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.

givetake

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.

disraeli

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!!

samuel

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!!!!

society

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

Saints & Sinners

oscar

My dearest father…may his soul rest in peace…taught us many great truths. One of his favorite quote was “Every saint has a past….and every sinner a future”. And this, while he was counselling me when I had sinned. But let me begin the story at the beginning…a good place to start!!!

I have always been a strong movie buff….the large screen, the love stories, the beautiful heroines, the suffering heroes, the convoluting twists and turns of fate held great fascination for me. Mine is a serious case of Bollywood addiction!!! Every movie which released, must be seen by me!!!

But in school times, I  was on a small, monthly pocket money. And that did not last very long in front of my burning desire to see each & every movie. So I took to stealing. Maybe stealing is a big word, it was more like pinching pennies….a 2 Rupee note here, a 5 Rupee note there: pinched from my mother’s kitchen purse, or my father’s trouser pocket. Maximum was 10 Rupees if I felt very adventurous!! Never large sums, as I felt that would get too much attention. But small amounts which, I hoped, would go unnoticed. All to fuel my movie mania. (As I write, I just realised this kleptomania may have run in the family. A cousin took this to a different level, and started skimming money from bank accounts…where he was working…and nearly landed in jail!!! But that is another story!)

Let me get back to my small thefts. As happens often, Truth Prevailed… I got caught & exposed. Fortunately, only by my loving Father and my doting Mother. I was crestfallen & crushed, guilty like hell, totally low & self-humiliated. And while telling me to rise above such petty tendencies, my father gave Wilde’s words of solace…Every saint has a past….and every sinner a future!  They supported and counselled me out of my bad habit, and brought me up to be an upright and honest adult, who takes great pride in how he changed for the better.

History is replete with examples of sinners and saints who have walked on both sides of the line.

valmiki

In Hindu mythology, the most illustrious case must be of Valmiki. Valya Koli was a bandit looting and killing people in the jungles. He accosted Sage Narada once. When challenged by Narada, as to why he is sinning against humanity and whether anybody will share his guilt, Valya Koli had the realisation that he alone was answerable for his misdeeds. He decided to mend his ways, in the process becoming a Sage himself! As Valmiki, he went on to pen the Ramayana. Known as the “Adi Kavi”, the first Poet,  he composed India’s premier epic.

Angulimala

Angulimala, the bandit thief who wore a necklace of the fingers he cut off from his victims, is another story which teaches the lesson that everyone can change their life for the better, even the least likely people. Aṅgulimāla (Pali literally ‘finger necklace’) is an important figure in Buddhism.  In childhood, he was a scholar and a favourite of his teacher. Due to the jealousy of fellow students, his teacher was provoked into asking him to get 100 fingers to complete his study. Angulimala became a ruthless brigand. Yet he completely transformed after conversion to Buddhism. He is seen as the example par excellence of the redemptive power of the Buddha’s teaching and the power to change. Under Gautama Buddha, Angulimala gave up his old ways and became a monk himself.

judas

Judas Iscariot exemplifies the other half of our basic proposition. Here we have one of the original Twelve Disciples, who betrayed Jesus Christ by kissing him and revealing his identity to the crowd who had come to arrest him!! While the motive for Judas’s betrayal is still debated, Jesus himself had predicted the betrayal at the Last Supper. According to the Gospel of Matthew [26:15] Judas received 30 pieces of silver. Gospels of Luke and John say he was possessed by Satan. Whatever the reason, in Judas we see illustrious follower & “saint” fall from grace and become a “sinner” in the eyes of posterity. Interestingly, we must accept that the betrayal of Judas, set in motion events that led to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, which in turn brought salvation to humanity!! Good or Bad? Saint or Sinner? Debates rage on as The Gnostic Gospel of Judas – rejected by the mainstream Church as heretical – praises Judas for his role in triggering humanity’s salvation and exalts Judas as the best of the apostles.

So is being a Saint or a Sinner separated by a very thin line? Can we truly differentiate?

दिल की आवाज़ भी सुन मेरे फसाने पे न जा

मेरी नज़रों की तरफ देख जमाने पे न जा……thus sang Mohammad Rafi in Humsaya. And that is indeed true for all Sinners….and also all saints, past or present.

jesus

In modern times, look at the industry icons, the New Age Apostles!! Have they reached pinnacles of success purely following a pristine path? Behind every commercial success, there are many skeletons in the cupboard!! Who will judge Dhirubhai Ambani: Sinner or Saint?  Histories of large business empires are replete with stories  spoken in hushed tones in mixed company. How will you judge Mukesh Ambani? or Anil Ambani for that matter, who frittered away all he had received on a platter? Akash & Isha Ambani may have come with shining degrees from US business schools. But can they stay away from the shadow of corruption and manipulations of the Reliance Industries’ past? This is just one industrial house I quote, as it has been most hotly debated publicly, for years. But who comes with totally clean hands? Saints or Sinners?

The debate continues. The recent case of V G Siddhartha of CCD committing suicide is another classic example. Reports yo-yoed from calling him an epitome of humane corporate leadership to talks of blatant gangsterism in acquiring the coffee estates & building his plantation empire. Beginning with calling the IT Departments and Banks as villians in ruining a good entrepreneur, the tone soon changed to how political pressure was used to get soft loans and then defaulting on repayments. The web is yet to be unravelled and the jury is still out to conclude decisively whether VG Siddhartha was a Saint or a Sinner? Or take the case of our P Chidambaran – one time Finance and Home Minister who was hiding from the police & authorities. Kartik Chidambaran disproportionate assets makes the word disproportionate pale into insignificance. Harvard educated, Chidambaram was revered once. But now?? Saint? or Sinner? 

The example I quote often is Alfred Bernhard Nobel. Engineer, Chemist, Businessman and Inventor : 355 patents to his name! The synthetic element “nobelium” is named after him!!!

Nobel_Prize

Today’s generation will know him for the Nobel Prizes in Pure Sciences and Peace Prize. And thereby hangs the tale. The Nobel fortune was founded on his patent for Dynamite. Bofors was a iron and steel company, before Nobel transformed it to a maker of cannons and guns ….weapons of destruction!!! Reading an premature obituary which blamed him for making a fortune from selling arms, he bequeathed his entire fortune to institute the Nobel Prizes. This is how he is remembered today. Saint? or Sinner turned Saint? You decide.

So I come back to the basic thing my Father taught me. All Saints have a past. They have done things they may not proud of. And would rather forget or at least, gloss over or embellish when history is written. Similarly, all Sinners should have the faith that Tomorrow is yet another day. The new Sun will come with other potentialities. And newer endings to the story of life, which is still being written. As King Khan reassured us in Om Shanti Om…if Happy Endings have not come, then  do not lose faith….पिक्चर अभी बाकि है मेरे दोस्त. Things will change. And you can choose a different future….or a different past, a la Richard Bach.

mandela

If you keep the Faith, then the following concluding lines of the Humsaya song ring true… मैं हक़ीकत हूँ, ये एक रोज दिखाऊँगा तुझे

बेगुनाही पे मोहब्बत की रुलाऊँगा तुझे

So Learn to Forgive and Keep the Trust, the cycle will turn: vikas the hopeful

hoffer

Procrastination

आज नहीं दिल कल देंगे भाई ऐसी भी क्या जल्दी है,

अरे, ऐसी भी क्या जल्दी है अरे, ऐसी भी क्या जल्दी है….

So sang Dev Anand, my favourite chocolate hero, even about the most important task of giving his heart to his beloved, his heroine, the Dream Girl!! Is it surprising then that this movie was titled Shareef Badmash? That is really what procrastinators are….Shareef Badmash…..decent crooks, naughty but cute. And you have this on authority. The authority of a high ranking, self-appointed, senior Office Bearer & Life Member of the Procrastinators’ Society of India- Yours Truly, the most Hon’ble Vikas Shirodkar, Esq.

For the procrastinators, who thrive and feed on postponement and avoidance, tomorrow is the BIGGEST TIME & EFFORT SAVING DEVICE invented by mankind. The only thing you need to do in the here and now, today is to think about what is to be done, and….push it away, like a bad, bad influence, deciding to do it tomorrow instead. The motto of the Procrastinators’ Society is captured by the jingle:

आज करे सो कल कर, कल करे सो परसो  इतनी जल्दी क्या है भैय्या, जीना है बरसो

When the whole life stretches in front of you, why do today ?… what can be done tomorrow, or even the day after!!! This jingle (which twists the conventional wisdom) may well be the Motto emblazoned on the Coat of Arms of the Procrastinators’ Club.

Margaret Mitchell said in the iconic Gone with the Wind, “After all, Tomorrow is another day”. Shorn of it’s positivity and hope, that has been widely interpreted as  an license for pushing today’s tasks ahead, a passport for laziness, and a way to side-step today’s responsibilities. The procrastinators forget that we create our future by what you do today, and not tomorrow. And yet, so many of us fall prey to this sweet devil of procrastination, postponing for tomorrow, or later, what we could have accomplished today. Tomorrow has been THE greatest invention of mankind per the procrastinators and the post-poners; since it enables pushing away any, and every, task on hand to the inglorious future. Later, Tomorrow, Day-after and “when the time is ripe” are all rich catch-alls, bottomless pits indeed, into which much work can be pushed, and promptly forgotten.

tomo

In my childhood I was fortunate that I never took good teachings seriously. I always thought such learnings would corrupt my impressionable young mind!! And so I steadfastly resisted attempts of well meaning (but misguided) elders who tried to teach me conventional wisdom. There were people around who cautioned that our future is created by what you do today and not tomorrow. There were others who tried to teach that preparedness is the cure for procrastination. They taught that the heart must be properly prepared to complete any task. Challenges must be faced head on. Procrastination is only postponing today’s issues to a later time. Things pile up and then that creates panic, they taught me. Don’t handle the same paper twice, or think about the same issue multiple times: Handle it first time right and move forward to save time. And we all know time is money. Bombarded with all these well meaning thoughts, I decided to make a poster to stick above my bed with the blurb…”Procrastination is a thief of Time”. It took me one week to make this poster; and am still to find the double-sided tape to put it over my bed!!!!

not a

Soon I realised that the voices in the past were right about one thing. If you go on procrastinating and postponing things, the deadlines come and they go, and what might have been a simple task a week ago, suddenly acquires ominous proportions.  And then the last minute scramble, the late late nights, the staying awake with coffee…. All to somehow manage to catch the deadline and turn in the assignment; with the lurking feeling that you could have done it better, given more analysis and data, drawn richer insights and conclusions, if and only if you had started earlier, managed time better, worked more diligently, followed timelines and warnings enroute.

reaso

Well, what is done is done. Can’t be changed now, But from tomorrow, from the next time I will…. Sounds familiar? Welcome to the Honorary Membership of the Procrastinators Club. Come Hither….Come Hither…Come Hither…..Here you shall find no enemy…. As Wordsworth sang. Of course it is the nature of the beast that you as you sow, so shall you reap…what seeds you plant will catch up with you later. The best intentions of men and mice often go awry and all your good resolutions come to nought in the immediate next activity/project.  Maybe it is your membership of the Procrastination Club which is to blame. But again things slip, pile up, do not get done on time as you are comfortable in using the labour saving device of postponement.

crown

I remember my venerable uncle, god bless his soul, ask him anything and his standard answer was: बघुया. Whether you asked about going for a movie or a dinner outing or even buying something or planning a holiday , his answer was “बघुया ….let us see”. Never a resounding “yes” or a redoubtable “no”….just a Let us see or “बघुया”. I worked for a long time in factories on the industrial belt of Thane Belapur road. There all HR managers had a common epithet: मी बघतो  I shall see, I will let you know later. Workmen and Unions used to come with burning issues of admission to a hospital or school fees to be paid immediately, requiring the sanctioning of a loan, as per company policy. The HR manager would not review the case and give an immediate decision. The answer was always: मी बघतो I will check and let you know. Till the cart can bear, till the opposite party will allow, till the water does not over-run….I will push the decision forward. Postpone, Postpone, Postpone.

PV Narasimha Rao, the ex PM of India, was fabled never to decide. Political analysts and papparazi had a field day saying his faith was that if you delay a decision long enough and go on postponing taking a stand…due to sheer efflux of time, the problem will go away, or solve itself!!!! A joke did the rounds then… Narasimha Rao’s eldest son was unmarried at the ripe age of 42. It was whispered that he had asked his father Narasimha Rao for permission to marry when he was 30….and was still awaiting the answer from his father…a yes or a no….for 12 long years!!!! Narasimha Rao was famous for his non-decision making ability!!! The political variation of मी बघतो will check & let you know!!

The problem of this approach is captured here:

cc

Life demands answers and the proverbial stork with head in sand approach only ends up with missing the sand storm looming on the horizon, till the time the storm is on him and engulfs him. Procrastination is like sitting on a wooden rocking horse….it does not alter the situation, or take you anywhere ….however hard and fast you make the rocking horse go. What differentiates the doer and the procrastinator then?

pro brainnon pro brain

So friends the answer is clear. We need to take charge and move ahead when we delay and postpone the issues we are living through the same issue again and again. Till it is resolved, it will not go away. By burying our head in the sand, we are only postponing the conclusion and working for a solution. Remember, even the powerful Krishna did not fight Arjuna’s battles. He only counselled and guided Arjuna to face his sea of challenges and dilemmas, raise his head above the confusion and doubts, take his Bow and Arrow in hand and Fight. And Fight we must. And if we don’t, the writing on the wall is clear….forgive me the unparliamentary language here, but the following picture says it most graphically:

procrastination      So take up the cudgels & take the battle into enemy territory, by action and not postponement.

Hope you realize, I write this to convince myself, as much as to convince you:      Best always, vikibaba punter, Procrastinator par Excellence 

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Loife, they sez is sweet

Inspite of so many colors and hues… Black and White is considered classy. Inspite of being constantly surrounded by so many voices, words and sounds…Silence is considered as Ultimate. Inspite of so much variety to eat…Fasting is considered healthy. Inspite of so much to travel and explore…Meditating under the trees and near mountains is considered superior.  Inspite of so much to see…Closing one’s eyes and looking within is considered Epic. A recent WA message doing the rounds reminded me yet again of our peculiar human predicament…Man (or Woman, for that matter) is NEVER satisfied, never happy, never contented. There is always a stretch, a desire, a hunger for that elusive something…something more! The search never ends!!!!

favorite-drinkWhen my daughter Rashmi was in her teens and we used to travel together in the car both of us wanted to hear some nice music. The daughter would take control of the radio and start surfing. As soon as she hit a known song, I would go, “Wait , wait, that is a nice song”,  Rashmi would pause for a minute, or half, and then turn the dial to another station. Again the story would repeat. Unknown songs I was ok to pass. But in her model, even known songs were on for a minute at the most! Then the station would compulsorily be changed!!! This led to much angst from me, which was stone-walled with a “devil-may-care” response. I never understood and had many arguments with her in those car journeys. She remained unfazed. And when I sought the logic of why she kept changing the stations, she had a perfect logical rationale,”How do I know Baba which song is playing on the next station? It may be a better one. So I have to keep flipping and keep checking“. Only in retrospect I realised Rashmi is not alone….we are all searching for the next elusive one. The next one may be better!!!!

chasing-rainbows

In Marathi there is a saying which captures this mindset…..हातातलं सोडून पळत्या च्या  मागे  लागणे. This loosely transliterates as “the  bird in the bush is worth two in the hand”….hankering for what you do not have and under-valuing what you do possess. We see this regularly at the time of college admissions or entrance into professional colleges/ specialization streams. We all know many parents and students who tell you I have got admission in xyz college , but I am waiting for the abc college list. I have got Electrical in Somaiyya but I am waiting to see if I get Mechanical stream in Bhavans. And so it goes on. We who have worked in Corporate and have got frustrated with our roles and responsibilities at some time point. Soon you feel, there is no appreciation of your contributions and the hard work you put in. The boss is always to blame ….he is invariably a cross between Hitler and Gaddafi. So after much thought you applied for jobs outside our company, are again waiting to land the dream job….the job which would give exposure, freedom, excellent perks and benefits. As you seek your dream job and are appearing for interviews, inherent in the process itself is your becoming progressively convinced what a stupid company you are stuck in now, and what a dumb boss you have drawn. This brings you to a point where you just want OUT…and tell yourself anything would be better than remaining in the present job. Lo and Behold, you finally get an offer from one of the company you had applied to. As soon as the offer is in hand, you start having dissonance, regardless of the efforts you made in the interview/s to impress that you are THE BEST candidate they can consider. Having got the offer, you are already disillusioned and wonder about all the other interviews you have faced. Could the other one better? Lesser commute? Better team,? Much better facilities? Lovely Office. And the Boss also seemed a very decent chap in the interview. So you wait for the next offer. And then the next…

noah

Sounds familiar? It is very much like the apocryphal fishing joke, where the angler lands a huge trout…it gets measured…and he is awarded a First Prize for landing the Largest, Heaviest trout that season. The Angler’s response….” Well that one was big……but you should have seen the one that got away!!!!….” Remember, हातातलं सोडून पळत्या च्या  मागे  लागणे is our human condition. We forever believe “the  bird in the bush is worth two in the hand”. The chimeral “next”, the proverbial “one that got away” is always bigger, better, smarter. A la Wilkins Micawber, in David Copperfield, the iconic Charles Dickens’ novel, we are perpetually in a state of want. We desire much. We try and make ends meet. But satisfied we are NOT…..NEVER. we are always waiting with the belief “something will turn up” . And then, when the harsh realities of life set in, we are always over stretched….”Income 20 pounds….expenditure 20 pounds, ought {shillings} and six {pence}…..result, misery

This outward strtech, this desire to exceed and expand is captured best in this anecdote of Samuel Gompers, the longest serving President of the monolithic American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), who put it brilliantly way back in 1920s what does AFL-CIO want. The national trade union federation was so large and so influential that President Woodrow Wilson himself was dealing with Sam Gompers to defuse a nation wide strike call. After a series of frustrating negotiation meetings where no common ground was emerging, President Wilson asked, “Sam finally, what is it that you want?” To which Sam Gompers made the now famous reply, “ More!”, he said, ” That is all that we want…in one word…More!!”. Does Sam’s reply not catch the predicament and mindset of all of us in all that we do? We always want more! We are never satisfied!! We are always chasing the bird in the bush, the fish that got away!

more

Nevertheless i do not think it is all negative. Yes we search, we hunger, we are dissatisfied. But in that hunger, in that search there are some unique potentialities. When one door closes, another opens. And often if you follow through that new door, you mostly get what you have not bargained for….and it may be better than what you were seeking!! Only your eyes must be open. You should be ready to accept the turn of fate…the way the dice has rolled!! And be ready to face the new reality. Oftentimes that is better or at least as good as what you were hankering after. Only you should be ready to accept the changed circumstances.

trouble

It is much like what Asha Bhosale sang in Umrao Jaan long ago, ”

जुस्तजू जिसकी थी उसको तो ना पाया हम ने

इस बहाने से मगर देख ली दुनिया हम ने” which translates as …. “We did not get what we wanted But with this excuse, we got to see the world ” So we need to keep our eyes and heart and head open and keep moving. There are many adventures and surprises out there.

I end with the words of Robert Frost in Kitty Hawk..”Mind you, we are mind.
We are not the kind
To stay too confined.”

 

Enjoy the journey…indeed, Life is sweet : vikas

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Upbringing: a blasphemous view

“Upbringing (noun) : The degree of damage your parents do to you.”

A hoarding on Patrick Melrose proclaims to the world at large from the Bandra bridge. How many of you dare to agree? There are many “adults” around me who cannot lead their own lives, as they are perpetually under the shadow of their parents!!! in some cases, parents are long dead, but the “children” still cannot live independently!!!!! Hence upbringing as damage that parents do…. I endorse this definition wholeheartedly. Both as a son as well as a father!! Let me explain.

My parents were upright, educated, middle-class, who strove to give their 3 daughters and me (the only son) all that my father could afford on his LIC salary. Remember this was before the  Fourth Pay Commission, so salaries were enough to get by, but by no means lavish. Moreover my father was the eldest son in a large Konkani Hindu family. This meant he had to first provide for his siblings’ education, sisters’ marriages and some support for his father who was a freedom fighter, journalist. His own nuclear family thus was never the topmost priority. Hey, we never slept hungry or went unclothed, but luxury was merely a concept for all dependants of my father. My mother managed the family budget with many a stretch, but still we regularly had visitors & guests; dinners & lunches. Once a year we had a small holiday. All in all, a typical middle class Konkani household.

All the right values were also imbibed into the children: Respect elders. Do not talk back. Listen to others’ advice. Read good books and literature.  Fear God. Follow norms.  Smoking & Drinking is bad. Cinema is escapism. Am sure you get the point, as most of you , dear readers, have undergone the same treatment.

Quotation-Joe-Orton-I-d-the-upbringing-a-nun-would-envy-Until-I-61-54-74

What all this meant was that as one grew up: there was just too much that you had to unlearn. eg Why should I wash my feet every evening, pray and then touch the feet of all elders in the house? or Why should I not eat non-veg food that we love on Monday or festival days? Why only one cinema in a month, when they release multiple new ones every Friday? Why follow others’ advice? why can’t I think for myself? and do as I damn please?? And the worst one of course was: why is drinking bad?

I had beer and soon realised after the first distasteful after taste, actually drinking is fun!!! anyway you drink for the after effect and that is uniformly, always good.

emotional-baggage

Point I started resenting was, it took a lot of unlearning and de-conditioning to convince myself that drinking is not bad. Exorcising all the conditioning done during growing up  by my parents was not easy to bypass.  I think I could start enjoying my drink and not get into guilt trips, only after I was 20/21 years of age.

And I  was truly angered thinking of the time I had lost, the mental agony I suffered, overcoming guilt trips, and convincing myself it was not wrong to do what you enjoy doing. Drinking is just an example, albeit  my favorite. The same ratio applied to many other things I was taught: why are elders considered a priori more knowledgeable? Why should we listen to others? Who gave others a right to opine about me and my behaviour? to rule my life? to make decisions for me?

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And viola!! the next major insight was: I gave them that right! I believed my parents were always right!! I felt what others say was important. I thought that their views and opinions matter. I was giving them the cudgel to bludgeon me!!!!! So whom can I blame, except myself, for my situation?

The logical next step was to throw over the yoke of “upbringing” and all that I was “taught”. Question everything! Challenge!! Validate through own experience!! (Even if it meant trying out drugs to “see what happens, it can’t be bad if so many others are doing it”. And thereafter concluding I am better off without them!!) Finally coming to the formula that today’s generation comes onto very intuitively: “My life; My rules”.

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This Gen Y  proclaims it from rooftops, and zealously guards their “Personal Space”. And that is good. They will have less to unlearn than what I had. Their thinking is more iconoclastic, because there are no “holy cows” that they feed. They are more free as they carry little baggage, of their past or of their parents and friends. Theirs is indeed a very federal democracy: you are my bro, till we can get along. If we cannot, you go your way and I go mine. We all know so many couples who have parted, but continue to be friends!!!! No one path is mandated. Every person’s point of view is respected for its’ uniqueness and internal clarity. The lack of any shibboleths to over turn is the new religion. Welcome, genuine freedom.

Please do not get me wrong. My parents were great parents. They genuinely had our good at heart. They always encouraged and supported us. They gave us a core of peace and security at home. We had great childhoods, my siblings and I. Normal material comforts, no struggle for life’s necessities. We could have ice creams when we wanted. We lived in largish houses. And were taken around in  my father’s car. So what exactly am I complaining about?  It was just the “I  know better than you” and “you listen to me now” and “I am telling you this for your own good” attitude of all our elders.

I am using parents as the “punching bag” here but actually I resented every elder (or junior, for that matter) who tried to run my life for me.

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So what did I do with this angst? I decided I will be different as a parent, as an “elder”. With my daughter, I have always tried to be her talking partner…not a father. Have tried to help her analyze alternatives, but shied away from recommending any path. Have tried to impress on my nephews/nieces and all the younger folks in my life, that mine is just one opinion, just another point of view. Have tried to give them all the confidence that they can take whatever decision they want in their lives. I am here to help them debate and understand. But the final decision has to be theirs. Finally it is their life….and I do not want to live their life. ( I am fed up to the gills with my own anyways, he he!!!).

Many times this appears like disinterest, like not caring enough. That time I tell them that I am always there to pick up the broken pieces if there is a fall: but they need to run, walk, fall on their own steam. Only by making their own calls will they be in control of their ship. And a choppy sea always makes great sailors!!

That is the true upbringing  according to me.

As Sant Dyaneshwar put it: जो जे वांच्छिल तो तें लाहो । प्राणिजात ॥

Not MY will, but THY own will be done: vikas

PS: especially obliged to my fav niece in Mumbai who sourced the Patrick Melrose quote: Upbringing is the damage your parents do to you. Though, I am sure, she believes otherwise: she still listens to me!!!!!!!

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Correct? …or… Continue?

Albert Camus put it so well : “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life”.  Our human condition is such that we all have to make compromises, adjust, sometimes rethink our goals, and carry on. Continue, or Correct?

Think of the time before Google maps:  when we went into unknown territory, a new town and searched for an address. The process was iterative. With many stops on the way, much questioning the locals, moving forward and backward alternately: totally confused, insecure, feeling you have been on this road before, till by happenchance – suddenly, we found ourselves on the doorstep we were searching for long!! As we traversed the unknown roads and bylanes, the constant question in the head was : Correct my path? or Continue on this one?

This dilemma dogs us wherever we are and whatever we do. Correct? or Continue? and Google cannot help us answer this question in all walks of life.

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“Correct” word can be used as an adjective or as a verb. As an adjective it denotes something which is already perfect, accurate or right. We are of course talking of “correct” as an active verb. The verb ‘correct’ denotes rectify, amend, ameliorate, cure or improve. It is this sense of the word that we are trying to understand and expand here. It has it’s Latin roots in “correctus” which signifies improved or amended. It is the past participle of “corrigere” which translates to “make straight”. Now tell me truly: how many times in the twisted paths and turns of life have we wished we could correct as in improve, amend or make straight? We chose a path, an alternative, an approach…and as soon as the first signs of challenge, the first difficulty, the first proverbial rock in the middle of the road is in front of us;  our heart cries out: Do I continue? Or do I change course, move away, correct?

Pawn chess piece of smallest size and value beating businessman

On such occasions we have often hungered for the magic wand which would dissolve the difficulties facing us. Or at least the magic goggles which would show us the smoother route to a better future. But life has no easy options. Rarely does serendipity help like it did Alexander Fleming in the discovery of Penicillin.  Fleming went on a holiday with his family. Before leaving, he had stacked all his cultures of staphylococci on a bench in a corner of his laboratory. On returning, Fleming noticed that one culture had developed a fungus, and la viola!! the colonies of staphylococci immediately surrounding the fungus had been destroyed, whereas other staphylococci colonies farther away were normal. The first famous words when he saw that fungus which was later to lead to the discovery of the first antibiotic in human history was “that is funny”.  Later he has written: “One sometimes finds, what one is not looking for. When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I suppose that was exactly what I did.” Fleming, and humankind, was lucky.

On the other hand,  most of us have to struggle like Madame Curie who continued her  lab research till she discovered radium and polonium. For all her research and contributions in understanding radioactivity, while the world gave her a Nobel prize. But in this very process she got so much exposed to radiation that she died of aplastic anemia. She continued her efforts till she found answers, but paid with her life! Edison, the Wizard of Menlo Park, tested thousands and thousands of different materials to create the first incandescent lamp. During his research he found some materials would glow and give  light but would not last. Some lasted, but would not glow. After much effort,  Edison found tungsten which lasted and glowed. Edison at one time had 1093 patents to his name. The phonograph, stock ticker, Motion picture camera, first electric battery for a car are amongst his inventions. All these inventions were a result of his burning desire to continuously rectify, amend, improve and correct.

Some say that “mistake is the first step to success”. When you are on a path of scientific discovery or innovating to create a more robust, better version of present product, maybe experimentation requires making several ‘mistakes’ on the path and moving ahead. As Orlando Battista has observed: ” An error does not become a mistake unless you refuse to correct it”.  Most scientific advances/innovations have a long history of failed efforts. But it is not the mistake that is the first step of success; rather the real fact is that, correction of the mistake is the first step of success! To benefit from the school of experience, a man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them and strong enough to correct them. Mistakes , slips, errors and attempts are the building blocks of success.

The lesson to learn in this journey is – do not continue to water a dead flower!!  Sometimes we must have the courage to recognize the dead end; and make a required u-turn to move ahead, albeit on a different route.  We must consciously guard against the mindset typified by Nikki Giovanni’s famous quote: “I am so hip even my errors are correct”. This may make sense in a poet’s world, but in the real brick and mortar world we will have to learn to cut our losses when we are faced with brick walls, correct our course and continue on our path. Remember, a man who has committed a mistake and does not correct it is making another mistake. Possibly graver! Remember, never leave a true relationship or a right direction for a few faults or difficulties. Nothing is perfect. Nobody is always correct. In the end, correcting your path, and continuing till you reach success will get you to the Holy Grail of perfection.

Tu sais, La vie continue: You know, Life goes on: vikas

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Ours – by choice!

We are adoptive parents. We adopted a baby girl in 1993 from Vatsalya, an agency in Kanjur. My daughter Rashmi recently turned 25 years. She is a Textile Designer working in Raymonds.  And she is now poised to go to London College of Arts for further studies.

Recently as a part of my HR consultancy work I was approached to help set up comp structure, job grades, policy manuals, org chart etc. When I came to know the NGO who needs that support is Vatsalya, I told them I will be privileged to work for them and will do so au gratis: as Rashmi’s smiles for past 25 years have put me in a debt to Vatsalya which I can never repay.

Life has come a full circle: and I am back in Vatsalya after 25 years. That led to some long drives down memory lane, looking at old papers and photos. One of the things I came across was a letter we had written to a known couple who were prospective adoptive parents. Their questions were:

  • why did we adopt?
  • why a girl?

The old letter Rashmi…Ours – by choice! I had written still rings true. And I  reproduce it here as my next blog.

Be forewarned this is longer than my normal 1000 words limit. But I earnestly exhort you to read it fully.  This would give you some fresh insights into parenthood – be it natural, like yours or adoptive, like ours.

QUOTE

Our decision to adopt a child was necessitated by our need to become parents, to be called Baba & Aai, to be loved and depended upon. Having completed 12 years of marriage, we knew we would never become natural parents. Initial period of marriage began with a positive choice not to go in for parenthood very early. When we started feeling the need to call someone our very own, parenthood eluded us.  Normal round of doctors – allopathic, ayurvedic and homeopathic – did not help. Neither of us were interested in faith-cures and religious solutions. Some tension did mount.

Every new doctor, every new suggestion added to tension. Will this work? Somewhere down the road, we decided not to try any longer. There was the occasional snide remark, the purposeful probing question. But both of us had reconciled enough with our state to not care. Being self-content and not overtly social must have helped us. During this period the idea of adoption took seed.

Vinita had worked in an adoption center. So the concept was not alien. We began to discuss it with one another off & on. The driving force was a shared view – we want a baby. The main question was – were we prepared? were we willing to change our life-style? were we ready to abnegate our concerns and our personalities?  would be be able to adjust? could we take the responsibility? were we prepared?

This phase dragged on for quite a while. Both of us are strong willed, with firm views, not very compromising on personal matters. Hence these discussions were held again & again. At no stage did the question of societal acceptance bother us. Why should it? Why care for others? It was to be our own decision. We were to make it work. How much time do we spend with others? Are we truly ourselves in company? The inner self is bared to so very few that we both were sure that how “others will react” was not worth worrying about.We should do it if we want it. What others feel is not really relevant in such an important matter.

The only others we were both worried about were our parents. Their acceptance of the child was important. Social legitimacy would stop there. If they accepted the child as a part of the family – we would be very happy. For ourselves. But more for the child. We concluded that only the grandparents were important. Cousins, brothers, sisters, uncles, nephews, aunties, etc should also accept the child. But if they don’t we will love the child more and make up the loss/gap. How much time do all other relatives spend with us anyway? The apriori, predominant position was of grandparents.

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So we decided that they would be the only people with whom we would discuss. Share. All others we would only inform.  Their opinion would not concern us overly. Our parents, individually, we did talk to. And we did not get any major objection. No: what are you doing? how can you think like this? Only there was : why don’t you wait some more? try some more? Politely we said no. And, with strength morally doubled, went on ahead.

During this period we had found out that 10% of couples are childless. We were far from alone. Now came the question – girl or boy? Unanimously the choice was a girl. What are girls made of? Sugar and spice and all that is nice. Boys? Nails and frogs! Both of us were convinced that girls are far more affectionate and giving of their own selves. Our view. Maybe right, maybe wrong. Why should we adopt a boy? To carry one’s name? What is that? carry it where? After one is no more, does it matter? And who guarantees how that name will be carried on? Polished or tarnished? Who can say? Did my parents conceive me with the express desire to carry on their name? I don’t think so. I happened. Whether I polish or tarnish their name is a matter of chance. Did they really plan it all? Do they have control?

Children, beyond an age, will be independent. They will do as they damn well please. If you like it, good for you. If you don’t, well… How many “own” children have lived their life only for their parents? What lineage, what name do they care to carry forward? So why should we think that the adopted child will be any different? We can well imagine that that child too could turn out an iconoclast, a misanthrope, what-have-you. But is a natural child any guarantee against this? a big question mark, best left to unravel itself.

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So the conclusion was boys are nothing special, but girls surely are. And what we were doing, let us not forget, was purely for our own selves. To fulfill our own need. Our desire. So why expect any return? Give the child the best possible for you. And that should include the freedom to think. The freedom to spurn you. The freedom to spite you- if she feels you have stolen her true heirloom. Whatever it might have been. Have we all not thought, as children, that actually these people – who claim to be my Pa & Ma – are not really my Mother & Father. My parents are really Kings and Queens who will come one day and rescue me from all the misery that these normal, average people are putting me through. By adopting a child are you doing any favour? Are you going to deny the child the right to despise you? We both were clear, we are doing what we are doing, for ourselves. In no way can we abridge the rights of the child. And if the child grown up to hate us for what we did- we must accept it. Que Sera Sera.

So why adopt at all?  Because we have too much and we want to share. We have a need to hold a tiny being and call it our own. Because we feel we will get a lot of joy from that small bundle. Because social consciousness demands a return price for all all that we have, and asks for the right of all who do not have. Can we not begin with a small, infinitesimal impact?

Vinita and I were not born in one house. If we could decide to come together and share with each other, why not one more in the house with whom we can share? And so we went out and chose. Chose a sweet, innocent child. Rashmi. A ray. A ray of happiness. A ray of joy. A ray of light. A small bundle of love. The greatest gift we have given to each other. Ever. Forever.

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She will of course have to be told that she is adopted. All recent literature recommends that. Told at a time when she can take it. Very, very difficult to decide. But we will face it when it comes. But we will tell her. Tell her she was not born from Vinita’s womb, but she is our own.  Tell her we have tried to give her what we could. Tell her to forgive us for what we could not. Tell her she is free. Free to continue to stay with us if she wants. Or leave , if she feels that is her path of happiness. But above all, tell her we wanted her. Only her. So we chose her. Only her. Tell her that we love her very much. Tell her of our need for her. Tell her she is very special. Very dear. Very very close to her. Tell her we would like her to love us back. If she wants. And we pray she wants us. As much as we want her.

Society at large still may not understand. Either our need. Or our decision. Some people do come and ask questions. Questions like: what will happen to her in school? Will other children torture her? Our answer is : we hope not. But children may taunt. We hope our love for her will give Rashmi the confidence to say: I am possibly loved far more than any one of you are. Questions like what will happen at the time of her marriage? our answer: Have we jeopardized her fate? Have we reduced her chances? Have we created complications for her? We are sure we have not harmed her interests in any way.  And as a free independent being, she is sure to have a fate and a will of her own. Who are we to interfere with either her will or her fate? We are just beggars of her affection. Happy to receive, if she wills it. And adjust we must, if she wills it not. Life is larger than all 3 of us. But for us, she is all.

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Legally we are her parents. But legality? what is it?  Emotions are far more important. And in emotions  we are trying our level best to give her everything. Everything we can. That may not be much. But it is all we have.

Somerset Maugham had said that life is such a curious game that if you demand too much from it, you normally get it. We hope we are able to give Rashmi that confidence to demand and get whatever she wants from life. We are only incidental in providing her with a base. But she is all. She is important. And she needs to understand that she needs to only demand, and life will run forward to give it to her.. That is our hope for her. And our only prayer. For her. Amen.

UNQOUTE

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As I read all that I had written 25 years ago: I feel good that we have done our part and Rashmi has truly flowered as an independent, confident woman of the world. Our decision to adopt 25 years ago felt right. And even now it feels right.  Rashmi has proven true to her name: a ray of sunshine, full of promise and potential.

Bon Voyage Rashmi: continue to learn & grown in the new environs of London : vikibaba

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Failing to fail

The old proverb “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again” … should actually read “If at first you don’t succeed FAIL, FAIL again”.  Life has taught me –  true path to success is strewn with failures, multiple attempts, missed calls…all rich learning experiences & events which propel you on the road to success and achievements.

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Johnson & Johnson (where I had the privilege to work on Global transformation teams) gave me a lifetime opportunity to be trained by IDEO;  world’s most famous design & innovation company. We were seized with how to design the new  global HR service delivery model for J&J and turned to IDEO to understand how to create human-centered design. We wanted a creative approach to problem solving that starts with people and arrives at new solutions tailored to meet their lives.  Clear advice of IDEO was “rapid prototyping”. Put a stake in the ground based on present understanding; study the impact and change again. We experienced  IDEO’s formula of  success: “Fail often to succeed sooner!!”

Unfortunately, this runs counter to our deep rooted fear of failure. We are brought up on a diet of doing it right first time; ironing out all the glitches before we launch. Failure is a bad word: whether in school or in corporates. Witch hunting and blame fixing becomes the norm whenever there is a failure. This is like trampling on all the clues and evidence on the “crime scene”… and then bringing in Sherlock Holmes!! Actually each and every failure brings in learnings. But rather than analyzing what happened; what went right; how did we go wrong and what do we need to do differently, we tend to get into an over- gear of “burying the body” and obfuscating all the evidence such that even the fabled Hercule Poirot cannot help us!!!

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Fortunately, the days of shooting the messenger who brings in the bad news have faded into history with the Roman Emperors who would hear no contrary views. Today companies and bosses are far more open and ready to  take risks. This creates more transparency and openness on one hand; and on the other, better team solutions by leveraging everyone’s inputs and creativity. No gainsaying this is indeed the need of the hour, where no one has all the answers and even if  one does –  we soon experience that given the VUCA world, the problem/challenge has undergone a change;  and so we need to start all over again.

It in this context we must understand James Quincy CEO of Coca-Cola comment in his Strategy Summit in May 2017: “If we are not making mistakes, we are not trying hard enough”. Innovation means experimentation; and experiments mean failures. There is no learning without failing. There can be no success without setbacks.  Truly innovative & efficacious companies know that. So, to be successful – double your failure rate!! And from every failure: analyze and capture learnings. Try again and Fail again. This is the path to resounding success. Which is why NetFlix CEO Reed Hastings laments: ” Our hit ratio is too high. We have to take more risks, to try more crazy things….we should have a higher cancel rate overall”

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We have our own classic example of Abdul Kalam’s over riding the computers at Sriharikota at T minus 20 secs of a SLV  blast-off; and seeing the Missile nosedive into the sea – under the watching eyes of the nation and the press. But with the backing of Satish Dhawan they faced the Press and told them that they will learn from the failure and come out successful – which they did within an year.  Recently SHAR-ISRO gave the country a gift that can be best called ‘one of its kind’:ISRO launched India’s 100th satellite along with 30 others, out of which 28 were from different countries!!

It is not rocket science, but sheer common sense, that you improve your odds if you increase the no of tries. In Angel Broking and VC funding there is only 10% chance of success. Pharmaceutical companies have high profile R&D centers with latest equipment and top class scientists working on hundreds of molecules which may lead to one marketable drug in 3/4 years time frame. Movies  is another high risk game; it  is seen that 1.3% of all films earn 80% of Box Office collections. Point being there is no sure fire formula for success: Big Shots are just little shots who kept plugging away till they made it big!!

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Seeing it in another way : there are umpteen examples where success bred the “failure trap”.  Companies became over confident and complacent: refused to change with times and their past success was the biggest millstone around their neck . Cases of Nokia; Kodak; and closer home Hindustan Motors; HMT Watches; Bush Radios  are all well documented to prove that past success guarantees nothing in the future. Such companies and their managements get lulled into a false sense of security based on their past; and stop analyzing the causes of success. They fool themselves that success is due to their superior strategy/better product/more intelligent understanding of the market. And since they do not investigate the real causes of success -their failure to ask why- makes their success shortlived. They can break this vicious circle ONLY and ONLY when they face failure and learn from their failures.

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Karl Slym who was my MD in General Motors once made all of us on the  management board sweat. He asked each Director if they had achieved their target. Marketing said yes; as did  Manufacturing; ditto Logistics & SC; Technical  like-wise and also Finance &  HR. Then the prophetic hammer : “Gentlemen if each one of you is green on your dashboard; why is GM India red?” There was a story in Fortune 2009, after Alan Mullaly moved from Boeing to Ford he asked people to use a color code for their management reports. Green if all was well; Yellow if it required more scrutiny and Red if there was a problem. All reports which were tabled used to be green; totally frustrating the new CEO. Are we really doing that well in Ford was the question? Till the day one Department Head dared to table a Yellow report. While all other Board members were stunned into silence; Alan’s response was a thumping applause when that report came up for discussion. Thereafter, the reports submitted started becoming more colorful.

It is the Leaders’ role to encourage failure. And to learn from each failure. Of course a pilot or a surgeon does not have the liberty of making mistakes and learning from them. Fedex will attempt a “Perfect Order” in terms of deliveries (right package; right address; right condition) and be perfect in facing the client: but they experiment and improve in all other internal facing functions.  Corporate world will do well to remember the Pixar President’s edict: ” Mistakes are not a necessary evil. They are NO evil at all”. That is why Tatas have a “Dare to Try” award. Trikaya Grey gives out in their Annual conference a “Heroic Failure” award. Even NASA apparently has instituted a “Lean Forward, Fail Smart” award.

Happy failing; happy learning; happy growing: vikas

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PS This piece is inspired the research done by my partner and friend Ramchandra Rao for one of our assignments. Gives me a chance to acknowledge his contribution in my intellectual life…

School of experience

Let me begin with a confession :  I have learnt more from my mistakes than from my successes. And if I am considered a wise person today, it is because I have made many, many mistakes with gay abandon; nay, even pride!!!

I remember early in my career I transferred into the Siemens factory on Thane Belapur road: the veritable “holy grail” of rabid unionism of Dr Samant and RJ Mehtas of the 1980s. I took an operational decision which was wrong. Resultantly the entire Maintenance department stayed away from work. Being an engineering company, this was awkward: to say the least!! To complicate things, this happened on a weekend and was discovered only on Monday, by the top brass. I had tried to patch things up by burning some midnight oil over the weekend. But the union decided to teach this rookie personnel manager a lesson, and did not co-operate. Come Monday morning, I was summoned into the German Works’ Director cabin. But what he told me that day not only surprised me, but also gave me a life long learning!!

“Shirodkar, first wipe out that serious look on your face” he thundered. “what has happened? Is there a fire? Has anyone died? Has the factory totally shut down?” When I explained the productivity and mandays lost, his only counter was ” What did you learn from this incident? What will you do different next time?” Over the next 30+ years, I was to learn that taking a decision was more important than prevaricating and remaining indecisive. My mother’s kitchen’s teachings of not crying over spilt milk and being bold while experimenting with a new dish and presenting what you cooked with elan and flourish, have stayed with me since.

One major reason is exemplified by Johnny Cash, the best selling music artist of all times, who said “ There is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep wide gulf, a chasm” So make a call; learn your lesson and move on: falling down the chasm does not help. Take a stand. It is how you manage the implementation and aftermath of a decision that make it right or wrong for posterity.

As drivers we have all experienced this. When you are overtaking a vehicle, and there is oncoming traffic (so you must complete your maneuver quickly before the oncoming truck/car makes it difficult to overtake),  there comes a point when you are parallel to the speeding car ahead, and the moment of truth occurs: Do I press ahead and overtake? or better i reduce my speed and try again later? While it is good to be cautious and abort overtaking if the oncoming truck is too close, you cannot go on postponing the decision to overtake. At some point you must take the leap in your mind, increase speed further and overtake. Decisiveness and action;  over doubt and rethinking. No “fence to sit on”. Just make your move.

Like all Indians, am sure you too watch a lot of cricket. With the superior camera work today, one can actually sense the resolve of a Kohli or a Dhoni when they look at a ball and smash it for a sixer. In the same manner, the unforgiving camera catches the hesitation and the doubt, in the way the bat swings, when a ball is miscued and ends in a catch, or misses the line completely and the stumps rattle behind. The teaching is ingrained in the doing: which is why Dhoni has said in an interview ” I don’t study cricket. Whatever I have learnt is through cricket I’ve played on the field”. Experience itself is the teacher par excellence.

For meself, I must say although I am a good teacher, I am a much better student. I keep my eyes and ears open to new learnings that life affords me. And a la Papa Hemingway ” I like to listen. I have learnt a lot from listening carefully. Most people never listen”. Forget not that the Maker in his infinite experience has given us 2 ears and just 1 mouth. Listen double than what you speak. Enjoy all that is happening to you. Travel. Eat unfamiliar food. Meet new people. Open yourself to new experiences. You have to create and recreate yourself constantly.  My hoary 62 years have taught me : Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes. And thus, the learning continues ad infinitum!! So, Live each day as it comes. Be warned of Dorothy Dix’s caution, ” It is the dark menace of the future that makes cowards of us” 

For action, I take inspiration from the most famous follower of Martin Luther King viz. Rosa Parks. She spearheaded the Montgomery Bus Boycott to protest the Bus Segregation and went on to be called “the first lady of civil rights” by the US Congress.. When questioned about her courage in refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger she said ” I have learnt that when  one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done, does away with fear”. What an prescription for facing up to life’s odds and experiences!!!

Life has a way of unfolding as it is meant to be. Remembering Papa Amrish Puri in DDLJ:   Ja Simran, jee le apni zindagi!

Trust Life. Experience fully: vikas

 

This i believe…

Unfortunately for me, I was born without a faith bone in my body!!! If fact be told, most Shirodkars are agnostics and prefer to leave the godly path well alone. This is true more of the men folk in my family: the daughters of Shirodkars still retain a modicum of faith and are “god fearing” and religious, though not fanatically so!! (Thank God!!!)

This men-women difference in the family, itself is an interesting twist of faith! Apparently 4 generations ago, my great-grandfather chose to go on a Kashi yatra (obviously he believed in God) and never returned. People accompanying him on the Yatra came back after 6/8 months, and told my great-grandmother that her husband had succumbed to sickness and passed away enroute. My great-grandmother, shaken up by this twist and turn of life, gazed at the 4 children she was now left to bring up, alone!

Her reaction was to go inside the house (they were land-owners and money lenders)  straight to the Pooja room where all idols of gods were kept; pick up all the idols there, bring them out into the courtyard of the house, and…she threw all the idols into the open well!!! Reportedly, she told the shocked onlookers that if god could not protect her husband, who had gone to pay obeisance to him, she would not worship such a god: and neither would any member of her family!!! Village folks thought this was an immediate emotional outburst and the lady would come around, in due course. But the idols remained immersed in the well and the lady remained firm on her thoughts. Thus ended the faith and “pooja-archana” in the Shirodkar clan.

Her 3 sons and 1 daughter (my paternal grand-father being one of them)  maybe due to their love for their mother, or maybe since they were stricken by the injustice of loosing their father so early, stopped being faithful and religious. They became rationalists and lived their life bereft of faith, away from rituals and temples. This is what they taught and professed to their children. Most accepted this approach, though even in our family there were exceptions; especially the married into the family daughters-in-law. But the approach was tolerant: we will not stop you if you believe, but we will not join you either. This in turn gets passed on generations to generations. Even today I look at my daughter who tends to paraphrase Robert Browning Pippa’s Song “God’s in his heaven/ All’s right with the world” to mean “let God be up there and stay away from me; and I am down here and will live my own life without troubling him”.

Is this right? Is it wrong?? I don’t know. It is hard to believe in coincidence, but it is even harder to believe in anything else.

I totally believe George Carlin ( famous comedian of yore)  “Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure.”                                            So what is faith and belief?

I grew up as a rabid atheist, keen to debate and tell people of faith how wrong and irrational they were. My credo was ” belief is the death of intelligence” a la Robert Wilson. But through the growing years (and with debatable increased maturity ?) I understood that I know precious little!! So it’s foolish to conclude definitively on such matters. Resultantly, I became quiet and kept my opinions and lack of faith to myself. Atheism ripened into agnosticism. I did not believe;  but I could appreciate others’ faith and belief.  I understood that views and opinions are so divergent that it is foolish to “convince” others. So let everybody believe what they want and practice as they will. A la Mao, “let thousand flowers bloom”. The world is much better off with toleration and mutual respect of each others’ faith !! Or lack of it!!!

Bengalis have a saying ” if you are not a communist when you are young: you do not have a heart; and if you are a communist when you are old: you do not have a head”. Faith, Belief, Trust, Religion : to me, are similar concepts. Head and Heart both pull you in different directions at different points of life, & at different stages of your growth.  And the best part of this conundrum is that : it is a sliding scale!!! Or it could even be compared to a see-saw that swings either way!!! what is left to you, is just enjoy the ride!!!!

Sometimes (Often?) I admire my wife and others who have a core of faith. They intuitively follow Emerson’s dictum “All I have seen teaches me, to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” Believers are lucky, as they have something to believe…to hold on to. During the Annual Pandharpur Yatra ( or Amarnath Yatra or Vaisnodevi Yatra, for that matter)  I see hundreds of thousands of followers who are content to chant the name of their gods and saints. They experience a bliss which eludes me. They have a solid rock to stand on;  while I am perpetually buffeted by the sea of doubt and lack of faith. Belief gives a stability & structure & direction to their lives which I do not experience. Like the proverbial blind men, I need to slowly feel my way forward, perpetually in doubt, whether I  am on the “right” track. But would I exchange this darkness with the light of certainty? No! I would rather like to muddle through, step by step!!

I take solace in the words of Yaan Martel who puts it so well in the Life of Pi  “If you stumble about believability, what are you living for? Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?”

Still searching for an answer to that one: vikas