Monday, March 27, 2006

Salt & Sawdust

r k narayan

That’s the book which am currently reading. Unlike his books that contain stories that strike us with their simplicity and obviousness told in a manner that keeps us fixed owing to the unique writing style, this book has only a couple of stories to start with and the rest of the book is plain table talk.

The first two stories speak the same language as his other stories.
The first story which gives the book it’s name, Salt & sawdust is rather an amusing one where the overbearing wife who has a passion for writing and wants to write a novel for which her husband gives all the support he can but husband’s love for cooking (which was encouraged by wife’s incapability in cooking) lands both of them in an end where both of them are left in disbelief. Its just a joy to see how the situation unfolds.

The second story titled Guru, is about a man too miserly. His miserliness leads him to loneliness which he does not accept even when he knows it’s there.

The books then takes to the chapter which helped me meet one more great man from the history – Magsaysay of Philippines. Read him and he seems to be India’s Subhash Chandra Bose with the only difference between the two great men being that Magsaysay lived on to lead his country after getting it freed from Japanese occupation.

Till now, its been a nice read.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Perennial Student, Karl Marx

Marx – the perennial student

Completed reading a short biography of Karl Marx by Paul Strathern
This thin 55 page booklet gave me a lot of hitherto unknown facts about Marx of whom I first learnt in my history lessons when in class VIII.
Let me share them here.

Marx was born to a Jew family in German provincial city of Trier on May 5, 1818. Trier is (or was?) known for its vineyards. His father, Hirschel was a successful lawyer who himself owned couple of vineyards and he converted to Christianity. Marx’s Uncle founded the today’s well known Dutch company Philips.
One of Marx’s habits was to force his sisters eat mud pies!
Marx was sent to University of Berlin to read law but he ended up with philosophy. He was influenced maximum by Hegel in philosophy but influenced as being against him in interpretation besides having a major influence of German humanist philosopher and moralist Ludwig Feuerbach. Marx’s doctoral thesis extolled Prometheus – the ancient Greek hero who stole fire from the gods and brought it down to humanity and for his punishment he was chained to a rock in Caucasus where an eagle would return each day to peck out his ever-renewing liver. The Greek translation of Prometheus means “he who sees, or thinks, the future”.

Marx found his first job as a journo in Rheinische Zeitung (Rhineland Times). He was very successful and was promoted to be the editor within one year! He married his childhood sweetheart, Jenny von Westphalen who came from aristocratic family. People do wonder why an enchanting Jenny would marry a scruffy young Jewish hell-raiser who was four years junior to him!

Marx moved to Paris where he met Friedrich Engel and the friendship continued till the deathbed. Engel was the only friend with whom Marx never quarreled. And for his part, Engel worshipped Marx. Both Marx and Engel moved to Brussels and joined the newly formed Communist League. They were given the task of writing a manifesto for the league. Their writing was the first origin of Manifesto of the Communist Party.
Marx offered a list of reforms for the capitalism like the progressive income tax, abolition of child labor, and free education for children.

The Manifesto ends with its celebrated call to arms:
‘Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletariat has nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

Suddenly the two friends astonished the Communist League by turning their backs to them and returning to Rhineland where Marx took up the job of being an editor for Neue Rheinische Zeitung. And his writings there where against revolution and surprised all his friends. He now held the view that working class should collaborate with the democratic bourgeoisie if anything worthwhile is to be achieved. But this shift was short-lived as when in 1848 the assembly of Prussia was dissolved, Marx again jumped to advocating armed resistance to such suspension of democratic rights. He was arrested but his arguments in the trial were so cogent that he gained such popular feeling that he was unanimously acquitted, and even thanked by the jury, amidst a cheering courtroom.

Despite his nominal regular income, Marx kept asking and receiving financial aid from Engel.

By 1859 Marx completed first full scale work, Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. His philosophy was based on following analysis: Social life is founded on economic life, upon how things are produced within a society. Social relations are based on economic relations. Above these rises a corresponding superstructure of laws and social consciousness which reflects the economic structure. In this way the theological and intellectual life of a society is entirely determined by the way things are produced within it.

Marx termed the newly discovered idea of division of labor as destructive. As per him when the workers were reduced to continuous repetition of a single, mind-deadening task, they lost any meaningful relationship with the product they were helping to create. Instead of being creative artisans, they became dehumanized drudges.
Along with this, concepts like Private property, profits, and capitalism was dealt in length by Marx in his massive masterwork, Das capital (Capital) published in 1867.
Das capital investigates the mechanisms of economics against the background of the nineteenth century Britain which was most advanced industrial economy in the world and indicated future.

According to Marx, capitalism was basically unjust. It relied upon the exploitation of the workers, because the capitalists owned the means of production: the machinery, the tools and so forth. A cotton bale arrived at the factory door and left as garments which could be sold for a higher price. In this way the worker added value to the goods but he was not paid the full value that he added. Marx was a firm believer in the labor theory of value – a product has real value which could be calculated according to the amount of labor that had gone into its production.
For Marx, the dictatorship of the proletariat was only the first phase as this would be followed by utopia. The struggle between the classes will be replaced by a classless society. From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

Marx died in 1883 at the age of 64. A dozen friends and fellow believers gathered at the graveside on that cold March morning in Highgate cemetery. They listened as Engel delivered what then would have seemed to most a hopelessly overblown funeral oration, “His name and work will endure through the ages…”
Little did they know that in less than seventy years later, a third of the world would claim to be run according to Marx’s ideas.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Monk who sold his Ferrari - IV (last)

The Monk who sold his Ferrari
Robin Sharma

(Pg 150 – 198)

The book then dwells on discipline and says that lack of willpower is a mental disease. Enlightened persons do not seek to be like others. Rather, they seek to be superior to their former selves.
Don’t race against others. Race against yourself.
Discipline helps in taking control of one’s life as when you control your thoughts, you control your mind. When you control your mind, you control your life. And once you reach the stage of being in total control of your life, you become the master of your destiny.
The secret ingredient of building self-confidence is momentum. A good thought and a good habit need to be maintained like getting up a little earlier, going for a walk, switching off the TV when we know its enough.

Then it takes up the most precious commodity – time. If youth only knew, if age only could.
Set priorities – enlightened people are priority driven.
You got to be ruthless with your time. Learn to say no. Having the courage tom say no to little things will give you the courage to say yes to bigger things.
The best time to plant a tree was forty years ago. The second best time is today.
The remedy to break the spell of frustration is given as Act as if failure is impossible – wipe out every thought of not achieving your objectives – do not set any limits on the working of your imagination – never be a prisoner of your past – become the architect of your future.

It then lets out the purpose of life – to serve, selflessly.

It finally gives some good nuggets of wisdom:
Happiness is a journey not a destination – you got to keep practicing being happy.
And to be happy you got to – live your children’s childhood, love the love of your beloved – savor the blessings of parents – bathe in the joy of friends – put a smile on a stranger’s face.

Grow your destiny!

Definitely a book to spend one week with and to keep in the head for life!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Monk who sold his Ferrari - III

The Monk who sold his Ferrari
Robin Sharma

(pg 100 - 150)

The book then dwells on leadership. It says that those who express their lack of knowledge and seek instruction, often find the path to enlightenment before anyone else.
Those who keep their minds open to new concepts – those whose cups are always empty – will always move to higher levels of achievement.
It urges us to improve the self – kaizen. It reasons for the need of kaizen by asking – how could a person possibly lead a corporation if he cannot even lead himself? How could he nurture a family if he hasn’t learned to nurture and care for himself? How could one possibly do good of one did not even feel good?
The words are indeed full of an impact.
It tells the way to improve self is to indulge in things that we fear of – like public speaking, maintaining relations etc. It encourages writing an inventory of our weaknesses – the weaknesses that keep us from living life.
What sets the highly actualized people apart from those who never live inspired lives is that they do things that less developed people don’t like doing – even though they might not like doing them either.
The book then lists the Ten Rituals of Radiant Living, much on the lines of the Ten Commandments

  1. Ritual of Solitude – to mandatory spend some time say 30 min in solitude, complete peace – with oneself;

  2. Ritual of Physicality – to care for the body by keeping it fit through regular work-outs;

  3. Ritual of Live Nourishment – to eat good food;

  4. Ritual of Abundant Knowledge – to maintain a thirst for knowledge and living as a student – a student of life;

  5. Ritual of Personal Reflection – to talk to oneself and realize one’s right and wrong deeds and thoughts; It’s a complete circle – “Happiness comes through good judgment, good judgment comes through experience and experience comes through bad judgment”

  6. Ritual of Early Awakening – to get up with or even before the sun;

  7. Ritual of Music – to have a regular sessions of good music;

  8. Ritual of Spoken Word – to repeat mantras that have a profound effect on one’s personalities;

  9. Ritual of Congruent Character – to take a daily incremental action to build one’s character;

  10. Ritual of Simplicity – to live simple.

It defines failure as not having the courage to try, nothing more nothing less. Courage is in turn a character about which the book says,
"You sow a thought, you reap an action;
Reap an action, you sow a habit;
Sow a habit, you reap a character;
Sow a character, you reap a destiny"

Then talking about the necessity of willpower, it says that the lack of it is a mental disease. It goads us to have our own views and never try to be like others. It asks to believe in being superior to the former self. It asks us not to race against other but to race against self. The ways to develop willpower is continuous repetition of some words and the other is to vow silence for a day.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Monk who sold his Ferrari - II

The Monk who sold his Ferrari
Robin Sharma

(pg 70 – 100)

Next the book gives another principle – the purpose of life is a life of purpose.
It goads us to recognize our purpose and pursue it. It says that the real source of happiness can be stated in one word: achievement. Lasting happiness comes from steadily working to accomplish your goals and advancing confidently in the direction of your life’s purpose. To reinforce, it quotes Benjamin Disraeli: ”The secret of success is constancy of purpose.” It says that “You will never be able to hit a target that you cannot see.”
The book then gives five steps to follow to make our desires come true which are:
  1. have a clear vision of our outcome;

  2. create positive pressure to keep us inspired;

  3. never set a goal without a timeline;

  4. application of magic rule of 21 – cultivate a new good habit for 21 days after which it becomes a habit;

  5. a day without laughter or day without love is a day without life.

Keeping alive the passion is very important to reach the goals.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Monk who sold his Ferrari - I

Monk who sold his Ferrari
Robin Sharma

I am through with 50 pages of the book and that makes it almost 25% of the book.
The book though seems to be just another on how to raise the standards of one’s living; it does so in a little different way. Excuse me for the cliché – zara hatke
Till now the book is talking about control of the mind.
It seems very easy in the printed matter but even though in practice it may be tough but I believe that it is no way impossible.
It talks about taking control of the mind and its thoughts. It talks of bringing the mind closer to nature. It talks of recognizing where your passion lies and then following it with one single concentration and it claims that then you will realize true happiness and calmness that seems so elusive.
It says that there is no such thing as objective reality or “the real world”. There are no absolutes. All events, all persons, all things have different effect on different people. My enemy could be someone’s friend. It depends on interpretation and a positive interpretation keeps your mind clear and calm.
It further claims that there are no mistakes in life, only lessons. From struggle comes strength. Even pain can be a wonderful teacher.
It goes on to say that focus of the mind should be on the act and not on the result and then the results are faster.

Narrating the story of a boy who traveled far and wide from his home to study under great teacher and on meeting him his first question was, “How long will it take me to be as wise as you?” “Five years”, said the teacher. “But that is too long. What if I work twice as hard?”
“Ten years” was the teacher’s response. “How can that be. But what if I study all day and night?” “Then it will be fifteen years” replied the wise teacher.
“I don’t understand” enquired the pupil.
The teacher explained, “With one eye fixed on the destination there is only one eye left to guide you along the journey.”

This part of the book gives three techniques viz, the heart of the Rose, Opposition Thinking and The Secret of the Lake.

The gist of this 1/4th of the book:
The secret of happiness is simple: find out what you truly love to do and then direct all of your energy towards doing it. Once you do this, abundance flows into your life and all your desires are filled with ease and grace.