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 !!
I was a panelist at a Business Forum’s annual event recently. 3 women panelists (a dancer-cum-art school founder, a doctor-cum-speciality care centre founder and myself) shared our thoughts on “Women as changemakers” – the need to encourage a girl child to dream big, to help her convert them into goals, to support and empower her to turn it into a profession, the struggles of work-life balance as a woman, perseverance and fighting against societal stereotypes, change in individual and institutional mindsets required (to me the family, employing organisation and society all three are institutions), how a woman must negotiate what she wants, how she must create a support system early in her life much before the need arises to have a career, the choices she makes, the need to believe in herself and stay committed, the contrast between feminism (a movement that is identified with strong emotional expression) and women empowerment (a bigger and more encompassing, purposeful action). All of us agreed that a woman is herself an embodiment of change all through her life – puberty, marriage, child-birth, menopause – each stage triggering different kinds of changes physically, physiologically, biologically, emotionally and intellectually. Every woman has a different story to share – some manage it well, others don’t. While metamorphosizing ourselves, if we are able to bring some positive changes in the surroundings around us, it will be a life well lived.
Surprisingly none of us brought out the most commonly attributed competency of a woman – multi-tasking. While this is heralded as a strength of our tribe, research shows that multi-tasking is not actually productive. While daily chores do need parallel tasking in the interest of time, the same is not true where cognitive abilities are involved. It is said there is a 40% reduction in productivity due to multitasking though it appears that we are able to handle many things at the same time. We are doing this all the time – at workplace, juggling between a phone call, messaging, email, now virtual meetings (which provides ample room for distractions) in the illusion that we are able to attend to multiple assignments. This is all the more so for a person in a consulting organisation that caters to many customers. I find this happening to my colleagues and me as well, as we are in the constant race to handle client requirements. I do notice how fatigued they are at the end of the day and still find many things incomplete. What is the way out ? Prioritising, creating a to-do-list, setting aside time for personal messages, not responding to emails constantly, setting client expectations right that they cannot expect instantaneous response always (sometimes yes but not always), collating issues and preferring a single call over repeated calls and emails which distract one’s attention, delegate and most importantly learn to say NO. Toughest thing for many of us ! Multitasking involves both goal shifting and role activation each time the brain shifts from one to another. This adds a small time delay which hurts your overall productivity. Since the brain is supposed to be trained to do one thing at a time, it is said that the cognitive abilities of the brain is impaired during multitasking. It also leads to stress which is the number one cause for most diseases, both physical and mental. Most often those multitasking do not realise they are doing it and find it difficult not to stay distracted. Recommendation is – limit the number of tasks to just two at any given time AND follow the ‘20 minute rule’ i.e. be at a task at least for 20 minutes before jumping to another one. This is likely to reduce the negative effect of multitasking in case avoiding is not an option. In this fast paced world, therefore mindfulness, meditation, yoga, silence etc. take significance to help us have single minded devotion at a task. I believe reducing multitasking (complete elimination may not be possible) can lead to sustainable and quality living which is the current goal of most people !
The 1st message I received on 1st February was from All India Radio, FM Rainbow 101.3 asking if I could share my thoughts on the Union Budget 2021 during an evening programme. I was sceptical if I could do justice and that too in Kannada. However, when Dr. Shankaranarayana, the Station Director assured me that I need to focus only on the women & children bit, I was slightly relieved. I heard intently to the Hon’ble Finance Minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman as she quoted Tagore’s lines “Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.” I heard her announcing that the budget is constructed on the 6 pillars of health and well-being, physical, financial capital and infrastructure, inclusive development for aspirational India, reinvigorating human capital, innovation and R&D and minimum government and maximum governance. I caught the Minister talking about incentives for gig workers and night shift facility for women, which meant more women could enter and stay in the workforce, thanks to safety and security measures that employers are to provide. I listened carefully to the tax proposals but didn’t find anything specific to women and children. I was a bit nervous wondering what will I speak on the radio that evening. As they say, one hears only what one wants to. Only when Dr. Shankaranarayana (who incidentally is a qualified Company Secretary !) highlighted ‘Mission Poshan’ did I realise that I am guilty of focussing on the ‘India’ side of the Budget and ignoring the ‘Bharat’ side. Poshan 2.0 scheme in an umbrella scheme covering the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Anganwadi Services, Poshan Abhiyaan, Scheme For Adolescent Girls and National Creche Scheme, with an outlay of Rs. 20,105 crore
It struck me that there is lot more to focus than just corporates and tax proposals. My thoughts travelled back to how my maid’s daughters looked forward to attending school only because of the mid-day meals scheme that ensured milk, eggs and a hot meal. With the pandemic shutting down schools, meals were the first calamity. Many such children were forced to go hungry and back to villages to work in the fields or worse still – to be married away underaged. That evening I connected the dots and emphasised on how Mission Poshan 2.0 could also get the children back to schools, how the spurt in girl-child marriages during the pandemic could be quelled through some of the schemes. The reasons and triggers for malnutrition, school drop-outs, child-marriage, early motherhood, failing health, poverty, rising debts – all are closely intertwined in a complex web that requires both Government intervention and societal efforts. The next morning when Lakshmi, my house-maid announced that while she didn’t understand most of what I spoke about the Budget, but caught my statement on child-marriage and malnutrition, I felt my 10 minute talk on the radio was worth it. I re-emphasised to her as to why she must allow her daughter to choose education and financial independence over marriage and children.
In May, 2020, in the peak of Corona, a 70 year old non-descript woman called Kamalamma from Mysuru made headlines. Social media was agog with her selfless gesture of donating Rs. 500 out of her measly monthly pension of Rs. 600 towards a food distribution programme. As is the nature of Mysoreans, she handed over the amount very sheepishly and apologetically to the volunteers group and requested them to accept her humble contribution. She made headlines all over. Many of you will recall the cartoon that depicted the generous Mother on top of the Corona donors table, way above the corporate czars – George Soros, Azim Premji, Bill Gates & Jack Dorsey. Why not when she had donated 90% of her earnings ? At a time when she herself was eating out of distributed food, having lost her house-maid job thanks to Corona. That 500 rupees was truly a precious, premium donation indeed ! Over the last 9 months, many people across the world have responded in different ways demonstrating their humaneness.
This reminds me of something I read years ago, post the 2011 Fukushima power plant disaster caused due to the earthquake and tsunami. To keep the emotions intact, I am reproducing what was written by a policeman Ha Minh Tanh about a 9 year old Japanese boy and his generosity, a true lesson in sacrifice :
“Brother, there was a really moving incident. It involves a little Japanese boy who taught an adult like me a lesson on how to behave like a human being.
Last night, I was sent to a little grammar school to help a charity organization distribute food to the refugees. It was a long line that snaked this way and that and I saw a little boy around 9 years old. He was wearing a T-shirt and a pair of shorts.
It was getting very cold and the boy was at the very end of the line. I was worried that by the time his turn came there wouldn’t be any food left. So I spoke to him. He said he was at school when the earthquake happened. His father worked nearby and was driving to the school. The boy was on the third floor balcony when he saw the tsunami sweep his father’s car away.
I asked him about his mother. He said his house is right by the beach and that his mother and little sister probably didn’t make it. He turned his head and wiped his tears when I asked about his relatives.
The boy was shivering so I took off my police jacket and put it on him. That’s when my bag of food ration fell out. I picked it up and gave it to him. “When it comes to your turn, they might run out of food. So here’s my portion. I already ate. Why don’t you eat it?”
The boy took my food and bowed. I thought he would eat it right away, but he didn’t. He took the bag of food, went up to where the line ended and put it where all the food was waiting to be distributed.
I was shocked. I asked him why he didn’t eat it and instead added it to the food pile. He answered: “Because I see a lot more people hungrier than I am. If I put it there, then they will distribute the food equally.”
When I heard that I turned away so that people wouldn’t see me cry.
A society that can produce a 9-year-old who understands the concept of sacrifice for the greater good must be a great society, a great people.”
Both Kamalamma and the 9 year old Japanese boy demonstrated what is CSR – no, not Corporate Social Responsibility but Citizen Social Responsibility !! I am sure they knew nothing of such jargons constructed by people like you and me. It came straight out of their heart and into the hands of the people. There was no compulsion, no mandate, no direction, no nothing. It was a genuine response to the need of the hour made way beyond their means. With Republic Day just behind us, it is a good time to remember our duties under the constitution as well. One of them is “Spirit of common brotherhood”.
Talking of our great nation, this is what the well-known American author Mark Twain had to say “India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”
First issue of the month, year and decade for Samhita. That too after a tumultuous 2020 that has left us all shaken. I am tempted to look at only pleasant things in life but can I close my eyes to something happening within my precincts, my backyard ? There is so much of pent up frustration, so much of angst, so much of indignation amongst the professionals dealing with compliances (read Company Secretaries & Chartered Accountants) – for their own self as well as for the clients they are serving (read MSMEs & Startups). There is enough and more said about the non-functioning of the MCA portal, technical glitches leading to late hours of working for the professionals, loss of precious manhours and heavy penalties / additional fee for the corporates beyond 31st December, 2020. While corporates would do well to put their compliance systems in place that ensure correct and timely flow of information to professionals who ensure filings for them, can we request the Ministry to also ensure a glitch-free portal please that fails as we come closer to the due date, completely crashes on the last day but surprisingly starts functioning perfectly from 1 minute past midnight ?? I do not want to dwell more on this since the problem is clear – at least to people on this side i.e. professionals & corporates. It has been extensively represented too directly, through chambers, institutes, online and offline media (just google Extend CFSS 2020 & LLP Settlement Scheme). The question is – is it clear to the one to whom it matters ? Ministry of Corporate Affairs ? Do they recognise it as a problem to be solved ? Does not seem to me considering the inadequate response or lack of it received so far.
I have some perspectives to offer from two very mundane domestic chores. It matters from what distance you see something. How close or how far ? Today as Jaya was standing outside the bathroom, she noticed that the tiles below the mirror were stained with dirt and watermarks. When she pointed out to the maid, she argued that she cleans it everyday. Jaya asked her to step out of the room, stand at a distance and watch for sometime from different angles. The maid sheepishly admitted that yes, it is not clean enough and indeed she was not cleaning it. Jaya realised, from a close distance everything looked perfect but as she got farther, the actual stains started showing up. She learnt that if one becomes too involved with some activity, it is difficult to appreciate if it is carried out well enough or not. It pays to step aside, disengage for a while and watch from a distance to understand if anything is broken and if it requires some fixing. But once it is clear, it must be handled with a sense of purpose, with a sense of urgency before the issue gets out of hand.
A similar lesson I learnt from the everyday chore of plucking jasmine flowers from my garden. As winter steps in, the number of flowers reduce. I bend to my right, left, forward, backward and all angles that my not-so-flexible body permits me in different postures, to reach out to the creeper that is leaning more towards the neighbour’s plot in search of the sun. I feel disappointed that there aren’t enough flowers in the basket but each time I step back or sidewards and watch from a distance, I see the gentle sunrays falling on the white petals. And lo, a flower seems to appear from nowhere, from the same branch which had nothing on it a little while ago. A whole new bunch of jasmines seem to taunt me to find them. I feel stupid wondering how on earth did I miss them earlier, when I was so close to them, when they were literally under my nose. But I soon realise, both the sight and scent of the fresh jasmine is better experienced from a distance and not when I am too close. It pays to detach yourself completely from certain situations, step aside, stand apart, watch it, observe it keenly, take a bird’s eyeview and then discover the obvious unfold.
Now, which of the above will the MCA adopt ?
Will it develop a keen hawk-like eyes of Jaya, the homemaker to find the stains proactively ? or
Will it continue to bury its head in the sand, like the proverbial Ostrich ?
Will it continue to be like the stubborn maid who refuses to recognise the stains until pointed out ? or
Will it accept that something is broken and requires to be fixed urgently ?
Will it stand close to the creeper and continue to look for the fragrant jasmines randomly ? or
Will it step back, find the right position and watch from a distance to spot the elusive flowers ?
Will it realise that it needs to shift its stand ?
Perhaps, the other side (represented by professionals and corporates) needs to adopt a similar strategy too. Then and only then the atmosphere of mistrust and angst will die down, opening up channels of communication and purposeful action. Ease of Doing Business calls for this and more, not just climbing up a few rankings for World Bank !