Saturday, December 15, 2007

Of settling

Just read John Wesley's post on the '5 signs that you have settled' over at PickTheBrain.

The whole corporate gupshup is getting to me. Using Wesley's guide, I have settled. 5 times over. I am a doormat now.

I am probably the epitome of under-utilization. I'm so bored I have read every newsflash in the company database. I'm running short of websites to browse. I can draw graphs of posting patterns of my fav bloggers. I refresh Google News every five minutes and worry about how nothing changes. I send my friend an email with the subject 'Test' and run to her desk to see if I get there before my email does. I have the largest selection of snoozies holding 'I'm bored' placards on my IM.

I have settled. Miserably.

So much for career growth. Oops, what's career look like???

Then there are the signals that people send. Like not rewarding a job well done, finding faults wherever possible, asking too many pointed questions, the guys who wanted you for every possible favour now looking through you - and so many more.

I feel sick. Sick of having settled.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Of being Mis-World

That's not a typo !

The Miss World (or Universe or Earth or Mars) competition blows up millions of dollars every year. Each 'foundation' seems to want to identify 'real' beauty, but do they?

Case in point - yesterday's Miss World contest. Is it me, or is it a coincidence that there was no contestant from any China-unfriendly country in the semi-finalists? No contestant from India, UK or Australia. Miss USA had won all the sporting competitions, so she had to be let thru. She was conveniently dropped in the next round.

There was no sashaying of models in designer wear. There were no questions asked! Each contestant was given 40 seconds to explain she was the ideal Miss World candidate. Everyone included the word 'AIDS' in their rehearsed monologues. Nobody made much sense, though.

What did our winner say? As Miss World, she would link the Olympics with the Miss World competition. I'm sorry, but what exactly does that mean? And how is that relevant? Please enlighten me.

During this process, she spent some 10 seconds searching the unfathomable depths of her mind for the word 'link' - pronounced as 'leeeenk'.

When she was announced the winner, she remained calm and composed (as opposed to the extreme excitement my Chinese colleagues displayed when they won some company merchandise). When she took her first walk as Miss World, she dropped her 'Miss World' sash. Ewww.

Please tell me there were no hidden agendas. Please tell me it was all fair. Please tell me that the winner was decided purely on merit and to advocate 'beauty with a purpose' - even if it was to link two unrelated events. Please tell me that playing the host had nothing to do with it.

That being said, Miss China is a pretty young lass. Just like every other contestant.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Of the super dancer

Just switched off the telly after watching the grand finale of the 'Super Dancer' show on Amrita TV. 'Poor boy' Prasanth(on the left) won the grand prize - a brand new Suzuki Swift and cried like a newborn when he got the keys.

Reality shows seem to crop up like mushrooms all over the media. Amrita TV itself has several of them - Super star, super star global,super star junior, mahila ratnam and so on.

Granted, it's a new form of entertainment. Several laymen get the chance to come on TV and to make a neat bundle in the process. The viewers get to see fresh faces - and that factor helps increase viewership.

Oh, and then there are the SMSs. Mobile operators laugh all the way to the bank when unemployed youth with plenty of time on their hands send several hundred SMSs per day to get their favourite contestant in #1 position. Apart from the key question on whether the statistics shown on TV are real, it's all too easy to tilt the scales in one's favour - just buy a few prepaid SMS cards and distribute them for free. With unlimited SMS offers by several operators, it's a breeze - to cheat.

It seems preposterous to me that the common man - who in most cases has no idea of the nuances of art - gets to decide the winner. Judges in this particular show gave qualitative opinion of each dance and then the performer went on a vote-begging spree. Needless to say, the voting was based on emotions and not on facts. The good looking girl and the poverty-stricken boy were always selected for the next round. Somewhere in this process, some real talent was conveniently eliminated.

Check this out - the winner of this mega contest (it went on for several months with God-alone-knows-how-many elimination rounds, dance styles and what not)has bagged himself a role in a movie - as a COMEDIAN. So that's what they wanted - a man fit to be a JOKER. Prasanth, you have my sympathies !

That being said, the show brought out some real gems - people who personified real grit and courage. The channel did a wonderful job honoring a disabled girl who participated and even cleared the first few rounds - all the while dancing on one leg.

Unfortunately I did not catch her name, but lady - whoever you are, hats off to you.

You totally rock !

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Of free booze

Tis promotion time.

Yeah, yours truly got promoted too ! *takes a bow*

Tis also the time for the booze to flow.

Anyone who 'matters' has his calendar chockfull of booze party invitations. No invitation is rejected unless the invitee is dead.

This thing called alcohol can work miracles. It can make people happy or sad, restless or contended, provide courage and encourage bonding. It can get people into or out of jobs, sex or marriages. Officers in the government(and elsewhere) die for it. The more firangi your offering, the better your chances of success.

And when caps come off the bottles, the tongues start to wag. Some jokes are so bad that one has to tickle oneself to force a smile.

(Un)officially, the host of the evening is consecrated a member of the 'elite' team.

That doesn't deter some non-drinkers. They sponsor this event and then endure the torment all evening by sipping water or fruit juice. Ah ! the things we do to climb up the corporate ladder !

And idiots like me wonder why no amount of good work gets me anywhere. duh !

Monday, June 25, 2007

Of neglect

Yesterday, an associate expired. He had sudden cardiac arrest.

This morning, the news trickled in. He was playing cricket with his friends in Bangalore when he felt pain in his chest. Subsequently, he fell unconscious. In a matter of minutes, he was gone.

Normally such events are met with uncommon sympathy and concern. The Company that never seems to care on a daily basis comes up with oft-repeated words of admiration for the victim. A few pictures are posted and the same ol' emotions exchanged. We expected atleast that.


Until afternoon there was no formal communication about the event. Around noon, the in-human resources sent out an email (really, how hard is it to type 2 lines?) and subsequently came over for a 2-minute condolence meeting.

The meeting ended and work resumed, amidst some controlled sniffles from the folks who were his cubicle-neighbours. Then we went off to lunch and then my friends broke the news.

The friends were battling for hours with the HR to get this email sent. The condolence meet was out of the question - they were extremely hesitant to even send out a formal note to the associates in the centre. And why? Because he was a contract-based employee.

Alright, so we have staff and contractors. Obviously, the contractors are recruited via an agency and are hence paid lower salaries than ours.

Now here's the part that I don't understand. What if the man was on contract? What if he wasn't on our regular payroll? What about the two years he worked for this company at lower wage? What about the happy customers he created by his good work?

And what makes his life any less valuable than ours?

This sparked off debates all thru the day. My friends are mostly seniors with more than 7 years of experience. What if anything happened to anyone who has been with the company for so long? Would he get an email (which he was never going to read), or a 2-minute silence? Just 2 minutes ??? For over five years of life that generated umpteen revenues for the employer?

Organizational behaviour talks about projecting one's image. All organizations are quick to project themselves as the best in the industry with the latest tools, processes and skilled people. 'Our most precious assets come in at 9 AM and leave by 6PM everyday' says an industry mogul. And when it comes to barebones....

I am just a number. I have come to realize that over the years.

It is time to move on.

On a sidenote - is it going to be any different elsewhere?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Of gratitude

The rainy season is here.

Moi dislikes the rains. Dirty roads, puddles of mosquito-infested waters, bacterial diseases, wet clothes and cloudy skies annoy me.

The only time rains are enjoyable is when one is at home during a weekend. The warm bed is quite inviting this time of the year. Couple that with a hot meal and hot chocolate - and whoa! you have a picture-perfect monsoon!

Well, that kind of summed up my last Sunday - a hot meal, a warm bed and lots of heavy-duty sleep.

While moi was slowly waking up looking over the balcony and sipping hot tea, a labourer couple walked down the road. They had no slippers on and both were completely drenched - it was raining heavily and they had no umbrella. They were probably on their way back home after a grueling day of work. On a Sunday.

And that got me wondering (yes, I never stop!) . Many of the so-called self-development books I read talked about 'standing for something'. In other words, the key thing is to identify that one quality a person signifies. Obviously, different strokes for different folks.

Persistence, says a book , is the one thing you gotta have, and everything else will follow. There is another author who advocates excellence at every task. Goal-setting is another favorite item of several authors.

When we see the world thru our pair of eyes, we see it not as it is, but as we are. Which is why the one quality one should signify is a matter of individual choice.

Gratitude gets my vote. If there's one quality every human must have, it is gratitude. By gratitude I mean being thankful and appreciative of what one has. It means not always whining for more. However, it does not mean inaction or laziness. Strive for improvement, but stop every once in a while to celebrate what you already have.

On that Sunday afternoon, it meant being thankful to God that I have a house and a warm bed to sleep on. Of not having to get drenched in heavy rains. Of having a family. Of being educated. Of being 'normal'.

Gratitude brings humility. When we're humble, we learn to dissociate ourselves from our achievements and our good fortunes. Over time, we realize that we're mere instruments for the Almighty to work His miracles.

Come to think of it, each moment of human life is a miracle.

Thank you God. Thank you very much.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Of Sivaji

Uber-lavish sets across continents. Ultra-expensive costumes. Witty one-liners. A whole new bunch of stunts. 6-door Mercedes'. True-to-life makeup. Hot babes. On-your-face punchlines. Very hot heroine who leaves nothing to the imagination. World-class visual effects. A R Rehman. Nayantara. The one and only Rajnikanth.

That's Sivaji (the boss) for you.
Sivaji was released a few hours ago all over India. However, the hype started several months back, and progressively increased. Tickets were booked for weeks in advance. Yesterday, it was a top 10 headline in the news.And yes, I watched it today (Yes ! still excited !). The movie was supposedly an 86-crore venture. And now I know why. *evil laughter*
Rajni totally rocks. It's hard to believe that at the ripe old age of 60, someone can look and act so young ! The stunts are truly catchy - guns shooting at will, fake hands to fool enemies, swords that pierce enemies even while not in use, coin tossed from the hand right into the pocket, sunglasses, tossing gum on the villian's face (and chewing it once it bounces back) et al.
Variety is everything ! Our hero travels from Chennai to NYC, then to Spain. The songs are mostly shot abroad (except the Nayantara song).And the effects. Boy oh boy ! One song(pictured above) has Rajni in 8 costumes all in the same shot - doing 8 different dance steps around the very-hot Shreya.
Shreya has tried. It's not easy acting with the boss ! With some lavish booby show (she takes off her red half-saree to save Rajni from being run over by a train and then runs halfway down the platform in just her blouse - all the while jiggling her assets) and booty-shaking, makes her presence felt (I'm sure several people in the theatre had increased blood supply to certain parts of their anatomy)The make-up artist has done wonders - in one song, her face has diamonds (or some such stones) pasted on it. She looks gorgeous.
Her washboard abs just reminded me how bad mine were. Sigh !(On another note, I wonder how many people she had to sleep with to get this role)
The music is nice, so is Nayantara.
Awesome movie - for lack of a better description. And on day 1 of the action, it was an experience of a lifetime.
It's time for Amitabh Bachchan to learn a few things about acting.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Of being #2

Yesterday moi took part in a paper presentation contest for young managers, organized by a so-called management association.

All teams were of four. As bad luck would have it, we got our invitation letter for the presentation with just a day's notice. We then set out on the mammoth task of creating a dashing deck and deciding what to say. Yours truly ended up covering a large chunk of the deck (one team member couldn't repeat what was given in writing, and another was jittery coz it was his first public speaking assignment).

Call me a loser in anything, but in presentation skills. Yours truly was selected best faculty from a group of two thousand - simply because of solid presentation skills.

I gave it my last ounce of energy, made eye contact, did all the right things - while expounding gloriously on our material. Our strategy was solid and so was our deck. Our Q&A session was quite good too - the 65-yr old judges seemed happy with what we proposed to make the Indians more competitive.

We saw a couple of other presentations - they were the lousiest ever. Bad slides, no strategy, ugly people and totally Mallu-ised English.
Basically, we had no competition.

The results were announced, and we came a measly second. The team that came first gave a repeat presentation, and we searched for that one reason why they were better than us - nothing - apart from the fact that their people spoke in almost equal increments of time - unlike we did. In terms of strategy and presentation, we were way better.

How did we know? During our snack session later in the evening, one of the judges leaned over to me and congratulated me on a job well done. With a snotty smirk he said - in a team of four, all should talk, not just one or two.

So that's what killed us - an overdose of me. Inspite of giving it more than a hundred percent AND moi being a better presenter, we lost. I lost. Rather, we lost , because I did.

Maybe it WAS a mistake. What pissed me off however, was the lack of attention the oldies paid towards the quality of our content and presentation, regardless of who said what. They gave higher marks for more voices - rather than for what the words actually meant.

We retained our trophy from last year - and that really is of the least importance.

Anyway, here are my conclusions on the management association and its thought processes.

1. This association has noone aged less than 55. All through the evening, we heard talk about how the 'young' managers of today make the older ones' life difficult. The chief guest ran out of saliva talking about how 'these young people think 180 degrees opposite to us'.

Really, if we were indeed such a threat, then why hold a competition for us?

2. All through the past fifty years the association has been around - from 1958 till date - there has been one woman president.ONE. I say no more.

3. Radical ideas and smart youngsters scare them - because they have to move out of their comfort zones at the ripe old age of 60. Tell them what they want to hear, and they'll keep you happy. During our presentation I suggested the 'hire and fire' policy for Indians - one of the judges took it very personally.

4. The so-called senior managers of yonder years need to wake up to the fact that wisdom and experience do not automatically come with old age. NOTHING does - except wrinkles.

Personally, I think their certificate is worth less than the paper it's printed on. And I believe in getting rid of trash as soon as possible.

Simply because it stinks.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Of time

A few days ago, the Mother put her foot down. 'Up at 6 AM and to bed at 11 PM' she growled 'Now that's how it will be. The day you disobey, I clear up my stuff and leave this apartment'.

Though the daughter laughed as if Charlie Chaplin had just given a live performance, she knew the Mother meant business.

'Your eyes. Who is going to take care of them? More than 12 hrs a day in front of this computer/TV combo? You aren't getting any younger, you hear?'

'But' the bleary-eyed daughter said meekly 'I don't feel sleepy at 11 PM, ma'.

The answer was a roar 'No questions. And yes, you will get used to it'.

I watched non-chalantly as my mother marched victorious into the kitchen after delivering her ordinance.

As expected, 11PM in bed was a nightmare. Tossing,turning, listening to sounds of waterfalls and birds, counting to 100 and back, thinking of boring people, remembering class 10 geography - nothing helped. What made it worse was the soft snore from my mother's side of the bed.Moi was was awake as an owl.

As the clock struck twelve, I realized I had just witnessed the bloom of a new day. And then, it began. The thinking, that is.

How soon time passes us by! It seems like just a few days ago when I joined the company. It's been over 7 years now !

The passage of time. It marvels me how each day passes by unnoticed. And before one realizes, months and years have silently flown past. All too sudden, one is on the death-bed, wondering if one's life was well-lived, well-loved and well-served.

Self-discipline is a key element in making life chart the course we want. Bernard Shaw said something to the tune of 'If you want life to take you where you want to go, you need to do the groundwork to make it happen. Else, be satisfied when life takes you where it wants to go, and don't complain'.

Procrastination is my evil twin. I have been planning my higher studies for so long that I can't even remember when it started. I'm still at zilch. While I watch my peers and juniors going places and feel jealous, I make promises that I'll get there myself. And then I conveniently forget about it.

The same happens when I see models on TV. I work out for two days, then stop - 'Where is the time?'

I'm not letting the vice outmaster me. One strategy that has worked for me is advance mental preparation. I set in my mind a date when I plan to work on X. I constantly remind myself about it. By D-day, I'm all set.
It's slow, but surely steady.

Signing off here with this quotation:
'In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves. Self-discipline with all of them came first."

-- Harry Truman, 33rd US President

PS : The clock in the photo is located at Kanazawa Station. It displays time via the control of the fountains behind it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Of Kaushambi Layek

Not feelin' very positive today, after reading this in the newsie this morning.

And now there's this theory by the police.

So many lives are lost everyday that we've stopped caring about death.

This piece of news brought with it a feeling of helplessness, maybe it's the organization-connection.

Like everything else in the world, this will be forgotten in a week or two, except by Kaushambi's close family - who worked behind the scenes to build up her career.

What made the nagging hurt worse was that I asked several people about this today at work, and apart from one, no one seemed to care about it - in spite of Kaushambi having worked with the company for two years.

Boy, that sucked.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Of bands

Yesterday was eventful at work.

Around noon, the office was full of hush-hush whispers.

'It's come !!!'

'Really ? Lemme go look!'

*giggles, squeals*

Phone calls to all people known and unknown - 'It came ! And it looks good. Yes, sure treat this evening saar !!!'


*sob followed by choice swearing*

'I'm gonna kill him one of these days'
'saala usko main...'

'I quit'

*severe banging of the telephone receiver, followed by throwing away anything in sight*

The cafeteria was full of 'Did you know what he got ? top band! ' followed by deeply inhaled gasps , 'Is he really that good? Maybe he just schmoozed adequately' and resigned sighs.

The annual appraisal ratings were out yesterday.

And yes, I called my mother to tell her the good news. Thank you, God !

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Of cheap publicity

It was with amusement that I read the 'vela special' edition of the local newsie on Apr 13, 2007.

The 'vela' is the annual festival in our local temple. It's a great opp for the locals to socialize, for those far away to re-unite and for the newly-rich to flaunt all their new toys.

Not long ago, our village - called Puthur - was a haven - a place where we actually felt like family. We had elderly people to approach when advice was required, friends to kill time with, and above all, our Goddess who kept us in good shape. Peace.

And then, time changed everything. Except the Goddess.

People went to the 'Gellf'. They built big houses and drove big cars. They stopped studying - why waste time when the oil mine spews cash? They drank expensive booze. They married rich women, who brought in more money. And all this sudden wealth had to be displayed. What better place to do so than at the temple, where everyone was sure to notice?

The latest cheap stunt was the material printed on the newspaper. Probably anticipating that noone would pay for material worth less than the paper it was written on, the proud fools distributed it for free.

The 2-sheet avatar of trash was covered with news about the local 'ungills'. Photographs of the authors - as big as the all-foam-and-no-beer articles themselves, competed for the reader's attention. To be fair, a couple of the articles were indeed scholarly. But for the most part, the paper had stupid rich men talking about the history of our village, the current who's who list, members of the temple committee - all stuffed up somewhere in the mess of carbon. Which was all good for publicity.

Except that they got all their facts wrong.

Anyone who lived the village for some time knew how well the articles were embellished. The boozers determined that their fellow boozers and their families were 'authentic' locals. The rich smugglers who donated more to the temple were the people to be proud of! And several not-so-vain families that had actually lived there for over a hundred years were quietly sidelined.

Hear this - someone donated Rs.35K to the temple for the festival. Another 'Gellfie' saw this and I guess his ego just underwent brain surgery - he ran back home, returned with Rs.55,555, and promptly donated the money.

Sometimes it makes me wonder how far people will go to get some attention. It is a universal truth that everyone wants to be loved and appreciated. But how ? And at what cost ?

I guess that's the problem with having no education. It shows up as a lack of culture and common sense. Noone in the village thought of getting somewhere on merit and earning publicity. All they could do, was to buy some really desperate journos and have them print utter nonsense. They even made God an instrument for their vanity ! How cheap is that ?!

Oh, and before I sign-off, here is another piece of trivia. The locally unemployed men - which includes most of the local men - are the largest supporters of the breweries in Kerala. No matter what the occassion, everyone boozes. People can be born or dead, married or divorced - let the booze flow, yeah !

The icing on the cake was when my grandfather expired a few years ago. As per our traditions, there is a ceremony on the 16th day of death, which helps the departed soul rest in peace. All the belongings of the deceased are disposed of, and it is a very sorrowful event. The catch is, it needs a 3rd-party to be present, someone who is not related to the deceased. We approached an elderly local, around 60 yrs old. He consented, and on the eve of the ceremony, he sent home a piece of paper - it simply said '12 bottles of chilled beer'.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Of emptiness

I have no idea where life is taking me.

Maybe I'm going places, or merely staying put. How do I know ?

The human mind is always ready to label events. We always want to know if something is good or evil, preferable or not. And my mind in all its ostentatious vanity has termed this feeling 'emptiness'.

Ah ! Wouldn't you know wiki had a page on emptiness? Numbness, that's what it is.

It all boils down to being bored at work, methinks. Somehow it's hardwired that work is everything - well, almost - and when there's nothing to learn, the inquisitive mind dies a slow, painful death. Add to it liberal scoops of schmoozing, sidelining and plain stupidity. Whoa - here's a winning combination for attrition !

That being said, the inquisitive mind looks for positive channels for output. Life is about stretching oneself to the level where one is uncomfortable - and then just a little more. So yours truly has been studying, taking tests and preparing for life beyond airconditioned offices.

Oh, and if you are yet to read 'Think and Grow Rich' by Napoleon Hill, please do so. In this time of mindless browns, this book is a much-needed Holi festival.

Stay positive, people !

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Of marriage

Back to blogging after a long hiatus. And with some really good news ! A close friend of mine got married recently. Umm...Correction - she re-married recently.
N is a phone buddy. We've been talking for several years
now. When we spoke first, she was newly married to someone. One could hear it in her voice. Evidently she found it hard to contain her excitement. And over a period of time, she withdrew into her shell, and refused to talk. One such quiet evening, she told me she was divorced.

I said all that a friend would say, and coaxed her to get back with him. She would not listen, and stayed single for almost a couple of years. All this while, our conversations would include her ubiquitous tip on why to never get married. Living hell, she would say.
And then she called me a week ago with this wonderful piece of news. Her new hubby is a doctor (what's this huge impression with the medical profession?), it's his first wedding, he's totally OK with her situation, and best of all, he is head over heels in love with her.
The difference in voice was obvious. She had gone back to her old excited self, with a tad of maturity thrown in.
Then she popped the million-dollar question - So A, when are you getting married ?
Before I could throw open my jaw in shock, she gave me a whole lecture on how one should not delay one's wedding.
Being single at 28 is a tough task in this country. People's imaginations run wild when they hear 'single', and almost instantaneously there are a hundred reasons in their minds as to why one should be so. Rather, it's treated as an illness. My previous landlord refused to lend me an apartment when he heard of my marital status - he actually thought I was in the trade!
A few months ago, I was on the lookout for an apartment, and contacted a real estate agent via the company. He turned out to be an old hag with an older scooter. The apartment is really close to the office, and he agrees to take me there on his motorized bicycle. In the course of conversation, I casually mention that I'm not married. He screeches the object to a halt and makes me follow him in an auto, leaving me speechless. Needless to say, I used the auto to return home.

And it does not end there,especially not in my village. My mother is now immune to the 'Is she not married yet?! My daughter who studied with her now finished two marriages and three children !' conversations. People want to know why, oh why I'm single. Maybe I have a boyfriend ?! Or worse, a girlfriend ?! A problem with my horoscope ?! Too much pride ?! Too little money ?! A black cat?! A torn t-shirt ?

Eyebrows rise the moment a bachelor walks into my apartment. Or when I crack some jokes with my guy friends. Or when I travel somewhere with them. Or even when I laugh out loud.

Lessons learnt :

1. Married bliss is definitely a perspective thing. The same person in two different relationships gives entirely different advice.

2. No matter how innocent or legitimate the reason for staying single, people refuse to listen. Not that it matters, though.

3. Married folks go green with jealousy when they see carefree singles. They just can't take it, hence they force the singles into a similar fate.

4. The song 'When I was single - my pockets would jingle -oh
I want to be single again' is true to the T. A lot of my married friends are bankrupt and have loans to pay for the next 20 years.

Three cheers to all the singles out there !

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Of death

It's amazing, this universe we live in. It goes thru so much change over time, but deep down at its core are the same driving principles - of virtue and vice, of love and hate, of action and inaction, of birth and death. Funny, they come in sets of two.

Death is a great leveller. It's cold. It's scary (heck - even the uber-brave Saddam Hussein was frightened when the noose was slowly tightened around his neck). There's this huge low that one goes thru when a loved one dies suddenly. It is even worse when that someone was strong-willed, and a wall of support during troubled times.

All humans are ditto at birth and death. Our puranas talk about three phases of human life - childhood, adulthood and old age. These three are indeed common to the whole universe, they are manifested as dawn, noon and dusk.

The Gita talks in detail about these three phases. In fact, this very fact is depicted everyday in the Guruvayoor temple (a famous temple for the Hindus of the world), where the Lord is dressed up as a boy in the morning, as an adult during noon, and as an old person in the evening. Each day is a new beginning, so the Lord goes thru these adornments everyday. No better manifestation of the
cycle of birth and death.

There are several theories about death. What happens when we die? Do we go straight to heaven/hell or do we pass thru steps in between? As per the Gita, the soul is ever-lasting and that the body is just an outfit to be used well and thrown away.

I do not know, and it does not matter to me what happens once I'm gone. What does matter is what I do while I'm here, how many smiles I cause, how many lives I make easier and how many people I care for. To me, a life without service of some kind to others is as bad as death itself.

No way I'm dying before time !

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Of purpose

Over the past few days(months, actually), I've been perplexed by the million-dollar question : What is the purpose of my life? What was I born to accomplish?

Well, if I knew the answer outright,
a) I'd be God
b) I wouldn't be so perplexed !

There's also the view that there is no such thing as purpose. And that we are here, so we might as well enjoy what's on offer.
The thiest in me refuses to believe this,though. Everything in the world is part of a grand plan by The One, and every leaf moves as per His will. However, that does not imply inaction - only selfless action.
Several self-help gurus have provided their points of view via their books/websites and blogs. Robin is one of them. James Allen is another, and his all-time classic 'As A Man Thinketh' is worth a million reads.
But guru or no guru, it boils down to coming as close to the answer as possible. One blog written by an award-winning scholar suggested that I randomly write out words for 20 minutes, and when I finally write out the words that make me cry, I'd have just written out my purpose.

I tried out the exercise, but it just made me fall asleep.
It has come to the point where I evaluate each day to see whether this has got me any closer to what God wants me to accomplish in this lifetime.
These days there is a lot of stagnation at work, and the feeling of being obsolete is so on-your-face that one can't ignore it. Maybe going back to school will help. If not anything else, it will open up a whole new avenue of responsibilities !
One thing that has helped is the Bhagavad Gita. It has all the advice any human being needs, at any point of time in life. Gandhiji attributes his success to it.
I'm nowhere close to the answer to my question. But one thing I do know - nothing beats the joy that comes by service to others.

The security guards at work are being taught spoken English. This morning, I helped one of them speak his first correct sentence in English.

The smile he gave me was priceless.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Of perspective

Driving in India is a skill to be acquired by continuous and careful practice. If you've never had to drive on Indian roads, thank your stars - lucky you ! But there are some souls like mine that have to endure this mini-test of human patience every morning.

I live in a residential area, so there's this 2 minute drive I need to do to get to the main road. This 2 minute stretch feels more like an hours' drive, simply due to the plethora of potholes on the way. Moreover the road is so narrow that 2 cars have to practically kiss each other's rear view mirrors to get thru.

Ah ! and it does not stop there. This teeny weeny little side road is full of twists and turns, and not a soul honks the horn when coming from the other corner. That way I do not know (until the guy's vehicle is a micrometer in front of mine, that is) that someone is coming from the other side.

If it's a bigger vehicle (like an SUV), one party has to reverse and let the other one get thru , which always happens to be me, because I have the smallest car in the Indian market.

Until a few days ago, this was a source of constant irritation for me. The fact that noone else obeyed the rules was annoying. Even more frustrating was the fact that there was nothing I could do about it, other than to reverse my car into ugly-looking side roads whenever required.

A close shave with one of these umm....'drivers' served to bring a dose of perspective. I panicked, and stepped on the gas instead of on the brake ! In a second, I was back to my usual self, and avoided a french kiss with a transformer.

Here is what the incident taught me :

0. Pray before thee starts driving.

1. Be prepared for vehicles to come in un-announced. If none appears, consider it a blessing !

2. Expect potholes, bigger vehicles, children jumping in front of the car, reversals into side roads and the worst of all, the big lorries that use up the whole road.

3. Whatever happens, do not panic.

4. If indeed you panic, do not open thy mouth.

5. NEVER lose thy cool on the road. Everyone makes stupid mistakes.

A problem is only as it big as we think it to be. I read somewhere a few days ago that a child was born without a face. Two eyes and a mouth, but no face ! Over a period of time, the child has learnt to live with it.

And here, I worry about reversing my car onto a side-road.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Of exams

Yours truly has a couple of exams to take over the coming weekends.

Made me wonder how taking an exam makes us think up strategies.
For now, I know I am going to attack the theoretical stuff first and then do the mathematical stuff later. The objective is to get the magical score of 80 on 200.

With a goal in sight, the mind conjures up different ways of achieving it, and the brain silts out the logical one.

We compromise. Then we plan how to justify the compromise. And then we compromise on that plan.

Jack Welch once said that learning a subject should be like tending to a farm. The sowing, the weeding, the plowing all need to be done at the right times, only then will the harvest be bountiful. You can't cram the farm !

If I were to own the farm, I'd do all that in the 11th hour and 59th minute. Thank God I'm not a farmer !

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Of 'small-L' leadership

Today's scribble is to honor Mayilamma. She passed away a couple of days ago.

The name doesn't ring a bell if one is not from Kerala. But in Kerala, she is known as the Dalit woman who made the multi-billion dollar Coke empire bow down on its knees.

Mayilamma lived in a rural place called Plachimada where Coke started one of its manufacturing plants. Which was fine, except for the fact that the factory needed to bottle 85 truckloads of Coke everyday. And that needed a lot of water.

All this water was being pumped up from the available earthwater, which left hardly anything for agriculture and drinking purposes. In return, the factory pumped out huge amounts of carcinogens into the soil, which polluted whatever little water was available.

Mayilamma was one of the residents impacted. She decided to do something about the health hazard and got people of her village together to protest against Coke's misdoings. What made it unique was that this woman had no education and no support from any political party.

But she did have one thing (and lots of it) - tenacity. Coke being Coke ignored her protests and the strike in front of the factory. Police was sent to beat up the crowds. But with true commitment to their purpose, the locals led by Mayilamma persisted.

By now Mayilamma was news. Her unique struggle caught the attention of BBC TV. People from UK came over and performed tests on the water in Mayilamma's well. The carcinogen level was found to be fatal.

To cut a long story short, the government (that too the Kerala governnment, one of the sleepiest on the planet) interfered after almost five years of her protest. And the Coke factory had to be shut down. It was the first time in its history that Coke had to shut down operations due to local protest.

Quite like David Vs Goliath.

Later on, the judiciary was well-'oiled' and the factory did resume operations, albeit with a strict warning and processes in place to not pollute the environment. The irony is that Mayilamma died partly due to the overdose of poison that Coke gave her for free in the water she was drinking everyday.

To me, Mayilamma symbolizes the real leader who knows what is right and moves heaven and earth to achieve it. She found a cause greater than herself, and gave her life for it. In fact, the lady was so publicity-shy that there is not even a decent picture of her on the internet.

I salute the un-dying conviction and persistence which got her the victory that she so deserved.

But then, who needs pictures when memories are deeply etched in the hearts of the many hundreds of families she saved ? Those never die.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Of sex

This analogy came from a dear friend of mine. Posting it here because it totally rocks !

'Sex is like ice-cream' says she. 'It is available all over the place, in more flavours than you can imagine. You've got to find the varieties you like, and you're better off sticking to them. It is equally important to try out a new flavour if it looks good to you. And remember not to eat too much of it too often, because that kills the joy it brings'.


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Of friendship

Been away awhile. Yours truly took part in a quiz competition held at work, and won an all-expenses-paid trip to another city. Cost-cutting set in, and our flight was reduced to a bumpy 12-hour overnight bus ride. The roads in India are more potholes than roads, so needless to say the night would be sleepless.

Many folks opted out of the trip, but I took it on as a challenge. Now, this is a city where I spent a few formative years of my career. There are a lot of people who nurtured me back then and made me the person I am today. A bumpy bus ride was a cheap price to pay for a chance to meet them again.

And meet them I did! I stayed with a close friend. Though we were meeting after several years, it was as if we never parted. We picked up where we left off. It was that instant connection we made. The hugs. The laughs. The conversations over cups of hot tea. The gifts we exchanged. The sharing of good and not-so-good news. The home-cooked meal she made for me - it had everything I liked. It wasn't the best meal I've eaten, but it was cooked for me. And that made all the difference.

With each friend, it was a trip through a different alley down memory lane. Many of them are now married and with children. It was wonderful to feel so loved. I have not felt so fully alive in years.

Made me wonder how important those human connections are. In today's world with its overdose of technology and gadgets (a colleague who sits right behind me at work sent me an email today asking if I had a pen to spare) we forget the importance of love towards a fellow human being. We forget that in times of dire need, it is the human who is more helpful than the device. It is incredible how a little quality time spent with loved ones can enhance one's mood and give a sense of purpose.

And like all good things in life, we need to continuously work on improving those skills. Day after day.

I'd do the bumpy bus ride a hundred times over. Just to re-live those moments.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Of Hope

What makes life so exciting is the fact that we are blissfully unaware of what could happen the very next moment. Depending on what actually happens in the next moment, we are quick to label our ignorance as blissful or disastrous.

Whether we admit it or not, we all keep the Faith, in some way or the other. It may be by being a regular at the local temple /church /mosque. Or, it may be by a secret prayer that we mutter before we take up anything important. It may be by that lucky pendant we wear on special occassions or even by that lucky dress that 'helped' us get through that crucial interview.

The funny thing about faith is that in the face of adversity it grows stronger. It helps us grow. It gives us the strength to bear the less-than-perfect times ahead.

And most of all it gives us something to look forward to. It gives us hope.

Here's hoping for a wonderful year ahead - where dreams come to life, where love, peace and prosperity abound, where the faith gives the strength to overcome our roadblocks and where the mind stays positive.

Happy New Year, people !