Saturday, June 25, 2016

He will sleep well......

He was watching his father Sage Vajasravasa conducting a yagna and as a part of that act giving away his possessions to others. Nachiketa, still a young boy, stood on the side observing the actions of his father. The boy was upset that some of the items given away by his father were useless and of no value to the receiver. The cows given away as a part of the religious actions in the yagna were too old, weak and unable to provide any milk to the receiver. The boy wondered as to what was the purpose of giving away such cows? He could not stop his father from these actions, but wanted to do something so that the father would receive the blessings he deserved due to performance of the yagna.

"Father, to whom are you giving me?", asked Nachiketa. Vajasravasa did not take notice of what his son said and pretended as if he had not heard him. Nachiketa was not the one to let it go. He repeated his question again and again. This enraged the father and in a fit of anger he said, "I give you to Death". 

Lord Yama is the Lord of Death. Nachiketa went on a long and arduous journey to reach Lord Yama's palace. When Nachiketa arrived at Lord Yama's house, Yama was away on one of his official tours. Undeterred, Nachiketa waited outside the main door of the house for three days and nights. He did not eat or drink and did not disturb the proceedings at the house. Lord Yama returned after three days. Mortals are scared of the Lord of death, but not Nachiketa. Lord Yama was apologetic to have made a young guest wait outside the doors of his house for three nights. He was moved by the determination of the young boy in sticking to his principle and waiting without murmur that long. He decided to reward Nachiketa for his resoluteness and fearless action. "I will give you three boons for having made you to wait for three days. Ask what you want.", said the Lord of Death. Nachiketa's position was that he did not want any boons as the waiting was due to his coming unannounced and without prior appointment. Lord of Death nevertheless insisted on compensating him for the long wait.

"My father is angry and annoyed with me now. If and when you release me from here and I go to him, he should receive me without anger or rancor. Our relationship should be restored.", asked Nachiketa as the first boon.  Lord of Death smiled and said, "So be it. I bless him with good sleep in the night. He will sleep well and receive you as before". Nachiketa asked about the secret of life after death, as the other boons. Yama tried to divert Nachiketa's attention by offering many other valuable things, but Nachiketa stuck to his request. Finally Yama fulfilled Nachiketa's wish and disclosed the many secrets of higher learning. These learnings detailed in Kathopanishad is much revered among the Upanishads and its teachings are highly valued by seekers.

Ranjan Das was one of the youngest CEO of an MNC in India. He had risen to the position of CEO & MD of Indian Subcontinent of SAP at the age of 42. He was a fitness freak and did regular workout at the Gym. He was capable of running marathon races and had participated in the Chennai Marathon. He participated in many sports events and was active throughout his life physically, despite his tremendous pressures at work. He had varied interests in life; he wrote poetry and even planned to produce a movie with a film producer friend. Reports said that he ate right, jogged and had no bad habits and he slept only for 4 to 5 hours a day. He appeared in a program titled "Boss's Day Out" on NDTV where he mentioned that he was not proud of cutting down on his sleep and wished he could sleep more.

He returned after a workout in the Gym, collapsed due to a massive cardiac arrest and died. His short sleeping habit was held as a reason for his death. 

Modren life brings in various stress factors into the lives of young executives and budding professionals. In order to make more time for other activities and work related issues, many of them sacrifice some part of sleeping time. A proper night's sleep is as important as healthy food, exercises and regular medical checkups. This is true of the younger generation as well and need not be dismissed as applicable to the older lot.

A sleeping time of at least 7 hours a day is recommended by physicians to their patients. Sleep here does not mean just lying on the bed but deep and comfortable sleep that can relax and recharge the body. A good night's sleep will enable the body as well as mind to face the next day's challenges with more energy and equanimity. This is exactly what Lord Yama told Nachiketa. He had rightly identified that good sleep is the key to view things on the next day with new perspectives and a calm mind.

I came across an article written by Dr Vibhuti Samarth Rao, an Ayurvedic practitioner on how Ayurveda branch of medicine deals with the aspect of sleep in human life. The article deals in detail about sleep deprivation, problems due to working in night shifts, problem of getting back to sleep when one gets up in the middle of sleep etc. Causative factors and tips to help getting a sound sleep naturally are detailed there. Some of the tips given that can be easily followed by all are:

  • keeping a pleasant environment with proper room, bed and dim light.
  • Soothing music and pleasant aroma.
  • Having warm milk before going to bed.
  • Taking shower or tub bath before going to bed.
  • Massaging of pressure points in the body to relieve stress.

Modren life has rendered a good night's sleep a luxury for many. But, it is to be noted that sleep is indeed an important necessity and not an option.


Several years ago, 14 of us were constrained to sleep in the dormitory of a railway station while waiting for a train due to late running of trains on account of derailment of a goods train. The one who got up last on the next morning asked others: "Did you have a good night's sleep?". One of the others replied very politely. "We indeed had sound sleep. We had sound and you had sleep!" 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

4D - Security concept

Security has become a major concern for every organization nowadays. Ensuring safety of the various assets and resources, preventing unauthorized usage or pilferage has been engaging continuous attention of top managements. Safety and security of people working in the organization, physical assets, technology platforms and enormous data at their centers have been becoming more and more challenging each day. Leakage of sensitive data, entry of unauthorized persons into place of work and pilferage of valuable items and tools causes many operational risk issues as well as threat to life and liberty of people working for organizations. Lot of money is being spent by entities to tighten security measures, both physical security as well as technology based security tools. These concerns are equally applicable to households and small establishments.

During a visit to a pre-school day care center where toddlers and small children are taken care of when mothers are at work, I was impressed with the security systems employed by them. The entry and exit were restricted and could be made only when smart cards issued by the center were used at the door. In case the visitor did not have the card, identification was made by speaking through a speaking tube even while the person inside is able to view the visitor through the glass door. Strangers and first time visitors are subject to additional verification to make certain that the visitor is indeed bonafide and genuine. As a further security measure, parents are contacted over phone before the child is handed over to the visitor. It is indeed a big responsibility to run such centers.

A house magazine of an organization carried an article about the 4-D concept of security in organizations. These concepts can equally be applied in houses and small establishments. What is this 4-D concept? It simply involves four levels of combinations of various steps that can take care of security concerns. Strict observance of these measures ensures a high level of security atmosphere and a intruder would find it difficult to attempt his adventures in these establishments. The 4-D concept deals with the four levels of security measures; Deter, Deny, Delay and Detect.

The first step of "Deter" puts in place systems that ensure intruders are made to desist even from attempting an entry. The measures may include barbed wires on the perimeter walls, CCTV surveillance, posting of watchmen and adequate lighting around the establishment. Even display of boards that claim "This place is under CCTV surveillance" are capable of ensuring that a casual intruder does not proceed on misadventure. Any effort to gain entrance in such places requires serious preparation on the part of the intending intruders. This filters and narrows down the likely attempts at gaining unauthorized entry.

The second step of "Deny" involves keeping the unauthorized persons out by another series of measures. The measures include use of access control through biometric cards, manned entry verification through security guards at entry points, segregation of areas to restrict entry only to a specified area in the establishment, keeping the doors locked, use of X-ray machines to scan bags and packets etc. By use of such measures, gaining entry is made difficult at the first stage. Even after gaining entry, access is restricted to designated area thus ensuring protection of other segregated areas.

The third step of "Delay" ensures slowing down the progress of an intruder even after gaining entry bypassing the first two levels. The measures comprise stop doors, window grills, strong rooms with vault doors for housing servers and areas of sensitive work stations, time locks and embedded cash safes. Some organizations have entire floors of buildings as out of bounds for even their own employees. Additional security features control entry into such highly restricted areas. It is no surprise that many employees do not even know the nature of work or research going on such restricted parts of their own buildings.

It may not always be possible to prevent planned and organized gangs from gaining entry despite the above three levels of measures. The 4th D concept of "Detect" comes into play now. Detect involves monitoring and actively detecting unauthorized entrants by watching CCTV monitor screens, placing anti-burglar alarms, installation of CCTV with night vision facility, auto dialers with security alarm systems etc. This helps in preventing unauthorized activity even after an intruder gains entry by bypassing the first three levels of security.

The concept of 4-D security can be applied to our households as well. Keeping the doors locked, storing valuables in locked cabinets, proper care of valuables and avoiding easy access to valuables at homes can be effective security measures.  

Employing the 4-D concept keeps entities in readiness to face security threats from outsiders. However, it is important to remember that all these measures are only effective when the people manning these systems and tools are vigilant and careful at all times. A small slip or laxity in following the prescribed procedures even for a small span of time can fail the entire system. "Eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty" is a saying attributed to Thomas Jefferson. It is said that it was used by others earlier to him as well. Eternal vigilance is indeed the 5th, or even the first concept of security! 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Then, Earth became "Pruthvi"

One of the recent posts was titled "Shree Pruthvivallabha" (Click here to read it). The word Pruthvivallabha is actually a title, which means "Lord Paramount". This title was used by many Kings of yesteryears who had vast geographical areas under their command and control. Other kings who controlled smaller territories accepted such Kings as their superior and sought their protection in running the affairs of their respective kingdoms. These smaller kings known as "Saamanta" (subordinate) kings were required to make annual payments to the Lord Paramount in the form of gold, grains, soldiers to the army and other similar and mutually agreed items in lieu of the protection so received. The smaller kings enjoyed freedom of administration within their territories, but were required to aid the Lord Paramount when called upon in case of war with a powerful adversary. The Lord Paramount also was benefited by the indirect power and thus able to concentrate on wider issues in his command area. Such arrangement between the Lord Paramount and the Saamanta kings ensured that there was lasting peace and social order for a reasonable length of time. There were inevitable wars, but peace had a chance at least as long as the personal equation between the two forces was politically sustainable. This arrangement is somewhat similar to the present Central and State Government structure, though modifications can be seen in some areas in line with the requirements of the present times. 

While the word "Pruthvivallabha" means "Lord Paramount", the word "Pruthvi" itself means Earth or part thereof. The word "Vallabha" denotes one who owns the land. But how does the word "Pruthvi" come to mean "Earth"? There is an interesting story behind it, which can be found in Bhagavata and Puranas. 

Long time ago, there was a King by name Vena. He was a descendent in the lineage of Dhruva. Dhruva was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and ruled the lands with distinction. The pole star which is used as a direction giver (North Star) by those at sea is named after him. Vena was also a good King to start with, but in due course of time developed all bad traits and ended up as an evil King. Everyone under his rule suffered and the level of sin reached astronomical proportions. Bhoodevi, Earth Goddess became frustrated and decided that she will not support vegetation, hid all vegetation and life supporting items inside her and went into hiding. Everything came to a standstill and life became very difficult for all. This enraged the usually kind and pious Rishis. They went in a group and killed Vena in a fit of rage. Vena was lying dead but then it dawned on them that there was no successor to the throne as Vena was childless. 

The Rishis churned the body of the dead king. First a dwarf hunter emerged from the body who was personification of all evil present in the body of Vena. After all the evil was gone and the dwarf emerged, churning of Vena's body continued. From the arm of the dead Vena emerged a fully grown handsome man (see the picture alongside). The new born was named Pruthu (or Prithu), which means great or big. He is believed as an incarnation of Lord Mahavishnu and that Lord Vishnu's bow, Sharanga, slipped from heaven and fell to his hands. Pruthu was anointed as the King. Pruthu took charge and was firmly in saddle now.

Pruthu found that all vegetation and life supporting items had disappeared. He realized that Bhoodevi had taken the form of a cow and gone into hiding. Pruthu went to Bhoodevi in cow's form, but the cow started running away. Pruthu chased the cow with an arrow on the Sharanga, deciding to kill the cow if she did not heed his orders (see picture at the top) and take the items hid in the cow's belly. The cow requested Pruthu not to kill her and in turn she would release all the vegetation and life supporting items inside her belly, in the form of milk. Pruthu accepted the request and lowered the arrow. As he reneged from killing her, it was as good as he gave a second life to Bhoodevi. Bhoodevi was now like his daughter as Pruthu became equal to a father, the life giver. Then, Earth became Pruthvi (Pruthu's daughter).

Meru, the golden mountain, took the form of a calf and all the representatives of various sections of people were able to draw whatever they required from the cow, in the form of milk. Order was restored and life went on thereafter as usual. Pruthu was considered as the first King who ruled the entire Earth. Earth (Bhoodevi) was henceforth referred as "Pruthvi". Pruthu flattened many mountains with his arrows and made the ground even and hence fit for agriculture. His reign was marked by wellbeing and happiness of all subjects. There was no hunger or calamity in his rule. It is believed that proper application of agriculture, animal husbandry, trade and commerce came into existence only from the time of Pruthu.

Subsequent Kings were indebted to King Pruthu for restoring order on earth. Both Pruthu and Pruthvi became an integral part of life on the earth and history thereafter!