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"!!!!