Amazing Life # 4 – Being Forgetful


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about  little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Being Forgetful

Sonia, my boss, mentor and very good friend once asked me ‘How come you always keep forgetting things? When ever I ask you, you seem to have forgotten it for one reason or the other.’

I did not have an answer but as usual – I had to say something ! The last word was mine, I said and I quote “I don’t forget by chance, I forget by choice” That fact that I had watched James bond in Casino Royale the evening before had nothing to do with it.

She looked at me with a rather peculiar look and said.’That’s the weirdest thing I have ever heard’

It wasn’t the first time she said that, it sure was not the last.

The question is why is this a good feeling? Something that happened today strengthened my belief in the idea of forgetting.

I called up an old friend just to say hi (Got a friend request from her on FB.) ! She picked up the phone and we spoke for almost an hour… I just did not realize somehow that she dumped me when I was 14 and it sure did hurt back then. Life moved on and I forgot, and it was really okay when I remembered it today. Forgetting just takes the edge of things. Maybe it is the the little  bit of Emotional intelligence that we all need.

One secret to happiness is to be able to forget, forget what is not necessary or relevant to being constructive. Forget the regrets, grudges, opinions and mistakes if you can. Forget any superstition, rumor, allegation, frustration and worry and see, there will be so much more to remember.

A feminist friend of mine always says – ‘Women remember more! They are smarter’ …Sure they do ( I am not trying to be biased, if you take offence on this – get some humor hormones!), Its maybe because they remember more, they always have reasons to sound worried and men forget and see how happy they are:).

Of course it is easier said than done and it has massive disadvantages against people who remember… the conversation we had last year in summers about how bees fly and the conclusion of what makes the zzzzzzzzz sound. huh??? I don’t remember the conclusion, the conversation or even the weather – all i remember is that I met a buddy because that is what made me happy.

It is also a choice between being good and being happy. Memory is good, forgetfulness ( If that’s a word) is happier and that is just my personal opinion.

Look at it like a computer – What happens when too much of data is stored on the hard drive. Slows down the computer? and what happens when there are too many programs running together – Crash and burn?

All the information we collect, important and un-important is the data. Pick what you need and forget the rest ( Make notes if you like). The multiple processes are the emotions – the negative ones specially have a tendency of auto-start. They keep going on and on unless you forget about them.

So, how do you forget – Three things that I always do are :

  1. Get busy – Find something else that occupies you mentally and do it passionately enough to skip your lunch once because you did not realize the time.
  2. Get creative – Creating things from scratch is a great feeling and drives passion( Does not apply to creating babies) through the roof. It is this adrenalin that works as a pain killer.
  3. Get adventurous – Do something that you have never done before like Bunjee jumping. Personally,I feel it will be a great remedy for mid-life crisis.

These are just distractions, memory loses itself  and people forget what is on top of their head.

Some things that feel really good once forgotten are;

  • Forgetting why you fought with your spouse and end up bursting out into laughter
  • Forgetting to  watch a match where the team you like lost anyway
  • Forgetting to lie where you had planned to and end up saying the right thing with benefits later
  • Forgetting to say bye or express your love to the one you love only remember later how much you love them!
  • Forgetting to eat when you are putting on weight
  • Forgetting to do something nice in the first place only not to regret it later
Comment on this thread about ‘What can you forget and feel happy about?’

Live well and go forget… Cheers. Abhi

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Amazing Life # 3 – Being happy for strangers


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Being happy for strangers

It is just amazing how a smile can be contagious. It is one thing I would love to be contaminated with.

This is an old story about a day that happened to be pretty gloomy and dead. It was the day when it didn’t go too well in the office. Friends didn’t have time. I did not want to spend time with family. It was hard to focus on anything and window shopping was the only shopping because it was free and affordable.

Even on that day, stuck between 5 people, hitching a ride in a bus, when I saw that little girl hitting her nose with her hand, almost with the expression ‘Where did this thing on my face come from?’ and her mother looking at her in aw and disbelief, redefining beautiful; that split second of magic made me smile for a night and even the next morning.

That is the power of happiness and it comes in strange packages – correction! – stranger packages.

I am sure you would have had those moments in life when you look at something really everyday, in a different way, connect with it and end up smiling ear to ear. A little hard to explain, but it’s not  laughter, not a humorous smile, neither sarcastic,  nor sadistic, its not bound by the axis of being real and artificial; I feel neither English nor any other language has an adjective for it – its just a smile.

They come by at traffic signals, at bus stops, on silent evenings, on really really early mornings and with good news – even when it has nothing to do with you, good or bad.

In times when winning a race about creating strategies that ensure others fall so that even if you are not the fastest – you can win, its funny that such a feeling can exist.

Today I read in the news about Mohammad Aamir – spent 14 years in Jail for being wrongfully accused and finally freed to a dead father and and paralyzed mother. At least he saw the world outside of brick and mortar before his sun set far east. A touching account of how truth triumphed finally – better late than never. That put a smile back on my face in the middle of thoughts about how to handle the very-ignorable  problems that I, just like rest of us, was crying over…I was happy for a stranger and it felt great.

So my tip is:

Find such moments when you can smile for others. Close your eyes and think about that moment because smiling for others is certainly better than smiling at them.

PS- You can read the full story about Mohammad Aamir here – Its motivating!

Story @ The Sunday Guardian

Cheers to that one smile; Abhi

Story Time – The Right is Wrong


A physics professor was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed a perfect score.

Who was right? The instructor and the student agreed to an impartial arbiter (The Judge) , and a learned man was selected.

He read the examination question:

” Q 12: Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building using a barometer?”

The student had answered, “Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to the street, and then bring it up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building.”

The student really had a strong case for full credit since he had really answered the question completely and correctly!

On the other hand, if full credit were given, it could well contribute to a high grade in his physics course and to certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm this.

The judge suggested that the student have another try. He also gave the student six minutes to answer the question with the warning that the answer should show some knowledge physics. At the end of five minutes, he had not written anything. arbiter asked if he wished to give up, but he said he had many answers to this problem; he was just thinking of the best one.

The judge  excused himself for interrupting him and asked him to please go on.

In the next minute, he dashed off his answer which read:

“Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then, using the formula x=0.5*a*t^^2, calculate the height of the building.”

At this point, the judge  asked his colleague if he would give up. He conceded, and gave the student almost full credit.

While leaving the colleague’s office, he recalled that the student had said that he had other answers to the problem and asked him what they were.

“Well,” said the student, “there are many ways of getting the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer. For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building, and by the use of simple proportion, determine the height of the building.

“Fine,” he  said, “and others?” “Yes,” said the student, “there is a very basic measurement method you will like. In this method, you take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and this will give you the height of the building in barometer units.” “A very direct method.” “Of course.

If you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer to the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of g at the street level and at the top of the building. From the difference between the two values of g, the height of the building, in principle, can be calculated.”

“On this same tact, you could take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to just above the street, and then swing it as a pendulum. You could then calculate the height of the building by the period of the precession”.

“Finally,” he concluded, “there are many other ways of solving the problem. Probably the best,” he said, “is to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent’s door. When the superintendent answers, you speak to him as follows: ‘Mr. Superintendent, here is a fine barometer. If you will tell me the height of the building, I will give you this barometer.”

At this point, the judge asked the student if he really did not know the conventional answer to this question. He admitted that he did, but said that he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him how to think.

While there is no proven record, some say that this man CV Raman, Indian Nobel laureate. (Read updates below for clarity)

Food for thought:  There always are many answers to questions, ones wrong answer can be other persons right. This makes me question all the feedback I get and that is where the learning happens.

Are you open to the new? To think and to understand openly by introspection and listening are the two biggest missing pieces in the emotional evolution of humans.

This made me wonder about one current situation which I would dedicate this story to – The Indian Lokpal Fiasco – Apparently everybody has the same objective ( Eradicate corruption) but nobody open to understand each other. Who can be our arbiter?

Update 1: 8/02 7.23 PM IST – After a reader comment, another name who could have actually been in the heart of this story is Neils Bohr, Danish Nobel Laureate. Either ways, the LOKPAL team can learn from it!

Update 2: 9/02 6.12 AM IST – Another reader shared a link while appreciating the thought that puts more of this story into perspective. It wasn’t Raman, or Bohr it seems. It was more like a textbook problem. Read it for yourself: http://www.snopes.com/college/exam/barometer.asp

Source: Abridged from various sources including what my grandfather told me (by Abhinandan Chatterjee). Primary reference - Disha - ASJ magazine 2003

TedxGurgaon Talk – On Non Conformity


My talk at the TEDxGurgaon. 2011 10’Dec

Penguins, Lightbulb and a Beer belly! – A talk about non-conformity and us. Happy watching!

I would request you to share your perspective about the idea in it, or the presentation. Looking forward to your comments!

So what if the technology fails, you can still keep going as long as you believe in the message you share!

You can even read an article about this topic at https://abhinandanchatterjee.com/2012/01/04/dreamsfaith-a-beer-belly/

Cheers,

Abhinandan Chatterjee

Story-time: No Try No Foul


This is a real incident.

Houdini was a master magician as well as a fabulous locksmith.

He boasted that he could escape from any jail cell in the world in less than an hour, provided he could go into the cell dressed in his street clothes. A small town in the British Isles built a new jail they were extremely proud of. They issued Houdini a challenge.

“Come give us a try,?” they said.

Houdini loved the publicity and the money, so he accepted.

By the time he arrived, excitement was at a fever pitch. He rode triumphantly into town and walked into the cell. Confidence oozed from him as the door was closed. Houdini took off his coat and went to work.

Secreted in his belt was a flexible, tough and durable ten Inch piece of steel which he used to work on the lock. He got it out and started his magic.

At the end of 30 minutes his confident expression had disappeared. At the end of an hour he was drenched in perspiration. After two hours, Houdini literally collapsed against the door. The door just opened.

In aw and shock Houdini almost had tears in his eyes. ‘What just happened? it opened itself!’ he exclaimed.

You see it had never been locked – except in his own mind –which meant it was as firmly locked as if a thousand locksmiths had put their best locks on it. One little push and Houdini could have easily opened the door but thanks to his perception he never tried that.

Many times a little extra push is all you need to open your opportunity door. You don’t get opportunities, you need to make them.

Learning: There is no harm in trial, there is only learning.

Source: Based on excerpts from a newspaper article. Rewritten by Abhinandan Chatterjee.

I am doing a bit of research about goals. Please answer this poll, will be grateful.

Humility 101 – Taught by an auto-rickshaw driver


The mentioned auto rickshaw driverThis is not a  story. It is something that hapenned to Suvendu Roy who works with a renowned watchmaker and lives in Mumbai with his family.

He shares his inspirational encounter with a rickshaw driver in Mumbai:

‘One Sunday, my wife, kid, and I had to travel to Andheri from Bandra. When I waved at a passing auto rickshaw, little did I expect that this ride would be any different…

I looked in front and there was a small TV. The driver had put on the Doordarshan channel.

My wife and I looked at each other with disbelief and amusement. In front of me was a small first-aid box with cotton, dettol and some medicines.

This was enough for me to realize that I was in a special vehicle.

Then I looked round again, and discovered more – there was a radio, fire extinguisher, wall clock, calendar, and pictures and symbols of all faiths

– from Islam and Christianity to Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism.

There were also pictures of the heroes of 26/11 ( The terrorist attack in Mumbai) – Kamte, Salaskar, Karkare and Unnikrishnan.

I realized that not only my vehicle, but also my driver was special.

I started chatting with him and the initial sense of ridicule and disbelief gradually diminished.

I gathered that he had been driving an auto rickshaw for the past 8-9 years; he had lost his job when his employer’s plastic company was shut down.

He had two school-going children, and he drove from 8 in the morning till 10 at night.

No break unless he was unwell. “Sahab, ghar mein baith ke T.V dekh kar kya faida? Do paisa income karega toh future mein kaam aayega.”

We realized that we had come across a man who represents ‘India’ – the spirit of work, the spirit of travel and the spirit of excelling in life.

I asked him whether he does anything else as I figured that he did not have too much spare time. He listed a few things :

  • He said that he goes to an old age home for women in Andheri once a week or whenever he has some extra income, where he donates tooth brushes, toothpastes, soap, hair oil, and other items of daily use.
  • He pointed out to a painted message below the meter that read: “25 per cent discount on metered fare for the handicapped.
  • Free rides for blind passengers up to Rs. 50.

My wife and I were struck with awe. The man was a HERO. Someone who deserves our respect.

Our journey came to an end; 45 minutes of a lesson in humility, selflessness, and of a hero-worshiping his country and his people in whatever he can.

We disembarked, and all I could do was to pay him a tip that would hardly cover a free ride for a blind man.

I hope, one day, you too have a chance to meet Mr Sandeep Bachhe in his auto rickshaw: MH-02-Z-8508.’

This story really made me think about how sometimes I end up saying things to explain why I  can not do a lot for others. In essence, it is always about my life being at a critical juncture and being a priority. Who’s is not?

It inspired me to do something for free for the first time and I started www.storyfication.com. The online encyclopedia for stories. The project is called ‘the  story board project’

Moral – If we being humans do just a little for others as awe do for ourselves selflessly, over 80 % of the worlds crisis can me mitigated. Do your bit when ever, with whatever, and however you can.

Source: Suvendu Roy, first received this on a trail mail. Re-written and concluded by Abhinandan Chatterjee

How badly do you want to grow?


This is an old Greek fable about a scholar who went to Socrates.

He travelled the length of the world and learned about all the wisdom available, his name was Cicero and he went to Socrates in an attempt to learn what no one else could teach him.

Once Socrates found this out, he refused to teach Cicero. He begged, pleaded and finally managed to convince Socrates to at least hear his plea.

Walking by the seashore, Cicero was trying to convince Socrates to be his mentor when suddenly the wise Socrates walked chest-deep into the sea.

Cicero walked behind him and stopped. Socrates looked into his eyes and asked Cicero, ‘what do you want?’ To this Cicero replied, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’. Socrates smiled, pushed Cicero inside water and forcefully kept him there for a while.

Once he came out of water and had almost lost his breath, Socrates asked again, ‘what do you want?’ Cicero realized it was a test of some kind and loudly replied, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’ only louder this time.

On hearing this, Socrates pushed him into water again and let him stay there longer. Once Cicero came out of water, he was panting heavily and had almost drowned; Socrates asked again, ‘What do you want?’ Cicero knew that it was a test of some kind and replied in even louder voice, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’. Socrates smiled again and pushed Cicero back into the water.

This time Socrates pushed him hard until Cicero fought his way out, panting and pale, unable to understand Socrates’ behaviour. Socrates asked him again, ‘what do you want?’ Cicero arrogantly answered ‘I want to breathe’!

Socrates smiled and said, ‘the day you want to learn as bad as you wanted to breathe, come back to me and I will teach.’

Moral: It is important that you really want to learn, without that even joy is just a compulsion. When we want something badly and strive to get it with the whole of heart and mind – We do!

Your truth or my truth? What makes you right


Culture is a reaction to nature, and this understanding of our ancestors is transmitted generation from generation in the form of stories, symbols and rituals, which are always indifferent to rationality. And so, when you study it, you realizethat different people of the world have a different understanding of the world. Different people see things differently — There indeed are different viewpoints.

There is my world and there is your world, and my world is always better than your world, because my world, you see, is rational and yours is superstition. Yours is faith. Yours is illogical. This is the root of the clash of civilizations. It took place, once, in 326 B.C. on the banks of a river called the Indus, now in Pakistan. This river lends itself to India’s name. India. Indus.

Alexander, a young Macedonian, met there what he called a “gymnosophist,” which means “the naked, wise man.” We don’t know who he was. Perhaps he was a Jain monk, like Bahubali over here, the Gomateshwara Bahubali whose image is not far from Mysore. Or perhaps he was just a yogi who was sitting on a rock, staring at the sky and the sun and the moon.

Alexander asked, “What are you doing?” and the gymnosophist answered, “I’m experiencing nothingness.” Then the gymnosophist asked,”What are you doing?” and Alexander said, “I am conquering the world.” And they both laughed.Each one thought that the other was a fool. The gymnosophist said, “Why is he conquering the world? It’s pointless.” And Alexander thought, “Why is he sitting around, doing nothing? What a waste of a life.” They must have found each other ‘Stupid’

To understand this difference in viewpoints, we have to understand the subjective truth of Alexander — his myth, and the mythology that constructed it. Alexander’s mother, his parents, his teacher Aristotle told him the story of Homer’s “Iliad.” They told him of a great hero called Achilles,who, when he participated in battle, victory was assured, but when he withdrew from the battle,defeat was inevitable. “Achilles was a man who could shape history, a man of destiny, and this is what you should be, Alexander.” That’s what he heard.

“What should you not be? You should not be Sisyphus, who rolls a rock up a mountain all dayonly to find the boulder rolled down at night. Don’t live a life which is monotonous, mediocre, meaningless. Be spectacular! — like the Greek heroes, like Jason, who went across the sea with the Argonauts and fetched the Golden Fleece. Be spectacular like Theseus, who entered the labyrinth and killed the bull-headed Minotaur. When you play in a race, win! — because when you win, the exhilaration of victory is the closest you will come to the ambrosia of the gods.”

Because, you see, the Greeks believed you live only once, and when you die, you have to cross the River Styx. And if you have lived an extraordinary life,you will be welcomed to Elysium, or what the French call “Champs-Élysées” – the heaven of the heroes.

But these are not the stories that the gymnosophist heard. He heard a very different story. He heard of a man called Bharat, after whom India is called Bhārata. Bharat also conquered the world. And then he went to the top-most peak of the greatest mountain of the center of the world called Meru.And he wanted to hoist his flag to say, “I was here first.” But when he reached the mountain peak, he found the peak covered with countless flags of world-conquerors before him, each one claiming “‘I was here first’ … that’s what I thought until I came here.” And suddenly, in this canvas of infinity,Bharat felt insignificant. This was the mythology of the gymnosophist.

You see, he had heroes, like Ram — Raghupati Ram and Krishna, Govinda Hari. But they were not two characters on two different adventures. They were two lifetimes of the same hero. When the Ramayana ends the Mahabharata begins. When Ram dies, Krishna is born. When Krishna dies, eventually he will be back as Ram.

You see, the Indians also had a river that separates the land of the living from the land of the dead. But you don’t cross it once. You go to and fro endlessly. It was called the Vaitarani. You go again and again and again. Because, you see, nothing lasts forever in India, not even death. And so, you have these grand rituals where great images of mother goddesses are built and worshiped for 10 days … And what do you do at the end of 10 days?You dunk it in the river. Because it has to end. And next year, she will come back. What goes around always comes around, and this rule applies not just to man, but also the gods. You see, the gods have to come back again and again and again as Ram, as Krishna. Not only do they live infinite lives,but the same life is lived infinite times till you get to the point of it all. Call it Christmas if you will.

Two different mythologies. Which is right? Two different mythologies, two different ways of looking at the world. One linear, one cyclical. One believes this is the one and only life. The other believes this is one of many lives. And so, the denominator of Alexander’s life was one. So, the value of his life was the sum total of his achievements. The denominator of the gymnosophist’s life was infinity.So, no matter what he did, it was always zero. And there are people who believe, it is this mythological paradigm that inspired Indian mathematicians to discover the number zero. Who knows?

And that brings us to the mythology of business. If Alexander’s belief influenced his behavior, if the gymnosophist’s belief influences his behavior,then it was bound to influence the business they were in. You see, what is business but the result of how the market behaves and how the organization behaves? And if you look at cultures around the world, all you have to do is understand the mythology and you will see how they behave and how they do business.

Take a look. If you live only once, in one-life cultures around the world, you will see an obsession with binary logic, absolute truth, standardization, absoluteness, linear patterns in design. But if you look at cultures which have cyclical and based on infinite lives, you will see a comfort with fuzzy logic, with opinion, with contextual thinking, with everything is relative, sort of – mostly.

You look at art. Look at the ballerina, how linear she is in her performance. And then look at the Indian classical dancer, the Kuchipudi dancer, the Bharatanatyam dancer, curvaceous.

And then look at business. Standard business model: vision, mission, values, processes.Sounds very much like the journey through the wilderness to the promised land, with the commandments held by the leader. And if you comply, you will go to heaven.

But in India there is no “the” promised land. There are many promised lands, depending on your station in society, depending on your stage of life.You see, businesses are not run as institutions, by the idiosyncrasies of individuals. It’s always about taste. It’s always about my taste.

So pick your poison for truth, but do so wisely.

Source: Ted Talk by DD Patnaik. Based on the mythological and historical evidence. Rewritten by Abhinandan Chatterjee

Let others speak first!


A sales rep, an administration clerk and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a Genie comes out in a puff of smoke.

The Genie says, “I usually only grant three wishes, so I’ll give each of you just one.”

“Me first! Me first!” says the admin clerk “I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.” Poof! She’s gone.

In astonishment, “Me next! Me next!” says the sales rep. “I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of pina coladas and the love of my life.” Poof! He’s gone.

“OK, you’re up,” the Genie says to the manager.

The manager says, “I want those two back in the office after lunch.”

Management Lesson: Always let your boss have the first say.

Source: Original source unknown, however you will find many versions of this story floating around over the WWW.