MOOCs is to offer rigorous and challenging exams at such massive scale. Since these top-notch universities offer certificates, they are expected to maintain the level of competitiveness in their exams. MOOC platforms are proactively working to address these issues as well with EdX and Udacity now offering proctored exams.
In a recent seminar, Andrew Ng, the cofounder of Coursera and the director of the Stanford AI Lab spoke shared one of these shortcomings of MOOCs and explained how his team met the challenge.
He explained how in order to tackle the issue of limited manpower for developing the course platform that allows wider inclusion of interactive widgets which different types of courses may need in their courses, Coursera came up with idea of APIs to allow the course-creating universities to plug-in the desired functionality for their course themselves. This, alongside easing the programming burden on the Coursera allowed more specific and interactive tools for course as per the requirement of the individual course instructors and their pedagogy.
As an example, Andrew cited a software developed by RICE university for a computer programming course, which can be plugged into the Coursera’s platform; it allows for a computer code to be written and run directly into the web browser. Instead of juggling with various software, this allows for more focus on the concept of the course than they software to use.
Another example came from Anant Agarwal, the president of Edx, who believes that education has not changed in last 500 years and that the last innovation in education was the printing press which introduced us to the textbooks. He believes that we can transform education in quality, scale and access using technology.
To support his belief, Anant shares an example of MIT course named “Circuits and Electronics”, which began a year ago and had 155,000 students from 162 countries. This number which is bigger than the total alumni of the MIT in its 150 year history. 7200 student successfully completed the course which again it a big number and Anant observes that if he teaches two semesters each year, he will take 40 years to teach as many students.
To further his belief about the use of technology, Anant shares an example of his teenager daughter whom he observed to be more responsive to his text messages to push the perspective that the current generation is very comfortable with online technology and his belief that we should embrace it instead of fighting it.
To give us an idea of how MOOCs have helped enrich even the regular classroom experience, he exemplified by sharing the story of two HS teachers at Sant High School in Mongolia who “flipped” their classrooms by allowing students to read and do exercises at home and then coming into the classroom to interact and solve problems together in groups. This blended learning fell the failure rates from 40% to 9%, which is remarkable.
And if you are wondering how an innovation at such a massive scale can be sustained, then make no mistake. The MOOCs have many innovative models of business in place. Take for instance, even though most of the platforms offer free courses, a verified certificate comes at a cost. This allows these platforms of massive learning to collect revenues and invest them back. Some of these platforms are also licensing their content to other institutions to generate revenues.
While MOOCs do suffer from many shortcomings, the platforms however are proactively working to meet them and strengthen the overall educational experience of the students as well the instructors. Given these facts, it is clear that MOOCs are going to have a huge impact on the future of global literary. Those who have taken MOOCs are astonished at the level of quality education they receive and are equally amazed at the price, which is zero. It is clear that MOOCs are here to stay and might as well be a fundamental innovation long impending in the educational domain that may drastically change how our future generations are educated.
Posted on January 21, 2014
Most of us lead a stressed life these days – especially at work – and our egos are often invoked, sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly, every now and then. This is continuously leading to degradation in the quality-of-life for many of us.
We all know that more often than not, our egos lead us deeper into the unwanted situation which is more stressful. How do we avoid getting sucked into more stressful situation? I did a little experiment that might help you ease this problem.
The key – as I have experienced – lies in identifying the moment when your ego kicks in so that you can control it before it does any major damage. But even before that, you must acknowledge the presence of the ego which is driving you towards the negativity. Once you do that, you will have some focus on the source of negativity and you can try eliminating it.
Begin by treating your ego like an entity. Try communicating with it and ask questions (randomly at any time during the day). It does not matters what you ask or talk to your ego about, you just have to acknowledge it as an entity and that it exists.
Speak to your ego: “Hello, Dear Ego, how and where are you?”. Invoke it, bring it up if it is sleeping. You can speak aloud while asking the questions like you normally do in conversations or you can just mentally ask the questions in silence. Of course be careful to do this in isolation if you choose the former lest you be branded a mentally-challenged person.
When you start doing this randomly, you are acknowledging the source of your negativity (and ultimately, your problems). I term it as the source of problems because often more than the situation we are in, what adversely affects our position is the way we react to it, and this reaction of ours is directly affected by our egos.
I have often read that to relationships are important because we live in a give-and-take world. In such a state of the World, where it is important that you acknowledge the other person and treat them reasonably, make them feel good, so they willing help you, or give what they have which you seek (love, wealth, appreciation.. just about anything) we obviously choose to ignore an important source of strength (or weakness) : our ego.
When you do the experiment as above, you will probably feel more in control, and perhaps happier. It is also self enlightening in that you become more self conscious about how you are reacting to different situations which is very important because as I said, you can’t really control everything around you or every situation you find yourself in. But most definitely you can control your reaction to it. As such, this communication with your ego helps you understand the your ego’s perspective of the situation and why it is acting the way it does; basically, it helps you understand the negative aspect of the situation, analyse it, and arrive at an evaluation of a real loss versus the perceived one courtesy of your ego.
At times when you are happy and try to invoke your ego, it might not show up even on repeated attempts which probably indicates that our egos are mostly in action when there is stress and anxiety in our minds.
I haven’t been able to play much with my ego when I am happier, but my quest will continue. At the very least is that I the absence of ego genuinely makes me happy.
If you experience stress, ego is most likely a part of it. Try the above method and see how it improves your life, come back, let others how you did or simply share your thoughts.