17 April 2010

'Open'

Finally finished reading the autobiography of Andre Agassi titled 'Open'. Frankly I am not into reading autobiographies or even biographies for that matter. Neither am I too much into sports, though I do know the basics of tennis. But the book came highly recommended by a colleague so I gave it a shot.

I haven't been this moved after reading a non-fiction book in a while. Agassi has literally laid open his entire life for the public. He has left nothing out, not tried to gloss over any of the sordid details in his life. Yet, its written with class. At one point in the book I didn't really like him. He made no effort to be tactful about any of his opinions. His hatred of his father, of tennis, of some rivals - everything is portrayed with brutal candor. Yet as the book, and his life, progresses he turns likable - probably since he finally discovers himself through a lot of self introspection, painful physical & emotional injuries and tremendous effort. His love for all his family, including his father, and his friends is very touching. He comes across as a man who has craved acceptance and understanding all his life which he finally found in Steffi Graf. He was lucky to have a very ambitious father, some inspiring friends and a wife who is his equal in every sense of the word. His is indeed a blessed life though it took him a long time to realize it. Sound familiar?!

Loved the way he connects patterns in his life and uses relevant metaphors. About his marriage with Brooke Shields he says that "We spent most of our time on islands. We are islands." Though his education lasted only till the ninth grade, his vocabulary is rich. Ironically, all the important people in his life viz. his father, his mentor Gil and wife Steffi, did not have English as their first language. Perhaps that's why they understood him the most as they communicated more through body language.

The book also provided a peek into the life of tennis stars and celebrities in general. Their fragile egos, insecurities, physical pain, mental torture makes one realise that a career in sports isn't all that rosy. The journey involves a lot of blood, sweat and will power. Yet not all make it to the top. Somewhat like life itself.

13 April 2010

Tech Support

Got a call from my aunt the other day. "Nilu, I need your help now." That's how it is with her usually - everything has to happen NOW. No matter if you are driving or cooking or taking a bath. "What is it, aunty" I ask. "I was trying to edit my contacts in Gmail and I had reached upto R and they just disappeared!!!" The last word ended on a screech. "Calm down, aunty. Start from the beginning. What happened exactly?" I ask patiently while stirring busily in the pan. Its breakfast time. Mornings on weekdays are usually rushed as both I and hubby have to get ready for office.

"Well, you see, I have a lot of email IDs of all my clients. I need to prefix their names with the names of their organizations else I keep getting confused as to which client I am dealing with. So I was trying to edit my contacts alphabetically. But as I reached the letter R, they just disappeared. I logged out and logged back in many times, but to no avail. I even rebooted my machine." My aunt runs a small business. She is a real entrepreneur, started it at the age of 43 and its running quite successfully now. And whenever you want to get successful or more visible, you gotta be online. My aunt is clearly out of depth here and relies on me, or her son, heavily for such problems.

"Ok, let me login to my computer, I'll call you back" I promise. I finish cooking and go to the study to boot up my laptop. I then ask my aunt to provide me her credentials for her gmail account. I logged in, clicked on Contacts and was able to view all her contacts. Was even able to edit some. She logged back in from her computer, but she faced the same problem. I then asked her to check the browser she was using, most difficult since she did not know what a browser was. I asked her if she was using IE (Internet Explorer). Now, in marathi, "Aai (pronounced as IE) means mother. This confused her even more. So I asked her to read the topmost line on her screen. "Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer" she read out. "Ok, now click on "Help", then "About Internet Explorer". This took a while. Finally, it turned out that she was using Version 8.0 of IE and I was using Mozilla Firefox 3.6. I quickly checked with my IE and everything was working fine. But I had IE version 6.0. (I don't use IE so often, you see).

Finally I tell her "There may be something wrong with your browser settings." Silence on the other end. "You need to change your browser and try once again." I say. My aunt gives up and says that I need to talk to her son. Soon, her son is talking with me. I explain to him that he needs to download Firefox and try to login to Gmail with that. He understands and promises to call back with the result, thank God!

Some time later, my aunt calls back jubilantly exclaiming "It WORKED!!! But how come your uncle can see HIS contacts in his gmail in the other browser and I can't?! But never mind, this browser seems so much nicer. Thank you so much :)" So ends yet another Tech Support session for me. I've done this umpteen times with my dad before - that's where the patience comes from. Also, not being physically present at the faulty computer can be really frustrating but I've learned to deal with it now.

Its such a small thing - every internet user is aware of what a browser is and its various features. And for people like me who use computers for a living, its as easy as breathing. But there are so many seniors who struggle with such basic things on a daily basis. I admire their perseverance to learn a new technology at such a late stage in their lives. They are not embarrassed to show their ignorance and ask questions that may sound stupid. Yet, many of the young folks frown at their "silly" attempts. They are so complacent in their superior knowledge. Perhaps, we need to humbly learn the lesson that "learning should never stop" from our seniors.

07 April 2010

Fight for survival



Grandma did a Humpty-Dumpty on sunday. Disobeyed everyone's warning about walking around on her bad knee, overbalanced and broke her hip bone. Thankfully, she was at a crowded place where someone rushed and called her daughter -my aunt. Who then rushed there with an ambulance as grandma could not move at all.

Doctors said surgery was needed to fix her bone, but they could not operate considering her history of heart disease. There was considerable debate over what was to be done, too many opinions sought, thousands of rupees spent on the phone bill and loss of sleep for many in the family (grandma has 5 daughters, many grand-children and couple of great-grand children too). Her pain was the deciding factor eventually. She was operated upon yesterday and has been given a clean chit after being put up in ICU for 24 hours.

Everyone has always been exasperated by her sheer grit and obstinate determination which makes her take her body for granted. But it was these same qualities which made her fight for her life and come back safely into the fold. Such is life - the very things that are your weaknesses can become your strength...and vice versa. Its all about leveraging the right qualities at the right time and place and learning to accept or change the others.

In the meantime, thank the Lord for delivering her daughters from the burden of the most difficult decision of their lives successfully! And thank God for grandma's fighting spirit!

Decision making - an underrated skill

Today, there is an article in Sunday TOI about maids and the rising class divide in the Indian context. Yet another context is the manager ...