Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Anger of Insight

“Between stimulus and response there is space and in that space lies our power to choose our response…” Ever since I had heard this statement from a Senior leader of the organization I had joined as a programmer during my induction, it remained with me. Probably merely as knowledge / memory. Quite motivated by that inspiring and insightful speech, I bought my first ever self help book (7 Habits ) from Shanbagh’s premier book stall on my way to M.G Road office , immediately after walking out of that induction meeting @ Lavelle Road. It is altogether another matter that it took almost 4 years for me to progress from the first chapter and complete the book. I managed that feat only during one of the Y2K projects when I could not take that boring work anymore. After that I did spend a good amount of time and energy trying to increase that space. But as the saying goes, at the end of day proof of the pudding is in the eating. As I had more “reactions” over the years than the “responses”, I am fully aware that, that space is Work in progress. . I did have my moments of glory when I did respond really magnificently under very trying circumstances. Those were really rare and indeed few and far between.
I had realized that I do need to do some more work on that to make it an Understanding on last Saturday. I had reacted in anger on two separate occasions in unrelated incidents within a few hours. First with the Engineering team of a developer / builder and second time with a good friend of mine. It won’t be fair for me to depict those situations as it will be rather a subjective one sided view. But it would suffice to say that regardless the nature of stimulus I did not respond. Probably I was too angry than necessary, the bad feeling did stay lingering inside me for another 24 hours.
As I had found out in many wonderful occasions in my life, cometh the hour and cometh the hour and cometh the man. A very good friend of mine, who had not called me for a very long time, called and realizing that I am not in the best frame of mind, was kind enough to share one of his life changing experiences. Probably loving kindness has this power of even moving providence and all sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. Soon I had the chance to see the wonderful speech of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard-trained brain scientist who suffered a stroke in 1996--at the age of 37--in the left hemisphere of her brain. She spoke of her experience at the 2008 TED Conference and wrote a book titled "My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey". This is the 90 second rule from the book “My Stroke of Insight” (Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor): When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop. That is, something happens in the external world and chemicals are flushed through your body which puts it on full alert. For those chemicals to totally flush out of the body it takes less than 90 seconds. This means that for 90 seconds you can watch the process happening, you can feel it happening, and then you can watch it go away. After that, if you continue to feel fear, anger, and so on, you need to look at the thoughts that you’re thinking that are re-stimulating the circuitry that is resulting in you having this physiological response over and over again.
So it is a remarkable point. Nature permits you to be in that state for a maximum of 90 seconds. (One might wonder why 90 Seconds. A research says that when people wait up to about a minute and a half, their sense of how much time has elapsed is fairly accurate. Anything over ninety or so seconds, however, and their sense of time distorts—if you ask how long they’ve been waiting, their honest answer can often be a much exaggerated one. So probably the inner timer works that way. )
So as long as one is able to lead oneself those 90 seconds with awareness when you really feel that adrenaline rush without choosing neither flight or fight reactions, one is able to respond and absolutely ensure freedom and happiness not only to self but to others as well. I think the passive "flight" response is repression and denial of anger for safety and aggressive behavior is associated with the "fight" responses.
As I had already stated: “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”.. Sooner than I had wished I had to discuss a rather serious matter with my better half ( in all respects) who perceived my stated position about that matter was way off the mark. Even though I did feel that rush of anger in those initial moments, I was prepared for those initial moments, to my surprise I spoke with so much clarity and objectivity and solved the matter.
So it does work. I can vouch for that.
Life is often bizarre, not easy and magnificent. Most often magnificent.
With this note, without much ado, I wish to end one of the chapters of my life.
My blog
As Budha had stated some 2000 years back, Law of impermanence is applicable to everything. Sincere heartfelt appreciations for reading and responding (& not reacting to my attempt at Writing.).
One never knows, about tomorrow.
But no more serving @ Sunday sambar 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Patriotism is the last refuge of...

Dr. Samuel Johnson who often has been described as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history" and whose lasting legacy is Johnson’s Dictionary of English Language is also known for his take on Patriotism. The context in which he said to have remarked “Patriotism is the last resort of S@@###s” is not very clear. It is good to validate the context in current geopolitical scenario. A couple of articles published in leading Indian media over the last fortnight on diverse topics had a common theme. Patriotism.
Let me quote Dr. Venkitaraman Ramakrishnan who won the Nobel prize for Chemistry recently. “ People have also taken offence at my comment about nationality being an accident of birth. However, they don’t seem to notice the first part of the sentence: We are all human beings. Accident or not, I remain grateful to all the dedicated teachers I had throughout my years. Others have said I have disowned my roots. Since 2002, I have come almost every year to India. In these visits, I have spent time on institute campuses giving lectures or talking to colleagues and students about their work, and stayed in the campus guest house. I have not spent my time staying in fancy hotels and going sightseeing without them. …..In my case, I am lucky to have had a combination of education, opportunities and a great team of co-workers to have made a contribution to an important problem. I am not personally that important. If I hadn’t existed, this work would still have been done. It is the work that is important, and that should be what excites people. Finally, there are many excellent scientists in India and elsewhere who will never win a Nobel prize. But their work is no less interesting and people should find out about what they do. My visits to India confirm that it has great potential and bright young students. A little less nationalistic hero worship will go a long way to fulfill that potential. “
In my view, that is the perception of one simple soul’s great way of looking at life and work.
And the second article was about Force India “Our “Own” Formula 1 team, which is in stark contrast of previously quoted article. Infact the only Formula 1 team in the circuit which uses a country’s name and wears Patriotism on the sleeve.
“Those who are getting worked up - due to nationalistic reasons. Apart from the money, there’s little that’s Indian in the team. Of the 28 key team personnel listed on their website, only one is from India – Mallya. Mercedes Benz supplies the engine, McLaren the gearbox. The drivers are European. Force India is the only team on the Formula One circuit that uses a country’s name. “
Probably that is the business of Patriotism. Or Patriotism of business. “Patriotic Indians” hardly remember it is the same person who hired one Kevin Peterson at an astronomical sum to lead his franchise in India Premier League and then had to rely on our own old war horse Anil Kumble to save the blushes. Infact there was nothing royal or Challenging about it till Mr. Kumble took over the mantle. Mr. Kumble who is a perfect professional whether he represents the country, state or club , did a fantastic job without thinking about the money Mr. Peterson took home for a score line of 1s and 0s..
It is really surprising that most of the people hardly realize that Nationalistic and Religious fervor are two conditioning tools smart guys have used from time immemorial to influence the unsuspecting common Janata and have their way. Whether it is in business or politics.
Probably that is the context in which Samuel Johnson had remarked that “Patriotism is the last refuge of ……”. His scholarly work of English Dictionary said to have remained the top seller in its category for some 150 years. And his statement w.r.t Patriotism will remain relevant in varied contexts till the mankind lasts in this planet.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Love + Logic = Light ( Light bulb i.e.!)

Love + Logic = light (light bulb i.e.!)
This is the story of two utter failures and many half baked successes in my life of recent times. Notions of success and failure do bring in the filter of pass mark and exam context. The wholesome credit for that self examination belongs to Dr. Richard McHugh, venerable NLP Guru. It was Dr. McHugh who drilled into my bird brain the most important concept I learned (still learning!) about the Art of communication. The ideas of “The meaning of our communication is the response we get and there are no resistant listeners but only inflexible speakers” were quite difficult to grasp and even more difficult to practice..

Almost like showing the final scene of Alfred Hitchcock movie at the start of the movie itself, I have told you the back ground of my failures and half successes. Now Let us delve into the stories. I would like to emphasize on the word Story rather than incidents, because that was another concept Dr. McHugh taught us... Any perception of a human being is a Story and history is nothing but his /her story. So here we go.
Even though the two protagonists of the first part of the story were as different as chalk and cheese, there are many striking similarities in their temperament, their world view and their approach to life. I did know them for quite some time and it was quite bizarre that most of the communication between us happened thru emails. Also I am keen to add, that though the available evidences seems to suggest otherwise, both of them assumed they are perfectly right in all matters of contention, and the position of the undersigned or for that matter anyone else always lay in the realm of Grey or Black ( in their HUMBLE view ).

I rather limit my descriptions of them so that their identity is not compromised at all. It is not really important for one to know who these folks are. Rather than it would suffice to know, that in my own self righteous way I took many personal snide remarks in email chains from them, before reacting in response or responding in reaction in a clinical fashion like a Surgeon. The only difference being Surgeons apply Anesthesia before wielding their scalpel , why I ensure my innocuous remarks loaded with subliminal messages enter their brain while they are absolutely AWARE. . Usually when I do that, I do justify myself , remembering Krishna’s Shishupala story (where the Lord forgave 100 insults before hitting out) and Jesus ‘s mandate that we have to forgive 7 times 70 wrongs. It is taken, that my own cut off point counted in one hand (being an ordinary mortal human being) sounds quite liberal enough. The way the recipients recoils in violet fashion to those “innocuous remarks” does give the small dark and cold corner in my mind a momentary satisfaction. Soon sanity prevails when I realize that once again I have failed once again in the Dr. McHugh litmus test of communication.
Now the half baked success stories. Not long back I could negotiate with an hardnosed , smart builder to withdraw their demand of some Rs. 55 k just before registration of my apartment . I had to really blow hot and cold with them for a few weeks, before they finally relented. The most satisfactory successes come when I am able to convince my sons of small things, which often takes a long time in talking it over. (With 4.5 years old Manu and 2.5 year old son Rishi.) While the theory of whatever little I know, comes from Mr. Mchugh, the practical part of it I absolutely owe it to Manu and Rishi. (It is altogether a different matter, that they have their way most of the times. :-))
Last week after I was reflecting about one of the episodes on communication which ended up in utter failure, I found it quite interesting to note that while failures had common floors of past baggage as well as thrust on email communication, the successes came from either when the focus and purpose of communication was absolutely on the issue or when there was an absolute trust and love in the air. (As in the case with my kids.).
Regardless the vast progress we human beings have made in all the spheres in life, I believe the way we think and act have not changed since time immemorial. So it is fascinating to note that even though there are voluminous texts and research papers on the art and science of persuasive communication, but none captured the essence of it so beautifully like Aristotle. He divided the means of persuasion into three categories Ethos, Pathos and Logos. Ethos or ethical appeal means convincing by the character of the author / speaker. Pathos means persuading by appealing to listener’s emotions and Logos means persuading by the use of reasoning.
Ethos can be considered as base ingredient, since without it no persuasion or communication ever happens. As Emerson rightly put it, “what you are speaks so loudly, I can’t even hear you speaking”.
I believe all of us have a door in our heart which only can be opened from inside. . Most of the sensible people leave the door a bit ajar, only when they feel they are understood perfectly. The kind knock at that door can be termed as empathetic listening. (Love). When the door is slightly opened, that is the time to put our thinking cap and present Data, analysis and Logic. Without the initial empathetic listening, all our Logic never ever reaches its intended target.
When it works out well, that is when you see the Light bulb lighting on top of the listeners head.
As I found out from my own experience, the toughest part is Empathetic listening. The number of impediments to this can be quite long.. Past history between the Actors in the act of communication, our own Ego, impatience, lack of time, the basic need in each of one us to be heard and tendency to hog the air waves , all can force the door @ the Heart of listener close tightly. Also we need to be aware that by being empathetic, neither we are agreeing nor conceding any ground w.r.t views. We are just acknowledging with respect, that his/her view point may have merit in it. Our own conduct in empathetic listening, by being patient, by being respectful and by acknowledging is what opens the door in the heart. Once the door opens, one doesn’t have to be a Cicero to convey the message.
Love + Logic = light (bulb!).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tribute to Ranjan Acharya

Last week after attending the funeral of one of my close relatives, I sat down to write on blog about the people who had made an impact on me.. The names came to my mind quite effortlessly and I chose to write only about the souls who are no more. Who was visible only to my mind’s eye? Funnily enough it was because of Ranjan, I started writing a blog.. Long time back after reading one of his articles published in Wipro Corp website ( I think after Dileep left , he had taken that mantle), when I asked him from where can I learn to write , he had replied that we can learn writing only by writing and asked me to start writing a journal everyday.. The reply mail also came with an anecdote on Bernard Shaw, who seemed to have written for more than 10 years before his first work was published.. I did take that advice and wrote for a few years in my journal. But I kept them hidden away from critiques, like kids hide peacock feathers in their notebooks.. After I had rejoined Wipro, I had shared my first blog with him and I had reminded him about his advice and Bernard Shaw anecdote.. Pat came the reply, Bernard Shaw can’t get it wrong, rite ?.
That was just one of the very few encounters (which were few and far between in last 13 years ) I had with Ranjan , after the really memorable first one in 1996 when I went to Lavelle road office for my HR interview to join erstwhile Wipro systems. I was supposed to meet one Gautam Sircar @ 10: 30 am.. But I was stuck in that famous lift and was saved well after 10: 30 am.. I came out blazing to meet my interviewer, tie in my hand, crumpled shirt in sweat and tears in my eyes. I think “Compassionate one “ was coming out of VC’s cabin and even though he was hurrying he did have time to spot me and help me out.. He took me to Gautam and asked him to take the interview after I had cooled down.. Maybe the compassion was contagious and Gautam just had a friendly chat with me for some time.. As I was walking out, I met him again. To his question of “whether I was selected or not”, I just replied I don’t know.. He just asked me to wait , went and asked that same question to Gautam and announced with that gracious smile, that I can collect my appt. order that day evening, from same office. As per his suggestion, I had my lunch @ Oasis, the mallu restaurant @ Church street and after the movie @ Galaxy, went and collected my appt. order. There it was signed Ranjan Acharya, General Manager. That was when I knew his name.
Much later, I had met him regarding Toastmaster club, NLP club@ Wipro etc.. But the best quote I remember was , when I went to him with a request to have my NLP Training session @ Wipro. Immly, he had called Kayo and Uma Sundaram and asked them to arrange one. When one of them was very subtlety expressing their doubt in my expertise in leading a session, he told them in his characteristic style that even a Govt. organization like IAF trusts their rookie pilots with those costly planes.. In Vishy’s case at least he has a safe copilot (Daniel Pacheco) to guide him.. And that was my first training session @ Wipro..
When I rejoined Wipro and went to meet him. He did not remember my name.. But did recognize me as the Toastmaster and exclaimed, “we Could start that club again”… I could sense that he was not doing well Health wise, but his Spirit was intact..
Last Saturday when I had met Joseph during the Mitr anniversary, I asked him about Ranjan. When he told me that he is not well, I never thought the end will come so fast.. May be the God wanted someone to start Leadership courses in Heaven.
In his stint he did live up to his name Ranjan - one who gladdens others heart and Acharya - One who practices what he preaches.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Lasting impressions of some remarkable lives from close quarters…

As our bus drove into Mannarkkad (which literally means Soil + rivers + forest) across the new bridge over Nellipuzha River, I felt the connection simply because I was born, raised and lived there for so many years. I was returning with my brother Sasi, to help our mother pack up and leave for Kollegal, the place she lived before she got married to my dad. Just some 24 hours had passed, since we attended the funeral @ Mysore of Raja mamma, one of local sons of soil.
Our neighbor @ Mannarkkad, who really is a well meaning lady , told me it may be really sad that my mother has to leave the place she loved and lived for more than 40 years. In her view it was sadder than Raja mama’s death. My mind failed to register the logic. Also I failed to convince her, that it hardly matters, since all of us will be bestowed with the opportunity to leave. Sooner or later.
I myself had left that place mentally, the moment my dear dad was buried, in probably the most scenic and beautiful burial ground in the world, adjoining the river he loved so much. When a local strong arm, tried to take over the tract of land which was owned by the small and dwindling Kannada speaking community, where generations of our ancestors were buried (and may be still sleeping listening to the hoary tunes of Kuntipuzha river), my father fought against him and ensured the place remained with us. Probably he was ensuring that greedy strangers with no values won’t encroach and disturb his very last slumber.
Having crossed so many tragic moments lately, it just seemed odd that this one would make any difference. But still i couldn’t quite put my finger on why it felt different. Maybe only, when someone known to you goes back to Mother Earth as basic elements, we steal some precious moments to step back and think what life means to us and more importantly what matters to us. Then it struck me that it was the people, who live still in my mind long after they are gone from here. It had nothing to do with the environment.
They weren’t many. I could count within my hands… They weren’t famous people in that sense of the word. When some of them died, only near and dear knew, wept and prayed for their souls.. Nevertheless they were really remarkable people, who led remarkable lives.

This is my homage to them..

I am not sure whether all of these impressions in my mind are captured thru my eyes and ears during my time with them. Some of them would have crept into my mind from the legends I have heard about them from others. It makes no difference to me. It should not, for you as well. Nothing is more malleable than reality. Life itself becomes the ultimate creative act, as you realize and become aware, that you are making your world from your own way of applying thoughts.

Let me start with the one whose untimely demise triggered this.
Infinite Grace. That is the way Rajamamma had lived and left this world. If grace is infinite, how could anyone be outside its boundaries? He reckoned, a mentally challenged but physically overgrown son of neighborhood tea stall owner as worthy of his mindshare and friendship in the same manner he had treated his wealthy friends, some of them who had inherited thousands of acres. His door was always open to the near and dear. His contagiously Ready smile and affectionate greeting welcomed us all at any point of time.
Always poised and balanced. I don’t remember seeing him hurried or harried. He put people at ease effortlessly.. And everyone was at ease at his presence... One who always dressed elegantly… Even for the last few months, when he was constrained to a wheel chair, one would not have found him with an unkempt beard, or shabby cloths.
More remarkable was the way he had faced his terminal illness.. He fought such a valiant battle against the crippling illness with such grace… May be he had decided, even when he had insufferable pains, he does not have to be one. Someone who cared for others in the most selfless manner.. Someone who thought about organizing a surprise birthday party to his wife from his wheel chair or trying to take care of my aged uncle who did not have many in his own family to look after him or trying to look for a suitable bridegroom for my sister in law…
He was a mentor par excellence for many in my generation and well wisher for many others. Personally I owe it to him for convincing me to stay back and complete my Engineering @ Hubli, finding me my life partner, teaching me that enjoying an evening drink is not a sin as long as I know my limits..And more importantly having shown fine and gracious way of living in the present for the future. Two incidents that readily comes up in my mind are the way he was quizzing my brother about getting Air-conditioning for the restaurant he was planning to start @ Mysore, while waiting for an appointment for Bypass surgery @ Narayana Hrudayalaya and the way he was looking forward to start card games from his wheel chair. For him the present moment is what really mattered and past was well left way behind where it belonged.
His positivity, generosity, kindness and the Great Spirit will outlive his death.
Neelakanta Doddappa
He was the first cousin of my dad… And probably one of the closest friends of my dad. I grew up on heady tales his brilliance and intellectual prowess.. Someone who could challenge World Bank consultants from Canada on the design of Arch dam @ Idukki.. One who could bring in innovative changes in hydro electric dam designs which could earn him an honorary membership of American Society of civil Engineers.. It is said that one the consultants had forwarded his brilliant ideas and that was good enough to earn him an honorary membership… If he was not afflicted with Parkinson disease at an pretty early age, I think he would have made much more impact in India like an E.M. Sreedharan. .. When I got an admission to Engineering, he presented me with a very old book on Metrics and measurement ( Originally written in German and translated to English) and he said , that is all one needs to know as an Engineer other than basic principles of things work.. It was quite amazing to see him solve problems from Integral calculus when his mind appeared to be free from the clutches of the disease.. Once I remember him telling my dad, that he finds it difficult to remember so many things including faces, except for Mathematics.. Last month when I had met my high school headmaster ( who was a classmate of Neelakanta Doddappa @ Intermediate), he told me if one person who could answer all the questions of a present day engineering entrances, probably it was Neelakantan.. Probably that compliment from a classmate after some 60 odd years says it all. I had lost the book he had presented to me. But one thing I retained was his signature.. I had designed my own signature after the one he had signed on that book. Of course his was more precise, and contoured to perfection like that Arch dam.
He was my favorite teacher who showed me the world of Jiddu Krishnamurthy, Frijit Capra and rationalism. My grandmother’s cousin, I had first seen him when he walked into attend his estranged brother’s funeral. I was told he had gone away from home after some misunderstanding and never returned to his home town for a very long time. Immly after he returned, the first thing he started was to open his free tuition centre. And soon my Dad ushered me and brother into his class. And I remained there for a very very long time till his death. A remarkable human being and teacher, who did not allow the tragedies of his own life (he had lost his wife very early and later in his life had to see his young son succumb to Leukemia) to distract or deter from his mission of imparting knowledge to many. One of early recipients of National Teacher Award ( For some reason he had hung his photo with Ms. Indira Gandhi to the corners of inner room ( may be after emergency), but he had proudly displayed the Brass peacock along with a note from one of his students just behind his seat), he stood out for his scholarly knowledge of English language, Literature, philosophy and economics.. Someone who lead his life like a disciplined Zen master’s, with pristine purity like his usual attire of white shirt and dhoti. What stuck to my mind forever, was his stoic expression even at his son’s funeral and his short and bland sentences which often conveyed much more than what he said. I felt he often kept a clinical distance between himself, his emotions and even his pain. My last memory of him was when I visited him at his hospital bed. He was diagnosed with cancer, which had spread throughout his body.. I had taken the small book of Siddhartha to read during my travel to the hospital in Perinthanmanna which was just one hour by road from Mannarkkad. He asked me to read a passage from it and as I was reading the passage about rebirth he stopped me . He told me about how Albert Camu, one of his favorite authors. Albert Camu died in a road accident and the great irony was he hated travelling by road and he had a train ticket to his destination in his pocket when he died. He just said thru his smile, that life is just like that. He was dead and gone within another week and I deliberately avoided attending his funeral. I just wanted to retain my last memory of him as it is.
Another person whom I wanted to write about was my dad, but then I think he has never gone away from me.. The kindest and most generous soul I have ever known was always there for me and I am sure he will be there forever..
I am not sure whether in Heaven they get to read blogs, or for that matter the existence of Heaven itself. I wish them well whole heartedly with immense gratitude.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

whiz Kids : Percepts and Concepts

Recent appointment of Nandan Nilekani as head of UID project brought back the old clamoring of “Bring the professionals to Govt” which filled the pages of pink papers during the recent election run of Capt. Gopinath and Meera Sanyal. With due respect to one of the most celebrated Indian businessman of this generation, I would urge the reader to not to rush in taking sides and read the following passage.
In this context, it was quite interesting to read the havoc created by the foremost whiz kid in govt. of this era, Robert McNamara who died recently. McNamara was criticized for applying his abstract thinking to management of the Vietnam War, ignoring the human and moral elements of the conflict. It was said, "McNamara treated everybody like they were a spare part on a Ford".
In his later years McNamara sought to atone for his role, and advocated a rethinking of the US and UK nuclear posture, advocating nuclear disarmament. But it was too little too late. His grudging mea culpa was just not good enough for a generation who had known him as Bomber Bob whose great abilities in statistics just ensured more Japanese and Vietnamese deaths and maiming.
When William F Buckley said that he would rather be governed by the first 2000 people in the Boston Telephone directory than by two thousand Harvard Professors, he did have valid point.
As De Bono rightly said “Many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence are skilled thinkers. The power of a car is separate from the way the car is driven. One has to watch the movie Enron: the smartest people in the room to see this opinion at its extreme.
In much more moderated view a high powered IQ without the ability of empathetic perception is a sure recipe to disaster. High powered IQ will just take us faster to the brink. If the reams of papers have to be believed Nandan is someone who was blessed with equal amount of EQ to match his famed IQ.
I end my case with a great passage from Peter Drucker’s semi-autobiographical account “Adventures of a bystander”.
In the chapter titled “Ernest Freedberg’s World,” Drucker writes about two old-line merchants. The first of these, called “Uncle Henry” by those who knew him, was the founder and owner of a large and successful department store. When Drucker met him, he was already in his eighties. Uncle Henry was a businessman who did things by intuition more than by formal analysis, and his own son Irving, a Harvard B-School graduate, was appalled at “the unsystematic and unscientific way the store was being run.”
Drucker remembers his conversations with Uncle Henry. “He would tell stories constantly, always to do with a late consignment of ladies’ hats, or a shipment of mismatched umbrellas, or the notions counter. His stories would drive me up the wall. But gradually I learned to listen, at least with one ear. For surprisingly enough he always leaped to a generalization from the farrago of anecdotes and stocking sizes and color promotions in lieu of markdowns for mismatched umbrellas.”

Reflecting many years later, Drucker observes: “There are lots of people with grasshopper minds who can only go from one specific to another–from stockings to buttons, for instance, or from one experiment to another–and never get to the generalization and the concept. They are to be found among scientists as often as among merchants. But I have learned that the mind of the good merchant, as also of the good artist or good scientist, works the way Uncle Henry’s mind worked. It starts out with the most specific, the most concrete, and then reaches for the generalization.” Drucker also knew another leading merchant, Charles Kellstadt (who had once run Sears.) Kellstadt and Drucker served together on a Department of Defense advisory board (on procurement policy), and Kellstadt told “the same kind of stories Uncle Henry had told.” Drucker says that his fellow board members “suffered greatly from his interminable and apparently pointless anecdotes.”
On one occasion, a “whiz kid” (this was during the McNamara era) was presenting a proposal for a radically new approach to defense pricing policy. Kellstadt “began to tell a story of the bargain basement in the store in Chillicothe, Ohio, where he had held his first managerial job, and of some problem there with the cup sizes of women’s bras. He would stop every few sentences and ask the bewildered Assistant Secretary a question about bras, then goes on. Finally, the Assistant Secretary said, “You don’t understand Mr. Kellstadt; I’m talking about concepts.” “So am I,” said Charlie, quite indignant, and went on. Ten minutes later all of us on the board realized that he had demolished the entire proposal by showing us that it was far too complex, made far too many assumptions, and contains far too many ifs, buts, and whens.” After the meeting, another board member (dean of a major engineering school) said admiringly, “Charlie that was a virtuoso performance. But why did you have to drag in the cup sizes of the bras in your bargain basement forty years ago?” Drucker reports that Charlie was surprised by the question: “How else can I see a problem in my mind’s eye?”
From these two encounters, Drucker draws this conclusion:“Fifty years or more ago the Uncle Henry’s and the Charlie Kellstadts dominated; then it was necessary for Son Irvin to emphasize systems, principles, and abstractions. There was need to balance the overly perceptual with a little conceptual discipline. I still remember the sense of liberation during those years in London when I stumbled onto the then new Symbolical Logic (which I later taught a few times), with its safeguards against tautologies and false analogies, against generalizing from isolated events, that is, from anecdotes, and its tools of semantic rigor. But now we again need the Uncle Henrys and Charlie Kellstadts. We have gone much too far toward dependence on untested quantification, toward symmetrical and purely formal models, toward argument from postulates rather than from experience, and toward moving from abstraction to abstraction without once touching the solid ground of concreteness. We are in danger of forgetting what Plato taught at the very beginning of systematic analysis and thought in the West, in two of the most beautiful and moving of his Dialogues, the Phaedrus and the Krito…They teach us that experience without the test of logic is not “rhetoric” but chitchat, and that logic without the test of experience is not “logic” but absurdity. Now we need to learn again what Charlie Kellstadt meant when he said, “How else can I see a problem in my mind’s eye?””

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Journey's with Kabir


Till now,  I was never much into  folk and Sufi music and  Documentary films..By being part of  Kabir Festival had changed that.

 It was one of the most  exhilarating experiences  of my life..  It was mix  of   classical music  and  some  Music  from “Wilderness”.. ( As one of the Artist  from Rajasthan  explained.)…  Even  as   an uninitiated layman  of  Music,  I could  say  that  in  Folk artist ‘s and Qawali   there was more life and  less of Music.  Probably they were not much worried about   the notes and swaras and layas…

The best  part of the  whole experience  was  the documentary film  Koi Sunta Hai ?   focused on  Kumar Gandharva.  Kumar Gandharva was recognised for his musical genius at the age of twelve when Pundit Deodhar  took him under his wings, later an unfortunate ailment of tuberculosis left him with just one lung.  For Ten  long years he could not sing, when  his  musical prowess at its peak..  He retreated  to Dewas , a place in  present day Madhya Pradesh.  It is said  that he regained his  health and passion for music after listening to  nirguna bhajans of Kabir   sung  by wanderers /beggars/monks.


PFB an article on journeys with Kabir ( published in Deccan Herald. )



Journeys with Kabir

Yamini Vijayan retraces Kabirs footsteps with Shabnam Virmani.

It still rings in my ears, that monotonous forced chanting that echoed through our classrooms, as we all recited Kabir’s dohas. We would mumble through our yawns, pinch each other while repeating them, almost meaninglessly. It would have never occurred to me then how far ahead of his times Kabir was. Was it because we were too young to understand then or were we not exposed to his powerful ideologies in the right manner?

But why would we turn to a 15th century weaver, a mystic poet, so many centuries later, do we not have enough heroes of our time? Maybe because right now sentiments are brittle, divisive politics are being played out right in front of our eyes and it has become difficult to cling onto hope without turning away from injustice. Today, when communal tensions have managed to make daily headlines, it seems like an appropriate time to go back to Kabir’s beliefs. A champion of Hindu-Muslim unity, Kabir’s bold opposition to superstitious beliefs, empty ritualism and caste distinctions in religion has always made him stand out as a symbol of non-conformity. But today, when religion is being used manipulatively, for all the wrong reasons, Kabir’s remarkably secular voice returns, as a breath of fresh air.

Last week, at multiple venues in Bangalore, a festival celebrating the ideas of Kabir — ‘Koi Sunta Hai’ — was organised through film screenings, seminars, discussions and live musical performances by folk, classical and Sufi singers. The director of the festival, documentary filmmaker Shabnam Virmani says, “The title of the festival draws on a phrase from a Kabir song that urges us to stop and listen. I hope in some small moment in this festival we will quieten down and allow ourselves to get nudged by Kabir away from dogma and self-righteous assertion towards listening with compassion and empathy.”

Shabnam has been working on the Kabir project since 2002. Her project has taken the form of four films, a collection of music CDs and books with Kabir’s poetry, along with the translations. An artist in residence at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, Shabnam feels that for her, Kabir has been a medium to find herself. So, what triggered her personal quest that led her to different parts of the country and even across borders in search of Kabir and his various manifestations? “There were many reasons. One of them was the Godhra riots. I was in Ahmedabad at the time. Also, I wanted to do something related to music, unadulterated music...,” she says.’s set of four films — Journeys with Kabir —  zoom in on the lives of an urban folklorist, a social activist, a Zen Buddhist scholar, a Dalit folk singer, a Muslim qawwal, a neo-fascist cleric of a Kabir sect — each of them bringing us closer to the revelation that there is no single Kabir, but instead, that he takes on different forms.
But her films go far beyond the confines of personal lives of those who have found meaning in Kabir’s philosophy, spilling over into socio-political issues, delving into the core of Hindu-Muslim politics and the concept of man-made boundaries. Shabnam also travels to Pakistan, only to discover that Kabir has touched lives even across borders. As she journeys with Kabir singers, stumbling upon revelations, old and new, it is likely that we find ourselves travelling alongside, engrossed in Kabir’s verses.

The Kabir festival that was organised brought together musicians from diverse backgrounds into shared performance spaces, initiating dialogue and cross-cultural collaborations. It also gave people an opportunity to understand Kabir through music, films and engage in his transformative poetry.

At IIM, Bangalore, after the screening of her film, Had Anhad: Journeys with Ram and Kabir, a visibly stirred audience asked her how her six-year-long project had affected her. “I seem to be lapsing into clich├ęs, but it’s been a joyous journey, a transformative experience,” she says, breaking into a wide sincere smile.

Shabnam is also a Kabir singer. Have you always been a singer, I ask her. “I have always been fond of music. But it is the democratic ethos of the folk singers and the nasha of being on the road with these singers that inspired me to take to music.” A man from the audience walked up to Shabnam before he left and asked her how she had managed to find all the singers in her films. “You sniff them out. I used to be a journalist,” she replied.

The Kabir project is a way of finding beautiful, powerful voices and helping them strengthen it. “There is so much darkness anyway,” as Shabnam puts it. Hopefully, many of us would draw inspiration from Shabnam’s journey, as she urges us to travel more, read Kabir’s poetry, listen to Kabir’s music and make links to our own lives.

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