Sunday, December 28, 2008

Freedom Haikus

in not wanting
to win

in loving

in the acceptance
of everything

in the greatest prayer:

in living
in the moment

in not wanting
to judge

in letting things
just be

in giving your love
the freedom

in loving
without possessing

in living
without preferences

Friday, October 10, 2008

A to Z of Subprime Crisis

This article was also published in Gulf News, UAE's leading news paper.
Clarence Nathan was a man with three part-time jobs who earned about $45,000 a year, and yet a bank loaned him $540,000. The bank never checked his income.

What happened that diluted the most basic rules of lending? What happened that made the banks open their coffers without bothering to even consider the risks? What were the brokers and bankers that made all this possible thinking while showing their generosity to those least deserving of the loans?

When we first heard about the subprime crisis we would’ve thought it had to do with the housing industry. However, it had less to do with that and more to do with financial services industry – and the people who were financing those houses.

The crisis really starts with what some researchers have started calling ‘The Global Pool of Money.’ This is the entire world’s investments: pension funds investing for people’s retirements, insurance companies investing our premiums, governments’ central banks investing their nation’s wealth. This global pool is estimated to be about 70 trillion dollars. This amount is more than entire money spent by everyone – individuals, companies, governments - all over the world in a year. So, this global pool of money is a huge amount of money.

We also have a group of people called the investment bankers whose job is to watch over that money. They have a twofold task to perform: not to lose a penny from the pool and to also make it grow. For a long time, they made this pool grow by investing in very safe bets like US treasury and municipal bonds. But right before the actual story starts, something happened – something really big. This global pool of money got too big too fast. In fact, it doubled between the year 2000 and 2006. The scale of this proliferation could be gauged by the fact that this global pool took centuries to reach 35 trillion dollars and just six years to double up. The major reason for this humungous growth was the sudden growth in the wealth of many historically poor countries like India, China, Brazil, Gulf countries, etc. These countries banked their profits and looked around the world for ways to invest them. So, suddenly there was twice as much money in the pool waiting for investment. However, the world wasn’t ready, simply because there weren’t twice as many good investment options. Another parallel development was Alan Greenspan’s move to reduce the US Fed interest rate to one percent, thus making US Treasury bonds – the then darling of investors - not so lucrative for the international investors. So this global pool looked around for options and found one in the US housing market and a special bond created by the Wall Street. This bond just couldn’t produce enough profits to keep all the investors happy and the pressure of generating ‘good’ profit figures just kept building up. More and more international investors wanted those bonds than the investment firms like Morgan Stanley, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers etc. could actually produce.

This is how the investment banks produced the financial magic of turning mortgages into bonds. They buy up all the housing mortgages – thousands of them – and pool them all together. That way, they had this constant stream of mortgage EMI payments coming to them every month. They would then sell shares in that stream to global investors. That is how you create mortgage backed security or mortgage backed bond. Now, between 2003 and 2006, US housing market was growing so fast that all the global investors were itching to get a piece of that action. But there was a problem. The problem was that to make a mortgage backed security, you need a mortgage – and there weren’t enough mortgages. By 2003, with very low interest rates, all the people with a steady income who could afford mortgages – and were considered safe borrowers - had already taken those bonds. They didn’t want to take any more bonds. But this global pool of money was hungrier than ever for these mortgage backed bonds. So Wall Street started lowering its standards for offering such loans.

It used to be that to get a mortgage, you had to prove that you made enough money, that you had a steady job, that you had some assets in banks. But starting around 2003 onwards, Wall Street started to loosen up a bit every month. One month, banks would say that buyers don’t have to prove how much they make, they can just state how much they make and we’ll trust them. The next one was a No Income Verified asset; so you don’t have to tell the people what you do for a living or how much money you make – all you have to do is state that you have a certain amount of money in the bank and we’ll trust you. Then the next one that came was No Income No Asset (NINO) loan wherein you don’t have to state anything; you just need a credit score and prove that you’re living. Even the latter was optional in some cases like those in Ohio where 23 dead people were issued mortgage loans. This NINO loan is now retrospectively infamous as ‘The Liar’s Loan.’ Within the banks, there were people getting sick to their stomach at giving such loans. They fought tooth and nail with their sales force and bosses to stop offering such loans. But all they got were cold shoulder replies like ‘Others are offering it, we’ve to offer it too. The global investor has some loose cash and if we don’t use it, somebody else will. We’ll get more market share this way. House prices are booming and everything is going to be fine.’ All of this was happening under the assumption that US house prices would always appreciate. So even in the worst case if someone defaulted, the impounded house would be a bigger asset with the bank. That assumption proved very costly.

In the old days, such mortgage companies would’ve held on to these loans for years - until they were sure that the mortgagee would be able to pay - before selling these mortgages to Wall Street. In the new system, they held them for a month or two and then sold it to Wall Street – all that risk was Wall Street’s problem. Even Wall Street wasn’t too concerned because it just passed the risk to the global pool of money – all the global investors. The irony, however, is that Wall Street also wasn’t particularly cheating on these global investors. They had complex computational models that were constantly monitoring the data to assess the risks of the bonds. That data told them not to bother since mortgage foreclosure rate was one or two percent and the models were designed to perform well even on a foreclosure rate of ten to twelve percent. But this conclusion was way off because all the data they were looking at in 2005-06 for the loan repayment was years old –and was positive because the old bonds were issued to qualified people who were duly paying them back. Then there were companies like Dynamic Credit that bought and re-packaged those bonds into a complex financial product called Collateralized Debt Obligations(CDOs) and sold them to these global investors.

This finishes the chain which now looks like “Individuals taking mortgage -> broker -> small bank -> Investment Bank (Wall Street) -> thousands of mortgages in one big pool -> shares of monthly income called mortgage backed security -> repackaged into CDO -> global investors”

When it all came down at once, these pools started showing a foreclosure rate of around 15 to 50%. Therefore, such bonds then started losing money – taking with it, everyone involved. Four million Americans facing the foreclosure, hundreds of mortgage companies are now bankrupt, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs. IMF has estimated that banks and investors could lose around a trillion dollars.

But everyone involved was not exactly foolhardy. Companies like Dynamic Credit refused to buy the bonds that were outright risky. They thought they were being conservative – yet they lost millions, even billions. Almost everyone involved in this knew that something weird was going on. The deals they struck did not feel right. But none of them really questioned things. Why would they? Everyone involved was making an awful lot of money.

The nosediving of all the share markets the world over is just the symptom of a disease. The disease is imprudent financials practice of flouting the basic pragmatic rules. As David Moore, CEO Moore Investment & Holding, Inc, wrote, “Our efforts will all be for naught until two things happen:
1. investment banking and mortgage lending institutions follow strict, conservative and prudent regulations regarding investments and lending and
2. the American people are not allowed to obligate themselves to loans they cannot afford. It would be nice to get people to conduct themselves with their own financial interests in mind, but we must regulate the areas that we can and not give financial access to people who cannot prove a reasonable probability that they can repay loans, and we must regulate business so they don't engage in these unsound lending practices for personal and institutional greed ever again.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ramadan in Gulf Countries

‘On Sep 16th 2008, a salesman and a female visitor who publicly drank juice during daytime in Ramadan were each fined Dh1000 for breaking article 313 of the Federal Penal Code of the UAE.

A Public Prosecution source explained that eating or drinking in public before sunset during Ramadan is classified as a crime, which offends religious faith and rituals. "

The punishment against such a crime is a maximum one month imprisonment or a maximum Dh2,000 fine... it depends on the judge's discretion," said the source.

An Arab witness, identified as T., spotted the couple drinking juice in a station. He reported them to the police, who referred the duo to court.’

That was a news report on Gulf News, a leading newspaper in the UAE.

Saudi law goes to the extent of terminating work contracts and deporting the Ramadan law violators. All this because they believe that Non-Muslim residents must respect Muslims' feelings by refraining from eating, drinking or smoking in public places, in the streets and in workplaces.

During Ramadan, in all the Gulf countries, restaurants are closed during the day time. They cannot serve food, only supply take-away parcels that people eat in closed rooms. The only exception to this rule are the best and the most expensive hotels that house the VVIPs who pay a fortune.

Ramadan is the holy month for muslims when they’re supposed to self-abnegate, introspect, lead a simple life – renouncing their indulgences – and observe a month long fast wherein they’re not supposed to eat or drink between sunrise and sunset.

Gulf countries observe the month with a lot of fervour and faith. In these Islamic countries, the government enforces a strict observance of these fasts through an honest police, an efficient legal system and religious zealotry of the citizens.

However, these countries have grossly misunderstood the spiritual commandments. Shouldn’t fasting be a call from within rather than be enforced from without by the government, the police or the legal framework? Shouldn’t fasting be a free choice over a coerced and pompous ban on eating and drinking outdoors lest you tempt those who observe the fast? And wouldn’t a fast that is ‘truly’ a divine inspiration from within be impervious to the temptations from the display of foods which is banned to cover for the imperfections in the self-control of the fasting people? Only a vacuous and shallow law can force the non-muslims to not eat or drink in public. A truly spiritual call doesn’t need collusion with the governments, the threat of imprisonment or monetary fine for its observance. A true fast would not want to control the external display of foods or drinks much less control the behaviour of another person only to bask in the false glory of a strict observance of fast. An honest introspection would command controlling oneself before controlling others. True spirituality should be a free choice. In the absence of that choice, there is no spirituality. Sadly, in the enforcement through the law, they cheat the spirit of the fast; in punishing the law breakers, they kill their own spirituality. Spirituality is no slave to any law and yet the misinterpretation of the same necessitates a law to begin with. The non-believers (Kafirs) are made to suffer because of the imperfection in their own self control.

If you want to see a more free and unforced environment of fast observance then visit India. I want to stick my neck out and say that the fasts of those Indian muslims are much purer than the pompous fasts observed in the middle east.

In the open streets of India,
my Ramadan fasts are truly tested.
In the enticing display of sweets at shops,
my tongue is tested.
In the heat, dust and non AC ambience,
my perseverance is tested.
In my donations despite poverty,
my sacrifice is tested.
In the people eating around me,
my determination is tested.
In my not forcing heathens to stop eating,
my self-control is tested.
In my acceptance of this difference,
my spirituality is tested.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Is customer really the king?

“Customer is the king” – is a cliché used ad nauseam in business circles. With the kind of buying options available today in every walk of life, even a casual glance at the market only corroborates this claim. Why then do we need to question the apparent truth? That is because it’s only the casual glance at the market place that brings about this belief. The cliché is derived through a static perspective wherein we observe only the market-place instead of people. To question this cliché, we need a dynamic perspective that entails we follow customers through their day to day lives.

This apparent truth would’ve been the absolute truth if customers and vendors were a mutually exclusive lot. This, however, is not the case. In this complex society, any given person is a customer to someone and a vendor to someone at the same time. The increase in options makes the customer more demanding while every increased demand means someone somewhere has to slog at work. The vicious circle ensures that almost everyone works harder, as a vendor, to meet those never ending deadlines. The bigger ‘King’ a customer becomes, the more slavish every vendor in that industry becomes. The circle ensures that the monarchy of the customer, however, is short-lived as he soon assumes the role of the vendor.

An example might help elucidate the point. Consider the hospitality industry. A man is on vacation with his family in a five star luxury hotel. The man expects top class service from the hotel. He ‘demands’ continuous Wi-Fi access, spic and clean rooms, gyms, spas, pickup & drop, travel advisories, smart attendants on their toes and not a semblance of discomfort. Anything less and he threatens never to come back to the hotel. So the hotel makes receptionists, cleaners, waiters, drivers, accountants, IT technicians and many others work overnight in shifts. For every such customer, vendors across many such verticals and/or horizontals are kept on tenterhooks. The hotel wakes up an IT techie at 3 a.m. to fix the Wi-Fi for this esteemed customer having problems watching ‘online streaming videos’. The IT person’s family is frequently troubled with such support calls at night. Often, the family can’t sleep properly, affecting their daytime activities. This IT person is generally competent but badly overworked and this support call is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. He is not able to come and fix the Wi-Fi. The customer on holiday is pissed off, creates a scene and books a room in a rival hotel. The first hotel chain, having lost its ‘kingly’ customer, cancels the contract with the IT vendor providing the support people. The IT vendor that had a contract of exclusivity for the hotel chain in the entire country loses its major customer and takes a bad hit. The news spreads the next day and its shares nosedive. This company is an IT venture of a famous business house of the country. The parent company calls an urgent meeting with all the CXOs to address this exigency. Coincidentally, the hotel guest in question gets a call from his company informing him of cancellation of his vacation and asking him to report immediately. He rues his predicament, not knowing what in the world went wrong to have his vacation curtailed. He is the CFO of the parent company.

In the real world, the circle may not be so small or the strings of events may not be so fortuitous but what cannot be argued is the fact that you begin the trail that ultimately leads back to you. In other words, there is nothing that is not your business. As Justin Timberlake said, “What goes around, comes around.”

So the next time you feel like ditching a vendor for a small lapse of service, think twice: you might be creating a world that ruins your own holiday.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Barber and God: A fable

This fable was an email forward I once received.

This is one of the best explanations of why God allows pain and suffering that I have seen:
A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed.
As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation.They talked about so many things and various subjects.
When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said:"I don't believe that God exists."
"Why do you say that?" asked the customer.
"Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn't exist.
Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people?
Would there be abandoned children?
If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain.
I can't imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things."
The customer thought for a moment, but didn't respond because he didn't want to start an argument.The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop.Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and unkempt.
The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber: "You know what? Barbers do not exist."
"How can you say that?" asked the surprised barber."I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!"
"No!" the customer exclaimed. "Barbers don't exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside."
"Ah, but barbers DO exist! That's what happens when people do not come to me.""Exactly!" affirmed the customer.
"That's the point! God, too, DOES exist! That's what happens when people do not go to Him and don't look to Him for help. That's! why there's so much pain and suffering in the world.
"If you think God exists, send this to other people---
If you think God does not exist, delete it!BE BLESSED & BE A BLESSING TO OTHERS !!!!!!!

While this fable does a good job in making one realize one's mistake by not approaching God, I feel there is a flaw in this article when looked at from a different perspective.
Let me try and bring out the gap in the argument. First I number the lines of interest and then take them one line at a time and try to elucidate that it might be more complex than this article has made out. There you go.

1. "I don't believe that God exists."
2. "Why do you say that?" asked the customer.
3. "Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn't exist.
4. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people?
5. Would there be abandoned children?
6. If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain.
7. I can't imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things."

1. "I don't believe that God exists."
In trying to prove the existence of God, this article does a good job. It simply explains that people don't go to God and hence they suffer from all the pain and suffering. Beyond that, however, this article is too simplistic and incorrect. It toes the line that religions all over the world have always taken: trying to prove that God is jealous, revengeful and unforgiving. He will give you all the pain and suffering just because you hate him or don't consider him or don't accept his existence or don't go to him. Read the first line that this article begins with.

"This is one of the best explanations of why God allows pain and suffering that I have seen."

Ask yourself a question here. Is this the kind of God we are praying to? A God who makes us go through hell if we don't pray or go to him? Doesn't he appear vengeful and unforgiving? Isn't this a God conceived and contrived by humans who in their "mortalized and conditional" love couldn't think of a God that could shower His love upon us "eternally and unconditionally"? And yet, God is not what this article portrays. That is where this article goes wrong. For God is with you even if you don't go to Him. God is irrevocably, perennially, deeply, sublimely, blessing you - in every act you choose for yourself. And that act can be Hitler's genocide or Gandhi's satyagraha.

Let us go to Line 4.
"4. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people?"
All the Popes and priests are men of God, aren't they? Don’t they fall sick and die? Is being sick proof enough of God's inexistence? Line 4 has an inherent fallacy: may be, falling sick itself is not bad. It doesn't have anything to do with suffering. For pain at a physical level is an experience that soul chooses to experience and precisely that's why we fall sick. We consider sickness bad because we find it a precursor to death and death is a bad occurrence in our conscience. What we need is a way to answer for ourselves if death really is a 'bad event'.

Line 5 now.
"5. Would there be abandoned children?"
Yes. There would be. Because of the way the universe is designed, it is blessing every thought and desire of the soul. So if the soul desires to experience learning independently without experiencing parental love then it gets that experience through what we call abandonment or being orphan. And hence, those parents who we brand "bad parents" just because, fearing some social stigma, they dumped the 'physical child' into the orphanage are actually helping the soul of that newborn baby to slowly experience being an orphan. So now with one change in perspective, what you call bad is no longer bad.
Line 6 now.
"6. If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain."
If everybody in this world had money, would there be any value of it? In this world of relativity the good can't exist without the bad. If you've never felt pain, how will you ever enjoy being pain free? Would you even know that there is something called pain free until you experience pain? Pain and suffering are two different things (the author however uses the words as synonyms). Pain can be very much a physical experience. But a pain doesn't necessarily cause suffering. Suffering is a very psychological phenomenon. You can be extremely poor and yet be extremely joyful. Haven't you seen the little kids of labourers playing by the road side? They have the pain of poverty just like their parents, but that pain doesn't convert itself into suffering for the kids. For they need to understand the existence of money before they can feel bad about the lack of it. Until then, they have the pain, but they're not suffering. Pain essentially is a lack of some kind of comfort of a desirable state we want to be in. Disease is a pain because we see health as a desirable state to be in. But can we avoid the suffering due to disease if we know that I'll appreciate my health even more for I now know what it is to be 'not healthy'? And you alleviate your pain and suffering too or just the suffering, even if the pain persists. So just revel in the glory that every bad thing exists so that you could appreciate the good. When many souls are created from one supreme soul (that we call God), some souls choose to be good and some choose to be bad. This is precisely why God doesn't punish anyone for choosing to be bad because they're only seeking to be one aspect of that duality. And until we meet bad souls, we can't appreciate the good souls.

Line 7.
"7. I can't imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things."
Your imagination is too limited my dear fella. God will never block your free will. If the soul that envelops your body (yes – soul envelopes the body) wants to experience pain and bad things then God lets you experience those things. But why would a soul want to experience bad things or be bad by itself? Because soul knows that the physical life is a limited reality. If you are a good and a versatile actor, would you prevent yourself from taking up a role of a begger, a rich person, a villain, or a hero? Every role has its essence and after you finish one role - say of a hero - you feel bored and feel like doing something different; even if that means being a villain. Our soul goes through such cycles. And would it be fair on the part of God, to first allow us such a freedom to choose and then punish us for being bad? Is that by any means a free choice at all if God tells us something like, "I give you two choices to choose from: Good and Bad. But if you choose bad, you'll suffer in hell for eternity." No. That is not true. And hence, there is no hell. Hell is a concept contrived by religion to introduce fear of God in the minds of people. For without fear, religion would lose its existence. So have no fear. Everything that you did or happened to you which you think is/was bad is meant to be savoured as an experience and God needs to be thanked for it, for he brought to you what your soul chose to experience.

Bless every moment. !!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Breaking News

Media in most of the countries are reeling under lack of freedom. They hanker to get the freedom that Indian media enjoys. But does the Indian media make efforts to translate that freedom into a news of substance for its citizens?

Any news belongs to one of the two categories. One answers the ‘what’ and other answers the ‘why’. The quality of a news channel can be gauged by the proportion of whys among the whats that it helps answer. The purpose of the news should not only be to inform the citizenry of what happened but also dig deeper into the undercurrents and help explain the whys and the trends behind it. Most of the Indian news channel focus on the former and ignore the latter. The only whys they help answering are those of stray murders that they randomly pick up and publicize and earn out of TRP ratings. And if in the process an innocent person is victimized, too bad – for he becomes a victim of the game.

The media has misused its freedom to prevent itself from telecasting genuine news. They make heroes and villains out of stray murders, dish out emotional melodramatic dialogues at the drop of a hat, cameramen practicing zooming on faces – a la ‘K’ serials of Ekta Kapoor (why doesn’t Ekta change her name to ‘K’eta?) follow the reality shows of the sister channels and telecast anything that appeals to the curiosity and amusement of the general laity.

What follows is a sample of prime time ‘Breaking News.’ I leave the floor open for you to comment. Please don’t break your head.

Commissioner's dog captures prime time space

Finally, the dog was found.

What did Rahul Gandhi eat?

Did the Big B sneeze?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Let the World Celebrate your birthday

We know that the population of the world has crossed 6 billion recently. More than 70 percent of the world’s wealth is with 5 percent of the world’s population. That makes for around 300 million very rich people. It’s a long forgone conclusion that the wealth is not equitably distributed around the world. But there are reasons to believe that such people are equitably distributed across space (in different countries) and time (born round the year). Hence there would be an average 821,918 of those rich people born on any given day. On their birthdays, they spend copious amount of cash throwing parties, dining, holidaying and in many other ways that are commensurate with their image in the society. Instead, if these filthy rich people and the rest of us who are better off decide to donate a certain percentage of our earnings to charity only on our birthdays then we would have atleast a million donations happening across the world every single day. The beauty of the idea is that no single person will have to donate too much (just once a year) and yet the NGOs the world over, the UNICEFs and the Greenpeace, the PETAs and CRYs that strive to protect our environment and support the world’s underprivileged will have cash-flows coming in to them constantly.

Since I believe in practicing what I preach, on my birthday my wife and I donated a certain percentage of my salary for a good cause in my hometown. The institution I donated to engages in a lot of social service activities of feeding the poor, educating the young, teaching them skills that make them self sufficient and so on. Scriptures suggest that donation should be confidential and should not be bragged about. With all due respect to the scriptures, I, however, believe it is high time we changed the way the world looks at charity. It is time charity is discussed openly so it becomes a way of life. It is time now that we not only dream about being rich but also about being a rich person that donates, that changes lives, that inspires humanity. Chances are that some of us are already doing this and a few might be doing so more frequently than once a year. If you do, then let us join our hands in making the world celebrate our birthdays. All the interested people may contact me and we’ll see how we can take this forward. The aim is to let all the aforementioned organizations try this idea as a marketing campaign for getting funds. My mail and effort would be successful even if just a few of you can be inspired to do so. But the idea as a whole will not meet its success unless it becomes a way of life the way partying on birthdays has become today.

Let us all strive to give more meaning to our lives. Let us all not just celebrate the number of times earth has revolved around the sun since we were born. For what could be the reason for our celebration if one more stomach can’t be filled through our efforts, if one tree can’t be saved through our donations, if one more drop of water can’t be prevented from getting polluted, if one orphan can’t study due to lack of funds, if one heart can’t melt and feel inspired seeing how we celebrate our birthdays? A birthday that does one of these would truly be a birthday that the world celebrates.

If this doesn’t inspire you, this poetic rendition of my experience might just help.

The Realization

I took an obscure bylane
to reach a nondescript building.
Met my colleagues and friends,
who were already there - waiting.

Together we all waited
for the kids to come out.
About a dozen of them came,
with a hope that would never fade out.

God hadn't been too kind to them.
The kids were bequeathed with misfortune.
They lived, in an orphanage,
a life that played to a discordant tune.

Today was a special day for them.
On schedule was "once in a blue moon" shopping.
They all reacted differently in anticipation.
Some did it by tickling and some by giggling.

We took them all to a shop
to the discomfort and surprise of many shoppers.
But the kids could only have basked in the moment
with a shine on their face that was misfit for paupers.

Unlike other kids, these were a well-behaved lot.
They wouldn't even touch the things they were to shop.
For a long time, I couldn't hear their voices.
Perhaps they never thought life would give them any choices.

I wondered why two kids were very quiet.
What I found made my heart go numb.
As if being orphan was not enough,
those kids were also - deaf and dumb.

We finally droppped them home.
Their hands full with stuffs they had taken.
They waved us a mirthful good-bye
as we left with a soul that was stirred and shaken.

Not long thereafter did I realize
that this was the best day of my life.
I had done something for someone,
who couldn't give back anything tangible in return.

I realized what joy is there in giving,
helping these kids in their fight against the odds.
And since kids are closer to HIM,
this was a subtle way to realize the Gods.

I realized how lucky I am,
to have parents for all the love I need.
Oh Lord, I won't whine again for not having shoes,
for I've seen someone without feet.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Technology Vs Spirituality

Would I need a telephone
when I can communicate through feelings?
Would I need transport
when I can be anywhere at the speed of thought?

Would I require arms
if there is none to defend from?
Would I need defence
if there is nothing to defend?

Would I need artificial laws
when I follow the ‘natural’ ones?
Would I need a government
if I’m truly honest to myself and my brethren?

Would I need gadgets for entertainment
when I find joy within?
Would I need to watch movies
when my life is a movie in three dimensions?

Would I need snaps
when I know every moment is imprinted in my omniscience?
Would I need a photocopier
when I learn to play with the universe?

Would I have violations
if I don’t view others’ loss as my gain?
Would I need magic
if atoms dance to my tune?
Would I need hideouts
if I can disassemble and assemble myself at will?

In technology, we find solace.
In physicality, we grope for trace.
Averse to believe what we can’t link,
Enslaved by technology, ‘beyond’, we can’t think.

Isn’t the need for technology
a proof of underdeveloped spirituality?

Monday, March 31, 2008


One more inspired from "Conversations with God."
I thought highly of goodness until
I realized it’s useless without badness.

I glorified the right until
I found it’s nothing without the wrong.

I hated the darkness,
but what is light without dark?

I hailed the spirit to live until
I saw the glory in death.

I adored the winners until
I found the honour in the ignominy of losers.

I eulogized the wise until I saw
my foolishness in ignoring the wisdom of fools.

I deplored the suffering around me
until I found in it a plan divine.

I scoffed at the unequal distribution of wealth,
until I realized we experience what we choose.

It saddens to see the withering of flower,
only to see it give way to the fruit.

It hurts to see the fruit go stale,
but only to enrich its mother - the soil.

The soil then nourishes the same tree
to complete the cycle of trinity.

What we call death is hence an enrichment,
taking life towards its own fulfillment

What should I condemn?
What then may I deplore?
For, in the coin of duality, good
is an obverse side of bad.

In celebrating life but not death
I have a crooked view of faith.
In hankering to win and hating to lose
I’ve, around my being, tightened a noose.

Enlightenment begins with acceptance of all,
in unbridled joy as you enthrall.
Epiphany is when you realize
that just when you think, you materialize
and then you go within and internalize,
in the deepest silence you visualize,
that you always knew
what there ever was to know,
that it’s not about learning the unknown,
but about remembering the forgotten.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Michael Jackson, Me and common sense

This stroke of luck hit me somewhere in Nov 2005. In my entire life, I had never been so close to the iconic pop star Michael Jackson as I had been during that time. We were in the same city of Dubai. Ahem. Ahem. Perhaps he too couldn’t believe his luck; so much so that he went berserk.

After his much publicized acquittal in the child molestation case, Michael hid himself from the media glare by choosing to stay put in the Middle East under the royal promises of an expensive hideout from the paparazzi. The government of Dubai almost succeeded in keeping him under wraps by quarantining him in one of the world’s most expensive hotel - Burj Al Arab. Nothing wrong with making business out of someone’s desperation they would’ve thought. But funny are the ways of God and Michael (God of Pop). The ‘pop-py’ God just couldn’t prevent himself from popping out a controversy from his eccentric hat of shenanigans. And this time he chose to hit below the belt of the 'apparently conservative' Dubai culture by entering the ladies room in a shopping mall.

The pop star's publicist said Jackson, who arrived in Dubai as the guest of a champion rally driver Mohammed bin Sulayem, did not understand the Arabic sign on the door and left the bathroom as soon as he realized his mistake.

In the statement released later, Jackson's publicist said: "Upon his exit (from the ladies bathroom), he was recognized and a crowd ensued. He had to wait in a nearby bookstore until police arrived to escort him through the crowd." But Mr. Michael had done his job and successfully made his Arabic-ally challenged linguistic abilities the scapegoat.

Much as we would love to lampoon the beleaguered pop star for his confused sexuality, I would like to partly blame the ostentatiously chic washroom signs at some places in Dubai. I was once staring at a similar prospect in 2005 GITEX in Dubai where the artistic toilet door signs wearing Arabic headgears put me in a quandary just when my quest to answer nature’s call had reached its bursting limits. For a few seconds I really thought of letting my bladder blast than be on the wrong side of the law in Dubai. But as they say, common sense is not so common; more so when it concerns uncommon celebrities like Michael Jackson. Since I’m more common than the uncommonly unique Mr. Jackson, I’ve more common sense to overcome such uncommon circumstances even when constrained by an uncommonly swelling bladder. And so I patiently waited at a safe distance from each of the washroom doors for a few people of each gender to get in or come out. Even after they got in, I waited for a few more seconds to confirm that the same folks didn’t come out hiding their embarrassing faces – a la Mr. Jackson.

I didn’t have a publicist or a champion rally driver behind my back to protect me. I was sure people would’ve followed me after they would’ve discovered my faux pass but only to lynch me rather than gape at me in awe. However, I had the uncommon common sense to be patient when it was the last thing I could expect. That, I guess, saved me from reducing the fame barrier between Mr. Jackson and myself.

Isn’t it more than a coincidence that my girlfriend once told me that the thing she likes most about me is my patience? Who wouldn’t want a beau who could behave so sanely in the midst of such an exigency ‘bursting’ at the seam?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

As I can't attend your wedding reception

As I can't attend your wedding reception,
a thought brings itself to my attention.
'As you wind yourself in anticipation
of the pleasure of this loving relation,
I get overwhelmed with emotion;
not sure how to wish you the best of life's collection.'

Life is a treasure, seldom understood.
Nothing matters - is all I know.
In diving into relations, are we building
our sources of enjoyment,
or sources of need,
is all that I want to know.

May the full-stops of life match the full-stops.
May the commas match the commas.
Pray they never juxtapose.

Lest they be caught in the rigmarole of expectations,
if spiritual growth is not the raison d'être for relations.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


The layer of pleasure,
the periphery of desire,
enslaves us often,
tying us in earthly quagmire.

Brush of the derma horripilates,
touch of the hair titillates.
Fingers faint us and nails kill;
yet can't stop those mild caresses.

Skin is the master,
mind is the slave;
we toil, sweat and pant,
for a downpour of pleasure,
through mounts of pain.

Lips roll over drooling tongue
melting in enchanting kisses;
eyes close in anticipation of
pleasure that mind seldom misses.

The eyes in their closure bear the nuance,
lips whisper the lover's name;
mind then conjures the countenance
and makes us all play the carnal game.

Skin is the channel,
mind is the means;
for in the bodily fusion,
fructify the divine plan of creation.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rise and fall of Religion

Inspiration and excerpts from "Conversations with God" - the book that occurred to Neal Donald Walsch.

Lose your faith in yourself
so you may have faith in me.

Don’t question my doctrine
for I have all the right answers.

Don’t question, for if you do,
you will start thinking.
If you think, you’ll go to the source within.
The source would answer differently from
what I contrived.

I filled your heart with fear of God
and replaced the everlasting love for Him,
lest your love preempt my success.

I ordered men to bow down to God
where once man rose up in joyful outreach.

I burdened man with worries of God’s wrath
where once he sought God to lighten his burden.

I told man to be ashamed of his body and its most natural functions
where man once celebrated them as greatest gift of life.

I ‘commanded’ man to adore God
where once you adored God for it was impossible not to.

I made myself an intermediary to God
where you once thought of reaching Him in simple truth and goodness.

I created disunity everywhere,
for, in division – I survive
and in discord – I thrive.

I separated man from God, man from man and man from woman,
who I even made secondary spiritual being.

I made you learn from other’s experience
rather than seek your own.

In your doubts and fears,
I saw my rise;
in your doubts and love
I shall witness my fall.

For in making you doubt yourself
I train you to doubt my ideas.
For in my dogmatic enforcements
I create agnostics.

I made Him a jealous God;
But who would be jealous when one has and is, everything?

I made Him a wrathful God;
But why would He be angry when He can’t be hurt?

I made Him a vengeful God;
But on whom would He take vengeance, for all that exists is He?