Monthly Archives: May 2020

There’s More To It

Coronavirus seems to have crept on us from something that was happening elsewhere to becoming a global pandemic. When it first started, I never anticipated the impact it will have on the entire world. Even after we discover a vaccine, I suspect life as we knew it might not return to normal.

I am sure all of us are digesting to this reality in our fashion. Given that I have been cooped up in my home and combined with the fact that a) I am a rebel at heart and b) There is not much of a social interaction I decided to cut my hair real short – ok somewhat short. As I was leaving for the salon, I asked my husband if our dog Aki would be able to recognize me. And he said, ‘Yes because Aki knows that you are more than your hair.’ And when I come home – Aki did not even blink – he just waited for his dog treat as if nothing had changed.

It made me realize how our perception of ourselves is different from others. I see myself as somebody whose haircut defines looks. Whereas for Aki, the hairstyle does not even make it to the identification criteria. Things that are important to me might not be as relevant to him.

For example, I may wake up with a pimple on my nose. And I go through the rest of the day making a big deal of the pimple – how it is a blemish on my face, how I get a pimple when I have an important meeting at work, wonder what other people are thinking about it. Whereas in reality, others may not even notice it. I am sure they have their ‘own personal’ pimples to think about.

And if we take it a step further, we may impose the importance of our pimple on somebody else who does not care about the pimple as we do. For example, I am a project manager and having a structured approach is like second nature to me. Let’s say I meet somebody else who is not as structured and hence does not have a plan.

If I use the lack of a plan to pass judgement on them or their personality, then am I passing judgement on them or making a statement about myself? If I live my life thinking that people without a plan are lesser than me – the joke is on me. Because I am very narrow-minded – I am not able to think of a reality where people can exist without plans. I am not talking about items that we all fundamentally know to be wrong like cheating, lying, etc., but more mundane issues.

Sometimes in life, we get so ingrained in our way of life that it becomes THE WAY TO LIVE LIFE, and we forget that other people who grew up differently have a different way of life. Their pimples are different than mine. The haircut that is an event in my life might not even make a dent in life for a second. And that is entirely acceptable however unpalatable that it may be for me.

Are you aware of your pimples?

Sign Of Intelligence

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function – a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

It is hard to see both sides of a situation – understand the truth of both parties – knowing that they cannot be reconciled. It is easier to switch to one side because it is a more comfortable choice.

Let’s say at work, you have a so-so employee, needs monitoring, and on top of it spreads rumours. He is eager to show improvement but is not consistent. What would you do? Put him on a performance plan and take it from there. Now, what if I told you that he was the sole breadwinner of his family and his looking after grandson. Does your decision change? Can you understand why he might not be paying attention to details? Can you understand why he starts a crazy rumour of people losing jobs because that’s his greatest fear?

The question still stands – what would you do? Fire him or keep him on. A tough decision isn’t it? This is the intelligence that Fitzgerald is talking about.

Life would be a lot easier if things were white or black. If people were either good or bad. If people behaved consistently all the time without deviating from the character you have created for them in your head. But, then you wouldn’t need humans – you could program robots to run the world. Hey, they may as well be running the world in the years to come, but I digress.

If your friend slept with your boyfriend and she works with youth at risk – is she a good or a bad person? If your boyfriend forgot that you had a dinner date tonight because of work? What if your boss cannot make tough decisions as he is afraid of confrontations? These are all real-life situations which exist because we are human. If we were all robots that we would have a strict code to adhere to and we would not budge from them.

Let’s face it. Life is messy. We are humans and by definition, not perfect. We all make mistakes, and that is what makes us human. It is understanding this and recognizing this in other humans is a sign of intelligence. It does not mean that you do not make a decision. Maybe you make a decision to fire the employee, or you put him on a performance plan with clear expectations, or you shift him to another area and hope he does well there. There is no right or wrong answer. You do what your style and belief system says – but the key is to do it knowing that there are other sides to it—knowing that you are deciding to fire that person even though you know his family situation—knowing that you may have made the wrong decision.

How are you exercising your right to be human?

Timepass or Pasttime

When Adam and I got together, he used to hang around me and my Indian friend Ranjani. And we both used to talk in Hinglish which is Indian’s way of using English with Hindi. And one day he asked me what did we mean by timepass. And that’s when I realized that Indians have a different usage or meaning of certain words which only Indians can understand. Like the head nods – Indians know instinctively what the head nod means.

So, timepass is a unique word in the sense that it is an activity and is also a review of activity (I am paraphrasing Kanan Gill – Indian stand up comic). Let’s look at a few usages of timepass.

Ques: What are you doing?
Answer: Timepass

Ques: How is the movie?
Answer: Timepass

Ques: What do you think of my boyfriend?
Answer: I think you should leave him, he is doing timepass.

Ques: Where are the kids?
Answer: Must be doing timepass somewhere.

Not sure if this gives you a gist, but it means you are doing an activity – may be useful, may not be helpful.

Word usage can tell us a lot about the culture. Again, inspired by Kanan Gill. In the US, people do not do timepass they have pastimes.

In literal terms, it means – for Indians time passes whereas, for Americans, they pass the time. That is a very profound statement because it is the fundamental difference between being and doing.

In India, there is an understanding of flow, time flowing by – understanding that it is ok to be a watcher – an observer. If you ever happen to go to India, you will see Indians just sitting around doing nothing. It is prevalent to find people just sitting under a tree or side of the streets – doing nothing.

In America, past time refers to a hobby or activity that you do actively to pass the time. It is something of your choice that you actively decide to do to make the best of your time or your skills. It is very rare to see people just whiling away time – there is a sense of rush or urgency – a need to get somewhere.

The point of the blog is not to say one is better than others. It is to ponder on this unique connection of words and what they say about culture. And also maybe plant a seed of awareness around your preference. Do you like to pass the time or do you sit there while time passes you?

Aristotle to the rescue – golden mean is the solution to everything. As long as it is a choice and not a compulsion, you are good to go. If you were rushing all the time because you do not have any other option, then it is good to pause and think – is it needed? Yin and Yang – there is a reason why Golden mean, and yin/yang keep popping up.

What is your preferred choice?

More Time Now?

I am currently in the seventh week of lockdown. Who would have thought? I had just published my book – ‘You Can Do It’ when all this was beginning. And I had sent out emails to the few folks I know to do my marketing.

And a few of them replied with, ‘Now that you are Working from Home – WFH, you can write more.’ I have a problem with that statement – because it implies that all you need is time to write or pursue a creative habit. It’s equating writing to a production system where productivity is equal to the amount of time you run the system.

For me, writing is an unpredictable activity. The more I plan it, the less the probability of my writing anything. I do not know why? But, this is the one activity where sheer will power does long-lasting damage. And it takes time for an idea to bloom, put down roots and grow to the point where it bears a fruit which appears in the form a chapter or a blog. Sometime the ideas slosh around before settling down for you to see a clear picture, especially if it is a fiction book.

Writing a blog like this or the non-fiction books comes a lot more easily to me. I do not have to think of them. I live in this space all the time. My purpose in life is to ‘Learn, Grow, Inspire and Contribute’ and my vision in life is ‘ To be a better version of myself every day’ – given these, it is natural for me to ponder on the topics of self-growth or better me. Hence these topics flow naturally through me -Through me being the keyword. I have come to realize that I am just the medium for these things to happen through me. I offer very less resistance to be a channel of such topics. This topic is ever-present in my mind chatter – there is no forcing the subject for which I am grateful.

Fiction books for me have a more extended gestation period – because there is so much scope. And ideas all add up over some time. And things need to readjust as new information comes to light. This is my favourite part of writing – the brainstorming. Anything is possible, and I am not invested in any idea or story. There is a freedom in fluidity which I love, you can imagine more so than ever, there are different pathways, there is scope for your characters to change.

I wish life could be that way – I could re-define myself the way I can my characters. I wish I did not etch myself in stone but define myself a moment to moment. I wish I were not stuck in the past but discovering myself new with every new moment because, in reality, that is the truth. I am a new person every moment. The old me stops to exist, but my idea of the past me continues.

How can you re-define yourself?

Not Fair – Just A Slap

If something is unfair and nobody is aware that it is unfair – is it still unfair?

I am writing this blog right after watching the Bollywood movie – ‘Thappad’ which translates into – ‘Slap’. And I am writing this caught up in an emotion which can only be described as ‘Outraged helplessness.’

This movie hit hard because it articulated out aloud what I knew was unfair. I have talked about this often. And my admiration for the tolerance that my mom, her mom and her mom have- has only increased. And how often it goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

I am successful by society’s standards. I am a software engineer with an MBA working at a prestigious company. I have written three books, founded a dance company and co-founded a social enterprise. But, it still bugs me that when I go back home – my extended family does not ask about my work – they ask my mom if there is good news aka ‘If I am pregnant or not.’ When I got admission into London Business School – the vast majority did not celebrate the success instead were worried about my marriage prospects.

I am not stating this because I want to list my accomplishments or point out the ignorance of others. Instead, I want to point out that according to society, my purpose is to get married and have kids—a woman’s life.

Even as I write this, I feel a bitterness inside of me. Me, my mom and thousands like us are told that a woman has to adjust, compromise and keep the house together. And guess who tells us this – other women.

I am not blaming anybody. We are where we are as a society, and the only way is forward. I get that. I also get that women have come a long way. I also understand it is easy for me to make these statements because I am independent. Most women do not have this choice. I am also not blaming men – they know what they know, are learning, and every day it is getting better.

PLOT SUMMARY: A couple in love – a housewife and ambitious husband. Husband comes to know that he has not been awarded the position he wanted in his company and slaps his wife at the celebration party. Just one slap and the first time it has happened. Wife says – One slap brought into focus all the other items that were unfair in her life. And her husband, her mother and mother-in-law all tell her. ‘It was one slap – Let it go – Women have to adjust.’

I am outraged that this happens, and I know some of the people I know would give me the same advice. I feel helpless that there is no one easy solution for this.

We are all in this together. Women and Men. We have to re-imagine what is possible and make it happen. But, we limit ourselves by our perceptions of reality and what is possible. There is a fear to break the societal norms because that’s the world we know. We all have moments in our life when it tugs at our heartstrings – when it does act on it. That holds for me as well.

Maybe coronavirus is nature’s way of showing her outrage at what we did for ages. Will we learn?

My recommendation especially if you are a woman – watch it. It is available on amazon prime video.

Out Of The World

My dad has been talking about this guy called Sri M for a couple of years. Sri M has written a few books, and my dad has read them all. The topic of Sri M came up again recently, and I decided to give his books a try. I share my dad’s kindle – clicked on the book and voila downloaded.

The book was titled, ‘Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master – the autobiography of a yogi. As some of you know, I am into these kinds of books – so I sat down with a cup of chai and started reading the book.
And I finished the book in two sittings. The book is out of the world for most of us. What do I mean by that?

This book has many examples of enlightened beings who know that they are spiritual beings having a human experience. We are all spiritual beings having a human experience, but for most of us, we have no inkling about the spiritual side. And hence this book might seem out of the world for most of us.

In the book, Sri M has an encounter with a serpent god from another planet in another galaxy in the Miky way. As per Sri M – there was a time on earth when humans and serpents lived harmoniously. The serpent folk were highly evolved and taught humans a lot. And as usual, humans became greedy and started massacring serpents in mass. The serpent lord – called Anantha called his folks back. Only the sick, old or rebels were left behind. And with too much interbreeding they have lost all essence of their original selves, and we know them as snakes today.

There are other examples where people communicate telepathically, travel instantaneously, can speak foreign languages even if they haven’t read it. All this for most of us out of the world. And I am sure some of us will dismiss this as fiction.

But, aren’t we limited with what we can perceive. For the longest time earth was flat, and we all lived in that reality. Our belief in it was so strong that we would kill people who tried to argue otherwise. Greek philosophers proved that the earth was round and then Newton confirmed that it was spherical. What does this mean? That we know only what we know and have a strong tendency to disbelief what we cannot see.

The fault with this kind of thinking is that we are limited by our sense doors – what we can see, feel, touch, hear – what if we have other senses that we are not aware of. Everything in nature operates under its laws. If we understood those laws, how would our lives change?

The purpose of this blog is not to prove that serpents exist as evolved creatures in this galaxy. Instead, it is to plant a seed that states – there might be more to what meets the eyes. What we know might not be reality. Another purpose also was to introduce Sri M to more people.

And I told one of my professors about Sri M. And guess what the next day his friend (one he hadn’t heard from a long time) forwarded a link to the online talk from Sri M – Out Of The World, right?

How does this change your perception?