Sunday, December 30, 2012

FW: Vacancy: An Icon for India

I'm sharing the following text "AS-IS" from my friend Shubhra Talukdar's blog, with his permission.

The article is very aptly titled - Vacancy: An Icon for India .. I am reproducing it below due to the sheer impact it had on me. This was a conversation we had on Facebook a while back and I'm adding my comment after the <---> below.

What does India need urgently?
An Icon.

Not the icon of of just a religious or a display nature, but a Symbol. An Indian who stands for something. All societies and nations need an Idea or Person or something, to which they can believe, and internalize. Something which can give Identity, a sense of togetherness, something that rises above the petty divisions of caste and creed, community and religion. Without this symbol, we Indians are doomed to fight our petty internecine battles – never to rise above the pitfalls of our diversity. 

We have given up on our politicos (barring a very small minority), to be an Icon. For these few, it is a struggle against the entrenched bloated crass set, collectively encompassing the legislature and the bureaucracy. We’ve seen cases of judicial activism – but the judiciary cannot take the place of the legislature. Our intelligentsia set is no good, endlessly debating various logic to their bitter end, or paralysis by analysis, if you must. This makes people escape to sports-persons (cricketers?) and/ or movie – and TV – persona, good in their fields, but not suitable enough to transcend barriers and inspire policy.

An Icon, when when he or she emerges will unite our hopes, desires, loves and fears. The identity forged therein will transcend our current identities of region/ religion. And make them irrelevant.

The time is ripe for our Icon.
My comment - I sincerely hope the Icon is reading your post and realises his/her time has come. Only will is no longer the only asset needed. Someone like Howard Roark (From Fountainhead) comes to mind actually or Jack Reacher (from Lee Child novels).. But those characters are just work of fiction.. Spiritual leaders would have the influence if capitalised well, but not the right following.. Politicians have the influence, will, following, but not the right agenda (not the most)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Indians, How Angry Are You, Really?

[Update: 29th Dec 2012: The Delhi-Gang rape victim "Nirbhaya" covered in the article below, died in Singapore Hospital after she succumbed to her severe internal injuries, a lung infection and brain damage. May her soul rest in peace and hopefully, now the justice will prevail.]

This question is to my fellow Indians, who off late, have been getting rightfully angry at the appalling state of things around the country.

As another year ends, it leaves us aggrieved and shocked beyond belief. This year would clearly be remembered to be at the nadir of shameful activities in India. There were so many revelations this year and the shock value of each one was just too high to digest and move on. But that's exactly we did, with pain in our hearts.

Here are four randomly selected recent cases -

Delhi Gang-rape case: The most recent incident that shocked the nation (again) is the brutal gang-rape of "Nirbhaya" (as TOI named her rightly) last week. Truly horrible. The culprits are nabbed. Case is promoted to "Fast-Track" court. Justice is WIP.

Kasab: We took 4 years to hang a terrorist, who should have been publicly tortured and hanged the very next day. The height was we offered him a defense lawyer.

Corruption and Scandals: A. Raja epitomized corruption with '2G scam' a couple of years ago. Then we had Commonwealth Games, Coalgate, NRHM scam, etc. All syphoning thousands of crores of rupees from our exchequer. Need more? There's a whole page on "Scandals in India" on Wiki.

Bad Governance (a.k.a Plummeting confidence in Indian politicians): We've gotten used to "Bad Governance" phrase by now. It's become a catch phrase in a Page 3 party. Sadly, GOI and the elected parties are (still) not doing anything about it. I guess they're waiting for another reason/ motivation/ push/ stick or may be the Mayan Apocalypse to get things right.

So, what is common in all of them? We got pissed off. We protested. We took to the streets. We lit candles in the night. We cried. We stood united. Then resumed our routines, waiting for another skeleton to come out of the closet so we can again mourn together. The GOI was still mum. We were still hopeful. We still are.

I feel the problem is severe. The real problem I feel is the "casualness" with which people commit such crimes/ scandals. The casualness is the result of bad governance. They know "nothing will happen" .. They know "they will get away".. They know "Have gotten away before, will get away again"..

The real missing thread is lack of severe and timely punishment.

Unless there are strong laws (and quicker case closures), criminals/ corrupt politicians will continue doing what they do best. Unless we pin them down, nail them down quickly, what message are we communicating?

Some argue that Sociey needs change. Of course it does. But society as a whole is such a complex mesh that it is difficult to decipher how exactly we can change it. Which element to change for a better society?

What can be monitored is the "The Rightful and Timely Action". Once people know there is a strict action taken, and that they can't get away.. the rate would drop.

There are two aspects - Internal Deterrent (Values) and External Deterrent (Punishment). To build mechanisms for Internal Deterrent take times. Values are not build overnight. We can sow the seed, nurture it and pray. We can argue for a longest time that Values - as an incentive to not be a criminal - are more important than Punishment.

But we can't pray that people with bad conscience will play fair, can we? Punishment is required for such bad souls, who don't want to change.

Politicians are used to fooling us. We are used to getting fooled. In broad daylight. We are also used to the feeling of helplessness. People will debate, crib, protest at the degrading state of things.

But there's about one thing we will not lose - Hope.

Hope that the next day we will not hear another rape case. Hope that our corrupt politicians and criminals will grow a conscience. Hope that India will become a developed nation, someday. Hope that sense will prevail.

Hopefully, our GOI will become like Avengers - crime fighting super-"Common Men" in their cape (or not) fighting injustice, rape, dowry, corruption, bad governance, and everything that's worth fighting for and everything that's worth living for.

-A hopeful Indian

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Easier Way Out?

The Easier Way Out

The easier way is to take up a short cut to success, than work your way through.

The easier way out is to quit, than to do something about it.

Easier way out is to stagnate, than to grow.

Easier way out is to demean your subordinates, than to empower them.

Easier way out is to demotivate, than to inspire.

Easier way is to just preach, than to practice it.

Easier way is to run away from a challenge, than to tackle it.

We are created to take challenges head on.

Right from our cave-dwelling days. Right when we discovered fire. When we created the wheel. When Buddha found about miseries of life and took up the challenge of finding a solution. When Schindler saved Jews. When Martin Luther King Jr fought for civil rights. When we created first space ship. When we sent Laika into space. When we sent Neil on the moon. When Hillary and Norgay climbed Mt. Everest. When Gandhi opposed the British through non-violence. When Steve Jobs resurrected Apple. When APJ Abdul Kalam created Agni missle and empowered India.

History is replete with people who chose the challenging way. And left their mark. We now call them legends. They faced the challenges in all advertisities and succeeded. They had a drive, an inner desire to grow, contribute and persist.

We are meant to take things up the challenging way. We are meant to leave our mark. To make a dent in the universe. To believe in yourself. To do what is right. To grow. To become Better.

Which one do you choose - the Easier Way or the Challenging Way?

Monday, November 05, 2012

Commuting Experience on Pune Bus Day (1st Nov 2012)

Pune Bus Day
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and Sakal Times gave us another reason to feel patriotic - this time doing something worthwhile for the city on the occasion of The Pune Bus Day.

As expected, there was a lot of hype built around it. And for a good cause too this time. You can still see large sized banners across the city showcasing professionals, lawyers, students proudly proclaiming that they will "make the right choice" and they will "travel by Bus" on the 1st November.

PMC deployed about 2500 buses (private + state transport buses + Local buses) and chalked out new and direct routes - much to the convenience of the passengers. You can read more about that here and here.

This article is not just about that.

There was a lot of chat on the 1st November at my workplace, Mithi Software Technologies.  Lot of people came forward and commuted by Bus that day. Due to a last minute contingency, I could not be a part of it.

Therefore, I asked one of my good friends and colleague, Amol Kulkarni to share his commuting experience on The Pune Bus Day. He agreed to share his point of views and what should one look towards next time.

The Good Part:
1. While travelling in Bus on 'Pune Bus Day', there was an overall feeling of excitement and being a part of something good. 

2. Although there was a break journey in my travel to work in the morning, there was no waiting period as they had a high frequency of buses. But in the evening, I had to wait for some time, which was okay.

3. On any regular day, I have two main pain points with PMPML. First is their low frequency of buses, which resulted in huge waiting period. Another was poor condition of buses. However, yesterday both of these problems were eliminated as the buses had high frequency and were in good condition too.

4. I feel that this "Pune Bus Day" experiment is successful in the sense that people are willing to travel by bus if given proper infrastructure.

5. Pune has plans to contruct a Metro and a Ring road, which could potentially solve the traffic and congestion issues. This sadly will take years to start and finish. Therefore, the need of the hour is additional bus capacity in PMPML, which PMC should fill up, IMMEDIATELY.

Glaring concerns in the experiment:
1. Widen the roads to handle larger bus traffic: The Pune roads are not wide enough to handle the traffic of a large number of buses and many areas experienced traffic jams.

2. Don't just pump in buses, improve the bus routes too: Just blindly adding capacity in the current design of Transport Infrastructure will not be adequate - we need a better design. Currently it seems to be a Hub and Spoke design i.e., Corporation Depot being at the Hub, from where all the buses are routed. At the Spokes are smaller depots like Kothrud, Hadapsar areas. Due to a huge traffic passing through this Corporation Depot, it has become a nagging bottleneck. Indeed, PMC did experiment with some route design, but it had thought of keeping several hubs, the traffic congestion would have become more bearable.

Thanks for your inputs, Amol!

Although Puneites gave a thundering response to Pune Bus Day, and were excited to the core, there are some areas PMC needs to work on in the future to make this experience even better.

I just hope that this event does not end up being celebrated annually, like a Valentine's Day or a Father's Day or a Mother's Day. I sincerely hope PMC + Sponsers take up such initiatives more aggressively and more regularly to make Pune even better place to commute. I am pretty sure Puneites will continue supporting them!

Did you also use buses on the Pune Bus Day in Pune? What was your experience? What was good and what needed improvement? Do share in your comments below.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stop Cashing In On Your God

It was the 3rd day of Ganesh Festival when it hit me.

I was returning home after work that day when I was caught in a traffic jam. The traffic was moving at a snail's pace. It provided me an opportunity to observe the roadsides - which were buzzing with activities.

I noticed how so many Ganesh pandals were set up on each side of the road. You could count that each lane had about 3 Ganesh pandals. Two at each end of the road, one in the middle. If there was another lane emerging from the middle of the lane, there would be two more pandals - on the diagonal sides of the same intersection. And so on.

Ganesh Pandals
And likewise imagine how many pandals would they be "squeezing" per square kilometer. And simple arithmetic will tell you how many in a township, and then in a city.

There's more. Each pandal is owned by a Ganesh Mandal (Committee). And it is a matter of prestige for those Mandal owners to decorate their Pandals better than others. And so they splurge money. From where does the moolah come from? From the same people who pay tax.

How? Simple, each Ganesh Mandal owner(s) will send their "members" to collect donation from residents of the nearby area. And can you refuse them? They're all politically connected. Getting the idea?

They also play loud music much to the annoyance of the people staying nearby. I can tell you that it is not sensible music. It is not devotional music either. Add it the fact that the horrible traffic jams and chaos it causes. No committee seems to bothered about the tremendous amount of waste it generates. Every year.

Which brings me to the title of this article - Are we really cashing in on our Gods? Are we monetizing them? As long as the concept of God has come into being, we have monetized him - milking his omnipotence. That's in the couple of thousands of years of our civilisation.

Why not sanitize everything? Why not just 1-2 Ganesh Pandals per square kilometer? How about just believing (theists) or not believing (atheists) in that Higher Being and still live happily? Why all this hype around God?

Navaratri has just begun, Dussehra and Durga Puja is just round the corner. Pandals will again be raised. More chaos will pervade. More money will be spent. The cycle will repeat. May the Gods bless us with a sane mind.

Durga Puja
[Image courtsey:]

Let's go green in celebrating our festivals. A motivating trend is that there is less intensity of Fire Crackers these days during Diwali. Many families, societies, townships have started recognizing the nuisance caused and have started celebrating festivals in an environmentally friendly manner. But those families can be counted on fingertips.

What is the starting point to curb it? Where do we start? Would like to hear your thoughts/ views in the comments below - even if you disagree with my thoughts.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Don't Just Sit On It: Decide and Act, NOW

"Probably one thing worse than a bad decision is Indecision."

There are three types of people around - Those who make good decisions, those who make bad ones, and those who don't make any decisions.

The indecisive ones simply sit on a given task/ decision and do nothing. What they fail to realise is their indecision is negatively impacting others, in sometimes tangible and many times intangible ways.

Without tapping in your will
All you do is wonder and stay still
When that decision just lingers on
When you're lost, don't know where to move on
Take A Stand

When all you do is delay
That decision you just sit on and pray
Someone's waiting, but all you do is stall
When you play safe and let things take their toll
Take A Stand

When you want to feel right
Take that decision to feel pleasant and bright
Don't hesitate, be brave, but don't fake it
Just go ahead and stake it
Take a Stand

I feel decision making can be cultivated like a habit. Like habit, discipline your self to regularly take decisions and more importantly, act on it. Procrastinators tend to make a decision and then delay action. Avoid this trait.

Start now. Whenever you feel hesitant, think about the risk involved. If it is a low risk task, just take it up and finish it. If there is a high risk involved, you can consult someone before taking that decision. The important thing is not to sit on it just because you think it is high risk.

If it is decision you are stalling at work, it is costing the company money. If it is a career decision you are dilly-dalling, you could be missing out on several opportunities. If it is a personal decision you're delaying, your family might be getting affected by it. Think about it.

Sort it out. Consult. Discuss. Clarify. Arrive at a Decision. Then just go ahead and Act on it. Move to the next task.

How do you counter indecision? Which habits have helped you become a master decision maker? Do share in the comments below.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Doing Good Work

Stop cribbing about how your boss neglects that awesome work you are doing for him. Stop feeling anxious about what others think about you. Stop feeling bad about that jerk who doesn't pay attention to you.

It doesn't matter. They don't matter.

Remember, you are here for a purpose. If you don't know what it is, relax. Just remember that you're here to do good work you'll be proud of. Keep at it. Rest doesn't matter.

Spend quality time at work. Ignore the jerks. Ignore the put-downers. Ignore the behind-the-back comments. Take what is good. Move on.

Make a difference every day you come to work. Be better than yesterday. That's a simple plan, ain't it? Just keep doing it.

Make a dent in the universe. Only that matters. Every single day. Every single moment.

Remember, sometimes you'll find yourself digressing from your purpose. Soon as you realise it, re-focus your efforts. Once you've taken its cognizance, don't waste a single iota of energy doing banal work. Re-align your actions.

Do good work. Focus. Make a dent in the universe. :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Real Test: How Do You Deal With Risks?

How do you handle a situation you've not dealt with before? How do you respond to a situation you're uncomfortable with? Do you panic when you're in a sudden and seemingly unnerving situation?

I'm essentially talking about risk and our ability to take risks. 

I feel the real test of a person is how he/she deals with such random, sudden and unexpected situations.

We often encounter such situations in our lives. And many times the first reaction is panic - which is quite understandable. It is a fight or flight response, which our cave-dwelling ancestors were compelled to take. And this is thousands of years of programming hardwired in our system which is difficult to get rid of.

So what is risk taking? It's about getting involved in something with an undefined/ unexpected outcome. And the risk taking ability is how well one deals with such an event/ activity with an undefined/ unexpected outcome.

The good news is that we can nurture this risk taking ability - with lot of practice, patience and good presence of mind. Expect that there will always be uncertainties, and be prepared for it. Be confident. Have a presence of mind to deal with them. Keep practicing. Gradually, we will get better at it.

Start taking intelligent risks. Not like jumping out of your building or like moonwalking near a cobra, or standing in front of an approaching truck. Not life threatening risks. That would be dumb. I'm not talking about them.

More like, starting to experiment with things/ situations. Say you feel uncomfortable dealing with an unknown group of people. As a first step, you can just start mixing with some newer faces, one at a time. And then gradually mixing with a group of unknown people.

Maybe you think that investing in stock market is risky. So to build up your confidence, read more about investing, start investing small amounts and gradually increase the sum. You'll notice that the more you're exposed to it, the better you can deal with it.

It could be as simple as taking a detour from your regular route to explore newer routes. Things like these. You can start by taking risks in areas you're familiar with.

There are people we know of having this remarkable ability to aptly deal with such situations. We admire them for having a good presence of mind. I'm sure you can instantly recall many in your personal and professional network. You should also speak to them about how they have developed this ability.

Taking risks exposes us to environments/ situations we have not come across before. We learn. We grow. We become better. Challenge yourself to take newer risks to become better.

Go ahead and take a new risk, today! You'll be thrilled! Promise. 

How do you respond when you face an unexpected situation presents itself? What are some ways you've used that helped you master it? Do share your experiences and techniques in the comments below.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Celebrate Eco-Friendly Ganesh Chaturthi

I could see several people standing on the traffic signal, holding placards of some kind. About 10-15 in number, in 2-3 groups across different junctions of the signal. But they seemed peaceful enough. No cops around. No crowd around. What was going on?

I thought this group was a part of just another protest of some kind. I ran through a list of embarrassing public events which were recently unfolded - large scams, protests, fast-unto-death rallies, etc, and then I also tried arriving at the cause that this group might be affiliated to. I got curious.

When I was idling at the signal, I read what the placards had displayed and carefully observed the attire of the people.

And then I became ecstatic.

What stood apart was their bright yellow jackets on white T-shirts and a prominent cap, with Cummins neatly embroidered. Which probably meant that Cummins was the sponsor.

The placards they held were not to support a cause of protest.

They were in fact spreading awareness to celebrate the upcoming Ganesh Chaturthi in an eco-friendly manner. One of the placards asked people to refrain from submerging Ganesh Idols in rivers, ponds, etc. They implored people to submerge the idols in a tank specially created near such water bodies. Another placard requested people to stop throwing garlands and flowers (Nirmalya) in natural water reservoirs. This ensured that these water reservoirs did not get (further) polluted.

[Photo credit:]

I was thrilled. This brief encounter made me think deeper about the very need of such awareness campaigns. Upon googling the issue further, I came across some interesting articles here and here. And this one was particularly insightful.

Here are few things we can start doing from this Ganesh Festival (starting 19th Sept) to keep the environment clean:
1. Let's immerse Ganesh Idols in separate tanks and not in rivers, lakes, ponds, etc.
2. Let's pledge that we will keep Ganesh Festival free of noise pollution.
3. Let's use only the natural clay idols, and not Plaster of Paris ones.
4. Let's avoid use of non biodegradable material such as thermocole altogether.
5. Lets recycle flowers and garlands to make hand made paper or dried flower products.

Keep it up Cummins! I'm certain it will have a lasting impact. Gradually we will start seeing clearer water reservoirs through many such initiatives and campaigns.

Wishing you all a very happy Ganesh Chaturthi in advance! :) May Lord Ganesh bless you with lifelong happiness!

What are some other initiatives/ activities you can do to conserve the nature better? Do share in your comments below. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


In a rhythmic gait, she walks towards me
Twilight approaches, and its hard to see
The stalker's close - as I watch her flip
With anxious glance, I notice the painful slip

The beautiful flight in her momentary fall
Almost ended my reluctant stroll
Her pride had fallen, and she came closer
Mischief galore, from this slippery disclosure

To deftly test, and to know how it will feel
He had rightly planted a banana peel
As she frowned, fumed and then became wild
Rejoiced and laughed, this naughty child

Friday, August 17, 2012

You don't need Approval

Think you're being humble when you crave for approval?

Don't complicate it. Things are really that simple. All that is required is the willingness to do it.

Be free from restrictions. Freedom from emotional desire to seek approval.

"By seeking his/ her permission, he'll know what I am upto, he/she'll correct me". Really? Stop bullshitting yourself. Just go ahead and do it. Take risks.

Don't hesitate. Your heart doesn't, when it pumps blood. You know what is right and what needs to be done. Your mind makes it weak. Your mind complicates matter.

Worried about what others think of you? Shut up. You are again begging to conform to the bromide.

Think Gandhi would have worried about what others would feel about the Dandi March? Think it would have mattered to Newton what his neighbor felt about Gravity? Grow up. They didn't worry about it. Nor should you. They believed in something they knew was right.

Get rid of that fear within you. Take risks. Conquer it. You know you can. Deep within. Your heart does. Don't secondguess your ability to excel.

You don't need Approval. Be fearless. Be You.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Break Free

Why do you have to confirm
to stale ideologies and dogmas?
Break Free

Why do you have to walk
in the footsteps of others?
Break Free

Why do you have to be wary
of what others think of you as?
Break Free

Why do you have to pretend
to what others expect you to be?
Break Free

Why do you have to become
the person you never wanted to be?
Break Free

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Good Samaritan I Almost Met During Rains

The first raindrops of the season had hit the ground early evening on the 5th of June as I was about to wrap up my work. By the time I got on the bike, it had officially started raining cats and dogs.

On my way home, I cross a very prominent junction, called "University Circle" which witnesses a high traffic density during its peak hours (9-10am and 6-8pm).

What followed was totally unexpected and very inspiring. 

I left office at about 6.30pm that day, when the rains were at its peak. On the way to the University Circle, I was annoyed to see a lot of people driving recklessly especially in this weather. Could I do something to warn them against rash driving? I was worried that they might hurt others too.

As I was approaching the traffic signal, I noticed a thin old guy holding an umbrella, telling something to the passersby. I got curious. He couldn't possibly be a begger or a hawker? Then what was this old guy doing in this difficult weather?

When I passed him closely, I was left awestruck by he was doing: He was waving his hand very animatedly and asking people to drive slowly! It was one of the most inspiring moments for me! I later recollected that I had also seen him sorting out traffic jam a couple of times at University Circle earlier.

And he wasn't even a traffic cop fulfilling his duties. He was just some guy, who was all out there helping others. And without asking anything in return. And I don't even know his name. A guy low in profile but high in deeds! God bless him!

You want to see/ meet him? Just stop by at the University Circle during peak hours, and look out for an old guy who is trying to help sort out some mess

Here are four takeaways from this experience:
1. Avoid driving recklessly - even when its raining. Drive safely. Think about others too.
2. Be good to others. You don't need to promote good work. Just keep doing it. Others will be thankful to you, even if they don't know you.
3. When you notice an area of improvement, take it up yourself - in whatever small way you can.
4. Follow traffic rules. They are meant to safeguard us all.

Ciao! Happy Driving!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why You Might Get Late To Work On A Rainy Day

It's been a month since the rains have arrived.

I got a little anxious and later curious as to why I was clocking 40 mins to work, than my usual 30 mins. In any non-rainy day, I observed I was reaching within 30 mins, sometimes even 20 mins during peak traffic.

What started as a passing enquiry grew into nagging curiosity. I decided to explore the various causes as to why I was clocking extra 10-15 mins on a typical rainy day. Upon some observation and analysis, I came up with these 4 logical reasons:

Reason 1: In a rainy season, roads are slippery and people are more careful while driving their vehicles. Thus, as more people drive cautiously and therefore slowly, every body gets late to work.

Reason 2: People who earlier took 2-wheelers to work, were now resorting to a 4-wheeler to avoid rains. This increased the vehicle density during the peak traffic hours. More vehicles combined with cautious driving, delayed more people to work.

Reason 3: People with a 2-wheeler but who did not own a car, were resorting to using public transports or taxis during rains. This increased the traffic density and congestion further, delaying people to work.

Reason 4: The start of the rainy reason (July) is also roughly the time when the Schools reopen, and the starting time of a lot of schools is 9-9.30am. This increased number of School buses/ taxis/ vans and also parents who were dropping their children to school, added to the traffic woes and delayed others to work.

These are just some observations. How about finding some real data? Can we conclusively prove that on any rainy day, the time taken to reach your destination is more as compared to any other day?

I can probably find such a data at toll plazas. They keep log of all vehicles transiting. We can find out the number of 2-wheelers, 4-wheelers, taxis and public transport vehicles entering and exiting during peak/ non-peak hours and rainy/ non-rainy season.I'm going to try finding this data on some online sources.

Do you know any sources where such data could be found? What other reasons can you suggest?

For now, I'm just going to start to work a little early so I can reach on time! :)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

10 Commandments to Live By at Work

There are times when you get really bored of the routine. The time at work almost moves at a quasi-static pace, lunch breaks pass at the speed of light, and you wonder when you can head home and do something productive. You pledge that the next day will be better, and that you will not lose any more time than you've already wasted. But it simply doesn't happen - and before you realize it a month has passed. You hate saying that you procrastinated and that you are bored of the routine. However, that is exactly what you did.

A lot of us do not feel this suffocation, despite being affected by it. Even if we feel it, we do not like acting on it - which is worse. There are many indicators - loss in personal productivity, distracted mind, surfing social networking sites too often than required, multi-tasking when not required, fading interest, switching over to doing something trivial, etc. Statistics here and here suggest that there is a tremendous loss in productivity - not just by boredom, but by not acting on it timely.

You might have gone through this phase yourself or might know someone who is going through one. So what to do when you get trapped in this "routine boredom" and are not able to do anything about on it? I was going through a similar phase recently, when I took notice and decided to do something about it. Although I'm not a habitual procrastinator, I did get trapped in it this time. 

The first step was to admit that I was going through this phase. This is a really good time to sit back and do some ground level thinking about what is going wrong. About a year and half ago, I had made some "rules to live by" OR "Commandments" for working better. They had worked wonders for me. They had helped me stay focused and deliver really high quality output. These one and half years were one of the my best times in my professional life.

As I got busier in work, I realise now that I had stopped referring them and stopped living by them - which caused me to fret and worry more. So I decided to re-define them in the new context of things. Unlike last time, I am sharing these newly defined "10 Commandments" below.

Some ground rules for working better -
1. Focus on getting things done within a deadline. Don't drift.
2. Make a to-do list and just start doing it - one at a time.
3. Stick to the task at hand until it is done, unless something really critical comes up.
4. Review the day's work and find out what you could have done better.
5. Interact with whoever is required, without bias and get your work done.
6. When you are feeling down, quickly get back up and move ahead.
7. Don't let a bad mood/ harsh comment spoil your work. Bounce back. Quickly.
8. Read new articles only for 45 mins, spread through the day.
9. Check Personal Email only twice in a day (at 1pm and at 6pm).
10. Check Social Networks like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin only once a day (at 1pm).

I will be following these closely and will keep sharing results of which ones worked more, and how they are helping me in my day to day work.

Although I am not a time management expert, I found these practices are quite helpful and you know what? They work! I encourage you to make such a list and try it yourself.

How do you cope up with a loss of productivity? How do you deal with procrastination? Which tips would you like to add, edit or delete from the above 10 Commandments?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Listen To That Wee Warrior Inside You

What is your purpose? What are you here for?

Anytime you feel lost, feel that you're losing the traction, feel you're not heading anywhere, feel that you're not doing something right - the wee little voice inside you will ask these questions. Every time. Without fail. Time and again. To help you get back on track.

Hear that wee little voice inside you. Hear it when it squirms. Believe in it.

It keeps making you uncomfortable. Uncomfortable with stagnancy. Uncomfortable when you do what you don't like doing. Uncomfortable when you're not trying hard enough. Uncomfortable when you're dishonest. Uncomfortable when you lie.

Try however hard to avoid it - it will keep pestering you. That's what it is there for. That is your true voice. It keeps channeling you in the right direction. It is your inner compass. It keeps telling your true purpose.

Train yourself to listen to it and follow it. Nurture it. Don't ignore it. It won't ignore you. It will keep coming back. The brain will tell you ignore it. Ignore the brain.

That's the warrior fighting on your side. Constantly. Relentlessly. To help you succeed. To help you become better. To help you get over your evils. Listen to it. Be on its side.

Listen to that wee warrior. Listen to your voice. Listen to yourself.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

What 2 Volunteers from HelpAge India Taught Me

I was relaxing at home yesterday morning, watching some episodes of The Big Bang Theory. It was about 11am or so when the door bell rang. Two youngsters of about 25 years age were standing there with a broad grin on their faces.

It wasn't a typical grin you expect from a door-to-door Salesman. It was something more pleasant, more serene, more genuine. I was curious. I welcomed them in anyway.

HelpAge India
Image credit:
They told me that they were from Help Age India, and if I had heard of it. I told them, “Of course, it is a popular NGO.” They were pleased.

They began explaining how they too were working professionals during the weekdays and transformed into HelpAge volunteers full-time on weekends. It was something they wanted to do to contribute to our society. They explained the plight of so many old people who are left on the streets unattended and were in poor health. They explained how we offer fresh food to even our pets at home, but how these grannies and grandpas are unable to even feed themselves and have to eat left-over and unhygienic food on the street.

They went on to explain how these grannies and grandpas, turn blind due to their inability to get timely cataract treatment. They said, the word was “Timely”. If such needy people can get timely help, they can maintain descent health.

This is where HelpAge India comes into the picture. They had schemes for providing free and timely treatment. Not only this, they also gave them employments subsequently so their self-esteem grows and they don't have to resort to the streets again. HelpAge was interested in solving their problems once and for all. They were collecting funds for full the treatment of these old people.

While sharing their experiences about such fund-collection drives, they shared some very heartless responses  of people. I can’t even imagine people responding, “How many more days do they have to live? Why to invest money there” How outright unemotional and inhuman. I felt anger surge within me against those who were so cruel.

Like many others, I too happily handed over a cheque they could encash later. It was the least I could do. They studied a list of more people they had to visit for HelpAge India and bid me adieu.

I was convinced about the noble cause these two youngsters were contributing to. 2-3 things stood out for me:
  1.  There is no dearth of people who question, discuss, argue at great length about how much they want to help, but when the time comes, they simply turn away from an opportunity.
  2. It was the first time I met Help Age India volunteers. Although I had read quite a bit about how HelpAge India functioned, it was my first time that someone personally explained me its impact so comprehensively. I was happy that such volunteers were actually doing their bit. That was what stood out. They were doing it, not just speaking about it.
  3.  They taught me that you don’t need to be a Bill Gates or Narayana Murthy or Anna Hazare to bring about a change. You can contribute to change yourself, in your own capacity, in your own way.
It struck me later that what really distinguishes a leader from the rest is that they actually do it. They don’t just preach. They do it. That is why people look upto them. They have the experience of actually implementing something they believe in. Laggards are only concerned, they don’t influence. They stay within their circle of concern without ever growing their circle of influence.

Let me explain this in a little greater detail. These are 2 very important concepts explained in the best seller ‘The 7Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Steven Covey. Simply stating, a Circle of Concern is something that you’re only concerned about, you're worried about. A Circle of Influence is about things you can influence, you can act on. This is one of most profound concepts I've learnt.

Let’s take a closer look. We come across many people who crib, complain and whine about the state of society (or India or business) is and how it is going from bad to worse. They are really ‘concerned’ about the state of affairs. They scream from their guts about how bad the roads are, how corrupt the politicians are, how bad administration is, how bad their bosses are, how flawed the HR policy is, etc. The list can be endless. And by now, you must have also guessed the names of people in your acquaintance who do this. These are the people who stay in their Circle of Concern and don’t do anything to influence it/ change it.

There is the other breed of people who probably don’t say much, but just get things done. These also exist in your work place, in your locality, in your institution, in your group. These are the people others go to for a solution, or when they have to get things done. They believe in doing things, rather than just sitting on it and endlessly arguing. They like to act on it. Period. These are the people who expand their Circle of Influence and shorten their Circle of Concern.

Whenever they see a problem, they ask “How can I change this myself?” “What role can I play, however tiny, that will change things for the better?” Then they go ahead and just do it.

A person always has a choice between these two. He can either sit on it, or act on it. He can either choose to grow his circle of influence and in effect, reduce the circle of concern. This choice defines a person in his social, personal and professional sphere of life. These are the choices that even make or break a person.

Become a better person. Make the right choice. Don't sit on it. Act Now.

What steps are you taking today to expand your circle of influence? How can you reduce the circle of concern? What is that one thing you always wanted to do, but did not do it yet? Well, go ahead and do it now. Do share your experiences below. Thanks.