So long dear friends, Al Vida!

Al Vida is a Hindi word meaning Goodbye! This year has been a bit rapid in the wrong sense! I lost three dear friends of mine to the almighty till today, 11th April 2017. I am not writing an obituary but I am writing random thoughts that come to mind when such deaths take place. I am now 67 and it’s not a big deal really to face that your friends or family are dying. I know the realities of life and know very well that one has to go at some stage. My first such experience was when I was in final year of school and I had lost a friend to destiny. I have written a blog on this event

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/he-is-gone/. That time it was a big shock!

In my grandparent’s time, he died at the age on 89, reaching that age was a miracle! Medical science and other allied sciences were not yet really developed and reaching the age of 50 was a great feat. Probably this threshold has already gone up to 55, then slowly to 60. My father and father in law both died at the age of 63. Celebrating 60th birthday was a great event then. People were considered to be at their prime around age of 40/45. Things have really changed now; almost 10 % of my batch mates from engineering college continue to work and are in reasonable health. Another maybe 50% are in good health though they have retired. People go for walks, treks, climb hills daily or hit the gym.

Now people are considered to be in prime around the age of 55/60 and I have known a few who have started new ventures after crossing 60. Definitions of old age are changing rapidly in India, the age bar for doing new things, new achievements has gone up! Besides improvement in medical sciences what has helped to raise the bar? New technology has brought people together. The isolation that older people had to suffer is now almost becoming history because we are in touch many people and many of the contemporaries are still around. This has definitely added to improved longevity.

I only feel sad that two of my friends who died, passed away almost instantaneously. Third friend was unwell for a few months. I don’t know the details about their health status for the period before they died. My other friend Suresh who was an Air Force pilot, flying MIG 27, had once told me. “Pramod, planes are as good as the way they are maintained. Except for one system, all hydraulics can be checked on the ground; only one system gets checked during flying. Similarly there is no sudden heart failure; there are signals which are ignored or sometimes due to diabetes the person does not feel the pain.” Had these two friends been a little more proactive in getting themselves checked who knows….

In this world time is the same for everybody. One minute for me is the same one minute to everybody. How we use this one minute is what matters. If we are day dreaming, thinking of future for ten minutes, we lose ten minutes from the current time which we could have spent better. Similarly if we had used those ten minutes to remember what we had done in the past, the net result would have been the same. It is the current time that is THE time!

Out of the three friends that I lost one of them was current time person. He would enjoy life to the fullest, whatever he was doing. He passed early morning. He had just come back from a party a couple of hours before he died. He had the real zest to enjoy the life. His son had shared the following on Facebook, sometime back. It is a perfect fit to my dear friend’s style!

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. Then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present. The result being that he neither lives in present nor the future. He lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies never really lived.”

My friend really lived life and it is not easy to be so zestful all through your life. Thank you dear for showing us the path how to live and in the how to go!  Goodbye, Al Vida, My angels!

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Empathy

Dictionary meaning of Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This is one of the most important facets of human personality. I am always amazed how human personality develops. A human may be born with good physique, good brains; these traits can come from ones gene pool; these facets can be further improved by consistent efforts. But what about empathy? Is a person born with empathy? Is empathy a physical trait? No it is definitely not. Empathy is considered a motivating factor for unselfish, prosocial behavior, whereas a lack of empathy is related to antisocial behavior.

Human intelligence is the sum total of IQ & EQ. Empathy is a key element of Emotional Intelligence, the link between self and others, because it is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves. This is best described by the proverb “Never criticize a person unless you have walked in his shoes for one mile.”

At what stage in life a human being becomes an empathizer? Is it seen only in humans or also in animals? I feel that it is definitely seen in the pets like dogs and cats. Of the two, dogs are better empathizers as they express themselves more openly than cats. I have read about dolphins, chimpanzees also showing this trait. These things indicate that empathy is a trait related to brain activity.

Empathy is a skill that is gradually developed throughout life, and which improves, the more contact we have with the person with whom one empathizes. Accordingly, any knowledge gained about the emotions of the other, must be revisable in light of further information. Empathizers will find it easier to take the perspective of another person when they have experienced a similar situation. When I share my personal experiences below, I again wonder if what I am writing is correct.

I want to share a couple of examples of my own and a business story which give different facets of empathy.

This is about 13/14 years back. I was in the US with my son Sachin, my grandson, Suyash, was maybe around 4 yrs old. We went his school to see a performance by the kids for Halloween. We were requested go and wait in a hall. Kids were coming in parade like formation and were having great fun. Almost all the kids had come out but we could not see our grandson Suyash. He came in the end, pushing a child who was in a wheelchair. After the program I asked the teacher, “How do you decide who will push the chair? Do you request the children to take turns?” She said, “Yes, we do it that way, but Suyash insists that he wants to push the wheelchair every time!” She said, “Suyash is different child and has of great empathy!”

Recently at home my daughter Priya and our granddaughter Rhea were with us. Our daughter came back from the clinic. She was mentally very down with some professional event and she had a telephonic conversation with my wife Jaya before she came home. Rhea asked Jaya, “Is mumma unwell?” Jaya said “No, she is ok!” Rhea is 3 ½ years old. When Priya came home and Rhea told us, “See mumma is well, she is not crying!” Jaya suggested to Priya to have some food. Rhea went and sat next to Priya and fed her all the meal. All the time telling her, “Eat your food, you will feel well!” She made sure that Priya finished all the food. How do I explain empathy in a 3 1/2 year old child?

Now I am not able to understand both the kids, all of ¾ years of age and so much empathy within them! They have not seen the world, they have not seen the bad side of the world. How could they empathize? I am back to my question at what stage the empathy start? How does it kickstart? Are all ¾ old kids like this? It cannot be so as each individual is a different person. Is it then genetic? Does it come down to you when you are born as hereditary facet of your personality?

Now I am sharing one experience from business domain. There was a heading somewhere.

Mercedes-Benz, the car manufacturer, is no longer interested in achieving customer satisfaction.

That does not mean that customer experience is not important to Mercedes. Quite the opposite. It means that customer experience is so important that satisfaction is not enough. Instead, the company wants its customers to feel delighted by their experience with Mercedes.

The company’s president and CEO believe that engaging Mercedes employees is key to achieving that. For example, a recent company poll found that 70% of employees had never driven a Mercedes. They are now being given the opportunity to do so, so that they can better empathise with customers, and therefore engage with them more effectively.

I had a similar discussion years back when first “Indian” car was being developed. The key people involved in this development were all using Fiat & Ambassador cars in those days. I asked some one senior in the organization, when all the key persons were accustomed to quality of Fiat & Ambassador cars, how will they create a car to compete with Maruti Zen, the best car of those times. We all know the end result.

In our office we make software products. I tell all my colleagues we are NOT developing software but we are creating a solution for other people to help them to handle their own processes in correct and a very easy way. Unless we achieve that we are not going to sell our products.  We must walk in our Customers shoes for one mile to understand their needs.

Will the world be a better place if more people are able to empathize? Is there a threshold at which people start to empathize? Can there be formal training given to people to learn to empathize? Friends come with your views! Let’s make this world even a better place.