Saturday, 29 December 2012

Much Ado About Something

So what does the series of rape cases in India prove? That women are not safe in this country? That men are animals waiting to pounce on the next victim? That the government is doing nothing for the security of women, or even men perhaps? That the police turn a blind eye on people breaking laws?

Who is responsible for this? Isn't it convenient to simply point fingers at others and feel good about it? So the government is responsible, right?

Before we walk down the streets with candles in hand to protest against any and every incident, let us wake up from our lack of education. I am not talking about the formal education that we get, that doesn't seem to do much to make human beings into humane beings. It is the education that makes us analyse situations and find the best solutions. A few protests could be fuel to larger mass movements, but will it work in the modern world?

Modern society has a lot more on its plate than ever before. The responsibility of anything good and bad is shared equally by all in the society. Yes, there would be criminals, because we do not live in an ideal society of good people. But don’t we turn away from many situations ourselves, which give the criminals more courage to commit bigger crimes. They just get away because the well-behaved civilized people of society are busy managing their day-to-day lives! Of course we have the police to nab them, but do we also understand that we do not have enough police folks to manage the law and order?

So, what is the root cause, or perhaps causes? Have you ever bought anything and not asked for a bill? Have you ever bought stuff from the streets (where there is no bill anyway)? Have you submitted fake “rent bills” to save tax?

These are just a few questions to help us get an insight on the root cause. When we do something to save our money by doing something illegal and also support illegal activities (including purchasing stuff without a bill as that helps the shop owner to avoid paying tax to the government), we are ensuring that the government does not have enough money, thereby, the salaries of a lot of people who are supposed to put their lives on stake to save us are not high. So if we are individualistic in our mindset and don’t think about the development of the country, why do we expect “others” to do so? Well, they are the same, just like all of us!

A debate on the root causes of the problems faced by the society and our country is essential if we REALLY want to solve the problems as a COUNTRY, and not as MEN, WOMEN, some POLITICAL PARTY, or COMMUNITY.

The crimes being committed against women is just one part of the problem, it is not THE problem. If we are short-sighted we will hold protest marches against this aspect and help POLITICAL PARTIES to gain mileage, and of course, the MEDIA gets a lot of business!

If we want change, we need to start a different movement altogether, a movement that demands a thorough Root Cause Analysis, followed by Solutions. The whole country can brainstorm and suggest solutions. I believe we have enough intelligent people to take up the role of facilitators. Many solutions may demand sacrifices from us as individuals, but I think we can do our bit for the sake of our Country, right?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

And when I looked into her eyes...

Heaven is where she must have come from. It wasn't easy for me. The moment her eyes met mine we fell in love.

If you travel to the mountains you will see that amazing waterfall, that plateau that takes your breath away, that sky which calls you to fly to it, the breeze that welcomes you to a place so beautiful that you do not want to leave that place ever. She was the mountain, the plateau, the sky and the breeze.

She looked at me again. One glance. And there I was, yearning for more. "Once more dear, just once more!"

It was as if the entire world was teasing me along with her. She brushed her hand over her soft, silky hair. The wind contrived and made her hair fly a little, enough to reveal the beautiful earrings she was wearing.

"God, I can't move!"

I was staring at her. She wouldn't look at me anymore. Just a hint of mischief was evident in her smile. She knew I was watching her, she knew I was falling in love. And she enjoyed the moment.

"Please be with me, forever," is what I wanted to say. She turned toward me for a second, smiled, and looked away again. My heart skipped a beat. "She likes me, she heard what I said in my heart," I was hoping just like any other man. Hope kept me alive, made me think of more.

She was smiling. She stood up, looked at me one more time, gave me a smile. "See you soon," she said.

She spoke to me! I was speechless. I couldn't ask when we would meet again. "Lady Luck,' I said quietly, "please come back soon. I will miss you!"

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Howrah-Haldia Local

It was the year 2003. My first trip to Haldia. The assignment that took me there was facilitating soft skills classes for an engineering college. I believe many of my students of Haldia Institute Of Technology would be remembering those days while reading this. Nostalgia?

After the year 2006 I did not go back to Haldia. I had changed jobs and had to spend my time in Kolkata, and then in England.

The roots somehow do not leave you. The early part of my career was built in that college in Haldia, and this year I was called again. Although the assignment was for a corporate, I was excited to travel to a place I liked for reasons that need not be explained.

The journey is by the Howrah-Haldia Local passenger train. This journey that I would be making once every month for the next few months is one I look forward to. It reminds me of the old days and brings me back to the ground. God has been grateful to remind me that no matter how successful you become you need to keep your feet on the ground. I could probably put it in another way - no matter how much time you spend in the airplane you have to land once in a while.

I get to watch the hawkers in the train selling almost everything under the sun! From safety pins to books, from snacks to coffee, from fruits to digestive pills. The "jhal muri" and the "aloo-mochar chop" is a must for me in this journey, I never miss it.

There is so much to learn as well. Sales is one topic that I get different insights on everytime I travel. The other is inspiration. You look at all the people and you see how they are living their lives everyday. The struggle, the pain, the success and the happiness, they live! There are people who also teach me to appreciate life, and then people who I see not complaining in spite of not living a life of luxury. I feel privileged.

So what do I do with all these learnings? I apply. I get inspired. I tell people to live life, no matter what. I motivate people to follow their hearts.

If you are not convinced, just hop on, the Howrah-Haldia Local is waiting...

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Money Can Buy Happiness! – Part 4: Analysed Through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

If I consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, human beings have needs that evolve over time. However, considering the modern material world, we will notice that all those needs in some way or other is connected to the requirement of money.

Let us first consider the first level: Physiological. The basic needs to survive in this world would be air, food and water, followed by some other needs like sleep, sex, excretion, and such others. While air is available for every person (polluted or otherwise), food and water require money. If we do not get the food and water, the other physiological needs would have no meaning for us.

Moving up to the next level called Safety: we will find that health, home and other resources can only be obtained through money. Employment is a need at this level, and that is not only to work and be satisfied that we are working, it is for earning money. A practical observation shows that a person having money can afford better education, and thus opportunity for better employment, and therefore, such people earn more money. More the money, better the prospects. Only a few exceptional people move up the ladder with grit and determination, and then they earn more money. What happens next is that their children can afford better education with that money. In fact, health of the family means better hygiene, affordability of medical facilities and doctors. Home means money again, no money no home! The physical state of “comfort” achieves the mental state of “happiness.” (Thanks to my friend, Amit Ojha, for making me think about these two words).

Love and belonging is the next level. Friendship, family and sexual intimacy are the constituents of this level. Friendship is not created by money. But money helps in keeping pace with how we meet our friends and spend time with them. Let us be practical in our thought process and consider a situation. Your friends go to Barista to hang out and chat, you are the only person who cannot afford to. How would it feel if you are unable to pay for your coffee every time? The need for social interaction cannot be ignored. We need friends and company, and needs and aspirations grow as we fulfill each level as drawn out by Maslow. To have a family you need to get married. The world will tell you that only “love” is not enough to run a family, money is essential to provide for the necessities. In India money is one of the criteria to even get married! The richer you are, more the options you get as well!

The other two levels of Esteem and Self Actualization can only be achieved after the levels I have already discussed. So we cannot even reach these levels if not for money!

There is one catch to the aspect of money. It is related to the way a person earns the money. The ways to the means says a lot about character. Character builds the personality and image of a person. The ideals are created by the character. How a person earns money is something that is noticed and either appreciated or criticized by society.

Money is not bad, and yes, I will stick to the opinion that money can buy happiness. How we earn the money defines what kind of person we are. Some steal, some rob, some earn an honest wage. People like me want to earn honestly, but with strategy, effort and hard work. To reiterate what I had written in the first part of this series (Money Can Buy Happiness! ), it is effort which gets us the money, and then money helps us buy happiness!

What is your take on this?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Money Can Buy Happiness – Part 3: Who cares for Gandhi and Einstein today?

Do we live in the present or in the past? Ideals, thoughts, ideas evolve with progress. However, some people don't change. They are still stuck with the old school thought process. Imagine someone following the ideals of Gandhi or Einstein today without any modification based on today's world!

To check my understanding of the importance of the people who made a difference to the world, I requested my business partner, Manish Bengani, to help me.

Manish and I were waiting for our train at New Jalpaiguri railway station when we were discussing this. He took a piece of paper and a pen and walked away to interview people. His results shocked him. When asked whether they know Albert Einstein, and what he is famous for, only one out of 11 people knew the correct answer!

In another experience, courtesy Manish again and a friend of his, he found that two kids (poor and in not so good clothes, but studying in a school run by some NGO) heard about Mahatma Gandhi. But what they said was again a reflection of the thought process today, "Gandhi ek budda tha, mar gaya!" ("Gandhi was an old man, he is dead now!")

I don't think the kids meant any disrespect, they were not aware, or knew little. Manish's friend did a good thing in educating those kids about Gandhi, but it was an eye opener for us!

So what is the truth? Getting stuck with old thoughts don't allow us to move ahead. Lectures on ideals and who did what a hundred years ago don't work anymore. We need to wake up and look at things with a new light. Even Gandhi brought change, and so did Einstein. If they would have been stuck with already existing ideas and situations we wouldn't even have heard about them!

Money and happiness are correlated. The old school folks are not ready to accept it.

I remember when I was younger and my family did not have enough money. My parents ate once a day and ensured that I could get all three meals everyday. Penury isn't a happy feeling. All the optimism and belief in God and ideals of philosophical teachers did not help in killing hunger. Ask a hungry man about the importance of food. Food has to be bought, and it requires money, even if very little.

When I grew up and started earning, I could feel the difference at home. The "smiles per hour" increased. I could buy a pair of jeans at last after wearing the only pair I had for 5 years. I could pay the essential services bills on time and that meant less tension for everyone. My father felt happier as he had less pressure to earn, and my mother could pay of all the debt she had accumulated buying food on credit. I was happy to see that my sister could now get a good education.

Ideals don't feed people. Hope generated by positive thinking has to be translated into action, which in turn generates money. You can then get food and clothing. You can go to the college you want to and travel to places.

Do you think money can buy happiness?

Friday, 5 October 2012

Money Can Buy Happiness – Part 2: The How?

Yuvraj Singh returned to International Cricket after recovering from a very serious illness called cancer. Everyone is talking about it, about his guts and determination, about his “never say die” attitude. True, very true. Nothing can take away what he has faced in his life and how he has been a fighter in the difficult situation that he faced.

I want to think of a different perspective about the same situation. Let us think of Ramu, the daily labourer. He is not well, goes to the doctor, does a few tests and is diagnosed with cancer. I have my doubts, thinking realistically, that Ramu can go to the USA to get the treatment for cancer.

Of course, I argued with myself on this. Ramu could be helped by an NGO, or some rich person. He may get the treatment done in his own country, even if the facilities may not be the best. Where the facilities are available it may be very expensive to get that treatment.

Then I thought of the reality. That rich man cannot sponsor everyone. What does Ramu do? Who helps him? How many people like Ramu are there in our country? How many receive the funds to get the best treatment for cancer and get cured? I couldn't argue further. The truth is the truth. We cannot change it through emotional dialogues. Ask the person who lost her family member because she could not afford the medical treatment.

Money is an interesting commodity. People have different views on money. Some say money causes sorrow, some say it brings happiness. Is it a catch 22 situation?

Some people sacrifice so much in their lives to earn money. Love, relationships and personal life may be sacrificed. Then that person has a lot of money and doesn't have a “life”. However, he enjoys many moments where money gets him what he wants. He buys the car he wanted to buy for years, and he feels proud to own it. He feels happy to sit in that car, roll up the windows, switch on the air conditioner, put on the music he loves and goes for a long drive. Happiness can come from anything; it is your mind which defines from where and how.

The idealist will say that happiness is a state of mind. You don’t need money for it. I would perhaps say to the idealist, “money buys a product for me which creates that state of mind, and lack of money creates a different state of mind, that of sorrow, and therefore money gives me both emotions depending on the situation.”

Talking to my best friend also gives me happiness. Drinking a cup of tea gives me happiness as well. These experiences also create that state of mind. However, when I meet my friend I wear some clothes and shoes, I may meet him in a cafeteria or at my home. I need money to buy those clothes; I need money to buy the coffee or tea. To be able to buy these also gives me happiness. The state of mind is created.

Let us get back to Ramu. He needs treatment. Money can get him the treatment. He can get well. He will be happy, his family will be happy. If he is not cured, if he goes through pain and dies, sorrow takes over; it is a different state of mind. Doesn't money then buy happiness?

I would like to ask a question to everyone who thinks money does not buy happiness. “Why do you work for money? Why do you want more money? Would you survive without money?”

Think of a practical and logical answer. Money cannot buy life, but it can help make your life better. Better the life gets, the happier we are. Money can get the resources to save a life as well!

Does money influence our state of mind (and, therefore, happiness)?

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Money Can Buy Happiness!

"I bought a new smartphone. I was happy, very happy. My first smartphone. With Android installed I could explore the various applications which would make my life better. Wow! My Blackberry looked old to me now, it was one year old, this new Sony Xperia looked much better. Awesome!"

"The old computer table was not working for me anymore. I needed a new one. I had to match the colour with the other furniture in the room. So I bought the one which fit my criteria. It was wonderful!"

Can money buy happiness? Of course it can! It is buying happiness for people everyday. Money is not bad, it is good. Having money means more possibilities, more options. I can go to more places, buy more stuff, go to expensive restaurants and look at the menu and not the price, I can upgrade from Big Bazar to Shoppers Stop, and what not! That car I want to buy, that home that I was looking forward to.

It is a material world, and people are becoming restless and competitive and short sighted by the day. It is about now, live now, today will not return, do it now, buy it now, enjoy it now, live the moment. No matter how much we talk about becoming spiritual and enjoy the precious moments with our loved ones, it takes money to satisfy our needs. We cannot just sit in our living room and chat with family. We want to go to a restaurant. Or install an air conditioner in the living room. Maybe order some pizza to make the chatting time fun. That is quality time!

I never thought money could be so important. But then, let us face reality. It is that important. Corruption proves it so well. It is not only about the politicians, it is about the businessman who creates black money, the common man who pays a bribe, there is money buying so much everyday.

However, here is an alternative thought process about money. Where does the money come from? Does it grow on trees or fall from the sky? Well, we earn it, don't we? We earn it through hard work, effort, strategy and what not! Every month when an employee gets the salary, he/she feels happy. Because that salary has now created possibilities of getting things which are needed or desired. So if "Effort" gets us "Money" which in turn buys "Happiness", does it mean that "Effort" buys us "Happiness".

Well, I will leave it to you to decide. Now go buy some more Happiness!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Professionalism Unlimited!

In the context of human relationships I have tried to understand how Professionalism fits in and what it could mean. There is a really thin line between being Professional and appearing to be like a stone-hearted zombie.

I first used the word zombie in the professional world when I saw people sitting in their cubicles and staring at the computer monitor without interacting with people around them. They hardly spoke to each other, sometimes not even knowing each other. So I thought, "Are these zombies?"

Interestingly I found there are millions of such zombies everywhere. We are dying a slow death in the hands of technology and the so called "Professionalism." When people become too professional, they forget about relationships. And when they forget relationships they lose their interpersonal skills.

This does not sound very good, however, it is the truth, if you try to notice it. The rigours of work make us forget who we are, who the people around us are, and what we live life for. Well, most of the times, we do not even know why we live this life in the first place!

So here is an example of a "Professional Person" - I will call him PP. Now PP loves to be called a professional. His dad is a senior professional in a multi-national corporate. He also wants to be a great success, like his dad and everyone else. He calls himself a professional.

PP keeps talking about how he does not like his present job as it does not give him enough opportunity, money, and all those other things that we have all heard about. During work hours in his office premises he speaks to an external consultant about his thoughts of leaving his job and sends him his Resume. "Could you edit it for me?" he requests.

PP comes to office at 10.30am and leaves at 6.30pm sharp. "A professional would always maintain discipline, work can wait for tomorrow, I am only paid for 8 hours," he says to himself. During work hours he prefers spending long hours at lunch, and a few more in looking up facebook and twitter and some more social networking through personal phone calls from the office telephone.

"I am proud to represent my company," he tells people attending a conference.

"My dad is trying an inside source to get me a job in his multi-national corporate," he tells his friend.

PP speaks to his former Professor, who is now consulting his company, like a client who means business and uses harsh voice intonation and words which say, "I mean business, so what if you were my Professor?" He thinks that is what a professional should do, right?

Is this professionalism? Or is it the making of a devil in the corporate world?!

I have always advocated the importance of good behaviour and relationships. I have had my share of bad behaviour and difficult relationships, that is what made me realize the importance of relationships further. Professionalism is not about being stern and out of reach. It is about good behaviour, about doing what is right and ethical. If ethics remains only a subject for the management books and courses, we would end up with more zombies, devils and Enrons and Recessions.

It is time we look inside ourselves and discover the human. Being Human is not only about wearing T-Shirts, it is what is inside all of us, still waiting to come out. So bring it out and you will discover new meanings of life, about yourself, and definitely about Professionalism!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Wempowerment, Empowerment & You

In a society which is patriarchal in nature, it is a difficult proposition for a woman to make her mark and do what she wants to do. Yes, women in the metropolitan cities have progressed a lot, and to a certain extent in other cities and towns. However, there is still a lot to improve.

I hear many such incidents of women being strategically forced to get married even if they want to build a career in a particular field. Discrimination is seen in situations of promotions and increments. Go to the villages and the discrimination becomes more prominent. We are well aware about this.

This is where a question keeps hitting my mind. Is reservation of seats for women the right approach, or is there a better way? Personally I feel reservation hints at weakness and inability to compete by themselves. However, I do not believe that women are so. Women are mentally strong, and have the capability of handling difficult situations. With better skills and knowledge, women can perform at par with men. There are many such examples that have already been set. But reservation may not be the best answer.

For the last 6 years, I have been working on "Wempowerment" - a term I have coined for Empowerment of Women. In my own little way of contributing towards this, I have been training women on various aspects of will, skill and knowledge. Empowerment is way better than a lazy solution like Reservation. I call it lazy because it does not really help women to progress. On the other hand, empowering women requires planning, effort and investment, which I feel the government is not ready to do, whatever be the excuses.

We can all make a difference if we chip in, even by trying to empower one person. By the way, I am not discriminating against any gender here, and so would like to clarify that my efforts are also equally strong in empowering men, society in general. Equality must be maintained if we want to build a balanced and empowered society.

I am no Anna Hazare to begin an "Anti-Corruption" movement across the country. But I feel all of us have it in us to start our own small movements of Empowerment. So, just do it!