Tradition, Nature and Technology – a delightful potpouri

Its one of those days – where nature, tradition and modernity come pleasantly together; and we involuntary let out a sign of contentment. These moments are few and should be cherished – not because they happen infrequently -, but because we have so little time to notice such wonder these days.

For starters, its the “Deepavali” weekend, the weekend that the whole of India rejoices in – with everyone wearing new clothes, every home brightly lit with flickering earthen lamps, neighbours actively exchanging sweets and a smile playing on everyone’s face. And add an India-Australia cricket match and you certainly have a full hand. Thats tradition.

Nature seems to agree all is well and showers her bounty – a steady stream of rain – upon the earth. A few kids trying to light some fireworks run hither-thither in search of jugaads to make the fireworks work while the old woman across the street looks up to the sky as she remembers a long-forgotten, care-free childhood – and smiles a toothless smile. Nature is in her element and all’s right with the world.

I sit on the balcony, the rain pattering on the windows and a kindle in my hand reading John Grisham’s latest thriller. The Mobile brings in personal greetings from once-best friends – now lost in the mists of memory – and nostalgia competes for attention with the best seller in my possession. The messages win round one – soon tragedies of old reappear as fond comedies (remember when that teacher caught you cheating on your paper!), and foibles of youth now transform into achievements of your youth. Technology just brought the world – and the past – a lot closer to me.

On this wonderful occasion as we wish everyone a great festive season, here’s a hope that Tradition, Nature and Technology all continue to play such symphonies in tandem, delighting us with the ensuing harmony. Or to be more precise, to give us the “presence of mind” to be able to notice more of these enchanting dances and “leave the cares of the world” alone for a while – at least until the end of the festive season. Amen to that!

Adieu Michael Jackson….and thank you to other greats

Michael Jackson’s demise seems to be what the world is penning, talking, reading and watching today. Rightly so – an icon and a legend deserves this kind of adulation for sure. For many of us in India – especially those from the more rural parts “English music” translates as “Michael Jackson” – period….

Here’s a thought though – all this remembrance would not make him happier today (unless of course St.Peter has given him a balcony seat and suitable headphones in heaven). While the news does draw all of us together in shared grief, I wonder if it would have made more sense to have “celebrated” his genius earlier rather than “mourning” on it now….

Perhaps, it’s human nature to appreciate goodness only in its absence. Is darkness only present so we can appreciate light? Does suffering exist only so we can appreciate god?  Rather dwell on this borrowed thought (I seem to remember the bible having a better version of this somewhere), I’d like to spend a little time celebrating greatness in several fields – folks who expertise has transitioned them into legends. Here’s a shot at this – please add the tons that I have for sure missed…this lot wouldn’t even suffice as the tip of the iceberg I am sure:

  1. Roger Federer – Having won all the grand slams and enough of them to be considered the greatest, he continues to be all poise and grace while wielding his magic tennis wand. Here’s a kudos to Federer – and to wish him a grand slam year (or whatever they call winning all grand slams in year) and many more wins  – we’d sure appreciate being enchanted for a few more years….
  2. Dalai Lama – Statesman, godman, human, teacher – no matter from which angle you look – the dalai lama comes out tops on all of them. Life hasn’t been all smooth sailing for this great man – exile and political pressures, connecting with west and the east and a lot more – but he has taken everything in his stride and continues to inspire generations evermore. Read his gems, the compassion flows out of the pages onto you!
  3. Bill Gates – There’s no doubt who created the software industry – it was this man and his team. After creating a virtual monopoly in the software market, he set out to start a second innings with his charity work. The official “Bill Gates and Melinda foundation” website proclaims “All lives have equal value”. Wikipedia states that “the primary aims of the foundation are, globally, to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty, and in America, to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology.” Can we ask for more? Incidentally, Infosys seems to be an Indian success story in the same light. It helped create a brand for Indian software (of course in the company TCS, Wipro and the other big guys), created wealth for very, very many, has a very active social wing and very importantly provided an opportunity for each of the founding partners to reign at the top.  I hope Narayanamoorthy goes on to create more impact on a larger canvas (Nandan Nilekani has already moved on from the corporate world to help the government with its unique identification scheme)
  4. Steve Waugh – A few years ago, a “who’s Steve Waugh?” would have elicited replies including “a tough Australian captain, a batsman who thrived when the odds were against him and a bowler who always delivered in exacting times”. Today, Steve Waugh focuses his efforts on Udayan and other social activities which has resulted in hope for a lot of children who had none before. Interestingly he states that a meeting with Mother Theresa was a reason to propel him on here – another evidence of how a person’s legacy continues to live and inspire.
  5. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – A soft person who has brought spirituality to our doorsteps, here is an example of the impact one person can do in a very short time. In 1982, he is said to have started his “sudharshan kriya” courses – a holistic method of relaxation using pranayam and some yogic poses. Today his art of living course has reached over 25 million people in 140+ countries – perhaps, only the internet grew faster than this! Numerous programs, keynote speeches in international seminars – this godman has done it all. Recently, in one of his visits to Srilanka, he was moved by the suffering and spoke out on the need for the Indian government to do more – which it did finally – hopefully providing some comfort to the many impacted. A white robe, a zillion dollar smile, large- scale social impact and a very inclusive blessing – there’s sure hope for tomorrow when this gentleman’s around.
  6. Jeffrey Archer – What a chap to choose agfter all the do-doody folks chosen earlier you ask right? Here’s the thing – Jeffrey Archer’s story parallels in a loose way Michael Jackson’s. Both of them are very, very good in what they do (pick up any of Jeffrey Archer’s fiction books including his latest “The path of glory” and you’ll see why he’s a first story teller justifying sales of over  250 million+ copies) and published in 60+ countries and 30+ languages) but have courted controversy outside their field of expertise. Jeffrey Archer has narrowly escaped bankruptcy, enjoyed political success and downfall and has been in prison. For all this though, let’s hope he continues to write books that will continue to enthrall us for time to come…..   

I know I have left out tons of deserving folks – both out of ignorance and being short of space. The idea though is to raise a toast to the many folks who are making a difference to our lives today – be it on the social, economical or spiritual sides. Most importantly, let’s salute our families today – parents and grandparents who have made it their life goal to ensure we live ours to the maximum. With the current trends in play, I don’t have a doubt we’d be celebrating grandparents’ days soon (mothers’ and fathers’ days are already on the calendar!) – but perhaps even better than the gifts our retail friends promises us will do the job adequately, we should perhaps start a “ thank you” hour every day (and if it goes the way of thanksgiving, we’ll still have all the turkey, beer and football games right!).