Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Three fingers back at you

When you point a finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you. This saying forms one of the early lessons against complaining. It also tells you to re-evaluate the situation from a different perspective. What did Jesus say on this topic? "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." Nobody is perfect. There is always room for improvement. This constant yearning to become a better person forms the crux of the narrative today.

My friend was going through articles on relationship advice. I understand his predicament. It 's hard to understand the fairer sex. They think something and say something else. Now that I have let the cat out of the bag, I wonder if this is the reason which makes women better managers. They can drop subtle and obvious hints which can be used to motivate people. Unfortuthese hints which could be a motivating factor was not working well in my friend's case. So he was going through the various articles on the topic when he came across on an interesting one.

The title jumped out of the page to catch his attention. It sounded perfect antidote for the recent showdown. So he started reading it. The article contains ten subheadings. As he went through the first two, he couldn't believe his luck. So he bookmarked the page and read the rest. After reading the whole article, he deleted the bookmark and decided against sharing it with his wife. At this point, I was curious and couldn't contain myself. So I asked why didn't he share the article. He explained with a sheepish grin. The rest of the eight subheadings sounded like him. Apparently, he has to work on the relationship more than his wife. So, what did I tell you about the fingers pointing at yourself while complaining?

Photo Courtesy: US Embassy New Delhi

Tags: Musings, Relationship

Monday, February 8, 2016

Who lives with you?

Who lives with you? It is a prying question. Imagine if you are asked this question in front of your spouse. You confidently say your spouse's name. But the interrogator says that it is not the correct answer. What happens next? You are likely to sweat. You nervously steal glances at your spouse. You start praying your partner has heard neither the question nor the response to the question. You would also have run through the permutations and combinations of this answer in your mind in a flash, reliving your life and relationships. No doubt it is an embarrassing situation. Even though our closets might be empty, we might still fear what might tumble out of it. One of my friends underwent this situation recently.

Before I tell you the story of my friend, I want to bring your attention to another phenomenon in our lives. Passwords. On a typical day, we use passwords in countless ways. We use them to log into our laptops, our work emails, personal emails, bank accounts, social media accounts and what not. Although companies are trying to minimise the number of time we enter passwords in the name of unified login or a seamless experience, we are still far from this projected simple future. In the meantime, we have software serving as a locker for all our passwords and the key memorable phrase to be used to reset our passwords if all other measures fail. The key memorable phrases have evolved from the mother's maiden name to other questions. One such question posed a threat to my friend on that fateful day. The question was simple. Who lives with you? I am not sure why it becomes a critical question to establish the identity of a person. These days, the warm confines of privacy are rapidly disappearing with the rise of social media and the sharing culture. So no question is impossible to crack for anyone with evil intent. 

So my friend was holding on to the phone trying to think what was the right answer to the question to establish the identity. According to my friend's account of the events unfolding, the ears of the spouse had already perked up to catch the answer. While my friend spent a lot of time describing the intrusive nature of the partner, there was no mention of my friend's mental state. Was my friend's heart beating too fast? Was my friend sweating? Then it dawned on my friend. My friend said the name of their child. My friend had recorded the name of their child as the answer to that question. Technically, my friend is correct. I am sure the resourceful hackers will not be able to decipher the answer quickly.

Photo Courtesy: Ognian Mladenov

Tags: Musings, Memorable Phrase, Password

Monday, February 1, 2016

35 feeling 21

A 21-year-old boy is trapped in the body of a 35-year-old man. This dilemma forms the crux of my friend's problem. If you ponder on this problem, it is, in fact, a preferable situation. All of us grows up and end up boring. So what if you can stay younger? When it comes to aging, the key lies in your mind. My friend has a the mind of 21-year-old-boy. So he has unlocked the anti-aging mechanism. Then why is he worried about this blessed state?

On paper, this scenario is a win-win. But does a 21-year-old mind translates into a winning criterion in the real world. We all had our blunders in this age. The unadulterated mindset during this stage brings a fresh perspective by always questioning everything around you and the drive to prove oneself. At the same, the impatience during this phase brings our downfall too. For this reason, I stated the win-win on paper. 

Now with 35 years of learning, has my friend learnt to control the disadvantages associated with his 21-year-old mind? If he has, then he shouldn't worry. Can his body run as fast as with his 21-year-old mind? If he can accomplish this, then there is nothing to worry. The dilemma is a desirable one to have. What is the point of medicating your overactive fertile mind to tone it down? It is always good to have an younger mind inside our older body.

Photo Courtesy: Maurits Verbiest

Tags: Musings, Mind

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The focused boss

In the present day world, we struggle to provide undivided attention to the task assigned to us. We have countless distractions while we strive to accomplish our tasks and goals. There are Outlook, Lync, Yammer and numerous other activities that take away our attention. Hence, it becomes difficult to focus. While technology has made us closer and accessible on one hand, it also made us less productive and sadder on the contrary. Because of this reason, the mention of a focused boss caught my attention.

The focused boss is a desirable thing to happen to any one of us. But there are variants of this species. My friend's story is related to a one of the variant. Before I start my tale, let me tell you commonly accepted norm related to our working lives. The word of the boss may not be equivalent to the Bible but in the overall scheme of things, it is almost up there. So my friend story starts with a confrontation between the focused boss and his employee. The employee was in a common area when the focused boss came out of his cabin to confront him. The focused boss wanted to obtain an update on the employee's action plan from the previous meeting to contain a potentially explosive situation.

Focused Boss: *without wasting time* Did you call the client?

Employee: *respectfully* No, I didn't have to. I managed the situation.

Focused Boss: *voice raising a couple of notches* Did you call the client?

Employee: *very respectfully* No, I didn't. Before that, I resolved the issue and hence was sure it would not flare up.

Focused Boss: *emphatically* Call the client.

The conversation didn't end there. The employee wanted to wait further before calling the client as he didn't have sufficient information. But I want to draw your attention back to the conversation. You may have realized why I refer to the person as focused boss. He has kept his focus on the call with the client but ignored all other aspects of the conversation. What kind of management style is good? Is it important to be transactional if your underlings can take charge and manage the situation? Tell me what you think.

Tags: Musings, Boss, Style

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Alan Rickman: The man who took an eternity to speak

"The villain is excellent," exclaimed my friend. I was angry. Why is my friend glorifying the villain? Without even bothering about the dark anger on my face, the friend continued, "He keeps his cool all the time and never shouts". That statement was like pouring oil on the fire. We were discussing a new action movie featuring an unlikely hero with a receding hairline and whose name was new in our part of the world. Compared to the hero, the villain looked dashing with a neatly trimmed beard. We were talking about a movie where the hero tries to save his estranged wife from a group of villains who has taken control of a multi-storey office building, and is holding its occupant as hostages. The movie was Die Hard, the hero was Bruce Willis, and the villain was Alan Rickman.

The news of Alan Rickman's death is saddening for me as I had recently seen his performance in Harry Potter. A montage follows the death of Professor Snape after Harry drops Snape's tears in the pensieve. Anyone who has read the book and has seen the eight movies will know how good an actor was Alan Rickman by seeing those scenes. And to think Alan Rickman was the second choice after Tim Roth couldn't do the role. I only remember Die Hard, Robin Hood, Love Actually and Harry Potter series. I initially wondered why Alan Rickman took ages to say a sentence. Then like an acquired taste, I came to enjoy his dialogue delivery. Every syllable was clear to the audience. We waited with bated breath for him to complete a sentence. Even though I dismissed him as just another villain, I began to like him in the subsequent viewings of Die Hard. The more times I saw, the more I liked him.

After Die Hard, I saw him in Robin Hood. I was still young unable to distinguish between Hollywood and British film. I was too naive to understand even the difference in accent when I saw it the first time. Alan Rickman playing the wily Sheriff had the audience in splits when he hurries through the marriage ceremony with Maid Marian. He had us laughing with his eyes rolling to indicate frustration and irritation when Robin Hood breaks through glass trying to save Maid Marian. Then I saw his years later in Love Actually. Despite the film being a feel good one, Alan Rickman's role is a tragic one. The role of a man dragged into infidelity is made memorable by Alan Rickman.

Then came the Harry Potter series. All the books weren't written when he started acting in the series. When you view the final montage, you realize his performance could be interpreted in different ways. For the first time viewer, he is a cold person who hates Potter. For the audience who is seeing it the second time, we see the pain of seeing Lily's eyes, caring for his only friend's son and frustration of Harry becoming more like his father. How can Alan Rickman package it all under one performance? Wasn't he taken away too soon?

Tags: Musings, Alan Rickman

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Books: Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century

The title and the topic are the two things that attracted me to this book. Exodus is both a story in the Bible and also a novel by Leon Uris. Both refers to the birth of Israel. I have read the novel and also the movie based on it. The book left a far significant impression on me. Coming to the second point, the topic of this book by Paul Collier relates to migration in both forms namely emigration and immigration. I am a migrant work myself. So you may imagine my interest in the topic. The theme of migration is a polarising topic. It is relevant to the times we live. You will see immigration discussed over and over again in discussions, debates and policies.

Paul Collier is a professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Oxford. So this is a non-fiction book about migration from an economist's point of view. The author's perspective is bound to pique our interest. After Freakonomics became a best seller, there has been scores of economists publishing book which been providing education in an entertaining fashion. This book is anywhere near as entertaining as other books by economists. But this book is an eye opener for everyone who falls on any side of the divisive topic of migration.

According to Paul Collier, there are many arguments for and against immigration. The other side of the coin, emigration, is never discussed or understood until there is a substantial flow of people out of one country commonly called brain drain.  The government takes decisions on immigration without actually understanding the causes and effects thoroughly primarily to please the voters. So Paul Collier wants to lay out the facts on the table and also propose the right policies. If you look at the credentials, he is the right person to do so. But are they correct? This inference is up to each one of us who reads this book.

The language used by Paul Collier is easy to understand. Immigration is a serious topic and hence it is important to decide on a simple style of narration. Paul Collier succeeds here and hence we are still interested in the proceedings when he whips up charts to explain his theory about diaspora. In this book, Paul Collier categories the actors in immigration into three groups and provides the viewpoints of each group in detail. The groups are the immigrants, the indigenous population who are affected by the immigrants and the people left behind by the immigrants in the host country.

The author despite his credentials gives a well researched and a humbling explanation of the various aspects by dividing the actors in this drama into three different categories. He forces us to examine all aspects of immigration thereby questioning our beliefs and prejudices. The icing on the cake is final repartee. He proposes the right policy for immigration after he explains the issues related to migration without checks. Is it palatable to everyone? The jury is still out.

The irony of the present world is we are no island although we are living in one. Hence, our lives are touched in one way or the another by this topic. So I would recommend you to get a copy of this book and read.

Tags: Books,Paul Collier,Immigration

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

9000 miles for exoticism

Our quest characterises our life. In fact, we are searching all our lives for different things. If change is constant, then so is our quest. Does our continued exploration become successful in finding the answer? It 's hard to say. It becomes cruel when the search defines the quality of life we live. Because of this reason, I was interested in a writer's find after traveling 9000 miles. 9000 miles a pretty long way from home.

Have you heard about a fruit named Jambu Air? The writer discovered this exotic fruit in Indonesia. You may read her account of this discovery by clicking this link. When I saw the picture of Jambu Air posted by the writer, it looked familiar. As a result, I looked it up, in my mother tongue Malayalam. Jambu Air is Jambakka. Jambakka is a common in Kerala. My mind was overloaded with a lot of childhood memories when I made the connection between Jambu Air and Jambakka.

The fruit is a common one in Kerala. It is exotic for someone who lives 9000 miles away. There is beauty near us. But we never find it. Sometimes, it takes a stranger to find it near our home and tell us.

Tags: Musings, Search, Exotic
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