Success

There is one more quotation which I would like to share with you all… This is the definition of Success by Ralph Wandoo (Waldo?) Emerson. This is by far the best definition that I have been able to find on the topic – Success.

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better – whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life breathed easier because you lived – That is to have succeeded in life” 

 

Seems convincing for me; have you guys anything to add?

 

Destination Infinity

Thought provoking Quotes

There are certain quotations which do not advice. They do not preach. They are not judgmental.  They don’t claim that they are the Truth. But still you would have to think about each of them at least twice. The wisdom ingrained in them is sometimes not visible openly. That’s why I have categorized them as thought provoking. I have been getting the following quotes from a friend through email (The subject is Good Morning, though and with a neat picture). Some of them have indeed made my day, not just the morning. Have a look at a few selected ones that I have liked over the years.

“The true mystery of the world is the visible; not the invisible”

“Money is a very excellent servant; but a terrible master”

“An angry man is again angry with himself when he returns to reason”

“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten but they may start a winning game”

“Anger is a condition in which the tongue works faster than the mind”

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”

“It’s not what you are called, but what you answer to”

“Putting off an easy thing makes it hard”

“Having enemies’ means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life”

“Failure is not falling down; but staying down”

“By learning to obey, you will know how to command”

“To be content with a little is hard; to be content with much is impossible”

“If you wish to travel far and fast, try traveling light, taking off all your burdens”

“LUCK….. stands for Laboring Under Correct Knowledge”

“Intellectuals solve problems. Geniuses prevent them”

“The future will be exactly like the past; only far more expensive”

“Hard-work has a future pay-off; Laziness pays-off now”

And how about this one to close: “Cheer up, the worst is yet to come” !!

Destination Infinity

PS: I’ll try to post more such quotes, but at irregular intervals. But the worst is yet to come – so cheer up people 🙂

Related Reading: Thought Provoking Quotes – II

Top Ten Songs Every Month

Bhutan – Learning’s from a Little Country

This is an update to my earlier post on Bhutan:

http://destinationinfinity.wordpress.com/2008/01/13/bhutan-gross-national-happiness-democracy-and/

Somehow, I seem to be fascinated by the Bhutanese.  In these times, when the elected ‘representatives’ are more concerned about retaining their power by any means, there is a King in Bhutan who has introduced Democracy and given the right to the Parliament to remove him by a majority vote of no-confidence, which never existed before – in this mountainous kingdom. And no, people did not force this through a revolution. They were happy to have their King, and now they are happy to embrace Democracy. Their happiness comes through a concept introduced by the Bhutanese King – “Gross National Happiness”, which he uses to measure the progress of his state. This doesn’t take only the wealth created (Like Gross National Product measurements) to judge the progress of the nation. They are more concerned about the happiness and well being of their people and nature. If you have around fifteen minutes to spare, please take a look at the below video and also go through the link given at the beginning of this post.

You can see this YouTube Video on Bhutan Here

 

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The Unique School

That was the first democratic school in the whole world. Everything about it was done in a democratic way. The students would choose which teacher they wanted for which subject. Through voting <Closed Ballot Box> and the most popular teacher who would garner the support of most of the students and fellow teachers would become the principal.

The ‘elections’ were conducted once in every four months when the students could choose if they wanted to retain the particular teacher for a particular subject. They could practically vote them out, if they wished to.

The teachers were allowed to canvass for one week during the end of every four month term. If a teacher wants a plum post like ‘Science teacher’, then he/she had to secure so many votes more than the next teacher who wanted the same post in the same class. The teachers decide where all to contest, but it is the students who decide who would teach what and where. Most of the time, it didn’t matter if the specialization of a particular teacher was Science but still she ended up teaching Crafts. Even vice versa was pretty much ok with the students, as long as they could exercise their right to vote.

The Second standard election was contested fiercely by two teachers. Both of them wanted to teach mathematics. And the mathematics teacher was also generally the class teacher. There was a major burning issue in that class – The students had for long been demanding that they be given two chocolate bars every day. Which ever teacher would come up with an agenda to tackle this issue better, was expected to win the election.

The first teacher told the students that the chocolates were not good for health and especially teeth if eaten very frequently. She told them how the chocolate manufacturers formed a consortium and were getting involved in having a uniformly “Unfair” and high prices. She told them how the “mithai wala” shop outside the school was secretly negotiating with the manufacturers for the bulk deals as he was confident that he would sell the maximum number of chocolates with his ‘deep’ connections with the student leaders of many primary classes. She also told them about how the school funds, which were obtained by the fees paid by the students, would be unnecessarily diverted for purchasing the chocolates which could otherwise be utilized for purchasing some educational aids which would not only make learning fun, but also help them with their academic performance. She pointed out how hard their parents worked to earn the money they paid as fees and the fact that they would definitely not allow the kids to have two big chocolates per day at home, primarily for the health reasons. She ended her speech with a touching personal note – “When I was a kid, I yearned to eat chocolates daily. But my parents were very strict and allowed one per week only. Even though I was angry on them back then, I am glad now as I have been able to retain good health and most importantly healthy teeth”.

Even though the kids were only studying second standard, they were moved by the speech. They started to think. Sensing that the speech was a catalyst to thought, the second teacher, who was about to grant the student’s wish for two chocolates per day, suddenly increased her offer to four free chocolates per day. The big ones – bar chocolates.

Guess who won! Thank God at least our schools don’t run this way!

Destination Infinity

Liquified Pursuit of Happiness

Sridhar was devastated. A divorce within two years of marriage was something that he could not come to terms with.

He and Nidhi were never made for each other. He, a small town, shy boy and she, a cosmopolitan, city dwelling, bubbly girl. He had a very limited outlook towards life – Good education, Software job and settled life. He was not outgoing and did not have many friends. She was his exact opposite – Adventurous, had a lot of friends and was very talkative.

No wonder, whatever she did, it was ‘wrong’ in his eyes. She thought a lot of her freedom was taken away after marriage by him and his family. There was visible friction.

He became so paranoid in her eyes that she stopped looking into his eyes. She was so carefree in his eyes that he found lesser and lesser words to communicate with her.

It needed only a spark to set the explosion. ‘How could she do that?’ he thought. Everything was over one day. Both of them agreed to get divorced by mutual consent.

He was filled with so much grief for the failed marriage that alcohol became his ever loving companion from that day. He had heard that alcohol would make you forget your worries and give happiness. He had no idea of what he was doing as he let the alcohol take complete control over his happiness and life.

“All women are like that” was his judgment. And consolation. “All women are like that”

Sneha was supposed to celebrate her tenth birthday on that day. Even though they were not economically well off, her mother managed to save some money without the knowledge of her father and bought her new dress and gold ear rings. She had never worn gold before.

Her father had been addicted to alcohol for a couple of years. Sometimes he used to come home totally drunk. When ever her mother objected, he used to assault her. Sometimes verbally, sometimes physically.

All this used to happen in front of Sneha. She had grown more and more terrified of her father, with every passing day. He came home drunk on this day too. Seeing the ear rings, he started harassing her mother. Sneha never remembered how she got the courage to say,

“Please don’t hit mother, pa”

Slap.

This time she got it. That was the last time she saw her home. Her mother admitted her in an orphanage hoping that at least her daughter could continue her studies beyond the primary school. It was obvious that her father wasn’t going to allow it. Forget sponsoring it.

Sneha developed an opinion rather early in life that, “All men are like that”. All men.

Sridhar’s parents were bent on getting him married once again. He was in no mood for it. “I don’t want a life partner” he said. “It’s not for you, we want to see our Grand children” they reasoned. They reminded him daily, but he, however decided to adopt a child. That way, he thought he could at least help bring in some happiness to a child, who would otherwise be deprived of the same – early in life. And his parents would get their grand child.

“I don’t want to go from here” screamed Sneha.  It was about six months since she joined in the orphanage.  “See, this person is ready to help you continue your education. That’s what your mother wanted, right? We can’t give you a good education. So, don’t behave like a little kid. He is like your father – you’ll have to go with him”.  “I don’t want a father” she said. She was too terrified to forget the last few years. But nevertheless she was sent.

She was very quiet for the first couple of weeks. Sridhar wanted to break the silence and hence the distance.

“Why are you so quiet? Shall I get you some chocolates?”

“No”

“Ice cream?”

“No”

“Barbie dolls?”

”What? “Err.. I mean toys”

“No”

“Don’t feel shy. Ask anything you want, I am like your father”

“I don’t want a father”

That was unexpected. But still he wanted to understand.

“You didn’t like your father?”

”No”

“Why?”

“He used to drink and beat my mother often”

“So that’s why….. But I think your father was a good person”

“All men think alike, I guess”

He had to smile. “Not like that. Tell me this – was he beating your mother always or only when he was drunk?”

”Only when he was drunk”

“See. I proved what I said. Your father is not bad, the liquor is bad. It makes your father go crazy”

“Then he could have stopped drinking, right?”

”Yeah, he could have but once you are addicted to it, it doesn’t leave you easily”

“Do you drink?”

”I used to…..”

“Now?”

“I stopped before three months”

“Why did you drink?” ”I drank because I was sad…. I had divorced my wife recently”

“Why?”

“She came home drunk one day”

“Did she beat you?”

”No……!”

“You are luckier. My mother was not”

“Yeah, I think I was relatively luckier”

“So, your wife was also a nice person?”

”She…….”

”Yes. She was not bad. The liquor was… right?”

”Yeah…. I guess so…. So, you’ll stay with me?”

“If you promise not to drink again”

“I don’t have to. My pursuit was happiness. I didn’t find it in that liquid. It is elsewhere. I promise that I won’t drink from now on”


Destination Infinity

Inheritance Tax

“It’s a common saying in Japan that Inheritance taxes are so high that family wealth does not last beyond three generations” – Akio Morita, Co-Founder Sony

 

Inheritance taxes (In Japan or Estate Taxes in United States) refer to the tax levied on the inheritor or beneficiary of the property/land/estates etc. after the original owner dies. This mostly applies to properties above a certain minimum bracket. Generally millionaires and above.

 

The arguments in developed nations supporting such an inheritance tax are as follows:

 

  • People are forced to sell their assets (which they have not earned) and hence more property (including land) comes to the market hence reducing the real estate values and making available the property which would never have been sold.
  • As lot of people work to earn money for necessities, the unearned money kills the incentive to work and increases the urge for early retirement.
  • Easy access to unearned wealth destroys the incentive for hard work and experimentation.
  • Pouring money on children (some times grown up adults) can spoil the children as they do not know the value of earned money.
  • It reduces competitiveness and make people think about ways of preserving the assets instead of creating new ones. Some times, generations sit and eat because of the family wealth without doing any type of work.

 

You can read an interesting article about the advantages of Inheritance Taxes Here.

 

Also an article wanting the Inheritance Taxes back  (Abolished decades ago)  in Australia Here.

 

But there are dis-advantages too. The high percentage of Inheritance Taxes in Japan, for example, makes it difficult to run family business. An article on that can be read Here. Also people aren’t convinced about taxing money that has already been taxed. Some see it as a dis-incentive to make more wealth. It has also led to devising innumerable ways to avoid the inheritance taxes and consulting is booming on the topic.

 

Here is the take of Economic Times on the ‘immunity’ of such taxes in India. India along with China and host of other developing countries does not levy any inheritance taxes. Do you think India should have one?

 

 

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Delhi Metro – Showing the Way Forward

Elattuvalapil Sreedharan is the name of the person who has shown to the whole nation that it is possible to achieve in spite of the system. He had implemented two important Railway projects – The Konkan Railway network covering rough terrains which was considered impossible to traverse, and more lately, The Delhi Metro.

The Government departments and their projects are generally considered to be done at a snail’s pace. There are a lot of allegations of favoritism, when it comes to the appointments of staff and allegations of corruption when it comes to the awarding of contracts.

There was one Government initiated project that did not have any of the above. It was the Delhi Metro (Delhi Metro Railway Corporation) headed by the dynamic Mr. Sreedharan who has lived on this planet for more than three quarters of a century. The Delhi Metro was completed ahead of schedule and within the allocated budget. You can read the interview given by Mr. Sreedharan to Rediff, in this Rediff article

If any of you have had an opportunity to see, from inside, how some of the Government Departments function, this is a huge step forward. This is an important example that needs to be emulated across the system.

Switzerland, for example, has an excellent and Integrated Public Transportation System. It is so much integrated that one ticket is enough to take you from Airport to a point A in Train, from point A to point B in a Bus, from point C to point D in a Boat (or) Cable Car – This in spite the fact that all these services are run by a host of Government and Private Operators. You can read more about this Public Transportation system in Switzerland Here

Why can’t we expect the same in our country too? What Mr. Sreedharan has shown with Delhi Metro is that, nothing is impossible with the determination of one person, in his case and the determination of the people, elsewhere. Let’s hope that the way the other Government Departments function would change soon. And more importantly I hope that the people would demand to see the changes!

Destination Infinity

Rain Water Harvesting

Pre-Script: This article has also been published in Youth Unite.

 

Sometimes, we do not need to develop wisdom by re-inventing the wheel. For centuries, rain water harvesting has been a dominant activity in our country. Be it for irrigation systems, be it in temples, be it in the backyard of ones own house. This is something that we have always been doing. But, after the concrete jungles have taken over the cities, Rainwater Harvesting has not been in the fore front of demands of any purchaser or builder of home/ apartment in urban landscapes. Do we wake up only after a large scale disaster hits us, like Los Angeles – whose case is explained in the video below?

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHi4IU7JQ5Q&feature=related

 

Rain water harvesting in an urban landscape could be as simple as collecting the water flowing from the terraces out into the road (and causing local street flooding) into an underground tank/ sump or a cachement area which could later used for washing clothes, Cars, cooking, flushing toilets etc. (OR) Letting the rainwater flow into the ground from the terrace through multiple layers of natural filtering like broken bricks etc. which would contribute to the rise of the water tables in the area.

 

The following two websites have all the resources, case studies, links, community projects and all the necessary information on rainwater harvesting – particularly in India.

 

www.rainwaterharvesting.org

 

http://akash-ganga-rwh.com/RWH/WaterHarvesting.html

 

The following video is actually an advertisement for the rain water harvesting systems but has a lot of information on practical implementation of rain water harvesting. As they say, some times the advertisements are more informative and useful than the programs/serials in our television.

 

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsV_JgLzW4w&feature=related

 

And if you have watched all the videos till now, do watch this one also. A nice way of putting across the message. Just to end.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xtMnE9Bo6s

 

Do let know if you know of any interesting implementations of the rain water harvesting methods in your area.

 

 

Destination Infinity

Aurangzeb’s War of Succession – Mughal Empire

There were times when we would be more interested with the games period right next to the History class and all our attention would be on how many runs we would be scoring. There were days when we used to memorize the history lessons after cursing it a hundred times. Strange, it seems, when history suddenly becomes one of our most intriguing passions. Suddenly, we want to know and learn what happened before us. This is one such piece of history, which I found interesting. This one documents the means used by Aurangzeb to gain the highest position of Indian Empire. The means he used against his own father and brothers to gain power. But now, we have very less time to indulge in our passions. Do read, if you are one of the gifted ones who still have the time and passion at your disposal. Let us go to the year – 1658.

Shah Jahan’s magnificent reign ended in a long anticipated, convulsive political crisis. When the emperor fell ill, pent-up tensions between the mature Timurid princes exploded into a four sided war of succession. The war pitted Dara Shukoh, resident at court as the designated heir, against his three younger brothers: Muhammad Shuja, governor of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa; Aurangzeb, the governor of four Deccan states; and Murad Bakhsh, governor of Gujarat and Malwa. All were sons of Mumtaz Mahal, and therefore full, rather than half brothers. Despite Shah Jahan’s expressed preference for his eldest son, Dara Shukoh, the Timurid appanage system offered no clear precedent for succession.

This was a bloody struggle fought by formidable opponents; Dara, Shuja, Aurangzeb, and Murad battled each other with that intensity and intimacy reserved for brothers with differing personalities. Each prince shared in the Timurid familial charisma and royal authority which gave all an undisputable claim on the throne. Each brother could draw upon the services of extremely able military and administrative staffs. Each commanded a power base, possessed ample treasure and could muster large, well-equipped armies. Only one contender could claim the throne; all others faced the grave.

In Bengal, Prince Muhammad Shuja immediately crowned himself king at Rajmahal and brought his cavalry, artillery, and river flotilla upriver toward Agra. Near Varanasi, his forces confronted a defending army sent from Delhi under the command of Dara. In mid-February, a well executed early morning surprise attack routed the Bengal troops. Shuja and his surviving men fled down river to Monghyr.

In Gujarat, Murad crowned himself in a public ceremony and prepared to march north. Murad and Aurangzeb had agreed on a joint plan of action. If they defeated their brothers, Aurangzeb would leave to Murad the Punjab, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Sind to rule as an independent King and he would rule the remaining territories. In early 1658, Aurangzeb set his army marching north. He joined forces with Murad at the village of Dharmat on the Ghambira river. Here they met Shah Jahan’s army under the command of Jaswant Singh Rathor. In the ensuing battle Aurangzeb’s well handled guns and cavalry outfought the imperial army whose survivors fell back on Delhi in disarray.

At Delhi, Dara rebuilt a 50,000 man army and awaited his brothers at defensive positions on the Chambal river south of Agra. Aurangzeb outflanked him by finding an unguarded fort. The armies met at broad plain at the village of Samugarh on the Yamuna near Agra. On 29th May, in the blazing heat of Indian summer, the climactic battle of the succession took place. Aurangzeb’s superior tactics and better disciplined artillery and cavalry prevailed against the valor of repeated Rajput cavalry charges. Finally, toward the end of the day, Dara dismounted from his war elephant and fled the field on horseback. A full scale rout began.

Aurangzeb occupied Agra city and when negotiations failed, besieged his father in Agra fort. Deprived of access to water from the river, Shah Jahan surrendered on June 8, 1658. The vast treasuries and magazines of Agra fort fell into Aurangzeb’s hands.

Dara stayed only briefly in Agra before moving to Lahore. When Aurangzeb resumed pursuit, tension between him and Murad grew. Despite warnings, Murad entered his brother’s camp for a dinner on 25th June. Here he was disarmed, made captive and quietly sent off to prison along with his son. Aurangzeb enrolled Murad’s leaderless army into his service the next day. Aurangzeb paused in Delhi long enough to crown himself on 21st July in Shalimar gardens with the title of Alamgir or “World-Seizer”. Thereafter he dealt with his brothers from an overwhelmingly strong position.

Shuja, rejecting Aurangzeb’s promises of unthreatened rule in the east, mustered a force of 25,000 cavalry and a flotilla of river boats and marched upriver. In late December, Aurangzeb joined his son Muhammad Sultan for battle against Shuja. Despite the last minute deflection of Jaswant Singh Rother with his Rajput cavalry to Shuja, Aurangzeb’s army greatly outnumbered and outgunned the Bengal army. Defeated and routed, Shuja fled with the remnants of the army.

In the interim, Dara had regained his courage, acquired funds, recruited a 20,000 man army in Gujarat and marched north. But in mid-March, 1659, Aurangzeb’s army over ran Dara’s forces in a bloody three day battle fought in the hills outside Ajmer. A little while later, Dara was arrested in Lahore and brought to Delhi as a prisoner and killed by Aurangzeb.

There followed a year and a half long, grim, water-borne campaign in pursuit of Prince Shuja by an imperial army under Mir Jumla. Shuja fought, retreated east until finally, at Tanda his army was decisively beaten and broken. In early May 1660, Shuja left Decca by boat with his family and a few faithful troops to take refuge with the raiding king of Arakan. Here, suspected of a plot against the king, he met his death. Murad Bakhsh, who was imprisoned earlier was also charged of murder and killed by Aurangzeb.

The succession crisis reaffirmed the unity of the empire and the authority of the victorious Timurid monarch. Partition of the empire into two or more appanages did not take place. Division of the empire was a bargaining point, nothing more. The principal’s knew that whoever acquired the imperial capital and throne would not rest until the partitioned territories – be they in the east or west or south – were recovered.

Destination Infinity

PS: It was not only Aurangzeb, who had to fight for the throne – many other princes also did, in the Mughal Dynasty.