Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fifteen men on the dead man's chest...

Always believed books must be free and accessible to all. And been putting together a nice little bookshelf of ebooks- classics, fiction, mysteries, thrillers and many more odds and ends. A collection that has been one of my prized possessions, almost as precious as The Black Pearl to Jack Sparrow.

This here is Mach's bookshelf

Feel free to share the fun...
And do tell what you liked or any new titles that should be included.


**Edit**
Some more books added

Friday, February 28, 2014

IIMK- Thank God It’s Friday, and it’s over.

a. Last day of classes
No nostalgia, no senti feelings. Coz I remember the last time I felt bad for end of classes, it didn't turn out so well. Less than a year later, I was back in classrooms.
Anyone for whom this was a ‘return’ to college would agree to this being just another phase, just a passing cloud.
b. I would not miss my friends
I made just a handful of friends here. (plenty of acquaintances, though) And there's no way I’m going to miss them. These people are going to hear from me, soon and often.
What good are friends if you stay out of touch long enough to start missing?!
c. I’m glad it’s over
To me this has been 21 months of rushed up everything. Sitting groggy eyed in the classrooms, some real boring lectures, pretty bad food, and a few crappy people too- it was an effort in itself to keep sane.
Given a chance, I’d want to sit through a select few of classes with some very good professors and learn some worthwhile stuff and hang out with some real good people- not because I have to but because I want to.
d. Experiments have just begun
When I came here, I made one conscious choice- just one- that I’d experiment with everything under the sun that came my way. And I did. The list is long and I’d rather keep it to myself. Some have been astounding successes to marvel at and most have been abject, miserable failures.
I’m not going to trust anyone who says failures are lessons (or any such crap), coz they haven’t seen real failure. Failures SUCK. And unless you are strong enough to rise up after the fall, you better stay away and survive.
e. I lost myself
In all the chaos here, I have transformed. So much so that I am not the same person that walked in here 20 months ago. Is that good? Not entirely. Is it bad? Not exactly.
From what my friends say (in the testimonials), I figured that I’ve retained some core of my former self. But for me, it has been like living through a typhoon. Oh well, I’m glad I survived.
f. There are better things to look forward to
Hey, I got what I came here for. What I wanted. (Most of ‘em, at least). That’s a good enough reason to celebrate the end and look forward to the new beginning.
After all, I’m not old enough to fill even a quarter of my biography yet. If this remains the best part of my life- I’m sure it’s not a life I’m ‘living’.


PS. To all the people flooding my fb wall with ‘last XYZ’ messages- it’s not the last of anything. The world is round, the end is only the beginning…

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

We are the roles we play

“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts….”
-Act II, Scene VII, As You Like It,
William Shakespeare,

We are defined not as a set of characteristics or traits, not as a sealed package by others. Instead, everyone sees us for the discrete, granular roles that we play in their lives. The ‘package’ that we see in our own heads is our own perspective of all the roles we play in the lives of all the people we know.

You may be a caring child, a sincere student, a loyal friend, a passionate lover, a dedicated employee, a pleasant boss, a doting father and a responsible citizen: each of these roles call for a set of characteristics and need you to act in a manner that suits the roles you choose to play.

Ain't that why someone we hate from the guts is liked by some others, why some fall in love with people that just don’t care, why some people buy goods that others absolutely detest, why there is such a huge variety of everything, why someone who is highly successful in his profession has a ruin of a family life and vice versa, why there are no absolute good/bad human beings?

This might sound uncannily similar to the concept of core competency for businesses- something that one company can perform much better than any others and can keep doing that way. So, if your teacher always vetoes you to be the class coordinator; if one of your friends seeks you to fix a problem and doesn’t bother to even talk to you otherwise; if your children call you only when they need pocket money; if your boss directs all the yelling clients to you - it could well be because that is what they find to be your ‘core competency’.


And just as difficult adding a core competency could be to a business, so is migrating to a different role in a person’s life- not impossible, but definitely not easy. And of course, everyone can’t be everything. The trick is in choosing what roles to play in which acts and putting together a balanced package- in our heads, that is.

-MaCh
18th February, 2014

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Why does a hero need a mask?

Having returned recently from an academic Euro trip which was everything but academic (no wonder), I was inclined, almost compelled, to revamp the interiors of my dorm lodgings to suit my refined tastes. (This is what others think. Honestly, I was pretty jobless and the neighbours were quite vocal in what they thought of my guitar strumming.) Either which way, I ended up staring at superhero posters for what I now realise was a little too long. And this is what ensued...

Q. What is common between Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Wolverine and Phantom? (Sounds deep, I know!) 
A. Among other things, the immaculate guarding of their identity bordering on obsession.  

Superheroes, as the comics and movies might suggest, have day jobs that are essentially their defences against the prying eye and the eavesdropping ear. But the explanation that I believe does most justice is from Batman: 'Gotham doesn't need a saviour; It needs a hero.' A close second is from Superman: 'Give people an ideal to strive toward. They may stumble and fall, but you will help them, accomplish..'

Anecdotes abound that state in no unclear terms that heroes are not people that solve everybodys problems with their Kryptonite strength or Wayne Enterprises' billions and technology. Nor is it those who fly across NY high rises saving the day. What truly defines a superhero is the plain fact that they give people hope- to fight their own battles, day in and day out. To assure people that their battles are not impossible but just difficult, that their troubles are not insurmountable just convoluted. 

What makes the superhero remarkable is his(her) ability to let people make their mistakes and get into trouble, not least because that would make him(her) more 'needed' but because that would teach them lasting lessons. Ironically enough, the job of a superhero is to obviate his job, to render himself irrelevant and unnecessary. They fix the pressing problems, plant hope in the people, set high standards for them to emulate. And walk away.

(Of course there are rich, ostentatious engineers that designed the Iridium core arc reactor as life support and bask in paparazzi's flashbulbs, but we are talking serious superhero shizz here.)

This is where the mask serves it's purpose. It helps the superhero be one among us- fighting everyday battles, going through the same 'troubles' everyone else goes through, living the 'common man's life. The closer the person is to the masses, the greater is the hope instilled by his superhero alter-ego.

There is a hero in everyone of us. When we grow beyond personal ambitions, when our world expands to include others, when we find happiness in others' successes...

..well my friend, it's time to go design a kick-ass mask!!


PS. I wish to take this opportunity to thank the everyday superheroes that I draw vitality from- Steve Jobs, Michael Schumacher, Abraham Lincoln, Che Guevara and The Beatles, among others.

Monday, November 25, 2013

With great power comes great responsibility

I am notorious for using these words occasionally in my conversations with friends and I know these are met with rolling eyes and contempt too sometimes. But every time I use these words, there is a deep, resounding quiet that resonates around- that not everyone has the power to think about things, not everyone is given the power to act on any/some/most of them, not everyone has the power to change what is beyond most others’ comprehension- to make a difference, to change the course of (a part of) the world. And those who have been endowed with such a power are burdened with a moral responsibility to ‘act’ in the greater interest of humanity. As Dante famously sums up in his Divine Comedy, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain neutrality in times of moral crises…”

I was reminded recently that I fall in the category of this elite few; I didn’t believe it one bit then. I am still young, na├»ve and too small to make a difference- or at least that’s what I thought I was. Then the same person also reminded me that events that altered the course of history were brought about by people like me: young, small, isolated; though the universe happened to conspire in their favour. And most important of all, in a couple of months, a bunch of select few hundred people like me will be handed power in a significant measure. It was then the curve ball hit me. Hard.

I must confess that what I’ve been doing so far is not in the interest of the society or humanity- it was all entirely driven by personal gain as the prime motive and a large part of the gain I was planning on was monetary. Never- not but once- have I thought about how my education or excellence would be of any use to others, but that one time too, these thoughts were swept clear off my mind in a matter of minutes. I was going with the flow- classes, lectures, cases, assignments, discussions, sports, events, pastimes, trips, fun, friends, love, failing in many of these, grades, jobs et al. Now that I think about it, I was not alone in any of these- the whole set of the ‘few hundred elite’ around me was acting this same way, at least apparently.

Of course there’s the occasional professor who makes a fleeting mention of the true impact of this power we hold, but they are overly cautious not to corrupt us with this ‘power-talk’. There are subtle signs of what’s coming and how we will be mercilessly thrown into the flux where no books help and no teachers guide us through. But as always, subtlety is lost on us in most occasions.

Biotechnology, internet, climate change, renewable energy sources, sustainable technologies, population growth, political stability, public policy, and global business dynamics- these are very few of the true problems facing humanity at this point of time and space. I’m positively sure we are not trained to deal -our skillsets are hopelessly inadequate- with these and what scares me is that we are expected to understand, analyse, and have an opinion and a few feasible solutions ready- all by the time we go out into the world.
The least we could do now is to acknowledge the true demons that we face and grow beyond the pseudo-troubles that bother us currently. There’s still time to make a positive difference. We all face the same hells, just different devils…


-MaCh

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Power and Trust- A Lost Case

“Loving someone is giving them the power to break your heart, but trusting them not to.”
– Julianne Moore

Well, this ain’t just love. It happens everywhere- Be it in politics, administration, business, and relationships. When you give someone power over you, and expect things to NOT go wrong ever, perpetually- you are being stupid. As simple as that.

Politics: We elect politicians ourselves. Some countries like India have a pretty messed up system of election, some countries like the US spend months of time and billions of money in the process. But is there one country in the world that is totally, absolutely (or even relatively) satisfied with their leaders? People are dissatisfied everywhere because some leaders of nations bring wars, some bring disasters through their stupidity, some have able, accomplished minds but no voices, some are there just for personal gain- the list just goes on. Now, we gave them the power. We trusted them to work for the common good while we are ourselves occupied with our own trades.

Administration: More often than not, we see that management of entities- government, corporate or otherwise- is ‘chosen’ by the people that make up that entity. Sometimes, it may be through a vote, sometimes through opinion polls, sometimes through other means of seeking opinion. And what happens? People are largely satisfied with their choice for quite some time; the policies they make look intelligent and robust. And then discontent starts brewing beneath the surface. Inadequate raise, refused transfer, rejected leave, bypassed promotion- are just the very obvious reasons.

Business: This is a much simpler game, though with a direct impact on our everyday lives. You trust your customers with credit, your supplier trusts you with credit, the banks and investors trust you with their money, you trust your business with your time and effort- and most often all these don’t exist simultaneously. You give power over your business to others- in a way, others have more control on your business than you have yourself. So sooner or later, this equilibrium is going to be inevitably upset for reasons within and beyond control, and we are usually very quick in finding a scapegoat.

Relationships: Hah! The most obvious, yet the least believed, because we refuse to accept that it is as bad as it is. Hand over your heart in a platter, trust they’d keep it safe and it would be disposed of in any of a zillion ways. In most parts of the world, children trust their parents to be taking the best decisions for them, parents believe that their children will continue to be the innocent little angels who are incapable of wronging anybody, friends trust one another with their wildest of secrets and lovers- don’t even ask!! Although things go on fine for a large part of our lives, aren't there children that regret the choices they have (or have not) made? Aren't all geriatric homes full? Aren't the best of kids turning out to be the worst of adults? It isn't rare that secrets cease to be secrets a while after sharing with the ‘close’ friend. And listen around, you can hear the muffled noise of the many shattering hearts.

Well, people can’t go on being good forever- the universe is too chaotic for that. Circumstances arise when people have to make trade-offs in their choices; these could be in favour of anybody depending on a bunch of ‘circumstantial’ variables.

What should we do? Well, if I had that figured out, I’d make a killer of a life teaching psychology and metaphysics and what not to unsuspecting students someplace warm…

-MaCh,

North of the Wall (Winter is already here)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Eurail- We are even now!

There is a general perception that Indian students who visit Europe on exchange program attend classes the least and travel across Europe the most. Well, I have two questions: What took so long for the universities to figure out? And what gave it away?

For my part, having a few years left in the European age limit for youth, I got a Eurail pass for 3 months of continuous travel. When I bought the pass, I had absolutely zilch clue of why I was spending almost a €1000 on the pass. Well, I was already quite confused about how I became eligible for the exchange program in the first place; That moment, figuring out whether the pass was worth the money was beyond me.

Then everything changed when I reached Europe and had to travel by train to the university. Just the reservation charges for a single journey with the discounts of the pass was higher than a reasonable first class ticket for an similar journey in India. God knows what the full fare was!

Anyways, I learnt from the others around here and quickly made up my mind about the purpose of this trip- reaching the 'break-even' on the railway pass. After all, half an MBA should come useful somewhere. Thanks to those endless (and pointless) calculations we all do in the cases, this calculation was pretty easy. We arrived at a conservative estimate of 150 hours of train travel (though 120 could be a better approximation) to reach the supposed break-even.

Equipped with this information, we set out on a 'short' trip. Now, we realize that the place we were in was in the middle of god-forsaken nowhere and reaching human habitations from there thrice would itself give us our money's worth. Could there be happier people than us on earth that day! We were excited. A little too much, in fact. And we went on travelling (train-hopping would be a more accurate description): Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Brussels, Lille, Paris, Munich, Berlin.

Well, I hadn't gotten my vendetta yet, so I traveled further, alone to Marseilles, Bordeaux and Paris again. And after 14 days of hopping around, having made sure I got more than the 1000 I gave, I set out to return home, now even more confused about what I should do next. Do I go all around these amazing places all over again or do I go where there's nothing and nobody?

Well, when I figure something out, I'll make sure you know...



A more detailed account of my travels and travails are at: knmanish.wordpress.com