Sunday, 24 July 2016

Vegan Diet Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot

Vegan Diet Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot: In the summer vacation when I visited Mussoorie, I came across this scene where someone had thrown a corncob towards a dog on Mall Road, and then he took it in his jaws and took it to his favourite spot. Now, I really can't say for sure if the dog ate the whole thing although from time to time it did gnaw and lick at the corn. I was, as it is quite far away from it so I couldn't get much detail!

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Are we Shifting from Globalisation to Nationalism and Regionalism today?

The breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic and the restructuring of  the states into a Commonwealth of Independent States was indicative of our movement towards a new world order that is based on smaller countries based on Socio-cultural, and Ethnic Geographic considerations. While the coming together of East and West Germany might be seen as an exception to the phase of fragmentation that the world is going through these days. Brexit, might be viewed thereof as the latest manifestation of the desire for individual state identity as opposed to a conglomeration of culturally diverse states.

Looking at the various incidents taking place across the globe, it is clear that the days of globalisation are almost over as the Internet emerges as a major tool of disruption and a medium for the expression of dissent at the ethnic, geographic and linguistic levels. If the Internet was once a tool for promoting globalisation, then it will not be wrong to argue that it has now become  a tool, inter alia for the fragmentation of the world into smaller, individual entities. It has provided a platform for dissent and an expression for rights by minority communities. In many ways, it might be paradoxical to assume that Internet and information technology - tools of disruption, are in fact undermining the very concept of globalisation.

History has shown how before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world was divided into two blocs, the East bloc or Socialist Bloc, and the West Bloc countries that labelled themselves as Capitalist, or even Democratic countries. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union however, did lead to a phase of Globalisation, what with the Eastern Bloc countries rushing in to taste the fruits of the open open market system, liberalisation of trade, removal of protectionism , an era where the consumer was spoiled for choice. MacDonald Burgers, Coca Cola, and Wrangler jeans were freely available to the local populace. What was thought to be a healthy trend of open competition soon  lead to the rise of powerful corporations, behemoths  which soon wiped out local, home grown entities. The dumping of products in the  International market, lowering of prices of products that were mass produced ensured that many home bound local industries were wiped out. Take for example the electronics industry in India, it is no longer profitable to manufacture PCBs, because we can't match the output and quality of products shipped from China. The same can be said of the native toy industry in India. It has been wiped off completely! Unfair trade practices are eroding the very basis of Globalisation!

Closer home, in India,we see a very strong movement in favour of swadeshi, or home grown products. It is not without reason, therefore, that the brand name Patanjali is gaining popularity!People today are exploring local options that are closer to home, cheaper in cost and better n quality. The Make In India idea is about bringing the market to India, and not the other way round. An increase in National pride, a stronger sense of identity with a community, linguistic, ethnic, or geographical groups has, in many ways, prompted us to strive towards greater indigenisation.

The move away from globalisation, is most certainly a step towards a market that will help the local industry to grow. In times when Corporations, and Multinational Conglomerates are becoming more powerful than the Governments themselves, it has become the need of the hour to somehow control them before they become detrimental towards the growth of the Nation! It is a known fact that Governments in many democracies are formed according to the wishes of corporations. The electorate is becoming smarter and smarter as time passes and it is this awareness about how Corporations and other global entities are running their lives that makes them want to shift away from globalisation and adopt localisation. Education, and dissemination of information, combined with greater connectivity have empowered the common man to fight for his individual rights, this has in turn lead to disruption in accepted beliefs. The common man is today more likely to favour dissent than agreement or conformism and this is in itself detrimental to Globalisation!

In recent times, the Jasmine revolution in the Middle East, the events that took place at Tahrir square in Egypt, the protests at Taksim square in Turkey have all been the result of the common man expressing dissent and displeasure over too much control by Governments, presidents and Prime Ministers. Dissent and non-conformity are trends and patterns that ultimately undermine the very ethos of Globalisation. One interesting case before us lies in the lack of equity in terms of carbon credits awarded to third world, developing countries and carbon credits awarded to the developed nations. Citizens living in developed nations consume more than resources than their third world cousins, they produce more waste than their third world cousins, they produce more pollution than the third world cousins, and yet, developed countries instruct third world countries to cut down carbon emissions, and then to add insult to injury, all the waste produced by developed nations is sent to third world countries for recycling, or disposal. Take for example, the ship breaking industry in India. Asbestos is highly toxic, and yet ships that contain asbestos come to Alang where they are broken up by local labour who are exposed to toxic fumes created by burning asbestos. One man's garbage is another man's garbage. Shouldn't countries that send their ships for disposal pay more for the rehabilitation of the people and the environment Equity is the basis of Globalisation, but then when disparity creeps in, the it results in fragmentation, localisation and regionalism. Globalisation assumes that everyone develops a holistic approach towards the entire planet, thus you should be aware about the global impact of each man's selfish acts. If you are sending your toxic waste to another country knowing well that it will cost you one third of what it would have cost you to recycle in your own country, then it is your moral duty to compensate the host country adequately!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Theory of Relativity Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot

The Theory of Relativity Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot: Now this is a unique photograph because of the contrast between the moving bus in the back ground, and the stand-still cart in the foreground. Also, if you look very carefully, you will also notice that there is a man who is walking by the cart. Incidentally only his foot can be seen while the rest of his body is almost hidden by his movement. This is a quirky snap made possible because of a slow shutter-speed!

History through Coins: India, Circa: 1907 -1991

1902-1910: King Edward VII
King Edward’s reign was a short reign but it was marked by the minting of different types of coins for the British colonies of which India was one. The third farthing was minted for use in Malta. Most of the coins that were worth less than a farthing were minted for use only in the colonies. The coins in my collection are mostly made of copper, and they come in the form of divisions of the Anna. These years  apparently saw few silver coins minted.

      



1911-1936: King George V
King George the fifth’s reign saw the use of silver but then in 1920 the royal mint used an alloy that contained half silver, till at least 1924. From 1924 onwards, the silver was not used in the coins.  A few of the coins in my collection contain silver as an essential constituent.


                    








1936-1947:King Edward VIII
Strangely enough,  coins of this period use George the Fifth’s head although they belong to Edward the eighth’s reign! King Edward the eighth had abdicated from the throne before coins bearing his head could be minted!

                                     








                                                      


                                             





1947: Post Independence
Coins minted post-Independence saw the use initially of an alloy that was slightly heavier than pure aluminium. After the year the coins were made of pure aluminium for coins in the denomination of five and ten. Coins of the denomination of 25 paisa and above were made of cupro-nickel.



  



                                    



    










                                                






During the Second World War, the copper was considered an important metal and thus one saw coins that had holes in them, so as to reduce the amount of copper that went into the making of coins. I have a coin that has a hole in its middle.












Thursday, 14 July 2016

Reference to Context Questions on Keeping Quiet

Read the following extracts and then answer the questions that follow:

Stanza 2

For once on the face of the Earth
let's not speak in any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

1. Whom is the poet addressing in the above stanza?
2. What does the poet not want the reader to do? Why do you think so?
3. Identify the pun in the fourth line and provide the two different meanings for the same.


Stanza 3

It would be an exotic moment
without  rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

1. What does, 'it' refer to, and why would it be 'exotic?'
2. Identify the figures of speech in lines three and four. How are they similar?
3. Who is 'we' in the third line?
4. Explain, 'sudden strangeness' with reference to context.

Stanza 4

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

1. How will keeping quiet affect fishermen?
2. What are the different connotations of the word, 'cold' in the first line?
3. How will keeping quiet affect the whales in the cold sea?
4. Whom will keeping quiet affect with reference to the third line? How?
5. Identify the figure of speech used in the last line of the extract.

Stanza 5

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put one clean clothes
and walk about with their
brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

1. Whom does the word, 'those' refer to in the first line? Prepare a list of possible options.
2. What do the words, 'green wars, wars with gas, and wars with fire' denote?
3. Identify the figure of speech used in the third line and explain its use.
4. Explain the possible connotations of the expression, 'clean clothes'. Justify your answer.
5. Whom does the word, 'brothers' refer to?
6. How has keeping quiet affected, 'those' and the soldiers on the battlefield?

Stanza 6

What I want should not be
confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about:
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might intetrrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
death.

1. Who is 'I' in the first line? What is it that he does not want to be, 'confused'?
2. Explain, what the poet means by the words,'we're...so single-minded about keeping our lives
    moving'.
3. Explain, 'could do nothing'.
4. What does, 'sadness' refer to in the tenth line, what can 'interrupt' it?
5. What, according to the poet are we, 'threatening ourselves with'? How and why?


Stanza 7

Perhaps the Earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

1. List a few lessons that you have learned from the Earth or Nature.
2. Draw a few symbols from everyday life that embody the poet's message.


Stanza 1 and stanza 8

1. Now we will count to twelve
    and we will all keep still.
8.Now I'll count up to twelve
   and you keep quiet and I will go.

1. What is similar between the opening stanza and the closing stanza of the poem?
2. What is dissimilar between both stanzas, and explain why there is a difference? What do you think
    was the poet's intention in making the stanzas different?
3. What does the word, 'twelve' symbolise? Give as many alternatives as possible and support your
    choices with a suitable explanations.


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

In search of a Good Samaritan

A sermon delivered by the Revd.Sunil Ghazan on Sunday, the 11th of July, 2016 at the Church of the Epiphany, Gurgaon put me into deep thought. The sermon was based on the question, 'Who is my neighbour', and I struggled to identify the 'Big Idea' behind the sermon itself! No doubt it was a hard hitting sermon which questioned the very premise of friendship, service towards humanity, and the idea of kindness that is non discriminatory, and non-judgemental. The sermon drew parallels from everyday life and that was the beauty of it. Deep down the sermon, it bacame clear how relevant parable of the Good Samaritan is even today as it was two thousand and sixteen years ago! I guess human nature does not really change too much down the years! If the message of the parable could be shared with the masses, it might be possible to sensitise people not to be mute spectators when road accidents and even other accidents take place, resulting in someone getting seriously injured. Many lives could be saved if only bystanders took the initiative and the trouble to offer assistance to those who are badly hurt.

Looking at today's times, especially the kind of stories appearing in the newspapers, it seems as if the kind of stories that sell are  about the apathy of bystanders resulting in the unfortunate deaths of people is on the rise in the newspapers. In many cases, badly injured people are left to die on the roads, often bleeding to death because of lack of first aid and early hospitalisation. This often happens even when there is a crowd of mute spectators gawping at the  hurt person, deriving somekind of vicarious pleasure out of another's pain. Often, one will come across the enthusiastic chronicler of the event with his mobile phone on the ready shooting stills and videos to be uploaded on the internet! One wonders often what has happened to make people so insensitive towards the suffering of others. People will often come up with a host of reasons why they did not rush to help the hapless victim of a road accident and some of these would include a hesitation about helping strangers. We have become so tied down by a list of who we should befriend and whom we should not that any one who doesn't reflect in the list is not a friend, thereby being a stranger who doesn't deserve our kindness and help. This exclusion of strangers from the list of friends simply because we don't know them, invariable sets them apart from our friends whom we would assist in times of need. Mr Lamb, in the play, "On the Face of it" by Susan Hill and also a lesson presecribed by the CBSE for English Core, Grade 12, makes it clear to Derry that he has lots of friends everywhere even if he does not know their names. Derry argues with Mr Lamb that passing people on the street and perhaps even speaking to them doesn't make them your 'friends'. to this Mr Lamb reasons that it doesn't mean they are nothing. Derry counters Mr Lamb's point suggesting, 'They're just...nothing.People.' It is exactly this attitude that makes us insensitive towards other people who are not our friends! So much pain and unnecesary suffering could have been avoided if only we accepted that we have as much duty towards the rest of humanity as we have to our own family members and friends thrown in. What we need to realise is that like Mr Lamb says to Derry in On the Face of It, "People are never just nothing.Never."

Some more of the standard excuses we would employ for not helping people who are in a bad state would be, I would be late to work and my program leader would scold me, the rationalist would get into questioning mode and ask the questions, why did the accident happen, what was she doing so late in the night and where were her friends at the time of the accident? The preacher would claim that that he had to rush to solmenise a wedding and that he was worried that if he stopped to help the injured man, then it might result in the postponement of the weddin due to the passing away of the auspicious hour for the couple to wed! The public servant would defend himself by suggesting that  since he was a public servant, he could not be involved in a legal issue resulting from a police case arising out of taking injured people to the hospital. The common man would perhaps just stand watch and take videos or stills of the dying man so that he might post it on a social networking site in order earn likes.

The difference between the times described in the parable of the Good Samaritan and our times is probably that the injured merchant was lucky enough to have at least one Good Samaritan to help him unlike the poor injured man lying by the roadside with lots of people staring at him. A country like France has a law called the Good Samaritan law which states that if anyone is injured or hurt in a roadside accident, then it is the duty of the first person who comes across him to take him to the hospital. It is high time we had the same law in our country,  a law that would fix the responsibility of taking injured persons to hospital, or perhaps even calling the emergency services and staying by the side of the injured person till the emergency personnel have arrived.

We all have excuses for not helping strangers who are in need of immediate help, and that includes even me. It is high time we tried to build  up a culture of sensitivity towards others, What we need to understand is that we need to progress from an individualistic attitude  towards a holistic attitude towards life. We need to realise that each act and each deed we do is bound to have repercusssions on the whole world, similarly our acts of ommision too would have an adverse impact on the social fabric. My act of ommission might one day even impact me when I am in the same situation as the injured man on the road whom I did not help. Enacting laws and rules that encourage a helping attitude towards strangers will be of no use unless they are supported by a culture of sensitivity and empathy towards others irrespective of whether we know them or not.

It all ends up in the question, that if I am to help my neighbour, then who accordingly is my neighbour? It is very clear from the Parable of the Good Samaritan, that neighbour doesn't necessary refer to someone we know, nor for that effect someone whose caste we share, nor, for that effect someone whose religion we share, someone whose language we share. The list would go on and never end. The word 'neighbour', does not also refer to the person or persons who live close to our houses. The word 'neighbour' apparanelty refers to all mankind, all humanity without distinctions based on caste, creed, religion, region, language, or even nationality.  A Good Samaritan, for that effect will be able to look at every human being he comes across as his neighbour. Your close family members and close friends don't qualify as 'neighbours' because they are part of your close circle. What counts is your sentivity and kindness towards people, strangers, those who cannot be categorised as family members, close friends, (whose names you know) and relatives. The Good Samaritan is thus one who can look at the whole world of human beings aside from family, relatives and friends with names as one huge neighobourhood, a community of human being towards whom we have a responsibility and a duty.

If we were to analyse the one single character trait that marked the Good Samaritan apart from the others who came across the badly battered gentleman lying on the road, then I guess that character trait was the trait of being able to feel empathy for a human being in need. What marks the Good Samaritan different from the priest and the Levite is his ability to display unconditional kindness towards the man who was roughed up by the robbers.

To make clear Jesus’ idea of what a Good Neighbour should be, and the implications of the actions of the Good Samaritan for us, I would like to quote from the Book Luke, Chapter 10, verses 25 to 37 which describes The Parable of the Good Samaritan:

A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus, “Teacher,” he asked, what must I do to receive eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “What to the scriptures say? How do you interpret them?”
The man answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ “
“You are right,” Jesus replied; “Do this and you will live.”
But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”
Jesus answered, “There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead. It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by, on the other side. In the same way a Levite also came along and went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by, on the other side. But a Samaritan who was travelling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity. He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he told the innkeeper, ‘and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.’”
And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbour towards the man attacked by the robbers?”
The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who was kind to him.”
Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”

Kindness knows no religion, profession, nor economic disparity. Kindness is apparently, all about being non- discriminatory and non- judgemental. The answer to the question, “Who is my neighbour?” does not necessarily have to be some who has the same beliefs, language, or even ethnicity, rather a neighbour might also be a stranger who has a different language, religious beliefs, or even nationality. It doesn't mean however that Good Samaritans are hard to find today, although one might feel they are rare! An example in point is how in the late eighties when the Yezdi Motorcycle ruled the roads of India, along with the Enfield, I noticed how Yezdi owners always stopped on the road whenever their ilk ran out of petrol, and they were always ready to siphon petrol for the stranded vehicle. One might argue that this was out of a sense of fraternity for Yezdi motorcycle riders or that petrol costed a mere eight or nine Rupees, but still I feel there was a feeling of concern for other road users none the less! Unlike my cousin brothers who rode Yezdis, I had a scooter, a Vespa 150, and on a few occasions, when I ran out of petrol, there were other bikers who were ready to offer me petrol to reach the nearest petrol station! On one occasion when I ran out of petrol while rideing my Pulsar 150, a fellow motorcycle rider was kind enough to give me a push till the nearest petrol pump in Delhi. Another incident that comes to mind happened many years back when while returning from my duty in a school in Roop Nagar, I hit a brick on the road to Jhandewalan close to Karol Bagh, and fell down hurting myself. There were a couple of Motorcycle riders who picked me up and offered assistance as they could see that I was bleeding from a cut in one of my knees. I thanked them and told them that I was OK and continued riding my bike towards Mandir Marg. They followed me for some distance to see whether I was OK. Many a times it is incisdents such as these that inspire us and convince us that inspite of the many stories about injured people who are left to die on the highways, there are a few who will always come to your assistance. I guess Good Samaritans do exist in today's times, although, they might perhaps be a little harder to find in today's times.






Thursday, 7 July 2016

What is a SMART Goal?

Success clearly is about being able to think differently, being able to think creatively and being able to find alternatives to accepted popular beliefs! To achieve success in this age one should develop SMART goals. The 'S' in the acronym refers to 'System', and 'sustainable',while the 'M' refers to 'Method', 'A' refers to 'Active', 'R' refers to 'Research', and 'T', refers to 'Time bound!' To achieve success, one has to have a goal that addresses the system. Here I am talking about one's ability to break a problem into a 'Systematic' process. To achieve success, one needs to have some idea about the 'Method' that will help one achieve success. Success depends on one's ability to 'Research' on the topic. The 'T' stands for the ability to develop a 'Time-bound' plan to solve a problem. One needs to train ones' self to target SMART goals to achieve success in today's times.

I would like to analyse for the reader each component of the acronym SMART starting with the first letter 'S'. The word, 'System' refers to the concept of 'Systems Analysis,' which in turn refers to a systematic analysis of the goal. This entails breaking up the goal into its components in terms  of analysing the process of identifying a specific goal, identifying the 'Big Idea', and formulating the steps one would take in order to put the goal into action. While identifying a SMART Goal, one should also examine and assess to the best of one's abilities whether the goal identified would be sustainable or not. Here, I would like to give an example of one of my students who wanted to take up Child Soldiers as the topic of his thesis paper in grade eleven. I had misgivings about the choice of topic but did not discourage him. After a few days he came to me and told me that he could not find much to research on the topic Child Soldiers, so he wanted to change the topic. I sighed a breath of relief! Child Soldiers was not a sustainable research topic apparently!

A SMART goal should also be based on a strong Method, and that is what the 'M' in SMART refers to. If you are planning on a startup, and your goal is to provide tailor made maintenance solutions for electronic gadgets, what is your method going to be for convincing clients to hire your services? How are you going to service defective gadgets? Will the client carry in their products, or are you going to pick them up? The method behind the goal is an important consideration for deciding whether it is SMART enough!

The third letter in the acronym SMART is 'A'. 'A' refers to  Active, Action or Actionable. A goal can be SMART only if it is actionable, An important ponder able before selecting a SMART Goal is to examine whether it can really be put into action! It is very easy to choose a goal that seems impressive because 'it's different!' But then can we put the goal into action? Suppose you don't have funds nor the expertise, nor even contacts in the right places, would it be therefore, SMART on your part to have the Goal of setting up a refurbishing factory for computers and computer peripherals?

It goes without saying that every important decision that we take in life should be preceded by careful consideration and careful thought lest you should regret having made a wrong decision. In the poem Road not Taken, Robert Frost very clearly states that there were there were two choices before him early in life, to remain in America, or  migrate to England. The latter option was the road less travelled because it entailed taking the risk of leaving everything he had and settling down in a strange country! The decision turned out to be he best choice he had made. Every SMART Goal in life should be supported by careful Research. The full form of the letter 'R' in SMART stands for Research. If your goal in life is to start a business, a startup for providing people with tailor made annual home renovation solutions, have you really researched the target population, or for example, the areas most likely to go for your services? Have you done enough research on what should be included in the contract and what should be excluded? The success of any goal will depend very strongly on the amount and quality of research that has gone into it!

Fixing deadlines and timelines plays an important role in deciding whether a particular Goal is SMART enough. Many years ago, countries that followed the Socialist Ideology, were obsessed wth five year, fifteen year and twenty year plans. These plans were often much hyped and did not succeed because the people who mattered did not take into consideration the S,M.A.R. letters in the acronym SMART! However, a SMART Goal based on Systems, Sustainability, Method, Action, and Research will have to take into consideration Timelines  in order to be achievable. In fact one of the main reasons Goals fail is because they are not based on strict timelines. One of the favourite questions recruiters ask prospective employees is, 'Where do you see yourself five years from now?' Life is not endless, and you just cannot afford to postpone timelines, and deadlines, required by your goals. A successful goal in life should therefore be Time-bound and not subject to too many changes and postponements! 

Monday, 4 July 2016

How do you achieve success in the twenty-first century?

If I was asked whether the present time is the best time to strive for success and achieve it I would state frankly that there is no better time than the present to do so! We are living in the age of information technology, an age which has empowered us; perhaps no other age has empowered Man as much as this age! We live in times when knowledge and information is available at the click of the button, and it is mostly free! If you agree that the adage, knowledge is power is correct then this is surely the age to be in! 

While no doubt, technological advancement has given us huge opportunities to succeed, it has also given other people  the same  opportunities to succeed, which means, rather selfishly that if everyone succeeds, then no one really succeeds! We are all running in a rat race, and in this race there can only be a few winners. Well, I guess, in that case, we need be clear whether we are talking about individual success, perhaps even, collective success, or perhaps even success of the whole mass of humanity! The reader will have to make a decision before he goes on reading this essay!

I would like to make clear to the reader before going further that my intention in this essay is to focus on how one might achieve success in these times as an individual. Collective success is anyway a much more relative aspect of living in times of technological advancement! I would like to argue, moreover, that collective success can never be related to the quantum of success achieved by a highly motivated individual. There will be leaders and there will be followers.

Technological advancement has  ironically saddled us with even more chances of failure! The advantage of having everything made available to us at the touch of a button had made us lazy and complacent. The fact that most of us have access to the same information has resulted in the rise of mediocrity and repetition. Creativity and divergent thinking go for a toss, and we are no different from  traditional schools that spawned people who were adept at rote memorisation. In such a context, collective success will often end up in conformism and crowd thinking, and this is not my idea of success! The successful individual will always break out of the group because he or she thinks creatively and more effectivley. A successful leader will no doubt lead successful people, he will motivate and promote collective success.

If success is about thinking differently, creatively and in a unique manner, then I believe very strongly that the Information Technology age has failed miserably because it has promoted a  generation of conformists and copy cats, mediocre people who ascribe to popular thought processes. Being cool and popular might be only the result of projecting widely accepted beliefs and thoughts! Collective success is apparently made up of the ability to conform to popular trends, fashions, and mores! Success, clearly is about being able to transcend conformism, mediocrity, and acceptability! Success is also about thinking differently from others, being able to find a different or alternative solution to the problem. Here I am talking about developing discernment and the ability to read between the lines - being able to a different path as opposed to the obvious one! I will be frank enough to state that my essay is an attempt to promote individual success although perhaps, it might result in an increase in the population of successful people thereby promoting the concept of collective success!

Success clearly is about being able to think differently, being able to think creatively and being able to find alternatives to accepted popular beliefs! To achieve success in this age one should develop SMART goals. The 'S' in the acronym refers to 'System' based 'Sustainable' goals, while the 'M' refers to 'Method', 'A' refers to 'Active and 'Adaptive' goals, 'R' refers to 'Research' based 'Reasonable' goals, and 'T', refers to 'Time bound!' To achieve success, one has to have a goal that addresses the system. Here I am talking about one's ability to break a problem into a 'Systematic' process. To achieve success, one needs to have some idea about the 'Method' that will help one achieve success. Success depends on one's ability to 'Research' on the topic. The 'T' stands for the ability to develop a 'Time-bound' plan to solve a problem. One needs to train ones' self to target SMART goals to achieve success in today's times.

Many a times, people fail to achieve success at the eleventh hour. This is mainly because people who strive for success lose hope just when they are so close to success.  Success is al, about being able to sustain ones' self through a period of success and failure. For such people, the best advice is that they should train themselves to 'plod,' which means in effect that they train themselves to keep striving in the face of apparent failure ! The ability to plod is derived from the ability to walk the difficult path in spite of not achieving instant success. The age of technology has unfortunately trained us to achieve instant results. Here, I would like to compare the 'instant coffee approach' with the 'bread making approach'. The 'instant coffee approach' teaches us about the possibility of achieving instant results, a corollary of living in an age of technological advancement. The fact however is that, in spite of what popular TV serials teach us, success is often a long drawn process. Robert the Bruce achieved success only after suffering from numerous failures. He saw a spider that tried to climb on to the top of its web, in spite of failing to do so many times. It achieved to do so after having tried a number of times. One should have the patience and the ability to trod on the path of success even if it means one has failed to climb the ladder of success a number of times! Persistence and patience, apparently are the key-words for success! Persistence, apparently is one of the key words for success in today's times! To strive in the face of opposition and numerous failures is a quality one needs to inculcate in order to achieve success.

Discernment and the ability to think out of the box will be a boon for those who want to achieve success, and  added to this is the ability to filter out the obvious and the unnecessary. In a world where we are trained to look for the obvious it has become all the more important that we train ourselves to search for the hidden options. For this to happen, we need to train ourselves look beyond the options that have been given to us.

Success in the twenty-first century is not about power and wealth, rather it is about being able to  feel happy about one's achievements, and knowing that one has made a difference to the society. Self actualisation and the resulting joy are things that matter .

The ability to filter out the unnecessary from the necessary, is a skill that needs to be nurtured .In an age where we are bombarded with information, it has become all the more important for us to develop skills that equip us to filter information useful information from unless information. To be successful, one needs act as a filter!

Success is a relative term, and what matters is how one views success in an age that has offered all the opportunities for success and failure alike. While success for some might be found in monetary gains, for others it might lie in the knowledge that one has made a difference. For others success might mean achieving self actualisation, while others it might lie in proving to the world that one was correct! 

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Selma Lagerlof's The Rattrap is all about Transformation!

The Rattrap, by Selma Lagerlof is an allegory in the tradition of fables and fairy tales  that  suggests that there is a little of goodness hidden somewhere in the minds of even the most battle-hardened drudge born on this Earth. The greatest question is, however, to be able to tap or exploit this goodness so as to bring out a transformation in that person!

Without doubt one can say that the entire story describes a process of transformation that takes in the Peddler.  Take for example the character of the Peddler in the beginning of the story and then compare his character with the writer of the letter towards the end! You will notice that both of them are diametrically and radically different from each other! The  Peddler in the beginning of the story is a revengeful, vindictive, and jealous person who has no scruples in robbing others. He has poor self-esteem, and is full of feelings of vengeance, hostility, and malevolence towards the whole world. We see him as a perpetually suspicious man who views the kindness of others with doubt.

Enter the new reformed and transformed Peddler. He now has a name and title. He has the dignity and self esteem of a captain in the army! The letter that he leaves for Edla is an affirmation of the transformation that had taken place within him. He signs the letter off as Captain Von Stahle. The gift of the Rattrap with the thirty kroner is a symbol and acceptance on his part, of the change that has taken place in him. The letter and the gift are both his way of thanking Edla for bringing out a transformation in him. She had treated him with the respect and dignity due to an army captain, thus he was returning goodness with goodness, for if evil begets evil, then in the same way, good begets good!

The process of transformation takes place in three very clear stages. The first stage in the process of transformation takes place when he comes across the old crofter. The old crofter, unlike everyone else he has met in life, greets him with a smile. He gives him porridge, shares his tobacco, plays a game of cards 'mjolis' with him, and then shares his confidence with him. To prove that he is not lying , he shows the Peddler the thirty kroner. The overarching emotion that courses through the Peddler's mind is that of doubt and suspicion! As per his world view, the old crofter might as well be the Devil's advocate who is trying to get him trapped by tempting him with the thirty kroner as the bait! That this was what he thought is proved when he gets lost in the forest and berates himself for having fallen for the thirty kroner. He looks at the forest as a Rattrap!

The second stage in the process of transformation takes place when the Iron Master comes across him at the ironworks. Mistaking him to be an old comrade, Niels Olof, he invites the Peddler to his home. The Peddler initially plays along but then gets frightened when the Iron master insists that he should accompany him to the Manor to share in the Christmas fare. Somehow he knows, the Peddler, that to to to the Manor would be risky and dangerous, as if he was entering a 'lion's den'. What if he got caught by the Sheriff? The overarching emotion in the second stage is the emotion of fear and terror - the fear of being caught for stealing the thirty kroner.

The third stage in the process of transformation takes place when Edla intervenes on her father's behalf and she is able to convince him that he will be free to leave whenever he wished. Later when the Iron master realises his mistake and he threatens to hand him over to the Sheriff, Edla intercedes on his behalf. Her father thinks she had gone crazy, and the stranger is puzzled by her insistence that he stay and enjoy the Christmas fare with them, not only this, but she even tells him that the suit he is wearing is his to keep, a gift from them, and to add to all this, she  tells him he is welcome to spend the next Christmas with them! The principal emotion the Peddler goes through in the last stage of transformation is the emotion and feeling of amazement, and awe, that a person totally unknown to him should fight for him so spiritedly!

The writer, Selma Lagerlof ends up suggesting that it is unconditional love and unconditional kindness that have he power to transform people. The Old Crofter showed unconditional kindness towards the Peddler. The Iron master did not show unconditional kindness towards the Peddler, because the kindness he showed to the stranger was intended for and old comrade, not an imposter. This does not however mean that the Iron master did not have a role to play in the process of transformation. In fact by agreeing to his daughter's pleas, he was furthering the process of transformation that had been started by the old Crofter. The final stage adds up to the contribution of the old Crofter and even the business minded Iron master when Edla displays her unconditional kindness towards the stranger. Her conviction that in the midst of all that was bad in the Peddler, there lurked deep within, a little boy who was good in nature . It was to that boy that Edla appealed when she fought on his behalf! If negativity begets negativity, then surely this story proves that positivity begets positivity, in the same way that unconditional kindness brings out what is good in us!