Tweet from Tira (@TiraThinking)

Tira (@TiraThinking) tweeted at 8:24 PM on Fri, Apr 26, 2013:
We need to start thinking about how products will be recycled before we start designing.Waste is a design flaw:

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Who said innovation is a joy?

I find this as a nice article stating innovation as a non-linear process.

LDRLB (@LDRLB) tweeted at 6:45 AM on Sun, Mar 31, 2013: Why Innovation Isn’t a Linear Process. (

Innovation is:

1. Innovation is truly a pathless process. There are no fixed ways of innovating. Nobody has yet found a well-defined path.

2. Hence innovation is often filled with pain, frustration, limitations, fear and risks. Fear rules the game.

3. Innovative ideas are difficult to communicate to others since all good innovations are products of the subconscious.

4. Innovations are non linear since it is all about making sense of non-linear complexity. This is done by tapping into an individual’s inner strength and subconscious. That in itself is a non-linear process.

5. Innovation is about change and transformation. All changes and transformation involve “death”. And there is not a person in the world who isn’t afraid of death. So all changes are difficult to negotiate.

6. The whole of the non-linear process might be described in terms of Notice, Engage, Mull and Exchange; i.e. NEME the fundamental basis of Nemetical exploration.

More thoughts?

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Storytelling…the power of the ‘unexpected’..

Story telling is one of the powerful ways to connect and pay attention to complexity of life and find ways to go about it in a bold way.

Facts and statistics are impressive but may fail to inspire us to act meaningfully. Having sat through hundreds of power-point presentations I know that well. I can hardly remember or recall any well-meaning slide urging me to take some action that would change my life.

But stories are different. We remember stories long after we hear or read them. Stories come to our rescue when we face strange situations. Why?

This is because stories touch our emotions. At times it hits us hard. At times it makes us cry, bewildered, bemused,…. But it every case it evokes our emotional energy, the common currency of any human exchange.

It is the emotional energy that guides us through and helps us spring into action.

So telling stories help us look at ourselves, explore our minds and our unconscious, take decisions and act rightly is an important skill. It was important to us as we evolved as a human species and would continue till we inhabit the earth.

Story telling has at least 5 important components, which are —

a) A place

b) A time

c) People with their characters

d) Actions, often expressed through dialogs

e) An unexpected event.

This is the simplest basic form of story telling. There are however, nuances in story telling and certainly different genres starting from a “6 words story” to novels and epics.  Stories are told in different ways — through written words, poems, haikus, koans, dance, drama, songs, music and art.

Whatever it might be, it is the ‘unexpected event’ that brings us face to face with reality. It is the ‘unexpected event’ that is the product of complexity. It is the ‘unexpected’ that changes our quality of attention. It is the ‘unexpected’ that offers us a lesson for life, worth remembering. It is the ‘unexpected’ that incites us into action and help us face and live life squarely and to the full.

So tell me stories….. show me the ‘unexpected’ and you would be doing me a great favor … helping me to live….


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A Pot of Gold

As I was ready to face the world backed by more than a successful academic career and armed by a powerful professional certificate I started mulling about what might I take with me in my uncharted journey into the real world out there.

There were a number of things I decided at that moment in life. My last graduation exam was over on 30th Aug 1980. On the morning of 31st Aug 1980 I landed with my first job with a more than handsome pay packet and on 1st Sept 1980 I was thinking of the resources I needed most to cross the Sahara desert of life remembering that I would have to travel light on this long and arduous journey.

Apart from my personal courage and professional skill to earn my bread there were three more things I needed, which were a) Knowledge b) Philosopher’s Stone and c) Elixir of life


First was — what books I would take with me? I selected three books.

First book was the ‘Book of Life‘. I would read the book of life every moment as it unfolded before me in my journey. I was ready to accept everything that came my way – men, women, co-workers, friends, enemies, jobs, events, organisations, family, children, ….. everything that I can be attentive to.

Second book was the ‘Book of Nature‘. I was ready to read it when she would allow me to have a glimpse of her great sacred book. Or I would patiently await her invitation to have a dialog with her. Incidentally, I learned a lot from such long dialogs even from machines which to me was Nature herself in another form.

The third book was ‘The Artist in Me‘. I knew that this was the book that lay deep inside me and I would have to dive deep inside like a deep-sea diver to discover and recreate myself till I get to learn the ‘universal language of the universe’ and transcend my educated state of dualism based on judgment and educated discrimination.

Philosopher’s Stone

Second was my choice of attitude and the profession I would take in life. There were three choices to pick from — the camel, the tiger, the child.

I did not like the camel. To me, camels were peculiar. They would keep carrying loads and not complain one bit or show their tiredness. And suddenly out of nowhere they would just drop dead. They were so sacrificial work alcoholic. On the other hand they were so moody. Even a straw could break their backs. Perceptions ruled in their world. I would have none of that.

I did not like the idea of being a tiger either. They were ruthless, unkind, greedy, ambitious type of creatures. They would kill even when they aren’t hungry. They would not spare anyone. They simply would like to have their own way by force. They would unnecessarily lord over things. They spread terror and ruin families. It simply did not resonate with my psyche.

So, being a child was a natural choice. It brought up the image of spontaneity, fun, creativity, joy to self and others without the usual air of predictability — always new; always adventurous. That was the way to be, I thought. However to stay a grown up child would be a challenge too. I would have to keep the sense of awe, wonder, curiosity but at the same time be full of simplicity, patience and kindness with a type of attentive silence encompassing the whole. This I thought would be my philosopher’s stone with which I could turn even lead into gold. This would be my hobby and my profession.

Elixir of Life

The next thing to choose was my ‘elixir’ of life. I chose three things for that.

First was yoga — a way to connect my consciousness to my unconscious — way to penetrate the grey region formed by the ‘known’ and the ‘unknown’ – way to steady and relax myself when caught between seemingly opposite things in life — ‘tension’ and ‘compression’; ‘expansion’ and ‘contraction’; ‘high’ and ‘low’….

Second was meditation — a way to reach the inner most circle of silence where I can move with ‘effortless effort’. Where ‘non-action’ becomes the strongest action. Where I get what I like and like what I get. And do good to others even without them knowing….

Third was a loving wife who is full of feelings. I knew quite early in life that I was a child who loved sharp thinking, precise logic, symbols, metaphors, thinking and knowledge. I knew that ‘feelings’ and ’emotions’ took a back seat always overruled by my logic and innate love for precision and perfection. But that was a type of heavy imbalance to go through life. I would have to somehow learn a lot about ‘feelings’. I would have to learn a lot about being perfect in seemingly imperfect situations. I would have to learn a lot about empathy. And what might be a better way to learn than learn it from one’s life’s partner.

So that is all I carried with me to cross the Sahara desert called life. The journey was far from smooth. The journey was fraught with dangers. Danger lay under every other smooth pebble I cared to tread upon. But these three things kept me awake, alert, attentive and agile to survive the journey.

I am glad that I completed the journey. It was the most rewarding journey I have ever undertaken. And the best thing is a pot of gold was really there at the end of the rainbow.

And that pot of gold glittered ever time I could light joy in the hearts of others.

Looking back, I see that I really found my purpose in life. What a joy it gives – to live with effortless effort from my being — the inner empty circle of silence – the source of all creation….


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Meditation – a tacit tool that changes fate..

It was the summer of 1980 the last semester of my 5 years of study of Mechanical Engineering.

Though I loved my studies for the sake of learning I loved other things as well. I love art, literature, history, economics, drama, sports and unending dialogues with friends. A healthy balance between the two worlds never allowed me to come first in any class. I was happy not to go below the 95 percentile rank right from my kindergarten class.

That however did not make Dad happy. He always came first in his class and desired the same performance from me. But he never expressed his wish till I was about to start the last semester of my engineering course.

It is then he said, ‘Well son, I knew all along that you are good in studies. But I would love to see you top the class. Since this is your last semester of your college education I may not ever get to see you top the class. Can you do it for my sake at least for once in your academic career?”

I love Dad too much and I simply could not say no to him. After all, he never expected the moon from me.

Having tacitly agreed to his expectation I was in a quandary. How the heck I can do that? To come first in a class was not that difficult. All one has to do is to devote more time and energy to mugging up books and notes supplemented by lots of practice and flirt less with girls. But that was precisely the puzzle I faced. Doing so would mean that I have to let go of my animated dialogues with my friends, leave my sports behind and stop reading hundreds of sundry books and of course my girl friends…

To do or not to do was the question. Was it possible to fulfill Dad’s wish without having to give up the quality of life I enjoyed? Then in one inadvertent moment (perhaps in the shower) the idea hit me — take up meditation. I have read in Swami Vivekananda‘s books that it is the power of concentration that set people apart in their performance and ability.

Without thinking much or knowing much about it in-depth I just started to meditate regularly. I took it up as a practice of concentration. So I poured over the relevant portions of Swamiji’s books to get what he was trying to tell about meditation practices. It was more of learning by doing and frequently checking back on what I was missing.

Within a few days I realized that to develop concentration I need not concentrate at all. It was about relaxing every bit of my body. Then I found a direct relationship between relaxation and studying. With deeper relaxation focused concentration easily followed. I could take in a lot of information like a camera and easily store vast amount of data like a photograph.

That was my first realization in meditating and it was fun. I wasn’t much bothered about finding out why it was so. Much later as I delved more deeply into the discipline I understood the link between relaxation and concentration.

For the first two days even sitting quietly for 2 minutes was painful. My 21 year old body and mind revolted. It asked me to get out of this silly practice. But stubborn as I am I stuck to it. Slowly I could easily keep myself motionless for a few minutes a day. After a month or so I noticed a big and real difference. The time I took to study, understand and internalize concepts kept getting shorter.

“That is exciting”, I thought to myself. Now if I can keep reducing my study time without losing effectiveness I can possibly do both — serious study and play the fool at the same time — just what I wanted.

That motivated me enough to relax for about 25 – 30 mins a day (my first step in meditation) to study seriously and fool around a lot. That was my way of doing the most in the least possible time with the least amount of energy. Life was grand..

When I took my final exams I had a bizarre experience. While writing my papers it seemed all my books and notes were open right in front of me. I could even see the page numbers clearly. It were as if I was copying from my books and notes with impunity. I got my first taste of my ‘photographic’ memory.

Results were declared a month after the final exams. And to my utter surprise I not only topped my class in mechanical engineering but also declared the topper among all five disciplines of engineering in our college. The Principal sent me a great congratulatory letter wishing me to be a great professional engineer. Over the next 32 years that followed I did keep his wishes too.

That was my first brush with meditation – something that easily connects the consciousness with my powerful subconscious.

And that was the first time I realized how one can change one’s “fate” with effortless effort.

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Stories in our heads…

Here is a story as told by my friend Aditya Dogra:

Stories in Our Heads…

You can win an argument with a lady (some chance) but its difficult to surpass the innocence and intelligence of the kids. I am fascinated by Forensic anthropology or criminology. I can think of the most gruesome plot to a very simple murder spree. But while discussing on some of the very fundamental things with my 11 years old nephew, i accepted the defeat today.

It all started with news on the paper “husband committed suicide after killing wife and kids” . My nephew asked ” Machoo, what is suicide ?”.

I thought for a while and replied ” When people have lots of problems and they don’t know how to solve them, Suicide becomes a generic solution for their problem “.

He replied “Why don’t they give their problems to others to solve and then they don’t need this suicide kind of thing”.

I was thinking “how ignorant this kid is, he doesn’t know about how brutal life can be”, but replied calmly ” no son, we can’t give our problems to others and why will others solve our problems. Every life is full of problems, so all are busy with their own lives and their own worries “.

He replied ” It’s not fair, I think we can just give it to others”.

I asked “Ok, dude so if you mean we should share, then i agree. Sometimes just speaking out help us, but it’s not that others will solve our problems”.

He replied ” Machu, you know people should learn from Mathematics ” .

I interrupted him “learn from mathematics or learn mathematics , do you mean Mathematics is more complex than the problems of life”.

He emphasized “I said ‘Learn from mathematics’. Mathematics has tons of problems from first grade till my fifth grade and i heard we will keep on solving its problems till tenth standard, but does mathematics commit suicide. No, it just gives its problems to others to solve and live happily ..!!”

I closed my eyes and slept for half an hour to absorb that whole thought.

Lessons I Learned from this story:

We live in our own world created by concepts, theories, feelings, thoughts and stories. We like some. We love some. We hate many. We dislike many. But whatever that might be, over time, we safely store them in our subconscious. And it is this what creates and shapes our ‘fate’ through our behaviors.

We become responsible to communicate with kindness least it should harm a person by creating wrong stories in his/her mind.

It also gives us lots of hope that we can change our ‘fate’ as we realize seemingly ‘unchangeable fate’ is also imperfect and impermanent like a little snow flake on a river.

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Connecting Urban Design to People

There are many ways to connect to learn, change and improve.

We connect to relationships, shapes, sizes, volumes, smell, sight, tastes, touch, sounds, subconsciousness and a lot of other things.

With every connection there is a NEME (Notice, Engage, Mull and Exchange) cycle involved. As we connect we subconsciously decide about how we spend our time in different ways. Thereby we change and evolve.

Broadly the different types of activities on which we spend our time are differentiated as follows:

a) Necessary activities (very specific goal oriented)

b) Optional activities (how we spend leisure time in meaningful ways)

c) Social (resultant) activities (these might be either desirable or undesirable)

Of the three broad activities ‘Optional activity’ is the best. It boosts productivity, prosperity and quality of life of a community or a society. It is followed by social activities that define the character of a community or society.

In Nemetics, creating scope for ‘Optional activities’ and desirable Social activities is done through design, which in Nemetics is listed under three broad headings (RMD) such as:

a) Design through Re-design (R)

b) Design of Maintenance (M)

c) Design by Destruction (D)

The presentation that follows describes the effect of Urban Design on creation of Necessary, Optional  and Social activities. This presentation was prepared by my son Rick De based on his final year (5th year of Architecture) dissertation on Urban Design. Incidentally this was cited as the best dissertation by the external jury.

Design and Urban activity (This is a Powerpoint presentation – right click to open in a new tab or window)

In my opinion features and functions of Urban Design determine the character of a city and the psyche of its dwellers — their growth, development, complexity and evolution.

What is your opinion?

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