Saturday, June 27, 2009


Bang-a-lore has always provided a bang for my lore. This is one city which never ceases to shock me. Today I pick up the paper (Bang-a-lore Mirror) and what do I see? No, it is not in Kannada and that wouldn't have shocked me because it is rumoured that all programmers from Bangalore must code in Jave which is the Kannada version of Java. I saw a Bihari programmer being beaten up because he wrote "import java.lang.*" instead of "import java.lang.kannada". Biharis seem to be manufactured to be beaten up. 

So back to the BM: The front page carried the headlines "VAIKUNTA SAMARADHANE ON JULY 6". For those who aren't familiar with ceremonies, Vaikunta Samaradhane is the Kannada tourism package for a 11 day trip from Samarra to Vaikunta. This ceremony is planned for the great and late Michael Jackson. Man, I am going to miss him. Once he was all of Western pop music to me. To think his was the second song I sang on stage when I was 7 or 8 (the first being La-Isla Bonita). May the Gods keep his soul well and happy.

Back to BM again: The amazing Kannadigas plan to conduct the 13th day ceremony for MJ. For once they seemed to wake up in time but I wonder what's the point! Technically it would be a flawed thing to do and even if not technically inclined the man probably doesn't want to go to Vaikunta (he wouldn't want to do the twirl and toe stand or moonwalk on the ocean of milk in front of the reclining Lord).

Bangaloreans (and maybe not all of Karnataka) are quite a clueless bunch. Be it in food, sense of patriotism, current affairs or anything else, they are rather slow and hence, late. Let's study the psychological inclination (their incline is usually zero degrees).

I recall when Saddam H died and Indians said he would go to Vaikunta because it was Vaikunta Ekadasi. Point is, he didn't want to. He was Muslim. I don't know where that was missed on all the tour plans. I am sure Vishnu wouldn't have a hassle (though if the signboard on the gates was "Maam Ekam Sharanam Vraja" then we might have a problem). Bangalore woke up after 11 to 13 days and there were riots. An autorikshaw was burned (as an offering to appease the Gods and allow S H into devaloka) for sure (I saw it happen and had to tell my driver to rush from the spot and not peep outside the window!). All this after most of the newspapers had stopped running articles about him. 

Several years ago when BSNL had the notion of quarter, half and full rate for STD calls, I was in Bangalore visiting my cousins. I had to call my mom (who wasn't travelling with us) and decided to utilise the half rate (quarter rates require Bombay-like business drive) slot. Bangaloreans had mistaken half rate to mean the amount for which they can sleep and usually woke up by the end of that slot. Not a single shop would be open and I was told that they would open only by 10:00 hrs only to be shut for lunch and then opened again till they closed for sunset (which would have happened whether they closed or not)!! Being a Mumbaikar I would travel late but Bangalore buses (I was told) then shut service around 20:00 hrs! That is when I learnt that Bangaloreans were probably awake for the same number of hours that we folks slept and that was structured around their meals!

Some people blame this relentless lethargy on the climate, some on the Kannada script and most others on the way Bangalore is spelt (hence, the urgent move to spell it differently: Bang-a-loo-roo). I blame it on their sugar levels. Once upon a time, when God (or Chacha Nehru) was chiselling out India from a block of land, he decided to do draw Karnataka. He figured that these people are least likely to be creative as far as food goes, so he placed them in the midst of states which had their own cuisines (and far from the states which didn't want any damage done to their sarson ka saag and makki di roti). Then he gave them bags of sugar. Karnataka dishes are predominantly other state dishes with a scary amount of jaggery or sugar. Namma WhateverIt is like they are all half-blind and confuse sugar for salt or crushed jaggery for chilli powder (colour blind). They think they are being creative: Let's take an idly and do something with it... hmmm... let's add sugar. Let's take a bonda and do something with it... hmmm... let's call it Mysore bonda. And then they get confused with similar looking liquids: sambhar, kozhambu and rasam are all the same to them and true blue Kannadigas mix soup into their rice because, you guessed it, it is a brown liquid too. And then they create their own flavour by adding jaggery to it. So picture Kannadigas looking over their shoulder into your dubba and taking home your dish only to bring back the same thing the next day with sugar or jaggery in it calling it their own huli or gojju or saaru. Everything which is not a gojju is a huli until you dilute it and then it becomes a saaru. That is why Kannadigas never have Bengali friends. What more can you do to a rosagulla!?

Everything Bangalorean is Namma (if you are in Bangalore) and everything that is not work is a habba. Everything that is too much for you is sakath and if you are Kannadiga too, then you are maga. You can combine them in various forms and you know enough Kannada. Namma sakath habba, maga. Namma sakath maga. Maga, namma habba. Or the radio repeat: Sakath hot maga! It goes on. Another simple way to manage with Kannadigas is adding a "maadi" at the end of every English sentence. Sounds very Kannada to a lot of people.

Why do you need to learn Kannada? Because many people out here speak just that. Buses carry information in Kannada and all of them go to a place which resembles a poorly untangled jalebi. Karnataka ministers are striving hard to make everything Kannada. All government office forms are in Kannada so you basically have no clue whether you signed on your own certificate of death or marriage certificate (but does it matter?). 

Then we are left with the urge to be a part of everything: software, gay parades, software, beauty pageants, software, traffic congestion, software, pub culture, software, flooded roads because someone emptied a bucket of water, software, rising hemlines, software (no, no, not related to the rising hemlines), world cup matches, software, rock concerts, software and the IT industry. The movie industry is ultra-sad with all actresses top heavy and actors top-light. 

In summary, if you can "swalpa adjust maadi" then it is a fun place as long as you are not Bang-a-lored! No, lored is not a person.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ballet - Yana Lewis Dance Company

Been so busy over the past couple of weeks, I can only manage a post like this (which is still good for those in Bangalore).

YLDC has a very interesting performance on 28th June 2009. It would be wise to keep your Sunday evening free for this.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Clash of Intentions

The past week has seen me get rid of two horrible diseases (one less so) in my life though the laughable irony is that the diseases left my system with least effort from my side. Good health (literal and figurative) is indeed a joyous state of living.
The past few weeks/months have helped me confirm an old theory of mine: Problems are not unsolved because they are inherently impossible to solve but because people (involved in the problem) refuse to pursue/peruse/adopt solutions. So the problems, in themselves, are not intractable, but it is the people who do not care for the solution or do not wish to come up with a solution because it would require them to adjust a bit.
The past few weeks and months presented me (in a sudden rush of friendship) with several opportunities to observe this theory in action. Unfortunately, a few friends of mine were going through problems (some being marital) for which they were unable to find solutions. I love solving problems starting from unclogging drains (and this can be a tricky problem depending on what is clogging the drains) to handling excessive salt in a dish to wives and husbands unable to live together in a marriage. Somehow they all appear alike to my brain. I recall the time when back in college I was considered to be an Operating Systems guru/lover and I would tell my juniors that every problem of life can be solved by some algorithm that is found in popular operating systems and even fielded some standard problems (and then love was the most popular thing!!). One junior even asked me to apply any one algorithm to my life which was devoid of a love interest and I applied the theory of selective filtering, just that the filters were numerous or actually just one: A female me (and I haven't met anyone in my age band i.e. my age +/- 8 years, who resembled me more than 50%).
Anecdotes aside, I still believe that life's problems can be understood and resolved as one does understand and resolve problems in operating system design. Belief apart, I have proof too. My friends back in Pune had heard enough of those algorithms. There are some unfortunate applications of them too. Like creating a deadlock until one process relinquishes hold (for whatever reason) whereby the other process receives rights to proceed (with living a good life).
But the difference between OS problems and human problems is the clash of intentions. Processes and CPU registers do not have ulterior motives or ego hassles. The system assigns priorities and deadlines (e.g. in a real-time system) to them and they stick to them. The system has ways for bumping up priorities or lowering them (priority inheritance and inversion) and the processes comply because each process perhaps has an appreciation of the greater good of the system and faith in the Controller (in this case, the user). People and life's business have more issues and ulterior motives than good and clear intentions.Head butting
As an example, let me quote (and paraphrase) a discussion I had had with a rather wise and lovely friend of mine. We were discussing the issues in joint families (I was reading Madhur Jaffrey's Climbing the Mango Trees and love it) and she said, "If one brother earns Rs. 1000 and the other earns Rs. 50, though they might pool it together and let their father (head of the family) wisely decide on expenses for the entire family, there will always be the feeling that one deserves more than the other." This was an observation which didn't require assent or dissent. She then proceeded to pose a rather interesting perspective, "But, if the brother earning more left and established a separate household and his wife was not an earning member, he would give into all her demands although she contributes Rs. 0 to the wealth of the family. The disfavour that his brother earned for making less money although he too might have been equally useful in other ways (as his wife is) is not attributed to his wife who earns Rs. 0. The paradox is that one turns against one's own blood whereas one showers more on one who is not one's own blood and has had lesser association." Neither of us assumed that one's own blood warrants anything, but it is common human behaviour to be closer and more tolerant of one's own blood simply because there is a longer association. "Mother" and "father" might be an exception in this account of things. This is something that would not happen in the world of operating systems. If a process doesn't generate enough output and hence, is left suspended (given fewest CPU cycles) so would any other process which generates the same or lesser output.
Apart from the visceral repulsion of applying algorithms, statistics and differential algebra to human activities, there is no reason why they can't be. Marketing, for instance, is using these very tools to understand consumer (human) behaviour and position products accordingly. We'd, perhaps, stop buying Colgate toothpaste if someone told us that we are being plotted on a graph, along the X-axis! The whole world of robotics and androids is essentially that. An ego-based reaction is not sufficient basis for the lack of truth or applicability of something.
But more than the applicability of algorithms is the observation of (what I call) the clash of intentions. People who are not sufficiently involved or caring will not solve a problem as it is against their interest. A lady is willing to do anything for her child but not for her husband. A man is willing to do anything for professional success but not for his family. I am willing to do anything to get my lunch perfected but not for bungee-jumping!
Our clash of intentions creates problems which perhaps were never there. Two people might be comfortable with each other till one person tries to get things done her way over and above the relationship she has created with her friend. Here is where one thing becomes more important than another because we don't care about the latter or have taken it for granted. It is when that latter "thing" stirs and raises "its" preferences when a full-fledged problem is created. I have relatives who simply give into their wives' every demand. So the demand (which if placed over the relationship) is not the problem because the husband yields. If the husband found it incongruent or against his principles and takes a stance, even then it is not a problem. If the wife, on being made aware of the stance, refuses to budge then a problem is born. Since a lot of men would rather avoid a problem to taking a stance based on values or principles, a lot of marriages continue. Since a lot of women (though not the urban kinds) in India give in to their husbands' wants there is a lack of problems. Neither of them are solutions but the system is in a non-threatened state. The only solution is to have an aligned clarity and an understanding of what is good and Right. Anything other than that is either an escape or a postponement of a clash of intentions.
A recent conversation (and that will be another post) with a very dear friend and 2 of his team mates took us into the night (00:15 hrs) which is way beyond my sleep time (21:30-22:00 hrs). Here too we discussed issues with the work environment and professionalism per se. When I go over that conversation, I see the same thing emerge: clash of intentions. One person means well and guides others but the other person takes that for granted and is unprofessional because the guidance will perhaps not yield the kind of tangible benefits that s/he is used to receiving.
Hence, given that problems (amongst human beings) is nearly always a result of clash of intentions (I am not considering murderous humans and psychotic individuals), any attempt at solving such problems without resolving the clash of intentions would be implicitly futile and abortive. And the surest sign of a clash of intentions comes from the total lack of involvement and caring of the individual(s) (who are part of the problem) in resolving it. Tragic but common.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Unbridled Joy

Prancing in joy

Tethers of venom
Burn, writhing in Divine light.
See how he prances!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What is Happiness? Understanding Happiness

I was about to start out writing: "As Aristotle said, " and realised that nearly everyone is tickling him in his grave (but then he was cremated, wasn't he?) when they start talking about happiness. Tonnes of people define happiness as this or that. Some try to measure it, some brush it off as incapable of measure. The gurus and priests define happiness as the complete surrender to this or that deity. A successful businessman calls it achieving ones ambitions. A sportsperson thinks it is winning races and setting records. A writer thinks it is winning the Nobel Prize and being featured in every list of the "Best Books for...". Artists are mostly narcissists so they will always want to get more. Then there are the feel-good guys who live off self-help books and cliches making statements like "being able to do something for someone and not expect something in return." Excuse me? How about loaning all your money to the slums of Bombay? No tax benefit! No citation! No mention in any newspaper! Forgotten and un-thanked! Yeah, right! And what if there is no one around you wanting your assistance? You'll never be happy? Aristotle had his views on happiness and so did Epicurus, but then, so does everybody.

Happiness, unlike calculus, doesn't require a foundation in order to be vivisected. Everyone in their first class of psychology has some answer to "What is happiness?" while everyone in their first class in operating systems has little to no appreciation of the LRU algorithm. We all think that we are entitled to an opinion about such a commonly existing facet of life. The problem lies in getting lost in the various forms of human response and the various states of being human which seem to confuse happiness with satisfaction, solace, adapting etc. Hence, the responses to "What is happiness?" which talk about achievement and attaining something are less about happiness and more about satisfaction and sense of worth.

Satisfaction is primarily an instance of stimulus-response. I see pizza, I want, I get and I am happy. There is always a want underlying the possibility of satisfaction. When the great monks of Mystic Mountain say that want (and its more determined cousin: desire) is the root of all unhappiness, they probably were being too strict, but there is a grain of truth. For instance, I want a lifetime membership to Mystic Mountain, but membership is not available in the manner we can understand so that leaves me anxious (or maybe not, because I am still trying to understand anxiety). Once I get it, I am satisfied or maybe not like the chef of a famous French restaurant who wanted to desperately get a Michelin star and slogged day and night but once he got it, he didn't feel the elation he thought he would because he started wondering "If I could get it then perhaps most others can too. Hence, this is not something worth seeking in the first place." Hence, my advice to people: Never say "The food was wonderful" to a French chef; always keep frowning in a French restaurant.

Here are two thoughts that I am going to elaborate on (and I am notorious for the elaboration bit):

  1. Happiness is that whole-bodied state of being which raises us to our higher Self through an experience or realisation which is timeless.
  2. Happiness is inversely proportional to the distance between our expectations and what life deals out to us.

The sharp-eyed reader would immediately note that these are two levels of what is conceived as happiness. Well, yes. (2) addresses what the unconscious man perceives as happiness and once he is conscious and fully aware (not just of himself) then there are no expectations and hence the distance becomes zero and therefore the possibility of a "whole-bodied state of being which raises us to our higher Self through an experience or realisation which is timeless" is higher.

I say "higher" and not permanent because the whole notion of always being in a state of happiness is, I think, an Utopian ideal which causes greatest unhappiness. As the human beings we are, we cannot always be happy (hence, Ugway was not a human being but a turtle). We shall soon evolve to understanding the notion of permanence in happiness.

In a later post, I will reflect on the question of "How can I be happy?". I will restrict my thoughts, in this post, to the understanding of happiness itself. Perhaps in that understanding the aforementioned question is laid redundant and pointless?

Momentary joy or convenience is like a puff of asthma medicine: it doesn't cure but provides a relief. Relief is an escape though not all escape is bad (like in the case of asthma). Psychological escape is nearly always shallow. Our inability to enter a state of happiness and joy is the reason why we need American Idol and drugs and Deepak Chopra. We fill our minutes with entertainment and intoxicants (of various kinds) because we do not know how to be happy. A person who is happy will not seek out entertainment. A person who is happy with himself or his family will not be club-hopping. So pleasures, entertainment, ephemeral joys etc. are not indicators of what makes one happy. They are indicators of what we employ to escape the need to recognise that we are unhappy.

People often believe that helping others, forgiving others, reaching out to others or as the quote at the outset said "being able to do something for someone and not expect something in return" are similar sources of "high"s. They aren't what make people happy. They are what make an individual satisfied or pleased with themselves. Why is it that no one recommends seeking help and donations as a source of happiness? Because it creates a sense of being at the mercy of others or being dependent on others. Hence, the opposite is better, viz. bringing other people to your mercy and generosity. To me these are parasitical entertainment: entertainment which requires the existence of a less privileged person whom I can shine on and implicitly establish that I am holier than thou.

Several people say that happiness is about having a good family, good health, good wealth and the like. The problem is in defining "good". No man is ever without a disease. No man has ever had a family where the wife has had no problems or the children, difficulties. Setting our expectations really low seems to be a trick solution but that assumes that we think we can trick Fate. Even if you do not believe in Fate, you have to accept that your definition of good which said "no uncommon illness" takes a massive beating when you are suddenly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. There are no causes per se. You have nothing to blame. But you still have it in your pancreas.

Reconciling or seeing the silver lining is our response to the lack of fulfilment of our expectations. You wouldn't search for a silver lining in a silver bowl filled with diamonds! I think this simply keeps us comfortable in our state of having expectations and then tricking the "system" by finding alternate explanations with a smug grin which says "Gotcha! You can't make me unhappy!" This is the worst form of ignorance and stupidity and is frankly no different from the drugs people take. Damn! I failed my exams, let me sniff some dope, Aaaaah! feels so much better. I am happy. See? You can't make me unhappy! Hence, I hate the Chicken Soup Chronicles.

But we are human. We will always have expectations and wants and desires. Do you think we should all become robots wanting only to be charged occasionally and maybe given an extra jab of memory once in a while? Well, no! Unless you fancy moving around with jerks and swivels. I really loved those dance moves of several years ago with forearm going up followed by a bend at the hip and then back up and a twist and the next arm going up and... no, not the usual Sunny Deol dance routine!

Expectations spring from our sense of what should be. We are here and we should be there so let us get there. The expectation is to reach there. I earn $3000 a month - I think $10000 is a respectable number - I set expectations of earning $10000 someday. As one might note, such expectations keep shifting which motivational gurus call "setting the bar higher" and what I call chasing a moving truck's tail-light. Perhaps that is what makes a writer want to be popular, win awards, win international fame, the Nobel Prize, more fame, etc. This route implies that happiness is never attained as the place where you thought you would find it has now moved to Miami.

But isn't expectation the foundation of all progress? Isn't it the bedrock of all industry and technological advancement? If we recognise the difference between need and expectation we can brush off most of that. We need some way to preserve our food from decay, hence we invent the refrigerator and manufacture it on assembly lines: not expectation. Expectation is primarily a psychological driver.

Ok, then isn't personal growth the result of expectation? Isn't all individual advancement based on expectation? Should we drop expectations and stagnate where we are? Dropping expectations as a intellectual decision is bound to lead to stagnation. Not so if we understand how progress can be achieved without expectations. Here is where I would turn to Nature. No tree grew out of expectations, no beautiful cherry blossom became so out of expectation and no cat elegant from a pining to be so. Predators are not powerful because they expect to become so and preys are not alert because they expect to be so. Nature grows and progresses organically and effortlessly and that is a powerful foundation for growth. A man who can organically perfect his trade and develop it will grow too. Great poets have lived and walked this Earth without expecting to become poets. Emily Dickenson is one such example. I have personally known artists who simply enjoyed their art and "grew" in their own style.

It is when our sense of growth is derived from outside that our expectations morph into what others expect of us or of the ideal person as defined by others. To learn from the world is not inappropriate but to hitch our wagon to the motivations of the world is a definite recipe for being unhappy. The flip side is an adamance to refuse all rightness and goodness that should percolate into our bubble of focus and growth.

Which brings me to my buzzword of this year (and I think the rest of my life): Rightness. Happiness is essentially impossible in the life of a self which hasn't understood and realised Rightness. Let me create a life (in words) to understand how Rightness is vital.

A young man qualifies himself based on what he thinks the market wants. He gets himself a good job. He seems to be happy before he starts getting bored. He engages in his hobbies, going to movies and CCD with his friends. He hopes to get a girlfriend to fill the emptiness in his life. He decides to buy a car for convenience and as a symbol of growing. He switches jobs, moves cities, makes new friends, thinks he is in love and loves his new 42" plasma TV.

All the while he feels that he is happy before he realises that he is not and "something is missing". He joins the Art of Living course (and this is where I begin to avoid him) and thinks it is ok. He reads Deepak Chopra and other great gurus (and I am beginning to avoid him more). He talks to his friends and is fine when he seems to have achieved all that they have or more and is immediately disappointed when he learns that his junior in college is already married with a swanky pad in uptown Delhi (if there are such parts). He is still living on rent in a 1BHK (because living with other boys is not what people at his level of growth do). He meets people who seem to have found their perfect job. He reads about those guys who quit their PhD and became a mechanic or a guy who had a great job as a writer before leaving it all and going off to Japan (and also finding his love) and feels miserable for not having anything like that in his life. He meets an old friend who has a similar job and a decent wife and 2 playful kids and wonders why he didn't get that (hint: he didn't marry). He returns home and receives news about his bonus and is happy. He take a few friends out for dinner at the new Chinese restaurant and the meal is great. He calls home and his folks are happy and his mother suggests that they can now conduct his sister's marriage with some more style. He is happy and says "Of course, anything for Guddi." He is happy now and sleeps well.

A few days later he Skypes with a friend who tells him how much fun it is working in Vienna and how he should get out of stuffy India and explore the world. He opens his trunk full of pictures and news clippings of various places in the world and sighs deeply. He realises that he is bored with his work (as in, who wouldn't be entering data and filling out forms and conducting meetings?). He speaks to his sweetheart who sympathises with him and he feels better. He decides to apply abroad, does so and eventually reaches London where he has a similar job. The environment is different. He makes new friends, buys a lot of cool stuff (which you don't get back home) and is enjoying himself. After a few months, he misses home, is bored with his job, goes to pubs with his friends and comes back home to his wife (oh! yes, he is married now).

I could go on but it wouldn't help beyond this point. This is pretty much how life is for nearly 80-90% of people whom I have met. Some go on achieving whatever they plan for and everyone assumes they are hence, happier. Some don't and everyone assumes they are less happy.

Compare this to a guy who goes through the usual college and job days and one day realises that all that he has is a bunch of activities, some nice and pleasurable, some not so nice and not so pleasurable. So he sits down under a mango tree (because the chance of something nasty falling down from great heights is lesser and usually whatever falls is tasty) and puts things in front of him. He starts looking at his life and wonders what is he doing. What is his real self in all of this? What is it that makes him happy (or makes him think so)? What are the things that he cannot stand? He watches his entire life (so far) and looks deep within. As he grows And people still wonder what's happiness?familiar with himself, he recognises the truth of things and his actions. He recognises how much he let the outside world influence him and how much he avoided meeting his inner self. He is more comfortable with his individual self and is able to listen better. No, this is not something that can be done in 10 minutes of your lunch break. Once he is more comfortable with his self, he is guided by it and hence, proceeds on a life which is in tune with his entire being. As he lives this visceral truth he begins understanding the way of life itself and the illusory nature of wanting Happiness forever at all times. He starts recognising the inevitability of mishaps and annoying incidents. When someone cuts through the queue and buys a ticket out of turn he does get angry. When someone cheats in an exam and passes, he is annoyed. Over time he recognises it is unfairness and deception and cruelty and indecency that annoy him and not the individuals per se. When someone uproots his saplings and runs away he builds a better fence. He doesn't allow for such incidents to bother him for long. Gradually he faces the part of his self that is annoyed and disturbed by such incidents around him and understand what in him causes that reaction. He begins to connect more with the Divine and in the process is able to realise the wholeness of things. He is still doing work that he enjoys (be it by giving up his PhD or shifting to Japan). He is still connected to people of all kinds but he is no longer dependent on them and hence, their actions leave lesser imprint on his mind and life. When someone cheats him and gets away with it, he is able to see how this piece fits into the entirety of things and is able to act accordingly (lodge a complaint with the police or not bother). When he finds a job unsatisfactory he is able to realise it, drop it and accept another job which is in tune with his being (might be a mechanic's job or a writer's or a banker's). When he find a person poisonous he is aware as he is with an ingenuous person. In being like water, he is not cut by any sword.

People ask him whether he is happy and he says "I am" and they think he meant "I am happy". He probably meant "I, simply, am".

For it is impossible to be happy (as we commonly define it) for long. We keep altering that definition based on circumstances and knowledge. With such a shifting definition of happiness, it is impossible to realise it as a permanent fixture because it is in our frame of ignorance and inadequate knowledge.

The only way to be is either in ignorance or in union with the Tao. To others, being one with the Tao might mean being happy (though the cynical few might scoff and feel that such a man is without a car or delicious caviar or has never been to Vegas, which is true). The sage is neither happy nor unhappy as they are not qualities that exist in that realm. Ignorance breeds a sense of happiness or unhappiness and we might find means to escape from one for a long period of time. He can keep frowning all the time but still be one with the Tao and hence neither happy nor unhappy or both. He could well be smiling. He approves of nothing nor disapproves of anything because he is aware. He is useless and in that, he useful to the Tao. He tills the soil and takes the grain to the market. He doesn't cease to wash himself or his clothes. He eats his meals as per the needs of the body and not in need for an experience.

All this is fine you say (actually, I say) but we are not sages. We don't wish to be sages. We wish to enjoy the possibility of this world. Why shouldn't we? We wish to eat at the best restaurants and wear the finest threads and ensure that our money is not stolen. We do not wish to be paupers just to avoid being thieved. We do not wish to remain clerks in an office. We want to become officers and more because we are capable of it. We want to have children because we are virile.

But that is not what I say (though you say it). A sage is not one without experience and growth but one whose experience and growth stems from a source which is not a mere decision. In building his foundation on the Tao he is without reaction (which is creating expectations based on one's capabilities), whereas those who base their life on wants and desires will perhaps get it (and be satisfied) or not (and hence, feel dejected). He is in the flow of the Universe and hence has nothing to gain or lose. You, on the contrary, will have a lot to lose and gain and hence, be happy or sad in varying proportions. In standing up against Fate you have greater disappointments and agony. By walking with Fate, the sage has nothing to feel disappointed about. You have memories to recall when you were happy. He has none. You have moments in your life you wish you could wipe out. He has none. No, he doesn't have amnesia, too.

For everyone who is not a sage, happiness is a random occurrence. You might think that you are currently happy because you planned on all the things in your life which led to this happiness (you slogged in college, worked hard, invested wisely, bought conveniences which help make life simpler and so much more better) but the lack of any disruption during the course of your life is what makes your happiness random. There are thousands of people in the US today who can claim the same energy and effort but their wealth is all gone now. They aren't happy. There is no difference between their lives and yours except for the chance timing of misfortune. You might find happiness in walking along a lake or through the woods, but what happens when you return home? What happens when you return to work the next day? What happens when your child meets with an accident? As long as happiness is the absence of misfortune and mishaps, so long it will continue to be a random occurence. The minute one is comfortable with that, a search for happiness is futile in its intent. One can only look inwards and that would (possibly) lead you to becoming a sage which you are not interested in.

Hence, happiness boils down to the prolonged recurrence of convenient events and incidents, not requiring us to face challenges which do not give us a high or sense of achievement, not to mention the absence of misfortune and mishaps. To some it is good family, good health and good wealth (convenience), to some it is leading organisations to making more profit(convenience + achievement), to some it is building a railroad system (yes, I am referring to you Ms. Taggart). Given that it is so random, pinning our entire purpose of being on it seems wasteful. Still we do.

Even for those who wish to remain non-sages, the answer to the question of "What is happiness?" is personal and hence, has to be framed based on one's own wants and desires. In order to make that longer lasting, those wants and desires would need to be based on a better understanding of our motive forces which requires introspection and a deeper understanding of oneself.

How, then, can one expect a generic answer (except for the one I gave in the previous paragraphy which sounds cynical)? Still, we ask ourselves that and we discuss it with others. We would like to be happy now and not in 30 years from now. We want to check-in to great hotels and buy tickets to that rock concert (seriously? And you still wonder why you aren't happy?). We still want to be rich and famous. Honestly, so do I. Well, all the best.

Friday, June 05, 2009

PhD Management Ranking - 2009

Financial Times published their global MBA ranking early this year. I had done a similar massaging of the numbers last year to arrive at what could possibly represent a decent PhD ranking. My motives remain the same though the formula I have adopted is perhaps different. Below is the result of a rather jobless evening!

Rankings make sense only till 83 as the ones beyond that probably don't offer a PhD programme. I have given the highest weight to the Doctoral Ranking though the ranking over the past 3 years and this years (in decreasing order of weight) have been given importance too. Hence, Manchester doesn't rank above MIT Sloan (for instance). In this sense, I believe that the ranking below is a better representation of a decent PhD ranking. Other columns (other than the country and univ. name!) have also been given importance. Haas beats Erasmus because its research ranking is better. INSEAD is lower than Man-U because its Doctoral ranking is bad although its ranking in 2009 and the past 3 years is good. Tepper goes down because its 2009 and 3-year-avg are low and its research ranking is poor too. If you find a discrepancy which is too irrational, then do let me know.

So, why am I doing this? If you searched for PhD Management Ranking in Google, my blog shows up in the top few results. The others are not offering good data (except and even there the results don't seem to tally with Hence, if there are people out there searching for this info and they seem to like what they found on the previous post (and hence the high ranking of that page) then they might find the 2009 thingy also useful. Alright, I seem to have lost track of what was it that compelled me to write this post!

(Click on the image below and don't strain your eyes)

2009 Management PhD Ranking