The journey to Self-awareness….

About a month back I had written a blog on ‘Who am I?’ and prior to that ‘Understanding your why’, both of which in a way dealt with the importance of self- awareness. Everyone thinks he is aware of who he is and what he wants from life but is it so in reality? If you want to know whether you understand yourself completely just ask yourself the following questions. Do I have dreams? Have I translated all or at least some of my dreams into reality? Am I doing what I want to do or have compromised with my situation and trying to be in love with what I am doing? Am I working to be ‘me’ or am I working hard to be somebody else whose image is printed firmly in my mind? Do I always respond to others, to the situations they create in the same way I would like them to respond if I do the same to them? What is your score? Be truthful, most do not score very high. Majority of us have two sides to our personality; one what we think we are, and the other is what I actually am and at times both can be totally divergent from each other.

Why am I not what I want to be or what I think I am? The first reason is that because often we are not aware of what we want to do, we have not had a talk with our heart and mind and tried to conclude what we wanted. Second is the lack of confidence, belief in own capabilities, the fear of failure pushes the mind away from what we want to what is available and easily pursuable. Third is the fear of upsetting the family elders, who will take care of the family business if I do not? The mindset we grow with is the biggest obstacles standing between what we should be and what we are; the security provided by a job is hammered deep in the brain since the childhood, so most of us cannot avoid grabbing the first job on offer.

We got to change our life’s narrative from “Why should I, what is happening around me, what will people think” to “What matters to me, what do I want from my life, why should I fear failure, what will happen at the most if I fail in the first attempt? I will try again and again and succeed, this confidence will come only if I prepare myself physically and psychologically, before starting on my journey. The mindset has to change from ‘this job gives me security’ to ‘does this job gives me satisfaction’. Got to stay focussed on where I want to reach, if I waste time looking around or trying to find who is following than in all probability I will crash, and the goal will remain a distant dream.

Who am I?

Understanding your why….

Conflict Resolution…

The success of any relationship or a professional team depends on how well the members can harness differing qualities and capabilities each one of them possesses for the common good of the family or the organisation. Irrespective of the relationship people are bound by conflicts will always be there due to differences of belief, behaviour, opinion, interests, personal experience, or ambition. The future of a relationship will normally depend on the way two people decide to handle and resolve differences. Both in personal and professional lives the steps taken to resolve the differences are same; one to one communication and discussion, stepping in of the family elders or the boss/ office senior and finally if everything else fails seeking professional help. A conflict can both be a relationship breaker or an enhancer depending on reason leading to it and the method adopted to resolve it.

Ways to resolve…

Managing the emotions.      Emotions tend to go out of control at the onset of any conflict and even the most sensible attempts on finding a solution is not likely to have the desired affect rather it may lead to worsening of situation. Hence, it is better to allow the tempers to cool before attempting reconciliation.

Understanding.     Most problems have their root cause in small misunderstandings which are accentuated/ aggravated by the inability of the affected individuals to understand the root cause, rather most do not make sincere attempts to understand and nip the problem in the bud. A workable solution can only be found after the underlying factors are understood; even the family elders and the office bosses should not step into the arena till they have got a clear idea of what has gone wrong. The cause whether it is ambition, style of working, belief, behaviour will dictate the solution; there are no set templates for resolving conflicts.  

Communication.    Many conflicts arise due to lack of communication or miscommunication. Whether a conflict will be resolved or not depends on what, why, how, and when a communication has been made. A wilful transition from ‘You have not understood my viewpoint’ to’ Maybe I was not able to convey my viewpoint to you in the manner I should have’ will certainly have the desired effect to douse the fire. The first casualty of any conflict is the breakdown of communication and setting in of mistrust. A free flow of communication from the beginning in the form of discussions and feedbacks will help in keeping the fire under control. If channels of communication are open an answer can always be found as long as the parties understand that it is not ‘I am right, you are wrong’ game. Having the patience to listen is an important aspect of communication and conflict management, one got to listen to understand and not to find faults.

Blame game. Focus should be on resolving the problem and not on fixing the blame, unfortunately in most cases it is the opposite. Whenever a crisis or conflict occurs most of us get busy with finding reasons for fixing the blame on the other party and looking for justification for our own actions instead of finding ways to resolve the problem. The way ahead lies in discussions and working together to find the solutions. Do not make things personal or visit the past to pull out ‘garbage’ the opponent or the spouse might have accumulated; the resolution lies in the now.

Harness the Conflict for Success.  A team which understands that their strength lies in positively managing the different abilities and thoughts each member possesses, always excels. Each member should be encouraged to express, question, and contribute while understanding the need to avoid the questioning from blowing over.

Facing the Conflict.      Most conflicts take time to resolve because the effected parties and the bosses/ elders fail to take on the conflict head-on, most prefer the ‘avoidance’ technique with the belief that ‘time is the biggest healer’ and ‘ the conflict will die on its own’. Unfortunately, it does not happen that way, a solution does not find its own way, attempts must be made to find it.

Some leaders want to avoid the unpleasantness any attempt to resolve the conflict might raise between them and the other individuals while they fear the adverse consequences this unpleasantness might have on the final desired outcome, in the process they fail to understand the long term negative effect the conflict might have on the future of the organisation.

Professional help.  Market is full of experts who are willing to rent out their services for resolving the conflicts in organisations or families. As per felt need these services can be hired to resolve problems and get the relationship or production back on track. Depending on the gravity of the problem at hand the coaches may take from few days to months to help the affected parties in finding the relevant answers.

Conclusion

A conflict which is harming the relationship between individuals or the productivity of the organisation should not be allowed to linger on for long; all efforts must be made to find a solution at the earliest. Communication is the main stay in any conflict resolution technique, if the communication is on a solution can always be found.

Online teaching….just about bridging the gap…

The debate is on; should the school and colleges start regular classes. Never before would have the school management and teachers found it so difficult to convince parents to agree to their viewpoint.

The school management is busy trying different permutations and combinations to find a way to fully or even partially open the schools to generate some revenue so desperately required to maintain the infrastructure and pay the salaries. Many institutions have imposed salary cuts on the teaching and non-teaching staff and many a contractual employee have been shown the exit door. Extra infrastructure is being added and training of teachers is being carried out to facilitate online teaching, which is adding to the expenditure. Not every institution has the requisite funds to create ideal classrooms to support online learning, most or depending on single laptops to pass instructions.

The salary cuts are affecting the motivational level of teachers who are required to put in extra efforts to get used to online teaching more so in the rural part of the country, prepare the lesson, and take classes with minimum resources at hand. It is not easy to create a classroom environment and keep the students gainfully engaged for the entire duration. Teachers have to work overtime to make the classes more interesting.

Parents do not seem to be in a mood to relent mostly due to health concerns of the children and some due to the financial constraints they are facing due to job losses and salary cuts enforced by COVID-19.

Part of student fraternity looks favourably inclined to attending regular classes, after all it is the question of their independence and the quality time they get to spend with their friends specially in the college/ hostel. Many students from lower economic background and rural areas do not have adequate infrastructure at home to facilitate online learning sessions. Imagine the condition of a family managing life in a one bedroom flat with the single room serving as the bed cum living cum dining cum study room for the entire family.

In this ongoing phase of indecisiveness, the main sufferer is formal education, to some extent the student and teacher. Though the classes are being run online but the available infrastructure across the country is not adequate to meet the need of the teaching/ learning process. Lack of face to face interaction adversely affects the understanding ability of the students especially of the pre-primary and primary classes. Schools/ colleges are not just temples of formal learning but also provide an ideal platform for students to interact, learn from each other, develop their social skills.

It is high time the government functionaries and all other stake holders put their head together to find a plausible solution. The transition from online to regular classes will have to be deliberately planned and executed and may require passing through a longish phase of hybrid teaching where a combination of online and limited regular classes conducted in school premises become the norm. COVID 19 has provided a God send opportunity to the Government and school managements to invest in upgrading the facilities especially in government schools they have been neglecting since ages.

Building Resilience to face adversity….

Life is full of ups and downs; every individual has his or her own experience of setbacks they have been through in their lives. Tragedies generally come unannounced in the form of accidents, life threatening diseases, breakups, job loss and leave lives shattered; well in majority of the cases the narrative goes that way however there are exceptional cases where the individuals have been thrown off the path they were happily moving on by a sudden storm but they regained control of their life and came back stronger.

My experience has shown that most people when faced by an obstacle in the form of an undesired job, a bad boss or a bad relationship accept it as part of their fate and keep banging their head against the wall causing hurt to themselves physically or emotionally again and again; at the most trying to find a way through the wall; fear of failure, lack of self-belief holding them back from taking a bold decision of changing the path. COVID 19 has thrown many a life off gear, companies have shut down or are facing huge financial losses, individuals have lost jobs or suffered losses in business.

Even in these adverse times there have been a few who due to the power of resilience have got their life back on track. What gave them the resilience to get back into action was their vision self-belief, their strong mental make-up, the risk- taking ability and the will to take bold decisions to change track.? In life one can find many examples of people who lost eyesight yet displayed a great vision, lost their limbs, or got paralysed in a life-threatening accident yet walked over mountains of obstacles to achieve their purpose of life.

Life is all about how one responds to the obstacles they encounter, some with vision and foresight are ready and find a way out whereas a large majority take up the role of a victim and get trapped losing focus of life. Some go so blind that when they find themselves left behind alone even in an unlocked room choose to bang their head against the wall to make way out or try and jump out of the window to catch up with their other colleagues instead of just walking out of the door and setting a new course of life. 

Obstacles are indicators that something is going wrong in the job one is engaged in or the relationship one is bound in and they may go worse if corrective actions are not taken. When obstacles start getting bigger in size it is better to take a step back, maybe take a break and seriously analyse the situation, make efforts to understand the situation and look for permanent solutions. If solutions are not forthcoming from within than it is better to look for a change; strengthen your skills and emotions and make an exit in a new direction, even taking a total U turn and starting life from scratch is an option worth considering.

Taking an uncharted path may open more avenues, help you re-invent, rediscover yourself, make you aware of the talents and skills you had lost sight of and take you on a journey you always longed for, help you find the purpose of your life.

Life beyond ‘Being Successful’…

7 Aug 2020, Alliance Air flight from Dubai to Calicut (India) overshot the runway and skidded into the depression beyond resulting in the aircraft fuselage breaking into two leaving a few passengers dead and many injured. The ill-fated aircraft would have made so  many successful flights before that, every day starting from the hangar speeding along the runway, taking off, attaining the altitude, cruising along till it reached the destination, descending and finally landing safely on the runway, refuels and takes off again if required. The distance the flight travels and the altitude it takes depends on the quality of the aircraft and the fuel it could carry. On the fateful day, with an experienced Commander in control the flight ended up in debris, that is how uncertain life is. The good serviceability of the aircraft, the technology and the experience of the pilot all combined failed in front of the weather and the situation.

COVID 19 has proven beyond doubt that no human can plan and be ready for the worst. Life of most people who were doing relatively well in jobs or businesses have been thrown out of gear. Many of those who had just taken off and whom many trusted had very strong wings and a creative mind have crash landed. No degree, no diploma or skill had prepared the human to face the sudden downswing brought about by the virus. Hope people take home the lesson, life does not remain the same always, there are ups and downs ranging from smooth and casual to sudden and deep.

While the initial training and education can help a person to take off at the desired speed but it is the ability to cruise for the desired time maintaining the desired altitude is what matters in the long run; this comes from sheer experience acquired through facing situation life throws at you. Not many have the resilience to cruise along in the face of the storms he/ she encounters and turn back or land at an alternative airstrip. Very few make the difficult decision of flying through the storm and attempt landing at the pre-decided destination and some do succeed while others skid off or miss the runway ending in a depression.

Even for those who landed safely at their desired destination and those who managed to land at other strips getting used to the life beyond the safe landing does not come easily. One got to actually prepare himself/ herself for life beyond the landing (retirement), especially those used to flying high, to them leading a plain life on the mother earth does not come easy, the mind refuses to accept that someone else  has taken over the captainship of the flight and maybe flying better than them. We humans do not accept retirement very easily, all our life we crib and cry for not getting enough time for leisure and when it is time to retire, let go of the responsibility, sit back and relax, most of us just refuse to let go. It is the law of nature, one cannot remain best forever, someone new will come and break all your records and do better. You enjoyed your success, basked in its glory till you could now let him enjoy his time. If at all you want to remain relevant in life change your gear, be the Guru, sharing your experiences for the betterment of others.

If you refuse to change your gears you will either crash into something moving ahead of you or someone will bang into you from behind. So, do what suits you and not what you used to. There is an age and time for everything. Reminded of the four stages of life, the fours Ashramas propagated by Hinduism? Bhramacharya, Grihastha, Vanprastha and the Sanyasa Ashramas? Every religion teaches about various stages of life but who wants to pay attention to religious scriptures? Hope people do so now.

Understanding Freedom….

Today India celebrates her 74th Independence Day, a freedom earned after a hard struggle of 200 years against the British crown. Every year the nation wears a festive mood on this day however this year is bound to be different with the Corona prohibiting large scale celebrations.

indepndence

The nation attained independence but did the citizen’s achieve independence in true sense especially from the old mindset, the old beliefs and traditions which are so deeply ingrained in the hearts and minds. In the present times physical occupation of the land mass is not a necessity to enslave a nation; capturing the minds, the thoughts, influencing the decision making, ruling the economy are what matter.  

As a nation we are even after 73 years of independence still obsessed with jobs abroad, still prefer fair skin to be superior to dark, still consider that proficiency in speaking/ understanding English language is a must for achieving success in any field, are struggling to contain the caste/ communal/ economic divide between the citizens, still refusing to give the youth the right to make their own decisions, blindly offer donations at temples and not bother to do anything for improvement of our educational institutions and still struggling to end the quota system. Is this what our freedom fighters laid down their lives for?

On 15 Aug 1947 we just got independence from the British, but our still struggling to free our mind from the old thoughts, it is high time we made sincere efforts to change our mindsets.

The same people, irrespective of the caste, creed or social status who are so disturbed by the necessity to wear face mask have hardly ever made efforts to remove the blinds they have been wearing since ages on their minds restricting the thought, vision and imagination. Till we change our way of thinking the national dream of ‘Aatmnirbharta’ (Self dependence) will continue to remain a dream.

I am reminded of the beautiful thoughts expressed by the great Rabindranath Tagore in his work ‘Let my Country Awake’….

“Where the mind is without fear,

And the head is held high,

Where knowledge is free,

Where the world has not broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls,

Where words come out from the depth of truth,

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection,

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way,

Into the dreary sand of dead habit,

Where the mind is led forward by thee,

Into ever widening thought and action,

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

 

The missing rainbow of life….

All through the day the dark clouds covered the sky, heavy rains lashed the earth, however towards the evening just around the time I go for my daily walks the rains stopped and the sun managed to show its presence from behind the cloud cover. As I stepped out of my home a beautiful sight, something I had not seen last few months, greeted me, cool breeze, and a full rainbow in the sky; one could clearly see the seven colours. That is what life is all about, one got to step out of the safety of homes to enjoy the cool breeze and the beauty of rainbow; the closed door may not prevent the virus from entering the home but is certainly keeping the colours of life away from us.

Continue reading “The missing rainbow of life….”

Prerna…..The Inspiration…

My blog, last week, was dedicated to the parents of the children with special education needsParenting a child with special education needs..… and in this one I will be talking a bit about the children; their never say die spirit, how they inspire. I had mentioned in the last blog about my visits to various institutions catering to the needs of special children and one of them, Prerana Educational Center, a school for  children with special education needs located in the suburbs of Siliguri in the state of Bengal, India, left quite a lasting impression on me.

There are so many things about these kids which initially surprised me than became a source of inspiration. Here I was, born normal, all sensory organs in place but still finding faults in life, finding reasons to curse and cry and there were these visually impaired kids a smile always adorning their beautiful faces, always ready to help and encourage each other, totally disciplined, having an unending desire to learn. They could not see each other but could feel each other, I think that is what matters in life; the feeling for each other. Their hand was always raised to pull someone up, never to push anyone down. They could walk from room to room without banging into walls or the furniture and here most of us are lost in life with open eyes and a fully functional mind. It is so true, one does not require eyes to have a vision, it is the mind and the beautiful thoughts it generates which matter.

We went there once a month or at times once in two months but moment they heard the voice, specially of my wife, they knew who was there. It was a treat to see the joy on their face and the thrill in their voices as they greeted her and then went on to share whatever they had done since their last meeting with her, they had established a wonderful relationship without ever having seen her, a heart to heart bond. Every minute spent with them generated so much positive energy. What did we do for them? Nothing much, just went and met them occasionally; they understood it so well that the time which someone gives matters much more than any material gifts in a relationship. 

One can learn so much from these kids; the selfless love, the compassion, seeking happiness in small things, finding a way around the obstacles life presents and the art of wearing a smile to mention a few. Regular visits to the school helped clear so many cobwebs which had covered my mind for ages, helped me set a clear vision for my life.

My salutations to Mrs Rita Sengupta who has dedicated her life in the selfless service of these kids. Heartfelt appreciation to the teachers and the caretakers for their services to the kids.

Sharing with you a small video of the kids, I am sure you all will love the performance.

 

The school can be contacted on the Facebook page or here https://www.nbcd-prerana.org

 

Parenting a child with special education needs..…

Today after interacting with a group of parents of children with special needs the first thought which struck my mind was that blessed are people like me who are born normal, who are parents of normal children, who are leading a normal life.

special children

I have been a regular visitor to orphanages, old age homes and schools for children with special needs but such visits do not actually expose one to what a parent of these children may be going through every day. Being a parent carrying a life-long guilt consciousness of not being able to do the best for the child, getting physically and emotionally drained day after day, dealing with the tantrums/ fits of anger the child resorts to, giving up on social commitments as one parent/ family member is always required to be with the child, constantly plagued with the worry of future (what after us?) life is not easy and practically impossible for parents of normal children to visualise.

It is not just the child, but the parents also require constant support and education. They must be groomed to accept the truth, trained to face the challenges, to maintain the calm in the adversity. It is easy to lose temper when the child is throwing tantrums but then that is the worst response expected from the parent, it will do more harm than give any relief. Every action taken in front of the child has to be measured. The parents must undergo classes for stress management and learn best ways to teach and take care of the child. It is the combined effort of the parents, teacher and the medical practitioner which will give the best results.

COVID has added on to the problems of the parents with the children missing on the much required therapy sessions. Most of these children are maybe missing out on the only opportunity they used to get of going out of home and meeting / seeing other children when they went to school, this must be certainly making them more restless. Schools are attempting online classes, but the onus lies more on the parents to learn the right procedures and techniques to be able to help the child in practicing.

Parents must make effort to become members of various support groups especially of the parents of children with special needs on various social media platforms and share thoughts and seek support/ guidance. The main support the mother and father draw, is from each other, they should always be there for each other, when one feels low the other should lift the spirit. Lastly, the humour should not be allowed to escape from life, light moments of laughter are the best for relieving stress.