Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Sugar and diabetes


Reflections from Kingston, Jamaica (23 November, 2014)

The University of West Indies, Kingston is a sprawling campus nestled among little hills, somewhat a secluded oasis in this otherwise busy but laid-back harbor city of Kingston. Much of Kingston holds harsh but forgiving memories of the horrors of slavery, indentured labor, and European colonization.

Even today, although independent, free, and democratic to a fault, Jamaica remains under the British Queen, and the streets and buildings still carry the names given to them by the colonial masters, who were reminiscing their own England in such distant foreign lands or worse were using the symbols of names and culture to dominate the innocent natives of these lovely islands and the slaves brought there.

Regardless, the place has begun to change and is now witnessing the American influences of KFC and McDonalds, not any less the creeping presence of Chinese trade. People are nice and innocent, and there is something in-built in the culture to be laid back and to enjoy life - perhaps, coping mechanisms that have helped them survive so many centuries of oppression, while the colonial masters lived a life of luxury feeding off the greed for sugar and rich mineral.

Now the population faces unprecedented levels of obesity and diabetes, and even on a morning walk one cannot miss this epidemic. Of course, it is easy to blame a single evil - Sugar, but is it that simple, I wonder?

Venkat

 

 

Monday, October 10, 2016

India's Enduring Pluralism - Threatened but will survive



A remarkable feature of India's history is that for the past several thousand years, the country has managed to not succumb to totalitarianism or to completely cave in entirety to a new power or to a new culture or new way of life - thus retaining the huge strength of diversity and pluralism. 


India's has given birth to several faiths (Hinduism of so many varieties, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism), and has been exposed to Christianity from 52 BC, to Zoroastrianism for over 1200 years, to Islam from very soon of the founding of that faith. India has had numerous outside influences - Greeks, Turks, Mughals, British. 


Yet, the culture of plurality and resilience against totalitarianism has thrived in the multiplicity of India's religious, cultural, lingusitic diversity and in the ethos of tolerance. 


This can't be said of too many places in the world - Europe quickly became fully Christian once Constantine made that the state faith, much of Latin America lost the indigenous faiths and languages and succumbed to the colonial cultures, the Middle-east shifted with each new faith, China succumbed to Communism, etc. India did not tolerate Mrs. Gandhi's Emergency, and few fringe groups have been able to take the center. India has also absorbed English without losing her languages.


Thus, the Indian approach has been one of absorption and hybridization, and toward keeping a mosaic plural culture. Today, the Hindu fanatics want to make India a "Hindurashtra", and their power is being felt. Based on India's long history and remarkable resilience, however, one can safely bet that they are unlikely to succeed, but they can create trouble - and things can be ugly.   Mr. Modi needs to reign in these forces if he wants India to succeed.


 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Twelve personal tips for creative intellectual leadership







  1. Read widely, often outside of one’s main areas of work, interest.
  2. Remain constantly curious, skeptical, and question everything to get to the fundamentals.
  3. Continuously debate with one self and with others to stay free of prejudices and to learn and innovate, and to build a network.
  4. Combine humility with confidence.
  5. Go to the balcony often and look at the big picture – do this alone.
  6. Enjoy the race, but be indifferent to the results and credits.
  7. Surround oneself with good, bright, motivated, and questioning people – select them. carefully, learn from them, mentor them, coach them, and let them coach you.
  8. Don’t allow “group-think” to set in, avoid attending too many canned talks or large conferences or courses.
  9. Don’t let conventions, norms, social rules come in the way. In fact, every convention or norm hides a truth, expose it.
  10. Try something new every day.
  11. Dedicate 1 or 2 of your best work hours  each day to focus on high-impact work, which you may otherwise put off.
  12. Constantly work toward making oneself redundant – life is short, and you want to be free to leave any time.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Living, joy, and pain

Some very special experiences in life evoke our most intense and passionate emotions - bliss, joy, happiness, human bond, love and make our journey through life seem so exciting and positive and rewarding.


Ironically, sometimes, the very sources of those same special experiences also evoke some of the unsavory but equally intense and passionate emotions - sadness, hurt feelings, loss of self and connection, resentment and make our journey through life seem so demanding and lacking in purpose.


 Learning from experience may boil down to being able to feel both of these sides of intense and passionate emotions. But how we come out - whether happy and wise or sad and bitter may be a choice, but not without prolonged hardship and pain.


At the end of the day, our living, not existence, is defined by both joy and pain, in equal measure.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Fathers' Day Reflections

While all of this "Fathers' Day" postings and greetings are all so sweet, it also makes one question how these new traditions get marketed and institutionaized into society. Are we so gulllible or do we lack enough core as humans to avoid falling into these superficial traps that make us behave like programmed robots or worse still controlled by some powerful forces to their own gains? Isn't everyday a "Father's Day", a "Mother's Day", a "Sister's Day", etc? Do we need to set aside days to celebrate each relationship, as if they are just important one day in the year?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

True sustainable change versus short-term reactions and counterreactions

True and sustainable change is counterintuitive, nonlinear, disorganized, and invisible. History is a mixture of visible, high-profile, short-term events that draw much attention and cause fear, and slow, relentless, long-term changes that go on regardless, often unnoticed but powerful and transformative, nevertheless.


While we panic and pay attention to the horrible terror attacks, which we should or to hate-mongering  and fear-stroking politicians, as we should, slowly unbeknown to us but surely major positive changes accompanying globalization continue - people and cultures intermingle, positive innovations happen, capital and businesses move, information and ideas spread, transformative solutions of huge import happen. These are the forces that will ultimately shape destiny, not just the cycle of reaction and counter-reaction to hatred.


Much as we may perceive that the world has become unsafe and violent, and we have reason to think so, as we constantly hear of the terror attacks, the murders, and the hatred that spills around, we need to also ask an important question. Why don't we hear more about the positive stories of human nature, which are bountiful?


Indeed, when we examine the statistics, as Steven Pinker did in his book "Better Angels of our Nature", we reassuringly find that the world is actually a safer, better, less violent place than it ever has been in the vast span of human history
.
If only our cognitive senses could be shaped to perceive the invisible, to gain perspective, and to imagine the positively unimaginable, we would hope more and fear less. True, hope may be a delusion, but isn't fear too? Better to live in hope than die in despair, as some fellow said.

True and sustainable change versus short-term perceptions

True and sustainable change is counterintuitive, nonlinear, disorganized, and invisible. History is a mixture of visible, high-profile, short-term events that draw much attention and cause fear, and slow, relentless, long-term changes that go on regardless, often unnoticed but powerful and transformative, nevertheless.


While we panic and pay attention to the horrible terror attacks, which we should or to hate-mongering and fear-stroking politicians, as we should, slowly unbeknown to us but surely major positive changes accompanying globalization continue - people and cultures intermingle, positive innovations happen, capital and businesses move, information and ideas spread, transformative solutions of huge import happen. These are the forces that will ultimately shape destiny, not just the cycle of reaction and counter-reaction to hatred.


Much as we may perceive that the world has become unsafe and violent, and we have reason to think so, as we constantly hear of the terror attacks, the murders, and the hatred that spills around, we need to also ask an important question. Why don't we hear more about the positive stories of human nature, which are bountiful?


Indeed, when we examine the statistics, as Steven Pinker did in his book "Better Angels of our Nature", we reassuringly find that the world is actually a safer, better, less violent place than it ever has been in the vast span of human history.


If only our cognitive senses could be shaped to perceive the invisible, to gain perspective, and to imagine the positively unimaginable, we would hope more and fear less. True, hope may be a delusion, but isn't fear too? Better to live in hope than die in despair, as some fellow said.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Brexit-inspired thoughts on globalization

Brexit provoked a conversation on globalization, and my final position was as follows:


When it comes to globalization, I am uncharacteristically fatalistic! The power, volume, and flow of information can no longer be controlled or contained, and whether it is good or bad (it is I think both good and bad), globalization’s future is a relentless but stuttered course forward.

Self-interested systems that oppose it will lose their ability to oppose it and get weaker in the proc...ess. Do I think new self-interested systems will be more enlightened or more perfect? No, not at all. They too will be a mixture of good and bad, depending on context and perceived values. Why would we want the blandness of a perfect or moral system? For one, it cannot exist or survive and secondly, life is imperfect and amoral – let us live it to the full with all its mixture.


Fast-forward modern globalization is here with us in our next journey as Sapiens!! Where it will take us, I do not know nor want to know – but I am here to accept the reality and the challenges, opportunities, dreams, and excitement that go with it.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

True and sustainable change is counterintuitive, nonlinear, disorganized, and invisible. History is a mixture of visible, high-profile, short-term events that draw much attention and cause fear, and slow, relentless, long-term changes that go on regardless, often unnoticed but powerful and transformative, nevertheless.


While we panic and pay attention to the horrible terror attacks, which we should or to hate-mongerors and fear-stroking politicians, as we should, slowly unbe...nown to us but surely major positive changes accompanying globalization continue - people and cultures intermingle, positive innovations happen, capital and businesses move, information and ideas spread, transformative solutions of huge import happen. These are the forces that will ultimately shape destiny, not just the cycle of reaction and counter-reaction to hatred.


Much as we may perceive that the world has become unsafe and violent, and we have reason to think so, as we constantly hear of the terror attacks, the murders, and the hatred that spills around, we need to also ask an important question. Why don't we hear more about the positive stories of human nature, which are bountiful?


Indeed, when we examine the statistics, as Steven Pinker did in his book "Better Angels of our Nature", we reassuringly find that the world is actually a safer, better, less violent place than it ever has been in the vast span of human history.


If only our cognitive senses could be shaped to perceive the invisible, to gain perspective, and to imagine the postively unimaginable, we would hope more and fear less. True, hope may be a delusion, but isn't fear too? Better to live in hope than die in despair, as some fellow said.

Puruit of happiness

If you want to enjoy life, never worry about the mundane or waste time talking about trivia or obliging social conventions. Those are the traps to avoid.


Take care of the basics - healthy food, exercise, sleep, few strong friends, and beyond that live in the delusion of great dreams and ideas. Read incessantly, write and express, argue and debate. Never worry about realizing dreams and ideas. They are dreams and ideas, which are meant to inebriate you. If they lead to something, treat it as something you never planned and shy away from credit.


Last of all, thank people if they rob your ideas. Imagine, if they did not, you would have to work to implementing them. Seeking credit or recognition is the poison that ruins happiness. Just live, let live, renounce and rejoice.