Monday, 27 July 2015

Homage to Inspiration : Blog # 234

Homage to Inspiration

 Very rarely, there comes along a person who transcends all man-made boundaries be it of region, religion or race; one whose life story becomes an inspiration to others who come to know of him either through words or through experience.

Many a time, it is the designation that one attains through a lifetime of industriousness that adds glory to a person. But at times, it so happens that the person himself becomes such a luminary that the designation he carries glows in reflected glory.

Thank you Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam for giving us reasons to believe in our beliefs and the audacity to dream our dreams.

October 15, 1931 - July 27, 2015

Rameswaram ~ Madras Institute of Technology(MIT) ~Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)~  Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)~ Scientist ~ Padma Bhushan~ Padma Vibhushan ~ Bharat Ratna ~  Doctoral degrees ~ Numerous Honorary Doctorates ~ Professor ~   Chief Scientific Adviser~ Honourable President of India ~ Inspiration for Generations

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The heaven that is Home : Blog # 233

The heaven that is Home

            It was the first time that Niranjan was going to stay away from home. He went to one of the better colleges and had landed an offer with a reputed organization. After spending about 2 months at home post his final exams, he was dying to start working. He was beginning to get bored. During the evening tea time, his mother kept on telling him how much he is going to be missed. He consoled her saying he will get back whenever he gets leave.

            When he was about to leave home, he felt different – not sad, but different. Every time he left home, he knew when he was going to be back. This time, he will need to wait till he gets leave from work and he did not really like that idea. Amidst words of concern from dad, a bit of emotion from mom and sister’s banter, he boarded the train.

            Bombay was nothing like what the films portrayed it to be. It was crowded, dirty and unusually fast. Everyone was going somewhere. Unlike his small town, no one was sitting peacefully in front of a shop or waiting for someone. People just moved and all of them had a sense of purpose about them. Company had booked a hotel for him at which he checked in. The room boy ushered him in, kept his luggage in a corner and left. Suddenly, he felt alone! He couldn’t remember a time when he was in the presence of solitude like that. Always, there were people around him – friends, family or at least acquaintances. He looked out of the window and he saw a large mountain in the back drop. He stared at it for some time and called home. Once he talked to his family, he felt better.

            It was first day at office. After the initial rounds of introductions, he went for breakfast with some colleagues. He looked at the menu. There was nothing of his liking. There wasn’t even anything which he usually has for breakfast. It reminded him of his mother who kept on calling him to come and have breakfast when he lazed around in his bed. The day went by fast. There were a couple of sessions at office and he was back at his hotel room. He was tired from the day and slept off fast. A week went by. On Saturday, he went out with colleagues and explored the city. He was beginning to like Bombay. In spite of the crowd and lack of cleanliness, the city had a spirit about itself.

Whenever he hinted at the crowded local trains or fast paced life, people who had made the city home kept on telling him “Ye Bombay hai!” (This is Bombay!). To him, it sounded more like “This is Sparta!” After the training sessions were over, the other rookies who joined with him were sent to different cities. He was to remain in the Bombay office. By now, three weeks had passed and he was missing home and family beyond words. The evenings were unbearable. He kept calling home. He hinted to his dad that he might just get a flight ticket with his first salary. His dad told him not to spend his money. If needed, he will send him the tickets. He felt happy hearing that. He told his mother not to ask him as to when will he come home. Although he told her that asking it again and again will make her sad, the truth was that it was making him sad too.

His colleagues told him that there was a long weekend coming up soon and they were planning to go home. Hearing this, Niranjan also went to his boss asking for 2 days leave so that he can club it with the long weekend and go home. His boss shot it down saying he had just joined. He went back to his apartment despondent.

Niranjan called up his dear friend, Sam. He told him about how home sick he felt. Sam told his friend that he thought he was the only one who felt so. They couldn’t believe how much they longed to go home. At home, they were always in a rush – they were either going out of home or walking in just to leave again. They wondered how little time they used to spend with their family. And now, all they wanted to do was to be at home and talk to their family.

Niranjan woke up the next day to the beep of an sms. It was from his boss. It read “Go Home!”He just got up from the bed, looked out of the window and smiled. It felt as if he were an arid land and the message, a midsummer rain.

Small talks aren’t Small: Blog # 232

Small talks aren’t Small

            During my MBA days, I remember thinking about a paradox concerning myself. Whenever someone asked me as to why I wanted to pursue a course in HR, I used to tell them that I am people’s person. Slowly I was wondering if I were really one. I found it easy to relate to people and get along with different kinds of people. But I preferred limiting my conversations to the specifics. I did not believe much in small talks and extended conversations with people outside my friends circle. My friend, Vivek on the other hand always took an effort to strike up a conversation. Be it with the watchman of the university or with the Dean. I saw that it was working well for him. There was always an extra bit of lee way given to him by these people.

            Once I started working, I realized small talks matter! They are the easiest means to build relationships.  I work in a firm which is known for its processes. Numerous tasks are designed to work through flawless processes. Even then, there are times when human intervention is needed. Slowly and steadily, I was realizing it is people who get things done and not processes. This is as much true for an entry level employee to a someone at a vice president’s level. The reason being if we go strictly by processes, there are things which people are expected to do and they will do it. But if you have to get them to go the extra mile, they need to have a personal stake in it. This personal stake comes through relationship building.

            It is wonderful to see how extra helpful people become if you spend a couple of minutes talking to them. I was working from a different office last week and hence was completely unaware of the smaller details of that office – where can I get a photocopy, whom do I talk to fix the projector and such. I wanted to conduct a training session for the senior managers. The training room’s key had to be collected from the security. While doing that, I spent about 3 minutes talking to that person asking where he is from, how long he has been with the company, his name and such details. Once the training was over, I again spent a couple of minutes with this person. I told him how tiring a day it was and listened to his woes too. I asked him about the ongoing construction in the campus even though I knew what those buildings were for. The second day, I wanted some photocopies for the session and guess who helped me! It was not his duty to help me but he did since we were less of colleagues by then and more of friends.

From the above situation, I feel the art of small talks has to take a 3 pronged approach. The first stage is to get introduced. Once the getting to know each other on a basic level is achieved, try and relate to that person. It is important in this stage to not patronize the other person especially in a work environment. One should connect like peers would. The third stage is to seek answers even if it is for questions to which you already have an answer to. This way, the other person feels that you rely on them and hence trusts them and they in turn would begin trusting you.

Having said this, please do not start small talks on a superficial or a selfish level merely to get things done. People are smart enough to see through such attempts. We should look at it as an opportunity to build a relationship.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Tweet against Modi! : Blog # 231

Tweet against Modi!

    At first, it was Miss. Seth. Now, it is Miss. Dhupia. I am beginning to wonder if there is a pattern. Has tweeting against the PM become a quick and easy way to get some attention?

For those of you who are not on twitter, this is how it works. A celebrity or someone half a celebrity tweets against the PM. He has an ardent fan following on twitter. To an extent that some of them are not open to any sort of criticism against their leader – constructive or otherwise. The moment a tweet criticizing the PM is made on twitter, there will be numerous reactions-good, bad and ugly. This makes the profile of the person who made the criticism, very visible. Now, the person who gets attacked on the twitter starts lamenting that he/she was abused for whatever one said.

What I fail to understand is this victim card which this person plays. What are they surprised and complaining about? Is it about the negative reaction that they got? I don’t think this is something new. When it comes to matters of religion, region or politics, we as a country has always been quite passionate. Many of us tend to lose reason and perspective when we discuss the above said issues. Just that on twitter, all these reactions are on a much larger scale and hence the visibility is higher. Even otherwise, when you make an observation or an opinion, one must be ready to accept the backlash especially when it is against the popular opinion. Now, do you think our celebrities are not aware of this? All of them are well read, well traveled and well informed. They are cognizant of what is going to come their way.

Now, what does a celebrity stand to gain from it? Much, apparently. If you are not an A-league star, it is imperative that you make efforts to remain in public memory. This is because their popularity has a direct bearing on their career. How years of experience is to a working professional is how popularity is to a celebrity. In this day and age of information deluge, it is very easy for the public to forget a celebrity. When such an incident on twitter happens, the celebrity springs back to popular gaze. It is almost similar to having a new film released for them. Add a bit of smart PR work to it, write an open letter if you are good with words, get some other celebrities to share a few words of concern for you and voila, you are back in the game of being popular.

You might ask so what about the vicious personal attacks against them? Are they justified? Not at all! But not expecting them is like wishing away all that is bad in the world. We do not live in a Utopia. We are far from it. There are people of all sorts around us. There are options on twitter to delete a tweet. Why do the celebrities wait till the tweet to get re tweeted by 1000s of people? Why do they wait for all the abuses to come? If you see personal attacks coming your way and if you can’t take it, you delete it right at the beginning. So you do need the attention and the popularity. One might say that is his/her right to expression. Doesn’t the same hold good for the people who react? They might be doing it in a crude way. But that’s who they are. You can’t expect everyone to react the way you want them to.

When you cut onions, you do get tears. The question is if one is claiming that they are tears of heart ache and reaping some sympathy! 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Darkness, the new wisdom! : Blog # 230

Darkness, the new wisdom!

I am so in love with the new Coco Cola Middle East Ad. I so admire the creativity behind that thought. How can one break so many stereotypes in such a tiny video?

What surprised me was the idea that the crux of the Ad is dead against whatever little I have heard about advertisement. Most of the advertising lessons teach you to ensure maximum visibility for the product. It also advises maximum repetition of the product features of course without being too-in-the-face. Yes, there are advertising methodologies which advocates weaving a story around the product with minimal screen time for the product itself. Again, such methods are mostly used for high end, up market products. Coco Cola is not a high end product. It is a much loved, beverage. Also, at least I am yet to read a book which advocates an advertising strategy that says one can steal away the product’s identity itself! That is exactly what this Ad does and still manages to make us fall in love with the idea and thereby the product!

However educated, well traveled and well read one is, stereotypes kick in at lighting speeds and judgement are passed in our minds in the split of a second. I think subscribing to stereotypes is our mind just being lazy. The memory and thus the mind have learned a pattern of behavior to expect from the way a person is dressed, is speaking and the affiliations they convey through their conversation. It is easier to slot a person in to a reference which our mind already knows. What many of us try to do is work against those judgement to try and see the person beneath the label/slot we have already given them. The label used to be about nationalities earlier and these days, sadly it has increasingly become about religion too.

I would want to look a bit deeper in to the Ad. In my mind, there are two definitions to the darkness which engulfs the 6 people in the beginning. One is that the darkness in the Ad depicts the extent to which humanity has become restrained by the walls it has created around itself.  The walls of assumptions we make just by the way a person looks, the faith one follows, the language he/she speaks or whether or not the person walks with his legs or with a wheel chair. We must look through these walls of darkness. Only then will we be able to find the soul of a person and thus humanity at large.

The second definition is that the absence of light in the Ad depicts wisdom. It is against the conventional perception of darkness. That darkness covers and thus enlightens the myopic eyes of mankind blinded by region, religion and appearance. This wisdom helps people see mankind in a new light or should I say a new darkness?

Keywords : Coca Cola, Coca Cola Middle east, Coke Advertisement, Coke Middle east

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

An Earth hour a day : Blog # 229

An Earth hour a day

Yesterday, all of us had returned from office by around 8 at night. By  9 o clock, the power in our apartment was gone. Being in Chennai, there is nothing romantic about a power cut, whatever time of the day it is, thanks to the weather! Still, we were hopeful that the power will be back soon. 

We started talking. The conversation took many detours and went down the long winding lane of memories. We realized that we were drowned in silence when the power was there. The only sounds which were making our presence felt in the room were the pings emanating from our cell phones.

I remember the power cuts which used to be a routine when we were in school. This is the time when the candles of the house come out from hiding. The elders in the family will seek solace in the handmade-newspaper fans and we, the children used to huddle around the candles. This is when wax creativity attained new heights at times, putting even Madame Tussauds to shame. Another art form which originates during the power cuts are the shadow wars. We make all sorts of shadows manipulating the light which the candle spreads on the walls.

But what I really miss is the little conversations which used to shine through like stars on a cloudy night. Usually, the conversations begin within the age groups. The elders in the family will discuss their own woes of life while the younger ones indulge in things which matter to them. Slowly, the conversation cuts across ages and moves in to certain aspects which all of us were interested in.

 I remember one of my uncles using those dark half hours to tell us stories of his difficult childhood. Once we asked him as to why he always chose power cuts to tell us such stories. He said “ Because, darkness provides the comfort of not worrying about what one’s eyes look like when one remembers the tougher times of life. It also gives one the courage which comes from not having to look another in their eyes while speaking” We did not understand what he meant back then. Now we do.

I think we all should celebrate Earth hour every day where we sit disconnected from all the wired extensions which have begun to dominate our lives in more ways than one. Undoubtedly, all the gadgets we have today help us to get in touch with people separated from us both by distance and by time; but many a time, at the cost of being disconnected from people sitting right next to us. These days, we don’t look at people’s eyes when we talk to them. Instead, we stare at a 5” screen!

When we indulge ourselves in such Earth hours, there will be times when all that engulfs us might be darkness. There will be long moments which will be drowned in silence. But it is such moments of darkness which will help us discover the twinkle in our loved ones’ eyes.