Sunday, 24 May 2020

A Prayer

A Prayer

May we learn to love, and live as one
May we include everyone and be together
May all our prayers be beyond "I"

May we never lose our faith
May hope never leave us
May we find peace within to enjoy the open skies

May there be resistance towards what is wrong
May all of us know the eternal truth
May we stop with our own lies

May we learn to feel and think
May this phase of gloom tell us what truly matters
May we see without judgemental fog covering our mental eyes

May our actions speak louder than our words
May we inspire and be source of pride
May we learn to give back before the well dries

May we become accepting, and control desire
May we have given more than taken when our time comes
May we try to give some more, if there is a tie

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Mother's Day 2020

Poem For You, Ma

I could call you by any name
You are always there for me

You have spoilt me, no doubt
But you have made me, me
How could I be this lucky

Love abundant, a patient ear
With you small talk turns to deep discussions
We just need a cup of tea

There is never a weak moment
You are my pillar of strength
For every lock I present, you present a key

You see good in everyone
You do more than you ask or take
Doing everything selflessly

Happy Mother's Day, Ma
You are the glue that holds us all
You are this family's banyan tree

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Mudit's Wager: Remain Positive

How is being positive better than not being positive? 

What benefits does being positive bring when the future remains uncertain and uncontrollable?

With such and similar questions been thrown at me, because I not only remain positive but also profess my faith in positivity, I was unable to find a way to explain the benefits of being positive - other than anything that definitely sounded like a cliché.

When I came across Pascal's Wager (briefly explained at the end of this article), I realised I needed to make something similar of my own, and show it to non-believers of positivity that it pays-off to remain positive.

I present Mudit's wager: Remain Positive. This I represent as:

Our worry is related to future, it is hardly ever about the present and almost never about the past. We fear whether our future will be desirable or not. It is for the future that I ask you to wager for remaining positive. Let's understand this:

Either I will remain positive or I will not. This is plotted on the x-axis (horizontally). Either my future will turn out desirable or it will not. This has been plotted on the y-axis (vertically).

Quadrant D denotes the scenario where I decided that I will not remain positive, and my future will not turn out desirable. I call this "Doom and Gloom".

If we were not positive and the future doesn't turn out desirable, our worst fears have come true. This scenario adds doom to gloom. There is nothing good that could come out of this...we cannot turn around this scenario remaining not-positive. Helplessly, we start buying lottery tickets and hope luck supports us for once at-least!

Quadrant A denotes the scenario where I decided that I will not remain positive, but my future will turn out desirable. I call this "Winning a Lottery".

When we are not positive in our thoughts and actions, yet the future turning out desirable is like winning a lottery. The ticket we had bought in Quadrant D comes handy here. But...not only is this very difficult to repeat by our own efforts, but also the winnings are not sustainable. Thus - if we win this lottery of getting a desirable future while remaining not positive, it is likely that we will neither continue to enjoy desirable future being not positive, nor manage to change our life for the better in the long-term. Just as quickly as this desirable future appears, we will start worrying about the next uncertain future-date / future-year / future-period. Leaving very little for us to enjoy the lottery-winnings.

Quadrant C denotes the scenario where I decided that I will remain positive, but my future will not turn out desirable. I call this "Will Strive Harder".

If despite remaining positive, our future turns out not desirable it is still painful and doubt. However, we have our positivity to lean back on to tell ourself that we will strive harder to turn things around. We start looking for previously unexplored or even unorthodox solutions, but we will not give up...we will not submit to the gloom that has temporarily engulfed us.

Quadrant B denotes the scenario where I decided that I will remain positive, and my future turns out desirable. I call this "Win-win, Pay Day".

When we are positive and our future turns out desirable, we find the sweet-spot where we can finally pat ourselves on the back - be proud, be happy and be satisfied. We take a moment for ourselves, enjoy our hard earned pay-day and get back to work for the next uncertain future-date / future-year / future-period.

The discussion is not about how to remain positive, but the benefits of remaining positive. Since future largely continues to be outside our direct control (we can influence the future outcomes, but we definitely don't control them), the only thing we can control is how our outlook and attitude remain: positive or not-positive.

By not remaining positive either we hope to win lottery or worse face doom and gloom. However, by remaining positive we either continue to have the will to strive hard, find our way out of the gloom or we find a win-win situation and enjoy our well earned pay-day. At the very least, we can try to move from Quadrant A to Quadrant B and from Quadrant D to Quadrant C.

I, therefore, urge you to wager for remaining positive in the game of future life!


Pascal's Wager

Pascal (1623-1662), wore many hats ranging from being a mathematician & physicist to a writer & Catholic theologian. He believed there was no reasonable manner to prove existence of God, but we should still believe in Him.

Broadly, he suggested that if we don't believe in God, but we eventually find out that God exists - we go to Hell (some version of it). If we don't believe in God and it turns out that there is no God, well - no misery befalls us.

On the other hand, if we believe in God and God exists then we go to Heaven (some version of it). If we believe in God and God doesn't exist, once again there is no loss for us.

Essentially, as per Pascal, believing in God could either lead to some version of Heaven or bring no loss. Whereas, not believing in God could either bring no loss or worse, lead to some version of Hell. Basis this, Pascal is said to have suggested it is better to wager for God to exist and to believe in Him. This was his way of saying, better to play it safe than be sorry later.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Happiness Quotient: An Emotional Equation

How do you know you are feeling happiness in any given moment? Do you understand the emotional process that goes on internally, leading to happiness or sadness?

Actually, some would argue that more important question is: do you understand what is happiness?

Walt Disney famously said: “Happiness is a state of mind. It's just according to the way you look at things.” Another definition of happiness, available online says: happiness is the state of being happy.

When I look at these two thoughts together, I realise happiness is a “state”, i.e. it is transient and likely to change due to external pressures exerted on us. Much like liquid is a state for water, which can change from liquid state to solid or gas provided liquid water is subjected to different external pressures.

Following water’s example, using it as a metaphor for our happiness, there is another question that we face: does our happiness totally depend on external sources? Or, is our happiness not under our control at all? It is my attempt to answer some of these questions, basis my own observations and experiences.

It has been my experience that our happiness is not entirely out of our control. We can even measure it, and I call this emotional measure Happiness Quotient (H.Q.). I propose the following emotional equation for H.Q.:

Happiness Quotient* (H.Q.) = What** we have received – what** we expected to receive

*H.Q. is not to be thought of or used as a numerical measure, although it could have numerical components involved. This is purely an emotional measure.
** What or how much.

'What you have received minus what your expectations were', is really the simplest form of understanding how we are feeling in any given situation, whether a moment or a day or our entire lifetime. I am neither referring to finding fulfilment in life (work + home) nor suggesting this is a route for becoming happy. Instead, this is an equation that helps us understand our state of being happy (happiness) in any given moment – whether we are judging something that happened just a moment before, or way back in past … or even if it is on-going.

There are two components that contribute to our happiness: what we have received and what our expectations were to receive.

The former component of the equation: "what we have received", is not in your matter how hard we work, how smart we are, how lucky we were up to that point in time...nothing we can do that can bring this component of the equation entirely under our control. Yes, we can influence by being prepared, by being present, by doing good...but we still cannot control what the outcome would be (i.e. what we receive).

However, the latter component of the equation: "what we expected to receive", is directly under our control. Managing our expectations is definitely that part of the equation of our happiness, which is under our direct control.

To understand this better, let’s look at two different scenarios of the same hypothetical example - taking GMAT:

Scenario 1: You prepare for the test but aren’t able to prepare as well as you would have liked. All your mock test scores have been less than 600. You are not confident going in to take the test, don’t expect to score 600…but, you end up with 650.

Scenario 2: The same GMAT case. This time let’s say you were well prepared and had been scoring upwards of 700 in all mock tests. You go in for the test confident…but, you come back with a 650 score.

In both scenarios – the part of the H.Q. equation, what you have received, is same – GMAT score = 650. However, your happiness levels are likely to vary vastly between the two scenarios. What happens to your H.Q. if the result is that of Scenario 1 – does it not shoot high? You would be super-proud for doing better than expected. But if the result is that of Scenario 2, it would bring you down – you could feel a combination of following emotions sadness, anger, worry, fear and the likes.

Now we see that the real challenge is not managing what we receive (outcome), but really what we expected to receive. The former is not entirely in our control; however, the latter is totally in our control.

The next obvious question is: Does it mean we lower our expectations or, if possible, become expectation-less?

Theoretically, yes, we can live without expecting things from others and from ourselves...which may make our lives simpler (theoretically!). Practically, no! Expecting (and anticipating) the bad has been important for early Human survival, thus today we are wired in a manner to expect (both, good and bad).

In this article, I have attempted to put forth an idea that there are two components that work together towards our happiness - one of these two is not in our control and the other is in our control. By managing our expectations, recalibrating our expectations and learning to deal with our expectations not being met are some steps we can take to maintain a positive H.Q.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Hope, Love and Believe!

Where is this all going
When will our troubles end
Why is it happening to us
Will the sun shine on us again?

How do we fight the unseen
Do we even have a chance
Are we going to fight together
Can we feel each other's pain?

Are we serious about social-distancing
Does this lockdown help at all
Is that light at the end of the tunnel
Or is that a killer-train?

Do we have time to hide and be safe
What if all have been infected already
Are we losing it all
Can we find calm and use our brain?

I can't offer answers, there are none
But there is hope
This is nothing but a test
Something that makes us stronger in long-term.

I offer my love and support
And if you ever need me
I will hold you tightly
When you shiver and squirm.

There is strength in staying apart, yet standing together
There is enough for everyone, don't panic
If we can think beyond ourselves
Selfishness is bigger than this virus, today’s biggest germ.

My friend, we don't need to know the future
Don't need to be able to see in this dark night
We don't even need answers
All that you and I need is to believe, be firm!


Sunday, 1 March 2020

Now And Forever

Is there more proof that I need
Is there more that I can see
Is there anything clearer
Will it ever going to be

No my love
I know I need you
Now and forever

Can I find someone else
Can I do better
Can you be replaced
Am I such go-getter

No my love
I know I want you
Now and forever

Are we the perfect-couple
Are we doing everything we can
Are we going where we want
Is there nothing more to do & plan

No my love
I know we will keep getting better
Now and forever

Have we reached the summit
Have we completed the course
Have we run out of steam
Is there no other source

No, my love
I know we will be together
Now and forever

Friday, 14 February 2020

You Are My Universe

Even after twenty-two years
It feels just like yesterday
When I proposed to you, you said yes
We celebrated our first Valentine's Day

Over these years, we experienced many ups and downs
Saw many seasons and all kinds of weather
Today, we are many miles apart
But, darling, I promise we will grow old together

I am far from perfect
Yet, you love and accept me
Not the person to go overboard
You are my universe, I say this whole-heartedly

Have known and loved you all my life
And time flies when having fun
Never have I asked for more
You are the one, and the only one

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Relativism And Happiness

In human life and in human mind every concept, every emotion, every thought,...actually everything is relative to something else. Well, for meaningful existence of anything we need to understand (or at least know) its context. Nothing is complete and absolute in and of itself. This is what I call as relativism.

It is not often that we let life happen to us, without putting up a question - "why?". The very reason we want to ask the why-question(s): "why is it so...why did you do it...why is it so hot...why me?" shows we need added information to make sense of what we have in that moment.

Through this post I neither intend to explain further about theory of relativism, nor delve into our need for more information, i.e. context, to understand the moment. As I see it, our need for context exists and that's that! However, there is a link between relativism and our happiness, and the intention of this post is to highlight this link.

In my previous post, A Philosophical Question, I had introduced the following equation of happiness quotient (happiness at any given moment):

What I have received - what I expected to receive = Happiness Quotient (H.Q.)

As per this equation, our happiness is dependent on reality (what I have received) and expectations. The bad news is, we can neither be in control of what we receive nor become absolutely expectation-less. The good news is, we can learn to change meaning of reality (by changing its context) and recalibrate our expectations as we live on. The way we can do both (although one at a time) is to learn to better manage our emotional responses to both - the reality we face and the level of unmet expectations. It is here, learning to better manage our emotions that relativism plays a role and that's the link between relativism and happiness.

There is one thing that we know how to do, inherently, is to look for context and reach meaning. 

We love dogs, to the extent to claim that dogs are man's best friend (sorry - human's best friend...hope the feminists would let this be!). Correction, we love pet dogs. If we come across a stray dog, very often the first emotion is not that of love and compassion - it is fear. Pet dogs bring out positive emotions in us and give us higher degree of happiness than stray dogs - where neither the individual dog nor its breed has done anything to us directly (yet!). Context has dogs, whether our own or of anybody else's, are more likely to be better trained and healthier (with all required vaccinations given) than the stray dogs.

However, there are some individuals (might not be many) who find it in their heart to love stray dogs just as much (or more) as pet dogs. There difference is that these people manage to change context in their mind, think of dogs as inherently human-friendly and quickly realise that stray dogs' unreliable reactions (such as biting a human) could be stemmed in its own fear of humans or its experience of being ill-treated by humans in past (relativism!). These people choose to believe that stray dogs, too, need love and care. 

Based on their past experiences, these people also recalibrate their expectations from both, the dog (towards them) and from themselves (towards the dog), leading to a happier interaction than one based on fear and ignorance. Not to say that these people have never been bitten by a stray dog, or never been met by less-than-friendly reaction from one. With experience and will, they have learned not to make certain sudden movements that can unsettle the dog, or that just because the dog lunges at them it is not with the intent to hurt them (relativism!). They have learned to manage their emotional-responses over time, which ultimately helps them recalibrate their expectations for future.

As seen in the above example, it is possible to change context of what we have received, recalibrate our expectations and learn to control our emotional-responses. Whether we manage to change all or just one - it is good to know that we do possess some degree of control over happiness all the time, provided we understand relativism. Relativism at the very least provides fluidity to our understanding of life and thus to our experiences - being rigid is not how we can live this life and be happy.

Looking at life through the lens of relativism helps us acknowledge that the reality we face has more than one perspectives (and thus meaning) - one that we are seeing, experiencing, feeling...and that that other person is seeing, experiencing, feeling, before getting carried away by our initial emotional-response to the balance between the reality we face and what we expected it to be.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

A Philosophical Question

Recently a friend asked a philosophical question:

"How do you know what you are feeling is happiness?"

This got me thinking at a deeper level - not only about happiness, but also about our feelings and what we think we know. In order to even attempt answering, I had to first form an understanding of three words of the question: know, feeling and happiness. I realised that the question in front of me was not only about happiness, but also a wider question about what we know, how we feel, how to know happiness and how to be happy (not feel happy).

We all know things, we know when it is morning and when it is night, we know which day of the week it is, we know 2+2 = 4 etc. The question is, how do we know that we know? Is it something that others tell us and that's all - we all have been told to call certain hours of the day as morning and certain other hours of the same day as night. We all have been told that 2+2 = 4, and that 2+3 = 5 (not 4).

Is this all that it would take for us to know things: someone telling us something that we don't already know? Or is it something slightly deeper?

Will we know that there is indeed alien life in another part of this universe, if someone just tells us that there is? Will we know that babies are actually delivered by storks, just because someone says they saw it with their own eyes?

My guess is NO!

Thus, the answer to the question "How do we know that we know something?", is we know that we know something when we are convinced of an idea and believe it to be true. It is only with conviction does an idea or a piece of information becomes part of our knowledge.

We need to be convinced about a new idea before we believe it. It is only after we are convinced and believe in what we are being told (or are reading) by someone else that we start to know things. This means, if we get convinced and believe in alien life and storks delivering babies, then we would know both these (and similar) ideas to be true.

It is because of simple conviction in an idea, which may be absurd to most others, people believe and know things. Ask any flat-earther, if earth is flat and they would say yes. Flat-earthers even have their own society: Flat Earth Society (their Twitter handle:

Given there are many who know the earth as flat and many who know human-life on earth is not due to evolution (but...), it definitely seems that we can convince ourselves about anything that we want to (badly enough, deeply enough).

Thus - we can equally convince ourselves our life is good, bad or ugly if we truly deeply badly wanted to.

Second part of the philosophical question that I want to address is about feelings. Why are we so close to our moment-to-moment feelings? Why do we need to feel good all the time? Why are we unable / incapable to accept that there will be moments that don't make us feel good and then there will be moments that will make us feel ecstatic?

Feelings are transient, they come and go. Feelings don't last more than a moment, unless we convince ourselves that any particular moment's feeling deserves more attention. I don't know the physiological and psychological reasons for this, but we are more likely to pay closer & deeper attention to the bad feelings than good feelings.

Love and sex (let's say with one person) make us feel good. But if we fight with this very same person, this bad feeling lasts a lot longer than the good feeling of being in love and the high of orgasmic sex.

The more we become slave to the thought of how we are feeling, the more we realise that we feel bad more than good because it is ingrained in us to attach higher weightage to bad feelings than good feelings. The challenge, as per me, is not to know how we are feeling at every moment but to learn how not to get attached with any momentary feeling. Life, although lived moment to moment, is an example where the whole is greater than the the sum of all moments we live.

This may require us to always bring some distance between the moment we are in and our view of our life. If we are having a bad moment, or even a bad day...with a little distance brought in we can quickly realise that this bad moment or day does not define us and our life. We can then move on to thinking of all the good that we have experienced in our life up to that point and all the good that is yet to come. This distance would allow us to not assign a higher weightage to the bad over the good.

The downside of this distance is that it disallows us to fly-too-high with happiness. This distance tells us that if the present moment is good (probably extremely good), then this too shall pass...after all it is just a moment!

Finally, let's look at the concept of happiness and happyness.

Happiness is defined as a state of being happy. If happiness is a state of being happy, then happyness is being happy (period!).

It is not being happy in life, it is knowing the feeling in that moment is good - which makes us feel happy and our happiness quotient goes up in that moment. So - what is happiness quotient? It is an emotional equation, where the balance tells us whether to feel happiness or sadness. The equation goes something like this (limited for only that we consider as good for ourselves):

What I have received - what I expected to receive = Happiness Quotient (H.Q.)

Simply put: in any given situation, whether a moment or a day or lifetime, we can look at the equation above to know if our happiness quotient says we are happy or sad.

For example: I have to sit for a marked multiple choice exam (say GMAT), but I don't / can't prepare as well as I would have liked. When I take this exam, I don't know many answers, but due to nature of the exam I can guess and mark one of the choices given as my answer. As soon as I complete this exam, my expectation for a high-score are low because I wasn't convinced whether my guess-work would have worked in my favour or against.

Now, if on this exam I get a score that is higher than what my expected score was, then I am high on H.Q. and if I get a low score I am not low of H.Q. because my expectations were low to begin with.

'What I have minus what my expectations were', is really the simplest form of understanding how we are feeling in any given moment.

If you can convince yourself that the above equation works, you would know that feeling of happiness is not entirely out of your control. In many instances we bring down our happiness quotient by setting our expectations too high. This leads to a lower H.Q. and since bad feelings last longer, we become attached to this unhappy moment and carry on feeling sad for longer than the individual moment's outcome deserved.

Let's go back to the original question with which started: "How do you know what you are feeling is happiness?". We have seen that knowing is about our conviction in an idea, feelings are transient (momentary) and happiness is an equation. However, because I believe this question wasn't about knowing if we are feeling happiness in any given moment, but about being happy, I would reframe the question as:

How do you convince yourself that over a considerable period of time you have received more than you expected to?

With this reframed question, I can confidently say that most people are happy today. Only if they could get away from "how are you feeling in the present moment" bullshit!

In my life, let's childhood had all the non-materialistic good that a child could ask for...but the family's first car came when I was 12 years old, the first telephone (landline) came when I was 16 years this family has multiple cars and each individual has at least one handphone (actually smartphones)...all of us in this family continue to be loved by the ones we love...all of us have our health and are doing well in our lives.

Unless I can look at a considerable period of time, any given moment holds the power over me to make me sad. Unless I can understand that my expectations can be as high as the sky, i.e. a bit unrealistic, I will continue to be disappointed with what I have and thus be sad. Unless I understand that I hold some control over the equation of happiness, I will never manage my own happyness.

Being in a state of anything changes from one state to another as water changes from being in the liquid state to solid state or gaseous state depending on conditions it is subjected to. We too change from being in a state of being happy (i.e. happiness) to being in the state of being sad - depending on the situations and conditions we are subjected to. Do we want to leave our happyness to the conditions we will never fully be in control of? It is by using the the power of conviction, ability to distance myself from the moment to look at my life in broader perspective and correctly evaluating the equation of happiness that I find my happyness.

Imagine how strong it is to be happy than be in the state of being happy. And I would any day be in the pursuit of happyness than momentary happiness.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

M.A.I.N. Framework of Communication

"How do we improve our presentation skills?" / "How do we communicate better?"

These are some of the often-asked question and have many different approaches and answers. When my team started to push me to help them improve their presentations, not only the deck but also their delivery, the M.A.I.N. framework of communication took birth.

M.A.I.N. = Message, Audience, Impact and Next-steps

Through this framework I have tried to bring together a combination of ideas, while maintaining simplicity. Although I started by thinking how my team-members could improve their presentation skills, I realised that presenting is one form of communication. There are common aspects to presentation-based communication and generic purpose-based communication, whether professional or personal. 

1. Message is the start of preparation for all purpose-based communication. The communicator has to be clear and confident about the message that needs to be sent across. At times, message can be a self-chosen topic and at other times, message could be pre-decided (eg: agenda of meeting / sales pitch / topic of presentation etc.). Either way - being clear about the message is the starting point.

Another point to keep in mind is that not only the "what" to be conveyed (message) matters, but also how it is conveyed that matters. Good communication depends on both, verbal and non-verbal aspects. Body language, facial expressions go a long way in adding value to the verbal messaging (or taking away from the message being delivered verbally).

2. Audience is the next important aspect to prepare for. On getting a grip on the message, the presenter has to prepare for the audience of the presentation. Is it an individual or a group? Is it a group of senior-officials? Is the audience unknown to the presenter? Etc...

Understanding the audience helps in calibrating the messaging (what) and its delivery (how) to make it relevant for the audience. Preparing for an audience helps in planning ahead for some questions and / or objections that maybe put forward. Understanding the audience can also help in choosing appropriate verbal and non-verbal messages. If the message and how it is delivered, if the audience starts to realise that the message is relevant to them, then there are better chances for the audience to accept the message, not discard it.

Please note, audience is not everyone who is present there, but the key people for whom the message it intended - thus the communicator / presenter should be careful in planning for the audience. 

3. Impact on the audience, as the result of communication. The communicator has to have an intended impact on the audience in mind as part of their planning. This not only helps the communicator in preparing (before-hand) how to achieve the intended impact, but also know (after-fact) the success of communication. It is with the impact in mind that the communicator can truly calibrate the message and its delivery, and prepare for the audience.

The same message, for the same audience can have different approaches depending on the intended impact that the communicator wants on the audience. Is the intended impact on the audience to move them, or leave them unmoved / untouched by my the intended impact to get audience's buy-in to the message (concept / idea / product / service) the intended impact to raise awareness, nothing more.

4. Next-steps have to be kept in mind. What should happen after the message has been given and there has been the intended impact on the audience? To prepare for possible what-nexts is just as critical as preparing for the message, audience and the intended impact.

Does the communicator want the audience to act in some manner? Does the communicator want to leave any further action on audience's best judgement?

Intended impact, about the message, on the audience is incomplete until the communicator knows what action (next-steps) is required for the communication to be deemed successful. Having said that, no action can also be one possible next-step - as long as this is what the communicator wanted from the audience.

Any purpose-based communication needs preparation. Without proper preparation, the purpose could either get diluted or get lost completely. M.A.I.N. framework allows the communicator to think of and plan for all significant aspects that are at play. 

For successful communication: The purpose is defined in the form of a message. This message has to be shared with an audience, for which the communicator needs to prepare. With the intended impact on the audience in view, the communicator prepares for and calibrates both - the message and its delivery. And finally, the communicator wants to get the audience to act (or not act) in the desired manner. 

Ultimately, the purpose of communication has to culminate in desired action (or inaction) from the audience. If the desired action (or inaction) is not achieved, then another round of communication is required - provided the audience grants it. The communicator can go back to the M.A.I.N. framework to first analyse what worked and what didn't in the first round (i.e. - what's the scope of improvement) and then prepare for Round 2.