Subba’s Serendipitous moments

May 20, 2010

Can trauma be healed?

Filed under: Learning,Perspective — Subbaraman Iyer @ 11:39 am
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I would guess that all of us have at some or the other gone through traumatic incidents in our life. Much of that trauma continues to reside in our subconscious memories and continues to affect us in unknown ways.

The trauma could be a broken relationship, a major injustice, a heartbreaking death or anything to which you has not reconciled. The memories linger on for a long time. While we try to mask it intelligently or ignore it, they rear their ugly head at the most unexpected moments.

The question: how do you reconcile yourself to trauma especially if there’s someone responsible for causing them?

For years, I have been trying to find the tools to deal with trauma effectively as I believe it is the first step to heal myself.

Forgiveness is one surefire approach. It is a proactive approach, more effective than mere acceptance of the fact or trying to hide the event by putting on a mask. Yet forgiveness doesn’t come easy. No wonder, the capacity to forgive is considered to be a divine blessing.

I have always approached forgiveness through a rational prism. I was enthralled by Nelson Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation effort. It was an attempt to publicly air the feelings and experiences of victims of apartheid and for perpetuators of violence to also give testimony and request amnesty. The famous movie Forgiveness is a gripping tale of such an event and left an indelible mark on me.

More recently, I read an article (translated from the original Spanish to English) of an address by Perez Esquivel (Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1980) of his long years in prison where he was horribly tortured. He talked of doing "active goodness" – even to his torturers – which goes beyond forgiveness. He wrote that perhaps that’s the only solution to go beyond the "horrific" things that happened to him in prison.

Both Mandela and Perez are intellectuals and philosophers of a high order who could conceive and act on the higher order of things. Even Priyanka Vadra’s (daughter of assassinated Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi) visit to meet her father’s assassin in prison was praiseworthy and was covered in my blog here.

The point is: How does someone like me with less intelligence yet suffering from painful memories deal with that? That’s something that I have been looking for till someone sent me the story of Mama Wangele.

Mama Wangele, a poor and uneducated widow, lost her only son in the Rwandan Civil War. She lived on, unable to come to terms with her grief. She hated her son’s killers, yet she was powerless.

One day, a worn-out, one-legged child soldier knocked on her door and asked for food. By the tribal marks on his face, she recognized him to the enemy. She asked him coldly "Have you ever killed anyone?"

"Yes, many", he said.

Mama Wangele shut the door on this face and wept for her dead son. But something kept tugging at her heart. She followed this new stirring. She opened the door. She had no idea of what she was going to do. She saw the boy had gone a little distance.

"Mutabani" she called. The boy turned back and saw her. "Mutabani, come back."

The boy was surprised. She asked him to come in. She gave him some food and filled water in a tub for his bath. Then she brought out her son’s carefully preserved clothes and gave it to him.

"These are my son’s clothes. You can have them now, Mutabani," she said very quietly.

The boy looked at her with tears in his eyes. Had she really called him Mutabani? (Mutabani is the Lugunda equivalent of son). In that moment, she had forgiven her son’s killer. And, that was the beginning of healing.

After hearing this story, I wonder how does one create the stirring. Does it come naturally or is human intervention possible?

For years, I have wrestled with this question, till I decided to recommend the gratitude diary approach to someone who went through a life-scarring experience. A gratitude diary is a simple compendium of events and people to express gratitude. The power of gratitude is vast and untapped. It helps in tapping into the dormant good in everyone.

I asked this person who has suffered trauma to maintain a gratitude diary and make entries in it daily. The sheer thought process is elevating. I can’t say for sure, but the thawing process started. Slowly she managed to feel the reason to forgive. Just talking about the event, the perpetuator and the weight of her trauma was possible only because she could open her heart – thanks to the gratitude diary.

While most of us feel the need to heal ourselves, few accept the thesis that it is forgiveness that makes it possible. Most people see forgiving as a sign of weakness. We cling to our hostility and relive the trauma, keeping ourselves from healing. It is the rare person who understands the need to forgive, but waits eternally for the divine moment.

Forgiveness can come in a magical moment like that of Mama Wangela or through intellectual deliberation of a Perez Esquivel, but one has to be prepared for it. I believe having a gratitude diary makes us ready for that moment of realization.

May 3, 2010

The cloud adoption – at an inflexion point

Filed under: Uncategorized — Subbaraman Iyer @ 10:39 am


The cloud got a fillip with Netflix making a public announcement that it will move all of its web applications to This came as a surprise, given that Netflix and Amazon could be potential competitors as they stream movies to people’s homes.

Given its critical dependence on internet infrastructure, it takes courage, foresight and risk for Netflix to abandon plans to build one’s data center and run that off the cloud operated  that too by a potential competitor. It implies that moving to the cloud is cost effective if one doesn’t have a data center already and do not want to manage the data center. So, the case of moving to the public cloud is strong in such cases

While Rackspace, GoGrid and other vendors are emerging as competitors, Amazon Web services is far ahead of the game. Since 2007, Amazon’s S3, the Simple Storage Service, and EC2, the Elastic Compute Cloud, Amazon has offered the  general-purpose cloud computing platform with a business model that made it attractive to developers large and small.

Recently Google showcased their Cloud offering in their much publicized Atmosphere event. Google reported that there are about 30 -50K signups per day for the Google applications which essentially reside on the cloud. In some analyst reports, I have seen this as counted as part of SaaS revenue stream and in some cases this gets categorized as Cloud revenues. All said, Google never sold the cloud, but the apps. It so happens that the apps are in the cloud.

Microsoft seems to be taking a leaf from the’s playbook by building new applications on its Azure platform. is the only enterprise apps player to move beyond software offered in a SaaS model and create a complete platform – which has over 100,000 applications.Though it is early days, Microsoft also seeks to do to the cloud what it did to desktop software for over 2 decades – by making applications run on Azure alone and harnessing the entire Microsoft developer community to build applications for the Azure platform. Surprisingly Microsoft’s first application on the Azure platform is an online collaboration suite and advertising tools for political campaign management.

So, the public cloud is beginning to gain some traction. It could very well be that it is the applications that is offered which could determine the future of the infrastructure (cloud) platform, for all players other than Amazon which has restricted itself to just offering development tools in addition to computing and storage.

As one can see, Google’s enterprise apps is  a case in point and Microsoft’s strategy reinforces the point.

If applications on the cloud becomes the raison d’etre for cloud adoption, the differentiation amongst cloud providers could very well be the data subsystems that they employ since it is not easy to deliver data at the speeds required by the applications. Storage and computation thus become starting points, not end offerings.

If the public cloud is now gaining traction, the private cloud lags behind despite all the vendor hype. The private cloud for most part is just repackaging  data center consolidation, server virtualization, IP  storage technologies to offer a more scalable infrastructure.

The private cloud still needs lots of CAPEX and infrastructure still remains a fixed cost, unlike the public cloud. It is still by and large inelastic. Moreover the private cloud will still be run by enterprises. Will large companies which have made significant investments in their own infrastructure move to a vendor cloud? VMWare after earning its spurs in the virtualization market is now trying to make it easy for applications to migrate between cloud providers, and creating an easy interface between private and public clouds. VMWare’s acquisition of Zimbra and Springsource is indicative of its intent to build a developer’s platform much like Azure or Force platform.

Despite all these developments many CIOs are wary of putting their entire software and business operations on a vendor’s data center. Looking beyond the hype, CIOs are likely to test the waters as privacy and compliance considerations weigh heavily on the CIO’s mind, not to speak about interoperability and performance issues. There is also a switching cost involved and if one runs an efficient virtualized infrastructure, there is no compelling reason to move to a vendor cloud. So, next time you hear private cloud, it is just that vendors are selling the same thing with a new approach. A case of selling old wine with a new label. We still have a long way to go.