The Heart of Product Development and a poet

The greatest poet-wordsmith of Bengali language and one of the greatest poets of human civilization – Rabindranath Tagore traveled to Europe sometime in 1922. It was the period of the golden years of passenger shipping and he took the route via Red Sea with a port of call at Aden.

His writings on the ship and later in various parts of West, later published as a collected works in Bengali entitled Pather Sanchay ( Collections on Road) has some observations which connect technology, European (or white man to be more direct) superiority in discovering and managing technological marvels like the ship he was on, Indian nationalism, Culture and Human Civilization.

While reading the collection in my last vacation in my ancestral home in Silchar (1000 km North East of Calcutta, the Eastern Termini of the heart of Modern Europe in the Age of Tagore, culturally speaking), I found some startling observations by the poet whose very simple and casual description made me shudder as how relevant the message is and how practical for product development it is in the Age of Outsourcing :

I find it little embarrassing that I have just bought the ticket to be part of this enterprise (the whole running  of the ship) and nothing else. Whereas the European passengers feel this whole thing a part of their life, the whole energy of their nation has worked to make this happen and they are aware that whatever was needed to be done was done and whatever will be needed will also be taken care of. The ship is not only a vessel for them to use for passage by paying the fee but something greater. I felt that to assimilate  something, the idea of thinking the purchasing power as necessary and sufficient condition is a crude understanding. We can only own and control something as much as we have done the  tapasya for it. For me, the ship is just moving using burning coal in this great ocean with all our necessities as an embodied being taken care of but to them (the European passengers, predominantly British) the whole tapasya of the nation, strewn with many sacrifices are actually propelling it.

I would ask every Indian thinking of developing any product to pay close attention to what the poet is communicating. He is a disinterested observer and so far removed from your time that you do not fall into the vulgar habit of being slave of the present, the worst form of slavery.

In the same collection, the poet observes something more striking. He refers to the sinking of The Titanic and draws our attention to something no documentary of any channel can ever discover. He talks about the mystery as how extremely rich men actually followed the knightly principle of ‘Women and Children first’ on that terrible night of the Atlantic. The price of upholding this principle has been sure death and those extremely rich men who had been accustomed to life of comfort and ‘priority’ did not flinch. The poet concludes and this becomes an elegy not of rich men or men of courage of that night but announcing the glory of Man

 ..This sacrifice cannot be accidental, random or situational. The whole tapasya of the culture, of the whole past has come triumphant over death on that night of terror.

What the poet, divinely disinterested touched on two eternal and fundamental aspects of a product

a) The product to be effective must have a whole cultural backing, not only of the individuals or the group but the whole past of that community. Without this backing, the product will not be able to stand the test of time.

b) Irrespective of one’s position as an outsource destination, outsourcer – nothing significant can be achieved by situational advantage, short-cuts or clever sales techniques.

In the age of instant success and growth, a true poet’s wisdom is rare and is so illuminating that its radiance is coming as if from the soul’s heart and time can never dim that light.

Another Bengali poet of post-Tagore generation and one of the finest laureates of Bengal  of all time, Buddhadev Basu while talking about the relationship between Bengal and British interaction for more than 300 years. He concludes in one of the grand conclusions of an essay on this :

.. After so many years, the eternal surplus of these interactions is literature

He used a memorial phrase in Bengali  imbued with poetic dust : amlan udbritta [ unfading surplus]

Morphic Resonance and Consciousness

A Cambridge researcher Dr. Shelldrake has written a book entitled The Science Delusion and among its many provocative concepts,  one is a concept called morphic resonance. The weekend became very interesting while studying the concept and some thoughts below :

  • Morphic resonance’s startling conclusion on memory is that our memory does not reside in our brain. It is neither processed (or recalled) as a computer accesses the physical hard disk. Our memory lies outside our brain.
  • If more and more people learn a certain language and practice this, the next person trying to learn this finds its easier because of morphic resonance.
  • Experiments with animals have demonstrated that a caterpillar remembers certain action even after the brain is partially or fully removed surgically.

I am writing below some paraphrase from the Bhagavad-Gita which go deeper and the first translation is from the second chapter :

  • There is the ‘owner of the body’ inside each body – be it a brainless insect or the most intelligent scientist like Einstein. The ‘owner of the body’ manipulates the matter inside and outside the body and is fundamentally different from the gross (brain, bile, bone) and subtle body (thoughts, feeling, willing). The owner of the body does not change with the change of body (surgery, disease, destruction, death) and goes on to manipulate matter to form another body. This process of transfer is regulated by another process and the ‘owner of the body’ is controlled.
  • Our fate or destiny is not completely decided by free will. Our feelings and intuition are not accidents of matter circulating but fundamentally different from material processes we currently know through the laws of physics and chemistry.
  • There are levels of intelligence and grosser the intelligence is, it will deny or falsely argue against any sort of higher control. This is because of ne-science and is an impediment towards knowledge.

Genius Track of Bengal : Introducing a genius of Bengal to the contemporary geniuses

[Reworked from a 2011 post Shrine of an exiled scholar of Bengal and this re-work is inspired by a discourse with friend and colleague Mr. Sushovhan Mukherjee in a Calcutta terrace, overlooking the Neapolis of Calcutta (Rajarhat) in a magical evening, only made real by the telebhaja and chalu-chai - one of the very very few authentic products of Contemporary Bengal ]

Bengal is only one true lacking : the lack of true geniuses for an agonizing amount of time. We have plenty of everything, in more or less proportion but current absence of genius is an absolute and verifiable fact. Now what is a genius ?  It is strictly forbidden for  non-geniuses to even approach this subject and hence we shall go to Arthur Schopenhauer, the most vigorous of pessimists in the history of European philosophy who said like this : ‘Science can manage with talent, but Art requires genius’ . I quoted him because he was singing and talking of worship of heroes in Europe when all heroes were dead.

Recently, I have started meeting young Bengali men and women in various business and start-up forums and I thought of introducing a genius of this land, a crooked, exiled, scurrilous, controversial but  a true genius nevertheless.

Our genius had passed almost half of his life in exile and claimed in a Bengali prose whose quality cannot be even matched by those who claim to be more ‘indigenous’. For a genius, no law is the law. Bengali has long forgotten the ennobling effects of heroes on young lives.Our exiled scholar mourned to his last breath about this lack in his mammoth works in English and Bengali and in spite of all his failings and overstated generalization, he has not failed to add another  name to the pantheon of true heroes of humanity.

Nirad C Chaudhuri – lived and worked in this quaint Oxford home in 20 Lathbury Road and in one summer evening when I stood in front of the gate, I heard a foreign bird singing as if from East Bengal’s hidden groves somewhere, in some ancient time.  I found a great joy to have made the pilgrimage.

The Oxford blue plaque anticipates something so simply but profoundly. It describes Mr. Chaudhuri as Writer. Nothing else is necessary

Many Hindus of India, in olden times and still now prefer to spend the end of their life in Benares, the  holy city. Nirad, who could write, the only Bengali of the whole history of Bengal an essay entitled :

আমি একাধারে বাঙালী ও একাধারে ইংরেজ (I am a Bengali and Englishman in the same spectre)

Contemplating over his stay in Oxford – the dhoti-clad Bengali who was known to the salesgirl in the Marks and Spencer’s store to the librarian of the Bodlien  to the alumni of Oxford Baccalaureate , I felt (like another English commentator) that in a way, this stay has been a great poetic justice.  England’s Oxford or Oxford of England became his ‘spiritual’ home. We know that Nirad had a photo of Benares’ ghat in an imposing fashion in his study in the Lathbury Road home where he had written the pages of Thy Hand, Great Anarch ! And in this home, Ms. Amiya, writer’s wife took care of him, fed guests full-course Italian dinner and wrote her own books. I think  some Bengali man (or woman ) of letters in East or West Bengal needs to document the signal service this Bengali lady had rendered to English and Bengali literature and by implication to world literature.

Below are 3 photos of that spiritual home of our genius and very few  Bengalis have paid so much price for being a genius and it is equally true that no Bengali has a Oxford plaque bearing his name.

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One of the Oxford Colleges. The half-shaded half lit moment made me shoot this but the passing white clouds became imprisoned

The Oxford Park - the green of the grass, I was told by a gardener there : it can happen only after 800 years of regular watering, care and scholarly walks

The Oxford Park – the green of the grass, I was told by a gardener there : it can happen only after 800 years of regular watering, care and scholarly walks

Twenty minutes after I got out of the Bodlien Library,  immensely delighted by an exhibition on Dickens organized by the library, one of the Europe’s oldest. I asked the the Library Assistant whether she could tell me how could I could go to Nirad’s house. She replied, Is this the scholar who had asked his wife on the wedding night to spell Beethoven. I answered, oh yes, oh yes, that is the gentleman.

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Presenting a paper in St Annes College’s Conference organized by Philosophy and Management and urged by wife Chandrani (the Lakshmi and Annapurna of our flat in Calcutta east), I chose the gate of Schola Naturalis Philosophiae as a backdrop inside which the Dickens exhibition was going on.

Back to the genius track. In my book An Intimate History of Bengal (published 2009), I wrote that Genius does not belong to any community or geography and does not care either. It chooses or  sent by a higher destiny to a particular community, culture or time. A community or a culture dies if it does not recognize and respect a true genius. Because, genius is not a person or idea or democratic aggregation of likes or dislikes or neutrality, Genius is a Homecoming for Humanity. The light that shines from the lives of great men and women is so powerful that even time cannot dim them and future geniuses will recognize the countenance of a true genius, how far the objects may be in the rear or far end view mirror.

I remain a humble wordsmith by the roadside of this Genius Track and pray that Bengal is blessed by true geniuses and also with the good sense of respecting and valuing them in the community which is made glorious by his or her descent.

Free webinar on Big Data and Analytics by Wordsmith University

We have been studying Big Data for sometime. The immediate result was toying with an idea resulting into a post : A synthetic study on Big Data and Vedic astrology. Later on, we read some of the best minds on the theme, attended couple of industry conferences in person as well as some tutorials in webinar and thought of presenting a summary of these for freelance and business-owner colleagues.

I have teamed up with Mr. Sushobhan Mukherjee  and a free webinar announced with following details on 31st Oct 2014 – 1600 hours GMT onwards for a duration of 60 mins.

Topic Summary [ Link to Register ]

  • Basic Concepts of Analytics and Big Data
  • Impact on business in general and freelance business in partcular
  • How businesses are using these for their advantage
  • How you can apply the techniques for your business development

What we commit to offer 

  • Orientation about an emerging business dynamics
  • Ways, means and examples as how to use these for your business development
  •  All attendees will receive our   Handbook  : Measuring and improving  your business’s Analytic  Quotient

Still interested, Please click the link and register : REGISTER

Wordsmith University appearing in Startup Saturday in Calcutta for Headstart

Headstart organizes a very nice event called Startup Saturday where a startup can present about itself among an audience having more such start-ups.

Wordsmith University will be presenting on next Saturday – 13th September in the Startup Saturday.

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Reflections on the epic in film – The Godfather trilogy

Last weekend, I watched The Godfather I and II and here are some stray thoughts that came to me :

  • What is Sherlock Holmes adventures for anyone having slightest inclination in the Art of Deduction and applying this for crime detection, so is the The Godfather Trilogy for anyone having an iota of interest in watching good films and making a good film.
  • In 1972, Godfather I was released and the sequel – II came after  few years. Critics and viewers are not sure, after 40 years as which one is better. Finally they decided that I and II are like spaghetti and marinara sauce. Indian equivalent of samosa and aloo or like Joy and Veeru (Sholay)
  • Sholay from Bollywood came in the mid seventies and is a classic and its sequel, made by Mr. Ram Gopal Verma vindicated me and Al-Beruni (who somehow stole my idea having the unfair advantage of being born some eight centuries back). What is the matter ? The matter is simply this : Mr. Ram Gopal Verma was a fresh and ferocious air over the Augean stable of normal Bollywood offers of now and before. His Satya was a cinematic masterpiece and a kind of a bleaching powder spread area  in the midst  of general Bollywood offal. But Mr. Verma hobnobbed too much with the entrenched gang and the result : His Sholay. The Aag (fire) from that Sholay emitted a stench of such intensity that it became a tangible force and we visualized a box where the maker is keeping, with equal care a piece of gold bar and a piece of human excrete ! 
  • If hobnobbing or association with shady people can merit a 2 year prison term for a stellar career-holder like Rajat Gupta, I think juridical and artistic minds should convene a meeting as what made a man like Mr. Verma with Satya like gem in the bag to make something like shit his Sholay ? Ram, Ram ! Why Ramu ? Why ? If Viku Mathre were alive, he would have ‘whacked’ Mr. Verma the day his Sholay got released., Alas, like Viku, Mr. Verma’s cinematic soul died. The classic case of association. 
  • I ask every time while I watch the trilogy as why this timeless pull… There are dusts of poetry in the work. Without poetic dust, such protection against time and taste is not possible.
  • Poetic dust, a word I made up and which means something having all the desirable and least of undesirable components of art, science and commerce.
  • I watched a less known movie called Gotti which is a life-story of the last don of New-York’s leading families and in the film (as in real life), Mr. Gotti got life without parole. One of the major evidence against him was wiretapping of conversations and there is an Italian FBI officer who meets Gotti in the film, just prior to his arrest and is instrumental in his conviction. In the film, there are references of banks robbing money without a whimper and Gotti at the end of the film ruminates on this and says that they will regret this some day. In a great directorial anticipation, these were kept low profile and little hidden for the discerning viewers to find out and spin their own stories inside their head. A film spawning thousands and millions of films….
  • Hollywood could produce The Untouchables, The Godfellas and Scarface in last 40 years in the same genre and all of these are eminently watchable films with at least two in the bracket of greatness. The same cannot be said about Bollywood in the same genre. The ‘gang’ cannibalizes any successful product and produces only despicable copies and tasteless imitation. 
  • In a great foretelling, Rajat Gupta, the Indian origin banker was convicted using wiretaps and an Indian was the head of the prosecution for this ‘bankster’ case.
  • Do we have a Coppola in India and in the United States now who can make a film about this recent saga of Insider father ?

The wait starts now. Meanwhile, I am planning today to see Godfather II once again. 

 

Enterprise-builders and Businessman

All enterprise builders are business-man but all businessmen are not enterprise-builders. 

The difference is very subtle. 

A blog writer may be an enterprise-builder but a billion dollar corporation may be a mere business. 

So what is the distinction ? 

The overwhelming distinction is simply this : an enterprise builder has a philosophical foundation resting on many pillars. A businessman has a sole foundation and that is the foundation of money.

Hence, the world mourns a big business collapsing or going bankrupt but passing of an enterprise builder makes us subtly poorer and hence most have no idea of the colossal loss.