Sunday, August 6, 2017

Medicine for the soul

My Buddha sat perched delicately on the mattress
With the cat near his feet oddly resembling the lotus of The Buddha
He quietly summoned me with a slight nod
The lines of distress on my face suddenly seemed to ease with that motion
Today's dose of soul medicine was made exclusively for me
A dosage so pure and powerful that it be tasted only once in a fortnight or so
His prescription involved wind in my hair to soothe the knot in my lungs
A drizzle of an hour long rain to shed away high pressure in my blood stream
Holding hands with a friend long enough to stabilize my heart rate
Untasted and unknown food to boost my mental immunity
Letting my hair loose to wash away the stiffness in my joints
Will this cure all my maladies?
This medicine is only a substitute for his presence I concluded

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Here's to the normal

I have a story
An ordinary one, a normal one
Knights in shining armour and castles of grandeur do not form the main parts of it
My story is one about the soft, worn rugs
Of coloured, awkwardly shaped pebbles picked up in the playgrounds
Larger than life sacrifices don't dominate my story
Mundane, kind, imperfect friendships do
Love that makes all the butterflies in my tummy go wild builds my story
My stories aren't defined by the hardest adventure or the steepest climb uphill
But tempered by the sweat and blood behind countless small feats
They ask what is so special about your story
I say nothing, it's normal
Sorry to disappoint you
Forgive me for my recipes don't titillate your ravenous hunger
Excuse me that my stories can't be the reason for your adrenaline rush
Or the ache in your cheeks due to uncontrollable laughter
One thing I'm not sorry for is having a story
A story anything but normal
One that floods me with the pride of owning a unique identity
One that gives my name enough reason and enigma of its own
One that helps me weave hundred other stories into my own fabric
One that is a cause enough for me to smile every day!

Friday, July 28, 2017

When I grow up...

When I grow up
I told you, "I will be stronger"
Strong meaning I will not need you to hold me
To guide me, nourish and applaud me
Weakness I guessed would be in reaching out to you for help
Timid assuming you wanted me to stand tall without the scaffolding that's you
Being the flowing sea I tried to touch as many shores as possible
Little did I know that I carry the shiny sand that's you, all through
But grow I did
Not to realize that strong was perfect and alone
New epiphanies struck me to reveal that strong is US
US - so strong as the thunder and lighting that appear to be separated by seconds
Nonetheless both of which do not have an existence alone
Strong as yin and yang, not completing or complementing but just being

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Life happens

Life happens
When you fall in love with someone you are not supposed to
In those travel plans that weren't planned
In that extra mile towards a downhill in a trek
With a friend that is too wild for your style
In the crumbs of all the little rules you've broken
In that fifth drink that made you a bit more than tipsy
In the folds of that joint you had under a big tree
In the skipped meetings and lectures
In the money saved by cooking a meal or two with your loved one
In the lucrative career path that you threw away for a lesser one
In your first public dance, the cacophonic karaoke
In those tears at the live poetry festival
In the wrinkles of your favourite book
In the coffee stained Sunday t-shirt you wear while gardening
In the sunny afternoons you spend waiting for a friend
In the magical moments where a stranger transforms into a lifeline

#wonderingwhatlifeis #writingpoetry #adaybeforeexams #whenicantstudyanymore

Thursday, June 29, 2017

My superpower!

Through the various stages of growing, I have attributed different strengths to myself. Sometimes I thought I was intelligent and the other times I have described myself as determined. 'Compassionate' is a new addition that I am proud to have in my reserve. However, lately I feel the two things that have predominantly stayed with me in all my journeys are 'resilience' and 'grit'.

During bouts of self-bashing internal dialogues I have struggled with associating myself with these labels. I have been ashamed of setting high expectations for myself, the source of which has been internal as much as it was external. If I strip down my feelings to bare minimum, I see only resilience and grit remaining. I have put myself through very tough situations and taken high risks in spite of knowing it will only cause me discomfort in the going.

When the happy butterflies of getting my first paycheck and having my first alcoholic drink at parties faded away, I realized I have to radically shift the direction my life was going in. I didn't have the skills, contacts, knowledge of working in public sector. I just persisted. My 'sent items' in Gmail from 6 years ago will weave a story of a scared yet stubborn girl approaching every single person that she could lay her hands on and asking them for advice. There were rejections, embarrassments and pure stupidity in many of those interactions. But I was ready to swallow it all just so I get to make a career shift. I have read the shittiest 'self-help' books and hung out with the most boring and arrogant people just so I could learn a little more from them than what I already knew. Backing down was a scarier option than discomfort.

Once I got into doing what I really wanted to, I was scared as s**t. The most critical skills of working in public sector evaded me. My language, common sense and relationship building capabilities were sub-optimal. I wrote exams that I couldn't ace and dreamt of places I couldn't be at. Still I persisted. I took one day at a time. When I finally was at a place that would magically transform me into everything I ever wanted to be, I withdrew. I didn't make friends easily, my professional relationships were strained and there was nobody to take care of me when I fell sick. Still I persisted. I took the effort of staying back for that one extra chai, that one unplanned visit to the mall, that extra 500 bucks on food and drinks, and that one sleepless night conversation which is famed for building lifelong relationships. Slowly but steadily I met people, people who were beautiful and different. So different that I could learn a thousand things from them just blinking my eyes. So beautiful that their presence filled my life with endless love. I grew. One day at a time. I learnt to listen. I calmed down to talk. I flew to love.

Eventually I started flirting with the universe. Telling it ever so lightly in whispers about the deep desires I held in my heart- desires for myself and for others. And as is always the case with universe, it started responding but not slowly and timidly like me but exponentially. Whatever I sent to the universe came back in multiple folds into my life. If I made sure I practiced a few acts of compassion, universe blessed me with the company of numerous big-hearted people. If I showed an ounce of courage in doing a difficult task, universe provided me ladders of support in the form of mentors who allowed me to shine while standing aside as onlookers. It hinted me that it was time that I invested some of my energy in gaining wisdom. Wisdom that seems light to roll on our tongues but morphs into a band of great resistance when applied to action.

I screwed up big projects. Unmet important deadlines. Burnt bridges on important islands. Let down prominent relationships. But I didn't give up. I am everything that I wanted to be and a bit more today.  

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What sets apart good ideas?

In one of our strategy classes we happened to discuss this paper by McKinsey that talks about the revolutionary courses of action required to usher in an entire business makeover. Once you study the paper it all seems to be common sense, so much so that it isn't common anymore. The paper lists that the players in a business setting need to come up with unprecedented strategies to gain a strong foothold in their respective sectors and/or to wipe out competition. 

Everybody knows that 'thinking out of the box', 'being unique' and striving creatively do bring out windfall returns in any game. However, why do these articles and books that assert received wisdom stand out in the clutter? Discounting for the common factors such as good writing, critical examples to augment the claim and good language what really sets apart certain presentations of the good ideas? 

In my opinion it is the confidence one has in ideas. History has proved that excellence, wisdom and grandeur can prop up in the most unlikely of situations and people and that they are not limited to a select few. Why then only few privileged few in the society get to take away a big share of the pie? It is because they are willing to believe in themselves, their ideas and are ready to dedicate time and efforts on realizing their ideas. They are blessed with more or less the same capabilities as the next person but their differentiating factor lies in them taking the game ahead on their shoulders. 

This confidence doesn't only come with repeated practice of applying one's ideas but also through reinventing oneself in every trying situation. Complacency, monotony and self-doubt are the biggest foes of confidence. If you have an idea, work on it. Action pays more than mere intellectual rationalization. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

I am better than you

The dangers of creating a space devoid of hierarchy of any sort is an unfathomable idea today. People are in the constant quest and race to prove their mettle to themselves and others. I need to dress better than others, I need to know more than the others, I am a far superior leader than you, I can get this job done better than you. People are in a perpetual challenge-winning mode. Challenges range from "do you want to see how much I can accomplish" to "do you want to see how you can't accomplish anything?". This reminds me of the concepts I learnt in Economics classes. When there are two competitors although the combined benefit is maximum by cooperating, every player has strong temptations to cheat in the short run and bring down the optimal benefit payoff in the long run. Contrary to what religions, philosophers and sociologists have conveyed through tons of collective human wisdom, people think that showing compassion and uplifting each other is a lose-win situation. 

When one is compassionate to another fellow traveler, there is only compassion that one can get in return. It is effortless to get flown away in the negative spiral of self-centered behavior and non-compassionate interactions. But once the wheel of compassion sets in, the true meaning of seamless, effortless meaning of life starts to unfold. In this extremely competitive capitalistic world of today, at the outset being self-centered and aggressive might denote strength and happiness. But on introspection one realizes that aggression and competition to put oneself ahead of others is taxing and unnerving. This is only because aggression is an implicit cry for attention and stems from a deep need for love. Instead, acts of compassion draw from inner reserves of abundance where one has love to shower inwards and outwards. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sore loser or learner!

To absolutely know dimensions of your personality and using them to your strength is one  thing and to go way beyond your comfort zone to try new things is yet another level of zen. When I think of words of describe myself the ideas that pop up in my head are non-conformist, socialist, pacifist, peace lover etc., I choose to end the list here because the terms that I just listed make me a person who doesn't enjoy conflict ridden zones. Essentially that implies that I can absolutely not compete and be aggressive. 

By spending inordinate amount of my last 5 years with the marginalized communities of urban and rural India I have seen enough to believe in the fabricated complexity and competition of daily life. I have been fortunate to witness talent flourish in ghettos and open fields amidst acute poverty, crime and abuse. As a teacher and a social worker if there is one thing I believe in it is collaboration and mutual support in hardships. This experience has instilled in me a mental block that competition with others is detrimental to growth. While some may argue that competition is inevitable for a person's growth, I ask again "is competition with others good or with oneself better? If it is with self then is it competition or self development?". 

The past one week has been really interesting in terms of being someone I am absolutely new to! I competed in an election. At my Post Graduation Program in Management at Indian School of Business, I contested for the post of Net Impact Club presidency. This is a professional club that provides invaluable exposure to using business skills to attain sustainability in society and environment. Given my professional bent towards all things social, I couldn't keep away from this club. It was natural for me to want to contribute to this club. Without thinking much I desired to work on the causes represented by this club. But all hell started breaking loose when a dear friend of mine with similar social sentiments too decided to contest for the post. Since the day he announced his candidature it always irked me whether I had to continue with mine. 

Here was a guy who was absolutely capable of taking up this position and who was skilled enough to formulate a great campaign before elections. My basic nature of being competition averse and the desire to work in collaborative conflict-free environments compelled me to reconsider my candidacy. However, since elections was something new and outside my comfort zone I decided to contest nonetheless. That meant 20 more hours of extra work in addition to the thousand commitments I already had at ISB. But I made a small bargain with myself. I decided to stay very much in my own skin. I shunned heavily campaigning for this post and I stuck to the forms of communication that I was most comfortable with. The day before soapbox presentation I had almost pulled out of competition since going up on stage and talking about myself and how I would contribute to the club was a bit too much for me. But I braved ahead and stood in front of people and cameras to give my election pitch. 

This experience played out to prove that 

  • My leadership style is influential personal relationship rather than public coercion. 
  • I can't market myself to save my life. 
  • I would rather put in the same amount of work without a title than with one. 
All this internal struggle finally ended with my friend winning the elections deservingly so.  I am at a place where marketing oneself is seen as a strength. However mentally I am at a place where I believe endless collaboration is the best option for progress more than competition. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

To be or not be

Karan Johar has famously declared in his autobiography that he doesn't understand the social repercussions of the way he portrays the characters in his movie and also that he is least bothered about it. All he claims is that he knows to make fun movies.

Let me zoom in a bit and come to my small world of friends and families. Few believe that making innocent sexually violent comments about the opposite sex, preserving interests on one's own caste and deriding people's looks are all personal choices with no far bearing consequences on the larger society.

Come to think of it again!

Are our actions so isolated and limited to our personal space? Are personal and public lives really that tangential? If they ever meet what is the dynamics of that tumultuous space? Do humans exercise any control over the forces in that realm?  When does the personal become political and where does political impact our personal choices? Can we be naive and behave in a way so as to implicate absolute disconnectedness to the larger game of life?

Can I watch sexually violent teenage porn and fight for child rights?

Will I not add to the communal riots by not inviting my other religion friend to dinner at house?

Should I call myself a feminist if I enjoy making and laughing at sexist jokes?

Would it impact the nature if I decorate my house with only plastic stuff?

K P Poornachandra Tejaswi is a renowned Kannada author whom I like specifically for bringing in the social angle to his stories. Seemingly innocent and isolated incidents are shown to create a wave of social sensitivity and one cannot be awed by how effortlessly he shows these connections in his writing. If you have ever wondered about the implications of your actions in your private space on the workings of the public sphere then reading Tejaswi's "Chidambara Rahasya" book is a good start at gaining clarity.