HOPING THE SNAIL WOULD EVENTUALLY REACH IT’S DESTINATION

I captured this picture on 2nd of June 2018 at Antargange. There is a temple on top of a hill, and the snail was on the steps leading to the temple. There are around 400 steps to reach the top. I wondered where the snail was going … 

Watching it for sometime really made me ponder over certain things that bother us day in and day out.

Despite the fact that they move very very slow, snails make a definitive progress. When life challenges us it may so happen that we pause and life seems to have taken a stall. It is always important to keep moving ahead because something better than nothing.

Snails seems to have a plan. I don’t know how they make the plan but they are not clueless about where they are heading. Though life seems not so clear, though we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel it is extremely important to have a plan hoping for better.

Snails leave a trail of mucus as they move forward, to look back and see how far they have come. I don’t mean to say we should focus too much on the past, that could not let us move ahead with life. However, it is important to remember and be be inspired from how far we have come. Our trail is our progress !! 

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WHEN PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIVES COLLIDE

Many of us lead two lives – personal and professional. Our day is split between these two lives. The two sides of us are so intertwined that a problem with one without a doubt affects the other. Small disturbances like occasional fights with significant other, kids falling sick as well might affect us at work temporarily. Can something more severe in degree take away our concentration and dedication towards work? It might be the death of a family member, end of a friendship, breakup or a family member suffering from an illness like cancer. The answer to this mostly depends on whether or not we are passionate about what we do. If we are passionate, we won’t give up on the job but find a way to deal with it.

The last three years of my life had three negative moments which were very personal. The pain of those is still there in me, deep down. There are days at work when I am sitting at my desk with tears rolling down. During that time, I can hardly concentrate on whatever I am doing. I must agree that emotions can engulf us at any time. If the pain is unbearable, I walk up to the restroom, have personal time to cry out. It is very important to acknowledge but not resist the confrontation to our own feelings. It is better to let them out. Shed the tears, holding on to them could be counterproductive.

Some days are a little worse. Either I would have had a bad dream or wake up and feel very low. I pull myself out of the bed, walk up to my plants, water them, talk to them and sometimes I just break down before them. I know that unlike pets, plants cannot understand us, but there is no other soul who I can talk to. Such days when I cannot control my thoughts, I usually opt to take leave from work. It certainly helps to sort out the thoughts and return back to work with clearer self the day after. It would always help to take a break from work, not a long one, but a day or two does benefit us in many ways.

There is one more thing that really helped me over time. Disconnection from social media. It is better to have lesser distractions when we are already fighting to concentrate. Not only that, say, for example, you had a break-up. A few days later your ex posts a picture, is it really important to see that? I don’t really think so. Once we give up on someone or they give up on us, it is always better to let them go not just from life but from the radar of our attention. We don’t really need to spend our valuable time on someone who doesn’t really value us.

Most of the times I pulled it through but there was a time when I just could not deliver at work. I was feeling very guilty. At the same time, I did not think it was appropriate to talk to any of my colleague’s. I was struggling, literally, nothing was working. I could not read a design document or a requirement document to understand them. After some time, I thought it might be better for me to resign, sit at home and return back to work when I feel better. I walked up to my manager’s cabin to tell him to accept my resignation. I tried once, twice but I couldn’t do it, my inner voice was shouting at me to just do it. I finally gathered courage and told my manager the decision. He did not react much but listened to my problem with great interest. He said, “You know what, while I agree that you need a break, I do not agree that you need to resign. This weekend please sleep well, take good care of yourself and we shall talk on Monday”. In our next meeting, he said many encouraging words and gave me feedback which brought me back on track. That is when I understood he was observing me. Our managers/supervisors are not always our go-to people, but they have the right to know why we have been under performing. A good leader would show the right path, so, it is always better to talk to them. We have to be careful about how much we let them into our personal territory.

While on the personal front things weren’t good, things weren’t great at work either. No person used to talk to me (I was new in the team). People had their own doubts on me. Every design of mine was going through several levels of scrutiny. My ideas weren’t even seconded by another person. The problems I raised were unheard. There was neither recognition nor a word of encouragement. I had been through a lot to prove what I am capable of.

From leading one crucial module in our product, two years down the line, today I am technically responsible for the entire platform we are creating for our new line of products. There is an onus on me to deliver. I work for a healthcare company, the first thing I see in the morning is a visual of a happy mother holding her newborn (Imagined visual). The joy in the moms’ eyes keeps me going, on and on. This is possible only because I am passionate about what I do. No matter what happens, how many people say that I should leave my job to get back to my family, my job brings satisfaction to me. I do not need another person to acknowledge how good I am, the added responsibilities at work speak for themselves!!

I AM IN THE SPOTLIGHT – Aastha

When the task came-up, I was not really into it. I thought our Charlie (Chiradeep) would choose whose questions I would be answering and vice versa. No, he brought his mark into the activity, by asking us to choose a number not knowing to whom that number belongs to and accordingly I get the questionnaire. When he asked me to choose a number, I was heartfully wishing to get Rajnandini’s questionnaire to answer. Woah!! I got hers.

Firstly, thank you Rajnandini. I loved your questions. They are quite thoughtful. Now, I think it’s time for me to start penning down my answers.

Rajnandini’s Questionnaire:

  • Apart from brushing your teeth, what is that one other thing which is a ‘must-do-without-fail’ for you every day?

OMG, is brushing must?? Oh-no, am I missing something important that I should be doing every day? Just kidding. Well, this was an easy question to answer. The entire world can flip upside down but I would never stay without talking to my father. Only network connectivity can come in between our communication. It could be only a few seconds in a day, but that gives me ultimate satisfaction.

  • What is the most valuable treasure in your life?

I believe that the most valuable treasures are within us (human beings). No one can steal them or destroy them. Memories, those are what I treasure the most. Memories make me feel hopeful and alive. It is those memories that really help me feel good about my life today and every day…

  • What is the purpose of your life? Ever given it a thought?

I don’t know if there is some enlightenment that happens to some people so that they know what that purpose is. I have no idea what mine might be …

  • How do you respond to criticism and ridicule?

Honestly, it depends on the critic :-). If the critic is knowledgeable enough then I consider it quite seriously, otherwise I take it on the lighter side. It infuriates me when idiots criticize. I usually think over what might have made them say/feel so, those might be my weak points. Hence, I work on getting better.

  • How do you unwind/de-stress yourself?

Work-related stress isn’t a problem at all, but if there is stress on the personal front, I feel very unsettling. I go on a walk to the nearest park, listen to good music or watch some sci-fi movies… If it takes more than these to feel better, I cry. It does help me get over it.

  • Given an opportunity to meet a great personality of your choice, whom would you like to meet? And, what would you tell him/her?

I would love to meet Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, our very own Mother Teresa. I may actually be speechless after I see her. I would love to spend a day with her only to observe and learn… I know she is no more, can I time travel ??

  • Relationships world over are getting brittle by the day. What in your opinion could be the problem at large (apart from specifics)?

The answer is something we all know. We only concentrate on whom we love ignoring those who are showering us with love. Virtual connections and texting are only making it worse. Physical presence, caring touch, a delightful hug has become a rarity. There are very small things in life we stopped appreciating.

  • There are different belief systems and different philosophies as to what happens after death. What do you want to happen to you after you die?

Death is the ultimate truth. It could come through the door one day to knock us out of our life without prior notice. My thought stops at death, beyond death whatever happens or can happen is of no value to me.

  • Science teaches us the theory of evolution. I’m sure you would have studied it in school and maybe even in college. However, evolution and creation are complete contrasts. Leaving academics aside, what do you personally believe in – evolution or creation and why?

I believe in nature and so evolution… I don’t think human beings can match the universe’s creativity no matter how hard we try. We do not even know about it completely.

  • What is the one thing you desire to do during your lifetime?

There is a strong craving in me to be loved and be understood at a deeper level. It would take another person who really wants to look into me, which is not in my hands. So, meanwhile what is that I can do??? One day, I aspire to be a torchbearer for a change, a positive change that would make this world a better place. I am working on it.

IMPOSED PRESSURE TO STAY STRONG

We are two sisters and I am the elder one at home. Since my sister was not sound with her health, my parents’ attention and time was required more for her. It came to me as a request that I should not expect much from them, it was rather a directive (maybe). For a kid who doesn’t understand the world much, it was something I just had to obey. Fair enough.

I was also the eldest of all my cousins. During holidays, all the family used to get-together to spend quality time together. Imagine this, 8 kids to be managed by my parents and grandfather. They needed someone who can keep an eye on us, naturally their choice was me because apart from being the elder, I was also the most sorted out one. Calm, composed, responsible and for some reason my cousins also were comfortable being managed by me. On a side note, my cousins were very very very naughty.

Eventually this continued for a long time on various situations. I have grown-up with a perception that I always must be strong. I am the problem solver, the rescuer, the trusted ally and one who should take care of others. Together, all of these can be accomplished only if I am strong enough, mentally.

I was strong, or more so I thought. I am not sure about it even today. When life comes up with a challenge I fight against it with all my strength. The recent set of circumstances of my life have broken me down into pieces, as small as possible. In the initial days, it all looked fine, I was brave enough to convince my parents to permit me to live alone. It’s almost 3 years I am living alone, day after day without my knowledge, I have become so weak. Emotionally very weak.

Me and my father met with an accident last month. I was slightly hurt, but my father had an impactful wound on his leg. He refused to see a doctor for 2 days and after a full-on fight, he agreed to see the orthopedic. The wound was so bad that the entire muscle on the inside of the leg had to be removed. When doctor showed me his leg, I was frightened and worried at the same time. There was nothing but bone on the inside for almost a 3/4th feet long. At this age, can his body rebuild the muscle? A couple of days later, my father lost conscious and was admitted to hospital. I flew back to my hometown only to see him amid of medical equipment in an ICU.

The worst was yet to come. I walked up to his bed after he gained conscious and he did not recognize me. He said one word, “who?” and I just could not control myself anymore. My hope was declining though I strongly want him get back to normal. I came out cried a bit, by the time my mom came out, I wiped out my tears and acted normal. After two days he was a little stable, we brought him home. The very next day he lost conscious again. A day more in the hospital with the same fear. The nights I spent at hospital were the worst ones. We brought him home, but I could hardly sleep. Every few minutes I would go and check on him if he was still breathing. He became very weak after the procedure and the medicines.

I felt really stressed, the fear that we may loose him was killing me. I needed to talk to someone so that I can express how I was feeling. Two failed attempts with my friends and I gave up the try. The feeling that no one cares really hit me hard. I came home from the hospital one day and wanted to cry, just cry. I went to my usual spot and broke out into tears before a dog (The poor dog is not mine but became my shoulder to lean on that day). I told her all the stress and my feelings sobbing. 

At my house, I could cry whenever I want to. At my parent’s place, I usually don’t cry. I don’t cry before others as well. Especially those who would get worried about me. “I am ok”, “Doing fine”, “all good” are my statements and by the smile on my face it is hard for anyone to notice what is going on with me. Most of my family and friends would give a reason that I am strong enough and may be think that I do not need any support to cope up with various adversities in life. But, I am the opposite. I need support and someone who can be there for me. Unfortunately, I also know that someone does not exist as of today. 

Sometimes when I am overwhelmed I remember the Japanese quote which translates to: 

A samurai pretends, even when he is starved, by holding a toothpick between his teeth. Meaning, we should not let others see our pain. This is how Samurai’s are trained.

I am not a Samurai. The pressure to stay strong has taken away a lot from me. The basic needs of mine are invisible to others. I am constantly starving to fulfill my emotional needs. I say to myself that it is absolutely okay to break down sometimes and move on. I don’t know why people tend to think that someone who can hold others during tough times can hold themselves too if need be. Every person needs another person, at the least for moral help, many just don’t get it. Some day, may be I would gain enough strength to handle myself by my own. 

I’m trying to stay as calm as possible and focus one day at a time, but when reality sets in, I feel everything: anxiety, excitement, nerves, pressure and joy – Shawn Johnson

SUNBEAMS AT SUNSET – VIII

Sudha was struggling to get back to sleep. She glanced at Dr. Lal, he was asleep. There was a kind of nervousness which she had never experienced before. The memories of her kids are coming back again and again. She always wondered if she would ever see them again before leaving this world, at the same time if something happens to her, what about Dr. Lal, who would take care of him?

Two blocks down the lane, Raman was also lost in similar thoughts. Would his parents ever accept him back? He is their only son, there is no one else who could take care of his parents. All his attempts to get back in touch with them have failed. “What if they never allow me to express what I feel? This guilt isn’t letting me live peacefully. What did I do with my life?“, he slowly walked into the garden. It was almost 4’O clock in the morning. 

Suddenly Sudha felt too sick, her body was completely sweating. She shook Dr.Lal to wake him up as she pointed at the water jug on the table. Dr. Lal served her water. Sudha was breathing heavily unable to keep her eyes open. “Sudha, Sudha, please look at me. What happened? Should I call for an ambulance? Please talk to me, please“, Dr.Lal was scared as hell. He grabbed his phone to call Raman. Raman’s phone was ringing but he isn’t answering the calls. After two vain attempts, Dr.Lal gave-up on him and called for an ambulance. 

Raman was shaken out of his thoughts when he heard the siren of the ambulance. The ambulance entered Dr. Lal’s house. Involuntarily Raman ran towards their house. The paramedics have checked Sudha and recommended to shift her to the hospital as her heartbeats were abnormal. Dr.Lal accompanied Sudha in the ambulance holding her hand tight. “Raman, please bring Sudha’s medicines which are kept on the bedside table, also the bag kept in the cupboard to hospital. Please come as fast as you can“.

Raman went inside the house, collected the bag and her medicines, locked their house. He went to his house and started searching for the car keys. He took some money, water, glucose and his wallet. He opened the bag he brought from Dr.Lal’s house to keep the items he thought would be useful. Opening the bag gave him a shocker. The bag contained Sudha’s clothes, money, some papers and glucose too. Dr.Lal was very much prepared for the emergency situation, a doctor he is by profession, no wonder thought Raman. 

He grabbed his phone, rushed out of the door towards his car. He started driving and wanted to make a phone call. That is when he noticed missed calls from Dr.Lal. He cursed himself to have been negligent and not keeping his phone along with him. “God, please forgive me for making another mistake. I could not have been available to Dr. Lal in time of need. Please save Sudha mam.” 

Sudha is admitted to the emergency ward, nurses were running around her arranging the oxygen mask and preparing for IV fluids. The duty doctor came in, checked the vitals and injected a couple of medicines into the saline water. Dr. Lal felt helpless standing outside the emergency ward.

Dr.Lal, is this the first time or has she ever had similar problems ?” asked the doctor.

“No Doctor, this is the first time. She has arthritis and is also suffering from depression. I gave her a double dose of anxiety reliever today. Raman must be coming any time, he has the list of medicines Sudha takes” Dr.Lal responded.

OK. Please don’t worry, she would be fine. I suspect it could be a mild attack or just stress. I would get the tests done so that we know what caused it. Be strong Sir” said the doctor. 

A couple of hours later, the doctor returned to Dr.Lal, “Sir, she is very weak. It was a very mild attack. I will give some medicines for a few days which would help her. Keep her happy and away from stress. You could take her home…”

Raman and Dr.Lal looked at each other feeling relieved. All three of them reached home. Dr. Lal helped Sudha lay comfortably on the bed. He sat beside her caressing her hair till she fell asleep. Once she was asleep, Dr. Lal joined Raman who was waiting in the living room. “Ah, you made tea. Thanks a lot, Raman, you have been a lot of help today. Otherwise, how much can this old man do? I thought I am going to lose her. I know such thoughts are stupid, but I couldn’t help” said Dr. Lal.

Raman could sense the pain in his words, “I am extremely sorry Sir. I could not attend your call when I should have. I would have unknowingly done the same mistake I did with my granny. As they say, life repeats itself until we learn the lesson”, he broke into tears, uncontrollably sobering.

Raman, you should not be guilty about your granny. Even today, it wasn’t your mistake. Things just happen. We should take them as they come. See us, have we ever thought our kids would leave us? Today, they don’t have time for us. When Sudha was in an emergency also, I have not thought about them. I don’t know if they would come if I call them, but I am not too sure if I would reach out to them for help. I have got an insurance done for me and Sudha, that should suffice if need be. The documents are in the bag you brought to the hospital today. Are you wondering why am I telling you that? If I forget some other time, please remember to use them in time of need“, Dr.Lal gave a faint smile. 

Raman came back home, he felt too tired. Was it lack of sleep or the burden of missing Dr. Lal’s calls, he wasn’t really sure. On one side are his parents who refuse to forgive him for the mistake he made as a teenager, on the other side, there are Mr. and Mrs. Lal who love their kids so much. Maybe if their kids take a step forward, that family can reunite together to be a happy family, just like the pictures on the walls. He picked up his phone to make an important call he has been waiting to make. 

SECRET SAUCE TO EFFECTIVE EDUCATION …

Few years ago, I was in Finland on business travel. I have been working with Finns remotely for more than a couple of years by then, so, I understand how brilliant and dedicated they are at work. I admired that quality of theirs always. When I stepped into the office on the first day, I had goosebumps, not because of the cold outside but the parking lot. The parking lot was completely filled with cars, it was only 7.30 AM in the morning. For couple of weeks, I observed how religiously Finns follow rules, regulations and timings. Their lunch table and corridor conversations were always about their families, although they are colleagues at work, the friendship was very evident.

Finland has the highest number of patents in Digital Technology. I read a few technical publications available in the company website, they were quite impressive. The amount of technical details and their grip on the latest technology trends was attracting me. I wondered how they managed to attain the knowledge an upkeep with it?

The answer to the question came in the following days. A week later I accompanied a resident of our apartment complex to her kid’s school. Her daughter was 8 year old, they recently moved to Tampere from Helsinki. During the 20 minute drive to the school, she explained about Finnish culture and festivals, mainly Christmas and the Santa Claus ( he is resident of Finland !!!) She had the pride of being a Finn and I loved how much she admired her country…

It was a day full of surprises. Once we were at school, we went straight to the play area. All the kids were playing, I could see a wide variety of games, seems there is a compulsory play time of 2 hours. Have I told you? In Finland kids can start school only at the age of 7. The school is max for 4 hours a day and cannot exceed 20 hours a week. Of course, the ‘4 hours’ includes lunch time and play time. Technically all the schools in Finland are the same, there are no elite schools. It is illegal in Finland to charge for tution, hence the fee is very nominal, that is only to avail the facilities at school. Even super rich parents have to send their children to the same schools, equal education for all. Teachers strive hard to find innovative ways to help kids learn. But how do we know if the student is doing good in a particular subject ?

No, not exams. Finland does not have standardised examination structure until grade 10. There are neither exams nor grades awarded to students. Instead students are encouraged to learn practically. They can learn carpentry, art, baking, singing, poetry, athletics, sewing, not just mathematics and science. I have witnessed children aged 10 demonstrating robotics (working prototypes), teachers help them with coding and programming IC’s, but students have to come up with the idea, which eventually develops innovative thinking. Students demonstrate their projects explaining how the idea can be of help to the relative field. When children play in the garden, they can make a note of plants, fruits, flowers they see. Teachers ask them specific questions on how the kids spent their evening and teach them what ever they can from those experiences.

The term “homework” is completely unheard of in Finland. Students in late teens also won’t spend more than 10 minutes on so called “work they could do after school hours”. I still remember what the teacher said, “They are kids, at the age of 5 our muscles are not yet developed to hold a pencil. That’s why kids go to play schools until the age of 7. Schools here encourage students to learn by themselves. After school they have to spend time with family, make friends and socialise, that is how they can learn. Kids have to be relaxed and happy all the time, this helps in brain development. A student can become what ever they want to, and we only introduce them to various fields, they are free to choose. No profession in Finland is considered low or high, all are equally respected.

The story of Universities is no different. Student can apply to any university and get an admission (without a test). There is no tuition fee even for doctoral studies. This removes the major worry from the student, hence, they don’t have to wonder if they can afford what they want to study. Students get paid for studying, the “Student aid”. This money helps the students to find accommodation and buy the necessary books. No wonder Finland has the best education system. Masters is mandatory to find a job, because Finland wants it’s citizens to gain expertise on the career option before they can apply for jobs.

The complete education system is very liberal as it is supposed to be. This gave me an answer to why Finns are so good at accomplishing tasks. Education system shall not confine students thinking capacity with traditional teaching methods and subjects. There is a lot to learn in the school of life than in actual schools – this is what I learnt from Finnish schools, and the schools there give the scope for children to learn, really learn …

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” – John Holt

ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES ARE A PACKAGE

Last week I met with an accident. A speeding taxi rubbed my two-wheeler from the side, I tried to land my foot, my trouser got stuck on some pointed object on the two-wheeler beside me. The two-wheeler rider was obviously not expecting this; hence he couldn’t control his bike. My trouser got torn, there was a cut on my leg, a severely sprained wrist. I was in an utter shock and all the above happened in few seconds. Another two-wheeler behind me got stuck between my tire and the footstep.

I came home, crashed on the bed, by next morning I have developed fever. Unable to move out of bed, I wondered what was wrong. It was my leg, there were four bruises and one cut ☹ After a visit to hospital, got a bandage for hand, dressing to the wounds, injection and medicine, was limited to home for next few days. I remembered that petrol in my bike was on reserve. On the weekend I had to refill the petrol, if not in case of emergency it would be difficult to even go to nearby hospital. With this thought, I took out my bike and was on road.

I was driving at minimal speed of 5 kms as the road was completely jammed. There was a car behind me, he honked once, I looked in the rearview mirror and ignored it, he honked again this time I noticed that he has an “L” board on his car. One more honk, I parked my two-wheeler right on the road and gave my piece of mind to the driver. “Firstly, you have no emergency, Secondly, as you are aware the lane is single lane, Thirdly, as you are still a learner, learn to drive without honking, Sorry, I am not giving you way because there is none and I cannot harm people walking on the side”. Normally, no matter how much they honk, I do what is right, but I don’t resort to giving lectures on road. This is the first time, and I really felt good doing it.

People in India honk more than required, sometimes so much that they don’t stop it.  We don’t really care, our work has to get done. We make more noise than what the problem’s seriousness really is and do nothing about it.

Attitude is the biggest problem, there are two distinct and interesting attitudes “Chalta hai” (It’s ok) and “It’s not my problem”. Is it never our problem unless it happens in our own family? The same are the reasons why we struggle every day, it is not the government. 

Every role comes with responsibility. Being a citizen is a role and Indian constitution has defined designated responsibilities to us.

  • Indian citizen must respect their National Flag and the National Anthem.
  • They must respect, value and follow all the noble ideals used in the national struggle for freedom.
  • They must to protect the power, unity and integrity of the country.
  • They guard the country and maintain the spirit of common brotherhood.
  • They must protect and preserve the cultural heritage sites.
  • They must protect, preserve and improve the natural environment.
  • They must safeguard the public property.
  • They should develop scientific temper and spirit of inquiry.
  • They must work hard to get excellence in every area of individual and collective activity.

These responsibilities are not just for the best interest of the country but of the people. Abiding to those responsibilities would bring prosperity to us and the nation. Simple changes to our behaviors, follow the rules, vote to choose who is going to give us a good direction, pay taxes on time, participate and encourage others for community work, keep our premises clean, help the government to perform their job better.

As a good citizen it is our duty to be responsible for the welfare of society and in turn our country. We have to change our thinking and act to see the positive effect it can make on the society. Let’s collaborate and work together.

 

“The power of the people is much stronger than the people in power” 
― Wael Ghonim