Thursday, July 6, 2017

Welcome to the rat race !!


As much as I am an ambition driven, competitive, career driven individual, I am also a mother to an intelligent, observant seven year old son who has a great sense of humor. (I would like to believe, it’s my rational analytical mind that has penned these words about my son and not my emotional side!!)

I have unknowingly tried to treat motherhood akin to a project or assignment, and have asked myself the question, what I would do at work, had I faced a similar situation may times along the way. I do not know if the approach is right or wrong, but as it is commonly said, if it works for you, go ahead and do it.

I was faced with an unusual situation when I had a conversation with my son yesterday (an ongoing 360 degree feedback conversation which we do have quite regularly). He happened to mention that a close friend of his had been named “Star of the month “at school. I could sense something beyond a routine passing mention in his voice and so I probed him a little further. And it surprised me no end. I realized that while he was happy for his friend, he had mentally made a list of the reasons why his friend could have got the citation and what could he do to get it.

The mother in me faced a situation; I could not fathom how to take forward. Should I tell him, its ok and not bother about such stuff and enjoy being in school, participating in activities, or help him clearly chalk out all that he could do to be a recipient of the next “Star of the month”

Hey presto, I realize that, this is his first self-initiation into the famous “rat race”. Competition to reach a pre-determined goal, unhappy if you do not reach on time, ready for the next milestone as soon as you have completed one, the list goes on.
I am sure one “Star of the month” may not be enough. It will be time to work towards the next one, and countless others as you move on.

I believe that there are no black and white answers to this one. Both alternatives have their advantages. Getting on early, and learning how to form a game plan, prepares you for the competitive game called professional life ahead. Taking each day as it comes and enjoying at school, excelling in what you like makes life enjoyable, fun and less stressful for sure.
For the first time in this case, I gave a very diplomatic and guarded answer to my son , but it got me thinking , that I need to get a more appropriate and good answer for it very soon. I am sure this question will surface once again in a few days.

Those of us born in the 70s and 80s are classic examples of those, who got sucked into the “rat race” whether we liked it or not. Some reveled in it and some fell along the way. Is this generation different? Should we deal with them, or more importantly, will they deal with their personal or professional lives differently?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Indigo Jackal

A few days back, I was teaching (or should I say learning with) my seven year old son, English Prose or English II as it is popularly called.

One of the lessons to be read was a retelling of a Panchatantra tale called; The Indigo Jackal. I am sure most of us would have read the fable as a kid. The fable is about a jackal whoaccidently falls in a tub of indigo dye at the village weaver’s house, while trying to escape a pack of dogs. When the jackal goes back to the jungle in a royal indigo colour, all the animals are in awe of him. He plays along, tells them he is a messenger of God, and lives the royal life. However, when a pack of jackals come to the jungle, and start howling in the night, he does the same. The animals realize, he is just a common jackal and are furious they had been tricked.

Like all Panchatantra tales, this one ends with a very simple but important moral; don’t try to be what you are not.

So simple and yet so profound.

Reading and learning this story once again got me thinking.

In our professional life, many of us do behave like the Indigo Jackal.
A case in point is during interviews. We sometimes try to portray an image or persona that we clearly are not. It’s probably because we believe that it is this personality type that will get the top job. However, we forget that like the Indigo jackal, one cannot carry that forward for a long time. Suddenly you feel lost, don’t enjoy your job and your superior also feels shortchanged.

It sometimes may not be something as enormous as above, but rather insignificant. I once had a candidate come for an interview who had written French as one of the languages known in his curriculum vitae. I ended up asking the interviewee a few questions in French, and (s)he  admitted that (s)he just learnt it for a few years way back in school and does not remember any of it. Though, the candidate was good, I could not make myself select the person as my mind somewhere labelled the person deceitful. This jackal came with a French cloak to me.

Another arena where we sometimes become “Indigo Jackals” is how we sometimes conduct ourselves with our colleagues at work. One may probably be an approachable, full of life, friendly person. You suddenly decide to change to someone who is more reserved as part of a new role, promotion or assignment. While it may be an important aspect for the new role, one cannot probably be that way for long. You may feel stifled as it is not in your inherent nature to be that way. It makes sense , to be what you are , and allow your good work to speak for you and build goodwill

And I guess the learning for all of us is just that, be what you are. Don’t try to be what you are not. Because sooner or later,the truth emerges.

Success is all about being true to yourself and yet reaching your goal

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What happens when ambition fails….

This thought has been lurking somewhere in the folds of my brain for a few months now. The thought was triggered when I attended a get together a few months back, which consisted of individuals who were at various positions at their workplace, some heading divisions of large companies to others just starting out in their respective careers, to the in-betweens

The fact that I knew the personal background of many of them only helped to understand their possible state of mind better. There were some who had dreamt big and reached somewhere along the path, others who had reached the top where they always aspired to be and then had a steep fall, to possibly a point of no return. A few who will do anything, and by that I mean anything , dirty office politics, wily games , tarnishing reputations of others to reach the top , and still others waiting for the right opportunity on their own terms

And not to forget the small group who were happy where they were…let me go with the flow, the ones whom others thought had no ambition, so to say

And that got me thinking….what is going to happen to this motley group of people, (except maybe the last group) if their ambition fails….

Will they keep trying till the very end, to reach their goal, and never tire? Even if they do reach the point that they always wanted to attain, will it only be a brief stopover for the next step, never to be satisfied with what they have attained

Will the people who have gone to any lengths to attain what they always wanted to, be able to justify themselves?

Are those who have had a steep fall for reasons of their own or circumstances beyond their control, be so disheartened that they will never try again? Is their spark in life lost?

Lots of questions and no answers…

And that makes me do what I generally do as a starting point, google J. If you google the meaning of ambition, one of the links is to the Webster dictionary which defines three aspects or related words to ambition; AMBITION, ASPIRATION and PRETENSION.

As per Websters , ambition applies to the desire for personal advancement or preferment and may suggest equally a praiseworthy or an inordinate desire . aspiration implies a striving after something higher than oneself and usually implies that the striver is thereby ennobled . pretension suggests ardent desire for recognition of accomplishment often without actual possession of the necessary ability and therefore may imply presumption and audacity

I guess there lies a bit of the answer, what is it that we have in us , ambition , aspiration or just plain pretension. The day we sit back and answer this question truthfully to our self, we will be able to take a better stock of things within our control and work towards a better tomorrow for none other than ourselves

Monday, August 17, 2009

Am I still in Kal ?

My all time favourite movie is Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Many would feel clich├ęd, how could someone like a movie like that….

But it struck a chord with me somewhere….The way the director actually played with your emotions, how you actually feel bad for Ash and Salman’s characters when she gets married to Ajay Devgan bang in the middle of the interval. And then actually feel, can’t Ash stay married to Ajay Devgan…he is too good !! Maybe I am sounding very girly …

I recently saw Love Aaj Kal…a timepass movie, but I somehow left the theatre feeling very disillusioned. The protagonist gets married to an individual X and decides on the next day of marriage that he is not the guy for me.

For most of us in India , marriage means security; it means getting back home and being just yourself with that one person you can be what you really are…Marriage also probably means , not to worry if your partner is going to tell you the next day , I am out of love and I want to walk out…

The movie actually made me think, Is India changing and would the youth of today totally identify with the female protagonist in the movie, as simple as …you aren’t the right one for me , lets say goodbye without actually making an effort to make the marriage work.

I believe I am one of the youth of today who has a mind of her own, but in this case, am I still in Kal ( yesterday ) ?

Marriage for me is for keeps , where you trust the person completely and give it your best shot without expecting anything in return…you make every effort to make it work than throwing the towel ( both literally and figuratively ) at every little thing…

Am I in Kal if I believe so ??

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blessed !!

Legend has it that Goddess Mumbadevi, the patron Goddess of Mumbai (from whose name, the city’s name is derived) has bestowed a blessing on Mumbai city. It is said that whatever you earn in Mumbai city, will be spent here. You cannot take money from Mumbai elsewhere for a long time. I really do not know whether it is for a fact, but it could not be a truer

Unlike in the Gulf where one family member works and sends money back in India, the same is not the case in Mumbai. In a matter of a few months, a person rich or poor alike will strive to get his family here.

That is probably the reason why, the city is burgeoning with people in such geometric proportions. According to the 2001 census, the population of Mumbai was 11.91 crores According to extrapolations carried out by the World Gazetteer in 2008, Mumbai (including the suburbs) has a population of 22.23 crores, an increase of 87 % !!

My workplace is in an area, surrounded by six 5 star hotels and plenty of corporate buildings. A typical case of water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Plently of 5 star eating joints but out of reach of the common middle class guy wanting to grab a bite.

Just about 3 months back a young bhelpuri wala put up his stall in the evenings. Comes at around 4.30p.m and packs by 8.30 in the evening. In a matter of 4 hours, he manages to serve around 150 customers everyday and must be making an average 2000 Rs. (Most people end up taking 2 dishes). Raw material, hafta all included, he may be making a neat Rs. 1000/- a day as profit. He has already bought a kholi nearby and got his wife here…and hey presto… 2 more added to Mumbai’s population which makes Goddess Mumbadevi’s blessing come alive. He will earn here and spend here keeping Mumbai’s economy alive

The number of people among our colleagues who have come from far flung places to Mumbai, and have settled down here making this place truly theirs is well known. I guess about 95 % of them do not plan to go back. Mumbai is home for them

That leads us to the basic point to ponder. Instead of pointing fingers at a particular community or state and fighting tooth and nail for them to go back, should we all not think collectively on ways to improve infrastructure and make it a better place.

Alternatives will arise only if we close our doors on the thought, Let X,Y,Z leave Mumbai and work towards options to improve Mumbai. It is only going to help make it a better city to live in.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Long Live the Indian spirit !!

Travel is part of my job, and there is no state in India that I have not been to. Traveling for work across the years has made me wiser on most counts. It is the best lesson in a crash language course, dealing with people, exploring a place in a way no tourist could imagine and of course the biggest lesson in crisis management.

I do have scores of travel stories to share, but the one that is deeply imprinted in my mind is the one I experienced in early January this year

I was traveling from Chennai to Bangalore and since I did not manage to get a confirmed train ticket , I decided to travel by the Karnataka State Transport Volvo bus popularly known as KSRTC Airavath buses. It was a night’s journey which would land me in Bangalore at 5 in the morning.

The bus I was in had a smiling girl as the conductor, who checked everybody’s tickets and handed over the complimentary mineral water with a charm which would put all the well heeled Kingfisher airhostesses to shame.

The journey was uneventful and I was not even aware when it was time to alight the next morning. I walked out of the bus stand to get into a rickshaw and halfway through I realize, I have forgotten my handbag in the bus. For two minutes I was in a shock, I did not know what to do.

I do not know how many of you know what can come in a ladies handbag. For me , its my mini universe. It had everything including my wallet , credit cards , mobile , jewelry , tickets for my onward journey , the works !!

I requested the rickshaw driver to take me back to the bus stand, and when I reached , I had no money to pay !! I could just about mutter a thank you

I must have searched pillar to post for a bus with a lady conductor, and that was no identification at all. All buses looked the same white colour, many were going onward to Mysore and I was lost. I must have climbed a zillion buses and searched for my elusive handbag. In addition, language was a huge barrier. Half of the conductors and drivers there could understand only Kannada

I then located the KSRTC office which as usual at 5 in the morning was closed. I explained my problem to the watchman there who said, don’t worry I will help you and took me to the bus hangar there.

And lo and behold, just outside the bus hangar was this charming lady conductor with my handbag. I could not thank her enough

I did not know how many of them to thank that I got my handbag (read mini universe J ) back , right from the rickshaw driver , the drivers there who directed me to the KSRTC office , the watchman , the lady conductor….

I would have felt scores of times like most others that India is a country of kleptomaniacs dishonest people, and what not. But here is an example right in front of me of somebody who waited for may be an hour there, to return what was mine. She could have easily taken it with her, but she did not. Maybe in any other country , it would probably be the case….but not here.

I guess India still has its traditions and values intact. Long Live the Spirit !!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Switching for a reason ?

Considering we spend such a lot of time at our workplace, we do end up making friends there. A group of such friends, the common link being that we had all worked together in the same organization at some point and time met at my place for lunch a few weeks back

Post our discussion on the projects we were working on at present, the invariable "R" discussion about how the recession had not affected most other industries, but not healthcare to a large extent, the topic drove to a common ex-colleague

This colleague of ours had changed close to 10 companies in a 9 year work experience set up, so much so that we all joked that he could frame his appointment letters and display them.

This was not a solitary case. A lot of my colleagues whom I interact with talk of giving interviews or leaving in less than a year’s time

This made me wonder, was the Gallup Study which talks of 90 % of individuals leaving a job because of a bad boss, all that true. Are we today less tolerant compared to our parents? Do we feel that switching jobs is the only way towards a fatter pay packet?

We generally take about six months to tune ourselves to a new organizational set –up, another two months to actually take charge and start contributing, the peak of your learning and contribution phase after a period of one year. The actual responsibility phase is when you have been in the organization for at least 2 to 3 years.

Do we learn anything in one year to make the jump so soon? Are we learning anything in the long run, by frequent job switches?

I personally feel one needs to work towards a larger goal not from an organizational interest, but our interest. A rolling stone, it is said gathers no moss. All individuals who are the who is who in the corporate world are people who have been in the same organization for a considerable period and have risen the ranks the hard way. Is it not time we learnt something from them ?