Friday, 20 October 2017

Rani Gets a Diwali Gift

Rani got off from the bus and hurried towards her home.  There were no auto or any rickshaw in sight today.  So she would have to walk about 20 minutes to reach home. She increased her pace. She was not used to wearing sarees. She held her sari with an hand so that it did not tangle with her legs.  Her shoulders felt sore. 

But she did not complain. 

Along with her laptop, there was the Diwali gift in her laptop bag She smiled to herself.

This was Rani's first job and it was the first time she had received any gift from the office ! She felt so good !

The excitement had started two days back when she received the email from  HR that today will be an "Ethnic Day" and the employees should come in ethnic attire.  There will be prizes for the best dressed male and female.  That night, she whispered to Shekhar "Which sari should I wear ? The red one with Golden motifs or the peacock Blue silk sari with green pallu which Rinky Mausi had given as the wedding gift ? "

"Uh ... " Shekhar mumbled. "Arre , you look good in any sari !"  He turned towards her, put his arm over her stomach and kissed her. "Now go to sleep. I have an important meeting tomorrow and have to reach office early".  

Within 5 minutes, Shekhar was fast asleep. 

Rani and Shekhar got married about a year and a half back.  It was an arranged marriage. Before they tied the knot, Rani had told Shekhar that she would like to continue working. She was a compute Engineer and had got placed in an IT firm .  Shekhar and his parents did not object. 

Rani's friend Anju was indignant when she heard this . 

"You took permission for working ?? Shoudn't that be your own right and decision ? "

Anju was a rebel.  But yes, Rani too felt that she should be independent to take her own decision. But that is not how arranged marriages work ..  The females still have a long way to go . Rani knew that Shekhar and her in-laws actually want her to work.  They know that the money will come into their household. And nowadays, it is really impossible to maintain a decent standard of living on a single income. On top of that, the uncertainty of  private company jobs loomed large on everybody's mind. 

As usual, Rani had got up in the morning at 5.30 am an prepared tea for everybody. She prepared lemon water for her father-in-law .  At 6 am, she took two cups of tea and the glass of lemon water , knocked on the door and heard her mother in law's voice. After serving them, she quickly poured two cups of tea and went inside her bedroom to wake up Shekhar. He was still fast asleep. 

"Get up ! You said you had to leave early. I too need about 15 minutes more time to tie the sari " Rani was really excited.

She decided on the Red and Gold sari. It was more manageable than the heavy Peacock blue one.  It will be easier to travel in the bus in the red one.  She had first decided to take a cab to work, but thinking about the expense , she dismissed the idea. 

After finishing her tea, she rushed into the kitchen.  The maid was late today. So she started cutting the vegetables. After her marriage, her mother-in-law had made it clear about the responsibilities. Everyday i the morning, Rani prepared the breakfast - usually sandwich or paratha or poha . She prepared the vegetable which Shekhar and Rani packed for tiffin and her in-laws had for lunch. Extra things like Dal or salad and Roti or rice , Shekhar's mother prepared when they had lunch. 

The maid usually helped Rani by cutting vegetables , washing utensils etc. But today, she was late. Rani grimaced. Twice a month, this maid took unplanned leaves. 

"God ! Let it not be today ! " She whispered to herself and almost cut her fingers while cutting the potatoes She had rarely ventured into the kitchen before marriage and her mother-in-law sometimes passed snide remarks about her inexperience and mistakes.

Somehow she had managed to save about 7 minutes and draped the sari.  She put kohl in her deep , big eyes. Put a small red bindi on her forehead. She rummaged through her trinkets and found a small red jhumka. After contemplating whether to wear it or not, she decided against it. It would be too "dressy" and with all the people in the bus and jostling and standing, she would feel really uncomfortable. 

The office looked festive. There was a huge Rangoli in front of the reception.  The cubicles were decorated with strips of coloured ribbons of different colour.  Tiny stringed lights were lighted on the conference room doors. 

"Happy Diwali Rani ! You look gorgeous and ... different !" Alok , her team mate quipped. Rani blushed.

Shekhar had also given her an appreciative look.  "Hey ! Be careful ! Don't let any male come near you !"  Rani had shoved him lovingly. 

The females were in sarees or salwar suits and the males were in Sherwani , dressy Kurta etc. 

Whole day passed away just like that and Rani could hardly work on her piece of code. She knew that she would have to stay back late day after tomorrow to compete her task. She made a face. 

"The day after Diwali ... uff ... why could they not get two days off ? It would have been a long weekend. The people at onsite ... they never miss their Christmas, whereas we have to slog it out even on Diwali ... "

These trains of thought could have made her gloomy , but then suddenly the HR team came to her cubicle and handed over the Diwali Gift . It was a small box, wrapped in a shiny cover. 

"Happy Diwali !" Shruti, the HR associate smiled. 


Her team mate Pooja  and many others had already opened the gift wrap. It was  box of dry fruits. Pistachios, Cashew nuts, raisins and a few Cadbury chocolates. 

Rani did not open her box. She wanted to gift it to Shekhar. It was their first diwali together. She wanted Shekhar to open it.  As Rani was keeping it carefully in her laptop bag, suddenly there was a lot of commotion towards the conference room. 

"Rani ... come quickly ! The best dressed male and female will be announced"

Rani's heart missed a beat.  

Will she , will she not ?

The conference room was choc a block.  

Damini, the HR manager was standing on the raised platform with a piece of paper in her hand. 

"Come on Damini ! Break the suspense ! Announce !

Damini looked arround her , her eyes bright and a big smile on er lovely face. 

"Ok ! Ladies and gentlemen ! Here we go ... "  Damini said. The crowd cheered.

"Well, the best dressed male prize goes to ... Abhishek !! " Abhishek almost jumped and went on the stage to get his prize. Loud clapping !!

"Now for the best dressed female ...

Rani's heart thudded. "God , God , God ! please ....!"

"The judges were in a real fix on this one because there was a tie" Damini announced. There was silence on the floor. "After a lot of debate, the judges came to the conclusion.... Had it not been for her jhumkas, Rani would have won this prize.  The prize goes to ... Preeti ...."

Thunderous round of applause greeted Preeti. Rani's eyes smarted and tears made her vision a bit hazy. 

"Bad luck , Rani " the person beside her said. "Next time do not forget the jhumkas ..." he said. 

Rani tried to smile. 

It was almost 8.30 when she finally reached home.  Shekhar's mother had started arranging a few diyas for the Choti Diwali. Shekhar was also back. 

As she entered the drawing room, she saw four huge packets of dry fruits kept on the centre table. Shekhar was sipping tea. 

"Oh ! You are so late ! Mom prepared tea for me "

"Rani ... come and arrange the diya's please ..." Her mother-in-law bellowed.

"Finish you work and come soon to the bedroom... It is Diwali tomorrow , a holiday ... we can get up late ...."

Shekhar winked. 

Rani went inside the kitchen to pour herself some tea, but the kettle was empty.  Rani suddenly felt very tired. She loathed the idea of preparing tea just for herself.

"And see , these dry fruit packets. The big one I got from my office. This one was given by my client. And the other two were gifts from my subordinate .." 

Shekhar gloated.

Rani went inside her bedroom and removed her sari and changed into a plain salwar kameej. She cleansed her face. removed her kohl. 

She looked at the mirror. 

"Who am I ? What am I ?" She asked herself. Rani slowly opened her laptop bag and took out her Diwali gift. 

She put the gift on top of the four packets. 

Shekhar was watching TV.  He glanced at her. 

"What is that ? Dry fruits ? Gift from office ? Such a small packet ? " he laughed. Her father in law looked up from the newspaper , looked at the packet and gave an amused look. 

"Anyways, don't worry ! The packets which I have got will see us thru for at least 3 months " Shekhar said. 

Was her excitement about  the "Ethnic day" at office, her decking up in a sari so inconsequential to Shekhar ? Will he ask her about it before going to sleep ? Or was her contribution and importance just like thesmall diwali gift ? 

Rani went inside the kitchen and started warming up the food for dinner and arranging the plates on the dining table.

Tomorrow is Diwali. It is a holiday for both Rani and Shekhar. 

Shekhar will get up late. 

But Rani's day will start at 6 am. 

She will prepare tea and lemon water for Shekhar's parents. 

Monday, 9 October 2017

6 Unmistakable Ways to Destroy your Organization

I have seen organizations during inception, growth, maturity and also decline. 

I have seen organizations accelerate in their growth path. Unfortunately I have also experienced the death pangs of  organizations.  I have seen the roaring tigers turn into meek mouses. And I have tried to learn from the experience.  In this blog post I have jotted down some key points leading to destruction of organizations. 

  • Put all your eggs in one basket : Have only one major customer who contributes 95% of the revenue.  You will never know when the "cash cow" becomes a "dog" and things will come crashing down. Rely so much on that one Golden Goose and become complacent about your success that you do not put adequate marketing effort to gain another big account or diversify into other areas. One fine morning, while having your morning cuppa, you might realize that the ground under feet is shaking and you are bound to fall !

  • Management by Fear :  Just thing how much will an employee work if they fear that they might lose their jobs ? Well, only just about enough to keep their jobs ! The organization will NOT have the willing cooperation of the associates . When you manage by fear, you will not be able to keep good and productive people. They will stay and tolerate high handed bosses only when jobs are scarce. As soon as the market opens up they will leave for a more pleasant work environment . And we all know losing good employees is usually devastating for any organization . So ... 

  • Be a control Freak : Do not trust the people and micromanage their work. You control each and every moment at work and want accountal of  their output.  This is sure to break the backbone of the organization. Conversely, if you want to grow your organization, and If you bring people on to do a job, LET THEM DO THEIR JOB! Yes, you started the company. No, that doesn’t mean you have to do every task. Give people freedom to operate. Get some benefit from having those talented people around. Use them as a force multiplier. If you’re paying them to do work, let them do work. They *want* to do work.  But for destroying the organization, you have to believe and do just the opposite of this.

  • Do not heed the Golden Rule  : The Golden Rule is " Do unto others as they would have do Unto you ".  If you treat your employees well and trust them, it will be reciprocated. In an organization, when it was going thru a bad patch, the senior leadership had a heart to heart discussion with the key members of the company and explained the situation, told about their losses. He asked for pay cut and asked for their support. And surprisingly, 90% of the people willingly took pay cuts and stood rock solid with the organization.  In another organization, during rough weather, the senior management took arbitrary decisions, laid off people without taking them into confidence, treated them badly.  When the key people resigned, the organization expected them to stay back and support the activities. Do you think they cared ? No way ! Instead the reaction was "If you can behave like this, so can I !"

  • Have "Yes " Men and Women around you :  As a leader, you only like to hear what you want to hear.  Surround yourself with people who say "Yes" to everything you utter. You like and appreciate people who worship you and do not contradict you.  You dislike and demotivate professional people who point out the mistakes and have constructive feedback and suggestions.  You do not admit or learn from mistakes.
    If you follow all these, then you company is surely doomed.

  • Do not believe in appreciation : Believe that if you appreciate people, they will either become complacent or ask for a raise.  You point out their mistakes and failure - often in public but  not a word of praise when things go well . You continually find fault with your subordinates, gloat over their mistakes and express sarcasm.  You will never get willing cooperation of your associates and you and the other leaders will lose their respect . The employees will become demotivated and stressed . And your organization will crumble in the future. 

Do you want your organization to survive ? If yes, then never ever follow the above points. 

All the best !

Monday, 4 September 2017

Grandpa's Cross Stitch

Like every Sunday, yesterday too I had gone for my usual round of morning walk at the Rabindra Sarovar Lake. 

I enjoy the clear blue water of the lake, the different shades of green of the huge trees  , the cool breeze and the serene ambiance of the place.  

But the best thing I like about the place are the people there. People of different size and shape. Range of age anywhere between 2 years to 80 plus years. Senior people siting on semicircular cemented benches, enjoying their doze of "adda" (Bengali word for chit chat and gossip). Young people huffing and puffing , measuring their sprints around the lake. Groups of females, young mothers , a few elderly ones , talking, sharing their experiences, smiling and laughing. 

It is a happy place and I love to stroll there, observing people and their activities , enjoying the scenery, the birds and the breeze. 

Yesterday, I saw a group of people sitting under a huge tree in a circle and reading aloud. a book reading group. I sat down with them.  They had just finished reading out an excerpt on Socrates and Plato. It was very interesting. There was a dignified lady sitting beside me. She took out a tattered piece of cloth and opened it very very carefully and lovingly.  It was a cross stitch cloth , and the Alphabets A to Z were stitched on it . It was a bit torn and frayed and faded at the edges. The creases of the folds were flaky.

Her eyes were moist when she spoke. 

"My father passed away last year . He was 87 years old. Last week I was rummaging through his belongings and I came across this piece of cloth. I was just about to throw it away, when my neighbor's 6 year old daughter came inside the room.  She was my father's friend. They enjoyed each other's company and would share stories with each other till his last day.  The little one does not know yet that her Grandpa is no more. She believes that he has gone to his friend's place and should be back soon. So she comes to his room everyday,  fiddles about with his chair, his pipe, his spectacles . She misses him. 

She saw this piece of cloth in my hands and she exclaimed - "Oh ! That is Grandpa's !!"

"This is Grandpa's ? But this is a cross stitch work . He did not know how to embroider " I exclaimed. 

"No, no... Dadu knew cross stitch. He had told me ! He had promised that he will show me a handkerchief which he had made when he was in class 1 . This is that handkerchief ! Show me , show me ! " She danced in glee . 

I suddenly recollected that my father had studied till class 1 in an Anglo Indian girl's school, along with his sisters. Boys were allowed till the age of 5 - 6 years in the school.  He was the only male in a class of 25 girls. 

In the needlework class, he had learnt and made these alphabets using pale pink thread on this lemon coloured cloth using cross stitches. 

And I am sure he was proud about this  as he had talked about the handkerchief to his small friend. 

This tattered piece suddenly became precious to me. It was about 80 years old, in the British era ! And more than that, I came to know something obscure about my father even when he is not there in this world.   

Maybe this was his way of  keeping his promise to his sweet little grand child ! "

Her voice wavered. Her salt and pepper hair shone in the rays of sunlight which fell on her face through the creeks of the leaves of the tree. 

She passed the precious piece around the group. 

My fingers trembled when  I held it in my hands. His little friend had given a gem of a remembrance to his daughter. 

Cheers to the bonding between the 87 year old and the 6 year old child . 

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Is One Child Enough ?

I have been planning to write this post ever since I received a request from one of my colleague from a former organization Let me call her Ms. Pretty for anonymity sake .  

This is for you Pretty , and I am sorry for the delay. 

Nevertheless, better late than never. 

Pretty, you have asked me a couple of questions .

Do you think having one baby has any disadvantages? 
Did your daughter ever feel the need for a sibling ?  
Did she ever feel lonely ? 
I am so confused with all the advise which I am getting ! Please tell me ...

Hmm ... I am sure  many women have the same dilemma . Let me write my point of view and share some personal experiences on this topic.

First and foremost, you should consider whether you are ready for another child or not.  It should be a decision which should be mainly taken by the mother. You should not be coerced or forced into taking any decision just because your mother, father, aunt, uncle , grandmother, mother-in-law or the whole world is telling you to have the second child . Well, to concede a bit, you can hear out your the husband's words , but beware, do not be swayed too much by it . 😅😅

It is your decision. Period. 

Couple of things to be kept in mind while taking the decision.  

Are you physically and mentally prepared for another baby ? You already know that it is a 24 X 7 job tending to a newborn , at least for the first few months.  There will be nights when you will not be able to sleep, tending and feeding the baby, changing nappies and taking care of the child. Remember that though the times are changing, it is mainly the mothers who take charge as the caregiver.

You know how the family dynamics changed when you had your first bundle of joy. You know very well how it turns your life upside down and everything revolves around the kid. It will change again . Now the dynamics of the elder sibling will also be there. The family routine will change again. As a mother , you will have to divide your attention between both the kids. Usually the elder one feels a bit neglected during the initial few months and this has to be dealt very softly and delicately.  

This is rather important because the psychological complexities during childhood, if not handled correctly, leaves deep scars in the personality and is carried forward as a baggage in the future years and in future relationships. 

Are you financially stable and will be able to handle the expenditure of the baby ?  A very basic but important point to take a decision.

Career is important. My personal take on this is that all the females should work. Not only for financial independence but for self fulfillment too. I have seen many females quitting their jobs saying that "My first priority is my baby and I want to do my best ".  Yes, your children, your family are very very important, but I think that the first priority is YouIf you are unhappy, then the full family becomes unhappy.  The children should be the father's priority too.  Have you ever heard a father saying " I will quit my job as the baby is my first priority ?

It is a collective unconscious which makes the females "guilty" on this topic. Both the husband and the wife have to share the rearing of the children. It cements the relationships solidly ! My own experience as a working mother furthers my argument.  It was a very very difficult time when I had to join back office. So many problems , family advice, chiding, asking me to quit. But I really wanted to grow in my career. I persevered. Went through the struggle.   But finally, when I look back, I am happy that I did not quit my job.  When I see my daughter taking her own decisions, much more confident than some of her peers, much more balanced , logical and self sufficient, I am happy that I did not quit.  I can write a book on this topic 😊.

Enough on the criteria for the decision making, now coming to your specific questions. Did my daughter ever feel lonely .. well , I don't think so. From her childhood, she was an avid and a voracious reader. I guess that must helped her not feeling lonely. She had lots of friends and the usual childish gossips, pains, happiness were shared with them. When she was in her early teens, she had become a bit of a recluse, the usual teenage and puberty signs. But that in fact goaded me to become extra communicative with her. I started treating her as an adult and shared my feelings , recounted my childhood pains and experiences. 

In fact after I came back from work, my husband, me and my daughter had a ritual. She prepared tea for us (oh .. it was so tasty !) and we used to talk for at least 30 to 40 minutes everyday.  She talked about her day, her school and we talked about work etc.  Whenever I used to get a chance , I talked with her.  As she grew up, I told her about my childhood, my infatuations, silly things , taboo topics and slowly we became friends

Communication is so very important . But it does not happen in a day. You have to nurture it. There is no such topic on the earth which I cannot share with her and vice versa.  

Did my daughter ever feel the need for a sibling ? I don't think so. In fact sometimes she said that she is fine as the only child. But I do not take her word for that because she does not have the experience of having a sibling ! But she never complained !

But coming to think about it, sometimes I feel that it might have been a good idea if I had another kid. There are two main reasons. First, you can trust and share your innermost thoughts with your sibling. Yes, I did finally become my daughter's friend, but the equation between the siblings is a different dimension of the relationship.

Second , as the parents grow old, they need support. Usually not financial, but psychological. They want the proximity, the company of the kids. They want to talk. They want a bit of attention. If you have a sibling, this can be shared. There is a fallback for both of them. 

I say the above two points now, at this stage. But I know I took the right decision of having one child because some of the criteria which I have written earlier were not getting fulfilled.  

I am Happy. My husband is happy. My daughter is happy.

Pretty, I hope I have been able to assuage some of your agony and doubts. There is no right or wrong answer to "Is one child enough ? " It varies from person to person, differs with situations, changes with the personal priorities.

Finally, it is you who have to decide. 

But whatever you decide, be happy and safe ! Do not have any regrets please !

Cheers and hope to hear from you and all others who have some viewpoint, doubt or question on this topic ! 

Write in the remarks column and I will get back to you !