Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Highstander Effect

One of my blogger friends recently did a post on something that happened in her city and mentioned what is called the Bystander Effect

Away from all the psychological sociological nomenclature that defines this inability of bystanders to intervene in an emergency situation,  I sometimes feel that we , in the big cities like Mumbai , are Champion Bystanders. 

Of course, our attitudes are often colored by what we have been subject to in our growing up years.  In a society that is becoming increasingly nuclear and imbibing all properties of "I" as opposed to "we" , it is instructive to see how we change.

When I was a child, we lived in what was then the outskirts of Pune, in an area  through which many daily wage earners of the city passed , on their way home to the villages outside Pune. Prohibition existed then, and it was not unusual to hear and see warring couples heading home to their villages,  the man usually drunk, the woman berating him for throwing money, denying their kids a meal, and the drunk fellow shouting and beating his wife as they walked home. I would rush to watch from the balcony, and was once surprised to see my mother outside, shouting at the man to behave, and  protecting the angry lady who took refuge behind her. Seeing my mother telling off the guy, some folks on the road also joined in, restrained the drunk guy, threatened to call the police, and so on. The fellow was subdued,  and they went home after some time, the woman guiding the drunk guy.

Times change.  People actually don't.

Almost 25 years later , I was living along a lakefront in a wooded area. There was a narrow road that skirted the lake and passed in front of our building. It was not unknown for the household working maids to collect twigs,branches etc for firewood on their way home, since kerosene was not easily available, and in short supply.  Home for lunch from work, and we suddenly heard threatening voices. Since we were on the ground floor, we saw a security man talk to a young girl with firewood , shouting and threatening her as firewood collection was not allowed.  Then he raised his hand , and slapped her.  He was immediately shouted at from our house, and asked to refrain from this or face an official complaint to his superiors. In the quiet of the afternoon, he had thought no one had observed.  But someone had. And acted. And the fellow was intimidated by all this.  The woman felt someone looked out for her. We didn't know either of them but sometimes things work out ...

 This ability to rush and act sometimes is the fastest lesson in trauma psychology you can get.

We lived then , more than 30 years ago ,amidst many other couples in a hostel for staff, and one of my friends  accidentally had the stove fall on her as she made tea after coming home from work. By the time I reached, she was in the outside corridor burnt,  and in huge pain , crying out , and I saw this huge semicircle of ladies (and kids) with expressions of shock and horror, simply standing and looking at her. Some of us ran to comfort her, try and help with the stuck fabrics and apply something to her skin, and maybe even just hold her hand; she  could see still, and I was aghast that so many just stood around and she saw their faces reflecting what had happened to her and how bad. We accompanied her to the hospital , but sadly she did not live.

Sometimes, one ends up being the person who is stared at. While folks stand around.

In my more active days, I was once running errands in the monsoon and was on a two wheeler going to the next suburb to collect a pathological report for my father-in-law.  I got late collecting some garam masala(2 kg) which I had to collect from a place that pounded it for you. And possibly, I  didn't see the road surface well. Because all of a sudden, the two wheeler skidded, the wheel simply whirred in the air, i was thrown up and fell down, cracking a tooth, cutting the lip and some places near the eye. First, people ran. Then they stood around and stared at me, since I must have been a vision in a saree, in all that blood on my face, sitting on the ground, holding my head, and still inexplicably pointing to the masala box , which was unaffected. A couple of rickshaws stopped, thought their seat covers didn't need any blood dripping there and quickly accelerated away. Lots of mumbling and staring but no one offered a solution. Some traffic got held up.  Finally a cab came , and asked where i stayed. Maybe the guy had a daughter back home, my age.  That guy drove me home and then to our hospital.   But yes, that feeling of helplessness has to be experienced.        

Today, one still tries not to be a bystander when one sees something bad happening to someone.

The road crossing outside our gate is a very difficult one. Too many degrees of freedom for wheeled traffic and very little time and concern for bipeds. We were waiting to cross, waiting for the traffic light to change, when a motorcycle in a hurry zoomed past, throwing an old lady carrying vegetables, off balance, and she fell. The driver was forced to stop, and after helping the lady up, and seeing that she was OK, I went up to the guy to ask what was the big hurry, didn't he see the traffic light and did he not care for those he hurt with such careless driving.

I was almost on the point of waiving to a traffic cop and calling him, when this guy slowly removes his helmet, shakes his head, puts his helmet on again, starts his bike and says ," Yeh raasta  kya aapke  baap ka hai ? (~ Does this road belong to your father?)  ..." !

(I've often answered in the affirmative and mentioned paying of taxes, but this guy zoomed off)

I wonder what the social psychologists have to say about this.

The Highstander Effect ?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

At whose cost ......

I first became aware of dicey use of public/taxpayers' money in the early 70's.

We lived in a colony of two multi storeyed buildings, constructed for government employees, meant for those who were in the IAS, IPS and Judiciary(as Judges), with a bunch of ministers thrown in , who resided in the two topmost flats in each building. While there was nothing surprising in the retinue of cars, staff, beacon lights, and security staff for ministers, what would amaze me totally, was that folks in the police service were just a notch below as far as such facilities were concerned.  Chauffeur driven official cars (with official petrol) , one police constable sitting in front , one standing outside the house to run errands for the lady of the house, children being driven to school et al.

This was amidst judicial types who even took the bus sometimes, or car pooled every week.  Or some like my father who drove his own ambassador to work every day, paid for his own petrol.  My mother ran her own errands, bought her own vegetables, was often plagued with getting good household help.  And  given a choice between helping in the kitchen and washing the car, I always chose the latter, once prompting alarming phone calls from some of my mothers acquaintances in the next building, because girls of marriageable age didn't have to be seen washing cars in the garage and feeling good about it .  On the odd occasion that my work timings coincided with my fathers, I got off where he did, and walked rest of the way.  I don't ever remember being "driven" to work/college etc.

Sometime later , I noticed that every time a government worthy was accused of wrongdoing, and an investigation initiated, he would complain about chest pain and get admitted to a government hospital ICU.  He would be there for days and days, occupying , at government cost , a bed that could have been used to help a really sick individual, who would even pay for it.  Chest pain was a smart choice of malady. It could be due to anything, and it was your word against the doctor's.  MRI's were not yet there, ECG's happened, but chest pain was chest pain, rest was advised, and crooks lived in ICU's at government cost, with all kinds of security personnel guarding them , instead of society being saved from such folks.

With some modification this still continues.

 Now with the addition of several categories of security due to what is called threat perception.   At one time there were 34 constables, several police jeeps,  a few police inspectors  and so on assigned to the security of one individual in Mumbai. It went without saying that his/her  family members  also moved around with security . I mean , could anything be bigger than attending a kitty party with security, or kids attending school with assigned security ?   Every time these folks moved around, a cavalcade of 7-8 cars, sirens, beacons would accompany them. To this day , this kind of security remains a status symbol. We must be the only country where actors, MP's move around with visible security provided by the state. 

So I am not surprised to see that everyone now cribs about the crores spent on the security of the lone captured terrorist of 26/11 , late Ajmal Kasab, the specially built court premises in the jail, the security of the judge, the prosecutor and so on. Today's Indian Express shows Rs 41.81 crores (see this link)  as the total cost of looking after Ajmal Kasab, the biggest expense being the special security, and built infrastructure and fees of  specially appointed officers. Clothes, food and medicines are a very minor second.

But then some folks get ideas from this kind of stuff.

Six years ago, I had a substitute household help called Changuna for a few weeks, who lived in the same neighbourhood as my normal household help S.  This is a locality where, there are very few houses with a male head of household, simply because some are dead after a life of alcoholic excess, and some have abandoned their wives and disappeared.

Few women like S, are lucky to have a united household, where the children have gone to school and are now gainfully employed.  Changuna had 2 sons, One was a trained tailor, married with 2 kids, and a wisp of a wife who he beat in regular alcoholic stupors . He hardly worked. The other son, started off as a local goon, got arrested, sent to jail, and Changunabai would go one afternoon a week and see him along with some lawyer type.  She was finding it difficult to make ends meet with such sons and just her household work earnings in several houses.

One fine day the older fellow was released from jail, and came home.  He started throwing his weight around, and causing trouble. Did not work, and became demanding and drunk.  The resident son couldn't help  in any way, and it was just the women and children of the house versus these two fellows.

Finally, Changuna went to the police. Complained about the elder son who had been to prison.  He was arrested, and sent to jail again. I don't know under what crime .

Changuna came the next day for work, and told me about this latest arrest. She didn't seem to be upset; but rather relieved about it.

"He does no work, picks fights; one son doing nothing, I can manage. Both of them are good-for-nothing chaps.  So many mouths to feed, and so much money demanded for drinking . The children have to go to school, and they see all this.  I thought this guy was better off in jail. His meals and housing is taken care off.  I don't have to worry, or scrounge more more money.  Who knows what scrapes he will get into here, and I will have to rush and handle things. Tell me, how many earning and how many eating ? "

I had no answers.

No z+ security, no chest pain, no ICU, no nothing; but she had learned, from the biggies, how to make the government take care of you, for free.....  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

FDI in Minds

At the cost of being ridiculed, laughed at, or whatever, I must announce that I have come to the conclusion that beauty, per se, is  a state of mind.

 What changes  through the ages, is a society that slowly becomes gutless in the face of what passes for globalization, and what I call FDI (Foreign Direct Interference)  in an individual.

For various reasons, in the sort of society in which I grew up, people were not obsessed with the confirming to some declared beauty standards.  There was a lot of emphasis on clean skin, using natural ingredients during bath times. No-nonsense oiling of hair, traumatic removing of knots, and two tight plaits turned up and tied with bows behind your ears, was the norm.  Hair was left open, only when you washed it and went about in the Sun so that it dried. Girls who went around flipping back unruly hair from their foreheads and eyes, and looking up at people from under bangs,  were frowned upon. There was no fashion  as such in clothes, because of a lot of what we wore was either school uniforms, sports requirements , casual home wear like skirts/blouses, and traditional wear like ghagras and stuff.  You never really aspired to look like an actress in films, with the possible exception of the actress Sadhana . Insecure types, were inspired to cut their hair in fringes on their forehead after huge disagreements at home.

My mother had a box full of a mixture of ambehaldi, and various ayurvedic powders which were mixed with besan and milk, sometimes fresh cream skimmed off the top of the boiled and cooled milk, and this paste was used instead of soap during bath. You never locked yourself in bathrooms doing surreptitious beauty treatments, because there was one bathroom and folks were waiting to have baths and go to work, schools etc. 

Sometime , approaching our twenties , eyebrows threading got approved,as a worthwhile effort of improving upon a tangled original. Though I still have friends who revel in intersecting eyebrows and are doing quite well , thank you .  It was about being yourself, revelling in your own confidence,  loving your own hair, nose, or whatever, and realizing there was so much more to life.

For some reason, time spent in beautifying/maintaining oneself  was not an obsessive amount, and being a beautician was not a choice profession. Although many folks then treated it like being an air hostess,  where they ignored the glamour and always thought it was about rushing with bags to folks who threw up in aeroplanes.

Cut to today, with commercial television reminding you about your fading beauty, whitening hair, dark complexion, and underweight constitution, not to mention teeth with cavities and yellow tinges.  Your hair has to be strong enough to pull a truck from a pothole, and smooth enough to give a slip to a kabaddi player trying to stop you by pulling your hair.  While the ability of the Sun to warm and tan you has not changed in decades, today you are stupid if you step out without slathering on sunscreen lotions.    

Combs gave way to brushes, brushes bow before curling and straightening irons,  and instead of curling up with a great book after work, or say, doing some minor fixing of a dress or putting a "fall" on a saree , the young ones now sit plugged in, with hair caught between two flat plates, constantly moving them, all this in the interests of straight hair.  The same young girls throng beauty parlours to get facials and bleaches, pedicures and manicures, and wear black nail polish a la Dracula , simply because someone famous in some magazine does that, Everyone aspires to flat straight hair,  skinny jeans, short tops, occasionally jackets and heeled footwear that traumatise your quadriceps, and make the leaning tower of Pisa jealous.

While our traditional textiles, get rarer and more expensive for common citizenry due to diminishing support, their art is exploited by the fashion designers, who barring a few, have completely bizarre, over priced exposure oriented design sensibilities, more suitable for the overseas market.     

For someone who grew up  believing that hard work and a sincere attitude blessed you with a job,  the already stunned eyes have opened wider on learning that applying Fair and Lovely for seven days, has the employer pleading with you to return back on the job. It has also been a revelation to learn that choosing black as your choice in a game of chess, is a guaranteed way to lose, thanks to some white beauty face wash, and to hell with watching and listening to Vishwanathan Anand.

So many multinationals, stuffing commercial time on television in India, with ads that might have been banned abroad , like whitening creams that have been banned in the US due to harmful ingredients.  So many multinationals that probably think they can advertise what they want how they want, given that liquor is advertised as cassettes and CD's, hard liquor is advertised by a winking man as Soda, energy foods supposedly make you grow twice as fast according to some vague fictitious lab, and there is no one that tries to stop this, obsessed as they are with discussing if folks in films should be shown smoking. 

If you don't believe this have a look at    Ministry of Information and Broadcasting   Content Regulation on Private TV Channels    Click on the first 5 links that pertain to advisories for advertising on private channels , warnings to those found in violation etc, and you will see that the URL does not exist.   

It is intriguing that this emphasis on physical appearance and falling in line with some vague pre set norms  , all followed in excess , has also resulted in a lot of insecurities in young people.  So many parents are ignorant of what their child is up to, because things are done secretively.  There are stresses when individuals and stories do not follow predictable paths like in commercials . You have young distracted people, giving up , and some uncontrollable types , being violent, as parents both work, to provide for the expenses demanded by the new lifestyles, sometimes  with undesirable results in their absences.

Is this the new world, where someone else tells us what beauty is ?  Is this the new world where people are tunneled on to a path with stars in their eyes, misguided money in their pockets, and insecurity in their minds?   Were we stupid in our time, because we never stamped our foot down and demanded something like our own personal hairdryer , when an old one was shared by the kids already?  Was it the height of stupidity and ignorance that we continued to live with that little black spot  and slightly non symmetric nose, and refused to get plastic surgery done ?  What is it that makes insecure women hanker after HRT  despite reports doubting its benefits ?  And is it the height of madness to insist on letting your hair grow a magnificent gray as opposed to a shining dyed darkest brown ?

Has this age of commercials, television, and globalization, actually done a plastic surgery of our minds ?   

Monday, November 12, 2012

Divali learnings.....

We live in a huge colony belonging to our employer, where premises are provided to most employees for the duration of their service.  Naturally, there are several gates, and the associated security.   Regardless of the high tech level of work, or sophisticated research conducted,  residential families, means household help coming to work daily from outside, and so there is a system of entry passes, that are periodically renewed.

My household help "S" ,  also has one, and every so many months, she asks for a letter from me, which confirms that she works at my house. The security folks then renew her pass, and she often shows it to me to find out the next date when she must repeat the procedure.  I have been noticing that there is a blank where it says "signature of pass holder".

She and her entire family were supposed to make a trip to her native place in the first week of November, and she had told me in advance that she would be away for twelve days. As is customary, I gave her an extra months salary for Divali with her October remuneration thinking it would find use on this trip, bid her a good trip, and mentally geared myself up to being run of my feet in the ensuing days.  A viral bout which sapped energy didn't help. But this kind of stuff has happened before and one has learned to manage.

A couple of days later, I get a call and it's "S".  She calls to say that she herself fell sick the evening before the trip,  and the family had now gone ahead and she had not. She was feeling better now and would be coming after all . From the next day !

To me, this was like Divali. 

You see , she need not have called. She was to be away for 12 days,  it would not be affecting her monthly remuneration, , and I would never know whether she was away or at home. She could have had a much needed rest without the usual family chores.
To her that was simply not an option.  She called. And came the next day. 

She came in carrying her entry pass which needed to be renewed, and as usual took my letter and signature to the security office. Came back and showed me the pass.

This time there was something else. In the place where it said "Employees signature", there was this shaky looking set of letters in marathi, spelling out her full name. 

I was absolutely amazed.

"S", who never went to school,  and slogged  all her life , singly, to ensure her children completed XIIth, and her grandchildren went to school, had finally learned to sign her own name ! 

I know it must not have been easy.  To concentrate and practice in a one room house with 4 small extremely playful grand kids, and 3 married sons so very busy with their jobs and lives, with "S" herself working houses and managing her own house.  

She is excited. She will no longer give thumbprints in the bank, when she goes to check her savings and withdraw.  She wanted to know how to tell the bank that now onwards she will sign !   A visit to the bank is planned.

In the meanwhile,  some Divali goodies are being put together at my place, as Guru Dakshina, to the little Gurus in class 2 and 3, who insisted that their grandma learn to write her own name, and actually inspired her.

May this Divali be as exciting for everyone as it was for "S" with her new learning !

Happy Divali !

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Review of "The Bankster" by Ravi Subramanian....

I received this book from Blogadda under their Book Reviews Program.

Published by Rupa , and 358 pages in length, it was an unexpected delight to get an author autographed copy of Bankster.  The cover calls the author, Ravi Subramanian, the John Grisham of banking.

As a person who actually had a bank account at 10 tears of age, when withdrawing Rs 10 was considered excessive, I have always been skeptical of the banking industry ever since  some parts of it decided to become posh. 50 years of banking has taught me, that we remember best those who give excellent service as a bank, everything else be damned.  This is the story of a bank, the Greater Boston Global Bank (GB2), and the functioning and work ethos therein.

It is linked  in some way, with blood diamonds in Angola, an NGO  involved in a nuclear protest in Kerala, unscrupulous politicians (sigh),  puzzling killing of bank employees in places as diverse as  the Eastern Express Highway in Mumbai the old Vashi Thane Creek Bridge in Mumbai, and a street in Vienna, Austria.

A simple switch of an account by a client from another bank to GB2,  so many bending over backwards to service the account  given the large balances, rewards for those who fall in line. A lovely depiction of the sort pf personalities one often encounters in a bank,  old style, staid, sticklers for rules, easily swayable types, folks who have no qualms  about committing crimes, be they commercial or moral, folks who hanker after the good life at all costs.  The story also indicates the vigilance section in banks, and how their work is conducted.

The Kerala  NGO agitation against the nuclear power plant, the tenuous links with dyed-in-the-evil-wool politicians playing double games, international compulsions, all these actually depict what is happening today.

Personalities and episodes described in Vienna  remind you a bit about an  Hercule Poirotean  ethos, and the general efficiency and pride taken in such work there.

The author has described his characters very well.  I have almost met all such types in my more than 50 years of tangling with banks.

I have met the dedicated Raymond, the sincere organized Harshita,  the page 3 style Zinaida ,  the I-have-all-the-answers-nothing-is-impossible Tanuja,  the super efficient Jacqueline,  the lady Chairperson Indrani, who is where she is because she has a fine understanding of who must investigate what, and the silent minority that simply gets on with the work, thinking everything their superiors are doing is ethically correct.

I've heard of sincere rural folk like Krishna, politicians and their relatives  who give NGO's a bad name, tentacles spread across the country dipping into various tills. 

The author weaves it all in, as if it all belongs.  He even throws in IT technology.  Buying of arms from countries, and despotic African rulers controlling diamond mines, and buying arms.

You nod your head in satisfaction, or shake your head in disapproval, smirk mentally to say "I told you so" , and  delight yourself to bits,  as the story emerges, every now and then, accelerating  on a fast expressway, after taking a few diversions.

The conclusion is stunning.    And deftly introduced.

You would have never imagined, that,  that could be the case 

The story is very tightly woven,  no rambling, or suddenly going into history.  The suspense is maintained just enough, for you to rub that sleep out of your eyes, and continue with the remaining pages.     

This is a wonderful book and I would give it a rating of 4/5. Go read it .  

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at . Participate now to get free books!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Introducing , "T." .......

A post inspired after reading this ....

My household help "S.", (who I have extensively blogged about for the last few years), is kind of getting on in years, and it was decided to find someone else to do some of her more strenuous duties like sweeping etc. She herself suggested someone, who we shall call "T.".

T., unlike S. comes from the coastal Konkan area of Maharashtra. She was married off to a guy, a widower,  from the village, working in Mumbai. This guy's first  wife had  given birth to a child, and died in childbirth, leaving behind, , in addition to the new born, an older girl of 7-8 years.  They came to Mumbai, and within a year there was another kid, her own. The difference between the son's ages  was less than a year and she  cared for the daughter and two sons  as if they were her own.  The husband, as it usually happens, habitually drank, and one fine day ,  he succumbed, and she was left with 3 kids to look after.

A brother living elsewhere in Mumbai, helped her find a place in what is now a huge slum on the hills. She consults this brother on all important events in her family. She started doing housework in our area, and has been going to the same households for several years, because her honesty, and work ethic is greatly valued.

She has looked after the children , got the daughter married to someone who earns a living driving a rickshaw, and her two sons stay with her.  Drinking water is a huge problem , and she often has to queue up at 3 am and 4 am  at the community tap. There are goonda elements, queue crashers, trouble makers,  but she has learnt to manage despite them with her no nonsense attitude. The two sons did not know for years together that they had different mothers.  I came to know all this when she needed some help with the junior college fees for the boys.

She obviously has some good folks advising her. The boys did an ITI technical training course during the day, and attended night school to complete their class X.  This year the appeared for their XII exams, again, while continuing their ITI course. They help their mother fill water early mornings,  , then leave , and return back almost at 11 pm  . There are work assignments and studies to be done.

She says one of the reasons this is good , is that the company of boys in her area is terrible, most being vagabond, jobless, druggy types, aspiring to be dadas, and she sees many young folks whiling away time with such types. Her sons are away  almost 16 hours of the day.

Once a year, she travels to her late husband's native place, where the old home still stands, over which she is aware she and her sons have a right since it is ancestral. Does the necessary maintenance stuff, whatever repairs and so on, fully aware , that there are folks within the family, who think she has no share and may simply create trouble for her.

The boys both appeared for class XII boards, one cleared it all, and the other must clear one subject yet. The older fellow now has a job in a factory, and the younger one, in his own way, tries to support the family, amidst school/training/studies etc, with a job at a place where he wraps chocolates and gets paid by the kilo.

By pure coincidence, I heard about all this from  T. , during a week when I also came across a post , on my friend's blog,  that was all about a lady, who had everything life could give her;  a wonderful childhood full of opportunities, a degree in the US, marriage to someone in the US , an Indian, as qualified as her, and a child.

The lady in question,  was writing to vent her worries about having to return to India and the likelihood of having to stay  with the in laws, or they staying with her, and how she was absolutely against it. The issue was independence, and her husband's inability to stand up to his parents.  There appeared to be no earning-a-living issues. But there appeared to be many issues having to do with  adjusting to a "people"/in law  environment back in India, strangely, after having grown up earlier in a standard family  environment in India.

And then I wondered about the problem solving abilities of both T and this lady. 

About who was happier. Who was more stressed.    Who was more capable of facing up to challenges. Who could look a problem in the face, prioritize , and decide, even if it was in the short term .  Who had a huge amount of resources to tap, and who had almost nothing to tap.

Also, how formal education, had actually managed to slot attitudes into compartments. "This" was progress, "this" was an interference, "that" was guaranteed to stagnate your career because you put it on the back burner,  "something else" was a direct attack on your way of thinking.

Progress  has to be of several kinds.  It is never the type that can be graphed as an oblique line, rising away from the origin, way up into infinity, at an angle of 45 degrees to the horizontal.

The best kind of progress , is often  a bunch of points on a graph , scattered  around a general pattern, which emerges after there are sufficient points.  There are some points that play truant and even go out of range.  Some fall acceptably close to the emerging style.   

Management types will call this a trend.  

It is actually "learning from experience".

 To me, T had generated a wealth of such experience points, some close to each other, some far away.  Her uneducated, but observant mind absorbed, the trends, and learnt from them,  generating what I would call, a new "informed " point.

Both T and the lady in question above, have things that irk them.   T, with her limited resources, has often hosted relatives visiting Mumbai, and managed somehow with her meagre space and economic resources. Some of these folks have an eye on her ancestral small place back in the village, and she is aware of it. Tangling with them at this point, is not going to help.  She keeps such thoughts to herself, and concentrates on ensuring that the sons are well settled into some jobs.  T has learnt to prioritize, and she doesn't plan anything for, say, even 5 years down the line.

The lady in question on the blog, appears to be planning her entire life in one shot. How, where, when, and with whom.  Forcing the points on the graph .  She has reasons for publicly  verbalizing her problem, and she hopes to hear from folks who have been through similar stages of life, and she feels she will get some unbiased solutions this way.

I don't know who is right or wrong.

Ten years down the line, I cannot say who will be happier.  But somehow , it seems to make sense to have short term goals, work towards them, learn from them, and live life, rather than live rigidly with a unchangeable grand life philosophy......

But the contrast between the two,  here, was  too glaring. 

It's just that , sometimes, I feel, experience teaches a huge lot more about problem solving than any degree can.