The meaning of it all

The first step in problem solving is to acknowledge that there is one. When one acknowledges one’s ignorance, when the seed of doubt and uncertainty is allowed to flourish and nourish, then we are on the path towards progress. If one believes his knowledge is thorough and complete then there isn’t a room for improvement but the nature has taught us persistently that there is enough since time immemorial.

The eternal question has troubled the human mind. Thousands of philosophers, scientists, poets, religious bodies have tried to fathom the meaning of life. The general consensus is that great human potential would be untapped once we know what our actions are directed at and what goal we are aiming at.

If I were candid I would admit I don’t know a great deal but when I take the knowledge from the ancient civilizations, the knowledge that exists in our minds and our great libraries and books I would forthrightly say – we still haven’t found the answer to the eternal question despite the fact we have taken every piece of knowledge that ever existed or is existing. When we admit that we still haven’t answered the question than we have left the door open for the possibilities. That there can be an answer out there in open lurking behind something.

Admitting the ignorance isn’t a new idea, it is the idea from the age of reason. It is the idea of democracy. It is the idea that one plus one greater than two (not mathematically). It lays the foundation for a system that can be an incubator for the new ideas. The old practices, thoughts can and should be weeded out if they are no longer relevant. It gives rise to a more flexible system based on inclusion and exclusion of ideas on the basis of their relevance. It creates a system that lets us leave the door to an unknown ajar while solving a problem, howsoever trivial or esoteric it might be.



Ubermensch and Nietzsche

I have been wondering for a long time for how to start writing this piece. I have cooked spaghetti in between and have put two large morsels of it in my mouth and pacing up and down the floor in my apartment. Last year while coming back from Hangwai in Korea town, I found a diary in Q train. The diary itself had small pieces of pasted papers in it and the small papers dated back at least 100-150 years. Those papers were the excerpts from the diaries of then Manhattanites. I read a little bit of it before returning it to the station agent and I hope the rightful owner would have found that precious collection. I smiled at many of the entries. There isn’t anything surprising but then too something peculiar about the human emotions, the thoughts, and the struggles. They have been the same only the context and the setting has been changing. The insecurity, solitude, envy, buoyancy, fear etc have been there irrespective of me writing this down in a well lit apartment or by someone on a park bench. What matters is how deep we can reach within ourselves to tingle those chords but the religion, education authorities, morality have been twisting and turning the fate of the society since time immemorial and the result is a concept that is what Nietzsche called sklavenmoral – the slave morality. What it results in is a factory producing followers. Followers of something and followers of everything. The concept of Ubermensch is not to be found and such beings exist only in fictions and may be that’s why all the Marvel and DC Comics movies do so well on box office. But Nietzsche is grossly misunderstood thanks to his sister and brother in law and the various interpreters who have a knack of twisting words to imbue their ideas on the masses.




I sometimes wonder why Scandinavian skies are so dreamy. Whenever I am there it feels I am in a limbo.


Photo Credits : Wikipedia

Last week I watched this movie while having my early dinner. Klumpfisken or The Sunfish, a Danish movie. The sunfish also known as Mola Mola is the heaviest bony fish on earth.

Screen Shot 2017-10-07 at 4.17.07 PM

Photo Credits : National Geographic

Coming back to the movie, there wasn’t anything extraordinary about the movie as it isn’t pretentious. In today’s world that is extraordinary. It’s a story about a fisherman and his struggles, a marine biologist and her perspectives. The beautiful sky, the virgin beaches, and life like emotions add to the plot of real people with real life and real stories. If that’s not how movies should be then I don’t know what movies are for.

A day without emojis

Smileys, furious face, tongue sticking out, crying faces have become integral part of daily life. The phones and various chat applications keep on updating their emoticons palette; Emoticons have the ability to replace the words to the degree that complete sentences can be formed using them. There are puzzles based on emojis in which you have to decipher the name of a movie, some food, emotion, a proverb or something else from them when used in a particular sequence. So much so that. I remember that I wasn’t agile enough to use them straightaway. When I started talking to a girl online some 10 years ago, I never employed smileys in my texts and little did I know that my humor, sarcasm, and other statements not supplemented by emoticons would be misconstrued. From then on I reached a point where there is one emoji in 15% of my social texting. Not there anything is wrong with it but I did notice it and decided to cut down the usage for a day and see whether pre emoji era conversation would be misconstrued. I asked a friend of mine to try emoticon sans conversation, though she is a frequent user of emojis and was reluctant initially saying she can’t stand it, she did agree to participate for a day. The argument that I used was the books don’t have smileys and it has been working out very well for them without them. She retorted that books have longer sentences for touching the emotional chords. Long story short, she agreed. Another precursor of communication was that we couldn’t have asked questions such as are you mad, disappointed etc.

We started our day, went through it and wrapped it up exchanging 308 messages between us including the Oks, Yeses, Nos, and notorious mono question marks. I did supplement lol and haha to indicate humor but there were times during which the conversation veered off in a tangential direction despite the fact that we knew each other quite well. I was wee bit adventurous by bringing more controversial topics on the table to see whether emojis are needed or not. At times explanations were needed and at times we might have obviated the details. The deliberate obliteration of the colon, semicolon, right and left round braces revealed a macroscopic picture about linguistics. I once attempted to study hieroglyphics and understood that pictures can tell the same story as the words can; Mandarin, Cantonese, Kanji, Hirangana, Katakana are the visual scripts in which symbols stand for words or phrases. I am not leading anti emoticon protest but I wanted to see whether I can convey emotions and pass my word across without being misconstrued and I would say the experiment didn’t fail.  I don’t want to make a case that as a human race we have evolved and should use the words rather than the smiley or winking faces to convey the messages. Sometimes a thumbs up or a smiley face can work fine but one should take a step back and check whether he/she is capable to put the word across without use of emojis and if one is inept then it could be a red flag for the declining literacy and decimating self confidence that if veered off, the communication can’t be brought back on track.

A little history : Scott E. Fahlman, computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon is credited with inventing the smiley face. https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~sef/sefSmiley.htm

The 4 stages of life

Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Sigmund Freud are said to be fathers of modern psychology. Each of them have different perspective on multitude of things. Freud gives us civilizations and its discontents, interpretation of dreams, a rehash of oedipus complex while Adler proposed 14 day cure plan for anyone who is depressed and emphasized on the importance of social factors in one’s well being. Carl Jung carved out archetypes for human life. Jung broadly classified the stages into 4 which might not be music to the ears of William Shakespeare who wrote seven stages of life. The 4 stages are the mirror for us and let us answer the rhetoric of self identity and motivation.

Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.’   – Carl Gustav Jung

The Athlete – The stage of self obsession. Mirror is a constant companion here. Aesthetic points are valued in this stage and narcissism can be the pivot. We might know few people in our lives who haven’t been able to come out of this phase or wind their lives around it. Few keep abreast with other stages while keeping the athlete alive.

The Warrior – Let’s go out and conquer the world. The world is our Troy and we are the Achilles, hopefully without arrows through our ankles 🙂 . We become more responsible and the vanity of the athleticism starts to fade. Achievement and tip of the pyramid are the alluring and driving factors. Some of us would die within the warrior stage due to multitudinous gratification.

The Statement – Ok, we have achieved few things in life but they aren’t making us happy to a large extent. We need more gratification and self fulfillment. There should be something that should be passed on as a legacy. Giving becomes important in this stage. What material possessions and money used to do for you might not be true in this case but you won’t shun them either. Egotistical self starts taking a back seat and leaving the world in a better place than when you arrived can be a mantra here. Few of us would associate the statement phase with parenting and being a provider rather than sucking the marrow out of life alone.

The Spirit – We eventually realize that the former 4 stages don’t define us but they are crucial to reach the spiritual phase. We realize that we are more than the money, friends, body, country. We are spiritual beings and something else is also there in the pandora box of the unknown world to which our physical bodies might not transport us. We start observing ourselves from an entirely different angle and acquire a wholistic perspective towards life and death, spirit and body. As an exercise in meditation, one has to step out of his thoughts and observe what is happening in the mind, we do the same in this stage of life. We step out and observe our mind and our body. We are the observer of the events as opposed to the beings of what we observe.

Laozi, the writer of Tao Te Ching – written over 2500 years ago, said “can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.”




The Wordly Affair

There are words in other languages that don’t have any counterpart in English and few of them are majestically beautiful.

Cafune(Portuguese) – Running fingers though someone’s hair

Yakamoz(Turkish) – Reflection of Moon on water

Ya’aburnee(Arabic) – You bury me ( You love someone so much that you can’t see them die before you, so you request that the person buries you)

Culaccino(Italian) – Water mark by a glass on a table/surface due to condensation

Connecting the dots!

You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.

– Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement speech, 2005

Demonetization in India

maxresdefaultIndia’s Prime minister Narendra. D. Modi, on the night of 8th Nov’ 2016, announced that denomination of 500 and 1000 will be invalid hereafter and general public has stipulated time to exchange that money for either 100 Rupee notes or newly minted 2000 Rupee notes. Media is lauding the PM and general public has termed this step as the master stroke. The step, according to me, is a audacious one  as it will put many people against him especially the businessmen who deal only in cash and the people who live on the daily wages. It can even cost him the next election.

The purpose : Black money, stocked money that in general is in higher currency denominations will be brought to circulation and money can be moved from unorganized to organized sector. The issues of terror funding and fake currency will be dealt well by this step. The level of cash in the central banks will be raised; It will give better picture to data scientists of Govt. and better plans can be chalked out for small scale businesses. On a fundamental level, it will increase the lending power of the banks.

The timing of announcement : He had plans to unearth money from the homes of people and get it into circulation for a long time. He started it 2 years ago by making people open zero deposit and free accounts in banks. Then he asked people to deposit whatever money they have in the bank accounts. He extended the cutoff deposit dates too. Approx. 62,000 Crore ( 620 Billion Rupees) were deposited and 45 % tax rebate was given to people who deposited this amounts. But people are incorrigible and then PM used his master stroke and just before midnight he announced demonetization. All business gets closed by that time, stock markets, shops, and almost every business transaction gets done by that time. It came as a surprise to people and created a panic situation for the money hoarders.

What is targeted : Fake currency, black money that is stocked, funding to terror groups, people who keep large undocumented cash as the black assets and people who conceal the income e.g. Jewelers dealing in cash, real estate marketeers. Also, it attack the parallel economy that runs in the informal/grey sector (Untaxed sector)

What is not targeted : The big fish of the ocean who black the money in foreign bank accounts, stocks, gold bullion, tax evaders and corruption. All these processes generate a lot of black money but it doesn’t mean that it is stored somewhere in form of cash. Some part of that money comes into the cycle of economics.

Tax evasion in India : Only 1% population pays the tax and 25% of that population earns < 5 lakh Rupees per year. Around 3% population files the tax return but the 2% gets away by showing zero income. Also, 50% of the population is still employed in agriculture and allied activities and agriculture income is tax exempt.

The currency : 500 and 1000 rupee notes make up approx. 85% of the monetary chunk. Right now, they are nothing more than an exchange coupon. India is a cash based economy as over 90% transactions are done in cash

People’s reaction : Although people are frustrated for the long queues in front of ATMs and banks but people who understand how things work and why the step was necessary are happy with the step. People are coming up with an argument that it could have been planned in advance. NO! It couldn’t have been. If people had time and had prior knowledge they would have converted the money to some other asset. If more 100 Rupee notes were to be printed before the announcement then the news could have been leaked and would have shattered the whole plan. I have friends who work in banks and even though they are in office for longer periods and even on weekends, they are happy with the step. The panic will last few days as there is some cash crunch but things will be back to normal in a few days.

Market’s reaction : The sudden currency ban caused the markets to go down by 6% but both BSE and NIFTY resurged.

Positive impacts : 1. Brought 75 thousand crore rupees ( 750 billion) in one of the national bank of India within 3 days.

2. Counterfeit currency that was used to fund terror groups and other things will be curtailed.

3. Cash hoarders  (> 2.5 lakh rupees) will have to explain to the tax department.

4. More data points for the data scientists of Govt. to chalk out better strategy.

Other impacts : 1. Approx. 100 billion Rupees spent in printing the new currency.

2. Hassle to people.

3. No impact on those who have foreign bank accounts and still no action by the Govt. when it is said that the list of account holders is available.

4. The informal sector e.g. the chit funds would be ruined and people employed in those sectors will be affected. This informal sector acted as a lending agency and it will be damaged permanently. Although, one can argue that lenders use to charge whatever interest rate they wished.

5. There is an opportunity of discounted currency business to grow i.e. You give me 500 Rupees and I will give less than 500 rupees to you in form of non demonetized currency. Discounting is illegal and Govt. is setting up measures to curb the same.

6. Tourists who had money in form of large currencies will have to face problems.

7. Collateral damage to housewives : UN reports say that 80% of Indian women didn’t have bank accounts till 2014. So, most of their possessions are in the form of cash and gold. They have been hoarding money for years but they are unintended victims of the process. Whatever they had saved over the years will come to the limelight of the family members. They should learn to invest and save, not hoard.

8. Around 26% of the population doesn’t have access to the banking system as they don’t have the valid ID cards with them and I wonder what will happen to those people’s money. This step might encourage people to get documented and be a part of the system.

Conclusion : Demonetization is not a sudden one-step action against graft but part of a bigger picture to control and curb corruption and the parallel economy that the tax evaders are running.  If people can wait in queues for hours for getting latest phones, reality show auditions, some mega sale at a mall but whining while standing in a queue in a bank or outside an ATM then the interests of those people might not be concurrent with the national interests.


Blue Jay


Yesterday I watched Blue Jay, quite an interesting movie it was. There is some old classic charm with the movies that are shot in black and white. Blue Jay is the one that falls in the category of Frances Ha, Nebraska, Clerks, Schindler’s list, Ida. The movie is short and sweet and literally has only two characters and the dialogues between them. I laughed at times at the reminiscences depicted. The film was quite relatable for the actors looked like next door people, nothing extra ordinary about them but then too I think there is a piece that is missing somewhere that would make us feel awestruck. The house of the guy, although in a disarray, looks like something that one can call home – it seems comfortable and one can have a good night sleep.

Florence Foster Jenkins

I have been on a movie spree for past few weeks and have watched nearly all that are watchable and are being shown in Manhattan. I watched Florence Foster Jenkins on Monday in a theater on Yorkville. Meryl Streep is a treat to watch but on Monday morning I came to know of a past case in which she had blocked the road for renovating her million dollar villa causing problem to general public. Shouldn’t law be same foe everyone? Why wasn’t she arrested for the same?

Anyway, the movie is based on a real life character that walked the earth during mid 18th and mid 19th century noted for her gaudy star studded costumes and high pitch/low pitch singing. I enjoyed and laughed throughout the movie and who wouldn’t. Meryl Streep is one of the best actress and a nervous Simon Helberg has done justice to role of Mr. McMoon – the pianist. Hugh Grant’s role as a partner supportive of no matter what is adorable. Although Florence Foster was ridiculed many times for her singing but her ‘concerts’ were not karaoke – Japanese word for empty orchestra. If I were born in that era and I had enough money to afford concerts then I definitely would have gone to see her. She did what she wanted to do and enjoyed it thoroughly. One memorable quote from the movie “People can say I cannot sing but they won’t say I didn’t sing.”. When the movie finished I was looking at faces of people and found at least 7-8 who were crying during the final scenes. Such is a human spirit that we live in a world that adores perfection while Florence Foster Jenkins was able to fill the Carnegie hall despite her not so perfect singing.