Saturday, February 28, 2009

MEHER IS FIVE MONTHS TODAY!!!

This is all about childhood. I don't remember which class I was studying in when my English teacher taught us the difference between childlike and childish... I believe, it was 8th or 9th... way back in 1966 or 1967. The teacher must have really made a mark on us, because even now I can remember what is the difference between these two words. The teacher also explained to us that as you grow you can continue to remain childlike, but people would frown upon you if you remained childish. The lesson's were learnt well but somewhere down the line, while growing up, we all, except some lucky few, loose this ability of retaining our childlike qualities of innocence, frankness and awe and wonder at the things that surround us and impact our senses on a daily basis.

Our childlike behaviour comes back again when we are in the company of little children. However, I personally, and most adults like me, are too busy making a career when our children arrive. We make time for our children but not enough to re-kindle our childlike side completely. God gives us a second chance with our grand children. I have found this noticeable change in myself. Our grand child, 'Meher', was born on 29 Sep 08 and is five months young today. Watching her grow at close quarters for 3 weeks and long distance for the rest of the time has been quite a treat... thanks to video uploading sites like youtube.com, the internet, kodak gallery and many more such modern inventions. We have seen her, heard her and also grown to appreciate how we enter this universe empty handed, helpless, wailing, and dependent, and how this universe nurtures us and gives us all that we need. Meher is also teaching us how to appreciate everything that happens around us - every sight, sound, smell, touch and taste needs to be savoured. Watching her grow helps me establish my link with my long lost child. We both, nana and naani, enjoyed this latest video.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ACCEPTANCE SPEECHES AT THE OSCAR CEREMONY

Sound mixer Resul Pookuty accepted his award with a speech profound in its simplicity. "I come from a country and a civilisation that gave us the universal word. That word is preceded by silence, followed by more silence. That word is Om. I dedicate this award to my country."

Rahman said to a rapt audience, "The essence of the film is about optimism and the power of hope. All my life I had a choice of hate or love. I chose love, and I'm here".

THE ABOVE TWO PARAGRAPHS ARE AS REPORTED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA, BANGALORE EDITION ON 24 FEB 09.


I read the life histories of these two gentlemen today, because I was so enamoured by their acceptance speeches. These acceptance speeches are what India is all about. It has everything, the best, the very good, the good, and sometimes the ugly too - it is so diverse - you have to make the choice of what you want to make of your life. The life history of these two gentlemen are stories of hope, of aspiration, of opportunity to make a difference to themselves, their families and the country. These are two voices from India that started their life as non entities but pursued their dreams to make a mark at the international level. These stories prove that it is possible in India to achieve what you set out to achieve and that no challenge is insurmountable if you believe in yourself and the opportunities that are available to any one who wishes to make use of them. We have many problems but these stories prove to me that lack of opportunity is not one of them, if one makes the right choices, and is determined and single minded in the pursuit of his dream.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

THREE VALUES THAT WE NEED TO IMBIBE.

Many of us educated Indians keep wondering as at why we as a nation cannot provide basic human care to all our countrymen, despite having an abundance of resources, intelligence and creativity. We wonder how the U.S. can do it, and we can’t. I believe three important values that the Americans have are lacking in us Indians – sense of patriotism, ‘will do’ kind of positive attitude of a majority of its people, and finally, a systems approach. The day we can inculcate these three into the daily lives of a majority of us Indians, we would certainly reach our destiny of being a developed country, like the U.S. These beliefs are based on my experiences in the U.S during my stay at Alabama during 1989-90.

I was lucky to have been chosen to represent the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Air Command and Staff College at Montgomery, Alabama in the year 1989 – 90, and that was my first visit to the U.S. The first few months in the US were quite a challenge as I was exposed to stuff that I never would have experienced in India, at that point of time in our country’s evolution. I started writing my experiences in a one liner format to keep a record of everything that I found they did differently from us. I am going to list some of those things and what they meant to me in a macro sense, by the time I completed the course and came back to India after nearly 10 months. I consider the U.S.A as the country of my second birth primarily because this is where I was exposed to experiences that, I believe, would not have been possible had I never been there.

The first thing that struck me about the ordinary Americans was their intense pride in being American citizens, which manifested itself in the respect that they displayed towards their national flag, fellow citizens, and their Constitution. Every other house always had a clean flag displayed on the doorstep, as per the format laid down by law. The car dealerships had the largest flags flapping in the car parking lots. In short, you could see the flag all over the city, whether in homes, offices, dealerships or commercial establishments and each time the flag was fluttering in accordance with the laid down law – never dirty or torn. In contrast, I visited the Indian embassy in Washington D.C. and saw a flag displayed behind the receptionist. The flag was made of Khadi, but was dirty. I asked the receptionist as to why could we not have a clean flag in our embassy in the cleanest nation on earth and she gave me those incredulous looks of ‘what are you talking about’……. what national flag are you talking of; I don’t know anything, ‘I just work here’. The second thing was their approach to creating and maintaining systems.

Every place that I went to whether in Government or in private establishments, I saw systems at work. My first visit to a McDonalds at Montgomery was an eye opener. I saw a black woman behind the counter who took my order. All the keys on her machine had the figures of the items on the menu. When I asked her for a large coke and chips, she just punched the figures and the machine told her how much it would cost me, which she announced to me with a smile. I handed her a $10.00 bill, she punched that in, and she got the balance due to me on the LCD strip. Many such incidents helped me understand how the under-qualified people of society were made productive members of society through better systems. Systems were designed by intelligent, qualified people in such a manner that thereafter even the complex systems could be operated by lesser qualified, lesser educated and lesser intelligent people. The whole of society could be made productive through the one-time application of an intelligent professional. The third thing was the attitude of the common people.

The attitude of the people was very positive and always aimed at providing their customers with the best experience possible. I discovered that in every situation the organizations had defined who the customers were and who was providing the service. It was seen everywhere from Government offices to private malls to small establishments. Even within an organization, each sub-section asking for information from another sub-section was considered, and treated, like a customer. This again helped put things in perspective for the employees and there was never any problem. Managers devised systems and the subordinates implemented them in a customer oriented ‘positive’ manner. Shoddy service was never tolerated. I never heard anyone trying to palm off a sub standard product or service with the ‘chalta hai’ attitude, which we seem to have. I found everyone from employees to managers helping with the ‘solution to problems’ rather than pretending that the problem was a figment of the customer’s imagination or non existent.

Considering all of the above, I believe that the Americans are where they are today primarily because of their great sense of patriotism, systems approach and a positive ‘will do’ kind of attitude. We need to inculcate these three values into our lives and I am sure we would then be able to reach our goal of being a developed country, wherein each citizen would be cared for as a human being.