Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Lessons from nature : Blog # 199

Lessons from nature

        The other day, I happened to watch Animal Planet. It brought back fond memories of watching it as a child. This channel says beautiful stories from the wild – some intriguing, some heart breaking and some which can serve as life lessons even. Half asleep, I was watching this episode of a peculiar kind of parrot called ‘Kakapo’ in the dense forests of Newzealand. The body type of this parrot is hefty. Its wings are not designed to fly. I was wondering, what a cruel joke of nature! A fat parrot which cannot fly! Then came the explanation. These parrots have ancestors dating back to ice age. Before ice age set in,these parrots could fly. During ice age, for survival, they evolved. The need to stay alive was more than the need to fly. So nature discounted the need for weightlessness and bartered it with a body with generous layers of fat so that it could survive the cold wave.

            There was another episode on wild buffaloes and zebras. Always, the wild buffaloes follow zebras to water bodies. The reason? It is their tactic for survival. Zebras apparently need more water than the wild bulls. Hence they approach water bodies more frequently and are better aware of the dangers lurking inside those vast water bodies. They are better equipped to be alert and thus avert danger. So if zebras go in to a water body, the bulls assume that it is safe to drink water there.

            More than Nature’s immense intelligence, what amazed me is another fact. How does this kind of intelligent street smartness emerge? In both the above cases, there should have been many generations of those species which went through many experiences and from these experiences, learning occurs. But how do these lessons get handed over to further generations? One might say it is taught down the generations and thus information is passed on. But same species are spread across continents and they all act in similar ways. It is not that the experiences that they go through are exactly similar. A more interesting explanation seems to be the line of thought which says that there should be some sort of collective memory for each species. All of the living beings go back to that collective memory and tap in to that to successfully find one’s way through the labyrinth of universe. This would mean that our future generations would function based on the experiences that we go through and the collective memory that we create for them. Doesn’t that put an enormous responsibility on us, the people of today? It will be based on the way we react to the life experiences today which will show light for the generations to come as to how they should live their lives. So we better be careful!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Why aren’t we happy? : Blog # 198

Why aren’t we happy?

        I have come to learn that many of our generation aren’t really happy. It is not that we don’t have enough reasons to be happy about. Most of our basic needs are already addressed, thanks to the hard work put in by our parents. Almost all of us have a house; many of us have a car or a two wheeler. Many of us have completed the education that we wanted and have landed a decently paying job. If one were to step back a generation and look at this situation of ours, there is absolutely nothing to be not happy about.

            It is not that we are unhappy. It is just that this current situation in life really doesn’t excite us to a level that we expect it to be. In Human resources, there is a theory called Herzberg’s two factor theory. In a nutshell, it says that absence of dissatisfaction doesn’t mean a person is satisfied. Same is the case with many of us. Absence of unhappiness doesn’t mean contentment.

            I recently read a book on Saudi Arabia. The kind of wealth that country has amassed in such a short time is unbelievable. An unexpected side effect of this enormous wealth is that the youth there aren’t quite happy. One of the reasons attributed is lack of a sense of purpose in their lives. Once the basic needs for a person is fulfilled, there is nothing much to strive for. Then, the things one has to work towards aren’t as tangible and direct as food, clothing and shelter. The reason why our previous generation found happiness much more easily may be due to this. They had to work towards building an infrastructure – getting a job, a house and a vehicle were all compulsions of their times. They worked towards achieving these and when they did so eventually, they found happiness in that. For many of us too, these needs do exist. But there is no sense of urgency attached to it. There is a certain degree of choice about it. Unless one is driven, one can afford to lead a life free of much pressure. But again, this leaves one with a sense of void. We start wondering what exactly our purpose in this world is.

Eventhough finding a sense of purpose is difficult; there are certain ways through which we can move towards that destination. One such is to have a job that makes us feel that we are doing something which will make the world remember us for posterity and thus the yearning to do something which requires a bit of creativity. That gives a sense of fulfilment. Pursuing an active hobby also gives one a feeling of doing something worthwhile. An easier option might be to engage oneself in something that is selfless. It can be contributing to a noble cause – in cash or in kind. This should satiate our appetite for contentment even if it is for a while.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

When I woke up a tad bit too early… : Blog # 197

When I woke up a tad bit too early…

I woke up listening to my Grand father’s slippers tapping against the floor. He started wearing to ward off pain in the joints which he thought is due to the cold floor. I could hear ‘Rangoli’ blaring on the TV which meant it is a Sunday. I woke up from the bed and saw the Mosaic flooring of my house and felt something was different. My mother asked me to brush and come for the tea. Near the wash basin, was kept the toothbrush and Cibaca toothpaste. I went downstairs and took up the day’s Newspaper. There wasn’t anything which interested me.

We all had breakfast together and dad told that we will go for a movie in the afternoon. After breakfast, we all sat together and watched ‘Sri Krishna’. When the last advertisement post the program was running on the TV, the power went off. We knew it won’t be back for at least an hour. My sister and I took our cycles and went over to our friends’ places. My friend Ravi’s father had bought a Maruti 800. What a car! It did not even make a noise when it moved. The interiors looked very modern and plush. Both of us reached home for lunch. After lunch, we went to the theatre in a bus. There was a long queue outside the theatre but thankfully, the ladies’ queue was smaller.  We got the tickets and went inside the theatre. We got some chips and a Campa cola. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge was becoming a huge hit with relatively new stars, Shahrukh Khan and Kajol. After the movie, we went for a walk on the marine drive. It was a pleasant evening. The road was full of new Maruti cars. The Premier Padminis and the Ambassadors stood the ground even though they were fighting a losing battle as my father often said.

We were home by 6 o clock just in time to catch ‘The Jungle book’. It has always been a mixed feeling to watch this show for it meant that Sunday is coming to an end. Grandfather sat down to watch the 7pm news and we went to check if there is any pending home work. Thankfully, there were none. Turning my Crompton greaves fan to full speed, I went to bed by 9 after dinner.

I woke up with a start. I checked if my cell phone was near my pillow. I swiftly checked if it was connected to net and if I had any notifications on Facebook and whatsapp. The air conditioner was working and the flooring was familiar grey marble. I ran down and asked my mother where the newspaper was. It was the 10th day of November of 2014.I let out a sigh of relief. Father called out to me to book movie tickets for an afternoon show and to connect the laptop so that he could skype with my sister. Before I could think about what had just happened, my whatsapp pinged continually for my attention.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

!=Emotional Exhaustion : Blog # 196

!=Emotional Exhaustion

            There are certain jobs where in people get emotionally exhausted yet the profession demands that they don’t show it. A very notable one being that of airline cabin crews. One long flight for people itself is tiring. Imagine being on a flight like that for a whole day and working too. Add to this, the need to appear presentable and pleasant. On top of it, there are snooty, demanding customers who become snobs the moment they come aboard an aircraft for no apparent reason.

            This might be the reason why they become so very mechanical. If you have paid attention, the way they give out instructions is more mechanical than reading out the catalogue for a washing machine. The way they greet you when you enter the flight, you can see that they are preoccupied about the work that they need to do or something they have to rush to before the flight takes off. Many a time, they get over trained to the extent that they remember the method but forget the purpose. Once my flight got delayed and I was about to miss the connecting flight which was of the same airline. When I approached the cabin crew, the lady told me “Sir, the inconvenience caused is regretted”. I said “Thank you for empathising, but what do I do now?” She said again “The inconvenience caused is regretted” I said “I love that line. But please give me a solution”. Then she realized what needs to be done and offered me a refund.

            Another such job will be that of a doctor. Here, apart from one being not able to be emotionally exhausted, there is a certain nobility attached to the profession. Imagine you going to a doctor and he tells you “You know what, there is no work-life balance in this profession. At times I feel I should just write some random medicines and get the queue of patients done and over with!” A doctor cannot afford to do that even though he/she is also human and is susceptible to such emotions.

            Similar is the case with professors. How will you perceive a professor who tells you that he/she doesn’t feel like taking class or he/she is feeling sleepy. Worse, what will you think of a professor who complains to one’s student about not getting enough hike from the management? Henry Adams says “A teacher affects eternity; he/she can never tell where his/her influence stops”.

Let’s hope that only those people take up these professions who have the ability to be selfless at least to the extent that they are able to do justice to their profession.

Arun  Babu