70 plus 500 is equal to Nil!

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I don’t know if this is a blog or a retrospection! The meaning of the title is a bit odd. But I completed 70 th year on 7th October, and this is my 500th blog on the  8 th October, Dussehera, one of the significant festivals of Hindus! So, I can say that these two events, or maybe milestones, were reached on two consecutive days! But the meaning of the title is that I am resetting both figures 70 and 500 to zero. It is going to be the new beginning of a phase in my life, the length of which I do not know!  

What will resetting 70 achieve? What will resetting 500 achieve? Honestly, I feel a little embarrassed to mention the blog number when I publish one. But I do not know how to keep track of these numbers. There is no target; there is nothing to prove! I have been a reasonable engineer but never a writer! Someone asked me what my objective of publishing the blogs is? There is no objective or a target, and there is simply passion. What created this passion is very difficult to say.  

I started creating some technical documents during my software business. The need for these documents was to have full clarity and avoid ambiguity. As the projects began becoming larger and customers started becoming more demanding, the need for clarity went up and up! It helped me to write what I wanted to say with clarity; this is helping me while writing the blogs. Some friends tell me that I don’t write precisely like an engineer but argue from both sides. When I write the blog, I am not proving anything or anyone right or wrong. Hence, I write more than one viewpoints. The idea is to delve on a thought or an event or a situation. Get an overall feel and then go deeper into the subject. Some blogs need me to research on the net. Some issues are memories from my life; others are experiences that acquired over a period or got them while on the go!  

But the idea is to start writing as thoughts are gathered for a blog in my mindMy friend Jayprakash has divided my blogs into two types, impulsive and compulsive! He has hit the bull’s eye!  I have given below one example each of Impulsive and Compulsive blogs.

Impulsive blog 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/06/08/brave-art/ 

Compulsive blog 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/08/13/article-370-common-mans-view/ 

Impulsive blogs are visualised by me like setting the destination on Google maps. I know the beginning, the middle and the end at the start itself. These are written almost in one shot. Whereas for the compulsive blogs, I generally know the beginning and have a vague end in mind. I am not sure what I am going to writeIt can be compared with the olden way of looking for an address. I stop, I think and then move forward. It is like getting down from the car and asking the autorickshaw chap or pan walla for the direction to reach my destinationBut I reach my destination missing a turn or two.  

To me, the most important part is the end productThe result of my satisfaction can be achieved by editing and fine-tuning before I publish; it is the toughest aspect of blog writingI also use an English checking software called Grammarly, which is of great help! For images, quotes or diagrams, Google baba is always there to help! I think, in the end, it is your comments, suggestions, discussions that help me get better. I know there is still enormous scope for improvement. So here I declare my target! I have no targetbut I am going to do my best to improve to the best of my abilities!  

Now about the resetting of the number 70! Many of my friends and classmates have been reaching this landmark (if it can be called landmark) in 2019 as they were born in 1949. When I ask them about their feelings, I am mostly getting pleasant responses. Some have gone through major tragedies; some have suffered health issues. In some cases, health problems continue. In other cases, the event was a onetime health event. Friends have said thGat they mostly feel as if they are 15/20 years younger! I am sure such thoughts come to mind when life has treated you generally well. But a friend suffered a major tragedy in her young age, but I was happy to note that she was also quite enthusiastic about life in general. But someone haat this age faced the death of his 45-year-old son in an accident. The usual adage of time helps to heal all the wounds may not work in tragedies of such nature!  

Resetting the counter at the age of 70 opens up many vistas! My blog published yesterday discusses the benefits of the golden period of our life! 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/the-beauty-of-the-golden-period/ 

It will open many possibilities in life, and you will wonder why you did not do certain things in life! Have a glass of wine if you have never done it before– it is no big deal. World over, the people do enjoy a drink or two! सोमरस  has always been discussed in our mythological storiesMention of  सोमरस can give you the moral support you want. Join some clubs and enjoy playing cards! Try and spend some time doing social work, give time for needy. There are many lonely people in this world because of many reasons. Don’t wait to create some big system which will help others. By all means, do it, but you can start with small selfhelp groups in your locality. Go to old people’s home in your neighbourhood and spend some time with these lonely people. The meaning of resetting is simply to bring back your enthusiasm to do whatever you want to doDon’t do it to prove something but do it to give satisfaction to yourself and help othersMeet friends, phone them up! Meet your cousins, they will be probably of the same age as you are 

Resetting of the number 70 is a significant phase in your life. What you plan and do after reset is going to decide the way you are going to live in the golden period of your life. It is very easy to get entangled into a rut and a sad, unpleasant mindset. I have some definite plans in my mind, which I am going to try and see if they work. We tend to become rigid in our thought process as we grow older, so I am going to attempt to become more flexible. Empathy is one more aspect which all of us have to some extent; I will try my best show more empathy towards others! I want to delete the word EGO from my dictionary today.

Some of my friends have jokingly told me that I had reached a stage where I will have to be treated by paediatricians; I will try not to be treated by any doctor as far as possible. I would instead meet them socially, with that famous glass of wine I mentioned above 

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Connect to be Happy!

Passing through the doors, you rush ahead and hold the door ajar for the lady! Chivalry? But in today’s times, with women power and all, this could lead to an embarrassing glance or two.  Right? No, wrong! Don’t hold that door for only the ladies but do it for men folk too! The word for this gesture changes from Chivalry to empathy! Show empathy friends; you connect emotionally with others by showing compassion! Such acts are essential, and this is what differentiates humans from other species. An experiment was conducted in the 13th century, where newly born babies were kept away from human touch, emotions and interactions. All these babies died.

I came across a term Limbic Resonance. Limbic resonance is the idea that the capacity for sharing deep emotional states arises from the limbic system of the brain. These states include the dopamine circuit-promoted feelings of empathic harmony, and the norepinephrine circuit-originated emotional states of fear, anxiety and anger. Enough of tech terms which we don’t understand. It is the empathy and non-verbal communication between mammals that connects them. A child hugs the mother when there is fear or doubt in mind. The hugging gets things going in the child’s brain, and normalcy is slowly restored. Without Limbic Resonance humans will become unreachable and heartless like lesser animals. This property is common in all mammals.

There are some lessons about relationships. The first is that social connections are perfect for us and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to the community, are happier; they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. The experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic. People who are more isolated than they want to be from others, find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner, and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.

I will share an example of a friend. This friend is from a different religion than Hinduism. He lives alone in Mumbai and has gone through health issues. Luckily after the initial scare, the problem turned out to be an easier one to handle. He is a widower too! In the recent election in India, NDA looked like being a winner by miles. Media had been hyper how the NDA government will make India a Hindu state. After the election, the friend talked with his Hindu friends and requested all of them to help and make sure that Hindu fanatics do not become too aggressive. The friend asked them to ensure his safety in case of some unfortunate events. Due to loneliness, he has lost touch with society and his mind must be hyperventilating. Friend, start getting back in touch with the community, don’t remain away, don’t force loneliness on yourself. That you live alone is a fact. But whether to be lonely is in your hands!

A friend has an interesting way of looking at life. I was walking with him once; the friend had his dog with him. On a footpath, one beggar was sitting with his dog. The friend stopped, gave the beggar some alms. Then he asked the beggar about his dog, and they exchanged notes about the dogs. While we were moving ahead, I could see the shine in the eyes of the beggar. My friend said, “ I only acknowledged that the beggar exists. Such acknowledgement of persons is fundamental in life when you have nothing else to look forward to”.

I have experienced this personally. Once during my morning walk, I observed some very senior citizens, standing and chatting among themselves, outside the older people’s home. I stopped and said hello to them. One thing led to another, and we spent an hour talking together. My chat, now I realise, was making them feel wanted in this world. It gave them the recognition that at least some people in the world are aware of their existence.

Showing empathy is one way of connecting with people. A way to show your empathy is to listen, summarise and show! Very few people have the art of listening to people, and I am not one of them. When I am discussing things with others, I tend to answer even before the other person has completed what she wants to say. But if you follow the “listen, summarise and show” method, then the other person feels nice. The person feels that you are connected with them.

We see some people selling stuff at the road signal junctions. They are trying to live life and earn some money. Many people behave very brusquely with them. Some ignore them as if they don’t exist; others make some rude comments. It is quite simple. Is there any harm in showing them some empathy? Why not just smile at them and indicate that you do not want to purchase anything or say that you do not want to buy the stuff. This small gesture will make them feel a little better, knowing that someone is acknowledging their existence.

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You don’t have to change the world or find your one real purpose to lead a meaningful life. A good life is a life of goodness — and that’s something anyone can aspire to, no matter their dreams or circumstances. You don’t have to achieve something that will give you a Nobel prize. Giving a little joy to others is good enough. I had mentioned in one of the blogs,  the tag line of the Voice of America radio station of the ’60 s of the last century! If you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours!

To resonate with others, we need to connect when it matters. Such connections nurture both us and others and earn trust. Just as in cricket, timing is everything. Proper timing will score you six runs in place of dot ball. It is here the metaphorical doors come in. How do you feel when someone holds the door open for you—especially when you’ve got your hands full? When would you hold open a door for another person? Keeping a door open at the right time indicates tending to the need of the others when essential.

All those people want to be understood and appreciated. By connecting in this way, they trust you, follow them, and you are actually looking out for their interests. You are attentive and willing to open doors for them. The power of resonance will keep you happy and healthy and open doors for you too!

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So friends, open that door and hope that you have done it at the right time; you will see the inkling of a smile in the eyes of others, a little brightness, and an instant connect! The gesture might open some vistas for you! By the way, even empowered ladies love this, let me assure you!

Human nature, a mystery!

Free as the wind
Tall as a tree
Wide as a mind
Deep as a sea

Human nature is a bundle of fundamental characteristics—including ways of thinking, feeling, and acting—which humans have in them, naturally. I have used a few lines from a Michael Jackson song, released in 1983, which appealed to me very much the way the lines tell us about the nature.

The question of whether there are truly fixed characteristics, what these natural characteristics are, and what causes them, are among the oldest and most important questions in philosophy and science. The science that examines human nature is psychology and more recently also neuroscience. These questions have particularly important implications in economics, ethics, politics, and theology. This is partly because human nature can be regarded as both a source of norms of conduct or ways of life, as well as presenting obstacles or constraints on living a good life.

How much do we know each other? It is a million-dollar question and I am not sure if we have an answer to this question. Let me assure you that this is not a rhetorical question. Yesterday, we had chat session, over a cup of coffee, with an old friend of ours. His wife has travelled to the US to help their daughter with the baby. He is from the same engineering college as Jaya and I went. He is a couple of years senior to me and we have done some professional work together.

We met, maybe, once a year or so, for a cup of tea, generally in my office; he would leave his home early to come to my office for updates and tea. We always had terrific interactions both professionally and personally. Jaya also knew him from college days as his sister was a year senior to her in school. Somehow in all these years, we had never met personally. I would always tell Jaya that he is a terrific person, with a lot of clarity on everything, a great sense of humour and the person to have as a friend! Yesterday’s chat reconfirmed all our views about him. We reluctantly ended our session, with a promise to meet regularly and asap!

When can we say that we know someone well? When we have a few meals together, or when we meet someone over a drink, once a while? Or when we meet someone over a cup of tea once in a while? In Hindi, someone may say, पहेचानता हूँ पर जानता नही हूँ ! This means I know of him but I don’t know him! Our friend told us a story. He said that a few years back, he and couple of his friends went for stag holiday out of Pune, for 2/3 days. On the first night, they chatted a lot, had a few drinks, and in general, enjoyed. By the time they felt sleepy, it was well past midnight. One of their friends insisted that the next day they all must go for a walk on the beach, early morning. Except for this person, others felt that they should laze around, instead. This friend was insisting so much that there was a minor disagreement. Ultimately only that person went to the beach. My friend said they all knew each other for 55 years plus, they were aware that this friend had a few strong views but on that day it was almost like “My way or the high way”! My friend said that though we knew each other for so many years, have met reasonably frequently but they came to know about this aspect of his personality only after they stayed together. Does it mean that you know someone only when you live together at least for a small duration?

I am sure one would start knowing someone well during life and death situation like war, or when you live together in hostels or dormitories. This living together for studies, doing small and big things together daily, borrowing small money for tea during month end money shortage, helping each other with studies, playing together and most importantly living together, brings that bond, a closeness which otherwise can never be there.

This brings me to another question. What forms your nature? What forms your persona? Is it in your genes? Is it in your DNA? When we say that something has come from genes or DNA what does it really mean? Children from the business community become business minded because from childhood they listen to various aspects of business being discussed at home. Children from doctor families tend to join medical courses because they always hear medical stories or discussions at home.

Consider this example. Two siblings one a lady and the other a man, not much of age difference. Born and brought up in an orthodox modern family. Their path in life has been, outwardly, exactly the same. High intelligence,high IQ, same education engineering plus post-graduation in management, started as trainees, reached the top of their respective organizations, extensively travelled, with long stays abroad for various professional reasons! The lady is a leader with excellent management skills, equally involved in family life, excellent human relationships! The gentleman obviously a good professional but as human being very difficult to deal with, sometimes too aggressive in personal things too! What has made that change mentioned in the last sentence? Only thing I visualize is the vast difference in EQ or Emotional Quotient! Do you pick up EQ on your way? Similarly you can pick up Empathy on the way! In simple language, the lady has become a cosmopolitan and the man has never reached there, missed his bus! The man missed out on picking up stuff from EQ & Empathy shops!

Considering complexities of human nature, I am just going to comment on a couple of important characteristics of humans as there are are too many to discuss!

What is the difference in introverts and extroverts?

One major difference between the brains of introverts and extroverts is the way they respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain that provides the motivation to seek external rewards like earning money, climbing the social ladder, attracting a mate, or getting selected for a high-profile project at work. When dopamine floods the brain, both introverts and extroverts become more talkative, alert to their surroundings, and motivated to take risks and explore the environment. But this dopamine is higher, in general, in extroverts!

Why people become aggressive?

There are many psychologists who believe that our aggression is mostly due to a biological input such as hormones, genes or our amygdala. Experts feel that our aggression is more nature than nurture, suggests that aggression can be found in the structure of the limbic system of our brain and this is where the amygdala can be found. The Amygdala controls one’s ability to perceive emotions towards others. This idea first started as it is believed the amygdala triggers our aggression. There is the other side of the argument, in which people believe that our aggression is a learned behaviour due to our experiences and the people around us. Jury is still out why we are aggressive?

Friends, the concept of human nature is traditionally contrasted not only with unusual human characteristics, but also with characteristics which are derived from specific cultures, and upbringings. The “nature versus nurture” debate is a discussion about human nature in the natural science that will always go on. The type of human nature I prefer is expressed the lines below, which are also from the same song by Michael Jackson.

And do just what comes natural
The first thing on your mind
Do just what comes natural
I prefer your kind of human nature

Only problem is that the natural in some people is not good enough to make you a good person in the society where we live!

EQ is about being Democratic!

We are taught about history, science, and math when we are growing up. Most of us, however, aren’t taught how to identify or deal with our own emotions, or the emotions of others. These skills are  valuable, but you’ll never get them in a classroom. During our life, we meet many people, we go through many situations, we have incidents. Some are good, some are bad and some are tough but some are hard. All these situations can create a mental stress in our mind which can become difficult to handle. Whether we like it or not, we need to overcome situations, emotions to bring back our lives to normal.

Our persona is made up of our brains and emotions. Brain decides our intelligence and the emotions decide mental ability to handle situations. It is said that our persona is defined by a mathematical formula Intelligence Quotient (IQ) + Emotional Quotient (EQ)/2. Unfortunately, life is not that simple and it never works as per the simple mathematical formula. Much is always said and discussed regarding the intelligence of persons or the IQ; he/she is very intelligent, very smart. If someone is good at mathematics, the person is said to be intelligent, an American term for which is smart. To me, EQ is equally or more important than IQ. There are enough people with good IQ so there will be great solutions to different problems. But if there are many solutions and your solution is not accepted, you can be upset, you may feel hurt, your ego may come into the picture. We find solutions but need to have resolutions to implement solutions, EQ plays an important part in it.

Many aspects of IQ have been discussed threadbare so I will be discussing more regarding EQ. Emotional intelligence is what psychological researchers use to describe how well individuals can manage their own emotions and react to the emotions of others. People who exhibit emotional intelligence also have the less obvious skills necessary to get ahead in life, such as managing conflict resolution, reading and responding to the needs of others, and keeping their own emotions from overflowing and disrupting their lives. I feel that the following points are important to understanding EQ.

  • Self-awareness: Self-awareness involves knowing your own feelings. This includes having an accurate assessment of what you’re capable of and when you need help, and what your emotional triggers are. What this means is to treat any situation in life as give and take. This in business language is called negotiation. Negotiation is used in all situations in life, be it war, or business deal, a settlement with children about their tantrums!
  • Self-management: This involves being able to keep your emotions in check when they become disruptive. Self-management involves being able to control outbursts, calmly discussing disagreements, and avoiding activities that undermine you e.g. extended self-pity or panic. If either of the sides takes a non-negotiable stand in a situation, loses control over emotions, things go haywire. In a democratic setup, decisions taken at every stage, may not be to your liking, but this is what self-management is all about.
  • Motivation: Everyone is motivated to action by rewards like money or status.  We must look at the motivation for the sake of personal joy, curiosity, or the satisfaction of being productive. All of us do some work or other in our lives but unless we do the work with passion, with joy, we will start losing motivation. Don’t forget that our normal working life is about 40 years; imagine doing work without joy for 40 years!
  • Empathy: While the above categories refer to a person’s internal emotions, this one deals with the emotions of others. Empathy is the skill and practice of reading the emotions of others and responding appropriately. A person may not be sufficiently intelligent but you need to be patient with such people. We work as a sweeper, nurse, doctor, engineer and lawyer. Give respect to everyone. The other day I was at the petrol pump and got air checked in tires. The person doing the job did not have his usual smile on his face. I asked him if he was unwell. He smiled and said,” Sir, this is such a boring job so I am simply fed up. You are the first person to have ever asked me this question. Now I will work with enthusiasm. Thank you!”
  • Social Skills: This category involves the application of empathy as well as negotiating the needs of the others with your own. This includes finding common ground with others, managing others with your own. This can include finding common ground with others in a work environment, and being persuasive. In the retirement phase of your life, your daily contacts reduce; make it a point to talk to a new person every day. At least say hello or give a smile. I have a friend, who can get friendly with people in five minutes. That is the skill that we should try and cultivate.

I will elaborate a little more on each point. Self-awareness is the most important point. Keep a diary or a journal and write down how you have handled emotions during the day. Take feedback from people close to you, take suggestions from your spouse. They can tell you if you overreacted. Slow-down in life. You may overreact because you sometimes don’t have enough time to ponder.

Next is self-management. One key way to manage your emotions is how you receive inputs. You’ve probably heard the old advice to count to ten and deep breathe when you’re angry. On the other side, if you’re feeling lethargic, do some exercise. If you’re stuck in an emotional loop, give yourself a “snap out of it” slap. Anything that can give a shock to your system or break the existing routine can help. You can’t always control what makes you feel a certain way, but you can always control how you react.

Talking about motivation does not mean just getting up energetically to go to work. It is about your inner drive to accomplish something. That drive isn’t just about feeling good. When you are near to achieving something, your inner self, gets charged up! That is what the motivation is about.

Empathy can be explained in a different way. Just shut up and listen to others. This is a way to give a thought to a different point of view. Hypothetically, take up an opposing position in mind. Then analyze the situation. This gives us the pros and cons of both sides and you may find that opposing thought process was better than yours.

Don’t just know something, try to understand thigs. Understanding is the difference between knowing something and truly empathizing with it. When someone tells you about an experience that’s not your own, take some time to mull over how your life might be different if you experienced that on a daily basis. Thinking about someone’s experiences and thought process is very important to empathize. Walk in others shoes, regularly.

Friends, you have seen enough of sharp, intelligent and smart people. Sometimes you may have seen smart and a half people too! But life is not all about decisions taken by smart people, it is about taking decisions or reaching a goal after considering different or opposing viewpoints. Get the acceptance gracefully, whatever is the final decision after “negotiations”! To me, IQ is 40% and EQ is 60%! Your views!

The Family that eats together!

It is said that Genes, DNA et al decide an individual’s personality or persona. The more I try to understand, the more I get confused. Genes or DNA play a very important role in children, siblings, cousins and various relatives. These come from both sides of the family trees and they come from different generations, not necessarily the next one.   Similarities are of course there but some traits are so different that my confusion increases. What better way than to compare siblings?

I can share with you examples of people I know. About some of them I know only a little but about some I know a lot of details. Let me tell you about two brothers. I know the elder one a little more. My judgement has been that they are both smart but the elder one has taken more genes from mother’s side and younger one from father’s side. Elder one is very soft spoken compared to the younger one. But they have managed all through the life to be together. I will explain the term “together”. They run a business. They always travel together to customers or vendors. They stay in the same house and apparently have never had any serious differences. Of course, there would be minor differences like in any two human beings. Their father who is still reasonably active, probably is the reason for this great bond between the brothers. Brothers are in their 50’s!  This to be a case of many similarities.

Another case is about two brothers from a couple of generations above me. Their father was an upright person and was running his family and extended family, efficiently. Both the brothers ended up working in government departments. One in Police and the other in Excise/Sales tax. The police officer continued to be upright and remained a person of integrity. He worked for anti-corruption bureau for some period. During this phase a few complaints had come to the bureau about the other brother. His police colleagues asked him a couple of times if they were related; he said no. His colleagues were smart and checked up the relationship, they were police after all. This probably saved the Police brother from ethical issues! Later on, both retired. Police officer in routine course and the other brother took premature retirement. The policeman ended up with a modest rented dwelling with modest pension and the other brother ended up with a large condo and a bungalow plus what more I don’t know. In fact, to hide his ill-gotten wealth, he managed to convince their upright father to take over ownership of his condo! I am sure he was a fantastic marketing guy! How can we explain the difference in two brothers? The police guy also had the same opportunities to be corrupt. They had the same father who was very upright and straight forward. They worked in a government setup. But how did one of them change so much? From where did the Genes or DNA’s come from? Or is it because the company he kept? I don’t know if the company you keep makes much difference to change basic ethics. 

Then there is another case of siblings, brother and sister. There is only a couple of years of age difference between them. Both are very intelligent, smart. Both did pretty well in their education though the sister was ahead by at least one horse length. Both started careers as trainees and ended up as director/CEO of respective organizations. Both traveled extensively abroad. Both lived extensively abroad for work. Both have been top professionals in their field. This is where the story begins. Brother has remained very conservative while sister has become very cosmopolitan. Brother appears to be money minded but the sister has a giving and sharing nature. Brother has been a difficult person to deal with and continues to do so. The sister has always been in a soft person, a leader with empathy. The brother and I have a common friend. This friend and the brother were colleagues for a long time. The friend said that once during a meeting they had ordered tea. Apparently when the tea arrived it was not hot enough. Reaction? The cup was thrown at the person who brought the tea. Luckily, he could duck! I have known them for a long time and the empathy the sister would show in any situation was to be seen to be believed. In her organization she was considered a star who could be approached even at midnight if situation demanded. She shared with me a story of her grandson all of four years old, living in the USA. For some program in school, she was also present and the parents were told to wait in a hall for the performance. All kids came but the grandson was missing. He appeared couple of minutes later, pushing the wheel chair of his classmate. When the teacher was asked how they handle who will push the wheelchair; she said for me it is very simple. Your grandson always insists that he will push! DNA? Genes? Take your pick!  

There is saying, “You get what you sow”. But I know of person from well-known family in Pune. He has become a Casanova who deceives married ladies and tries to wean away their money. Again, DNA? Genes? Take your pick!  

This last example that I shared with you, to me is an exception. The atmosphere in which you grow, the company you keep also affects your persona. I also feel that family which is close to each other has continuity in behaviour patterns in their future generations with some natural variations in the persona of individuals. It is very easy to become distant with your progeny, your siblings. In digital world of today this has become quite tricky. I will change a well-known saying a bit. The family that eats together, without cell phones, passes on the DNA’s & Genes, uniformly! Do you agree?  

 

At the end of the day!

InternetGenie

Pramod somehow managed to make Internet Genie run at the high speed that was expected of him. Genie as usual started narrating a story. He started with a question, “At the end of any day what will you consider as your greatest achievement?” Pramod knew that if he uttered a word, Genie would slip out of his control and system will hang! So Pramod did not give any reply to the question asked.

As usual Genie kept on talking. Pramod, I know that life is full of great many options. You can be a great businessman, or you can be a great professional or a great sports person, or an artist. But what would you call your real achievement? Will you be happy if people say that Pramod is very smart guy, but he is an even better human being? What have been your targets in life? What have been your goals in life?

Pramod, today during at an event for a book release, about overcoming the loss of a spouse, a speaker said that between spouses four things are very important love, faith, humility, gratitude. That is succinct way of putting things across. These four words define the closest relationship in the world where you are friends, lovers; you fight and make up! You sacrifice for each other and you are proud of each other. You give tit for tat in anger and love in equal measure! If similar thoughts can be extended to other relationships in life, Pramod, I would add empathy!

How are the relationships formed and sometimes broken in life, Pramod? When the deficit of any of the five points starts on a regular basis, relations can sour but Pramod there is no reason to break any relationship. People may drift apart but reaching a breaking point is not necessary. One can agree to disagree but what is the point in breaking a relationship. There is only one life to live.

Pramod, I have seen how you have managed the relationship in life! I have been tracking you, though you may not know! Once I remember your son asked you if summer training was possible in Cummins. You told him, “Let me call someone”.  Next day it was arranged. Your son asked you the next day, “Hey dad! How come you always say, let me call someone for any and everything?” You just smiled.

Pramod the other day an old business friend of yours read your recent blog and after a brief exchange of messages, you phoned him. He was so happy that at the end of your chat, he said, “Will it be ok if I barge into your office right away? After listening to your voice, so many old memories kicked in, I feel that I must come and see you right away.” He came to your office in 15 minutes for a cuppa!

Pramod, you have always managed to keep professional and personal relationships in the right perspective but with your attitude and natural friendliness, even you also did not know when professional relationships changed into personal respectful relations. You have become a sounding board for many, people simply share anything and everything with you. You have unknowingly or maybe knowingly applied all the five principles of life in a beautiful way. This has made you a natural aggregator of friends. Pramod, I remember once you had told me about your mother’s opinion about you. She had told someone, “Pramod does not need alcohol to get drunk. Meeting or talking to a few friends is enough for him!”

Genie continued. He said, Pramod you should be proud that this continues well and true in the next generation; and this transition augurs well for the world, if your way of thinking becomes part of inheritance! Yesterday, you met your new neighbour in the lift (elevator). In that one minute, as only Indians can do, you knew details about each other. One thing led to another and you invited him for a cuppa to your home. I know how you managed to convince a person, you had met only for one minute, to come over to your home. He happened to work with your son Sachin, in a company called PTC, about ten years back.  Sachin lives in the US and his friend was working for Pune office of PTC. After half an hour, his friend got up to go home and took a promise from you to visit them over a weekend. While going he said, “Pramod, Sachin was my manager in PTC. When he decided to change his job and move to Microsoft, many of us reporting to him cried!” They were all young professionals, in thirties! You asked him to explain more about this. He said, “Pramod, Sachin is a rare person, who is very smart and he has love, faith, humility, gratitude and empathy. He carried his team together in a beautiful way. I never knew that this is possible in a professional relationship.”

Pramod, I want your reply on this as I know you have strong views!! Pramod just could not keep quiet. He said, “Genie you seem to in mood to praise me and for a change I really do not know what to say! I am happy that you like what Sachin and I are doing in a natural way. I have never tried to form a relationship, they just happen. I could switch to first name basis, in first or second meeting with most, though it was not so popular in late 80’s and early 90’s. I could keep separation of work and personal relationship easily, so at the end of a tough meeting, I would enjoy a cup of tea as if nothing had happened. Come to think of it, my mother had a very easy way of knowing new people and had her friendly relationships with many. It is probably HIS way of passing the right genes down the generations. So, my greatest achievement in life is long list of people who are my friends!”

With this statement Pramod broke the golden rule of silence that Genie had locked him in.  At that instant Genie slipped out of Pramod’s grasp, Genie’s speed became equivalent of 2 G and system hung!  Genie could not help but make a passing remark before escaping. ” I am sure if the world is full of persons like you and your son, and of course your mother, all is well. 9/11 and 26/11 are just blips!”

 

 

Transient State of Life!

I wrote a blog about Indices of Life and tried to analyze how we can define our status in life and our well-being. However, a friend Jay felt that we cannot define this so easily, as life is much more complex than the way I have tried to analyze it. Yes, it is not only complex but various states discussed are transient. When I said that if the sum total of life’s indices is nearer to 30, the highest number as per my definition, that number is over a period. It is not an absolute number and is transient like our life. The aim of Indices blog was to analyze all things in one basket at my today’s age and find where I stand. In this blog, I am trying to review,  at what stage I got the “feel” of the various indices.

Till the age of 20 only two Indices come into picture Happiness and Sadness but I somehow remember that Empathy was peeping out from the age of 10 or 12! Empathy probably is not so much related to age, as we think. I remember an event, I had gone for lunch at a family function. One kid from our family, all of ten years old, was standing at the counter with the serving staff. He was handing over the plates to each guest; with everyone he would make appropriate conversation! Pramodji make sure you will have Rasmalai, you will love it. Jayaji make sure that you don’t eat that so and so subji, it’s a bit too hot for your taste! He was talking with each guest appropriate things and let me tell you there were about 200 guests! Imagine a ten-year-old kid waiting, doing this for almost an hour and a half! He could do it only because he had tenderness, kindness and sensitivity within him, which is the hallmark of a person with Empathy. He has taken up  dentistry course now and I am sure he will be a great doctor, with 6.0 in empathy index!

Around the age of 30, I started my own business. In the initial phase of business everything was new to me. During that phase there were many friends who gave me orders just because I was Pramod! I started getting the feel of gratitude as well as humility. I am sharing one experience with you because it happened with a stranger! I was given a big order by a friend of mine working in a large organization. He specifically told me that he will place an order on me which will benefit his organization by about 15%. The item that I was to supply was a hardware item, it was not in my normal business lines. But my friend said, “Pramod, you supply for three months, the original vendor will fall in line during that time, and reduce rates drastically; Pramod you won’t ever be able to match the new rate”. That was my friends aim! So far so good! I went to the market and randomly went to a shop and met the owner, who was an experienced old man. He offered me tea; I explained to him my requirement; the rate he quoted was more than our Purchase Order rate. He smiled when he looked at my face. When I told him the quantity, he reduced the rate drastically. I smiled but again there was a problem. I did not have money to pay advance. When I told him the problem, he said I know that young man! But I believe in you. You pay me the day you get money from your customer! This incident activated the feelings of gratitude and humility in me. The owner also told me that these are my baby steps in the world of business and he felt that I would do ok in business. He said that my personality is that of an honest human being! Over a period, I meandered into different things in life, but this incident started thoughts about gratitude and humility in my mind!

In next ten years, I needed to adapt to various changes that were taking place and I developed an attitude to learn and use new things and techniques. Even though my Master’s Degree was in Metallurgical engineering, I ended up running my own software business. This was the result of  combination of attitude, adaptability and agility. Probably by another five years or so current persona had evolved in me and then remained stable. I did go through a major medical treatment when I was treated for cancer about four years back. But with my stable persona, I could take it in the right spirit and handle it as if was just one more serious incident in life!

Friends I started with a theoretical definition of life’s indices in my last blog and ended up finding how I evolved over a period. This is another self-analysis going into some  details of life, of my own experiences, and the things that I observed during the journey! I am sure you will also attempt to visualize the same and realize how fascinating our life’s journey is!

Life’s Indexes !

The other day after I woke up, I sat in our balcony enjoying lovely weather. I was wondering what kind of life I have lived. I came to a conclusion that I have lived a reasonably happy contented life. I was wondering why do I think the way I am thinking. Life’s journey starts with birth and ends with the death. The quality of life that we live, depends on the value of various indices in our lives. What is the Life’s index ?  

Life’s index is my term and  I thought why not define my own indices in life? I am grading them 0 to 6, from worst to the best. I have chosen the scale of 0 to 6 because I have chosen six indices. Total of 30 will be the best and –6 will be the worst because while adding I am going to deduct sadness index!  It is equally important to give different weightage to each index according to my judgment how important each index is! I am not going into a complex weighted average based formula, as I don’t want this blog to be mathematical treaties! These indices depend on good things, bad things, exciting things and boring things that happen during the journey of life. The whole journey ultimately depends on sum total of various values that can be assigned to indices. Some of these indices are not in our control and some are in our control. We can “handle” those in our control and we have to “manage” those which are not in our control. I think that the way we feel, is a combination of various factors. In our lives, only one event or one person does not decide the feeling of fulfillment.  

Which are these indices? Happiness, Gratitude, Humility, Attitude, Sadness and Empathy are the indices that we will consider; there are many more indices that we can look into. But we will consider only these indices. It is not the index value in our life that is important, but index values in lives of others from our ecosystem, are equally important. Happiness and Sadness are two indices that are dependent on the ecosystem. If a person is sad because of ill health, the spouse also will be sad. Similarly happiness is also a shared index. But other four indices are totally independent of environment, you and only you are responsible for the performance of these indices.

Let us start with happiness! Happiness and Sadness complement each, so I thought it will be a good idea to club them together. Happiness index and Sadness index directly decide our good life, when Happiness index is a plus sum game! But happiness does not really depend on any specific thing or event because it is the state of mind. Sadness can be due to specific events like deaths or major events like financial loss. Whereas births are specific events that give us joy and happiness. Other than such external events, everything is controllable. To make the sum of happiness and sadness index positive,  is in our hands! My weightage is 15% to each of these indexes. 

Second index is Gratitude index! Humans are generally good in nature and do things for each other! But how many of them display the gratitude, I am not really sure. You don’t need to express gratification in words but actions can show gratitude. It is not necessarily about something very big but we should always show gratitude especially about things very small . The workers who do the job of taking away trash, those who do the job of cleaning washrooms, those who clean the floors! These are not fancy jobs which everyone wants to do. But people do these jobs. We need to show gratitude to such people who are silently working in background. Of course, we should be gratified that HE has brought us in this lovely world. My weightage is 15% for Gratitude Index! 

Humility index is equally important index, especially from the persons who have succeeded in life, have reached pinnacle in their career. Any person’s success is due to support of colleagues, team and many others in background. Humility shown by successful persons brings a special aura to their persona! Persons who do not show humility may be respected but not out of love. Those who display humility will be both respected and loved! Such person’s team will go out of their way to support them. Person showing humility is always a couple of steps ahead in life’s respect ladder! My weightage for humility index will be 20%. 

Attitude includes openness, adaptability, accepting new things and courage of convictions.  This type of attitude gives satisfaction in life. In the world, things change very fast and if one does not have right attitude to adaptability and/or accepting new things, person may not be successful in whatever work is being done. This can lead to less happiness and /or  increase sadness. My weightage for Attitude is 10%. 

Last but not the least is empathy. Empathy plays a major role in our lives. An empathizer will always look at every situation with correct attitude. Do not mix up empathy with sympathy! In a tough situation, say of worker’s strike, decision has to be taken with empathy! Nobody expects sympathy! If one has the ability to understand worker’s issue, solution will always be just! Person with empathy always handles life’s situations in a smooth manner without disturbing the feathers!  To me weightage for empathy is maximum, 25%. 

Where am I on the index scale of 30? Maybe around 24 to 25! I am not really sure! I have written the blog but I have not seriously analyzed myself! But if the figures above are my correct analysis then I would like the figure to be near 27 to 28!  Where are you my friends on this scale? 

 

 

 

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.

Developed or Developing?

Whenever there is a discussion about different countries, on any forum, countries are either referred as developed or developing. I have never been sure how such definitions evolved. India became independent in 1947 and became a sovereign country. We were under British rule for a very long time. We evolved as a nation slowly from socialistic thoughts of 50’s where we wanted everybody to be equal. 60’s evolved differently with humiliating defeat by China in 1962 war and stalemate war with Pakistan of 1965. 70’s made us a proud nation with victory in war against Pakistan but emergency and Indira Gandhi’s ego pulled us back leading to various things like bank nationalization. With Amitabh Bacchan the angry young man and Sunil Gavaskars subtle arrogance on the field with his bat, started evolving a nation which was less afraid to deal internationally. 80’s were experiments with democracy and beginning of Khalistan movement. During all these phases our economy grew at the rate of 2.5% which came to be known as Hindu rate of growth. 90’s brought forced liberalization due to severe economic setbacks but things started moving in a positive direction with emergence of IT industry and yes, Sachin Tendulkar! These two started making India more confident and rest as they is history!

In 2016 when rest of the world is struggling to grow, our economy is growing around 7% and that too for quite a few years. We see a lot of technical improvements, modernization, highways and vehicles and so on. With these changes India should be changing into a developed nation. But are we? Does the country become a developed nation with strong sustained economic growth? I don’t think so. Technology and modernity do not make a nation developed. According to me a society becomes developed when it evolves as a good matured society. A person can be a professional but person also needs to be a good human being. Otherwise that professional can be compared with India of today. Developed and backward at the same time.

I feel that the parameters that generally define a developed country is one where majority of people follow the rules and minority breaks them. Fear of law, good implementation, training from childhood, consideration about others are some of the reasons. The road discipline decides the developed status of a country. In a developed nation, there will be an odd motorist or two driving like crazy. But in our case it is totally reverse. A couple of weeks back I drove down to Mumbai. I was driving at the allowed speed limit within plus/minus variation caused by not having cruise control. In both my journeys not a single car stayed with me. All were above speed limit, between 25 to 50 km/hr. Mind you not a single car including Altos & Maruti 800’s of this world. Of course about 20% were zig zagging the lanes.

Queue anywhere in the world, is the standard method of waiting for your turn. We were at Frankfurt airport last year to board a flight to Mumbai with 95% desi crowd. As the flight was announced there was so much rush by passengers that five passengers who needed wheel chair support could not come forward to board. Staff had to literally push other people back to allow wheel chair passengers to go in first! Why? Why? Simple, as a society we are not developed. People knew that the plane is NOT going leave without them.

Pehle Aap, “you go first please” is supposed to be Lucknow nawabi culture. But try entering a train at Lucknow station. Is this due to fear psychosis of shortages that our society developed post-independence? We as a society feel that it is better to grab things before they are finished.

Wait at a signal anywhere on roads and you will find that Auto wallahs and taxi wallahs will use the stop to spit! Everybody knows that spitting in public places can spread disease.

In the year 2016, we have advertisements on our radios encouraging people to use toilets instead of defecating in open. In certain parts of our country it is considered “manly” to defecate in open rather than in toilets! How humbling and embarrassing it must be for ladies to use fields for nature’s calls! On one side we call women Goddess of the house and on other side we do not bother about life’s basic necessities. Sign of developed society? Poverty is one aspect but people just do not want to change.

In international flying, Indians are known to be notorious passengers. If free alcohol is served they will just keep consuming. They will keep on asking for some service or the other from staff. All these years, after so many flights, I needed additional service only once when I spilled a soft drink on my blanket. Otherwise I have never required any special service other than the standard ones offered.

Another way of judging developed status is by looking at the use of currency notes for transactions. In developed countries senior citizens still use currency instead of using cards, net banking etc for a simple reason that they find very difficult to switch over. Young generation almost never uses currency notes. My son may have a couple of dollars in his pocket at the most, at any time. I personally was required to use currency to pay for usage of a trolley at an automated machine at airports. In India, we pay in cash for SUV’s costing Rs.20/ lacs in cash. This indicates the corrupt practices used on a day to day basis. In developed nations corruption is of course there but it is usually in restricted areas; their money remains above board in tax heavens. Nobody buys a BMW paying $ 50000/ in cash!

We as a society should be proud of technical achievements, management achievements, and agricultural achievements and so on. We may have scored from B+ to A+ in these area. ISRO is a classic case of A+ on any scale and in comparison with the best in the world. But on social side we are from B- to F! Why is that so? I feel that it is simply because we don’t have empathy for others in our DNA. Add to that the sudden rise in income levels in the society. Handling sudden increase in income is more difficult than actually handling the money. Rich kids will throw notes at the policeman if they have broken some traffic rules. The policeman instead of charging him for both traffic rule breakage and trying to bribe the policeman, will just pocket the money.

We don’t want to change with times on social side. When population was small and there were no large cities and motorized vehicles, there were certain rules. We continue using the same thought processes in cities even today. We will just occupy space on road or a footpath and start hawking our goods. If encroachment team comes and takes away your stuff, we will do the same thing immediately or the next day, if we have money to procure goods again. Such encroachment is our birth right. Cars will stop in no parking zone with their drivers. I asked a policeman why these cars are allowed to be parked; he said it is ok to park as long as there is a driver in the car! Rules be damned. Buses will not stop close to bus stops because people come and stand on roads. Because buses don’t stop properly people stand on road. How to resolve such things?

Government’s current demonetization drive has caused hardship to people to exchange currency notes. The way people have handled the situation indicates that under certain circumstances we behave like developed countries. I am told that in Metro Railways in different cities people do behave in a much matured way and gives a feel as if you are in a developed nation. I can say that in pockets, we as a society have started behaving as if we are a developed nation.

Friends this argument can go on and on! But if we want to become a developed nation we have to change socially and in a big way! Here is something all of us can do. Don’t go out and preach. But we can help people in our own eco system to improve. For example tell your driver never to park in no parking area. Tell your servants about cleanliness. Tell your colleagues about empathy. While passing through a door, it should not be courtesy only to ladies but to all! Teach your children or grandchildren to say thank you and most important teach them to say sorry, when required. Do the same with your colleagues too and lead by example. There are many things which we can do but we need to start today!