27 November 2008

Days like this...

It was one of those days...To begin with, I overslept after a night of nightmares. Worse- there was no hubby to reassure me as he had left for the Gym already. I had missed yet another of my morning jogs that day. On top of it, the power went out early and I had to boil water on the gas in order to take a bath. Curse these MSEB valas, why can't they follow a schedule for load shedding - can't they even do this right?

And so it continued throughout the day. Received an angry mail from a friend and some not-so-complimentary mails from colleagues. Had a spat with the boss in the morning that left me feeling even worse. You would think that after serving 3.5 years in this organization, I would be treated with more respect. How ungrateful and ruthless these higher-ups are...

One of my colleagues inquired (with relish, I felt) - "What happened? You look like something the cat dragged in." How I hate it when people know exactly when I am not feeling my best? "Oh, why can't I be like those disgustingly cheerful and stoic faces that reflect good cheer even when they are dying inside?" I groaned for the umpteenth time.

By now you must have got the drift. Absolutely nothing was going right. It was enough to send one deep into the doldrums. A meeting got rescheduled and the venue was changed to our other building. Now I had to walk all the way there and meet more people who would comment on my ill-health. The prospect did not fill me with joy.

I gritted my teeth and walked to the other building. For some reason, even though the premises are excellent, there is something wrong with the algorithm for the 4 elevators in that building. No matter what time you go there or to which floor, it always takes at least 5 min waiting to get an elevator to fetch you. Showing the first signs of patience, I waited for one of the elevators to deliver me to yet another hell.

Soon one came. The doors opened and our liftman flashed his usual colgate smile in welcome. Since I was feeling far from smiling myself, I just nodded. I did realise that I had probably hurt him by not reciprocating, but I was not feeling very charitable just then. My misfortune continued as the elevator stopped at each floor to receive or deliver more people. I resolutely kept my face averted to discourage any chit-chat. As we reached my floor and the doors opened, I hurried out. I heard a small voice calling out - "Madam". I turned. It was the liftman. From inside his shirt, he pulled out an envelope. He handed it to me. I looked at him questioningly. "My daughter is getting married, madam. Please grace her wedding with your presence, I'd be much honored!" I was speechless. Belatedly, I realised that the elevator doors were still open. I hastily congratulated him - had to search my limited Marathi vocabulary for the word for Congratulations. And then I did something that I hadn't done all day - I SMILED :)

The man in the elevator, who perhaps had a limited number of wedding invitation cards, had actually thought me worthwhile enough to share one with me! It really warmed the cockles of my cold heart.

Needless to say, no one commented on my morose looks for the remainder of the day :)

Until divorce do us apart

Note- This was written in a light vein and not intended to cause offense to any parties whatsover. If any offence was caused, it is heartily regretted.

In the last week, I got to hear that two of our acquaintances(married to different people) are heading toward a divorce. In both cases, they have been married for less than a year. In both cases, the couple had been wildly excited about their marriages and the wedding ceremonies were quite elaborate. I am not on such terms with either parties that I would get to know the details as to what went wrong. However, even considering today's jet-setting lifestyle, contemplating divorce within a year seems... ummm.. superfast.

I had an interesting conversation with my aunt about this. She said that nowadays girls are not as adjusting as before and in most cases refuse to toe the line. They are too demanding of their privacy & independence; too proud of their salaries. Interestingly, my mother-in-law commented that the in-laws are a problem and the couple should move out of the family house to ensure marital harmony. Some said that it is up to the groom to breach the gap between his parents and his wife. Whenever this does not happen, its a disaster waiting to happen and most often results in the wife's walking out on her hubby. As usual, there are as many opinions as there are people.

On the other hand, there are many instances of divorcee men and women getting remarried. So much so, that some of my single friends have complained that their divorcee friends are back in the marriage market and hence the competition for them has increased! Not only is divorce more rampant than before; but re-marriages are on the rise too. No longer are people from failed relationships scared of burning their fingers again.

This new trend made my newly wedded brother comment one day - "How can they even think of getting married to another person? It is so tough, as it is, to get adjusted with one partner!" This is so true. Relationships, in general, are not easy. And a relationship with your life partner is made tougher by the fact that there is a constant pressure to make it work. Even though divorce is not an ugly word anymore, I know many who have suffered enormously. One friend actually commented that she would never wish divorce on an enemy also, as it takes away a lot from you. She is now happily remarried, but the scars are still there.

Divorce is not necessarily the end, however. Infact in many cases, it was the beginning of a new, improved chapter in life. I read somewhere recently that most marriages are still around, as the parties involved did not have the guts to take a divorce. It does not necessarily mean that they are happy. Some seek happiness outside their marriages, while some thrive on the martyrdom of sticking with their partners till the end. To each his own.

Mentoring - its rewards

The other day, a former team member gifted me with my favorite chocolate bar. Ever since she moved to her new project, we seldom meet. Hence I was a bit surprised at this gesture. She explained that when she was reporting to me, I used to be very particular about mails sent by her to client. I used to review them minutely and reprimand her whenever she made obvious errors. My steady mentoring and constant criticism had sharpened her writing skills. So much so that her current manager as well as client had appreciated her crisp and precise mails! She wanted to thank me for this improvement in her.

I remember a year ago, an ex-colleague and friend had written me a long email. He had received an excellent performance feedback from his manager at his new organization during the annual appraisal cycle. He said that the first person he thought of was me and felt that I deserved most of the credit for this performance. During our lunch and leisure hours whenever we had talked, my thoughts and words regarding leadership & professional conduct had left a lasting impression on him.

To say that I was extremely touched by these incidents would be an understatement. These incidences are more rewarding than even the highest salary hike or the much-awaited promotion. To have actually been the cause of happiness to another living, breathing soul is indeed the highest recognition! As a leader and a manager, or even as an individual, one tends to influence so many around us unconsciously. Every time we help someone with well-meant advice, constructive criticism or simply by being a listening board for their rants, we are influencing that person with our thoughts and actions. They could be good or bad thoughts/actions and in most cases leave a lasting impact. Hence, it is so important to govern our acts and thoughts such that we do not mess up someone's lives with our judgemental comments or destroy their morale forever.

I admire those in the academic profession, who deal with such instances constantly. Needless to say, I'm more convinced than ever that my calling in life is to make a difference to others' lives by being their mentor and friend.

19 November 2008

Dostana - Ye tedhi, medhi raahe....

When I was in school, 'friends' were those with whom I walked or bicycled to school everyday. Or the ones I shared my lunch with. During SSC and junior college, they were those who attended the same coaching classes as me. In Engg. college, they were those who frequented my place to demand notes for lectures bunked. Whereas a best or a close friend was someone with whom I shared more personal stuff - my first crush, my differences with my dad, my dreams, my favorites books or movies and my pet peeves.

As I grew older, friends were not that easy to make. In the workplace, one is stuck with those in one's immediate group. And once you are married, you need to ensure that your spouse feels comfortable with your friends and vice versa as there is very little 'only-friends' time. Of course, today's social networking sites and online communities have given yet another dimension to this increasingly complex picture!

Over the years, I've developed quite a few friendships that are very dear to me. However, I've also fought with those friends at some point or another. Some unfortunately have petered out as we fell out of touch due to time and distance constraints(many of my friends are settled abroad). Due to changing priorities in mine as well as my friends' lives, and also, our own evolving personalities - the line between friends and 'close' friends has blurred somewhat. One tends to confide in whoever is 'available' at that point in time.

Lately I've been introspecting on my equation with some of my friends and came up with some startling revelations. In this age of instant friendship over the net, we have forgotten that friendship is a very serious business. It may not be a legal contract, but it is still an emotional one. And where emotions are involved there are bound to be expectations, possessiveness, disappointment, betrayal, trust...infact the whole hog. I have realised that I've sailed on this wave of friendship as a silent spectator thus far- seldom voicing my expectations, or expressing my disappointment and never trying to bridge the gaping holes in understanding. This of course leads to confrontations, fights and lot of heartache. After all, who has the time for all this?

But, as with all relationships, one should take a health-check once in a while. I've been doing this in mine. So my friends, if it has seemed that I've been troubling you out of turn, be patient with me. I do value you and cannot live without you!

Jaane kyon...dil jaanta hai...tu hai to I'll be alright.

Bad hair day

Yesterday was a BAD day for me. I ended up exchanging bitter words with no less than 4 dear people - 2 friends, my dad and my husband. I ended the day in tears. I still don't understand why I was so upset yesterday. Maybe it was just one of the days when nothing seems to go right. Whatever you do, it is either full of mistakes, goes unappreciated or else wholly unsatisfactory. It is on days such as these when one appreciates friends who dare to cheer you in the face of having to be the brunt of your bitter tongue. Spent the evening with some friends at CCD and felt better eventually.

I hope I never have such days again.

03 November 2008

Why do women get involved with married men?

Today I saw a documentary on TV about Parveen Babi - the legendary Bollywood actress. It mentioned that she had been involved with several married men during her lifetime. Many other actresses viz. Hema Malini, Smita Patil, Sridevi etc. too went the same way. It made me wonder what it is that draws single, successful women who can have anyone they want, go for married men?

Now, I've had a middle class upbringing where any such relationships are severely frowned upon. The women are tagged as flirts of the first-order and with them lies the sole responsbility of a home being wrecked. The cheating man usually gets away scot-free as men are polygamous by nature and only succumb to women who encourage them. In the meantime, the entire episode serves as succulent fodder for gossip for ages to come. I wanted to delve deeper than this simplistic and one-dimensional look at such behavior.

I came up with many so-called theories in my introspection. Women on the whole are emotional and vain creatures. They need constant reminder of their beauty and charms and above all they need to feel "needed". A married man has more or less figured this out and thus holds all the aces when wooing a single woman who is a sitting duck. On the other hand, maybe the single woman is a calculating you-know-what who is out to get that promotion or break in her career by pleasing her married boss. Or maybe her ego gets an adrenaline boost when she can successfully woo an already vanquished man. Or maybe they are both victims of their former broken relationships and seeking comfort in each other.

I've come to realise there's no straight-forward answer to this question. I might as well ask why women date blond men or why some men date younger women. There are as many motivations for individual relationships as there are relationships. While there may be some women who are motivated by a fear of commitment or a desire to prove themselves by taking what belongs to someone else or the thrill of sneaking around or whatever, I'm sure there are just as many who didn't know a man was married until they were already involved, who knew him in some other context and fell victim to his tales of how his wife didn't understand him, or who simply view married men no differently than they do single men, because we live in a culture that largely dismisses the significance of marriage. If one answer--especially one a couple of lines long--could provide a blanket explanation for the behavior of all of the millions of people who fit in a given category or participate in a certain action, the world would be a much simpler place than it is in real life.

The fact is, we humans are complex beings and one simple cut answer does not offer an adequate or fully encompassing response to the above question.

01 November 2008

Road rage

While driving on one of the roads in Pune the other day, we got stuck in a traffic jam. A truck had overturned and was blocking an entire lane and the traffic was trying to squeeze through the remaining lane. It was 9:30 am in the morning of a weekday and people were bustling to their workplaces. While we were thus waiting in queue, a Honda city suddenly overtook us from the right and drove close to the Maruti 800 in front of us. While doing so, the left hand side mirror of the Honda got damaged. In a flash the driver of the Honda - a well-to-do, well-built young guy, got out and started abusing the driver of the Maruti 800.

When the other guy, who was much older, did not respond, this guy opened this door and started kicking him. He kept on doing it until the other guy started screaming in pain. The bystanders were too shocked by the sheer violence at hardly any provocation. The young guy then dragged the older guy out of his car and started demanding that he pay up for the damage to his car. I admired his audacity, since it was his mistake in the first place that resulted in the mishap!

I was fuming with indignation at the unfairness of it when my husband gripped my hand to ensure that I do not get out of our car to get embroiled in their squabble. Soon the girl accompanying the younger guy got out and tried to intervene. I assumed that she was trying to make peace, but apparently she was egging on the younger guy! Soon he started hitting the older guy again. The drivers of other cars and 2-wheelers could take this no more, thank God. A couple of them overpowered the younger guy and made him drive away. And very soon the traffic was moving again.

I reached my office, but I was in shock the entire day. What was so precious about a small dent or a broken mirror that made people resort to such violent and aggressive behavior on roads? Surely it is not worth risking a jail sentence? My husband says that this is very prevalent everywhere especially where people have long commutes and have to go through such traffic jams routinely. It is natural to feel indignant at a loss caused by another person's mistake, but to resort to violence is hardly any solution. Hitting on the weak, just because one is physically stronger is hardly fair. Also, in all of this there was hardly any policeman in sight even though there was an overturned truck nearby.

I remembered my driving days in the US where for 3 months I never noticed that my car horn was not functioning at all since I never got the opportunity to use it! People adhere to the traffic discipline strictly and even stop at Stop signs when there is no one watching! Even when there are accidents, no one shouts at each other, the police comes to the spot immediately. The guilty party is slapped with a bill for damages and there are seldom any harsh words exchanged, forget about violence.

People blame our traffic management, our roads, our population for this road rage. But isn't it something that we can all control should we decide to be civil about everything? After all, anger harms most the person who gets angry than the victim. So at least in our own benefit, we should learn to exercise patience and forbearance when driving on Indian roads.