Life goes on…

A family weekend outing after nearly six months and trust me every moment was worth it; the drive , the location and the weather all complimenting each other’s beauty making the break just awesome.

The limited traffic on the road and literally no move of tourists over last six months has ensured a pollution free environment and the lush green surroundings and the colourful flowers appeared to be saying : virus or no virus life has to go on, face may be masked but let the mind be free. Social distancing be limited to physical separation, the communication and emotions should continue to flow freely.

The freedom….

Today as I watched the water gushing out of the open gate of the dam the thought struck me that how the virus is trying to confine the might of the humans within the four walls of the room…but fir how long? The dam can retain the river water to a limit beyond which the gates have to be opened otherwise the water threatens the very existence of the dam which was trying to enslave it….similar are the human thoughts and human power ..for how long can someone or something tame it….it will find its way out….and fly free sooner than later….

The virus and the working women….

Corona has in a short span managed to touch every life, adversely affected every industry, and if one takes a deeper look inside a household or any industry/ office a sort of disturbing revelation confronts; the virus appears to have adversely affected the lives of women specially those having professional careers more than their male counterparts.

Life in lockdown….

Work from Home.  The lockdown ushered in the work from home culture and even the schools/ colleges shifted the teaching learning process to the online platforms. While the menfolk generally converted one of the rooms at home into the office to facilitate disturbance free work environment the womenfolk because of the nature of the added responsibility of home management had to generally make do with the space in bedroom or the dining room from where they could manage the kitchen and keep a watchful eye on the kids and the elders in the home.

Increase in Workload.   While some men did lend a helping hand but still the major responsibility of home management due to our societal norms’ rests with the ladies. The non-availability of paid help and the kids staying home 24 X 7 further accentuated the problem. Most working women have to work overtime or late nights to keep the home clean and meet the dinner and office deadlines.

The responsibility of ensuring that the kids attended and understood the lessons being imparted through online classes also rests with the mothers in most homes. Juggling time between own office time and the online classes of kids is not easy by any means.

Managing the kitchen during lockdowns specially the first three months must have been really a difficult task. With all restaurants close, the home delivery chain coming to a grinding halt and limited availability of raw material, it certainly must not have been a easy task for any home maker to keep innovating in the kitchen and meet the aspirations of the kids as also of the elders.

The Stress factor.  The added work load at home and the pressures of meeting the office and the school deadlines with negligible or no breaks or source of entertainment (Even the TV channels were just dishing out the depressing Corona News 24 X 7) would certainly add to the stress in the life of any normal human and when it is for months it has chances of leading to an abnormal reaction at times. Studies have revealed that the increase in stress level of women was much higher as compared to men during this pandemic time. Salutations to the ladies who have managed the stressful conditions well and retained sanity and calmness.

Job loss.   Many working women have resigned from jobs due to increase workload at home as the support system which helped them juggle between the home and office responsibility, like paid help, availability of creches, day care centres, facility of home delivery of food has suddenly gone missing. The situations for single mothers will certainly be graver as they have no option but to take care of the kids, home and at the same time earn enough money to make keep the life going comfortably. Another disturbing news has been that more women have lost jobs, both in organised and unorganised sectors all over the world during the lockdown. If this is true, then this will further add fuel to the gender bias at workplace debate. Employment should be a matter of competence and not of gender.

The lockdown protocols are being progressively relaxed and paid domestic helps are back however the virus is not going to leave the world in a hurry the schools are likely to remain closed for this year and industries likely to take time to come back to normal hence the workload and responsibility being shouldered women is not going to reduce in near future. Men and the other family members must step forward to share the responsibility and give the homemakers the much-required break.

Breeding Incompetent leaders….

‘I would have done a much better job’ or ‘even a fresher will make better decisions’ or ‘What wrong did I do in life to deserve such a …..leader’, a vast majority of subordinates get this thought often during their career but unfortunately most just accept it the way it is, keep applauding even the worst of the decisions taken by incompetent leaders while some do take a perceived bold step of resigning and moving on but even that has no effect on the functioning of the leaders. It is an established fact that majority of people who prematurely resign from a job do so because of the leadership and seldom for other reasons.

Why do incompetent people rise to be leaders? Well, there are multi reasons for incompetency getting encouraged especially in a country like India; the main being our mindset, most of us are brought up with a fixed picture of a leader as someone who carries large number of professional degrees preferably from some foreign university (Every appointment is linked to a degree which matters more than the experience), one who is a good orator, what he speaks matters more than what he actually means (people prefer leaders who carry a charismatic persona, are good entertainers and apt at making fun of the opposition), someone who knows the art of improving production, it does not matter how he does it; profit matters more than the people. The surname a man carries at times matters more than the name he has made for himself by his actions. In some cases, the gender bias props up a less competent male to lead over a more competent lady.

At times it is the second rung leadership which prefers a weak leader on top as the perceive that it gives them more power and freedom of action forgetting the basic tenet that a good leader creates more leaders and a weak or destructive leader finally destroys the organisation.

Incompetent leadership, insensitive to the need of the people (the working hands) can never ensure a sustained growth; in the long run a union of satisfied hands will give better results than a lone arrogant and aggressive leader. A sustained growth requires a right mix of welfare, training, availability of resources and push. It is not just the professional qualification and the belief which can ensure success, experience and maturity are as much a requirement. 

Leadership is not about using people with a firm focus on increasing production/ profits but rather a leader aims to empower the subordinates, helps them realise their capabilities, makes them feel wanted which finally leads to increased output. People perform better under a competent and trustworthy leader rather than under just a professionally well qualified one irrespective of whether the leader is he or she.

Decision making has for long remained the bane of our political and professional leadership in most cases. The handling of the crisis created by the virus has exposed the leadership the world over and most performed below par rather most exhibited their incompetence at the first lockdown stage itself. Unfortunately surnames and oratory skills do not bestow decision making abilities on a person; it requires education, experience, and emotional sensitivity more than anything else to make good decisions. A gender balanced society where both men and women have equitable say in decision making will always produce better leaders.

It is high time that humility, professional competence, resource management skills and effectiveness start getting preference over mere degrees, fool hardy confidence, oratory skills, charismatic personality, family names and gender in selection of leaders.

What is in a name?

Post the birth the first real gift the parents give to the child is the name; a gift reflecting their love, blessings, concerns and to an extent expectation. Parents/ elders take as much pride in selecting the name for a girl child as they must be taking in case of the boys then why it is that most girls are expected to be just surnames after marriage; their own maiden name which their parents had given with so much love, the name they had lived with pride till then is lost somewhere between the so called responsibilities and the routine of life. In some communities the girls are given a new name post the marriage, a symbol of starting life afresh (Are they expected to forget whatever they had done or achieved before that?).

Name is the first real possession over which a child has exclusive rights, it gives every child the unique identity, the surname/ family names are inheritances which come thereafter. A surname without a name does not carry much meaning whereas the name conveys its desired meaning on its own, does not require any external support but still a majority of us take pride in displaying our surnames while preferring to convert the name to mere initials. Still people are ready to do anything blindly for the sake of family name and honour while not bothering to do much about creating a mark for own name in life.

Going back in history rather study of our mythology and old scriptures makes it abundantly clear that though casteism was prevalent but it was the name which mattered more than the surname; starting from Lord Rama or Krishna or Lakshman, Yudhistra, Bhim, Arjuna, everyone refers to them by their first name, even the Maharanis or the common ladies are referred to by their first names like Parvati, Sita or Rukmini and not as Mrs Rama or Mrs Krishna than why this change over a period of time. In ancient India it was always the girl who had the right of selecting or rejecting a groom, everyone will remember the story of how Sita approved of Rama in a Swayamvara, she could have rejected him and it would have not made much of a difference to anyone, the sky wouldn’t have fallen. Then why this total transformation in the modern times where generally boys have all the say. Why should the girl give up her family name and even the name after marriage?

No girl is born and destined to die just as a surname. She has as much right as any men to make a mark on the world stage and live up to the name her parents had given so proudly. I am not for boys or girls being singularly given the right of selection or rejection, why can’t both have an equal say? This issue will be generally resolved if we start looking beyond the surnames or rather just start looking at the names.

Work to be you not to be someone else…..

You ask anyone irrespective of their age, stature or the job they are committed to, ‘How’s life going? and invariably the response, with minor variations here and there is ‘Going good, but busy, hardly getting anytime for self’. Why is it so? Are you busy because you want to be busy or is someone or something beyond your control keeping you busy? Are you busy because that is the only way it is supposed to be, or can what keeps you busy be handled in a different way to help you get more time for yourself? The problem is it is not anyone else but me who is keeping me busy because I believe that is the only way to achieve success.

It all starts from our homes and schools where it is ingrained in the young minds that ‘Nothing comes easy’; students must study hours to achieve a 90 plus score in exams. Children/ students are busy major part of the day with studies, homework, and revisions. Who has laid down this yardstick? Some incompetent teacher or a mediocre parent, I am sure, and all of us have followed it blindly over years.? Who are the teachers, and parents to decide how many hours a child must study to achieve what he/ she wants and who has decided getting above 90 % score to be the benchmark of doing success?

The love for late night work, running against time to complete assignments continues after the child passes out of the college and joins a job. Does all this guarantee success, a permanent place, a happy family, and peace of mind? Generally, not, as most are working late nights not because they want but to satisfy their bosses, or to be like their bosses. Working hard to be ‘you’ is well understood but losing sleep trying to be someone else is certainly unwarranted. Most do not have clearly defined goals and end up wasting time getting confused between the process and the desired end result. Life is not a hundred metre dash but a marathon to be run at one’s own pace; you cannot allow someone else to dictate your pace if you want to be the winner.

One got to decide his or her own goal of life, set the priorities and formulate the process to achieve it. The aim should be to outlast the competition with a good game plan rather than dashing hard to cross every other participant.

Everyone got to have his or her own definition of success; on this definition will depend the outcome of life. Do you relate success to money, appointment you hold, or do you relate it to leading a satisfied life which includes a reasonably good bank balance, peace of mind and a well- set family?

Set your own benchmark, losing one’s own identity in pursuit of an undefined goal is certainly not warranted, it is better to live to be ‘you’ then to die as a poor copy of someone else.

Tribute to my teachers…..

5 Sep, the birthday of Dr S Radhakrishnan, the first Vice President and the second President of the country is celebrated as Teachers Day in India. The late President served as a Professor of Philosophy in various Universities and as the Vice Chancellor of Andhra and the Benaras Hindu Universities before rising to the post of President. It is said that on his taking over the office as the second President in 1962, some of his students approached him for permission to celebrate his birthday as a special day but he instead requested them to celebrate 5 Sep as Teachers Day to recognise the contribution of teachers to the society.

Today I remember all the teachers who contributed in my progress in life. I do not think I ever had a favourite schoolteacher nor could I ever achieve the distinction of becoming the favourite student of any teacher but yes, I always maintained high respect for all of them. I was fortunate, most of my teachers did not believe in just passing down information from the books but rather took extra steps to make the students life worthy.

I would like to make a mention of some of the teachers who have played an important role in moulding my life. My mother will always remain the best teacher I have come across in life. The way she conducted herself and lived her life was a lesson by itself. My father whose life examples have always been so difficult for me to at times even imitate leave alone emulate. My elder sister, owner of a bright mind and a strong head, always by my side ready to help, my role model. All other family members who have always been there with their guidance and suggestions whenever required.

All the teachers who have taught me specially Ms Maggie my first teacher in class 1, always so polite, calm, and so full of love; why cannot all teachers be like her and teach without losing cool.

All the juniors and seniors I have had the opportunity to serve with in my service career; each one of them has been so liberal in giving the lessons.

My wife (Wives know all, isn’t it?) a strong headed lady who is unaware that ‘Giving up’ can also be an option in life. My son who amazes me no end with his dogged determination, simple ways, and extreme capability to endure under adversities. My lovely daughter who off late has given me some of the best lessons of life. My two kids are really making me unlearn a lot. Life would not have been so satisfying and complete without them.

All my friends, most of whom I have met in real life but some during interactions on online platforms; life would not have been so interesting, exciting and, fulfilling without them all.

Today I pray to the almighty God to give every student a teacher he / she deserves, one who refuses to give up when everyone else around have closed their doors. One who leaves no stone unturned to bring the child face to face with his/ her capabilities and uniqueness.

Your uniqueness is your brand….

Every child is born unique but for varied reasons a large majority lose their uniqueness in the life journey, failing to go beyond routine and end up as a mere number making up the large crowd. Very few actually go beyond and live the life they desire rising to be a Tata, Ambani, Ford or a Porsche to name a few, creating a brand name which the world looks up to. While every individual cannot rise to be a great sportsperson, a big business tycoon or a successful politician but still every person requires to build a unique image of his own to succeed in life.

The process of personal brand building starts the day the child is born. The selection of name in every community/ religion is a long drawn process involving invoking the blessings of the God and the saints, meeting the numerology standards and what not just to ensure that the child doesn’t face any hurdles in his/her life time. If that be so, then why very few grow to be unique while the majority just forms the crowd?

The difference between the potential leaders and those likely to remain part of the crowd start emerging during the school life itself. While the family name one is born with matters but that by itself is not good enough to sustain for long if the thoughts do not match the actions. It is in the high school and college that the passions start finding roots and the ones who are willing to dedicate time to follow the dreams and are open to taking risks usually outshine the others.

In the college, the personal grooming, unique style gets added to the lifestyle of the ones who work in pursuit of excellence. They understand that it is not just the grey matter alone but the way it is presented matters in making the desired mark. Everything does not come naturally for developing unique styles and in most cases deliberate efforts are required. Some prefer to follow their role models while some develop their own ways. Everything including the way one thinks, walks, talks and acts helps in building the image of the individual.

In the college and beyond starts the creation of network of people. Networking is not just to show numbers but should involve a sincere effort to build relationships some of which may stay with the person for life. The spoken reputation precedes your actual arrival on stage by miles and days. It is the relationships an individual builds which are instrumental in creating the virtual image which attracts the high end recruiters who believe in scanning the social media accounts of their potential candidates to understand their mind and character before actually meeting them. The social media accounts/ the profile are to be made with a foresight and maintained with due deliberation and application of mind; every line one writes or picture one posts matters; the character is likely to make more impact on the mind of the interviewer than the marks or the degrees obtained. Just possessing the quality is not good enough, the capability of selling the idea, convincing the concerned people of the abilities is what will carry one through. At times whom one knows may matter more than what one knows.

Once a brand image has been created it takes double the effort to sustain it but then at that stage one would have most likely acquired the ability to hire professionals to help. Whatever methods one may adopt for building the brand just remember that it is the authenticity and the uniqueness which will matter the most in creating and sustaining the image. The value of the brand will also depend more on what one can give/ is offering than what one is expecting in return; so be ready to offer more and expect less. Once the right profile, the right image has been created the attention, respect, and money what one is looking for will flow in for sure.