Sunday, December 26, 2010

Everything is Kung-fu !!!

I saw a beautiful movie yesterday - "The Karate Kid 2010" which stars Jackie Chan and Will Smith's son-Jaden Smith.

What captured my imagination was how the movie has managed to capture the subtle intricacies of Kung-Fu. There is an instance in which Jackie Chan says "Everything is Kung-Fu". This one phrase has captured the essence of Taoism,Zen and Hinduism. In Taoism, the only reality that exists is the present moment. And to live fully and focus completely in the present moment is salvation itself. Zen itself means waking up to the present moment. In Hinduism, Karma-Yogam or "yoga through action" elucidates that verily the work or activity we do "now" is worship itself. In other words, whatever we do should be done as worship. It also goes one step further and says that the result is not the ultimate aim.This has also been captured in a beautiful Zen phrase "The reward is not in the destination. The reward is in the journey itself".And to focus one-pointedly on the present moment requires a still and a calm mind. All forms of martial arts and meditation practices ultimately aim to achieve this. Many western self-help books also extol the importance of living completely in the present moment and doing one thing at a time.

There is a beautiful Zen story wherein, a young man finds an old monk picking weeds from a garden. He sees him doing this same "mundane" routine everyday. He grows curious and asks the old monk as to what he is doing. The old monk says " I am picking weeds" and then the young man asks "For how long will you do this"? The old monk replies with a smile " As long as there are weeds in this garden". A simple story with a profound and deep inner meaning.

This is also from a very practical perspective: complete attention and love to the task at hand results in perfection. At the same time results of the action may not always be in our hands.We can only perfect the effort we put in the task at hand. So the only thing to do is to do what we do in the best possible way without worrying about the result. In fact the same principle applies to not just work, but to every action we do and that includes every moment of our existence.If we can live by this principle every moment,then whatever we do and everything we do becomes kung-fu !!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mother knows best

My dad told me recently - "I as a father has been mostly concerned with the whats of your life. What to get, where to put you etc. managing finances etc. But it has been entirely your mother who has made you into what you are, cause it is she who made you learn the hows of life. My mom did the same too"

Mothers have vision and that is something which has been proved time and again in everybody's life. God created mother as he wanted to make sure he is there to demonstrate His selfless love through a form. And every mother is an epitome of Godly love. Many religions worship God in the motherly aspect as the Divine mother who watches over all of us.

But there is always a problem, we sometimes never understand that mother knows and does certain things with a reason. I very recently realized my mother's vision. I never knew it was one of the most important things she did. In fact whatever I am today, I realize has been because of her vision and foresight.

My mom is an excellent math teacher. She has been teaching students for over 2 decades now. However when I was in school, whenever I used to go ask her help with some problem be it math or science or even tussle with my friends, she will say "Try to figure it out by yourself and if I find time I will help you". Most times she could never find time and I used to sit all by myself trying to solve the problem with a lot of cribbing that my mom could not find time for me. I became and expert at sitting and hitting my head over a problem, even if I could not solve it. Eventually I could solve it.I did score good marks and I sometimes used to boast to my mom that it has all been my effort. She used to sometimes give me a problem and ask me to solve it. She used to say "I know the answer, but I want to know if there is a better way". It never occurred to me as to why she did all that. I used to crib "You don't help me solve my problem and you give me more though you know the answer also". But then I would sulk and nevertheless try to solve it. I used to play cricket with friends in my colony and there would be bet matches with neighboring colony people and whenever I brought an issue to her, she would say "That's your problem, you must find a way to adjust and play with them. Either do that or you stop playing cricket. All this while my dad used to observe me and keep a studied silence or may be give a knowing smile.I could not keep away from cricket though, so I learnt to adjust with all those bullies".

Then I came to University and study computer science and there again independent problem solving and the tenacity to sit over a problem was one of the key requisites. I could sit easily(even if I could not solve the problem)and people used to appreciate my tenacity. Many of my friends used to get irritated that even if they tried to tell me the solution, I would still want to try solving it. A most common phrase they used was "Stop grabbing the keyboard from me". There has been times where I might not get a simple problem but would insist that I solve it rather than look up at a reference or ask a friend. I used to wonder why I was like that.

Even in life situations, whenever I told my mom about an issue, she would say "Nobody can deal with your problem, better than yourself. Besides do not repeat the same mistakes. She used to get particularly irritated if I repeat mistakes or if I have not behaved like a gentleman. She used to say "May be others can do the same, but not my son. I don't want you to be like that. If ever I come to know that you have compromised on your integrity, then that will be the last day you will speak to me. And she used to insist that I apologize to people whenever mistake was on my side ". When I used to turn to me dad, he used to give me the same knowing smile or be a silent witness depending on the gravity of the situation. It was like"I could not agree more with your mom". I used to wonder why my mom is being particularly strict with me. In addition to my problem, she used to add this extra bit too. And my dad was giving me that knowing smile or keeping that studied silence always.

Recently my mom posed a math problem to me and said "If you want I will give you the final answer. Just figure out the approach. I said no don't tell me the answer, I will try to figure it out. And then when I called up my mom and told her :"Mom I am not sure but is this the answer,she asked me the steps and then my mom told me:" I knew you would one day become better than me. I am proud of you". And then I realized...All this while she had been nurturing me to grow into an independent problem solver. Not only that in making me face up alone to life problems, she was teaching me the art of living. Today when I look at whatever little I have accomplished in life, whenever I try to sit that extra hour, try going that extra mile, face up to adversity, or apologize to my friends for mistakes, I realize that it has all been because my mom trained me that way. Tenacity, independent problem solving, perseverance, facing adversity without compromising values are virtues which every management schools talks about. Those are qualities required for any profession. Those are life skills and my mom knew whats best for me.
I now understand the meaning of my dad's "knowing smile or his studied silence". He knew it all along that my mom was teaching me life skills.

So the next time you think you mom is saying something which does not make sense to you and your dad simply smiles or becomes a silent witness.Think again. Because "Mother knows best".

Proud of you mom. Proud of you dad.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A life without failures is like a poem without punctuations!!!

Failure - now that's a dangerous word sometimes makes us feel chill and we keep running to make sure we avoid failure at all costs. I too like all mortals has been like that. Saari umr ham mar mar ke jee liya har pal tho ab hamen jeene dho jeene dho(that's a lyric from a song in 3 idiots). Implies all our life we die to keep living !!!!In the process we keep accelerating with the brakes clenched tight. We are afraid to let go. We are afraid of losing.Result is burnouts!!!

Of late I have realized that it is the failures in life which has taught me a lot. Without it I would never know who I actually am rather than mere perceptions about me. It is like a litmus test.
Every failure is an opportunity to know oneself better and more importantly correct mistakes. Failures help us evolve into better and stronger beings. Failures help us grow. You cannot be a good singer if you always sing a simple song you know well !!!

Just like the toss of a coin yields 1/2 sides so does every action yield a success or a failure.
Success does not matter cause anyway it gives a good feel. But what happens is success is also a loss in one way. A person who has been successful always runs a huge risk. He has not learnt to deal with failure. I found this by my own experiences. Success is definitely an imposter and it makes us chicken out and always play defensive. I guess failure is more honest cause it tell you the truth on your face and whip you. But only a torn muscle shapes better :)

How do we treat failure?

Let me share a personal experience.
When I was in school, we used to play cricket with just a bat and a cricket ball. No guard nothing whatsoever. I used to be a fast bowler and was a pretty good one down batsman as well.There was this guy called yusuf who was one of the fastest and the best of us. I would always look for opportunity to avoid Yusuf more out of mortal fear. I used to make sure that I defend the last ball of the over previous to Yusuf's so that I stay at the other end and every opportunity for a single I used miss for fear of Yousuf. One day it so happened that I had to unfortunately take a single the last ball of the previous over and I did not know Yusuf was to bowl next. A chill ran down my spine when I saw this guy coming to bowl. For some reason grit overcame fear. That moment I clenched my teeth to face him cause either I hit out or get out. What happened was history. I had an estimate of where he pitches and it usually was just short of length. I played it on the up and hit the first six anybody has hit of Yusuf. Everyone was taken aback for nobody had ever hit him for a six. He came back with vengeance with a bouncer. I smashed it for a four. And then on I was always looking forward to face Yousuf. Best is it changed me from being a defend sheet anchor batsman to be a hit out or get out guy :) from Dravid to Veeru in a single six.

The most important thing to understand is no success or failure is permanent. And success in something or failure in something does not mean we succeed or we fail in life. Never take it personally. All of us are winners in the final reckoning...always!!!The key is to take every failure as an opportunity to analyse what went wrong and take impersonal logical steps to correct it. We must have the attitude of an impartial witness. I do agree that sometimes we fail due to no fault of ours. Then it is time to just let go.

Life is a 20-20 match. Instead of sitting in the bench for fear of facing Shoaib Akthar, lets go and bat right in opening. Face the Shoaib akhtar of life, you never might hit a six like Harbhajan, even if you are clean bowled how does it matter is better to be bowled for a duck than to never bat at all !!!

I remember the lyrics of a superb song in "Kal Ho na Ho" by Sonu Nigam....
Har ghadi badal rahi hai roop zindagi Chhaaon hai kabhi kabhi hai dhoop zindagi Har pal yahan jeebhar jiyo Jo hai sama kal ho naa ho
translates to=> the clocks is running and constantly life to the never know if there is a tomorrow...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Blissful Sweeper

Most of us have a lot of complains in our life, and most often it is about the quality of work we do.
We crave for 'self-actualization'. It is true that creativity is an inherent potential of the brain and the need for intellectual satisfaction is a basic necessity. But then we go on about our work in a drag drag fashion sometimes wondering if we chose the wrong profession.

The below phenomenon which I see everyday really changed my view of life and work.
Hopefully my dear readers too will have a fresh new look.

Everyday as I go for my morning jog towards the Koramangala park, I see a section of the pavement being swept by a sweeper. He always sweeps only about 10-15 feet. I jog on the left side of the road and generally avoid him. The reason is I always hear him sing out aloud and took him to be insane. But I used to look casually towards his end and may be give him a glance of pity!!! Yesterday morning, I took the right side of the road, just for a change and I actually forgot I was heading headlong in the direction of the 'insane' sweeper!!!

And then I came right to the place where he sweeps. It was too late by the time I realized I had reached right in front of him. I expected a resounding trash from a broom from an insane sweeper. But I was astounded by what I saw.Here was a completely sane man, singing away to glory and sweeping each step with complete bliss. And I think I reached as he was just finishing the section. And when he completed the last stroke, he raised his arms with the broom in hand and claimed glory, as if he was Alexander who had just won a battle.

I will never forget this though, he then looked at me and gave me a beaming smile. I was reminded of a quote by Elizabeth Kubler Ross which says

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

I could definitely see the inner light beaming through his face. I felt ashamed for having thought of him as insane. Here was a saintly sweeper who though he swept just 10-15 feet was doing it blissfully everyday with complete enthusiasm, taking the concept of "work is worship" to a new high. I think he was experiencing "nirvana" in every sweep with no care for tomorrow but with full focus on "now".

This phenomenon shows how we keep complaining about life taking everything for granted and lead a drag-drag existence. The below snippet from lyrics of the title song of the movie
"Dhoom-2" says it all....

Dhoom again 'cos all I wanna do
is steal the show somehow
Dhoom again 'cos all i wanna say
is hey the time is now
let nothing get you down
go out and paint the town
let's shout break out
come on once again lets hear it
Dhoom machale....

So lets make every act in life an act of celebration, every work a worship...
Dhoom machale...dhoom machale dhoom.....

Friday, May 07, 2010

Decision Making

Decisions, decisions, decisions, something which makes us really wonder as to why there are so many choices in life, something which reminds us that we are blessed enough to have so many choices in life,something which makes us curse ourselves(bad decisions), something which makes us heave a sigh of relief(good decisions).

All of us have been at cross roads in life, may it be life decisions or career decisions,
decisions certainly shape our future, our life and yes decisions definitely define us.
And it is because decisions have such impact on our life that we are really really scared about making decisions. But the irony is whether we like it or not, we definitely need to decide no matter how much we procrastinate or run away from it, we have to make decisions in life.

A great leader is one who decides and pursues the path taken to its culmination no matter what the odds are. A leader should first of all have the personal conviction and confidence in his line of decision making and as to why he takes a path. But then endless thinking and thinking too far ahead would lead us nowhere. It is enough to approximately know the height of a peak, endless contemplation would result in a situation where we don't even have the courage to take the first step. Think, decide, act and forget about thinking about the decision.

Emotions and decisions are always at war. It is again the heart and brain story. I always think that it is prudent to postpone decisions, and never decide when one is at an emotional high, may it be happiness, sadness,anger or whatever. Leave it and come to it later and think with a clear mind. List down pros and cons impartially and take a decision. There are people who say "listen to your heart", well there are some situations which may seem so, but I would always say, thinking with a clear head always helps avoid embarrassment and regrets later. There is a saying "A spoken word or a shot arrow can never be taken back"I will leave it at that.

No matter what happens, we must courageously pursue whatever we decide. Doesn't matter if we end up in bitter failure or eternal glory. It is always worthy to have some goal in life and pursue it with all our will. And yes by goals I mean worthwhile goals, which do not compromise integrity and character. And never ever hurt people. I read this nice quote somewhere "Never say or do things now which would make you regret later". That sums it up.

Finally, I would like to give a whole new perspective about decision making. In the figure above, I would like my readers to just reverse the image. What we will find is no matter whatever path we take, we all finally reach ourselves. Confused??? We decide and we choose paths in order to find out actually who we are. That's the philosophical and practical view of decision making. This effectively removes the fear in making decisions and pursuing it, for any decision would just be a journey to understand ourselves better. Life is a learning experience and decisions help us to apply that learning. All outward journeys, finally end up inward, within ourselves.
Thus there is actually no loss or gain in the grand scheme of things.
There are therefore no good or bad decisions.

I leave it to my dear readers to contemplate and send your views on it.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Tintin - My initiation into the world of literature

I was never fascinated with reading or writing or any kind of literature for that matter.
Till about class IV I never read anything except my school homework and textbook and I was always a "night before the exam crammer". In fact the cramming went all the way till class XII and only in my post graduation did I actually "refine ".

There was this guy called Karan Das in my class who used to bring Tintin books. His vocabulary was very good and his spoken English was outstanding. My entry into the world of reading was actually mere curiosity and may be some child like jealousy that Karan could speak better English. The book called "Tintin and the broken ear" captured my attention and imagination. It is a book with a green cover depicting a red Indian, an American boy and a snow white dog rowing in a canoe. I asked Karan if he could lend me his book and he agreed. One book led to another and I must say he was quite selfless cause he never asked for anything in return from me. "Broken Ear" led to "Red Rackham's Treasure" and so on. I guess he had lent me around 6 books in a row.

In those "golden days" of my era, I was called " a whiz kid in class" and on top of it, everything I wished would happen, I would get anything I wanted...all this with absolutely no effort or cost from my side :) Why I say this is because, there was an obscure government library close to my house and the biggest wonder was the only English books they had were Tintin Books. I later came to know it was donated by one of my seniors in the neighbourhood who had out grown Tintin books. Lucky me :) I then went on to read "The Shooting star", "Red Sea Sharks", "Lake of Sharks" etc. and almost all the Tintin books of that era. Believe it or not, the "week magazine " also was running a series on Tintin and I could follow snippets by snippet of a story every week from my school library. I read "The Castafiore Emerald and Flight 714 that way". Thus I read almost all Tintin books without spending a single penny. God and the Universe must have conspired to fulfil the innocent desire of a "not so innocent" boy :)

Be it "the absent minded Calculus, ever Red-faced Captain Haddock, gullible Thomsons, quick witted Tintin, Snowy- the dog with a conscience and yes the infamous villian Rastapopulous",
the characters of the comic are so very well depicted and each character is etched in memory.

This craze led me to pick up "Doctor Who books" on which I have already written an article in this very page. Thankfully Doctor Who books also came to me on a platter, I read 86 of them without spending anything. And by the time I got hooked on to Doctor Who books I became a voracious reader. I definitely want to make a collection of all these books and make a good library, but I am not sure cause these days no matter how hard I try or how much time or money I invest, things never seem to go my way...dame fortune seems to have deserted me :(

And as I sit back and cherish those days, I thank my stars and wonder if those days will ever come again when the best things and whatever I wanted in life used to come to me from the ether without any effort and ya free of cost.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Art of Mountaineering - (climbing the mountains in life)

I am not Edmund Hillary or Tensing Norgay and no I am not talking about climbing up a real mountain. But then everything else in life is a mountain to conquer. Most of us look at the sheer height of the mountains to climb and get overwhelmed so much so that we are so paralysed that we do not even have the courage or will to take the first step.

Every task/venture/mission we take looks like a mountain first. But an experienced mountaineer knows that every mountain can be broken down to peaks,mounds and steps.Instead of being overwhelmed and numbed by the sheer size of the mountain, he quickly gets to work. He finds out as to what parameters are available and how he can make the most of those. The mountaineer makes calculations of the height, the effort estimate etc. and makes a list of things needed.

I like a dialogue in "Lord of the Rings" where the hobbit who has to take the ring to its culmination stops numb thinking about the sheer difficult of the task. He says "its impossible". But his friend says "Yes it looks impossible, but then lets atleast try to reach the next mountain for starters". They then go on and reach the destination.

There are many unknowns but nevetheless make the first step. Every task starts with the first step, then mound after mound, peak after peak till we reach the final destination. I will not say every mountain can be conquered but then it is better to make an effort and fail rather than attempting at all. This is because failures are the greatest teachers.

And the tools for mountaineering are 4P's.
Patience is a virtue,
Perseverence is an art,
Persistence is the key,
Know always that perfection is a myth.

In the end, there may be many wars lost but the key is to win the battle. And winning the battle means learning lessons. We may have scars, we may be battered and bruised, we might succeed or fail but the sweet taste of the "salty sweat of effort" is priceless and more satisfying than anything else.Above all make sure to enjoy the journey also. No mountain is beautiful if you have just reached the peak and not enjoyed the beauty of the mountain.

Sing heigh ho Sing Heigh ho there is no time to be sorry, this life is jolly !!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Professionalism in life and relationships !!!

From my journey so far, I have come to realize that professionalism applies not just when it comes to work, it makes sense in every walk of life. Professionalism is a life style. It is the art of living life and work. Values and ethics punctuate it, the professional gives it life and defines it.

Whether we like it or not, we are actually alone and each of us have our own paths to carve out of this island we are put in. At the same time, the way we carve our paths is important and finally it is not just whether we carved the path that defines us, it is the way we did it that is going to leave it permanent.

All of us are aware of professionalism in work and so I leave that to you cause companies already speak volumes on it. For me being a professional in work is like being like a commando.
Precise, lethal, independent but works as a team and does a clean job. That's the sum and substance of it.

Professionalism in life and relationships is something I would like to focus on. In fact we can apply all professional ethics to relationships also.I have realised that it is very important to respect boundaries in life. In all relationships, give in your best, but with a detached mindset. This is because even among closest friends there are invisible boundaries(unfortunately). In every relationship, always be aware of the limits and boundaries and start respecting it. This is because, a spoken word, or a careless mail is all it takes to hurt people and destroy relationships. And once trust is broken, sometimes it does irrevocable damage. Once relationships are robust, then there is always a trade off cause you have accepted people but then people are complex and so are relationships. And sometimes there is not always the same consensus between people. There is one way traffic in friendships also!!! In relationships also, it should always be on a level field. Mutual respect, mutual commitment and mutual understanding is a must and never take people for granted. We also need to realize that there is nothing called selflessness, atleast in the fast moving material world. A thick skin is therefore a virtue :) Try to be as sincere as possible and don't go out of the way overdoing things.
Relationships take time to nurture and build, so patience and perseverence matters a lot. It is built on trust and make sure to give your best and more importantly leave the rest.
Finally just like in the professional world, sometimes even the best of friendships might have to part ways, and so it is also prudent not to burn bridges or bad mouth people whatever the issue may be. Try your best, cause all conflicts can be resolved by talks but then if it is still a no-go then always part in a friendly note cause you never know :) People are people and every person is a unique individual and worthy just like everyone else :)