Listen and Be Damned

Provocative discussions for the Aspiring Manager & Those going up the ladder.
Eye-opening essays with a satirical touch from a senior manager with over 40 years of experience in marketing, manufacturing and managing companies + Counseling.

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Contents
Page & serial number 1. 1 Conditioned and Stamped

6. 2 Engaged and Busy 10. 3 Familiarity Breeds Contempt 15. 4 If you don’t Mind 20. 5 Have you made your Statement? 25. 6 Is your Commitment Total? 29. 7 Karmic Analysis 33. 8 Knowing thru Words 37. 9 Listen and Be Damned 41. 10 Living without Money 45. 11 Mental Interference 49. 12 Missing the Movement 53. 13 Numerology in HR 57. 14 On a Leash 62. 15 Out of the Time Frame 66. 16 Pride in Lawlessness 69. 17 Promote Yourself 73. 18 Resolved, Signed and Sealed 76. 19 Saying Thine Part 80. 20 Eyes Wide Shut 84. 21 Stealing Credit 88. 22 Taking Notes 91. 23 The Club of Givers 94. 24 The Plight of Traditional Weavers 99. 25 The Value of Appreciation

103. 108. 113. 121. 125. 129.

26 The Value of Training Programs 27 The WHYs behind the whys 28 To Marry or Not 29 Turning Point 30 Upgrade or Perish 31 When to Scold

I am also adding in this collection some write-ups from my earlier books “ CLEVERNESS vs INTELLIGENCE” & “COME PAPA COME”. I feel the importance of the subject matter has not diminished and they are worth repeating here. 133. 137. 141. 147. 151. 155. 160. 164. 168. 173. 176. 179. 187. 190. 32 Contradicting Lovingly 33 Futility of It ALL 34 Give Them Rope 35 I Did Tell You 36 Living in the Comfort Zone 37 Opt for Change 38 Removing or Promoting 39 Ridicule is a weapon 40 Shall We Ever Learn? 41 The Case for Taciturnity 42 Tomorrow Never Comes 43 What is Bothering You? 44 The World Matters Not 45 Fear of rejection

1 1. Conditioned and Stamped. Personality development classes promise a new you after about 10 sessions. The entire curriculum is based on the belief that “We are masters of our destinies”. It is a very invigorating thought. In reality it is a good ploy for making money but that is another story. A little scratching of the surface nature will show how deeply we are “conditioned” by our earlier days with our parents, teachers and families. Later on we pick up other innumerable fixed ideas from the many theories being expounded around us. Simple things but effectively that can make or mar our lives. We put on so many mental gags over ourselves and then would rather be martyrs to our cause than speak-up or do what our inner being is urging us to. How much of our conscious reasoning is intelligently controlling our lives? Are all our acts premeditated and objectively thought out? Is our “intelligence” our master or something else? How often do you say or have said that “It slipped my mind”? If the answer is –often- then it is clear that some other process rules our actions and gives direction to our lives.

2 The other I paid a visit to my cousins. I saw a good example of mental gags in action. I felt that their one year old grandchild was undernourished. So I brought up the subject on what she was feeding the child. The question was couched in a form that made it look like as if I was asking for her advice. After all she has brought up 5 children of her own. I was surprised to hear that she was feeding the child mainly on diluted buffalo milk. I made my surprise show and asked her why she was depending on the buffalo milk being supplied by a milkman who was himself buying the milk from unknown sources. In India it is well known that milkmen dilute the milk with tap water which can be highly contaminated with industrial pollutants in the cities. The dairy owners boost their productions with unqualified and uncontrolled use of steroids given to the buffaloes. It is a well known fact that milk is being doctored to increase quantity with questionable ingredients. The reply that I got from my cousin sister was even more shocking than the piece of news of using buffalo milk. It seems they had asked their pediatrician and he okayed the use of buffalo milk on the ground that milkmen are known to dilute it and the diluted form of the milk is okay for the child. Use of buffalo milk in even our grandfather’s times was not advised for kids. It was always cow’s milk. I could simply not understand what was

3 motivating them. They seemed to have put a lock on the door of their own intelligence and going solely by the intelligence of the doctor who it seemed to me was more influenced by his village life lore than his education in a medical school. Additionally he advised the boiling of the plastic feeding bottle for 15 mts each time which I would say would permit some amount of leaching from the ingredients used to manufacture the bottle, the paint on it and the nipple. What did I do in this situation? Nothing! I did not think it polite to correct them and disturb their status quo. My comments would most probably be taken as fault finding. After all I was not having any Diploma to back my assertions. Yet next day I asked my mother to talk to her niece and advise them to change some of the practices. Another nephew of mine had the same problem after he returned from a stint at his grandparents. The nephew asked me my opinion considering the fact that his child was not growing as expected. In this case I spoke up and virtually ordered the nephew to change the regime. Modern medicine formulations offer us many ready made remedies and preparations and I advised him to change to more nourishing products. Within a month improvement in the child’s responses were seen. Life shows us how much and how often we are wrong and even points out our faults but we

4 prefer to put in all our efforts to mask these and continue on with a brave face. So many instances of error yet our beliefs are eternally as strong as ever, How does one show anything to someone who cannot see or/and refuses to see? Recently I was called by a diplomatic mission to teach English to a set of women who were wives of the senior attaches. But the senior most attache’s wife would not let me run the show. She had decided that the most convenient way to learn the language would be by practicing grammatical exercises like she had done at school. Every attempt of mine to introduce them to the “living language” with all its figurative connotations and idioms failed miserably. She would just clam up in class after terming it all “DIFFICULT”. Finally I had to ask them to find another teacher. It was like trying to make a myopic person see the horizon when his focus was off kilter beyond two meters.

So I come back to my question? Are we in control or are there many other factors at play? Most of us are strongly set in our ways and traditions and act by habit rather than conscious intelligence. I have said in other instances that we live by what is convenient. We follow the path of least resistance. We opt for soft solutions to difficult problems and

5 complicate life further. Quite often when our conscience and intelligence is telling us otherwise, we fall prey to our “conditioning” and take the easy obvious path. Quite often we are simply blocked by our ego and refuse to accept that there might be alternatives to our way of thinking or even a different way to the approach we have opted for. We become possessive of our thoughts. Are we really in control of our destinies?

6 2. Engaged and Busy. The title may seem as if I am going to talk about being professionally busy or posing as such. No; I have another story this time. These are the two words I hear very often nowadays and I am prompted to talk about some of the incidences that I have experienced. Now let’s see how shall I bring up the subject? I have what can be called by ordinary world’s standards arrived at a ripish age. An age when people are planning retirements and wish for quiet and I went and had a child who is now three and a half years old. So I have a bouncing child on my hands. My job is to be with her all day and play with her and feed and clothe and look after all her every other need. It is a full time, 24hours job. I wonder if people around me can see the effort I have put in and the fatigue from sleep deprivation as my bouncy little girl is keeping on my toes and has completely annihilated my sleeping and any thing other schedule. But I have enjoyed every minute of the last three and a half years. I suppose there have been annoying moments when I lost my cool because my needs were pitted against that of the little imp and there is no discussing the matter with her. But her smile and embrace and joy at seeing me override everything.

7 So you get the picture? Now let me give you another one or two. Picture one: I am out playing with my child in the neighborhood park. It is chilly winter days so many of the citizens are also present, sunning themselves. Here is a friend who sees us and the conversation goes like this: Friend: Hullo. Playing with the child? ME: Yes. (I would have thought that would be obvious but then we tend to clarify so often the obvious) Friend: Yes somebody has to take her out to play. (Again another obvious fact; don’t I know it! I don’t believe in children being raised by servants. My philosophy is simple: either you should not go and have a child or go the whole hog and raise the child yourself properly) ME: It is a full time job. (I don’t want to hurt his feelings because he is trying to make conversation but I have nothing to say really). Friend: This is good you know. At least it keeps you engaged and occupied (now this bugs me. He has retired. He has no interests, no work to worry about and of course he sees the world though these conditioned lenses in his eyes at my age I would be in the same boat. What he does not see is that I love my child and love being with her. It is the only joy I have known. Going out to play is not a chore but a definite pleasure. Anyway they all know that I have multiple interests and that with my small business and hobbies I am

8 rather hard pressed for time and the energy to carry my objectives through. Yet I have been hearing the same comments very often from many many people over the past three years.) ME: Yes. Ha, Ha…..( what else is there to say but to smile and move on) Picture two: The other day one of my elder cousin sisters passed by and she is a “somebody”. She has a Doctorate and has been a lecturer etc. She really takes herself rather seriously. We meet rarely. This time we met after four years. The truth is she did not come to see me; she thinks I am a wastrel. She had come to see my mother. But I had to keep the formalities alive so I came out for a moment from my cubbyhole to say hullo. And this is how the conversation unrolled: Sister: So how are you and how do you keep yourself busy? (I know the question does not need an answer and even if I did there would a negative analysis following it. So I keep my cool). ME: Fine. I now have a full time job (I try to keep my tone jocular and hope the conversation would end there. But no; these elderly sisters have always something more to say.) Sister: This is good. It keeps your mind engaged. (The trigger has been pressed and I am annoyed but then I decide to play cool)

9 ME: Was my mind disengaged till now? Sister: (A little embarrassed) No I meant busy. ME: Ha, Ha. What I wish to know is this need of everybody to explain everything to me. All I have to do is make a statement and the person will start analyzing my motives and reasons & let me know so. It could be that they themselves are thinking aloud but it is definitely annoying and conversation stopper to my way of thinking. Do you have anything to say?

10 3. Familiarity Breeds Contempt. This is a saying that most of us have heard of. But how many of us take it seriously? I got a wake-up call again about this fact when I received a letter from a friend who is finding it hard to adjust to the present day new world order. The first impulse of most of us is to contact family and close relatives when we are in trouble or need help. Family is the first pillar of strength we should generally rely upon but I wonder if this is wise and the right way to get out of any difficult situation we have managed to find ourselves in; that too at an elderly age. I give here a portion of the letter: I'm searching the web for jobs daily, a little frustrating as there are no real opportunities for elderly people like us. "My" brother has decided to come to Germany and to stay for a couple of months at mother's house. She lives alone in a spacey house, two sleeping rooms not used as such. On the other hand we are paying heavily like over 740 Euro for lease per month, electricity not included. Right now we are surviving on my wife’s monthly unemployment-wage of 1050 Euro after she was prematurely retired as the hospital was axing some jobs!

11 As Germany is a very costly place to live, there is not too much left to cover all other expenses, such as for food, etc. "My" sister's living-partner runs a factory producing tiles for ovens; he employs over 90 people, a very healthy enterprise. I've asked him several times to give me the chance working for his company as a sales rep. He gave the job to one of his friends but not to me. Pradeep, the list reg. "my" family could go on and on. "My" aunt in USA runs several enterprises: fruit plantations in California and Florida-/Walgreen markets in California and Arizona-/Holiday resorts in Nevada, California and Florida and lots more; not to forget private hospitals for the rich. I've visited her several times in the past, applying for a suitable position, but no reaction. When I received a birthday gift from her on my 50th, a very sophisticated wrist watch, I was not in the mood to feel any happiness, satisfaction, or whatever. Well, right now I do have to "fight", just to survive. To withstand all these disturbances is very draining, because it is against my nature being forced to fight all the time. This is a classic case of Familiarity not helping at all. The unfortunate part of “family” is that they know us in great detail right from

12 the day we are born. Very little is hidden from them. The worst is that although we may think of our family as our near and dear ones, they are first humans and relatives second. Great errors of judgments can be made when we forget this simple truth. Humans tend to remember faults and forget the plus points far faster than we would imagine and most often the faults get embellished with time. Most often they make their judgments on faulty and incomplete information and news or gossip. Family members are too close and development of some contempt for each other is a very sure thing. This grows worse as we age as the memory baggage only adds to the ammunition. I give here the reply I gave: The feeling I get is that you are too attached, involved and expecting too much from your family. Family is good only as a foundation. Later in life they become a mill-stone around your neck because humans are very judgmental. Of course some close relationships will always remain but when you take it generally, be it at home or at work, you cannot expect to make friends and appreciative companions of everybody. We are humans first and like any one else, it is but natural that the family will tend to use you for their personal advantage. They know you from close quarters so they are able to take advantage more easily.

13 If you are in a position of "want" today it is because of faulty expectations from the family. I can speak with authority as I have experienced the same. I was always there for my family for business and personal reasons but when my turn came to ask them for something, especially help, they refused point blank. The criticism I received was quite a shock. The shock is more in the sense that I was thinking of them as people who like and appreciate me, and I found it was quite the opposite. I found they were still judging me on the basis of the mind they had made up about me some 30-40 years ago. Nobody was seeing me as I am today. Under these circumstances, I did not have many options. So the first step I took was to quietly distance myself with the so called “family” and maintain cordial relations. I am now on speaking terms with everybody but I don’t call them and they don’t call me. If I die today, it will not make a difference to anybody in the family. I have erased them from my memory as people to fall back upon. I have made a new family in my friends. And believe me this is my real family who are there in pleasurable times and difficult times without questions and without judgments. I now have such a large family that I do not

14 miss anyone from the old one given to me by birthright. When we are young, we need the family but later on as we grow personally and professionally, we need to recreate new relations and outgrow being dependent on people older than us whatever their economic condition be. The family fixation invariably keeps us tied to the childhood apron strings which can never be a good thing.

15 4. IF YOU DON’T MIND….

Communication is the link between two people yet we go to inordinate lengths to make it complex and difficult. I have never understood the logic behind this ice-breaker that I hear often: “If you promise not to mind then I have something to say”, which of course implies that whatever is to be said is unpleasant. This opening gambit has always pleasantly surprised me. Why would anyone insist on saying something knowing that it would not be pleasant? Of course the gambit also permits the speaker to remain on the good side of the listener and criticize him to his heart’s content. The use of psychology in this is beautiful. Very rarely does a recipient ever say: “if there are chances that I may not like what is to be said then I do not want to hear it”; rather his curiosity aroused, he insists that he be told and that he is man enough to take any criticism. It is another matter that very few can really maintain their equanimity once they hear the permitted critical evaluation. The number of people who actively invite criticism, avowing that they wish to improve themselves is also quite many. But it is generally a show of openness that is totally faked. If anyone has ever the kind temerity to

16 point out their fault, they normally have arguments ready to counter it and their annoyance is complete. On the other hand intelligent people behave as if they have no idea of human nature. We employ servants and then expect them to be as knowledgeable and intelligent or passionately involved in our home or work as we are. Had the servant been a person of this caliber, would he be your servant? I have been against the negative management styles that I see around me. Especially the way we take the opposite side of any argument or statement to show that we are better than the others. Our management style is by scolding for mistakes made. We have some established notions of what is correct and what merits chastisement and we follow-up on it with gusto. If we go back in time a little, there was a time when most senior managers came from a similar social status and educational backgrounds and there were not many faults to find with each other. But today this has become the very opposite. People from vastly different economic, cultural and financial backgrounds come together and there is always bound to be something amongst our brethrens that may rub us the wrong way. The mature guy takes it in his stride but most tend to compare the other with their own

17 selves and get irritated. The result is – “verbal flare-ups” all around us. The manager takes the route of righteousness and encloses himself in indignation and the employee gets dejected because he simply never is made to understand the “why” of it. Is it so difficult to understand that we can discuss things and that we often chastise because we are in a position to do so? I have seen many people who can say their point of view only in anger. They will normally keep quiet and let things slide and then one day they burst in anger and all the dammed up complaints come out in one go in a vehement show of anger. It is so immature, this behavior. An unpleasant action should be brought to notice and be discussed right there and then and as far as possible without anger; this eliminates misunderstandings and stops the incident from being repeated in its track. Of course, if the other side continues to insist on his behavior then a stronger dose of show of displeasure is called for.

We even take this style in the upbringing of our children. I have again never been able to understand this attitude. My daughter is 16 months old and is now everywhere and into everything. I think it is her natural curiosity and she should be allowed to explore. But everyone who sees me with her complains

18 that I am not scolding her enough and that if she is not made to understand the correct ways, she will become uncontrollable and end up totally spoilt. My point of view is that she is too young to understand and that this can come later when I am in a position to explain to her the pros and cons of each action. Right now it is all play for her. More often than not she is aping me. How can I scold her when she has done no real wrong and surely no deliberate mischief? And why, even if I have something to say, why should I scold her? It will only kill her curiosity and stunt her persona. I use the method of distraction when things are getting out of hand and employ her attention elsewhere. When we pre-empt others in speech or action and try to control them in many other million ways, we are only exercising the primary human tendency to regulate & control everything around us. We have a very high opinion of ourselves most of the time. It is only when disaster strikes that for a while we see our faults and reflect. But for the rest of our lives we are quite certain about our wisdom and abilities and we even prove it and justify ourselves by quoting earlier “Greats & Gurus” as if we were on par with them while we have nothing to say from our own fount of experience and learning, except perhaps a few biting words and make the world aware of

19 our own merits in comparison to the demerits of the rest of the world! The solution to these situations is to develop a little charity in our thinking. Kindness and creativity is needed. We need to help the other learn if he is willing. Berating will only create stiff opposition and bad blood. We need friends around us; in it hides our own happiness.

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5. Have you made your statement?
Many of our decisions are based on thoughts that arise within us influenced by our need to be recognized. It is our vanity at work. Once when I was a lot younger I was asked this question – What is the difference between Pride and Vanity? But that was then and I was completely foxed. The teacher then took the trouble of explaining it to me that that pride was what we thought of ourselves and vanity was what we wanted others to think of us. Since then I have always kept a close watch on my thoughts about myself and would try to fit them into either “pride” or “vanity” category. It is quite a difficult task if we are sincere about it. This leads us straight to the subject under discussion. A few stories will explain my point better. Let us use these stories to understand and put us on our guard. Here is a young man; comes from an established industrial family and the only son. It is not difficult for him to think of himself as a cut above the rest. Then he goes to USA for his MBA. Eventually he returns home and joins his father to run the organization. He is allowed to run his own companies that he is allowed to form. His father had already

21 personnel so he was expected to use the same. This created a subtle two layer clash of interests as his father was keeping a strict control over the running of the company and the staff was not sure whose commands to follow. The knee jerk of the son was to try and control more of what was happening in his companies. So every now and then he would call his executives and instruct them in detail about everything and confuse the issue; even going to the extent of dictating the letters on behalf of his executives and crossing the “T”s and dotting the “I”s as how situations should be managed in the field. This was not only annoying but time wasting as often he would keep his executives locked up in his office for hours in so-called meetings. He was, as I saw it, making statements galore; some for his pride and some for his vanity. It was needed for his pride to show that he was running the show and not just a puppet around there; and for his vanity he needed to make sure that his executives recognized his talents, education and grasp of the situation. He would go to great lengths to show-off his inside knowledge even of the details of the field even though he never left the comfort of his office. An awful chasm would be created in what needed to be done and what the boss thought should be done. The poor executives were literally sandwiched in between the

22 directives and at the same time under the pressure to show results. The mess his personality was in, soon began to show in the results of the company’s balance sheet; a first class blue-print for fiasco. So on further analysis what essentially needs to be understood is the question: are we making statements or doing things that need to be done? One very good formula to separate the requirement based actions from the statement based actions is by asking the question: Am I trying to impress others with this action? Am I keeping at the back of my mind what effect it will have on others? A little introspection will do. Let us say you go to the doctor for some pain in the back. Nobody knows about it and you are stoic enough to keep it to yourself. There the doctor takes x-rays and advises rest and medication. You do all these and come to office the next week, refreshed and happy and when asked where and what you were up to, you smile and tell them that you had a holiday as you felt the need for it; that being that. This is a requirement based activity and nothing of statement-making comes into the picture. In contrast I will tell you another story. A lady manager of a bank was required to go to

23 inspect the veracity & genuineness of a client who had asked for a loan for a car. At first glance the address was from a lower middle class neighborhood and that too in an area not known for its nice ways. So she asked me to go along with her. There was really no way our car could go inside the colony. We left it out on the main road and went in. The streets were not more than 10 feet wide and cluttered up with shops spreading out all over the road. The client had asked to buy a Swift Maruti which had been launched recently and was quite the rage with the avant-garde lot. Here too, in this case, the buyers were relatively young people, quite evidently buying a swift more to make a statement than anything else as they were quite happy using a motorbike for ease of maneuvering in traffic. I could not contain myself and did ask where they were going to park the car. On the street outside they told me candidly. I kept my peace after that as it was really between the bank and them and of course the neighbors when they would find their way blocked by the wide-bodied swift. Innocuous things like buying a tie, pen, lipstick or dress can reflect our deeper thoughts. Are we buying because we absolutely want to because the product appeals to us and complements our life-style and our comfort zone or there are other untold motives like making sure that others

24 would notice how classy, super-selective we are? And often it may come to pass that nobody bothers at all and all the money spent and trouble taken comes to a disappointing nothing. So when you take decisions just reflect also upon the reality factor; if you are doing something for making a statement or really and objectively it needs to be done. The yardsticks that we are judged by are small, very tiny actions and doings that give us away. When our actions become obvious statementmaking ploys, we are only inviting derision and sometimes even trouble.

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6. Is Your Commitment Total?
We were discussing Karmic ramifications of our actions. There is so much that is being said, can be said and will be said on this subject I suppose; all hearsay at best and no one really in a position to contradict each other. So it is one of the best conversation topics where you can expound as much as you feel like and as every action is particular to itself and special to the next individual, the discussions can go on and on safely with no change resulting in any form except the expounder goes home very proud of himself, of his grasp of life’s essentials and his wisdom with somewhere at the back of his mind this thought that he has impressed his listeners and made a mark! Then I came across these few words from OSHO(RAJNEESH) of Pune. He says we suffer because we do not live whole-heartedly. All our actions tend to be incomplete and sort of hover around us waiting for their culmination. What I understood from this and concur is that we are busy doing too many things at the same time and doing all of them badly; thereby laying ourselves open to negative karmic points with pending files remaining open and following us like baying dogs. This, if I am not mistaken is called Multi-tasking nowadays. A way of working that I abhor.

26 Nothing is done with focus and proper application. Till the last generation this was not a problem as it has become today. The culprits that have brought on this state of affairs are squarely the mobile phone and the laptop. Earlier we had to be in the right place at the right time to do whatever was needed to be done. Now we can be everywhere at the same time and do whatever we want at any given time. I think this is awful; the idea should be to do less, live luxuriously and here we are pushing ourselves to an early burn-out by doing more. Humans really need to reorient their philosophies. One positive aspect of this change in our lives is that it imposed on us the need to ask some questions and therefore some research projects on this subject were undertaken. It was well known before that the average human mind can hardly process more than one activity at a time. Now it seems this is clearly proven by case studies. So this business of multi-tasking is all a lot of nonsense. Let us see how long it will take for the human mass to understand it and use this information in their working styles. Concisely and precisely it means that the mind can focus on one activity alone at a time; it can listen or talk or drive or type or eat or kiss or whatever. The problem comes when we do certain things by habit and while in the act allow the mind to wander all over

27 the cosmos. We then leave “undone” karmic footprints that drag us back, vociferously demanding that we finish the job or at least learn to do it differently and well the next time or pay for the consequences. Would you like some examples? Say a man is eating. The food is of his choice and normally he would have savored it to his entire satisfaction. But he is in a hurry because his mind is on the meeting in his office where he aims to make a definite point and he hopes to get a raise from it. There is also the need to be aware of what goes on in the world so he opens up the TV to watch the news. His wife on the other hand has some complaints and reminders and may even be talking to him which as can be imagined he is saying yes-yes to without listening. By the time he leaves, settling down in his car, his phone to his ears his mind is already properly muddled. He has no idea what he has eaten; he has no memory of having eaten at all. He has not grasped any of the news and totally forgotten about his wife. And in all this he has hasn’t had a quiet moment to fully work out his presentation in the meeting which he then does not do too well. The eating, driving and listening in the above episode being totally mechanically habit driven; is this multitasking or multishucksing?

28 As Osho(Rajneesh) explains, the mind not being wholly satiated or satisfied, continues to crave. This may show in excesses like binge eating, passionate affairs, show-off purchases and the like. A veritable vortex is created that can envelope us in its negative impact which then has the effect of creating stress, bad decisions/attitudes and even more stress and eventual misery. I remember my grand mother with her rosary beads coaxing the Lord to pay heed to her woes with her mind on the pot of lentils on the fire, giving commands to her daughters-inlaw. With what result; the Lord not being addressed to properly, did not answer her prayers, the pot of lentils boiled over, the daughter-in-law went to into sulks every now and then which had chain reactions in the households and often tragic tantrums. The scenario has changed a bit but not the pattern. Was it, is it all worth it; now, then or ever?

29 7. Karmic Analysis in Self-upgrading
In a general way most understand the theory of Karma from the point of what was “DONE”. A little introspection and quiet contemplation will reveal two things: 1) that the course of our lives is based more on the things that were NOT DONE; the decisions which were not taken. 2) that at every moment we are given a simple choice of saying “yes” or “no” ; this determines the course of our lives. If our lives are in a mess or things are not going forward as we had hoped, all we need to do is look back and discover the steps we did not take when we should have and the steps that have brought us to this impasse. The course correction is then obvious and the best way to deal with the moment is by taking the path that we should have but did not take and do it as soon as possible with intensity and sincerity as this effort will go a long way to negate some of the effects of the past doings or not-doings. The truth is that deep in our hearts we all know where we are going wrong and where we have gone earlier. We are well aware of our lacunas but cover it with coats of appearances as if what the others “see” of us is more important than living our lives to our heart’s content. We put all our energies in

30 keeping up the pretence of being on top of the world and look for magical solutions; if not solutions then at least excuses that will allow us to hold our head high and show to the world how well we are holding on in this unkind world. Mankind is terribly clever. Statements like – “Everything is preordained”; “If it is in our destinies it will happen”; “It is all in the stars”; “God wished it this way” and many others in the same hue serve us well to sit back and lament our condition rather than do something about it. Our minds can place arguments from old sayings and proverbs and other great minds to prove our point as if arguing and convincing our neighbor is the final answer to our woes. When the time comes for action we run to soothsayers, astrologers, and practioners of occult tricks and look for smart-quick fixes. Millions of work hours and good money is spent in poojas and practices to change the flow of our miserable lives. Tell me truly, do you really believe that your pooja down here will change the position of Saturn up there? If not then how do you expect a change to occur? The reality is that you have been given a non-negotiable state. No choice here; the parents, the place of birth, brothers, sisters, later the teachers, friends all these are already fixed. Before you know or understand what is going on decisions have been piled up

31 on you and your personality formed by the dictates of others. After the harm has been done, you are expected to go out and make something out of this bad bargain and be successful in this world. It is obvious that lamenting or trying to wash the sins off in the Ganges won’t help. Asking help of the stars through appeasement won’t help either because they are the ones who put you where you are in the first place. So comes the big question; what can you do? First of all stop talking of past lives and often taking this as the perfect pretext towards our helplessness and as an excuse to the unchangeability of the course of our fate and lives. This is very convenient thinking and an oversimplification which suits mankind very well as it absolves them from the effort to make the necessary change and correction in their lives. Sit down and analyze your karmic path up to date. Study your own nature and note the actions and reactions that you are prone to. Work out the steps that you can take with immediate effect to alleviate or bring in the wanted change and go ahead & take the first step. This is psycho-analysis of a kind. You will realize soon enough what is wrong and why. Then the solution will become obvious in a flash and you will be free to start all over again with a new path opening out in front of

32 you. Your effort is an integral part of your destiny. You will realize that you have been given some positive streaks in your nature which are your strengths and also some negative streaks which are your weaknesses. You are required to learn from life’s incidences and overcome the negative turns in your life by using your strong attributes and by suppressing the harmful possibilities that happen from your negative attributes.

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8. Knowing thru Words
The big question is how does one learn about new phenomenon thru words, or even pictures and other previously known data or facts; more to the point is the question - is it at all possible? When we read about new things all we have are words and thru the words we try to paint a picture in our mind. How reliable is the picture that we make? Even when we have pictures or diagrams to facilitate our picturising does it really do what was intended? The answer is a flat no. At best we can expect a very poor approximate. Even with very vast experiences and exposure, with very well written words to explain in detail, the feel cannot be obtained and that will never make the experience complete. Everyone has sometime or the other seen lovely pics of snow laden countryside mainly in calendars as the main picture for the winter months. It gets 8 degrees minus out there and a wind is blowing. Taking the chill factor the cold is like 20 deg minus. But here I am in Delhi; a resident from the warm plains of India. It does get cold here too but. Even if I went and sat in the refrigerator, I would not realize the way the cold gets into the bones; especially when it goes on and on and there is nowhere to run away from it. All I can do is

34 compare it with the cold I have known and because I am from the desert region, more used to the heat at 30 to 40 deg C, even the 5 degrees of Delhi are enough to give me the shivers. Then we do have the experience of chilly winds coming down from the mountainous regions so we can easily visualize by stretching the imagination what is happening to the people in the picture. But what about the people further south living comfortably in the south of India by the sea side? Will they ever understand? Can’t see how? It is a rare person who can pass thru the barrier of words to experience anything. I am not aware of anyone with this capacity. Words are self limiting. Adding to this limitation is the fact that in everybody’s memory any given word will pop up pictures which are different from individual to individual. What cold means to me may mean totally something else to the other guy who constitutionally can tolerate extreme cold dips and still be comfortable in a T shirt. Somebody who has not seen the seas can only compare the word picture of the sea shore and the horizon by comparing to a lake he has known. Even by a long stretch of the imagination he will never really realize the vastness. A picture would help and thank God for photography. If the above discussion hasn’t convinced you then let me put up a question. If you are a

35 land lubber, and I explain to you the intricacies of swimming with words, action and charts and throw you in the water, do you think you would be able to swim? Most likely not; most likely you would panic, take in water and get absolutely terrified and forget every iota of instructions given and scream for help and hate me ever after. The only way to acquire knowledge is by going through the mill. I bring this subject up today because I see so much of the printed word which is available is an exercise in futility. Most of the time all that is being said is totally beyond the experience of the reader. It may only end up giving him the impression that he knows but in reality all it will do is give him a swollen head but no knowledge of the real issues. Experience cannot be duplicated by words. In olden times, it was a sacred rule to pass on words of information and wisdom only to those who it was felt would appreciate it and would know how to make use of it for further self improvement or action. But today everyone is a “Wise Man”. His head full of info actually creating a screen that separates him from reality. Take the subject of spirituality. I see words and reams of printed paper explaining everything in beautiful detail. Words like Truth is God; meaningless. The word Truth is

36 open to millions of explanations and God even more so. Words like this “the world is an illusion” – ask the guy who has to take a jam packed bus everyday to work what it means to him. Few people can speak softly to their children and love them unselfishly but they think they understand “COMPASSION”; not only understand they even think that they have been able to inculcate it into their very being. Others spend hours in meditation and read the Gita and other texts and loose their cool every time somebody crosses their path. But talk to them and you will see that they are fully convinced of their superiority and even critical of others less endowed than them. Coming closer to earth, I have the same to say of most managers. They are well read and spout many theories. They can discuss everything under the sun but when it comes to the crux, they do not know how to handle an irate customer or even a disgruntled employee. Be wary of words. Don’t let them fool you into complacency. The thumb rule is if you have not experienced it, you don’t really know. So go after the experience. It will teach you more in am minute than you can learn thru hours of book learning.

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9. Listen and Be Damned.
I am tired of being told that to live a more efficient life I need to become a good listener. Open any book on self development, spiritual emancipation, marriage counseling or management science and the same advice glares at you from all sides. All the glitches are from poor listening if there is any listening in the first place. Not a single writer, philosopher or guru ever mentions the other side of the picture. Tell me how will listening help? I am here to make my life easy; not yours. If I listen, I put myself in the unedifying position of wanting to better myself and do a good job. This would in turn bring in appreciation and then everybody would be gunning for me to do more. No sir! I just wish to bide my time and would like a lot of margin to hedge my bets. I love people with poor language abilities and even poorer interpersonal behavior patterns. In this situation I am always able to find excuses and faults enough to cover my intentions of not wanting to do anything in the first place. I sincerely have not understood how listening could be of help to me. I live in my very private cocoon; perfectly smug in my little comfortable corner. I am aware of my faults and till date I have been covering them up quite well; or at least I

38 think so. From what I can see, listening can only bring me a host of complications. I can site many examples. I would rather spend my time arguing it out (what would politely be called discussion) than really going about doing wonderfully all that I am capable of doing and gather praises. My wife asks me to put out the garbage. But as she likes to talk long distance with her face mostly in the opposite direction with her face stuck inside some pot or shelf, it gives me the perfect excuse to feign as if I never heard anything and ignore the situation, hoping that she would do the job herself. If I am caught out there would be enough arguments up my sleeve to at least put up a show of indignation. You see I simply cannot make it easy for her. If I did so, the number of jobs that I would end up doing would only grow in number. Believe me, I am better off with my reputation of being absent-minded, partly deaf or weak in the head or whatever. In the office, I always put up a good show of listening while my mind is flitting all over the globe. It is a good thing they can’t see my thoughts. Last evening I was called in by my boss. He wanted me to receive a company head at the airport; a job he was slated to be doing himself. Now I definitely do not appreciate being ploughed into this kind of secretarial duties. So I said nothing then, but an hour before the flight, I rang up the boss to

39 tell him that I was 40 kms away on another job I had been assigned and docilely started asking him for advice on how to complete the job to his entire satisfaction. Now he was in a fix. Here I was asking for advice while he wanted to be angry and ask me why I was not on the way to the airport. Finally he did ask the question. I had already rehearsed my answer. So I showed surprise and replied that was it not in the morning that I was supposed to go to the airport. The boss fumed and knew that he had been outfoxed and went himself eventually. So you see! Now I am no junior either but my boss is one step ahead of me and does not let me forget it. He tries to ply me with work that he should be doing himself. My plate is already full and he knows it. So what; that does not stop him. Now you would readily have reckoned, the whole of my existence is to slip out of sticky situations. If I listened it would be the end of me. The truth of the matter is that humanity does not want to listen. We live in a very selfcentered world and are content to be there. Listening opens us to betterment and that is not really desired. What would happen to our personal agendas that in the normal course we dare not expose to others? Listening allows seeds to be sowed in the heart which will, of course, grow and upset the status quo no end.

40 Here I have just brushed the subject as far as we see in our daily existences. The truth is that NOT listening is the norm; even in other more truthful environments like spirituality, ashrams and religious societies. Life is lived like a charade with many lies being promoted and practiced because it suits everybody. I look at my own and the life of others around me. Believe me I am not really surprised. I don’t see anyone achieving their human aims by playing clean and fair. Lies, even evident lies are vehemently promoted and lapped up. To believe me all you need is to see some of the adverts on the TV, some of the truths propagated by religious leaders, some of the principles of schooling in practice, most of the medical principles advanced and found wanting and continued nevertheless. Listening means peeping in corners we are really not keen on. It then insists that attention be paid, being alert and aware. Who in the name of heaven really wants all that? I am appalled at the idea that my amour proper will have to take a back seat. This won’t do at all. Listening would mean throwing the science of keeping appearances in the dustbin and revealing ourselves in all our insincere nakedness to the world. Sorry this is not acceptable and that is that! I am here to fulfill my selfish ends and am not averse to join in the drama. Once I have made my pile that will allow me to live out my life to my wishes, who would care about listening anyway?

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10. Living with out money.

Somebody wants to know "How to live without money". Boy! What a coincidence that this question came to be asked of me. Considering that I have lived most of my life without an adequate supply of the essential moolah, I must be an expert on this subject. From the last I can remember I have had to mooch and plan for even to most of banal things; even a cup of coffee. But by golly, was it fun? On the question of coffee or any other, essentially to mooch you have to have friends and in that I have enjoyed exceptional Grace of the Lord. Now my policy is that only fools buy them; whatever these things are. So here was my day planned out. Early morning visit to a friend and of course coffee and browse his newspaper. Then reach the office of another friend just in time for the most divine coffee again. And later if lunch could be fitted in, that would be fine but not as important as the coffee. The 4 pm coffee was the cup that required all my meticulous planning but I managed it for 25 years so I suppose I did well. Let me relate to you how planned my life

42 without money. I bartered my knowledge of the French language by teaching at the local YWCA and received in return a bunch of bank notes which were exchanged for a bike and camera etc. Then I wanted to go to France as some friends invited me. So I bartered the camera and bike for new bank notes that were exchanged for an airline ticket. But I am not that stupid to blow it all off. So I asked an uncle to refer me to some family friends who gave me a bunch of pearls to explore a market for them in France. I gave those pearls away to anyone who would give me in return for a paper that would be legal tender for a new camera and some left over. Back at home I paid the friends for the pearls, bought a new bike and astonished everybody with my new camera; not to say with everybody wondering how I managed a trip abroad on my kind of life and income. But then I got tired of all this planning and I got married and my saga ends there. We then come to the original question of living without money. The questioner presumes: In olden days people used the barter system. If this is possible then black money from the system will vanish, hunger for amassing wealth will vanish, so many good things will happen. The poor deluded guy. Humans are humans. Nothing good can ever come out of their

43 propensity to grab and accumulate. Nothing comes of nothing. Barter or not, nothing good will happen; of that I am certain. There is a buyer and there is a seller. How intensely the buyer wants the seller’s product will decide the exchange rate and the level of fleecing; above or below the table. So let’s be pragmatic. Seriously speaking aren’t we missing something? What after all is money? If you are referring to gold mohurs and paper bank notes then they are just that. They are pieces of metal or paper. It could as well be sea shells. It is the value you give them that makes them what they are: an exchange rate valuation of goods, products and services. So this is the wrong way to study this subject. The point is that we have to give to get. We may think we are enjoying things free of cost, but are we really? Cash or kind, payment is always in the pipeline. You were not under the impression that I got all my coffees, scotfree? That would be the understatement of the year. I paid by doing odd jobs; being of service in some way or the other. It just happened that I do have some subjects of interest in which I am considered good and advice and help was in demand. And I gave it freely, after all free cups of coffee, meals and what-not did not come by out of the blue.

44 So the long and short of it is: there is no living without money or some exchange system. Even my three year old daughter won’t give me a kiss without a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate being waived around in the background. And about my wife’s payment schedule it would be best not to talk about it at all! Money is an optical illusion. Try to get a free cup of tea from an hotelier and you will see? Either you will pay in predetermined exchange rate via bank notes or else wash the dishes in his establishment!

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11. Mental Interference.
Do we always receive messages by ear and eyes correctly? Once heard or seen do we then act on them impartially and precisely? My perception is that we do not. We tend to over do the thinking part from our side and we tweak the info a little to suit and fit into our perceptions of things. In the execution, it then gets terribly garbled or modified. Once I was making a miniature indoor rock garden. The handyman of the owner of the house was helping me. I asked for a metal tank of a certain size and specifically gave him the measurements of length, width and height. When the tank arrived it was considerably higher than needed. So I, a little peeved, asked the handyman why he made it higher than what I had asked for. His reply was that the price asked was the same for both so he went for the extra height as he got it free. The thought that there might be a technical or any other reason for the height never came to him. That he was making changes in the specs without understanding the final use of the material did not bother him a tiny little bit. And worst of all: with phones at both ends, he could have easily called me up and get the point cleared but then this is

46 something one does only if in doubt. His actions were never in any way questionable to his way of thinking. This is not only mental interference but I would add mental arrogance too. It is this thinking for others that is the bane of working together or living together. Why do we have to show off our intelligence in things that are not ours to worry about? But this is awfully a fact of life and nothing, absolutely no reprimand or orders ever changes the stance. In the most insignificant things we tend to meddle. I can rarely have cup of coffee done my way. I like it very warm but not boiling hot, a little strong but only half a cup at a time and no espresso. This should be a simple thing to obtain in this world one would believe. My experience is to the contrary. I get what I want only when I make it myself. On visits, my requests are simply overridden by my hosts and they offer me coffee the way they like it or what they understand by the words “low in milk and sugar please” – normally with too much milk and sugar because they do not wish to be seen as stingy and boiling hot and in the biggest cup they can to please me! The other day I sent my boy to buy rechargeable batteries along with a charger

47 and a carry case for my new camera. This chap has been with me since 16 years. I normally give him the back ground of the situation so that he can take proper practical decisions on the spot if required. Then over the last 12 years since he has had the mobile phone, I have been drumming into him not to decide on things he does not understand and all he has to do is to give me a call and leave the decision making to me. So, he goes and gets me the case and the charger but not the batteries. This is very annoying because what I have are normal dry cells. I was to go to a gathering where I wanted to take some pictures and the normal dry cell would not have carried me thru. So I asked him why he had not bought the batteries and his candid reply was that he had seen the batteries so he assumed that I must have made a mistake and did not really need them. Similarly I can relate umpteen instances. Once when designing the electronics for a washing machine I asked a certain metal plate of a certain thickness to be fitted in a very particular way to avoid the vibrations shaking the relay systems. Then I left the factory in charge of the owner engineer to incorporate the changes. In the afternoon I was rudely woken up from my afternoon siesta by a call that my system is not working at all and in fact it has worsened the situation. So I rushed back to the factory because it is now a matter of my pride and the reliability of my technical

48 know-how at stake. There I soon see that the plate is not of the thickness advised and not fitted as I had instructed. The owner engineer of the project had made changes and then was complaining the most loudly; totally oblivious that he was the reason behind the problems. In this particular case the interference was at every step. He just could not resist interfering and he delayed the project so much that another manufacturer then pipped him at the post by bringing out a machine before he could. Otherwise he would have been the first one and there were six marketing brands running after him to take the machine under their brand which would have been a great win. This trait is universal and in force in every small act or word in our lives. We should make a concerted attempt to reduce this factor to live happier and better lives.

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12. Missing the movement.
Traveling from point A to point B in your own vehicle can be quite an education in Delhi. We see other drivers behave in a manner which boggles the imagination. But I do not wish to simply repeat what had been said often by many writers and most drawing room conversations. I wish to put forth a point which I find hard to comprehend and illustrate. So in spite of the fact that I may sound a little dry and mathematical, I will make an attempt. First to make the point which is that even though we are in a moving traffic we calculate our position and movement vis-à-vis that of others and take decisions as if every other person was stationary, will remain so and is an idiot to boot? Let me now attempt to illustrate. At the cross roads, the light is red. When it goes green, you see the guy on the right cutting in front of you to go towards the intersection on your left. Why did he come to the right at all? This is a mystery. We can only guess from the visual treats given by other drivers that the guy was in a hurry to overtake everybody even if it meant it would land him on the wrong side of the road. Then when the time comes to move he shoots off towards his

50 destination – totally oblivious of the fact that others will move too. How do you explain that? And of course, the guy on your left wants to go to the extreme right. And he will cut right in front of you if he has to; you, after all you are most probably there to just watch the smart Alecs zipping about. Now why did this guy land up on the left side of the road when he wanted to go to the right? We can only presume that he did so because that was the only gap available to him at the starting line and a good pole position can mean everything in winning a motoring race. Then we have to also consider that his vehicle is designed as a racing wheeler while all the others are on the road to just see him jetting off. He has calculated well that others are all stationary because they don’t know better and will remain that way. He is the only one with any sense to get on with things. Just the other day a motorcyclist came from behind on my right, zipped in front of the car at right angles and stopped at my left to talk to another motorcyclist waiting for him there. It was a beautiful little movement, deftly executed. My heart went “bump” but my head wondered why all this real ability of perfect timing and control is being wasted on such a useless and risky maneuver. Every time I read about a two-wheeler being rammed by a bus or truck, I think of these hard-cored bike

51 enthusiasts who are constantly risking their lives just to slip in front of the next vehicle. I am sure it is not just a matter of being in a hurry; there is definitely a lot of pride behind all this. I am convinced that in getting ahead of others gives them a high; always forgetting that all this is for naught as they would all meet again at the next red light. The same style of thinking and behaving can be seen in other walks of life. In our calculations we always forget that the world is in constant forward movement. We are just too warped up in ourselves. Yesterday at the petrol pump the lady ahead of me would not move her car even after the petrol had been pumped in. She had to first get back her change back and then make the milometer readings in her diary and all this she was doing comfortably as if there were no other motorists on the road. Requests to her by the pump attendants to move ahead a little so that the other cars can take their fill was not having any effect on her.

I find it hard to digest that anyone can be so blind and blinkered. Soon they will be outpaced and left to fend for themselves on the sidewalk while the rest of the world zips past. While these oldies were busy winning pointless skirmishes, the battle-front moved elsewhere and soon even the skirmishes vanish from their lives. There is nothing left

52 but memories and a lot of moping to do.

But luckily we are small cogs in a very big machinery and somehow or other we manage along helped by friends, family and the momentum of our own lives. Like in driving, the saving grace is always the consideration shown by others, the restrictive paths which keep us bridled in and we get by or are pushed along.

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13. Numerology in HR
Using exotic systems to assess potential capabilities of candidates is nothing out of the normal. Astrology has been used in management of business and kingdoms since planning began. Today we have many more simple systems like numerology and graphology to fall back upon. From the pragmatic point of view I would say there is nothing wrong in depending on the data provided by these systems if you tend to trust them and even more so if the interpreter of signs is trustable. There is of course a big IF involved and you may lose a good candidate by aspecting too much on just the numbers and others signs without taking into account mitigating factors and the sterling qualities of the candidate. I will admit that I have used numerology and graphology with some success in my own life. The basic facts that these systems provide are enough to guide us on to the correct path or at least give indication which way the wind is blowing. But it is best kept personal. There are too many factors at play. One of them is “Effort” and this should also be taken to mean that one should continuously make the effort to learn about one’s profession and connected subjects as much possible to arrive at mature and correct decisions.

54 But this essay is more to highlight the dependency shown by aspiring candidates themselves in such esoteric sciences to land jobs or plan their next career move. The focus on “kismet” seems to me inordinately high. A young man once phoned to ask me if he would pass in his exam. My response was that if he studied and prepared well for the coming test, he should certainly succeed. His response is indicative of the attitude of today: he told me if I saw success in his life then he would put in the effort otherwise what was the point of it all?! I met some people yesterday and thought it would fruitful to put down the experience on paper to share. A mother along with her daughter paid me a visit to take advantage of my practical knowledge of numerology to know how things would work out with her daughter but she would not let the daughter speak. I stopped her right there and asked her to keep herself in the back ground for awhile so that I could hear the daughter’s version. What had transpired was something like this: The girl was obviously brought up with only one end in view: - marriage. She had been through the entire Indian school program, yet she obviously was not conversant with her basics on any subject. I did not think it wise to ask too much about the school. How these young

55 people manage to get through the exams beats me. And what kind of teaching is going on in our schools would be a good question to pose. The girl spoke only her dialectical version of her mother tongue. She had no English and no practical knowledge of anything at all. To top this combination, life played her a bad trick. The parents in their exalted wisdom married her off at the age of 19. She had a child when 20; a separation at 21 and at the age of 23 a depression. She has been trying to look for a job since the last 20 months with no success. What was I to do? Numerology had no role to play here. The daughter’s Q "When will I find a job?" really had no reply as such in my book. So I thought I would be bluntly honest and told her that getting a job is easy when you are trained for one. Jobs are essentially a barter system at work. You give in term of work and you get paid for it. What exactly had she done in that line? Her answer really put my pragmatism on hold. She told she never got the time. With a mother running her life and not only thinking for her but also providing her with all she could want, she had not even learnt to cook a simple omlette. Her culinary prowess was limited to phone in a pizzeria.

56 I wonder if parents realize what harm they do to their children by over-cuddling and at the same time over-patronizing them. There is also this over dependency on the education system to instill all the worldly, social, interpersonal and other knowledge required to navigate thru life. Even if they are being raised for marriage, don’t they see that marriage requires inter-personal and household skills of some level of proficiency? So I advised her to acquire some basic skills like selling to begin with. She could begin by joining a corporate showroom in the sales dept and acquire experience. Side by side I felt she would do well to learn both Hindi and English properly, more suitable for the world at large; all this with a focus on eventually getting into a more specialized career as needed in call-centers or junior executives in corporate offices. I now understand the comments being made by management seniors that our young people are not really employable. It is so sad.

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14. On a Leash
In the evenings, I go out with my child for a little while in the park in our residential complex. It is a beautifully maintained park and children from other complexes come there too. In the last week two instances took place which forced me to speak out and act. Children of all ages, as young as few months old were playing and of course with the children there are many young ladies, both parents and maids. On some pretext or the other young servants of the area want to come into that area of the park; who knows when they will be noticed. Watchmen have been kept to shoo these young strollers but then the watchmen is not always there and there are always some new ones trying their luck. The other day one young man came in with his dog. A big black dog which was obviously scaring the kids. So I asked him what was he doing there with children all around; this is no place to walk the dog. His reply was simple “What can I do. The dog has pulled me here”. Now this made me angry and I showed it. I told him if he cannot hold the dog which is on a leash anyway, he should stay at home and leave the walking to his master and I would beat him blue and black if he allowed the dog

58 to pooh where the children were playing. He quickly beat retreat. Then about four days later, the same thing happened again with another caretaker and dog. The surprising thing is that children from the same houses visit the park too from where these dogs are coming, yet the owners have no respect and bring their dogs in this area to let their dogs pooh. Have they no sensitivity that they are dirtying the very area in which their children will be playing later on and opening the doors to sickness and worse? Where does this attitude come from? Is it our concept of secularism where everyone is allowed certain leeway which is translated as absolute freedom for everybody even if it is causing a nuisance to others? If these dog lovers are so serious about their dogs, why don’t hey have a toilet made in their houses for their animals instead of dirtying the entire complex? You step into the pooh of animals the moment you step out? Is the fundamental freedom only for them? Do I not have a place under this sun? What’s behind this need to keep dogs anyway? It can’t be love for animals because had it been love we would not confine them to the congested life of the cities. Two recent forwards by email raised the same question. Are we secular or hypocrites or what? One email raised the question with

59 comparative pictures about the paintings of M.F.Hussain and how they denigrate Hinduism. Well, I must say I had never looked into this subject with any interest until now and had treated all the brouhaha as the meanderings of the narrow minded. I had always thought that as an individual M.F. Hussain has his rights and you have the right to like or not like what he does. But making it a sociological issue never crossed my mind. I looked a little closely into what the email had to say and my feeling was this: A word of caution with this line of thought. You have to study the heritage of Tantra to understand the depiction of our Gods and their consorts. The Hindu tantras have always advocated spiritual emancipation through sexual release and bondage at the same time. It is yoga in practice in real life instead of running away and hiding in a cave. This is what we see in Khajurao and many other places depicted in stone and wall painting and even books like the Kama Sutra. When literacy was not prevalent and books could not be easily produced, stone was the best medium. Study the culture of our yoginis. In Jainism, release from the earthly bondage always culminates in absolute nakedness. This idiotic concept of nakedness being a sin and bad has come to us with the Christian moral tradition.

60 Let us not forget our basics and our general balance. Let us maintain our mental and emotional equanimity. My feeling was that the paintings had caught the mental and emotional thought patterns of each of the communities. Although Hussain could have been a little more circumspect and not depicted so much nudity knowing fully well that in today’s climate it would offend many. Artists are given a license and much leeway but they should not let their hearts run away out of control of their heads. If you are holding the leash like in the dogs in the story above, then you need to exercise restrain and manage the situation from every angle in consideration. Then in the second forward, the topic was how badly Hindus are being treated in their own country. So I asked the person who sent me the email - Are you really looking for an answer? Hindus are a confused lot and always afraid of what I have not understood. We also have the bad habit of being utterly self-centered, have a very high opinion of ourselves and are afraid to fight for what we want or even speak out. Our want of moral values shows in our way of life - where else do they burn daughters inlaw? We are highly judgmental, always criticizing I suppose this is a way to feel better &

61 superior - yet envy is high on our list and we do not think twice in throwing our dirt in other's space. We talk of brotherhood but back-biting comes very easily to us. For a fistful of dollars we are prepared to sell our soul. We have always taken the route of appeasement in even the most minor decisions. We have always gone for short-cuts and appeasement is a shortcut! We are a spineless lot and we ostracize and ignore those who speak out as disturbers of peace. In this atmosphere it is no wonder now some of us have resorted to violence to say our piece. If we could, we would want the rest of the world on a tight leash always happily bearing with us while we live with abandon and total unconcern for anything or anybody. In life we always get the treatment we allow ourselves to be given.

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15. OUT OF THE TIME FRAME.
There is a time and place for every thing. Do we really understand this saying? A little peep into history and we see instances of how certain decisions taken at a particular time for a particular purpose continued to be practiced long after the moment had passed. Just to impress the point let me relate some well known instances. This story is from England. At the time of Napoleon Bonaparte, the British had posted a round the clock watch on the cliffs of Dover. The order was given and soldiers were regularly on duty. Napoleon came and went down history lane. There were other wars. The First Great war and the Second war too came and passed. The soldiers were still at their watch at the designated point. Until some time very recently in the past this situation was noticed and counter-orders given. Similarly I remember reading about a story from Russia. The youngest princess of the Tsar saw the first flower bloom on the lawns of her palace. She was so filled with joy that for fear of somebody accidentally crushing the flower, a soldier was put on guard. Long after the flower had perished a soldier continued to guard the spot and did so for many years to come. The story was even forgotten until somebody asked the question as to why a

63 soldier was standing guard in the middle of the lawn. If we look closely at our lives and the lives of others, we will notice that we often take things to inordinately long lengths. We love to keep arguments alive. Study the chivalrous history of some clans from Scotland and Rajasthan. How often some misunderstanding or slight to the arrogance of some, the whole family fights with another and the feud goes on from generation to generation. Honor killings are not unknown and these start feuds of their own where the eye for an eye campaign goes on and bloody on; with nobody even having any inkling about the first quarrel which often becomes history and the polished version of the story remains as a legend. Do these events show a progressive and intelligent human mind at work? My mother tells me about the estrangement between the city states of Jaisalmer and Bikaner, although she has no idea why. It seems marriage between the families of these two states is frowned upon. Whatever the reason which is now lost into history and would have been correct for the time period, it is still followed by some. Similarly a little study of the different religions will also show that some precepts and advice that was given some centuries

64 back considering the elements at play at the time tend to continue to rule the minds of men who practice that religion. Often so rigidly that fanaticism is born; look at the havoc it has been playing since the beginning of recorded history. Even a superficial study of the rules in question will show that their relevance is now over but because of fear of transgression nobody is prepared to drop them in the collectivity although most would individually agree that they were advocated in another time frame and are not relevant any more. When we carry a point too far we can only hurt ourselves; especially in anger. Let’s now have a look at something very close to our selves; especially relationships at home and at the work place. One of the simplest occasions that we will see in all our lives is the act of losing our temper and keep on being angry even after the point has been made and rectified. The ego will rarely let go. It will keep on reminding us about the incident and keep our focus on the anger towards the perpetrator alive. We rarely have any will to go against it as after all it makes us feel superior and it does give us a baton to brow-beat. Indignation is good but it is terribly self destructive if

65 allowed to go on and control us. Matured and self-assured people know how to shake it off. Good managers understand this and practice restrain with a strong will. If not they will destroy their organization. This same will is rarely seen in force in personal relationships. Jumping to conclusions and allowing misunderstandings to not die down is one thing practiced by all of us. It shows its poisonous side rather specially in marriages. Until we are ready for a separation we should not use indignation as a tool. Make your point, and if the other party is prepared to rectify the fault which started it all, wisdom advocates that the matter be forgotten forthwith and sweetness brought back into the relationship without a second’s delay. At the managerial level decisions taken in anger shrouded by self-importance, should be quickly reconsidered and not allowed to fester and if necessary annulled. A good policy would be to even apologies and let bygones be bygones and mean it.

66 16. Pride in lawlessness
A girl gets raped, undressed and molested on the street and a whole crowd will look on but no one will lift a finger. Why? Because we just don't have the guts to speak out or make a stand. On a pragmatic level we do not want to invite the ire on ourselves which is understandable. We are always thinking as individuals and selfishly; never as a member of a community. I wonder if there should not be a law to purposely make onlookers and witnesses to lift a finger or face the ire of the law as criminals promoting violence by not doing anything. Humanity never learns. Hitler could getaway with what he did with the Jews because the neighbors were in quiet tacit agreement. The same happened later in erstwhile Yugoslavia. Closer to home every community is after the other for the most banal reasons. Every small time political figure looking for a little press coverage will raise the specter of provincialism by talking about jobs only for the locals or language or hate against other religious communities knowing fully well that the un-evolved mind of the masses will mindlessly take to the streets and burn, damage, hurt and even kill anything in sight.

67 Isn’t this tacit approval of mindlessness and violence? Shouldn’t there be a law against it and lock-up the instigators as criminals? This has been the path taken by many leaders all over the world to remain in power whereas the population slides into further misery and normally ends up in economies collapsing totally. See what happened in Rhodesia, Uganda and now in India in the eastern, western regions and earlier this trend was seen in the southern states too. Matters that will really help us improve our lot are left untouched but we have time for petty things. Take for instance this hue and cry on a movie where so much energy is being wasted in worrying about what happened 500 years ago. But ask people to stand up for subjects like female feticide and they are too busy to bother. Don’t these people see the ridiculousness of it all when they see construction sites empty of labor and streets without cobblers and hairdressers as reported lately in the papers? I fail to understand how taking away the work from a foreigner which he is trained to do can help these locals. Then why as a country others are not raising their fingers against it or revolt or raise its voice. These same political figures who want people out of their states, why don’t they ask their own people to return back and leave the other states

68 alone? Rather, the system reveres these so called political Lords and even offers them police protection and security. What I have never understood is how the common man, so full of virtue and compassion otherwise, becomes a heartless clerk the moment he becomes the employee of the President of India? Often using his powers as executive to harass and blackmail. Full of self-importance and righteousness to uphold the law but corrupt otherwise by first not doing his appointed work, then taking extra inducements without any feeling of shame and often not doing his job even after that. The entire legal machinery fails to deliver justice in time. More and more draconian laws are enacted. The police get more and more excuses to take the public to task with impunity. Rogue elements are having a field day. Today if we have something to be proud of, it is the pride we take in breaking laws and through it show our stature in life. Tell me how proud should I feel? If India is to move forward, it needs to have many second thoughts - now!

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17. Promote yourself.
I have observed that there are at least five distinct levels in human interactions; be it professional or personal. All these levels have very separate styles of behavior codes, language abilities, dress codes, philosophies and attitudes. Aspiring professionals who are aiming to rise and change levels or wish to interact with people of levels different from their own, need to understand these factors and change their disposition accordingly to be accepted otherwise they will miss opportunities and never be equal to the peer group. In today's environment where we are interacting with people from different cultures, this subject has taken on a very important facet. If you have not taken this factor into consideration for your plans of your advancement or even business operation, then you will face critical hurdles to reach your goals. To be brutally honest, you may miss out totally. The problem is that it is not easy to find guidelines as to how to go about this change. It also follows that nobody really wants to offend anyone by pointing out the irritants and very rarely do we have the acuity and precision in our observation to make note of things by ourselves. Then it is also a fact that

70 we have our amour propre to live with. Very few individuals would be ready to accept that it is their own behavior patterns that are clashing with others and if they are failing to make the grade, it is perhaps their own fault. The situation begins like this: We are brought up in a particular group and we learn everything from this group with rarely any exposure outside this group. Later as a final product we have learnt only the habits of our own group and are highly knowledgeable and mobile with a certain amount of command within this well known structure of our group. The big question is how to know and learn about other groups and what is liked and disliked. You have only two possibilities. Either you are born and brought up within the group you aspire to be in or you get into this group as a junior and soon, as fast as you can, learn the patterns of the group. Luck can play a big part if by some quirk of fate you can get within your intended group even at the periphery, the job becomes considerably easier. Watching particular movies can help if you take them as audio-visual education. But all this would make sense only if you first wanted a change. Normally we are very comfortable in our skins and we try every trick we know to impress and we do it with absolute confidence; never realizing that we are only alienating ourselves from our goal in

71 the process. Let me give some instances. One dead give away to our social status is our language and how we deliver our speech. Properly schooled people are trained very early to enunciate clearly, delivery their speech slowly, speak softly, let others finish their sentences, listen and enjoin in conversation only if necessary and other such fine points. In contrast, we have those who mumble, speak fast, loudly and use a dialect which is particular to their own set and see nothing wrong in cutting people off. This may be unacceptable to many. You would have certainly noticed how many of us tend to interrupt others; for instance you are talking to your manager and another executive comes and starts speaking to him as if you are invisible to him. And often worse, the manager listens to him. This happens so often in shops and public places that I wonder what happened to the basic etiquette of allowing the other to have his say. A moment’s wait won’t be the end of the world. Now this behavior maybe normal in the everyday scheme of things, but at the senior level it will offend. Most often people expound with great panache, supremely confident that they are making a mark with no second thought that their hold on the subject matter is not extremely solid and their language is not

72 sufficiently polished to express the matter properly either. What can you do with these people? They make it so difficult to communicate with. Even if someone wanted to be paly with them or take them under the wing, it is difficult as they simply do not understand; the language barrier is so great and they often worsen the situation by becoming argumentative. Dressing is another feature which needs to be attended to. One has to understand the difference between leisure wear and official attire, public dress and homely attire etc. The tastes of people and their cultural bends are easily shown by their choice of colors and cuts. Most people would say today that they do not care and they have their lives and will live the way want to. This is fine by me. Only the point here that we are making is that it cannot be so when you are entering a group on which your livelihood or networking depends. The solution to this enigma is that you find a sincere teacher who will point out the flaws in your mannerisms and explain to you the fine points of interaction meaningfully directed to you personally, preferably in private. Books and lectures may open your eyes but they rarely help you change your long ingrained habits. This needs persistent hammering and you will need will power and courage to stand up to it.

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18. Resolved, Signed and Sealed.
Let us see; are we going to take the coming of the New Year as an excuse for revelry or while we have drunk ourselves to the ground we might even take on the onerous task of some introspection which should result in some resolutions to be made. I fear that the resolve to stick to resolutions lasts only up to the second drink. But this is not going to stop every individual who takes the coming of the New Year seriously to make definite resolves, sign it and seal it as a document of great import and intent. It is another thing that the document maybe trashed in the very first week of the year. Then why do we make these resolutions? Are we basically insincere? Well, No. There is nothing insincere about it. Look at it with a little compassion and understanding. This is the only time of the year that I get the opportunity to take my friend’s wife in my arms with any kind of abandon; we are all allowing ourselves big margins of freedom from daily self-control. This is the time for fun and one takes what one can. And if to impress her I have to announce some resolutions, why not? Who would be coming to check on me anyway? On the question of insincerity, I must really take

74 offense. How can you talk to me like this? I am a responsible person. I take my job, family and other responsibilities seriously. It is just this little habit of smoking that I find difficult to quit. What with all the stress all these people create around me. My bosses are screaming for things to be done yesterday and the whole office is under the impression that I am slacker. When I reach home the litany of woes is the first thing I hear. Well, of course I understand that taking care of all the household chores and the three kids can fray the nerves of my wife but then what can I do? I bring in the moolah and go thru the squeezer without complaining so why is she nagging? The whole problem in this life is the lack of understanding I have to tolerate from all these selfish people. Oh How I wish there was a way around all this? I did spend three nights at the hospital with our son did I not? Does that not count for anything? Well in my home I am the boss is it not? So after weathering the storm outside, if I take on a smoke or even a chota peg, am I out of line? I had a bad day at the office. My boss won’t understand the problems I have with my juniors. I did not employ them or choose them but I have to get work out of them. I shout and push but these people are so mule like. God; life is unfair. Ok. This is the last day of the year and a good farewell party to the year has been organized

75 at the office. After all it is considered auspicious to ring in the New Year on a happy note, so it is imperative I be there. I know I will get sloshed with all this imported whiskey being pushed under my nose, but then this is just once a year and one should not be a stuffed shirt anyway; don’t you think? Good, then! I resolve to cut down on my smoking, drinking even the occasional type, keep a more reasonable attitude towards my colleagues and wife. I will try not to lose my temper and instead of pushing people around I will try to cajole them. I will definitely get into the meditation circle in the office and try to see things from a calmer perspective. Perhaps spend some time regularly at the gym too. If only these idiot drivers would stop honking and try to overtake me at every bend I could think things over more deeply!! God..this mobile phone….am I never to know peace from this infernal instrument. And then; why focus on my resolutions and change so much? Why can’t you resolve not to irritate me a little less? Am I asking too much?

76

19. Saying thine part
Have you noticed how some people can speak their part only in outbursts of some kind? They would be otherwise nice, sane people going about their lives in a circular routine that they have built around themselves. Yet, under their calm exterior there is always some undercurrent of judgmental thoughts flowing quietly which, keeps them perpetually irritated about something or the other. I have noticed this in myself when I am driving. The need to focus on whatever others are doing is so strong to avoid collisions because in Delhi one drives by the rule that if there is space one has to go in and fill it up or worse if you have a bigger car, your selfimportance gives you the right to go ahead first. This creates a situation where you have to drive with one eye on the rear-view mirror and the other three eyes on the left, front and right. Of course there is also this continuous analysis that is humming inside the brain. And every now and then, the perceived stupidity of the other guy vents itself out in expletives. So coming back to our original premise, we need to consider the why and why-nots of the situation. The question is why some people speak their part only in anger; and this is not

77 just anger, it is also laced with a heavy dose of indignation. Indignation presupposes that the person has been wronged and has been made to suffer due to the unworthy actions of the other guy. This also presupposes that some sort of judgment has already been passed. So, I can safely say that the person speaking out in hot flashes is not being pragmatic, he has not bothered to listen to both sides of the story and feels so strongly that he has been wronged that there is no space for discussions in the situation. The situation is exacerbated by the person’s need to not only prove his point but also teach the other malefactor a lesson even if it has to be drilled into his head. This I suppose is what they call road rage when it happens on the highway. How we tend to work ourselves into lather for very often nothing is beautifully illustrated by a story I read many years ago. It was titled “Want to borrow a jack?” A motorist had a puncture somewhere out of town and was appalled to discover that there was no jack in his car. Now at the unearthly hour of 4 in the early morning where would he find the assistance needed and that too in the middle of the countryside? Let’s not forget that this story comes from a time when cell phones were not invented. So although his head was brimming with anger against all the people who could have done this to him, he was cool-headed enough to look around. In

78 the distance he noticed a light and decided to walk towards it. Soon it became obvious that he was approaching a farmhouse. This got him thinking. “What if the farmer does not open the door? He must surely be sleeping and will be upset at being disturbed at this hour of the night. But my need leaves me with no option but to knock at his door so to hell with the farmer. The farmer can always say no and that will be that and people are so unhelpful anyway nowadays. Etc, etc, etc.” By the time he reached the farmer’s door he had already worked out his case against the disturbance he was going to cause. If only the poor cityslicker had any idea that farmers get up rather early and are generally the most helpful kind of people on earth as they are deeply in tune with nature’s vagaries. Anyway this motorist knocks on the farmer’s door and the farmer opens the door. But before anything could be said the motorist blurts out:” Now are you going to give me the jack or not?” Why are we in such a hurry to prejudge? Why do we feel superior enough to be judgmental with so much righteousness? The other day I was back in my old school which is an Ashram where the morning hours are for meditation and no other activity is encouraged especially in the meditation area and near it. I was sitting there; it was six in the morning. Just then an old lady comes, sees the latest

79 newspaper daily around nearby, left by another ashramite and asks me to tell her the cricket score. So I pick up the paper and open it. After all if the old lady is more interested in cricket scores and meditation is not her forte, who am I to judge? But before I could do my good karma, an old teacher of mine passes by and immediately scolds me for reading the paper in the meditation area! Boy, I was so amused. It was so much like my childhood when I was being scolded for something or the other, never heard nor given a chance to explain. I can understand the young bursting out but one would expect much more from people who have seen a whole lifetime on this earth. When older people behave in this immature manner I do wonder if they have learnt anything at all; especially from people like senior executives, teachers and those in positions of authority. Why can’t people, even if they have been apparently wronged, keep their cool and state their case without anger? Are they incompetent and hiding their incompetence under the banner of outrageousness? I am reminded of this saying by Isaac Asimov – “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” And I will leave it here for you to judge!

80

20. Eyes Wide Shut
Normally, the newspaper arrives around 7 in the morning and I pick it up soon after. But one day I left early in the morning and the paper was not picked up. The paper boy had left it, as usual, near the front door in the passage leading from the main gate to the front door. So it was glaringly in the way. A big black and white spread on gray cement, dead in the middle of the open space with no clutter around it. The milkman came at eight, walked right on it to enter the house and went out the same way; totally missing the sight of the paper. When I returned at 9 or so, the mud stamped-by-footprints paper put my hackles up but that is another story. The next day I asked the milkman why he had walked all over the paper instead of picking it up or at least he could have avoided stepping on it. His reply was simple that he did not see it! This got me wondering. From this milkman my mind wandered to another who used to tell us about his car and the buses he was plying on Delhi’s road. He was not driving himself but leasing the buses out. It seems he owned two. The other day the postman whose normal time to visit is after midday, arrived at 9 in the morning and I asked him what

81 happened. What he was delivering was yesterday’s post. He had missed delivering it yesterday because the driver of a bus that he plies on Delhi’s roads did not come and he had to drive it himself. This raises two questions. Who are behind the buses that are supposedly killing one or two people everyday on Delhi’s roads? The newspapers inform us that many of the buses are in actuality owned by policemen and other political dignitaries so that when a complaint or misdemeanor is noticed, the concerned people look the other way. But I think that the malaise is deeper than that. The authorities are looking at the problem with eyes tightly shut. When they ordered the buses to be checked, they conveniently forgot to focus on the point that the buses by themselves are inert pieces of machinery. The fault has to be with the people responsible with their upkeep and more so the driving and people skills of the staff running them. A bit of mayhem is to be expected if people from the community of milkmen and rough and tumble farmers are running the buses and their adored young ones are driving them; quite often without any training or selfdiscipline in their character. If my milkman can miss a two whole square feet of white

82 spread with black markings in a small passage with nothing else around it, do you think that these people would be sensitive to the needs of being careful in any situation? If we focus on the buses alone we shall miss the forest. The point is that most of us live lives immersed in a sea of denials. We do not see because it is not convenient to see. We do not listen because it is not convenient to hear. We speak without meaning a single word and if necessary we would deny having spoken. We are shutting off the world around us want the world to remain open to us and only that; we want the world to make required effort to reorganize itself to suit fancy. This is surely the perfect recipe disasters. but not the our for

The other day I spoke of people driving as if the other vehicles were there for decorative purposes only. Every driver thinks that he is the only one important and of course the honking of the horn would make it clear to anybody. They zigzag around other vehicles as if the others were stationary and miss hitting each other by hair’s breadth. The bad habit of motorcyclists coming from behind and shooting themselves in front of your bumper, forcing you to brake to avoid hitting them is now an acceptable maneuver. Every single motorcyclist does it. They cram shelves in the

83 minimum of spaces between vehicles and if they get brushed they come out to fight. The surprise is that they are not crushed more often. I wonder if the buses are really to blame all the time. My thoughts always veer towards blaming the two wheelers when I read about another death. Why can’t we keep a little distance between each other when driving to allow for errors and mistakes of judgment or even technical snags? Are we so used to living shoulder to shoulder that we practice it even with our vehicles? What is the point in blaming the vehicles? They are as good as the ruffians behind the wheels. What needs correction is our attitude of “Me; Cant-you-see Brilliant, Able & Smarter Guy, so Me come First”!

84

21. Stealing credit.

Recently I became aware that some of my write-ups are being posted in the groups I post my articles. I am sharing here my views and some of others who responded to my mention of this malaise. The paste and copy provided by the Internet technology is a good thing but it cannot be taken as a license to take credit for material written by others. I have seen two instances of my write-ups being submitted by others; Sad state of affairs. What harm is there in appreciating my effort and letting be a little proud for my efforts? I would say either give credit for using posted material to the original writer or write up your own if you have something to say. Taking undue credit and making profit by cutting corners amounts to plain cheating which is reprehensible, And this the one flaw in our character which has kept us back from becoming world class or world leaders. It is high time that we started showing our intelligence rather than our cunning and cleverness. Somebody copying us is flattery all right. But are we looking for flattery? Stealing, spying, cheating is a way of life. Not being paid for

85 work done is also a fairly prevalent phenomenon. There will always be someone who will take advantage. What is reprehensible is that we do not care anymore for the ethics involved. How low have we allowed ourselves to go? There is a legal side to it. Suppose I get my work published and half a dozen people stand up claiming as theirs? Once you get embroiled in the legal system life becomes hell. And don't think people won’t do it. Wives are using the laws to get even. The moment you buy a plot of land, there is another claimant who files a suit. Frivolous things are part of the human make up alright.But downright copying and posting it on the same channel from where you have picked it up seems to me going too far in stupidity. The least I would suppose is that someone would use the points raised and do some re-write of his own. Christine McLeod wrote: Hi Pradeep, A very real and a very serious concern is what you have expressed here. Plagiarism is the bane of our society, and we, especially in India, with our 'sab chalta hai' attitude have never learnt of copyright. Right from the way 'cheating' is perceived by children in our schools, to the spillover of attitudes at

86 work...radical awareness is the call of the hour. gvk mohan wrote: I agree that copying is not on. But as Trainers or whatever, can we look further? I am not advocating anything or speaking for somebody. My point is, the net is an ocean by itself. It is information everywhere. There are no guarantees. When we post, our right on that post may be gone forever. Can we think a bit bigger, broader and say "ok, if that guy has copied my post and reposted, hope it gives him some happiness or pride, hope it gives him some knowledge, hope it helps him in some way". I am asking this to Pradeep and others too generally. Tell me, what we write, speak today, is it not out of our lifetime reading or listening? Are we that original and creative and have produced such stuff that we need to get worked up? Are we that big in this universe? Are we saying "Hey, that piece of info or knowledge is mine? If you want to use it, say that is from me. And then I’m ok with you using it.”??? And in fact, if someone has re-posted you, take pride, as your stuff seems to be so good that someone thought it worthy of copying. Inez Rufus wrote: Agreed that there's a wealth of information in cyberspace and in books and that we as

87 trainers can't always be expected to say "Eureka" to every concept we train in. We borrow, we bend, we twist, we collate and we train. However, when people do not use their creativity to enhance or build on what they have borrowed (either through the information highway or books) and blatantly copy without giving credit to the original, it's unethical to say the least. Recently I was informed that modules that I had created as Training Head (through collated data) were being used by a Delhi company. It's a shame that we can be so blatantly unethical and have so such little originality that we stoop to copy - without acknowledgement. I would be more than happy to share things with others, but not when others assume ownership. I think it's unfair and totally unacceptable.

88 22. Taking Notes.
Some reflections have been heavy on my mind lately. With the information-overload and the speed now available to us, this question has taken a serious importance. Some time ago I was reading some Zen writings and one thing that was made clear is the nature of the human mind as a collector. We love to collect things, data, memories and brick-bats. A student asked me why we should not read all that comes to hand and this is what I responded with: The human mind at its present level of development is a collector. It collects data for data's sake. It also feels very knowledgeable and can spout quotes and passages on every subject and considers itself wise. To himself he is awesome and often wonders why others cannot see it this way. Often the ego over inflates and all further seeking stops. The mind takes the mantle of teacher and guide and wherever possible will “control” all around it. But then all this focus on statistical info, data of all sorts, end in attempt to codify and arrange it all in a reasonable pattern; and this blocks it. So read as much as you can but do not end up focusing more on your collection of books than learning from them.

89 Then this morning I read this quote by Chuck Palahniuk which took my breath away as it confirmed my own reading of making the most of this life given to us: “ The best way to waste your life……is by taking notes. The easiest way to avoid living is to just watch. Look for the details. Report. Don’t participate.” I remember The Mother of Pondicherry saying something like that one should act first and think later. In strict opposition the world advises to think before leaping and serious reflection etc. So here was a contradiction in terms. Why are people spending so much time in planning then? Later it became clear. In plans and projects on the worldly plane planning is necessary for correct implementation. The decision taking part is where this reflection comes in; if we reflect too much, then we may never do it. The same applies in personal lives. If we think, plan and debate too long we may end up not doing anything at all. At the spiritual level where I suppose the advice of The Mother is really valid, we then avoid the experience which will bring us wisdom and enlightenment. There is an age in our lives when we do want to learn and better ourselves. We read, collect quotes and books which go into the drawer/folders and on shelves and never see the light again. We then get busy with our lives, families and other things. Then age

90 begins to catch up. Our collections grow waiting for the right time and free time to catch up with all this. Rarely if at all the time ever comes. The truth then hits us; either we do it now or forget it – the moment is lost forever. What is not put into practice is dead info. Coming back to the material plane and our day to day existence, tons of goods are lying in stores in homes and offices. Deemed useful and needed at a particular time but later left to rot in a dusty corner; all but forgotten; and what about the people? Most of them are happy with their own selves. Just go behind the words and see things from a higher perspective and you will see that most of them are putting up a worked-up facade to be seen as knowledgeable and virtuous. I firmly believe that when there is not a "live" question, the answers have no meaning. If you see and compare the result of the work of the amount of pragmatic thoughts, guidance and philosophy that is available and being made available thru media of all kinds, one does tend to wonder for a second if it is changing their thinking and acting patterns? Are they applying any of it in their actions and lives? I do not believe they do. Wake-up calls are taken only when a crisis develops.

91 23. The Club of Givers
When we give something we are always keeping a track of every penny that is going out but when we are receiving something we feel that we have never received enough. And then we compare our giving with what is coming in and always the final balance shows a negative balance because compared to what we have given we have never received our due. Are we being true to ourselves and the universe which is organizing our lives around us? There is so much expectation from the universe but to receive we have to be in the club of givers without premeditated calculations of why & what. No conditionals! When we give our youth, time and energy to family, relationships, work we do so with an intent which is very selforiented at the core. The joining of the club of givers requires, spontaneity, the opposite of the tendency to hoard, live with less and as far as possible with the minimum one can. At the same time sharing of goods, effort and time because somebody is genuinely in more need than you and good obviously put whatever you are parting with to better use.

92 Finally the belief that the Universe is there and will give what you need anyway. The best givers are intensely alive and very involved in life. When you drop the critical, calculating and the judgmental attitude, there is an aura of compassion which builds up around you. Then you can only give. I know many millionaires in this group and I have been blessed by the help they gave me in cash, kind and personal time. As an exercise study your life and see how many things are lying around you that are never used and list them out. Second step if you feel there are others who can use them and NEED them, would you be ready to pass them on? This is living in the present. Things come and go. We are only caretakers or users for a while. Like a coin which changes hands hundreds and thousands of time in its life time. Yet the humans have been able to delude themselves into believing that things belong to them. These people close their doors so effectively that nothing goes out from them nor anything comes in to them. What a waste of a lifetime - it is so sad; these people are doomed to repeat their lifecycles over and over. So how does one open out to the universe;

93 How to be a witness? How do I grow out of the petty self? It is simple really. See the world with benevolent eyes. Don’t judge - observe as a third party witness. And above all: don’t try to change the world. Identify yourself with beautiful things and surround yourself with them. Learn about all the things that are negative in character, like noise, obnoxious materials, obnoxious emotions etc - anything that leaves a bad after-taste, shocks or frightens or as the environmentalists would say “polluting”. Try to distance yourself from these. And then join the club of givers. You'll see things will start falling in place.

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24. The Plight of Weavers -Tradition, Modernism & Reality
Recently I received an email forward speaking about how age old crafts are being lost and how the industrialization is pushing the old artists into abject poverty. This concern was brought up by foreigners from the western developed worlds who are hopefully really trying to keep the traditional arts alive. I give few lines from the same: This sari design, which has been in Javed's family for 100 years, can take up to two months to weave. Patterns like these have been a source of Indian pride for more than 2,000 years, with India's version of haute couture adorning wealthy women of the empires of Rome, Egypt and Persia. Until recently, weaving was India's second-mostcommon occupation, behind farming.

"This loom will be in a museum," said Javed's despairing uncle, Nazir Ahmed, 30, whose family was forced to shut down 12 of their 14 looms. "We would have never predicted this. We were India's artists. Now we are living in poverty." India also lacks a social security system,

95 leaving weavers, farmers vulnerable to market forces.

and

others

In response my friend Mr A Vajpai has this to say and I agree with him: Modern India is far too aggressive now to take on the International scenario, and there is no reason why it should slow down (get bogged down) by a culture which produces at best only items meant for the richest of the rich, who can afford such hand woven stuff. To change and adapt oneself in a competitive world is the key to economic and social progress - and not to continue with something which is bound to become outdated and outmoded and which would render us obsolete. Adapt or perish - that's the mantra. Art must certainly continue and prosper, as art, and not as a livelihood in the name of tradition if you can’t make it pay. Of course we cannot allow the designs and artistry to die out. The biggest bane of the Indian society has been the unrelenting population growth - for whatever reasons. Can anyone imagine what would have been the per capita income if only we had contained ourselves? Now, that this nation has found other areas of expertise to challenge the world at large, it has begun pinching everyone for obvious reasons. Is this

96 a ploy to keep us tied down and behind the times? Worldwide, the social and economic status will balance itself out by some means as things have usually, so let it take its normal course. My own comments are: My experience when trying to help the less educated has been rather depressing. There is a resistance to change that creeps in even with the first sentence exchanged. When this is coupled with our tendency to take shortcuts and soft options, we push ourselves into a hole and then pine and mope. Let me just enunciate some points: - Refusal to see the misery we are propagating by having more and more children even when our own cupboards are empty. We see children only as eventual insurance for old age. How the child will be fed and educated for the next 20 years before he can start bringing anything home is not taken into calculation. - Our socio economic environment is such that it spoils the boy child and burdens the girl. Most often it is the girls who keep the household well provided for while the boys become loafers.

97 - Lack of proper nutrition results in stunted growth; both in the visible state of the body and worse in the internal organs that we do not see. - Lack of stimulation and exposure results in visionless and aimless youngsters without mental development even of the basic kind. The underdevelopment of the brain is a reality. Their ability to learn and improve themselves is totally lacking. - By association the only trade they ever learn in their "learning" period is the one from their father. They have no other recourse but to follow the trade. - Their lack of “savoir faire” means they have to work for middlemen who are earning handsomely even in this shrinking market. Had these artisans spent some time planning their own education and future, things would be quite different. - Before you know what, the children are married off and some more children, "Gift of God" appear to feed and care for which the necessities are simply non existent. - The dreams sold by our celluloid world and now by the TV, are giving them a totally wrong impression about the realities of life. Instead of showing the way, it is

98 emotionalizing everything and leaving it there. Most of the Indian population is learning from these and patterning their lives wholly on the perverted nonsense they see through the medium of films and soaps on TV. - There is nobody to guide them or show the way. Especially the different norms and practices of different social classes and so they remain unaccepted by their peers and ignorant of business practices. - The art and artists merit all the help possible but not as doles. Let’s record it all for posterity and let Institutions like the Victoria Institute of Chennai keep the art alive. - The Govt can only play a limited role. We have to take responsibility for our own lives. -

99 25. The Value of Appreciation.
We, of course love to be appreciated; even flattery is welcome as there being some basis of truth in it somewhere. We judge and work out our own place under the sun from comments we hear about ourselves. I wonder how many of us realize that this is also the biggest chink in our amour. From a very pragmatic view of life, we have to live with others and therefore what they think is important. The point of debate is how much value can we and should we give to whom and why. The first angle to this debate is on the source of appreciation; or for that matter criticism. It is a very rare person who has risen above his personal likes and dislikes, prejudices and desires so all comments become by this very nature of things suspect. I would go far enough to say that we are never wholly ever sincere in the words we utter because in every thing we do or say there is always an element of self-appreciation or the need for it showing through. In straight and blunt language this means that our personal agenda makes us say and act and there is some manipulation involved to make others think and behave on a track of our choosing. Criticisms in contrast have always

100 some element of showing-off or/and spite. My own experience is that we take, broadly speaking, 3 basic factors in our judging of others. These are definitely involving our own personal level of maturity and the basic Mother-nature-given character. First and most common is the judgment passed on the basis of physical appearance. Our looks are an accident of birth but we take it as a personal achievement and we then judge the world by a standard we lay down with ourselves as the chief example. Anyone who falls within this gambit is one of us and “good” and conversely the rest are down-graded to lesser beings. Do we realize how easily we become open to manipulation because of the credence we would give to our own need to categorize? All somebody has to do to enter in our good books is to praise our handsomeness, strength, clothes or possessions and such superficial projections. The best that can be said of this yardstick is that we rarely come close enough to others to have any other; yet this is too subjective to be of any real value. The other two factors are our education and philosophy of life. It is easy to understand that we are conditioned by our education and the principles taught at home or followed by our parents and immediate society. When we go out into life we take decisions based on our

101 education and prejudices. Life teaches us the correct value of things by the results that ensue and this gives rise to our philosophy of life. Life is short and the baggage of faulty decisions soon starts weighing upon us. Most of the baggage is from the value that we sometime or other gave to the comments unleashed at us by others. Rarely do we have the courage to distance ourselves from what others think of us. Many pattern their entire lives on the thought “What will they say?” A lot many people never come to terms with reality at all. They spent an entire lifetime trying to “change” the world to their conceptions of how things should be which results in anguish and depression. They refuse to learn from experience or share anyone’s view. Wherever these persons have some hold they impose themselves and as they are not in tune with life truly, they create waves of accidents and pain. The truth is that we should always remember that appreciation is never wholly sincere, nor is criticism and adding a pinch of salt to all we hear from others is the correct approach to it all. In relationships, we must accept that perceptions change with time and we need to change with them. I would also take the radical step of making drastic changes in relations and business tactics. It is imperative that we neither fully allow ourselves to be

102 swamped by opinions and comments nor carry them too long in our conscience; take note of all that is coming your way, then be honest enough to look within yourself, make the necessary note, adjustments and changes as needed and go ahead with life. It is simple logic that when you have made the change, the past is no longer relevant and should be dropped like a used sheath and forgotten otherwise it will be like a mill-stone on your shoulders very similar to the Chinese punishment of yore. It is easy to say so but we need to learn to sift between appreciation and flattery as well as spiteful abuse and positive criticism. So it follows that only those who have the courage to live by their own perceptions, open to what life is trying to tell them with a lot sincerity to be objective, specially with their own selves will really grow, succeed and find happiness.

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26. The Value of training programs
The value of training programs of sales people, especially in sales of High value items like cars and high priced luxury items is the subject of this discussion. This is one of the most difficult lines of work. My personal observation is that most sales people are from a very different environment (economically, socially & often educationally) to that of the buyer. This results in a vast chasm between what the buyer expects and the seller is able to respond to. Of course training programs have their value and they do theoretically prepare the sales people to understand what they are getting into and what is expected of them. Raw recruits do need this training. But the basic problems of all training programs is in the fact that certain character traits are already embedded and indelibly marked in most people by the time they enter life’s stream. Even after many years of training and experience many people never learn to control certain habits and/or behavior responses of theirs. For instance traits like, shyness or brashness, impatience, overeagerness, arrogance, cleverness, argumentativeness and such; although there are many traits that help like sympathy and

104 empathy, good manners, good elocution etc. This is why most raining programs do not take you very far. They make the person conscious of certain points alright but most are not able to incorporate these factors into their persona. At the actual moment of need, people always behave, act or/and react in a predictable manner which is their basic personality. It is not easy for the sales people to visualize or understand the needs of the buyer or the way the buyer thinks. Most often they miss the cues to what will trigger interest and decision to finalize a purchase in the buyer. Let us say the buyer is a millionaire and likes his little luxuries which he can afford but the sales guy would never have had the opportunity to experience. For example the texture and shape of the seat may be of more importance to the buyer than the salesperson can really ever imagine as he would not have had the luxury of that kind of a life; then it can be presumed that the sales person would totally miss his shots while trying to impress the buyer. The salesman may be very talented and informed about cars and would easily able to reply all the questions of the buyer but may miss the point that the buyer is a snob and would not take kindly to be hustled or crowded around. Technicalities may not even

105 bother the buyer. To him certain comforts and amenities and discounts may be more important. A buyer of a car rarely comes in without some pre-thinking and can be expected to be informed so his mind maybe already half made up. I have seen buyers being put-off by the aggressiveness and insensitivity of sales persons. I relate here a real experience. A heavy-set man in his late fifties, a little visibly arthritic was attracted to the new lines of a car and went to have a look-see. The car was a beauty and with a snob value brandname too. This is how a part of the conversation went: Buyer: It is lovely car. Salesperson: Yes sir (and immediately started on his rehearsed spiel) Buyer: (Raised his hand to quieten him) I can read all that in the documentation. Unfortunately I find the seats and the car in general too low for my comfort. Salesman: (falls for the cue on the word comfort) Sir, the seats provide an unsurpassed level of comfort. You can travel for hours and not feel any fatigue. The seats have been designed to support the human form perfectly and the cushioning has been researched to give the maximum support and cushiness at the same time. Once you are in the seat you may not feel like getting out. Buyer: (looks at the salesman, smiles and walks away. His problem being that with his

106 body structure he has first trouble in getting into the seat gracefully; he would have to let himself plonk down into it. Then coming out would be another Herculean task. The chances are that he would not be able to get up and out on a bad day at all. Now as would be obvious to all of us, the salesman missed the cues about the visibly physical difficulty of the buyer who eventually bought a SUV with a higher clearance and seats. In most management programs that are outlined I notice, we give great advice which is actually meaningless in practice. This is because it is easier said than done. Most people are creatures of habit and their behavior patterns are not that easily transformed by a few words thrown at them. The words of Francis Bacon that say something like this are important: We think according to fancy, talk according to education but behave by habit. That is why I have been an enthusiastic proponent of apprenticeship. After basic training always place the new sales guy under a senior. The job of the senior to be specifically to train the junior and not just use him as an assistant; a junior picks far much more over the years by seeing a senior

107 at work than short training stints can ever inculcate. Additionally he would receive proper corrections and advice to deal with different situations which are highly imperative to the learning process and development of character.

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27. The WHYs behind the whys.
I read recently that people from lesser privileged backgrounds like the ghettos, jhuggi- jhopdis etc are more prone to violence than others from better & cleaner environments; the operative word being “cleaner, more attractive, well organized and kept and maintained surroundings. Here is a piece of news that we should all be sitting up and taking note of. There are so many similar related traits that I have pondered on and analyzed. How we carry the environments like a metal plated coat on our shoulders is not always appreciated although to my eyes is plainly obvious. Understanding of this phenomenon would help HR and our own relationships both personal and professional. Now the question – “why”. Why do they behave this way? Let’s try and understand these actions more in the spirit of starting a discussion than deep psychological unraveling to prove anything. Let me take up a few: There is all the open space on the road. But the other guy still does not find enough space and bumps into you.

109 This is the way they feel comfortable and justify their individuality. These unfortunate people have known only cramped surroundings that accord them no pride or individuality with little or no space of their own. They have never been alone. Living in cramped and often dirty surroundings with no respite in sight and with an underlying subconscious thought that life has dealt them a miserable hand.

There is a lot of empty space to park the car but the guy still double parks and blocks the road for everybody. Self importance makes them want to be seen always in a hurry. They take the shortest rout from one point to another, even overtake at curves and from the left or go over the other half of the road; so importantly they have to park right opposite the gate and subconsciously the only way they can attract attention is by being a bit of nuisance. There is a Q at the milk booth but he still tries to push his hand over others to be served first. He is supremely comfortable in his own persona. Nobody else exists. He does not see anyone else. I was at the booth and this young lad came and tried to go over everybody, specially a small servant girl. I stopped him and told him flatly that he shall have to wait his turn; his answered saying that he did not

110 see the girl. They live so much in a world where they are the single most important person that they automatically become blind to everyone else. Then cheating is part of life; is it not? He sees the well kept courtyard and the first thing he does is spit in front of the front door before entering. The poor guy is really showing off his good manners; that before entering the house he was clearing his throat and all. It is not his fault that he has never known a clean “front” as part of one’s image. The street where he lives is the principal common drain too of the locality. A beautiful front as part of the character of the home is too far away from his conception of things. He has only learnt to see his smashing handsome self in the mirror and he is very impressed by his image. The whole sleeping compartment is asleep in the train and two people wake up in the morning and start talking and guffawing. In their common life nobody has ever respected their privacy. The concept simply does not exist in their personas. They have known dirt, neglect and are acutely aware that for a few minutes of romp their parents have endowed them a life-time of misery. If they manage to get out of their abject surroundings, they have to let the world know it and it never occurred to them that what they are so loudly announcing to the world is

111 not of interest commonplace too..

to

anybody

or

very

He can very well talk inside his house which is big enough and everything but still he prefers to come out on the balcony and regale everybody with his important conversation; loud enough to be heard three houses away. He has risen in the world. How else shall he show it? In his childhood the family was scrounging with 400 rupees a month. Now he is making 40 thousand or more. It is cause for blowing the trumpet. The problems arise more when in today’s world you are raised and brought in one environment and then availability of cash technically raises your level of social center but the habits acquired earlier and the concepts ingrained in early days do not go away and more often than not are not even understood or realized. He walks nonchalantly in the middle of the road, stops to chat or whatever but always dead in the middle of the road. For this we need to study a bit of anthropology. Since ages when we were living with many more animals and wilder spaces, we have this instinctive need to protect ourselves from predators by staying away from any tree or boulder as far as possible. Where there is no option we stay as much in the centre of the open space. This is still in our make-up. We could take it as an indication of how wild are our perceptions

112 and therefore our reactions. Doors are never closed behind them nor goods ever replaced. Be it an almirah/cupboard, or the front door. They will take the trouble to open them because otherwise they can’t get to what they want. But once their business is done, they will let things be for others to take care of the rearranging. Well they grew up in an ambience of total pampering by their elders. They did not have doors and things to worry about anyway. Then eventually all these habits become part of their fixed nature.

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28. To Marry or Not
On this question: Dear friends, One question that has bothered me for quite sometime is the decision to get married. I am 28. If things take their uninterrupted course, it would mean an arranged marriage according to my parents etc in a few years time. On one hand, I have references to Sri Aurobindo's letters to one of his disciples where he says not to expect any sanction from Him regarding indulgence of the latter's lower nature (something to that effect). On the other hand, we have Mother's beautiful statements on marriage being of two souls, and the extremely high demands which she places on "compatibility”. Further, a senior devotee of the Ashram told me that marriages often do havoc to any spiritual aspirations one may have, and has asked all sincere sadhaks to "think thrice" before marrying. A few conclusions which I have come to: a.) While celibacy is extolled by Them, (not only them but by a whole line of great spiritual teachers), it's not for everyone. It's up to each individual to find out where he stands. No small demands as we often justify our weaknesses. When are we "truly" incapable vs. when are we merely "not being sincere enough". Tough question! e.g. my own mind brings images of lonely death beds

114 and gloomy old age when I think of a celibate life..(Ridiculous, I know!!) b.) All I can say at this stage is that let me be sincere as best I can, the questions I have regarding how I should live my life will get answered. But, oh it takes a lot of faith to believe that the answers will eventually come and things will get resolved. Hope I haven't sounded hopelessly foolish! My own response: You have not been foolish but also you have not indicated if you want an answer. I can place some details from my personal experience. Sexual activity becomes unimportant only later in the sadhana when you have crossed a stage of continuous contentment from every source in the universe. Till then it can have a disturbing influence by making its demands and when not met it can corrode the spirit's foundation and spoil the health. Being brought up in the Ashram had also given me the same mindset like yours and the same set of questions. But at the same time I could see the marriages around me and the lack of happiness in them. This was very discouraging. I wanted to try out partnering with a woman but every time I made a Friend or reached the embrace stage, the selfishness of the woman

115 and her demands would begin and this was a big put off. Then I meditated and realised that I am reacting to the shape of woman automatically; something that is embedded in our make-up since the beginning of time. If we focus sincerely on what is happening in us we soon see that it is not one person that we are attracted to but the basic characteristics of the opposite sex and proximity plays a big part in these affairs of Love. Leave two bodies together and they will find enough attractiveness in themselves to want to mate. When the world at large marries it is doing only for this aspect totally ignoring the person in the body. When the bodies' needs are met the real person residing above the neck starts making its demands and taking its stands and the acrimony begins to enter the atmosphere. So after seeing so much around me I concluded I wanted a love affair and not a marriage. Moreover I would wait till somebody found me attractive enough and love me for myself and then I would let myself go. I was very influenced by the book Mrs Craddock by Somerset Maugham. In this he says: Entre deux aimants il y a toujours un qui aime et l'autre qui se laisse aimer. (Between two lovers there is always one who loves and the other who lets himself/herself be loved) And I could see this happening all around me and my own experiments with flirting proved that as long I was running after a person she

116 would show interest but soon it would melt into nothingness. Finally I had the experience of somebody who came into my life and gave herself without question at the age of 36. It was giving all the way. And it was a most beautiful experience. As they speak in the tantras, I had many elevating experiences as I saw myself in all hues and learnt more about myself than I had in the rest of my years. Suddenly my own self was laid out in front of me without any curtains. Then circumstances changed. I even discussed this with my teachers in the Ashram. If I had to stay out in the world, marriage was becoming a pragmatic necessity. But as a practitioner of numerology I had seen that marriage happens only with the diametrically opposite number. So if I wanted to get into marriage I should be ready for opposition, misunderstandings and turbulence. Again as an experiment I started a love affair with numbers that I wanted to which were my own but we would be in love (so called) but every time I would propose marriage they told me that they did not feel needed and would leave me. Now what was wrong with me that these ladies could see thru me I wondered? Eventually I married for practical reasons and it was a terrible time of torment. But I had decided not to run away. I learnt a lot about my own selfish attitudes because the feedback from the partner was immediate and honestly speaking true. So first I concentrated on my

117 negative attributes and compromised with my partner at every stage. When the relationship began to stabilise and she started trusting me a bit, I stared discussing her attitudes and how some of her behaviour was hurting me. Slowly she also started to change her patterns but not as consciously as I had done. Finally I can say that marriage put me in a bind and forced me to look inward and gave me the final push towards enlightenment. Now my wife and I are good Friends and companions busy raising our kid.. Her own insecurities do frighten her sometimes into quarrels with me but they are manageable. Now it is up to you to judge. PK

Q 2. I want to know if there are some marriages inspired by Mother and gave instant happiness. My response: Marriage by itself as an institution is at the base level of humanity an attempt by the elevated human mind to bring some order in the chaos that sexuality brings. Marriage inspired by the Mother? The question does not seem very relevant to me. The average humanity goes thru this mill and it is the only kind of evolutionary sadhana an average person goes thru. Humanity has been

118 brain washed to find happiness in it. Not alone happiness but the ultimate happiness. Then religious factors have been drummed into us since our inception which are very contrary to real life. So marriage creates many dilemmas. Many of the dilemmas are so contrary to our own life's path that a lot of pain is created along with a pressure to find a break through. Marriage until it goes beyond the hormonal level and social customs cannot give happiness. It was designed for regularity and order in the social order. IT can give a lot of pleasures but until companionship develops between the two parties, there is no happiness. I have known two marriages in the Ashram which were based on the necessity of the spirit and devotion to each other. Marriage vows were taken more for convenience of the society and its laws. The marriage in spirit was already made. A very basic problem of marriage is that people out grow themselves and both the partners do not grow equally not in the same direction nor at the same speed. This creates even more self-centered pressures. Believe me; most marriages are together because of economic or legal hassles and sometimes because of the attachments to children. There were many times I wanted to get out of it all but Our Mother is not that easy to go

119 against. She put me in such a bind in such a way that there were no options left to me which also means that I had to go thru it and come out at the other end. Like it or not. But when all is said and done............. The best moments I have known in my life came thru my child and I am enjoying my child like a person possessed. Because now my wife and I have found friendship we are having, generally speaking, a jolly good time. Q 3. but...it is not altogether true that if one gets married it is "the end" of his/her spiritual life. Married life like any other activity in life does not make or break anything. Look around you. How many people really try to educate themselves about anything properly if at all? It is their ignorance about the world and its machinations + laziness + arrogance + stupidity that breaks and mars. The problem of marriage starts with the vital being which likes to be appreciated and looks for fulfillment of its desires and will hate anyone who does not fall in line. The motto of the vital has always been: Be reasonable. Do it my way. Now you can see this creates a big problem because how can we go on in life without

120 others noticing our defects and our negative attitudes? The woman is not here to please you. She is following certain dictates of genetics and vital being. When she gives herself bodily, in her view she has given all she has and after that you can never satisfy her needs materially or emotionally because her pail will never fill. Very few men know how to handle this state and fall into a trap they are unable to get out of. The defective mentality of men is also a barrier. They want to own the woman by force physical, emotional and mental. This can only lead to disaster as she is not a commodity. The groveling does not help either. Most marriages are made in immature & younger years. I feel happier marriages would happen if people waited a little longer and went into marriage only when they feel emotionally and mentally a little more comfortable with the world at large after having interacted with people in the wide world. Marriage can be a state of upliftment to those who are looking to improve themselves but for the average humanity it is just another bad state of affairs, an imposition and a bitter pill that has to be swallowed which nobody tries to avoid either.

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29. Turning Point
ON BEING ASKED: There comes a moment in life when everything changes for you. You start seeing the world with fresh eyes. It is as if you have jumped out of yourself and acquired a whole new persona. It is like the caterpillar growing wings and turning into the butterfly. Have you experienced such a turning point in your life? MY REPLY: Well, to be honest nothing of the kind ever happened to me although I have heard it happening. My life began in an Ashram ( Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry). But yes one little thing stands out. I was given a book by The Mother of the ashram when I was sixteen. At that age I read it but the words and the word pictures were not conveying much. The words were understood but not their implication. Specially one sentence stood out......... “Then you will see that the world is standing upside down." Of course I could see that every one as on their legs quite upright; then what was She saying. The sentence was at the back of my mind and has been. Gradually as life unfolded, I could see that people were lying left, right and centre; very often for no reason. I wondered if this is what Mother meant. Then I realised that

122 people are maintaining a facade. They wish to be seen as honest, hardworking, sincere, capable etc. While in their heart they were looking for shortcuts, were totally insincere and insecure about themselves as they knew well that the qualities they were expecting others to see in them were not there. They knew well that they were living a charade but simply did not have the guts to live otherwise. What an upside down way to live?! My own experience of life is that we are most of the time playing chess within our lives for no reason. For example when I was 10 or so, some boys wanted to steal mangoes. In the very first try we got caught. I decided then and there that there is no value in this cat and mouse game. Next time I wanted a mango, I just went and asked the owner and he gave me one! Similarly, I see people fibbing on the telephone. The cell phone has made this even more imperative. First I see that everyone wants to be connected but when they do get a call, specially from somebody they do not want to talk to, they play games such as saying they in the traffic, or make funny noises and shut the phone off or just keep on saying hullo many times as if they are not getting any signal from the other party. Why I ask myself are people complicating their lives so much? I can give other examples but I am sure you would have got the gist.

123 I laugh when I see people hungry and lusting after the opposite sex, running after them in frenzy with all their guile and means at their disposal; then considering themselves lucky to have gotten their prize in marriage only to realise later that it was no Happy Ever After deal at all. But they go through the motions of being happily married and reiterate their love as and when required and dedicate their lives to their children who are tiring them out, totally unhappy with their lot. For argument's sake let me admit there are exceptions & luckily this may not be wholly true with all but there is an element of truth in it in a big way as the soul which gives life to our existence is never happy with all this waste of emotional energy and time in keeping up appearances. The same can be seen in the jobs they hold; proud to be what they are or at least they make a show of it with full awareness that they are a nobody, a cog in a big wheel, totally replaceable. Look at the possessions they have; they collect and collect goods around them and soon tire of them or want something better but in company or even to themselves would be loathe to admit that they are not entirely happy with their lot. The hollowness of our lives shows very clearly in our collection of acquaintances and the friends we make. Life's needs and social

124 necessities force us to behave totally contrary to our nature. The show of camaraderie, promises made, love professed, responsibilities shouldered is faked and tiresome but we go along because we dare not otherwise or because it suits our own selfish needs and plans at that moment in time. If this is not living upside down, then what is?

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30. Upgrade or perish
As a consultant to industry, I have had the pleasure to meet many leaders who reached an enviable market position but then instead of improving and building upon it, let the company slide into oblivion. They often hit upon a good product and their foray into the market is successful. On the basis of this they create a small empire of sorts. But then the pioneering spirit gradually fades. The company head becomes more interested in spending the money he is making rather than worry about the company; after all the managers are supposed to do that. Only one thing would be amiss here. The owner does appoint managers but keeps all the authority of decisions in his own hands. So for every mishap, he has a scapegoat at hand and he is quite happy with the situation. It is quite akin to the old “zamindar” mindset. Lord of the realm; the money raking in without effort. The children being busy enjoying themselves; the very property that was feeding them going to the dogs due to mismanagement and vested interests of the managers who were creating small empires of their own at the expense of their Lord. I have seen small and big companies close shop with a regularity that can only mean a

126 faulty mindset. It is only when the company would start losing money that they would start thinking of taking action. Mostly I found that it was the second generation which was at fault. Their fathers started something and the enterprise flowered. The only mistake the parents made was to leave the education of their progeny to other agencies like schools and colleges. The time they should have given to train up the second generation to slip into their shoes, they simply could not afford. So it happens with regularity that the second generation inherits an empire for which they were not adequately trained to handle. Management by the second generation is limited to action taken in jerks and uncertain steps. It is more in the spirit of experiment than knowing what to do. When the fabric is old, patching up and darning won’t do. Whatever the action taken, it always is a case of too little too late when the company was beginning to take its last gasps and by then it would be too late.

India is full of such brands and their promoting companies that were household names in the 50-70s but today have disappeared. I had the fortune to be connected with quite some of them. Every time I would speak to them of the necessity to upgrade and improve upon their product line or diversify or take advantage of their market

127 position with new approaches, I would get a singularly similar response. At best they would agree to some cosmetic changes but no more. In at least five cases I even found them new products and all they had to do was launch them but none of the companies had the courage or vision to do so. Of course I was dealing with the CEOs; otherwise read “owner”. In short this boiled down to their understanding of their product which was selling fine, their times which were glorious with all and sundry bowing to them and the fact they thought their position was unassailable and would simply continue on into eternity. They were making money and their product line was in demand and there was no competition in sight. They had arrived and the forward movement of the industrial world would now stop there while they raced on. It all depends on the individual and most do precisely what they should not. The moment they feel that they have arrived, they become complacent. They see them-selves only in neon lights. They refuse to worry about such things as self-improvement and upgrades. It never occurs to them in their arrogant befuddled state that products, technology and markets change. And so do people. They can only see themselves moving forward and none to beat them. After all, time and time again

128 have they not proven themselves as top-class and top of the class? It is so surprising to see this smug lot, not willing to acknowledge that a new crop of more-with the-times people are joining the world every year. Luckily too, life is not very long. 3 score and ten years pass in a jiffy. The sad part is that we never realize this part of life and never learn to be grateful. We live with arrogance and die preoccupied with what will happen to our goods and chattel built over with so much pain and anxiety.

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31. When To Scold
On this Q: Today I scolded the watchman of my building very badly he was not switching on the water pump. Later when I saw his eyes they were full of tears .Have always tried talking politely with him but he has always taken me for granted today I scolded so finally he switched it on. What is the ideal way? I am not able to judge that which I did today was the right attitude or not . My response: The answer to this predicament is in developing a stable persona which is first true to itself. If you had felt that he was not doing his job, you should have said so in a normal way right at the first instance. If you kept silent, it means you gave tacit approval. After that if he began to take this as normal and took all of you for granted, why should he not? It never would have occurred to him that he was being given a lot of margin of error in his actions and that you were all being nice to him. He most probably thought everything was just fine and that he was doing a good job because nobody was ever complaining.

130 This subject has been on my mind lately because my wife has the tendency to take the same attitude. She will never let show her true feelings. She will keep silent and let others do whatever they want at home and at work. Then one day (approx after six months) she will burst out in anger not only complaining, but being abusive as well. I have been trying to drum this into her since ages that she should not allow a wound to fester. Tackle it immediately. Never let an unsavory situation to get off the ground. A stitch in time saves nine. So much heart break and ill will can be avoided by complaining softly before egos get involved. This can be called being tactful. Some fault for this situation can be laid on our upbringing and education. We are taught to be "NICE' and polite and kind etc. We are taught that good manners are better than being true and clear. So of course, there is a gap between what we want to and what we do; with a lot of suppressed irritation or guilt. We humans, tend to gravitate between extremes, highly influenced by the weather, TV, neighbors and all that we hear and see. Our behavior tends to be very inconsistent indeed. This is the entire focus of the teachings of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo. First integrate your personality into a cohesive whole and then you will know

131 exactly what to do, precisely the action and attitude to take at any given moment. Then there are a lot of judgmental people and for them I had written an article sometime ago of which I repeat some passages: Have you noticed how some people can speak their part only in outbursts of some kind? They would be otherwise nice, sane people going about their lives in a circular routine that they have built around themselves. Yet, under their calm exterior there is always some undercurrent of judgmental thoughts flowing quietly which, keeps them perpetually irritated about something or the other. So coming back to our original premise, we need to consider the why and why-nots of the situation. The question is why some people speak their part only in anger; and this is not just anger, it is also laced with a heavy dose of indignation. Indignation presupposes that the person has been wronged and has been made to suffer due to the unworthy actions of the other guy. This also presupposes that some sort of judgment has already been passed. So, I can safely say that the person speaking out in hot flashes is not being pragmatic, he has not bothered to listen to both sides of the story and feels so strongly that he has been wronged that there is no

132 space for discussions in the situation. The situation is exacerbated by the person’s need to not only prove his point but also teach the other malefactor a lesson even if it has to be drilled into his head. This I suppose is what they call road rage when it happens on the highway.

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32. Contradicting Lovingly
When I was young, in college and still sorting out the everyday contradictions in terms of human relationships, one of the features of my life was to understand the attitude of my parents towards me. From one angle it was clear that I was precious to them and from another angle, they seem to take me for a nincompoop. At one end of the spectrum I was supposed to do them proud by coming up to some standards that were never clearly defined while at the same time I was not supposed to show any initiative and do what I was told. On this point the directions were clear: as if the parents were saying “We are here and know what is best for you. We are doing the thinking for you, all that is needed will be provided; you; just be a nice, sweet chubby child, the apple of our eyes.” As if they had never bargained for the child to grow and assert some of his own personality. When this time did come, it changed into a period of confrontation. It became a competition between two diametrically opposite tendencies. One set in their ways, afraid of change and the other experimenting and exploring, feeding and thriving on change. Eventually the situation came to a pass where all listening came to a stop. Every sentence of my father began with a “NO”. This puzzled

134 me to no end and unfortunately nobody was giving me the right honest answers either. Then one day I went to somebody’s house and there I saw a sticker. It showed an older cranky looking man shouting at an obviously younger child: “The answer is No. Now what did you want?” This was the beginning of wisdom finally coming into my life. I realized that a sticker made in the USA, if so universal in its character, is floating around then certainly this attitude of my parents which was puzzling me, is more universally prevalent than is honestly accepted. A little more close observation of all the parents around me, backed by reading The Reader’s Digest made the answers come tumbling into my life. Today into my late adult life, I am astonished to see how much this tendency to negate and contradict permeates life in general. As I see it, the seeds are sown when the child is growing into an adult and the parents are not grasping this fact in its entirety. They want to protect him and shield him. In their zeal they don’t want him to act at all, as if this way they can protect him from all adversity. The child on the other hand begins first by seething inside and then hiding his true self and living a double life; so to say. The parents get more and more strongly into the denying and the child starts even more vehemently saying No to it. Is it any wonder that the adult

135 who results is afraid that his life will be taken over and therefore learns to say No to everything. His relationships are all difficult; whatever kind it may be- professional, amicable or amorous. This way he gets into a perennial “denial” mode. This perverted character then gets passed on from generation to generation. Look around closely. How often do you see people agreeing and accepting each other and in comparison how often we are crossing each other out? I remember when I was just entering teenage; I was trying to paint a sunset. My father’s comment on seeing my attempts was that I being a child should try to paint subjects more suitable to my age. But I kept on which upset him and finally got what I wanted, appreciated by others or not. In my case the story has a happy ending. Eventually, many years later, I painted a canvas which before even it was dry; my father took it and hung it in his room. This was appreciation of a high order. Fate had a hand in my upbringing. I had the good luck to grow into an adult far away from the restrictive and limited scope of my home. I had an international exposure and had teachers who were always listening and ready to help me find the answers to MY questions;

136 without the bias of social norms restricting our exchanges. Yet sadly my father never got over his habit of taking the opposite side to any exchange of idea, conversation or suggestion. It was so sad. I wanted so much to converse and share my life with him. But he would not accept me as anything but his child who should in all good sense let him run his life. He never outgrew my childhood and this contradiction always showed in his behavior.

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33. FUTILITY OF IT ALL
When I was young, the book that mattered greatly was the book on etiquette. Today this has been overtaken by write-ups after writeups in every journal of all kinds and yet the number of people who couldn’t care less has also grown. Sensitive people who are used to thinking about life’s finer graces are distressed a bit by all the selfishness and crass stupidity. And the futility of it all. Where has all the grace and charm of beautiful people gone to? Remember the times when everyone wished everyone good-morning even to strangers and “Sorry” was an often used word? When we took care not to impinge on other’s space and held the door open for others? It seems like lore to today’s children, stories from another era, seen only in the movies. Today the people have been given a power through gadgetry and the constitution. The problem is that they have no idea about their limits. Nobody has taught it to them so it is really not their fault. Result is they are crossing over into everyone's patches. It is chaos which is leaving a lot of crushed gardens in its wake. This chaos could have been easily avoided. Education about these

138 little things begins in childhood at home and ends with grooming at school. The tragedy is that the growth of the money market has speeded up the process exponentially. From the time money comes into the hands of someone and the time he enters society has been reduced to seconds. The buffer period needed to spread this education on basic etiquette is non existent. Everyone is busy making money and privileges are bought. Status comes with material possessions in this culture and etiquette becomes meaningless. And arrogance comes free with the package. The world is what it is and we need to accept it as it is although we don’t have to like it. The big question with people like you and me is how to protect ourselves from this onslaught. You really can’t. For an intelligent person all this is depressing. But I suppose we can reassure ourselves by assuming that the Mother Earth and God have a plan. Slowly and surely through pain, humanity is learning. Take for instance "hunting”. The same people who annihilated the whale and the lions are today fighting to keep them alive. The same people who invented the internal combustion engine and started the rape of the environment are today at least thinking in terms of saving the planet from the green house effect.

139 What we can do is look inwards at our own life. Fill it with laughter and humor. The technology which has made life impossible also makes it possible for us to isolate ourselves if we want. Read. Watch movies. Listen to music. Potter in the Garden. Take disappointments with a pinch of salt and a lot of philosophy. We can reduce our stress by cutting out all that can be cut out. Learn to ignore. Running the world is not our responsibility. You do your best in all sincerity and goodwill. Leave the results to GOD. You are only an instrument and HE made you that way. So it is HIS responsibility in every small conceivable way. Trust the Creator and the Creation. While climbing the evolutionary ladder, everyone reaches a plateau. This is the time when depression may set in. In occult terms of philosophy, it means that you have out grown the present environment OR that for some reason the learning process has come to a stop. You will need to make an effort to restart the learning process by changing activities and doing things - making mistakes "Intelligence was the helper that you made come where you are and now it is this very intelligence which is the block". Go back to the child in you. Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself. Don’t overdo and kill

140 yourself but also don’t just sit there. It will kill you anyway. Go for all the small things that give you contentment; Friends and activities. Create a small impenetrable corner where you can be yourself. Let the world go to Jericho if it wants to. Do your best and sleep well after a day well spent.

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34. GIVE THEM ROPE
It does not require a sharp mind to observe that there is a definite tendency to overwhelm and control others and situations in every one of us. Virtually everyone who is lucky enough of being in some sort of position to influence another does it almost without exception. An elder child does it with his sibling; a parent does it with his child; a manager does it with his junior. Most often the message that is imparted is of a subliminal arrogance telling the other guy something like this: “Leave it to me. I am here to take care of everything. Things, anyway, will go better if you let me handle it. You just do what I ask you to.” There is a definite stifling of initiative and growth. Even in normal day-to-day minor interactions, this propensity shows. Every sentence is preempted by ending the other’s sentence or feeding the right word; every activity immediately demands their attention and advice, if not downright intervention; full of the tendency that what they do not know is not worth knowing. They are the poorest listeners; they know the solutions even without knowing the problems; they are impossible. And if per chance you have the temerity or courage, depends on which way you look at it, to stop them or ignore them,

142 their grand sulk is terrific drama to contend with. Life is made of two different compartments. One in which there is a learning process taking place and the other in which all the ability acquired is used to teach others what we have learnt. None was born fully educated and trained. Whatever a person has become, he is the result of education, parenting and effort put by others; and this is a continuous process. All this background goes into running individual lives to the best of one’s understanding. It is therefore important to understand that we have not only to learn from life but we must not weaken the character of others who are dependent on us for their learning and stifle their initiative. People junior to us will make mistakes and messes. Some of these messes will even be expensive. Kids will want to shirk from studies and make umpteen mistakes and disastrous experiments. Young people will want to run away from difficult jobs and situations. Seniors will not want their juniors to have too much of a free hand for fear of a catastrophe. In these situations what would be the right stand to be taken? Give them rope. Don’t let go of the rope completely but give it enough slack tempered by your wisdom and patience. Don’t cage them or tie them to a pole but let them romp in the garden with well-defined borders.

143 It is imperative not to butt in one’s head in each and every tiny matter. This unfortunately becomes so secondary a nature that most individuals do it with uncontrolled abandon; a totally non-essential stress, selfimposed. The excuse that is given to one’s own self is that if control was not exercised, all would go haywire and as the senior most in that situation, this action is part of primary responsibilities. No. There is no justification for this attitude except in the sense of one’s own importance. A little let going will not harm the running of the universe. It will most probably enhance your prestige as a wise, caring and fun person. What are we telling them? Our wisdom has some weird ways to show itself. The scenarios being given below are founded on reality. Take this scene: A three year old is seeing that when father comes home he is given a glass of water first thing. So next time he opens the door to his father, his first reaction is to run into the kitchen and pick up the first appropriate vessel he finds, fills it with water and goes to offer the same to his father. If he is alone, hopefully there will be nobody to stop him and hopefully if the father is a kind and wise man, he will gladly accept the water.

144 The other scenario is unfortunately more likely. The child might be seen and the first reaction of the adult would be to stop him in his track. With words to the effect telling him that he will make a mess although he has not done anything of the kind yet. Many apprehensions will surface because for all one knows he has dirtied many other vessels with his unclean hands or picked up a dirty one; etc, etc. All this as if the sky has fallen and in a loud shout of warning. The poor kid gets bawled for no apparent reason that he can remotely understand. His good-will gesture has become a disaster for him. He has been thoroughly scared and upset. One thing that has been very succinctly made clear to him is that: (a) He has no rights and he will always wonder if he belongs there, (b) Taking initiative is bad, (c) Nobody appreciates him, (d) He is totally inept; and so on so forth in the same train. The child has in this scenario received the gift of a very negative self-picture and an even more negative world, which is reinforced every now and then with similar situations and this may go on for the rest of his waking days. Then will come the day when he will grow up and he will be expected to take charge and prove himself to be one of the elite! Rather incongruous, don’t you think?

145 Take this second scene: A young lady of some merit has landed a job as a teacher. It is a new life for her and the new environment is somewhat daunting although not impossible. She has some good reports even to her credit but all is not smooth sailing with her colleagues. She has really never been exposed to the outer world and this blunt world can be mystifying. She comes home and has a lot to say on the subject of clashing egos and her grumbles. The mother responds with the sage advice that she should leave the job with immediate effect. The message that has been in reality conveyed is: (a) Stay at home with us, (b) Snobbism is acceptable, (c) Effort is painful, (d) Compromises are demeaning, (e) Stay within the known comfort zone. This is hardly the way to ready one’s progeny for an independent life later on. Especially when marriage is not far off. The mother is sowing seeds that encourage weakness of spirit spiced with self-centeredness, which will only bring pain to her daughter. But in this topsyturvy life it would be called doing well and standing by their children! A last incidence to give more meaning to the subject in question: A young boy of seven is very friendly with his neighbor who is a smart guy going bout on a motorcycle, the very epitome of what a young boy dreams of being. It is winter and he evinces a great wish for a pair of gloves. The neighbor agrees to buy him a pair if he would clean his bike every

146 morning. The boy is in seventh heaven and gets started right away. But his mother hears about it and right away a thunderous situation develops. The mother, a working and earning member of society and very proud of it, is absolutely against the idea that her son, the apple of her highborn Brahmin eyes, should be wiping off the dust on bikes like a menial. “What” says she, “do we lack? I’ll buy you all the gloves. What do you have to worry about as long as we are there? The neighbor is a monster!” The child is hurt. The neighbor is shocked. The point has been made. The seed of the following lesson are sown: (a) Self reliance is demeaning, (b) It is the parent’s responsibility to provide, (c) Effort is for the lower castes, (d) Pride comes first. If only people would hold their peace. The world would move a little slower and even uncertainly, but as time and time over it has been seen, things do work out. The universe has a plan, you know!

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35. I DID tell you!
The question is not that we can or should be at work without a break but are we all listening? The human persona cannot just go on and on. It is logical to assume that even though the eyes and ears are physically open, most brains behind them are asleep at the core; which of course leads me to assume that we are most often making the right gestures but not registering anything. As it is, the humans are known to be bad listeners. We are so occupied at saying our piece that our ears are perennially switched off. This is actually intelligent behavior as listening would presuppose that some demands may have to be acquiesced to. So we have this lovely scenario where everyone is yapping away but there is little or no attempt to ensure that it is all registering at the other end. And this is precisely the point I wish to make. We have acquired some very self-defeating habits. I will take up two that I feel are the worst. One is the fact that our impatience is so acute that we do not think twice to butt in a conversation and the second is that we do so without ensuring that anyone is listening to us or not. First we disturb the two people at

148 conversation and this shows the downside of our manners and then we expect to be heard first which shows the extent of our selfpreoccupation. Then the worst part is that the person addressed to is unable to resist the call and responds and thereby adding to the mellee. So here I am standing in front of the judge, frightened of the consequences while my lawyer is trying to make a point and the judge starts listening to some other lawyer. How would you feel under the circumstances? We are all of us culprits and doing this all the time and as I have seen in India this is so common and acceptable a practice that no one is annoyed. This attitude also shows in our inability to form queues or wait our turn at the counter or even let the other guy finish his sentence. But more to the point is the catastrophic situations that are being created at all times and the irritants that we are adding to our lives. We can’t sit still for a moment. With our laptop and mobile phone in hand we just have to be up and doing something. The brain and nerves are stretched out in hundreds of directions at the same time at any given time and I wonder if everyone is going a mile a minute then who is sitting still enough to bother to listen to me? Is it surprising that nothing gets done properly and our achievements are all half baked or need immediate correction when done? It is no secret that quite often we discuss and argue a

149 project or subject into such a confusion that all that remains to be done is bury it. Communications have now become incessant and we are all expected to be at our listening posts at all times so of course the antidote is to shut off the process. I give an instance from my personal life. Magnify and transpose these small incidents and possibilities into other instances and you will understand the magnitude of the point being made. Yesterday, I was sitting watching TV but because my wife was talking to me in her usual style which means that from out of the blue she will start talking and expect me to take it all in, most probably from somewhere at my back with her face diametrically in the opposite direction. So when my ears registered that she was talking to me I instantly switched my attention to her otherwise bouncers would start flying at me and of course asked her to repeat. My child was playing nearby and there was nothing to bother about the scene at all. Just then, it seems, the maid brought me a hot cup of coffee and placed it on the table within the reach of the child while I was looking away. The child all of 20 months old, lovingly and helpfully picked it up and started putting it in my hands – all this while I was not even aware of the coffee. Of course as things would be

150 my waving arm hit the cup and the poor child dropped the coffee in my lap; I shrieked and the child bawled in consternation and now I am nursing a burn; and, god forbid, if the coffee had dropped on the child? Gosh, I am afraid to think of it. I asked the maid why she left the cup within the child’s reach without informing me and she replied that she did tell me! But I was so engrossed at listening to my wife that I did not hear her!! She knew that I had not heard and yet she did not try to ensure that I be made aware of the hot cup at my elbow. When I asked why she had left it within the child’s reach she replied in all honesty that the possibility of a mishap did not enter her mind. So that was that.!!! The solution? Simple; first attract the person’s attention, then, when certain, then alone speak to him/her directly with eyes meeting. And for good manner’s sake please wait your turn.

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36. Living in the COMFORT ZONE.
There is much talk of progress and success nowadays. Motivational programs are everywhere. In what meaning of the word are we talking? For argument’s sake, lets confine ourselves to make it mean: Advancement in career and money making prospects. This then presupposes that everyone would always be striving to improve one’s earning capabilities and keep on rising in one’s working domain to reach higher and higher positions in the given hierarchy. This may be the first fallacy but let’s accept it as true for now. How many of us are really prepared to go that extra mile to achieve this so called goal, which ideally everyone is expected to be pursuing? As I see it, the goal is more in the desire form than in practice. Every goal has ladders and every ladder has steps. Every step necessitates a struggle or overcoming a shortcoming. This has two sides to the coin. One: One has to gauge correctly what is it that will make us go forward towards our goal. A sincere and impersonal guide and mentor are needed and they are extremely difficult to find or even recognize. Two: Once the elements requiring correction en route are understood, a great effort is needed to retrain ourselves with new thought patterns

152 and habits. Subconscious patterns, inculcated since the day we are born are deeply embedded in us and we have to literally fight against their hold on our everyday lives. My personal perception is that most prefer to find a minimum sustenance program in life and stay within their comfort zones doing little to even accept the fact that its their own shortcomings that is keeping them back. Even when life gives us a knock or two and is kind enough to show us the way and the error of our ways, we find enough logic to rationalize and let the lesson slip into the comfortable slot of unpleasant occurring. Take a struggling lawyer. He has passed out recently and raring to go. What can he do to advance surely and speedily? Perhaps become a junior with an already established lawyer and under his umbrella make a mark for himself? To arrive even at this juncture would need a certain modicum of language ability and study of legal texts and some luck. If he has it and he is taken in, the beginning is made. Would he be content with this? His job would be to take orders and labor his heart out to the bone. Quite often giving him tired muscles and a bruised ego. A junior is but a junior. Will he bear with it because of the learning process he is going through and grow or will his vanity refuse to take this position so low in the pecking order and quit and move into a situation closer to his comfort zone?

153 And what could this be? An independent status struggling to exist but at least his own boss! Scurrying back into one’s comfort zone is a natural and primary tendency. This is at all levels; mental, emotional and physical. Laziness influenced by arguments from our ego wins over effort most often. Change means learning and changing habits and this requires a concerted and very conscious effort. Is this sustainable in real life? Why disturb the status quo? Take for instance the status of most marriages. Is it a made-for-each-other existence or a compromise where we learn to coexist for the comforts of a home? There are wives being battered but they continue to stay put. There are husbands being nagged to death but they continue to stay put. There are millions of people stuck in jobs and situations they hate but doing very little to take the next step that will take them to better their existence. How does one explain this? Simple: It is so much simpler to live and continue within one’s existing known comfort zones. Let’s look around us. How many people are bothered to improve their communication ability yet never failing to complain that nobody understands them? How many are complaining that there are no avenues to progress in their lives yet failing to take any

154 initiative whatsoever except grumbling? How many of us are constantly criticizing the other guy or blaming fate for all the ills and happily wasting time to make the world hear our version over and over again? This is not only the soft option but also the option of cowards who prefer to scurry back into their zone of comfort at the first hint of troublesome effort like frightened mice into their mouse holes.

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37. Opt for Change
Another year comes to an end and there will be many words written and repeated on the resolutions we take to bring change into our lives. Here are a few from my pen as well. In the past few days I have been socializing within my old group of family and friends more than is normal for me. Suddenly it hit me like a bomb. Everyone is talking about the wrongs of this world and they have a lot to say too. But nothing in their conversation indicated or gave any hint that they were doing something about it or looking for solutions. Rather there was a concrete feeling that they were all making small talk and their grievances made for a good subject as any. It had the added advantage to let the world at large know how burdened their lives are and how well they are taking it or/and managing within the tedious circumstances. Of course there was an underlying pattern of vanity even in this as they were all vying to prove to each other that their troubles were greater than those of the rest of us. The bomb that hit me was the realization that it was all absolutely superficial and more in the nature of keeping the conversation ball rolling. Of course as we lead rather mediocre

156 and humdrum lives, we have much to complain about. Our own intention to go deep into the matter and look for a solution is never evident; rather I would say totally absent. If at all we are looking forward into the future it is always with this hope that the world will change enough to accommodate us and all our woes will go away one fine morning. The effort is to keep ourselves with inane and avoid real contemplation. Hours are spent in discussions. Each and every aspect is dissected from every angle in great detail. The sentences are pregnant with cares. Along with every issue raised there is an accompanying sentence that rationalizes the happenings so wonderfully that no avenue is left to really put in the effort to do something about it. We look for answers but only those that satisfy our own view or desire will find favor with us. This is hypocrisy in action. I remember being deeply influenced by this quote when I was younger: “People who want by the yard and work for it by the inch should be kicked by the foot”. I was just coming out of my teens and the insincerity and the gap between what people would say and would do was so great that it brought out all my impatience and I would say so and like any angry young man, I was vehement about it. If only the energy they put in all this drama was put in improving their sort, what colossal changes could be given birth to. Like all young people I was impatient to cure and change

157 and did not kindly to the evasive tactics I met. Now I understand better and am more tolerant but it still amuses me to see how we fool ourselves into believing that this type of cosmetic rationalizing will sweep the “immediate” under the carpet and we will live another day; who knows what miracles are waiting for us the next morrow. Everyone sees through the charade and I must give kudos to the optimist in us. Nobody is taken in by these rationalizations, least of all they themselves but it keeps the appearance up and this is where the crunch it: the social necessities are taken care of and we survive to live another day. What I am repeatedly calling “rationalizations” is in reality excuses that we pluck from our fount of knowledge. There is so much ancient text, accepted customs and scientific principles to choose from. What ever the subject may be, there is always some commonly accepted rule or principle that will satisfy both the pro and con of the issue. This comes in handy to find a good reason to act upon what our heart desires or not, as the case may be. To illustrate my point, I would like to bring forth our use of the words Karma, Fate and Destiny. Excuses like “I am suffering because of my Karmas in my past lives”; “Things will happen only if it is written in my Destiny” are heard every day. Every suicide is preceded by the logic “There is no other way”. Remember the disparaging comments

158 of wise people in the 19thcentury for people who were experimenting with flying machines: “If God had wanted Man to fly, He would have given him wings”. History and everyday occurrences prove without doubt that the world is moving on because there are people who do not take “NO” for an answer and do not understand the science of making excuses. Yet we refuse to grow up and take the wheel of our lives in our hands in a more determined manner. It is so much easier to find reasons to do what is convenient to us! I used to eat in a restaurant when I was a bachelor. For twenty years a nice man served me there. The 18 hours a day job was taking a huge toll of his health. I was so impressed with him that I asked him to learn driving so that he could be taken in as a cook cum driver in a household with better pay and living conditions. But he never found the time. Then one day the restaurant just folded up. The poor man was out on the street and survival became the priority. I repeat here two paragraphs from an article written by Carol Allen

Any therapist -- heck, any five year old -- will tell you that change is hard. We get snuggled up in our mediocre comfort zones and that's where we stay until we're so fat, miserable, broke, sick or FILL IN THE BLANK that we do

159 something

different.

Positive change requires some critical presteps. First: you have to know what you want. Amazingly, studies show that only one person out of one hundred knows what they want. Second: You have to know WHY you want it, and your WHY has to be so compelling and inspiring that every setback and challenge along the way won't stop you. Would you have the courage to look at yourself? Or would rather maintain the status quo and let things be?

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38. Removing or Promoting
A news coverage commentary on CNN made me pen these few words. She was talking about the spread of this new disease in Africa. She was advocating further funds to be poured in aid of removal of suffering. My question is: are we removing or promoting? Why are we so eager to pour millions and millions into programs that lead us no-where? Why are we so eager to promote the welfare of people who are not really eager to do anything for themselves? It is fantastic how humans can delude themselves that life is one Silk Road with happiness and wish fulfillment is its goal. Life may be utter misery, so what? The very person who complains about it also goes about doing precisely what he should not to make it worse. This reminds me of an instance from my own life. Many, many years ago my maid came to me with a request for a loan. Not a small loan. Something in the nature of Rs 10.000 which left me aghast. I was paying her a salary of Rs 300 per month. Her monthly earnings were barely Rs 1200 from work in four homes. But look at her courage. She was prepared to take on a loan which she would never be remotely ever to pay.

161 I was well aware that her husband was a never-do-well and had never earned a penny in his life. He did assist in spending the money on a drink every evening. Her married daughter had been deserted by her husband and was living them. Her two sons were coming up the same way. She was bringing them up to become gentlemen with education and white collar jobs but she forgot to imbibe in them the value of work – hard or soft. In every household, starting with their own they were seeing the man of the house shirking work and yet being taken care of by the women. So finally both the boys grew up into expecting that their wives would take care of the earning and working part. They were convinced as would have been obvious to all that they were a gift to mankind or at least to their womankind. The maid was taking this loan to marry off her first born. I did not give her any money. I did not have any to give. I did ask her how the son would support a family. She had no reply. Sheer optimism won through. She did find somebody to give her a loan at an exorbitant interest and she went ahead with the marriage. Some months ago I met her again working as a sweeper in the temple I sometimes visit and enquired about her family. The sons it seems were not doing anything. Their wives were working and keeping the home fires burning. Her husband was now too old and sick and although she did not say it, it could be seen

162 that it was all a great burden. She had perpetuated her own miserable life on to the next generation. The loan had become a weight around the neck. What bothers me is this – when we assist these short-sighted people are we helping them or hurting them? Can we really ever help them? I cannot stop thinking that if she had not found anyone to give her the loan, she would be better off! In the same context a reality check is warranted on how we are living and how the governments are running the world. Look around you. We are systematically destroying everything around us that upholds life and yet we are not short on complaining. We all know about the contamination and pollution but individually how much are we doing to reduce it? We all know about syphilis from centuries past and today AIDS. Yet how many of us are afraid to have a romp at the first occasion we get? We even go looking for it in brothels. AIDS today is on the rampage. The media is doing its bit to highlight it. Millions are being spent on research to look for a cure. Is this the right track? The person who is endangering his own life and the life of his partners, does he not have any responsibility? What is he doing to stop the menace? Are these people worthy of

163 being protected and kept alive; for what effective purpose? Then there is also the next question. Why should they not die? That is the way the universe works. The pragmatic rule is of come and go. The universal rule is of natural selection of the fittest. Why are we fighting against it? What’s so frightening about death? The whole world is today swayed by this philosophy where death is to be avoided or delayed at all costs. Whose idea of immortality and youth is to keep looking twenty and have “FUN”; whatever that means? Look how the medicine systems and lifestyles are developing. Indulgence is the goal. It is not the quality of life but longevity that is their focus. I have seen families in India, ruined by the cost of so called “treatment” of incurable states of cancer or some such even with no hope and death predictably a short time away. Why ruin the family that is left behind? Why is the world spending such big fortunes to delay the inevitable but so little in prevention, careful and sensible living? I think my question is pertinent. Shall we promote the best as our ancestors were forced to do in spite of themselves or shall we promote sickness and misery?

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39. RIDICULE IS A WEAPON
Lately I have suddenly woken up to a very displeasing habit in many of us. I was observing it since long but saw the severity of it only now and realized that we are infected by this virus more than would have been thought polite; yet nobody seems to mind and everybody seems to be indulging in it to some extent, some, of course, more than others. I was pondering over it when I came across this quote from Mark Twain: “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” The operative word here is BELITTLE and SMALL PEOPLE. Following my trend of thought, I went to the next question – why do we feel the need to belittle anyone at all? This style of belittling others is a quaint little habit. You will notice it is a regular habit in some people. Their persona is wrapped around it. It is impossible to make a statement or ask these people anything and it becomes an opening for them to show their wit rather than answer the question in a down to earth way or give a plain unadorned answer. Every time they open their mouth some pearls of wisdom slip out which to me

165 seem to be just witty sarcasm couched in the pronouncements of the-wiser-than thou. The answer always carries 4 elements: 1) The actual answer, 2) the hidden emphasis on the stupidity of the question or statement, 3) the indication that the one making the answer/comment is from a higher realm of existence and 4) the invisible creation of a wall that you are never allowed to pierce. The beauty of the whole is that sometimes the comments and remarks come from total strangers who are not even privy to the exchange. In familiar gatherings, interrupting the conversations of others with witticisms of one own is often seen, but from strangers…? I find this a bit too much; especially when you are in public environment like the post office or a railway compartment. These people, who sometimes even go on to monopolize the conversation until they are forced to stop. I have known some people for half my life time or more. They are part of the family or professional circle and cannot be totally ignored. Once in a while there is no avoiding them in a social way. Yet in all these years I have been unable to have a focused conversation of five lines with them. They never reply to the question directly. Even an innocuous question like “How is your health?” got me an answer like “Why, what is wrong with my health?” And this is the milder side of the coin. Quite often in the guise of a joke,

166 they come down to downright ridicule; Ha, Ha, Ha. Why? What are they trying to prove? Or are they protecting themselves from exposure knowing fully well their own lack of depth and understanding? They make it clear that we can be part of their entourage but never their equal. All these write-ups that I pen, I wanted to put them into a collection and get them published in a book form for whatever they are worth. So I, requested a close friend of many years in the publishing line to see if he could find me an appropriate publisher. For two years I was given the royal lip service. Then one day I asked him point-blank if he would help or not. His answer came as advice that I should at least first read some other established writers and acquaint myself of how things should be written. Thereby clearly telling me what he thought of me. So I asked him if he had at least read any of my write-ups. The answer was NO. Well, I could not resist telling him off after that. He has been sulking all along since. So be it. To me all this sounds very much like the childish behavior of the immature snob who is inherently intelligent and successful in his field. It gets awfully bad when by some quirk of fate they have come into money. One has to then admit that in one’s own interest, not to spoil relations one allows them to get away with it. But the question is – what relations?

167 They will never allow you to come that close anyway? I for one have now decided enough is enough. I tick them off and enjoy seeing them sulk. If they can do without me so can I without them. Life is too short to worry of the consequences of falling into their bad books.

168

40. Shall We Ever Learn?
The capacity of the human race to ignore everything but its own wishes is astounding. Don’t blame me for being cynical. Everyday the news media throws up a story or two which makes me wonder at the stupidity of it all. Yet it never seems to stop. It is as if the human race is not a group but only unconnected singletons, living in isolated boxes with not even an invisible silk thread to bind them. Millions of people living alone together. Today we have a problem of information overload but it does not seem to penetrate deeply enough into anyone’s consciousness to make a change. When will we learn to apply all this info to our lives and make them better? Let me site an example or two to make my point. Let’s take the so called “POOR” to discuss. Millions are being spent by generous governments to alleviate poverty. But has anyone asked the poor what they are up to? Why can’t they see around them that they have only brought on poverty on themselves and a bleak future on their progeny by multiplying even when there is no income to support a family? For hundreds and even thousands of years it is obvious to anyone who

169 will “SEE” that producing more children has done nothing for them and only brought misery to the next generation. Why has humanity never stopped itself? It is so obvious. Why do we continue having children even when there is not enough to feed and clothe in the immediate present and the near future? Go and talk to a beggar or an unemployed youth and you will see that marriage is first and foremost and always on their minds as an end in itself. Thoughts of bettering their lives come a lot later down the list. Is it so difficult to see that marriage brings forth children and with them come bills of all kinds: food, clothing, schooling, and medical aid? When will they ever learn that The Lord in His Goodness has also given human kind an intellect and it is to be used? The power of discernment, when will it ever be used? For argument’s sake let’s assume that higher civilization began somewhere in 5000BC and that’s being generous with the figures. Then look at the stories that happen everyday because the average individual refuses to learn from history, contemporary or ancient; refuses to learn from everyday happenings in everyday lives around him, refuses to open his mind to any input whatsoever at all. Pleasure and wishful hoping seems to push them along. It is like putting on a mask with only tiny pin holes for openings for the eyes and ears.

170 Our misplaced optimism sees Life as only getting better, accidents happen to others and we are doing our best in the circumstances. It is our karma and destiny that is at fault and all failures can be traced to somebody or something outside our control. This philosophy has taken such a hold that even the intellectuals have left their thinking hats aside and live in a world of unfathomable make-believe. They can see only their wishes coming true! Oh Boy!! Let me give you a small example. Every year and in every journal, newspaper and gathering the mention of heat wave and heat stroke comes up. The danger and protective methods are clearly enunciated. Yet umpteen numbers die of heat stroke every year. Here I am not talking of the poor. I am reminded of a scene. I was traveling behind a couple with a child on a two wheeler in 43 degree centigrade sun at around 2 in the afternoon. The lady was fully decked to be going into an important gathering. The young man who I assumed to be the husband of the lady was similarly fully dressed for partying. They did not seem and could not have been illiterate without some modicum of knowledge of life and the dangers of heat stroke. They could have not reached their income level without the basic education which I hope most

171 of us have. Yet the child the woman was carrying was bald headed and directly exposed to the wind and sun. Traveling at 60 kmph creates a hot wind effect. The couples must be feeling it surely as the woman had covered her head and the man had a small towel like cloth under his helmet. Yet the child’s possible exposure was being ignored. How much care is really going into bringing up this child, I wondered? What kind of an adult will this child become and what stupidities will he continue on with? Try explaining the need for hygiene in life. Advice like boil your water and do not eat from open stalls on the road has little or no effect. The reply I most often get is that protecting oneself too much is bad; one needs to develop a resistance. This is both convenient and blinkered thinking. Sickness and medical bills are never directly related to this attitude. We’ll spend a fortune in hospitals but cringe at bringing home a water purifier. The other day I tried to advise my niece. Her three month old baby girl would not go to sleep. So I said perhaps shutting off the glaring fluorescent light which was on just above her might help and even more if we stopped talking around her. My argument being that the glare is hurting and moreover can affect the newly developing eyes, also the conversation was too high pitched to be a

172 lullaby. The suggestion was met by scorn and scoff. Her explanation being that strong young people are not produced by molly coddling. To me this is escapism to avoid bothering at all because it did not suit her at that moment. Who really cares about the baby? All I see is history repeating, repeating and repeating itself in all its wondrous stupidity. When will we learn from it and stop repeating the same mistakes over and over again? A little self-restraint and a little reflection; is it too much to ask?

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41. The Case for Taciturnity
Now that my baby is over one year old, I receive instructions from all including my doctor to focus on teaching my child to articulate words and communicate in a spoken language that we understand. I am asked to repeat certain words and commands so that the child learns faster and we may be able to communicate more easily with the child. Every time we meet a friend or relative, the first question that is posed is “Has she started to speak? Which words can she speak now? Does she say mama, papa? Then their focus switches on to the baby and they start asking her “Where is your nose? Show me your nose?” What in the name of heaven is the hurry? I have never really understood the need to bring speech so hurriedly and in such quantity and intensity in our lives. The stress on speech and talking is rather exaggerated considering the exchanges I see happening around me. I say that the time has come to consider this factor and stress a little on taciturnity. Let’s bring a little silence in our lives. As far as the child is concerned, she is already picking up so much from her surroundings that we are amazed at her ability to sponge in. She is communicating perfectly and we

174 understand her. We are acting as gardeners. We are not trying to push the plant into overgrowing itself by speeding the process. I am prompted to pen these lines from two glaring inconveniences that have become part of lives. One is the honking. More often than not there is no reason to honk that I can see of. The red light becomes green and the guy behind me honks; as if I am there for a group meditation session. The taxi that the neighbor has called arrives and the entire neighborhood is regaled with a strident shock of horn blasting. A car is passing though and the thought that the driver’s path may be blocked by seeing another vehicle far away makes them honk; it seems as if any shadow is trigger enough to merit a blast from the driver. What we need to realize is that this is one method of speech. We are using the horn as an extension of our communicating ability; notwithstanding the fact that we are fully aware of the inconvenience, irritation and noise that we are creating around us but like a baby’s bawling, we insist on being heard and having our way. The second is the mobile phone. I am just amazed at the continuous talking I see around us. How much can we have to say? Don’t these people get tired of talking? It has been conclusively proven that talking on the mobile

175 is dangerous when driving but are we able to desist? We go into theatres to enjoy a play, a movie or a music program but keep the mobile phone on. Being connected has become an addiction. Our callousness is so great that we will not stop from disturbing everybody else around us. I suppose we feel that our importance is greater that the other guy’s. Our call needs to be attended to without fail because our importance is simply immeasurable! When we talk incessantly, don’t we become a bore? Voltaire said: “The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” Well I refuse to fall in line. I will not blow my horn if I can help it. I will not speed up if it seems dangerous to me. And I will not give you my mobile phone number because I use it only when I am out of the house to stay connected with my mum. And anyway when I am out of my workplace, I am either driving or busy in something else so I would not be interested in talking and be distracted and disturbed. I also follow the rule that visitors will have to shut off the phone at my place as I am not interested in seeing them doing their business while I sit there like a fool watching them; on call to them when they are free to do so!

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42. TOMORROW NEVER COMES
There was a song in the movie Yellow Rolls Royce, which affected me deeply. It says, “Let’s forget about domani, for domani never comes.” It should be made the theme song for procrastinators. Specially for people who leave everything for the last moment if not later. Our life-style and work culture till now has been of the laid-back style and we have quite got into the habit of taking things easy, knowing fully well that we will be able to find some way of passing the buck. Putting things off for later is an ostrich complex kind of behavior, which is really a sign of immaturity. It also shows lack of dedication or overconfidence in one’s ability to manage one’s time or worse it is a show put on for the undeserving to give an aura of time unavailability due to prior engagements. This attitude career-wise is self-inflicted damage. Do you really believe if you delay the execution of the matter, it will go away? Well, for argument’s sake, I will accept that certain situations do correct themselves if not interfered with but paper-deadlines don’t fall in this category. Do you really believe you can squeeze in more minutes in the day than the next person? If you can, of course you really

177 know how to manage your time and are very aware of the time to be allotted to each activity and you really also know how to execute every job precisely and with focus. To you I would say this note is not for you. To the snobs who think that they can impress others by a show of being busy, I have only a word of caution; you are fooling nobody and eventually even those who are impressed at first, will know that you are bluffing and all your credits will go down the drain. The following resources will help you make the most of your time and bring you success in the work place: A) Assertiveness: This means getting your thoughts across accurately and properly. The actions are always preceded by forethought and research. But all this is to be packaged without aggressiveness. B) Communication: The ability to communicate well is of the utmost importance. This means not knowing only what to say, but also knowing how to and when to say it. Very few people take the trouble of improving their language and delivery skills. You ignore this fact to your peril. C) Time watching: Time allocation takes on a totally new meaning when you wish to stop the habit of procrastination. You have to steel yourself against letting yourself waste time or not keep appointments. When you make a list of

178 D) the “TO DOs”, you have to work hard at finishing them. Personal feelings and emotional slidings have to be curtailed at all costs. If procrastination has become a habit, it has to be seen in this light and treated as a bad habit. Are you game?

179 43. What’s bothering you? Did it ever occur to you that this innocuous seeming question could be the rudder of your life? I wonder if anyone even gives this question a second thought. By the time we get out into the world, certain parameters are already laid out for us. Our motivations and prejudices sealed. We are never going to become aware of the subconscious patterns that will rule us for the rest of our living days. Our personas are formed and a certain path and goals already etched. After that it is only the minor detours that bother us and we put all our efforts into removing them and keeping the ball rolling. Botherations if any are taken with a pinch of salt and frankly most are of minor importance. Once the ship is sailing and the port of call decided, there is little to make us change our perspective. For example this lady I know has only one focus: that she is seen in a good light. Every iota of her being and every grain of her life are colored by it. Towards this end she puts in all her energies and intelligence and very intelligent she is. She is forever creating dramatic effects and she can lie and change her words like a chameleon. She works very hard to gain appreciation and create just the impression she wants. Her whole life is a calculated and a deeply superficial affair. She

180 is fairly enamored of herself and there is only one kind of interaction that she can tolerate which is of an appreciative tone and living by her advice which really boils down to letting her run your life. She is never at fault and will argue till the last word is said to shut up others to prove that she could not have been in error. She is truly very intelligent and never misses even the tiniest of flaws in others; nothing can make her stop at pointing them out too. That she is bothered by only the fact that she be seen in a good light is the question bothering her is crystal clear. In the same light, do we really know what is bothering us from deep down?

After seeing the way people launch themselves into the throes of life, I have noticed often that most people rather avoid asking themselves such questions as “What is bothering me? What am I up to? Why?” I suppose asking a question of this import also then would require pursuing of the answer; this could be too much trouble! There is also the burden of the ego which presupposes a fully formed and perfectly begotten persona. So we bumble along with the sight of a oneeyed. Supremely happy with the packaging and not at all bothered with the person inside it. It is only in times of crisis that a wave of introspection and clarity of the long term

181 vision swamps us; but only for a short hiatus. Otherwise we let life take us where it will, erroneously proud of being the architect of our lives; we cringe and crib but we are not looking for solutions. Most solutions that we dream up are cosmetic and we are quite satisfied at making the required impression than achieving any goal imposed by us on our own selves as a soul-based need. Life has become a paradox. Answers are floating around but no one has questions. Let us stop for a while, like we may be forced to do in a hospital bed when there are no options left and we realize that we have just cheated death and worse that the world managed quite well in our absence. Let us ask for once what is bothering us? We all want money, fame, acceptance, contentment and praise without exception. What have we done to receive this bundle of wealth from the universe? The thoughts that assail us and keep us occupied are based on what we think as important. Ask anyone one what is the most important to him and what drives him in this life. Nobody is going to tell you the truth even if they knew the answer. Our entire personality, learning, listening and changes that we make in our lives is trying to arrive at a predetermined point. Our whole little world is generally involved so we can safely say that it is a rare human who is totally free and

182 pursuing a clear-cut objective that is soul satisfying. A little self-analysis is needed and that is what I am not sure we really wish to do as it would surely reveal some of the unpleasant truths about ourselves. There is no point in fighting the education and upbringing we have received. That is a fait accompli. The question is what next and is it bothering us? For example, today it is accepted that English is the international link language and mastery of it brings a greater measure of success. A whole economy is revolving around this need to learn and teach; yet the number of people with a mastery of this language is difficult to find. At heart most people know that there is a need to improve on their skills but there is always something keeping them back. Why, simply because it is not bothering them. They are managing to keep their heads out of the water and are relatively doing better than they had expected. There is a lot of pride in what has been achieved with the acquisitions they already have so they really don’t see what else there is to worry about. Surely things can wait another day! Of immediate concern is: what the neighbor will think; how to impress the boss and what the wife will demand. Where is the time in this maze of self-important busy schedule to worry about anything else?

183 Later on when life will have moved on and the world it self will have changed enough to require additional and newer skills they will realize their limitations. But for now the question is not bothering them so all the teachers, schools, opportunities to learn are given the ROYAL thumbs down. I go to training institutes as a trainer where people are taking lessons for careers that require a high degree of excellence in many fields like marketing, air hostessing, hoteliering and others. There my focus is always to help the students become aware of there own questions along with whatever they are learning. In thirty years I have realized that most of the people are there for only one reason; they have learnt about the salaries in the line of work they have chosen and this is the only incentive firmly fixed in their minds and surrealistically a simplistic view that the Diploma will get them the job. They have seen others living the good life and the salaries they are earning but not the effort put in to reach there. Nothing else bothers them. Most of them are bothered by one question alone: Are they making a good impression and are they going to get what they want? Good advertising has taught them that clothes, cosmetics and gadgets will give them the outer personality they are dreaming of; this is where it all stops. The responsibility of preparing them for the job of their dreams is, of course, of the Institution that they have decided to grace and where they have parted

184 with their funds. responsibility.

Nothing

is

their

It is really becoming quite a farce the way answers in the form of sermons, lectures and real good valuable advice is being bandied, pouted, blogged and published about with abandon. I sincerely hope they do some good as I fail to see any questions to begin with bothering anyone around me. Any questions that I do see are strictly at the intellectual mental level, good for arguments but not incorporated into one’s life to institute change in oneself. At best these become authoritative quotes to be used to point faults out in others. For this farce, how many reams/tons of paper is being used up, how many forests flattened, how much CO2 produced to generate electricity to power the electrical world which is storing and speeding the exchanges which lead to nowhere? How many pieces are being read and acted upon? Answers have been around as far as the human eye can see. Every civilization and age has produced gems of collected answers that provide pointed answers. Many of the gems have even become established religions. I would say that most of the questions that a human can ask have all been answered many times over. A man with questions would have certainly discovered Confucius, Socrates, Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Vedas, Buddha’s teachings and so many more.

185 Yet instead of conjuring up questions it has made the human thought process more dogmatic and closed shut to questioning. Has the act of giving answers when there are no questions preceding them ever helped? When there isn’t a “live” question insisting an answer, the answers are plain dead words.

187

44. The Whole World Does Not Matter
There is always a small period in our lives when we become “Important”. This is the time when we get into the self-important mode. We are in our eyes not only in control but, often, as we perceive the cause and effects around us, we are certain, even if the world may not wholly agree with us, of being the source of the happenings. In a microcosm, we are not part of the Creation, but see ourselves as part of the creator effect. This is the time when our vanities are ballooning. We are still young as far as a lifespan goes. At the age of youth in the twenties, it is easy to see ourselves as giants with infinite capacities for getting things done. We can take it all on. The body is strong, the mind is full of certitudes and nobody is immune to our charms. Then we decide what has to be done, and soon we get it done. We are almost mystified by our own image, although at the back of our minds a small question mark haunts us; why does not the world see us in our true light? It is galling. Here we are, ready and willing, with all the knowledge and strength to put everything in the right order, if only people would listen! Then, there are those who are luckier than others. Who are born with a silver spoon, well

188 in this category we can include even those with a brass spoon with silver plating. They come into a world, which is already structured, and whatever they see or touch is theirs. Even when they stretch their five senses to their limits, they can only see themselves at the center of things and of course, in full control. They can manipulate everyone and every instance. They continue to grow into this environment and gradually realize their potential for creation or mischief as their nature leads them. Soon, they are alienating themselves from everything. But they do not know it yet. Whenever they come across a person or situation they do not like, they simply cut it out. They can well afford to. To the whole world they come across as selfcentered, arrogant, and closed personalities but they could not care. Even the world has to grudgingly acknowledge that they are good and able and if circumstances so need, a bit of groveling up to them is ok. This, as we all know is a straight path to perdition. The truth is we are only a small cog in a big wheel in a very huge machinery. Try to imagine the immensity of it all. For once, just for an experiment, go out in to the night, alone, and watch the firefly. There may be hundreds, but focus on one. Then think, how many nights have come before and how many will come later. How long does a fly last even

189 in this one night? How long do you have to sparkle? Come out of your cocoon. Listen to the world around without having to comment or direct anything. Let the world run itself for a moment. There will be withdrawal symptoms but tolerate them just for a while and then you will know peace and really see! The world that did not matter until now, will suddenly start to matter!!

190 45. Fear of rejection
The way I would approach this subject is by analyzing the two words first. Why are we afraid at all? It is the opposite of courage. So you have had the gumption to attempt something; this is very fine; rather you should be proud to have stepped outside the comfort zone. And if you are afraid, then it means that a wish is attached to the action. Is that true? Life comes in two hues; Black and white and hundreds of shades in between and then there all the colors and millions of combinations and shades of these colors. Did you really expect that life would be one roller coaster ride where all you have to do is wish and your fairy Godmother would make it come true? This is awfully unrealistic and terribly childish. Let us examine this subject from a realistic point of view with some not so hypothetical instances to illustrate the point. A highly learned teacher with a lot of experience goes to a school for a job for which he is more than qualified. But the job goes to a younger lady. The poor man can take this as a rejection and also as a confirmation of the moving ahead of the wheel of life. In the game of life and the truth behind this incident, there is the fact that the school is a business. The administration wants younger people to work

191 hard and daylong. Then as children are involved, there is this notion that ladies are kinder and softer in their approaches; which may or not be true but it is real fact that we have to live with. Then as the teacher needed is for classes well below the qualifications offered by the learned teacher, he is not really required. So the great expert is not given the job. Does this qualify as rejection? No, not at all. It is just the quirks of life at play. There are more than a couple of factors at play in life. The more qualified teacher should not take this personally and not bring his vanity into play. Rather, he should take this as an eye-opener and look for greener pastures and I would add improve himself for a greater destiny. Lately a little downturn in the economy has prompted many companies to downsize with many people suddenly finding them selves back to square one. They can’t take this personally. It is definitely depressing and the future with all the commitments at stake is in jeopardy; at least as was visualized. But then life does not move in a straight line. The fear if any is surely from the fact that certain financial commitments had been put into place and now the lack of an income would destabilize the entire thing. In all simplicity I presume to ask, did you plan for not having a job? Let us say you bought a car on loan which you had planned to pay for

192 as you went along and now this retrenchment falls like a block of bricks on your head. The fear is that either you will have to return the car and lose all the money already paid for or pay for it from your reserves if any. The running of the car is also an expensive proposition. Also here is the image problem. What will everyone think? Now let us speak in realistic terms: Your plans for your life were unrealistic. You were spending money which you had not. You were aiming for things that were not yours as yet by right. And the fear of being ridiculed is purely vanity at work. There is additionally a positive side to fear. If we are not comfortable with things as they are, we strive to change. We make efforts to upgrade our abilities and think creatively and explore many other possibilities which we would have not done otherwise. This results in an educative process which benefits us greatly and will stand by us more than anything else in the world in times of crisis. In relationships “Fear” takes a slightly different coloring although the shapes being colored are the same. Our vanity asks us to modulate our behavior and we then present ourselves to the liking of others and their appreciation. In our zeal to impress we present a very false persona. We are being untrue; to ourselves and to the other. Sooner or later, the other person will see thru the machinations. And if the other is a wizened,

193 experienced person, he will see it immediately. This is manipulation which can never have a good ending; we bluff, huff and puff and blow our own house down. If we get hurt in the process, we alone are totally to blame. In relationships, if we were truer, honest and candid, we would not pose nor compromise our feelings at every step. We would have the courage to say NO when we want to and only YES when we really mean it. We would also pay attention and listen to the other, especially when the other is trying to say NO. In the final analysis there is nothing to fear but to strive is. You are you and you should take yourself positively but with a pinch of salt. The anxieties and pain come from the ‘wants” we impose on ourselves with finicky attitudes so all we need to do is de-complicate our lives.

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