18 … oh ! It is so special

What is so special about this number ?

The sum of digits is 9, and that for many is a specal number. The difference is 7, and ask a football fan and he will tell you how special that is.

For many, it is the age at which one can get a license – a license to drive, a license to drink, a license to vote. It seems to be the age at which one gets freedom

Freedom from what ?

Freedom is a state of mind. And the mind is not bounded by age or by a number.

18 … oh ! It is so special

18 is perhaps just a point in time, a coming of age (in a metaphorical sense) when rights get burdened with obligations. When freedom gets bounded by responsibilities.

It is not the age when you fly free, but the age you fly with a purpose. It is not the age when you can do what you want, but the age you become responsible for your actions.

18 … oh ! It is so special.

Only if you take this time to think about your future. Only if you continue to dream, and live your dreams. Only if you make this the year when you see the thorns along with the flowers. Only if you learn to fall, and stand up again.

18 … oh ! It is so special.

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Excel is the new God

My parents had an arranged marriage ; they met once before their marriage and were introduced by a distant relative of both. That was 1969. Circa 2001, and I had an arranged marriage. I met my wife through a newspaper, we met only twice before saying yes, even if we spent 7-8 hours together in our second meeting. Thats how marriages happened in India. Infact, the majority of marriages in 2019 are also ‘fixed’ in a similar manner.

Some things never change, or so I thought….till I spoke to a few nieces of mine in the past one week.

A niece of mine, 28, succesful in the tech world in San Francisco is single and dating, but is in a dilemma. She knows a guy, she likes him but is not sure if he is “the one”. She is not sure she wants to commit at this stage. I suggest that she should take the relationship forward. Invest time and emotional energy in it, and in 6 months, she would know. But my niece is not sure. Is this too much to invest ? Another relative makes a bold suggestion…. “why don’t you live-in and decide after that ?” I wondered whether my parents would have ever given this advise to me. Not sure if I am ready to give this advise to my son either. Maybe she could look at his horoscope. Isnt that what our parents did !

But, her dilemma is that her “excel” is not throwing up an answer. Hey, whats’ this excel ? She has created a scoring model with criteria, weightages and scores to give the guy a number. She is stuck because she does not know whether the number he has got makes the cut ! This is like a non-validated psychometric tool. Every HR person wants to use it, and every business leader understands the futility of it.

I laugh, and I say that a relationship can’t be built on an excel. But a friend tells me this is not a relationship, but an arranged marriage. The girl is arranging it for herself ! And she is actually quite kicked about the fact that men are getting “objectified”…..after all, they have done it to women for centuries !

But jokes apart, for a minute, if we were to put the wise cracks on men, HR and excel aside, what have we come to ?

I see similar challenges at the work place today. Money drives us more than passion. Intelligence is valued more than empathy. Emotional intelligence has become an oxymoron for most. We rule by excel, powerpoint and email. Mann ki baat tho ho thi nahin !

Somewhere, we are losing our ability to trust our gut. We are losing our ability to let the heart rule the mind. Consultants with powerful excel models and fancy powerpoint slides never made great companies. A dream, passion, luck and a willingness to fail are what greatness has been built upon.

The original business plans of Apple, Google or Amazon were no more detailed than a 1 page horoscope. Maybe the horoscope does indeed deserve a second chance !

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Fire and Dreams…inspired by #GullyBoy

I have been pushed, shoved, beaten to the ground
I have no name, and yet have been called many a name
Each time i fall, i vow to rise higher, stand taller
There is a fire inside me, that burns, that consumes

I live in a dark cave, which lets in no light
I see only gloom and despair in the lives around
Each day only strengthens my resolve to break-free, to fly away
There is a fire inside me, that burns, that consumes

My reality is bleak, is that of one with no hope
My fate could not be worse, can only be of servitude
My dreams are going to change my reality, not be limited by my reality
The fire inside me gives me flight, gives me light

My future is going to be one that only I can see
My pain, my words, my junoon shall alight many fires
My dreams shall change your reality, shall make you break free
My fire shall set you ablaze, shall free you, shall burn you, shall liberate you

The fire that burns shall set us free, shall give us flight
Our dreams shall change our reality

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Que sera, sera

Que sera, sera ….

Between Jan 2nd and Jan 11th, I had a series of goodbye dinners. Each one different. Each one with a different group. One was formal. One was fun. One was stimulating. One was emotional. I felt good that I had made some deep friendships at work in these 5 years, probably more than I did in my earlier jobs. Everyone said good things….sounded like a funeral in some ways because the good is said at the altar and the bad is said in whispers on the benches. People spoke about their learning from me, they spoke about my passion, about how I changed a moribund organisation into an aggressive, fast growing, meaningful company. People spoke with pride. People spoke about how I would come up with an angle to a problem that nobody thought existed. Some people spoke with emotion, some rambled, some were thoughtful, some were funny.

But in their words of praise, there were hidden messages. They were said in humour and probably without malice, but the messages were not lost on me. Maybe I review too much. Maybe my reviews create too much fear. Maybe I micro-manage too much. Maybe I create too much stress for everyone. Maybe my analytical mind adds value, but also destroys value. I remember a poster I once had in my office some years ago, “I think, and hence I am dangerous”.

I need to change. To take back these messages and evolve. In the past 5 years, i have opened up more. Shared my vulnerability, in parts, and with some. I am less mechanical, less robot-like, more human. I think Mihir brought out the softer side in me. Mom’s demise brought out the emotional side in me. Maybe farewell speeches will bring out the calmer, less aggressive but equally passionate side in me. Maybe I will focus on helping others create value, rather than create value myself.

And maybe I wont change. Maybe I will continue to be aggressive, will continue to be the devil, who is always in the detail. Maybe I will continue to think, and strike fear in others. Everything is a maybe. Only time will tell. Que sera, sera.

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Finding myself

Finding myself …

“No chance, no dance”
“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
“Speak english”
“We are not in the happiness business”
“In data I trust, the rest I leave to god”
“Dont fly at 20,000 feet”

These statements represent who I am. A risk taker, innovative, aggressive, detail oriented, data driven.

But is this really who I am ? There is an emotional side that remains hidden. A loneliness that hides behind a mask. A creative side that is suppressed. An insecure child that is fiercely protected. A protective, grandmother hen that wants to put its wings around the weak and needy.

Who am I really ?

Am I an iceberg ? Cold, austere, partly visible but nobody knows how much is hidden.

Am I a volcano ? Always bubbling inside, waiting to explode. Spreading scorching and scalding heat.

Am I the raging river in flood? Destroying everything in its path, but leaving a mark behind. Creating its own path when one is not available.

Am I the moon ? Mystical, beautiful, enigmatic. The full moon spreads light, but brings out the werewolves.

Who am I really ?

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My story …

Story telling….a 4 decade journey

Story telling for me began more than 40 years ago….I was a small boy, growing up in Khartoum, who had created an imaginary city – “Sint” – that was submerged in water and long lost. Sounds like Atlantis ? Maybe, but I was 5 yrs old and had never heard the story of Atlantis. This was not the typical young boy’s imagination….it was a story I carried for many many months….describing in great detail the city and life in it. The descriptions were vivid, surreal…..so real that friends of my parents felt I was reliving a past life. Friends, family and drs were consulted….I seemed fine in every other way, ….. fortunately my parents ignored the speculation of others and continued to encourage my imagination. Perhaps it is that wild and vivid imagination that now forms the foundation of my stories of dinosaurs, dragons and tigers who can play cricket and hit sixes !

For many years after the ‘death’ of Sint, story telling was forgotten….it only reared its head again when I was in an expressive mood in office, and had a receptive audience, read, young impressionable minds ! As Mihir grew up, and his imagination rekindled the child in me, I took to story telling again….for children, these were funny, wild, whacky, crazy stories but which sound so silly when I listen to them myself, …  and for friends, i wrote prose, words of pain and anguish, wrote about my emotions, about what i saw around me ….

Story telling has given me a chance to live outside of my workplace, to feel young, and free again. To those who have been subjected to this story telling, to those who have inspired me to tell these stories, and to those who encourage me with their words of praise, I dedicate my words on this Childen’s day.

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On Marriage …

Marriages are made in heaven ? What the hell !

Talking to a friend over the weekend, consoling her as she spoke about her relationship with her hubby, I wondered what had gone wrong.

Hers was a filmy love marriage, a long courtship, colleagues who fell in love ( and there was no #meToo moment here), married against their parents wishes, it’s been over 20 years now … All the reasons for strong bonds, cherished moments together, ….

Circa 2018… an equally filmy scene…..a couple who cant see eye to eye, squabbling over non issues, attributing motive to each other for every act of forgetfulness, for every word that may not have been perfect.

20 years is a long time, but what happened?  Was this marriage never meant to be ? Did the couple change in ways over time that made them less compatible ? Did age mature them, harden them but also make them less flexible, less accommodating? In their search for perfection in their lives, had they become too focused on the negatives of life ?

I don’t really know. I am still a little shy of 20 years so maybe my marriage is not old enough ! Or maybe we have learnt to fight over the small things but resolve the big issues, eg. Who gets the TV remote first at night ! 😁 Or maybe we have learnt that every storm is followed by calm and hence seek the peace. Or maybe we are so different that the small commonalities become strong bonds.

I guess there is no rhyme or reason for what happens in life sometimes. Hindu mythology would like us to believe that everything is predetermined. Yet it urges to pray to God, to seek divine intervention, to abstain, to renounce, to give….as if the predetermined can be re-determined!

Or like so many other things in life, relationships go through their ups and downs.

But,

We can learn to focus on the positives,
Focus on the future, not always the dark side of the current,
Reflect on what we can change and not on what we can’t
Look inside, and find fault within, not outside

20 years of marriage…. is it too late for us to

Be real,
Be human,
Be imperfect,
Be forgiving,
Be angry,
Just Be.

Marriages made in heaven break in hell, because we keep seeking what doesnt exist. Marriages made on earth, survive on earth ! What the hell !!

This random banter, this cacophony of words, this ridiculous attempt to convey meaning, is like a marriage. Difficult to understand. Difficult to keep up with. Difficult to fathom. But hidden in it, are some deep meanings, some deep feelings, some real experiences. Find these, and find peace. What the hell !!

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