Monday, November 12, 2012

Diwali

The next couple of days are going to be pretty busy for me. Its the most important festive season and both the celebrations and prayers are long. Hopefully, I will have something more to write about the next time. Until next time then.

May the Gods bless you and the season light up your life. :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Partiality?


A neighbor in his late sixties expired today.

A Diwali meet was going on in my complex when the news came to us. It was around 8:30 PM and most people were finishing their dinner. An unanimous decision was made by all the adult residents to suspend the planned events and call it a night.

The parents didn't want their young kids to know what had happened. So no public announcement about the death was made. The only news that the young one's heard was that there would be no tambola games organized tonight.

A group of these boys came up to one of the uncles standing next to me and asked him the reason for this 'wrong' decision. Uncle was caught between the devil and the deep sea - He didn't want to interfere in the decision of the parents but on the other hand the kids wouldn't budge if they didn't get an answer.

He tried to ignore the matter by saying that the decision had been taken by all elders and that the decision was final.

One kid made a very innocent but just objection - "You have to tell us the reason uncle. It's not fair. Why can all the girls know about the reason, but not us boys?"

All the young girls new about the death. One of them had overheard a few elders talking among themselves about it. And the word had spread like wild fire. However, there was an unsaid understanding between the girls that no boy should know. Unable to control themselves, one of the girls had taunted some guys about their lack of 'knowledge'.

The boys were not hurt because their parents hid the information from them. What they couldn't accept was that how come the parents didn't tell them, when they had already told the girls.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Important advice

I thought long and hard about a topic today, but just didn't feel like writing much. So I thought I'd share an article that I really liked.

22 Executives Share The Best Advice They Ever Received

The article is interesting because it contains advice from some of the modern day business rock stars. Its practical and it comes from the horse's mouth.

I read it often. However, how much of it I have actually imbibed, I am not sure!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The friendship that I miss (Part 1)



I have made many good friends in my life. But somehow, nobody has even come close to the bonding I had with this one special friend of mine – let’s call him John for anonymity’s sake.

He was one of the first friends I made when I shifted to my new school. Within 2 months of joining that school, we had become the best of friends.

We were almost inseparable. We were in the same class in school and most of our time after school was spent together. It was around the time we had read the story of Damon and Pythias. For our common friends, we were the living embodiment of the legendary friends.

We used to play all the games together. We used to fight with people or stop talking to people just because the other person had a fight with this third person.

We used to share all kinds of thoughts and ideas – in their unedited form – literally speaking our minds. Without the usual censoring that people do when speaking in front of other people. We even talked about things that we were afraid or ashamed of talking about in public.

We used to share our joys and help each other in our pains. Whenever his parents were worried about his studies or his behavior, they used to ask me to talk to him and to make him understand - they thought I could most influence John.

My parents had more trust in him than they had me. They found him more mature and level headed. Even if he used to ask for permission for things not permitted for me, he was never denied it. The feeling was the same when it came to his parents and me.

In many ways, we seemed to be facing similar kinds of problems in our lives.

He was my go to man for almost any problem. He was also the guy who felt happier than me when something good happened to me.

Normally guys are not known to talk much with other guys on the phone. However, we have spent hours talking on the phone even after having spent the entire day together.

When I called him, often I used to spend more time talking to his maid and his mom, than I did talking to him. Even our moms chatted a lot with each other.

He was the one who gave me my first drink because he thought it was insane that I hadn’t even tasted liquor till then.

We even fell for the same girl in school – Sara for the sake of the story. In such situations, what you would normally expect is that it would mean trouble for our friendship. And we did fight a lot, but to convince the other person to not feel guilty, and instead propose the girl first! That experience made me realize how important our friendship was to the both of us.

Eventually, when I decided to go ahead and approach the girl, I was feeling sad on the one hand for the possible heart break of my dear friend. On the other hand, I was obviously feeling exhilarated.

I never for once thought that I had a chance with the girl. Although, I was in for a surprise - she accepted!

A week after the event, I and all of my friends went to another friend’s house to celebrate. As we were about to leave her home, John accosted Sara and me and told us that he wanted to make a disclosure. He told her that he had liked her for a long time but now that Sara and I were dating, he did not want to leave and potential for misunderstanding between us. So he wanted her to know about his feelings and that he would now try to get over her. John said that, for him, his friendship with me was very important and he could not let anything come between me and him.

Both Sara and I were shocked! I had never expected it. But after I recovered from the initial reaction, I was very proud of my best friend. My respect for him grew manifold. How many people had the guts to do such a thing?

But such were his ways. He was the most wonderful person that I knew then and probably one of the most wonderful people I have ever known.

To be continued... (One story is too small for me to describe our friendship)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fear of the future



A few days back, I was faced with a tricky situation. I was having a conversation with my dad and one of his business partners. 

Uncle – as I usually called his business partner – wanted to know what plans I had for the future. I explained to him that I was still trying to understand my interests and passions, but I was certain that I wanted to get an MBA education from one of the top business schools in the world.

Unknown to me, his son was preparing for engineering entrance exams for colleges in India. Tired of the immense amount of hard work required to get the scored required for a good enough college, he had recently given up preparing itself. His idea of higher education now revolved around giving the SAT and aiming for a university in the United States.

Parents in India are often scared about sending their kids to the US for undergraduate studies. According to them, the influence of the west has already started ruining the morals of the younger generations. They feel that if their child were to study in America in those formative years, he would grow so enchanted with the country and its preference for instant gratification, that he would settle down there itself. They however think that since we are more mature when we go for our masters, we might be able to take a more ‘sensible’ decision.

Parents don’t want their kids settling down in a foreign country, far from the Indian culture. And most of them think that the institution of family has degraded completely in the western world. As a result, relationships in the west have become more about momentary pleasures and less about loyalty and dedication. And the media does highlight this often enough, even going to the extent of proclaiming that weak family ties might be the main reason for high rates of depression in the West. Parents don’t want their kids to imbibe such values.

Uncle was discussing the pros and cons of studying in the US and I could provide him with many pros – better quality of education, greater flexibility, experiential learning, greater emphasis on innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. It is my belief that had I studied in such a conducive environment, I would have retained my love for technology and maybe even entered the field of research. At least, given the kind of options that would have been available, there were greater chances of me finding my true passion.

I tried to assuage his fears by explaining all this to uncle. I told him that his values would hold his son in great stead and that he shouldn’t worry so much. Uncle wanted me to talk to his son and help him with his decision making process. However, I had no answer to uncle’s single most important albeit rhetorical question – “If he goes to the US, isn’t there a chance he might never come back?”

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Actions do speak louder than words!


Like any normal working day, I went to meet my friends late in the evening. We planned to have coffee at Café Coffee Day. Nothing so unusual about it.

While ordering our cuppas, the waiter requested us to donate some money for the Mid-Day Meal Program implemented by Akshaya Patra. I politely declined.

Don’t get me wrong, I like working for social causes. But I have a genuine distrust of these intermediary based donation schemes. Just by putting up a donation box or asking for some donation from you for a charity, they earn lots of brownie points. I always wonder why they don’t donate money themselves by giving a percentage of their earnings to the charities and therefore actually do a good deed. Lets not forget the doubts about whether the donated money actually reaches the people who need it.

We returned to our seats and continued our conversations. In time, our respective drinks also arrived. Our evening continued on as planned.

After a while, a few child beggars came outside the café and started staring through the glass walls with a longing look. We, in India, are so used to such scenes that I doubt many people even noticed the kids. Before I even registered their presence, I saw one of the waiters come forward with a bunch of cookie packets and give them to the beggars. I was stunned and humbled. Not often do you see such generosity.

I don’t know who paid for those cookies and neither do I care. The workers at that particular franchisee of CCD, and in turn the organization, had earned a significant amount of respect in my eyes with that small act of kindness. I not only saw people preaching others to do some good, but also saw them practice what they preached.

I went to the bill counter and gave them some money for the donation. I believed now that maybe the money would be put to good use. I thanked the workers for what they had done and came back to my friends to continue on with a day that didn’t seem so normal anymore. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Its a fantastic world!



The world of video games and movies is very inviting. Within a few minutes, it can transfer you to a parallel fantasy universe. In that universe, you could be what you want to be and do whatever you feel like doing.
You could be some magical creature or a murderous villain. You could be a footballer like Cristiano Ronaldo or a superhero like Batman. You could be a handsome guy like Tom Cruise or the svelte beauty like Salma Hayek. You could live out your childhood fantasy by becoming the boy who lived or you could rule several kingdoms. You could kill many people and you could yourself have several lives.
The world of make believe offers you many such options. It is an invention like no other. Some say it has many of the effects of recreational drugs. While some others say that it could be therapeutic. For some people it is a means for entertainment and relaxations. For many others, it’s a respite from this cruel unforgiving world.
I think it has its pros and cons. If used properly, it delights and inspires. I myself am a huge fan of movies. However, the problem is that it usually ensnares those people who are most easily susceptible – the kids and the youngsters.
With the growing amount of competition and a dog-eat-dog world, the young have too much pressure to bear. Much more than many of us have had to bear in all of our lives. The over active media and hyper competitive parents are bombarding the kids with statistics and expectations, maybe more than these kids can handle. More and more kids are falling prey to depression or suicidal tendencies. Even the physical and physiological growth of kids is getting affected. Kids are attaining puberty as early as the age of six or seven.
In such a scenario, it’s very easy for them to get lost in the comfortable and easy world of fantasy.
The challenge before us is to show to the kids that the real world is much more fantastic.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

London Dreams



People often ask me which city I would like to live in. I have tried to come up with an answer to that question. But so far, I have not had much success. Honestly, I think I have seen too little of the world to be making a judgment as significant as this.
Among the cities in India that I have lived in – Calcutta, Bombay and Bangalore – I personally would prefer living in Bombay. The city has a life of its own. The atmosphere there is electric and the people of the city are in general non-intrusive. Whenever I enter that city, I get a strong feeling that I belong. The salty smell omnipresent in the city is a distinct characteristic and gives me a weird sense of comfort. The city does have a dark side, as was dramatized in the novel Shantaram, but overall the city has an aspirational undercurrent and is often called the City of Dreams.
There are so many cities I would love to see around the world – New York, Paris, Venice, Sydney, Hong Kong – the list is literally endless. Many of these cities are fabled and oft romanticized. Holywood and English music has an indulgent streak as far as New York is concerned. In fact, the song Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z makes me want to jump on a plane and head straight to the city. However, London is the city which holds a special place in my heart as of now.
I spent my last summer vacation in the United Kingdom. I had gone there with my parents and my younger brother. We drove around most of England and Scotland. It was an out of this world experience to say the least. It made me realize why so many great authors and poets found inspiration in these lands. The rolling green grasslands were beautiful and rejuvenating. The weather was very kind. All in all, it was the best vacation of my life.
I don’t have any specific reason why I love London so much. But that is because there are far too many of them. The amount of sheer variety in the people, cultures, food, attractions, etc. is dazzling. I would go so far as to say that nobody could possibly get bored in London for lack of things to do. Although, I am not too sure about the solemn winters there! The winters are supposed to be painful. Anyways, there was so much to see and so much to do in the city, we were overwhelmed. And because my family has a large breadth of interests, we didn’t know which places to leave out. The weather was perfect for roaming the streets on foot. The days were long – nightfall happened around 930 PM! And we tried to make the most of it. Even then we didn’t have the time to go to some of the most ‘popular’ places like the Buckingham Palace or the Ripley’s Museum! The city was crowded in preparation for the pending Olympics, but yet every person who used to catch our glance would always smile back. We stayed with friends who were the most gracious hosts we could hope to have. The experience was beyond amazing. I would like to spend at least a few months in the city.
Even my family shared my feelings. My dad said that if we couldn't plan for some other place for vacations, we could always spend a few weeks in London.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friends



Its always a wonder to me how easily friends make a place in your heart. Meeting new people and getting to know them excites me. It’s such a joy to have close friends.

We spend so much of our time with our friends. They make us smile, and yet they have the power to make us cry. They are our partners in crime, and sometimes they are our moral anchors. They criticize us when necessary, but never do they judge us. A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same. They multiply our happiness and share our pain. Where would we be without our friends?

It hurts a lot when you drift apart from a friend. However, if your bond is strong, the quality of your friendship won’t be decided by the amount of time you spend together. Rather, it will depend on whether you care for each other.

In the recent past so many friends have moved away from my city. The city appears so different now. I reminisce often about the great times I spent around town with my friends and it always brings a smile to my face. However, it’s a sad smile.

I often wonder how life would be like if all of my friends would be with me here and if no one would have drifted away. I envy the people who have lived their entire lives in the same house and have had the same friends since they were small kids. I often wish I had lived a similar life. But then I realize that if it were really so, I would have remained confined to a limited few friends. I would never have got the chance to meet so many amazing people in my life.  And then I realize that I am blessed. I am blessed because I have so many great friendships. And I can never thank God enough for them.