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 -’, 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:

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.