All posts for the month January, 2015

Life’s Challenges : Are You Rough, Or Are You Tough?

Published January 9, 2015 by vishalvkale


This is a statement that is commonly stated, and is almost a truism nowadays… “Everyone Faces Challenges”. While it is true that everyone faces challenges, the fact remains that some people face a far higher degree of challenges that others. Further, there are challenges, and then there are challenges… meaning, not all challenges can be stated to be of the same level of severity. 

How can you compare a person who has studied in street lights with one who has had a comfortable privileged upbringing? How do you compare a person who has brought up an entire family of 10+ people alone? I know 2 such people personally. How do you compare a person who has every benefit with one hasnt had that pleasure? How can you compare a person who has not had luck going his or her way with others? {It happens- howsoever much may you deny it. Some people are luckier than others, fact} How can you compare a person who is not as intelligent with one who is? How can you compare a person who is not ready to sacrifice on values with one who is? How can you compare a person who has to fight through every single day all alone {I know of 3 such people} with others? 

How can anyone say that the child of a labourer, studied at night, worked in dirty places at daytime, getting beaten, sweared at {nice sweet words like MC, BC, B-DIke, K***e, etc}, who faces a drunk father, an uneducated mother and these problems to graduate and postgraduate has faced the same challenges as the child of an upper middle class executive who has a room, a bike or car to himself or herself, all the books desired, education in an exclusive top notch school whos fees can feed the entire family of the labourer for months? Who is assured a job due to societies perceptive idiosyncracies and biases as well as family contacts? 

Fact of the matter is that some people face challenges that are far in excess of other people, who tend to extrapolate their experience and make statements on all. Some people face a degree of challenge that most other people cannot even dream about. Please dont belittle their struggles in life by saying that everyone faces challenges… What most people call challenges are in reality only slight ripples; these people have no conceptualisation as to what a challenge really is. As a people, we should grow and learn to appreciate these differences in severity, and thank the Lord for the Luck we have been blessed with.


Moving on, people react differently to challenges life poses to them. To use popular phraseology, some people face them head-on with the right attitude, while others buckle under. We commonly state that some people have fire in the belly, that they overcome the negatives life poses to them.  But this general statement hides some good, some ugly truths, which manifest themselves upon closer examination. 

It is a core psychological concept that attitudes are active, in that they are the external manifestations of your core values. This, I am afraid, is an established psychological fact.  The human’s external behaviour is a core function of these deep seated values- and that includes attitude, which is determined by the deep seated features. These values are what that determine the output that occurs. Attitudes are an evaluation and action – based; the base of these evaluations are the values that you hold dear. 

Values relate to Esteem, Power, Social Status, Security, Morality, Conformity, Tradition – and relate to what each individual holds dear – Self & Power, Change, Security etc. If a person holds Power and Esteem above all else, such a person is more likely to cut corners – a small generalisation as an example. 

It goes much deeper, but I hope I make my point. Attitude is just an expression, an action – the core is the value set of the individual. Attitude is not what we understand it to be; that is just a manifestation, and is in reality controlled by something else. The response to external stimuli is determined by internal personality parameters; the never-say-die or killer attitude etc is just a fashion statement, and has no precise basis in science.  It is just a mere expression based on external stimuli, determined by circumstances and personality, both being equally important.

On being faced with a challenge, small or large – it is your values that determine how you respond, not your attitude or your faith or anything else. Attitude is a function of your value system. A person with strong values will respond in a completely different manner as compared to a person with a weak internal constitution. A strong person will keep faith in his values and not take shortcuts, whereas the weak person will partake in shortcuts. 

This manifests itself in the world around us. A person with a weak value system will take the easy shortcut, and not struggle on the extremely suspect “bahaanaa” that the world does it {sound familiar?}, whereas the person with a real functioning value system will consciously opt for the optimal right path {both words operational and important – rare is the situation that has only one right answer} 

And it is this behavioural pattern that determines how tough you become due to the challenges you face, or how rough you become. The weak, the cowards become rough, whereas the strong become tough. Therein lies the difference.

Fire poses hard questions to a person’s conscience, and to a person’s base value system. The answers chosen by the individual determines roughness or toughness. Tough people are the real success – whereas the rough people are the failures. The world, however, regards roughness as toughness, showing its perceptive errors and ignorance. Roughness can never be toughness; Rough is external and skin deep – whereas tough is internal, and deep-seated. 

The core issue is, if you are being true to your value system, your conscience and the path of right, you are tough regardless of whether you are a material success in life. Material success is pointless, and a complete waste of time. Tumhaare mehel yeh saare, yahin reh jaayenge pyaare, fikar kis baat ki pyaare – wahaan paidal hi jaanaa hai! My parents wealth- whatever it was – still lies on this planet. They could not take it away with them! 

Material success is a means to an end : and the people who compromise on the path of right, on values for material luxuries are the real failures. Material wealth is important – you have to live, after all. The needs of the body are as genuine as the needs of the spirit. But that does not mean you compromise on the good, and the right. What difference is their between you and an Asura in that case? Straight, Frank and Blunt. 

Another word – small- that does not occur to people is “decisions”. Fire is all about decisions, which arise from your value system mentioned above. And it is these decisions that lead to further experiences; the good and value-based decisions lead to situations that are not easy to handle, requiring truthfulness, toughness, and commitment; you are constantly questioned on these, constantly challenged along the path. The one who remains true, passes all, other circumstances being equal. 

And it is because of the constant stream of difficult situations posed by challenges that allows a person to develop decision making skills. And that is how fire brings about toughness. That also defines and differentiates rough and tough. Toughness means facing problems in a calm manner, without panic, taking the right value-based decisions – even if it means pain over the short-term. And, in my opinion, very, very few people are tough by that description; managers, fathers, husbands, wives, friends – everyone chooses the short term. That isnt being tough; that is being rough. And Brash. Straight, Frank and Blunt, sorry. 

What drives a person, and gives the strength to be able to return from a setback? 

Primarily, need drives a person to bounce back everytime. Sorry to be so abrasive {it is unintentional} – this is a classic word used by people who may not have faced the same level or regularity of problems in life. “I admire his or her resilience”. 

What choice does a modern person have? Food doesnt grow on trees; it costs money to live. You have to be resilient today – that is a simple truism. And even a coward can be resilient. That is not hardening, it isnt being tough. That is pure need, nothing else. Any number of people are and can be resilient! 

What is more important is whether, in the process of bouncing back, some compromises on values or conscience have been made. Say a person loses his or her job because he or she is unable to come to terms with playing ball with unethical activities. If this person then starts doing unethical acts just to save the new job and grow, then this isn’t toughness; it may be resilient, since the person has come back and made it. But, in the process this person has made a pact with the devil, and sold his or her conscience, and base values, showing cowardice and weakness. 

Resilience has, thus, nothing to do with being tough, or being hardened. Tough means staying in the fight, struggling while remaining true to the values of honesty, integrity, courage, law, ethics. That is real toughness; not compromising on any value, not giving bribes, not doing anything unethical, being completely honest. The tough man or woman may not necessarily be rich, or in power; riches and power dont define toughness in a human being. Neither does brash abrasive behaviour, aggression, breaking rules and laws, cutting corners, “adjusting” to the ways of the world define toughness; that is being rough. 

As I stated above, tough means being true to your core values, being honest, showing integrity, and having the courage to walk the path of life despite the problems and difficulties you encounter – all the time, never even thinking of wavering from your chosen path of value-based and driven decisions. That is real tougness. 

Are you tough – or are you rough? 

The Axis Of Evil In Contemporary Indian Society

Published January 4, 2015 by vishalvkale

The Axis Of Evil is a term of World War 2 vintage, used to denote the Axis Powers led by Germany. At the outset of this post, let me proffer my apologies for using this term for the present article; if any feelings are hurt, please accept my apologies. This article has no reference to the World War 2 or its ugly memories, or even Colonialism. This is a article on Modern India, and social issues within Modern India. 

The word Evil, going by the dictionary term, means wicked; more pertinently, if we look at the secondary meanings of the word, we get the terms bad, infamous, bad or blameworthy, unpleasant, causing ruin or pain, indicating future misfortune… and my article is concerned with the secondary meaning of the word Evil, not the primary meaning. 

A discerning observer can easily spot three or four behaviours of the people in contemporary India that are coming together to form what I call The Axis Of Evil In Contemporary India, as I mention in the article. Let me get straight to the point : these behaviours are :

  • Corruption
  • Incompetence
  • Attitude
  • Lack Of Community Feeling

These above four are together conjoining into one unfortunate whole, and creating the scenes of disrepair that we see today all around us. They are the Axis Of Evil – and these have permeated most aspects of our society – be it our civil institutions, business, day-to-day life etc, with only a few notable exceptions – exceptions that prove that we, as a society, have it in us to come out of this problem. 

1. Corruption

Do we ever stop and think how the 10 Rs we give to the local policeman or the 1000 Rs we hand over to the local civil authority is harming the nation? How it is hitting India, and hitting it hard? In the article Corruption Can Kill we saw in graphic detail how corruption can also kill, either directly or indirectly – and kill by the scores. Example : “Customs Inspector Talawadekar and Phanse came into the room… Singh and Talawadekar, law enforcement officers, were Phanse’s co-conspirators…” Tiger received a call from a customs inspector…” Tiger refers to Tiger Memon, and this was the prelude to the Mumbai Bomb Attack. 

We saw in the Cobrapost expose how corruption has begun to eat into the core of our business institutions as well, with no one even caring to think that the money they are handling may have illicit sources. Can anyone of us normal citizens give a guarantee that the money we pay as bribes does not land up in the hands of the terrorists or criminals? That the money we are helping move around may be a conduit for serious illicit causes? That the silence we display may actually end up harming thousands of people, as has happened in the various scams in the stock market? In every case, the silent acquiescence of tens or perhaps hundreds of normal people has led to serious loss or worse to countless people!

This reprehensible and cowardly silence, and active or passive involvement in corrupt acts has a tremendous cost to innocent people, the organisations, our society, and the nation. Only the people involved are unaffected, they take home their salaries, their promotions, their house and their cars; without a care for the impact of their actions on the nation and the innocent people… 

2. Incompetence

This brings me to the second factor in this Axis : Incompetence. These people – who are termed “worldly-wise” by some sections of our so-called educated population, are themselves not aware of the serious impact of their behaviour. This is classic incompetence; despite being educated – some of them highly educated, these people are shockingly unaware of the damage they are causing to everyone, as we shall see later on in graphic detail

The factor of incompetence goes much, much deeper than this, and connects effortlessly with the third factor – Attitude. Take a careful look at any activity, and you can spot shocking lapses of performance and of incompetence in virtually any activity you care to observe. Let us take the example of a security guard at any mall. I have routinely been seeing every entrant to malls being searched, bags being searched; but the so-called search is a mere bagatelle, a formality. 

The shocking laxity in security searches in malls, that too in a nation hit hard by terrorism, points to deep-seated incompetence at all levels – from the security guards to the top people, who just don’t care enough about security, and are just not aware of the risks – which is crass incompetence. The same can be seen at Railway Stations, I have seen people just walking around the metal detectors, and authorities just looking on, or metal detectors kept to one side!

I could understand if this permeated only Governmental institutions, but a look at the corporate scenario only reconfirms my hypothesis of gross incompetence. How many corporate managers in telecom or finance wonder about the fake documentation with regard to KYC documents, for example? Did anyone stop to think of the risks to the nation and the organisation? How many sales professionals stop to think of the damage they are doing their company, the channel, the network by offloading needless stocks just to save their jobs, and of how many people’s careers are destroyed, and of the irreversible damage to the brand? Again, this is classic incompetence of the highest order! 

3. Attitude

Incompetence blends into attitude; not everyone is incompetent. There are any number of highly competent people who just compromise like cowards, with the manifest disorder all around, in some pretext or other. Call it the chalta hai attitude, or call it selfishness – call it what you will. These people are aware of the damage their actions are causing their organisation, the brand, the society, the nation – but make no overt or covert effort to make their surroundings a better place.

Attitude manifests itself anywhere you see it : people throwing dirt on the road, paying a bribe, taking a short-cut, walking around a metal detector and considering yourself smart for doing so as you have avoided the rush, allowing people to avoid metal detectors despite being aware of the risks involved. As we shall see in the next article, this is manifest in virtually every activity! 

4. Lack  Of A Community Feeling

This brings us to the fourth and by-now obvious pillar of this sorry state of affairs : the Lack Of A Community Feeling. Every action seen above places the self and the family above the nation, the people, the society, the neighbourhood, and the surroundings. We as a people love to go gaga on nice-sounding mantras by change agents – but lack the courage or the competence {or both} to be the change. 

And that is why we have a shameful sight of The Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi himself having to call for Swatch Bhaarat! And an Aamir Khan to do advertisements for cleanliness in India. Honestly, this is shameful in the extreme that we require such august personalities to learn behaviours that we ought to learn our mother’s laps! And the most shocking and shameful aspect of this is the pride we feel in having The Prime Minister Narendra Modi call for cleanliness! 

Tell me, are we so dirty a people that we cant keep ourselves clean? And if we can keep ourselves clean why cant we keep our nation clean? We require Narendra Modi for this? Shame on us! Cant we hold onto our urine for 15 minutes while we find a loo? Cant you take a day’s leave from your company to take out a driving licence the right way? I could go on and on! As I said, shame on us! 

In Conclusion

These four factors – Corruption, Incompetence, Attitude and Lack Of A Community Feeling are what I call The Axis Of Evil. It is painfully clear that these 4 habits are indeed Evil in the secondary meaning of the term. These are what have the potential to lead India to misfortune, give India an unpleasant name, are bad, are blameworthy, and make us infamous as a nation. Truly and verily, The Axis Of Evil. 

And, in at least one case, it is also Evil in the primary sense of the term : corruption, which can and does cause serious damage to the nation as a whole and to its people. Taking a bribe from a criminal is pure evil; ignoring money laundering is also evil; turning a blind eye to harmful deeds which lead to losses to millions of people is also pure Evil. Verily, The Axis Of Evil In Contemporary Indian Society – and these are the habits we need to change; and without the help of Mr Narendra Modi, who is frankly not there to help us tend to our bad habits! He is here to run the country, let him do that… let us focus on smashing this Axis Of Evil from all walks of our lives…

PK, The Movie : One Of The Best…

Published January 1, 2015 by vishalvkale


PK : A Movie Ahead Of Its Time;

A Movie That Is A Very Vital And Current Need!

I dont normally review movies; my blog does not lend itself to such an activity, given its positioning as one that asks some tough questions to Indians. I am making an exception for this movie, not because it is a landmark movie {which it is}, but because this movie is also one that asks some pretty blunt, and to some people, offensive questions. 

It is rather sad and humbling to see the vigorous protests to this movie, and some cases of active on-street protests and interference in some places. Sad, because there is almost nothing in the content that should excite such actions; and humbling because it is a painful reminder that we as a nation have still a ways to go in our quest for true development!

Before I move onto the movie, I have just one question : did the protesters also protest to Haider? If no, you did not find the negative portrayal of The Indian Army objectionable? That was great Cinema? Showing our beloved Armed Forces in a negative light is art, and acceptable? Asking questions of the Army based on excesses is ok, despite the negativity? And asking anything from our Religion is NOT ok? So which is more important – Hinduism, or India? 

The movie is about an Alien who is stranded on this planet; as it happens, his “remote” to contact his ship to come collect him is stolen on his landing. The rest of the movie is about his hunt for the remote, and his adventures as he goes about it. It is a hard-hitting expose on human nature and modern life, or what we call civilization. And, as we shall see, the movie ends with a punch to the gut, which leaves you almost feeling ashamed of being a human being on Earth. The movie gives you pride in being a Hindu, or to be accurate, a Sanaatan Dharmi; but it makes you feel ashamed to be a Human Being living on this planet, all in just one shocking dialogue, that takes your breath away, and leaves you retching in sheer disgust at humanity. 

The Alien, who has been given no name, is from an advanced race that does not speak, but communicates with telepathy. Thus, they are unable to lie, or practice chicanery in any form. And this poor fellow is loose in a land full of lies and uncaring people. {Close your eyes, and imagine this scene for a moment; imagine his desperation!} When people, unable to understand, tell him – ask God – he begins to question, who is this God? And gets directed to a Temple, as this is the most populous in India. He asks God to return his Remote to him, and sits in the Temple, waiting for God to give it back to him – since that is what he sees people do : ask God, do this and do that for me! 

He then sees people doing all sorts of penance – Flowers, Milk, Chaader on a Muslim Peer Tomb, Churches – and he does all of this. He sees people donate money to the Temple, and blindly follows this. And then, when obviously no result is obtained, doesnt get angry – unlike us. He just assumes that God is missing from these places of Worship, and distributes placards and posters with images of all Gods of all Religions, asking “Missing”, if anyone finds God, please contact me!

Religion is only one of the two or three themes of the movie; to be sure, it is a predominant theme – but it is one theme among two or three nonetheless. And the picture is not about Hinduism, it is about Religion, blind faith, loot, lies and chicanery. It just so happens that first, we Hindus are the majority in this nation. Other religions have also been covered. 

Second, can anyone imagine the reaction if such hard questions were asked of Islam? Or, to an admittedly much lesser extent, Christianity? Recall the protests to The Da Vinci Code? Or the various problems in the Islamic world? Is it really feasible to ask such hard questions of Islam? Thus, isnt it a matter of tremendous pride for us Sanaatan Dharmis that we are followers of an open faith, where such questions can be asked?  

The movie then acquires a compelling and rapid narrative, as PK gets mixed up in politicised religion, and gets pitted against a powerful so-called Godman. Also mixed in is a lovely India-Pakistan love story that will tug the strings of your heart. And the best part of this is that all these 3 narratives combine into one story effortlessly and naturally. 

The movie does not question the need for Religion; neither does it question the existence of God. It does not mock any Religion; rather it mocks the practices and blind faith that goes into the same. It does not question the core tenets of any faith, let alone Sanaatan Dharm. It actually preaches that Man does need to pray to God, and that God does help. 

The movie is not an attack on any Religion; it is an attack on Mankind as it exists today. It is teaches us to believe, to have faith in God, and that God helps those who helps themselves. Isnt that what Sanaatan Dharm says precisely? It teaches us the value of true love, of self-confidence, and of true faith; it teaches us to have faith in God, and focus on our Karm. Again, precisely Sanaatan Dharm. After all, the movie has been written and directed by a Hindu. {By the way, that reminds me – if this has been written and directed by a Hindu or Sanaatan Dharmi, pray tell how is Aamir Khan the only one being questioned?}

Hats off to you, Team PK! Sad that so many people have not understood its core message… there are some movies with a message. And then there are some messages with a movie woven into them, like PK. A landmark movie… stupendous. Stupendous! We need more such movies, and more such courageous actors and directors and artists… take a bow, Team PK! Stunning! Superlative! One of the best motion picture features to come out of Mumbai!

I say it again : Strange that Haidar does cause even a ripple, with its negative portrayal of our beloved Armed Forces, and PK with its questions on so many vital aspects of life can cause an uproar! Is the nation more important or the religion? I am an INDIAN first. Did not watch Haidar, do not intend to. No one insults my Army. Sorry. And PK is much, much deeper… 

jhoothh bolnaa seekh kar gayaa, pyaar karnaa sikhaa gayaa”  the last dialogue of the movie… 

An Alien comes to this planet, and the only thing he learns from this planet and from us Humans… how to lie; while teaching us the true meaning of love… A matter of some pride, isnt it, that the only thing we can teach an Alien is the art of lying???? Thus, after thousands of years of development, of civilization, that is all we can teach someone? Shame on us…