Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Main Aisa Kyon Hoon!

Once the basic needs were satisfied, I, like many fellow humans, started thinking about questions and subjects, which can be referred to as ‘philosophical’. Words like social justice, governance, balance, ego, paradigm, consciousness, truth, myth, etc. started featuring in thoughts, discussions and reading material. Gradually, realization dawned that these were not definitive in nature like mathematics or physics and could not be taken to logical conclusions one way or the other. I learnt to abort discussions saying that each person has and is entitled to his own perspective. Recently, while reading about Socrates, Plato, Aristrotle, I understood that these abstract subjects have been in consideration for over 2500 years. As I thought more, these were being spoken of during the times of Mahabharat as well, which is supposed to be dated about 5000 years ago. All religious texts primarily appear to be dealing with these subjects. Finally, I concluded that there is some substance in the concept of enlightenment and that answers to these questions are beyond the reach of logical understanding and communication through language. These need to be realized by one. Each person is at a different place in this journey. Communicating what I realize is meaningless, because firstly language has its limitations and secondly, the transmitter of this realization and the receiver are on different planes. Their comprehension of the same text is not the same.

Then, I stumbled upon a book about the evolution of humans. It states some very interesting research findings.
1.  Homo-sapiens i.e. the specie we belong to, first came into existence 2.5 million years ago.
2.  We are not the only species of humans. Two organisms are said to belong to the same specie if they can mate and procreate off-springs, which are fertile. Horse and donkey can mate, but the off-springs (mules) are sterile. Therefore horses and donkeys are separate species, though their ancestral roots are the same. The other human species were destroyed in due course. This apart, homo-sapiens also caused the extinction of most other species of animals and plants whenever they invaded any part of the earth.
3.  Till 10,000 years ago, human was a hunter-gatherer. In other words, 99.6% of our time on earth so far has been as a nomadic hunter-gatherer. A lot of our traits are a result of this era. Humans moved from one place to other, largely living on whatever grew in forests rather than grow something for consumption. The diet was varied and very nutritious. The requirement for being alert to dangers all the time made sure that we were physically far fitter than the fittest people today. There were no possessions and the concept of planning for future was non-existent. Needs of tomorrow were never provided for today and thus there was something to be done everyday. It did not require more than 3-4 hours of work everyday to met daily requirements, but there was no bandwidth or interest for philosophical concepts of dharma-adharma. Eliminating old, sick and weak people in the tribe, who slowed the movement and endangered others, was quite an accepted practice.  Babies were tied to mothers and breast-fed for many years so that small children did not slow down the movement of the group. Consequently, the immune system was quite strong and birth rate was controlled, keeping the population in check.
4.   With the advent of agriculture, arrived many economic issues of population explosion, nutrition loss, a relatively sedentary lifestyle, settled and thus unhygienic living conditions, acquisition of assets like land, animals leading to exploitation and many more.

I don’t want to reproduce all the book says, but there is a lot of learning from the narration.

1.  Our life-times and a 5000 year old history is just a small dot in the process of evolution. Our behavior, tastes, psychological construct, physical construct is a result of this evolutionary process. Much of our intuitive framework is a result of millennia of evolution. Even the urge to eat sweets can be traced to it. Many so called ‘follies’ of humankind cannot be attributed to the existing people, systems or cultures. Trying to making the system any different is an audacious attempt, even if planned over a few hundred years.
2.  Philosophical concepts, religions, mythology is as much a figment of common imagination as is money, government, countries and business. For 99.6% of the time, humans have existed probably without any of these. 10,000 years later, an archeologist may write history stating that there was a time when one human being considered himself as the owner of a piece of land and there was another who certified this notion. Both of them have long become extinct, but the land still remains.
3.  As individuals, group of people, civilisations and generations, we cannot claim to alter the course of evolution even a bit. Even then, our lifetimes are very much integral to the evolutionary process. To say that we have or we can cause any impact to the nature of human being or environment is hugely overestimating ourselves, but to say that our being is immaterial is equally false. Therefore, the world around us could have been no different from what it is. Then how can we term something as wrong and something else as correct?
4.   The individual self is so insignificant but to be a part of the universe is so significant!

Main aisa kyon hoon ? Because that is the only way I could have been.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


Sometime during my college days, I’d come across a definition that economics is the study of human behavior in conditions of unlimited wants and limited resources. The meaning would perhaps remain the same if I say that it is the study of human behavior in conditions where resources are lesser than required to satisfy wants. I think economics is also the study of human behavior in conditions where resources are morethan required to satisfy wants. We are living in times, where this condition is not utopian. There are umpteen examples of people, who have more resources than what they need to satisfy their wants.

I’m not getting into the distinction between need and want, but considering all that a person wants as his need. Also, ‘unlimited wants’ is a misleading notion because the capacity of a person to consume is finite. Therefore the term ‘want’ needs to be defined with more precision. But I’ll leave that for later.

In economics, a lot of emphasis is laid on the assumptions or emphasis is laid upon keeping exceptions out for the purpose of understanding the law. Here too, we begin with the study keeping exceptional possibilities out of the purview.

So, how do people behave when he has more than what he needs?
1.       Hoard
2.       Invest
3.       Charity
4.       Spend on ‘unwanted’ stuff
5.       Release / Let go

It need not be assumed that the above behavior is demonstrated only under conditions of excessive resources. They may be seen otherwise as well, but our study considers the conditions of excess resources.

Each behavior needs to be understood in detail. But that too I’d like to keep for later. I’ll briefly distinguish between charity & letting go and hoarding & investing. Charity is considered as directed giving i.e. giving for a specific purpose. Letting go is not even giving, it’s just letting go. Hoarding is considered owning without making an economic use and investing is putting the excess resources to economic use.

Determination of the characteristics of people who demonstrate each behavior and identification of causes, which make them do so are other areas of deeper study.

What is also interesting to me is to understand the impact of each behavior on the person and the society at large. If we widen the scope of resources to include non-financial resources like time, relationships, knowledge, natural resources, it opens up vast areas of further study.

I wonder if I’ve stumbled upon an idea for a doctoral thesis! 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Work, Service, Earning, Need!

When I quit my job, I thought that it is futile to spend so much time commuting to and fro and in office to earn a living. As it is, the job is getting me more money than I need to live a simple life. Why not release some bandwidth, even if it means earning less.

It is so elementary to look at work as a means of livelihood. One works to earn a living. But is the converse true? If one doesn’t need to earn for a living, doesn’t he need to work? For this discussion, let is consider work as professional work, not personal.

When I tried to establish relationships, I wasn’t able to establish a logical relationship between work and earning! Let’s take a farmer or a doctor. Both of them provide a service (growing food and curing illness). Let’s say there is a consumer who is incapable of doing either of it himself and has to depend upon them to fulfill his need. How does he arrive at their fee? If life is precious, both are invaluable, if it isn’t, both are worthless. From the perspective of the farmer or the doctor, is appropriate for him to refuse food or cure to someone who needs it but cannot pay for it? One may say ‘yes he should serve someone who can pay’, but if there is no other taker for the service, then is it appropriate? How then does one arrive at a fair compensation?

Price determination through demand and supply is devoid of any logic whatsoever. Just because the supply of bananas is more than apples, I pay more for apples, though I like bananas more than apples! Absurd! This, however, is a big topic. It also brings out the unfairness and exploitation aspect as we explore it further.

So, if we don’t take into consideration demand and supply, how does one arrive at the price for a service? On thinking deeply enough, I realized that work is related directly to service and earning is related directly to need. One should work in order to serve and one should earn as much as is his need. We have struck off service and need as abstract and subjective and tried to establish a direct relationship between work and earning. Logically absurd, isn’t it?

Logically thinking, I will serve through my work in an area, in which I am best suited and am capable of innovating and improvising for better results. Working in such an area will ensure that I’m committed to whatever I do and also that I enjoy my work. I will look at others in my area of work in order to learn from them or help them learn. Since both of us are serving, there is no sense of competitiveness. In fact, I will help them and take help from them, in case of illness or other times, when I’m unable to attend work. My business or profession will be centered around the needs of the customer. Similarly, my needs will be served by similar persons, who work to serve. In such working environment, anyone who does not serve with adequate commitment will be provided feedback and he will fall in line.

This logical thinking can be continued. But anyone reading it in today’s times will find it weird. But it is logical. Importantly, such systems existed a few centuries ago, in some places, a few decades ago.

Have we completely lost this thinking by relating work with earning? Is earning the primary objective of working? I don’t think so. Most people, even today, experience discomfort when they have to do something ‘unfair’ at their workplace; even if it earns them lots of money. Many people, even today, experience discomfort when they earn what they haven’t worked for. 

Though it is considered sentimental and not sensible to talk about fairness at work place, most people feel good when they act fairly.

So, what’s the point? Is there any hope that we will see people working only to serve? We see a lot of people, even today, who work only to serve. That they’re paid for it is incidental. There are many, who aren’t paid enough or at all. But that doesn’t take away their commitment from their work. One characteristic of theirs is that they never try to reason out why they are working. They work, not even to serve. They work, probably just for the sake of work. We see such people every now and then. We salute them, silently and feel humbled.

With this learning, I’m looking at work with an all new perspective.