Monday, 26 December 2011

Do you consider yourself work in progress?

Do you consider yourself a work in progress or a finished product?How does  your belief on such issues as IQ and innate talents, affect you in different areas of your life?Professor Carol S. Dweck , Ph .D. of Stanford university  analyses this in her  246 pages long book called "Mindset:The new psychology of success" published  in 2006.I read it recently and found it simply written but very profound .You  can call it a self help book , because it helps us to understand the meaning and  importance of mindset and  what needs to be done to succeed in life .It is a book on psychology and success.But it does not talk about positive or negative attitudes or thinking.The book has eight chapters , three on what mindset is , and four chapters on the role of mindset in sports,business, relationships and parenting/education .The last chapter is on changing the mindsets.Key words are growth , mindset, belief , effort and ability.
The book has changed my thinking on mindsets , and has succeeded in convincing me that in all areas of life , the role and contribution of effort , persistence and resilience is far more important than those of ability and talent.It has helped me to understand the most direct way to succeed in  any chosen area of life.I do believe now that growth mindset leads to success in most areas of life.I also believe that mindset can be changed.
   Mindset is a belief about our qualities and abilities.Mindset is also a belief about what makes us successful .Carol divides mindsets into two types.Fixed mindset is a belief that our qualities , abilities and talents are in our genes and cannot be changed .Growth mindset is a belief that our qualities , abilities and talents can be cultivated ad changed by efforts, perseverance and resilience.Then there is a belief that success is mainly determined by our abilities.The opposite belief is that success is 99% hard work and innate talent contributes very little to it .You may win once with ability but to win over and over , you need character which comes out of growth mindset.Carol quotes John Wooden:"I believe , ability can get you to the top but it takes character to keep you there."In fixed mindset , you can win games .But to win championships , you need growth mindset.It is the growth mindset which changes life.

Our traditional belief is that Intelligence Quotient(IQ) is innate and hardwired .It broadly remains unchanged  in our life.But Carol quotes Alfred Binet, the inventor of IQ as below:"With practice , training , and above all , method , we manage to increase our attention , our memory, our judgment and literally to become more intelligent than we were before."Our IQ is not fixed , it can be changed .The same is true of other abilities or talents .We need to change our belief that our abilities are fixed .We need to develop a growth mindset  ,or the belief that we can acquire any ability , including the artistic ability with training.In other words , we can become "smart"with hard work.There are no short cuts in life.Then success becomes a function of having a growth mindset.Mindset  affects all areas of life from sports , business, leadership , education , parenting to  relationships.
 It is not necessary that we automatically  have a growth mindset in all areas of life .We may have fixed mindset in certain areas of life and growth mindset in the remaining areas of life. We need to know  and analyze our mindset.Then we must change our mindset to growth mindset in those areas of life , where for the present it is fixed mindset.
This premise of the book comes up against the widely prevalent American  culture which values effortless accomplishment higher than achievement with efforts.Malcolm Gladwell , the author and New Yorker writer, "has suggested that as a society we value natural , effortless accomplishment over achievement through effort."The book says that you should be hardworking , even if you are smart /talented."The story of the tortoise and the hare, in trying to put forward the power of effort , gave effort a bad name.It reinforced the image that effort is for the plodders and suggested that in rare instances, when talented people dropped the ball , the plodder could sneak through"
I think , Asian  culture also(?) prefers effortless accomplishments , though I am not aware of any studies which might have been done in this regard , in any country of Asia.
The self-esteem movement also presupposes a fixed mindset .Carol's advocacy of  growth mindset , to some extent goes against self-esteem movement .
What is more important , brilliance /smartness/ability or effort/hard work/perseverance/resilience?Carol comes fully in favour of the latter(Growth mindset). There are no natural geniuses.Creativity is not magic. Becoming is better than being.It prefers" Doing the best "over "Being the best"Taking charge of process brings success.It accepts and embraces  challenges. Growth mindset promotes team work , persistence in the face of setbacks.It attacks elitism, and credits fixed mindset with being a loner .Growth mindset implies full and open discussion of all information, culture of self examination, open communication and team work.It produces perseverance and resilience , which are number one ingredient in creative achievement.A growth mindset person must address every criticism and learn from it.It finds lessons and inspiration in the success of others.In the event of failure, growth minded people take the blame on themselves while the fixed mindset people blame others."As you become a more growth minded person, you are amazed at how people start to help you, support you.they no longer seem like adversaries, out to deny you what you deserve."
We need to believe in growth mindset .Train our mentee in this mindset .Fulfill our own mission and the growth of our mentees.Mentoring and learning needs perseverance.
One important corollary of growth mindset is that when we recruit people to man important positions , we should select people with growth mindsets , and reject people with fixed mindset , however talented that may be .
One drawback of the book is that it does not tell how to switch over from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset .But Carol does suggest us to ask ourselves a few questions and try to find answers to these.What are the opportunities for learning and growth today, for yourself as well as for the people around you?Make a plan or a project to change your mindset and to grow, and act on these.Take steps to maintain and continue the growth.Develop or attend a workshop to change mindset from fixed to growth.Develop study skills , study strategies and new learning styles.
  I have been a student of motivation and have frequently delivered talks on motivation .When we discuss the role of praise as a motivator , we praise the ability and very rarely , we praise the effort .Carol says that we must praise the effort and the achievement , and not the ability .This may sound radical , but Carol backs it up with her research findings.It is an important and profound insight.I tend to agree with the author.
The role of ability or talent in success is over rated .A one time winning of Gold Medal , in a university or school , is not important  in the long term success in life.
Mindset plays an equally important role in relationships and love.Is chemistry more important than relationship skills , or the other way round? .A fixed mindset blames character flaw in the partner while a growth mindset tries to understand and encourages forgiveness.A fixed mindset , when it sees character flaws in the partner , becomes contemptuous of partner and dissatisfied with the whole relationship.Growth mindset sees conflict as a problem to be solved.However , Carol does not answer all questions in this area.Fixed mindset requires or expects a partner to have total or uncritical acceptance .Growth mindset requires /expects the partner to learn new things and become a better person .I am not sure , if expecting a change in partner really makes a relationship better .I feel , in the area of relationship , the growth mindset raises more questions than answers.What if one partner has a fixed mindset and the other a growth mindset?Perhaps a more thorough analysis is called for .But Carol is at her best when it comes to learning and education .She gives very inspiring examples of Marva Collins and Esquith.
About Marva Collins and Esquith  , Carol says;"Collin's students read and discussed every line of Macbeth in class.Esquith spent hours planning what chapters they would read in class.It takes enormous energy to plan a passage for each youngster.Esquith's class often met before school, after school and on school vacations to master the fundamentals of English and maths.His motto:"there are no short cuts'.'
Marva Collins has no doubt about the role of effort:"There is no magic here.I do not walk on water.I just love children and work harder than a lot of people, and so will you"Growth mindset motivates us to learn and improve, and make efforts.
In Seven Habits of highly effective People , Covey  also talks about responsibility .Responsibility comes with growth mindset only .
The book describes three model leaders with growth mindset;Jack Welch , Lou Gerstner,and Anne Mulcahy.All leaders need to have a growth mindset.There is a relationship between leadership and our capacity to grow and develop.

This book has been able to break many of my beliefs on some very important but obvious things .I have begun to see and admire people more on the basis of their efforts,achievements and honesty and less on the basis of their talents.I have begun to have more faith in intelligent hard work .I have stopped living under the shadows of trophies, gold  medals , awards that I happened to have won in the past .
Read it and see what this book does to you.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Lok Pal

The bill pertaining Lok Pal is being debated in Lok Sabha.Some of our Members of Parliament really spoke seriously and brilliantly in Lok Sabha .It gives some hope .The whole nation watches and waits for the outcome .
When I think seriously , I ask myself whether we really need another institution.Are the existing institutions not adequate?Is the problem in the institutions , or in our willingness (or otherwise) to make those existing institutions effective?I  am of the view that the crux lies in making  either the existing institutions effective , or creating a new institution which will be effective.I mean , which cannot be subverted .
I agree that the existing institutional structure has many  inadequacies, as also much needs to be done by way of increasing and strengthening our willingness to make it effective .It is therefore  not a bad idea to create a new institution , (though it amounts to admitting how inadequate we have proved ourselves to be ,on the issue of tackling corruption).But creating just ANY institution in a hurry ,  is a bad idea.We MUST ensure that it proves to be effective .This requires more detailed deliberation .Without this , I am afraid , we will do more harm to the cause of  curbing corruption.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The meaning of freedom

Infidel  by Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a living document  about freedom .It is real , gripping  , living , breathing and moving  autobiography of one of the greatest living women.It has inspired me in many ways .Every woman must read it , every man should read it.And I am sure that any person who reads this book can only feel inspired to accept and  espouse the cause of freedom , values  and self realisation .Hirsi Ali's life is her message.Hers is a journey from repression to freedom.Out and out , she emerges as a passionate champion of women's rights.
Some of the truths that Hirsi tells are uncomfortable , like  torture of female circumcision ,civil war , forced marriage  and death threats. Hirsi wrote this book  of 353 pages in 2007 when she was 38 years old. At that time ,she was under the threat of death .Her journey from Mogadishu(Somalia) to Saudi Arabia,Ethiopia, Kenya , Netherlands and to the USA  ,marks the remarkable evolution of a woman from repressed backwardness to confident liberation .It was a real  transformation.She broke the shackles of her past but it required a great effort She thinks with clarity and writes with precision .The impact on reader is deep and real .She leaves the reader with  admiration about her, and unease with self.She is a woman of undaunted spirit and courage .
Her life illustrates that religious tolerance should never come in the way of basic human rights.Real experience gives birth to our beliefs, and resolves.

Ayaan was  born on November13,1969. in Mogadishu ,Somalia.she has an elder brother , Mahad .She had a  younger sister Haweya , who later on died due to mental illness .She loved her father,Hirsi Magan , though later , she refused to obey him when she decided to divorce her husband ,selected by her father.Ayaan became a member of Parliament in Holland in January ,2003.

She describes the  custom of female circumcision with disarming directness as follows:"In Somalia, like many countries across Africa and the Middle East,little girls are made "pure" by having their genitals cut out.There is no other way to describe this procedure, which typically occurs around the age of five.After the child's clitoris and labia are carved out, scraped off, the whole area is often sewn up, so that a thick band of tissues forms a chastity belt made of the girl's own sacred flesh. . ."
Her father  escaped from jail into Ethiopia and met her mother clandestinely in Saudi Arabia.Her father found a job in Riyadh , and her mother moved with children to Mecca.They were deported and asked to leave Saudi Arabia.The family moved to Ethiopia.This was in 1979.After living in Ethiopia for about a year , her father decided to move the family to Kenya.They flew to Nairobi in July , 1980.Nairobi was a place exposed to the west , and it is here that "an entire   world of Western ideas began to take shape."She read Charlotte Bronte,Jane Austen , and Daphne du Maurier.Meanwhile , her father married some other  woman and her mother had to be dependent on others to bring up her children.This had a deep impact on Ayaan ."I told myself that I would never let this happen to me.I would never be dependent on any one in this way"
She was forced by her father to marry Osman Moussa.But that first afternoon on Bonn(On her way to Canada to join her husband) a new idea crept upon her that she did not even have to go to Canada , the place of her husband Osman Moussa.She knew that another kind of life was possible.It was Friday , July 24,1992, when she stepped on the train to Holland.It was her real birth day , when she was born as a person making decisions about her life on her own..She changed her name from Ayaan Hirsi Magan to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.Later,she got a pink card to stay in Holland for the rest of her life as a recognised refugee.
She decided that she had a right to rule her own life..She was determined not to lie.When some elder asked her why she was divorcing her husband , she said ,"It is the will of the soul.The soul cannot be coerced.".Her father said that she had disgraced him.But her mother was kind."I needed my belief system to be logical and consistent".She had a great respect for truth.If what she said was true, she was not going to apologise for the truth.
She decided that she wanted to study political science.She enjoyed reading various subjects."It was such a privilege to watch people thinking,page after page.Every thing in the books was so beautifully put together,so rational.We learnt to define ,, to think clearly about what we were saying, to set out our thinking in building blocks and argue with data..In this way , we improved on older theories and expanded our understanding of the world".She graduated from Leiden in September,2000.She became a junior researcher with Labour Party."I found myself discovering my opinions as I typed."I had left God behind years ago.I was an atheist.There are no absolutes .Progress comes through critical thought" .She wanted to be like Popper: free of constraint,recognising greatness but unafraid to detect its flaws.She accepted every invitation to speak.She was and  is very fond of buying crate loads of books and reading them and thinking about what she read.

It was Neelie Kroes ,a prominent politician from Liberal Party, who  influenced her to shift from academia to active politics.She said that no matter how wonderful a PhD thesis AyaanAyaan could do with her life was expose the reality of those women's lives to people in power and make sure that  existing laws demanding equality between the sexes were applied.She should be in a combat of action,not ideas.She should stand for Parliament where she could truly have an effect on the emancipation of Muslim women and the integration of immigrants. .She became a one-issue politician in 2003.
As a politician , she could no longer have a normal relationship with journalists.She could not simply say what she thought,like an ordinary person .She was now a politician;the media ,rather than a source of information, was an instrument she must learn to use .

It is time for people who want to reform Islam to try not only speeches but also satire,arts , music ,videotapes,websites and books.She leaked bits and pieces of policy document, used aspects of it in other debates and gradually built a coalition .She knew it too well that "it takes a long time to dissolve the bars of a mental cage".Most of the organisations are comfortably bloated on subsidies and produce virtually no real programs .
She and the famous Amsterdam filmmaker Theo van Gogh made a film Submission :Part one in July 2004.Submission was aired on August 29,2004.On November2,2004, Theo van Gogh was killed  for his radical views contained in this film.

On May 15,2006,she was informed by the Justice department that due to the use of incorrect personal data during the naturalization process, the decree that naturalised her was declared void .She was evicted from her apartment due to  the reason that her presence made  the neighbours unsafe.
American Enterprise Institute offered her a job  from September,2006.On June 29,2006 , the Green Party called for a motion of no confidence in Rita Verdock  in Dutch Parliament.Rita had been responsible to set preconditions for Ayaan to get her Dutch citizenship back .The government collapsed and new elections were announced.
She  says that found in Holland freedom to think and freedom to express."Where I grew up , death is a constant visitor .A virus , bacteria, a parasite, drought , famine, soldiers , torturers could bring it to anyone , any time I feel privileged to be alive and free.Death comes riding on raindrops that turned to floods . . .For many women , because of the perception of lost honor, death comes at the hands of a father , brotheror husband .Death comes to young women giving birth to new life, leaving the new born orphaned in the hands of strangers."
"I  feel privileged to be alive and free.I moved from the world of faith to the world of reason-from the world of excision and forced marriage to to the world of sexual emancipation..I would like to be judged on the validity of my arguments, not as a victim."The values matter.If we face up to the terrible reality we are in, we can change our destiny.She ends the book with two powerful messages .:"We in the West would be wrong to prolong the pain of transition unnecessarily, by elevating cultures full of bigotry and hatred toward women to the stature of respectable alternative ways of life." and "People adapt.People who never sat on chairs before can learn to drive cars and operate complex machinery;they master these skills very quickly.Similarly , Muslims don't have to take six hundred years to go through a reformation in the way they think about equality and individual rights."

When I finished reading this book , I felt shocked .I had not known that even today ,in somalia and many other countries of the world , this modern world accepts , tolerates and is indifferent to the injustices meted out in routine to the little girls .One may or may not agree with all her views on religion , but she manages very successfully to provoke and question our basic belief structure.Partly by accident and partly by her authenticity and character , Ayaan Hirsi Ali changes you on many planes .

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

How to read a book by MortimerJ. Adler and C.VDoren

 About 130 years ago, Gustave Flaubert (Author of Madam Bovary) made the following remark,"What a scholar one might be if one knew well only some half a dozen books."To be a good reader has always been the aspiration of all great minds.
I realised very acutely the deficiencies in my reading skills  when I found that my comprehension of some of the great books had been really low .By  a stroke of chance , I  reread some of these  great books very slowly and analytically ,  and realised my mistakes.I am an ambitious reader but the time to read great books is just not enough , due to other demands on my time .You cannot buy time as you can buy books.This left me with the only option : To revisit the way I read books .I have realised that rapid reading need not be good reading .Also , wide reading need not be good reading. I also read Nabakov's "Lectures on Literature."I also understood with Nabakov(Author of Lolita) that to understand  and appreciate a master writer or a master artist , the reader should have and use imagination, intelligence and energy.The reader has to be deserving.I am aware that in the era of Kindle and e-books , printed books are fast losing the race, but even to comprehend and appreciate a creative work on the cyber space , you need a similar skills- set, similar mind and similar imagination.
Mortimer J. Adler wrote this book in 1940 , but it is needed more now than when he wrote it . This book is a living classic.It is long , with 426 pages , and is a serious work about proper reading .It has been translated into five languages,French,Swedish,German , Spanish ,Italian.
What really makes a good reader? Vladimir Nabakov answers this question as follows:"A good reader is one who has imagination, memory , a dictionary and some artistic sense. .. ."He also says that the best temperament for a reader to have , or to develop, is a combination of the artistic and the scientific one.This applies to the reader of fiction as well as science.The boundary between the work of fiction and work of science is not as clear as is generally believed.In fact , a good novel has the "merging of the precision of poetry and the intuition of science.".While there is a case of improving ourselves as a person , there is always a scope to improve in the art of reading .
As Nabakov says , one cannot  read a book:one can only reread it .A good reader , an active reader is a re- reader.When we read a book , the very process of learning stands between us and artistic appreciation.It is only on second or subsequent readings that we appreciate the book .

"How to read a book" describes the four levels of reading:
1.Elementary reading
2Inspectional reading
3.Analytical reading
4.Syntopical reading
Reading is an art.Our goal is to acquire higher levels of skill in this art.Reading skill is taught and learnt  in the schools   in the first six grades.But at that age and stage, we do not reach the limit of efficiency in reading .Often , we remain poor and incompetent readers.
The authors make it clear that good reading is not speed reading .The main purpose of good reading is to gain understanding  and appreciation  of the book .These rules of reading can be applied not only to books but also to newspapers,magazines , articles,pamphlets, and even advertisements.
Reading is active.It is less like receiving a blow and more like catching the ball in a game of baseball.Reading requires us to be alert and awake .We must not daydream while reading.
Books can be categorised into practical or theoretical books,imaginative literature(poetry,novels, plays, stories) or history, science or mathematics, Social sciences , philosophy, reference books , journalism and advertising.While the general rules of good reading remain the same , there are some differences when you read a fiction  or non-fiction .Fiction satisfies many conscious as well as unconscious needs of a reader.When you read the work of fiction, you have the experience that the author tried to produce for you by working on your imagination and emotions.There is magic as well as sensual imagery."The logic of expository writing aims at an ideal of unambiguous explicitness.Nothing should be left between the lines.Everything that is relevant and statable should be said as explicitly and clearly as possible.In contrast,imaginative writing relies as much upon what is implied as upon what is said.The multiplication of metaphors puts almost more content between the lines than in the words that compose them.The whole poem or story says something that none of its words say or can say."You do not look for terms, propositions and arguments in imaginative literature.
  It is necessary to read more than one account of the history of an event or period if we want to understand it.Similarly , in case of philosophy books , sometimes it takes years to read , and many reading and re-readings.
Reading has three purposes:
3.Understanding /appreciating
Understanding  and appreciating is the most important purpose.Our continuous education depends on books and reading them with understanding. To be widely read is not the same thing as to be well read.A person who reads too widely but not well is Literate ignoramus.He is at par with an ignorant person .
Reading is similar to listening .It is an active process.It is never effortless.Thinking as well as imagination is a part of reading.
 Inspectional reading is also called skimming systematically .You allow yourself a fixed time(say one hour) and within that time , you complete the book or part of the book .You can then answer the question'"What is this book about?"The main aim of inspectional reading is to discover whether the book needs a more careful reading.Some important steps in inspectional reading are as below:
1.Look at the title page and the preface .Read these quickly.
2.Study carefully the table of contents.
3.Check the index , the kind of books , authors and crucial terms appearing in the index.
4.Read the publisher's blurb on the jacket.
5.Look at the chapters that seem pivotal to its argument.
6.Thumb through the book .Read a paragraph or two , sometimes several pages in the last few pages .
Done in this way , inspectional reading can give a value for a reader.
Analytical reading is thorough and complete.In Bacon's words, it means "chewing and digesting " a book .
In syntopical reading , you read many books on the same subject and compare them.After comparing , you create an analysis of the subject , which may not be in any of the books.Syntopical reading is is the most active and most effortful reading.
We are expected to master our elementary reading in our primary and junior high school .If we have done so , we should begin a book with inspectional reading .A good inspectional reading will help us to decide whether we should go for thorough analytical reading .Finally , analytical reading of one book will help us to decide whether we should go for reading synoptically a number of other books on the same subject .
The preparation for an examination requires a synoptical reading on the chosen subject .
We need to institute courses in analytical and synoptical reading in high schools and colleges.Only the we can hope to become a nation of competent readers.
As the literacy spreads , we need more and more people to be trained in higher levels of reading .
Inspectional reading is done twice.First stage is systematic skimming.The second stage is superficial reading.In this , you read the book through at least once , before you do analytical reading ,pay attention to what you can understand and do not be stopped by what you can not immediately grasp.Concentrate on what you do understand.Superficial reading is the first necessary step in the interpretation of a book 's contents
Normally , inspectional reading is faster than analytical reading However , there is every need to read faster , depending on the material we are reading .One effective way to increase the speed is this;"Place your thumb and first two fingers together and sweep this pointer across a line of type, a little faster than is comfortable for your eyes to move Force yourself to keep up with your hand.You will soon be able to read  the words as you follow your hand.Keep practising this, and keep increasing the speed at which your hand moves, and before you know, it will have doubled or trebled your reading speed."
Concentration in reading means not day dreaming, and not letting the mind wander.Speed reading achieves concentration.But concentration alone does not lead to comprehension or understanding.Sometimes comprehension requires days, or weeks, or even years.Speed reading therefore, need not improve our comprehension and need not be given too much importance.
It is generally desirable to skim or do inspectional reading of even a book that we intend to read carefully, to get some idea of its form and structure.

The four questions a good  reader must ask are :
1.What is the leading theme of the book ?
2.What are the main assertions and arguments?
3.What does your own mind say about what the book says?Is what the book says true?
4.Is the book important to know?Will you seek what follows or is further implied or suggested?
Marking a book is an expression of your differences or your agreements with the author.Marking a book gives you intellectual ownership of the book.
Seven devices for marking a book are :
1.Underlining,circling key words or phrases, vertical lines at the margin.
2.Star or asterisk at the margin to mark the most important passages.
3.Numbers to indicate the sequence of points.
4.Numbers of other pages which make the same points or contradict them.
5.Notes in the margin, at the top, bottom and in the end papers at the back of the book.
6.The front end papers for a record of your thinking.
7.You can make notes during Inspectional reading also, not only during analytical reading.
There are three kinds of note making:
1.Structural notes at the time of inspectional reading .
2.Conceptual notes at the time of analytical and synoptical reading.
3.Dialectical notes at the time of synoptical reading.
The title of the book as well as the chapter headings need to be read carefully.
Analytical reading has 15 rules :
1.Classify the book according to kind and subject matter.
2.State what the whole book is about in a single sentence, or at most a few sentences(a short paragraph).
3Enumerate the major parts of the book in their order and relation, and outline these parts as you have outlined the whole.
4.Find out and define the problem or problems the author is trying to solve.
5.Find the important /key words and through them , come to terms with the author.
6.Mark the most important sentences in a book and discover the leading propositions that the author is making .
7.Locate or construct the basic arguments in the book by finding them in the connection of sentences.In other words , find if you can the paragraphs in a book that state its important arguments.But if the arguments are not thus expressed, your task is to construct them by taking a sentence from this paragraph ,and one from that, until you have gathered together the sequence of sentences that state the propositions that compose the author's arguments.
8.Find out what the author's solutions are.Determine which of his problems the author has solved and which he has not;and as to the latter, decide which the author knew he had failed to solve.
9.Do not begin to talk back until you have listened carefully and are sure you understand.You must be able to say with reasonable certainty,"I understand" before you can say any of the following things;"I agree", or "I disagree"., or "I suspend my judgement".
10.When you disagree, do so reasonably and not disputatiously or contentiously.
11.Respect the difference between knowledge and mere personal opinion, by giving reasons for any critical judgement you make.
12.Show wherein the author is uninformed.
13.Show wherein the author is misinformed.
14.Show wherein the author is illogical .
15.Show wherein the author's analysis or account is incomplete.
You should not read any commentary by someone else until after you have read the book .
Both inspectional and analytical reading can be considered as preparation for syntopical reading.The seven steps in syntopical reading are as below:
1.Create a tentative bibliography of your subject by recourse to library catalogues, advisers and bibliographies in books.
2.Inspect all the books on the tentative bibliography to ascertain which are germane to your subject and also to acquire a clearer idea of the subject.
3.Inspect the books already identified above in order to find the most relevant passages.
4.Bring the authors to terms by constructing a mental terminology of the subject that all, or the great majority of the authors can be interpreted as employing, whether they actually employ the words or not.
5.Establish a set of neutral propositions for all the authors by framing a set of questions to which all or most of the authors can be interpreted as giving answers, whether they actually treat the questions explicitly or not.
6.Define the issues, both major or minor ones, by ranging the opposing answers of authors to the various questions on one side of an issue or another.You should remember that an issue does not always exist explicitly between or among authors, but that it sometimes has to be constructed by interpretation of the authors' views on matters that may not have been their primary concern .
7.Analyse the discussion by ordering the questions and issues in such a way as to throw maximum light on the subject.More general issues should precede less general ones, and relations among issues should e clearly indicated.

 Syntopical reading pose the following paradox"Unless you know what books to read , you cannot read syntopically, but unless you can read syntopically, you do not know what to read".


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Civil Service as a career . . . .An address to the Youth

I got this opportunity to address about 2000 meritorious students of all City Montessori Campuses of  Class 12th(ISC 2012 Batch) on 28th November , 2011  in Lucknow .The subject was career guidance , with special reference to the option of civil services as a career.One of my motivations was to inspire some of those bright youths , who have the character as well as the ideals to build the nation and serve the masses ,to join the civil services.
Two broad options before the youth of today are  to become an entrepreneur , or to go for a job .Entrepreneurship gives freedom  but involves uncertainties and insecurities .This is a whole , wide area , and I decided to speak about it at length in a separate session .
For those who want to go for a job , the two major  areas are the government / public sector on one hand , and the private sec tor / multinationals on the other hand.In India , in government sector , we have All India services and central services.The three All India services are IAS(Indian Administrative Service), IPS(Indian Police Service) and IFS(Indian Forest Service).The central services include IRS(Indian Revenue Service), IC&CES(Indian Customs and Central Excise Service), IFS(Indian Foreign Service), IRTS(Indian Railways Traffic Service)IPoS(Indian Postal Service),IA&AS(Indian Audit &Accounts Service) , etc.
At the state level , we have PCS(Provincial Civil Service) and PCS(J) (Provincial Civil Service Judicial).We also have PCS Allied Services like Transport , Taxation Service , etc.
At local level , we have municipal  services and Panchayat services.
It is very difficult to compare the services in the public /government sector with those in the private sector including those in the multi- nationals.In public domain , we also have non-profits , International agencies like the World Bank  and the UNO/UN agencies , Universities and professionals.All India services /central serviceslike  IAS/IPS/IRS have some unique edge over the private sector jobs.
1.There is a security of job under article311 of the Constitution of India .
2.Salaries have become competitive , especially after the Sixth Pay Commission .
3.These services enjoy status, prestige and recognition in the society .
4.These have administrative powers .They also have proximity to political power.
5.IAS offers tremendous variety of jobs like:
1)Governance , security against terrorism , Food security , Elections , Global climate change , Environment , Clean water and air .
2)Strategic thinking , policy analysis and policy formulation .
3)Developmental project preparation and implementation .
4)Education , health ,Poverty alleviation , HIV.
5)Protocol , representing state /country in national /international fora.
6)To serve the hungry,the poor,the sick , the illiterate.To bridge the gap between India and Bharat.To do this , "be the change you want to see' .To be the catalyst for social and economic change and to build the nation .
6.Civil services develop the personality and leadership at  a young age.You are the District Collector and Magistrate when you have the service of just four years.
7.You develop the ability to resolve difficult problems , to act under stress and to handle difficult situations.
8.Close touch with people brings cultural awareness.
9.After retirement , you get good pension , family pension and post retirement health benefits.
10.Political neutrality of civil servants preserves democracy .
11.All India services foster unity in the country .
12.ICS was constituted under Government of India act of 1858.The then  British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, speaking in the House of commons in 1935 said:"ICS is the steel frame on which the whole structure of government and of administration in India rests"It shows how important ICS was .Though not as strong , but still , IAS is quite strong frame of government structure even today .
In 2009 , size of IAS cadre in the country was 5159.Out of this two third are regular recruits and one third are promoted  from PCS and other state services. They occupy most of the top positions in the departments of Government of India, state governments , and at district level.
These are some of the strong positive sides of why the youth of today may opt for joining civil services .But the downsides are also there as below:
1.Nexus with political corruption .Erosion of ethics and values .
2.Discretion leads to nepotism, favouritism,partisanship,inequity and particularism.
3.Political intervention and administrative acquiescence, and at times connivance.
4.Politicisation , promoting the interests of political party in power in policy formulation and implementation .
5.Joining the culture of sycophancy, stifling creativity and individual objectivity .
6.Doing wrong , immoral and outright illegal things .
7.Frauds,violence and encounters.
8.Recuiting people on government jobs , not on merit but because they are your "own" people .
9.Alienation and demotivation .
10.Frequent transfers and insecurity of tenures.
11.Lack of professionalism .
12.Lack of transparency .
13.Lack of accountability.
14.Poor capacity building , incompetence and mediocrity.
15.Inefficient incentive system.
16.Systemic inconsistencies in promotion and empanelment.
17.Systemic inefficiencies ,delays and cost over-runs.
18.Dull , repetitive job with little scope for individual creativity and personality.
19.Posing in remote , small districts, where urban amenities are absent.
20.Jack of all trades , master of none.
Despite all these downsides , civil services continue to be front runner as a career .For example ,in 2010 examination 5.48 lacs persons applied .Out of these, 2.69 lacs appeared in the preliminary examination .Out of these,12491 qualified for the mains examination .Out of these ,2589 qualified for the personality test .Finally ,920 were selected in various civil services .717 were males and 203 were females .
What  course should one study before joining IAS ?In my views , you should study for a degree in any subject that you love .It may be arts , science , engineering , medicine, MBA , or any other degree .Nothing goes waste.
 You will become an IAS officer after six years or so ,when you will cross the age of 21 years.Till that time , you must plan how to achieve your dream of becoming an IAS officer.You must select the books you want to read for this purpose, and read them .You must decide which service to join.You must aim to get at least 60% marks in the examination.

Be an IAS officer of my dreams.Try to develop within you the following values:
1.Honesty and integrity
2.Efficiency and competence.
3.Positive outcome , result orientation .
5.Political neutrality
8.Idealism to build nation and society
How will UPSC ensure the seletion of such IAS officers?Some changes will be needed in the system of recruitment .The new system will call upon to measure the character , integrity and above mentioned values, and select the candidates on that basis as well, in modification of  present system .UPSC also  needs to measure the mission orientation of the candidates.
There is also a need to set up an academy in each state to inspire and train youth to be an IAS officer.
One important question will still remain .Is it possible to delink the performance of a civil servant from politics in a democracy ?I think , the answer to this question may come from some visionary  political leader like Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel .Till that happens , we have no option but to work with the existing systems.

After I finished my talk , there were a number of questions by young boys and girls , indicating their keen interest in the civil services as a career option .Even if 5 of them become IAS officers of my dream , my address would be  most satisfying .


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Living and the process of Creative Destruction

                          Erwin Schrodinger, the famous Physicist wrote a book called"What is Life?"This book was published in 1944 , and was related to the physical aspect of the living cell. It had an unusual cross disciplinary sweep including  Biology,Mathematics,Quantum Mechanics and Philosophy.At the end of Preface , he quoted from Spinoza's Ethics,"There is nothing over which a free man ponders less than death:his wisdom is,to meditate not on death but on life"
"What constitutes living ?" is  a question entirely different from the one raised and answered by Schrodinger in his book .It becomes more subjective but useful when we seek to find answer to the question:"What constitutes  quality of life?
Robert N. Butler,M.D. , in his book "The Longevity Revolution"-'The benefits and challenges of living a long life' has given the following Quality-of-Life Indicators:
1.Physical Well-Being:Energy and Function ,Sexuality, Quality Health Care and Health, Freedom from Pain,Preservation of Senses(e.g. vision and hearing), Adequate Rest and Sleep and Mobility.
2.Financial and Material Well-Being :Financial Security and Independence, Income from a variety of Sources, Property , Employment, Social Mobility.
3.Personal Well-Being:Mental Health and Happiness, Self-esteem/Dignity, Identity, Continuing Growth/Reinvention of the self through life. Body Image/Appearance, Memory , Control Over One's Life/Independence, Morale, Freedom from Excessive Stress, Adaptiveness, Choice/Opportunity,Education, Love.
4.Social Well-Being:Having Family , Friendship,Neighborhood,Social Network, and Support System,Internet Access, Environmental Well-Being, Clean Air and Water, Public Order and Safety(Crime-Free)
5.Purposeful Well-Being:Contribution to others/Altruism,Philanthropy,Productive Aging or Engagement,Knowledge(Truth)
6Aesthetic Well-Being:Exposure to Theatre,Music,Arts, Humanities(Beauty),Leisure time,Learning
7.Joyfulness:Pleasures-Big and Small,Merriment-Exhilaration,Food-Recreation-Travel,Adventure-Excitement
8.Moral Well-Being: Clear Conscience(Goodness)
9.Spirituality:Beyond Self,Personal Beliefs,Serenity-Tranquility,Meditation
10.Enjoyment of One's Lifetime:Feeling that"it has been good to be alive"
11.Life Satisfaction:Reminiscence  and Life Review, Accomplishments,Full Life, Creativity,Serenity
12.Present-ness:Elementality,Simplicity, Freedom from Preoccupation with Past and Future
13.End of Life:Quality of Dying , Sense of Control , Quality of Care(Control of Pain and Suffering).
The above creates a very exhaustive list of Quality of Life indicators.How do we relate these to the real living, even in a general way?
In Indian Philosophy , Living gets manifested in three forms: Creation , Preservation , and Destruction .These are represented by Gods :Brahma , Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva).All the activities which constitute living, fall in one of the following classes.Creative activities , preservation activities , and destruction activities .All these are important .But in our day to day life , we often give more time and resources to the activities related to preservation .We give fewer resuorces and less time to creative and destruction activities.There is a need to restore the balance between Brahma , Vishnu and Shiva .
While Creation is regarded as a positive and desirable activity , destruction is perceived as negative and undesirable .This is a mis-conception .Destruction of evil , wasteful , dysfunctional , redundant , discouraging and inefficient is an extremely positive and essential part of life.Certain things  must be destroyed so that the new can take its place.
Joseph A. Schumpeter in his book "Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy" has included a full chapter(Chapter VII) entitled"The Process of Creative Destruction".I quote him:"The opening up of new markets,foreign or domestic,and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation-if I may use that biological term-that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one,incessantly creating the new one.This process of Creative Destruction is essential fact about capitalism.It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in".Schumpeter also says that those revolutions are not strictly incessant;they occur in discrete rushes which are separated from each other by spans of comparative quiet.The process as a whole works incessantly however, in the sense that there always is either revolution or absorption of the results of revolution, both together forming  what are known as business cycles.
This raise questions about our appraisal /judgment of the performance of a system as well as a business strategy .  All performance appraisals as well as strategies have to be seen , analyzed and adopted in  the light of this perennial process of creative destruction.
I find the process of living inextricably related to this wider process of Creative Destruction , which Schumpeter has so beautifully pointed out .

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Technology in Energy Services

On 11.11.2011,I chaired a session on Technology in Energy Services in the annual convention  organised by Lucknow Management Association , an affiliate of AIMA(All India Management Association) , at  Lucknow.The  speakers on the panel were Sri  Alok Kumar IAS , Secretary Industrial Development , Government of UP , and Sri S. C. Srivastava, Professor of Electrical Engineering , IIT , Kanpur.
 Energy   has become essential for life.We have become used to  regular power supply round the clock .The demand for electricity is increasing , and is likely to increase faster over the next few years .We , therefore need the latest and the best technology in the world to fulfill our increasing demand  for electricity, in all the three areas  connected with electricity-generation , transmission and distribution .
We must aim at developing technologies which are cleaner , greener , more efficient and cheaper.Yet , it seems that whatever we may wish , we have no option but to accept that coal will remain the predominant source of power generation in our country for at least the next two decades.The  ash content in Indian coal is high , between 40% to 50%.We  need a technology which can result in reduced emissions of Carbon dioxide , Nitrogen Oxide,Sulphur Oxide and  particulates and a technology that reduces coal consumption, thereby reducing costs and improving thermal efficiency.These are  ultra super-critical technologies.
We also need to develop  technologies to economize energy consumption in all sectors .Whether these are  paper mills , or sugar mills , or other industries , we need to develop technologies which are energy efficient .We need energy efficient systems for supplying water for irrigation .We must encourage the use of LED over conventional or CFL bulbs , for domestic use.
We must  encourage the use of latest technology in metering of power so that theft of power can be minimized and consumers get correct bills for the power consumed .Prepaid smart cards  for power supply are to be encouraged .Technology improvements are also needed  in Grids and transmission areas.
Apart from Solar and Photovoltaic  and wind energy  sectors , we need to develop safe technologies to generate nuclear power on a large scale .In October201`0 , India drew up a plan to reach a nuclear power capacity of 63000 MW in 2032, from the present 4780MW. 
The audience was concerned about the mounting losses in public utilities related to power  .There were a number of questions and suggestions on use of tamper-proof meters as also a better use of information technology for consumer  billing , complaints redressing and citizen satisfaction .Some questions related to the higher damage rate of transformers . Issues related to power- cuts and outages, were also raised .
                     Three thing emerged  clearly :
1.The audience was aware of the technology based solutions and were ready to pay higher cost for better power supply.
2.They were also clear that governance issues needed to be addressed simultaneously .
3A big push  is urgently required from all the key stake holders. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Talk to the District Magistrates of Uttar Pradesh

On 13th October,2011,I had the opportunity to address an audience comprising Secretaries to the  State Government , Heads of departments , District Magistrates and representatives of Chambers of commerce and industry and the faculty members from Institute of Smart Governance , Hyderabad .The venue was Administrative Training Institute of UP , at Lucknow.The occasion  was the capacity building in e-governance and Launch of web portal Nivesh Mitra for helping the entrepreneurs.
Essentially, I  talked about three things.
1. There has to be good governance of e-governance .E-governance must be reliable, as a system.

2. If you want to look back on your life with satisfaction that you did something, then choose some e-gov projects and adopt them as your own child, and nurture them
3. Deficit in ethics cannot be filled by technology. Ethics is the foundation, technology is the super-structure

Here is the video:

Monday, 7 November 2011

A Classic Tale of Love and Mystery

I first read this book in 1980, and liked it then .I have read it  now after31 years , and rate it as a true Classic .Daphne Du Maurier  got it published in 1938 , when she was 31 years old .She tore up the initial fifteen thousand -word long draft, and wrote it a second time.
The most striking feature of the novel is its suspense and mystery , which Du Maurier has been able to maintain till the very end. Rebecca is the first wife of Maxim  De Winter , and is dead.Her story is revealed through the second wife of Maxim, who does not reveal her  own name in the book .No doubt , Rebecca is the real heroine.She is a powerful character.Even though dead , she lives through her house-keeper Mrs Danvers, who adores Rebecca and is fiercely loyal to her, even after Rebecca's death .So much so that when she learns about the real cause of death , she sets the beautiful mansion  called Manderley on fire and completely destroys it .
Rebecca was a complex personality. She was beautiful and magnetic.She had beauty , brains and breeding .But the marriage of Maxim and Rebecca was a failure , right from the start .She had a number of male friends and "lovers" in London and even around Manderley.She was not in love with anyone .Love-making was a game with her, as Mrs Danvers would later reveal .But she suffered from  Cancer too , and this secret she had kept even from her most loyal house-keeper also .Probably , before her death , she had only three or four more months to live .
Maxim's marriage with the narrator of the novel , who is young and nearly half his age, takes place , on the proposal of Maxim , one year after the death of Rebecca.Though he says he loves her , it is doubtful, as reflected by his conduct .Perhaps he needed a companion.She , on the other hand , loves him , and is ready to  blindly support him , even when she finds him involved in murder.She is timid , under-confident and over awed by the shadow of Rebecca , in the beginning , but slowly and steadily , overcomes all her fears and becomes confident .
The mystery whether the death of Rebecca would be proved murder or suicide , remains till the very end .
The book is very subversive about the idea of love .Neither Rebecca , nor Maxim seem to care for love .The burden of love is carried by the nameless, poor  , timid , narrator , the second wife of Maxim de Winter.
The book has poetry and imagery , mystery and suspense , and much more qualities that makes it truly classic . The book needs to be read , re-read , and re-examined by everyone.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

GLOBAL CLIMATE CRISIS IS REAL . . . . . . . . . . .

‘The Inconvenient Truth’ and ‘Our Choice’ by Al Gore are the two books highly recommended to understand the urgency of global climate crisis.
There is universality of opinion among the world community of scientists that global climate crisis is real and it will come, unless we wake up to it. We may have dispute about the opinion but we must not have dispute about the fact. About two three years back there was flood like situation in Mumbai and scientists attributed it to Global Warming. Katrina hurricane became intense because of Global Warming. There are thousands of such instances to prove that global climate crisis is real and it is a fact we must not deny.
Some people feel that the problem is so massive that no one can do anything about it. So we move from denial to helplessness. This is not a right approach. There is no helplessness. It is for all of us to act in a way that we can cope with this crisis.
Combating climate crisis is a long term battle. It may even cross our life span, but this battle has to be fought as if it is not fought, there will be a deluge and the entire world will be swept away.
Why the climate crisis is an inconvenient truth?
The truth is that the globe is warming is inconvenient because it makes us think to change our life and behavior and even our thinking in a manner that is not convenient to us.
There is a long list of what all we can do as an individual, as community and as government to deal with this crisis.
We need energy but is it thermal power plants that we need or the solar or wind energy? The answer is obviously the latter. But solar energy is very expensive. The state of Uttar Pradesh has a target of becoming self sufficient in power supply by installing 25000 mega watts thermal power plants by the next five years. All thermal power means contributing to global warming.You may question :Is it a right decision?We get electricity through thermal power generation plants which have high emission of CO2 . In case if these thermal power plants are stopped, what will be life with only 12 hours of electricity supply? Very inconvenient. We want 24 hours of electricity supply till we are alive and we get the same but through thermal power plants. Uttar Pradesh does not have hydro or nuclear plants . Wind and solar energy are cosmetics. You cannot live with that. You can not supply this energy to all the sectors of economy- domestic consumers, industry and agriculture . Technologies in this regard are not sufficiently developed and in case thermal power plants are stopped, we will face lot of inconvenience. That is why Al Gore said it is an inconvenient truth. The point is that solar or wind energy if produced at commercial scale will be very costly . As government, world community or opinion makers we have to correct the market signals.What are the market signals?Tax those projects that have high CO2 emission. Thermal plants are those kind of projects.
Help overcoming political obstacles at international levels. Americans may consume hundred times more energy than the Indians do but they want to have equal parameters when it comes to taking steps about global warming. That is the politics about it.
These may be difficult issues but as they say, charity begins at home. One has to be an active ,agile partner in this political process that ultimately assumes global dimensions.
For example it is told that the rail is more energy efficient compared to aviation but will anyone who can afford air travel decide today that he/she will travel by train instead of air? It is inconvenient in many other ways also.
Take the case of paper mills. Paper mills are one of the most energy inefficient sectors in the world. Should these be closed? We use paper tissues usually now in place of hand-kerchiefs simply because of convenience. Do we know that paper industries are surviving more on tissues and packaging than on writing papers but if we devise a policy resulting into the closure of paper mills, it will be highly inconvenient –what about the workers employed in the mills? What about the capital invested and loans given by the financial institutions? And we decide to let the paper mills continue and devise those technologies which will consume less water and energy .But when will those technologies be devised and what will happen to the global warming till then? These are the questions that surface the inconvenient truth before us.
If Shri Chandi Prasad Bhatt can initiate Chipko Andolan and create change in entire Uttarakhand, why not we?
At individual level, there are four most important things one can do, as follows: 1. We must save energy. Consume less of every thing , as everything that goes into building any material requires energy. Become a conservative society instead of consumptive society.We are extracting natural resources in order to make our life more and more comfortable and ultimately at the cost of our future generation.
2. Plant more trees but then each of these should be maintained and protected.
3. Use Public Transport.
4.Use less paper and create more paper less offices. Use more information technology but then the issue of E Waste will also need to be addressed.
We will have to make compromises on our comforts and costs . We will not leave this problem for our future generation to pay for it. That would be highly immoral. In that case, we will start hating ourselves. If we do not take proper measures there will emerge a situation in future where the temperature will be very high, floods will be very frequent and things will become so difficult that it will be as good as death.
I do not have solutions but I surely know that we will have to take certain inconveniences if we are serious about global warming, climate change.
How do we go about it? In a way all our material progress is contributing to global warming. It has to be a total paradigm shift in the model of progress. Sustainable development where there is no or limited scope of thermal generation. Alternatives are very few and inconvenient.
Wherever we are ,we must know that global warming is real and we must take small inconveniences in our daily life to ward off the dangers that global warming imposes upon us.

Saturday, 22 October 2011


This 2006 novel, THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS, was made into an award-winning Miramax film. The novel itself won 2 Irish Book Awards,the Bisto Book of the Yea. It spent more than 80 weeks at no.1 in Ireland, topped the New York Times Bestseller List,and was the bestselling book in Spain in both 2007 and 2008.Worldwide, it has sold more than 5 million copies.(From John Boyne's official biography).
It is a short book of 216 pages , in bold print .I read it in about five hours in three sittings .It is an outstanding novel  not only on  the Holocaust but also on childhood , innocence , ignorance,friendship and loneliness.It is unforgettable .Its impact remains on you long after you have finished reading it .
Bruno is the nine year old hero of this novel.His father works for the Fury(Hitler), and gets transferred from Berlin to Out-With(Auschwitz).Bruno , his 12 years old sister Gretel  and his parents move over to the new place .Bruno feels lonely , in the absence of friends , and the strange sight of  people wearing striped pyjamas  on the other side of fence.(On the other side is a concentration camp).
Then one day , on his long solitary walks , he meets Shmuel , a boy from the other side of  the  fence (He is a Jew).Without knowing each others' background , they become friends .They meet and play regularly , but without crossing the fence often .They do little things , talk about each other 's place of living  and other child like things.Bruno keeps this friendship a secret , and tells a lie when others ask him about it .
 After about a year , Bruno's mother gets her way and persuades his father to send the family back to Berlin , while his father continues at Out-With.A day before leaving , Bruno crosses the fence to explore the other side, and never returns . . . . The end is so sudden an tragic that it haunts the reader for ever .
The book ends with these lines:"And that's the end of the story about Bruno and his family.Of course, all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again . . . . . .Not in this day and age."
  x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x xx x x xx x x x x xx x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x x 

The book brings out the horrors of atrocities in concentration camps , without being explicit .Its abrupt and impactful end makes you think and ask questions about the genocide that Hitler and his associates committed in the name of race.They did not spare innocent children .On the other hand , when , like children , you do not discriminate human beings on the grounds of race , caste , religion , gender , language or place of birth , you create , develop and maintain friendships for a long time .As Bruno says just before his death,"You are my best friend , Shmuel, my best friend for life."
It is a very powerful book , and I recommend you to invest your five hours into it and read it .

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

I read this short novel of 167 pages for the second time, after a gap of about 17 years.I did not really remember much about it , except that it is a spiritual book and is related to Gotama , the Buddha.
Herman Hesse  had written this book in 1922 in German , and only in 1951, it was translated by Hilda Rosner , and was published in the USA then.It became very popular in the USA in the  sixties and still continues to be in circulation .
 Hesse divided the book in two parts.The first part with four chapters was dedicated to Romain Rolland.The second part , with eight chapters was dedicated to Wilhelm Gundert.Hesse took a long time to write the second part.
The hero of the book is Siddhartha, the son of a Brahmin ,and lives in India during the time of Gotama , the Buddha.He is restless since his youth to find the meaning of existence .He also wants to find out how to reach the state of true joy , or Nirvana. He practises meditation , fasting an self-denial by becoming a Samana(ascetic).But he is  not satisfied .He wants to take a new path and decides to go to Gotama.Here too , the life of a monk does not satisfy him .But he believes that salvation does not come through the teachings of another , even if these are by Gotama.It comes through your own search of innermost part of self, your own experience.
Siddhartha gets a variety of experiences ,of lust , greed and riches .He goes through life in a child like manner , at times even animal -like .The name of the game was Sansara,,involving love , women , children, honors , money , plans , hopes and pleasures.But after a time , Siddhartha realises that he could not play this repetitive game called Sansara , over and over again .He decides to go to the forest and stays in a hut , with a ferry man .He tries to mould his son in his own way but realizes that his son needs freedom , like he needed when he wanted to become a Samana in his youth .
x x x x x x x x  xx  xx x xx x x x xx x x x   x x x x x x  xx  x x x x x x x  x x x x xx x

After reading the book this time , I asked myself this question."Did Siddhartha realize the meaning of existence.?If so , what was it?Did he find inner peace, or Nirvana?" I have several doubts .May be , Siddhartha made a compromise with his soul and decided  not to explore or  gain experience any further.Was it possible to find this meaning and peace , as an individual , without participation in the affairs, challenges  and activities of  family and  community?Is diverse and wide ranging experience essential to reach the truth of existence?Should there be not a limit  to the freedom of gaining experiences of diverse kinds?I did not find answers to these in the book .
But still ,the  book is thought provoking , though does not really provide answers to many questions . I recommend you to read this book at least once.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Greenery is the part of our world and we have to save it now before it's to late.

Since they evolved trees have had a great influence on the shaping of the ecology of our planet and in determining the present arrangements of life on earth. Of particular importance for us has been the role of trees in the evolution of mankind and the development of human cultures and communities.

Trees are the largest and longest living organisms on earth. To grow tall the tree has become a miracle of engineering and a complex chemical factory. It is able to take water and salts out of the earth and lift them up to the leaves, sometimes over 400 ft above. By means of photosynthesis the leaves combine the water and salts with carbon dioxide from the air to produce the nutrients which feed the tree. In this process, as well as wood, trees create many chemicals, seeds and fruit of great utility to man. Trees also remove carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, from the air.

Trees are of continued importance to the environment. Tropical rain forests have of particular significance; although they now occupy less than 6 per cent of the land surface of the earth they probable sustain more than half of the biological species on the planet.

Notwithstanding the debt we owe to trees, their emotive power, and their importance to other forms of life, the forested area of the earth is steadily being depleted. This is leading to the degradation of the environment and the extinction of many species. There is now a real danger that in the not very distant future man will destroy a large proportion of the present population of species on earth, create an uninhabitable environment, and then die out himself. If this happens it will not be the first time that a large proportion of the species on the earth have been extinguished.