The Girl

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Dear Diary,

It’s 3 am and still I’m not able to sleep. Someone is not letting me sleep, someone whose name I don’t know, someone whose face I haven’t seen, someone whose voice I haven’t heard, someone who is thousand miles away from me, someone who is a total stranger to me. I don’t know why. Do I care about that someone? I don’t know.

3am

I know, you must be thinking that I’ve probably gone out of my mind. But, bear me for some more time. It’s quite late in the night, all my friends must be sleeping. You are the only one who never sleeps, who always hears me out..especially when I’m disappointed either with system, society, or my own limitations.

Last Saturday evening I called home and got to know about a girl who is mentally unstable. She lives out in open, in a field which is some 100 meters away from my home. It’s been almost 5-6 days that she made that field her home. She has nobody to care about her. She collects fallen leaves whole day, makes a heap out of collected leaves and at night sleeps inside that. It’s still cold out there in my city, especially at night.

Leafs

More than anything, I was surprised to know that nobody informed police, NGO or any other government office about this girl, not even a phone call. Even my family didn’t do anything, just like other people of my locality. How can they all be so insensitive? Something immediately died inside me after hearing that – maybe the feeling of love and respect for my own people. After hearing few harsh words from me, they finally called up the police. In the meanwhile, I also called several government officials – local police station, district magistrate (DM), City SP. At last police came, they saw the girl and left the spot without saying a word; maybe it wasn’t their duty to do something for a mad girl. They didn’t care to ask about the reasons behind the girl’s condition; something terrible must have happened to her.

the girl

Image by vijay jamdagni – bLANK thoughtS

Local citizens are not doing anything; government authorities have closed their eyes. Two nights have passed since I called and nothing seems to be happening.

Walked for some 40 minutes on my rooftop, tried to stop myself from thinking about all this, but nothing worked. Only the body is tired, not mind.

The girl is still there, out in open, sleeping under the heap of leaves. And I am here, in my apartment, wide awake and thinking — what should I do tomorrow.

Right brain in thinking mode

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Banking Sector: The Customer’s Perspective

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Enhancing customers’ experience with personalized banking and reduced operational complexity

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Introduction

Over the past few years, banking firms have borne the brunt of global economic meltdown and are still trying to recover from it. With the recent signs of improvement in the global economy and the renewed hope, banks are now faced with a wide array of challenges, such as retaining customers, meeting regulatory requirements, increasing revenue in both mature and emerging markets, and competitive financial landscape.

The sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008 made people believe that financial organizations always operate in their own interest and the customer lies at the bottom of the value chain. Hence, rebuilding trust, by understanding customers’ wants and needs and exceeding their expectations, is one of the biggest challenges that banking sector faces today.

Banking industry: key challenges and opportunities

Banking sector has lagged behind in adopting new technologies when compared to other industries. Faced with financial and operational challenges, many banking firms are still burdened with the task of maintaining their complex, proprietary IT infrastructures. Outsourcing non-core IT infrastructure related tasks to cloud vendors or hosting service providers can help reduce operational costs and complexity, enabling banks to be more agile and focus on core-banking activities and innovation.

In today’s volatile economic environment banks need to be more customer centric. Customers today are more aware and increasingly becoming more demanding. They know banks can do a much better job in offering products and services. Highly personalized customer-centric solutions are the need of the time. And, to be able to offer personalized banking experience banks need to have a better insight into the customer’s behavior and their own business. Customers’ needs, expectation, and buying pattern vary according to geographies and demographics, and this creates different set of challenges in different geographies. Fast emerging economies like India and China offer different challenges than more mature markets of Europe and the US. In India low internet penetration is a major barrier to the growth of online banking. To add to the existing problems, technology adoption is very low and Indian public is still not very comfortable using Internet and mobiles for business transactions, though this is changing in urban areas. The reason lies in lack of awareness, trust and assurance on security concerns. Banks can address some of these issues by conducting customer contact programs, well-targeted marketing campaigns, and by directly approaching the customers through multiple channels. Considering India’s large youth population and its increasing spending power, banks must devise new strategies exclusive to their preferences.

Lack of visibility is another issue; most of the financial organizations today lack visibility of end-to-end systemic risks. Banks need to improve their services and processes and invest more on business analytics tools. They must leverage business analytics to harness customer data to develop holistic view of the borrower, loan and the payment history. This can help banking firms become pro-active in their response rather than reactive.

Technology as a differentiator

Technology can be a major differentiating, be it reducing business complexity, retaining customers, minimizing risks or identifying new revenue streams. Integrating the latest technology and business analytics to the existing business infrastructure will be critical for banks in the years to come. In order to perform better in today’s economic environment banks should focus on:

  • Providing customer-centric solutions, i.e. personalized services and offers to right customers, at right time to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • Leveraging cloud-based banking services by outsourcing IT infrastructure, application development and maintenance related tasks to select service providers
  • Business insight and customer segmentation
  • Online and mobile banking market

Conclusion

Business insight, technology and customer satisfaction are three areas where banks need to focus if they want to do better in today’s uncertain economic environment. With the use of advanced business analytics and greater business insight, banks can achieve customer centricity, reduce operational complexity and costs, and improve their risk management strategies. In emerging markets like India banks should focus on diversifying their income sources and increasing their reach in rural areas. And banks worldwide need to provide personalized banking experience to their customers, with services and offers specifically tailored to individual needs because customer is the king and “one-size-fits-all” strategy is not going to work anymore.

Are hosted solutions the way forward for the Hospitality Sector?

English: Interactions in Cloud Computing envir...

Reduced costs, simplified IT infrastructure and admin, scalability, improved flexibility, single consolidated view of the business, and personalized customer experience are the key drivers for the increasing popularity of hosted solutions in the hospitality sector.

Centralized hosting – past and present:

The concept of hosting business applications or solutions dates back to the 1960s, when IBM started leveraging its data centers to banks and other government organizations. This was called utility computing. Over the years, the expansion of internet and Java-based technology brought a new model of computing, known as application service providers (ASP). These application service providers started offering the services of hosting and managing customized business applications, and the main focus was on cost reduction.

The emergence of internet-based applications and cloud computing has transformed the way IT works. Today IT is slowly moving away from software licensing model to subscription model or “on-demand” model – commonly known as Software as a Service (SaaS). The increasing demand for business expansion, cost reduction and an enhanced user experience is driving the move to cloud computing. And, hospitality sector has not remained untouched by this paradigm shift in IT.

Hospitality Sector and Hosted Solutions:

Over the past few years, the hospitality sector has experienced tremendous growth. Thanks to globalization, all segments of the industry, including hotels, restaurants, pubs and casinos, have enjoyed economic growth and expansion. However, the fear of another recession is prompting companies to reevaluate their business infrastructure.

In this scenario, hosted solutions can be a most logical choice to manage growing business, reduce operational costs and provide personalized customer experience. In a hosted environment all components of the solution are located on a service provider’s data center. The service provider is responsible for managing applications and hardware stack. This reduces the need for upfront capital investment on costly servers and software upgrades, and frees the in-house staff to remain focused on business, rather than IT issues.

With hosted applications or solutions, such as unified communications, mobility services, and integrated call centers, hotels can help reduce operational costs, improve customers’ experience with personalized services, increase staff productivity, and drive new revenue streams. Hosted solutions can be a game changer for the hospitality industry.

Some of the most obvious benefits are as follows:

  • Hosting solutions over the internet with third-party vendors or SaaS providers frees the organizations from burden of maintaining huge IT infrastructure, maintenance staff, software upgrades and installation
  • Reduces upfront investment costs
  • Saves energy cost, space and the time that would be otherwise required to host applications and servers on-premise
  • Since the model is based on “pay-as-you-go” service, an organization pays for what it uses in real. This makes it easy for new and small hospitality enterprises to adopt new technologies at optimal price
  • Provides the capability to offer personalized services to customers, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • Helps improve resource management allocation and distribution of services and manpower at right time at right place
  • Helps integrate different channels (marketing, ticketing, bookings, payroll, human resource management, internal communication, etc) and provides a consolidated view
  • Online applications for ticket bookings, room reservations, etc. provide the customers with a easy to use, self-services option that can help reduce interaction time lag between customer and service provider

Looking at all these benefits it won’t be incorrect to say that hosted solutions are the next big thing in the hospitality sector. Hosted solutions are definitely a way forward for the hospitality sector as it would help enterprises meet growing customer expectations and demands while saving costs and increasing staff productivity.

Amrapali’s Encounter with The Handsome Renunciate

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When a courtesan became "Arahant"

The most attractive thing in Vaishali, the capital city of Lichhavis, was the beautiful dancer Amrapali. She was named after the mango grove she was first found in. Everybody was eager to win her love.

She chose to be the Nagar-vadhu, wife to the whole city. One day, Amrapali saw a young monk. Mesmerised by his calm and attractive pre-sence, she followed him. The sanyasi settled down beneath a mango tree, unmindful of her presence.

Unable to attract his attention, she spoke: “Sir, please introduce yourself. Why do you lead an ascetic life in your youth?” “In search of Truth”, replied the monk. Amrapali was first taken aback.

She then teased him: “Of what use is the Truth that wastes your youth?” The monk smiled: “Lady, Absolute Happiness can only be attained thus for the happiness you seek is transitory pleasure”.

Amrapali persisted. “Dear, leave this delusion and enjoy my hospitality which even royalty desires to experience”, offered Amrapali. The monk thought for a moment and said, “I will ask my master. If he allows me, I will come”.

Then he took out a ripe Amra Phal (mango) from his bag and gave it to her with the instruction that the fruit be preserved without decay till his return. The monk returned to Buddha‘s shelter and narrated the incident.

Buddha gave him permission to stay with Amrapali, much to the puzzlement of other disciples. Buddha calmly said, “I have looked into his eyes — there was no desire. If I had said ‘no’, even then he would have obliged. I trust his meditation”. In the meantime, Amrapali tried all methods to keep the mango fresh, but failed. After one month, the young monk returned. Passionately infatuated, she approached him.

The monk ordered, “Lady! Bring me the Amra Phal”. She did so; but the mango had decayed, emitting foul odour and was full of worms. She asked, “Dear, of what use is this rotten fruit to you?”

The monk slowly removed the mango-stone from the fruit. Showing her the rotten skin, he spoke, “Where has the beauty, aroma and taste of the fruit gone? Whereas, the mango-stone is intact and free of decay”.

“Of what use is this mango-stone”, argued the courtesan. The monk smilingly explained, “The mango-stone is the most useful. As a seed, it has the potential to regenerate a new body. Likewise, a human being’s meditation is never wasted.

This mango-stone signifies the eternal Soul. The protection of the Soul is the real shield; that is the absolute Happiness. Recognise this Truth, Amrapali.

You, who could not save the decay of this Amra Phal, how long can you protect your own body from disintegration?” The Nagarvadhu was speechless; it was as if she had been awakened from a deep sleep.

Moved, she asked forgiveness of the young monk. She felt cleansed and expressed her desire to see the monk’s master. Later, Buddha visited Vaishali and stayed at Amrapali’s abode.

She touched Buddha’s feet and said, “I tried my best to attract your monk, but he convinced me by his awareness that real life is in your shelter”. She renunciated the life of a courtesan and donated her belongings to the Buddhist Sangha.

Buddha accepted her in the monastery as a disciple, to the chant of “Sangham sharanam gachhami, Dhammam sharanam gachhami”.

Note: This article was written by Mr. P. Venkatesh in 2006; the link for the original article is provided below.

Source: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2006-06-30/edit-page/27797506_1_monk-mango-rotten-fruit

How to Get Over a BreakUp?

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The Voice of a broken heart

Breakups are awful and healing a broken heart after a failed relationship always seems to be very difficult for the most people. No one really wants a breakup but it happens, and when it happens one is left to deal with a wave of emotional outbursts – sorrow, anger, confusion, low self-esteem, depression, and even jealousy in some cases. A painful breakup usually causes love withdrawal symptoms which are somewhat similar to drug withdrawal symptoms.

Breakups are unwanted and they bring in a lot of pain, but always remember the phrase –

“Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.”  ~M. Kathleen Casey

You must realize that each incidence, good or bad, provides some serious lessons which must be embraced with open heart.

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”  ~Kenji Miyazawa

Did you recently have a painful break up with your partner? Are you looking for some help to get over it? If yes, please read on…

Process of getting over a breakup

  1. Think about all the reasons of breakup with a rational mind (what happened, why, how, if, else, what if). Then make a clear conclusion – can it work someway? If no, be ready to forget everything and start afresh.
  2. Decide firmly to overcome your pain and let it go. Dispose of everything tangible which reminds you of him/her from your sight – photos, letters, gifts, etc. Avoid any contact with your “Ex” – follow “All or None” hypothesis. Remove him from your contact list as well. Therefore, no emails, no chat, no calls and no Orkut, no Facebook. Try to avoid common friends also; this is just to ensure you don’t get any news about your “Ex” – what he/she is doing or planning to do.
  3. Nobody likes living alone, sad and depressed…then why should you? Make new friends, meet up with your old friends, go out and have some fun. The key is to be ACTIVE, to ENJOY.
  4. Be happy – try everything which makes a normal person happy. Read, write, cook, and pursue a hobby. Give yourself some time – groom yourself, join a gym or yoga class, enhance your skill sets, go for jogging or visit a spa. In other words, it’s good to be little selfish.
  5. Just believe that this is not the end of the world. You deserve much better things in life and they are yet to come! Have a helicopter view of your situation. Try to see yourself 10 years down the line.
  6. Get engrossed in your work or studies.
  7. Writing is a great pain reliever, a stress buster. Write, write a lot, and pour your heart into it. Create a blog!
  8. Read a lot – novels, magazines, articles.
  9. Understand that you will not break, no matter how bad things may seem. Hence encourage your heart that even though love didn’t work out this time, there will be a next time.

There is a saying which goes like this – “Relationships are like glass.  Sometimes it’s better to leave them broken than try to hurt yourself putting it back together.”

Realize that like every other consumer products, some relationships have an expiration date. A quick realization would make things much easier. Always keep the door of your heart wide open because you never know when your Mr. Perfect is going to come knocking on your door!

Floral Respite

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A snippet from my childhood

It was the summer of 1990, I was 7 years old then. I lived along with my parents and grandparents in a place called Gaya in Bihar. Our house was quite big and had a big mango tree. During summer, the tree, adorned with mangoes, used to be a treat to all as we always share the mangoes with all our neighbors and friends. Gaya was the hottest place in the whole of Bihar, it still is, and going out in the afternoon was like stepping into a preheated oven. People preferred staying indoors and delayed the not-so-important activities just to avoid the wind, dust and the scorching heat. I used to see people passing through the dusty street in front of our house under the strong merciless sun and think of ways to make the road beautiful and comfortable for all who passed through it. Thus, on one such afternoon, I, along with my two friends, Bholu and Gunjan, planned to turn our street into a beautiful garden with flowers and small shrubs.

We observed that one of our neighbors, who was very keen on gardening, owned a beautiful lush garden with a variety of flowers and small decorative plants. There was an array of fresh and jubilant marigold plants, which were very eye soothing and vibrant. But the owner of the house was equally boorish, unfriendly and a strict fellow. He was very thin and always wore a gloomy look. He never allowed anybody to enter his garden and nobody ever dared to challenge his austerity. Asking him for help would be useless. So we thought of taking the entire responsibility on our small shoulders, and that included stealing the flowers — well for human welfare. That afternoon when all were asleep, we stealthily entered into his house and after inspecting the surrounding, dodged into the garden and plucked all the marigolds one by one. Enthralled over this small victory, we ran with the flowers tied in a piece of cloth and nicely spread the flowers all over the street. We even watered it thinking they will germinate and our street will soon become a nice garden with flowers on either sides of it. Satisfied and overjoyed, we went back happily thinking about the great accolades we would receive from everybody.

But our excitement soon became lame when in the evening the owner of that house came to know about our deeds. Since I was the leader of that group, he came to our house fuming with anger and showered his fury in front of my parents. The only sound I heard after that was the slap by my mother. The wrath of my father soon followed. But my grandpa, smiling from the corner of his somber and calm mouth, saved me from further thrashing. He was the only one who understood my real and innocent intention. He was overwhelmed, hugged me and said “he is the one. He will do something for our people when he grows up”. Tears rolled down my cheeks but at the same time a sense of pride and responsibility surged, which is now waiting to materialize.

Legalizing Marijuana – the Battle Continues…

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Marijuana should be made legal – not only because it is comparatively less harmful than tobacco and alcohol, but also because it is an effective medicine for many illnesses.


Introduction: Marijuana, also known as Cannabis, has long been used as a medicinal and recreational drug in different parts of the world. Legalization of marijuana has been a hot and highly debated topic in the United States, and support campaigns to legalize marijuana have already gained a huge momentum. Several US states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and some are still considering legalizing it for medicinal use. According to the results of an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive, “when asked if Americans would support legalizing marijuana in their state, three quarters of Americans say they support legalization of marijuana for medical treatment (74%) with almost half saying they strongly support it (48%)”.

Origin and Medicinal Properties: Marijuana, commonly known as Weed/Cannabis/Pot/Grass, is prepared from the dried leaves and flowering pods of the hemp (Cannabis sativa) plant. δ-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the key psychoactive chemical compound found in the hemp plant. It has short-term neurological effects on the human body, affects brain and impairs memory, perception and body movement temporarily; however, it does not have any serious side effects and is much safer than alcohol.

Medicinal uses of marijuana are quite well known. It has strong analgesic effects and helps relieving pain in terminal cancer conditions. It has been proved medically that smoking marijuana can alleviate miserable side effects of cancer or AIDS treatment. Cannabis or marijuana is also found to be effective in conditions like multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and depression. It is also used as a recreational drug; many Americans prefer marijuana over alcohol as a way to relax. Marijuana is non-addictive and thus has relatively low dependence liability and side effects.

Why is it Not Just to Ban Marijuana? Every year alcohol and tobacco kill many people (deaths due to marijuana use are relatively unheard of), and money spent on alcohol-related health care far exceeds marijuana-related health care costs. Moreover, it is a known fact that the benefits of marijuana use outweigh the risks, and for terminal disease conditions its benefits are beyond any reason or justification for a ban on its use. It has been scientifically proven that marijuana is non-toxic to humans and is not as addictive as alcohol or tobacco; hence banning it shows there is something fishy about the ban itself. It seems quite evident that Governments across the globe are deliberately playing into the hands of beverage and tobacco companies by maintaining marijuana prohibition. Fear that marijuana – the “weed” – would become a tough competitor of alcohol and tobacco is the key reason for such a discriminative ban. It is absolutely unfair to treat marijuana users more harshly under the law than alcohol or tobacco users. In fact, marijuana provides a “less harmful recreational alternative” when compared with alcohol or tobacco.


Three Major Reasons Why Marijuana Should Be Made Legal:

Medicinal benefits: It has been now scientifically proven that the cannabis smoke can help reduce suffering in terminal illnesses. It’s also a non-toxic, non-addictive recreational drug that works wonders for depression patients. Also, marijuana is not as addictive as alcohol or tobacco. Therefore, if alcohol and tobacco are not banned then why ban marijuana?
Economic benefits: Legalizing marijuana and creating a well-regulated, legal market would help eliminate marijuana black market. Legal marijuana would be a financial boon for the economy, increasing the revenues from tax. Money and resources spent on controlling illegal trade, police and prosecution can be diverted to manage real issues mankind faces today.
Illegal money flow: It is a well-known fact that illegal trade of marijuana and related drugs are the main income source for the criminal gangs, mafia, and terrorist organizations. Legalizing marijuana can help control the flow of money to such people or illegal outfits.

People have enough intellect to decide what is good and what is bad for them; they do not need any moral policing by the Government. Hence, instead of playing into the hands of alcohol and tobacco lobbyists by prohibiting marijuana, Governments should look at its medical benefits and legalize it (for both medicinal and recreational use) because legalizing marijuana means legalizing peoples’ right to free will and choice.