Ideas are everywhere

I have come to believe that ideas are everywhere. I think our problem solving minds are always churning away ideas – some are really cool and some are not so much. But I think we are always making them. I also believe that by some cosmic design every time there is a cool idea that comes to you, it’s also given to some 7+ other people on the planet. It’s like our minds are these attraction points for ideas and when we have a good idea – just remember that it was also given to some other people at the same time.

So, ideas are everywhere – but that doesn’t mean shit. What matters is implementation. Doesn’t need to be perfect or anything but any implementation is a right direction. You see all these ideas are nothing but potential for something great and they want to use us to express themselves. If we don’t honor them with implementation – they would seek someone who would.

I learned this lesson the hard way. I have a notebook where I write down all the cool ideas I think would be good. I sat on it for way too long. Last year I had this very cool idea about a mac app which would be like a network point for everything to connect how you read, bookmark, archive and share any kind of documents, ideas, links etc. I made a small plan and worked with my friend Kamal to get the rough version sorted out. But after 0.1 version life got busier and I put a halt on it. I never visited it. Yesterday I was browsing App Store and I came across like 5 apps which do the same. These apps didn’t exist last year and now they are selling for $15 a piece. Wow.

What a waste of time and energy if you don’t follow up with your ideas. I was aiming perfection and the rough edges on my 0.1 version didn’t inspire me much and I lost a whole lot opportunity to have my own app out there. Sorry Kamal – we could have been rich!

So, having a great idea means nothing. It just means that you are one of the chosen few that Universe trusts in to make that idea happen and it’s a big responsibility from there on to make it happen. It doesn’t need to be perfect – just good enough and shipped out.

This frigging ephemeral life

On Christmas eve, I got a terrible news about my cousin. He had a fatal accident and passed away. I tried to make a plan to go to India immediately, but it was too late. There was no way I could make it to his last rites. First came the shock, then the confusion, then devastation, then anger and now its just indifference. Indifferent, numbness. I have been trying to internalize it – it’s really hard sometimes to think about life in general. I mean I think of it as if there is no ending to it. I live as if I am going to live forever and my friends and family are going to be around all the time.

Death news has only one advantage – it brings extreme focus. I have been thinking about it and I realized that all thinking about his death and how fragile life is – has made me more focussed. Focused on important things. It’s a sad way to get there but I am there. With the new year just kicking in – I have been pondering about it a lot. Thinking what I should resolve to this year? Stoics believe that if we remind ourselves of how short living is our lives often we will be more appreciative of it. Bhagavad Gita talks about how all this is just a stage and we are playing out our acts. This is what Steve Jobs was talking about when he said that he checks himself every day – what if this is my last day on Earth? I think that totally changes the perspective on life and that day.

Now I wait. I wait till we mourn. Mourning for 40 days. Thinking and re-focussing.

The sorry state of Customer Support in India

Customer support for any service in India sucks. Big time. I am sure there are some exceptions, but most of the major players who run businesses there have the most crappy customer support. I know a lot of American companies use Indian companies for their call center – but I think it’s not all that good as it may sound. If you think, you calling Dell customer support sucked big time because some guy “Ray” (who probably is Raghav in real life) didn’t answer all your questions, try calling a Indian business customer service.

I think I know the reason why too. India is the only nation with more number of people under 25 yrs old. There are as many people under 25 in India as there are in US – the whole population. This means a lot of cheap labor. The kind of people you come across in customer support are the fresh graduates who are out of school and are willing to work for Rs.3000/month. They are good at reading out the instructions but that’s hardly any customer support!

I had 2 bad customer support issues while I was in India last month. I wanted to buy a 3G-to-WiFi dongle from Vodafone (a major cell service provider in India, which also owns 45% of Verizon here).  I called customer support and this is how it pretty much went–

Me: Hi, I would like to know more about your MiFi device.

CS: Huh? Sir, please tell me your vodafone number.

Me: I don’t have any vodafone number, I am calling in to find out more details about your product.

CS: (Silence. This probably isn’t listed in their script. Now the person is on their own and I had an inkling that this is not going to end well)

CS: Sir, if you don’t have a vodafone number, why call no??

Me: I want to find out more details abou the MiFi device.

CS: Let me check with my manager sir.

….I wait for some time.

CS: Sir, thank you for holding. Please go to a nearby vodafone store for details.

Me: Huh? Why can’t you tell me over the phone? I just need to know the price and other details.

CS: We don’t have any details about it, you will walk to the nearest vodafone store.

Me: Hmm. That’s weird, you are the customer support for your company. Anyhow, ok can you tell me the nearest store address?

CS: Tell me your address.

(I told them my address)

CS: Sir, the nearest store address is – so and so…

Me: Can you tell me the store’s phone number, so that I can call in and check if the device is available.

CS: Sir, it is our policy not to store any phone numbers of our stores!

Me: You are kidding me. You literally meant for me to walk to the store!

CS: Yes, sir.

Me: That’s crazy, you don’t have any information about YOUR OWN product. And you don’t have the contact number for the store which MIGHT sell YOUR product.

CS: Yes, Sir.

Me: Pulling my hair (or in my case, scratching my head). I don’t believe this.

CS: Thank you for calling Vodafone.

That’s how it ended. I never got that MiFi device, because the site for vodafone was advertising it but it wasn’t being sold at all!

There was another crappy incident of how IndiGo airlines stole my camera but it’s another post.

I  believe that the reason why these Indian companies can afford to have such a crappy customer support is because of such a huge population, if they lose 10 customers, they gain 10 new customers. So, they don’t have to try hard to keep the existing ones or try get new ones. There are very few operators at that level and because they don’t have the draconian 2 year contracts like US does, people always switch phone companies. It’s very normal and the customer support isn’t there to help the customer, but to just lodge complaints and do nothing about it.

This is the sad state of customer support in India. It’s prevalent everywhere, and there is nothing you can do about it. I sometimes wonder, what would happen if someone starts a customer support service firm who can help customers like Zappos does here – I wonder if that will ever give edge to companies there?

Chasing the wrong thing

(Note: This isn’t looking down on anyone, it’s more of what I dig up through self-reflection, writing etc and which sort of gets expressed as self-deprecation. I am as flawed as anyone I have ever met.)

I think a lot of us chase the wrong thing in our lifetimes. I am talking about things and objects. Like 10,000 feet outlook. Not about your new iPhone 4s (yes it’s pretty) or your new low price pants (yes you look pretty too) but at much higher abstraction level of objects and attachment. When we chase something we are attached to it. We are actually attached to the object of desire – which is fine, but it comes with some side-effects. Wherever there is attachment, pain breeds. It’s inevitable.

I think we as humans are at very core level are all about “Self-Expression”. Not about these moving plethora of new shiny gadgets that fill our lives and never give us time to think. I think we seek – constantly – self expression. We do it though various ways. Our work is one main avenue. But there are many other things through which we like to express ourselves – art, dance, music etc. But somewhere we forget that and we start to believe that we are out there seeking objects. Objects of desire. This leads to false self-identity and later does not bode well.

I think the key to happiness is to find out what we want and then dig deep into it to find out what self-expression do we seek from it. It could be anything, a 50″ tv for example. It may not be that you are just satiated by the HD reel that runs through it – but there could be more to it – may be like you like your entertainment in a big way, may be you like to express yourself in a big way which is making you go for a big ass tv. I know it’s a silly example, but I think for any objects we are chasing – there is more to it other than just mere momentary gratification.

I think there is way to sort it out. Here is what I think could help.

1. Find out what you like most. What is your object of desire.

2. Reverse it. Think as if this object is desiring you

3. How would you expect that this object is trying to express itself through you?

4. What are the feeling that you feel when you think of this object is trying to express itself through you?

5. Focus on those feelings. I bet you will find the core of your self-expression there.

Philosophically – when we chase down our objects of desire and once we have it, the fun ends. There is no where to go. And just because you cashed in some of your karma to chase that object of desire you will have to face the opposite action of your actions. It’s unavoidable. But in case you don’t chase the object of desire but the feeling – the feeling of your self expression may be with that object or may be not, then it’s a whole new ball game. You just made the object of desire a means to an end. Not an end. That way, you are guaranteed of endless opportunities of self-expression and not face the reverse karma.

Chasing that feeling is what we should be doing. But instead we are chasing the wrong thing, yep including me.

Dialing down the distractions

Mind is an amazing thing. It can get excited easily and also profoundly be connected to something. I have experienced both sides. But a lot on the distractions side lately. I mean not just what I see or hear but within the chatter – the chatter is off the hook and it’s running helter-skelter. I usually don’t make any birthday resolutions – but I happen to attend a conference yesterday and it made me think and now I think I am ready to dial down some of the mental distractions and setup some goals.

When I sat down last night to write down all the things I want to do – the list went on more than 3 pages. But after a while – it kinda start to repeat itself. I start to see patterns and then realized that I need to take some time to prioritize. To keep it simple I am going to set only 2 goals. I professional and I personal.

1. Professional: At the conference I attended I saw what is going to be becoming of Javascript. I was amazed and excited about whats coming up in next couple of months. I think Javascript is at that place where it’s going to explode all over the web and a lot of intelligent people will use it places never imagined. I have always looked down on javacript till I started to work on it seriously 3 months back. I mean I really dived into it. Trust me when I say it took me 1 week to wriggle out meaning out of this – http://jibbering.com/faq/notes/closures/ (broken link – but if you are serious about understanding closures you should read this – http://dl.dropbox.com/u/364488/javascript-closures.pdf) to understand closures in javascript but I sure did. It was mind numbing but I wanted to know once for all how javascript implements closures.

But I always treated javascript with less value compared to server side languages especially Python. But now I have changed my thinking about it. I think with given enough libraries around it’s possible to to pretty much all I need to do in Javascript. I am not going to be building sites using javascript on server side but I think I have found a niche where I can apply my skills. So my goal for this next 1 year is to just focus on Javascript. No Google Go, Objective C, Python, R or anything else. I am going to spend learning, writing javascript every day at least 30 mins per day outside my work.

2. Personal: There was a time I was rooted in my spirituality. But I think I kinda diluted it with a lot of *spiritual* distractions. Now it’s time to clean it up. I am going to plan on following and practicing only one spiritual mode. After thinking a lot about it – I think it’s going to be Bhagavad Gita. Mainly because it doesn’t tell you to leave the world and go take penance. Gita is all about how you can live spiritually even if you live in the world. I mean world of distractions. Gita is a song, yoga, meditation and everything else.

I plan to listen to Gita everyday for next 1 year and try to follow principles from it. I pulled out some old hard drives and it contained so much music, verses, talks and chants from Gita. Enough for 1 year.

Thats the plan. To dial down everything else. I think this is simple enough for me to follow and I plan to blog about these practices once every month – to keep track of my progress.

This is my Sadhana.

RIP Eric

Update:  There is a facebook page in Eric’s memory – https://www.facebook.com/groups/215300058526767/

Eric LaRose whom I used to work with is no more with us. It’s such a sad day. I worked on various projects as a freelancer for about 3.5 years and about half of them are designed by him. He was the sweetest guy I have ever met. We would talk about Mac technology a lot. He wanted to slowly get into development and we used to talk a lot about it. How Drupal was a good fit for his transition etc.

Death. The weird thing about death is – it leaves you with a empty feeling of wanting that one last chance. One last time if only. One last chance to meet and talk to him. One last chance to say all the things that I have thought but never was able to say about him. One last chance. And that one last chance leaves such a gaping void in your heart that sometimes it takes rest of the life to fill it up.

I feel like that today. I feel like I wish I had one last opportunity to speak to him. The last time I spoke to him was when I took a full time job and we were closing couple of open projects. It was different. Even after the meeting ended we just kept talking. He was talking about how he likes to live in the city and how he has very less expenses. I was telling him about my new job. We said we will catch up soon as I will be working only couple of blocks away.

I feel there are some people I have come across who have been extremely nice to me. I mean being professional is one thing but just being a good person is another thing. Eric is one of those guys. So many times I have stopped myself from saying true nice things to people just because I was afraid where the boundary was and whether it would be professional or not. That is such a travesty because now those good things I wanted to say stay in my heart and prick it.

It’s just a sad and bummer day. I have nothing else to say. Eric I will miss you. Thanks for being such a great guy. Rest in Peace my friend.

Khwaja Mere Khawaja

Sick, tired and can’t sleep. The least I can do is to listen to some Sufi music and try to feel better.

Funny thing is in Islam you are not supposed to idolize anything. Because we treat God as “noor” – light. So when Sufis started giving God a form in their poems – beautiful poems – and sing for hours about falling in love with God (similar to Gopikas of Krishna) – they are kinda looked down by proper muslims.

In India you would see Sufi saints everywhere. The one tell tale sign of them is that they have tomb. And that’s a form of idolization and the *proper* muslims call them with various names and don’t recognize them as muslims. I never knew anything about them. I would be visiting my grand parents and a singing saint would come by for alms and my grand mother would give him food but doesn’t engage him. She would be mad at him but still out of her generous nature she would still give him money/food. This idea of no-form-God is so entrenched in her that she can never forgive him for what he is doing – singing the glory of God. Idolizing God.

It so happened one of those summers while I was visiting them – my uncle happend to be around. And as the saint came in for alms, my uncle asked him to sing a song for us. The saint was so happy and sang a beautiful Qawwali song. It moved me so much. I was surprised how much love he expressed in his song.

Then I learned more and more about Sufism and their whirling dervishes.

Moinuddin Chisti or Khwaja is one such saint who is from 12th century. His tomb is located in Ajmer in India is very very popular with both muslims, hindus and anyone who has faith in good. Sufi music is getting into mainstream in India. Kailash Kher made it more popular. And here is a song from Indian blockbuster Jodhaa Akbar – which is a story of King Akbar who falls in love with non-muslim Jodhaa. This is a beautiful song.