New Year resolutions

There is no scientific proof that Jesus Christ was born on December 25. A lot of people celebrate Christmas on January 7, notably, the Russian Orthodox Church. I had come to the conclusion that anyhow we select one day of the year to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is good and my topic today is New Year.

Einstein has proved by his ‘Special Theory of Relativity’ that time simply does not exist, in a linear sense, in this universe. But for convenience, we split our days into hours, minutes, and seconds. Also, we have weeks, and months, and years on our calendar.

But unlike Christmas, a New Year has some backing on science.

The earth revolves around the sun. Also, the earth spins around on its axis giving us day and night. The earth spins on its own imaginary axis that is tilted 23 degrees ensuring that the sun’s rays fall into the earth at an angle, not perpendicularly, when the earth is away from the sun during certain times of the year. Since the sun shines on us tangentially during winter, its rays are not hot enough, we have winter in one hemisphere and summer in the opposite hemisphere.

The earth revolves around the sun in about 365 days. So every New Year, our earth completes one revolution on its elliptical orbit around the sun; and starts another one. (Also, in 24 hours that make up one day; the earth spins about one time on its own axis.)

The sun is also moving indefinitely through the galaxy at the same time. So, no two New Years are the same.

Coming to New Year resolutions, a lot of people would have a lot of them. Stopping smoking, exercising more, drinking and eating less, watching less TV, bridling the tongue to speak only good language, so on and so forth. I do have a few of them, but I am not telling. Since only a few people are actually able to achieve every item on the list, it is important to find ways to do whatever that is on our list. I personally believe that rather than finding some indefinite future-date to achieve our resolutions we have to start with the now. Since it is the only time we have on our hands. By doing whatever that has to be done, by being diligent, and spending the present time fruitfully, we move one-inch closer to our resolutions. I wish you the very best in your endeavor.

The importance of original thinking

Looking at school children in uniform can be deceptive. Even though they wear the same colors day-in and day-out, every child is different. One kid might be from an exceptionally rich family, while another one might be the offspring of someone who is trying to eke-out a good education for his children. One girl might be very good-at-studies while another boy can be dull and poor with his grades. But from a general point of view, everyone is a student wearing the same uniform. People would not, otherwise, think too much about them; and they would classify them as similar.

Taking this example and applying to life-in-general can be an eye-opener. Everyone is an individual with different attributes. When people become too afraid to think different, and when they become too lazy to think for themselves, they become another cog in a cogwheel. A lot has been written about the importance of original thinking. We have to think for ourselves about what is best for us and act accordingly. But our thinking has to be high. As the great Chinese philosopher Confucius pointed out: The superior man thinks always of virtue, the common man thinks of comfort.

People in a society judge each other by the virtues they value the most. Since people see wealth as a desirable quality, it is quite natural that our thinking is skewed toward affluence. Businesses are aided by ads and TV commercials which are nothing but half-truths at the best, and outright-lies at the worst. They can influence us to think similar, and sabotage any original thought.

In certain societies, like in China, where Communism prevails, original thinking is not easy. Individual opinion is overridden by the opinion of the Communist Party. So even if one person thinks that he should have a big family, he can’t do it; since he risks going into the prison for this crime. (To prevent population explosion, the Communist Party has limited the number of offspring to its citizens; else the father goes to jail!)

Anyone in a free society can and should practice original thinking. Just as philosophers of all ages correctly observed, we just can’t please everyone in the society; at the same time. In a democracy, even the biggest winner in an election has nearly half-the-people voting against him!

In this world of smart phones and 24/7 connectivity, a few billionaires such as Warren Buffet are using flip phones without any ‘apps’ or Internet. Steve Ballmer, the then CEO of Microsoft, said that he prefers pen-and-paper to any PDA or electronic organizer. These are all examples of original thinking. These people buck the trend. They think for themselves. I do use a smart phone, because I find it good for me. And this is my take on original thinking.

The White Elephant in the making

Before the XIX Commonwealth Games in 2010, anyone reading the newspaper would have gotten the idea that the Delhi Organizing Committee was very much behind schedule. With only a few months to go, the works were all half-completed and a lot of newspaper reporters had raised a doubt that it would be near impossible to finish the works in time. Well, the fears were unfounded and the Delhi Commonwealth games began splendidly and went off smoothly until the end.

One of the biggest attractions of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games was the newly constructed Delhi Metro. People, including foreigners, who came to the Commonwealth Games were able to seamlessly move from one venue to another. Most of the lines were constructed on overhead piles and one line ran underground. Among these Delhi Metro lines, people swiftly moved across from one place to another, where otherwise it would not have been possible.

In Kochi, Metro Rail is being constructed; and it is entrusted with the same people who constructed the Delhi Metro. Roads are being clogged due to the placement of big concrete piles on the middle of the road with associated heavy equipment, men, and materials. This has resulted in the traffic being clogged to an unacceptable level. This work is expected to be finished in about a few months’ time before the service is scheduled to be open. Deo Volente, trains will ply overhead Kochi’s roads in 2016. But I am not too enthusiastic about its prospects.

Kochi is comparatively small compared to a city like Delhi. The proposed first phase will ply between Aluva and Petta in Tripunithura in a 24-km stretch. I do not think there would be too many takers for it in the beginning. The metro first phase should have started from the Kochi International Airport which is still a few kilometers away from Aluva. Without it, the very purpose of this overhead rapid transit system is defeated. Anyone coming to Ernakulam City will not be too enthusiastic to pay premium rates for the Kochi Metro. They can use current public transport for the few kilometers that they intend to take. Currently, someone coming to the airport finds it difficult to reach the city or the nearby railway station, and this issue will still remain unsolved.

Kochi Metro in its first phase is only a single line, unlike the Delhi Metro which crisscrosses the city with its six lines. In its current form, it does not appear to offer any superior mode of transport than we already have. Kochi Metro has to begin at the Kochi International Airport. And until it does, there is a chance that it will remain a ‘white elephant’ gobbling up precious resources.