Sunday, 29 June 2014

Path much traversed : Blog # 180

Path much traversed

 The rain having subsided and the morning slumber reluctantly leaving my droopy eyes, I went out to run some errands for my mother. Out of the blue, I got this urge to drive down some lanes which I used to frequent as a child. Quite often, we hear about the need to take the path less traversed. Today, I realized it is equally important that we revisit those paths which we used to frequent often in the past.

            To begin with, there is a rush of thoughts that hit you. One realizes how amazingly innocent one was. The biggest of worries which used to fret us once up on a time seems to be puny now. The largest of efforts which used to weigh us down earlier now seems so easy. One wishes to go back to those days when life was much simpler.

One also realizes how far one has come from those days. At times, it surprises you how kind Life has been to you. One feels blessed and thankful to have traveled far ahead of those lanes. Looking back now, one feels all the potholes and long winding curves along the way have made one a better voyager.

            At times, it also makes you ponder on the dreams once you had. It might so happen that you might not have gone as much ahead as you thought you would. Even then, walking down those familiar lanes instills in you a belief, an urge to strive again. One never knows what surprise a second attempt might bring you.

            In these little by lanes of life, one also comes across those people who used to walk along with you. Very few things in Life can be more joyous than reminiscing about those days with them. When you see them, you realize how kind they were in your times of need. It also makes you feel good when they think of you in the same way. It’s funny when you meet the people with whom you had a fight on these lanes. You feel grown up when they come up to you and have a laugh about it. If not, you feel sad for them having not grown up.The funniest is when one meets people whom one competed with on these very roads. One realizes the frivolousness of it for the lanes which you walked through might have been the same. But, now you know the destinations were not J.

It is surprising to learn that once up on a time, you thought your life cannot move on without visiting these lanes. Yet today, you realize how far you have walked away from them. The fondness is very much still there. But you are thankful that you walked away and visited the world outside of it.You are grateful to the world beyond for having educated you..

Arun Babu.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Collective Who? : Blog # 179

Collective Who?  

I have come to think of Collective responsibility as an Oxymoron. Look at the various instances that we come across. Whenever an accident occurs and if a mob gathers around, chances are that no one will help the person who met with the accident. Here everyone shifts the responsibility to the other person in the crowd.

Consider another situation.  A group of people is assigned a task without specifically telling them who is responsible for what task. They are told it is the collective responsibility of the group to get the job done. Add to this; let it be a group of members who are equal in all respects; where there is no hierarchy. Don’t be surprised if the task doesn’t get started at all. A very recent example being the EGoMs (Empowered Group of Ministers) that we used to have in the earlier government and which were dissolved last month.

I think the reason why the concept doesn’t work out mostly is due to our inherent need for ownership. The moment you state collective responsibility, there is a loss of individual accountability at some levels. The thinking goes on the lines of even if one doesn’t pull his/her weight; the other members will do it for this person. Eventually the social loafer in each one of us begin to come out more often than it would if the task were completely owned by a single person.

In a corporate environment, one hears about collective responsibility quite often. This happens especially in two situations; one in times of success and the other in times of failure. In times of success, as in other positive situations, people tend to be graceful. The credit is shared with the team and collective responsibility finds some definite meaning. It’s quite interesting though in situations of failure. The team which started off the project on the contract of collective responsibility now becomes a collective slugfest! People start attributing the wrongdoings to other members of the team. Then starts the allegations of who was supposed to take care of what task!

I think collective responsibility works in only two instances. First, when the ownership of smaller tasks is assigned to individuals and the larger job’s responsibility is that of the team. Second, when the task is intrinsically motivating which means people are doing the job for reasons other than those which can be measured. People have undertaken the said job for reasons that appeals to their noble emotions rather than a reward in cash or kind. For instance, a noble activity like the cause of charity. Here, people tend to look at the larger purpose and try to go above and beyond whatever is expected of them. Else, it gets reduced to just another set of words which sounds good.

Arun Babu

Saturday, 21 June 2014

In the backyards of the beyond : Blog # 178

In the backyards of the beyond

        Last week, I travelled to this part of the world which I hadn’t imagined in my wildest dreams that I would visit one day. I stepped in to the scenic, lush green, pristine piece of Earth that is Uttarakhand. There is an old world charm about this place, uncorrupted by the ways of the modern world. It isn’t crowded, polluted or clogged with vehicles. The roads were long and winding, serenaded by monstrous mountains and huge pine trees.

            What struck me about the place was its deafening silence. I did not quite get used to this sound of silence. There was always this feeling that I was missing something. I felt I was in the backyards of the beyond; away and aloof from everything. I went out on a walk where I couldn’t find a person on the road even after a good 10 minutes of stroll. I found a fox cross my path only to be told by the guest house manager that tigers also came down at times. Seeing the horror on my face, he said “Nothing to worry, they are small tigers”. I couldn't fathom how it is a relief!

            I realized how much of an effect the surroundings have on one’s mindset and approach. I was lamenting about my commute back to Delhi and eventually to Chennai. I wondered if the hairpin filled roads would block my way and the people there said it is quite common and I can travel the next day. There was a sea of a difference in the way people looked at the concept of time. Generally, we all would like to reach a place before 11 if we want to reach there by 11. Here, people factored in various happenings like a tree falling or a truck breaking down right at the turn of a hairpin. Connectivity here is never taken for granted. Your cell phone can go on mute and the internet can blank out at will. They were more accustomed to these uncertainties.

            Another difference was the abundance of time people had in this part of the world; so much so that I began getting terribly bored. Being used to a life where one needs to compromise on sleep to catch up with the world, here I was with a surplus of time and completely caught unawares how to deal with it. I asked one of the professors in the college there as to what he does after work. He said “I reach home in 15 minutes after the class gets over by 5.  I have a cup of tea and relax. This being a remote place, there isn’t many TV channels that you can watch. Internet can also get sporadic. Add to that a power outage which is highly dependent on the weather.” So how do you pass time, I asked. He said that they went to a nearby town ship. On my way back, I saw the town ship he mentioned. A handful of shops and eateries was what the township was all about.

            I hadn’t got as much time to myself in the recent past with nothing to do and nowhere to go to. I slipped in to a bit of introspection and realized how important it is for me to be around people whom I hold close. Also, how easy it is to find some time for oneself and for those one cares about.

            We all fret about how we don’t find time in this fast paced world of ours. But when gifted with an hourglass full of time, many of us don’t know how to deal with it. At least I did not.

For all the foibles of the city, I was dying to get back to the hustle and bustle of it. It is good to get away to places like these once in a while. If not for anything, to realize how blessed with comforts most of our lives are.

Arun Babu

Sunday, 8 June 2014

In Love with my Baggage : Blog # 177

In Love with my Baggage

                  By virtue of my profession of being a recruiter, I spend more days in a hotel room than my own rented house in Chennai. I have come to travel more in the last two years of my Life than I have travelled in         the whole of the quarter century of my Life! 

        I am not someone who has enjoyed travelling from quite early on. But now, a bit of wander lust has set in. There is an interesting thing about travelling. As much joy there is in seeing new places, when you are away for quite long, one looks for a hint of familiarity. This might be the reason why people prefer hotel chains to those that are standalone. Apart from the hotels, there is one constant companion for a wanderer. His/her baggage! My slice of familiarity is my American Tourister bag. 

             There is one more thing about travel. The smallest of discomforts can turn in to a major hassle. One such is tugging along the baggage where ever you go. In my case, I frequent most of the railway stations and airports. Quite often, one can’t help but feel like pulling along a bullock cart. Worse is the case when the baggage needs to be pushed around. One feels like a vegetable seller on wheels. 

              And enter, the four wheeled bag! I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. It just glides along ever so smooth. The effort required to move it around it near to zero. Moreover, it looks pleasant on the eyes too. Akin to that quote about friends, it chooses to glide beside you. Neither behind nor ahead, thanks to its wheel design.

            Coming back to the familiarity bit, Once I reach my hotel room, the sight of my baggage puts me at ease. The fact that there is something/someone that goes through the same journey lends me a sense of calm. Isn’t it the same with emotional baggage too? Even though we all love to shed our baggage, there is a sense of familiarity we develop towards our problems. We know how to deal with them. We know when they will crop up and how to pacify them.

            Some problems lend us a sort of identity too. We would have grown with them. They would have moulded us in more ways than one. There would have been times when they would have made us weak but only to emerge stronger. Over time, we learn to handle our baggage thereby becoming a better person. It is in a way true when they say our problems maketh us. 

             But yes, one needs to know when the baggage becomes a tad bit too heavy for comfort and hesitate not to shed the extra pound.
Arun Babu.