Who has time for Snails and Tortoises?

The other day, near my home I met a young friend of mine, he is in early 40’s. We decided to have Cuppa, in current lingo it is called Cutting Chai. We went to a shack, nothing fancy! In Marathi, we call it टपरी. We ordered our tea, I prefer Sugar free. That was a special order for them. They took a bit of time to bring it. My friend was so uneasy, he asked them three times in five minutes about the delay. I thought maybe he has to go somewhere urgently. I suggested that I skip my tea because of the delay and he was in a hurry. He said that he was not in a hurry; at the same time, he looked at something on his cell phone, a few times. Then I realized that his and later generations have speeded up the clock in their brains as a necessity and also because too much data comes in their direction, too much info due to 24-hour connectivity! Processing has to be done fast.

We already have a lot of slow things around in our lives which make us crazy. Slow internet speeds, slow drivers, slow check-out counter lines. Some of you must have already said, hey Pramod! Say whatever you want to, quickly.

I started wondering why is this happening? Why everybody is in a rush? Human societies were smaller to start with, one went maybe a several hundred meters to  work, hunting! Later when the farming started, the communities settled a little far from each other, perimeter of people’s movement increased and distances to travel became more, leading to the start of formation of a modern civilization. The speeds of action and reaction were reasonably slow even during the last century. But things really changed in the last 20 years. During my younger days, there was snail mail carried by the government postal department, there were trunk calls, as long-distance calls were called then. Time was as good as at a standstill in those days, compared to today.

The clock in our brain, that I have talked about, is not a normal counter. Its speed is dependent on how excited we are, how much Adrenalin is flowing in our body, and if we are in fight or flight mode! If we are in any other mode than the normal mode, then the time passes either very slowly or very fast. Consider that you are involved in an accident and you are lucky to escape with a minor injury. The event gets over in say, half hour, our brain might feel that much longer time has passed. You will see that event in slow motion. In April this year, Jaya and I went on a “do nothing” holiday at Manali. We were there for eight days. We had great fun doing nothing. We just sat in the garden soaking in the lovely Sun and absorbing the beautiful snow-capped mountains. We used to eat, sleep, chat, I blogged and Jaya read. We played cards and on one pre-defined day, we went for a spin in a taxi. It was raining hard and the taxi driver asked what will we do during the trip, and getting down from the car was almost impossible. I said, “Don’t worry we have come here to do nothing!” He was surprised. Eight days passed like a zip! Had we been in some difficulty, the eight days would have felt like eight weeks!

Some things which we found efficient in our times are considered extremely slow today. Patience is a virtue which has been vanquished in the Twitter age. Why are we impatient? It’s a heritage from our evolution. Impatience made sure that we didn’t die from spending too long a time, on a single unrewarding activity. It gave us the impulse to act. But that fun of about things moving slowly, has gone. We always want to go for white water rafting, fishing is out of fashion!

The fast pace of society has thrown our internal timer out of balance. It creates expectations that can’t be rewarded fast enough—or rewarded at all. When things move more slowly than we expect, our internal timer plays tricks on us, stretching out the wait, summoning anger out of proportion to the delay.

You send a WhatsApp message to someone and get two blue tick marks, indicating that it has been read. If it is very important, you will look at WA every few seconds to check if you have received a reply. You forget that person could be busy, the person may have gone to the washroom. The person could have just started a presentation after looking at the message.

The link between time and emotion is a complex one. A lot is dependent on expectation—if we expect something to take time then we can accept it. Frustration is often a consequence of expectations being violated. We make the wrong expectations and then feel that we are being cheated by the system.

Society continues to pick up speed. There is information that tells us that the speed of human movement from pre-modern times to now, has increased by a factor of 100. The speed of communications has skyrocketed by a factor of 10 million in the 20th century, and data transmission has soared by a factor of around 10 billion. A study was done in Vienna and Newyork of time taken by people to walk about 20 meters. In Vienna, it was 15 seconds and in Newyork, it was 13 seconds. This survey was done about 30 years back, now the timing must have further reduced. Worldwide walking speed has gone down by 10 to 15%, especially in cities.

One study has shown that exposing people to “the ultimate symbols of impatience culture”—fast-food symbols like McDonald’s golden arches—increases their reading speed and preference for time-saving products, and makes them more likely to opt for small rewards now over larger ones at a later stage.

Our rejection of slowness is especially apparent when it comes to technology. Everything is so efficient these days that we lose our patience very quickly. We now practically insist that Web pages should load in a quarter of a second when we had no problem with two seconds in 2009 and four seconds in 2006. Further research says that as of 2012, videos that didn’t load in two seconds had little hope of going viral on the internet.

Of course, we’re not going to die if a website doesn’t load immediately. But in what we were used to from our olden past—when we could starve if impatience didn’t spur us to act—we get the feeling that if a website does not load in time, we may die! Is it good for humans? The jury is still out.

We had planned to go out and have  dinner at a restaurant near our home. An old friend had come to meet us after a long time. We decided to walk the distance of one km to the restaurant. We went at a leisurely pace enjoying my friends’ funny anecdotes, old stories from school days. We both really enjoyed our languid walk to the restaurant. On reaching the restaurant, I became my original self, worried about waiter not serving the soup on time, not bringing a replacement for wrongly served chicken, quickly. Why the change? We are so much used to “fast” and “instant” things that maybe we have forgotten the art of taking things easy and whiling away time in a leisurely fashion! Don’t be surprised to hear a story from one of the doctors that a couple wanted their baby to be born in one month! Jaldi, Jaldi!

Carpe Diem- Seize the Moment!

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Carpe diem, (Latin: “pluck the day” or “seize the day”) phrase used by the Roman poet Horace to express the idea that one should enjoy life while one can. There are different thoughts going on in the world about life and death, this includes the reincarnation. Reincarnation is the belief that the soul, upon the death of the body, comes back to earth in another body or form. Well, I am personally a firm believer of the thought process that there is no reincarnation. The life that we have got is the only one we have got. The picture above displays Sundial which indicates that time is always slipping by! So, seize your moment if you can!

What do we do with life? How has the dice fallen for you? How your mind is made? Circumstances or genes or DNA make your persona. But that is not what we are talking about. This one little life that we have, is all we are getting. We don’t know when it is going end, we have no control over where you are born, you have no control over who your parents are. You are what you are. You are born with a mix of different characteristics. But maybe you have control over what you become, what memories you leave behind!

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Carpe diem to me is a philosophy! It is like writing in the sand on the seashore depicted in the picture above! If you don’t seize the moment, the wave will swallow the the writing! Either it can be used in a constructive way or a destructive way. In today’s world, the term gets misused in a wrong way. You have an important meeting the next day or a job interview or an opportunity to meet someone to settle a broken friendship or relationship. A long-lost friend calls you the previous night and suggests to have a night out and have fun! Well, that’s a great opportunity to make and you think it’s a Carpe diem moment! It’s YOLO moment as per today’s buzz words! You Only Live Once! But will it be the right thing to do? Is it the right thing to seize the opportunity to meet your long-lost friend? Probably not, because next day you are trying to finalize that once in a lifetime deal, you may get your dream job, you are finally getting to settle that long-time issue which is dear to your heart! The interpretation “To seize the opportunity” comes with a rider! It is for the betterment of life, improvement of the quality of life or dream cum true! It is not just binging with friends and have a night out! Yes, that is also important when done at the appropriate time.

There is a story about the 89-year-old Naval officer from the British Navy. In the year 2014 people had decided to celebrate 50 years of landing at Normandy, 2nd world war’s decisive invasion point! This gentleman was in a sanatorium passing his retired life. He decided that he must join the celebration but there was no question of him getting the permission. He simply dressed up, wore a raincoat and a hat and walked out of the sanatorium to the railway station, 1 km away. He took a train, hopped into a ferry to go to Normandy. By the time people realized that he was missing, he was already in Normandy. He knew that he would be admonished when he came back. But the story of his escape was all over media; when asked by a reporter, he said only two words, “Carpe diem !” To hell with everything else! The ferry company gave him a lifetime pass for the journey he took! Alas, he died in six months!

Taking risks at appropriate times is seizing the opportunity, it is not doing whatever comes to your mind, though the end results may be bad, sometimes! It is about doing the proper risk analysis, thinking through the opportunity and then seizing the moment. It is not for only seizing the moment or for YOLO.

The message of Carpe diem matters more than ever today. We live in an age of distraction, where we are checking our phones, on average, 110 times a day, and are more interested in being spectators of life on the screen than living it for ourselves. Immersed in the second-hand pleasures offered by our electronic gadgets, we need to reconnect with the wisdom of Carpe diem, a philosophy which calls on us to taste the wonders of experiential living in the short time we have before death. In a group of college friends, we made the group, forwards free. There were so many fights, so much resistance. We have very become used to the second-hand pleasure of sharing forwards. Finally, when we could make the group forwards free, there are only 3 to 4 contributors, most others prefer to be silent spectators because they have nothing original with them. We seem to have forgotten that the formation of the group of friends, who were in college together 50 years back,  was a Carpe diem moment!

I will share one simple incident. A gentleman, aged 84 was in a hospital for a few days. His daughter went to be with him for the day. He said to her that he wants to eat Masala Dosa. The daughter said, ok I will get it. He said no. He got up, changed his hospital clothes and said let us go. They went to the restaurant had the dosa and came back. Of course it was no big deal, but that was Carpe Diem. But change the case to a 45-year-old patient sick with liver issues; he goes out similarly and has a couple of drinks and comes back. That is not Carpe Diem, it is sheer stupidity.

Carpe diem is seizing the moment or seizing the opportunity! The word “opportunity” comes from the Latin ob portum veniens, meaning “coming toward a port”. It originally referred to a favourable wind that would push a ship into a harbour. So, the question is whether we’re going to hoist our sails and catch the wind, or whether we are so worried about hitting the rocks that we keep the sails down. Yes, if the real opportunity is there, take it even at the cost of some risk.

Spontaneity is a form of Carpe diem , which involves throwing plans and routines to the wind and becoming more experimental in the way we live. We need to liberate ourselves from our electronic calendars and booking up our weekend’s weeks in advance and take a more unplanned approach. Take an unplanned weekend holiday when we are not constantly checking the time and are obsessed with being “efficient” and “productive”. Let go things once in a while!

Political and social Carpe diem? Don’t be surprised!  This is about taking up from the individual level activity to the collective level through mass political action. Think of the Carpe diem demonstrations that brought down the Berlin Wall in 1989, which were full of spontaneous and enjoyable spirit. We need more of this today to challenge the big issues of our time, from climate change to the rise of far-right extremism. Look at what is happening about the MeToo movement! It is happening by the collective action of women from a different field, coming out in open for their rights!

As the modern generation says, YOLO! Yes, you only live once, so make the best use of the opportunities, make best of the chances you get! What are you waiting for? Just jump from the plane you are flying on but don’t forget that you have your parachute with you!

Palmistry & Horoscope!

The other day we went for dinner with an American friend of ours. The restaurant was in a mall! While going to the restaurant we saw a palmist sitting with his advertisement board and all! He was dressed in appropriate attire. This is a very sensitive subject, so here is a disclaimer! I am not writing this to hurt anyone and I am not passing any judgement. When I read on these subjects, questions come to mind. I am trying to check them against known facts and current scientific knowledge.  

Our friend asked us jokingly, “Hey Pramod, did you and Jaya get your horoscopes matched before marriage?” I told him we did not do that, I said we had a civil marriage where no religious ceremonies were involved. Both Palmistry and reading of horoscope are supposed have their origins in India. Both these  have been practised from ancient times in India, China, Greece and old cultures. There have been misconceptions, wrong interpretations, disrepute galore through the history, about these practises. Are these sciences as some people call them ? We have extreme views on the subject, total belief to total disbelief! The real thing must be somewhere midway as usual!  

What does palmistry tell you? The palmist studies the palm of an individual and can foretell some things about the person by studying lines, shape of palm, ups and downs on the palm and so on! Physical features of palm definitely tell about person’s cleanliness, health, occupation, nervous habits. Nail biting and Calluses are indication of this. Over a period, a palmists have learnt to judge the people’s personalities. I have a feeling that 60% information predicted can be correct. I assume that these people also study the face of the person; face reading is also an art. We are also aware, that medical professionals are able to judge various things about the patient’s personality looking at the face and the palm. But this is judgement backed by scientific knowledge. I feel that palmistry can be described as an art rather than science. During my childhood in Bombay, there used to be palmists siting on footpaths. They would have details written on paper and neatly tucked in envelops. These envelopes, between 50/75, would be kept in front of him. When a customer arrived, there was a practise that the customer would be asked to give some feed to the bird! After that, the bird would hop around and select an envelop for the customer. That envelop contained a document with customer’s future explained! Wow! Perfect natural way of prediction with no bias! Now I am told that bird is replaced by a computer!

Horoscope is another matter. The description of the constellations is based on the Traditional Astrology – the emphasis is put on the natural inclinations, talents, and events that one may encounter in life. Horoscopes are mainly used for matching personalities of the boy and the girl before the marriage. Each horoscope is supposed to have different Gunas, or check boxes. It is said that if 36 Gunas match for both, then the pair is perfect for marriage. If the match is less than 18, then the marriage is not expected to take place. I also understand that the horoscopes can be suitably modified, at a cost! I remember a joke. A pair decides to get married after their parents get the Horoscopes matched. Match is 100% as 36 gunas match. Then next day they go out for a cup of coffee. The girl says to the boy, now that we are getting married based on 100% horoscope matching, tell me how many affairs did you have? The boy is a little shaky but says, “Oh! I had five affairs!” The girl says.”now I believe in horoscope completely! Our 36 gunas had matched! I also had five affairs!” 

Lot of questions come my mind. My personal opinion is that these are not proven practises. These are judgment-based reading of the situation. In case of palmistry looking at hand and face! In case of horoscope, these are based on horoscope created for the person born. In horoscope, study is made with help of checking of Nakshtras or Lunar Constellations and their positions with respect to each other. This is supposed to checked on the basis of exact time of the birth of the child.  That is where questions start popping up in my mind. Currently, 3,500,00 children are born every day. This means 4 per each second. Do all these four have exactly same horoscope? Since horoscopes are being created for a very long time, there could have been issues due to incorrect time measurements. Time measurement correctness must be an issue even today in rural India. If the basic premises are wrong, then will the Horoscopes be correct? The Horoscope also says that an individual can have bad omen or Mangal Dosha, when there is certain astrological combination. 

In Hindu astrology, Mangal Dosha is an astrological combination that occurs if Mars (Mangal) is in the 1st, 2nd (Considered by South Indian Astrologers), 4th, 7th, 8th, or 12th house of the ascendant chart. A person born in the presence of this condition is termed a Manglik. 

It is believed to be unfavorable for marriages, causing discomfort and tension in relationship, leading to severe disharmony among the spouses and eventually to other bigger problems. This is believed to be caused due to the “fiery” nature of the planet Mars, named after the Roman god of war. Also, if two Mangliks marry, the negative effects are believed to cancel each other out. However, Mars is not the only planet in Astrology that is supposed to affect the relationship and these effects should be seen in a broader perspective of overall astrological compatibility. Two bad things negating each other and creating “Good” scenario, is a great way of overcoming constellations! I am told that there is one scenario where the Mangal Dosha in a person can be negated by doing some religious ceremony? How convenient?! 

I remember one scene from a Hindi Movie, Munnabhai, MBBS. During the marriage ceremony of a couple, their  Priest is creating fear in the mind of the family about Mangal Dosha and what can go wrong because of that. The hero of the film asks the Priest, “Do you know what is going happen to you in next one minute?” The Priest says that nothing is going to happen. The hero takes out a gun and puts it to the head of the Priest and says, “I am going to kill you! If you do not know your own destiny how can you tell other people about their life’s destiny based on unproven practices?” Of course, he does not kill Priest! The destiny is the correct word and destiny generally decides what is going to happen in our lives. The beauty of life is that, we do not know our destiny. It helps us remain optimistic all the time. I had a sore throat trouble for a month in 2013 end; till I went to a specific doctor I never imagined that I would be detected with Cancer! Even when I went into his clinic, I thought the doctor will give me some very strong antibiotics or steroids! This is destiny! But I did not go to palmist or a horoscope guy.   

In today’s times there is great scientific advancement, many things are predicted by science. Still a large number of people believe in in unscientific methods of predicting future, deciding marriages, starting new ventures. What is it? Fear of God? Fear of Bad Omen? What is Bad Omen? This term is being used in the foreboding sense, as with word ominous.  

Palmistry is another method of knowing about the nature of a person and foretelling persons future. Let me tell you scientifically the reasons why we have lines on the palm. Scientifically speaking the lines on a palm, or palmar flexion creases, help the hand’s skin to stretch and squeeze. They can also help identify certain medical conditions. The thickness and number of creases on your palms also depend on factors such as family history and race. This indicates that these lines are formed in the natural way. Lesser number of creases may cause difficulty in stretching skin in that area and may cause bunching of skin.  

Using these lines to predict nature and future of the person is difficult to accept. Faith that people have in palmistry is simply amazing. Let me tell about my college friend. He was a very smart guy and suddenly he started claiming that he has been studying palmistry. But he also claimed that he had specialized in palm reading of girls! Let me assure you, he had a good cliental in college and all his friends were extremely jealous of him!  

I simply believe in Him and destiny. I will share a small anecdote which mixes horoscope and destiny, but its fiction. A person goes to see a horoscope guy and asks about his destiny. Horoscope reader tells our friend that he can predict death but does not share this information. He is told, “You are going to die today evening at 6 pm hence I am sharing with you the time.” Now our friend gets upset and decides that he is going to cheat death! He tosses a coin, heads he goes to North and Tails he goes East! Its Tails so he goes 100 km East and checks into a hotel. Orders food, asks for some beer and watches TV. He awaits 6 pm! At 6 pm there is a knock on the door. He opens and sees Yamaraja himself, the God of Death. Our friend says, “Ok, I am ready but I tried to cheat you and it was pure luck of the coin that decided my presence  here today. How did you locate me?” Yamaraja is surprised with the question. He looks at the document in his hand and says, “This document says that you would be in this hotel today at 6 pm. I was not required to look for you. I came here straight!” Destiny? 

I am predicting future! Future tellers will ask you to put your finger on a glass, eyes on lenses; immediately you will get OTP! The teller will tell your Name, Age, Sex, Address, Date of birth! It’s pure science called UIDAI!