THE JOURNEY OF SURVIVORS

70,000-year history of Indian sub-continent

REDISCOVERING INDIA

Unraveling the mystery of our roots to understand the present and predict the future.

WOMEN, SEX AND PREJUDICE

Do we have it in us to give the fairer sex the place they deserve?.

CURRENT AFFAIRS

Change of world order. Religious Terrorism. Where are we heading?.

INCREDIBLE INDIA

Wanderlust Hodophiles.

Welcome to KHOJ: The search to know our roots and understand the meaning of our existence.

Prejudice is the biggest problem in the society. It can be it in terms of religion, cast, sex, skin-colour, status etc. Prejudice can also be in form of the feeling that human beings are the greatest creation, or even patriotism about artificially created borders. The motto of KHOJ is to gain knowledge and break that prejudice. But there is a word of caution for the readers. To break the prejudice KHOJ might throw upon you the concepts it believes in. If the reader believes on KHOJ’s perception without question, then KHOJ itself might incept a prejudice in the readers mind thus failing in it own motto. KHOJ is trying to break its own world of prejudice, but at times that prejudice might get reflected in its writing. Please do challenge them.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Seat Thief

How often have it happened that you met an idiot who turned your usual bad day into a horrible one? How often have you argued with someone who countered your perfect logic with absolute bullshit? The other person just don’t get your point of view because they are too rigid about their own view and no matter how good your argument is, they just don’t get it. If you happen to be from this world, then you must have been in such a situation. Unless, of-course, you are Kim Jong-un. Then nobody argues with you. That day was one such day.


It was a rainy morning, not quite the day I was looking forward to. I had to catch the morning Shatabdi to Bhopal and the rain made the Delhi roads choke. Being used to the capital of India, I started two hours early; which also meant that I did not get my full quota of sleep. Thank goodness I did so. Just after I boarded the train, even before I could reach my seat, the train started. Things here happen on time whenever you least want it to.

Half wet, I struggled through the narrow compartment to reach my window seat, only to find it occupied by a young man. The young man, in his mid-twenties, looked at me bluntly, happy to steal my seat and with it the view. After a failed attempt at logic with him, and his equally adamant father, I resigned to my fate and chose peace in the aisle seat.

As if sitting on my allotted seat was not enough, it seemed like the guy derived some sort of pervert pleasure by irritating me. He kept staring at me and smiled, without uttering a single word. When the food was served, he stared at his food, and mine, in a way as if he was seeing food for the first time. Everything seemed to make him happier than it would to a normal person. His smile was so out of sync with my horrible day that my jealousy about his happiness seemed to make me even angrier.

As the rain stopped and the sun shined through the broken clouds, the view of the outside became clearer. The guy on my seat called his father and said, ‘Look Dad! The sun is chasing us and the trees are moving backwards!’ That is when I realised that there was something ‘wrong’ with him; something more than the usual ‘wrong’ within most of us. I quietly asked his dad if everything was all right. What he said made me feel bad, not about him, but about myself. There was nothing 'wrong' with him. If at all, there was something wrong with me. My seat thief was not a mentally unstable person, but a perfectly normal young man. Until just few days back he was blind. He was returning home today after a successful eye operation. It was indeed the first time he could relate to all that he felt throughout his life with the new found visual pleasure. Who can blame him for taking my damn seat!


How often have we failed to look at the world through the perspective of someone else? How often have we blamed others for our bad day? How often have we failed to see the truth, blinded by our prejudice? In an argument when one thinks that the opponent is completely wrong, he automatically assumes that he himself is absolutely right. He assumes that he knows everything about the topic of the argument, and there is nothing more that he needs to know. Needless to say, such egoistic feelings are often wrong. When we keep arguing, thinking that the other person is not getting our point of view, we often ignore the fact that we are also not getting his either. There is always more to learn. The want to know more is what prevents science from becoming religion. It is OK to be not right at times.

Based on a heard story.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Seeing is believing! Or is it?

Seeing is believing? Right?

We tend to believe in what we see. 

Which is alright, as long as we remember that what we see is just an interpretation of our brain based on the information it receives. It is not, and I repeat, it is NOT the information that we see. We see the interpretation. You might think that you are seeing me, but in truth you are seeing your interpretation of me.

To understand it better I played a simple game with my fellow colleagues. I  asked them few easy questions. I will ask the same to you. Do not think too much to answer them. Just answer what you feel. These are not brain twisters or puzzles…just simple questions that has simple answers.

Question 1: What do you see?


Question 2: How many colours are there in a rainbow? 


Question 3: This is a world map. Which side is up?




And finally Question 4, this is the most difficult one: What are the two colours you see in this dress?


OK. Good. Now let us go back to the questions and try to find out how our brain works.


Question 1: When I asked my colleagues this question, I took a printout of the picture above. 80% of them answered - black circle or dot. Which is correct.
But I also showed them a piece of paper. And that piece of paper is filled with a white background. The white takes more space than the black. Just because it is white it is not nothing. As a matter of fact, you do not really see the circle. The circle is black, and hence no light is being emitted. How can you see without light?

What information you receive is that of the white background. But what most of us "see" is just the circle. Why? Because our brains are particularly good at finding anomalies. Anomalies could be threats and identifying them in advance helps us survive. Our brain does not always interpret all the things we see. It ignores the routine background. It focuses on interpreting anomalies. Seeing isn’t always the complete truth. That is why first impressions are mostly wrong.

Question 2: I asked how many colours are there in a rainbow. Almost unanimously everyone said seven. Again it is not wrong. Technically it is a correct answer. But have we ever asked ourselves why seven?

In truth it is a continuous electromagnetic spectrum, and not discrete seven bands.

Why seven then? Because we were told so.

Indians and Greeks have been fascinated by the number 7. When you get obsessed with something you see it everywhere. We are biased towards things we hold close. We were so biased that we made seven oceans, seven continents, seven heavens, seven days, seven sins, seven ‘classical’ planets and seven wonders. We can as well make 6 or 20 oceans. We can club Europe and Asia into one continent. Why make Australia a new continent and leave our Greenland? Why seven wonders? A lot of our faiths are actually priming. The truths on which we stand is often a slippery ground.

Question 3: Again unanimously the top one came out as the right answer.

When a lie is repeated over and over again it becomes truth. It is called anchoring.

This map has been shown to us like this since our child hood, and now we cannot think of an alternate possibility. Earth is a sphere. Both this and this map is incorrect as it is correct. Firstly, it is a projection of a sphere in a plain paper and hence it is distorted. leaving that apart, both maps are correct. Just because Europeans who made this maps for the first time were from the Northern hemisphere, this version became a norm. If we overturn the map, then also it is equally correct. In fact Up is a direction opposite to gravity. We stand on earth perpendicular to the ground. So the real up is this direction, away from the map. It is very local and the universe does not have an up direction. The penguins of Antarctica being on the top of the world is also a right version Happy Feet!


Question 4: This one is the most interesting. Most of us has seen this picture before and it became viral globally. While half of the crowd answered white and golden, others said blue and black. Our brain has this uncanny ability to look beyond and interpret the colours not as we see, but as it thinks it should be. Remember ‘Interpretation’ not ‘information. 

Let me show you what happens.


The shaded area (one blue shade and other yellow shade) has the same colour, even though our brain shows it as different. 

Our brain does not show us the actual colours. It tries to interpret what it thinks is the true colour. So, it tries to remove filters, it removes the effect of sunlight and shadow, and other things that might affect the picture. It does a wonderful job. But this time it had a problem. A yellow filter on blue and blue filter on yellow shows the same colour. There are two different solutions to the same problem, but our brain can have only one solution. So, it interprets it one way for one person, and other way for another. 


Our brain is very powerful organ that can easily get biased. It makes sense of the world by comparing with memories that we already have. It identifies anomalies and ignores the background, it can be easily primed, it is anchored to the information we already have, and it interprets things it’s own way. Like i said, we see "interpretation" and not "information".

We need to keep asking ourselves questions…we need to keep challenging our faith…because seeing is believing,  but our beliefs are not always correct. 


Don’t be a cynic, but be a skeptic, because skepticism is the only path towards truth.

The moment you stop asking questions, you stop to learn.