54 posts categorized "Books"

Remembering Appa

- Karthik Gurumurthy

It has been two years since you left us. When I say, left us, I mean your mighty physical presence. I know you are always with and within us in guiding us. We all definitely miss your physical presence. The best way to honor you is to follow what you have taught us and set a good example making each day count. Success is after all, how many people are better off because you lived. It would have been wonderful if you had stayed longer . All of us come with an invisible shelf life. We just have to make the best use of the cards we are dealt with and make each day count towards something great. Thank you Appa for being there with us all the time and guiding us through all the issues. We miss you big time Guruji. We love you Appa-:)


Thoughts for today: Plenty of room at the top!

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I was raised in an extremely competitive family. My cousins went to great schools and set a great standard for us to follow. This definitely provided me with energy and desire and a great deal of stamina. But what I found in my early years was that the goals that I set for myself became meaningless as soon as they were reached. This created a pattern of dissatisfaction and non-contentment. Beyond that there was an undercurrent of inability to share the joys of others' achievements, since, by definition, winning is about being at the top. And if someone is there, you're not.

When I joined my Grad school in Baltimore, I had to slow down to reflect this, that  there is room enough at the top for everyone. If I compete for the first spot, First, it means that your personal success does not need to be tied to someone else's failure. Secondly, it reinforces the belief that supporting others and their successes can be incorporated into your own view of success. Finally it calls for patience; for there is truly enough room at the top for everyone, you need not seize every opportunity that arises for fear that that opportunity will be forever lost. That extra room at the top means that there is room for you as well as everyone else. The opportunities will appear again. One priority may be displaced by another for a period of time without completely abandoning the vision no matter how strong. And if one can be patient, supportive, and capable of rejoicing in another's success, then peace will follow. Because each changed life signals renewed hope as one life touches another, and then another, and society begins to reflect the difference. Because, after all, "civilization is just a slow process of learning to be kind."


Merry Christmas!

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish each of you a Merry Christmas! Thank you for your kind words of encouragement throughout the year.

I would also like to wish you and your family all the best in the coming year. My prayer for you is that you will be blessed with good health, be surrounded with loving family and friends, and that you will continue to grow and reach your full potential and destiny.


Thoughts for today: Risk

-Karthik Gurumurthy

The story is told of a man living near the Holy Ganges river in India. A farmer like his father and Grandfather, Ram staunchly believed that God would always take care of him. Life was good; Ram's crops flourished and his animals were healthy. 

When the Ganges began rising, Ram thought to himself, God will take care of me. As water covered the first floor of his farmhouse, Ram picked up his farm animals ans moved up to the second floor. Watching things he barely recognized swirling past his house. Ram marveled at the river's power. The next day when neighbors rowed up to his bedroom window to take Ram to higher ground, he refused to leave because he believed God would provide. Water rose over the second floor and Ram reluctantly moved into the top floor, Volunteers yelled through second floor window, pleading with him to get into their boat, yet Ram steadfastly refused. The following morning, water began seeping into the second floor and Ram wearily moved onto the roof; certain that God would provide, he refused to climb into neighbor's boat. As water covered the roof, Ram exhausted by his ordeal, feel asleep and was swept away by the rising water.

While a helicopter crew was recovering his body, Ram was asking to God in heaven with a disappointed note, "Why didn't you take care of me?". God answered, "Well, I sent three boats and a helicopter- What were you waiting for?"

Like Ram, we often hope for divine intervention rather than take the leap of faith and the risk to move on.We doubt our own judgment, we love our safe comfort zones and hate uncertainty. It is also the fear factor. Fear can be Finding Every Acceptable Reason not to do something or False Evidence Appearing Real. Successful have the tendency to believe latter and make the first move which makes all the difference.


Thoughts for today: Everyday learning

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Remember when you came home from school and your parents asked, "So, what do you learn today?". The question is still relevant because learning is important to the health of your brain. Learning does not keep you from getting Alzheimer's disease, but it does keep your brain alive and helps you stave off senility. New knowledge causes your body to make new connections between your brain cells. The process of arborization occurs when neurons actually grow microscopic filaments to connect to each other. When you learn something new, neurons create growth hormones that stimulate their own growth and that of their neighbors. Thoughts happen when the branches of brain cells connect: that's why you need to keep feeding your brain knowledge. We need to make learning a lifetime habit by becoming an habitual thinker.

According to Late Dr. Lazarus (Dr. L), you learn best when you spend a short time learning everyday or every other day. Pulling an all-nighter as you did in college is counterproductive. Dr. L suggested when you are learning something difficult, switch off and do something that comes naturally to you; then return to the difficult subject. 


Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today Nelson Mandela went to be with God and World has lost a tremendous leader today. He was 95. In his life of 95 years, he spent 27 years in prison. But in his 95 years he has packed more substance than so many of us together.

393848_090620162033_MANDELA

I read his book "Long Walk to Freedom" and would love to share about what I got from that book. The best thing is to read the book. This is just the essence of the book.

"I never thought that a life sentence truly meant life and that I would die behind bars. Perhaps I was denying this prospect because it was too unpleasant to contemplate. But I always knew that someday I would once again feel the grass under my feet and walk in the sunshine as a free man."

Nelson Mandela grew up in a traditional village in the Transkei region of South Africa, hundreds of miles from either Johannesburg or Cape Town. A member of theThembu tribe that forms part of the Xhosa nation, his father was both a tribal chieftain and the chief adviser to the Thembu king, and Mandela was groomed to follow in his father's footsteps. The name given to him at birth was, prophetically, Rolihlahla. In his native Xhosa, the colloquial meaning of the name is "troublemaker."

The first member of his family to go to school, Mandela was given the English name Nelson. He recalls an idyllic Transkei childhood of animal herding, stick fighting,and storytelling, but after his father died he was moved to the Thembu capital to live under the wing of the tribal chief.

In his early years, Mandela says, he saw the white man more as a benefactor than an oppressor, and was enamored of British culture and its political system. But he came to realize that the Xhosa was a conquered people, with most of the men having to slave away in the gold mines for minuscule pay or work on whiteowned farms. Mandela observed: "No matter how high a black man advanced, he was still considered inferior to the lowest white man."

Early lessons, lifelong contacts

As a student, Mandela was introverted and not brilliant, but worked hard. He was placed in an English-style secondary college for blacks, met young people from other tribal backgrounds, and began to get a sense of being "African" as opposed to simply Thembu or Xhosa.

At Fort Hare University College, run by missionaries and with black professors, he studied English, anthropology, politics,native administration, and Roman Dutch law. At this time his ambition was to be a low-level civil servant, a clerk or interpreter in the Native Affairs Department.

For a black South African, Mandela's education was privileged, and he believed that a BA would be his ticket to prosperity. Only later did he realize that there were many people without degrees who were smarter than him, and that character was the greater ingredient in Competing in cross-country running in college taught him that he could make up for a lack in natural ability by hard training. In his studies, he observed: "I saw many young men who had great natural ability, but who did not have the self-discipline and patience to build on their endowment."

Back home from college for a break, Mandela found an arranged marriage waiting for him on which he was not keen, and fled to Johannesburg. After trying to get work in the offices of a gold mine, he eventually found an articled clerkship in a liberal Jewish law firm. He was paid a pittance and often had to walk miles into thecenter of Johannesburg from his township. Slowly he began to get involved in politics and the African National Congress (ANC), but for a number of years was more observer than activist. It was at this time that he met ANC stalwart Walter Sisulu, a real estate agent when blacks were still allowed to own some property.

A black lawyer was a great novelty, and when Mandela enrolled in the University of Witwatersrand for a Bachelor of Law degree in 1943 he was the only African student in the faculty. His discomfort was lessened by a circle of supportive whites and Indians, who would later prove to be important in the struggle for black freedom.

Beginning the fight

On a platform of "the nigger in his place," in 1948 the Nationalist party came to power in South Africa. Though the idea of apartheid ("apartness") had been around for centuries, the Afrikaner Nationalists entrenched it in hundreds of oppressive laws designed to create a brutal hierarchy: whites at the top, blacks at the bottom, and Indians and coloreds in the middle. Afrikaans, the language of the original Dutch farmersettlers,took over from English as an official language. With race as the basis for South African society, elaborate tests were required that often broke up families. "Where one was allowed to live and work could rest on such absurd distinctions as the curl of one's hair or the size of one's lips," Mandela notes.

The defiance campaigns that the ANC organized, involving stay-at-homes and gatherings to protest against new laws, only made the new government more iron-willed in keeping black people downtrodden. School education was scaled down, whole towns were razed to make way for white housing, and the pass system made it extremely difficult for non-white people to move freely. The 1950 Suppression of Communism Act was only partly related to curbing communism; its real purpose was to allow the government to imprison anyone on a trumped-up charge.

Despite this harsher climate, in 1952 Mandela and Oliver Tambo established the first black law office in South Africa. It was inundated with cases from the first day and was highly successful. In those days, Mandela admits he was a "hotheaded revolutionary" without a great deal of discipline, and that he enjoyed wearing smart suitsand driving around Johannesburg in a large American car. He even bought land in the Transkei with a view to moving back home.

Fate had other ideas. At 35 Mandela was banned from any involvement with the ANC, which meant that any work he did for the organization would have to be secret and risk long-term imprisonment. His roles as freedom fighter and family man were never compatible, and from this point on he would live with the constant anguish of having made the people he loved secondary to the larger struggle for freedom.

Criminal and outlaw

In the famous 1958-61 Treason Trial, the Nationalist government charged Mandela and others with trying to overthrow the state. Though the prosecution lacked real evidence, the trial dragged on for years. By this time Mandela's marriage had collapsed, and the time required to be away from the law practice saw that, too, fall apart.

When the members of the group were acquitted, the authorities' embarrassment was so great that it made them even more determined to quell insurrection. In 1960, 70 black demonstrators were killed at Sharpeville, a township south of Johannesburg, when they peacefully surrounded a police station. Many were shot in the back trying to flee the gunfire. South Africa came under a State of Emergency in which the rights of blacks were further curtailed.

Mandela knew that he would soon be rearrested for something, so he decided to go underground, moving from place to place with the help of disguises. He grew his hair and wore the blue overalls of the worker and, because he had a car, pretended to be driving it for his baas (white master). During this outlaw existence, when there was a warrant for his arrest, the newspapers began calling Mandela "The Black Pimpernel." For several months he actually left South Africa to visit various African states including Sudan, Haile Selassie's Ethiopia, and Egypt to seek support for the ANC's cause, solicit donations, and learn about guerrilla warfare. The trip was the first time Mandela had experienced freedom and had seen blacks either running their own states or being treated as equals, and it only inspired him further. However, back in South Africa he let his guard down, and in 1962 he was captured on a road leading into Cape Town.

Captive revolutionary

At his trial, Mandela tried to put the onus of guilt on to the government, and wore traditional clothing to symbolize that he did not recognize the white legal system and the charges it was making against him. He received a five-year sentence without parole. However, much worse was to come. As the ANC's philosophy of non-violence was clearly not working, Mandela had founded a covert military affiliate that began a sabotage campaign on government property. In 1964 he was charged with sabotage and conspiracy, along with a number of other ANC members.

The death sentence was expected, and in his address to the court Mandela said that he was prepared to die for the cause of justice. Perhaps because of international pressure, however, the men "only" received life sentences. This seemed like a great victory.

Mandela would spend the next 18 years in the notorious Robben Island prison. The first decade involved hard manual labor, terrible food, and a climate of fear and abuse. However, the political prisoners were kept together and so could continue their discussions. Denied virtually all outside contact, the acquisition of a newspaper was prized almost above food. The men's political struggle was reduced to within the prison walls, and they had to fight for any kind of improvement in their daily life. For the slightest infraction they could be thrown into a solitary confinement cell for days on a diet of rice water. Mandela writes: "It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones—and South Africa treated its imprisoned African citizens like animals."

The years on Robben Island made Mandela a virtual stranger to his family, and he often wondered whether the struggle was worth it. His mother died while he was there and he was not allowed to attend the funeral. On the rare occasion that he was allowed family visitors, he was given only half an hour with them. Because of the restrictions on her movements, he did not see his second wife Winnie Mandela for two whole years, and his children were not allowed to visit before the age of 15. The nadir of Mandela's time on the island came when he received news that his 25-year old son had been killed in a car accident.

In the latter years of his imprisonment, as his legend grew, Mandela was moved to mainland prisons and received special treatment, ending up with his own house and cook, and was able to receive visitors.

He had been seeking dialog with the government for some time, and after 75 years of bitter antipathy white politicians began to listen to his ideas for a fully democratic South Africa. They knew that history was not on their side, and the country was becoming explosive.

Mandela_Prison

Amid great euphoria, Mandela was released in 1990, having spent 27½ years in jail. Four years later, after the country's first nonracial elections, he was elected President of South Africa. In the meantime there had been much bloodshed, but the worst years were behind the country.

Final comments

Long Walk to Freedom is simply but skillfully written, and even at 750 pages you feel that it only skims the surface of one of the twentieth century's great lives. This commentary, in turn, only highlights a few points; reading the book cannot be more highly recommended.

Today we think of Mandela as a grayhaired statesman, a legendary figure, but his memoirs allow us to get behind the image. We see that he was a normal man who was willing to react positively to extraordinarily bad circumstances. He got through his ordeal because he was an optimist, and could therefore inspire himself as much as others. The key to his success as a leader was the sense of inevitability he created—the power of his belief. The message he gave out that things would change wasso great that even prison warders came around to his way of thinking. The end result was a new nation based on fairness and dignity in the place of a rotten police state.

Though he received a privileged education and was groomed for leadership, neither of these things was a cause of his future success as a leader. As the state gave himless and less to work with, he parlayed even these meager opportunities into positive action.

In a tight situation or a long struggle for recognition or success, we would do well to remember Mandela, and to have even an ounce of his mental discipline and bravery.

We will miss you Madiba!

Mandela


How much stuff do we actually need?

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Just like many of you, I came to this country several years back with 2 boxes...Somehow over a period of time all this stuff seems to creep into and expand in our homes through invisible cracks in windows and doors, filling every nook and cranny, cupboard, closet and drawer.When we move to a new home, we are forced to come face to face with our stuff. Shocked to see how much we have, we wonder where it all came from.

When I approach this topic, I notice that it is often associated with disapproval, guilt or sense of justification. "What is so wrong with materialism?" "If I work hard and can afford luxuries, why not indulge in them?" Actually, nothing wrong with materialism per se.  I think we need to determine how much is enough. At a minimum, we should have what we need to meet our basic physical needs- clean water, food, shelter and clothing. Ideally, we would also have those material things we genuinely cherish, which of course will vary considerably from person to person. Figuring out what we need or cherish can be challenging. Sometimes we unconsciously seek material goods to compensate for unmet non material needs. For example, some people shop to relieve stress, as a treat to counter the dissatisfaction in their lives. Others amass possessions to enhance their sense of self-worth, believing that what they own reflects their status in society.

It is true that buying something new can be exciting and relieve stress or boredom, but often that excitement is short-lived. Once the thrill wears off, we seek another fix, another shopping high, and the cycle continues. We seem to be genetically programmed to always want more. Most of us need to work hard to pay for our spending. Working excessively generates stress and dissatisfaction, for which we seek relief, often in the form of spending more money. Welcome to the work-and-spend treadmill.

How much is enough? That's the question we need to grapple with, and it will be with us for the rest of our lives. As our interests and lifestyles change over time, so will the answer to this question.

We can learn so much about ourselves by looking and our possessions- how and why we acquired them, what they mean to us, why we still have them. Sometimes we keep things long after they have served purpose. For example, I have carted my college textbook from house to house for years before I was able to let go of them. It is helpful to ask ourselves what our possessions says about us. Do we keep unused, unvalued books because they it makes us look smart to have full bookshelves in every room? Do we bring home all sorts of momentos from our travels because they bring back fond memories, or because we can impress our guests with how well travelled we are?

I really enjoy and love books. I cherish them and it has become an addiction to get more books, devour them. But do I have the time to use all the books which I have accrued over these years? The answer is no. I made a conscious choice to give it to my friends and family who can use them and enjoy them.  From last year onwards, I have slowed down.

Simple

When you slow down, you become more conscious of everything in your life, including your possessions. This awareness engenders a deeper understanding of what our lives are about. Often we develop gratitude and a greater sensitivity to the material waste in our culture. We simply don't want things we don't value in our space. "Get it out of here!" we scream. With fewer possessions, it is much easier to develop love and appreciation for the things you keep in your life. The goal is to take what you need to cherish and to honor the life energy and natural resources that went into producing your possessions by taking good care of them. We let go of everything else.


Activity vs. Accomplishment

-Karthik Gurumurthy

One of the books I like to read from time-time is "See you at the top" by Zig Ziglar.

In this book in one of the sections, he mentions about how lot of us confuse activity with accomplishment and the importance of having a daily goal.  A man or a woman without a goal is like a ship without rudder. Each will end up in the beaches of despair, defeat and despondency.

John Henry Fabre, the great naturalist conducted a most unusual experiment with some processionary caterpillars. These caterpillars blindly follow the one in front of them, hence the name. Faber carefully arranged them in a circle around the rim of a flower pot so that the lead caterpillar actually touched the last one, making a complete circle. In the center of a flower pot he put pine needles which is the food for processionary caterpillars. The caterpillar started around this circular flower pot. Around and around they went hour after hour, day after day, night after night for about 7 days (around the flower pot). Finally they dropped dead of starvation and exhaustion. With an abundance of food less than six inches away, they literally starved to death because they confused activity with accomplishment.


From today's readings

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today I was reading the book, "Day by Day with James Allen".

This is what I got from my reading.

  • We need to keep reminding ourselves that we have tremendous reservoirs of potential within us, and therefore we are quite capable of doing anything that we set our mind to. All we must do is figure how we can do it, not whether or not. And once we have made our mind to do it, it is amazing how our mind begins to figure out how.
  • We are either living in the problem or living in the solution. We always have to focus on solutions.
  • In life, there are no mistakes, only lessons.