Monday, March 29, 2010

Summer Camp Business

Yes, you are reading it correct. Summer camps have become more of a business, a business that capitalizes on the
  • parents' craze to make sure that their kids learn all that there is, in the world within a span of five days/seven days/ten days/fifteen days/one month/two months; That is how summer camps are slotted.
  • kids' peer pressure mind states; Everyone in the play group attends one camp or the other, so its very difficult to convince a child that its okay 'not' to attend a camp.
  • parents' spending power on 'everything' and 'nothing', sometimes even without thinking once; leave alone the idea of "Think twice before you act".

I am not saying Summer camps are bad. In fact, I think it is a nice way to know a lot of people, to know how to mingle with people you do not know, to learn good (sometimes bad, but that can be handled at home) habits/behaviour, to learn something new and to make the summer vacation a little fruitful. What I think is not okay is the exorbitant fees that these camp groups charge.

This morning's email said, "Summer camp @ Rupees seven thousand only!!. Learn over 30 activities in five days starting April 26th 2010".

But Why???!!!!???

When you get into the details, you'll see that the activities and the comforts chosen are such. Also, from the camp group's stand point, the fee structure may be all fair. I am not into that business and I won't know. But, what I know is that a summer vacation summer camp's cost can be utilized for a family tour or trip that surely will remain in every one's mind for many years to come.

There have been camps in the past too, that will come for a nominal rate of Rs 100 for a week - Indoor games coaching, Drawing and Painting, craft work - and such activities that you can choose from. May be there weren't plenty of choices, but the children were happy even then with what they got. All that the child needs is time-pass and people and fun in the vacation.

My take here is that you do not have to pay 7k for five days of summer vacation. If you have two children, then 15000 rupees for five days of their vacation is equivalent to a month's comfortable living expenses for a small family in a town inclusive of the house rent.

If people reason out that the child will get bored during the vacation, then get them to explain the remaining 55 days ( assuming a 60 day vacation time) time-pass to me!!

Time pass is totally up to us and what we inculcate in the children. You can have a mix of all these in a vacation time period and get the family bonds stronger, instead of depending on an external agency to keep your child happy.

- Coloring
- Drawing
- Cooking
- Cycling
- Driving/Biking
- Writing
- Reading
- Cleaning
- Planning
- Shopping
- Discussions at home
- Visiting relatives
.... and the list is endless....

If your child wants to learn something in particular then it is different; you must encourage that interest, provided you agree that it might contribute to the child's growth. Just because your ten year old asks for a summer camp in Singapore/Hongkong/Ladakh/Utopia or some unnecessarily high-priced local summer camp, do not encourage that high-priced learning. Use the opportunity to let the children know how much money means to life. If your child insists, you could enroll her/him in some reasaonable group's summer camp that can still keep the child occupied; avoid risk to physical and mental health; inculcate values in their minds.

Someone who met me at a wedding and a comment here tell me that this article has been published in the Blog talk section of Bangalore Mirror. I have not got the link and have not had a chance to see the paper.

Friday, March 26, 2010

முடியாது எனினும் முயல்க

ஏழ்மையிலும் நேர்மை
கோபத்திலும் பொறுமை
தோல்வியிலும் விடாமுயற்சி
நம்பிக்கையின்மையிலும் தைரியம்
தரித்திரத்திலும் பரோபகாரம்

என் பாட்டியிடம் இருந்து படித்த நினைவு. இன்றைய கால கட்டத்தில் நாம் மிக வேகமாக சொல்லும் ஒரு வார்த்தை 'முடியாது'. இந்த வரிகள் சொல்லும் ஒரே உண்மை : உன்னால் முடிந்த வரை ஒவ்வொரு விஷயத்திலும் கவனம் செலுத்து. முக்கியமான விஷயங்கள் : நேர்மை, பொறுமை,விடாமுயற்சி,தைரியம், மற்றும் பரோபகாரம் என்பன. இவை எல்லாவற்றிற்கும் முடியாது என்று மொத்தமாய் ஒரு வார்த்தையில் கூறி முடிக்க கூடாது. இதுவே கருத்து.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why advertise all about yourself?

And then complain that the rate of thefts have increased in town.

Every other lane in Bangalore has a software company. My office is housed in one of the popular Technology parks and there are at least six such Technology parks on the same road.

( In Bangalore, a technology park is a complex - of tall multi-storey buildings with multi-level car parks and a lot of garden space, and pavements - where a lot of companies who can afford the high-priced rent, have their offices. Most of these companies are software companies.)

This means at a given bus stop you can see ten people boarding the same bus to different companies on this road.

Every morning, the first thing that you notice on every office-goer is the identity card. With the tag around the neck, you can say which software company the person is working with. One step further, you could even say if this person is waiting for the same bus as you. Once inside the bus, most of the times, you get to read the name of the person. In some cases, the designation and employee id. This depends on how much of information that company had chosen to be divulged on the front face of the card. If the tag is turned over, on the reverse of the card, sometimes you get to see the blood group and the address of the company.

In short, a bus travel with someone in Bangalore at the peak hour will be able to reveal details like :
Boarding Point
Name
Name of the company
Designation
Blood Group
Address
Employee Number
Destination

It is also possible to trace the person's whereabouts with the wide spread networking sites these days. On Linked in and Face book, it is easy to trace the person you saw in the bus, the other day. Might be a good idea to build the network, but also a serious threat to personal safety.

This morning I read a tag and know that she is a senior level executive in one of the popular companies in Bangalore. I know her office address and its easy for anyone to locate her office just with the identity card around her neck.

It is easy for anyone to make a note of the name and details of someone, follow the person home and trace the address. Wonder if this is one reason we hear of a lot of safety related issues?

I don't mean to say that if you walk without your id cards you are safe, but then let's not invite trouble explicitly. Rob one IT professional and there is a lot of chance to make money on a normal work day - Wallet, Shoes, Laptop, Glasses will work out to a huge sum, am I correct?.

Tell the world, who you are, what you do, where you live through this card that hangs on a tag around your neck or is proudly clipped on to your dress; That is all is needed to trace you and see, if robbing you is worth the robber's time and effort and energy.

Identification cards are to identify you at your office locations. Most cards have bar codes that are scanned at the office doors to mark entries and exits. If you are in another office on business, then you need to let them know your identity and hence it might be a mandate to wear the tag. If you are outside office, its good to keep your identity card inside your bag or pocket, just so an untoward incident happens and you are unconscious , you will be identified.

College students, school children, office-goers who walk or use public transport can take care to wear their tags just before they enter their school/office and take it off as soon as they step out of school/college/work. This way, there is less advertisement of self. Can we help ourselves and our fellow friends with this helpful hint?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lose in Style........and Take it well......

Over a phone call, I heard the scores of one of the cricket matches. According to my friend, the team that lost, was supposed to have 'Lost in Style'. I took an instant liking to the phrase - Lost in Style.

Heard about life style, dress style, and such common place references to 'style' before but as for 'lost in style', this was the first time. I had thought I'll mention this in my blog, but totally forgot until I heard an incident in a high school, which nailed the importance of being able to 'lose in style' and 'take it well 'too.

'Lost in style' means to be able to give your best effort at something; coming close to victory/success and still being unable to make it. Though, it might not bring the same joy that position one brings in any competition or attempt, it does bring a feeling of satisfaction that you've given your best. Although, a miss, you'd have 'lost in style'. English advocates might give a different usage or connotation to this phrase, that is besides the point of this post.

That said, you must also be able to take it well, congratulate the winners and stop brooding about the loss. Sports is all about this wonderful attitude; Contests and competitions are all about this wisdom.

I am saying all these because I heard a recent incident in one of the high school classes. The three children were in the ninth grade. They stole the top three ranks in academics always. The third rank holder always stood third while the first and second ranks shuttled between the two others constantly. It is reported that the first and the second rank holders died of some poison in their food and the third rank holder is presently in a rude state of mental shock. The most shocking news is that the world believes that this poison was mixed by this student who is alive.

I don't know what to say; do not want to judge; but want to say that the importance given to scoring the top ranks in academics should be brought down and the ability to take life light be taught to children. Schools and colleges should take special interest in this, so the parents and corporates adapt it too. I agree a good performance must be awarded, but then the hyper-tense craze for top scores and cent percent in all subjects ( happens only in Tamilnadu) should be brought down a bit.

Even in the singing contests and other such competitions hosted by television channels I see that the parents get so over reactive about the performances of their children. I even saw a mother sitting with her eyes closed, all tensed when the son is performing on stage.. Wonder why?? The same thing, I am sure will percolate into his academic performance too.

Why take extra stress that the books already give the children?
Why not enjoy parenting much better?
Why not allow the children to ask questions and explain themselves?
Why not teach the attitudes that matter in life as part of the system of study?
Why compare with another child?
Why not let the children enjoy studies for the fun of it?
Why not teach to take a failure well?

What is failure anyway?? That is a different subject altogether. I rewrite my last question as :

Why not teach to take a missed success well??

Why not lose in style and take it well??

Morning thoughts that made my day!!!

Usually, I never spend a lot of my morning hours watching T.V, but this morning I had about five minutes before I started off to work and decided to watch whatever was going on in the television.

These are the shots :

An old couple with happy and peaceful look exchange genuine and caring smiles.

They are taking a walk; She holds a tree trunk and stops mid-way. The old man tries to lift her. His back aches and he is unable to bear the pain; she clutches his shoulder, so he does not falter.

Each of them is reading a book sitting next to each other in their living room; They hold hands, as they talk about what they read.

She is dusting a photo frame and smiles when she sees that the picture was taken on their wedding day. He comes over and is very nostalgic about it.

Till this point, there is no dialogue... The old man asks, more as an after-thought, "When we got married we didn't have anything with us. Did we?" and she smiles and says " Nothing, just the Trust".

Then there is the name : Kalyan Jewellers - 35 years of Vishwasam ( which is the Sanskrit word for Trust )

Only at this point you come to know that it is an advertisement. In less than one minute this advertisement sent out so many messages and is one of those advertisements that will surely bring a smile on your face.

Thinking about it now, is it not Trust that is the basis of all relationships and associations - business or personal - in this world? I applaud the ad film maker who worked on this particular advertisement for Kalyan Jewellers, Kerala.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sufi Paranja Katha

I watched this Malayalam movie called Sufi Paranja Katha.I really do not know how to review this movie, but I wanted to put across my observations any way.

The beginning of the movie increases your curiosity about the story line and I guess sets very high expectations. Since a majority of my readers are not Malayalees, I think, I will attempt to write out the story line. I still do not know if I have got the logic of the movie correct, but let me try.

The movie begins on a beautiful sea shore on a bright morning. The waves lashing on the shore gives you the feeling that the sea has a very big role to play in the story. A young writer is in town for the first time and meets this old man who starts narrating the life history of the renowned lady in the town. The whole movie is a flash back and I expected a lot of tears in the movie. Thankfully, the director spared us all from tears and contributed to some amount of confusion.

Karthyaayani, fondly known as Karthi was the little princess of this palatial home in a small town in Kerala. She lived in the palace with her mother, maternal uncle and grandmother. She was a staunch devotee of the Goddess patronized by the ancestors of the palace and was seen to have all the grace of the divine bestowed on her. As a child, she never believed in castes and had no discrimination in her mind between castes and religions. To her, all human beings were alike and she never bothered about the prevalent caste discrimination in her town. The movie shows every detail of the little princess growing up into a beautiful, graceful, attractive young woman.

The uncle tried to keep off this young lady for his personal reasons, the grandmother reached God's abode, and the mother was forever busy with her responsibilities and the young lady started feeling very lonely. At this point in time in her life, a young man who followed a different faith came to the palace from another town on a business trip. He had to stay there for sometime and Karthi's uncle agreed to let out the palace's guest house ( whatever they called a guest house in olden days ) for a brief time period. In an era where ladies did not talk much to men, Karthi was seen to spend a lot of time talking to this business man. The uncle who had seen signs of love interests between the two was worried, but did not attempt to take any action. One night, on a telepathic instinct, the uncle watched the couple leave the palace.

Karthi changed her practices, her attire and her name to get married to this business man. They both stayed happily married, until one fine day she found an idol of a Hindu Goddess in her garden. She locked the idol safely in an urn. The movie showed some super natural effects at times causing some confusion as to the motive of some shots. Karthi's husband was head-over-heels in love with her. He asked her if there was anything she felt was missing in her new home and promised to do his best to see it happen. Karthi told him that she was missing her prayer room and idol worship. So, he arranged for a temple ( according to him it was a small room outside the house) to be built in the garden where Karthi could go and offer prayers in her own way to her Goddess. He saw it as just another form of prayer as Karthi also followed prayers in the new faith. It was just that she did not want to miss her own prayer practices. It was nice to see the broad-mindedness there, which rarely is seen these days.

All said, the town's staunch non-Hindus revolted against the idea of a temple in a non-Hindu house. This affected the business man's life badly. He had a lot of admirers and well wishers who would not dare to hurt him because he was known to be one of the nicest persons in the town. However, there were some people from other towns who could not accept the idea of the temple in a non-Hindu's garden. The professional and social hit slowly delved into his personal life and he stopped talking to Karthi. When Karthi was back in her loneliness sphere, her uncle came visiting her. From his attire we come to know that he had resorted to sainthood. He came to inform Karthi of her mother's demise. When he left, lonliness hit Karthi badly.

Instincts or super-natural power or some unknown incomprehensible emotion - cannot place which one - tells Karthi one fine day that the summon her husband received from the Mayor was false. She tried her best to stop him from going to the town to meet the Mayor. He neglects her words and just leaves. At the Mayor's office, a group of staunch believers of his faith kill him.

Karthi prays for him at her house in an unusual hour of the day surprising her sister-in-law. Then she walks to the beach and straight into the sea. The sea did play a role in the movie and the sea waves lashed the shore at dusk.

The movie ends there saying all the men who killed her husband also died in the storm that night. In memory of this young lady, the town's non-Hindus built a memorial. Every day a lot of people came there to offer prayers. The young writer had also come to offer prayers to the memorial.

Now, that might sound like a pointless useless piece of work. Still, I am unable to dismiss it off that way. I do see a lot of disconnect in the movie and its story line and direction, but an another thought makes me think that I am not so used to art movie kind of makes, which usually leave a lot to the audience's understanding.

The few songs in the movie add a nice touch to some scenes. I assume that it was Chitra's voice. I could not read Malayalam, so the music director's name is unknown in this review. I do not recall the artist's names either. You have the Internet to get all this information, so I leave it at that.

My take :

Sufi Paranja kadha is an artistic make with a mixed bag of Beauty,Love,Religion,Platonic vs. Romantic feelings,Traditional look and Modern thoughts, Natural vs. Supernatural powers, leaving your mind confused. You cannot hate the movie or cannot completely love the movie. It must have been intended to be a good attempt, but I think it failed to make a mark on the audience.

If you are looking for comedy, cheerful music then this is not the right pick.
If you are looking for a movie to analyze, then I think this one is good enough.
If you are inclined to society and its present day stress, you might have some insights from the movie.
If you are a psychologist, you will understand the movie well.
If you are a responsible parent, you might want to watch this movie alone just to understand how 'All is fair in love and war'.
Do not let your children watch this movie anytime till they turn 20.

So much of human psychology is involved in this movie that someone who is inclined to or knows some psychology will be able to rate it better than I did.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Perfectionism

Not that I expected that I will write this post today.... It came as a completely random thought yesterday on my mind. Just why are people so obsessive about being a perfectionist in one thing or the other in life..

While I admit that it is important to strive to live with a certain level of discipline and routine and perfection and policy and principle, I am just not able to understand why some people do not know to take it easy. Of course, as I write this post, I recall how many times I have been in the same place too.. So, now that I am writing this post you must understand that I have come out of that high-level of perfection for my own good.

This post is a general thought process on being a perfectionist.

The first time I heard this word was when I was in college. One of the seniors in my hostel corridor was literally yelling about a professor who irritates the class by his perfectionism. I did not understand, but did not want to add a little more oil to the already burning fire in her eyes. She was stressed beyond words. So quietly referred the dictionary and got the meaning correct. That was the first time I recollected how being a perfectionist can actually irritate some people as much as it adds credit to self.

As an engineering student, we used to have this class on Engineering Drawing where every millimeter in the drawing has to be perfect for this super-perfectionist professor we had. Although over the years I understood that a building drawing cannot be marked in incorrect measures even by a centimeter or Milli meter, the fact that it was 'just' a drawing class and this person was obsessed about getting all the points to the last millimeter correct irritated me and a lot of others, a lot. That said, we were forced to focus on perfection in the drawings and when I turned in my finished drawing sheet on the Engineering exam day, I felt good about the perfectionism. It was either the perfectionism gained in the drawing class or the practice for the exam- whatever worked, and I came out very successful in that exam. Here, perfectionism did stress me a lot, but did not irritate me; it was definitely necessary to get that good score in the examination.

The next three years of engineering class went on with some perfectionism issues between me and my professors. Always the professors wanted perfectionism and I walked around with the thought that ' Its not bad at all and its surely okay this way'. The final test on perfectionism was for my project report documentation where it was just too much to handle the minor, trivial, nano scale perfectionism issues. After all the hard work on the report, it was intolerable to hear about a missing comma or an extra dot somewhere in the document. I just did not get why people behaved like they work for a publication company when all I was doing was writing a college project report. The learning part did not sink in, what mattered the most was the botheration on being perfect. Direct stress on us and we did a good job finally.

Then came the work life... Here, there was almost always a manager who wanted everything to be perfect and almost always a lot of work load that usually tends to question you : Is that last check important or going home for a good night's sleep important?? Depending on the tiredness level, I choose one over the other and the results end up accordingly. I still hate being questioned for trivial things, while I fully well understand that these small things matter at work. I think most stress is because of sloppy planning and these last minute perfectionism demands.

This extends the same way in some people's houses too, I have seen. Eat at 8:00 P.M, sleep at 10:00 P.M, clean the house every Saturday even if you have an important function to attend, eat out every Sunday morning no matter what, attend a party every Friday, play till 6:30 only, study for three hours, watch television for 20 minutes only....

I agree some of these habits are good for children and it is important, but in some houses I see that the perfectionism delves too deep into the child psychology and disturbs the casual mind set that the child is entitled to have. I saw a five year old cleaning her play rack. When asked she said," I have to clean it every Saturday'. At five, this is too much. To some people this might seem a 'Wow' but I can see that this child might end up spending all her precious time in future cleaning up the house and if at all she gets stressed out in life, it will be only for this cause. Wonder why people don't understand that sometimes it is just okay for the play toys to be lying around in the house..

Stress levels increase because of some of these unwritten, imposed rules. Have strict rules at home and work, but put them in a way that the family and your subordinates do not feel it a 'Military' camp.

Why not think about taking trivial things the way they are and save the thoughts spent in stress for more important reasons. Thoughts are like money.. When you spend a lot for unimportant and unnecessary things, there will be no money left for important necessities.

You don't have to be perfect. Nobody is. And You cannot be perfect in everything, everyday, and time and again. That said, I don't mean you do not attempt to be perfect, but do not get obsessed with perfectionism in a way that it disrupts your inner peace and your family's happiness.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Improve the feel-good factor

Some quick and simple measures to improve the feel-good factor:

1. Smile when you see a baby, however occupied you are with your work or thoughts.

2. If something tastes nice, just say it.

3. Pray for someone other than yourself and see it work.

4. Spend at least a minute talking to old people or children each day.

5. Do not look at your watch at least one day in a week.

6. Allow yourself a break from your regular routine once in a while.

7. Say at least five 'Good morning' wishes every morning.

8. Read a quote every day and have your opinions on it.

9. Believe in any positive principle and stay close to it as much as you can.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Information Overload!!!!!

When I opened my eyes this morning, I thought my mind was reeling off a lot of thoughts. The thought that these thoughts could make a whole newspaper made me smile :) An instance of Information Overload was my first impression.

A newspaper according to me is usually characterized by small sized fonts and packed high-sounding words to convey simple subjects in a complex language; sometimes to make simple things complicated and to hype-up common place happenings.

Wonder why some old men have this habit of reading a newspaper from cover to cover. Their knowledge level is extremely high, I know, but still, is it required to know so much something when peace and quiet is what man needs the most? I fail to understand.

The story bits that talk facts are the ones that interest me. Ever since the first time I set my eyes on a newspaper I have never stopped wondering about how every bit of real estate in a news paper is packed to the borders with news.As a child, I had a strong dislike for close-spaced, nano-fonted text. Till date, I don't read books that have clouded text, however nice the book might be.

And wonder of wonders; there are Economic/Financial News papers, Metro news papers, national news papers, weekly editions of popular local news, and many other such compartmentalized news paper versions too. Wonder how there is so much of unique information in the world to write about. I salute!!!! the news world.

Later this afternoon, one of the popular news channel was screaming a lot of 'facts' : The German twins case, A child inside a bore well, A medical college ragging case, A rupee note garland issue, A cricketer not available to play for the next ten days, A Swamiji (a priestly person who has vowed to detach himself from the wordly pleasures and who preaches the presence of Divine) who broke people's trust....

And the news ticker kept flashing a lot of varieties of news - totally useless, definitely understandable, almost important, too noisy, very disturbing, and a mixed bag of all these varieties.

Too many incidents are happening in this extremely complicated society. No wonder the
newspapers are packed with cover-to-cover story bits. Some can be clearly called 'Gossip bits'. Some others can be safely placed under the category 'Essential Gossip bits'. These might be important because there are some aspects in life where 'Ignorance is no more a bliss'. It is equally important to note that some bits corner you into a state of being 'paranoid'.

My reeling mind clearly said : " Do not take in all these pointless gossip when you have a lot of interesting thoughts to be sorted out ". Suddenly the reel wheel stopped and clear mind became a priority.

In my opinion, it is good to read news columns that interest you and glance through the paper to see if any other gossip, that doesn't disturb you much, is printed there for you to read. If nothing, as is the case mostly these days, it is good to keep the news paper at bay' if not for anything else, at least to avoid the information overload. If you know to gauge the effect of what you are reading on your mind, you can read a paper, else, it is good to stop reading news papers.

Information overload in computers can cause the disks to crash. Information overload in the mind can cause the mind to stop functioning when it must. When the information is excess, you can find someone to talk to, write about it like I am doing, divert attention to something that you enjoy doing the most, or switch to an interesting television channel.

Your mind is not a trash can. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you keep your mind less heavy - Travel light in life!!!! I have decided to make my best effort to travel light.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

If its not yours, do not take it.....

If it is not yours, do not take it was the first moral science lesson we all would have learnt in our early childhood.

Here is an incident when this thought came back again.

My friend had troubled look on her face day before yesterday. When asked what was bothering her, she said, she was unable to find her wallet. Now, we all know that Wallet almost equals to a hold-all to most people. It had some cash ( thankfully minimal), a credit card, a debit card and an Insurance card. Enough reason to trouble one's mind and face. In a crowded bus, where she remembered taking out her wallet last, there was no hope to be able to trace it, ever. Without much delay ( thanks to her commonsense quotient) she called up the bank and blocked the cards.

When you lose something, you look and feel lost, more so, if it is your wallet; the most important, close to heart, best friend everywhere - because it has the cash and cards and also because it might be a gift from someone. This wallet was also a gift from her close friend. One more valid reason to be troubled, although no point.

That said, work was calling and we proceeded with what we were doing. I doubt my friend was able to focus on her work, but I could see that she gave up on the lost wallet, although did not want to let go of the thoughts about it. They say, such things take time to get over from.

The next day, she is all bright and happy and I see her Wallet with her.. Enough reason to understand her smiles that morning.:-) Lost and Found is a nice feeling... Well, I mean, 'Lost' is not, 'Found' is.. Once lost and Found later is wonderful. Obviously, we need to know how, else work day does not begin. :-) Office is nice place to be if and only if such exchanges happen.

The wallet had fallen off her bag in the bus, when she put it back inside after paying for her tickets. Someone found it at the end of the day when he was finishing work for the day. One last check in the bus found him this wallet. He had two choices - One to take the wallet with him and do nothing about it and Two, to find the address of the owner and return it.

While the former seems an obvious choice, this blessed person has chosen to find out more about how to get the wallet back to its owner. When he opened the wallet, he found three cards, one dry cleaner's bill with a phone number and a cheque from the Income tax department.[ To know what an it means to lose an IT returns cheque, you really have to lose it. No point in me trying to elaborate how difficult it might be to get it back.]

My friend had a call from this BMTC ( Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) worker the same night with the details. After she confirmed the address, she and her family had driven over to collect the wallet and to thank the worker. The old man's house was in one of the darkest narrowest lanes of the city. There was no power, so no one could see the other person's face clearly. After confirming the identity of the new comers the old man gave the wallet to my friend, with everything intact. My friend and her folks were amazed to note that there are such nice people in town even when all that was around them screamed that there was need for money. The BMTC worker stood very tall that evening in spite of his family's financial needs and demands that faced them.

My friend had blocked the cards, so the wallet's find would not be a big deal ( yes, I agree about the sentiment that it was a friend's gift, but other than that, there was nothing else binding her to the wallet with invalid cards) for her at that point, still the family drove to the worker's place just to look at the face of the voice that called her and to appreciate and thank the efforts.

It is important to note that in a world where all sorts of thefts are increasing, people like this old man are definitely a rare kind.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Are you out of your mind??

Yes, I am out of my mind..

Will be back in five minutes.

- From a T-shirt I read recently in the bus stop.

This quote made me smile and I hope it brought a smile on your face too. The next time you want to yell at someone with " Are you out of your mind??", just be prepared for one such response.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Stage fear - an interesting journey and discovery

In school, I was one of these calm, studious, supposedly outstanding students who was very scared to stand in front of a class and talk for a minute. I used to avoid all extempore sessions and speech contests. Tamil was my second language. It must have been a boring afternoon for my Tamil teacher, I thought, when she asked how many of us wanted to participate in a Tamil Debate. These questions used to freak me a lot, because, my name was for some reason on the list all the time and I used to refuse any way. That afternoon, my teacher just came over and showed me the list of selected candidates. My name figured in there and to some people in life, you just cannot say 'No'. It could be because you love them, respect them, adore them, admire them, are afraid of their temper, or all of the above. To me it was clearly respect and the temper aspects. So, I had to say 'Yes' to talk on the stage.

A lot of preparations followed. The team had one student from Class 8, Class 9, Class 10, Class 11, and Class 12. I was the first to speak because I was in Class 8. I still recall how I could not even eat properly that afternoon.. Made me think, why the school always had such high priority events only late afternoons. The tension waves were all over me, throughout the day. My friends made sure ( Those friends are the ones who can love you unconditionally..I was lucky to have a group like that... .) that they sat closest to the stage that day. The idea was for me to look at them and talk ( They promised not to giggle when I start talking...) and so I can speak coherently and get off the mike fast.

All set and the debate topic was announced and the participants introductions happened... to me, it seemed they happened too quick.. and even before I knew, I was standing in front of the whole school... About 1500 students is what I can recall now. One quick look around the school ground and I wanted to close my eyes and run off from the stage. I looked for my friends. The school games teacher who is usually in-charge of organizing the crowd in the ground had moved them around a little and I had no idea where they were. I was not able to start... Incidentally looked sideways and saw six faces smiling and one hand waving... They were all around and suddenly I felt a little better.. and my teacher's voice came from the stairs to the stage... Zapped back to reality, I started off. I had a rehearsed speech written on a piece of paper with me. I knew it was a debate and I had to face the crowd, but obviously you cannot look sidewards and argue :) So with no choice, I looked straight ahead of me ( thankful that all stages were always taller than the ground, so my line of sight was different from the audience's line of sight...) and continued to talk.

The next thing I knew was a loud applause from the audience and a tear drop waiting to spill out of my eye. Now, the worse thing, I thought then, about debates was having to sit on the stage even after you are done.. The other nine students finished their talk in forty minutes from then and after the wrap-up speech by both the team leads and the judge's decision, I stepped out of the stage exactly one hour later. For the first time, I smiled that day, when my friends came over to congratulate me. My team won, but for them it is their friend won and to me, I could finally get on stage and face a crowd.

There was a similar episode when I spoke in English for ten minutes, the first time on stage. English seemed tougher than Tamil because, ever since my first attempt on stage, Tamil speeches seemed easier. In my last term at school, I was pulled into a debate even without a prior notice. It came out very well and I thought I graduated in Tamil speeches in front of a large audience.

That said, my first ever speech after school was two months ago in a conference.. It was less than fifteen minutes. It was different set of friends and different modes of wishes and different set of audience and different level of magnitude this time, but the base fear was still there and I can call it 'Composed Stage Fear', but it was still there..

Last week, I had agreed for a class room session on a subject of my interest in an institute I love. I did not realize what I was getting into till I started preparing for the session, one day before the grand day. It was a grand day because it was my first ever lecture and first ever day long session. All the stories of my past stage experiences came flashing like a movie strip in my mind. What was common in all the speeches is that there were always good luck wishes from people, except that the people, the mode of wish were different every time. I knew it was getting me very tensed, but then I managed a smile. This time around, all the wishes were on the phone and email.. I did finally make that grand entrance to the lecture hall.

Although, at first glance, it seemed to me that it was a tough day to tide through, after the first three minutes of my class, I knew that I was going to be okay. Either that, or the very idea that, my student psychology guess turned out right. Every student wanted a field day from the usual class and my session could give them that thought. Whatever was the cause, I did get compliments that I never would have imagined when I gave my first speech. I consider this as my graduation speech.

I realized that teaching surely has something more than I thought it did. I salute the teaching community for all the strength, the speed, the confidence, the sincerity, the command, the understanding, the time management and the patience that the good teacher in them exhibits and continue to maintain throughout their career.

I also found out that the only way to stay young is to be in teaching profession. If I were to give a tag line for teaching profession, it might be: Get older, Get wiser, and Stay younger. From my first speech to the graduation speech, it has taken me 15 years time, but then, today, I can say that I know to talk and it is tough to hold an audience to the speaker throughout. I cannot boast of being a great speaker, but still, from where I was to where I have come to, I think, its been a good-enough progress. All thanks to the cheers from my friends and family for every speech session. There have been only six times in fifteen years that I got on stage and all the six times I was armed with wishes. So, my take here is when you are doing something that means a lot to you, just dial a friend or family member and take a nice cheerful wish, no matter how well or not well your preparation for the big day is. Well, do I also have to tell you that I took wishes from God as well?? I am sure you would know, I did.

I realized :

Good luck wishes and Prayers really work :) and they work for people who want them to
work.

What once seemed impossible can really become possible with a little encouragement, an appreciation, good preparation, lot of cheers, some good wishes and one word of prayer.

It is always one person or one moment or one thought or one word that initiates any effort. For me, it was my Tamil teacher who (back then, as I used to say) "forced" me to win today. The potential she saw in me back then, I felt, when I walked out of the lecture hall.

You could be the catalyst that helps to bring out some one's potential.

It is always nice to come out of a fear that you thought you'd never be able to.

Don't miss the next chance you get to help someone ease their fear.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Exam fever!!!!

Summer has begun early in Bangalore this year. It was a bright early summer morning.It was a crowded bus. I was thankful to have found a seat. Yes, the seat is important because it is difficult to travel for the next forty five minutes as a standee in a crowd of school kids, college students, office goers, the conductor who manages to walk around as if he is in a quiet garden enjoying a breeze.

I think, till I get to do that role for an hour, I wont get the idea of elbowing my way through a hundred people approximately, in a crowded bus on a hot summer morning. [ As an aside, did you know that the maximum permissible capacity in a passenger bus is 50+ 20 standees?? and our buses squeeze in many more people than that??]

This is totally out of range here, still could not help expressing it....

When I sat back to relax, I saw this bright ( she was wearing a white uniform and this attracts me any day) school student reading from a note book. Must be for an exam, I thought. I fell for her handwriting in the notebook and was reminded of my own once very neat and legible handwriting. Well, they say, do not dwell in the past!!! So I switched my attention to her again. She had no clue where the bus was, of the road blocks, of the person sitting next to her... to put it short, she was totally lost in her world of subject matter. Clearly she was doing her last minute glance of some subject that is complex ( confusing, pointless, long winding, boring - it can be all of these when you are in school ) for her. I smiled... All of us have been there, done that... totally understanding senior I felt!!!!!
She looked tensed.... Is this an exam fever?

'Oh God.. I know I am late today.. Hey, the first hour is Social studies, Am sure she is not going to let me in...You know what, I'll just get back home after signing in the late register at the school gate'.. At this quiet conversation that was going on behind me, I turned to see another white uniformed teen, all worried. I looked at the traffic block and looked at her and then asked her what time she was supposed to be in class. She said, in another ten min. She had been studying late the previous night for a preparatory test and had some relatives visiting as well. In all, her morning started ten minutes late than usual and here she was caught in THE BANGALORE TRAFFIC JAM. Impossible to reach school on time. Impossible to get in late because the school did not allow late comers. Impossible to give the exam.
She looked tensed.... Is this an exam fever?

My attention turned to this totally incomprehensible string of letters brightly printed on a glazed hard cover book. There was a color picture of a human heart drawn on the cover. From whatever minimum I remember from my Class eight science book, I could say that it was a heart and that the other lines I saw in the cover must be arteries and veins and valves. The fingers that turned the book was very tensed!!!! Yes, I could sense the tension in the finger movements. It was easy to guess that she was a doctor, doing her Masters in some discipline that had this complex heart disease related subject for a course. The book was beautifully done, with a lot of scan and x-ray prints in color along with sections of the heart too. I was sitting at a fair distance, so it didn't scare me much, but I did wonder if reading about all of these would create a little extra pressure to the already hard-working human heart.
She looked tensed too... Is this an exam fever?

I was very happy to step out of the bus that day because I could not take the exam fever any more.

Later that evening my friend called up from her college. She is doing her Masters in one of the medical colleges in India. When asked what she was doing, she said, "Exam preparation.. I have my finals in two months.. I am studying." When we continued on that topic, I finally could sense the same tension in her voice.... It was exam fever.

On the papers, in the television, on the road, in the bus, on the phone, in the temple, wherever you go, whatever you do, you will surely happen to hear this word : EXAM and the frequency is higher in Summer, because in India, all academic terms, the decision-making school/college terms get over in Summer only. So far, there has been no medicine for this recurring fever. Will the academic boards, parents, and teachers think about the excessive tension created on exam days?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

An Award Marched in today

March 1 was important because I finished six years in writing....

March 2 secured a rank in my professional diary because one of my writing-related articles got published in a news letter.

I am still not out of the silent joy that these two thoughts bring me, when I see this award from Nishita :

Thanks a tonne, Nishita.

Today, I want to pass this on to my blogger friend SG at http://sowmyagopal.blogspot.com for her high-frequency blogging about varied experiences. She is just over a year old in blgospot and has contributed so much to her circle and her folks.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Explore, Experiment, Evaluate, Excel

Last Friday, I had a chance to attend a meeting with a few teachers, students and technical writers. It had something to do with introducing technical writing in the universities and I went there just to know where the initiative was headed.

One of the speakers holds the position of Vice President, Asia Pacific Region, in a renowned software organization. As always, I was not too keen on the designation of the speaker. The talk was casual and nice to listen to and he knew to keep the audience interested. I love to listen to interesting speeches, so I was enjoying the hour. Sometime mid-way he remarked about how he started off his career as a primary school teacher.

My thoughts stopped right there.

Suddenly, the designation seemed to shine bright on the stage. A primary school teacher has climbed up the corporate ladder in 38 years span of time. Although 38 years is a good period to achieve this position in a career ladder, I think to start off in teaching career and move up to VP of a whole geography in a software organization, that's the size of a whole empire in software industry, takes a very different capability.

If I were not rushing to board a bus that evening, and if I had known about his background before the session, I would have liked to manage a quick interview with this person and find out about the various hair-pin bends he had to survive to reach the peak that he is currently in.

I still think, the base of his career stance today would have been :

The courage to explore a new avenue
The curiosity to experiment and learn as much as possible
The capability to evaluate the available options in a given area of interest
The determination to stay committed to 'giving the best' and excel

Some people have a lot of ability, but do not dare to explore beyond their current domain or zone of work, just because of the so-called 'practical difficulties'. Agreed, that practicalities are important, but it is also possible that you can consider practicalities and take a calculated chance within your limits, to explore career interests outside your current one, if you would like to.

There is no point in saying I want to be a millionaire without believing that you can find fair means to get there. There is no point in ruling out options without ever making an attempt to think positive about it.

Rome was not built in a day, they say, so is any one's circle, riches, inner peace and confidence. They all take time to build up.

The minimum investment required is 'Time' to believe and think and explore and experiment and evaluate.. Excellence is usually the outcome of all these plus commitment to give your best and Success can be as forceful as a volcanic 'Fall out'. If that does not sound nice enough, let me rephrase, success can be as gentle and soothing as the soft drizzle in a hill station on an autumn morning.

It was a nice learning that day and I have laid it out for you to think. I am thinking about it... and all those who know me, surely know that.

Monday, March 01, 2010

My writing turns six years today!!!!!!

Happy 6th birthday to my writing experience. This day, in year 2004, I took a chance to join this new ( I had not heard of it till then, so it was new to me) field called 'Content Development' in a start-up company in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.

Now, a hard-core crazy computer programmer that I was, back in college, I could not even think of spending time writing anything except emails and letters. I have always loved writing letters and emails, but writing in any other form was something I could not relate to, until that February day when someone talked me into 'trying' to write technical stuff. I bought the idea because, I believe there is always a way to say things and this person put it forward very nicely to me : Just give it a shot, if you do not like it, walk out!! As simple as that!!!! And in this profession, you cannot stay if you don't like it. So, just take that chance for sometime, till you find a programming job that matches your interest.

The next day, I uploaded my resume on one of the job sites and expressed interest in 'Content Development'. I was not really hoping for recruitment calls from anyone, because 1. I am not an English graduate. 2. I have some experience reading fiction and writing long essays for my engineering exams; that's about my language experience. 3. I can speak good English, but I cannot use high-sounding words, which most writers do. 4. I am not a total techie; I believe in learning when it interests me and do not believe in being a knowledge bank in all computer-related areas, although I am a computer science student. 5. The big point: I am a fresher and who really cares to give a job to a fresher and help her learn? At least till then no one cared, except for campus recruitment and for this field, no biggie did campus recruitment.

So, I was convinced that I can just go back my town and relax. I was sure no one was going to call and I did apply because I wanted to give some value for the time this guide of mine spent talking to me. I reached home after five hours of travel. I still remember how my home phone rang, just as I came in. I picked up to hear a consultant's voice and she asked me to come over for an interview to Chennai the next morning at 10:00 A.M. I had not even put down my travel bag and just did not want to leave immediately without asking details. So, asked questions about the prospective job. She convinced me to try and I said, 'Yes'. Had lunch and packed off in the next fifteen minutes back to Chennai.

Now, if this does not mean anything to you, let me tell you, it does mean a lot to someone who has been trying to attend interviews and convince the recruiters that she can learn Java if they recruit her. The software world was not ready to believe that I could learn a new language and I did not believe in joining a course to learn a new language. We were in this battle for about ten months that February and I was still searching for a job that would suit me and my recruiter.

The next morning, I walk into this start-up company and I had three rounds of interview. I told them, I am 'giving it a shot' knowing fully well that I might lose the chance if my recruiter thinks that I am not showing commitment. I still did, because, I did not want to make them believe that I am interested in the profession, without even knowing anything about writing. I told them I learnt about the profession just the day before from some and I did not know the meaning of technical writing or content writing or instructional design until then. The only strong statement I remember apart from 'giving it a shot' was this : I am willing to learn and see if it works for me. I will not step out mid-way in between assignments.

I am not too sure, but I think apart from the tests, these statements must have fetched me the job. I got a call, the same evening that I can join on 1st March 2004.

March 1st 2004, I started off with a lot of new hopes and curiosities into this field of writing. This day, that year, I had no clue that :

I'll meet some interesting people with whom I'll get to stay in touch six years later...
I'll delve into writing so much and make it my career choice...
I'll do that guide talk and instill writing interest in people at a later date...
I'll learn so much patience in life...[ well, for those of you who think, I am impatient, say thanks to my writing, that my impatience is manageable, at least I wont yell at you if you say, I am very impatient..... for those of you who think, I can never lose patience, say thanks to my writing experience.. If you write, you can also learn some patience.. Oh, please believe one who has tried it!!!! ]
I'll own something called a blog space and write about everything and nothing to balance my professional and personal writing thoughts.
I'll see this day as a senior writer in one of the good software companies in the country.
I'll see six years in the field of writing.

When people have seen ten and thirty and many more years in a given industry, I know six years is very less, still, for all the interesting experiences, people, learning, pay cheque, confidence, and overall development that this profession has given me - someone who did not even know the meaning of technical writing - I think six is quite a good number.

All thanks to my first employer in the start-up company who trusted my confidence to learn; if not for their belief, I would not known that I can write.
All thanks to all my near and dear ones in the professional and personal circle who have helped me see this day.
All thanks to the guide who got me into believing the idea of writing as a career choice.
All thanks to the editor who rooted my thoughts strongly into writing with some comments that really did matter.
All thanks to my family who stand by me, whether or not they understand my profession.
All thanks to God, who knows all of the above.

For those who are still students, I strongly suggest that you just believe it when someone says, "You can do it". It has always worked for me when someone boosts my confidence levels, because that's all it took me to see this day and I am grateful to all the people who crossed my way and who have been around and are still around to encourage me. Just believe it and you will see for yourself, where it can take you.

What is permanent??

Permanent is one word in English Dictionary that probably needs a revision. The Pink Frock, The Sapphire stash, The athlete win, The m...