Friday, April 4, 2014

The race

There were a few people scattered around the stadium. The inter school athletics competition is not the most glamorous of the events in the city. The people present were mostly the parents of the children participating or the teachers accompanying the students. Sprinkled in the midst were a handful of enthusiastic organizers. The play ground, where the track and field events were to take place, was actually an hockey field which was also sporadically used as a football field. There was no grass on the track, as most wilted away during the scorching summer. It was the beginning of  the autumn and weather was quite pleasant for the time of the year. Ungainly dark clouds were visible at a distance, but at present there was a mild sunshine accompanied with a cool breeze. The conditions were perfect for the races. There was then a loud message in the speaker, "Under -12 800 m will commence in 20 minutes at track 2." The announcement led to a minor commotion and created a bit of excitement as 800 m is one of the most popular events. The track for the 800 m event is two rounds of 400 m each.

"Good luck son, make your father proud!" exclaimed a visibly exited father to his son, Satish. Satish was nodding his head. He was the runner up in last year's competition and his father badly wanted him to win this time around. Next year he would have compete in the under 14s and the competition would be a lot harder than under 12s. His father was quiet confident that his son would win the competition. He was a full 2 seconds faster than last year. His father, being a track and field athlete in his younger days was also his coach. "Remember to always breath in with your nose at the beginning. As you hit the top speed you may use your mouth to breath, but mostly stick to the nose", continued his father. He had a long list of last minute advises for his son. Dressed in his running gear, the boy was quite confident himself.

The youngsters lined up at track 2. There were 8 students competing. Satish was the oldest of them all. His father was feeling proud looking at his son make a perfect crouch start position. With the start of the race only a few seconds away, both father and son could feel the adrenaline pumping. THREE TWO ONE and GO!! The father got off his seat and started clapping. Satish had made the near perfect start. He had the perfect poise and balance and was leaving others trailing in his wake. "Come on!!" his father was shouting punching his fist. He knew that the race was his son's to lose from here on.  The first 250 m was near perfect and his on had a good 10 m on his nearest competitor.

But suddenly one of the boys, who was in the 4th position suddenly moved up a gear and was coasting past others. The father could sense that his son had a potential threat. By 400 m the distance between the boys reduced to less than a meter. And slowly but surely the other boy was gaining the upper hand. But his son would not give up without a fight. The two boys were giving it all out there. There could be only one winner. It was only the last 100 m left and the other boy started to overtake, inspite of the best of Satish's effort. His father was all disappointed. He knew Satish had almost no chance as the momentum was with the other boy.  He could not take another second prize. But he was nonetheless proud of satish's effort. He did not give up with out a fight.  He was praying all heavens for a miracle to happen.

And the miracle almost did happen. The unkempt track had a small bump and the other boy tripped on it and rolled over on to the side of the field. The father could not believe what he was seeing. He almost prayed for this to happen and it happened. To his amazement and the bewilderment of the onlookers he started cheering the fall. Satish would be the champion. Its his race now. He had already started celebrating. "And the winner is David" shouted the voice in the microphone. Shocked, the father returned to his senses and tried to make sense of what had just happened!! As the other boy fell off the track, the first person to go to his aid was Satish!!



Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hope

The fruit of success,
Is like a game of chess,
The more he thinks,
The lesser he blinks.

But life is no game,
And this acceptance is no shame.
The joy of the soldier,
Is not in the eyes of the beholder.

Waiting to impress the maiden,
To accompany to the Eden,
The soldier embarks his quest,
Unarmed in his chest.

Journey is not arduous,
As the end is joyous,
Is the haven of hope,
that pushes him like an ethereal dope. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Shared Vision for Success

This is an excerpt of a very nice workshop conducted in the Area conference of Toastmasters held at Nijkerk this January by Gustavo L Guerriero. The speaker wonderfully highlighted the importance of having a collective vision for the success of a group. It is a concept that can be utilized in all walks of life.

Relationships built on unified goals

Having a shared vision for the team or board will have an enduring impact, since it turns the team into a social identity group. Social Identity Groups increase commitment and loyalty, whether to sports teams or brands or organizations. Its positive impact improves by reviewing it and the collective excitement about it regularly. 
In teams, organizations and communities, sustained desired change can be motivated by bringing the people into what is called, PEA (Positive Emotional Attractor) while creating a shared vision, and then periodically, reminding people of this shared vision and purpose.
You can attempt to create a tipping point and move a person into the PEA by arousing hope, compassion, mindfulness, or playfulness.

How do we do that?

Types of Activities that invoke the experience of:

1. Mindfulness: meditation, yoga, tai chi, Prayer, Physical exercise etc
2. Compassion: being in a loving relationship; having pets you can pet (i.e., dogs, cats) volunteering and helping those less fortunate,
3. Hope: thinking and talking with others about a future dream, personal or shared; being
4. Playfulness: laughing with others
Asking questions that arouse the PEA:
1. If your life were perfect and your dreams come true, what would your life and work be like in 10‐15 years? [vision/hope]
2. What are the values or virtues that are most important to you? What kind of person would you love to be? [mindfulness]
3. Who helped you the most become who you are or get to where you are?

How to guide the conversation?
1. Ask questions that are likely to arouse the PEA in the coachee
2. Pay attention to the tipping points in the coachee’s mood during the conversation
3. Evoke a clear image of the coachee’s ideal self or personal vision
4. Identify specific people or key relationships in the coachee’s life and whether they are resonant or dissonant
Final Comments:
• Remind people of the purpose or vision of the organization. This arouses context, meaning   and hope.
• Be prepared with cues or questions to help them into the PEA
• Be prepared to offer some of your own reflections on the same question –It often feels  mutual
• Be prepared with ways to bring them back into the PEA if they start to slip into the NEA
• Go by feeling, not performance
• Make it a habit

Do’s:
‐  Engage people
‐  Challenge 
‐  Listen
‐  Make people feel part of what is going on
  Keep them informed
‐  Involve people in the discussion

‐  Make people feel part of the organization

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The conscience

He was 15 and had never done that. He used to look down upon the people who used to do it and felt it was a sin. The speed at which the tables turn is frightening. His friends were experts and had tried to influence our protagonist very much, without any success. It required a close West Indies – India test match at Port of Spain to corrupt the incorruptible. He always dreaded the West Indies tours.  His day starts early in the morning like any normal class X student and extended till the final session of the day, at 3 AM. Sleep was the most precious thing in his life and the last 2 minutes in bed used to extend almost the entire day at school.  But this particular day he had his History exam. He had two options the previous night, to watch match and flunk the exam, to watch the match and cheat in the exam. As expected he chose the latter.  Teachers had caught up with technology and had started checking mobile phones for photographs and he had to improvise. He decided to go old school and made chits. He had a 2 page summary of Mayan civilization from his class notes, 4 page summary of the Mesopotamian and another 2 page summary of Ghengis Khan folded up in his back pocket. He did not as much want to succeed as he did not want to fail.
Nerves and lack of confidence usually pull down the chances of a novice criminal. Add to this conscience, one has the perfect concoction for disaster. He was first of all not sure if he had the balls to commit the crime. Equally disturbing him was his conscience. Integrity was always his Hallmark and deep down the heart he kept hearing a low but powerful voice that kept saying, -“it was not worth it”.  But the dent in reputation that would arise from flunking the exam was too painful even to imagine. Suppressing the inner voice with all the might he had, he went on eating his breakfast.  It was just 30 minutes away and every passing minute was an echelon in itself.
As he reached his school, his eclectic band of maverick buddies were there to greet him. It was a motley of boys with diverse ambitions and attitudes, and when few of them flaunted their perfect plans for cheating in the exam, our protagonist had his heart in his mouth. He, with little success tried to ignore all those around him and slowly entered the examination hall, settling down.  He kept his face as stoic as possible, trying to hide the inner turmoil that was squeezing out every bit of courage he had. A quick look around and he could see all kinds of students. The confident, the nervous and the carefree.  Deep breaths did not calm his nerves. The supervising teacher gave him the question paper and walked past ignoring the deluge of sweat that decorated his forehead.
“Explain in detail the conquests of Ghengis Khan and the territories he captured. Also describe his battle strategies providing examples” read the 10 mark question.  He had a beautiful sensation of 10 full marks resting peacefully in his back pocket. All he had to do was take out the papers and finish off the question as quickly as he could. He looked around and saw his fellow students writing intently. There was the invigilator, who was sitting in the front with a magazine in hand. It was his chance. “It is just a midterm, is it worth losing one’s integrity over such a petty thing?” His inner voice had broken its shackles and alas, our protagonist was starting to get confused again.
  “Mam, I need to go to the restroom.” As soon as the teacher nodded her head, he ran, ran like his life depended on it. The nearest restroom was just few yards away. But his luck, it was closed for cleaning. He had to run across the playground and use the one behind a set of buildings that was constructed new. He ran a good 100 m across the ground and reached the restroom with the same satisfaction as Jessi Owens once felt in Berlin. He threw the papers near the restroom and with adrenalin pumping high returned with the same pace as he set out.  After returning, with a sigh of relief he sat back and started writing whatever he remembered from the class.
In a few minutes there were a couple of people coming into the exam room. Our protagonist’s name was called out and to his greatest shock; he had the same papers that he threw near the restroom lying on the table.  With all the adrenalin pumping 10 minutes back, he had forgotten that the restroom was located just behind the newly constructed staff rooms and about 10 teachers witnessed his courageous Jessi Owens act driven by his conscience, his bloody conscience.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Gora - The book review.

GORA - Profoundly indian novel
Someone once asked me what is Indian culture? A simple question it is, the more I thought the more I realized that this is a question for which I cannot give an honest answer as my knowledge on this subject is limited at best. GORA is a book helps a person or at least tries to, in understanding how interesting Indian culture is. It is a brilliant story of self searching and self discovery. I have read this book thrice at different stages of my adulthood and each time I have increasingly admired the motley of issues tackled.  GORA is profoundly Indian and educates the reader about the society's complexity in a simple yet powerful way which spins us into a spiral of asking ourselves the questions which otherwise we would consider trivial and irrelevant.  No other book gives so masterly an analysis of the complex of Indian social life with its teeming contradictions, or of the character of Indian nationalism which draws its roots from renascent Hinduism and stretches out its arms towards universal humanism. Originally written in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore, it was later translated into English by WW Pearson in 1924. Tagore is widely regarded as the greatest writer India has ever produced and GORA is considered his finest. I cannot agree more.

GORA is the story of Gourmohan (Gora- as he is fondly referred to), a pristine Hindu, who prohibits himself from even eating from his open-minded mother, and his journey of self-realisation, fuelled by a determination to empower India. Gora's parents are Krishnadhayal, a semi hermit, who had given up the worldly association to immerse himself in a life penance and  a more liberal  Anadamoyi who is an outcaste within the Hindu society because of her views and close association with her lower caste maid Lachmiya.  Binoy, a highly educated orthodox person, having developed a relationship of mutual trust over the years that goes beyond realms of friendship, is the trusted lieutenant of Gora. 

Then there is Paresh Babu and his Brahmo family, consisting of his wife Miss Baroda, foster children Sucharita and her brother Satish, and three daughters, the eldest being the spirited Lolita.  A good part of the novel is spent on establishing the characters. This part gave a preview into the minds and aspirations of the people who lived in a different era to the one the contemporary readers live in.  There are also other important characters in the novel like Haran babu, the local Brahmo leader, Harimohini the orthodox Auntie of sucharita, and Abinash, the local right wing Hindu leader. None of the characters are fully black or white and do always the right thing according to their beliefs. To completely understand the significance of this story, one has to understand the background of the Brahmo Samaj. Started by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in the early 19th century, it stood against the blind superstitious practices in the society. Positively influenced by the intellectuals returning from England, slowly lost ground as it moved further away from the common man, too intellectual for him to comprehend.  This story was written when the samaj was at its peak prowess.

The novels follows the lives of two sets of people with contrasting beliefs and how their lives get intertwined with each other because of the a common string in their personalities – the respect for humanity.  The mundane day today proceedings are written in an absorbing way that compels a reader to understand things from the characters’ perspective. Gora, the principle protagonist has a past unknown to him that could send the foundations on which his character is based tumbling down the hill. The novel slowly builds up to a finale, which is simple yet powerful.  The book captures the essence of the religious turmoil happening in Bengal in early 20th century.

Humanity’- above all religion is the core of the classic novel. This is citied with references of a poor Muslim’s wife bringing up a Hindu child, Anandamoyi a Hindu bringing up orphan Gora irrespective his Irish ethnicity and Paresh Babu believer of Brahmo(Christian) taking care of a Hindu girl and her brother, reflects the very basics of humanity, love for each other irrespective of beliefs they were born in. The Indian society which seems to be rigidly divided into many religious beliefs - Hindus, Muslims and Christians when analysed, actually bind together in a common thread of humanity, which super-ceeds all religions known. And Gora learns this with his experiences and a hidden truth.

This novel has many strong points and characterisation should top the list.  It’s a fact that humans are bombarded with in securities, large portion of it stemming from the simple fact we are intolerant to an opinion that we do not agree with. While Gora and Lolita roar with their personality, Sucharita and Binoy are more subtle. Their actions and thoughts, though are influenced heavily by people around, their turmoil is the easiest we can relate to. Strength and compassion are two traits that these two sets of characters embody respectively.  There is Paresh Babu and Anadamoyi who with their wealth experience pave their own middle path. There is Paran Babu, Miss Baroda, Krishnadayal and Harimohini who are totally intolerant to an outside view (Paran babu and Baroda are Brahmos, while Krishanadayal and Harimohini are orthodox). The conversations between them are engaging and take the readers to a higher level of intellectual discussion without choosing sides.  Are we against the traditions because we strongly believe that there is something wrong with the system and is archaic or do we belittle them because it’s easier to do so? Do we follow traditions because we understand what they mean or do we follow traditions because we do just what we were told?   

This is not a book that answers questions regarding religion, society and personal motivation in being part of a society, but something that points us at the right questions we can ask ourselves to understand these subjects.  Though novel was set in early 1900s, it cannot be classified as archaic and out of date.  Human relationships are wonderfully captured,  be it the romance, between Lolita and Binoy or Sucharita and Gora , the bromance between Gora and Binoy, the teacher student relation between Paresh babu and sucharita all leave a mark.  Mutual-respect and dignity are the common traits that hold these relationships together.  The portrayal of strong and independent  women is quite revolutionary, considering the period  and my favorite is that of sucharita. The level of maturity and extent of vulnerability she exhibits belies her age ( Tagore portrays her  as a 13 year old! ).  She along with Lolita, the powerful women characters in the novel constantly affect Gora and Binoy revealing to them the power of women and the love and compassion. The character a common reader can relate to easily is Binoy, a traditionalist who is torn between what he feels right and what is said to be right. His love for Lolita, the change that brings in him and his confrontations with Gora, are two places where the character wins over the reader.   

Accolades for this book can go on and no amount of words would justify how powerful this book is. If you have not read this, pls get a copy and enjoy it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Pursuit

There he was, stealthily following her like a distant shadow. The subject to be followed was Sunita, a 40 year old widow, having a successful business of selling show piece items along with interior designing. He had a two page summery of her life, which was quite inspiring. Sunita was a straight forward Indian upper middle class entrepreneur, who made it big inspite of loosing her partner at a very young age. Wearing a simple Salwar and Jeans, she was instructing her subordinates, in her neat little factory. The place is in itself a well maintained one. She had her retail outlet in the residential area of the city. From his observation, it was clear that her entrepreneurial success depended on close interaction with the clients and their family. Her clientele mostly depended on good word of mouth.

Standing at an above average height, and gifted with average looks, it was a cake walk for him to camouflage in the crowd. His athletic physic helped him to be nimble and glide across without much muss. Though only 19, he had an ability to observe the minutest of details. Like his father, he was fascinated by people.  Everyone out there had a story to tell. This attracted him to a psychology major and a possible career following his father into private investigation or in the best case scenario, getting into international espionage. For about three years he had been sporadically assisting his father during his breaks in non-critical stake outs, making specific investigations for clients. This was the first time his father had entrusted him with a case all on his own. He could hardly contain his happiness and was determined to show his worth  to his father. The task at hand was fairly routine. Get a detailed report on the subject on her day today activities. He had no idea about the client and it is good not to know. Though sometimes its very hard not to be prejudiced, it was not his place to make judgments. Inspite of not being a necessity, he could not help himself from doing a mental personality profile on his subjects. He knew that for every story told there a few thousands untold.

For surveillance he always preferred 4 days. Thursday to Sunday from 8 AM to 9 PM. He had been following her 3 full days and this is the last day. There has been nothing spectacular happening the last three days. She had a stable life with nothing fishy or spectacular happening, like most of the cases he was part of.  What interested him more was her personality. She was confident in her steps, self assured at the same time always addressing people with a smile. One particular feature that impressed him  the most was she had the same demeanor and mannerisms with everyone, irrespective of who they were, right from her watchman to her valued customers. Doing background checks was not part of his work, but he was pretty sure about how that would pan out for her - clean.

Sunday passed along with very little fuss. After her visit to the factory, she did some grocery shopping and it was just like a routine day. In fact he had to spend most of the day near her home. As the dawn broke, she was all dressed up and  took out her car. Some activity finally shook him off his slumber and got going in his two wheeler behind her. There was the first surprise for him. She parked outside his favorite restaurant. He followed her into the the restaurant and sat sat a few chairs behind her facing her. Then came in the biggest shock of all. A man in his mid 40s walked into the restaurant and joined her at the table. The man took out his phone and texted some one. The young detective's phone buzzed. " How do you like your new mother? Come and join us at the table!!"     

Wednesday, December 25, 2013