Accidental Connections.

As my readers know, I am a strong believer in this adage as well as synchronicity. Here is another story to illustrate this phenomenon.

I am a member of a WhatsApp group which has many younger members who for some strange reason either use assumed names or just their initials to identify themselves. Many do not even bother and use just their phone numbers.

One frequent participant uses his initials MKG. I had even joked a couple of times that he does not sound like his namesake, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. One day last week, I decided to call him up to ask him his name so that I could put a name to the set of initials. I chose the phone number from the list of members and called but he did not answer.

Thinking that he was just being safe not answering a strange phone number, I sent him a text message introducing myself and asking him to call me back. He was perhaps driving and texted me later to say that he would call soon which he did after some time.

On receiving his call, I asked him what his initials stood for and he was puzzled. He said that he was not MKG and I realised that I had chosen a wrong number from the list and apologised. He went further and sent me a text message giving MKG’s phone number which I used to make friends with MKG who was delighted to make my acquaintance over the phone and said that he would come over to meet me after his travels which he was currently on.

A little later, I got a call from the first wrong number introducing himself and wanting to know somethings about me based on my caller tune which is the RSS anthem. He too wanted to come over to meet me and we had fixed up last Saturday which I had to cancel due to my not feeling well at all recovering from a bad attack of viral fever. He has assured me that he would come over next week end.

One case of curiosity has led me to make two new young friends. I look forward to meeting and getting to know both. I have no doubts whatsoever that these two connections are meant to develop and await with interest how the relationships develop.

Life On The Simple Side.

This week’s Friday 2 on 1 blog post title has been suggested by Shackman who claims that he was inspired by our own old geezelle Tammy. She actually is a minimalist and far from a simpleton but, that is word play that I hope she will forgive me for.

Simple Living as per Wikipedia was practiced by Mahatma Gandhi. His contemporary freedom fighter Sarojni Naidu had this to say about that to him. “Do you know how much it costs every day to keep you in poverty?”

I flatter myself that mine is a life on the simple side. That is my perception. Ekoshapu who had visited me for the first time said this about my simplicity. “I, along with my friend, met Ramana Sir on Sunday at his home (mansion would be the right word, considering the super-affluent locality and spacious rooms/garden).” If I were to visit some of my friends who live in more upmarket areas in bigger homes, perhaps I would also say the same thing. The point is that ‘simplicity’ is a matter of perception.

For me, being simple is keeping my wants to the barest minimum and finding simple solutions to life’s problems. For instance, while I can and on occasions do use a car with a driver hired on an hourly basis, I would rather use a cab or an auto-rickshaw to go wherever I need to go as, parking and its attendant problems is always a major constraint. On the other hand, Ekoshapu, being much younger and more agile, uses our very reliable public transport bus system to commute within our city. He finds that simpler. Perhaps had I been his age with my present lifestyle, I would have too. In other words, simplicty can be thrust on us too and often is!

I wonder if in our lifetime we will see a major shift from consumerism to simplicity/minimalism as a natural reaction to the former reaching its limits.  A process called Enandriomia.  I certainly see many middle class and affluent families opting for the latter and wonder if a snowballing effect will occur.  On the other hand, for developing nations like India, aspirational impacts on the poor climbing the economic ladder perhaps, balances such reversals.  The next few decades will be interesting to watch.

Not being part of the consumer society is more than enough to have a life of the simple side. I am not tempted to buy unnecessary things with the exception of books. Hopefully, one of these days, even that weakness will drop off like a ripe pumpkin that simply snaps off from the vein.

Do go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say about the topic.


Gratitude And Happiness.

Last week, as part of the Thanksgiving messages going around the internet I got this on FaceBook:

I strongly believe that this is true and as my readers who have been with me for some time know, I am one thankful dude. (Tammy, how do you like the description?) I shared the image on my page on FB and my friend Nandu had this to say about it.

“Nice one and got me going again I am afraid! (Nandu is a gifted orator who can wax eloquent on any subject.)

Sadly there are so many people who have SO MUCH to be thankful for (applies to most of us if not all on FB at least) and yet are unhappy! I always advice the moaners around me ” Just visit a hospital – or a slum or deep rural areas – and walk around for 1/2 hour to realise how lucky you are – even marvel at the spirit and positive attitude of the seriously ( even terminally ) ill and maimed.” Some might object saying it smacks of “contentment with a mediocre/sub-optimal existence”, not happiness or those stuck in abject poverty. But that precisely is about people working hard to preserve their state of unhappiness and wallowing in misplaced self pity!

I sometimes marvel at the people of especially our country who are poor ( by any definition , except our Governments, and who do not have any “social security” net worth talking about) and yet smile & laugh & share, poor and yet DO NOT resort to crime (more than can be said of the rich and famous!) , poor and yet proud , poor and yet hope & dream , poor and yet have the courage (not ignorance ) to have children ( especially a girl child ) despite an uncertain future for them – many somehow educating them so that they do not inherit the same fetters of misfortune and go on to lead better lives in a cruel world !

They fully realise that only a pitiful few become “slumdog millionaires” or even come anywhere close to it or have Dame Luck smile upon them once in a while . Disparaging as some of us “better off intellectuals” are of Bollywood “formula” film genre , at least it transports these people into a dream world for a couple of hours for a few rupees – brief respite from a harsh inescapable existence!

In this scenario “charity” (in any form, even giving time) by the relatively well-off is hardly an optional or discretionary act of “do gooding ” – it is an obligation that transcends being Thankful (to God or Fate or whatever) and makes our short existence on the planet a bit more meaningful and just…we owe it!

Narsi Bhagat’s poem so loved by Mahatma Gandhi puts it beautifully.

Vaishnav Jan to tene kahiye jay peerh paraaye janneyray;

He who understands the pain of others is one of God’s own.
Helping others in need, he or she does not gloat in pride.

This person respects all people in the world, and does not condemn or criticize anyone.
He or she is pure in speech, deed and thought. Mother of such person is blessed indeed!

He is equanimous and has given up all desires. To him, other women are [equivalent to] mothers.
He or she never speaks a lie, and does not covet others’ wealth.

Delusion and attachment do not affect him or her, with mind firm in detachment.
Such a person is ever engrossed in meditation of God, and embodies all places of pilgrimage.

Such a person has no greed or deceit, and has overcome lust and anger.
Narsi says: Such a person is worthy of worship, and alone elevates his entire race”


A dear friend of mine Tilak who is an economist of the Free Market persuasion, another friend Karl, an aspiring philosopher and I, recently had an interesting exchange of views on the subject of progress. The background is that the three of us often share information on published material on economics and sociology and in this particular instance, it followed Tilak’s recommendation that the other two read Matt Riddley’s The Rational Optimist. I promptly read it and have passed it on to Karl who is still to start reading it, as he is preoccupied with more urgent matters pertaining to his post retirement life. Another book that formed the backdrop to this discussion is The Better Angels Of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Decreased by Steven Pinker which too had been read by Tilak and me.

Karl would like to take the world with him to simple ways rather than progress/growth as we now understand it and comes up with utopian ideas of how to go about achieving that, whereas Tilak and I while differing on some aspects of economics, agree that we have no choice but to use economic tools to remove the appalling poverty wherever it exists.

The hand wringing that I talk about is Karl’s reaction to some of Tilak’s ideas on what needs to be done.

RR: Tilak, it appears to me that a lot of unnecessary hand wringing can be done away with if we can completely destroy the word “Progress” and replace it with “Change”.

TD: How about “change for the better” for the largest number of people in human history?

RR: Now, that would open a can of worms Tilak. “Better” is another word that means different things to different people! I suspect that our friend is trying to live a life without being judgmental about anything. You know, Satori!

TD: Having the luxury to define what “better” means only applies to those who already have achieved decent standards of material welfare, which thankfully is increasingly common! But, it is churlish to not want to recognize the achievements of recent human history. Steven Pinker’s book is a historical tour de force on this subject.

KD: I’ve been dipping into Jiddu Krishnamurti’s conversations. One, with Rahula Walpola, an eminent scholar of the Thervada tradition, held me. In it K sums it all up. He asks – psychologically, is there tomorrow? Meaning, I think, that what he calls a change of heart, what the historical Buddha was silent about, what Christ likened to a camel passing through the eye of a needle, cannot be learnt, developed or progressed towards. Scientific methods yield accumulating material progress. Not in the psychological/spiritual dimension. Psychologically men are still primitive. Technologically, the West has achieved fantastic standards. But what of the psychological standards articulated with such simplicity in the 10 commandments. Their very technology hard wires them to break these commandments. Surely all this is evident?

The discussion then meandered towards other matters and the exchanges continue regularly, stimulating our rapidly ossifying brains.

I find that to use the word “Change” instead of many others like improvement, progress, advance etc, are less controversial for the reason that the others are subjective and can be interpreted to mean different things to different people. The difficulty is in getting those fixed interpretations to “Change”.

Having established my intellectual pretensions till now, let me go a little personal on change. And, once again instead of reinventing the wheel, let me quote Thomas Harris to illustrate what I recently went through. Regular readers of my posts will immediately catch on to what I mean.

“Three things make people want to change. One is that they hurt sufficiently. They have beat their heads against the same wall so long that they decide that they have had enough…… Another thing that makes people want to change is a slow type of despair called ennui, or boredom……A third thing that makes people want to change is the sudden discovery that they can!

A very powerful prayer is built around the phenomenon of change. It is used worldwide in English and many translated versions by support groups like the AA.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
~ Reinhold Niebuhr

To conclude, I hope that my readers will find this as inspiring as I did.

Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where twelve of us write on the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Grannymar, who has seen and successfully tackled more changes than I ever will in my life time. The eleven other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, ocdwriter, Padmum, Paul, Rohit, The Old Fossil and Will. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too!