Tipping Point


Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with Malcolm Gladwell and his book – Tipping Point, which is a fantastic read btw.

Its been a long long long time since I’ve written anything – really this space is an apology of a blog in that sense.

I do have an excuse to offer though. Actually a string of excuses – the first being that I don’t have a job and went through a major phase of depression, then I got married and lately I’ve been spending time with a critically ill family member in a hospital instead of honeymooning.

Between all of this, I’ve had plenty of time (what else does one do in hospitals and beauty parlours anyway?) to introspect and more interesting observe my own behaviour during these tumultuous times.

I find that dealing with a crisis if you’re an overall efficient person isn’t very difficult. All it requires is a clear head, a larger than normal supply of patience, access to money and someone loving who will take care of you while you take care of other things.

Its the little things though that happen throughout that is truly exhausting. It didn’t matter so much for example, that I had to find 16 people to donate blood at a short notice or find ways to deal with extreme cultural shocks. It bothered me terribly though – that my favourite hair brush vanished for three whole days. It drove me to tears when I couldn’t find bathroom slippers in order to go pee when I had Mehendi on my hands.

I’m not sure what explains the complete strangeness of this behaviour – but on a completely non-original note I think I can say I’ve discovered my own Tipping Point. I hate it when I am expected to ‘be there’ and ‘take care’  — and the little things aren’t in order. Clearly working to resolve a large crisis (emotional or physical) brings out the best of ‘responsibility’ in me, but perhaps that process is so alien to me that I compensate by stressing out about the small things. Human nature or peculiar to me?

Or I love my HAIR BRUSH. And oh, I love my husband – he found it. 🙂

At any rate here are somethings to ask yourself during crisis management:

1. Are you being irrational about the little things?

2. Are you doing too much on your own?

3. Are you being a little unfair to those who are in support roles with you?

If you’re answering yes to any of these things – do what I did. Recognise that you have a problem. Find out what your tipping point is. Meditate for a bit. Change what gets you to that point. Get on with crisis management.

While on the subject of partners…


I’ve had the occasion lately to wonder what sort of ‘partner’ would be perfect. People undoubtedly change, so here is my list- at this point in time:

1. A person who understands ‘love’ and ‘relationships’ the way I understand it. This is probably the singularly most important thing to keeping a relationship going. There’s no point to a relationship where you feel un-loved and the other person feels unappreciated.

2. Someone who has time for you, above all else. This doesn’t mean the person doesn’t have a life — but within that life prioritizes you and your happiness above all else.

3. Someone who isn’t so truthful that it becomes an excuse and isn’t so dishonest that you get shocked.

4. Someone who is always proud of you and is willing to demonstrate it.

5. A person to take a holiday with, to just run-away with and be with.

6. Laughing partner.

7. Someone who gets the little things right – gifts you (even if only a single petal), does what you request on time, surprises you, calls you and is nice to you.

8. Reliable. Not someone who you need to think fifty times about before you ask them to do something for you.

9. A vertebrate – Seriously. Someone who has the guts to own you up and fight for you and more importantly fight to be with you. Within a reasonable time-frame.

10. A friend. Nothing that you can’t talk about. Nothing you can’t do.

That, could be a high set of expectations. Still, one can hope. After all one does not want to be the cloud across the sun…

Just A Little Time…


Just a little time,

moments, reason and laughter…

Just a little time is enough.

To make a familiar face fade away,

To forget what the fingers and toes felt like…

To put away the long hours and the shorter days,

Just a little time is enough.

To replace the red of the shirt with the red of a new dress…

To replace your music with my silence,

To replace and fill,

Just a little time is enough.

And still I wonder how ‘little’ is enough?

In the trees, in the busy streets, in your empire and in my home…

Just a little time is enough.

To make what was ours – into yours and mine…

Just a little time is enough.

What I learnt from last year


Ideally I would never like to think about 2009 again. In all respects it was a terrible year.

Here is what I learnt from 2009 — for whatever it is worth:

1. Getting fired – I learnt that intelligence does not guarantee that you keep a job. To make matters worse, self-respect sometimes guarantees that you won’t keep the job.

2. Leaving half way for higher pay – Places that do want you cannot afford to pay you enough. I thought I had a conscience, but, I still quit without notice for more money.

3. Everything looks glossy on the outside – Fancy reputations hide some terrible troubles within. Don’t judge a book (or institution, person or process) by the cover.

4. Repairing relationships – Think about being hauled over the coals. Now think about being hauled all the way back again. Think about what you are willing to do and for who – otherwise you will keep wondering why you started out with this.

5. Diets – I cannot live without rice, meat, some sugar and juice.

6. Winter – Do not underestimate the power of wollen socks. Even if you have stinky feet.

7. Friends and family – I need a crowd, the loneliness bites – especially in winter.

8. Saving the world – I could have chosen a better career for myself. This one has an awful amount of frustration.

9. Computers – I am not a computer mechanic. I wish I had never boasted about my computer prowess. Also – never offer to teach people how to use new software. NEVER.

10. Weekends and Vacations – Go on one, don’t plan – go. I wish I did.

11. Music – It doesn’t matter what kind. Its all good enough to drive out the voices in your heart and head.

12. Prayer – It is supremely comforting to believe that someone is driving all this sh** to a destination.

13. Children’s books – Go read them again even if you’re seventy. Happyness.

14. Marketing – SHAM and LIES. Repeat.

15. Frameworks – The most important tool to think.

16 . Believing in self – Only you know what you can do, it doesn’t matter how great other people think you are.

Happy new year all – I hope your year was better than mine and I hope 2010 is great for all of you too!

Edutainment?


A friend who works with ‘Education’ (as we in the third sector often like to put it) once told me ” In India its difficult enough to obtain an education without having to worry about its quality too”.

I like to believe in the potential of private enterprise to do do wonders for education, professor James Tooley’s new book – the beautiful tree, does a great job of pointing how this might be plausible with primary education.

I’m also a long seasoned advocate of the Friedman argument that the Government has no business being in business. In India there is no business quite as complicated (both on the regulatory scenario front and on the potential impact front) as the business of higher education.

The argument against the utility of certification and regulatory roadblocks to offering and receiving higher education more common sense than anything else.

Sadly though, when one takes sides one often (and I am guilty of this in more ways than one) — one forgets to account for the losers in the short-run. Take the ICFAI mess in the cities of Hyderabad and Jaipur for instance.

So what can you do, as a student – while the rest of us sit and pontificate about the merits and demerits of who should be in the business of education or who shouldn’t?

Take a look at this article which suggests that students’ check the following four things before committing a good year or more of their lives to an ‘institution’ –

a. Is the Institution awarding the degree, either a valid University or Deemed to be University? If yes, is it operating within its authorized jurisdiction?

b. Does the course/ programme have the approval of the relevant professional council?

c. Does the institution have valid accreditation?

d. Is the institution awarding the degree a member of the Association of Indian Universities?

I recommend everyone who is contemplating any sort of higher education (in India) read this piece thouroughly!

As the author points out towards the end:

“…it is important that students know the regulatory environment in the field of higher education in India. Knowing the legal requirements and taking reasonable care in these matters can help the youth of this country avoid losing money and precious years to well marketed, money-oriented educational business empires. It is certainly better to be careful than to be sorry!”

Because


There was a point in my life when I was a fan of ’causes’. Not the Facebook app.

Friends would remember me as someone of strong opinions, strong ideals… as someone convinced of themselves. Wholly. Fully given to a set of beliefs and someone who always wore the same lens through which she saw the world.

Now I’m a different person – I ask why, how, do those numbers stack up?

A couple of years ago when an activist organization sent me an e-mail about the ‘evil’ of big corporations — I would do pass it around to everyone I knew and all those who happened to be on my contact list by accident.

Today I chanced upon another one of those e-mails (usually deleted these days without even a glance) and it caused me to ponder just how sensationalist and non-rigourous it was and consequently how sensationalist and non-rigourous by extension I must have been. 

There is nothing very surprising about this in itself. People grow up. Intelligence arrives as do wisdom teeth.

This particular mail I got had to do with the formerly christened Swine Flu now — now known by its more austere name the H1N1 virus.  This e-mail originated from a group of ‘concerned citizens’, whose sworn mission is to oppose large corporate entities they regularly blame for damaginf the environment, perpetuating hunger in the third world, sustaining child soldiers and now also causing Swine Flu. 

If you are like me, you already smell a rat, or a pig — as the case might be. To be anti-corporate entities for economic reasons, labour rights and so on is understandable. But to connect them to Swine Flue is an example of hijacking am event to strengthen the case of cause without any established causality.

Sample these statements from the e-mail I received – wait, forge the statements, here is the title “The Truth About Swine Flu”; did you know there was a lie involved? I didn’t. Insinuation number 1.                                                                    

Now to the statements — No-one yet knows whether swine flu will become a global pandemic, but it is becoming clear where it came from – most likely a giant pig factory farm run by an American multinational corporation in Veracruz, Mexico.” Notice, GIANT AMERICAN MULTINATIONAL CORPORATION —  advocacy communications at its best.

“These factory farms are disgusting and dangerous, and they’re rapidly multiplying.” – Incidentally, bolds are all as they are in the e-mail. Notice, DISGUSTING and DANGEROUS – also rapidly multiplying; here is my question – links, footnotes, data?

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) must investigate and develop regulations for these farms to protect global health.” Global health of course, is merely a function of regulating pig farms. Snort. 

“Big agrobusiness will try to obstruct and scuttle any attempts at reform” , ahem, substantiate?! 

If we reach 200,000 signatures we will deliver it to the WHO in Geneva with a herd of cardboard pigs. For every 1000 petition signatures we will add a pig to the herd” (italics my own) – This is how seriosuly we want to take global health and swine flu – not policy, not a serious study of what ‘regulations’ might work – but cardboard pigs, sure. Bring ’em on!

“Smithfield itself has already been fined $12.6m and is currently under another federal investigation in the US for toxic environmental damage from pig excrement lakes.”…a combination of increased global meat consumption and a powerful industry motivated by profit…”, and yet because there is a market for pork apparently there isn’t enough regulation! Snort. 

Swine Flu, let me state, is something that calls for serious research and action. However, what it does not call for, is hijacking of its intrinsic importance by an anti-profit, anti-corporations bandwagon that does little else than hollar about regulations and practise strategic communication games to get ints finger on the world’s issues-pie. 

Sheesh.

Out of it?


Sometimes you realize that its been too long.

Too long since you’ve been on one side of the fence. Too long since someone called you, went for a walk with you, shared you as the prize with friends, had conversation, behaved as if you were a variable in future plans that could change the ‘effect size’…

Am I out of it?

What if the differences suddenly seem sharper the familiarities? What if a certain part of you has gone cold, if the rains are a little less wonderful, the winds blow a little less softly than they used to….

If silences are longer and  heavier than the laughter?

I know we say working on it helps, but what if working on it is no longer an appealing thought? What if every word seems like a potential escape hatch. What do you do with a feeling that keeps telling you — Its you and the crowd, again. And you don’t care enough about the crowd anyway.

What if you feel that the fundamentals are disappointing. Am I out of it?

The face no longer lights up any warmth in your heart, the words seem like unsolicited advice, the phone calls are an obligation and the effort seems totally unnecessary.

What do you with the effort you made for so long? Give up on it? Move to a different city and forget it? Stay in the same place and fight alone because there is longer anyone to share with who would understand anyway?

What if you are own best friend now, if people you would barely call friends seem to care and do more for you in comparison? Is it time then? You tell me…

Wanted: A Transformative Experience


I’m going through a crisis of faith – the non-religious kind.

The ‘drafts’ section of my e-mail is overflowing with links to new jobs. I’ve even been gifted a new set of paints and a sketch-book. I was advised to use my lay-off as a break, find some time to ‘unwind’, do what I feel like…. but that is the problem.

I feel stretched, uninspired even to apply, tired to read, my ears are buzzing with music that sounds no more different from set of discordant clangs.

How does one find that single transformative experience? A little tranquility, a little less panic, a little noice, some wind, some space, a burrow, freedom? Its been eons since I’ve done anything even remotely creative, carefree, happy and just me. In fact I’ve forgotten what that ever felt like.

In two weeks I’ll be starting with a new place, a new set of bosses, a new house (not home), more brokers, bank accounts….

This is what I have been reduced to – a rag doll who hammers away at a silly machine all day with a plastic smile. And this is what I have reduced this space to — (once creative and even fun) just another scrap of digital papering to record my irrational miseries.

The 29C Effect


BusEveryday in the morning I wake up at 07:00 a.m to the constant beeping of my cellphone. I then press ‘snooze’ and get back under my sheet.

I do this at least three times on average and end up waking up at 07:30 a.m. I then rush through a bath, put on a thoroughly unmatched Kurta over ancient jeans and walk through a mini-swamp, a pile of stones, huge piles of cow-dung and some lousy construction to reach the famous ECR road.

By this time it is usually exactly 08:20 a.m.

At this point I slowly melt into the motley bunch of fisher women, harried mothers’ with school bags and children in tow, men looking for casual labour, the day-shift call center executive and the proverbial IT kid. We all then compete with each other to stuff ourselves into already over crowded share-autos.

Share autos are just larger three wheelers with open sides that make up for the fact that they are not quite large enough.

Once I succeed at getting into one of these I make my honking journey across ECR to Thiruvanmiyur bus stand. This entire painful routine usually ends up guaranteeing me a seat in my all-time favourite bus – the 29C AC special.

The AC specials are ultra-modern ‘low-floor, high-seat, music-blaring, air-conditioned, automated-swinging-door, uniformed conductor and polite driver’ specials. They are lovely.  They are also white with huge advertisements painted in bold colours across them. And there are just two leaving every hour.

I have a favourite seat, its in the back half of the bus. Second from the front, near the windows that the 29C occupants can see out of but that people on the road can’t see through. I wait to pay the conductor my 23 rupees and then listen to my iPod till I get to Sterling road.

The 29C community is a small bunch of people. A retired army officer who does strategic consulting at some shady Nungambakkam firm, a real well meaning middle-aged aunty who has a bad leg and requests an unscheduled stop at the Chola Sheraton, the three college girls who talk about the ‘worst lectures’ ever who get off at Stella and the quirky young chap with a stubble like Abhishek Bacchan — carrying a pink bag and reading a book on fashion design.

We see each other every day. Some of us smile, some of us even say good morning. Most of us know we are in this bus together sharing a journey. We wait together when our beloved bus is later and express surprise if even one us misses a day in the week. The 29C effect calmed me, prepared me for office and battles of the day, made me belong to a bunch of comfort-seeking yet poor members of the ‘middle-class’.

From 6th of March i will cease to be a part of these people’s lives and their stories. I will never know if the effeminate guy won his art competition, if the aunty managed to get her sons to fix the fuse, if the girls managed to bunk their classes or if the tired wage worker managed to save up to recharge his phone to tell his son in Perambur that he now uses an AC bus.

Another two days and the inexplicably comforting 29C effect will be history. No wait, it will go on to write histories that no one will ever read.  I will no longer be a character on its stage. Stop the bus, I want to get off…

The Business of Being Lonely


lonely-1I need a new place to go to and if people didn’t hire-by-the-blog I would say more. All through this trauma I’ve felt a cold updraft blowing up my neck.

I’m surrounded by people who say they care. “Don’t worry”,  “come on, you know you’re talented”, “why should you have any trouble finding a job”, “its not your fault”, “don’t be silly girl, you are so bright” – the constant refrain.

It rings in my ears, swims around in my brain and I still can’t deal with it.

They call me and mail me because they’re concerned… “I can’t believe this has happened to you”, “there must be something wrong with people where you work”, “the organization must have a history”, “maybe you just don’t fit”, “this is how the sector works” and the king of all kind words is this one – “Its all for the larger good” ….. SIGH.

And I get tired. Writing the same old applications, back to square one from six months ago.

The trouble is this is not what I want to hear.

I don’t want to be told I am good, the hell with it – I know I am, or rather was, good at what I did. I certainly know I was better than most average people.

I know, for example, that I added value, made things efficient and I poured my heart into it just like Howard Schultz did. Maybe not at the same scale, but certainly I tried. He ended up with Star Bucks. Look at where I am… don’t even have enough of a bank balance for a blessed burnt coffee from a lousy Barista down the road.

Its not even that its recession, that my firm ran out of money or even that ‘losing the job’ perse that matters.

Some part of me felt (and knew, albeit wrongly) all through life  that anything I gave a fair shot to would end up being a success.

I’ve been schooled to believe that the bright come out first, and that in my case, in most instances — laziness got in between. So how am I here now? At this juncture – out without a job like so many others (but not quite like them), too late to go back to grad school, missed the bus on all scholarships and with little hope or faith that I will land another job anytime soon.

Welcome to the business of being lonely. This is how it feels to have landed a great job, worked hard and then be thrown out. This is what it feels like to be honest and put in effort and then become a pawn in an entirely new game you never knew the sophisticated souls around you were playing.

The business of being lonely is characterized by a strong sense of anger (mostly self-directed), a large dose of disappointment, a reality-check cum slap-in-face (choose what you prefer), a huge looming sense of disillusionment and the need to hear the right thing from people around and be totally disappointed on that front too.

People make it their business to sympathize – but its in the business of being lonely where the little things start to hurt. The fact that others around you earn, have busy lives which they expect you to understand because after all you were once there yourself, the fact that well meaning others will constantly tell you that its not a big deal – and just because you don’t mope decide that you are so strong that making jokes about it wont hurt either.

The business of being lonely is big business. Its so big it will swamp you in its enormity, it will dwarf all other concerns, zap your energy and make others impatient with you.

It is after all efficient, who has the time for emotions – the world is pragmatic and if I don’t pull up my non-existent socks someone else will walk away with the Gucci boots.