It’s a Good World After All

I have young children, but of course I love them. Of course they have changed my world. Just like most parents, I worry about their future. Just like many, I worry about the way things are going from bad to worst. Often I think about how everything was so much easier during my growing years. The world was so much better back then…

Yet today a post made me ponder.
It was an open letter from a loving young father to his newborn daughter.
This post made me rethink – maybe the world is not that bad really. In fact maybe it is a much better place today. Yes, maybe it’s a good world after all!

Yes of course competition has increased but so has opportunity. Today there are many more jobs and beyond that, there is a variety of jobs to choose from. In fact a hobby, a passion can be cultivated to bring in not only bread and butter but much more. The society I grew up in, to be an Engineer or Doctor was the goal. Today Sky is the limit for those dreamers who dare soar.

As a woman, I see my life is so much different than my mother’s and I know my daughter’s will be much more richer than mine. She will definitely have many more choices and will face lesser hurdles. There would be more doors she could knock on and the mountains would be easier to climb as others have already kept their footprints for her to follow. I hope she makes her mark, leaves her own footprints without hesitation – It will be her choice.

Yes, definitely Technology has brought us so much closer now. Just a couple of decades ago a mother’s heart would skip a beat by the thought of her child venturing overseas. Yes even today a mother’s heart does skip a beat, but the worry is much less. She knows her young one is just a phone call away; a quick video chat is all it takes. Yes today we are definitely more connected. In fact in many cases, technology has helped not only stay connect but help us reconnect.

Today, we are no longer defined by our History, no longer held back by our Geography.

I believe appreciation and awareness has definitely increased. I see more appreciation for numerous arts and crafts, besides that of age-old practices like Yoga. We are not only more appreciative about the divinity of arts and crafts, but also more aware on issues ranging from obesity, proper nourishment to cleanliness and even natural resources. Advances in technology, more educated people have helped bring this change.

Of course we are just learning to value our resources. Maybe it’s the need of the hour. But definitely things are improving towards the better today. A couple of months back, I was at a friend’s for lunch. There were some left-overs – her daughter made it a point to wrap everything in recycled bags and boxes. This was something our generation never thought about but this generation is learning and learning fast!

And we are also learning to be a little less selfish. I see middle class or even the so-called lower class making more contributions towards helping others as and when. Either hearts have become bigger or pockets have. Either ways, this is definitely a change for the better.

Ofcourse there are the obvious changes which have made the world so much better today. Lifespans have definitely increased. Machines and tools have made manual work so much less. And there are many more.
Yes, surely need to revisit this post again and again – am sure this list is endless!

The post that made me ponder was by a young father – Mark Zuckenberg ; co- father of facebook. His post was more focused on how he and his wife would be contributing to make this world a better place for his little girl and the new generation. His post also made me reflect on how I could contribute, how we could make this world a better place for our little ones. I know I am not a Warren Buffet but I hope to make a little difference. How, am not sure , but I sure wish to be able to contribute in my own way…

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
-Winston Churchill

Just another day…in the Life of a New Yorker

Just another day…in the Life of a New Yorker

 Just back from the gym. Normally after the hour spent there, the few minutes on the treadmill and cycle and of course the rest gossiping with my pal leave me quite refreshed. Totally at peace!

 But today, I feel so restless. Today I am agitated and disturbed.

 Her words somehow keep ringing in my ears

“How can you be so calm about all this? It’s not a joke you know.”

 ***********

 It was just another day in my life, just another Monday. Grumbling I got ready, after sharing some breakfast with hubby, I had dashed to work. The time was 9:07, my train reached New York as always and I hurried to my office. Everything seemed just the same, everybody was in a rush as always. The pedestrians cursing, the cars honking, the traffic jams and even the police sirens in the distant. Of course today they did seem a little louder. I just hurried on, ignoring the fire engines zooming by. Yeah, it was just another day.

 At around 10:00am we got a network broadcast to vacate the building for half an hour, it was regarding some gas leak. Groaning and grumbling we gathered outside.

 “Thank god, at least it’s not snowing today.” Somebody mumbled.

 “Hey, do you know the leak seems to have affected the entire mid-town? Just got a call from my husband. He works a couple of blocks uptown.” It was my colleague.

 “Yeah, heard that they vacated Macy’s and the big Verizon building too.” Said the manager from the company next-door.

 “Hey, they should let us go home. This is so irritating. And chilly too.”

 Soon the grumbles and groans turned into jokes and small talk. Soon much of the crowd dispersed as somebody mentioned that it was going to be more than the stipulated half-hour.

 My colleagues and I decided to stroll in the direction of central park. In the distance we could hear the fire engines. A couple of police cars passed us. We just walked on, as usual. Over a cup of coffee at Starbucks, we joked and gossiped.

 My cell phone buzzed. It was my sister, calling from India.

“Sis, you alright? There’s something on the news about gas leak in New York and New Jersey. Are you and Jiju ok?”

 “Hey, doing absolutely great! It’s not a big deal. Just took a lovely stroll, that too on a Monday morning. How lucky is that?” I joked.

 We ended the call and the phone buzzed again. This time it was my aai.

 “No problem aai. It’s all blown up.” I reassured her.

 By now everybody’s phones had started buzzing.

 “Ya?” I heard my colleaque from Europe speaking to his family.

 “Wow, this seems to be international news. What a riot!” My American colleague joked.

“I wonder how my mother hasn’t called yet.”

 We walked back to the office. I checked my voicemail. It was my husband. I left him a message as he was in a meeting and I hurried for my conference. It was back to the daily grind. Nothing new, just the same. Time flew by.

 Later I read on CNN and rediff about the mysterious odour and about how it was probably some leak or something. I had almost forgotten about the entire episode. It was just another day, as always.

 ************

 But somehow my friend’s words at the gym make me ponder. I pause. I remember how I had felt when I had heard about the Mumbai blasts. I still remember my frantic calls. Those frenzied moments and the relief I had felt hearing my sister and brother-in-law’s voices.

 “Don’t worry sis. It’s not that bad. Our area is unaffected” Her words are still echoing.

 I still remember the relief and the sigh. Thank god for technology. Thank god for cell phones and instant messengers. Thank god my parents and relatives were able to sleep at peace tonight. But isn’t it just this technology which is the culprit? If it wasn’t for this technology, could 9/11 or 7/11 have occurred? Terrorists, blasts, leaks are all part of our everyday vocabulary today. An explosion here and there, just an everyday occurrence. It’s just another day in our life.

 Today, was also just another day. It was just another day in my life. But right now, as I hear Carole King croon ‘You are so far away’, tears roll down my face….tears roll down as I hear…and I can’t stop them…..

 You are so far away
Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore
It would be so fine to see your face at my door
Doesn’t help to know that you’re just time away…

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire

Is honesty always the best policy? But Of course!
Should one always speak the truth? But Of course!
Do you always speak the truth? But of course!
Straightforward questions, apparent answers….but of course!

But is it really so straightforward? Is it really so apparent?

Hold on…ponder upon this for a moment. Have you always been honest, been totally truthful? Have you never told a lie? How about lying about being sick to take a day off work? Or if you are the noble sort you must have lied to protect someone’s feelings. How about, when your wife asked you, “Am I looking fat, in this dress?”  What was your reply? And ladies when someone asked you about your age? Have you always been honest?

Straightforward questions? Apparent answers? Not so straightforward anymore is it? Not so apparent, is it? Please answer me honestly!

The other day, I was watching Everybody Loves Raymond, the Sitcom. And Raymond remarked to his brother “Honesty! It’s just hype!”

What? Is it really just hype? No way! Well…maybe at times…hmm probably it is. Oh I am so confused! I lied rather tried to appease my colleague hardly a few minutes back. She asked me how her presentation was. Rather to put it in her words, she asked me “The presentation was not all that bad right; I stayed up almost the whole night working on it.” How on earth was I to reply to that truthfully? Should I have told her it was terrible, that I almost fallen asleep? Would it have helped her in any way after the fact?

For me the answers to the questions are not that apparent. It is definitely not that straight forward.

And how about exaggeration? Which category does this fall in? When you tell me that the party I threw last night was earth shattering, aren’t you lying? If you tell me this, will you lose creditability? Is it such a big deal? Isn’t making me feel good a big deal too?

Thank god, it’s not just me. This question whether it is okay to lie even has the great philosophers disagreeing. Aristotle and St. Augustine said never. Plato said sometimes, for the common good or to ease the fear of the sick or dying.

Maybe there are times when it doesn’t seem like a good idea to tell the truth, so you say nothing. Emily Dickinson said, ‘ Saying nothing…sometimes says the most ’. So isn’t the resultant of saying nothing lying too?

Straightforward questions, with apparent answers? Doesn’t seem so, does it?

I read somewhere that lying is a form of defense mechanism, learnt at a pretty early age. To begin with, we lie about silly things. “My dog ate the homework”, “Of course, I ate the spinach ma!” That’s where it all starts. And where do we learn this? Of course from the adults! Have you never been told off for saying things like, “Ma said she hopes you don’t stay long!” or “Pa said you talk too much!” Sure, kids do say the darnest thing at times…yeah, they speak the truth!!!!

Let me clarify one thing! I am definitely a believer of the eighth commandment, this commandment tells us always to be honest and truthful; it forbids us to say anything that damage the good reputation of others. The latter portion I believe in totally but the first part? I am so confused. It isn’t so straightforward, so apparent to me.

The line between a white lie and the lie is so thin! And at times the line is not quite so apparent! And not everybody’s definition of white lie is the same. Of course one shouldn’t lie about one’s grades or failures to one’s parents; or for the matter of fact one’s partner that sure is apparent! But some things just aren’t.

Next time you hear the phrase, “Liar, Liar, pants on fire! Wash em’ out in bubble gum and put them in the dryer!” Will you not pause and think for a moment? Next time you hear the phrase ‘Honesty is the Best Policy’ will you not pause and think for a moment. Or is it all apparent; is it all pretty straightforward to you?

All Work and no Play

I just heard that my neighbor had a heart attack this morning. He is just thirty nine, having two gorgeous children and a loving wife.

 “We work almost twelve hours everyday, sometimes even weekends!” I remember him boasting just a few days back. Is this really a fact to be proud of? Is this what we should be doing? Well, is this what society in general is striving for? All work and no play?

 A quote from the American poet Carl Sandburg,” Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” Why are we letting our bosses spend it, rather than spending in on our family and friends?

 The other day I was visiting my childhood friend. “He is earning in lakhs,” my friend had stated .She was talking about her husband. “Today at the age of thirty we have our own 3BHK apartment, a live-in servant, a luxurious car! What else do we need?”

 “Time to enjoy this luxury,” quipped her grandmother. “Sure Sameer is earning lakhs today, but is he enjoying all this extravagance even for a minute? He is chained to that computer. He comes home almost at midnight. Often he takes conference calls even after that. Do you even remember when he last played with the kids?”

 Outsourcing has definitely helped us. But has it really? Where do we stop? We are working late nights at odd hours, using odd accents, trying to match the working hours of our affluent client countries.

 “Yesterday, I went home at seven thirty and even my watchman was shocked. Saab, did you have half day, he asked?” reported Shahid chuckling. But is this really a joke?

 Family life is in ruins. Personal life almost non-existent! Divorce is on the rise, as is suicide. Backaches, BP problems even heart-attacks are syndromes which even thirty-year olds suffer today. Hypertension, depression, the list is endless. Shouldn’t we wake up before it is too late?

 Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca Cola Enterprises stated, “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends, and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.” Shouldn’t we all strive for this balance instead of entering the rat race? Aren’t we focusing on the wrong ball?

 Frankly all work and no play appear to be a wide-reaching phenomenon. Currently, I am on a project in the U.S. Before coming here, I was under the impression that people out here take life much easier. But not quite! Sixty-hour weeks, juggling two jobs is common. Two weeks vacation, a novelty! Of course you do get the dollars!

 The other day, I was having lunch with my boss Mark, an American and a colleague Frieda, from Germany. “Hey Mark, I just read in Time magazine that the average lunch time in U.S. has decreased by five minutes to thirty-one minutes. Also this year, an average American will leave four days on the table, even out of the meager two-week vacation! What’s your take in this?” asked Frieda.

 “Of course we don’t take such long vacations and don’t believe in working such fewer hours like you guys!” he retorted. “That is why we are the world’s most accomplished nation!”

 Is it true? Broken homes, single parents, wild teenagers, is this how success is defined? Another colleague, Maggie who is thriving professionally, is a single parent. “My daughter was all grown up right from the age of three, she’s been looking after herself from that age!” she declared, when a junior worker complained that she couldn’t put in extra hours, as she had to take care of her young kids. Is this what we want too? Kids all grown up at age three?

 According to a study by the Family and Work Institute in US, 78% of families (in 2002) are comprised of dual-income earners.  Only 33% of fathers are the sole wage earners today, versus 51% in 1977. Dual income, working mothers and corresponding problems is an entirely different topic. But not only are both the adults in the family working, they are both putting in many more hours. We have been moving away from large families to nuclear families. Dual income has become a necessity. Obesity, depression, hypertension; are all epidemics in the states. So are teenage pregnancies and childhood trauma. Do we really want to follow in their footsteps?

 I heard from Frieda my German colleague, in Europe on average they have six to eight weeks of vacation. Three years of maternity leave (unpaid) is common, so is a couple of months of paternity leave. Isn’t this a better route? We would benefit both personally and socially. This is not a political discussion; this is not at all about Europe or America. But it is about the number of hours we are working as against relaxing with our family and friends. The other day, I read a book ‘The Seven-Day Weekend’. It is by Ricardo Semler about his highly profitable Latin American company Semco. His non conventional approach about work is quite appealing and motivating. Longer hours do not necessarily increase productivity. They have quite the opposite effect.

 As Bill Gates said “Having kids has been a fantastic thing for me. It’s meant that I’m a little more balanced. In my twenties I worked massively, hardly took vacation at all. Now, I, with the help of my wife, I’m always making sure I’ve got a good balance of how I spend my time.” Isn’t it time we did the same too?
The news about my neighbor has made me pause for a moment from my humdrum. I think it is time to review the situation, isn’t it?

 —————————————————————————————————————————-

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=706982#PaperDownload

http://familiesandwork.org/3w/testimony.html

http://www.woopidoo.com/business_quotes/family-quotes.htm

http://quotations.about.com/cs/inspirationquotes/a/Family1.htm

 

Random Reflection: A Few Good Words

“And when I said thank you to not only to the dhobi but also the bhaji-walla, the vegetable guy, they were taken aback, just stared back. And you can imagine my sister’s reaction too.” Giggled my neighbor, Smita.
Smita and I were chatting about her trip. She was sharing her experiences; those precious treasured moments on her trip back home to Pune.

Laugh and giggle we did. But somehow her words keep coming back to me.
“Good morning”
“Hi”
“Hello”
“How do you do?”
Greetings from perfect strangers! Greetings exchanged almost every morning, now a part of life, a way of life…

My first day in US, I was stunned when someone I’d never ever laid my eyes on, greeted me with a warm smile and a big hello at the elevator door. I sure was surprised, concerned even…
And as the days became months and months years…am getting quite used to it.

Sorry,Please, Thank you,Hello, Good morning, Excuse me, How do you do?……These words and many more I learned at School and from my parents. Basic manners probably, but somehow  these words just not on the tip of my tongue. Maybe as a child I used them much more frequently, but as a grown-up maybe a sorry or thank you once in a while. Our languages encode etiquette; we even have different pronouns for each person according to gender, age and so on. But some simple words, these few words are somehow just not used as frequently

There were certainly some things I was amazed to find when I came to the US. My image of the US was totally different in some respects; politeness, courtesy included. Opening doors, pulling chairs, making way for handicapped; definitely some things I’d just read in books only, never thought I’d encounter them here, regularly. Yes these are very much a part of everyday life for many.

Agreed we live in a world of cut-throat competition, large populace. When one is somehow squeezing into the bus, there is no time or energy for words like ‘excuse me’ or ‘sorry’. But believe me, these words do matter, do count. And they come cheap too; however they are priceless.

I remember years back; when I lost my job, upset I was taking a walk in the park, in Redwood City. All kinds of thoughts, all kinds of emotions were swirling inside me. I was sitting on a bench worried. An old lady, a foreigner to me, passing by stopped for a minute.
‘Are you okay?’ She asked. I merely nodded.
‘Have a good day, child. Take care.’ She bid me as she went her way. Superficial perhaps; a few words, just a few good words perhaps; but they were a balm to my soul that day.

And right now as I alight from the bus after wishing the bus-driver, ‘thank you for the ride’, I can’t help but think about my old rickshaw-walla. Our rickshaw-walla , Kadam Kaka drove my sister and me to school for years. And I don’t remember even one time wishing him thank you explicitly or bidding him good day. The thoughts and feelings were always there, infact he was like family…but today I can’t help but think about the missing words…

And there are three important words I almost missed too…

‘I love you’, these three words are perhaps the most abused, the most misused by youngsters today. But when a little girl hugs her granny and says these words, when a young woman says these words to her distant Sweetheart and when an ailing parent says these words to his grown-up son…they are so soothing…surely they are invaluable …

Just these few good words…