Samsung Galaxy 'M' series may be launched in India next week

  Samsung Galaxy M12 smartphone can get a battery of 7,000 mAh. Apart from this, a 6.7-inch display can be given in it. Samsung Galaxy '...

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Insidious Ways of Fate

The most intriguing expression I've ever come across in life is : This was destined to happen (Ye toh hona hi tha). Being a lifelong nonbeliever having no faith in intangible phenomena like godhood, divinity, destiny, fate and all that jazz, I never had any belief that an individual's life could be preordained on certain counts, if not on all. But you keep learning as life unfolds itself before you. There's a verse in Qura'n that states that every individual's life is determined by god 40 years before his/her birth.

 Though this is a sheer exaggeration and a typical scriptural lie, there's no getting away from the fact that there's something, we call destiny or fate. Believing in destiny doesn't make a person fatalist or bhagyavaadi . But its direct or indirect influences on an individual's life cannot be discounted either. In Latur's earthquake in September 1993, five labourers somehow survived. They fled and came to Bombay. They were sleeping on the footpath when a truck ran over all, killing them on the spot. If they hoodwinked death in Latur, they couldn't dodge it in Bombay. What should it be called and how will you account for it? Wasn't it their ineluctable and inevitable destiny to die?

During the First World War, Adolf Hitler, a mere corporal at that time, was resting along with his soldier friends. A deafening blast woke him up. He saw all his friends' mutilated bodies scattered all over the place. ONLY he was alive. Nothing happened to him. He didn't even sustain a bruise!! That made him believe that the destiny gave him a new leash of life to change the course of history and made his presence felt. Within a couple of decades, he was the Fuehrer of Germany, chiefly responsible for the Second World War.

Jalaluddin Babar, the founder of Mughal empire on the sub-continent, was all set to go back to Central Asia but for a Hindu mystic (what an irony played by destiny!!) insisted that he must wait. Babar stayed back and the rest is history. 

Why some people fail to meet both the ends meet despite working so hard throughout their lives and why some people never do anything worthwhile yet they live luxuriantly? Can this be imputed to one's fate or destiny? I read a book long back. I've forgotten the name of its author but I still remember its title: 'Footsteps of fate'. The writer wrote a very striking thing that has always fascinated me and I've felt that happen.
One can hear the footsteps of fate if one is a very perceptive observer. You may call it premonition, gut feeling, hunch or by whatever name you like. 'Qismat ki aahatmaut ki aahat-si hoti hai / Kaan lagaye rakkho toh sunai deti hai' (The footsteps of fate are like those of death/ If you're all ears, you can hear them). Efforts, karma, purushartha  are all very significant, yet there's something that makes or mar. 'It's fate that flings the dice and when it flings / Of kings makes peasants and of peasants makes kings.' This English couplet is all the more important because it was penned by the intellectual poet Alexander Pope, who began to believe in destiny after a series of mishaps that jolted his life.

Our efforts and endeavours can make a whale of a difference to our lives and future, but the subtle, nay insidious, role of destiny cannot be ruled out. I believe, samay se pahle aur bhagya se zyada kisi ko kuchh nahin milta (More than one's fate and prior to the fixed time, no one does get anything worthwhile). Some unknown influences can never be fully gauged.      
                                                                                                                          Sumit Paul

The Importance of Thanks and Sorry

How two seemingly simple words: Thanks  and sorry  make a huge difference to life and our social interactions
Perhaps the two most important words in any language is : Thanks and sorry. Though both the words seem very simple, their influence on social interactions is very great. It really makes a difference when we say thanks  after someone has done something (good) for us or say sorry  when we've done something wrong to someone. Both the words show our courtesy and upbringing. We may say, 'dosti mein no sorry, no thanks', the way Bhagyashri Patwardhan said in the cult film, 'Maine Pyar Kiya'(1990). But these two words do matter a lot. Thankfulness is a sign of maturity and saying sorry is acceptance of one's limitations. 

I remember, once in Calcutta, I gave two rupees to a beggar. He said thanks to me. It made me very happy. After a couple of days, I again gave him two rupees, just to hear thanks from him!! That a beggar had the courtesy to say thanks after receiving two rupees, was something I didn't bargain for and when this happened, I felt happy from the bottom of my heart.
Likewise, when someone genuinely says sorry to you, you forgive him/her because you know, he/she has the feeling and sense of doing something wrong. 

The same effect it has on others when we say sorry to them. Gratitude and error must be expressed wholeheartedly. Until we express them, we cannot feel the deep sense of joy that comes from within. When I was very young, I had a habit of never saying sorry to anyone despite my (childish) faults and follies. One day my teacher told me that if I never said sorry to anyone, no one would ever say sorry to me. Those words clicked. I began to say sorry after mischievously tearing the pages from my friends' copies and they too stopped complaining. This worked two ways. My bad habit came under control and there were less complaints against me with the teachers.

We seldom understand the importance of seemingly simple things until we realise their far-reaching influence in all walks of life. The saying that 'sorry and thanks can take you far' is a very apt one. These two words not only take a person far in life, they also give depth to our personality. Always remember, life consists of small things but those very small things make life much bigger. Ocean comprises innumerable drops, though a drop out of the ocean may have no value. Chhoti-chhoti baton se hi banta hai ye jagat (The world's made up of small things). Remember this and use these two words profusely. You'll be liked by all.         
                                                           Sumit Paul

No Individual is Remorseless

A few years ago, someone stole my wallet in Calcutta. It'd my pan card in it as well. So I was more worried about losing it than a few bucks. In India, one has to go through a rigmarole of formalities to get documents like a passport, voter's identity card, pan card etc. I was crestfallen. I flew back to Poona immediately. The moment I reached Poona, I received a call from my landlord that he received a letter by speed post and it was an urgent letter. I rushed to his place and opened the letter. My lost pan card was in it with a note in Bengali, advising that such important documents mustn't be carried in a wallet! The man who pick-pocketed my wallet, returned my pan card and the then girlfriend's snap.

Luckily, the habit of carrying my complete postal address helped me retrieve my lost pan card. This gesture had me thinking. The person, who returned my pan card didn't return nearly 300 rupees that were in the wallet. But he returned what was much more important to me: My pan card. Despite being a thief, he'd the prick of conscience that made him return my document. There're many such heart-warming experiences when pickpockets and thieves returned important documents but not money! This strengthens the belief that basically every human being is good. A man's inherently honest. Circumstances make him a dishonest person or an outlaw. Yet, he's not completely bad. There're sheds and shreds of goodness in him which come to the fore as per the situation. That's why we must hate the sin and not the sinner and have unwavering faith in an individual's character and conduct. We must never write him off. There's a beautiful story in Khalil Gibran's 'Book of parables'. A man was being led to the gallows. Suddenly he saw a butterfly with a damaged wing. He gently lifted the butterfly, placed it on a slab of stone with utmost care and proceeded towards the gallows to be hanged. What's this? Even that die-hard criminal had a soft spot. He felt for the wounded butterfly. There's a maxim in Buddhism, 'Everyone is a Buddha because everyone has compassion.' Yes, everyone of us is a Buddha because we're all compassionate.

That's the reason, the law all over the world believes that no person is incorrigibly and irretrievably bad. Reformation is possible at any juncture, age and stage. Change of heart may happen anytime. If 'heartless' Angulimal could undergo a sea change when he came into contact with the compassionate Buddha and Valmiki could become the author of Ramayan, why can't a criminal or sinner become a good and reformed individual? When ruthless Epotheoneus saw a child weep over his father's dead body, whom he mercilessly killed, he cried and immediately gave up his criminal activities to become a philosopher. He also adopted that child and brought him up as his son. Don't we say in English that all saints are re-edited sinners? The legendary Biblical character Paul (actually Saul) lived a dubious and criminal life before becoming the greatest messenger of the Gospels. Many Christian scholars like Brian Wood, E M S Parker and Glenn Falls consider him even greater than Jesus in overall religious influence because he (Paul) spread the message of Jesus and laid down his life for Christianity.
 In a speech at Capetown University in 1994, Bishop Desmond Tutu said that 'There's never been a single remorseless individual in the entire history of mankind.' Even the most hardcore criminals have a sense of remorse and repentance. That they may not show it till they die, doesn't mean that they remain unmoved till the end. The US fighter pilots who obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan on August 6 and 9 respectively, became deranged when they realised what they did and how many innocent people they killed.
We may commit a crime sans any sense of compunction but our conscience keeps telling us afterwards that we made a huge mistake. Some accept it vocally and who don't accept it in public, often go mad. If you're a human being, you can't remove your conscience completely. It'll continue to gnaw at you and this is the trait that makes us human beings and distinguishes us from lower animals. To be human is to be compassionate and remorseful. It's our inalienable character and an intrinsic quality.

                                                                                                                                     -----Sumit Paul

Friday, February 10, 2017

Monk who Sold his Ferrari Syndrome'

Recently I met a lady. She must be in her early fifties. She loves to flaunt her absolutely bald pate. When someone asks her the reason, she starts sermonising that getting rid of hair on one's head is the ultimate sign of the abnegation of ego. Since a person's looks very much depend upon his/ her 'crowning glory', a bald pate shows the disappearance of ego and narcissism. Moreover, Tirupati's Balaji came to her dream and advised her to shave off!! I just dislike this condescending attitude of some spiritual snobs.
 Way back in the late sixties, there was a fad among the susceptible youngsters in the US not to wear any footwear. The biggest spiritual fraud Mahesh Yogi of India exhorted his disciples to get rid of footwear as walking barefoot was the sign of spiritual enlightenment. Rajnish, yet another swindler, told his disciples to wear loose maroon robes and no underwear (because it's quite convenient for having a 'quickie'!!). Can all these sartorial or appearance regimentation help abnegate one's ego? Isn't it also a kind of condensed ego to opt for an appearance that's different from that of others? The above-mentioned lady, who flaunts her bald head, is more egoistic than those she looks down upon as people with ego. She has the constant desire that people should ask her why she's donned this new look.
Getting rid of hair doesn't mean that one has also got rid of his/her ego, always an overused concept in damn spirituality. It's not an external action by which we explore our selves. One has to change from within and that too silently. Always remember that we all secretly suffer from the 'Monk who sold his Ferrari' syndrome. Every action of an individual, however sublime it may appear to the unsuspecting fools, has an ulterior motive. We're all attention seekers and most of us are actually suffering from ADS (Attention Deficiency Syndrome). Because of our perceived religio-spiritual superiority complex, which is a naked display of acute egoistical attention seeking, mankind has suffered miserably. Buddha and Mahavir's, two of the most wretched escapists the world has ever seen, so-called fashionable renunciation created a chain of escapists and utter failures in life to become sadhus  and sadhvis  because they know that this is the only way to earn daily bread and butter without doing anything.

The much-hyped 14th Dalai Lama lives in a palace at Dharmshala in Himachal Pradesh and is forever hemmed in by foreign dignitaries and celebrities like Richard Gere. Mind you, he calls himself 'an ordinary monk'!! You can't find a better example of deceptive egoism. Bohra community's (A Shia sub-sect) 'spiritual head' Syedana lives in a fortified palace and tells other Bohras to live with austerity as Allah loves people who lead an austere life!! Yet we still go by ostensible symbols and totems and think that those who've gone bald or relinquished everything are so great and superior to others.              
                                                                                                                                   ------Sumit Paul            

Career Opportunities in Philosophy

Can you believe that I've stopped telling people in India that I did MA in Philosophy (Occidental Philosophy, to be precise) because it invariably elicits a condescending reaction from them? That I did it from Cambridge University and stood first-class-first makes no difference to their inveterate perceptions about philosophy as a subject that gets no job/s and offers no career opportunities. There's a widespread notion among Indians that philosophy as a subject is absolutely useless and its practitioners live in ivory towers, engrossed in intangible ideas and day-dreaming. Indian parents and even teachers don't encourage students to opt for philosophy because they think that it has no future and zero job prospects. To them, all philosophers are indolent lotus-eaters. This is a fallacious belief which needs a violent jolt.

 Agreed, in today's competitive world, a subject ought to have a market viability and a job-friendly edge because we tend to judge a person on the basis of his/her job and the social standing ensued from that job. From that perspective, ordinary and conventional minds find philosophy a purely speculative subject that doesn't enable a student to find a suitable job that spells worldly happiness!

Philosophy is the essence of knowledge. It's the kernel of life that broadens the vision and deepens the perceptions. Philosophy encourages critical and systematic inquiry into fundamental questions of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, the meaning of life, and the nature of reality, knowledge and society. More than any other discipline, philosophy explores the core issues of the Western/Eastern intellectual traditions. Philosophy encourages the student to formulate questions and follow arguments. One learns how to think, not what to think. It (philosophy) breaks all set patterns and opens new doors and windows that lead to overall enhancement of a person's persona. 

There's a certain aura about philosophy that distinguishes it from other (banal) subjects. Contrary to the general belief that it's all about god, morality, good/bad, armchair discussions, diatribes and meaningless debates, philosophy is a systematic discipline that arms the students with a sense of fulfillment on all scores, counts and planes.

Neurologically it's been found that philosophy develops left-brained (logical) thinking. The modern neuro-biologists like the celebrated atheist Richard Dawkins, CM Grindley, Mark Fraser, among others have concluded that the study of philosophy hones brain's analytical powers and activates glial cells, responsible for the out of the box thinking. Philosophy facilitates weird thinking and also streamlines it. In sum, philosophy paves the way for altogether new ways of thinking.  

How many Indian parents and their ignorant wards are aware that world-renowned Indian companies like ITC, Calcutta, Shaw Wallace, Coffee and cardamom boards, Nilgiri Tea, Indian Tea Association and many other corporate names prefer graduates and post graduates in Philosophy for their HR departments? Since philosophy students have greater understanding of human psychology and resources, they get an edge over others. Philosophy being central to humanities, all arts subjects are actually its offshoots. Literature and social sciences come out of the womb of philosophy. 

HR departments worldwide pick up philosophy students for their holistic and comprehensive outlook. Students of philosophy tend to look at all the possible aspects of a problem or issue. Now many elite international as well as national magazines (especially for women) like Vogue, Happy Home, Style Quotient, et al  appoint philosophy graduates as agony aunts and marriage/relationship counselors. These magazine specifically mention that philosophy graduates/post graduates will get preference over other candidates because of their all-inclusive approach to any subject. A philosophy student deals remarkably well with the whole gamut of human emotions. Philosophically trained people have been found to be great marital escorts (new phrase for marriage counselors) because of their natural quality to be emotionally more empathy-driven and sensitive.

Finally, in this age of implacable hatred and bloodshed, isn't philosophy the most desirable discipline for the refinement of humane qualities embedded in all of us but temporarily lost because of sheer materialism?

How Back-biting Degrades Oneself

'The most degrading and disgusting quality in a person is his/her habit of back-biting', wrote a clinical psychologist whose name I'm forgetting. Back-biting (parninda in Sanskrit and 'chugli'  in colloquial Hindi) indeed has no footing. It doesn't at all degrade the person who's being criticised. It demeans one who indulges in it and throws mud at others. Why does one back-bite? Back-biting, like lying, has its root in a person's mental make-up and an acute inferiority complex he/she suffers from.

 When a person is not sure of his/her abilities, skills and talents and feels forever threatened by people, who're far better in all respects and aspects, back-biting becomes a tool to malign the character of those superior people. Back-biting is even worse than criticism because criticism is not always bad. A great many times, criticism has constructive elements and it's done with an intention to improve the criticised person's overall personality. In other words, criticism can be bonafide but you can't say the same about back-biting which's always mala-fide. Back-biting is most common at workplace where one has to deal with his/her colleagues. It's rightly said that the colleagues are seldom friends.

There's always a hidden rivalry and this persistent sense of rivalry leads to back-biting. Women tend to back-bite more is a universal belief but it's been found that men are more into it and at times they're far bitchier than women. In short, back-biting is a habit that is disliked by all and the person who indulges in it finds no respect anywhere. There's a verse in Qura'an which states that 'Gheebat (back-biting in Arabic) kills one's soul and clouds one's conscience.' Very true.

The great Arab interpreter of Qura'an and a philologist par excellence, Jalaal Al-Din Al-Suyuti (1445-1505 AD) narrated an ennobling episode from the life of the Prophet. Once Muhammad was traveling with a few companions. One of them was in the incorrigible habit of back-biting, otherwise he was a nice, helpful and religious bloke. As usual, he began to talk of his distant brother in a disparaging manner. Muhammad asked him pointedly whether his brother was there to defend himself? He said, 'No, he wasn't.' 'Then why're you talking disparagingly of him in his absence?

Moreover, your all other good attributes are of no use if you continue to indulge in back-biting', said the Prophet. Muhammad's piercingly honest words struck his companion like a blitzkrieg and he never again resorted to this bad habit. Muhammad rightly stated that back-biting obscured all other desirable traits in a person because it's the worst quality a person can have. In one of the Upanishads, it's been clearly stated that 'Parnindanam Karyestu abhipsit' (Back-biting nullifies all good deeds). Even if one's a religious person, his/her religiosity goes in vain if the person is afflicted with the mental malady of back-biting.

Avoid it if you're to succeed in life and earn people's respect. I wind it up with a very appropriate Urdu couplet by Nazir Akbarabadi, 'Aaine mein khud ko dekh na paoge/ Gheebat karoge to khud se sharmaoge' (You won't be able to look yourself in the mirror/ If you resort to back-biting, you'll be eventually ashamed of yourself). Yes, a back-biter is mortally ashamed of himself sooner or later.    
                                                                                                                                                    Sumit Paul

Communication: An elixir of a relationship

In a bizarre incident in Detroit (US), a wife left home in a huff when she stumbled upon her husband's name along with the name of a woman in an old magazine. It later transpired that her journalist husband had a proof-reader friend prior to marriage, who was several years older than him. They were friendly and would often write combined pieces. There was nothing more to it. But the wife didn't think twice to verify this with her husband of more than twelve years and took a drastic step. This is what we call communication gap, fanned by doubt and suspicion. " Differences and doubts arise because we don't get to their roots and circumstances and don't communicate," wrote the famous psychologist William James. This is not just applicable to a marriage or a relationship between a man and a woman but is relevant to relationships of all hues.
We often stop talking to a person on a silly assumption or a perceived ill-notion. It's always better and much more advisable to thrash out the matter face-to-face, instead of harbouring ill-feelings till the wrinkled eve of one's life. Communication, especially effective communication, not only breaks down the barriers, it also leaves all with a clear conscience. I read in the 'Military Journal' of West Point (US) that there's a system in the US Army to appraise him/ her of the grave misconduct before cashiering him and this is done after the cashiered person's court martial. I don't know, whether this system is followed to this minutest level in Indian Army, but this underlines the importance of making other person aware of his deeds / misdeeds. No relation is monotrack.

We've to take utmost care to perpetuate it. In one of his masnavis, Jalaluddin Rumi describes man and his relationship with god. A person dies and after death he goes to meet his maker. He asks god, why didn't he ever give him, what he needed? " Why didn't you communicate with me through prayers," asked god. " Why should I pray, when it's said of you that you're omniscient and know what's going on in every person's heart and mind?" God laughed uproariously and said, " You're right.

But then, don't I say in Qura'an that interaction between Allah and his follower/s is also equally needed?" You didn't ask for, otherwise I'd the whole world to give you (Fariduddin Attar, 'Roz-e-qayamat', first satnza, 2nd line). The problem with the mankind is that we tend to take all relationships as monolithic. We make it an ego issue if we don't get to hear from the other person.

But we forget that s/he also expects the same from us? It needs two to tango. Granted, every relationship's based on mutual trust and faith but one must remember that no one's required to share each and every unnecessary detail with the other person, let that be one's spouse or beloved. And this is possible only when both are well-communicated, yet keeping their privacy intact and well-guarded.            
                                                               -----Sumit Paul

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Accepting One's Errors

One of the greatest human virtues is to accept one's errors and mistakes wholeheartedly,' stated M K Gandhi. To accept one's errors is to accept one's limitations and that makes an individual truly great in the estimation of others. Accepting errors is showing humility and humility is one trait that leads an individual vey far. There's a very poignant episode in Bengali Kritivas Ramayan. When Ravan was lying on the ground waiting to die, Ram and Laxman approached him for his blessings because Ravan was a great scholar and half Brahmin (he was son of Pulstya rishi and his mother was from Asur kul). Ravan told the brothers, 'I admit to having made many errors despite knowing that they could lead to my downfall.'

 Ram consoled him and said, 'By accepting your errors, you've wiped out all your misdeeds and I bow before you because of the munificence of your heart.' We all make mistakes. Human life is a series of errors: 'Au timb begz enmotic erron,' wrote Greek poet Pindar in his 'Ode to friends and foes.' Errors become sins if we don't accept them in time. By accepting an error, a potential trouble is nipped in the bud. To err is human is an adage that applies to every individual that existed, existing and will exist because life without errors is next to impossible. Even the most sublime human beings made errors but they learnt from their errors and accepted them in public. In one of the Jatak Katha in Dhammapitak's third volume (Thervaad Buddhism, prevalent in Sri Lanka), the enlightened Buddha goes to Yashodhara (his wife) and says, 'I've come to you with no selfish motive. I've come just to accept my error that on the night when I left home slyly, I should have told you because in retrospect, I realise that you'd never have stopped me. I've just come to you to say that I regret for not asking for your permission. Forgive me.'

Legend has it that the ever stoic Buddha had tears in his eyes. Acceptance of errors and mistakes adds to one's greatness and lets him/her live life sans any prick of conscience or compunction. When freedom fighters were imprisoned at Ahmednagar jail following Quit India Movement in 1942, Abul Kalam Azad was denied a pillow by an Indian jailor Nekchand Khaari. Azad said nothing and slept without a pillow, which was his fundamental right being a political prisoner. One day when Azad was writing something in his diary, he saw that Nekchand was standing there with a pillow. The jailor broke down and said that when he told his senior police officer Superintendent Reymond Quinn, who was an English officer, he (the Superintendent) rebuked him and said, 'Go to Mr Azad and say sorry on behalf of the jail authority and accept the mistake that you've made. I'll apologise when I visit Ahmednagar.' Azad mentioned this episode in his autobiography 'Ghubaar-e-Khaatri' (Outpourings of heart). Saint Tukaram says in one of his abhangs, ' Everyday I make errors and everyday I accept them and seek god's blessings that my errors must not keep piling on.' Greats have been greats because they accepted their mistakes and tried not to repeat them.

Every day is a new day and every moment is a new moment. We can make it a tabula rasa (Latin for 'a clean slate') by accepting our errors, mistakes and misdeeds. In Ba'ahaism, there's a day called 'Day of error rectification.' Great, but why should there be a particular day for error rectification? Isn't every day a suitable day to accept one's errors and decide to rectify them? Only by cleansing our hearts of all errors, can we aspire to reach the level that's expected of us. And mind you, we're all capable of that. Try today by shelving your false ego and see the edifying results of it. 

                                       -----Sumit Paul

Never Seek Sympathy

We all have come across and disliked those who seek sympathy. This habit is indeed irritating. Many people are in the habit of telling others about their pains, sorrows and sufferings. While it's good to share one's pains with near and dear ones, one must remember that all aren't your close ones or dear friends. Moreover, we all have our own pains and troubles and when someone starts narrating his/her sob-stories, it becomes unbearable for others. Some do it just to gain sympathy and they keep doing it.

Those who have certain inferiority complex and who want to draw people's attention, often concoct sob and sad stories to get people's sympathy. We don't understand one simple rule of life that those who seek cheap sympathy always get insincere sympathy. An Urdu maxim encapsulates it: Hamdardi maangoge toh bedardi milegi (If you ask for sympathy, you'll get rudeness). People somehow realise that the person is telling his/her artificially painful stories to gain sympathy. So they also give him/her lip-service and are never genuinely interested in his/her sufferings.

At the same time, unnecessarily crying before others is degrading. It's insulting. You cheapen yourself. Maut, maatam, mamta aur muhabbat ko sikke ki maanind nahin uchhala jaata(Death, mourning, affection and love cannot be tossed around like a mere coin). Robert Frost wrote in his incomplete poem 'Sympathy's Symphony': ' When I sought sympathy, I broke life's symphony.....I broke its musicality and realised, pain shared with all is pain uncared by all.' This is an invaluable piece of wisdom that the pain shared with all is pain uncared by all. It's the relegation of pain and dwarfing of its intensity.

Don't belittle the profundity of pain by seeking unnecessary sympathy. Let pain and sufferings smoulder in the crevices of your heart. Sympathy dilutes its somberness. It (sympathy) corrodes and blunts those sharp edges that lend quality to one's persona. Urdu poet Makhmoor Saeed aptly says,' Akele mein ro leta hoon, khud se khud ko bahlata hoon/ Mere wajood ko khokhli hamdardi ki chahat nahin' ( I weep in my own company/My existence needs no hollow and shallow sympathy). People with dignity seldom share their pains and sufferings with others and if at all they share, they share with only those, they've complete faith in and vice versa. Any Tom, Dick and Harry cannot be so close to you as to be able to know what's happening inside your home and heart. An individual's dignity lies in camouflaging his/her pains and losses. Remember, the greatest art is to conceal art.

Why should sufferings be displayed like clothes in tatters? Is pain an object to be showcased through the window of sympathy? It's akin to washing one's dirty linen in public. Then it doesn't remain pain any longer. It becomes a trivial gimmick and an act of indignity. 'The sheen of sufferings goes away with sympathy's cheap offerings' (British poet laureate, Sir Stephen Spender). So take utmost care who you should share your sob stories or genuine problems with.      
                                       ----Sumit Paul                                                                                                                       

Formal Education Vs Practical Knowledge

There's a raging debate going on regarding the relevance and irrelevance of a basic academic degree, say graduation, to be successful in life. Does one really need a college or university degree to get recognition? It's indeed a debatable issue. Those, who are of the opinion that degrees are of no use and they don't have a say in a person's worth in life, cite the examples of Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison, Rabindranath Tagore, Bill Gates, Dhirubhai Ambani, Adani, Pritish Nandy, Dilip Kumar, Amir Khan, mathematician Ramanujan, polymath Rahul Sankrityayan, to name but a few.

All these stalwarts never required a school or college degree to reach the soaring heights in life. The problem with all of us is that we equate (formal) education with knowledge and wisdom. It's an outright erroneous belief. Conventional education doesn't even equip us with commonsense, let alone knowledge and wisdom. Greek philosopher Socrates and our very own Kabir, two of the finest and most perceptive minds in the documented history of mankind were unlettered. Both couldn't even read or write. But what they taught is still relevant and will continue to be relevant till the human civilization lasts on earth.

'Schooled in life's vicissitudes, my Bard of Avon never required formal education. It's people like me, who require a college degree to succeed in life,' wrote the great Victorian poet and a critic par excellence Dr Matthew Arnold about William Shakespeare. Though it must be mentioned that Arnold himself was highly educated and was the son of a famous English public school Rugby's headmaster. Once we come out of college and university, we realise that what we learnt at academic institutes was woefully out of sync with life's varied problems and issues. Formal education just trains us to do a particular task in a specific manner. It often blocks lateral thinking and closes the various unconventional doors to tackle a practical problem. The events of life are unexpected and are often of unprecedented nature. How to handle a particular issue/situation in life is never taught in a school, college or varsity because it's seldom foreseen. One has to acquire that prescience on one's own.

What we mean by knowledge is all about survival, the survival of a human being in a ruthless world. This is not taught at any school or college. This has to be learnt in the school of life. Life regularly throws at us a legion of problems and unheard-of situations. We've to negotiate them and overcome. No school teaches you how to face life's innumerable problems. And when we learn to cope with them successfully, comes wisdom that's far higher than knowledge. The whole process of acquiring post-academic knowledge for mere survival in the rat race paves the way for wisdom, the ability to see things as they are. Tell me, can this be taught at an institute? Never. The real education starts when one leaves the textbooks and dares go beyond them. Had all school, college dropouts, who later achieved great success, continued to study, would they have been so great? Had Einstein completed his formal education, would he have been able to think so radically, rationally and comprehensively? And what's formal education? It's nothing but cramming. It kills an individual's creativity and incarcerates his mind, body and soul. All over the world, it's like Macaulay's lopsided education system which had and still has just one objective: To churn out unthinking and docile babus,who are unable to think independently.

Education is actually meant for those, who're mediocre. An inborn brilliant mind needs no stultifying education that actually stymies his/her independent thinking. So the very thought that a lack of formal education results in an unproductive mind is seriously flawed. Remember, degrees only inflate our ego and do nothing better than that. Dispense with them and dare think beyond classrooms, which are veritable prisons.

                                                                               -Sumit Paul

Forgive All

Sometime back, I was moved to read in a leading English broadsheet that the widow of a slain police commissioner chose to forgive her servant who stole jewelleries worth Rs. 50 lacs from her house. " We brought him up like a son, " said the calm and composed lady. This is indeed laudable. Forgiveness is a quality, an individual is born with. It's innate, intrinsic and integral to a person. Agreed, any quality can be cultivated with the passage of time, but humane qualities cannot be developed in a vacuous heart. It needs oceanic compassion to forgive someone for his transgression, that too sans any rancour. Only by forgiving, do we give a person yet another opportunity to redeem himself / herself. It's very easy to send a man behind the bars, but correspondingly difficult to forgive him. Why shouldn't he get a proper punishment? After all, he deserves it. It's what we lesser mortals think. But punishment leaves a permanent scar. An act of forgiveness alters the heart. You embarrass  an offender more by forgiving him than punishing.

Kabir said tellingly,' Jo toko kaanta boye tohe boye tu phool/Tohe phool ko phool hain, waako hain tirshool' (Those who sow thorns for you, sow flowers for them/ They'll remain flowers to you, but tridents to them). Punishment has a sadistic and sardonic streak. It degrades the culprit and also demeans all those, involved in punishing him. It has a vindictive bent and is soaked in a revengeful spirit. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. became greats because they could forgive unconditionally. Gandhi bore no ill-will against the English and said that once they left, they must leave like friends and not as enemies. "So long enmity rankles in heart to grow / The fountain of love will not start to flow." Remember, no offence is so great that it cannot be pardoned. Almost every human being in his limited span of life on earth, lives and keeps nurturing and harbouring those perceived wounds and scars, he thinks he's got from the people around him.

Do we ever pause and think that we too have hurt many a person? Yet, if we deserve to be pardoned, why can't others have the same privilege? Until we forgive, hatred will continue to rankle and resentment will not let us sleep peacefully. Forgiving is giving away bitterness forever. It's a feeling of bliss, experienced by those who've forgiven. It's the culmination of all that's good and desirable in an individual. We may condemn the public beheadings in Saudi Arabia but we conveniently ignore a provision in the Shariyat  that if the transgressor is pardoned by the folks of the victims, he's not decapitated, not even the king or the kazi can promulgate the order of execution after that. And there have been instances in Saudi Arabia when the victim was saved from the scaffold at the nick of the time. In 1989 in Oman, a young man was saved by the mother of the victim, who he brutally killed. "Spare his life, he too has a mother like me, " said the victim's mother. 

When we forgive, we not only free the wrong-doer but also emancipate ourselves from the unbearable pressure of nagging and niggling ill-feeling. Forgiveness is the greatest act of spirituality. That's why, it (forgiveness) is called ' a continuous process of self-purification' (Kshama avirat vidhiyetam aatm-prakshalan asti: Vachaspati Mishra's 'Brahmasutra'). It's all-encompassing compassion and the most liberating attribute. It emancipates an individual and brings about his salvation even when he's alive! Follow it, though I myself have not been able to imbibe its spirit comprehensively. And I'm ashamed of myself.    
                                                                      Sumit Paul

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Arguments in the Office: Not that bad!

We've been hearing since our childhood days that one must avoid arguments because arguments brew differences and bad-blood. But a new study at Michigan University in the States suggests that arguments aren't that bad and they can even better the mental health of people. Healthy arguments have been found to be catalysts to improving the efficiency of a person and they also help create a competitive mood and atmosphere in the office. 

According to this study, when we avoid an argument, we don't find an outlet to vent our seething anger and exasperation. We keep brooding over it and our efficiency gets affected eventually. Stress hormones must be released through healthy arguments without stooping oneself. Office arguments often give you that proverbial Eureka moment, you've been looking for. In fine, arguments usher in solutions and help in the COD ( Cumulative Organizational Development). 

How arguments in office help an individual:

Those who decently argue with their colleagues and even with their boss, give an overall impression that they're not argumentative or someone who argues just for the sake of arguing, but he/she argues to put the things in perspective. Remember, an argumentative mind is also an analytical mind and such a person could be an asset to any organization, provided he/she argues rationally as well as succinctly.

The rules of argument:

That doesn't mean, one must keep arguing at the drop of a hat. Such person will soon be branded as a bellicose fellow, who's belligerent all the time. One must follow a few golden rules while arguing, yet not getting branded as a fretful colleague. These infallible rules are-

1 Never attack the individual. Attack his/her views, maintaining office decorum. 

2. Never be personal and try to dwarf the other person. A proper argument always avoids personal and individual issues. It's above pettiness. 

3. Don't argue with a feeling of vindictiveness. It'll belittle your image among your colleagues and boss will think of you in an uncharitable manner.

4. Tell the other person, what has upset you. A roundabout manner to deal with an argument in an office, projects you in bad light.

5. An argument, esp. in the office, must not snowball into a fight or abusive display of emotional fireworks. This leaves a permanent blot on your escutcheon.

6. Never leave reason. To argue with reason is a quality, only a few are imbued with. 

7. Never stretch an argument out of office. Learn to bury it there.

8. Ill-feelings for the other person/s should not pester you even after an argument. Don't carry them home.

Remember the aforementioned rules and argue in a friendly manner. Learn to put your foot down but don't be obdurate in office. One can argue with a desirably pliable attitude and approach to things and people. 

                                     ----Sumit Paul