Lose Your Illusion

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Lose Your Illusion

Sometime last year, I had an interesting conversation with a friend’s girlfriend who is a psychologist. Between drawing inferences from my handwriting to discussing human behaviour in general. She also mentioned the acute dearth of mental health personnel in the country (India) at the moment.

I did some reading around that. The most recent global statistic on number of psychiatrists and nurses in the mental health sector was by WHO. The study dates back to 2014. According to it, 30.4% of the world’s countries had less than 1 professional per 100,000 population. There’s also no data available on another 35.5% of the countries.

And while Monaco had a commendable 40.98 psychiatrists per 100,000 people, in India, that number was a shameful 0.30. That means, there’s one psychiatrist for every 300,000 of the population. Or a total of between 3500 and 5000 psychiatrists in the country.

Then there are psychologists (they council, and focus on treating mental and emotional suffering but cannot prescribe medications; unlike psychiatrists, who mainly focus on treatment with medication) As per Sindhu BS, a Mental Health Therapist on Quora, the Indian Psychology Association, of which she is a member, has less than 10,000 members in 2018. Another source mentioned some 14000-15000 psychologists in India. India is already on the higher end of the spectrum as of 2016 when it came to suicides. At 18.5 per 100,000 population.

And here’s why this will be even more concerning going forward. The world is seeing a steadily growing impact of automation on jobs across sectors. India has been shielding employment in every way possible. Resisting industrial automation to maintaining average quality of work worked well for a section of average skilled, low-cost labour.  But how long can it continue to do so before it starts feeling the negative global impact of it? Additionally, India is on its path to soon being the largest population in the world. It is also on the verge of being the youngest population in the world.

Young Indians are pouring into different sectors which will have a steadily shrinking job base. This could lead to a spike in the depression and suicide numbers. But is the country and its government anticipating and doing anything to build a safety net for that?

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Actions With and Without a Face

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Actions With and Without a Face

Even today, you can see people of some races cringe or gasp at the sight of the swastika, the symbol of Hitler’s party. Even though the swastika has much older roots. And Hitler himself, continues to be collectively and strongly hated today, over 72 years after his death. And rightly so. He and his people were the cause of unspeakable oppression and death. Collectively, around 42 million deaths (soldiers and civilians), and even more as per some historical estimates. What probably makes it most glaring, is the short span of 12 years across which this happened. And as the leader of the Nazis, Hitler remains the face of all the death and destruction by his people.

Going back again in time, the British atrocities in their colonies is another story altogether. In India alone, their rule lasted around 184 years. And this time too, was witness to unspeakable oppression and the death. Approximately 40-54 million Indians. Dead! Due to starvation. Due to manual labour; and worse, through artificially created famines. When we compare the British kill report card with that of Hitler’s, it happened over a comparatively much longer 184 years. But there is no single face of the oppression. Which is also perhaps why it lasted so long. And was so much more deep-rooted.

In present times, the world citizens should always be on the look out for the second kind of mass-murderers. Eaters of countries. Because the world is a dynamic flow of information, even if a lot of it is manipulated by whorish media, the world citizen is still aware, and will not tolerate a single face of oppression for too long.

However, the second kind of oppression won’t have a single face, or perhaps have one that appeases a section of the masses, speaks directly to their concerns and hopes; while the arms of the organization carry out deep-rooted decay.

Many of us have heard of the myth around the frog and hot water experiments. While frogs aren’t so tolerant to heat, history bears testimony of human ignorance to oppression without a face.

British colonies were a live example of it. Albeit not the most subtle example, given the difference in race/ colour, etc. But imagine the harm a domestic movement with ulterior motives can do. Let’s ensure we guard against history repeating itself in other forms, but using similar tactics.

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Do Some of the Pillars of Democracy need a Shake-Up?

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Democracy has rested on four pillars. The legislature, executive, the judiciary, and arguably the most important, the press. All the pillars need improvement, some far more than others. The world press, for instance, has really become dirty. When in reality, it should be a transparent communication channel between the citizen, the country, and the world.

In an increasingly connected globe, traditional media surprisingly continues to wield disproportionately high power. And it has been responsible for numerous crimes, the world over. From keeping entire populations in the dark, to convincing them about who the good guys and bad guys are. By encouraging unsolicited violence on other countries. Press has made large sections of otherwise peace-loving populations completely convinced of the need for war. Not always because any country was under attack. But because politicians and industry stood to benefit from tricking citizens and getting them onboard. And with business people and politicians ever interested in wielding influence over large media houses, it makes one wonder how we are allowing ourselves to be subjected to lies.

The Indian press too, continues to scale new depths by doctoring news or hiding it altogether, to favor various political parties.

Anyway, interestingly, the Congress, among the bigger corrupt parties, recently figured a simple way to fix the distorted media problem. After taking a lot of bashing by two leading TV news channels for some time, the party recently banned the channels from their press conferences. How much is a TV news channel worth if it doesn’t have access to a certain section of national news? Not as much as it had before, right?

Mahendra Palsule highlighted in a good post, about the fifth pillar in a democracy, the (silent) citizen.

Think about it. Let’s assume these two channels got a reality-check after this banning. Imagine then what we the people can, and must do, to get the press functioning the way it is meant to, not the underhand way it is paid to. The day the masses stop consuming lies served to us by these media, we will have withdrawn the right we gave them, and which they continue to abuse.

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SUV Drivers – Look Out

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India has seen an almost meteoric rise in the number of SUVs and compact-SUVs in the last few years. Perhaps the size fits in well with our gradually growing economy, disposable incomes, and egos. Among things that haven’t grown, is our sense of driving and responsible presence on the road.

India’s roads are getting more dangerous. And the higher seated position makes it tougher for SUV drivers to see, especially around the vehicle. Add to this the narrow, blocked or poorly-lit (and therefore unsafe) footpaths/ sidewalks, and you have more and more pedestrians choosing to walk on roads instead.

This is why it becomes even more important for pedestrians walking with small children, to keep them on your side that is away from the traffic. This also means moving them from one side to the other on dividers, when crossing bi-directional traffic. Or carrying them when crossing roads. It is tough enough for drivers of hatchbacks and sedans, thanks to the lack of lane discipline and distracted pedestrians. But it will be more dangerous if pedestrians bank on just the cautiousness of SUV drivers, given their limited proximity view from their high seats. And slightly more so with women drivers.

Sources said the observations will be given to the civic authorities to help them improve roads.

Source: link

The image above shows how you should never cross the road when accompanying children. You should be between the children and oncoming traffic.

Here’s an older post highlighting the risk [link here]

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Our Right to Privacy

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Our Right to Privacy

Image source

Towards the last week of August this year, here in India there was a landmark Supreme Court verdict that a lot of you must have heard/read about. It had something to do with the citizens of India, and our right to privacy. After the initial petitions that were filed long ago, a panel of eminent judges finally ruled that privacy is in fact, a fundamental right.

In an age where information sharing is growing at an astronomical pace, an attempt to safeguard privacy almost sounds ironical. And though our smartphones and apps make it difficult for a lot of us to even fathom if and how much we need privacy, we must be grateful to this bench of judges for thinking on our behalf and ruling in favour of the citizens.

Of course, the ruling wasn’t a no-questions-asked-right, but it does safeguard the core.

Chances are most of us would never get to reading the 547-page report ever. However, I do urge you to read just the verdict given by each of the judges. The choice of words and sentences are almost melodious. The depth of the analysis, and the absolute fairness and clarity of thought, is simply admirable. And it is something we should appreciate; it is your privacy and mine that they were safeguarding after all.

Here’s the link to the article: SC Verdict on Right to Privacy – What Each Judge Had to Say

And in case you’d want to go through the report too, here’s the link: Right To Privacy

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China – The Punishment Due

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China – The Punishment Due

To,
Mr. Xi Jinping
Chairman of the Central Military Commission
People’s Republic of China
Indian politicians have always been soft about matters regarding our country’s borders. You however, should not for a moment, think their encroachments will go unchallenged. Or that our army doesn’t stand a chance.
The Beating Retreat ceremony that happens at our Attari (and Wagah in Pakistan) border should give them some perspective. Look it up online.
The soul-piercing eyes of our Border Security Forces. The fire, the bravery and the love for the country. It isn’t something that can be copied or manufactured like everything else China is notorious for. These traits are inherent. What’s more, that border ceremony is a tradition of brotherhood and cooperation. Imagine dealing with them in the event of a war.
Image: source
So, if Chinese border infiltration continue, surely our politicians will bumble around for a long time. Trying hard to imagine the problem doesn’t exist. Or hoping to push it under the carpet for another government of the future to deal with. But the day one of them decides to take action, and that day will come, I’d hate to think of the plight of those facing the wrath of our armed forces.
In all the wars India has ever fought, it has never been on the offensive. Never once have we, unprovoked, attacked another country. And that should tell the world everything it needs to know that we as a country, hate war more than any other country on earth does.
But there is one thing we hate far more, and do not tolerate. And that is, outsiders encroaching on our land.
It is another, and rather unfortunate matter, that all our politicians since independence, have not reflected the necessary concern for our borders and our people who live near it. But, it would be foolish to continue to push your luck, using the Sino-Indian war as a yardstick to compare powers. Back then, we were a young, relatively unaware, 13-year old country post-independence. If you really need proof of our military prowess, look no further than the Battle of Longewala of 1971. It remains, among the only battles in the history of the world, where an unimaginably outnumbered army faction held on, and won. That, is the Indian defense forces for you.
In the hope that you come to your senses soon, and for your own sake.
Cheers!
Megadeth performing ‘Holy Wars… The Punishment Due’. Hammersmith Odeon. 1992.
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India’s Roads and Bottlenecks

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India’s Roads and Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks and traffic jams on the streets. Are they an unavoidable phenomenon, or something we caused or created? Same with the lack of lane discipline in Indian drivers. Are drivers always to blame? Or could it be, that some part of the problem is because of how our roads are designed?

Living in Bombay, I notice a few problems with our roads here. And if they exist in India’s second largest metro and financial capital, I suppose they exist in most other cities. Except perhaps in some planned cities like Pune.

Driving around Mumbai, one quickly notices that many roads do not have lane demarcations. And the ones that do, the lines are faded and almost invisible to the average driver. Then of course, there are those who think it’s easier to drive between two lanes, making this so much tougher for the rest of us.

If you live in some city or town in India, make sure to check if roads you frequent have lane demarcations. And also try to see how stretches that don’t have demarcations tend to make a driver’s lane discipline random.

Source: link

There’s another thing I noticed about the roads. They didn’t seem to be planned such that, in a particular area, say you have a three-lane main road, which, while going through a broader junction, widens into 4 or even 5, and then narrows back, which is still alright. What is a pain, however, is where they have randomly taken patches of road, such that for a short section, the road would suddenly widen an additional 2-3 lanes, and then go back to its earlier width. And knowing how we fill each available inch of road with car or bike, drivers squeezing in to occupy the suddenly available extra lanes, only to cause a slowdown as the road narrows back, going ahead.

The above image is of a stretch of road near the National Stock Exchange building at BKC in Mumbai. The road itself [blue] seems to progress from left to right in a relaxed wave-like manner. It feels far more curved on the actual stretch. And here’s what makes it interesting and amusing. The road has varying width, waves along, and even has gradual rises and drops in terrain. Add to this mix, the average Indian driver’s Formula 1 driving technique, where they always choose to maintain good racing line over lane discipline. That makes this stretch especially tricky to drive on. Especially if you try to stick to one lane, while speeding vehicles veer dangerously close on both sides, at different parts of this stretch.

Hoping this post helps some team in the municipal corporation take note and do something to fix the problem.

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Tata Sky

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Image: source

This is a heads-up for Tata Sky satellite television provider customers.

Here’s something Tata Sky has been doing as standard procedure, that I find questionable.

If you’re subscribed to an annual plan, and say  you cross your billing deadline by even a day, they automatically switch you to either a 6-month billing cycle, or worse, a monthly one. Like all things bulk, obviously, the 6-monthly and monthly plans are incrementally costlier per unit than the annual plan. Only, they don’t tell you about the switch.

For the main connection and one add-on connection at home, I just found out the main one was on an annual billing cycle while the add-on was on a monthly billing cycle. They’re not two separate connections, but part of one connection. So it makes you wonder who at Tata Sky thinks of devious schemes like this?

So next time you recharge on their site, it will tell you prices of different packages, but on the recharge page, doesn’t have specific package options you can select. Instead, they just give you an empty box to fill in the amount you want to recharge for. You might probably see the cost of the annual package on their site, and enter that value. But, because they moved you to a 6-month or monthly plan because of the delay in renewing the plan, you in fact burn through the ‘annual plan’ much quicker than 365 days!

What you’d want to do, is each time you need to recharge, call them before and after you’ve recharged, to make sure you’re signed up on their annual plan.

I’ll be referring to them as ‘Tata Sly’ for now.

On the lighter side, here’s how my last call with them went:

Customer Support: sir, your main TV is on the annual plan, the second TV on a monthly plan. Main plan is actually valid till May. The add-on pack expires tonight.

Me: Eh. How does that happen? Anyway, I’d like both on the annual plan. What would the total fee for that be?

CS: sir, total annual recharge amount will be INR 11140/-. But you have INR 1042.88 balance, so what you can do is, when you are going to expire, you can recharge it after that.

Me: but it says today is the last date (for one of the two, I’m getting confused now)

CS: ok sir, then you deduct the existing balance (probably opens calculator app, calculates) sir, you need to pay INR 11000 only, after deducting existing balance.

Me: but deducting existing balance of INR 1042.88 from INR 11140 means I need to pay only INR 10097.12.

CS: yes sir, I just rounded off the amount for simplicity.

Me: how do you round off by adding INR 900+!

CS: err (calculating again), oh sorry. That’s right. You can pay INR 10100, rounded off.

Me: 😐

Peace, War, or Chekh-mate

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In his book Homo DeusYuval Noah Harari mentions Russia’s greatest short story writers Anton Chekhov having once said that a gun appearing in the first act of a play will inevitably be fired in the third.

Yuval says that since 1945, humans have learned to resist the urge to use weapons of war. Hopefully meaning we have become more mature as humans.

However, we could perhaps attribute it to collective wisdom that often stops an irrational leader from realizing their violent fantasies.

The same however, does not hold true for individuals owning firearms in the US. For a population of around 318.9 million, a tiny % of them own over half the guns!

I belong to the Bunt community, and in my mother tongue, Tulu, there is an old, relevant, and amusing saying. It translates to, “the out of work (or idle) carpenter chiseled the bottom of the baby lying nearby.” It is very similar to Abraham Maslow’s quote, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

When you own a weapon, the mere fact of possessing one, makes using it one of many possible outcomes in any tough situation. This, as opposed to those without weapons who would look to resolving a problem in a more mature, and civilized manner. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example.

In a minor fender-bender recently, while no one was hurt, one party decided to claim third party motor damages. Being clueless about the claims process, they quickly landed up in a dead-end. Further angered by this, they engaged a “criminal lawyer” to pursue it. The lawyer, also clueless about the process, did not refer the client to someone more relevant. Nor did he take efforts to find out and advise the client on the right process. Instead, he sent the other party a letter threatening ‘civil and criminal action’. True to Maslow’s views, he did the only thing he knew, despite its lack of relevance to the problem.

And yet, in the recently finished US presidential campaign, one of the selling points of a candidate was that the civilian rights to own firearms would not be infringed upon. And that candidate won!

On the upside, defense weapons are becoming more advanced. This is rapidly moving humans away from the core and gore of war, hopefully making it increasingly distant and impersonal. Combined with collective wisdom, this hopefully helps people take less impulsive decisions about it. Unlike in the past, where a ruler could simply order his battle commander to march troops to whichever country or state he fancied. Hopefully future country border tensions would be limited to: “your country broke 5 of our surveillance drones, we broke 5 of yours. We’re even. Now back-off and stay there!”

The domestic front for some countries seems a little more complicated. Especially in the absence of governmental intentions to do away with the access to firearms. It will just take more effort and educating, to prevent the dangers that owning of firearms presents. Let’s hope some technological advancements on that front too, helps eliminate the desire to own firearms soon.

And in the meantime, could psychologist Robert Plutchik’s good old wheel of emotions be of some help? Maybe to help us be more aware of the different degrees of our emotions? This, in turn, could help us be more civil, rational, and accomodating in our outlook and disposition. We just need to strive to have positive emotions that are closer to the center (unless you have a heart condition, then don’t overdo it). And restrict negative emotions to degrees closer to the outer perimeter. Can’t be too tough, can it?

Give it a shot (no pun intended). And hope you have a terrific 2017!

Plutchik‘s wheel of emotion – Source: link

Would love your thoughts on this.
Feel free to share your views. I will revert at the earliest. And if you liked this post, do follow or subscribe to my blog (top right of the page) for similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

We’re Ready. So Why Not Be Bold and Aim High?

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Two decades ago, it used to take quite a while before global technology and content was even commonly talked about in India. Much longer before it was accessible or affordable to us.

Today, India is home to numerous foreign manufacturing plants that cater to global demand. It is also home to several global R&D facilities. And we as consumers, are at par with the world, quickly becoming aware of, and easily adopting global technology and content. Especially when it comes to smartphones and mobile apps launched universally in multiple languages.

And yet, we Indians don’t seem to aim too high when it comes to our own entrepreneurial dreams. A bulk of us follow tried-and-tested business ideas. We seem glaringly averse to radical innovation; only a few daring to think beyond what everyone else is. From ‘another’ eCommerce site to ‘another’ aggregator, most business ideas are mediocre at best. What’s worse, there is little focus on the actual and incremental value-add, or the differentiation that these businesses are aimed at creating.

Delightful customer experiences too, remain more a mechanical compulsion and less a natural and genuine concern. It is also probably why Amazon has edged past Flipkart. Because Amazon understood customer needs and experiences in a foreign country better than our own folks could. I believe one of the fatal flaws at Flipkart, was that the founders should have been busy understanding how their customers consumed the service. To figure out areas to improve and delight. Instead, they were taking in too much money and too busy investing in other startups before their startup itself had arrived. It’s easy to see through Binny Bansal’s justification philosophy of “because I look at it as giving back.” To draw a parallel from flight safety instructions, ‘you should always fix your own oxygen mask on before helping children, elders, or others needing assistance.’ Let’s just hope it is still not too late for Flipkart to turn around, as Sandeep Singhal of Nexus Venture Partners stated, a few months ago.

Information and technology in themselves keep us at par with the world. So what stops us from dreaming beyond them at what’s next? And what stops us from setting global benchmarks in genuine and consistent customer delight?

We need to start imagining beyond what is obvious. We need to start understanding more than what data and analytics tells us. We need to be more in touch with customer behaviour and needs. We need to innovate.

That is the only way we can ever come a step closer to being the best in the world.

(updated on 17 Jan. 2017)