A friend in Need!

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A friend in need is a friend, indeed! If I have friends like you, I don’t need enemies are some of the famous sayings about friends. But you will be surprised to know that in the hierarchy of our life, friends are low down! Don’t be surprised; let me explain. Romantic partners, parents and children come before friends. It is a fact of life.  

Friendships are unique relationships because unlike family relationships, we choose to enter into them. And unlike other voluntary bonds, like marriages and romantic relationships, they lack a formal structure. You wouldn’t go months without speaking to or seeing your significant other (longdistance relationships are rarely successful), but you might go that long without contacting a friend. 

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What are friends for in life? Somebody to talk to, somebody to depend on and somebody to enjoy togetherThe expectations of friends remain throughout life. 

The voluntary nature of friendship makes it subject to life’s whims in a way, a more formal relationship isn’t. In adulthood, as people grow up and go away, friendships are the relationships most likely to take a hit. You’re stuck with your family, and you’ll prioritise your spouse. But where once you could run over to your friend’s house at a moment’s notice and see if he could come out to play badminton, now you have to ask him if he has a couple of hours for a cup of coffee. Life changes, friends get lesser priority. The most important thing about friendship is you can get into and get out of it too! You become friends because you want to become friends. Your family, you cannot choose!  

We start making friends right from our childhood! But at that age, your world is so limited, your friends are chosen from the small group of kids around you where you live, where you go to school or where you are taken to a swimming lesson. If you are lucky, you might keep in touch with them throughout your life. I am fortunate that I am in contact with three of them, on and off! I got in touch with a friend again 45 years after graduation. God is great!  

As you go to high school and college, you become a bit mature and sometimes even wiser. You become more selective about who your friends should be.  

But, in adolescence, people are more mouldableYou will hide your favourite Tshirt at the bottom of the drawer because your friend said that it is not hip enough. The world may never know. By young adulthood, people are usually a little more secure in themselves, more likely to seek out friends who share their values on the important things and yes don’t hide that T-shirt because the friend said so! 

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There is a vast difference in your friends from your school time and your friends from your professional college days. School friends come from a varied background, but those from professional college have more homogeneous intellect. In this phase, our approach becomes more refined, and we make new friendships or continue with old ones based on specific criteria. Yes, you may have learned to smoke and take your alcohol with them. But you also tend to cut off with a few with friends who indulge in too much of binging. In our younger days, Jaya and I were the first to get married in our group, and Sachin was the first kid born in our group. Our priorities naturally started changing, and we ended up getting away from a group of very close friends who indulged in late-night alcoholinduced chats. The status has not much changed because certain closeness snapped during that period.  

In today’s time of WA and FB, we are all lucky to meet old longlost friends. But it so happens that after the first few meetings with school time friends, you realise that you do not have many things common now! But in case of your friends from Professional course, you find common things experienced by all during their careers. When Jaya started meeting her school friends, she was heading Nvidia operations in Pune. These friends wanted to meet for lunch on a particular day. One of them called her at 11 am and asked Jaya to join for lunch. Jaya was in a meeting but took the call as the friend was a dear one. She regretted the invite and told the friend that she would call later. When they met face to face, sometime later, her friends asked Jaya why she did not put in an application for a half a day of leave. Jaya smiled and said, “I did put an application (to herself )  but the leave was not sanctioned!”  

Friendships continue for people who attend colleges, but those who don’t go college have other responsibilities to tackle and are less available. The friendship saga continues till you complete education, but the scenario changes as people start moving out to different cities, states and nations for their jobs. Even if the friends are in the same townthe meeting of friends becomes difficult as time is at a premium. Weekends automatically become busy for day to day chores, which could not be handled during the week.  

When you get married, the friends group is a significant group during the festivities. But this closeness tapers off very fast after marriage; many don’t know what hit them. Family and spouse take precedence over everything else.  

As people enter middle age, they tend to have more demands on their time, many of them more pressing than friendship. After all, it’s easier to put off catching up with a friend than it is to skip your kid’s play or an important business trip. The concept of people’s expectations for friendship is always in tension with the reality of their lives. 

The time is spentmainly, into jobs and families. Not everyone gets married or has kids, of course, but even those who stay single are likely to see their friendships affected by others’ couplings. It is funny that people do not realise that the wedding is the last real get-together with friends. After that, time available goes down the hill 

As people move through life, they make and keep friends in different ways. Some are independent; they make friends wherever they go and may have more friendly acquaintances than deep friendships. Others are discerning, meaning they have a few best friends they stay close with over the years, but the deep investment means that the loss of one of those friends would be devastating. The most flexible are the acquisitive—people who stay in touch with old friends but continue to make new ones as they move through the world. 

That my friends is life, but for my generation, it is a bit too late to make any changesWe can always look back and see how we took the journey of friendship throughout our life! Just pick up the phone and call that friend whom you have not contacted for a long, long time!  

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While we were in hostels, there was a word मिठी! Friends would hug and say this word, which means the Hug! So, a BIIIIIIIG मिठी to all my friends!  

What are friends for in life? I have already said this above – Somebody to talk to, somebody to depend on and somebody to enjoy together. Let me add something. Yes, somebody to shed tear on his or her shoulder when needed!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Modernity, Life’s full circle!

 

Oldage3A couple of days back, I was talking to a classmate of mine. I had called to wish her on her 70th birthday! I was pleased when she said, “Pramod, I feel as if I am around 50 or 55 but surely not 70!” The in and around 70 generations, was born after India got independence from the British in 1947. Our behaviour, thinking and attitude depend on our personal experiences, and the way society acts. Under Britishers, the Indian public, government officials had a different attitude towards Goras! Indians would treat Britishers with deference. My father was a police officer, and whenever he spoke of Britishers, I could feel that he would talk with a lot of respect to the Britishers. It was the result of 150 years of British dominance. My father, otherwise, was not a docile personality. Such an attitude could be seen in the sports arena too! Sunil Gavaskar was the first cricketer who showed “attitude” with his bat and then as a person against foreigners.

Later generations have changed; it can be seen in the behaviour of Tendulkars and Kohlis! As people started travelling internationally and met foreigners regularly for business or otherwise, the change was seen in society, in general. But change is not seen on personal levels in certain areas of life. Lately, I see people writing emotional stories and sharing their views about family-related issues. Our generation has become, so-called old, but due to migration, our children could be anywhere in the world right from Timbuktu to Rio de Janeiro; the children have spread for work and due to immigration. The result is that the parents live “alone” as per current discussions. When husband and wife are both around, how can they be alone?

The thought of lonely parents is mainly due to love but also due to unchanged attitude towards life. The post-independence generation did not migrate as much as the current generations do. They were in touch with the base more often. The life expectancy during that period was much less compared with today. The males from the older generation died just after retirement. In those days, the nuclear families had not come up. Hence the retired parents would continue to live in the joint family. They never felt “alone”.

Probably in various stories or write-ups I read (I call them sob stories which friends don’t like), people mix up the words “Alone” and “Loneliness”. When the parents are together, they are not alone by definition. But they can be lonely. But to me, loneliness is the isolation that comes with an expectation unmet, a feeling unreturned. According to my thinking, this is the crux of the matter.

Both parents and children would become and remain unhappy if they do not train their minds to become detached. Life will be much easier if there are no expectations. The closeness and love between them are natural, but remaining too attached causes all the issues. When people live in different cities, states or nations, you cannot expect anybody to be available at the drop of a hat! In today’s business and work scenario, work pressures are high. People are sometimes even worried to take their annual holidays lest they become redundant in today’s competitive world. What does the world detach mean? It means disconnected. Synonyms for detaching are dispassionate or uninvolved.

Once both sides learn to remain detached, life becomes much more manageable. My generation has been luckier than our parent’s generation. We had the benefits of better education, slightly better family finances, more opportunities than the previous generations. We have travelled in bullock carts as well as in Concordes! We have written letters on postcards, and we are using WA and FB! Our life and lifestyle have changed from the rationing of foods to plenty of everything. We bought Coca Cola for 25 paise; now we don’t mind paying Rs.250/ for a cup Coffee!

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My friend HK and his wife are in this photo. They go around on their bikes all over Pune district regularly.

Now my suggestion is that we should also change our thinking about relationships and responsibilities! We also have the benefit of better health compared to the older generation. Should our thought processes also not become modern? When we have done so many things during our working days, why can’t we manage our lives post the 70’s? What is the big deal? Should we be dependent on our children for support during this golden phase? Financial dependence and needs can be different for each individual and family. These requirements should be resolved by each family but besides that, why we cannot be independent of children? There could be health issues. Your child may be living in the same city, or maybe she lives 100 km from where you live. That does not mean that the children will have time to help and support you regularly.

On similar lines, children should also understand that your parents growing older does not mean that they are helpless or lonely. The technology that has brought back your old friends, your classmates, are also being used by your parents. They are also having their alumni meets. They meet their friends, and in some cases maybe their ex-flames! Life is changing; there is more openness. We hear of cases where people are meeting each other for companionships. In case of death of one of the spouses, parents of both sexes look for friendship, companionship or in some cases remarriage too! The parents are mature enough or sometimes may not be mature enough. But it is their life; children can give suggestions but let the seniors take the decisions about life.

The seniors should think like what my classmate said the other day. The cliché “age is just a number” becomes relevant. Health permitting, you need not “feel” old. It is up to us! I have come across people who are of the same age as me but talk and feel like a 90-year-olds. I had shared a story about the parents of my Japanese friend. The father is 93, and the mother is 87. The father regularly goes out and travels by Metro to get their groceries etc. It is because they must have decided to remain independent of the children.

Parents, venture out in the bad, bad world, and then you will realise that it is a good, good world! Children, don’t you worry too much about your parents; after all, they are the ones who have brought you up! There is some chance that they know something about the world, is it not! Don’t go overboard about splurging on your parents; they know that you also have your own life! You need to take that holiday to see the midnight Sun! Your children will be going to Oxfords and Harvards of this world! Be sure you use your Video WhatsApp or Google Duo or Skype once in a while. You need not give them iPhone so that you can use Facetime! They are happy with what they have!

I am just saying be realistic, be practical. I humbly request to those who write “Sob Stories” on WA or FB about lonely, old parents. Some parents can get into unhappy mode again, reading such stories. Please leave them alone, let them lead their life (they will be there to support you when you need). But don’t forget that they can live happily on their own!

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Chuck the Screen!

When I was younger, decades back, Screen is what we looked forward to eagerly. The Screen was a tabloid dedicated to Bollywood stuff. Looking at the images of stars in the paper was a treat which we awaited. Naturally, we were keener about photos of the actresses, though Devanand was also a favourite. But this paper was never bought and brought at home in those days for obvious reasons! The publication now exists as a website! 

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Following the societal and technological changes, the meaning of the word screen has also changed. When we talk of the screen today, it is most of the time about cell phone screen and sometimes laptop or TV screen. But in an office scenario, it is mostly laptop and cell phone screen. The proliferation of cell phones in India has happened in the most unexpected way and speed. Now it is almost impossible to find someone who does not use a cell phone. A friend of mine has never used one, but that is another story.  

Remaining away from screen has become a challenge in today’s society. In the office environment, laptop and for some people, cell phone usage is a must. So, in that case, the screen time needed for work cannot be changed. But for some, cell phone usage is not required during work. Once the formal requirement of screen time is fixed, it can be decided how much more time one should spend with the screen. There are many reasons to control this time. Some are obvious reasons, and others are not so obvious. Social scientists say that screen is the latest cigarette! That one should try and remain away from addictive items seems natural. The main reason for this is to retain your focus. We tend to use the cell phone like a cigarette and just pick it up to see that elusive email, or a text or WhatsApp message. We simply don’t know when we start using it, indicating addiction. We need to find out how much non-essential screen time we give to ourselves.  

When we mindlessly pick up that device, we fracture our attention; and some studies say that the time between switching from your laptop and cell phone and back can waste 20 % of your productive time. There may be a lot of dialogue about multitasking, but in real life, there is a wastage of productive time when we are so-called multitasking. In multitasking, it is assumed that we are handling two or more work activities, but when the cell phone screen is not a work activity, then we can imagine the wastage of productive time.  

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There are apps available these days, which track your screen time. Based on the data captured, you can decide how to cut down on screen time. The first and foremost is the notifications settings. Whenever we get a new cell phone, we have default apps. Based on our requirement (and sometimes because someone else said it is good), we install more apps, then more and more apps. Initially, do the audit of the apps you have if you really use them. Uninstall those which you do not need. Some apps may be like your comfort or binge food; delete these apps. As we start using the phone, we see that we start getting a lot of notifications because their default setting is always on. Personally, for me, the calls I receive are critical. Other than the missed call notification, probably my banking app notifications are essential. The important aspect is don’t receive a “ding” with each notification or flashing notification. Keep notifications silent. The correct audit will help and reset will help you in getting the least distracted!  

Track your screen time with the apps. Set yourself realistic goals to reduce usage. Keep track whether you are reducing the usage time. If not, try and analyse why it is not happening? One more thing you can try is, do not let the cell phone become your appendage. What most of us do these days is to carry our phone to bed, dinner table, to the washroom. Where ever we go, we take it as if it is an oxygen cylinder needed for us to breathe. We feel that we may choke if we do not have our cell phone near us. Keep the phone in another room; in the office keep it in your bag if you do not need the phone for work 

In the bedroom, you need to see the time when you get up to go to the washroom. Get yourself a clock and keep your phone in another room. Real phone addiction started with the Blackberry phone with Corporate email application. In those days getting email on the cell phone was a novelty. The honchos would get up at night to do their thing and then keep on going through emails and replying them. Initially, it was fancy to have a Blackberry, but once its novelty wore off, people realised the folly of checking and responding to emails at 3 am!  

To remain away from cell phones, try the detox method which you follow for any addiction. People follow different approaches. For smoking addiction, people don’t smoke at home. Since one is at home for a long time, smoking can be reduced. For the alcohol issue, some have tried a method of taking alcohol only when one travels abroad. It naturally controls alcohol drinking.  

There is one more thing one can try out. Try doing nothing. Doing nothing is not as simple as it sounds or looks. When you do nothing means you don’t do anything. Sit and look at the trees, birds or sky! Look at nature. When you attempt to do nothing, it can become tricky. We are not used to doing nothing. It is possible that we will become jittery and try to look for the cell phone to play around. (That is withdrawal symptom for you!) It is what we are trying NOT to do in the first place. Once you overcome basic inhibitions, you may need to acquire the habit of painting, which you have forgotten. You loved to listen to songs. You went for walks, or you went for a swim. Doing nothing is a starting point of reinventing yourself. Let us not forget that we used to live an active physical life. You were once a voracious reader too 

What is the cell phone for you? Is it your friend or a foe? Do you have a love/hate relationship? Is it more love or hate? What I mean by love is that at any smallest of the opportunity you grab it 

Friends, don’t waste time looking at the screen! During my younger days, looking at the screen was the need of the hour. We could barely see our favourite actress’s photos; watching movies was even rarer! But today’s screens are a sheer waste of time if we use it beyond a particular time The younger generation has more difficulty controlling the screen with hundreds of computer games available.

Lest you have forgotten, trees are still green, birds tweet even today! (The word tweeter has come from this tweet). The sky is still blue, and rain and rainbows are still around. Go ahead and chuck your screen time and have fun! You always did this only 15/20 years backs. I am not the anti screen person. These are technological marvels. But we don’t use them well. We have a WhatsApp group of college mates where we don’t allow forwards. We have so much fun discussing current topics (all non-controversial, of course), e.g. politics/religion and so on are banned. Last several weeks there has been a great discussion going on discussing the World Cup Cricket matches. We got the feel as if we are back to our hostels! There were opinions, suggestions and fights! It was our Adda!

Have fun! Use the technology correctly and enjoy! Don’t become its slave!

 

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Benefits of Social Media!

We hear a lot of minuses about social media, but like everything else, there are always pros and cons. Pluses are what good things you take from anything. I will restrict my discussion to WhatsApp and Facebook; I will add Skype and Facetime to the list too! I am talking about Indian diaspora migrating all over the world. People move for education, job, and lately, they travel to “safe” countries as fugitives too. Some travel for three to six years on different projects. Short term travel has also gone up a lot because the Indian system has now merged with the international business.

Currently, the World Cup Cricket tournament is going on in England. Many Indians have travelled from India and a large number from the US and other countries too. (We had travelled for the Cricket World Cup final in Australia in 2015) The English allrounder Moin Ali was asked his opinion about desis supporting Indian, Pakistani and Bangla Desh teams when these countries played against England. Moin has moved to England from Pakistan. He said, “Now, I have changed my opinion. I am ok if the desis settled in the UK support the countries of their origin.” Many years back, there was a discussion in England that those who have come from outside and settled there should support the English team. That would show their real affinity (patriotism?) to England.

Humans generally do what their heart tells them, in such situations. Is it right or wrong? Who are others to decide? A person who has citizenship of the new country, to me, will always stand up when “Jan Gana Mana” is played! That person will stand up for “God Save the Queen” or “The Star-spangled Banner” too, the country where the person has become a citizen! But you are born and brought up singing Jana Gana Mana; so, when the anthem starts standing up is automatic. It is a natural thing to do.

With the advent of modern technology, staying in touch with people back home is a zip. The main thing is that this technology is mass used and the device, “cell phone” is in everybody’s hand. On top of that, it is inexpensive. In public places, free wi-fi is available, which adds to the ease of usage (and of course to the cost).

People who migrated in ’60 s and ’70 s of the last century found it difficult as international telephony was expensive. Plus maybe the mindset of people who migrated in those times was different. A classmate of mine who emigrated in 1971, came to India for the first and the only time after 45 years. Another friend called his parents twice in the first 15 years, both the times at the time of the birth of his children. I am not sure how these people and their family must have felt in those times.

Another thing was phone density in those times was very poor in India. When Jaya was in the US for one year in 1980-81, we had to do a lot of coordination. She would write me a letter saying at what time she would call me. I would then go to someone’s home to receive the call. We did not have a telephone at home in those days.

Compared to today’s times, not many people migrated in those days. With so few Indians, probably people did not want to say that they were Indians. They would change the pronunciations of names and surnames. Panvalkar would become Pan Walker, Harinder became Harry and so on. Now my son is Sachin Panvalkar in the US and not Pan Walker. The mindset of people has changed. My generation was born around independence and the awe created during British Raj by the “Goras” was not completely washed away. So in other countries, the diaspora would be under the Raj influence, people’s behaviour was subdued. People would try not to openly flaunt Indianness. They were afraid to say, “Myself Deepak Joshi”! They now see many people from different countries like Japan, China and others struggling with English. With this, our people’s confidence has gone up.

Now the situation has changed so much in the next generation that people are not worried about their accent. The social media helps to stay in touch with friends and family back home. WA and FB help in getting alumni, family, friends group updates, so there is no telephonic silence like the olden days. People communicate with each other at the drop of a hat. Living in on different shores does not mean being cut off. Sometimes it so happens that due to work pressure or visa issues, it is not possible to travel home for some functions. People watch the whole thing on live-streaming using Skype. India-Pakistan Cricket match? No problem? Watch it anywhere in the world using modern technology?

How has this helped? How is this useful? Living in different parts of the world for your work does not mean that you are cut-off like the olden days. I remember the story of a person in ’90 s of the last century. He was living in the US for around ten years. For whatever reason, he could not make it back home during that phase. His parents went there to meet him a couple of times. Then his grandmother died. When his father called to inform him about death, the son simply could not accept it. He kept on saying, “ Oh! She was so hail and hearty! How could she die?” In his busy schedule and telephonic silence, he forgot that his grandmother had become eighty! For a previous couple of years, her health had deteriorated, and she had become frail. But in the son’s mind, ten years younger image of the chirpy grandmother was frozen!

Friends, our generation has reached a stage where we have the bragging rights to claim how our life was better, how we used to meet our old friends and so on. We also tend to look down on technology, may be out of phobia, fear, and because we don’t understand the same. Keep an open mind, try and adapt to new technologies. Don’t forget that the same technologies are helping us to remain very close to our families, friends.

Don’t forget that some things don’t change, ever — for example, the subtle reaction on seeing a brown person like you and me in foreign countries. But keeping in close contact with back home, being proud of Indianness helps living life more confidently. The bond created makes the second generation in foreign countries proud to say that they are Indian British or Indian Americans. They handle the subtle reaction mentioned above discretely. My grandson once told me, “Aba when we want to curse Goras discretely, a few of us start speaking in Marathi!” Next time you Skype with your grandson, add a few choice Marathi words to his vocabulary! नमस्कार! नन्तर भेटू!

Be a proud foot soldier!

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Five years back, I had written a blog where I wrote my thoughts about a tree that we have in our garden. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/parijatak-%e0%a4%89%e0%a4%b0%e0%a5%8d%e0%a4%ab-nyctanthes-arbor-tristis/ 

In retrospection, I find that my impressions of that time have hardly changed. The world can never be full of topnotch performers, leaders, inventors, people who lead the human race. The world is full of average people, with ordinary ambitions like you and me. You may never be famous, but that is ok! Do I mean to say that we should never dream, we should never think big? Should we not keep on gazing at stars? Should you not be the one hitting the sixer to win the Cricket World Cup? But there can be only a Dhoni to millions of cricketers playing on the grounds of Yorkshire, Maidans of Mumbai and the gullies of small towns in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is ok to be average.  

In the days of modern communication like FB and WA, the perspective can become skew. When an event takes place and is shared, you get a million likes! (Ok, I am exaggerating, but you get a lot of likes) You have some similar event in your life, but you don’t publish it on the FB, or maybe you publish it. You get five likes. You don’t need to get frustrated. What you have done is liked by your dear ones, and you have felt the joy because you did it. To me, the pleasure of doing things is more important than getting the likes. Just because you got a minimal number of “likes” does not mean that your deed was less important 

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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 what their dreams or circumstances are. Success is not in fame and glamour, but in routine and mundane too! Real meaning and purpose of life can be found in doing something useful for your family and friends. Cheering up your friends, and spending some time with a person who is unwell and looking for company.

We have been lucky that many people come to Jaya and me to share their woes, sometimes not even looking for advice. We are not analysts, nor are we experts in resolving personal issues. But it is a great pleasure to see a smile on that person’s face when he goes after sharing.  Here what we do is give them an ear and make them feel at home. Tricky situations in someone’s life should do not make them bad people. We should make sure that their dignity remains intact after the discussions. 

In today’s world, we see many achievers who are below 30 years of age. Their every deed, every achievement gets them on TV and the internet. After watching these repeatedly, we start feeling inferior, for no reason. We think this way because we inadvertently begin comparing our lives with those of the achievers. We believe that the achievers life is the new gold standard of how to live life. But don’t forget that you are not called to live their life, you are to live yours! 

Your life’s calling is to help and love those near and dear ones in your life.  You should do this in your neighbourhood, your community or your circle of influence. By doing these good things, you may never be on TV; you may never be publicly praised. You may never be garlanded. Your fulfilment is based on what you are doing on your own rather than whether you are your interviewed on TV or there are articles written in various publications. In whatever you are doing, give your best shot! Make the best of what your life has given you.  

Look for small gems that life brings to you. Your grandmother may have better advice for you than the bestselling author.  Your mother might share with you a little titbit, which might help you complete your project faster. You may find a single mother telling you more about the sacrifice that some expert on TV may say to you. 

These are the men and women we ought to seek out in life—and learn as much from them as we possibly can, about living life to the fullest. Seek out those mentors. They may never be famous, but that’s O.K. 

In the blog link above, I have said the same thing about the flower Parijatak. That flower is not a fancy one like a rose or a heliconia. The Parijatak is like a footsoldier but keeps marching along like the infantry. It is not glamorous; not many people discuss it, not many write about it. These trees do not offer shade like their cousins, the Banyan and the Mango trees. But they keep on giving pleasure in their own way.  

It is not a crime to be well known and famous. But a tiny percentage of people reach that pinnacle. That does not mean that you and I are not important. It so happens that among a lot of talented people, some are at the right place at the right time. Hence, they reach the top but if you don’t reach there, it is not the end of the world. Not reaching the top does not mean that we should not enjoy whatever contribution we are giving to this world; we should always enjoy it. Offering the same help and support to others is a joy that cannot be compared with anything. A Padmashree winning person and one without the award may be doing the same work, with the same passion. Not winning the award should not make you unhappy because your happiness is in doing it and not in being recognised. 

Keep on marching, friends! That is what the foot soldiers do. 

 

 

 

 

 

The chain reaction to improvement!

No human interaction is independent; generally, each action is the interaction of something that has happened before. Some people have the habit of not being neat and tidy. I know of a lady who never made her bed till she became a professional and started working independently, living on her own. She would make her bed and tidy up her room a bit whenever someone was going to drop in. Else things would be, helter-skelter! Somewhere within her, things were brewing up. She made her bed for four consecutive days, after waking up. Then on the fifth day, after making her bed, she picked up the clothes lying around and put them on the hangar or in the cupboard. Tiding up happened for a week, and then one day she got herself a basket to collect her laundry.

One thing led to another. The lady took the neatness drive to the kitchenette, washing her cups and dishes immediately after use. Once her mother came to visit her, without informing, on a Sunday morning. Our lady was fast asleep; she was happy to receive her mother. Her mother was pleasantly surprised to see everything spic and span. When her mother asked her about the change; the lady said, “The small act of making my bed made me realise the importance of not having clutter. But I always felt that doing so many chores was going to be tough; hence, I avoided doing even the basics. I know that I am a good professional, but now I feel that I am a good human being too!” One act of tidying up the bed led to another, like a Domino Effect. The result was being in a charming home was very pleasing and did not involve too much effort, as she had initially thought.

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Domino effect definition is – a cumulative effect produced when one event initiates a succession of similar events. Though this has nothing to do with the current subject, I will share with you the real meaning of the Domino effect. In the game of Cricket, a team is batting well, and they are almost cruising towards victory. A wicket falls against the run of the play, and suddenly the all remaining batsmen get out as if by Domino effect!

Getting into a habit of following routines leads to a domino effect. After I went into semi-retirement, my daily routine had changed. I had more time on hand. So, I added the activity of going to the gym and for a walk in my daily to-do list. While working, these activities were intermittent, but with time on hand, I set up my routine. As far as possible, I don’t change my timings. It took a couple of months, but then these small acts led to a domino effect, and my routine fell in place. I have also added reading activity as a regular activity besides blogging. For the Domino effect to succeed, consistency is very important. Yes, I have also added taking a nap, in my to-do list.emrgency1

Friends, don’t forget that the domino effect takes place in forming bad habits too! Social media is a prime example of how bad habits can also be a part of the Domino effect. Cell phones came in our lives; then came Facebook, followed by WhatsApp in our lives. Where are we today? People are already facing problems of addiction, depression, and what have you? How did it start? It probably started with being able to see emails on a cell phone; then FB and WA. From that small jump, we took the next jump in the precipice of social media. People got hooked and addicted to social media; this addiction may be worse than alcohol and cigarettes! At least people avoid smoking and alcohol consumption in front of elderly, but social media has almost become a socially accepted addiction.

As always, anything good needs a bit of discipline and adhering to specific steps, sequencing and rules. If these are not followed, success could be delayed. The important thing that can happen is that you will be able to analyse yourself, the reasons for failure. The reason may be that the step where you failed was too big a task. Break the task into easily doable steps, and you will succeed.

Start with something which you are most motivated to do. Start with something small and do it consistently. Initially, you may not feel that fall of a Domino! But it will fall. That fall may change your thinking, your way of doing things. But when the Domino falls, it will enthuse you to take up the next step.

Maintain the momentum and immediately move to the next task you are motivated to finish. Let the energy of completing one job, carry you directly into the subsequent behaviour. With each repetition, you will become more committed to your new self-image.

When in doubt, break things down into smaller chunks. As you try new habits, focus on keeping them smooth and manageable. The Domino Effect is about progress, not results. Maintain the momentum. Let the process repeat as one domino automatically knocks down the next.

Having good habits has many advantages. You get a good feeling because of the lack of clutter. I had attended one course of 5S, the Japanese techniques. The tutor asked a senior manager from a large company, “Where do you waste your time in office?” The manager gave a bit of thought and  said, “65% of our time is wasted in locating things.” The department obviously had bad habits, and the boss allowed the shoddy way of working. By not being into good habits, efficiency gets drastically reduced. Performance becomes poor. But such things cannot be changed overnight. A small beginning needs to made and then let the Domino effect take its own course.

Good habits are not for someone else, they are for your own good. You become a better person, you become an efficient individual. All these things are needed to improve your persona. Many times we don’t change because we do not allow the domino effect to take place. We try to reach Mount Everest without even trying to reach the top of your local hill. But to reach the top of a local hill, start with climbing four floors in your condo using a staircase!

Emergency, Emergency!

Some of you may consider this as the second part of my blog 996 or else! Possible, but it is a comment on modern working methods not restricted to any specific field.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/04/30/996-or-else/

I read an article about school teachers in the UK. With WA groups and email, parents of the children started getting in touch with them regularly and expected an instant reply from teachers.  The late response caused anger in parents and anxiety in teachers. Teachers perform many more activities other than teaching in the class. They set exam papers; they correct the answer sheets. They check essays and have some administrative work too! They have a personal life like you and me! On top of this modern communications have created such pressure in some teachers in that particular school, that some of them wanted to resign and some protested strongly to the management. A parent finds time to communicate at 10.30 pm and expects a reply immediately.

I will tell you about the procedure followed in my granddaughter Rhea’s school. They do not allow the parents to communicate with teachers at all either by meeting or by electronic communication. They have a group of administrators who are available to meet the parents. Parents can meet them, and in most cases, problems get resolved at administrator level itself. Parents can have one meeting with teachers once every term and group meeting every quarter. I was delighted to see that at the end of lower KG this year, Rhea was analysed for twenty different personality points with details. They have a WA group for parents where circulars etc. are sent. Half the parents have no time even to read these circulars.

The same thing happens in other professions. Colleagues send you an email at 6 a.m. and expect a reply asap. WA has made matters even worse! You also know whether your message is read or not. One tends to read the boss’s note right away. But is it right?

First and foremost, there is a need to create a set of WA etiquettes. Secondly, every organisation should give a rethink and decide policies based on previous experience! What did they all do when modern methods were not available? Emergencies were handled even in those days. Years back in Jaya’s office a mainframe computer was being installed. Nobody had previous experience in this field. A call came from her office at 1.30 am, and Jaya mumbled some reply on a minor issue. Next day Jaya and I talked about this while having our morning cuppa! I told her that there would be a call again tonight but let me handle it. When the call came at 2.30 am, I, said, “Please make calls at night only when the fire alarm goes off.” No calls came ever again.

But then some people want to keep and show their importance to the organisation. I know of a guy who got married in the ’80s of the last century. Before marriage, his director called him and said, “Please, don’t travel out of Pune for Honeymoon; we will sponsor your stay in a five-star hotel, in Pune.” The guy did not travel. Later in his life, I have seen people calling him to find out if the knob on a panel is to be turned clockwise or anticlockwise!

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Are things moving in the right direction? As usual, the answer is Yes and No. Every few minutes some hot shot guy is born and wants to change the world yesterday! He goes into midnight email mode. The credit for starting this trend or you may say discredit, should go to Blackberry phone. Blackberry was the first cell phone which brought professional emails on the phone smoothly. Blackberry became a status symbol! People in those days would not say, let me check the mail. They would say, “Let me check my Blackberry!”

I won’t go into details of how email usage on cell phones has become routine, but now this usage is pretty standard. There is some discussion going on about rules and regulations that need to be followed. Unless some infrastructure is created and an attempt is made, things will not change. Some companies are doing their bit, and others are not doing anything. But it is not about the organised sector, but also in the unorganised sector, the change in thinking has to take place.

I will share an anecdote from very early days of email, about limitations of the fundamental knowledge of the systems, about usage, etiquettes. In a large organisation, people would mark a cc to many people. All the emails were replied as “reply all”. The storage made available to individuals was meagre. When I was talking to a friend, he said that his capacity is full every two hours. He did not do anything, no more emails for some time! Nobody had told people how to use email, as the IT people’s knowledge was also limited.

Even today, in the corporate email setups, there is a lot of limitation about storage etc. People when in difficulty, ask for details on personal emails and then download them! Now people have enough technical prowess; systems have understood limitations and discrepancies. But it is the management team that does not form policies where even during “out of office hours time,” communication goes on. It is simple. The system can always “not allow” communication beyond certain times. People should be given “right not to reply” after office hours! Same rules should be made to be rigorously applied for WA and telephonic communications. As usual, these things need to start from the top! There is a saying in the corporate world. If the chairman of the company asks about some delay in a project, the last guy in the value chain gets threatened of losing his job!

A good beginning is already made. France has passed a law, a couple of years back, on the right to disconnect after office hours. Daimler and Volkswagen have a facility where emails sent to employees on holidays get auto-deleted so that after coming back to work employees do not face a flooded email box. Our NCP MP Supriya Sule has introduced the “Right to disconnect” bill in Loksabha. In a small way, attempts are being made to make life easier.

But what about small sectors, professional individuals in business? Doctors get a call from patients at an inconvenient time, and people are upset when they do not respond. It is ok in an emergency but what is an emergency? A good idea would be to send the doctor a message. (They do check messages as all of us do, and respond when needed. They do not return if they are in Bali on holiday) They will decide and act if they feel it is an emergency. I am also told that these same patients do not call doctors if they are getting late for an appointment.

Every work, every profession has its standard timings for doing work. Each individual fixes his/her schedule based on the requirements for personal and social activities. Availability of technology does not mean that the communications channels should be used in “the personal timing” of any individual. Do you call your grocer at 10 pm? Do we call our milk vendor at 9 pm? Yes, I know of someone who went to wine sellers’ home on a dry day!emrgency1 No, I don’t think so. Why? Because in the case of these service providers there is no emergency! Thank god!