Power.

“One who makes himself a worm cannot complain afterwards if people step on him.”
~ Immanuel Kant


“The mosquito, in fact, is more powerful than the human being. Usually when you catch an animal, you set a trap, you throw a net. But when it comes to mosquitoes, it is you who must enter into the mosquito net; it is you who must escape the mosquito. So who is more powerful? In fact, every little bug, every virus, has got its own power over you.”

~ Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

Power is always relative.  What is popularly considered as powerless say like an insect can exercise power over man like the quote above illustrates.  Today, as I write this, the Chinese Virus, invisible to the human eye has more power over mankind than anything that I have seen in my long life time.  It has kept me and millions of others like me confined to our homes and has made normal life that human beings experienced just eight months ago impossible with no respite in sight.  In fact, the so called most powerful man in the world, POTUS was powerless over the virus which illustrates my argument more than any thing else will do.

Just take a good look around the world and you will see power struggles of all kinds, intra and international as well as other kinds like intra and inter family power struggles over assets;  and businesses fighting for shares of markets and so on.  It is ubiquitous and all around us but, we do not notice is precisely for the reason that it is so ordinary and pedestrian.

My interest in Power as a subject to think about was kindled in 1984 when I attended a seminar by a Management Association in Mumbai, on the subject. After attending the seminar, I promptly bought the book The Anatomy Of Power by J B Galbraith. Wikipedia has this to say about the book.

“The Anatomy of Power is a book written by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith, originally published in 1983 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It sought to classify three types of power: compensatory power in which submission is bought, condign power in which submission is won by making the alternative sufficiently painful, and conditioned power in which submission is gained by persuasion. In short, money, force and ideology.

It further divided power by source: power either stems from personality or leadership, property or wealth, or organisation.

The book goes on to detail a brief history of the use of power, noting the broad arc of history in moving away from condign and towards compensatory and then conditioned power, and from personality and property towards organisation. Finally, it details what Galbraith views as the main sources of power in the modern world: government, the military, religion and the press.”

Since reading the book, I have used the understanding gained in observing human and animal behaviour in day to day life and have been able to resolve many issues by simply taking appropriate action after understanding quite where the exercise of power by the person concerned or the creature, comes from and to reach what end purpose.

A Post Script;  I sleep under a mosquito net every night!

Having enjoyed those experiences, I suggested this topic for this week’s Friday post where eight of us write on the same subject so that I can share my enthusiasm for the book with my readers so that perhaps they too will find it worthwhile to read the book and enjoy similar experiences. The other seven bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Maria. Sanjana, PadmumRaju, Shackman , Srinivas and Conrad. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

 

Surprise Gift.

A friend, Mahesh, from Jaipur had advised me last week that he had sent a parcel through a courier and had given me the tracking code for the package. Despite repeated pleas, he would not tell me what the package contained and suggested that I wait and be surprised, hopefully pleasantly.

Due to the disturbed conditions due to Covid, the parcel took its time and it was a frustrating experience tracking its progress from Jaipur to my home. It was fianally delivered while I was on my daily siesta and when I surfaced I found the package waiting for me on the dining table.

I opened it to find a book that I had been wanting for decades and which was not available in India. I had casually mentioned this to Mahesh quite some time ago as, he regularly travels overseas to see if he can get a copy somewhere and he did. This thoughtful friend had not forgotten and had bought it for me but, was unable to deliver it to me due to the lockdown. Recently, using a small window of relaxation, Mahesh had shifted residence to his parental home in Jaipur. On unpacking his personal effects he found the book and promptly packed it and couriered it to me last week.

Today, it is one of my treasured possessions and has gone to be bound so that it will last longer than normal paper back books.

I am indeed blessed to have such thoughtful friends with good memories.

Retirement Humour.

A friend and ex colleague now retired from employment but, in his own start up business sent me this nice video this morning.

I responded with this truth: “The only decision that I make nowadays is whether to sleep or to read. For that I don’t need an MBA.” He responded with laughing emojis and that was that.

Ten minutes later, I got a phone call from a landline number. Since it was a landline number I answered only to be completely taken aback by a totally strange voice addressing me by my name and asking me to spare some time. Under the impression that it could be a tele-marketeer, I first demurred saying that I am retired and not in need of anything. He explained that he wanted to talk about one of my blog posts and that piqued my interest and I said that okay let us talk.

He said while searching for a Visiting Card maker, he saw a link to my blog post My New Visiting Card and that is what he wanted to talk about. On enquiring further he wanted to know what position I retired from and where I lived.

Being in a frivolous mood, I told him that I never had to work for a living and had always been in retirement but now, I have formalised it by getting these visiting cards made. His interest was now piqued and he wanted to know how without working for a living I had lived and I responded that I simply spent my father’s money. He wanted to know how old I was and when I told him that I was 77 he was quite taken aback and asked whether my father was still supporting me. I responded that I now spend my son’s money, he finally got the joke and pleaded me to enlighten him seriously. I requested him to go back to my blog and read the post on Ambition. He promptly did and called me back after a while and had a fairly intense chat and he has promised to come to meet me once the lockdown is lifted as he often visits Pune from Mumbai where he lives.

My Tuesday was made. As I write this, I am smiling at the memory of the two exchanges.

PS. The Ted Talk is very interesting and I recommend that my readers listen to it.

Tragic Optimism.

“The man I am, greets mournfully, the man I might have been.”
~ Hebbel

I contacted a Senior Teacher of Vipassana in Pune yesterday, whom I have known since the last more than two decades. He was a highly successful Medical Practitioner as was his wife but, both have quit their practices to devote their full time and energies to Vipassana. I contacted him to find out how best I can attend a camp with my health issues. Being a doctor and a teacher of Vipassana, I thought that he would be the best guide to approach as I felt that I needed a concentrated meditation camp at this stage of my life. He guided me to my full satisfaction and also assured me that he will ensure that I will be well looked after in the local Meditation Center.

It was a nice long chat catching up with each other on many subjects and I intend keeping in regular touch with him henceforth.

After the talk was over, he sent me a photograph taken during the early days of a Vipassana Meditation Center at Markal near Pune with me and two students of meditation in it. The link will take you to show you how the place is now.

This was circa 2003 when it was still in its nascent stage and accommodation and meditation hall were still in early stages of being set up. I was approached by the same teacher to be a volunteer to serve the attendees as by then I was already a caregiver to my incapacitated late wife. In this particular case, they were a group of blind students who had to be looked after, and guided around the primitive undeveloped area so that they did not come to harm and the ten days that I did this changed me for ever.

Spending eleven nights and ten days with blind people and serving them will do that to any body. One is humbled by them with their good cheer and will to survive despite their handicap and their total trust and unconditional affection for me was a high impact emotional experience for me. My caregiving duties only increased and was even doubled after my then 91 year old father came to live with us.  That period till ten years later saw the most stressful times that I have ever experienced and thankfully I was able to withstand and survive those situations due, I have no doubt, to my regular meditation practice.

That experience with the blind students changed my attitude towards life and just about that time was when I first came across Viktor Frankl and his Tragic Optimism. His profound conclusion that I share with my readers below describes my current situation at the age of 77 with health issues.

“From this one may see that there is no reason to pity old people. Instead, young people should envy them. It is true that the old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past—the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized—and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past.”

What Has The Lockdown Done To/For You?

By the time this post gets published, India would have been under full or partial lockdown for 79 days. During this time, I have not left my home and have not received any visitors to meet me.  All contacts with the outside world has been through telephone, texting and email.  Other than my immediate family who share my home with me, I have not met anyone.

The first thing that the lockdown did to me was to stop my daily supply of newspapers and my morning indulgence of seven crossword puzzles. Luckily for me, the supply has started again a few days ago, though one paper, containing the toughest puzzle, which used to come from Mumbai is yet to restart in Pune where I live. None of the periodicals that I have subscribed to, have resumed supplies again.

This spare time was spent on looking for news on my smartphone which led to getting involved in many debates / arguments with members of some groups with differing ideologies and points of view. An obsession also developed to keep going to the smart phone to check for new postings on WhatsApp and twitter.

In this process I lost my power of concentration and was unable to indulge in my next favourite pastime of reading books. I was simply unable to focus and I discussed with another friend who also had the same problem but, who had diagnosed it as anxiety syndrome. I promptly contacted my Psychiatrist, who confirmed that it was indeed so and also that it is quite widely prevalent now. He suggested that I should not worry about it and prescribed some supplements which improved my concentration and I am now able to read books.

I started attending a web meeting of a social group of which I am a member and it has been a completely new and fascinating experience to me.

Another development was that my eyesight started getting to be blurred, and this was diagnosed by my Ophthalmologist as being due to too much time spent on the smart phone. He too said that this too is quite widely prevalent and asked me to reduce the time I spent on it. I duly dropped out of some WhatsApp groups after explaining and apologising and hopefully, things should improve in the next few days.

I haven’t been able to get a hair cut and so the friar’s fringe is now beginning to look like a strange type of duck tail.

I have been able to meditate for longer and this has been the greatest development due to the lockdown.

Other than these, I have had a fairly comfortable time being fussed over by my son and daughter in love. Lucky me!

This is my take on this week’s Friday 6 On 1 blog post topic. The other five bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, PadmumRaju, Shackman and Conrad.  This week’s topic was suggested by Shackman. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

Aatjun.

No, I have not invented a new word. Let me explain.

I placed an order online for a book with a local book seller in Pune just before the lockdown. I have been keen to read the book and so have been calling them up on and off to find out when they will send the book only to be told that it will be as soon the as the lockdown is lifted.

Many establishments have been allowed to open since the last few days and hoping that perhaps this establishment too would have opened, I called them again yesterday and after some investigation, the lady on the phone informed me that I should not worry and that the book will be sent to me after aatjun. I requested the lady a few times to be more clear blaming the poor quality of the phone line connection and she kept on repeating aatjun.

Please remember that this conversation is taking place in Hindi, and so in exasperation, I requested the lady to repeat the term in English and the mystery was solved. She meant “8th June”. Aat in Hindi is the numeral eight and pronounced June as Jun.

I should hopefully get the book by mid next week.

Phew.