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ashokbhatia

Can we identify a God who can be beseeched to preside over our Internet-ional GaneshaAffairs?

In Hinduism, for example, we are exposed to a mind-boggling variety of divine manifestations. Down the long corridors of time, since the dawn of history, the Hindu pantheon has evolved with a multitude of deities.

The deities offer an eclectic mix – some are highly specialized whereas others are all-purpose ones. Some are removers of any obstacles that a seeker may face in life. Some grant better learning abilities and wisdom. Some bestow immense wealth and prosperity. Then we have the generalist trinity – one is said to have crafted the creation, one runs it smoothly like a true blue CEO while another destroys and reconstructs. The latter two intervene in human affairs as and when they deem it necessary.Ravi_Varma-Lakshmi

In fact, there is no sphere of life which has not been touched by some…

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Can we identify a God who can be beseeched to preside over our Internet-ional GaneshaAffairs?

In Hinduism, for example, we are exposed to a mind-boggling variety of divine manifestations. Down the long corridors of time, since the dawn of history, the Hindu pantheon has evolved with a multitude of deities.

The deities offer an eclectic mix – some are highly specialized whereas others are all-purpose ones. Some are removers of any obstacles that a seeker may face in life. Some grant better learning abilities and wisdom. Some bestow immense wealth and prosperity. Then we have the generalist trinity – one is said to have crafted the creation, one runs it smoothly like a true blue CEO while another destroys and reconstructs. The latter two intervene in human affairs as and when they deem it necessary.Ravi_Varma-Lakshmi

In fact, there is no sphere of life which has not been touched by some Hindu God or the other. However, we are clueless as to who holds the portfolio of Internet Affairs. Someone, who ensures that irrespective of what happens, we always have connectivity. So, we do not suffer from frequent pangs of Noconnphobia (NoConnectivity-Phobia).

A deity for our Internet-ional Affairs

Without Internet, we are left utterly clueless. We are cut off from civilization. It is as if we are deprived of oxygen. A God who ensures that we have uninterrupted and seamless connectivity shall obviously earn our absolute devotion. Grand temples set up to commemorate him would get built, thereby boosting employment prospects and facilitating the use of black money which can surely do with a ‘fair-and-lovely’ treatment at the earliest. The largest temple thus built could even host a Root Server in a basementinternet image 1Garbh Griha’ (the sanctum sanctorum)!

The high priests appointed to take care of the Internet deity on a day-to-day basis would ensure a steady flow of hefty donations to all its temples. Governments world over shall pitch in with liberal grants. Since the only interest of all governments would be to govern better, global harmony would prevail.

A new form of democratic capitalism would come in vogue. Benefits of growth shall be made to trickle down to the poorest of the poor. Reservations and quotas, if any, shall be linked to economic criteria and not to political vote banks determined by caste, creed, sex or religion. Terrorism would get banished. Peace would reign.Sistine-Chapel-God-and-Adam

Of checks and balances

A crack team of tech-savvy consorts of the deity would ensure that the principles of Net Neutrality get honoured; also, that hackers are no longer able to hack. Strict norms of privacy shall be stipulated and followed. With privacy assured, denizens of all countries would breathe easy. This would avoid a repeat of the Ashley Madison episode. Matrimonial harmony shall be a norm rather than an exception. Divorce rates would plummet. Children, whether born out of wedlock or otherwise, would be happier.

One of the Key Result Areas of the concerned deity shall be to manage affairs in such a way that the evolution of Internet never spins out of control. If ever Internet assumes a consciousness of its own, the role of the deity itself shall get subjugated by a higher power. Our civilization shall end up becoming a highly centralized system where all aspects of our lives get controlled. Homo sapiens would then run the risk of becoming truer slaves to technology. Values of fraternity, freedom and liberty shall get obliterated.

Who could possibly play this role?Hanuman_painted_by_Pahari_Painter

Are there gods in the Hindu pantheon who could handle a challenge of this magnitude?

One choice could be that of Lord Hanuman. After all, he is the son of the God of Air (Pavan Putra). He has sterling qualities of head and heart. He is a great executor. Whatever task is entrusted to him, it gets done without a glitch. All we have to do to appease him is to invoke the name of Lord Rama.

The other possibility is that of Lord Shiva; in particular, his form which represents ‘Ether’, one of the five elements of the universe. Aided by his wife, Goddess Parvati, and his two illustrious sons, we shall have the advantage of the whole family pitching in to take care of the Divine Ministry of Internet Affairs.

Yet another contender for this crucial portfolio could be Lord Ganesha. Given His expertise in removing obstacles,Shiva interruptions in connectivity would soon become a thing of the past. As the technology evolves, He would ensure that its progress is free of any disruptions. He is a patron of arts, sciences, intellect and wisdom – realms which are served by Internet. Mice, who fulfill His transportation needs, would refrain from biting any cables which might be carrying bits and bytes for our denizens.

However, all these options present some difficulties.

Lord Hanuman may not like to get involved because of His vow of celibacy. If He does consent, but insists on obnoxious things like Internet porn getting banished, many of His followers may be left in a torment.Ganesha_Basohli_miniature

As to Lord Shiva, He does not tolerate dissent in any form, whereas Internet is all about accommodating opposing viewpoints on any subject under the sun. Were He to ever decide to turn his Third Eye on a Twitteratti dissenter like Kama Deva, even if it is on Skype or Viber, the latter would run the grave risk of turning into ashes. An action of this kind could fuel a global uprising, thereby defeating our basic objective of attaining global peace and harmony through Internet.

With Lord Ganesha, the difficulty lies in the fact that He is to be worshipped before the commencement of a new project. An attempt to invoke His blessings belatedly might simply end up offending Him. One shudders to think of a prospect of that nature.

Are there any other candidates for the top job?Krishna_holding_flute

Let us also consider the candidature of Lord Krishna. His is a multi-faceted personality. Romance, which flourishes on Internet, comes to Him naturally. Those searching for soul-mates would breathe easy. Devising strategy and tactics is an area He excels in. Under His care, growth of Internet would continue unabated.

Those who indulge in hacking would fear swift retribution at His hands, much like the demons which were vanquished due to His timely interventions. Data security would no longer be a cause for concern. Moreover, He has already assured us in Bhagavad Gita that He will come whenever we face a problem. So, we already have an advance performance guarantee.

How about some gender parity?

Hard-core feminists amongst us might wonder as to why none of our delicately nurtured goddesses can get considered for this coveted slot. Those running their e-commerce businesses would vote for Goddess Lakshmi. Those who disseminate knowledge using the world-wide-web shall be rooting for Goddess Saraswati.Saraswati 

Well, our innate sense of chivalry restrains us. The presence of pornographic content holds us back.

The time has come

The mind boggles to think of the consequences of a continued absence of a deity specifically assigned to take care of such net-ty issues. Our denizens shall continue to surf on narrow-band which smart companies would keep projecting as broad-band. Our Smart City plans would come unstuck. Our children shall remain deprived of knowledge and information.

The common man would continue to slip on the ladder of affordable connectivity and only get dumb and dumber. The noble cause of women’s emancipation and empowerment would receive a setback. Politicos and bureaucrats shall continue to twiddle their thumbs trying to figure out how to deliver results. Even the future of several governments could come under a cloud, obviously not of an e-kind.

Now is the time for our religious leaders and intellectuals to come to the aid of the common man. Those who follow different faiths around the world need to come up with brighter ideas as to who could handle this crucial portfolio for us.

Prompt steps need to be taken through the proper channels to identify and declare an appropriate deity to take care of Internet-ional issues.

This brooks no delay whatsoever.

(Note: Inputs from Captain Satish Pande are gratefully acknowledged)

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Having settled back in the shadow of the Alps yet again, I am filled with a sense of exhilaration and awe. The heat of India has got replaced by the chill of melting snow. TheSwiss Zermatt dust has given way to fresh air which is invigorating. In the cobbled streets, litter is missing. The greenery and the snow-capped mountains are a relief for the eyes. The ears are just about getting used to the soothing silence which has replaced the relentless honking on Indian roads. Courtesy in public spaces is once again leaving me dumbstruck.

But the stark contrasts do not end at the physical level. There are differences in the mental make up. The value systems which govern our behavior appear to be differently configured. The forces of nature and nurture which have shaped our personalities are quite different.

East and West can both learn quite a few things from each other.

What Indians can learn from the West

  • Respecting the Public Good

In the West, we find better respect for the public good. For instance, public spaces are cleaner and drivers on roads are courteous. On the contrary, in India, we keep our houses values cartoon corruptionclean and water our gardens everyday – but, when we go to the beach front, we litter the place with gay abandon.

In an office setting, a friendly colleague could get chastised for being careless on a project. In India, a criticism would either not be made – so it may not hurt the feelings of a friend – or taken personally by the recipient.

Corruption is another manifestation of the same lack of concern for the common good. Society is relatively corruption free in the West. In India, corruption, tax evasion, cheating and bribery have become a part of daily routine.

Apathy towards solving problems which affect the ordinary citizen is another dimension. In the West, people form groups to solve common problems in a proactive manner. In India, we see serious problems around us but do not try to solve them. We either believe that the problems do not impact us directly, or it is for someone else to resolve the issues.

  • Openness to Learning

If we have to progress, we have to change this attitude, listen to people who have performed better than us, learn from them and perform better than them. In India, we appear to have perfected the art of rationalizing our failures and explaining them off by misquoting our scriptures. We are good at finding excuses to justify our incompetence, corruption, and apathy. This attitude will not do.

  • Accountability based on the RoleAccessibility

Another interesting attribute that we Indians need to learn from the West is that of accountability. Irrespective of your position, in the West, you are held accountable for what you do. However, in India, the more ‘important’ you are, the less answerable you are.

Organizations whose top honchos indulge in illicit relations with their team members need to be pulled up and acted against as firmly as a junior cashier who siphons off money from the till.

  • Dignity of Labor

Dignity of labor is an integral part of the Western value system. In the West, each person is proud about his or her labor that raises honest sweat. On the other hand, in India, we have a mindset that respects only supposedly intellectual work.

A peon deserves as much respect as a Head of the Department. CEOs whose fragile egos are shaken by someone else parking his/her car in the normal slot needs to do some introspection.

  • Discriminating between Intimacy and Friendliness

Indians tend to become intimate even without being friendly. They ask favors of strangers without any hesitation. Rudyard Kipling once said: A westerner can be friendly without being intimate while an easterner tends to be intimate without being friendly.

Those who have worked as expatriates in another cultural setting would readily attest to this.

  • A Professional ApproachWORK-LIFE BALANCE

In India, more than 70% of the time of senior managers is spent on follow-ups; just ensuring that what is committed is indeed delivered. Delays are easily explained, and so are cost over-runs. Keeping a person unduly waiting is a sure sign of seniority in an Indian organization.

Here is yet another lesson to be learnt from the West – that of professionalism in dealings. Managements in the West ensure better work-life balance for their employees.

What the West can learn from India

  • Loyalty towards FamilyZOMBIES

Indians are part of a culture which has deep-rooted family values. We have tremendous loyalty to the family. For instance, parents make enormous sacrifices for their children. They support them until they can stand on their own feet. On the other side, children consider it their duty to take care of aged parents.

In organizations, we often find executives who are competent as well as extremely loyal. Also, respect for seniors is deeply ingrained in the system. There are times when juniors find it tough to take independent decisions. Very few are adept at registering a dissent with their seniors. Successful organizations have a culture which is designed to overcome such handicaps.

  • Family: A Critical Support Mechanism

One of the key strengths of Indian values is the presence of so much love and affection in the family life. In India, families act as a critical support mechanism for employees. Thus, resilience is better.

In the West, it is common to have break-ups when the career prospects of a manager nosedive. This adds to the stress experienced by a manager. Mental disorders present a much greater challenge. Predominantly, life has a materialistic approach, leading to a vacuum within.

  • Managing Chaos

Indians have improved upon the art of managing chaos and disorder. Even in high entropy situations, Indians tend to keep their nerve. Perhaps, this leads to better levels of perseverance as well.

Successful management of a human congregation like the Kumbh Mela is but one example of this trait.

  • Facing Adversity with EquanimityFeatured Image -- 1211

Upbringing steeped in religion and spirituality enables an average Indian to face adversity and failures with equanimity.

Learning from Different Value Systems

Values are like mountains. They have survived for centuries and shall continue to do so much after we have kicked the bucket. Universal common denominator is that of, say, love and affection. Over and above that, value systems differ across continents and cultures. When it comes to values, every culture has its own Unique Selling Proposition.

In this age of globalization and connectivity, mingling of diverse cultures is bound to happen. Learning from other value systems and adapting their good features is the only way to enable humanity to realize its full potential faster and better.

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We appear to be headed for two new challenges to our mental equipoise in this century – Nomophobia and Noconnphobia! The fear of being out of mobile contact, that is, NoMobile-Phobia, is already well-recognized. The significance of the other, NoConnectivity-Phobia, is perhaps yet to dawn on most of us!

Our addiction to mobile phones and internet knows no bounds. Six years back, I was working with a company in a very senior position. A night before I was to be wheeled into an operation theatre for a cardiac surgery, I was furiously making calls to my team members to ensure that things were handled right when I was away from work for some time. My distressed daughter ended up confiscating the mobile phone, leading me to a feeling of utter loneliness and helplessness. It was as if my world had collapsed!

While recovering over the next four weeks, the ring tone of the mobile phone kept ringing in my ears, even though the equipment was nowhere around. My family ensured I could not lay my hands on it; otherwise, they felt, and rightly so, that I shall again get hooked on to it!

Surrounded by Gizmos!

Mobile phones are now everywhere. We go to a restaurant, and find that the friends who have met only to have a decent time together are instead glued to their individual mobile phones, chatting away merrily with those who are not physically present. On the roads, we find young and old alike walking absent-mindedly, talking on their mobile phone, quite oblivious to the traffic whizzing past and around them. Two-wheeler riders continue driving with an eye on the road while talking to someone far away, with a mobile phone wedged between their hunched up shoulder and an ear. With the arrival of blue tooth, the hunched shoulder has disappeared, but not the ingrained habit of using this all-pervasive gadget while driving.

Travel in a train and chances are that all the passengers are calling up their near and dear ones at the same time, prompting us to avoid the cacophony by taking a stroll down the crowded aisle. Visit a family and just as we start relishing a cup of tea with them, a shrill ring tone distracts one of the host’s party and we start wondering when the conversation in the drawing-room shall resume. Attend a management talk by an eminent expert, only to be interrupted by someone’s mobile ringing loud and clear, leaving the hapless expert clueless and the audience twiddling its thumbs. Even group meditation sessions are not free from this scourge.

When we call up a person on his mobile, we seldom bother if it is an appropriate time for him to have a conversation. If he does not pick up the phone in four or five rings, we conclude that he is being rude and arrogant; the poor guy might just be having a quiet candle-light Valentine Day dinner with his fiancée!

Internet is Fast Catching Up

Same is the case with internet accessibility. It appears to have assumed the same significance in our lives as oxygen which is vital to our survival. Withdraw it and the person withers away like a plant which has not been watered for quite some time. Ask any bleary-eyed child why he is looking tired and sleepy and the reason could well be that the only book he was working on the previous night was Facebook!  The realization that there is a real world out there – which is not the same as the virtual world – is difficult to come by.

According to a 2008 study in the UK, 53% of cell users there suffer from Nomophobia. It is not too different when compared to the stress we feel when we visit a dentist, start a new job or get jitters on our wedding day!

The day is not far off when some of us would be so lost in our technical gizmos that we may end up having to ‘Google’ ourselves to find who and where we are! With the convergence of voice and data services, we may soon end up getting mini-sim-cards planted in our skulls, much like the character of Neo played by Keanu Reeves in the ‘Matrix’ series of movies a decade back.

Just like the advent of the internal combustion engine changed our lifestyles forever, easy availability of connectivity is contributing towards making our civilization even more sedentary. The onslaught of lifestyle related diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular complications is getting further speeded up with our addiction to internet. Our transition time – from being a couch potato at home to becoming a patient in a psychiatrist’s couch – is possibly getting shorter.

Enjoying Freedom with Responsibility

It is not my case that newer technologies are bad. Thanks to social networking, distances have shrunk – physically as well as mentally. A virtual democracy of information has led to grouping of like-minded individuals. Regimes world over are waking up to the potential as well as the power of internet, as we have seen in the case of the ‘Arab Spring’ and also in the recent case of a brutal gang rape case in Delhi.

We have enviable options today to remain connected with the world, but there is an overload of information. We need a higher level of maturity and wisdom to be able to moderate its usage in our day-to-day lives. We need a higher degree of inner strength to be able to sift between what is relevant and truly beneficial for us, and whom we associate and network with. It is up to us to enjoy this new-found freedom with responsibility.

We have to take a conscious call whether we wish to use the technology to our advantage, or to become slaves to it, 24 x 7! Yes, it is not easy to switch off our smart phones, I-pads, tablets and laptops. But there is no other way but to do so at select times during the day. Let us give our gadgets some well deserved rest.  Overcoming Nomophobia and Noconnphobia is not as hard as it sounds!

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