Travel adventure – going overseas without wallet

This is a travel adventure of going overseas without one’s wallet and still coming out whole.

A few days ago, in December 2017, I traveled from Delhi to Seoul in South Korea. I was an invited speaker on Data Analytics at an international conference. I got dropped me off at the Delhi International airport, went through the immigration and security counters, and sat down near the flight’s departure gate. A little bored, I look around and saw my favorite snack counter close to my gate. I walked over to the store and found my favorite snacks. When I tried to pay for it, I discovered that I did not have my wallet with me. I rummaged through my pockets and then my bags but could not find it. I became a little worried that I had lost or dropped it somewhere.

A sweet and beautiful young Indian lady, from Los Angeles, was shopping in the same snack store. She heard me saying to the shopkeeper that I had lost my wallet, and was very sympathetic. She asked me how much money I needed. I said that at the very least I needed $15 for a one-way ride to the hotel in Seoul. With great effort, she managed to scrounge $15 cash from the various pockets inside her handbag. Very cheerfully she gave the money to me. God bless her. I took her phone number and will try to return the money, even though she said not to bother.

I then frantically tried to reach out to my parents in Delhi by phone. They looked around and quickly found my wallet on my bed. I was a little relieved. I realized that I was trying to remove some of the unneeded cards and cash from the wallet, and in the process I forgot to pick up the wallet. I had checked that I had the passport before I left, but did not check the wallet. My father, a retired UN diplomat, was worried how I will manage without the wallet. But I told him it will be an adventure. We both laughed, and he was relieved.  Now the correct story was that I had ‘forgotten my wallet at home’. I texted my daughter in the US to be ready to wire me money in Seoul just in case. I also texted a friend who was coming to the same conference that I may need his help.

In the plane, I tried to meditate and keep calm. I lost all fear, and became determined to find someone who would be willing to help. I was a little concerned about the currency conversion process at the airport that I may fall just a little short of the Korean currency needed to get to the airport. I looked around for who could help.

A young Korean man sitting right behind my seat. I asked him if he could convert for me $15 worth of Korean currency to pay for one-way bus ride from the airport to the city. He talked nicely with me but found it ‘unusual’ how one forgets one’s wallet at home. He said he will think about it. I also asked the Korean flight attendants for help. They said that none of them had any Korean currency, and could not help.

I wanted to ask another Indian person. I had seen an Indian family with little kids in the departure lounge right behind me. I looked for them in the plane. I saw a family sitting close to my seat. It was a different young man. He looked pretty blissful sitting there with eyes kinda closed. I approached him. He said he lived in Seattle, and had worked with Microsoft till very recently. I told him about my situation. He agreed to lend me $15. But then he said his wallet was in his bag up in the storage, and he will give me later. I came back to him with a copy of my Big Data book which had some brief description of me as an author. Finally, when we landed in Seoul, he gave me $15.

Now I was confident that I will be able to make the trip without any hassle. I had enough money to reach the city. I had friends at the conference. Hotel bill was prepaid. I did not need any additional money, as I did not need to buy anything. I had carried some home-made vegetarian food from home. I returned to Delhi from the conference safely two days later. I contacted them both my benefactors so I can return the monies. I can’t thank them enough.

I believe there are no ‘accidents’. It all happens for a reason. We don’t know how many dots get connected for some event to happen. Somehow I developed the confidence to manage an international trip without carrying my wallet. Anything is possible!!

Lessons: check your documents and wallet before you leave for a trip. Do good to others, so nature will provide support back. Both the US-based Indians whom I approached, helped; that warms my heart!!

 

 

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What am I? Pure Existence!

What am I?

This is a better question than ‘Who am I’. Many wise people suggest asking ‘who am I’ as a way to deflate ego, develop humility, and become more agreeable with others. However, the most reasonable answer to this question is a bunch of roles. Like being a human being, citizen, father, son, worker, etc. But then the suggested answer would be that I am a soul!

The question ‘what am I’ is a more direct way of knowing oneself or perceiving oneself. The correct answer would be ‘pure existence’. i.e.  I am pure existence, which is an awareness of existing, or just pure Being, in no particular framework of any kind. I am pure Consciousness, which is conscious of itself. I may have many names and roles and assets and talents and feelings and whatever else. But I in itself is just pure existence, or awareness or Consciousness.

Who are we - two levels

Meditation helps me become aware of my being pure awareness. Everything else falls away like scales from eyes. Nothing matters.  What am I? Same as What is You! Same as What is everything else. We are all the same … overall Awareness, the Consciousness.

The right question goes a long way!

Technology and Spirituality Coexist

In the last couple of weeks, I had long fulfilling conversations on spirituality and Moksha with two young people in their 20s. Both are Computer Science students, with one doing a bachelor’s degree and the other doing a master’s degree.  One is a male and another is a female. One is a student on my own university campus and the other is on another university where I had recently visited to give a technology seminar based on my Data Analytics book. Both students happened to be from Hindu backgrounds, but neither is from India.

Both said that they were deeply spiritual people, and they were always concerned about how might technology and spirituality co-exist. I said I was a living example, and they felt reassured. Of course, there are many other IT people who have even become full-time spiritual people. I also said that spirituality is all encompassing, and it includes everything including technology, management, society, and all other fields. In fact, spiritual technologies can accelerate the path to moksha.

Both also said their conversations with their classmates and friends were not too fulfilling since others could not communicate with the others at the level that they found fulfilling. One described the conversations as being more about questions and answers about manifested things, and it was difficult to describe to their friends their deep spiritual experiences that had changed their view of the world. The charm they found in their inner journey was very enjoyable, but not necessarily describable. The other student was curious whether spirituality could help technological solved problems more creatively.

I wished them great progress in their spiritual journey. Enlightenment is very easy to achieve if one innocently wished for it, but does not obsessively try hard to find it in the world outside. It will come when one is ready.  This is the same message I gave my two friends in the summer when they said that don’t give me this Bliss s**t.

 

Transformation of America

America is finally coming to grips with its diversity. For the last 50 years America has become much more diverse. The Immigration Act of 1965 opened America’s doors to immigrants from all countries in the world. Now there are immigrants from India, China Ethiopia, and many other countries that are not Caucasians or Christians. They have developed deep roots in this country, and have succeeded by dint of their talent and hard work. The image of white Christian America is ending. The replacement image is much polyglot and inclusive.
Image result for first big data president
This demographic trend has proved threatening to the white Christians who kinda owned this country for the last couple of hundred years. This sense of unease turned into anger with the election of Barack Obama, the son of one such Kenyan immigrant student, to the presidency of the country.That was a transformative moment for America and a scary moment for the status quo.  Donald  Trump was among those who stoked that fear and anger by questioning the legitimacy of the President by absurdly refusing to accept that denying that Obama was even a US born person. That made this angry or uneasy demographic segment beholden to Trump. This demographic segment constitutes the solid one-issue base of voters that has given Trump  38-40% poll numbers for the last one year. This base is now losing its last fight in this 2016 election. However, Donald Trump will not fade away after this election. He will remain relevant for as long as this base continues to be angry, and till it accepts the transformation of America.
Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are coming fast. They are coming  in the form of Robots and Deep Learning machines etc. Elon Musk has even called AI the existential crisis for humanity. Steven Hawking has wondered what would happen it the AI developed a will of its own, a will that is at odds with the will of humanity. Those will be interesting times. They will be as challenging to all of us, as the current times are challenging to those who ruled the roost in America till a few decades ago.

Mathematics is Fun

I often say that I eat because of my comfort in math. It is my love and comfort with math that makes me confident and successful (sometimes), no matter what role in what organization. I was lucky to have parents who cared about math so much that I practiced and practiced, for funny money, always trying to find faster ways to accomplish my ‘practice load’. I was lucky to have a high-school math teacher who always emphasized starting from first principles, whenever in doubt. I have instilled in both our daughters the love for math.

An anecdote here. My wife was working at a Kumon center in Austin, tutoring 4-6 year old kids in English. I was then happily working at IBM. The live-wire Taiwanese-American lady owner of that Kumon center was bragging one day to her staff that not even CS professors at UT Austin can pass the G-level math test (They go from A to M levels). My wife casually said that I would pass it. Jennifer, the owner, said no way and said she would bet $100 that I won’t be able to pass. So, my wife chose to call me and told me about it. Never shy about such challenges, I drove up to the Kumon center, and took the G-level test. It is a good test that the kids have to score within a couple of errors, in a time frame of about 30 min, to pass. I was able to do it pretty quickly. Blood drained out of her face, as she went through my answers skipping many intermediate steps. She said she had never lost a bet in her life, especially around Kumon activities. We declined the $100, but she insisted on my accepting that crisp $100 note. So we organized a party for all the Kumon students. I later showed her my GRE transcript showing a perfect 800 score in math. I said she messed with the wrong guy, and she laughed.

I wonder if programmatizing anything is a kiss of death. The reason people feel bored in large organizations is because of large programs with rigid structures and limited scope for initiatives. May be the education departments should take note and teach the teachers to teach according to inside-out model, where students learn by expressing what they feel and see. That goes for teaching math, Psychology, Computer Science, Management, and everything else.