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.

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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.

Managing kids by Provocation

“Do you want to want to eat this Pizza slice or should I give it to your sister???…” “You pestered me so much to get this chess board do you want to play with this or should I give it to your cousin???…” “Are you coming in or should I close the door??? ”

These are common questions that I have seen many parents or grandparents ask their children to make them do something…  Most often than not, these questions result in our children doing what we wanted them to do… (Unless you chose the wrong provocative questionJ)

In other words, parents and grandparents manage their children by provocation to make them do something that we want them to do.

I think this method of managing kids is good and bad… One possible good thing about this method is that, it is a very good tactical solution that can be handy for us to make them do something immediately. The other benefit could be that the children will have a sense of fear that if they don’t follow the instructions, they might lose something they like…

But in the long run I think this may have a psychological impact on kids and also have a severe impact in shaping up their character.

In my view there are a few major problems with this provocation theory:

a)      These negative statements or questions from us, instigate a sense of constant competition in their minds. For the kids, the only source of motivation of doing something seems to be imaginary completion and not the actual benefits.

b)      Over a period kids learn that we don’t really mean what we say… That’s a very dangerous thing to happen I guess. The trust factor will slowly be lost between parents and kids…

c)       The more parents get things done this way, the more they start pushing what they want the kids to do irrespective of whether that action is really needed or not.

I want to particularly focus on the last point above. Out of all the things that parents get done by provoking the kids, how many of those are really needed to be done immediately? May be all of them are or may be only some of them are… I am not being judgmental here because I have to admit that I myself use some of those provocative questions.

Am just saying that we just have to give it a thought. Let us not use this technique on kids when it does not really warrant. Let us as much as possible tell them the benefit of them doing something rather than getting it done by provocation.

Our Experience with UKG School admission in chennai

It has been almost 6 months since I have written a blog… So I was looking for a topic. It was like searching for ghee with butter in hand… This is school admission season so I could not think of a better topic..

Last few months have been an absolutely emotional roller coaster ride for all of us in the family. One of the reasons we came back to India for good was to put our daughter in a school. I have been both looking forward as well as fearing this phase of my life – Running around for my child’s school admission in India.

Believe me or not, we really did run around… Everything that one would fear about a child’s admission was there in front of us… Long lines, exorbitant application fees, horrible application issuance process, waiting for interview call, disappointment due to rejections, written test, personal interviews etc… etc… etc…

Our first step towards getting a school admission in Chennai was moving to RA Puram thinking that there are a lot of schools around this place and hence by chance or probability we should be able to secure an admission… Well obviously we were proved wrong. Some schools we applied but we did not get a call at all. Some schools we heard unofficially that they have brokers and can get admission for LKG for around Rs 75000 (Well you may know which schools am talking about… ;-))… One school, we got an interview card but the interview was atleast a couple of months later.

Finally we decided to expand our radius of school search and if need be we canshift our house. That paid off I should say. We looked for Schools in Adyar. We got interview calls from both Bharath Senior and Hindu Senior. There was a round of written test (Yes for KG, there is written test), recitation test, personal interview for parents and finally got admission in both. We finally chose to go with Hindu Senior… After a very long time, I had that sense of fear in me when I waiting for results… It was as if I have written an exam and waiting for results or as if I have attended an interview and waiting to hear back… I did have goose bumps when they called us saying Sahana has been selected and that we can pay the fees… It was an important phase of our parenthood and it was a great experience..

In the process I did feel that a couple of things need to change…

1)      Parents Attitude:

  1. Including myself, I think there is this CBSE mania in everyone’s mind. I don’t have anything against CBSE syllabus but without doing some research on whether there is a big difference between Matriculation and CBSE and seeing how relevant are those differences for our kid, I think we should not run behind something blindly. I did the same mistake but realized it later on. Everyone was running behind CBSE so, I ran too…
  2. Willingness to get a particular school’s admission at any ‘cost’ is another problem. There is a mad rush for certain schools. For such schools parents are willing to pay a hefty some of money.  We are still in a society which will take money as long as there are people willing to pay money. People talk about 75000, 100000 and more for just kinder garden admissions… It is simply unbelievable and unacceptable…

2)      Application Process

Despite all the technology advancement in all walks of our life, majority of the schools still follow pre independence processes. Admission process is largely manual where you have to stand in Que outside the school for long hours (some people come and sleep on the platform from previous night), only two or three counters, horrible amount of time to collect cash and hand over applications, etc. There are very few schools in Chennai which issue application online. Obviously not everyone is going to have internet access but it will atleast reduce the number of people standing in Que. If the concern is about collecting money, then they can simply ask us to drop a DD for the application amount when the application is submitted via drop box. In an age where even government agencies/departments are automating and going online, to see that vast majority of schools still not going online is extremely disheartening.

3) Age Limit inconsistency for KG admission

All the schools that we got application for were all CBSE. But each school has their own cut of date for age for deciding whether the child can go for LKG or UKG. This simply beats me. If the schools are all governed by Central Board syllabus, and are governed by some government educational body how can each of them have their own cut of dates. Luckily in Hindu senior the cut of date was that a child should have turned 4 by July 31st to be eligible for UKG, so Sahana is going to UKG directly. But other schools such as Sanakara, PSBB, etc have June 30th as the cut off which makes her short of eligibility by 15 days. Hence has to start from LKG… Am not insisting that she has to go UKG or LKG, but there has to be consistency across all the schools.

Anyways, our daughter has started a journey which is likely to continue for atleast another 18 to 20 years. I think, we have done our best to give her a good start :-).

Lets break the cycle of hatred

It has been 10 years since the 09/11 attacks, one of the black days in the modern history. When thousands of innocent lives were snatched away from them and their loved ones in a blink of an eye. When some cruel minded sitting somewhere in the caves thought that the way to show their anger against a country is by killing innocent people.

Well think about it for a second. There are so many such smaller 09/11s happened before and after the actual 09/11 around the world. Even recently in the Delhi Highcourt blast a few innocent people lost their lives, in the Mumbai attacks hundreds of people lost their lives… Be it a terrorist act in US, Bali, Somalia, India, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Russia, Japan, it has always been due to a cycle of war, war crimes, suppression, poverty, hunger, helplessness and all resulting in hatred. Some of those reasons are obvious, and some not so obvious to the public eyes… Some seemingly justified, some unjustified…. “He hit me, so I hit him back 10 times harder, so he hits back 100 times harder, so I hit back 1000 times harder and this never ends…” Sometimes each sides may have temporary victories but a bigger horror is soon to follow that they have to cope with.

Let us break this cycle of hatred… Everyday we have an opportunity to break this hatred cycle… there are so many kids born everyday who have no clue about what is hatred, who they should hate and why… 100 years from now, 99.999% of this world is going to be occupied by new people who dont live today and have not been a part of the dark history directly. Let this world take a sincere effort not to sow the seed of hatred in their minds… Instead give them a opportunity to live happily. Let us make a little contribution in someway or the other to make lives for others better too. .My friend’s dad is a doctor and does a lot of free medical camps to help the under privileged. He told me once and that inspired me a lot “Around each of us there is a small world and there are people in this small world. If each of us work towards just making the world around us a little better, the whole world should be a lot better”. When one has a better life for him/herself and have things to do, a good job to keep, a life to live, family to be taken care of, everything else becomes negligible.

My prayers are with all those families who lost their loved ones due to this dreadful disease call hatred.

Images downloaded from:
http://kat1997.deviantart.com/art/dont-hate-pledee-151550120
http://matthewkowalski.blogspot.com/

Lokpal: Its our turn now…

Here are some of my humble thoughts and opinion on this Lokpal movement and corruption in India.

At this juncture given the fact that the Government has in principle agreed to Shri Anna Hazare’s demands, we are almost there… A Lokpal bill in the parliament that will create a system that punishes people in public service who are corrupt. So willingly or unwillingly, seemingly or truly the political system is going to their bit to curtail corruption. The new law would punish the corrupt within two years from the time a case is filled… Our assumption is that corruption is going to be all gone with this law… But think twice… Take a moment to introspect…

Do we really think people in public service like politicians, cops, and bureaucrats are the only ones responsible for corruption??? Perhaps one may not want to agree openly but the answer is NO.

I think as citizens, we have a lot more responsibility in eradicating corruption than the corrupt. It is not enough we just watch movies like Indian, Annian, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, and clap our hands, enjoy the movie and shout slogans with Anna Hazare Ji and at the end of it all forget our responsibility…

There are so many touch points of our everyday life that people want a shortcut… I think being corrupt is a ‘state of mind’… It is not that some people are always corrupt and all others are never corrupt. The moment a person is not able to follow the regular procedure due to circumstances and wants a short cut or an easy way out, there starts corruption.

Some examples:

If we go to a temple and find long que, we want to find someone whom we know in the Temple… we want to use his/her influence to see the God sooner than all the others who are waiting in line… Sometimes, I have seen people tipping security guards and priest for the same.. If we are not willing to wait to see the God, why do we go to temple… When a person is a part of the corruptive act, it does not seem to bother him/her. But when a politician does in 1000s of crores, it seems big and hence their blood boils…

The person who jumps a traffic light and is willing to tip off the police man is equally responsible for corruption as the policeman who takes the bribe. If you jump the light and it’s a mistake, face the consequence… Accept your responsibility to pay the fine. As soon as the policeman says are you willing to go to the court and pay the fine, the immediate reaction is how much should I pay you? Going to the court and paying fine for traffic violation is a lengthy process no doubt but not an impossible task. Believe me, the feeling of doing the right thing at the end of the day is priceless. I once had parked by mistake in a no ‘trespassing area’ in the Southern Railways office. I did not see the sign and parked, although was unintentional it was still a mistake. I decided to do the right thing. I spent the whole day in getting the FIR filled, then waiting in the court room for 4 hours for the judge to appear and pay Rs 300 as fine. The policeman who accompanied me to the court asked me why I went through the whole process and instead could have just tipped the other guy who caught me Rs 100. I just smiled at him and moved on because I know I did the right thing and I can sleep peacefully at the end the day.

How many people who raised slogans recently are actually willing to wait in all the necessary lines to apply for a passport or ration card or driving license and fulfill all the necessary documentation requirements? In a country of billions of people, there will be delays and there will be lengthy processing times for things… If getting a passport or ration card or DL is so important, follow the process. The notion that if we follow the process we will not be able to get anything done is a myth. Following the process will be time consuming but will surely get you the results. If everyone starts following the process, the delays should be substantially less because the system does not have any speed breakers.

Like the above, there are thousands of everyday touch points with various government agencies and authorities where the public should act more responsibly. All of us are good people. There are circumstances when there is a temptation to break the rule… It just takes a little bit to overcome that temptation. And we do that, we become humans who can distinguish the right from the wrong. Corruption does not stop when the corrupt stops taking bribe, it actually stops when the public are not willing to give bribe for anything.

The Lokpal Bill is a great starting point. Something apparently have been waiting from the 1970s is finally going to see the day. Thanks to Anna Hazare Ji, his team, the public who supported him, the media attention and the politicians ofcourse who are going to make this Bill a reality. But we have a long way to go and as citizens we have as much responsibility and should not absolve ourselves from that.

images from:
Anna Ji’s picture downloaded from http://www.blog.oneclickhappiness.com/2011/08/history-life-and-times-of-anna-hazare.html
Bribing picture downloaded from http://www.usoge.gov/training/module_files/ogewrkctr_wbt_07/b1.html

Mindless Politics by Cheap Politicians

When Mahatma Gandhi Ji’s personal belongings went on auction in 2009 the so called “Gandhi Dynasty” and all the other political parties were simply spectators and it required a business man to secure them for India. It was after all $ 1.8 million for a country where political scams exceed billions of dollars…

But when India wins world cup the players get bonus money in crores from state and central govt while it’s the money making BCCI’s job to compensate the players… As a tax payer I would have been happy to spend my money towards securing Gandhi Jis belongings instead of mindlessly paying cricket players…

I have nothing against the players… They did good and deserve to be compensated but BCCI should pay them more if needed because they are making 100s of millions of dollars…

Are we becoming more restless?

Communication technology has changed our life and our lifestyle. Now the world is reaaaaaaaaaally small… If you have a smart phone then the world is in your hands. You can communicate anytime, anywhere to anyone you want. While I simply love to do all the fancy things with my smart phone, I am just feeling that am becoming more & more restless and increasingly less tolerant. I am able to sense that feeling in others who I know too. I cannot wait to hear from someone, I cannot wait to see something…

Not many years ago when I was in school or college, cell phones were not common. It was considered to be one of the status symbols of the rich. I use to travel a long distance for school as well as college. When I was in school, I would leave around 6.30 am and return home around 5.00 pm. During this time, there used to be absolutely no communication between me and my parents. Am pretty sure that was the case with most of you too. Our parents never used to be so paranoid about the fact that there is no information about us while we were away. In fact the travel sometime required a good amount of walking, cycling, bus transit, etc… They just believed that we were safe and kept moving forward with their work.

Whereas today, when we start from home, we are expected to call our loved ones of we have got into the bus/train, if we have reached the destination safely, if everything during the day is alright, what time are we planning to start, what time we actually started, etc… If any of this is not done, our loved ones get worried. It is like “why did you not call me for the last hours, we were beginning to get worried”…

The other day, there was this lady in the bus who was sitting beside me and seemed pretty restless and was constantly checking here FB on iPhone… After a point she lost it, she called someone and was asking her friend why she did not respond to her FB comment which she posted 2 hours back… and that in fact turned out to be an argument where she was accusing the other person for being pretty non-responsive to her postings on FB…

As much as these technological advancements in many areas including communication have made life easier and more entertaining, it is also having a severe impact psychologically on us. We are not willing to wait for few seconds where as we would have waited a few hours not many years back for the same thing.

Please do not mistake my thoughts to be against the technological advancements… I love what we have. I am only saying that we should embrace technology more responsibly and not forget our basic human values. I am reminded of the song from the movie Sivaji… “Koovum Cell Phonin Nacharippai Anaiththu , Konjam Sil Vandin Uccharippai Ketpom…” (Lets switch off the cell phone’s disturbance and listen to the buzzing of the bees…”). Ironically my first blog was about how my new iPhone has changed my world a year back… 🙂

Finding Nemo Valuable lessons

Recently we watched “Finding Nemo” with our daughter a few times. She likes the movie so much, she actually tells that story for her bed time. Yes, one of the stories that she would like to say scene by scene before going to bed.

When I first watched that movie a few years ago it was all about entertainment and the laughter. I watched it as just another entertaining movie. But now being a father and watching that movie with my daughter, there are lessons to be learnt from that movie.

The story is about an over-protective clown fish “Marlin” losing his son “Nemo” to a sea diver who takes him to his dental clinic’s aquarium in Sydney Australia. Marlin who is afraid of venturing out of the corals swims all over the ocean and faces many challenges and reaches Sydney to save his son.

Marlin the clown fish is not only over-protective about his son but he is also scared of everything around him. He thinks that the world out there is dangerous and he is skeptical about everything. I think we have Marlin in each of us. In life we all face situations where there is an easy way and there is a slightly skeptical and not so easy way. We tend to go the easy way out and never venture into the unknown. Partly I guess because of the fear of failure and higher chance of success of the known and easy way. When I watch this movie I am reminded of the line the poem by Robert Frost – “….Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”In this movie, Marlin faces “the road less travelled” situation multiple times when he goes to rescue his son. He ends up taking “the road less travelled” every time but UNWILLINGLY. But each time he discovers something that takes him closer to his son.

I have just listed some of those instances which I really liked:

a) If Marlin did not swim behind the diver’s boat like a maniac, he would never have met Dory – Another fish who has short term memory loss but is very adventurous and is not afraid of taking chances. Ideally he would not have gone out of the reef, but since his son was taken away, he had to venture into open waters.

b) Then Dory and Marlin get invited by a shark for a small party – Since Dory was willing to go with the sharks, Marlin gets forced to go as well. But if he had not gone, he would not have discovered the water mask that the diver was wearing and also has his address on it. In this sequence they also discover that Dory can read. So they find the address where Nemo has been taken to.

c) Later when the mask falls down into a dark trench, Marlin is too afraid to swim down. But Dory takes him down with her and they find the mask and also get the address. In this sequence I like something that Dory says to Marlin – “You know what you do when life lets you down…. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” The same thing is true for us… its easy to feel let down and think that the whole world has come to an end… But just keep swimming, just keep swimming; you will overcome the tough times…

d) When he is about to lose hope again, Dory convinces him to ask directions for the address to a whale… They get swallowed by the whale, he thinks it’s a bad decision to have asked direction. But later realizes that the whale actually brought them to Sydney.

When they are inside the whale, I really liked something that Dory tells Marlin… Marlin first says that he promised to Nemo that he will not let anything happen to him but now he is stuck. Dory says that’s a funny thing to promise… “If you never let anything happen to then nothing will ever happen to him”. That I think is a very profound statement… When you are over protective of your loved ones (particularly children), you protect them from good things too… they will never learn certain things which they would have otherwise.

Moral of the story is – If the only thing that prevents you from trying something is fear, then that’s definitely worth trying… We just have one life, its not worth wasting over fear of failure. Also dont let your fears come in way of your children’s aspirations. Be protective, just dont be over protective…

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…