Sunday, June 21, 2015

India has seriously got talent

I have been a religious consumer and admirer of the reality show India's Got Talent ever since it was aired first on television. The acts vary from mediocre to extra-ordinary, barring the funny ones. The talent coming on the show is just growing by leaps and bounds in every season. I am glad the confidence is being built in many performers to come on to the show and perform; otherwise in a country like India, we would know of many people whose talent just remains inside their houses due to lack of opportunities, encouragement and resources to come out of those walls; many don't even know what talent they have; very sad!

We all think good nutrition etc. is necessary for a healthy mind and this is a necessary condition (but not sufficient) to focus. I notice quite a few individuals who come on to the show have gone through no professional training - whether it is for a particular dance form, or for any other type of an act. Some people who do balancing acts are so fit, their arms-strength so good; many of these have not got any kind of formal fitness training. Many of these individuals have good muscles also, which usually are thought to be built by regular gymming. What I realize is these people don't survive on food or water, they eat and breathe their passion and their dreams; which they see with open eyes; and that's what gives them all the energy. In a country like India where people don't know and understand the meaning of the phrase 'personal space', taking time and space out to keep practicing dedicatedly, to pursue one's dreams is indeed commendable.

In one of the earlier seasons, a group of two boys had performed using some yoga postures and it was seamless beyond imagination. They had represented India in an international games event and had won too; but unfortunately their talent is not recognized enough in India to make them a good living. When the International Yoga Day was announced, the first thought I got was 'Wish people like them get recognized and they can make their good living out of their talent now'. I think some money should be spent on promoting other games and sports also and not just cricket.

Some time back we had gone to Las Vegas and my colleagues and I went to watch a show whose ticket was worth Rs. 6000; the show was definitely very good; but even at that time apart from one act everything else I had seen in one of the India's Got Talent seasons. Unfortunately, we don't publicize our own talent enough.

India has seriously got lots of talent; there should be more platforms created to showcase this talent There are so many award functions where celebrities of big and small screen worlds perform; why not give this talent a chance to perform in those award functions? There should be a way to reach out to these people to invite them to perform in corporate parties or events too.

Even when I was watching KBC the last two seasons had got contestants who were from the lower sections of the society and I thought that was a very good initiative. Every single person in the vast majority of India has a tragic story; and that story & struggle is what keeps giving that push for one to dream, dream with open eyes, and pursue one's dream.

My personal favourites this season of IGT are:
Individual performers: Yogeswari Mistry, Manik Paul, Prahlad Acharya, Jaydeep Gohil
Group performers: XIX Junior Group; Sonu and Shikha,
A very special favourite is Nangbia Chanda because she comes from Itanagar which is a different world altogether and I hope she reaches great heights through this exposure!

Yes, there are too many; as I said this season's talent is at a different level :)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Joy of Giving!

It was 2nd October 2014, marking the start of the festival ("concept"), The Joy of Giving Week. It was a long weekend and I landed at Ahmedabad on that morning to visit my parents. For a change, we took an auto rickshaw from the airport to home; there was no Ola or Uber at that time in Ahmedabad and we wanted to try an auto instead of the taxi. When the auto rickshaw dropped us at our home, the bill was in some multiples of 50, we gave him the nearest multiple of 100 and when he was returning Rs. 50, I asked him to keep it. For a fraction of a second, he could not follow. Then he realized and the smile on his face was priceless! Earning Rs. 50 extra on a day is such a big increment in India, many of us don't realize. There is a large section of these who don't use that additional Rs. 50 constructively, but those also don't work religiously so you can make out.

The joy that you feel when you give something to someone cannot be explained or expressed. In today's situation and probably forever in India, money is & would be the most needed. Giving money is the best, the other things of course are fine but those are perishable. Since then, I decided I am going to tip for every service. I tip the home delivery guys, almost all of them go back with a smile on their face. There is a small South Indian restaurant that we regularly order food from, I realize this one guy probably comes to deliver each time only because he knows I tip him :)

My husband is very particular about tipping for any service we receive. When I started using Uber, I tipped almost every driver unless I didn't like the driver at all, which is thankfully rare with Uber at least. They are the most courteous drivers, a possible reason could be that they earn more than decently. Recently I have had many interesting experiences with Uber when the drivers refusing to accept the tip. This happened first time in Mumbai, I was taking a morning flight and took Uber from the guest house to the airport. The driver was a young Malayali boy, he was very decent. When I offered him the tip while getting down, he refused and said 'No ma'am, thank you'. He didn't smile, he was those serious kinds. That was the first experience for me when someone refused the tip. I asked him why, he politely replied again, 'No ma'am, not required, thank you'. I respected his decision and said fine if he was not comfortable with it. Incidentally, after that, I came across many drivers of Uber who refused to take the tip politely. India is a land of khuddaars too, I realized. After that experience, I started asking the driver whether he accepts tips, a few of them say no and I don't bother them. On one trip, I asked the driver if he accepts tip and he said very happily, 'why not, if the customer gives', I liked it and I gave him the tip. He said with a big smile on his face, 'give me 5 star rating also'. I asked him why, he said the company pays Rs. 50 for each 5-star rating that the driver gets. Ever since, I only give them 5-star unless the driver is too bad, of course in that case I put in a written feedback too.

Recently, we were on a vacation and while the vacation was about to end, my husband was telling me thousands of rupees go in tips for us :) Our biggest expense head is vacation, and small percentage of the expense is tips. Anyway, the receivers of those few thousand rupees (separately) are more need of them than us. Its fine I guess.

You feel a different kind of happiness and fulfillment when you give something to someone in need, and more if you are able to see the receiver's face and expressions while receiving it. Hope I live long, and remain able (physically and financially :)) to keep giving all my life.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The road towards imperfection!

India is a strange country, not in a positive or a negative connotation but just as an observation. The strangest section among the strange India is the middle class section. This is the section that is always struggling to move towards a higher point than where it is currently, but more often than not it is not able to, never in the first generation at least. It always keeps working the hardest, getting only modest rewards, and whatever little rewards it gets it keeps saving for its next generation.

Among the strange things that quite a big portion of this strangest section battles with is something called 'perfection' which comes from insecurity most likely, especially in the lower middle class family. Meet parents of this section, and their only aim is to make their child the perfect child on this earth. When they let the child meets their friends, the friends should praise the child the most! They want to send the child to the best possible school (which everyone wants to), but they also want the child to have 100% attendance, they want the child to come first in many different things and so on and so forth. I was one such child from one such family.

My father was fine but my mother wanted me to not skip even a single day's school, restrictions on just about everything from watching TV to playing time to what not! I got 4 marks out of 10 once in a class test and I was dead scared to go home because I knew that day I had to have it from my mother! Having been brought up like that, slowly and steadily I started becoming a victim to this disease called 'perfection'. If I miss school one single day even due to very valid reasons, I would cry and feel like the earth is going to shatter. If I come second in the class in any one subject, I would feel like that's the end of my life! Extreme addiction to studies also stems from the fact that I belong to Andhra Pradesh in India where if you study arts or commerce, people would not even look at you - I hear it still is the same in most parts of the state. I would prepare extremely well for an exam and if I forget a small formula in the exam, I would not be able to digest as in how could it happen to me, I tried so hard!

Having such a thing ingrained into me, I was still like that during the early years at my work. I would not use my Frequent Flyer number when I travelled for work, I felt that is not correct :) I must accept life had become very difficult post studies for me. After all, from a perfect atmosphere within yourself, when you come out of it, it is an imperfect world, and it is not bad. But it becomes very difficult for you to adapt to it, and accept the imperfections. It becomes very difficult to let it go or to accept the people around you who let-go. And it is very critical to do that. Till date, that instinct exists in me - when I play a game on an app, I am not competing against anyone but I want to score more than my last attempt otherwise I feel bad. This leads to a lot of stress, you can't concentrate on better things in life due to such small and unimportant things bothering you unnecessarily. It is very bad for you in every way.

My current workplace and industry keeps challenging me on this same weakness of mine, very frequently. There was a day a few years ago when suddenly I went to the cafeteria early in the day, everyone was talking about this viral video 'kolaveri di', and I was stunned on why I didn't know it. Then I realized it all happened overnight. In today's era, you follow many different apps, first thing in the morning possibly you browse through the 3-4 regular apps and check the updates. It is possible that one 5th app you didn't have time to open, go out and learn that it had an update which already everyone knows about. You reach office and people start discussing. I have learnt that it is fine if you don't know it, you missed it because you probably spent that time in something that mattered to you more that morning. Once you are out of this trap, you are also able to set targets for yourself which are practically achievable, once you start achieving them that in turn builds confidence in you.

Some time back, I had written this post on 'Obsession to self-dependence', my biggest learning is if you have the obsession to self-dependence, you need to have machinery to depend on or you cannot be obsessed to perfection, else it is impossible to live life happily. I used to get restless when there was even a small amount of dust around me, because I knew I had not cleaned it up and I possibly would blame myself of not being able to manage everything. Today, I see the dust and know it is there (there is dust on this table which has this laptop I am typing on :)) and when I think I know there were 30 mins when I just sat and chilled or watched TV or read a book but did not use that 30 mins to clean the dust, but I still don't care that much because I know its fine. I let it go :) I have moved quite a bit towards the better side though, now that I am gaining a bit of wisdom may be. But one thing I still cannot compromise on is punctuality. I want to take my dog out at 6:15AM sharp, my husband usually delays by a few minutes and only I know the amount of stress that spreads in the atmosphere during those few minutes. A colleague of mine delayed for a client meeting, he was quite chilled out while I was getting very restless. When we reached the client location, we still had to wait for quite some time, I still want to be on time from my side though I have learnt to let it go.

I see many parents around who want their children to be perfect again, they get stressed out if the child is not learning something in school that the other child has already learnt in other school. This stress passes on to the child too. To all parents, it is not possible to learn and know everything in this world. Let the child be, let the child learn at his or her own pace. Even if the child becomes perfect, there are only so many places where perfection stays, rest all is an imperfect world. The individual needs to learn to accept the imperfect world, and the imperfect world also has to accept the individual. Most importantly, such children/individuals would have extreme problems and would face a lot of discomfort and may go into depression too when they notice imperfections being rewarded as opposed to perfections, and such things do happen all the time. Teach children to let it be; that's how the world is and unfortunately we are to live in this same world!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Of India, and changing India

All of us, once at least would have asked this question: “What will happen to this country!” (“kya hoga iss desh ka!”)…
I have asked this question several times to myself and now I helplessly admit that I have concluded that “iss desh ka kuch nahin ho sakta!”. India is going to remain India. By this I mean the attitude of the people and not the other dynamics – like usage of mobile phone for example. Recently I traveled in a train a few times after some years. I observed the train is exactly the same as it was decades ago, every single compartment was the same, the toilets were dirty, the bedsheets were not as good and just about anything that you could have observed about a train during your travel over the past few decades! I have travelled across many different sections of the country from North to South and from East to West. (What I found is the platforms in Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh were the neatest of all. The platforms of Uttar Pradesh were the worst of all. All other zones come in between somewhere.) I have travelled in general compartments, sleeper class, 3rd AC, and 2nd AC – in that order from childhood to adulthood as my changing ability to spend changed. The situation of each compartment and services remains exactly the same – by and large.
Now I want to know if India is changing, train resembles India, why has it not changed at all since decades?
Also, the movies – there was ‘Zanjeer’ about an honest ‘dabangg’ police officer in 1973, and then there is Singham on the same lines in 2011. 40 years and the same theme??? Does that mean the corruption situation is still the same?
Of course, things would have gotten only worse, surely owing to the increased population of ours and some changing environmental parameters. Then, are we actually changing?
Why are there NGOs for women empowerment perpetually existing? Are they not able to empower women or are there enough women to empower at any given time? In that case again, things have not changed for women at large right?
I may be termed as a pessimist but being an optimist here is very unrealistic to me. My most logical sense is, change happens – but at an individual level, at a small group level may it be a small community or a village (In case of railways too, there might be pockets like South Central railways for example that might have changed but to generalize, it is the same still!). For change to happen at an individual level it takes a few years, for change to happen at a family level it takes a decade or so, for change to happen at a community level it takes a few decades but for change to happen at a national level, it would take several decades but there are too many barricades in between that stop from the change to happen. For that mass change to happen, everybody needs to feel that change is needed for him or her, and there needs an individual or a group to make each and every individual feel the need first of all – that I feel is a close to impossible task! A lot of people don’t feel the need to have sanitation. When you go to some places like Uttar Pradesh, there is hell lot of dirt all around. Won’t people feel the need to not make the place dirty first of all, or clean it up once filthy? How many individuals can run the swach bharat abhiyan? can a small group go and clean the place all the time? That group needs to be dedicated for that task alone in that case, which is not possible. Even in a household, if just one person takes the responsibility to clean things up and every other family member keeps making the house dirty, how would that situation be? We are changing in terms of adapting to the new revolution like mobile phones or internet. But our basic attitude remains the same at large, it has not changed at all! We change in small groups and move to a strata that has changed or is changing, and feel that India is changing. It is a myth :) India will remain India unless the attitude of each and every one of the 1.2Bn people changes, possible?
I was a part of Jagriti Yatra 2014 where I met someone from Kenya. I asked him what is the one word that comes to you when you see India, knowing that he was visiting India for the first time. He said ‘dirty’, ‘chaotic’ and a few other related adjectives, I appreciate his honesty. It doesn’t feel particularly good when a visitor feels like that in your country :) But I have to accept the reality, though it is a harsh one. He mentioned India is not a country where people should be left on their own, they need a dictator kind of a ruler who will give them a task and just get them to do it, no matter what. Only then India will improve. He gave the example of Rwanda, I was curious and asked him how many years did it take Rwanda to transform? He said 30 years for such a small country.
Imagine about India transforming then!

This country is run by women

For quite some time, I have been observing around and I come to the conclusion that this country is run by women (this is a generalization, outliers remain though)!
If you actually see and analyze, the amount of work that a woman does is much more than the amount of work a man does. There are set duties for a woman, almost all the duties are pertaining to others in her life; anything that she has to do for herself she has to take extra time out – whether it is going for a walk, or office, or beauty parlour, or gym, or any other of her choice. Any of these activities happen only if and when she gets free from her routine duties that are defined for her. And even when she is on her own in any of these activities, you would notice her taking calls pertaining to her ‘duties’ again :) Why is everyone so enthu about defining duties for women? A friend of mine said once that they didn’t have a cook during their childhood, if they went out on a day of the weekend, her mother used to prepare the food once they were back home. In her own words, ‘bechaari meri mummy ghar aake khud saara khaana banaati thi’, those were not the days of cook for them, also not the days of ordering from outside. I am sure many households are still like this, except for very few outliers.
I had a maid servant some time back who looked like a 12-year-old kid. She was married with 2 kids, she didn’t know her age to tell me when I surprisingly asked her after coming to know she had 2 kids. She was very hard-working and diligent, her work was perfect, she used to come on time, when she came that is. But she used to fall sick very often. Poverty leading to no proper food was most likely the cause. When asked about her husband, she mentioned once that he doesn’t do anything; then a few days later she mentioned that she got the society pass for him too with the help of the other house owners where she worked. So the husband got to sweep the society and earn some money. This lasted a few days and in those few days she was happy and regular at her own work. But just after a few days she again became irregular and when asked, during the conversation she mentioned her husband left the job. There was no feeling of frustration or desperation, she very casually mentioned about her husband leaving the job. He was not doing anything again. She used to work from 6AM to 11AM in the morning, go home and make lunch, feed her children and have it herself. Again at 4PM, she used to come back for the afternoon part of the work. I once asked her if she cooked anything before 6AM when she came for work? She replied in the negative and I came to know that her children don’t eat anything till lunch time. She could not afford that much milk to give them, it seemed. She would be most likely beaten up by the husband also very often. What is all this I wonder?
I have a vegetable vendor near our colony. We make sure to buy from him whatever is needed so that they make some money. They keep vegetables, milk, bread, eggs, curd which are the usual regular day-to-day stuff. The shop is run by a couple who have 3 kids. A few days earlier, I went to the shop in the morning when the woman had opened the shop and was organizing things. There was another customer before me. Our guard came running and asked her where her husband was because a kid had fallen ill and the guard wanted her husband, who also runs an auto-rickshaw, to take the kid to a clinic. She said he had gone to the vegetable market in old Gurgaon, which is his usual morning task. Soon, the other customer left and she burst out in tears (I don’t know what comfort she shared with me) – she said her husband has not gone to the market but he is sleeping because he didn’t come home last night, and was found in the morning in the neighbourhood. He was drunk last night. She was so worried that the vegetables stock was not enough for the day. The kids were ready to go to the school but he is not in a position to drive the rickshaw. She also mentioned there are two other drunkard friends of his whose families are in Bihar. They are regular drinkers and her husband joins them. She was worried about him not making rounds of the auto-rickshaw, saying income from that has stopped because of his habits. While saying all this, she also said ‘didi, 3 bachche hain, ek baar bhi bola nahin hua nahin ki subah uthke school ke liye tayaar kar de’? (didi, I have 3 kids and not one single day has he woken up in the morning and offered to get them ready for school). He is always found loitering around, instead of taking the rickshaw rounds.
What nonsense is all this? Here is a woman who is trying to do everything from managing household, to kids, to the shop. It is obvious that this auto-rickshaw has to be driven to make money, and it is obvious that this man has to make money. Why doesn’t he get it? Why is he not fearful like her on how will the household run? And on top of it, he is so dumb that he cannot weigh the vegetables properly and calculate the money too. I very patiently tolerate his dumbness only because of his wife, I want her to make some money. She has taught him to use the calculator, she once lightly shared that he loses money because he makes wrong calculations. How nonsensical!
I think there is an inherent talent in women that they can multi-task (tasks of different variety, not many tasks of same variety – there is a difference and the former needs more talent) much better. And in the lower classes, I have noticed many couples where the women are much more intelligent than the men. Since childhood, girls are brainstormed about ‘duties’, which take up their entire time, and they are not left with any to grow in their own way. And more often than not, they just succumb top those duties. I am sure they would be getting married under this immense pressure to perform their duty, and further perform more duties to have children and run the household. Had this not been the case, they were capable of getting a much better spouses and would have grown a lot differently, to great heights.
I witnessed an instance in a village where in a family many men were refusing to marry. It was high time as per their age that they get married. There was an elderly man who expressed the worry, ‘why does no one want to get married? who will cook in the household?’. I was shocked! They want them to get married because they can’t cook themselves? Why don’t they teach them to cook themselves?
Who has given the right to men to define duties for women? I think these kinds of men especially are afraid that they would be left behind if these duties are not imposed on women, and when women become more successful their ego hurts and things like acid attacks happen! Otherwise I wonder why are there no acid attacks on men? (At least not reported).
Most of the women face situations like these, at various levels at various intensities – some or the other in the family, in the society, in the surroundings is there to remind the women about their ‘duties’, sadly women themselves also, very sad!
I am reading this book ‘Lean-In’ where Sheryl Sandberg described in detail on how women inherently don’t come forward to take on new things (possibly because of the upbringing, its in the air), and in work-life balance, with all the fears and the biggest fear of being a good mother/wife/daughter etc., usually work is left behind. How true! I realize it is a world-wide phenomenon and just an India story. The intensity magnifies manifold due to the other problems in our country.
To all women – read the book Lean-In.