Saturday, December 31, 2011

Intensity of problem and our perception

The intensity of the problem is more a function of the mind. The problem remains the same and how we perceive it determines its size. Invariably when you think of a problem in the middle of the night, it appears difficult and not easy of resolution but the same problem appears minor in the morning.

I read a story in a book by VIshal Goyal on Tenali Rama.It seems that once a man approached Tenali Rama complaining that he found his home small and noisy and would like to change for a spacious and less noisy one without spending any money. Tenali Rama advised the man to bring his chicken, horse, cows and sheep inside the house and live with them. The man though perplexed complied with the advice. The next day he came rushing to Tenali Rama saying that his place is cramped and very noisy and smelling and that he cannot put up with the animals anymore. Tenali advised him to remove the animals away. On doing this the man found his house spacious and very quiet and could breathe happily. It was the same house in the same place.

The lesson given by the author is “”Every problem has a ‘context’. If you change the ‘context’, the problem may cease to exist.". This is somewhat like a nagging mild head ache receding totally into background when afflicted with a bigger ailment or some pressing issue crying for attention. The nature of the problem depends upon the opinion we attach to it and it is within our power to change our opinion and thereby the nature of the problem from bad to good.

"Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A story from Mahabharatham

I read this story in Thiruvonum's weblog. I wish to share with you as this is interesting

There is story in Mahabharatham, after kurukshetra war Pandavas were reluctant to rule. Sri Krishna says to all five brothers to go to different places and find out some thing different and astonishing. Yudhistar observes an elephant with two trunks. Arjuna observes a bird having Vedas written on its feathers but it was eating a dead man. Bheema observes a cow and a just born calf, mother cow was licking its child even though it was bleeding by its licking. Nakula observes five wells in one place only one had full water and others were empty. Sahadeva observes a big / heavy rock which was rolling from a hill and could not stop even though there were many obstacles like other huge rocks, trees…etc. Even though it was rolling fast, it stopped after encountering a small stone sized thumb.

All of them returned and narrated their story. Sri Krishna given explanation, now the Kali has just started these is future things in Kali

1. Yudhistar observance of Elephant with two trunks: The two trunks denote the politicians in Kali, who say something and do completely opposite to it.

2. Arjuna’s Observance of Bird with Vedas written on it: This denotes the Pandits after learning Veda and shashtras are interested only to fill their tummy and pockets

3. Bheema’s Observance of Cow licking Calf: This denotes the parents in Kali who will protect the children and slowly children will loose their mind development.

4. Nakula’s observance of well denotes the rich people will grow richer and poor will be completely empty.

5. Sahadeva’s observance of rock falling. The big rock denotes the difficulties and small denotes the NAMA SANKIRTANAM. Any big difficulties can be stopped by doing a small nama japa.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

There is a price for not asking

I read this in a book The Alladin factor by Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen
A number of years back the University of Chicago received a million dollar grant from Mrs. Fields of the Marshall Fields Department Store fame and fortune. When the administration at Northwestern University read the headline in the newspaper, the people of Northwestern were shocked, How could this be?

Mrs. Fields lived in Evanston, Illinois.Northwestern was in Evanston, Illinois. She had been a supporter in the past. Why hadn’t she donated the money to Northwestern? Why had she given the money to the University of Chicago instead?

When the University officials called Mrs. Fields to discover why she had given the money to the University of Chicago rather than to them. She replied, “The people of the University of Chicago asked.”You didn’t.”

The answer is yes……. But you have to ask! This would apply even to asking God

There was a time when I wanted a transfer to Delhi as my iwfe's parents and siblings were residing there.I had sent feelers to the Director but had not mentioned my wish whenever I met him.The transfer did not happen.It was some years later when we were travelling alone,I mentioned that he had not acceded to my only request.He replied "How would I know you were interested to come to Delhi unless you had told me?It could have been easily arranged."

I replied "I had sent feelers to you through your staff officer"He said"Why go about indirectly?Your feelers never reached me.Always remember to ask directly."

There are many things which we are shy of asking friends or well wishers and sometimes we assume that they would know our wishes.It is always a good policy to ask directly and accept gracefully whatever the outcome.Children do ask the parents This applies equally well to our prayers to God.It is a good policy to be specific in our request than leaving it to God..That is why we have a sankalp in our Hindu prayers specifically mentioning the wish.Even Christian religion enjoins on devotees to ask with the maxim"“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A friend is a gift you give yourself

One day, Turgenev, the Russian writer, met a beggar who asked him for alms. " I felt in all my pockets, " he says, " but there was nothing there. The beggar waited, and his outstretched hand twitched and trembled slightly. Embarrassed and confused, I seized his dirty hand and pressed it ‘Do not be angry with me , my brother,’ I said, ‘I have nothing with me’. The beggar raised his bloodshot eyes and smiled, ‘You called me brother.’ he said and that was indeed a gift.’ " -The best of bits and pieces.

Friendship is nothing more than being comfortable with people. It is good to be stimulating and interesting-people would want to be with you and get something from you and your friendship. It is always a good policy to attempt to heal every misunderstanding and try to drain off the grievances,By practicing to liking people until you start liking them genuinely, you retain more friends.This is difficult as some are not lovable But they too have some likeable qualities. Be interested in them, find out their interests,talk about them,remember their names and use them frequently. It is also good to praise by looking for something to praise and avoid criticicsm. Practice believing in people and show them you believe them.

Some may occasionally fail you but it doesn’t matter. In greater number of cases, your trust will kindle a corresponding trust in you. People generally live up to the opinion of others. Practice helping others without any expectations in return. There are many little ways to sustain friendships like being polite in conversations, punctual in appointments and a little consideration in everything. A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall. So with men, you can win them with words of honey.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How much to trust?

When a father asks his child who is standing on a book shelf to jump in his arms, it does unhesitatingly. It has a complete trust in his dad and a belief that he will come to no harm .That kind of trust is never possible in this cynical world where we believe that we are vulnerable when we trust someone. But without some trust can the world move on? Do we not walk on the road peacefully trusting that other vehicle users of road follow the rules ? Do we not send young children out to play believing no one will take them away? Can there be love and joy without some basic trust in human goodness?

When we go to a doctor and get some medicines prescribed, we trust his judgment implicitly and take the medicines. Likewise when we buy medicines from chemists, we believe that they are not duplicates or fakes. In our day to day transactions we trust people to a large extent as otherwise life would become unhappy. There may be disappointments on a few occasions no doubt but we should learn to live with it and not distrust everyone. Someone put it ‘You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.”

Trust is based on the belief that others have confidence in you and your ability and will not take unfair advantage of you. It is the ability to create relationships with others based on mutual respect and caring. Good friends never betray your trust.

Uncongenial atmosphere of hate or lack of love, divorced parents, emotional and physical abuse, broken relationship, death of close relative, chronic illness and low self esteem could all lead to lack of trust and suspicion.Getting over this is not easy without constant practice and motivation from others. I would put a strong faith in God as the first step. This belief that He would take care of your troubles would gradually reduce the mistrust and enable you to ‘let go’ the hurts and disappointments. Mingling and living with positive minded people would provide the healing environment.

Overcoming unwanted fears, developing self esteem in one’s capabilities and building trusting relationships after due care would be the way to go about to get over this malaise.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Eternal hope

Life without hope would be a painful nightmare. We all live on hopes and dreams that the future would bring for us the things that we cherish most .Every child has bundle of hopes on parents, God and Santa Claus. They believe in what they are told and build hopes. Every young student in schools/colleges is an aspirant for big degrees and good positions. They work for these with lot of hopes. Married people hope for children, businessman for profits, the old and infirm for good health.

Hope is eternal in the hearts of men.Without hope any life would be meaningless. Hope is the greatest motivator to endeavour towards success. Hope brings about a faith in the creator and God’s hand in all things. It gives a healing touch to the troubled minds and hearts.

It therefore behoves on all of us not to crush the legitimate hopes of people around us by insensitive comments and instead help them in whatever manner we can to realize their hopes. It is in the nature of things if one hope does not materialize another one takes over its place. Nothing in this world is hopeless.

Begin at the periphery

I read this story narrated by Sudhamahi Regunathan and wish to share for the great message it has.

The story is about Chanakya."Touring the countryside in disguise, he halted in a small village.An old woman offered him a meal.Chanakya was ravenous and so accepted the invitation.He was served steaming hot rice.Chanakya delved into the centre of the rice in his plate, which resulted in his burning his fingers..

"Oh dear!" exclaimed the old woman."You are indeed like our stupid minister Chanakya". Chanakya was taken aback.The old lady explained: "Never begin at the centre of the problem.Chanakya plans his attacks on the capital city and loses.He should begin at the periphery and slowly make towards the centre."

Chanakya had learnt a new technique for success.The beginning is always small and at the periphery.But it will unfailingly and eventually lead to the centre,one day

Monday, August 29, 2011

Treating all equally

I was in a wedding reception. It was crowded with a stream of invitees coming in and going out. For want of nothing else, I started observing the people who entered the hall. Some lingered at the entrance for a while till they noticed someone important known to them and then gravitated towards them. They dismissed other lesser guys who greeted them with an insouciant smile devoid of recognition. A few who could not find any one known face settled in a comfortable seat waiting for their turn to felicitate the young couple. There was always an effort by everyone to look for friends or relatives who were distinguished with better position or wealth than them in the jostling crowd. Why this craving to be seen in better company?

It was then I observed, whenever a well known or famous man or woman amongst the circle entered the hall , a pronounced tendency amongst the crowd to crane their necks with a view to watch the celebrity and if possible to catch their eyes. A few who were chatting with me left their seats abruptly and went near one film guy who was entering the hall with a fawning crowd around him. This set me thinking why people attach importance to the fame or position of others and show a desire to be seen with them or exchange a greeting with them. A corporate honcho or a former top level bureaucrat or a filmy person or a sports star invariably attracts a crowd like the treacle does with ants.

In offices one must have noticed the extra efforts made to catch the eye of a senior official in a group or the undue high deference shown while talking to boss. Seeking favour by servile flattery or cringing behavior is commonly seen and encouraged by bosses But such a subservient attitude or undivided attention or respect is not shown by the same people to someone who is in lower position. There is certain casualness and high airs shown in the conversation with the subordinate. There is a tendency to give undue importance to titles, designations or positions in society or wealth as if people beneath such distinguishing marks do not deserve the respect or attention. We owe nothing to the men in higher positions in office except doing our job well and on time. We do not need to be obsequious or sycophantic. We need to be uniform in our attitude to all irrespective of position or power

The reason for this ingratiating and often flattering disposition could be an expectation that some good may come at a later date or the satisfaction to be in the good books of people better placed. The true test of one’s character is seen from the way he treats people placed in lesser circumstances. The respect and attention given, the seriousness invested in the responses and the sincerity in the conversation with them distinguishes the noble from the upstarts..

Friday, August 5, 2011

Where my mom failed

My mom though she had many children, both daughters and sons, slogged in the kitchen all day long, did lot of household chores by herself. She never distributed the work amongst the children at least such of those that can easily be done by them. As a result she missed out spending her time on her favourite pastimes. Likewise I had a boss who would insist on seeing all the files never delegating to his junior or middle level officers. He was an overworked man and constantly struggling hard to keep the deadlines. The motivations though were different as in the case of mom due to her affection for her children and in the case of boss due to some mistrust and a feeling that he alone was infallible. In either case non-delegation was not a desirable trait.

Delegation is not a matter of choice. It is an obligation and a responsibility that you owe to yourself and to others who are along with you be they the family members or colleagues in the office. It is also necessary for the good of the company you work for. As the family or work place expands with lot of responsibilities, one cannot do all by himself/herself with finite hours in a day. Many people do not like to lose control. To be successful, one has to employ the strategy of delegation. This will give a sense of participation and belonging to all besides motivating people to learn more. Productivity improves in the office. Home looks cleaner and better maintained. Things happen on time and well. The leader or the mom gets more time to plan and organize themselves better and devote time and energy to more important areas that need their attention

In my home each sister thought someone would dry the clothes in the clotheline, someone would wash the dishes and someone would set the dinner table. My mom had not assigned specific jobs to each of my sisters. As a result none did. The hallmark of a good delegation is clarity of the task, assignment to specific persons, fixing the time within which to be done and keeping direct communication. This applies to home or office equally well.

Theodore Roosevelt says “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Andrew Carnegie put it differently when he said that “No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.”I would say my mom would have been a happier and more relaxed person had she known what things she had to do personally and how to get the other things done by her children instead of doing them all by herself.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Interruption the bane of conversation

My daughter was discussing with me one day some matter of importance when her son of seven years interrupted her calling “Mom, mom, listen to me.” She did not pay attention to him and continued talking to me. His interruptions became persistent and louder. She lost her cool and shouted at him angrily “How many times have I told you not to interrupt me when I am talking to someone and that it is bad manners to butt in without saying excuse me.? Have I not told you to wait for some time and talk when there is a pause unless the matter was extremely urgent?” When I counseled her patience citing the boy is young, she said that he is not correcting himself despite her repeated admonitions. He exhibits impatience if his interruption is not acknowledged immediately

It was then I thought to myself how many of us, grown up individuals, interrupt others in the middle even as they are talking. Many of us not only break into the conversation of two people like a bull in china shop but also interrupt the other person with whom we are conversing in the middle of his talk. We do not have the patience to allow the other person to complete his say and instead we finish his sentences. The moment we hear the first two sentences, we think we know the drift and assume ourselves what he/she wished to say and proceed to give our(mostly) rebuttals or our views. We would have even thought out our sentences even while the other person was speaking paying little attention to what was being said.

Conversation, we fail to realize, is a two way street. It is not a race to determine who speaks the most. Interrupting a person who is speaking is bad decorum. It is the characteristic of only very young children to keep talking without anyone listening. They keep talking simultaneously or by turns with no real conversation taking place. Talking is easier than listening. Listening calls for some effort.

I have seen in innumerable conferences people giving scant attention to the speaker(s) but keep writing notes on what they wished to say when their turn comes. Some keep rising to ask questions without allowing the speaker to conclude. How can they understand or answer the points spoken by the other speakers if they do not hear fully but engage themselves in other pursuits like making notes, whispering to the adjacent person, yawning or sleeping. These are much worse than interrupting as they indicate to the speaker that he is not wanted. They are also apt to miss the important observations made and may also lose the opportunity to contest the points if wrongly made when their turn comes. Most importantly they learn nothing new. When they speak, very often they talk upon the points already covered.

There are many dimensions to listening skill. We have only examined the interruption aspect of it. This listening skill is very essential for succeeding in life and for making ourselves acceptable in social and business circles. To put it in another way, paying undivided attention to what is being said and understanding the message conveyed fully is a vital component of good conversation or interaction. Mark Twain put it with his inimitable sarcasm that “There is nothing so annoying as to have two people talking when you're busy interrupting. “

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Is life fair?

When two kids born of same parents and brought up in the same surroundings with identical facilities and comforts, one turns out to be very intelligent while the other tends to be a dud or one is born healthy and the other a victim of host of ailments. Why life is not fair to everyone, is a question that comes up in everyone’s mind when besieged by problems. Superficially it would appear life is certainly unfair. No two are dealt with in similar fashion with outcomes being different for the same efforts.
But we have the false belief that life should be fair to all with no discrimination as we are all children of God who is believed to be impartial and kind. We start questioning God’s ways when things do not go well for us or for those dear to us. If we accept the premise that life cannot be fair, we would stop pitying ourselves and sincerely work for betterment. We would no more compare with others or even worry for others who suffer. Instead we may commiserate with them and help them where we can. Once we realize that it is not the purpose of life to be fair or perfect, we get a new perception of life and strength of mind to face situations as they come instead of wallowing in self pity.
But the entire insight into the issue of fairness would undergo a total transformation if we look at things through the prism of karma theory. “My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand”-Thich Nhat Hanh. All actions good or bad have outcomes in the present life or succeeding lives. Christianity puts the same idea succinctly in the words “As you sow, so you reap.”Our past actions follow us like shadow and cannot be shirked away. The luxury and wealth that wicked men enjoy is the outcome of unliquidated good deeds in the previous births while the untold suffering that good men undergo is the result of past bad karma. Many may have doubts about karma theory but then how do you explain if God were all merciful, impartial and compassionate, why one baby is born blind or with ailments while the other one in the same family healthy. The pieces would fall in place if we accept the karma theory. So if life is not fair for us at any time in the present life, take comfort in the thought that we are discharging the debt of bad karma.
“Belief in karma ought to make the life pure, strong, serene, and glad. Only our own deeds can hinder us; only our own will can fetter us. Once let men recognize this truth, and the hour of their liberation has struck. Nature cannot enslave the soul that by wisdom has gained power and uses both in love.”-Annie Besant

Thursday, July 7, 2011

There is a price for not asking

I read this in a book The Alladin factor by Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen

A number of years back the University of Chicago received a million dollar grant from Mrs. Fields of the Marshall Fields Department Store fame and fortune. When the administration at Northwestern University read the headline in the newspaper, the people of Northwestern were shocked, How could this be?

Mrs. Fields lived in Evanston, Illinois.Northwestern was in Evanston, Illinois. She had been a supporter in the past. Why hadn’t she donated the money to Northwestern? Why had she given the money to the University of Chicago instead?

When the University officials called Mrs. Fields to discover why she had given the money to the University of Chicago rather than to them. She replied, “The people of the University of Chicago asked.”You didn’t.”

The answer is yes……. But you have to ask! This would apply even to asking God

Monday, July 4, 2011

Being trustworthy

I know a person, let us call her Nirmala, who would be very nice when talking to you. She will listen with rapt attention to all that you say and make sympathetic interjections to goad you reveal more. She would appear very friendly and give the impression that she is trustworthy. You would have poured your heart out to her telling all the things that you would have normally kept to yourself but for her responsive demeanour.Nirmala is however the worst gossip. She would rush to tell others one by one not just what she heard from you but embroider it with half truths and utter lies. You would be shocked when you hear people talking in hushed tones about your personal matters. Once bitten, you would be doubly shy of talking to her. You will avoid her like a plague like so many others whom she befriended earler.But she would go for new quarries. She never realised that she lost many good friends and was detested by all who knew her. Yet she was not able to change herself. She did nothing to earn the trust of the people by discarding this bad habit of gossiping.

The point that I am trying to convey is that each one of us is tempted, not like Nirmala always, but to tell others sometimes what has been told us in confidence. There is a false satisfaction in showing off that we know a little more than what the other person knows. The intention may not be to harm but nevertheless the act of betraying the confidence is bad. By such foolish acts we create an image of us to others with whom we mix that would do us little credit. In turn others would be cautious when they speak to us. It is in us to control the way others respond to us by conducting ourselves." To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved" is a maxim worth remembering.Trust once broken is never set right.Not to be believed by a friend is far greater loss than in losing him.

This does not mean you have to be secretive about everything and decline to part with even innocuous information.Trust means not divulging what has been told you in strict confidence. “A true friend never breaches the trust of his companion or stabs in his back. He is trustworthy and reliable. One should therefore always try to be a true and reliable friend”

Friday, July 1, 2011

Begin at the periphery

I read this story narrated by Sudhamahi Regunathan and wish to share for the great message it has.
The story is about Chanakya."Touring the countryside in disguise, he halted in a small village.An old woman offered him a meal.Chanakya was ravenous and so accepted the invitation.He was served steaming hot rice.Chanakya delved into the centre of the rice in his plate, which resulted in his burning his fingers.
."Oh dear!" exclaimed the old woman."You are indeed like our stupid minister Chanakya".
Chanakya was taken aback.The old lady explained: "Never begin at the centre of the problem.Chanakya plans his attacks on the capital city and loses.He should begin at the periphery and slowly make towards the centre.".
Chanakya had learnt a new technique for success.The beginning is always small and at the periphery.But it will unfailingly lead to the centre,one day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Moral measurement

When I was young, my mom used to make us kids stand against a wall, place a scale horizontally on our heads, mark in a pencil the height we measured and wrote the date and the initials. This was done generally in one of the rear side rooms where guests never entered. This exercise would be repeated two or three times a year and comparisons made. When the height did not show the desired improvement she used to give Incremin, a child’s health supplement that had a giraffe’s picture in the belief that it would increase our heights. She would insist on our playing with skipping ropes and swing from roman rings. It is a different matter whether these helped in our growing taller or not but gave her the satisfaction that she did her best to beat the genes of a one grandfather who was short.
It is again a moot point whether height is desirable over shortness. Did the Lilliputians suffer more than Brobdingnagians by virtue of their short height, I am not aware of. Many short men have attained preeminence that the heights alone did not confer on the tall men. .Chengis khan, Napoleon, Pablo Picasso, Lenin, Tom Cruise and our own Jawaharlal Nehru or Lalbahadur Sastri are a few short and famous men whom success did not elude.. Be that as it may short men often invite negative remarks, denied leading roles and not generally considered in certain professions like army, police.
I am digressing. The purpose of my article is not on this measurement. Why is it we tend to measure ourselves only on the heights but not our growth in some vital parameters like love, patience, calmness, compassion, contentment, loyalty, truth and values? Do we grow on these as we age or keep moving up and down or never grow at all in any or all of the parameters? Is there not a need for elders or mentors to measure us against such a wall of moral growth once a while? This exercise is one that we should take voluntarily and have health supplements to feed the mind as we do to the body like attending courses on personality development, Vipasana, meditation courses and even sat sanghs.The purpose is not to indulge in self criticism but to lift ourselves from the negative traits. There are some traits that have eternal value and cannot be allowed to be lost sight of. Just as we clean the garden of the weeds to allow the flower plants to grow and our homes of the clutter to retain only the good, we should undertake such a moral measurement for cleansing at regular intervals.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What brings happiness?

What is happiness? Can anyone define it? Does it mean different things to different people? Why are we after education, a degree in engineering or medicine, a good job, a charming and good wife, nice children, perfect health and many more? Because we believe that these would give us happiness. What all we do is ultimately for acquiring happiness. We will not do anything that brings unhappiness unless it is a means to final happiness. A garbage cleaner though does an unpleasant job hopes he will get happiness through the income he earns very much like the industrialist manufacturing goods for increasing the wealth of the company and through it the happiness. The objective is the same

What makes one happy need not necessarily make another happy. It varies. While fame and name makes someone happy, obscurity makes one spiritually inclined more satisfied. It means different things to different people. It is difficult to have a uniform definition of what makes one happy or have a device to measure happiness. Happiness is subjective, a state of mind and never the same at all times. A cup of hot coffee on a wintry day gives more happiness than the same cup on a hot and sultry day. Even on identical conditions the outcome may be different at different times.

Sometimes the choices that we make thinking it would bring happiness may not really fetch it. Like changing jobs with more income or shifting to a bigger home in a newer location or making new friends-these do not guarantee happiness and may even result in a desire to revert to old situations. Even making more money does not make one happy as money beyond a threshold point has diminishing returns. The comfort level that money can buy stops at some stage. But if you give away the wealth for bringing comfort to larger number of people, earning more gives happiness. It is really not the money that gives happiness but what we do with it. Likewise it is not the job we do that matters but how it makes others better and through it brings greater mental satisfaction. The bottom line for sustained happiness beyond the initial satisfaction is what we do for others for the larger good, even for our family, than what we do for ourselves.

We cannot also measure happiness. It is varying from time to time, individual to individual, place to place and so on. “Joy has nothing to do with material things, or with man's outward circumstance...A man living in the lap of luxury can be wretched, and a man in the depths of poverty can overflow with joy.” It is for each individual to identify what brings happiness to oneself without causing unhappiness to others and pursue the same. But one thing can be said with reasonable certainty. Happiness is contagious. If we mix with happy people, our mind also gets directed to ways of deriving happiness. Negative people bring misery. Happy people do better in their work, more welcome any where, more law abiding and are better members of family and society than the sulking ones. Happy people generally have worthy goals that make others happy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Be slow in promise

I have always had the habit of making promises to get over piquant situations or to please the others at the current moment or pep up the conversations like “will call you in a day, will drop in at your place before weekend, will explore the net for the link you wanted or will have tea at your place tomorrow.” I will forget it is a promise made as far as the other person is concerned even though I was not certain of keeping them up when I made them. I had the intention of doing them if possible but was never a commitment. Still when I make such promises I do not indicate that it is merely a wish but allow it to be misconstrued as a promise.
My wife would ask me to post a letter to her mom in the postbox en route to my office saying it is urgent and I would promise that I would do. But I would forget when in the car talking on mobile to a colleague and realize my lapse only in the evening when she sees the letter in my shirt pocket. I would see the hurt in her eyes and promise to do that first thing in the morning. But she would not give the letter to me again. We are generally quick in making small promises but lack the determination to keep them. No doubt, they are no big contracts or deals entered into in formal written documents with legal consequences for failure. They may be casual in nature but nevertheless a promise. When we do not keep such promises they would lose trust in our words and not take us seriously when we make such statements. Our trustworthiness would have taken a dip in their estimation of us.
It is not always possible to keep promises made for a variety of extraneous reasons or circumstances beyond control. In many cases we tend to forget. But these failures to keep the words should be few and far between. The best course would be not to make any promise unless we are doubly sure of performing it. As Abe Lincoln put it “We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.” Be slow in making promises as you will tend to keep them better. The one spin off would be your relationships with others would become rich in quality and people would perceive you a man of word and not a politician on an election rostrum. Your children would unconsciously learn the virtue of keeping the word and action conform to each other.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blame game

When I was a young chit, I used to stand by my sister in the kitchen and be talking to her while she cooked the dinner. When something got burnt or when she hurt her fingers, she would invariably give a knock on my head. When asked why she did so, she would reply that I was responsible for the over burnt food or her hurt. She would never accept that she was careless when cooking but preferred to blame me however remotely I was connected to the incident. This is a universal trait to look for reasons for one’s failure elsewhere than on oneself entrenched firmly on the belief that ’when in doubt, it must be someone else’s fault’

You must be witnessing often this mindset in our day to day lives. When I do not find my spectacles, I scream ‘who has touched my glasses and meddled with my things’ forgetting no one needs my glasses and that I alone had misplaced them. When our child fares poorly in the school, we blame the teachers that they do not teach properly or when we miss the bus by getting up late we find the blame on our wives for not making the breakfast ready on time. When boss pulls up for shoddy work, we conveniently put the blame on colleagues or other departments. When there is bomb blast in a crowded area or mass killing, our initial reaction is to blame the unknown terrorists or a neighboring country .When prices of food grains rise, erratic monsoons come to our rescue for taking the blame and if the inflation goes spiraling up we have the international oil price as an excuse. It is always someone else or some other country or some other source except us. They act as convenient pegs to hang all our problems. It is not only for failures that we accuse others but even for our moods like anger, unhappiness, dejection and frustration. We blame the stars or our past karma or fate, never conceding that we are what we are by our own actions and thoughts. People blame the vastu if things do not happen as expected. “It is no use to blame the looking glass if your face is awry”

Blaming others create a make believe situation and helps in deceiving ourselves.Whenever things do not go alright,the right course would be to turn the search light on us and find ways to improve our deficiencies. We should be more careful while cooking, get up early so as not to miss the bus, coach the kids if they fare poorly and look for local bad elements if there is violence. When you accept responsibility for the things, you get a different perspective and the power to set right things. So is with the rulers of the country to look for their deficiencies instead of finding scapegoats. “Not taking responsibility may be less demanding, less painful and mean less time spent in the unknown. It’s more comfortable. You can just take it easy and blame problems in your life on someone else. But there is always a price to pay. When you don’t take responsibility for your life you give away your personal power. Plus more…"

Life would be a great fun if we eschew victim mentality and learn to accept responsibility with self esteem for our own life and actions

Monday, May 16, 2011

Conscience-our compass for ethical journey

When I was a young I happened to travel in local bus with a neighbor and her son of seven years. The conductor asked her the boy’s age and she said five to avoid buying the ticket. The boy blurted out and said ‘Mummy, I am seven”. She pressed hard the boy’s shoulders down and said to conductor that he was only five. The boy kept quiet but learnt that it is alright to lie sometimes to save some money. The seeds of dishonesty were planted in the young mind unwittingly by his mom. Thereafter I am sure he would have replied with a hurry to the conductor that he was five. All of us have a conscience which is influenced from what we learn from our parents, siblings, friends, teachers, elders in the family and society at large. It is from these interactions that we learn to build our values of what is right and what is not.

When I was 10 or 11, I went with my friend to a small library situated near my house. It was built on donation of old books. It was open in the evenings for a few hours. Someone on honorary capacity came to open the library and then attend to his personal work if any in the bazaar where it was situated. There will not be many members as the stock was not replenished except for a few dailies and magazines. When my friend took me there were none in the library. The racks were all stacked with old books that were donated. My friend asked me to take any book that I wanted. I was attracted to a thick brown book with golden letters of Walter Scott’s poems. I took it. He said that we need not make any entry as we were not members and can return the book anytime if we wished to. The book was so old that pages crumbled if folded. When my dad saw that evening the book on my table, he was initially surprised at my choice and asked me who gave the book. When I told him it was from the nearby library, whose existence he was not aware of, he asked me whether I was a member and who issued the book. Under persistent questioning, I told him what had happened. He said I was a plain thief and that I should go and return the book the first thing next day and seek forgiveness from the librarian. He skipped his dinner that evening giving some excuse but I knew inwardly that it was a punishment he inflicted on himself for my wrong act. I returned the book at the library and it so happened that librarian was not present. But it was one hard lesson that I learnt that evening and the distress in my dad’s face is still fresh before me even after several decades. He didn’t speak to me for two days but relented only after much promises of proper behavior.

If the family or the society tolerates aberrations from ethical behavior, people tend to condone them or take a lighter view of the deviations. Manipulative accounting to save taxes both at individual and corporate levels is practiced without remorse though some of which is legal but unethical. I have heard from HR persons that most of the resumes are exaggerated documents on candidates’ skills or achievements bearing slender resemblance to reality Even in sports players take advantage of wrong rulings given by umpires though they knew they were at fault. Hardly a few cricketers choose to walk out without waiting for the umpires signal. The cloak of legality shrouds the unethical actions of the rulers in many of their transactions. We rationalize that what is legal is permissible though it is unethical. But inside everyman’s conscience, there is a compass showing what is right and what is not. The antenna inside our heart always warns us of the impropriety of our talk or actions but we choose to ignore for expedient reasons. It is here the underpinnings of family values that guide the children to be away from the wrong path. Conscience is man’s compass showing him the correct way and it is built at the homes in young ages

“Conscience is what hurts when everything else feels so good” It is a small voice that is too loud for our comfort and yet people choose to ignore it. That everybody does so is a lame excuse and never acceptable. Bending the rules or short circuiting procedures however tempting to achieve results cannot be condoned if they do not pass the ethical litmus test. History is replete with instances where wrong doers finally suffered ignominy and shame.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Empty vessels make much noise

I have always found during my official career that persons who speak softly commanded greater respect than the loud ones. Perhaps the soft manner gives an impression of wisdom, conviction and seriousness unless proved contrary by the words spoken. Even in discussions during meetings, people who normally speak softly raise their voices when an opposite view point is expressed as if loudness of tone would impart greater validity or strength to their views. This in turn is met with louder outbursts reducing the meeting often to Babel of voices. We are witness almost daily to such undesirable trait in the several panel discussions or debates taking place in TV. On the other hand if the voice is kept low and not loud, it will generally create a soothing and conducive climate with others also following suit. The discussions would then be meaningful and participative and everyone would turn to be attentive. If you watch TV carefully you will see really successful and great people speak slowly and softly carrying their points across effectively while loud people who rush their words exhibit lack of confidence.

Although one’s voice is determined at the time of birth, I think a soft voice can be developed with some effort and practice. A loud voice sticks out like a sore thumb in a crowd. Generally a loud voice is associated with boorish nature, anger, dissatisfaction or being upset or agitated. A loud man is some what akin to a bull in china shop. A streak of aggressive behavior, impatience or dominating nature is associated with such persons unless accompanied by a big twinkle in the eyes. This large smile does not come by easily to all. As a result their listeners tend to become wary or equally agitated and invariably defensive. They will not open up resulting in many contracts for selling or buying falling through not because the offers were unattractive but because the mode of speaking put off the parties.

When you overreact to a given situation, become emotional and tend to increase the volume of your speech unconsciously, it is better to imagine a person whom you hold in high esteem and whom you wish to impress is watching the proceedings. Just imagine your mentor is by your side or you are in a place where soft music is played or in a restaurant with candle lights. This will immediately tame your voice and change your perception of the matter being discussed. We have a desire to be seen as reasonable, fair and considerate. This exercise of imagining, someone whom we venerate is present in the place or being in a place like hospital or library where silence is desirable, would have a calming and restraining influence. This is akin to two young siblings always quarreling behaving well at the dining table in the presence of dad. Gradually speaking softly would become a second nature.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Count the blessings

When my friend told me that his doctor had proscribed salt and sugar for him due to his medical condition and that he was compelled to eat bland and tasteless food day in and day out, I felt inwardly grateful that I could have my food tastily with no such restrictions. When a close relative of mine is afflicted with Alzheimer and I found she can hardly converse meaningfully, I felt blessed that I can remember events and people. When I saw my neighbor walking with a walker even within the house, I thanked the Lord for the long walks that I have daily in the park watching the bright coloured flowers and happy children playing around. But I am grateful to Him only when I see such people struggling in their lives and that too for a while only. Otherwise I relapse into my habit of taking for granted the various small blessings without a thought they make much difference to the quality of my life.
It is a common failing in many of us that only when we hear bad news or see the sufferings that others undergo like the ones I detailed above that we realize that we took many things for granted. We do not give a second thought about the salt, sugar or water intake and assume they are insignificant till they become very important and hard to give up. Why not appreciate the many small things that we enjoy and be thankful to God even before we hear such bad news or ourselves compelled to forego when we fall sick. The ability to laugh, the beauty given to us, the wonderful family that we are born into, the good friends that we have got, the good health that we have and the nice job we have are all blessings that we should be constantly aware of, nurture them as gifts of God and be eternally grateful to Him in our prayers. We should learn to enjoy them even in their abundance till they are taken away if at all. Life is short with many surprises and imponderables. What is given today may not be there the next day. The awareness of impermanence of everything would bestow the right attitude to be thankful even for small things and appreciate them in full measure. Such an attitude if ingrained in us would make us live our lives humbly but with great joy in whatever position we are placed.

Friday, May 6, 2011

We set the example to children

We are constantly watched by our children overtly or covertly. They learn from their experiences, the conversations with us and in the house with others and our own reactions to different situations. Parents are the cynosures of their eyes, their role models and objects of admiration and learning. It casts upon us therefore to mind the kind of examples we set and the hidden messages we send.
Look at this case of a nine year old boy proudly showing a fountain pen to his dad
“Dad, I found this the corridor outside my class”
“Hey, it is a nice pen. What make is it?” the father asks
“Dad, it is Parker”
“You have been wanting one and how lucky you are to get it. So are you happy” the father tells
The boy runs along happy that his daddy is also glad that he got a pen and that he retained it with him. The lesson learnt is that it is acceptable to keep things that are not yours as long as you have not pilfered them. The dad failed to impress on the young mind that it is not good to keep what is not his and that should have handed itover at the school office. As a result the child starts coveting things that are not his.
Another common failing of dads is to tell the child to answer an inconvenient phone call and tell daddy is not at home. The man unwittingly teaches the child it is okay to give wrong information or utter a lie in certain circumstances.
The point to remember is that we should be aware of the power of hidden messages that we send to our children our actions or responses and the need for them to be consistent with the values we would like to impart them. An occasional aberration may not harm as much as regular frequent wrong examples that we set. With a little care and attention, the parents can set examples that are positive, ethical and humane. Home is the primary school from which children learn and parents are the teachers there. The mental well being of the children is being determined by the value system prevailing at homes.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Praying with shopping list of demands

I was wondering whether a prayer can be devoid of our asking for things. But most do prayer only for requesting money, health, spouse, child, position, hardship for enemies, winning etc.When we commiserate with others who undergo pain or hardship, we advise them pray to God and He will give you this and that. We regard God as Santa Claus with bagful of goodies to be given when asked. Like children we persist more intensely if our requests are not granted. The prayer then tends to be one of supplication and appealing.
We may do the prayer silently chanting the name of god in our minds or loudly with gestures like folded arms or jumping and dancing with up raised arms. We may do singly or in groups but at the end of exercise, we come up with our shopping list of demands. Some ask God for things promising to break 100 coconuts or offer gold or money if their wishes are granted. I have even seen my grandson praying for a win of his favourite team in IPL matches and granddaughter wishing the opposite result. Is god really interested in these silly demands? When He does not grant after repeated prayers, we indulge in our remonstrations that He is blind to our sufferings or deaf to our pleas or heartless to our pitiable condition.
Why do we pray? Is asking for things the only reason for our prayers? Can there be a self less prayer? Is a prayer for the well being of children, friends, and members of the community or country any different from one seeking things? There may be nothing wrong in it and certainly is better than asking for oneself. But does not God know what is to be given when, where and to whom? Is he not omniscient and does he needs to be reminded?
My own take on this is that God answers our prayers if they fit with His scheme of things. Otherwise they remain unanswered. If that be so why do our religions and scriptures require us to pray and what are we supposed to ask for in our prayers? To my mind our prayers should be one of adoration of His many divine qualities and expression of gratefulness for the blessings given. There should be no demand even for liberation from the cycle of births and deaths. He knows when to free you from this bondage. Real prayer is communicating with god by singing His praises and leading a virtuous life according to His teachings. Work is worship. Doing the assigned jobs sincerely and well and leading an ethical life is highest form of worship. Prayer is nothing more than leading our life being aware of His presence all the time in all the things we do in our day to day life and being in communion with him

Grow flowers of gratitude in the soil of prayer. ~Terri Guillemets

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Learn to cultivate your own garden

There is a common failing in most of us trying to influence others to believe in what we believe and in making them do things the way we do. We do this more often unsolicited though with genuine intention that others should profit by our experience or knowledge. We wish them to walk on our treaded path and always remain in the comfort zone. While we do this we do not entertain the slightest doubt that we are encroaching upon others domain

The other day when I was at my friend’s place I saw his grandson, a school topper, wanting to do a course in economics and pursue further in a prestigious school of economics eventually for a doctorate. An uncle of the boy was chastising him for not opting for an engineering degree in ECE and an MBA thereafter as most do for absorption in a big IT company or MNC.The boy was adamant saying he had no aptitude for those lines. The uncle never realized that he was imposing his views on what he thought was right on the young boy. The usual mistake of imposing parental ambitions on the young children would only crush their dreams as seen in the film 3 idiots

If my granddaughter liked to order pasta or veggie burger why should I insist her on eating onion rava dosa that I prefer? When my niece’s son wanted to learn saxophone, she felt learning violin was a better choice. The boy learnt neither unwilling to learn violin and forgoing saxophone to respect his mom’s wishes. We forget one man’s meat is another man’s poison and that there cannot be a dull uniformity. If I want to invest in stocks and shares instead of investing in Post Office deposits that is my choice and my friend need not discourage me detailing tales of investors who lost their money on stock market. The beaten tracks, that people who play safe take, may be crowded but it is the lonely boulevard chosen by a few that dared to dream can produce Warren Buffets, Dhirubai Ambanis or their ilk

If we carefully start watching our conversations with others we can catch ourselves telling others how they should do things or be living. The temptation to offer our views unasked is overwhelming. Let us curb this desire and be content to grow our own garden. Whether the neighbor plants bougainvilleas or just plain cabbages is his wish and should not concern us.

Friday, April 22, 2011

For effective public speaking

I still remember the day when I offered on an impulse to speak for the first time at a function organized to bid farewell to a Professor from France as none of my classmates came forward to speak. I had mentally prepared a short speech of half a dozen sentences. After the speech by the Head of the department, it was my turn to speak. There were about 20 persons as audience most of them classmates.

I started with the usual salutation and said “I stand before you with mixed emotions. While I am sad that Prof…….. is leaving us” I stopped for a second to look at my friends before me. I could see them glum and I suspected they were not impressed.. Suddenly my mind went blank. I could not utter one word. My palms became sweaty, the heart pumped at feverish pace, the throat became parched and the tongue dry. When I repeated after an embarrassing silence of what looked eternity that I was sad, the French professor who understood my predicament patted me on my shoulders and said “I understand Partha, you are choked with emotion. There is no need to be sad. I am happily going back to my country. Thank you very much. Please be seated “There was a gentle murmur of suppressed laughter from the audience..I felt ashamed at my failure to speak even a few sentences that I had mentally prepared. I knew it was the fear of failure that made me fail that day.

Within a week I joined public speaking clubs like Toast Masters club where we were required to speak extempore on any subject at short notice. While I could conquer the stage fear over a period I found that to be an effective speaker and to articulate your thoughts in an inspiring way, one needs a little more than mere fearlessness. As a lecturer in a college, I found I could speak fluently continuously for an hour without any discomfort or pause. It was because I knew my subject well and was well prepared. It is essential therefore that one must have a very good knowledge of the subject to make an impressive speech. The speech should be structured and revolve under a predetermined few major points you wish to convey.

“There are always three speeches for everyone you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave and the one you wish you gave“- Dale Carnegie. The gap between the three can be abridged only by assiduous practice. There are no shortcuts to mastering the art of public speaking except by practice. An interesting beginning with a good anecdote, speaking slowly in an audible voice to reach the farthest person, good pronunciation, avoiding uncommon and bombastic words, lacing the speech with gentle humour with appropriate modulations in voice make one a popular speaker and much sought after. The ability to keep the audience in splits does not come by easily to all but can be cultivated by practice and preparation. Good speakers are generally a greater success in career than the silent ones. It is good to remember what Mark Twain humorously put "It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."To put it differently, never undertake to speak in public unless well prepared

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Judge not

I read this poem in a magazine in a hospital lounge.
I liked this and wished to share with you all

Judge not
I was shocked, confused, bewildered
As I entered Heaven’s door,
Not by the beauty of it all
Nor the lights or its décor.
But it was the folks in Heaven
Who made me splutter and gasp—
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
The alcoholics and the trash.

There stood the kid from seventh grade
Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my neighbor
Who never said anything nice.
But, who I always thought
Was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
Looking incredibly well.

I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal?
I would love to hear Your take.
How’d all these sinners get up here?
God must’ve made a mistake.”
And why is everyone so quiet,
So somber-give me a clue’

‘Hush, child,’ He said
‘they‘re all in shock.
No one thought they’d be seeing you.’

Remember-Just going to church doesn’t
make you a Christian any more
than standing in your garage makes you a
car. Every SAINT has a PAST…..
Every sinner has a FUTURE! Life without
God is like an unsharpened
pencil.It has no point

Monday, April 18, 2011

Do you have family time?

“You may have tangible wealth untold Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be- I had a mother who read to me.”
When I read this verse by Strickland Gillian my thoughts went to my younger days when the parents spent lot of time with children. Except when we studied our lessons and went out for play, we were always with our parents talking to them, helping them in their chores when asked for, eating together our dinner, listening to stories or even prayer on special occasions. The evening times were spent on word building, scrabble, quiz programmes, singing or question answers on general knowledge. It was great fun and educative with the evenings much looked forward to with eagerness. There was a close bond in the family between parents and children and among the siblings.

Due to big changes in the social ways and for economic reasons when both parents work, the time spent with children has come down drastically. The programmes in the TV or the browsing in the net occupied in facebook, games and chatting with friends or engaged with cell phones keep the members away from each other. The practice of supping together has been the first casuality.Even within the home the members are scattered and hardly spend time together in the living room. Many kids hardly see their parents together.

To build a strong and unified family, it is essential there is daily communication thro meaningful conversations between parents and children and amongst themselves. The language employed in the conversations, the manners observed and the values imparted go to make the children into good citizens. What they learn during child hood determines what they would be later in lives.

" If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn,

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty

.If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence,

If children live with praise, they learn appreciation."

The beneficial impact of spending one or two hours daily with the children would be immeasurable. Parents must make time for the role as parents they play in their lives to avoid disappointments and frustrations at a later stage in life. Home is where we build one another. Spending time with children daily is a bounden duty towards their children.

Friday, April 15, 2011

We often need to be told

When I was young we were neighbours to a large family of six daughters and three sons. They were all different in their attitude and mental makeup though outwardly they resembled each other. It may look strange as they all had the same parents and lived in the same surroundings exposed to same influences. Yet each one of them was different in some detail or the other in their traits.

Those were the days when there were no convenient gadgets as we have today like gas stove, washing machine, mixie, grinder, mobile or dishwasher. Everything had to be done manually. There was no overhead tank and water can be obtained only by pumping. The lady of the house used to slog in the kitchen from early morning to the time they retired to bed. I have heard my mom telling me that although the daughters were affectionate to their mom they, save two girls, needed to be told daily what is expected of them. The main job of sweeping, swiping washing clothes were done by a maid There were plenty of other odd jobs like bringing the clothes from the clothesline, folding and sorting, serving food and cleaning the place, giving respite to their mom by preparing coffee and so on. When those two girls were available, things were done without fuss. If they were away on some work the other girls always waited for someone else to do the odd jobs unless specifically asked. The lady of the house could not assign the jobs on regular basis to the girls as they were available at different times on different days and as a result she was found doing many things.

My mom used to tell how nice and heartening it would be if the other girls like the two exceptions took the initiative and completed the job remaining undone without being told. We tend to think that unless the job is specifically assigned it is not our responsibility and that we can just relax. Being in a house is like team work with many members sharing the work and doing it without prompting if something is seen pending, unless specifically asked not to do.”Initiative is taking action even though you haven't been given the orders. It means meeting new and unexpected situations with prompt action. It includes using resourcefulness to get something done without the normal material or methods being available to you.”

This should apply not only in our homes but outside too. When there is an unscheduled power failure, anyone from the locality can telephone the department. If there is an accident in the road, help can be rendered by any passerby. What we witness is that people wait for someone else to take the initiative and tend to remain mute witnesses. We waited for an Anna Hazare to start the agitation against corruption though it could have been done by anyone. How many of us would file a PIL petition in a court against perceived injustice?

.”Initiative is doing the right things without being told”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Are women able to achieve their full potential?

I have just started reading a book Woman & Success-The anatomy of achievement. In the very first article entitled ‘To autonomous women: an introduction’ by Ruth.B.Kundsin, I was startled and made to sit up after I read the following paragraph she began her essay with.

“If a female Einstein existed in the United States today, would she be recognized? Would she be a professor at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies? Would she get a National Science Foundation Grant? Would she be listed in Who’s Who? Or would she be found in a neat suburban house washing her husband’s socks, practicing Craig Claiborne’s recipes and imbibing dry martinis in the afternoon with anger mounting in her heart toward her family, her friends, and the faculty at the college where she majored in physics?”

Is it true that ‘for reasons deeply rooted in history and culture, potential Einstein’s (or Picassos, Salks or Lincolns), if they happen to be born as female, rarely achieve their highest potential?’This book was published in 1974.Much water has since flown under the bridge and there has been a significant change in the outlook though not adequately. Many women have successfully pursued professions and reached remarkable degrees of success. The book attempted to seek answers to the question what was the source of their motivation. A conference was held where such women were brought together to present papers on their work and how they were able to achieve and how they felt on their achievement given the “ambivalent and often hostile environment.”

Some of the findings were:

A strong parental support from both fathers and mothers were essential for developing the confidence and self esteem needed to prepare for a career. A husband’s support is essential in the later part of life.

. Strangely it was found that the support of teachers and colleagues is not as essential as that of parents.

An unhappy revelation was that women rarely found support from among their female peers. Study in strong women’s colleges or exposure to foreign countries or cultures provided better opportunities for leadership.

The most important finding was that it is not only possible for a woman to have both a career and family but it was beneficial to all concerned.The professional mother exerted strong influence on their daughters.

Another point that I observed in another article was that aspiration is remarkably low throughout a girl’s lifetime compared to a boy’s. When girls of about 700 in number in the elementary school were asked what they wished to be, their choices fell into:teacher,nurse,secretary,mother.(remember this was in 1974-choices are different now)There was no fantasy in the selection while 15% of the responses of boys were pure fantasy. It was said the girls chose ‘the roles prescribed in the literature, curriculum and in their immediate surroundings. The commitment of girls to careers declined in high school and in the college the women revealed a propensity for their role as house wife and mother.

Although the findings related to a period more than three decades back and in US, are they any different in our rural and small towns (excluding the big cities)? If not what needs to be done.Instead of a secretary take data entry operator or call centre employee to fit into the changed scenario. Otherwise are the ambitions of girls as high and vaulting as that of the boys?Are the circumstances congenial for such a denouement?

This is just to set your mind thinking on the subject.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On learning and books

Most of the people think that learning stops with school or college. Thereafter they stop reading altogether except for a few who read fiction, newspapers and magazines. The time spent before TV is mostly on channels that do not enhance the knowledge. They are on serials, sports, movies and reality shows. Only a very small percentage watch channels that trigger thinking or educate. A sizable percentage of graduates after they leave the college do not read any new book that will add to their knowledge. But continuous learning is vital to making the most of our lives. How many of us keep the door open to new learning? How often do we interact with knowledgeable people and get insights in areas we are not conversant with? When questions are asked by children or colleagues or friends that are new and baffling, do we take them positively and endeavour to find the answers? I know many of us cannot answer these questions satisfactorily. It is said that real learning takes place only after we have completed our formal learning and lead lives as adults. Learning is a lifelong process and never ends till we are dead or afflicted by Alzheimer. “The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live. “(Mortimer Adler) The only thing that we should do is to aid the mind’s growth by feeding and exercising it.

It is here that books come to our assistance. Although there are many ways of gaining knowledge, books constitute the cheapest and easy way of education. One need not spend money on books and can join library. If it is not feasible, spending a small portion of income each month on books is worthwhile. William Ellery Channing says “It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds, and these invaluable means of communication are in the reach of all. In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts and pour their souls into ours.” Make it a point to spend a small portion of your income whatever you can afford on buying good books. Selection of books is as important as selection of good teachers or schools Reading is a cheap form of entertainment adding to our knowledge a lot more than watching TV.I cannot resist quoting Charles. W. Eliot here “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”Have a list of 25 books to be read made and vow to read them over a period of time. Continue this process when you have finished.

“Books are the food of youth, the delight of old age; the ornament of prosperity, the refuge and comfort of adversity; a delight at home, and no hindrance abroad; a companion by night, in traveling ,in the country.” Cicero

Monday, April 11, 2011

Is there a less hurting way to immunize ourselves from negativity?

I had a close friend who could never see the bright side of anything. If we go for a boat ride, his first remark would be “I am afraid the boat would topple down midway in the lake. It looks old”. When I take a flight to another city, he would ask “why do you travel in this airline. They have too many crashes. I wish you had chosen another”. Whenever he went for an interview he would tell me that he was sure the selection was predetermined and that the interview was just an eyewash. He always saw a ghost where there was none. Whenever he is around I easily get caught up with the negativity of his emotions that I become negative myself. He had no faith in the goodness of others and was always filled with suspicion .As a result his life became miserable. But he was a good man though a cynic. I had not the heart to turn him away. I have found his presence always killed whatever initiative I had.

When I spoke about this to my wife, she had only one answer.”You must distance yourself from this guy however much it is unpleasant and uncivil it may seem. Otherwise his negativity would impact on all your decisions. Negativity is contagious and you should give no room for it to catch you.” She was right as it is well nigh impossible to participate in negativity without absorbing some of that negativity in us. It was difficult to follow her advice but I took care not to be near him whenever I had important jobs to attend to or decisions to be taken. I also took care not to mention about such matters to him till I had accomplished them.

The message is simple.” If you don’t want fleas, don’t sleep with the dog”

A lesson I learnt from my granddaughter

I wished to call back my friend who had called me two days back. He had given his number that I had scribbled carefully. I tried to locate the number not knowing where I had jotted down. I looked in vain in my telephone index, in my contacts in Gmail and on the several envelopes on my table. Then it hit me that I had noted the number on the newspaper that I was reading. A search revealed that my daughter had used the paper to bundle some garbage. I cursed myself for being disorganized. It was then I got a call from my granddaughter. She said “Grandpa, I had forgotten to take a note book. Can you please go to my book shelf and take the fifth book from the left on the second row. It has a yellow wrapper and you will see ‘Bioinformatics’ written on it. Please send it through the driver to my laboratory” I found the notebook in the exact place she had mentioned and within a minute sent it to her. It was then I wondered how organized she was in contrast to my slovenly ways.

This set me thinking on the importance of being organized. I realized that success comes to those who are organized. The ability to retrieve a thing or a thought is the hall mark of an organized person.” Being organized is being in control - of our time and space. You know where your things are - material and informational; you know you can locate them easily when you need them, without putting in a lot of physical or mental effort; and you know you can set them back just as easily enough.” It saves unnecessary tension, time and improves productivity in whatever area we are engaged in. I could feel the confidence in my granddaughter’s tone and the cool manner she asked for the book unlike me who would have made not only me miserable but all the other family members about my perceived loss of a thing. Being organized does not call for extraordinary skill. It is just the determination to streamline the way we do and store things/information. There should be a system and we should adhere to it always. Our time management will be wonderful and there would be no missed appointments or meetings and no embarrassments.