Friday, December 01, 2006

Facts from my file - to prove we can always make do with what we have

We spend so much of our time bemoaning what we don't have - unfulfilled wishes, unavailability of resources, lack of time, unexpected twists in our life courtesy destiny, and what not. Me inclusive... thanks to some unexpected events, I have wallowed in enough self-pity and have cribbed enough over the last month to last me a lifetime! Phew! Never again.

But, in truth, if we just spend a little time thinking over the past, we'll realise, not from examples of others' lives but from our own that if we let life run its course we adapt to situations of scarcity, abundance, joy, sorrow et al quite effortlessly - as long as we don't consciously think about something as a disadvantage.

Here is a simple example:

a) Till 1 1/2 years ago, I did not have a mobile phone. I was still in touch with all my acquaintances and was able to manage all my work correspondences also. In fact, when I ultimately got a mobile phone, it took me time to get used to the fact that I had a phone - I would forget it at home all the time! When Vibhor, then the associate editor of BenefIT, used to call my mobile to clarify any doubts in my articles, inevitably my mom would pick it up and tell him that I've forgotten it at home... as usual! Today, I hesitate to give my mobile instrument for repair for a day... I wonder what I'd do without it. So, I was able to live without a mobile at one point of time; I am able to live with it as well today.

b) When I started writing, I did not have a computer all my own! Some articles I've written by hand. Some articles I've typed and taken print-outs when my dad was not using his computer. Even at that point of time, I got articles published.

c) Then, my dad gave me his laptop. I had a computer! What a luxury... I could type my articles whenever I wanted. But still no Internet connection. I would have to copy the articles onto a floppy disk (ha ha, yes, CDs were too expensive, and well my computer didn't have a CD writer anyways), take it to my dad's computer and then email it to the editors. You guessed it right - a dial-up connection. And I'd also use my dad's computer whenever he was out visiting clients, to do all my Web-based research.

d) Then, my father got an unlimited broadband connection. So, we bought a small Ethernet chord too, so I could take my laptop to his office, connect it to his computer and then connect to the Internet through it. he graciously allowed me a corner of his table where I would set my computer to connect to his. But, everytime a client visited, I'd be booted out (obviously!) and even otherwise, er, it is not really the best experience to sit in your dad's office table all the time. Over time, both of you start glaring at each other a little helplessly.

e) Next, we bought 40 metres of Ethernet cable and a D-Link switch and pulled the cable up to my room, so I could sit in my room and work. Wow!

f) Then, I bought my own laptop (don't ask me how many months I saved for it!) Double WOW!

g) Now, dad has set up a Wireless Router in his office room, so both my father and I can sit and work in any room in the house, even the balcony. Bliss!

I realised that at no stage did I really feel as if I did not have the "resources" to work. Throughout I was able to manage a decent number of articles per month. When I did not have a computer three articles a month seemed amazing, when I had a computer but limited Internet access, six to eight articles seemed great, and with unlimited Internet and my own computer, I can now average around 20 articles a month! So, resources evolve, work evolves. It's all about changing with the times. But throw me back to the pre-Internet age now, and I wonder if I can manage :-) Now, that would be a real challenge - er, don't pose it to me!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

In God's Great Economy, Nothing Goes To Waste

(Some of the stories we read in the "moral story books" when we were young, some of the stories we receive through email forwards, they have beautiful messages--I have a little notebook in which I record those that touch my heart. Here is one of them. I really do not know who wrote this--if it is you, please let me know :-))

(Photo by Rosh PR, open-sourced under CreativeCommons Attribution-ShareAlike License)

A water-bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his shoulders. One of the pots had a crack in it. While the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on, with the bearer being able to deliver only 1 1/2 pots of water to the master's house, in each trip. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water-bearer one day, by the stream, "I am ashamed of myself and I want to apologise to you."

"Why?" asked the water-bearer.

"I have been able, for these two years, to deliver only half my load because the crack causes the water to leak out, all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaw, you have to do a lot of extra work and do not get the full value of your efforts," the pot said.

The water-bearer felt sorry for the old pot, and said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the lovely flowers along the path."

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the Sun warming the beautiful flowers on the side of the path, and felt a little comforted. But at the end of the trail, it felt bad again for having leaked half the water and apologised once more to the water-bearer.

The bearer replied, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path and not on the other pot's side? This is because I have always known about your flaw and I took advantage of it. I planted flowering plants on your side of the path, and every day while walking back from the stream, you have watered them! For two years, I have been able to pick these pretty flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."

Really, which of us is without faults? None that I know of. Sometimes we think God has His faults too... we blame Him for things that go wrong, we chide Him for attacking us with misfortune... indeed we see errors in everybody! Perhaps, ultimately, it is in our perception. Perhaps we forget to look at the person in the mirror and say, "Perhaps this is how things are meant to be! Why not take it in the right spirit and tweak this to our advantage?" Why not, really? Surely, that will mean a lot of "innovative" thought, in addition to overall optimism, but I am sure, if we make it a habit, then our eternal quest for "happiness" will end, successfully :-)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Some words are worth re-reads

There are some portions of some books which you feel like savouring word by word, and then re-read as well. Here is one such paragraph from Tom Kelley's The Ten Faces of Innovation:

“Many have wondered how the bumblebee flies at all, with its bulky body and tiny, fragile-looking wings. But the bumblebee doesn’t know that, so it goes on flying anyway. Perhaps the answer lies, as it does with so many things hard to comprehend, in the sum of the parts… Maybe like the bumblebee you too are an unlikely hero. Do you have wide interests, a voracious curiosity, and an aptitude for learning and teaching? Are there others on your team who have an aptitude for playing this role? You may find your wings can flap faster than ever before.”

Hmmm... a little unfair I think!

Pity Marjorie Wilson had to pick a lousy stretch to travel. I mean, we have some brilliant stretches of landscape too, alongside our rail-tracks. Pretty unfair comparison, this! But wonder when she made this unfortunate journey! Definitely many many years ago, perhaps during the Raj!

From the Train
By Marjorie Wilson

In England from the train you see
Green fields and peaceful cows and sheep,
And lazy farmsteads racing by
In smoke-blue valleys quiet with sheep;

And primroses and meadow sweet,
And daisies white about the way;
And you can trace the paths that wind
To where the trees are snowed with may.

In India from the stifling train
You see great rocky hills go by;
Brown miles of parched, unhappy grass,
And hot blue tracts of cloudless sky.

And slow, indifferent bullocks too,
Well laden on the dusty roads--
And then a station where you stop,
With brightly-coloured chattering crowds.

And rows and rows of tiny huts,
And young green rice, or sugar-cane,
And little dark-skinned boys and girls
Who wonder at the rumbling train.

And many scorching miles you go,
And sometimes weary days you spend
Gazing across that burning land
And dreaming of your journey's end.


Last week, I saw an amazing performance at Kalakshetra, Chennai. It was a two-day programme showcasing Manipuri culture, especially dance (of the pre-Vaishnavite era) and martial arts. Unfortunately, I could go only on the second day, but I must say, I am glad I did not miss it!

The programme was titled "Dhaan-thi". Dhaan means sword and Thi means spear. It was a fusion of martial arts and ritualistic war dances of Manipur with the best distinctly-Manipuri percussion (the instruments give out a ringing, resounding, echo-accompanied sound!), string and tribal music I've ever heard till date.

And it was the greatest display of discipline, coordination and skill that I've ever seen. The senapathi fought blind-folded with his sword, and trust me, the swords were not blunt - we actually saw the sparks fly when the swords clashed!

And then they started a fire, lit the ends of their spears (not exactly spears, but rods, what we call pandham in Thamizh) and danced with that, with unbelievable coordination. The women joined with clay lamps in their hands (not the diya style dainty things, but proper holders of fire!) and together they expressed the power of youth and faith in peace and resurgence in the face of all the insurgence that the North East is suffering from.

But I must say, this is the best percussion music or display of ancient warfare skills that I've ever seen. Seriously!

Now you know why I love Chennai so much. In this city, if you have a thirst for arts and culture, you can get it in abundance. And what's more, everybody can afford it... this program, for one, was free, non-ticketed and sponsored, as are numerous such programs, ever so often!