Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Practical Inner Integrity

I come across the need to explain inner integrity to many of my contacts.  It is hard to define, but is simple enough to practice.  I'll try to explain with a couple of examples with two people and events in their lives.

This person is middle aged and had physical ailments that is typical of middle age.  He was working for one of the biggest IT companies in the country.  His commute to work has been a problem.  On spending long hours in the commute, he developed back pain.  He went to a doctor.  The doctor prescribed some medicines and advised good rest.  After resting for a week, he felt a bit better, but was not totally alright.  He went for a check-up again.  The doctor advised some more rest if he can.  Our man thought that he can't rest anymore.  He wanted to believe that he can't afford to take any more rest, though he very well knew that nothing is affected at his workplace on his absence.  He probably thought - "What would my co-workers think of me if I'm off for such a long time? what would my kids think if I stay at home?".  He chose to live with the pain instead of being honest about his health.  He spent more time with the pain, sulking.

Another person I met recently told about how he swallowed his wish to study engineering and ended up studying Mathematics.  He probably felt that he made a sacrifice when he didn't express his wish and saved his father's money.  His father is a reasonable man and would have given a patient hearing if his son wanted one.  The father was clear about his son's capabilities.  The kid might have still ended up in a Mathematics course.  But would have given a chance to his father to explain why that was the right decision, had he expressed his wish.  That would have a given a closure to the wish.  But the son chose to hide his wish and spend the entire life about the sacrifice that wasn't there.

My simple definition of inner integrity:  Attend to your body and feelings.  They are more authentic than the thoughts and reasoning.  You may still decide to go with the reason, but listen to the authentic sources as well.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Go Ahead! Make my day...

Dear Son,

You want to be a Theoretical  Physicist.  I like your clarity.  And I know you have the seriousness and intelligence to be one.  To be a researcher and a teacher needs great inner strength.  I'm sure you have it. Your decision to stay away from software development is commendable.  You won't be one of those millions searching for a dream job in *tech* company. I'm also glad that you don't become one of the drop-out CEOs of IT companies.

 I'd like to remind you on some of the stuff you will come across as a scientist/ researcher/ teacher.
  • You may work in the outskirts of a small town.  This means you won't live in one of those high-rises marketed in Saturday newspapers.
  • You may walk or cycle to work.  No Lamborghini, Ferrari or even a BMW to work.
  • Every time you enter US, you may still be called an alien.
  • Once in a while you may be stopped for random serious checks in US airports.  Don't mind it.  That's nothing personal or racist, just dumb.
  • You can't make a big news out of it. No news channel will care to report it even if you had got a Nobel.
  • Talking of Nobel or an equivalent, Indians won't consider it great if you win in it when living in India.  And if you live in town far away from a metro, news channels won't bother you.  
  • It would take them about a day to find someone competent enough to talk to you and one more day to ship him to meet you.  By that time, it won't be a news anymore.  So, they won't bother you.
  • If you chose to make some other country as your home, there will be lot of owners in India, for your success as you will be an NRI.
  • Finding a girl to marry in Tambram can be very difficult.  Because you won't have an MBA or an engineering degree or a job that gives you enough money to pay for a flat or two in one of those high-rises mentioned in the first point.  I am sure you can make alternate arrangements.
Science doesn't sell as much in this society.  Just FYI. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

ப்லசீபோ (மருந்தற்ற குளிகை)

நன்றி:  ஜெயமோகன், துக்ளக் சத்யா 

"உட்காருங்க... என்ன பிரச்சினை?"
"இவருக்கு தாங்க.  கொஞ்ச நாளா எதுக்கெடுத்தாலும் கோபப்படுறாரு, ரெஸ்ட் லெஸ்ஸா இருக்காரு."
"என்ன வயசு"
"இருவத்தெட்டு டாக்டர் "
"எதுக்கெல்லாம் கோபப்படுறாரு?"
"பேப்பர் காரன், பால் காரன்  லேட்டா வந்தா, அஜீர்ணம்னா, எதுக்கெடுத்தாலும்..."
"என்ன வேலை?'
"கம்ப்யூட்டர்ல, அடுத்த வாரம் அமேரிக்கா வேற போகணும்."
"அனேகமா ஒர்க் ப்ரெஷர் தான் காரணம்... வேற வேலை பாக்க முடியுமா?"
"முடியாது டாக்டர்... கம்ப்யூட்டர்  தவிர வேற எதுவும் தெரியாது."
"ஹாபி ஏதாவது? ஸ்டாம்ப், காயின் சேக்கறது செய்வாரா?"
"கவிதை கட்டுரையெல்லாம் எழுதுவாருங்க... கல்யாணத்துக்கு முன்னாடி.  இப்ப எதுக்கும் டைம் இல்ல"
"நல்லா தூங்கறதுக்கு மாத்திரை தரேன்.  ஆனா அது மட்டும் போதாது.  எரிச்சல் தர எல்லாத்துக்கும் ஒரு ஆறுதல் அல்லது காரணம் தெரியற வரைக்கும் திரும்பி இந்த பிரச்சினை வரும்.  கொஞ்சம் டைம் குடுங்க; ரெண்டு நாள் கழிச்சு கால் பண்ணுங்க, இல்ல முடிஞ்சா நீங்க மட்டும் வந்தா கூட போதும்..."

இரண்டு நாட்களுக்குப்பின்:
"இன்டர்நெட்டுல எல்லாம் தேடி பாத்துட்டேன்மா... ஒரு நல்ல மருந்து கிடைச்சிருக்கு.  நீங்க பிராமினா?"
"இல்ல  டாக்டர்.  ஏதாவது டயட் மாத்தணுமா? நாங்க வாரத்துக்கு அஞ்சாறு நாள் சைவம் தான்.."
"நல்லது.  எப்பல்லாம் பிரச்சினை வராப்ல இருக்கோ, அப்ப பிரச்சினைக்கு காரணம் பார்ப்பன சதின்னு சொல்லிடுங்க."
"...?"
"கொஞ்சம் யோசிச்சா அவங்க தான் காரணம்னு ப்ரூவ் பண்ணிடலாம்;  ஆனா யோசிக்க வேண்டியதே இல்ல...ஏன்னு கேள்வி, ஏதாவது ஒரு பதில் இருந்தாலே போதும். பிரச்சினை இருக்கறதே மறந்து போய்டும்."
"ஆனா நிறைய பிராமின் ப்ரெண்ட்ஸ்  இருக்காங்களே?  அவங்க தப்பா நெனைச்சுக்க மாட்டாங்களா?"
"மாட்டங்க.. ரொம்ப கேட்டாங்கன்னா ராமானுஜர் சொன்னார், சங்கராச்சாரியார் சொன்னார்னா போதும். அவங்களே ஒத்துப்பாங்க..."
"எத்தனை நாளுக்கு டாக்டர்?"
"தேவைப்பட்டா ஆயுள் முழுக்க.  டயபடீஸ், பிரஷர்னா மாத்திரை லைப் லாங் சாப்பிடறதில்லையா?  அது மாதிரிதான்..."
"மாத்திரை மாதிரின்னு சொல்றீங்க,  சைடு எபெக்ட் இருக்காதா?"
"அதையும் யோசிச்சிட்டேன்.  நான் பிராமிந்தான்.  சைடு எபெக்ட் ஏதாவது பிரச்சினை வந்தா, நாந்தான் காரணம்.  பார்ப்பன சதி. எப்படி என் ஐடியா?"

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Pests, Weeds, Paulo Coelho and Me

I have a daily chore called மொட்டைக்கு சந்தனம் போடும் வேலை - roughly translates to "Applying Sandal paste to a tonsured head".  This is to water the plants on the terrace.  The plants in our garden have less exposure to the hot sun and so it is enough that they are watered twice a week.  But the ones on the terrace have direct exposure to the sun for about 6-7 hours.   The soil gets dry by the night.  So, it is mandatory that the plants are watered everyday.

During peak summer, the rose plants went through a depression, and so not much of blossoms.  Arali (Nothapodytes nimmoniana) likes summer, was on full bloom.  After a few days after the first flower, I started observing tiny yellow spots on the arali buds.  The tender shoots were sticky too.  I left the sticky flowers alone and plucked the ones that were dry and clean.  After a few days, the yellow spots turned white.  I figured that the yellow spots were eggs of some tiny insect.  Once they are hatched, the egg drains and the white shells are left behind by the young insect.

I could see nature's brilliance in the whole process.  There isn't a safer cooler place than the shoots of a plant that is in full bloom.  If I hadn't observed, I would have missed the beauty of it.  Once I observed, I didn't feel like cleaning up the the plant by spraying pesticides on it.  And the pest was nice to the plant as well.  It didn't damage the plant, but just prevented me from plucking the flower that was sticky and spotted.

Paulo Coelho had the same dilemma with the weeds in his garden (Like the flowing river).  The Gita came to his help for clarity on actions.  It came to my help as well.  Had I been a gardener, my responsibility would have been to clean up the plant with pesticides.  Had I been an entomologist, I would have observed the pests and studied them.

I'm neither; my responsibility is to water the plants and I stop at that.  I don't take away the weeds, I don't spray pesticides, I won't affect anything beyond what I need to.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Experiencing Grief

Recently my uncle passed away at my native town of Trichy.  As soon as the news reached me, my wife and I got into the action mode.  We called other relations, arranged for rituals, transportation etc.  As we drove from Chennai, I was wondering if I am an emotionless task master.

A little later, grief enveloped me like a breeze and I cried.  The sight of the dead body, his personal items and favorite food triggered the grief over the next couple of days and I didn't hold back by grief.  There is a sense of satisfaction every time I experienced it.  When people do not know what it is to experience, they talk.  I was harsh on cousin who kept talking at the time of grieving.  Grief is as normal as breathing and not experiencing it would amount to suffocation.

An important factor in Indian cultures is the presence of rituals and music that force people to grieve.  Oppari (Rudaali) and other rituals (where visitors remind the deeds of the departed) are supposed to let the emotion out.  Due to various conditioning, people tend to skip the experience.  A friend who considers himself a very rational, held back on the death of his mother.  A year later, when he visited a nearby temple, his defense broke and he let himself cry.

Life throws us a lot of situations where emotions like grief strike us.  There is no escape.  Except at occasions like death where rituals let you experience the emotion, we skip it.  Trust me - experiencing is like breathing and so - to experience is to live.