Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Committed and Schopenhauer’s Porcupines

Somehow writing about the second novel by Elizabeth Gilbert - the Eat Pray Love author - reminds me of the biblical story of Jesus turning water into wine. Not because it is some kind of miracle but because to me the second wine was better than the first.
When I bought it I was thinking it would be more of the same story in a different cover. But surprisingly it was not. Of course it started from where Eat Pray Love ended and how she and Felipe had to get married. A situation which arose as a border guard not granting him a visa letting him in to the USA.
I found the book an absolutely wonderful read. I love her writing style and structure. I actually savored every word and sentence whilst reading as if it were a nice meal. While Eat Pray love got a little boring towards the end you cannot say the same of this book.
It was also full of info about the origins of marriage and what marriage is to different people in different cultures. It was like reading a script to a documentary with a story line woven in.
There are two facts which I thought was interesting enough to share with you. Just in case you don't get a chance to read the book. I did speak to someone who thought the author was whiney.
The first interesting fact was that most extra marital affairs actually begin as friendships.
And the second was about Schopenhauer’s Porcupines.
Basically what it talks about is two porcupines hibernating in Winter. And as it gets colder the two porcupines begin to huddle closer and closer together. At one point they become so close their quills start to prick one another. And by this time since they are nice and warm they move apart. But once they begin to feel cold they start to move closer to each other once again. And the entire cycle keeps repeating continuously. Schopenhauer’s theory is certain human relationships are like this.
And all I could think of was how true! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cut and Paste valentine!

Meeting you was fate

Becoming your friend was a choice

Falling in love with you beyond my control

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone

Found in FB couldn't help pasting it on here as it this is exactly what I have to say to a certain someone in my life.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The shame of shame.

Apparently many females who were caught in the flash floods of the tsunami let go of the hands of their male rescuers when they realized that the gushing waters had washed their clothes off and that they were naked. They preferred death rather than have their modesty outraged.
This was told to me by "U" whilst we were having a chat the other day. She had come across at least seven people who had this kind of experience and says this is one of those facts which are spoken about in whispers in the NGO forums. This begs the question is there something called too much modesty? After all in the original plan of things humans were animals that roamed about naked. Even if you dig a littl bit in to the history of our country we were a people who were more scantily dressed. And it was the missionaries who imposed their values on us by getting us to dress in the manner we do today.

unceremoniously screwed at a ceremony...

By the creations of my own industry I might add.
Sadly corporate obligations required me to attend the POP awards which was held at Waters Edge recently. As expected it was a long winded and an absolutely boring show. But to add insult to injury the orgaizers of the show decided to ravage every one with commercial breaks. Just like on television. But longer. Some as long as twenty minutes. At least that is how long it felt. You could classify those in the audience as part of the corporate glitterati. And by blasting them with creations which you have developed for a mass audience you are insulting their intelligence. This is something that the sponsors of this function did not realize. Infact they kept bombarding the audience with their commercials repeatedly. For instance first they would play commercials as the main sponsors. Then the same commercial would be played the second and the third time as various title sponsors. It was sheer madness on display and a sure fire way of enstranging a high yeild audience. I have never bought kik cola and now after being force fed their commercials my resolve to never buy it again has increased.
Bombarding high profile audiences with commercials is a malady I have come across at many corporate functions. Though the POP organizers took it to a new low. What is tragic is this was organized by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing. An industry whose entire focus is understanding the consumer and catering to its needs. One things for sure they sure did not understand what this audience wanted. When will people learn?

The sheep in wolf's clothing!

"A gentleman is simply a patient wolf" Lana Turner
This was a quote I saw on Dee's face book page. I ouldn't help but smile when I read it. I do see some truth in that line even though I consider my self a gentleman. Of course this lead me to think of the biblical rweference to Wolves in Sheeps clothing and that in turn triggered the title of this post and its contents.
I consider myself a sheep. In life love and business. Surprisingly according to chinese numerology I am one too. Amazingly the charachteristics of the sheep they outline was one hundred percent accurate right down to a favourite phrase which I use regularly: "A drop of honey attracts more flies than a spoonfull of vinegar".
But it is not good business to be a sheep. Conventional wisdom or should I say popular business wisdom dictates you need to be ruthless, agressive, selfish arrogant, strong (what they mean is stubborn and cruel) and self centered (selfish) to succeed.
However I tend to disagree. In fact I believe in the exact opposite.
To my credit I have bult a fairly successful business based on mutual respect and a win win philosophy. Recently I was overjoyed to find a book which reflects my views by two people who also is in advertising called "The Power of Nice - how to conquer the business world with kindness" by Linda Kapalan Thaler and Robin Koval. What is important to note is that this book is one of a kind. I have NOT found or heard of another business book giving similar advice even though I have looked far and wide.
Some of the things they say are quite simple and amazing. One piece of advice I found really useful was that when walking into a meeting which is full of tension one should take something sweet which everyone can share. There is no way you can start a meeting with negativity after that as the sweet moment makes the tension disappear.
Whilst being a nice sheep is well nice there are exceptions to the rule.
As much as I distaste it sometimes I have to put on the suit of a wolf. Maybe to impress a prospective business partner or to ensure that some one does not try to climb on my head taking kindness for weakness.
But what is most dissapointing is I have realized that some of my personal relationships might have turned out more fruitful if I had treated them with less kindness and care. Maybe it stems from child hood experiences where one associates harshness with care. A warped logic which dictates he is cruel to me because he loves me so if someone else is not harsh to me it means that person does not care for me as much.
I did not realize this was possible till I was talking to my shrink friend RC who shed some light on this matter.
Guess this too should be filed under lessons learned in a corner of my heart somewhere.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The holy virgin who likes sex on the beach!

Actually the title should have read “the Married holy virgin who likes sex on the beach”. But I felt it was much crisper this way somehow.

I am sure some of you must be wondering what new potent intoxicant I must be consuming to come up with such fanatical statements. And some of you must be nodding your head in pity thinking finally this man has lost it. Whilst others would be gasping absolutely aghast, saying look to what depths one would sink to just so he can attract readers to his blog. 

I must confess that I too thought that I would never live to see the day where I would be writing such a line truthfully. But I kid you not my friends this is not a lie. A slight exaggeration to get your attention? Maybe… but it is still the truth. 

I consider myself blessed to be able to meet interesting people from all walks of life in my career. And “U” and I met whilst working on a project together. She is originally from Jaffna but has lived most of her life abroad. We clicked the moment we started talking and you could say became good friends instantly. U is a highly intelligent and articulate lady who has been an engineer leading a pretty comfortable life in Canada.
Until she decided to come to Sri Lanka and work full time as a missionary without any means of income. 

Now for those of you who don’t know, this is a concept which is quite common in charismatic Christian circles and is known as living in faith. It is an expression of ultimate devotion and trust. Where, you focus on doing God’s work and let God worry about providing for your needs. This normally happens where other people feel burdened to make donations or provide in kind for your upkeep. To me living without knowing where your next meal, money for rent or utilities are going to come from would be absolutely stressful. But “U” has been living this way for seven years so far and is quite a cheery and confident person. 

Life had been good to her from a material perspective. But extremely cruel when it came to providing her with emotional and spiritual support.
Her child hood was not rosy. She did not have a close relationship with her parents. Living in different parts of the world most of the time meant that she was unable to establish roots. To add to the misery she had gone through an unsuccessful marriage which remained unconsummated whilst her husband abused her physically. At one point everything came to a head and she contemplated suicide but something prevented her. This is how she wrote about that moment in her blog: 

“ It was the middle of the night… dark hours… Sobbing noises could be heard from the bedroom in an apartment in North York. Tears were streaming down her face. She didn’t see the point in living any more. What did life have in store for her? Never having even stayed one night alone before, the fear of facing yet another day was too much. She had managed a few weeks but in utmost fear… darting back into the building as if it was her tower of refuge. The metal brace that she had sported on her wrist for a few months was not her type of accessory. Not only did it look ugly, but also it came in the way of her personality. However she knew, without the brace, the healing of the torn ligaments would take longer. Either way, her activity had to be curbed. 
The loneliness, the uncertainty… that was something she couldn’t face. She decided on a solution – a solution that would put an end to her miseries. That’s it… the path was easily paved. Her windows on the 18th floor opened into a garden echoing the name of the road – Parkway Forest Drive. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, to stop her, let alone protect her from a jump into that beautiful picturesque scene.
She went to open the window but it seemed to be stuck. Anger crept into her already existing pool of emotions. “An engineer who can’t open a window!” she muttered under her breath. All those years at university seemed to be of no use whatsoever. She admitted defeat and turned back to her king size bed – how what could normally be of comfort, could rub in loneliness even further. However, as she lay down, she saw a vision.
Jesus appeared to her, as a shepherd with a tender lamb in His arms clutched to his chest. He said to her, “You are my lamb, and I won’t let go of you”. A wave of unexplainable peace washed over her… She somehow knew that these words were from the heart. Yes, she had more than her fair share of empty words and empty promises… but instinctively she knew that these words were authentic and trustworthy. Her tears were replaced with a childish smile and she slept like a baby for the first time in quite a while!
The next morning she woke up with sheer determination to check out what was wrong with the window. She had to notify the apartment complex owners of it. Barely had her fingers touched the latch – the window slid open. She knew, she just knew that was the work of her Lord and Saviour! Life was never to be the same again… She had someone who truly cared about her, who loved her and thought she was beautiful and precious! Her steps had a skip in them!”

And guess that is how “U” ended up being my friend. 

I do go to church and believe in the lord Jesus Christ but I am not a radical bible thumping scripture spouting born again maniac as some turn out to be. What I loved about “U” was that she did not walk around bearing a holier than thou art attitude whilst wearing a halo. She also did not try to force her opinion down your throat. I don’t have to watch my tongue or tip toe around certain subjects when she is around. I can talk to her like I would to one of my friends. Even when I asked her “that if she had a strong opinion on something if it would be considered as a Missionary position?” all she did was laugh. She is as human as you and I. This was proved beyond doubt when we were having dinner once and she let out that her favorite cocktail is “sex on the beach” - which leads to the title of this post. 
Life is by no means easy for her her now. When you are a single, intelligent, attractive, brutally blunt and opinionated - enough to call a spade a spade - foreign passport holder you don’t make a lot of friends. She is plagued by people who try to hit on her – some for her visa – and people who feel threatened by her views and opinions. Hassled by her land lady and emigration officers. Even females consider her a peril. “The married ladies think that since I am divorced I will try and seduce their husbands and the single ladies don’t want me around them as their chances of meeting someone reduces” she tells me with a smile on her face. Sadly the fact that she is divorced disqualifies her from teaching in Bible College in Sri Lanka even though she has the qualifications to do so.

What a shame.

Today she spends most of her time counseling abused children and females. Also spending time with lonely old ladies and helping them with their chores. Even though she does not have sufficient to eat, she still shares her food with people who visit her when hungry and lonely. Knowing very well that it could mean she would have to go without a meal later on. Even though she does not have enough money to make ends meet she shares the little she has with those who are less privileged. Knowing very well that this would mean having to walk to her destinations instead of taking a bus.
Unlike the hypocrites who you encounter in most religious institutions today, my friend “U” chose the best way of all to tell people about Christianity and share the love of Jesus Christ. By example! Through actions and deeds! And I salute her for that.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

400- a significantly insignificant number

Yes 400!
Wow 400!
I suddenly realized that this is my 400th post.
If not for the fact that every time you sign into blogger it opens onto an overview of all your statistics this significant event would have gone unnoticed by me. Even though I use the word significant loosely. In the larger scheme of things this blog is just a drop in the ocean of millions of similar pages. I doubt what I have said has changed the world or even made a dent on it.
But this is a significant event for me.
Because I never thought I would keep blogging this long.
I had even deleted this blog once. But fortunately blogger keeps your blog inactive for six months before deleting it completely giving one the chance to change his mind. And I am thankful that I did change my mind.
I started this blog hoping this would function as a tool which would help me to write more lucidly. I always had found it tough to write. Every time I got ready to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard as the case maybe I would get stuck. My mind would be blank. Some call it writers block. But in my case a more appropriate term would be "constipation". After much stuttering a few words would trickle out. But the trickle never turned into a gush which poured out effortlessly.
I also am a very private person who never let anyone know what is going on inside me. I assume this too contributed to my block.
However today I don't have the same problems as I did before. Words flow out of my mind with less resistance than before. And when I look back at some of the things I have revealed of my inner thoughts it surprises even me.
I do not pretend to be a perfect human being. In fact I am completely the opposite. But I sincerely hope that my words can inspire someone or at least help them learn from my mistakes. This blog is not about theory but it is full of practical examples of the ups and downs of real life.
It is also significant because I have found at least one person I call a friend thanks to this blog. Also I have got to know a handful of other bloggers. Though I don't know them personally I consider them kindred spirits.
To paraphrase the words of Neil Armstrong this 400th post is a giant step for me but a small step for mankind.
Thank you for reading everyone and helping me to call myself a blogger.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pull you through - John Taylor

I was watching the third episode of Californication season 05 online when I heard the strains of this song in the background towards the ending. Listening to it sent shivers down my spine. I don't know why but something about this song really touches me. Maybe it reflects my current emotional state. I did feature it on my previous post which says a lot. Maybe it is the voice and maybe it is the lyrics or all of the above. But I do think it warrants a post of its own where the lyrics are featured. And as I copy and paste the song writers tireless efforts I lift my hat to those behind showtime entertainment who happen to be the producers of Californication and bow down. I just love the way you do your thing gentlemen!

 Pull you through - John Taylor 
 Just reach out your hand [and] I will pull you through,
 [And] at the other end I'll be waiting there for you.
You are not alone; you are not alone.
If there's anything that I can do.*
When there's nothing left but tears and emptiness
And the way you feel has never been so cold
You will find a way to fight another day
And though you know the weather will be fine
For you Just reach out ...
When things settle down, you get back on your feet
You know that only the strong survive
You will face the day in that same old way
Don't you know the weather will be fine For you Just reach out ...

In the background…


...the stage where skilled actors perform

...the paper of the book on whose pages great thoughts adorn

...the darkness without which stars can’t shine

...the hardwood floors dancers need to grind

...the blank wall where paintings hang

...the empty canvas where it all began

    I will be always there for you

    In the background

    To help you when you stumble

    To hold you when you fall

    Seldom noticed...

    Rarely seen...

    Constantly present...

    Never redeemed...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tablet Woes or left with my own device(s)

Yes I too joined the herd and decided to treat myself to a tablet. After much thought, consideration and weighing of pros and cons I settled for a Samsung Galaxy Tab with the ten inch screen. Instead of an ipad I might add. As to the reasons why I did so merits another separate post I guess.
Till I got it I thought this device was going to change my life. But I was sadly dissapointed.
Not that the tablet was of bad quality. It was excellent and performed upto expectation. But as far as I was concerned it was just an extra device to lug all over the place with me. The brutal reality was that my trusty Black Berry gave me all the mobile computing power I needed. I use it for mails. I read books on it. I write on it. For instance this article is being tapped away on it right now. And I facebook on it. And typing on a touch screen key board ain't that much fun either. I did invest in a keypad which connects via Bluetooth to the tab but that too was not responding as well as the normal keyboard I am used to.
Other than for the fact that the larger screen enabled me to view the visuals mailed for my comments more easily without straining my eyes when I was out of office or travelling it was a 100,000 rupee mistake.
Within a couple of days my tab was sitting on a shelf in my office gathering dust. I sometimes remembered to pick it up when leaving for meetings. I must confess most of the time I was too rushed. And my tab was literally becoming part of the furniture.
Till now.
I found this cool ap at the Android market called Tune in. Which aggregates (is that the word?) radio channels all across the world. And suddenly I had access to the widest variety of entertainment one could dream of. Not only a plethora of music channels of all geners and ages. But a variety of subjects such as sports, business, comedy selfmotivation pod casts etc. Whatever I wanted to listen to there was an option. And joy of joys it can be connected to my vehicle sound system via blue tooth. And now I can drive around where ever I want whilst listening to the best music available. This is really great for me since most of the transmissions of the radio channels I listen to tend to fadeaway the moment I drive out of Colombo. And I do go out of Colombo frequently. I am yet to test this hypothesis as I am yet to head out of town after making this discovery. I am hoping that the data coverage of Etisalat is as good as it is in the city. When I bought my tab the sales executive at the Dialog Arcade said that Etisalat is the best for streaming media. He works for the Phone company and not Dialog by the way - just in case you categorise him as a Judas. A truer word has not been spoken. I am happy with my Etisalat data experience. Please note that I said happy and not overjoyed. But guess it is the better of the bad guys. Infact one day I was trying to watch a youtube video using my Dialog dongle but it was just not bufferring. However when I tried loading the identical video on my tab it loaded smoothly.
So Kudos to Etisalat for walking the talk. A little bird tells me it is actually Bell who provides the backend internet connectivity to Etisalat via the FLAG submarine cable.
I have also found that the tab is a great companion when spending time on a treadmill at the gym. I can watch movies and stuff and somehow time tends to pass faster when you are occupied this way.
Phew I am heaving a huge sigh of relief that my little aquisition did not turn out to be an expensive mistake after all.