Reflections, Strategy

Three Tips for your Self Zeitgeist 2013

Yep, its that time of the year when Zeitgeist stories take centre stage again. The time before holidays start and the time when a lot of people start looking forward to the year that will soon start with a lot of hope!

Its at these times that Zeitgeist type of stories work the best. Whats a Zeitgeist in the first place?

Zeitgeist – The defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

Here are the top Zeitgeist stories I have found so far which would help fashion a Self Zeitgeist –

1. Facebook Stories – Found Facebook stories to be a compelling read. You can view the most inspiring Facebook stories here or check your own ‘Year-in-Review’ on Facebook by typing the following link on your browser – https://www.facebook.com/yearinreview . Found the Year in Review very compelling because you feel like you are going through what you did in the year all at once.

Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist on Facebook Stories

2. Slideshare Zeitgeist – Perhaps the most shareable & readable content in the world – both text and visual is found on Slideshare today. So, its quite natural that Slideshare Zeitgeist would be awesome too. Check the same out below –

SlideShare Zeitgeist 2013 from SlideShare ( Click on this link if you cannot view the Presentation in the email newsletter)

3. Self Zeitgeist

– I feel creating a Zeitgeist for oneself at these times would be quite awesome too. It will help you take a self evaluation on what could be done better and try and make efforts to better that. For example, one thing I realised while thinking back is there is a necessity for me to be consistent in my efforts towards a certain goal. I had, still have a habit to go with the flow, but that really doesn’t help. At some point of time, consistency / persistence is what may lead to a long term reward.

What is your Zeitgeist? Please share in the comments section!

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Human Resources, Planning, Public Issues, Reflections, Strategy

The Value Of A Human Life

It was utterly shocking to read of Friday’s tragedy in Bangalore when a young 25yr old woman lost her life during a mock fire drill. The incident was captured live on camera and was repeatedly flashed across news channels. Its the loss of a young life in the most callous of circumstances that shows the quality of our systems and practices. Most of you folks reading this blog are probably around the same age as this girl. Or may be you have brothers or sisters of the same age. Think about it. Feel for this girl…and her family.

The accident could not have been more freakish.

The fire police expected the employees of the building to use ropes and enact an escape in what would have been a real fire with blazing fumes. Unfortunately, the rope snapped and gave way, presenting a horrifying sight of the woman flying down to her grave.
Indian news channels and newspapers carried the news on Friday. On Saturday the news was reduced to a corner section with a headline that the chief of the fire police admitted there was a lapse and that there was no standard procedure for such drills. Today news channels are not even carrying the story. And local newspapers may forget about it at the end of tomorrow.
It can be argued that this was an accident.
But there are may questions being raised: Why were there no safety nets? Why were the employees asked to use ropes and climb down? How come no-one thought of the consequences of the rope snapping up? How was the rope being suspended? Why didnt the police have a training officer to help women with the task of climbing down considering that even many men cannot easily do it?
But all of these questions ultimately hinge on the one big question: Why is there no respect for human life in India?
Our country does not value human life. Our governments, our system, our administrations do not value human life. Yes we value our families, our friends and brethren. But it stops there. The death of a nameless face hardly moves us. Which is why we saw on television the administrator who had a ‘canned’ answer ready when reporters asked about compensation for the victim’s family – the company would take care of the compensation from their end. And government will provide compensation based on the investigation.
That was all there was to it.
What if this was the death of a celebrity.
How would we treat it? Yes, I agree that a celebrity would bring out a lot of emotion and coverage across the country and even have massive investigation agencies lined out. But does an ordinary citizen deserve any less?
This is not the first such instance where our nation has shown how much it values a life. And we all know it. But we dont remember because we often attribute these incidents to nameless faces that we dont relate to.
This is not the same when you look at countries such as USA or those in Europe.
Entire buildings are shut down if a single person was affected due to a freakish accident. Laws are changed to avoid such events from occuring again.The affected victims are fully represented in trial courts, and ordinary citizens are empowered to sue any power of authority: right from the railway station where the accident took place to the mayor of the city who is ultimately answerable. The leadership cringes in agony at the death of a fellow human. Authorities visit the families of the victim and personally share the grief of the family.
It is in these times that the true value of a human life is appreciated – because its not just about how we deal with the loss of our loved ones. That is always paramount. But sometimes, a society is characterized by how we react to the loss of the loved ones of others.
Its only so much that we can do in the aftermath of such an accident. No one can bring back the life of the nameless 25 yr old girl who has frozen in our minds as helplessly flying down to her death because of the incompetence of the fire personnel.
However, whether we really value human life or not will be seen in the context of how we respond to this tragedy.
There have to be some very clear action steps/changes in mindset that I think we as a society can take on:
1. Exhaustive investigation
The authorities must thoroughly investigate what went wrong and how this accident was caused. The findings must be well documented and made public. More than making it public, all relevant departments of the fire police  as well as other agencies must be made aware of how and why this incident happened. The goal should be to ensure that such incidents do not happen again. We CANNOT allow for the odd thought that “sometimes these events happen”- NO.
2. Process! Process! Process!
We have to infuse in our work culture the absolute mandate to follow the process that is documented and is in place. We all have those bouts of complacency where we take short-cuts because of our gargantuan confidence that “nothing can go wrong today”. More often than not we get through with this. But on that one odd day when something can go wrong, it can be very very fatal. A lot of people get away with driving rashly on the road, or driving after drinking, or texting while they drive, or selling/buying adulterated food products, or smoking cigarettes knowing that is injurious to health. A lot of people play with their ethics by paying bribes to make their way ahead, or forging documents to forge ahead (pun intended). Yeah, mostly nothing happens. But sooner or later, the indiscipline or lack of ethics catches up – and when it does, it can be really really bad.
3. Contingency Plans
We need to bring upon a culture of factoring in contingency plans in our aspects of work. Its probably grossly exaggerating to label this as contingency: but surely, the planners of the mock drill should have had safety options and back up plans for any part of the drill that could have gone wrong. This is not just for the fire department, but for all of us. Think about your fields of work: You may be writing a computer program that could alter the lives of millions who claim their insurance from a company, or you could be designing the combustion engine of the next generation sports utility vehicle. Every step that we take must be fool proof. There is no greater joy in being able to impact the lives of people through our work. But we need to make sure that while we work towards the happy path, we are also ensuring that the consumers/customers/beneficiaries of our products have a way to redeem themselves should anything go wrong. Because the essence of life is that – things do go wrong.
At the core of all of this is the realisation we should lay a premium on the value of every single human life.
This is the least that, nameless faces like us, can do by way of a tribute to 25 yr old girl who died on Friday.
Thanks for reading
S Rao
Note: The picture shown above is that of the tree of life. It was found on the internet. No copyright infringement is intended.
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Business, Public Issues, Reflections

Effectiveness versus efficiency

Right since the start of academics, a student studying in India is taught the importance of efficiency. Give 9-10 huge subjects to a 16 yr old in standard 10 and see how efficiently the kid studies – thats the mantra followed by most education boards in India. The person who manages his/her time most efficiently, who writes his/her papers most efficiently and who knows how to remember stuff most efficiently gets the most marks. (Granted the 3rd statement was a bit below the belt, but still) . Then, millions of students are put in this pointless(?) rat-race and are asked to run as fast as they can. Also, this isn’t only limited to Standard 10, it starts from Standard 7 itself and continues right upto the end of education for most. The only problem is that in the corporate world, efficiency isn’t the only metric to judge someone upon – effectiveness is too.

In the real world, more than how efficiently have you done your work, what matters is how effective it has been in achieving something for your team/organisation. For instance, say a website like strat.in undergoes a design change, while efficiency is good to have, whether the change is effective in regular readers able to discover content better is something of importance too. Look back at any of your presentations/ reports/ reviews – while a certain level of efficiency is taken for granted, effectiveness – in communication, in persuation and in achieving results – is what makes one truly shine.

So what needs to be done? Somewhere, one has to orient him/herself with a focus on results. One question needs to be asked, how is my work really going to impact my team, my function and the ecosystem I am operating in at large?

Note that, effectiveness alongwith gross-inefficiency looks clumsy too. Take the example of a tennis match where Player A looks like a better player than Player B all along the match, and yet the match gets stretched over to 5 sets, due to Player A not being able to close the match during key points. Clearly, a certain minimum threshold of efficiency is required at all times in life. But simply max-ing on efficiency with zero regard of what effect you are creating with your work is something to be avoided.

Overall, I feel net personal productivity P is a sum of efficiency and effectivness.

Productivity = Effectiveness + Efficiency

However, being effective (doing the right things) carries more weight than being efficient (doing the things right) (Quoting Peter Drucker here)

PS: What are your views on this topic? Let me know through the comments.

PS2: Strat.in now has a brand new theme – review it and send comments on contribute AT Strat DOT in (Replace AT and DOT by symbols)

PS 3: Write a post to be published on Strat.in – contact on the above address for details!

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Reflections

Dealing with expectations

One of the most abhorred, yet very real aspects of life is ‘Expectations’. Right from the top – the CXO and the Board level, to your friendly(?) neighborhood canteen owner – everyone has the dreaded ‘E’ word (expectations) to deal with. The worst part is that a lot of times, what we expect from ourselves is unrealistic, and that puts immense pressure on us. Perhaps, one of the greatest secrets of success is managing what one expects from him/herself.

So how have people successful over a decently longer term dealt with expectations ? Let me quote VVS Laxman – who recently hit a match winning century to level the test series in Sri Lanka – from a 2008 Cricinfo interview about how he has dealt with expectations over time

The mind is the most important aspect. Only if your mind is correct can you bowl, bat or catch in a proper manner. With experience, I have learnt a lot – not only from the ups and downs I have had but also from batting in different positions. Batting at No. 6 or opening didn’t come naturally to me. Batting with the tail didn’t come naturally to me. So the mental aspect was very important. That’s something I am very proud of, and I am proud of my innings in pressure situations. I really relish pressure situations, when you have to bail the team out, and you can’t do that if you are not mentally strong.

Earlier, I used to think of this ‘mentally strong’ thing as cliched . But now, I am starting to believe in that. Another important thing is planning. Setting expectations is great, but having a plan to go with is perhaps as important as well.

Another often neglected aspect of this problem is ‘Expectation setting’. After all, if you set lofty expectations, dealing with those becomes very difficult. An often repeated complaint about the professional behavior of India is that firms here set huge expectations with respect to project deliverables and then fall short. Such a result is not taken lightly in the international market and sets a bad precedent for future international collaborations with Indian firms. Another place where Expectation setting is vitally important is acedemics, particularly in the Indian context. The quote ‘Commit low, achieve high’ is very easy to make but extremely tough to actually implement.

Clearly, expectations are like catalysts which helps an individual, an organisation or a task-force perform optimally. What are your views on this topic? How do you deal with expectations? Let me know in the comments section.

Let me end this post with a comment by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar -The question asked was – How to live without expectations?

If you know that joy from expectations is lesser than unexpected joy, that is sufficient. You need not try to achieve this, it happens effortlessly.

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Reflections

Returning from Hibernation…

(This is not a post about an issue of great strategic importance, there are no insights here. In fact, this post is about nothing. It is meant to be a communique of sorts. Therefore, if you are looking for something meaningful, stop right here. My apologies to the Strat.in team about this post. I promise my next posts shall be about meaningful issues)

The old-timers to Strat.in might remember me as one of the earlier writers on Strat.in (My posts on strat.in can be found here). Somewhere down the line, my frequency of posts reduced before eventually becoming non-existent. I can make lot of excuses for this; a strenuous job (investment banking) leaving me with little time to write or read, marriage and the accompanying changes, the pains of finding a house in Mumbai and relocating etc. But the real reason is a mix of all of these and one more crucial factor; the absence of something to write about leading to a writers block. So, why am I writing this post?

There is an oft-quoted study in behavioral economics that illustrates the behavioral impact of public commitments. For instance, people who publicly commit to exercise (or better still, enter into a contract with someone that shall bind them into paying a certain sum of money every time they miss a workout session) end up missing fewer sessions. So, I write this in the hope that a public commitment to write more regularly shall make me write more. (Someone might think, that I am being presumptuous by assuming that people care whether I write or not or whether I live up to my commitment. Maybe they are right, but each person is entitled to his self-illusions). I have also changed jobs.

I have moved from investment banking to development finance. One of the things that should do is hopefully provide more issues and topics to write about.

So, what can I write about? I could write about my experiences in investment banking and why I always thought I was a misfit, or why I think most people who don’t get ecstatic at the sight of a Salvatore Ferragamo store would be misfits (But that would require a platform other than strat.in, given that those writings wouldn’t fit in with strat.in’s charter), I could write about the commonwealth games and corruption in high places (But I am not at all surprised with the skeletons in Mr. Kalmadi’s closet or the Congress Party’s defense of him). This is in addition to the fact that I cannot for the life of me figure out why asking for his resignation is unpatriotic. I could write about the situation in Kashmir (But I have nothing new to add). Therefore, in essence, I am left with little to write.

Which brings me to my purpose in writing this post? I would welcome any suggestions on what should I be writing.

(In keeping with the public commitment that I made, I hope to write a piece this weekend on a subject that has been the flavor of the season – Microfinance and the SKS IPO)


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Business, Human Resources, Public Issues, Reflections

Official Leaves: Time to revamp them?

The West has Christmas holidays. The Middle East has Ramzan break. Even China has a New Year week celebrations. India being the land of festivals unfortunately still has no major leave.

Perhaps, it is the result of long years of colonialism and thereafter the struggle to shrug off the third world tag that forced us to take no leaves but work relentlessly to win the hearts of Western Clients. Or it may even be the case of too many choices. Which festival can we uphold as the national festival? This question itself can stoke riots. So, better safe than sorry. None of the festivals is looked at with bias. All are treated equally badly.

Take any profession. Take any position in that profession. One ends up spending almost 10-12 hours at work. Add to that, 2-3 hours of daily commute. Eventually one spends almost 2/3rd of the day at work. Assuming 30 years of professional life, that comes to contributing the best chunk of one’s life to work. On top of that, we have growing number of workaholic and socially agnostic people for whom festivals, social gatherings make no sense. Work and more importantly slog work is what appeals to them. Such people no doubt rise higher in the corporate ladder and when they manage people, they become the tyrants that make office a hell. For them, leaves are a lame excuse to escape from work. In their calendars, even weekends mutate to be work days. Such bosses engender inhumane work expectations and these percolate down the ladder. It almost seeps in the genes. Families are brought up on such fodder of thought.

But such attitude though it may seem masochist or sadist does not leave the perpetrator without sorrow. Over period of time, such people become irritated, frustrated and depressed with life. Families are wrecked apart. The spark to live life passes away and that is when life becomes drudgery.

Indians boast with pride the cultural values of family bonding. With such increasingly hectic schedules, even nuclear families are at risk, leave alone joint and extended families. With festivals losing the warmth of yesteryears, family ties are weakening and Indian values are slowly fading away. The West looked upto us for this; we are looking down upon it.

If the objective of work is to live, not leave, a better life, then is not a break mandatory? Does it not make sense to run away from work for a while, rejuvenate, contemplate and come back charged and excited? Even the passionate require a break from their pursuits. A timely break can spell wonders. A little time off to talk with close friends, relatives, family is extremely crucial to get back to life.

Sometime ago, the concept of optional leaves was started to allow the choice of leaves for the employee. But, the word optional means ‘not mandatory’ for Indians and that leaves such holidays as forsaken for work. With weekends also counted as ‘worked from home’ hours, employees have literally become machines that need only oiling and cooling, but no downtime. This is the primary reason for burnouts, blackouts at young age.

We need to design a system which enforces leaves onto people. We need to push people back home, back to their families and not pull families into work using Company outings. We must throw people out of offices and thrust leaves into their calendars.

It would sound hyperbolic but why not compel people to take a minimum number of leaves every year. Why not penalize people for not taking the minimum leaves? Why not award people for taking leaves and achieving their targets?

Concept of half days is also interesting but often misinterpreted. Many times, we do not have work, but just to fill up the hours, we end up dragging ourselves across to office. Why not include a fixed number of half days in the set of available leaves?

Work from home is another feature in current attendance policy. But, expectations are not set in accordingly. If one is at home, is it right to expect the same level of work, response as in office? One can possibly respond to emails, get involved in calls, but is it fair to bundle loads of work over email?  Besides, smart employees mask leaves under this reason and that has spoiled the lure of the feature.

 

There is no reward for full attendance. So, let us reverse the logic and penalize full attendance. This sounds absurd and unfair, but who likes to work all the time? If the answer is none, then why approve people for that? By approving such relentless work, we tend to idolize it and that sets in expectations for juniors. Will it be unreasonable if we set in simple penalties for 15 months of no leaves? Let the companies decide what is the threshold, but let there be a threshold.

The sky never falls if one takes a leave. The company will never die if one takes a break. There are always enough load bearers in this world. One needs to accept this and respect one’s life.  There is a serious, pressing need for corporations to redesign the leaves system. They need to relook at the breakpoints for every project. The workforce needs to be awakened to their own needs for their own betterment.

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Entrepreneurship, Reflections

The Freeway of Dreams !

The Freeway of Dreams !

The Freeway of Dreams !

Dreams are wonderful – flowery, ideal and honeymoon like. Fascinating about some idea sometimes wakes you up, you experience a terrific adrenaline flow and a lovely cinema of the future successful you starts playing on the screen of your mind. It all awesome and cool.. until you decide to start chasing. 

We all are walking along our little ‘pathway’ of  life. All is well and calm – until our mind is attracted and attached to that one thing. It can be anything – some path breaking business idea, the girl next door, a sport, a big house, your French teacher, those 6 pack Abs, that fancy sports car, a fatter salary, your own company, and just anything and everything the mind can catch hold of. No harm done till now, but as soon as you take your first step towards fulfilling your desire – your dream, a little stone pricks you in your foot and you wake up to the Valley – the valley of realization. 

The valley of realization is no more a fantasy land. Its the simple truth that draws the thin line between the world of your dreams and the world you actually are in. So anyone who chooses to give away the comforts of the average little pathway of life and take the big leap towards the freeway of dreams, has to walk through the valley. Its full of rough mountains, deep pits, seemingly unsurmountable walls and small cute little thorns all the way that many times are going to make you feel : Well, is this really the right way ? Many a times the pathway would seem much more happier and comfortable. Every now and then, you are going to loose your way or stand in front of a big rock and wonder – should i go back ??.

 Slowly, you do have to come to terms with the fact that in the journey through the valley, no one is going to cover up for you. Its all you and your own will power that is going to take you through. And with all the chaos going on around you, innumerable mistakes that you are making, stumbling upon a million new things and knowingly or unknowingly – learning every single day, you start coming close to who you actually are. Many a times, you may start finding a way towards your own life’s realization. 

And for those who learn to bounce back again and again and again, its a continuous motivating learning curve.In fact, you are no more just motivated by something , you are inspired by your Goal. And for the ones who survive all the pitfalls, jump the walls and stand tall – its time to hit the freeway ! 

And finally for those who reach the freeway, there is the ultimate realization- that the stones and pitfalls was where all the fun and happiness was. Those spurts of emotions, happiness, sadness, the anger, the sacrifices, the faith and all that you had to come through – is what set you free. That the struggle is what makes being on the freeway worth it. 

So if we actually imagine the pathway of life and the freeway of the life of your dreams and the valley of realization in between – there actually seems to be no easy way to give up once you leap into the valley. If you give up mid way – you are going to be caught up in all the thorns. If you decide to come back – you are going to come back with sore memories and bitter scars and an unquenched mind thats always going to be fluttering around. All the scars in the way are only going to feel sweet when you are on the freeway. 

So many people keep walking down the pathway just looking at the freeway and the possible obstacles in between. But coming to think of it rationally, if you have the slightest doubt that you will give up – do not plunge. So the big lesson is that if and when you do plunge – never ever give up or come back. The time to reach the freeway is different for all. Depending on the guides you meet in the valley, lucky shortcuts that your lovely angel called destiny might show you around etc. But one thing is for sure – if you stay long and have faith – you are going to come through sailing. 

Not all of us are going to reach the freeway. The freeway is free and fast after all, because not many get there. Else it would be clogged like the pathway. But hey – all the fun is anyways in the valley .

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Reflections

Avoiding Reality!

I heard a brilliant quote from Ayn Rand a few days ago “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.” The quote can be applied to so many dimensions of the current world and I will try and explore some of them here.

As an individual we all avoid facing the reality at some point or the other, as we do not like or understand the reality. A simple example is in the movie “Wake Up Sid!” where the actor is avoiding the reality that he has to grow up / work hard / achieve something in his life. Later when the actor faces the consequences (i.e. is kicked out of his house and so on) then he realizes as he can no longer avoid the reality. A more common example is avoidance of the reality that luck exists, and sometimes no matter how hard you try, things just don’t go your way.

Next, lets consider as countries (this was the original connotation of the person who said this statement as well). Greece is probably just the starting of the consequences of reality which many countries have been avoiding. The reality that you cannot spend more than you earn! Budget deficits have been a reality but they have been ignored in the past, but now they no longer can be. Even India as a country is ignoring many realities, one of them is that ‘our politicians are not leaders and can cause a lot of problem in the nation’. The average citizen of India is too busy earning livelihood and is avoiding this reality. I hope we never have to see the consequences of this but something tells me we might.

To think of it even as humans we are avoiding many realities. One of them being that we are not abusing this planet, and the frequent earth quakes, tsunamis, and tornadoes are probably just a consequence of it. We are avoiding how many natural resources are we using like the global oil reserves, the pollution we are causing, our ever increasing world population, and many many other realities. Maybe one day we will face the consequences and at that moment we won’t be able to avoid them.

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Reflections

What keeps you going? – The Motivating factor

(Note: This post has nothing to do with strategy. Its a post in the reflections category, and yet hopefully would be worth your time.)

Over the weekend, I visited Pune – one of the biggest IT-related success stories of India of the past decade.  Over there, I went to this ‘Neera’ (a fruit extract which is served cold and acts as a rejuvenator) shop run by a physically challenged person. He was an old man , probably over 65 years of age and I have seen him selling Neera over there atleast for the past 7-8 years. During my chat with him, I asked him – ‘Aap itne saal se Neera bech rahe ho, aapka koi yadgaar khsan bataiye’ (Tell us some unforgettable incident you must have had while selling Neera) . He narrated that incident and then said something that was invaluable in my opinion –

That I am quenching the thirst of so many passers-by and seeing the feeling of satisfaction on their face after having Neera is what has helped me continue selling Neera for so many years.

maslowThen, I thought about extending this in our real world. Invariably, every successful individual in this world has been highly motivated and had a very convincing answer to the question – ‘What keeps you going?’ For atleast 90 pc of people in the world (maybe even more) , the answer to this question is extremely straight-forward – Money! For some the answer is proving themselves to the world. For some, the answer is achievement. If you think of it, Maslow’s 5 pronged Need Hierarchy is all about answering the question – what keeps you going!

But then, if everyone does have a motivating factor, why are there differing levels of success? Maybe its about how badly do you want success and how hard you are willing to work for it… Take the story of Steve Jobs, who to my mind, has been the CEO of the decade. What drove Jobs back to work after the liver transplant? What kept him going ? Isn’t this a tough question to answer? Whats more, if a person who underwent such a major surgery can motivate himself to take up a position of such public glare – why can’t we do the same?

There is a lot which can be written on this topic- what can be the motivating factor, how to choose it and all, but I shall write about it some other day. For now, let me conclude this with this quote by Wallace Spearmon, US sprinter who came in third in the 100M race to Usain Bolt in Berlin in a time of 9.85 seconds –

“Just because you get beat doesn’t mean you stop trying, it just means you go home and work on your own résumé. When I go home this off-season, I’ve got to go home and work twice as hard, three times as hard and put a picture of Bolt above my bed.”

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Reflections, Technology

Death of Time!

We are all familiar with the age old saying ‘Time and tide waits for no wo/man’. We are all caught up in our race against the clock in our daily life. From the time the buzzer of the Alarm croaks until late in the night when the clock/watch indicates that it is past our bed time, therefore we must sleep! ‘Time’ it is an absolutely inherit part of our daily life. It is an irreversible force that carries us from birth to death the natural process called aging indicating that the body clock is ticking. Time is one of the fundamental dimensions of the universe we know. But what is this ‘Time’? For all those Indians like me who grew up watching the mythological soap Mahabharata on television; Time was denoted as a picture of the stars whizzing past as the camera spear headed through space. At the center a wheel that rotates clockwise and a voice that said ‘I am time’. As a child this image had an everlasting impact on my thinking. If I have to visualize time how would I do it? In our conscious mind as we grow up from being toddlers to adults we ‘learn’ to have a measure of time much like learning a language but that is really nothing but a acquired skill.

The question as to what if Time did not really exist would certainly seem far fetched? But I am going to make that claim. Absolute Time ‘t’ is nothing more then an illusion! Many of us will find this idea unfathomable and perhaps will not bother to even read further. But please bear with me for ‘some time’ (pun intended). I think it will be a little too hasty. In this passage I will make a conscious effort in the interest of ordinary readers to understand and contemplate this radical idea.I will stay away form the world of Quantum Physics to make this as interesting as possible and let you the readers decide. Since this cannot be be done in brief (and I am not talking about stripping into my essentials while writing here) this might be a little longer but the idea to ask the question and let you decide for yourself.

What is time: There are many ways that we can look at time, but the two major classifications that time tends to be grouped under are relative time and absolute time. The main difference between the two is numbers. When categorizing time as relative, there is no use for numbers: there are no dates or quantitative measurements for the passage of relative time. Relative time, (Chronostratic time- just another name), is determined by looking at its relationship to other events. It is usually measured relative to other known events. Absolute time on the other hand, is its mirror image since it is based entirely on numbers. Absolute time (Chronometric time- you guessed it-another name), is usually measured in years, though it can be based on measurements using a combination of time units.

For instance, let’s say you wanted to know the age of a fossil (historic relic). If we knew the age of the rock in which the fossil was found, we could determine the age of the fossil, relative to the age of the rock. This is one example of relative time. Einstein brought new ideas to the field of time physics when he began to categorize time as relative in his theory of relativity (we don’t have to go there).

On the other hand, you could carbon date the specimen and come up with an exact age, say 15,000 years old. This is an example of absolute time since you will quantify the age with some specific number.

Now that we know what is ‘Time’ let me take you to the fundamental question that I ask ‘Existence of time’. Let’s start with an example that we are all familiar with. Imagine I get my hands on the famed ‘Sholay’ movie reel (reel- a Strip of Film containing individual frames). There is a sequence of frames from the time Veru is alive until the last frame where he dies in the arms of his friend Jay. I will call each individual frame as a ‘NOW’ the snapshot of what is happening at that particular instant. When we stitch all the NOW’s together and run it on a reel we get a sense of motion and time. Time and sequence of motion are interlinked. We cannot have a sequence where Jay is dead that is shown prior to him singing a song with his beloved friend Veeru (unless it’s a flashback). What is interesting and important to note is that each of the NOWS or individual frames can exist on their own. Meaning I could very well just have a reel that shows two friends in which one of them Jay dies in Veeru’s arms a perfectly valid snapshot of NOW. But when it is succeeded as mentioned above by two friends singing a song the reader will know something is not in sync. If you noticed the NOW’s or snapshots are not dependent on the preceding and following frames. So let me ask you if you only look at a particular NOW does that give you any indication to a sense of time? There are two people Jay and Veeru sitting on a Bike and singing. The entities or objects in the frame are complete in all respect on their own. Now detach the two friends from the boundaries of the Frame and put them in the universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere amidst the stars. What do you see? You see Jay, Veeru and the Bike (JVB) in space. Now put yourself in the same space as they are. If you are stationary and JVB are moving through space they ‘appear’ to be traveling in space. However if you are moving along with them then they ‘Appear’ to be stationary. This again highlights the point that motion and time are interlinked. What if JVB and you are moving in parallel? You could be moving around the entire universe and yet feel that you have not moved an inch and this can go on and on and we would see nothing changing at all! We all know that all the objects in the universe are moving away from each other spreading out in the vast universe (expanding universe). Perhaps that is what really gives us the illusion that time exists? I would like you to think about it.

Of course another practical problem here is that you are a living object and that the objects present in the universe out there are life less. So the next obvious question is that they decay of the living object Jay and Veeru and with that a sense of passing time! But hold on to that thought. The decay of Jay and verru is only seen when we sequence a series of NOW’s. A rock that you see for example is an inanimate object but does that ‘rock’, have a sense of time. A rock or an inanimate object is the result of some activity that happened in the subatomic particles (I am deliberately keeping the details out to keep it simple) perhaps a lava eruption or sedimentation to form the rock. Therefore it is reasonable to say a rock is nothing but a record of that particular event. A frozen frame much like the frame in the movie were Jay is dead or another frame when he was alive sitting on a bike. On the same lines the Lava ‘was’ a viscous fluid emitting heat before it cooled down in its final resting place to form a rock. The activity that was seen in the subatomic particles eventually made the rock we see. In a different instance of NOW it would have shown us molten lava. Tomorrow the rock might be hit by a boulder and will be slithered into dust but that again will be a different frame much like the frames that we have in our movie. Do any of those individual instances of NOW’s give you an essence of time? Perhaps not, it’s only when you join the NOW’s in a chronological sequence do you get an essence of time.

Another example I would bring your attention to is the flip book. Something we all are familiar with. As kids we would flip the pages of the book to create the image of a person drinking coke or batsman completing his cricket stroke. A sequence of images each with subtle differences when flipped using the thumb gives a sense of motion and a conscious feeling of passing time. However if we look at any individual page that is on the flip book what do we experience? We see the person and the drink is the frame it exists all by itself. Now if you were to stare at the same frame forever would that ever change? I guess not. Another essential ingredient to our sense of time is the difference between Day and night. But does this really indicate passing time? We will look at this in the subsequent passage. I will also try and indicate to you how can you visualize a universe without time and then let the reader decide his final verdict. Hopefully you will indeed read the subsequent passage to follow this one. Until then I will leave you with a question asked directed at me during one such discussion. Most of us have dreamt in our sleep. I want to ask you the reader how many of us recall that our dream had an essence of time in our dream when we recollect the dream. Think about it perhaps that will get your curiosity going about Time and its existence until then I call a – ‘time out’ !

……Mango Man (aam Aadmi)

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