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August 11, 2021

Why do we lose so much time to online distraction?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — neosurya @ 18:30

This article has modified parts of an article that originally appeared in The Guardian.

If social media convinces you, for example, that violent crime is a far bigger problem in your city than it really is, you might find yourself walking the streets with unnecessary fear. Since times immemorial, media was designed to attract, entertain, indulge, influence, and sometimes even mislead. Social media platforms (Facebook, twitter, youtube, online games etc) can do this even more aggressively because one, they have a lot more information about you. And two, they can monetize from even the smallest of your behavior. An online game may give you points and show how many more or less points you have as compared to other avataars. Due to this real-time comparison, you may eventually spend more time on the game, see advertisements you normally would not see, or even make in-game purchases. Social media may slowly encourage you to be a part of a vegan group, or a meat-only group, or support this or that political issue. It has already been shown that social media can make people spend on specific brands, spread half-truths, make people commit crimes, and even influence elections. Social media is often designed to make you feel very strongly about certain matters, and believe that those who differ from your opinions are the worst humans. When you believe a group more strongly, the social media can control your resources more easily. An unfortunate side effect being observed is that individuals start to assume that even family members who differ on say, a game, a political opinion, or even a food preference must be a very bad person. Online groups seem more closer, friendly, and supportive. This makes offline relationships hard to maintain.

Yes, Silicon Valley companies that are behind social media are responsible for the blame, and we cannot let them off the hook, but we should be honest: much of the time, we give in to distraction willingly. Something in us wants to be distracted, whether by digital devices or anything else. There is an inherent human tendency to not spend time on important matters. In truth, you are eager for the slightest excuse to turn away from what you are doing. Even if you quit gaming, or ban yourself from social media, or exile yourself to a cabin in the mountains, you will probably still find it very unpleasant to focus on what matters. You will find some way to distract yourself: daydreaming, taking an unnecessary nap, gossiping, cigarette break, or reorganizing the desk.

Truth of the matter is that the lives of most animals revolve around doing the same things over and over again – even the majestic tiger will hunt, sleep, mate. And this process will repeat itself again and again. We humans tend to get “bored” while doing repetitive tasks. Cooking, cleaning, doing work at an office, taking care of kids, spending time with a family member – these are important for survival in our society, but we consider them extremely tedious activities. And many artifacts of modern society were designed to reduce the time you spent doing these. The danger with social media is that it makes you feel that you are doing something important, but in reality it has managed to completely distract you. And not only that, it also makes you look at traditional relationships with suspicion if not outright hatred. Parents, children, in-laws, spouse, relatives, neighbors etc seem like enemies. In comparison, online groups and distant “friends” who “like” your every opinion or activity seem like perfect companions. And there lies the big danger of online distraction.

With other forms of media, like TV or movies, you knew that it was an illusion, a temporary relief. It is not bad to get distracted for some time, and in fact entertainment is necessary for most human beings. But online activities and social media make you feel that you are indulging in something real, tangible, meaningful, important. It is a honey trap that sucks out too much of our time and resources from things that truly matter. To make things more troublesome, it can be difficult even to notice when and how your outlook on life is being changed in this depressing fashion. Once the attention economy has rendered you sufficiently distracted, annoyed, happy, or angry, it becomes extremely difficult to escape from that sentiment. Your finite time has been taken away by any number of activities: you play a game for endless hours, you review a product, you participate in an online candle light vigil, a relay hunger strike, or spent an hour discussing with a “friend”. These activities generally have very small impact in real life, but they definitely take you away from real daily work. You will not realize that you wasted your time. Instead, you feel that you have done something significantly important. As the technology critic Tristan Harris likes to say, each time you open a social media app, there are “a thousand people on the other side of the screen” paid to keep you there. Our kids did not pick up a smart-phone on their own. We gave it to them. And kids started spending time on social media only after they saw other adults spending time on social media.

Just like global warming, just like pollution, so it is with social media. If we want our future generation to be more meaningful, we have to be more meaningful ourselves. We cannot do this by limiting our time on social media. It will not work. Our will power is not sufficient to prevent us from using social media or online content. We have to increase our focus on the small pleasures of daily life (sleeping, eating, studying, grooming, spending time with real family members/friends/pets, playing games etc) and identify activities that are truly important.

May 14, 2021

Principles of Chanakya Neeti

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — neosurya @ 21:59

Chanakya, born as Vishnugupta, and also known as Kauṭilya was an Indian teacher / philosopher (BC 371- BC 283). He is the author of “Arthashastra”, a treatise on all aspects of governance. He was responsible for moulding a shepherd of Pataliputra into Chandragupta, the great leader. Chanakya installed Chandragupta as an emperor who replaced the Nanda Kingdom and established the Mauryan empire. Chanakya also briefly served as the prime minister of Bindusara, the son of Chandragupta.

Main Philosophies of a good country:

  • Security of life for all.
  • Protection of women.
  • Agriculture is essential for survival. It must be protected.
  • Land must be utilized to the maximum. Hoarding of unused land must be prevented.
    • If someone is selling land, they can sell to people in this order: the king, neighbors of the property, and other citizen. Selling land to people from other nations should be prohibited.
  • Borders must be closely guarded, even if the neighbors are friendly.
  • Allows business and trade to run smoothly. Taxes must be very low.

Main qualities of a leader:

  • Should have a sense of Universal morality
  • Yatha raja tatha praja. A leader is the face of the nation and reflection of the society and people.
  • Must always uphold dharma
  • The treasury does not belong to the leader. It belongs to people. Ensure that there is no wasteful expenditure.
  • Should not postpone or skip hearing law matters. Justice delayed is justice denied.
  • Combination of both worldly habits (dynamic, active, decisive, brave) and spiritual inclinations (wise, humble, caring, patient).

Observations on corruption and general administration:

  • Selfishness is part of human nature. A human cannot be honest lifelong.
  • One can predict how birds fly in the sky, but true intentions of Govt officers cannot be understood.
  • The tongue will always taste food before food reaches the stomach. In the same way, Govt officers will taste some part of the King’s money before it reaches needy. Corruption and bribery can be reduced, but not eliminated completely.
  • Award subjects and spies who report true cases of corruption. Punish subjects who make false complaints against officers.
  • Among Govt servants, encourage team work, regular transfers, and shared responsibility so that one person does not become too important.
  • Certain Govt posts must be temporary. Number of Government officers must be as small as possible. A large Government does not mean good Government.
  • Dutiful officers must be rewarded with permanent jobs, more responsibility, and honorific titles. They must be publicly honored in regular intervals.
  • If a judge or a police officer commits corruption, treat it very strictly. Society collapses if innocents are punished, or if justice is delayed.
  • Collection of tax must be a sweet, easy, and straightforward process. Avoiding of tax must have serious repercussions.
  • New rules and laws must be created by the King on advise from ministers. Law must be enforced by Govt officers. Govt officers must not use personal bias while enforcing law.
  • All neighboring countries must be respected. All borders must be guarded. All enemies of the state must be closely monitored.

February 17, 2021

Difference between work, tiredness and effort

Filed under: family, personal, social change — neosurya @ 17:49

A lot of students come to me saying that they are unable to cope with academic workload. It was also a common complaint from my colleages and juniors while I was in the industry. My take on it is that each individual must learn why their work is causing effort, and to learn to cope with it in a positive manner. I will explain my view of work and effort in some simple terms.

Work: The physical or mental activity that is expended by your body while doing a task. This task could be reading a paper, studying, cooking, playing etc. Even listening to music requires your ears and brain to do some work.

Tiredness: After performing a certain amount of work, there are some changes to physical or mental capacities. The muscles become sore after playing, reading, writing, cooking, washing or cleaning. The brain similarly loses focus, feels sleepy, or starts to make errors. In extreme cases the body just fails resulting in sever pain, dizziness, dehydration, health problems etc.

Effort: As a person is working and slowly getting tired, there are two effects: (i) If a person DOES NOT love the work, the person feels more and more tired. This also turns into other physical/mental manifestations like irritation, anger, resentment etc. Under this situation, the work and tiredness turns into EFFORT. (ii) If the person loves the work, or the result of work, the person keeps recovering from tiredness very quickly, or does not get tired very soon. And even if they physically or mentally get tired, they continue the work on hand. This feels effortless and one gets positive feelings like satisfaction, joy, and pleasure.

The key to success in most aspects of life – work, study, family life or career is to determine which work is effortless for you and focus on that. If some work makes you put in too much effort, it is better you stop doing that work, at least temporarily. At first sight one may think what will others say, maybe my teacher/boss/partner will be annoyed. But in the long term, it is better to focus more strongly on work that is effortless.

In some situations like school, this may not be possible. In a standard education system, you have to pass several subjects to graduate. In this case, find which subjects you can do effortlessly and become BRILLIANT at those. For the other subjects, use any of the following strategies: (i) Take tutions from an expert and interesting teacher for the difficult subject, (ii) Study with a friend who is good at that topic, (iii) Do the minimum possible work in that subject so you may still get reasonably good grades. Remember that the professional world requires you to be good and passionate about a few topics. Everything in the world cannot be studied by everyone.

The same goes true for relationships. You prefer working in an office, but do not like housework. You do not like dogs, but your partner likes them. You like watching action movies, your other family members do not like them. Your passion is to hit the gym and maintain a ripped body, your friends think otherwise. You want to be a sportsman, but your family forces you to stick to books. First learn what your mind/body prefers. And then focus on that. Doing anything out of external compulsion will lead to too much effort on your part, and eventually irritation, anger, resentment and even failure. Lying to your partner, friends, family about your preferences is even worse. At some time the truth will come out. But it will come out with bad results.

However, doing only what you like is not possible in all relationships also. You sometimes have to do an activity or work that you do not like. You do not like paying electricity, phone, gas, water bill etc. You do not like cooking, cleaning, getting kids ready to school. But because you are in a relationship you have to do it or share these tasks with your partner. To deal with this, focus on the positive aspects of your relationship. Remember that if you want those positive aspects, it is your responsibility to do these apparently boring activities as well.

Meditation can also help you deal with the negative aspects of effort. But that is a discussion for a different day.

It is difficult to identify your effort. And it is even more difficult to convince someone else and reduce that work. If you get cannot get out of work that causes you effort, the second best approach is to tell yourself that this work is inevitable. Use meditatation or any other tool you favor to tell yourself that becoming negative about the work will not help change the condition, or help you in the long term. But at the end, do not lie to yourself and hold the negative feelings inside of you. Recognize and eliminate them if possible. If not possible, keep looking at the negative feelings when you meditate; you will soon realize that you are stronger than those -ve feelings.

The Social Death of Marriage

Filed under: family, social change — neosurya @ 17:18

These days, women and men expect some thing very different out of marriage.

Men: They assume a wife to be a Submissive Girlfriend and Servant.

Women: Assume a husband to act as a Submissive Boyfriend and Servant.

This is not the view taken by everyone. But a significant majority of relation ships have ended up like this. A wife will not take feedback from a husband. Similarly, a husband would consider any suggestion from the wife as an affront to his ego.

A submissive girlfriend is some one who fullfils every wish and demand without requiring anything in return. A submissive servant does everything without a compliant. Women also tend to have the same expectation – when they get married, they think they are getting someone who will be more of a “servant” than someone with whom they can share their life.

Unfortunately, this is happening in a land where the marriage ceremony was supposed to explain in detail to a would-be husband and wife their responsibilities towards each other, their families, and towards the society.

This change is coming about because of:

  • Undue importance to individualism: Ads, movies, popular media, everything screams out – “you must be able to do what you want to do”, “Just do it”. If only individual passion is true, why should someone even live together, or get married? If what you do as an individual is more important – then you better not get into any form of relationship.
  • Distractions and stress: There is so much to do in the modern world, there is very little time for human interaction. Too many movies, too many places to goto, too many “friends” to follow and like. Facebook, instagram, youtube, whatsapp have become an infinite source of distraction, entertainment, and useless communication. This has many side effects – very little time left for family, being pulled in too many directions, couples get lost in the large palate of activities and end up with very few common activities. Think about this – If an indivdual has an issue at home, it was very difficult earlier to walk out and go somewhere else. It is so much easier now, with malls where no one knows each other. After a bad argument at home, one can go for movies with “friends”, or a shopping spree, or a bar, or to the sports club. This leaves very little time for the couple to actually sit down and discuss logically why there was a difference in the first place. If a child is scolded by parents, it is so easy for the child to speak to “FRIENDS” on an online platform and get sympathy. These “social” locations and platforms offer relaxation. But many forget that this relaxation is temporary – the mall or sports club will only be there till you are healthy and have money. The online “friends” will click on a like button, they will agree with everything you say. But that does not mean they will actually come and cook, clean or teach you.
  • Downplaying family life: Running a family day after day involves a lot of routine work. This is not celebrated anymore. If at all someone speaks about it, they talk about the “stress” of daily chores. Routine office work is also a drudgery. Then why is routine work at home more undesirable than office work? In the modern world, money or recognition from others has become the most important factor for life. Not oxygen, not water, not food, money. Jobs give money. Social activities give recognition and awards. So even if the jobs are dull, hard, and sometimes demeaning, no one considers them worse than family work. Even if you do not truly believe in the social work, you do it because lot of people give gifts / awards / recognition etc. But family work? NO.

January 9, 2021

The choice made by Jatayu

Filed under: education, family, personal, social change — neosurya @ 14:30

In the Ramayana, the King of Lanka Ravana kidnaps Sita after distracting Rama and Lakshmana. As Ravana carries away Sita in a flying chariot, Sita cries for help.

Several birds, animals and repitiles hear her cry, but no one is able to intervene. Some are just plain incapable of flying, others are too scared to face Ravana. Jatayu, the king of of vultures was an old bird. He barely had strength to fly, and he knew that he was no match for Ravana. But Jatayu did not hesitate. He saw that adharma was happening before his eyes, and he felt the need to take action. He rose into the sky and fought Ravana. The fight ended in a short span, as Ravan cut off Jatayu’s wings.

As Jatayu lay bleeding and close to death, Rama and Lakshmana approached him. Even as Rama held him in his arms, Jatayu did not say – “Look, I tried saving Sita and now becasue of that I am dying.” Instead, he said – “Pardon me Rama, I did not have the ability to stop Ravana and rescue Sita. I could not stop adharma from happening.”

When we see that society is going down a wrong path, we have three choices:

  1. Do not try to change anything. This is a reasonable choice if your assumption is: “The Lord has created this situation, and the Lord shall change it. In any case, all is Maya.”
  2. Attempt to make a change, but only if it has a guaranteed outcome or benefit. This is a wrong choice, an adharmic choice.
  3. Attempt to make a change, irrespective of the consequences. This is the choice made by Jatayu.

Steps 1 and 3 are born out of different forms of Bhakti. Step 2 is ahankaara. The choice one makes usually depends on their mindset, previous karma, and their current circumstances. And this choice will effect their future karma.

June 18, 2020

Orders

Filed under: army, democracy — neosurya @ 15:02

This story is called “Orders”. This is purely fictional.

The location is an international border near the Himalayas. It is the afternoon of 31st May 2020.

Col Ramamurthy asks: “Call the 2IC”

2IC (Lt Col Amit): “Jai Hind Sir”

Col Ramamurthy: “What is the status on the ground?”

2IC: “Sir, Two days ago, at the dawn of 29th May, about 40 enemy combatants who were standing at pickets on their side, crossed over and came 200 meters into our side and setup two tents. By the evening of 29th May, we had orders to push them back. Capt Abhir and Lt Mihir with about 200 men are pushing back the enemy soldiers. Maj Singh is in charge sir. As per orders, we are not using lethal force. Our enemy has started using makeshift weapons, batons, and sticks studded with nails. While the resistance is stiff, we are managing to push them back with hand to hand skirmish. We are using defensive equipment like shields. Our men have been at this all through the night of 29-30, the whole of yesterday and last night. The first tent has already been cleared sir. In another half a day we should be able to clear the other tent. By the morning of 2nd June, we will be able to push them back to their side of the border sir. There are four casualties on our side sir.”

Col Ramamurthy: “We have fresh orders now. I need to be face to face with the enemy. Let us go to the pickets.”

Col Ramamurthy is about to board the jeep and leave for the border. The 2IC responds:
“Sir, why are you leaving for the pickets sir? This is not standard procedure. Please give us orders and we shall execute them.”

Col Ramamurthy: “Is the truck with the equipment ready?”

The 2IC responds:”Sir, I must insist. You cannot endanger yourself by going to the skirmish area. Please give us the order.”

Col Ramamurthy: “No Amit, these are orders that I must deliver in person.”

The HQ is only about 1.5 Kms from the border. As the jeep and the two trucks move towards the border, Col Ramamurthy thinks:
“I have been with this Battalion for several years. Some of these men have seen me as a fresh-faced Lieutenant, straight out of the Indian Military Academy. Now, I am a Colonel, and am in charge of their Battalion. I have seen some of these men from the age of 18. I have trained these men to fight with guns, grenades, mortars, and ATGMs. Now, I have to tell them to put their training aside and attack the enemy without firing a bullet. Amit is right. Under standard procedure, I have to issue orders from the HQ and the officers/jawans must execute them. I can understand the compulsion under which my superiors have given me such an order. They may have their own compulsion to follow procedure. But thanks to God, I am under no compulsion to give such orders verbally. I have the choice to stand shoulder to shoulder, give the order in person, and move forward with my men. Enemies have entered my country, and I am unable to use my weapons to save her. Yes, it is tough. But orders are orders. And my Battalion will be victorious.”

The jeep comes to a halt about 300 meters from the pickets and the area of the scuffle. Capt Abhir walks towards the jeep.

Col Ramamurthy: “Capt Abhir, each truck has 100 iron rods with barbed wire rolled at one end. Distribute them evenly across our 200 jawans. We will fight the enemy with these.”

The night is cold, dark, and bitter, where every bit of exposed skin shrivels in seconds. If any part of the body comes in touch with exposed metal, the skin would peel off. It takes about an hour to distribute the rods. Once all the rods are distributed, Col Ramamurthy takes up position in the center and says: “The enemy stands in their pickets posing a risk to our mother, and to the honor of our Battalion. We have to remove them from there. But we have orders to not fire even one bullet. We will execute these orders and emerge victorious. Charge!!!”

 

In the melee, 20 Indian soldiers, including Col Ramamurthy are martyred. The Battalion goes mad on seeing their colonel down. But orders are orders. No bullet is fired. 40 enemies are killed; the pickets are vacated. The orders are executed, and victory is achieved. But at what cost?

And why were these orders issued?
Short reason is that India did not want a war. Why did we not want a war?

  1. Peace: Was it because our foreign policy is on a misguided mission to uphold “peace”, “harmony”, and “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”?
  2. Bad border infrastructure: Was it because our politicians ignored roads, airfields, infrastructure in borders where there is no option to get kickbacks?
  3. Zero defense technology: Was it because our scientists could not build a flying aircraft, usable tank, or a reliable rifle?
  4. Weak economy: Was it because our executive branch continues to harass companies, startups, honest tax payers, and in the process stifle the economy?
  5. No human capital: Was it because our best brains became: tired of an incompetent country, greedy for more riches, and left for better avenues?
  6. Declining civilization: Was it because our culture, country, and lifestyle is just a rotten shell, just waiting to be kicked in by a hungry neighbor?

 

Whatever be the reason, this Bharatavarsha needs to introspect. And correct this fast.

Skirmishes and battles can be won by men. But wars are won by countries. An unprepared country will decline. Talks of peace and global harmony are great. But so is the protection of ones own constitution and culture. Especially when such a constitution is under attack by an undemocratic, authoritative power.

—————————-
Most people who gave detailed media comments probably had very little military knowledge, and even lesser knowledge about that area. Even the most confident, experienced, and battle hardened commander will tell you that one can be prepared for a skirmish, but one cannot predict if it will go in our favor or not.

What one can say for sure is that in terms of policy, economy, mindset of citizens, we are leagues behind our bigger neighbor. We bicker on things like defense procurement, taxation rules, labor laws, even basic things like water sharing between states, or garbage disposal in our cities. These fundamentals are so weak that at this point, Bharat cannot afford to get into a long war. But, we are also strong on some aspects – democracy, working population, soil fertility, access to natural resources. However, a country/civilization runs the risk of losing its advantages soon, unless it is careful and moves extremely strategically.

May 6, 2020

rambles

Filed under: religion, social change — neosurya @ 13:34

This is a ramble. Call it a smoothie made of misplaced bonhomie + corona conditioning. 🙂


Thread no 1:

Very early on in my career, I had decided that I wanted to live in a village. I wanted to work hard, but the kind of facilities and comforts I wanted were different from those offered in cities. It is only my incompetence that I still continue to live in a city. A few close friends and family had asked me to move to the USA. It does not matter where one lives (USA, India, or some other country). What matters is that these people believe in a city, urban lifestyle.

To live in a city with all its so-called modern comforts, I have to work and maintain a culture of success. The claim made is that people go to school, college, and office out of their own choice. But do they? Industrialized society presents in front of people a certain picture of success-culture. A person who goes to Wharton or Harvard is a success, someone who goes to  Univ of Tennessee is less successful, someone in community college is a failure. A person who writes code perfectly is a success, someone who does accounting is less successful, and someone who can do perfect dish-washing is a failure. Living in AC is comfort – sitting under a shady tree is backward. Eating stale food in a high class restaurant is enjoyment – making home-made pizza, avakaya (pickles) and vadiyaalu (rice crackers) is backward.

The result is that people in a hyper-competitive environment stop looking at each other as humans, but tend to see each other as bits and pieces of steel that can be converted into parts of a machine. A human who can be converted into a strong part is better, someone who cannot be converted is weaker. Instead of celebrating abilities and accommodating differences, we try to bring everyone to a uniform beige color.

End result:

  • A majority of our social and economic structure celebrates a very narrowly defined lifestyle. The following is generally considered “good”: 5-6 bedroom house in the suburb, an apartment in downtown, 2-3 cars, international vacations. The “success” narrative does not examine whether such a lifestyle really leads to happiness. More importantly, this narrative does not care about global warming, pollution, or in general damage to other species and our planet. The narrative does say that science will somehow fix these problems. But the narrative has so far only changed goalposts, there is minimal effort to fix anything. Ergo, we are stuck in a consumerist world that is literally eating itself to extinction. And if someone suggests a slow, non-consumerist, sustainable life they are considered “greenpeace types” at best, and at worst: misfits, cuckoos, and cultists.
  • Society tends to say that housework is a thankless activity that has no value, while  working in an office is a glamorous job that can transform society/ contribute to economy, increase GDP etc etc. This leads to ego playing out in strange ways. Let us say there are two  people A and B in a relation ship. And let us assume that A chose to be a home-maker and B is working outside the house. There can be three situations: (i) Person (A) will feel “hurt” when the person (B) comes home and asks for a glass of water. (ii) Person (A) has kept the house clean, done the dishes, cleaned the clothes, taken care of children and made an awesome meal. But Person (B) comes home and says that (A) was “only sitting at home”. Both cases (i) and (ii) are wrong. Person A and B both have a role to play. But unfortunately, society is designed in such a way that someone who takes care of the home is not given recognition.
  • Each person has an amazing amount of pressure to maintain income levels. A daily wage laborer has pressure to earn wage. An individual working in an office has pressure to maintain that job. If you earn Rs 10 lakhs, then society expects that person to take a loan and spend Rs 15 lakhs to buy a house. If you earn Rs 15 lakh, then you are expected to take a loan of Rs 30 Lakh and buy many houses. Why? Because economy will develop. And what about the pressure this brings on people? And there is also a lot of pressure on resources, environment etc. Can people perform only when placed under pressure? Is this the best way for humanity to ensure survival?
  • For entertainment, pleasure, and company, people stop relying on each other. Alcohol, violence, face-books, you-tubes and other such stimulants feel more attractive. It is not like everything is positive in a village or a lifestyle with less material comforts. A village would also have alcohol, violence, extra-marital affairs, family feuds etc. In some ways villages have a lot more in-your-face behavior. But in a laid back lifestyle, society, people, and family are still a source of pleasure/company for a majority. Cities are generally more competitive and offer a much smaller opportunity to maintain such strong inter-personal links.

A city and associated pressures force people to be competitive. Some amount of competition is necessary to survive. But beyond a limit it is self-defeating. Life becomes a continuous war against a co-worker, neighbor, family member, and nature. It is not that moving to a village will automatically convert someone into a less competitive individual. It is also not that I want to become lazy or celebrate laziness. Super-competitiveness is having too much ego, pride and lack of humility. Laziness and super competition are two ends of a pendulum. An example is  Arjuna from Mahabharat. Arjuna was certainly not lazy. But he was not competitive, he was super-competitive. He considered himself to be the best archer. In some ways, Arjuna even forced his teacher Dronacharya to ensure that no other student was the best archer. As per mythology, Arjuna was refused an entry to heaven because of his super-competitive nature. He had to take three more janmas. And in each janma, he had to endure defeats before he could realize the folly of being super-competitive.


Thread 2:

With all our intelligence, humans will always misunderstand each other. It is more easy to be suspicious of the other person, as opposed to take them on positively. It is always easy to criticize as opposed to construct. Each human due to his or her intelligence creates an “ideal of perfection”. And when the other person does not meet this ideal, the result is anger, disappointment,  and frustration.

With modern lifestyle the number of differences between people have multiplied. In my childhood, there were only 6-7 movie theaters in a large city. And getting a movie ticket was a challenging task. So if a family managed to watch a movie once a month – that was itself a cause of celebration and joy. Now, we have a dozen multiplexes with 10 screens each. Getting tickets is a breeze with smart phone apps. There is so much choice of entertainment, choosing the right kind of entertainment is itself a war. And God forbid if someone does not want to be entertained in a multiplex – that person is considered a swamiji, dodo, and scarecrow.

During the cold war, US and Russia operated on a theory of  “Mutually Assured Destruction”. Families are also doing the same. Why can we not sit down peacefully and get to an “Open Skies Policy”?

For those who do not know Open skies policy – During the cold war, the US flew several spy aircraft missions over Soviet Bloc nations. This lead to a lot of bungling – the Russians once shot down a Japanese civilian aircraft thinking it was a military plane. Thankfully, several countries including Russia and US signed an “Open Skies Treaty” which came into force in 2002. As per this treaty a fixed number of “spy-planes” could be flown by  country A to check on the country B, provided country A gives 72 hours advance notice to country B.


Thread 3:

Some say the Gita is a poem where the Lord asks Arjuna to fight. Some say it is a poem of peace where the Lord says that all war is fought in his name.

Gita and Mahabharata is all about introspection. A lot of wrong happens in Kurukshetra. Towards the end, the five children of Draupadi are murdered while sleeping at night. Ashwattama even tries to kill the future child of Uttara by shooting a divine arrow into the womb. But how could Kurukshetra be avoided –

  • Maybe the pandavas should have accepted their fate. After all, their own brother Yudhishtir had gambled away their kingdom to the Kauravas.
  • Maybe Dhritrashtra should have put aside his blind love for his son Duryodhana. With blind love for his own blood, Dhritrashtra was unable to see that the late Pandu was his own brother. If he thought about it, King Pandu was dead. The Pandavas were in a way his own sons.
  • Maybe Yudhishtir and his brothers should have been little more restrained while building Indraprastha. Why show off your affluence, knowing well that your cousin was already jealous of you?
  • Maybe Duryodhana should have tried to control his intense jealousy towards his cousin brothers – the Pandavas, the children of King Pandu.
  • Maybe King Pandu should not have shot an arrow to kill the sage and his wife who were having sex in a forest in the form of a doe couple. This mistake eventually led to the death of King Pandu, and his blind brother Dhritrashtra became king.
  • Maybe the Kuru dynasty should not have punished Gandhari’s parents after finding out that Gandhari was married to a goat before being married to Dhritrashtra.
  • Maybe Gandhari should not have tied a blindfold to her eyes. She could have then used her wisdom to guide her blind husband and her son Duryodhan.
  • Maybe Gandhari’s father should not have trusted astrologers who said that Gandhari should marry a goat before getting married to Dhritrashtra.
  • Maybe when she was a young, unmarried maiden, Kunti should have not called upon the sun God to give her a baby. Maybe society should have accepted children from unmarried women.
  • Maybe Satyavati should not have insisted that her own blood line must be kings. Maybe Satyavati’s father should not have placed those conditions in front of Devadutt?
  • Maybe King Shantanu should have controlled his hormones and not lusted after Matsyagandha.
  • Maybe sage Parashara should not have had sex with Matsyagandha and converted her to Satyavati.

Mahabharata and the Gita is all about how “society and human rules” are just castles in air. What did Satyavati gain with all her persistence that only her children should become heirs? The eventual heir – Yudishtir was born of Kunti and Lord Yama. Neither of them were directly the blood lines of the Kuru dynasty.

The Gita and Mahabharata is a call for humans to introspect and think. Instead of fighting physical and mental wars, determine the best course of action by putting aside your ego. And stick to that action, do not worry about the result. And more so, never seek acceptance from other humans. Most human beings do not understand their own minds, how will they understand each other. 🙂

May 4, 2020

Cabin cupboard

Filed under: army, social change — neosurya @ 16:03

At the National Defence Academy, and the Indian Military Academy, several cadets train under the supervision of a Company Commander or COCO. A cadets room can be inspected at any time by the COCO. And it has to be spick and span. Not like your usual hostel room. In addition, the academy announces “cabin cupboard” dates. The checking is even more aggressive on these dates. The photo below shows how the room of a cadet is supposed to look on cabin cupboard days. The room is not much different on other days as well. But on cabin cupboard days, the room needs to meet a critical specification. See the shirts on the hangers? On any day at the academy the COCO can barge into your room and check if your shirts are neatly arranged on a hanger. But on cabin cupboard days, suck it up cadet !!! The rack has to be arranged in a specific order – a jacket, followed by a shirt, followed by 2 uniforms. The rings on the hangers have to be inward, and not outward. This arrangement can be changed – for instance you may be told to have one uniform, one shirt, and one suit. And it extends to other parts of the room as well – there need to be exactly two bottles on the bedside table. One red and another blue. The bed needs to look spotless. The bathroom needs to have exactly a certain set of items, having certain colors. Your clothes shelf needs to have exactly a specific number of vests and handkerchiefs arranged in a certain angle. There are also claims that there is a book with a set pattern of display items. I never saw a book, but there must be a specification hidden away somewhere, amidst all the documentation of the approved ways of rogering a cadet.

nda_cabin

On top of all this, the COCO can come and check at anytime of the day or night. So, the cadets keep their rooms spotless, make their beds, and polish every part of the floor. At night they sleep on the floor so that the bed stays spotless, that is if they get to sleep at all. A typical dialogue between the COCO and cadet could be:

Officer- “Are these OG socks?”

GC no 1- “Sir, yes sir”

Officer- “They do not look OG to me. Take 5.”

——

Officer- “Why is your bottle less red in color”

GC no 2- SILENCE

Officer- “All right. Take 2.”


Take 5, take 2 these are not dosas or parathas. These are restrictions. Typically, 1 restriction means you have to assemble at a specific location and run for 5 Kms in full battle gear. And if you do not finish the run in a specified time, you get more restrictions. And restrictions place such a hard limit on your already stretched schedule, that a cadet with a restriction will eventually make a mistake and get other restrictions. And there can be more –


Officer- “Why is your curtain not having a restrainer” (Curtain restrainers may not be in the specs)

GC no 3- SILENCE

Senior – “Sir not in the spec sir”

Officer- “You@%$@s. Dont you know that curtains need restrainers? What do you mean it was not in the spec? Company ko fall in karo.”


When COCO says “company ko fall in karo”, everyone gets about 2-3 minutes to dress up, come out, and fall in. If your company is lucky, and that is a big IF, the COCO would be breathing commands down your neck and you would only be standing through the night with/without clothes. Generally you are not lucky, and a few hours are sucked off into a hapless loop of running, front roll, back roll, cream roll, or whatever else the COCO fancies. There are several articles dedicated to training at the IMA, an example is here: https://www.ssbcrack.com/2016/03/15-things-every-ima-cadet-can-relate-to.html

I was reading up some articles on psychology, and came up on this paper “Development and evaluation of an intervention program to manage stress among trainees at the indian defence academy”, Harini Kumari R and Shailaja Shastri (Link to original). This paper had a survey of all training meted out at the academies. Cabin cupboard came out as the second most stressful aspect of training, ranking even above punishments. The first stressful factor was “time management”. A table from this paper is below:

cabin_cupboard_stress

Which begs me to the question – why is this done? To instill officer like qualities. An army officer may be deployed to undertake tasks where minor mistakes can have expensive repercussions. A battery left uncharged can make your team lose all communication, a small piece of shiny metal can give away your position, a knot tied wrongly can lead to equipment or people falling off. An officer also has to be patient, confident, hardworking, caring, determined – and a host of other qualities. Training is done to imbibe all these qualities into a soldier. Some get more of these qualities, others get less during training. Some soldiers forget aspects of this as they age. But by and large, most good soldiers have these attributes tucked away somewhere.

Cabin cupboard cannot be part of training in civilian institutes. But I wish there was some semblance of discipline. It may come in handy. These days, there is a lot of discussion about COVID-19. There are discussions of how the kaam waali bai (house-help / servant) was not coming, and how daily tasks had become a torture. There are also grumblings of how our lifestyle was changing, how the Govt was not taking care of migrants/economy/healthcare, how X could be done differently. And then, I remembered cabin cupboard. And the lesson we had learnt – we could not change the rules of cabin cupboard. We could not escape the restrictions. But, we figured out ways to handle it – some of us perfected the art of keeping the place spick and span, some of us became physically strong, others took the restrictions with mental coolness, some even figured out a way to speak their minds to the COCO. We became better in some way or the other. There were also others who pointed fingers at everything but themselves. And in the long run, their ignorance made them suffer a lot more.

COVID-19 is like cabin cupboard. You cannot change the rules. You cannot escape the restrictions. You look inward and become a better person, or you point fingers at others and suffer your ignorance.

 

April 22, 2020

Open source

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — neosurya @ 08:57

Lot of people have a misconception that open source is just taking a bunch of code and putting it out there. Not quite. A usable open source project would need to be supported. A few golden words from Kelly Davis, the Manager/Technical Lead of the machine learning group at Mozilla

 

April 11, 2020

Double standards of media while criticizing India

Filed under: social change — neosurya @ 11:12

A media outlet criticized India when we did clapping for doctors.

Clapping to slapping — India did everything other than social distancing this week

Lot of people criticised Modi for doing this. UK is doing the same thing. What do they say now??? Nothing negative, no images or videos of localities where social distancing was violated.

With pots, pans and bagpipies, Britons are ‘clapping’ every Thursday for healthcare workers

And this is an Indian media outlet. This does not mean everyone in UK or NY practiced perfect social distancing. Britons also violated social distancing, but the wording used was “Don’t just blame the public over social distancing” [1]. Very harsh and large scale criticism happens for every act committed by Indians.

In the Mormon societies of USA (the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), one man can have many wives. Adults are allowed to marry children. This is still happening in 2020. You will hardly see criticism of this. But 100s of journalists and intellectuals will not blink an eyelid before writing negatively about Savitri, Saraswati, Draupadi, Sita, Krishna, Rama, Parasurama.

Read the following article by a newspaper:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/nov/17/fundamentalist-mormons-sister-wives-homelessness
The above article is about mormons in USA who believe that one adult male can marry several children. This practice is illegal in USA, but the mormons still support it. The newspaper uses words such as “community support system”, “local pride”. The article does not have one negative word like regressive, oppression, orthodox, unscientific, male chauvinist, or illegal. The word Christian or US women does not even appear once in the article. Even more horrifying is this: The article says that in 2006 the Govt arrested a person who arranged such child marriages. Due to those arrests the children lost their support and were forced into poverty.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2007/jun/01/2
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/07/india-female-students-eve-teasing
These are articles about about Varanasi: on widows and on eve teasing. Not one positive word about the Govt, or about the society. A paragraph from the article is below:

The difficulties faced by Indian women – amply illustrated by evidence of their diminishing contribution to the workforce, lagging literacy rates, and the frequency with which they are murdered as infants – have become part of the global narrative about the country since the 2012 rape and murder of a Delhi physiotherapy student.

In one single paragraph, eve teasing in a University is used to say that all women in India are oppressed since the day they are born. Why is this not said about domestic violence in conservative South USA, date rape in the West, and general discrimination against women in technology?

We blindly follow Western concepts. Their version of liberation, freedom, lifestyle, entertainment, and development is modern and better. Taking care of home and hearth (housewife), doing Sandhyavandanam, respecting nature, farming, and preferring traditional festivals over a weekend “party” is backward. Our food habits,  joint family system, or preference for family life over career is conservative. We are like the woodcutters who cut the branch on which they sit. No, we are not cutting the branch. We are burning the tree and putting poison in the roots of our culture. When will we learn?

I don’t support regressive policies. Science and development is needed. But dumping the baby with bath water is not the way to reform society. Honest criticism of people, practices, or thoughts is an important part of civil society. But there is distinctly something uncivil, dishonest, and downright sinister about the criticism of India.

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