Comprehending human violence – why we are so brutal to our own kind

Haven’t we all wondered at least once in our life why we are such a violent species? What are the origins of humanity’s seven sins? Or have we even pondered over these, ever? Rapes, cold blooded murders, looting, arson, hooliganism, the comprehensive list ends with the use of atomic weapons. Right from bullying and ragging in schools and colleges, we have all accepted violence as part of our societal life to the extent where men who cry and cannot endure physical pain are ridiculed and looked down upon. What is important here is, we have been incomprehensibly brutal to our fellow beings. Why?

Animal world is brutal without doubt. Animals have evolved to survive all conditions on our planet. But animals do not kill their own kind other than for mating rights and on extremely rare occasions. Territorial disputes do occur but that gets over in fights and not deaths. Moreover carnivores exist to control the population of herbivores which in turn prevents wanton destruction of vegetation. The perfection of nature’s design is in the fact that carnivores have taste buds that are evolved only to eat meat and not evolved enough to understand the taste of flesh and blood or rather the lack of it.

Human history is replete with violence against its own kind and if we look at our history closely, our evolution has been more significant for the destruction of fellow beings. From wooden to nuclear weapons, we have spent bewilderingly copious amounts of time, energy and intellect in creating and perfecting weapons to use against ourselves. We glorify ourselves for the manner of our evolution from cave dwellers to the technological advances we have been able to achieve in present times, but we do not talk about what we have done against ourselves in the same breath. From Egyptian civilization where soldiers were killed to supposedly travel with their dead Pharaohs in their afterlives to how the entire group of people and soldiers who dug Genghis Khan’s grave was butchered to keep his grave a secret (for reasons still unknown) to the Crusades to African slavery to all the wars especially World War I and II and the atomic bombs we dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our brutality against our kind is dumbfounding. What is more mind boggling is, we use our superior intelligence to annihilate ourselves whereas less intelligent animals know how to protect and conserve their species. Have we ever wondered why or what drives us towards this unexplained behavior?

The primary issue is in the understanding about the origins of humanity. The conflicting theories of human creation and evolution makes it all the more confusing. If we believe in the theory of evolution, there is a massive gap in our evolution that science has not been able to explain. Our intelligence has literally exploded in our evolutionary timeline in a very short period of time and more bewildering is the development of our communication skills especially our speaking ability. There is also the question of how apes evolved into humans all over the world at the same time. There are no more evolved and less evolved humans among us. If we believe in the creation theory, the story begins from Adam and Eve and they supposedly had 3 male children. Now hold on to this thought and then look at the whites, blacks, orientals and all the numerous types of human beings. What is the probability of such humongous human evolution from 3 siblings and that too without any women to procreate with?

Ancient Sumerian texts explain in detail how the less evolved versions such as neanderthals were genetically manipulated by aliens to create us in our present form. That can explain our evolution in intelligence and communication. But how did we start looking so different, developed different societal ways of life and most importantly, where does this violent streak towards our own kind come from?

Looks like the secret lies in the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. There were just humans at the time and not different types of humans. The story goes that the humans decided to build a tower that would rise so high that it would touch the sky and be the bridge between earth and heaven. What does this story indicate? It could be a metaphor for the fact that human development had reached a point where it was at the threshold of becoming equal to that of the creator Gods. So the Gods decided to punish the humans by corrupting their minds and destroying their unity. This video explains it all (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_mTsX6jovc). Now this could also explain why we ended being whites, blacks, orientals etc because the same Gods must have manipulated us genetically, created different versions of humans and scattered us all over the world. To add to this, corrupting our minds against one another is where the origins of our violent streak could lie. The premise must have been that the Gods did not want humans to become their equal or it could be that they believed humans were not ready for what they were aspiring for at that time.

Question is, do we need to believe in yet another fable? We do not need to, but the results are before us in our history. Have we ever wondered why we have so many religions? We could say that newer religions such as Buddhism, Christianity and Islam have more and improved rules for human existence in society but what have they ultimately done? Fragmented humans even more. Now what we have is situations like white Christians fighting white Muslims. Lower caste Hindus cannot drink water from wells “owned” by upper caste Hindus even in the 21st century. Same skin color so caste became the divisor. Psychological assessments of hardcore criminals have revealed that they are themselves not able to explain how they committed the gruesome acts of violence and have no comprehension of their state of mind at those moments. We are all supposedly having genetic information from 7 previous generations. What if the violence was coming from an ancestral gene acting up? Money and wealth tops all other divides now and two new groups of humans are getting created, the haves and the have-nots.

So what can we do about it? Understand ourselves first. We are endowed with unlimited intelligence and resilience. We have always been able to absorb all the after shocks of violence and move on which is why we are where we are now. Every problem has at least one solution but to find the solution the first step is to accept that the problem exists. We have to accept that though we are segregated by many factors, we belong to one species called Homo Sapiens. We have to consciously start look beyond monetary, political, religious and all other differences that separate us.

It could also be that the creator Gods have put us to our ultimate test. Overcoming all our differences and uniting as one species could take us to our next stage of evolution. Maybe that is when we will be able to successfully build the tower of Babel or whatever it represented. Advanced civilizations like Atlantis supposedly failed because even though it achieved technological heights it may not have had a united population of people. All ancient texts talk about the return of someone, Kalki in Hinduism, Jesus in Christianity and so on who would return to unite all humans. If we use our intelligence and commonsense we do not need to wait for anyone to come and remind us that we are humans above everything else. The choice is and has always been ours.

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Degrees of customer centricity in today’s business world

Born in the 70’s, “Customer is King” was the business mantra I grew up listening to. But it no longer seems to be the case. While the advent of Internet has been the biggest disruptive force to hit the world of business, there is a lot more behind the journey of the business world to where it is now.

There are two factors to be clearly understood and even wary about when driving a business enterprise to it’s success – acceptance and adoption. In the brick and mortar model of business, it is extremely difficult to foresee changing customer preferences or what factors would drive customers to change their preferences. A simple example is the Indian film industry. A commercially successful movie was supposed to have a certain number of action sequences, songs, dance scenes, emotional scenes and comedy. It was the blueprint for success in Bollywood (and still is in some regional film industries) until a first time director (Farhan Akhtar) shattered the stereotype in 2001. It was the fear of acceptance that had kept Bollywood from evolving out of the rut it got stuck in. Same was the case with the world of business as well. The same fear of acceptance kept Kodak from disrupting it’s own business model by embracing the digital camera before it was too late.

The increased adoption of technology in business made collection of data from business easier and software applications made it possible to collate data from different business segments, analyze them and understand what factors are driving businesses up and down. Adoption of the internet and the advent of eCommerce finally broke the fear of acceptance and adoption as online stores does not even cost a fraction of the brick and mortar ones.

One fear gave way to a new one – customer support and satisfaction. As customers started adopting to technology and accepting new and radical products, it became imperative to measure and understand how satisfied the customers are. Back in 2004, my life was meandering through regular IT support jobs when I was hired for the project of a European client, at a time when I had no idea that IT support services were getting outsourced. One incident changed my professional life and helped me understand my way ahead. One of the client’s software applications had stopped working and it was reported to the support team I was part of. We worked on the issue as per the priority on which the issue was reported. When we informed the client that the issue was resolved, we got the feedback that what we worked on was an invoicing application and in the time we took to resolve the issue, they had lost a number of orders. The problems associated with it were manifold. Poor understanding of client’s business applications, wrong prioritization of their issues, all of these stemmed from the lack of understanding of client’s business environment and their requirements which led to the support team working on an issue with no understanding of its business impact.

In my next job, I worked on a product in a client’s environment for more than 2 years and was able to create a new system design for the product’s upgrade in a few hours, not merely because of my knowledge of the product but because of my understanding of the client’s business environment and the needs of its different business units. When I was sent to a client’s premise in the UK as the leader of a team for a large transition program, what was important to me was to understand the client’s business environment and what technical issues were currently affecting the client’s business. As the client’s entire IT activities were getting outsourced to the company I was working for, it was just commonsense for me to understand and resolve existing issues before owning the responsibility of the environment.

That was back in 2010 and technology has come a long way from that time. This is the age of AI and Analytics and putting them together has resulted in predictive analytics which is helping businesses to take informed decisions and make successful plans for their future. But how much of all of these have filtered down into the traditional brick and mortar stores? At home, we buy groceries on a monthly basis from a grocer we have been customer of for 15 years. For daily purchases, we go to a nearby supermarket store. There is a particular pattern to the items we buy from the supermarket store, like milk, eggs, bread, etc but more importantly there is a pattern to the items we do not buy, like cooking oils, pulses, rice, wheat, soap, etc. No one in the store has asked us yet where we buy these items from. To be successful in business in these times, companies have to be at the top of their game and continuously keep looking for opportunities to be innovative to not only attract new customers but to retain them as well.

I received a call from an aspiring startup’s co-founder some time back for advise. They were planning to create an online platform from where anyone could place an order for any item and they would deliver it. The word anyone was a concern for me. There is a very good reason why India will never be a completely digital market – people’s purchasing power or the lack of it. A big chunk of its population of people make their daily purchases on debt. The local grocers keep accounts of these purchases and people keep paying as and when they have money with them. Even the local restaurants in many places especially the smaller eateries do the same. This is a business model supermarket stores can never replicate and hence they can never erode the relevance of local grocers and small time traders.

This is an important reason why the India government’s decision to demonetize its currency notes has destroyed India’s economy as it has further weakened people’s buying ability. When I mentioned these aspects to the startup’s co-founder and asked him how he was going to tackle them in his business model, he had no answer. Borrowing or getting inspired by a business model in another country is fine, but there can be no excuse to not knowing about their own country’s business nuances.

As products and companies of all sizes throng the online market and jostle for space to find their feet, nothing is more valuable in business now than customer loyalty and repeat customers. One look at Amazon’s fulfillment center (https://gadgets.ndtv.com/videos/behind-the-scenes-at-an-amazon-fulfillment-centre-521443) is enough to understand the complexity of its customer-centric business model. More than the number of its business segments, what is mind boggling is the fact that an individual could be its customer in multiple business segments and would expect the same level of customer service across all business segments. Multiply this by the probability of doing business with a few thousands or a million such concurrent customers and maintaining the highest quality of service across business segments is beyond comprehension.

Is customer still the King or has business become the Emperor of the King?

India’s yearly budgets are a major driver for unbridled corruption from it’s grass root level

The Indian government has released its Union budget plan for the FY 2019-2020. The country’s economy has been in doldrums since demonetization delivered a knockout punch to it in 2016. Back at the helm of governance for a second term after general elections, all eyes are on the BJP government to see if and how it is going to pull up its straps and get the economy back on track.

Before doing an evaluation of the budget, it is important to understand what the budget is. In the scope of work of the government that gets elected in democracies or what we call as governance, there are a slew of areas that need development and maintenance, such as agriculture, defense, infrastructure development, etc. This is the reason why governments are empowered to levy taxes, control prices and manage money. Budgets help to create wealth and to allocate it to different sectors from where development schemes deliver the benefits to the people. This is the ideal situation but is a Utopian world for us.

A high level perspective of the budget reveals something important. Majority of the scope of the budget is intended to generate more wealth for the government. More national highways means more toll booths and consequently more toll charges. Increase in fuel prices means travel is going to get more expensive, not just for vehicle owners but for people in general. So the government is essentially acting like a financial institution which is lending out money with the objective of bringing in more money. In such a case, it becomes imperative that governments adhere to certain best practices followed in the corporate world.

First one is the Balanced Scorecard which looks at the 4 key aspects of financial performance, customer satisfaction, internal process and organizational growth. This can be easily translated into 1) how effectively the government is using the resources (wealth) at its disposal 2) Satisfaction levels of people (who are the government’s customers) 3) how the government’s internal process can be improved and 4) how the infrastructure and culture of government bodies can be improved. There is a very important model used across industries to help deliver better results from projects and it is known as the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) model. In the corporate, business strategies when executed as projects are what creates wealth. In governance, budgets are the government’s business strategies and when they are executed through development schemes and taxes generates wealth for the government. Projects are executed using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) model and development schemes need to be executed using the same model.

But the most important of all is accountability. Where is the report card of last year’s budget with the details of the government’s performance in executing its development schemes and how much money was spent on them? How much money has been gained from taxes and other means? A high level report does not suffice when the country has been segmented into states, cities, corporations, municipalities and panchayats. From the level of panchayats, report cards need to be generated to understand what development schemes were implemented, how much money was spent and how successful are they. Such report cards have to be generated for every aspect of governance. Corporate uses what is called as metrics to measure success using parameters for measurements known as CSFs (Critical Success Factors). Metrics when measured for evaluating performance are known as KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and when measured for understanding risk are known as KRIs (Key Risk Indicators). Insights from data obtained by using these parameters for one FY should be used to create the next FY’s budget.

And what do we have in our country? This FY, there is budgetary allocation of Rs. 65,837 crore and outlay for capital expenditure of Rs. 1.60 lakh crore for railways. Where exactly is all this money going to be used? The trains are still of the same old design, maintained just enough for them to run the intended distances and poor and unhygienic food services (vessels get washed inside train toilets which are themselves stinking dirty). I have heard several cases of people in states like UP, MP, Bihar etc where people muscle their way into A/c compartments, travel without tickets and even ticket examiners (TTs) getting thrown out of moving trains for trying to get such people out. During every year’s budget, a certain amount of money gets allocated to railways and on the ground almost everything remains the same which means governments simply want to keep running the shows with zero interest in improvements.

Stable fuel prices is a critical parameter for stable prices of commodities and maintaining lower inflation levels. We have continuously fluctuating fuel prices which is resulting in higher cost of commodities and higher inflation. Rs. 70,000 crore capital for PSU banks without a clear plan for recovering high value corporate loans that have defaulted to NPAs (Non-Performing Accounts) and stopping black money from getting hoarded continuously out of the country is insensible. In education, there are no schemes to improve government schools across the country and make education equally accessible to all sections of the society. As I have always known, equal education to all would be fatal to vote bank politics on which all political parties are thriving. What worries me is, there is not a word about nature conservation and sustainability which in turn gives corporate a free hand to use and destroy natural resources at their whims and fancies. No mention on air pollution, water conservation (wanton destruction of drinking water resources) and improving quality of living conditions. What value does governance have if it does not help in improving people’s lives?

Budgets without accountability is the chief contributor of corruption in our country. Only 20% of the allotted money for development schemes create value for people and the whopping 80% gets fed into bureaucratic red tape to get the 20% work done. A one nation one transport card has been proposed in the budget but it remains to be seen how long it will take to see the light of the day and we won’t even know how much money is going to get spent on it. We all know how the Aadhaar fiasco unraveled. Any tax breaks or incentives is only meant to cajole people into putting more of their money into the market or borrow more money from the market which in turn will create more wealth for the government. With burgeoning population, omnipresent corruption and very little of the resources getting used for development, it is no surprise that no one gets any benefits out of paying taxes and the entire country is in perpetual struggle for sustenance. Unless the entire system of governance is overhauled, yearly budgets have little effect on people’s lives except the ones who are licking their lips and waiting for their piece of the pie. What is growing is the demand for public sector jobs and career in politics and we all know why.

Learning to control the elements is the only way left to negate human effects on climate change

The fact that climate change and its potentially disastrous consequences if left unresolved has been a hot topic of debate for quite some time now. Even school going children have greater awareness to this threat to our planet and our survival. On March 15, they took matters into their own hands. Tens of thousands of them around the world skipped their classes and took to streets to demand greater action to control pollution and save the environment from their governments and world bodies.

Why has the focus on climate change increased? One reason is because scientists and researchers have comprehended that the 6th mass extinction event is underway on our planet. The trademark identification of such an event are the increasing cases of complete extinction of many species of animals because of the overpopulation of one or certain number of species.

Population explosion of humanity and industrialization, especially in the last 100 years has exponentially increased green house effects. But what many people do not know is that this is not the first instance of our planet experiencing the drastic and adverse effects of green house effects. Herbivore dinosaurs had chomped their way through massive forests and expelled humongous amounts of methane gas from their belly after digestion creating massive greenhouse effect.

I had attended a seminar on wetland conservation at the Agricultural University in my hometown a few weeks back. One of the speakers was a researcher on greenhouse effect and he did an excellent presentation on the topic. But I realized that one critical factor was missing from his presentation. If our planet is in the midst of the 6th mass extinction, it means complete destruction of our planet and all its beings has happened five times before. Each time nature has been reset and life has taken roots again. The last time it happened dinosaurs became extinct. But interestingly, crocodiles, cockroaches and turtles survived. So if it happens again, can we survive and what will it take for us to survive? I asked the speaker these questions and he admitted that he had never considered those aspects in his research.

Interestingly, I found the answer to my question on social media the next day itself.

The arrival of the Spanish Inquisition in Central America in the 16th century and the subsequent destruction of the thriving civilization of the Incas resulted in the Amazon forest reclaiming its lost land to people. The unintended effect of this reforestation was the drastic drop in temperature in Europe in the 17th century and large number of people dying because of unbearably cold conditions. We keep adapting to small increases in temperature and changes in weather conditions without realizing that the overall impact of the changes is considerable. Only when the changes are reversed by nature will we know what its effects will be on us.

The floods in Kerala and the destruction it caused is a fresh reminder of what can happen to us when nature resets itself. Kerala has traditionally been a rainfall abundant region because of its proximity to the Indian ocean and Western Ghats. I have learned in school that after Cherapunji, it is Kerala that receives the most rainfall during monsoon season every year. In spite of this known fact, people encroached into low lying areas to build their houses.

While rainfall in Kerala has decreased considerably in the last decade or so, it never meant it would never rain like before. When it did rain, water had nowhere to go. So where water could flow it swept away everything in its path and where it couldn’t flow it got stuck causing massive floods. There was also an enduring image circulating on social media of a bridge filled with plastic bottles and containers, which the water had deposited back on to land.

So mass extinction and resetting of nature has been an ongoing phenomenon on our planet. We can blame human overpopulation and wanton industrialization for climate changes now but that has always been the problem with dominant species as the dinosaur case illustrates. We are the only species on the planet that destroys nature’s ecosystem to create our own. No animal cuts trees to make its own shelter.

Animals adapt to what is available in nature. The reason could be that we were created to rule over nature and not protect it as the quote from Bible suggests. In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to RULE over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.”

The question now is how to control our effect on climate change. I believe we are a little too late to think about it. A few billion of us have to die off to restore parity in nature. But there is a catch here. The few billion of us have to die without disturbing the nature, which is impossible without a natural calamity on a massive scale or a man made disaster like a nuclear war. There is an analogous situation happening right now. Flickr, the online photo sharing community has created a new rule which restricts its free users to upload and retain only 1000 photos on its website. The difference here is, nature cannot tell us the size of the human population it can manage. The onus is on us to find it out, reduce our population accordingly and keep it below the threshold number.

Sounds ridiculous right? We cannot wipe off our own population that too on such a massive scale. What we can do is control our population growth and not increase our negative impact on nature anymore. One purpose all species procreate is to stay dominant in nature. We do not need to procreate like other species anymore. All of us do not have to leave our own unique genetic imprint on our population.

There is something more left for us to do though. Humans have been trying to understand nature from the dawn of our existence. Exponential technological advances we have made has helped us to investigate and understand every aspect of nature closely. Even then, we are restricting our research to simply collecting data about nature. The more we learn about something it is natural that we also learn how to control and manipulate it. This is how the field of medicine has grown and how we have learnt to treat diseases.

But surprisingly, other than cloud seeding to create artificial rain, we have not been able to control weather and climate changes. There are places in our country like Kerala which receive abundant rainfall and other areas which suffer from extreme drought every year. All government departments and research institutions watch this unfold every year helplessly. None of them have even wondered if it would be possible to distribute rain clouds or rainwater to all parts of the country uniformly.

There is a story in ancient Indian texts about the young Hanuman who leapt into the sky to catch the rising sun to play with it. Indra, the God of lightning and thunder, in his apprehension threw the Vajrayuda (thunderbolt) at Hanuman who got struck by it and fell back to earth unconscious. Maruti, the God of wind who was Hanuman’s biological father got enraged and pulled out all the air flowing on earth and relented only after Hanuman’s health was restored. The takeaway from this story for me is that air flow on our planet can be controlled. Ancient Indian texts are treasure troves of extremely advanced technology and interpreting them correctly can answer and solve most of the problems we are facing now.

There are primarily three obstacles we are facing for space exploration and one of them is creating and controlling weather conditions suitable for us on other planets. The key to this lies in greater understanding and controlling weather and climatic changes on our own planet. The fact that children are speaking about climate changes reflects poorly on their parents and exposes the ignorance they have on the subject. People have to start talking about solving social problems and these discussions have to start from educational institutions. The research that the speaker did on the greenhouse effect creates no value because all the effort he put in does nothing to help humanity. What is the objective of doing research on any subject if it is not helping in the survival and evolution of our species?

The World Should Be Worried About Gun Related Massacres Spreading As A Culture

The tranquility of two peaceful countries has been shattered by gunfire in the last few days. Life in New Zealand and Netherlands has been jolted by bullets and the ensuing blood and gore. As the perpetrators are caught and assessed to find out the objective of their barbarous acts, the answers lie somewhere else.

I have lived in Utrecht for 6 months between 2008 and 2009. Going from Bangalore to Utrecht felt like going to a sleepy village. The effect was more profound because I was there during the winter season. No birds, no leaves on trees, there used to be hustle and bustle on the streets between 8-9:30 in the morning and 4-5:30 in the evening. Rest of the time, it used to look like an urban desert. I saw police cars 4 times in 6 months and 3 times were outside departmental stores. I heard a vehicle honk once in 6 months. Honking is considered to be abusing there (God bless Indians). I heard about one road accident in 6 months. I couldn’t sleep for the first few days because of no sound. In India, sounds of human activity can be heard all through the night. Lack of any sound was so new and overpowering for me. A decade on from all of this, the city being in the news for random gun related killing is extremely disturbing.

But this is not without an irony. Bursting firecrackers is banned in Netherlands except for New Year celebrations. I do not understand banning firecrackers and allowing people to possess guns. Here is a typical case of this guy from New Zealand.

He used to own a gun for farming related reasons. I have seen farmers chasing away birds from their farmlands in my hometown by bursting firecrackers. In farmlands all kinds of animals exist. Small birds come to eat beetles and insects, those birds are eaten by larger birds of prey, snakes come to eat rats and snakes in turn get eaten by mongoose. This is nature’s way of maintaining its ecosystem. So what can guns do on a farm that fire crackers cannot?

An argument can be made that guns help people protect themselves. From what? Lets say armed robbery. If robbers know people have guns, they would also try to get a gun by stealing or by illegal means. What chances do people have in a shootout? It could go either way. In commando and special ops training, trainees are taught to use anything available as a weapon. Moreover any tools that we use like knives, screw drivers, etc can be used as weapons. But all of those have some utility value and serves multiple purposes in our daily life. What purpose do guns serve other than taking lives?

Even more ironic and silly is the assessment of perpetrators of gun related crimes and profiling of candidates to be given license to have guns. Here is a news item from last year about the Netherlands government profiling candidates to be legal gun owners. Human emotions and behaviors are influenced by circumstances, genetics and hormones. Our genetic structure supposedly contains information from our 7 previous generations. So it is possible that our genes may have information about robbers, murderers and rapists. Those information could become dominant in an environment that nurtures them and influence our behavior. This could explain many crimes because with a sane mind, criminals don’t seem to be able to comprehend how they committed the crimes, something which society has been explaining away as the influence of Satan. So tendencies to commit crimes may arise anytime within us. What can the government do about someone who was given license to possess a gun 10 years back, the person had to face severe problems in life after 8 years and in despair took out the gun and killed his family and himself?

What is worrisome is the gun related killings spreading to all parts of the world. As people migrate to all parts of the world, their cultures hold them back from integrating themselves into the new society they are in. There have been many cases of men from Muslim countries migrating to western countries and finding it hard to contain their sexual desires when they see the attire of women in those countries which are in stark contrast to the burka tradition prevalent in their own countries. Crime rates have increased in Europe after the European countries opened their doors to asylum seekers from many strife torn countries in Africa and Middle East. Inability to adjust to new cultures, despair because of leaving their homeland and loved ones behind, frustration at having to start life from scratch in a new place all contribute to mental disturbances leading to violent behavior. While the perpetrators of the massacre in New Zealand have been attributed to white supremacy, the one in Netherlands has been identified as a Turkish man whose motive is yet to be found out.

Guns empower us to assume that we can provide quick justice and get rid of problems instantly. Politics, human and animal atrocities, there are so many issues and instances that make us feel helpless which in turn invokes the sense of vigilantism within us. We may be able to eliminate a corrupt politician with a gun but not corruption. It is possible to kill an individual but guns cannot destroy a system. If we look at it closely, no guns in society makes more sense that having them. Then why aren’t  governments all over the world taking a unilateral decision to ban guns?

World War II was termed as the “war to end all wars”. But there have been armed conflicts after the war all over the world and continues to this day. Research to develop more lethal and sophisticated weapons is a black box and consumes unimaginable amount of money. The weapons are not meant to protect humanity from alien invasions. We are developing those weapons to fight among ourselves and kill our own kind. Why do we still have borders between countries and armed forces? The answer is very simple. Weapons manufacturing is one of the biggest and most profitable industries in the world. The same companies provide funding to political leaders during elections which makes the leaders accountable to them than to the people. From shopping malls to hospitals it is people and their lives that create revenue for the corporate. The gun lobby in the US is extremely powerful and influential. This is why there are only talks of banning guns without a ban ever coming into existence.

How Agile methodology has redefined the understanding of business in Indian IT industry

While it is commonly accepted that a business degree is not required for project management, those times have quietly gone by a long time back. What has caused this dramatic change is the concept of outsourcing. To get to the bottom of this, it is imperative to understand what project management is.

Every organization can be broadly split into business and management verticals. Based on the amount of business it is doing in the current year, the organization sets revenue and profit targets for the next year. Everything that happens in an organization in a financial year is the mad rush to meet or exceed those targets, which is the responsibility of the CEO of the organization. Business strategies are created to meet the targets which in turn creates objectives and goals that cascades down the organization’s hierarchy. It is essential to understand here that companies create profits in two ways, one through generation of revenue and the other through savings on its expenses. Execution of business strategies which leads to profit creation is done through projects. So essentially project management is for creating revenue and saving expenses for the company.

I was freshly minted into IT outsourcing way back in 2004 and was working on an IT support and service delivery project for a European client which had 400 odd software applications running in the virtual environment. One day, one of the applications stopped working and the ticket raised to report the issue was of medium priority. I was in the technical team at that time and we took our own sweet time to resolve the issue. When we reported back that the application was working again, the client’s employee told us that it was an invoicing application and they couldn’t take new orders for half a day. The situation was a little complicated. The client had outsourced their IT services and support for the first time. The priority matrix for the applications was not defined clearly because of which the client’s employee did not raise the ticket with the correct priority. But most importantly it was the lack of awareness of the technical team working on the issue about the purpose of the application. It was the first time I realized two facts about outsourcing : 1) It has separated business objectives from IT implementations and this is why 2) IT has become an industry in itself in India.

Fast forward to 2010 and I was working for an IT giant and had taken a team to a client’s premise for knowledge acquisition and was back in India to set up part of their support and service delivery team. Even this client was outsourcing its entire IT environment for the first time. I had looked back at all the mistakes I had come across through the years and had ensured that I understood the client’s business environment and objectives as much as I can. When I communicated to my management team in India that to provide better support the technical team needs to understand the client’s business environment I was ridiculed and threatened with pulling the project from me. All they wanted from me was to make my team work harder without knowing what they were doing. I resigned immediately, completed all the tasks required to set up of the team much before expected time and left. There was no way I was going to tolerate and live with a short sighted and overbearing management team.

Those 6 years were extremely insightful times for me. I was sent on an onsite assignment to the Netherlands in 2008. I was in a team full of Dutch people and I had a Dutch team leader. They do not normally speak a lot about work and the team leader would give me a task and not even ask for a status update. I realized quickly that people were assigned tasks according to their experience and abilities so the onus was on me to estimate the time I need, finish the task and report back to him. But he would answer any number of questions I had about the task. I understood that it was up to the person working on the task to understand as much as he/she could about the different aspects of the task. This behavior becomes more enhanced in the Scandinavian countries. Those people hardly ask anything and they open their mouths only to answer questions.

With all these experiences in mind, I went to do a one year MBA program to increase my skills and knowledge to have better understanding of the business environments of companies. In those intervening 2-3 years the IT environment underwent momentous changes. Fundamental to it were two aspects. Emergence of the Cloud and Agile methodology as the preferred way of project management. Agile has in fact helped to plug the vast distance between business requirements and IT implementations in India. Agile works essentially on two aspects: 1) the idea to market strategy and 2) the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) concept. When there is a new idea, the objective is to get it out to the market asap as a product because it is foolish to assume that no one else will have the same idea. Fundamental to this is the strategy to create the product with the features that would most likely to be in demand in the market and can quickly gain traction. This is where the concept of MVP comes in. It is because of these two factors that Agile has become the backbone of all startup initiatives.

Agile is used in the software industry primarily to create software applications. Rewind upwards and companies need IT applications either to generate revenue or save costs. For both, Agile works best but only if the objectives are clearly defined in the business case document. If the objective is creating revenue, the business case should clearly define which features of the application would result in maximum generation of revenue. Then the Product Owner can create a product backlog correspondingly and ensure that those features are developed first so that the product can be quickly released into the market. Even in the case of the objective being to save on expenses, the same rule applies. Develop those features of the application that would create maximum savings and integrate the application into the environment quickly.

Agile also defines a role called Scrum Master whose primary objective is to manage the sprint backlog and the sprint sessions. The role also has the responsibility of keeping all management overheads away from the development team so that they are not distracted and can fully focus on developing the product. This is exactly what I did with my team back in 2010. I filtered all the noise away from my team, took the heat from all meetings and management overheads, managed their work loads and allowed them to work freely. This did help significantly to finish the tasks required to complete setting up of the team.

I didn’t know any project management methodologies back then but I worked based on my experiences and commonsense. These methodologies were created long after people started trying out different ways to manage projects and it has never been the other way around. Agile has created the situation where understanding business requirements for all stakeholders is on a very high priority now and novices or less experienced people cannot be team members because of the extremely short and intense time spans of sprint sessions unless they are skilled and nimble enough. Both these aspects could be at loggerheads with the traditional IT industry environment in India which focuses more on technical than business aspects and makes use of less experienced people in projects to save their own costs.

All of this vindicates my decision and reasons to take up the MBA program at that time. Companies abroad have chosen to not sponsor work permits for me, Indian companies and the IT industry in particular have ignored and disowned me and I am having a tough time establishing myself as a freelance consultant. But having vision and pursuing it always creates short term pain and long term gains.

The causes and effects of the Rafale deal

So the ticking time bomb has triggered a full scale explosion. The endless debates and punches and counter punches that has been happening over the course of weeks and months has given way to a full scale war. Finally, some light has fallen on the shadows of the dubious Rafale deal and it is not good news for the Modi government. The fact that Anil Ambani has been the beneficiary of an unholy deal between the Indian and French government has been brought to light by none other than the erstwhile French President himself.

Questions are raging over how a weapons manufacturing company was started by Anil Ambani just weeks before the deal was signed, HAL was sidelined and Ambani’s company was proposed as the only option by the Modi government as partner for the deal. But my problems and concerns go much deeper. I did a one year MBA program with an international business school in Shanghai. There I met people from almost every part of the world. I used to have a good time with a young Pakistani lad who incidentally knows the band members of Strings and I used to tell him that one day I will be in Pakistan and I need his help to meet them. The college had given me a fellowship and I used to work actively with the college staff most of whom were Chinese. My point is, I was not fighting with that Pakistani guy and the Chinese people I know. It made me realize that citizens of India are not at war with the citizens of Pakistan and China. When we, the people have no problems with each other, why do we have borders and armed forces? Why are the governments buying and manufacturing all the weapons? To protect the people from what?

Lets take the case of Jammu and Kashmir. It became part of India during Independence and then the war of 1948 broke it into two parts. I see reports about separatists indulging in violence and the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits and I wonder, why can’t the people who want to be with Pakistan go to PoK and the ones who want to be with India come to this side of the border? Wouldn’t that solve the problem? Why are the Indian and Pakistani governments not trying to resolve the problem? Why is the UN not trying to resolve the conflict? Same goes with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Every time I hear and see about conflicts and problems, I always wonder why people are not working towards solving these issues.

Coming back to the Rafale issue, my next problem is in the way the government eventually decides from which country and which companies to buy the weapons from. The three wings of the armed forces are more than well equipped to do their own due diligence and decide what their requirements are. All the government needs to do is to provide them the required funds and clear all bureaucratic hurdles for the purchases. But when the government overrides the needs of the armed forces and initiates deals as per it’s wishes, then something murky is definitely happening in the shadows. This is what caused the Bofors issue and now the Rafale issue.

During the 2014 elections, there was a rumour that Modi’s election campaign extravaganza expenses ran upto Rs. 20,000 crore. He was always seen travelling for election rallies in private helicopters of Gautam Adani. Now why would a corporate businessman provide the services of this private choppers to a PM candidate? It doesn’t end here. Wherever Modi used to travel to for campaigning, be it as far as Thiruvananthapuram in the south or Arunachal Pradesh in the east or Jammu and Kashmir in the north, he used to always return to Gujarat the same day itself. Those journeys themselves must have cost a monstrous amount of money. Why was Adani spending so much money on Modi? So it was clear that Modi was going to be the next PM. Now Modi has himself admitted to being a chaiwala (tea seller). So how does all of this reflect on him? Like the story of Kalidasa, an ancient Indian poet. Kalidasa was a stupid and ignorant woodcutter who was found by some wise men cutting a branch of a tree he was sitting on. These wise men had a grudge on a princess because of her haughtiness at her wisdom. So they dressed up Kalidasa, asked him to keep quiet, spoke for him and interpreted his actions and claimed to the world that he was the most knowledgeable guy in the world and managed to defeat the princess in a debate. The same seems to have happened with Modi as well. The corporate seems to have installed him as the PM to be at their whims and fancies and to get their business deals signed off without understanding anything and without asking any questions. The Rafale deal seems to be just one of them. If there were scams during the previous UPA government the present government itself is a corporate scam.

Now how did Anil Ambani and the Modi government manage to pull off such a deal brazenly without the fear of any repercussions? They thrive on the ignorance of people. Most people in rural India especially in the North do not have even basic facilities like drinking water and electricity. They do not even have enough education to spell Rafale properly. Political parties have been exploiting them every 5 years by baiting them with the offer of basic amenities in return for their votes. They get nothing after each election and since they are all stuck inside vote banks, they continue voting for the candidates from their caste, religion etc. Most importantly, political parties ensure that people do not get proper education. Education increases our understanding of the world and we start asking questions. Questions are the biggest threat to the existence of political parties. This is why government schools are in dilapidated condition in many of the states and private schools charge such exorbitant fees. The objective is to keep people away from education. This is why Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP party had to go through all sorts of dire situations and repercussions when they tried to revive government schools in Delhi. Five of the biggest Indian states from where maximum representatives go to the Lok Sabha (lower House of Parliament) are stuck in this situation. BJP won maximum seats from these states in 2014 which clearly reflects the pathetic condition of Indian democracy. The consequence is that apart from the fragmented urban voters, no one will question Modi about the Rafale deal. He can happily go and campaign for the 2019 elections in the rural areas of India. This is what emboldens political parties and the corporate to take the country and the people for granted in their quest for money and power.

Finally, why a deal for weapons manufacturing? Which are the most booming business industries in the world? Weapons, drugs, prostitution and trafficking in that order. What generates maximum revenue in the world? People’s fear and people’s lust. We need to look at nothing beyond the first movie of the Iron Man franchise. What prompts billionaire businessman and playboy Tony Stark to become Iron Man? Because he finds the weapons manufactured in his company Stark Industries in the hands of terrorists and he realizes that weapons manufacturers sell weapons to both sides of wars and conflicts. The best commodity for sale has become the human life itself. Anil Ambani seems to be thirsting to enter that realm of business and make some money for himself at the cost of human lives. This is why Kashmir, Palestine and many other areas continue to be conflict zones. More is at stake here. Financial institutions move in into conflict areas once some sort of deal for peace is made, invest money and basically enslave people’s lives in that region. If all conflicts stop, financial institutions and weapons manufacturers will have to close down their shops. The stakes are much higher than the comprehension of common people and political class is just a puppet in the hands of the corporate all over the world.

Sexual harassment thrives only on the fear and complacency of women

Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta seems to have opened up a massive cupboard of skeletons of sexual harassment. So many women in the corporate world are taking to Twitter to narrate their tales of similar sordid experiences at the hands of men and vent their anger. The hashtag Metoo is trending like fire on Twitter. Though I am glad that this discussion is finally happening, sadly, women are opening up with their stories years after their ordeal. Why? Because they were forced to hush up for the sake of their careers and lives. Why again? They were more fearful of the backlash and repercussions from the society. They simply had nowhere to go so they had to gulp down the venom and stay quiet.

Before getting into sexual harassment we need to understand what sex is. The answers are in the very foundations of our existence. We share many common traits with animals and one of them is procreation. Why do male species of animals exist? Essentially to reproduce. Their purpose is to pass on their sperms to the females. Male butterflies and males of some species of animals engage in a frantic race without even having food to deposit their sperms inside the ovaries of as many females as they could before they die. There are many more bizarre cases of reproduction process in nature. In many species including ours, males have evolved into taking care of their families. Human males have never been monogamous which is why society was created and marriage as a concept was enforced upon us. Marriage to me was actually a desperate measure to control the reproductive urge of men. When this was not enough, prostitution was created. This is why the Devdasi concept was introduced in ancient Indian society. Upper caste males were allowed to prey on girls and women from the lower castes and satisfy their sexual needs so that they would stay away from girls and women of their own castes. The term sex in itself exist only in our world and is not part of the animal world. Intercourse is just one aspect of the entire process of procreation among animals. But we have made it complex and convoluted. From discovering and understanding foreplay to creating contraceptives to writing an entire book on sex positions, we have actually wasted a humongous amount of our time and energy on something that was actually meant to be a clear and simple process.

Now where does sexual harassment come from? Males of all species in nature are supposed to woo females before mating with them. They engage in fierce battles to win over the right to mate with females. Male birds dance before the females, bring food, build nests and do an array of other things as part of the wooing process. This is why males of all animal species are beautiful and brightly colored. Only among us are women required to color themselves up and look good which for me is one more example to illustrate how male chauvinism dominates human society. What we call as flirting is actually the wooing process in nature. Thousands of years of societal rules have ensured that men don’t ask for sex the moment they like women. But there are men who do it nevertheless. One category consists of the ones with prominence in the society who misuse the value bestowed upon them by people and who knows how to use their influence to clamp down mouths and keep their dirty secrets in the dark. The other category consists of people from the lower strata of people without enough education and without proper nurturing who grew up seeing women getting treated with contempt and without value. The raging debate currently is about the first category. But there is only a thin line that separates the two categories. In both cases, men begin with flirting and move towards seeking sex. When both doesn’t work, men of first category resort to sexual harassment and men of second category indulge in rape. Why? The only difference is, men of the first category have too much at stake to lose if they resort to rape.

But why does all of this happen? Because women blame fellow women for their ordeals. Why? Because there is a huge gap in the mental makeup of women from older and current generations. Women from older generations used to suffer immensely and surrender to the whim and fancies of men to keep the relationships from breaking apart. But this goes a lot deeper. Men with power and influence in the past used to try and hook up with women they fancied. Some women in turn used men’s lust for sex to satisfy their own societal needs. This is very much in relevance and vogue even now. This is the origin for the need of complicity. This is why men expect all women to comply and give in to their needs which is why men often say when another man’s wife doesn’t have a problem doing something why are their wives complaining about it. So the burden of blame falls squarely on the shoulders of women who do not want to comply. This is why women cannot go to other women and open up about their ordeals because of the fear and apprehension that older generations could put the blame on them and use it as an opportunity to make them give up their careers for a domesticated life and their more naive friends and peers could possibly advise them to give into the wishes of men and keep quiet about it to save their careers.

Women of modern times have hardly reasons to complain though. Here is the amazing and heart wrenching saga of Nangeli (https://www.speakingtree.in/allslides/did-you-know-19th-centurys-breast-tax-in-kerala-is-the-darkest-spot-on-humanity-ever/401758). In the erstwhile Travancore kingdom in Kerala about 300 years back, women from the lower castes were forced to walk around without covering their breasts and had to pay taxes based on the size of their breasts. Nangeli chose to defy the demented rule and all the ensuing odds by covering her breasts. When authorities came to collect taxes, she chopped off her breasts, gave them as tax and bled to death. Her act of unimaginable courage was enough to stop this horrendous practice forever. When the entire society was complacent, all it took was one woman’s sacrifice to bring about the change.

Its a pity that educated women still fear backlashes from men and society, suffer the ignominy of sexual harassment and choose to speak about it much later. They need to look for inspiration from history, from the lives of heroic women like Nangeli who chose to not bow and lay down their self respect and integrity at the feet of men and societal diktats. Sexual harassment and sexual predation continues to exist because women in the past have shied away from opening up their torturous lives to the world. Speak up and force the society to change now. That is the only way to make the lives of the future generations of girls and women better and safer. Nangeli, Joan of Arc, Rani Laxmi bhai and countless more brave heart women must be looking down and smirking at the pathetic state women have put themselves in.

The intricacies of resume writing and job search in an automated corporate world

Writing a resume has been the biggest bane of job seekers and sometimes it would seem to be much worse than not getting a job itself. We pore over 100s of different formats available through contacts and on the internet, but we are never sure if our resumes are good enough to land us our desired jobs. This apprehension increases exponentially every time our job applications get rejected by companies when we believe we have applied for the jobs that are the best fits for us. I have gone through all of it and I have learned very important lessons as well.

Now what is the challenge to writing a resume? There are three aspects to a resume. One that represents who we are, the second that positions us in the job market and the third that satisfies job requirements. Then they say resumes cannot be more than two pages long. Freshers and people with less than 3 years experience usually struggle to make their resumes to 2 pages. For people with more than 8 years of experience, the pain is to keep it down to 2 pages. Now bringing together these three aspects into 2 pages does seem like a humongous task, but it really is not.

Most companies now use automated systems to screen resumes which means technology rather than humanity is scanning rather than reading our resumes. Now technology is not intelligent so it is taught to look for keywords. We are traditionally used to writing sentences to describe ourselves so suddenly articulation is not in vogue anymore. We are being made to run helter-skelter in search of keywords. Even job sites are using keywords to filter out and show us jobs that match our profiles. I am wondering how long before keywords get replaced by hashtags.

Keywords represent only industry standard definitions and requirements and has got nothing to do with a person’s skills, abilities and most importantly experience. The primary problem with a resume is that it only allows us to list our activities in our previous and current employment. There is no way to speak out about our experiences through our resumes unless we are called for interviews. A business analyst may have far greater experiences with understanding of different business environments in day to day activities than what is required for a particular job profile but because he/she is not able to express it through the resume, a person assessing the resume will never get to “feel” the way the candidate feels about a job profile. Keywords have only compounded this problem and killed off the human aspect completely.

Now, there is no perfect format for a resume. Standard formats vary across jobs and domains. But what we need to do is to create a relevant resume that clearly highlights our current status, past experiences and our aspirations. Everything starts seeming important- what we have done before, what we are doing now and what we want to do in our next job and all we have is 2 pages. What I do is to write down everything that comes to my mind and let it go to 4 or 5 pages. Then I start thinking about what jobs do I want to apply for. I cannot position myself to be a candidate for 10 different types of jobs or roles. Spreading myself that far and thin will only result in my profile losing relevance in the market. I have to narrow it down to mostly 3. Find 2 job profiles I am aspiring to work on and keep the 3rd one as the continuation of my current or previous job as contingency plan if in case I do not get the jobs I am aspiring for. Then start searching for open vacancies corresponding to these job profiles on company websites and read through the job descriptions. This I believe is the best way to understand the expectations of companies regarding job profiles and also find relevant keywords.

The tricky and interesting part is yet to come. The challenge is to use these keywords and job descriptions to tailor our present and past experiences to make our resume a good fit for the job and worthy enough to be noticed. We are not required to list out all our experiences in our resumes. Only what is relevant for a particular job is required. Our experiences with older companies should get lesser in the number of words and more streamlined towards what we are aspiring for in our next job. For example, client engagement plays a major role in consulting gigs. So if someone is aspiring for consulting jobs and has extensive experience in client engagement through a variety of jobs, highlight client engagement and the ability to handle clients and leave out what is not relevant. This way the 4-5 page resume will get streamlined into a 2 page one. We do not have to actually worry much about all of this now. The challenge was before the time of LinkedIn. Now we can write whatever we want on our LinkedIn profiles, use it’s condensed version as our resumes and put the links to our LinkedIn profiles in our resumes. The automated resume scanning system works somewhat similarly to website SEOs. SEOs scan websites for keywords. The search ranking of the website becomes better when more keywords are detected. The resume scanning system must also be ranking resumes based on keywords so the strategy should be to show these keywords in our resumes to the scanning system.

Indian job market has always been notoriously inconsiderate to the aspirations of job seekers. An ex-colleague  in the Netherlands was completely into medical research when suddenly he developed the affinity for computers. He studied computers for a bit and eventually moved into a IT support job. It was a jaw dropping experience for me. In India, not even in my wildest dreams in a million years would this be possible. In the early years of my career, I was interviewed by someone who opted to hire me on contract. What I didn’t know was that the HR person wasn’t convinced about his decision to hire me and she had a strong intuition that I would get another offer very soon which was exactly what happened. What this translates into is that if we are not getting the jobs we are aspiring for and if we apply for jobs that do not require the academic qualifications and the experience we have, we will get rejected even if we are open to working on a lower pay. The perspective is that the job would be a stop gap arrangement for us and we will move out as soon as we get the job what we are looking for.

There are no perfect jobs so there are no perfect resumes. Stuffing up our resumes with keywords is no validator to our relevance in the job market. Candidates for senior roles are all being searched and dug out from LinkedIn now. Well written resumes and completed LinkedIn profiles shows how much time people have invested on themselves which in turn indicates how much they value their work experiences. Job search has become a maze of complex uncertainty and resumes are just one aspect of it. If a resume is being scanned for 30 or 60 seconds before a decision is made, then what we need to do is to first see if there are any lucky stars beaming at us before applying for jobs.

My thoughts and experiences about the nuances and hazards of dealing with money

Of all the factors that has divided and fragmented society, money has risen to top that list. Now money is not the same as wealth. It is commonly said that someone is wealthy and prosperous. Wealthy denotes someone who possesses wealth but there is no similar word to someone who possesses money. It is never mentioned as rich and prosperous and there is a reason to it. Wealth adds value to our lives in many different forms and that is how we become prosperous. Money only helps us to buy things and every one of those things are perishable. This is why money does not add value to our lives which in turn never makes our lives prosperous.

Back in 2008 when it was supposedly my “peak age” for marriage, my parents wanted me to buy an apartment in Bangalore where I was working at that time. I was aghast. There was no point in buying an apartment under the assumption that my marriage was going to happen. Then there was the demon of the housing loan to reckon with. I am bemused by how people queue up to take housing loans to buy apartments and houses, especially in burgeoning cities like Bangalore and in exhausted cities like Mumbai. Now let’s say I take up a housing loan for 20 years. I am effectively committing myself to paying back the EMIs every month without a break for 20 years. And how can I be so sure that I am going to be alive and healthy for the next 20 years? The funny part is, people look to reducing the monthly EMI amount by extending loan repayment period. Banks are all the more happy because they know they will end up getting back more money. The sinister thought behind it is, the longer the repayment period, the less likely it is of a proper full repayment which means when borrowers default, banks can easily take over the properties. The ideal way of repayment is to pay almost double of monthly EMIs and close the loan as quickly as possible. The advantage here is, even if we default on payments for a few months, banks will not proceed with any sort of action. But the catch here is, if we try to close off a loan faster, we have to pay some extra money as penalty on foreclosure. This is the best indicator that banks are more interested in what the borrowers have given as security to the bank than the money they have lent.

In cities, parking space for cars are available only in apartment buildings. This means to own a car, we need an apartment that costs may be 5-10 times or even more that of the car. This is how money lures us in into it’s honey trap. The education system trains us to become employees in the corporate world. Then everything that is associated with money takes over our lives. Then social status comes into the picture and social status rises when we start “owning” things. This perception pushes our needs to ridiculously high levels. Own a house, own a car, the list goes on and we embark on our Sindbad journey in the pursuit of more and more money, with little realization that we are being turned into money churning machines. We are simply working hard and enslaving ourselves to the banks to hold on to the things we have bought with money. Add to this the fact that everything we have bought is perishable and may need to be replaced anytime means even more money required.

Money never makes us prosperous because it does not allow us to add value to our lives and without adding value to our own lives, we cannot add value to other’s lives. How Antilla, the mansion of India’s business tycoon Anil Ambani stands out in the extremely crowded and tough living conditions of Mumbai is the shining example. Prosperity reflects on us only when our surroundings are also prosperous. Money keeps us locked to the extent that we actually stop noticing the value of everything else in the world. I was deep in my search for employment in 2013 after completing my MBA when my dad went down with a cardiac arrest. Because he is physically very strong, the experience did not shake him even though he had reached the brink of death. But taking the advice of reducing salt intake too seriously, he literally stopped taking salt. After a few days I noticed strange changes in his mannerism and behavior. On a Sunday evening I insisted and dragged the doctor into the hospital for dad’s check up and that was when we found out that his sodium level was fast declining and he would have had possibly gone into a coma in the next couple of days.

Now what if I had been employed at that time? First of all I would have had been working in a city away from my parents. My mom would have had never noticed the changes I saw in dad. He would have had most likely ended up in coma and I would have had spent almost all the money I was earning on his treatment and my travel. It was a massive learning curve. My keen sense and better understanding of human anatomy made sure I did not have to spend money when I was not earning. If there is a way to earn money there will always be ways to spend the money as well. We can never hold on to money. In a place like India with ever rising inflation and decreasing value of money, the concept of “owning” a house, having a “decent” bank balance and living a “retired” life has taken the biggest hit. We have evolved into a situation similar to that of animals and birds in the wild. They have to seek out their food each and every day regardless of all difficult situations or they will die. If they stop trying they will die. We have also reached that critical state where we have to find ways to earn money till we die. Ironically, as per the Bible, when the “Gods” created us, we were created as beings that were meant to lord over the animals and not live like them.

Now here is what I have learnt through these experiences. First of all, we need to find our balance with nature again. No living being has the ability to destroy nature for it’s own needs except us. We cannot cut the same branch of the tree we are sitting on. The branch will take us on it’s way down. More money is alarmingly proportionate to more destruction of nature now. Bangalore’s geography is dotted with numerous lakes. Almost all the small lakes have been covered up for construction and many of the bigger lakes are being openly used to drain human waste. Then people keep complaining about lack of drinking water. Why? Bangalore has been taken over by the migrant community from all over India who come in search of jobs in the IT industry. Now these people are in Bangalore to make a living and have no time to understand and solve environmental issues of the city. The result is, as per reports, Bangalore is set to become the first unlivable city in India very soon. When we make nature unstable for our needs, nature will take course corrective action to bring back it’s stability and the consequences can be disastrous as we found out with the recent floods in Kerala. More people move into cities like Bangalore every year, creating more need for living spaces and water further depleting the city’s already stretched and dwindling natural resources. We have to stop our war with nature because we can never win it and will only lead to our own destruction.

It is funny how so much is spoken about finding work-life balance without any proper understanding of it. We wake up in the morning at a particular time so that we can finish n number of chores and activities and leave for work at a particular time so that we can reach our work place at a particular time. In the night, we sleep at a particular time so that we can wake up at a particular time next morning. So essentially when we become corporate employees, the corporate takes possession of our lives and time. Our entire 24 hours gets sucked up into our jobs and we get paid only for 8 hours. The balance we need to find is not in work and life but in our need for money. If we learn to find contentment in what we have and look at our needs sensibly, our need for money will decrease considerably. This, in turn, will free our time and energy and help us to focus on creating value in our lives. IT industry in India is notorious for the fact that as employees gain more experience their value decreases. Plenty of IT professionals have become stagnant in their jobs or have lost jobs and are not able to find employment again because they simply do not know anything else to do and did not consider learning and mastering new skills.

It no longer makes sense to “own” anything. This has given rise to business opportunities like renting cars, bikes and even household items. The amount we spend on renting a house or apartment will invariably match up to the amount we spend on maintaining our own. Back in 2008, a colleague in the Netherlands was refusing to own a car because of traffic and parking space issues. Our population has only increased in 10 years. From owning a house the challenge has shifted to living in a decent neighborhood with the availability of drinking water and proximity to essential outlets and services. But paramount now is to not get stuck in a single source of income. Develop skills that would open up potential opportunities for several streams of money. Chasing money should be just like how our body reduces fat when we start working out. Our body instinctively knows how much fat we need based on our daily requirements and burns only what it understands is excess fat. Similarly, if we have a fine understanding of how to simplify our life, we will automatically seek only the money we need to live that life.

I never chase money because money destroys human values and relationships and maroons us in our own little islands. Money clouds our judgement and makes us take wrong decisions. I make sure not to judge anyone in terms of money. It only takes an hour of madness in the stock market for a millionaire to become a pauper. Not having to focus on the money I was earning was what helped me focus on my dad and save him. I seek skill development, self improvement and building good relationships with people. Money, wealth, prosperity, everything will come but there is one question that always keeps bothering me. When all of it comes, will I be ready to use it in the best possible ways? This is what keeps me on my toes and always alert to every potential opportunity. Understanding the nuances of money and it’s potential hazards is the only way to not get enslaved to it.