The Size of Canvas!

In 1960 there was a bet between two people for US $50/. His friend challenged Dr Seuss that he will give him fifty dollars if Seuss wrote a book using only 50 different words, an entertaining book for children. Dr Seuss took the bet and won. The result was the book called “Green Eggs and White Ham!” Since publication, the book has sold more than 200 million copies, one of the best-selling books ever. I read the book yesterday!

We can think that it was a one-time fluke, but if we look at what Dr Seuss has done, we will understand the meaning of “The Size of Canvas”! Dr Seuss had a restriction that he could use only 50 different words. There is no question that Seuss was talented. He took up the challenge and was at his creative best. The constraint brought the best out of him. Many a time it so happens that too much of everything does not work, it becomes a hindrance to achieving what you want to do.

Many times, constraints bring out the best out of humans. Constraints put the limitations on resources available; they put limits on time possible, they may set restrictions on your network available.

How to use your constraints to your advantage?

The classic case of constraints bringing out the best in people is that of the nation of Israel. We all know that it is a tiny country, surrounded by enemies. Two things could have happened. They would have been crushed and overrun by the enemy. The second thing is they could have become a belligerent state fighting all the time. They chose the third path. They somehow managed to survive, thanks to the USA. But at the same time within their limited resources, they developed skill sets which are on par or better than many nations. Their skills in developing radars, AWACS and rockets and many such things are unbelievable. They have done fantastic developments in agriculture to convert their arid deserts into a highly productive zones. They have a smallish population of 8.9 million people as per records in 2018. By making it compulsory for all to join military for at least two years, they have a large pool of highly trained people. They had no choice, and they had no option, they had so many constraints but they overcame the issues. But they managed to convert these constraints to their advantage and made Israel a developed nation within a matter of a couple of generations.

I must give an example from cricket, my favourite sport. The great Sachin Tendulkar was going through some issues in his batting in 2004. India was in Australia. He was getting out hitting a cut or a cover drive on the off side. Sachin practised and practised! Someone suggested to he needs one big score to get his game back. In the Sydney test match, he decided not to play a single shot on the off side. Once Australians understood his strategy, they packed the fielding on the leg side and bowling on the off side. Sachin had created a constraint for himself of not hitting anything on the off side. His great talent helped him achieve this. He scored 241 runs under this constraint. It is one of best test match innings he has played.

For the cricket enthusiasts here is the link for the inning.

All of us have options to live life the way we want to live. Sometimes we are forced to work under constraints, but I feel that it is a good idea to work under some constraints. Here is why and how of constraints.

Constraints inspire creativity

You may be a basketball player of average height. You will find different methods of scoring in spite of having all your opponents who are much taller than you. Barak Obama became the first black president of United States; he is a live example for a book similar to one by Dale Carnegie “Win friends, Influence people”!

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Oscar Pistorius’s had both his legs amputated when he was a baby. He became a para champion in running and won a medal in standard running races too, with artificial limbs. He won them instead of these constraints or was it because of the constraints? Limitations drive you to figure out solutions. Your constraints inspire your creativity.

Constraints force you to get something done

I have been blogging for a few years, but since last year, I have become a serious blogger. I have forced myself that I will produce a certain number of blogs every month. It takes 3 to 4 hours of writing and research, an hour of fine-tuning before my blog is published. I have written a blog on flights while travelling from the US back to India. I have written blogs when I was on holiday in Manali. I could have easily skipped the writing during these times, but my constraints have forced me to remain productive. There is no compulsion, but it has become a passion.

Then there is a passion for maintaining certain quality standards I have forced on myself. Without my schedule (the constraint), I would have pushed those blogs to a different day. Or I would never got around to them at all. Constraints force you to get something done and don’t allow you to procrastinate. I believe that professionals set a schedule for their creation while amateurs wait until they feel motivated.

Remember that constraints are not your enemies.

But constraints are not the enemy. Every artist has a limited set of tools to work. Every athlete has a limited set of skills to train. Every entrepreneur has a limited amount of resources to build. Once you know your constraints, you can start figuring out how to work with them.

Here again, I will share the story of Manasi Sagar, a young painter from Nashik. She had decided that she wanted to become a painter and that too an artist painting nude portraits. A middle-class girl from an average family like you and me finally put a constraint that she wants to become an artist of nude portraits. It’s tough, very tough. She has no contacts in the elite art world and is struggling. She has decided not to marry so that she can live the life that she wants.

Read my blog about her journey.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/11/26/what-is-porn/

I am a trained engineer with ages of experience but now want to become a serious blogger. I don’t know at what stage I am, but I have put myself the constraint of remaining prolific round the year. I have also decided to try and maintain quality come what may. I don’t know if I am on the right path. But let me assure you constraints do help in a big way. Given below are the statistics from WordPress of what I have done in last year. It positively encourages me to work harder and better.

What constraints are you setting for yourself? What type of schedule do you have for your goals?

I have decided the size of my canvas!

wordpressstats31122018

 

Human reactions!

It is impossible to predict how humans will act, react and behave. We expect that the human behavior will be more rational in developed countries but it does not appear so! This thought came to my mind when I read a news item today about death of Jeff Murphy in Yellow Stone National Park in the USA along with other news items. 

A guy called Fenn has written a memoir where he talks about treasure hidden by him. Fenn claims his treasure chest contains 265 gold coins, ancient Chinese jade figurines, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and hundreds of gold nuggets, some as large as chicken eggs. He estimates tens of thousands of people have gone looking for it, sharing their experiences on blogs and treasure hunting forums. One of his motives in hiding it, he told an ABC affiliate in 2015, was to “get the kids off the couch and away from the game machine.” 

A mysterious 24-line poem in his memoir is supposed to hint at the location. It ends with the following lines: “So hear me all and listen good, your effort will be worth the cold. If you are brave and, in the wood, I give you title to the gold.” 

In last few years, beside Murphy 5 to 6 more people have died looking for this treasure. I just cannot believe, that just because someone has claimed to have hidden some treasure, people are getting killed to look for the same. Fenn appears to be a person who has done this for some purpose, with all the trappings of treasure hunt where hints are hidden in a poem he has published! What makes people, in today’s times, with so much technological advancements, to fall into such traps? Do their families not stop them? Amount involved is not such that one should get himself killed. The place where the treasure is supposed to be hidden is from southern most USA to up North! From whatever little I could understand, the people who attempted and died, did not appear to be “crazy’ persons!  

Another news item I read today’s newspaper is about an ex Minister from the Indian state of Bihar! His tenure in the ministry was completed and was required to vacate his bungalow as a normal practice. As a real world normal practice, the politicians squat on the property and prolong their stay as much as possible. Suddenly, he vacated the bungalow. He claimed that the chief minister has sent some ghosts in the bungalow to ensure that he will vacate! Can you believe such statement?  This person was a minister the government, he was supposedly running a department. In the year 2018, the claim that ghosts have been sent to the bungalow is ridiculous and bizarre to say the least! How do such people become ministers? How do they get elected? It is said that the society is governed by the people it deserves? Are we such a bad society? Or maybe I see only a miniscule part of society that appears modern!  

In United States, there has been a trend in last 20 years of random shootings in schools where innocent children are killed. Till today, in 2018 there have been 18 deaths and 40 plus injuries. All over US, there are  lot of discussions and protests going on. Finally,  US President felt that it is important enough to meet the families of the kids who died. All have demanded that the Gun Laws in the US should be tightened. A young person cannot buy beer in US till he becomes 21 but he can buy a Gun when becomes 18!  

The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms and was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the first ten amendments contained in the Bill of Rights  Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the right belongs to individuals, while also ruling that the right is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices. State and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing this right, per the incorporation of the Bill of Rights. 

This was adopted in the year 1791 more than 200 years back when there was wild west, carpetbaggers and gold diggers! The country itself was like the last frontier. This amendment was suitable for those days! In between the gun lobby and industry has taken over the thought processes. National Rifle Association was founded in the year 1871 and the same thought process continues! Their motto is “people kill people”, guns don’t! This lobby just does not allow any changes in the law. End result is that we see the random killing of innocent kids! American authorities including their President have come up with a beautiful solution. The President finally had listening meeting with parents of the children killed. He suggested that teachers should be provided with weapons to handle random gunmen who come with rifles! Currently teachers try to hide in the classroom along with the students. Now they will be exposed as they have guns and there can more killings in crossfire. The officials in Florida have suggested that their officers will attack the gunmen with assault rifles! Wow! What a solution! How these people’s minds work? Gun lobby should not be disturbed! That is a sacred cow giving donations to political parties! How can you disturb the bandwagon? Will this ever change in the USA?  

Friends I have shared some random examples of human behavior. The first one is about individuals who got themselves killed because of their greed. The second one is about a minister in the government who believes in paranormal stuff and was supposedly running a department. Third example is about killings of innocent kids due to adamant behavior of authorities in the society. Why do such reactions happen? Is greed so bad that that people don’t bother about their own death or deaths of innocents due to an irrelevant law which came into being 200 years back and was relevant at that point of time! I am writing this with a great anguish and sadness! What do you feel about these issues?  

 

 

 

Paradox, thy name is India!

A friend Shreekant, went to Europe for a month and mostly lived in Holland with relatives. On his Facebook page he shared some very nice write-ups about the pleasant weather, systems and so on. In his comments there were natural references and comparisons with Bharat desh. He made a very prudent and specific statement that we tend to be very harsh on ourselves when we compare with other societies and other nations, we are a young nation with very old civilization. I totally agree with him because there are a lot of complexities involved in our nation and life! I have always been wondering for the reasons for these paradoxes! Honestly I am never able to come to any conclusion for my question, WHY? It is why to everything.

Let us not say that in India, people live mostly in Villages, it is old story. There has been a big migration from villages to towns and cities. I know why this is happening. It is the abject poverty and lack of job opportunities in villages that pushes people towards cities. Recently I was in Europe, in larger cities and smaller towns and sometimes in villages. Obviously my mind too started making comparisons. Both in cities and smaller places things were relatively similar in Europe. In India also we have similarities but of the wrong kind! We are extremely capable as a society of making our cities & villages dirty! Cities like smaller places can be really dirty! That is the first impression that we carry whenever we travel outside India to developed nations.

 India as a country has made great progress  in satellite technology,  they are well known in IT field! India is the largest manufacturer of two wheelers in the world! Suzuki car production in India is much larger than their production in Japan! India has slowly started doing well in sports at world level! Indian engineers, doctors, scientists have done pretty well on global scene. This is where the paradoxes begin.

Let us begin at the beginning. How long have we been one, as a nation? Before 1947 there was no concept of India. We may sing paeans of glory of Bharat, जहा डाल डाल पर सोने की चिडियां करतीं हैं बसेरा यह भारत देश है मेरा! It feels good to listen to the song but the ground realities are quite different. Indian continent was made up of hundreds of small kingdoms ruled by the Rajas and Nabobs. For the first time in the history of the continent, area from Pune to Atak was under the rule of Peshwas. That too was for a brief period. Many years before that, Mughal invaders came to “India” and ruled. Before 1947 British ruled us for 150 years, using a small army and big brain. British had clearly understood that since there was no “India” as such, they could easily use the divide and rule strategy. Under the non-Indian rulers most of the population never had any rights; the benefits of technology hardly reached them. British made sure that industrial revolution benefits reached only where and when it was beneficial to British. There was no “All India” policy.

European countries have existed as nations for centuries, sometimes by different names, some have split and some have merged. Japan has been in existence for a long time. China also is around for a long time. United States and Canada have also been existing as countries for a couple of centuries. Most important aspects of these countries is, though there has been variance in different parts of the nations, mostly they were quite coherent in food, culture, clothing and language. Except for the obviously large countries, all others are pretty small, smaller than the many Indian States of today. Ruling and managing such countries was much easier.

Indian complexities start with 31 major languages, with that many different cultures, as many different types of foods including the way we eat. But somehow one thing we have in common across the cultures of our great Indian continent is total disrespect for laws and rules, total disregard for each other’s personal space, disregard for maintenance of personal infrastructure of all types. I am not talking of government infrastructure! You must be wondering how I have not written anything about cleanliness! Lack of cleanliness is the end result of everything.

Disrespect for law is ingrained in our DNA. We have disrespect for authority. The respect starts with respect to next individual. In Hindi movies whenever a young person meets elderly person, they are always respected by touching their feet! In mythology we have great stories of Ram, Laxman, and Bharat who go really out of the way to respect their eldest brother Ram. When it comes to public life how respect suddenly vanishes? Though we have our old traditions for respect! In north India even a new born child is addressed with respect, using word आप. Luckhnow culture is known for पहले आप culture, meaning please go ahead, I will follow you! I feel that we make use of traditions conveniently! What could be the reason for disrespect? The Indians were always ruled by others for centuries. Main reason could be it is a way of protesting against authorities. But we forget that now it is our country, so how this attitude will help?

Disrespect to others creates “I don’t care attitude!” I feel like spitting in public, I will spit! In our society chewing paan or betel leaf and/or tobacco, and of course spitting the juice in public, is “culture”! Basic things like standing in a queue are handled so differently. People sometimes stand so much near you in your personal space that you have to tell people to move away. You will be jostled, pushed. Most of the time, someone will always try to jump the queue claiming “I have only half a minute work”! I also find problems in traffic. When I stop for red signal, at least 5 to 10% of times guys on bike will try to snake their way in non-moving traffic banging on my side mirror! Personal space, never heard of that!

Stopping for a red signal is an international norm. We will try to jump signal if policeman is not around, else we think that stopping over zebra crossing is our birth right. This is disrespect to others and law! Laws are made for smooth running of the society. In any society a small percentage of people are bound to break the laws. But in India very large numbers break laws with impunity. Once I was driving thru a green signal; after I passed, I heard commotion. Suddenly around 15 bikers just broke the red signal and drove thru. A policeman was there but how can a single policeman catch 15 people? Two wheelers are supposed to carry two passengers; it started with taking additional baby in the lap. Then it changed to two adults plus two children around the age of 10 or 12. One of them sitting on the petrol tank of the bike. Mind you this is not an exception!

Personal infrastructure is the area around homes, condos or where you live! In olden days there were small homes generally one story or ground level. Cleaning homes and pushing the dust outside home was the definition of cleaning the home. There was no concretization, there was no paper, so cleaning was pretty simple, push dust outside in the dust around your home. Things have now changed drastically and homes have also changed. The amount of trash we generate is enormous. The mix has changed, there is plastic, there is metal, there is paper and there is glass. Still in many homes definition of cleaning has not much changed. At the most people collect their trash and throw it in a convenient spot on the way to somewhere, dumpsters be damned! The best way to keep things clean is to not create the trash in public spaces;  when you achieve this, you  don’t have to clean the roads. In advanced countries the trash that you generally see on roads is tree leaves and cigarette butts. Somehow developed countries have also not been able to eliminate these butts. Once my grandson Suyash, who lives in the USA, had come to Pune. From our 7th floor abode we could see a lot of buildings around. Suyash asked me, “Grandpa, why don’t they paint their homes?” They all looked pretty ungainly because they were never probably repainted after construction. Buildings were maybe 10 year old. In these ten years not even one building was repainted. With Monsoon and heat, Moss streaks make buildings not a very pretty site. I am sure people living in these buildings could definitely afford to get them repainted once in ten years! I  normally live in a colony of row houses or town houses. People just used to hang their laundry from front balcony. Only after we started fining people they reluctantly stopped it.

I feel that all the lack of discipline, disdain for laws and rules, lack of consideration for others are independent of social status, financial status, (In fact sometimes I feel that it is inversely proportional) and your education. All the cleanliness drives, swatchhata diwas are of no use if the mindset is not changed. If we as a society handle the trash prudently instead throwing stuff where ever we want, we will have cleaner cities and villages. Pune is one of the better places where sweepers sweep the roads sincerely but I would rather have sweeper less Pune. Why are we required to sweep the road instead of collecting trash? All over India there is a big drive going on from government to stop open defecation, subsidies are also offered to needy. to build toilets But in Punjab many men still defecate in fields though they have toilets at home; when asked why they do so? The reply was, “It is Manly”! God bless us! Amen! You may listen to the song जहा डाल डाल पर सोने की चिडियां करतीं हैं बसेरा using link below. Tell me how you feel after listening to the song, now!