Category Archives: life

Its a Fake!

Ready to re-tyre?


When things fall apart some other things fall in together! I realised this the other day when I had to get my wife’s car tyres replaced. I was upset since the tyres had been replaced not too long back and due to some imbalance in the car’s weight, had to be written off. The truth is that when you buy big expensive SUV’s, you have to buy big expensive tyres! It has never been easy for me to spend money but spending money on car tyres was somehow particularly irritating, especially when my ‘old’ tyres looked new to me! I just could not get myself to throw them as I found my yard suddenly busy with four huge tyres!

Over the years we have become slaves of technology. In true 21st century style I passed my problem on to google. I asked Siri! Suddenly a whole new world opened up. Old tyres are images.jpgbeing used today in such diverse ways! From coral reefs to dog beds, used tyres are finding a useful place in our lives. In Africa, tyres are being used for making attractive footwear as well. I chose to make mine into flower beds. With the help of my talented mother-in-law we painted the tyres in bright colours and suddenly my garden had an attractive new resident.

I was narrating this story toimgres.jpg a friend of mine who had recently lost his job. I alluded to the wheels of life needing a fresh set of tyres from time to time. “It’s good for everyone”, I said. The tire analogy suddenly evolved into an exciting conversation about his future full of interesting alternatives. It’s amazing how sometimes unrelated things just make so much of sense!

All I can say is that the next time my tyres need a change, I will be more ready than I ever was. The exciting circle of life always spins! The fact is that if you are willing to turn, you re-tyre and enter into a whole new world of possibilities!


The Driver

Mr Tripathi was one of the most dignified drivers that we have had the pleasure of employing. He was an integral part of the household, playing a significant role in making our lives comfortable. From the daily running around to just having a nice presence, he was a positive influence in my life while growing up in the historic and culturally vibrant city of Lucknow.

He was always on time which was quite a novelty in Lucknow where the Indian Standard Time became the classical Indian Stretchable Time for most. I could never fathom the whole point of giving a time reference and not sticking to it. But that’s Lucknow and intrinsic to many parts of India. From a VIP at an event to a groom arriving for his own wedding, coming on time was almost a bizarre concept for most. But Mr. Tripathi was different. He used to dress sharp and run our lives with clockwork precision.

But all was not hunky dory. While he was perfect through the day he would demonstrate a surprisingly strong streak of aggression in the evening. Suddenly our Trekker in his hands would turn into a true beast. The Trekker was the Indian equivalent of the Hummer ( in the 1980’s) minus the sex appeal. It was a big bulky fuel guzzling machine that was built like a tank by a designer of questionable talent. It never gained popularity despite the best efforts of the manufacturer for obvious reasons!

Talking about beasts, Lucknow roads like most North Indian towns were co-inhabited by humans and a fascinating variety of four legged creatures. During the day, stray cattle would make the roads their own and the adjusting traffic would find a way through them. In the evenings, the cowherds would use the roads to get their cows home with scant disregard to public convenience. The cows would take their time to navigate the streets as the hapless humans waited in anticipation to get by. There was a strange equanimity demonstrated by both parties in this particularly vexing situation. But as they say no one is ever in a particular hurry in Lucknow!

However with Mr Tripathi thingimgres-1.jpgs were a bit different in the evening. The Trekker would just need to announce its arrival through a sharp series of horns and the bovines would dutifully make way for our car. It was pretty amazing to see this and gave us as a family a bit of an edge. As a boy it got me to believe that my dad was so important that even the bovines on the road make way for us! The truth was that the bovines had realised the hard way that Mr Tripathi and his beast stopped for nothing, not even them!

My father in turn always suspected that Mr. Tripathi had an extra tipple every evening and that caused his aggressive road behaviour. From time to time he would accuse Mr T of having a drink which was passionately denied. Mr T would swear by all the gods known to us proclaiming his innocence. It always ended with my father reluctantly accepting his pleas for innocence and warning him to drive better in the evening. This went on for the three years that we were posted there and then one fine day we embarked on our next journey as my father was transferred to another city. I was sad to leave my friends, my home and my school but at the same time filled with excitement about our next adventure. Kids have an amazing sense of optimism and resilience and I guess I was no different.

I still remember our final day in Lucknow. Mr. Tripathi arrived smartly to drop us all off to the station. Our bags were packed and we were ready to go! The short journey from our home to the railway station was filled with us as a family thanking Mr. T for serving us well. As we arrived at the station we continued with our extended farewells. Suddenly in all my earnestness I popped the question that had bugged my father for the last three years about his aggressive driving post sun down. I asked him if he drank? He sheepishly whispered into my ears – “Baba, I am suffering from night blindness. I could not tell this to your father since I would have lost my job. Please keep this a secret and never let him know about our conversation!” As a nine year old I did not understand what that meant but the words stuck to me. Plus I was a loyal friend and kept this secret to myself.

Two years later my teacher was a bit puzzled to see my horrified cum amused expression as she taught us what night blindness meant!

We learn from history, that we learn nothing from history!

“We learn from history that we learn nothing from history”, remarked George Bernard Shaw. 

I was struck by this thought as I was glancing through the papers full of ISIS, Trump, Oil Crash, Syria, Brexit and more. I was wondering if there’s something that we can learn from our past that can help us navigate through the bewildering times that we live in today. Is our world really any different from what it was in the past? With technology, automation and science, our circumstances may have changed but have human behaviour, values and beliefs changed fundamentally? In this context, are there strategies that have worked in the past that could be equally relevant today?
Here are three strategies from history that have particularly caught my attention:
Doctrine of Lapse
The East India Company under Lord Dalhousie expanded its grip on India with the successful implementation of the controversial ‘Doctrine of Lapse’. It was based on the principle that if a ruler of a dependant state died without a natural heir, the right to rule that state passed on to the British sovereign. Some of the biggest states in India over a period of two decades got annexed to the British empire as a consequence of this strategy.
The brilliance of this strategy was in taking advantage of poorly managed succession planning, which was a norm in those times (and still is!). At the point of vulnerability when a state lost its ruler, it could be deftly annexed without shedding a drop of blood, on the back of determined diplomacy and legislation.
Till today, succession planning is a core structural weakness in the global economy. As more and more wealth gets concentrated amongst individuals and families, passing on wealth successfully from one generation to the next is a matter of luck for most and equally an opportunity for the vultures to nest !
The Germans mastered the concept of the ‘lightening war’ through a deft combination of surprise and speed. Blitzkreig was based on the concept of using mechanised units supported by ground and air forces that would swiftly penetrate the enemy fronts by focused action and cause a complete disarray amongst the enemy lines. A key to this strategy was to create fault lines that would break communication amongst the enemy forces and accelerate the panic by damaging the civil population. This was Hitler’s winning strategy in World War II. The essence of this lightening strike strategy was speed, and still more speed executed with precision.
Today we see YouTube videos capturing public imagination of many millions almost overnight. We see election campaigns that use social media to capture voters’ attention with unprecedented speed and agility. We see hollywood movies employing a blitkreig marketing strategy that leads to a USD 100M+ opening despite a weak story (e.g. Batman v/s Superman). We see cyber attacks and viruses causing a contagion with frightening speed and dexterity resulting in billions of dollars in losses. Yet we see all around us complacent businesses caught in a time warp, leaving their gates wide open for disruption.
Trojan Horse
The Greeks, frustrated by a decade of efforts to conquer Troy, built this magnificent wooden horse that they left at the entrance of the city as they supposedly ‘withdrew’ their forces. The overjoyed residents opened their city gates to welcome this ‘gift’. In the middle of the night as the city celebrated, the soldiers hidden in the horse got out and opened the the city gates leading to the downfall of a proud city state.
Till today, deception is a winning strategy that capitalises on the fundamental human trait of complacency and letting ones guard down on the basis of a thinly veiled veneer of safety and comfort. Uber, Whatsapp, iPhones etc are modern day Trojans that won market shares as their complacent competitors basked warmly in their soon to be extinct success.
I am sure there are many more ideas in our history books that can inspire us to find our way in these times. As an example, the next big thing in technology, ironically, is biometrics (also known as fingerprinting); something which has been in use since the time of the Neanderthals! So discover your Trojan Horse, back it with a blitzkrieg of effort and plan your succession to leave a legacy. Amen!

Sometimes being stuck in a jam can be a moment of bliss!

It was a busy Dubai evening. The traffic was unusually heavy and I found myself stuck at a red light. The lines were long. In frustration I looked ahead and it dawned on me that I needed to brace myself for a long wait. The traffic in the city is getting worse by the day and it’s such a drain on our quality of life. My mind was meandering through the health consequences of traffic as I started exploring the songs on my playlist to get over the drudgery of the wait. Suddenly I got the feeling that I was being watched.
As I looked askance I saw a doe eyed little girl with fuzzy hair glancing through her window looking at me. She would have not been more than four years old. She was wearing a denim top and sat in the back seat of her moms car hugging a teddy. As our eyes met, I smiled.
And then she smiled back, a beautiful smile. The best that I have seen in a while. A smile that filled me  with immense joy. I found myself waving at her enthusiastically as she waved back. She blew a flying kiss and I was in heaven.
Then the lights turned green. Much to my dismay. The traffic started to move. Alas! I wish the jam had lasted longer!