When you wish..

When you wish to be heartless and you know you can’t.
When you crave for acceptance and love is all you get.
When you are greeted with indifference though hate is what you hoped for.
When it’s closer than it appears but you assume the distance anyway.
When it’s rather peaceful alone yet you dream the fairytale every day.

Some food for thought from ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’

It’s Will Smith’s Birthday today. Even though I’m a long time fan of his work, I promise I’m not cheesy enough to celebrate his birthday or any celeb birthdays for that matter. That stage of madness never reached me, thankfully.

Having said that, I saw someone wishing him on Twitter and somehow it instantly reminded me of his performance in The Pursuit of Happyness.

The Pursuit of Happyness is one of my all time preferred comfort movies. It is the type of cinema that uplifts, soothes, and entertains all at once. It’s highly recommended, if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s a perfect getaway that teaches you some great things about life and happiness. I’ve always felt good about myself and my life after watching that movie, and I seriously don’t know if any praise can be greater than this.

There’s a very subtle yet consequential moment in the movie where, Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith) is walking on the street with his son Christopher (played by Jaden Christopher Syre Smith), both on their way to the daycare. In that scene, Christopher is trying to tell a joke about a ‘drowning man’ to his father who is occupied with his thoughts and is currently going through a lot of uncertainties in life. Even though Gardner hardly pays attention to the joke, the joke in itself is the essence of the movie and ultimately the essence of life.

The joke goes something like this: “A man is drowning in the ocean and someone in a boat comes by, offering to help. The man says, “it’s okay, God will save me.’ Later on, another boat comes by, offering to help. The man replies, ‘it’s okay, God will save me.’ The man dies and goes to heaven. There, he asks God why he wasn’t saved. God replies, ‘I sent you two lifeboats, dummy!’”

This was the simplest way of reminding us that usually in life help is available, sometimes near and sometimes a little far away, it’s up to us if we can recognise it and embrace it.

Anyway, since my brain has been buzzing with moments and quotes from the movie, I thought why not share some here.

So, here you go:

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I hope anyone reading this finds some comfort in these stressful times. Fictional worlds are great way of finding some relief.

The Pursuit of Happyness is filled with dialogues and moments like these. Let me know if I’m missing some meaningful ones; I’m sure I am.

‘The Social Dilemma’ Highlights a Problem that No One Can Name

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Photo Credit: Netflix

I’m a stern and prideful social media detractor and I use only one social media platform that limits my word usage and provides a full control of what I see on my ‘timeline.’ For someone like me, a docudrama on the perils of social media shouldn’t be surprising. Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’, however, wasn’t just surprising for me but it left me quite disturbed by the end.

To anyone wondering, the movie isn’t a big revelation that tells us something that we already don’t know. But they did a really good job in touching the most sensitive nerves by keeping the content as relevant to today’s social behaviour as possible. We are provided by an exact image of our behaviour that we probably already know but to get a bird’s eye view of our own everyday life cannot ever be easily digestible.

So, why was I left disturbed?

I already have certain amount of realization about how much damage these platforms can cause, which is why I deactivated Facebook, Instagram, and a lot of other apps from my phone a few years ago. Eventually, when I didn’t feel the need to get back to those worlds, I deleted my accounts from each platform all together. I was so paranoid that I even got rid of my Goodreads account, which by the way is a whole another blog topic, once I became aware of their manipulation techniques. So, to get me disturbed was surprising.

The Social Dilemma made me realise that just deleting the apps from my phone is not going to help me escape the perils. Yes, the effects are far reaching and far more damaging than we recognize, or capable of believing or can even understand at this point.

Let me try to accumulate this in a nutshell – Every social media platform today is free to use, but the fact is – it is not free. It can’t be. Nothing can be free. What we think is free is actually something that we are paying for with our behaviour, our perception, and ultimately our life. Simply speaking, if you are not paying for a product, then “you are the product”. That’s how businesses work.

Jaron Lanier, the author of Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, who also features in the movie very straightforwardly says, “It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behaviour and perception that is the product.”

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Movie Still Credit: Netflix

These platforms are manipulation based, addiction based, and dopamine secreting technological programmes that are using us, the humanity, as their tools to make money. These tech companies are hoarding big sizes of data, with no human supervision to ensure how that data is actually channelized, to further use it for manipulating us and changing our perception to like, subscribe or pay attention to something that they want. Something they are being paid for. The movie also makes it extremely clear how little these companies and the tech experts themselves know about what’s happening or how it’s happening.

The effects are far reaching as you can’t just escape by deleting your own account. This is making a dent on our society, our knowledge, our perception of reality, and the entire fabric of democracy. Facebook, as most of us know, is already facing quite a flack for playing a significant role in manipulating election results in various countries. And they are not doing that by hacking a computer, it would be such a relief if that was the case, they are doing it that by hacking OUR MINDS.

Tristan Harris, the American ethicist, computer scientist who appears in the movie, calls this a “checkmate on humanity.” I can’t really disagree.

Social Media is playing a huge role in making this world more radicalised, more polarised, more uncompromising, and definitely more unaccommodating. I can’t escape this by deleting my account because even when I did delete all my accounts, I’m still seeing all these things happening in the world around me. The change it’s making in our perceptions is so gradual that it made me question my own acuity.

I can’t help but wonder that, may be, what I believe is not what I believe and it’s what I was made to believe, through slow and persuasive manipulation techniques.

The movie highlights an issue that none of the speakers were able to name, all being technology experts, people who have worked for giant tech companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were not able to specify what the exact problem is and what the solution could be.

I understand many would say, well they are just casting a shadow with showing the scarier part without really providing a solution. I felt that too. But the more you think about what the movie is trying to convey, you will realise that they make it very clear how even those who are running these machines of manipulation are really unaware of the consequences and thus, doesn’t have a solution. There’s probably no solution, not at least in the foreseeable future. May be having this conversation, admitting there is something to be concerned about is the first step towards a potential solution.

The Social Dilemma made one thing clear to me – I’ve to stop advocating against social media. Mass deletion of accounts can certainly send a message but it’s definitely not the solution for the destruction being caused.

The docudrama is available on Netflix and it’s worth spending 89 minutes of your time, if you can cut back some of that Instagram scrolling time. 🙂

a star on fire…

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Picture Location: Lansdowne, cantonment town in Pauri Garhwal Indian state of Uttarakhand. This image was captured in the summers of 2015, before sunset.

Look at the sky. What do you see?
I see the sun that appears every day.
What else?
It’s just the sun.
Oh..dear, let me tell you the thing. That’s a star on fire, giving light to us all. The light you see is mere illusion; it’s all darkness in reality.
If all is darkness, how I see what I see?
Because someone somewhere is burning day and night, so that you can see what you see.
Oh..you mean the sun?
Yes, and someone else.
Who?
That one person who is living to light your world.
Who it could be?
What you know if you don’t know that yet.

Suicides can be prevented, if we are here to talk

Trigger Warning: Suicide

I don’t believe in having specific days or months dedicated for specific topics. However, this is an exception. Sometimes it becomes a necessity to have particular time dedicated for opening the basket that no one wants to touch. Suicide is one of those baskets.

It’s still September, and September is still the suicide prevention month. And since we clearly have a lot of unsaid and unheard in this corner, now seems to a good time to talk about it.

Suicide Quote for blog

Growing up, I remember suicide as a word that always made my mother livid. “I don’t like you talking about it,” I remember her saying this every time I brought up the subject. Even today for that matter, she is quite uncomfortable hearing the word. Few years ago as I was starting to read more about mental health, I asked her what makes her so paranoid when she hears about it. Her reply was a story of her own childhood. And although she didn’t really elaborate, the gist was a suicide in her neighbourhood and the desolation that family suffered afterwards. It was however clear that she remembered the incident as something that brought shame and misery to the family.

For people of that time, “committing suicide” was worse than committing a murder. My mother basically grew up with this idea. Mentioning the word was forbidden and she was made to believe that talking about is what feeds the idea to our minds. As twisted as it may sound, it made me understand how and why we are so sore on this; it’s not because of the grief or tragedy of someone ending their own life, it was more about how the family would be treated later on. Suicide is often seen as an act of weakness, and really who is surprised by the society’s conclusion that being weak shouldn’t be acceptable?

In India, until very recently i.e. the year 2017-18, suicide was a punishable criminal offence under section 309 of Indian Penal Code. This truly translates as – until 2017-18, we used to make our suicide survivors undergo a trial for a failed attempt at taking their own life, and later impart a punishment or legal penalty if found “guilty.” This also translates as – we, until 2017-18, never tried to understand the gravity of this and the best resolution we could find was to punish a person who’s not only suffering but was screaming for help.

The law has been “improvised” with the Mental Health Care Act 2017, which was passed in the Indian parliament in April 2017 and later came into effect from July 2018.

Things usually are not that complicated but our upbringing programmes us to become callous if something is even remotely different from our definition of sanity. May be it’s time to stop defining something that we don’t understand. And the first step to do that is altering our judgemental voice, improving our language, choosing the right words. It’s only when we say it right; we understand it better and become aware of the complexities.

Here’s a quick note for everyone, because we all make these mistakes in our language, in our behaviour; we all are guilty of choosing the wrong words. FACTS –

  • Criminals ‘commit’ crime.
  • People don’t ‘commit’ suicide; they ‘die by suicide’.
  • Suicide is not a sign of weakness, rather it’s an alarm raised by deep pain and anguish.
  • Suicide survivors are not guilty, they are humans.
  • Suicide can be prevented.

The truth is – we simply are too occupied to pay attention, and it may be again extremely uncomfortable to comprehend, but people show symptoms. There are suicide warning signs. These signs, however, are often refuted terming them as sadness or depression. We rarely take these signs seriously. And we just can’t afford to keep doing this, not anymore.

Below are two simple graphics to explain warning symptoms along with the difference in our attitudes towards suicide and suicidal.

Unfortunately, we’re living in a world where these warning signs can be around any one of us. Having said that, let’s not forget that suicide is preventable if we pay attention, it’s preventable if we stop blaming the victim, it’s preventable if we care and listen. Simply saying “I don’t like you talking about it” is not keeping us or our loved ones safe, rather it’s probably what is perpetuating the issue at the first place.

HELPLINE NUMBER In India
AASRA – 91-9820466726
Hours : 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages : English, Hindi.
Visit the website for more details

I hoped for rain…

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I hoped for rain to avoid the storm.
I opened the window to find the golden rose.
I stared at the sky expecting the sun to smile back.
I adorned the most hideous hat believing it to be my armour.
I read old rusty novels trusting them to be my best friends.
I carried my broken heart as it was my destiny.
I displayed my folly as it was my charm.

I hoped for rain…. and somehow I faced the storm.

When Women Suit Up..

Time for some women appreciation.

This is the second instalment of my women appreciation posts, dedicated to women thriving in different fields. The first post was dedicated to women in politics. And this is to admire women entrepreneurs who are leading organisations and carving out a different legacy for their kind.

There’s something powerful about women suiting up, and no one can deny that. The business world is another profession unapologetically dominated by men, and for women to even make their presence felt has always been a challenge. In my corporate life, I’ve been fortunate enough to always have a female manager. And at the same time, I’ve been unfortunate enough to witness the hardships they face right in front of me.

It’s not hard to miss when everything happens in front of you – the constant judgemental glares, the lack of faith from your peers, the repeated reminders that you’re indeed the odd one out, and often an evident lack of respect. Based on my personal experience of corporate lifestyle, my admiration for women entrepreneurs is more personal.

The women I’m listing here are not simply running a business successfully. They are redefining our understanding of the word “business,” truly. Their businesses reflect exactly why these women are extraordinary.

So, in no particular order, here are some admirable women entrepreneurs for introduction and inspiration:

Cindy Mi

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Photo Source: CrunchBase

This woman, if you don’t already know, is the founder and CEO of VIPKid, which was named the 29th Most Innovative Company in the World 2018 and the 7th Most Innovative Company in China 2019. How visionary Cindy Mi is? Well, Mi was 17 when she dropped school and founded a tutoring company with help of her uncle. And since then, she is a well known name in the education domain.

I was introduced to her through some online dynamic CEO’s list last year, and since then I’ve listened to her speaking at forums and several panels. She is so imaginative and her company’s concept actually reflects exactly that.

She is competitive, smart, and most importantly, she is working in a sector that she is passionate about. Listening to her interviews makes it clear that she has quite a vision on how education will be transforming going forward and how second language is significant to find a place in today’s world.

Lynne Doughtie

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Photo Source: Going Concern

Lynne Doughtie is the “woman boss.” I remember this is how she was introduced a few years ago in some national expo and that introduction instantly made me Google her.

Doughtie was not only the first female CEO of KPMG but she was also the second woman to ever lead a Big Four accounting firm, after Deloitte’s very own Cathy Enelgbert. It’s so exciting to see women acquiring the centre stage of c-suite, more so when it’s in a company such as KPMG that despite of being huge in name never witnessed a women leader before.

Marie Kondo

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Photo Source: CNBC

I read somewhere that ideas are the real currency of present. Marie Kondo and her entire persona is the richest example of this. I mean, we are talking about the inventor of KonMari method, an organising method. Who would have thought that inventing an organising method and becoming an organising consultant could also be a thing? It’s all about the idea, isn’t it?

I haven’t read any of her books yet and I’m not sure if I’m going to. Having said that, I really admire her for building her own playing field, in which she is thriving worldwide. Her ideas are something we all need, honestly.

Jasmine Crowe

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Photo Source: CrunchBase

I first heard about Jasmine Crowe in one of her Ted Talks a few months ago while trying to utilize my quarantine time. She gave a brief idea of how her journey as the founder of a sustainable surplus food management platform started. Hearing her speak was such an insightful experience; she is passionate, yes but more than that she is driven by her will to do something good. Also, during the entire talk, she delivered some great quotable arguments on the subject, it was fascinating.

Her platform, Goodr, is basically a blockchain-enabled platform that tackles food wastage and promises to combat hunger at the same time. It’s such a simple yet unique idea, which Crowe came up with while volunteering at a local food pantry.

If we are talking about modern day female entrepreneurs, I can’t think of a better suitor than Crowe to be included. She is perfect, realistic, and working for a cause, what is not worth admiring in that really?

We have so many women across the world today forging paths that just couple of decades ago were referred to as the unknown territory for women. And knowing more about such achievers is certainly the most ideal way of getting inspiration for your own spirit.

If reading this, you’re reminded about some other inspiring women entrepreneurs, please leave a comment.

Women appreciation posts will continue, it’s teaching me a lot more than I expected.

Think before sharing

Think before sharing; it’s not that hard.

We’re living in a cruel world, where misinformation has more takers than facts. Truth has become so blurry that even if you find it, it gets difficult to make any sense of it. This virtual world is corrupting our minds before the doom hits. I know this sounds dramatic and pessimistic, but I won’t apologize for calling it what it is.

We read something online, and we share it the second we find it “interesting”. This has to stop. Sharing what you saw online without understanding the context and testing the accuracy is dangerous. It’s like gossiping with the world and destroying something concrete unknowingly. We can’t afford it.

Please read this #thinkbeforesharing campaign info-graphic by European Commission.

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Infographic by European Commission. #THINKBEFORESHARING