Have you ever heard the argument that life in India brings you closer to our original nature thanks to the extremes in our society? I’ve lived here for the better part of my life and I think I can safely say that the first part just isn’t true. Yes, we do have extremes. Problems that really can rip right through the fabric of what makes us human. But a consistent exposure to those extremes grows our insensitivity. It becomes routine to ignore what’s broken and refuse to outgrow what we’ve been good at in the hope that the other problems will solve themselves. It is in this very struggle that we rediscover our original nature and show ourselves.
This post is about two short stories of a passion like none other.
Life is hardest here for our poor. When they’re sick, they won’t find options for better treatment. Not because of the lack of money, but because they lack the ability to read and write. All Indian private hospitals have provisions and perhaps the compassion for the economically challenged. However, getting past the admissions process is daunting, requires forms to be filled and explanations to be made. I imagine if you’re sick you’ll want to simply avoid the stress and accept the state-sponsored care you can get by default.
Ravi Saxena of Ghazipur on the other hand has found a way to fix this. As a tea vendor, he makes Rs. 8,000 working for 20 days in a month. The remaining 10 days Ravi invests in helping the poor get past the admissions process in private hospitals and claim the benefits. Ravi says that his family and friends encourage him to concentrate on his business but he prefers to put the poor first. I learned about Ravi’s story first in the Times of India*.
The next story is about Myshkin Ingawale and about his invention that makes it possible to test for anemia in the field. As Myshkin explains in this talk, anemia is a solvable condition that goes largely undiagnosed. An anemic expecting mother is at very high risk at childbirth, especially if her condition is unknown to those attending on her. Myshkin was inspired by one such case he learned of through a friend and doctor who attended on a mother who died at childbirth. Myshkin aims to equip health workers with his invention at scale making it possible for next steps in treatment.
Ravi and Myshkin are integrating our country in their own ways. Their stories deserve to be a part of our collective consciousness. Their daily effort grants them a freedom that has always been uniquely Indian – to be yourself. A freedom that comes from the self-knowledge that we all can listen to. The knowledge that we’re doing our bit.
Wish you all a Happy Independence Day 2013!
If your co-worker’s phone rings and they’re not there at their desk, let them know with ”someone was trying to get to you!”, which sounds way better than “Your phone was ringing!”.
Wish everyone out there a great friendship day, August 4th and the best of friends. Thank you for following.
On my way back from work last week, I paused my car at an T-shaped intersection. As I waited for the heavy traffic to thin out, another car drove around me from the right and aggressively attempted merge. Not having much space to maneuver, the driver’s turning radius got tighter and he merged only after scraping my front fender. I’d been stationary all this time and his move took me by surprise. After a short pursuit, I caught up with him, tried to make my case and he had the cheek to deny scraping me at all. Having failed to secure his insurance information, I left.
That incident didn’t leave my thoughts for some time after that. Thoughts perpetuating themselves have always been a common situation for me. I imagine more so than for others, as I still think of myself as obsessive by nature. Sure, I felt the injustice and lack of civility in the event, but it was over and I had no business furthering my agenda mentally. Something had to be done!
Much like the driver I’d had the bad fortune of meeting, some old habits give you little room to maneuver and work out different, better responses. They perpetuate mediocre, or even less desirable outcomes until the point where you’ll find yourself thinking in exasperation “How did this happen?” Our goal would then be to deny following the habit, get a better feel for what’s going on and respond differently.
To show you how difficult this can be, I was part of a small experiment where the speaker would call out a color. The idea of the experiment is to not think of the color called out. Most participants found it hard to not imagine the color popping up in their minds every time the speaker called out that color and its variants. I’d encourage you to try this out with someone else calling out the color.
Other tests with a similar principle are the selective attention test, and the attentional blink test. What these tests show is that on constructing a complete idea, the conscious mind loses its capacity to process new stimuli and reevaluate the evolving state of everything, including your own internal state from where intuition originates*. If habitual responses are really complete ideas stemming from the compression of the stimuli-response gap to negligible time, then what we need to do is grow that gap. We’ll need to cue ourselves. Put another way, we’ll need to devise a new habit to disrupt the old one.
This isn’t knowledge relegated to meditation practitioners. Digital marketers also employ cues to drive desirable behaviors and develop habits at the subliminal level**. So, if you want to break an old habit, start with a self-cue. A face with an attention-grabbing expression, say a lovely smile will work well. You might want to experiment with this a bit, think face-piles if you must. Now all you need to do is practice raising that image when faced with the trigger situation.
There’s no lengths to which you can take this. I’ve experienced it work well with starting something new and dealing with procrastination. I’ve been seeking professional opportunities in my industry and I’ve known myself to be tempted by the first opportunity that comes my way without paying enough attention to first determining if it meets the objectives I want to uphold. This usually leads onto hesitation when making hearty commitments and much disappointment at having let myself down. To help grasp the bigger picture, I push myself to ask- is the opportunity *the* blue sky I’ve always imagined? If not, then what would make it so? This is a process that takes time to perfect, and the inquiry can take days. On the flip side, it has helped me make firm commitments when I know they’re closer to where I’m headed.
* These ideas are explained in depth in Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan, one of Google’s earliest engineers and personal growth pioneer. Meng uses a happiness, science-driven stance and offers methods for enhancing mindfulness and emotional intelligence in everything you do. You can get the book with Flipkart, India, or from Amazon on your kindle.
** Skinner Marketing- We’re the Rats and Facebook Likes are the Reward. Our internet handlers are using operant conditioning to modify our behavior.
I’ve picked up the unofficial biography of Narendra Modi by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay. It’s been a great read so far- his early years, backdrop of his upbringing and his teenage years. Without giving too much away, even if you believe you know Modi’s work, his persona is a certain surprise. For instance, young Narendra had a strong spiritual bend growing up in Vadnagar and later as he embarked in the footsteps of Swami Vivekananda.
An excerpt from the book when a 21 year old Narendra returned from his spiritual quest,
I asked him (Narendra Modi) when did he return to the material world after his wanderings and he said: ‘Actually, even now I have not completely returned to the material world. But at a later point (of his wanderings) I felt that if I have to do something then I have to become part of some system, some structure. So that is when I met Vakil Sahab (Lakshmanrao Imandar) in 1971. I consulted him and told him what I had done. I told him that I now felt that the time had come for me to tie myself down to something — do something from one place — in one position and I requested him to guide me.’
Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay. “Narendra Modi : The Man. The Times”.
I guess the least one can do is get to know their leaders better.