Monday, July 22, 2013

The "R" of Relationships - 'Root'

"Just like you need a foundation for a building, you also need a root and a foundation for every relationship, no matter what. That foundation is Friendship, it is the root that strengthens the relationship over time" ( by Genie)

Hello Everyone,

Ever wondered the difference between a very good teacher and a great teacher? A very good teacher will always treat the people he teaches as a student. The relationship there is of a student and a teacher. But a great teacher treats his/ her students as friends. In this case the bond between the student and the teacher goes beyond the normal boundaries of a student teacher relation and towards friendship. It seems a very small difference but only this small difference is sufficient enough to bring a huge difference in the end results.

I took coaching classes for my IIT entrance exams. I took classes for all three subjects - math, physics and chemistry. The physics and chemistry teachers were just that - teachers - but the math teacher was actually more into interacting with students, trying to understand their problems and helping them in a much friendlier way. The difference? I was able to progress in math so much better that even today it is my favorite subject something which it was not at that time. This is the difference one component of friendship makes.

And this is not only true for a teacher-student relationship, it true for all forms of relationship in life whether it be brother-sister, husband-wife, parent-child, girlfriend-boyfriend, boss-colleague, friends etc. No matter the relationship, if the foundation of that relationship is not set in friendship then the chances are very high, that relationship becomes monotonous, stale and boring quickly.

It is a common saying that when a child reaches the height of shoulders of the parents, the parents should start treating the child as a friend rather than a child. And it is actually very true because that’s the teenage and at that time a parent can better understand a child by being a friendly parent/ friend rather than a dominating and overbearing parent. Once again we come back to the same ingredient of friendship in the relationship.

When we treat the other person as friend first and then something else then in that case there are a lot less expectations and even if there are expectations people don’t feel that much dejected and sad when expectations are not fulfilled. Being a friend first also allows people to share things which normally two people won’t share. This becomes very visible in the relationship of a husband wife. Both of them tend to keep less secrets if they treat each other as friend rather that a responsibility that had to carry through.

In professional life one of the best examples is the current HR on our floor. She has got an aura of friendship around her which makes working on the floor much more fun and enjoyable. I can say without a doubt that she is the friendliest, enthusiastic and energetic HR I have ever had the pleasure to come across. At the same time she can be strict and get her point across easily, something that cannot happen if that component is missing.

One of the biggest examples in my life is the bond between me and my sister. We are friends at a deep level and that helps us to share our grief and happiness alike. We don’t have to think twice before disturbing the other and we have no hard feelings if the other is not available. That’s the beauty of friendship at the most basic level. It’s my personal experience that the moment friendship dies out in a relationship the relation turns sour very quickly

So let’s strengthen the roots of our relations by nurturing them with the water of friendship.

Genie Signing off

The "Q" Gene

"People get annoyed waiting for their turn in a queue but everyones turn comes" (by Robert D Dangoor)

Hi Everyone,

Take a group of people to a busy temple like Siddhivinayak and you will see that all of them will wait in a line for their turn for the 'darshan'. Now take the same set of people to a bus stop, a cinema hall ticket counter, a railway ticket counter etc, they will be ready to kill each other to be the first one to get their work done. Strange, right? But that’s how all of us behave, or I should say most of us behave.

We, in our country, have patience for everything in the world but not standing in a 'Queue'. We always want to be the first to be serviced in the horde of people, which is supposed to be a queue. We will even walk over people to be the first. In the religious establishments we become the most disciplined people in the world because we feel that there we are being watched by God and therefore better be disciplined. Many people also maintain queue in religious establishments out of respect for the place and God.

So if we can maintain queue there why can’t we maintain queue at other places. What's so difficult about it. I was once at a ticket counter at a railway station and one person seemed to be in such a hurry that he moved out of the queue and directly went to the counter. People shouted for him to get back in the queue but he did not listen. The people who were coming to join the queue also went directly at the counter and in a matter of few seconds it was pure chaos. Finally a constable had to come and maintain order. He stayed there for some time and as soon as he was away the same thing happened again. We need someone with a stick over our head to remain in queue

Sadly things would get done quickly if done sequentially in a queue. For example the person giving tickets at the counter will be less stressed and hence work more efficiently if people do not crowd at his window. We seriously need to develop this gene in ourselves because; just due to few individuals all of the people in the queue suffer. And subsequently people who want to maintain the line are forced to break that line because they will never get their work done if they remain standing in the queue.

Many people argue that they were getting late and hence they did not remain n queue. And who is to blame for getting late. We start justifying immediately but we should realize that 99.99% of the time no one but we ourselves are to blame for being late. We may justify all we want but in the end we were responsible for getting late and then disturbing the order. Only 0.01% cases constitute the unavoidable circumstances.

So as individuals this is something we all can easily implement and bring in practice. Let’s wake that dormant Q gene in ourselves. Let’s be part of the SOLUTION. Let’s be part of the Q and not the PROBLEM Qless creates.

Genie Signing off

Let "P" Remain "P" - 'Personal'

Previously In the A-Z series


"I don't like to share my personal life... it wouldn't be personal if I shared it" (by George Clooney)

Hello Everyone,

Recently I read a Facebook entry by none other than Amitabh Bacchan wherein he said he cannot step out of the house, attend any function, or go in public because there are billions of people wanting to know every single detail of their private life, billions of cameras in the form of press reporters, smartphones etc. tracking their every move. Sad but its truth. For them the word personal has lost meaning because general public finds entertainment in knowing about their every single life detail.

But if I tell this to the press and the paparazzi they will instantly snap at me with the freedom of press crap. Well I think that they forget one very old saying - "Your freedom is only till where the tip of your nose ends". Freedom of press does not mean that you have the right to invade into the personal lives of people. Unless that is needed to uncover a crime of something of the same nature press has no business publicizing the private lives of people.

The information media has today lost one important component - information and has replaced it with entertainment. Every day I think that after going home I will watch some "News" but do I get to hear some constructive news? No. The race for TRPs has burnt all the bridges between information and news delivery. Now it’s just a delivery. News has been burnt to ashes. Press making out stories out of this air just to get momentary increase in the TRPs, some of those stories are so ridiculous that even the stupidest person will have a very very hard time believing it.

I just wonder how those paparazzi would feel if their own person life was scrutinized to shreds and presented in the media in a spectacle. I am pretty sure they would not like the entire world to know when they went out with their partner or kissed them, what they were wearing, who they talked with etc. etc. No they would not. But they cannot extend the same courtesy to the people. Recently in the natural debacle in Uttarakhand I saw a footage on almost all the news channels - a rock falling from the mountain in some landslide. The entire story was focused on how the rock was falling. It made me laugh derisively and I felt so bad for the state of media that I switched of the news channel.

I really hope that some press person reads this article and understand that personal means personal and not public and it should remain personal. If they do not understand that then they should probably take lessons in English. There are many people who like their every life detail to be aired, focus on them and please do some constructive news reporting. Journalism has hit a new low - a low that I call as abyss. I wonder if the journalism will ever come out of it.

I am closing this post by a famous quote by Mahatama Gandhi - "I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers".

Genie Signing off

Saturday, July 13, 2013

World Without "O" - 'Obsession'

Previously In the A-Z series


"Without obsession, life is nothing" (by John Waters)
Hi Everyone,
Today’s topic is a very negative word and I know I will start a lot of controversies with my arguments. The tile says all about the article but I will still ask the question. How do you think the world would be if there was no obsession of any kind at all? The immediate answer in most of our minds will be - very good and peaceful place. But I disagree - peaceful might be but good I don’t think so.
Once someone asked Einstein that how he was able to solve such difficult matters and problems. He replied that he kept on revisiting the problems at every moment in his head till the problem was solved. He said that if you are obsessed with solving something you will definitely solve it. In fact if we care to take a look into history, we will find that all great scientists, poets, artists, musicians, politicians, leaders, teachers, etc were obsessed with something or the other. It is their obsession that drove them for excellence and new discoveries.
We are all familiar with Edison. He was obsessed with finding the right material for the filament of the electric bulb. In the process he made over 200 discoveries and innovation. He was also obsessed with his goal. India's great sprinter Milkha Singh. P.T. Usha were obsessed with winning the Olympics. This led them to improve themselves and run that extra mile.
But every coin has two sides and there is a black side to obsession also. Problem comes when obsession becomes madness. There is a thin line dividing the two and when obsession is clouded with grief and bad intents it becomes madness. So obsession itself is not bad but the other peripherals surrounding it make it good or bad. The direction the obsession takes depends upon the route chosen.
I recently read the novel Inferno by Dan Brown and from there this article is inspired. In the novel scientist wants to save the earth by infecting everyone on earth with a virus which selectively makes the population sterile. No more reproduction, less population increase and earth can be saved. The obsession to save earth is good but the means taken to reach there are questionable. It was just an example to illustrate my point
So coming back to the question- how would the world today look like without obsession. I say it would be very backwards still, with no great inventions and innovations. Obsession is essentially good. Many questionable acts over time has made it negative and today this word is one of the most negative words in English dictionary.
Personally I think obsession is good. What do you think?
Genie Signing off

The Best Serial Killer - 'Nature'

Previously in the A-Z series


"No doubt, humans will do a lot of damage before we ultimately destroy ourselves. But life will continue without humans. New forms of intelligence will emerge long after this human experiment is over" (Zeena Shreck)

Hello Everyone,

After having seen the tragedy in Uttarakhand one can undoubtedly say that Mother Nature is the best serial killer out there in the entire universe. But it never kills without a just reason. It gives a lot of warnings, a lot of time for us to realize how much we are hurting the nature, only after all that it decides to go on a killing spree. Whether it is a tsunami, a tornado, a landslide, flash floods, earthquakes etc, these are just her ways to even the odds which have been stacked up against her over the centuries.

We all are getting artificial day by day. We love to remain in AC but we will not take efforts to stroll in open air. We would take out our bikes and cars even for a short distance but would not bother to walk few meters. We would love to construct buildings but would not bother replenishing trees which were lost due to construction. We love to further develop developed cities but forget about the naturally rich villages and the wonders they can do for nature. We take pride in driving in a car or SUV but feel ashamed taking a public conveyance. 

All these factors are slowly but surely killing the nature. But you know what the sad part is, we are actually killing ourselves too. We get so used to AC that if we have to walk few hours in sunlight we get sunburns and blisters. I know of cases where parents have kept their newborns so much comforted in AC that they developed Ricketts (lack of vitamin D, whose primary source is sunlight). I have never particularly liked AC, it’s comfortable for sure but I don’t think it’s my cup of tea. I will tell about my first encounter with AC. As soon as I entered the AC room I felt so nauseous that I went out as soon as my work was done. That was many years ago and even now I don’t feel comfortable in AC, whether in office, room or car. 

The various companies are trying so hard to develop natural atmosphere inside home using various appliance while avoiding the best and most natural AC - nature itself. Sadly we are not learning from our mistakes. The number of cars are increasing day by day. Some people having more cars than they can ever use. People take having car as a status symbol, as a symbol of development. A developed country is not one where everyone has car, a developed country is one where even the richest take public conveyance. 

Its been almost 4 years now, since I came to Mumbai. In these four years I have seen drastic climatic changes, which are going to become even more drastic in coming future. The winters have been getting colder. For a place where people did not know what winters were, they sure are facing needs to get woolen clothes now. Glaciers are melting, areas near sea are submerging, Tornados and floods of increasing intensity are happening - disasters happening everywhere.

The nature is showing its unhappiness, it is ringing the warning bell; it’s high time that we wake up and start realizing that we have already set off the time bomb of disaster and try to delay it as much as possible. Sadly we cannot bring back the original state of the nature. We have come too far for that. We have crossed the point of no return and there is no way to undo the damage we have done. But we can start doing our share to prevent the Armageddon that is bound to happen sooner or later. Some of the simple suggestions are mentioned in the linked article.

I hope everyone realizes the seriousness of the situation because when Nature goes on a killing spree it discriminates between no one, everyone is given the same punishment - punishment of death.

Genie Signing off

The MDM Curse - Part 2

"By definition a government has no conscience. Sometimes it has a policy but nothing more" (Albert Camus)

Hello Everyone,

I am not sure how many of us have been to villages in India. But for those who have they must have seen the conditions of the schooling in those villages. In some places it is worse than others. But what is fact that cannot be missed is the joy on the faces of the kids who go to school (well for most of the kids :) ). This was very good until the MDM (Mid Day Meal) program was launched by the government. I am not saying it is not a good initiative but the very purpose for which it was launched never got fulfilled and instead people adopted it for another purpose.

One of my elder relative teaches in a government school and he oversees the execution of the program. I asked him few questions. Below is the short interview (translated of course):

Me: So do you think that MDM actually helps?

Him: It is more of a headache than a help. Now we can’t even focus on our actual job of teaching because we have to devote our time to the accounts management related to the MDM program. we have to keep track of expenses, prepare reports, send reports on a daily basis. Now another hurdle has been added of sending the reports on SMS too.

Me: So you mean that the program has not attracted new and more students.

Him: You have to understand that the purpose of the program was that with the prospect of one free meal more students would be attracted towards studies. True more students have been attracted but not towards studies, only towards the meal.....

Me: So you mean to say that students just come for meals?

Him: Yes that’s what is happening, the parents send their kids to the school at the meal time and they the kids go back in the fields to work again. So the purpose is being defeated here.

Me: But that used to happen before also. I mean that kids helped their parents in the fields and not coming to schools

Him: No prior to MDM parents used to send their kids with the sole purpose of learning and the kids learned with interest also. But now MDM has changed the mentality. Before the parents educated their kids with the hope that a little education will help their kids earn more, now it has become - send kids so that they can eat...

Before I could ask something else I got interrupted. But the message is clear here. Especially for schools where there are only 2-3 employees if they are busy entire day keeping accounts how they will be do their basic duty - imparting education. Later on I talked to him again and in summary he said, "Before MDM also parents were able to feed their kids. Many people think that MDM was implemented because kids did not have enough to eat. It is not so. It was implemented to lure the kids to school and it has failed its purpose. It is only luring kids to eat"

According to a survey done in 2010 some of the cons of the program came forward:

  1. The meals provided at many places are not fit for consumption
  2. Teachers waste 3 hours everyday cooking and preparing meals
  3. Students waste 10 hours a week washing and cleaning dishes
  4. 75% of the schools running MDM program has no availability of drinking water facility
  5. Many schools do not receive adequate rations and teachers have to spend money to feed the kids
  6. Shortage of infrastructure and manpower
  7. The one good thing that all the respondents agreed upon was that it was a social leveler and was eroding the boundaries created by caste and religions.

So once again I wonder why a thorough analysis of any policy is not done before it is implemented. Why a pilot project is not run before actual implementation. I know only the policy makers can answer this question. But one thing is sure that the program which was supposed to be a boon in the field of education has become a curse - The "MDM" curse. Government needs to provide better infrastructure and better way of implementing such a good program.

Genie Signing off

P.S. This is sequel to the blog - A Senseless "G" - 'Grading' -Part 1