The Ruins of Nalanda University

The ruins of Nalanda University
Originally uploaded by chitralekhan

The excavated remains of an ancient center of learning… from over 2000 years ago!

I may not be able to visit Taxila (now in modern-day Pakistan) in this lifetime, but was very fortunate to be able to walk around on the very same grounds of Nalanda where, at one point in history, Buddhist monks and scholars had meditated. Steeped in history, this site is truly fascinating!

Soaking under the blazing hot sun – even in early November ’96 , with a basic camera loaded with 35 mm Extachrome slide film (alas, transparencies in this digital era are now relegated to photography history), I clicked as many pix as possible in a matter of a couple of hours.  Oh yeah, at the time,  it was fun… even without Flickr… 😉  Just a low-end camera, with amateur photography skills, but the joy of travel surpassed all other pleasures… the pix were so I could view them at leisure… even much later!

(Oh no, no plagiarizing… besides, in the pre-internet, pre-broadband era you’d have to contact a photo stock agency, and they’d charge what seemed then like an arm and a leg… I know, we used a lot of those in our ad campaigns!) 😉

Plan of excavated ruins: Ancient Nalanda University

Plan of excavated ruins: Ancient Nalanda University
Originally uploaded by chitralekhan

Layout of Nalanda University, (Bihar), India: one of the ancient higher-learning institutions, particularly for Buddhist monks from near & the Far East… think 5th & 6th centuries B.C. Alas, it still remains among UNESCO’s tentative lists of designated World Heritage sites:  Excavated Remains at Nalanda

I took this photograph in the pre-digital era, in November 1996… while on a tour of Jain & Buddhist pilgrim centers in Bihar… Samed Shikharji, Pavapuri, Rajgir, Kundalpur, etc.

Your name… it’s on the tip of my tongue… it’s escaping me!

I’m snapping my fingers, I know your name… but heck, for the life of me, I can’t remember it! Gee… this is so embarrassing!

Ever happened to you that you’re talking to someone, another person walks up to you to say hello… you know that you know this person; etiquette demands that you introduce the two people but for some unknown reason, you just cannot remember the person’s name, your brain seems frozen, and you feel you’re in a spot! Well, you’re not alone, you haven’t gone cuckoo… this may just be a sign of an aging brain, regardless of how old you are! However, the important thing to remember (and yes, you can remember) is that this is not an irreversible situation. You can train this aging brain to retain facts, figures, or at least take in the big picture… at the end of it all, isn’t that what matters most, in a virtual world where you don’t need to clutter your brain with numbers, names or nonsense!

My family of scientists and doctors often speak and discuss these issues and phenomena that we see and experience first hand. A few days back I read an article titled “How to Train the Aging Brain”.

A thought that occurs to me is that it is quite possible that in middle age many folks may lose some of their ability to learn new facts & figures; however, their experiences thus far may allow them to take a view-point that allows a broader perspective. This ability to look at the big picture.. . not just get tangled in the nitty-gritties, is perhaps most important as we grow older.

You may want to read How to Train the Aging Brain by Barbara Strauch, published recently in The New York Times… even if you don’t remember all that the article says… if only to learn that even beyond middle age, it is possible to keep the learning process moving.

Ad Agency layoffs

In Spring 2008, when I referred to layoffs at marketing companies and ad agencies, some smart alecks scoffed at my words, merrily mocking me and my writing. Numerous people holding jobs then dropped pearls of wisdom… “Network, get yet another degree (since my MBA does not seem to cut it), or better still, change your profession“. Some even went as far as suggesting I change my personal [‘Look’ and ‘Feel’]… like I was some website that was long overdue for a total makeover!

Of course, last March, Bear Stearns, believed to have been firmly parked at 383 Mad Ave in NYC, was only just beginning to teeter…  we all are now privy to its change of address… they’ve moved permanently to the annals of financial history. At the time of their big move, the formal announcement of a recession that had already been three months in the making since December 2007 was at least three seasons away! It is highly unlikely then that A&M agencies could have been insulated, impending announcements notwithstanding! However, only those who were laid off, and those who never got  hired — despite job postings that continued to appear (to ostensibly lure fresh, “experienced” talent) — would have gotten a whiff of the hard times to follow; obviously, the rest of the world was happily oblivious to the latent harsh effects it was already beginning to experience!

Long before birds herald the onset of spring, you may have heard (and read) twitters about ad agency layoffs. Think back, the frequency may have been rising since mid-December 2008. Now why is that? It’s because that’s when the US government formally announced that the recession had already set in since December 2007! Looking back now, for 12 months this recession had stealthily taken its toll on jobs, home sales, the fate of companies and on families that depended on these organizations – directly, or indirectly; or even on retirees who lived off their fixed incomes! Wow, so now that it was official, it was okay to openly talk or twitter about how much even the ad agencies were hurting.

You just have to read the compilation of all the twitters (14 pages as I blog just now) to truly gauge the severity of this situation. If that’s too much work, especially considering you may be looking for work, take a look at BNET’s mind-boggling layoff numbers… including ad agency, media and marketing layoffs, ever since the recession started. These will show you why you’re meeting with little success in finding a new job. Or that if you do still have your job while your colleagues have been shown the door, why it’s no time to be smug… the pink slip may likely be well on it’s way to you! Perhaps it’s time to consider another field, go to school and acquire a new skill… and while you’re working on that resume, remember also to go for a makeover on yourself… I’m just sharing those pearls of wisdom I’d received from the mavens on Mad Ave!

The layoff counter keeps ticking.
The layoff counter keeps ticking.
No stopping to this counter's ticking!
No stopping to this counter's ticking!
The Twitter since December is getting louder in Spring '09.
The Twitter since December is getting louder in Spring '09.
When will the Twitters end?
When will these Twitters end?

Metabo, o-ba-ue-to, kajuu, overgrown girth!

Oh no, when that happens to the Japanese, they run a risk that exceeds far more than the mere embarrassment of trouser buttons popping open! They run the risk of being singled out as ‘obese’ in their workplace! The world is aware that the Japanese are an extremely hard working people; they don’t shirk their work and need not look over their shoulder in worry that the employer is watching them. But now, due to the new law in effect the past two months, employers will monitor the waistlines of employees, to ensure they remain within stipulated guidelines; if not, the Japanese government would penalize companies in Japan on account of their ‘obese’ employees! Metabo is their colloquial nomenclature for being overweight, almost an inevitable consequence of the dreaded condition – metabolic syndrome.

In Japan, a man’s waistline must not exceed 33.5 inches; and ladies must ensure that they do not bulge beyond 35.4 inches. Should they fail to remain within this range, their employer would be penalized. This law applies to men and women in the age-group 40-74 years, but employers are following the “catching ’em young” maxim; they’re watching every employee in the 30+ age-range! Of course, for women in their perimenopause, and menopause stages, it may even be a double whammy – employer’s watchful eyes on the middle-age spread compounding the anxiety – what a killer! Metabo education is being sponsored by employers for not only their employees, but is being extended to their families as well.

Although many of us may not have previously heard the term Metabo, we’re aware of the collection of factors that increase the risk of cardio-vascular diseases and diabetes. We’re also conscious of rising costs of health-care in the US, with the rising geriatric population. Obesity even among teenagers is high when compared to previous generations. Although there are a few who do workout or go for brisk walks to arrest the onset of this problem, millions in the US are at risk.

While the government’s tact in Japan does seem like an extremely severe measure to arrest obesity, measuring waistlines cannot be as devastating as the consequences of obesity, when it strikes a nation. If anything, without targeted time-lines to curb obesity; without heightened levels about health-consciousness and active campaigning for anti-smoking; without effective implementation of laws and appropriate taxation to put an end to smoking, the overall health of the general population in the US will certainly go downhill… there’s no doubt on that front. If it sounds like a tall order, rather that, than a nation with a fat, unhealthy population!

Personally, I also believe that added to this should be the ban on growth related hormones in cattle-feed, and a re-visit to all the issues concerning the way crops are grown in the US! Perhaps if agriculture in this country went organic all the way, obesity could be nipped in the bud, and with it, stem the stupendous costs of health-care, health insurance, and the penalties we all seem to pay for the follies of the few in the FDA, the government, and the people who pass laws which seem to serve the interests of no one but the lobbying industries who benefit from the woes of the people who must battle against biology, or battle against their bulge.

Some useful links:

Not just a big fat joke

A double whammy

Metabo – Who is at risk?

A War on Obesity, Not the Obese by Jeffrey M Friedman