Wednesday, June 27, 2018

On Depression

That moment when I'm quiet and reticent and say that i don't want to be around anyone, especially you?

 That is the precise moment when you should not leave me alone.

When i ask you to leave, stay.  When i say I'm not hungry, make sure there's food in the kitchen.  When i say I'm not sleepy, dim the lights and don't leave the room.  Pat me gently if I'll let you.

We are all children, living in a country of djinns.

You and I, we live in the same city, but in 2 different worlds.  My side is like the dark side of the mountain, and yours, the sunny side.  We cannot understand each other.  We miss the smallest cues, the biggest signals . The guides to Depression are confusing.  That's why i make it simple and easy. I come to your side of the mountain sometimes- sunny and bright and all that.  I've seen your village.  You've seen mine.  Like a badly made film, it's always gray in here.  

On Instinct

This is why you should trust your instinct: Your instinct is this massive AI engine inside your head, with a processing power for which we have not invented a term yet. It is hooked to the giant internet of other energy fields, other people's brains and it takes and processes inputs faster than your senses can acknowledge things. It knows, identifies and processes the micro expressions and the other sensory inputs, combines them with the wisdom gained from its own historical experiences and gives you a directive output.

Its not "intuition." - Its the world's best known super computer at work. And that is why you should listen to your "instinct". Its pure science.

PS: Within a week, two of my contrarian "instincts" have come out to be true. Am waiting for a third to happen. :)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Loneliness, and Investment in not being lonely

What is the problem?
With 3 celebrity suicides, the world is currently focusing on depression, mental health and allied issues. But long before these happened, I have also seen loneliness become almost an epidemic.
And I have been thinking deeply about it. Where does it begin? How do we get lonely in a world full of people?

It is, I think, basically this - deep connections are hard work. They need a lot of repair and revival. They need a lot of conscious effort. But they are not necessary on a day to day basis. On a day to day basis, shallow 'positive strokes' that come from other places - office, for instance, or buddy lunches, or conferences and events, are quite enough. We only realise that we are lonely after a few years. But by then, it is too late. We are not able to trace the cause back to fundamental absence of deep human connect. And then begins the downward spiral into depression.

The picture above is the first part of a sketch note. I wondered why, on a day to day basis, we find more gratification in our offices than in our homes. All of us know that in office, we are just cogs in a wheel, but at home, we are the centres of an entire universe. Yet, across gender, age and level, most people find more gratification in office interactions than in family ones.

Why does it happen?

After thinking a lot, I could isolate 3 major reasons:

A. Instant Gratification / Minor Appreciations - Finish a report? You get a micro compliment. Helped a colleague? A minor positive stroke is immediate. There are tonnes of instant gratification moments in a work day. These include everything from the smile of the tea boy to appreciation from a senior.

B. Sense of tangible achievement: Everything from the annual PMS to minor tasks that are "Complete" - give a sense of accomplishment. No such luck at home. Leaky pipes, faulty switches, dirty dishes give no sense of tangible achievement.

C. Novelty and Variety:  A family has perhaps 10 stakeholders - including the gardener and the milk vendor. The office, by contrast, offers twice that number at least. Further, there are groups and sub groups, and an opportunity to do gossip. There is variety of both stakeholders and interactions.

Suppose I want to change that. What can I do?

A. Instant Gratification: "Good Morning" , "This is good" - common courtesies and small compliments(aka Positive strokes) that are so basic to office behavior need to be re-introduced to the house. With positive strokes, instant gratification will return to our lives.

B. Sense of Tangible Achievement: 2 ways -
1. Create goals as a family  and track their progress. "We will take a foreign holiday next year.", "I will score above 80 in science this year end." , "I will lose 10 kilos of weight." And needless to add, in tracking those goals, build each other, don't run each other down. Don't laugh at failures, and don't equate the failure of the initiative with the person.

2. Simple, but powerful - play games as a family. Don't underestimate the power of winning and the lessons of losing.

C. Experiences: This can be done in 2 ways -

1. Widen your social network - grandmother's friend, the neighbour, wife's childhood buddy - open your heart and calendar to get to know the social circle of all family members, widening your own horizon in the process.

2. Share experiences that anyone in the family likes. One person likes adventure holidays, all of us go. Another likes the hills, all of us go. Wider social networks and more varied shared experiences will provide the variety that is the spice of life. Of course, when you see the happiness on their face, that will make it all worthwhile too. 

And finally, here is the complete sketch note. It took me weeks to think this up and a whole day to make (yeah I am kind of slow that way)

Dealing with loneliness with the help of families

Friday, June 15, 2018

समझाना / Samjhaana

एक प्रयोग था विज्ञान का 

एक बन्दर
और उसकी माँ 
बच्चे को खिलाती, सुलाती 
और बहुत प्यार करती थी 

एक दिन 
माँ को 
वहां से हटा दिया गया 
कुछ समय बाद 
जब माँ को वापिस 
बच्चे के पास लाया गया 
तो बच्चा 
बजाये खुश होने के 
या माँ से पूछने के,
"माँ, कहाँ गयी थी तुम?"

माँ को नोचने, मारने लगा 
उस पर गुर्राने लगा.

बहुत हैरान हुए.

अब  समझ आया 
क्यों नाराज़ होती हूँ 
जब घर देर से आते हो?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Arvind Joshi's poem, a translation, and a rejoinder

Read this poem by Arvind Joshi on facebook:

don’t tell her
such things like my name.
let her figure.
say, i am his friend.
say, i have a letter.
he said to see you
in the rains, and
let her figure.
speak softly, with poise,
she likes that.
a strong boy with a low voice.
maybe small talk will help
break the ice.
something about
the traffic, something
about the roads. something.
but look away when you speak.
give her time to fix her eyes
gather her hair, button this,
unbutton that.
to bend and tighten
a toe ring
and to loosen another.
but mostly
time to figure.
[Cantos 38, Book 2: Letters in the Rains, from the series Monsoon Letters]

ये कविता ऐसी थी कि पढ़ते पढ़ते अपने आप हिंदी में तर्जुमा हो गया:
उसे,मेरा नाम मत बताना 
उसे बूझने ही देना।

कहना, "मैं दोस्त हूँ उनका।"
"आपके लिए चिट्ठी है।"
"आपसे बरसातों में मिलने आने का कहा था उन्होंने… "

उसे बूझने देना।

बात धीमे से करना, तहज़ीब से 
उसे अच्छा लगता है,
सख्त, मज़बूत बाज़ुओं के साथ
नर्म लहज़ा।

इधर उधर की बातें करना 
कुछ भी,
ट्रैफिक के बारे में,
सड़कों के बारे में,
कुछ भी. 

पर बात करते हुए 
उसकी ओर देखना मत. 
उसे वक़्त देना 
अपनी आँखें जमाने का 
बाल समेटने का,
ये उठाने का,
वो रखने का.
पैर की बिछिया 
मोड़ कर सीधी करने का. 

पर असल में 
सिर्फ बूझने का. 

And then, a rejoinder also came on its own:

बङी पहेली सी भेजी थी तुमने?
जैसे रबङी जलेबी से पूछे,
'मेरा नाम क्या है?'

बूझने को
कुछ अजाना होना चाहिये।
याद दिलाने को
पहले भूलना ज़रूरी है।

चौमासे में मिलने का
वर्ग पहेली संकेत (Crossword puzzle clue)
अपने पास ही रहने दो।

मुझ से दूर हो
इसी बात से पता चलता है -
तुम उतने समझदार हो नहीं,
जितना खुद को समझते हो।
Rough translation of the rejoinder (for you, kj and Z):

That riddle that you thought you sent?
Like the square asking,
"How many sides do I have?"

To guess
there must be an unknown.
To remember,
one must first forget.

That crossword puzzle clue
that you thought was so brilliant?
'To meet in the rains' ?
You can save it.

That you are not here
is proof enough
that you are not
as wise
as you think.

Monday, June 11, 2018

the difference between dreams and reality is that dreams come in ur favorite colors, and reality comes in only one color - black.
lonliness, like a bird, perches on the branch of its choice in our heart.
we shoo it away with sticks called lovers, friends, things to do..

but like the sparrow who has decided to roost, it comes back - perseverant, undaunted... and it always gets what it wants..

women and cloud computing

Being a woman is like being a cloud computing solution. Pay as you go,
use only as much as and whenever u want. No investment required -
neither initially nor for maintenance. in fact, its even better -
automatic maintenance.the self regenerative cells take care of all maintenance.

The adaptive technology leads to automatic capacity management and the
processing power adjusts to your needs. You tell her to not think, and
she stops thinking. you tell her to use her head, and she does. The
capacity is also self adjusting - her heart expands to absorb
everything when its needed, and vanishes to size zero when you dont
need it.

Even the physical size of the server is adaptable to the client's
needs. Put on weight, now lose weight..

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Viky Arya's Banjare Khwaab/Nomadic Dreams : Review ; समीक्षा

I made a theory many years ago - the best things are NOT on the market. They are not marketed. The best things, the best experiences, the best people - you have to go look for them, you have to search to find them. Because mediocrity finds itself so easy to be accepted, excellence tends to withdraw from the larger world and keep itself in a corner where it is at peace.

Over the years, that theory has only proved itself over and over again.

I met Viky Arya ji before reading her work, and had the good fortune of hearing her recite her own work. To say that I was transfixed then is an understatement. She manages to weave magic through her words. "Dhaaga" is a poem that she recited in a poetry gathering and it has not gone out of the head since then. "मैं धागा हूँ, मैं कुछ भी बन सकता हूँ."

So when I found a book of hers in a Chandigarh bookstore, it just had to be picked up.

The book was read in a train, sitting next to a window, and late afternoon turned to dusk and disk turned to night. Every few pages, I put the book down to fully experience the emotions that the book evokes. You want to feel this book, and everything in it, completely.

If you read only one new poet this year, let it be Viky Arya.

We'll let her words do the talking Most of these are complete poems, though some are parts of a not much larger poem. Consider the universe each one evokes: (scroll below the Hindi translation of review)

बहुत साल  पहले,मुझे दुनिया के बारे में एक बात समझ आ गयी थी. इस मध्यम दर्ज़े की दुनिया में, उच्च कोटि की चीज़ मिलती नहीं है. उसे ढूंढना पड़ता है. सागर में मोती की तरह. वक़्त के साथ ये विश्वास  और पुख्ता ही हुआ है.

मेरा सौभाग्य है कि मैंने विकी जी की कविता पहले उनकी अपनी ज़ुबानी सुनी, और बाद में एक किताब घर में दिखी, तो झट से खरीद ली. ये "खरीद" बड़ा अजीब सा शब्द है. कुछ किताबों को हम खरीदते हैं. और कुछ किताबें हमें खरीद लेती हैं. बंजारे ख्वाब , दूसरी प्रकार की किताबों में से है. किताब है छोटी सी - १०८ पन्नों की. पर आप इसे एकमुश्त नहीं पढ़ सकते. थोड़ी थोड़ी देर में, किताब को नीचे रखना पड़ता है, उस एहसास को महसूस करने के लिए, जो इस किताब के पन्ने पैदा करते हैं.

उनकी कविता के बारे में कोई समीक्षक क्या कह सकता है. बात उनकी कविता को ही करने दीजिये. इन में से ज़्यादातर पूरी कविताएं हैं. कुछ अंश हैं, पर पूरी कविता भी बहुत लम्बी नहीं है. 

रईस बहुत देखे 
तुझ सा नहीं कोई 
जो दिल को कहे हीरा 
ख़ाक में फेंका करे

लौटाता है वही
जिसको जो जो मिलता है 
औरों को काटने से पहले 
सान पर 
खुद चाकू छिलता है


प्यार है पानी 
चेहरे पात्र 
हर चेहरे में 
उसी रूप ढल जाता है

सीप, शंख,
लहरें और यादें 
समंदर को बस 
देना आता है

ज़रा सी नाम हवा मिले 
जमने लग जाएंगी 
आदतों का क्या है?


Saturday, June 09, 2018

War Games based on Indian History

So, it has been a long pending dream of mine to create city building and other games based on Indian history (OK, my dream was limited to the Indus Valley civilisation)

But, Surprise, Surprise! Look what we found on the internet today!

Civilisation 6 features an Indian king!

AND there is a board game named after Chandragupta!

How awesome is that

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Tough questions, tougher answers

If there is a question that we need to start asking, it is "Why?"

Why do the backward classes need reservation in promotions?

Why are certain communities always impoverished and asking for benefits, while others continue to rise like Phoenix from the ashes?

Why are locals everywhere angry with "outsiders" if we have a concept of united India?

Why are Indians the worst flyers and tourists?

Why, after 70 years of independence, are we still dependant upon rain water irrigation for more than 50% of agricultural land?

Why is the Indian farmer punished for creating bumper crops?

Why have we made road corridors for industry but failed to create a cold storage infrastructure pan India for farm produce?

Why does India see one dowry death every 4 minutes even today? Why do marriages not happen without dowry? What is the pull of dowry?

Why is the CM of Sikkim asking for SC ST status for 17 tribes - all Nepali, without telling us what happened to the Lepchas and Bhutias - the majority demographic when I first went to Sikkim in 1999, and why their tribes are not a part of the SC/ST list.

And before we start asking why, we have to acknowledge that these problems exist. We have to stop being politically correct, we have to stop looking the other way and we have to stop airbrushing numbers and reports. And for God's sake, we have to STOP hiding behind the easy answers.

The price of inaction is violence. We all believe that such violence will not touch us, that things like that always happen to "other people". But we all should know better. Way better.

So the next time you meet a beggar on the street asking you for food because he can't afford to eat, ask him/her "Why?" And you will discover a story of parental neglect, not poverty. "My parents don't have money to feed me." "Did they not know that when they were planning a child?" "Yes they did, and they thought God will take care of all His children." That's not just parental neglect. That's parental cruelty. And parents should be criminally prosecuted for that. To bring a child into the world knowing that they cannot even feed that mouth 2 square meals is planned cruelty towards the unborn.

As much as we need to hang rapists, we also need to hang mothers who keep quiet when their daughters tell them that they have been raped by a close family member. Ask yourself "Why are the child abuse numbers so horrific?" And you will get the answers - Majority of child abuse, sexual and otherwise, is done within the family, and mostly within the house. So, who saves the culprits? And what gives these culprits the confidence that they will remain undiscovered? We are quick to blame the cops for not firing FIR. Let that FIR include all "close" relatives who protect the perpetrator.

What happened in Meghalaya? Why did it happen? What happened in Kashmir? Why is Kashmir the only state whose residents believe that they can live off subsidised rations from India, get Indian tourism dollars, relocate Kashmiri Hindus outside Kashmir and not move their backsides to another part of Kashmir - their "dream" side? What gives them the confidence that India will put up with this nonsense?

Of late, a very funny thing has happened with me - An increasing inability to remain politically correct, especially in the face of ridiculous assumptions being broadcast in drawing room political discussions.

This post will not win any popularity contests. Chances are, some of you will even be offended. But if you can use that sense of being offended to go back and ask "Why?" at least 2 times a week, and not stop until you know at least 2-3 reasons, the post will have served its purpose.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Mt. Abu and Udaipur

I'm not big on travelogues and destination pictures, but the travel partner this time, somehow got me to remember that I used to love photography once upon a time.

So after a really long time, I took pictures. For what they are worth...

A mural at the Connaught House, Mt. Abu. I couldn't take eyes off this one.

Blind School, Mt. Abu

Connaught House

Our table at the restaurant of Connaught House, Mt. Abu. What's to not LOVE?

My favorite-st part of our room - the corner of the study with a window on both sides. I moved the sofa to face the window and spent a lot of time just looking out.

Because I loved the logo and the old style key.

At the Udaipur palace. View of the city from a 10 cm window

Udaipur Palace
Nakki Lake - early evening 


There is a lie that Apple started in the Tech World and it has now reached ridiculous proportions. The lie was - "The user doesn't know what it wants."

The commercial success of Apple products probably convinced the tech world of the truth of the statement.

BUT, the graveyard of user content based platforms should tell us the exact opposite. These platforms decided to create engagement modes based on their own understanding, tailored the feed to suit their business needs, and generally, forgot to ask the user.

When we design algorithms that learn purely from user behaviour and forget to ask the user, we are basically propagating the myth - the user doesn't know.

Well, here is the new theory - the average user is a reasonably intelligent person who DOES know what they want.

So please change your algorithms to include a module - ASK THE USER. And surprise! You might find a bunch of really intelligent people telling you what you should be doing right and how. They will tell you what they really want to see on your product, what their pain areas are, and how they really want to engage with people they know.

I think this is also relevant for designing enterprise applications (in fact, I have been a huge votary of keeping the end user in the design discussions) - Don't just ask the business process owner. Ask the user.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Kijaana on India's top blogs :)

Yeah, I am not one to gloat normally, but this is my personal favorite list and I LOVE being on it!

The top 100 blogs are curated by a real person. The selection is NOT based on an algorithm, and we have no idea when the process begins or ends. But what I love the most about this list is this - all the blogs that are here, are here for one reason only - content. NOT the number of followers, not the technical jazz, and definitely NOT the amount of traffic and followers and google page rank and other stuff that has overwhelmed and choked the simple pleasure of blogging.

The blogs I find on this list are uniformly AWESOME.  So to be on the list IS something to gloat about!

This is the list of top blogs of 2018 and each one is a gem.