White lies. Black lies. & Other lies

I am sure there does not exist anyone on this earth who has not lied; sometime, some place, somewhere. In this respect, most of us begin early. As kids when faced with a difficult question from your Mother, the temptation to take the easier way out and make an innocuous excuse/lie is par for the course. When Fathers ask tough questions about studying or about our friends, again we do take some liberty with the truth. And creatively change reality to escape more difficult consequences. Bunking classes; catching a movie; trying a cigarette (or at times something stronger); continuing friendship with persons our parents feel are a bad influence : in all these, and many more similar challenging  circumstances, we take the easier way out and either indulge in half truths or blatant lies. And we easily explain to our conscience that it is for the “larger good/peace/happiness” or what have you. Have we all not played along in this game?

At one extreme end is  the famous white (? or black??) lie of Yudhishtir (encouraged by Krishna) who informed Drona that  “Ashwatthama hato” (Ashwatthama is dead) adding sotto voce “Naro wa Kunjarova aham nahi jananti”. This lie, from a true follower of Dharma like Yudhishtir, caused Guru Drona to disarm himself in grief of having lost his son. Thus, Drona the Commander of Kaurava army, who could not be defeated, was left defense less due to Krishna’s subterfuge.That lie has become an epitome of expediency. Of means v/s ends debate. All with very large scale consequences. Least of all being the “fact” that Yudhishtir was till then so pure a follower of Dharma that his chariot reportedly ran an inch above the earth surface: but this lie made him as much a mortal as all of us and his chariot after that never flew above the earth; but traveled on the surface of earth like all others’ chariots. A classic Puranic tale which also underlies that “gods” themselves are not above lies?

In more modern times our dear Mr President Trump’s inauguration attendance created its’ own controversy and gave birth to the concept of “alternative facts”. Though most of the world later debunked this terminology and as so accurately called out   on the air by NBC’s  Chuck Todd “Alternative facts are not facts, they’re falsehoods!”. Nevertheless am sure the Trump brigade genuinely believed the alternate facts. And held firm their own image in their mind.

While both these examples are of epic proportions, world history gives us many many more in times of war and in times of peace. The fact remains that humans are not averse to modifying facts and reality to serve their own immediate need. The “spin doctors” whom Vance Packard way back in 1957 called the “Hidden Persuaders” are at it all the time. Creatively changing “facts” to suit their arguments the game is never fair and truthful. Always there is an axe to grind and a opinion to modify: after being subjected to interpretation and modification. Most of modern day marketing and advertising is creating impressions and hopes which may or may not be truthful. How many people do we know personally who have benefited from fairness creams? but that still is a huge market with it’s own followers.

I am frankly not too concerned with these “epic” lies and spins. As a student of human behavior, I am more interested in understanding why, and how, we everyday people also indulge in this “story telling” , and creatively altering reality and marshaling ( or hiding for that matter) facts as we live our lives, and express our opinions on a day to day basis. Do we not see the falsehood we profess? or is it so ingrained and so subtle that we do this “naturally” and without any sense of guilt?

This worries me a lot, as we cannot ever be sure whether what we are hearing or what we are being shown is “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” . Philosophically and fundamentally, the more basic issue is : is there a common reality? or is each one of us living in our own world bound by our own reality which we cannot share?

Questions, questions, questions. And I can’t even appeal to Krishna to lead me to the answer!!!!!

Yours in quandary: vikas

Smile!!!…you are on Candid camera…

John Lennon is credited with that earth shattering insight: “Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.”

We all have our favorite stories of how we were suddenly accosted with a different reality which stopped us in our tracks and made us re-evaluate what we were planning to do.  (Reminds me of the famous philosophical joke: “how do you make God laugh? “well tell him of your plans for the coming year”)  My most recent brush with this altering reality experience was when we had some “friendly relatives/relatives who are more friends” as house guests. They were on way to an European sojourn and we all wanted to spend time together before their travel. Many plans were made. Minute by minute itineraries; meal by meal menus and the whole damn twelve yards. And one day into our time together (everything going like a house on fire ) : my wife has a bad fall and we spend next 16 hours in a hospital – outside the operation theater and intensive care unit. When you are tense and worried about recovery of a dear one it is difficult to shrug the proverbial philosophical shoulders and carry on. One does wonder how a Plato or an Aristotle  would have thought their way out of this bind.

Does this happen because we want a great level of predictability in our lives? Our desire to control what is going on in our lives is always so high. And when that gets off the track we feel uncomfortable. Of course no one likes an accident or a fall. But I know of many examples when even happy and good events which happened suddenly cause the crease of worry on our foreheads: why did this happen? How? if I did not cause it and work for it would it be taken away from me??. The underlying philosophy is : I am the master of my life. I control things. I make events happen. I must be able to predict everything.

In reality what can be farther from the fact? are we really in control? are events linked causally? and if they are am I am the “karta/dharta” ? Many times actually it is the butterfly effect: when seemingly unrelated and small actions all add to creating a tsunami in our lives. Life is certainly an integrated chain of events. An effect follows from a cause. But then Effects in turn cause other Effects. And the cycle is so much linked like a web that you can not really isolate in a pure manner an effect and it’s true/solitary cause.  To use the age old cliche : am I like the small fly sitting on the wheels of Arjuna’s chariot wheel? looking back and thinking proud about the amount of dust I am kicking up? What do I really cause to happen around me?

Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness says it all in the very title of the book. We think we are in control. We project ourselves as powerful and causal. But the real intricate web of cause and effects behind the scene carries on regardless. Life is as much a surprise as it is predictable. And that is the true joy of living. An aseptic in control totally predictable life will be difficult to get through. So while accidents and incidents create challenges and difficulties in life: they are the experiences which spice our lives and make the whole business of living so enjoyable and glorious. The sheer uncertainty keeps us on the edge and the thrill alive!  Life is indeed an adventure!! A treasure hunt where the rewards and the punishments are as much a part of the journey as the curious twists and turns we have to face as we move along.

I will end with an advice one of my bosses in Johnson and Johnson use to give us. We were a motley crowd of HR professionals setting out to transform the HR world in J&J across the globe. The project had many ups and downs : great moments of frustrations and challenges. When ever the team was down Kaye Foster-Cheek our thethen Global HR head had this to say: “Trust the process”. I think that is great advice as we live through life. We can question/fret/fume and tear our hair. But at the end of the day : Trust the process.

You get only one chance in life. And the “best” part is that NO one gets out of this game alive. So I  always look upto the sky and say:  I am ready! Lay it on. I am ready.  I am emboldened by my faith. And I trust the process. Do you?

Love: vikas


Final piece on Sentire ergo sum…(3)

“Much sound and fury signifying nothing”? ( Sotto voce: How is it that the Bard has said something in the 16th Century which is directly applicable to us and our situation today?) Much has been said and written in the last few posts on whether Man is a Thinking being or a Feeling being. Views and expressions on both side of the table.  Strong arguments. Differing perspectives. And the jury is still out!

A friend had pointed out that in Descartes’ “Cogito ergo sum” is implied the self awareness of man. I think. I am. Both propositions cannot survive without intervening self awareness. And feelings are very much a part of this self awareness. So Thinking is a larger construct and Feeling is a subset. So Cogito implicitly involves Sentire. Hence my friend concludes Descartes is right when he proclaims Cogito ergo sum. ( and correspondingly Vikas is wrong.)

Since I am disagreeing with intellectuals certainly superior to me (Descartes in past; Victor on WP; other friends in today’s times) let me first define “Sentire” : what I mean by feelings and emotions

  • firstly I define “feeling” as perceiving; experiencing: judging: being aware: being touched by something
  • to me the feeling person will try; test; essay; endeavor and even attempt something through which s/he understands/experiences/interacts with the world reality outside and therefrom forms own inner reality
  • not to forget the flip side of the coin: feeling also can encompass blame; condemning; hating; rejecting; standing against
  • and through all these processes : feeling is about investigation and responding

So yes I am broad basing the concept of Sentire : feeling is not just an emotional reaction but rather a higher concept.  So you will see that such emotional people should be treasured. They love deeply and think deeply about life. They are loyal honest and true. Simplest things sometimes mean the most to them. Their purity makes them who they are. They don’t need to change or harden. They are. That’s it.

All great things are achieved through such dedicated focus. Complete trust and unwavering belief is their core. They are in love with what they sense and feel: and they cannot think of any other reality. They transcend the dry intellectual logical stances. They give themselves completely. And in a way they feel complete in themselves as the feelings are so intense and drive them to what they feel is the “true north”.

The Noble laureate Yiddish author Issac Bashevis Singer in another context says it so well :  ” The very essence of literature is the war between emotion and intellect, between life and death. When literature becomes too intellectual – when it begins to ignore the passions, the emotions – it becomes sterile, silly, and actually without substance.”  And as true blooded experience hungry souls I am sure none of us want to be sterile, silly, and without substance. I would any day let my feelings and emotions take over as the guide and compass of my life.

To conclude : that is my stance. But life is not so simple that only one one “truth” prevails. Multiple are the ways to the Allah. I thank you for allowing me to express mine. And indulging me so far.   I respect your views and truths especially if they are different from mine.  I had read somewhere : a great truth is one whose opposite is also a great truth. Wishing you the very best on your path: as you wish me safe travels on mine.

Your fellow traveler: vikas

Sentire ergo sum….(2)

Let me dig myself into a deeper grave. When i wrote in my last blog that Cogito ergo sum is passe and it is Feeling (sentire) that defines man and not thinking : I got may interesting challenges by mail; sms & calls. Hence in this blog. I am trying the explore the subject a bit more. Bear with me.

Maybe having been an Human Resources professional for 35+ years in Corporate India and before that a Psychology student in undergrad and post-grad level piqued my passion to study and understand people. Try to understand what they do and why they do what they do.

Even growing up as a child I was heavily into English Literature. Alongwith all the Classics I devoured with equal fervor the genre of thrillers and intrigue.  Poetry always held special fascination for the flashes of insights into the way we are. A la Ulysses ” always roaming with a hungry heart Much have I seen  and known”. My father’s transferable job took us all across the length and breadth of India during our early life. Completing my 11 years’ schooling in 8 different schools seemed like a challenge then! But I enjoyed every transfer giving us a new place to live in; a new culture to experience. In my career again I traveled the world meeting new people; experiencing new geographies. And in all this time I NEVER met a person who was “cogito” : a rational man to the core.

Rather I have seen all data and analysis pointing one logical outcome and our “thinking man” get hijacked by his emotional side. Hunches and intuition make decisions after all facts are on table. Alternately put: why someone did what s/he did cannot be explained by rationality alone. That is why I say Sentire ergo sum.

Some interesting challenges which I got were:

  1. Thinking is a prerogative of  humankind. Animals and plants also have feelings. Man is the only one who can think.
  2. Feelings are a product of our emotions. Feelings are only an interplay of our emotions. Much intellect is not necessary.
  3. Feelings need to be expressed. But what about repressed feelings and emotions? what about negative feelings?
  4. Descartes associates thinking with “am”ness. Only because of ‘I think’ (I know) ‘I am’.  Descartes indicates self awareness which again is possible only for humankind.

I am noting down all these challenges just so all of us can think and consider them  and their implications on the thesis “sentire ergo sum”. We may all see it with different perspectives; have differing points of view; and even reach differing conclusions. Which to me is fine. Unlike Physics or Maths we need not reach one conclusion in Philosophy. There is no “right” answer we all MUST converge on. As Mao said so brilliantly: “Let thousand flowers bloom.” While thinking (cogito) is preeminent & important; to me the emotion and feeling is the deeper truth; the opinion and intellect is the more superficial one. I end with one of my favorite quotes from Helen Keller : “The best and the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”  and so Sentire ergo sum!

Sentire ergo sum

I tend to differ from Descartes’ now famous exposition: Cogito ergo sum. Cogito??? Does thinking define mankind? I would rather paraphrase the famous statement as “Sentire ergo sum”: I feel therefore I am. Let me explain.

Though important for mankind thinking does not really differentiate and make man unique. I am not  saying this only because of the rapid advances in “thinking machines” or artificial intelligence or heuristic programming or computers that learn. The speed with which all these technologies are moving ahead leave no doubt in any observer that man’s preeminence will have to be defined by some other characteristic than logical thinking. We stare at a time when the machine behind the man ( and not the earlier model of man behind the machine) will determine the future course of progress as well as our end  goal posts. So thinking is not the sole prerogative of and chief differentiation for mankind.

My candidate for the top differentiator is Feeling. Because of his ability to feel man is unique. Emotions and the feelings that course through him are the “unique sauce” that maketh a man. Hence Sentire ergo sum.

At a very personal level each and everyone of us have experienced times when the “head” told us something and our “heart” suggested the opposite. Though it was not logical and not based on data on hand and not prompted by the “facts of the case” we have done what we intuitively felt was right: and felt very good about following that path. Did feelings not overtake thinking at such points? Recollect the soldier at the frontier who logically knows the odds of being outnumbered and surrounded by the enemy and still for the emotions that rise when he sees his country’s flag is ready to lay down his most precious possession i.e. his very life for his Motherland. All of us have personally experienced the love of our own mothers who have loved us divest of any logic and for whom our entire heart head and being is perpetually in a state of gratitude. Our own love for children and the extent to which we are ready to go out on a limb for them should convince all that there is much more beyond mere thinking and logical analysis.

Can all these aspects of our lives be explained by logic and by thinking? Feeling overtakes and drives all that we do. Feeling helps us make more sense of our lives and circumstances. And I believe it is our ability to feel that differentiates us and makes us unique from all others. Correspondingly if I can understand and channelize my feelings better I will be be able to do more. Experience more happiness. Be more in control of my life. And generally be a much better human being than I am today.

Logical? Or more importantly: do you feel what I am saying makes sense? In the next blog I would like to explore more about feelings and look more holistically at feelings and the multiple levels at which this subject can be understood. However before that I look forward to your views and feedback on this topic.

in anticipation: vikas






The day after

It is said by more experienced lovers than me that the true test of a great relationship is judged not by the torridness in the bed the night before; rather it is epitomized by the feelings that course through you “the day after”. I learn the truth of this statement the morning after I wrote my first blog.

I had got many WA messages and sms of encouragement and congratulations: but I was keen to see something online. And praise be to the Lord  and Master but actually there were 2 comments on each of the two blogs i posted yesterday.  so what if the 4 comments were by 3 authors; somebody out there was reading!!!

Well begun is All Done. Today is Sunday and I can rest.

Must confess though that the blogbug has bitten deep and sure. In my walk today I was actually mulling over what I could write on: topics which would be on interest to others and about which I have an opinion/something to say. The test for me was : would I read a blog on this issue if someone else wrote it. If answer is Yes then it is a fair subject. As as I walked subjects/ideas kept popping up where ever I looked or whichever turn I took. It is going to be fun and interesting I thought.

some rules I have decided ( and these are up for your comments/inputs) :

  • focus on my own experience and opinions
  • no theoretical pontification; no jargonese
  • KISS ( Keep it Short Stupid)
  • have fun and spread fun

see you around : vikas

Poorna : Rahul Bose’ Labor of Love

Saw Poorna today. What an amazing film!!! Real Kudos to Rahul Bose for producing and directing such a powerhouse story.

Except Rahul himself in the movie there are no faces you recognise. The movie has no song and dance routine. And in fact the story is set in a small AP village in a land labourer’s house. It cant be more de-glamorous than this. No villians. No dishum dishum. A totally predictable linear story line.  But still what you experience is a real treat for the viewers as the story/the script/the theme/the picturisation : all come so well together that you come out of the cinema hall impressed and enamored with the story of a village girl who at a ripe age of 13 years stood on top of the Everest and held the Indian tricolour up high making all people in her life and all the viewers proud. Truly as the tagline says : Ladkiyan kuch bhi kar sakti hai.

The simple and uncomplicated life of 2 village girls who face sheer poverty and difficulties of a typical Indian village is shown most realistically. But  dreams burn bright in their hearts. And the story is about how one of them actually makes it to the top of the world. And on the way how she faces multifarious difficulties. And how she retains her ability to challenge people and circumstances around her and keep striving hard to move ahead. Aditi Inamdar has played the role to perfection : bringing before us all the trials and tribulations of the simple village girl who is larger in her resolve than the tallest mountain in the world. All the other difficulties on the way obviously fade in comparison and we feel happy to see her conquer the Sagarmatha.

Long ago I was fortunate to have seen Mt Everest from a tourist flight window. They distributed a T Shirt on the flight which said it so well ” I saw the Everest. I did not climb it. But I left my heart there”. Mt Everest is captured in all its glory in the film. All the fury of  the snow and the challenge of the mountain climb is alive and real character in the story. Has been handled with the respect Chomolungma deserves and the awe it inspires in each and every one of us.

Rahul Bose is of course a good and serious actor. I clearly remember  all his outings I was privileged to see beginning with the earlier movies like Mr & Mrs Iyer followed by Chameli; Pyaar ke Side Effects; Jhankar Beats; Shaurya to the more recent ones : one and all leave the viewer with a distinct respect for this serious actor who brings a unique take to each and every character he enacts. ( Except I have not understood how he accepted Dil Dhadakne Do)

In Poorna besides being the Producer and Director Rahul has played a very important role. He is the chief mentor and inspiration for the achievements of  Malvath Poorna. giving her the confidence and support as she makes this amazing journey from sweeping the classrooms of her school to sweeping us off the feet by stepping upto the top of the world. Very understated. Sober to the core. Powerful. Your heart bleeds for Rahul when he is awaiting the phone from Poorna as she makes the final bid. As a totally believable civil servant who wants to make a difference leading always from his heart Rahul leaves a deep impression and makes the film much more believable and touching. All praise to this actor for taking up such a theme and creating a memorable story.

One Girl. One Man. One Belief. One Mountain. One  amazing story. One great movie. Many superb performances.

Enjoy the movie: vikas

And then there was a blog…

Yes I admit the bug has bit me.

Internet and blogs are today all around and any and everybody who is somebody is blogging away. I must say I took my time as I was unsure whether I should or not. And whether I will have the discipline to sit and write. And ( horror of horrors) PUBLISH!!! How would it be received; would it be read at all; am i exposing myself (and my foolishness) : Questions. Questions.Questions.

But finally I gathered the courage and decided to make a blog after all. That too on All Fools Day 2017. Somehow it felt appropriate to come out of the closet on this day; break the self imposed ban and venture forth. So here I am penning my first blog.For you to read. For me to write.

Many times in the past decades as I went on the speaker circuit and traveled far and wide to speak at seminars and conferences;  many people often suggested I should write. I always laughed it off. Embarrassed laughter I may add. Lurking underneath was the question whether I had something of import to say. and how would my outpourings be received.

Anyway here I am folks. Will try and reach out regularly.and since this is my first time I am sure you will forgive my transgressions and trespasses. As re what will be the content of my blogs : my tagline of  Openness and Sharing says it all. I want to share with you all my views and my experiences and my takes on how life is treating me . While agonizing over what I should write I can visualize the  Arun Bhendes; Uday Mahales; Sunil Aptes and now Ravi Thattes in my life paraphrasing the Bard and saying to me ” Fool look in thy heart and write”

With a transparent bleeding heart : vikas