Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Be forewarned, this is not an easy video to see. I should've heeded to a similar warning from Jeff Atwood (his blog was where I came across this video). You will be left with mixed feelings - anger, grief, despair, helplessness and hours of contemplation about life and the curveballs it throws at us.

Safe to say, we all have had our share of best and the worst times in life. But having to experience them at the same time is not merely paradoxical, but heartbreaking and cruel. And this video showcases one of the greatest examples of human endurance - the courage to keep going, no matter what happens in life and to seek strength from the memories we have of our people.

And things like these makes me question - why do bad things happen to nice people? It makes me angry and sad. It makes me question the faith people have in God. My immediate impulse (like in the video) is to find someone to blame. But at the end of thinking (calmly) through this, only one thing comes to mind. 

That is, to really really cherish your present with people you love. A moment gone, is gone. You can never get that again. And to think that we have a long life to live and family and loved ones can wait is the biggest human folly. Ever.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Eat. Sleep. Rock. Repeat.

A co-worker of mine once told me, casually over lunch, how she had gone about writing a personal manifesto. I nodded as if I understood and completely agreed. Of course, I had no clue until then. So I made a quick mental note to myself - "Read about this personal manifesto business. Perhaps I should make one of my own."

With that, I went about my day's work, as we all do. Forgetting our daily conversations comes easy to a human brain. But the brain is smarter than that, it stashes such "interesting" bits inside your subconscious mind and then magically retrieves them at a later point. So today when I heard about manifestos and the like in an unrelated chat, I was struck by the feeling of "deja vu".

Maybe it was time to make one. And stick to it. I have found over time that forming habits around your personal manifesto is a sure shot way to lead a happy life.

Courtesy: NYTimes article on Don't Indulge, Be Happy

I wanted my manifesto to be simple. So apart from preparing a "ten part" manifesto I wanted to give it a headline. Sort of like a reminder when times are bad. Something like this:


Elaborating on the "rock" part gives me this list (in no particular order):

1. Work hard. Nothing comes easy in life.

2. Fall in love, spend time with those you love and never take them for granted.

3. Spend more on experiences. Spend less on material things.

4. Let go. Make a fool of yourself.

5. Keep life simple - if you don't like something, change it.

6. Smile often. Smile genuinely.

7. Be grateful. Never forget those who have helped you.

8. Make time for your favorite physical activity. Your body needs endorphins. It is your way of saying "thank you" to your body.

9. Doing is better than not doing.

10. Believe in yourself. Always carve out some "me time" in your day - to reflect and rejuvenate yourself.

Really hard to stick to the above, but then life happens only once so why not give it a shot :-)
So what's your personal manifesto?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tubelight ka Chaand

A little boy called Tubelight and his obsession for the moon (chaand)

This poignant short film explores the dream of one little boy through the underbelly of Kolkata. 
And his dream to capture the moon. Is it possible then to pursue a lofty dream as that? 

This video serves as a great metaphor for "Follow your dreams"

No matter how hard life is, no matter what the obstacles, no matter how people may judge you - make your dream your obsession. 

Because obsession leads to single minded doggedness to pursue your dream and make it happen, no matter what. To dance in its tunes and sing in its praises, no matter what. To love it unconditionally and to want it more than anything, no matter what.

So what if it is the moon that you want? :-)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Watercooler Gang

Update: Now I remember where I first heard of this term : the watercooler gang

Are you one of the watercoolies? The kind who congregates near the water cooler in the break room and whines about something wrong at work?

Lets take a deep breath now. Are you done yet? Good. Now please nod your head in approval when I ask you the same question, again - "Are you or were you at sometime a watercoolie?" 

I see you just pursed your lips but slightly angled your head. Yeah, that's a good enough cue for a nod of approval. 

The thing about office whining is, it is seemingly innocuous, harmless as a fig we assume. The problem is, it just sort of becomes a habit in the long run. I have seen several people do this at one of my previous jobs. Not surprisingly, it is very off-putting and toxic. Because suddenly, even if a moment ago you weren't concerned about the topic of interest, you are now spending precious brain fuel on most probably something silly. Truth is negative people zap your energy. And more the watercooler talk the worser it gets.  It just never ends. There is no finish line to your laundry list of complaints.

Who would have thought a watercooler had so much power to dominate our thoughts, eh? It is the holy grail of friction and negativity at work.

Now now, I am not proposing that you make peace with every wrong thing at work. All I am saying is to wear some rose tinted glasses instead of blinders that obstruct your capacity to distinguish the right and the wrong. Because tinted glasses still allow you to see the visibly wrong things in your face. It is the far off, distant and trivial things that it seeks to hide. Point is, you decide for yourself if the trivial (negative) stuff matters to you at all. 

(For example) So what if someone just crushed a million people to make it to the top? That doesn't mean you go around bad mouthing or throwing a fit about it. Truth is if you don't agree to that sort of "work ethic", then you don't and you move on. But going on a crusade against that is going to do more harm to you than the concerned "tyrant" you are whining about.

Your individual happiness and sanity matters above all. If you have a serious problem with something, you deal with it. If the problem isn't in your control and it is purely circumstantial, you detach yourself from it, as quickly as you can. There is no point gathering a group of followers to just whine and lament about stuff all day, every day of the year. The watercooler group is not a support group, it is an energy zapping group. Your support is elsewhere - your confidante (your family, spouse, close friend or co-worker)

Unlike in math, two negatives don't make a positive. They just multiply instead. They snowball into one of the biggest distractions and frustrations of your life, unintentionally. So the next time you find a similar sight of the watercooler gang, avoid them. Best to partake of the water and zip right by them.

If life gives you cupcakes, you don't complain about the (invisible and unknown) tiered cake. You just eat the damn cupcakes, grin ear to ear and hum a song. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

No Soup for You

If you are not from the Seinfeld generation, then a short reference here before we continue:

So the point, in short is, kindness is becoming way underrated in today's society. It is almost as if everyone in this world read the Steve Jobs biography and said to themselves - "Yes I could be an a*****, no problem!" Jobs just made the whole "being a jerk" thing classy and fashionable. Thanks Steve! Now I pray that belief doesn't spread more after they release the Ashton Kutcher movie

But let me tell you again, be kind. Not like excessively kind - flashing your eye lashes at everything, clapping your hands in glee and beaming with a smile, all in the name of fake enthusiasm. Good lord, no! I mean like the kind your grandmother probably taught you to be, when she read those bedtime stories to you. A noble king who cares for his kingdom and people, polite and sensitive to people's needs and appreciative of their hard work in general. Remember?

In an earlier blog, I happened to mention a short, witty anecdote from Colin Powell's life that showcases the importance of kindness in leadership. (Just in case, you think I am being funny, I am not. This is of primetime importance.)

Ok, so to really give you the lowdown behind this rant, it is this - I walked into the gym today and found people making a shit of the place. Weights thrown away on the floor like it was a playground, dirty towels and used paper cups in random spots, mats in semi-folded state, sweaty equipment after use and wait for it (and this is when the time bomb in me ticked) - a guy signals and yells to the gym operator - "Volume". He meant he wanted the audio system volume a notch up. 

Are you for real dude? I mean, I am ok with the lack of gym etiquette but the yelling and impoliteness fills me with rage. You actually had to instead say - "Can you please turn up the volume?"
Simple, right? But you chose to yell across the gym floor to a far off seated receptionist in an arrogant tone. For once, let me tell you she's an employee and she gets paid to do her job - not to serve your (arrogantly aired) grievances. She might as well have yelled back "Screw you", you know? Just saying.

And then of course there are people who will think to themselves - "The man is arrogant. He needs to learn a bit about manners. But that's probably none of my business."

Confession time - been there, seen that, done that. Not a very happy memory. But now, I don't do that anymore. It is as much my job to care as the day job I am paid to do. Actually it all circles back to you in the end. It's called karma. And karma is a bitch.

So next time, someone says or does something rude, please stop them and tell them that a little kindness goes a long way. Now since I just heard one of you say "Chill, take it easy", I will leave you with a really nice Harvard Business Review article aptly titled It is important to be kind than clever. No, they are not kidding when they dedicate an article on kindness. And yes, this article should be made mandatory reading at high school and upwards. Not just because it a business opportunity but it is the backbone of the human fabric. 

And I mean it when I say a lot of today's problems in society is because people have forgotten to be kind. Atleast, that's how it seems to be in my home country where we are excellent in churning out high skilled graduates but "forget" to teach them the core values. I mean of what use is cleverness if there is no kindness?

That brings me to another inspiring (and unconventional, because who speaks of kindness these days?) commencement speech by Jeff Bezos on the lessons of kindness. Ok now, that was enough reading/viewing material on kindness for the day. But I hopefully got the point across. Cross my heart and hope to die :-)

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Moms are crazy

Mothers are all slightly insane  - J. D. Salinger

After today I would never hire my mom to put my shoe laces together. Like never, ever. She just took the one end of it and pulled it all the way through all the lace holes. Like she was knitting from one end to another end. No criss-crossing, no symmetry of things, no nothing. That cost me a precious 15 mins of gym time.

I know what you are thinking right now. Before you get all sensitive about it, let me remind you how many corny jokes you crack on Rajinikanth. And still you love and respect him no? Admit it. Now it doesn't sound that much bad eh?

I still love my mom. But shoe laces...nothing doing.

Ok perhaps, that shoe lace fiasco was partly my fault. I happened to finish a half-marathon recently (bragging rights in your face!) and the last leg of 7 kms was in heavy rains. In the typical lazy fashion, I just set the shoes aside after the race and assumed it would all be ok. The next day, I wear the same pair to gym and the guy at the farthest corner of the gym gives me looks. Yes, they stinked like I left some dead rat in them. Once back home I casually mention how dirty they were and they have to be left up to dry and all.

Lo and behold, the next day, I have them all dry, shiny and smelling like perfumed. Also found two naphthalene balls in each of them. Moms and their infinite capacity for unconditional love never cease to surprise me. Soul-stirring stuff, if you ask me.

But then she had to do the shoe laces all wrong and "unimpress" me. Haha.

Like the day when she silently gulped down the last can of Red Bull in the fridge and spent the rest of the night watching countless hours of TV as a result. And left me seething - I was counting on the Red Bull to keep me awake to meet an important deadline. Of course, then we made truce and bonded over a cup of South Indian filter coffee. For the record, she assumed Red Bull was some kind of "cool drink" that tasted like Benadryl, but she was too thirsty and hot and didn't mind the pungent taste. Her verdict - "It was better than Pepsi." Ouch!

And then there are times when she throws curveballs at me, like these -

"I thought they would show a tiger in Ek Tha Tiger." (Touché, mom, Touché.)

"The banana stand guy has become friends with me. He gave me a dozen bananas for less today."

"I heard Priyanka Chopra is dating ShahRukh Khan now. But he is married no? What kandravi (word in Tamil that means ugly)"

"How to download Kolaveri Di song from WWW?" (She always refers to Internet as www - world wide web as if that is some championship like WWF)

"You mean they give free Marie biscuits at your office? Can you get one for me?" (Why do moms get excited about the small stuff? Why?)

"Neighbor aunty told me that her son bought a new car. I told them my daughter works in America." (Umm what?!)

"Why did you pay 750 rupees to run? What will happen if you run without paying? You are running on the road only no?" (When I told her about my half marathon)

"Kannu Paturdu (somebody cast an evil eye on you)" (When I fell sick one day and asked her if she had a fever tablet)

Moms are like that - crazy and lovely. Hence proved.