December 24, 2009

Like teachers like bankers!!!

When it comes to criticizing Wall Street investment bankers, there may be few adjectives that have been spared in the last twelve months. However, it seems that the bankers are not the only ones to be blamed. Their alma mater has also got it all wrong when it came to judging risks. 'How to invest profitably' is not a lesson that only the bankers need to learn. The school that produces most of the Wall Street honchos has been one of the biggest victim of poor risk management.

We are referring to one of the most renowned business schools in the world - Harvard Business School. To fund its expansion plans, the school invested in interest swaps. In December 2004, the institution bought swaps on construction bonds worth US$ 2.3 bn. The Fed rates were then 2.25%. With the Fed slashing interest rates to near zero, Harvard University has had to bear losses of a staggering US$ 1 bn.

The crisis has taught some very important lessons. To the bankers and to their teachers!

Source: Equitymaster's 5 min wrapup - 23rd Dec2009

November 23, 2009

Bringing about a change – the lean way!

One of the most fundamental components in every business or household is inventory. Whether it is stocking up groceries or products in your store/ warehouse – inventory is inevitable. The reasons for holding inventory are many – ranging from economic/ cost considerations to improving customer service.

Cost considerations prohibit buying unit by unit as and when you need it. So, you buy things in some minimum quantity and then buy again when things are about to get over. You may also hold inventory to give the users what they need as and when they require it. Like, you may want to decide which perfume to use just before going to the party, so you keep few different brands with you every time.

As life or businesses move over a period of time, you start using inventory to cover up problems. This continues as long as you can afford it – till the bill starts hurting you. There could be many reasons that start building up inventory:

1. Sheer laziness of buying things often: Many times buying in frequent and small quantities is more economic, but we may choose to buy things is bulk and then see it getting wasted/ obsolete.

2. Spoilt for choice: Need to have everything at your disposal – whether you need it or not. Even though, the nearest shop may be only 5 minutes away, there are things that you want to see gathering dust in your cupboard.

3. Inefficiency in processes: There could be people doing things inefficiently, incorrectly or in an unplanned manner. And to cover up, you keep working overtime or keep things overstocked so that nobody discovers the inefficiencies.

There could be many more such reasons – the key point to remember is “Inventory hides problems”. This is true in personal lives as well as businesses. These problems never get uncovered in normal day to day routine and over a period of time, these problems keep getting compounded.

It is not often that you would proactively do something about this. Hence, as a safety valve, nature has created events that cause you to relook at life (and businesses). Adversities in life take you by storm and make you aware of the flab that has got built around us in the name of ‘comfort’. It makes you ponder over some questions:

* Do I really need all the choices?
* Can I not wait for some time if things are immediately available?
* Can I not plan or be a little more organized?
* Can I avoid hoarding excess or wasting? (Guruji recently mentioned about how the refrigerator has created more problems for us. Now, there is a tendency to overstock, cook more than required and then waste it).
* How much comfort do I really need?

Tough times give you an opportunity to change – and change for the better. It helps you come out of your comfort level (inventory), uncover fundamental issues and provides a chance to make life better.

So, do not wait for the next storm to hit you – Get lean and cut the flab out before that! With a spiritual master like Sri Sri in our lives, we can be assured that such changes will be very gentle and life transforming at the same time.

October 02, 2009

I am not hungry and you are not in love

Recently, Swami Pragyananda Maharaj was sharing an interesting anecdote at a satsang in the Vishalakshi Mantap - thought of sharing it.

It was when Sri Krishna went to Duryodhana as a peace ambassador of Pandavas. His peace proposal was out-rightly rejected. When he decided to leave, Duryodhana out of courtesy asked Sri Krishna to stay with them and have lunch before leaving. To this he replied – ‘Mujhe bhuk nahi hain aur tumhe prem nahi hain!’ (I am not hungry and you are not offering me out of love), so why should I?

Saying this he left for Vidura’s home, where Vidura’s wife received him. She was too overwhelmed to see him. She rushed to the kitchen to fetch some bananas. She started peeling the bananas and offering it to him while praising him all the time. What she did not realize was that she was offering the peels and throwing the fruit away.

When Vidura came to know that Sri Krishna has gone to his home, he rushed home and he was very puzzled to see what was happening – Vidura’s wife was sitting there totally awestruck and Sri Krishna was eating the peels being offered to him.

Vidura gently reprimanded her and brought fresh bananas and offered the fruit. He then asked Sri Krishna – ‘Ab swaad aa raha hain?’ (Does it taste good now?). Sri Krishna replied – ‘Swaad to aa raha tha, ab nahi aa raha’ (It was tasting good earlier, now it is all gone). Vidura understood his folly and quickly asked for pardon.

What is offered with sincere devotion is readily accepted by the divine rather than the best or the most impressive offering.

Guruji added in a light manner that this happens with Him too :-) He then narrated such an incident that happened in Delhi where a devotee kept on offering him orange peels and throwing away the fruit.

I feel like sharing a couple of personal experiences with Guruji.

A few years back when I was travelling with Guruji, there was some baggage mix up and an extra bag was picked up by our volunteers. When we realized it, we opened the bag, found the person’s contact number and quickly called up to inform him of the mix up. To our amazement that person was very thrilled!

He said that his wife had made some snacks for Krishna Janmashtami and offered it in the puja – she had actually wanted to give it to Guruji. Later she packed in her husband’s bag and had asked him to give it in a Krishna temple. The couple was so overjoyed that the bag had actually reached Him! He asked us to take the snacks out and then return the bag.

Another personal experience that I thought I should write about:
My wife (Smita) occasionally makes some dishes for Guruji and takes it to Him. I used to think that unless it something special or unique, what is there to offer. So, once when Smita made me take some sweets for him (while she was not in town), Guruji took it and said that He is not eating sweets nowadays.

A couple of weeks later, Smita baked a cake for Him and took it – and He readily took it and told her that if she has made it, He would have it.

It was another lesson to stop applying the head in matters of the heart. The phrase still lingers on in my mind – ‘Mujhe bhuk nahi hain aur tumhe prem nahi hain!’. Devotion score over anything else.

August 22, 2009

Gartner Hype Cycle – what an innovator needs to know...

If you ever wondered what all the analysts and researchers do – here is one example. Attached is an image of the Hype Cycle published by Gartner – this talks about how a new technology or idea actually becomes a mass use product.



Each idea goes through an initial trigger and then you have people talking about it as the next big thing. Everyone’s talking about it then and people start expecting a lot from it. This is the phase of ‘Inflated Expectations’. Once it reaches a peak, there is a steep fall and there is disillusionment all around.

The innovation has to survive this phase and then slowly there is refinement and best practice development in the products/ services. This is when a large number of users actually start coming in.

As an innovator, you have to ensure that your idea survives through these expectation peaks and troughs. You also have to ensure that you maintain your lead during the slope of enlightenment and plateau of productivity.

We have had numerous instances where the innovator is not the one who finally makes the most of the money/ gets the market share of the product. It is apparent that innovating is one thing and making it a successful business venture is different.

So, if you are looking for the next big idea, look at the hype cycle for Emerging Technologies published in August 2009. This will also tell you what to expect in the coming years.



Enjoy it or even make money out of it! If you are looking at investments in these technologies, look at this matrix here.

Source: Image published in Times of India Bangalore edition. For more reports, you need to subscribe to Gartner’s reports (http://www.gartner.com)

August 15, 2009

The 'burden' of triumph

I was recently reading an article after the death of Michael Jackson.

The title phrase is quite a statement in itself. If you have closely watched any performer and especially their sequel performance, you would not miss the very apparent pressure of success. This may be visible for the entertainment industry, but the rest of the population is not spared from it either.

There are many shows, performances that you like. If these teams/ groups are asked to produce a sequel, it is most challenging. In the first show, there might have been something innovative, different and an element of surprise – but for the team to maintain the innovation and element of surprise is very difficult – if not rare.

The biggest casualty in this process is the innocent touch that is lost. And ironically, this might have been the biggest factor that might have made you like it in the first place. Whether it is a movie sequel – Matrix, Harry Potter – or artists like Michael Jackson, the pressure to consistently outperform your own benchmarks is visible.

If you have watched one of the ongoing reality show – India’s got Talent, you would have noticed how many of the semi finalists were not able to beat their own benchmark that was set in the audition rounds. We will have to now see if the finalists can now outperform two of their recent performances.




One of the groups that are getting into the final as a favorite is the Prince group. Guess one of the reasons is the effortlessness in their second performance. Worth a watch – am linking both the videos here.
Audition and Semis

The pressure that academically brilliant students/ winning sports persons/ top notch employees or corporate go through is equally high – only not visible to everyone and could manifest as internal stress. And in all this competitiveness, no one really tells you how to handle this ‘burden’.

Guess we can consider ourselves lucky to have the inspiration of Sri Sri to not only be successful but also enjoy the success!!!

July 09, 2009

A competition to charitable organizations

One of the proposals that went unnoticed in this year’s budget was “Donations to electoral trusts to be allowed as a 100 percent deduction in the computation of the income of the donor.”

Today we need lot more emphasis on social development. While many NGOs have to fight hard to retain their 80G (50% tax deduction) status, this proposal gives a much more coveted status to electoral trusts – that of 100% tax deduction for the donor. There are a handful of charitable trusts that enjoy this status.


The proposal says that political parties can set up electoral trusts that can receive funds/ donations. The donors can claim full exemption for the amount donated and the electoral trusts can spend the money as per the guiding rules – all accounted for!

The Finance Minister suggested a valid reason to do so in his budget speech – saying that it would bring greater transparency in electoral funding. It seems logical, but also raises a question – why would a political party propose this? It is a known fact that there is a lot of cash that moves around during elections. So, why would one want to start accounting for their own money movement?

It may seem like the ruling party is running short on donations/ funding while its political opponents are making effective use of the money power. But in such a case, the other parties would already have created uproar about this. In the absence of any worthwhile comments/ discussion on this proposal, it indicates that it has to be beneficial to all parties.



The intent as mentioned in the proposal would mean that all donors would insist on accounting the money and claim the tax deduction. This may seem to suggest that donors would stop donating ‘black’ money (cash) and actually give out only accounted money to the parties. And once the money comes to the electoral trust accounts, all expenses will have to be declared. Maybe a small percentage of donors may do that – but in my opinion, the real motivation is different.

A probable scenario that may happen is that the current funding structure will not change much – on the contrary, this tool may get used to get more donors to shell out money. And, this new segment of donors will actually be the tax payers!

So, you would now end up funding the election campaign of your political parties. Get ready to shell out stuff – the silver lining is that you can reduce your income by the entire amount (the income that never came to you) and pay lower taxes.

It is official now – your politician and charity will compete for your money and based on the tax saving focus that all of us have – we know who will win… And, even if the party decides to put that money in social development projects, it will add to the party’s achievements.

On the positive side, it also has benefits for the common man. This reduces the political party's dependency on special interest money or lobbying and they can ideally focus on the right issues. Also, in many countries, where this is in practice, the poll turnout has actually gone up significantly!

Depending on how the public reacts to it and how our politicians make use of this opportunity, it may be a good turning point in Indian electoral reforms.

As of now, all I can say is that ‘What an idea, Sirji’

May 05, 2009

Spiritual Science - talk by Dr. Hans-Peter Durr - Part2


New view

The new view that he talked about is that the in-between nothingness is what manifests in the matter. And the world is actually a potentiality.

This in-between is A-Material source. When we say A-Material, it does not negate, but the quality of matter does not exist in it. He took another example of what color is a circle? If you draw it with a blue pen, you may say it is blue. But, that is the color of the pen that has been used to draw the circle – it is not the color of the circle. Similarly, the thickness of a circle is the thickness of the tip of the pen. Extending this – God is red for some and blue for some others…



He said that the software is an amazing thing, with just ‘0’s and ‘1’s, it gives you a perception of so many different things. What the world is a lot to do with our perception.

Some time back, atoms were considered the indivisible part of matter. Then, the electrons and nucleus was found. Later, it was discovered that electrons cannot circle around the nucleus as thought of earlier – they have a wavy movement and a probability of existence at different positions . This maximum probability exists at the certain bands that we study in our text books. It is small and non-zero even at ‘infinite’ distances. Matter is nothing but energy waves – the in-between nothingness!

Similarly, in our DNA, the entire history of billions of years is contained. So, the entire history is contained in this matter which is a manifestation of the in-between nothingness.

This is the new view Advaita – a holistic view. The in-between source (Creator) is the same as the manifestation/ matter (Creation).

Chaos theory and need for co-operation

We have heard about the fact that a flutter of the butterfly wings can cause a typhoon. It can happen as the entire water vapor has reached a state where it only needs one small trigger to start condensing. So, a flutter of the butterfly can provide that trigger and it start off a big rain and a typhoon out of it.

If you think of a pendulum hanging down with a stick, it will oscillate and then come to rest. You can calculate the time taken to swing and other things. You cannot do anything else with it.

If you keep the pendulum exactly downside up, so that is perfectly balanced, it is the highest point of instability. At this point, every small thing has the potential to impact – right from how far are you standing (a small gravitational pull) to some light energy hitting it.

If it falls, it will die. But, you would want life, dynamism – so, how do we stabilize the unstable. He took the example of our legs. If we have 3 legs, you are stable, but 2 legs are always on the ground. With 1 leg, you are unstable and if you move, you will fall down. With 2 legs, one leg becomes unstable, the other balances it and then the other and you can walk. That creates dynamism and life exists.

Similarly, in your life, do not be afraid of the highest point of insecurity.
Think of the world as a big set of pendulums with downsides up. This is how you stabilize the unstable. For that, interaction and co-operation is needed and in a social context, it is co-operation between people. That is where the need for responsible science comes in.

Concluding remarks

He concluded by saying that this talk is only to remind ourselves of the things we already know.

“Falling tress makes more noise than a growing forest” because a falling tree is history and it makes noise.

It was one of the most knowledge-filled talks that I have heard from a scientist and the more I think about the things he talked about, the more applications I find for this knowledge. His biggest charm is that he has discovered something on his own and when he shares it, it shows. He jokingly commented that when you meditate, you take the inner route, but he prefers the external route :-)

However, we know that the inner route under Sri Sri’s guidance is the fastest route…

May 04, 2009

Spiritual Science - talk by Dr. Hans-Peter Durr - Part1

We had a unique honor to have Prof. Hans-Peter Durr addressing us at the Vishalakshi Mantap in Bangalore ashram on 1st May. His most important discovery has been “Everything is nothing” – something known to the ancient seers in India 10,000 years back and is the essence of the Advaita principle.

His presentation was titled, “We experience more than we can grasp”. And appropriately, in that one hour all of us experienced something more than we can grasp. Yet, I am attempting to put down my understanding of his message. (Some things may not be verbatim).
Apart from scientific research, he also advocates responsible scientific and energy policies. According to him, one of the biggest challenges we face is that we are still living with a 19th century mindset, 20th century technology and trying to shape the 21st century.

What is Reality? Nothingness and Perception

He said that we do not understand how technology works, for us it is just a technique. He gave an example of the mobile phone. If you wondered how it works, you would say that there are waves travelling from my phone all around to all parts of the universe, but some how reach my friends phone. When we say a wave travels, there are no particles that are travelling/ wiggling. You may say it is ‘ether’. But, there is nothing called ether. It is the nothingness present in-between that wiggles and that manifests in matter. It is this nothingness that has the potential to manifest into what we can see, touch or hear – it is the cause.

He chooses to use the word
Wirklichkeit, and not reality to describe the world. This word is a philosophical definition of Reality – it couples the ‘reality’ as we understand and the potentiality. In classical reality, there is duality, the Subject and Objects are separate. In the absolute reality (Wirklichkeit), there is a communion, an experience. The fundamental disaster of classical science is that it cuts the connection between Subject and Object.
World is what we perceive. If you look at some optical illusions, there are multiple ways in which you can perceive the same photo.



If as a child, I am told that there is an old woman in the photo, I will grow up with that notion and tell my children also the same thing. That is how customs develop and grow. This would go on until someone discovers that it is can also be seen as a young girl.

So, to get a complete picture/ understanding, we need to keep and understand the connection between the Subject and Object. We can see/ hear only a small spectrum of frequencies, so what we perceive is biased with what we already know. Like, all of us have a blind spot in our eyes, but our brain fills it in – we never realize that the blind spot exists.

Limitations of science

He explained the limitations of classical science using Eddington’s parable: A scientist spent years researching fishes in sea water. He used to catch them and observe their characteristics. He came up with 2 hypotheses – all fishes have gills and no fish is greater than 2 inches. He once met a philosopher who questioned him – he told him that if you would go deeper into the sea, he may have found some fishes without gills. But, he was catching fishes with a net that was 2 inches wide – so he would have never been able to catch a fish that is less than 2 inches!!!

The scientist was furious and said that he had spent years doing this research and in that case, anything less than 2 inches is not a fish. If you ask an economist, he would say that he has never seen a fish less than inches in the market – so there must be no fish less than 2 inches!!!

He joked that never believe the scientist or the economist :-) they are limited by what they can observe and measure.

Characteristic of non-living things is that “The more likely happens more likely”. The order has a tendency to disorder and not the other way round. If a room is in an orderly state, it has a tendency to become disorganized and then it cannot become orderly again on its own.

Characteristic of living things is that “Unlikely does not happen unlikely”. Like from a chemical soup that existed 3.5 billion years ago on the planet, an evolved (orderly and complex) system like a human being has come into being. This is something classical science cannot explain and it finds the limitation.

And, if we keep the Subject and Object separated, it compounds the limitation.

 
Continued in Part2...

April 29, 2009

Kids ask - have you voted?

On the V-day in Bangalore, Smita gave this home-made placard to our daughter (Yasha) and her friend along with some chocolates.

They had to go around in the building, knock at each door and ask them if they have voted. If they have, then they gave them some chocolates. If not, then they told them no chocolates for them because they did not vote for the kids.



It was great fun for the kids - although they did not quite understand what it really meant. For couple of families who did not vote, the embarrassment was quite visible on their faces to be rejected by small kids.

Hopefully, these kids will keep up the enthusiasm as they grow up and bring about a good change in the world we live in... All they need is our support and encouragement.

April 28, 2009

Lords Spiritual in the UK House of Lords

It is a well known fact that we borrowed a lot from the British constitution and parliamentary system. However, there are some features of the British system that we chose not to implement.

One of such features that I want to point out is the reservation in the House of Lords for Religious/ Spiritual leaders. Although, UK is considered to be a secular state, it maintains positions in its upper house for 26 senior clergymen of the established Church of England known as the Spiritual Peers (or Lords Spiritual)!

These are not elected by the people, but sort of nominated. There was a time in the history, when the Lords Spiritual outnumbered the Lords Temporal (the non-religious leaders). Over a period of time, with reforms to separate the church and state (the basis of secularism), the secular credentials were established. However, even to-date the 26 seats are retained.

The Lords Spiritual make up less than 4% of the seats and they do not normally vote in the matters of law/ state. But, I think this is just an acknowledgment of the power/ influence they wield in the society and a respect to that.

Something to attempt in India? Maybe a good idea...

PS: The Parliamentary reforms are still on in UK - since 1832 till date. Signs of an evolving system...

Also read the post on Raj Gurus - Need of the hour

April 20, 2009

What has kept our Government busy in the past few years?

Got this email forward... We are responsible for allowing this mess to continue - lets do our bit...

Vote for a change

========================================

Dear Ones,

Go through each and every link below, our country's Future is in our hand! Become Aware of the current situation of our Government and you have the power to bring about change!!

As a true citizen of this country, you should share this information with ALL NOW, only few days remaining for voting!

Vote 4 Change!

[Corroborated by credible sources – Indian Express, Economic Times, IBN 7, Wikipedia, Official Government websites, etc. For email clients that do not support embedded links, please check the bottom of the email – we have all the links for you.]

1) Is common Indian on the street really safe?

a) Check this shocking video clip from IBN 7: Become a terrorist and get paid by the Indian Government.

b) Taliban is not just at our doorsteps, it has infiltrated into Kashmir [news article]. Is the present Govt really concerned about the security of the nation?

c) Every major city in India has been attacked consistently over the last two years. In the last five years, 3850 Indians have died in Terror attacks [news article] in over 3000 incidents [stats from Wikipedia]. In 2008 alone, 12 major terror attacks have rocked the country.

2) What is the present government doing with all our money?

a) As revealed in 2008, Rs 70 lakh crores of money from India is lying in swiss bank accounts [news article]. Even though the German government is ready to reveal the details of account holders, the government is least bothered to ask for it.

b) On the day of Mumbai train blasts, the present government gave Rs 150 crore for earthquake-relief in Pakistan. In 2008, the government has given Rs 3000 crores to Afghanistan for Infrastructure development. Developing our own country’s infrastructure did not cross our governments mind!

c) Rs 87153.12 crores missing [Official website of Comptroller and Auditor General of India] from Universal service funds, infrastructure development fund and money allocated for centrally sponsored scheme.

d) In the Rs 10000 crores, medium-range surface-to-air missile (MR SAM) deal with Israel, the government has suspiciously agreed to pay 6% [news article] as “business charges” which comes to whooping Rs 600 crores. According to defence experts, this is simply inflated and illegitimate.

3) Is this Government really secular?

a) When Madrasas are being shut down in Pakistan, the Indian Government is giving them CBSE status [news article]!! Is it not discouraging Muslim children in getting secular education?

b) Andhra Pradesh government under the direction from central government has closed down 28000 temples out of 36000 temples in last 5 years.

c) Our Government has given 25 lakh scholarships ONLY to minority students [news article]. What sin have the majority done not to deserve these? Why cannot poor students of all communities be given scholarships instead of only Muslim children?

4) Is this Government really pro-poor?

a) The number of people living below the poverty line has increased by a horrifying 20 per cent. India had some 270 million people below the poverty line in 2004-2005, when the present Government took office. That number has gone up to 325 million, which is 20 per cent increase.

Do you want the same government to continue?

The time for politically correct statements is past.

We have just a handful of days before we cast our precious vote. Let’s vote for change!!

[Your immediate participation needed! Just hit the forward button my friend. And no kidding, this time you would’ve done service to your nation]

========================================

April 18, 2009

Some election debates finally...

All that you hear in the media these days are the mud-slinging comments of different political leaders against each other. It gives an impression that there is nothing else these leaders talk about. One would have definitely wished for a debate on issues of national importance and would have wanted to listen to what the candidates have to say.

Mr. Advani has been calling for such an interaction for a long time, but the Congress has skillfully deflected it.

One debate finally happened - not between the PM hopefuls, but among the Bangalore South candidates. There was a face to face debate organized by Infosys where
Ananth Kumar (BJP), Capt Gopinath (Independent), Krishna Byre Gowda (Congress), and Prof K E Radhakrishna (JDS) participated.

This is definitely a good sign - reflecting the changing times on India's democratic scene. One of the good things about this debate was that the candidates had to introduce their counterparts and even praise them - very interesting indeed!

Click here to read the article in Bangalore Mirror

There was also one more debate that happened some time back
on IBN Live TV Channel (it was not publicised so much) between Arun Jaitley (BJP) and Kapil Sibal (Congress). The two participants were grilled on four major issues: governance, security, economy and stability.

Click here to read the transcript on IBN Live - Arun Jaitley and Kapil Sibal


We sincerely hope that in the coming times, we would see more such interactions among candidates - a welcome break from the comments that normally flash on your TV Screens/ Websites.

April 15, 2009

Raj Gurus – need of the hour

Governing leaders of the society have to shoulder huge responsibilities for the well being of the people. One has to deal with issues in a fair manner, make just laws, develop the society equitably without hurting people’s sentiments, etc… In all this one has to face with many dilemmas day in day out – some ethical and some small.

We have grown up with stories of Vikram and Vetal, wherein a new dilemma or question is posed to King Vikram and he ends up giving a just and fair answer. However, not all rulers possess the wisdom as that of King Vikramaditya. In such difficult times, one needs some one to go to for advice or solace. Who else could be better qualified for this other than your own teacher/ mentor/ Guru?

This fact was well understood by our forefathers and there existed a post of Raj Guru – a sage who is a teacher/ mentor to the king. The Raj Guru was also supposed to be the ethical gatekeeper to prevent corruption in/ criminalization of the government. This concept is very deep rooted in our Indian psyche and, even today, is widely used in organizations.

In many countries including the US, the involvement starts from the swearing-in ceremony itself (conducted by a religious head – like in ancient and medieval India). Just a day before the Mr. Obama’s oath taking ceremony, there was also a discussion on the church he would be choosing for his Sunday prayers? There are many other countries that have religious heads working closely with the top leader. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI has made it the goal of his papacy to counteract secularism (defined as separation of church and state).

However, today, we look down upon a leader, if he seeks blessings from religious/ spiritual leaders. This is partly attributable to cases like ‘Rasputin’ that misused such a trustworthy post and rest to the post-independence policies that copied the British instead of going back to our roots.

Hopefully, this will change now – as is evident by this letter from Shri LK Advani to all religious and spiritual leaders and Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji’s response to this letter extending full support.

Let’s do our bit for the change… Change for the better. Vote!

April 14, 2009

Why bother talking about the political landscape?

We have a very large and varied electorate. People are busy with their studies, making their careers fly, love life click or ends meet. In all this, the last thing on our mind is the development of our society/ country. We tend to forget that our home is not secure just by locking the door.

I remember asking Guruji that I wanted to overcome my possessiveness (and selfishness). He said – become more possessive – possess the whole country, the whole world, the whole universe! It may sound very interesting – but has a much deeper meaning.

We can talk about why we should take responsibility and make a difference in the world and also how it helps in our spiritual growth. However, if you look at life with another perspective, we can also achieve this by being very selfish. If we want to enjoy our life fully, we need to create an environment conducive for this – at home, at work and on the streets. We need to create a fearless society around us so that we can enjoy our life.

So, for our own self, we need to do much more. One of the key things is making sure we elect a good government. Small steps/ decisions taken by the political leadership can have huge implications over a period of time – they have the potential to make or break nations.

Most of us do not pay attention in the history classes and forget how things have evolved in our society – where do we come from and what is the genesis of our current problems. We form opinions based on headlines and the flashing scrolls on TV news channels and believe them to be totally true.

Today, many political pundits do not hesitate to say that the 1947 partition was one of the biggest blunders in India’s modern history. To satisfy some personal ambitions, the nation was divided. In fact, the Congress leadership carved out the current borders of India on a communal basis!

The whole reservation concept/ special benefits/ allowing differential laws based on religion and caste was the idea of the same leadership. The country created was actually called ‘Hindustan’ – the land of Hindus – but over a period of time, it has become ‘anti-Hindu-stan’.

Ironically, the main leader of Congress – Mahatma Gandhiji – got the country together by doing satsangs (his last words were ‘Hey Ram’). If he were to go around doing satsangs today, his own party would probably brand him communal and create problems for him.

Having given them a chance of 52 years as the main governing party, a lot more was expected from them. It is time to give them some rest to revamp and revitalize. It is time to bring in some fresh blood, some fresh enthusiasm and dynamism to propel India to the next level.

I am not a big supporter/ fan of any specific political party, but given where we stand today, I think we need fresh thinking, fresh ideas and something very different.

We want change, we want good governance – we want our glorious Bharat back!

Let us vote, with awareness!!!

April 11, 2009

Comparison of manifestos – BJP and Congress

Continuing on the lines of due diligence, I picked up the manifestos of the two biggies of Indian politics – BJP and Congress. I am making the link available for all of you to download the pdf files:

BJP Manifesto – Click here

Congress Manifesto – Click here

This is required as the media reports only a handful of points that are likely to catch viewers’ attention. I would not debate the compulsions of the media to do so. I thought it is appropriate for me as a voter to go through the detailed manifesto and see what exactly are these 2 parties saying?

In its 21 page manifesto, the Congress team has spent up to 5 pages criticizing BJP and the third front – even blaming the third front as responsible for the electoral growth of BJP! A detailed look at the rest of the pages seems like the party wants to just continue what they have been doing in their last 52 years of rule (out of the 60 years of independence).

This is hardly inspiring and I do not think a drastic change can happen in our country with this kind of an approach.

We normally hear about the Hindutva ideology of BJP in the media in such a light that even as a devout Hindu, one would get put off by it. I wanted to find out what exactly this ideology is and what does it really mean?



The first 5 pages of the BJP manifesto precisely address that. I have to admit that it is quite inspiring – it is all about regaining the glorious India that we have only read about. I would strongly suggest that you read it yourself. The remaining 43 pages talk about every aspect of governance with a concrete approach plan – from environment to health, sports to science, farmers to urban populace, internal security to foreign relations, developing weaker sections and preserving cultural heritage.

I am not standing guarantee to whether they will be able to accomplish all this, but to me, the manifesto looks like a wish-list of every Indian. It seems like that this party has finally got a hang of the pulse of the nation.

Vote for good governance, Vote for change.

Please read the previous post on why, who and how to vote

April 10, 2009

My Precious Vote goes to...

The Indian General Elections (2009) are round the corner and it is a time when each one of us has an equal right – irrespective of what you do, what your status is, where you live… It is exactly ONE VOTE!

It is your voice to decide who makes the decisions for us. We need to ask ourselves some questions about this opportunity:

1. First and foremost: Am I using this right and considering it as a duty to vote? If I do not vote, I am not participating in our country’s and hence our own development. In 60 years of independence and democracy, our country has not moved as much as one would have expected.

There have been only 2 governments – PVN Rao’s liberalization and Atalji’s IndiaIndia count and lead the way in setting a new order for the world shining – that have actually done something significantly good for us. Imagine what sustained good governance can actually do for all of us. We cannot sit back and let things just go on. Today, the world is looking for a new order and we have to make

This has to be based on Indian values because we have seen that communism, socialism, capitalism have failed us. This is a beginning of a new era – each one of us and our country has to lead the way. And this starts with a strong government.

2. Second: Whom are we voting for? Given our model of democracy that allows a huge number of parties to play in the national government formation, we have to give one party a chance to run the nation without worrying about some small party arm-twisting it. A general rule to follow can be – vote for a party in national elections and vote for a person in local elections.

Each party has its good spots, bad spots, achievements, problems, etc… We need to decide the issues that are of importance to us and do a fair evaluation of the past as well as expected future performance.

It is important to dig out facts for ourselves and not go by hearsay. Today yellow journalism blows small incidents out of proportion and subsequent actions/ good work does not get reported. Internet has made all information available at your fingertips – spend time and do your research.

We should not be afraid to change – in fact, giving different people a chance ensures that all parties are on their toes and the people and country win. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is very apt and we should keep that in mind.

3. Third: Pick pertinent issues and go deeper into it. (I have taken one issue for illustration)

It is amazing to see how the only rhetoric other parties use against BJP is it being communal. And it is even more surprising to see how we get taken in by such things. If we have done our homework, we would realize the fallacy there.

Secularism is defined as separation of religion and government (church and state). This also includes replacing laws based on religious scriptures with civil laws and eliminating discrimination on the basis of religion. This would then imply talking of implementing Uniform Civil code is secular! This would mean removing religion/ caste based quotas would be secular!!

Modern commentators have actually criticized secularism as being anti-religious and atheistic. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI has declared ongoing secularization to be a fundamental problem of modern society, and has made it the goal of his papacy to counteract secularism and moral relativism.

So, now who is secular and who is communal? Look at the changing demographics of India; look at how minority-appeasement is being referred to as secular and not communal (e.g. The only country giving subsidy for Haj pilgrims, the only country talking of giving CBSE status to madarasas!, allowing forced conversions – and the list goes on…)

It is time we all wake up, do our homework and vote! People get only what they deserve. So, we have to change first and we have to really want a change in the governance – only then we will get it!

Read Sri Sri's views on elections - click here

More posts from Bawa - Reservations, Inconvenient Questions - I, Inconvenient Questions - II and Another Outrage

March 18, 2009

The Curious Case of ‘A’

My uncle would often comment that in India, we realize the importance of our own heritage after it gets an additional ‘A’ at the end. I used to be curious as to what is this ‘A’ that makes us realize the importance of our own talents/ knowledge.

It took me sometime to realize what he meant - the western world takes the Indian knowledge and talents, benefits from it and markets it so well that we start realizing the importance and import it back with an English spelling. So, Yog becomes Yoga, Ayurved becomes Ayurveda, Ganesh becomes Ganesha and so on :)

While in India, we are still struggling with getting Yoga teachings out of the service tax list and pushing for its secular credentials, the rest of the world is minting money. The last estimate put the Yoga industry in US at more than 25 billion dollars.

The ancient yogis lived very simple and focused lives with bare necessities. However, today comfort and branding is essential. The market is flooded with yoga mats, outfits and even seats to sit in vajrasana! As expected, this is already catching up in India...

I remember Sri Sri (Guruji) saying many times,
“There are seven things about India that we should be proud of:

1. Our tourism potential (natural and architectural wonders)
2. Our culinary traditions (unmatched cuisine in variety and richness)
3. Our jewelry and our clothes (designs)
4. Our spiritual knowledge (scriptures, literature, yoga, meditation)
5. Our medicine system of Ayurveda (capable of treating the root cause)
6. Our classical dances (variety and subtlety)
7. Information Technology!

We must develop all these even more. We are great at self criticism – we must stop this and be brave and bold!

We must develop self confidence in ourselves and in our traditions. We should even teach them to others. Teach them our language through our culture, through our spiritual knowledge. Each one of you must be an ambassador of our country's culture."

Hopefully, we will be able to resolve this curious case of ‘A’.

February 05, 2009

The big US Bailout package - 10,000 USD per person - FAQs

There have been a lot of questions in many people's mind about the rationale behind bailout packages. One of the intriguing question was - If the total bailout package given by US to banks and other companies works out to USD 10,000 per tax paying person in US - does it not make sense to give the money to the individuals to clear off their loans - rather than giving it to the bank?

I found this link on CNN.com that provides an answer to many of such kind of questions. It definitely provided a good insight into the economics behind it - hopefully you will also find it worth reading...

Click here for the link - there are 12 questions (one on each page)

January 15, 2009

Funny Forward - Satyam Rhyme :-)

What they would now teach in B-Schools...

Satyam Nursery Rhyme:
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Raju Rama sat on the wall
Raju Rama had a great fall
Employees cried
Shareholders tried
But couldn’t put Satyam together again

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Raju Rama
Yes baba

Swindling Satyam
No baba

Telling Lies
No baba

Open the balance sheet
HA HA HA
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Disclaimer: Not an original composition - picked up from an email forward...

January 01, 2009

Sri Sri's message on New Year (2009)

Spirituality: A blend of celebration and silence

Every excuse to celebrate is good. There are two aspects of celebration. One is celebration as thanksgiving, as an expression of gratitude for the Divine. The second celebration is to move forward by dropping the past, knowing that life is eternal.

In 2008, our country saw many upheavals. However, like the Christmas tree, life is evergreen. No storm or snow can weather away its leaves. Similarly, our spirit is eternal and though time and again some adversities may try to cloud the spirit, the spirit moves forward through personal or social grief and emerges powerful.

The nature of spirit is celebration. Celebration is the best medicine to help you move out of the gloom after a crisis. In celebration, you are not just having a party. If sacredness is attached to it, that celebration becomes complete. The body, mind and the spirit rejoice.

Let time celebrate your presence. Keep smiling. When you let time celebrate you, you are a witness amid celebration. The year gone by has taught us many lessons; what we should be doing and what we should not. Every pain that we went through in 2008 brought us some depth, and all the joy and pleasure gave us a new vision of life and hope for the future.

Welcome the year 2009 with a genuine smile from within. That smile comes when you know for sure that you are loved. If you don’t know you are loved by the Divine, you will not be able to celebrate life. You will live in insecurity. With insecurity comes greed. With greed comes selfishness. And with that comes anger. With anger comes lust. And with that comes sadness and misery one behind the other, like a chain.

In the past year, check how many days you were entangled in maya? Turn back and remember the whole year. When you do this, do not reject anything. Let your attention be on the self. This is a delicate balance. That balance is yoga. That balance is spirituality. Some people think being silent is spirituality. Some think only celebration is spirituality. Spirituality is a harmonious blend of outer silence and inner celebration; and also inner silence and outer celebration! Celebration that comes out of silence is real celebration.

Year 2008 saw many rainy days. This new year, let there be sunshine - both in our lives and in society. Let us all have a determination to create a violence-free, stress-free society. May your life be filled with peace, joy and happiness! Happy New Year!
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