October 26, 2012

Philanthropy can do better than Rajat Gupta

Few days before I was watching a YouTube video in between playoff games (both of which disappointed). Conan O’Brien was accepting an honorary patronage at the philosophical society of the University of Dublin. His speech was hilarious, and there was an extended, intimate Q&A session afterwards.
One thing he mentioned was an amended version of the (to me, very moving) words he had closed his last NBC Tonight Show with, “If you work really hard and you’re kind then amazing things will happen.” Namely, he wanted to add this sentence: “If you work really hard and you’re a huge asshole, then you can make tons of money on Wall Street.”
These wise words came back to me this morning when I read about Bill Gates and Kofi Annan’s letters to Judge Jed Rakoff regarding Goldman Sachs insider trader Rajat Gupta. The letters were intended to reduce sentencing, considering how unbelievably philanthropical Gupta had been as he was stealing all this money.
I’m not doubting that the dude did some good things with his ill-gotten gains. After all, I don’t have a letter from Bill Gates about how I helped remove malaria from the world.
But wait a minute, maybe that’s because I didn’t steal money from taxpayers like he did to put myself into the position of spending millions of dollars doing good things! Because I’m thinking that if I had the money that Gupta had, I might well have spent good money doing good things.
And therein lies the problem with this whole picture. He did some good (I’ll assume), but then again he had the advantage of being someone in our society who could do good, i.e. he was loaded. Wouldn’t it make more sense for us to set up a system wherein people could do good who are good, who have good ideas and great plans?
Unfortunately, those people exist, but they’re generally poor, or stuck in normal jobs making ends meet for their family, and they don’t get their plans heard. In particular they aren’t huge assholes stealing money and then trying to get out of trouble by hiring hugely expensive lawyers and leaning on their philanthropy buds.
The current system of grant-writing doesn’t at all support the people with good ideas: it doesn’t teach these “social inventors” how to build a charitable idea into a business plan. So what happens is that the good ideas drift away without the important detailed knowledge of how to surround it with resources. And generally the people with really innovative ideas aren’t by nature detail-oriented people who can figure out how to start a business, they’re kind of nerdy.
I’m serious, I think the government should sponsor something like a “philanthropy institute” for entrepreneurial non-revenue generating ideas that are good for society.  People could come to open meetings and discuss their ideas for improving stuff, and there’d be full-time staff and fellows, with the goal of seizing upon good ideas and developing them like business plans.
Rajat Gupta joined McKinsey & Company, the elite and secretive management-consulting firm as an earnest, under-stated young man, fresh out of Harvard Business School, and IIT Delhi before that. He rose rapidly through a competitive system, going on to rule boardrooms, chair nonprofit boards, and move with CEOs and heads of state from Bill Gates to Bill Clinton. Rajat Gupta broke through racial glass ceilings in the corporate world in a way that no other Indian and few people of colour had done before. 
Upon retiring from McKinsey, in 2007, after nine years as its managing director, Mr Gupta was a sought after figure on corporate and nonprofit boards, and joined those of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School.
Despite his stupendous success in America he never forgot his Indian roots. He created the American India Foundation, which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. He founded the Indian School of Business and the Public Health Foundation of India. And he ensured McKinsey worked, pro bono, with India's leading NGOs, including Sewa and Pratham, to help them learn from international best practices.
But Mr Gupta's philanthropic work did not sway the Judge who sentenced him to two years in prison today. He is accused of leaking Goldman Sachs boardroom secrets to a hedge fund manager at the centre of the US government's crackdown on insider trading, Raj Rajaratnam. Mr Gupta had hoped that the sentence would involve only community service; the prosecution had pressed for  years in prison. 
Before today's sentencing, Rajat Gupta himself summed it all up in a statement to the court. He said, "The last 18 months have been the most challenging period of my life since I lost my parents as a teenager. I have lost my reputation that I have built over a lifetime. The verdict was devastating to my family, my friends and me. Its implications to all aspects of my life -- personal, professional and financial -- are profound."
The judge overseeing the case had earlier warned that "If Mother Teresa was charged with bank robbery, the jury would still have to determine whether or not she committed a bank robbery." Today Judge Jed S. Rakoff  said, "He is a good man. But the history of this country and the history of the world is full of examples of good men who did bad things."

Mr Gupta's fall from grace began in April 2010, as part of the investigation into Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. The government accused Mr Gupta of tipping off Mr Rajaratnam of Warren Buffet's decision to invest $5 billion in Goldman Sachs. Mr Gupta allegedly learned this information on September 23 in 2008 at a board meeting. His tip allegedly allowed Mr Rajaratnam to buy the stock before the news was made public the next day. Mr Rajaratnam made a profit of $800,000 in just 24 hours.

Managing Partner of Westwood Capital, LLC Daniel Alpert calls this a "very disappointing episode because Rajat Gupta was an extremely senior guy and clearly was living the life of jealousy of the enormous returns that were being made by the people who did not quite have his CV but nevertheless were making enormous profits"

The difficulty for the government is that they don't actually have hard evidence of this. They have proof that Mr Gupta called Mr Rajaratnam after the board meeting. And they have one tape of a separate conversation between Mr Gupta and Mr Rajaratnam where Mr Gupta summarises the discussion in a Goldman board meeting. But that tape did not lead to any trades being made, nor is it clear that it leaked inside information. And the trade that was made a few minutes after a Goldman board meeting concluded cannot be traced to a recorded conversation between the two men. 
But the tapes are still very embarrassing for Mr Gupta.
First, they showed that he earlier had conversations with Mr Rajaratnam where confidentiality had been compromised, even if securities laws had not been violated.

On July 29 in 2009, Mr Gupta discussed the offer Goldman Sachs was thinking of making to purchase Wachovia, another American bank, with Mr Rajaratnam.

Second, they showed that Mr Rajaratnam had bragged to someone else that he had inside knowledge of the Buffett deal from someone on the Goldman board.

Third, Mr Rajaratnam, in a conversation with Mr Gupta's former partner at McKinsey, Anil Kumar, who pleaded guilty to leaking confidential information to Mr Rajaratnam in exchange for payments, speculates that Mr Gupta's motivation was financial greed.

Mr Rajaratnam can be heard on the tapes talking about Rajat Gupta saying. "I think he wants to be in that circle. That's a billionaire circle, right? Goldman is like the hundreds of millions circle, right? And I think here he sees the opportunity to make $100 million over the next five years or 10 years without doing a lot of work."

However, Mr Gupta's friends claim that these leaks are selective and the charges completely without basis. 
Atul Kanagat a former director at McKinsey himself counters "None of the tapes have a mention of Rajat by name. It is a careful selection of a handful of facts out of a mountain of fact to paint a picture that they want you to see. How many other calls did he make to Rajaratnam? How many calls did he make to other people? Right after a board meeting? Is Rajaratnam the only guy he called after a board meeting? If he calls me after a board meeting does it mean that he is giving me insider information this is all complete conjecture by withholding relevant information that fits your narrative. I think it is all nonsense."

Mr Gupta has been convicted of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. A jury acquitted him on two other securities fraud counts. The case had gone on trial on May 21, less than a month ago - an interesting reminder to us in India that it shouldn't take years to decide if someone is innocent or guilty.
Source: NDTV Online Edition

October 25, 2012

Remembering Jaspal Bhatti

Jaspal Bhatti is household Indian television personality famous for his satirical take on the woes and problems of the common man. He is most well known for his television series Flop Show and mini capsules ulta pulta which featured on the national network in India in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Jaspal Bhatti (Full name: Jaspal Singh Bhatti) was born on 3rd march 1955 at Guru ki Nagri Amritsar into a Sikh Ramgharia family of Bhatti clan, got married to Ms. Savita Bhatti on 24 March 1985. He graduated from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh in Punjab, as an electrical engineer. He was famous for his street plays like his Nonsense Club during his college days. Most of these plays were spoofs ridiculing corruption in society. Before venturing out into television, he was a cartoonist for the Tribune newspaper in Chandigarh. He is a pioneer of home-made comedy on Indian Hindi TV channel Doordarshan.

His low budget Flop Show show in the early 1990s is remembered even today.His wife Savita Bhatti produced the show and also acted in all the episodes as his wife. Only 10 episodes of the show were ever produced, but the show has had a long and powerful legacy and is remembered even today. One of his co-actors Vivek Shauq has been the most successful since Flop Show days, having found a footing in Hindi cinema. Bhatti's big break in TV came when he acted and directed the popular TV series "Ulta Pulta", "Nonsense Private Limited" and "Flop Show" for the Doordarshan television network. What attracted audience to his shows was his gift of inducing humour to highlight every day issues of the middle class in India. Bhatti's satire on the Punjab Police Mahaul Theek Hai (1999) was his first directorial venture for a full length feature film in his native Punjabi language. The movie was well received amongst audience for its simple and honest humour. He played the role of Jolly Good Singh, a guard, in the movie Fanaa. He also acted as a comical college principal in Koi Mere Dil Se Poochhe. What India’s leading media critic Amita Malik has to say about Bhatti’s work is Bhatti has correct style for TV, an understated, quiet humour which sinks in without shouting, and which mercilessly exposes both corruption in our every day life and the typical people, who thrive on it. The grim fact and the hard truths of our society so bitter otherwise are made so funny through the adept handling of Bhatti, that cleansing laughter is created out of common malpractices. The cartoonist, humorist, actor and the filmmaker is nowadays focusing on acting as he is getting numerous offers from Bollywood producers as a comedian. Jaspal Bhatti has now set up and is busy with a training school and studio in Mohali near Chandigarh rightly called "joke factory" which is popular and quite sought after.

Bhatti also appeared in SAB TV's "Comedy ka King Kaun" as a Judge,with actress Divya Dutta. In his latest stint, Jaspal Bhatti along with wife Savita competed in popular Star Plus show - Nach Baliye which went on air in October 2008. The couple put their best foot forward to entertain the audiences with their dancing as well as comic skills. After several years now, Bhatti is shortly launching a new 52 episode comedy series entitled "Thank You Jija Ji" on Sony's family entertainment channel, SAB TV. Bhatti, along with wife Savita is busy conducting auditions these days for his new comedy series. The serial will be shot at his own MAD Arts film school at Chandigarh. Bhatti at a recent carnival at Chandigarh has put up a stall displaying various vegetables, daal (pulses) and Oils. The onlookers are invited to throw ring around them to win these costiler goods as prizes to poke fun at the government's failure to control inflation. Play the game and Win Vegetables.

Also recently Bhatti film school’s - Mad Art’s animation film “Nanhi Chidiya”, on female foeticide, has won the second prize in the Advantage India organized by 1take media. The film has already won a certificate of merit at IDPA-2008 Awards in Mumbai. Mr. Bhatti was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award, at the first Golden Kela Awards.

What India's leading media critic Amrita Malik has to say about Bhatti's work is Bhatti has correct style for TV, an understated, quiet humour which sinks in without shouting, and which mercilessly exposes both corruption in our every day life and the typical people, who thrive on it. The grim fact and the hard truths of our society so bitter otherwise are made so funny through the adept handling of Bhatti, that cleansing laughter is created out of common malpractices.

The cartoonist, humorist, actor and the filmmaker is now a-days focusing on acting as he is getting numerous offers from Bollywood producers as a comedian. Jaspal Bhatti has now set up and is busy with a training schooland studio in Mohali near Chandigarh rightly called "joke factory" which is popular and quite sought after.

Lately, Bhatti also appeared in SAB TV's "Comedy ka King Kaun" as a Judge,with actress Divya Dutta. In his latest stint, Jaspal Bhatti alongwith wife Savita is competing in popular Star Plus show - Nach Baliye on air since October 2008. The couple is putting their best foot forward to entertain the audiences with their dancing as well as comic skills.

Data Source: wikipedia

October 23, 2012

Dusshera - Celebrations of Worshiping Goddess Durga, Burning Ravana’s Statues

Dussehra is a very significant festival for Hindus. It is celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm throughout the country. Dussehra festival is also known as Vijay Dashami. It is a day which is a symbol for the victory of truth over lies, good over evil.

According to the lunar calendar Dussehra festival is observed on the tenth day in Shukla Paksha of Ashwin month. Generally, Dussehra falls in the months of September or October each year. Dussehra festival in the year 2012 is on October 24.
There are a number of reasons for the celebration of Dussehra festival. The most popular reason for the celebration of Dussehra festival in northern India is that on this particular day Lord Rama killed the demon Ravanna for abducting his wife Seeta. It is for this reason Dussehra festival is considered as a day which stands for the   conquest of righteousness over wickedness.
Dussehra festival is celebrated by igniting the effigies of demon Ravanna and his brothers Meghdoot and Kumbhkaran. These effigies are made huge and have crackers in them. People start making these effigies many days before the day of Dussehra festival. It is a very significant day of ‘Ramleela' as well.
In other parts of the country Dussehra festival is celebrated for different reasons.  In west Bengal Dussehra is the final day of Durga Puja of Navratri (nine days of fasting). On this very day, Durga Visarjan takes place.
According to another story Dussehra festival is taken to be a hopeful time to pray tool used at work. It is done for the reason that, according to the fable in the epic Mahabharata, Arjuna (one of the Pandavas) concealed his weapons in a tree. He returned after a year on the day of Dussehra and found his weapons safe. He then worshiped the weapons and the tree.
Thus, in accordance to every story Dussehra festival will tell again people of the actuality that reality for all time wins and inspires them to go on the course of ‘dharma'. Dussehra festival will be the day to stand for the take-over of good over evil. It is as a result considered as a positive day.
The Dussehra festival celebration is unique in its perspective and significance. Is the celebration of the Victory of Good over Evil. 
On the day of Dussehra / Vijay dashmi, Ram, killed the great demon Ravan, who had abducted Ram's wife Sita to his kingdom of Lanka . Rama, who was a devout believer of Durga, the Goddess of War, prayed to her for the first nine days of battle and killed the evil Ravana on the 10th day along, with his brother Lakshman follower Hanuman, and an army of monkeys fought a great battle to rescue his lovely wife Sita. He shot Ravana with a bow that pierced his navel. Out flowed the nectar of immortality that was stored in a pot in his navel, thus destroying his invincibility. Sita had been returned to her husband Ram and they now make their way to Ayodhya in triumph and glory. Thus, it is on the Diwali day that Lord Ram, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the Treta Yug, returned to his capital Ayodhya after the exile of fourteen Years. 

Consequently, to commemorate the return of Ram, Sita and Lakshman to Ayodhya, people celebrate Diwali with the bursting of crackers and by lighting up their houses with earthen diyas. This grand style of celebration have continued, year after year. To this day, the whole of Ramayana is enacted in dramas staged in huge pandals and maidans, in cities, towns and villages, on the occasion of Dussehra and Diwali. 

Dussehra is the culmination of Navaratis in India. Popularly known as Vijayadashmi, Dussehra is celebrated with great enthusiasm, all over India. It is observed differently in different parts of the country, depending upon the legend that is followed in each region. In North India, Ramlila forms the highlight of Dusshera, while in south India, it is the triumph of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura that is celebrated. Eastern state of West Bengal has its own story connected to the festival, while in Mysore the concept of Shami tree is centered. Learn about the celebrations of Dussehra in different parts of India, by going through the following lines.

Organizing Dussehra celebrations in a housing society can be an absolutely thrilling experience, mainly if you take into consideration the many rituals and rites associated with this festival. Dussehra is one of the most awaited festivals in India, given the commercial and social extravaganza that accompanies the religious festival.

The Blend of Beliefs and Cultures

Dussehra is a festival that’s celebrated with different beliefs and rituals in across the country. A housing society is an ideal place to celebrate Dussehra, mainly because people who come from various parts of the country and from different cultural background stay in such apartment complexes as they provide a cosmopolitan and multi-cultural environment.

In your housing society, you can provide a stage where the Mysore Dasara can blend seamlessly with the north-Indian Navaratri and the Bengali Durga Puja, within the same premises. Children will be exposed to the various aspects of their own festivals, and they will be able to gain an understanding about the different festivals celebrated across all states.
Some Tips for Celebrating Dussehra

You’ll need to bring together many members from your housing society for the celebrations to be a success. Planning the strategy in advance can help. Always ensure that the apartment association is aware of what’s going on.

Allocate a budget for Dussehra celebrations. The source of funds can be in the form of donations from residents, and this can be collected before the event or in monthly amounts throughout the year. Local businesses may also be invited to set up stalls for food and entertainment purposes, and you can try and contact other businesses that can sponsor the event and put up advertisements.

Try and involve the maximum number of residents. Notices circulated well in advance before the celebrations can ensure that individual families don’t make other plans for the festivities. This increases the level of participation.

Detailed plans should be put in place for the day of the event. Detailed planning can help you avoid last minute modifications and inconveniences. The schedule for the event should be put up on notice boards and other common areas so that people know what to expect.

Ensure representation from the different communities of people who live within the complex. This will enrich the event and make it more enjoyable for everyone, without seeming bland.

Make sure that all government laws related to pandals, loudspeakers, and fireworks are abided by. This is something that the apartment association should take care of.

The food served can be across different cuisines, cooked up by representatives of the many communities present. It would be safe to stick to delectable vegetarian fare throughout the festivities.

Volunteers should be picked and invited from among the residents of the housing society. Dussehra celebrations are generally large-scale, so a handful of people may not be able to put all measures in place smoothly. A large, structured group of volunteers, with clear line of duties and reporting lines will help you execute the plans.

Safety and security measures like fire-extinguishers and first-aid-kits should be arranged, along with contact numbers of in-house doctors. Loudspeakers should be used minimally and a lost-and-found desk can be added too.

Cultural programs for children and adults, like rangoli, drawing, drama, dance, and singing or recitation competitions may be organized.

Dussehra celebrations in a housing society can provide a multi-cultural, enriching and enjoyable experience for all residents, irrespective of their age, culture or roots.

- Deepak Bhatt, October 23, 2012, 06:30 a.m.

October 20, 2012

How to Start a New Business !

So you've just got your new business up and running, now is not the time to take it easy and relax. Now you need to work harder than ever. Here are ten things to work on to help build up your customer base and ensure that your business is a success. 

1. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Is my business a reactive business?
  • How can I generate more revenue over the next six months?
  • How do I want my business to develop over the next year?
  • What will I do to achieve that?
Set aside time each week to think about your business strategically. It might be a mid-week brunch; it may mean having a board meeting; it may involve some quiet "thinking" time. Regardless of how you do it, make some time to work on your business, rather than in it.

2. Start making contacts.

Start collecting the name, address, telephone number and email address of every single client, prospect, and friend in business you have. Now contact them all and ask, "How can we help you?"

3. Stop telling prospects what you do.

You're a "needs analyst". Ask them lots of questions about their business, and then offer solutions to their problems.

4. Build a consistent follow-up sales process.
By follow-up sales, I mean you should always have another thing ready to sell your client once you've finished their project. For instance, if you've designed a Web site for them, your follow-up sale might be Web site maintenance.

A consistent follow-up sales process is critical to your businesses success. Continuing with the Web site example, with every Web site that you work on, you make a proposal to the client for ongoing work, usually focusing on the maintenance and marketing of the site. This ongoing work can be quite profitable (and is work that almost every Web site requires).

5. Start a newsletter.

Keep clients and prospects informed about what you're doing. Make regular offers. People can't contract you for your services until you make them an offer and they accept you.

6. Send a media release to five publications.

Media coverage provides your business with enormous credibility. Here's a quick tip for your media release: people love a "Top 10" list - just like this one! (They also love survey results!)

7. Reward good clients.

Rewarded behaviour gets repeated. Send "Thank you" cards, gifts, or whatever you think is appropriate to people who refer new business to you. These people are helping you to grow your business - you need to say, "Thanks."

Sending a "Thank you" note to a client who's referred business to you is just another reason to make contact with them. Then the client gets a Christmas card. Then the quarterly newsletter. Not only will it be possible to make regular offers to the client through these communications, but they will be dealing with you on a regular basis - and getting to know you even better.

Through each communication, remind the client that you are thinking of them, and encourage them to think of you. So you're top-of-mind when they need your services.

8. Never do what you say you will.

Satisfying clients is about the worst thing you can do. I concede that having no clients would be a lot worse, and unhappy clients wouldn't be so great, either!

Studies have shown that satisfying clients simply isn't good enough. Around 80% of clients leave a business because they don't think that business cares about them enough.

Satisfied clients will not stay with you. Delighted clients will. So don't ever just do what you say you will - do more. You have to exceed your clients' wildest expectations. Start today.

9. Benchmark your business against your competition.

Check out just how you're doing, generate lots of ideas, and know what you're up against. That 
information is gold!

10. Practice, practice, practice.

You have to perform in front of prospects. You have to sell your services. Don't turn up na dwing it; practice makes perfect. One client may be all you need to create a successful business for years to come.

October 11, 2012

વૉલમાર્ટ આમ કરશે વિકાસ? કર્મચારીઓ સાથે થઈ રહ્યું છે આવું વર્તન!

દેશમાં ભારે વિરોધના વંટોળ વચ્ચે એફડીઆઈમાં વિદેશી રોકાણને કેન્દ્ર સરકાર લીલી ઝંડી આપીને પોતાનો સુધારાવાદી ચહેરો ચમકાવવા પ્રયાસ કર્યો. સરકાર પડી જાય તો પણ ‘લડતાં-લડતાં’ જવાની તત્પરતા બતાવી. વૉલમાર્ટને દેશમાં લાલ જાજમ પાથરવા સરકારે તૈયારીઓ કરી લીધી. આ દરમિયાન વિપક્ષ સહિત અનેક સામાજીક ક્ષેત્રો સાથે જોડાયેલા લોકો દ્વારા સરકારના આ પગલાંનો જોરશોરથી વિરોધ કરાઈ રહ્યો છે. પરંતુ ‘વૉલમાર્ટ વડે જ વિકાસ’ એવી ગાંઠ બાંધી લેનારી સરકાર કોઈનું પણ સાંભળવા તૈયાર નથી. સરકાર દ્વારા મલ્ટિનેશલન રીટેઈલ સ્ટૉરની ચેઈનને ભારતમાં પ્રવેશ અપાવી વિકાસની નવી તકો ઉભી કરવાના બગણા ફૂંકવામાં આવી રહ્યાં છે. ત્યારે વૉલમાર્ટ તેના કર્ચમારીઓનું જ કેવું શોષણ કરે છે તે અંગે પ્રકાશ પાડતા અહેવાલો ખુદ અમેરિકામાંથી જ સામે આવી રહ્યાં છે.

કર્મચારીઓનું કરવામાં આવી રહેલું શોષણ અને કંપની દ્વારા કરવામાં આવી રહેલી દાદગીરીથી તંગ આવીને કર્મચારીઓએ અમેરિકાના વિવિધ શહેરોમાં વૉલમાર્ટ વિરુદ્ધ રેલીઓ યોજી છે. એટલું જ નહીં, જો પોતાની માંગો પર સંતોષકારક પગલાં લેવામાં નહીં આવે તો કર્મચારીઓ દ્વારા 23 નવેમ્બરના રોજ કામથી અલગ રહીને પોતાનો વિરોધ વ્યક્ત કરવાની ચીમકી ઉચ્ચારાઈ છે.

દરેક મલ્ટીનેશનલ કંપનીમાં ગોટાળા, બોર્ડના સભ્યોની ગેરવર્તણુક વગેરે વસ્તુઓ ધ્યાનમાં લેવાતી હોય છે. 

Story Source: Divya Bhaskar

October 8, 2012

Durga's Victory: Envisioning Power

One of most widely worshiped Hindu deities is Durga. She frequently appears in household shrines where she is worshiped as having the power to create life and encourage the growth of grains.

It is said that "Ma-Durga" may have been worshiped during the Harappan period. Tribal peoples in non-Aryan areas have early myths in which Durga is associated with mountains, usually the Himalayas or the Vindhyas. By the fourth century B.C.E., images of Durga slaying a buffalo became common throughout India. She had become a warrior goddess, a many-armed battle queen who combated the demons who threatened the stability of the cosmos.

At a certain point in her history, Durga also became thought of as Shiva's wife. In this role she is often called Parvati, and is more domestic and more restrained. As the warrior goddess, however, Durga is unmarried and does not lend her power, or shakti, to any male. She is not seen as a submissive god, but one who can hold her own against any male on the battlefield. Like the god Vishnu, it is believed that she can create, maintain, and destroy the world.

The best known account of Durga is of her victory over the destructive, wicked god Mahisa (or Mahishasura). Stories from ancient India describe struggles between gods and the demons, between good and evil. In these conflicts, which have been going on since the beginning of creation, the hope is that in the long run divine forces will triumph over the forces of evil. Here is the story of Durga's victory.

The evil god Mahisa was the son of a goddess who had given him magic powers. Once she asked the Brahma, the creator, to give her son the gift of immortality. "Impossible," said Brahma. "He who is born must die!" Mahisa then said, "Grant me that a woman alone can kill me." This wish he got. Sure that now he would never be killed, Mahisa gathered up a great demon army and marched on Amarapur, the capital of heaven and home of the gods. Indra, the king of the heavens, tried to defeat the demon army. A terrible battle ensued, lasting nearly a thousand years. Finally the gods were defeated and had to flee. All was in chaos.

Helpless and afraid, the gods turned to Brahma for advice. Brahma admitted that it was he who had given Mahisa his power by letting him know that he could be slain only by a woman. "What will we do?", cried the gods. "In our tradition women will not fight!" Brahma then took them to Lord Shiva, who in turn took them to Lord Vishnu. After listening to the tales of the defeat of Indra and the gods at the hands of the demon Mahisa, all three - Brahma, Vishnu and Lord Shiva - grew red with anger. From this anger they produce a divine energy which streamed from their mouths, creating a single mass of light. Into this light a woman appeared, her body shinning with the brilliance of a thousand suns. Thus was Durga born. At once, each of the gods gave her their weapons - a trident, a disc, a sword, an axe, a conch, a mace, a discus, a rope, a bow and some arrows. They gave her too a fierce tiger to ride on. Holding the weapons in her many hands, Durga let out a terrible roar; her tiger responded with one of his own.

Armed with the strength of all the gods, the many-armed Durga went to her home in the Vindhya mountains. Mahisa, hearing of the radiating beauty of a mysterious woman who had arrived in the mountains, sent her a message. It said that as lord of the worlds, he planned to claim her for his bride. With a smile Durga responded; "I can only marry the man who can defeat me in battle." "She is only a woman," thought Mahisa, "I'll accept her challenge," and he and his demon army set off to conquer the haughty Durga. When they met, Durga called out to him, "O wicked Mahisa, I am not an ordinary woman. I am your death. Do you remember that you wished to die at the hands of a woman? Now get ready to die!"

That said, Durga lifted her weapons and mounted her tiger. Mahisa and his army advanced. Durga's weapon arms swirled. The mountains were torn in two. The clouds were scattered in the sky. Her tiger pounced upon the demon army, killing many by the thousands. Mahisa responded. Able to change shapes, he at once gave up his real form to become a maddened black buffalo. Bellowing and stamping the ground, he ran at Durga. The battle was fierce; the earth shook with their fury.

Mahisa turned himself into many forms during the battle, becoming sometimes a lion, sometimes an elephant. He uprooted rocks and hills and hurled them at Durga. She shattered them with her sword, sending them into the wind. Again, Mahisa was a buffalo, snorting a mighty wind from his broad nostrils and killing her army by the swirling of his powerful tail. Durga used her rope, throwing it around his neck. The buffalo God tried to free himself, but the more he struggled, the tighter she made the rope. Durga played with the demon; to her, fighting Mahisa was nothing more than a sport. At last she dismounted and sprang on his back. With her foot on his neck, she thrust her trident into his chest. With this final blow he fell dead. At once his armies fell senseless, defeated.

Seeing her victory, the male gods hailed Durga: "We salute you O Great Goddess! But for you, even we, who are immortals, could do nothing. But for your coming, heaven itself would fall down." By destroying evil, Durga had protected divine law, or dharma. It was understood that those who worshiped her would receive her help in times of distress. Wealth and power would be granted them as well.

Envisioning Power

Analyze this image of Durga. Her arms indicate her various powers, in this case the weapons and emblems that the gods gave her.

-  Label the weapons. (You might do research to find out which weapon came from which god).

-  Discuss: What make a person "powerful?" Think of a person you think of as "powerful." Is there more than one thing that makes him or her powerful, more than one attribute?

-  Think of a time when you felt "powerful." Was it a time when you discovered some inner strength to reach further than you ever had? A time when you found the courage to try something new?

-  In groups, make a list of six to eight kinds of power. Make sure that not all of your ideas are forms of physical power. How could you visually illustrate these kinds of power? Draw symbols that represent each of these aspects of power. Share your ideas with the rest of the class.

-  Discuss: why can Durga be seen as a nurturing goddess as well as a great battle queen?

- Discuss how the concept of dharma plays a role in Durga's battle with evil.

October 5, 2012

Finding The Guru Within

Every sentient human being has within them their own personal guru, their own inherent link to abundant inner wisdom, strength, creativity, self belief and ability.

Needless to say though, there are times in life when circumstances conspire to make these words seem meaningless and improbable. Someone approaches your desk and brusquely hands you a note informing you that you've been downsized and your services are no longer required.

Or you receive a text from your lover telling you that he or she has found someone else and that your relationship is now over. Or you learn that that sale you'd so avidly hoped to close has fallen through.

It's at times like these that the realization or appreciation of your own inner potential to achieve success and fulfilment seems somehow invalid, as if the idea of maintaining a positive focus on things comes from nothing but wishful thinking and daydreaming, and that a negative or pessimistic outlook equals "realism".

"Reality" is, however, largely whatever you make of it. Simple and easy to say perhaps, but we all inwardly know that it's true. No matter how bad your immediate situation or overall circumstances are or may seem to be, there really is nothing to be gained by allowing yourself to wallow in despair, worry, self pity or anger. Negativity can only by its very nature produce more negativity.

The opposite holds equally true. If you train your mind, your consciousness, to habitually impose positivity onto your thought processes then as surely as night follows day you gradually find that a positive mindset becomes more and more natural to you.

And as you naturally and instinctively come to see life's glass as being half full and not half empty, you will find yourself experiencing more and more positive outcomes in your day to day life.

This is because when you encounter challenges and problems and view and approach them with a positive frame of mind you are likely to find that the solution - whatever it may be - is in a sense right under your nose. The potential for success or failure in dealing with problems doesn't lie within the problem itself, but in how you mentally react to it.

Tapping Into The Source

Deep down and latent within you, you have the power and the potential to deal with and overcome any problem that life throws at you. And not only that, but to come through it better, smarter and stronger than you were before.

Deep down - subconsciously - you already know what the answer or solution to any problem or difficulty is. The question is, how do you tap into this knowledge and put it into practice in your day to day life?

This is done by connecting with the subconscious itself. If there is some aspect of yourself or your life that you want to change or improve, or if you're struggling with some particular problem, take out a period of around 10 minutes, once or better twice a day, every day, to get yourself comfortable and relaxed.

Then close your eyes, regulate your breathing and then use your imagination to picture in your mind images of yourself being or doing whatever it is that you want to do or be, or successfully overcoming whatever problem might be troubling you.

Use also your emotional imagination with this, so that you're not only seeing yourself in your mind overcoming the problem, but also feeling what it's like to succeed over it. Feel this in such a way that it's happening right now, already, and not as something you hope will happen in the future.

If you keep doing this every day for anywhere between a few days and a couple of weeks, you'll find that the desired change will be starting to come about, or that the solution to your problem will present itself to you, either in your own mind or as a result of some "coincidence" of events or meetings.

The significance and power of the mind is often overlooked and underestimated, mostly by those who know little about it. Learn how to access the power of your subconscious - your personal guru - and you will find yourself living the positive reality of your life.

- Deepak Bhatt, October 5, 2012

- Photo Courtsey: Google