Friday, October 15, 2010

Are you a vegetarian?

This is a question I have been asked most of the time recently. Vegetarianism is catching up these days. A lot of people promote veggie food for various reasons. You would have read articles on carbon foot prints, cholesterol control and weight reduction programs; most of these promote vegetarian food. You may not mind these articles as there is some amount of truth in it. Whether we – the non-vegetarian species of mankind – like it or not, non-veg food has a bad impact on the cholesterol levels though certain types of proteins and HDL can come only from them.

I read somewhere that those who get up early in the morning develop a pride that they are able to get up earlier than other people and they are a bit of arrogant about it. Those who get up early due to their nature are not arrogant and only those who train themselves are. This was a survey result published by one of the reputed universities of the US. If they conduct a similar survey about our vegetarian friends, they would probably come to the same conclusion with a slight variation – almost all of them are same. There is a ray of boasting about the food habit. They fail to understand that it is only a habit and not a virtue. Many of them claim that they do not kill an animal for their taste buds. Yes, they do not kill an animal; but they kill a plant / seed / fruit for their taste buds and there is nothing wrong in it. It is how nature has designed the eco system – one species – be it an animal / plant, it has to depend on other species for food. Though plants produce their own food, they consume the animal bodies buried under them as fertilizer.

When you eat spinach, you have killed a plant; when you eat tomato, you kill more lives as seeds than you would kill when you eat an egg; it is more cruel to eat certain varieties of greens as you would have only plucked the leaves and not killed the plant as such. It is comparable to just cutting a limb of an animal and eating. It is just that you do not hear them screaming. But unfortunately the veggie groups do not understand this and claim that they are more kind than their non-veg counterparts.

Of course non-veg food will affect your blood pressure level and cholesterol level; veg food with a lot of oil/ghee/butter/pannier would do the same thing to you. The spices added to the non-veg dishes affect the mental stability, emotions and your ability to meditate. It is the quality of the spices; it does not matter whether you eat vegetable biriyani or mutton biriyani – it has the same effect on your emotions. So be watchful of what you eat.

Once, someone asked Jesus Christ about food habits. He replied politely that what comes out of the mouth is more important than what goes in to it; and he asked his disciples to be careful about their words more than their food. Who would know about love and kindness more than him!!! He was ready to sacrifice his life for his brotheren!!!

Kannappa nayanar worshipped Shiva with all kinds of raw flush and liquor; but was ready to spare his eyes for curing Shiva’s eyes. Who would know about love and kindness more than him!!!

So friends, before you comment on any one’s food habits, please think for a minute… being kind is different from your food habits…Food habits are only habits and not virtues!!! You are not any greater just because you eat only plants and not animals!!! It is not a sin to eat animals!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lessons Learnt 5 - Never speak of someone who is not present

Gossip makes any brain a dustbin – no matter how great the brain is!!! There are several ways gossip can catch up on – thru news paper, magazines, TV channels, get-togethers (both official and personal), thru phone, chat etc… Whoever you are talking about, it is incorrect and inappropriate to talk about… be it a celebrity or a colleague or a friend or a relative – it is BAD to talk about a person who is not present. Whether the person gets to know what you had said or not, it is bad to talk about another person. When I say gossip is bad almost all of us will agree to it. However, there are several nicer names coined for gossip which makes you feel it is an essential part of life and without it you can’t survive in the personal and professional space of life.
When you are talking about someone to another person, if you are stating all good things about the person, the listener might think that you are promoting or the behavior of the former Or, thinks that you are trying to please him by praising the former who is very close to the listener; either way, the listener feels manipulated.

If you are stating all bad things about someone then also listener feels uncomfortable thinking whom all have you talked about the listener in the same way or you are trying to suppress the victim or the behavior of victim; listener either fears you or thinks that you are trying to control the way he behaves.

Ultimately you are losing the confidence of listener most of the time. Of course there are times people listen to you and come to you when they need the ‘special’ information. They seem to trust you whole heartedly. But that is only outward; they do not trust you deep within. They see you as a manipulator of truth or feelings.

When the victim comes to know about your conversations, he too feels uncomfortable. When he knows that you have talked good about him, the initial reaction is good. However, after a few conversations like this will create doubt in his mind about your motives. If he knows that you have talked bad about him, it is a straight ‘Lose’ situation. It is a ‘Lose / Lose’ situation always.

Of course there are times when you have to give your feedback about someone who is not present in the meeting and it is part of your job to do so. Even when doing it as part of your job, give as much as facts and data rather than giving perceptive / qualitative inputs. Provide good and bad aspects of the person relevant to the point of discussion. If you have seen only one side of the person, state that too. Before you share any information, think if the information is correct, if it is for you to share the information as part of your job description, if it will add value to the receiver & you in long run without damaging the image of any one.

Gossips are like scratching a healing wound. It feels nice when you scratch; but actually you are delaying the healing process by scratching it and you do not even know that your action is a hindrance. It is better to be away from such activities to get long term benefits.

Sometimes gossips are useful to us. Knowing inside information would be helpful in deciding your next course of action. It is easy to get carried away considering the short term benefits. As long as you discuss about the just the subject and not about a person it is acceptable. However it is very difficult to focus on the matter while keeping away from discussing about a person.

It is the hardest lesson to practice I have felt. I am improving slowly; I see the benefits showing up. It is about being trustworthy. What is life, if no one can trust you!!!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lessons learnt 4: Give your best to whatever you do.

This probably is the most important lesson I have ever learnt. I am successful in exercising to an extent, though not 100%. It does not mean that I deliver things 100% perfect. It just means that I give my 100% best to the things I take up; it could be equivalent to 10% of what Ratan Tata or someone at his level would have delivered. But certainly I could not have done better than that at that point, with the resources and knowledge I have. At the same time, if I have to carry out the same activity next time, I try to do better than the previous time.

These two attributes give me two distinct advantages:

1. I do not feel guilty later in life

2. I get satisfied with whatever I am doing, at the same time try to be better and better every day.

Those who receive the result of my work look at it differently at different times. One thing for sure, that they do not have to worry about the quality of the product most of the time. However, some bosses have felt that I am too concerned about the result. This does not mean that I do not enjoy journey as I am too focused on the destination. Of course I enjoy the journey too. It is just that the others have their own perception of what I do. I consider managing their perception only if it reflects the reality at least by 50% or if their perception would impact my quality of life in anyway. If not, I leave it as such. It is for them to handle.

I learnt this lesson almost accidentally. I go to temples every now and then. I feel relaxed and focused at the same time. I used to be jealous of the priests in the temple, thinking that they get to be in the temple all the time. One day, suddenly it struck me that for them it is a job and for me it is a place of worship; if they have to feel relaxed and focused, they have to do the pooja with utmost concentration and undivided attention; same rule applies to my job too; if I have to feel relaxed and focused, I need to do my work with utmost concentration and undivided attention so that results I produce give peace of mind to the users. From then on, I have tried to improve what I produce. I certainly have not improved 100% but I am sure that I am improving.

Only word of caution is that one should not get bogged down by expectation for perfection. If improving from previous time is motto it is easier to survive. It is better to disassociate yourself from the result so that you can focus on the task.

Though the concepts seem philosophical, they are actually practical. I have not written anything I was not able to practice. It just needs a bit of determination!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lessons Learnt - Do not give unsolicited advice

Many times I feel like giving advice; especially when I have handled a situation better than some one or when I think that I have handled better :-) I am sure you also have felt an urge to give advice.

May be your advice is very valid and will save the person from a disaster. However, the hard fact is if you give advice without a request for the same, you are the loser in any case. One of the following will happen.

1. Your advice is ignored and not respected - This probably is the least damaging option. You might feel hurt if you know that the person ignored it and wait for your chance to bounce at him with  "I told you" drama.

2. If the person follows your advice. They would want you to own up the result. If something good happens, then it becomes their intelligence that they followed this idea and if it turns out to be other way round, then you have spoilt their life / plan etc and they bounce at a you with "Only because of you" drama.

In any case they see you as a controller or an intruder. So even if some one seeks for advice, it is better to give a few options and ask them to take a decision and ensure that they understand that it is their decision and not yours.

You might be wondering why am I giving this advice while I recommend not to advise. You will reach this blog only on your personal will and you will read this article only if you want to read. This very fact means that I am not giving this advice for some one who does not seek for it :-)

I understand what is going in your mind!!! "Was she able to follow this always?" is the question running :-)
The honest answer is a BIG NO. Many times I have given unsolicited advice and got hurt. I have vowed to myself many times that I will not repeat the mistake :-) I am able to practice this with people outside my immediate family. I am still trying to implement this at home and not successful yet!!!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Humanity Check

Instead of continuing with the lessons learnt, I am writing this article as it affected me as a person.

I travelled in three tier AC in Podhigai Express (from Chenai to Tenaksi). I was allocated a lower berth. There were four men in the bay, all below 35 years old.  They had the other two lower berths and middle berths. Three elderly people also boarded the train; they must be above 80 for sure. They - all three of them- were allocated upper berths. It was so obvious that they can not climb up to the upper berths. I gave my lower berth to them without hesitating. After all I am healthy enough to climb up!!! But I was shocked when these well dressed, well read young men refused to give their middle berths to the elderly leave alone the lower berths. I was wondering if all of them had back pain or any such ailments that would stop them from climing up. No, that was not the case; they were all fit, they were discussing about their gym work outs and the treking experience in the train and were carrying pretty heavy luggages without the help of porters!!!

TTE also could not hlep. One old man climbed up the side upper (that is slightly lower than the other two - thank god) with great difficulty. I am sure he did not use restrooms neither did he drink water as he found it difficult to climb up and down. One of the old ladies slept in my lower berth (fortunately the side lower) , the other lady was sitting next to her the whole night. These men without shame or humanity slept peacefully.

I could not stomach what just happened. How can somebody do this? We live in a country that provided free food, water and shelter to travellers. What happened to that culture? Why don't we teach our children about helping others? Looks like 'Dove and ant' kind of stories learnt in LKG and UKG are for the exams only. All the experts say that children learn from the actions of their parents, teachers and friends more. Does this mean that there were so many bad parents and teachers after Indian independence?

Why is Railways not bothered about senior citizens? Especially when they ask for age and gender of a person while booking the tickets and provide senior citizen concession in the train ticket fare. Can we not change the seat allocation algorithms to reserve the lower berths only to the elderly people and women with infants (information on infants can be collected though they are not charged)? I'm sure it will not take a lot of effort to do this change in the code. I am ready to change the code, test the application free of cost for railways. I have written to them. I am not sure if any one will look in to the mail or not.

Will we ever learn to respect people?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lessons learn 2 - Be open and always speak the truth of your heart

This is easier said than done. Many times I feel / felt like telling a pleasant lie rather than telling the bitter truth. But whenever I broke this rule and told a lie or tried hiding my feelings / believes it came back haunting me. The effort and time I wasted to cover up was much larger than what I would have spent telling the truth. I also see other people who suffer a lot in an effort to cover up their lies

Here is a good example: I am a Hindu married to a christian. There was a lot of pressure from so many people that I get converted to Christianity. I knew at my heart that it would be the biggest lie if I get converted for the wedding's sake. I decided not to get married at all, after the six long beautiful years of courtship. It was a very hard decision. It hurt me, my parents, my boy friend (my husband now). But I told everybody that I can not tell a lie in the church that I am a christian when I am a Hindu by heart and believes. Finally, my in laws accepted for a 'non-religious' wedding. There were no rituals at all in the wedding. Today, I am free to go to a temple or a church without hesitating and without looking for permission from people. I celebrate Diwali and Christmas with the same enthusiasm.

But one of my friends (who is also a Hindu got married to a christian) is facing a lot of problems. She got converted as a christian for the wedding. She was not able to change mentally and wants to go to temples and celebrate Diwali. She can not do this with others' knowledge. She is either upset that she could not celebrate or she is guilty that she celebrated. Either way, she is unhappy. So strongly feel it is better to speak out your mind than hiding it.

There were times when I made excuses (of course they are NOT true - no excuse in this world is true as you know) and spent my time worried in getting caught. Another big problem with these excuses is, you have to remember the story for rest of your life    :-) and you have to be very careful about not telling any story (be it real or fake) that would contradict with the earlier story.

I can give lots and lots of example where I told a lie and then dropped / missed opportunities, lost trustworthiness. All of us know this truth. A lie may seem to have solved a problem but it actually would have added fuel to the problem; it is just that you do not know that you have added fuel. I bombs at a time you expect the least.

So how-much ever hard it may seem, speak the truth and face the consequence rather than telling a lie and living in fear & despair
Meet you with the next lesson shortly.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lessons Learnt

In IT industry, we used to share the lessons learnt from one project to the other projects. It is to ensure that the organization does not do the same mistake again. I'm sure in other industries too this concept is followed. I believe most of the spiritual preaching and moral stories are based on the same concept; someone's lessons learnt or lessons learnt compiled from a society.

So I thought, I would also record my lessons learnt. It might be useful to someone or to myself later in life.

1. Be happy no matter what happens to you in the course of life

This may sound philosophical. But it is not. If you really want to live your life and learn from your life, you should be happy no matter what happens. There were nasty betrayals from unexpected quarters; there were bankruptcies; there were close to death ill health experiences. But I decided to be happy with my life. There is no point in crying over anything that can’t be changed or something that has already happened. After all, life is too short to worry about these things.

It is not that I was not hurt at all. I was upset like any other human being. I cried; I felt guilty; I felt angry; I felt desperate; I felt hopeless; I felt dejected; I felt disgusted. But after a while after each fall, I shook myself and started running again. Because of the falls, there were set backs in life. One of the companies I worked for said I just missed the bus by a couple of weeks. But then, in life you do not have to depend on one bus…. you do not even have to depend on a bus 

‘Let Go’ is the key principle. For us to grow, we need to let go some things. Holding on grudges is poisonous. So it is better to release the anger and any other negative thoughts & feelings. This part was very hard for me especially after betrayals. Letting the hard feeling go and start trusting the person was the hardest. But if you do not want to break the relationship (in life there are several such relationships) then that is the only option. I believe the other person’s cooperation to build the trust is also equally important. This can not be a one way traffic.

Long time back poet ‘Vairamuthu’ had written a few lines about life… ‘Save your smiles; you may lose everything else in an earthquake’ is the gist of it (sorry I could not bring in the beauty of the poem in the translation). I hold these lines as the corner stone of my life. I guess I will be able to sustain this through out!!!!

2. Be open and always speak the truth.

3. Do not give unsolicited advice.

4. Give your best to whatever you do.

5. Never speak about someone who is not present

6. Do not think that you are perfect and do not expect perfection from others.

7. Do not be manipulated

8. If you want to keep something secret, keep it to yourself.

Shall elaborate the remaining in the upcoming articles.

Monday, March 15, 2010

For the Mother Not To Be (MNTB)

There are a plenty of online advice and books on parenting for the mothers to be. But there is very little help for the mothers not to be (MNTB). So I thought, I'll write some thing from my experience....

If you decide not to have a kid at all, it is easier to manage as you would know your reasons. In India this category is too small if not null. But if you are told that you would not have a kid at all, it actually is a big shock. Doctors will explain the technical reasons why it is so; but you would never be able to understand why it happened to you.

Facing something without knowing the reason is very cruel and difficult. Those who meet with accidents, fatal illness and who lose loved ones suddenly will understand this difficulty. However the subtle difference between this set of people and the nulliparous women is, not many people think that it is an illness; it is treated as incapability and the MNTBs face sarcasm. It is a lot easier to discuss about accident, illness (depending on the illness though) and death than discussing about not having a child. But many people will be interested in discussing this with you. You need to learn how to handle this - there are techniques from a simple 'shut up' to 'oh yeah you are right; let me think' to changing the topic gently.

In life not everybody gets everything. There is an unresolved X in every one's equation. This X could be any of the 16 categories of bliss including money, property, health etc. Lack of each category has its own set of difficulties. When some one does not have money and does not have the potential to earn, he or she is not despised as much as when some one does not have a child. This is very strange. If the poor person is not unhappy about being poor and does nothing to change the state he or she is praised that they are content :-) But if MNTB is not unhappy and diverts her energy into something else, she is arrogant and is not feminine :-D You need to learn to be happy irrespective the fact that you might be called arrogant!!!

For 'n' number of years after the marriage, people will keep asking if there is any special news ('n' depends on the patience!?!?! of the clan) and after that they start advising you to adopt a kid. If you decide not to adopt, that is it, you are not a woman at all :-) Only 'women' can understand the greatness of being a mother!!! As if they are the mothers of Gandhijis or Newtons or Tendulkars or Kalams and have brought up their kids in the best possible way!!! If you decide to adopt, think if you can love the kid whole heartedly. Any child will argue and fight with the parents (Did you not argue with your parents and did you not disobey them?) at some point in time. Be prepared to accept that. You should adopt for your own happiness otherwise, there is every possibility that you would ask yourself "how much I have done to this kid and he is not grateful to me".

Women (and men too, of course) who are not even respected by their own children will start advising you :-) You would want to take advice only from an expert!! Yeah you have your role models & mentors to guide you at office and you don't take advice from the Trail raters!!! Trail raters won't even have the guts to give you advice but these women will start their funda. You need to learn how to stop the gyan.

Having said this, I want you to understand that there are a lot of genuine people who might hurt you unintentionally. They want to be supportive or at least they are not bothered about the issue. They treat you like how they treat any other friend or relative. However, sometimes you tend to misunderstand their activities. Like how you forget to inform somethings to your friends, they may also forget to tell you. You might misunderstand that they ignore you. Be watchful of this kind of assumptions. Baseless assumptions are very dangerous be it in business or in personal life.

And there is another set of people who would start pumping in information on various doctors, alternate medicine, home remedies, poojas you need to do etc. This information could be so very tempting as they would tell you with a lot of success stories(you may not be able to verify them though) You need to learn to stop getting tempted. This is the most difficult part. If you want to try out something do it whole heartedly and be prepared for any result. These two requirements seem to be contradicting with each other. But they are not if you are careful about your thoughts. If you do not want to try out anything new, be firm and learn how to stop the inputs.

There are times when some one asks you how many kids you have or how are your kids. This could be a naive courtesy inquiry or could be a cruel attempt to make you unhappy. Learn to differentiate otherwise you could become a jerk and offend a genuine person. Learn to answer the question with a sweet smile irrespective of the motive behind the question. If they asked you out of cruelty, that is the best disappointment you can give. If they asked you without the intention to hurt you, ensure that they do not feel bad that they asked a question that hurt you. After all, we are talking about well intended, naive courtesy inquiries in any gathering you may attend. Be gentle on people.

All the above are external issues. Most important thing is to learn to handle your own emotions and your husband's feelings. You may have a range of feelings from anger to despair. You may feel angry at yourself, your husband, parents, doctors, supreme power, fate etc. Or you may feel guilty that you could have been careful earlier, or taken better medication, or taken a break from career etc. As per medical science, there is very little you could have done to avoid this. When you feel guilty or angry, you can not think clearly; you will not breathe normally and not eat properly. All these behaviors are harmful to you as a person. Take care of what you have rather than getting worried about what you do not have.

Accept the fact. There is no point in crying over something you can not change. It is easier said than done. But there is no other choice. Think why you wanted to have a baby in first place. Is it because you wanted to bring up a great person or because that is what every one does and that is what have heard of. Think if you want to bring up a kid for YOUR own happiness or you want to do it as the neighbours have kids and it is a status symbol.

If you are really fond of kids, then choose adoption. But please understand that adoption has its own complications. Of course kids are stress busters; they are sweet; it is fun to watch them speak, walk and dance. But they are also the stress creators - when they fall sick and you have an important deliverable at office. Think if you are serious enough to handle the stress for the fun of bringing them up. Every parent goes thru it. But here the difference is they are not your own kids. It makes hell a lot of difference. Meet with counsellors before you adopt. Talk to people who have adopted and successfully managed the entire project. See if you have the support systems in place. If YOU are convinced, then go ahead and adopt. If not, there are other ways in life :-) If you love gardens and do not have space, then you can always enjoy the beauty in the parks!!!

Be pleasant with your family - your husband, parents and in-laws. They are also as hurt as you are; it is just that they may not know how hard it is for you to talk about it. Discuss about your feelings with them and arrive at a protocol about the issue. Gently remind people if they violate the protocol. If it is beyond the threshold, be a little hard. They should also learn after all!!!

Get yourself occupied in interesting things. It need not be expensive hobbies; it can even be revenue generating work. Travel to different parts of the world. Connect with cheerful people. Enthusiasm is contagious. At times you would feel low, in spite of your best efforts to be happy. Go thru the upset feeling; do not pretend to be happy. Cry if you feel like. You will get over the hurt eventually. Time can heal any wound, however deep it is.... The only thing is, you should accept that you have a wound and you should genuinely want it to heal. Both pretending to be happy and self pity will kill you.

Take care of your health. Improve your fitness. Eat healthy food and exercise regularly. When you are in good health, most likely you will be happy. When you are not well, it is possible to get into foul mood & foul mood will make you more sick and you get into a vicious cycle.

Save for your old age. Invest intelligently so that there will be a steady income even after you retire. Plan carefully about your old age - your stay, your health, wealth and hobbies; more importantly, execute the plan!!!!

Wish you all the very best!!!