Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Monday, May 26, 2014
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Friday, May 16, 2014
Most of us would agree that slums should be destroyed from our cities and wiped off the face of the earth. Yet we are surprised at their ability to crop up and cling to cities like parasites in the most unlikely places. Sometimes in the city center. Sometimes right beside posh suburbs. Sometimes on a railway line and at other times in the heart of industrial waste. There does not seem to be a way to predict the location of their formation.
However, all slums have an economic code that holds the key to their life. In economics, only profitable things survive and thrive. Though slums are ruled by poverty, cheap goods, shanties, poor sewage and absent social services, slum economies have an amazing capacity to sustain themselves in the face of such appalling infrastructure. Slum economics must be profitable!
It takes an evening to set up a shanty house at a cost that will be recovered in one week's rent. Compared to an up market home that takes two years to build and twenty years to pay the mortgage. The shanty makes financial sense. By the time you pull down a slum dwelling, the owners have made a return on investment many times over. They are ready to begin the next project as soon as they can find ten square feet of unoccupied space.
You can survive for a month on slum meals at the price of one lunch at MacDonald's. In a slum, you can sell sweet by sweet and make 200% profit on each sale. You can sell one biscuit at a time instead of a whole box at once and still make more money by selling the box on its own. Capital can be accessed from shylocks at horrendous interest, but a good business like selling second hand shirts can pay back the interest in a few days. Security is a risk for outsiders not insiders. Nobody talks about "tax" while "legal vs illegal" is just a moral argument. There is really no place in the world where you can get such amazing returns for such small investments. No wonder people flock to slums while big retail chains make sure they have secure outlets in slums. Slums never leave; they find a place to live.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
There is no subject like applied academics taught in any school or university I know. Yet I think it is a very important science. Nevertheless, I doubt that any university can teach a person to apply what they learn for the simple reason that students have to leave school to prove that they learned anything in school. Learning, in school, is a waiting game. The game starts when you graduate. Reflecting briefly on this last sentence makes you realize that you need to have a very personal reason and very specific goal for going to college because academics alone will do nothing for you in life if you cannot or will not apply it.
Academics gives you power to do everything that relates to a degree, but does not show you how to apply knowledge. One reason for this is that the context of application is so vast, varied and so tied to personal circumstances that it is impossible for a teacher to prepare everyone to deal with everything in life. This is the reason why teachers can only teach principles. You have to figure out how to make those principles work for you. This paragraph not only validates the need for training, but also implies that training is a very specific science of getting people to do what they know by equipping them with the know-how to do the job.
Unfortunately, there is a misleading global assumption that people know how to use knowledge. We forget that there are major gaps between knowledge and skill, between skills and expertise and between experience and wisdom. These gaps are bridged by training. No amount of knowing can change any - thing. But a little doing can change things by a long stretch. Applied academics is about doing things, changing things. It's about doing things right and doing the right things. Applied Academics is about training a person for life.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
The other day the sewer "blocked" on our compound. It began to overflow from the wrong end and caused a mess all over where it should not. No one really wanted to attend to the problem so the people closed off the bathroom and chose to seek relief outside the building. It was plain annoying to have a facility within your reach that you cannot use. One bright chap volunteered to" permanently cement off" the offending manhole where the blockage was located.
I came back a few days later and soon found out that people were not using the bathroom. When I asked why I got the full and detailed explanation above. I then asked if anyone had had a look at the problem. I was told, "no". I then asked why and was advised that we should call the plumber. After a little discussion back and forth, I pointed out that it would be unwise to call a plumber before we know what the problem was. As soon as I made that statement, I realized that no one was willing to look at the problem.
At this point, I took off my coat and set aside my tie. I armed myself with a shovel, to deal with anything that might come forth, and asked for help to remove the lid. As the lid was lifted away, all I could see was soil and roots. I soon realized that the root problem was a nearby harmless looking little Fern that had managed to wedge its roots in between the plastic waste pipe and the cement trap box. The Ferns roots had completely covered the sewage outlet. As you can imagine it took me less than three minutes to extract the crime to the amazement of the bystanders who had been suffering for a week. As the lid was put back on the box, I felt like a surgeon. Then I realized that when no one wants to face the problem, it becomes a job for a consultant.
Monday, May 12, 2014
Friday, May 9, 2014
New beginnings come after an end, a close or death of something important, significant or conventional. The beginning of anything is a challenge because it is not known, understood or a habit. The fact that new beginnings require a huge amount of work, energy and focus is enough to tire anybody before the beginning begins. New beginnings redefine you, refine you, and make you anew. New beginnings require that you let go what defined you in the past and draw up new posts to define you in future. In other words – you must be born anew.
The world and everything around us changes regardless of whether we think it should or not. Because we change, whether we like it or not, new beginnings are certain and normal. Whether we should be prepared for new beginnings is a very good question. But even if new beginnings take us by surprise, we must be willing to follow through. Failure is failure because it will not begin anew.
Born again is not religion. There are many seasons of new beginnings in life. Some joyful others tragic. Finishing school, moving to a new town, starting a new job, going to college, getting married, parting ways, earning a promotion or losing a job. We live and die every day. In all of these, the old dies and the new begins. No one said it would be easy. However, transitions do not define you – only you do. When you face a new beginning, remember that the challenge is not letting go of the past or facing the monster of the new. The challenge, in due course, is that you must be born anew.