Tuesday, 16 December 2014


Image Courtesy: framology.org
Image courtesy:www.quickanddirtytips.com

It’s too much of a disturbing coincidence. December 16, 2012 & December 16, 2014 – both among the darkest times for humanity in recent years! Two years ago, shocked and traumatised after the Nirbhaya incident, it seemed that mankind couldn’t descend any lower than this, that this must surely be the nadir of brutality. Sadly, humanity continues to plummet to unbelievable levels.

It’s impossible to escape the irony of it all – the callous manner in which the perpetrators justify these insane acts in the name of “God” – the very idea that stands for love, peace and goodness. It must take a sick mind to take a life and a twisted, cowardly, monster of a mind to murder innocent and defenceless children while they are at school,  in the process of imbibing lessons that will equip them to build a future.

The lucky ones who escaped the chilling attack will be the ones scarred forever, embittered by this cruel twist of fate. The first images pouring in of the tragedy showed a young boy expressing his outrage by vowing to take revenge and destroy those who destroyed his friends. While such a reaction is understandable in his present situation, it is scary too – as it fuels the feeling of vengeance and lets continue the eye for an eye attitude that has dragged humanity down to its lowest.

The unimaginable anguish of the parents who have lost their children to this gruesome tragedy is something that will stay with them forever – no condolences and support are going to be able to console them. Words too fall short of expressing the utter helplessness, devastation, disgust and pain that this incident has sparked in millions of hearts. 

It is a shameful day for humankind. The only prayer that we can collectively make is to hope that no more minds allow themselves to get warped and twisted, that the human race sees reason and stops this madness before it is too late. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Is the freedom to kiss really worth all this brouhaha?

Image courtesy: vinylartsa.com

The debate’s been raging on for a while now and I just have to take a stand – not because I want to make myself heard but because I need to form my own conclusions and decide which side of the fence I am on. Or am I just sitting on it, unable to choose either?

As a country, we are at an interesting crossroads, swinging between the age-old traditions ingrained in our value systems and feeling the sway of modern winds blowing from the outside world that are challenging these conventions and shaking their very foundations. The Kiss of Love campaign sweeping across the country is just another manifestation of this conflict that seeks to discard old taboos and free people from prudery and hypocrisy.

It’s true – we all have the right to freedom of expression – and if two consenting people choose to express their love in public so be it – why should any eyebrows be raised? At the same time, it cannot be denied that as a cultural entity, Indians living in India have not been brought up to display affection in public. So does that one factor make us a suppressed race? Would the elimination of this particular taboo suddenly catapult us into the elite league of “developed” and “intellectually liberated” countries? This would almost imply that having the freedom to kiss in public is the passport to being modern in thought, deed and action.

I think of myself as a modern, forward thinking individual, far removed from the shackles of mindless beliefs and shallow xenophobia. However I wonder if I would ever be able to go against my natural way of life and indulge in an action that is alien to my disposition. But that doesn’t make me backward, orthodox or regressive, does it?

Let’s admit it, as a people, most of us will be extremely uncomfortable to either make or witness a public display of passion between couples. That’s the way we are, and according to me, it’s perfectly fine to be what we are. Why are we trying to ape the western culture believing that what works for them is going to work for us too? This really isn’t about right and wrong – it’s about what we are ready for and what we aren’t. But more than that it’s about priorities.

If we have to ape the west, why don’t we take a leaf from their punctuality, their professionalism and their penchant for cleanliness? Why cant we be more pro-active about gender equality and shed antiquated ideas about caste, communities, communalism, patriarchy (the list is unending) that do much more damage to our society than any restrictions on kissing in public bring about?

Its not about condoning moral policing either – if a couple finds a discreet place to share some intimate moments, I think we all need to grow up and give them their space without gawking and mocking them. But encouraging this behaviour in such an open manner may send out wrong signals to our teens and adolescents who are already caught in this clash of cultures. They could become easy prey for those looking to have some casual fun and this would eventually take a devastating toll on their emotional well-being at a time when they need to be focused about building their future.

On the other hand, what impresses me is the energy and conviction with which young people are clamouring for this right to kiss in public. It is reminiscent of the many revolutions that shook societies in Europe and America and forced them to amend their mind-sets. It is indeed a positive sign that people have realized that they can bring about a social change – that it is up to them to empower themselves – albeit in a civilized and peaceful manner.

Now the next step should be to channelize this tremendous energy into something more meaningful, something which would lead to deeper societal reforms that would bring real benefits to the quality of our lives. It could be a revolution of the intellectual kind which stems from mature thought and sound reasoning rather than a frivolous demand for a meaningless frill that will do little to raise our overall standards – moral, economic and social.

We are still a far cry from being a truly free society and we need to achieve that milestone by progressing in a step by step manner. Instead of trying to force ourselves into ill-fitting garments, why not work on getting into shape ourselves, or better still - design and tailor outfits that suit us best?

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Wealth and Wisdom

Image courtesy: www.taringa.net

“I wish there were no such thing as money in this world – then there wouldn't be any poor people” had mused my then eight year old a couple of years ago. It was meant to be a straightforward statement – an innocent observation from a child’s perspective. But delve into it a bit deeper and it assumes a hugely philosophical tone which is a telling comment on the messy and complicated world we have created for ourselves.

In the eyes of a child – the solution was as simple as this – Do away with money and the social inequality would disappear too.  Although an impossible idea, it had certainly made me pause and think. Would the human race have been that much kinder, wiser and less arrogant if we hadn't invented money? Would we actually have been better off without this divisive commodity? My little one had inadvertently opened a Pandora's box of conflicting thoughts that I have never quite been able to resolve till date.

The same debate ignites itself inside my head every now and then when I can’t but help observe how human beings often treat each other.  Intoxicated by the heady rush that wealth brings on, people actually believe that they are superior to others and possess a natural right to belittle and demean.

This brings me to the incident that I wish to flush out of my system. It had been an interaction of the professional kind – the ones that are quite common place in the corporate world where one often deals with “high profile” business persons who own “big” brands. Most of them are usually quite cordial, and some are even friendly and down to earth which is just how it should be. But there are some interactions that are particularly unpleasant, that smack of conceit and haughtiness, where sharp words are uttered that catch you unawares simply because you never use such a tone on others and therefore expect the same standards from them; where you are forced to tell someone much older than you to stop shouting and to remind them to be civil; where you cannot completely speak your mind because your duty towards your client comes in the way, forcing you to swallow the mindless humiliation as stoically as possible. 

Infuriated as I was, the anger unleashed a barrage of questions in my mind. Why do we forget that we are being provided a service in exchange for a price – why can’t we view all work as a fair business transaction rather than an opportunity to assert one’s authority over another human being? What gives people the right to talk down and humiliate? Why does wealth evoke a sense of power over another?  Why does basic human dignity have to be associated with affluence? And who decides the definition of “affluence”?

From a more objective angle – it was quite a trivial episode – just one of those incidences that we needn't even raise an eyebrow about – as it is something that’s become so commonplace that we should have gotten thick skinned to this arrogance of the uber wealthy by now.  But at a deeper level it does rankle, bringing on a stinging sense of indignation. The memory of it hurts the ego and strikes at the core of one’s self-esteem.

It was while in such a state that I tried to see reason and found it when I recalled the simple innocence of the words of my precocious little girl. Her sensitivity stood out in sharp contrast to the high handedness I had just encountered and it comforted my soul, assuring me that all was not quite as amiss with the world as we are sometimes inclined to believe.

As long as this sensitivity warms a few hearts, our planet will continue to be graced by kind and compassionate minds that will be too classy and cultured to be swayed by the superficial trappings of wealth and glamour.

The thought brought the spring back into my step and the pride back into my heart.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Happy Independence Day!

Patriotism isn’t lofty words and grand songs,
Neither a noble principle nor a pious speech long.
It’s rather an inborn urge, a simple feeling of belonging;
A cherished inspiration, a tug at the heartstrings, a natural daring!

That not many of us can escape being moved at the sight of the tricolour unfurling amidst the chanting of the national anthem is evidence that the above lines are true. Every Independence Day, when (if!!) we witness this familiar scene, we can feel the unmistakable surge of patriotic fervour pulsating through our veins albeit for a few fleeting moments, before reality re-tightens its hold and brings us back to our busy, material world.

            But for the better part of the lives of the general public, patriotism, like everything else has fallen prey to mere ostentation. This is all evident in the “patriotic” fervour that goads people into “liking” nationalistic posts on social media or fervently and dutifully participating in online polls to catapult an Indian to victory in a glamorous contest. Then we sit back satisfied that we have fulfilled our duty, played our role as an Indian citizen, content about having indeed made a difference.

These and many more thoughts cross my mind as we celebrate our 67th Independence Day later this week. How would it have been to have witnessed this event, to have been a part of such a defining moment in history? For those who had given their all to win freedom for the country, it would have felt like a grand culmination of a heroic mass struggle for a glorious cause.

Now, sixty-seven years after that goal has been achieved, is there any noble goal that single-mindedly fires up and motivates the present generation? Do we even ponder about the significance of the Independence Day in today’s context, or is it counted as just another in our unending list of holidays? I think the latter comes closer to the mark as most of us seem completely immersed in the daily grind and hectic schedules, too busy and apathetic to pay heed to other matters that have little relevance in our lives. We aren't entirely to blame either, as we are all in the grip of the modern epidemic called "no time for anything or anyone but myself!" 

We stand today at such a critical juncture that all that we really need to do to make a difference to our society and the nation at large is to simply be conscientious, sensitive and law abiding citizens. Even if every Indian decides to do their duty sincerely and wholeheartedly, it would help rid us of the “chalta hai” attitude that has eroded our efficiency and plagued the entire system. What’s missing are the most basic values and it is these that should be re-instilled in children instead of  emphasizing only on material and academic success. We don’t just need high profile doctors, engineers and management graduates – we also need people who are sensitive, humane, considerate and honest to the core.  

The most fitting tribute that we could pay our great martyrs every Independence Day would be to solemnly rededicate ourselves to our country’s cause by being her worthy citizens for the next 365 days. Our noble cause could simply be a pledge to do our work to the best of our ability, to abstain from the temptation to compromise on our scruples for petty gains and to take a stand against social evils, instead of continuing to be passive onlookers of indecency and injustice.  Over and above this if we can still manage to contribute in our own humble but sincere way, to fuel the wheels of progress of our nation and its people, we will have ensured that the sacrifice of our martyrs and that of the soldier standing guard at our borders has not been in vain.

The only way then is to wear patriotism eternally on our sleeves and in our hearts and feel its perpetual throb in our veins as a constant reminder of our unending duty towards our motherland.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Superman and his Super Girl

Image courtesy: cappuccinoqueen.com

Shelling peanuts from their pods and eating them raw, the sight of a sprawling golf course, the poster of superman, fun n frolic in swimming pools, long walks hand in hand, rides in the dhow and the smell of the salty sea breeze. What could these random things possibly have in common?

These images are now symbols of a cherished memory that my mind’s eye conjures up again and again, as if in an attempt to relive a bygone era.  Those sights and sounds can never pass me by without reminding me of my Baba – my father – the man I loved to impress and who in turn always rose to the occasion by never failing to get impressed.

The peanut shells would be all over the house – testimony to the countless sessions of shelling them together as a family – chattering away on everything under the sun, the adults over several mugs of beer and the kids with the ubiquitous limca or fanta. Baba would pull everyone’s leg and our home would ring with laughter and merrymaking.

The sight of a golf course would make his eyes light up with joy – never mind if he had just played a round of 18 holes that very morning. Every game would be followed by a stroke by stroke account of shots that he had hit bang on target and those that he missed completely - with a childlike joy and the innocent belief that everyone around him was listening as passionately as he was recounting.  

It was he who taught me and all the kids in the neighbourhood to swim.  But I wanted to feel special – as he was  my father – so I made up a game- 'Superman and his Supergirl' where we would swim together arm in arm, striking the classic Superman pose in the water , pretending to be flying high up in the sky.

Then there was this ritual that we religiously followed every night after dinner during my childhood years – I must have been 9 or ten years old. He would drive us to the edge of a pier where he would park the car and we would go for a long walk hand in hand on a narrow wall – just wide enough for two people. It was an unwritten rule that I was to tell him a new story every evening. I would take great care in choosing what I thought he would like, so it spurred me on to read voraciously just to be able to make it as interesting as I could. He was a discerning listener and would interrupt me by adding new angles to the story, and by asking me questions that whetted my appetite for debates and discussions.

His love for the sea saw us through innumerable dhow trips on the high seas – when once again I would imagine (thanks to the countless Enid Blyton adventure sagas) that we were on an adventure out to catch pirates and retrieve long lost treasure lying deep down at the bottom of the ocean.

Life goes on I guess, reducing everything to a dreamy memory as the pages of Time turn yellow. What remains are vestiges of conversations, the sight of familiar objects that evoke the same feelings for a fleeting instant.

And there are those precious moments from the past that live on to nourish your present. The joyful and wistful expression at my wedding as the father of the bride, the immense pride on having become a grandfather and then a few years later, some of his last words to me “I know you’ll always do well whatever you do, wherever you go. ”

Priceless last words that I cling on to with my heart and soul, with a promise to myself to never let him down.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Of Appearances and Stereotypes

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”  - John Keats

These immortal lines by Keats all but sum up our overwhelming fascination for everything that is beautiful. Although the great poet compares the eternal beauty of an object of art with the transient beauty of mortals, it is amazing how literally we have taken his thoughts.

It is definitely neither my intention, nor do I possess either the authority or audacity to comment on the words penned by one of the greatest poets English Literature has ever known. But these particular lines have always sparked several questions in my mind – questions that I always suppressed – out of loyalty to my love for the poet and awe for the great teachers of literature who were so passionate about their subject that to contradict a verse so lovely almost sounded like blasphemy.

But questions like these can never be contained for too long – as they torment the mind and force it to ponder deeper, to delve into the hidden recesses of our conscious and sub conscious experiences and arrive at a conclusion that is your own – that you can believe in and live by.

Why are we comforted by Keats’ simple logic? Is the answer to that question somehow connected with the fact that in all our beloved fairy tales – across cultures and geographies – the protagonists are always beautiful and the wicked witch is evil and ugly? So does that mean that beauty symbolizes truth and all that is true is beautiful too?

Is that why the world is kinder to people blessed with external beauty, quick to assume that beauty encompasses calibre, intellect and even character? These are the first impressions I am alluding to – but often times the first impression is the only one, if not the most important one.

There is no denying it then. We live in a world that is swayed by good looks – where we base our judgment of people by the colour of their skin, by how tall they are, how beautiful they look and uphold the age old assumption that character and intellect necessarily reside in a beautiful body.The media too plays its role by constantly bombarding us with pretty images that fuel our desire to compare and compete. The old want to look younger, the young want to look prettier (in the case of us Indians – fairer too) so much so that even childhood seems to have fallen prey to the obsession with beauty.

And here's what's most unfortunate - the greatest irony to have shackled our minds and enslaved our thoughts. Despite belonging to a civilisation that dates back more than 5000 years, from where has sprouted one of the finest philosphies considered to be the fountainhead of ageless wisdom for all humankind, we seem to have plummeted to being one of the most racist cultures on the planet.

Our ancient philosophy tells us that the body is a mere covering for the soul – a vehicle in its journey towards salvation. Yet we delude ourselves into believing the body to be paramount and it is this mistake that distances us from our souls, from realizing the core of our being, from knowing who we really are.

 Although I cannot change attitudes, I needed to make peace with my questions, needed to settle the confusion raging within me, accumulated over decades, which has finally manifested in the form of this outpouring.

This brings me back to the lines by Keats. What he really meant was eternal truth – the divine truth – it was this truth that he equated with beauty. And the body can never represent that eternal truth. It’s the soul, the divinity in us that is beautiful. All we need to do is look beyond the confining parameters of physical beauty and stay connected to our real selves.

The peace has finally been made – not only about appearances and assumptions but also with one of my favourite poets as I can now celebrate his famous words with complete honesty, without as much of an iota of doubt that might tarnish their timeless beauty.

So over to the readers now - what's your take on beauty, truth and stereotypes? Is being beautiful an advantage in our super materialistic world? Have your reactions, choices and decisions been influenced by external appearances? Or can you honestly say that you are free of such prejudices?

Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Tryst of a Lifetime

Posting my article that has been featured in Veerangana 2014.

The Tryst of a Lifetime

Image courtesy: Shutterstock

It was my first tryst with anything associated with the Navy and I was swept off my feet – not in the romantic kind of way (though it may well have played the role of a catalyst) but by the chivalry and genuine concern shown towards us by a group of gentlemen whom we barely knew.

 It was late on a cold December evening and we had just finished watching an open air classical music concert – part of the many cultural fests that Pune would play host to – especially in the winter months when the weather was pleasant. We were a large group of college friends who would enthusiastically frequent such events, spurred by a common interest in dance and music. Although unthinkable in today’s day and age, those were safer times and we would roam on our two-wheelers as we pleased. At this particular concert, one of my friends had announced that her cousin, a young naval officer would also be attending with his batch mates. We really didn’t give it much thought at the time, little knowing that this evening was to completely change the course of my life and that of my best friend.

The programme culminated in a musical crescendo and it was past 11pm. We exited the gates and moved towards where we had parked our scooters, still at a high from the wonderful performance. We were about to ride away when we saw my friend’s cousin and his companions approaching and gesturing us to wait. They said that they would ride their bikes alongside and escort us to our homes. We politely declined their offer saying that we would be quite alright but they would have none of it. They were as good as their word and it was only after they had dropped each of us 12 girls to our respective doorsteps that they went their way.

It was a simple gesture really but yet it bowled us over, and out of a genuine desire to keep in touch with our new and gallant friends, it sowed the seeds of an enduring friendship, which over the course of letters and phone calls, eventually turned into a bond of a lifetime.

It’s been 17 years now and I feel just as swept of my feet with pride as I walk beside my husband – dashing and debonair in his Navy whites – a gentleman to the core. If I had to sum up in just a sentence what I like most about being associated with the armed forces, it is the charm of the old world chivalry that it extends towards women – not condescending in any manner but as an acknowledgement of their quiet but brave role in holding together home and hearth  through difficult times. It is a tribute to her indomitable strength, her irrepressible spirit, her infinite reserves of love and her unending capacity for hope and optimism. I am sure that it must have been these very sentiments from which was born the tradition of offering a salute to every woman who graces the gangway of a ship.

If only the services way of life could be emulated by the civilian world - where upholding the honour of a woman would become a tradition and not an exception – ingrained in the very fabric of its ethos and inculcated in young impressionable minds. I would like to hold on to this thought and in true spirit of optimism make a wish that this aspiration sees the light of day.

My 17 year old tryst with the Navy continues to gather more memories, but the very first one remains by far my favourite!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Warped Logic!

Another interesting observation from the Indian corporate world that astounds me!  I couldn't quite believe it when a friend told me that she was turned down by the HR of a company because she was a mother and would therefore not be able to work late hours at the office.  Rather than have complaints pouring in about her inability to meet the demands of the job, it was better to nip it in the bud and not take it any further – was the explanation offered. It wasn't even as though she was a new mother - her kids were already in high school – independent and busy with their routine. And what makes it all the more ironic was that the HR interviewing her, was a young woman herself – an unmarried one though.  

While it’s true that managing a home and a career simultaneously is no less than a fine balancing act for the married woman – more so if she is a mum as well, it’s just as true that many companies shy away from employing women if they are mothers. (Here I must add that I have been extremely fortunate to work for a firm that values my worth and respects my situation. Cheers to ESM for that!)  But I know that such companies are few and far in between.  The majority of employers do not want to be saddled with working mothers as employees as they are looked upon as a “burden” and a “liability.” They’d rather employ people who are young and free of responsibilities, have enough time at their disposal to be able to follow erratic work schedules to meet the pressures at the office. It's also as if working late is the norm rather than an exception in our workplaces!

This kind of a mindset reeks of a regressive outlook, not to mention blatant discrimination. What kind of a corporate ethos have we created – one where the woman is discriminated at for just about any reason that suits the employers’ whims and fancies – where she pays a huge price for having become a mother!!? Isn’t this another example of the ruthless corporate culture that only assesses the worth of its workforce by their immediate, short term output? Are women employees akin to use and throw commodities – to acknowledge their value only till the time that they are not encumbered by responsibility and discarded the moment they advance in their personal  lives? The message being sent out then is that a female employee ceases to be an asset to the workplace the moment she becomes a mother – and is then best relegated to her home as her talents and expertise no longer count.  This attitude is as chauvinistic as the other prejudices that abound towards the feminine gender – it is a tad more hypocritical too.

And it isn't only about the injustice towards female employees; it’s also about the “penny wise pound foolish” approach on the part of the employers. A skilled, experienced and talented woman can actually bring in valuable qualities that could take creativity and productivity to another level altogether. So what if she needs to leave for home at a fixed time every day? How can it be assumed that what she has achieved in an eight hour work day is inferior to what others who stay late might have accomplished? Can no credit be given to the “life wisdom” that she has gained over the years through keeping together home and hearth and playing the role of a nurturer and molder of young minds? As I see it, the companies that turn down women who want to return to the workforce after a motherhood break stand to lose a lot more than they could ever imagine. They remain deprived of the discipline, time management abilities and the maturity, not to mention solid expertise in their respective fields, that these women can grace the workforce with. Aren't these the very qualities essential for real, lasting progress and development of any organization?

The economies of the world are fast realising the value of every skilled and qualified individual – man or woman. As the effects of the recession are gradually ebbing and as the economies of Europe and America are steadily regaining strength, their governments are shouting out the message loud and clear. They cannot afford to lose out on the talents and expertise of their women if they want to revive the nation’s finances. More and more companies worldwide now value their capability and are luring them back into employment by offering them flexible schedules that allow them to work around their personal commitments. In an attempt to attract and retain the best talent, new legislation is being brought into force that protects the rights of women employees and new laws formulated that give significant childcare allowance to working mothers. It’s almost as if the rest of the world is bending over backwards to accommodate the special requirements of its female workforce? Why are we lagging behind? India too needs to leverage the competence of her qualified women so that she too can contribute to the productivity of her organization and the progress of the country at large.

Isn’t this what a civilized developed society is all about? A culture where there is respect, understanding and a give and take? I guess we still have miles to go before we can achieve this kind of equality – where the woman is not looked upon as a temporary worker but as a veritable resource that is capable of turning the fortunes of organizations and reviving the economies of nations.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Nest

“The egg has hatched!!” I was accosted at the door by my excited ten year old when I returned from work, her eyes sparkling with delight as she dragged me to the balcony to take a look at the object of her irrepressible wonder. And I must admit, I was quite unprepared for the emotions that the sight was to evoke in my heart. For there lay a fluffy little ball of flesh, unimaginably tiny and so very fragile, nurtured by its protective mother as she gazed warily at us from her nest. Although her gaze was cautious and guarded, I thought I perceived in it, an undeniable element of trust – as if to say – you’re a mother too so I know you mean no harm. That instant bonded me to her forever.

It had all begun a few weeks earlier with a couple of pigeons collecting twigs and other paraphernalia everyday and placing it in a corner of our balcony, hoping to have enough to be able to build a nest soon. But no sooner did they store a few twigs than the cleaning lady (on our instruction of course) threw them away. Blame it on the indifference and insensitivity that has become part and parcel of our adult lives that had gripped me in its vice as well. A bird’s nest in the balcony would mean nuisance, unnecessary bother, not to mention a whole lot of mess to clean up. Even the imploring glance of my little one did not succeed in softening my stance.

Much to our surprise, one day we found an egg on the bare floor of the balcony – the pigeons had not been able to build their nest “thanks” to our regular “cleaning” but unable to disrupt nature’s plans – the egg had been laid by the mother. The sight of that little cradle of life on the cold hard floor unleashed a wave of guilt and remorse, and the magnitude of my thoughtlessness hit me like a thunderbolt. Aren’t we all in pursuit of a safe haven that we can call home – a place where we can nurture and nourish our young ones and shield them from every danger? Why then was I denying these birds the right to build their home? Couldn’t I even spare a small corner of my balcony, when providence has blessed me with abundant generosity?

The decision was made at that very moment and the girls were beside themselves with joy to see the change of heart. The contrast struck me for the umpteenth time – the difference in the way adults and children perceive situations. Children are simple and na├»ve – they act according to the dictates of their innocent hearts while as adults we use complicated logic to justify our actions, often driven by petty motives. For my part, I was grateful to the powers that be to have made me seen better sense before it was too late – before the same insensitivity surreptitiously sneaked into the characters of my girls.

Then we witnessed the miracle of life unfold before our very eyes – something that we so take for granted. We watched first hand as the mother incubated her egg, sitting patiently, waiting for the life within to stir. The girls would throw a handful of grains for the mother everyday and even kept a little bowl of water for her to drink from. Then the day arrived and the little fledgling broke its way through the egg and into the world. The girls would give me a “report” of the daily progress – “it’s looking bigger now”, or “today the mother pigeon fed her baby by putting tiny morsels into its little mouth.”

The fledgling all but became a member of our family as we marveled at its growth – the ball of fluff got bigger and bigger and in just a few days assumed adult proportions. But it still had not taken to the skies – it would just wobble around the balcony and pick up the grains thrown for it. The mother was not by its side at all times now but she always came to check on her offspring every few hours. However when the big moment arrived, unfortunately neither of us was around to witness it. The circle of life was completed - the baby bird had finally spread its wings and reached for the sky. It had achieved what nature had meant it to do. That evening I returned home to mixed emotions – elation that “our” fledgling had learnt to fly but sadness at the sight of the empty balcony.

Looking back at this entire episode I marvel at the workings of nature and feel humbled by the power of life – by its indomitable spirit to win against odds. But more than everything else, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude towards the almighty for eclipsing, even if it was for just a while, the streak of indifference that had numbed my heart. The bird, her nest and her baby had created a memory that our family would cherish for a lifetime. It was indeed a matter of privilege to have been a part of the fascinating cycle of nature – to have been an instrument, albeit an insignificant one, in helping a bird aspire for the skies in its quest for freedom.  

Friday, 14 February 2014

What’s Love got to do with Flowers?

Always a dreamer, I have, ever since I can remember, been fascinated by metaphors, symbols, poetry - in short everything that is not “useful” and “practical”. There’s something beautiful about finding meaning in banal things, something magical about letting one’s imagination enhance the significance of ordinary ideas - a disposition which would probably make the more worldly wise shrug their shoulders with indifference. Each to his own, I guess - but a playful remark from a dear colleague set me thinking about a whole lot of things - from ideas to metaphors, symbols to meaning and from love to flowers.

Destiny mostly always ensures that opposites attract - inevitably making diametrically opposite people cross paths. In our case too, destiny played her part to the hilt. Here we were - two individuals with almost nothing in common except for that feeling of abiding warmth for each other that we call love and the genuine desire to build a life together. We soon embarked on our journey as a couple, going along with the ebb and flow of life - understanding each other better with each passing day.

Gradually the gloss fades away, reality takes over and you see one another as you really are -  without the rose tinted glasses deluding your eyes. Everything soon surfaces - the minor skirmishes, some annoying traits and stubborn habits - even making you wonder at some point - what it was that brought you together in the first place. But what keeps you going is the dogged determination to make it work, to keep the spark alive, to be there for each other unconditionally. It’s then that it strikes you that love is about loving the imperfections too  - about adapting, giving in, and paradoxically, even about expressing your desires - those little fancies that matter to you.

One such fancy that’s always been close to my heart is about being wooed with roses - in keeping with my impractical bent of mind. Somewhere along our journey together, I did express this silly little whim to my life partner, knowing well that he did not share the same sentiments nor attach any significance to the act of gifting something as temporary as flowers. But then I guess love isn't about agreeing on everything - it’s more to do with making dreams come true even if it means deviating a bit from one’s own inclinations.

So when a lovely bouquet of pink roses arrived at my office on Valentines Day, I was floored - yet again - much to the amazement and skepticism of some. Knowing that the roses are going to wilt in a day, what’s the point of a gift that’s not going to last as long as say - a more “permanent” object would?
But as I see it - no object is really permanent. Everything wears out, depreciates in value or simply becomes outdated in the super-fast modern age that we live in. But the moment lives on forever. The pretty pink roses more than achieved their goal - amply served their purpose. They conveyed eloquently - without resorting to words - a sweet intention of bringing a smile to my lips, a selfless joy in making me feel special. Despite their transience or because of it - they expressed a love that was eternal - that transcended all conceivable limitations.

The roses will live for a fleeting moment in time but the memory of the moment will remain etched in my heart - their  fragrance captured forever in my soul - to continue beyond the realms of time and space to finally merge unto infinity.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

The ROI of the Intangibles

We’re in an age that believes in quantifying everything. We have a strange fascination for data that makes us want to translate everything into a numeric value. Luckily for us modern technology has in place all the requisite tools to churn out the exact figures that test the viability of any idea, strategy and policy. It is a compelling obsession with profits that characterises our modern age which insists on adding a value tag on everyone - even on intangible qualities which we attempt to measure by sophisticated software that runs on man-made algorithms. It is indeed easy and convenient to sum up a person’s professional success based on quantifiable factors that clearly spell out gain and loss and even easier to calculate his worth by relying on the seemingly complex graphs coughed up by the innumerable computer apps available today. It’s the only language we understand and the only method we use to filter value from futility, to sift the grain from the chaff.

The ROI (Return on Investment) - as the corporate culture puts it, is the magic mantra that puts its stamp of approval  - thus rendering effective all the time and efforts spent on a given task and justifying the credentials and capabilities of the workforce. So as long as the figures and stats speak for themselves - all’s well with the world.

As a part of the corporate culture I cannot afford to dismiss this very logical method of evaluation that gives visual proof of my achievements. It is going to be the facts and figures that are going to stand testimony to my mettle, to my potential and determine how I am appraised and assessed. While from a practical perspective, it makes perfect sense that everything, every act and every person should be able to produce the ubiquitous ROI, I do admit to feeling quite devalued to allow myself to be judged by these superficial parameters. Is success clearly that black and white? Is the effort and dedication we put into a task always directly proportional to the profits generated from it? Does this scale have any system to evaluate the more humane values that really are the backbone of sustained, long term growth and productivity?

It’s almost as if the intangibles don’t count – and qualities like integrity, commitment, sincerity often end up playing second fiddle to the more “logical” parameters like profit and loss that drive instant success. Genuine people are an invaluable asset at every level, be it with personal or professional relationships but their genuineness may or may not guarantee results – especially the short term ones. Yet they are the cornerstone of every endeavour and the fuel that turns the wheels towards real, lasting progress. But while assets such as these can only be perceived through personal interactions, impersonal statistics and data fall completely short when it comes to measuring their significance.

Somewhere in this fixation for measurements and evaluations, we simply overlook precious traits that actually matter, qualities and values that transcend quantification. In our quest to simplify, we have only succeeded in complicating our lives. As irrational and absurd as it may sound, we need to reduce the urge to constantly analyse people by reducing their worth into nothing more than data, and instead make room for judgement based on abstract and intangible concepts that define our unique entities. If only we could minimise our dependence on the number game in every sphere of our existence – whether in educational institutions, the corporate world or even in our regular day to day interactions, it would certainly add a whole lot of warmth to the increasingly indifferent and excessively materialistic world that we have created for ourselves.