Friday Aug 15, 2008

India celebrates Independence Day

India celebrates its Independence Day, today. Sixty one years ago, on this day, the first Prime Minister of Independent India said, "At the stroke of the mid-night hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance..... We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again."

India is 61 years young. Today's India is resilient, vibrant and is a nation of over a billion dreams and aspirations, raring to go. The genie of aspirations and unbridled enthusiasm has been set free from the bounds of the bottle to which it was confined.

Keith Bellows, the Editor-in-chief, National Geographic Society had this to say, "There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won't go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds. It was as if all my life I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolor."

India is the 7th largest country in the world in terms of area and the 2nd largest in terms of population. To put that in perspective, India accounts for a meagre 2.4 per cent of the world surface area of 135.79 million sq km. Yet, it supports and sustains approximately 17 per cent of the world population. With over a billion citizens, India is the World's largest Democracy. India is also a free-market democracy with a legal system that, though tends to be slow, is easy for Westerners to understand and works.

Sixty one years of freedom has not meant that life's a bed of roses for its citizens. I came across this interesting observation, which said that living in India was like running an obstacle race. Every day, one is overcoming obstacles all the time, over-crowded cities, corrupt officials, unhelpful yet functional governance, infrastructure short-comings and many such elements that litter the path to progress. It is an ode to the never-say-die spirit, the can-do attitude and resilience of its people that despite all the hurdles thrown its way, has managed to overcome and how. Many of the major global organizations today have CEOs, presidents & leaders who are of Indian origin. In the recent Forbes Billionaires List, four of the top ten richest Billionaires in the world are Indians, a feat unthinkable a little while ago, but today a fact that stands testimony to a growing breed of entrepreneurs breaking free of the shackles of the past and setting their sights higher & wider.

For years, government controls and restrictions, the infamous "license Raj", shielded Indian businesses from foreign competition, isolating them and stifling innovation. But in the early 1990s, the government began to slowly open up the economy. Anticipating an eventual onslaught from outsiders, the country's more far-sighted industrialists decided to modernize their operations. Indian companies flush with cash from a booming domestic economy are on the look out for overseas acquisitions. The number of acquisitions by Indian companies and those with founders of Indian origin have grown by leaps and bounds. Some of the more recent acquisitions that hit the news include - Mittal Steel, the world's largest steel maker and Indian owned, acquiring Arcelor, Europe's top steel producer; Indian Tata Tea (which owns the Tetley Tea brand) acquiring Energy Brands (U.S., maker of Glaceau bottled water and vitamin drinks); India's Tata Steel's $8.1 billion bid for Anglo-Dutch steel manufacturer Corus; Tata Motors of India, buying the Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford for $2.3 billion; Indian Dr. Reddy's acquiring German rival Betapharm and many more hundreds of such acquisitions across different verticals and segments each year.

Today, as we stand on the threshold of a new beginning, here's saluting this incredible nation - a nation that speaks over 22 official different languages and several hundreds of different dialects, apart from English which is needless to say the language that connects India to the world; a nation that is an amalgamation of over 28 states; a nation where people follow different religions and where Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and others co-exist in harmony; a nation that is the symbol of tolerance and peace; a nation on the move.

Listen to the Indian National Anthem
Listen to the Indian National Song

Friday Nov 09, 2007

Live with the end in mind

The thought of literally keeping  the end in mind while living, and how this regular reminder of the end enables living life to the fullest is the gist of this post. We generally tend to live as though our days were endless, or even if we do have a faint realization that someday our lives must end, it tends to seem to be sometime in the distant future. This thinking holds the potential for us to not value and fully appreciate the importance of each day, of our lives.

Of course, there are days that are memorable and days when we really feel alive. But, how many days of your life would match this description ? Would you be able to say that a large number, if not all of the days of your life that you presently live, are days you treasure, cherish and value ?

I'm reminded of an interesting observation that i came across sometime ago on this subject. Its about a method to remind you to live with the end in mind. It involves a little math ! Answer this question - how much longer do you expect to live ? I mean, how many more years do you think you might live ? Humor me and make a guesstimate. So, what do you expect ? Twenty five years ? Thirty years ? Forty ?

When you are done estimating, translate those years into days. Here's an example just to illustrate what has been talked about thus far - If you expect to live another twenty five years, that would translate into 9125 days more i.e. 25 x 365 days. Take a few moments to reflect on this number. This is your estimate of how many more days you have at your disposal.

Now all that is left is to be regularly reminded of this finite number of days we have left. Again, the observation continues with a fairly simplistic yet effective way to do this ... place as many marbles as the number of days you have estimated in a transparent jar at a place where you get to see them each day. So, in the previous example, we would need to place 9125 marbles in a jar. Now, each day morning pick up a marble from the jar and throw it away. This exercise is aimed at driving home reality & regularly reminding you about the limited number of days at your disposal. Think about it ... what benefits would you derive if you were regularly reminded of the finite-ness of your existence, especially at the start of each day; how would you approach each brand new day especially when you know that there's only so many more days left ? 

In the light of this knowledge, would you still prefer to squander away the days that you have or would you rather choose to live each "remaining" day to the fullest. 

If you're thinking about the scenario where you outlive your estimate and what do you do if and when you ran out of marbles to throw away ... when you realize that you are still alive ! and there's no more marbles left in the jar(s) to throw away, not to worry - that brings us to the final part of the story - by now you would have learnt to treasure each day while counting-down and having reached your estimate, you now begin to treasure each additional day with the grateful thought that every new day is a bonus, a present to be treasured even greatly, a gift thats more than what you expected to receive.

Signing off this post with a thought that you might have heard before, yet seems apt to mention now - Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. What we have is the gift of today ... its called the present. Treasure each moment, every day.

And if you think that your day today is simply gonna be another normal day and isn't special, then this closing quote by Mary Jean, is for you ...

"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return"

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John Morrison


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