Category Archives: Till sunset and beyond

Tools to succeed here and in the hereafter

5 Reasons why you will be a Hater all your life – The Psychology of Fanaticism.

brain

If you have ever tried to reason with a hardcore fanatic, you would have noticed what I did.  Even if you prove to him that his “facts” are either untrue or grossly exaggerated, he would coolly look the other way and continue with his allegations. He would keep throwing unsubstantiated prejudices about his pet hates. Whatever you do, you will not get him to empathize even a teeny weenie bit with those on the other side of the battle lines. “They are evil, they have done even worse things and they deserve it” would be the recurring themes.

What surprised me is that people harboring these believes are otherwise generally quite good and conscientious. They lead normal lives and hold noble values. Then what could be the reasons for the intense and unjustified hatred that they harbor? – The Jekyll and Hyde bit? – Got me probing.

It turned out that this could be attributed to some of the inbuilt faults in our thought processes. By listing them here, I am trying to throw light on the challenges that we will face when we try to break the walls people build around themselves…..

The Reticular Activation System (RAS) – The prime culprit. This is a mechanism in our brain that filters out unwanted inputs that come in. In a second, 1.6 million bits of information hit our brain. The poor thing can process only a measly 164 bits per second. So the RAS acts as a watchman and admits only the most important information. The rest gets bounced off. And it is we ourselves who tell the RAS what is important, through our thoughts, interests and actions. If you are planning to buy a new car and have shown interest in it, you will suddenly start seeing that car all over town. The car was always there. You however started noticing it now, because your RAS is admitting it in instead of bouncing it off. But what does RAS have to do with our topic? Lots.  If you have a prejudice about a particular community or ideology and if you talk about it or read about it a couple of times, RAS kicks in. It will start increasingly alerting you with inputs that align with your point of view while blocking all inputs that stand against it. So you will not see the virtues, good actions and benevolence of your foes. You will see only their badmash and badass aspects. This is akin to LIKING certain pages on Facebook. FB will then flood you with recommendations of similar ones. You LIKE them too and soon your time line will be flooded with related stories taking it completely to one side of the debate. So you stop seeing things that disagree with you. And you get condemned to live sorely in your “Haters hell”.

Now that’s bad enough. But it doesn’t end here. Check out the long train of our thinking errors.

Cognitive Dissonance- When you encounter a belief or idea that contradicts your world view, that inconsistency causes stress or dissonance. (That’s what you get when someone refutes your political post on FB) .So you try to reduce this by actively avoiding situations and information which would increase the dissonance. So in the long run, you end up unfriending or ignoring all the dissenters and entertaining only a coterie of YES men – haters of the same feather.

Here comes the next one- Confirmation Bias– we have the tendency to look for or interpret information in a way that confirms our beliefs. We collect evidence selectively… very selectively. And we will misinterpret even the noblest of their actions to suit our opinion. “They did it for this”. Told Ya!!!

Check this one out – The “Just-World Phenomenon” If we witness an injustice done to someone we hate, in order to rationalize it, we will search for things that the victims did to deserve it. This is done to ease our anxiety .This peace of mind comes at the expense of blaming the innocent victims- so they deserve it.  So if you hear that your favorite side has done something evil, you will promptly justify it by saying- they had it coming.

Now here is the icing on the cake- The Bias Blind Spot: We are often unaware of our own thought biases. So even after reading this article, you will vehemently deny that you have any of such thinking faults. Come on, you are above all these, aren’t you?

So where does this take us? – If we hate something or someone, we will not see the good things that they do. We will avoid being exposed to their good side, will interpret even the good things that they do as bad, will attribute any injustice done to them as something that they deserve, all while staying blissfully unaware of the unfairness in our thinking process.

Think about it- terrorist attacks, communal riots, imperial aggression, even discord in the family- who is right and wrong? Man, you could be so way off!!!!

The same hold good for the Lovers too.

Next time, you either judge or get into a heated debate with someone, remember this…

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Come, let us share some Oxytocins ……

friendship
Don’t we all know that experiencing positive relationships puts us on a perpetual high?. We feel better, think better and behave better when we are with the ones we love and cherish. And now we have empirical evidence to substantiate what we always knew.

Scientists have found that the very experience of positive relationships releases Oxytocin (a very cool hormone) which lowers blood pressure, heart rate and gives us better ability to handle stress calmly. Moreover ms Oxy increases trust levels and thus prods and pushes us to seek more social contacts and this again flags off a virtuous cycle along life’s lovely tracks.

To add compliment to good health (My miserable take on the opposite of “adding insult to injury”) , stress related hormones like ACTH (beats me- so google it up pls) take a deep plunge while experiencing positive relationships.
In another mother of all studies, it was also found that Alzheimers patients who received considered social support started up (can’t use “ended up”, can we ?) physiologically much younger than those who didn’t.

So now- apart from gut feel, we have scientific proof to motivate us to make more friends , Close friends and followers.

Come, let us deplete some ACTH’s as well……

Blogged after ages today- Thanks for the reminder, friend.

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Thamasoma Jyothirgamaya… From darkness to Light


I was sitting impatiently at the lobby of the hotel, waiting for my son’s Leadership camp to conclude when I noticed the elderly European couple slowly walk past the reception towards the door. The lady had a copy of the city map in her hand. With her other hand, she was gently holding her partner, a lanky white haired gentleman. He had a guiding cane in his hand and dark shades over his eyes. As he slowly wobbled down the ramp, it became apparent that he was blind. My attention was diverted as Amaan excitedly came into the lobby with his friends and I didn’t think of the couple till we were slowly driving home. A blind tourist? What on earth will he see? What will his overall experience be? Why should he take all the pain?

I genuinely felt sorry for this vulnerable wayfarer.

I get similar feelings when I think of some of my very close friends and relatives who claim to be atheists or deem themselves agnostics. I have the deepest respect for their views. But I sincerely feel sorry for them, for choosing to keep their eyes tightly closed as they move through life, denying themselves of the light of spiritual Vision… that fluttering of the soul’s lashes deep within….opening floodgates of warm and tingling light….that allows you to experience lingering moments of love and peace….the ecstasy of submission, the bliss of sacrificing, the delight of giving… the relief of being in an impregnable sanctuary under the loving care of the almighty.

How I wish that they experience at least once, the feeling of assurance that prevails when one chooses not to bear the heavy mantle of decision at times when logic and reason falls short of showing you what is right. A few months back, the resident doctors taking care of dad had given us a tough choice- to take him off the ventilator and to let things be. They reasoned nonchalantly about relieving him from pain, giving him the companionship of his loved ones, and to let him pass away comfortably. One even advised me to pray to god to take him away soon to lessen his suffering. We disagreed for we fully knew that birth, life and death were prerogatives of the almighty and we simply didn’t know enough to take the right decision. Our mandate is to fight without giving up and to leave the outcomes to the almighty.

Dad fought on bravely against that formidable bout of pneumonia for few more weeks before succumbing to god’s will. Spiritual wisdom tells us to utter thanks to god even when you lose a loved one. For the one who departs gets to be embraced by eternity, a never ending saga of either pain or pleasure depending on how he lived his life, the values he cherished and the deeds he chose to send before him. As they say, in this life you have intermittent bouts of pleasure and pain. In the next one you get either one… forever. Moreover, Believers take comfort even from their afflictions since they consider hardships to be blessings that cleanse them from past sins. They also believe that every bad thing that happens to one is a substitute for something worse that could have happened.

Believers don’t get stuck in a state of helplessness when their loved ones move on. They believe that they can continue to serve them by praying for them and doing good deeds on their behalf. It is said that only three things help you after your death- Continuing acts of charity that you leave behind, knowledge and enlightenment that you have spread and righteous off springs who pray for you. It is even said that the souls of the dead would know about and be comforted from our prayers. The feeling that you get when you do something worthwhile for these departed souls is indescribable.

Every day, I get to do something for my dad and even convey my love and adoration for him. And as I utter my prayers, I get to reach him through the grace and love of the almighty and in spells of absolute bliss; I feel proud of being a worthy son.

How I wish I could have some of my atheist friends partake a bit of this bliss. How I wish they could also revel in this comforting spell….

I can understand the objections that would be arising in the minds of some of my readers. Proof/Superstition/Illogical/Waste of time/Escapism/Fallacy…….

For those who don’t want to embrace faith yet, let me defend my suggestions based on rational arguments. In psychotechnology, we talk about two types of thoughts- Empowering ones and dis empowering ones. It is not about the correctness of your paradigms, it is about their use- as to what they allow you to be and become… If they give you hope, shake you out of immobility, motivate you to do good deeds, and turn into a better person… why bother about their definiteness? Just stop wanting to be right for a few minutes, give in to these empowering beliefs and get to bask in the euphoria of spiritual initiation.

The great secret however is that if you suspend disbelief even for a second and give the power of faith a chance, you will soon be overwhelmed with evidence of its truth.

I had once read about an incident that happened in a train. A man was sitting opposite to a family comprising of a young man and his parents. The young man who was seated next to the window would frequently exclaim- “Dad! The clouds are following us, Dad the trees are moving backwards”. The baffled man asked the father- “Is your son alright? Why is he behaving like this?” The father replied – “My son was blind all his life. We are coming from the hospital and he is seeing these things for the first time”

How I wish my friends could also see… at least once….

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5 minutes to become a better spouse and parent

After slogging feverishly to impress myself and my stakeholders at work amidst juggling with social commitments and personal interests, I used to reach home totally depleted. The rest of the hours would be spent as a shadow of my own good self as I would try to get away with the barest minimum of responses to the eager advances of my wife, my ten year old son and baby girl. I who normally take great pains to make official projects and gatherings fun and warm would transform into an apathetic passerby at home, the place that actually mattered the most. My loved ones had learnt to accept my behavior by soothing their pain by repeating unconvincing excuses- “He is really tired, He is very tense today, just another bad day at the office”.

Thankfully, affairs are much better now. I owe this change to a self help article that I came across during a flight. I don’t remember the name of the author. But let me share his wisdom with you all……..

Here is how it works….

I have downloaded a few of my favorite old songs, especially the soulful nostalgia evoking ones. Once I drive back home and reach the car park, I would ease myself of the seat belt, sit back and switch the CD player on. I would close my eyes and slowly let the haunting music and delicious lyrics take me over … till “that” feeling moves out from my chest to all parts of my body. While I am in the throes of this feeling, I would imagine the situation at home and what each of my loved ones would be doing. Then I would try to creatively come up with ways to make the evening uniquely special for them.

Play cricket with Amaan for a while or cook his favorite soup with him.

Conjure up a story and sing it along the lines of Jehan’s nursery rhymes.

Spend time with my wife, updating her with all the juicy things happening in the world, or spend some time with her on her face book page, enjoying its various hues.

I try my best to make the experiences different and special each time. Once I decide on what to do, I get out of the car and enter my home, to craft a mellifluous script for the rest of the evening along with the ones who matter the most.

Takes me just some old songs and a few minutes and of course the urge to make my relationships better and exceptional.

Please try it…. And enjoy the difference that it creates in your lives

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A Ballad of Unparalleled Love

He was arrested, bound  and brutally bundled off to jail. It was just a few days after his marriage. While Raihi Mustaha was sentenced to spend the rest of his life languishing in an Israeli jail, his wife Raida swaidan decided to wait for him… With fervent prayers on her lips and hope in her heart.  Though he repeatedly pleaded to end the nuptial agreement and move on… she refused. Braving the many bewildering storms around her, young Raida stood steadfast with her eyes on the pathway… every day and night for the…….

…Next 30 years.

Couple of weeks ago Raihi walked out free, along with hundreds of his brothers in exchange for the freedom of one Israeli soldier.

Raihi and Raida got to hug each other after all….

The worthy epilogue of a ballad of Unparalleled Love and Patience.

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7 p’s of Success: Embrace them and WIN

Please turn on your Volume

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My Friend, My Philosopher, My Guide….Live on…..

WHAT IF….

We could find time every night to patiently sit by their side and lovingly watch them fall asleep?

We are unsuccessful in hiding our tears whenever they were in pain?

We could make them fall in love with the sweet smell of paperbacks and worn out hard bounds?

We could take them along for long, winding walks, every other day?

WHAT IF….

We could make them yearn for victories just for the hero’s welcome they would get at home?

We could make them learn long classic couplets by heart?

We could truly convince them that they had sparks of genius within them?

We were able to show them that true piety lay in honoring the rich and the poor alike?

We assured them that prayers are always answered?

WHAT IF….

We could sing dreadfully wrong lyrics off key and still get them all going?

We could coax them to display their budding talents before others- and shower them with praise in public?

We could make them marvel at dew drops “dancing at the tip of leaves” and befriend the baby sparrows born in the heart of the old tucoma trees?

We could induce them to shed a few tear drops at the tombstone of every blade of grass crushed under their feet?

WHAT IF….

We could coach them to whistle old romantic songs soulfully?

We could teach them persistence by revealing that only the most irritated oysters produced pearls?

We could teach them that there is much more to life than examination results?

We found time to lose ourselves playing with them? Argue over fouls and exult over tiny victories?

WHAT IF….

We refrained from comparing them with anyone else and allowed them to be just themselves?

We could teach them what is worth fighting for and also what is worth giving up for?

We could make them love and adore themselves without hating and belittling anyone else?

We could inspire them to compose silly rhymes and send them (repeatedly) to be published?

WHAT IF….

We could teach them that the best way to reach the creator is through the service of their own brethren?

We could entice them to lie staring at the colors of dusk and silently watch a rising moonling?

We could make them adore warrior heroes of yore and the causes they fought and died for?

We could persuade them that the best way to speak effectively is to speak sincerely?


If we could do at least some of these, then even after we are long gone, we will continue to linger……In the prayers, the memoirs, reflections and in the very character of our children ….

Dear Uppa, you didn’t leave the stage on the 21st of October 2011. You just disappeared behind the curtains for us to don your robes and continue..bearing the mantle of continuing to be the legend that you were….The ultimate friend, philosopher and guide.

And as we threw handsful of fresh earth into your resting ground and moved on, new candles were being lit. Small but unwavering, measly yet resolute ones. And together we shall shine on and in the light we exude and the warmth we emanate, passersby will surely recognize and experience you.

I will never forget your words, which I have now taken as the purpose of my life and Insha allah will pass on to your young admirers after me……


“Sangu mon, journey through life with maximum happiness. Yet never victimize anyone. And strive to do things that will make the world that you leave behind at least a trifle better than the one that you had inherited”

Yes Uppa. Insha allah .…….

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