Let Positivity Spread ft. alysjournals

This blog is in collaboration with Alys Daniels-Creasy, a star blogger with stupendous following. Her blog alysjournals presents refreshingly creative posts on mental health, bullet journalling, society, travel, poetry, photography and veganism.

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Whenever I watch news on television or read the newspaper, I feel as if am getting pulled in a quagmire of negativity. The war in Syria, the Korean crisis( thankfully seems to have subsided for now), resurgence of the cold war kind of situation between the US and Russia, shootings in schools in the US or some insane fanatics ramming vehicles into pedestrians in Europe and many other such instances give us a feeling of being on a highway to hell.

Closer back home in India, the strife in a northern state, the Naxal menace in southern states, politicians hitting new lows everyday by perpetuating scams, spreading hatred, mistrust you name it. Recently, there have been horrific instances of crimes committed against children. On top of that the rains playing truant for the few years have wreaked havoc with the farmers.

Being bombarded by such depressing news day in and day out, seems like nothing is right with this world.The negativity breeds more negativity and spreads like a disease.  People start losing faith in the system and the society. A pall of gloom descends on the everyday life. This ultimately affects a persons well being.

Turns out that the media (print, television and social media) is mostly churning out negative news and events with some doctoring to make that shock impact expecting to boost TRPs. But there is the other side of the coin, the good, the constructive, the positive, the hopeful. This side somehow does not get adequately highlighted.

But for once am proved wrong and am I glad to be wrong! I came across a few examples on the social media and television that are putting the sunshine back in our lives. Let me quote a few examples to showcase how positivity spreads like wildfire and slowly engulfs everyone.

 

Omkar Nath Sharma – ‘Medicine Baba’

Omkar Nath Sharma was a blood bank technician at one of the hospitals in Noida near New Delhi. His life changed forever when he witnessed collapse of an under construction metro bridge which killed 2 laborers and badly injured many other. The under equipped public hospitals could not give the necessary treatment to the injured. They were referred to a private hospital but the poor laborers could not afford the cost of the treatment and medicines. Subsequently some of them died for want of treatment and medicines.

 

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A deeply grieved Omkar Nath decided to start his own supply chain of medicines. But he could not afford the medicines himself. So he started going door to door asking people to donate unused medicines. Initially people did not trust him. But soon the trickle started. People recognized the good intention and the cause and started donating unused medicines. He started cataloguing every medicine based on the name, manufacturer expiry date etc. He distributed the medicines free to the poor and continues to do so even today.

The positivity has caught on and citizens have installed collection boxes in colleges and temples where others can drop medicines they don’t need. Omkar Nath distributes medicines worth ₹ 400,000 – 600,000 every month. What makes the struggle even more impressive is that he himself is physically challenged and lives in a modest rented room with his wife and a mentally challenged son.

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Even today, he walks 5-6km everyday in different localities requesting people to donate unused medicines. He makes no money out of this but it is the passion to do good for the society, the positivity that fuels this superhuman effort.

 

Chronic Drought and People driven Non-Government Organizations

The western state of Maharashtra in India, over the last few years has been facing severe chronic drought year after year. Wilful wastage of water, failure to conserve rain water, rampant use of bore wells, Government’s failed irrigation projects due to corruption and an attitude of desperation and neglect has resulted in this epic natural plus man made calamity. The brunt of this was borne by thousands of villages and the the most vulnerable part of the society therein, the poor farmers.

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Successive droughts and availing of loans had got them into a vicious circle which they could not get out of. Consequently, hundreds of them committed suicide leaving behind widows and children to fend for themselves. The situation had become so grim that people had to walk kilometers to get half a bucket of water or climb down some treacherous well to get few bowls of muddy water.

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Finally some people took notice and decided not to depend on Government or an external agency to help. Let me quote two notable examples here though there are many others who are doing equally commendable job.

 

Paani Foundation

Founded by film star Aamir Khan and wife Kiran Rao, the foundation has a passionate and dedicate team from all walks of life. They found out that man and not nature is the culprit. They set out systematically selecting worst affected villages, spreading awareness about watershed management, training people with technical know how and leadership skills and creating training manuals. They also created an android app and awareness films.

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They effectively started bringing the fractured society together, imbibing the belief that together they themselves could turn the situation around. They inspired the rural folk to identify the problem, arrange for funds, land and the required effort and ultimately harvest their own water. For a start they trained 5 persons in each village who in turn would train others.

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Gradually, the idea caught on. People started using social media apps like Whatspp to spread awareness, crowd source funds and encourage other people to volunteer. Each village now started building earthen check dams called bandharas and other structures to harvest rain water. The hard work started paying off. The water started accumulating in the bandharas and the rain harvesting structures. Villages that regularly faced water shortage and were known for fights among themselves for water now had 24×7 water.

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Positivity being contagious spread like wildfire. Neighboring villages started replicating the model and now they even have a competition among the villages to harvest maximum amount of water. The domino effect has resulted in villages now having sufficient quantity of water. There is now a strong sense of involvement and ownership which has helped reduce social maladies like crime and alcoholism.

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As per Paani Foundation’s estimate, the villages participating in the last water cup competition created a water storage capacity of 1,368 crore litres that is equivalent to 1,368,000 tankers of water, or Rs 272 crore worth of water savings.

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The sense of attachment to the cause and the community is so strong that a family that had just lost a member did ‘shramdaan’ or voluntary labour the next day for the watershed management effort as a mark of respect for the departed soul. Now we even have families from the cities visiting villages on weekends and voluntarily helping with creation of the watershed works which is amazing. Nothing highlights the power of positivity better than this example.

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NAAM Foundation

In 2015, moved by the plight of the villagers during the drought, Nana Patekar and Makarand Anaspure started helping out affected individuals at a personal level by monetary help, providing clothes, blankets and medical kits etc. However, they soon realized that the solution had to be long term and the scope of the work had to be increased. They immediately set up the NAAM foundation.

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As the word spread about the good work, donations started pouring in from all quarters. The foundation collected ₹ 8000000 on day one and then on, it has never looked back. The avalanche of help and volunteers enabled the foundation to expand its operations which included adopting affected villages, training people, providing education, helping widows, initiate river rejuvenation, group farming and construction of houses for the needy.

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The foundation has taken up complete responsibility of few villages as a pilot for total transformation. In these villages, with the involvement of local people it has taken up water conservation projects to make them self sufficient, garbage management, sanitary infrastructure like better toilets and drainage, tree plantation, de-addiction, forming women self help groups and local communities to monitor the progress.

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This has fostered a universal sense of belonging and a sense of responsibility towards their own lives and that of the village, willingness to help each other, lesser dependence on external organizations all resulting in improving the quality of life and well being. This has now become a massive movement which is self sustaining and spreading to the remaining villages.

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There are many more such examples which continue doing amazing work which I would have loved to mention but for space constraints.

However the bottom line is, even a small amount of positive work, positive emotion or positive intention has a force multiplier effect. Positivity is the manifestation of the human spirit in the face of adverse conditions which if nurtured properly can surmount any difficulty. It flows in every possible direction bringing in that feeling of well being not only to the individual but also the society.

I believe it is high time we start focusing more on the positive aspects of life and society and let the positive energy spread through good thoughts and deeds. Let it do it’s stuff, wonderful stuff.

                        When you think positive, good things happen.

                 Matt Kemp

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overwhelmed By Technology

 

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Few years back when I was with my earlier organisation, an IT major at the cutting edge of technology, we used to have a monthly meeting with team leads of different projects. Every meeting, one of the team leads had to talk briefly on a particular technology or a technical aspect. After that the Director would wax eloquently about the upcoming technologies like 4G/5G, Connected cars, Digital life, Big Data, AI etc. and that how lucky we were to be in the midst of the next ‘revolution’.

Frankly, at the risk of sounding retrograde, old school or plainly out of sync and ruffling a few feathers of the techie readers, I felt the opposite. I felt and still feel that we are going down a sinkhole of technology, too much of technology.

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Seems like we are no longer living in ether space but in a sea of wi-fi. Always connected, GPS’d (located) and updated at all times. We eat and drink data, sleep in the internet and dream in the ethernet. We are stuck on the grid like a prey on the spider’s web.

 

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Ever since the technology has boomed and the internet speeds skyrocketed, we have been sucked into the never ending vicious circle. More the internet speeds, more content or data we consume and the more we consume, the more we pay for the data consumption! Consequently, the telecom and the OTT service providers and the ISPs are laughing all the way to the banks.

They have successfully hooked us on to fancy mobile phones, gadgets and the consequent data consumption. The techies or the geeks particularly take pleasure in wallowing in technology. I know geeks who proudly proclaim that they live their life in the IDEs.

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Of-course, the companies are driven by business and they salivate at every possible business opportunity, no complaints there. My grudge is against too much use and dependence on technology. Let’s run through a few examples here:

 

 

1. AI Assistantalexa

The Amazon Echo uses Alexa, Amazon’s voice control system to listen to your commands and fulfill them. Have we become so busy, lazy or dumb that we need assistants to do our daily routine jobs?? It can play music tracks for you, dim lights, create a to-do list and of-course order some stuff on Amazon! Naturally, it would be connected to the internet at all times and gobble gigabits of data!

Why can’t we see through the game here? The more dependent we become on these gadgets the more dumb and helpless we get and we still pay for it. Why do we need a AI assistant to tell us what to do, create a shopping list, remind us of birthdays and what not….? This beats me.

 

2. Digital Life                    digitallife-none

Another amazing phrase or a concept. It is being touted as if you would achieve Nirvana if you live the digital life. I remember watching this marketing video which depicted the digital life. It showed, you could remotely lock or unlock your home doors, move your window curtains, control the lights, control the temperature of your home, turn on and off the water tap, basically control almost every gadget or machine that can be connected to the internet. Now I don’t want to sound a spoil sport but what happens in the event of a malware attack or the internet simply goes down for a couple of hours?? This brings us to the third and more worrying example…

 

3. IoT (Internet of Things)

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As the name suggests, they are planning to connect almost every conceivable thing to the internet and to have them ‘talk’ to each other as well. The ‘thing’ here means mobiles, gadgets, home appliances, vehicles, sensors, actuators and transplants. According to Wiki, by 2020, the IoT could consist of roughly 30 billion objects. It also estimates the global market value of IoT to reach $7.1 trillion by 2020! Maybe humans too would become one of the IoT if they put transplants in us. Each of us could have an IP address then!

The connected car for example, would turn on the engine and the AC few minutes before you board the car so that the temperature inside is just right. As soon as you are seated, perhaps it could list out the things you need to buy from the grocery, provide you updates on the weather and traffic, remind you of a meeting or the upcoming dates to pay up your bills, the list is endless. Wouldn’t you rather just sit in the car, turn on your favorite music and just drive away instead of listening to irritating endless babble?

But wait, there is something more scarier coming our way…

 

4. Artificial intelligence (AI)      AI2

An obscene amount of data is being collected and crunched every day by the social media sites, search engines and the ISPs. The creative techies have written and continue to write awesome algorithms that enable the computers or the devices they reside in to constantly learn and improve on their own. They call it machine learning. The algorithms find out patterns in our behavior, find out likes, dislikes and traits and accordingly present us with suggestions on what to buy, what to eat, which movies to watch and so on.

The problem with AI starts when the machine starts developing its own logic and judgement and down the line there are chances that it would simply get out of hand. As an example, if you need to go to the airport to catch a flight in an autonomous car and for some reason you start late and instruct the car to take the best possible route and speed up, you could end up  with a siren blaring police vehicle on your back.

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On the other hand, if it decides to obey the traffic lights and rules, effectively means it is developing its own judgement and logic. Think about it, as it develops on that logic one day, it would start arguing and ultimately override you. Still worse, if the AI technology falls into unwanted hands, you have a sure-shot recipe for Armageddon.

Now am not completely against technology. Let us use it on need basis like weather forecasting, diagnostics, research, simulations [or WordPress blogs  🙂 ] etc. But when it comes to our personal lives, shouldn’t we be better off on our own deciding what to do, what to buy, what to eat and what to watch? Shouldn’t we be driving our own cars and riding our own bikes? Why do we need some smart alec  machine to subtly influence or dictate our lives?

I haven’t even touched the topic of ‘privacy’ here. Would be happy to know your thoughts.

Can’t help but sum up the addiction and dependence on technology with these apt lyrics from Def leppard’s White Lightening:

You wanna leave but you can’t let go
You wanna stop but you can’t say no
You’ll never laugh about it
You just can’t live without it
You had enough but you just want more
You never get what you’re lookin’ for
You’ll never laugh about it, never…

 

 

Expectations

 

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The word ‘expectations’ like the meaning suggests is pregnant with expectations! All kinds of expectations, without limits, no boundaries, adjust themselves according to the context, are situational and are potentially infinite. It is like the universe, ever expanding, infinite and unbounded. Expectations are all pervading and no one can escape from them. Everyone has all kinds of expectations from life, from their partners, friends, job, society and ultimately life. It is one of the most basic instincts in all living things even animals and insects. Just look at a spider waiting in its web expecting a prey to pass by and get trapped. Look at the crocodile waiting in water, with just eyes out, expecting a calf or a deer to stop by for a gulp. It is amazing how it is built into our psyche, we don’t need to be trained or instilled with it.

Expectations start right from infancy and keep growing as we grow and later assume unexpected proportions so much so that they start driving our life. The nature of expectations too changes as we grow. During childhood, they are innocent limited and most flexible. The child of a beggar on the streets is happy with an odd snack or a broken toy. However, a kid from a well to do family expects a pizza or a burger for a snack and a remote controlled toy or a tab to play with. Here the situation has shaped the expectations. However, expectations have an uncanny ability of growing exponentially. As we grow, the expectations start growing like water hyacinth, slowly but surely until the entire lake or pond is covered. Just picture this, in school, we expect our parents to buy us a better school bag, better compass box, better stationery, better tiffin box, better story book etc. In college we expect better clothes, better accessories, better shades, better bike, better girlfriend etc. Further in life, when we start earning, we start expecting a better job, better pay, better car, and better house and now we find ourselves completely trapped in our own and others’ expectations! That’s right; now others also start expecting from us, our boss, our spouse, our children, our colleagues and even our friends. Day in and day out, we are under the spell of expectations. Our boss expects us to perform better at workplace, put in more hours, more effort and more innovation. Even the team that rolls up to you starts expecting you to fulfill their expectations!

After a hard day’s work, when you come home to relax, you face the brunt of your spouse’s and children’s expectations. Just when we expect the expectations to reduce, they bounce back with even greater force and on a larger scale. However, they are not always bad. If they are nurtured and handled properly, can have a positive influence on the situation. God forbid, but if you find yourself in a bad situation, expecting the situation to improve can help in cultivating a positive outlook in that situation. It is kind of a double edged sword, you have to do a tightrope walk if you want to come out unscathed. If you drill down a bit, expectations are results of attachment. Our attachment to things, our near and dear ones, places and situations triggers expectation. Humans by nature are selfish and they expect a reciprocal gesture for every deed, feeling and action. Being part of the society, we are all caught in the web of expectations, all the time. Even God has not been spared of our expectations. Don’t we always expect good health, wealth and life from him irrespective of our deeds? This becomes the cause of our misery. Now we cannot get rid of all the expectations but can certainly keep them minimum and in proper perspective. Not expecting at all or expecting the unexpected seems to be the mantra here. I can’t help but quote Alexander Pope:

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”

 

Failure……Really???

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While going through the newspaper today morning, I stumbled upon an article “Bolster your CV with a failure”. Wonder why, of all the news and the articles I chose this one to read. The article was about entrepreneurs who did not succeed in their first shot at what they wanted to do. They initiated startups but due to some reasons did not work out the way they wanted it to. They would be branded as ‘failures’, until now! Like Bob Dylan would say ‘For the times they are a-changin’, times are surely changing and for the better. Some of the big corporate companies are hiring these very people! The reason being, they have been through the rough and tumble of the game. They had the guts to dream and give it shot. They toiled hard with blood and sweat. They’ve seen it and did it all. Do you need any better reason? Remember, things we learn in a ‘failure’ stay with us for the rest of our lives. These corporates want to use precisely this experience and insight in their ongoing battle to gain an upper hand in the market. They feel that these battle hardened men and women are better equipped to handle real world situations than the number crunching wiz kids who have fancy MBA titles. So times have really changed and it is no longer a taboo to fail.

We just keep forgetting the famous examples of people who never gave up. Abraham Lincoln was unsuccessful as a businessman, as a lawyer and even as a politician. Edison’s teachers in school considered him incapable of learning anything! He was fired from his first two jobs and he tried close to 1000 times before he succeeded in inventing the light bulb. Einstein could not read until he was seven. One of his teachers described him as mentally slow, unsociable and forever lost in foolish dreams! Steve Jobs’ attempts to get HP and Atari interested in his personal computer were rejected. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lacking imagination and good ideas. In 1947, a certain Norma Jean Baker was dropped by 20th Century-Fox because the producer thought she was unattractive and couldn’t act. Amitabh Bachchan was rejected for having a deep baritone by All India Radio and was considered too tall by earlier film makers. Mahatma Gandhi was not successful as a lawyer. One thing is clear from these examples, all the great mean and women had much greater vision, wider horizon and a bigger canvas to paint. Their talent and creativity did not fit into the conventional mold that time. It would be interesting to know what all these men and women who rejected the famous personalities, thought at a later stage once they found out you know what………

After all what we perceive as failure is just something that did not work out as expected or the way we thought or perceived it. Something that did not fit in our narrow conventional frame of mind. Something that did not meet the expectations. So it’s all relative, perceived, not conforming to a set of human made rules. Our society and education has instilled a deep embedded fear of failure in all of us. Or maybe the devil in us derives pleasure in others’ failures. Failures have so far been stigmatized. No credit is given for the intention and the effort. Instead, the focus is on the result. But that should hopefully be changing now. With the society and the corporate world recognizing the intent and the efforts, this could have a positive multiplier effect and people would be encouraged to come up with groundbreaking ideas, innovations and processes, ultimately resulting in a better world. Who knows, the word ‘failure’ may one day be removed from the dictionary.