What I Saw in Darkness?

Yesterday evening I was back to home relatively early and was reading Michael Lewis’s ‘Undoing Project’ sitting at my porch. As the evening sun was growing more and more reddish it was time to say good-bye to the day, but looking at the fading sun going beneath the horizon, I decided to do a quite stroll on my house roof. I wanted to use this lovely and calm time of the day to just ponder over what I had been reading. Personally, I have been accustomed to these lazy strolls over my roof in this house and in my previous house also but now they are few and far in between. The view you get from the roof is always refreshing as your sight is not blocked by the walls and buildings around and you feel as if you can see far and wide like an eagle. It’s a luxury now a day as in this television and mobile age, hardly few are found on their roofs in the evening or for that matter in the morning either. Few decades ago or I would say almost till the end of twentieth century you might have noticed your neighbors strolling on the roofs as part of their daily routine. In fact far more love stories would have bloomed and blossomed over the roofs than inside the listless bugged-by-smart phone rooms of current times. I still remember opening my eyes to the vast blue sky as I used to sleep under the sky over some nights when either erratic electricity supply had ditched us on few nights or sometimes when, in those non-ac days it was always better to spend night sleeping with cool breezes under a moon lit sky than sweating out in humid nights with ‘Orient’ fans throwing warm gushes of winds over your body. Those lovely moments are now rare and despite much cajoling, my kids after one failed attempt (that’s another story to tell) never have tried that again. But believe me, now I feel those nights were not just five-star nights but a true million star nights.

As I continued to lazily stroll over the interesting insights derived from the book, the sun set further down and soon it got dark enough to enlighten me. Enlighten ? In dark? Yes, In dark. As now suddenly I could see a beautiful moon of the 4th night of the lunar calendar and also the scores of twinkling stars. These stars were obviously there even when the sun was out and it’s light was helping us to see everything very clearly. But the same light was not letting us see the most beautiful moon and the wonderfully twinkling stars. As the sun had gone down the horizon and was not illuminating this part of earth, my same eyes were now capable of enjoying the unparalleled celestial beauty. It was possible to see same dark beauties without sun lights. I was thrilled to note all this.

But, what does it mean? Does it mean that some times you need darkness around to see more beautiful things? It seemed to me that you sometimes need to free yourself from the shackles of light which might have by its nature, obfuscated or compromised your vision. To me this felling was another Eureka moment. I realized that you don’t need just light to see, you need darkness also to see around! Yes, that was obvious to me yesterday evening. Likewise perhaps, the lack of light in a situation of life might be giving us an opportunity to not miss seeing what was no less important and no less beautiful either. This is life actually. We fail to notice what is within our eyesight whenever we were blinded by the excessive lighting of the light or metaphorically excessive light of ‘name’ and ‘fame’. We may easily get lost in the glory of the light and avoid and hate darkness, while the latter shows us what you normally don’t see at all. So next time you are in darkness, don’t despair. Just see in the darkness of the day or in darkness of life what you might have missed till then. There may be more options and may be better scenarios than before. So don’t need to run from darkness. Just open your eyes without the noise and pollution of bright lights and see what you can possibly see. Just be yourself at that moment and even if there was nothing else, don’t forget to relish the beauty of the moon and the twinkle-twinkle little stars. They are really beautiful.

The Framed Mind

The way an information is presented or framed as a choice is some times more important than the content of it. Nobel Laureate and Psychologist, Daniel Kahneman calls it the ‘Framing Effect’. The effect is caused by poor processing of information presented to you. You have a mind but it needs to work. It does usually but many times, not in required proportion to the task at hand, leading to wrong choices. I will tell you, how.

If out of two cardiologists, one tells to a cardio vascular patient due for surgery that there were 10% chances of death due to complications post surgery while another tells that there were 90% chances of survival post surgery, who would you chose.  Former or latter? Normally the patient would not take more than two seconds to select the latter for going under scalpel. But is that the right assessment? It seems to be. But it is not. The reason is that the info of 90% survival and 10% death is the same. Both convey the same meaning. A 90% survival also implies a 10% failure or death and a 10% death/failure also means a 90% survival rate. They are the same. Still our mind normally would be attracted towards a 90% survival option and would not  spend much time and energy to see the info in proper light. The 10% death  risk option doctor may be more qualified and might have gone through hundreds of them but his presentation of information as it is can cause an apparent loss of credibility, leading to not only him losing his patient, but a patient may end up with a bad choice based on obvious but framed famed. This is the impact of framing effect.

Likewise a packet of  95% fat-free chips are never better than just 5% fat. They are the same, but your hands guided from your otherwise reliable mind will hesitate to pick from the shelf one showing 5% fat and will happily pick up the 95% fat-free brand. So beware. See the information in right perspective and save yourself!

The Week 33 at Saifai

Saifai Medical University

Saifai Medical University

Knowing fully well that I would be a forced bachelor for next few months at least, I landed at Saifai, Etawah in the 1st week of Aug’16 as the Registrar of just notified U P University of Medical Sciences. Since my kids were studying at Lucknow, I was hesitant to start with but did not have many choices either. I had to prepare myself to live alone. In Lucknow, with college days and in job friends and family around I was obviously more than busy. Now I had to shift 260 Km north-west of Lucknow. I had the idea that in an educational institute, one can have a good volume of free time beyond regular office hours of 9 to 5 pm. It was aware that in a smallish town like Saifai(A Gram Panchayat still) where you would not find time-consuming trappings (including that of travelling to office and back eating up two hours every day) of any big city, I would have to devise new ways to utilise my time and my energy in a more productive way.

So after settling in this week, I focussed on reading as much as I could and watching as little idiot box as possible. I had my cook Daulat Ram and one more to take good care of me. While packing my bag for Saifai, I had stuffed plenty of books to go through and a 4G connection for navigating smoothly through the online world of some great stuff over You Tube. So I downloaded the videos of well-known writers and their talks recorded at various platforms and universities globally and started listening  to them one by one in absolutely peaceful surroundings of a rural India. I had a good time over last 6 days and am eager to share my learnings over my 2nd week in Saifai and week 33 of Gregorian Calender;

  1. I started with the talks of 2002 Nobel Prize winner, Daniel Kahneman. His book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ is a marvellous book. He narrates the most obvious and easy examples of many mental traps and fallacies like ‘Regression to Means’, and ‘Less is More’ and ‘conjunction’ and ‘Narrative Fallacies’ who comprise our capacity to think logically. His ideas of fast-moving and life saving ‘System 1’ and most logical  and analytical ‘System 2’ are bang on target. This book coming out of almost half a century of writer’s psychological research is the only book in my life which started reading again on the day I finished it for the first time. This is addictive. Beware. You will be sucked in to it if you could survive first few pages.
  2. Next, I went through the lectures of a young balding Yuval Noah Harari. He has authored a top notch best seller ‘Sapiens’. It narrates the story of growth of humans over 70000 years and the way we have progressed by developing believable stories like Money or Economy or Family or Human Rights. He says thousands of years ago we were no better than say a Chimpanzee but soon Homo-Sapiens learned to work together by agreeing on few stories and promising returns in the future in lieu of their sacrifices on the day. He says 100 or even a 100000 men can work together but 100 chimpanzees who may be physically more powerful can not develop a common narrative to rely on and therefore sapiens won the race to prosper and therefore we are now 7 Billion and more while thousands and thousands of animal species are getting gobbled up by the sapiens induced growth. His most interesting talks available on you tube are one of the most original way of seeing ourselves. His idea of ‘Data-Religion’ is most interesting and seems to be believable. A must watch and must Read.
  3. I also went through lectures of  Sadhguru who in his inimitable style presents most coherent explanations of various events of life. If you listen to him regularly, you don’t need to go to any scripture to deconstruct the myths of life. He is too good. Gets you peaceful.
  4. I started reading the just released  book, ‘A feast of Vultures’ by ‘The Hindu’ journalist, Josy Joseph. He writes about endemic corruption and minces no words in exposing the nouveau rich and even corrupt journalists. The book is an authentic expose of every day scams of India and corrupt-to-the-core-systems well protected bt the illegitimate beneficiaries. More on this next week.
  5. I went through the talks of Guru Charan Das, ex CEO of P&G turned author of ‘The Difficulty of Being Good’. I had written my first impressions of the book in my initial blog writings last year. He narrates the right perspective of ‘Dharma’, which he gained by studying  Sanskrit at University of Chicago. A good take on mythology and history of India.
  6. I stumbled upon ‘The Theory of Minimalism’ and ‘100 things challenge’ to appreciate the fact that what we have is perhaps 100 times more than what we actually need to live which in turn leads to subjugation of even those 1 percent needs in favour of those amassed but useless 99 percent things. Authors Joshua Becker in his book ‘The More of Less’ has narrated the examples well. After going through his talks, I feel motivated enough to de-clutter my life as well. I will follow it up.
  7.  I heard Ram Chandra Guha on ‘Makers of Modern India’ and various fault lines plaguing India. He talks on the basis of solid historical evidences and demolishes hearsay on many issues like Nehru-Patel Rivalry. He explains the great tradition of leaders of that time where the most opposite of political rivals like Ambedkar or Shyama Prasad Mukherjee coming together for a better and stable India. He extols then leadership’s vision in readiness to adopt concept of Linguistic States in 1956 vis-a-vis Ceylon’s Single Language(Sinhalese) policy in the same year leading to decades long eventual civil war in island nation and rise of LTTE. He also reveals many fault lines of modern India including those of; attacks from left and right of ideologies; the damages to environmental legacy and marginalisation of weaker sections and schedules tribes and vices like fractured polity.
  8. I chanced upon a repeat watch of ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ as a free showcase movie. The movie running on perhaps the best up to now performance of Kangana Ranaut is a real treat to watch. The movie set up in Kanpur, has believable characters and touches the life of all married couples who  have vouched for ‘7 Janmon ka Saath’! Tanu Trivedi and Datto Sangwan are hilarious in their own rights. I loved the movie. It deserves a one more watch perhaps.
  9. As an icing on the cake, I clocked a neat 36 Km by brisk walking everyday 6 am to 7 am at sports stadium, Saifai. I think by using good quality sports facilities in this village I made it an eventful week. My Map-My-Walk app has never been busier.

So, this is what I did this week. The week 33. Do I need to do more in a week?