Thursday, June 16, 2016

Target 2031..

My friends and colleagues always tell me one thing about myself, that I try to plan everything. Most of the things in my life - routine or non-routine are planned, and I am somewhat blessed that I am able to execute almost all of my plans. I can brag about this trait, but I also have to admit that sometimes my planning is freaky enough to piss off people around me.
However, this post comes as a result of the thought process that I went through while making a major decision of switching my company and the place of living. I had to move from a big brand to a small, relatively young company, and from a sub-urban town in North India to a cosmopolitan city in South India. So a lot of thought went into evaluating what was promised against what I was leaving behind. My then life was pretty stable, following aspects attributed to the stability:
  • I had good reputation in office, and my job was secured for at least another three to four years.
  • My wife had a stable job, she was able to manage both the job and the household responsibilities.
  • I frequently visited family and relatives, especially Bauji.
  • I had a good local social circle, which included influential people.
  • I also started playing badminton after a gap of almost five years, the gap being attributed to my slip-disc injury in Jan 2011.
However, the switch had following things to offer to me:
  • A better opportunity to hone my technical and professional skills, with a 20% increase in the take home salary.
  • A better chance to travel to US, for work. That also offered a chance to pursue my philosophical interest of exploring new geographies, and different cultures, to get more perspectives about life.
  • A better city to live, better in terms of the climate, social setup and career opportunities.
  • A chance to move away for the pollution, which is both environmental as well as cultural, in the north region of India.
  • A chance to move away from the stress that resulted from the over-involvement of relatives in mundane aspects of life.
While I discussed these points with my wife and family, I also discussed these with one of my colleague cum friends, who happens to have a similar approach towards life as me. He and I went to office very less, otherwise working from home, and made sure that we were in office on the same day so that we could have our philosophical discussions on the post-lunch stroll. While he appreciated my decision to make the change, he asked me one question - for how long we would keep doing this, that is keep working in the software/IT industry and keep making such switches every few years?
The question triggered a chain of questions in my mind. The immediate next question that came up was that where do I want to reach at the end of this current journey of working in the IT industry. If I can't think of the final destination, is this journey joyful enough that I can chose to be the traveler for the rest of my life. I thought of where I will reach if I travel for another 15 years on this journey. And so began the plan "Target 2031".

After 15 years, on the career front, I might become a Senior Manager or a Partner or a CEO in a company, and my salary might be 35-40 lac rupees or more. And on the social front, I might be having a high stature, I might be living in a luxury villa in a posh society in a cosmopolitan city. However, how would my "jigsaw" of life look like? I might be struggling to give time to my real "self". One thing that many might agree about the private sector companies is that they will not pay you a single penny for which they cannot squeeze out profit from you. And to generate profits proportional to a 35 or 40 lac rupees salary, I know that I will be spending my time either banging my head on a computer or into the asses of people to get more business. So I thought, can I just abruptly end this journey and do something else, the answer was "No". I am used to a particular pattern of spending, and have a family. The decisions that I make will have a direct impact on the people closely associated with me. I could have taken the brute force approach if I had been single, but now I have a wife whose future will also be impacted from the decisions that I make today.

So to plan a nice end to the journey, I first thought of my final destination i.e. where do I want to end up in next 15-20 years. I am not attracted to the materialistic life of Indian cosmopolitan cities, mall culture, and the existing so-called high society things. They seem very futile to me. To me what matters is to have a very healthy and stress free lifestyle, in a place very close to the "mother" nature, and have a lot of perspectives to see life. I feel very strongly that, in India, majority of the middle class people end up spending a big fraction of their savings in hospitals. For a minor heart attack, people end up spending 4-5 lac rupees within a matter of weeks. The current approach of the middle class society goes like this - start earning money, start filling your savings account, take a house loan to buy a house when you have sufficient savings to pay for down payment, keep thinking about whether or not the investment and the loan were worth the returns, start saving again as previous savings went in to down payments, work more to earn more as the savings are now less because of the EMI(so called "easy" monthly installments), ignore health and other aesthetic aspects of life temporarily to give more time to work more, ignore health and peace of mind more, capitalize on the high ground gained at work and in society, then fall sick and give all the money that was saved from the sprint to the hospital, and then start saving again when you get back on your toes after the ailment. I seriously don't want to live in this thought-less loop.

I have been fortunate that some things happened that gave me a better perspective towards life and I could identify the vicious circle of self-destruction that the society is living in. Apart from reading a few philosophical epics during starting phases of my professional career, I recently did a course of natural-therapy to treat my aggravated asthma. The concept of natural therapy lies in the belief that if the body is made up of 5 basic elements - air, water, soil, fire and prana (life), then it can be treated, for majority of the ailments, by balancing the 4 physical (air, water, soil, fire) and 1 psychological (life) basic elements. Also it can be saved from any ailments by maintaining a balance between these elements. I did the course for a few months, and to my surprise, the dosage of steroid which I used to take in case of asthmatic attacks went down from 800 mg per day to 200 mg every other day. I was amazed to see that what Allopathy could not do in 25 years was done by this course in a few months, that too without any medications. After undergoing the treatment, my approach towards my body was simplified, in the sense that I ate what was best for my body. That simplified and beautified a lot many things about the 5th element i.e. life. The course helped me adapt a semi-yogic lifestyle, semi because I have not been able to control some of my cravings. I realized that if I follow this lifestyle for the rest of my life, my chances of getting seriously ill will be considerably reduced. So I will not have to save a large amount of money for medical expenses, although some amount would still give a cushion for any unforeseen developments. The next thing that would require money will be the children's education. I have always been a strong advocate of the belief that schools or colleges impart only 50% of the required education to the children, the rest 50%, which comprises of the basic well-being and sanskar is imparted at home. If we think that by getting our children admitted to the most expensive school ends our responsibility in terms of their education, we are seriously wrong. So I plan to invest a good amount of time in imparting them sanskar, and put them in a decent school that imparts good education at a reasonable fee. The last thing that would remain will be the basic needs of the family as a whole, and the infallible attachment to certain materialistic desires. I can understand that I cannot be perfect, else I would be God. But I feel that if I try more to adapt to the yogic lifestyle, and try to educate my complete family on this lifestyle, I can reach a better level in disassociating myself and my family from material but immaterial things. I have been able to attain a little bit of the success in this respect, by convincing my wife also to adopt a semi-semi-yogic lifestyle.

The natural therapy and the semi-yogic lifestyle have enabled me to look at the aesthetics of life, and made me realize that a simple life is the most beautiful one. So, rather than setting a goal to become a robot who works for 15 hours a day and earns a hell lot of money with no time for feelings, I set a simpler and more beautiful life goal for myself, the "Target 2031", and here is the plan:
  1. I save money having a value proportional to 30 lac rupees of today, for any medical emergencies in the family.
  2. I lay a good foundation of my children, in terms of sanskar, basic well-being, academics and extra curricular activities. Once they become 15-16 years old, I will let them develop their own philosophy of life. Their sanskars should protect them from going in a rationally wrong direction.
  3. I earn sufficient money to buy a piece of land in some hilly area, build my wooden house there, build a very small farm in the front yard to grow vegetables, keep a cattle for pure milk and a few servants to assist in daily activities. While I will start with this for living peacefully in my own personal space, I may later convert it to a home-stay to serve guests who have a desire to take a philosophical break from their high octane lives. A home-stay would help me earn money to meet the day to day expenses, and it will allow me to gain different perspectives by interacting with different people.
Recently, I have been discussing this plan with a lot of people around me. They feel good listening to it but not to my surprise, they believe it is just talks. I feel how ironical is that, they don't believe that they can give up something complex to get something that is simple and beautiful. Let's see how I fare in executing this plan. What do you think, will I be able to execute this plan?

Friday, February 12, 2016

"Women Empowerment", "Gender Equality" and stressed Indian "WorkingWomen"..

I recently read the results of a survey that showed that women in India are more stressed than the women in any other country. The percentage of women who consider themselves stressed in India was reported around 87%, as compared to 17% in US which is the country with maximum percentage of working women. I understand that the universality of these surveys can be questioned, but still the results can't be assumed to be wrong in entirety. This led to a series of thoughts in my mind, which I am blurting out here. I understand that science has dedicated branches, like psychology and sociology etc., to study shifting mindsets of people and society at large. However, I would like to put forward my views based on my knowledge and life experience.

Today, in any corner of India, we can hear educated people talk about "Women Empowerment" and "Gender Equality". Being educated myself, I completely support these concepts. But like any other make-shift idea, like Adhaar or the universal identity program launched by Indian govt., I believe that these ideas need to be carefully understood before actually adopting or implementing them.

We have been taught in our schools, how in ancient times Indian women were oppressed and were subject to the social rituals like "Sati Pratha" (the act of cremating a live lady along with her husband if latter died) or "Parda" (women hiding their face while meeting people or not meeting people at all). These oppressive rituals and practices went away with time, but still women were not given a major say in social activities or decisions, not even in sensitive things like family planning.
In the traditional household setup, men would go out in the morning and then spend the whole day trying to earn resources to sustain family, while women would spend the whole day cleaning the house, cooking up meals, and serving the children. Men only would plan the future of the family based on their limited awareness of the outside world, limited because they would have seen world only in the perspective of their work. With growing kids and increasing size of family, men would get occupied in the struggle to earn more resources, while women would continue to do the same old household work. Eventually the disparity in terms of the awareness, between men and women grew so much that women were reduced to the meager followers of what men demanded them to do. This resulted in a shift of center of power towards men, which first resulted in corruption of mind and then the debacle of the society.

With the gradual growth of education and awareness, an intellectual class grew in India which developed a progressive thinking. People started realizing how women could play a better and a more important role in the prosperity the family. They realized that if women were aware, they could actually run the entire family by planning an efficient use of the resources earned by men. This could result in a proper balance of power - men earn resources and other essentials, women plan and spend those resources to sustain life and make it more beautiful. With this balance of power, women could hold a position equally important to that of men in the social world. And that's how the terms "Women Empowerment" and "Gender Equality" came up. With this history behind these two concepts, I feel that these ideas have been either misunderstood or not understood at all by majority of the Indian women.

As per my observation, majority of the modern women would describe these terms as below:
  • Women Empowerment - To enable women to work and earn money, and thus have a say in family or society.
  • Gender Equality - To enable women to work and earn as much money as men can, to have the same importance and respect as men.
They consider talking about household as demeaning their education. They will never talk about the "balance" of life. They associate social "importance" to "money" and "social relevance" to "the capability to earn money". I can understand that in old times, importance and social relevance were associated to money. But I also understand that the people who did this faulty association were uneducated and unaware. We can't claim that we are educated, and deserve to be "empowered" and "equal", if we still hold such faulty associations true in our minds.
I can understand that with men busy outside and women busy only in household, the flower of life could not blossom, but it was still watered and alive. Now, with the misunderstood concept of "working women", both men and women are busy earning money and the house is locked up. Like the house, children are also ignored. Because of lack of parental guidance in formative years, they end up either being ignorant or getting carried away by the exciting and misguiding external influences. With parents fighting the world and children mired in ignorance, the flower of life dies.
There are certain biological facts that we cant change. For e.g. men cant give birth, they cant feed or raise a new born. Labor pain and motherhood are the biggest responsibilities of women, in which men can provide extreme moral support but they cannot play a major role even if they want to. With these biological facts, we need to understand that "work" or "job" is also a big responsibility which demands extreme commitment. So if women want to work, they have to mentally and physically train themselves to be able to handle both these responsibilities. Without the physical and mental preparation, if women take up these tasks, they'll not be able to maintain the balance of life and will fall. They can't just focus on "work" and ignore the "house" or "family", and vice-versa. They can blame men for not being cooperative, but they need to understand that it's the lack of their mental preparation that they could not garner support from men or family. And I don't think that educated Indian men have such corrupt minds that they don't want to help their better-halves in achieving what they want.
We need to realize that we were born to live, not to earn money and importance. When we live, and when we get educated, we develop a thought of how we want to further live. Life looks beautiful only if we are able to live it the way we want to live it. Money is just one of the means to attain the beauty of life. We forget that "money" is not important, the "beauty of life" is.
With our education and intellect, we need to define what our "life" is and how we want to live it. There's no harm in being selfish and pursuing higher career goals, but then we should not be impacted or stressed by what society throws at us. We can opt for pursuing a high profile career and not allow to get forced into a socially demanding ways of living. But if we can't ignore the social aspect, we need to understand that we need to  maintain the balance between "work", "house" and 'family" to sustain life. And to maintain that balance, if we have to compromise with our "job", we should not think that we are loosing our "power" or "position" in the society.
To take an example from my personal life, my mother is a post-graduate from a reputed college, and a housewife. If I try to recapture from the time of my consciousness, had she not focused only and only on my father, my sister and me, all of us would have never been able to attain the stable and healthy life that we are living now. She put in all her education and intellect in "beautifying" our family, and our home. She is "empowered" to take any decisions, be it property or any other major spending, and has saved a substantial household budget from and for family expenses. While I cherish my father's guidance on how to deal with the practicalities of life, I "equally" cherish my mother's guidance on moralities and proper ways of domestic living. And that's what brings respect to her and to our entire family.
Like I said in my last post, life is a jigsaw with work, family and self as its various pieces. Working women should try to look at the various pieces of the picture of their life, and hold the pieces together to maintain the beauty of their life. If they do so, they'll feel the harmony and no "stress" between all aspects of life..