Sunday, April 23, 2017

As the signal turned green

With most of my driving time in the city getting spent on waiting for the signal to turn green, or listening to the radio jockey blabbering some inane ramblings, with the cops not allowing me to pick up my phone for even that iota of a second making it worse, I end up becoming a silent observer, and some times an involuntary contributor, to the tribulations of the common man at the signal. Here is a snippet ...

This happened near Sony Center signal in Koramangala, Bangalore. Waiting for the signal to turn green, I noticed a group of small kids trying to extract money from the vehicle owners stranded there. All the tricks of trade were used. Having tasted success with a kind-hearted lady (well, that was the best way for her to avoid getting her white hand-gloves from getting "stained" by their repeated touch), riding high on confidence, their next target was a gentleman in an SUV, with the windows rolled down, lost in his thoughts.

After a few rounds of persuasion and rejection, the gentleman couldn't stop himself, came our of his slumber and gave them a piece of his mind. What happened next left me stunned. One of the kids, perhaps the youngest and shortest of the lot, clearly rattled by the gentleman's gesture, stretched himself on his toes so that he somehow reaches the height of the window. The gentleman stared back at him, without anticipating the consequences. Lo and behold, the kid stretched some more, reached the gentleman's face, slapped him hard, and ran away. The gentleman was caught off-guard, for a second could not fathom what had just happened, and went completely motionless. By the time he regained his composure, the signal turned green, and he managed to vanish in the traffic ahead.

Needless to say, henceforth, my car windows are always rolled up whenever I am at a signal, with suspicious looking characters around. You never know what sound will I suddenly hear near my ear in the midst of one of my ruminations ...

Unfortunately for the gentleman, yours truly witnessed the incident so intently that he could easily identify the vehicle next to the parking lot in his office that day, and in next few days, could identify the owner of the vehicle somewhere on the same floor. Every time he raises his voice sitting in that cubicle, with one of the fresh interns at the receiving end, I realize, what if ...

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Of critics and criticism

Among the numerous quotes from Kabir Das that I read in my childhood, there was one whose logic refused to get registered in my mind, only to become the top-of-mind recall in my adulthood. It goes like this ...

"Nindak niyare rakhiye, angan kuti chhawai; bin pani, sabun bina, nirmal kare subhav"

... which literally means "Give your critic a shelter in the courtyard of your house. He will help clean your nature, without using soap and water." In other words, it means that we should keep critics somewhere around us, so that you get to know, and hence a chance to correct, your faults.

In those days, it used to be difficult to fathom the context in which these words were said. After all, how can you let somebody, who always criticizes you, stay so close to you, and let him do what he / she does best - criticize. But then, over years, having gone through such a process myself, what with constantly nagging relatives, always ready to pounce on smallest of mistakes, I realized it makes at least some sense. Mr. Das would not have said what he said without any logic!!

To begin with, it forces you to always be on your toes, and make a genuine attempt not to commit mistakes. More like a false positive ... you are careful not to commit a mistake, or let someone get a chance to call out your name when there is no mistake. In a way, your life is always on a kaizen mode, continuous improvement becoming the mantra.

Yes, it has its negative consequences as well ... you tend to become too cautious, almost risk averse, some times self-critical, some times even unnecessarily critical of others because that is what you have also seen from a close quarter. But, when you compare this with some of the qualities you imbibe when there is no criticism of your behavior from any direction, Mr. Das' suggestion suddenly starts making much more sense and becomes good to follow.

Is it better to be surrounded by yes-men? Or this critic is good ... he at least makes you become a better human being. Otherwise, you simply cannot tolerate criticism. All you know is the good things about you. You can never be wrong. Everyone else is a fool, because as compared to you, everyone does things differently, and hence wrong. And whoever criticizes you becomes your biggest enemy. In short, you are the best ... a miniature version of Aham Brahmasmi!!

A few days back, I read a letter from a famous media person, writing to his daughter on her eighteenth birthday. He was advising her that there is no need to look at oneself through the eyes of others and that one should become one's best critic. While this will encourage her to live life on her own terms, what it fails to consider is that one's own view can be highly restricted in evaluating one's behavior. What you are encouraging is not a confident human being, but a self-centered, over-confident megalomaniac. She will always expect to be loved the way she likes, and be appreciated the way she prefers. All other ways and means of being loved and appreciated will be a hogwash. Don't we have so many of these nincompoops around us?

Well, if we truly follow this advise in financial matters, the very concept of statutory audit goes for a toss!! Or for that matter, so many of us would like to follow this principle in our performance appraisals, right?