Emotional Connect and Daaru.

MINT May 19 - the Science of Emotions
MINT May 19 – the Science of Emotions

Sometime back I was part of an official gathering which focused on the work done and the way ahead. It can’t get any different, right? Add some games and dance and of course alcohol to the agenda and wallah, you have the perfect recipe for an annual gathering.

However, there was a twist in the tale. And I was pleasantly surprised. At the end of the gathering, different groups presented their idea of actionable for the Organisation to make progress in the future.

Unassumingly, a key actionable was need for ‘Emotional Connect’, between employees, between Management and employees and of course between organisation and the customer. Since then, a part of my brain has been actively thinking on this aspect, maybe 3% of the brain. Remaining 97% of the active brain is involved in the deliverables of way forward.

So, the 3% of my brain kept on wondering, what is emotional connect. Frankly, I did not know where to search for the answers. Of course, there is an emotional connect with family, friends and near and dear ones. And yet you do not have it with everyone. There are some with whom you share a deep emotional connect and with some it is a shallow interface.

So the question was, what was I exactly looking for – A shallow interface like we have some colleagues, or something between shallow or deep (let’s call it middle) or a deep emotional connect that you share with limited few in the world. At this stage, my 3% brain said that he has met the expectations and any additional work that it would done from now on should be labeled as ‘Exceed Expectations.’ Of course, I agreed, even the 97% realised that the 3% is working on something special but they knew it was not part of KPI, so they did not raise any objection.

Coincidentally, at the end of the alcohol party during this gathering, 5 of us met in a room to discuss life. We all knew each other well but what really happened at 2 AM in the night was unbelievable. Except one person, the 4 of us were reasonably charged up and together we sang songs, gave our gyaan on life and then talked about the first love, the hits and the misses. Surprisingly, it was a candid conversation wherein all contributed. Surprisingly there were no barriers in communication and thoughts and maybe in connecting emotionally. What made this happen? Daaru?

The important point is that I am in touch with at least 2 on more or less on an everyday basis in office and things have only improved and I am sure it will be the same for the other two. So how did I reach a level of ‘middle’ emotional connect with my colleagues in such a short time. And I guess this is what an organisation expects. This is what an organisation needs. Further deep diving was required to know what exactly happened.

MINT came up with an interesting article on ‘The science of Emotions’ within a couple of days. An interesting article I may say. An excerpt from the article says ‘Emotion might be happiness produced by being given a reward, such as a pleasant touch, praise, or winning a large sum of money. Conversely it could be the fear produced by the sound of a rapidly approaching bus or the sight of an angry expression on someone’s face. But the human brain works to avoid stimuli that are punishing, it noted.’ (Published by Edmund Rolls in 2000).

Interesting I thought and at the same time quite dumb, as it was common sense. At this point, the 3% made a point that if more information is needed, then it will construe as ‘Far Exceed Expectations.’ After a lot of discussion between the 97% brain cells, the 3% was appreciated and rewarded and asked to proceed for more glory and success. And something more interesting came to the fore. Something called as ‘Amygdala’ and ‘Neurotransmitters’. Amygdala is known as the emotional centre of the brain as it gets direct sensory information which it learns and stores and uses to control emotional responses. It is also linked to the parts of the brain that govern your senses, muscles and hormones and thus depending on the external stimuli, the amygdala makes the body to reach, especially in danger situation. So what about situations that are pleasing? For that the brain has a pleasure center area that releases chemicals called as neurotransmitters. These chemicals communicate information throughout the brain and body by relaying signals between nerve cells. Dopamine is one such chemical that is related to experiences of pleasure and the reward learning process. In other words, when you do something good, you’re rewarded with dopamine and gain a pleasurable, happy feeling. This teaches your brain to want to do it again and again.

I somewhat understand this, I said to myself. But, then what happened the other day? How did daaru create a happy pleasurable feeling, an emotional response of being connected? Further investigation revealed that alcohol affects brain chemistry by altering levels of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are either excitatory, meaning that they stimulate brain electrical activity, or inhibitory, meaning that they decrease brain electrical activity. Alcohol increases the amount of the chemical dopamine in the brain’s reward center, which creates the feeling of pleasure that occurs when someone takes a drink. Aha!

So in a nutshell, the 3% told me that your external stimuli should be such that it results in release of chemical called dopamine across nerve cells and the amygdala learns and stores this information such that it gives an emotional response of being happy and content, in short, being emotionally connected (if the external stimuli is a person).

So, the final question is that if the external stimuli is not alcohol then how do you ensure that emotional connect remains? How to ensure dopamine release is always there and amygdala processes this information time and again? And I realise that of all the reward system, humans in general are constantly affected by the sensory information of what we hear i.e. words. And when we hear good words from someone and we rely on the person basis the words, trust is formed which consequently leads to an emotional connect. It explains why we listen to babas and gurus or even behavioural trainings as they induce release of dopamine and impacting our amygdala.

But what happens when we say something to a person and don’t do likewise. I guess, the trust goes out of the window. And once trust is gone, emotional connect is gone. ‘Ab pachtaye kya hot, jab chidiya chug gayi khet.’ By the way, when my 3% demanded a reward for its FEE performance, the 97% made it a point that it was a special project and accordingly a suitable reward is enough. And since it was not part of KPI, the overall rating is Meet Expectations. Unfortunately, the Amygdala registered, dopamine went to sleep and the 3% does not have any emotional connect with the 97% anymore. Cest le vie.

Of Mileposts, Dry landscape and Lions – Journey from Thane (Mumbai) to Gir

Gir LionWe had planned this journey for nearly 2 months. Accomodation was confirmed at Club Mahindra, Gir Resorts http://www.clubmahindra.com/ for the last week of April. So, mentally we were prepared that it is going to be ‘hot’ vacation. Kids were mentally prepared that finally they would see the real lion and not the one that Chota Bheem keeps on bashing. After lot of permutations and combinations, the tourist party included my wife and 2 kids, my mother, my sister and her 2 kids and me. I was already travelling with 3 lionesses and their cubs. Train tickets were booked in advance and I was hoping that the Railways remain true to their way of working and does not confirm the Wait-list tickets. Of course, it went that way else I would not have been writing this blog.

Small dream – I have made one road to Jaipur earlier with family, so had decent experience about highway travelling. However, this time around it wasn’t a Wagon R. It was a Toyota Innova which I borrowed from my brother. So, basically around 1 day from the scheduled time of departure I get keys of a diesel driven car which does not have a PUC, which does not have Insurance and most importantly one of the passengers had agreed to road travel only on the condition that we had a driver. If CenterShock need a new advertisement, then they can use this theme and my sister’s photograph. As such she has curly hair, imagine stiff Maggi Noodles. It was my dream to drive along new roads, experience new landscapes and have fun with kids while driving; God answered my prayers and the dream came through with all the risks that go along with any dream – NO experience of driving big car that too Diesel, SCARED passengers and NOT too much trust on the car. Yet it was a risk worth taking.

Changing mileposts – We left on 26th morning which was a Sunday at 640 AM, maybe 20 minutes behind schedule and were well on our way to reach Surat via NH 8 when the passengers started complaining about food. Some 30 kms before Surat we had breakfast which lasted for one good hour from 10 AM till 11 AM. I was planning to reach Surat by 10 and we were already delayed. At Surat, the halt destination for the night changed from Vadodra to some place ahead as the passengers realised that the driver isn’t that bad and the more we cover on Day 1, the lesser we need to cover on Day 2 and would be relatively refreshed. When we started the perception was – How are we going to reach Vadodra? And now, it was – Let us plan for a higher target. Thane to Gir distance was nearly 780 kms via the shortest route recommended by Google maps which is through State highways once we crossed Vadodra. But, between Surat and Vadodra there lay a patch of road which is always full of traffic and thanks to the advice of Ketan bhai and Google maps, we avoided the Ankleshwar traffic by going through the city route known as the Golden Bridge. Once we reached Bharuch, Vadodra was not far off. At 2 PM we bypassed it and had our lunch 30 mins later at a not so great place 15 kms off Borsad on State Highway 228. Basis our experience of the condition of the state highway so far, we decided that we needed to have an alternative route to reach the new target called Rajkot. At 3:30 PM, the target at 240 kms distance seemed far off and the with the passenger patience wearing off, it seemed bit difficult.

Team support – Nothing can be achieved by a single person alone especially when many are on a journey together. Luckily for the driver, the passengers kept on changing seats and giving themselves a different view of the journey. The two boys, Ishaan (my kid) and Kushal (my sister’s kid), sat on the front seat and had a blast and when they fell asleep my wife and mother toggled the places. Of course, the driver that is me had a tiff with all of them, with my sister for unsolicited advice from time to time, with my mother for not being a good navigator (guiding if the truck ahead can be overtaken from the left side) on the front seat, with my wife for not giving right directions on Google map at times and with the kids for making so much masti. Yet, we went along and by 5:30 we ended the run of state highway at Limbdi and joined NH 8A Ahmedabad – Rajkot highway. At 7:15 we reached our destination, The Fern at Rajkot http://www.fernhotels.com/rajkot-hotels/fern-rajkot.php and had a good night sleep. Things that helped in completing phase 1 of journey – Discounted rates thanks to Ketan bhai again, Ondem for my kiddo who only puked once and an unlimited supply of drinking water in the car. Next morning @ 1040 when we left the hotel, completely refreshed, I was in no doubt that by 2 PM maximum we shall reach our destination, Club Mahindra which was only 160 odd kms away.

Life is a journey – And I was so wrong. As per Google maps, we went via route of Rajkot – Jetpur – Visavadar – Sasan Gir. Ideally, we should have taken the Jetpur – Junagadh route which we did take on the return journey. As I realised on the Day 1 journey on State highway, the road from Jetpur till Sasan Gir except last 15 kms was state highway which is more or less isolated and a 2 lane highway without any dividers. So you can cruise at 80kmph and suddenly some truck might come around a curve and your car’s braking capability is measured. At Jetpur, Google maps guided us through city market surrounded by cows, buffaloes and people gawking at an Innova with a Maharashtra registration number. At 1:30 we somehow reached the end of Visavadar and only 15 kms separated us from our target. What stood ahead of us was a forest gate and rocky road which none of us thought of as motorable road, forget it being a State highway. We rode back a few kms to enquire at a sugarcane juice stall and whatever we understood in Gujarati told us that it was a road and the alternative road via Junagadh will take a couple of hours. And then the car stopped. Frantically, I called my cousin who told me to just touch the battery connecting wires as it might have come loose. What!!?? Luckily another car came up, who had a driver and he actually just touched the wire and the car started. Not willing to take any more chances, within 10 secs the entire junta was inside the car and we trudged along the non motorable road of 15 kms. It was actually a safari road which we realised when we went for safari a couple of days later and no wonder we met a lot of deers, peacocks and even mongoose. We could have even met Mr. Lion himself, now I wonder. At 3 Pm we finally reached Club Mahindra, shaken due to the treacherous road, happy on seeing the animals, starving and with a driver who had a semi-broken back. Total journey distance – 850 odd kms.

Close the Loop – Club Mahindra, like always was good family fun. We played a lot of fuss ball, did swimming, played badminton after ages, had awesome evening get-togethers thanks to Mr. Ashraf of fun zone activity and of course plucking mangoes from the endless trees. The safari trip in an open jeep was a dampener as I believe we took the wrong batch and lady luck wasn’t on our side. There are 3 batches 6 – 9, 9 – 12 and 3 – 6 and we took the 9 -12 batch through online reservation. http://girlion.in/ We managed to spot Nilghai, Sambhar, Deers, Lots of birds but only a couple of lioness sleeping under the shade of a tree on their backs. The next day we went to Devalia park wherein we did see the entire pack through the bus tour but it was not the ‘real’ thing. Return journey on 1st May was decided to be a Highway affair. We started at 7:40 in the morning and at 10:00, had awesome breakfast on the outskirts of Rajkot – Methi Theplas et al. I had the pleasure of viewing vast barrens of dry land against setting sun on 26th April and against the morning Sun on 1st May, and it is view that would remain entrenched in my memories forever. Always I thought that mountains, green forests and water was beautiful and this beautiful landscape changed my perspective. Rajkot-Ahmedabad-Vadodra though fast was a boring highway affair. Thanks to tubeless tyres, we were able to remove punctures at Vadodra toll plaza, which is nearly 20 kms prior to Vadodra exit on Ahmedabad-Vadodra super expressway. At 5:30 PM  at HONEST joint (lot of them along the highways) we had our evening fill at Subway, Dominoes Pizza and CCD. http://www.honestrestaurant.com/  We spent the night at Surat at a decent place called Hotel Apex near the station and near the main market, to allow the ladies to enjoy clothes shopping the next day. On 2nd May, we left surat at 1 PM and reached home at 7 PM after couple of breaks, mango shopping on the highway at Valsad and bad traffic jams and bad roads near Virar. Total distance – 950 kms (taking into account internal city driving at Surat).

This was a beautiful journey from Thane (Mumbai) to Gir and back. Though the objective was seeing the lion, what we gained was much more than that. On a personal note, now looking forward to longer and exciting road trips, it always teaches you something.

Rishi Arya