Category Archives: Musings

Competition

Adam and I were walking with Aki – our fabulous Shiba Inu pup one day. It was a hot summer day, and Aki was dragging his feet. We ran into another couple with their Shiba Inu pup. We exchanged notes, and they continued walking with their white Shiba Inu pup leading the way, happily bounding towards his home.

The minute they left, I turned to Aki and said, ‘What is wrong with you? Why cannot you also walk like the other Shiba Inu?’ Aki made no move from the shade of the tree, but I realized that I might no longer live in India, but the competitive spirit that Asians/Indians have hasn’t left me.

Did you know that for the last decade or so the National Spelling Bee championship has been won by Indians (Second Generation)? I shared this fun fact with a few people and let’s see what their reaction was

Adam (My husband): Laughter mixed with – what am I not getting here?
American Friend: Polite ‘hehe’ and then move on to the next topic
American Friend: Confusion – no clear on the context (Awkard)
Indian Friends: Laughter with a clear reflection of empathy in their faces
Indian Parents: Sigh with a deep understanding of the motivation

There is so much cultural context in the statement that even we as Indians will not be able to articulate it. A child is born in India with the knowledge that he/she is competing with the billion other people.

When I gave my 10th grade and 12th-grade exams, nobody said it, but I knew that if I do not well, then the world will end. Imagine a hundred thousand(s) kids write the entrance exam for engineering and only the top 1% get admission. If you got 99.7%, you missed the cut-off, and you are a failure. Nobody told me growing up that this is how the system works, but I understood it loud and clear. It is only now in hindsight when I try to understand why I am so competitive that I articulated it. However gruelling it may sound I learnt a lot and a part of loves the thrill, hard work, anxiety and anticipation.

Well, so now I know why I am competitive, and I accept that this is who I am. I am one of those people who will look for the next thing – Stay Hungry, Stay foolish. Will this last forever – who knows? The important thing is I accept my competitive nature as who I am for now. And being competitive is not a bad thing as long as it is not a compulsion but a choice. If you are competing with everybody over everything, it is unsustainable – I tried. What do you think made me wonder why I was so competitive in the first place, eh? But, if it is a choice, then it brings out the best in me – and that is my motto in life. Be a better version of myself every day.

What are your compulsions? And do they need to be choices?

I Cannot Stop – Can You?

‘Stay hungry, Stay foolish’ is a quote from Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford in the year 2005. 

As per Quora, it means that one should never be content with what is, nor consider oneself an expert. There is always more to do/gain (“stay hungry” for knowledge) and more to learn (“stay foolish“, meaning never consider oneself an expert but a fool to learn more).

There are two kinds of people – those who look for the next challenge and those who are content with where they are. There is no right or wrong type – it’s a personal preference. For some, it is a way of life. 

For example, I love to challenge myself – I am a doer. I am one of those people who get the butterflies before doing something challenging – lose themselves while doing it – look for another one when its complete. 

For the longest time ever, I never knew this is what I did until I met somebody in my team who was perfectly happy doing the same role they are doing forever. Once I became aware of it, I wondered why I am the way I am. 

This year so far, I published a book, got two certifications at work – finished a couple of tight timelines driven projects and I am still rearing to go. I have this intense desire in me to do – challenge myself. I do get bored very quickly, as well. If it is routine, then I have to work extra hard to motivate myself. 

A lot of people would describe me as being ambitious. And there was a point when I took offence to it – not anymore. I have learnt to accept who I am and use them as strengths and bring awareness on how it can be a weakness as well. We all have qualities which could be a strength or a weakness. There are two sides to a coin always. There is still another side of the story. 

I realized that by not accepting who I am, including my flaws and imperfections, I was cutting away parts of myself. The hardest thing for me to accept was – ‘I am Human. Being human is being imperfect. May I be kind to me.’ This is the tenet of self-compassion, which is loving yourself. 

And a poem I had read a long time ago has always haunted me, and now I am beginning to understand what it might mean. It is a poem by Derek Walcott.

Have you spoken to the stranger that is you?

A Select Few

There is a lot of news about the suicide of the Bollywood Actor – Sushant Singh Rajput. It has raised questions on the powerful few who own most of the industry – which movies make it, who is the hero etc. Soon after that, there was another post from a singer stating that it is the same state in the music industry – a select few make the choices. In the retail sector, a few own all the Malls and hence dictate the rents for the stores.

Hence the name Mafia/Cabal etc. The dictionary meaning of Cabal is – ‘a secret political clique or faction’ and dictionary meaning of Mafia is – ‘a closed group of people in a particular field, having a controlling influence’.

What all these examples share is the Pareto principle (80/20). The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that for many phenomena, 80% of the result comes from 20% of the effort. The principle has been named after Vilfredo Pareto—an Italian economist—who, back in 1895, noticed that about 80% of Italy’s land belonged to 20% of the country’s population. 

In the cases mentioned above, cabals are 20% of the population that holds 80% of the Power. Is this right? Is this how things should be?

Unfortunately, there is not a straight answer. Before we solution lets understand Power. How many you cringed when you read the word Power? How many of you have a negative connotation with the word Power? If you search the internet, watch movies – they will send the message that Power is a bad thing.

1st Baron Action even had a quote for this – ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute Power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…’ 

I recently read the ‘One Minute Manager’, and there is a quote in there which talks about – ‘The sole advantage of Power is the ability to do more good. Thus, if you want to do more good for yourself and more good for the people around you, it is important to learn how to tap into your points of Power.’

Power by itself is neutral – it is how you use it defines it. And honestly, you do need some Power to make changes.

In the previous examples – if all the stores got together and said these are the rents we want – the mall owners cannot do anything. If all the actors/directors boycotted the select few – the producers will have to change their view. If all the nerds and average children in the class got together against the bullies then – there will be no cliques. 

What we forget is that they might be 20%, but we are the remaining 80%. We have the majority of Power – but most of us are selfish. We look out for us, and our closed ones and the 20% take advantage of that. And for this not to happen, each one of us needs to realize our Power – work on ourselves, raise our awareness so that we can use our Power for good.

How will you use your Power today?

More Than Before

Before 2020 I was living my regular routine – going to work, getting things done and accomplishing the goals I had set for myself. I also spent a considerable amount of time with Wild Tiger Tees. Wild Tiger Tees is a social enterprise which Adam, I and three of our friends formed. Our mission is to empower youth experiencing homelessness through the art of screen printing. And as a part of it, we interacted with youth experiencing homelessness – most of them ‘not’ surprisingly were black. Adam and I had tons of discussion about generational poverty, how black are disadvantaged economically. We had debates, we talked about and then got back into the routine.

Cut to this year – 2020 which will go down in history as a remarkable year and the year is not over yet.

This year started with rumblings of Coronavirus in China, which I ignored brushing it off as something that will come and disappear. And then slowly in March, we began Work From Home. The reality had not sunk in then. Sixty days in – I realized that this is momentous. A single virus – COVID-19 had a global impact. Most of the world was working from home – who would have thought. We all have a tolerance limit, and dealing with coronavirus took some of it. For some more than others – like people who lost their jobs, it impacted them more than the rest. There were a lot of people who were/are unemployed, and that causes a sense of unrest. Even though the nature around us was a gentle hush – there were rumblings.

And then George Floyd was killed by police brutality.

It further increased our anxiety and reduced our tolerance limit. For some people that was it – the maximum they could take. For me – I admit that I am unable to brush this off as a discussion topic – Social injustice and racism. It took more screen space in my daily routine than the debates we had. My awareness of this topic has heightened that I cannot juast brush it off. And it bothered me that we lived in a society in which this could happen. And this led to a desire to act – do something. I signed petitions, donated money, wrote blogs – more than discussions or debates.

‘Doing More’. And I see it reflected everywhere – Sales of the book – ‘White Fragility by Robin DeAngelo’ and ‘How to be an anti-racist by Ibram X Kendi’ have gone up significantly. My company Nationwide did a public show of unity by kneeling in silence in downtown today. All the leaders spoke about what they are doing personally – being more thoughtful – teaching kids – speak up more – be an ally to our black/coloured friends – donate more money. Most corporates have publicly declared that they do not stand for racial injustice. Minneapolis has done away with the existing police structure and is embarking on a new way to police themselves.

I hope that this change lasts for me and does not get overtaken by my regular routine. We all hope that this will lead to lasting change – it took the pandemic and an event like George Floyd for a slight increase in global consciousness – that is a big step for humanity. Hope it continues and in the future becomes the norm until there are no native Americans or African-Americans or Indian Americans but just Americans or even better JUST HUMANS.

Innocent – Are You?

A few days ago, NASA launched astronauts to the space station. And a few days ago George Floyd was killed as a result of police brutality or racial injustice as some of us would say it.

Somebody in your team made a mistake, and you tell that person it’s ok – this is the time to offer grace and show some self-love. You come home and end up eating an entire bar of chocolate and beat yourself up.

There are people like Sri M, Sadhguru who are looking to lead us towards higher consciousness and we have a few people in this world who need not be named who are trying to the do the opposite.

What I am trying to say through these examples is that all these realities exist simultaneously. Humankind is on the verge of making robots real, whereas at the same time, we are not able to see some of our peer humans as real.

Has this kind of a spectrum always existed? Is there a reason why this spectrum exists? I honestly do not have an answer for this – not even an intellectual or a logical one which makes sense. Except that maybe it takes everybody to make this world, there is a reason behind everything whether we like it or not.

Right now, there is a lot of anger around George Floyd; emotions are running high. A white policeman killed a black man. And everybody is angry at the white policeman while expressing sympathy towards the black man. The question I want to pose is who is responsible for the white policeman’s behaviour. Haven’t we all created a society in which it was acceptable for this to happen? We can all say – I don’t do this. I wasn’t a part of it. But you know what – we all are. We let this happen collectively as a society, and that is on us too. It is not fair to blame the white policeman 100%. We have looked past so many items that they have become routine for us until something significant like George Floyd happens. Most of us turn a blind eye to it – consciously or unconsciously.

There are a lot of things that we ignore because we do not know how to deal with it or we do not have the time, or we are too selfish. The homeless person on the street when you are in your car. The little girl who was begging for money when you stop at the lights. When your co-worker makes an inappropriate comment, and you let it slide. When we ignore a bunch of young guys eve-teasing a girl.

If we all acted and did something about these minor things, maybe they won’t go out of control. It requires all of us, including me, to have the courage and awareness all the time. It needs me to be mindful of not only me but also people around me. It means I have to tune into how others are feeling so that I can respond with the ability I have.

Maybe this is the universe’s way of jolting us into the new consciousness which we all need to evolve into – for us to survive.

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.