“Reading a book gives us the habit of solitary, reflection and enjoyment.” Said Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, former President of India. While this is true, the reflection can also spur some meaningful action and stir a few emotions.
I am tempted to travel back in time machine when my 2nd born was just 5 years old. Famously nick-named Koramangala Rowdy from his play-school days, one incident opened up the heartful softer side of him. In 2004 I had taken a sabbatical from my job to pursue an executive management programme from IIM, Bangalore. One night as I returned from IIMB after a long day at the course, I saw my son already asleep (or I thought so !). Felt terribly guilty for reaching home late. Remorsefully, I whispered into his ears “Chinnu, I am so sorry. I am not spending enough time with you. Just a few more weeks and the course is over”. Suddenly, he woke up, his eyes brightly lit and flashed a million-dollar smile at me. He then thrust his English reader into my hand. Hugging me tightly, he insisted that he read a story to me. Yes, you read it right. He read a story to me and not the other way round. I was dead tired and was in no mood to listen but how could I refuse a child offering to read from his book ? This is how he concluded his reading “Amma, don’t feel bad. Do you know the moral of this Juno the Monkey story ? Mother’s love has no equal. I know you also love me so much”. Well, I still remember that poignant moment, the heart-felt love that poured out of my 5 yr old like a volcano. This was the boy I thought was not friends with books !
Let me travel back even further into the time machine. When I was a child. I distinctly remember how my mother would read out from books and magazines. Every night we would get to hear bedtime stories from her, as we siblings would jostle for space next to her to feel her cosiness and affection. There were no separate bed rooms nor cots back then. It was simple beds rolled out on the floor with all of us sleeping next to each other in the same room. Ma would read out serial stories and comic strips from the Kannada magazines Sudha, Taranga, Mayura. Kathas and upa-kathas (sub-stories) from our epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, about Akbar & Birbal, about Tenali, about our freedom struggle, from Munshi Premchand’s Hindi novels, Kabir & Rahim’s dohas……oh, what a rich tapestry she would paint. It would be so engrossing that our owner’s only daughter would eavesdrop from her window and listen to her silently. Even now she says, “I envy your childhood. What a lovely, intelligent and caring mother you had.”
I am compelled to travel back to times that I wasn’t even born. Yes, to my grandmother’s younger days. My maternal grandmother was a 4th class drop-out, as most girls back in the days were – married off as a child and turned into a ‘reproduction-machine’ (pardon me for saying that but what else if someone had birthed 8 children with a few others dead in a span of 12 to 14 years !). Despite a gruelling time raising so many children, my mother used to say, Ajji was very fond of books and reading. She wasn’t schooled for long but she was very knowledgeable and had a flair for writing. With very meagre resources, unable to buy books she would quench her thirst for reading while sweeping the house. My mother used to recall how Ajji would carefully collect, piece together and even out wrinkled and torn newspapers and magazine covers, in which groceries and other stuff would be packed. Amidst the cleaning, she would be lost in reading from the fragmented pieces of paper. Perhaps she learnt to dissolve her drudgery by immersing herself into reading, which was her passion !
My husband also vouches for his vast knowledge about history, epics and mythology from his grandmother, who again a 4th class drop out was a voracious reader of books. The best part in those days was the reading-out-loud habit which would create a bonding while learning. In 1995, UNESCO decided that the World Book and Copyright Day would be celebrated on 23 April, as the date is also the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare as well as that of the birth or death of several other prominent authors. Well, lets continue to promote reading from books before they become objects of novelty and curiosity as in the picture collage 😊
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” said Leonardo Da Vinci. Several examples of this abound around us.
Recently I heard a speaker use the example of zinc production in ancient India to elucidate the above axiom. It was an eye-opener for many of us that to overcome the problem of smelting zinc which volatalises at about the same temperature of 1000⁰, ancient Indians came up with a simple solution of ‘downward distillation of zinc vapour formed after smelting zinc ore using specifically designed retorts with condensers and furnaces’ so that smelted zinc could drastically cool down and solidify to zinc metal. There is evidence of industrial production in the Zawar area of Rajasthan in the 3rd to 4th century BCE, much much before China or Europe got into it. Isn’t this simplicity in design ?
Meditation is a simple yet sophisticated technique for clearing, calming and controlling the mind, which is anything but simple. It is through meditation that we can reach the highest levels of our consciousness.
Nature is simple, uncomplicated, rooted, grounded. Yet it is sophisticated through its majesty, fierceness, fury, serenity, diversity, inclusiveness, vibrancy, harmony et al. Earth Day observed on 26th March every year, when the lights are off for 1 full hour across the globe, or Save the Soil campaign currently being executed by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev or Chipko movement (tree hugging) of the Gandhian, ecological activist, Late Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna are all Simple yet Sophisticated solutions for protecting Mother Earth.
Here is an engineer-turned-defence scientist-turned NGO founder who is an ‘Anna daatha’ (food-giver) for nearly 20 years now, feeding 2 lac+ children every single day in a sustainable manner. Ask how ? Dr. Tejaswini Anathkumar, founder of Adamya Chetana, operating from Bangalore and 6 other cities across India
has stopped using gas cylinders for cooking of industrial scale meals. She has innovated some simple solutions to convert the huge amount of wet waste generated from the Foundation’s daily operations into pellets and briquettes which are used as fuel for cooking, heating water and other activities.
“Anna, Akshara & Arogya” are the 3 pillars of the NGO which is also implementing the ‘Green Sunday’ programme where volunteers plant trees every Sunday across the erstwhile garden-city Bangalore.
Dr. Tejaswini is so passionate about ‘Invest in our Planet’ (theme for Earth Day 2022) that since several years she has stopped using plastic bottles, containers and even paper cups and napkins. She carries her steel water bottle to all functions in a cotton bag right upto the stage, when she is to address any gathering. Experienced this when she addressed the 1st Women Company Secretaries Conference in Bangalore recently and felicitated some of us women (past and serving office bearers).
She also has a unique environment-friendly initiative where people can borrow upto 1500 steel plates and glasses free-of-cost for use in functions and events, if they want to avoid plastic and paper.
Another of her simple tips “Don’t snip off the milk cover packets. Instead slit it open which alone saves Bangalore of at least 50lac small plastic pieces being thrown into the garbage everyday !”.
February, 2022 saw the loss of two big ‘Influencers’ from the music world – Lata Mangeshkar, the colossus with a nectar-like voice, who defined and shall continue to define what melodious singing is and Bappi Lahiri, the over-the-top music director who created new trends through his foot-tapping music. Both were ‘mega market influencers’ in today’s social media lingo – especially Lata Didi who will continue to influence the nation in several ways (not just music) for generations to come. A true legend indeed in whose times the concept of ‘Influencer’ and working towards becoming one didn’t exist at all. She simply did what she liked best, what she was best at and what best she could do. Rest of us were ‘influenced’ so to say !
Let me share a real-life anecdote of similar ‘unintended influencers’ who inspired Hitha, a young 16 year old girl from Bangalore to dedicate this beautiful, simple poem and sing it to them as well at a closed-group talent show, that I attended recently.
We wake up early morning,
To update laws and schedules,
Cause if we don’t update then,
Knowledge is a thing we lose.
Let it be employment or
Practice that we do,
None of them is easy,
Which is definitely true.
Commerce is a choice,
Which’s not an option,
For the only ones who aim to be the,
Ace of profession.
All the people that I am,
Witnessing here today
Have been my motivation and
Shown me my future way.
This profession is boring,
Which I do not agree,
Because I have seen the greatest minds,
Enjoy while they achieve.
I would like to sing more for you,
On this special day,
But I got very less time so,
For long I cannot stay.
~ Hitha, Class XI
The teenager chose Commerce over Science, deeply influenced by the sheer dedication, discipline and diligence of the ‘Jignyasu’ group of Company Secretaries (CS) that meets every single day from 5.15 to 6.15 am to read, analyse, interpret and understand the various corporate laws that are changing by the day ! Jyothi, her CS mother, is part of this early-morning-riser-study-group for the past 3 years. Unknown to them, the group consisting of professionals from across the country have left an indelible mark in the young mind of Hitha. She says I didn’t need anyone to advise me on my career options. I just watched my mom and her friends enjoy learning the laws day after day and lo, it was clear it had to be Commerce and nothing else ! It was indeed a moving tribute to the efforts of this motley group started by CS Pracheta from Mysore. The credit for this free of cost, innovative, knowledge-sharing initiative must of course go to its ‘moola-karthru’ (original creator), my good friend CS Karthick Varadarajan from Bangalore who first started an evening study group called ‘Let’s Learn’ way back in 2017. Much before the pandemic struck and online meetings became the order of the day, a bunch of professionals would huddle together every evening via zoom to pursue their ‘sadhana’ (practice) of deeper understanding of the laws. Neither he nor Pracheta nor anyone in the group ever intended to become a trend setter or influencer or preacher of any sort. It’s the consistency, commitment and perseverance that has influenced a curious Hitha who must have been watching her mother silently. I could see the surprise and joy writ large on Jyothi’s face who just walked the path while the daughter watched. Neither had she to talk nor walk the talk ! It is rightly said “Listen to what people Do, not to what they Say” !!
“आ नो भद्राः क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वतः” ||
“āno bhadra krtavo yantu vishwatah”
Drawn from the Rig Veda, this has universal truth and appeal. It urges us to test the validity of knowledge that is drawn from various sources. Today, there is a deluge of information and we are left grappling for truth in it. For me drawing wisdom from speakers who share their life experiences and challenges is a credible source – this January presented itself with plenty of such opportunities. Let me share a few nuggets:
From the inaugural & valedictory sessions of the 49th National Convention of Company Secretaries (CS) held at Bangalore from 6th to 8th January, 2022:
Basavaraj Bommai, Hon’ble CM of Karnataka – CS must move from being a spectator to game-changer.
Economy is all about activity and less about finance. Look at it from the perspective of artha shastra and purushartha – man should have job or activity or work or artha which will bring well being to family and society. Arthashasthra is important for society and purushartha for self improvement and goal.
Economics is not all about profit & loss (P&L), goals & growth. At the same time philosophy is not all about paapa and punya (P&P). As a student of both, I see it paradoxically. I see P&L in philosophy and P&P in economics. This is the exact job of CS where you need to ensure that activities are brought into framework of law and guiding principles are taken forward. See P&P in economics your role, status, thinking and importance will change.
How does importance come to you ? if everything is in order, what role do you have ? Your role as CS thrives on ambiguity and uncertainty. Embrace the VUCA world (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) for volatility indicates energy, fluidity, motion, growth & dynamism. Status quoist will never grow.
CS must have a say in the economy and country, not just corporates. Raise your voice, address issues, be part of problem as well as solution. You are part of the economy but economy must also be part of you. Be part of development, solution, and not a mere spectator.
Make your own path, be part of history or create history. Choice is yours. Change in you will bring change in companies, change in companies will bring change in economy and change in economy will bring change in life of a common man. You are not connected only to companies and bosses. Connect to society through your companies. Efficiency of last man will bring success to top man. If last man survives, company survives. Same with the country. Be a game-changer not just a compliance officer.
Smriti Irani, Union Minister for Women & Child Development – My ask of you as a citizen
When your organisation chances upon good accounting, chances upon HR corporate practices or innovation, can you share with smaller organisations ? Can you share with the unorganised sector ? How can the learnings of big organisations transcend to smaller ones ? That is your dharma.
Dharma teaches us to be forward looking. Greatest instrument is technology. Those who have don’t use amply by sharing. Those who don’t have feel its absence because of lack of resources. As CS can you reach out with technology down to those who you presume don’t need it ? Can your cleaning staff be digitally literate ? Digital India was launched when there was no pandemic. Remember, leadership prepares you not only for present but preps you for future that is yet unseen.
To fuel innovation, fuel jigyansa is not only corporate dharma but also of society. Can we support R&D in non-core areas, supply chain of essentials ? Can we partake in R&D of not only company’s interest but also look at societal and national means ?
Truth need not be measured but be spoken without fear. Be true to yourself, to your values and principles that represent institutional ethos. That is true contribution to nation building.
J. Swaminathan, MD, SBI – commandments for CS (true for other professionals too)
culture of continuous learning, reskilling, upskilling,
culture of compliance, living by right practices through thought and action
culture of communication, speak up when required
culture of building resilience in organisation in volatile times, culture of sustainability & ESG
processes are as important as outcomes, adhere to the same, avoid tick-box approach
live upto regulatory expectations and not just guidelines, anticipate and manage the expectations as an industry leader
Swami Veereshananda Saraswati of Vivekananda Ashrama : character building for governance
Life is short, they alone live who live for others. Rest are dead.
Bahujana hitaya, bahujana sukhaya (for the benefit of many, for the happiness of many)
Progress achieved in many areas has become useless because of loss of character. Dams are built but men are brittle.
Physical bravery is mere animal instinct. Moral bravery is true courage.
These are from the notes I took as I had the opportunity to anchor the respective sessions but attending live is a totally different experience. Some of the asks require deeper deliberation on each of our roles as catalysts for Good Governance : the Universal Dharma (theme of the convention).
In this fast moving world, processes have become paramount to achieve scale and so-called success. Many a times sacrificing at the altar of process, the very people that are supposed to be serviced. I am not against systems and process. No I cannot be, coming from a governance profession. But when the people behind the process work mechanically without understanding the purpose, without being sensitive to the people being served, to the criticality of the issue, to the timelines to be met, the organisations that they represent stand to lose. Because ultimately the people being served (customers) are left dissatisfied.
“Hey, we are not mere TICKETS, we are human beings and we need to be treated likewise” exclaimed an exasperated Harsha, a first time entrepreneur. It took me a while to understand that he was unhappy with the online aggregator who had trapped him into a package for compliance services promising ‘everything under one roof’. Experiencing the services from different professionals under a single banner but operating individually across India was not the ideal solution Harsha expected. He said each time he called a ticket would be raised, his call put on hold and transferred to a new person. The same set of questions would be raised and again the call would pass on to a new person until it would either get disconnected or a standard ‘raise a query, we will resolve’ kind of response would come up. Harsha was himself a techie, deploying algorithms and what have you to offer solutions to his customers but he admitted that mere technology will not do. Technology and process must be used to offer a pleasant experience, an efficient resolution, a quick response, a proactive approach to the customer. What he missed most in the TICKET-process-approach was the lack of proactive advice, an assurance of ‘hum hain na’ (we are there), a consistency and stability that gives comfort and confidence to building a lasting business relationship. I couldn’t agree more with him when he complained that he was reduced to a mere ‘TICKET for disposal’ rather than a ‘living person to be serviced’. This disappointment and frustration is what has brought Harsha to our firm as a customer. After helping him unentangle the maze he is in, he is able to appreciate the difference in services that a boutique firm like ours brings. I am sure it is the same with most other professionals as well who care for PEOPLE rather than NUMBERS (whether ticket or revenue figures !). People are at the core of businesses, be it employees, be it vendors, be it customers, be it consumers, be it partners. While processes are required, they must be people-sensitive and agile.
I am sure each of you will have a story to share – both good and bad – about your own experiences with banks, insurance companies, retail stores, ecomm companies, educational institutions, hotels, hospitals etc. which are expanding their footprints constantly. We all have pleasant experiences too that make us go back again and again to them. Let’s create such memories in the coming years, despite the pandemic challenges that we have – the need is even more now than ever before !
It is not March. It is still November and not known for ‘women related month’. So I thought, until I read that 11th November has a significance and so does 19th November. The latter first. On November 19th, UNDP marks Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, a day spearheaded by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization to celebrate and support women in business worldwide. This number is rising and justifiably so. Yet it is not enough when we look at the super capable women folk around us. More need to participate as entrepreneurs themselves or as enablers in the ecosystem. Fortunately a Falguni Nayar successfully listing a Nykaa in her late 50s or a Jaswantiben Jamnadas Popat (founder of the hugely successful women-driven Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad) receiving a Padma Shri at the ripe age of 91 (definitely deserved a higher award much earlier) inspire a whole generation of women to plunge into entrepreneurship and the men to stand by them. A day in a year is just symbolic of the life long efforts such women put in !
Well, these are women with fire in their belly. Let me now share with you the significance of 11th November – ‘Onake Obavva Jayanti’ announced by the State of Karnataka. Obavva had fire in her belly and in her eyes too, when she single handedly massacred many of Hyder Ali’s soldiers to protect the fort of Chitradurga, way back in the 18th century. Obavva was not any trained soldier or a warrior queen unlike many other brave women of our history that are coming to light of late. She was the wife of an ordinary guard at the fort’s watchtower, but it was her presence of mind, bravery and love for the land that inspired her to make the supreme sacrifice of life. Her heroic story is mesmerizingly enacted by the well-known Kannada star of yesteryears, Jayanthi in the movie ‘Naagarahaavu’ (remade as Zehreela Insaan in Hindi) which won the actor a national award. A short, gripping role that brought the actor lot of fame. The song which depicts the whole story is so fresh in my memory that I cannot visualise Onake Obavva as anything but Jayanthi, the actor ! Gives me goosebumps even now when I watch the song.
The legendary woman was not born to fight nor was she educated or trained. The story goes that one afternoon as Obavva is serving food to her husband, he asks her to fetch water. She steps out but hears the whispers of enemy soldiers near a hole (kindi in Kannada) in the rocks half-way up the hill. Sensing an attack from Hyder Ali, whom the King, Madakari Nayaka of Chitradurga was planning to counter, Obavva quietly picks up a ‘Onake’ (pestle), tucks her saree between her legs and watches guard at the hole. Not wanting to disturb her husband at his lunch, she does not even alert him. As each soldier crawls through a narrow hole and comes out, she stands at the opening and hits his head with the pestle, using it as a weapon. Unaware of the ‘Goddess of Death’ waiting at the opening, soldier after soldier is bludgeoned by Obavva quietly, blessed by some unknown power and divinity. The ‘Veera Vanithe’ (valiant woman) pulls across the dead soldiers one after another throwing them into a heap of dead bodies. When she doesn’t return with water even after a long time, her husband gets anxious and steps out of his house – only to witness the bloody massacre of enemy soldiers by his fearless wife. He is shocked to see the blood-soaked pestle in her hands and the mountain of dead bodies. He sees the fury in her eyes and the passion in her heart to protect the kingdom in her own way. Obavva continues to slay the soldiers and gestures to her husband to blow the trumpet, signalling a war-cry to the soldiers of Madakari Nayaka. In the meanwhile, one of Hyder Ali’s soldiers realises that none of his men are coming out of the hole and that something is amiss. He soon sees the lady with her ‘weapon’ single-handedly finishing the soldiers, in a ‘Dance of Death’. Unfortunately, unaware of him sneaking from behind her, Obavva succumbs to his attack laying down her life as a true warrior. She is part of our history books, literature, folklore, sculpture, music, drama and films. The Government has taken the right step honouring Obavva with a day dedicated to her and her selfless sacrifice. She represents true ‘Shakthi’ (power) and stands as Karnataka’s pride, a symbol of woman empowerment in an unusual way. Who says a woman is ‘abala’ (weak, fragile) – she can be both compassionate as well as merciless, if required.
October, 2021Dear Friends!The month of October saw the Navratri festivities – of victory of good over evil, of fasting and introspection, of the power of Shakthi and the celebration of life in general in the dolls displayed, in the rangoli drawn, in the dandiya played, in the exquisite flower decoration of the deities and what have you ! A treat to the eyes, ears and taste buds. It also marked two important days – Breast Cancer (BC) and Mental Health (MH).While there is increasing awareness on BC, MH lags behind as a poor cousin. The stigma attached, the refusal to acknowledge its presence, the denial that it needs special care, the lack of diagnosis at the right time, the openness to discuss about it and seek help – all of it continues even in educated sections of the society. While a few years ago, insurance coverage has become available, employability is still a challenge since there are pockets of ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’ affecting the stability of performance. I don’t think there is any sure shot solution to this except, acceptance and adjustments by the patient, his family and friends, employer with of course early medical intervention and counselling. The question is can we offer them an inclusive livelihood ?While I was introspecting on this, I realised it is just not genes, education, fitness or family circumstances that trigger certain mental health conditions. It could also be one’s attitude in general, the environment we are living in, the responsibilities we take upon ourselves and the will to not succumb. MH like depression could both be the cause as well as the consequence. However, not one for Jayaram, a sugarcane juice seller in Mysore. Having lost his ‘captain’ job in a well-known star hotel in Mysore, he has reinvented himself as an entrepreneur with a difference, displaying his zest for life. No more ‘vanilla type’ sugarcane juice with just lime and ginger. He has come up with 15 different flavours including fruits, tamarind, gooseberry and a variety of medicinal leaves. It tastes amazingly refreshing and different. Many people who lost lives of dear ones and livelihoods during the pandemic gave up on themselves but the Jayarams of the world have displayed a rare courage and optimism to live and thrive. They are living with joy and spreading the good cheer as well…..as I saw it in his colourfully decorated sugarcane gaadi as well as his pleasant welcoming style carried from his hotel experience. He was very courteous and explained the ‘juice-menu’ enthusiastically urging us to try different flavours on each day. Must admit he has taken the sugarcane experience to an altogether different level hailing it as a health drink, which it indeed is. No wonder he has been covered by the local press of Mysore as ‘From cocktails to mocktails’ which he proudly displays behind his gaadi. So much for his marketing, PR, customer service and entrepreneurial skills. Reminds me of Swami Sivananda’s saying ‘Be Up and Doing’ that our Yoga teacher quoted in one of his classes. Resonates well with another of his explanations – Do Karma Yoga not just Karma, meaning whatever karma or action you do, do it joyfully and with awareness, with the enthusiasm of a child. This is one way of experiencing and reflecting ‘manah prasad’ or ‘happy mind’ which is the need of the hour for all of us !Regulators may be able to extend the ‘last date’ for certain filings as we saw under the IT Act, GST Act, Companies Act & LLP Act but unfortunately as individuals, however well-known and wealthy and healthy we are, we cannot extend our ‘last date’ – not a moment more, not a moment less. Our expiry date is written the day our first cell takes birth – sometimes too long, sometimes too soon. Rarely an ideal date. What else can be said about the untimely death of Puneeth Rajkumar (son of the legendary actor Dr. Rajkumar), the Power Star of Sandalwood film industry who suffered a massive heartattack yesterday at a young age of 46 ! Not even the best medical care could ensure extension of his ‘last date’ !! I recall 25 years ago he was my co-passenger in a flight. A budding star even then, he had no airs about himself, no star tantrums. He quickly got into a conversation with me and came across as a young, bright lad, full of life. One can only wish that his next journey is longer, smoother and even more meaningful.
Glossophobia is the number one fear after death. What is this exotic sounding phobia ? It is nothing but the fear of public speaking stemming from the fear of being rejected or embarrassed. Though the reference is to public speaking indicating a large gathering, it could also be a small group of friends, family, colleagues, countrymen. At times it could even be the fear of speaking to a senior, a person in authority or power or strong influence where you feel tongue-tied and suffer being judged or ridiculed. The reasons may be plenty but the cure is to confront the phobia by actually stepping forward and speaking.
This requires practice, practice and more practice until your thoughts, words and gestures are in perfect harmony. Until you feel you are a singer in an orchestra. Until you feel you are a painter, an artist. Yes until you deliver a performance as an artist rather than a speech. Performance with a Roar and Dance. Wait a minute, why did I say roar and dance ? That’s because that’s the title of a 30 minute speech, nay performance, that I witnessed a few weeks ago by a champion public speaker Fursey Gotuaco. Allow me to take you into the world of Fursey !!Speeches are like paintings. Speaker is like an artist who paints with different paint brushes, who roars and dances. The question is
Can we have in our voice the texture, colour & blend of a paint ?
How to create colour and texture through voice and draw focus of the audience to our speech ?
How to create the image of scale on a virtual screen ….small, medium, large by coming close to the screen or moving away, away, away from it signalling through hands and body gestures ?
Imagine dropping a pebble in a proverbial pool of water….1,2,3,4,5…how the ripples are formed from near to far. In different settings you may have to use different voices – whisper to catch attention, formal soft talk to a small gathering, a loud resonant voice before a large audience.
You and I have all tools within us to speak in a resonant voice. All of us are painters with different tools in our kit, with paint brushes of varied sizes and makes. We need to be aware of our painting abilities – for a speaker to be able to paint with his hands and vocal chords.
Lets resolve that “Today I will speak with a vibrant, rich, round, resonant voice” !
Coming to usage of hands, they speak along with the words, sometimes without them also. Hand gestures like a dancer’s movements speak a thousand emotions. Therefore choosing the right movement is very critical to an expression of a public speaker. A specific message could require gracious movements like a gentle dance. Curvaceous waving hands at times. A profitable idea could be reflected through a skyward looking firm hand. An inverted thumb for a dip in profits. A new policy launch could see the expansion through open, upward turned palms. Hand gestures are powerful tools that convey a variety of messages and any inappropriate usage could ruin the same. No wonder learning to use the hands effectively rather than hide it in the pocket or clasp it or fidget with it is an integral lesson in public speaking. Fundamentally determine how many crayons you have in your box ? How many you use ?
Again what matters is the appropriate scale, texture and colour of the painting because quintessentially “Speech is a work of Art”. Every element must be in proper dimension. A small idea should not be delivered in a loud voice nor a big idea in a small voice. Short and long pauses too are critical characters in the performance of a Speech. Most speakers begin with a strong voice at the opening of a sentence but lose out at the end. The key is to build and maintain intensity till the end, like a Rapper ! Appropriate voice, body language and hand gestures must be assiduously rehearsed and re-rehearsed until they blend in harmony and are completely internalised by the speaker. Then and only then the final outcome will be a synchronised symphony of sorts.
Fursey concluded ….Paint with emphasis, with pause, repetition, contrast in voice moving from 1 to 5, switch numbers if required, match with gestures for scale, neither understated nor overdone, maintain intensity in voice and grow it if the speech requires. Remember you are an artist with different paint brushes of every type. You are born with an instrument that you hardly understand. Now that you have, use it well, speak from your heart. Finally OWN YOUR SPEECH – ROAR & DANCE !!
Fursey left us all awe-struck, mesmerised and floored with the timbre in his voice, twinkle in his eyes and the various dance-like hand movements. Wow how much he could convey in 30 minutes in the imaginary stage of a zoom window ….the expanse, the depth and the excitement he created was incredible.
Last issue I carried the inspiring story that I heard first hand from a Kargil war hero, Capt Naveen Nagappa. This time I want to share lessons from a talk that I heard from another type of war hero – a cardiac surgeon who likens a surgery to a war field, given that in both cases there is zero tolerance to errors. After all it is literally a ‘life and death’ question.
I heard the renowned heart surgeon Dr. Vivek Jawali speak on “Lessons in heart surgery – Zero errors in management”. These were practical lessons from a ‘little-giant’ (a person of petite stature but a towering personality) who has 30,000+ surgeries to his credit. Sharing a few snippets …..
Flight, Cardiac Surgery & War – all have variables though flight is predictable. Cardiac surgery & War can be fluid and challenging.
Best practice – zero error and open mind.
Although individuals may make mistakes, it is possible for teams to be flawless – Teamwork.
Humans cannot be punished for systemic errors – create a culture of fearless error reporting (role of whistle blower)
How zero error is ensured in pre-operative stage – diagnosis & layers of counter-checks before admission, fast track tests, cross-discipline consultations, pre-procedural plans, check listing, quick calls, multiple cross checks by all team members (sounds like a corporate project preparation, right ?)
What are the reasons for error in Operation theatre / ICU – Lack of adequate training, absence of standard rules, major gap in communication between surgeon and others, use of unreliable systems, rush to complete cases due to bad time management – ANSWER to all these maladies is EDUCATION, CHECKLIST, COMMUNICATION (corporate or cardiac surgery lessons ?!!)
Errors in other areas – general diagnostic, medication, device & equipment, hospital acquired infections, electronic health records, communication, handing over patient, during acute intervention – all of these can be prevented through SOPs, communication protocol & solid team (it is nothing short of a war room !)
Politeness in communication is a NO-NO in a surgery room – could be fatal for the patient at times
Mantras for safety promotion & zero errors
Build better teams
Be conscious of similar sounding people names in OT (could be disastrous)
Reduce time to report abnormal test results (use phone, whatsapp)
Give time-out or quiet zone to the nurse
Ensure team members accept inherent issues in their roles
No room for ego when errors are reported
Hierarchy to be rigid and respected
Prioritise, expect the unexpected
Create a fair and fearless environment for whistleblowing / error reporting
Develop thorough checklists | Foster a solid team | Encourage clear communication |
It was mind-blowing to listen to this management talk from a world renowned cardiac surgeon – so many takeaways and tips that each one of us can adopt for Zero Errors.
For the last 2 days my head is reeling with these words and phrases …..”Point 4875, Sopore, 13th Battalion JAK Rifles, Kargil, bunkers, boulders, grenade, captured, death, victory, dil maange more, jodidaar”…….yes your guess is right – Shershah movie effect. But wait, is it just the movie ?
No, it is also an electrifying talk delivered by a great Kargil war hero that I heard live on 14th August, 2021 as our nation was readying itself to celebrate Azaadi ka Amrut Mahotsav, the 75th Independence Day. Shershah is an extremely well made movie on the exemplary life of Param Veer Chakra awardee, Late Capt Vikram Batra, his supreme sacrifice at the young age of 24, not only fighting the enemies on treacherous mountain peaks but also saving fellow-lives without caring a damn about his own. One such life he saved was that of Capt Naveen Nagappa whose leg was severely injured in the Kargil war after a brave fight. How blessed I was to hear the graphic, chilling Kargil war description from Capt Naveen himself as he got emotional about losing his buddy, Shyam Singh and his saviour Capt Vikram Batra ! Let me summarise what I heard, in his own words (as far as possible)…
“I am an engineer from Hubli, Karnataka but unlike most of my friends I didn’t opt for a corporate career. I dreamt of the ‘2 stars on my shoulder’ and not the thousands. With no family background in the army, no coaching, I just got through with sheer determination. Trained in the Indian Military Academy, one of the gruellest training programmes in the world which trains us for a war during peace times – the last war our nation had fought was in 1971 but the training in 1998 was as rigorous as it could get, I was commissioned to the 13th Battalion JAK Rifles, the same that Capt Batra was in. Posted in Sopore, about 40kms from Srinagar, I was given a buddy (jodidaar as per Army protocol) called Shyam Singh who was with me all through until the fateful day on 4th July, 1999 when the war broke out and I lost him. Despite my refusal to take him along, he had said “Saab, acche din mein saath they, mein aapke saath abhi kaise chod dhoon ?” (we were together in good times, how can I leave you now ?). As a 25 year old commanding officer in the thick of the war, I couldn’t cry when I saw him head down with bullet shots because it would demoralise the men in my unit. As I zipped his body in his sleeping bag, I cried in isolation, thinking of the last letter he must have written to his family and deposited with the army base as is the protocol for all soldiers – to leave all identity and memories behind in the service of the nation. The point I want to make is perhaps it is only in the Indian army that such camaraderie is built in such a short span of 6 months !
The trigger for the war was the illegal occupancy of post Bajrang which was guarded by just 6 of our men who were stealthily encircled by 80 Pakistanis, fired from vantage points and held prisoners of war in complete violation of the Geneva Convention. For the next 21 days they were brutally tortured, eyes gorged, skulls broken, tongues cut and bodies shot multiple times and sent back in bags to the Indian army, much to the shock and dismay of the whole world. Their grit, determination and sacrifice couldn’t go waste. Our 13th Battalion attacked point 4875, on 4th July, 1999 in retaliation. After the customary havan and tilak by the unit’s panditji, I recall the Commander say “If you take care of your men, your men will take care of you”. As we set out on our mission with our energising war cry, “Durga Maate ki Jai”, Capt Batra, who was already a celebrity having captured all features of point 5140, hugged me and said “Gale lagna yaar, pata nahin kounsi ghadi aakhri hogi (give me a hug buddy, don’t know which will be the last moment)”.
Attack on point 4875 at 16,000 ft altitude was launched by the Indian army on the night of 5th July, as we crawled to the bunkers and dropped grenades and pumped in bullets (Naveen’s hand gestures and his animated voice added to the drama that was unfolding before our eyes !!). We neutralised and sanitised the bunkers, diffused the mines. Incessant firing from both sides until 8th July with no food and water for 48 hours. At times we would dig into the dirty snow (yes even in July the mountain was covered with sheaths of snow) which was filthy with our shoes, ammunition pieces, odour of the burning flesh – just to swallow some snow flakes so that we could feel a sense of having eaten something. When I got a call from the base camp offering to send food up, I refused and said “Just send ammunition instead of food”.
During the fierce fighting, the dil maange more legend, Capt Vikram Batra joined us, reinforcing the unit with his contagious energy and enthusiasm. We inched ahead to the merciless peaks boulder by boulder, inch by inch carrying sacks weighing 25kgs each as the firing increased. We would fire, duck, lie still and move slowly. I was sitting in a bunker with my AK47 when a Pak grenade landed close to me. This has a killing radius of 8 to 10 mtrs and a 4 seconds life. I couldn’t get up and run because there was no place to and my men would be exposed. I saw death from a close quarters. In a matter of just 2 seconds I had to make a life decision – how would I like my body to be seen by my parents. Didn’t they have the right to atleast see my face in the bag and not my body in pieces ? As my head was reeling with these thoughts, I just jumped to my right when I saw Batra run towards my bunker. I distinctly remember what he said “Kuch nahin hoga, main aa gaya hoon (Nothing will happen, I have come)”. Alas, I couldn’t give him that last hug ! As he took over the battle he held my hand and dragged me aside giving me cover. I started crawling with both my legs badly injured, bleeding heavily and my right leg literally dangling from my body. As a jawan carried me all that I could think of was to save my leg which was fully infected. Injured in the morning but I could be brought back for medical help only in the evening. I was in a semi-conscious state on the stretcher as a chopper picked me up on the 8th. I heard the nursing assistant tell me “Saab, tiranga lehera raha hai. Doctor ne mana kiya hai, mat uttho” (Tircolour is flying but don’t get up, doctor has asked you not to). I couldn’t resist. I sat on the stretcher and saluted the flag, feeling elated. But the next few words knocked me down to a state of unconsciousness “Is vijay ke liye, humein keemat chukani padhi. Batra saab nahin rahe (for this victory we had to pay a price. Batra sir is no more)”.
I returned home after being declared unfit for army service, with over 21 months in various hospitals and 8 surgeries. I just did my job as a soldier, just like you do yours. Nothing great, nothing extra and perhaps the shortest tenure for a soldier – just 6 months and 7 days but yes it has been the most memorable and cherished time in my life. While people pity me saying I am unfortunate, on the contrary I consider myself the most fortunate person to have got the opportunity to fight for my nation within 6 months of posting. About 1300 soldiers were injured while 527 lost their lives in the Kargil war. Let’s remember them and their families for their grit, valour, pain and sacrifice. Jai Hind !”
Oh what an inspiring talk it was, gave goosebumps and brought tears to our eyes. They gave their lives so that we live ours…enjoy freedom responsibly as we march ahead into our 76th year of Indian Independence !
If you thought Friendship Day is meant only for celebrating with one of our own species, I would say think again. Just look at these pictures shot at the famous Karanji Lake at Mysore, which has India’s largest walk through aviary, managed by the zoo authorities. They say it all. The peacocks there are so friendly and ever ready to show off their plumage that they seem to be waiting for you to stand next to them and click. I felt they were walking down a fashion ramp oblivious to who was watching them. They didn’t care a damn if there were people or not, if there was a jury or not, if there was applause or not. They just seemed to be in their present moment, enjoying and entertaining.
Unlike caged zoos where the birds have restricted places, Karanji Lake Aviary is a vastly spread bio-diversity park in the heart of the city where birds fly around with freedom and gay abandon. The staff are as friendly and welcoming as the flying inmates. I couldn’t believe when I could stand very, very close to a peacock and capture his glorious feathers as he turned around and gave a 360 degree panoramic view. The environment is so pleasant and open that the birds do not fly away in fear or anxiety at the sight of a visitor. Instead they ‘perform’ so to say, joyously and willingly. They pose so attractively that any top model could be put to shame. It was incredible to see our avian friends ‘chatting and cooing’ at each other even as the tall bamboo trees swayed and sashayed and made soothing ssshhh sounds as we walked along the neatly maintained pathways that hardly had any visitors. It was almost like being one with nature, one with oneself, in a state of ‘nirvana’ amidst the diverse plants, trees and birds. This is a must see place which has some rare botanical species, a mesmerising expanse of lake, quiet and serene and an exciting range of orchids. No jostling crowds, no shooing security guards nor disgruntled staff. Karanji lake beckons you like a bosom friend in whose embrace you can forget all your woes and illnesses – an idyllic getaway which continues to remind why Nature is man’s Best Friend ! Just that the reverse is not true !!
Is ensuring Ease of Doing Business, the responsibility of only the Government ? Is it not of other players in the ecosystem too ? Is EODB ranking only on the basis of ease of entering a country for business ? Is it not for continued ease during an enterprise’s entire lifecycle as well ? Why am I bringing up such basic questions when the answers seems obvious ? Because the experience seems otherwise, as shared by many company founders and professionals. Today I am focussing on the banking experience at a fundamental level – just opening a bank account and normal operations. No complex services expected from a bank when you start a company but read on to understand the ground reality through the eyes of a company founder.
Venkat and Varadan, 2 brothers, one an accomplished scientist and another a seasoned banker decided to set up a startup to offer some innovative cutting-edge technology products. Varadan, the retired banker was insistent that the new company bank only with his ex-bank which he had loyally served for several decades as an employee. He would not hear of any new-age bank that was listed in the incorporation forms. Unfortunately though many banks are listed in the Spice+ form, only a handful are actually actively available to select from. His PSU bank was one such though its name appeared in the dropdown list. The intention of the Government is to enable a company to start functioning from day one by offering banking options at the time of incorporation itself. In this case his dear bank was not activated (perhaps technology back-end not tied in with the MCA portal). When we suggested that he cannot bank with his ex-employer because of ‘tech reasons’ he lost his cool demanding how can the Government force me to choose a bank that I am not comfortable with. It took us quite sometime to calm him down and offer a work around – choose any other bank, get the account number allocated but don’t complete the paper work. The account will not get activated. After incorporation you can choose a fresh bank of your choice and approach them for opening a bank account. He was quite upset with the round about process but agreed since choosing a bank in the Spice+ form is mandatory. This option remains a tick-box activity, unless all the listed banks are tied in and available for use. Not sure why the gap exists even after 1+ years of introducing a modified Spice+ form. The unduly long time taken to open a bank account continues with innumerable documents to be signed ! Without a bank account, company cannot commence business !
In another case Rahul, one of the directors stays abroad. But one of the private sector banks the company chose is insisting on signature by both the directors in the account opening form. This despite the board resolution clearly authorising the resident Indian director to sign and complete all account opening formalities. It is a chicken and egg story that without bank account things will not move and to open the account, papers have to be signed by the non-resident director also and sent back in hard copy to the bank. Imagine the loss of time and money in all this – just for opening a bank account! As an alternative, the bank insisted that a Practising Company Secretary sign the resolution along with one director, extending the responsibility of the professional. After much discussion, Rahul and Ravi, the co-founders were frustrated and started hunting for a bank that doesn’t insist on multiple signatures !
Another extreme diligence by the banks is to insist on the digitally signed Certificate of Incorporation to be physically signed by the ROC. Little do they know that gone are the days of certified copies from ROC, sealed and signed. It is lack of knowledge of the front end banking representatives who claim to be ‘Relationship Managers’ coupled with unwanted layers of checks and balances imposed by each bank internally. No two banks seem to follow the same steps. Sometimes no two branches also of the same bank leading to confusion, frustration and loss of precious time.
In another case a hapless professional lamented that a well-known private sector bank refused to open a bank account of an LLP because the name of the bank was not mentioned in the LLP Agreement. Somebody else added that the bank official demanded a new certificate of incorporation when the registered office address changed. A simple issue like this needs to be escalated to the so-called ‘informed higher ups’ in the bank through a chain of emails and calls – all because of ignorance of the corporate practices and requirement under law. A lack of appreciation of how the MCA portal works, what can be extracted authentically from it, what is the role of a director, what is his authority, what is the role of PCS, how boards take decisions, how they are recorded, how they are issued to outsiders etc. It is time the bank officials are properly trained and internal documentation processes streamlined.
What I have shared is just the tip of the iceberg. Dive deeper and you will know the over-zealous bankers adding to the difficulty in doing business – is it lack of awareness or lack of trust or an issue of extreme caution or is it really that corporates have taken the banks for a ride ? It may be either one of these or all but for a first time entrepreneur (plenty as of now) it is a nightmarish experience and in most cases, their first brush with a bank is far from satisfactory. Honestly I would like to believe that all that I have written is hypothetical and imaginary …alas it is factual, experiential, true and realtime. EODB has a long way to go and all the players have a role to play !!
A few months ago, I heard Dr. Mahanthesh, Founder Trustee of Samarthanam Trust (www.samarthanam.org) delivering a keynote address. It was not only inspirational but also thought provoking. Even after several months, one statement he made is still with me – “We have an inclusive recruitment policy and welcome all to join.”. This seemingly innocuous statement can be better appreciated if you know that Samarthanam is a Trust for the Disabled set up by Dr. Mahanthesh 25 years ago in Bangalore.
A disability rights advocate, motivational speaker, an avid traveller, technology follower, blind cricket player (President of World Blind Cricket Council that conducts international blind cricket tournaments), English literature enthusiast, notable academician, he is a visionary leader who says “I believe in building a society where people with disabilities are potential tax-payers but not dole recipients.” Who says you need Vision to be a Visionary ? Now, coming back to his statement on inclusivity, my take was that he was referring to a large section of us from the main-stream population who are supposed to be ‘fully abled”. While we are under the false notion that specially abled brethren require an inclusive policy since they are marginalised, try entering into their world and see. Can we resonate with them, empathise with them and work as well as they do unless they have an ‘inclusive mindset’ too ? The majority need not always think that we are being generous and benevolent in letting the minority into our world. It can be reverse too. Needs a large heart and futuristic thinking to create a world where there are no barriers and pathways like ‘inclusive’ and ‘exclusive’ but just a fair and common ground for all to live together – much like the animal world and the plant kingdom where the philosophy of “Live and Let Live” rules !
Contrast this with what a deplorable experience one of my fellow cancer survivors had recently with recruitment. An IT industry star performer, he shared that he was not considered for some senior position in a new company because of his social media presence. And what was his crime ? Merely showcasing on facebook and Linkedin, his activities in a voluntary cancer support group ! Can you believe that a well-known MNC can discriminate against a person for advocating wellness and cancer awareness ? It left me fuming with indignation and I retorted “why don’t you say no to such MNCs instead of they rejecting you?”. For reasons best known to him, my good friend has become rather quiet and discrete in his support to our Voluntary Cancer Support Group, working only on the tech bit in the background with no public appearances whatsoever. Hard to digest that such discriminatory policies still exist in the corporate world. But let me also share that there are several others out there who encourage such voluntary activities and infact recognise employees for their contribution. Thanks to such corporates, during the covid pandemic we were able to conduct several Corporate Connect programmes on wellness from our Cancer Support Group. Thanks to me being my own boss, I have the freedom and discretion to stand up for whatever I believe in and advocate its cause.
If digital technology was meant to bridge the gap between urban and rural students, lack of appropriate infrastructure is increasing the divide. One of my employees who is from the Malnad region in Karnataka was lamenting about how children in his village are unable to attend the online classes due to connectivity issues. Only when a group of angry youngsters made a video (that went viral) of students scampering up to hilltops to find the right internet spot did it catch the attention of the Minister. It was quite unfortunate to see how parents were holding umbrellas for their children while they sat on the hillocks trying to catch up with their daily lessons in the rain. Pandemic has been unforgiving in many ways but government apathy with respect to digital infrastructure creation and maintenance in rural areas has been even worse. My employee was quite piqued that this kind of discrimination against rural children is going unnoticed despite claims of so many government schemes. One can argue that the Digital world is One world for All but there is a long way to go. Inclusivity in all forms is still a myth and will always be work in progress !
“Sometimes in the winds of change we find our true direction” said Ciara Neff. For some reason we always think change means doing something new, something not done in the past, changing the status quo. Is it true ? Isn’t going back to some good old habits a change too ? Don’t you think it is time we retraced our paths to find our true North ? Isn’t the pandemic indicating the same ? It isn’t just winds of change. It has turned into a storm of chaos sweeping away all that comes in its way including Dear Life. Despite our boastful claims of a better life, we are as vulnerable as our forefathers were, fighting pandemics that seem to be mirroring the past. Jimmy Dean said “When you cant change the direction of the wind – adjust your sails”. Now than ever before, humanity feels directionless, leaderless and helpless. Perhaps it is time each one of us take matters into our hands and adjust our sails, find the proverbial ‘wind beneath our sails’ to stand up, look up and live once again. It is ironical that even as a privileged few are looking ahead to breaking the last frontier to travel to space, a large populace is pushed to look back and reflect on what has gone wrong on Ground Zero, what can be done to “Reimagine, Recreate & Restore” the womb of Mother Earth. Well, while this is the theme of World Environment Day 2021 (5th June), I feel it is time we retrace our habits to “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle” if we as a civilisation are to live, laugh and play once again !
The above thoughts take me back to a journey that I took with my family to Chitradurga (a historical city in Karnataka famous for its forts) more than 40 years ago. It was to meet my father’s side of the family, to see the ancient house where he grew up in a large joint family, to meet Dodanna (big brother in Kannada) his eldest maternal uncle and patriarch of the family. A strict disciplinarian, he was tall, lean and fit. Clad in a spotless white dhothi-kurta, at 85 his back was as straight as a ramrod. His authoritarian tone indicated clearly that he was still the Man of the House. He welcomed us warmly as he sat at the verandah at his writing table with lot of used envelopes, paper knives, scales and a box of green, red and black colour ball pens. As we sat down to chat with him, I saw what he was upto. He was very proud of his ‘productive activity’ borne out of his thrifty nature, so common to people of his times (a rarity today and almost looked down upon !). Dodanna was very conscious of not wasting a single paper, not even an envelope which he received (yes those were snail mail days when people wrote on post cards, inland letters and even sheets of papers). He would very neatly tear open the entire envelope using a sleek, sharp, special knife, lay it on the table and even out all the folds and corners so that it turns into a plain sheet of paper. He would turn it inside-out, fold it back into an envelope once again and write his ‘From’ address using the green colour pen. ‘To’ would be in red colour and left blank for future use. To make it attractive he would draw double lines in green and red along the length and breadth of the envelope, giving it life and importance. Some of the envelopes I saw were in their original avataars with no inside-out transformation. He slit open so carefully that it could be used once again as if it were new. These were the ‘reply envelopes’ where he would use the sender’s envelopes only with the ‘From’ and ‘To’ positions altered using green and red pens. At times just 2 arrows pointing to these positions would do the job. He was very proud of this activity (amongst so many other jugaad ones) and had piled up a stack on his low, work table. Back then it seemed silly and bizarre but today it seems significant and becoming ! Well, may not be the recycling of the envelope itself but the philosophy behind it – of reuse, reduce & recycle. It is perhaps time for us to retrace our path and discover the simplicity of the past so that we can find our direction to a sustainable, safe and happy future. After all, we are neither the creators nor the owners but merely the trustees of Mother Earth for the future generation !
Tracing the path of my profession, I am proud to share with all of you that exactly 33 years ago on this very day, 15th June, in 1988 the profession of “Practising Company Secretary” was born with the recognition granted to a CS to certify the Annual Return under the erstwhile Companies Act, 1956. To commemorate this, 15th June is celebrated as PCS Day by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India, of which I am a proud and grateful alumna. Then to now, the journey has been long and tough, eventful and exciting, even as newer and greater opportunities are opening up for us to serve the country. The question I ask is not what the profession has done for us but what we have done to the profession ? Because it is our knowledge, our conduct, our service and our attitude that makes us the champions of corporate governance, the conscience-keepers of Corporate India !! Wishing all my PCS family a Happy PCS Day, as we pledge to continue to uphold our motto “Satyam vada, Dharmam chara” meaning “Speak the truth, abide by the law”.
It is summer time in India and we are experiencing varied levels of temperatures. But for covid, most of us would have planned some getaway to enjoy. What if we can’t do it in the real world ? we can always travel back in our memory and rediscover the joy of childhood summer-time. Get on to the time-machine. Sit back. Rewind. Recall. Relax. Just as some of our team members have done….
Krithika says “The first few images of Summer that flash before my eyes are mangoes, sugar cane juice and orange candy!! Though a Bangalorean (in letter and spirit!) I spent most vacations in Chennai. Unconventional but true…. on the beaches sipping sugar cane juice and eating raw mango. Watching back to back movies – 3 shows back to back is my personal record ! ? Oh wait, how could I forget the orange candy! The most exciting ‘cooking’ (if it can even be called that) of my early childhood was filling up ice cream moulds with soft drinks and freezing them till they turned into ice candy and eating them with the greatest sense of achievement for having taken them out without breaking !”
Another Chennai girl, Pushkalaa says “Every Summer I would be packed off to my aunt’s place in Chennai from Delhi. While it was a relief from the scorching Delhi summer, it wasn’t from the treacherous holiday homework. My father would insist I write endless multiplication tables upto 50, 50 times both front and back. I would find ways to evade but my watchful aunt under instructions from the ‘higher up’, my dad would ensure that I finish it.
My childhood memories of the bustling city of Chennai include the buzz of traffic, the famous shopping hubs, cafes that served hot idly and sambar, amusement parks, annual festivities at the ancient temples that drew thousands of people from far and near, the distribution of buttermilk and juice by every household to the passersby to beat the heat, customary weekend outings to Marina Beach for playing in the sand and building castles, getting wet in the water and gorging on the piping hot bajjis and pattani sundal. Life was at its simplest best!!”
Ashwini must have been the teacher’s delight as she recalls “The best part of the Summer was, I used to complete my vacation homework as early as possible and wait for the school to open to see the new books, uniforms and importantly my friends.
I always preferred to stay at home instead of going on a trip. There was no summer camp for us in our village. Nor any mobile phones or internet those days. At best only the simple joy of waiting for the ice cream / candy vendor, plucking fresh mangoes & jackfruits from the forests nearby, savouring authentic native dishes and helping ma in preparing raw mango pickles. Ah, the aroma of those pickles are still fresh in my memory. Oh what fun it would be to collect hailstones during the first summer shower! “
On the other hand, Ashwin recalls “My friends and I would get up at 6am in the morning, go for a jog and then play cricket, board games and outdoor games throughout the day only to get back home for dinner and sleep. I also remember my father getting us a carton of yummy mangoes which would be replenished after it was empty almost every time till the end of Summer !
Others have different memories. Trupthi says “Summer meant vacation and lot of holiday homework which was the worst?. We didn’t touch homework throughout our two months break until the last 4 days when we would be compelled by our parents to complete it. Aren’t summer holidays meant for playing, watching TV, roaming around with friends, and not doing homework ?”
Another senior colleague Poornima talks of her unpleasant exam paper before the onset of holidays “Scorching heat is all that I can recollect when I think of Hyderabad, the place I was born and bred. Growing up in a lower middle class family, summer vacations were never exotic nor exciting but I cherish those simple days.
However, pre-vacation was full of anxiety thanks to the dreaded math paper. Once I wrote my examination and came back home. To avoid discussions about the paper I quietly hid it …. Guess where?? I dug a pit in my little garden and buried my paper. As usual my mother enquired about the paper and wanted to cross check the answers. I happily told her that I lost the question paper and quickly sneaked away from the house?”
As for me, when not getting away from Hyderabad to a cooler clime in Bangalore, we would practise for our classical music exam for hours together until my mom would say “It is enough. The walls have learnt your lessons as well”. As children, there was no shame in walking up and down the galli (street) to check if any movie was playing on the TV in anyone’s place – as in most middle-class households we didn’t own a TV for long and so we would happily join the crowd in the neighbour’s drawing room to watch the weekend movie. It was fun watching others sob or laugh at the scenes.”
Such simple, inexpensive joys of life seem very distinct and improbable now. Well, memories are inexpensive friends. The time-machine is yours. Stop where you want. Recollect and relive.
What you will read below is an “Ode to Nurses”, a first hand experience of my team member Poornima Jayarao. I thought her articulation will bring in the required authenticity to this topic of nursing care which is in great demand currently and is highly overworked too. Let’s take a moment to read and pay tribute to these frontline Corona Warriors – Our dear Nurses !.
Chocolate day, Teddy day, Valentine’s day…. all these are hyped and celebrated with lot of pomp in our society. How many of us really acknowledge the services rendered by the nurses??? This was the first thought that crossed my mind when I was scanning my mobile and sending personal wishes to all the nurses who served my husband while he was hospitalised over the last few years (I have lost the count how many times he was hospitalised). Hospital had become a home for us. Infact many a times, to cheer him up I would say “It is time to spend time together in our resort at Juhu?”. Yes! right from watchman to the main doctors I was familiar with all – especially the nurses, sisters, chechi, brothers…call them by any name… would welcome us with a big smile and ask …Phir aagaye Madam?? (Aaaa with that Malayali slang). For me these nurses were God sent messengers. While the Sanskrit saying goes “Vaidyo Narayano Harihi” (Doctor is Lord Hari-Narayana himself) I always felt that doctor examines, diagnoses and prescribes the medicines, but the nurses are the ones who administer the line of treatment and medications to the patients on time – with lot of care, affection, love and patience, convincing the patients to take the medicines. So, these nurses play a vital role in the wellbeing of the patients and their speedy recovery.
Below are my personal experiences that I bet will surely make you look upon the nursing profession with respect and gratitude.
The door opened and it was his favourite, beautiful nurse Shifa who walked in her white uniform…with a lovely smile and started exchanging jokes with my husband with a wink. There were times they would talk about movies, old hindi songs etc. That is how she use to brighten the atmosphere in the room. They shared such a special bond that during the hospitalisation period she tied a Rakhi also to him. Every time doctor would come and discuss some serious health issues regarding my husband….Shifa would be down mentally as she was aware he was deteriorating…yet with her charismatic smile she would console me and give me assurance ALL WILL BE WELL…..while I would be alone in the corridor sobbing.
Though he had a sweet tooth, being diabetic my husband was prohibited from having sweets. He had developed such a good relationship with all the nurses that one afternoon he told one of the nurses that he loves Malpua. To our surprise the nurse quietly got a dabba with homemade hot Malpuas for my husband and fed him. I was touched by her gesture. Well, some of you may argue that what she did was detrimental to his health but he already was in a condition of no return !
We are always under the impression that nurses, ward boys etc. always wait for tips when patients get discharged. I have this unique incident to share. It was Corona times last year. Similar lockdown situation and my father-in-law was serious. We had to treat him at home and with great difficulty I hired Neha, a nurse for 12 hours for 10 days. She was so good at her job, that as a token of appreciation I offered her Rs.2000. She was taken aback and did not accept the extra money, saying it is her duty. She had lost her job owing to the pandemic, yet she refused this extra income. I was impressed by her ethics and sincerity.
Friends, these nurses are human beings like us, (not robots) but they keep aside all their personal problems, emotions and serve not only the patients so efficiently but also support mentally and emotionally the family members of the patients too. I keep wondering how quickly they switch their emotions. They enter the ward with a smile but at times patients do not treat them well and caregivers are also harsh. But the next moment the same nurse walks into the next ward with the same pleasing smile? NURSE according to me stands for one who :
N – Nurtures.
U – Understands.
R – Is Responsible.
S – Serves selflessly.
E – Is Ever ready.
On this International Nurses Day (12th May), a big shout out to all the nurses who have supported me and a clear call to the society “Kindly acknowledge services of these real warriors who are on their toes 24X7, come what may !”
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If you are reading this issue, it means you are S.A.F.E. Oh God, how important this four letter word has become in the last 1 year ! Amidst the avalanche of gloomy news, all that we want to hear from someone is “I am S.A.F.E”. Be it a chat with a friend, a relative, a client, a business associate, a team member, a boss, a professional connect or even a stranger, the opening remark is invariably “How are you ? Hope all of you are at home and S.A.F.E.” Never before has this statement seemed as genuine and caring as now. Such is the apocalyptic times we are in. Unpredictable. Unnerving. Unbelievable !
This takes me back to my childhood days when I got my first lesson in letter-writing from my dear mother. Be it a simple post-card that was like an open-book for the whole world to read or its better cousins – an inland letter or sheets of paper in an envelope – that gave the writer and the reader the much-needed privacy, space and cosiness, following was the protocol to begin the communication:
Safe Shri Date
I remember noticing this in every single card or letter that we received or sent back then. Well, of course until the arrival of more sophisticated forms of communication via computers and mobiles and the death of the dear old physical letters. Letter-writing has now become as antiquated as typewriting and shorthand – skills that were in great demand until the nineties (exception being a court complex where you still find rows of typists on their stools, amidst the clanking sound of the flying typewriter keys and incessant chatter). She would say the reader must first know that we are all safe and wish him/her good luck & prosperity (Shri in Sanskrit). I recall that if the communication was about something happy, celebratory, auspicious, the edges of the card / letter would be smeared with kumkum (vermillion) to indicate the content. Similarly if it was a harbinger of bad news, the corners would be smudged with black ink and the ‘safe-shri’ missing. That itself would indicate what to expect from the insides of the card or inland letter. Today these simple, ubiquitous words assume great significance as we continue to watch the dance of death around us – many sadly experiencing it in close circles. As the messages beep on our mobile all through the day and night, news notifications keep popping up, as emails keep pouring, as calls keep coming in, there is a sense of anxiety and fear since we don’t know whether it is a ‘kumkum news’ or ‘black-ink’ news ! After all we are fighting in vain against a tiny, invisible virus that seems to be multiplying exponentially and slaying us in heaps, as we humans, the so-called thinking-beings and super-power-species are gasping for breath and grappling for our lives, after ravaging Mother Earth mercilessly for years. It is a war-like situation with lots of ‘war-rooms’ operating all around to coordinate for the ‘elixir of life’ oxygen, beds, ventilators, medicines, food, transportation, ambulance, crematorium, caregivers and our brave health-care warriors. I do not want to harp on the heart-wrenching news that has inundated our lives. All that I want to pray is
Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
Sarve Santu Niraamayaah |
Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu
Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||
May All be Happy
May All be Free from Illness |
May All See what is Auspicious,
May no one Suffer |
Peace, Peace, Peace ||
7th April 2021, Wednesday, mid-week, mid-day. In walked Ashok, my close relative. We were surprised to see him at that time since he was supposed to be at work. Of course, he was welcomed wholeheartedly because he always regaled us with his unique style of humorous narration. Be it his struggle in finding his first job, be it his sales trips abroad, be it his frustration at work, be it his bride-hunting escapades, be it his post-married life he always shared his experiences with animated gestures in a monodrama style, enacting all the characters himself. But mid-morning on a Wednesday, we least expected him. He said he just wanted to come away from home or office (he didn’t know which since it had been work, work and more work and nothing else since a year ago) to a different environment, to a normal world. The dark circles beneath his eyes, his growing paunch, his dishevelled hair, the forlorn look and his jerky movements presented to us a very different Ashok, fatigued and burnt out. He had lost almost everything about himself except his innate ability to look at the lighter moments in life. He still joked about his wakeful hours – at times working through the night until 4 am for a US client and again waking up at 8 am to take a call from some other geography, not knowing when to brush his teeth ?.
About his eating hours – grabbing food in between long calls, munching unhealthy snacks at midnight, dragging lunch over 3 hours and dried up hands due to back to back meetings without a break, not knowing whether he had extended lunch or early supper ?. He shared that many a times he wouldn’t be aware if he had eaten or not, or what he had eaten – pizza or paratha, rice or rotis, sabzi or salad – since he would be in marathon meetings or replying to endless emails. He remarked with his trademark guffaw “Here I am juggling with demanding clients and stressful multiple bosses and there is my better-half finding fault that I am not appreciating her new dress or failing to give my feedback on which colour curtain looks good ! How does it matter what she wears or if there is a curtain in the room or not. I just want to be done with my work and slump on the bed to catch up with sleep.”. Worse situation is when my body refuses to sleep before 2am and I am forced to watch some senseless stuff on the Television because there is no one to talk to. Ashok admitted that though his multiple-geography IT job was demanding earlier also, now in the Corona-induced WFH era, it has become unforgivingly killing. He has lost track of day and night, dusk and dawn, home and office, food and sleep, wife and dog and is wedded to his laptop, virtual calls, mobile and inhuman bosses who only want to please their bosses and show margins. When I suggested he must escalate his condition to his boss he said “To whom shall I point out ? He is also a forced workaholic Indian like me who is ready for meeting even at midnight and works through the weekend”.
While we enjoyed all his dialogue deliveries about his boss, wife, father, clients, colleagues etc., we could sense his anguish and helplessness. I am not exaggerating a bit because I have seen at close quarters other young professionals burning out early in their lives, thanks to inhuman business practices, unreasonable delivery promises to clients by overzealous and greedy business heads, unhealthy competition and a toxic ecosystem. One of my cousins has rationed her work and me-time on weekends by turning off the mobile on aeroplane mode. There are umpteen cases like this of overworked employees with demand from families also during the pandemic times. Shudder to think of the loss of human capital, damage to the health of a young work-force, dip in productivity, break-down of familial relationships and consequent shredding of the social fabric of a nation. The irony is that 7th April signifies World Health Day which focusses on mental health issues as well. What I heard from Ashok was reflective of the world wide debate triggered by the revolt of Goldman Sachs employees over work-life blur. It is an alarming reality that employers must take seriously and restore the work-life balance in their businesses with the strategy being driven from the top. Happy employees lead to happy customers. ROI from employees is bound to grow if there are saner working hours, adequate family / me time, regular meal-times etc. even in the pandemic induced WFH era. Messed up work-life is not new but what is new is the magnitude and our acceptance that this is the New Normal. Let’s together make this world a better and safer place to live in for a longer time !!
New Year | New Shoots | Old Roots | Fresh Beginning ||
This is what Ugadi, Gudi Padwa, Baisakhi, Navreh, Cheti Chand, Bihu is all about. New Year celebrated across India under different names over last 2 days. Signifying that Life is a sweet-sour-bitter mixture of events and experiences. All the flavours together make it worth Living & Celebrating !!
Do you know that lions only succeed in a quarter of their hunting attempts — which means they fail in 75% of their attempts and succeed in only 25% of them ? Despite this small percentage shared by most predators, they don’t despair in their pursuit and hunting attempts. The main reason for this is not because of hunger as some might think but it is the understanding of the “Law of Wasted Efforts” that has been instinctively built into animals, a law in which nature is governed.
Half of the eggs of fishes are eaten… half of the baby bears die before puberty… most of the world’s rains fall in oceans… and most of the seeds of trees are eaten by birds. Scientists have found that animals, trees, and other forces of nature are more receptive to the law of “wasted efforts”. Only humans think that the lack of success in a few attempts is failure… but the truth is that: we only fail when we “stop trying”.
Success is not to have a life free of pitfalls and falls… but success is to walk over your mistakes and go beyond every stage where your efforts were wasted looking forward to the next stage. If there is a word that summarizes this world, it will simply be: Continue all over again !
Well, this is not my writing but a forward that I thought will help us all stay inspired as we step into Q1 of the Financial year 2021-22, having bid good-bye to the COVID19 year 2020-21 (or is it going to be a carry forward considering the rising Corona cases ??). Sharing some insight or observation from a personal experience is a self-imposed mandate that I have given myself since several issues of Samhita. This time I am amused by a strange kind of passion I observed in my husband’s friend, who is an electrical engineer. As a successful entrepreneur dealing with electric pumps and motors for over 40 years, this gentleman is so passionate about what he does that even on a vacation, all he can spot is a motor wherever he goes. Recently we were all travelling together and I discovered how much he loves the motors, the wiring, the make, its working condition, the whirring sound etc. So much so that after an hour of boat ride on the river Ganges in Varanasi, while all of us were going ga-ga over the spectacular Ganga Aarti and taking in the mesmerising surroundings of the river, our Engineer friend was busy peeping into the boat’s engine motor. While the rest of us were chatting up with the boatman about the historical importance of the river, the Ghats, the mythology and facts, the political winds blowing in Varanasi (one of the oldest cities in the world), the massive infrastructural changes happening and the resultant transformation of this ancient city, our friend was in an animated conversation with the boat owner advising him how bad the motor condition is and how to improve it. At first I felt amused and thought how silly he is but then I realised so deep is his involvement with his motor trade that he literally breathes and lives it. It is seen to be believed. Yes, he got excited each time he identified a specific make of motor on the road in the vehicles passing by or in a store we were shopping at. He would exclaim in wide-eyed glee as a child looking at a candy or an ice cream or a car or a balloon or a kite or a mobile game. I noticed genuine happiness and a sense of wonderment on his face, as if it were the first motor he was seeing in his life. He was oblivious to what others commented or did. I bet he experiences an inexplicable sense of connectedness with a mundane, inorganic thing like a motor. No wonder he is a successful 3nd generation entrepreneur who has made a mark in his business and built a strong brand, albeit from a tier 2 city. If there is a word that summarizes his world, it will simply be: Continue to be inspired !!
It is anniversary time – oh no, I am not referring to Women’s Day (8th March) or National Safety Day (4th March) or Employee Appreciation Day (yes it does exist – 3rd March) or Zero Discrimination Day (1st March and that’s what Google says). I am referring to Corona-induced lockdown. We had shut down our office a year ago – 16th March like so many others. It seemed like an obvious choice that would be reversed soon. Little did we all realise that a small gesture of precaution and safety demanded by the Governments would forever change the face of ‘working from office’ to ‘working from home’. The year gone by was the best teacher the world has had so far but the irresponsible students that many of us are, are not using a simple piece of cloth, called the ‘mask’. No wonder consequences are turning severe. Never underestimate the power of a small act, a small gesture, a small word – it could be the harbinger of a major change !
Who has not heard of the famous story of the poor Sudama who had nothing but just a small fistful of ‘poha’ (beaten rice) to offer to Lord Krishna when he visited his palace as a friend ? By the time Sudama reached home, his humble hut had turned into a magnificent palace, thanks to the Lord’s blessings showered on a staunch devotee. It didn’t matter what was offered. What mattered were the feelings behind the offering !
Who is not aware of the Dandi March (Salt Satyagraha) where a small fistful of salt was picked up by Gandhiji in protest against the salt tax by the British rulers ? A small gesture inspired a generation of Indians to join his cause for the liberation of our nation. The nation rose together in unison against the oppressive foreign rule.
Years ago, at a personal level, I experienced a deep emotion by the simple words of my little one. During a rather hectic week (when I was pursuing an executive management programme), one night I confessed to my husband that I am guilty of not giving enough time to him. Thinking that he was asleep I continued but suddenly he jumped out of the blanket, gave a mischievous smile and a tight hug. Thrusting his school English book into my hands, he said in his sweetest voice “I heard all you said amma. Don’t worry, mother’s love knows no bounds. I know you love me just like Juno the monkey”. I was speechless and moved deeply. Power of words and beauty of expression of a 5 year old ?
Last week the same 5 year old turned 22 and it was the turn of my driver to surprise him. Though we all chide him that he cannot read or write any language, he expressed his affection for my son by a status update that had a collage of his pictures over the years along with a beautiful birthday song – his little daughter had created it by using an app. The emotions behind the act, the feelings behind the small gesture – they speak more than a 1000 words, they are worth more than expensive gifts. Feel it, say it !!