Saturday, April 23, 2011


*Note: All views expressed in this article are abstract and the author's own. The author is not (and am sure the publishers also wouldn't want to be) responsible for any neural damage that occurs.

This blog was meant as an outlet for me to steam out all the crap that gets the barometer sky rocketing in my brain. I am doing that. (read: Beware..this might be a waste of time, energy, bandwidth, neurons, .. .. ..)
Lets take a fleeting look at the number of networks you are a part of :
  1. Facebook- Accept it, thats all I am counting for 'Internet'.
  2. Organization- Your boss, your colleagues, the peon, the dabbawala, the girl on the desk diagonal to you
  3. Family- your wife, her peers, your peers, your son's peers, his girlfriends peers, Your girlfriends peers etc
and many more.. All these, I call them networks, cause of they fit into the definition of network. A connected/disconnected collection of distinct nodes that can/can't interact. Consider yourself as a node ( a red dot, take blue if you hate red) and other entities that i mentioned as other nodes. These are all distinct, because our friends in the forensic department say, everybody is distinct from everyone else, atleast by fingerprint. These distinct nodes interact on periodic/ non-periodic time intervals. Or to put it more discretely, they have means of communication. You and the Whale in the arctic ocean eating the seal are not considered to be 'interacting'.

Now, if I have conveyed the picture clear (if it hasn't, please wake your lazy ass neurons). Imagine yourself as one of the nodes connected via different means like love, friendship, Mark Zuckerburg, money etc to different other nodes mentioned above. You are a part of the network as much as each of them are. You interact with them and exchange information, money, feelings etc. These are nothing but the mediums of your respective networks. Now, if you just normalize all of them ( meaning, remove the feelings behind the words information, money, love and use only one word - 'medium' for them ) there exists a transfer of medium between you and other people/computers/extra-terrestrials( :P if you've seen Paul, you'l know). This scene is very similar to a network. For geeks, a computer network where computers interact with each other and information is the medium. For Dumbledore, you and other people interact because you are an incredible human being capable of 'love'. In short, you are a part of more networks you can imagine. Mind you, these are some quite complex networks.

If you have followed me so far, I'l introduce to the concept I wanted to convey in this article. If you agree to your being a part of gigantic inter-connection of networks comprising of, but not limited to networks of which mediums are love, hatred, money, information etc ( Doesn't Internet seem small now ? ), then you must be able to imagine a vast network of nodes, connect pipes in between nodes, have different colored for different mediums if you want. Coming to the crux, consider you and your girlfriend/wife. As you stay together more and more, one tends to learn from the other. There is a definite impact of the other person on you. You may start relying on him/her , expecting from him/her etc These in turn make definite changes in your behavior, your life, your thinking.

There is a concept in psychology, referring to the cognitive psychology of memory, more like collective memory, which says one starts depending on others for memory. One does not worry, sub-consciously about a lot of things accepting the fact that someone else, that you have grown to trust will take care of it. Like in a family, the children and the father rarely worry about the cleanliness, clothes being washed, house being cleaned because they leave it to the mother. Thus, that part of cleanliness is taken care of as a collective memory. Same reason is cited as an explanation to why it hurts so much after a break-up. Your brain relies on the other person for a lot of things which you now have to do on your own. These might not be mundane things like day to day work or memory but also feelings like happiness, being made to feel special etc.

The point of going deep into this was not to deviate from the topic at hand but to state the importance of the interactions one has when in a network with a single node. There is a lot that changes in you, because you are a part of the network. You do not remain you, when you enter a network. Your characteristic, your behaviour, your reactions to certain things change. ( how do you look at a mini-skirt before and after having a girlfriend ?). Your mere presence in a network is going to change you.

There lies my point. Its like, there is no recongnition of your own self without the others. Semiotics has support for what I say in the concept called 'pity', that one is incomplete without the other. I believe, its the network that changes you. Could the same go for computers? Now, if we accept that we are in a network and that causes a lot of mayhem, should we not take advantage of the knowledge? For example, next time you're telling a secret to someone, know that the other person is also in a network and you are not the only person influencing him/her.

A course on graph theory, ( which I haven't passed yet :P ), coupled with my COD of curiosity, pushes me to think more. Is there a meaning to the term 'connectivity', 'degree of a network', 'diameter- maximum distance between two nodes in a network '), 'path' - a list of nodes that will take you to another node desired. For example, just to demonstrate one, imagine a network with N nodes. There are a certain class of people whom Malcom Gladwell (The Tipping Point) calls - The Connectors. These are people, to fit in the context, with the highest degree in the network , i.e. the highest number of direct connections to other people. Extending the concept that Gladwell gives, would it not be beneficial for you , if you want to reach out to people, that you connect with these connectors? ( Marketing pros, political campaigners etc already deploy this method). So, next time, you are searching for a method to reach to your secret crush, analyze the networks she is in, join it, changes in it will affect her too :D

Yours Networkingly,

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why Make The Youth Run ?

I know this comes a bit late and the golden morning of 20th February, 2011 is a fading memory already. It is for that reason more so, that this article is important. This article, just like the phenomenon it explains, is an attempt to fight an aggregation of problems rooted at what I call 'dousing-of-fire'. Half a year has already passed and I can see the blue eagle on white cotton fading. Though every instance of it still makes me skip a beat; the heart enjoys a silent gaze at the symbol.

Youth Run, has NO inspiring moment of truth when it suddenly dawned upon us.. the need for change. Perhaps, another of those fitting coincidence.(It'l get clear as you read on). It got developed along the way, though the idea did stem in one of the meetings we had with a branding consultant in Ahmadabad. Full credit then goes to the team for developing it further, attaching sentiments to it, which kept us going throughout. Somehow people, including the organizers, miss the Youth Campaign which was the real 'cause' behind the Youth Run. I mean this article to serve for two things. a) To express the structure and future of the Youth Run as I imagined it. b) To express a deeper layer-2 'cause' (for the want of a better word) of the event so that in the future, there is room for 'necessary changes' in the layer-1 structure.

People spend entire lives, drifting, gliding in their comfortable oblivion. I'm the common man! I do my job, adjust a bit, suffer a bit, succumb a bit and live on! Heck, I'll survive! I'll just do my studies, get a good grade, get a job, live my life! Now, what is a stupid session, a plantation drive, a Youth Run going to do? Its not going to alter my already chartered course, so heck with it, I'll sleep! OR a shade more thoughtful but equally masochist ones, live on in seemingly endless drudgery thinking its only a temporary bad phase, it'll go. These problems are ephemeral, 'my time' will come too. I'll have a nice good vision, something will strike me, like it did to Mother Teresa on that train. It'll come and I'll shine then! Till then, I'll wait.

The motivation for Youth Run, 2011 was to stop people from waiting. Everyone in their lives is waiting for their 'moment of truth', a special 10 seconds of slow motion after which you will shout 'Eureka' and life will suddenly improve. You'll only then be able to do things right and perfect. People, let me warn all you optimists, there is NO moment of truth. It DOES NOT come on waiting for it. I'd sorry to disappoint but you'll just have to drag yourselves to work hard, smart and rack your brains, think, go mad to solve that irritating problem. All those who are waiting for that 'moment of brilliance' to wake them up and make their lives better, you're damned! The naked truth is to start working at it. For all those life-has-a-background-music-for-all-times believers, if you understand it this way, then i'll put it in more 'enlightening' words: That moment of truth, tests you. It wants to see if you have the metal to take it. So, you must start without it. Only when you show your grit that it says "yeah, he's the man!" that it will come and set your blood on fire!

People, i'm not the most experienced person alive nor do I think all of you should agree with me. I do not undermine the importance of inspirations. I know what an adrenaline rush feels and i agree, its the best! But waiting for it to come qualifies only as procrastination. Start working towards a good life. Suffering in any form, does not even qualify to earn a place in your list of things to be tolerated. The point of Youth Run is for people to believe. To believe in what is right, work hard towards it, and achieve it. It is to change the methods of drudgery and learn to live for yourself, to keep yourself happy and fight against entities that stop you from being so.

As I said earlier, Youth Run got developed along the way, it was not an envisioned goal! We constantly questioned ourselves 'why?' and it kept on coming to us. During one of the many nights we spent discussing, we were at the cafe, late night, after a good long meeting and it was slowly dawning on me with months of brain racking and meeting people, Youth Run could be an enclave. A meeting point, an annual hang out joint for people who work on ideas. Ideas that shape the society, the environment and their own lives above all. Typically organizations that work for causes. It could be an annual 'coffee-break' , in software engineering lingo; where people come together, discuss the larger issues that they are facing in their domain. Exchange ideas that motivated them. Think through the problems, produce solutions to vexing labyrinths; be it the rigid administration, corruption or the insipid people at large who are adamant on living the 'chalta hai' life. Youth Run, the way I look at it, resembles more closely to an afternoon nap that you take to recharge yourself; an annual jaunt, to make themselves more effective.

The Run itself is only a symbol. An apt metaphor for the rejuvenation, the shedding of old skin, the adrenalin rush that comes after you've had a splendid realization. The whole weekend is a time for people to come to their fountain of wisdom. The whole idea is for people to iron out solutions, tricks and share anecdotes that might have worked for some in their field. This is why I had imagined a nice whole weekend where organizations like Green Peace, Cry, India Against Corruption, Yuva Unstoppables, CEE etc come in their shorts and tees with a smile on their face, with the intention to have a good bucket of water splashed across the face! People who solve problems of these intensity and consequence, especially, need what Roger Van Oech calls A Whack on the side of the head. It will, i think, only come when people in these attempts come together and have an exchange of ideas.

At the cafe table, in front of the first counter, it was slowing gathering.. perhaps a good Youth Run eve dinner; where organizations who are going to run on the next day get to know each other over a good meal (hopefully better than the 3rd counter :P ). Then, the Youth Run in the morning followed by the youth seminar. The seminar has always been sidelined and I think the biggest lesson for Team Youth Run, 2012 is to focus more on the seminar. The seminar is the place where people recount their experiences, share ideas. It should be a fun event where we need not have people sitting down as audience trying to uproot all the grass off the lawns while somebody drones on the mike. The ideas are still not transparent and they are certainly malleable. They are supple and pliable. But then, I've always thought, the ones that are successful are the most labile.

Finally, there is a secret personal wish I'd like to share. Maybe a decade or two down the line, maybe at the 25th Anniversary of Youth Run, they'll call me and my team, as the chief guests for being the people, who set a legacy , who believed, changed and ran!