Friday, May 11, 2018

भत तेरी की

माँ मेरी,

पता चला कि माओं के लिए एक अलग सा दिन होने लगा है. Mothers’ Day. हंसी आई सुनकर कि जहाँ पूरा जीवन समर्पित करना भी कम पड़ जाए, वहां एक दिन के समर्पण से कैसे काम चला लेती है सभ्यता? खैर, जब मानवता की माँ, यानी धरती के लिए भी Earth Day होने लगा है, वहां इंसान क्या चीज़ है! अगर वसुंधरा को चेतना में सामने के लिए एक दिन का कार्यक्रम पर्याप्त है, तब माँ-बाप-भाई-बहन-पति-पत्नी-दोस्त-प्यार-इत्यादि...सबके दिवस मनाये जा सकते हैं.

हमको पता है कि तुम भत तेरी की  करके विषयांतर करोगी. इस मामले में पापा से विचार विमर्श  कर पाना कितना intellectually stimulating है. वो इसके पीछे के socio-economic परिवेश को समझ बूझकर कितना अच्छा विश्लेषण करते हैं. बचपन में पापा dinner table पर philosophical discussion यूँ ही कर बैठते थे और मेरा मुँह खुला का खुला रह जाता था. रौंगटे खड़े हो जाते थे. विचारों की वह स्पष्टता. अध्ययन की वह गहराई. अभिव्यक्ति का वह ज़ोर. आँखों से टपकता जूनून. आवाज़ में गरजता विश्वास. पापा तो हीरो ठहरे. हम कैसे मन्त्र मुग्ध हो जाते थे. आज भी हो जाते हैं.

लेकिन तुम्हारी बात अलग थी. Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, फलाना डे, ढिमकाना डे. तुम सब डे को न मनाती न ठुकराती. इन days को नकार कर मैं और पापा इन्हें संज्ञान में लेते. तुम अपनी भत तेरी की हंसी में भूलकर इन्हें तवज्जो देने भर की भी ज़रुरत नहीं समझती. तुम्हारे असीम सागर जैसे अस्तित्व में ये सभी डे अपना आकार ही खो बैठते. कोई तुम्हें शुभकामनाएं देता तो तुम हँसते हँसते ले लेती, नहीं देता तो भी हंसती ही रहती, और occasion कभी याद नहीं रखती. मूलतः तुमको इसके होने या न होने से घंटा फर्क पड़ता. मैं सोचती हूँ, इससे भी प्रबल प्रौढ़ता का परिचय हो सकता है क्या?

अमुक डे या आम डे, तुम्हारा रवैया हर दिन एक सा रहता:
·         किसी भी काम को फटाफट निष्कर्ष तक लाना.
·         कोई क्या बोलेगा, सोचेगा जैसी निरर्थक बातों पर समय न बर्बाद करना.
·         बे-अदबी का जवाब मुँह तोड़कर देना.
·         किसी को कलपते देख सहानुभूति का सागर, दया की देवी हो जाना,
·         किसी गैर के दुःख में रो पड़ना, खुशी में बच्चों सी ताली बजाकर जश्न मनाना.
·         जब तक न हंसने की वजह न हो, हँसते रहना.
·         सीधी और सच्ची बात करना. सीधी और सच्ची बात पूछना .
·         किसी भी शिशु को, परिवार, पड़ोसी या गैर का, गले से लगा लेना.
·         अपनी गलतियों और बेवकूफियों पर ठहाके मार कर हंसना.
·         मौका मिलते ही किसी की भी टांग-खिंचाई कर लेना.
·         आही रे हमार बाछी कहके हमको पुचकारना.

तुम्हारे लिए एक अमुक डे पर मुबारकबाद देना तुम्हारे भव्य व्यक्तित्व के नितांत विपरीत लगता है.

इस जीवन का हर डे, अगर तुमसे छाया मात्र भी सहानुभूति और सुख सीख ले, तब हर दिन माओं सी प्यारी, माओं सी संवेदनशील, और माओं सी नरम हो जाए.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Back to campus as a recruiter: A study in humility

Dear IIMC students who participated in the Jindal Stainless internship selection test on April 5,

A day spent with you gave me much to remember, learn, and respect. It transported me back to my days at Indian Institute of Mass Communication, 13 years ago. I’d look at fellow students with awe, a tad too conscious of being present among geniuses. That was exactly how you made me feel among you. I was once again marveling at the selection procedure of IIMC, that brings home such an incredible talent pool. Once again, I was back in love with the college.

I have to admit that the intervening period had somewhat doused my faith in IIMC. I had met and interviewed a few IIMCians who did not make the cut. That was, personally speaking, disappointing. Considering how much of myself the college had helped me find, I expected better from its alumni. Forgive me for my ‘intellectual laziness’ (a termed refreshed by one of you that day), I was beginning to generalize that the good old days of rigour and devotion were gone.

Thank you for proving me wrong. My faith in young talent, and in IIMC, stands restored.

You were brilliant. Some of your compositions were so good that I was tempted to declare that the examinee is better than the examiner. The fluidity of expression, the thoroughness of thought, the depth of emotion, the construction of logic, the attention to details, the teasing openings, the thundering closings – you guys nailed it clean.
The journey of short-listing less than 10 students from a group of 140 bled my heart. In the end, I felt vain to be sitting in judgement. And yet, it had to be done.

I’m not sure if as a 21-year old, I could have written, or spoken, the way you did. I’m not sure if I can do that even today! As you took the stage, group by group, I was witness to a show-reel of talent. Some of you had steel in your voice. Some seemed prepared for national TV already. Some combined the playfulness of youth with the gravitas of seasoned professionals. Some of you possessed a vocabulary used by scholars to pen thesis papers. I have no qualms admitting how star-struck I was. I swelled with pride to think that I graduated from this college.

Today I want you to know, that that day, you were my teachers. You revealed to me, that the interviewer learns as much as the interviewed. And here’s what you taught me:
  1. Don’t lose hope because processes aren’t always hundred percent flawless: 4 panelists together shortlisted 5 candidates from a group of 140 candidates. Doesn’t this say enough about the possibility of missing half a mark here and there?
  2. Brilliance and fitment are two different things: You could be the most intelligent person in the campus, and still not make the cut. Your employer could be looking for something other than intelligence. Maybe expression. Maybe emotional depth. Maybe empathy. Maybe people-skills. Reflection is useful. Self-doubt is useless.
  3. Humility forms the base of learning: I remember an adage that says, ‘The day you think you know it all, you might as well be dead and gone.’ Being sure is very good. But being very sure…maybe not. In words of Shabana Aazmi, ‘Aapki mitti geeli honi chaahiye.’
  4. Each method of interview has its own value: I realized that the elementary grammar test was as important as the original composition test. And that a presentation could not substitute a face-to-face interview. In fact, each one of these was so important, that they influenced not only the next, but even the previous scores! There’s always room for course correction, for future and for past.
  5. Last but not the least, circumstances play a role: While the drill was on, I was waiting to get confirmation on the final number of interns. Imagine if that number was different. Chance has the last laugh.

Next time I am being interviewed, I will remember all this. I hope you, too, will. Thank you for giving me that day; it will remain indelible in my memory.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A farewell poem

Always polite, always firm, and yet, almost always open to correction, this boss of mine held aloft several principles I stand by. He deserves an ovation for how he dealt with difference of opinion. He is grace personified.
Amitabh Akhauri, our Boss, stands in the centre
There comes the boss
With the loud, roaring voice
His height may seem threatening,
But he’s full of little joys.
He’s got a special way
Of clearing through the clutter
Decisions, tough or easy,
He takes them without a flutter.
Strong where he must be
Else smiling all throughout
He’s humble, reflective, and kind
He’s sure, he’s tough, he’s proud.
He’s certainly a dear person
A Gentleman to the core
He infects happiness around him
His going does leave us sore…
His going does leave us sore…

Monday, January 22, 2018

मोह मोह के धागे

जाने कैसे घूम फिर कर हर बात, हर रात, तुम्हीं पर आ कर टिक जाती है.

तुम्हारे छोटे चड्डे के उधड़ते हुए धागों पर.
तुम्हारे बौराए हुए घुंघराले बालों पर.
तुम्हारी कविता जैसी आँखों-पलकों पर.
तुम्हारे चंचल भाव-भंगिमा पर.
तुम्हारे माँ जैसे स्वभाव पर .
तुम्हारी कल-कल बहती हंसी पर.
तुम्हारी इतराती-बलखाती अदाओं पर.
तुम्हारे सुकूनदेह स्पर्श पर.
तुम्हारे गालों के भंवर पर.

अनुभूति कुछ भी हो, दिनचर्या जैसी भी बीते. अहसास जैसा भी हो, माध्यम जो भी रहे. अभिव्यक्ति कुछ भी हो. निष्कर्ष तुम्हीं तक लाता है.

जब हर दिशा, दशा, मंज़र, रस्ता, गली, चौराहा एक ही मंज़िल दर्शाये - तो जान लेना चाहिए के वो भीतर तक घर कर चुका है. कि हम उसके उतने हो चुके हैं कि उसके बिना अपना पूर्ण परिचय देना कठिन पाते हैं. अपना पूर्ण होना भी. पूर्ण जीना भी.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Women Gossipers

They are everywhere. Slavering with stories and theories on women. They are found among both sexes. Gossiping about women is their chief pastime. Like herds, their thoughts on the subject are all the same.

That women envy each other. That women can never be true friends with other women. That women are poor drivers. That women nag. That women are family breakers. That parenting is a woman’s responsibility. That women are born to be homemakers. That career women are social threats. Etcetera.   

“You know what, when we men become friends, we barely care about each other’s wealth or assets. We simply chill out. But when women are together, all they notice is the jewelry and clothes of other women.” I’ve heard self-appointed social commentators explain. Let’s ask them – do you remember the cars and official positions of your male friends? Yes, you do. Because you take interest in cars and designations. People remember what interests them. Social conditioning is a significant determinant of interests. You and your sister saw your father driving car and chasing career. You and your sister saw your mother engrossed in daily management of household and fashion and cosmetics. Your sister is as good or bad as driver, as you are as cook and nanny.

It’s no rocket science to infer why men and women behave like they do. The human mind makes impressions right from its days in the crib. In absence of absolute examples, people grow on to consider their parents’ values as ideal values. Author of the book The Road Less Travelled, M Scott Peck puts it in a simple and brilliant way: Our first (and, sadly, often our only) notion of God’s nature is a simple extrapolation of our parents’ natures, a simple blending of the characters of our mothers and fathers or their substitutes. If we have loving, forgiving parents, we are like to believe in a loving and forgiving God.  If our parents were harsh and punitive, we are likely to mature with a concept of a harsh and punitive monster-God. And if they failed to care for us, we will like envision the universe as similarly uncaring.

Upbringing is hard to overcome. You are a living example of this fact.

It’s quite comical to see you talking about women envying each other. You get burnt to your last bone marrow if a fellow male colleague gets promoted ahead of you. You go hungry for the blood of brothers over family property and money. Your ilk leaves no stone unturned in impeding growth of your so-called brethren. 

The point is this. Envy, greed, lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath, pride are sins of humankind in general. They are not appropriated by any gender. Mind is not a sex organ.

If you haven’t seen women who are honestly good friends, I can understand that. Going by the quality of your thoughts, it’s not surprising to know the quality of women who surround you. I nevertheless hope that you get to witness true friendships among women. You have no idea how empowering, enlightening, and enriching friendship among women can be. If you had real friends among men, you would understand.

You take special joy in highlighting the detrimental role of working women in upsetting family balance. “The financial independence of women has caused imbalance in the society,” goes your narrative. Decoded, it means that women are no longer ready to bear with injustice because they can fend for themselves. Decent people call it liberation. Your kind feels threatened. Let me voice out your unsaid concerns: Damn, if my wife starts earning she will (a) not take shit from me or my parents, which is a huge problem (b) she will become street-smart and difficult to manipulate and (c) she will expect my equal participation in all the annoying house-work, potty-cleaning and homework-doing stuff. Arrgh.

You often point to biology to build your logic. You say women are natural parents because nature has endowed them to get pregnant and lactate. Meaning thereby that pleasure organs come with a responsibility. About time to look your biology with the same logic, no?  

I know there is very little hope in you, but I still bank upon it, so that your sons and daughters turn out different from you. And the world becomes a better place to live in. 

At this point, I bow to parents who spare their children such an abject image of women. They are the men who are too confident to feel insecure with power. They are the women who are intelligent enough to see through the farce, and courageous enough to call the shots. Thank you, Ma-Papa. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Life lessons from Airtel Delhi Half Marathon

I ran my first ever half marathon on November 19, 2017. Had it not been for the inspiration of my colleagues, I wouldn’t have known the joy of it. I thank them deeply for infecting me with the spirit.
To put it simply, a long distance running experience so unique and challenging, that it’s worth undertaking. That indicates why thousands of us have taken to running long distances. If this isn’t convincing, let me take you through the lessons. Learned in a hard way. And we know from experience, the harder we learn, the longer it stays.

1.       Humility is gold. We might be the best of our clan and society, but out there, one is a speck in the universe. There are so many people better than us. They could be younger, older, fatter, shorter, taller whatever. Let’s accept it – they are better than us.

2.       Limits are imaginary. Before I donned the Fitbit, I used to run comfortably. I could run hours without tiring, and I thought my stamina was good. Bullshit. I ran hours because my hours didn’t pack much. Fitbit revealed to me, much to my shock, that I ran at my peak heart rate only for 30% of my entire running time. I determined to improve, and I did. I took up the count to 90% during my practice runs. On the marathon day, I clinched a neat 100%.

3.       Teams achieve more than individuals. I was a comfort runner, or so I told myself. I would intersperse my runs with very slow jogs to restore my breath. On that day, running with hundreds of people of different ages and backgrounds, I realized that I could not slow down. Not even when my knees were knocking and my feet burning. It’s only then that I understood why humans accomplish the most daunting tasks in groups. Pilgrimages and treks are group activities. That’s why organizations achieve better than individuals. It’s the power of collective spirit. Humans are meant to inspire and be inspired.

4.       We become who we follow. Parents in childhood and Pinterest in adulthood instruct us to keep company of people who are driven and motivated. Marathons demonstrate why. Let’s observe ourselves. When we’re driving, we follow vehicles that are swift; that can cut through traffic like hot knife through butter. When we are in office, we migrate to leaders who perform best. Among friends, we find solace in those who can find solutions even in a haze of confusion. In life as in marathon, good followers go on to become good leaders.

5.       What you can’t measure you can’t achieve. Running is a joy, agreed, but one needs to measure its indices to improve the sport. Before practicing for the event, I never cared to measure my own performance. And when I did, I achieved what I previously thought impossible. Fixing goals beyond our perceived capacity is the trick to outperformance.

6.       Keep reserve force for the end. Any long drawn and difficult project requires persistence and truckloads of willpower. However, with some tact, the goal becomes easier to achieve. Marathon is a classic example of how one must strategize the run. Pace is important, but not at the cost of burn-out. In the end, what comes of use is the penny saved for the rainy day.

7.       Excellence is a habit. I was in the 5th km of my run when I saw the first runner on the opposite side heading towards the finishing line. They were the professionals. Unlike me, they followed the right diet, the right exercise schedule and the right running routines throughout the year, and not just for two months. They glided like human machines on the swanky bituminous roads of Delhi, inspiring awe within onlookers. They did the right thing all the time.

8.       Dance along the way. I do not know if 2 hrs 21 mins was a good finishing time for a first timer like me. What I know for sure is that I wouldn’t have achieved this without music on the way. Organizers of the marathon must have known that bhangra can be a legible drug for runners. There was live music and drums at every few kilometers throughout the run. However spent and fatigued my body was, I was infused with a strange freshness in my limbs when the beats of drums came floating through. For that duration, I doubled my speed without effort.

9.       Encouragement comes back in double measures. Barring a few groups, most running participants were strangers to each other. But that did not stop them, or me, from egging on fellow runners to not give up. This warm human goodwill unfolded all by itself. There was a raising spirit for every flagging spirit. And it came back to help the helper without a single miss.

10.   Choose your game. Marathon was a great experience, undoubtedly worth doing again. However, that might not be our best game. Dedication and practice will improve us, but we may still never reach the top. However, if that same dedication and practice was to be exercised on the sport we are born to live, the journey to the top will both be enjoyable and rewarding. That game, to say it Japanese way, will be the IKIGAI. 

I’m sure the more experienced fellow runners have other points to add here. This list and its author will feel enriched to know their views.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

All for one, one for all

The image of the three of you.

Standing barefoot on Candolim beach; clouds gathering over the horizon. The sky a stormy shade of grey. The breeze in your hair. The ecstasy in your hearts. The silent bonds of love all around and within. The sea swelling and roaring in its full glory.

The image of the three of you.

Sprawled on one of the beds of B-204. Shoving and pushing and making and giving way. In order to accommodate four adults in a space meant for two.

The image of the three of you.

Poring over a sheet of paper. Blank as a bare wall. Motifs and messages shaping up in all eyes, waiting to be drawn. Glitters, water colors, paint brushes, round chips of mirrors, ribbon, balloons, bustings reading HAPPY BIRTHDAY – all Itsy Bitsy branded – strewn over the place. Like a riot of colours. And then, the perfect idea strikes. Thoughts start taking shape on paper. In cards that will become most cherished possessions of life. Achingly beautiful patterns. Soulful messages.

The image of the three of you.

Sitting around the dining table. Laughing hysterically over yet another banal matter. Comments and wise-cracks adding pitch and length to the laughter. Like camphor to fire. The droning fan, the puffed red heart over the kitchen wall, the teddy-family on the TV table, the small hearts in the living room, and the wood of the very table itself: all standing witness to days & months & years of pure bakar. Of friendships that start off without a purpose, and turn into, a purpose itself.

The image of the three of you.

Under the forceful jet of Munnar waterfall; gasping for breath. Holding on to each other like children to mothers. Of dancing away to glory in cool Bangalore nights. Of sharing food and all things good, each person faking being-too-sated, to let another have more. Of gentle touches and soft kisses packed with most potent medicinal properties. Of antaakshri in sleeper buses. Of meditation. Of chores. Of feigned annoyance. Of endless teasing. Of innumerable memories, moments & conversations – all enshrined within the deepest recesses of the heart. Locked safe. Keys thrown away to the winds.

Of Baby – my Queen. Her child like honesty. Her unveiled swagger. Her ability to conclude with a finality even pope wouldn’t dare question. Her staggering intelligence. Her sheer honesty. Her apolitical viewpoint. Her bargaining style of ‘don’t-say-no-to-someone-as-cute-as-me’ suddenly transform into ‘do-the-hell-as-I-say.’ Her cunning at cards. Her forceful charity. Her confident lies and even more confident confessions. Basically, her confidence. Her undisguised affection (or the lack of it). Her eloquent eyes. Her sexy goddess body. Her being born to rule. Her call of ‘Sonal didiiiiiiiiiii’…pure music to my ears.

Of Telugu Auntie – my gorgeous. Her heightened olfactory powers. Her accented English. Her calibrated Hindi. Her lady-like grace in public. Her child-like insanity in private. Her waterfall like layered laughter. Her winking as she does that. Her deep sense of purpose. The weight of her personality.  Her irresistible tresses. Her dreams and her power. Her unquestioned professionalism. Her self-enamored throws at the mirror. Her simple heart, coupled with a logical mind, making her vulnerable and terrific at the same time. Her poise and self-esteem. Her being vehemently strong.

Of Nani-dadi. My sanskari babe. Her need to organize. Her selfless giving. Her absorbing attitude. Her endless ability to assimilate. Her relapses into tradition. Her being ‘traditional with a modern outlook’. Her hung-up habits. Her powerless protests. Her unfathomable contradictions. Her boundless energy. Her frugal living. Her maniacal sense of responsibility. Her talent for small talk. Her monumental simplicity. Her enormous world-view.  Her prompt helpfulness. Her self-effacing humor. Her lateral, naughty mind.

The image of the three of you. Of each one of you. These million montages…they’ve segued into  the fabric of my life. I have invested myself in you, without knowing, or trying to. Standing transformed beyond imagination. From a self-sufficient person, to one in need of counsel and care. From being happily-fiercely alone, to being from you. From seeing myself from my eyes, to seeing myself as you would want to. From being completely independent, to luxuriating in the joy of surrender.

The image of the three of you pulls together parts vital to me, hitherto scattered, forgotten, or ignored; and makes me whole again.