The Priceless and Timeless Father

Father’s day presents an opportunity to say ‘Thanks’ to my father.  But more importantly this day gives an opportunity to put words to the lessons I learnt from him, either through his words or his actions. Invaluable and irreplacable, he was, and thankfully I still find him here with me, as he makes his presence felt through his thoughts, the same thougths which he presented to me at some obscure stages of my life.

Thanks father, thanks for being there always.

1.  It is ok to fail: I have failed several times, and I used to know beforehand that I am going to fail and used to get nervous. And that is when my father played the most important role by comforting me. He was of the belief that it is perfectly fine to fail. He believed that if effort is there, success will sooner or later follow. I think that nowdays I live by this principle and I am able to enjoy my life more.

2. Speak less, listen more: Golden rule. I was told to listen out first to people and then speak. My father belived that doing so helps in understanding the want of the other person and hence being empathetic. I dont know how much I am able to follow this rule, but I will love to follow it more.

3. Do not save for tommorow at the expense of today: Unconventional. No, actually my father used to say that saving money for unexpected circumstances is very important but that should in no way hamper the lifestyle of today. Make provisions for future goals and for realistically possible events but also make sure that you spend enough to live the day fruitfully.

4. Money will never be constrain if you want to do something: Without getting into details of his hardship days, I must say that my father learnt this lesson and he never forgot to tell me the same. I too now believe that – do not give up on dreams for the lack of money. Keep trying God will always send the helping hand in time.

5. Be ethical in what you do: It is about work ethics. He used to tell me that, in the wake of earning money, ensure that you do not become short sighted and show dishonesty towards the work itself. Helping people with skills and being considerate towards their needs, wins you many hearts. Help selflessly, money will follow.

6. Be process oriented and not result oriented: This is the most important thing I have learnt from him.  He showcased this attitude in his day to day efforts, to the efforts towards which he was religiously disciplined.Those who know me would have heard me saying this many times.

7. Books are the best friends: I was never forced in to reading books. I was never forced by my parents to anything. I just picked the habit from him, and I think books are my best friends.

I dont think that any of the lessons sounds like new or out of box. Perhaps every father would have said so. But then, that is the beauty of such lessons- they are simple and hence they are timeless, priceless and so true. And that is the beauty of all the fathers, that in a way they all are same but then they too are timeless and priceless.

The Three Mistakes of My Budget

Taxis, shopping and the so called ‘points’ or spots – they all are so indispensable part of any vacation tour. Yet, while budgeting for the tour expenses, they are often under-calculated. And the budgeting can go for a toss if the vacation tour happens to be in the overly commercialized stations of Mahabaleshwar and Lonavala. In my recent tour to these places, I discovered a gamut of hidden charges which adds up to the cost.  Here are few:

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  1. The Taxi Timelines: Taxis are the major contributor to the unplanned expenditure.  Usually, the taxis at the tourist places charge money as per the package. For example, in Mahabaleshwar they have 5 packages, with 6-8 points in each package.  Each package has a fix time duration too. The problem is that the time duration is so thin that it is virtually impossible to cover all the points under that package. And what happens in case one overshoots the time? One has to pay the penalty, which is highly arbitrary and negotiable.  There are two things to understand, one, that in vacation we do not care about the time and two, that in vacation we do not care to fight and get disturbed. So eventually, we end up paying more than the worth.
  2. The Rides and Entry Fees: The second hidden cost which is difficult to calculate is the entry fees of the spots.  Only after coming out from the spot, we realise that it was not that worth.  Then there are the horse rides and the camel rides, the boating and the bungee jumping, and the many unplanned games,  and they all add up to the cost. It is not the cost, but it is the exorbitant amount being charged for these items which is taxing.  We know that we are being fooled but we are so helpless that we let it go.
  3. The Syndicate: With most of the people booking their hotels online, the taxi driver -hotel syndicate has really been shaken. But this time I discovered new syndicates.  If you want to buy something, say the famous chikki of lonavala or strawberry of mahabaleshwar, and you request the taxi driver to stop at a particular place, he will not do so. He will take you to the shop of his choice.  And then you might see him gulping a bowl of cream or getting a box of chikki from the shopkeeper.  And to whom will the shopkeeper add this cost? Definitely to you!!

So, the next time when you make the budget for your tour, you may add up extra 10-15% to the budgeted cost for these hidden expenses.  But remember, any amount of hidden cost is worth if you choose the right company 🙂 I chose right and for me the hidden costs were damn worth.  After all, in vacations all I care for is the company.

A Page from Experience – From an employee to self employed

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Getting up at the 6.00 in the morning, rushing to catch the Mumbai local train, reaching office by 8.55 am, spending the long hours looking at the screen under the pretense of work, and then awaiting for the clock to tick few minutes over 6.30 in the evening so as to slyly walk out of the work place with a hope to avoid the gaze of those who either were more pretentious than I was or were workaholics; My life was no different from the thousands of the employees for whom the joys of life are limited to the weekends and the salary day.

I would get up, complain, spend the day, sleep – all the while awake to the reality that I was not at all enjoying my life as an overpaid MBA graduate.  Being from a business class family, I always had the itch to start my own venture.  But my comfortable salaried job acted as a deterrent to follow the itch. As the days went by, the intensity of the itch kept on augmenting when finally I did leave my job to start on my own.

The transition from an employee to a self –employed had been very critical.  In this article, I will share what happened in that transition period – the period between the point when the thought about doing something of my own seeded in my mind and the point when I actually executed that thought.

Here are few lessons from that page of my life:

When In Doubt Do not Commit:   My earlier boss taught me an important lesson ‘When in Doubt say No. Boss’s statements are like laws, open to interpretation!! So what I interpreted was this ‘When in doubt do not commit, buy the time and analyse’. Of course following this lesson often causes deferment, but then it definitely helps to avoid mercurial decision making.

Very often in life, we take decisions under the effect of emotions, thinking ourselves to be intuitive. (Intuition is one of the many over used corporate jargon). Many a times even I had intuitively mistaken an infatuation for a serious affair and then regretted.   But when it came to taking the jump, I followed my boss’s lesson.  To decide whether the desire to start on my own was merely an infatuation or a serious affair, I gave myself time frame of six months, thinking that if the desire persists after six months it has to be a serious affair and hence to be followed.

I must say that I did interpret my desire correctly.  I apply this ‘When in doubt do not commit’ strategy whenever I feel arrested by my emotions.  It always works for me or may be my perception makes it look working for me. But anyways I am happy.

Pluck the low hanging fruit:  Desiring to start the enterprising journey is one thing and having an idea (Idea, another overly used corporate jargon) on how to do it is quite another . I have seen many people cribbing about their life and desiring to start the entrepreneurial journey but not doing so because they think that they lack the next BIG IDEA.  Somehow they equate the entrepreneurship to the BIG IDEA.

Thankfully, I never had such equation in my mind because I knew that I would never possess such BIG IDEA. So I decided to do something which would be easy to start, something as low profile as starting a coaching institute.  I thought that I had the skills and the passion to be a decent teacher. For me, I thought training would be a low hanging fruit to pluck.  I started off with a belief that someday the BIG IDEA will eventually strike me. It has not yet striked or maybe it has striked but my happy engagement to my occupation has made it redundant for me.

Garner Support of family and few friends:   They are the pivot. During tough times we need few people who can stand by us. I am fortunate to have parents and a wife and a friend who have always supported my decision. One thing which I did when I was leaving the job was that I did not seek opinion from many people about my decision.  In fact I never talked about the plan to anyone apart from the people I mentioned.

I think talking to many people only increases the complexity of decision making.  All we need is the agreement and support of 4-5 people who are at different stages of their life.  They usually happen to be the most important people in our life.

Respect what is in your hand:  Often we daydream and start counting the chickens too early. What we have in our hand is the only and the ultimate insurance against the volatility of the mind. During my transition phase, I was always apprehensive about the fickleness of my mind and so I decided that till the time I actually start my journey, I need to take ownership of whatever job was assigned to me.  I think it helped me in more than one ways – I was able to concentrate on my then present assignment, I was able to make myself count to my boss till my last day in the company and most importantly I was able say and listen a real heartfelt Good Bye.

The ending note of one chapter is perhaps more important than the starting note of the next chapter, as then we have something to fall back if the next chapter does not turn out as per the expectation.

Trust the positive forces:  There is no bigger a success puller than the positive forces of the mind. I always thought that the only thing required to taste success was hard work.  But as I am maturing as a person and trainer I have started to realise that the equally big – if not bigger – condition for success is living with the positive belief. The belief that eventually one will get what one deserves, may be even more.  I do not know whether the forces have gifted me what I deserve, but surely they have made my life much easier by making me believe that if I remain positive, positive will happen.

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Also read: https://enlightenedsid.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/a-page-from-experience-setting-goals/

                 https://enlightenedsid.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/a-page-from-experience-kids-and-their-lessons/

A Page From Experience – 5 things to Remember while Setting Goals

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During my engineering days, I once had an opportunity to attend a motivational seminar on the “Importance of Goals”.  By the end of the seminar I started to believe that I am the master of my fate.  That night, I promised to start a journey, a journey to carve out my own fate.  Next day, with all the positivity I was set to start the journey.

Soon I realized that I had a very vague idea of my goal, unlike to what the speaker in the seminar had suggested.  Though, I realized that engineering was not to my liking, I was unsure about my PG. The only thing which I knew was that I had to improve on my English.

A long passage of time has passed since then; I have done my MBA and I have achieved few significant possessions – the blessings and the love of people. But even today, my goal is as vague as ever.  On the hindsight, I have realized that  that with every passing experience, my goals kept on evolving.  I know what I am saying is against the conventional wisdom but this is the fact which I have experienced. And here, I am sharing my experience about the goals.

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  • Ever evolving need not mean unstable:

Life, Civilizations and Human Being, they all are ever evolving.  And so are goals. Evolution is not the sign of weakness or instability.  I believe it is perfectly all right to have only a vague sense of the goal.

If I look back, I had first decided to pursue MBA from abroad, then UPSC and then finally MBA from India.   My goals kept on evolving.  After MBA, I joined an MNC, then I started training people and now my new found goal is to be a writer in addition to a trainer.

  • How to deal with the vagueness of the goal?

Take Small Steps. The easiest way to deal with the vagueness is putting a small bit of effort everyday without fail.  Besides ensuring daily progression, small steps are also a good measure against the over commitment to one thing.

Though I was not very clear about my goal, I wanted to improve my English, which was a common testing area for most of the exams and jobs.  I started reading newspaper editorials daily. I also spent some time daily on building my word power.

  • Small Steps towards the goal should be  specific, quantifiable, realistic and challenging:

I have found many passionate people with the drive towards the goals, failing to make any significant headway, primarily because they set macroscopic goals which are difficult to measure.  So the aim should be to set small, measurable and challenging but realistic goals.   Setting such goals will at least help you to know the reasons of your success or failure, as the case may be.

Initially, I had set the goals of reading editorial daily and finishing a fixed number of sessions from the word power book.  Later when I enjoyed reading I set the daily target of finishing ‘N’ number of pages everyday of any book/novel.  I kept on changing the value of ‘N’ so as to find enough challenge.  Even for my writing,now  I have set a small goal of writing one blog every week.

  • Enjoy each small step:

Enjoying the process is another important aspect. Unrealistic or dissimulating targets make the process dull. Nobody knows the exact thing which will give him happiness, so the best thing is to keep on exploring new ways.  An amount of innovation in the process certainly brings the freshness, if not happiness.

For my English, I used to read letters to editor section of any random issue of the magazines and by reading the letters, I tried to build the entire previous issue of the same magazine.   I also remember writing the letters to the editor.  Once I did get my letter published in the letters section. To improve the retention of words, I used to associate them with some person or experience.  I also tried to mimic the accent of English News reporters.   For my current goal of writing,  I try to write on various aspects like, current affairs, book review and self experiences.  I don’t know if I am creative but I certainly like what I am doing.

  •  You define your goals, your goals do not define you:

This is by far the most important lesson on goals that I have learnt. Yes, one should look to stretch the limit but not at the cost of the peace of the mind.  Big and the unrealistic goals do not define one’s personality. Many have this belief that talking big is a sign of being ambitious.  It is one thing to set unrealistic goals and other thing to achieve them.  Walking the Small Talk is much better than Talking the Big Talk and Killing even the smaller dreams.  So, set the goals which suit your personality and temperament, that way you will be much happier in life.

Book Review: The Shadow Lines

Describing the chaos of daily life through the string of words is anyways difficult. And beautifying such description requires a rarely found texture of language, one which is earnest yet dispassionate. Amitav Ghosh has compellingly coloured that texture in “The Shadow Lines”.  Perhaps, while writing this book Amitav Ghosh would have lived only that moment, without thinking about how the story will develop.  And perhaps because of that, the flow of the story in the book is as smooth as breathing of a breath.

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The Shadow Lines is a collection of day to day stories across the blurring timelines of past and present. Through an anonymous narrator, Amitav Ghosh takes the reader to a journey across London, Dhaka and Calcutta, a journey which cranes into the past and at the very next moment looks in to the present.  Ghosh has allowed his narrator’s mind and memory to freely wander across the experiences and weave layers of stories inside a story.   And this is what makes the read beautiful, as this is what happens in real life too, when one sits to share one’s experiences – the memories unfold, making time and distance irrelevant.

On the language front, Amitav Ghosh is arguably unparalleled.  The analogies, the adjectives and the verbs blissfully coalesce into each other, making even day to day indescribable emotions look simplistic.

Once the narrator feels being exposed to the world by his mother and this is how he describes his feelings:

  • I don’t know what the matter with him is, my mother said, he has been waiting for her (Ila) for days . . . At that moment I hated my mother. For the first time in my life she had betrayed me. She had given me away, she had made public, then and for ever, the inequality of our needs; she had given Ila the knowledge of her power and she had left me defenceless; naked, in the face of that unthinkable, adult truth, that need is not transitive, that one may need without oneself being needed. 

This is how a simple but unthinkable fact of life is being described:

  • Everyone lives in a story, he says, my grandmother, my father, his father, Lenin, Einstein, and lots of other names I hadn’t heard of; they all lived in stories, because stories are all there are to live in, it was just a question of which one you chose. 

And this is how narrator describes his struggle with silence. Only after reading these lines, I realised that this kind of feelings do exist:

  • Every word I write about those events of 1964 is the product of a struggle with silence. It is a struggle I am destined to lose – have already lost – for even after all these years, I do not know where within me, in which corner of my world, this silence lies. All I know of is what this silence is not. It is not for example, a silence of imperfect memory. Nor is it a silence enforced by a ruthless state – nothing like that, no barbed wire, no checkpoints to tell me where my boundaries lie. I know nothing of this silence except that it lies outside the reach of my intelligence, beyond words – that is why this silence must win, must inevitably defeat me.

The several small anecdotes of the book are garnished by many such descriptions.  The plot noticeably takes a grave mood in the later parts of the book – when the focus shifts to war and riots- but the flow of the plot  is so smooth that it is impossible to pin point the position of the mood swing. And Ghosh’s take on these subjects of wars and riots are pleasure to read.

On the lighter side, as is the case with the character names in most of the Ghosh’s books, The Shadow Lines has characters with some adorable names with Tablu being a stand out in this book.  As for the characters themselves, there is an intriguing Tridib, who is like an encyclopedia, then there is a fallible Ila and there is an uncharacteristic Grandmother.

Usually, Ghosh amazes the readers by the depth of his research.  And if there is one striking difference between Ghosh’s other work and The Shadow Lines, it is lack of research on the subjects and topics dealt with in the book, although one would realise the lack of it only if one has read other works of Amitav Ghosh.

Overall, The Shadow Lines is a chaotic brilliance of experience, memory and aspirations.

Resolutions and Their One Day Life

New-Years-Resolutions

Resolutions are like promises, meant to be kept but rarely kept. And more so the New Year resolutions, which for me this year cannot even survive a day.  Celebrating the arrival of the New Year till the late hours on 31st Dec meant that my first resolution of getting up by 6.00 a.m. was dead even before it can breathe.  My second resolution which was exercising daily for at least 30 mins at least lived a bit longer.  Even after getting up late, I, all determined to keep up my second resolution went to the Gym. To my dismay, it was closed on the occasion of 1st Jan.  Cursing my luck, I was sure that the third resolution would not die the premature death. On my arrival back home my wife fumed at me and announced that maid has not yet come, as if I was responsible for her absenteeism. And then the dreadful happened. She in clear words suggested that no food will be cooked at the home, as she did not wish to wash the dishes and as an obedient husband I had to fulfil her wish and take her out for the lunch, thus killing my next resolution of avoiding outside food.   And to top it all my most ambitious resolution which was to push my limits failed too with the other three. Continue reading

Book Review/Suggested Read

Book Review: This is the first time ever I am writing a book review and so I am bit unsure on how to write, nevertheless that does not stop me from voicing my thought.

The book I am suggesting is the one which I have read recently, Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. Books demanding slow reading and yet providing delight are so rare, and Pamuk just provides that elusive mix in his book.  Set up in the Turkey, My name is Red is about the life of miniaturists under the Ottoman Empire (I hate reviews talking about the story, so no more of that).

The styldownloade of writing is completely in the first person narrative.  Each of the character makes several timely interventions in the story and then unfolds the flow of events from his perspective.  Such a build up provide a greater insight to nuances and shades of the characters and helps to build a stronger connect with them.  I believe this way of writing must be difficult to master. Continue reading