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Is Positive thinking overrated?

I recently read an article in Times of India on the subject of ‘power of negative thinking’. It was partially a review of the book “Happiness for people who cant stand positive thinking” by Oliver Burkeman. The title of this book and article immediately got me hooked wanted to read further. It is certainly a topic that has been in my mind for a sometime now.

The most important point the article covered was how people in an effort to think positive fail to get prepared for the worst thing could happen. When we always think positively that we can achieve something and work towards that without recognizing the potential pitfalls, we tend to get easily disappointed when we face failure. With disappointment comes stress and sadness. So his point is that when we want to achieve something, start off by planning for the worst thing that could happen.

I certainly agree with the author that preparing for the worst is one aspect that positive thinking lacks. But I would like to suggest a mid-ground here… How about ‘Cautious thinking’??? or perhaps ‘Realistic thinking’??? I neither want to go all out saying that I want to achieve something without being cognizant of what could go wrong, nor do I want to think about all the potential things that could go wrong and tell myself that well if so many things could go wrong why even try it. The problem with negative thinking is just that – not many people have the ability to carry on with something despite knowing the list of things could go wrong…

You need to have positive thinking for setting your goals in life. What you set as goals are basically what you desire. But you need to know is that, you first have to ‘deserve to desire’. So you do everything you need to first deserve what you desire. And please be aware is to deserve is not a one shot affair. It is an iterative process and you may not deserve in your first attempt. Well who is going to tell you if you deserve something or not?? Answer is that it is none other than yourself…

Perhaps what positive thinking has done so far is that it has made a bunch of authors rich… 😉

So what do you think?? 🙂

Pictures – courtesy google.

Where a law abiding citizen is considered impractical

Like many I wanted to own a property in a city where I grew up. I came back from the US with a lot of promise and aspiration to buy an apartment (Condominium) in Chennai, India – The place where I grew up and lived most part of my life… But it has been 6 months since I returned, the aspiration or dream has not come true.

Well there are several constraints such as location, size, layout, price (of course) that I have to play with to strike a balance make some compromises. If these were the only one, I would have been already living in my own apartment. But there is one constraint I did not think of and is outside of my ability to manage that still prevents me from buying a house – Deviation: Floor plan approval vs actual.

What is a deviation – There are several types of deviations in constructing a house. But in simple terms it is called ‘breaking the law’. The local government authority (in my case CMDA) stipulates guidelines on how a house/apartment needs to be constructed. If you see most of these rules are primarily for safety reasons – i.e. If a house catches fire it should not quickly spread to other houses, if there is an emergency people are able to exit easily and safely, if there is an emergency a rescue vehicle is able to reach the spot, etc…

Unfortunately almost all the builders do not comply with these guidelines. They believe these rules are not practical and cannot be followed. As a matter of fact, I booked an apartment with a leading builder. When we started verifying the papers, there was a difference of 147 sq feet between the CMDA approval and the salable area (Thanks to my wife for the good catch – If not for her thorough verification, I may have missed it). When enquired, they were candid and mentioned that deviation is very common and that I was the only person to make a big deal out of it. Well I did make a big deal out of it and got my money back.

One of the main reasons this is happening is because buyers ‘don’t care’. There is a lot of money out there in the hands of people and they just want to invest. There is absolute madness with respect to real estate in Chennai. There are a lot of issues with this attitude which I want to deal with in another blog. But the least I would expect people to do is to check if what they are buying is according to law.

It is a horrible and nauseating feeling that people care so much about Vasthu compliant houses but not approval compliant houses. You may even see builders advertising saying that their apartments are Vasthu compliant but there are very very very few who can claim that their house as approval compliant.

Well am not going to give up. I will continue to insist on CMDA approval compliant apartment/house. At worst what could happen?? I may not be able to buy a house, people may call me impractical. Atleast I know I did not break the law and that I was a good citizen who does not think that the rules are only for others and not for me.

Human Resilience Vs Mother Nature

From time to time, mother nature has her own way of telling us that she is more powerful than us. But humans have our own way to respond back that we will bounce back and stand up. I witnessed a standing example of this tug-of-war this past week.

A couple of days back (09/22/2010), there was a severe thunder storm in Pittsburgh but lasted for just 30 mins. But 30 mins was all that our mother nature needed to leave behind 52000 homes without electricity. Many trees fell down and power lines were down. It took a couple of days to restore power.

Obviously in a country like US where electricity plays a major role in our day to day life, it was not so easy to cope with the situation where we did not have electricity for two days. We could not cook at home because the stove was electricity based. We could not walk out of our apartment to use the staircase to go in and out of the building because there is no alternative light source in the walkway even during the day… so it is pitch darkness…  If you dont have a flash light its a very tough situation (A moment that reminded me what a difficult life people who are blind actually lead.. It is really tough) So mother nature clearly told us that she is bigger than us and can simply put our normal life in jeopardy in no time.

But it was the human’s turn to respond back to mother nature politely that we have a strong will that can help us bounce back. One of my friends who lives in a different community which had power restored offered to help us – they were very magnanimous to accomodate our whole family till the power was restored in our apartment. Similarly people from different regions who had power offered to help other people who did not have electricity. Infact there were a group of families who got together, went and bought a camp stove (propane gas stove) and cooked for the whole group and spend a couple of days.

Be it hurricane devastation, volcanic erruption or power shut down or any other natural calamity, mother nature does tell us that she is more powerful. But humans do bounce back…

Defective Toyotas – An oxymoron? May be not

Fourth largest car recall in the history of auto industry by the world’s largest auto maker… The one who is suppose to be considered a pioneer in quality. Defective cars from Toyota? I could not believe it… All the top selling models of Toyota – Camry, Corolla, Prius, Highlander, Tacoma, all of them have been recalled due to sudden acceleration issues. My first reaction when I heard about Toyota’s recall was that it is certainly going to get added to the list of Oxymorons… That is because, over the years I have heard only good things about Toyota… Infact during my MBA days we have done case studies about Toyota’s quality and its success stories. When I came to the US, I found that the default used car choice for most of my Indian friends was a Toyota or a Honda… Most of them would have at least 80000 miles or more on them… When I ask my friends why they would buy a Toyota which has almost 100000 miles on it, they state the following: a) even at 100000 miles the car runs like new b) it provides great mileage (Miles per gallon) and c) its great value for money – you have a good resale value.

The kind of news that’s coming out about the recent Toyota recall is just eye opening… I have slowly started developing a feeling that Toyota is just another company and I can’t respect it like I use to anymore. The resale value of Toyotas has dropped so much…

Here is some news that came out recently which I read on the internet:

a) State Farm the largest auto insurer in the US came out with a statement a couple of days back saying that they have been reporting Toyota sudden acceleration issue since 2003 to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). But after all as an insurance company their job is to report trends from the accident reports that they get but it is up to the NHTSA to act on it.
b) Today I read an article on Bloomberg that former regulators hired by Toyota helped end at least four US investigation of unintended acceleration which could have resulted in a possible recall or a court and government hearing…

In hind sight it is clear that pushing the issues under the carpet from 2003 was not a good idea. Infact, even in foresight a company which is so well known for quality should know that if there are quality issues its better to address them as an when they occur… The kind of damage that is caused to their image now is going to be a mounting task to overcome. Isn’t it obvious that it is only a matter of time that they are going to get caught off-guard some day?? Particularly, issues like this which result in grave accidents needs attention immediately instead of just neglecting it as one of cases. Sometimes basic lessons that we learn when were kids like “A stitch in time saves nine…” need be taken seriously even when we grow up.

Karma… Simplified!!

My dad is a firm believer in Karma.. (So am i..) He use to tell me that life is like a balance sheet – The good things that we do go as assets and bad things that we do go as liabilities. At the end of our life if we have done more good and less bad then we will have some assets left.. So to enjoy the assets we may have a happier life in the next birth. But if we have more liabilities and lesser assets, we suffer in lieu of shortage of assets.

The concept of reaping the benefits or sufferings in the next birth does not quite sound appealing to many people. If the good or bad doings have any impact during the same life, there is a lot of incentive for people to do good things.

I recently started watching a TV show called – “My Name is Earl”. This show is actually based on Karma (Americanized version of Karma). It is a story of a person who always does some small crimes, mistakes, and bad things that hurt various people. One day he wins a million dollar lottery ticket and is on his way to encash it. But on the way he meets with an accident and loses the winning ticket and also gets really hurt. While he is in the hospital, he watches a TV show that talks about Karma. He then thinks to himself that the reason why he got hurt and lost the million dollar lottery ticket is because he has done a lot of bad things in life that has hurt so many people in different ways…

So he starts making a list of people whom he may have cheated, did something bad or hurt them in anyway. In every episode they show how he approaches them, confesses the mistake he did to them and apologies. He also does something to make up for what he earlier did to them. In the process of striking one person from the list he identifies one or two more and adds to the list… It is almost like a never ending list but he clears each one of them…

I really liked the concept of this show… It is a comedy show and the kind of mistakes he has done and what he does to make up for those mistakes is Americanized, and is also portrayed in a funny way… But the underlying concept is really noble and has touched me in many ways. It is a great virtue to accept ones mistake and apologies for something. The word “Sorry” is a very small word… But it requires a big heart to say the word “Sorry” and really mean it. It reminds me of the Hindi movie “Lage Raho Munnabhai”, Munnabhai asks Mahathma Gandhi if he can do anything for him… Mahathma says that he wants him to do something for him which is really difficult… Munnabhai says that he is a big shot in Mumbai and can do anything. Mahathma says that he will ask him when right time comes… Finally a situation comes when Munnabhai slaps his best friend in a rage… Mahathma asks him to go and ask “Sorry” to his friend… That was the most difficult thing that Munnabhai has ever done… It brings out the point that real bravery is in accepting ones mistake as apologizing for that… Man!! That scene was really touchy…

This show “My name is Earl” handles the same subject more realistically – When Earl goes and tells someone that he did something bad to them, they don’t take it easy always (unlike what we saw in the case of Munnabhai). He does face rejection from them initially. He still persist and finally does find something that person would really need at that point of time and does that somehow to make up for his wrong doing.

I actually think this is really the simplified version of Karma… Linking our doings to rebirth may seem a little complicated… We are humans after all and can do mistakes knowingly or unknowingly which may have hurt others… But in an effort to balance our Karma, I don’t think doing some unrelated good things is a good idea… It is like “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”… I feel that if we have done something bad to someone, we should at least attempt to go and apologies to them and try to do something to make up for what we have done. It may not be possible always and with everyone… But in most cases it may not be as difficult as we think. It is certainly worth an attempt… That is probably a better way to bring our Karma balance sheet back in line… After all, a guilt free mind is a happy mind.

Am in the process of coming up with my list… So watch out… I may be knocking at your door to apologize for something. 🙂

Life inside a kitchen sink.. :-)

There have been many days when we have just left all the dishes in the sink unwashed at the end of the day and gone to bed. The next day morning, when I enter the kitchen, I stare at the sink looking at the number of dishes out there to wash. But at the same time I feel that the dishes are staring at me too hoping to be washed in some warm water because they have been out in the cold for more than 8 hours.

I use to just think that if the dishes and other items that are lying in the sink could talk to each other, and also can communicate with me, what it would be like??? May be this is how…

Characters: Myself, Blender (Jar, blade & the bush), pressure cooker, rice cooker, microwavable bowl (1 from my neighbor’s house), my tiffin box and a spoon

Scene: 10.30 pm – After finishing the dinner, my wife and I split the dishes, emptied them and have put them in the sink. On one side of the sink has Rice cooker filled with water inside which there is the blender’s jar, blade and the bush. Other side the pressure cooker, again filled with water with the cooker lid immersed in that. The remaining space in the sink occupied by the semi open tiffin box which have not been washed for more that 2 days :-(, and the spoon.

Rice cooker – Hey… Hey… Hey Gokul… Common man… where are you going??? I thought you were going to clean us tonight…

Gokul – No! sorry guys… You see, both of us (Subha and I) have had a very busy day… we had gone out in this cold night for some shopping, just came back and finished our dinner… So you guys have to wait till tomorrow…

Pressure Cooker – This is really not fair man… You guys have been giving excuses every single night for that last 5 days… Do you even want to listen to our issues?? We cannot be sitting here in this cold all night… My case is even worse… Either you are putting me in extreme heat (on the hot plate) while cooking or putting me through extreme cold in the sink… Give me a break

Gokul – Ok let us talk about this tomorrow… Good night guys… Click (Lights off)

Rice Cooker- Giggles… Hey Pressure Cooker, I think you really gave him a piece of your mind… I felt like saying the same thing to him… Look at these other folks out here… They don’t speak up because they don’t face the issues that we face. It’s only us who either have our ass under fire or have to hold ice cold water for 8 straight hours.

Blender blade – Hey!! wait a minute… What are you talking about… I have problems too man… Its not like I keep quite because I don’t face any problems… Its because, I have given up with this guy.. There is no point arguing with him any more…

Pressure cooker – Really!!! Like what?? I thought you belong one of those elite group.

Blender Blade – No… Am just put through so much stress but I just dont get any credit from these guys. They just drop all kinds of stuff on top of my head asking me to crush/grind. So many times they end up choosing the wrong speed/level and keep telling me that I have either over crushed or under crushed the stuff… I just hate it when they want me to grind the Dosa/Idli mix… They forget to soak the rice & oorad dhal well ahead of time, or do not put them in the right proportion and expect me produce the right results… Now they have removed me from the jar and the bush and have dropped me inside you in this dirty cold water. Tomorrow one of them is going to come and leave their hand inside to pick me up and will get hurt… I am going to be blamed for that also despite their carelessness… I just hate my life.

Rice Cooker – Boy!! you have so much to complaint… I understand your problems but your blades are actually poking on me… Its kind of a little painful when you talk particularly… can you like turn a little bit…

Blender Blade – Ooops am sorry!!!

Rice Cooker – Thats alright… By the way, what is that bad smell… That really stinks..

Tiffin Box – Thats me… Yes thats me… I know I stink… But that is not my fault… I was sitting inside his office back pack for two days and he took me out only tonight… The least he could have done is atleast not opened me partly. At least I would not be spreading around the stinky smell…

Presure Cooker – Its ok tiffin box… We can understand your problem. We are probably experiencing only a little bit of that smell… You have been keeping that with you for more than two days… it must be tough…

Tiffin Box – Tell me about it… This is not the first time… Particularly if its a weekend and he does not have to take lunch the next day, am 100% confident he will forget me… Boy I just hate weekends… Normally when he realizes that I have to be cleaned, the sink is empty so I generally don’t tend to affect you guys with the smell.

Spoon – What about me… I have the same problem too. He did not wash me too…

Tiffin Box – But you dont stink like I do… even if he does not wash you at all you are not going to stink.

Spoon – That does not mean that I dont have problems. None of you guys have would have faced the problems that I have faced..

Tiffin Box – Ohhhhhhh!!! I know what you are talking about… But I will let you say that so that others know it… Really funny… you guys should hear this.

Spoon – Stop it man… there is nothing funny about this… Its really painful…

Pressure cooker – Ok.. Ok… tell me what is it??

Spoon – You guys know that there is a erator under this sink hole right? It actually has some sharp blade like stuff on it… So when he switches that on, it rotates hard and removes any stuff that is stuck inside so that water can flow smoothly down the drain…

Rice cooker – Ya… we know that.. But we did not know that it has any blade like stuff on it. We have heard the sound when it rotates but did not know the details… By the way, how did you know all that…

Tiffin Box – Ha.. Ha.. Ha…. (lol…) Sorry man… I just could not help it…

Spoon – Laugh you stinky moron!! Anyways, what really happens is that sometimes if the sink is slipery, I slide down the sink hole and fall on top of the erator… Without knowing that am in there, gokul just switches that on and erator rotates so hard and just beats the crap out of me… I have to shout loud to tell him that am inside… Then he stops the erator and pulls me out… Am still sore from the last time…

Pressure Cooker – Man that’s a very sad story… We did not know what was down there… By the way there seems to be stranger amongst us here…

Microwavable Bowl – Hi guys… I actually live next door… My master had made some eatable stuff which they had passed on me… It was actually funny to listen to all you guys… Because this the first time am sitting in a sink unwashed…

Rice Cooker – Really??? What are you talking about.. How’s that possible?

Microwavable Bowl – You know at my house, there is a dish washer… There have been days when I have sat inside the dish washer waiting to be washed… But I think its worth the wait… Warm water spraying from all directions.. It sometimes tickles also… 🙂  Once the washing is complete even hot air blows and dries us so we don’t feel cold…

Pressure Cooker – Hmmmmm… Some of us have also had that good experience… When Gokul use to live here in another house we use to have that dish washer experience. It use to be so much fun… I look forward every day for that experience… When we came to know from Gokul that we are moving on to this house which does not have a dish washer, it was like the worst news I have ever heard…

Rice cooker – Yup I agree with you…

8.00 am – Lights on

Gokul – Hey boys Good morning…

Rice cooker – Ya… Ya… Good morning… Can you please open some warm water on us please…

Gokul – Sorry boys… I dont have the time for that now… Subha should be here in a few mins… She will take care of you… Ok… Byee…

Rice Cooker – Hmmm… that’s even better… Now we have to wait for some more time..  😦

The wait continues… 🙂

Entertainment that is not entertaining any more..

Technological advancement has and continues to impact our lives in so many different ways. Particularly TV entertainment has seen unbelievable changes and advancement… But sometimes I feel these changes and advancements have gone overboard..

In an effort to provide more entertainment, the technological advancements in a way is providing less entertainment.

I was asking myself – “When was the last time I have really waited for watching a favorite TV show??”. It has been a really long time…

Till I was in my 11th grade, I did not have a cable TV connection at home (thats because we did not have a color TV which was compatible with Cable TV). Like most of us, (people of my age or older) all that I had was only 1st Channel (DD1) and 2nd Channel (DD2). For cinema songs I use to either listen to radio or on TV wait for ‘Oliyum – Oliyum’ (tamil songs on friday) or wait for ‘Chitrahar’ in the morning and ‘Super Hit Mukhabla’ (For hindi songs on sunday). For watching a movie, we had to wait for Sunday evening for the regional movie… For a comedy serial we had Shreeman – Shreemathi, for mega serial we had Junoooon, for investigative serial we have Kanooon… I just love those days!!!

Even though the number of channels that we had then were limited and the number of programs that we use to see were limited, I was still looking forward to watch something that was really entertaining… There was a reason to switch on the TV…. I use to switch on the TV because I was going to watch a program that I was looking forward to watch… But today, there are 100s of channels and 1000s of programs… Although there are a few programs that are good to watch, I still don’t switch on the TV for watching any specific program. I was initially thrilled with the number of programs that are waiting to you entertain me at anytime (literally 24 hrs a day)… But now I just feel overwhelmed and feel saturated… The law of diminishing marginal utility has started setting in…

TV is almost like a magazine thats lying on a chair/bench of a hair saloon – like you keep turning the pages of a magazine, and may be something catches your attention and you read that page for sometime and then start browsing again… I just keep moving the channels on the remote… (Ya! I know a TV remote and a comfortable sofa is a deadly combination… ) In fact sometimes I feel that I spend more time browsing the channels using the remote than actually watching a program…

I really wish I get back to those days of just DD1 and DD2. I know this wish is like many other wishes which can remain as only wishes. While I keep saying that I want to go back, I also know that I can never go back… But one thing I can certainly do and am planning to do from this new year is to be choosy on the programs I watch so that I spend less time browsing the channels and more time watching one.