Categories
Corporate Philosophy

The Downside of Apps and On-Demand Economy

I was in Hyderabad last week, sitting in my cab, insulated from the pollution all around me. The cab was air conditioned, had picked me up from a fancy apartment where we were staying and was supposed to drop me at the Salar Jung museum. Everything sounds great, except the fact that the Uber cab driver, who was driving me and my wife, would be spending ten more hours in his cab, driving through the insane traffic. Yet, he was happy, welcoming, and warm. He helped me to keep the luggage, and not to forget, suggested me couple of good places to dine at. I gave him a five star rating, enough to make him delighted. A five star rating ensures that he will get more rides, more money and sadly, more health problems.

As we were cutting through the traffic, ahead of me was a delivery boy, carrying a bag, roughly as big as he himself was. He was an integral (but easily disposable) part of the e-commerce community. I prayed for his back; which I knew will collapse in few more years and whatever money he earned, will probably go into fixing it.

 

The App economy works well; very well if you are the one who is using it and not getting used by it. It’s not only about the Apps, it is about our entire lifestyle. We had actually gone to Hyderabad to attend a friend’s wedding. The venue was grand, and the food spread wider than the imagination. It was a huge convention centre, able to handle a few thousand guests. As the wedding was about to get over, I went to the back side of the convention centre and found dozens of ladies, children and old persons sleeping on the grass; some of them were little kids of the waiters serving delicacies inside, some of them were the people who would be cleaning the venue when we all were done littering it.

I am wondering about the balance of opportunities generated versus the problems created by this kind of lifestyle of ours.

greybox

I am sure, there is a lot of employment generated because of the way we live and because of the Apps economy. But, I think it does more harm than the help. The people who we think are getting benefitted, i.e. the cab drivers, delivery boys, cleaners etc., sure, they are getting more income than what they otherwise would get. But, the cost which they will be paying back, looks much higher than what they are earning.

I happened to read a few detailed articles on internet about the consequences of this kind of work one the health of people who do it. For instance, delivery boys will find their backs dismantled (!) within a few years, the cab drivers will suffer from joints and nerves problems; just to mention a few.

Every time I go to the gate of my company to receive my Amazon or Flipkart shipment, the size of the bag makes me feel guilty. Whenever I sit in an Uber or Ola cab, I can make out that the driver will be in this box for the entire day and even till late night.

You can always make the argument- who is forcing them to join the work? They can stop being drivers, delivery boys or what so ever. Sadly, no one can afford to worry about the pain and suffering of the future at the cost of dying hungry today. It’s quite human to compromise on one’s health for more money.

The purpose of writing this article is not criticizing the companies that are being mentioned above or those which operate on a similar model and philosophy. The purpose is to remind ourselves that we are humans.

As human beings, we can live happily only if we care for other human beings. If consumers demand that proper care should be taken of the people working at the bottom of the system, it will be taken. If the consumers insist that they will make use of /buy from copmanies which take sufficient care of the people working for them, VCs will spend few million more dollars to ensure that it happens. As consumers, the onus is on us, to demand. Sadly, we are too busy calling cabs and ordering rolls on the go and do not pay a dime to other human beings and their basic welfare.

 

 

Categories
Dohe of Kabir

How Can Indians Become Tolerant? By Understanding Kabir!

हिन्दू कहें मोहि राम पियारा, तुर्क कहें रहमाना,
आपस में दोउ लड़ी-लड़ी  मुए, मरम न कोउ जाना।

(Hindus say we worship Rama and Muslims say Rahman. They both die, fighting with each other without even getting a glimpse of him.)

Look at Facebook walls, flooded with posts about intolerance, religious hatred and you will realize the significance of what Kabir said many centuries ago.

As Kabir says, we have converted gods into our possessions and we have brought into limits the limitless.

If one looks at it closely, we stick to a god or a religion because it  makes us part of a tribe, or a group. Belonging to a group gives us a feeling of tremendous amount of safety and security. Religious people are not at all interested in god, they are rather interested in this feeling of security that being part of a cult brings.

I can surely say that the intolerance is born out of a false understanding of religion. Rather, a deliberate and wrong understanding of religion which is born out of our insecurity as an animal.

All the spiritual masters spoke about religion at an individual level. Some masters like Osho and Buddha did talk about being part of a community of seekers; but there focus was always an individual.

It is quite clear that the kind of religions we have today, will lead to more and more tension and intolerance. As the times become more difficult, due to increasing population, limited resources, uneven distribution of wealth, people will be more concerned about their own religion and less tolerant about the others.

tolerance

On a different level, the issue of tolerance is not only about religion. I would rather say, in this particular view, we are rather over tolerant- we tolerate it when people have no water to drink, work in unhealthy and unsafe work conditions, die without getting a morsel of food, are subjected to forced labor etc.

We discuss religious tolerance so much simply because we belong to a particular religion and are afraid of some other religion becoming more powerful than ours.

I look at the above couplet of Kabir in a much wider sense. A Hindu loves Rama, Muslim loves Rahman, Christian loves Christ and so on. Similarly, a capitalist loves situation to make money, a social worker loves the problems in the society, political leaders love divide among the people.

As Kabir rightly says, everyone loves what gives him security and a true religious man is one, who dares to face this insecurity, discovers his individuality and ceases to be a part of a cult.

 

Categories
Society

The Hope – with Bernie

Recently following the Presidential campaign in US has been both devastating and alluring. We in India are used to political campaigns which mostly run on emotions (mostly false), attachments and associations (mostly untrue) and a whole gamut of drama in the name of equality, freedom and secularism. Reading articles, watching campaign videos and Democratic debates was devastating for a particular reason. These campaign has shown me how US (no matter declared and believed to be developed) has so much gross inequality. I have also been disappointed to see how politicians in US are more articulate than their Indian counterparts but are involved in ‘cognitive corruption’. US citizens will definitely be in a better position than me to furnish the details and the right side of the picture of various politicians/candidates; however one thing has changed the way I see hope. Amidst the pessimistic and pseudo centrist ideologies this campaign definitely raises hope for a radical change.BernieSanders-WallStBernie Sanders, the longest serving independent in congressional history speaks about change in the manner iconically different from his competitors. His proposals for change seem impractical to some but  to some they are hope. He is though not running a campaign on delusional promises or hate speeches. He is running the campaign on the strength of his character, imagination and experience. While the popular media is already leaning on the side of Hillary and declaring a win for her, Sanders is still running the race because he practically has chances to win the nomination. It has been a long time, that I had not heard a honest political voice and here it is in 2016 fighting for the middle and the low class. Listening to his speeches gives you a hope that honesty and candid expressions are worth all the cost that they may have as they surely yield you great satisfaction is doing the right rather than doing it diplomatically.

To all  those who have not heard about him and have not hear him speak; please search for him or you may miss some honest words from a man of mettle.

 

Categories
Corporate Philosophy

The idea of Impact

To define it is actually difficult to experience it is very easy and I say this from an experience.
While speaking about social organizations we come across the tough question of measuring their impact. When faced by this question we discuss quantitative and qualitative parameters which can evaluate the work of the organization.  We also think about sharing case studies and stories of the beneficiaries.

For a moment let us leave aside all that we know about impact,  it’s assessment and parameters.  Let’s first ask a better question- what is impact?  We all know that whatever we do has an impact,  but what does that really mean in the real life? In human life impact means a change. Change can be permanent or temporary but when humans come in picture this change is always permanent. Let me illustrate this with an example- the human habit of spitting on road is an impact of what habits human has acquired by observing. When someone creates an awareness about the harmful effects of spitting in public places the real impact would mean a change in behavior and not just awareness about the information  that spitting on roads is bad.

Increasing level of awareness, knowledge and creating advocates of rights is not an impact at all. I make this statement because I see that these things actually have no impact. The only utility of such exercises is the symbolic ‘inspirational’ value and that symbolical inspiration to change something can be better acquired from individual examples rather than a herd of ‘informed’ group of activists. When activism confines itself to awareness it is dead, without any life. And anything without life can never create an impact.

Thus impact means change for real. Change in actions. This is certainly difficult but not impossible.  We may may not be able to write a 100 page annual report about our social initiatives but we may be able to know how many lives have we changed for real, actually. The road is tough as it is the one which has been less traveled but you can be inspired from some of these shining stars like Baba Amte, Kiran Khalap, Satish Kamat or APJ Abdul Kalam or even you yourself who is trying to get better each day. We all definitely remember at least one school teacher who inspired us, who influenced us deeply. We all know the the name of one author who persuaded us to think. These people and their work with people is impactful. We all know the experience we have had with the change makers in our lives but we don’t know the details of actually what they did.

That is why I say that impact is difficult to define but easy to experience. We all have the chance to impact each other. Just go and do it, our hearts know the way.

Categories
Corporate Philosophy Society Uncategorized

Center of Decentralization

We speak about decentralization and empowering multiple stake holders to enhance impact of any kind of work that we plan to do. We may be working in an office or in a village on a project. We keep saying that we need people to own processes, outcomes and impact. We also often find it difficult to let go of the control as we are not sure if everyone else will work with same efficiency, same intentions, same approach as we have. We are also often unsure of the pace at which the project will move forward and are skeptical if decentralization will help us be time bound and professional. Our political system also speaks highly about decentralization but fails to accept it truly because of the same reasons. We all know what really keeps us away from decentralization but we have hardly tried to understand what makes decentralization the key to sustainability.

Almost no roads...
Tough terrain does not stop Rajwadi from dreaming.

Being at Rajwadi has helped me identify the center of decentralization. Rajwadi, a small village in Ratnagiri district of the Maharashtra state functions on decentralization. You find that there is no one person in-charge of any work in the village. Many people take lead and anchor various projects but the village has many faces. Every decision is taken mutually after discussion. Every project is implemented after consensus and debate. You will be able to find many leaders and many followers. You will be able to find many thinking souls with opinions which are debated and discarded but always valued.
Examples like Rajwadi are not miracles which happen in split seconds; there is always a long list of mindful actions behind such system. What makes Rajwadi projects perfectly decentralized? How has Rajwadi been able to sustain such high decentralization in spite of all the challenges that they face? They also (like any other society) have people who are disinterested, who have lost hopes, who are complacent, who are complaining etc. What is special about Rajwadi and the people here?
Rajwadi actually functions on trust. No person, representative or leader has work timings, working days but rather has certain roles and responsibilities. Every month the village has a monthly meeting to discuss monthly activities and grievances. Every project group meets once a week to discuss their issues and solutions. No decision is taken by an individual but the community or the group owns the responsibility. Rajwadi is not perfect, we must remember. Nothing is perfect. But it is definite that this imperfection drives us (humans) towards excellence. They have a lot of challenges and tremendous group dynamics but yet they have not lost hope in people; in ‘their’ people. They trust each other and wish the best to each other. They all help each other when they struggle.

Rajwadi Vegetable selling Project
Rajwadi Community Vegetable Farming Project  supplies fresh and organic vegetables to the nearby town of Ratnagiri.

Rajwadi culture is different from what we find in traditional companies, factories, offices. Rjwadi culture is actually closer to what professionals’ term as ‘start-up’ culture. It is open, based on trust, morally accountable; with no hierarchy and limited monitoring. These uneducated rural individuals are more progressive than scholars in our cities. We still have the real hope in our villages! We need to be a lot more humble to learn from these humans who work in farms and sleep under trees. These people have taught me the core of decentralization; which no civics text book or political science professor could help me learn.
Decentralization means trusting and being able to trust is difficult but not impossible.

Small dam built by Rajwadi villagers.
Small dam built by Rajwadi villagers.
Categories
Current Issues

Are You Sensitive, In-sensitive or Partially Sensitive? Answering This Question Might Solve All the Problems That the Human Society Faces!

What it means to be ‘Partially Sensitive?’

As we are human beings, we are all supposed to be sensitive. May be to different extents, but without any doubt, we are all sensitive. There is a gross mistake in the way we look at sensitivity. Conventionally, a person is either considered to be sensitive or insensitive. What if I tell you that we all are partially sensitive?

Yesterday, I was in Mumbai to attend a concert along with my wife and a couple of friends. One of the friends is a vegan and advocates that everyone should be a vegan. He has a whole lot of scientific evidence and tons of data to prove how turning vegan is actually a good step towards cutting down the greenhouse gases. At the same time, he was also harping how cruel the people eating innocent animals are. I listened but whatever he said, did not touch me.

The same morning, I was enjoying my morning tea at this friend’s place when I came to know about the fateful event in Bangladesh where a few young students burned down the place where one of the most iconic musicians India has, Ustad Allauddin Khan lived. His rare pictures as well as the instruments on which the maestro used to practice were consumed by the fire. I was totally put off. The same friend of mine, was not touched even a bit by this event.

In the first incidence, I appear to be insensitive towards nature and the innocent animals while my friend appears to be sensitive. In the second incidence, I appear to be sensitive whereas my friend looks like a cold hearted being.

Are both of us sensitive or insensitive? The answer, according to me is, we both are partially sensitive. My friend is sensitive towards the earth, climate change and the eco system whereas I might be insensitive towards all these things, but I am quite sensitive towards music and musicians.

sensitive1

Seems as if the whole of humanity is partially sensitive. Each and every one of us is sensitive for certain things and every one of us is utter careless about things other than those.

Is this selective sensitivity of human beings cause of all the conflict that we see around us in the society?

Being sensitive solves many problems. Sensitivity significantly transforms the human relationship. Contradicting interests is probably the biggest cause of all human fights. Let it be the fight between communists and capitalists or the fight between the castes.

Sadly, we are all digging in the earth to reach the sky. Organisations, movements, agitations are hardly effective to solve the problems we see around in our societies. Yet, we keep on doing more of all this. In fact, we are doing it in a more sophisticated and explosive way using social media hoping that this would solve the problem quickly.

No. Without sensitivity, nothing happens. Anger multiplies the anger and hate multiplies the hate. It’s very simple calculation.

Being totally sensitive

Is it possible for one person to be totally sensitive? Is it within the human limits to be that way? Honestly, just like love, sensitivity is a human independent state. Just like love, sensitivity has no subject. Then what makes us partially sensitive? I we look at it carefully, our ego makes us sensitive towards the things that matter for us and totally blunt towards the things that do not matter or nourish our egos.

Total sensitivity comes from total loss of ego. Are we even trying to walk in this direction? Ahem, we know the answer.

Categories
Current Issues

What is the problem with Internet.Org? | My Thoughts

A few days ago, I was in Bangalore, a city in southern India and capital of the state of Karnataka. I happened to read a print newspaper there in Bangalore after many days. The hectic life in Pune does not allow me to have this luxury.

What grabbed my attention was the huge ads put up by Facebook on the every alternate page that I opened. The ads were sentimental, telling how lives of poor could change if internet.org exists. A lot of debate is happening around this issue and many have started raising their voices. Mark came ahead and wrote editorial for an English newspaper to explain his vision and thoughts.

On one side, the picture created by proponents of internet.org is touching: farmers would get to know weather alerts and other useful information which they presently are deprived of. We have reached a stage where internet is a basic need; at least in cities. On the other hand, this model has multiple disadvantages including the power to skew the opinions of a large chunk of population.

Considering both the sides, how is one going to conclude which is the correct option?

Some questions are worth pondering upon. Why do we need Facebook or some private mobile service provider to provide free useful information? Cannot our government do that? I understand that internet is a tool and necessity and access to internet can significantly impact the lives. But I cannot understand Facebook taking up the initiative on their shoulders; unless there is some hidden agenda. If someone has to take the responsibility of providing free internet access to basics, it should be the government. There will be a huge debate around what are the basic needs. Is access to news a basic need? It could be; but the question is, who promises that the news media which are provided free of charge do not propagate some agenda?

In this particular case, Facebook certainly has the power to improve lives but it equally has the power to bias people and their opinions. Who is going to be the watchdog? Of course, none like a watchdog exists.

The underlying principle is: the medium should always be neutral and should not favour any particular offering. Internet is a medium and hence, it should not favour particular sites or services.

Another question worth asking, what will Facebook and Reliance will get if this thing works out?

  1. Facebook will get millions of new users and power to influence their political and financial choices.
  2. They will also be able to capture a lot of information about these people, their habits and things they like or dislike which can be sold to companies who have offerings for the bottom of the pyramid.
  3. Reliance might attract a large number of customers who will migrate just to avail free Facebook.
  4. A huge data about how Indian market will evolve during coming years will be made available.

One must take efforts to realise, that nothing is free today. Things which are labelled as free are probably the costliest ones- they take away your information. Considering this, is internet.org really free? Certainly, these giants have more to gain than lose if this happens.

Another often missed aspect of this issue is, those who are talking about it are not the ones who will be using it. We do not know if the poor Indian wants free Facebook or net neutrality. I feel, somewhere, we have taken it for granted that the ones who are going to get affected by this have no locus standi in the entire debate. It would be really insightful if someone asks the poor people whether they want to something like this or not. And suppose, if they say, yes, they are absolutely eager to use, is it right to do so?

I think it would be still unfair. Why poor, even well earning members of the society will drool over free access to Facebook or any other internet community for that matter. That doesn’t mean it is a right thing to do.

I personally feel we should be most careful about influencing people and their thoughts is concerned. Influenced minds could be the best agents of change or worst weapons we ever see. To conclude, no information is better than the partial information.

 

 

Categories
Current Issues

Are We Tolerant, Intolerant or Fools?


Suddenly, everyone is commenting about how tolerant or intolerant India as a nation is. Social networks, media houses, individuals and groups of individuals; everyone wants to be listened. I don’t know, how tolerant or intolerant we Indians are, I can certainly say, we are all fools. It is quite easy to provoke us, make us verbal about something and then using all the tides to fulfil some vested interest. This has been happening here for years and the trend will remain so for many coming years or even centuries.

Do we even know what does the word tolerance mean? We keep on living our cunning everyday life as usual, without bothering about compassion, tolerance, love and what not. When something or someone makes us feel insecure, or tries to take away our piece of pie or threatens our existence or interests, then only we become sensitive and verbal about all these topics.tolerence

I am least bothered to comment on what some film star or his wife has said somewhere. I am least bothered about the truth and falsity of the claims made. As a meditater, I am only concerned about one fundamental question- is a normal person walking on the streets around tolerant? Am I or my friends tolerant? If no, what is the way towards tolerance? It makes me worry that tolerance today is not something which makes up an essential part of our life but a weapon to trigger violence and hatred.

I have a question worth giving a thought- why do we need a movie to tell us how superstitious our lives are? Can’t we know that just by looking at our lives? The basic problem with all of us today is, we do not have time to observe and think about our own actions and our own lives. We need a movie to tell us that we are living a superstitious life which is worth laughing upon. We need a TV show to tell us the problems in our immediate neighbourhood. We like to run a marathon to create awareness about some problem but we take no efforts to face the problem and solve it. Are we becoming more intelligent as the time is progressing? I doubt. We are rather becoming shallower, quickly triggered by some piece of news which might be distorted as well. We are very eager to express ourselves without caring even a bit about do we really have anything worth sharing.

The problem with social media is, it gives us a feeling that we have accomplished something without us doing anything in the reality. I don’t know, if the lacs of comments and thousands of discussions will actually do anything to make us more tolerant or even intolerant. Within next two days, we would have happily forgotten everything. The second question worth asking is, who is benefitting from all this? Media companies, brands, politicians, social networks? I think all of them but not the individual who is wasting his time and energy in all of this.

 

Categories
Current Issues

Can We Bring Back Peace By Destroying The Concept of God?

Few days ago, I noticed a very reputed Marathi writer giving his opinion- peace cannot be achieved without destroying the devilish concept of ‘god’ which men have created. To make it simple, this highly acclaimed author claims that we will have to destroy the concept of god and then only we can attain peace.

If one looks at the violence which is taking place around in the name of religion and god, one might think that whatever this writer is saying, makes sense. Religions and gods have been cause of more deaths than anything else. I agree.

Now, the most important question- Will the violence stop if we somehow give a full stop to the concept of god?

I don’t think so. I agree with the author till the point he says that tremendous amount of violence goes on in the name of religion and god. That does not mean that destroying the concept of god and religions will bring us back the peace. No, peace is not that cheap.

violence

 

Why destroying gods and religions won’t bring back the peace? The simple answer is, if you destroy gods, people (rather we) will find something else to do violence under the name of. God or religion is just a reason or excuse to bring out the violence which is there inside us. Unless and until we get rid of the violence inside us, peace won’t come.

From where does the violence come?

Have you ever given it a thought? What makes us violent? Along with some other things, our insecurity makes us violent. We become violent when we feel insecure. It is not just a chance that the most violent person we have heard of, Adolf Hitler, was probably the most insecure person as well. Hitler was afraid of death.

If we remove gods and religions from our minds and our societies, we will hook our violence to something else. Nothing new, we know, how much violence has been done on the racial basis. The way we are moving ahead shows that there will be little violence around the religions and gods, and more around money, water, food or even Mars!

The problem of violence and peace will not be solved unless we do something about the insecurity which we have within.

Another question to ask- Why are we so much insecure?

The simple answer is, because of our ego. The stronger the ego on the surface, more insecure the person is within. We have been raised in a fashion which strengthens our ego. We have been taught in a fashion which makes us more competitive and hence, sows the seeds of insecurity within us.

The urge to possess more and more is also a cause of violence. This urge to possess also comes from our insecurity. Have you noticed? We are not satisfied with one house. We need a second or even a third home. We are not happy with one car; we need more than one. We are acquiring more and more things outwardly to fulfil our inner security. It is this attitude of us which leads to violence.

How is one going to solve this issue? As I said earlier, peace is not cheap, it comes with a great cost. The cost is our ego which is constantly looking for nourishment. Once the ego dissolves, peace arrives.

Categories
Lifestyle

What Will Change Your Life: Access or Desire to Get Changed?

Does access assure that there will be an impact? I was thinking on this question for quite some time. Many times we feel that we do not have access to many valuable resources. The other part of the story is, what are we doing with the resources to which we already have an access?

access impact

Take the case of Kabir and his literature as an example. Saint Kabir’s literature is available across the internet free of cost. I have myself visited dozens of website to collect more and more Dohas i.e. couplets of Kabir. On one particular website, I found a PDF which has more than 900 verses of Kabir.

To cut it short, Kabir’s literature is easily accessible to the majority of us at our fingertips. So, there is 100% access. What is the impact but? Sadly, though we have good access to Kabir’s literature, the impact which it has made is independent of the access. We all quote Kabir and his couplets quite often. Has it made an impact so deep that we live Kabir in our lives?

This highlights a very basic rule about access and impact- Access does not necessarily guarantee an impact. Impact is made when you are ready for it. Impact is made when you are ready for a change. Everyone around- human beings, organizations, companies, not for profits are trying to make access easier. No one stands for doing the hard job- making people willing and passionate about the change and the impact.

Leave Kabir and his wisdom aside, but same is the case with almost everything. We have thousands of mobile Apps which aim at making us more productive. Have we become more productive? Hardly.

This rule holds true in almost all the fields- In music, we have better instruments and acoustic equipment; but today’s music hardly has the magic.

It is very easy and hence common that most of the people always cry about not having access to something. Instead of cribbing for things which they do not have an access to, change makers are more concerned about the impact they make with whatever resources they have. What about you?

 

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