Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Bright Sunshine

Good Morning!! Aren't these wonderful words? In fact, these might be the first two words your loved ones get to hear from you every morning. And so does the rest of your universe - colleagues, friends and customers. On the flip side, these also are the first words you get to hear from them.

The Joy of Being Welcomed
The big 'checkered-floor' training room on the 2nd floor was full of computers that were arranged along its three sides. A projector lay in the middle facing the fourth. For next one month, this would be the seating and training area for a batch of 30+ young professionals raring to dive into the corporate world. And I just happened to be one among them. 

On our very first day, as I swung open the door, a brisk animated voice greeted me from the far end of the room. "Good Morning, Vinod". It caught me completely unaware (or rather like a deer in front of the headlights). It was so unique and invigorating simply due to its joyful tone. Somewhat startled, I looked up in its direction to spot the person. It was Sanil, Sanil Pillai, with a twinkle in his eyes that were fixed on me. He had a big smile on his face while his fingers continued playing with the keys.

I had never been 'accorded' such a welcome-greeting before to a day in my life. I really didn't know how to react and could barely muster a soft response. It took me few days to get used to such an energetic and lively 'welcome'. For next one year, until he quit, Sanil would welcome everyone with the same zeal and zest. But by then, it had rubbed on me too. The fact that I remember the moment even after a decade and a half shows how much it has impacted me. Besides, it also pushed me to respond with equal zest.

Bright Sunshine 
Have you ever observed HOW do you greet another person into a new day? A day of their life that they are about to spend with you? 

Do you greet them with a DRY welcome - engrossed in your preoccupation, no smile, no eye-contact and the words stretching themselves hard to reach the person? OR Do you greet them with a WARM welcome - shine in your eyes, a smile on the face and exuding LIFE. Does your "Good Morning" play like a subdued-note OR sounds like a chime? Does the tone of your voice cheer them up? Does it fill them with energy and excitement? 

If you still don't know then just think about this - How different is your "Good Morning" from your "Good Night"?

Bright Sunshine - that's what "Good Morning" stands for. Wish them abundance of it. With your complete presence! The way Sanil does!! Until next morning!!!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Out of Order Show

The band struck the chords and drums to tune up and their beats reverberated briefly through the auditorium. We were at the fag end of our marathon half-day session. The starving crowd, which had already queued itself next to the dinner tables, turned their heads in anticipation. They, however, were disappointed as no sound bite followed for next few minutes. As the minutes ticked by, there were occasional guitar, drums, keyboard beats and they were largely ignored. The wait was appearing to be agonizingly long and few persons had already left.

At last, the band played. And what a show it turned out to be! For next 30 minutes, they belted out one hit after another sending shivers down everyone's spines. They captivated their small audience and held them spellbound. The effect probably was magnified due to smaller size of the auditorium and familiar faces in the crowd and the band. It felt like being in a college fest after ages.

Later that night, while driving back home, I couldn't resist thinking about "The Band". They had a very peculiar name – Out of Order Band. If this was what Out-of-Order meant then I was for it every single moment of my life.

Noise or Music?
A band, in essence, produces sound that sounds like phenomenal music because it is produced in a certain pattern and order. How can they do it? Because its members understand and complement each other. They come together to play in unison, not in isolation. They do not compete with each other and neither any one plays to outdo the rest. Every member acknowledges and respects the contribution of others. Occasionally and intentionally, they allow one of them to take over and hog the limelight for a while. Why? Because that's what the music demands sometimes in order to propel the audience experience and that member to a higher level. And what do other members do? They simply raise themselves up to meet and match them all in that higher orbit. This is one of the ways how tempo is built. At its peak, it is beyond words and can only be experienced.

The Sounds of Life
Yes, life mirrors a musical band. Whether its sound bites seem like music or noise is controlled by us. What instruments and how many does your band require is decided by you. After all, it is your band.

In general, the instruments we struggle to synchronize across would fall under these 4 categories (rather they are the instruments): Personal, Professional, Family and Social.

We must recognize and respect contribution of our band members and ensure they play in unison. If they compete with each other every single moment, you will only feel stress and hear noise. Of course occasionally one or the other will hog the limelight for a while. Only for a while! Because if you allow one member to play for far too long, you run the risk of ruining the show. Your very own "SHOW"!!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Selfish Faith

Has your GOD ever spoken to you? Really really spoke? What if HE could utter words, just like you? What would happen? 

The Bitter Truth
A person returning from temple, with smeared forehead and a small copper vessel in hand, was caught in a 4-way traffic junction. With no traffic signal and cop in sight, motorists were having a field day from all directions. When the devotee dared to cross this maze, a car driver blared the horn almost tripping him. He lost composure and started moving frantically back and forth. If he steps forward to cross, the driver in front blares again to dare not cross. Now if he retreats, he finds no space since the vehicle behind him has already inched ahead. So he hops further along the road to another empty passage and yet another driver forces his retreat. This ruthless game almost sucked the life out of him. After 15-20 nightmarish seconds, he eventually regained composure and managed to cross somehow. Phew!!

Of course all these motorists would have prayed to their respective Gods before leaving homes. In fact, many of them may even have God 'parked' permanently on their dashboards. But they failed to notice HIM since a convenient, fearful and selfish belief does not lead to logically, or even humanely, expected behavior.

Play the Game
Imagine yourself as an independent observer who is observing a group of persons harboring three distinct mindsets:
a. A subset of them is indifferent to you. They know that they have to fend for themselves anyway. 
b. A subset of them is fearful of your presence. Their true self is revealed when you are not present.
c. A subset of them love your existence. They are fond of you and, therefore, find you everywhere. 

Now if you are asked to arrange them in the order of your admiration, what would be your pick? If set (b) gravitates towards the bottom then that is because rarely someone likes such inconsistent individuals. They lack something very basic - "Integrity". They are neither true to you nor to themselves. They wear masks. They deceive.

God, an independent observer like you, must be staring constantly at these three sets. No surprise to realize which set do most of us belong to.

The Genie of God
For us, God is like a Genie. Confined to our homes and places of worship, HE appears only when summoned at a particular time everyday to listen to the list of our wishes pertaining just to us and near/dear ones. 

Though we believe HE resides in our hearts and every being but that's exactly the place where we do not want HIM to be. Instead we carry HIM along on the dashboard of cars, our wallets or even around necks and wrists conveniently failing to notice HIM in billions of beings surrounding us. Even when we pray or beg HIM, we look at HIM outside us. The truth is we look for HIM ONLY in inanimate objects. Why? Because they cannot speak! If they could then we would have been rendered speechless by our very own actions. For us, God lived in the PAST. 

The Reason for Belief
Ever wondered why do you believe in God? More importantly, would you still have faith in HIM if he was believed to fulfill none of your wishes? If still yes then WHY? If out of love for HIM then why ignore billions of HIS forms? The fact is Fear rules our Conditioned Mind and Heart. Our faith is convenient, fearful and selfish.

Just behold your SELF and peek within to get your answer. May be you can catch a glimpse of HIM too!!

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Puddle of Memories

A hot brown trickle streaked down the brimming cup of tea as I gently placed it on the small glass table. Sprawling on a cane chair in our 7th floor balcony, I stared down across the wet podium-garden area. The early Sunday morning was wet and quiet. The occasional gusts of playful mist forced a slight retreat of the furniture, and its occupant, which in turn forced a soaked vigilant pigeon, perched atop the balcony railing, hop along to settle farther to the right corner. The two ever-dry small ponds in the garden were sprung to life by unabated week-long monsoon rains. The four glass roof pillared-shelters too had thin layer of water on top to cushion the falling drops. With every sip, I was observing thus-far neglected simple wonders of nature. Somewhere along this passage, the downpour turned into glimpses from childhood immersing and indulging me, leading to even more discoveries...

In the lap of Nature
The long tin roof sloping down the thick first-floor walls of our semi-pucca home had produced a short distinct familiar sound. The metal had just been hit by the first drop from the heavens heralding the onset of monsoon. With subsiding distinctiveness of successive sounds, the family dashed out into the large brick-paved courtyard to clear away the clothes line, drag in jute-rope beds, collect sun-drying strewn around grains/spices and even herd the cattle into their shed. By the time commotion ended, the scent of first rain had permeated the surroundings.

Soon, we, the carefree kids, were playing barefoot in the rain. Jostling for few moments beneath the roof-drains, we pushed each other hard. Lying in the rain, we felt the droplets prick our bodies as we battled to keep eyes wide-open. Later running down the dirty flooded village streets, we drove bicycles and their worn-out tyres and splash-sploshed. In those moments, we probably were closest to ourselves, The Nature.

The act would repeat year after year while we would also watch our ELDERS scurrying around for a shelter from the rain, looking out for an umbrella and instructing us to get inside fast. That was unimaginably abnormal!!

Back to the Future
The empty cup hit the glass-top with a clink. The pigeon fluttered and flew away. I was back in the 'future'. Decades had whizzed past in a jiffy. In these intervening years, I had joined college, landed a job, got married and had kids. Overwhelmed yet still lazing around, I strung those moments together to realize something strange. I found that I had become like my 'ELDERS'. In fact, I was an elder. Unknowingly, I had grown accustomed to seeking shelter from rain. Getting soaked in it now was no more a spontaneous act. Worse, it rather was a frequent resentment. Barefoot? My foot! Even the thought was an alien. Mind labored to replay the sound of a droplet. Too dim to hear!

Timeless Travel
Reflecting further, I questioned if I wasn't delighted with the rains any longer. Of course I was. The problem was my perspective. It was skewed. Over the years, it had embraced and latched on to the illusion of continuous 'fast life'. Wading through the relatively short-periods of recurring frenetic activities, it was conveniently ignoring the lulls. To be with Nature, it demanded A PRICE - free time (vacation), planning and potential travel.

Oh boy, I was missing something profound, something as natural as me. Tens of monsoons had glided away from right in front of my wide-shut eyes. So on that misty Sunday morning, I 'woke up' to walk down the deserted lanes again. Confounding my partner, who had just woken up, about my morning adventure, I headed down to the podium garden and let myself loose. Within next 15 minutes, my son (7 yrs) woke up too and joined me. Few minutes later my daughter (3 yrs) joined us. In the lap of nature, this was how we spent those 60+ minutes of our collective childhood:

1. Walked barefoot on the grass, pebbles, soil and water puddles
2. Watched the droplets create short ripples in the water on the glass roofs
3. Knelt to the ground, with an ear next to a puddle, to hear the 'plop' sound and its bubble formation
4. Stood under the palm trees (with fan-shaped wide leaves) to hear the distinct rain drops
5. Enjoyed the rain-drain from the glass roof
6. Observed rain-drops hanging precariously on tender buds and flowers
7. Held an open-umbrella on a palm raised high above the head, tossed it up and caught back
8. Splash-sploshed
9. Knocked at the door of one of our close friends and surprised them with a Good Morning
10. Received a paper drifting through the air reading - 'Happy Father's Day'

Back to the Future  Returns
An hour later, we were wrapping up our unplanned, timeless and travel-free time-travel. Ready to take the next flight, the elevator, BACK TO FUTURE!!

There is much more to Monsoon than a hot cup of tea/coffee and snacks. Only if you could let your heart express itself by permitting it to relive the memories!!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Moments of Choice

The Sula Vineyard restaurant was dimly lit. As I entered, I couldn't spot my already seated family easily. Landing on my chair, I noticed a group of about 12 men, colleagues in their mid-40s on a Night-Out in the vineyard, seated next to us on two joined tables. With 5-6 wine bottles already down, they had plenty to share and gossip about. 

However, there was a problem. They were loud, really loud. My spouse, who asked for a quieter table, was informed that the group was about to leave. Moments later, to our disappointment, couple of them ordered more dishes and their party continued. Soon some more groups and families trouped in and the place was now super vibrant (noisy?). By then, we had also adjusted our ear drums to high decibels.

As the cacophony was about to reach next level, suddenly a deathly hush fell over the place. One of the men in the loud group, a Sikh, instinctively pushed his chair back hard and sprang up. The waiter just froze in his place. The well-dressed manager turned speechless and confused. Finding his friend standing in the midst of eerie-silence, one of the men from the group, who was loitering outside, walked in menacingly. Other guests, including us, had their eyes popping out and glued at the scene waiting for the next expected action to unfold.

The waiter had spilled finger bowl water all over the Sikh. No one uttered anything for few seconds. That's when the Sikh looked into the waiter's eyes and said something - something abnormal for that situation, "Gentleman, I am alright. I am fine. Don't worry." Turning back to his friends, he spoke thus, "Come on guys, mistakes happen. When we work, mistakes do happen. It is normal." The menacing friend stopped in his steps. The waiter rushed to grab a cloth napkin. The manager pulled another chair. The guests turned to resume their dinner.

What a sigh of Surprise!! Moment of Choice, Presence of Mind and Profound Impact!! Awesome!! 

However, there was another surprise in store for him. Minutes later, a stranger walked up to the group interrupting their now-again animated discussion. "Excuse me gentlemen". Everyone looked up except the Sikh who had his back to the stranger. "Excuse me sir", the stranger repeated tapping his shoulder. The Sikh, visibly taken aback, turned around. The stranger continued, "Sir, I want to commend you on the way you reacted and responded to the incident. It was exceptional, graceful and respectful. I loved it and was inspired by your conduct." 

"What is your name sir?", asked the Sikh with a sense of humility and embarrassment. "My name is Vinod", I replied. "Where are you from, Vinod?", he asked politely. "I am from Mumbai." "Vinod, so nice of you. I sincerely appreciate your acknowledgement and sharing with me. Thank you very much."

We wished each other good night and I proceeded to my hotel. Walking back, I couldn't ignore the bounce in my steps. He also would surely have slept a happy and peaceful night. Our brief interaction will inspire and encourage us both for rest of our lives. And it may rub off on others too who were part of that eventful evening, physically. Or through this post!!

Weeks later, we were in the Town of Strawberries, Mahabaleshwar (India). Strange enough, in our one full day's stay thus far, we hadn't tasted even a single one. As we entered the lunch area in the hotel, all our three kids went wild. There was an unattended box of strawberries on our lunch table (probably hand-picked). I tried to explain that it wasn't ours. But who cared?

I quickly called the waiter to inquire about the box. Before I could ask, a heavy voice ordered him, "Mr., open the box, empty it out on a plate and hand over the strawberries to kids." As I turned around, the man addressed the kids, "Kids, now they are yours. Eat them and have fun." Soon the kids were biting into the pink fruit, blissfully ignoring my pleas to at least say thank you. The man and his family were smiling. For next 5 minutes, I gestured toward their happy faces at least 3 times as our friends trickled in curious at the sight of strawberries.

That evening, the couple would celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary and share the cake with kids and us!! 

-Life is lived in moments, not days. Definitely not years!!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Blue Marble and its Summer

In early Jan' 13, my son returned with 10 'Save Water Tickets' from his school. As part of the awareness campaign, they were playing an interesting 'game' wherein every child received 10 tickets with a goal to save the most. The rules are simple: water usage during snack or lunch break is 'free'. Usage during any other time requires one to spend a ticket. Its impact? He hasn't spent even a single ticket thus far. They also created reminders and posters for the campaign and my home now has a 'Save Water' reminder stuck near the kitchen tap.

Blue Marble
Blue Marble! That's how earth appears from far above in space. Of course we know this blue is 71% of the earth surface under water. Few among us may know that oceans hold 97% of the total water leaving only 3% fresh fit for use. Even fewer will know that 69% of this fresh water is locked in ice-caps or glaciers.

Lost? Don't worry as knowing these stats won't help to resolve the problem that my or your city is about to face again this summer - water scarcity. There is, however, one piece of data that could truly help but we are unaware of it. Amount of water we waste in a day!! Do you know it for yourself? Why not?

If the tap at your home runs dry this summer then you too have to own the blame. An average tap runs down about a litre in 6-8 seconds. Whenever we let it spurt directly into the drainage pipe, we contribute to our own problem. If you think you never do it then just observe yourself.

Do I use every drop of water effectively? No, I don't but I actively monitor my usage to save it, without sacrificing anything. Now is the time to act and save it for the summer. Few months down when you will hear 'Save Water' slogans all around, it will have little impact. Digging a well to put out a raging fire, does it work?

My Core Themes
So what do I do to save water? Nothing extraordinary. In fact there are already plenty of practical and exotic suggestions on the web. Though we may not relate to some of them but they do give us an idea. Personally, based on my lifestyle here are the four core-themes I stick to (with basic examples):

Reduce-Reduce-Reduce  This is the most basic and effective step. Turning the tap ON is never a problem. But opening it fully every time or for extended period or even when avoidable indeed is. Amount of water discharged from a tap depends on its flow and duration. Observe how every time we not only turn it fully but also let most of it drain directly into the sink.

So either open it only a little or turn it off early. Soon you will be able to do both. In fact, I discovered that I rarely had to turn it fully. This new found awareness further led me to even stop it while soaping hands or face, rinsing mouth and utensils. I also started noticing others e.g. our domestic help would use the tap like a fire-hose and occasionally keep it running while cleaning utensils. All these 'leaks' have now been plugged.

Strangely, you may also feel a strong 'resistance' to act especially when water is being used for personal care. Notice your reluctance even when opportunity is obvious. That's the precise moment when you must not back off.

Soil Less – In kitchen, do you ever think before using an extra plate, bowl, spoon or picking another glass? Note that they all need to be cleaned eventually. Same applies for clothing too. If you soil less, you need less water.

I find ample opportunities to avoid soiling articles at home. In office, I now use water-bottle instead of hard-plastic glasses from the pantry that are washed for reuse.

Reuse – This comprises of two main action-areas:
a. Reuse of water - Here the emphasis is on reusing it. A simple example is collecting water used for washing vegetables or fruits and using it to water plants. Another reuse could be while rinsing lightly-soiled utensils.

b. Reuse of Articles - This involves reusing articles or utensils before eventually washing them thus reducing the number of soiled-articles that would need cleaning.

Share – Without rallying others, your tap will still run dry. Share your initiative, spread it wide and create awareness. While we can't 'manufacture' water but we surely can control its utilization. This is critical. Now is the time to act. So wake yourself up, and others, before it is late.

I intend to save at least 2000 litres this year. This would be more than the drinking-water needs of my family for the WHOLE YEAR. Besides, I shall progress on my goal of 100 trees and digging trenches for water conservation as part of Hariyali NGO association through my office.

My Wish
This summer too, on a sweltering day with few trickles of sweat down your head and body, your dry throat will be soothed by a chilled glass of fresh water. As your hands will pour it gently on the thirsty tongue, your eyes will close involuntarily before you gulp it all down. With a deep sigh, you will keep the emptied glass back on the table.

May this glass of water you drink be saved by ME!! Will YOU wish the same for me too?

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