Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Unremembered Stories of The World Wars, INDIA and Indian Independence


While browsing through the magazine rack at a local departmental store, I came across a special issue of The Week magazine (dated August 2, 2020): World War II @75 How India Saved The World From Hitler.

It is a special issue of The Week magazine, to commemorate the 75th year of end of World War II, which is just round the corner 2nd of September. (WWII ended on 2nd September 1945).

The title How India Saved The World From Hitler, was intriguing to me. I grew up in the 90's, as a school going kid I had hardly read a paragraph in my history books which mentioned about India's contribution and involvement in the World Wars (I and II).

(By the way, just two years ago 11th of November 2018 was the centenary year for the end of World War I).

This edition of The Week magazine featured many related stories about India and World War II. Reading them made me wonder how little I knew about my country's history, it's contribution and our legacy in shaping the present day modern world.

Reading these stories, nudged me to explore more on India and World Wars.   

It is important for us to know about India's contribution in the World Wars. These wars are watershed moments in the modern human history which shaped our present day world order. 

Writing this blogpost is my small attempt to spread awareness among many more Indians and the global community, who like me might be ignorant of INDIA's enormous contributions in the World Wars. 

India's involvement in World Wars as part of British Empire and India's own freedom movement in the backdrop of World Wars is a vast landscape of complicated stories, many characters and multiple perspectives. Making a sense of this requires a deep dive into further reading and the extend to which one wants to read and know depends on one's personal interest and inclination. 

This blogpost is not a deep dive into the subject. It attempts to do the following:

  1. Info-graphics for your easy reading and quick awareness
  2. Present a brief write-up on India's enormous contributions in the World Wars.
  3. Present a brief write-up on the relevance of World Wars and India's independence.
  4. Curate the links (other resources) at one place for your easy accessibility

1. Info-graphics for your easy reading and quick awareness

2. Brief write-up on India's enormous contributions in the World Wars

World War I

Indian political leaders backed the British war effort in order to gain leverage in their fight for dominion status and eventually their call for total independence. 

The sacrifices of the Indian soldiers was of a very different kind, because they were not fighting for their own Nation but there was a HOPE that by defending the British, in return they would eventually earn their independence.

India provided the largest voluntary force ever assembled in history with around 1.4 million (14 lakhs) individuals, with 74,000 fatalities.

The total number of animals sent overseas from India for the war efforts were around 184,350. These included horses, ponies, mules, camels, bullocks and dairy cattle.

The contributions from Indian revenues towards the cost of the war amounted to £146.2 million by the end of 1919-20. In today's terms, these would amount to around 14 billion. 

The approximate value of supplies send overseas during the war to the various forces dependent on India was £ 34 million. Items supplied were, rice, flour, atta, dal, ghee, sugar, tea, tinned meat, jam, biscuits and firewood. It amounted to 3.7m tonnes.

The Indian regiments fought at various places across the world: France, East Africa (now Kenya), Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey and Syria), Egypt, Palestine, Trans-Caspia (modern day Turkmenistan), Arabia, Greece, China, West Africa and North-West frontiers of India.

11 Indian soldiers received Victoria Cross medals for their bravery.

At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, India gained independent representation. As a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles, India gained automatic entry to the League of Nations. The collective contributions of Indian soldiers, gradually lead to positive reforms in the Indian army after the end of WWI.

World War II

At the start of WWII in 1939 the Indian Army had just 1,60,000 (1.6 lakhs) troops. By the time the war ended in 1945, the Indian Army had swelled to more than 2.5 million (25 lakhs). 

It was the largest all-volunteer army in the history of human conflict writes Harry Fecitt, the author of  Distant Battlefields.

Close to 25,000 were martyred in the war, 64,000 were wounded and 12,000 went missing, never again to return home.

The key wars, in which Indian soldiers contributed enormously:

In December 1940, the 4th Indian Division fought the Italian empire in East Africa. The Indian forces that liberated the city of Addis Ababa in April 1941, paving the way for Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie to return to his homeland. In May 1941 a regrouped Italian Army was again defeated by 5th Indian Division. 

In the Middle East, a pro-German junta led by Rashid Ali, seized power in Iraq. Britain's supply of oil for running the war machines dried up. By mid-1941, the 8th and 10th Indian Division reached Basra in Iraq and secured the oil fields. 

Another Indian brigade, along with Australians and the Free French Forces, captured Damascus and secured Syria and Lebanon.

In May-June 1942, the 4th and 10th Indian Division joined the Commonwealth forces and won the second battle of El Alamein in Egypt, defeating the celebrated German general Erwin Rommel.

In July 1942, the German forces had begun the seige of Leningard and were almost sighting Moscow. The siege of Leningard lasted for 872 days (2 years and 3 months). Russia was starved of food, fuel and ammunition. Most of Russia's oil import came from Persia. The oil fields of Persia was under threat from the advancing German army, threatening the import of oil. To revive the oil supply, 8th and 10th Indian Division and the 2nd Indian Armoured Brigade were deployed for invasion of Iran in August 1941 and they succeed in their mission. The Indian troops developed ports, roads, river and canal routes from the Persian Gulf to the Arctic reaches of Russia, through which tens of thousands of soldiers carried 62,000 tonnes of aid. 

Auchinleck who commanded the Indians in the Middle East said "The British couldn't have come through both wars (WWI, WWII) if they hadn't had the Indian Army."  

With the bombing of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese on 7th December 1941, America also entered into the war. Japan was simultaneously fighting in Hong Kong, Malaya (Malaysia), Burma (Myammar) and Singapore. The Rajput and Punjab regiment, 9th and 11th Indian Divisions and the 12th Indian Infantry Brigade fought across Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore and Burma. In the North East frontiers of India (Imphal and Kohima) the 5th, 7th and 26th Indian Division fought in the fierce battle what came to be known as the Battle of the Admin Box. 

The INA (Indian National Army) lead by Netaji Subas Chandra Bose was engaged in the Battle of the Admin Box seeking to liberate their motherland. To the great glory of India, both sides British India Army and INA fought each other. 

The WWII came to an end with Japanese surrender following the aftermath of US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th of August 1945 respectively. 

On 2nd September 1945, the Japanese generals officially surrended to General MacArthur on board USS Missouri, berthed in Tokyo Bay.    

For India, however there were a few more days of war left. The 5th Indian Division reached Singapore on 4th September 1945 to take it over. The 23rd and 25th Divisions landed in Malaya on 9th of September to take it over. 

6,300 Indian Army personnel won awards in WWII.

The tally included 31 Victoria Crosses (VC) the highest military gallantry honour, 7 George Crosses, 252 Distinguished Service Orders, 347 Indian Orders of Merit and 1,311 Military Crosses.  

3. World War I, World War II and it's relevance to India's independence

1.4 million and 2.5 million Indian soldiers fighting for British Empire during World Wars I and II, Gandhi's Quit India movement and Bose's Indian National Army (and INA trials) were the three inter-connected plots, which lead to India's independence on 15th of August, 1947, two years after the end of WWII.  

The Indian Independence struggle since the 1900's has to be seen in the backdrop of changing dynamics between the European Imperial Empires and the precipitation of the World Wars.

The Indian political leaders of those times had wholeheartedly supported Britain in WWI in the hope of return of favour of being granted dominion status for India's war efforts. When WWI ended in 1919, Britain refused to give dominion status to India in return for their help. Rather what came through was Rowlatt Act, Jallianwalla Bagh massacre and a water-downed diarchy through the Montagu-Chelmsford (Mont-Ford) reforms.

Though the Indian political leaders where fighting against the British Raj for India's political freedom, when WWII broke out, most of them, except Subhas Chandra Bose were willing to lend their support to the British cause against Nazism, with an assurance of India's independence after the war ends. 

As this assurance did not come through Gandhi threatened British Raj with the call for civil disobedience movement. As the Congress threatened civil disobedience, most of it's top brass leaders were put into jail. By March 1941, Subas Chandra Bose escaped from house arrest and fled to Moscow.

The WWII had taken a global stage with the Axis and Allied forces fighting each other. Bose managed to raise INA (Indian National Army) with the Indian POW (prisoners of wars). 

By 1942, Gandhi announced "Quit India" movement and India was in a turmoil. 

By 1942, with the fall of Burma and Singapore, INA and Japanese armies were at the doorsteps of eastern gate of the British empire. Meanwhile the Japanese and INA were making inroads into Burma, The Andaman islands were handed over by the Japanese to Netaji Subas Chandra Bose, and Bose hoisted the Indian tri-colour. The fate turned soon, with British India Army holding the fort in the Battle of Admin (Imphal and Kohima) and with Japanese surrender after the atom bombs falling in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in August 1945.

The captured INA officers and soldiers, were brought to Red Fort in Delhi to be tried for treason. The INA trials resulted in widespread protest across India. The sailors of the Royal Indian Navy rose in revolt in February 1946. These protests drove home a message to the British, that the loyalty of Indians Armed Forces could not be taken for granted any longer. This precipitated this final event of transfer of power and India gaining her political independence on 15th of August, 1947. 

Sarojini Naidu had written a poem, The Gift of India, narrating the sacrifices of Indian soldiers in World War I. In the last stanza of the poem she asks the world to remember the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers who fought in the World War.  

When the terror and tumult of hate shall cease
And life be refashioned on anvils of peace,
And your love shall offer memorial thanks
To the comrades who fought in your dauntless ranks,
And you homour the deeds of the deathless ones, 
Remember the blood of my martyred son!

Unfortunately, we haven't kept them in our remembrance enough. 
Isn't it high time, to remember the Unremembered?

4. Curated resources (at one place for your easy accessibility)

  • India 1914 website is part of 'Remembering Indian Soldiers', a project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Palan Foundation.

  • Annu Palakunnathu Matthew a Professor of Art at the University of Rhode Island is working on a project The Unremembered: Indian Soldiers of World War II. She is collecting family photographs of Indian officers and soldiers who fought in WWII, for creating a digital archive to keep their memories and legacy alive.
 (Annu Matthew's website)

 (One can contribute with photographs for this project)

  (Conversation at BIC - Bangalore                         International Centre)

  • Movies, Web series:
1. Kabir Khan directed web series The Forgotten Army Azaadi Ke Liya on Amazon Prime, tells the story of INA during the WWII, from an Indian soldier's point of view. (trailer)

2. Rangoon movie directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, is a love triangle in the backdrop of WWII and INA. (trailer)

3. Sajjan Singh Rangroot is a film on Sikh regiments that went to the front lines during WWI. Lead role played by Diljit Dosanjh. (trailer)

4. Raag Desh is a period film directed by Timangshu Dhulia on the historic 1945 Indian National Army Red Fort Trials. (trailer)

  • Documentaries:

    1. Kabir Khan has scripted a 3 episode documentary The Forgotten Army aired on Doordarshan.

    Episode 1:

    Episode 2:

    Episode 3:

    One link for episode 1, 2 and 3 

    2. History TV18 featured episodes WW and Indian army: 

    61st Cavalry India's Horse Warriors: (the first 15 mins of this episode talks about 61st Cavalry division during the WWI).

    History Honours: India's Forgotten Army: (Indian Army during the WWI).  

    • Reading
    Links to two stories from The Week Magazine's special edition on India and WWI.

    1. India's World War (cover story) - a story that is now all but forgotten

    2. Birth of a nation - How WWII started a chain reaction that resulted in India's independence

    Books on World Wars and India:

    1. The Raj at War: A People's History of India's Second World War - Yasmin Khan

    2. Farthest Field: An Indian Story of Second World War - Raghu Karnad

    3. Women at War: Subhas Chandra Bose and the Rani of Jhansi Regiment - Vera Hildebrand

    4. The Indian Spy: The True Story of the Most Remarkable Secret Agent of World War II - Mihir Bose

    5. Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan - Shrabani Basu

    6. India's War: World War II and the Making of Modern South Asia - Srinath Raghavan

    7. For King and Another Country: Indian Soldiers on the Western Front, 1914-18 - Shrabani Basu

    8. If I Die Here, Who Will Remember Me? India and the First World War - Vedica Kant

    9. Sepoys in the Trenches: The Indian Corps on the Western Front, 1914-1915 - Gordon Corrigan

    10. The Indian Army on the Western Front - George Morton-Jack 

    11. World War One in Southeast Asia: Colonialism and Anti-colonialism in an Era of Global Conflict - Heather E. Streets-Salter

    References (for writing this Blog): 

    India's World War (cover story) - a story that is now all but forgotten

    After Dunkrik, a starter list of 10 engaging books on India's role in the World Wars - article by Jenny Bhatt.

    Photographs of Indian sepoys from World Wars.

    World War I: Six extra-ordinary Indian stories.

    Letters written by Indian soldiers from World Wars.

    Common Wealth War Graves

    The Northeast India WWII Trail

    Friday, July 10, 2020

    What is TIME? What is Life? What is Lifetime?

    Life is like a boat, floating on the river of Time.

    The year 2020 has turned out to be a year to forget due to the unexpected, prolonged Corona crisis. 

    "Oh God! Just waiting for this year to end soon", "2020 has been such a tragic year", "I just want to erase 2020 from my memories" have become part of our daily conversations these days. In other words, we want to press the 'fast forward' and 'delete' buttons on TIME. 

    The concept of time has always fascinated me since my childhood days (I am sure it must be the case with most of you). 

    Watching Star Trek and Indradhanush serials on Doordarshan, reading H.G.Wells novel Time Machine, watching Ray's Sonar Kella fueled my curiosity to grasp the concept of time. In high school days it was Stephen Hawking's book Brief History of Time and "मैं  समय  हु" the epic story telling of Mahabharat by समय (TIME).

    This write-up arises from my exploration of the question What is Time? but in the middle of a pandemic why am I writing on time. Well, I am not doing this just for my intellectual pleasure (dare I waste your valuable time on reading it). I am writing this article to explore the practical understanding and applications of Time in our Life. 

    Think about it, there are so many quotes on time, which we reflect upon for drawing life's philosophy, life lessons and solace:
    The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough - Tagore

    The two most powerful warriors are patience and time - Leo Tolstoy

    Better three hours to soon than a minute too late - Shakespeare

    Lost time is never found again - Benjamin Franklin

    The key is in not spending time, but in investing it - Stephen Covey

    Time and tide, waits for none - folklore

    The quotes of Tagore and Tolstoy explores the philosophical dimension of time, while the quotes of Shakespeare and Stephen Covey explores the management dimension of time. Taking few clues from these stalwarts, time is an abstract concept because it does not have a physical existence. In essence, time can't be perceived with our senses, only the effects of time is perceived by us.

    Like all abstract concepts, time is also difficult to comprehend but if we can gain clarity in our minds about 'What is Time?' we will be better off physiologically, psychologically, spiritually and practicalities of life, because our life is so deeply intertwined with time. 

    This write-up is an exploration of the perceived effects of time and it's practical implications on our daily life and about the wisdom we can draw upon and apply in our life.

    • It is difficult to comprehend the connection of Time and Life due to it's enormity, randomness, complexities and ubiquity.
    These concepts of time and life are talked about in various ancient Indian texts and eastern philosophy. 

    Stories from Mahabharat:

    According to a folklore in Andhra Pradesh, once upon a time Karna on his way comes across a young girl crying because she had dropped her pot of milk on the ground and she fears punishment at the hands of her step-mother. Out of compassion, Karna took the wet earth and squeezes milk out of the soil back into the pot. The girl goes away happy but the earth-goddess is not pleased. She swears that one day she will squeeze Karna the way he squeezed her and that would be the cause of his death. 
    During the climax of Mahabharat's war when Arjuna and Karna come face-to-face, Karna's chariot's wheel gets stuck in the ground (earth-goddess grab holds of Karna's chariot wheel). During his desperate attempt to set-free his chariot wheel, he gets shot and killed by Arjuna. 

    In another story, Krishna was Rama in his previous life (avataar) and Rama had sided with Surgiva (monkey son of Surya the sun-god) and shot Bali (monkey son of Indra the rain-god). In next life, Krishna sided with Arjuna, who was the son of Indra, while shooting Karna, the son of Surya, thus restoring the karmic balance.

    These stories, illustrates the enormity, randomness, complexities and ubiquity of the intertwined life and time. These stories, reminds us making a judgment of an outcome at a specific time point in life is pre-mature as the story of life is still unfolding and only time will tell (whatever that means).

    The fictional story Nova Effect - The Tragedy of Good Luck, also illustrates how events in life which is perceived as bad luck now, results into unexpected positive outcomes in future. What is bad in my life now, may turn out to be good in my life in future.

    Wisdom: Whenever a time point in life becomes overburdening, zoom out your focus because life and time is enormous, random and complex and these principles are ubiquitous. Don't draw conclusion and make judgement as this too shall pass and your life story is still unfolding.   

    "It is impossible to determine if the outcome of an event is good or bad until the future is fully realized." - Alan Watts

    Youtube link for the story Nova effect:

    • Predictions
    In the age of Data Science, predictive modelling finds applications in all spheres of human society. Knowledge based on data points is extrapolated in time to make predictions. This curiosity of knowing the future and trying to predict the future has always been an integral part of human nature since antiquity. Astrology is one such example, where knowledge based on position of stars and planets is used to make predictions about a human being's life. But as we all know from our personal experiences, whether it is modern day Statistical Science or ancient future telling (astrology) they are not definitive predictions but it a probabilistic predictions. The number of unknown variables and their inter-play in a human life, in the world and time is humongous and it is in a dynamic flux. 

    Take this very example of COVID-19 crisis. Just few months ago, human race was talking about space travel and now we are not even travelling in our neighbourhood. The variable of an epidemic hitting us was no where there in our collective prediction as a human race. In short, it's hard to make definitive predictions in the randomness of life and time.

    Wisdom: It's wiser to take the prediction about a future outcome, or prophecy of one's future (destiny) as a guidance but we should not develop a fatalistic mindset of resigning to fate and not taking control of our present (now) to shape our future time (destiny). 

    "Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny." - Vivekananda 

    • We are product of our times
    How did the universe appear to our ancestors before the invention of telescope?
    Most people thought Earth to be the center of the universe (Geocentric view).

    The Greek astronomer Ptolemy (90 - 168 CE) described the Geocentric view of the universe in his book Almagest, which he wrote around 150 CE. People held this view of universe for more than 1,500 years as truth. 

    When asked why an astronomer like Ptolemy held a Geocentric view, Carl Segan (famous American astronomer and cosmologist) replied: "Ptolemy believed that the Earth was at the center of the Universe and that the Sun, Moon, planets and stars went around the Earth. This is the most natural idea in the world. The Earth seems steady, solid, immobile, while we can see the heavenly bodies rising and setting each day. Every culture leaped to the geocentric hypothesis."

    Copernicus (1473 - 1543) was the first person to identify mathematical errors in Ptolemy's Geocentric model and by 1514, he wrote a short essay called the Little Commentary, that explained the Heliocentric model (Sun at the center). Being afraid of the controversy and of the repercussions he waited for 20 years before he published his book, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres in 1543, the year he died.

    In 1597, 54 years after the death of Copernicus, Galileo (1564 - 1642) wrote a letter to Johannes Kepler his contemporary fellow scientist explaining his support for Copernicus - "I accepted the view of Copernicus many years ago. And from this standpoint I have discovered many natural phenomena, which cannot be explained on the basis of the more commonly accepted hypothesis. I have written many direct and indirect arguments for the Copernican view. But until now I have not dared to publish them, alarmed by the fate of Copernicus himself, our master. He has won for himself undying fame in the eyes of a few, but he has been mocked and hooted at by an infinite multitude....I would dare to come forward publicly with my views if there were more people of your way of thinking."

    The belief system and cultural understanding of their times shaped up their minds. The social pressure of their times was a deterrent to change their collective minds instantaneously rather it happened gradually over a considerable period of time.    

    Unless we reflect upon it, we won't appreciate this social and psychological phenomenon, 'We Are Product of Our Times'. Just think about it, in our times, it is so natural for us to just go to school and learn about heliocentric solar system, whereas just 500 years ago even to have this view, was such a big deal. 

    Wisdom: The realization of 'We are products of our times' can make us less fixated and less rigid with our belief systems. It opens up the windows of our mind to look beyond, expand and grow with the flow of time, than remaining fixated forever.

    • Generation gap
    Generation gap, one of the real life issue which many of us face is connected to the above understanding. Generation gap is when the present generation and their previous generation have a contradicting viewpoint on most of the topics and they are unable to make each other understand to come on common grounds. Everybody faces the issue of generational gap at some point in their life. The young today who are fighting with the older generation will also grow old one day and fight with their next generation. 

    Wisdom: One should keep an open-mind, empathize and listen to other's point of view. This can break the cycle of generational gap and conflict.
    The younger generation should understand that their previous generation grew up in a time of less abundance, without internet and technology, so their mindset will be different than theirs. On the other hand, the older generation should also understand the new generations are growing up in a different ecosystem and hence their mindset will be different. So it is not a matter of judging who is right or wrong, good or bad, rather it is a matter of acceptance of the difference of our times and their times.

    • Change is the only constant
    'Time is ticking on' and 'Change' are synonymous. With time the socio-economic-cultural-geopolitical order and structure changes and in our generation this pace of change seems like time on a fast forward button due to technological advances. Change demands change management, adaptability and evolution to remain relevant and to be successful in the dynamically shifting newer times. 
    Those who remain oblivion to the wind of change fail to move along with time and eventually become irrelevant. This stark reality is seen time and again for an individual, for a corporation, for a society and for a nation. 

    Wisdom: Go along with the flow of time, rather than resisting and living in the past. 

    "Adapt to change quickly. The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese." - Dr. Spencer Johnson, from the book Who Moved My Cheese? 

    Few years back, I had written a post on Adaptability is the Best Ability (sharing the link, for a detailed reading on Change and Adaptability): 
    • Let go
    We have heard 'Let go' so many times from our well wishers and we have said 'Let go' so many times as well wishers to others. Haven't we? Letting go of pain and emotional baggage essentially means letting go of the past time (memories) to which we are still clinging on, while we are in our present time (now).

    Wisdom: Time is an abstract concept it cannot be perceived directly by our senses, only the effects of time are perceived by us. This understanding gives us clarity that much time has flown since then i.e. physiologically we are living and breathing in a different time but psychologically (in our minds) we are still living in the past. So let go.... and move on with time... 

    "Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on." - Eckhart Tolle

    • Time and it's practical implications in life
    Time is a resource spend it wisely, 10,000 hours of practice makes one an expert, Start early to get a head-start, Short-term vs Long-term gain, Time management etc, are the various scripts we consciously or sub-consciously run in our mind on a daily basis. Even though the concept of time is abstract, it's effects can be perceived and it does have a direct impact in our various endeavours in life. 

    Assimilating knowledge, building career, nurturing relationship, maintaining good health, creating wealth, developing good habits, picking up new skills etc all needs dedicated time and efforts throughout one's lifetime. 

    Wisdom: Human life is not a 100 meters race rather it's a long distance marathon and ups and downs along with the passage of time are inevitable. One should not give up when the journey becomes arduous, keep walking the times will again change and this too shall pass. 

     "Life is a marathon, not a sprint....Train for endurance, not speed." - Unknown

    • Autobiographies:
    Biographies gives us glimpses of the unique journeys men and women have traversed during their life-times. The stories of the characters from our history also shows us even though their times were different, the fundamentals of human struggle and the triumphs of human spirit remains relevant to the struggles of our times and we can draw life lessons and inspirations from their life and time.

    Wisdom: The fundamentals of human struggle and the triumphs of human spirit are timeless.

    "Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory." - Benjamin Disraelli 

    • Life's Time is limited, Life's Energy is abundant
    We all are here with a pre-paid card of Time. Only difference between this card and a mobile recharge card is that we are unaware of our time balance. Therefore the only thing, which we can manage is our life energies. This phenomenon is seen in the life's of individuals who managed to live a life large and bigger than their individualistic self. Just think about it, what Vivekananda managed to achieve in just 39 years of his life-time. Most of us who live double of that age, are unable to achieve a fraction of that greatness. When we introspect and reflect upon such examples, we can realise lifetime is not about just the time, it is about life energies and what we do with it.

    "Life is a dance of time and energy. Coordinating both well is the key to a successful life." - Sadhguru

    At a lesser philosophical level, Stephen Covey's book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People also mentions Time Management is a misnomer. It is about managing yourself, it is about managing your priorities. 

    "Time management is a misnomer, the challenge is to manage ourselves." - Stephen Covey

    Wisdom: We will be more effective if we focused on managing ourselves rather than living out of the conventional paradigm of time management.    
      • The Power of Now
      Though many years have passed by since I read the book The Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle), the core message has stayed with me as if I read the book yesterday. It is because, a complex subject has been explained in such a simple manner, possibly a child will also grab the concept. 
      The author explains about Time and our perception of time, in these simple terms:
      What is Past? It is our memories of the time, gone by.
      What is Future? It is our imagination of the time, yet to come.
      So both are construct of our mind, as it is not the reality in this very moment (now).
      The only reality is this very present moment (now), in which we are breathing.
      Think about it, even when we remember the past (memories) and think about the future (imagination) we are doing this in the now (present moment). Isn't it?

      Wisdom: My present is the result of what I did with all the past Nows (time). My future will be the result of what I do with this Now (present). So rather than being a pendulum swinging between my past (memories) and my future (imagination), we should live and get involved with life in this Now (this present moment) and make the most of our life, because this is the only reality.   

      "The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment." - Eckhart Tolle 

      Coming back to from where we started. In this year, we are collectively going through once in a lifetime experience. Hopefully, this is the one and only pandemic we experience in our life time and this ends soon. But till this comes to an end and revival happens, let us stay safe and more importantly stay sane in our mind. Let us not loose our perspective of Life and Time.....this too shall pass. Who else can present it better than everyone's favourite, legendary singer Kishore Kumar in his iconic song, Aane wala pal, Jaane wala hain... 

      Youtube link: Aane wala pal Kishore Kumar song

      Take care....Stay safe,Stay Sane....this too shall pass.


      Big History:

      Adaptability is the best Ability:

      Wednesday, June 10, 2020

      TRUST - looking through the prism of a mathematical formula

      E = ?
      I heard you all say E=mc2

      That is the power of a formula, it stays in our memory and gives us a conceptual understanding of the subject.

      Out of curiosity, I was exploring can Trust be represented by a mathematical formula?

      What made me contemplate about Trust? 
      In my opinion (own perception and interactions with family and friends) and from the public discourse, globally Trust has become fast eroding social capital. This contemporary relevance of Trust and Mistrust got me to explore this subject.

      Oxford dictionary defines Trust as the feeling you have that somebody or something will do what they should do; the feeling that somebody is honest and good. 

      Moving away from language, when I tried to look at Trust from the point of view of a mathematical formula, I stumbled upon a beautiful concept called 'Trust Equation', which I am sharing here for our collective learning: 


      T = (C+R+I) ÷ S

      The concept of Trust Equation was introduced by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford in their book, Trusted Advisor.

      Let's look into all the factors of Trust Equation, in details: 
      1. T: Trustworthiness
      2. C: Credibility 
      3. R: Reliability 
      4. I: Intimacy 
      5. S: Self-orientation
      • T (Trustworthiness) is the trust factor between the two individuals.
      • C (Credibility) is one's credentials, truthfulness and transparency. In simple words, how believable one is to others.
      • R (Reliability) is how others perceive the consistency of our actions and it's connection with our words (integrity).
      • I (Intimacy) is the sense of security one generates for people around him/her, so that they feel safe to share and discuss.
      • S (Self-orientation) refers to where does one's personal focus lie? Do they have my best interest in their mind or Are they are doing this for themselves?
      • C, R and I (Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy) are the numerator 
      • and S (Self-orientation) is the denominator of the equation.
      • The C and R are the Rational components (In fact these are measurable attributes). 
      • I and S are the Emotional components (Difficult to measure directly but can be inferred indirectly from one's behaviour).
      What inferences can be drawn from Trust Equation? 

      • Trust Equation reflects the balance of Mind and Heart. 
      • C, R and I increases Trustworthiness
      • Whereas S decreases Trustworthiness
      • It takes long term commitment and effort by both the Trustee and Trustor, to build a Long-lasting, Meaningful Relationship (whether it is in personal space or in a business context). 
      • In essence, "Relationship trump transactions, with trust at the heart of the matter" - Charles M. Green 
      Reflecting upon some contemporary incidences of Mistrust and it's correlation with Trust Equation: (Living in middle of a pandemic, I couldn't think beyond COVID-19 related incidences)
      1.  This COVID-19 pandemic, has lowered the trust factor of general public on WHO (World Health Organisation). Several investigative journalism have pointed out WHO's flip-flop on handling the Corona virus outbreak in China when it was still in Phase 2 (localized within Wuhan). WHO's approach towards China has raised questions if WHO (an international organization) applies the same standards for all countries or there is differential approaches based on the country's power quotient? This lowered C (credibility), R (reliability) and S (Self-orientation) factors caused an overall decline of  WHO's Trustworthiness (T) in public perception.
      2. Recent publication of a clinical study on the drug HCQ (Hydroxy Chloroquine) in Lancet a highly reputed medical journal has caused a huge dent on it's Trustworthiness which was build over two centuries (a 197 years old journal). 
      This study [Hydroxychloroquine or Chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis] claimed HCQ:
      • Had no positive treatment outcomes on COVID-19 patients and 
      • It caused Cardiac rhythmic irregularities and increased the risk of cardiac fatality. 
      On the basis of this published study medical practitioners stopped prescribing HCQ and ongoing HCQ clinical trials were stopped across the globe. Later when discrepancies were noticed by peer reviewers and they demanded to see the raw data, the authors backtracked as they couldn't furnish the data. The paper was subsequently retracted from Lancet with an apology from the authors. 

      This incident raises serious questions ranging from conspiracy theory, to  conflict of interests (HCQ an effective cheap drug can potentially lower down the market valuation of a new research drug from an innovator company), to political affiliations (Did Trump's endorsement of HCQ, politically polarized the drug and a section of scientific community developed a bias towards HCQ?). 

      Whatever be the truth behind this, such irresponsible act of publishing a unsubstantiated study had put so many life at risk, by depriving them of  HCQ from their treatment protocol. This incident shows low C (credibility) and high S (self-orientation) factors of the authors and the editorial board (conflict of interests or personal biases), reduced Lancet's Trustworthiness (T) which was build over two centuries.

      3. There are innumerable accounts of such mistrusts which keeps exploding at institutional or individual levels. Collapses of giant corporations, financial institutions or sportsperson falling from grace due to doping or shady financial transactions all are due to compromise of either or all factors C (credibility), R (reliability), I (intimacy) and S (self-orientation) as explained by the Trust Equation.
      4. Similarly on a positive note, when a company or a brand or a person commands Trustworthiness, it can be correlated to high standards of C, R, I and S factors as explained in the Trust Equation.     


      Trust is the key ingredient for Social Capital. Without trust no meaningful relationship can be forged. Therefore it is important to nurture the attribute of Trustworthiness in us, for becoming effective individuals and to become a better human being, professionally and  personally. 

      "Relationship trump transactions, with trust at the heart of the matter" - Charles M. Green 

      Trust Equation: T = (C+R+I) ÷ S serves as an easy to recall formula, which gives us the conceptual understanding of Trust, in a simple yet profound manner! 

      1. Understanding the Trust Equation and 12 Trust Tips - Webinar by Charles H. Green
      2. The TrustedAdvisor
      3. How Trustworthy are you? article by John Baldoni on HBR 
      4. Surgisphere: Governments and WHO changed COVID-19 policy based on suspect data from a tiny US company. 
      5. China delayed releasing coronavirus info, frustrating WHO
      6. Star Cardiologist Mehra and data doctor Desai - story of Indian experts behind HCQ scandal.

      Saturday, May 9, 2020

      Leadership: Strategic & Tactical approaches

      Leadership effectiveness emerges out from the confluence of Strategic & Tactical approaches. It is also a poignant reminder to us, not to fall into the trap of overt singular usage of just one skill-set but to be mindful of the inter-dependency of Strategic & Tactical approaches for a meaningful, successful outcome.

      The quote "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." by Sun Tzu underlines the importance of strategy & tactics for a successful outcome.

      Leadership would be significantly flawed if there is over-reliance on tactics & due importance is not given to strategy.

      Though Sun Tzu comes from a military background, the importance of Strategy-Tactics finds application in all fields of human endeavours. For example in competitive Sports, lot of strategising happens between the coach, captain & technical experts before stepping on the field. Once on the field, the players tactically respond to the changing dynamics of the match situation. The break-time, is once again utilized to re-strategise & tactical play returns in the scheme of things when match resumes.

      In my mind, strategic thinking & deployment of strategy needs conscious effort & it's not intuitive. As we all are drawn towards the path of least resistance, the tactical approach route has more footfalls than the uphill route of strategy, until it becomes a habit with regular practice.

      Why Strategic thinking & deployment of strategy needs conscious effort? 
      • One has to learn how to think
      • One has to set aside ego & biases
      • Acceptance of blind-spots (I know what I know, but I don't know what I don't know)
      • Multi-disciplinary approach & Synthesis mindset
      • Engage in consultative, democratic brainstorming session
      • Embrace contrary views & don't shoot down the messenger
      • Demands skills like being proactive, planning, risk anticipation & risk mitigation
      • It is about responding & not reacting
      • Two way communication is key to be able to strategise correctly, to convey the strategy, keep stakeholders engaged with the strategy over time & to revisit the strategy with the ongoing dynamics of changing realities
      After consciously setting the strategic direction, the tactical approach has to be also leveraged for a robust process. The importance of tactical approaches are:
      • Recognition of the fact, we are living in a dynamic reality
      • Dynamic changes demands real time responsiveness
      • Good tactical response is based on intelligence, situational awareness & being proactive
      • Keeps the daily actions & activities aligned to the established strategic direction
      • On the ground, practical implementation of the strategy    
      We would all have anecdotal stories of our positive experiences of strategic-tactical synergies and not so positive experiences when strategic & tactical approaches have not been in sync. These personal stories serves as a poignant reminder, to save guard ourselves from falling into the trap of polarity usage of just one skill-set. Meaningful success outcomes is driven by effective leadership, which demands both, strategic & tactical approaches.

      Note: The reference has been deliberately made to the attribute (Leadership) & not to the title (Leader),because I firmly believe being a leader is agnostic of a formal designation or role. The other way to look at it is, many formal leaders come short in their leadership while many informal leaders with strong leadership qualities are not in formal position either by design or by choice.    

      Monday, August 12, 2019

      Burn-out - decoding & tackling it!

      Photo by Danylo Suprun on Unsplash

      The acronym VUCA is commonly used to describe today's business environment. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity are the order of the day. Burn-out, Anxiety, Stress, Work-life Balance, EAP (Employee Assistance Program), Counseling, Wellness programs etc are the buzz-words among HR & Management, across companies.

      Burn-out as an occupational hazard is not limited only to corporate world, but seen in various people oriented professions such as human services, education & health care. The context varies, in Corporate sector the burn-out can be related to pressures of project timelines, product launch, productivity, demanding customer, while in Human services the prevailing norms are to be selfless & put other's needs first, the service providers  develop with the recipients an intense level of personal & emotional contact.Although such relationships can be rewarding & engaging, they can also be quite stressful, leading to burn-out in long-run.

      In the recently published 11th edition of ICD (International Classification of Diseases), WHO (World Health Organisation) revised Burn-out as an Occupational phenomenon (previously it was categorized as a medical condition).

      In online search engines, you will come across tons of scattered articles & papers on Burn-out, describing it's various facets. In this article, I have attempted to provide readers a simplified, consolidated, comprehensive coverage on the topic Burn-out, through a single reading.

      List of topics we shall explore together:
      1. WHO definition of Burn-out
      2. Conceptual models of Burn-out
      3. Assessment/Measurement of Burn-out
      4. Causes of Burn-out
      5. Engagement
      6. Outcomes of Burn-out
      7. Intervention strategies

      "Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
      • Feeling of energy depletion or exhaustion
      • Increased mental distance from one's job, or feeling of negativism/cynicism related to one's job
      • Reduced professional efficacy
      Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context & should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life."

      This three dimensional model, clearly places the individual's experience of Burn-out within a social context & involves the person's conception of both self & others. Therefore, Burn-out is a psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job.

      Conceptual models: 

      The earlier theoritical models focused on the relationship between the three dimensions (exhaustion, cynicism & reduced efficacy) of burn-out & these were described in sequential stages.

      More recently, burnout models have been based on theories of job stress & the notion of imbalances leading to strain. The first such model was the transactional one, which served as a conceptual bridge between sequential stages & imbalances. It's three stages are: a). job stressors, b). individual strain & c). defensive coping.

      Subsequently, three models based on Demands-Resource Imbalance have emerged. There are:
      Job Demands-Resources (JD-R), Conservation of Resource (COR) & Areas of Worklife (AW) models.

      Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) -  Burn-out arises when individuals have inadequate resources at their disposal for meeting the increasing job demands.

      Conservation of Resource (COR) - Burn-out arises when individuals strive to maintain their valued resources, which they perceive are under constant threat.

      There are four basic kind of resources: Objects, Conditions, Personal characteristics & Energies.

      Objects are physical entities such as transportation, house etc.

      Conditions are social circumstances such as marriage, tenure, employment.

      Personal characteristics include Skills (technical & social skills) & Personality Attributes (sense of mastery, self-esteem, optimism) that enable an individual to better withstand stressful conditions & achieve desired goals.

      Energies are resources which are used to obtain other valued resources.

      Areas of Worklife (AW) - This model identifies six key areas in which person-job imbalances arises. These areas of worklife are: Workload, Control, Reward, Community, Fairness & Values. 

      The greater the mismatch between the person & the job, the greater the likelihood of burn-out. Conversely, the greater the match, the greater the likelihood of engagement. 


      Assessment of burn-out has evolved over the years. In 1980's, the focus was only for caregiving occupations such as healthcare & human services. The measures developed in 1980s tended to reflect the experience of those professions. Over the years, the scope expanded to encompass other professions & the assessment tests were broadened with more occupation-neutral wordings, to include experience of non-healthcare, human services professionals.
      Other popular inventory tests are: Bergen Burnout Inventory (BBI), Oldenburg Burnout Inventory (OLBI), Shirom-Melamed Burnout Measure (SMBM), Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI).
      Causes of Burn-out

      The organisational risk factors which lead to Burn-out can be categorised under Six key domains:
      1. Workload
      2. Control
      3. Reward
      4. Community
      5. Fairness
      6. Values
      Workload: If overload becomes a chronic job condition then there is very little time for rest, recovery & restoring work-life balance.

       Control: The feeling of loss of autonomy, inability to take or influence decisions at work causes a feeling of lack of control at one's work place.

      Reward:  Insufficient recognition, lack of positive reinforcement & lack of rewards (whether financial, institutional, or social) devalues the work & the employee, thereby causing a feeling of inefficacy.

      Community: If there is lack of support, prevailing mistrust & conflict in the team, there is greater risk of burn-out.

      Fairness: Fairness is the extend to which decisions at work are perceived as being fair & equitable. Cynicism, anger & hostility are likely to arise when people feel they are not being treated with respect & fairness.

      Values: Values are the motivating connection between the worker and the workplace, which goes beyond the utilitarian exchange of time for money or advancement. When there is a values conflict on the job (gap between the individual's & organization's value), it leads to burn-out.  

      Let's think about Burn-out & Engagement as two opposite poles on a continuum. 
      Burn-out <-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------> Engagement
      The Positive state of Burn-out is Engagement.

        Engagement consists of a state of high energy (Vigor), strong involvement (Dedication) & a sense of efficacy (Absorption). 

        So what are the interventions which can be made in these Six key domains of organisational risk factors for promoting engagement?

        Workload: A sustainable & manageable workload, provides opportunities to use & refine existing skills as well as to become effective in new areas of activity.

        Control:  When employees have the perceived capacity to influence decisions that affect their work, to exercise professional autonomy & to gain access to the resources necessary to do an effective job, they are more likely to experience job engagement.

        Reward: Consistency in rewards & recognition, between the person & the job offers both material rewards & intrinsic satisfaction.

        Community: Team work, social connect & support, enhances the experience of job engagement.

        Fairness: Practice of mutual respect, fairness, empathy enhances the experience of job engagement.

        Values: Greater the overlap & congruence between employee's & organisation's values, stronger would be the cognitive-emotional experience of job engagement.

        Outcomes of Burn-out: 

        There are many undesirable outcomes of burn-out at psycho-somatic & cognitive-emotional levels, such as:
        • Job withdrawal
        • Job dissatisfaction
        • Low organisational commitment
        • Absenteeism, more than usual sick leave
        • Turnover
        • Cynicism
        • Lowered productivity
        • Impaired Quality of Work
        • Increased personal conflicts
        • Physical ailments (exhaustion, headaches, chronic fatigue, GI disorders, hypertension, cold/flu episodes, sleep disturbances)
        • Work related anxiety, low mood & depression
        • Alcoholism 
        Intervention strategies to counter Burn-out:

        Intervention strategies can be have two broad approaches:
        1. Prevention of burn-out & Treatment of burn-out, once it has set in
        2. Individual level actions & Work-group/Team/Organisation level actions
        Let's explore them in some details:
        1. A. Prevention of burn-out: 
        Prevention on any given day, is better than Cure. So what proactive steps an individual can take to prevent Burn-out?
        • Make your own health & Well-being a priority. Eating right, regular exercise, proper sleep, meditation, having a channel to share/vent out are all the right steps towards self-preservation. 
        • Have good role models who have been successful in striking harmony in their life & emulate their actions in your daily life.
        • Develop life skills: Stress management, Coping skills, Time management, Problem solving skills.  
        • Nurturing social support (both from2 colleagues & family)
        • Developing a better self-understanding 
        1. B. Treatment of burn-out, once it has set in:
        • Changing work-patterns (taking break times, avoidance of over-time work, balancing work with the rest of one's life)
        • Utilizing relaxation strategies
        • Seek help form a Counselor (counseling sessions; CBT - Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)
           2. A. Individual level actions:

        An individual should take responsibility of their own health & well-being. The self-realisation that outsourcing one's health & well-being to government or corporation is being irresponsible & laid-back, is the first step towards being responsible. This self-realisation then needs to be put into action by practicing preventive steps (listed above in 1.A).

        2. B. Work-group/Team/Organisation level actions:

        Team Leader, has a very important role to play in tackling burn-out:

        • In the daily grind of work, it is easy for people to forget what drew them to their career & organisation in the first place. They start experiencing burn-out by getting disconnected from their values & work at hand. As a Leader, one needs to 'develop a shared sense of WHY' in the team. Remind them why this work important for the organisation, for the customer & for them. When a team has shared values & connection, they are more likely to feel positively about their work.   
        • If the team is reeling under chronic heavy workload, it is the Team Leader's responsibility to get to the root cause to break the vicious cycle. It could be work-resource imbalance, skill-gap, process inefficiency, process breakdown, lack of teamwork, project planning & project management issues. Addressing the root cause in a time-bound manner, monitoring & controlling the situation on an ongoing basis, can significantly improve the situation. 
        • Be a role model for the team. Being humane, spreading positivism & optimism, exhibiting empathy, compassion, understanding, active listening, goes a long way in re-energizing the team.
        • Plan regular short breaks through the day's work & take out time to celebrate team success, milestones & personal occasions.
        • Help team members, wherever possible by redesigning their jobs (job-enrichment, job rotation).
        • Nurture a good team culture, social connect & social support. Team Well-being, should be put into practice & not remain just a philosophy.   
            At an Organization level, following initiatives can be run for employee well-being:

        • A good work culture, is always a top-down approach. Senior management has a very big say, in driving this organisational culture. 
        • Initiatives like EAP (Employee Assistance Program - Counseling), Wellness program, Planned Celebrations/Outings breaks down monotony & facilitates team bonding. 
        • Two-way communication, Trust building measures between management-employee, employee surveys & addressing the issues, goes a long-way in setting the right tone for the organisational culture. 
        Burn-out can be kept at bay. Tackling burn-out is a collective responsibility of an individual, of a leader & of the organisation. With burn-out Out! one's work-life becomes far more rewarding, enriching, fulfilling & meaningful. Let us all collectively strive, for making our work-place better! 

        Sunday, July 7, 2019

        Health Psychology

        Pixabay credit Miguel A.Padrinan

        For most people, health is staying well & getting over illnesses. This approach explains the lack of pro-activeness in taking charge of one's own health, by practicing health-promoting-behaviours, such as exercise, meditation, eating right, avoidance of substances tobacco, alcohol etc.

        The field of Health Psychology is devoted to understanding these psychological & behavioural influences on how people stay healthy, why they become ill & how they respond when they do get ill. Before we dwell into it further, let's look at how WHO (World Health Organisation) defines health.

        Health is a state of complete physical, mental & social well-being & not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. WHO presents a bio-psycho-social model of health, i.e. body, mind (psychological) & social influences all put together determines health & illness. This puts the field of Health Psychology, at the very core of healthcare management principles. Let's now explore the practical implications & importance of Health Psychology, in healthcare.


        Changing patterns of illness 

        Until the 20th century, the major causes of illness & deaths used to be Acute Disorders (Infectious diseases like influenza & pneumonia, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis, plague, cholera, malaria etc). Acute disorders are short-term illness, often the result of a viral, bacterial or protozoal infection & usually amenable to cure.

        In the 21st century, the major causes of morbidity & mortality has shifted from acute disorders to Chronic Illness (diseases of the heart, cancer, stroke, diabetes, alzheimer's etc). Chronic illnesses are slowly developing diseases with which people live for a long time. Often, these illnesses cannot be cured, but rather managed by medical interventions & lifestyle alterations.

        Psychological & social dimensions are the causal factors, for several chronic illness. For e.g. personal health habits, such as diet & smoking, are implicated in the development of heart disease & cancer. Health psychology explores these causes & develops ways to modify them.

        Secondly, because people live with chronic diseases for many years, psychological issues may arise in them with deteriorating quality of life. The chronically ill needs help to cope & adjust psychological & socially to their changing health state.

        This changing pattern of diseases & illness in the 21st century, makes a strong case for Health Psychology as a preventive measure & as a vital adjunct in therapy & treatment strategies.

        Pixabay credit Basil M K

        Health promotion

        The role of behavioral factors is very evident in the development of preventable disorders (e.g. lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases, alcohol & other drug abuse, & vehicular accidents).

        It is estimated that nearly half the deaths in the United States are caused by preventable factors, with smoking, obesity & drinking being the top three.

        This has been true for the past 10 years, the only change being that obesity & lack of exercise are about to overtake tobacco as the most preventable causes of death in the United States. - CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), 2004.

        Cancer deaths alone could be reduced by 50% simply by getting people to reduce smoking, eat more fruits & vegetables, boost their physical activity & obtain early screening for breast & cervical cancer. - Center for the Advancement of Health, 2003.

        Thus, successful modification of health behaviours, will reduce morbidity, mortality & expand the number of years during which a person can enjoy life free from complications of chronic diseases.

        Health behaviours & Health habits

        Health behaviours help people to enhance & maintain their health.

        Poor health behaviours are implicated in illness & if not checked, can easily become poor health habits.

        A health habit is a health-related behaviour that is firmly established & often performed automatically, without awareness. These habits usually develop in childhood & begin to stabilize by pre-teens. Brushing one's teeth, eating a healthy diet, limited screen time are examples of such behaviours. It is important to establish good health behaviours & to eliminate poor ones early in life.

        Examples of good health habits:
        • Sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night
        • Not smoking
        • Eating breakfast each day
        • Avoidance of regular drinking or binge drinking
        • Regular exercise
        • Eating healthy food
        • Not eating between meals
        • Being no more than 10% overweight  
        Specific Health-related behaviours

        A mere daily 30 minutes of aerobic exercise (e.g. jogging, bicycling, swimming) can decrease the risk of chronic diseases (cardiovascular diseases), some cancers including breast cancer, obesity & negative moods. It increases immune system functions, strength & efficiency of heart, slow-wave sleep & longevity.

        Accident prevention:
        The single largest cause of accidental death is motorcycle & car accidents. Safety habits like driving within speed limits, wearing seat belts, wearing helmets, cyclist/motorist making oneself visible through reflective or fluorescent clothing, not riding/driving under the influence of alcohol, avoiding mobile phones while driving, can substantially reduce the risk of road accidents.

        Cancer-related health behaviour:
        Preventive screening for cancer can help diagnose malignancy at an early stage, increasing the chance of cure. BSE (Breast self-examination), Mammograms, TSE (Testicular self-examination), Colorectal cancer screening can facilitate early diagnosis of cancer, in it's early stages.   

        Healthy diet:
        Consumption of unhealthy diet has lead to dramatic rise in obesity in several developed countries.
        Dietary factors have been implicated in a broad array of diseases & risks for diseases.
        Dietary modifications are critical for people at risk or who have been diagnosed with chronic diseases such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes & cancers (colon, stomach, pancreas & breast).

        Eating right, improves one's health. Maintaining a proper diet & getting enough exercise jointly contributes to weight & obesity control. A diet high in fiber, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, peas & beans & low in refined grains, red meat, is recommended for good health benefits (it gives protection against obesity, cardiovascular diseases & lowers risk for several cancers).

        Health-compromising behaviours:

        Substance abuse & dependence, Alcoholism & Smoking.

        Adolescence is a vulnerable age, for health-compromising behaviours to set in. However, several other health problems, such as obesity can also begin in early childhood & alcoholism can be a special risks for older adults.

        Many of these behaviours are heavily tied to the peer culture, as children learn from & imitate the peers. Wanting to be attractive to others becomes very important in adolescence, leading to development of eating disorders, consumption of alcohol, tobacco & drugs.

        Several health-compromising behaviours are linked to self-presentation process - an effort to appear sophisticated, cool & savvy, in the peer group.

        Many of these behaviours are initiated because they are pleasurable, provides excitement & thrill & it enhances one's ability to cope with stressful situations. However, over a period, these behaviours can  become a risk factor for a major chronic disease or lead to dependence/addiction.


        Life events which are negative, uncontrollable, ambiguous & overloaded, leads to stress.

        Stress is a negative emotional experience accompanied by biochemical, physiological, cognitive & behavioral changes. Stress is the consequence of a person's inability to meet the demands of the environment. In other words, stress is determined by person-environment fit.

        When a person feels well-equipped to deal with a difficult situation, they may feel little stress & instead experience a sense of challenge. On the contrary, when a person feels ill-equipped to deal with a difficult situation, will feel stressed out.

        Long-term stress brings about undesirable physiological changes. 
        Stress can also affect health via behaviours - first, by influencing health habits directly & second, by interfering with treatment compliance.

        Source: Baum, 1994
        People respond very differently to stress. Some react at the drop of a hat, while others meet challenges with equanimity, bringing their personal & social resources to tackle the problems at hand.

        Therefore, the impact of any potential stressful event is significantly influenced by how a person copes with it.

        Personality & coping  

        Personality of an individual determines how he or she will cope with the event.

        Neuroticism: Certain people are predisposed by their personality for a pervasive negative mood marked by anxiety, depression & hostility.  They tend to express distress, discomfort, dissatisfaction & have poor health. In other words, the chronic negative state of mind has a bearing on one's physiology (illness being psychosomatic in nature, i.e. mind affects the body). 

        Coping skills is how a person deploys their thoughts & behaviours to effectively manage the demands of the stressful situations. It is a conscious act by the person over a period of time for dealing with the stress.

        Internal resources for coping:

        Positive emotional states are associated with better mental & physical health.

        Optimism - An optimistic nature can lead people to cope more effectively with stress & thereby reduce their risk for illness.

        Psychological control - Self-belief that one can determine one's own behaviour, influence one's environment & bring about desired outcomes; helps one to cope with stress effectively, results in good health & emotional well-being. 

        Self-esteem, self-confidence, conscientiousness are important determinants for effectively coping with stress.

        Resilience is characterised by the ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences & to adapt to the changing demands of stressful experiences. Sources of resilience are positive life events, positive emotions, opportunities for rest, relaxation & renewal, purposeful living, development of quality relationships.

        Coping style is a general propensity to deal with stressful events in a particular way. Various people use different strategies like avoidant (minimising) coping, approach (confrontative, vigilant) coping, problem-focused coping (involves attempts to do something constructive about the stressful conditions) & emotion-focused coping (involves efforts to regulate emotions experienced because of the stressful event).

        External resources for coping:

        External resources include time, money, education, a decent job, friends, family, standard of living & presence of positive life events. Individuals who have more external resources, cope better with stressful situations.

        Social support is a vital protective psycho-social resource.Social support can come from parents, spouse, partner, relatives, friends, social & community contacts. People with high levels of social support experience less stress & they cope with the stressful situation better.

        Coping interventions - not everyone is able to cope with stress successfully on their own. Hence coping interventions help them to acquire coping skills so that they become empowered to effectively deal with stress. Mindfulness training, Disclosure (Counseling), Coping effectiveness trainings (specific coping strategies to deal with specific stressors), Avoiding negative self-talk & engaging in positive self-talk, Acquiring skills, Goal setting, Cognitive-behavioural techniques, Relaxation training & Stress management, are various examples of coping interventional methods.

        Coming back to from where we had started - this holistic understanding of health, as a bio-psycho-social model & the importance of Health Psychology, is an empowering knowledge for every individual. 

        One can shift from reactive approach of treating illness with just medication, to a responsive approach of taking charge of one's own health by developing health behaviours, by changing health compromising behaviours, by enhancing one's psychological (mind) faculty & by enriching his or her social relationships.

        As the old adage goes, Prevention is always better than Cure.

        It's time, to become conscious & self-aware of our Health Psychology (attitude, thoughts, behaviour & habits) & to take back the control of our health, into our own hands.