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 !