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.

CDG

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?

thankful

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

Redesigning Leaders by Reinventing HR

On 10th May, I was invited by my friend Shyam Iyer on a webinar to discuss the above topic. I had made notes for my talk and am reproducing my notes on the topic in 2 parts. Here is the Part 1.

Poster-Conversation

 

At the outset, I must compliment Shyam Iyer & 60BitsConsulting for choosing a very relevant & important topic for today’s deliberations. We are in the throes of a crisis and hence the importance of leadership, to drive us out of the woods!! As the actions will have to be implemented by people, hence the importance of HR, as a function, is doubled at the present moment.

I have structured my talk in 4 buckets:

  1. Context: and here I will not speak about COVID19 & the impact on the economy, etc as there is enough discussion already on these. Rather, I will focus on trends and implications we must understand, to be able to overcome the present crisis.
  2. Journey of HR: Having worked in Corporate India, for 34 years, and now 5 years in Consulting, I have seen a fair bit of change in the way the HR function operates. We should understand this base-line, to learn how HR needs to be ‘reinvented’.
  3. Leadership: The ‘What’ & ‘How’ of Leadership in the present context, especially given that we are looking up to our leaders at present, to lead us out of the crisis.
  4. HR’s new role: What are the areas HR has to focus on, to support the Leaders & the organisation at the present juncture.

So let us dive into the Context & Journey of HR.  Leadership & HR’s New role will be Part 2 of this article.

Context: The last blog I wrote was titled A Crisis too Precious to Waste.  I wrote that when the First lockdown was announced & I have listed many advantages we can derive, from the present crisis. As an incurable optimist, while mostly people see this with gloom, I believe there are many advantages and benefits. In the words of Charles Dickens (The Tale of Two Cities), ” It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…..in short the period was so far like the present period”  Don’t those words fit beautifully to today’s times? We are facing a common challenge for everyone on the planet. This crisis is larger than the Spanish Flu, the London Plague, the Swine Flu, or any other pandemic mankind has ever faced. It is indeed larger in scope & impact than the 2 World Wars we have been through. In the WW, some countries were thankfully left unaffected. But the present Pandemic has affected and involved entire mankind.

One major effect of this will be that !! We cannot fall into the ‘vacation syndrome’ trap…we go on vacation, we go back and think all will be the same. This won’t happen now. We can never go back to doing business, the way we used to do in the past. BAU is DEAD! Both Personal and Professional lives will never be the same. A New Normal will emerge. In the Chinese language, the word for crisis is written with 2 characters: WEI and JEI. Wei Jei is Crisis, but WEI is Danger and JEI, by itself, is Opportunity. So the crisis brings together, both Danger but also many Opportunities.

wei ji

As you look at the impact & implications of the global pandemic on organisations and people around us, on a 5 point scale, how would you rate our state of preparedness and understanding of what needs to be done?

Let us accept, that most of us were unprepared. I heard Mr Patu Keswani the other day. He openly accepts that Lemon Tree had BCPs…of 3 different scenarios. What if 20% business is affected; what if 30% and what if 40% business stalls? But the 3 scenarios did not help. What emerged was a totally different scenario, for which they were not prepared; the actual reality overtook all. BCPs is like driving by looking at only the rear view mirror; the actual reality will still surprise you. But  “Don’t let the Phantom of the Opera scare you. Remember, collectively mankind wins”. This is beautifully illustrated by my friend Adil Malia.

adil

Lockdown has brought in several restrictions. But, at the same time, there are opportunities galore. At the age of 65, I am attending webinars & learning on different subjects. I am excited with ideas of virtual lunches and tea breaks. Much is locked down, but many new things have emerged, like this platform we are interacting on today. One of my clients, CtrlM which is into print management, has launched a thought provoking campaign on #InOurControl. I invite you to see their campaign on the social media platforms like LinkedIn. Faced with problems, we are quickly coming up with new approaches, learning new skills & new solutions are emerging.

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Marcel Proust had noted, “Real Voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.” A change of perspective is necessary. We talk about the VUCA world. First introduced by the US Army War College in 1987, this term is liberally used in management/organisational context, thanks to Warren Bennis. Indeed today we live in a VUCA world characterised by Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. So we don’t know what to do. We first need to change the way we see the world we are creating. Bob Johansen of the Institute for the Future has given VUCA a new twist. He redefines VUCA as V Vision; U Understanding; C Clarity and A Agility. What a positive frame of reference, for all of us to look ahead. All of this is going to be done by people, so the need and importance of HR.

Picture1

Journey of HR: Let us look at how the HR function has been evolving. Looking to my grey hair, you will know I have witnessed many changes in the way HR functions. I have worked for 40 years in the field of HR., seeing a lot of changes. When we began our careers in late 70s, we were called ‘Bharti Officers’ because Recruitment was primarily what we did. Time Keeping, Attendance Records, Leave Records, Salaries and Wages were related tasks. It was so bad, that many a times the TK or Admin department, as it was called then, was physically situated at the gate of the factory, along with the Security Office! From there we have indeed come a long way. From Admin to Personnel to Human Resources, to now being called the People Function. Remember Human is the only Resource which does not depreciate. Unlike other factors of Management, Human Resource has the potential to always appreciate, if handled properly. From being treated as problem solvers, sitting separately to whom issues would get referred, HR has taken first a baby seat at the strategy table & now emerged as a partner, playing an active role in the running of the business. Industrial Relations have become an anachronism with the waning union militancy and more educated workforce. Some colleagues and friends, who were masters of the IR game did not see the writing on the wall changing, & got lost when the skill requirements changed for HR managers.

people-human-resources

Where would you rate the HR function as it operates today? Service Provider OR Support Partner OR Strategic Partner OR Board Seat?

We have indeed moved up as a function. But still much remains to be done. COVID is a huge opportunity for HR to take a pivotal role. People and Talent are now centre stage for all organisations. Recovery plans will be executed by this important resource: people! Business challenges require people to stretch and deliver: this is a golden chance for HR, to move into a more active role. We have a choice. Do we become an Albatross around the Leadership’s neck, a weight they carry & look to ditch? OR do we become like the Phoenix, burn ourselves on the embers ranging at this crisis time, and the rise from the ashes in a new avatar & take wings? Albatross? OR Phoenix? What will it be?

 

end lion

Next time we will look deeply at Leadership and the new role requirements of HR to redesign and reinvent.

To be continued……..

A crisis too precious to waste

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! 

wish

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.

know

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!

What_the_caterpillar

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.

true

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”!

wish

  • 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.

dream

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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Mentoring: A win-win relationship

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Historically, the word Mentor originates from Greece. Ulysses had little time to groom & develop his son Telemachus. Busy with his kingly duties, and waging war on neighbours for his conquests, Ulysses asked his friend Mentor to coach, counsel and guide Telemachus during his growing years. Today’s process of Mentoring was once a proper noun and the name of the first recorded practitioner. Plutarch caught the essence,  “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” Telemachus was a king in the making. So Mentor was charged with making Telemachus an independent thinker and doer, albeit guided and supported by the wisdom of the experienced warrior, Mentor.

Today also the Mentor is supposed to provoke and encourage, guide and support, empower and enable as the Mentee charts his/her own course. In the end, if the Mentee/Protege does not become capable and independent, the Mentoring relationship has failed!  Benjamin Disraeli guides us thus, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” So true…it is about teaching a man to fish so that he becomes independent and self sufficient. Be a signpost to show the right path, but let the protege walk on his own. A lot of people, yours truly included, have gone further than they thought they could, because someone else thought they could!!

ment

In that respect my father was the greatest mentor we siblings ever had. Even when we were unsure of ourselves, he would always sound the bugle of confidence. Around him, “I can’t do it” was unacceptable. His approach was…try it out. Till you attempt it, never say you cannot do it. And if you fail in your attempt, learn from the failure. Then try again. Success will always be yours. When I look back on my school and college education, on the diverse companies I worked in, & the jobs I handled, I indeed had to struggle often to keep my nose out of the water. But Baba? he was always sure I would emerge successful. And his confidence was so infectious that a pure play Humanities student made it to IIM Calcutta and had a very successful career whose zenith was recognition at the hands of Abdul Kalam for innovative HR practices; and successfully shouldering an Asia Pacific responsibility for Johnson & Johnson.

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At IIM Calcutta, an Arts students having to understand  and master the quantitative methods and math based teaching, I was at the lowest possible ebb:  looking at all the IITians and smart people around me. But my Provost Dr Zahid Gangjee enabled me to see hope within myself. His deft mentoring, restored my aspirations and defined for me,  a new trajectory.  At the very start of my career, my experience in a highly entrepreneurial HCL, working closely with Prof. George Koreth  was another high. “I am not a teacher. I am an awakener” thundered George who single handedly mentored the 7 DCM Data Products break-away engineers to form HCL, and make it grow into the main catalyst for the fledgling data processing industry in the 70s/80s. Under George’s tutelage, HCL HR was the brain to pick, the sounding board to bounce your ideas, question your strategies and iron out the glitches. We did it well and can take some credit for HCL becoming the power-horse of the IT boom in India. Mentoring Works!!! and how!!

Steven S

PW Khandekar, Shrinivas Pandit, my most favorite Arun Bhende (all in Siemens); Siddharth Lalbhai, Dr Venkateshwarlu,  CD Patel & Sanat Mehta (in Atul) ….looking back I wonder what I did to deserve so many brilliant minds helping and supporting me,  as I was finding my way. Naren Ambwani, Pradip Shroff, Dr Ajit Dangi, Rajesh Dalal (in J&J) all contributed significantly to making me what I became. All these mentors truly epitomize what Mary Angelou had written, “In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care. You must care. You don’t have to know how many square miles are in Idaho, you don’t need to know what is the chemical makeup of chemistry, or of blood or water. Know what you know and care about the person, care about what you know and care about the person you’re sharing with.” Their caring was the placenta within which this embryo survived and flowered.

Somewhere in the late 90s in Atul, & Siemens, & JnJ, and later General Motors, I suddenly awoke to the design of the universe. I was being given all this, so that I could give back in return, in full measure. Time came when suddenly I found the tables turning! Even as I was learning & growing, I found Mentoring being thrust on me. Suddenly I saw people expecting guidance and support from me. Now, I had to be the brain that others could pick, the ear they could talk to, a shoulder they could lean on ….and the most difficult thing….expected me to nudge them in the right direction. “Holy Smokes!!” I exclaimed, ” I am stupid guy! Don’t rely on me. I am a fool. I am still learning. I cannot claim any expertise. You are making a mistake”

Still the noise outside the door did not subside, the crowd did not move away. Slowly I understood this is the way of the universe!  Life comes a full circle. And I cannot step away from the treadmill. My task in life now is to call out as I see it, and help others make their decisions, help them stand and be counted, help them become independent, and as a good Mentor….push them in the right direction.  Success is when you have reached your goal, but Real Success is how many others you have helped along the way.

Make impact

It is unfortunate that in Corporate India today, we have so few companies which have successful Mentoring programmes as a part of their Talent Management suite. Many understand the power of Mentoring and how it can benefit upcoming talent. Many have even started Mentoring programmes with much fanfare and aplomb. But the lack of clarity on the mechanics of Mentoring, and the inability to set the right expectations for both the Mentors and the Mentees/Proteges, have left many dead bodies, and programs,  along the path!!

Of course the times have changed and so have the talent. Today’s new gen millennials who account for nearly 50% of the employees, do they still view mentors as the way we viewed them? Probably not. Our generation viewed mentoring as support to advance careers, while today’s talent need mentors to help them meet urgent learning needs or new skills. Moreover, with virtual learning the new gen doesn’t find face to face communication to be mandatory, in contrast to the good old mentor mentee relationship. Finally, earlier employees had one mentor. But now employees look for diverse connections & wider learning avenues. So, will one mentor be able to provide it all??? These are challenges for the corporates, but my request to Talent Management gurus….do not throw the baby with the bath water. Mentoring is a win win relationship.

2 way street

I have lived my life to be a learner and a mentor. I know I have to be mentored -constantly!! Everything in the world has been passed down. Every piece of knowledge is something that has been shared by someone else. If you understand it as I do, mentoring becomes your true legacy. It is the greatest inheritance you can give to others. As John Wooden says,” It is why you get up every day-to teach and be taught.”

To end, I will say our karmabhoomi is Here & Now. We must make progress today and develop talent for our requirements today! I am inspired on this by  Omar Khayyam,               ” Men talk of heaven, – there is no heaven but here;
Men talk of hell, – there is no hell but here;
Men of hereafters talk and future lives, –
O love, there is no other life – but here.” 

Live to Learn & Learn to Live; Mentor and Be Mentored: vikas

Albert-Schweitzer

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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A Hero’s Journey

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Every journey involves change… letting go of the past experiences, opening yourself up for new ones, a restless quest for moving on. If you look at all the mythology and history, take the Greek gods or our Indian pantheon, all Heroes have embarked on a successful journey, reached their avowed goals, and then set new targets and moved on!! Sports, Politics, Business, Athletics….every form of human endeavour essentially follows the same circle… dissatisfaction with status quo, stretching out, leaving your comfort zone behind, venturing into the unknown, going through fear uncertainty, conquering new horizons. The journey from the Known to the Unknown.

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And a true hero does not rest there. The cycle continues and that is how you breach new frontiers like Alexander the Great, or keep breaking your own record again and again like Sergei Bubka. Is the crown a hero wears too heavy? The relentless pursuit of the next goal, conquering the new territory, putting your flag on a higher mark, breaching the new pedestal is what keeps the Hero going. Edmund Hillary who was the first to climb the Everest did not succeed in his first attempt. Apparently, after one unsuccessful attempt, he was resting in his tent at the Base Camp. He could not sleep in the night…the image of the towering Everest kept him awake. Finally, he got up and came out of the tent, looked the mountainstratight in the eye, and uttered the words which became famous , ” Yes I failed in my climbing attempt. But you are a mountain. And you cannot grow. I am a man, and I can. I will come back again and conquer you!!”. Onward Ho! Herman Melville catches the fervour right in his iconic Moby Dick when he expresses Captain Ahab’s innermost thoughts, ” “I leave a white and turbid wake;
pale waters, paler cheeks, where’er I sail. The envious billows sidelong
swell to whelm my track; let them; but first I pass. Yonder…

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I differ from the conventional thinking that Opportunity Knocks! No, it does not wait at every doorstep and invite you. It continues on its path and you must show your heroism and your readiness to catch it, before it passes you by.  The world is replete with stories of people who “almost” made it, but did not, as they did not see the call to adventure and did not leave their comfort zone and did not risk taking the fight into the open seas of competition. Being a Hero is about being ready to change. Achievements are made up of sheer daring, risk taking backed up appropriately by competent plans. Finally ends illuminate the means. As you relentlessly pursue your goals and follow the paths that open, even as you travel, new horizons open up.

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Trust the Universe. मंझिले और भी है. Take heart,  astronomers say there are 300 to 500 billion galaxies out there. Hence it is up to the Hero to pursue and to follow through, taking heart from Ulysses’s famous words, ” T’is not too late to seek a newer world…that which we are, we are,/ One equal temper of heroic hearts/ Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will,/ To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” (Lord Tennyson)

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Whether you study the Indian folklore Heroes like Ram or Arjuna or Krishna or the Greek Heroes like Heracles or Achilles or the modern day James Bond or Rajnikant the thread that joins all these stories together is the cry of the battle. All Heroes are warriors in their own unique way. They challenge status quo and change the situation for the better. They battle the evil forces whether circumstantial or human to create a better world. Modernistic warriors like Alexander Fleming or Madame Curie did the same. Hargovind Khurana or Stephen Hawking illuminated spaces and questions which looked like Mount Everest in the way of progress. Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Mandela brought a better life for fellow humans. Scientists and Technologists who are working on a diverse palette of problems that face mankind are warriors in their own right. In the modern trade and business contributions of Bill Gates & Microsoft; Larry Page & Google; Jeff Bezos & Amazon and our own Azim Premji  and Narayana Murthy have fought their own battles and changed the world for the better for their fellow humans.

Societal change is never easy. The Warrior has to have faith, self confidence and a vision to take up cudgels on behalf of the hoi polloi and bring about a change. These modern day heroes have to set new directions and go in and light up the road for their co-travellers. What matters is their effort. Their commitment. Their dedication and devotion. Their willingness to do what needs to be done. All progress begins with dissatisfaction with the way things are. And it ends in finding a better, easier, more efficient way to do the things. So change readiness is the new success mantra. Don’t wait till it is broken. Fix it, improve it, change it even while it is working so that discontinuous change takes us into progressively expanding orbits opening the gates to a much better and brighter new world.

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Children spend many years of their childhood being afraid of darkness. I think, correspondingly, Adults are afraid of light! Around us we find many examples : Adult  just do not want to see! The task of the new Hero is to show a mirror to his fellow beings. If required the Hero will have to turn the mirror 180 degrees around and help others face reality. He will have to shake us all out of our inertia.  And take us on the road of change. History has proven that the times and the need of the times throw up leaders and heroes. Let us await the coming of the Wise Kings who will lead and deliver us.

My hope for 2020, LET THE NEW YEAR BRING US GIANTS!!! vikas

 

Saints & Sinners

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!!!!

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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.

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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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