Friday, December 27, 2013

Wish list gifts for Junior's future

Courtesy of audfriday13
When it comes to gifts for Junior, the list starts with the usual suspects - from a gaming console to a remote operated two-feet long red Ferrari, from the long-pending European tour to the Ben 10 Ultimate Alien Games collection, from the obvious sounding investments on health and education to the mundane looking clothes and shoes. But since this is the season of wish lists, and perhaps for hard-to-fulfill resolutions, I let my imagination take the driving seat.

My wish list consists of the gifts ...

Of wisdom to make the right choices and confidence to own them up

Courtesy of jscreationzs
With each passing day, we see the list of choices in front of us increasing manifold. Be it for something as simple as "Which political party to vote for?", to something much more complex like "Which movie to watch, and in which theater?", the choices are endless, confusing and usually contradictory. Some times the choices turn out well, some times they flounder. We are the first ones to claim credit in case of the former, but do not hesitate in justifying and taking a step back in case of the later. Be that as it may, we must learn how to own them up and be accountable for the outcomes.

For those of you who are curious about the complex choice, here's the reason - yesterday, when we were at it, we took slightly less than the time taken by AAP to arrive at their decision to form a Government in Delhi, and still ended up watching Western Bank of Chicago go down, the misery compounded by the price of tickets having taken the Gold category reclining chairs, faulty air-conditioning and the more-than-required height of the chair in front ... you know how it feels, right?

    Of independence of thought and freedom of expression

    Everyone around talks about independence of thought and freedom of expression. Many more make a mention of rights and how fundamental they are to our existence today. The empowered lot comes with the all important issue-based external support. Indeed, these are certain aspects of life that will come naturally to the enlightened generation Junior belongs to. But with this, like the all pervasive "Buy One, Get One Free" offers this shopping season, I would add a few freebies.

    • With independence of thought comes the accompaniments of responsible actions
    • With freedom of expression comes the sense of accountability and reasonableness
    • With rights comes the obvious obligation of duties
    • With empowerment comes the acknowledgement of existence of the not-so-empowered-ones

    And to accompany this heavy duty list, Junior gets to download the latest version of Angry Birds for FREE! Hmm, that makes it a better deal, isn't it? Much like the Indian batsmen in South Africa getting a full toss in a Dale Steyn over!!

    Of developing a constructive hobby

    Courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young
    Many of us collected stamps and coins when we were kids. Then we moved on to comics when we grew a bit older. Cricket came the next, followed by creating multiple New Folder's when computers came in. Replace these with cars, music, travel, painting to the more exotic ones like photography, robotics, artificial intelligence, trekking and so on. We essentially found some default activities to keep ourselves busy and engaged. Then there are a few like yours truly who developed a hobby because it was essential for clearing the MBA entrance interviews.

    I believe Uncle Google is more capable of explaining the importance of having a hobby. However, this gift finds a place in my list because this is where Junior will see a rare similarity in suggestions and advice from Daddy Dear and Mommy Dearest.

    Going by what Ernest Hemingway says about books - "There is no friend as loyal as a book." - I believe reading is one good choice that Junior must make when it comes to hobbies.

    Of loving life as it comes

    When life in general has become too competitive, full of daily struggles, it is becoming increasingly important for all of us to love it as it comes. There are just too many variables in our lives to worry about. The short life we have should be lived to its fullest (I know this is easier said than done).  

    Here's quoting Polish pianist Arthur Rubinstein -
    “I have found that if you love life, life will love you back. Of course there is no formula for success, except perhaps an unconditional acceptance of life, and what it brings.”
    Of being a good human being

    We live in a world where basic values like compassion and kindness are often derided upon, and hence are on the back burner. We tend to forget that these two are easy steps towards personal happiness and success ... the be all and end all of individual existence today. I would also borrow from my too-good-to-be-true perfect-world wish list and add the following:

    • Being dutiful towards society
    • Being loyal towards friends
    • Being affectionate towards fellow human beings
    • Being thankful towards parents

      This post is a part of the 1001 Gifts Activity by HDFC Life in association with BlogAdda

      Tuesday, December 3, 2013

      Gems from Junior - Bonding with Daddy Dear

      Junior continues his tryst with innocence. This time the target was Daddy Dear. During one of those Daddy-Junior bonding sessions, when Junior took a break from watching Doraemon and Chhota Bheem showing their prowess, and was, for a change, not interested in scoring more high scores on his tablet, he unknowingly pulled a fast one on Daddy Dear.

      Junior: (After a long observation of Daddy Dear's receding hairline) "Daddy, why do you have so less hair on your head?" (Moving his little fingers in his 'overdue-for-a-barber-visit' jungle) "See, I have so much hair that my fingers get lost in them."

      Image courtesy of jscreationzs /
      Daddy: "When I was a small kid like you, even I had a lot of hair on my head Junior. But ..."

      Junior: "But what Daddy?"

      Daddy: (Moving his hand on the head, and thinking of taking advantage of Mommy's absence from the scene) "Junior, this happened because Mommy gives me a lot of trouble. I have started losing my hair now.

      Junior: (Scratching his head) "But why does Grandma give you trouble? Doesn't she love you?"

      (It was Daddy Dear's time to scratch his head. It didn't cross Junior's mind that it was his (Junior's) Mommy who was Daddy Dear's target.)

      Similar session with Junior a few days back left me speechless. It was another day without Mommy around!

      Daddy: "Junior, it is 5:00 PM. Come on, milk time."

      Junior: "No Daddy! I don't want to have milk."

      Daddy: "But how will you grow big and strong if you don't drink milk?" (And this was followed by the usual arguments and counter arguments on milk)

      Image courtesy of marin /

      Junior: (Finally relenting to Daddy's persistence, but with some mischief in his mind) "OK, I will take a glass of milk. But you will have to put one extra spoon of Bournvita.

      Daddy: (Closely observing Junior's expressions, figuring out that there was more to come) "And?"

      Junior: "And, you too have a cup of coffee."

      Daddy: "But I don't like having coffee alone. I always have it with Mommy."

      Junior: "You are not alone Daddy. I am here. Won't you give me company?"

      Daddy: (Speechless)

      Tuesday, November 26, 2013

      Winning gracefully?

      The world of Chess witnessed a generation change a few days back. Although the new champion was ranked number one in the world for some time now, the crown officially came to him after he challenged and defeated the current world champion, Viswanathan Anand, last week. Whether this is an end of an era (as so many newspapers shouted out aloud) or not, the world of sports has definitely lost a little bit of humility and politeness. In an interview where he braved questions by the dozen and posed almost endlessly for shutterbugs (this is what our newspaper informed us), the new champion gave us all a glimpse of what lies ahead.

      Some excerpts ...

      On Anand and the Candidate's Tournament:

      "...  if he manages to keep his motivation after this match he will still be a force to reckon with."

      On what he has learnt from Anand:

      "In this match I showed him in a way that although he's taught me many things in the past, it's probably now my turn to teach him. So, it's safe to say I've surpassed him now."

      On role played by age and psychology during the match:

      "Age was partly a factor. I could also sense that he was nervous and vulnerable. But regardless of everything else, he just lost to a better player."

      On next year's title match:

      "I don't think it's my duty to think who will play against me, it should in fact be the other way round. My opponents will have to figure out how to deal with me. I think I will be the man to beat for quite some time now."

      Huh!! Just saw the little birdie whisper in the winner's ears that winning gracefully makes champions out of mortals ...

      Monday, October 14, 2013

      Writing Prompt - Mark coming to India ...

      Friends, a little birdie whispered in my ears yesterday that Mark is coming to India. That we need to decide what he should know about our country, and perhaps what he shouldn't, makes the news a bit more interesting! You will ask me "Who is Mark, and why are we spending time on him?" Well, to me he is yet another foreigner who plans to visit India enamored with what Wikipedia or Youtube would have told him, or perhaps somebody whose great grand father would have written stories about this being a land of snake charmers when he was posted here in early twentieth century. I wonder whether his opinion about Indian women is drawn from his experience of sharing multiple cups of coffee with the pretty software engineer sitting in the cubicle next to him, or may be by closely following Indian women on the numerous beauty contests where they give good-to-the-ear answers to some mundane questions.

      Be that as it may, I would like to spend time on answering these questions just because Mark will go back from my country as one of the many ambassadors who will tell everybody the truth on what this country is all about, based on his own first-hand experiences. And for this very reason, for every 'Yes, it is true that ...' about India, he should also know 'However, it is the same country where ...'. In short, rather than being told what India is, I would rather have him explore the country, by giving him an opportunity to observe both sides of the coin.

      And this is where my words take over my thoughts ...

      Yes, it is true that something abominable happened in New Delhi in the month of December last year and once again in Mumbai earlier this year. However, it is the same country where not one, not two, but eight banks and financial institutions are headed by women today and where we have woman chief ministers governing different states all over the country. Call it empowerment, call it equal opportunity ... the fact is that this is happening.

      Yes, it is true that a certain state went through some communal riots between the two predominant communities a few weeks back. However, it is the same country where during natural calamities, it is these very communities who go beyond their ways and means to help each other survive nature's wrath. Be it the floods in Mumbai, or the earthquake somewhere else. I am sure Mark will be able to get so many of those stories online.

      Yes, it is true that a few weeks back, a certain politician called her state a colony of India. However, it is the same country that around the same time celebrated India's Independence Day with a great amount of pride, with perhaps people from her own state participating in the festivities.

      Yes, it is true that there are "empowered" sections of society in our country who think first about their rights, much before their duties and responsibilities. However, it is the same country where there are scores of examples of "not-so-empowered" sections of society who do not even think about their rights without fulfilling their duties.

      Yes, it is true that many people today are getting ready to open their wallets for retail therapy, it being the festive season, and indulge themselves in all sorts of luxuries, with focus on materialistic pleasures. However, it is the same country where we see people not do these very things during certain fifteen days of the year, and spend time remembering their ancestors, in a way living in their pasts and thinking about their futures.

      Yes, it is true that there are many cities in the country where you can actually collect so much water in the potholes on the roads that the water problem of the entire country can be solved. However, it is the same country where we see such engineering marvels like the railways in the Himalayas or Konkan, or whose scientists and engineers have shown their mettle in space science, nuclear physics and information technology, or for that matter, since we are talking about roads, come up with high quality infrastructure like Yamuna Expressway or Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

      Yes, it is true that this is the country whose slums formed the background of a recent Oscar-winning movie. However, it is the same country that has also provided a far more enriching background to numerous authors of best-selling books like the one about the monk and his Ferrari! Please ask Thomas Friedman who told him the world is flat?

      Yes, it is true that the interference of politics in sports administration of the country has led to its suspension from the Olympics movement. However, it is the same country that has given birth to numerous sportsmen and sportswomen who have made a mark in their field of choice in spite of the presence of these administrators, fighting against all odds. Mark would remember Mary Kom's interview on BBC last year.

      Coming back to Mark's visit, I believe he has inadvertently chosen the best time to visit us. Be it festivals of all the major religions the country is going to celebrate, be it the dance of democracy we are going to witness in the month of November, the long-awaited retirement of Sachin and well-timed retirement of Rahul ... he will experience all the facets of the country that is India, with Indians showing all kinds of emotions to the whole world. If he wants to take back a true picture of the country, he must observe all this, and more.

      With these thoughts in my mind, I sat down to write the mail to Mark, to welcome him to the land of curious contradictions and interesting conundrums, asking him for his flight details and giving him strict instructions on when exactly should he give me a 'missed call'  ...


      P.S. Thanks Preeti for the special mention of my entry in your blog.

      Sunday, September 29, 2013

      Gems from Junior - Tablet, et al

      Junior ... one thing that keeps on changing almost everyday. At the same time, one thing that keeps on constantly giving us reasons to smile every now and then. His one liners are more precious than the hidden treasure at the end of the rainbow. The innocent smile ... even more innocent language usage ... and the most innocent interpretations. One bomb from him in the morning is enough to make your day ... another bomb in the evening will make you forget the much needed salary hike you are not going to get because of the economy.

      A few days back, on observing his Mommy sitting on the sofa, with red watery eyes, Junior approached her with a worried expression on his face.

      Junior: "Mommy, what happened to you? Why are you crying? Are you missing Daddy?"

      Mommy: "I am not crying Junior. I am not feeling well. I am having a headache."

      Junior: (With his hands already moving through Mommy's hair) "You want me to give you a good massage on your head?" And then came up with all the options he had in his small but sharp memory to take care of the head ache. Finally, Mommy had to give him an option ...

      Mommy: "Thanks Junior! Can you please get me the tablet that I have kept on the table? It is blue in color."

      Junior: (Getting lost in the books kept on the table) "Just a minute Mommy! I can not find it. There are so many books on the table. I remember keeping the tablet here yesterday evening."

      And then he comes with something much bigger than what Mommy expected in his hands, and said ...

      Junior: "Mommy, here you go.", handing over the tablet to her. "But you said it is blue in color. You forgot that our tablet is black in color. Ha ha ha!" And with that innocent triumphant smile, he switched the tablet on, and said - "Tell me which game would you like to play?" Mommy dear would have instantly forgotten about her head ache!

      Saturday, September 14, 2013

      An eventful journey ...

      Tangy Tuesdays
      (This post has been selected by blogadda for its Tangy Tuesday Picks on September 17, 2013)

      Recently, I traveled to and fro between the financial capital and the IT capital of the country. Since I belong to that rare species of people who still do not own one of those phones, the next best thing I could do on both legs of the journey was to keep myself busy doing something I love to do ... observe people around. And boy, it was fun doing that after a long time!

      It was nice to see that while ensuring they respond to the all important sound of a water droplet or the 'melodious' whistle (if you don't know what these sounds are, welcome to my side of the mobile phone divide ... these are the most common message tones on those phones I have heard), people were still engaged in one of those actions fast becoming extinct - conversing with each other face-to-face. Needless to say, every conversation was enriching enough to make my trip successful. Then there were some, who didn't converse at all. But more on that later.

      Taking a step back ... almost every other person I come across now a days feels he / she is smart just because the 'big as a calculator' phone is their constant companion, when the reality is that their credit card company offered them the EMI option to purchase one, making them shell out that amount of money in this downturn. Is that being smart? Perhaps yes, because the lady in my house owns one. Or is it just a herd mentality? But the herd would then be too big to be called just a herd. Better still, is it a successful marketing strategy? May be yes. Ask the company who used to enjoy Connecting People. Any ways, let's have a look at a few episodes.

      Gentleman in a hurry:

      I was standing at the security-check when I suddenly heard a noise coming from the next queue. A gentleman was in a hurry to catch his flight, and was running late. Looking at his swollen eyes and unkempt hair, I assumed it was party time for him the previous night. Without bothering to seek permission from the 20 odd people who bothered to arrive on time, or even ahead of time, he jumped the queue and approached the security person. When a couple of people confronted him and raised their voice, he simply refused to show even an iota of politeness and continued giving them stares, with certain four-letter words thrown in to improve everybody's appetite (or indigestion, whichever way you look at it). Unfortunately, the security person allowed him to go ahead, in spite of the ugly scene he had created.

      While he was putting back his jacket, I saw a sentence written on his t-shirt: "Politeness, n: The most acceptable hypocrisy."

      Family on vacation:

      While waiting at the terminal for boarding, a family of five came and occupied the seats next to me. To me, they were on their way to a vacation, what with the youngest of the lot making a public announcement of the same every now and then. The oldest of the lot, the gentleman, must be in his early fifties, totally engrossed in an overseas phone call with a business partner, discussing the technicalities of a proposal. He would have repeated it at least thrice in the conversation that the business partner should feel free to call him any time of the day. Presumably, the partner on the other side was vehemently opposing that, wanting our friend to enjoy the vacation.

      Then there was the lady of the family who was busy answering to the water droplets, with a gentle smile of satisfaction on her face every time the message was sent before the other person got a chance to create another droplet. Nice little competition going on ... all set for the vacation. She was accompanied on the next seat by her son, busy playing a war game on his hand-held device. Every time he killed the enemy or destroyed one of the tanks, he shouted loudly, tore apart the newspapers kept next to him, and threw it all around. His sister, who was little less restless than him, was lost in her own little world, with headphones in her ears, with another small device lost somewhere in the big jacket she was wearing.

      The little one kept on tugging his vacation partners one by one, trying to attract their attention. Finally getting exasperated, he took out a small car from his own cabin bag, and started playing with it. I believe still some more time for him to get hooked on to his own device ...

      Snack time:

      It was time for some snacks (yes the same packets of potato chips and cookies for which they charge almost thrice the MRP).

      - "But I had just ordered a cup of coffee. You can not just say that you need to first serve meal to the old a**."

      Air Hostess - "I am sorry sir. May I please request you to refrain from using abusive language. The gentleman is on medication and my staff wanted to help him on priority."

      Gentleman - "Look, don't tell me what is right and what is wrong. I am in a hurry and don't need your lecture. I need to get back to my presentation. And I can not work on that without my cup of coffee."

      Air Hostess - "Please accept my apologies sir. I will have my colleague to get you your coffee. Please give me 2 minutes."

      - "I don't care about your apologies, and don't care whether somebody is on medication or not. If the old man is really in need of urgent medication, he should travel with someone to take care of his needs. What I know is that I am a frequent flier of your airline, and I expect my needs to get higher priority. Either get me my coffee right away, or start worrying about your job."

      And so on it went for another 10 minutes. Wonder what happened to his presentation. Was it his sense of entitlement that made him behave the way he did?

      Fortunately, the gentleman awaiting some help in his medication got it on time.

      When it was time to disembark the aircraft, I saw the gentleman wearing a beautiful, seemingly costly, waist belt. On it, was written in bold - Being Human!

      Sleep time ... I mean, snack time ... oh, I am confused:

      Some more fun at snack time. Just when the lady on 28D wanted to bring the tray down and open her box of Punjabi Samosa and a can of diet coke, our friend on seat 27D decided to take a nap, and bring her seat back.

      Gentleman - "Friend, can you please be a bit a careful while bringing the seat back? I almost had the entire coke on my lap."

      Specimen (removing her head phones, and turning back) - "Excuse me! I couldn't hear you."

      Gentleman - "My dear friend, I requested you to be a bit careful while bringing your seat back."

      Specimen - "It is none of my business sir. If you are having your food, it is your head ache how you keep your stuff safe. Why should I be careful?"

      Gentleman - "Well, we could do with a bit of courtesy here."

      Specimen (a bit louder) - "Are you traveling by air for the first time? Looks like that's the case. I suggest if you want to have ample amount of space for yourself while traveling, you better opt for a train. Air travel is not meant for people like you. It is my seat, and I will take it back as and when I want."

      There we go again! With some amount of persuasion by the specimen's family members (must be an embarrassing experience for them), and a greater amount of restraint shown by the gentleman who knew from his experience that withdrawing from the matter was a better option, the fun stopped.

      First time traveler:

      I was sitting on seat no. 31C. On seat 30A, 30B and 30C was a family - husband, wife and a kid. From what I heard, or shall I say over-heard, it seemed to me that the kid was flying for the first time. As was bound to happen, she started asking many questions about almost anything and everything around. When she asked her father about the round button on the handle, he gave her a demo of what it could do. As soon as the seat went backwards, she said - "Daddy, why do they have so little space between the seats? If you take your seat back, it will hurt the old Granny sitting behind you." Someone indeed needs to take lessons on being human or courtesy from this kid!

      After a while, the air hostess started giving safety instructions and was making various hand movements to show the exit doors. The first-timer promptly shouted at her - "My teacher will punish you." On being asked the reason, she innocently said - "You are not doing your exercise properly. After bringing both your hands forwards, you should take both of them above your ahead. But you are doing it all wrong."

      Somebody has rightly said - "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."

      Sunday, June 16, 2013

      Of humility and humiliation

      Just read about someone who has decided to move on in life. So, what's new in that? So many people decide to do that every day. What was interesting were the reasons that person chose and the kind of adjectives that were used. Again, nothing new in that. But that piece of megalomaniacal gibberish coming from the loudmouth made me think, and think, and think.

      For such people, it has become so easy to just move on in life, in the process distancing oneself from the ownership of the results of one's actions. A genuine concern shown by a genuine well-wisher feels unreal. In fact, the concern feels real till the time it doesn't pose some uncomfortable questions. Beyond that, it is all downhill. This is not because the concern is fake; it is because the nincompoop doesn't deserve to be shown such a concern. His inflated ego stops him from distinguishing between real and fake. Such a person can not think beyond self and takes on the mistaken identity of being unassuming and modest. This, when he has not achieved anything remarkable in his own life. Whatever he has, is either much more than what is deserved or much before when it is due. And of course, in a few cases, achieved through not-so-appropriate means. The humble background is conveniently forgotten and the person shamelessly basks in the self-proclaimed glory brought by materialistic possessions, bereft of the realization that this self-aggrandizement is nothing but a mask put on his pusillanimity.

      Incorrigible narcissists like these are so infatuated with themselves and their own well-being that they just forget looking at an issue from the other person's point of view. They are so self-centered that irrespective of what the people around them feel, they just move on in life, without understanding that the sense of happiness and contentment they display is so fake. It is unsustainable and weak because its foundation is built on a debris of the trampled feelings of others. The indifference shown for the well being of others is termed as modern way of thinking and is repeatedly justified by calling it "independence of thoughts". They have this false sense of superiority which they carry around with an equally unrealistic attitude. It becomes all the more laughable when this is based on half-baked, half-cooked experiences. No wonder it is said that incomplete knowledge is more dangerous than no knowledge. The kind of analogies they bring in their conversations are devoid of logic and reasoning, and are merely avoidable intrusions that reflect nothing but stupidity and inexperience.

      Rather than being thankful to Him by being responsive and responsible to the people around, the only feeling such incorrigible narcissists and intruding nincompoops have about the folks around is pity, when the same feeling is better suitable to be had for them, not by them. Humility shown in front of such people will always result in only one thing - humiliation.

      Wednesday, March 27, 2013

      Now that it is five years ...

      If wishes were flying horses, I would have been on the moon by now. But in reality, wishes are what they are - wishes! When one is given a license to write about them, the license is used in totality. And of course, anything and everything when used without control stands a chance of getting into the realm of dreams, out of the purview of reality. Yes, probably I have learnt some thing from the infallible realists around me.

      Well, now that we have spent five years together, the reality of many of the experiences of the first meeting I shared earlier have seen the light of the day. Still, those special moments remain special. One can not dilute the feeling (or shall I say "should not") by any means, be it due to the efforts put by the infallible realists, the questioning pragmatists or the inexperienced intruding nincompoops. Reality check or not, the wish I began with, of living those moments with her once again, stands firm.

      And the reality check begins ...

      That doubled heart-beat while waiting for her was then in anticipation of a lot of things relevant for that occasion; the doubled heart-beat today is in anticipation of a lot of things relevant after five years. What will be the next topic for fighting? When will the next shopping list come out? When will the next uncomfortable question be popped? When will we go to the much awaited vacation? Get the hang?

      That bewildered cum astonished expression on her face had nothing to do with punctuality. It was probably much beyond just bewilderment. I was successful in giving her a reason which she uses to pull my leg even today ... the way I was standing on the footpath, leaning against the wall, with one leg pulled upwards resting at a right angle to the wall, looking at people (read "girls") coming and going, checking the time every now and then, would have reminded her of some other "professional".

      That feeling of discomfort when she looked at me from top to bottom was not going to be the first time. I can bet it can happen so easily even today. The "top-to-bottom" movement of her eyes was the next step to the astonishment experienced earlier. She was probably finding it too difficult to fathom how one particular color of clothing was going well with the other. She was trying to figure out the relevance of the phrase on the t-shirt. Most importantly, she was trying to find how was that an appropriate attire for the occasion?

      That gentle movement of her knee-length hair is now a thing of past. They have been cut short to half the length, and of course the absence of hair on my own head has increased doubly fast. No prizes for guessing the right reason ...

      That soft and gentle "sorry" was definitely not for the accidental touching of hands. It was her way to set the expectations right ... set her expectations from me right! By the way, was that the last soft and gentle "sorry" I heard for a long time to come?

      That desire of getting lost in the expressive eyes surfaces only if they try to express what they did that day, or what I felt they did that day. And hence, the desire continues to be in the dream world. Come on, love at first sight can not happen twice.

      That looking at each other for more than 3 seconds continuously was then for the first time for me. I had not done that even once before that day, and I better dare not do that even once after that day. I am still repenting for doing it the first time ...

      That "no" for eating anything was not because I did anything wrong. It was simply a lack of matching interest in the f-word - "food". That should have been a lesson well learnt that it is not something that equally excites everyone in the world. So, there is no need to attach the "no" with anything else. But, not all four-letter words (for example "food") are bad, aren't they?

      That slight giggle while I was placing the order was not because I stammered. It was because I mispronounced a word and used another word in the sentence inappropriately. Oh God! Was that my first lesson in understanding the importance of "communication"? Wonder how do people having no knowledge of each other's language manage? To this, somebody pointed out that famous saying about there being a will and a way. Apt!

      That sudden blush was not because she found my ears funny ... it was because of an unexpected intrusion in our meeting. And by the way, if not ears, she does find the body parts between my ears funny. Most definitely the internal one that lies on the line of least distance drawn between the two, and as per her own admission, the external one, that lies on the line connecting the two towards the front of the face.

      Thursday, February 28, 2013

      When will we learn our lessons?

      Courtesy of jscreationzs
      Comparing our life-styles and thought processes with that of the western world is more of a daily affair for many of us. However, three specific incidents in the last few days have made me think about this much more than I used to do earlier. Not exactly "out-of-the-world" incidents, but definitely ones that prick you in a wrong direction. These were occasions when I observed people around me trying to do exactly the same things what the western world would have been fond of doing a few decades back. Same aspects of life where they would have experienced pain, learnt their lessons, incorporated changes, and moved along. Like many cyclical things in life, they have crossed the "peak" of the curve and are seeing the downtrend, like the red one on the right, and we, as starters on the trajectory have just started climbing the curve upwards, like the green one. We are living in interesting times when the two curves are meeting, and probably conflicting with each other, very frequently.

      On the first occasion, I was interacting with a colleague of mine who was perfoming the role of a client representative on the one hand, and coordinating with my team on the deliverables on the other hand. More importantly, he was at least a few time zones behind us. When we were deciding the time for our daily catch up calls, my Indian colleague said - "Peter, I am fine with the daily update call any time till 10:30 PM IST." To this, Peter replied - "That's not done! Please suggest a more suitable time. I do NOT want you to compromise with your family time. This project is not more important than our families." And no, the project was not an insignifcant one ... we were discussing a deal with huge potential earnings. So here we are ... trying to be more "professional" and "flexible", trying to show others that we are so "committed" to the client, probably trying to go one step beyond what many of us have seen the same people on the other side of the wall do for so many years. Now that they have realized, or let me say some of them have realized, the importance of work-life balance and the need to know where to draw the line, we are trying to catch up with their older avatars.

      Another occasion, another country, same experience. We were having a teleconference meeting with a colleague managing a global leadership role. There were participants from at least four other countries, from four different time zones. Right in the middle of the meeting, this colleague announced that she was walking out of the meeting for 15 minutes. The reason - she had to pick up her kid from the school bus. I am sure we will think twice before doing this. In our part of the world, this probably would be called unprofesional and not being serious about the job. Folks around will say, or so we believe, that we do not go the extra mile and that we are not ambitious. How many organizations around us accept "taking the kid out for a dental checkup" as a valid reason to skip a meeting? Of course, before we label this colleague with one of these adjectives, I would like to point out that she ensured her absence does not take the meeting off the agenda.

      One last incident ... this happened last week, or shall I say weekend. In spite of trying to ensure that all the deliverables are in place well before time, all of us would vouch for the fact that on some occasions, especially in short duration projects, we need to stretch, probably getting into the weekend. When this became inevitable last Friday, the senior manager from yet another country, had to build one big story around why this has become necessary, and that it was in nobody's hands. He actually apologized while requesting all the team members to work on the weekend. He even thanked the entire team (and the families) for the weekend efforts in the concluding mail after the project got over. I can not imagine this thought process being replicated here ... it will be "expected" from you to work on weekend. It is an unwritten rule and an integral part of being professional, right?

      Courtesy of Stuart Miles /
      If we learn these "best practices" from them, why not learn the "true" best practices after they have been refined by their experience over the years? Are we waiting for the "peak" of the curve to arrive before going downwards, or can we try our bit to reach a lower peak and avoid the fall steep? Is joining the rat race the only option available to us? Why is adding the number of zeroes one of the most important objectives of our lives ... why not adding an equal number of smiles a part of that list? Is being professional a more important goal to achieve than being human?

      Tuesday, January 15, 2013

      Writing Prompt - "I wish I had one more chance to ..."

      After having a wonderful experience of responding to writing prompt no. 4 being hosted by Preeti Shenoy, I could not stop myself from taking it up once again this week. It is a great experience to see how different people think differently about such commonly used phrases.

      The prompt this week is "I wish I had one more chance to ...". And here we go ...

      I wish I had one more chance to live the moments when I met her for the first time.

      Like it happens with many of us, I have also gone through the process of Googling to find my life partner. This too was one of those meetings when both of us decided to meet and to know each other better, where else but at Cafe Coffee Day.

      [As a side thought, I wonder why does CCD not get into a joint venture or launch a co-branded credit card with the matrimonial portals. I am sure there are many would-be (and could-have-been) couples who visit CCD for this purpose multiple times, with the same or a different companion, and will feel obliged (pun intended) if they save some money (and earn some loyalty points / cash back) in case their repeated attempts fail. After all, there is something positive in everything.]

      Anyways, a lot happened over coffee that day that I wish I experience once again! I wish I had one more chance ...

      ... to once again experience the almost doubled heart-beat in anticipation - in anticipation of meeting her for the first time and finding out how does she talk, how does she smile, how does she look in flesh and blood (as against those photo shopped pictures shared as a part of the customized proposal package), and of course wondering if she is the one?

      ... to once again see that bewildered cum astonished expression on her face - when she saw me waiting for her ... wasn't it too early for her to know the importance I give to punctuality?

      ... to once again experience the feeling of discomfort - when every time she looked at me from top to bottom - was she checking whether all my limbs are in the right place, in the right shape and of right size?

      ... to once again look at the gentle movement of her knee-long hair - while walking towards the cafe, from left to right, left to right ... or was I probably thinking that this will supplement my lack of hair on the head?

      ... to once again hear that soft and gentle "sorry" - when her hands accidentally touched mine while opening the door of the cafe - wonder if it was actually an accident?

      ... to once again get lost in her expressive eyes - do I want to bet that the beautiful eyes were expressing love at first sight?

      ... to once again get mesmerized by her intoxicating smile ... when we looked at each other continuously for more than 3 seconds for the first time - what an experience? I had never done that before. 

      ... to once again get the feeling in my heart when she said a "NO" for eating anything - did I do anything wrong? 

      ... to once again let the heart sink on knowing she doesn't like tea - and, there go my romantic dreams of having a cup of steaming tea, sitting in the balcony, enjoying the cool breeze (ok, not so romantic for all you beer guzzlers)

      ... to once again feel uncomfortable when she slightly giggled while I was placing the order - well, this was bound to happen when you stammer in front of her 

      ... to once again be a witness to her sudden blushing while looking right next to my eyes - did she find my ears funny? too big? too small?

      I wish I had one more chance to live all these moments ... to once again meet her for the first time!!

      P.S. Keeping in mind the result from last week (hurray!!!! and thanks to Preeti once again), I would like to take myself out of the contest this time. This post is just to experience being a part of the exercise once again.

      Friday, January 11, 2013

      New Year driving resolutions

      Image courtesy of FrameAngel /
      I know I am already late in penning down my driving resolutions for 2013, what with 725 km already covered on the wheels (25 out of these on 3 wheels because of the potholes), around 35 liters of subsidized diesel already up in smoke (does that fuel average indicate "Regular maintenance of my car" should be there in my list?) and the monkey on my desktop calendar pointing his finger towards the 11th day of the year with a stupid grin on his face. But thanks to my boss (yes, being "thankful" to the boss is a nice New Year resolution to have), I am right on time in breaking one of the resolutions. Not too early, or too late, depending upon your own track record ... 

      Here we go with what I intend to do, or not do, on the roads this year ...

      Do not overtake from left:

      On the roads where the heaviest and the slowest moving vehicles always take the right-most lane, where the cyclists and pedestrians refuse to use the lanes so lovingly carved out by the government exclusively for them, and where the big public transport monster always crosses you when you are sure even a dog can not pass through the gap, it comes as a culture shock for somebody like my father, who has always diligently followed all the traffic rules, to even think of overtaking from the left. His agony multiplies a 100 times when the offender is you, and you get "that" stare (you know what I mean) back from him. So, the next time when Chunnu Munnu De Papa Kee Gaddi, with those steel rods hanging ominously half-way out of the truck, is trudging along in the fast-lane, you, with your Papa in the car, decide not to overtake from the left, and wait for the truck driver to let you go from the right, when the opportunity comes. When that opportunity doesn't come for the next 1.5 kms, and it is already time for your Papa to see Arnab asking nation's questions to the hapless whatevers, you get a gentle nudge from your left side to break the rule. Phew! What 30 years of nagging by his better half could not do has been accomplished in a day by Chunnu Munnu's Papa.

      Image courtesy of Naypong /
      Be polite and gentle towards the "lesser mortals" on the road:

      Well, this doesn't come easily to someone who has always seen motorists considering the roads as their own property, and refusing to share the ownership with anyone else, least of all the lesser mortals like pedestrians or the law abiding citizens. But this all changed, when I went to another country a few days back and observed the kind of respect these lesser mortals get in a country which may be the size of my city, when I count the number of people, and the size of my company, when I count the number of registered vehicles in the country. And mind you, I am not even talking about a typical developed country - I believe their GDP will be the sum total of the annual CTCs of all the readers of this blog put together.

      One fine morning, we were cruising at around 90 kmph and discussing about the latest scandal in which a senior minister was involved (well, not all things in that country are different). To my horror, my cab driver suddenly applied the brakes, waived gently at a pedestrian standing calmly on the foot path, and requested him to cross the road before he could even put his foot back on the accelerator. Similarly, I was taken aback when he gently blew his horn to acknowledge the other driver for letting him take a U-turn (and NOT for "shouting" at him - the purpose we usually use the horn for). Almost unheard of in our part of the world. It brought me to tears, and I felt like kicking myself black and blue, recalling the kind of atrocities the pedestrians back home have to face because of drivers like me. When I shared the reason of my uneasiness with the cab driver (of course, on being asked), he was astonished to hear that the first right to walk on the road in our country doesn't belong to the poor pedestrian!

      Image courtesy of digitalart /
      Do not start ignition before the red light changes to amber:

      With the amber signal almost becoming non-existent in my city (even if they are present, they are sparingly followed or used because the signal changes from red directly to green), I am sure many of the motorists around would have experienced this. You are standing first in the queue on a red signal. As soon as the timer starts inching towards 10s, and you do not show any inclination to make a move forward, even a tenth of a mm, the rest of the motorists, with far more urgent work than you have, will start honking. It starts with a small sound some 150m behind you, and becomes a cacophony in 2s. And it will reach a crescendo even before the timer has crawled to 5s. Do they feel you are actually enjoying a picnic standing first in that queue? I some times feel like getting down from my car, and sitting right there in front of the queue, refusing to budge till the signal turns red once again.

      Do not stare back:

      Don't worry, I am still sticking with my driving resolutions, and am not copying the third bullet point from my answer to the question "How to make your spouse happy?" Not staring back at the traffic offender is something I learnt the hard way while driving to my kid's school a few days back. A typical case of a stupid driver (it is never our mistake, is it?) overtaking from the wrong side, giving me a mouthful when it was he who almost added one more dent on my already bruised 7-year old car. As usual, I stared back at the bike driver, all ready with my retorts, having no idea that he was wearing a familiar looking head band, the pillion rider was holding a big flag with a ferocious looking animal on it - I bet I am not challenging you to identify their political affiliations - accompanied with 10 more samples, I mean drivers, behind him. The rest, as they say, is not worth mentioning. Well, to make it sound more agreeable to my ego, it was the kid's first ever stage appearance in the school, and I had to just move ahead, "humbled" by the experience.

      P.S.: And did I say, all this happened, with a police van standing right in front of me!!

      Image courtesy of digitalart /
      Change response to high-beam users:

      Even if my father would have always followed the traffic rule-book, this is one thing I have seen him doing very frequently. If the driver coming in your direction does not understand that high beam is not supposed to be used on city roads, and goes ahead to irritate you further when he fails to understand your request for a dipper, my superman decides to take the matter in his own hands, takes his car to the center of the road, and stops. He refuses to budge till the time some niceties have been exchanged and the other version of superman in front of me has learnt the biggest lesson on driving (and some more on you know what), and agrees to switch from high beam to a dipper. Needless to say, after trying to be a true inheritor of his bravado on a few occasions, I have decided not to venture further. I will probably add the high-beam users to the list of lesser mortals I mentioned earlier, and be polite and gentle towards them, and also do my best not to stare back at them. See it all finally comes together ...

      Do not talk or text while driving:

      Yes, this is nothing new, and hence, I don't get any marks for creativity here. But doesn't this appear on the resolutions list of all the drivers even today? Like all other resolutions, we have found our ways out of this guilt year-on-year. Just that, every year, the sentence gets suffixed (or prefixed) with a new phrase. Or it gets modified with words like using hands-free, listening to music on the iPod (this one comes from my spouse) and so on. We refuse to accept that we can ever be a party to an accident scene involving ourselves. We keep on having this as a resolution every year, because we break it for some avoidable reason or silly excuse as soon as it appears in our current list. And this is the reason, why this will appear in my driving resolutions list for 2014 as well. But when it is appraisal time, and your boss's name flashes on the screen, you can not NOT pick up the phone, more so when you have decided to honor your company's HR policy on flexible timing and sneaked out of the office a full 2 hours before the scheduled time.

      Friday, January 4, 2013

      Writing Prompt - "I wish everyone loved ..."

      I was browsing through one of my favorite "feel good" blogs hosted by Preeti Shenoy, and read one of the recent posts on writing prompts. Found the concept interesting ... and immediately set out with the latest prompt, as a small challenge to myself. The prompt for this week is - "I wish everyone loved ...". And here we go ...

      I wish everyone loved …
      Image courtesy of jscreationzs /

      ... being dutiful towards the society: Although a cliché, but the one quote that perfectly catches the essence is “Man by nature is a social animal”. In an increasingly self-centered world, where an individual’s duty towards the society unfortunately comes after almost every other priority, it is the need of the hour to reemphasize the importance of mutual existence and compassion for fellow individuals. It is every one's responsibility to think about collective good above personal good, to think about duties and responsibilities before rights.

      Image courtesy of rattigon /

      ... being loyal towards the friends: Pardon another cliché, but still the best quote I have loved on friendship is “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. A loyal friend will always be around you, when the entire world has left your company. One of the best relieving moment in one’s life is when you find a friend on your side, when there is nobody ahead or behind you.

      Image courtesy of arztsamui /

      ... being affectionate towards the kids: Because this is one emotion the kids always look up to the parent for. Hugs, cuddles, kisses, tenderness, warmth – these strengthen the bond between you and the kids, and develops the relationship. If we daily check whether they have brushed their teeth or not, whether they have finished their lessons or not, whether they have said their prayers or not, it is equally important to check whether they have received their share of affection or not.


      Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS /

       ... being thankful towards the parents: Because they are the ones who brought you to this world. No matter what you achieve in your life, how rich and successful you are, how modern you are, and increasingly important today, whether you are married or not … you are what you are because of them, and your responsibility towards them never diminishes. You can not repay the debt you owe to them. The least you can do is being thankful towards them and be around them during their twilight years.

      Image courtesy of photostock /
      ... being committed towards the partner: Because the relationship can not blossom without a commitment. Being one of the most beautiful relationships made by God, and supposed to be the one that belongs to just the two of you, it needs to be preserved. Commitment towards each other’s dreams and ambitions, commitment towards each other’s emotions, commitment towards equality of opinions … it spans across multiple aspects.

      Image courtesy of Master isolated images /

      ... being honest towards self: Because the opposite is not an option ... otherwise, you can not be dutiful towards the society, you can not be loyal towards the friends, you can not be affectionate towards the kids, you can not be thankful towards the parents and you can not be committed towards the partner. You can not be YOU.

      Thursday, January 3, 2013

      Protesting against rape: Are we focussing on the right issues?

      There has been a growing clamor from all and sundry to have a special parliamentary session to enact new laws and strengthen existing laws on crime against women. As if that (the session) is the panacea for all ills! Although it is easy to understand the growing public outrage and impatience on the absence of political will as well as lack of stringent laws, a few concerns pop up in my mind.

      To begin with, what can we practically think of achieving from a session starting, say, today? Will we be able to formulate and pass a stringent law immediately? What are the chances that the session will not end up highlighting the same old things - adjournments, walk-outs, "shaant rahiye"'s and some more - in the absence of something concrete to discuss on the "changes" and "modifications" based on thorough evaluation? It is essential for our law makers to spend sufficient time in understanding the nuances of all the proposed changes, then have a discussion in the parliament and see to it that the law does what it is supposed to do.

      Our efforts need to focus on ensuring that we do not come out with a half-cooked solution like so many of us opined about the Government's version of Lokpal bill. How much time did we spend in having discussions between civil society representatives and the Government on Lokpal, before the former started blaming the latter for using time wasting tactics? Much more than the time spent in a special parliament session, right? Then, why this hurry? People may question the "spending time" argument by asking what has happened to the Lokpal bill. But many of us agree that it is in a cold storage (not exactly, but still not up there in every body's priorities) now because we could not focus and prioritize. Let's not politicize the case. There's a need to focus and prioritize, and from our experience, let's do it right the first time. Getting emotional on this issue is something our country can not afford.

      Isn’t it true that more than absence of stringent laws, we have a problem of effective enforcement of the laws? Yes, it is important to have stringent laws that act as a deterrent. But all of us will agree that it is equally important for the laws to be feasible and enforceable. It is all the more important to ensure that the loopholes in the existing laws need to be plugged and at the same time, due stress needs to be given to the fact that any new law needs to be made safe from misuse. We do not want the watchdog to be kept busy with frivolous charges from people and agencies who all of a sudden feel empowered. Empowerment is good, whereas misuse of the same is criminal. And we can vouch for that from our past experiences on many ground-breaking and radical changes in the laws.

      Taking a case in point ... so many people are proposing chemical castration of the accused as one of the punishments. From the look of it, it definitely seems to be an obvious choice - hit where it hurts the most, period! But just yesterday, I came to know how ineffective that measure might turn out to be. For the punishment to have a longer term effect, the procedure needs to be repeated every three months or so (have heard different frequencies from different "experts"), and would require regular observation of the convicts. Bottom line – it is not a one-time solution. Moreover, the experience of having chemical castration as a deterrent has had mixed success around the world. Do we still want to have this as a punishment? Somebody rightly said, severity of the punishment is not as important as the assurance that the punishment will be delivered.

      All the protests today focus on one set of victims. With due respect to the current incident (and similar other incidents) and the fact that today the gender at the receiving end is the one in focus, doesn't the law need to think about the other gender as well? Do we need to face something like this gaining importance in the future? With the number of loopholes present in the current system on similar issues, it makes sense to focus on this aspect. Or else we will end up formulating ineffective laws which in a distant future will lead to protests by some other aggrieved parties. Given the enormity of the situation today, this is of course not a priority, but some thing that needs to be addressed.

      Civil society representatives raised their concerns during the Lokpal debate that can we expect the same people to make tough laws against corruption, who have multiple corruption cases against themselves? Will the civil society raise their voice on similar lines this time as well? With many representatives from our political class exhibiting scant respect to the gravity of the situation by making shameful comments, are we right in expecting them to come with pertinent solutions, without the involvement from you and me? Let us all shun skepticism and send our suggestions to the committee headed by Justice Verma.

      Among the many reasons given by commentators on the high number of rape cases in our country, one reason that finds a frequent mention is that the topic continues being a taboo in our society, and that there is no constructive debate across the spectrum. People belonging to a particular section of society are blamed for the malaise … I am sorry, cases we are witnessing on a daily basis suggest otherwise. New Year parties in five-star hotels are attended by rich and highly educated people. We have seen and heard top performers in the society discriminating against girl child. At the same time, I have been a witness to an incident where my next door neighbor (can safely assume that he is well educated) was correcting his daughter when she was singing a song that has been attracting a lot of controversy around degrading women. Let's face it - the problem cuts across all sections of society.

      Why does it take occurrence of such a heinous crime for us to question, say, our films which are supposed to be a social barometer? Why do these thoughts suddenly become more acceptable today and were called anti-modern yesterday? Why do we not question the stark difference in the ratio of security personnel to common man vis-a-vis the ratio of security personnel to VIPs and VVIPs? Why wasn't this questioned earlier? Why not increase the scope of reforms to include this and avoid this? Why does this follow-up happen only when a similar crime is committed, and not as a part of a regular accountability test? Wouldn't the amount of time and energy we have spent in expressing our grief and support, and the seriousness with which we have challenged the intentions of authorities, be henceforth put to a good use in fighting the bully committing the crime in front of us when today most of us just turn our head or press the accelerator harder?

      Making and enforcing stringent laws is just one aspect of the solution. With the target of this heinous act being girls as young as a few months, I believe the issue is as much at the psychological level as at the physical level. The issue is more in the brain than down there ... between the two shoulders and not between the two legs. And hence, the solution also needs to span across the two levels. Along with strict laws and their enforcement, we also need a change in attitude. It is sad to see that even in these times, we have reports on quacks and superstitions being responsible for rapes. What the society lacks is compassion for fellow individuals and recognition of the individual responsibility towards the betterment of society, towards the general uplift of quality of life for everyone, and not only self. There are enough people in the society who are capable of interpreting empowerment in their own unique way, and end up making a mockery of the existence of others around them. It needs to be understood that individual good can not sustain for long without general good. And this is something where you and me can contribute by spending time in explaining the correlation between the two "goods" to our kids. We need to stop telling our crying sons that do not cry like a girl, and at the same time need to stop telling our daughters that do not play car racing games like a boy.

      In the end, going a bit tangentially, why don’t the political parties say – “We have wasted enough time of the parliament staging walk-outs on one hand and not listening to the opposition parties points of view on the other. Let’s have special sessions to discuss and pass key reform bills so that the economy gets a much needed kick-start.” Going a step ahead, why do we question only the age-old rape laws? Why not use this platform to force a review of all the antiquated laws? Isn't it time for a greater revolution?