Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gaza Genocide and the Israel-Palestinian Conflict: Why Is It Happening?

Once again, the world seems to be moving towards a situation of mutual annihilation adopted by groups of modern humans who have not yet attained the desired levels of humanist maturity.

The Hamas-Israel conflict has already caused thousands to lose their lives and it is escalating by the day. Elsewhere in Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Nigeria groups of people keep taking arms against each other and fighting for causes that they think as right.

Israel (shown in yellow) and the Present Palestinian 
Autonomous Regions of Gaza, West Bank and Golan (in Green)

Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) had been the main centers of global terrorism and international diplomacy for many decades, ever since the tiny nation of Israel got carved out of the regions of the Palestinian peoples [Read the Wikipedia article on the History of Israel]

The Palestinian-Israel conflict has a history dating back to pre-historic times and we get an idea about it from the Old Testament Bible (the religious text of the Jews and the first part of the religious text of the Christians) 

A good part of the Biblical narrations are retold in a different manner in the Holy text of the Muslims, the Quran, which describe the Jews and the Christians as the people of the scriptures.

The conflict has its foundations on enmity on account of race, religion, economic and intellectual inequality and vengeance.

As the historic information is mostly incomplete and scholastic speculations, to have a better understanding of the reasons behind this conflict, it is essential to consider all aspects right from the pre-historic days.

It all starts some 4000 years ago, when an influential leader from one nomadic family moving around in the areas of the present day Israel-Palestine region got the concepts of God as preached by a glorified and saintly person in human form. The former is called Abraham and the latter is called Melchizedek in the Bible.

Though it is not explicitly written in the Bible, it could well be deduced that this Melchizedek was the spiritual guru of Abraham who initiated him to forgo the prevalent nomadic practices of idol worship and believe in the invisible Almighty God, who is to be revered as the Creator and Father in the Heavens. 

The Bible describes the manner in which descendants of Abraham parted ways in their culture and way of living. Abraham's elder son, born in a servant woman whom he adopted as wife because his wife was barren was Ismail. Ismail is believed to be the founder of the Arabic clans. Later Abraham had another son, Isaac, from his own wife who had twin sons, Esah and Jacob.

Jacob in his later years got the name Israel. He had twelve sons, from whom the twelve clans of of the Jewish people were formed.

Abraham, his cousins, his sons, grandsons and their families and dependents all lived in the region around the present day Israel. 

Sometime during the old age of Jacob (Israel), his elder sons sold off his eleventh son, Joseph (Yousef) to slave traders who in turn sold him to an Egyptian official who worked for the Egyptian king, Pharaoh. In later years, Joseph became the Prime Minister of Pharaoh.

During this time, due to severe famine in Palestine, the old patriarch Jacob and his sons and their families had to move to Egypt for survival. There, Joseph found them, forgave what his elder brothers did to him and helped them.

With the royal patronage, the Israeli clans flourished well in Egypt. Their numbers perhaps became thousands and they became a threat to the majority Egyptians in the next four centuries. That forced the latter day Pharaoh to declare the descendants of Israel as slaves and put them to hardships and forced labor. 

Then they got a leader who was capable enough to become a mighty opponent to the Pharaoh of that time. He was Moses. The Biblical narratives say the detailed story of how Moses became an adopted prince of the Pharaoh's palace and how he was initiated in to the task of taking the leadership of the Jewish slaves of Egypt.

Finally, Moses, with his divine guidance, helped the Jews to escape Egypt and move en mass to Palestine, the land of their forefathers. 

But by this time the Palestine region was full of the descendants of the cousins of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob intermixed with descendants of their ancestors. And many of these were physically much stronger than the descendants of Israel who just recently got freed from their centuries old slavery. 

The Jews, by their genetic characteristics as explained in the Bible, were physically weaker, but more intelligent and cleverer than their country cousins of Palestine.

That helped them to plan a strategic war under Joshua, their next leader after Moses, to be victorious over the people who inhabited the land their forefathers lived. Thus a minority warrior group of the forward moving Israelite people won over the majority residents of Palestine area and established their settlement in the lands they captured.

They Israeli warriors were forewarned about the dangers of leaving any of their opponents alive. They were instructed to destroy every one. But when their opponents got defeated, they were filled with mercy that they did not kill the children and the women of the defeated Palestinian tribal populace of that time. 

From that period on, the Jews and the rest of the people of the area including the Palestinians were living together in that area. However, for the Palestinian descendants, the Jews were outsiders who forcefully occupied their lands and hence were natural enemies.

The Jews later established their kingdoms and for the next hundreds of years there were times of peace as well as fighting between them and others. During this period, they were made slaves by the Iranians and others. They had a tumultuous history thereafter. 

They were a peculiar kind of minority in the eyes of the majority peoples around them. Their religious practices were different. They believed in one god and they had strict, written religious codes and customs different from all others whom they called by some word equivalent to the English word, gentile. By the end of the first century BC, the Jewish kingdom had become a subordinate dependent state of the Roman empire.  

Just like the Hindus of India, the Jews believed in the prophecies of their saints and prophets and believed in divine interventions at some stage that would help them to uplift their status. They believed in some divine incarnation or avatar.

It was during this time that Jesus Christ was born in a lower middle class Jewish family. Jesus Christ indeed was the savior that their prophets predicted, but the Jewish aristocracy and their religious leaders could not accept it at that time. That was because of the teachings of Jesus that the chaste Jews found as pure blasphemy. But it was not so for the poor folks of the region, whether they belonged to the Jews or the gentiles. 

Jesus gave a new law and a revolutionary interpretation of the old laws. He revealed God, his heavenly father as the God of mercy and love instead of the vengeful god of war and justice that the Jews had been taught earlier.

The Jewish leaders with the help of their political Roman masters killed Jesus on the cross for blasphemy. But Jesus indeed was a divine incarnation that he rose up from the dead and taught thousands of his followers with divine authority. All those, Jews and gentiles, who witnessed the resurrected Jesus became staunch disciples of Jesus and believers of the new teaching. 

In another few decades, as was predicted by some of their old prophets, the Jewish kingdom was totally invaded by external powers and the Jews once again became a landless people, disintegrating to many nations. 

In the later years, the followers of Jesus formed Christianity. The political authority began to fear the massive conversions of all peoples to the new religion. Massive persecution of Christians  by the Roman empire followed for the next few centuries till one latter day Roman emperor, Constantine the great, himself converted to Christianity and made Christianity as the official religion of the the new Roman empire. 

There was relative peace and tranquility during the initial centuries of the new Roman empire which later got separated as the western and the eastern. The eastern became the Byzantine empire

During the 7th century AD, the tribal descendants of Arabia got a new spiritual leader-Prophet Muhammad- who established the new religion, Islam which was a modernized form of the monotheistic (one-god) religions of the Jews and the Christians. In fact, the Christians and the Jews extended much help to Prophet Muhammad during his initial years of fight against the leaders of the Arabian clans.

The Holy Book of Quran originally written in Arabic language told more or less the same stories of the Bible, but giving a different line of approach, mostly in the form of a divine, authoritarian monologue.

While the Quran admitted the non-human and divine nature of Jesus (perhaps as a great prophet of angelic origin), it was wholly opposed to the son-of-god concept and the trinity concepts of the Christians. [An unbiased reader could realize this by reading the Quran. While this aspect is reflected throughout, I give a link to an English translation of Surah Maryam-the 19th Surah of Quran- for the readers here for their own reading and assessment]

Prophet Muhammad was both a spiritual and political leader of Arabia who later became the ruler of all Arabia by a series of war campaigns against his opponents. His successors established the powerful Muslim rule of the Caliphs with Baghdad of Iraq as the capital of the Muslim empire. 

However, Islam as a religion was not an undivided house. It got divided into two major mutually antagonistic groups called the Sunni Islam and the Shia Islam.

The Caliphs later adopted a policy that declared every one who was a true believer in Allah (the Arabic term for Almighty God originating from the Hebrew word Eloah) was a servant of God and thus a Muslim, irrespective of whether they were Jews, Christians or others. A true believer in God was therefore required to follow the tenets of the Quran and anyone who did not do that is a Kafir (unbeliever). This edict of the Caliphs caused the Christians and Jews of the Byzantine empire to either voluntarily or forcefully become converted to Islam. Those who did not, began to face the Muslim persecutions which caused the centuries long conflict between the Muslim empire of the Caliphs and the Roman empire of the Christians known in history as the crusades .

By the end of the crusades, Byzantine empire of the Christians fell to the Caliphs whereas the European Roman empire with its headquarters at Rome withstood the onslaught of Islam identified as the Holy Roman Empire that occupied the whole of Europe for almost thousand years from 962 AD-1806 AD. 

Common people of both the so-called holy empires of the Christians and the Muslims that engulfed both Europe and Asia suffered much during this time in the name of religion and race. The Jews became a widely scattered minority in all the regions. The progress of human civilization went back to the primitive times and the major part of the time period during this time came to be identified as the Dark Ages of human history. 

Religion became the powerful tool in the hands of the aristocrats and the clergy to control the people during this period. Religious texts became sacrosanct and the authority to understand and interpret them remained with the religious elitists. 

However, the renaissance and reformation movements that took place within Christianity slowly caused the common people of Europe to come out of the religious hegemony. However, such things of any significance did not happen in the Islamic world.

However, reformation added another division in the Christian world between the traditional catholic Christians and the breakaway groups of the protestants. The Holy Roman Empire finally disintegrated in to many nations with conflicts of their own.

New thoughts brought up free thinking and novel ideas with the advent of the Industrial Revolution of Europe. It led to explorations and discoveries of new lands like the Americas, Africa, south-east Asia and Australia. The Americas got colonized by the Europeans and the American nations emerged in the world scene. 

Exploitation of industrial workers paved the way for economic and social reformations such as Socialism and Communism

The scattered Jews under conditions of adversity got the opportunity to polish their inborn talents and cleverness. Many of them became wealthy and influential in their own countries of residence. In the regions around the present day Germany, the affluence of the Jews became an eye-sore for the less privileged Christian majority. 

And all these factors culminated in the modern conflicts of the 20th century that we now know as the World War-I and the World War-II.

Jews became the unfortunate victims of in the hands of an ambitious commoner becoming the most hated dictator, Hitler who captured power in Germany by democratic means initially. The result was the holocaust with over 6 million Jews getting brutally massacred in Europe.

But that resulted many Jews migrating to the Americas and a sympathy wave in favor of them growing. The fall of the Reich to the Allies of World War-II paved the way for the formation of the state of Israel once again in 1948.

This time too, the Palestinian inhabitants of the area had to make sacrifices to leave their homes and properties to accommodate the foreign Jews coming back to their land in large numbers from their centuries old exile in foreign lands. 

This revived the old enmity. As the Jews were helped by the so-called Christian majority nations under the leadership of UK and USA, Muslim world naturally became sympathetic to the Palestinians who are now predominantly Muslim. 

Israel with the active and passive support of USA and its supporting nations soon became a nation much advanced scientifically and technologically. And those who support them became known as the Zionists. These developments are all an outcome of both social, racial and religious feelings interwoven in a complex manner.

So they are fighting. Some for mere existence, while some for regaining their pride and also for revenge.

Would there be an end to this madness? Would these people learn to be humane? Would they be able to forget their wounds and work together for a common cause? 

Yes, they would. But not in the near future. 

Human beings keep enhancing their wisdom as the generations pass. And that wisdom would allow them to think differently. They would, in due course of time, learn the true meaning and benefits of what Jesus taught- love your enemies as you love yourself!

They would learn the fallacy of human pride and enmity. 

Till such times, they would keep suffering from their own erroneous deeds and thoughts!

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Surprise Brahmakamal Bloom that Led to Some New Horticulture Learning!

My wife is very fond of gardening and horticulture. She loves to watch the plants grow and bloom with much interest and care. Though we have enough land to fulfill her horticulture passions, we could not make use of it so far due to my wanderings due to my job compulsions. But wherever we lived, whether it is an independent house or an apartment, she had tried to plant a few plants and take care of those with extreme care.

I am not a botanist by profession and I do regret about it now. My dislike to botany began during my school days due to the teaching methods of our botany teacher which I felt as repulsive. I had a natural inclination and liking towards plants, flowers, trees and fruits and I used to enjoy watching them and to learn about them. Unfortunately, my botany teacher did not realize that. She was more inclined to force feed us with botanical jargon and associated text book knowledge.

The case with my wife too was not very different. Though with a natural liking for horticulture, she could not learn the topic of her natural liking. Instead she graduated in economics. 

And that is how education goes in our world now. And we cannot do any thing about it for the time being.

Being in the fag end of my career, we had landed in Ranchi, the capital of the Jharkhand State of India. As there was not much time left for us to nurture a small garden in our new official residence in this place, we had decided not to have any more plant nurturing activities now.

But as habits and hobbies cannot be forgotten so easily, our flat's spacious balconies soon got filled up by potted plants. A few month's ago, my wife brought home a small fleshy leaf of a green plant that she got from the road side. Perhaps some one has cut it and thrown out.

It was the leaf of a kind of cactus. I realized it as some kind of Bryophyllum ( a plant specie that can sprout from its leaves) So, this leaf piece was placed in a pot. We had previous experience with it some time earlier and we knew it would sprout and grow without much care.

It happened that way. From one leaf, there soon appeared many green leaves. One day we observed a shoot projecting straight up from the space between two leaves that emerged from the soil in the pot. The shoot soon grew up to nearly three feet. We did not know what this feature is up to as it stood that way for quite a few weeks.

Then we saw leaves again appearing on the top portion of the new shoot. The shoot was perhaps the stem of the plant.

The new leaves became full sized within another few weeks. Then, to our surprise we found some new brownish growths emerging from the mid of a few leaves at the top and the bottom of the plant.

And yet in another few days, these new outgrowths from the leaves began to bulge. It was clear by this time that they are flower buds.

It was this time that I remembered that this is nothing but probably the plant which we Keralites call as Nishagandhi [നിശാഗന്ധി].  

In just a couple of day's time the three flower buds kept on bulging and a few days ago, I felt that two of them are going to bloom some time during the night. 

To our great joy and surprise, as thought, two of them opened up beautifully to sweet smelling flowers. These two were touching the floor of our balcony because of their weight. They were really large, sparkling white and beautiful. We kept watching them blooming wider and wider! As they kept opening, they made our balcony and home filled with their pleasant scent.

We knew the flowers would close by dawn. As an experiment, I decided to cut them and place them in a watered glass pot inside our home. Though my wife did not agree to the idea of scissoring and wounding the plant during the night, I did that any way.

The two flowers looked beautiful on our tea table giving out their glorious smile and scent in the mid of the night. 

In the early morning I was eager to know their condition. I found them closed up, but yet retaining their majesty.

In another two day's time the top bud also bloomed in a similar fashion.

I wanted to find out more about this plant. Thanks to the internet and the Google search, things are not so difficult now-a-days.

I found that the plant is botanically called Epiphyllum oxypetalum. 

There are differences of opinion about various people whether this is the famous Brahma Kamalam of Indian mythology

Some people say it is in fact Brahmakamal [ब्रह्मा कमल]while some others give that credit to another plant scientifically known as Saussurea obvallata  

But the most detailed information about the plant is found in this website which talks about the Queen of Night (the English name for this flower) in detail. 

This site has provided me some new information which I did not know. First, this plant produces an eatable fruit with a sweet fleshy core with black seeds. It is abundantly cultivated in the world. The flower and the fruit are edible and has medicinal properties. But to make the plant fruit, some techniques are needed. How to cultivate this plant for possible yield of fruits is described here with much illustration.

Interesting. Is it not? 

Friday, July 25, 2014

മതങ്ങളിലെ സത്യവും അസത്യവും മനസ്സാക്ഷി നടത്തിപ്പും!

ഇന്ന് മലയാളത്തില്‍ ഒരു ലേഖനം എഴുതണമെന്ന് വിചാരിച്ചിരിക്കയായിരുന്നു. എഴുതാന്‍ വിചാരിച്ച കാര്യത്തില്‍ മറ്റു ബ്ലോഗ്‌ എഴുത്തുകാര്‍ എന്ത് പറയുന്നു എന്ന് ഒന്ന് സേര്‍ച്ച്‌ ചെയ്തു.

അപ്പോള്‍ വളരെ ജ്ഞാനമുള്ള ഒരു മലയാള മത പണ്ഡിതന്‍ കാര്യ കാരണ സഹിതം വിശദമായി എഴുതിയ ഒരു വലിയ ബ്ലോഗ്‌ സൈറ്റ്‌ കാണാന്‍ ഇടയായി.

ക്രിസ്ത്യാനികളുടെ ബൈബിളും അതിലെ ഉള്ളടക്കവും അതിലെ സത്യവും അസത്യവും തെറ്റുകളും ഒക്കെ വിശദമായി പ്രതിപാദിക്കുന്ന ധാരാളം പേജുകള്‍.

ഈ ബ്ലോഗിന്റെ തുടക്കം തന്നെ 'യാഹ് വെ' എന്ന ലേഖനമാണ്

ലേഖകന്റെ വിശദമായ പ്രതിപാദനത്തോട് അനുകൂലിച്ചും പ്രതികൂലിച്ചും ധാരാളം പ്രതികരണങ്ങള്‍ ചര്‍ച്ച ചെയ്യപ്പെട്ടിരിക്കുന്നു.

അതൊക്കെ ഒന്ന് വായിച്ചു പോയപ്പോള്‍ ഞാനും ഇങ്ങനെ പ്രതികരിച്ചു:

ഈ ഭൂമിയുടെ മാത്രമല്ല, സര്‍വ പ്രപഞ്ചത്തിന്റെയും ഉത്‌പത്തിയും നിലനില്‍പ്പും കാരണഭൂതനായ ദൈവം ആണ് എല്ലാത്തിന്റെയും മൂല ശ്രോതസ്. ആ ദൈവം ആണ് സകലത്തിന്റെയും പിതാവായ ദൈവം. പിതാവായ ദൈവം ആദിയും അന്തവും ഇല്ലാത്ത മഹാശക്തിയും എല്ലാ ശക്തിയുടെയും ഉറവിടവും ആണ് എന്ന് ഒരുവിധം എല്ലാ പ്രധാന മതങ്ങളും ഒരുപോലെ വിശ്വസിക്കുന്നു. 

എന്നാല്‍ ഇപ്രകാരം അനന്തനായ പിതാവായ ദൈവത്തെ പൂര്‍ണ്ണമായി അറിയാന്‍ പരിമിതികള്‍ ഉള്ള മനുഷ്യര്‍ക്ക്‌ സാധിക്കുകയില്ല. അത് കാരണം മനുഷന്റെ ദൈവ സങ്കല്പങ്ങള്‍ കാല കാലങ്ങളായി പരിണാമപ്പെട്ടു വരുന്നു. അറിവും ബുദ്ധിയും കൂടുന്നത് അനുസരിച്ച് കൂടുതല്‍ കൂടുതലായി ദൈവത്തെ ഉള്‍ക്കൊള്ളാന്‍ മനുഷ്യനു കഴിഞ്ഞെന്നു വരാം. എന്നാല്‍ ആ അറിവ് ഒരിക്കലും പരിപൂര്‍ണ്ണമായി വരികയില്ല. മഹാ സമുദ്രത്തെ ഒരു ഗ്ലാസില്‍ ഉള്‍ക്കൊള്ളാന്‍ കഴിയില്ലല്ലോ.

അപ്പോള്‍ മനുഷ്യര്‍ പല രീതിയില്‍ ഉള്ള അപക്വ ധാരണകള്‍ വച്ചു ദൈവത്തെ അളക്കാന്‍ ശ്രമിക്കുന്നത് അബദ്ധമെന്നെ പറയാന്‍ സാധിക്കൂ. മത ഗ്രന്ഥങ്ങളും മനുഷ്യരാല്‍ തന്നെ രചിക്കപ്പെട്ടതാണ്. മനുഷ്യന് ഗ്രഹിക്കാന്‍ പാകത്തില്‍ ഉള്ള ചില ദൈവിക വെളിപാടുകള്‍ ഈ ഗ്രന്ഥങ്ങളില്‍ കാണുമെങ്കില്‍ പോലും മനുഷ്യ ശ്രുഷ്ടി ആയ ഈ ഗ്രന്ഥങ്ങള്‍ പരിപൂര്‍ണ സത്യം എന്ന് വിശ്വസിക്കുന്നത് അബദ്ധമാണ് എന്നേ ബുദ്ധിയും വിവേകവുമുള്ള ആധുനിക മനുഷ്യന് കരുതാന്‍ പറ്റൂ. 

അതിനാല്‍ എല്ലാ മനുഷ്യ മതങ്ങളിലും സത്യവും അസത്യവും ഉണ്ട്. സത്യത്തെ തിരിച്ചറിയാന്‍ ദൈവം മനുഷ്യന് കൊടുത്തിരിക്കുന്ന ദിവ്യ ശക്തിയാണ് അവന്റെ മനസാക്ഷി. മനസാക്ഷിയെ ചിന്താക്രമീകരണന്‍ എന്ന് വേണമെങ്കില്‍ പറയാം. മനുഷ്യന്റെ തനതായ ചിന്തകളെ നേര്‍വഴിക്ക് ആക്കാന്‍ അതി ലോല ശ്രമം നടത്തുന്ന ദൈവത്തിന്റെ സ്വന്തം പൈലറ്റ്‌ ലാമ്പ്‌. എന്നാല്‍ ദൈവം മനുഷ്യന് സ്വയം തീരുമാനങ്ങള്‍ എടുക്കാന്‍ കഴിവ് നല്‍കിയിരിക്കുന്നു. അതിനാല്‍ ദൈവത്തിന്റെ മനുഷ്യ മനസ്സിലെ ചിന്താക്രമീകരണ ശക്തി ഒരിക്കലും മനുഷ്യന് വേണ്ടി തീരുമാനങ്ങള്‍ എടുക്കില്ല. വിനയമുള്ള മനുഷ്യന് ദൈവം വഴി കാട്ടിയായി വര്‍ത്തിക്കും. പണവും സ്വാധീനവും ഉണ്ടാക്കാനല്ല. പിന്നെയോ, സത്യം തിരിച്ചറിയാന്‍ മാത്രം. 

തലക്കനം വര്‍ധിച്ച മനുഷ്യരും അവര്‍ ഉണ്ടാക്കിയ മതങ്ങളും അഭിപ്രായ വ്യത്യാസങ്ങളും അടിപിടിയും വിദ്വേഷങ്ങളും ഒക്കെ പെരുക്കി കൊണ്ടേയിരിക്കും. സത്യത്തിനും അസത്യത്തിനും വേണ്ടി, സത്യത്തിന്റെ പേരിലും മറ്റു പലതിന്റെ പേരിലും. ദൈവത്തിന്റെ പേരില്‍. ഒരു വീട്ടിലെ മക്കള്‍ അപ്പന്റെ പേരും പറഞ്ഞു അടിയോടടി! കൊള്ളാമോ കാര്യം?  

അന്ധന്മാര്‍ ആനയെ കാണാന്‍ പോയ കഥ കേട്ടിട്ടില്ലേ?

ആരുടേയും ബുദ്ധിയെയും  വിവേചന ശക്തിയെയും വിധിക്കാന്‍ ഞാന്‍ ആരുമല്ല.

എന്റെ ചിന്താക്രമീകരണന്‍ [Thought Adjuster] മനസ്സിലാക്കി തന്ന ചില സത്യങ്ങള്‍ എന്റെ സ്വന്തം രീതിയില്‍ എഴുതിയെന്നേ ഉള്ളൂ.

നിങ്ങളുടെ മനസ്സാക്ഷിയുടെ നടത്തിപ്പ് നിങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് അറിയാന്‍ സാധിക്കുന്നുണ്ടോ സുഹൃത്തെ?

[The above is a brief essay ( in Malayalam language) about understanding truths and untruths in the teachings of human religions with the help of the unique divine power that is available with every normal human being- the Thought Adjuster and about the essential prerequisite for differentiating the divine guidance from egoistic self thoughts arising out of human intelligence and biases]

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Power of Synchronization of Thoughts and Actions!

Everything in our world now is a mixture of anarchy and chaos with some peace and synchronization achieved here and there. 

Anarchy and chaos are signs of destruction and weakening. But synchronization is a sign of peace and power.

Synchronization means streamlining or making things move in perfect coordination. On the other hand, chaos means a situation in which everything moving independent of every other thing.

Electrical engineers who work in a power plant know what is synchronization in electrical energy. The electrical power they make through their alternators cannot be brought to the outside world unless its phases are synchronized with the power grid. If the non synchronized electrical power is connected, it causes great damage and destruction. 

The military people know the power of synchronization of their acts. The first step to make a soldier is giving the military training that enable the soldiers to be disciplined to work in unison. We have seen how the marching soldiers move in unison during their parades. If their thoughts and actions are not trained to be disciplined, they all work independently or even antagonistically to each other and would never be able to achieve any success. Their individual capabilities and power would become useless or even destructive when they are not synchronized in thoughts and actions.

Organizations make good progress and achieve their goals and objectives when the people of the organization think and work in unison for achieving an objective. Organizations having more and more synchronized people would be more successful than organizations having lesser numbers of synchronized people. That explains why some organizations are good and successful while many others are not.

Successful businessmen know how to synchronize their thoughts and actions. Their success also depends on how they are able to get like minded people to work for them or how they make the people work in synchronization.

For highly egoistic people, synchronization is a difficult thing. They find extreme difficulty to synchronize their thoughts and actions with others. For such people maintaining consistent success in life is very difficult. Even the success they apparently seem making in life is due to the synchronization of some others with them.

All people are different and unique. All men and women have their own free will of choices for taking decisions and actions. Their likes, dislikes all are in different levels. 

Like minded people, given an opportunity, may join together to form synchronized groups for certain areas where they are all in an agreement for thoughts and actions. 

For advanced people removing their egos and personal choices for achieving synchronization with others is much easier to achieve. They have the power to adjust by their own free will. But for people of inferior minds, this may not be so easy. They need external inducements of fear or cheer to make them adjust to others.

Our world can become more and more in positive synchronization with more and more people, provided we will fully try to remove our thoughts that prevent synchronization.

When more and more among us achieve the power of overcoming our inherent weaknesses by using our free will, our world would begin to move in the positive direction of progress and development.

Then more and more of us would know how to be synchronized with ourselves and with others.

More and more of us would then be in peace with us and others. Chaos and anarchy keep reducing. Peace, positive energy and goodness would begin to show more and more every where! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Progressive Ideas for Creating More Jobs and More Income for Governments that Care!

Many of you might have come across this Chinese proverb: ' Give me a fish, I will eat for a day; teach me to fish, I will eat for the life time!'

Have you really understood the meaning?

Many of our philanthropy even now work on the principles of the first part of the above proverb. We try to help others by giving them a fish or some money or some other such thing  that they take it , consume it and fall back to the level that they were earlier. We do not try to create a situation wherein those whom we help do not fall back to the situation they were earlier. Simply put, we simply do not care to facilitate people to live a meaningful life of their own!

Many governments do the same thing. My country, India is a typical example. The Indian government reportedly spend or reported as being spent a good part of its earnings to give subsidies to the poor! They try to distribute subsidized food, LPG, diesel, kerosene, electricity, water, housing, etc by making these things a few rupees cheaper for the people who are not able to earn an income above some prescribed minimum levels. 

Let us find how it goes by some examples. Suppose that the electricity production cost as per the prevailing inputs is some thing around Rs.4 per KWh or unit. Suppose that the government make a scheme by which they are giving a subsidy of Rs.1 per every unit consumed by a house hold which is declared as low income whose electricity consumption is only about 30 units in a month or 360 units in a year. India perhaps has over 100 million of such houses. So the one rupee subsidy means a whopping 360x100x1= 36000 million rupees per year. Effectively the poor people got a benefit of 360 rupees per year or 1 rupee per day. It is less than the money you normally give to a beggar. Perhaps some  beggars might even abuse you if you do that.

But imagine the great money the government lost. They could have used the money for doing some great and useful work such as making some hospitals run better, making some existing roads well maintained, etc etc.

It is just an example. These subsidies do not make any impact in the life of any of the beneficiaries. Perhaps it helps the government officers and staff to adopt corrupt practices and corner a big chunk of that money for themselves. Perhaps some politicians in power also might get some of it from the officials by doing some arm-twisting tactics!

Same is the case with all the other subsidies. India is indeed a country of subsidies. It is the best and the easiest method by which the government can waste the governmental income. Giving a rupee each to thousands of beggars really does not require much effort! And it is also the best method by which public money could be spend without the auditors taking note of any irregularities!

Instead of giving the people a fish for a day, it would have been much better for the country to enable the people to fish. That is enabling the people to fetch for themselves by providing opportunities for them to fish. In other words, it means creating opportunities for people to get meaningful and remunerative employments or jobs for themselves that they no more require the peanuts given by the government as subsidies!

But creating opportunities for jobs is not as easy as giving alms and escaping from the greater responsibilities. For that the first and foremost requirement is to have a government that really cares for the people. You need a government made of matured and visionary leaders who could drive the governmental systems to perform.

Such governments would make laws and rules and ensure such rules actually work in facilitating the country to progress in such a way that unemployment levels keep declining year after year.

If the unemployment levels keep increasing, that merely shows that the government is ineffective and useless. It is a direct indication of a careless and non-performing government.

Now the question is whether it is possible for a government to enhance employment opportunities without it actually getting bankrupt? In my opinion, it is possible. Let us see how a government would move ahead in this case and what are the various options that the government could attempt.

Step No.1 : Government should spell out its policy of plans clearly with a time bound manner. If privatization is a policy, government should declare the list of businesses and services which are not to be done by the government. 

Step No.2 : Government should stop all subsidies and the money so saved should be distributed for existing and new ventures to improve government services and functions. If more people are required to be employed for this it should be done without hesitation. Money may also be given to private enterprises as grants for developing systems where the activities cannot sustain economically initially. For example, government may give subsidy to start new air routes, rail routes, bus routes etc where there is not enough remunerative traffic initially till such times the volumes of business become sustainable.

Step No.3: Government should consider lower corporate income tax and other tax concessions to all companies who keep growing with regard to direct employment with individual employee incomes with taxable incomes. Companies who use their surplus incomes to idle or used to acquire assets and employment abroad should be taxed at higher rates.

Step No.4 : Companies that earn export incomes by exporting locally manufactured items should be taxed at lower rates. However, those companies which export ores and minerals should not be considered for this benefit.

Step No.5: Incomes and profits out of educational services and agricultural activities above a minimum limit should be made taxable. Lands which are kept non productive should be levied penal taxes or should be made liable for take over by the government.

Step No.6: Substantial incentives to be provided for industries and businesses to set up offices and facilities in smaller cities. Unsustainable growth of metros should be prevented.

Step No.7: Corporate expenditure towards Research and Development, import substitution efforts, environmental management and workmen safety should be tax free provided the companies substantiate growth in these areas by employment creation. 

Step No.8 : Laws should be made that would allow real estate development for rental purposes. Real estate developers should be allowed to establish estate management companies.

Step No.9 : Law should be made to make the private hospitals to provide mandatory and time bound medical reports to patients and their medical insurance companies. It should be mandatory for the hospitals and doctors who provide medical services for a fee, to give such reports with proper bills which should enhance employment opportunities.

Step No.10: All government services such as land records, property registration, national identity, voter id, vehicle registration, licencing, company registration, policing, judicial services, infrastructure, etc should be enhanced with the involvement of private participation. Job creation data in these areas should also be maintained. There should also be a national job safety fund similar to the national pension fund, which provide subsistence allowances to its members during the time they become jobless. 

There are hundreds of such things that the government could do if they are really caring for the people!

And it is always to be remembered that more employment in the country means more income to the government. More income to the government means more effective its performance.

So more than any thing else, the first priority of any progressive government should be to generate jobs. Not merely the jobs that provide peanut incomes, but jobs that provide decent incomes!

Out of many parameters to judge, job generation should be the first criteria to assess the performance of any government!

[You may also read about enhancing employment in India]

Friday, July 18, 2014

Remembering the Late Prof James V McConnell- Author of 'Understanding Human Behavior'!

Yesterday I got a call from my old Roorkee friend, Prof.Ujjagger Singh Kooner, who had just returned back to Chandigarh after a couple of month's stay with his sons in the USA. [ I had written about our meeting after so many years in Chandigarh during the occasion of his eldest son's marriage.]  

While sharing some interesting episodes of our Roorkee days over phone, he told me that he was going to send me some scanned copies of some old documents of interest to me, that he still keep with him even after three and a half decades.

He was prompt in sending those scans by e-mail. Two were scans of simple invitation cards  that me and my father had sent to him independently. My father sent it from my home town Elanthoor, in the Central Travancore area of Kerala, while I sent it from my work place at Bhilai in Central India.

Now-a-days people spend much money in getting the marriage invitation cards prepared in quite an impressive way by spending hundreds of rupees per card. Way back in the 1980's too, things were not much different, though the spending used to be much less.

I never liked the idea of extravagant spending for marriages. It was my insistence that my marriage invitation should be as simple as possible. And that was what we did during the time of my marriage way back in 1981. I do not know whether I had any samples of those cards with me now. 

My friend sending the scans of both those cards now helped me recall those days and also to publish it here so that my readers could see its simple content for themselves and compare with what they have been seeing now-a-days.

My Wedding Invitation sent by my father

My marriage invitation sent by me to my friends

But the third scan that he send to me surprised me more. It was a letter sent to me and Ujjagger [U.S Kooner] in the address of my Roorkee University Hostel room [G-34, Jawahar Bhawan] by the eminent author and medical researcher of those days, the Late Prof James V McConnell PhD of Michigan University .

Letter from Late Prof James V McConnell

In those days, the vast resource of knowledge through the internet was not available. What we had were the the libraries. 

Roorkee Univiersity ( now Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, India) where we were doing our post graduate studies in engineering, had a very good library with a collection of nearly 1,90,000 volumes of technical books in those days (1978-80). Me and Ujjager were regular visitors to the university library. 

It was during one of our visits then to the university library that we got this interesting book, written by Prof McConnell. 

The book was titled 'Understanding Human Behavior'. 

It was neither concerned with mechanical engineering (the engineering stream of my friend) nor with chemical engineering (my stream of specialization). 

It was essentially a text book for medical students, especially those concerned with psychiatry. But the book was written in such a lucid manner that it was much understandable to even laymen like us. 

I do not remember who took the book first from the library. But I remember it as a great and pleasurable reading for curious people like us. It was Ujjagger who suggested writing a letter of our appreciation to the author and we did it jointly.

But we never expected the old American medical researcher would promptly reply us with a personal touch. 

But he did exactly that. Unlike most Indian authorities, the learned western educationists maintained the good habit of replying to people who wrote to them! 

You can visualize that personal touch by reading the letter which I have now included in this page. 

Ujjagger had kept the letter and I am seeing it again now when he had sent the scan of this old letter yesterday. I should appreciate the pains he had taken to preserve these old documents.

Understanding Human Behavior essentially dealt with the hardware of human intelligence-the physical systems of our brain and the nervous system. The professor was good in making things clear at a time when our knowledge about communication systems, memory and artificial intelligence was in its nascent state.

I have been a curious student of human behavior for quite some time. But my study was not for any formal qualifications, but for satisfying my own curiosity.

Now I have got a better understanding of the mechanisms of human behavior, though I am not an expert with its details. 

Now I realize that human behavior has much more to do than just with its physical systems and mechanisms. Human brain is a receptacle and processor of both internal and external stimulus and communications, both physical and spiritual (transcending physical). It is indeed complex, but very very interesting. 

My present day favorite book, about which I have written many times, have fruitfully consolidated my knowledge and understanding of this subject in a broader manner. 

Once you are able to appreciate the mechanisms of human behavior, the whole approach to life changes. 

Life appears no more a bed of thorns, but a mixture of roses and thorns! A mixture of bitterness and sweetness and of great contrasts. You would be able to understand other human beings more sympathetically, even when they are apparent adversaries.

Would you like to give some serious thoughts about understanding the mechanisms of your own behavior?    

What Are the Things to be Checked Before Buying a Flat or Apartment in India?

Real estate business has flourished much in India now. Both individual builders and real estate companies are active in most of the cities of India, especially those having a population of 100,000 or above.

Flats (sometimes also called apartments) in high rise buildings have now become common in the Indian cities just as in the highly populated cities of the world. Indians, especially the well educated and well earning middle class have accepted the culture of living in apartment homes in high rise buildings. 

More and more new features are offered by the builders and developers of flats to woo the customers. Depending on the city, location, construction features and luxuries as provided, buying a flat in India costs any thing between Rs.2000 to Rs.20,000 per sq.ft living space. While the cost of construction is more or less similar throughout India with a variation of  of say, 10-20 % from the average, the exorbitant margins above that exist in some localities and cities due to the high cost of land and its future escalation potential. 

Flats having 2 bedrooms, one common living and dining hall, one kitchen with 2 bathrooms are commonly designated as 2BHK types and those having 3 bedrooms, hall and kitchen are called 3BHK types. These are the most common types. These flats may or may not have additional facilities like additional utility space, an extra bath room, one or two or three balconies, etc. Floor area (also called carpet area) of bed rooms typically vary from a low of 100 sq.ft to a medium of 144 sq.ft  to a high of 156 sq.ft. Carpet areas of halls typically vary from 180 sq.ft to 420 sq.ft and kitchen areas vary from 48 sq.ft to 100 sq.ft. Bathroom sizes vary from 30-48 sq.ft.

The best way to understand the size of the flat is to measure its carpet area (the internal usable space excluding the walls, ventilation or pipe shafts). The carpet area of a 2BHK flat may vary from 550-900 sq.ft while that of a 3BHK flat may be between 650-1250 sq.ft. However, builders normally adopt other yardsticks to designate the area of the flat. Sometimes, the flat area is indicated as the built up area ( which is the overall outer area including the walls). At times it is indicated as the super built up area which includes the built up area plus an apportioning of all the common areas in the building divided among the total number of flats. The super built up area of a flat having a carpet area of 550 sq.ft could then be easily indicated as having 750 sq.ft which would be difficult for the buyer to verify. 

Real estate builders are known to exploit the buyers based on the manipulated or misguiding flat area projections. They may provide some plans of the apartment with internal dimensions. However, they would not show how the areas add up to become the projected flat area based on which the basic price of the flat is fixed. The government is reportedly considering to make the carpet area as the mandatory yardstick for all real estate developers, to over come such clandestine activities. Anyway, it is a good idea to get this aspect verified properly without any ambiguity before the deal is settled.

It is a good idea to check all the relevant approvals that the builder has obtained to construct and sell the properties. If possible a copy of all the approved drawings and other statutory approval documents may be obtained from the builders for records.

Now let us examine the technical aspects of the multistory building in which the flat is located. Many people in India are now-a-days get carried away by superstitious pseudoscience popularly known as Vaastu. Personally, I do not believe in such things and I consider it as some thing irrational. However, these are associated with one's personal belief system and therefore I leave it to the decision of the individual whether to check for vaastu or not.

Whether you take time and effort to check vaastu compliance or not, what aspects you should really check for a good living in your flat after you take possession of it are what I would like to discuss further.

The first thing is to check the water supply arrangements that the builder is planning for the building. Check whether the builders have got an assurance from the municipal authorities to have the water supply provided from the existing water supply network. Most probably, this would be missing. The builder might be telling that he has enough bore wells with enough ground water. The builders representatives may even show you the abundance of water that is being supplied from the tube wells that supply water for the building during its construction stage. But remember, this bore wells may not be enough to cater to all the residents when all the flats get occupied. Water would become one of your problems after you have established your flat as your home some years later. In most cities and towns of India, the local municipal authorities are too incompetent to provide good drinking water to the multistory buildings in later years, even while they allow the builders to construct and sell flats in such high rise buildings!

Assuming that there is some assured source of water supply (including water supplied through road tankers) the next thing to check is how this water is being planned for distribution in the building to the individual flats. Normally, there should be one underground closed tank preferably made of RCC with enough capacity to store water received from various sources including the bore wells. If the storage capacity of this tank gives an average of at least 500 litres per flat it could be considered quite okay.[for example, if the building has 50 flats, then the underground common water tank should have a minimum storage capacity of 50x500=25000 litres or 25 cubic meter]

Water from the ground level has to be pumped using pumps so that it is distributed to the individual flats located at various levels above ground level. Hence pumps are required to be installed for this purpose which draw water from the underground tank. Though there are many ways to do the water distribution, the best way to adopt to ensure 24x7 water supply  in the individual flats is by pumping the water first to over head tanks installed at the roof top of the building. The roof top tanks also should have a capacity which is preferably not less than the ground tank capacity. From the roof top tanks pipes are laid to the individual flats below through which water flows by gravity. There are a few things which need to be specially noted in this.

First the water supply pumps which have to supply the water from the ground tank to the over head tanks. The flow capacity , the pressure that these pumps generate and the number of pumps provided as standby are very important. I would now explain it with the help of a typical example:

Suppose that the building under consideration has 12 floors including the ground floor. The average roof height maintained in normal Indian apartment building is approximately 3.3 meters. Thus the roof top would be at a height of about 40 meters (12x3.3~). Normally the bottom level of the underground reservoir would be 5 meters below ground level and the overhead tank would have a height of about 5 meters. Thus the total height through which the water is required to be pumped would be 40+5+5=50 meter. Additionally the pump has to overcome the friction that is caused by the pipes and should have enough margin pressure to deliver water. Giving proper allowances to that, we need a pump which should be able to generate at least 60 meters of head which is approximately 6 kg per pressure. 

The pump should have a pumping capacity in such a way that it could fill the overhead tank at a rate more than the average total consumption of water from it. During the peak hours of the morning, the water consumption in a typical 2BHK and 3BHK flat be an average of about 250 litres per hour or 0.25 cu.m/hr. Thus the peak rate of consumption for a 50 unit building could be 50x0.25=12.5 cu.m/hr. Thus the pump selected should have a capacity preferably not less than 12.5 cu.m/hr. This pump would be sufficient to fill the overhead tank from an empty state within 2 hours. This pump with a flow capacity of 12.5 and pressure of 6 kg would require a motor having a power of approximately 5 HP. There should be at least one additional pump installed having the same capacity which should serve as the standby in the event one of the pump is required to be taken out for breakdown repairs. Remember, the pump is the life line of water to the high rise building. If there is no pump to supply water to the top floors, life in the flat would be a nightmare!

Builders and their designers would some time try to save some money by installing lower capacity pumps than what I have indicated in the above example. In that case, the pumps would take more time to fill the tanks and are required to be operated for more hours. A lower HP rated pump would not give any real saving on electricity to the flat dwellers or their association. But it might reduce some initial cost saving to the builder. However, this saving is not very remarkable. The selection of pump capacities and the water supply designs often go wrong because of the technical incompetency of the engineers who work for the builders. 

The next aspect to be given importance is the provision of reliable level gauges for the underground and the overhead tanks and their linking to the pumps for automatic operation of the pumps. Such provisions would greatly help in reducing the wastage of water and the manpower that is required to operate the water supply systems of the high rise building. Make sure that your builder is giving due attention to this aspect.

When water is gravity fed from the over head tank to the flats below, the top floors would get lower pressure in their taps. The highest pressure would be at the lower floor flats. This uneven pressure has to be regulated with the help of suitable pressure reducing devices installed in the respective pipelines. If this is not done, the high pressure in the lower floors may even cause the water taps to fly out or rupture due to high water pressure.

Some builders or their water supply design engineers may not provide individual water supply lines to each flat which could be regulated from a common source point ( say the roof top). When flats are handed over to the buyers, it is the responsibility of the flat owners association to manage the common facilities. It would be difficult for such associations to regulate or stop water to those residents who are not paying their dues properly when individual water regulation valves are not provided. Absence of such a facility would also cause several flat owners facing problems together when some repairs are to be carried out for any one flat.

The next aspect to be looked in to is the type and numbers of electric lifts that are provided in the building. Never allow the builder to use the lifts for completing their construction work. The buyers should insist for newly installed lifts from reputed makes with all safety feature and service facilities in writing from the builder. In most flats in India, especially in the non metro cities, problems caused by non working lifts are very common. Your life would be miserable if you are to climb more than 5 floors every day due to a non working lift. People normally overlook this aspect. Lifts that are not proper are also a major cause of fatal accidents in high rise buildings. So, make sure that you and your co-buyers are aware of this and are capable of resolving this when you are to manage the show yourself when the builder quit the place after all his flats are sold out. Lifts are expensive machinery. The cost difference between cheap makes and reputed makes is too wide. I have seen many builders cheating the flat buyers on this issue.

It is important to give attention to the structural strength of the building and its construction quality. However as per the prevailing laws the builders are responsible for it for 80 years. They know if any thing untoward happens they are likely to go to jail. Hence, normally no builder would like to overlook this aspect. But, lack of experience and expertise of the builder and his construction group could cause many defects in the building as constructed. 

One should check how the builder has planned to dispose the sewage and the solid wastes that would be generated in the flats. Fire safety is another thing. Many builders do not have expert engineers in their roles to plan and execute these issues properly. It is a common practice in India that the statutory authorities are often and easily bribed that they give all such clearances without any hitch. It would be better for the buyer to ask for more details about these aspects and get himself convinced.

Insist for the layout plan of the building with the internal movement spaces and the parking spaces. In the drawings these might appear as okay. However, it is a good idea to check their dimensions to see whether such spaces are enough to turn and park your cars without facing difficulties. Also it is a better idea to get the parking space reserved for your flat in a written agreement.

It is now common that many builders are wooing the buyers with many luxuries. Swimming pools, play grounds, luxury fittings and finishes are all in the offering that make the flats to be like five star hotels. However, the five star hotels are managed and maintained by trained and experienced staff who are paid decently. When such facilities are offered by the builders initially, it is a good thing to check how these facilities would be maintained through out the future years with regard to their management and its recurring costs. 

Many people buy flats as an investment opportunity. In the metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and in many other tier two cities, the flat costs are now at such high levels that one may not get the desired appreciation in the future as it used to be in the past. Buying flats in remote places where it is difficult for you to look it after could become a headache for you later on various counts. It is better you think about these too before taking your final decision. Remember, there are several thousands of unsold flats held by many builders in the major cities of India.

Unless the government changes its laws that enable the owners and builders to rent out their apartments, houses and flats without any risk, it would not be much beneficial to own flats as investments or as an income source. I had written about it earlier.[ read it here!]

You may also read these related articles that I wrote earlier in this context [ article-1 ; article-2]