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.

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….”