Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rollercoaster Ride

There is no moment of delight in any trip like the beginning of it. So was this trip to Kerala in my Alto with my friends- Rishi, Neha and Jai.

‘What a pleasant morning?!’ said Rishi. ‘Yaah! Lovely weather’ opined Neha as we drove through the woods. ‘Lush green trees have moved my heart’ exclaimed Jai. ‘Wind is playing the melodious music and nature is dancing to its beats’ romantically narrated Rishi. Swirling winds started blowing all of a sudden. No sooner I could realize that it would rain, it started drizzling and few drops fell over our car. 1st rain of summer filled our hearts with ecstasy. I was stupefied to see the tiny droplets trickle from the jumbo tree. As the occasion could have it; we were enjoying our journey. Now we were half way to Kerala.
Zooooh!! Crossed a Tata Safari splashing dirty water on us. What irked Neha was- the expression of the driver of that Safari – showing thumbs down as he over took our car.  Rishi said ‘This is not done! Let’s race’. I asked “what?” Jai volunteered – ‘Let me drive’, unwillingly I gave him the control of my car.

No sooner I gave the control to Jai; he took us on a spin. Zooh! dutth!, dutth!, ahh!, Woohz! oops! …. I realized we were racing against that Safari. What a plight? An Alto racing against Safari, haan! ‘Why are we driving so fast Jai?’ - I asked. ‘Oh ho! Don’t disturb. Let me concentrate’ fumed Jai. I gave up and decided to enjoy this bumpy drive as an adventure ride. ‘Neha look at that honey hive on that tree. Isn’t it amazing?’ I exclaimed. She replied ‘Dear, don’t divert our attention. Don’t you see we are struggling to overtake that Safari and show him thumbs down!’ ‘Neha switch off the music it is such a disturbance’ shouted Rishi.

Dhadak!! Dhudak!! Dhadak!!ufff! In the spirit to overtake someone we were hurting our backs. We took a shortcut through a muddy road and ended up in a ditch. We had to accelerate the car out of that ditch which meant my car would have to bare extra service expense this month.:-( Jai wouldn’t give up! We continued our adventure drive. ‘Oh No! We just missed him’-cribbed Neha. What more? Jai thought that only way to overtake that Safari is to jump the traffic signal. So we did. ‘Yahoo! We are ahead of that car’- cheered Rishi. ‘Wait! Oh no! Why is that police van following us?’ asked Jai. We had to slow down and pay the fine for jumping the signal. But more interesting fact was that the driver of Safari had realized that we were racing against his vehicle. As expected he was enjoying it and was waiting for us to finish the formalities with traffic police. He was driving slowly so that we could chase him. He turned around, looked at us and gave a smirk and drove off. We were disappointed as we reached Kerala.

I thought over it. When we started we were enjoying our trip. We were singing, dancing, eating, talking and loving our journey. Just that one feeling to race against that car spoiled it all. Soothing music became disturbance, talking and eating became diversion and beauty of nature became distraction. All our energies got focused on unfruitful desire to race and out perform some one. We were in Alto. It has its own speed limitation and in no way could exceed the speed of Safari. On the other hand Alto has its own advantages and Safari has its own limitations. It was a foolish attempt from both the sides- On our side to drain our energy when we knew the limitation of our car’s speed. From the Safari Driver’s end also because Safari is not designed to compete with Alto in speed, it is designed for much higher speed but he wasted his energy in competing and outperforming our car.

Even in life many a times we enter into an unhealthy competition trying to outperform or mimic others. But the fact is; each of us is unique strands in the intricate web of life and is here to enjoy that uniqueness. Life would be a better deal if we understand that with our own capacities and limitations we are destined to serve our unique purpose. For no one can do a better job of being me than me.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Ant and the Grasshopper

One summer day a grasshopper was hopping, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An ant walked by, huffing and puffing as he struggled to carry plump corn."Where are you going with those heavy things?" asked the grasshopper. "To our ant hill" replied the ant. “Hey, why not come and sing with me," teased the grasshopper. “Naah…I am storing food for the winter and think you should do the same” said the ant. "C’mon, winter is a long way off. Besides it is a glorious day to play," sang the grasshopper while the ant went on its way.

The weather soon turned cold. The fields were covered in a thick white blanket of snow. Not a single grain around. Soon the grasshopper found itself famished. Staggering to the ants' hill he begged for food. The ant opened the door.

“What in the world were you doing all of last summer? Why haven't you stored anything for the winter?"Questioned the ant! "I was busy playing music that before I knew it, the summer was gone" groaned the grasshopper. Shaking its head in disgust, turning its back on the grasshopper the ant shut the door and went back to work.
Lesson from the story? Hard work and savings pays-off

Story continues: One grasshopper survived that winter and reproduced a mutant offspring. This offspring was a perfect breed of the 21st century. It could beat Ladonna with the symphony of its songs and was the king of good times.

As trait of its lineage, westernized demeanor; it did not believe an ounce in the concept of saving. Being excellent with networking skills it built acquaintances with the media moghuls like Parkha butth, Pajdeep Sardesai and Aannoy Roy. The grasshopper partied around the summers like there was no tomorrow. Contrastingly ant continued working hard day after day, saving and accumulating wealth.

Days passed on! Then came another chilly, bleakly winter. As the snow covered the garden like a huge dish of vanilla ice cream, the grasshopper was shivering and starving to death.

 Here comes the BIG twist in the story. Poverty made him a celebrity. Like flies around a fruit, the media personalities flocked around the ailing grasshopper. TV channels like Paj Tak, MDTV and DNN carried out sting operations on the ant. Even before the sun rose, news flashed - “The Ultimate Expose” showcasing the riches of the ant and the plight of the grasshopper. There was live footage of the ant dressed in a fine silk gown sitting in the balcony of its luxurious Spanish style villa with French interiors and aesthetics. On the other hand there were images of a trembling, shivering grasshopper freezing in the field. There was a photo of the ant sitting at the mighty dining table relishing Mexican appetizers, Chinese starters, Italian main course and Continental desserts. And…there was a photo of the dehydrated, malnourished grasshopper, barely breathing.

What followed was mayhem. Opinion polls through SMS, Talk shows, Social networking sites jammed with overwhelming responses -“Like” for Grasshopper and “Dislike” for the Ant. The social activists too sprang into action. Citing this incident as a mark of divide between rich and poor and calling for sharing of wealth amongst poor. The massive public reaction forced the finance minister Janab kakarjee to propose a bill to tackle the economic divide.
Amidst the commotions the ant spent sleepless nights. He was shattered by the deteriorating public image and in dilemma on the hardworking lifestyle. Very soon the ant wilted, withered and wound up in a hospital. But no public sympathies for Mr.Ant. They accused him of faking illness and protested in front of the hospital. Yielding to public pressure the ant agreed to share half of its wealth with the grasshopper. Grasshopper once again became cheerful and went on his merry way while the ant slowly made his way back to the ant hill, dejected.

Dear Friends! This is a sad reflection of our times. What kind of a moral does this story convey us? That neither hard work, nor savings but smart play and networking pay-off? That pulling the strings is the way to take advantage of your fellow being?

Forget the ant, forget the grasshopper, and think for a moment. Where do you stand?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

“Let Go”

One, who find delight in freedom from attachment in the renunciation of clinging, free from the inflow of thoughts, he is in absolute harmony with universe. Many a times nature teaches us lessons in a subtle manner, which we seldom realize. Today as I share some of my experiences with you, I urge you to listen to the whisper of nature, try and renounce your attachment and insecurities because sometimes it is a lot rewarding to just “let go”. Let go of situations, things, memories, and people and sometimes even yourself.

It was a Friday morning. I was excited and geared up for the weekend as I left for work. On reaching my workstation, I realized my chair was missing and I asked my colleague, if she had a clue as to where my chair was. She asked what I meant by the statement “my chair”. Why did absence of that chair bring such dismay to me? Seeing my blank face she replied “My dear, drop the idea of ownership of these materialistic things. It does not mean that you are dropping the possessions but your possessiveness. Let go of situations, things, memories, and people and sometimes even yourself”. I felt it was too boring and philosophical. I somehow managed to trace my chair and was back in swing.

That weekend was far too special as I was expecting a call from my friend in the US. But my phone was silent for the day. Even the next day I did not get the much awaited call. I was very disturbed as I went to attend my classes that Saturday. The class was on analytics and decision making and strangely enough our professor began the class by asking us a question “Which is the most difficult decision that we may have to take in life”. Lot many answers rolled out from the students about job, marriage etc. Our Prof replied “The most difficult decision in life is to let go of the person or thing that we cherish the most in life. Let go of situations, things, memories, people and sometimes even yourself”.

Surprisingly that evening I realized that my mind was blank except for those words of my professor. I started pondering that often we get attached to people and even materialistic things and feel insecure of losing them and become restless and loose our emotional stability. When there is so much attachment even the mere thought of their absence squeezes our heart in pain. Is it wise? Is it healthy? I started questioning myself.

The very next day I got a call from my brother who is in his 9th standard seeking help to write an essay on “Chandra Gupta Maurya”. Even though the name sounded familiar, being out of touch with history I searched the internet for information about this emperor. Chandra Gupta was a street boy picked up by the wise “Chanakya” to become the emperor and he founded the most chivalrous dynasty ever the “Maurya Dynasty”. He then went on a successful and historic acquisition of prominent Indian states. Though he won over the initial struggle of poverty in his early life and had attained power and riches, there was a point in his life when he felt that it was enough. He renounced the kingdom that he had meticulously built, abdicated his throne and retired to the Jain retreat at “Shravana Belagola” near Mysore. He then lived a life of a saint for 12 years till his death.

As I read about Chandra Gupta my professor’s words resonated loudly in my mind. “The most difficult decision in life is to let go of the person and thing that you cherish the most in life. Let go of situations, things, memories, people and sometimes even yourself”. Interestingly this time these words did not sound boring and philosophical. I felt that sometimes we should be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.

As I started to picture the trees in the storm, the answer began to dawn on me. The trees in the storm do not try to stand up straight and erect. They allow themselves to be bent and the branches blown with the wind. They understand the power of letting go. For they know only when they let go the old leaves will the new life emerge and add freshness and beauty to the surroundings. Let go of situations, things, memories, people and sometimes even yourself. For all- the art of living lies in a fine blend of letting go and holding on.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blur vision : A lesson from my Engineering hostel life

The leaves of bad memories make a mournful rustling in the dark. We all wish we could erase some dark times in our lives. But all the experiences of life, bad and good, make us who we are. Erasing any of life's experiences would be a great mistake.
It was the eighth semester of engineering. One Monday morning I was trying to kick-start my scooter to get to college. After relentlessly trying for about 10 mins, exhausted I looked around to seek help. I could see no one except a poor girl sitting on the ground and reading a book. She looked at me with the expression of intending to offer help. I looked at her arrogantly blasted her for sitting and staring at the situation without even lifting a finger. She rushed towards the vehicle but it was quite evident that she had never touched any vehicle till then and had no idea whatsoever to get it move.

Helpless and restless, I decided to wait for my friend. Meanwhile I asked her who she was and what was she doing there. She said that she was Lakshmi, daughter our hostel watchman and was preparing for her exam. “Exam? What exam?” I asked her. She lifted her eyes and said “The IAS exam”. Her answer took me by shock; and that shock gave way to a demeaning smile or smirk as you may call it. That one gesture would’ve hurt her deeply and provoked her to justify her stance. She started explaining that she had appeared for the exam last year, how she missed her prelims’ by a few marks and how determined she is to clinch the top spot this time. I couldn’t take it anymore. As soon as I saw my friend I left Lakshmi curtly and started walking to the college.

Now, to get to the college, there were two routes to choose from
1) The main road that leads from our front gate of our hostel to the college
2) The muddy lane that leads from the side gate of our hostel to college.
Like everyone else we choose the 2nd path as we believed that it was the shortest route to college probably because we could see our college all the time. Where as from the main road, we couldn’t see our college from our hostel as many buildings had come up on both sides of the main road. My friend casually remarked that a civil engineering department land survey had shown that the muddy lane was longer than the main road from hostel to college. It was very surprising and contrary to popular belief.

Strange enough! That day, I couldn’t concentrate on the lecture at all. Something within was disturbing me and I was at unease. After the first hour of lecture I came back to hostel by the same muddy lane and could still see Lakshmi with her book. My mind was turbulent.

In perspective the two different incidents, seemingly distinct but profoundly related….That muddy lane is a fundamental phenomenon that works in all our lives when we can see our destination the journey seems shorter and enjoyable, pleasant and cherishing. All the obstacles and hardships that we encounter in the course of path seem manageable as we are driven by a larger vision of our destination. On the contrary when we do not see our destination journey becomes longer, tiring and unpleasant. That day, for the first time in my life I realized the importance of having a vision in life and foreseeing our future as we expect it to be, because whole world paves way for a person who knows where he/she is going. This fact was reiterated by the other incident of meeting Lakshmi, who had cultivated an unthinkable vision among her peer fraternity and above all showed that pursuit and determination to realize her vision.

Lakshmi couldn’t make it to IAS cadre however she had managed to get a very good rank in (IRS) Indian revenue services and as the time bears the testimony she is the district revenue officer of Nashik, Maharashtra. Looking back I am ever thankful to her for teaching me the lesson “never underestimate anybody’s capacity and dream including our own for “If our hearts can conceive it and our minds can visualize it, we can achieve it”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My first Toastmasters Speech

To laugh often and to love much
To win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children
To earn the approval of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends
To appreciate beauty
To find the best in others
To give of oneself without the slightest thought of return
To have accomplished a task –whether a healthy child, a rescued soul, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exaltation
To have known that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; This is to have succeeded;
 this is to have lived fruitfully

Sounding success bells for you a bright and the prosperous future and the idea of its taste is what that dragged me in here. Yes, friends, I am going to tell you what role does this dream of success play in my life.

I was born to a family of academicians and my parents have a major influence on my personality. They thought me to dream high, have great ambitions and aspirations in life. They instilled great confidence in me and inculcated a very important value of appreciating gifts of life. My parents were guardians of my dreams. I remember telling my dad that I want to be an astronaut when I was 5 years old and his immediate reaction was that “Yes, of course, you will be an astronaut I can already imagine you in the spaceship”. However fanciful my dream was, they never told me that it was impractical or is impossible. During my childhood like any other kids, I dreamt of many little things like owning a bicycle, participating in skits, going out on family picnics etc. My parents always protected these dreams and tried to fulfill them and I thought I was the happiest person on earth. As I grew up I realized that dreams and aspiration keep changing and as I grew up I realized that I can no more bank upon my parents to fulfill them and - I and only I am the master of my destiny.

I dreamt of being a doctor. Unfortunately or fortunately that was not fulfilled. For the first time, I felt my dream was shattered it was very difficult for me to accept that. However, I choose engineering discipline for my graduation and pursued engineering in the branch of biotechnology. I got my dream job as a research scholar and moved to Delhi to pursue fundamental research with Tata Energy Research institute. This is where I realized my inherent potential and inclination towards management studies. After a stint of two years with this organization, I moved on to pursue MBA with the specialization in ops research. My life was taking a beautiful turn by then and I got married to a man who is a technocrat and a soft spoken person. Since then he has been an immense moral support to me.

It was a different phase of my life, wherein both my personal and academic spheres were rolling in new routes. Things were very exciting and I got placed with Genpact. Life almost seemed settled as I had a decent job, newly married life, but my conscious always kept telling me that “Have a healthy dissatisfaction with this status quo in life”. I followed my conscious and applied for an executive program in business intelligence and advanced Analytics at IIMB and this course brought me to HP Analytics.

So as dreams and aspirations kept changing with every new phase in life and it has been a fruitful experience chasing these dreams for I experienced victories and failures in the course of the path.

Today I have a new dream a dream that I hold so close to my heart which you all will help me achieve. That is to be a leader and redefine the history of our nation through the power of structured thinking and more importantly by effectively communicating my thoughts to make a magnanimous positive difference.

For I know effective speeches can work miracles and transform the nations by redefining history.
For I know a dream effectively communicated by King Martin Luther installed the new ray of hope and set the basis for reformation
For I know the words “Don’t ask what country can do for you Ask what you can do for the country” by John F Kennedy redefined the nation's perspective
For I know courage exhibited through this speech of “blood sweat tears and toil that’s all I can give” by Winston Churchill lead the United Kingdom through the Second World War.
So today I have dream
To be an eloquent speaker,
To be an extraordinary orator,
To be an effective communicator,
To be a dynamic presenter,
To be a charismatic leader.
And I need your help to achieve this dream.

For I know that if we are willing to learn, lessons await gently in all forms
In the form of your feedback,
In the form of your critics,
In the form of your motivation
In the form of your encouragement.

I would like to end my speech today with this corroborative quote by Confucius:
"To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; to do that we must first set our hearts right and above all "speak right."

Thank you, Thank you one and all.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Are majority of the great and influential people socially challenged?

Yesterday I attended a presentation by a person with an amazing, influential personality. The audience enamored by his personality and willingness to be associated with him, asked him if he was on Facebook or Orkut. He said “No I don’t believe in them, I am a private person”. This triggered a subconscious thought that was incubating in my mind for a long time. I asked myself “Are majority of the great and influential people socially challenged?”
Some analogies ran across my mind “Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison”, great scientists known for their innovative bent of mind and scientific contribution to the society. They had numerous students, colleagues, teachers, scientific peers but hardly had friends.
“Mahatma Gandhi and King Martin Luther”, successful leaders known for their courage to define history and transform nations in their unique way. They had numerous mentors, followers, disciples, supporters and peer fraternity but hardly had friends.
“Narayan Murthy and Ratan Tata”, successful entrepreneurs, great and influential personalities known for their vision and values with which they redefined modern India. They have mentors, followers, well wishers, supporters, colleagues and peer fraternity but have only handful of friends.
It seems, all these people have differentiated themselves from the rest of the mass because they had/have unique thought process. They are public figures but they belong to none. The evident reasoning that goes with the fact that they do not spend more time with friends as they spend more time with themselves, interacting with their conscious. As rationale defines, they are more aware and responsive to their inner voice and would not like that inner voice to fade away by external social networking noise. Consequently they are self sufficient in their own ways and are incompatible/different in their ideologies from rest of the crowd.
As they grow up the ladder, they grow lonelier because such paths are rare, isolated and are not often travelled by many people. I suppose this very fact doesn’t scare these souls as they are obsessed by a larger vision, a bigger cause and relentlessly follow their inner voice.