The Three Blind Men

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Recently, I was in a shopping mall heading towards McDonald’s for a dinner. As I walked past a showroom, I noticed an odd occurrence. Three Men, holding each other by the arms were walking in a straight line. One look and I had dismissed this sight. But then I paused and looked at them again. Here were the three blind men, white sticks in hand, goggles covering their eyes at 9 in the night, walking steadily in the middle of the mall.

I went over to them and inquired as to where they were headed. They said they wanted to go to the loo and the lead amongst them confirmed from me that it was in  the direction ahead. I corrected him by saying in a matter of fact way that he would have to turn to the right after walking down a bit further. He thanked me and started heading out in the initial direction. Instantly, it occurred to me that in the most insensitive way, I had told them the directions but not the distances. I latched on to the first one and took them to the corner where they had to turn right and pointed them on to start walking in the said direction. Again, they thanked me and started off.  Satisfied that I had done a good job, I walked off but stopped before having gone more than a few steps. I cussed at myself for being that stupid and ran back to them in order to guide them further to the exact door. When I reached, they were fumbling around a fire escape, looking for the correct door. Many onlookers were passing by them, surprised to see them try to find their way in the maze of objects and paths we “sighted” people take for granted. Before I could reach though, another fellow had arrived and helped them get to the restroom. I realized as I looked from a distance that it was the lead who alone had to go to the loo but the other two had no option than to follow him. They stopped at the door and waited for him to return.

As I walked off, a thought came to my mind. As the world around us progresses and technology allows us to become greater than ourselves, the society we live in does not change, the plight of the people does not change and the conditions which affect us do not change. We may be running after cures for cancer and aging but the blind man still cannot see and the deaf can still not hear. There is technology to enable them in doing these too, but that technology is not available to the present at a price which does not hit the pride of the man bearing the cost. Those blind men were not in rags but seemed suitably dressed. A poor blind man would have been stopped at the doors of the mall and forced to look for a loo elsewhere but the guard let them in and guided their path too, in his own insensitive way. That goes to say that the latest gadgets which help the blind(no euphemisms here, say it as it is) are within their reach but not there yet.

As a tech enthusiast and a software programmer, I can say that anything is possible in the world of technology. As a hardware designer and a practical man, I can say that we are not looking at the right ventures. I can blame many for not following up on this, from Steve Jobs to the Indian Government, but till some brilliant yet cheap technology comes into the possession of these disabled people, let’s make sure that the three blind men you see on the road next time reach home safely. Let us make sure that the stark contrast between consumerism of the most blatant kind and the simple reality that life has not yet changed despite Science’s greatest contributions be diminished by Humanism, for that too is as simple as extending your hand and guiding the path of those who cannot see.

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A Lesson Learnt

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I am aware that it has been many months since I have Blogged and obviously a lot has been going on in that much time(shifting to Infosys, Mysore; completion of Infy training; posting to Bangalore; getting a project). But there are certain moments in life which often take precedence over many a months of work. One such event occurred on a flight from Bangalore to Delhi on 23rd April 2010 when I was coming home to Chandigarh for a quite holiday with my family. I had been pondering upon the question as to whether truly making phone calls from within an aircraft can cause a disturbance in their communications or was it just a hoax created by airlines who wanted people to use the onboard phone lines which they provide at a premium to their users. I had concluded that the second was more plausible as airlines have always had a dearth of money and need all that extra revenue they can get.

Obviously, the person sitting next to me disagreed with my thoughts and as the plane prepared for take off and I pushed ‘Send’ on my mobile to send the last message before I went into roaming, he requested me calmly to switch off the mobile. I, being my haughty self, told him that I, being an electronics engineer knew better than him and could saw with confidence that since mobiles and airline communications worked at different frequencies, there was no way possible that my mobile could affect the flight in any way. I had noted the tone in which he had requested me to switch off my cellphone- it was calm but stern and it felt that he had done this exercise many times earlier too. Thus it seemed fit for me to snub him in such a way. But upon hearing me say my qualifications, he took greater interest in my argument and asked me to expain my side of the debate.

Here I knew I had two choices- spend the flight fighting with this fellow about how much I knew about Communications(or how little, after all, what quality is left in today’s engineering courses!) OR accept that he knows more than me and ask for his knowledge. Lucky for me, i chose the latter, as this Radio Engineer knew more about our current debate than I could have ever imagined. 

He explained that it is not the calls or the smss which bothers the airlines much but instead, the small ElectroMagneticPulse(EMP) generated by our mobiles which can disrupt the electronics circuits onboard. This is a very small chance with the new and advanced circuits coming into use nowadays but as always, in terms of space and air travel, it’s much better to be safe than really sorry. He further commented that in his time the biggest fight was against EMP and the biggest contest was to be able to transmit voice across the globe at less than 10 Watt power. 

Ah! It was good to finally hear this explanation from someone who was confident and direct about the facts instead of just saying that it’s part of the rules and at the end of the flight I thanked him, Ashwat Dharampuri, Managing Director of W. Diamant India Ltd, a unit of Winterstone, an international diamond tool manufacturing company and walked off the flight content that I had learnt something new simply by opening my mouth and showing my ego to someone who I knew would educate me instead of cursing me.

Indeed, miracles do happen!

Dealing With Dust

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I went to the hostel today, just to clear out a few things I had kept over there while having moved out to live separately. What I did not realize was that those weren’t a few things which I had chosen to leave, they were a whole Life of me which I had gotten cut-off from since I moved out. Among the important ones were a whole set of my writings which I have never published simply because I never got the time to do so. Also, all my work related to Politics and Philosophy, topics upon which I had deliberated a lot during the course of the first and second years of college and which I had felt were life changing, lay there like a distant past of which I had no recollection, just the knowledge that a few pages with my handwriting were kept there, protected even from my own self, never to be further thought about. About these Ideas and Ideals to which I had once subscribed, I would like to say today that –

“If Man wants, he can include Philosophy into his Life, thus making it a Never-ending Quagmire of Thought, Self-Doubt and the Reassurance that Man is Superior to Animal”

after Four years of Engineering, it has come as no surprise to me that I now believe in Hard Work more than ever. As I step into the part of my Life where I will be a part of the Corporate World, I have now this notion-

“The Simplest and Most effective way for a Person to live is to Work. Nothing else is as Important as working hard. And working hard is what makes Life easier than ever.”

Deliberations on Philosophy and Politics are indeed habits of those who have the Luxury of wasting their time in making their Lives Complicated. The Simple way of Life does not involve these, just a clear understanding of what a Person’s work is and what the resultant thoughts and beliefs are.

In digressing from the topic of cleaning up my Hostel room, I wanted to ensure that the thoughts that went through my mind when I was arranging my things together were noted down. However, the more important detail is about what all I found there.

The second Important thing I found there were some of my clothes. I got very nostalgic when I saw them, discussing with my roommate Lalit the amazing journey I made from being a size 32 waist to a size 38! I know I am fat right now and I am less than proud of it. But it is an amazing thing for me to see myself as a lean, weak boy with cheeks sunk deep into my cheekbones as opposed to a well rounded man with chubby cheeks and friends who keep reminding me that I must join the gym!

It is not everyday that One gets to look at their past and present in such a glaringly contrasting way, but this insight was amazing and has made me rethink a lot about what were my thoughts and beliefs when I was two years less-experienced than I am today and I now ponder over whether in the fierceness of my devotion to my Ideals, I was believing in the right things or not…

After all, today I am happy to be an Engineer, but at some point, I wanted to be a Politician!

p.s. I promise that those unseen writings of mine will be put up soon, complete with my favorite creative commons license!