In praise of the lockdown

In April 2020 just when the Lockdown had started, I wrote a blog entitled A Crisis too Precious to Waste (https://vikasshirodkar.blog/2020/04/09/a-crisis-too-precious-to-waste/) wherein I argued that there can be many learnings, many positive outcomes of the Lockdown….if we keep our minds open and learn.

10 months after that, I sit to express my gratitude for situations we all faced! Were it not for the Pandemic and the consequent Lockdown, I would have been a different person: more arrogant, more self-centered, a much poorer version of what I am today! Indeed, it was a crisis too precious to waste!! And I am grateful that I experienced it and became all the more strong, physically as well as psychologically! Lockdown taught me new skills and capabilities, a fresh perspective of looking at life, and so many other positives outcomes that I can truly say that I come here to praise the Lockdown, and thank the circumstances it brought into my life. The rest of the blog I will enumerate and illustrate all that we have to thankful for.

Numero Uno will always be the family and friends: the people who make our world go round. The forced isolation brought the family closer. Whether the family members were co-located in a house, in the same housing society, in the same town, state or country….regardless, family members closed ranks and were available to one another. The sense of imminent loss cemented relationships & brought everyone closer. More frequent interactions and more emotional bonding were the bedrock which defined a new cadence of reaching back and forth, taking relationships to new heights. Due to this, the value of friends and family got recalibrated. Phone conversations became deeper and more fun. And if by chance you got a chance to meet in person, each of those occasions were looked up to and acquired a touch of celebration. I still remember with goose bumps, when our front doorbell rang for the first time in months. Sheer joy! & the thrill repeats even now, as the visitors are so few and far between. Who could say that the sound of a doorbell would be so much valued! Literally on a meeting by meeting basis, day by day basis I saw that Life is Good!

That was on the social front, but the benefits of Lockdown on the personal front were much deeper and wide ranging. Firstly, the sheer ennui and boredom, brought on a spate of reading, learning and in other ways enriching myself. Time hung on hands, so doing something was imperative. Suddenly curling in the bed and relaxing was anathema. You wanted to fill available time with action. I must have attended 100s of webinars & TED talks and also ran my share of webinars & talks for my normal audiences like management schools, but also diversified into clubs & other social groups. Suddenly, one was more busy and engaged than ever before. And when you got a break from the round- robin of facing screens, you turned the focus inward and faced yourself! Boy was that fun!!

The 20 minutes 2ce a day meditations became nearly continuous. Mindfulness was the name of the game. Being connected, remaining in the present, looking at the river of time flowing by made you naturally introspective and one emerged with many, many gems from the riverbed. To recount the most precious jewels I gleaned: suddenly I realized I can do much more than what I had thought possible. Whether it was the humdrum tasks of washing utensils and sweeping & swabbing the house or the more esoteric finishing a book a day : all acquired the sheen of gaming. You were constantly challenging yourself: and emerging a winner. Yes I discovered I was made of sterner stuff than I had imagined. I am not the spoilt, pampered, rich brat but I am a Force. In a unique way, even the opposite was equally true. I realized that one can do with so much less. The irrelevant needs and desires got pared down and basic things gave the same or more joy! I can, I will, & I did!

As you can see, self-love peaked. Earlier, I had held myself in poor esteem. Felt I have never struggled or stretched. Never gave myself much credit. But here I was learning and growing daily, happy and happier as days went by. Besides adding self-sufficiency to my repertoire I became a much more grateful human being. Things I used to always take for granted: a roof over my head, a soft clean bed, no concern of where is the next meal coming from, a loving family to care and cherish me, friends who called and enquired if I needed anything, even clients who were extending their resources and hands for help : I re-evaluated all and I realized I am indeed privileged. Regularly I recounted the hundred odd things I need to be grateful for.

All these ruminations had the spin-off, off-label benefits of bringing in humility alongwith the contentment. So many times I realized I have NOTHING to ask for and EVERYTHING to be thankful for. Just a brief phone call from my daughter was the new definition of happiness. Happiness truly acquired different dimensions: a sister calling to say she misses me; an octogenarian uncle making a videocall to sing a song; my bro-in-law creating a homeopathic concoction which has kept us safe & healthy; being served my favorite dessert of Bhappa Doi on my birthday; my wife, despite all the constraints, trying to make innovative & interesting meals day after day. Days turned to months and months too dragged on, but “what is happiness?” transmuted its core and became simpler, and more longer lasting, as the days rolled by. I am sure this simpler, changed definition of happiness will remain unchanged in the new normal! Indeed I have changed, & the pot of happiness has got entrenched deep in my heart. Now I do not have to chase the rainbow outside! Having always been an introverted loner, I have had the advantage of re-evaluating loneliness and coming to terms with what I am and what I really want. Another gift which I had not asked for, but I got from Lockdown.

But then Man is a social animal. As the lockdown rules ease and we struggle to come to terms with the new normal, I am also learning new ways of working. Collaboration takes on a new meaning in the remote and virtual world. Experiential trainers like me have to master newer technological solutions available today to create the magic of virtual teaming. Mutual dependency and working together in this new world, under the new rules, will call for radically different skills which we had developed in the past….yet another chance to learn afresh & master newer areas. I have no doubt that Camaraderie and Brotherhood of Man will take center stage, and with the new tools and techniques we will continue to march forward. As we prepare to do that, let us look back on the Lockdown as a positive interlude, a subterfuge created for us to revalue all that we have, and all that we do, so that we go forward into the New World with vigor, confidence and an indomitable spirit with our new learnings!

Indeed I have a lot to thank the Lockdown for.

Guruvarya Lockdown Namah !!! vikas

Alone, at last

I remember in the New Empire cinema hall there was a long passage, parallel to the back of the auditorium. When you traversed the entire length, you came to the Canteen counter which served tea and delicious samosas for patrons at interval. Opposite the canteen counter, was a large, full wall painting done in characteristic Mario Miranda style. It showed a scene of a movie being shot. The whole wall was crowded with clap boys, make-up artists, spot boys, people holding reflectors, assistant directors, camera men, dialogue prompters, hangers on and, of course, the Director in his chair. In front of them all, was a hero and a heroine getting ready to enact a romantic scene. And the hero, oblivious to the sea of humanity surrounding them, looking soulfully in the herioine’s eyes says, ” Alone….alone, at last!” The irony of the comment and the picture never left me, though I must have seen the drawing 50 years ago!

I feel exactly like that just now! It is the festival & holiday season. And anybody worth their salt are on vacation. Some in the hills, some at the beach, and yet others in transit. I am alone at home. Wistful. Missing all. Relatives and Friends all far away. And I : Lonely. Miserable. Monarch of all the emptiness I survey around me. Engulfing, throttling, all pervasive silence.

Nida Fazli sang corrrectly: ग़म हो कि ख़ुशी दोनों कुछ देर के साथी हैं 
फिर रस्ता ही रस्ता है हँसना है न रोना है…

दुनिया जिसे कहते हैं जादू का खिलौना है 
मिल जाये तो मिट्टी है खो जाये तो सोना है

{Translation: Whether pain or joy, both are companions for a while
Later it is just the long road; no laughter, no tears What we call as the world is a magical toy
If found it is earthen, if lost it is golden}

All who were going away asked me to accompany them. It was my decision to stay back. Be alone. In love with my solitude. I must understand the depth & beauty of my loneliness as: अच्छा-सा कोई मौसम तन्हा-सा कोई आलम 
हर वक़्त का रोना तो बेकार का रोना है.
{You need a good season and some quiet moments
Complaining every moment is a futile complaint}

When I am so confused, I take heart in Simone de Beauvoir’s words: ,” I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger” This reassures me that the भीड़ के बीच अकेला feeling which so many film songs allude to, is indeed a reality. Even in this space, I am not alone!!! I have every right to be “mad with anger” a la Simone, and continue to feel ambivalent about the cards that Life is dealing me. Being in the game, I need to carry on, feel engaged and play my cards to the best of my ability till the Grim, Solitary Reaper arrives and I move to another table, another game. फिर रस्ता ही रस्ता है हँसना है न रोना है!!

The basic problem is ambivalence. The fact that I do not know what I want: Be alone OR be in company? Society OR Solitude? But as I experience my present time, being alone… I must confess, I feel happy & good. No adjusting your needs and demands to fit in with someone. Freedom from pressures. Do what you please. Float above the sea of expectations. Go Under OR Stay Afloat. Suddenly it dawns on me….I am happy!! Misanthrope & Masochist that I am, I actually like my own company I can stay away from forced festivities and feel morally superior that I am diffrent. Do rituals and prayers, midnight masses and congregations actually alleviate your loneliness? Or do they just deaden your real feelings? You get so caught up in the rituals and cacophony of others around you that your inner rebellious child is silenced. Rather, let it cry out aloud! I am happy with that misery. and loneliness!! But then I get reminded of the words of Honoré de Balzac, “Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.”

Possibly there is no clear answer to even this human dilemma! In another context Arthur C Clarke puts it succintly, “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”. My introspection just now is prompted by being alone in festive times, but then each and every one of us must face this question openly and squarely. Are you comfortable with your solitude? Do you like to be alone? Not surrounded by books. Not using books, and others thinking, as the first line of defence. But genuinely with your own thoughts, views and opinions. Not drowning your feelings with loud songs and music. Or a drink or two. Taking time off to just be. Savouring your own company. Happy under your own skin. Holding your own self dear. Jean-Paul Satre warns, “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” Accept, Acknowledge, Admire : that is the Grand Path to overcome all adversities.
― 

If you think about it closely, all great things, all precious things are lonely. Remember Steinbeck in Of Mice & Men,” “Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” But then so what? The road less travelled is worth exploring. Maybe after a short torturous walk we will open into the Valley of Flowers. Pursue it.

Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love puts it beautifully,” When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”

I am reminded of another great ghazal of Ghulam Ali:

किया है प्यार जिसे हम ने ज़िन्दगी के तरह
वो आशना भी मिला हम से अजनबी के तरह … बढ़ा के प्यास मेरी उस ने हाथ छोड़ दिया
वो कर रहा था मुरव्वत भी दिल्लगी के तरह
{translation: I loved him like life itself But that lover met me like a stranger He increased my thirst but then abandoned me He was showing affection too like a joke)

To end, remembering Joseph Conrad: We Live as we Dream…..alone: vikibaba

PS My biggest critic, my wife, on reading the draft said too many quotes…..maybe I am trying to reassure myself that I am not alone on the dark side of the moon? many other greater human beings think alike. And so the quotes.

The Joy of Receiving

Imagine a highly distraught, insecure, runny-nosed dark-skinned child. Highly introverted. Maladjusted within his own family. Very few friends because he changed schools every 2/3 years, due to his father’s transferable job. The butt of ridicule & elbow-digs through out his growing up years. Hating himself so much, that many times considered suicide as a honourable end to it all. All this continuing till he was in college! That child was Me and the story is MINE!

Licking my wounds, in perpetual self doubt, barely coping with external reality’s demands, suddenly the Ugly Duckling became a recipient of grace & support. Through The Joy of Receiving my life changed! किसी ने अपना बना के मुझको मुस्कुराना सिखा दिया, अँधेरे घर में किसी ने हस्के चिराग जैसे जला दिया. It is 49 years since I proposed to my childhood sweetheart. Her saying yes, her confidence in me, her acceptance turned the tide. Suddenly I was an achiever, liked by friends and family, having enough & more….all because someone considered me worthy of receiving & others were ready to heap bountifuls. I revelled in the Joy of Receiving. I understood that we see farther & longer because we stand on shoulders of giants who preceed us, have given us that higher perch through their munificence.

Albert Schweitzer puts it beautifully: “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Giving & Receiving are two sides of the coin; and, Gratitude is the third dimension which makes up the coin of life!! Whom does one recall when you sit to balance the book? There are so many people and actions that made you what you are. It is the simple sharing of a sharpened pencil in a Geometry exam when your pencil fell & the point broke. It is a friend who gives you his tiffin box to share as you forgot yours & have no money for the Canteen. Your parents & family heaping books on you to read and learn. Your siblings and collegues asking for a favour, thereby building your competence & confidence. Whether in college or in industry, people coming forth to help complete your task despite seemingly unreachable timelines. Your bosses’ unflinching support of your proposals. हमने किस किस को पुकारा, वो कहानी फिर कभी as Ghulam Ali sings so eloquently.

If you see it in the correct perspective, everyone in your life has contributed to your growth, your learning, your success. Yes some may have done more & some less. But every experience has shaped you, whether success or failure, all were learning experiences which left their indelible mark. Have often seen myself as the proverbial putty… the mud on the Potters Wheel….being shaped by loving hands & deft fingers….whether I understood the grand design or no. The care & affection on the potters wheel….or even in the Potter’s tight slap…to shape & make me have been always around….developing & creating me. So whom do I thank for making me what I am? नाम आएगा तुम्हारा, वो कहानी फिर सही is what I can say to all my influencers. Where was I in this game of life? always the supplicant. Ever the receiver. The Beneficiary. देणाऱ्याचे हात हजारो दुबळी माझी झोळी !

The Giver, in his very stance, has an upper hand. The Receiver, in contrast, has his hands outstretched, The hands that bless and the hands that take are diffrent in their approach. The real giver however has overcome the arrogance of “I am the Giver”. This was best expressed in a doha I read from Tulsidas & Rahim. Tulsidas asks Rahim why as his hands rise up to give, corrrespondingly his eyes go down in humility. Rahim replies that the True Giver is some one else, & he is only a conduit. So where is the question of any ego in giving? The Recipient on the other hand must be full of humilty….in a way he realises that he is the CHOSEN ONE. There are so many contenders to very limited resources. And still if his bowl is being filled, he must realise the magic of being The Chosen One, the Joy of Receiving should suffuse his very being. But, sadly, do we celebrate while receiving? or is our attitude one of “entitlement” & “right”? Do we feel happy and privileged to receive? or do we rationalise that was due to me anyway & actually it is delayed coming to me?

See this story which brings out these nuances so well. A lovely little girl was holding two apples with both hands. Her mother came in and softly asked her little daughter with a smile: my sweetie, could you give your mom one of your two apples? The girl looked up at her mother for some seconds, then she suddenly took a quick bite on one apple, and then quickly on the other. The mom felt the smile on her face freeze. She tried hard not to reveal her disappointment. Then the little girl handed one of her bitten apples to her mother, and said: mommy, here you are. This is the sweeter one. This girl could well be the Shabari of Ramayan who offered half eaten berries to her Lord Rama. Do we have the grace like Rama to see the love behind the offering? or are we upset like the mother initially was at being offered half eaten fruit?

Often we misunderstand the Giver and question their intentionality. Actually we should be analysing our manner and attitude of receiving. To me, the Joy of Receiving always begins within ourselves. Ackowledging our being the Chosen One to receive. Celebrating this good turn the universe is doing us. Accepting unquestioningly whatever we receive. Being Content. Being Grateful. Being Humble. Keeping our hands outstretched to receive. And finally, being primed to give back in equal measure what we have been fortunate to receive. This to me is the essence of the Joy of Receiving!

लइ नाही लइ नाही मागणे देवI, I sing with Tukaram

Lord, Bless me, May my hands & my heart be always open to Recieve and acknowledge the contributions of all in my life: vikas the beggar

PS: To end, I quote Einstein: “A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.”

PS2: this blog is dedicated to my neice who after reading my last piece on the Gift of Giving, asked me: But what about the other side of the story? How to recieve? Thanks dear for the basic question.

Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving is a privilege which only we humans have. Sharing is possibly something which animals and birds also do. But consciously GIVING is a capacity only humans have. That is why I have called the blog as “Gift of Giving”.

Take the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. What prompts Gates to do so much for society at large? Warren Buffet is well known for his uncanny investments, but he has pledged to give away 99% of his wealth to philanthropic causes. With The Giving Pledge he co-founded with Bill Gates they have got 200+ billionaires from 23 different countries to pledge giving to 50% or more of their wealth in charity. The signatories include David Rockefeller, Sara Blakely, Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Bezos, etc. 2013, our Azim Premji became India’s first signatory to The Giving Pledge. Premji has raised his total lifetime giving to $21 billion; he became the world’s largest contributor (to charity), being named as Asia’s most generous philanthropist in the year 2019 by Forbes. Wealth wise, Ambanis have more!! One hears of their taking, but little of their giving. Obviously Mukesh has not heard Anne Frank’s ” No one has ever become poor by giving”.

Giving is considered noble, elevating; rather than the complementary act of receiving. In Giving, the needs and desires of the receiver are given precedence. A conscious effort is made to fulfill these needs, sometimes even to the exclusion & suppression of desires of the giver. The most classic example would be of a Mother making sacrifices and adjustments to see that her child does not want at all. Even the unspoken needs and desires are sought to be fulfilled, whatever personal or monetary cost it entails. A mother’ motives are tough to analyse and understand as they go beyond the realm of reason.

There is an old anecdote about a child stuck on top of a mountain and crying. Everyone in the village gathered, but the mountain was so treacherous, no one dared to climb up, to bring the child down. Even as all were standing around debating, the mother had reached the top and was walking down with the child wrapped on her back. Trained mountaineers asked how she could go up when even they hesitated, her one line reply was ” It was not your child”. All of us who have received a mother’s love will know, no one can give more than a mother!!!

Gifting and Giving go hand in hand in many traditions. Consider the simplest example of birthday party. You would never go empty handed. And if there is a child with you, s/he would expect to come back with a “return” gift, even if it is a mere chocolate bar.

Sudama, forced by his wife to visit his friend Krishna, went with a bag of puffed rice, as a gift for his childhood friend. The Raksha Bandhan festival is sealed with a gift to the sister, however old or wealthy she is. The Padva in Diwali sees the wife receiving a gift from the husband, the Bhaiyya Duj again rewards the sister. Pune even has a gift for the son-in-law as a part of the Diwali giving. During childhood, Eid celebrations meant receiving Sheer Kurma from Muslim friends and of course rich, almond laded lamb curry for Bakri Eid. Within Muslim households grown ups are expected to keep “Iddi” envelopes/gifts ready for distribution at Eid ul Fitr and would even be entitled to receive their own share of gifting for the occasion. . We will soon get into the Christmas season which began with the 3 Wise Kings who came to call upon the Baby Christ bearing gifts. This giving tradition continues till today. Immediately after Thanksgiving in end November, the “festival shopping” season begins for the X’mas giving. So Giving is a part of our experience & culture.

I am reminded of a story I had heard which is set in the Church context. As we know a collection plate is circulated after the Mass to raise resources for the Church’s activities. An over aggressive, enthusiastic young girl was asked to take the collection plate around. She pushed the plate under the nose of an old goat like me and said, Please give…. a big contribution….Give till it hurts” And the world-weary old-fogey replied with a twinkle,” The very thought of giving hurts!”

But jokes apart, when we give, we get a glow, a feeling of satisfaction, an inner peace. the power equation is also well defined, the giver’s hand is on top and full; while the supplicant’s hand is below and empty. This has been true from times immemorial. Remember the Michelangelo’ painting of Creation!

Often the giver falls into the trap of the God Game, thinking himself superior. Whenever I have felt such false pride, I recount for myself my favorite Zen story. During a time of famine, a Zen master went around the countryside begging for money, foodgrains and clothes from all to help the afflicted. He carried a jute sack on his back, & whatever he gathered through the donations of all, he would put in the sack; then go forward, to seek another donor. Once he reached the court of a King in interior China. He put down the sack he carried on his back & made his pitch. The king asked his minister to give a donation of 20 gold coins. When the minister gave him 20 gold coins, he put them in his sack, swung the sack back onto his back, and started leaving the court. The King stopped him and said,”Master, though I am a king, 20 gold coins is a big donation” “So?” asked the Master. “So should you not thank me for this handsome donation?” asked the King. “Why should I?” said the Zen Master,” It is the Giver who should be grateful!”. He swung his sack back, and left without a backward glance.

I love this story because truly I have understood, it is the giver who should be grateful. Grateful that he has enough that he can give. Grateful that he has a full stomach and can spare some surplus. Grateful that I have met someone with whom I can share my wealth! This truth is indeed sublime. Throughout my life I have tried to teach my wife and daughter that we have enough and more. Someone did not question my capability and competence and rewarded me disproportionately. So now why should I grudge giving to others? What right I have to judge their status & deserving, when someone gave me more than enough, with no questions asked. Take heart in Don Williams’ number, ” I have quite enough to live/And my mind is free..” So my living principle, always give more that what others expect, and give it cheerfully. Sometimes, the first half is relatively easy, but giving cheerfully, with a smile, ensuring the receiver does not feel small or burdened; not playing the God Game; accepting that the Giver must be Grateful: That’s real giving!

The Maharaja of Giving in Mahabharata was Karna. Daan-shur Karna. When asked for, Karna even gave away his divine breast-plate and earrings (Kavach Kundala) though he knew this was a trick to make him mortal & vulnerable in war.

A lesser known side-story is Arjuna became angry for Krishna praising Karna for his supreme generosity. Krishna told Arjuna he would prove that Karna’s generosity was indeed superior. Sometime later, Krishna gave a mountain load of gold to Arjuna. Arjuna said he has no use for so much gold, called the populace and started donating the gold, using a spade. Arjuna felt great he was giving away such riches literally spade-fulls. Later Krishna gave the same gift of mountain full of gold to Karna. Karna’s way was to call people, ask then to take however much they wanted. And he just walked away from the mountain of gold!! Proving thereby that he was a true Giver, supreme in generosity, far above Arjuna in this regard.

Remember, Giving is a virtuous cycle which will bring back for you, more than what you have given. That is the Law of Nature. As you Sow, so Shall you Reap. This is the Law of Feed Forward. What ever you have given to others, will come back to you multifold. Have Trust. Have Faith. Believe. Just Give.

At the end let me tell you a Hungarian children’s story, The Safe. There was a wealthy merchant who kept all his money in a safe. He commissioned the village mathematician and intelligent person to design a new safe, such that money kept in it would double!! Obviously the mathematician tried many designs, but money would not double in the safe.

Later, the Merchant was to go on a long travel. He summoned the Mathematician & threatened : by the time he comes back the Safe that doubles the money is made ready, else he will complain to the King!! He left on his travels giving the keys of his existing Safe to the Mathematician. The Mathematician opened the Safe and gave away ALL the money to the people in the village.

When the Merchant returned he found the Safe empty. He rushed out to confront the Mathematician. But en route every neighbour, who had been a beneficiary, called the Merchant to their house, treated him with lots of love & affection, heaped praises & food on him!!! The Merchant realised that though his paper money was gone, he had become much, much richer. He understood that “Everything we give to others will, sooner or later, returns to us, whether or not it be in a form we expected”

Remember, Always Give more than what People Expect & Do it Cheerfully : your friendly neighbourhood vikibaba

Letting Go

There was an old school-time joke we had: Question: How do Porcupines make love?

Answer: very very carefully

Life today has proved the veracity of this joke. Complexity and uncertainty has multiplied manifold. Unless we are very, very careful we will not even know what hit us. Spines and quills all around are ready to poke us & queer our pitch, vitiate the direction we have chosen! So indeed the basic question in front of all of us is: How do I proceed? Where do I go? and How to be successful?

To Go Ahead, we must Look Back! See the road travelled. And jettison what will not help us to move ahead. Reduce the bulwark, make the yacht lean, and then press ahead, full steam. Sorry for the mixed metaphor, but I have taken inspiration from our BMMC who has put up a board just before the Bandra Flyover: To turn Right, Stay Left!!! If you don’t believe me, see when you have crossed the causeway and need to take a turn to the WE Highway. BMMC cautions: To turn Right, Stay Left. Good advice for Life itself!!! So to be successful, Let Go and Move On!

futurepast

What I have realized is, in the hurry to get ahead, and reach the destination, often we are our biggest enemy in moving forward. And this is because of our natural tendency to Hold On. Clutching at straws, or well rooted trees, both have the same effect: they arrest progress towards the goal! We do not realize that Holding On is the way we stop ourselves from moving on, getting ahead, and reaching our target. To reach our true potential we must be able to dispassionately analyze and understand, what is actually helping us move ahead, and what is toxic or excess baggage which is actually holding you back. Robert Frost’s two roads will always beckon, but we must let go of one road, to progress on the other!

two roads

In my professional career of 34 years in Corporate India, I changed 5 jobs. If I look back on each of those changes, they epitomise the Letting Go & Moving On gyan I am selling to you now.

My first job was with HCL I was reporting to the Personnel Director and responsible for Recruitment & Training. Since in a nascent computer industry in late 1970s, personnel turnover was high, Recruitment was an year long activity. Before HCL, I had sat in an aircraft twice…once when I was sick and had to be urgently moved for an operation and second time was for the HCL final interview from IIMC campus. Suddenly, in HCL, I was flying all across India, a flight every week, for campus recruitment and walk-ins. Every new product or software launch also required the Training guy to show all-India presence. Though by entitlement & grade, I was not allowed air travel, the high profile role with regular interactions with Shiv Nadar & Arjun Malhotra, besides being the blue-eyed boy of Personnel Director helped. After 2 years of limitless travel and heady recognition and compliments, my wife gave an ultimatum: enough of Delhi, let’s go back to Mumbai. Choose : Wife or HCL!!!

lookback

Having to Let Go and Move on, I applied  for HR role in Siemens Corporate. 5 day week, 35 hours a week, 21 holidays a year. 50% higher salary. Recruitment & Compensation role. Started dabbling in Training, against the wishes of the Training manager, still enjoying the blue-eyed boy status of the Personnel Director, of Siemens now.  Enjoyed Siemens parties and get togethers, hardly any work pressure. The bug hit me again. Must let go! Must be challenged! Must stretch!! Must learn and grow experience wise. Asked for a transfer to the Industrial Relations role in the factory which had 4500 employees of the 7000 in Siemens India. Siemens had very turbulent and violent IR history. Everyone advised me against the move. To add to it, no one wanted me in Kalwa Factory. Was seen as a “Head Office plant” not to be trusted. Was stretched and pilloried. Rough shod and tested. Baptism by fire! But I grew. I learnt! Developed my own niche and acceptance!! Became the perfect double agent: accepted by both factory and Head Office as “their” man. After 5 years, wanted to go back to Corporate. But neither Factory Management nor the Union were ready to release me. Had no choice but to fly out of the golden cage. Let go my hard earned respect and position in the hearts of managers and workmen in Kalwa and moved to another Company. Atul Products, Valsad, Gujrat.

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6 years thoroughly enjoyed Atul & company township living. But after 4/5 years I realized I was not learning anything new. Challenges were past. Enjoyed great trust of the management, as well as the external Union leadership. But felt stifled because of repetitive tasks and experiences. Time to Let Go and Move On. Fortunately Siemens offered to take me back as a Head of Human Resource Development. Came back to Mumbai, but felt odd being the Boss of people whom I had reported to earlier. Siemens itself had significantly changed in the 6 years I was away. Took me a few months to realize this was not the company I loved in the past. Again a Letting Go, again Moving On to Johnson & Johnson India as Shared Services HR Head.

J&J after so many years in Chemicals and Engineering industry, was truly a breath of fresh air. Very professional and fast paced work culture. Lots of operational freedom. Multiple reporting, 3 Bosses in India (one per SBU) and the Functional Boss in the Region. The challenge was invigorating; culminating in national recognition at the hands of President APJ Abdul Kalam for Innovative HR Practices that drive Business Results.

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With lots of achievements and recognition under the belt, got a chance to join Global HR Transformation Project Team as an AsPac Director. Letting Go of the comfort of JnJ India where I was accepted. Moving on to make my name in the Global Team. Suddenly the person who had sat in a flight twice till the age of 22 was spending 20+ days abroad living off a suitcase and airport lounges, as the responsibility involved 14 countries of AsPac.

With such a hectic schedule, it was natural I missed many family events. My parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary, My Father’s and Mother’s 60th Birthday celebrations, etc etc. One day my daughter Rashmi went to Vinita and asked, “Do you have Baba’s photograph? I have forgotten how he looks”. When Vinita told me this I decided time has come for me to Let Go & Move On again. And I took a simple desk job in General Motors India. Spent last 3 years of my parents’ life near and with them, serving and making up for staying away throughout my academic and professional life.

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The last Letting Go was when I retired from GM in 2014 and Moved On to set up Basil HR Advisory with 2 friends. It has been a great and memorable journey and now Letting Go and Moving on is on lower stakes as it involves clients and assignments. With consultancy projects, the roots do not grow that deep as the time commitment and the emotional connect is not at the same level as in the jobs earlier. One knows, that you are a midwife or a nurse, and not the real mother, so the contract is itself defined with Letting Go and Moving On.

Tony Robbins the best selling author of Unleash the Power Within & Date with Destiny puts it very beautifully: ” Will you live inside your story or Let Go and Move On?” Very important question to keep asking yourself as you live and grow? The attraction “living inside your story” are legion. Comfort & security. No new questions or challenges. The ship is safest in the harbour. But it was not built to remain there. Rough seas make skilled mariners. Move On and face the rough seas.

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Letting go is a process. You cannot do it overnight, especially if you have spent your life holding on to things you know and love – even if, deep down, you know they are sub-optimising your full potential. Focusing on moving forward and creating a new story for yourself will help you deal with the inevitable pain of conquering new territories. It will also help you gain confidence, develop empowering beliefs to live by and Move On with elan. The power of Letting Go helps you to Move On in your life. If you can not get out of the story you’ve constructed for yourself, then you cannot move on to bigger and brighter things.

So Don’t look back; the Grass is Greener on the other side: vikas

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Nahi Udaas Nahi…

वाक़िये इतने अनगिनत हैं इस ज़िंदगी के…साहिब.!!

समझ नहीं आ रहा…किताब लिखूँ या हिसाब लिखूँ…!!!

The First Lockdown was declared across India on 23rd March. We received the news in shocked surprise, as neither Corporate India, nor  families were prepared. Shopkeepers big or small, offices, factories, even e-commerce sites all went into shutdown. Individuals were scrambling to organize daily requirements like milk and veggies, while large organizations were busy providing their employees IT support so that they could work from home seamlessly. In the starting days of lockdown, I wrote a blog : A Crisis too Precious to Waste (  https://vikasshirodkar.blog/2020/04/09/a-crisis-too-precious-to-waste/ ). In my early enthusiasm, I actually listed out 9 positive outcomes that we can all gather/learn from the lockdown. Even in my title, unknowingly I had echoed great men of yore e.g.  Winston Churchill, ” Never let a good crisis go to waste”.

Today is 27th June. We are in Lockdown 5.0. From 23rd March, it is 96 days most of us have been at home. A small number of us, from essential services, health care, pharma, policing or other security outfits have been working  through these nearly 100 days. And possibly working even harder, with more stress than before. Another group started going to work more recently in the last 8/10 days. Uncertain, scared what the exposure to external environment would do to our risk profile, leading to a doubt whether you should have risked going back to office at all!! An even larger majority is still at home. Some in conducive industries like  Technology, BFSI & IT/ITES are practicing the new norm of Working from Home,  for varying lengths of time. An even larger number, in Educational institutions, Retail industry, Transportation, Hospitality just waits for the next diktat … uncertain whether it will be extension of the Lockdown or lifting of it.

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Meanwhile, number of cases testing positive continues to soar. Slowly,  surely.  We now know of cases in our friends’ circle, or in our Society, or even in our building who have tested positive. Buildings/Floors are being sealed and cordoned off by the municipal authorities. If the data shared on the many webinars I attend daily is anything to go by, there is an increase in the cases of depression, anxiety and, of course, stress in the populace.  Uncertainty of when all this will end is not helpful.  Mental Health is always a good indicator of overall satisfaction and happiness within the system. And so this is worrisome. There are some “hidden talents” in each one of us and hidden opportunities in the circumstances. Unfortunately, to paraphrase a comedian in recent times,” I do have many hidden talents. But it is hidden so well, that I can’t find it myself!!” That will not help. We need to plumb our depths and find them.

Against this backdrop, while I was walking yesterday (yes I am allowed to go down to walk in the open within Society’s premises) an old song popped into my head…

“नहीं उदास नहीं

बस एक चुप सी लगी है

नहीं उदास नहीं

कही पे सांस रुकी है”

Literally the world, & those of us affected by this lockdown await with bated breath to see how this whole scenario will play out. The frustration, at least for me, is the sheer lack of clarity on how this will end. Despite Lockdown for nearly 100 days, the no of cases keep increasing day by day. While I do not track numbers, as they are a depressive scoreboard to watch, nor do I watch the news, the SM does creep into your psyche and inform you the latest.  So is it all negative? Bad? Hopeless?

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Again the song plays in my head:

कोई अनोखी नहीं ऐसी जिंदगी लेकिन

खुब न हो

मिली जो

खूब मिली है

नहीं उदास नहीं बस एक चुप सी लगी है

You may be wondering whether I have fallen into the Stockholm Syndrome type of thinking where I am now falling in love with my social isolation, physical distancing, not stirring out of my home? “लज़्ज़ते_ए_आशिकी अब इस से बढ कर क्या होगी… रिहाई का वक्त आया तो, पिंजरे से मुहब्बत हो गयी !” Have I forgotten the joy of freedom, roaming aimlessly, going to malls & restaurants, shopping live, meeting friends & relatives, long drives?

No, I sit to write to you, and aver to myself…नहीं उदास नहीं. Rather, I thank the powers that be (China??) that made this happen. I am grateful that I got a radically different experience, compared to my earlier 64 years. I feel good that I got to stay home for 100 days, breaking the vicious cycle of my constant work-related travel, for the first time since I began working in 1980. I got a chance to do things I have never done.  Whether it was sweeping and swabbing the house, or washing utensils at one end of the spectrum to catching up on a lot of reading, getting on to Netflix for the first time (using my daughter’s account) and doing binge watching of serials and movies; which concept, I had only heard of. Why, we even celebrated birthdays & anniversaries on Zoom! And  had surprise treats for Fathers’ Day and delicious meals shared with family who live in same complex.  I actually learnt to have & enjoy long conversations with my daughter on phone, sharing daily tribulations and tensions of her life. Got close to my extended family on zoom platform, settling down into a rhythm of  weekly calls with the entire gang…..enjoying impromptu performances by grandchildren, hearing about cooking from my nieces, family politics & frustrations from cousins, and in other ways enjoying the “we” time. Getting on  more comfortable terms with my wife of 4o years, because suddenly we were shorn of all paraphernalia of activities & friends, relatives & maids… and rediscovering our joy of being together & doing things for one another after a longish gap.

सुनी हिकायतें हस्ती तो दरमियान से सुनी

ना इब्तिदा की ख़बर है ना इन्तेहां मालूम।

{ हिकायतें= stories; हस्ती = life, world; दरमियान= during; इब्तिदा= Beginning, origin, commencement; इन्तेहां utmost limit, end; extremity. }

Wayne Dyer tells us,” Accept life as it is or take the responsibility to change it!”. Yes, there are no paid consultancy assignments as even the clients are locked down. But that gave me an opportunity to learn new developments & the latest thinking in HR by attending & addressing a number of webinars & online meetings.  I fib you not… to take notes, I opened a fresh, new 2020 diary…one of those Demi sized ones with one page to a date. Given the amount of notes I have made….I am already on the Sept 29th page in that diary!! Listening to so many webinars and calls has kept me on track for my original dream….to be a constant learner.

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So, truly, I have enjoyed the 100 days. Would I be willing & ready to get into another lock down ? Yes and No. NO since we can’t call Rashmi over from Gurugram (where she is working at present) & spend time with her together without agenda…which I miss badly. That is the only NO reason. But for YES, there are so many. My family, first and foremost. My new learning. My improved relationships. My me time

I look back on what I wrote in the beginning of lockdown, and the suggestions I made on how to give a positive twist to this quirk of lockdown, home-locked fate. And I am proud that I have implemented most of the suggestions I made! The Dr has indeed tasted  his own medicine!! During these 96 days I have practiced frugality & learning to do with less; developed a feeling of gratitude for all that we have; sensed a closer bonding with immediate family, and extended family equally; grown closer and re-established contact with friends; done much better time management; sharpened my ability to adjust/compromise; imbibed  new skills; created a “stop doing” list for greater effectiveness to which I keep adding; and finally am leveraging & enjoying solitude. जीने को और क्या चाहिए!!!

Been there, Done it all. If & when the lockdown is lifted, I am sure you all will see a better version of me!!!

I end with this beautiful poem a friend shared, excerpted from The Weighing by Jane Hirshfield:

So few grains of happiness

measured against all the dark

and still the scales balance.
The world asks of us

only the strength we have and we give it.

Then it asks more, and we give it.

mother end

Stay Safe; Stay Together; Stay Happy: vikibaba

A crisis too precious to waste( written on 9th April 2020)

The blog was missing so reposting

The path breaking movie, Star Wars left us many learnings. My favourite? Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn’s  advice to Anakin Skywalker, “Always remember: Your focus determines your reality.”  In our hyper distracted world of today, we would do well to remember this seminal thought! 

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The volume of communication bombarding us from all sides, and our unfettered access to information & other people, fuelled by the ubiquitous social media & our smartphones, have made it more difficult than ever to focus. Despite this reality, there are opportunities to focus all around us. But we must recognize & seize them.  The faith that focus will benefit, both yourself and the people around you, makes this a priority. In other words, before you can help & lead others, the first person you must help & lead is yourself.

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The Global pandemic of CONVID19 and the consequent lockdown has forced us to remain in our houses. Analysts say this crisis is larger than what humanity has seen even in the 2 World Wars, or any other health scares we have experienced in the past  eg The Black Death (The Great London plague) in 1665; or the Spanish Flu of 1918; or the Asian Flu of 1957, in which an estimated 1 million plus people died. CONVID19 pandemic has the potential to overtake the estimated 65 Million infections worldwide & 25 Million deaths due to HIV/AIDS. The worldwide lockdowns & the desperate efforts afoot to find an inoculation to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, or to treat & cure patients afflicted, are well documented and within public knowledge.

When everything around us is breaking up, social networks  becoming purely virtual & digital, work from home is the new reality, manufacturing & supply chain are compromised,  and questions face us wherever we turn, it is easy to fall into despondency or worse, fatalism. Still, I believe tough times are an opportunity to ponder. To revalue everything in your life.  Nature and Industry is conniving to give you time, they have pressed the “Pause” button! You are getting a lot of time to reflect, and decide the next steps, or new turns, that you will take. Transmutation, Transformation, Change is rapidly intruding in our daily humdrum. “Business as usual” is clearly a matter of the foregone past.

I take heart in the words of Richard Bach: ” What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly”. A new world, a new reality beckons us; and am sure it will be better than our past!

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So it is in this context I sit to write something positive, though the entire doomsday scenario has plunged us into negativity!  Many may call me foolhardy. But I do believe this crisis has thrown up some interesting learnings which we should take to heart, and blend into the way we will live, in the future.

I do believe our lives will be the better,  in case we survive!! So here I go counting my chickens before they are hatched….imagining the great Indian Chicken Tikka Masala we have in store for us, just around the corner.

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So specifically what are the positives in this lockdown scenario?

  • We have learnt to do with less: unnecessary shopping, reckless eating out, entertainment till we drop, is gone. Less is More! Simple things give pleasure : the sheer availability of milk and veggies feels great.
  • Count your blessings: you enjoy a roof over your head, you are not worried where the next meal is coming from, essentials supplies are being maintained (hitherto). Life’s needle has moved just marginally for you, if you face the facts.
  • Families, teams & couples have come closer: you have only one another to look up to, celebrate, complain. Conversations have started on lunch/dinner tables, whereas earlier all were in a hurry to gobble food, and head in different directions, with no common agenda.
  • Time: the great leveller, has shown his benevolent side. Earlier a hard taskmaster, seemingly driving you relentlessly on a rollercoaster of tasks & activities, suddenly Father Time has shown his softer side. I see more time hanging on my hands now.  It gives me the joy of planning & executing at my volition. I feel more in command & can do more of what my heart desires.
  • Analyse your time spend. Think whether your short  & long term goals are best served with your “time spent analysis”. Develop a good understanding on where you want to reach, what you want to get done. Use the time-data to act on what needs change,  to get better alignment to your goals. Define priorities & focus on them.
  • In present times, we have learnt greater level of accomodation and adjustment. Our demands and desires have got tempered;  we are less strident about our needs & wants. “Marie nahi hai, KrackJack chalega; KrackJack nahi hai, Monaco ya Gluco  is OK.”  We are different now. I take joy in small tasks.
  • Starve your distractions. Social media, YouTube, NetFlix, and the limitless possibilities of the internet hang over our heads. They tempt us to click links that take us to another video or article. Understand & accept that the internet lures you in, & then take decisive action by logging out of your social media accounts and blocking websites during certain hours of the day. Recognize this is often a bottomless well. This is beneficial “Social Distancing”!

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  • This “quiet time” you have been gifted is a great time for you to take stock of your capabilities & competencies. Identify gaps in yourself and use this time to do online certifications, learning, webinars and training. Do not let the tempo of work get in the way of good development opportunities. Come out with a better version of You!
  •  There are only so many hours in a day. Reflect on where your time is best spent, which provides you with the clarity to decide which calls to take, which meetings to stop attending,  and which invitations you should politely decline. This is something that Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, has been advising people to do for many years. Create a “stop doing” list.
  • There is no silver bullet  for solving the complex problems of today. But there are some good places to start, and one of them is: solitude. Having the discipline to step back from the noise of the world is essential to staying focused. Know that whatever incites our emotions, causes the cognitive effects of distractions to linger. In their  book, Lead Yourself First, Ray Kethledge & Mike Erwin define solitude as a state of mind, a space in which to focus one’s own thoughts without distraction — and where the mind can work through a problem on its own. Leverage this to come up with sustainable & effective solutions to life’s challenges.

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If you see it in the right perspective, the present crisis has gift wrapped and brought all this to you, while you are sitting at home!! Sad will be the day, if we go back to our past ways as soon as this crisis blows over, & leave all these learnings by the wayside.

Now it is up to us to make use of this crisis time, and the power of our imagination, our faith & our trust in the ingenuity of our fellow human beings, our willingness to experiment and our ability to learn, our inner alchemy, if you will, to transmute the challenges & the mounds of coal that surround us today into streets of Gold, paved with our desires and dreams to move ahead and beyond. 

Believe, indeed it is possible, and it will come to pass!

In a Distracted World, Solitude is a Competitive Advantage;                                     Enjoy yours, while it lasts: vikas

Post Script: Gratefully acknowledge my debt of inspiration to Richard Bach’s Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah; as I believe we all are now.

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Stand & Wait

“जाने तेरे शहर का, क्या इरादा है;  आसमान कम, परिंदे ज़्यादा हैं ” sang Vipin Anneja in Jazbaa

John Milton believed (like most of us??) that he was born for a great purpose!!

miltonWhen struck by blindness, in the middle of his life, his anguish poured into the sonnet that began “When I consider how my life is spent…” Like many of us who are waiting for something, and get upset and angry when it does not happen within our time line, Milton too fought with his Maker in the Sonnet. Still, in the last/14th line of the poem, Milton reconciles & gives us that oft quoted epithet, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

I, for one, often take umbrage to this “stand and wait” model of problem resolution. I feel it is escapism and fooling oneself, when you say that you are serving some purpose when you stand and wait. This is best exemplified  in the fast paced game of basketball, when the Coach  asks for player substitution and gets an active player out of the court, and sends another player instead to continue the game. This also happens in Kabbadi, Volleyball, Hockey, or Football. Think for a moment, the mindset of the player, who suddenly finds himself in the dugout, out of the match, becoming a spectator rather than a player of the game!!

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The Hall of Fame baseball commentator Vin Scully, made this Miltonesque quote famous by referring to the player not in the game, as “they who serve by standing and waiting out the game”. Would that player think he is serving? Or feel miserable that he is out of action, for now. The Navy Wives Club of America has their motto as “They also serve who stay and wait”. Really? what are they serving so far away from the war theater ??and how long do they wait?? Is it not better then, to take action & move on?

During my college days, a play become very famous & shaped our thinking. Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was iconic in impact. Originally written in French, Beckett himself translated this into English and described it as a “tragi-comedy”. It premiered in English in 1955 ( the year that I was born…it that significant I wonder?). The entire play revolves around the discussions & dialogue between Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo) as they wait for the arrival of Godot in the middle of a road to nowhere!! Godot never arrives till the end of the play!

This play was a jewel in the crown of absurd drama. The British Royal National Theatre in 1990, voted it as the “most significant English language play of the 20th century”. In a way, it typifies the modern man’s life: meaningless existence; we all stuck on a desolate path; with a companion who is equally confused; all the time waiting for Godot; who never arrives!! There are no answers in the play, & even the tree on that road is bare:  bereft of any greenery & new life. Where are we going? What are we waiting for? Who will make our journey a trifle less senseless? Questions that dog you, me, everybody, daily, regularly.

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I was fortunate to see this challenging play enacted at Chabildas School, Dadar by one-time superstars of the English theater Nasiruddin Shah and Benjamin Gilani;  and the quest and angst of Didi and Gogo have never left me since! Along with them, and a host of other unsatisfied souls,  I have been Waiting for Godot since then!! All of us who are hungry, are missing something, want more, await a direction, await the messiah, await deliverance, await the promised land, want a better future…. we stand and await Godot. And true to form….Godot never arrives! The search never ends! Our eyes continue to pine. Our hearts remain empty. Our waiting for Godot begs the question….Is there a Godot at all? Will someone answer my call? Will there be a resolution? Will I be delivered? Do solutions exist? Will the Messiah finally take pity on me & reveal himself? Questions sans answers. The human condition is to wait, wait and … wait for Godot!!

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We have heard often that “the mills of God grind slowly, but grind well.”  So a waiting period is visualized as an inseparable part of our desires.  And the process to achieve them!! If we get what we want very easily, there is a tendency to undervalue it. Moreover, it is in our nature that whenever we achieve the goal we have set for ourselves, no sooner the goal comes near fulfillment, our desires change and we then are hungering after something else, something more, bigger, better, grander. When you do that, the waiting time elongates. Every minute feels like an hour, every hour feels like a day, and every day feels like forever. Depending on what you are waiting for and how keenly you desire it, sometimes you are ready to wait forever and a day!

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It is rightly said by Mary Gordon:  Waiting is the great vocation of the dispossessed. And curiously, we all are dispossessed as we always want more, something better, something faster, something more sleek. This desire keeps spiralling even when we get what we wanted, as there are always new things to wait for! So often-times I think I am waiting, for something that will never happen, since it is a moving target anyways, a chimera that I chase.

In the beginning, I  quoted the song “Jaane tere shehar ka kya iraada hai” from Jazbaa.

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Irrfan Khan plays a down & out corrupt police inspector in a one-sided love affair with Aishwarya. She comes to his bachelor’s pad where naturally everything is in a mess. – इस मेस में कैसे रहते हो?  she asks. And Irrfan’s answer is iconic and memorable  – “मैं कहाँ रहता हूँ  यहाँ ? यहां इंतज़ार रहता है.”

Words which apply to each and every one of us and our lives – मैं कहाँ रहता हूँ यहाँ ? यहां इंतज़ार रहता है. When we will grasp this truth?

Are we stuck in this absurd drama then? Is our human condition just to wait? Will the wait ever end? Is there hope? Remember what AA Milne tells us: Rivers know this, there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.

I end with another fantastic line spoken by Irrfan in Jazbaa when Aishwarya comes to visit him. His assistant: ” कस्टमर आया है”…he replies: आज उम्मीद आई है …  When she bids good-bye, and his assistant asks – क्या सर, जाने दिया आपने? – He says : .   अबे मोहब्बत है इसी लिए तो जाने दिया, ज़िद्द होती तोह बाहों में होती.

I see a great parallel between what we are discussing and Irrfan’s advice. Irrfan too was waiting for Godot…the unrealisable Aishwarya. And when she does not stay, his response is …..keep the faith……Love life…. उम्मीद रख…..do not try to imprison life and its solutions…ज़िद्द न कर……..Trust the process…..मोहब्बत है इसी लिए जाने दे…..Indeed they also serve, who stand and wait!!!

Patience is bitter, but it’s fruit is sweet said Aristotle long ago.                                     So let us stand & wait and enjoy sweet fruit says vikas today.

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No, Not New

Let me confess at the outset that this is an iconoclastic post. I mean, but really, what is NEW about 2020? It is just another year, no?? and how will it be HAPPY I wonder? By wishing? Please…I have seen more of life to believe that!!! So I say again, No, there is NOTHING NEW in 2020. And to make it HAPPY my friend, we have work to do. Mere wishes will not help. Nor the implicit belief in what Lord Tennyson wrote ages ago: “Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”                                                               Don’t know about you all, but I have had it with the sugar syrupy, cloying New Year messages. Enough already!! Let us get on with our living!!!going on

Really, think what is New about 2020? Yes, the date changes. Possibly will lead to errors on important documents and cheque leaves being torn up, as you can’t make corrections. Besides the date change, does the life not go on as usual? So why the hype? Whenever I hear a cheery, Happy New Year, I am reminded of the stand up comic who quipped….Have told so many friends, “Happy 2020…don’t worry, the next year will be so much better than the earlier years”; I love misguiding people!!

Actually, as thinking adults, we should remember that the future is built on the past. Every new beginning, to be rock-solid, must be built on the fragments of the past. The remnants of our experiences will create the strong anchor for our uncertain future. I, for one, believe that the new year should never be based on the abandonment of the past. Child is the Father of Man, Wordsworth told us long ago. In a similar vein, our future must be rooted in our past. What we have done and achieved in 2019 and earlier, should speak to what we plan for 2020. That is why the Turkish playwright, Mehmet Murat ildan tells us, “In the New Year, never forget to thank to your past years because they enabled you to reach today! Without the stairs of the past, you cannot arrive at the future!”

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Yes I agree that the unknown future is full of potentialities and possibilities. Every Hero journeys from the Known to the Unknown. To that extent, the New Year promises potentiality unlimited….it is always brighter at the horizon and the unfulfilled promises beckon to us from yonder. The Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837)  captures it well in his Operette Morali (Small Moral Works) thus,  “Life which is beautiful is not the life that is known, but that which is not known; not the past life, but the future. With the new year, chance will begin to treat you and me and all the others well, and the happy life will begin. Non e vero?” Is it not true? (Translation using Google)

So come January, and the turn of the year, we are overwhelmed. Excited with the chance to turn over a new leaf. Do things differently. Feel that this new threshold will take us into a new trajectory, where magically the world will be congenial,  and life will be much better. But the fact is that we cannot see into the future, we cannot predict how it will treat us, where will be at the end of 2020. Only thing we can be certain is that we will again wish at the end….2021 will be Happy New Year!!!

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As we go through life, many things are thrown our way. Challenges, Achievements, Failures. We need to make our way through all of these. How you deal with both your successes, and your failures, shows your real character. None of us is born with the Magic Key, or possesses the Silver Bullet, to solve all problems & come out always successful. Life forever presents a mixed bag of results and disappointments. The true Hero does not get vibrated or vitiated from his path, come what may. S/he continues onward and forward with hope and joy, adding to  learnings and experiences, with every result… be it positive or negative. So as you prepare for the new challenges and goals, review your past achievements and failures to learn from them: what you need to do more of, to increase your “batting average”;   and what you need to do differently, to avoid “run outs”.

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Walk through all the rooms of the past, not to look for  cracks & peeled paint, but to review the chances you missed, the potentialities you did not capture, the low hanging fruits that you could have easily gathered in your bag. Don’t look for flaws, but focus instead on the possibilities and potential that the future holds. After all, how many of us get a chance to play our innings all over again, bat once more to overcome the mistakes you made earlier and end with a better score on the scoreboard?

Let us take inspiration from the hoary essayist G K Chesterton who guides: ““The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. … Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.

Having said that, I will not repeat the cliche every New Year is like a new diary, a new page opens up for you to write new dreams, expound fresh aspirations or make new resolutions. Rather I will say to you….I hope you have the strength to break your New Year resolutions early!

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Be open to new trajectories life wants to take you into, face every new day as though it is your last, and work to leave a positive impression and an impressive trail behind. This you can do by remaining focussed on Today, Here and Now. Don’t second guess your future. Remain open to new experiences. Seek out fresh and newer pastures. Expose. Expand. Grow. One day at a time.

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Do not pre-commit to paths that you may not enjoy. Live every day as it comes. And if you are positive and exploratory, you will win. No one has a manual for Life. You are the only Pilot  you should trust with this Flight of Fancy and Journey of Finding your potential. Enjoy, 2020 and beyond. (Remember, years are just numbers!)

To end: “…last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.” – vikas, the idiot;                              echoing TS Eliot, the wise

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Con.sid.er.a.tion (noun)

Showing care and concern, consideration for others is fast becoming a dying skill. Today it is all about I, me and myself. Who has the time to focus on others? to abnegate oneself? and put others before self ?? what are you talking about, bro? which world are you from? Have you lost it? If I show consideration, I will be seen as weak!! People will take advantage of me. I will be left behind. Others will move ahead of me. And worst thing is….I will be seen as a wimp, someone who does not have the “balls” to get ahead in the competitive world. Goal achievement today is seen as a zero sum game! For me to win, you must lose!! I must ride roughshod over your agenda, if I have to achieve mine.

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Sounds familiar? Are we all not facing this day in day out?  Either as aggressors ourselves, as we pursue our own dreams to the exclusion of others! Or as sufferers who see others play out this, and we remain at the receiving end!!

So is this a right time to blog on  “consideration”? Vehemently,  I say yes!! this is an important skill which we all need to imbibe and hone, if we want to collaborate and succeed in today’s dog eat dog world. Let us understand this more.   

Lexically, consideration is defined as: careful thought, typically over a period of time.  A para-legal meaning of consideration is a payment or reward: discussed threadbare in the Contracts Act;  as a contract cannot be binding unless consideration has changed hands.  And the consideration, I want to talk to you about is possibly a combination of both of these meanings:- after deliberate thought, you go out of the way and show care and concern, affection and empathy: genuine consideration for the other person’s point of view. This can be oil that lubricates the societal machine to go around, easier.

Think about the times when you are standing in a queue, at a bank or a ticket  or an enquiry counter. As you await your turn, suddenly someone comes officiously and goes to the head of the queue; and demands immediate attention. Obviously s/he is showing no consideration to the others in the queue. What do you do in this situation? Do you assertively go forward, tap him/her on the shoulder and say, ” Excuse me we are all standing in a queue here!”. Or do you, like most would do, curse the boorish fellow who jumps the queue;  but reconcile that it would take just a minute more and so remain quiet, and await your turn? If you allow the intruder to get away with his jumping the queue, are you being considerate? I think, no: as consideration makes both parties happy.

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Now a days,  I am impressed with the host, who along with the dinner invite sends you a Google map location pin of the address of his home or the venue you are to meet. Just shows his considerate nature, and desire to go that extra mile, to make your reaching the venue easier. Consideration is the host calling you up and asking your brand of beer or the liquor you prefer. Consideration is the hostess checking whether you eat fish, or shellfish, or what meat you prefer. All this signals that you are an important and valued guest; and your comfort is paramount to the hosts. Consideration for others requires you to put yourself into the other person’s shoes, think from his perspective and act keeping his comfort & convenience topmost. Consideration stems from the belief that that caring and concern make the social wheels move smoother. We are bound together a la Siamese twins, and so your comfort and happiness rebounds, and makes me happy and comfortable. Consideration is the hyphen in win-win relationships!!

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In social dos, one sacrosanct rule I follow is : never get dragged into discussions around religion and politics. Not that these subjects are not fundamental to human existence and the social fabric. They indeed are. But both religion and politics draw strong lines. You are either with us, or you are against us. Both release such strong opinions, that there is a very thin line between discussion and hard stands. Quickly, the seemingly intellectual discussions end with daggers drawn, both verbal and virtual.  ” How can you be stupid that you cannot see my point of view?” “This is so obvious that even a child can see the logic of my argument”  is the approach… from both sides of the table!!!! As Samuel Smiles puts it so well above dogmatism grows to “puppyism” & both sides are barking on two sides of the tree, firmly entrenched in their opinions and trying to win the argument with the power of arrogance. What suffers in this heated exchange is consideration! Modi baiters and Modi supporters can never agree. And Rahul Gandhi opponents will never understand how he can get elected, even in a Wayanad,  with 12 lakh 76 thousand votes, in the most educated state of India!!

Consideration of the other is politely accepting that however  close I am to my side of the arguments, facts, opinions…..they are after all only one side of the coin. There is an equal and countervailing “other side” of the coin which I must acknowledge and handle, even if I do not accept. Multiple indeed are the ways to reach Allah!!!!

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The best advice to live and love in a multifaceted, plural world was given by that venerable philosopher Plato long, long ago. It is good to remind ourselves of what he said….“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle”. We need sensitivity to appreciate the pressures & compulsions of others and what they are going through.  Only thing which can truly help is “consideration”. Consideration for others will smoothen social intercourse. Difficulties which come in between will get easily resolved, if there is a bond of mutual consideration.

We all have experienced heartburn and the harsh grinding and gnashing of teeth. Often we feel wronged, misunderstood, under appreciated and pressured. Sadly we seek solutions outside of ourselves, while actually the answer lies within. The ancient Greek dramatist, Menander of Athens tells us : “There is but one genuine love potion – Consideration”. This secret key can open all doors, to all the hearts, in the world. That is why  Henry Link tells us that “….with consideration, the effects on us and on society as a whole would be amazing”.

Oftentimes we appropriate the role of being the General Manager of the world!! We think we know best & it is up to us to correct the world, and pilot it to the “right” path. This is where genuine and true consideration of others could set us into a different orbit.  To quote Michal Rovner, ” I carry some kind of consideration and weight and observations about what is going on in the world, but I don’t go to execute it”. This holding back, this letting go, this acceptance of a contrarian view is real consideration!! Unfortunately, the truth is, I never take into consideration the consequences of my actions until it is too late. It would do good for us to remember the golden words of Kevin Anderson, ” A moment of consideration often prevents a thousand apologies”. More positively stated, remember that within the hearts of men, mutual love and consideration are valued greater than success.

So… Consideration or No Consideration, the choice is yours!! Mae West said it very well: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

 

*जरूरी नही 💫हर गिफ्ट कोई वस्तु ही हो,*

*प्यार, परवाह, ✨रिस्पेक्ट भी बहुत अच्छे गिफ्ट हैं।*

*कभी किसी को देकर तो देखे.*🌟: vikas

chrisrobin