Monday, 30 September 2013

Lessons from Ranchi : Blog # 139

Lessons from Ranchi

           This year, work took me to that part of our country which has come to be known as Ranchi. For someone who has not travelled beyond Bombay, this was an exciting opportunity. The fact that I will be missing Onam with family and lose out a chance to meet my kid sister was a big regret. But then, my colleague Arjun who made me undertake this travel has promised that he will make it up for this, the next time we meet ;).
Ranchi,MSD,MS Dhoni,BITS

      I landed at Ranchi Airport. The first fleeting thought was how so far away I am from home. It was a strange feeling. Add to this, I was informed that a driver called Kali Charan will be waiting for me at the airport. The name sounded straight out of a Hindi film of the 1980s which was bestowed of course on villainous characters. I stepped out of the airport and there was standing Kali charan, his appearance quite living up to his nameJ.  The only respite was that one of the senior leaders from my company was also there along with him. He was quite friendly.

            We started our journey to the educational institution. On the way, Kali charan showed us M.S. Dhoni’s home. Huge trees and a long winding road welcomed us towards the majestic institution. We retired in to our rooms and Prof. Sinha came visiting us. A very affable person, in spite of being caught up in a hectic schedule, he made sure we are having a comfortable stay.

            The next day, I met Prof.Pant. He was the sort of person who commanded respect just by his presence. A person who you start looking up to right from the moment he has exchanged pleasantries. That morning, I met Tanvir, one of my senior colleagues. Over the two days, we discussed almost everything under the sun. He exuded warmth in a way only a Sardar can 
 What came as a surprise was the lessons in work ethics that Ranchi had in store for me.

            After the process for the day was over, I went back to my room. It was well past the dining time and there was waiting Sitaram Bhaiyya with a warm smile who ensured that we were well fed. I haven’t met a more humble person in recent past. The sincerity with which he served us food was so endearing. He epitomised what we call a pleasing personality.

            By now, through the umpteen trips around the campus, KaliCharan bhaiyya and I had become friends. He was well informed about his home town and nearby places. He spoke of Dhoni with great pride. But what stood out was his sincerity towards work. Not even once did he turn a deaf ear or show some displeasure in my numerous requests to take me from one building to other inside the campus. By evening, when he was driving me to my room, I told him that I am sorry that I made him drive around so much. His answer was simple and sincere “Sir, it is my duty” and he smiled. I could tell he meant it with all his heart.

            The next day, Prof.Sinha and I was having a real late lunch. When he came to know that it was Onam that day, he said he will try to get some Kerala food. With so many things to attend to, the fact that he made an effort to tell that was in itself a big thing for me. The person who was serving us food told me “Sir, I hope you select many people because after you leave, the kind of companies that come will select only very few people. I was amazed at his sense of the larger picture.

            When the day was coming to an end, Prof. Pant was graceful enough to drop me off at the guest house. He could have told a driver to do that. A person of his stature need not have done that, but he did J.

            How can I forget the energetic bunch of students who helped us out with the process – Ronak , Roop and their team J. They were such sweet bunch of kids that Ronak was kind enough to wait and have lunch with me so that I wouldn’t have to have my lunch alone.

            That day also, I had a late dinner and Sitaram Bhaiyya was there at the dining table ensuring I addressed my appetiteJ. As I was leaving, he asked me as to what will I prefer for breakfast. I said I will leave before breakfast and that I am having an early morning flight.He said in that case, he will provide me a tea. I politely refused saying it’s quite early and I need to leave by 5 in the morning. The next day, by 430, I was served piping hot tea and even more warm was his smile J

            At the strike of 5, Kali charan Bhaiyya drove in and took me to the airport. I asked him “Don’t you get tired?”. He said “I don’t remember a time when I slept before 11 in the night and slept beyond 4in the morning. People like you are our guests and it’s my responsibility that I ensure you travel peacefully”.  There are very few instances when words leave me. That moment right there was one such.

        From then on, Ranchi means just one thing to me – Good natured, Industrious people.
Arun Babu

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The End? : Blog # 138

The End?

            I watched this movie ’The Lunch Box’. Although it is an endearing story, I was momentarily upset when the lights came on indicating the end of the movie. The reason was that there was no closure. The director of the story left the end of the movie to the interpretation of the audience or to its destiny if I may say so.
The End,Life,Last,Closure,A blog on Closure

            Right from childhood, we are taught to look for closures. A cartoon ends with a ‘That’s all Folks’. Television shows for the day used to end with a vibgyor screen. School functions used to end with the National Anthem. As and when we grew up, there were further closures. If the endpoint of education is a job, the destination of a relationship is marriage.

               When a dear friend leaves our town to a new place, we have to meet for one last time. We do not want to leave the Goodbye unsaid for it means not knowing when one will get to meet again and we do not give much credibility to the chance of meeting yet again.

   Closure can also sound the death knell of imagination and ambition. We are choosing the easiest route when we look for a closure. When we watch a film or read a book, if it has a definitive ending, we do not exercise our imagination. We are just agreeing to the imagination of the creator of that art. Likewise, Life will throw up many instances where the closure will not be assured. One needs to take that chance. It might end stupendously well or tragically bad. But if one goes with only those opportunities with assured closures, one might risk losing the stupendous ending and land instead at the mediocre success.

           Studies in Human Resources state that we as a cultural group are averse to uncertainty. We prefer definite states to vague continuity. May be this is the origin of the saying that goes a Known devil is better than an unknown angel.

            I think the reason that we look for closures has got a lot to do with choices. Not having a closure means having multiple choices. For all the hue and cry about Life being difficult, when presented with multiple choices, we are more at sea than ever. Most of us prefer a single choice of existence even if Life is miserable in that state of being.

            We spend a large part of our lives looking for closures. Why is it so difficult for us to understand that Life is akin to a continuum? More so when we do not know when is it going to end. It is like searching for the end of a wave swelling on a beach. We should realize the wave is to behold and to be admired. The best that we can attempt to do is to surf along and enjoy the ride that is Life through its crests and troughs.

Arun Babu

Monday, 23 September 2013

Words left hanging : Blog #137

Words left hanging

        A couple of days back, I heard my dad lamenting to my mom that he pinged my sister on 'Whatsapp' and she did not reply. My mom dismissed it asking him to not ping her and call her up instead. What was surprising was that I did not find it unusual at all. The not replying part I mean and my dad found it to be unacceptable.

           There used to be a time when not acknowledging a person was considered very rude. Not anymore! Even if two people didn't get along well, in the name of being civil, people used to give some sort of response to the other person.  Cut to the present, we leave the words hanging even between friends and what is surprising is that it is socially acceptable!

            I think it all started with the seemingly harmless missed calls. The land lines never gave an option for us to postpone our responses. The reply had to be given in real time and hence was more sincere J. Then came along the missed calls! Though initially it was a means to know as to who called and return the call, it slowly manifested in to a means where people started buying time. If one didn't want to take a call at a particular time, the person will not attend the call and later, calls back and says “Oh I just saw you missed call!”J.

            Later on manifested, the more mischievous mobile messages. They were even lesser intrusive. The attention that it sought was limited to a beep as compared to the demanding ringing of a missed call. The time taken to elicit a reply for a text message varies from as less as a few minutes to days together! This was the beginning of avoided responses. Messages started going unanswered.

            As we walked further on the path of technology and gadgets, came along Apps and was invented group chats. Here, it is like a usual social gathering minus all the conventional civil norms. A conversation is going on. Anyone can leave unannounced and walk in without as much as a knock. You need not answer all the questions posed to you neither should you bother about the pleasantries. The words are left hanging and it’s just fine. And thanks to the clutter that happens when many people are engaged in a group chat, strings of conversation goes unanswered altogether with the pull down of a scroll button.

            Look at the social media scene. How many of us make an effort to give a personal reply for the birthday wishes that we get? All it takes is half an hour at the max of your dedicated time. But we limit it to a “Thanks everyone for the wishes!”. Try doing that in your circle of friends during the birthday party, at your own risk J .There are comments which go unanswered. ‘Mentions’ and ‘tags’ which go unacknowledged.

            It is not about maintaining the perfect social media etiquette. What we should be concerned about is as to where is all this clutter leading us to? To a world where you look at people and not see them; hear out people and not listen; or even more worrying, speak to someone and go unheard?
Arun Babu.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Jack of All Trades? : Blog # 136

Jack of all trades?

         It is one question that has always puzzled all the professionals in the world – To be a generalist or to be a specialist in one’s field of work. I think the days of specialization are gone.

Jack of all trades,specialization,generalist,            It is said movies are a reflection of the times that we live in. Gone are the days when an actor used to be a comedian throughout his/her life. Such days are also in the past when one was a character actor and another person was a pure commercial star. Today’s actors are expected to do it all – Hero, Villain, Comedian, character actor et al. Such is the expectation from a professional too. One should be able to double up and step in to various roles in ones field of expertise. Sticking to one specific role for a prolonged period of time might sound the death knell of one’s career.

There was a time when the roles in films were much defined. The characters those days were black and white. Likewise, the kind of work that was being done was also very well defined. There was no overlapping of roles at all. Today, the characters have a bit of grey shade in them. It is not that a Hero will be completely positive and a villain will be truly despicable. Similarly, a person cannot be confined to his/ her job description alone. One is always expected to go over and beyond. One is expected to have a bit of knowledge in the related fields as well.

Having said this, there are fields where specialization is acceptable. These are such fields which are up coming and those which have the potential to be the next big thing. But one should keep in mind that even those fields will plateau one day and will go down in demand.

There is another reason for letting go of specialization. Thanks to IT, most of the work today can be automated. Technology is reinventing itself every day to the extent that jobs which where once thought to be non-automatable are becoming so. This means any skill that you possess or any process you perform can be done by a machine tomorrow. So holding on to knowing a certain process or a specific skill is close to making oneself perishable.

The key is to revive oneself continually. Learning a new skill or process is not a choice anymore. Only knowledge can make one stay relevant in today’s day and age. So for all of us who thought Thank God, School days are over, it’s time we enroll in the largest university in the universe that is Life.

Arun Babu. 

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Say you are Happy : Blog#135

Say you are Happy

When you ask a person how he/she is, how often have you got a vague answer? My answer is almost always. There are two possible situations. One, when a person is going through tough times. Then the answer will be more direct. They will tell you that there are not really happy. But if a person is happy with his/her life circumstances, one shies away from saying just that. The most common answer would be things are OK. Right there starts our hesitation in counting our blessings.

We refuse to say it out loud when Life is being good to us. It is almost as if you are being pompous if you say you are happy! People perceive it to be the beginning of arrogance even. If we are comfortable winding out our bad times to people, why should we stop ourselves from hiding our laughter?

Of course, there should be some amount of sensitivity to the surroundings. There are people whose antenna is perpetually Off. One should be aware of the mood of one’s immediate surroundings. One cannot go on and exalt about one’s own achievement when someone close and near is going through a tough time.

I think where we fail is in the mad rush of Life. We are too busy to notice the good things in Life. We are always on the move; from milestones to milestones, from goal sheets to goal sheets. And when something goes wrong, then we pause and take stock. Then the happier times come rushing to us. We question ourselves as to why we did not enjoy those better times.

It makes sense  also as to why we should be consciously aware of the blessings in our Life. It gives us the strength to sail through tougher times. It is as simple as allowing children to indulge in all their wishes during vacation. My aunt always tells my younger cousins to do all what they want then. But when the school starts, they should perform as well is her fine print. Also, whenever they show some hesitation to do their homework, she reminds them of the fun times they had. Likewise, we should also take an effort to acknowledge and register when we are having a good time. Later on, when Life acts tough, we can fall on to these beanbags of happiness.

 When things are looking up, it is OK to give yourself a pat on the back, to smile at yourself, to tell yourself that you are happy. In short, we should be fair to Life when it is being fair to us.

Arun Babu