December 12, 2016

Playing to Lose

Right from Swordfish wherein Gabriel(Johan Travolta) laments the lack of realism in portraying villains in movies to Rochester(Johnny Depp), in the Libertine, commencing the movie with his monologue and bluntly stating that he is  not a likeable character; why do certain characters stand out from the ordinary.

Why is it that all games have to have winners and losers? Why is winning important? Why is surviving/survival critical? Why do the primordial instincts kick in? Why do we float? 

What if you start playing to lose, just so that you get to see the other side win. You just want to watch your opponent win and beam with joy while you bask in your so called 'sacrifice'. Why has it to be a sacrifice? Letting the other win is a joyful thing, but goes against the tenets of the basic game theory. Leaving aside cooperative games, why is winning always celebrated; the limelight is far away from the losers.

What if you play to lose. What if you play to just understand the game and its different outcomes, and winning or losing was just part of it.
That is it. That is my prologue, nothing in rhyme, no protestations of modesty, you were not expecting that I hope. 

May 19, 2016

Love and Fear

Niccolò Machiavelli, in his seminal 'The Prince', CHAPTER XVII : "Concerning Cruelty And Clemency, And Whether It Is Better To Be Loved Than Feared" writes:
Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.  Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you.  And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.

[Sidenote: the book did not actually have a title when it was written by Machiavelli]

In Economics, we call this as a Matching Market. Love belongs to the Matching Market whereas Fear is not. In a Matching Market, there is a willingness to sell a service or good by a Seller, and a willingness on the side of the Buyer to buy the service or the good at the said terms. The transaction does not happen otherwise. Organ Trades, and others are examples of such Matching Markets.

Other examples of matching markets include Jobs, Organ Transplants, Room Allocations, Marriages, Loans etc.

In Love, this commonality of needs or wants is necessary. But Fear is a one way street. Fear is inculcated by the Perpetrator onto the victim. It can so happen that Victim need not fear the actions by the Perpetrator, and hence this equation is purely based on the magnitude of the actions by the Perpetrator. Fear is also a perception and is determinant on the Perceiver; what can be otherwise 'normal' actions by a do-er can cause fear in the minds of the Receiver/Victim.

But both Love and Fear, suffer from a serious handicap. Handicap of Impermanence; that is, the feeling of Love and Fear is temporary and can either fade or strengthen with the passage of time. You might Love something today, and something else tomorrow. Fear is similar; what you are afraid of today, need not make you cringe in fear the day after. Impermanence is a beautiful concept and is the underlying theory that causes more trouble in the hearts of Humans. We abhor Impermanence as we do not understand it. We are never taught of Impermanence in our education and hence most of Humanity(especially the Western World) fears Death.

In Bhaja Govindam, this is stated beautifully:
ma kuru dhana, jana , youvana garvam;
harathi nimeshat kalat sarvam
Do not be proud of your wealth, relationships or youth. Time can snatch them away from you in no time.

March 14, 2016

Book Review : When to Rob a Bank: A Rogue Economist's Guide to the World

When to Rob a Bank: A Rogue Economist's Guide to the World By Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

(This story was published in BW | BusinessWorld Issue Dated 19-Oct-2015)

Why things are the way they are?

The economist-journalist duo is back and they have packed their multiple punches that they delivered over the last few years of blogposts into this wonderful compendium, quirky titled 'When to Rob a Bank'. The authors have bucketed their blogposts from their hugely famous ‘Freakonomics’ blog into 12 chapters with each chapter maintaining its own distinctive theme.

Have you ever wondered social costs of mediocrity? Did you know that most books can be bucketed into 7-template theories? Or what would be your
modus-operandi if you were a terrorist? Or did you know that there is load of behavioral-science hidden behind designing menus? These and many other mundane observations from the real-world are dissected by the author duo and the evidences are broken down in an unconventional manner and woven into a story thereby stimulating the reader.

The book is another freakingly fantastic read from the author’s stables after their hugely successful earlier titles : “Think like a Freak”, “Freakonomics” and “SuperFreakonomics”. Stephen J. Dubner is the journalist while behavioral-economic thinking is brought to the table by Steven D. Levitt. The author-duo truly demonstrates ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and the thought-patterns after reading the book would truly leave an indelible mark on the reader.

The duo's casual, personal and opinionated style of writing is a treat for any ardent reader and more so if you are a behavioral economist. The biggest win of the authors is their brilliant and captivating storytelling which makes the reader think beyond the norm and present to him some facets that the reader would not have otherwise thought about. So, the next time when you do not tip the air-hostess or catch someone lying or cheating, you can reason beyond the norms of morals and ethics and also think about the economics of the act that drives many of the decisions.

An enthusiastic reader of the Freakonomics blog can probably complain that the blogposts are already available for free on the public domain, but the artful curation of the blogposts into themed chapters makes the book a salivating read. But the complaint that many authors are resorting to publishing their blogposts into books is a valid complaint coming from the web-savvy.

February 19, 2016

What's in my Backpack?

I moved from a Quechua Forclaz 70L backpack to a a 38L backpack. I got the new backpack in Nepal, which I I did (totally impromptu trip) in late 2014. It is a fake NorthFace-logo'ed backpack that has backsupport as well; bought it for 1000 Nepalese Rupee(i.e, 1600 Indian Rupee or 24USD). There is a gap between the back-support and my spine which prevents the back of the backpack from getting wet due to perspiration. It also has a rain cover that sits folded at the bottom of the pack. The backpack works wonders anywhere from a 10-day to a 45-day trip.

So, What does the new backpack contain in a typical month long trip?

- 5-7 Quick Dry T-Shirts
- 2 Quick Dry Trousers/Pants(1 of them being detachable)
- 2 Quick Dry Shorts(that also double up as swimming trunks)
- 1 Quick Dry Foldable Cap
- 3-4 Underwears
- 1 Thin Towel(indian-style)
- 1 Sunglass
- Arpenaz 15 Ultralight Backpack - used for day trips and walks.
- Phone Charger
- Universal Adaptor
- Small pouch for medicines(tablets for loose-motion/Diarrhea/vomiting/headache/fever, lozenges for soar-throat, band-aid, gauze)
- Pouch containing - Washing soap, Mosquito Repellant cream, Sun-screen cream, 1 shaving razor, tissues, toothbrush, toopaste.
- Pouch containing - mint, chocolates, chewing gum
- Pouch containing - 1 head-phone, 1 rechargeable mechanical torch, few clips
- 1 carabiner+2 locks+keys
- Passport + Photos + 2 Pens + Few copies of passport and identity-proofs.

The total weight of the above is around 7kgs(or less) - perfect for flight cabins. Around 30% of the backpack remains empty with the above packed well - and this space is used to keep fruits and snacks bought locally. The Arpenaz 15 Ultralight Backpack folds to a fist size ball and works well for walks and day-trips when you want to carry the bare minimum. The backpack has 1 main compartment, 2 smaller ones which holds the smaller items. Other than this there are 2 side pockets and small pockets along the waist band.

The Quick Dry apparels have been the best investment, as it has reduced my load by a significant factor. Also, I can wash clothes every few days and wear them fresh. Haven't travelled or trekked in shoes for a long time now; but I think I will invest in a good pair of shoes that are easy to wear and is all-weather. I have stopped carrying camera(no more DSLR or point and shoot) for more than a year now, but carry my mobile. Am thinking of ditching my mobile also in the future. All clothes are packed in plastic covers so that they can withstand heavy rains. I carry a jacket on a need basis. I do not carry a swiss-army knife(though would love to) as it is not allowed in flights. I buy water-bottle locally and refill it whenever and wherever possible; I might change this in the future and move to a flask. I am also thinking of carrying an inflatable pillow henceforth, so that I can sleep anywhere without straining my neck. I am using a big plastic sheet as a poncho for now, but need to buy something more rugged.

I need to buy papersoap, a headlamp ... And a good automatic sports wrist watch that can withstand atleast 18m depth. I suspect a snorkeling gear will soon join forces later this year(unless i learn free-diving!), depending on where the vacation is. Washing the backpack after every sojourn keeps it grease and dirt free and the zippers remain operational. Understanding the different clips and straps in your backpack helps especially when you least expect it. I had discounted a few straps earlier on, but when I realized their use, I could compress my backpack further and reduce it's thickness. One needs to be in a relationship with their backpack(NOTE!!!); so comfortable with its design that you can operate it even when its utter dark.

So .... now I can avoid airport checkin luggage altogether and do not have to throw in my backpack in some corner of the bus or truck; it always stays with me. Am more mobile and agile with this setup and can move into and out from any place in matter of no time. The bag fits into most lockers at the dormitories as well. And a slew of other benefits!!

I do not think the current backpack will last more than a year or two with frequent travels; the next one would be the same class of backpack with similar capacity and size, albeit of a much better quality. Changing backpacks is not easy, especially when you have a name for your backpack!!! I call mine as 'Karma' (no intended puns!).

So, why this post? Well, I realized how much 'stuff' we always carry with us. 'Stuff' that just occupy space and are worthless. By letting go and carrying the most basic 'things', we not only have a lighter backpack but also gain from the other benefits. I do not buy 'stuff' during travels; if at all, I buy anything, it has been postcards and fridge magnets which sit easily inside the backpack, in the corners.

The important thing while choosing what to pack is to remember and understand your priorities first. What works for you, works for you alone. All the other blog posts(like this one) are just sharing their own details and can reveal a lot about the person's travel style.

If the backpack were set on fire, I will not be in a hurry to get anything out.....err..wait..I will run to get my passport out! But only the passport, and that too if I am in a foreign country.

Everything else is a copy of a copy of a copy.

January 02, 2016

The 50 Books Project

The idea was to make sure that my complete bandwidth in 2015 was put into books, other than the usual time spent on work and other sundries. And Oh Boy! It was indeed a fabulous year. So much learning - both indoors and outdoors - just by observing people and playing the cards suitably. I can safely vouch for the fact that 2015 was indeed one of the best years of my Life wherein I started understanding Life and the various nuances associated with it. I think this year wouldn't have been possible, had it not been for the escapade in end-2014 that took me to Amritsar and Nepal. The days spent in the Golden Temple at Amritsar and the Monastery in Lumbini(Nepal) made me realize what I was doing wrong and more importantly -- what had to done; and prepp'ed me suitably (This needs a blog post in itself, but we will save it for later!).


Target was to read 50 books this year - and restrict it to Non-Fiction so that I learn something in the due course. Started off the year with a few readings on Strategy, but soon Economics pulled me in and before I knew it, I was neck-deep into my field of interest -- namely Behavioural Economics. Read a dozen odd books on this topic and my thirst has only increased since then. A Masters degree in Economics or Philosophy would be really nice, but let's see where the journey takes me to. A few courses on Coursera also added the much needed fire to this otherwise subdued interest.

So, the first question would be, which was my best read in 2015? Michael J. Sandel's book on "Justice" was probably the best for it completely opened my eyes to the idea of Justice and how it is different from Law. The cross-correlation between Justice, Law and Ethics has intrigued me for quite sometime as I see people behave in ways that are not totally rational and how the frameworks in the society are established to safeguard the interest of the collective and establish a certain order and decorum. Reading this treatise on Justice and understanding the behavioral aspects of Economics made me realize how we humans are not entirely rational and certain, if not all, make decisions that are not in the best interest of the society, or in other words - are not value maximizing decisions or transactions, and how the society has to deal with it.

Clayton M. Christensen's books on Innovation were a pleasant surprise to me and helped me theorize certain innovation cycles as I see them unfold in the industry. "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz and "Sources of Power : How People Make Decisions" by Gary Klein were other notable reads. My readings since November, were mainly on the digital medium, as I had many TO_BE_READ articles and wanted to reach a count of zero unread articles in my feed reader. As the year came to an end, I found solace in Bhagvad Gita by Eknath Easwaran. This is a 3 part series, and am already quite intrigued by Volume-1.

So, next question is : Did I finish reading 50 books? Well, technically, I read close to 38 books (click here for the list) , but on top of this, I read close to 15 text books relating to various management disciplines. To add to this, my feed reader(I use Feedly) presents close to 400 articles from my various subscriptions on a daily basis, out of which I end up reading dozen odd long form articles on weekdays and double that on weekends. So, well yeah! A year of good reading indeed.

Go Exploring!

So what's in for 2016? I will prefer to do as per the flow(as has been my style in travelling as well), but I think I am going to keep the track on Bhagwad Gita on and finish the trilogy. I also intend to read some titles by our former President S.Radhakrishnan. And read more of Behavioural Economics. "Irrational Exuberance" still evades me and few other titles related to innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership are in my TODO. I would also like to read Aristotle and Plato this year; while 'Meditations' by Marcus Aurelius has been in my TODO for a few years now. I also have to catchup on the pending reads on Anthropology and Neuro-Psychology. A few reads related to Design and Visualization would keep my appetite going while understanding Law and Justice will keep me closer to many practical realities.

So, let's see where 2016 takes me. Some in my wishlist, though :

  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  2. Phishing for Phools - The Economics of Manipulations and Deception by George A Akerlof , Robert J Schiller 
  3. The Hard Thing about Hard Thing: Building a Business When There are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
  4. Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L. Bernstein
  5. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
  6. Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists by Raghuram Rajan
  7. Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioural Economics by Richard H Thaler
  8. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change by Charles Duhigg 
  9. Irrational Exuberance by Robert J. Shiller
  10. Who Gets What - And Why The Hidden World of Matchmaking and Market Design by Alvin E. Roth
  11. Your Strategy Needs a Strategy: How to Choose and Execute the Right Approach by Martin Reeves
  12. Theory of Justice by Rawls 
  13. What Money Can't Buy by Michael J. Sandel
  14. 10 Judgements That Changed India by Zia Mody

July 24, 2015

Thalesian Awareness

2500 years ago (624-547 BC), there lived Thales, in the Greek city of Miletus. Thales was a Greek Mathematician and Philosopher, who was often ridiculed and teased by his own people because of his penury. His humble existence was often questioned as his philosophy did not make him rich or bring him any wealth. Much of Thales's writings do not exist and we know of his existence purely due to Aristotle.

But Thales was a keen observer and thinker. Using his knowledge of Astronomy, Cosmology, Geography and Mathematics, he predicted a good harvest of Olives in the year ahead. To extract the oil from the Olives, one needed the Olive Presses. Thales stuck a deal with the oil-press owners(both in Miletus and also neighboring towns) to rent all their inventory of oil-presses in the future by paying them a nominal amount upfront, in return for the confirmed rental of the oil-presses at a discount. The olive-press owners silently laughed at the inherent naivety of Thales. It was a bumper harvest indeed, and by controlling all the oil-presses, Thales could effectively control the starting point of the olive oil production (a sheer monopoly) and became very rich.

Thales was probably the first Hedge Fund Manager who taught us Leverage and Forward Contracts, in the due course creating probably the first Monopoly for himself. Thales was the first to give us a financial derivative instrument - 'Futures' and 'Options'. He purchased the rights, but not the obligation to use the oil-presses. He would have lost the option-premium alone had the harvest been dismal.

Thales thus proved to the World that Decision Analysis and Systematic Reasoning when properly understood and applied, does indeed bring wealth; underscoring the Corporate Mantra that Knowledge when used can also bring profits. While crafting strategies, it is not always necessary that we restrict ourselves to the tried and tested models and frameworks. The much cliched 'thinking outside the box' is very much needed; and also keeps the grey matter engaged in the due course.

Thales observed his environment (context) with great detail and predicted with accuracy. He saw through things and extracted meanings that set him apart from his contemporaries. He was constantly watching and gathering insights that led him to his intellectual successes. He is said to have discovered Ursa Minor (Little Dipper) as a tool of navigation. He also theorized that the Earth is round, and not flat; along with many other fetes.

Thales's Analytic Thought Process coupled with Wisdom as a Profession made him one of the Seven Wise Men of the Ancient World.

July 01, 2015

Shame and Integrity

"Men cannot live without Shame. A sense of Shame is beginning of Integrity. "
- Mencius(Chinese Philosopher)

"The Downfall of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden" by Michelangelo

I recently attended a course on Ethics conducted by a top bureaucrat with close to four decades of field-experience. Among many things that we expatiated on, we spoke about the behavior of Terrorists. 'How to deal with Terrorists' is a question that most Governments and bureaucrats grapple with. Terrorists have no sense of their own lives and are ready to give up their lives for some cause that they believe in (let us not get into the merits or demerits of the cause). When a person is not afraid of his own life, which means that the person would hardly be interested in money or anything else either, then dealing with that person is an extremely tough proposition. It is a negotiation nightmare. No wonder some countries have a strict no-negotiation-policy with terrorists and have a clear and well-defined tit-for-tat strategy!

Post the course I was intrigued by this brief conversation and drew some parallels to how some have to face other forms of challenges in the cities that we live in. In the comforts of our houses we hardly think about the changing societal structures and the values that are being espoused. The increasing attitude of shamelessness has caught my attention and it is incredible how this simple value of 'shame' has far-reaching consequences. 

Somewhere along our evolution and the society's progress we seem to have stumbled on a notion that being shameless is 'cool'. Off late, being shameless is conceived as the new 'cool' and the very thought of this sends the chill across my spine. 

'Shame' is a moral emotion. This is not hereditary (not passed on by genes), but an acquired emotion. You acquire these emotional values by looking around those who are close to you. Parents, friends, relatives, teachers, supervisors and culture - all are integral in building up this important virtue.

Parents, being closest to the children, hence have to espouse highest levels of integrity by inculcating good values and ethics in their children. If you lie and cheat in front of children, it is but natural that the child also sees the action, and grows with it. And it is invariably true that the child also forgets that he/she has a conscience and goes berserk on the society.

Shame and Guilt see the Self as an object of evaluation and makes the self conscious of its own actions. Both Shame and Guilt are extremely potent motivators and powerful inhibitors. These acquired emotions can make you do things that you were otherwise were not planning to do; and it can also make you think and not do certain acts for the repercussions of the act. Like the way fear and greed go hand in hand, Shame and Guilt go hand-in-hand with Integrity. For, a person with highest levels of Integrity will be extremely sensitive to shame and guilt and hence will not do any acts which will cause him/her a downfall. People with Shame and Guilt are extremely sensitive to their Conscience.

So, how does one deal with a person who has no concept of shame or guilt, and hence no Integrity? The best thing is not to deal with them. If they want to make you play their nasty game, do not play the game - walk away. Stay away from them at all costs and do not let them interfere with your lives. 

It is but natural that it is not easy as it sounds to not to play the game or ignore, for sometimes, one cannot easily walk away. In such cases, be nice and always nice to them.  Be compassionate; ignoring them is one of the best strategies and having enough safeguards in your life to not let the others affect your happiness -- is one of the most critical. Do not sacrifice your value-systems and ethics for the shameless and the cheats.

“My father had taught me to be nice first, because you can always be mean later, but once you've been mean to someone, they won't believe the nice anymore.
So be nice, be nice, until it's time to stop being nice, then destroy them.”
-- Laurell K. Hamilton, A Stroke of Midnight

June 22, 2015

Dance of the Atoms

"The Great Wave off Kanagawa" by Katsushika Hokusai
I stand at the seashore, alone, and start to think. There are the rushing waves ... mountains of molecules, each stupidly minding its own business ... trillions apart ... yet forming white surf in unison.
Ages on ages ... before any eyes could see ... year after year ... thunderously pounding the shore as now. For whom, for what? ... on a dead planet, with no life to entertain.
Never at rest ... tortured by energy ... wasted prodigiously by the sun ... poured into space. A mite makes the sea roar.
Deep in the sea, all molecules repeat the patterns of one another till complex new ones are formed.
They make others like themselves ... and a new dance starts.
Growing in size and complexity ... living things, masses of atoms, DNA, protein ... dancing a pattern ever more intricate.
Out of the cradle onto the dry land ... here it is standing ... atoms with consciousness ... matter with curiosity.
Stands at the sea ... wonders at wondering ... I ... a universe of atoms ... an atom in the universe.
Richard Feynman in The Value of Science

June 13, 2015

Dissent and The Law of Numbers

One of the problems with a democratic form of governance is that the dissenting opinion requires to be backed up by law of numbers. That is, if you are comprising of the minority and have an opinion, then the majority's opinion is thrust upon you.

"Death of Socrates", Oil on canvas painting by Jacques-Louis David (1787)

So what do you do when you dissent against the majority. Revolution and coups, though a solution, are not to be espoused, as any violence(be physical or psychological) removes the sanctity of the system and causes further degradation.

Rather, holding onto the dissent and working on establishing the dissent with valid evidences, prototypes or a fully-fledged working solution would be a constructive form. We often see that dissents are often restricted to opinions alone, and are not followed up with the scientific rigour to productize the opinion. If you are a change-seeking-agent or an activist, rather than cribbing, complaining, shouting or holding the placards, getting to the crowd and sowing the seeds for the change would be a constructive form.

And if you are still not heard, then use the placards to showcase the solution.

And if you are still not heard, move on.

Contrary to the idea of dissent in democratic forms, in some organizations, there is a general principle of HIPPO - i.e, Highly Paid Person's Opinion :)

June 03, 2015

Book Review : Corrugated Slices : The Social Jalebi

(This book review was published in the BusinessWorld magazine dated 15-June-2015)

The Jalebi Trilogy gets its third and final book titled 'Corrugated Slices : The Social Jalebi'. Taking on the Jalebi as an anecdotal reference, the author Shombit Sengupta tries to juxtapose the jalebi's contortions and tortuosity with an European eye, that is, looking at Indian scheme of things and behaviour patterns with an European style of looking and observing.

The author's career started off sweeping floors for a few years and went onto run his own Company for many decades and the translation of these experiences is this trilogy. The unpredictability of the jalebi's contours is cross-referenced in every possible way with each and everything that the author observes or has experienced. Spread across many sections, with the author meandering from Shah Rukh Khan to civets, the reader is sometimes confused with the author's message. Though the book seems to be an easy read, the lack of a linear story-telling makes this otherwise scrumptious sugary delicacy unappealing and reader is seen trudging along the seamless interconnections.

May 19, 2015

Book Review : The Rich by John Kampfner

(This book review was published in the Business World magazine dated 1-June-2015)

When Gordon Gecko utters  his famous words of Greed, for the lack of better words, being Good, little did we comprehend the thought process that goes into psychology of the money-making business that has rarely changed for generations. John Kampfner in The Rich: From Slaves to Super-Yachts: A 2,000-Year History (Hachette) shows us that the gap between the super-rich and rich (not to mention the poor) has only continued to widen and grow as he focuses on the world of haves and have-mores in his brilliant treatise on The Rich.

The author runs through the individualities starting from Marcus Licinius Crassuw, from the Roman times, to the likes of The Krupps, Andrew Carnegie and Mobutu Sese Seko. The theme throughout the book is money and wealth and the process of making and accumulating it. Kampfner never romanticises his subjects and his discernible commentary is restricted to the subjects alone and ignores the families and friends.

The rich live in a parallel world and belong to a globalised and gilded class flaunting their opulence in their own ways. The author deep dives into a world in which power, influence and position are the pillars of the new establishment and creating and maintaining the reputation is the motivating force. The rich swoon and fraternise on each other’s yachts as the tax regime and infrastructure go hand in hand with glamour and gigantism, to give birth to cities like Dubai. The panorama of the current wealthy people includes the sheikhs, the oligarchs, the geeks and the bankers with a combined wealth to buy out complete economies and also to bequeath important and much needed political muscle, while societies continue to indulge the super-rich.

The fossilisation of the previous dynasties of billionaires has been a wakeup call to the current super-rich, as the latter has indulged in ‘philanthrocapitalism’ for serving the broader societal needs. The moral commitment of the Giving Pledge is overshadowed by words of Buffett when he says “enough so they feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing”.

Envy, detest and abhorrence often runs across the reader’s mind as the author profiles some of the wealthiest who have ever lived on this planet. While the reader might sometimes be embarrassed with means adopted to accumulate the wealth, the author maintains a distant journalistic view, only reporting what he sees and observes as he concludes that the victory of the present super-rich is a product of the 2,000 years of history. 

May 05, 2015

Understanding Reality and Truth

How does one differentiate between Reality and Truth? But, before that, how does one even define the respective terms? My perpetual complaint with the English language is the lack of expressions and phrases that can be used to define or be expanded upon a term for a good definition for easier assimilation and understanding. Probably, this is one of the reasons as to why many groups prefer having the mother-tongue as the language of instruction and education. But, given the limited  resources at hand, let us try to understand using anecdotes.

In schools and also at home, we are taught that Sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Now, our mind has been tuned to this thought process right from the school. We are rational beings, and with the passage of time, begin to understand language and science. We have also observed that Sun indeed rises in the East and sets in the West, almost everyday. But, during the due course of our education, we are also taught that Sun is always stationary and it is the Earth that rotates on it's own axis and also revolves around the Sun. The phenomenon is the same; one is Reality and the other - the Truth.

As we have seen, the observation of Sun rising and setting is the Reality as it is the one that we perceive and can explain easily, but the larger truth that is often forgotten is : though reality gives us the perception that the planet Earth is stationary, it is the Sun which does not move. And this exactly points to the larger realm - i.e, Truth.

So, what does this mean?

Whenever you observe things around you and form conclusions, you almost always are experiencing reality based on your learnings, assumptions, logic and rationality. You continue to assume things based on the priors "alone". This is Reality for you. Some try to escape away from this reality under the guise of 'Maya' and hush it under the carpet. Disappointment is the difference between your expectations and reality. Many restrict themselves behind the facade called 'Mythya' or 'Maya'. They do not try to understand or make efforts to explore and go and in search of - Truth. When something confounds and confuses you, you hardly make attempts to understand the meaning associated with it and the causality of the phenomenon. You are in limbo and try to come up with your own logic to explain the sequence of events. The journey of the seeker on this path is arduous and painful, but once he reaches the destination, the journey and the destination make a new Man of himselves.

It is Truth alone that liberates one from everything.  "Truth alone sets you free." These are not philosophical words but actual experiences that speak for themselves.

In the real world : We often form opinions about others based on their behavior or come to conclusions about certain actions based on the rationality that we have been endowed with since birth. Any normal or unusual occurrence of an event follows the same course of logic. We restrict our thought process to that alone. (Did someone call-out being 'judgemental'??) But the 'seeker' when he goes beyond the realms of the reality and understands the hidden truths(and lies), he *alone* knows what is happening. Knowing the "What" is followed up with the more rigorous "Why". But, the "What" itself clears many of the ambiguities present in the minds of the seeker. Truth makes the seeker understand the various actions and variables and then he indeed transcends the arena of confusion and misjudged logic.

We all are born rational, few use reasoning, but.

The seeker now knows what needs to be done based on the Truth alone and need not be restricted to limited frame of Reality.

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