Factory Reset

Factory Reset

How often have you experienced your laptop fan speeding up and becoming a constant background hum as the gadget eventually overheats? The first thing we do is often check the task manager to see if any unnecessary processes may be terminated. If that doesn’t work, we can always resort to powering down and restarting the device, or utilise the disc defragmenter to ensure that space is being allocated efficiently. If the issue remains after these measures, it’s possible that the device has been infected by a virus or other harmful software, at which point we’ll have to resort to drastic measures like formatting the disc or even a “Factory Reset” to wipe it clean.

What if this is happening in our own lives? What if we are feeling tired and worn out, our feelings are running high, and the fan is going full blast to cool us down? How do we decide which processes in our task manager to end and which ones to keep running? How do we figure out which processes use the most CPU, memory, and disc space within our body? How do we know if our operating system, our culture, has not been exposed to bad software, i.e. if we’re with people or things that aren’t good for us? The way we started this journey and set up our cultural compass, is it still showing the true north? Are we becoming more like institutions and living in a culture we didn’t believe in before?

Where is our nuclear option to help us get back to the original factory setting, i.e. setting us back to our original and natural self?

I have been trying to find answers to some of these questions, and this blog shares some of my learnings and experiences.

After taking an introductory meditation course in October 2022, mentioned in my blog The Pursuit of Happiness, I took the conscious decision to meditate daily. This was to find out if the wonderful feelings I got from my first meditation session were just one-off or if they would be long lasting. I was becoming more comfortable with the daily meditation for past four months and the positive impact, and so I signed up for an Advanced Meditation Course, organised by the Art of Living Foundation.

This is where I found the factory reset button.

Silence 🙈🙉🙊

We live in a digital age, so we expect a digital experience with one screen and one click, like a “Google Search” interface, that gives us access to everything we need, such as a world-wide web search, Google Photos, Google Calculator, etc. Silence is that single point, one-click, interface to the self that gives you access to shutdown/restart, disc defragmenter, system optimisation, removing unused programmes, reclaiming and fixing the bad sector storage and memory, and resetting yourself to factory settings.

I realised in the course that silence in words, in actions and in thoughts, is that answer that can help cleanse our mental system.

With over 12 to 15 hours of meditation each day for three days, the online course was fairly demanding. There were breaks in-between, but they were useless to me because of the 5.5-hour time difference between the UK and India. For example, after the lunch break in India, there was a rest period, but it did not help me because it was 9:30 am in the UK. In a way, this was to my advantage because the course used to stop at 8 p.m. IST, when it was only 14:30 p.m. GMT in the UK. This gave me more time to reflect on my life and spend time with myself because it was too early to go to bed.

The main activity of the advanced course was three days of silence. So, what exactly is silence, what exactly is meditation, and why was silence associated with the advanced meditation course?

It should be noted that while maintaining silence was a predefined rule, learning how to maintain silence was not the course’s goal. The course taught students how to let go of things, people, emotions, and their unnatural selves. The course’s main theme was to make one believe that he or she is nothing and thus let things go.

The brilliance of the teacher or guru makes it appear simple and easy to accomplish, even though it is actually difficult. Once one lives the following two steps, the letting-go state follows naturally.

  1. The first step is to make ourselves feel hollow and empty, this is to make us realise that we cannot hold on to anything even if we want to
  2. At the second step, we learn to give up control and rely on a higher power to guide our life, i.e. surrendering yourself

Letting-go is the destination, the above two are the roads that takes us to the journey to that goal.


The realisation that we are all essentially hollow and empty has many positive outcomes: (1) we become more open to novel experiences; (2) we are less likely to hold prejudices towards others; and (3) we are able to reject the idea of living in a hierarchical society, in which one group is superior to another.

Surrender 🙏

The challenges/problems we face in life can be categorised into three broad categories:

  1. Most difficulties can be classified as temporary. There’s no need for us to stress too much about them because they’re only temporary.
  2. Then there are problems that won’t go away any time soon, they are of permanent nature. We might as well just accept them as inevitable and go on; there’s nothing we can do about them.
  3. Some of these difficulties, whether they are short-term or long-term, worry us and give us something to think about. Surrendering to a greater power, a supreme energy, a god or a guru, boosts our confidence in our abilities, provides us strength to face adversity, and brings out our best.

When we accept that we will be taken care of no matter what happens, our outlook improves and we become more willing to take chances, and learn to live in peace.

The Energy Centres ⚡

Before we discuss further the link between meditation, silence, feeling empty and surrender, it is important to know about the energy centres within our body.

If you could feel the feelings in our throats, you’d know that when we’re overwhelmed with joy or sorrow, our throats are the first place we go to express them. Feelings of love or pain cause a heaviness in the chest area, while anger causes a similar sensation to settle on the forehead. Why? This is due to the fact that our seven chakras (or energy centres) each supply a unique form of energy, such as love at the chakra located near the heart, gratitude and grief at the chakra located in the throat, anger at the chakra located in the space between the eyebrows, and so on. There are 108 chakras in total (with the 109th located directly above the crown of the head), but the seven major ones are the ones that really matter.

Those who are filled with hatred are simply suffering from an imbalance of energy in their heart chakra. Ones having anger issues are due to lack of positive energy for the chakra in between the eyebrows that gives access to knowledge, awareness or alertness.

The Chakras – The Energy Centres in Our Body

Hence, it is important that these energy centres are balanced properly and are in healthy state. The idea is to remove any blockages and increase the energy within these energy centres, so that we can live with positive emotions.

Meditation 🧘‍♀️🧘‍♂️

This is when focusing on your breath and meditation might help. Meditation strengthens, expands, and restores the equilibrium of these energy centres. Those who meditate regularly are seen as more loving and calm by those around them.

There are subtle but significant differences between Eastern and Western meditation practises. When practising meditation in the West, one just enters a meditative state without any preparatory breathing exercises, but in the East, this is not the case. When practising eastern meditation, Prānāyam or breathing exercise is important, one breathes in Prān (= energy), then relaxes as one breathes out, eventually entering a state of emptiness.

With the increase in energy levels of these centres, the negativity and bad emotions gradually dies down. As darkness is nothing more than the absence of light, hatred is the absence of love. As the energy level of the chakra associated with love energy rises, hatred fades.

Throughout the course, the teacher emphasised that meditation should be effortless, subtle, and simple in nature. Meditation is not about focusing on an object, a phrase (Aum), a thought, or avoiding thoughts; rather, it is about elevating oneself to a podium from which to observe thoughts as they pass. It is the restoration of calm and relaxation of the body in such a way that there is no one else but you, and positioning yourself as nothing. This is accomplished through guided meditation in the company of an accomplished teacher/guru.

The Silence Rule 📜

Everything we do has either benefits or trade-offs. When we choose a path to gain or benefit, we should be aware of what we have chosen to forego as a trade-off.

Silence highlights the biggest trade-off of our life. We devote time to everyone but fail to devote time to ourselves. Being alone, away from family, friends, work, and digital devices, forces us to converse with ourselves. Solitude brings one closer to the true self, which is free from ego (ego = unnatural self). We are taught from childhood to work hard in order to develop our personalities. Personality is how others perceive us in various situations, and it can be far from reality. The word is derived from the latin root word persona, which means a mask or a literary character who represents the author’s voice. Do we want to live our lives as defined by others, or do we want to decide for ourselves what good looks like for us? Silence and solitude begin to peel away the outer layers, allowing one to see the true nature of the being.

Once I began to connect with or see my natural self, it started to become clear to me that the titles we hold, such as “Principal Enterprise Architect,” etc., do not reflect my true self and only hinder my ability to integrate and live in harmony with the universe and others. In effect, meditation leads to silence, and silence leads to our natural self, which eventually leads to the realisation that we are nothing more than a part of the universe, the supreme energy.

It gets even better: we realise we are the universe, just as the seed comes from the tree, and the tree comes from the seed.

Other learnings 🎓

The teacher taught many other things e.g., the amazing principles of Art of Living. These principles help us to not judge others, and also not allow others to judge us. The principles teach us to avoid judging situations and to accept life as it comes, to live in the present moment.

The course participants pretended to be eight-year-olds and drew a few pictures with crayons, giving us the impression that we were as innocent as children and free of the baggage of titles and names.

I loved the five S’s that were taught during the course,

  1. Nothing is possible without hard work and perseverance. It is critical to perform the Sādhanā, which entails working hard towards a goal and giving everything to achieve it.
  2. Serving without expecting anything in return, to the community, humanity, or the universe, is the real service or Sevā. The best Sevā is to share knowledge and teach.
  3. One of the most important things is to be in the company of right things, right people and right knowledge, which is known as Satsang
  4. To attain knowledge it is important to reconnect to the supreme energy and this is only possible via Silence
  5. We all need a mentor or a guide that shows us the true path, whether it is a spiritual journey or professional. Without surrendering under a Sadguru, a compassionate mentor, it is not possible to find our way to success. It does not matter who we believe in, but surrendering ourselves is important.

The course also taught about the four pillars of knowledge i.e., viveka, vairagya, Shatt-Sampatti and Mumukshatva, and the six real wealths, kshamā, dama, shraddhā, titikshā, uparati and samādhān, more detailed information can be found here.

Summary 🦉

One should follow a daily routine of yoga (Padma Sādhanā), PrāNāyam and meditation (Sudarshan Kriya) to cleanse the subtle body (non-physical aspect of the body for mental well-being), along with the routine physical exercises to improve the health of the gross (physical) body.

The last four months have been transformational for me. I have written quite a few blogs and have also managed to write poetries in Gujarati language, possibly this can be attributed to the increase in creativity due to the increase in energy level of the 2nd chakra or cleansing of overall nervous system, nādi shuddhi. I feel calmer inside and more at peace with myself. This allows me to take on new challenges in life without fear of failure.

During the course, I experienced silence firsthand. While it was difficult, I feel great and my breathing has greatly improved. It may be early days, but I promise to make it a habit and return in a few days to share my experience if the techniques taught in the course and tools provided make a difference in my life.

I should also mention what the teacher said at the end. The person who completes the course gains tremendous energy and can request for anyone to be blessed. I have requested that each of you and your families be blessed.

As the course’s instructor, Dr. Divya Kailash, put it, divinity = love. Please pray for me to continue on this path of divinity, i.e. love. My actual journey begins now.

West 🏗️ Meets East 🕉️🧘‍♂️- Neem Karoli Baba

What do the late CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and the well-known American epidemiologist, Larry Brilliant, all have in common?

West 🏗️ Meets East 🕉️🧘‍♂️- Neem Karoli Baba

They all had the same spiritual guru from the Himalayas, called Shri Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Baba or Maharaj ji. Surprised to know?

As Steve Jobs said in his famous Connecting the Dots speech at Stanford. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

Looking backwards – the story of the dots starts with Larry Brilliant.

💉 Larry Brilliant

Larry Brilliant is a physician, epidemiologist, and public health expert, who, along with his wife Elaine, worked with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to eradicate smallpox. He is the founder of The Seva Foundation, which works to prevent blindness in several developing countries.

In 1969, Larry, as a non-official doctor, accompanied a group of people to visit Alcatraz Island to help a pregnant woman from the American Indian tribes when they forcefully captured the Island. After the US forces re-captured the Island, Larry became famous in the media. This gave him a role of a doctor in the movie Medicine Ball Caravan. The cast was paid for an airline ticket to India. Larry and others encashed the money and took a tour from Europe to India. They ended up in humanitarian aid due to a cyclone in Eastern India and Bangladesh.

Brilliant somehow arrived at a remote ashram at Kainchi Dham near Nainital, which was headed by Baba Neem Karoli Bagh. One day the baba gave Brilliant a mission to leave the ashram and join World Health Organisation (WHO) to help eradicate smallpox. Brilliant wasn’t an epidemiologist or a doctor, but baba used to call him ‘Dr. America’. He was refused the job at WHO a few times, and baba sent him back to New Delhi every time. Finally, he approached the WHO to get any role in the organisation just to keep the baba happy, and he was hired as an administrative assistant.

In the 1970s, India was a poor country and Brilliant would have been termed an outsider. Still, the guru and the disciple went on a mission that impacted billions and killed more than 500 million people worldwide. Indians then believed that smallpox was caused by the goddess ‘Sitala Devi’; hence, it was also connected religiously. With no mass media, an extremely high infection rate with every individual infecting seven others, a large landscape, poor infrastructure and low education, this was an almost impossible task to achieve.

But when science, religion and spirituality come together, everything is possible. Over the next few years, Brilliant helped lead a team of 150,000 people from 170 countries to work together to wipe out the last traces of the disease.

📱 Steve Jobs

Baba has influenced and changed the lives of many. Disciples who were previously sworn to the corporate world are being drawn to and have started believing and practising spirituality. Larry Brilliant was a good friend of Steve Jobs (co-founder and CEO of apple). After a series of failures, Steve Jobs was in search of some eternal peace and motivation, so he turned to his friend Larry Brilliant who advised him to go and meet Baba.

In 1974, Steve Jobs travelled to India. However, he was too late, as Baba had passed away. Despite the unforeseen circumstances, Steve decided to stay at the ashram for a while and spend time with the spirit of Baba, learn his teachings and meditate. After a seven-month stay in India, Steve returned to America and eventually started Apple Inc. in 1976.

After Steve Jobs had stayed in India, he mentioned that he had realised how important it is to have intuition.

👥📚 Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg in the year 2015, during a conversation with India’s PM Modi, mentioned how Steve Jobs, Mark’s mentor, persuaded Mark to visit the temple/ashram of Neem Karoli Baba (watch the first 1min 48sec of the video here). This was at the time when Facebook was in serious trouble. Initially, Mark only planned to be there for a day, but he eventually stayed there for a couple of days.

🎭 Julia Roberts, 🏏 Virat Kohli, and many others!

Julia Roberts visited India in 2010 to shoot her movie Eat Pray Love. After that, Julia Roberts became a practising Hindu. In one of her interviews, she said that her life-changing event was when she saw Baba Neem Karoli’s photograph.

Everyone has their doubts when it comes to myths and legends, more particularly spiritual leaders. However, when a miracle happens to one of your close ones or an idol you look up to, you start questioning whether spirituality is legitimate or not.

Why do high performers like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Julia Roberts, Larry Brilliant, etc., from the western corporate world travel to India and have their lives turned upside down by meeting these mystics? It raises the question of whether the materialistic and corporate environment is sufficient or to succeed, we need to extend ourselves to the spiritual dimension as well?

Shri Neem Karoli Baba – An Introduction

Neem Karoli Baba was a guru and devotee of the Hindu deity Hanuman. He was born in the early 1900s and is considered one of India’s most revered spiritual leaders. Many of his followers believe that he is the incarnation of Hanuman, as he has performed many miracles. His teachings emphasise the importance of love, devotion, and selfless service. Baba’s teachings were said to be simple and universal. He would often preach, “sab ek” meaning all is one. Baba taught in a highly personalised and non-traditional way, reflecting the deep devotion to the bhakti path, i.e. liberation via devotion.

Baba was once in the first-class section of a train. Baba did not have a ticket when the ticket checker came. Then Baba was asked to get off the train at the next station, ‘Nib Karoli’. Baba sat at a distance by burying his stick in the earth. Officials told the train to move, and the guard waved the train off, but the train didn’t move even an inch. After many tries, the train still didn’t work, so a local judge who knew Baba asked officials to apologise to Baba and bring him inside in a respectful way. There were also people on the train who agreed with the judge. From then on, Baba was called Neem Karoli.

Baba has many ashrams and followers around India and some in America, his most popular ashram being Kainchi Dham (which was visited by Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg).

Miracles, by definition, are events that cannot be explained by natural laws or scientific principles and, therefore, cannot be verified or disproved. Everyone has different beliefs, values, and worldviews until something astounding happens right in front of their eyes. He manifested many siddhis (powers), such as being in two locations at once or putting devotees in samadhi (state of meditative consciousness) at the touch of a finger. Neem Karoli Baba has performed many miracles, and a few of them have been captured in the book Miracle of Love by Ram Dass.

The Legacy

Even though Maharaj ji physically left us on September 11, 1973, his devotees believe he is still improving people’s lives. He has left behind a vast legacy, some of whom we recognise and others we do not. A baba in the Himalayas was instrumental in eradicating smallpox and saving millions of lives, but we are too preoccupied with our lives to comprehend this. By nature, we in the corporate world are profit driven and have lost our purpose. Spirituality helps us reconnect. However, the irony is we now know of baba ji because of the corporate world. Would you have read this article if this article was not connected to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, food for thought?

About the Authors:

Bhavin Shukla has been working as an IT Consultant in the data space for more than 20 Years. As a Data and Analytics professional, he has worked extensively for years on complex IT Transformation Programmes within Health, Finance and Telco domains.

Prisha Shukla co-authored this write-up and is currently studying her 3rd Year of Medicine at Aston University, Birmingham.


“Adil” means righteousness/fairness.

ઈરાન ના રાજા ખુશરો-૧, નૌશેરવાન આદિલ ના નામ થી પણ ઓળખાતા હતા. એ એમના રાજ માં ક્યારે પણ અન્યાય થવા દેતા નહિ. જ્યારે એમનો મહેલ બનાવવાનો હતો, તો એમણે બાજુ માં રહેતી ડોશી ની ઝૂંપડી તોડવા નહોતી દીધી, ભલે પછી મહેલ ની દીવાર વાંકી બને.

અને પરશુરામ અવતાર માટે એમ કહેવાય છે કે, એ પહેલા માનવ હતા જેમણે નીતિ ની સ્થાપના કરેલી.

આ કવિતા હૂં ઈરાન અને અફઘાનિસ્તાન ની એ નીડર મહિલાઓ ને સમર્પિત કરું છું, જે અડીખમ થઇ ને સ્વાતંત્ર સંગ્રામ ખેડી રહી છે.

Photo Reference: https://jezebel.com/the-most-powerful-images-from-the-iran-protests-1849602812


થઇ જિજ્ઞાસા, કે ગુફા માંથી જે નીકળ્યો, એ પહેલો માનવ કોણ?
બન્યો પશુ માંથી નર, એ સભ્ય માણસ કોણ? (૧)

ટાળી ધારણા ને થયું પહેલા જાણું કે સભ્ય એટલે શું?
જાણ્યું કે સીમા, પંથ અને સભ્યતા દીઠ વ્યાખ્યા અનેક, પછી કરું હૂં શું ? (૨)

ખૂબ શોધખોળ પછી વર્તમાન માનવ નો દેખાયો ગુફા છેટે વાસ,
એટલે જવું પડ્યું ઊંધે પગલે, અને ખોળવો પડ્યો ઇતિહાસ (૩)

ઐતિહાસિક ગુફા ની બહાર મળ્યું ટોળું , ને મળ્યા પ્રથમસભ્ય શ્રી પરશુરામ,
જેમણે સમજાવ્યું, નીતિ એકજ ધર્મ, નહિ ચલાવી લઈશ હરામ (૪)

લાગ્યું પૂછીજ નાખું મૂળ સભ્ય માણસ ને, વર્તમાન માં ખૂબ પવન છે ફૂંકાયો ,
કે તમારા પિતા બ્રાહ્મણ અને માતા ક્ષત્રિય, તો છે તમારો પંથ અને ધર્મ કયો? (૫)

થયો દૂર ધર્મ નો ભ્રમ જ્યારે જોયા એજ ટોળા માં ગુરુ ગોબિંદ સિંહ અને ઈરાન ના નૌશેરવાન “આદિલ“,
ને સમજાયો ધર્મસંસ્થાપનાર્થાય નો અર્થ, ત્યારે રડી ઉઠ્યું આ દિલ (૬)

આજે જ્યારે ખેંચાય છે ઈરાન અને અફઘાનિસ્તાન માં સ્ત્રીઓ ના ચોટલા,
ક્યાં છો ઓ “આદિલ“, આ તથાકથિત રહમ-દિલ રાજ શેકી રહ્યું છે પોતાના રોટલા (૭)

મળ્યા ડાર્વિન રસ્તા માં મેં કીધું કે જોવી છે મારે હોમો-સપીએન્સ થી આગળ ની કૂંચ,
કહે, ઉત્ક્રાંતિ તયાં અટકી, અને પાછી વળી ગુફા તરફ, જ્યારે નહિ મળી નિર્ભયા ને કોઈની હૂંફ (૮)

તો પૂછ્યું વ્યાસદેવ ને, કે ક્યારે પ્રભુ પધારશે, ને લેશે કલ્કી નો અવતાર,
કહ્યું, છે ચકરડું ફર્યું ઊંધું ને થયો માણસ નાનો, જો ના બન્યા નરસિંહ ના વૈષ્ણવ, તો લેવો પડશે વામને અવતાર (૯)

રે માનવ શું તું શીખ્યો ધર્મ ગુરુ ઓ પાસે, હોય એ ઇસ્લામ, હિન્દુ, ઈસાઈ, યહૂદી કે સીખ?
કેહવા દે મને કે જો રેહવું હોય ગુફા ની બહાર, તો દરેક અનીતિ, અત્યાચાર, ને અન્યાય સામે થા આદિલ, ને લઢતા શીખ (૧૦)

Meaning of the poetry and narrative:

First Stanza:

I was intrigued to find out who was the first civilised human that came out of the cave. Darwin’s theory limits to the physical and not cognitive, moral or ethical evolution of humans.

A journey to find that person who first turned from an animal (caveman) to a civilised human.

Second Stanza:

But before I embark upon this journey, I need to understand what a “good” and “civilised” human actually means? Countries and religions have different definitions of a “civilized” human, whereas I am looking for the definition of a Global citizen.

Third Stanza:

When I started asking the leaders of various religions and countries and different thinkers, I soon realised that they were preaching their sermons from the same cave but from the inside. Hence, I had to travel through history to find the answers.

Fourth Stanza:

In history, I saw the first caveman out of the cave and standing with a group of other humans; he was lord Parashuram. He fought with several kings to establish righteousness. It is said that he first got upset when the king forcefully took away his father’s cow and killed his father. He told me that being just, ethical and righteous, fighting for these causes and supporting the weak is the only dharma, and it means being civilised.

Fifth Stanza:

I was intrigued, and because I am a human from the present, and his father was a brahmin and his mother Kshatriya, I asked him the question, “What sect/religion do you belong to?”. He then asked me to look at other people standing with him in the group. It is to be noted here, that dharma is not equal to religion, and this is the confusion of current human-being.

Sixth Stanza:

My confusion/illusion was corrected when I saw Guru Gobind Singh ji and Nausherwan-i-Adil in the group. Guru Gobind Singh ji fought with the Mughals and stood up a community of fighters called to protect the weak and fight for justice, called Khalsa (the pure). Nausherwan-i-Adil was a ruler of Iran and was known for his righteousness and justice. When his palace was being built, he declined to get rid of the poor old lady’s hut next to his palace because of which the palace wall could not be built in a straight line.

Seventh Stanza:

My heart cries when I understand what “civilized” and just (or Adil) means. Where are these Adil (s) when women’s freedom in Iran and Afghanistan is being taken away? They only ask for basic and fundamental freedom; they are being pulled from their hair and denied education just so that the males can be in rule for a long time.

Eight Stanza:

Because I was in history, I met Darwin and asked him what will humans next evolve into after homo-sapiens-sapiens. And he said that evolution stopped on that day when Nirbhaya did not receive security, compassion and justice when she was brutally raped and tortured by a group of men in Delhi.

Ninth Stanza:

So I went to Ved Vyas, who wrote Srimada Bhagvatam. There is a prophecy in Srimada Bhagvatam that whenever the world is in chaos, the vulnerable are harassed, and injustice is at its peak, the lord will take Avatar to save the world – Dashavatara. He has done this 9 times, and we are waiting for the 10th avatar, Kalki Avatar. He said that the wheel of avatars is now turning the other way; since the humans are walking backwards in the name of development, we need to go back to one avatar before lord Parashuram (yes, the same first civilised human), Vamana Avatar. Vamana means dwarf; the humans will have Vamana as they have dwarfed their wisdom.

Tenth Stanza (10 stanzas in the poetry to represent Dashavatar)

Back to the present and after talking to the great human “beings” of history, I must convey the message to the people of all faiths what our religions, e.g. Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and religious leaders are teaching us, that if we want to stay out of the cave, then we need to have righteousness in our heart. We need to fight for the weak and vulnerable whenever we see injustice to them. This is the only “dharma” and the only relevant definition of “being civilised”.

The poem is dedicated to the courageous women of Iran and Afghanistan who are fighting for freedom for themselves and future generations. Hats off to these women’s spirit, resilience, and vision.

It is also dedicated to all the wonderful women, ladies/girls/daughters/sisters/mothers/friends, who have played an important role in my upbringing and continue to do so. Thank you very much.

The poetry was written by Bhavin Shukla on 15th Jan 2023.

Photo reference: https://www.biologyonline.com/dictionary/homo-sapiens-sapiens


Reduced visibility from fog, smoke, etc., distracts us from the real world. Then the question is, what is real?

ધુમ્મસ અને ધુમાડો કરતા અંધકાર સારો. અંધકાર આપણને સજાગ તો રાખે. ધુમાડા માં ખુલ્લી આંખ જે ભાળે તે બધું માની લેવા નું મન થાય. સાચા દર્શન કરવા માટે ધુમાડો દૂર કરી આગ જ પ્રગટાવવી પડે.

ગવાઈ ગીતા, ફૂંકાયો પંચજન્ય, સંભળાયા કિકિયારી ને ચિત્કાર,
સંબંધો ને લાગ્યા ગ્રહણ, ઉડ્યા ધુમાડા ના ગોટા, કુરુક્ષેત્ર માં ફેલાયો અંધકાર (૧)

બળવા ની આવે છે વાસ, કાશ બળતણ ને જરીક હોતે ભાન,
બળે એક, દાઝે બેવ, પક્ષાપક્ષી માં જાય સન્માન અને ના આવે સમાધાન (૨)

જો સાચવજે. જ્યાં આગ ત્યાં ધુમાડો, અને જ્યાં ગામ ત્યાં ઉકરડો,
થાય કેટલીયે અકળામણ, ખરે નહિ ટીપું કે ના દેખાય ઉઝરડો (૩)

પણ તું એ પણ સમજ, જ્યાં ધુમાડો ત્યાં આગ,
જો ચર્ચા માં હોય આટલો ઈશ્વર, તો ભજવતો હશે એ ચોક્કસ કોઈ ભાગ (૪)

આખર બળવાનું તો છેજ સૌ એ, તો છોડ દાઝી જવાની બીક,
એક સુદર્શન ની જો આ ઊર્જા, તો તું ફેરવ તારા સાત ચક્ર ને ઠીક (૫)

જરૂરી છે સત્સંગ, રાખ વિવેક, ને કર નક્કી કે રહે આનંદ માં દુનિયા સારી,
રેહવા દે ક્રોધ ની અગ્નિ ના દાવાનળ, ઉઠ, જાગ, તારા ધ્યેય બને ચિનગારી (૬)

કર અંધકાર ના ધુમાડા ને દૂર, માર હૃદય થી ફૂંક,
પ્રજવલ જ્ઞાન ની આગ, જો તારા માં હોય સત્ય ની ભૂખ (૭)

અંધારા માં દેખાય સાપ, અજવાવાળું કરો તો દોરડું, ને જ્ઞાન આવે તો બ્રહ્મ, છે આ સ્વપ્ન ના પ્રકાર ત્રણ.
શંકર કહે કે, છે આ મિથ્યા, નથી જગત અસત્ય, કરી લે વેદાંત ના દર્શન પણ (૮)

This poetry was written by Bhavin Shukla on 12th January 2023 remembering Swami Vivekananda on his 160th birth anniversary.

પડછાયો કે છાંયો

Logical simples cannot be described, they can only be experienced!

જે સહજ છે એ ભાષા થી સમજાવવું અશક્ય છે, એને માટે જોઈએ એક અલગ જ પરિભાષા…

ખુલી આંખ, જોયું તું જોડાયો, બધા ની સલાહ માં હું અટવાયો,
આવ્યું ભાન કે આ તો હૃદય ના જોડાણ, તું ઓળખાયો, નકામો જ હૂં ગૂંચવાયો…(૧)

વન માં થશે ટુંક માં પ્રવેશ, રહ્યા આપણે કેટલા દેશ,
પણ તને ના થોડોય લેશ, તે કદી ના રાખ્યા દ્વેષ…(૨)

દિવસ અને રાત, પૂનમ હોય કે અમાસ,
તેં ક્યારેય ન છોડ્યો સાથ, તું હમેશ રહ્યો આસપાસ…(૩)

હું રહ્યો એજ, પણ તું બદલાયો.
તેજ માં તો સૌ હાથ લંબાવે, પણ પ્રકાશ ઓછો જોઈ તું લંબાયો…(૪)

સમજતા લાગી વાર, ચંદ્ર એજ, છબી અનેક.
આંઠ માં હું, શૂન્ય તું, તૂટશે ઘટ ને થાશું એક…(૧૦૮)

મને એમ કે મારા થકી તું, પણ કાળો કાન ને કાળો પડછાયો,
સત્ય એજ કે, તું મારો છાંયો ને હું તારો પડછાયો..(૬)

This poetry was written by Bhavin Shukla on 19th Dec 2022.

3. Guardrails Maturity – Data Analytics

What are the different levels of platform maturity for providing innovation, and what does it entail in terms of business results and Data Analytics guardrails maturity?

Maturity Levels of Guardrails and Principles

The following table explains on how the maturity of an organisation to implement the guardrails is linked to the business and architectural outcomes.

Depending on the need and scope of the work, there can be different types of guardrails. The one below helps us understand the Maturity Levels of Principles and Guardrails within IT Architecture:

LevelStateDescriptionBusiness Outcome
1Not writtenThe guardrails are not written, as there is a lack of understanding of what “good” looks like. Missing North Star.
2Written but not referredThe guardrails are written but only in documents and are not put into practice. This could potentially impact the business outcome and quality of the product.
3Written, referred, but not assuredThe guardrails are documented and referred but work on a 100% trust framework. This model can break when put under stress or if there are changes to the team, e.g. outsourcing, attrition, etc.The business may invest thinking there is minimal risk, which can be a false image. This is similar to the blind spot and can lead to accidental spending, retrofitting costs and risk to business outcomes.
4Written, referred, manually assuredThe team understands the boundaries, and it is ensured that the boundaries are not crossed. However, this is monitored manually and will require a lot of hand-holding. The quality of the product is guaranteed, but this state is not scalable. Because of manual interventions, the time to market will increase significantly, cause frustration to the product developers and owners, and delay the launch of new products.
5Written, referred, automated assuranceThe significance of the guardrails is well understood; they are implemented as part of the way of life and partially or fully automated depending on the risk, e.g. traffic lights govern traffic and are automated but are not at all the crossroads. Enormous potential to not just bottom-line efficiency savings and unlock top-line use cases but also reduce regulatory risk exposure by amalgamating it with regulatory and compliance frameworks.
Maturity Levels of Guardrails within IT Architecture

CMM Levels

The CMM framework defines five levels of process maturity:

▶️ Initial (Level 1)

(chaotic, ad hoc, reactive, individual heroics): At this level, processes are typically chaotic and ad hoc, with no formal methods or processes in place. Work is often reactive, with a focus on fixing problems as they arise rather than preventing them.

🔁 Repeatable (Level 2)

(managed, measured, controlled): At this level, processes are more formalized and controlled, with some degree of measurement and management in place. Work is still reactive, but processes are more consistent and predictable.

📜Defined (Level 3)

(documented, standardized, integrated): At this level, processes are documented, standardized, and integrated into the organization’s overall project management processes. Work is proactive, with a focus on continuous process improvement.

🚓Managed (Level 4)

(quantitatively managed, optimized): At this level, processes are quantitatively managed and optimized for efficiency and effectiveness. Work is proactive, with a focus on continuous process improvement and the use of data to drive decision making.

🚀Optimizing (Level 5)

(innovative, responsive): At this level, processes are innovative and responsive, with a focus on continuous improvement and the ability to adapt to changing business needs.

It is important to note that these levels of process maturity are not meant to be rigid or prescriptive but are intended to provide a general guide for assessing an organization’s current level of process maturity and identifying areas for improvement.

CMM Levels and Architecture Goals

Data Platform Architectural Evolution.

Generally, most organisations are at the level of maturity of Level 1 or Level 2, i.e. the guardrails are either not written or are written but are not referred to or assured. It is essential to obtain support from the leadership team and stakeholders to establish the data infrastructure and provide the groundwork for security before commencing or executing data analytics use cases/projects/programs. The foundation must be laid properly to avoid major delays or unforeseen costs in the future.

Data architecture within analytics is evolving at a great pace, e.g. Hadoop, which was thought to be the answer to big data just 5 to 7 years ago, is being seriously questioned and challenged. This, along with concepts of evolutionary architecture, domain-driven design, advanced analytics use cases covering AI/ML, low-code/no-code requirements, micro-services architecture or new architectural constructs, e.g. Data Mesh, cannot be embraced if the right foundation is not put in place.

The 27 points covered in the figure above give a flavour but do not cover all the details and should not be looked at in isolation. It is expected that other CMM levels, e.g. data integration, information architecture, data governance, etc., should also work alongside the data analytics maturity.

Examples of Data Analytics Guardrails

Coming Next.

The author is heading one of the largest data analytics transformations and modernizations while working as British Telecom’s Principal Enterprise Architect for Data and Analytics. The above write-up is author’s personal opinion. Contact the author at shuklabhavin@yahoo.com, on LinkedIn, or through Twitter if you have any questions.

2. Guardrails for Data Analytics

My previous article discussed an introduction to guardrails and their significance. This is the second blog I plan to write about this topic in a series. This article mainly focuses on the challenges of writing the guardrails in data analytics that uses Data Mesh as the architectural construct and how they can be approached.

📈 Data Analytics Guardrails

Data analytics guardrails are rules, procedures, or controls put in place to help ensure that data analytics processes and systems are being used safely and ethically. These guardrails are designed to prevent data misuse or the unintentional disclosure of sensitive information, and to help ensure that data analytics results are accurate and reliable. Data analytics guardrails can include data governance policies, data privacy regulations, and quality assurance processes. They can also include technical controls, such as data encryption or access controls, to help protect against unauthorized access to data or data breaches. Overall, data analytics guardrails are an important part of any organization’s data analytics strategy, as they help to ensure the data’s safety, security, and integrity and the results of the data analytics process.

🚧 Challenges in Writing Guardrails

The challenge is to “write” guardrails that are easy to interpret and socialise, are feasible and implementable, are machine-readable and can be assured by machines/systems.

But the first hurdle is to agree on what “good” looks like with all the stakeholders, including the team that is expected to live within the boundaries.

⚒️ Breaking the Problem into Manageable Chunks

The first question that comes to mind is where to begin writing the guardrails. The most effective method is to start from the top and then componentise the entire architecture canvas across the Enterprise Architecture into domains, further dividing domains into sub-domain areas. One sub-domain listed below within the Data Domain can be Data Analytics.

A sub-domain, e.g. Data Analytics, can be further modularised by creating independent solution building blocks. We can then understand the scope of these blocks, e.g. operational vs analytical plane, and define finer guardrails for each solution building block within these planes, inside that finite scope and context.

The figure above on Data Analytics Reference Architecture shows how Operational Plane and Analytical Planes are coming close together in a Domain-Driven Design and Data Mesh Architecture. Data Product Management, Data Security and Privacy, Data Quality and others overlap significantly between the operational and analytical planes. On the other hand, Data Integration has overlaps but is still developing as a self-serve, evolutionary architecture and may be maintained by IT rather than the business.

⚛️ Identifying Fundamental Building Block – Data Products

The Data Analytics Reference Architecture and the Solution Building Blocks shown above then use the architectural construct of Data Mesh. Data Mesh helps create the data infrastructure, within the data analytics sub-domain to connect the Operational Plane and the Analytical Plane.

The reference architecture above provides the blueprint to create manageable and reusable technical infrastructure per higher principles from IT guardrails separation of concern. Whereas the Data Mesh construct then provides the governance layer and data architecture to help create Data Products using principles of Domain-Driven Design, making it manageable within the bounded context but interoperable across domains, sub-domains and bounded context.

Data Products accessed via the Data Analytics tools/demand via Data Marketplace will be the actual tangible output to the personas consuming information. As a result, Data Product can be used as a fundamental building block within the Data analytics subdomain.

The advanced analytical plane in the illustration above does not detail the AI / ML aspect, which will be discussed in future blogs.

🌏 Fundamental Building Block within the Data Ecosystem

The responsibility of the architecture is to ensure the quality of the output. If the quality of the fundamental building blocks, i.e. Data Products, and the solution building blocks, i.e. technical components, is well maintained, a high-quality output delivering use cases will be assured.

Each Data Product should ensure that it fits well into the data ecosystem and complies with different dimensions of data governance, data architecture and data management frameworks.

AreaDescriptionData Product Context
Data ArchitectureDefines the blueprint for organising and managing data assetsLifecycle Management of Data Products
Data Modelling & DesignThe process of discovering, analysing, representing, and communicating data requirements and designsIt deals with how Data Products are internally structured and connected to the use cases. This area brings the discipline ensuring that the data products are reused, data is shared, and redundant copies of data are not created outside of the domain where the data belongs.
Data Storage & OperationsThe design, implementation, and support of stored data.  Operations provide support throughout the data lifecycle from planning for to disposal of dataThis is the Information Lifecycle management of the data stored within the Data Products.
Data Security and PrivacyThe protection of data from unauthorized access or use.The measures and practices are implemented to prevent unauthorized access to or disclosure of Data Products. It also deals with the data within the Data Products around the rights of individuals to control how their personal information is collected, used, and shared.
Data Integration & InteroperabilityThe movement, consolidation, and translation of data between data stores, applications, and organisations. Integration: messaging, formats etc. Interoperability: semantics, understanding, and interworkingHelps in the consolidation, convergence and connection of the Data Products.
Document & Content ManagementStorage, management, and access to digital content, such as documents, images, videos, and audio files.Unstructured data managed within the Data Products. The architecture managing Data Lake vs. Data Warehouse use cases for documents, images, videos and audit files.
Reference & Master DataOngoing reconciliation, maintenance, and sharing of core enterprise data to enable consistent access to a single version of truthStoring hierarchies to map levels, codes to harmonise data from various systems, lookups to map descriptions, enumerations and any domain/sub-domain specific patterns within or across Data Products.
BI & Advanced AnalyticsPlanning, implementation, and control processes and technology to manage decision support data, analytics, and reportingThe data structure design within Data Products, e.g. dimensional approach, denormalised, etc. And how the data/information is consumed within the reports, dashboards and advanced analytics.
Metadata ManagementHigh quality integrated metadata on: definitions, data models, data flows, and other information critical to understanding data throughout its lifecycleThis discipline aims to link Data Products to the Enterprise Metadata Management Service. It should be noted that Domain Boundaries are subject to change as a result of modifications to business processes or upcoming Domain Distillations. The domain, sub-domain, bounded context and data product boundaries should not be materialised/physicalised but mapped logically within the metadata repository.
Data Quality ManagementThe planning and implementation of quality management techniques and systems to measure, assess, and improve the fitness of dataChecking Data Integrity within the Data Products in the Data Analytics sub-domain. Data Integrity is a subset of overall Data Quality Management. The Data Integrity check within Data Analytics should be integrated into the organisation’s Enterprise Data Quality Service.

When the Data Product complies with the guidelines established by each of the dimensions above, it can be shared and reused and is expected to provide the use cases’ specified benefits.

📏Maturity Levels of Guardrails and Principles

The third write-up in the series will focus on the maturity levels for data analytics guardrails.

Coming Next.

ભાઈ, ભારે કરી.

દરેક નું જીવન અને એના સંજોગો અલગ.
એટલે દરેક ની હદ અલગ અને મુક્તિ (liberation) ના પથ અલગ.
પણ કોઈક જોઈ રહ્યું છે, અને કહી રહ્યું છે.
કે ભાઈ, ભારે કરી!

બારી મોટી કે દૃશ્ય? જવાબદારી અઘરી કે દિલદારી?
ઈશ્વર મોટો કે બ્રહ્મ? ભાઈ, ભારે કરી (૧)

ઘાઢી દોસ્તી માંથી બનતો પરંપરાગત કેસર રસ,
ને લોહી ના સંબંધોનો બનાવાતો ફજેતો? ભાઈ, ભારે કરી (૨)

એને લાગી હવા. એક્સપોર્ટ ક્વોલિટી નો ઉડ્યો પ્લેઇન માં,
ત્યાં હતો ભીડ માં પહેલો, ને અહીં આવ્યો લાગવા લાઈન માં? ભાઈ, ભારે કરી (૩)

બાળક ઘોડિયાઘર માં, રસોડું રેસ્ટોરન્ટ માં, જોડું કોર્ટરૂમ માં,
મા-બાપ ઘરડાઘર માં, કુટુંબ ભ્રમ માં, ને પતિદેવ ટુન માં? ભાઈ, ભારે કરી (૪)

ઘર, ગાડી, વોશિંગ મશીન, સોફા, બેન્ડ-બાજા-બારાત, બધા લોન માં.
ખીશું ખાલી, ચાદર ટૂંકી, ને મફતલાલ સાહેબ દેખાય ફૂલ ઓન માં? ભાઈ, ભારે કરી (૫)

મફત માં મળે ઘેરે ગેરસમજ, ને બજાર માં ગીરવે મૂકવું પડે મગજ.
સલાહ આપવા વાળા મળે અઢળક, પણ ક્યાંથી લાવવી કોઠાસૂઝ સમજ? ભાઈ, ભારે કરી (૬)

જે હયાત તેજ બ્રહ્મ. પણ હયાતી નો અનુભવ કરાવવા માટે જોઈએ દ્વિજ,
દ્વૈત કે અદ્વૈત, શું આજ છે જિજ્ઞાસા નો બીજ? ભાઈ, ભારે કરી (૭)

સગુણ કે નિર્ગુણ? નરોવા કે કુંજરોવા? ગાંધી કે ગોડસે?
આ બધા માંથી છોડી હદ, ને બન્યો અનહદ, ભાઈએ ન્યારી કરી (૮)

This poetry was written by Bhavin Shukla on 06th Dec 2022.

નિર્ણય કર્યો.

What do you want to achieve in life? What is your goal?

તું જીવન માં શું બનવા માંગે છે?

આ સવાલ નો આજે જવાબ મળ્યો…

નિર્ણય કર્યો.

નિર્ણય કર્યો, કે નિર્ણય નહિ કરવાનો નિર્ણય કર્યો.
જિંદગી ના આવનારા મોજાઓ ને મજા થી માણવા નો નિર્ણય કર્યો (૧)

જેમ પવન સમુદ્ર મંથન વિના મોજાને ઉલેચે,
એમજ બેફામ મનમંથન વગર ઉછળવાનો નિર્ણય કર્યો (૨)

કિનારે જવાની હશે ઉતાવળ મોજા ને,
આપણે દરિયા ના ખોળા માં મોજે મોજે રમખાણ મચાવવાંનો નિર્ણય કર્યો (૩)

ભવસાગર માં નવકા, વાળું થોડું જૂનું થયું,
એને સારથિ માની, મેં મારા મનોરથ ને સપાટી પર પુરપાટ દોડાવવા નો નિર્ણય કર્યો (૪)

છાંટા કદાચ ઉડે. કાદવના નહિ, ખારા પાણી ના,
નિશ્ચિંત રહો, એ હશે લાગણી ના, મેં તત્વમસિ કેહવા નો નિર્ણય કર્યો (૫)

દરિયા નું ટીપું, કે ટીપાંઓ નો દરિયો,
એવા સમંદર માં સમ થઈ, “ભાWin” માંથી બ્રહ્મલીન થવાનો મેં નિર્ણય કર્યો (૬)

નિર્ણય કર્યો, કે નિર્ણય નહિ કરવાનો નિર્ણય કર્યો.
જિંદગી ના આવનારા મોજાઓ ને મજા થી માણવા નો નિર્ણય કર્યો (૧)

This poetry was written by Bhavin Shukla on 05th Dec 2022.

1. Guardrails, An Introduction

Guardrails (Plural Noun): A rail at the edge of something, such as a cliff or the deck of a boat, that prevents people from falling off.

What, in your opinion, should be the first priority before embarking on any new venture or innovation? First and foremost, safety?

At first glance in the photograph, the white car appears to be leaving the arrival gate. The fact is that this is a departure gate. If you look closer, there is a small “No Entry” board in blue, suggesting that this is a departure gate and not an arrival gate. The white double line on the road also indicates that this is the pause for the outgoing vehicle, i.e. the departure area before a vehicle takes the major road.

How did we reach this confusing stage, and how is this linked to the topic of guardrails?

This is called “hard coding” within the IT Engineering area. The “Arrival” and “In” signs were hardcoded into a decorative gate when the train station was built with a thought process to make it look artistic, grand and elegant. However, the most important point missed was that there can be a state change at some point in the future. An entry gate can also become an exit gate in future due to an increase in traffic or a change to other external parameters, e.g. road design, taxi ranks, car size, etc. Avoiding hardcoding and making it configurable would be a guardrail similar to something in IT that could have avoided this situation.

🗽 Boundaries Liberate

Guardrails / Boundaries sound claustrophobic and negative in nature. They are being seen as restrictive, an unnecessary rule that takes away freedom.

Another way to look at it is that boundaries provide safety, it helps us liberate rather than constrain us. For example, children from a school near a busy road could only play in areas where adults could keep an eye on them. This was true until a fence was built, after which the children could play in any area of the playground of their choosing.

Boundaries limit options but also provide freedom of choice from the available options. As Greg Mckeown puts nicely in his book Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, it gives freedom to select the vital few from the trivial many and is central to Essentialism.

It is not about policing and restricting freedom but taking out unnecessary adventures that can risk the overall goal/vision, may lead one to danger, or waste crucial time exploring things that do not really matter. Too many options may not lead us anywhere; guardrails allow us to experiment within the chosen option.

Exploring Examples of Different Types of Guardrails:
📿Guardrails: Religious Beliefs

This is Kutubiya mosque, Marrakech, Morrocco, and no building can be taller than this Meenaret in the old town. This is by design, as it reminds people that principles and values are higher than anything else.

The principles of Islam are Surrender, Submission, Sincerity, Obedience and Peace.

🏳️ Guardrails: Political Beliefs

India’s Republic Day falls on 26th January. This was when the Constitution of India came into effect on 26th January 1950, and India became a Republic.

The word republic comes from the Latin term res publica, which literally means “public affair” or “public matter”, i.e. the power resides with the people.

The constitution is a book of rules, principles and guidance on how the country should operate. It is above any law, politics or religion of the country, which brings “real” freedom to the people by setting up boundaries.

The constitution sets up three pillars,

🏛️ The Legislative Power: Task of passing laws and supervising their implementation

👮‍♂️ The Executive Power: This is the federal government tasked to implement laws created by the legislation.

⚖️The Judicial Power: Interprets law and administers justice; their task is to ensure the laws are complied with.

The constitution is above all these pillars because the power resides with the people, and the three pillars work for them.

It is important to note that the Constitution defines the duty, roles and responsibilities, and power between the Union and the States, as India is a Union of States, i.e. establishing the fine balance between Centralisation and Decentralisation. Without this balance, it is impossible to scale up the governance of such a big country, having a rich diversity of cultures, 1.3B people, different religions and roots in ancient civilisations.

🏨 Guardrails: Organisational Beliefs

British Telecom has a 178-year history, employs over 100,000 people, and operates in 187 countries. 

A code of conduct for all BT employees and principles is established within the Digital area. It is impossible to scale and establish the right culture unless these are defined and agreed upon by the citizens of the organisation.

👴 Guardrails: Personal Beliefs

The three guiding principles in my life of which are constructive.

❤️ Speak Truth (First Person)

Speaking the truth means being true to myself. This ensures that I am always consistent with my responses and do not have to think about them.

🤗 Love (Second Person, Singular)

Loving everyone individually and treating them the way I want to be treated.

♾️ Compassion (Third Person, Plural)

Compassion is for the third person, and it is plural. It is about being kind to everyone as a group.

The other three principles are contrarian and instruct me on what to avoid doing. This is specific to me and my way of life; there is no right or wrong.

🍾 Do Not Intoxicate

Trying not to drink alcohol.

🍗 Avoid Meat

Do not eat anything that is not plant-based, except milk and honey. It’s more like a way of life I’ve grown up with.

🎲 Do Not Gamble

Don’t gamble, and don’t do anything that has to do with gambling. So far in my career, I haven’t worked for any company that deals with gambling.

What are your personal and family guardrails? I would love to hear from you!

Guardrails: IT Architecture, Data and Analytics

As an Enterprise Architect, this is a great topic that is close to my heart. I promise to write in detail about the guidelines for data and analytics in IT architecture. This will include figuring out where to begin, how to define, and giving an assessment of the maturity model for data architecture guardrails.

Coming Soon!