Saturday, January 24, 2009

Are you turning into a 'bonsai'

The man is reading the book 'The Case of the Bonsai Manager' by R Gopalkrishnan. I have attempted to read some of these books on Management, and generally do not go beyond the first chapter. Most of them are so theoretical and also, I believe that I have no managerial skills. But out of curiosity I did pick up this book and read the first couple of pages - I still have not gone beyond them - as I have paused to write this post!!
For one, I have never been a great fan of Bonsai. Creating a bonsai is an art and an difficult one at that requiring a great deal of patience and care. But I have always held that stunting the natural growth of a plant to create a miniature is a cruel practice.
The author, in the introduction to this book warns managers not to be like the stunted plants and writes that in the absence of intuition or its adequate use, one turns into a constricted manager.
An interesting thought, that makes me feel that this might be a book that is different from the 'Who Moved My Cheese' kinds. And even if it fails to hold my interest, it has made an impact. It has made me think that the term 'Bonsai Manager' can be applied to my life. Or even yours.
Just don't be a 'bonsai'. It may be a work of art. But it would mean that your growth is restricted and stunted. Do not allow anyone to restrict your growth and nor should you allow your thinking to be narrow. Allow yourself to branch out. Grow like the California Redwood or the lovely Banyan Tree.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Does this seem like a Bollywood movie? Remember DDLJ? Well, TYPTW is Take Your Parents to Work . Some of the interesting concepts that HR groups in companies come up with. And of course, like a Hindi movie, I did go into flashback mode.

I remember the first day of school for the kids. It is always a very significant day for most parents - when the elder one went to school, surprisingly she shed no tears - Actually, I think our eyes were misty . The younger one, it was easier, we always had this feeling that the sister was there to take care, and she lived up to her role very well.

So, it began, all the trips to school, for the parent-teacher meet, the sports day, the annual day. And somehow the school had this uncanny knack of holding an important event on a day most inconvenient for the parents. But since we felt responsible, we put aside our work and made sure we were there to cheer them as they took part in the sack race, the spoon or lemon race, or their march past. The annual day used to be the worst. It was also unfortunate that their act was always towards the end and we faithfully went for all these till one such day, as we sat sweating and squirming in the uncomfortable seating that was provided, we realised, that our elder one's role in the particular play was that of a tree and with all the heavy makeup we could really not identify which tree she was! Slowly our interest in these programmes began to wane, and we did attended fewer of them, much to the disappointment of the younger one.

Well, anyway we did our best to be a part of their growing up years. Then came the time when the elder one completed her education and took up a job. And in a well known MNC. We were proud to watch the professionalism creep in. We were fortunate that company she worked at, organised a Family Day. Once again, we ensured that we finished work as soon as we could ( this time the scene was a little different, we had our own enterprise, there was no application for leave!!), and we set off to her workplace. The office was nothing like the places we had worked at! The ambiance so totally different. And like us there were so many families that went around. Our daughter sat at her desk, and enacted a bit of her daily role, while we gazed so proudly, just like all the other parents that day. And we went around with her as she showed us the breakout area , the canteen, the gym and so on... she had come a long way from the time my father had prepared her for the admission test for the school, all his efforts as he went on hhhh, hhhh, hhhh to make her get her to pronounce the letter 'h' and all she could muster was 'orse' instead of horse.

I do think the TYPTW programme is an interesting concept. A little peek into their adult lives, when we realise happily how they have developed into responsible adults. Our concern for them would never end. But it also signifies the time for us to get on with our lives as we had before they were born!

PS: And I had a double bonus too, when I saw the son-in-law at his place of work. He showed the wife and me around in his inimitable style!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The weight of recession

I am not talking about the economic impact of recession. I am hardly the expert on such serious matters. The focus of this post is what is being refered to as the 'recession pounds'. Weight watching - now that is my subject. On second thoughts, who said I am not an expert on serious matters, such a 'weighty issue'?

As feared the recession has sent costs of products spiralling upwards. Prices of food seems to have touched a new high. It is therefore inevitable that citizens are reaching out for products that suit their wallets, and in most cases, the highly refined energy dense foods, those with the unhealthy cholesterol levels are lower priced as compared to the healthy but relatively expensive foods such as fresh fish, fruit, vegetables and whole grains. It has already been seen that the fast food giant McDonalds is showing a 'healthy' growth by sales of their not so healthy food.

This will probably reflect in weight gain and higher proportion of obese people. Adam Drewnowski, the director of the Nutrition Sciences Program at the University of Washington in Seattle suggests the following which makes good sense. He says, "The answer lies in affordable but nutrient-rich foods such as ground beef, beans, milk, nuts, cheese, carrots, potatoes, canned tomatoes, soups, and rice," calling it "a diet for a new Depression." Of course, coupled with healthy cooking methods.

Eat healthy. It has long term benefits. A feel good factor when you look at your reflection and lower medical bills.

PS: Under the guise of this post I hope to pass off what is generally termed 'nagging' as good advice!! Or am I the only one who thinks so?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Present Tense

I read this article in the Business Line supplement today by TT Srinath, of new approaches to personal growth. And what actually held my interest is the Zen story that the writer quoted which has always been a favourite of ours. It is being reproduced here - Two monks, an older and younger man were once walking down a road. They chanced on a pretty lady who was attempting to cross a puddle. The senior monk carried her over the puddle and put her down. The monks continued their journey and for over an hour the young monk did not speak to his senior. An hour later the young monk admonished the elder monk chastising him for having carried a woman. The elder monk replied, “I dropped her one hour ago but you still seem to be carrying her.” The burden of the past had trapped the young monk.

In this article, the writer exhorts us to live in the present. He says one should live only for the moment, without carrying any baggage from the past or thinking about the future. In this manner the person is responding to his/her feelings and experiences a sense of freedom. Not burdened with the past and no demands of the future. Living in the present keeps one focused on what is happening right then. He says even in the most difficult situation focus on the right of the moment, think of the positive side even if the present is not exactly encouraging. This way, you get the needed confidence and end up appreciating the situation. He says Living in the present has the potential to be a satisfying growing experience, one that flows naturally from moment to moment. The more we succeed in this task, the more human we become

Sounds very encouraging and makes sense as you read. But does not work all the time. It is said that only the sages could meditate keeping the mind blank. It is a task so humanly impossible. I have tried my hand at meditating. It has never worked. For me, a blank wall is my time machine. It can transport me back in time to being a 5 year old ( I don't think I can go beyond that!!) and then fast-forward to playing with my grandchildren. But living for the moment, when all I probably have to do is walk into the kitchen to make a meal, is simply not my cup of tea. At least to make mundane tasks more interesting, one has to let the mind wander.

It is of course, sane advice, but not really practical. Good to read, appreciate, interesting article to relate if you want to seem wise. Living for the moment works when the going is good. But I doubt if any human has a tight rein over the mind . We learn from the mistakes of the past, and also perhaps by dreaming of the future, work to make the dreams happen, and that makes us what we are.

It would perhaps make more sense to say that we should be grounded to the present, even when we retrace our steps into the past, or wander into the future.It is only then that we can enjoy life in total.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Going Native

We joke with the elder one that she has not picked up an accent even after 9 months of being in London, unlike some who speak with a drawl even after a short vacation.

We Indians are an adaptable lot and pick up ways of the West in a jiffy. To think that the term 'going native' was an expression during the colonial period and referred to the people who forgot the ways of their home country and started to behave like the natives - ‘going native' was understandably considered a derogatory term in those times.

People have to adapt when they move and live amidst different cultures. I do not fall in the category. In fact, so deeply rooted am I, that I have been in the city for half a century, but alas, cannot boast of speaking the local language or my native tongue well enough. Which is a shame.

It all began when we were started school. The Christian missionaries were considered the best in imparting education, and the Convents the best schools to attend .And so we ( my brothers and I) found ourselves admitted to these schools. I was in class 2 and did speak a smattering of English. The teacher advised my parents to speak to us in English at home so that we could improve our spoken language.It soon got to be a habit that was difficult to break . In time I think my father noticed that we were not too comfortable in our mother tongue and there was a time when he refused to answer us if we spoke to him in English. Sadly, this was a rule that was not strictly enforced and at vacations when the extended family would meet, we did manage to communicate speaking the native tongue haltingly but with long pauses to gather our thoughts and grope for the right word . In the process, not just with the mother tongue, but with other Indian languages as well, we realised that one was thinking in English and translating as we conversed. This was quite disastrous and led to a great deal of amusement ( since syntax greatly differs in other languages!) I regret now that I did not simultaneously learn languages other than English, which was sad considering that my dad was a polyglot and could speak and write several languages.

I miss speaking my mother tongue, for I have none to talk to. It would have helped me connect to my childhood.

I do think, even if it is not to connect to our roots, that we should make an extra effort to speak the mother tongue at home with the hope that the children pick up the language.

Do 'go native', it is essential to survive in the country you have chosen to live, but it would probably make you a complete person if you can occasionally connect with the country where you were born.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hello 2009

Another year. Somehow the posts here were few and far between the last few months . Hopefully that is a thing of the past.

We hope to see the elder one this year, something to look forward to .

However, this year the younger one will move farther away where her new job will take her, not really something to look forward to.

But it means one step in the journey as she takes off to lead her life independently. Someone remarked that you have to let them go. One would think that the severing of the umbilical cord occurred when the baby is born. But a mother ( and the father too!) would know it never really took place. It is foolish to think it did!

With these profound thoughts, we move into the new year. Hello 2009!
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