Stop all these meaningless surveys about Facebook

Yesterday I blogged about the meaningless surveys produced by companies all over the world that adds no value to our life.  I decided to replace those meaningless surveys and conducted one of mine instead. I surveyed the one person whose opinion is of paramount importance to me. Me.

Want to know more? Read the complete blog at our Content Crossroads Blog and let me know what you think.

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With all due respect Prof. Hawking, you are plumb wrong!

“Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something,” Prof. Stephen Hawking asserts.

He adds: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

With all due respect Mr. Hawking, you are plumb wrong! And here is why…

Mr. Hawking claims the Universe was created from nothing. From total chaos. And God did not have a hand in this random and totally unplanned creation.

Hmm, I think not. Out of chaos and nothing? Totally random and unplanned? While this could be true of politicians, religious fanatics and rock bands, I sincerely think he is losing it by applying this theory to the creation of the Universe. And if you agree with him, then please tell me how the following were created out of gravity and nothing?

  • Over 10,000 known species of birds
  • Over 30 million insects
  • Over 4 billion people of whom it is said no more than 7 people may look alike
  • Over 100,000 known varieties of trees
  • Over 250,000 known varieties of flowers

And my biggest counter to his claim – newborn babies! How in the world can you create newborn babies, such cute, shriveled, perfect human beings out of chaos and nothing?

 One of my daughter’s favorite books that we must have read over a zillion times (and I am not exaggerating) is “Pa Grape’s Shapes” by Phil Vischer, one of the many in the Veggie Tales series. I still get drawn in by the opening lines –

“This is Pa Grape. He loves the outdoors! He loves what God made – the mountains and the shores!

He’d like to go visit the stuff he admires. But look! His old car doesn’t have any tires”

Now imagine if all of you buy into Prof. Hawking’s theory and starting tomorrow we replace all these books with the “truth”. Read the new version –

“This is Pa Grape. He loves the outdoors! He loves what gravity, nothing and chaos made – the mountains and the shores!

Does not read as well, does it? And even if (yes, a BIG IF) he turns out to be correct in a million years from now, is there any reason why we have to remove the mystery and romance of God from our life and subject it to such dry philosophy? Mankind has always believed in so many lies – that sportsmen always play fair, that politicians dedicate themselves to serve the country, that parents know all, that children will take care of their parents when they are old….

Why can’t we add one more lie to this – that God is somewhere out there watching over us? That He will protect his lazy and atheistic children, no matter what? That no matter what this big, bad world throws our way, He is always on our side? Why not, Prof. Hawking?

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Business is Business

My brother sent me this joke last week.

A teacher in a school in London announced a reward of 10 pounds to the kid who could correctly answer the question ‘ “Who is the most famous person in the world?” The Jewish kid said David, the Muslim kid said Mohammed, the Buddhist kid said Buddha, but they were wrong. Finally the Hindu kid got up and answered – Jesus Christ.

He got the money. The teacher was curious and asked him why he answered Jesus Christ even though he is a Hindu. The boy quipped, “In my mind I know it is Krishna, but business is business!”

When I related this joke to my mom, I was shocked when she stated this was no laughing matter, and that it applies to all of us.  When it comes to real Life, we ignore the truth. And look the other way.

She is right. Brutally so. In our mind we know what is the right thing to do – eat right, exercise, speak the truth, stay away from bad influences, be patient, avoid anger and jealousy, respect authority… The list is endless. All of us have been indoctrinated with the right thing to do, but end up doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Think about it – bribe an official, mumble excuses when you are late for work, get impatient every time things don’t go your way, lie to save your face. Agan the list is endless.

In our hearts we know what is right, and aim to teach our kids the right thing to do. But guess what happened when I witnessed an accident between a bike and a car owned by an ex-judge of the High Court? Guess what I did when the Judge’s driver insisted that our car’s hasty arrival at the intersection caused him to brake suddenly and hence the bike hit his car’s rear? Guess what I did when the Judge insisted that I pay half of the damages? Did I bluntly ask him to file an FIR? Did I gather all the witnesses who agreed our car made no mistake? Did I hire a lawyer to go ahead and complaint on my behalf?

Nope. It took me all of 5 minutes to be convinced (by my driver, my husband and the lawyer friend) to pay up for the damage done to the Judge’s car. After all, in a court, whose word will they believe – mine, my drivers’, the Auto driver who witnessed the accident or the ex-Judge? Pure common sense told me to just pay up and leave.

If we introspect our actions daily, I am positive we will find hundreds of examples where we did not do the right thing and took the easy way out simply because it was practical. Or expedient. Or simply safer and simpler. And when we come home, what do we tell our kids? Follow rules. Respect authority. Bribing is an offence. Truth shall protect you. God does not like us to lie or cheat.

I think my kids’ faith in the entire system took a big hit when they listened to what happened yesterday. But sadly for me, their belief that we, as parents, will always do the right thing took a bigger hit.

What can I say? How can I explain to pre-teens that Life is not fair? That if you play by the rules, you will get knocked down? And that in the final analysis, business is business?

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Pests Free Zone

I love nature, as much as the next person. I love watching Untamed Uncut on Discovery, traveling into the interiors of the Amazon (or is it the Florida everglades?) with Steve Irwin, and trekking in the Nilgiris to catch a glimpse of the rare flying squirrel. But my love for Nature stops just outside my home. I do not like Nature so much that I invite her in.

Why is that, you may ask. Well, it is rainy season in Kerala. The best time to commune with Nature, in all her pristine glory. But certainly not the best time to keep your house free of nature.

Don’t get me wrong here. I am not talking about mosquitoes, lizards, flies, cockroaches, ants (the white ant and the red and the black ant) or even the occasional stray dog. No matter where you live in the world, I defy you to tell me that you have never seen these inside your homes. So, I am not concerned about these occasional guests who come and go. I am talking about the “others”.

Take the slug, for instance. It literally creeps me out. I know it cannot outrun me but maybe it doesn’t know that? They are okay crawling on my lawn or sleeping on my car, but I draw the line when “Sluggy” wants to get into my shoes or use my toilet.

And what about the “pooram”? I have heard horror stories where this slippery centipede has forced itself into a small boy’s ears and laid eggs, causing brain damage! I know they are all your creations, but God, do I have to sleep with them?

Finally what about the water snake? Uh? What is it about me, and my house, that attracts these pests in such variety and quantity? And don’t get me started on the neighborhood tabby using my lawn as her potty every other night. Right now my lawn is living proof that Erma Bombeck got it right with her book “The grass is always greener over the septic tank”.

Slug? check. Water snake? check. Cat? Check. Have I forgotten anyone? Ah, yes. I can excuse all these creatures, but what in Heaven’s name was a rat doing inside my Hyundai  Santro? It ate bits of my steering wheel, my seat covers in the rear (Or were my kids responsible for that!) and the side casing on my battery. I paid Rs. 1500 to get the entire thing fumigated and cleaned.

So the next time I see a pest, I am going to scream – Stop! right there, right now. This may be a free country and you are all God’s creatures, big and small and large and beautiful, but please crawl back to the gutter you came from. I have  enough pests at home to deal with. Until they go to College atleast!

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The Last Temptation by Nikos Kazantzakis

Warning: This blog may offend those who were offended by the book and/or the movie

I do not know the nature of the controversy surrounding the movie or the book. Probably not knowing really helped as I read this book with an open mind. But having read it, I can see why it may have generated controversy!

The Last Temptation is an extraordinary depiction of the inner struggles and temptations Jesus goes through before he succeeds in answering his true calling – that of the Messiah. Not just any other Messiah who leads on Earth through preaching, but the Son of God who has to give up his Life so others can believe.
Nikos Kazantzakis writes simply and elegantly of the harsh life of the Jews under Roman rule, especially in the country side. This fictitious account seems to arise from his own search for inner truth which led him from Freud to Nietczhe to Buddha. One cannot but sympathize with Jesus (and the author too) as he tries to make sense of his visions and inner voices and reconcile them with what his disciples yearn for.
In one of the most telling conversations where the Disciples struggle to come to terms with Jesus’ preachings, John asks in response to his Masters exhortations that the old commandments are no longer large enough – “Does God’s will change then, rabbi?”

Jesus’ reply – “No, John beloved. But man’s heart widens and is able to contain more of God’s will.”

This widening of heart to contain more of God’s will is, to me, the essence of spiritual growth, no matter what religion, faith or dogma we believe in. As human beings, we constantly struggle to understand what God expects (Sometimes demands) of us. God does not ask for a lot – He simply asks we open our hearts to His love.

All in all, a must read for those of you who are looking to expand their horizons, and widen their heart!

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God’s Own Country indeed

During the last 3 weeks I visited three unique tourist spots in Kerala, my home state. Family and friends accompanied me as our road trip took us across the length and breadth of Kerala. For those of you who think I have way too much time on my hand (my boss for example!), these trips happened over 3 different week-ends.

And for those of you who have never visited this state shelved between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats in the southern tip of India, this blog will not make any sense whatsoever! Kerala’s Tourism Department touts it as God’s Own Country and has successfully marketed it to the world. And to give the devil it’s due, they have been endorsed even by National Geographic. The National Geographic Traveler Magazine has named it “one of the top ten paradises of world” and “one of the fifty must see destinations of lifetime”.

Now for the places I visited – Kumarakom (backwaters), Kuttikanam (hill range), and Guruvayur (temple town). Kumarakom is verdant land surrounded by the backwaters near Kottayam. Famous for its bird sanctuary, Kumarakom is touted as the Venice of the East. Row boats, motor boats and house boats – I let life slide by as I watched the coconut trees and the paddy fields disappear from view. 

An hour to the south of Kottayam is Kuttikanam. We stayed in a resort at the top of one of the hillocks and the view was absolutely divine. The mist that surrounded us muted the tribal drums that came from the temple at the base of the hill and gave it an eerie and other-worldly feel. As the power outages were frequent, we were as close to nature we could wish for.

I literally came back to terra firma with a bump as we jolted across the real bad roads of Kerala (Detroit was heaven compared to this) to see my Guruvayurappan. For Krishna devotees, Guruvayur is one of the divine shrines that vies only with Tirupathi for its sanctity. In fact I think this is the only temple for Krishna devotees, but i have to admit I am biased and you may beg to differ. This temple town, with its roadside vendors and vegetarian eateries will delight any tourist, devotee or not. The four entrances to the temple is lined with shops that you have to pass through to see the Lord and many a time you end up spending more time (and money!) at these shops than inside the temple itself. I know my kids did!

How in God’s name did Kerala get such a wide and diverse greenery? What did we do to deserve this nature? Now the monsoon is upon us, and if you want to see nature in her overpowering glory, you have to visit the clean and scrubbed Kerala that the monsoon unveils during the next 3 months. 

What sheer joy to see the heavens open up, the earth soak up the water, and give off a unique smell (“manvasanai” in Tamil) that evokes memories of childhood when you willingly jumped in puddles of dirty water in your new shoes and uniforms on your way to school. I always loved the first day of school (usually during the first week of June) which coincided almost always with the first rains of the monsoon.

Mountains, hilly terrains, rivers, waterfalls, backwaters, temple towns, beaches – all in one State, all reachable within 6 hours of car travel. Yes, God’s Own Country indeed.

PS: If you have not heard of these places, go ahead and google them. And then visit them. You will thank me, right after you have danced in the monsoon showers, cruised slowly  in a houseboat, polished off  crispy vadas and cardamom tea, and counted 15 hues and shades of green.

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On Alchemists and Lost Symbols

It was sheer coincidence that I read both the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown over the same weekend. I had 2 dental, 1 x-ray, 1 blood test, 2 pediatrician visits, and 2 gynec visits all in the space of 4 days and had plenty of time while waiting for the Doctor to read both of them end to end! No, we are all fine, but it was time for our annual family medical check-ups.

Now for the similarities – both are about searching for a treasure on a physical level and searching for inner meaning and happiness on a metaphysical level. Both dip into the vast wisdom of the ages – the Koran, the Gita, the Bible, the Vedas for infinite wisdom and to explain why things are the way they are. And finally both the books try to explain a complex and complicated concept in simple terms.

This is where the similarity ends. The Alchemist is pure wisdom, while The Lost Symbol is pure drivel! Dan Brown seems to have lost his creativity, his innovative research, and his power of persuasion. I have read every book he has written and while Deception Point and Digital Fortress appeal to me the most, some credit has to be given to Demons and Angels, and to the Da Vinci Code. But what in horror’s name is the Lost Symbol?

On the other hand, the Alchemist survives the test of time even after 25 years. The story is simple, the characters  human, the hero is heroic without any major antics or idiosyncracies, and the story setting is elemental. Each word leads to the next with nothing lost “in translation” and the story moves powerfully and magnetically to the right climax without any false moves. Everything is explained simply and correctly. The conclusion – if you have a dream or the power to dream, everything in the Universe will conspire to help you achieve it.

Wow. Double Wow. Sure, thousands of self-help books and gurus are telling us the same thing. But the Alchemist says it in a way that is deeply touching. And compelling. So go ahead and buy this book and start reading it. Often. It ranks up there in the “Top 100 books to have in your book shelf when you retire” list. As for the Lost Symbol, I would recommend you sell it along with your bunch of old newspapers and at least recover some of the money you wasted buying it.

Keep dreaming and stay the course.

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The greatest joke of all times

Last week my 8 year old dressed up as a witch for her class assembly and read out a bunch of spooky jokes.  I watched proudly from the audience and chuckled whenever the assembly broke out in laughter. After all, they were really good ones. My favorite from the dozen or so she read? Get ready to laugh – when do Ghosts go to work? On MoanDays and FrightDays!

This joke got me thinking. I think the greatest joke of all times is us human beings as we scurry to work, week in and week out. Imagine an alien landing on Earth on a Monday morning intent on invading us. He would see us scramble to get ourselves and our family ready, reach work after a crazy commute where we scream and curse, sit in the narrow confines of our cubicle, strategize on to-do lists and action plans, sit in endless meetings, consume unmentionable amounts of caffiene, fret and fume over deadlines while our blood pressure shoots up, get back home stressed out and physically tired…. In 12 hours,  we start all over again.

And we pride ourselves that we are the most intelligent species the good God made. Nope, as Agatha Christie states, (or more specifically my darling Detective, Hercule Poirot) men are creatures of habit. We love to do the same things again and again. So if the above-mentioned Alien watches the human race at work for a week, he would flee in boredom never to come back.  In fact, Nations should forget arming ourselves with nukes – just play a video of the human race going to work and back and see if the aliens don’t surrender in sheer boredom.

So what can we do about it? Well, practically nothing that would change things in the near future. In fact even in the Space Family Robinson, the father goes to work everyday and is faced with similar challenges as us humans in the 21st Century.

So is there a point to this blog, you ask. Hold your horses young lady, am coming to it. Yes, the point is that what we do daily is absolutely hilarious and not without much of a point. So maybe we should start taking ourselves less seriously. Maybe start treating this entire “work” thing as a joke and relax a little. Since this is something that we will be doing 70% of our life, let us learn to treat going to work as ONE BIG JOKE, reduce our stress, and just enjoy the work.

So from this week onwards we will stop treating our work days as Moandays, Sadderdays, Frightdays, Cursedays etc. and turn them all into Fundays. Who’s with me?

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The Greatest Player of all Times – Fedex

The Greatest Player of all times
Yes, he has done it

After January 31, 2010, there is no doubt in any one’s mind as to who is the GOAT of Tennis – the Greatest Of All Times. ROGER FEDERER.

Fedex, as most of the banners scream out, is on a roll indeed. After winning Roland Garros in 2009, he completed his Grand Slam in Tennis – only one of the 5 players in the history of Men’s Tennis.

Then he went on to win the Wimbledon in the same year and beat Pete Sampras record of 14 Grand Slams.

Then as a new dad of two beautiful twins (Myla Rose and Charlene Riva) he almost made it as the first dad to win a Grand Slam in the US Open, but Del Potro had other plans.

You know what they say, you can never keep a good man down forever. Australian Open, 2010, became the platform for Federer to add one more to his record – the first dad in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam. He beat 5th seed Andy Murray in straight sets without even breaking a sweat.

Yes, he is the greatest tennis player of all times. Sorry Pete. Sorry Agassi. And Sorry Rod laver.

But what about Nadal? The mischievous imp sitting on my shoulder whispers. There is this niggling doubt in everyone’s mind (including mine sometimes) that the only reason Federer could do this is coz Nadal was out nursing his injuries (and his ego when he faced a shock exit in the fourth round as Defending Champion in Roland Garros 2009 against Soderling).

What about him, I ask? And I hold up Federer’s ultimate Ace up his sleeve. Something no player has or ever will be able to match anytime in my lifetime.

Yes, you know. A record 23 consecutive appearances in Grand Slam tennis semifinals or better since 2004. Simply put, no matter what his injuries, he has always reached at least the Semifinal of a Grand Slam in the last 5 years.

Ha. Double Ha. And he is only 28. And you want to know why he is the best?

Coz he is a Leo, with the traits of the Cancer. Watch him in action on the tennis court and you will understand. Like the crab, he moves sideways and forward constantly. He does not rush into anything quickly. He waits, he sidles, he dances, he side steps. And when the prey is assured, he pounces like the Lion. (Birthday -August 8). Like the Leo he has a Royal Confidence he will win. And in the likelihood of the match slipping away from him, he raises his game a notch. Just a notch.

So by the time his rival has matched him, Federer has already uppped his game, step by step like the crab. If he does not have to, he doesn’t. He lazes back like the Lion and lets the victim tires himself. If he has to, then he comes blasting out on all four cylinders (but mind you – like a crab, quietly and forcefully).

How do I know? Well, just Crab instinct.  (yup, am a Cancer/Leo cusp). So, celebrate Federer as the Greatest GOAT of all Times. Even if he does not win a single match ever again in his life (Ya, right!) in my books he is absolutely THE  BEST. It should be in yours too.

Hail Federer.

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New Year, New You and New Me

I am sure you have made your New Year Resolutions and have probably broken a few already. As I was pondering on my Resolutions, I decided to categorize them into 2 main categories. (Project Management skills die hard!). So here goes my resolutions for the new year and I hope you will adopt them too.

I have made resolutions on TWO fronts only – Hope & Health. Under each category I made 3 resolutions making it a total of 6 resolutions I plan on making or breaking this Year!

Hope –

  1. Read the Bhagavad Gita Everyday. By doing so I HOPE to draw from the Wisdom and Experience of all ages which should instruct me on how to live my today
  2. Drop my baggage. Jiggi Vasudev (of Isha Yoga) asks – Will you watch a boring movie or a sad book again and again? Then why would you relive your sad or bad memories at the drop of a hat?  I HOPE to carry forward happy memories everyday and drop those that burden me
  3. Laugh More.

Health –

  1. Will not wake up early! – Yes, NOT WAKE UP EARLY – Waking up early is a habit I have not acquired and do not plan to acquire starting tomorrow morning.  I will wake up when I want and if need be, will drive my daughter to school when she misses the school bus. So there!
  2. Will not DIET anymore – From now on I will only watch my diet, not DIET. A whole different way of looking at something you are going to do all your life. Incidentally the word DIET refers to what is eaten in a particular culture/region as in Indian Diet or Mediterranean Diet and not to removing all good taste and flavor from your food. Nor will I beat myself up for having literally inhaled “Death By Chocolate” as I watched Federer beat Pete Sampras’ record for the highest Grand Slam Singles Titles during last year’s Wimbledon Finals. It was worth every crumb.
  3. Will not watch TV anymore –  Except for Tennis and Indian Cricket of course. Every other show/program falls under the category of “crap”. At last count I have 142 channels on my TV. None of them have added even a modicum of knowledge or happiness to my life. Sorry Mr. President, Yes, you can fool all the people all the time. TV channels do it 24X7X365 ad nauseum

Sorry – did I vent too much? Am done. Now to “walk the talk”.

Wishing you all a 2010 filled with Health, Hope, and Happiness.

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