I am now a part of a Shauchalaya


Thanks to my school friend Ajit Gole and Welvan Pratishthan (NGO that works in areas of environment and Needy people in Pune region), I am proud to be the flush handle of a newly constructed Toilet. This toilet will help hundreds of school children and teachers to enjoy the ‘luxury’ of basic hygiene that this primary school had been deprived of for many years. img-20161023-wa0001

Not surprisingly the moment Ajit floated the idea of contributing towards this noble cause of building a Toilet on a WhatsApp group, the members got excited. It’s easy to depict Mumbaikars as machines who have no time to for anything in the world except their own personal lives. However, they are ever ready to contribute towards a good deed and this was no exception. Important was the execution of the idea and Ajit ensured that the construction was completed without any hiccups.

Of course there were hiccups. Predictably a few members of the village affiliated to some political party realized that they were not getting any mileage out of this and raised objections. Some cultural patrons of the village realized that the treated sewage water will be released in the vicinity of a temple and it will affect the divinity (or something of that sort). There is always an echo of Award Wapsi gang who oppose any change and it was evident during this initiative. Yet, the NGO persevered JUST like a JCB machine and since most of the villagers believed in them, it materialized.

Over the years, we Indians have got used to the phrase ‘Iss desh ka kuch nahi hoga’. Frankly, I heard it and believed in it for a long time till changes really started happening. https://swachhbharat.mygov.in/ is one such change. Readers may construe that I am a Bhakt and things like this have been happening for a long time. Yes, of course. One look at the website http://www.thebetterindia.com/ and you realize that so many of us have dedicated their time, effort, money and in most cases a career towards providing support to the poor and needy.

Today when I’m part of building this nation in my own small way, besides paying tax and debating with intellectuals about the Mushkil that Karan Johar faced (my version of Ae dil hai Mushkil https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLfy6edWFTI ), it feels good. It’s a progressive sign that despite the political hues and caste lines drawn by all parties, the Government has taken important steps towards the development of the nation. Intellectuals can have a field day about secularism and liberal rights. I don’t care. I am just a common man, doing common things and yet who dreams to build an extraordinary nation.

Cheers to Ajit, Welvan Pratishthan for taking a small step in accomplishments of many such dreams. What is your status —

  • Are your dreams of building this nation being realized?
  • Have you accomplished something that you wish to share?
  • Is there something you wish to do but not yet started?

SHARE.


Rishi Arya (@rishi011278)

Author of the book ‘Always Yours’

Content Masala Team (Create Simple, Engaging stories) for Training & Marketing.

 

An open letter to kids on today’s changing times.


‘There are no accidents!’ said Master Oogway in the movie Kung Fu Panda. One of the finest movies ever created it is also one of my favorites. True to the phrase, I met three school friends over a period of past 3 months. I believe the meetings were to enhance my knowledge and interpretation of the current world that we live in. The discussion topics were more or less confined to Narendra Modi, BJP versus other parties, ISIS, Terrorism and Islamic refugees. Over a few drinks and good food, the would-be president of US was discussed with as much fervor as the rise of sports other than cricket in India.

religion-or-nation
Source: https://daevone.file.wordpress.com

 

As I reflect on those discussions, the mere fact that they are no longer confined to newspaper / television headlines or the privilege of limited few intellectuals or the media, made me aware of the conscious society we live in. The common man is no longer a silent spectator, he is talking about it. Even the smart generation kids who have their ears glued to the super informative environment are constantly picking up tidbits. Times will change and so will the environment. However, kids will build upon their tidbits of information and form strong views later in their lives.

As a parent in today’s troubled times, our role has just become more challenging. So, while we communicate and share our beliefs with our kids, reiterating our views may be critical especially during their teenage years. I therefore write this essay just like school times, so that my kids can refer to it at all times and what they take away from it is their choice. I also trust Facebook to allow me to share it later courtesy their “5/6/7 years ago” link.

Hi kids,

My essay is titled ‘Religion over Nation’. As the name implies I am not referring to a particular religion. As you grow up, you will figure it out that there are many religions, each having its own set of rules, regulations, festivals and perceptions. Funnily enough, all have been man-made though even the most educated person at times may staunchly dispute the fact and label it as God’s creation. Talking of God, you will definitely figure it out that there are many versions of God. Some exist in idol form, some were of the species Homo sapiens just like us and then there are still some living Gods amongst us. All those talks that there is no shape, structure, colour or form of God is complete rubbish. We see, feel and listen to God as we have been conditioned over the years. I urge you to keep your senses OPEN at all times else you’ll end up fearing the ominous presence of God rather than being spiritually connected.

A question that may rake your mind at times, Is there a God? A religious person will answer you with his beliefs and the answers he has, an atheist will lead you into a different world and an Agnostic like me will always tell you that ‘There are no accidents’. But that’s me and not you. That’s them and not you. Over the years, you will realise, experience and be a part of the ‘group bias’ phenomenon. Your interests, role models, thinking will be aligned to certain groups who have the same interests and beliefs. However, at all times I urge to keep in mind that though you may consciously be a part of the Group, DO NOT let the group be you. Just like all of us you are a unique individual, so be one without losing your identity in this mad place that we call as world.

I’m proud to be a Hindu, as long as I ignore the primeval rituals connected with the religion that have no role to play in today’s evolving world. Hinduism is a way of life as quoted by many scholars, a fact that I agree with as long as I ignore the deep rooted malaise in the society in the form of caste, creed. Even today, as I observe across various households, a servant from the lower caste is given a special plate, spoon to have her meals so that she doesn’t dirty the utensils. The irony is that she is later entrusted with the cleaning of dirty utensils. Not surprisingly, these are the norms of all the religions. How do I know this? Well, just like I knew during childhood that my friends during school days were kids just like me and not a Muslim, Jain, Jew or a Christian and we all sang together the national anthem, the school anthem and our morning prayer. I urge you that NEVER let the child in you die. You will face challenges, issues in the adult dominated world but you listen to the Inner voice, the inner child in you to do what is right.

As we grow up, you will realise that the priorities change. We first sing our morning ‘religious’ prayer, followed by our office/business prayer and it is only when the time or rather the occasion demands that we sing our national anthem. We respect our religion but the respect that our nation deserves is taken for granted. At times we get so blinded by religion that we fail to integrate and align with the nation that we work for, reside in or even take refuge in. Maybe 6/7 years from today, Europe, Canada may not be the same. Either, the native residents and the refugees will collaborate and put the nation above respective religions or they may differ and put humanity to shame. Only time will tell. As an Indian, I can only assure you that irrespective of religion, we are the brand ambassadors of aligning ourselves with the culture, belief and practices of the different nations where we make a living. I urge you to ALWAYS keep in mind that ‘jaisa desh, waisa bhesh’.

It is time to do the same in our own country. Today, the country is going through a political and economic change. A country which hosts so many religions, languages, identities is probably going through its biggest transformation in its history of existence. There are challenges, problems and scenarios that are unprecedented. Unfortunately, there are and will always be individuals who use these scenarios for their own short term gains / importance. Politicians, Media, Government officials are some of the names that come to the mind immediately who make their presence felt during such times without contributing anything.

One name that never comes up is ME.

Millions of animals will be slaughtered today on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha. It takes 13,000 to 15,000 litres of water to produce one kg of beef (International Fund for Agricultural Development) compared to 2,000 litres for a kg of rice. Today when two states, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are fighting for water, we as individuals can take a stand. As the favourite elephant God takes a bow, the thousands of tones of wastage is rendering the environment fragile. However, the callous attitude towards noise pollution, wastage of electricity and taking public properties for granted is something that we can stand up against.

I urge you kids that at all times, irrespective of what people, relatives, priests, scholars advise you REMEMBER that the nation is always bigger than religion. I urge you to LISTEN to yourself and SPEAK your views amidst all the noise (including this letter). I wish that you have an interesting and fulfilling life with experiences that make you a better person every passing day of your life.

 

 

#ekmedalplease


The best part of Rio Olympics for India per se is that a large contingent of Indian population is tracking the performance of the largest ever contingent sent

India Olympics 2016for Olympics. The bad news is there is no good news so far regarding medals. Majority of the medal contenders have crashed out, a few of them in a very abysmal fashion.

The silver lining – Dipa Karmarkar, Wrestling, Badminton singles, Tennis mixed doubles and Boxing.

Yes, there are obvious reasons of non-qualification.

(Please note that I am refraining from usage of words like expectations, efforts or performance for that matter).

  1. Lackadaisical attitude of Indians, which automatically implies parents towards sports and sports as a career for their kids
  2. Infrastructure or rather the lack of it. We have all experienced it during our formative years and the scenario has bettered but to a certain extent.
  3. Nation obsessed with cricket.
  4. Red tapism and inept administration hampering the talent of potential Olympic aspirants.
  5. Social stigma especially for female sports persons.

The above five are the major reasons why we are where we are today at Rio Olympics. However, when I look at a certain set of data then these reasons are more applicable for previous debacles at Olympics. They are not really representing the failures of achieving a medal. Let me share the data or rather a few examples.

Jitu Rai, world number three in 50m pistol event and a gold medallist at Asian games, World Cup, Commonwealth games could not make the finals. (12th in the qualification round)

Deepika Kumari, former world no. 1 archer (currently ranked world no, 5) crashed out in pre-quarterfinal eliminations. She lost in straight sets 0 -6.

Dutee Chand, the national record holder in women’s 100m race (11.33 secs) failed to qualify for semi-finals with a timing of 11.69 secs.

So, while the hoi polloi is applauding the efforts and the incredible success story of all them, the weak performances at the highest level is baffling. The claps of all cannot mute the sound of one word, which is failure. I have no doubt regarding the potential of any of the participants, neither am I discrediting them of the hard work, adversities and obstacles that they had to face to reach this level. Their journey to reach this level is worth a “Sultan” blockbuster and much more.

However, when they have and could have done better and yet ended up tamely perplexes me. The 5 reasons don’t hold true anymore especially for these participants. And I raise the following questions for which I seek answers. And these questions are not meant for them but for all of us, in a metaphorical way of thinking.

  1. Do we Indians in general fail to hold on to our nerves at the big stage?
  2. There was wind issue and other logistic issues for some of the participants. Does that imply that we do not prepare or rather practice in advance for such emergencies?
  3. Do we get carried away by the media hype? Does success make us temporarily blind?
  4. Is it outrageous to expect a medal? Should people like me be happy with the ‘best’ efforts put in?

At the end of the day, another human being (not an alien or genetically engineered sports aligned human) won! But not from India.

#ekmedalplease

Rishi Arya

Author. Content Writer. Story-Teller.

“Always Yours” – Book available on Amazon, Kindle and Flipkart.

Why Shaking is not exactly Dancing.


delhi baraatIt’s been nearly a week since I was part of a Delhi Punjabi wedding. It’s becoming an annual ritual and if a wedding is a buffet, then it was served with the usual delicacies – Engagement ceremony, Cocktail Sangeet and of course the night long wedding. For starters, again the usual was served – Interesting people in interesting outfits, pomp and show, gossips and bitching. And not surprisingly, everyone is tolerant towards it. And yes, Aamir needs to visit Delhi weddings to realise the real meaning of sense of insecurity. Every lady is insecure in these wedding. ‘Is she looking hotter than me’? ‘Is my hubby again chancing upon Ms. Malhotra using alcohol as an excuse?’ … ‘OMG, what has she done in life to look so slim and fit’? Guys are actually over secured about the fact that their personality quotient is sky high and every good looking girl is swooning over him and actually waiting for a chance to shake a leg with him. By the way, the definition of “good looking” and “girl” differs from one guy to another. And yes, EACH is to his OWN.

For me personally (a typical Mumbaikar), everything is safe and secure and unless the media publicizes, well in control. However, the advent of smart phone, video cameras et al which is nothing less than an uncontrollable media captures one significant aspect of each Delhi wedding, which is ‘Dancing’. And this makes me VERY INSECURE. Because I’ve realised that shaking a leg, or both the legs, shaking a hand with one or two legs or both the hands in tandem with the legs along with slight movement of the torso, if not violent is definitely not dancing.

It reminds me of department dynamics wherein against a similar backdrop of gossip culture, lack of team cohesiveness and in general chaos, each team member is required to dance when some cannot even shake. Before getting sucked into drawing parallels, let me continue with the tortures of Dancing when all that I can do is shaking.

Caution advised before reading ahead: Dancing to the tunes of your spouse, boss, kids, parents or any other person, thing in your life is not remotely close to real time dancing, be it of any form – Bharat natyam, Kathakakali, Salsa, Zumba, Bollywood or even Naagin dance. If you do not agree, then don’t read ahead. Stick to notional dancing. Any spouse, boss, parent or any other person who thinks he/she doesn’t make anyone dance, do remember that you are also dancing to the tunes of time and God. Ohh, how touching. Hoping it touched at the right place, let’s continue the journey.

The first step of dance starts the very minute when you alight from the flight. (Yes, this is my way of telling that I don’t travel cheap; I only travel by the cheapest flight). There is a spring in your step thinking about the grandeur of the wedding, the exotic food, and the heavily decked up beautiful looking girls and of course the overall cool climate of December. Let me remind you again – The definition of “beautiful” varies. And most importantly, the fact that one is away from office, automatically brings that spring in your step. Over the years I’ve realised one thing, you take a leave when you are unwell or kid is unwell or there is a training program, office will disturb you. However, take a leave for attending a wedding and nobody bothers you. I’ve already planned attending 3 weddings next year.

The first litmus test of dance comes during the Engagement ceremony. Apparently, I was coaxed and threatened to prepare a dance with my other half and showcase during the ceremony. Somehow I evaded that citing lack of time and obnoxious office pressure. My enthusiastic wife however managed to put a great performance on one of the songs from that movie which had more songs than dialogues. I think it was ‘Hum Aapke hain Kaun’. I don’t remember the song though I do recall it had something to do with her becoming a bhabhi of her devar i.e. my cousin brother or on similar lines. This was followed by many acts, one of them being a Jodi of my sister and my niece. They rocked. And what did I do. I danced to avoid dance. I danced in the roles of a – caring and guarding father of my 2 kids, son to my mother’s endless relatives, fellow barati to this great wedding show while with the male community in a secluded corner to share drinks. But I did not DANCE on the dance floor.

To escape the second round of dancing required a Houdini special. And obviously I failed. One has to dance during Sangeet night, with or without cocktail. There is no choice. And I did. Jostling amongst the crowd of bachelors and ladies, who have honed their skills over various weddings and in front of Television sets while watching dance shows, one merely has to shake a little and the rest is taken care by these overzealous dancers who manage to give you a shove and push. Of course, in between the drunken gang of bridegroom’s friends barge in and your awkward dance steps look a bit polished compared to them. Some of them indulge in more than a flirtatious jiggle and all the eyes of the oldies (who are the audience) is on their next move and this indirectly relaxes you to shake your legs and hands a bit more vigorously. As long as the shaking continues in a zone which is away from the prying eyes of the audience or drunken relative, one is safe. The moment you become a part of the group which has synchronized steps, you realise the true meaning of the golden question which everyone faces during school days, ‘Pick the ODD one out’.

Finally, no one can escape the clutches of dance as part of a baraat of a typical Punjabi wedding. I did play a smart one though. For some time I was literally in the eye of the storm. In front of the bridegroom’s horse and surrounded by band wallahs and the relatives, it took me some time to escape the storm effects. Within no time, while shaking, I came out of the epicenter and managed to get at the front of the baraat where the focus is extremely low. And when we reached the wedding hall, I along with my cousins shook like crazy for all the cameras to capture our gyratic movements and thus registered our names in the history of the wedding as the ‘Lead dancers’ of the wedding. Sweat and 15 minutes of shaking proved my invaluable contribution, showcased my world class dancing skills when all I can do is shaking.

Somewhere I guess, through years of experience I’ve realised that showcasing and building a perception is equally important to doing the hard work. So, let’s shake .. err.. dance:)

 

One train journey – One Maslow theory.


68 years ago when the biggest human migration happened, life changed for nearly 10 million lives at that point of time. And lives completely changed for generations after that, we the Punjabis, Sindhis and all those who have a bond with North India and were impacted by this migration have never remained the same. My maternal grandmother has told me the story of partition and how it impacted her and her immediate family in bits and pieces whenever she had the chance. I say chance because she was always busy tending to the grand children of her 5 children – there were 10 of us with differential ages. I am the third eldest, so whenever she had the chance and I was willing, it was surreal to observe and listen to the Maslow hierarchy being turned upside down. And today, 3 generations later, the same hierarchy is non-existent for the first 2 stages.

Abraham Maslow’s theory focuses on the stages of – Physiological needs (Stage 1), Security needs (Stage 2), Social needs (stage 3), Self Esteem needs (stage 4) and finally self actualization needs (stage 5). When my paternal and maternal grandparents migrated they were already at stage 3 as per Mr. Maslow, if not at stage 4. And then one fine day, one unassuming person from England decided on the boundaries between India and Pakistan, a consequence of political ambitions of individuals and shrewdness of England. Overnight, the theory was turned on its head. Land, property, riches, relations and all kinds of materialistic possessions were left at the mercy of neighbors and within the social circle where they lived. Engulfed by the mob hysteria, the properties were usurped by those very people who had promised to protect these properties with their life.

Grudgingly but surely they left the places where they were born, grew up and knew every inch of every street towards one destination which was the ‘promised land’ – India. It is ironical that though being an Indian, I am also a Pakistani, Afghani as my grandparents have their roots there. And at times it is difficult to answer curious questioners regarding where I come from. The simple answer is that I from North and when forced to divulge more, then the answer is Grandparents from Pakistan and Afghanistan, Parents were born in Rajasthan, post marriage settled in Thane and since then I am here. So, go and figure out where I belong to. This is my plight which is that of Identity and for my grandparents it was a fight for survival. Overcrowded trains made of metal which literally burned during that migratory summer made their lives a living hell. Many could not survive the journey and not due to the perils of weather or man-made machinery but more due to man-made weapons used by overzealous and fanatic men.

There are stories of how a bunch of villagers who had huddled up on the terrace of houses survived massacre and lynching by mobs as they lay flat on their backs on the burning floor but finally lost their lives to a small wail of a child whose mother forgot to close his mouth with her palm. Ramchandra Guha’s ‘India After Gandhi’ and even ‘The Train to Pakistan’ speaks of these stories and many related facts of partition. My grandmother’s brother hid amongst bodies on the platform before he could embark on a train which offered security. Partition stories of ‘lost and found’ are abundant and every family whose elders went through these harrowing times have painful and nerve wrecking stories of partition ordeal, refugee camps and most importantly re-adjusting from stage 3/4 to stage 1 of their lives. There was no wealth, no income and no house or property which they could call as theirs. People linked up with whatever connects they had, got government jobs, started their own small business and did whatever they could to survive. Secret pockets within undergarments during the journey from Pakistan served dual purpose, one of storing gold and the other of storing poison sachets in the event of mob attacks. And such jugaads which helped them retain sanity at stage 1 and progress towards stage 2 have become the way of life for generations since then.

Generation next reeling under the after effect of partition had to struggle, save and succeed. Yet, the scars of being robbed of their golden destiny are always there and they always remind them to protect their money, land and all possessions in the best possible manner. The next generation, my generation, had a relatively struggle free life initially and we could connect well with others who never had these issues as part of their DNA evolution. Fact is staying in a cosmopolitan city helps. Whereas in places where such stories abound, polarization of thoughts is an easy task and even today it is used well by certain politicians for their selfish gains. Over the years, the stories have been forgotten and the next generation kids up to 15 years old hardly have any idea of this part of the history and it seems they are not even bothered. They are just concerned about their favourite cartoon channel, some new gadget or toy in the market and of course the new App on their parents’ smart phones. Stage 1 and 2, sorry to say Mr. Maslow, doesn’t exist for them. They start the pyramid directly at stage 3 and more often than not I believe they would be happy with achievement of stage 4 unless we get new stages in between thanks to digitization and urbanization of the world.

Across these 4 generations, the senior most generation is saying that the time has come for them to leave. Many have left with a heavy heart reminiscing about their homes, the society in which they grew up but could never go back. This generation, now in their eighties and nineties have taught us a lot and I bet that none of the sciences whether astrology, palmistry or any other would have predicted the fate of these 10 million lives across the border. Sheer hard work, patience, determination, sticking around together as a society and the will to make it better has made it possible for today’s kid generation to wake up every morning and demand for that favourite glass in which they would drink their favourite flavour of milk. They have choices. Over the years, the funnel of choices has merely broadened at the cost of decrease injourney from pakistan the elements of hard work, facing challenges and being human. I don’t know about the count of tigers, however not many grandparents would be here for long. Learn and adopt whatever you can. And the best learning could be that destiny may take you back to Stage 1, you can always claw back. Our grandparents did that!

How to identify those hidden corners under the bed?


I was a very shy child. My shyness factor can be gauged from the fact that whenever a guest used to come to our home, I used to hide in the remotest corner beneath the bed. Unfortunately in today’ era beds are designed as 2 in 1 types (sofa cum bed) or with built in luggage spaces, thus making it a redundant optioLizard under the bedn to hide from unwanted guest or restrict me option to find that reclusive space just for myself. Yes, we all need those spaces just for ourselves and it is more apparent in today’s era as lack of it results in stress. This is a controversial statement and we can fight it out later.

Today, keeping this statement to be a wee bit relevant, let’s look at the various hiding spaces we all look out for. It actually depends on our stress levels. I remember that once I was hiding yet again and as soon as I reached the corner, a beautiful tiny black coloured lizard was staring at me and in fact telling me that ‘hey, this is my place.’ That was the first time I abandoned my lovely corner. The process took not more than 5 seconds. My happy mamma proudly displayed me in front of her guests that day and an embarrassed me was left wondering if facing the lizard was a better option. Over the years I figured our various hiding spaces and observed others finding their own hiding spaces and some even cohabiting with the lizard over a period of time just to keep that ‘stress’ away.

One of the most common is Religion. If there was a gauge or an instrument to check the saturation levels of religion just like we have for checking carbon dioxide levels then we have reached an era where literally people are clinging to the corner and the lizard is just getting bigger. Soon, the lizard will become a crocodile and gobble them up but ‘jaan jaye yeh corner naa jaye’. This reminds me of an incident that happened at my place during a religious function. My little daughter innocently picked up a banana that was kept in front of the havan and started eating the same. The stare she got from the Pundit was evident that God was angry and would now starve as she had stolen from his plate. The believers (all except me) could not do much and hesitatingly remarked that it was okay. But, in their minds fear had already germinated, what if the God would really go hungry. I was laughing away to glory (in my mind) as I could not offend the believers or the God and in the same fashion which I do when my other friends observe fasting and rituals in the name of God but do not desist from wasting money on flowers, chaddars, candles, et al in the same of the same God. The movie ‘OMG’ covers all other related aspects.

I see some of my friends grinning out there and kind of telling me that we are not believers. We just follow the norms of the society. Yeah, the society tells them to smoke, drink, and make merry in exotic locales with exotic people related to the oldest profession in the world. Or maybe the religion told them that. Well, the lizard is our future generation which is closely observing these hypocrites who are religious and not necessarily human and soon these baby crocodiles are going to start gnawing at your ass.

Over the past decade thanks to the IT and ITes impetus in our working culture, for a large number of professionals, that corner signifies working at office – Endless days and nights and weekends and then plan a convention on a free weekend or even a R & R kind of event an any pending weekend just to be there in that corner. If IT sector was a trigger, certain banks acted as a catalyst in promoting this belief amongst office goers that it is needed to work for long hours. It is sacrosanct to stay put in office till the HOD does not leave. Over a period, some of them sincerely believe that it is only work that will make their true identity in the world and nothing else. The lizard is family time, health related issues, allergic to evening sun (as they normally leave office in the night) and as the lizard grows into a crocodile, so do their issues like suicide, divorce and most importantly losing self identity. I know a particular HOD who comes in the office every morning at 12 (sorry make that noon) and leaves by 12 in the night. No wonder, his team has completely changed as they could not take the stench of the mid-sized crocodile any more.

In a training program which I had attended, they said that these measures or tactics or even habit of being overly religious, smoking, drinking, being cynical towards everybody, work obsession and so on are indicators that we are actually running away from our core self. We put up an image and stay true to that image and before long that image rules over the true self. We line up various excuses to defend that image and at the same time we ignore that lizard which slowly transforms into a crocodile. That corner under the bed is relaxing, comforting and makes us feel safe and strong and for some that corner and the image become so strong and overpowering that even the crocodile seems like our pet dog.

Armed with this knowledge and experience, I decided that I shall never cling to any corner under the bed and even if I did then run away at the first sighting of the lizard. And you know what! I kept on clinging to the corners and the crocodiles and it was only when the stench was unbearable, then I managed to get out of the bed. And it was no mean task. And then I remember my mother’s golden words, which I believe she has come to know after her tryst with life’s experiences so far – ‘Do what you feel is right. Hell with everybody else.’ But will that get rid of my stress? Will that prevent me from entering another corner? I have many images and all have a safe corner and the moment I expose my true self by doing what I feel like doing, then the years spent in creating those images will fritter away. I shall be vulnerable.

But, still I believe in her words. At the same time, I think they are idealistic. Forget, doing what you think is right. It is even tough to just voice out your liking these days as the hiding space under the bed prevents us from doing so. We can do a quick test to check if that lizard is still there with you under the bed or has it turned into a pet dog. Can you write in 10 words or less what you wish to do with your life right now? I’ll make it simpler for you by writing for myself. ‘I wish to finish my book AY. by 08th August’. Can you write your wish or what you want to do for yourself (not your image) by replying in comment and try and crawl out of that corner? Awaiting your comment.

Rishi

@rishi011278 (Twitter)

Office Office … A parody.


Crocodile and monkeyMagar and the Monkeys of Bay 10 of Section 2
Once upon a time there was a King named SarvaGyaani who ruled the kingdom of Officerashtra. A mighty river, Karyalaya flowed through this kingdom. Those were the days of barter system and Officerashtra was known for its variety of fruits which were transported on the river Karyalaya. In return the kingdom got its share of Pulses, Grains, Milk and even cereal from other kingdoms.
SarvaGyaani, the biggest pachyderm in the kingdom, was a wise king who knew that it was important to have an efficient and a disciplined workforce who could implement the barter system without any glitches. To make this happen, he had in place a 3-layer work force. Strong, big crocodiles or called as the “Big Croc” were his direct reportees who in turn had an army of “Crocodiles”. The Crocodiles in turn recruited the active, talented “Monkeys” for carrying out the daily activities of plucking fruits, assembling storage boxes and offloading on boats. Even amongst the monkeys there was a grading system of Junior, Senior, Super Senior based on seniority and merit of work done.
Each Big Croc supervised a section of the mighty river Karyalaya and each section had 10 Bays.
————————————————————————————————

————————————————————————————————
Bay 10 of section 2 was supervised by a crocodile named ‘Magar’. He had 25 monkeys reporting to him which was a mix of the 3 grades. Life was going on smooth till one day the following incident happen.

Chandu monkey, a super senior monkey was getting the fruits offloaded in a boat when suddenly the branch of a nearby tree snapped and two junior monkeys fell in Karyalaya. He looked around for Magar for instructions but as usual, he was too busy cleaning the scales of the Big Croc’s tail.

Chandu monkey was in a dilemna as monkeys were not supposed to enter water, but finally he took the plunge. He managed to save the 2 monkeys and felt a sense of accomplishment and was very proud of himself.
‘I have done a great deed, a super senior monkey I am indeed’, thought he.
But Bay 10 was surprisingly silent, as Magar and the Big Croc made their way towards Chandu Monkey.

Magar said with a raised voice ‘Hey monkey, who do you think you are? You jumped into the water though you know that monkeys are barred. This calls for a punishment and I punish thee that henceforth you shall no longer be a super senior monkey. You are now demoted as a senior monkey’.

Saying this he swam towards the shore and comforted the 2 junior monkeys who knew very well that it is an indication not to speak.
Chandu Monkey, was surprised, bewildered and helpless to say the least and when Vinaash kaale viprith buddhi, the heart rules over the head and screams. ‘O Magar, how come you demote me? I was there protecting the team when you were busy scratching the back ofseniority. Tell me why I should not be in your place when I have the skills, knowledge of this work much more than you can ever imagine to be?’
The Big Croc nudged Magar and told him to sit and have a word with Chandu Monkey as he wanted his section to be totally complaint free. Magar sat with Chandu Monkey sometime later under the great banyan tree, shed a tear and said that you have hurt me. Chandu Monkey got emotional and bought his tears for free. Magar then told him that to be a team leader you need to have the certificate from Mr. Target who lives faraway in a kingdom called Once a monkey-always a monkey. In search of this elusive certificate off went Chandu Monkey and Magar went to the Big Croc and did what he always did best – scratch the big croc’s tail after having resolved all matters quietly.
And so Chandu Monkey was never heard of and the monkeys learnt that it is in their destiny to do good work which you can’t even boast of. End.
Moral of the story – To become a crocodile, you need to be a crocodile. Period.
{End of lesson 1}

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

https://contentmasalaa.wordpress.com

A true Indian says ‘Insurance and me. Are you joking?! Anyway they sell a Pepsi when I need water’.


An interesting comment by the IRDA IT chief in making – Anand Juvekar regarding mis-selling by Insurance Companies made me revisit the entire storyboard. After all I am also an employee of a life insurance company. He was referring to the latest advertisement by Pepsi. Did not make any sense to me. Just like that dog advertisement wherein two dogs are driving a car. Anyway, let me have a biased view of the entire mis-selling story of life insurance policies. Let me go against the populist media coverage which slams the life insurance companies.

 1. Indians want quick fix – Look at cricket. From true form of test match to a diluted version called T20, we have time and again proven that we seriously do not prove in the adage “patience is a virtue”. Even products are so named Eg: Feviquick. Headache pills which guarantee a solution in seconds .. Aah se aaha tak .. So, why would we even consider financial products from long term perspective. The concept of Money back policies is an unparalleled success in this country primarily for that reason; you start getting returns in 3/4 years.

Even the social structure forces us to do everything quickly “Chat mangni pat byaah”. And once that is done with, then next obvious is “When are you becoming a parent? It’s been so long. 10 min is all it takes. Just do it”.

And then you blame insurance guy for pitching you product that would give good return in few years time. Except for PPF an average customer does not look beyond 5 years. In such a scenario why would he go the entire way of telling you the benefits of staying invested for a long time.. Apne to khoon main hi nahin hai.coca-cola

 2. Thanda MATLAB … – Of course you remember this Ad done by the ethical actor. Oye, thanda means refrigerator. Period. You put anything in there it is bound to be thanda. Why not neebu pani? Why not milk? Why not lassi? Marketing purists would debate that it was a great brand strategy. But it is not a fact.

How many guys have really become fair thanks to the “saavla guy who wants to become fair” creams?

How many guys have really attracted heavenly bodies (literally) thanks to the deosprays?

How would you know that your kid has become smarter and fitter and stronger thanks to the various biscuits and energy drinks or s/he is as duffer as you were and you are even now?

Then why blame the hard working and creative sales guy who painstakingly explains that returns may double and bonuses will increase. At least he is banking on growing economy. He did not plan 2008 market fall. I don’t think he had any “thassan” or “khoon nas” with any of the Lehmann brother either.

3. Is he a Yudhistra or a court witness? – main Jo kahunga sach kahunga, sach ke siwai kuch nahi kahunga. When was the last time a jeweler took this oath while selling you stuff. I bet you still don’t know its purity, making cost or even the charges for maintaining the showroom or marketing. But then we go crazy while looking at ULIP charges. I wonder why. At least it is transparent and saying the truth. For decades we have been buying bonus returns under the garb of insurance, yet we do not question the premium amount. Yet we do not question the calculation of returns.

The premise or rather the explanation given is that customers generally are intelligent enough to know what they are buying. It is an era of information and social learning. So then why do you blame the insurance guy? Know insurance. Learn insurance. Buy insurance from a normal salary and commission earning advisor. And just like other brand ambassadors and marketing concepts, do not expect him to be a yudhistra. Many would argue that this is a very myopic view of looking at the entire issue of mis-selling by the life insurance advisors. Many would say that there is more transparency today and hence the knowledge that buying insurance is not the perfect solution for issues of financial planning.

Thank God I would say. Finally if customers are realizing that life insurance is not the panacea to all issues related to financial planning, then many issues would be resolved by default. Most importantly it would bring to forth the most critical aspect of buying a life insurance plan. Just like you would buy a pressure cooker to please your wife as ‘Jo biwi se kare pyaar …’ .. Just like you would overcome your fear by drinking as ‘darr ke aage Jeet hai …’ … Similarly “jisko rakhna hai family ki khushiyon KO barkaraar … Insurance lene se kyun kare woh inkaar”.

Nobody knows whether fear was really overcome by drinking that drink, nobody knows if the wife went crazy over a cooker. But ask the family the value of insurance claim. Ask the value to the advisor who presented that claim. Priceless!