Don’t worry be happy

‘Here’s a little song I wrote.. You might want to sing it note for note, don’t worry.. be happy!’ This is the opening line of the famous song by Bobby McFerrin back in the 1980s called ‘Don’t worry, be happy.’ Now more than ever, people should heed the words of this song.

The times we live in are stressful indeed, but when stress begins to control us, it can lead to fatal consequences. We have all heard about the things that are bad for us – smoking, drinking, obesity, etc. but the real killer is stress. The bad news is that we live in a world full of stress. But the good news is that stress can be managed. When we realise this, we can take control of our lives and overcome the stress. How?

‘Don’t worry, be happy!’

Happiness is a hidden gem that often remains hidden. But yet, the irony is that it can be achieved rather easily if we change our approach and attitude towards life.
Always remember that worrying never solves anything. If there is something that is in our control, we can control it. If not in our control, then worrying will not make any difference. So in either case, don’t worry!

There are many ways that we can make adjustments in our lives – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually that can lead to us being happy.

Physically

Let’s start with breathing. Breathing is something that we all do without really noticing it. As you read this article, you are breathing. Notice it. Feel the air coming through your nostrils, feel it going into your lungs and be aware of it as it is exhaled. Simply focusing on your breathing is relaxing and regularly doing this is perhaps the easiest form of meditation. It reduces stress and will make you more centred in your thoughts.
Exercising is also a great way to reduce stress and make you happy. One can start with taking a daily walk for minimum 30 minutes. While you are doing this, try to think of something pleasant or funny. Try not to think about work or other stresses while walking. Going to a gym and exercising is also great and remember that you can start with lighter exercises. The feeling you get after exercising is the reward itself. Generally, one feels very relaxed and happier after a workout.

Mentally

Browse the Internet and read something that interests you. There is a whole world of information and knowledge that is waiting to be discovered. Read something online or watch some interesting videos on YouTube. Watch something funny on TV. Humour is a great stress reliever and puts things into perspective. Life is not meant to be always serious and humour is a great way to remind yourself about the balance needed in life.
Read books. Take out the time to read a good book. It will teach you something and at the same time, it will transport your mind into another world of sorts. Imagination and wonder is a great way to be happy and reduce stress.
Writing is also a great way to relieve stress. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to write an article or a book (although that would be great) even just jotting down your thoughts in a notebook or writing a diary is a great way to let out vented up stress and energy and express yourself. You never know what comes out of you when you write. Every bestseller began with a single word.

Emotionally

In our daily relationships, there are good days and bad days. Sometimes we have fights, arguments, and disagreements with people whom we love. Sometimes we suffer from breakups, separation or divorce. These situations can lead to major emotional trauma and stress.

But the good news is – don’t worry be happy! Believe it or not, you are the only one person responsible for your own happiness. We tend to become emotionally dependent on others. We have this feeling that we can only be happy if we are with so and so. Be it a spouse, a friend, a child, a parent, a sibling, etc. But this is false. This is only a mental construct. We are the only ones responsible for our own happiness. In order to do this, we must become friends with our selves. We must love ourselves. This is not a selfish kind of love. It is not saying that we don’t love others, but it is saying that we love ourselves just as we love others.

So, in case there is a breakup or an argument or a fight, etc. we will also be content with having our own self to keep us company. This might seem funny, but try it. If you are alone or feeling lonely, talk to yourself and not just random babbling, but have an actual conversation with yourself. Trust me, in time you will feel the stress and loneliness melt away and happiness will flow towards you.

Watching a nice movie, play or reading a good book can also lead to an emotional charge that will not only entertain you, but also teach you some new perspective about life. It will help you to get rid of emotional stress.

Spiritually

‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.’ – Pierre Teilhard De Chardin

 

We are spiritual beings currently on planet earth to learn, explore and grow. The sooner we realise this, the soon happiness will come.

Meditation and charity are great ways to develop spiritually and as this happens, stress is bound to be relieved and happiness is sure to come.

Meditating increases our awareness and leads to a state of bliss that relaxes us and decreases stress and also gives us a glimpse into a larger peaceful world of energy and love. There is a field of spiritual energy that surrounds us and binds us. Meditation helps us gain access to this field. Soon we realise that we are on a spiritual journey and the only thing we take with us back to our spiritual home after we leave our bodies is our thoughts, feelings and karma. Not one paisa or square millimetre of land! If we only strive for material things, we are wasting our time. Material things are important, but as a means to an end and not the end itself.

In the end, all is good.

So once again, don’t worry, be happy!

(Published in Double Helical Magazine September 2017)

Creating your own custom image display sizes in WordPress

Creating custom image display sizes in WordPress is something that can make your site really attractive!

Are you having problems with WordPress image display sizes?

There are some tutorials available on YouTube and Google, but none seemed to work properly for me.

Recently, I decided to revamp this website and since I am a web designer and have dabbled in stuff like PHP/MySQL etc in the past, I decided to do it myself. So, first I installed WordPress on my server and got some cool themes and plugins and created a new site (The theme on my site is Executive Pro). I think the new site looks pretty cool.

However, my images were being displayed in the wrong sizes. Somehow my images on posts were always coming in thumbnail size despite changing the image display size options in the Media Library.

An image sized 400x264
An image sized 400×264 px in WordPress

I went to Style.css and made some changes to the IMG tag and was excited when I saw that an image of my books was now displaying in the correct size as I wanted. Was the problem solved? Not yet.

I found a picture of President Donald Trump’s swearing-in for a new post I was writing. But this picture, which I wanted as a wide banner like image was being displayed as a small image – like my book cover images on my Books page. I changed the image size in Style.css again. The Donald Trump image got fixed, but now my Books cover images were large, stretched and distorted.

Create your own custom IMG class

I used YouTube and Google to find a solution to this. Most of the solutions I found involved resizing images in the Media Library or resorting to coding. The resizing part didn’t work and I did not want to get into PHP coding. For almost three days, I tried to find solutions to no avail. But last night, I got an idea that so far seems to work well – creating IMG classes for specific posts or pages.

So for example, I wanted my book IMG size to be 166×248 pixels. When you look at the code in Text mode on the post editor, the IMG tag had been designated a particular class by WordPress and while the IMG code showed these dimensions, the IMG somehow never displayed correctly.

Then I thought just like we can create STYLES for text, why not for IMAGES? I wanted that my book cover images should be assigned a class which I called ‘book’. So I went to the Style.css file and found:

#primary img {

                      width: 100%;
                      height: 100%;
}

and then I inserted the following code in the STYLE.CSS file immediately after this:

#primary img.book {

width: 166px:
height: 248px;
}

Basically, I created a new class of images sized particularly for my book cover images. Then in the BOOKS page, I deleted the WORDPRESS CLASS that had been created by default at the IMG tag and added class=”book” into the code. It worked like a charm. So far, so good. I hope it helps you as well.

Crowdfunding is slowly becoming popular though not regulated yet

 

(published in The Economic Times, The Times of India – Dec 10, 2014)

The real estate sector in India, despite its many impediments, continues to be a favoured investment option for many. Urbanisation has been rapid in the past few years, with ‘upwardly-mobile’ buyers keen to invest and reap dividends from the real estate market growth real estate investment has proved to be a good investment in the long run.

The current year and its developments have laid the path for strong demand in commercial real estate, debt and equity markets. This will also lead to an increase in demand for infrastructure from every other sector like manufacturing, education, health, industries, auto, etc., which, in turn, will lead to demand for residential as well. Some recent developments like the introduction of REITs and relaxation of FDI norms have raised market expectations, but then REITs are yet to take off and gain momentum and crowdfunding is slowly gaining ground and becoming popular though not, regulated yet.

People need to be aware about the project along with the operators of the crowdfunding platform

Despite the time delay, REITs will bring in globally accepted practices to real estate finance and will also attract domestic as well as global investors by providing them with a transparent and risk free investment opportunity to invest in completed revenue -generating properties. Crowdfunding has raised many eyebrows in India. Currently most of the reward -model crowdfunding projects are in the social and creative area currently, but slowly entering other sectors as well. The Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is in the process of finalising a legal platform for crowdfunding in India.

Until now, SEBI has considered three types of crowdfunding options namely equity -based (EbC), debt -based (DbC) and fund -based (FbC) for implementation in the first phase.

Crowdfunding is not entirely a new phenomenon, but once in motion it will enable investments in small sums of money, lucrative for people who have limited cash to invest. Even though crowdfunding eliminates most of the hurdles associated with traditional real estate investing, it needs to be organised, monitored and regulated.

Studying is not mugging

 

(published in Millennium Post Edit page August 27, 2013)

Education in India needs to be more learning-oriented and less examination-centric.

It is the children of any nation that are the biggest resource of the future and India is no exception. The population of India is around 1.22 billion and more than 50 per cent of the population falls under the age of 25 and around 65 per cent under the age of 35. Among the hundreds of millions of children in our country, some could be the next Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Gandhi, Newton, Bill Gates or Abraham Lincoln. Somebody out there amongst the children of today are the national leaders of tomorrow. But what are we as a nation and as a society doing to gear them up for the challenges and opportunities ahead?

What kind of education system are we giving them? And how much of a priority is education to the national leaders and governments of the day? The education ministers and education secretaries of all Indian states may not be the most powerful or even well known amongst their peers, but one thing is for sure – for the long term welfare of the Indian Republic, they are the most important people in this country. For in their hands lie the future development and growth of India’s most precious and important asset – its youth. They also have the power to formulate and implement new policies that will improve the quality and quantity of educational institutions. So now we are in 2013, 66 years after the British left our shores and left us with the responsibility and destiny of governing our own land and preparing our own youth for the challenges of the future. But let us examine our own selves and ask how have we really changed the education system that the British left us with? It has been said often that the British system of education was designed to create a nation of clerks amongst the Indians and perhaps that is true. All of us remember the anxious nights we had cramming for an examination the next day. We all remember trying to memorise dates in History, formulae in Physics, Chemistry and Maths, trying to remember important latitudes and longitudes in Geography, trying to remember all the Latin associated with Biology and so on. But is that the right way for youngsters to learn?

The system needs an overhaul and fast. We have to move far away from the system of clerk creation that the British left us with and introduce a much more interesting, fun approach to education and we also need a totally new approach towards examinations.

Education in India needs too be more learning-centric and less examination-centric. At the very least, it needs to have a completely different approach to examinations. Instead of having voluminous textbooks that are meant for purely cramming information into the minds of our youth so that they can go and take an exam, there needs to be a much more practical research based approach to education. Children at a certain age need to be able to choose their subjects according to their interest and capability instead of according to a pre-defined curriculum.

We live in a rapidly accelerating Information Age. Can we possibly keep stuffing all this information into our brains? And why should we? The very term Information Age implies that we have access to information of all kinds accessible instantly through the Internet and other digital forms, yes also physical books and papers as well.

But in such an Age, is it not more important to know how to access that information quickly and easily and to be able to use it as and when needed. Research needs to be encouraged where children will be encouraged to actually research something and use whatever information tools are available for the task. This is how our youth will learn how to learn and think. Education is about learning and thinking and not memorising! When are we going to understand this simple fact.

Examinations should also be such that children can have access to their research materials and use them so that their answers will be more accurate. But of course within a prescribed time limit.

Evidence of this lack of thinking and innovativeness is seen around us. Just think of how many Indian products or brands are available globally. Products that were invented in India. How many inventions and discoveries in general are made in India? Very few. This is because of this lack of research approach in education and a lack of research and development of science and technology in general.

Children will learn more when they experience things and do things on their own. In the US, schools regularly take their students to zoos, museums, planetariums, aquariums and such places. They have outdoor excursions to the forests where kids can experience plants and certain animals face to face.

I remember as a child (I studied in the US as a kid) in class 2, we were taught about the Mayan civilisation. I remember that we hardly read anything in a textbook. We were shown a Discovery channel type documentary in our classroom and were shown and physically held artifacts of the Mayans. We were explained things through maps, diagrams, etc. Generally, the information was portrayed in a very interesting and meaningful way, so much so, that I remember everything clearly even now 34 years later!

But there is another thing that needs to be highlighted. Education is not only about science, social studies, etc. It is also about morals, ethics, civics and ideas. Imagine a subject called ‘Ideas’ where children are encouraged to think and try to discover and invent new concepts. This is how a nation will grow into a great nation.

Our children are tomorrow’s leaders. They are the only hope for this country. If they learn to have respect for society, for country, for women, for environment, for rule of law, for research, for entrepreneurship, for poverty reduction, for education, for lofty and noble thoughts and ideas, for honesty, for truth – then we have an education system that is worth it.

We need more schools, colleges, adult schools and adult colleges, more museums, more libraries, etc. The private sector’s participation is needed more. Allow schools, colleges, museums, libraries, etc. to be profit making bodies. Let them be run by companies listed on stock markets and pay teachers well. Why not? Which is better – that a company provides quality education and makes a profit in the process? Or that governments continue to allocate budgets to education and yet not be able to provide quality classrooms, teachers or teaching.

Just like we had an economic liberalisation process that started in 1991, we need an education revolution starting now!

Wake Up Call For Citizens

 

(published in Millennium Post Edit page August 2, 2013)

India is destined for greatness. But where will this greatness come from? Is it only the government of a country that can lead it to greatness? Is it only the political leaders that can forge the destiny of a nation? No. The true greatness of any nation lies in its people.

There is potential for greatness in every citizen of the land. For the true owners of our nation are its citizens. Government is only the custodian of the nation and is there exclusively to serve the people of the country. This is what a true democracy should be like. However, for a true democracy to thrive, the citizens have to play a larger role and fulfil their duties towards the nation.

The most famous line from US President John F Kennedy’s inaugural address is, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ What is this but a call for citizens to rise to the occasion and do their duty? What we in India many times tend to forget is that while the Constitution of India gives us several fundamental and other rights, it also has prescribed a set of Fundamental Duties in Article 51(A).

The purpose here is not to list these out as a simple Google search can reveal them in more detail to anyone interested. However, what is important is for us to understand the concept of citizen’s ownership. If you go to any of the world’s great countries and look at the progress and development made in these places, you will see that it is not just the role of government, but also the role of citizen. It is from the citizenry that political leaders emerge and they cannot be divorced from people. In a true democracy, the leaders that the people get are the leaders that they deserve. If we simply sit in our drawing rooms and debate about the quality of leadership this country has, we will achieve nothing. We have to take an active role in creating a new type of leadership in the country.

As mentioned earlier, it is the citizens who are the owners of the nation, but they need to act like owners. Here ownership means to play their part in building the nation. It is the citizens of any nation that are the true nation builders. Leaders are not only political. There are leaders in the fields of business, education, social service, science and technology, literature, arts, music, sports, entertainment, etc. They are all doing their duty to the nation by using their talent to not only bring glory to the nation, but also to highlight important issues that are important to tackle in order to make the country into a better place.

How can this be achieved? It can be done in a variety of ways. Just strive to live each and every day with the intention of using your talent and resources to help improve the nation in any way.
For the concept of duties to become strong, educating the youth of the country is of paramount importance. Here education is not only formal education in schools and colleges. Education means focusing on youth at home and in the workplace as well. In formal education, civics and moral science should be taught with the same fervour and importance as maths, science, economics and English. A sound foundation of good citizenship and ethics is crucial for the better future of the country.
Parents need to teach their children the importance of obeying laws and being patriotic. Being patriotic is not only about respecting the national anthem and flag, it is also about living your life for the betterment of your world and in particular your country. Children need to learn and be encouraged to express their talents and skills and consider themselves as a national asset. Every citizen is an asset that needs to be developed.

Our citizens could be the one discovering the cure for AIDS, finding cheaper and cleaner ways to produce energy efficiently, discovering ways to solve the problem of water and food, inventing new technologies in various fields, creating new industry that can provide employment to millions, and so on. This is why it is important to inculcate the spirit of creative thinking and entrepreneurship keeping in mind the development of the nation at the foundation of any endeavour.

All this will happen when people start to think about their country first. Instead of envying other countries, they should strive to make India prosperous. Things you do for your country do not have to be big, small things can lead to bigger chain reaction.

Whether you start a small business, write an article, teach a child, shop at local stores with local goods, not pollute, participate in cleanliness drives, create a work of art, volunteer for some social cause etc, you are performing your duty as a citizen. You are contributing to the consciousness of community development and this will begin the process of change. Considering that most young people spend most of their time at school or work, it is also important for teachers and employers to inculcate a sense of patriotism and duty into the hearts and minds of young people.

For it is the youth who is the future of the country. Some day, the older generation will be gone and it is today’s young generation that will be tomorrow’s leaders in various fields. Do not be discouraged by the present state of affairs in the country. Don’t let anybody say that things cannot change. They can. Do your bit starting today. Plant the seed of greatness now and some day it will blossom into a tree of national pride.

Budget 2011: Extend a helping hand to the realty sector that employs many

 

(published on The Economic Times website, February 24, 2011)

As the nation awaits the Budget for FY 2011-2012, the real estate sector is eagerly looking forward to certain reforms and amenities that will help spiral its much needed growth. The existing Taxation laws have room and scope for much improvement. By considering these incentives for the sector, the government will be adding a well needed boost to a sector that has given much to the nation in the form of employment, infrastructure and shelter, but has not got much in return so far.

Apart from tax incentives, there are other factors that the government should consider for the real estate sector. The first related to the amount of interest on housing loans that is exempted from tax. The current rules allow 1.5 lakh rupees exemption, this should be raised to 3 lakh rupees to make house buyers feel less of the taxation heat. Real estate is also plagued by being levied both sales tax and service tax. This anomaly should be abolished and a single tax should be levied instead. It should be an either/or situation and not a both situation.

Another area for exploration could be the current LTCG (Long term capital gains) tax on real estate. Currently, the LTCG tax on residential properties is exempted if the property has been held for more than 3 years and if the proceeds are re-invested in another residential property within one year of sale of that property or re-invested into Capital Gains Bonds which are recognized by the government. However, the government could consider that if a property has been held for more than five years, then the LTCG could be fully exempted. This would encourage the real estate sector because it would create a more attractive atmosphere for people to purchase property. The benefit of such LTCG changes could be extended to commercial properties as well and should also be expanded to include companies into the LTCG exemption on property ambit.

Real Estate should finally get the much desired industry status as so far it is one of the major contributors in terms of employment generation and also accounts for over 5% of the nation’s GDP. Once industry status is conferred, real estate can be regulated and organised in a better fashion. It is imperative that this is done. Housing projects (integrated townships and group housings) should get infrastructure status as they provide a backbone for the further growth of the nation.

The age old saying of “roti, kapda and makaan” itself indicates the primary importance of the real estate sector in the wellbeing of humanity. The real estate sector is the backbone on which the nation will be developed into becoming a major player of the 21st century. It needs to be awarded industry status recognition and should also be given certain tax benefits and should be given the due respect that it deserves. Hopefully, in this current budget, the hon’ble Finance Minister will listen to the cries of real estate developers and extend a helpful hand.

(The author is Joint Managing Director of Chintels India Limited, a New Delhi-based real estate development company. Views are personal.)