Thursday, August 17, 2017

‘Dr.’ on sale

What I’m about to say will make some people unhappy. But it is something which needs to be said. It is nothing new but those who are aware are not very vocal about it. If I say that what I am about to say is nothing personal, I’d be partially lying. I speak from the view point of highlighting a general pattern, but specific encounters influence the viewpoint I hold. 

I speak about the people who had it relatively easy to put a ‘Dr.’ before their name; while some would struggle through hades to achieve it. We hear of cases when such title can be bought with money. Ph.D thesis which can escape plagiarism detection software can be bought from a photocopy shop outside the university gate, as per a news report. Honorary doctorate can be sold by bogus and even non-existent universities, in the guise of payment towards attending a super conference in a hotel somewhere away from the 'alleged' university. Accreditation bodies can also be 'manufactured' by nexus of ‘universities’; a university operating from a small building which is not bigger than a family cottage. 

The craze for ‘Dr.’ is a result of the social status and prestige that is associated with the title. It was once a mark of achievement of the highest order in one’s field of study. It was awarded to those who jumped into the furnace and were forgotten, thought to be long dead; but came back one day having survived by the skin of their teeth. But not anymore. There are some who have prefixes and suffixes surrounding their name like mean celebrity bodyguards. But the moment they open their mouth or write a paragraph, one wonders if they have been reading Pran’s comic books.

There is no easy way to filter the quality of a degree. Quality varies among holders of a legitimate degree. But it is high time that we flag the bogus universities which are making business selling degrees to feed our desire for status and recognition in society. Institutes with no or questionable accreditation, unrecognized degrees and diplomas, tuition centres posing as universities, etc are not difficult to identify and locate. We have to make it clear that fake institutes and fake degrees/people are not honorable in the society. 

With all due respect to those who love and pursue knowledge, a name prefix does not truly qualify a person. Ultimately, respect has to be earned by the quality of one’s work.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Who to blame? Let us be specific

When we say that the public is also to be blamed for messy situation we are in, does that mean that the baby girl who was born last night in a remote village in Myanmar border is also to be blamed?

 Let's be specific. 'Public' is a heterogeneous group with angels and demons and every type in between. Generalizing the blame is not just for those who are not corrupt yet suffer for someone else's faults. Blaming the public is a favorite prop politicians use to legitimise their actions. 

But let's face this truth: Politicians are homogeneous in so far as corruption is concerned. By virtue of their power and position, the magnitude of one's corruption is larger than that of a hundred corrupt public. Therefore, let us be specific as to who is at the root of the problem. If what they say is true that what they accumulate goes back to the people during election, what about the mansions they build? Do those palaces ever go back into circulation? Do those cars become public transport after their retirement? 

A lie has been sold and we buy it and say, 'Ah we are also responsible'. Majority of us are not responsible. Some are responsible. Now, you may say that all of them are not the same. Some are more religious, no doubt. But show me one of them who is more religious and I will show you a hypocrite


Ok, so you are a regular government employee and your job is so secure. You have been working in the same job for over a decade and you know your job well. 

A visitor comes for some work and he is confused which room to go to, or how to process his request. He asks you questions.

You meet such people everyday in the workplace. Sure, some people won't get you at first and will ask the same question again. Some questions will sound silly. 

It feels nervous for anyone to go to a new place. Some people are worse in sense of direction and may need extra help. Some will have problem understanding the words, terms and abbreviations used in the office, which would be easy to employees. 

Some would have travelled from far-off places to meet you. Some wouldn't be that educated and are already nervous before stepping into the office. 

My sincere request is: please let us be polite to people who come for help in our workplace. Of course, this doesn't apply to regular employees only. We need lots and lots of politeness in our workplaces. 

I go to an office where I have no known 'connection'. Then I meet an employee there who is polite. How nice the feeling is. Then I have people in my workplace who are rude, not only to visitors but even to own colleagues like me. The fact that I am not a so-called 'regular' government employee is sometimes a factor for this, which is funny. Yes it is true, 'he is a contractual only'. 

Then we hear these stories about hospital staffs who are always scolding patients. When someone is sick, he and his family are not their normal selves and they are probably at their worst. Hospitals should be places of healing and understanding, where politeness of staffs should also be a part of the treatment. 

Sometimes, I am not polite in my driving although I try to be. Then I meet some drivers who would stop and wait for me while I reverse out of the parking lot. He is driving a good car and my car is ugly. He doesn't know me and he is not aiming for my parking spot. He just wants to help me to come out of the parking lot. It makes me feel nice that there are such people in the world

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Copy Paste Era…From Distraction to Stillness

The future will look back at our time as the era of ‘copy-pasters’ and ‘forwarders’. There is a possibility that through research, we will be found as the generation when the average human brain size reduced –which is unprecedented in history - due to reduce in usage. It is possible that we are living at a time when the average human creativity (or can be any brain activity) level is at its lowest. There is no lack of creativity for some. But the creativity of one is copy-pasted and forwarded a million times. And artists are ‘inspired’ mostly by the works of other artists. Opinions in discussion forums are actually opinions/echoes of others in some other forums. Wild speculations are dispersed in countless social media groups and swallowed as news. The bulk of our knowledge and opinion formation comes from status updates and rants, quotes in jpeg formats, and short videos.

We live in a time of countless distractions. We do not have the earlier luxury of focused engagement. We know a little bit of many things but don’t learn a lot of anything. Funny videos and photo messages have taken that away from us. We receive and forward, we copy and paste, and the sun goes down on us, day after day, week after week. 

A remedy for distraction is to embrace stillness. How often do you make the time to be still? To be still is to make the time to do nothing. But I believe that by making the time to do nothing, we can find the key to become more productive. So, I am appealing to you to make the time to do nothing. It is not as easy as it seems because we have become accustomed to living with distractions. We have become slaves of distraction and without it, we feel hollow. I am not prescribing any method of stillness. It could be a walk in the woods with nothing in hand (no phones, to be specific). It could be an escape to the roof top at night after everyone is asleep, with nothing in hand (again without phone, to be specific). It could be lying down in the dark but being still awake. Making the time to be still could be the key to unlocking the door to a world of new possibilities.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Early bird

Rhododendrons at Tsazu

I browse articles on entrepreneurial skills and things like ‘how small changes can improve your life considerably’ and one common advice I find is this: Early to bed and early to rise. This goes out even to people who say ‘but I am a night person’. The advice comes with this practical guide: set your alarm 30 minutes early. If you wake up at 6:30 am, then set it at 6 am.

I think this advice is important because we follow Indian Standard time which is set in Allahabad. We might be 1 hour ahead of it. At 4:30 am, it is bright already here. We may be losing around 22,000 minutes per year of day light, which translates to 365 hours or 15 days approx. Bangladesh, which is west of us is ahead of us by 30 minutes!

This advice is said to be for the busy person as well who never has enough time (and work into the night). There is hardly time to meditate or think of matters that matter eternally. I was also reading about the person who wrote the beautiful hymn ‘This is my Father’s world’, my favorite hymn on nature. He would often say to his wife as he goes out for morning walk, ‘I am going out to see my Father’s world’.

Our bodies will fight the change in body rhythm, but if we try the incremental change of setting the alarm just 30 minutes early, we can get there to enjoy the benefits of being a morning person. In entrepreneurship or in any other life’s work, that may prove to be the difference between success and failure.   

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The sweetness of faith

Today is World Health Day (April 7) and as I was coming home from work (early to attend a wedding), I began to think of this year's theme: Depression. My mind went to those who suffer depression and I thought of my own life. A powerful phrase came to my mind and I had a supernatural experience as I was driving up Billy Graham road: 'The sweetness of faith'. 

I'm so grateful that I have found and have been experiencing faith. It is not just a head belief but it also tastes sweet. Have you tasted it for yourself? It is not something which many other people agree upon and make sense and therefore you believe it, although that is a part of it. It is not a habit or ritual which is formed out of repetitive thought or practice, although those will definitely strengthen it. I can't quite describe it but if you have it, you will know what I mean, the sweetness of faith. You have to have it to know it.

It is so sweet to know that there is a reason for me to wake up in the morning. It is so sweet to know that this life has meaning. It is so sweet to know that there is a sense of direction and there is a finishing line. There is no laboratory test to show it, but I believe and am assured that it is true.

It is not superstitious or unreasonable. This faith is reasonable and has intellectual rigor (although not bound or subject to them). But it is not proud or arrogant, because it has the humility to bend to the scrutiny of truth.

The sweetness of faith is that it is born of grace and mercy. Undeserving, yet being given as a gift. Deserving penalty for one's failures (there are so many. One doesn't have to go far to see them. One has to simply look within), yet being forgiven.

An inner peace in times of war. A feeling of hope in times of grief. Selfless surrender in times of greed. Love in return of hatred. What other force or source in the world can provide that?

How wonderful that while we are yet imperfect, we are allowed to taste the sweetness of putting our faith in Him.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A trip remembered: Kizari

In this month 2 years ago, my wife and I - then a newly married couple – took a trip to Kizari village to attend Mission Week program.
We knew the road till Lanye river beyond which we have not been. We took a turn from the highway and started on a small road which could easily end in someone’s paddy field. Therefore, it was such a relief to see this sign board which says ‘Way to Tizu Bridge, Tuzatse’. ‘Take the kaccha road just after the stone crusher. But as you reach a junction, don’t go all the way up to Lozaphuhu village, take the turn which leads to the Tizu River’ we were advised. 


We reached a good stretch and along a bend, we stopped to take rest. As we looked back, this (photo) was the road we came from. I thought we would come back through this road, but that was not to be due to some unforeseen event which was to unfold. I wonder if we would cross this path again. But we will never do so again in the same state. Over two years of marriage and how things have changed. We were so free then. 


As we looked down from the resting point, we can see the Lanye valley from where we came up. On our way back, we crossed the valley again, but from below and not from up here.


We spotted a lot of birds on the way. Spot the bird in the photo. We were ready to shoot anything in this adventurous journey.


Down we went and reached the spot which the sign board pointed to. ‘After crossing the bridge, you will go up and reach Tuzatse junction. Don’t go to the village, turn left and you will reach Kizari’ we were informed.


Around the spot where we got lost, we met this big bird (if you can see it). There was a sharp turn to the left and we took it for a while. But we sensed that it wasn’t just right. There was no soul to ask and mobile signal is out of the question.

Fortunately, abandoning the left turn was a good decision and we reached a junction with another sign board pointing towards our destination. So, we took it now sure that we were in the right path. The number of hours spent driving in the unknown, sometimes going through roads where leaves and grasses from both sides touch the car windshield, takes a toll on your well-being. And we stopped by this wild fig tree for another rest.


Finally. Kizari. 

We were in for a big surprise when we came to find out that no one in the village was expecting us. The notification clearly said that I was assigned Kizari for CMS Mission Week. And it is tradition that they get guest speaker during the weekend. But the Pastor had understood from some source that no one was coming that year, and he went to the field. I had a phone number but I came to experience that my phone was useless here.

It was Saturday late afternoon when we arrived. Evening soon arrived and I spoke in the youth service. We were put in the church guest house and could hear youths pounding sticky rice into the night to prepare breakfast for us the next morning.


On Sunday morning, we took a tour of the village. I spoke in the church again. It was amusing to see this woman singing special song with a child on her back.


We could hear the river flowing below as we sleep and outside the window were these beautiful orchids.

In the afternoon after the church service, we decided to take a break and go down to the river below the village. 


Mothers day and CYE Social Day Silver Jubilee monoliths can be seen adorning the church premises. The believers here are planning to construct a new church building and the women department is taking the lead in generating funds for it.


It is interesting to note that from this PA system, everyone in the village can hear the information being passed. 


The church bell is most amusing when we think of what it stood for and what it does now. It is a bomb shell, now used to call people to come and worship the One who would turn the other cheek (rotate head to view)


No ordinary pigs. They are a sure sign that you are in a traditional Naga village.  

On Sunday evening, I preached, for the 3rd time in 2 days.

The next morning, as we started to load our bags, including the orchids which we received from the women folks; we found a flat tyre. We had no option but to take the risk of driving to Meluri without a spare tyre. There will be no mobile connection on the way and the road will be a new one. ‘From Tuzatse, don’t take the same road. Go towards the village (Tuzatse) and go straight’, we were told.

The Lord of the majestic mountains watched over us on our way back. We collected a beautiful vine which we still call ‘Kizari plant’ to remember the journey. And as I write this, the gift orchids are in bloom.


We managed to reach Meluri and buy a new bladder and fill it with air. We crossed through the river Tizu again, but through another bridge, the so-called ‘Akash bridge’.

When we reached Pfutsero, what a pleasure it was to find Choli my niece who then had a liking for wearing nail cutter earrings.  

Us at Kizari church guest house.  April 12th, 2015