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When I get time, I listen to music, or read books. If any is left, I blog!

Monday 16 December 2013

Alone In A Crowd

Why are some people arrogant?  What do they gain by being arrogant?  How does it affect others?

All of us encounter arrogance in one form or another almost every day.  Generally we ignore it, although at times we feel insulted and hurt.  Yet we try not to react, because we know engaging the arrogant is like wrestling a pig in the mud. While we get dirty, the pig makes merry enjoying our discomfort!

A recent survey listed four possible reasons behind arrogance, and asked respondents to select one, which they thought was the most likely cause. The options were:
  • Exaggerated sense of self-importance 
  • Attempt to hide own fears and weaknesses
  • Disregard towards others and their feelings
  • Power, success, wealth, greed, and envy
One in every three respondents chose the last option.  True to the vulgar display of power and wealth, driven by greed and envy, and punctuated with contemptuous behaviour that prevails today!

Avoiding the arrogant may be easy, but helping them shed that repulsive behaviour is challenging. The most difficult part is to make them realise that arrogance is an attitudinal problem, and that its solution is very much in their own hands.  Once this is done, anyone arrogant but with an honest and keen desire to reform, must follow these steps:
  1. Know that every individual is different, with own ways and thoughts. 
  2. Stop being judgemental.  You are only as perfect as the other.
  3. Give space and respect to others and their points of views.
  4. Listen when someone speaks without interrupting him.
  5. Avoid bragging about oneself and own achievements.
  6. Bottle up expectations to be treated like a VIP.
What is your experience?  Do you shy away from arrogant people or take them head on?  Have you ever tried to help them reform?

   'You attract people by the qualities you show. 
You keep them by the qualities you own.'

Wednesday 27 November 2013

An Alert Over Additives

Haven't you heard of food additives? If not, you sure have seen it, smelt it, tasted it..., even fallen pray to its side effects! The consequences were perhaps, so minor that you ignored it. After all who takes a stomach upset, headache, or a tiny rash on the skin seriously, unless it persists?

Additives are present in every bite or sip that we take. Those in the business of feeding us, would justify it as the only way to keep food fresh and safe throughout its long journey from farms/factories to retail outlets. Fuelling its indiscriminate use is our own increasing demand on the variety, availability, and affordability of food items.

For long, the harmful potential of food additives has been a matter of research as well as debate. Debate, because of lack of credible and conclusive finding! For instance, afflictions caused by an additive in one person need not occur in another. Further, tests on additives performed in isolation, make it impossible to determine their combined effects in a particular food preparation.

The culprits could be any additive from the commonly used Colouring agents, Preservatives, Sweeteners, and Flavour Enhancers to the more potent Hydrogenated Oils (Crackers, Cookies and Cakes); High Fructose Corn (Baked products), MSG or Mono Sodium Glutamate (to stimulate appetite), Olestra (a substitute for fat), and so on. Their regular consumption can cause Digestive, Nervous, Coronary, and Respiratory disorders.

The food industry prefers to play down this negative perception. In terms of real health risk, they contend, food-borne micro-organisms and lack of hygiene pose far greater threats than additives.

The tragedy is the manner in which policies governing food production/processing are framed. In Europe, an additive is assumed to be harmful until proven safe. As the GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe) rule in USA suggests, an additive is presumed safe until proven otherwise. These different approaches only serve to cause further confusion.

Let us not fall prey to these assumptions and presumptions. It is not only our right, but responsibility as well, to ensure safety for us and our children. Hence, do not hesitate to reject food that contains any additive about which you have any misgiving or reservation.

   'If it came from a plant, eat it;
if it was made in a plant, don't.'
                                                   — Michael Pollan    

Thursday 31 October 2013

Anniversary Contest

TEEGA is 11 years old.

A happy moment!  Could I be happier? Yes, I would have gone 'posts' ahead, had I been a bit more consistent.

For long, a website to showcase my interest in reading and writing was a dream. When it happened, I had to name the domain after someone who used to share my dreams. A few years of hesitation..., and eventually I became a blogger.

The frequency of my updates may be low. That is because I am neither a prolific nor a spontaneous writer. My eagerness to be accurate, brief and clear is another factor that slows me down. In spite of this, some of my posts have been well received, and generously appreciated  by you.

The Anniversary Contest, a gesture of gratitude, gives you an opportunity to win three bestseller books. Click here to go on to the Contest page.

I hope you will like my efforts, and continue to inspire and support me.

Thank you

Thursday 24 October 2013

The Other Side Of A Language

The author's profile in an all-time best-seller novel reads, 'He married his wife in 1951...." Marrying X, Y or Z, or even someone else's wife is possible, but how does anyone marry his 'own' wife? An error in reasoning? Well, let us gloss over this as acne on the face of a beautiful language!

Years ago, defending the 'Act of Union' in the House of Commons, Joseph Addison spoke: 'Mr. Speaker, I conceive...' An uproar cut him short. Addison started again, 'Mr. Speaker, I conceive...' For some reason he repeated, 'Mr. Speaker, I conceive...' A member in the opposition interjected: 'Mr Speaker, the honourable member conceived thrice, but brought forth nothing!' Well, thoughts are more viscous than words...!

In a play by William Shakespeare, Desdemona tells Othello: 'I understand the fury in your words, but not the words.' 

Reminding us of this quote, are some of the English speaking anchors on India's TV channels. We 'see' them talking at smoking speeds, seldom 'hear' them! Their eagerness to impress, pains us! We struggle to catch up with them as if on a 'pothole-filled road'!

They believe it is style that matters, not clarity or accuracy. They greet us with 'Very good morning,' never 'Very goodnight'! Comparisons sound profound when they say 'More better' and 'Much more better'! They make us believe that 'At this point of time' is more precise than 'Now', 'Put an end to' has a finality that doesn't come with 'End', and 'Return back' guarantees a reassuring 'Return'!  They seldom 'take a break' for commercials, but surreptitiously 'slip into a break'!  'Anyways'...

'Anyways'? Yes, because to most of them, the good old 'Anyway' sounds boringly stiff and staid! Who said only nouns can be plural? Trash the grammar! And stop drawing parallels with 'Anyone', 'Anybody', 'Anything', 'Anyhow' or 'Anywhere'.

Isn't changing a language 'much more easier' than spending years learning it?

   'When the English language gets in my way,
I walk over it.' 
                                                   — Billy Sunday    

Thursday 19 September 2013

Fair And Unfair Faces Of An Airfare

This isn't about flying, but the business of flying.

In five years ending 2013, airline operators in India have run up a loss of 8.5 billion USD. Their accumulated debts stand at 15.00 billion USD. The question is: 'Which is going to fly higher – the plane or the plane fare?' Those who continue to subsidise the economics of mismanagement would know better!

This time around what is amusing is 'Unbundling', a semantic striptease where amenities, part of the air fare once, are being shed one by one. A quarter of the free baggage allowance has vanished. Sports, Musical, and other items now attract additional charges. Preferred seats aren't free options any more. On board, drinks (except water), snacks, and meals have to be purchased. It costs to stretch your legs in airlines' lounges. And think twice before cancelling your tickets.

If you dislike sitting next to babies, a 'Quiet Zone' may soon be available as an upgrade. Rule out taking a catnap, as on-board 'Sampling' sessions could wake you up with give-away sachets of shampoo or shaving cream!

Unlike this, Samoa Airways, which operate flights between the Independent State of Samoa and American Samoa have been innovative. They recently introduced a 'Fly-by-Weight' fare structure. Originally suggested by Dr Bharat Bhatta from Norway, the scheme sums up the cost of a ticket from the passenger's body weight, weight of the luggage carried, and length of the flight.  For the obese and over-weight, this would indeed be a worthwhile incentive!

'Unbundling' has to be 'bundled up' at the earliest. It is both confusing and unfair. If allowed to continue, the day when greedy airlines levy 'lavatory charges' may not be far away!

   "If the Wright brothers were alive today,
Wilbur would've had to fire Orville to reduce costs"
 — Herb Kelleher, USA Today    

Monday 26 August 2013

It Happens Only In India

To most of you, recent reports on 'Head Transplants' in human beings might appear bizarre. Few would however realise that science was merely on a 'reinventing spree'! Because, as early as the second millennium BC, organ transplants were known in India. In a way, this establishes the diminishing gap between mythology and reality.

Look at these oft-repeated mythological tales:

Sati (Parvati in her earlier birth) falls in love with Shiva and marries him against her father Daksha's wishes. Feeling let down, Daksha invites everyone for a grand ritual at his palace, except the couple. Yet, Sati attends the ceremony. Daksha ignores her at first, then begins to publicly abuse Shiva. Unable to bear the shame, Sati sets herself to Yogic fire. When news of her death reaches Shiva, he decides to punish Daksha. His aides wreck the sacred site, slice Daksha's head, and hurl it into the sacrificial fire. Later, relenting to other gods' pleadings, Shiva resurrects Daksha by fixing a goat's head on his body.

In the second legend, Parvati while preparing for bath realises she is alone at home. So, she shapes some turmeric paste used as skin cleanser into a lad's form. Making it come alive, she asks him to guard the entrance. When Shiva returns home, the lad blocks his entry. In rage, Shiva beheads the lad. Later, moved by Parvati's grief, he orders his aides to fetch the head of any life form sleeping with its head to the North. They return with a baby elephant's head. Shiva attaches it to the lad's body and revives him. Ganapati or Ganesha was born thus.

The science of Ayurveda with its amazing ability to sustain and revive life, was a gift to mankind from Lord Brahma. He blessed Daksha Prajapati with this knowledge. Daksha passed it on to Ashwinikumaras, celestial twins with human bodies and horse-heads. Dhanwantari learnt it from them, and chose Sage Bharadwaja to propagate it.

Among Bharadwaja's disciples was Atreya (900 BC), author of 'Atreya Samhita', the world's oldest book on medicine. Sushrutha (600 BC), son of Sage Vishwamitra who gave us the 'Gayatri Mantra', was a master of surgeries. In 'Sushruta Samhita', he elaborates over 300 surgical procedures including Rhinoplasty. Charaka (400 BC) compiled over 1200 illnesses with their symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment in 'Charaka Samhita'.

Vagbhata, Patanjali, and Nagarjuna who followed, took Ayurveda to greater heights. Vagbhata's work, 'Ashtanga Hridaya' captured the essence of Ayurveda in easy to understand verses. The renowned Ashtavaidya (masters in eight branches of medicine) practising Ayurveda today in Kerala, are descendants of Vagbhata's disciples. Patanjali added a new dimension with 'Yoga Sutra', a book on Yogic postures. Nagarjuna through his 'Rasa Shastra' introduced therapeutics using heavy metals. Another priceless contribution was that of Shalihotra in the form of Veterinary sciences.

How apt were Martin Luther King Jr's words: 'If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values...'

   "Many of the advances in Sciences that we consider to have been made in Europe were in fact made in India centuries ago."    
                                                                                                                                                     ~  Grant Duff

Tuesday 30 July 2013

My Brain, Your Body, And Our Life!

Cornea (1905), Kidney (1950), Pancreas (1966), Heart/Liver (1967) and Lung (1981)... What followed was even more incredible: Hand (1998), Penis (2006), Arms (2008), Legs (2011) and Face (2013). Logically, Head should come the next. And, it seems so.

Dr. Sergio Canavero, neurosurgeon from Italy confirms that possibility in a couple of years. Calling it a 'Head Transplant' maybe inaccurate because what the recipient gets is a body, not a head! The misnomer aside, promise of an extended life to someone with a healthy brain, but a diseased or dysfunctional body captures our attention.

The procedure involves surgical severing of the heads of both the donor and recipient to begin with. The recipient's head will then be aligned with the donor's body and the circulating system between the two connected to ensure blood to the brain. A robot assisted microsurgery that follows will render the more complex job of joining the spinal cords and nerves.

Though, still a theory, 'mating' one person's head with the body of another seems bizarre. How will the recipient's brain react to the sudden loss of its body, and adjust to the demands of another? Dr. Canavero himself says, the 'chimera' created will carry the mind of the recipient, while children born subsequently will inherit genetic traits of the donor!

Confused? This anecdote, if true, may have an answer. While experimenting with transplants in 1970, well-known neurosurgeon Dr Robert White severed the head of a Rhesus monkey and attached it to the body of another. When the monkey woke up and noticed its new body, it glared, snarled, and snapped at Dr. White. Was the monkey expressing horror, dread, or helplessness?

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world;
the unreasonable man tries to adapt the world to himself...."
                                                                                                                                     ~ George B Shaw

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Running Out Of Water

Way back in 1746 Benjamin Franklin warned that only when the wells turned dry, would we learn the worth of water. Prophetic words, for not only wells, but ponds, lakes, and rivers all over the world are beginning to dry up!

Water is one life-sustaining element that we have always taken for granted, despite knowing that over 99% of the water on Earth’s surface is either inaccessible or unfit for use, and all that is left for us to share with other life forms is just about 0.3% water existing in lakes and rivers. But, we have gone on exploiting and polluting it, through mindless deforestation, distortion of natural landscapes and excavation for minerals and ores. 

The result is an erratic 'Water Cycle' (Click here to read more), which is making the globe warmer, rains unpredictable, and groundwater scanty. Recurring droughts are turning many regions arid. If you have doubts, recall the last time you caught the distinctive smell of soil as the first raindrops fell on a warm and dry earth.

A case in point is the city of Mumbai, which gets around 10,00,000 million litres of 'heaven sent' water every year. Where does it all go? With buildings spread over 70% of the city, and paved tiles, cement, and bitumen covering open spaces, most of it drains out into Arabian sea.

No one realises the importance of groundwater to humans, plants and animals. Using powerful pumps, we are extracting groundwater at a rate far in excess of its natural replenishment. That is why, ten years ago we could dig a well 30 feet deep and get water, but can't find any even at double that depth of late. A clear sign of withdrawal of groundwater!

No extra effort is needed to revitalise this fading resource. If you are a resident in a housing complex, insist on leaving the surrounding space within the complex open. Veto any proposal to cover it with cement or tiles. Support community initiatives to protect and preserve water-bodies like lakes, springs, and wetlands. Facilitate the seepage of as much rainwater as possible into Earth.

A tiny step, but it will make this planet smile again!

"We’ve poisoned the air, the water, and the land... 
We’re running out of resources and we are running out of time."
~ Robert Redford

Thursday 21 March 2013

Bitti Bunty Bang Bang!

Pseudo-intellectuals seldom worry, because they have nothing to lose! My boss was one such person. Once, looking frighteningly grim, he threw a question at me: 'Look at Marwaris, Gujaratis, Punjabis, Bengalis..., and their contributions in building India. What have you people given?' Before I could respond, he was on the telephone pretending to be talking to our Chairman!

Continuing this game of pseudo-intelligence, he would often call me 'Madrasi'. Once when I tried to explain, he said: 'You people are all of the same ilk. You wear lungis, use coconut oil, and speak an andu gundu lingo.' I wonder how he would have reacted, as that 'unseen' land is beginning to emerge.  Does it make me proud? No. And I have a reason to say so.

'Big Boss' fame Devinder Singh maybe familiar to TV viewers, but his alleged role in real life as 'Bunty chor' may not be. A police suspect in numerous cases of theft and conning, Bunty reached Kerala to break into a house! Picking up some valuables, he drove away in the house owner's luxury car, not knowing that a hidden camera was capturing his escapade!

Bitti Mohanty convicted for raping a German tourist jumped parole. On the run, he reached Kerala where he was reportedly living incognito for three years. The son of a retired DGP in Orissa, Bitti managed to earn MBA degree and even land a job in a public sector Bank.

Had my boss been around, he would have quoted with glee, a joke that Desmond Tutu, South African Anglican Archbishop and opponent of apartheid narrated:
"When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land.  They said, 
'Let us pray.'  We closed our eyes. When we opened, we had the Bible and they had the land."
- Desmond Tutu: A Biography by Steven Gish

Thursday 28 February 2013

Bite Off More Than You Can Chew!

'Half of what I spend on advertising is a waste. The trouble is I don't know which half,' said John Wanamaker.

The crux isn't in tracing the 'better-half', but tolerating its surreptitious intent that occasionally tends to deride our sense and sensibility.  Upholding freedom of creativity and advocating its unrestrained expression are indeed admirable. The question that ought to bother us however, is the turpitude of expression used to bridge creative deficit.

If you have any doubt, check out the TV ad promoting an international brand of chocolate.

You will see here a father and daughter, out of breath from jogging, slipping on to a wayside bench. The daughter takes out a chocolate bar and asks, 'Pops... Want some?' Chuckling at how kiddish she still is, the unsuspecting father takes a bite, and lo, he is all perked up to go for two more rounds! Concerned, the daughter queries, 'Two more rounds?' She then hastens to say, 'Sure.' As soon the father takes to the track, the daughter turns around to beckon her boyfriend, waiting just a whistle away, behind the hedges.

The implied suggestion is clear:  Hoodwink your father, to flirt with your boy friend!  Whenever I see this ad, I feel uncomfortable; so could many among you. Perhaps, the quote below sums up the reason better.

"Never write an ad, which you wouldn't want your family to read.
You wouldn't tell lies to your own wife. Don't tell them to mine."
-  David Ogilvy

Saturday 12 January 2013

Selling Coal to Newcastle!

As we were 'ringing in' New Year, images of a different 'ring' came to my mind! A 'ring of fire'!

At crowded junctions in villages, you would have seen dogs performing the feat of jumping through flaming hoops held aloft by its master. More than the tiny ring to squeeze past, what scares the dog is the blazing fire, the searing heat. Still, it goes on to bear the ordeal, to support a cruel and selfish master!

Similar rings exist in our lives too. 'Rings of rules', which we encounter day in and day out, eager to negotiate and at times tempted to circumvent. The 'street-smartness', once the exclusive prerogative of dogs seems to have infected us! So, we too leap like the dog …, many a time not through the ring, but the free-wheeling space outside!

A conversation that I overheard in a suburban train, was proof of this ingenuity. Two newspaper vendors were discussing the annual subscription schemes currently on in Mumbai. The scheme offered news dailies at abysmally low rates, as low as 20% the cover price. But, as sales picked up, the scheme underwent a revision. Despite the continuing price advantage, the market reacted with initial resistance much to the vendors' concern.

“Use your brain, buddy. There's always a way,' one vendor was telling the other. He went on to explain. 'When a client declines to renew, ask him a favour. Tell him, if he would handover the renewal cheque and the subscription coupons he gets from the newspaper, you would refund the entire cheque amount in cash. Just a minor arrangement to help you hold on to your distribution figures! Having nothing to lose, most of the clients would agree. You thus get to sell the discounted copies for a full year at regular new stand price, even as you earn the customary commission!'

I was impressed. If 'jumping through the ring' required practice, with a bit of ingenuity you could 'jump the ring' itself! 
"When faced with a challenge,
look for a way, not for a way out!"