Revisiting The Sell By Date

Past The Sell Date?

Past The Sell Date?

Have any of you heard Pink Floyd’s latest album, “The Never Ending River”?  I bought the Deluxe Edition recently on ITunes, and the last tracks showed the band, with the session musicians, playing some of the tracks in the studio. No sci-fi stage effects here. No laser beams shooting their way through the crowd, or psychedelic balloons wafting their way to the heavens. All that you had was a bunch of chaps playing their music in the best way that they know – by being totally immersed in the music. This is one group that has not pandered to the masses by compromising on the music that they create, and while the album is largely an instrumental one, it does provide you with your daily dose of magic. This is why they continue to be one of my favourite bands.

In the studio, what I saw, was a bunch of old guys, greying at the temples, paunches starting to show, and creating magic that many younger ones would find it hard to create.

Unlike corporations these days, where you are considered to be past your sell by date by the time you are in your forties, what I saw was a bunch of chaps who did not seem to have heard the term.

They have not reached their sell by date, simply by staying relevant and outstanding. 

I believe that you reach your sell by date when you start to compromise, become mentally lazy and stop pushing yourself. You may do well in your career by being a good politician, but in reality, you have “expired”.

How do you stay relevant? I believe that you stay relevant, by standing out.

Ann, of The Republic Of Ann, asked me this question in response to my post on The Magic Frame & Yoga: “Should the desire to stand out be a goal, or should standing out it be a by-product of following your vision? “

 This is not the easiest question to answer, but I think that standing out should be the by-product of following your vision. Of course, you need to continuously hone your skills. However, if you follow your vision with your heart, and honesty, you will stand out.

If the desire to stand out becomes a goal, you search for formulas. These formulas may be relevant in an age, or in a situation. They don’t stand the test of time.

I believe that Pink Floyd have followed their vision, which is why they stand out and which is why they have probably never heard of The Sell By Date.

Did This Man Cry “Freedom”?

Cry Freedom..

Cry Freedom..

While walking to a little dhaba near Allahabad station (we were staying in a really seedy hotel), I noticed this man lying with his head in the gutter.


That could have been me during my teenage years. I was in engineering college, and we yearned to be free of the constraints that held us back. Our souls blended with the starry nights as the grassy fumes made their way to the heavens, and gave us the feeling that we were larger than life itself.

Many of my classmates outgrew this as their bodies and minds raced from the teens to the twenties, and the realities of the job hunt hit them. Some did not, and became prisoners of the heavenly weeds that grew around them.

A few of us got jobs in India, and started working here. The rest left for the USA, the “Land Of The Free”, to pursue their masters, and to be free of the shackles that our home country imposed upon them. They yearned for the freedom that the USA would bring to them, and the feeling that they were now part of “The First World”. Many would return to India for short visits, with newly acquired American accents, and talk of being ‘back home in Texas’, conveniently forgetting that it was an Indian education that helped them move from a Third World Country to a First World Country.

Those of us who stayed back in India worked. Some of us did our MBA and some did not. We worked hard, put our nose to the grind to earn more money, to have the freedom to do what we chose.

Our Professor of Macro-Economics told us that almost none of us bright MBA students would become independent entrepreneurs. We would work hard in corporations to make others rich. We were a poor country those days, and chose safety and comfort over the desire to change our dreams. Most of us did not know what our dreams were. But, we were convinced that a good position in a company, with a nice salary would set us free. From what?

We all became slaves to the grind.

I once wrote about an Aussie fellow who I met in Beijing. He told me that he had reduced his possessions, because he found that they were becoming his master, and not he, theirs.

There was a chap in my engineering college who came from a conservative family. The freedom at college allowed him to sink into alcoholism, drug addiction and prostitution, and at the end of his second year (he was 18) was almost kicked out. We pleaded, and he was asked to repeat his second year. Did he reform? No? One morning, he was lying on the floor of the canteen, pretty much like the gent in the picture, when his father arrived out of the blue. No one knows what transpired between them, but the young chap changed. He distanced himself from all of us, became a recluse, and became prone to bursts of spiritualism. I was one of the few he spoke to, and he spoke to me of the self. What he said, was this,”

“For the sake of the family, give up the self; For the sake of the community, give up the family; For the sake of the Nation, give up the community; For the sake of the World, give up the Nation; For the sake of the Self, give up the World”.

Pretty deep stuff actually.

Nirvana, as we believe is, is freedom from all want and desire. It frees us from the bonds that tie us down.

You don’t need to be a Priest to be Holy. When I was photographing something in Allahabad, a Priest waved his feathers under my nose, and yelled, “Chal Hat, Haraami”. This loosely translates as “Get your sorry ass out of here, you scoundrel and son-of-a-bitch.” Not the sign of a chap who has found freedom.

So, my question is: “What is Freedom?”

To me, it is an elusive concept. Our understanding of the word changes as we grow. When my finger presses down on the shutter switch on my camera, I feel free. Or, do I? When I am mindful when I am photographing, or writing, then I feel something. Or, when I am lost in the dance of the light on a leaf as it gently sways in the breeze. There can be just that micro second when you hold ‘eternity in an hour’, and see ‘Heaven in a wild flower’.

Earlier, I though freedom was found in the aisle seat of a business class jet to Europe, or the USA. Or, in the welcoming smile of the staff at a five-star hotel. They make you feel good, don’t they? Then, one day that life vanishes, and so do the smiles.

What remains is yourself.

Something that we chase all the time. But, maybe if we stop chasing it, it will find us?

Maybe freedom is, as Janis Joplin sang, ‘just another word, for nothing left to lose’.

Maybe, that gent in the picture did indeed ‘cry freedom’…

What is Freedom to you?

The Hunger Project 3 – Poison

Poison-2Poison-1 As some of you may know, I went to Benares and Allahabad. These are the last two pictures that I took during that journey.

To some extent, these pictures were inspired by a photograph that I saw in the newspaper in Calcutta many years ago. Oh yes, the city was called Calcutta those days. Anyway, it showed a poor man in the foreground rummaging in the garbage for food to eat, while a rich fella walked into a restaurant.

The photograph was called “One Man’s Food Is Another Man’s Poison”.

I was at the train station at Allahabad, waiting to take the train back, and had gone to the Railway Canteen at the platform to have some of their rather anaemic tea before returning home. While I was sipping my tea, I watched this young chap rummaging amongst the rubbish for food, while the young chaps in the background bought some cakes and other goodies for their journey onwards. There is nothing wrong with that, and there is no need for any of the better-heeled to have money to travel and eat well.

The young chap pulled out bits of food, examined it, smelled it before adding it to his little pile. I put a ten rupee note into his shirt pocket. He was a bit bemused by the note. He looked at it, smelled it, and then peered up at the price list on the board in front of him before shuffling off.

Some of  you may remember the photograph of an old lady sitting by the road as people ate and chucked stuff into a dustbin.

Again, there is no need to feel guilty about eating well.

India’s health statistics are awful and alarming. They have improved no doubt, and so has India’s performance in reducing hunger. However, reducing hunger from 25% of the population to 17%, while commendable at one level, is not enough.

So, what should we feel guilty about? Wasting food, eating way too much for one. Ordering way beyond what we need to eat, while at a restaurant, just to impress our fellow guests.

We need to feel guilty about this.

Let’s now talk about technology. This morning, I read about how the US Agency DARPA, is envisaging the development of aerial aircraft carriers and advanced espionage technology. We spend a lot of money on creating weapons of mass destruction and espionage.

Our Prime Minister has been spending a lot of time outside India, marketing India as a marketing and business destination. This is good, but I think that my crazy brain has an idea.

I plan to write to him, to suggest that he institute research programmes, or seek collaboration, to see if we can extract nutrients from food and organic matter that is thrown away. This could be packaged in a form that is appealing to our cultural sensitivity (and to ensure that it is free from harmful hormones etc), and distributed to those who need food. In my view, this should be a government programme, and not a corporate one. Corporations, bless their souls, are motivated by profit and by the desire to push the products that they market.

In the meanwhile, maybe we should not waste food.






Supplication Number 5,501



This post, and the next, may come across as a bit ranting, in style. I think that I am allowed a bit of a rant.

I had gone to Vrindavan a few times in the last two years, and if you do want to see some pictures of the widows of Vrindavan, I can only encourage you to head over to the blog of a young lady who calls herself A Quirky Wanderer.

These are widows, largely from the state of West Bengal, who find themselves in Vrindavan and lie out the last years of their life here. Most of them are supposed to stay at Ashrams, however, they end up begging on the streets. Some of the younger ones find themselves prostituted in the city.

Vrindavan is known as the city of Radha, and Krishna. Radha is the muse, the consort, of the God Krishna. People in Vrindavan will, in a holier than thou manner greet you by saying, “Radhe Radhe”. The piety is skin deep, evidently.

This is a town with, they say, 5,500 temples. Do we need one more? To my mind, no.

Yet, a few days ago, our President Pranab Mukherji (from the same state as the widows) announced that he would like to build a new temple that is 220 metres high (or 140 metres high). The Qutub Minar in Delhi is 72.5 metres high.

In his asinine brilliance, he said that this temple is necessary for India to take it’s place in the developed world.

The question that I have, is that if we have so much money in India, shouldn’t this money be spent on helping the widows? Or, doing something else for the poor and uneducated of the country?

The widow above spreads the pallu of her sari, and supplicates for money.

Our brilliant people, however, feel that Temple Number 5,501 is more important.


A Touch Of Whimsy – IT or DT?

I am back from Benares and Allahabad, and I have gone straight into the zone of being completely disorganized. I managed to download my photos, and categorise them in to where and when I took them. I do not think that I took too many pictures – about 2,000. But, I don’t feel like looking at them this week.

However, I have an idea for a post, based on the last two pictures that I took at Allahabad Station.

The data that my brain picked up during the week has left me completely fogged. Rather, it has left my brain completely fogged, and I do think that it coincides well with this time of the year when the mornings in Delhi are filled with smog, leaving the sun almost eclipsed by the smoky delight.

However, as I thought about the data that my brain is about to attempt to process, it jumped to two random thoughts.

Thought number one: I have read reports that say that we receive, or get, as much information in a week that a person living in 1800 received in a year.

Thought number two: Most medium to large sized departments have an IT Department, and the IT business is growing rapidly. “IT”, of course, stands for Information Technology.

Google has been one company that seems to have been relatively more honest in (not) stating that it’s business is founded on data.

In my humble submission, information is data that is processed by the brain, and can be acted upon now, or later. The manner in which this data is processed depends on your upbringing (as in schooling, environment, the kind of friends you keep etc), your attitude, your job. It is also influenced by such factors as the environment. Do you have the time to sit in your office, look out onto the lush green meadows outside, and chew the cud as your brain leisurely works on the problems of the world. Or, are you being bombed, and all that you give a shit about is finding shelter and wondering if that crazy bomber is targeting you specifically. Or, if your concern is just finding that next plate of food.

Of course, if you are a busy executive, and love to centralise information (data), do you have the time to read all those newsletters that flood your various inboxes?

We do have the spectacle, at least in India, of screaming and yowling newscasters, yipping away and frothing at the mouth, more intent on becoming celebrities than providing well thought through analysis.

Can we even trust the ‘data’? There was a little snippet in The Times Of India, about a fashion show being held with the Qutb Minar being in the backdrop. While I abhor the tastelessness of such crass commercialisation, there was this gushing writer who spoke about fashion in a Mughal setting. Evidently, she had no time to brush up her history, else she would have known that the Qutb Minar predates the Mughal Dynasty by 300 odd years!

So, my friends, are we truly in the information age, where text messages and power point presentations present information in a meaningful form?

Or, are we in the age of hysterical data overload, too much for our tired, addled and worn out brains to adequately process?

off for a week

I am off for a week tomorrow. I may be able to squeeze in a post tomorrow morning, before I leave.

I am going to Benares. Or Varanasi. Or, Kashi (the city of light). Call it what you may. It is the same city, the city of Shiva, on the banks of the Ganges.

Then, I shall be in Allahabad for a day and a half.

Lots of photography….

The Fables Of The Shah Of Blah (2) – Behind The Closed Door


The Closed Door

As the Shah of Blah sat, gently sending out gusts of malodorous air from his rear end, his eyes rested on the three travelling companions sitting in front of him. Of all the people in the crowd, it is these three who attracted his attention. Looking at them, he smiled, fang-like canines peeping out from between his lips. Horrifying as he looked and smelled, he was a fascinating character, and the crowd was spellbound by him.

There they sat, the wandering Gypsy, Bismillah and Esmerelda. An unlikely trio if there ever was one. It was a mystery as to how such an unlikely band of fellow travellers had come together, but they had.

They were quite different in character and in looks. Shall we describe them before me move on? Maybe yes. It is as important to gain a first glimmer of understanding of the people who listen to a story, as it is to understand the people who are in the story. We shall not talk of the Shah Of Blah at this point. More and more of his character shall be revealed as his Fables progress.

We shall start with the wandering Gypsy. He was nicknamed The Gypsy by an old friend of his. He had known her for many years, and were good friends. There was nothing romantic between them, and we have no idea why we feel it is important to stress this point. Anyhow, he was pf medium height; strongly built, if a bit stocky, brown skin and eyes. His thick shock of black hair was starting to grey. He had travelled the world, and had seen many ports, and as he entered the autumn of his life, he wanted to explore more and more. Yes, now as he travelled the ports, cities, villages, mountains and rivers of the world, his gaze started to turn inward as much as it did outward. The inward journey presented itself with as many perils and rewards as did the outward journey. He was The Wanderer

The second of the three, was Bismillah. He was still burning a bit from being left out of the introduction to the Shah of Blah, and it took us some effort to mollify him, and to assure him that his role in bringing the trio to the Shah Of Blah would not be forgotten. He was the antithesis to the Gypsy. He seemed almost wizened in appearance, and his eyes had a cunning look to them. Always ready to laugh at social convention, he delighted in making fun of all that was pompous in the world, making sly jokes, playing tricks and watching others squirm. He had a way of listening quietly, almost invisible, looking sleepy and innocent before bursting on the unsuspecting victim with a remark of withering sarcasm and black humour. Bismillah liked to think of himself as the Wicked One

Finally, we come to Esmerelda, she of the green hair and the green eyes. She was sometimes referred to as The Old One. She was, it seems old indeed and had come from an ancient time. Yet, she looked no more than one in the prime of youth. She was sinuous, alluring in look. Yet, shadows lurked behind those seductive green eyes. She could spin a web, a web that could catch you like a little fly. Yet, this was not a fly that would fly in the temporal world. She could weave a web around your thoughts, your dreams, twist them around you until you were not sure of what was real and what was not. What is real, she once asked, and what is the dream? Her eyes were almost closed as she said this, and she stretched herself with languor. There were depths to Esmerelda, The Old One, it seemed.

A strange crew indeed, and yet they found themselves wandering together. They seemed to accept each other. They seemed to understand each other.

The Shah of Blah sat there quietly, looking at them. He stretched, his joints creaking, and he said.

“What would you like to hear? A story, perhaps? A fable? Or, an adventure? Let us start on a journey together, and walk down the pathway of dreams, of reflections, of talk.”

“What lies in my mind? Do you know? Do I? What lies behind the locked door? I have not seen it, and neither have you? It is as much of a mystery to me, as it may be to you. The story shall begin, and shall take us down paths mysterious, winding rivers, and into the skies. Let the wind take us, the river cool us, and let us feel the earth beneath our feet.”

“Let us feel the heat of the desert, the icy cold winds of winter, climb mountains, and rejoice in the life that we have been given.”

Standing up, The Shah Of Blah bellowed, “Shall we start to unlock the doors of my mind? Shall we find out what lies behind the closed doors?”


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