Sunday, April 22, 2012

Choosing your problems wisely

My neighbour has always been using me as a convenient peg to hang all his problems. Not a day passed without him approaching me to discuss some of his concerns. He would say “My wife and my mother are not getting on well, as you know. It is always petty things like what meal to cook,, when my wife will take mom to her cousin’s house or when she will find the time to mend her new sari that was torn by the maid. My wife has no patience stressed as she is in the mornings. What could be tackled smoothly turns into exchange of words, bitter fight, and inevitable crying. Tell me, Partha, what should I do?”

Rather than curtly saying that this is a matter best resolved by the concerned within his house, I give a patient hearing to his woes. He would then tell me that it was getting late for his office and that I should meanwhile think of a solution. Having shifted his burden on me he would go his way light in heart. I try to catch up the 45 minutes lost of my precious morning and get stressed doing things hurriedly. I have no time for answering my wife patiently on an urgent issue that had cropped up. She would get upset very rightly as I rush to the office without listening to her. It was all because of my foolishness in trying to solve somebody’s problem.

The moment neighbour’s wife and his mother come to know of my participation in their tussle, they too make a demand on my time in the evening. My wife is resentful that I get time to give a patient ear to others and not to her. This manifests itself in ever so many disconcerting ways that a wife alone can do.

The moral is that we need not always be ready to listen to others troubles simply for the reason they come to you. If we refuse politely and tactfully to take their difficulties on our shoulders, they would go to someone else who is willing. When we are short of time in the mornings we do not have to answer every sales man who rings the bell or answer the phone without seeing the caller ID or respond to an invitation for a chat while at computer. By answering the phone or responding to chat, we become willing victims especially when we are pressed for time. Undue politeness is no virtue. It is also not a sign of rudeness for us to say we are busy when we are really so.

There would always be others problems thrown at us all the time if we are suckers. Passing problems to others is a staple of human nature. Once we understand this trait we can make our relations with others easier. We can make sure that they don't pass on their problems to us without our permission. The trouble is that we tend to think high of ourselves if someone approaches us for help with a problem. It flatters us and satisfies our ego making us swallow the dangling bait. In most cases we are tricked into issues totally unrelated to us. Saying a polite no without hurting others sentiments is no incivility but a key to stress-free life. .In genuine cases one should go all out to be helpful even if personally inconvenient. The advice to ward off all kinds of problems tossed towards us by others in home or office is no prescription for becoming insular, getting disinterested in others or being discourteous but to choose the problems thrown at us wisely on their merits and relevance. If we develop this ability, we may find that we are able to remain cool and relaxed, enjoying our life with family undisturbed by habitual problem throwers.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Can we be a little more patient?

I have observed that we are generally very impatient, be it at home or outside. This frailty could have stemmed from our desire for instant or immediate gratification of whatever we wish for. We get upset with the slightest hurdle in our path and easily lose our cool. We are not accommodative and wish always to surge ahead of others. This unwillingness to be patient is more pronounced in our interactions with utter strangers whom we may not meet again .How many of us are willing gladly to wait for our turn in a long queue unless regulated by someone? Where is that good natured tolerance to slight delays or incompetence as someone described patience?

Whenever we travel in the plane, we find passengers standing up immediately after the plane comes to a halt and start pulling out the boxes from the overhead cabins and dragging them along the aisle before others in the front rows take theirs and move. Soon there is a jam with none able to move. Why not wait for the passengers in the row ahead to move first as they do in US with none behind attempting to jump the queue. Things are so orderly and fast that nobody would like to break the system. They are patient and adhere to basic courtesies. It is the same in bill counters in the malls with shoppers waiting in line for the one ahead to complete his purchase. It is not so here unless the queue is enforced.

Visualize the melee in the railway platforms with passengers vying with one another to enter the railway compartment though all the seats are reserved and none can deprive the other of his berth. Yet patience is one thing that is missing to everybody’s inconvenience.

The scene at several traffic signals show this bad trait prominently with drivers trying to beat the signal even when red light begins to flash accompanied by honking of horns from many cars. I am witness to many narrow scrape through and a few accidents all due to lack of patience.. I have frequently seen in post offices illiterate people requesting others to help fill in the money order forms or the address on envelopes only to be rudely told to look for someone else. Even if they know the area and the names of streets, people respond to request for directions with an insensitive “patha nai” or an insolent wave of hand. It would appear they have no time to stand even for a few seconds to reply patiently.

Unless it is a matter of life and death or extremely urgent, there is no justification to abandon this virtue. When you talk of emergency, I am reminded of how callously drivers do not slow down or move aside to give way to the wailing ambulance behind trying to reach the hospital with a dying patient. They show no patience to fellow beings in distress.

While this behaviour is not acceptable even to strangers, what shall we say about the impatience shown to children at home? The father on return from office is greeted with a big smile and a warm hug followed by endless complaints against each other by the young siblings only to be responded with a crazy shouting to keep quiet. A small smile, a little patience and a gentle plea for some respite before answering their questions would rub off on the kids and make them realize that the dad is tired and needs quiet.

I read this story written by one Carmen that there was a monk who was very impatient and went to live in a cave deep in the forest to practice patience. Several years later a man who went inside the forest saw this monk and asked him why he was there in such a secluded part. The monk replied that he was endeavouring to get over impatience. The man asked him “if there is no one around you, how will you know that you have conquered impatience.” The monk exploded in anger “Get away from here. I have no time to talk to you.”

While it is difficult to get over this failing completely, one should not forget to remember the monk every time we flare up and flex muscles over innocuous remarks or petty incidents or insignificant delays. Impatience affects one’s health in the long run. It is better to be patient than to become a patient

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Learning to live with imperfections

I was intrigued when my wife had hung a board in the living room that had the message We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly. Not amused seeing the message all the time when I asked my wife about it,she said that she liked the quote and that it had no allusion to anything or anyone in particular. It was her conviction that life would be easier for all if we do not chase the rainbow of perfection in all the things we do, see or acquire. She added this applied to all aspects of life as nothing is perfect in this world.

True we cannot compromise with inferior stuff or imperfect things as there is always an acceptable minimum standard in everything. Granting that premise, if we are not content with what we have and always look for something better in everything, life can turn out to be an endless chase and struggle. When I go to restaurant I go through the menu card carefully and order say channa bhatura I should normally be happy. Yet when I see someone eating a long and crisp onion rava dosa I would wish I had ordered the same. It is the same with every little thing. I would buy a Hamam soap for me and when my wife comes out after a bath with the fragrance of Mysore sandal soap I would regret my choice. I keep changing my brand of whitening tooth paste whenever I see something new in the market. The grass has always been greener on the other side. I always felt the children in my friend’s house were smarter than mine until my wife tells me they score less marks than my children. The images in my TV appear duller and lack clarity than my neighbour’s although both of us have the same make and brand. I keep comparing all the time thinking there are better and more perfect things than mine. I need to be assured constantly that the things I have are as good as or better than any other.

We should thank god for the doughnut we have instead of cursing the hole in it. Instead of being content and happy with what we have, we pay attention on what we do not have or what is wrong with what we have. I am a disorganized person always searching for a comb, car keys, mobile or socks and making all other inmates in the house tense by my whining. In contrast my wife was organized and systematic. She had a place for everything and everything had its place in her scheme. She can retrieve any object of mine in a matter of minutes. She tried to change me initially but gave up when it did not work out. She accepted me as I am with all my warts. She had her own foibles like cooking more than what is needed or buying whatever caught her fancy whether useful or not. Both of us pledged that we would not be openly focusing on the imperfections. As a result life for us was gentle and sweet. This did not mean we ceased to do our best in overcoming our weaknesses. While we recognized that each of us could do better in some areas, this knowledge of inadequacy did not stand in the way of enjoying each others company and accepting the way the things are. Craving for perfection in everything is a disorder unless it is a matter of life and death. Not all the mangoes are alphonso variety. Yet we enjoy a banganpalli or dussheri or langra with equal relish. In life too things are different and if we accept them for what they are, life’s journey would be smooth and joyous.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fear of failure

When I was talking to a group of youngsters, I asked them whether they can walk fast on a long rectangular beam measuring two feet in width and forty feet in length lying on the ground. Every one of them said they could easily do that, while a few said they can even run. While I expressed my satisfaction at their response, I asked them how many would be able to do similar feat if the beam was raised to a height of twenty feet above the ground and fixed firmly on both ends. None responded. I asked them the reason for their silence. They said we may fall down. When I pointed out that it is the same beam that they had said they could run on except that the location is different. Someone replied that he was afraid and another said he was sure to fall down. Nothing had changed significantly. It is only the fear of failure that stood in the way of what they easily could accomplish earlier. While they were confident in the first situation, they lost their nerve in the second instance as they anticipated failure and its adverse consequences

The girl is taught by her mom the song for the competition that she had joined in the school. She had practiced it dozen times and sung confidently before her parents without any flaw. Yet when she stood before a large audience the usual confidence gave way to fear and she fumbled while singing. It is the fear of failure that wrecked her show.

Success or failure is more a mental game. We usually get what our mind and mental attitude indicates. That is if you believe you can, you can. If you believe you cannot, you cannot. The first requisite for success is self confidence. If you analyze the reason for people doing below their potential, you will observe that fear of failure is the main reason; I know a friend who can write brilliantly but she does not write as she fears her writing may not be good. She had judged herself through her warped vision. As a result of this diffidence people play safe and avoid situations where they could be tested. This is true in many fields be it in business, official career, education, sports or performing arts. By underestimating one’s ability to succeed, many miss wonderful opportunities to succeed. Reasonable risk taking consistent with one’s capability will alone enable people to realize their full potential. Absence of sheltered environment, presence of an alternate plan, adequate preparation and high self esteem are the insurance against failure.The stories of men who had accomplished daring feats or authored great success in any human field are those with high confidence in themselves backed by hard work.

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt”. William Shakespeare