Thursday, August 31, 2006

The folly of motivation

I had been harping about this ever since I remember, but a recent column (unable to find an online version to it) by Dr. Debashish Chatterjee in the Ascent supplement of the ToI made me jump around shrieking "Yes". The column hardly scratched the surface of the matter, but it was sufficient to get my morning steeped in tarantism.

Motivation and billion dollar industry that thrives on the whole exercise of motivating is what I call parasitical. Current motivation therapy (which a friend and mentor of mine calls group-therapy) is the must subtle form of the strongest bromide. Let's look at what motivation-therapy entails (in its stupidest form). The primary assumptions are:

1. You don't know yourself enough.
2. I know a lot more about you.
3. You are no different from the other person across the table.

The most stupid thing that motivation gurus can assume is that, everyone is motivated by the same thing. The chicken-soup gang goes one step further and points out the really crass and deprived lot and makes you feel better with whatever silly things you might be doing. See? You aren't blind, so feel happy? Heard about the guy who was deaf? You are much better off. I hate it enough to want to puke when I hear the man in suit on stage go: "Don't listen to your negative side. I know you can do it. You know you can do it. Just go ahead and do it." Yuck!

Motivation is a means for creating psychological dependencies on people (gurus) or mantras (statements, quotes, what you have) and hoping to cover the void and not fill it. What one is never told is that the void in a person cannot be filled from without. It simply cannot be filled by anyone but the self, because the void belongs to the self. Its as much as I cannot make you love that woman next door. I can tell you a lot of good things about her and point out to you that she is great and sexy and all that. But if you fall in love with her because of what I said about her, then you are the right person for all these motivational gurus.

Greatness is not great. Truth is the only thing that exists way before we were born and long after we are gone. In dialogue (internal or external) one can create a void which Truth can fill. In that filling, arises a clarity that is personal and hence unique. When clarity has rid the mind and the self of all that is not true, on such a broad canvas the strokes of effortless realisation are painted with least conflict. Action driven by such clarity and truth automatically brings you to the pinnacle of what you are and not what you think is fashionable to be or what someone else thought so for you.

Has anyone bothered to notice certain things about "great" people and motivational gurus? Great people (philosophers, industrialists, sportsmen, scientists, et al) followed their own calling and didn't keep running back to gurus or read tomes of self-help books. Motivational gurus have hardly ever achieved the "greatness" of the "great" people. Why? If they can motivate you to chase your dream and become famous or rich, why haven't they done it? I agree that not all motivational gurus do the "rich and famous" trick, but nearly everyone does.

Has any motivational guru ever realised that you cannot motivate a group of 100 attendees with the same talk? You have to sit down and discuss with each and every individual and understand where s/he comes from and what throbs in them. Motivational gurus would make sense only when they help the native realise what is the truth about him and set him free from fear and other destructive elements of the human psyche. They don't have the time and patience for this, and of course, this won't pay much.

Beware of motivational gurus who deal in cliches and label things good or bad without the wisdom to explore alongwith the individual into the depths of what makes things good or bad (and if he is good, he wouldn't have labeled anything good or bad!! :-).

You cannot be motivated by someone else. You can be drugged into a high and get yourself to achieve something, but that is exactly what steroids do to athletes. Of course, he out-sprinted everyone. Of course, he came first. Can you deny that? But was it his true self that won? Does it matter to have the true self winning and not the projected self? What matters? Realise that and you will realise that no one can motivate you. Discern between motivation and realisation.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Get Organised

I found these sites (and their services) very interesting to my unorganised mind! :-D

Never marry a writer

Or at least someone who spends a lot of valuable time in (valuable?) dreaming and foreshadowing. :-)

This weekend saw me munching goodies (and that is the single point of the event that is framed well in my mind sans blurry edges) at a ... what do you call them? Well, lets just call them the "interested family". So we were at the house of the "interested family" and I was quite busy munching on goodies like "ribbon pakoda" and "thengai barfi" and "badam milk". I had reason to munch on the latter as well - very well prepared liquor of saffron and badam slices.

Seated on this side was my mother serving as sole protection to her little lamb-boy who was, as disclosed earlier, munching on goodies. On the other side (other side of the goodies) sat (quite upright) father, mother, sister and the cynosure of the "interested family", a young lady whom we shall all call (but not loudly) G. Now G was quite well trained for this event and definitely gushed with customary shyness and "No, no" and "Yes, yes". Her father was all praises about her, while her mother ensured that every statement from her husband received a nod of approval from me. Nodding also helps move desiccated food down the foodpipe.

G's sister was a darling and I would have adopted her had the situation permitted such actions. She too was all agog and jumping as she thought she was supposed to. She giggled at the right times (which always coincided with my looking at her) and whispered (probably nothing) into her sister's ear, prodding her sister to look deeper at the carpet pressed at four points by the table with goodies.

Talk turned to my profession and the other matters I professed to. I was as businesslike as a Marwari under a pile of Lays chips. I shot out numbers, statistics, trends, forecasts and more often, technological babble. G's father received each shot of incoherent, morsel-coated jargon with widened eyes and must have felt that such jargon ushers in prosperity. I enjoyed giving him more and more of the tell-tale goodness.

G, in the meanwhile, looked pretty and comfortable in the well meant cordon assembled by her family. Occasionally, she raised her head and I wonder whether she ever got to taste the barfis. I offered one (no, not the plate, just one) to her and she declined it saying that she wasn't hungry. What? Were these items on the table, leftovers? :-o It seems she had learnt carnatic music, which was rallied with my mother talking about patents. It seems she was interested in painting, which was sent back to their court with my mother embarrassing me with her account of how I won the Camlin All India painting contest at an age, where marriage was something only adults did! Why bring THAT up now, mom? It seems G wrote a lot of poetry and stories, and I shot my mom's nascent attempt back down her throat with a glare laced with a smile. They won. They had scored one point over us. How did it matter? They were missing out on the goodies, with all their chatter.

Soon my mother looked bored and decided to turn spectator (which she was anyway, just that she was used to switching channels). She suggested that she let the "boy" and "girl" talk for a while and "get to know each other". I was wondering whether I could carry the bowl of ribbon pakoda when all hopes were dashed with G's sister offering to clear the table for the "getting to know each other ceremony". What!!?? Why do I need a clean table? Are we going to arm-wrestle?

We spoke for a while. She asked about what I thought of life, and what I thought of a marriage. I was already wrinkling my forehead and was nearly going to complete her next question of "What do you think about love?" Geez! Why does everyone come there and cause indigestion!!? I asked about her career and why on earth she was even interested in this alliance. She gave me reasons which I found frightening!! She told me things about me, which made me wonder "Who is she kidding?" Then she told me something and all I could imagine was a large room with her lying on a couch and I sitting on a chair near her head with a notepad and pen in my hand. Here goes...

"You know something, E?"
She didn't wait for my yes or no.
"I have always imagined this meeting. How you would walk into the house. A slight gust ruffling your hair and then you narrow your eyes to the wind and smile at me lopsidedly."
"Am I the one lopsided or would it be my smile?"
She laughed sweetly and thought I had a sense of humour, but she didn't answer my question.
"And then you would sit on the couch with your right leg over your left."
But wouldn't that prevent me from reaching over to the goodies? I didn't bother asking her that.
"Mmmmm. Such a clear picture in my head."
She was looking at something over mine and I turned around to spot her father's veshti/dhoti hanging to dry. Huh? That inspired her?
"Do you know?"
Again she didn't wait for my reply.
"I wrote a poem for this occasion. Do you want to read it?"
You guessed it. She didn't wait for my answer and rushed to pick a notebook from under the mouse near her computer. No, real old fashioned notebook.
I read it slowly and wondered what "surreptitious" meant. Lilac blossoms? What did they look like? And "gaze meandering down my heart"? Huh? Wouldn't that mean that I would need to dance my head a lot to ensure a meandering (and I thank my geography teacher for teaching us about meanders in the 8th standard class)gaze? When I came to "And I yearned for you, my heart" I must have gulped visibly for she grabbed the notebook from me in well rehearsed shyness. I nearly choked on my gulp and managed to ask her, "That's it? Was there more to it?" She gave me a pondering look not sure whether to take that as a compliment or a dumb question.
"It was good. Very nice. Very touching."
Thereafter our conversation was like the Sensex in May. We soon realised we hadn't anything in common beyond parents who loved to sing our praise. She soon realised that I had nothing to do with literature or the arts (beyond a stint in that Camlin competition). She had nothing to do with technology or the markets. We surely had nothing to do with each other. G's sister poked her head around the door and giggled as she ran back to... somewhere. We decided to call it off.

I think G's mother's ears were already ringing with loud off-key epithalamion, Burp!for her expression remained unchanged to the "I don't think this will work out" statement that I let lose. G's father was saddened and patted me on my back (I wonder why. Was I coughing?). Mom was diplomatic and pacified everyone like in one of her serials.

As we walked out, a gust did tickle me on its way past and I turned around to see G tear the page off her notebook. As we drove away, mom carefully asked me what we had discussed. I opened my mouth to answer and all I did was burp! Aaah, such fond memories. :-)


As I said, never marry a writer. :-)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

For art's sake

He clamped his lint ridden mittens over my eyes and leads me carefully over the slippery rocks that I had barely managed to see from the jeep. He had pounced on me and shushed my eyes into denying even the beveled landscape which frilled the road on which we parked our vehicle.Tripping over smooth Fate

"No, no. Don't look. Shhhh. Shhhh."

I could feel his heavy breath curling its way down my neck and twirling the soft down of my nape in their transparent fingers. I tilted my head hoping to slip away from the warm air which was his, but how do I escape the memory? Isn't it the memory of a breath that tingles way after the life breath has ceased to oscillate between him and the world that we now made ours? Isn't it the memory of last night which makes me stop and pull my stomach in? Isn't it the shy guilt of such memory which makes me reply with:
"No, nothing. I was just being careful of where I walk. Nothing."
He slowly rolls his thumbs along the edge of my ear to their rear and directs me with the firm grip he has on my head. Do I hear something squealing?
We walk carefully and I am aware of nothing more than the gurgling waters of either a brook or an open sewer. The smell of dead trees and biting frost denies me the power of discriminating between the possible source of the rolling sounds. How much we depend on our senses, and in the mummification of these very senses, how beautiful the world promises to be... until we are re-sensitised? Another strong feeling lurks in the cold black that he has ensconced me in... his growing excitement. Andre' is only excited by paintings, colours, textures and, hence, women.

What will it be this time? BrittlenessAs we clomp over twigs straining to crackle under our weight but muffled by the dampness of an unwelcome winter, I wonder how it would be to live forever like this? Blind, deaf, tasteless, mute and being guided through the unknown by a hand that creates and relishes in the joy of beauty? Wouldn't it be remarkable? This absolute faith in the unseen Force which can be felt and realised by none other than "I"? I nearly trip over my foot wedged between slippery stones and I feel myself held upright by the vice like hands holding my head. He is panting, and I hear the song of excitement rumble through his nostrils and pulse its way through the mittens and against my eyelids. In all this human rush, I hear the squeals again.

"Alright. Now slowly open your eyes and look only ahead of you."
He loosens his fingers around my eyes and I feel them gradually peel away while leaving a familiar sinuous pressure around them. I roll my eye balls within and slowly open them to a stinging blanket of pure white under soft blue.. or is it blue over white? My eyes flicker straining under the sharp gaze and the urgency that Andre' exudes in knowing what I feel about it.

"Beautiful. This is so..."
I can't open my eyes fully, so I sink to my feet and lower my head.
"Wow! You feel that way about this?"
He holds me around my waist and spoons himself over me. Slowly he raises me to my feet.
"Wait till you see this."
He lets go of me and I continue to adjust my eyes to the blankness of beauty. I slowly smile and find any and every face I can recall on this large white canvas. Not a bird and not the wind has sullied the smooth surface of this expanse, but my mind rapidly splashes landscapes and pyramids and upturned faces all over. With equal dexterity, the mind restores the serenity of the canvas and indulges in another effort of conjuring faces across the white.

The squealing grows louder and I turn to watch Andre' a few yards away holding a conical glass flask in his mouth and struggling with something in a bag. A glint of metal in one hand and a feel a shiver run through me. How can the unknown stoke fear? I wonder what he is doing but he turns his back towards me. The squealing is unbearable and threatens to scar the quietness of the white spread ahead of me. Then suddenly there is silence. I turn to look at Andre and watch him do something with the conical flask. He shakes his left hand before turning around and in the same motion discards a bag to the ground and holding his flask aloft. I raise myAnd such be art eyes to spot the flask with a red fluid in it. I shudder down the length of my spine and find the echo of that shudder rise up my alimentary canal in a distasteful manner.

"Andre'" I scream and turn to look at the bag on the ground.
"Beauty, my love, must be created in the breath, then in the mind and then created for others to behold."

He swings his arm and sprays a blanket of red through the blue and onto the white. I hear the snow sizzle under the scalding weight of a murder in the name of art, murder of a ferret which helped create art with its life.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

If ever...

"Arun, get married. What's the point?"
Sanjana held him in place with her eyes and her hope that he would concede. 12 years since she first set eyes on him, 12 years of watching him evenly age under her gaze, 12 years of watching him always look different from the last time she met him.
"Precisely sweets, what is the point?"
"Arun, please. We have been through this. She loves you. She cares about you. She strives to keep you happy. She so sweetly worries about you. What more could you possibly want?"
"How about someone I love, I care about, I want to strive to keep that person happy, I want to worry about her?"
She breathed in deeply and felt her heart shudder in her throat and resound deeply beneath her ears. She had to get back home. She had to leave now anyway. Vikram would be waiting for her to pick him up at school. He would never let anyone but his mother drop him to school and pick him up.
"Arun, think about it. She's right for you. When do you hope to ever find that one girl who will be all that you ask for? What if she doesn't exist?"
Arun smiled and slapped her lovingly with his glance askance.
"I know she does exist. If ever she gets to realise that, I will marry her."
She struggled with the straps of her handbag and stumbled off the wall on which she was sitting. "Careful!"
"Don't worry."
His smile spoke for him... I love to worry about you.

Of stereotypes and sundry

"Now don't go and write about this evening!", she said.
"What? Why would I convert something strictly personal into a blog post?" I asked unable to figure out where she got that impression.
"Oh! All you writers are like that. Then you romanticise the whole affair and make it either tear jerker or something which turns in your favour."
I suppose she was expecting me to lash back in defense. I couldn't help smile at her, because she was and is very dear to me. She nearly held a dare in her eyes. Never give an angry person what s/he wants, said the Old Mountain Monk to me, before he quaffed his 10th bottle of whiskey.
"How many writers do you know?"
"Oh! E, let's not get down to statistics and numbers and the like. Something more difficult to handle than a writer, is a writer whose core is in the sciences and numbers."

Tu hi meri shabb hai , subah hai, tu hi din hai mera (Ignore this line, as it is from the song I am listening to over and over again)

I simply laughed at what she had to say only to realise that laughing at the face of a girl who is disturbed (whoever dear she is to you, and howsoever well she knows you) is firing a shotgun at your little toe.

I loved the combo that she cooked up (she wasn't at McDonalds earlier). Writer with a head for numbers!!! :-)
People love stereotypes, don't they? I suppose I have been guilty too in my younger years. All Americans were blonde to me (till I met Lucas. Thereafter, they were either blonde or fiery red).

I have heard so many statements like "Sindhi? Gosh! Watch out. If a snake and a Sindhi cross your path, then kill the Sindhi first!" and I would throw my eyes wide open and request them not to generalise. Dean Jones recent remark was in similar taste. Sad.Mouth Shut

But the casual remarks go unnoticed and accumulate to influence our sensibilities. "He has no girlfriend? Must be a good guy" (of late that has become "He must be gay!") and various other statements make me smile and the going trend hurts my cheeks. Amongst the most common class of remarks, I think the inter-sex remarks outnumber other categories in casual remarks. Recently my friend told me over the phone: "I told him that I was an independent girl and a free bird. I sure hoped he would not want to have anything to do with me after that." As it so happens a independent and free-spirit girl is not considered good "marriage material". I really love that girl. :-D She used the stereotype against her own sex in her favour (she didn't like the guy and didn't have the heart to say it to him). Then come the "typical geek", "typical nymph", "typical alpha male" and "typical bahenji" type of comments. I wonder what a "typical guy" means!! :-)

Can we ever do without stereotypical notions? Do you see a day go by without ever forming an opinion laced by your prejudices? Is it a healthy concoction to live with? Is it an essential evil? Is it an evil at all?

Wondering aloud...

Two women made me write this post. Women! ;-p

Monday, August 14, 2006

India on the net

I thought you might be interested in finding some sample information about rural India on the net. Do go here:

Freezing Cube

Today I decided to take a bus to work. I suppose I am never satisfied by the several options I get to travel to the same place. I juggle between personal vehicle (car/bike), autorikshaws and buses. Oh! Yes, I also walk down significant portions of my trip. I wouldn't be crazy to walk the entire 11-12 Km. stretch!
So, today I decided that I would get into a bus. 2 buses (the right ones) edged close to the bus stop but I was informed that these particular ones do not go where I want them to. I was surprised. I kept waiting for the 3rd one to carry me to work. Between buses and smartly dressed women, I had very little to look forward to at the bus stop. I was speaking to a dear friend over my phone, and along came ... another bus. I walked up to this one whose midriff had bellows! None of the passengers could confirm whether this bus went along the Intermediate Ring Road. I gave up and hailed an autorikshaw.
As I jumped into one (and I do have some space in these autos to jump in and around), I relaxed to observe the lesser known - or at least the less discussed - world of Bangalore. It was fun watching people gyrate to miss the scooter scraping the rear and the Tata Sumo about to knock your knees. People would confidently put out their hand to command a bus to halt and the rest of the world tripped and ran into that obedient bus's derriere. I smiled at the adorable kids shepherded by a mom-figure, and smiled at the lovely ladies with their upright palms trembling in hope against the oncoming traffic. My driver was a nice guy, and he stopped for everyone. The gratitude due to him was partially levied on me as the folks returned my smiles amidst the smoke shaded road pulsating to the tunes of jarring and musical blares. I wasn't complaining.

One such person pleading an earnest request to be allowed to cross the road was this guy pushing an ice-cream cart. It was this old wooden box-on-wheels with conical wooden handles like a Spanish bull's horns (I haven't seen bulls in India with such horns. How do they do it? Fix an iron mold on the little calf's head and expect the horn to grow into the mold?). He didn't speak a word but looked begging at the driver and slightly shook his head (along an axis parallel to the road). Our good man, the driver, stopped for him and let him push the cart hurriedly across.A few Moments... melted away It has been ages since I saw an ice cream cart up close. Now is the age of softy vending machines, and Corner Houses and 36 flavours of nutty ice-creams. Who would eat out of an anonymous cart? Well, it wasn't really anonymous. It had "Dolly" painted across its side and I think that little figure on the corner was from Amul Ice Cream's advt. The painting was done by hand. The entire cart was in light shades of blue (to hint at the cold innards) and had "Dolly" and the accompanying figure on one side. There were paintings of stick-ice creams along the frills of the cart and I could clearly imagine this man bargaining with the artist to paint an extra orange coloured stick-ice cream in the centre as it would make the cart more attractive!
"But you only paid me Rs. 40 for this, and this is all I will paint."
"Please, Raju, please. Just one here... see? here. Won't it look good? I will get your daughter a nice cup ice cream. Please. Light orange at the tip and darker towards the stick. Please, Raju."

I am glad Raju, or whoever it was, painted it for him. It did look good. And very aesthetically placed between the Vanilla cone-ice cream and the chocolate chocobar.

I am sure our ice-cream man must have enjoyed designing his little wooden cart. There were places where the wearing stripes of cracking wood was revealed. How much would it have cost him to repaint it now? Rs. 20? Rs. 100? God knows. I bought a bottle of paint for Rs. 18. Should be in that range. Should I give him 50 to let him go ahead with it? The sheer joy of his cart was making me loosen the knot on my purse. Then I thought he might get offended and the best thing would be to buy a couple of ice creams and then maybe throw them away or give them to the driver. It would be such a swell thing to do, right? I could buy 5 ice-creams and give him some money and then ask him to keep the change. He will feel happy and then he might buy his children some toys and paint that edge of his mobile cube in a shade of laughing blue. He might thank me before he went to bed tonight.

The signal lights turned green.

A new tool

I thought you guys might be interested in this new tool launched by Microsoft. It seems to lean more towards facilitating Windows Live Spaces (which I remember has OnFolio integrated). Quite a neat concept (both the tool as well as WLS). You might want to try it out!

Friday, August 04, 2006


If that drop doesn't fall
Before ten's count,
In cheer, I'll know it all
Her love's account.Well... Should I or shouldn't I?

So, off I start to reckon.
I watch it slide on a "5".
Though I rush through the "7"
It fell 'fore "9" did arrive.

"Was it a slow counting
Or was it destiny's sly,
With a leaf left panting
And a tear in my eye?"

Alas! I think t'was my sloth.
I shall count a dew again.
An omen stirred in love's broth
Is His Nod to a man's yen.

Now showing in Bangalore

Well, I've moved to Bangalore and I am still not sure whether I should be excited about it or not. I like the place and it seems right (minus the real estate prices and traffic) but I am afraid it might be a word of approval spoken too soon. I am currently hunting for information about what happens in the city (events, bookstores, hangouts, restaurants, workshops, courses/classes, institutes, communities, etc.). I found this link to be very useful. Still in its infancy, but a very impressive idea and attempt. Do let me know of any similar sites that you might be aware of. (Great job, buddy. Will surely join in once I settle down here)
Apart from this one (and metrobloggers), here is my own (small) list of stuff to note in Bangalore: (very interesting)

So much to do, so little time... Relax! :-)