Friday, October 30, 2015

Do we really understand equality?

I am getting tired of a few terms like equality and vegetarianism. You may be wondering what equality has to do with vegetarianism!!

When people relate kindness and vegetarianism or cruelty and non-veg food, it annoys me. The immediate question that comes to my mind is why are you not considering plants as equal to animals? I get even more irritated when people who can pluck a flower for no reason, who can pinch a leaf on the way without even thinking about it, who can prune the plants for just making them look good, talk about "evil" non-vegetarian food!! It just shows that they do not understand that plants are also living beings and they are no less than animals including humans.

When non-vegetarians show faces about eating crows or dogs or insects etc. it tires me even more. If you can eat chicken, you can eat any bird; if you can eat a lamb you can eat any animal; if you can eat prawns, you can eat any insect! As long as they are not poisonous and you like the taste, that is! What is wrong with eating a crow? Is it the looks or easy availability or less meat that makes a crow so very dirty thing to be considered? Just because you are not used to eating something, can you say it is bad to eat! Anyone who responds that way looses their right to fight when vegetarians talk ill of non-vegetarians! They are equally rude and insensitive!

It is even more surprising for me, when people feel so bad for a deer being hunted by a lion. Sure, we want the deer to live longer! But are we okay if the lion dies out of hunger? I have never got a convincing answer from the "kindness" group. Whenever I think of the "pregnant deer" stories, I used to wonder why there is no "pregnant lion" story at all? Why are we kind to only a few animals?

In the recent past, a video with a little girl crying for animals made several rounds. Usually, watching a child cry will hurt you; but this one is sweet, it makes you smile, and feel happy that the little girl is crying for another life!! I hope her parents later explained to her about the eco system and also helped her retain the feeling for other lives in general - including plants, animals and humans!! 

All the species have the right to live in this planet and have equal opportunity to be consumed by another species! Till we understand this, the word equality does not mean anything to me!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Blame Game!!

This article is an after effect of my recent trip to colder countries and my reflection on what I read in a book written by a visitor to India a few years back! The writer mentioned that in India, it takes longer time to do simple day to day activities like bathing, cooking etc. I did not mind that statement given the kind of sophistication the kitchens and bathrooms in the western world have. However, during my recent trip, I realised that I took longer time to do the same things in the western countries in spite of the sophistication! It does not seem to be correlated with the technology!

In India I get ready - starting from brushing my teeth to being fully dressed (some times it is a saree too) - in about 20 minutes. But in these colder places, I took close to about an hour and I did not dare to wear a saree outdoors! This surprised me! When I observed more, I realised that every single activity took longer time and I had to do additional activities that I never do back in India!

"Moisturiser" is the first key differentiator! In Chennai I (most of us) do not need to apply moisturiser; but in colder places one definitely needs it! It takes more than 5 minutes to apply on every inch of the skin! I guess, those do it daily would have learnt techniques to do it in seconds! For someone like me, who does not use any cosmetics whatsoever, it is a big pain! bathing took twice as long a time to get rid of the sticky lotion hmm…..  Not only that, it made me take bath twice a day - I did not like the stickiness of the lotion on the skin; The next day I realised that I had to apply this sticky lotion even before sleeping! So, I bathed twice and applied the lotion twice! Time required to bathe quadrupled and apply moisturiser doubled!

The first couple of days were warm and sunny. So the extra time was limited to only bathroom! But then, the following days were colder and I had to wear winter clothing though the locals were saying it is still warm and nice :-) :-)! Locals also warned me to wear as many layers as I need to and not to compare my clothing with what others are wearing! To wear that many layers under the outfit, it took quite an amount of extra time! More annoyingly, some of my clothes did not fit me because of these extra layers! It was as if I gained weight and went out of shape just in a couple of days! Aha!

I walked slowly - slower than how I walk in Chennai - because of the additional heavy clothing over the outfits! I had two more layers - a fleece and a jacket most of the time! They weighed about 5 kilos together - more than 10% of my weight! As a person, I do not like to carry anything heavy! You can imagine the frustration!

My fingers went numb and dysfunctional! I was not able to open water bottles even; I was not able to carry my handbag without dropping it multiple times! I dropped my mobile and did not even realise that I have dropped it! Holding a tissue too had to be done with a lot of pressure; I almost crushed the tissues before wiping my face or lips! I appeared weak, clumsy and careless! Not only that, all these wasted time! Others had to open the bottles for me, pick up my bag or mobile when I dropped them ( sometimes, after I tried doing myself and wasted a good deal of time :-) :-)!!!)

Just an edge of a paper could cut my skin; you could imagine the tenderness it developed because of the weather!  Back in Chennai, I am used to soft cotton and silk clothes; I never wore synthetic clothes at all. but in North America, I had to wear synthetic and woolen thermal wear in spite of my extra tender skin. I could feel them bruise my skin! With all these, I had to smile and laugh! As a result of my tender skin, I did not want shake hands with anyone but the culture expected handshakes more often! Wow!

Now I am thinking of the writer's statement and the examples he quoted. Is it India / Indian culture that made him take longer time to do simple things or made him believe that Indians waste a lot of time in simple day to day things? I can put the same blame on the countries I visited and say that people there waste a lot of time in simple activities. But it will be a gross inaccurate, incorrect and rude statement. What made me spend more time is my inexperience to handle a different climate and different environment. If I had been there for longer period or visited them more often, I would have learnt techniques to better manage these things and will definitely take shorter time! It is just a matter of practice!!

How quickly and easily, people can blame a country or culture without even thinking!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Airlines too can teach Lean and philosophy!

Airlines can make you more mature looks like!  On my recent return trip to India, one of the famous airlines made me think about a few different things

I could carry 64 kilos of checked in baggage and 7 kilos of carry on in addition to my laptop bag, handbag and a personal item. I needed only about 30 kilos worth items including the chocolates and sweets I bought; however, a few of my friends wanted some items from North America and the total weight I checked in was about 50 kilos and I had my laptop bag, handbag and a carry on bag.

The story was good till the time I reached Detroit airport. The airlines told me that they can not check me thru to Chennai as their partnership with the other airlines does not exist anymore; they said I have to claim the bags in my next stop and check them back in. I did not have a choice and time to manage it differently; had to accept it. At the next stop, I realised that they do not have trolleys  and I have to walk for about 15 mins with all these baggage - three trolley bags, a laptop bag and a handbag! Officials there simply said that they were not a very convenient / friendly airport and apologised. That was very helpful!  For the first time, I was appreciating and scolding myself for the choice of my luggage - all the bags can stroll on four wheels, they move freely in any directions with a little push and my laptop bag was a backpack; the only annoyance was my handbag - I would have carried a belt-pouch otherwise! Fortunately, I could dump that on top of the strollers.

Did I say it was 15 mins walk?!? It would have taken so long if I walked without any of the items listed! It took more than 25 mins and it felt like a decade of walking!!! By the time I reached the right counter, I was dead tired and in deep thoughts!

 I was wondering, just because I was allowed to carry so much, should I have planned for so much? I was thinking of the people who I checked with if they need any thing from the US. They would not have felt bad if I had not checked with them. What made me do this? Is it resource / capacity utilisation? Should a Lean practitioner be thinking of utilisation so much? Hmm.. an important principle broken was yielding its result!

As a person, I do not like to carry weight and I prefer to keep my hands free while traveling. Just the opposite was happening! I was responsible neither for the broken partnership between the airlines nor for the missing  trolleys in the airport; But I was hit by them!!! Vinoba Bhave is said to have explained the true spirit of renunciation as not only renouncing what you like but also accepting something you do not like too! In the recent past I have been thinking of life as a process that makes us numb to many things. Maybe, this was one more experience towards that!! I became too philosophical :-)

The 30 kilos of my luggage included some items that I never used. Some of them were essentials; at the same time, I am glad that I did not have to use them. They were like the "code associated with disaster recovery plans". (You are happy that they are there and you are also happy that you did not have to invoke that part of the code :-) :-)!!) But some items  were pure "just in case" and some for just remembrance - things I could not let go!   I was thinking of my plans for my old-age. Many of them are "just in case"! In Tamil there is a saying "அதனினும் கொடிது முதுமையில் செல்வம்". Hmm…

Saturday, October 10, 2015

சிந்தை தெளிவாக்கு!

இது பராசக்தியிடம் பாரதியின் கோரிக்கை! கவிதை உடல் சார்ந்து இருந்தாலும், மனம் சார்ந்த குழப்பங்களுக்கும் பொருந்தத்தான் செய்கிறது! மொத்தக் கவிதையின் அழகு இருப்பது இந்த இருசொற்களுக்குள்தான் என்று தோன்றுகிறது !

சிந்தை தெளிவாக்கு என்னும் இரட்டைப்பதத்துக்குள் எத்தனை வீரியம்! சிந்தை தெளிவாயில்லாமல் எதுவும் நகராது! வாழ்வின் ஆனந்தம் என்பது சிந்தனை, சொல், செயல் மூன்றும் ஒன்றுக்கொன்று முரண்படாமல் வாழ்வது! ஒன்று பிறழ்ந்தாலும் மனத்துள் கசப்பு கசியும்! அதே சமயம் பிறழ்ச்சியின்றி வாழ்தல் என்பது எளிதன்று! நீரில் மிதந்து செல்லும் இலை போல, காற்றில் பறக்கும் இறகுபோல, சிந்தையிருப்பின் இது கைவரக்கூடும்!

ஆனால், நதியிலோடும் இலையாய் இருப்பது எளிதா என்ன?நாற்றாகக்கூட இருக்க மனமில்லையெனில், மிதக்கும் இலையாக மாறுவது எப்படி? ஆழமான ஆணிவேர்களை உதிர்க்க இயலுமோ? இலை உதிர்த்த தாவரங்களுண்டு; வேர் உதிர்த்த தாவரங்களுண்டோ? வேரின்றி இலை உண்டோ? பற்றின்றி வாழ்தல் எளிதாமோ?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Minimalistic decision making!

This is a side effect article I should say; a side track to the Sea shells and Inky pinkyponky!

I always wondered why do I take so little time to shop while others take days to do the same thing. Let me give a bit of context to the subject! I take about 15 minutes to select an attire, bill it, pay for it and take the delivery out. Even my wedding saree was chosen in 30 minutes; it took double the time because the one I chose first was rejected by my family members stating it is too simple to be a wedding saree and I had to redo the whole thing. My entire wedding purchase was done in about 3 to 4 hours - and it included a lunch :-) ! For the same event, my friends - with equal education, similar tastes, economical background, same kind of freedom to choose etc.- took more than a couple of days!

Of course, this does not mean that I do not like to look good or I do not dress up! I like to look professional and be cheerful; dressing up properly is part of it! sure, I forget my earrings, perfume etc.! I have these items in my handbags, car etc. as a workaround!  More interestingly, I do not spend much time shopping for clothes does not mean that my clothes do not look good on me. I even have a fan club :-) :-) ! In fact, I did a Chi-Square test to see if the time taken to buy clothes had any impact on the looks of it and proved that there is no difference! But I was not sure of the reason or potential reasons! Sometimes, I felt that some women take longer time to shop for clothes because of the social conditioning! Sometimes I thought it is due to attention to details which I skip in some cases! Intuitively, if I like something, I just go with my first picks instead of surfing all the available options! But both of these arguments felt incomplete - probably they are true but do not define the whole process I felt! 

From time to time, this topic popped up in my mind and in some of the casual conversations with colleagues and friends! People tease me that I am impatient, careless…. Some of my friends felt that I do not understand the value of money & pay higher cost unnecessarily and some of my friends felt the other way - that I am stingy and not interested in spending money in shopping! For me, it was not a question of money though I had an upper limit for the money I would spend usually! So what makes me spend less time in shopping had been an open question so far!

During my downsizing operation, I got an opportunity to read about decision making process. When to go intuitive  & sensing and neuroscience of decision making process are some interesting topics I read during this period! Interestingly, we go intuitive or we can afford to go intuitive when we have reasonable expertise in a domain; if we don’t have that expertise, then it is better to be sensing! Similarly, if the impact of a decision is negligible, then it is safe and cost effective to be intuitive; if the impact is significant, it is better to go sensing! It resonates with the "decentralise control" principle of lean too! Neuroscience has its impact too! Decision making and thinking tires us as much as (may be worse than) physical activities do! It is advisable to take important decisions when we are fresh; if not we may revert to default options that are not necessarily the correct decisions!

But, in some cases, it may be a better idea to have a default decision option and / or rules to help reducing the time taken for decisions. Some people can not assess the significance of the decision and they may find it hard to assess their own expertise level; this category of people can not take decision for even small things. To help them, most of the communities have default options - clean the house on all Tuesdays and Fridays (in Tamilnadu) etc. are good examples for such default options! 

I know my limitations with clothing! I don’t usually remember what dress I wore the previous day; if it is washed and ironed, I will just wear the same thing next day too without even blinking an eye! But, many times people assume that I am sad or upset or not in my senses when I do such things (BTW, such assumptions happen only with women! Men can afford to wear  the same thing for any number of days without questions!)! The impact is rather high! I have a work around for this! I keep clothes for a week in an order; I do not have to think of options everyday, I just have to pick the top item in the stack and use it :-) :-) 

For buying clothes, I have a few simple rules: I check if the color suits me, does the clothe have any jazzy designs / colors that will prevent me from wearing it, is it cotton or light weight silk,  is the price within my budget. If the answers to these questions are favourable, I choose that item! It does not take more than a few minutes to assess these! It is almost like my eyes and fingers know how to do it without even me thinking about it! Interesting