Tuesday, January 31, 2012

SOPA adjust maadi [30/365]

January was exciting. What with hundreds of people dying in Syria, people quitting, people getting thrown out of office, people being banned from coming to their home country, and then the magnum opus - SOPA. Whew!

For those who came in late, SOPA (acronym for Stop Online Piracy Act) is a piece of legislation that was introduced by the Republicans in the US Senate, that would give the American Justice system and the law enforcement wide ranging capabilities to fight any online piracy of copy-written/counterfeit goods (read Music, Movies, Books et al). Passing this bill would have meant that American courts could bar companies from advertising or sponsoring or in any way conducting any business with websites that break this law. This besides from also requiring search engines from indexing the webpages and ISPs block any access to the infringing sites. Simply put, the Internet would be censored and be as boring as watching Indian movies on TV.

Now, while the supporters of this bill say this could mean the end to copy-write violations, they also state this could protect intellectual property of smaller artists besides revenue besides strengthening the existing copy-write laws.
Opponents of this bill however point out at that this could mean the end to free speech and creativity online.
As a way to protest against SOPA, the English version of Wikipedia and about a thousand other websites that regularly feature such material or are dependent on revenue from advertisements staged a worldwide blackout.
That was Sathyagraha 1.0. Now, we are truly in the 21st century.

Without delving into details of how the rest of the fight went, I can say that SOPA will not be the last attempt at muffling our voices. I bet it existed even amongst Cave men. Or did it? Maybe it only started when we gained intelligence and became self conscious. Leaders that we elected became wary of what we thought, spoke and wrote. (aka Kapil Sibal)

You'd think that colorful instances of how freedom always won over oppression would've taught these men (and women) in power a lesson or two. But nay. Like they say, like a dog to it's vomit, history will spank the leaders who try to repeat the sins of absolute power.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Compassion beyond Passion [29/365]


Sometimes, its hard to ignore the plight of animals around you.
At those times acting with compassion could be the easiest thing to do.
My cousin's daughters love visiting the farm. They love petting the goats and playing with the ponies.
They are in the USA- The land of beef. Most Indians (read 'Hindus') wont forgive them for killing our gods and ancestors for their culinary pleasure.

Back home, we revere the cows. So much that we let them roam the unsafe Indian streets freely, eat our garbage and wallow in their filth. A western tourist in India was once told that the safest way to travel on Indian roads would be to ride on a cow. You won't be killed or run over and you'll always get the right of turn (to walk, stand or sit) on the road.
We also respect dogs. They are man's best friend but not one of your dead ancestor/relative. Hence they are also man's best hyenas. They will eat your leftover meat and other non vegetarian stuff plus the random vegetarian goo too. They will love you nonetheless. 
Cats are the woman's best friends. Nuff said.

But one visit to an animal shelter will give you a complete different picture of what the reality is.
Overcrowded, these shelters are under-funded and under-staffed.
Visiting CUPA (On the Web) I saw boxers, rottweilers, dobermans, Alsatians, dalmatians, plenty of Pomeranian, a gazillion strays besides kittens, bulls, cows, horses and wild kites. Nearly all the dogs were either severely handicapped or injured. A few of the lucky ones (no pun intended) were living out their prime old years in peace amongst its kind. I saw dogs that would have once been the pride of it's owner, now living a life that could break a human.
Most of the exotic breeds had an handicap that was caused due to their owner's neglect. Now, useless limping and half blind, while the dogs end up in CUPA, their owners would have replaced them with newer dogs.

Whats heart breaking is in the one hour that I spend at CUPA, I saw at least two owners come to 'leave' their home-bred dogs. Forever. Reason: 'The dogs have become old and we don't have the time'. Surely.

Judging by how distraught, disillusioned and derailed old parents get when their children 'leave' them at an Old Age Home, I begin to wonder if our pets go through the same. Fortunately they are in a much better place now.
I wonder if any of the abandoned pets will ever stop loving their (former) owners.

India is said to be a peace loving nation of animal lovers. 
There's certainly a slip between the cup the lip here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The land of two birthdays [28/365]

Don't you wish you had more than one birthdays in a year?
Well, if you're in India, chances are you'll know at least six people who have two birth-dates in a year. One, official and another real.

For the uninitiated, the official date is so that the parents could either advance/delay their child's entry into the coveted Indian education system. And the real one, well, is the actual date of birth that the child will eventually forget and have to be reminded by his parents every year.

Personally, I know more than a dozen people who have two birth-dates in a year. Lucky bastards. They get to enjoy the treats twice.
But will it pose any risks for that person as he/she grows up? Technically yes. But there are ways to get around it.
With the nationwide importance in school certificates and other such documents, the fake birth-date will be authenticated and unless you are actually looking to get more than one passport in your name, you could easily pass off your fake official birth-date as the real one. But the surprising thing is most people that I know who have a fake official birth-date also end up telling their friends and acquaintances that it is fake; when the friends and acquaintances call to wish them on their (fake) birthdays. I've been embarrassed on more than one instance when I've called to wish, only to be told that it is only their fake bday and their real bday is not until a few months down the line. Argh! How I envy these people.

But recently, the government of India realized one of its most senior Army Generals had two birth-dates too. (Read the interesting story here) VK Singh, at 59 is supposed to retire this year but wants to hang on for another year.
Now, two questions come to my mind.
Was the government snoozing all this while? In this age, where even MNCs have background checks on entry level employees, why didn't the govt do enough to check the veracity of his documents?
And, Retire a year later? What the f*** is wrong with the Sardar?
Most sane people his age (which aren't many) would love to hang up the boots and sit back in a lawn chair at a nursing home hoping to die in as much a dignified way as possible.

Ofcourse, one could argue that he gets to enjoy the salutes and the other perks that go along with the job, but with the Santa Singh fighting against the very government that is supposed to give him the pension benefits, he risks loosing everything.
If you ask me, he should be stripped of all his pre-retirement status and post retirement benefits right away for lying to the government and then fighting against it.

But this is not going to be the last time you'll hear of a person who has two birth-dates. Go to any Passport Offices and you'll meet with applicants whose passports have been declined/denied just because they had two birth-dates.

Happy Birthday to that!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Encounters with the other species [27/365]

I've had the most unusual history with pets. Growing up abroad, you'll always have the quintessential dog/cat/bird.
I remember we had Polly (a green parrot). When I was about five years old. Well, Polly's tail would stick out of the cage, so being the helpful devil that I was, would pull the feathers off the tail out so that the tail would not stick out. He didn't survive my trimming.

My parents decided that we would have a dog in our vacation home in India.
In comes Mony. Since the house that we had was quite close to a busy railway route, he committed suicide.

My grandma (Mom's mom) was an animal lover and that meant I've had atleast four dogs, two milking cows and a couple of egg laying hens in our farm. I particularly hated one of the hen. She would not eat the food or drink the water that I gave her, unlike the cows. What I did next would remain as the most talked about animal torture stories in our family since. I took the hen, helped by my younger cousin brother, bound it by twine and injected water using a syringe. Satisfied we were basking in the glory of having quenched the thirst of the chicken, we were about to untie the hen when my mom called me for tea. We left the hen at the terrace (which was the location of all our heinous activities) and raced down. We forgot about the chicken for the rest of the evening. Middle of the night, we were awoken by the gnarliest growls of feeding frenzy. All of us (plus the neighbors) were in for a shock when we realized that four of the neighbor's dogs were making a meal out of the hen that I tied up. Unable to fly, the hen had literally fallen into the mouths of the rottweiler and the doberman.
I don't remember the rest of the night or the day but I do know that I was never left unsupervised near a hen after that incident.

Many years later, when the fascination for fishes took over, I would smuggle guppies, black mollies and gold fishes in and keep them in a unused water tank in our terrace. My cousin brother was an unwitting accomplice in my hobby. We'd stealthily slip out to the terrace at the first moment of freedom and we actually managed to keep the illegal fish tank a tight secret for many months.

Then came college and my first brush with strays. I saw a pup on the street near my home and adopted it immediately. Took it to the vet, got it biscuits, milk and toys and even powder to kill the million fleas it had. I was in love.
But the love affair died, when my mom came back home. She gave me a choice - It's either the dog or my dad. Now, what kind of choice was that? I chose Dad. I gave up the dog plus accessories and all to a couple who was willing to adopt him.

Ten years would pass before I'd get my next pet. A cat.
I was not a cat person but one week with Tommy, and I was converted. He was a week old kitten, abandoned and needed a loving home. He was completely attached to me. I became his mother, father and sibling. A month later, I had to give him up since I was pretty much stuck at home because Tommy would simply not let me go. I failed to toilet train him and he  made my entire living room his personal kitty litter. Thankfully, my then girlfriend was a huge lover of cats and she agreed to take him over.

Having finally learned my lesson with dogs and cats, I decided I'd try birds, again. I theorized they would not fly outside their cages, would not make too much of a mess outside and could be left unattended for long periods of time. They can be kept outside and would not want to sleep with you in your bed. Besides, I'd grown up to understand that tails sticking out of the cage was actually fine and plucking them only kills them.
And that's how we got Pilly and Gilly (our pet Australian finches)
That was more than a year ago. They have since laid countless eggs, raised young, seen some of them die and some of them fly away. We love them and in the absence of human children have been the recipient of our parently love. They respond to our calls, wait for us to feed them and change the water everyday, loves it when we put clean sheets on the cage floor, and is super excited when we give them a treat food or material for their nests.
Our parents have become fond of them and coo in excitement when Pilly or Gilly puts up a show for them.

Besides giving us endless joy when we are watching them, they have also taught us some invaluable life lessons.
When Pilly (the male) broke his leg, Gilly (his mate) would cry out loud and be right next to him. She would feed him and encourage him to fly. Pilly was simply wasting away, unless something drastic was done. We quarantined and treated him until he became stronger to fly. Although we had kept them in separate cages, they were inseparable. They would come to the perch that was closest to each other and would sing to each other. In a way that appeared like how a mother would sing to her child. When we finally put them together, they were ecstatic. They indulged in the typical mating ritual for many hours. Hopping and grooming, they were like long lost lovers.
When Gilly was ready to lay eggs, Pilly would hunt for pieces of paper, cotton, twigs and possibly anything that he could lay his beak to insulate and layer the nest. Once the eggs were laid, he would take turns feeding her and sitting on the eggs. His love and the way they shared the responsibility of raising their young was incredible. They would defend the nest, eachother and their eggs with their lives. As hardworking as an ant in summer but with all the love that we as humans can identify, they continue to be the children we can never have. When the eggs hatched, we could feel the excitement. It was like a party every moment. Lots of singing, much hopping, so much grooming and feeding. The proud parents just could not stay away from their daughter.
But when one of their offspring died, they would not sing at all. As if engulfed in grief, they would hop around its corpse and nudge it, wanting it to move.

Whoever said humans are the only species that can love, feel hurt and care for itself and others of it's species is definitely wearing blinkers.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fight the good fight, Finish the race. [26/365]

When I first moved to India for my university studies, I was flummoxed at the reaction of my friends and college mates when I'd reveal my spiritual beliefs. They would bob their head in a half nod, half disbelief. I was after all the only Christian guy in a Hindu college.

Later, I'd learn that India is a predominantly Hindu society with a strong dislike towards Christians, especially outsiders migrating to their cities. Christians were a minority here.

As a child that grows up to understand limits, sharing a classroom with Hindus, Muslims, Jains and Sikhs teaches you valuable lessons in living in a multi-cultural society like India.
My closest friend from college was a staunch Brahmin who'd ordinarily not want to be 'mixing' with people other than Brahmins, let alone some beef-eating Christian.

Sometimes, my curious classmates would quiz me on what Christianity really means, and what makes us different.
What made a difference was how I would let my classmates know Christ.
Telling a non Christian how our Lord and Savior is the difference between hell and heaven is no easy task.
Talking about a religion can only do very little to convincing and satisfying spiritual thirst. But practicing what you preach wins over even the most skeptical critic.
I'm encouraged by 1 Corinthians 9:19-27, where Paul encouraged the people of Corinth, exhorting them to adapt, to run and most importantly, not be disheartened or give up.

The single most difficult task of a Christian when explaining about Christ is in being able to rein themselves in. Couple of pointers that has held me in good stead:
Curb your enthusiasm - Many of my christian friends is filled with joy when a non Christian shows interest in learning about Christ. While enthusiasm is important, it is also important that we don't appear as over zealous missionaries out to get our numbers.
Don't trash their beliefs - Whatever they believe in, and whoever they worship, it is important that a Christian remembers that every word that you speak should encourage, not dishearten. Promote growth, not hurt and be sincere not conceited.
Do what Jesus would have done - Evangelize. Not ostracize. Judgement is His. Not ours to dish out. While Jesus Himself lived in an era of many religions, He never trashed any particular religion. He only encouraged their followers to ask the right questions to get the answers.
Never give up - Much like how there will be just one winner in a race, understand that for every much publicized evangelist, there are 20 who have sacrificed all their worldly comforts so that the marginalized have a better chance at life. The prize that awaits them in Heaven is what matters.
Humble yourself - So important because no one would want to learn from you if you were not as humble as Jesus.
Many sects of Christianity and other world religions have leaders who've created an aura about themselves that makes them demi gods. Want to boast? Boast about God.
Ask Him - Duh! For guidance, for the Words that you need to speak. Because we can always go wrong when we rely on ourselves, when we rely on God, you are merely His instrument and cannot go awry.

More than a decade and many life trials later, many of my friends from college are still awed by Christianity. Many of them have visited a church and have been encouraged by the Word of Christ.

Do you have a neighbor, a friend or a colleague who'd like to know about Christ?
Let Philippians 2:8 be your talisman.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Solitary Conversations [25/365]

One of my Dad's nightly ritual was a family prayer.
It was something that he insisted that we be a part of, every time we were together.
He used to lead us in prayer, and would start with thanking the Lord for a wonderful day that we've had.
He would pray for the sick, the suffering, women in labor, the widowed and the destitute, the orphaned and the disadvantaged.
One of the scriptures that he'd quote and would stay within me was from Psalm 23: 2-5.

David uses a lot of imagery in his psalms and the one in Psalm 23 comforts, soothes and reassures.
In today's rat race, chances are there will be moments when you'd wish you lived in simpler times.
Christians have for long believed in their Savior as sheep in its shepherd. Peppered throughout the Bible, Christ talks about how He loves and cares for His people as a shepherd would for his sheep. Of how the shepherd would recognize and call his sheep by name.

Now, as a person born and bred in a city, I could only visualize this bond between the sheep and their shepherd.
Then, I got to see a shepherd with a herd of his sheep during a recent visit to a village. I saw how the sheep would follow every command of their master, safe in the assurance that absolutely no harm would come their way. Even when in unknown fields. Though illiterate, he knew the needs of his sheep from dawn to dusk and beyond.
Now I am no animal psychologist but for an animal known to be timid, the mere presence of their shepherd made all the difference.

Spiritually timid, we are wired to seek the calm reassurance of our Creator- Jesus Christ.
From atheists to orthodox, He is the only Shepherd who can lead us by name to the calm waters of life.

In our solitary moments during the day, as we find our lives too heavy and the pressure to excel too harsh, all we really need to do is look to our Shepherd. He knows just the gentle brook that we need.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

All 'bout the Fun [24/365]

Do you like pranks?
Well, that depends. Are you the planner or the victim?

The most common prank that any of my colleagues could even think of would be hidding your cellphone, sending out hilarious dinner invite, or prank phone call thing.

Playing a prank on complete strangers is not something new. We've been seeing them on TV for ages now.
Now, when I am watching them the shows, where those random good people are being made the butt of our laughter requirement, are they going to be scarred?
Would they, if they encountered, the same situation laugh it off and refuse to help, and look for that hidden camera? Would they let you actually fall off the bridge just because they were traumatized being watching by millions on hidden cameras?
But like they say, it only hurts when you laugh.

I personally think playing pranks are cruel but then once in a while, we come across a prank show so hilarious that you'll even like it on FB! One such prank show is called the 'Benidorm Pranksters'. Seven seniors pranking complete strangers. Avenging all those other shows that prank on unsuspecting seniors, the seniors in BP kicks ass.

Indians are generally not known for the funny. Our wit is dryer than a prune in autumn.
But as if reading my mind, India finally got the funniest channel from the other side of the Pacific - Comedy Central.

Let's LOL to that!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Creative Visualization - Part Deux [23/365]

Read Numero Uno

It is said when a couple stays with each other for a very long time, they begin to resemble each other. Theorem proved right when my girl friend also begins to watch the television commercials just as keenly. And the surprising part is that we both exchange looks to either approve or disapprove. Said simply, our tastes are so similar.

Controversial but true, you can tell a lot about the culture of a country or a region by the porn that it produces and by the commercials that come on tv.

Our obsession with the fair skin continues.
Prime time ads seem to reinforce our collective suspicion that we are not fair enough. Really?
Some of our most beautiful celebrities are dusky. What's even more surprising is how many layers of the epidermis all the fairness creams are penetrating to give us the glow. But that's not enough for us now. We now need our fairness creams to do seven things together. All in just seven days. Now, do you want fries with that?

Talking about seven days, Big Momma Ash is back with a bang. Oh no, she's not doing any movies (thankfully!) but more of the ads by that french hair dye company. One of the ads even had her spilling out her ample cleavage while lying down.
And as if she wasn't such a disaster already, her hubby has gotten into the act too. Now I agree some of his ads for the cellular service provider are cute, I personally think he should retire from all forms of media until he learns to perform as well as his dad.

But not all ads are as bad. We have ads selling that new brand of potato chips, soups, biscuits and coffee.
Some of the ads were thoughtful and cute, but most of them showed a lot of creativity. Especially the ad where the coffee bean starts crying. While I am not a fan of dark chocolates, I think the idea of an aspiring coffee bean getting depressed when he gets 'rejected' is simply cute.
How about the ad for that online retailer where the incredible discounts for products and services online seem to win over even the Indian grim reaper. What works for me is how innovative and fresh the idea for the advt is. While the concept of etailing itself might be old wine in new bottle, I think the wit of the aptly named 'yamdude' is perfect.
While the creators of yamdude got it right, ads for another etailer with kids conversing in grown-up voice-overs was only half as witty.
Full marks for creativity, though.

While we can be exasperated about the plunging quality of movies being churned out, we can contend with the fact that our Bollywood actors (and their leading ladies) are still raking in the big moolah with the multi million rupee product endorsements.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Word [22/365]

In times where we are obsessed with lists of superlatives, I went on a search for the most powerful word in English.
In Hebrews 4:12, we see how the living word of God is both powerful and sufficient for us.

Available in every possible language and version, the Word cleanses us, stripping us of all our iniquities and purifying our thoughts, words and deeds.

Omnipotent and omnipresent. I've often felt that this passage of the scripture is really one of the most poignant examples of what we can call a disclaimer.
Choose to ignore at your own peril.

For the many who refuses to believe how the Word can save you, we see why.
Like a drunken man who stumbles despite light, the Word of God reveals our sins and its consequences.
But for those who take the Word seriously, it is like a standing your ground on a bed of rock in strong currents.

Saying 'No' to sin, admitting that you need 'Help' for your addictions, and 'Yes' to God's Word. Saying you're 'Sorry' for the ugly life you've lived till now and asking God to 'Stop' you for sinning anymore.
Now, that's a powerful beginning.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Four years [21/365]

Today will mark my fourth year in ThomsonReuters.

This will be the longest I've lasted in any company. And the best part is I'm still loving it.
I find myself evangelizing about the company to new hires and energizing the exhausted.

While I've had my moment of despair and epiphanies, I've been able to meet some of the most selfless people.
People who have been courageous and are heroes in their own right.
Working here gives you a sense of belonging because I believe that a company is only as good as how it treats it's employees.
TR may not have the flamboyance of a Google or a Yahoo! would have. But it certainly treats its employees as the heart of everything it does. And I've seen how employees work better when they are not in an eternal fear of getting the pink slip.

I've grown within the organization. Both personally and professionally.
Am I destined to work here till I retire? Not sure.

My wishlist for a company that I've grown to love?
Lesser politics at office. I've seen nepotism and favoritism in close quarters. I've seen managers pull strings and keep their friends close. I've seen bosses cut their opponents down to size. I've seen lousy managers become lousier task masters. 
Yet there might be hope, because I've also seen leaders who've led with courage amidst retaliation.
But I wish the right talent is recognized and circulated within the company.

And most of all, I would like to see my company get recognized for the wonderful place it is.
Cheers to another four years!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Reunion [20/365]

An artist rendition of The Judgement Day
If you would ask a Christian what is their least favorite book in the Bible, chances are that the answer will be the book of Revelation.
Revelations, the final book in the Bible, reveals the end times and the coming of Jesus Christ as the rightful and just King of the new Earth and Heaven.

Recently, preparing to go for the 10th reunion at my college, I was overcome with anxiety. I had to be dressed to impress many of whom I'd met over a decade over. I was excited to finally meet the people who shared over 3 years together.

In Revelations 19:1-9, we see John's narration of how Jesus is exulted both in Heaven and earth, after the fall of the harlot.
We see how He is praised for His righteous judgement of Earth and the great harlot who corrupted His people with her fornication.

Would you be a nervous wreck waiting to meet your Creator or would you be excited that you are finally meeting Him.
While I took great care to prepare for my college reunion, I was less anxious since I was already invited.

But will I be invited to the reunion dinner in Heaven?
Will all my loved ones be there with me?

These are pertinent questions that will make me anxious.
Not all who call on His name will be counted but those who believe in Jesus alone.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Mutual Friend [19/365]

Never far from His outstretched hands...
Many of my friends indulge in the ritual of hunting for mutual friends so that they can increase their circle of friends.
More friends = More love.

But being a Christian, when I see another Christian I feel an enormous sense of belonging.
I may not know that person previously but I know that we have a mutual friend in Christ.

Perhaps what they say about birds with the same feather does have an element of truth in them.
I've attended a dozen churches over the past few years, and have always found that every church as being more warmer than the last one. Non-Christians call this a calming effect that a church has on their souls. But whatever it is, Jesus ties our hearts down to that basic need to have a common friend in Him. As written in John 15:9-17, Jesus loved us first.

Every time I get to meet a fellow Christian, the connection grows. I always end up learning more about Christ than I already knew. The fact that we have different perspectives of what the Lord does in our lives, regardless of whether we practice it or not is what enriches me. While some are pained by the struggles, most Christians learn to take it with a philosophical pinch of salt to come out stronger.

With Christ, our mutual Friend, I know that I all the love I'll ever need.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bangalored! [18/365]

Review of Outsourced!

After building up much hype about the latest English sitcom on Indian television, I managed to catch the premiere.

Based upon the movie with the same name, the plot revolves around a novelties company that right-sizes itself by outsourcing its entire call center to India. What follows is the adventures and misadventures of the American manager who is training it's new call-center in India.
Watch Outsourced! in Zee Cafe 11 pm IST (and repeated next weekday 2pm IST).

The makers of the show certainly got a lot of things right. From the subtle pun that the sitcom pokes at the American way of life, the culture differences, the products that the company sells, the irreverent and inhumane functioning style of Indian managers, office politics, the career aspirations down to the way the businesses are remote controlled by bosses on the other side of the EST is in so many ways true.

While I struggle to understand why a brilliantly funny sitcom like Outsourced! was slotted for a late night, middle of the week premiere, it ticked all the check boxes in my list of what a good Indian comedy should be.

I thought the acting was top notch. The cultural references were brilliant.
The dialogues were peppy and witty.
The ensemble does do justice to the entire premise, I found the plot paced appropriately and extremely witty.
Though not slap-stick, the comedy did tickle my funny bone.
The plot and it's characters are something a lot of young Indians would identify with. Surely, you'll know of that firangi manager who's come on-site to 'transition' that big process to India (aka Bangalore) or that hard-nosed Indian manager who is always micro managing employees or that person who is always using the company phone to make international and national calls for free or that flirtatious co-worker who is always hitting on the boss to climb the ladder.
Broadcast in India almost a year after it's American debut, the series was scrapped in June of last year. 

Outsourced! is definitely the fresh and witty look at a billion dollar industry that is India's answer to Chinese sweatshops.

My Rating: 9

What does the ratings mean?
0-4  : Not worth your presence in the same zip code as the TV/Theatre.
5-7  : Err... the movie is pretty, but it's definitely missing something. A storyline, that is.
8-10: 'Drop-the-dishes, stop-the-sex, jaw-dropping, that-is-incredible' 2 hours of movie experience

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More than anything else [17/365]

Only as difficult as you set it to be...
'Behind every successful man, there is a woman'
Many business tycoons will swear by this, but I bet Adam would've never agreed.

In the book of Genesis, we see one of the earliest instances of human trafficking.
Peppered as stories throughout, the Bible while reminding us that sibling rivalry, harlotry (aka prostitution) and trafficking are now evils of the modern age, also shows how relying on God can be more promising than trusting in our intellect.

I've found that every time I have relied on my abilities, I've failed and come short. It could have been that all important tests at school or that job interview.
But the Bible is a greater motivational book.
In the book of Genesis 37 - 50, we see how Joseph, the spoilt yet favorite son of Jacob, is sold by jealous brothers.
But what happens after this, is truly inspirational. Being a God fearing man, we see how Joseph finds favor in the sight of God and his masters. He gets to acquire somewhat of a Midas touch in everything he does. Towards the end of the story, we see how life comes full circle when his brothers are avenged for their cruelty, albeit in a righteous way. All's well that ends well.
Fodder for the perfect Bollywood masala.

But the bigger picture here is how Joseph did not let the little fact that he was sold by his brothers question his belief in God, but how he built everything that he did on Him.
Our relationship with God begins and ends every time we have a need. Need fulfilled, we move on. After all, it is proven that we have very short attention spans.

But what do you do when your prayers go unanswered? Do you grudgingly refuse to believe that God is merciful and has a bigger purpose and a better plan for you? For a while, I refused to believe that God would have anything better for me. I was down, out of my luck and lonely. While I won't tell you that I finally woke up one morning to be a believer that I am now, I can share that a strict regimen of prayer is what got me here.

Do you want to be successful in your career, in your relationships, with your finances?
Are we willing to be redirected by Him?
Trust God, forget all else.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Locked in [16/365]

The right to live.
The right to speak your mind.
The right to express yourself freely.

Ever since the dawn of civilization, nations and their citizens have fought and defended these fundamental rights.
While many of us are fortunate to practice these rights at freewill, I read about a Briton who wants the right to die. (Read article)

Suffering from the debilitating 'Locked-in syndrome' after a paralytic stroke seven years ago, he now wants to die. (Read more about Locked-in syndrome here)
While I won't advocate euthanasia (assisted suicide) as an escape from life or illness, I can understand how an illness as debilitating as this would take a toll on both the sufferer and their care-givers.

Death is an escape. And given the times that we live in, quite a welcome break too.
But I like to think that you cannot use death as a bail out package in times of illness, state of poverty, choice of lifestyle or your actions.
When I read the article on Tony Nicklinson, while I could begin to identify how trapped he might be feeling, when he described his life as 'dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable.', I beg to differ. Hundreds of miles away in Afghanistan, Syria and closer home in India, we have millions whose life can fit into that description.
Death is not an option to them. Life is that endless toil and persecution until the 'break'.

I'm reminded of the many people around us who experiences different kinds of the 'Locked-in syndrome'.
For some of us, circumstances may have isolated us from others. Lying in a hospital bed, serving time in prison (for a just cause), or being shut in emotionally, can make us feel that we are experiencing our own 'Locked-in syndrome'. When people begin to use circumstances as a crutch, we must remember how we are the authors of our destiny.

Stephen Hawking, needs no introduction. Afflicted by Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), he once famously described himself as 'lucky'. While he was just being modest, he went on to receive 15 awards across a career spanning three decades.

Besides the path-breaking discoveries in Astrophysics, I think the most important and often the most difficult decision is when a person who is down and out, decides to make the best of it. I'm reminded of how Jesus, fully God yet stuck in a man's body, struggled against the mighty Roman empire... (Read 2 Timothy 2:1-10).

When adversity has often brought out the most remarkable survivalist streaks in humans, I can't see how we should throw in the towel when we hit a minor setback.

While I stop short of making a verdict on the right to die, the right to live and the freedom to pray certainly wins.

Monday, January 16, 2012

God's List [15/365]

When non Christians ask me; of all the things that the Bible teaches you, what is it that God wants humans to do.
I tell them; Love. Not the romantic love. Not the phoney love you have for that latest gadget from the fruit based computer company, but the love that God has for you.

In Leviticus 19:11-18, we see how God instructs his people similarly. He gives us the ten commandments.
Now, to most Christians, the ten commandments begins and ends with confirmation and the first holy communion. It is then repeated only seldom when asked. Not applied, mind you. Just repeated.

Without going into details, I can confidently say that any human being who follows the ten commandments is eligible for the infinite grace and mercy of Jesus Christ and our holy Father. That being said, this does not guarantee a VIP entry and special seating at the time of judgement. For Jesus has clearly told us that no one enters the kingdom of Heaven unless through Him (Read John 14:6).

While traditionally Christian countries in the west have been systematically wiping out all references to the Lord, in an effort to appear secular and popular, we have countries like India who have been making huge strides in Christian evangelism. I also see this as that phase of our life in this world where we as believers need to hold the Word closer to ourselves than ever before.

The ten commandments. It isn't a huge list. Ignoring it, however is a grave deed. 
Obeying it gets you into the line. But Jesus is your only turnstile, buddy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

That's credible! [14/365]

I hate credit cards and don't keep any.
But many years ago, I had up to seven cards for myself. And I kept myself clean. I knew that I shouldn't max it out and I rarely did.
Using it occasionally so that I could keep the banks happy while making sure I made the payments on time. I'd never spent more than a tenth of what I earned a month.

I knew my credit was clean when my bank gave me a per-approved platinum card. I couldn't even buy platinum jewelry but I already had a platinum credit card! I was ecstatic.
Gradually as the excitement died down, the card started leaving an imprint in my wallet. I was barely using it.

Then came my ex. Coming from a small town that had just one ATM, meeting a guy with a platinum card (capable of buying platinum jewelry) and three gold cards was like hitting a gold mine. In under a year, she had me max out all my cards and I owed money to the banks. It shattered my credit rating and I wondered how I could let something like this happen to me.

Sin has the same MO.
It allows you think that you are in control. Allows you to play safe for a while and just when you think you could make no mistake, bam! you are out of the ring. Ding Ding Ding!

In 1 Peter 2:11-21, we see how God cautions us, warning us that we will need to restrain ourselves lest we forget our roots. It is often said that a good name is hard to keep, a bad name is easy to get, and I subscribe to this.
In the pursuit of money and lust, I've known men and women who have fallen for the wrong partners and have slid down the wrong paths. They do realize that they have come down a path that have mutated themselves beyond recognition, but they are too naive to understand that our God is ever-forgiving. Their shame and pride stops them from ever repenting or asking for forgiveness.

At the other end of the spectrum, we see fair weather believers who give up their beliefs just because they suffer persecution.
Again, God have never promised you a bed of roses that have it's thorns removed. He has cautioned us, several times, in the form of parables and as documented evidences of staunch believers like Paul, Peter, Abraham, Joseph and Job who have held firm to their faith inspite of the huge challenges that they went through.

Finally, fight the good fight. End your race with your head held high. Keep the belief.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Second Chance Living [13/365]

On a recent bike ride to the mountains, I was descending down a steep 45% decline with tons of 'hair pin' curves.
If the narrow roads with jagged shoulders don't scare you, the sight of the drop would've made you want to walk rather than roll down the hill.
But I was tired and the lack of sleep was beginning to show on my body. I was barely able to keep my eyes open, much less be alert.
About a kilometer down the road, I careened down the road and barely made the curve. While it took me a few seconds to realize how close I came to plunging down a cliff-side, the incident shook me thoroughly. I've decided never to trust instincts or test the loose shoulders since.
I've also realized how God gave me a second chance that day. But He's given me plenty of second chances since.

Every day, as I go to bed, I reminisce about how the day began, progressed and ended. Of course, with the kind of work schedules I have, my day starts at 12 noon and does not end until four the next morning. So, I am not sure of what the next day will bring. I am not sure if I'll never wake up healthy or wake up at all. I am not sure if I will have as productive a day as I had, but again, like much else in our lives, we take our mornings for granted. While we make plans for an entire year ahead, we forget that our lives can change in just a heart-beat and quite literally too.

We all get our second chances and while God is doling out billions of second chances out every single moment of the day and night, we cant spare a moment to thank Him. There are so many instances in our daily lives where we get away with too many things, sometimes, barely by the skin of our teeth. He does not expect much, because being the gracious, ever loving God that He is, He won't insist that you sacrifice the fattened calf or donate a diamond. He expects us to love Him back. I think we can afford that.

Now, in the time that it took you to read this, you could've have died of a dozen diseases. Or worse yet, would have never made it to this post. But you've already got that second chance.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Your body is a Wonderland... [12/365]

One of my ex-girlfriend was a closet lesbian. When serenading her girlfriends, she would dedicate the John Mayer hit 'Your body is a Wonderland...' Ofcourse, being that lesbianism is still a taboo in India, she continues to keep her preferences closeted.
While the song itself is lurid attempt at lewdness, I can both argue and agree with the lyrics within. 

I am guilty, like many of us, of judging a person by the way he/she appears. We are very prejudiced and conceited when it comes to people of certain ethnicity, color, region or language. We write them off without even giving them the slightest chance to prove/define themselves.
When a friend's nine year old son joined a new school, he was bullied by an older kid who teased his appearance. Undaunted, my friend's son never yielded in to the torture and never replied a mean word back. When his dad asked him why he didn't just report the matter to his teachers, he replied 'My God made me wonderfully and beautifully'. Kids do say the darn'dest things, don't they?

As adults, we are way too corrupt to alter our prejudices.
We feel disgusted when our partners and family members are different from our perfect selves.
We judge a person too much on how much he/she weighs and looks rather than understand how beautiful his/her soul is.
When the bible (and nearly every religious books) tell us that God made us in His image, we do we hanker after that guy with the rippling muscles and chiseled bode or that girl with the hour glass body, fair skin and luscious hair?

The almost poetic verses of scripture at Psalm 139:13-16 brings a wonderful picture of how God skillfully creates every single molecule within us. An anthem for people who are uncomfortable within their skin, this passage comforts people who treat themselves and their bodies with disregard.

Made in secret, revealed in Heaven.
Isn't that something to be incredibly proud of?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Always with you [11/365]

Learning how to ride a cycle is an integral part of a boy's growing up years much like how learning how to cook or apply make-up is in a girl's life.
I remember how I learned how to ride my BMX when I was a little boy.
My dad would always be behind me. I'd doubt if he's really holding the cycle steady but I was always sure that he was just a few steps behind me to hold me in case I was unsteady. Pompous as it sounds, I never fell off a bike learning. Many years later, despite his busy life, he'd always make sure that he attended every sport I played. A fond memory of how he rushed to the football field when an opponent tripped me, is still fresh.

My earthly father. He was always with me. Though he left me with a vacuum that can never be filled and I may not be able to hear him anymore and I may not be able to see him as much as I want to, but I still know that he is just a few steps behind me.

I'm reminded of Psalm 25:4-10 where the Psalmist describes the infinite love of God: Our heavenly Father. He's never left us. Immune to death but fully knowing the pain and tribulation that we as his children go through, He comforts us when we are unsettled. Heals us when we are ill, and leads us when we go astray.
We confess and He is eager to wipe clean all our transgressions and misadventures.

I quote a bumper sticker that I saw:
'If you feel God is far from you, guess who moved.'

Full of compassion, He wants a closer union with you. Always.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We got to talk [10/365]

'We got to talk'
My Manager tells me as I walk in, in an ominous tone.
He would even avoid eye contact and have the face that could make Hitler squirm.
With a nod that would indicate that I've got exactly 30 seconds to materialize in the meeting room which always looked like it was a graveyard.
In the 20 steps that it'd take me to reach the room, my mind is racing with every possible faux pas that I could've committed in the last 96 hours. Almost inevitably, I remember of something I missed. 'Crap!' While I am mentally preparing myself for another holier than thou sermon or is it going to be kick in the fleshy rear? Oddly enough, my entire life does flash past my eyes. By the time I reach the room, I have a knot in my throat.
And the fact that room always seem to be a couple of degrees below zero doesn't help.

But it appears that he just wanted to congratulate me on a job well done. Close call
All the heart-burn that I went through just a couple of minutes earlier seems forgotten. As I walk out of the room triumphantly, I reflect on what I would go through as I wait for that moment with Jesus Christ on the Judgement Day.

I'm often reminded of 2 Corinthians 5:1-11.
A relative of mine once quipped Christ is not looking at your ability but your availability. This is true.
When I was going through the darkness months of my life, I groaned. I found it hard to believe that my Lord would allow me to go through the trauma that I was going through. I had to surrender myself to Christ. But it is so much easier said than done. I found my soul willing, yet the body failing.
That is when I heard a preacher tell 'Walk by faith, not by sight'. I found courage and inspiration in this.

As the end times are being played out, and we see God's prophesies come into fruition, I find myself retrospecting;
How faithful and honest are we to God, living in a body that He made for us?
Have I done justice to the enormous talents that He gave me?
Are we present in the body and absent in Christ or was it the other way around?

As humbling as it will be and as surreal as it appears, you, I and everyone we'll ever know of, will be walking into that meeting room that God has prepared for us. The choice of walking out with that overwhelming regret of never-ending doom or if we'll walk out triumphantly is something we all can make right now.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Awesomeness [9/365]

"Wow! This is freaking awesome!"
It's not everyday I get to visit a home that had it's own helipad and the other bells and whistles.

My friend from college (who shall remain anonymous), on the other hand was a little embarrassed by the way I was star struck. He even had an army of body guards with automatic weapons. I was thoroughly won over. That is if he was trying to impress me. But ofcourse, he was just happy to spend some time with me. It had been a long while since we met.
He was wealthy, influential and a really nice guy. 

But more importantly, he was deeply spiritual. 
That ticked all the right boxes in my list.

I was awestruck at how a person who studied with me at college and would occasionally talk to me, would in a span of a decade become the kind of person that you'd only read about in Business Times during the week and on Page 3 over the weekends. The transformation from being a gaunt geek to a suave sophisticated entrepreneur was complete.

I got to travel with him in his Rolls Royce, and indulged in a power lunch as well.

Most people I know would kill for a few minutes with such a person. But he was incredibly humble despite all the trappings around him. 
At the end of the day, I was inspired. I was moved at his humility but most importantly something about what he said. 
When I asked him what was the one point in his life when everything changed, he paused for a moment, and told me- 'It was when I surrendered everything to the Lord... and when He accepted me'. Profound, I thought. Coming from the mouth of a staunch Brahmin. 

We Christians like to claim Jesus all for ourselves. Well, the truth is He died for all humanity. And that includes the Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Jains, Scientologists and all the rest in between.

While I agree that Christianity does not promise that you'll be wealthy, healthy and wise, but what it does is peace. The apostle Paul summed it up in Philippians 4:11, when he told us how his faith in Christ has taught him how to be content with much or less, in poverty and plenty.

My good friend did not hit the jackpot as soon as he started believing in Christ. Surely, he did have his moments of despair, but as a person who pinned his faith and hope in Christ, he never gave up. 
He went on to testify how a strong and selfless prayer life is like antibiotics. 'Once prescribed, you must take them for the entire course. Interrupt it for a day and you're letting the devil enter your life again, and perhaps mutate to something even worse.'

Living the lives that we are, in a world that is filled with evil and where we are taught to repay evil with evil, we need our daily prayers. Lest we fall victim to the fallen angel.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Loving the Mundane [8/365]

Quiz time: 
So what's common between Roadies, MasterChef USA, Survivor, The real housewives of New York, Keeping up with the Kardashians and Maximum Exposure?

If you thought; Reality shows. Congratulations! You didn't get it right but so didn't the 98% of the floating population.
For the minority who did get it right, and for the rest who didn't. Its the language and the foul temper that the participants on the show exhibit. 

But if you haven't been educated on the 15 everyday slangs  and cant read lips already, then chances are all you will hear is a beep. 

A couple of years ago, the worse you could hear on television would have been the F word. Rewind a few decades and even the sound of a toilet flush was muted off. But hey, times achanging. We are allowed to hear the flush, aren't we?

The most pertinent question here is: "Itna gussa kyon?" (Translated: "Why so angry?")
Now, I agree we have always been angry and, sure I learned the proper way to say the F word when I was 19. 

I am reminded of Colossians 3: 8-17 (read here), one of my favorite passages of scripture exhorting, encouraging and admonishing us to shun all that which is uncouth. Back in school, my school principal had a rule where any student caught foul mouthing would be asked to wash their mouth. With soap.

But the passage is poignant in the way it exhorts you to act no matter what you are, and no matter what the social divisions could be. As privileged as He made us to be, as humble as He was, God wanted us to emulate Him. See, God already knew that we were going to squabbling over religion, caste and creed and warned us to behave.

World peace may be too far fetched an idea. Not exactly something we can do. That's God's assignment.

Giving thanks to The Man upstairs appears to be out of nature for the folks down here.
To many, He is the 'go to' guy when we need something. But are we the kind of people who can give Him a little of what He asks? 
BEP got it right when they sang:  Where's the love??

Now ask yourself...

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Forever and ever... [7/365]

A term that we throw about, 'forever'ness is such a wonderful thing.

I've often wondered whether we even understand the meaning of the word.

Marriages are a favorite event when couples promise to love and cherish each other forever and ever.
But have they even fanthomed how long 'that' could be?
But that really does not matter to anyone at that moment. The parents of the couple just want to get this over with. The friends and relatives too, so that they can continue with the festivities. And the couple, well they are too emotionally blinded to even venture a guess.

Now, I am sure there are plenty of marriages that have lasted a proper lifetime. But there are a growing number of marriages that have lasted a lot lesser than 'forever'.
And when I do hear about the quickie marriages and quicker divorces, I'm reminded of how king David tells us how God is the only 'forever and ever' that you can count on. (Read Psalms 19:1-7)
For real.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Ship well built [6/365]

The one word that most people hate.
The one word that can mean refusal, denial and nonacceptance. 

While being denied or refused something that you really want or cherish by someone you love is tough, there will have been plenty of times when God says 'No' to something you ask for.

What is the first thought that goes through your mind when you are pushed into the unknown?
What if God asked you to let go of your family, your parents, your career, everything for that one thing you have been asking for.

The 'What if's of this life haunts us. So does the 'dark unknown'.
Yet as if on cue, God gives us the tools and the knowledge that we need to be able to come out brighter and stronger than we were going in.  
A ship in a harbor is safe, but this is not what a ship is built for.

In the plenty of times when prayers have gone unanswered, I've recalled the story of how Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only begotten son. Try to imagine the grief he would have gone through. Ofcourse, he could've questioned God's request and logic but as a man of faith, he never gave this another thought. While we all know how this ended, we do see how he exhibits emotions that we can identify with.

Peppered throughout the Bible, we see instances of how people are pushed into the unknown.
10 days into the new year, I've heard friends complain how things have not gone their way and then a few others who celebrate the small victories in their every day lives.
But regardless of how anything will happen, we are in His safe arms. 
That is when we surrender ourselves to Him.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Hacks! [5/365]

45,000 Facebook users lost their peace of minds last Friday.
Users, mainly in Britain and France, had their login details stolen by common hacks. (Read article)
I guess a news like this would have made international headlines for and triggered a panic wave across the world, a few years ago.

But in a world where we are constantly living on the edge, this barely made a ripple. So this is fine, you know. 
We somehow believe that this is not going to happen to us and won't affect us in any way... Until it does.

While Facebook would have fixed the backdoor trap and restored access of accounts to it's rightful owners, I am hoping the lightening does not strike twice.

Somehow, if all the dirty bombs or other "weapons of mass destruction" does not trigger a global conflict, such random acts of virtual ambush will. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Bad Day [4/365]

Some days are simply a bad day to wake up. Or for breakfast.

Looking at the news today I had more than my daily dose of bad news, aka bloodshed, violence and death.
It was news of the enchanting Syrian conflict, ongoing descent into anarchy in Iraq and it was business as usual in Pakistan

While it is true that we can live in harmony (history has shown that we did, once upon a time) it is greed and ego that divides us. But many a times, it's not the people who really fight among each other, but the politicians who instigate them. Why? Because it is always better to divide and rule

When egos are bruised and tempers fuse, what billions of dollars in arms and ammunition can't do, a simple word and an heart-felt gesture can.

But until we are able to eliminate the middlemen to peace (read 'politicians'), we will continue to spar like unwitting gladiators in the giant theater of politics.

Loving people is hard work, indeed!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Day After Tomorrow [3/365]

It is said that Humans are the only species that actively destroys the very same habitat that can support it.

Of the 1% difference between humans and the chimp, we have finally blurred the line that separates us from maniacal yet fictitious aliens that have been invading earth. Since the 70's.

If the dwindling tiger numbers are anything to go by, the only carnivores that humans will see alive will be those in zoos. And if we are lucky this will happen in our lifetimes. 

The 'Save Our Tiger' media campaigns helped spread the message but like anything else, was short lived. Post all the euphoria and 'sharing', at 1700 tigers, this speaks of our inability to save ourselves from our greed. 

While the Chinese and Japanese gorge on exotic medicines that are made out of tiger skins, whales, dolphins and elephants, to cure everything from sexual dysfunction to cancer, the greedy among us are eager to cater to the 'growing' demand.

A news article that spoke of how two tiger reserves in India would be protected by highly trained armed commandos, got me thinking.. (Read article)
No measure of armed guards or surveillance can stop temptation. Considering how climate change is a reality and not a mere prediction, and seeing how global weather patterns have been changing for the past couple of years, I wonder how many of us can survive the changes that we have directly or indirectly brought on ourselves.

I even wonder if too many of us will be around to enjoy the fruits of our 401K's.
While evolution did give us a whole lot of goodies from her bag of tricks, she kept the survivalist skills to herself. 

Unlike the tigers that we have been hunting, we don't stand a chance without our dolo 650's and vicks vaporubs when she decides enough is enough.


I love subtitles.
Especially those in sitcoms and shows where there is a lot of profanity. 

Now, while we can pretend to not know the words that rhymes with duck, hitch, and clut, is it fair that the subtitles substitute words like 'butt', 'foreplay' and 'orgasm' with '****'?
C'mon guys, who among you have never used or heard the F word? Amish maybe. But then, I am pretty sure you wouldn't need a television either.

While I can see how we need constant supervision when it comes to sex and stuff, but is it really helping? 

While I understand how children growing up need to be protected from profanity, how can an aging committee of Censors, disconnected from the times with a jaundiced view of what is right and what is wrong decide for the rest of the billion plus what we need to watch, read and hear.

Ofcourse, being the censor for a billion plus can be a pretty daunting task. But when you are working with a clear vision, it shouldn't be too hard to be impartial and current at the same time.

Shouldn't be tough since the rest of the modern world have been doing it.
But is it too much to ask for the right subtitles? It's not like we haven't heard the word or used the slang already.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

You're Fired [2/365]

In parts of India, unless you have a job in a PSU or with the Central Government, you are a loser.

I know several people (related and otherwise) who have continued to study well into their late 20's, piling up post graduate degrees like it was going out of style, aiming only to work with PSU's. It is after all 'a job for life'. They crave the security, the easy pace of work, the pension benefits, gratuity and all the other perks of being a government employee. Working anywhere else is a stigma.

Anti-austerity demonstrators in central Madrid earlier this year. New government has announced freeze on public sector pay and minimum wage. Photograph Arturo Rodriguez/AP

So, when I read about how the unemployment rates are going through the roof across Europe, I struggled to understand how 'developed' economies can flounder. (Read article)
With a continent that failed to check it's spending and a currency that is struggling to keep up with the dollar, the great European honeymoon is almost over. 
The staggering number of jobless in Spain, (at 4.42 million is equal to the population of Greater Boston or the combined population of Meghalaya and Goa) the slide is inevitable. Add this to the five million of the jobless whose benefits have run out, and you have an entire economy that is teetering on bankruptcy. 
As the crisis deepens, the need of the hour are aggressive reforms in the labour market and a tighter rein-in of the government expenditure. 

Many hundreds of miles (or kilometers) away, many in the Subcontinent still prefer to play it by ear. Waiting for that cushy government job.    

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