Sunday, May 7, 2017

History, mystery and chemistry

An interesting chemistry, is made by history and mystery
Happy are those, who constructively "react" to this chemistry

Success and prosperity are the by products of this reaction
Acceptance of this helps unravel the marvels, and gets you satisfaction

Many mysteries of present day actions, can be fathomed instantly
If the catalysts of past life's chemistry are studied oh-so intently

Mommy dear always tells, that when in conflict, look at the other's perspective
Tunnel vision doesn't help, trick is to be inclusive and interactive

Two perspectives may be completely opposite, each valid in different ways
Depends on the context and the history, and the game life plays

It is the experiences in one's life, that define one's behavior
Patience shown towards one's own is always a relationship savior

Equal contribution is not necessary to make relations successful
Don't 2 H's react with just 1 O to make H2O, that is so useful?

It may not be because the single O needs more to get satisfied
Just that the H's have the intent to give more to get tied

So is the case with certain relationships, someone gives more, and someone less
For the betterment of everyone around, why not do more to impress?

If investment in a certain relationship, is the only expectation of someone you love
Being steady and compromising in it, is an elixir and a direction to the treasure trove

If the true intent is for a relationship to work,
Come rain, water or sunshine, pick carefully when to smirk

Relationships inert to this phenomenon, would fail to sizzle
Newton's third law of motion is not, in every situation, ideal

While practicality makes perfect catalyst in general equations
Emotions do play a bigger role, in certain critical relations

If you can't acknowledge someone's trials and tribulations
You will have a limited capability to evaluate his life's realizations

For, you laugh at someone's history, and ridicule the resultant chemistry
Reaction becoming explosive, would no longer remain a mystery

Sunday, April 23, 2017

As the signal turned green

With most of my driving time in the city getting spent on waiting for the signal to turn green, or listening to the radio jockey blabbering some inane ramblings, with the cops not allowing me to pick up my phone for even that iota of a second making it worse, I end up becoming a silent observer, and some times an involuntary contributor, to the tribulations of the common man at the signal. Here is a snippet ...

This happened near Sony Center signal in Koramangala, Bangalore. Waiting for the signal to turn green, I noticed a group of small kids trying to extract money from the vehicle owners stranded there. All the tricks of trade were used. Having tasted success with a kind-hearted lady (well, that was the best way for her to avoid getting her white hand-gloves from getting "stained" by their repeated touch), riding high on confidence, their next target was a gentleman in an SUV, with the windows rolled down, lost in his thoughts.

After a few rounds of persuasion and rejection, the gentleman couldn't stop himself, came our of his slumber and gave them a piece of his mind. What happened next left me stunned. One of the kids, perhaps the youngest and shortest of the lot, clearly rattled by the gentleman's gesture, stretched himself on his toes so that he somehow reaches the height of the window. The gentleman stared back at him, without anticipating the consequences. Lo and behold, the kid stretched some more, reached the gentleman's face, slapped him hard, and ran away. The gentleman was caught off-guard, for a second could not fathom what had just happened, and went completely motionless. By the time he regained his composure, the signal turned green, and he managed to vanish in the traffic ahead.

Needless to say, henceforth, my car windows are always rolled up whenever I am at a signal, with suspicious looking characters around. You never know what sound will I suddenly hear near my ear in the midst of one of my ruminations ...

Unfortunately for the gentleman, yours truly witnessed the incident so intently that he could easily identify the vehicle next to the parking lot in his office that day, and in next few days, could identify the owner of the vehicle somewhere on the same floor. Every time he raises his voice sitting in that cubicle, with one of the fresh interns at the receiving end, I realize, what if ...

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Of critics and criticism

Among the numerous quotes from Kabir Das that I read in my childhood, there was one whose logic refused to get registered in my mind, only to become the top-of-mind recall in my adulthood. It goes like this ...

"Nindak niyare rakhiye, angan kuti chhawai; bin pani, sabun bina, nirmal kare subhav"

... which literally means "Give your critic a shelter in the courtyard of your house. He will help clean your nature, without using soap and water." In other words, it means that we should keep critics somewhere around us, so that you get to know, and hence a chance to correct, your faults.

In those days, it used to be difficult to fathom the context in which these words were said. After all, how can you let somebody, who always criticizes you, stay so close to you, and let him do what he / she does best - criticize. But then, over years, having gone through such a process myself, what with constantly nagging relatives, always ready to pounce on smallest of mistakes, I realized it makes at least some sense. Mr. Das would not have said what he said without any logic!!

To begin with, it forces you to always be on your toes, and make a genuine attempt not to commit mistakes. More like a false positive ... you are careful not to commit a mistake, or let someone get a chance to call out your name when there is no mistake. In a way, your life is always on a kaizen mode, continuous improvement becoming the mantra.

Yes, it has its negative consequences as well ... you tend to become too cautious, almost risk averse, some times self-critical, some times even unnecessarily critical of others because that is what you have also seen from a close quarter. But, when you compare this with some of the qualities you imbibe when there is no criticism of your behavior from any direction, Mr. Das' suggestion suddenly starts making much more sense and becomes good to follow.

Is it better to be surrounded by yes-men? Or this critic is good ... he at least makes you become a better human being. Otherwise, you simply cannot tolerate criticism. All you know is the good things about you. You can never be wrong. Everyone else is a fool, because as compared to you, everyone does things differently, and hence wrong. And whoever criticizes you becomes your biggest enemy. In short, you are the best ... a miniature version of Aham Brahmasmi!!

A few days back, I read a letter from a famous media person, writing to his daughter on her eighteenth birthday. He was advising her that there is no need to look at oneself through the eyes of others and that one should become one's best critic. While this will encourage her to live life on her own terms, what it fails to consider is that one's own view can be highly restricted in evaluating one's behavior. What you are encouraging is not a confident human being, but a self-centered, over-confident megalomaniac. She will always expect to be loved the way she likes, and be appreciated the way she prefers. All other ways and means of being loved and appreciated will be a hogwash. Don't we have so many of these nincompoops around us?

Well, if we truly follow this advise in financial matters, the very concept of statutory audit goes for a toss!! Or for that matter, so many of us would like to follow this principle in our performance appraisals, right?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Of silent treatment and walking away ...

A common life principle followed by many people now a days goes like this:

No matter how badly people treat you, never drop down to their level, just know you are better and walk away.

Being constantly surrounded by folks who are always ready to pull you down, most of the times to their level of discourse, this principle sounds obvious and practical for any self-respecting individual trying to stay afloat. The fun starts when one decides who is pulling whom. And it gets funnier when the one who is pulling considers himself as the one who is getting pulled. A perfect case of mistaken identity.

My ruminating self believes that often it is the ego that plays a critical role. It may not be the case of dropping down to a certain level. More often than not, it is about failing to see that you are the person who is treating someone badly, not the other way round. It is about mistaking the ego for self-respect, about mistaking megalomania for magnanimity, and about mistaking self-aggrandizement for self-sacrifice. This happens often in case of the modern empowerment brigade, whose ego considers accepting mistakes a sacrilege, who tend to believe that their character is spotless, who have been brought up on a constant diet of chasing one's convenience, even if it comes at the cost of somebody's survival.

When it comes to remaining silent, or for that matter walking away, be it in the context of the life principle or otherwise, you may not always be doing a great service to the humankind. While having the maturity to know that sometimes silence is more powerful than having the last word, it is the ability to decide the "sometimes" which matters. In common family situations, or even in our corporate lives, it is a known fact that silence leads to more misunderstandings, and it is only through communication that issues can be resolved. It is not always the case of dropping down to someone's level ... it can also be the case of getting back to the fundamentals of where you have come from ... or a case of thinking, or not thinking, about the basics, sitting at your high pedestal. How can walking away in such cases be justified?

All of us have examples of people around us who claim that their silence is golden, and once they open their mouth, there are high chances of an apocalypse. Incidentally, this silence is not golden, but made of brass, with not even an iota of semblance with the yellow metal of higher pedigree. These people also are mistaken by the fact that their silence is helping keep matters under control. Matter of the fact, like in many other cases, is that actions speak louder than words. Even if you remain silent, your abominable actions are enough to bring you down from the pedestal of high morality.

By walking away, as espoused in the life principle, you are not showcasing your nobility. You are in fact running away from the reality, and from the fact that you don't have it in you to climb up (or down, depending upon the way you look at it) and solve the matter. The other person may not treat you badly out of choice, but out of compulsion, because every ounce of extra freedom you claim, is a transgression in that person's basic existence. By snatching their right to exist ounce by ounce, inch by inch, you are disrespecting the faith someone has shown in you. Isn't that a typical trait of a narcissist?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Of empowerment and its interpretations ...

I was going through my archive of quotes, and came across this gem by Michael P. Watson.

“Strong people don’t put others down, they lift them up.”

One thought led to the other, and then the next one. And the ruminations chugged along …

You name any field, any area of interest, any sphere of life, any white space – one word that makes a repeated occurrence in today’s world is “empowerment”. People are so mesmerized with the concept, that fighting for those who are historically not empowered has become bread and better for multitudes. Justifiably so … that is the need of the hour. Be that as it may, the constant adulation it receives gives me some hope that soon we will be left with no “not-so-empowered” folks in the society. However, disenchantment comes from the way the noble concept is wrongly perceived, and perhaps misused. It makes me wonder whether too much of it with a wrong approach will lead to the previously empowered moving to the other side of the divide, with the new cycle of empowerment movements.

To begin with, empowerment, to me, doesn’t mean snatching the power from one and giving it to the other. Historic mistakes are commonly attempted to be corrected by following this “snatch-and-give” principle. At the end of the day, you are laying ground for another set of “empowerment movements” sought by the newly wronged ones. There are enough examples across the spectrum today which give credence to this argument. This sometimes goes to the extent of espousing empowerment at the cost of compromising on somebody’s basic needs, all in the name of modernity and liberal thoughts.

Then there is a set of people for whom empowerment means scoffing at everything that is traditional, by calling it orthodox. However, doesn’t it really mean looking at things with an open mind, realistically – being practically practical? People selectively oppose certain traditions based on how convenient it is, whether it makes their lives easier or not; and not based on any scientific reasoning or logic. When it comes to age old duties and responsibilities, even if they are logical, opposing them is empowerment. And when it comes to rights, fighting to secure them is empowerment. While the latter makes perfect sense, doesn’t it reflect selfishness when combined with the former? Isn’t this combination very conveniently followed by many members of the empowerment brigade today? How can rights come without any duties and responsibilities? Or does the definition of empowerment mean duties and responsibilities are meant for lesser mortals? Borrowing a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, which subtly touches upon these thoughts -

“Rights that do not flow from duty well performed are not worth having.”

Empowerment for some means using the power to resist any kind of influence, and not agreeing to any kind of adjustments. This is primarily because any infringement on these lines is considered an attack on the freedom that empowerment brings in. Simply put, if there are conflicting responsibilities you need to take care of, with one of them closer to your heart than the other, you are not expected to divide your attention equally. The empowered you is expected to bring in a logical balance between the two responsibilities, so that you do justice to either of them. Both the responsibilities need to move side-by-side. One cannot go without the other. Ensuring this balance doesn’t mean your freedom is compromised or curtailed. The least one can do is not to make it too obvious that you are favoring one above the other, and at least have some semblance of honest effort displayed in your actions.

A conflict that is the closest to my heart is against the school of thought which takes pride in calling itself empowered, by giving more power to the already empowered. They will always be surrounded by similarly empowered folks. Won’t this exalted status be more fruitful to the society or to the cause itself, when you use this to empower the not-so-empowered? Ok, that may sound too socialistic for some capitalists, or for that matter too emotion-heavy for the pragmatists, I still find it difficult to understand the logic of ridiculing the struggle of those on the other side of the divide. Why do we forget that there was a day and time when you also belonged to the other side? Deriding those who make an attempt to get empowered brings out the narcissist streak in today’s empowered lot. If you cannot support their struggle, how can you call yourself a champion of this movement? Is it just because you do it successfully for yourself? You will always want more for yourself, will not be satisfied with what you have, even if that comes at the cost of somebody’s survival. Isn’t this yet another case of self-centered behavior? By going down this path, aren’t you demeaning the very concept you are so proud of? Doesn’t it belie the basic definition of the movement? In fact, is this really empowerment?

This thought process led me to something that I came to know a few days back about a close family friend. Coming from a not-so-large city but having a rich family history (hence within the definition of "financially empowered"), the lady has managed to earn enough respect in her father in law’s eyes that she stands up to him and fights for her mother in law. More importantly, she found the need to do that for her mother in law, putting aside all the “traditional friction” that is a hallmark of this relationship. Now, it is anybody’s guess what approach she took to achieve this, but that to me is true empowerment, rather than shying away from the responsibility siting no reason. While our empowerment brigade often still goes by the age-old definition of this relationship, this small but significant effort in redefining the relationship in the true spirit of empowerment is certainly adorable.

Last but not the least comes another favorite of mine … the use of the word “sorry”, which is not a word in their dictionary. Their empowered self finds it demeaning to apologize for a mistake, even big ones, even if the mistakes would have altered the lives of people around. No iota of remorse is found in the behavior, and of course correcting mistakes is out of question, often getting behind the realms of sacrilege. All their transgressions, that is if they accept them, must be overlooked, and others must be crucified for trivial misses in their behavior. Not to say, anything and everything is justified in the name of, what else, empowerment.