Friday, June 27, 2014

Living with purpose

We are connected more than ever before. Our access to information increases exponentially everyday, presenting us with more options to experience the material world. Ironically, the more choices we have, the greater our fragmentation, experience of a lack purpose and of social alienation.

Ultimately, this has to do with validation of our relevance in this cosmos, which is hard for the human mind to decipher because of its evolving complexity. I don't think anyone is spared this affliction. Not even the great inventors and entrepreneurs. This is why Bill Gates has a foundation post his Microsoft career and most folks who have achieved all that they can, materially, turn to philanthropy as a way of finding meaning. Ok not Donald Trump - whose relevance is derived from immortalizing himself with his name on structures that deface the urban landscape. But you get my point! The irony of it is that we all believe that we are uniquely tortured by our "seeking". The truth is far from it. We ALL experience certainty only in the present. And unless we are grounded in a place that is independent of the ever changing material world, we are constantly insecure in our experience of "purposelessness". So then how do we cope? We can simply redefine purpose to not be of the mind but of a place where there is silence from the chatter of thought and ego. That stillness we experience within when we are suspended in space and time - in a manner of speaking! Here are some simple thoughts ( yes, of the mind but of living beyond!)

1.Purpose is incremental. It's being alert and attentive in everyday things.
2. Purpose does not have to be grand and large. It's the little acts of kindness everyday. One selfless act. One kind and forgiving thought even about yourself.
3. Purpose is not in the doing but in the being. It's having a vision of the life you want and going about your every day tasks attentively and with an open mind.
4. Purpose is not willing things to happen but allowing them to happen.
5. Purpose is accepting things as they are without trying to change things. In that state of "non conflict" change will come.
6. Purpose is being genuine, authentic and real.
7. Purpose is being compassionate with yourself and others.
8. Purpose is having the conviction to speak for yourself, what's real for you in the moment and never second guessing yourself once you are done.
9. Purpose is being grateful everyday and in every moment.
10. Above all purpose is the dynamic and evolving relatedness between yourself and the universe

Friday, June 20, 2014

India's education debacle - "counselling" is code for corruption!

Today marked the culmination of high drama. It always is when it comes to matters of admission to educational institutions in India. Let me start at the beginning. I got to know that a young man who had scored very high marks in his 12th grade had been called for "counselling' to an Engg College in Tamil Nadu. The college shall remain unnamed. I will just say that it has a good reputation among employers like Tata Consultancy Services. Anyway this boy's parents being very poor could not afford to pay for his education, which would therefore have remained a pipe dream. Enter my mother. In a conversation with the boy's family she found out about the boy's intellect and his passion to pursue engineering and casually mentioned this to me over the phone in our daily conversation. Coincidentally, a friend in the States, had spoken to me the day before about wanting to be a benefactor of deserving kids who needed financial help for their education. Connecting the dots I immediately contacted him and he promptly despatched the initial payment which the boy would have to make after seat allotment which would follow a "counselling" interview. So the young man set out to this out of town college, a spring in his step and joy in his heart. When he arrived there he got a sucker punch. He was told his prospect for a seat was bleak and of one in his field of choice even bleaker. He was despondent. Turns out people had come in and bought seats with large sums of money. The word "counselling" is used as a ploy to auction seats off to the highest bidder. He could not insist on a seat since his call letter only mentioned the possibility of seat allotment after a counselling interview. He waited and waited while the high rollers walked away with seats in the plum branches. He saw his chances dwindling. He had near perfect marks and the money to pay his fees - but sadly that was not going to do. An innocent young boy who could ill afford to even travel out of his city woke up in a day to the cruelty and corruption of this world.

Happily the story ended well for him today. Desperate, he called my sister, who somehow tracked down a board member of this college, who is a patient of hers, even as she kept the boy's spirits up insisting that he stick around and persist. After 4 days of anguish, he got his admission today, in the only course that was left. Needless to say that was not his first choice! Phew the army of people rooting for him heaved a collective sigh! He will be first person to go to university from his family. But can you imagine the plight of other young boys and girls who do not have the support he received? Most poor children cannot even get this far without paying huge fees for coaching schools and tutorials to prep them for high scores in the 12th exams. They have to be exceptionally bright like this young man. And even after that there are few guarantees. How demotivating for these bright young minds! How can social mobility and income redistribution occur with all these inequities, compounded by corruption of the worst order?

A few of us, including the benefactor in this story, want to help more bright young girls and boys in India who wish to pursue post secondary education and cannot afford it. If you know of people who could use this sort of help do let me know!