Sunday, April 26, 2009

Summer Camp Craze

Bangalore Express : Salem Train station.

I was on my way back from Coimbatore to Bangalore last weekend. The train stopped at Salem junction. A joyous group of smart, bright, and enthusiastic school kids jostled into our train wagon. Their T-shirts read something about confidence. It was good to see the smiles and hear the non-stop chatter and school level jargon. The noisy environment brought a lot of cheer to every passenger in the train train wagon. There were a group of young men, aged 28 - 30, managing the whole group.

As the train started, these young men were roaming with reservation list, and accommodating the kids in different compartments. One smart nine-year old got a seat next to mine. It was such a joy to see his face for all of us, in the compartment - A fresher who just got a job, an old lady easily 60+, two middle-aged gentle men, two smart young women.

Since there was no one in his age group, the child didn't seem very comfortable in our company. So I started a conversation with him and gave him my allotted window seat ( I don't remember giving away the window seat allotted to me, to anyone other than my sister...).

During the conversation, he told me that he was on his way back to Bangalore after a week-long summer camp in Yercaud, a hill-station near Salem, Tamil Nadu. The children were from different schools and they had signed up for a summer camp conducted by a famous kids camp specialist group. They seemed to have learnt new games and rock climbing and trekking and other adventure sports for which he didn't know the names. This boy had signed up for these activities and liked it a lot, though a little scared, as he says.

When asked about missing home, he says, he very much did and was waiting to reach Bangalore. He kept asking me every half an hour, "How long will it take for us to reach Bangalore?".

My thoughts:

How can one be so confident to send children less than 10 years of age to a hill station for a whole week programme?

Why should a child learn trekking and rock climbing and such extremely dangerous sports that early?

Why can't the child be allowed to spend time with friends in the neighbourhood?

Why should the child be out-of-ordinary all the time?

Why stay away from kids less than 10 years of age?

Why take the summer vacation so seriously?

School excursions are different while summer camps are different. There is more responsibility that the school teachers take and such adventure sports are never welcome in school trips.

When we reached Bangalore, you should have seen the kids running to their parents. It was a sight to see. :-) Also, there were parents who were really worried when it took a few minutes for them to spot the child getting down from the train. I had a chance to take a look at one such worried face and the immediate relieved smile when the child clung on to the mother. Makes me ask, " Any need to send a six year old for a week long summer camp in another town and then see your blood pressure levels shoot up like this??"

The next day, at lunch, a friend tells me that there are people who send their teenagers for a summer camp out of India for ten days.

What exactly are these parents expecting from these camps and in effect their kids???

I fail to understand, I don't think I want to, because, I cant even think of it. In my opinion, to develop exposure, confidence, and people skills in children, there is no need for summer camps... children just need the right amount of time with parents, teachers, friends and dear ones. Adventure sports can surely wait for a later date in life.

Growing up should be natural. As much as I hate the fact in an advertisement, where a mother is proud that her son is growing taller by a few centimeters than his fellow kids because of a health drink, I hate the idea that such extremely, unnecessarily-hyped summer camps are believed to be boosting confidence in children.

Will the parents realize that their children might be too young to understand the difference between confidence and over-confidence? I don't know.

I see that there could be the peer pressure factor involved here, but I must say, the parents teachers associations in every school should probably analyze this aspect and see what needs to be done. When no one sends their children on such long trips, the camping groups will change strategies for sure and for the better.

For the camping guys, your child's summer vacation makes money. That is all. For your child, it is fun with friends. For you, it is your precious little girl or boy away from your eye for days together. Remember your child will never get a summer vacation for two long months, the day she is out of school. Who is to tell some parents these??

Blessing in disguise...

We've all heard this I am sure..

I am not able to place exactly when, but sometime in the last three or four years, I had forgotten or lost the art of handling the not-so-pleasant remarks that happens once in a while, on the personal or professional front.

Yesterday was a hundred percent Murphy's law day for me. To help you recall, Murphy's law goes like this : If anything can go wrong, it surely will.

So, my temper was at its peak and was spoiling my work day, big time. I spoke to a very good friend of mine who clearly got the idea that I was in the worst of temper.

Today, I had this interesting meeting with a junior friend J ( J for junior), arranged by this good friend.

Here's what I gathered in my one hour conversation with J:

- Keep calm. If something goes out of your control, it does.
- Embrace positivity all the time.
- Do something about the problem at hand.
- To get convinced about something, is a choice that you make.
- To get influenced is again a choice.
- Give it a shot. If it doesn't work, you at least can be glad you tried.
- If you don't get what you want, that is not the end of the world.
- React, but do not over-react to any situation.
- Weigh your priorities.
- Change your mindset only when you think you are convinced.
- If there is a challenge, meet it.
- To be gentle in a disagreement, is quite an art.
- Never forget that a coin has two sides.
- There is a view point to everything. What is correct in your view, can be totally incorrect for someone else.
- You surely can spend time for people.

Yeah, these are my first level thoughts after meeting J. Did J say all these? No. definitely not. We never really spoke much on these lines. It is just that I saw an attitude in J that I once had, when I was just out of college and I realized I had lost that sometime in between.

So I just decided to jot down what I believe we should have, to handle people-management better. A glimpse of the attributes of the attitude is what you just read.

Its not that we didn't know all these, its just that time and again, we forget these or think that these are way too impractical to keep a watch for a lapse in these thumb rules of people management. That aside, we think that they are impossible to keep up.

Some of these were once, the principles I held very close to me and it was a chance today to have recalled them. Thanks to my friend who got this meeting with J arranged. It is surely a Blessing in Disguise because, I am now sure that I will handle my next work weeks better. I am not saying these principles are easy, but the conscious efforts you take towards these, slowly become a habit, is my guess.

Thanks, dear Friend. You knew how to help, and Thanks, J.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What matters most.....

In a few cities in South India, there are Villas leased out to old people who are too old to take care of themselves or whose children are far away from them or who have no children to lean on.

In one of those villas, I had this chance to meet an old couple over the weekend. It was a bright summer afternoon. The walkway had a lot of lovely flowers and plants that gives the feel-good factor you miss often in crowded and noisy cities. I stopped near every plant to take in the wonder of nature in all its beauty.

It was a very small house maintained very well, given that the old man was 90 and his wife, 85 years of age. Indian hospitality was still at its peak, but given that we already had accepted a lunch invite, we agreed to have lime juice.

The old man is hard of hearing, but has a hearing aid on and asks you a lot of questions, his words so full of Life. After ten minutes, he excused himself from the conversation saying he was tired and retired back to his recliner, put on some nice channel on TV. He has a wireless head phone that has been tuned to help him hear the dialogues and music. When asked about his favorite programme on the television, he says, 'I don't have anything else to do, so anything that is audible and pleasant is okay with me. Besides, thanks to my old age, I wont remember anything for more than a few minutes. I have to do something when I am not praying, reading paper, eating, or sleeping. The only option I have is to watch television.'.

He is too old to walk, too old to hear, too old to speak continuously, too ill to sit up for long. All said, he wants to keep himself engaged all the time. He says he cannot have a 'Do-nothing' moment in life.

The old lady, his compatible wife, takes care of all her husband's needs and does a little walking exercise, so she can take care of herself to take care of her husband. I saw love there, a must-see for everyone who wants to even think of wedding. The enthusiasm she showed in plucking some lovely flowers for me and the interest she showed in knowing the truth about recession and IT and cost of living and all that amazed me to an extent, I cant even explain...

When I left the house, as per the Tamilian custom, I took their blessings. It was a totally joyful, and a very hearty wish. I cant forget their smiles. I accepted an invite to spend time with them and have lunch with them on my next visit. With old people, when you say, next time, they are not sure, but I had to leave.

We had spent only one hour and I saw that this visit made their day. We stepped out, and the old lady plucked two purple flowers for me and blessed me again, invited me again and smiled all the time. I walked some distance towards the gate of the campus to see other villas, expensively furnished but looked very lonely, and old people reading or doing something all by themselves.

With an unsure and unsettled thought, I looked back to see the old woman still smiling at us. I waved a bye and she waved back. My hand ached, but probably hers didn't, because she kept waving on and on till we moved out of the campus gate.

When I stepped out I couldn't smile as much, because, their grand children and children are not anywhere in a reachable distance to visit them. They are settled abroad -very well off, sending their parents a lot of money, and visit India once in a year.

The old parents do not need money more than their medicine expenses and their daily minimal needs. All they want is some time with their children. I could not help thinking about the time these parents would have spent for their children all their life.

Thanks to the compulsions in life that children and parents live separately and in this case, unreachable.

Sorry to say that old age is taken for granted most often and youngsters almost never realize that they will grow old sometime too.

Hey, stop thinking about feeling young at heart and all that.. However young you feel at heart, your body ages and you will need support. If you fall ill, you get weak.

I remembered something I read long back : Three things to respect : Old Age, Religion, and Law. I saw that the first of it is true.

My lesson:
Respect Old age and remember to treat a six year old and a sixty year old well always.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Meanings can be opposites

If you are expecting some philosophical content here, no, that's not what I want to say.

Languages have always interested me, but I have not really taken efforts to analyze them more than needed.

Today, at work, I had this doubt on usage of the words Oversee and Overlook.

Look means See

Now, append the word look to both these words.

Overlook means to neglect. In effect, not bothered.
Oversee means to supervise. In effect, too bothered.


Look and see are meanings. Look = See
Overlook and Oversee are opposites. Overlook X Oversee

But why?

Note: If you are wondering about the time I have at work, to wonder so much about the words usage, let me clarify, that being a technical writer involves bothering about such word issues also, apart from other logical and practical language issues.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Talk less

This is something I can never imagine...

May be it is true, because, everywhere, everyone seems to agree with this point, except a few like me, who think 'Talking is a gift that is to be cherished and used to its fullest potential'.

I may not completely agree with the 'Talk less' word any day, but I must say that the T-shirt quote I read recently made me think :

The T- Shirt said : Talk less than what you know.

I had to walk a good fifteen minutes to reach my destination, and this quote clung on to my head.

I liked it because, it didn't stop at Talk less. It says, Talk less than you know..

This way, you can get a chance to listen to what others might have to say about the same point, you may not been seen as a person with a 'Know all' attitude, you will have a chance to weigh the other person's mood or response before you make it good or worse and you can take time to take calculated risk with words.

There is a popular quote saying : Words and eggs are to be handled with care, for eggs when broken and words when spoken cannot be repaired.

I believe, the quote, Talk less than you know can make sure, you don't speak words that get you into a soup.

Nice quote, all thanks to the T-shirt designer.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Rushing on Bangalore Road

Yeah, right... this is about rushing on Bangalore roads.. if this raised a question on your mind or brought a smile, then you surely must be a resident of Bangalore or have travelled to this city on business or vacation, or have had the chance to drive or ride on the Bangalore roads sometime in the past.. Past means, say two years time...

I have always observed that the evening prior to a weekend in this city sees all roads packed. I travel to my home town on Friday evenings mostly. Almost always, I end up being the second last person to board the bus from the bus station. You must note that there is always at least one person for whom the bus waits for a few minutes.

As 'All roads lead to Rome', in Bangalore, on a Friday evening, it will seem that 'All roads lead to the Railway Station or the bus station'. In my case, it has always been that every other vehicle on the road that gets signalled on every other cross road in Bangalore, will have at least one huge bag indicating the weekend travel. The vehicles just wont move....

Last weekend, no matter how hard I tried to keep to the timing, I was held up in a dead locked traffic jam. With my eyes trying to see if there is any way out, and a hand bag that seemed to be slipping off my lap all the time, and with constant watch on my wrist watch and more specifically its 'Second' hand, I was praying to get to the bus station on time.

There was a biker next to my auto, looking at the watch to get to the train station or bus station on time.

All focus shifted when the siren of an ambulance went off and the ambulance came to a stop in the traffic. Everyone else on the road was looking at the watch to meet a scheduled appointment which was trivial in front of the people inside the ambulance. There was just nothing one can do in the traffic jam. Some vehicles did move a little to give way, but it was still not enough for the ambulance to rush to the hospital..

Made me ask : So where are you rushing? To take a bus? To catch a movie? To receive a friend? To watch a cricket match? To take a train or flight? To reach a venue for a party?? Aren't all these lowest of priorities in front of the emergency that the patient in the ambulance is facing?

Resolved not to worry so much and started praying for the patient in the ambulance.. That is all I could do, apart from worrying why there is no set way of handling such emergencies in our roads?? Missing that bus no longer worried me much... yes, it would have been difficult, but then at least I was only heading to the bus station...

I must say, Rushing on Bangalore roads, is almost not possible. I didn't say Impossible because may be you could read it as I'm possible and try to be optimistic about getting your way in rush hour traffic in Bangalore, and that rush hour happens to be almost always on all roads that lead to Bus station and Train station.

Quick thoughts on this :

If you live on the outskirts, make sure you have a hospital closer to your place.
If you are going out of town, ensure you leave as early as possible from your house to reach the bus station.
If you are attending a party, tell them you might be late.
If you are hosting a party, give an early timing, so you can start the party at least an hour later.
If you are watching a movie in a theater in Bangalore, dont reserve it on a Friday evening. Make it late evening.
If you are ill, dont wait till your illness gets worse to treat it... Coz your ambulance may never be able to rush on Bangalore roads.


With new opportunities also comes to fear and self-doubt. How can we navigate these very strong forces in order to reach our fulfillment...