Monday, August 31, 2009

Do They Happen to You?

I struggle to do certain things although apparently they appear very simple. However much I resolve to get them right or avoid them next time, I fail and repeat them.

And, as there are no clear guidelines available on what is the right approach to take, it becomes all the more difficult to decide what to do.

I am sure many among you, like me, find them difficult, too.

Socializing is perhaps the most difficult thing to do, especially with people whom you are neither fully familiar nor completely unfamiliar with. In office, on road or in any such neutral venue, when I run into a person I’m partially familiar with, I struggle to decide what to do. I don’t know the person enough to engage in a conversation; yet, I have to acknowledge my familiarity with the person.

So what do I do? Snap a quick smile, a ‘hi’ and walk past? Or keep quite and pretend I didn’t notice the person, and go?

The problem with the first approach is if the person doesn’t acknowledge you in return, you might feel bad. The problem with the second approach is the person might feel you tried to ignore him/her.

Stamping out angry thoughts in the morning
In the morning until I leave my bed, my mind is cluttered with snippets of bitter memories - like snubs, minor betrayals, letdowns, etc. - rising from the inner recesses of the mind and gushing forth. Maybe this happens with many of us because our mind, I have read, remains at its sharpest in the morning.

As these unpleasant experiences tumble forth, I counter them with retorts but my angry flashes hit the bed sheet covering my face and return to me again. Strangely, once I leave the bed and get involved in other activities the mind becomes calm.

Making a choice
When I have to make a choice and the options are marginally different from each other, indecision sets in. When I settle on a choice, the other options look better and a series of negatives come to mind about the option I had chosen. When I drop the option, the negatives somehow fade into the background and the option starts looking better again.

I know it is indecision and I have heard advices on how to be decisive, but they feel effective only until I have to make a choice again.

I am sure these things happen to most of us (although some don’t want to admit they happento them) and we try to counter them as we think best, but the problems linger. I have been living with these for very long and don’t remember a day I didn’t think they were silly and that the next day I wouldn’t let them bother me. But I did.

What about you?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chinese Peculiarities

I have an interest in China and things Chinese for sometime now. Although I take interest in countries, people and cultures in general, my interest in China seems to have an obsessive character to it.

I have read articles on Chinese culture, history, politics and, of course, China's rise to global prominence. But, I guess, fictions provide the best view of people and societies.

I am reading a Chinese fiction, The Eye of Jade, a detective thriller where the protagonist is trying to unravel a complex plot to trace a missing antique piece – an eye of jade – which dates back to the Han dynasty.

I don’t know whether or not the search will be successful as I haven’t finished the novel, but the novel has provided me with some interesting insights on how China and Chinese society work. Some of the things are common place and some unique.

The society is cleaved into two broad classes: first, people who stay in the cities and second, the provincial population.

For example, if you are an eligible bachelor but hail from provinces, your provincial upbringing is enough to disqualify you as a groom of a girl who comes from a city. Provincial peculiarities are looked down upon by the by urbanites.

There is a premium on staying in Beijing.

Arranged marriage is an established practice. The prospects are generally put in touch with each other by common social contacts.

Some resent the Communist party for its miserable human-right records while others are thankful to the party due to personal stability acquired through loyal service in government positions.

There is no press freedom; the media, used as a propaganda tool, is part of the Communist party and completely controlled by it. The people working in the media are party loyalists.

There are noodle bars everywhere and of different varieties - small, large, up-market and dingy. The noodle bars sometimes double up as sex parlors.

Going through this maze, the protagonist is trying to find her way to the eye of jade. The story is interesting and the language is very simple.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Qualities of the Crow

Photography is a new-found hobby for me. I owe it to two friends who helped me buy a Cannon ‘point and shoot’ camera at a discounted price one and half years ago.

Since then I have looked for photo-worthy things and clicked them. Of all things I find nature most interesting to photograph.

And of all things natural I find birds most fascinating to capture.

While with other gifts of nature there are swathes of monotonous sameness in their looks, personalities, habitations and food habits - one type of bird is always refreshingly different from another on various counts.

It isn’t easy to find good avian variety in cities, though. Their numbers are dwindling steadily due to pollution and expanding concrete jungles.

But, despite the shrinking population, there is no dearth of the bird I find most intriguing – the crow. The crow is most clever of all birds.

With its wit and flair for improvisation, the crow somehow manages to outwit other birds and grab its morsel.

The crow is aggressive but clever enough to know who to pick up a shindy with. It never engages itself in a full-scale battle with a big kite; instead, it descends, hits the kite with its claws and goes.

While with its measured aggression it holds its own among biggies like kites, its pedestrian appeal finds it a place among harmless and unassuming birds like pigeons and sparrows.

A crow rules in a flock and also is effective enough alone.

Another virtue of this bird is its observation. The crow almost always manages to spot its food – be it a scuttling mouse or a piece of bread – and once the prey has been spotted, it seldom fails to savour it.

And doesn’t the crow look elegant while gliding from one windowsill to another?

PS: What drew my attention to the crow is an interview by RK Laxman, the famous Times of India cartoonist, on his recently published biography. In the interview, Laxman likened the crow with the “common man” of his cartoons.

For the uninitiated reader, RK Laxman is an Indian cartoonist who is famous for his satirical takes on Indian politics and the “common man” is a theme that runs across almost all of Laxman’s cartoons: while the political dramas play themselves out, the common man stands by and observes. The common man is a silent observer in a noisy democracy.

The crow, Laxman says, has the qualities of the common man in that the bird is witty and is a survivor.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Vignette of a Corporate Success

Our US director is here and we went out for a lunch today sponsored by our team.

We went to a European restaurant. The whole team couldn’t join because a part of our team is based in Hydrabad; the rest is in Bangalore.

Even among the Bangalore ones some dropped out giving flimsy excuses.

The one-hour lunch revealed the other side of her personality. Our director is a petite lady with short and pointed features (she is around 55). This was the second time I saw her in person. The first time was a few days ago when we had a general meeting; the earlier evening she had arrived in India.

In the meeting, she looked just like a corporate boss: no-frills and business-like.

The purpose of the meeting was to know her team members well. The majority of her team is based in India and she is first time in India. So she wanted to check every aspect of every member’s personality.

We gathered in a big conference hall and she kicked-off the meeting with a presentation, explaining why we shouldn’t leave the company. Then we stood up one-by-one and introduced ourselves. You had to tell your name, how long you were with the company, your passions, etc.

You couldn’t say an odd or pompous-sounding passion – like I want to change the world, for example - because the crowd sitting at the back would immediately boo you. Imagine how embarrassing it can be.

And as we went through this embarrassment, she paced up and down, stooped and her hands clasped behind her, looking like an intellectual appraising her audience with disdain.

But today, during the lunch, she was a different person. The swagger had been replaced by diffidence. The grandeur had been replaced by friendliness. And the distant cautiousness had made way for warmth.

She talked about herself, her family and how she made it. I asked her about her educational background and she got a little embarrassed.

She didn’t graduate and started working very early in life. She worked in bank counter, manufacturing, software, IT process where she currently is. She revealed she is a slow learner.

She said her strength lay in the fact that she took up things that others refused to do. She prides herself on having struck the right balance between profession and family. She has a large family with a brood of grandchildren, and she is very fond of them.

Taking about current problems of the US, she said the US is suffering from a dearth of good engineers because the standard of math and science has fallen due to women liberation movement.

American women had been moving away from science and math because they found them difficult. And the women liberation movement whose purpose was to create equal opportunity for men and women in every spare of life, including education, insisted that science and maths be made easy so that women could take to them, thus bringing down the standard.

Meanwhile, I finished my chicken steak and she finished her beef steak. The other two members had ordered for pizza and a fish-based item (whose name I don’t remember).

We sipped iced tea and she drank diet coke; then it was time to leave.

Which side of her you think is real - the commandeering corporate boss or the caring and modest granny?

I think they are just different shades of the same personality.
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