Wednesday, December 31, 2008

'Drop your guard, Bare your soul'

‘Ring out the old, Ring in the new’, another year gone by. As the sun sinks into its golden cup this last day, we will all bid adieu to 2008. And then would wake up to a new tomorrow , a tomorrow in the New Year that is about to dawn with lots of hopes, aspirations, dreams, promises, resolutions - so on and so forth.

It is only optimism in my sinew that is the driver this new year. Though I have drawn a laundry list of things to be achieved, my ultimate cup of joy would emanate from giving myself fully to whatever comes my way. Whether it is work, leisure, being with people or being with myself, savouring every moment and living life fully will be my declared credo.

On the lighter side, talking about our hopes turning into fruition in the new year, I remember a short anecdote. There were two donkeys, one seemed very happy and the other sad. When asked the secret for its happiness, it replied to the other donkey “ My master with whom I work is one who performs rope balancing tricks. He and his daughter walk on a rope tied between two poles and do the balancing act. While training his daughter, I heard my master telling her that if she lost her balance and fell down while walking on the rope, he would get her married to me. I am waiting for the day when she slips and falls.” That’s hope. The second donkey continued “What if she never falls?”, to which the donkey replied “ Life continues and heavens will not fall down”.

So, finally its all about hitching one’s wagon to a star, and going full steam with unwavering faith married to unstinting effort. If at the end, one fails, so what? It’s not the end of the world. At least there was meaning and purpose in what one aspired for.

The thought therefore is to drop one’s guard and bare one’s soul. Like James Dean said “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today”.

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In conversation with myself

A thought flashed my mind ‘ What if I started the New Year as if I had nothing to look back to?’ No past baggage, no experiences and nothing from the past to the present, and then to the future. Oh! great, but how then would the present look like? And then the future? A lot of such questions passed my mind. Somewhere, something that I had learnt then popped up.

‘Nothingness’ at the present was at first discomforting, but also enabled in me the possibilities of 'everything'. If I have nothing, then everything is possible. A new paradigm to live life, a powerful life to lead and actually write the script that I can dream to live - everyday of my life. So the future, then, will be a life full of possibilities and anything I want, I dare and would be ‘raring’ to go. That looked interesting but overwhelming.

Life, I thought, anyway was a zero sum game. One starts from nothing and ends up with nothing. Rich or poor, all end up the same way. Some are cremated, some are buried. Life, finally, is empty and meaningless. What remains is the present....

Then why not start life anew? The immediate possibility now is to think on ‘New Year Resolutions’, and take them on with curiosity and excitement every day in the New Year.

I am sure you will wish me all the best.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

To Sir with Love

Mr. Ramnarayan was our English teacher at our Cuddalore factory. An extremely nice gentleman who authored books on ‘How to write and speak English’. His speciality was his impeccable accent, diction and his strong basics on English grammar. He will be, I am sure, squirming within and without when he reads today’s SMS and E mails. Wit, humour and sarcasm have been his forte. When some student had told him that ‘a rose by another would smell as sweet’, he had retorted that ‘a chrysanthemum by another name would spell easier’. All of us present enjoyed his class thoroughly and looked forward to his weekly lectures.

In one such class, he had narrated a short story which till today remains etched in my mind. This was a real life story and I vividly remember the manner in which he had narrated this one. The story goes like this. Quote“ Ramnarayan Sir’s family consisted of five brothers, five sisters and their parents. One day it so happened that their mother prepared delicious halwa (Indian sweet delicacy) and all the brothers and sisters had feasted on the halwa. The father was at work and was to return at night. Their mother had lovingly kept a piece of halwa for her husband and duly placed it in a container. Her husband returned home at night when to her shock and embarrassment found the delicacy missing. She promptly ordered an enquiry into the ‘MISSING HALWA’, and informed her husband about the incident. Her husband, a disciplinarian and more catholic than the Pope, summoned all his children and got into intense cross examination. No one was ready to come out with the truth which made the father rant in fury. He gave them a final opportunity and closeted all his children in a room, bolted the door with instructions to come out clean within an hour. (These children, as ordinarily children are, would have even broken the eleventh commandment if one existed).

What, of course, transpired in the room is rather interesting. No one confessed to the salivating crime but rather a strategy was worked out. The grandiose plan was - all the brothers and sisters told Ramanarayan Sir that since he was the favourite and pet child of the parents, he should confess to the disappearing act. After initial refusal, Ramanarayan Sir was coaxed and convinced to believe that the parents wrath on him would be miniscule as compared to what would befall others. As the gong struck after an hour, our Ramanarayan Sir confessed to his parents and was anointed ‘Martyr at the Halwa Altar’. Sir was admonished before his siblings and part one of the story ended.

Part two seems to be more interesting and revealing of human nature. Ramanarayan Sir, after having owned the mistake on his siblings’ behalf, asked them who had in reality consumed the halwa. No one , again, relented. All of them got married over a period of time, had their own children and grand children and met once in a year congregating at their native place during Diwali. During every such get together, Sir asked each of them whether they could at least now reveal as to who had eaten the forbidden halwa. The answer to this question was never forthcoming. The family has met over the years several times, their parents have expired, some of the brothers and sisters have expired but to date the riddle of the missing halwa still remains unresolved. One cannot fathom whether the halwa has gone with one of those brothers and sisters who are no more, or whether the mischievous one who had indeed hideously consumed it is still alive. Ramanarayan Sir, for sure, rests comfortably content in his house knowing fully well that he is not the real culprit, and still smiles reminiscing the incident.

Why do human beings behave the way they behave?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

'Look good or feel good'

I have been out of circulation for more than a week. A lot of travelling followed by a little sickness. Here I am up on my feet again.

Was reading a blog of a student of mine and this thought emerged. Do we, human beings, have this penchant to look good in the eyes of others? A lot of experiences came to my mind and I thought I will share some of them. My first experience was to belong to a group of people though I was feeling uncomfortable. This group was a popular group and being there was the 'in thing'. Despite my discomfort, I tried to belong there and be a part of the inner circle. If I did not belong, I thought I was a nobody. I died a thousand deaths but chose to come out alive.

The first time I made a presentation in public and I was shivering. The thought that passed my mind was if I did not present well, what will people think of me. Looking back this thought was the culprit that made me shiver. Rather than focusing on my presentation and making adequate preparations, my thought lay on others impression about me rather than what I thought of myself.

A friend of mine, a teetotaller, chose to miss most of his office party because of the peer pressure to drink. Recounting his experience, he shared with me that he felt it was absolutely necessary to socialize and mix with people at the party but missed it because of the compulsion on him to drink. His version was that not acceding to people’s requests would be considered as socially unacceptable. Thus he chose to ignore his own desire to socialize and mix with people though it was important to him professionally.

Examples can be many but where do most of us get stuck. I strongly feel it is in the choice between ’looking good’ and ‘feeling good’. This distinction seems to me to be the most significant factor in the several choices we make in life. ‘Looking good’ is most of the times like playing to the gallery, being popular, not playing in the court but critiquing from the stands, and not living the ‘life’ one really wants. ‘Feeling good’ is most of the times about risking and getting rejected, being in disagreement with others when one strongly feels so, being unreasonable with oneself and being out of the comfort zone, being assertive, and finally assuming responsiblity for one's actions. The bottom line of ‘feeling good’’ is about living life powerfully and on one’s own terms and wishes.

Choice, of course, is purely ours.

Friday, December 12, 2008


·The recession in the economy is reflected in the size and weight of the daily edition of ‘Mumbai Mirror’. Guess there are no advertisements given by the small and big companies now a days so much so that it has become easier to handle the daily edition. At last, some good that the recession has done.

·'I want to see my mom’ says terrorist Kasab. Quite heart rending. But what about the wailings of those children who lost their mothers, and of those mothers who lost their children in the recent killings. Kasab, remember: “ the mills of God grind slowly, but surely”.

·Pakistani cricketer and ex captain, Rashid Latif is seem to be moaning that cricket playing countries seem to be going to India despite the recent killings , only because of the cricketers’ greed for big money is seen in India. Rashid seems to be blind to what the world sees in India, and to what is abundantly missing in Pakistan. Rashid, open your eyes and look at things happening too close at home. The ‘India Imagery’ is not your cup of tea. One requires elan and taste to appreciate this.

·Interesting to read millionaire John Haynes has written to soccer ace Cristiano Ronaldo dumping his wife Olena Haynes as a cheater and a liar and that she come with a health warning like one finds on cigarettes packets – ‘Injurious to health’.

·Finally, the thing I read somewhere – ‘If you cannot annoy somebody, what’s the point writing’.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It can be any of us tomorrow

I read with a lot of trepidation the thoughts of Yasin Merchant in today’s edition of the Times of India. Yasin Merchant is the two time Asian Snooker Champion and Asian Games Doubles Gold Medallist who did India proud. Yasin was saying that he was born in Mumbai, his father, grandfather and fore fathers lived in Mumbai, and that all of them had contributed their bit to Mumbai. In spite of this, he needs to prove, time and again, that he is an Indian, just because he happens to be a Muslim.

I suggested to my wife, Seema, and my niece, Priya, that all of us go through an exercise of imagining that we were Indian Muslims, and then share our experiences. This piece is an outcome of this exercise and some of our thoughts and feelings are being put onto paper.

At a personal level, our feelings were of rejection, indignation, anger, frustration and exclusion.

At a reaction level, feelings of proving oneself time and again despite being a true Indian, no different from others, came to the fore. There were also feelings of not being accepted accentuating the need to belong when there was no iota of doubt of ‘belonging’ in our minds. Added to these were feelings of discrimination for and against which meant that if something was achieved, it was because one belonged there and not because one deserved it, and in certain spheres of life one was not even being included just because of the label ‘Muslims’. Many a time, names and surnames proved as turning points because of the association these had in some minds. Stereotyping the majority of Muslims as traitors became evident because of a few overzealous and misguided miscreants who indulged in reprehensible acts of violence and killing . During our conversations we wondered whether the label ‘Muslim’ was written on foreheads for others to see.

At the third level we were groping with the type of mental image that the majority of the citizens of this country carried of Muslims. This image has been formed and built assiduously by those so called leaders who have an axe to grind . These power brokers to achieve their personal ends and to detract citizens from other significant issues, instigate the citizens against Muslims to sharpen the Hindu - Muslim divide. They have understood the psyche of the majority of our citizens, and are clear most of them are indifferent. They know very well that the ordinary citizen has no time to sift the wheat from the chaff, and gather data to call the bluff. Thus, they thrive, but at whose cost?

The answer, of course, is begging the question. The conclusions that we arrived at was that all of us in this great country need to think beyond the mundane where enlightenment and education of the masses is the key. It will dawn on us through this heightened awareness and consciousness to appreciate that we are human beings first and only later Hindus, Muslims, Christians or Sikhs. Today it is Yasin, tomorrow it will be John, sometime later Balwinder, and finally Iyer. These hurting and painful narrations need to be stopped and a crying need exists to uphold the self esteem of those who shed their blood, tears, toil and sweat for our motherland.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Enough of Indifference

I have been restless the whole of last week and have read the several outpourings on the Mumbai riots. Majority of them centre around anger, rage, despair and compassion. Much more than in 1993 or after the serial blasts that were witnessed some months back. This is necessary. But is this enough? Just enough to propel into action.

Considering the normal way we have behaved, and if past is any indicator, it will be not be surprising that there is calm after the storm, and we recede to predictable indifference. In such a case, anger, rage …. will die in no time. Indifference is, then, easy to set in. We can have innumerable reasons and justifications to fork out for our indifference. Our own work, the daily travel, inadequate time even for ourselves, reasons unending. Indifference places us on the comfortable zone since we are not asked anything out of the way to do. Indifference does not ask of us to be unreasonable with ourselves, and take the less treaded and more difficult path. Reasons, justifications and stories that we spin serve as wonderful cushions and crutches to put us into inaction. But we need to remember that the events of last week are the culmination of our collective indifference.

So, the million dollar question is ‘what do we do?’ I was on the telephone with my dear friend Hari and he was talking of ‘people’s movement’. He beautifully summarized and said let us take on what is meaningful, purposeful, measurable and immediately achievable (mind you Hari is no MBA). In this regard, he mentioned (a) availability of trained commandos at least at all the metropolis and other sensitive cities and towns, (b) educating and training people for such situations, and (c) galvanizing people into action ‘here and now’. The third point hit my chord and propelled me into action. I asked myself what was I doing? Am I also indifferent and do I continue to be so? If I am indifferent to acts that cause suffering, am I being ‘human’ at all?

Such questions do not leave me to rest, and no wonder I was restless. Answers did not easily come, and such answers never easily come for me. I said to myself ‘ proof of the pudding is in the eating’, and let me begin. I decided to enroll to the “Times of India – Mumbai Cares initiative”. I have decided to spend eight hours in a week for the victims of the blast and offer my personal services. I have decided to render all help to a child orphaned due to the latest attacks. And I have decided to undergo special training to sense and identify in advance such threats and happenings. A small but satisfying beginning.

The bigger agenda will be to galvanize ‘People to move the government into action’, and I have some good friends like Hari and Kavi to take it forward. The need of the hour is action, and a lot of accountability on our people and our government. Of course!, if the government does not act, like Hari said, responsible citizens will have to resort to the famous ‘Satyagraha’, which Indian history testifies has worked. Let us act so that so many of our loved children, grand children and great grand children can be saved.