Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Invisible Man

Mahatma Gandhi...

A name synonymous with ahimsa. A name which has spawned a series of philosophies, a score of super-hit movies and which still finds a place in all major political speeches in India.

I am not a Gandhiwadi. Yes- I look upto Gandhiji- like most Indians do. But I have never been a strict follower of him or his ideas. The simplest example- "Ek gaal par yadi koi thappad maarein- to doosraa gaal aagein badhaaon.." I think I will find it extremely difficult to follow this. If someone does slap me on one cheek- depending on the size of that person- I would either slap back or I would retreat.. I wouldn't really offer my other cheek to be slapped..

All to say that- I respect this great man- and he is a force to reckon with. But that's about it. What I am trying to say in politically correct terms, is that I am essentially indifferent about it.

All that indifference changed in a single moment yesterday.

I was working on a professional assignment which involved monitoring the mailing of a newsletter. In the process of doing so- me and my colleague needed to go through the messages which were a part of the mailing. Being a newsletter- it had a weekly summary of some individual opinions about various topics. And one of those topics was about the Mahatma himself. As a few expletives in that particular section caught our attention, we went ahead to read the whole article and at the end of it- we both were dead silent.

As we read that revolting text which compared the Mahatma with Osama and Bush and others we felt sick. Suddenly the empty office walls seemed to close in on us as our blood boiled with anger. But of course- being professionals we quickly closed the window and resumed with the monitoring. "Oh- this stat has increased- that's a good sign.. Hmm- we'll need to change the config here a bit"

But we both knew- that inside us- we both were terribly upset and hurt after reading that message. We both avoided talking about it- but that one moment of pained silence was enough to say it all- it hurt!

The Mahatma- albeit invisible- made me feel his presence. And the invisibility made him more powerful than any tangible force. Yesterday I understood how implicit some things are. We do not realize how much they matter to us till we see them being brought up in an undignified manner.

As for the individual who had all that nonsense say to about Mahatma Gandhi- I know that beating him up won't help and suddenly- Gandhiji's ahimsa starts making sense... So here's what I pray for that bird-brained lost soul:

Raghupati raghav raja ram
Patit paavan sita ram

Ishwar allah tero naam

Sabko sanmati de bhagwan..

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Clash of the Titans...

Six teams of fifteen people each. A cool game modeled on the age old game of Treasure Hunt. A very good idea to bring disparate teams in a business unit together. The game plan was perfect. And the end-result? A group of people shouting at each other at the top of their voices- fighting with the event coordinators for justice.

People came for the event fully charged- and most of them (read the losers) left with joyless sarcastic cheer and the others (read the winners) left with some gifts and empty hoots of hurrays. Empty because they were already so tired fighting for the win- it did not seem like a win anymore.

The idea behind the game was to entertain the people involved- to get them to know each other in a setting which was outside the context of work. But what ended up happening was a bitter group of unruly people ready to climb up on chairs and tables to prove their point.

What went wrong with an event which started off with such a good idea? The fact that the coordinators were not well prepared and the organization could definitely have been better added to the fiasco- and am sure that they can and will learn from these shortcomings. But the next time- they would need to do more than just organize it- they need to know how to tame the people they are trying to cater to...

I guess it is difficult to entertain a bunch of intelligent people, each one of whom is as ambitious as the other, each one of whom has stood first in their class in school/college, each one of whom is an ace performer at the workplace. When such people are pitted against each other- we must expect fireworks. Their only aim is to win. And when they see something or someone trying to stop that from happening- bang! Out come all the intellectual weapons loaded with huge amounts of verbal sarcasm.

I was once chosen as one of the anchors for an Antakshari contest in the company. When the event coordinator met me- he looked at me with a surprised look and said-
You almost look like a fresher! You are going to compere it?"
"Why- yes I am.. Are you unsure about whether I would be able to present it well..?"
"Oh no no- not at all... I have no doubts about your verbal and presentational skills... But you have to remember- when the teams start playing- it is not a game anymore- it is like being on the war-front... Are you sure you want to do this..?"
"Well thanks for the warning sir.. But I think I can handle this"
I was amused at what the coordinator had said- and I was thinking to myself- how bad can it get! It's a simple game.

And as I look back- I know I have never been more mistaken in my life. I had to tame those teams like a ring master- they were like wild animals on the loose- and the audience would just add fuel to the fire. After the contest- my co-anchor said "Priyanka- today I saw your Kali maataa roop" and I replied back saying "Today I saw the raakshas in all those brilliant engineers who come across as perfect sophisticates when you meet them in the hallway or in the pantry".

Yesterday evening, as I watched everyone around me fight- I was wondering- why was the purpose lost on them? Why are they playing it as if it is a matter of life and death. Being passionate about it is fine- and in fact- I would not allow myself to play the game if I wasn't into it completely. But is that passion itself not the biggest reward in a game like this?! Is enjoying oneself not the first prize in a group activity like this? I played it with full spirit and enjoyed the adrenalin rush to the hilt as we searched for clues.. I enjoyed myself completely as I looked at all the clues with my teammates to figure out the answer. And it was my moment of glory when the answer occurred to me in a flurry of mental activity. Those moments were more precious to me than the presentation ceremony later.

But it is and will remain the truth that most people that I saw around me yesterday- entered the game to win it- and win it at any cost. For them- it was not a way to relax and interact with people- it was just another way to prove themselves. And that is exactly where the fun element disappeared completely.

I don't mean to sound like a monk here- I love the limelight and I love being acknowledged (yeah well- am human!). But fighting to get acknowledged by proving others wrong... Hmm.. Not my cup of tea.

All those people who were fighting yesterday did not realize a simple thing- they did not need a silly game to prove their capabilities to anyone. All of them are already winners in their own right.

Everyone has to struggle to make a mark- and the initial step of making this mark involves the acknowledgment by some people (parents/teachers/managers/family/society). Once that mark is made- we need to stop depending on their acknowledgment to certify our capabilities. We need to grow up and scale ahead. After a certain point, the best acknowledgment and appreciation comes from us- and it is called contentment... :)

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

'Simple' has all the letters needed to make a 'Smile'

It is amazing that we all want joy to come our way- and yet we put all these conditionals on how it should come our way. So much so that when it does come- we completely ignore it just because it did not come in the attire that we expected it to be in.

I have been told (not once- not twice but many times- and recently by a person whom I briefly got introduced to) that happiness is in the moment- in simple things...

Listening to your favorite song playing somewhere. This has brought me out of terribly bad moods so many times!

Watching kids playing with each other in the park near our house when I come home from office. Just watching their innocent faces is magical... :)

Sitting by a river- listening to serene sound of the water as it laps up to the shore in small waves. It is so soothing...

Admiring the luminous moon in the dark sky. Well- there's definitely some connection that I have with the moon- it never fails to entice me... :)

And so many more similar moments that I get to live almost every day. Happiness is not circumstantial- it is a state of mind. I know it for a fact that just writing this post has made me happier than what I was just some time back. And I hope it has a similar (if not the same) effect on anyone who reads it!

Have happy times ahead people! :)

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Rock n Roll...

When we are sad- God always sends us some joy wrapped up as a gift. We just need to keep our heart open and see these gifts and open them up- and viola- the happiness is all ours to have... :)

One of my colleauges just sent this song called "I hope you dance" to me- out of the blue- just like that. And listening to it made me smile instantaneously! Thanks Duy- you made my day.. And yeah- though I truly believe that I have two left feet when it comes to dancing- this song does make me wanna dance! :)

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat
But always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they're worth taking
Lovin' might be a mistake
But it's worth making
Don't let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a real and constant motion always)
I hope you dance
(Rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who)
I hope you dance
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
(Where those years have gone)

I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

- A song performed by Lee Ann Womack

And yeah- never wait for fate to ask you for a dance... When you feel like it- just go ahead and.. Dance! :)

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Teachings of Life

5th Sept was celebrated as Teachers Day all over India. It reminded me of my school and college days when I used to make cards for all my teachers.

This Teacher's Day I thought of all those teachers who created a permanent impression on me. And a huge string of names started tumbling down from memory. I guess I cannot put down the whole list here. All the names that came to my mind included teachers starting from my pre-nursery to final year of engineering, family, my seniors in college and colleagues at my workplace. I was thinking to myself- wow- I have learnt so much from so many people. And suddenly I thought- so who is my favorite teacher of all..? And the answer was immediate and unanimous.


It has given me experiences which taught me more than a hundred books. It has thrown up questions which I struggled through- but when I went past them- the satisfaction that I felt was better than any rank prizes or medals. It has taught me important lessons in faith and courage that no amount of logical reasoning could have explained or put forth. And the best part is- this teacher does not stop teaching me as I change places or positions or phases. It always has something or the other to teach me through everything that it brings with itself.

Happy Teachers Day!

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