Sunday, 21 April 2013


Tenacity,  is as much about repeated action as it is about patience in inaction; it is as much about patient endurance till it is time to rise up again, as it is about trying to get up from a fall.

The greatest battles they say are fought in the mind. For a long time now, I have been a witness to one such battle, happening in the mind of someone I hold very dear. She is my childhood friend. Having witnessed a tragedy occuring with her parents when she was just six years old, the incident affected her deeply and she lost her carefree world. From then on, her world never seemed to right itself.

Consequently, she withdrew and hesitated to do even what she knew she could do well. She could beat the fastest athlete in school, but would never run a race. She had a bent towards art, which she never pursued. Being always measured on the yardstick of academics, her alternate choices were a matter of debate. Her failures were always public and were mercilessly commented upon by all and sundry and her good nature was exploited by relatives and acquaintances alike. Though selfless in her love for her family, she seldom recieved any credit for it. Many years were wasted in hoping that things would eventually become better.

This part of the story however ended a few years ago, following a major adverse life event . From the years of patient endurance, came a deep innner strength, and she is completely and wilfully changing the script of her life and has helped me understand better the meaning of tenacity.


When faced with the hardest goals we are prepared for failure, even as we give our best. But not every mountain that we endevor to climb is the Everest and sometimes not being able to climb a hillock is a more frustrating failure. It happens with a lot of people; some phases of life are strewn with many such hillocks, presenting themselves one after the other in a seemingly never-ending sequence. The lesson that I have learnt from my friends life is that, past failures are no gauranteee that the next attempt will be a success. Just as having fallen once does not mean that you will not trip again, having failed once does not entitle you to success on a second attempt. It is therefore essential to keep trying repeatedly, each time with no gaurantee of success and yet each time with as much enthusiasm as the last time.  

But sometimes, there is nothing that you can do. Some challenges can be a very long drawn affair, sometimes stretching into years. No action, no attempt creates change as long as the circumstances themselves dont change; and yet there is a strong internal and external pressure to act. Keeping the thread of patience from snapping, when in such a situation, is crucial to eventual change. When action is futile or detrimental, patience is indeed a virtue.

From a cause-driven Aung San Suu Kyi who spent 21 years as a political prisoner, to a commercial success-driven creator of Angry Birds who had created 52 games before one went big, some successes become more inspiring than others, not because the outcomes were any greater, but because they were achieved by climbing a steep mountain with past failures as toeholds. In the former case no action could be done even though there was a will, and in the latter all he could do was to try again and again.

Tenacity, hence, is as much about repeated action as it is about patience in inaction. It is as much about patient endurance till it is time to rise up again, as it is about trying to get up from a fall.


As for my friend, I recently told her how amazing she is. I am sure there will be no looking back for her now and I am standing by in rapt attention to witness her course of action.


Monday, 1 April 2013

The bridge on the way to work....

    The greatest optimism in building bridges, is that they are built without hoping that the water will go away.

Simone got off a couple of stops earlier at the bridge, on the way back home. She moved from the busy main bridge to a quiet spot on a parallel unused one and stood there with her arms on the railing, gazing into the distance. It had been an especially hard day at work, one of many such days in recent times and this was her oasis of calm in the big, buzzing city.

As she felt the cool breeze on her face, she reflected on how differently things had turned out from what she had thought it would be. The big dreams of her student days had been contained by the box-sized cubicles, the intellect was wasted in ridiculous wasteful exercises, the boistrous enthusiasm tamed by the formal business attire, close friends had become virtual entities, relationships with family was strained on several counts and liesure had  diminished exponentially as the pay check increased. Following your calling seemed over-rated, and listening to your heart, seemed like the domain of the impractical and irresponsible. But something certainly needed to change. That is when the water and the bridge inspired her.


Building the bridges:  There is the utopian and there is reality and the two are unlikely to ever merge completely. This is true for most people, in relationships, in jobs, in big and small negotiations; in fact, in most aspects of life. It is easy to be lost in all dissatisfactory real states, with an army of real sounding reasons, of why these states cannot be altered. Perhaps that is true, perhaps the states cannot be radically altered. But when all these reasons fall apart, there emerges a possibility: Are there no bridges that can be built?

The most obvious thought when we think of building bridges are between two people. With time many seemingly significant fall-outs can start to seem small. But if the bridges are never built, the relationship will stay in an indefinite state of discord. Simone picked up the phone and called her close friend of college years and following initial trepidation and some hesitant apologies, very soon they were chatting about the good old times.

But bridges can be built not just between two people, but between just about any desirable and undesirable circumstance: between money-earning endevors and passionate interests, between firm opposing views, between the most desirable and the not-so-desirable outcomes and between the day job and what you long to do. The starting point is just to think about what bridges you wish to build.

Let the water be: The greatest optimism in building bridges, lies in the fact that, they are built without hoping that the water will go away. Wisdom then is in accepting that, if the terrain were to become acceptable, there would have been no need for a bridge at all.

When Simone picked up the phone to build bridges with her friend, the points of past disagreement did not change. The water continued to flow. The opposing beliefs and points of view did not vanish. But what she established was a working relationship, going from the point of discord to mutual understanding.

The trials and frustrations of the day job, will only become more bearable if you have something else to look forward to doing. The outcomes of a situation will not always be the most desirable, but they can still be in the middle ground of acceptance. So, accepting differences in states and beliefs is as essential to the success of a bridge, as the building them.


As for Simone, I see her when our paths cross. Sometimes she is standing on the bridge on her way back from work. But on most occasions, she is on the virtual ones, with friends and family, at the painting canvas and on the conscious occasional vacation from work.



Monday, 18 March 2013

Ice cream carts and little boys...

What children can teach us about trying, failing and moving on....

I saw him seated alone and sullen on a park bench, a little way from where I was doing my stretches. He had a mop of jet black hair, a bright yellow t-shirt and was playing with a small ball in his hands. Eventually I walked up to him and sat down beside him and he gave a hesitant smile.

His story then slowly unfolded. He was alone because he had failed at a test that would have qualified him to be a part of some special activity course. Wanting to know more, I asked him about the consequences. His innocent wide-eyed reply was that he would no longer get to sit beside his best friend, as they would now be in different class-rooms!


Even as I tried to not laugh at the innocent remark, it made me think about trying and failing and failure. There has been many a time when I have not tried something for fear that I would fail. How exactly can this fear of failure be deconstructed?

Real vs Percieved consequences: - Is the fear of failure in its consequences? The boy was clear about the consequences. What really bothered about failing to qualify was that, he would not be able to sit beside a friend. It wasnt about being on the course, gaining skills or some such. Of course, that can be considered as childish.

But if we honestly think about all the times that we did not try, fearing failure,  how many times were the consequences drastic: life or death, make or break or totally irreversible? My own answer is; very few. Not getting that admission or job is really not the end of the world. The percieved consequences are in the mind, and they are as big or as small as you want them to be. The actual consequences are at most times smaller than the percieved, and most are reversed, rendered insignificant or healed with time.

So if the fear of failure is not only in its actual consequences then how can it be explained?

Failed at something or a failure? : A friend of mine is a wonderful cook. She loves hosting people and can cook up a meal for the gods when she is at it. One day she called a few friends over and forgot something in the oven till they could smell something burning. The whole evening she apologized to her guests and she could never quite get past it, though she still had a good meal cooked up for them minus the dish. When they left, she promptly sank into the couch totally defeated. Her evening was ruined as she kept focussing on the one thing that got messed up. What was worse was the fearing of losing face. She feared that her friends must have concluded that she was a terrible host. But is a burnt dish a conclusive evidence of a bad host?

Focussing solely on imperfections in the output of an endeavor and losing face is often what makes up the fear of failure. Many a suicide, is a result of a loss of face and can be avoided by making an attempt at failing at something as opposed to being a failure. In fact no human should be tagged as failure. You always fail AT something. Failure then becomes a lack of capability, practice or just a result of adverse circumstances.

Fear of being alone: This fear, not just when applied to failure, is one of the biggest. We are social beings and do not want to be alone and failure is one of the most powerful repellents.

The little boy was alone in his failure. He had no one to play with in the park and he did not have the company of his best friend. However, while only the lucky few will have motivators, the rest have to find it within themselves to get past a particular failure. Being alone can be an undesirable state, but it is also a state for reflection. It is a time when lessons are learnt from mistakes, where the strength of the human spirit can go from being a tiny flame to a blazing fire.

But the boy was yet to give me the strongest message.


As I ruffled his hair with a smile, his eyes lit up when he heard the sound of an ice cream cart. He was off in a jiffy and turned back to wave at me. He happily got himself an ice cream and asked another boy who was also drawn to the cart if he wanted to play with him and soon they were happily playing with each other.

As I left the park, I thought to myself that probably the next time I was afraid to put myself out there fearing failure, ice cream carts and other little boys are often probably just a matter of some waiting and some looking...



Saturday, 9 March 2013

And the "Look at Naseema" award goes to....

Somewhere between adversity and pity was hiding the will to survive...  

It began somewhere between the day her husband dropped dead and the day when she got sick of people calling her a poor thing. That is where the story began. Naseema was thirty four and her husband was a good man. She looked wistfully at other women with a child on their hip, but otherwise she was a contented woman. Then one day, with no warning, her husband clutched his chest and dropped dead and that was the end of him and also of life as she knew it.

Six months later, her home seemed to reflect the depressing and hopeless state of mind that she was in. In the flurry of events following her husband's demise she had been the center of attention of their family, nieghbours and friends. But the attention reduced exponentially, till a month later she was alone for more hours than she was in company. Whenever she stepped out of her home people looked her with pity and even expressed it in words to her often. Soon she was tired of the pity and sympathy and avoided people who tried to engage her in conversations.

But the funds that her husband had saved up for her would not last for ever and having never worked before she had no job skills. It was then that she ruefully wished that she had paid more attention to her education and taken up some job even if only to have the capacity to be self-reliant. But that was a notion that was unheard of in the nieghbourhood that she lived in.


As a child Naseema had always been full of whacky ideas. She imagined clothes that would wash themselves, animal language interpreters, automated wall painters and the list was endless. While those were the ones that were unfulfilled, she was amazed at the ones that were indeed a reality today; like a telephone that you could carry with you anywhere and on-demand money machines. She always looked at these inventions and often told her husband that she had imagined them, which was a dubious claim to him, but he had indulged her talk sportingly. But intelligence and imagination are never bound by birth, community, education or gender; a fact that often fights to make itself acknowledged in a world of stereotypes.

When Naseema had exhausted all conventional means of finding a job to support herself, she read an article about an innovative company that had come up with an array of smart products for homes and occupational use. She still had ideas and she thought she might have been a valuable contributor. But that idea itself was outrageously audacious, because the company had nothing but distribution offices in her country!

So one day she stood outside the distribution office in her city and when she saw someone who seemed to be a senior member of the organization walking out, she got his attention and offered to work for them. He tried to explain to her that they did not develop any products there, but she was not easily dissuaded. Something about her determination and her bold move appealed to the executive and he asked her if she would consider a job of selling the products to offices and companies in the area.


What followed was not a heart-warming happily after. The days and months that followed challenged Naseema beyond her imagination. At the outset she was the victim of several biases, as she tried to find her way around. Gender, religion, her "un-salesman like" traditional and ethnic clothes; the very attributes that defined her identity were the ones that worked against her.

But she was not the one to give up easily. People in her office soon began to take notice when she met her targets, by the sheer dint of her effort. The traditional clothes eventually gave way to more comfortable travel clothes, but only because they came in the way of her riding a two-wheeled moped, while attending to her sales leads. She is not designing "Post-it" stickys, but she surely is doing a phenomenal job of selling them. Salesmanship to her is an art and skill that does not require a business degree, but rather needs sincere and whole-hearted attempts.


Her unusual appearance was what had made me initiate a conversation with her when she came to make a sales pitch to me. The interaction left me re-examining my own mental models and since then I suspend judgement on typecasting someone until I know them better.

After my conversation with her, I figured that I would not be able to give her any business as I did not need what she was selling. As I almost apologetically conveyed this to her she spiritedly told me it was all-right and it almost seemed like she was consoling me and pepping me up.

As an after thought, she told me that she had got her award a few days earlier. When a woman in a community was depressed and despodent on being abandoned by her husband she heard the other women consoling her and telling her "Look at Naseema... see what she has done.... get up and do something....." . The fact that she was an inspiration and her motivated efforts had given hope to other hapless women in her nieghbourhood was award enough for her.

As she waved to me and said "Inshallah we will meet again" ,  I thought to myself that the "Look at Naseema" award goes to who else but Naseema herself.



Sunday, 3 March 2013

Blueberry muffins and coffee - A story of breaking negative patterns

A few days ago, when I was travelling I ran into an old acquaintance. His story is worth telling.  

Neel, was a teenaged boy who stood at the juice and snacks counter in my office canteen. A cheerful boy with a sunny disposition he was at ease making small conversations with his customers and did a good job of the food he served and of salesmanship. Observing him  behind the counter for a few days it was apparent that he deserved to be some place better and was greatly underplaying himself. As we chatted over the next few days he told us that his aspiration was to be a chef and he was very passionate about food. A few days later he disappeared and that was the last we saw of him in the canteen.

Eight years later, in another city, I saw a familiar face that I could not place, in a cafe. He came up to my table and stood there beaming and asked me if I recognized him. Just when I was beginning to panic at the embarassment to follow, my memory came back to me and told me it was Neel. He owned the cafe and my coffee was on the house. The conversation that followed left me with a lot to think and reflect about

What he told me is applicable to anyone and I have often found myself in the same traps.

The "Past Experience Trap":  Past experiences can serve as deterrents to honest attempts or they can serve as avenues to learn from what worked and what did not. The difference between the two is just how we choose to view them.

Among his siblings, Neel was the "different" one, while they thrived in the conventional schooling model, he struggled with it. He was always full of new ideas, but whenever he undertook something new as a child his confidence would sag mid-way, for lack of encouragement. Often he would stop working on something just when he was about to take it to completion. This continued as a negative pattern till his early adulthood. He would take a cooking course, work hard at it and then stop just short of cooking for the judges for being certified for it.

This continued till he recognized it as a negative pattern, the "past experience trap". Identifying it was the first step towards finding the remedy for it. He actively put in place measures to ensure that he did not give up till he finished what he had started. That was how he got his pastry making and baking certifications.

The "Caught in Current Trap" : "I identified the areas of my life that I was deeply unhappy and dissatisfied with and I was determined to change them. I gave myself a time frame for progress rather than a deadline for results. Outcomes are often beyond your control."

This was Neel's second message that struck home. It is so easy to get "caught in the current trap" that identifying this negative pattern takes a concerted effort. There are so many people who are caught up in dysfunctional relationships, bad and stressful jobs or no jobs, shelving dreams and ambitions for later; all stuck in the current trap. The current circumstances take so much energy and time that there is little left for thoughts of change. Hence the thoughts of change are avoided. This avoidance however creates a lot of unrelenting stress, besides leading to a lot of lost time.

Here it is all about determining to change and taking a first step. So after he had stood at the juice counter day after day, he was determined to change and left the city with a few leads in mind. When he ran out of all of them, he created more. That was his idea of progress. He finally got a favorable outcome after multiple attempts and found himself in a bakers kitchen and got the first sweet taste of success.

The "Image Trap": The voice in his head kept telling him that he could do better. But the self-assurance that he had when he was taking his first set of risks eluded him when he was trying to go further. It was then that he identified the third negative pattern; the "image trap". The people who knew him had a certain image of him. He was always making incremental changes in his condition, but he was fearful of making a quantum leap. He had always been the average performer and never the star of a show.

Conformance to others image of you and thoughts about their reactions to your attempts can be bigger deterrents than even past experiences. Often the easiest way to overcome this is a change of scene. Leaving behind the familiar and exploring new worlds where the image is only being created can help avoid this trap completely. But if that is not possible then minimizing contact, creating written plans and using negative talk by others to make yourself more determined is way to get out of this trap.

Neel figured out what he needed to do to set up his own enterprise and three and a half years of hard work later he reached his goal. The fact that he had a goal fuelled him on and kept him from falling into the current trap or the past experiences trap again.


Biting into the delicious blueberry mufffins and sipping my cappucchino, I reflected on what he had narrated as a story and brought out these three traps as something to learn and remember. It sounded like a fluke rags to riches story. But there was a method to how it was brought about. There was of course an element of luck, but the hard work and persistence that went into were what made it possible to get those muffins and coffee to the table.

Monday, 18 February 2013

If wishes are cycles...

Every life, without exception, has its own regrets and recognizing that is the first step to turning at least some of them into satisfying experiences.

On a bright and sunny California morning a huge package was delivered to my doorstep by Amazon and though it was a self-ordered package I could hardly contain my excitement. A couple of hours later, I sat back to take a satisfied look at my newly assembled cycle. For the next two weeks every evening I went back home from office, took my cycle to the parking lot of my apartment and taught myself how to ride. Many frustrated attempts and several falls later, a childhood wish was fulfilled and a long time regret was wiped away.

Somewhere between the large themes of our life like getting an education, relationships, jobs, marriage etc there are many small wishes that come to our minds and if unfulfilled for long enough they become our regrets, which we may often not even consciously aware of. There is tremendous satisfaction in wiping away regrets and when circumstances change with time it is often easily possible to do so. 

Often a thought or an impulse is all it takes to pick up a long forgotten wish and go after it. But if there are inhibitions or doubts that prevents one from doing that it is necessary to make a conscious effort.


Make that list: Pick up that cuppa coffee, take up a pen and paper and make a list. Choose any time of period of your life and list the strong wishes you had then. I went back to my childhood and the first item on my list was the cycle. I always wanted it as a child. It could be something as trivial as that or it could be something much bigger, perhaps the cause that you were passionate about, the trip you always wanted to do, an estranged friend that you wanted to restore peace with or anything else. Every life, without exception, has its own regrets and recognizing that is the first step to turning at least some of them into satisfying experiences.

 Check for relevance: What seems most important at one point in time might become inconsequential at a later stage. The wishes that have become obsolete are a reminder to us that it is possible to exaggerate our desires when we are fresh with an idea. It is also possible that changing circumstances can render them irrelevant. Even if it is not essential, figure out if doing it will bring satisfaction. Identifying the most relevant ones is one step closer to making them a reality. 

Stop trying to fix the blame: There can always be someone who we can choose to blame, like I could have blamed my folks for not being able to learn cycling. Perhaps as a seven year old that was a valid reason, but not as a fully grown adult. There has to be an expiry date for blame too, because our mind only has so much capacity for negative thoughts before it gets cluttered and degenerates into a toxic thought pool. 

Take action - do it!: Just go after the wish and reward yourself by fulfilling it and pump your fist in jubilation when you fulfill your wish. Watch another regret fall by the way and enhance the feeling of positivity within yourself. Do this just once in three months and at the end of that year you would have wiped off four long- standing regrets. Do it more often and you are only rewarding yourself with more positive experiences.


Despite what happens in the major areas of life, taking the time out to reward oneself with the satisfaction of positive experiences is a proof the resilience of the human spirit and often gives the positive reinforcement to our confidence and self-esteem, much needed to tackle the bigger issues we face. 

So if your wishes are something as small as cycles just get on them and ride away..

Monday, 11 February 2013

Last mile to the finish line

One of the most important dimensions of self-belief, is being able to fulfil promises; not the ones that you make to somebody else, but to yourself. It is about being able to trust yourself to finish up what you have started and about not letting the last mile take away the effort of all the other miles run.

The sports analogy of running the last mile is often quoted, but in life we are not running in one direction and finish lines are often so blurred that keeping focus is a challenge. Every year scores of people sign up for gym memberships; so much so that the owner of a popular gym chain in my city once told me that gym memberships had become like insurance policies; his clients buy them and most dont ever end up using the facilities for the full term. Being busy with the job, relationships, kids or just being unable motivate themselves to get up and head to the gym are quoted as reasons for dropping out. But the ones that do exercise their will to build the discipline of regular exercise are almost always rewarded with better health and higher energy levels; neither of which is a definitive finish line but a strive worthy goal nevertheless.

There is often no trophy or applause; while some of the most enduring images of inspiration are of athletes lunging towards the finish line to applause and the blinding flashes of paparazzi cameras, what most mere mortals get is just the satisfaction of a job finished. But do it again and again and eventually the trophy will be a deeper and a firmer belief in ones own capabilities, which is an enabler and a motivator to achieve bigger goals; much like artists who develop a bolder and firmer stroke by prolific painting and then end up painting some of their best works

One of the most common reasons why people stop just short of the last mile is an inability to sustain momentum with no one to cheer them on. Most of us have at least a few people who will cheer when they begin an endeavor. But the same audience cannot be blamed for getting too busy with their own lives and for not being there after a while. The lucky few have parents, partners and friends to keep them going on till they reach a goal. While being lucky is not in your hands, being persistent definitely is. So the next time you have no audience to cheer you on, picture yourself as a lone ranger and persist with your journey. Persistence and determination is a powerful antidote to self-doubt.

Finally, there will be hurdles and there is no reassurance of a smooth track. The hurdles may come in the form of human deterrents that can sap your confidence through insensitive talk or even worse through malicious acts. It may be changing circumstances beyond your control and in a host of other ways. If that happens remember that navigating obstacle courses is far more fulfilling on completion. Taking an endeavor to completion, despite the odds, is a triumph of the human spirit.

So finish up that project to the best of your abilities, take up that hobby and keep at it, hit the gym and take those music lessons and believe in yourself to make the best of it! 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Is "rising-up" overrated?

Is "rising up" overrated? In the first place, is it even necessary? If it is, then is it possible?

In graduate school, I once found myself sitting across a particularly nasty professor answering a viva after a lab exam. He asked all the other students to leave and grilled me for two hours, blatantly telling me that he was just playing cat and mouse with me. After two anxious months, wondering whether I would recieve my degree or not, I finally got it alright, but barely so. That was not the first, but no doubt a very strong negative life experience. Back then, I just wished that I had the powers to settle it fair and square with this man. He was a teacher, a teacher is meant to support the creation of successful lives, rather than destroy it.


The call to be noble, to justify an unconventional response to being treated meanly or unfairly, didnt quite work then. When someone steals credit, magnanimous forgiveness seems foolish. When cheated, not counting the losses and responding appropriately seems cowardly. Whatever form it may take, but each one of us has experiences of this nature and it is hard to respond to set backs, when it is caused by selfish or malicious intent. 

Thinking about forgiving, leads to a plight similar to the young monk. This is a story that was narrated to me by my father as a child. A young monk once asked a wise sage the way to happiness; he was told that it was easy, the only thing that he needed to do was to take a journey and when he was on it, not to think of monkeys. The poor monk started his journey with this instruction and every time he reminded himself not to think of the monkeys, he thought of the monkeys, until all he thought about was about monkeys!

In stead, work to make the violation inconsequential. Focus on making the best of something unrelated and challenge yourself to achieve new goals. It is certainly not easy, but it is positive and productive. It is a form of "rising up" that is beyond providing a controlled response to a situation. The less attention and food the monkeys recieve, the more that leave the mind.

There have been far bigger setbacks ever since, but this is a formula that has worked, wherever there were no emotional attachments to the offenders. Rising up is necessary for progressing oneself and it is possible by setting sights on higher goals.


I had my opportunity to see karma in action, when the same professor came to my company, a highly reputed organization, 3 years later to lobby for jobs for his students. He was assigned to me and was eloquent in praising me to get his job done.  It was an opportunity for me to rub my hands in glee and return the favor. But by then he and what he had done had become inconsequential. The only one monkey that sometimes reminds me of this episode is the one that reminds me of how this episode was an eye-opener on dealing with many such life situations.

Saturday, 26 January 2013


Time! it can be the most powerful motivating force. Thinking of the stop clock within each one of us is often shunned as morbid and depressing. Yet the same thought can be tremendously liberating if thought of as a matter-of-fact. Time is a limited resource, and it will continue to be so, until time machines and elixirs of immortality go beyond themes for sci-fi movies; any limited resource is precious and should be put to the best possible use.

Going through a journey with Time as my motivation, my reflections as a traveler are thus 

Bucket list: It is glamorous and very effective to use Time as a compelling reason to go about your bucket list. Many movies, books and quotes urge you on this path and it is indeed exciting to do the stuff you have always wanted to do.That is where my own journey began; but there is only so much scuba diving that one can do and meeting my favorite childhood sports hero depends on many factors that are beyond my control (like his wish to meet me!)  

De-addiction:  Work; it builds skills, pays money for the bills, gives us our bearings in the society, but also often drains so much that there is no time or energy for enjoyable activities. The next step on this journey, is in cultivating the discipline of regularly doing activities that are enjoyable, even though the irony is that there is no time for it!

Signing up and turning up for music lessons(though there is no hope of ever crooning like Celine Dion), a non-negotiable two hours every week in the swimming pool(with youtube as a guide to learn swimming) and sustaining my writing efforts; this was the tough regime for de-addicting myself from "being too busy" and "having just no time". The bonus was that, other aspects of life soon became a lot more bearable.

Spring cleaning: No life is perfect and there are always deficiencies and some of them can be fixed. Spring cleaning the mind, is hard and yet is essential. Some important relationships deserve more focus, some broken stuff is a drain of the time resource and some goals just need sustained effort. This act of spring cleaning, is a demanding effort, but essential to plug gaps that waste the precious resource and to free oneself of the negative forces that weigh us down and make space for other possibilities for the mind to dwell on.

Create!!: My granddad, who I never saw, was spoken about to me by the people of my town, because he dared to create a legacy of service and community work. This is an inspiring example because not everyone can become Steve Jobs; but creating something meaningful is possible in every vicinity. Commercial ventures, forums of common interests, improvement drives, voluntary service or just memorable times with friends and family; there are so many, small or big, and yet completely worthy opportunities to create!  


The most liberating aspect of Time, is however, that it helps put situations in perspective.

"Would it matter in the long run?" is a question that we are often encouraged to ask in the face of challenging or confusing situations. It does!! we are a product of our choices, every choice we make, every fight we choose to fight or walk away from, every small and big decision that we take makes up the story of our life. So in ways that we cannot fully understand it does matter, if not to the world, to our own selves and hence there should be an alternate perspective.
Detaching ourselves for a few moments, is it possible to view life as a movie? Is the script so far like-able? Is it possibly to spend time in making it more interesting? The ending, no matter how long or short the movie, can it compel some audience to give it a standing ovation? 

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Investments in Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is a powerful force to counter self-doubt and can open doors that are solidly shut, often by our own reasoning.

In the heart of my busy city there is a small house, which eighteen children call their home. They are the castaways and a visible proof of the dark side of the city; orphans or innocent victims of abuse. But the darkness ends there and this place is lighted up by their cheerful faces and resounds with their happy laughter.

They have many little games, but there is one special one. There is a little blackboard at the door and the children are awarded turns to write on it, a list of things that they need.  No luxuries however find a place on the list. Toothpaste, flour, rice, oil, tea powder, vegetables; this is what the list usually reads like. Donors who live in the locality or come to occasionally visit look at this list and then bring whatever possible for the children.

Those children have no visibility to the future of their education, employment or homes and certainly have no trust funds. But they enthusiastically go about studying, playing, singing together and talking to people who come to meet them. They quickly take along any new additions to their large family most enthusiastically and have lofty dreams for themselves. Their only investments are in enthusiasm and they do it liberally.

Enthusiasm is a powerful force to counter self-doubt and can open doors that are solidly shut, often by our own reasoning. Enthusiasm is not a personality trait of extroverts as it is often made out to be;it is momentum sustained irrespective of the odds. Sometimes there is no reassurance of results for our actions, neither are purposes or benefits fully visible while doing them; at these times it is only enthusiasm that can get us through. No goal worthy of achievement can be achieved without passion and enthusiasm, just as failure is overcome only by reinvestment in enthusiasm.


Talking to the ever cheerful caretaker of the home I gather that the first of their boys, who had moved out of the home a few years ago, has completed his education and secured a job in the a multi-national corporate. He is committed to help his brothers back at the home to also find their way; it does not matter what he earns; Enthusiasm is enough!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A Few Good Secrets

"While an active war against what is wrong is necessary to create change, a silent revolution of what is  right can be just as useful in making societies a better place." 

A much sought after music maestro, allows one student to quietly slip into his class without paying the steep fees that he charges to train aspiring artists. The bouncer of a nightclub in Istanbul ensures that errant guests, who are too drunk, after being hauled outside the joint, get a safe ride home. A high flying lady executive asks to sit beside mothers with infants on every flight that she takes and handles crying infants in a manner that amazes the mother and earns her grateful smiles from many a weary and sleep craving traveler.

We live in a world, where bungling governments and the power-hungry individuals have, in many countries  led to unemployment, corruption and countless other social ills. While an active war against what is wrong is necessary to create change, a silent revolution of what is  right can be just as useful in making societies a better place.


Each one of us, with no exception, is certainly blessed with skills, knowledge, personality traits or resources, that enables us to be of help to someone else.  But when we get boxed into tight little corners, by the judging standards of the society and unrealistic expectations of our various relationships it is often hard to pierce through the haze in our minds and think beyond ourselves.

Yet being of help is personally gratifying and most people would agree is a good thing to do.Could the solution then be to have one good secret, however big or small it may be, that fits into demanding schedules? It could mean anything from helping people make choices by being a listener, opening closed doors wherever possible or just making it possible to let someone have a little time for relaxation as you temporarily take up their vigil. Leaving this thought as a message in a bottle, it is for the readers of this blog to figure out if having these secrets is indeed useful.

Do not think of doing anything to enhance your image, but look for the beauty of doing it silently. If that doesn't work for you do it anyway that works. Do not think of it as service, think of it as helping others to help yourself; after all the world works in mysterious and serendipitous ways.

I grew up in a small Indian town where the community was strong enough to ensure that no one went hungry. My own secret began after an educated old man, who had been abandoned by the children he loved, extended his hand to me. Engaging him in a conversation, I gathered that the homeless, even if able bodied, knew hunger far more than they knew the choices they might have. Since then, I carry and distribute packets of biscuits to the homeless at traffic junctions. Many a thankful smile later, I have, without any guilt, left the ideological debate about encouraging begging to armchair idealists.


Friday, 4 January 2013

Failure and Success are equal and opposite!!!

In the seventeenth century Sir Isaac Newton staked his claim to immortality by explaining how and why apples fell.  Four centuries later I sat in a classroom full of students, most of who were staring wistfully at the playground outside and commited to memory Newton's third law "Action and reaction are equal and opposite",little knowing that it would go on to become an enduring life philosophy.

From its twisted origins, where I used it to justify a tooth for a tooth, this law eventually evolved into something greater and nobler. As with anyone who has lived, life has given me my share of failures and disappointments. Following every endevour that met with failure, the cumulative load of disappointment often took me from optimism to skepticism and cynicism. On one such day when life was throwing not apples but rotten tomatos my way, I audaciously declared my own law: "Failure and Success are equal and opposite"

This concept is simple enough and works no differently from the original law in the physical world. You fail; you react with an equal and opposite success. The catch? Unlike the physical world, it does not happen automatically; it has to be created. I tried it, at first skeptically, and soon it became a mantra. Simplistic as it may seem, it changes the lens through which you view your failures. The focus shifts from the burden of negative thoughts to creating a dream and a vision of what can be the equal and opposite success and how to get there. The bonus is that, often this positive energy produces successes that are not just equal and opposite, but in far excess of the failures.

Betrayals are not as much failures as they are a breach of trust and success here is not in retaliation but in the restoration of lost faith. Loss creates dark voids and triumph is in being able to rise above it and develop a deeper appreciation of the beauty of life. And sometimes seemingly significant disappointments are humbled by the surprising simplicity of the remedial measures.   The nature of the disappointment may thus change, but the law remains the same; if something is negative the positive equivalent has to be created. 

Has practicing this then made me insanely successful by the measures of this world? It has not and perhaps that is not what I aspire for as an individual. I still continue to face failures and disppointments. But the mantra even if temporarily forgotten does not desert me and it does its job of dispelling frustration and bringing in reassurance by reminding me that "Failure and success are equal and opposite"!!!!