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.