Top 15 Great Science Fiction Books

There are so many astounding science fiction books out there that this has been one of the hardest lists for me to put together. I have added and culled but finally I have a list of the most important 15 Science Fiction Books of all time. I realise that not everyone will be satisfied with this list – so please use the comments to add the books that I couldn’t due to space and time. In no particular order…

1. The Time Machine H G Wells

The-Time-Machine

The Time Machine was first published in 1895, making it the oldest book on this list. Considered by many to be one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, this book coined the term “Time Machine” which is almost exclusively used to refer to any device that allows humans to move through time. The book’s main character is an amateur inventor who lives in London. He is never identified, instead being referred to simply as “The Time Traveller”. Having demonstrated to friends that time is a fourth dimension, and that a suitable device can move back and forth in this fourth dimension, he completes the building of a larger machine capable of carrying himself. He immediately sets off on a journey into the future.

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2. Stranger in a Strange Land Robert Heinlein

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Stranger in a strange land tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human raised by Martians on the planet Mars, upon his return to Earth in early adulthood. The novel explores his interaction and transformation of Earth culture. Typically of Heinlein, this book cover a variety of human taboos, including homosexuality, nudism, and cannibalism. The book introduces the character of Jubal Harshaw who is a central figure in many later books by Heinlein. It won the 1969 Hugo award and has not been out of print since the first publication. Eventually Stranger in a Strange Land became a cult classic, attracting many readers who would not normally have read a work of science fiction.

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3. The Lensman Series E E “Doc” Smith

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I remember one summer in my childhood when all the other kids were busy hanging out at the movies and playing video games, that I spent every day lying in the backyard all day reading every book that E E Smith wrote (luckily my dad is a keen Sci-Fi fan so he had them all). Doc Smith was my introduction to Science Fiction – and what an introduction it was! The Lensman series was the first set of science fiction novels conceived as a series. It was also the original source which introduced many innovative concepts into science fiction, and a variety of ideas newly introduced in the series later were taken and used to solve non-fictional problems. In this sense the series was ground-breaking and defined an entire genre.

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4. 2001 – A Space Odyssey Arthur C Clarke

2001Book

Interestingly, this book was developed concurrently with Stanley Kubrick’s film and published after the release of the movie. In the background to the story, an ancient and hidden alien race uses a mechanism with the appearance of a large crystal Monolith (black in the film) to investigate worlds all across the galaxy and to encourage the development of intelligent life. This novel was followed by three others: 2010 (also made into a movie), 2069, and 3001. As yet no plans exist for the remaining two to be made in to films.

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5. Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 Book Cover

The novel presents a future in which all books are banned and critical thought is suppressed. The central character, Guy Montag, is employed as a “fireman” (which, in this case, means “book burner”). 451 degrees Fahrenheit is stated as “the temperature at which book-paper catches fire, and burns …” It was originally published as a shorter novella, The Fireman, in the February 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. Fahrenheit 451 takes place in an unspecified future time in a hedonistic and rabidly anti-intellectual America that has completely abandoned self-control and bans the possession of books. People are now only entertained by in-ear radio and an interactive form of television. The protagonist, Guy Montag, is a fireman, certain that his job—burning books, and the houses that hold them, and persecuting those who own them—is the right thing to do.

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6. The Foundation Series Isaac Asimov

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The term ‘Foundation Series’ is often used to include the Robot Series and Empire Series, which are set in the same fictional universe. In total there are fourteen novels and dozens of short stories written by Asimov, and six novels written by other authors after his death. The series is highly acclaimed, deservedly winning the one-time Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1965. The premise of the series is that scientist Hari Seldon spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept devised by Asimov. Using the law of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale; it is error-prone for anything smaller than a planet or an empire. Using these techniques, Seldon foresees the fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting thirty thousand years before a second great empire arises. These books are captivating and if you start book one, you won’t stop until you finish book fourteen.

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7. Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut

J Slaughterhouse 5

Slaughterhouse-Five; or, The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance With Death is a 1969 novel by Kurt Vonnegut. Widely regarded as a classic, it combines science fiction elements with an analysis of the human condition from an uncommon perspective, using time travel as a plot device and the bombing of Dresden in World War II, the aftermath of which Vonnegut witnessed, as a starting point. A disoriented and ill-trained American soldier named Billy Pilgrim is captured by German soldiers and is forced to live in a makeshift prison. Billy has become “unstuck in time” for unexplained reasons so he randomly and repeatedly visits different parts of his life, including his death. He meets, and is later kidnapped by, aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, who exhibit him in a Tralfamadorian zoo with Montana Wildhack, a pornographic movie star.

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8. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction comedy series created by Douglas Adams. The series follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a hapless Englishman who, with his friend Ford Prefect, an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, escapes the demolition of Earth by a bureaucratic alien race called the Vogons. Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford’s semi-cousin and part-time Galactic President, unknowingly saves the pair from certain death. He brings them aboard his stolen spaceship, the Heart of Gold, whose crew rounds out the main cast of characters: Marvin, the Paranoid Android, a depressed robot, and Trillian, formerly known as Tricia McMillan, a woman Arthur once met at a party who he soon realises is the only other survivor of Earth’s destruction. After this, the characters embark on a quest to find the legendary planet of Magrathea and the Question to the Ultimate Answer.

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9. Dune Frank Herbert

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Dune is a science fiction novel written by Frank Herbert and published in 1965, and is frequently cited as the best-selling science fiction novel in history. Dune is set far in the future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary fiefdoms are controlled by noble Houses that owe allegiance to the Imperial House Corrino. The novel tells the story of young Paul Atreides as he and his family relocate to the planet Arrakis, the only source of the spice melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe. In a story that explores the complex interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, the fate of Paul, his family, his new planet and its native inhabitants, as well as the Padishah Emperor, the powerful Spacing Guild, and the secretive female order of the Bene Gesserit, are all drawn together into a confrontation that will change the course of humanity.

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10. Neuromancer William Gibson

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This ’80s novel caused a sensation when it was published. Set in a near-future world, this novel helped to popularize the cyberpunk genre. The novel uses visual power and imagery it’s predecessors were not able to achieve. The main character of Neuromancer is Case, a console cowboy, who, by linking his brain directly with computers, pirates data kept in the cyberspace matrix. This is simulated by a worldwide database with a crippled nervous system. With the aid of Molly (who has concealed cybernetic weapons), they embark on a violent adventure.

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11. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K Dick

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Published in 1968, this novel, even today, is years ahead of its time. Set in the future, the World War had obliterated millions with entire species extinct. This causes the humans to look for a new home planet. However, large corporations build artificial animals, which look extremely realistic, and are successful in creating artificial humans, used for slave labor. This causes great fear amongst the human population and the androids are subsequently banned. The androids are on the run, and Rick Deckard is brought in to hunt down the escapees to “retire” them. This book was the inspiration for Blade Runner.

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12. Gateway Frederik Pohl

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Winner of both the Hugo, and Nebula Awards, Gateway is the story of the ultimate futuristic goldrush! Set in the 21st century, Gateway – a large asteroid – has been found; containing hundreds of ancient space ships. All of these ships have pre-programmed courses set. Little is known about the builders of these ships, the Heechee. The curious humans explore the destinations that are preset which result in either vast wealth, or death. The two main characters are Robinette Broadhead, who becomes a prospector, and Sigrid, his digital psychotherapist. Much of the novel consists of Broadhead’s conversation with Sigrid, interspersed with his memories of Gateway and the journeys he has taken in the Heechee ships. A slow moving thinking person’s novel which builds to an amazing crescendo.

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13. Ender’s Game Orson Scott Card

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Taken from home at the tender age of 7, surrounded by enemies, with no hope and impossible odds, he is Earth’s last hope. Ender excels in the field of combat. The invasion of the alien insects ‘buggers’ looms over the Earth. Ender is put to the test when he leads Earth’s defensive and retailitory attack against the aliens. The dialogue, visuals, and details bond you to the characters and make this story incredible.

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14. 1984 George Orwell

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George Orwell wrote 1984 a year before his death to show the world the grim and bleak future of a society subject to totalitarianism. It’s a disturbing and chilling story of Big Brother, where sex is frowned upon and only to be used for reproductive purposes. It was written in 1949, four years after the end of WWII and the paranoia and fear that arose from that time, as well as the threat of communism, gave birth to 1984. In the novel the world has been grouped into three opposing forces: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. Winston Smith, of Oceania, is living in London, a society where you are monitored constantly through telescreens which are in every room. Even if you are physically alone, you are always being watched and individualism is forbidden. The government provides the ‘entertainment’: movies and music. Crime is monitored by the Thought Police, an elite and secretive government organization that can erase you and all records of your existence.

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15. Brave New World Aldous Huxley

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Huxley is one of my favourite writers. Brave New World is set in a dystopian future which anticipates developments in reproductive technology, biological engineering, and sleep-learning that combine to change society. The world the novel describes is a utopia, though an ironic one: humanity is carefree, healthy and technologically advanced. Warfare and poverty have been removed and everyone is permanently happy. The irony is that all of these things have been achieved by eliminating many things that humans consider to be central to their identity — family, culture, art, literature, science, religion, and philosophy. It is also a hedonistic society, taking pleasure from promiscuous sex and drug use, especially the use of soma, a powerful drug taken to escape pain and bad memories through hallucinations.

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Indian James Bond: Mr. Ajitkumar Doval

Meet Ajit Kumar Doval, The Indian James Bond You Probably Had No Idea About

Who isn’t fascinated by James Bond? We’ve all wanted to become 007 at some point in our lives. The fast cars, the cool gear and all the jazz associated with being a super spy made it all the more fascinating. But Bond is so much more than that. He is a man who is selflessly willing to die for his country. Come to think of it, how many of us can actually pull it off?

The only name that comes to my mind is Ajit Kumar Doval, the current national security adviser to PM Narendra Modi. Doval did not just cruise to the top. He worked hard for it and his fascinating story is worth a read. Here are 11 things you have to know about our very own agent 007, one of the best spies that India has produced:

 

1. He lived in Pakistan as a spy for 7 years and passed on vital information.

Talk about being behind enemy lines… And that too for so long.

Source: youthconnect

 

2. After he stopped being undercover, he worked in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad for 6 years.

Source: indiatoday

 

3. Remember the infamous hijacking of IC-814 at Kandahar? His negotiation skills led to the hostages’ freedom.

Source: indianexpress

 

4. In fact, he has successfully terminated 15 hijackings between 1971-1999.

Source: thedailystar

 

5. As a field agent in 1986, he infiltrated the underground Mizo National Front, who were waging an insurgency against the Indian state. He detached its top leaders and forced them to settle for peace.

The MNF were extremely discouraged by his infiltration. It led to the breaking of a 20-year- old insurgency, which was led by Pu Laldenga, and the initiation of the Mizoram Accord.

Source: Reuters

 

6. In the late ’80s, he went into the Golden Temple posing as a Pakistani agent to Khalistani militants inside and passed on vital information during Operation Black Thunder.

He is said to have been disguised as a rickshaw puller. Operation Black Thunder led to the surrender of the militants.

Source: navodayatimes

 

7. He persuaded hardcore Kashmiri militant Kuka Parray and his troops to become counter terrorists.

It paved the way for elections in J&K in 1996.

Source: johnvink

 

8. He is also credited to be the youngest police officer to get the Police Medal for meritorious service.

It took him only 6 years of service to achieve this honour.

Source: Dailymail

 

9. He played an important role in the secure return of 46 Indian nurses who were trapped in a region under control of ISIS.

The incident happened in June, 2014, at a hospital in Tikrit, Iraq.

Source: vyganews

 

10. He isn’t just a spymaster but a great strategist as well. He got the likes of Yasin Malik, Shabbir Shah, and even the hawkish pro-Pak SAS Geelani to the negotiating table.

He is truly a master of psychological warfare.

Source: kashmirvoice

 

11. He has been awarded India’s second highest peacetime gallantry award, Kirti Chakra.

His exploits, especially Operation Black Thunder, led to him winning this distinction.

Source: thepoliticalindian

 

Can you hear that ‘M’? We don’t need Bond. We have Mr Doval!

Amul: Amazing story of India’s most successful brand

Creation of the Amul brand and its famous mascot gave a rural revolution a durable competitive edge.

The tubby little moppet in the familiar polka-dotted dress is not just the Amul Butter mascot.

The Amul Girl, who has entered urban lore with her regular appearance on billboards accompanied by clever catchphrases that comment on contemporary events, stands for the very fight its parent was born to counter.

The cooperative movement that began Gujarat back in 1946 was a movement against the atrocities of Polson Dairy, a locally-owned dairy in Anand, Gujarat, which allegedly procured milk from farmers at very low rates to sell to the Bombay (now Mumbai) government.

Amul’s architect in almost every way was the late Dr Verghese Kurien (who, ironically, died in the 50th year of the creation of the Amul girl).

Arriving in Anand in 1949 as a government employee to manage a dairy, he went from helping farmers repair their machinery to revolutionising the Indian dairy industry by scripting Operation Flood, a cooperative movement that turned India from a net importer of milk into one of the world’s two largest producers today.

Verghese KurienNot for nothing was Verghese Kurien (left) called the Milkman of India, though his vision was a simple one of offering thousands of small dairy farmers centralised marketing and quality control facilities, the missing links in the dairy economy at the time.

Thus, in 1973 the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation was established to market milk and milk products manufactured by six district cooperative unions of Gujarat.

As R S Sodhi, GCMMF’s managing director today, says, competition in the dairy sector 40 years ago was very different.

“In the sixties and seventies, India was a milk-deficit country, not at all self-sufficient.

“Milk powder was imported. From a per capita milk consumption of less than 110 grams per person to around 300 grams per person is a long way, and largely possible due to the cooperative movement.”

But branding also played a role, cleverly designed to add a tinge of nationalism to an essentially rural revolution.

When experts asked Kurien to choose brandnames that would sound foreign, he wisely insisted on an Indian name.

Thus, Amul (then short for Anand Milk Union Ltd) was born.

Amul was not just a milk and butter brand, it became an umbrella for all the products that GCMMF marketed.

The (original) Amul Girl was created by Sylvester daCunha (daCunha Communications) to counter the Polson dairy girl.

A seasoned marketer, Kurien gave DaCunha Communications immense creative freedom to release the Amul Girl ads without waiting to take permission from the company.

The freedom is still maintained and is the the reason the Amul Girl is never late with her take on the world around, says the agency, led by Rahul daCunha, son of Sylvester.

While the late Eustace Fernandes sketched the mascot, it was ad and theatre veteran Bharat Dabholkar who created some of the more popular ads.

The first dairy, Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union, which created Amul in 1955, handed over the brand name to GCMMF in 1973.

By then, Amul had become a brandname in its own right.

It is said that for Operation Flood, Kurien’s idea of having farmers own the brand went a long way in creating a sense of ownership and, in turn, responsibility for the product’s quality.

This is the reason state federations now have their own brands — Nandini in Karnataka, Verka in Punjab, Saras in Rajasthan and Mahananda in Maharashtra.

Branding gave a farmers’ cooperative a quasi-commercial strength, enabling it to adapt to competition.

Sodhi says GCMMF’s professional management focused on fortifying its own distribution network by the eighties.

In the nineties, it laid down the distribution of edible oil and frozen products and in 2000-2010, liquid milk outside of Gujarat. Since 2010, Amul’s parent has been busy procuring milk from outside Gujarat.

The supply chain spanning four distribution channels and pricing with attractive margins have ensured the federation can venture into new product categories and stay on top of competition.

“Even after the opening up of the sector in 1991, and the entry of several private dairies, there are few serious brands that have emerged in the domestic market,” Sodhi says.

Amul reaches one million retailers through a network of 10,000 dealers.

Sodhi says since the mid-90s, Amul has been able to take the “range outside the security of our traditional products, milk powder and butter.

“Since then, we have diversified to everything from ice-cream, curd to long-life flavoured milk.”

From being a local giant, GCMMF now wants to be a global company with a large domestic presence.

Brand Amul is already present in over 50 countries.

In India, it has 7,200 exclusive parlours.

But one of the challenges for Amul would be life after Kurien, whose iconic presence dominated the company long after his retirement.

The ascension to being the chief of GCMMF has been a bone of contention with access to a huge vote bank of 3.3 million farmers.

How GCMMF manages to rise above these controversies will shape its and Amul’s future.

Photographs: Amul via Facebook

Exposed: VYAPAM Scam

Vyapam

Logo of VYAPAM

With four deaths in four days, Vyapam scam is fast turning out to be the most sinister scams in recent times. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is under fire for not ordering a CBI probe into the case, which has claimed over 45 lives. The Opposition Congress has launched an all out attack on the Madhya Pradesh government and asked for the CM’s resignation for shielding the ‘scamsters’. Congress spokesperson PC Chacko on Monday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should take moral responsibility and reiterated the demand for a CBI probe.

Here’s what all you need about the scam:

Vyapam scam

The Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) or MP Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal, also known as Vyapam, conducts almost every exam in the state for government job seekers and for admission to educational institutes in the state. The scam involves massive corruption and irregularities in the entrance examination.

More than 45 people related to the Vyapam scam have died after it hit the national headlines in 2013. This includes witnesses,  persons accused in the case and recently an AajTak journalist, Akshay Singh, who was investigating the case. He died under mysterious circumstances.

Complaints surfaced regarding irregularities in the functioning of the Board in 2009 and after a PIL was filed by Indore-based Anand Rai, the Madhya Pradesh CM formed a committee to investigate the matter. After they released their report in 2011, police arrested several people. A Special Task Force (STF) was soon established in 2012. By 2013, the scam had full-blown with arrest of major politicians, including Madhya Pradesh’s former education minister, Laxmikant Sharma, MPPEB officials, middlemen and students.

Dr Anand Rai, the whistleblower has alleged that undeserving candidates received help through illegal means in the entrance exams. He added that impersonators took the test on behalf of actual candidates. In some cases, a person was strategically placed between two persons who let them copy from their answer sheet and at other times, OMR sheets were randomly scored and later filled accordingly by the Board officials.

Congress has repeatedly demanded for an independent CBI probe after expressing concern over the mysterious deaths. The CM has instead termed it as mudslinging by the Opposition. Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh filed a petition in the Supreme Court on June 30 and asked for a CBI probe into the scam .

Deaths

The enormity of the Vyapam scam can be ascertained from the fact that more than 45 people have died under mysterious circumstances. According to the Special Investigation Team set up by the High Court, 32 of the scamsters have died in suspicious circumstances since 2012. Some of the people who have died mysteriously are as follows:

1. Ramakant Panda 
The police constable had been questioned in the Vyapam case four months back. On Tuesday, July 7, Panda was found dead in Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh.

2. Anamika Kushwaha
A trainee cop recruited through Vyapam, Anamika was found dead in a lake adjacent to the Police Training Academy in Sagar district headquarters on July 6, 2015.

3. Arun Sharma
Dean of medical college in Jabalpur, Aun Sharma was found dead at a hotel in Delhi on July 5, 2015 . He was assisting probe into the scam and providing documents on fake medical entrance examinees in the state-run medical college he was heading.

4. Akshay Singh
An Aaj Tak journalist, Akshay died under mysterious circumstances on July 4, 2015 while he was investigating the scam. He had called on the parents of Namrata Damor, whose body had been found under mysterious circumstances near railway tracks in Ujjain district.

5. Vijay Singh
Pharmacist Vijay went missing hours before he was supposed to appear before STF at the Bhopal High Court. He was found dead on April 28, 2015 in a lodge run by a BJP MLA in Kanker.

6. Shailesh Yadav
MP Governor Ram Naresh Yadav’s son Shailesh, an accused in the Vyapam scam was found dead at his residence in Lucknow on March 25, 2015. Police suspected that he died due to a brain haemorrhage. Yadav  had been served notice by the Special Task Force (STF), which has been probing the scam.

7. Amit Sagar
Indrajeet Bhushan, the primary accused in the scam had mentioned Amit Sagar’s name during the investigations. But before the police could reach Sagar, he had already died. A student of Mhow Veterinary College, he was found dead in a pond on 18 February, 2015 in Sheopur.

8. Dr DK Sakalley
Dean of Netaji Subhashchandra Bose Medical College of Jabalpur, Dr DK Sakalley allegedly immolated himself in a garden behind his house on July 4, 2014.  A suicide note was also recovered.

9. Ramendra Singh Bhadoria
Medical student Bhadoria was booked in the scam in January 2015. On January 15, 2014 he was found hanging at his home in Gwalior. A few weeks later, his mother committed suicide by consuming acid.

10. Lalit Golaria
A student accused in the PMT scam, Lalit’s body was found in Morena under a bridge in January  2015, 2014.

11. Bunty Sikarwar
12. Devendra Nagar
13. Anil Singh Yadav
14. Tarun Machhar
15. Pramod Sharma
16. Arvind Shakya
17. Aditya Chaudhary

18. Namrata Damor
Medical student Namrata’s body was found on the railway tracks near Ujjain in 2012. In 2014, Namrata’s names appeared in the list of student suspects in the scam, leading to suspicions of foul play.

19.Deepak Verma
20.Gyan Singh
21. Anuj Uikey
22. Anshul Sachan
22. Shyamvir Yadav
24. Vikas Singh Thakur

On July 6, 2015 Vyapam scam whistle-blower claimed threat to his and his wife’s life. He alleged that the MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan “wants him dead”.

Inside the world of WhatsApp

Cover art

Jan is barefoot; Brian wears flip-flops. Both are walking around in bermudas and a t-shirt. “You’re the first journalist to come in here,” they say by way of welcome. This is the general headquarters of WhatsApp, one of the world’s most popular applications for smartphones. Jan Koum, 36, a Ukranian, and Brian Acton, 40, an American, will reveal nothing about themselves except what’s on their website, namely that “WhatsApp was founded by two guys who spent a combined 20 years doing geeky stuff at Yahoo! Inc. before starting WhatsApp Inc.”

In fact, they guard their privacy so jealously that it is almost unnatural. “We’re not a huge corporation with thousands of workers,” exclaims Koum. Asked about their lives, they say they would rather “keep a low media profile, as a business and as individuals.”

If you carry a smartphone around in your pocket, there us a good chance that you no longer send SMS text messages, but use WhatsApp instead. This mobile messaging application saw the light in August 2009, and since then has been downloaded 50 million times from Google’s Play store. It is available for iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Android and Symbian (Nokia’s operating system) and it is not limited to text messages; users can send videos, photos and voice messages as well, at no cost except for an annual fee of one dollar (0.79 euros).

WhatsApp is located in Mountain View – that is as much as the website will say; incidentally these days the site also includes the following message in small type: “Congratulations to Spain for winning Euro 2012!!!”. But the leads end there. There is no sign at the building entrance, and no sign on the door of its office, either. Inside there is a spacious open room of around 100 square meters, with graffiti on the walls and a jumble of tables, cables and computers in the middle. The bosses have no office of their own, instead they sit with the rest of the workers – 30 full-time employees and five part-timers. Most of what they do here is customer service, since technical development is carried out in Russia, “where there are excellent engineers,” says Koum.

The experience is always better if you don’t have bothersome banners distracting you”

Their stated goal is to “develop a good product.” “To create something that is used by millions of people is the best thing a engineer can experience,” they say. And for that, there is no need to be in the spotlight. When they were awarded the best application prize at the last Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Koum flew there but sent his marketing representative to pick up the award, which is now stored away in the garage. “I was at a meeting,” he says with a smile.

These former Yahoo! employees feel “normal,” and “that’s the way they want to remain,” confirms the business chief, Neeraj Arora. Eventually, after learning that the photographs for this article would be taken with a telephone and not an actual camera, they agreed to sit at their desks, trusting in the technical limitations of the reporter’s device.

At least a billion messages were circulating every day through WhatsApp in February of this year. The application remains among the most popular downloads in 40 countries in the European Union, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. In Germany it was the top download of 2011 and there were over six million downloads in Spain, according to Xyologic, an application search company.

But these figures do not keep them up at night. “We don’t pay attention to the volume of downloads, sent messages or the number of minutes that people chat,” they say, although that is hard to believe, especially when Koum adds with a sly smile: “We are growing fast, because the world is moving to the smartphone and we have taken advantage of this revolution.”

We don’t register age, gender or address. We don’t need it”

Except for Apple, all other platforms offer free WhatsApp for the first year, then charge a dollar for an annual subscription. “It’s a fantastic offer for what we offer [chat, video, audio, photo in the profile, blocking for privacy purposes…],” says Acton.

Sending a message costs nothing and nobody has to worry about the other person’s mobile model because the application is cross-platform. Its founders insist their success is due to their quality, not because of the money people save. “Price is secondary. People simply want to be in touch. Smartphones are increasingly affordable and accessible, even in emerging countries, and they have a data plan associated to them. As penetration advances, there is a migration to our systems, because we provide a good service. In the end it’s a matter of marketing,” says Acton.

Their success is due to word of mouth, they say, because WhatsApp does not advertise itself. “You trust a friend more than any other source, right?” asks Acton.

“Everything is tied to our rejection of advertising,” adds Koum. “The experience is always better if you don’t have bothersome banners distracting you.”

Both deny that WhatsApp makes money by selling its clients’ address book.

“That is absolutely false,” says Acton vehemently. “We oppose data tracking. It is in our DNA as a company and as people. We value privacy and security tremendously. To do that would be to go against our principles.”

“We don’t even register age, gender or address. We don’t need it,” says Koum. “All we know is the user name, which does not have to be a real name, and the telephone number. The number is the only essential element for chatting. We worked for a long time at Yahoo! and when we left we decided to create something that would have nothing to do with this model where the user is the product – something that would be a more conscious, private experience.”

Apple eliminated WhatsApp from its application store for a while, but its founders say it was only for four days, and not because of security reasons. Asked if they are planning an IPO, Acton said that “for now, the main thing is to grow.”

Muslim girl in Mumbai wins Gita contest

Twelve-year-old Maryam Siddiqui is a rank holder at the exams in school. But recently, the class VI student has aced a written competition based on the Bhagwad Gita. The Muslim girl has won the first position among over 3,000 participants at the ‘Gita Champions League’ contest, organized by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) in January.

The 100 mark multiple choice question based test, evaluates children on their knowledge of the Gita. “I have always been inquisitive about religions and I often read up on them during my free time. So when my teacher told me about this contest I thought it would be a good chance to understand what the book is about. My parents too supported my idea of participating in the contest,” said Maryam, who received the prize on March 15.

A student of Cosmopolitan High School, Mira Road, Maryam studied material that was provided by Iskcon for almost a month before giving the test in English. “I read through the material and tried to understand what the Gita tries to tell us. The more I read about different religions, the more I have realized that humanity is the most important religion that we must follow,” she said.

Maryam has always had conversations about religion with her parents. “Our family believes that one needs to respect and accept all religions. No religion preaches hatred or wrong. However, there are some members who have misguided us. Before these have a bad influence on the children, we need to talk to them and make them understand what is right,” said her father, Asif Siddiqui.

Teachers at school are proud of Maryam’s achievement. “The contest is open to students from all religions so we asked if anyone from school wanted to participate. Maryam is excellent at school exams and she showed the same excellence at this contest too,” said her teacher, Sapna Brahmandkar.

Source: Times of India

CA Exams Tips: How to Clear the Exams?

“The key of persistence shall open up any door that has been closed because of resistance”

I start my mornings usually by going up to my house terrace and get a breath of fresh air. It feels really nice when cool breeze hits your face and makes you feel highly refreshed and relaxed. And this, followed by the sunrise is a spectacular view to watch.

Everyday what I also notice is the activity of birds that makes the whole morning environment quite chirpy. You see thousands of birds flying here and there making it very difficult to imagine if they are creating any particular pattern whilst in the air. Sometimes you see hundreds flocked and flying together and sometimes you see only a couple of them sitting together trying to identify what to do. Perhaps they are mates trying to figure out their future.

Whatever be the no of birds in the air, there is one thing that clearly emerges out, i.e., their desire to go and fetch food or water for themselves. You can notice each of them fly down to a place that has some food, pick it up from their beak and then fly down to a tree and sit and eat. Some of them feed their children and relentlessly fly down to pick up food and eat it. If you carefully watch them, you notice a superb level of persistence, i.e. the ability to continuously fly down and pick up food and fee the children or themselves and then again fly down to pick up food. This process continues till the time they are either no more hungry or are not left with any more food.

It is awesome to see their commitment to fly despite all odds such as bad weather or a threat to get eaten by a cat or any other animal. The birds continuously persist in their motive to find food and never stop until they successfully achieve the desired result.

What I wanted to bring out through the above illustration is that if each one of us adopts the bird like attitude of continuously making the effort to achieve our objectives, we can surely achieve our goals and consequently, a much better life. The life of a student demands lot of hard work and persistence and unless we develop that attitude, it is going to be very difficult to survive and grow. Relentlessly pursuing your objectives, filled up with the desire to achieve your goals is the key to success and in my personal opinion people having that attitude are the real winners.

A lot of students ask me – “Nimish, how do you develop persistence or the attitude of not giving up on your dreams. They ask me that in this world there are so many things to do and therefore, we sometime get lost in the mist. How do we keep moving with the flag of our goal held high considering there are so many obstacles on the way”. These are highly relevant questions and more important in today’s times when there are so many things to distract you. There has never been a time before today when the world was inundated with so much information, so much media and so much social networking. Today, people find it very difficult to get away with Facebook and the temptation to not look at WhatsApp whenever a new message arrives. Obviously, all these things including TV form a major part of what I call the ‘Distraction Kitty’.   The Distraction Kitty is nothing but a pool of all the items distracting you from your goals and consequently, taking you away from your dreams.

In my personal opinion the only way one can get away from your Distraction Kitty is when you have a strong ‘Desire’. Unless and until you have a very strong desire to achieve something, your Distraction Kitty is going to sway you away from your dream goals. People who have succeeded in life are the ones who have had very strong desire to become rich, very strong desire to achieve success, very strong desire to create big organizations and a very strong desire to change the world.

In addition to having a strong desire to achieve your goals, there has to be a strong ‘Faith’ in your dreams. Unless you believe that something good is going to happen to you, in my opinion no good will happen. You have to have a strong desire and that desire has to be backed up with equivalent amount of faith. You would have heard stories of disabled people climbing up mountains, or people without legs participating in cycling events or children of slum dwellers clearing IAS or CA papers and topping the charts. All these are brilliant examples of the terms ‘desire’ plus ‘faith’. These people have a very strong desire to achieve what they want and when they start they have an unwavering faith in their capabilities and in their actions to achieve the results. They simply ignore the thought of giving up and that’s exactly what is needed to become a champion.

From my personal experience I can share that when I was doing CA, there was not even a single thought that ran in my mind whether I would clear CA or not. I remember the motley group of people in our firm and despite being different, all of us in the batch of the year 1999 had one common desire – “the desire to become CA in the year 2002”. And honestly, none of us ever had any doubt in our ability to clear the exams. Our faith to pass was extremely strong it led the majority of us including myself become CA in the minimum stipulated time.

Its end of March now and only a month left before May 2015 attempt appears before you. I think this is the time to work extremely hard, burn the midnight oil and leave nothing to chance. And along with hard work, have faith in your capabilities and just believe in your self.

I want to suggest few tips that might help you develop faith in your abilities, faith in yourself and the attitude that YOU WILL MAKE IT:

  1. Prepare a list of affirmations

For the next 45 days make a habit to say positive affirmations to yourself. You have to convince your subconscious mind that you are born to win and there is no way any obstacle can deviate you from your goals.

I have been a staunch believer of affirmations and in a lot of my previous blogs I have talked about how writing and loudly speaking out the affirmations influence your subconscious mind. Our subconscious mind gets influenced with images and words and the more we affirm to ourselves that we can do it and that clearing examinations are possible, the more our subconscious mind would make it a reality.

Some examples of affirmations you can use:

  • Everyday and in every way I am getting closer to my goal of becoming a chartered accountant;
  • I can see myself holding the chartered accountancy degree in the attempt of May 2015;
  • I am very well prepared for the May 2015 exams and I will surely pass in this attempt;
  • There is nothing that can stop me from achieving my goal to clear the papers in May 2015 attempt and I can see myself very clearly becoming a chartered accountant.

Similarly, you can create your own affirmations and read them loudly 5-6 times in a day.

  1. Emotionalize your affirmations

For affirmations to work in your favour, it is important to have strong emotions in them. Emotionalizing means putting lot of feelings so that the subconscious mind attracts the thoughts and then put them into action.

Research on this topic has shown that when emotions are thrown in the thoughts and mixed with faith, the subconscious mind gets charged up and ensures that the same gets materialized. It may sound slightly cheeky to you, but this concept has been proven scientifically and has been used by top performers.

When you are speaking your affirmations loudly, feel as if you have already got what you want and you are already in possession of your desired object.   If your desire is to clear the exams then whilst speaking your affirmations completely submerge yourself with the thought that you have already received the CA degree and behave the way you would behave when the results would be out in July 2015. Have the same feeling that you would have when you would see your results. Have complete faith that whatever you are speaking is going to get the desired result for you.

  1. Be consistent

Whatever you do, be consistent with it. Whether it is following the schedule you have prepared at the beginning or revision that you do everyday before you pick up any new topic or saying affirmations to yourself 5-6 times a day. Be highly consistent with your actions. Remember – “Consistency is the key to mastery”.

  1. Have a Bubble around you

At this stage it is critical to cancel all the noises around you and completely focus on studies. There should not be anything that should take priority than your studies, food and rest. These are the only 3 things that should form part of your life for the next 45 days and until the exams are over.

Create a mental bubble around you so that nothing else other than the 3 things I mentioned above enter your life. If there is anything else, just don’t allow it. Do this consciously and do it well. You cannot afford to play with your career and with your parents and friends expectations. Just Do It!

 

  1. Don’t try to do too many things

I am sure you would know it but its better if not too many experiments are done at this point of time. You have nearly 45 days left and therefore, it is critical to be calm, positive and just revise whatever you have studied so far. It might be much better to revise properly what you have already studied so far, rather than studying new topics.

I would like to end this article with a beautiful quote:

“If you want something you never had, you have got to do something you have never done”

Wishing you all green lights and loads of good luck.

Article by Nimish Goel

9 lessons brands can learn from Aam Aadmi Party

*For those who do not know what AAP is – AAP stands for Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party), it recently fought Delhi Assembly Elections in India in December 2013. AAP was formed a year back under the leadership of Mr. Arvind Kejriwal. Their unbelievable achievement of clinching 28 seats out of total 70, has created a wave in the Indian political circuit and it won’t be wrong if we say International political circuit*

So, here it is our viewpoint about what brands can learn from Aam Aadmi Party, the hope of India’s political future.

title_image*For those who do not know what AAP is – AAP stands for Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party), it recently fought Delhi Assembly Elections in India in December 2013. AAP was formed a year back under the leadership of Mr. Arvind Kejriwal. Their unbelievable achievement of clinching 28 seats out of total 70, has created a wave in the Indian political circuit and it won’t be wrong if we say International political circuit*

So, here it is our viewpoint about what brands can learn from Aam Aadmi Party, the hope of India’s political future.

Speak the language of your customers

It is very important for brands to understand that unless they do not get what their customers are saying, the whole communication plan will be of no use.

Arvind Kejriwal, from the very beginning clearly understood the pain points of the masses and his every communication comprised of these qualities

Go out in the field

To get the real feel of the market, how the end user perceives your product/service, never hesitate to go out and see the real game. Assess the conditions in which your offering is being sold and always make efforts to read between the lines.

Volunteers of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) were always there in the field talking to people, interacting with them and hence they were very well aware of the situation which in turn strengthened their positioning strategy.

Your customers aren’t blind

Father of advertising, Mr. David Ogilvy quoted “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife”. Brands often underestimate their customers in terms of awareness/experience and hence their strategies which rocked the boardroom end up tanking in the real market.

The other traditional parties like Indian National Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party assumed that the masses will not go for a newcomer when it comes to choosing their leader, and in the end Mr. David Ogilvy was right once again

You need not have multi-million dollar marketing budget to beat your competitors

Think of ideas which are easy to execute, low on costs and great on results. This way not only the risk quotient decreases but also it fosters the brand image.

Aam Aadmi Party backed with a mere funding of INR 20 crores, mobilized thousands of people to volunteer for them and people happily participated in the event. This was possible only because of the correct communication strategy used by AAP.

Being Transparent Helps

A brand which shares every possible detail with their stakeholders always gets rewarded for its honest policies and fair treatment. This ensures customer loyalty and trust.

The website of Aam Aadmi Party clearly highlights details of every funding they receive, doesn’t matter how small the amount is. This level of transparency and honesty helped AAP in winning the trust of people and hence the 28 seats in Delhi assembly.

Always believe in collecting feedbacks and be ready for criticism

Brave are those who love their enemies, not those who know the best defence. Brands, especially on social media platforms in case of any PR crisis often fail to accept the mistake therefore ending up in a mess. Though the awareness amongst brands is rising, but majority of them are still lagging in their response mechanism.

Arvind Kejriwal, the front man of AAP, made it clear in every communication that if they find their team members indulging in corruption they would straight away cancel his/her election ticket. And, such incidents did happen when people reported to AAP authorities that some of their candidates are corrupt, and in the response, AAP cancelled their assembly tickets

Never ever compromise on your USP

Brands sometimes compromise on their unique offerings just for achieving the annual sales figures and for saving their face in the annual general meetings with their stakeholders. In the long term, this further weakens their foundation and hence the growth stops then and there.

By sticking to their resolution of not accepting any kind of support from the two parties, AAP succeeded in creating a milestone in the eyes of the voters and emerged as the most trustworthy group of people Indian politics had ever seen.

Bring your team in the limelight; let customers see the real faces

People feel more comfortable when they know the team behind the product/service as it gives a human touch to the entire process and brings more trust in the eyes of the customers. Hence, brands should always ensure such interactions with their customers.

Innovation is plain vanilla; Disruptive innovation is the complete dessert

In this internet age, when users no longer surf the internet, because now they ski, brands have to look for disruptive innovation methods, sustainable methods will not work now.

Aam Aadmi Party, created a wave in the political circuit when they used cloud technology to reach out to the masses and recruit volunteers for their campaign. They gave the task to a Delhi based startup, VoiceTree which came up with a unique solution to reach out to maximum number of people without indulging in duplicate messaging.

Source: Simplify 360

The victory of AAP is not only a political win, it is actually an incident which has changed the way how elections are fought in the online world and how brands can reach out to their audience.

While writing this article, we came across some really simple and easy to implement methods which can revolutionize the way content is created and marketed.

10 Reasons Why Kejriwal Winning Delhi Is Good For India

In May 2014, I was absolutely clear that I preferred to have Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister. UPA deserved to be punished and Arvind Kejriwal was not ready for a national role. I also wished that AAP would get around 20 seats to have a semblance of an opposition in the parliament. From our motley crowd of leaders Modi was the best bet to be the Prime Minister. He had people support like no other leader and could drive change taking people with him.

Modi got a complete mandate. He is not running a coalition. He is not answerable even to his own party. In the recent past, no leader commanded such respect or wielded such control over government as Modi has. It is now commonly accepted that the government is controlled from the PMO. Ministers do what PMO tells them to. I was recently speaking to a friend who was meeting a cabinet minister. In the middle of his interaction was a call from the cabinet secretary discussing high level appointments. All that the cabinet minister blurted was, “I will recommend whatever the PMO suggests”. Period! This may be good or bad depending on which side of the table you are sitting on. Even after petrol price deregulation, the price is not decided by OMCs or petroleum ministry, but by the PMO.

While I write this opinion, I am thinking of India’s constitutional structure as envisioned by our founding fathers and our multicultural society. I think it is absolutely crucial that BJP loses Delhi. I want the rampaging BJP to be questioned, challenged and alerted. I want action in the past eight months to decide my vote. I want the 1.4% Delhi’s population to force a re-engineering of Modi from Bhashans toAction. Here are 10 reasons why I want AAP to win the Delhi elections.

1. We hated CMs being imposed by a high command. We rejected the culture of sycophancy. Let us not promote it again. Let us vote for a leader who we know will be accountable to us and not to any high command.

2. We need to create alternatives to Congress. The left is dead and gone. We need to create a strong opposition. We need checks and balances. Authoritarian rule in a multicultural country like India will create social conflicts that will harm our economy too.

3. AAP has changed the discourse from caste-and religion-based politics to transparency and accountability. We must persist with this directional change.

4. Every politician today from the big national parties have been tried over the last 65 years. There is a severe scarcity of honest leadership. Time to vote for honest people in politics. Governance can be learnt but honesty is a part of our DNA.

5. AAP has also pushed the existing national parties to include clean, fresh faces and made corruption amongst politicians a central issue. It is important to keep that pressure on national parties. A win of AAP will force them to junk the rotten and embrace fresh blood.

6. There is a strong sense of complacency at the centre. The intent has been there but actions have been few and far in-between. The government led by Modi needs to be pushed. A loss in Delhi will hasten the process of reforms and change. Delhi’s population is just 1.4% of India and a defeat of BJP will not cost the country at all. However, It is a good laboratory to check and push positive governance.

7. It is crucial to silence the religious bigots and ultra right fanatics who have become a headache for Modi too. It is time to bring the train back on track for reform and change, and also silence these looneys.

8. Modi has been elected as the Prime Minister of India. Delhi doesn’t need him as much as India does. I find it an idiotic slogan that I should vote in the name of Modi for the CM of Delhi. I am not ready to bury federalism without a fight.

9. Kejriwal ruled for 49 days. Modi’s been in power for almost eight months. While we have judged AAP for 49 days of governance, we are willing to give more time to BJP. I think we should give more time for an alternative style of governance to emerge.

10. There seems to be too much importance to one person. We need multitude of leaders and multiple voices. The congress was not good in governance and neither good as an opposition. It is time we create a voice that speaks up and is heard. AAP and Kejriwal can be that voice.

Many of you may have issues with some of the arguments put forward by me. But think. What will it cost India if BJP loses and how will it benefit India if BJP wins. Do the cost-benefit analysis, and you will find an answer.

Source: The Huffington Post

Top 10 ways to be a Winner

“If you really want to succeed, form the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.”

– Unknown

Everybody wants to be a winner in life. He or she would like to be in the forefront. To be first in a race or for that matter in the work arena as well, one would find the challenge worthwhile. For an athlete to win the cup is an exhilarating moment. It is sheer ecstasy for him or her to be told that he or she has come first in the event and deserves the winning cup.

It is not easy to be a winner. One may dream to win a race, but without necessary effort one cannot be in the forefront. How one can be much ahead of others in a given situation. Here a few tips to be a winner:

How to be a winner in turbulent times?

Top 10 ways to be a winner are:

  • Determination: This is very necessary. One must decide that he or she will come first and beat the others. This will trigger the spark to be a winner.
  • Motivation: One must be motivated. One must feel that one should be a winner. To succeed and not be a loser can make a person reach his or set goals.
  • Will Power: One must have willpower. One must be able to withstand all kinds of hardships and hurdles to be a winner.
  • Confidence: This is very important. A weak personality can never be a winner. Only a person who knows that he or she is worth a lot and has the necessary ability to win can succeed in the venture at hand.
  • Self-esteem: One need to have a positive self-esteem. He or she must know one’s worth and feel good about oneself. Underestimating or over-estimating one’s abilities will not help to be a winner.
  • Practice: If one is an athlete, then one must practice daily and make an all out effort to be perfect in one’s workout. Even in work matters, to prepare ahead and perfect one’s skills can help in being much ahead of others.
  • Alertness: One must be physically and mentally alert. Sharpness of mind and action can be asset to succeed over others.
  • Positive Mind: One must feel very positive about a given situation. One must feel one will be the winner in a given situation. Negativity can pull one down.
  • Strategy: One must adopt a strategy to win. Carrying out a task in a haphazard way will not be good. One must plan out things in a systematic way.
  • Acquiring necessary skills: One must be well versed in their work. Acquiring the necessary skills are essential to make a success of the task at hand.

MAKE UP YOUR MIND TO BE A WINNER

  1. Never Give up,
  2. Be Resolute,
  3. Be around like-minded people,
  4. Be focused on wins,
  5. Become unstoppable ,
  6. Lean into what drives you, what makes you take action,
  7. Be resilient Be a Survivor,
  8. Move past mistakes,
  9. Keep your eyes on the prize,
  10. Keep a sense of Humour,
  11. Faith Conquers Fear Put God first and others,
  12. At the end of the Day, what matters most in your life.

SOME OBSTACLES TO BE A WINNER:

  1. Ego
  2. Fear of Failure
  3. No plans
  4. Lack of formalized goals
  5. Life Changes
  6. Procrastination
  7. Family responsibilities
  8. Financial Security issues
  9. Lack of focus
  10. Giving up vision for the promise of money
  11. Doing too much alone
  12. Over commitment
  13. Lack of Commitment
  14. Lack of training
  15. Lack of persistence
  16. Lack of priorities

A winner is always on the top of the world. Everybody looks up towards him or her. One has to make a sincere effort to win over others. It is a rough ride, but can be achieved.

In order to get the winning edge, we need to strive for excellence not perfection.  Striving of perfection is neurotic, striving for excellence is progress because there is nothing that cannot be done better or improved.

A very famous saying by B.C Forbes “They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.”

An English Proverb says “A smooth sea never made a skilful mariner.” Everything is difficult before it becomes easy. We cannot run away from our problems. Only losers quit and give up.”

Hence, where the vision is one year, cultivate flowers and where the vision is ten years, cultivate trees and where the vision is eternity cultivate people.

To end, to be a successful winner in turbulent times, think and act differently and always strive for excellence and not perfection.