Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Final One - 2009

I was checking up with a friend of mine as to what was up on New Year’s eve. ‘I am to myself’, replied my friend. ‘Alone? ’ was my query. The friend replied ‘not alone, but with myself.’

The friend continued ‘I will go home, watch a movie, have a good dinner, eat Baskin Robbins ice cream and go to bed. I have to report for work tomorrow and I need to start the New Year with a lot of vitality and energy.’. This was amazing and a new way of looking at things. I was generally joking saying that one had already reached the highest level in the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs - ‘Self Actualisation’ or the stage of ‘Nirvana.’

Later on, I was thinking that being with oneself and reflecting on what happened and what needs to be done was an amazing way to ring out the old and ring in the new. Being at peace with oneself and enjoying the moments alone is really powerful and invigorating. Of course, people have their own ways of calling in the new year and each to his own. Enjoyment and happiness can be got alone and need not be necessarily with someone else being present . That’s amazing and a very different perspective.

I like to sign off with TS Eliot’s quote:
‘For last year's words belong to last year's language.
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.’ Wishing all of you A Very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Festive Spirit Beckons

I have always liked the second fortnight of December. I guess it’s the festive spirit, chill in the air, and the conversations of people. Over the years, my yearning for these have only multiplied exponentially, and how I look forward to these every year.

The festive spirit, Oh gosh! gets into your bones. From candles to chocolates to plum cakes to festive cheer, Christmas is all about peace, joy, fun and celebrations. The Santa Claus, the beautifully decorated X’Mas tree, the lovely gifts, the shop discounts and not to miss the sparkling wine, say it all. The midnight mass with ladies in perfumed gowns and dresses, the men folk in their suits and the sound of children blowing horns all add to the cheer that takes Jesus Christ from Bethlehem to various parts of the world.
Its fun and I love it. Now the chill in the air. Especially for a Mumbaite who is subject to torrid humidity throughout the year. Its funny to see some folks in their best of woolens trying to ward off the Mumbai winter. Such folk will wear woolens in equator too. The nip in the air gets you and for once one feels refreshed in Mumbai. This, I guess, is the small mercy that nature offers to Mumbaites.

And finally the conversations. These centre around “How fast has this year passed? It’s already the end of the year”. “This year again, some resolutions kept, but most broken.” , “What promises one would keep in the New Year?”, and “ About Christmas and New Year eve parties.” These have never changed for several decades. Added to these, we have the fifty best ‘actors, top of charts films, songs and events - a never ending list.’ , News about actress Bipasha Basu dancing for fifteen minutes at Hotel Sahara and making(sic) a clean sum of two point four crores. That leaves me with my internal conversations that dancing is lucrative and whether I should become a professional dancer. I am woken up from my reverie when my missus tells me that there are other endowments required to make this fat sum, and my priority now should be to bend my knee.

Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2010.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chale Chalo

In the last few weeks I have been lucky to receive interesting gifts, some to read and some to watch. A book on ‘Mad,’ and one on ‘An Autobiography of an Yogi’, and several DVDs which are worth viewing.

One such DVD that was inspirational and made an impact was ‘Chale Chalo’ - The Lunacy of Film Making. This two hour documentary depicts the trials and tribulations the film unit drawn from the far corners of the globe went through while making of the film ‘Lagaan.’ Most of us just see the outcome and are not privy to the inputs and efforts that finally make the end product. Though it has to be seen to be believed, I am making a mention of some of the pieces that made profound impact.
The film director Ashutosh Gowariker suffers a slip disc during the making of the film in the desert of Kutch and continues to shoot the film for an entire month lying on a stretcher. He chooses not to disturb the continuity and the flow of the film, and submerges himself into the film. So much for leadership. Veteran film actor, AK Hangal suffers an acute back pain and finds it impossible to stand on his feet or even sit on his own. He refuses to budge or leave the sets even though one can hear his cries due to unbearable pain. He is brought into the sets in an ambulance and nonchalantly with a lot of grit and determination effectively delivers his monologue with the entire unit in raptures. At the end he is heard saying ‘the show must go on.’

Shooting of the cricket match shown in Lagaan required about ten thousand spectators. Believe me, ten thousand villagers were brought in two hundred trucks and assembled at the venue. Villagers when informed that they were to assemble for a shooting, had decked themselves in the best of their clothing whereas the film required them to be dressed in dhotis and turbans. It was mind boggling to see that ten thousand such dhotis and turbans were distributed to make it look a real village setting. It was interesting to see the meticulous arrangement for breakfast and food for such a crowd, and one could only exclaim ‘God is in the details.’

Finally, kudos to actor Aamir Khan, his wife Reena and the entire unit for producing the film despite several constraints like housing, the desert heat, facilities, and managing costs within budgets. One scene that vividly stands out is the conversations that Aamir has with the crowd to film the crowd of ten thousand cheering, raising their hands and come running and rejoicing at the Indian team’s victory.

What stupendous efforts and clocklike precision in making it happen. An excellent lesson in team work.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unfathomable

I was planning a trip to Thailand with my family on 23rd November, 2009 and the booking for the same was done two months in advance. As providence would have it, my knee surgery was fixed on 23rd November, 2009. The trip was cancelled. Man proposes,God disposes.

I was sharing this uncanny coincidence and my experience to Ramu, a good friend of mine. He narrated a story which says it all. A king took along his able minister and the retinue for hunting. Accidentally, the king lost the phalanx of his first finger and was very unhappy. His able minister consoled the king saying that things happen for the good. The king flew into rage and sent him to jail.

Some time later, the king again ventured into the deep jungle for hunting and lost his way. He wandered alone and, as cruel fate would have it, was captured by tribals who were making preparations for human sacrifice. The tribals were happy and they decided to propiate their God by offering the body of the king as ‘human sacrifice’. The king was readied and on examination was found to have lost a part of his finger. The chieftain of the tribe was unhappy since a full and complete offering, (Poorna Ahuti) without any part of the body missing, was to be made to the Jungle God . The king was thus released and his life was saved.

On returning to his kingdom, remembering what his able minister had said, the king immediately ordered his release. The king narrated the incident to his minister and profusely thanked him for saving his life and also apologized for sending him to jail. The minister thanked the king for sending him to jail and said ‘ if your Honour had not sent me to jail, I would have accompanied your Honour to the jungle and I would have been the full and complete offering to the Jungle God’.

My life experience has always shown that things happen for a reason and always happen for the good. This may be true of the cancellation of my Thailand trip too.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

“Look to the horizon, spread your wings, and fly...”

I came across this piece and thought I should share this. The questions also reminded me of the coaching that I undertake with my coachees.

The nest of young eagles hung on every word as the Master Eagle described his exploits. This was an important day for the eaglets. They were preparing for their first solo flight from the nest. It was the confidence builder many of them needed to fulfil their destiny.

"How far can I travel?" asked one of the eaglets.
"How far can you see?" responded the Master Eagle.
"How high can I fly?" quizzed the young eaglet
"How far can you stretch your wings?" asked the old eagle.
"How long can I fly?" the eaglet persisted.
"How far is the horizon?" the mentor rebounded.
"How much should I dream?" asked the eaglet.
"How much can you dream?" smiled the older, wiser eagle.
"How much can I achieve?" the young eagle continued.
"How much can you believe?" the old eagle challenged.
Frustrated by the banter, the young eagle demanded, "Why don't you answer my questions?"
"I did." said the wise eagle
"Yes. But you answered them with questions."
"I answered them the best I could."
"But you're the Master Eagle. You're supposed to know everything. If you can't answer these questions, who can?"
"You." The old wise eagle reassured.
"Me? How?" the young eagle was confused.
"No one can tell you how high to fly or how much to dream. It's different for each eagle. Only God and you know how far you'll go. No one on this earth knows your potential or what's in your heart. You alone will answer that. The only thing that limits you is the edge of your imagination."
The young eagle puzzled by this asked, "What should I do?"
"Look to the horizon, spread your wings, and fly."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

My Aussie friend

Sitting at home and nursing my injury, my mind wandered to my school days at Don Bosco. Those beautiful days filled with nostalgia., I never ever can forget. For posterity’s sake, I decided to pen these today.

A close friend of mine Mr.V , now in Australia, was the leader of the mischief pack. The lunch boxes of a few students would be empty before lunch time and V along with a couple of close friends like me would be the beneficiaries. Their mothers made awesome food and we were very selective in choosing such lunch boxes. He was short and had the unique advantage of moving below the benches and come with these prized boxes. He never was caught in any of his mischief.

When the teacher turned to the black board, V would throw a chalk at the teacher, or suddenly make a weird noise or at least whistle. Those of the few sitting around him in class would be aroused to laughter, and would become the target of the teacher’s wrath. V, of course, always wore a cool innocent look.

In a particular lecture, he had brought with him a box full of marbles and at an appropriate moment chose to dispense with the contents of the box. The sudden jingling sound and students leaning forward to pick the marbles had the entire class in splits. The entire class had to write a particular English chapter five times by way of punishment.

V was curious by nature and always experimented with one thing or the other. There was a particular teacher who always wore a blue shirt. V sprinkled ink on his shirt just to find out whether the teacher changed his shirt or if he had several blue shirts.

V came to my house last week to invite me for a function. I heard him talking to my daughter on various career options. He told her that while making decisions in life, there would be confusion and anxiety. He beckoned her to look closely at these since the solution lay in the confusion itself.

It was in wonderment that I listened to my once upon a time mischievous V doling out perspective and wisdom to my little daughter.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Much ado about a day

I have always been amused by ‘Friendship Day, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Brother’s Day,Sister’s Day ’ and such other nicely christened days. In the eighties, we never had such days celebrated . I thought friends, father and mother were loved everyday and no nominated daywas required to bring love to memory. These, I suppose, naturally was felt then..

Some years later, we saw days celebrated with great aplomb, and cards, flowers, sweets and flowers distributed. Talk about the number of days in the year, and you have equal number of nominated days. The question that always hankers the mind is how did this all begin? The age of commercialization had arrived with a lot of publicity for celebration on these days. Is it necessary, and is this required are questions that may throw up answers depending on the genre and the context.

My grey matter tells me that there is nothing wrong as long as these convey a meaning and purpose to all of us. I would not like to be drawn into a debate on this issue and I am no one to play God. But the thing that I saw in the newspaper the other day was probably the cherry on the ice cream.

So much for commercialization sweeping the world today.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving

I am back home after my knee surgery. Fortunately, the surgeon is a close friend who assured me that I can play like Ronaldo. Now I am moving from the surgery phase to the convalescence phase. This phase is trying and testing, and relatively longer one. I am on crutches, my two recently acquired friends, and they are a great support.

A lot of visitors came to the hospital and home bringing with them their best wishes. A lot more came through messages and calls on my mobile. And you my friend bloggers too showered on me a lot of love, affection and good wishes.

A ‘Big Thank You’ to each and everyone for being with me when I most needed support and encouragement. Yes. I will now be seen more often in the blogsphere and be in constant touch. I have a lot of plans for the time I will be at home and I have decided to make the most of it, both professionally and personally.

Technology being what it is, I can be both at office and at home, with my boss as well as with my wife. It struck me that at home my wife is my boss. My first lesson is ‘Bosses do not spare you anywhere. One cannot just escape.’ Hmm.. what one cannot cure, one has to endure. That is true for my knee pain too.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mind your step


After my teaching assignment at a college and while walking down the stairs, I missed a step and fell down injuring my knee. My body weight and the weight of my lap top coupled together ensured that I tore my muscle severely. Fortunately it is neither a fracture or a ligament tear. The lesson learnt is : do not throw your weight around. I also understood that I always seem to be missing a step or just that step in life.

The surgery is scheduled in a hospital close home. The interesting part is that I will have to take a month's rest for full recovery. I am aware that I will pay a huge amount to the hospital for just missing a step. But I am now making plans on the things that I can possibly do during this one month hibernation.

Several of my office colleagues, friends and well wishers have been visiting me during the last week, and a lot of humour has happened around my knee. My boss jokingly remarked ‘ Iyer, now really tell me whom did you fall for? While another remarked that one of my improvement areas would be ‘being weak kneed.’ The last straw on my back was my doctor nephew terming it the ‘knock knee’ and telling me ‘ you missed a step, from now on live life step by step.’ My friend, Kavi, as usual, came up with the icing on the cake. ‘It is not in the falling down, it is in the rising up.’ Honestly, I have enjoyed all the fun that came my way, and am sure these will help me spring back on my feet soon.

Life has been interesting this last week with so much attention being showered on me and my knees. I am grateful to all my well wishers and my family for so much love and affection. To ensure an appropriate end to this post, this picture clicked by me at the Delhi airport says it all.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

That's the spirit

My friend lost his father and his in laws, three of them, in a space of a year. The elderly were bed ridden for four long years and were looked after by my friend, his wife and two daughters. Despite their official routine and daily chores, they tended to the elderly and were at their beck and call. The last of the elderly passed away last week.

I went to offer condolences and to appreciate them for their grit and ‘never say die’ spirit. During the conversations we had, what appealed to me was the part the elderly had played in the bonding of the family. The two daughters in particular were sharing the various lessons learnt from their grand parents, and felt those spaces would never ever be filled again. The anecdotes, folk tales, mythological stories and life experiences taught to them by their grandparents would always remain etched in the children’s mind. They conceded they had matured so much in the last three years and learnt their lessons on care, love, responsibility and accountability. Having been through thick and thin in looking after the bed ridden elderly , the entire family had in just a few years grown so much in love and affection for each other. They are today, as I look at them, a more complete family.

My friend, his wife and their two daughters were in close embrace when the preparations for the last rites were on. They hugged each other, sobbing that the last of their dear ones was gone. I saluted them for their endurance as the van carrying the body tugged along. May the spirit of the ‘Ramakrishnan family’ be always alive.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Strange but true

I had read of a birthday party of a three year old where children along with their parents were invited. As is the custom, gifts were showered on the birthday boy who accepted these with glee. Other children , naturally curious, wanted to see the gifts but the birthday boy refused to open them or part with them.

Children started throwing up tantrums and many of them were crying loudly to have a glimpse of the gifts. The little boy refused to share the gifts despite both his parents cajoling, pleading, bribing, threatening and playing all sorts of tricks on him. Birthday party turned into a nightmare.

Questions of significance are : Why did the parents behave the way they behaved? And why did the little boy behave the way he behaved?
Behaviour of parents is dictated by what parents of other children will think of them. Probably, other parents may say “ How have they brought up their kid? They haven’t even taught the kid to share”. The necessity to ‘look good’ in the eyes of others becomes more important than the necessity of the child to own and enjoy his gifts. So much so the parents will go even to the extent of beating the child on his birthday to teach him the value of sharing. What a beautiful birthday gift for the child, and what beautiful memory to grow up with.

As for the child’s behaviour, it needs to be understood that the gifts are his and he needs to possess and enjoy them before sharing them. Often we have seen that once children have enjoyed the possession, they themselves give the toys to others or just leave it lying in some corner of the room. That’s the psyche of children. Do adults easily part with their possessions? No. Often they come up with reasons like ‘the gift has sentimental value’ or some such stuff.

My learning is that many of the things we do has a pay off. But we need to remember there is also a heavy cost to pay.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

An Idol to Remember

I am inspired by what Sujata wrote on Mahatma Gandhi . I am in agreement that today’s generation seem to know little about our ‘Father of the Nation.’ In the workshops that I conduct , I always draw examples of this great man and here is some of what I tell my participants.
I ask the participants – ‘What did Mahatma Gandhi say when he was thrown out of the train in South Africa?’ The reply that I often get is ‘we don’t know.’ I tell them I also do not know but my guess, looking at what happened between 1942 (Quit India Movement) and 1947(Indian Independence), is he would have said ‘ You threw me out of the train, I will throw you out of my country.’ Indeed he did it.

The Indian freedom started with Mahatma Gandhi declaring ‘ India will be free.’ It saw the light of the day on 15th August, 1947. My learning is that there exists so much power in language, conversation and declaration that it touched , moved and inspired millions of Indians to win freedom for their country. Freedom the world over has been achieved through declaration by some individual.

While concluding the session, I ask a question – ‘Who was Gandhiji’s neighbour?’ Generally I am greeted with stunned silence or some innocent ramblings. I conclude the session saying ‘Gandhiji’s neighbour will never be known. You need to be Gandhiji to be known.’

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mother - Sweet Mother of mine

This incidentally is my fifty first post – sort of completed a half century. My first post was dedicated to the memory of my late father. This post, I owe it to my mother, who still looks after me and treats me like her little kid.

My mother, a simple woman, extremely loving and such dedication for one’s family is simply to be seen and believed. My father was her everything, and her two sons , my elder brother ( who is an example to follow – I have tried all these years and seem to be no where near) and I are her two eyes. The family is the end all for her and she is extremely content just seeing all of us happy.

Yes, she has done so much for us and still continues to untiringly do. My late father lovingly called her ‘ Aho! Bhagyavathi Naari’, and they doted on each other for sixty five long years when he bid her good bye. I have been lucky to have great parents and their love and blessings throughout.

My father’s death dealt a severe blow to her enthusiasm and liveliness that for nearly a year she was lost in her own thoughts. Her melodious chanting of morning prayers had stopped, and there were only silent prayers said within herself. A month back, when I was having my morning coffee with her, I mentioned that all of us missed her morning chant and that she start it for our sake. Like a bolt from the blue, she started chanting prayers and it was pure vibrations and ecstasy that filled our house. We are blessed that we hear these chants once again daily morning.

She is eighty two, very enthusiastic and loves to meet people. Her culinary skills are unmatched and she loves to feast guests who come home. Whatever she cooks, would be distributed to all her friends and this has been happening over the years. Though she has always wanted to do things on her own and be independent, she now holds a stick as her support to walk. She, however, looks very cute with a stick, holding her independence in one hand.

What more to say of my mother, she is truly God’s gift. Anne Taylor’s quote would be appropriate to end this piece on my mother.

“Who fed me from her gentle breast
And hushed me in her arms to rest,
And on my cheek sweet kisses prest?
My Mother.

Who ran to help me when I fell,
And would some pretty story tell,
Or kiss the place to make it well?
My mother.”

Monday, September 21, 2009

Farewell

There have been innumerable farewell functions that I have attended considering the fact that I have spent twenty eight long years in the Human Resources Function. I have always observed that a lot of good is said about the retiring employee and nostalgic memories are kindled by those near and dear. The retiring employee already full of emotions due to his long association with the organization feels all the more terribly disturbed.

This is generally the drab routine in most of the farewell functions. I remember that in one such farewell, the employee after hearing to all the accolades showered on him, mentioned humorously that if such feedback was given to him earlier, he probably would have contributed multifold.

A farewell that I distinctly remember to date was one filled with fun. The Master of Ceremonies requested all present to indulge in celebrations, and packed it with all the humorous moments he had shared with the retiring employee. This placement set the tone for others to follow and for once I saw the retiring employee in splits of laughter thoroughly enjoying the entire function. There was no place for choked emotions and parched throats.

I recall having read somewhere the following lines which sound apt here. ‘People may forget what you said. People may forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.’

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An Ethical Dilemma

Some years ago, I remember a discussion that happened at my office. The payroll departmet executive informed me that he had noticed an employee of the organisation buying toiletries and other items from a chemist shop. The employee had requested the chemist to prepare a bill for medicines instead of for toiletries. The employee had justified saying that medical reimbursement was his entitlement and it was okay if he submitted the requisite bills even though he had bought things other than medicines.

An employee was entitled to cab fare while on official duty. He travelled by train incurring twenty five rupees but claimed taxi fare by submitting a bill for three hundred rupees. When it came to his manager’s notice, the employee stated that he had the right to claim the amount as taxi fare was his entitlement.

In the Benson and Hedges cricket match, when New Zealand required six runs off the last ball to draw the cricket match, Trevor Chappel from Australia bowled an under arm ball along the ground. By no stretch of imagination could this ball be belted for a six and Australia won. When questioned, the Australian captain stated that it was very much within the rules to do that as long as the bowler swung his arm.

I have always been intrigued at this curious display of righteousness exhibited by these people. Potter Stewart once said” There’s a huge difference between that which you have a right to do and that which is the right thing to do.” I have always been of the opinion that the ‘right thing to do’ goes far beyond the ‘legal right to do’, and lived my life accordingly. But ultimately this treads on the personal standards set by individuals for themselves, and the ethical dilemma, I presume, will continue.

What have you to say?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Crucial Conversations

A student of mine was not too happy with the job and place of posting. It was always an eerie feeling with the person that life was not on the right track. This was shared with me and my help was sought. The short conversation went on as penned here.

Student: Sir, is the right time to talk to you? Are you free?
Teacher: I am at work. Obviously how can I be free? I am supposed to be busy. Jokes apart, go on.
Student: Sir, I am terribly frustrated with my job and this god forsaken place. I need your advice as to what to do?
Teacher: What are your issues? What is affecting you? Can you share?
Student: My work is not interesting, and nothing much to do after work. I feel like quitting my job and running back to Mumbai.
Teacher: I understand what you are saying. But do you think quitting is the only option?
Student: I know Sir what you are saying. At times, I just break down. But you know I am a fighter, and I won’t quit so easily.
Teacher: Then what are the options before you? Will breaking down now help?
Student: No Sir. I need to make things interesting and enjoy my work and stay.
Teacher: What can you do to change the situation? Can you think of some alternatives?
Student: Seek interesting work, discuss with my boss, join a gym or yoga. At least I have a well paying job
Teacher: You need to settle with the present. Many a time, we don’t realize what we possess. Wisdom is all about enjoying the present and creating possibilities for the future.
Student: But the negative thoughts keep coming back
Teacher: Let me tell you what you focus on expands. If you focus on ‘ job is not good’, this thought will expand and cover your universe. Then you breakdown because you attract negatives.
Student: Yes Sir, got it. I will look at it in a new way now.
Teacher: What should you be doing?
Student: I am confused. I think I need to deal with them, what else? Yes, I need to own it
Teacher: You are on target. Think on how to confront issues that crop up and come out with solutions. Anybody can crib. Very few can resolve and settle with issues as a part of life. Now it is your choice of ‘whom to be’.
Student: I am accountable Sir, its my life. I know what you say is always for my good and that is why I discuss things with you. I know you will tell me what I need to hear and not want I want to hear. Thanks, Sir.

People’s performance will always correlate with how situations occur to them. Until the occurring shifts, a new future cannot be established.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A long way to go

A legal matter that commenced in 1993 has not seen its end till date. Workmen fighting their cause have lost sixteen crucial years of their lives. Delayed justice has often been the topic for debate in many a forum. Few months ago certain reports that appeared in the newspapers seemed to indicate that things were improving. Judges were being made more accountable, and that matters were being decided with greater speed.

During my recent visits to the courts in North India, I saw a litigant and his very look spoke volumes for what our judicial system had done to him. When spoken to, he informed me he was sixty seven years of age, and had been battling for twenty four long years. He looked shrivelled and the long wait had ensured that the sparkle of youth had given way to the wrinkles of old age. I started wondering whether it was cruel fate or simply the curse of our judicial system. Have a look at him.
.
I saw another litigant and in conversation understood that nothing really happened except adjournments. He was telling me ‘Tariq pe tariq’, which in English means ‘one date to another’. I also saw several litigants seated at the entrance without any knowledge of what’s going on. Advocates were merrily in conversation with each other and most of the courts were empty, some because Judges were to be appointed. Even if Judges were present, I was told that the Court sat only for three hours a day whenever the advocates or the court staff decided not to strike work.
Icing on the cake was where the cross examination of a litigant was in progress in the only court that was working. It was diquieting to see the litigant sitting on the floor and being subject to questioning. So much for being the underdog in the system.
I was appalled at the mediocrity of the entire system, and thought courts in cities were much better. Finally I returned to Mumbai fully convinced that there is quite a slip between the cup and the lip. My sincere prayers to Lord Ganesha and best wishes on the occasion of 'Ganesh Chaturti' !!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Relentless Worker

This gentleman sits opposite my building and mends and polishes footwear. I watch him at work everyday from my window sill and appreciate his relentless toil. Since he sits exactly opposite my entrance, his alternate vocation is also to guard the building when our watchman is away. He executes this task as well with great élan.

His day begins around 9 am and ends around 730 pm. He has a very keen eye and would often mention to me the visitors that came to my building or any unusual incident that happened during the day. I keenly observe him on my holidays and seen him very intent at work. His focus is on everybody’s feet ( I like to call it 'legs' since this is what I also observe apart from his work). His workmanship is of the highest order and rarely have I seen an unsatisfied customer or observed anybody complaining. He regales his customers with the latest updates on cricket which for him is a passion. Humble and down to earth is how I would describe him, who ensures others’ feet are placed comfortably on the ground. I have often seen him drawing customers into long conversations while tending to them, and also indulging in uncontrollable bouts of laughter. I again wonder at such times whether he is pulling their legs or their footwear.

Coming to other interesting observations, I have often watched the fairer sex bare their shapely legs and well formed feet in front of him. Is it a source of distraction or motivation for him, I often wonder? There are, of course, times when the legs are also rotund, fleshy and not very great to look at, and I turn my stare away from these. Can he afford such choices of selection as I do? I think he cares any less, and probably this happens when certain things become profession for some, and ‘eye soothing’ for folks like me.

Regardless of caste, creed, religion, haves and have nots, he goes about his daily chores to ensure people are on their feet. What would the world be without such sincere and hardworking souls who play their roles to perfection, and that too without much ado and a frown in their faces? Kudos to him for upholding the dignity of labour and planting people’s feet firmly on terra firma.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Balancing Act

Life, I think, is all about balance and imbalance. This thought occurred to me when I was watching the celebrations of Lord Krishna also popularly known as Janmashtmi. A human pyramid formed to break a pot containing butter and curds, and in the end the winners get thousands to lakhs of rupees depending on who the sponsor is. The victory is all about how well you maintain balance to form the human pyramid and thereafter sustain it.

The other one is about tightrope walking , which is witnessed in towns and cities in India. Here again it is all about balance. I remember a story of a father training his daughter in the art of tightrope walking, and telling her that if she at all fell down, she would be married off to a donkey. I heard the donkey after hearing that is still waiting for her to fall. And finally it is about what we hear in corporate offices. Yes, you are right ‘Work life balance’. This coinage always make me wonder whether work and life are different or whether there is no life in work. In recessionary times, there is no work in life. I am confused and conclude telling myself ’ It is, once again, a fine balance and it is a thin line that separates ‘life and work’ or ‘work and home’’

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What's in a name ?

In the sales conference I attended, an incident in the form of a joke was narrated by the compere. It is about two salesmen, Tom and Joe, who missed their last train to their residence deciding to stay in the house of a beautiful widow. The widow had three bed rooms and offered two of them to the salesmen. After settling down in her house, Tom, late in the night found it irresistible and knocked at the bedroom door of the widow. His magic worked and he had a great time. However, he wished not to disclose his identity and when asked what his name was, informed her it was Joe.

Two years later, Joe received a letter from the widow wherein the incidents of that night were graphically narrated and how grateful she was for the nice time. Joe understood the game and confronted Tom who admitted to what happened that night and that he had given his identity as Joe. But Tom curiously asked Joe how he was aware, to which Joe replied that the widow had died and bequeathed all the property to Joe for the wonderful time she had.

Is that why Shakespeare had said “what’s in a name, a rose by any other would smell as sweet?”

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Titles, labels and designations

On this Sunday morning, I was sitting with my family – wife, son and daughter. It started with reading the zodiac signs for the week amidst a lot of interpretations and laughter. I saw a visiting card wherein the name of the person and his company and his designation were printed. This started our discussions which I am writing about.

I asked my son and daughter what designations meant to them. We then talked about what designations each of us would like to have printed on our cards. My daughter Bittu said ‘President - Bittu.com’, and added she was not too happy since it would last only till she decided to call it a day with the Company. My son, Shashank, however, interjected and said that it has to do something ‘with our own life’. He then stated he liked for himself the designation – ‘President – My Own Life’, thus reaching Maslow’s top level of the ‘Needs Hierarchy’. My wife and I were amazed at the generation of thoughts by our little ones. My wife exclaimed ‘Oh! today’s children’ when again my daughter butted in to say ‘Why have designations at all? We are what we are’.

This of course! left me with a thought whether titles, labels and designations were all about identity and our search for it. Pondering over this, I hit upon what the great psychologist Erikson had to say. Erikson talked about examining the following for some resolution:

Self-Certainty
Do you feel consistent in your self-image and the image you present to others?
Role Experimentation
Have you tried different roles in search of the one that feels right to you?
Anticipation of Achievement
Do you believe that you will be successful in what you choose to do -- whether your role is at the work front or home front?
Gender Identity
Do you feel comfortable being a male or a female, and dealing with others as such?
Leadership Polarization
Are you able to become both a leader and a follower, whichever is called for in a given situation?
Ideological Values
Have you found a set of basic social, philosophical, or religious values that your outlook on life can be based upon?

All these left me wondering and wiser. Thanks Shashank and Bittu.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What a shame ........

I keep quiet when the Christian nuns get raped,
I keep quiet when the environment and nature is rummaged,
I keep quiet when the Babri Masjid/Akshadam/Church is demolished,
I keep quiet, after a hue and cry, when Kasab and his brethren kill and set fire,
I keep quiet when the Dalits are murdered by the Hindus, Hindus by Muslims or Dalits, Muslims by Hindus and Dalits ,
I keep quiet when there is rampant corruption and it is nicely christened ‘speed money’,
I keep quiet when human lives are destroyed by ULFA, Naxalites, Bajrang Dal and such outfits,
I keep quiet when education is at the mercy of politicians who play their own fiddle,
I keep quiet knowing fully well I am the puppet and others incapable and incorrigible are the puppeteers,
I ask myself what would happen to my own children and the future generation if this continues,
Like me, do you also keep quiet?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Losing to Win

Circumstances do arise in life when sacrifices are essential, short term has to be compromised for the long term, or in relationships for the very basis of its sustenance, one will have to willingly give in. To me that’s victory of my humility over my ego. If this is achieved, I consider I have evolved and grown as a person.

How did I choose to write on this? I remembered the story ‘Babus of Nayanjore’ written by Guruji Rabindranath Tagore, and the lesson learnt after reading this beautiful piece. Succintly put, this is the story of a rich old man who lost all his wealth but still lived his life narrating the happenings of the glorious days. Not a penny in his pocket but made it appear to people that he was still affluent. Allowing the old man the space to live his life the same way till his heavenly calling came one day is what has been narrated by Guruji Tagore. A must read for one and all, and available if you google.

This story provided me the insight as to how one can respect the other’s self worth and identity without calling the bluff. The easiest thing would be to expose the individual and demean him. That would be the common way of leading life. But it requires a very different mindset to be otherwise and uphold the other individual’s respect and dignity. To my grey matter, this truly is human growth.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I am back like the Mumbai Rains!

Wow, it has caught on. Finally, Lord Varuna (Rain God) has obliged to the many prayers of Mumbaites. It has been a pouring inferno, and once again the city with its bursting population has been seen adjusting and accommodating to this downpour.

Some things that I was an eye witness since morning are what I seem to be scribbling. Knee deep water and the consequent breakdown of cars and taxis and auto rickshaws. Some fretting and fuming and showing their anger through their blaring horns and glaring stares. Those affected trying to take help of whoever passing by. Street urchins demanding huge sums to push their vehicles and make a fast buck. The office going public running fast to catch slow trains which seem to meander only to stop. The good Samaritan tea vendors serving hot tea and providing succour to those stranded passengers and motorists.

But I also observe those who are just out to enjoy the rains with gay abandon. College going couples daring the rains and taking the opportunity to get closer to each other and in a way trying to create heat for themselves. The best are the school going children bunking schools because of their parents fear of Mumbai floods. A virtual swimming pool created by them , enjoying themselves in this heavenly deluge. Pushing and jostling one another with not a care in the world. The really small ones with their parents in toe making paper boats and allowing them to sail.

And me, enjoying all these with my wife sitting by the window sill sipping steaming tea with hot pakodas. What more can you ask on a rainy day and that too after having waited for the rains for more than a month.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Alumni Meet Grand Finale

Post the felicitation at the Alumni meet, Ranga, Pai and I mingled with our professors and chatted, reminiscing old memories.

One such conversation was with our lady professor who taught us physical chemistry. An extremely beautiful lady and continues to look so even today. We reminded her how her lecture rooms swelled with male students, and if at all there were absentees they were obviously of the fairer sex. She gave us a knowing smile (which we thought was too late in the day) which accentuated her beautiful dimples, and made us even more dumbstruck. Talking of dimples, I remember my good friend Kavi remark “ Many men make the mistake of falling in love with a dimple, and ending up marrying the whole woman.” We further reminded the smiling assassin, our lady professor, the unique way she adopted in asking questions during her lectures. She had this style of saying “Come on, come on”, and all of us back benchers literally stood up to march towards her unable to resist the temptation. We told her that after so many years we understood the term ‘Physical Chemistry’.

We then met our Physics professor who had this habit of throwing chalk pieces at the students after asking a question. We called him a sharp shooter since the chalk pieces always fell on beautiful girls. Of course! he had always had his way with girls and left a mark (chalk mark) on them. Arjuna of Mahabharata fame would have been put to shame considering our professor’s shooting skills. This professor, I remember, had once seen Ranga and me lean on one of the pillars at the college entrance. In his characteristic humour, he had shot back “ the pillars are strong enough, they don’t need your support”. It was his way of reminding us that we should be in the lecture rooms instead of wasting our time at the entrance. When we reminded him of this remark, he told us “ those were the days, but you students are the real pillars”

It indeed was amazing to recall these incidents and share it with our professors. All of us brimmed with happiness and joy , and we profusely thanked our professors for their contributions in building our lives.

Jai Ho !, Our Professors.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Alumni Meet - I

A month ago I along with my friends, Ranga and Pai , attended the alumni meet of our graduation college. We met a lot of our professors and past students and truly what transpired there was nostalgic.

Professors who had taught us were felicitated for their contributions as also some students who had made it big in their lives. We were not in this category, but had decided to make it to the stage and be felicitated, come what may. My friend Pai during our conversation told me and Ranga that he had over thirty years carefully kept the college identity cards of all the four years of graduation, and proudly displayed it to us. We saw our friend Pai looking very youthful in these photographs, and we told the trustee that Pai should be felicitated for maintaining these college identity cards even though thirty years had elapsed. The trustee in good humour commended Pai for his deed and decided to felicitate Pai for his love to the Alma Mater.

Ranga and I called Pai aside and told him that we were responsible for his felicitation since we had talked to the trustee. We told him that after his felicitation, he should come on the microphone and state that he was accompanied by his two friends, Ranga and Iyer and that they also be invited on stage since they both had represented the college in Table Tennis and had occupied positions of authority in the college sports club. Pai was felicitated and true to the spirit of friendship, he talked about us and we were also invited on stage for felicitation. In a way, he did not leave any alternative for the organizers but to felicitate me and Ranga.

Ranga and I right from our college days always knew how to show up where it matters. It was a great feeling to know thirty years later, we still were good at it and had not lost our charm.

Jai Ho, Ranga and Pai.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Analysis - Paralysis Syndrome!

Always been wondering at how people worry about things that may happen in the future. They seem to be too much worried about consequences, when they really must be enjoying the present. Then there are a certain class of people who do not act imagining about undesirable consequences that may emanate. They remain where they are with just the fear that things may not turn their way. Then there are others who plan, brood and do not move an inch forward.

Application of mind is important so also analysis. Beyond a point, they lose their meaning. Too much of analysis , in my mind, leads to paralysis. Hence, over the years I have believed that ‘Knowing is knowing, Knowing is not doing, And doing is doing’.

In the above context, I am reminded of a story involving King Akbar and his lieutenant, Birbal. Akbar one night dreamt that his dearest horse was flying in the sky. He realised this was a dream but wanted to make it a reality. Next day, he called all his court officials and spelt his dream. He stated that whoever could make his horse fly would be offered ten thousand gold coins. The flip side was that if anybody promised and failed to materialize the dream, he would have his neck on the guillotine. Nobody was ready to make the dream come true except Birbal who stated he could. Birbal, however, had one rider and he informed King Akbar telling him ‘Oh! Majesty, it is possible except that it will take five years to train and make the horse fly’. The king was mighty pleased and agreed to grant him time.

After the court adjourned for the day, all the officials including Birbal’s wife were concerned at the absurdity of the promise, and reminded Birbal that his neck was on the guillotine. Birbal’s wife was in tears and pleaded with him to take back the promise given to the King. Birbal, intelligent that he was, told all of them – ‘ Who knows whether King Akbar will live for five years, who knows whether Birbal himself will live for five years and who knows whether the horse will live for five years. If all of them survive for five years, we will kill the horse. Just don’t waste your time and worry over trifle things’.

What say!!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Oh! Nature

Recently there was a news report on a cow delivering its young one. The report stated that the cow expends quite a lot of energy during delivery that it is dead tired and hungry after the calf is born. My research indicates that it takes about 270 to 290 days for a calf to be born much similar to humans. It is the legs that come out first followed by the face after three or four contractions in case of a normal delivery.

In one such case in a Bangalore public road, the cow after its delivery went on search for food, and lost its way. The calf was mooing for its mother’s milk which generally is fed by the mother immediately after the delivery. A veterinarian passing by could sense the discomfort of the calf, and since the search for the mother seemed to be in vain, decided to feed the calf through a feeding bottle. The calf would not drink from the nipple of the feeding bottle when the veterinarian came with imaginative stuff. He started mooing like the mother cow and simultaneously starting feeding the calf. The calf started sucking the nipple, and enjoyed milk to its heart content.

That very night, the calf was again hungry, and sans the veterinarian, refused to drink milk. Since the veterinarian stayed about 30 kms from the cattle shed, an unique method was adopted by the veterinarian. He instructed his staff to keep the phone receiver on the calf’s ear and he started mooing over the phone, when again the calf started sucking the nipple, and drinking milk. It was a great moment for the staff at the shed since this kept the calf going.


It was amazing and fascinating to see how the calf responded to drinking at the sound of the mother’s voice. That , I guess, is association with a mother. Research again indicates that that the child is biologically pre wired to bond to the mother. The mother’s voice becomes a reinforcement by being paired with feeding and thereby eliciting a positive response from the infant.

Simply fabulous are the ways of nature.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Time alone can heal

My good friend Jayaram lost Devika, his wife, last week after a prolonged illness. She was suffering from a kidney ailment for the last ten years and in the last few years was practically on dialysis. Jayaram did a lot for his wife and did whatever possible cheerfully. Devika’s mother had offered her kidney to her daughter for transplant, which sustained her for ten years. Jayaram has two teenaged daughters who also did their measure for their beloved mother.

I went for the funeral and there were near and dear ones grieving. It was quite touching to see the daughters literally weeping and moaning though Jayaram stood his ground for the sake of his daughters. A thought that crossed my mind was two young girls have lost their mother, the husband - his wife, and the mother - her daughter. That home will never be the same again. The kitchen will be empty, and the corner bed where Devika spent her last days, silent and still. Overnight, life changes.

Jayaram and his two daughters will continue to hear Devika’s voice, and feel her endearment and love in all they do, though she will never ever be seen again. Why (reason) and when (time) these happen are unfathomable, I tell myself.

It would sound a cliché to say that ‘Time alone can heal’, but ultimately this truth will always hold. May Devika’s soul rest in peace.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Partners in Crime

My niece, Priya had decided to celebrate her birthday with hubby , Vikram, over a quiet dinner. The devil that Vikram is - he had tied up a master plan with my daughter, Shraddha, a bigger devil, to celebrate the birthday of Priya in a manner which was more of a surprise to her.

Both Vikram and Shraddha had sewn up a master plan whereby the duplicate key of Vikram’s house was available with Shraddha. Both of them had agreed that after dinner when Vikram brought Priya home, the house would be decorated and a cake would be kept on the centre table. All the other family members were told to assemble in the house and ten of us including my eighty old mother were seated in one of the rooms with all lights switched off. Thanks to mobile phones, constant encoded messages were exchanged between the devils to ensure that the plan was executed without any glitch. Vikram, of course, to ensure that Priya had no clue , had to pretend while messaging that he was involved in serious office work.

At around 1155 pm, we heard the noise of the key on the door and Vikram along with Priya came in. There was pin drop silence and the lights were put on by Priya who saw the cake and the decorations and was heard telling her hubby ‘ Baby, thanks so much for the cake’. By then all of us rushed from the other room and in unison sang ‘Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to Priya’. She was stunned and could not believe her eyes. She was so thrilled that she lost herself for a moment and hugged each one of us expressing her joy and happiness.

For all of us , this was a memorable experience, and for Priya – it was something out of the world. Indeed the plan was executed to a ‘T’, and I had heard of such things happening elsewhere We congratulated the partners in crime, the two devils, who left no stones unturned in ensuring an unforgettable experience and a great birthday to Priya.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Confidence level

Courtesy: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/funlok/

I liked this story and thought I will share it for the benefit of my readers


Story told by a man which is most frightening yet thought-provoking experiences of his life.

He had been on a long flight. The first warning of the approaching problems came when the sign on the airplane flashed on: "Fasten your seat belts." Then, after a while, a calm voice said, "We shall not be serving the beverages at this time as we are expecting a little turbulence. Please be sure your seat belt is fastened."

As he looked around the aircraft, it became obvious that many of the passengers were becoming apprehensive. Later, the voice of the announcer said, "We are so sorry that we are unable to serve the meal at this time. The turbulence is still ahead of us."

And then the storm broke. The ominous cracks of thunder could be heard even above the roar of the engines. Lightening lit up the darkening skies and within moments that great plane was like a cork tossed around on a celestial ocean. One moment the airplane was lifted on terrific currents of air; the next, it dropped as if it were about to crash.

The man confessed that he shared the discomfort and fear of those around him. He said, "As I looked around the plane, I could see that nearly all the passengers were upset and alarmed. Some were praying.

The future seemed ominous and many were wondering if they would make it through the storm. And then, I suddenly saw a girl to whom the storm meant nothing. She had tucked her feet beneath her as she sat on her seat and was reading a book.

Everything within her small world was calm and orderly. Sometimes she closed her eyes, then she would read again; then she would straighten her legs, but worry and fear were not in her world. When the plane was being buffeted by the terrible storm, when it lurched this way and that, as it rose and fell with frightening severity, when all the adults were scared half to death, that marvelous child was completely composed and unafraid."

The man could hardly believe his eyes. It was not surprising therefore, that when the plane finally reached its destination and all the passengers were hurrying to disembark, he lingered to speak to the girl whom he had watched for such a long time. Having commented about the storm and behavior of the plane, he asked why she had not been afraid.

The sweet child replied, "Sir, my Dad is the pilot and he is taking me home."

.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Club 99

I heard this story and was fascinated by its moral. Thought I will share with my readers.

Once upon a time, there lived a King who, despite his luxurious lifestyle, was neither happy nor content. One day, the King came upon a servant who was singing happily while he worked. This fascinated the King. Why was he, the Supreme Ruler of the Land, unhappy and gloomy, while a lowly servant had so much joy. The King asked the servant, " Why are you so happy?"

The man replied, " Your Majesty, I am nothing but a servant. But my family and I don't need too much - just a roof over our heads and warm food to fill our tummies ."

The king was not satisfied with that reply. Later in the day, he sought the advice of his most trusted advisor. After hearing the King's woes and the servant's story, the advisor said, " Your Majesty, I believe that the servant has not been made part of 'The 99 Club'."

" The 99 Club? And what exactly is that?" the King inquired. The advisor replied, " Your Majesty, to truly know what 'The 99 Club' is, place 99 Gold coins in a bag and leave it at this servant's doorstep."

When the servant saw the bag, he took it into his house. When he opened the bag, he let out a great shout of joy... So many gold coins! He began to count them. After several counts, he was at last convinced that there were 99 coins. He wondered, " What could've happened to that last gold coin? Surely, no one would leave 99 coins! " He looked everywhere he could, but that final coin was elusive. Finally, exhausted, he decided that he was going to have to work harder than ever to earn that gold coin and complete his collection.

From that day, the servant's life was changed. He was overworked, horribly grumpy, and castigated his family for not helping him make that hundreth gold coin. He stopped singing while he worked.

Witnessing this drastic transformation, the King was puzzled. When he sought his advisor's help, the advisor said, " Your Majesty, the servant has now officially joined 'The 99 Club'. " He continued, " 'The 99 Club' is a name given to those people who have enough to be happy but are never contented, because they're always yearning and striving for that extra ONE telling themselves: "Let me get that one final thing and then I will be happy for life ."

We can be happy, even with very little in our lives, but the minute we're given something bigger and better, we want even more! We lose our sleep, our happiness, we hurt the people around us; all these as a price for our growing needs and desires. That's what joining 'The 99 Club' is all about."

Friday, May 1, 2009

A cricket's Lesson !

N.S.Iyer is traveling. He nevertheless is keen that his readers stay updated with his thoughts. So, here is something that he had forwarded to me earlier, which he prefers posted now. And i am more than happy to do so !

And by the way, he is got his ear on this blog ! For this blog and its readers are important to him.

Kavi


A man and his friend were in a city, walking through the street. It was during the noon lunch hour and the streets were filled with people. Cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners, sirens were wailing, and the sounds of the city were almost deafening. Suddenly, the man said to his friend, "I hear a cricket."

His friend said, "What? You must be crazy. You couldn't possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!"

"No, I'm sure of it," the man said, "I heard a cricket."

"That's crazy," said the friend.

The man listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to a big cement planter where some shrubs were growing. He looked into the bushes, beneath the branches, and sure enough, he located a small cricket. His friend was utterly amazed. "That's incredible," said his friend. "You must have super-human ears!"

"No," said the man. "My ears are no different from yours. It all depends on what you're listening for."

"But that can't be!" said the friend. "I could never hear a cricket in this noise."

"Yes, it's true", was the reply. "It depends on what is really important to you. Here, let me show you."

He reached into his pocket, pulled out a few coins, and discreetly dropped them on the sidewalk. And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within twenty feet turn and look to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs.

"See what I mean?" asked the man.

"It all depends on what's important to you."


Saturday, April 25, 2009

In flight experience

Travelling by an aircraft is always interesting provided one’s ears and eyes are open. Yes, one should not be the traveller who the moment flight takes off calls for a blanket and has his forty winks and gets up when the flight lands with a thud. Some experiences have been exhilarating and I shall share them.

I am generally the type who would pick up a conversation with a passenger seated next, and if the other person is not too cocky would for some part continue the conversation. I happened to be with a humorous seventy five year old gentleman and we connected well during the entire journey. He had a mischievous wink and smile and whenever he laughed, his whole body shook including his seat. We laughed a lot and he also pulled the legs of those seated near to us. Mid flight, a gentleman sitting across got up, opened the luggage cabin and pulled out his bag. The old man gently asked him “Are you getting down somewhere mid air that you are taking your baggage”? Passengers nearby roared in laughter and the gentleman also sportingly acknowledged the humour.


Hilarious was my journey in the company of young mischievous boys recently. One interesting incident I remember was when one guy told the other “ Sachin is sleeping in the front seat”. His friend asked him “with whom?”


During my flight last week, I was seated next to a young woman and her husband. At the start of the flight she had asked for three mini water bottles and I felt it was okay considering the sweltering heat in India. To my dismay I discovered later that she had this habit of asking for water too often. I had no objections whatsoever till the consequences of drinking too much water manifested. Sometime after take off, she started excusing herself to visit the washroom. Being in the aisle seat, I had to get up and give way. It happened seven times in a flight spanning ninety minutes which averaged a visit to the loo every thirteen minutes. This meant she was in the loo for nearly forty minutes considering the time taken every visit depending on what she was upto. Thoughts like what should I do to plug the water onslaught, what about the drainage in the aircraft and its storage capacity, will the aircraft sink - et al crossed my mind. I hated her husband for two reasons, one for having such an extremely beautiful wife like Angelina Jolie coupled with Jennifer Lopez, and secondly for peacefully slumbering like Rip Van Winkle unaware of my plight. I offered her the aisle seat and my ordeal ended.

So much for now. Can you share some of yours?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A lesson learnt

I thought I will share with all of you a lesson that I learnt some years back. I was looking after the human resources function of our Company’s factory. I had a nice glass cabin to myself from where I could see those who came to visit me. Luckily, people from outside could not see what I was upto, and that saved my job.

I remember vividly it was the twenty third of April and I was ensconced in my cabin with a fellow manager of mine discussing certain issues. Both of us could see a certain workman called Kumar approaching my cabin. Kumar had somehow or the other been besieged with several problems in his personal life. On some occasion it was his wife who was sick, sometimes his parents or his children, but problems predominated his otherwise cheerful disposition.

My fellow manager told me "Iyer, can you see Kumar coming? I am sure he is coming to request for a loan for his endless problems". In the next two minutes, Kumar knocked at my cabin door and said " Good morning, Sir". By way of a reaction, I asked Kumar " Some more problems, some more loans?’" Kumar looked at me and said "Sir, I remembered that today is your marriage anniversary and I wanted to congratulate you and wish you many more years of wedded bliss". He offered me a flower and a lemon which in South India are regarded auspicious, and hugged me before he left. My eyes were full with tears and I thanked him profusely. I felt like a full bloomed idiot and also felt extremely embarrassed. Even my fellow manager had not extended me wishes that day, but Kumar had remembered an important day in my life.

The lesson Kumar taught me that day was to view each situation anew and never to operate from my mindset. My own mindset and my mental blocks came my way and evoked a bad reaction from me when he entered my cabin. Kumar could have reacted and behaved very differently and walked away thinking what a nincompoop I was. He chose to act differently and accomplished the mission that he came for.

Thanks Kumar for this important lesson. I no more make gross generalisations. In more than one way, you changed my way of thinking and my reactions to life in various situations.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

All of them - professionals

I have been on leave and just chilling out. Ensured that I kept away from posting on my blog, and it is today that I have posted comments on other blogs and also decided to write a post.

My niece narrated a happening in a party attended by her and her husband. All was joy and fun with whisky, beer and vodka flowing, and lot of good food with about ten friends and their families attending the party. Loud music, jokes, laughter and dance - everyone present had just let their heads down. Dinner was over and liqueur was served and it was just the right setting to go home and get up late on a Sunday morning. It was at this juncture that it was known that a child had gone into a room and mistakenly locked itself. As things often happen, the keys to this room had been misplaced, and the child unable to come out was squealing and literally throwing up. The child’s parents were concerned and also others present. Everyone tried their little bit to open the room – some tried using their physical strength and some their mental. I was told most of them were MBAs, and theoretical models just don’t work in such situations.

The neighbour was summoned since there was some carpentry work undertaken at his house. It was past midnight and the carpenter was summoned. The neighbor who was literally sozzled provided some comic relief to the otherwise tense situation. The neighbour tried all his mastery at opening the door with a screw driver, and was seen driving at everything except the keyhole. When others intervened to help, he felt that his prowess was being challenged. I guess those who drink believe booze provides the answer, but unfortunately they don’t remember the question. Such was the neighbour’s predicament. Alcohol has always been a misunderstood vitamin.

Since the child had to be rescued without causing danger or physical harm, the police and fire brigade were informed. The police could not do much except counselling the parents as to how children should be looked after. The carpenter arrived by then and opened the door and the child was back with his parents. The fire brigade personnel were informed over the phone that the drama had ended but they did not relent. Thus the ordeal was still not over The rules of the fire brigade state that once informed, it was their bounden duty to visit the place. They arrived and it was fun again. Five of them in uniforms arrived with torches and insisted on using heir torches even though the entire house was fully lit. They started inspecting the place with their torches on - much to the amusement of everyone. Despite being told that the child was safe, they insisted on seeing the child and did so in great élan by pointing their torches to the child’s face. This was the icing on the cake and a grand finale to the party.

Police, firemen , carpenter and the sozzled neighbour left, and the friends decided to have a final drink – one for the road, and to the child. The toast, of course, was raised for the neighbour , the police and firemen who ensured the friends and their families did not lose their sanity in such tense situation.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Grandfathers' Tales (Tails)

I was told this story recently. It’s quite interesting and all of us have a moral to draw. This is the story of the cap seller and the monkeys, and here it goes ….

Once a cap seller was walking along the forest and decided to rest under a tree after lunch. He placed his caps near his head and went into deep slumber. When he woke up, he noticed that his caps were missing and was quite upset. He soon realized that some monkeys had played a trick on him and found the monkeys wearing the caps and sitting atop a tree. He thought of a plan to retrieve his caps and enacted the same. He showed his fist to the monkeys and they repeated the act after him. He clapped and they all clapped back. Finally, he took out his cap and threw it on the ground, and the monkeys followed suit. Happily, he collected all the caps, mocked at them and went away.

Some years later, another cap seller happened to pass by the forest, and done by the heat, decided to take rest under a tree. Like his cap seller grandfather in the earlier incident, he too fell into deep slumber, and after sometime realized that all his caps had been taken away by the monkeys. The grandson soon recollected the experience shared by his grandfather, and decided to play the trick on the monkeys. The grandson showed his fist and the monkeys repeated it. He clapped and they all clapped after him. Finally, he took out his cap and threw it on the ground. The leader of the monkeys jumped down and slapped him hard on the face and said ‘Do you think we are nuts? Do you think, only you have a grandfather who shared his experience?’.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Twist to the tale

Indian history is a testimony to Rajput warrior, Prithviraj Chauhan’s commitment towards his lady love. When her marriage was arranged to someone else by her parents, he came riding in a horse and took her away from the place where the marriage was to be solemnised. This spoke of his true love for his beloved.

In the Ramayana, a great Indian epic, we have heard of Ravana who in his unstoppable fury came in the form of a deer and enticed Sita, and took her away to Lanka. That led to the battle which finally ended in Ravana being defeated, and Sita being rescued and brought back to Ayodhya. This symbolizes the victory of good over evil

In the Mahabharata, another great Indian epic, we have heard of Draupadi, who was wedded to the five Pandava brothers, being disrobed. This amongst other things led to the fiercely led battle at Kurukshetra between the the Pandavas and Kauravas, all of them brothers. Again, victory of good over evil.

The Indian system of arranged marriage calls for eligible men to visit the would be bride’s home and approve of her after a fleeting glance at her. We have heard of men in such situations being besotted by the would be bride’s beautiful younger sister, and finally getting married to her. Love is not always blind.

A recent press insertion in the local newspaper was rather interesting. The marriage rituals were on, and the couple had to exchange garlands to signify their acceptance of each other. Amidst much fanfare, the bride groom garlanded the bride, and when it was the turn of the bride, she turned around and garlanded the photographer. There was utter shock, dismay and disbelief but the marriage was solemnized with the photographer who happened to be her earlier boyfriend. Scientifically looked at, this was ‘photochemistry’ whereas in the Rajput warrior’s case, it was ‘horse power’.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Never say die

In the last week of January, 2009, a matter that was posted for final hearing at the Madras High Court was adjourned due to a one day strike by the Advocates. The matter was thus posted, once again, for final hearing on 19th February, 2009. Unfortunately, I was unavailable on this date due to my commitment to attend a seminar.

I had mentally given up attending the seminar since the matter at the High Court was an important matter for our Company. I shared my predicament with my facilitator, Srikumar, who matter of fact but powerfully told me that there was no way that I am going to miss the seminar on 19th February, and also reminded me of the commitment I had made to attend the same. I tried to explain to him the situation and that the Judge would not change the date even if I asked the Judge to advance the date of hearing. He retorted ‘ when there is a will, there is a way’ and posed a question ‘ do you want to honour your commitment and your word’?.

I got enrolled to his powerful statement and got touched, moved and inspired. That probably was the moment of truth and I decided to put in my best efforts to attend the seminar and also persuade our company’s advocate to get the date advanced. From then on, I was unstoppable and literally on a daily basis I have in more than one way convinced my advocate as to why I should attend the seminar and that I had a commitment to keep. After a lot of persuasion for around ten days and cajoling on my part, my advocate agreed to meet the Judge in her chamber and persuade her for a change in the date of hearing. As bad luck would have it, the advocates at the Madras High Court struck work from the 10th February to 18th February, and the Court was to reopen on 19th February, the date of our hearing. Due to this strike, my advocate expressed his inability to meet the Judge in her chambers as it would go against the decision of his brethren not to attend court.

I was at my wit’s end and for sometime had given up even trying to attend the seminar. But the words of my facilitator started ringing in my ears and I told myself I will not give up. There were several rounds of discussions with my advocate between 10th and 18th and I tried all tricks available in the book to convince my advocate that attending the seminar was important. However, I booked my flight tickets since a change in the date was still uncertain. On 18th night, the daily cause list of the Court arrived and our matter was not listed. My advocate informed me that the Judge was on casual leave and I need not attend the court.

Looking back, I realize that I had been so powerful those two weeks and had put in my best to ensure that I attend the seminar. So powerful was my commitment to attend the seminar that, like it is said, ‘the whole universe conspired for me’. Let me humbly submit I realized that it was always the reasons and justifications that we give ourselves that stop us and that we can be persuasive , if we want to be. Later my advocate told me that he had never seen me so powerful and engaging. I have learnt a lesson that whatever may be the situation, I will put in my best and never ever have a lingering conversation within myself that something is not possible.

Thank you, Srikumar, for enabling me honouring my word and being unstoppable.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Clarity of Distance

Children surprise parents. I had this unforgettable experience in a seminar that my daughter recently attended. My wife and I were invited as her ‘graduate guests’ since both of us had attended this seminar earlier organized by the Landmark Forum.

The forum leader asked the participants to share their learning and experience of the forum and our daughter’s hand went up. She was invited to the podium to share. With a lot of confidence and nonchalance she stood before the audience numbering around four hundred and literally created magic. The entire audience listened to her in rapt attention and both of us were dumbstruck and overwhelmed.

She spoke eloquently about her vulnerability in life and as to how the seminar had opened her mental windows and made her present to the ‘present’ and the beautiful moments around. Her concluding remarks still ring a bell in our ears – “I thank you, Papa, for enrolling me to join the seminar. Papa and Mamma, kindly stand up. I want to acknowledge both of you for being such wonderful parents, and Shashank for being a wonderful brother. I thank you for trusting me and believing in me. I love you both”. There was thunderous applause in the auditorium and we were in tears. The forum leader looked at her and remarked ‘very powerful, keep it up’.

We never realized that our daughter had so much potential. Probably, we had always looked at her as a child. This was our moment of truth and we realized she had grown up to be a very confident human being. As the forum leader had remarked, we realised she had always been powerful but that both of us required the clarity of distance to spot her competence.

We congratulate you Shraddha, and may you continue to be powerful, self expressed and extraordinary.

Friday, February 27, 2009

No love lost

There were news reports of two brothers celebrating the birthday of their mother. Several guests were invited for this special bash which included the de la crème of the city. The two brothers, their wives and children mingled with everyone present and made it a special occasion. Top models walked the ramp and the children too did some sashaying. The best of food and wine was served and it was all fun and frolic.

A photographer was invited all the way from abroad to shoot pictures of the family and the guests. The presence of this photographer surprised me and left me wondering whether India had any good photographers at all. A special film was made in the mother’s honour and was screened to the guests. The brothers in their speech emphasized the role of their mother and communicated to her that she was the most important person in their respective lives. And finally when the guests left, each one of them was presented with a silver box as a take away gift.

What was the take away gift for the mother? The greatest gift for the mother would have been seeing both her sons speak to each other which did not happen during the entire function. And she indeed was deprived of this precious gift.

So much for all the ostentation,
So much for a mother’s love!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Understanding the distinction

A friend of mine who sells life insurance policies possesses a ‘never say die attitude’. There have been several occasions that he has visited me, called me over the phone, sent me messages and listened to the several “not now” answers that I have given him. It never mattered to him and his persistence paid off just last week when he grabbed a policy of high value from me. So, how did he deal with the ‘No’ that I had often told him?

His comments to this question were very cryptic but provided powerful insights.
These were:
‘No’ is said to the request or proposal made
‘No’ is never forever
‘No’ is not to the ‘person’ but to the ‘request/ proposal’ made
‘No’, if seen this way, shows the way forward
‘No’ should not stop and intimidate us
‘No’ never stopped the extraordinary
‘No’ never stopped Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King
‘No’ is eventually and finally followed by ‘Yes’

He finally concluded saying that the ‘meanings’ we assign to ‘No’ make all the difference and hence it was important to understand this critical distinction and march on unabashedly.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Special

It was an amazing interview with Pranay Tiwari who in his Curriculum Vitae had mentioned that he writes short stories, mostly fiction. I was quite curious to know about them and requested him to narrate one. Here is how the story goes.

There was a couple who got married against their parents wishes. The parents accepted the marriage but were not too happy. All was well for a few months until during a medical examination it was revealed that the girl was suffering from cancer. All hell broke loose at home with the in laws cursing their fate and also the girl. The boy on coming back from an official tour was shown the report, and he was just staring at the report, truly shocked. The girl’s stare was fixed at her husband and she waited for his reaction knowing fully well this could be the moment of truth. Her husband was silent and the in laws were furious. The husband looked at her, tore the report and hugged her. Both of them were in tears but promised each other that they will fight this together.

That’s love – Happy Valentine’s Day

The next piece he narrated was when this couple went to a market. While buying tomatoes, some of them fell down. The wife stretched to pick them up when a vehicle from behind came to a screeching halt. The husband screamed at her, and she was totally upset because he had never done this before . Back home after the silent walk from the market, she asked him ‘ Have I become a pest ? How is that you screamed at me and that too in the market place? Pat came the reply from the husband ‘Sweetheart, the tomatoes can go, but I can never ever afford losing you’.

That’s love – Happy Valentine’s Day.

The final piece was about the couple visiting a lot of doctors to cure the ailment. Finally, they zeroed on one whom they thought was loving and trustworthy. The date of the operation was fixed and as they turned back to the exit door, they saw a picture of a girl on the wall. The doctor told them that it was his daughter who had died of cancer some years ago. Looking at the girl’s tearful face, the doctor told her ‘ You have nothing to worry and your life is my responsibility. I have found my daughter in you’.

That’s love - Happy Valentine’s Day.

Thanks to Pranay Tiwari and Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all

Friday, February 6, 2009

Life is not a race

I had a hectic week and was generally chilling out . Was during the week, flitting in and out of home on official tours. Thought of writing a post and give vent to lingering conversations within myself. Until I read this one which lightened my being.

This poem was written by a terminally ill young girl in a New York Hospital.

SLOW DANCE
Have you ever watched kids
On a merry-go-round?
Or listened to the rain
Slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?
You better slow down
Don't dance so fast
Time is short
The music won't last.

Do you run through each day
On the fly?
When you ask ‘How are you’?
Do you hear the reply?
When the day is done
Do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores
Running through your head?
You'd better slow down
Don't dance so fast
Time is short
The music won't last.

Ever told your child,
We'll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste, not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die
Cause you never had time
To call and say, "Hi"
You'd better slow down
Don't dance so fast
Time is short
The music won't last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift....thrown away.
Life is not a race.
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before the song is over.

Insightful and touching. I thought I should learn and share this lesson.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

That's life

Recently my friend's mother passed away. I had been to the funeral. A lot of peole had gathered and the scene was quite emotional. Relatives, near and dear, paid their last respects to the departed soul.

My friend's father who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease was shown his wife's body and was informed that she was no more. The father was oblivious to the fact that she had passed away. People around who witnessed this scene cried bitterly that the father could not fathom what had happened. The husband and the wife, both life partners, suffered no grief, each for their own reasons. One was affected by Alzheimer's and the other a departed soul . Paradoxically, all others present were grieving for husband and the wife. How strange sometimes life is.

After the funeral was over, my friend told me that his sisters and brothers would go away since they stayed abroad.Thus, the responsibility of looking after the father would rest on him. I told him that over the years he had looked after his parents, and that now he had to continue looking after his father. I saw his concern and understood that the way his siblings had their own lives to lead, he also had his own.


Seeing his concern and the string of words formed on his lips, I prodded him to speak out. My friend said "My concern is not about looking after my father. But whether I can look after him the same way my mother did. I cannot be 'her' to 'him' ." So poignant and well said.

Indeed husband - wife relationship is so special - a spiritual relationship - an union of two souls.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Our Republic Day

26th January 1950 is one of the most important days in Indian history as it was on this day the constitution of India came into force and India became a truly sovereign state. The meaning – no more monarchy. India in spirit, became free.

I was in my usual morning walk around the ‘Five Gardens’ at Dadar, Mumbai, and was amazed at the patriotic fervour that I was witness to . A huge celebration at the garden (organized by the Laughter Club) consisting of senior and junior citizens holding the Indian tricolour and shouting chants of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’(Long Live - the Indian State).More stimulating was the fact that there were more youth attending this year’s celebrations. This was a clear indication of the youth taking charge and taking over the mantle. A welcome sign, I thought.

There were no speeches but only action. People standing together holding hands and singing songs like ‘Saare Jahan Se Achha, Yeh Hindustan Hamara’(India is a great place in this entire world), ‘Hum Honge Kamyaab’(We will be victorious and we are confident), ‘Yeh Mere Vatan Ke Logo’(an immortal song sung for our soldiers by the melody queen Lata Mangeshkar which had our Late Prime Minister Pandit Jawarhlal Nehru in tears), and followed by ‘Vande Mataram’(I salute you – mother) and our national anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana’( of Indian citizens and its states). Finally, it was of unfurling the national tricolor atop , and chanting cries of ‘Long live our country and its citizens’.

The uniqueness was when the national anthem was sung. People wherever they were in their morning walk stood at their very spot and vehicles too followed suit. This was amazing considering the hustle and bustle of Mumbai where everyone had their chores to do and were generally absorbed in their daily do’s and don’ts . Equally exciting was the numerous vans led by the youth distributing national flags, sweets, and serving tea and snacks to one and all.

Does all this speak about a resurgent India where the youth is ready to take over? Are these the first steps towards responsibility and accountability to build and shape India into a truly great country that it is? Does it have any connection with the recent blasts whereby the citizens have realized that it is action that matters? Whatever may be the answers, these are encouraging signs for a better tomorrow to which we can proudly and confidently look for.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hospital Highlights

The last I visited a hospital was when my sister in law underwent a cataract operation. As it has always been in our family, the entire jing bang consisting of my brother, my wife, my niece, my sis in law(it was her operation), her brother, mother and sister were all there. I do not know whether it should be termed concern, moral support or simply ‘love’. Yes, in our family, we are always there for each other. Just the thought is so comforting. We have been brought up that way.

The whole process took over three hours including the post operation rest. This is about what I witnessed during the time I spent there. I had my camera which has become a necessary appendage. I clicked some snaps which I think are worth writing about.
The first of course was about a placard fixed to the hospital bed with the title ‘Starvation’. Why on earth would people come to a hospital and starve? My curiosity was so overwhelming that I chose to ask the nurse for an explanation for the title. What she told me was amazing. The bed was for patients who had to undergo tests for sugar in their blood and urine for which ‘fasting before the tests’ was essential. By Jeeve, I realized ‘starvation’ meant ‘fasting’.

Next was about a stuffed monkey toy with a string attached to a pulley. What is it about, I kept wondering. The nurse came to my rescue and said ‘this was brought by a patient who loved monkeys and till he was discharged he used to play with the toy monkey by pulling the string. Whoever passed that way pulled the string and the toy monkey went up and down which was a great source of amusement to one and all. I thought this was essential to provide succour and relief for patients.
In all that transpired, I keenly observed a gentleman who was supervising the house keeping operations. An ideal supervisor at that. A stickler to cleanliness, and was all the time ensuring that his people put in their day’s worth. Personally, he picked up the broom and demonstrated how work was to be done. He extracted enough and more work from his subordinates and was of the kind who would brook no nonsense. He was everywhere and had the agility of a deer. Such kind are very rare today and I was wonderstruck. I called him over and made enquiries.

He is Gajanan Govind Shetye, on contract with the hospital and with a missionary zeal. He had taken Voluntary Retirement from Mahindra and Mahindra after working as a Machine Operator for twenty years, and came to work at the hospital. He told me the work he did in the hospital was his calling in life and hence vowed that he would put in one hundred per cent. I saw him commanding a unique respect from all those present and his enthusiasm was infectious. He earned around five thousand per month and told me more than half of what he earned was given to the poor and needy who sought his assistance. He added that the Almighty up there was kind to him and he had no complaints in life. I was dumbstruck.

Resting in bed that night I was thinking about the toy monkey, and the supervisor, Gajanan, who in their own ways brought life to the hospital, and created an ever lasting impact on me and the people around.