Perfection to the World

Shakespeare once said :” The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” Realizing our imperfection leads us to the path to perfection.

History is replete with people who made their imperfection an asset to their lives.They had the courage and resolve to mould their imperfect lives into ‘extraordinary’ lives.Helen Keller, with no ‘natural’ means of communication, became the symbol of social activism.Franklin Roosevelt was a cripple. Oprah Winfrey had the darkest of childhoods.

A beautiful thought anyone can relate to :’Don’t curse yourselves for you are the creation of God. With each negative thought ,you insult God.’ The vision to see our gifts lies in being grateful to the imperfections bestowed onto us.The concept of God itself is an attempt by mankind to accept the imperfections of nature which has puzzled humankind since time immemorial.

I strongly believe in the words of the great Indian reformist Swami Vivekananda :’In a day when you don’t come across any problems,you can be sure that you are travelling on the wrong path’. The beauty of nature and fate itself lies in the imperfections abounding it.

The countless number of racism cases and hate attacks around the world is an outright negation of us accepting imperfection in fellow humans.It again is a case of blatant disrespect to the laws of nature to which we submit ourselves every day. What assurance do we have of us being the same ‘perfect’ individual tomorrow, we assume ourselves to be today?

Science exemplifies the art of reaching perfection though imperfection. The basic premise of science resides in discovering the fallacies which underlies the existing theory. With recurring cases of the speed of light barrier being broken in laboratory physics, Einstein’s laws of physics, deemed priceless by the physics community since its inception, is now under the scanner and may be classified ‘invalid’. The physics community is not let down by this discovery but considers it to be the next big thing in this field.

The quote from F. Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby highlights the importance of accepting the imperfections each person harbors. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” We need not be at the fore of social upheaval to bring about change. It is only by reminding ourselves of the perfections we are already endowed with and accepting the imperfections,can we contribute to making the world a better place.

 

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My tryst with greeting cards

I was waiting impatiently for the birthday boy. I am too punctual even for birthday parties. My friends consider this to be my fondness for free lunches. I could not disagree more. Walking through the branded shops, contemplating on the revenue and fate of the sprawling new mall, my gaze caught sight of the white in the red background displaying Archies.

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The calm, the sweet chime at the entrances and the neat stacked display of emotions had always attracted me towards a card shop. Cards themselves never fascinated me. Since childhood, I had seen cards as ‘stuff’ handed out during birthdays and anniversaries. Our school even held a card-making competition. With every art and craft competition, it was time to get sick.

The interior of the showroom was similar to the other franchisees I had visited. Wooden boards decked with cards with little plaques over them. The middle row consisting another of those stands and the corners of the rectangular shop adorned by shining glass showcases. My childhood memories came alive as I walked through the aisles. When was the last time I walked through these rows, adoring the neatly displayed cards? The arrangement evoked the last memory I had of walking in Archies. It was with my brother. We were looking for a card on our father’s birthday. It was then when I stumbled upon the Farewell section that I changed my perspective about cards and art. A card depicted a group of penguins waving goodbye to their leader, who with wide moist eyes waves back, floating away into the ocean on another ice block. I still remember delicately holding the card, scanning the picture to secure a place for it in the special album at the back of my head. I had never seen such a simple picture represent such strong emotions. I exclaimed to my brother, “Here “. He too was moved by the picture and explained with great pride, “See Shubhu, do you know who creates these greeting cards. You see it is not easy making them. Archies hires only highly creative and imaginative people of the industry. They brainstorm every day to bring out different cards on the same topic, no two cards being the same.” The image of creative young men and women on circular desks working in teams of four and five, perfecting the exact mix of art and words, floated through my mind. It was my first tryst with these soothing, silent, little works of art around me. Walking out of the shop, I felt I had unlocked another key to understanding the world. I had learnt to appreciate the work of a professional card designer.

From that day onwards cards have carried a special meaning to me. My notion of cards being just another formal routine to wish had been swept away. Admiration for designers and creative artists had taken its place. Today at the card shop I relived that experience with my brother and all those ‘other’ experiences which I had taken for granted while scanning for my friends’ birthdays.

The stream of thoughts abated as I felt the card in my hands. ‘What is so significant about the sensation of touch? Why is a hug more peaceful than words?’ I asked myself. As I write this, I feel cards exemplify the importance of touch. They serve as something in this abstract nothingness of human emotions.  They serve as the medium of communicating emotions, a conveyor of assurance that we are not alone. The adorned cardboard is worth a hundred digital template wishes.

Where did I learn History ?

I had always wished to write this article as an engineering student, and not as a student of history. An engineering undergraduate student who his passionate about social sciences courses.

Yet, it was only after reading Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer-winning book,’ All the light we cannot see‘ that I was compelled to write this article. The book provides a detailed account on how the rigours of WW2 impacted the daily life of the common citizen in France and Germany. The drive to express myself on this topic was the culmination of the various pictures painted in my mind through my various readings about the Indian Independence movement and World War 2. Caught up in a retrospective mode after having read the above-mentioned novel, thinking about the Indian scenario during the 1940’s,I asked myself, “Where had I learnt more? In my eighth grade, spending a year learning the Indian independence or during the three months which I spent reading the greatest novel on Indian Independence- Freedom at Midnight. What was more responsible for the sense and understanding of Indian Independence which I now possessed?”

The book viewed the independence movement as something more than a chapter in history. To me, the freedom movement became the reason for our existence, in ways more than the history course book taught.

Having studied history all the way from the 6th grade to the 10th grade, I could never really appreciate how significant the subject was. During my post analysis of historical novels, I was asking myself, “Were we really taught history? Do we really appreciate the value of our freedom? Why, in our quest for future growth, do we forget the basic qualities which had defined us; which had united us? ”

I could see that the biggest problem lay in the manner history was taught to us and the way in which it is still being taught. We have condemned history to a subject of rote learning, full of dates and timelines and weird names of dynasties, but in this muddle, we have undermined its basic importance. History is a work of art. To actually study the subject requires imagining earlier times, not through logic but through emotions. It requires feeling the sweat of resistors amidst the stench of burning rubble in Yugoslavia. It requires feeling the blind nationalistic fervour of the teenage soldier of the Hitlerjugend. It requires appreciating our present. It requires paying tribute to our previous generations who came through mammoth ordeals to leave behind a peaceful world.

To really feel and appreciate history, we are not required to remember dates and the names of our rulers; instead we need to read the poignant letter of the young soldier, in his dying moments, to his mother. We need to read the biographies of men who survived the concentration camps. We need to read the accounts of the atrocities at Gulag in Russia. We need to understand how India would have been, had Gandhi never been the idiosyncratic freedom fighter he was. These stories, these accounts is what is missing from the subject of history in today’s middle school. My ‘formal’ classroom history course had created a void about which I never knew. An understanding of this void only came through after I started filling it, by reading and watching the literary accounts of the survivors of the 20th century.

Being an Indian I have always felt that our nation has downplayed the value of our freedom. We know the price of freedom in terms of the number of martyrs, but have not yet understood the value of their sacrifice. This is a feeling which India will have to develop as one nation. We do pride on our peaceful existence among the multi-cultural ethnicities but only if we could remember the people who made it possible in times of savage racial abuse and bloodshed.

The solution to understanding history needs to start from the bottom up. It begins in the middle schools teaching history. The course should not be just numbers and dates. Schools and teachers will have to make efforts to screen documentaries and include historical accounts into history books.

Only when we understand our country’s history do we begin to appreciate our nation’s existence. 15th August and 26th January remain no more than holidays if we cannot remember the martyrs who sacrificed their lives at the altar of freedom. Only then do we keep up the spirit of the Amar Jawan Jyoti.

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Why playful?

The word was catchy .In a life where everything seems just not enough, to see play suffixed with something so complete in its meaning was very appealing. The word conjures many images in my head but at the background of the screen of pictures lies my playful childhood image.

Marching forward to conquer our dreams and living with the maxim of making the best of our future ,we inevitably lose track of our beloved past.The word playful was enough to take me back in time, where I still remember  showing my milk teeth to the photographer who requested us to “cheese” for the family photo beside the waterfall.

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I feel blessed to have lived a happy childhood and to have availed all the luxuries a normal child could ask for. Unfortunately, not every one of us has a playful childhood written into their destinies. The burdens of supplementing their parents’ income or an unhealthy family environment are just some instances of a child losing the golden braid of childhood which is meant to adore a person’s life.

Being playful demands us to get rid of the hypocrisy we entangle ourselves with. Being playful is fulsome with no restrictions. Nothing can define playful,it is too good to be expressed in words. Neither can it be captured through a lens and rested on the living room mantelpiece.

The word playful is distinguished from happiness by the inherent social connotation involved. I can be happy for having achieved my business goal but I will be playful when I live up to my New Year Resolution, something which I had been drumming into my friend’s head every day to garner appreciation. Playful has the ability to delight not only ourselves but all those involved with us. These are moments of extreme happiness and moreover, they are pure as they are devoid of ill-feeling towards our peers. This purity is what frequently leads us to associate playfulness with childhood.

My 20 years of life has already shown me enough reasons of not letting, let go of my playfulness.I am sure my ‘adult’ life shall offer me,even more ,lessons and reasons to fill every moment of my life with pure happiness.

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FEDERER’S RETURN TO TENNIS

The much awaited ATP 1000 Monte Carlo Masters marked the beginning of the clay court season leading into the Roland Garros but for Federer fans, the tournament would stage the return of the former World No 1. The cameras focused on the Swiss, after his 2-month long break due to a knee surgery which saw him miss out on many of his favorite hunting grounds on hard courts.

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He eased past the first 2 rounds beating G. Garcia-Lopez (6-3, 6-4) and R. Bautista Agut (6-2, 6-4) with the precision of a Swiss watch. The hopes of a Federer-Djokovic semifinal clash dashed to the ground when World No. 55, Jiri Vesley sent Novak Djokovic packing in the second round of the Tournament.

Federer was now pitted with the heavy-built Jo-Wilfred Tsonga who had quietly made his way to the quarterfinals through his powerful trademark tennis.

The Swiss took the early advantage by sending an exquisite backhand down the line to take go up 2-1 in the first set. The French came back later for the equalizer. The 7th game at 3-3 proved to be the deciding point in the first set with a well-timed approach shot giving Federer the break, who later took the first set 6-3.

The second set saw Tsonga play with much dominance and authority .Federer did try to lengthen the set by breaking him in the sixth game, but could not quell the Frenchman’s fire as he took the second set 6-2.

The finesse of Federer against the hard-hitting Tsonga got the crowds going as they cheered every point in the third set. With the rallies getting longer, no player was ready to heave the first sigh. At 4-4, Federer leading 15-0, passed a majestic return to pave the way for a break to lead 5-4 and serve for the match. 2 points away from victory at 30-15, Roger lost his way to concede a break to Tsonga to make it 5-5. Poor selection of shots and a predictable approach-to-the-net play saw Federer losing the break to Tsonga to go down 6-5.The Frenchman calmly served out to win 3-6 6-2 7-5 and record his sixth win over Federer to make it 11-6 head-to-head.

Tsonga now goes on to play fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils in the semifinals.

Federer, ever optimistic, had only positives to speak of his game, “It was a good match. It was nice to play an intense match. I’m happy [with] how the body reacted. So many good things this week. It’s all positive for me.

“Number one, it’s good to play a tournament after having had surgery. Number two, it was good to play one match. It was good to have a match with a rest, then to play again. Now it was good to play back-to-back, yesterday and today. Then it was good to play 2 hours 10 [minutes] today.”

The third set proved to be a reminder that even for a consummate pro like Federer, pressure situations can prove too much handle unless one has some games behind him.

It would not be long though before we see Roger playing his best tennis, presenting the innumerable tricks up his sleeve (the much awaited Sneak Attack By Roger – SABR on clay courts), that earn him the title of the Swiss Maestro.

Have we become slaves to Technology?

The dark clouds hovered above and I sat in my couch joyfully watching the breathtaking final of another major tennis grand slam. I had been looking forward to this day since the past two weeks and I could not allow anyone spoil it. Suddenly, bang. The prophetic misfortune had hit me. A strong gust of wind had snapped the power line down the road and I was left wretched in the darkness of the day. I was furious and disturbed. “Why can’t we have simply the perfect technology which can work under any condition, no matter what?” I asked myself. Why do we have to submit to nature and not be allowed a life of our own choice? This is a simple question, but perhaps it is the very reason we today ask ourselves “have we become slaves of technology?”

Human spirit has been an indomitable one. An urge to conquer all that is within its range is its driving instinct from birth to death. This iron-willed human endeavor has led to all major human developments and is responsible for the changes that we see today, but perhaps it is time we observed ourselves in the mirror which history holds up to us and give a deeper thought to our actions. Greed is what that has led to wars amongst humans from time to time. The intoxicating pill of lust and power was swallowed and it was not long before all hell broke loose. The above, reasons as to why the demand for technology was created and why it still remains so tightly attached to our world.  The topic in discussion here demands more depth for it is a direct attack on the faculties of human nature.

Our hearts and minds today are controlled by technology, thus we stand under the category of slaves at the mercy of technology. When man created technology, it was considered the greatest feat of mankind for it was considered the product of intelligence bequeathed to us by nature, but perhaps our obsession has led to our demise .Today we commonly see people indulged in their own little worlds which technology creates for them. They are entombed in the virtual world where they are bound by the invisible shackles of so-called connectivity. Over-dependency on anything is vice .Where once we were the masters of technology, we have been trapped in its deceptive beauty .The eagerness to see the future through the eyes of technology has robbed us of the joys of living in the present. Where technology was developed to unite the world, today we see it as the source of invisible boundaries. One cannot fail to notice how young parents today leave their children at the mercy of electrical gadgets. Technology has made terms like care, concern and compassion, just that, nothing more than a bunch of letters in a dictionary.

Technology has succeeded in conquering the minds and hearts of many a man. A person is supposed to use the superior faculties endowed by nature to understand fellow humans .A human being is not a brain, a heart, a mouth and body but is a composition of all these highly sophisticated faculties which gives him the honor of calling upon himself as the most complex organism of the world. Technology might convey our thoughts through messages but will never recreate the depth of human voice, emotions and the power of body language. When humans treat fellow beings not as ends but merely as means, we break the string of attachment which ties all humanity and blurs our very existence in this universe.

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Man is mortal .This has no proof but is only observable by the very state of surroundings around us. When we feel that things are beyond understanding of the human brain, nature is proclaimed the divine adjudicator. The spectacles which nature offers are non-paralleled from what we recreate through technology. The cooing off a nightingale on a starry night offers more serenity and solace, irreproducible with all the sound features technology offers than listening to recorded sounds on the internet. These are but gentle reminders of our relationship with nature, beckoning that we must accept what nature has as gifts and not as our rights. The image which nature conjures through its many astounding processes are still beyond human understanding and perhaps their very beauty lies in our inability to comprehend the message .The cipher is the message alone. There is no wonder camping and hiking amidst the folds of nature still remain one of the best methods of refreshment and seeking peace, which is absent in city life.

Our present situation can be compared to the man on a high paced treadmill who has reached tipping point and might tumble at the smallest increase of speed. We have discovered avenues for knowledge in every field and our quest to understand nature still continues, but perhaps we have lost the reason for indulging in this project. It is time we looked back and analyzed our actions and consequences. Avenues for development have expanded exponentially with each field of research creating its own field and so on ad infinitum. We mar what already has been given to us and then through the use of technology try to improve the case in hand. It is nothing less than the case of going two steps back and one step ahead. It was this never satisfying hunger which led to destruction in the first place but instead of forsaking technology or reducing its use, we aim to develop newer technology to counteract the process. The case of world-War 2 is a glaring example of the above statement. This was also the period of maximum advances in technology. Even today billions of dollars are spent in military funding, only to encourage technological advancement. This technological development is specifically what damages the fabric of nature and human life. The greatest weakness of human nature, its thirst for power and luxury has allowed technology to penetrate through and become one with our lives.

 

Technology undoubtedly has captivated human mind more strongly than any other revolution, but perhaps it is time we reassess as to what the purpose was for its creation. If we continue to tread this path of human devastation, that day is not far when we become nothing more than robots, pumping materialistic value to the strongest abstract concepts which nature had granted us- love, hope and sacrifice. The mire of technology is sucking this generation and perhaps it is only through the helping hands of the wise shall we be able to plant and nurture the seeds of humanity within our hearts.

A man who has no inner life is a slave to his surroundings

AN ESSAY ON:

THE MAN WHO HAS NO INNER LIFE IS A SLAVE TO HIS SURROUNDINGS (QUOTE BY FREDERICK AMIEL)

I looked out of the window to watch the trees speeding past me and the glorious sun setting down with its orange hue spread across the farmlands. The solitude and the warmth of the scene left me at the disposal of my thoughts. Times like these where calmness and tranquility prevails , present to us the opportunity to ponder over our feelings ,our thoughts ,the events which have shaped and defined us ,the blend of these conscious feelings is what Frederic Amiel refers to be our inner life. The saying of Amiel is one magnificent pearl which the sea of philosophy treasures and so carefully hides, only to be uncovered by the wisest of mortals.

Joseph Butler, a great English philosopher believed in the existence and presence of a mental faculty gifted to every human being which he referred to as conscience. He advocated that every creature of nature possessed this ability to contemplate his own actions or retrospect any act that he might have performed .This I believe forms the central core to the term “inner life “.Along  with this, all the doubts which the mind holds, all the future actions which he proposes and the consequences which he mulls over is what encompasses a person’s inner life .It can be defined in abstract terms as being a  definitive set of morals or principles which act as a compass during all times of duress and happiness, but inner life is not all about the might of the mind .

Life is meaningless without the existence of the most vital part of human life, the heart .The power of the mind although subtle very often leads it to overpowering the mind. A person whose mind and heart does not constitute such feelings or emotions can be rightly said to be a victim of all external happenings around him and devalues the greatest gift which God has given us -the life of a human being.

We often remark on how the quality of a person’s life is determined by the hard work he puts in or the amount of resources bequeathed to him but the greater factor which seems as an invisible hand directing our life is attitude. In the words of the great Carl Jung, attitude “is the readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way.” Attitude, without doubt, is one of the important factors governing success in one’s life .Our perception, or way of sensing things around us and the set of thoughts our mind factory produces at perceiving a particular situation, is dependent on our attitude. Attitude is what allows a person to cross seemingly insurmountable barriers and leave an indelible mark in the minds and hearts of one and all.

The example of Sergei Bubka, the Ukrainian athlete who broke his own record 35 times is in itself sufficient to gauge the power of attitude. Had he run his life according to the whims and fancies of the society and the people around him, one can be certain that he would never have been able to muster the strength, courage and the determination to achieve the unprecedented.

Be it the mountaineers who have conquered Mt Everest or the adventurous who, every day, explore the unknown, each person who wishes to leave a trail in this magnificent world of opportunities and challenges goes through the tough process of nurturing his inner life and polishing his attitude. It is as if nature beckons men to try their mental might and use her as a whetstone by facing the trials and tribulations which it presents and thus help themselves to be that shining diamond which awaits each one’s destiny. People who have obtained completed dominion over fear, live a satisfying inner life for they have mastered their mind and the” external surroundings” no longer deter them from accomplishing their ambitions. It is complete faith in one’s abilities which allows him/her to follow the dreams which although contrary to the norms of the society, are led by optimism which stems from their inner life.

The success stories of the greatest and the most contented people on earth have always been traced to their childhood. Hence, one is tempted to say that if one’s inner life is shaped by the influence of the society around him and by the ideology of the company he keeps, then how does one define inner life? Shouldn’t people who have been brought up in the same environment and have had similar upbringings have the same quality of inner life? No, for I believe the wiser person is the one who is able to introspect over his mistakes, learn from them and constantly look for means and methods on improving his inner life. An insightful person never squanders an opportunity to gain wisdom from the minutest of incidents.

At the end, I would just like to resound the captivating moral deduced from the cockroach story by Sundar Pichai, where he demonstrates that one should not react but respond.   The life which we create for ourselves is a sum total of our thoughts, biases, and perceptions. When we respond, we allow the surroundings to be a part of ourselves. This union between the two is what Frederick Amiel advocates. The day one decides to break free from the shackles of isolationism that is the day he would truly appreciate his very existence in this human world.

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