Binary of Love

Ayush & Riya

“Hey, a new coffee shop has opened just behind my apartment. Looks so inviting and not so crowded as of now. Shall we meet there?” Riya was excited.

“Ok! I will see you outside the coffee shop at 7:30. What’s the name of this place again?”, Ayush was as excited but for a different reason.

“Coffee World, you can never miss it. Its so beautiful. Its just before the cross where you turn left for my apartment. I will see you there”, Riya chirped like a bird who had just learnt flying.

“See you soon babe!”, Ayush said and hung up.

He had returned from his business trip after two weeks and couldn’t wait to tell about the big news to Riya.  She will be so excited. He stared into his laptop with a smile.

Riya smiled too. This new coffee shop, looked so beautiful. It had a surreal look. Unlike usual red & brown coffee shops, it was all done in pastels. A sober lavender name board shone with twinkling lights on the glass door. It was this unusual blend of colors and twinkling lights that had attracted Riya’s attention on her way back to office. A perfect place for a quite, romantic coffee date!

“Let me wait for a few days until Ayush is back. I will go there with him”, she convinced herself. The wait would be worth it.

Riya was ready by 7:30 PM, it was a minute walk for her so she decided to wait until Ayush messaged her, “I am here”. She gave herself a final approving look in the mirror, picked up her clutch and walked off. Riya looked stunning in a peach colored chiffon chudidaar. Her curls that she was growing for a perfect wedding look, almost touched her waist now. They were going to be married in three months! From being college sweethearts to being a married couple soon, their’s had been a typical Bollywood style story. Finding out about each other’s cast or family background was not at the top of their priority list when they fell for each other. Sadly, for their families it was the topmost in the list! A lot of tears, howling and blackmailing went into convincing both families. Riya’s parents had dreamed of getting their daughter married to an IIT graduate and were not willing to settle for anyone less. Ayush wanted to do MBA but under so much of pressure, he could hardly concentrate on his preparation. He couldn’t bear the thought of loosing Riya just because he could not go to an IIT.

Amidst all the drama, Ayush still managed to get himself a place in IIM Ahmadabad. That was the end to it. Both families gave in. Riya & Ayush got engaged among-st close family members before Ayush moved to Ahmadabad for two years. Riya continued with her job in Bangalore. They met a couple of times and also technology helped them to remain in love.

“Hey you look beautiful! I have to tell you something, can’t wait!”, Ayush gave her a warm hug. Holding hands, they walked in the coffee shop. “Isn’t it beautiful? I was dying to come here with you. Now tell me fast, what is it that you have been so eager to tell me?” Riya giggled.

“We are going to have a European honeymoon!” Ayush revealed with a broad smile and widened eyes.

“What? Really? But it was going beyond our budget. Then how?” Riya could not believe her ears.

“We do not have to worry about the money anymore. My trip went very well and our clients want me to work on this project from Eindhoven, Everything has been discussed, and I have to be there as soon as we are married. I have already discussed about your travel and its all finalized babe. Imagine, we will be living in Netherlands for next two years, we could travel to any place we want!” Ayush gave out all the details in a single breath.

“Wow! That’s great Ayush! I am so so happy. But my job? I can’t leave it, its just been 2 years”, Riya was happy at the prospect of living in Europe but the thought of leaving her job suddenly and making such a big move was making her nervous.

“Yes, I thought about it too. And then I realized that you could do your Masters there. You always wanted go for higher studies and then you will easily get a job there. We could start applying now!” Ayush had everything figured out.

“Looks like you have not slept in the flight and were just making plans about our European honeymoon”, Riya winked at him. What a twist in their life, but a beautiful one!

“Sir, maam, your coffee and cookies” their happy banter was interrupted by the coffee boy.

Snow white coffee mugs were arranged so beautifully and the hearts on top of the foaming coffee intertwined with each other. Ayush & Rhia gave each other a huge smile and picked up their mugs!

Srini & Vidya

“Did they like it? It looked very cheesy to me. I hope they are really in love otherwise we would end up like fools and they will never come back here”, Vidya complained to Srini who had just served coffee with hearts to their new customers.

“Off course they loved it. Look at their smiles. I heard honeymoon, I think they are getting married. I am the best Ms. Vidya. You just need to trust me”, Srini declared with pride. He was the associate manager & coffee boy of the shop and Vidya worked at the shop’s bakery. The newly wed couple were dreaming big in this small coffee shop. Srini had made plans. After gaining enough experience in the coffee shop, he wanted to start off with his own coffee house. Vidya was an expert baker but they needed to save before starting off on their own.

Coming from a below average background, Srini & Vidya had seen hardships of life and were determined to follow their dreams together. They spent their entire day at the coffee house returning home tired and just crashing into the bed, in their modest one room apartment.

Srini possessed and innate sense of reading his customers and that’s why all their customers had come back in last two weeks. He was sure the honeymoon couple would also return. Manager was extremely happy with both Srini & Vidya and was already speculating a raise for them.

Srini was right. Honeymoon couple did return, every evening for the next three months. They were served with exotic coffee with personalized designs every time, most of the times by Srini and sometimes by Vidya. Srini made sure that honeymoon couple’s favorite window seat, overlooking the street, was always reserved for them. He felt connected with them. It appeared that they were also trying to make big like him & Vidya!

Ayush & Riya, met every evening. A lot had to be planned & discussed. Coffee shop became their “go to” place. It felt as if this coffee shop was playing a huge role in making their lives together. And the coffee boy & his girlfriend made their evenings so beautiful. Before leaving for their wedding, Ayush & Riya, decided to give a small token of appreciation to the coffee boy and his girlfriend. They were oblivious to the fact that Srini & Vidya were married.

“Thanks Srini ! Where is Vidya?”, Riya asked when Srini served them.

“Ah, she must be inside the bakery. Let me call her”, Srini rushed towards the bakery and returned with Vidya following him.

“Hi Vidya! We wanted to give you both something. We are leaving for our wedding and will be moving to Europe after that. Last three months have been so good for us, thanks to you both for all the special things you did for us”, Ayush thanked Srini & Vidya and handed them two mugs of coffee. Snow white coffee mugs with a heart on both and a sweet message, “We will miss you – Your Honeymoon Couple”

They all laughed out loud.

Ayush & Riya gave a last look at the Lavender board, twinkling lights and to their servers! They were leaving a part behind to start something new. Srini & Vidya, wished them all the luck and asked them come back whenever they were in Bangalore.

Two Years Later – Riya & Ayush

They stood in-front of the faded lavender board of “The Coffee World”. Glass windows were not sparkling anymore, dust seemed to have settled outside and inside. Place looked abandoned.

Riya couldn’t control her tears. Her favorite memories from last two years were of their dates in the coffee shop. European dream had ruined their marriage. Riya left her job and happily moved to Eindhoven with Ayush. After a two weeks long honeymoon, travelling and seeing places together, they returned to their beautiful country house. Riya was just going to join her master’s course when they found out about her pregnancy! She cried the entire night, Ayush wasn’t very excited either. He had planned two years only for Riya & himself. After struggle with families, he felt they deserved to have sometime for themselves. Having a child so early was not in their plan.

They talked about it and decide to have the baby! Their parents were ecstatic and Riya’s mother moved in with them for a few months after Riya delivered their beautiful baby girl. Pregnancy, delivery and now baby care was happening like a whirlwind. Newly wed couple was living in a state of trance, doing what was required, not talking to each other or enjoying parenthood. Travelling took a back seat. With a new born in pram, it wasn’t easy for either of them to enjoy Europe. Riya was getting depressed, she would get irritated about the slightest issues and held Ayush responsible for her state. Ayush on the other hand, could not even fathom what Riya was going through and tried to keep himself busy at work but he also wanted to make it work between them. His tenure was coming to an end and even though his clients wanted him to stay back, he decided to move back to India.

“Lets go back Riya, lets start all over again. I know things didn’t turn out as we had planned, but I want you to be happy. You remember the coffee shop? We will go back there and plan again. It was such a wonderful time that we had there and I am sure we can get back together if we start with a cup of coffee”, Ayush was holding Riya’s hand. He was desperate to get back his ever smiling and chirping Riya.

Coffee was no more there. Their grip on each other hands tightened as tears rolled down Riya’s cheeks. It was 7:30 in the evening, their date time and no where to go.

Two Years Later – Srini & Vidya

Life could not have been better. Business was growing. Coffee shop was soon the most famous joint in the locality. Management opened up new joints across Bangalore. Srini was promoted to Shop manager and Vidya was single-handedly responsible for bakery. She was using her baking expertise to experiment new items which were savored by all their customers.

An year later, Vidya conceived and their happiness had no bounds. Their dreams & love grew along with their baby in Vidya’s womb. Life however had some other plans for them. Vidya was in her last trimester when pandemic hit the world. Vidya developed some symptoms and was quarantined after a positive test. Being pregnant complicated the case. A month later, Vidya came out of the quarantine ward with an empty womb. Their baby had not survived. That night Srini & Vidya cried together. Srini had taken off from work to be with Vidya. More than a month later, when they returned to their small world of coffee shop, they could not believe what they saw. Their second home, was in an unrecognizable state, faded, pale, just like their lives.

Vidya almost collapsed in Srini’s arms. He made her sit on the stairs while they saw the furniture being removed from the shop.  They sat for hours until it was dark, holding onto each other, not speaking a word. Vidya finally stood up on her feet and let her hand out for Srini.

“Let’s go home Srini, its 7:30”, Vidya gave a slight jerk on Srini’s shoulder and he took her hand.

 

I am taking the liberty of leaving the two stories midway. Being an ever optimistic and positive person, I will always have a happy ending or rather beginning for Riya-Ayush & Srini-Vidya. However I leave it to my readers to decide how they want these two stories to unfold. Though its a work of fiction, “The Coffee Shop” was for real and I saw that lively place coming down in front of my eyes.  When I drove past my favorite coffee shop a few days ago, it made my heart ache at the sight of it. I wonder what happened to its employees. This pandemic has shattered many dreams and lives. Many plans were probably chalked out over a cup of coffee in that shop. Some might have materialized and some not. Makes me realize that, love is binary. It either gives you a high or a low. How high we fly in happiness and how low we stoop in grief is our choice.

 

Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/250935010457364852/

The art of doing the dishes

I was probably in class 8th, when I watched one of my first “non-Bollywood” movie. Can’t particularly remember the movie title but a dialogue caught my attention, “why does she run away to play when its her turn to do the dishes”. A complaining dialogue delivered from a elder sister for her younger one who was always escaping the task of “doing the dishes”.

I had just started picking up English phrases back then and “doing the dishes” was something which sounded very sophisticated to me, even though I was quite aware of what the task was all about. In crude household language, its “bartan dhona”. Now, even I want to run away!

This is one task, that lives with us until we live. As long as we feel hungry and fill our tummies with food & not air, we will have to do the dishes. When I was growing up, this task was outsourced to our household help, like in most Indian households. So I got a taste of it only when I moved in with my friends in a flat. Soon, we realized that going out for dinner was a better option than to cook and “do the dishes” later.

Then marriage happened.

Hubby and I had a great understanding since beginning, I would mop and he would “do the dishes”. Once in a while we tried doing the dishes together and believe me, how much ever romantic it sounds, it was NOT! Sadly, by then, Ms. Kaif, had not released her dish cleaning video. Its truly an art to get that sparkling white foam in your sink which is full of dirty dishes! Kudos to her.

I am sure, you are now thinking, has Saumya lost her mind? Nope, I am completely fine, I am just speaking your mind right now 🙂 Am I not?

Well, some of those fitness freaks will lash out at me now, “its healthy”, “its a great workout for hands”. And I already hear some of you smirking at me, “girls these days, shy away from basic household chores”! Sorry to disappoint you, I am one of those girls who do not find joy in “doing the dishes”. That’s why I got a dishwasher for myself. Yes, I preferred investing my money in a dishwasher rather than in iPhone. Moreover, being an employee of Bosch I was getting a handsome discount which was convincing enough for my family. (I am not with Bosch now, so it would not be of help contacting me for discount ;))

“Dishwasher! Such a waste of money. If you have to rinse every thing before keeping in the dishwasher, then might as well wash them. Such a mammoth task to keep every utensil in the dishwasher and take it out, who will do it? Its not hygienic. Uses so much water & electricity. Needs special plumbing, such a pain”, I have heard all of these from someone or the other. But I will still vote and vouch for investing money in a dishwasher.

Lets break some myths here:

  1. Its hygienic. Dishes go through multiple cleaning & rinsing cycles and come out sparkling clean and dry.
  2. Uses water & electricity. Yes, but much less than a running tap. You could choose a brand & model and will know exactly how much electricity it consumes.
  3. Dishes need to be rinsed before stacking up in dishwasher. Yes, its a good practice to remove left over food. However its not a necessary step. I would rather suggest to not leave any food in your plate and then you are saved from this task as well.
  4. Dishes go bad. Definitely NO! I am telling from my experience.
  5. It needs extra plumbing. NO!, all you need is a water inlet and outlet, same as a washing machine and space enough to have a dishwasher installed. Its ideal to have it below your kitchen slab, but I have installed it in kitchen utility due to lack of space. And there was no extra plumbing required.

When not to buy a dishwasher (I am being sarcastic here)

  1. If you are a DIY enthusiast and do not like the job done by anyone else but you (or your household help).
  2. If you and your family consider the task of rinsing your own dishes as dirty and “not my” job.
  3. If you will have to hire a maid to load and unload the dishwasher
  4. If you think that having a household help is way too cool than installing a dishwasher
  5. If you have never picked up your plate by your own and kept it in the sink

When to buy a dishwasher – if you are none of the above & frustrated enough to think that “doing the dishes” is not a great job after all. Also if you can teach yourself to not be one of the above, then also you qualify to be a proud dishwasher owner.

Now comes the golden question, Why am I suddenly giving so much lecture about dishwasher?

No, I am not promoting any brand here.

I recently read an article that due to COVID situation, many Indian couples are opting to buy a dishwasher. Smart move, I must say. However, when I read comments on that article, I was flabbergasted. The worst comment was, “These foreign things like dishwasher are not for us, I help my wife in cleaning”. My reaction was, “Oh my god, really? Foreign things? You would happily make a Tik-tok video but a technology that makes your life easier is tagged as foreign?”

That’s when I decided to write this blog. Firstly, I am a proud & happy user of a dish washing technology. Secondly, I believe that we have spend a lot of money in phones and cars and its high time to be smart at household chores as well. Its good, if you help your wife in doing the dishes, but it would be a greater help to strike off this task from her & your list.

Yes, dishwashers are costly, but its an investment similar to a washing machine, for years, just chose the right brand and model.

I also want to clarify that I am not demeaning any task here, every household chore is important. However, today we have technology to help us with some of those tasks and many a times, we ignore it. Whether one can afford a technology is definitely a valid point and I guess I am not forcing anyone here. We readily buy air conditioners, 56″ LED TVs, projectors, tablets, phones, cars, which just makes our lives fancier, but when it comes buy something which makes our life easier, then we shy away. Why?

I am also not being a non-feminist here and suggesting to men to buy a dishwasher instead of helping your wife. I am just saying that outsource this task to technology if possible and support your wife and family in other tasks. For sure, as we all know, “ghar ke kaam kabhi khatam nahi hote” (household chores are never ending).

Think about it, do your research on dishwashers, check your budget, and then if you are convinced, go for it. And in case you still have questions, you can leave a comment and I will try to answer (even though I am no dishwasher expert, but I can share my experience).

Happy “doing the dishes” 🙂

 

 

Nainital…Since…

I wrapped myself in my warm maroon stole, slipped into my sneakers and called out, “Mamma, I am going for a walk, will be back soon”. As I opened the door of our two bedroom suite, a gush of cool air welcomed me! I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, as wind made way through my loose hair, making them dance along. I turned to close the door behind me and quickly checked that my son was still sound asleep.

Walking slowly, watching my step though the hotel pathway which was filled with gravel, making sure I do not touch any of the sleeping marigold flowers planted across the pathway, I hit the mall road. Pausing for a second, deciding which way to go, I turned to my left. It was 10 in the night and most of the shops were closed, not many cars were there on the road. With a few couples walking hand in hand and a few lone wanderers like me, it was as peaceful as the twinkling lake ahead. Crossing the road, I found a staircase to walk down to the entrance road to Nainital and soon found a bench close enough to be near the water. Cool breeze made me hug myself a little tighter as I sat on the bench, watching moonlight playing games Naini waters. They were like two lovers, reaching out to each other, planting a casual kiss and then running away. I smiled at the merry thought that had crossed my mind, its not always that you are so much at peace, to look at waters & moonlight as lovers. Just then when I was lost in my own reverie of thoughts, I noticed a young man taking his seat on the other side of the bench. We looked at each other, smiled, but did not exchange any words. I guess he was also on soul searching spree like me. Such has been the power of Nainital on me and probably on many others.

I must confess, that it has not been same since childhood though. Nainital of childhood was more about fun and frolic. Every summer vacation, would embark with planning for Nani house and waiting to hear those words from mummy & papa “Nainital chalte hain”. The excitement used to be enormous, from packing the picnic basket, to reminding papa, “we will have to stop in the jungle first and then we will have buttas (corn) as we hit the hills and lunch at Hanuman gadi”. The plan remained same, year after year but excitement never diminished!

On the way to Nainital, there was a Poplar tree plantation (sadly not there anymore), which we used call as “jungle” and was our first stop. All the kids, used to run into the jungle making ghostly sounds and collecting dried leaves. And then the wait for first sight hills would start. The sleepy bones would be woken up by chanting of “vo dekho pahaad” (Look, there, we can see the hills) and cheerful conversations would strike off. The yummy flavor of corn being barbecued on coal obviously led to another halt and savoring of corns sprinkled with lemon juice and salt. Not more than hour later, we would hit the bifurcation of Hanuman gadi and Nanital and everyone would start arguing whether to make a stopover or not. Kids being in favor and elders keeping time that we would loose out on our fun time in Nainital. Hanuman Gadi is a serene temple place of Lorn Hanuman and shelter to hundreds of monkeys, for us it was fun to see so many monkeys trying to snatch eatables from our hands.

After a quick stopover at Hanuman gadi, the destination awaited us, Nainital, the valley that encloses one of the more beautiful natural lake. I recall that during the numerous trips to Nainital, during summer and snow, this place has offered me something new every time. Experiences have been vast and enriching, from feeding the ducks and fishes in the lake, watching cricket matches in flat area, shopping in the bhutani market, my favorite candle shop, Naina devi temple, ropeway to snowview, building up a story of “Universal hotel” in a dark snowy night with no power in the hotel and waking up to the sight of white snowspread covering the entire lake city, fun with cousins and childhood friends, that cold coffee with icecream on a freezing winter night, pink of cotton candy, sweet tanginess of blueberries, love of strawberries, spice of chowmein, drying up my drenched bellies in front of restaurant fireplace, sailing in a shikara, a sip hot coffee from hotel garden, overlooking mall road and Naini lake, rickshaw ride from tallital to mallital, a lone walk on the mall road, I guess my heart can just go on!

 

 

 

On the contrary, I can also say that Nainital has seen all phases of my life, as a toddler, a happy school going kid, a rebellious teen, sweet 16, as a couple, a mother and as an individual, giving me whatever I came seeking for.

As a travel enthusiast I believe that until you see a place in the day and in the night, the visit is incomplete, and this valley town, is a perfect blend of both. This city buzzes with activity during the day and is as serene and peaceful in the night. Reflecting at my connection with this valley town on that bench, in that cold breezy night, I finally figured out what I had been looking for, and what my heart was searching for so long. In that split second, my thoughts were clear like crystal and my mind was as calm as the waters.

It was time to say “until next time” to my wanderer friend and the bench. I started walking uphill to my hotel. Before calling it a day, I took out my phone to capture the moment. The moment when the stars twinkled in the waters of Naini lake, and as your eyes traverse the path up the hills, all you can see and feel is the void of night skies.(sigh). Beauty of this place is unsurpassable! Will it ever be possible that I don’t get mesmerized?

Mandatory details:

How to reach Nainital: Bus or train until Kathgodam which is 34 km away from Nainital

Stay: From budget hotels to luxury stays, Nainital offers you the accommodation that you are looking for. Do make a prior booking if you are visiting in peak season

Best time to visit: Nainital is a year round destination, however, for soul searchers like me, off season (Feb to 15th May and July to September) is the best time to visit. May & June are best times, if you are in for lots of activities, shopping and games.

Places to see and things to do: Its all up there in the blog

Recommended duration of stay: 1 night & 2 days. If you are in for a relaxed holiday, then make it 3 nights and 4 days and drive around to Kaichi temple, Almora, & Golu Devta temple & Bhimtal.

Some official references:

Nainital

Let us go back to School!

One more week to go, and hopefully we will have our normal lives back. Isolation and social distancing is being called the “new normal” by most of us. Drastic changes happened in our lives in last few weeks, no household help, no eating out at restaurants, realization that there is nothing better than home cooked food, benefits of personal hygiene, an increased respect for natural resources and off-course digital socializing.

First few days of social distancing were extremely difficult for everyone, because we had to go back to school. Or shall I say that lock-down reminded us that, how our life was, just a few years back. Back when, there was no metropolitan culture. I believe that Indians have coped up well in this period and will continue to do so.

Ever thought that why we (Indians) adapted to isolated lifestyle without much jitters?

Because our culture, irrespective of religion, is very scientific and close to nature. It has always propagated “social distancing” as the normal way of living. However, in past few years, we have been influenced so much by others that we are slightly detached from “our way of living”.

Many of us have come far from home and our roots, but our up-bringing still made it easy for us to go back to basics without much fuss. I can relate this “new normal” so much to my childhood, which as a matter of fact was quite normal for me. So what exactly has been “Indian way of living”?

I grew up in a small town, and do not remember eating out at restaurants at all, because there were none. Home cooked was the norm. Home cooking was looked upon with pride and it was usual affair in all households. Current situation for most of us is no different, we still survive on home cooked food, just that some of us have employed cooks and on their off days, we eat out or order food. However, since home cooked food was regarded so much, it wasn’t so difficult to let go off casual dinner at restaurants during lock-down. It also gave many of us a chance to experiment in kitchen and find out our hidden talents. Some our so called “Indian habits” like packing our food to work, carrying water bottles with us during travel, are so scientific. It not only keeps us away from infections but also saves natural resources.

Since cooking has been in our “blood”, so is maintaining hygiene while preparing food. As a kid, I used to sometimes help my mom in the kitchen and first thing she used to tell me was to was my hands, even before touching anything in the kitchen. I believe this is the case in most Indian households. The habit of washing hands is now ingrained in my mind and getting passed to my son as well. Since Indian food tastes best only when eaten by hands, so washing hands before and after food has also been a practice. When lock-down happened, it wasn’t a new thing for Indians to wash hands. Neither was washing vegetables thoroughly a challenge, its what we have always been doing. Indians are not much into frozen food and cooking from raw materials always involved cleansing the veggies as first step.

Another habit that lock-down best practices highlighted was to remove our footwear outside, wash our hands, face, legs before touching anything at home. This has also been in practice in Indian households. Even in Indian villages, its mandatory to remove footwear outside, and do a basic sanitization of self before entering the house. So this wasn’t new either.

Now comes the toughest part, social distancing. Yes, this has been difficult, specially for generation X, Y Z and beyond. Because here we have come a long way from our roots. Gesture of “Namaste” or “Aadab” doesn’t exist any more, may be only when we are visiting some elders. Otherwise, its all about a firm handshake at work, and hugs with friends. If we introspect, how logical and respectful these gestures were, it not only kept us away from “man-to-man” infections, but also brought in a feeling of respect to the greeted one, since both gestures require us to slightly bow our head. Which means “respect”. And handshake, is about being bold, confident, and obviously passing on the infections. So shall we get back to basics? There is no harm in that, when entire world is accepting the Indian way of greeting, all Indians have to do is to take a few steps back.

Shopping mall and multiplex movies culture was never an Indian culture and is probably just 10 years old. And with Netflix, Amazon Prime, digital media and online shopping, it was easy to let go off. And believe me, most of the metropolitan population is already tired of window shopping and spending a bomb for eating popcorn during a movie. We are a homely race, and staying at home close to our family and loved once is not new for us. Most of us, felt that we lacked quality time with our family and this lock-down came as a much needed break.

And last but not the least, Indians are extremely adaptable. We adapt for our parents, friends, spouse, children and everyone around us, to have a peaceful life. And that quality in us, made us adapt to the restricted environment during Covid crisis. When lock-down was imposed on us, we didn’t worry about haircut, or lost freedom, we didn’t protest, because we knew it was important, for our survival. We did crib and cry about the increased workload at home, but managed eventually. We know that right to freedom can be exercised only if we live. Isn’t is true?

So do you think it really is a lock-down? Or we have just been sent back to school? Retrospect and introspect, find your own answer, find your own way of living, find your own classroom, color your board white, black or green, just keep India alive in it.

It is yet to be seen that how slow or fast life will return to “normal” from “new normal”, but I am convinced that if we Indians continue to respect and follow even 1% of our culture and traditions, irrespective of our religion, we will be successful in defeating Corona or any virus for that matter.

 

Piggy Bank

I was hesitantly looking at him. Our eyes met for a fleeting moment and he hurriedly turned to the other side. It was not easy for him. I could not muster the courage to open the door and go out. I felt frozen on my car seat.

It was not the first time that I was seeing him. Only a month back, I had bought tender coconuts from him, he was happily selling his stock to his dedicated customers. Today was different, a person, who used to earn his living with pride, was forced to sit on pedestrian path and eat from a packet, given to him by someone. And there I was, stealing his privacy, and making him feel small and awkward of his own desperate condition.

I gathered all my strength and opened the car door, after all, grocery had to be bought. So I stood in the queue and waited for my turn, to enter the store. My mind was still focused on the frail, old man, eating idli with chutney from that foil packet. I wanted to help him, I thought for a while if I could cook for him and bring him food everyday, it wasn’t far from home. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to commit, will I be able to do it everyday? Queue moved on and so did my thoughts. Once I entered the store, I put everything on my list in my cart. Once, mandatory items were safely placed in the cart, I moved on to scan the shelves in case I found something interesting. I had sometime to hone my culinary skills during the lock-down period, so I picked some baking items, butter, biscuits etc. Suddenly I saw a packet of Burger Buns and remembered that my little champ had recently wanted to eat burger. Happy to have found something to surprise my little one, I picked up a packet and moved towards the billing counter.

How surprising human nature is, we tend to forget the moments of sadness and awkwardness so soon, if it does not affect our life directly. Only a few minutes back, I was so worried about the old coconut vendor and at this moment, I had totally forgotten about him and made plans of making burger.

Holding filled bags of food items in both my hands, I moved towards my car, to find the old man, sitting exactly where I had left him. Just that, he was now holding his hands like a beggar asking for something to eat. That sight broke me.

He wasn’t a beggar. He was a hard working man, who earnestly did his job, everyday, in sun and in rain. Now forced to beg for food, for each meal of his day. I couldn’t handle the situation well and frantically searched in my shopping bag. Taking out the burger buns packet and butter, I handed them over to the old man. His eyes shone, he had managed to arrange for his dinner, for one more day.

I drove off.

Its been a week of this encounter of mine. I knew I would write about it, but I did not want to put it on paper as a story with lose ends. So I kept thinking, about the coconut vendor and “daily wagers” like him. How has this lock-down affected them?

And while explaining about the situation to my son, I realized what message I wanted to give with this blog.

So I was telling my son, who “daily wagers” are? I started with a funny story about how my dad used to call himself a daily wager. Yes, he is. He is a doctor who has to be in his clinic, day in and day out to earn his living every day. He has no fixed salary or corporate benefits. However, his skill and education taught him to save for unforeseen circumstances. So we can say that he is a well prepared, future secured daily wager. Then I moved on to tell my son about the old coconut vendor and how due to his meager income and lack of savings, he was forced to beg for food.

During this insight session to my son, I figured, three aspects of a “daily wager’s” life are most impacted due to this pandemic situation:

  1. No work, No earning – whether a daily wager is earning by selling, or by working for others, his/her source of income stopped COMPLETELY. Household helps are willing to risk their lives and come to work, to ensure they get their monthly salary. Because no income means sleeping with a empty stomach.
  2. Shattered self esteem – being able to earn and feed for oneself is the biggest satisfaction for a human being. Government and people have ensured to feed the needy, but what about their pride? Its shattered. They probably haven’t gone form riches to rags but Corona has managed to kill their self esteem!
  3. Dangling future – even if the lock-down ends soon, future of daily wagers will remain at risk. Why? Their income depends on the businesses like construction in real estate, spending power of people like us and resuming of other businesses. Even though Corona dies down, it will leave an impact on how businesses are run and directly impact the future of daily wagers. Will they still get the same jobs back or make the same amount of money? This is yet to be seen.

So how can we help?Kudos to those who are already providing meals to people like the old coconut vendor. But is that going to be enough?

My maid called me two days back, requesting me to allow her to come back to work. I was shocked and strictly told her to not come come until the lock-down period. Then she said, “Didi, kaam nahi karenge to khayenge kya?” (what will we eat if we do not work?) I told that she does not have to worry about that as I am going to pay her for the entire lock-down period. She was relieved for sure but question remains, will every household where she works, pay her? I think, the least we can do is to ensure that salary of household helps are paid. So apart from food, let us also give them the security of their income.

Being educated class, working in air-conditioned, calling luxuries of life as necessities, we will have a much bigger responsibility after this pandemic ends. And its not giving work, money or food to 90% population of our country as a CSR activity, but to save for them. Yes, we are ones, who have to save for a secure future of daily wagers. Importance of saving, how much ever, small it is, need to be taught and enforced to them. Such a humongous task cannot be accomplished by the governing authorities unless people like us support and volunteer. These could be simple ways, like depositing some money of your household help’s salary in a separate account, helping them open/maintain their bank accounts, giving them advice on how they could do more with their skills and finding opportunities for them, etc. In short, we need to give daily wagers a piggy bank and ensure that they fill it.

I remember, my mom, used to keep a part of her maid’s salary every month, saying that she will give it only at year end. This simple act of saving for her maid, contributed to a corpus amount for her maid’s daughter’s marriage. The other day, I met a lady at post-office, who had forced her driver to open a post-office saving’s account. When we got talking, she said, “Its our responsibility to educate lesser privileged section of our society. It might need some effort from our side, but its a great service for our nation.”

I am re-collecting all such incidents, that I have come across and I am 100% convinced that if we collectively pledge and work to make lives better, ours and others, then lives will become better. All it needs, is a little empathy, generosity, right use of our education and sense of responsibility!

A responsible, self aware and “I got your back” population is what a nation & civilization needs to stand strong in case of testing times like these future!

Has Corona Empowered you?

I opened the plates shelf in the kitchen to pull out a clean plate to serve breakfast. I was surprised and happy to see the plates so nicely stacked in the shelf. Only a day before I had told my son how to stack the plates in the shelf. Until then, he would take the plates out from dishwasher and keep them on the slab seeking excuse that he wasn’t tall enough to reach the shelf. So I made him realize that he could become taller with the help of a stool or a chair. His eyes shone up and the thought of some mischief that he could do climbing on the chair, and as a side-effect he stacked up the plates very nicely.

I was naturally happy to see that he had remembered the trick even next day and announced to my family members, “Look, how properly, our champ has arranged the plates”. Just then my mother in law claimed, “it wasn’t him but Papa. Papa couldn’t get the clothes from the terrace as it was very hot so he took the dishes out from dishwasher”.

I was basking in the glory of my son’s effort but was soon dragged out of it. However, I realized that how empowered my entire family had become in last few days. They didn’t need to be reminded that their contribution was important and they had authority and freedom to chose what they wanted to do, just keeping in mind that the entire ecosystem worked in harmony. I am not ashamed to say that my father in law also contributes to the house hold chores, in-fact I am proud of him. He doesn’t let the usual male ego or age old believes or “Log kya kahenge” stereotypes to stop him from doing tasks for his family.

Now, you must be wondering that how does empowerment come into picture here? And don’t we always talk about women empowerment  or employee empowerment, so how is contributing to household chores fall into the category of empowerment?

It surely does. Let me explain. if you search synonyms of “Empowerment”, this is what you will find: autonomous, paddle your own canoe, at will and so on. Basically all them lead to a simple philosophy ,”sustaining on your own”. How many of us are truly capable of that? We are always dependent on others for our sustenance and dependencies cannot be completely eliminated, for example, not all of us can do farming and grow our own food. But, given a well established ecosystem, like a house and family, still we are dependent on few in the family to do our tasks. We have created our own set of rules like cleaning, mopping, washing dishes, putting clothes on drying lines, cooking and everything that makes your house livable are duties of female members. Soon, these rules got associated to beliefs and “log kya kahenge” biases. As a result, female members outsourced some of these tasks to maids and cooks because there was no use of asking the males to help. And one find day, “Corona” happened!

Now what? Some cribbed about the increased work load, some sent jokes and memes on social media, some did nothing because it was a much needed break for them while females in their house slogged and few decided to take this opportunity to empower themselves. I do not mind if those few gave “Corona” as the reason for their empowerment because reason does not matter, only the intention does. Because empowerment happens only if one wants to gain the power, because with power comes responsibility. That’s another reason that most of the times, we do not show the willingness to learn a task, because we are afraid that if we learn, then it will be stuck with us forever.

We have been watching “Ramayan” lately and though until now, I couldn’t agree to some beliefs shown in the epic, this time, I am watching it with more maturity and acceptance. In early life of Ram, the Gurukul phase is shown where all students are bound to learn and do all the tasks, irrespective of their family background. Ram and his brothers, are seen doing all worldly tasks. Sadly we conveniently ignored this part of the great epic, but remembered how women are supposed to pray their husbands as GOD. Anyways, lets not get into this debate.

Coming back to the story of my household. Much before the lock-down started, my mother in law and I contemplated to give paid leave to our maid and cook as both looked genuinely scared to come for work. It was our duty to keep them safe as they used public transport and had a family of their own. I was in dilemma, with work from home keeping me on calls all the time, I was not sure how much I would be able to contribute towards other chores. So we agreed on distribution of work among-st five family members. Its been 3 weeks of work from home now and our boat has been sailing smoothly. Everyone is well aware of what they have to do, we have chosen our own timing of completion our tasks, all of us are playing our part diligently, if for some reason one person is not able to do his part, other one pitches in. Their is a smile on everyone’s face, a feeling of pride that we are self sufficient, generous, grateful for our blessings and most importantly, we feel Empowered.

I am well aware of the fact that we will relapse to our usual dependent living on maids and cooks, after Corona. Still we decided to utilize this time to break biases, forget about the jokes people will crack on us, find our own capabilities and stand by each other. I proudly send pics of “us” doing household chores to my family groups, some laugh, some praise, and some probably feel bad about it. It does not affect me, because even if one person gets inspired and gets up to help, seeing those pics, my job is done. And if nobody gets inspired, then also, MY job is done 😉

This week, my son taught me a very important lesson using his fidget spinner (check out the video on my LinkedIn page), that empowerment does not need forming a strategy or brainstorming, all you need is a touch and energy itself takes care of flowing to the touched person.

Ironically, Corona does the same, just that its power brings in negativity in life.

Now its on us to decide that how do we want Corona to empower us and our dear ones.

 

Image Courtesy: https://www.proactiveinvestors.com/companies/news/179261/fidget-spinner…

No Strings Attached (The Bond) – Part 2

Part 1 – http://thoughtschef.com/2020/02/17/no-strings-attached-part-1/

Mohit had first interacted with Rachel six months back when they were both assigned to work on a project. He was supposed to head the India market while she would be his counterpart from the US. They had instantly hit a great working relationship. With in a few calls, Mohit had realized, how diligent Rachel was towards her work. He had started respecting her.

He would often talk about his work and Rachel to his wife Samaira.
Samaira and Mohit were happily married for 2 years, though it wasn’t a love marriage, but Mohit being a born romantic always tried to surprise Samaira with his subtle ways. Samaira on the other hand was a very practical girl. She was always focused on a better life. And Mohit felt that the bond was missing, that even after 2 years, Samaira was holding herself back, that she didn’t love him.
The feeling nagged him all the time.
He constantly thought about how to win over her heart.

Project pressure was also increasing by the day and he interacted with Rachel on hourly basis now. They were always on call about work and during some light moments they would share jokes or even flirt with each other. Rachel once made a statement that she was spending more time with him rather than with her husband Pete.

After 6 months of practically talking to each other for hours, Rachel’s trip to India was planned. Mohit had his own plans for Rachel. But she is a smart women. It won’t be easy and he also had a guilt. She trusted him, was he doing right? But he needed to do it for himself.

After 2 glasses of wine, he felt relaxed and ready and so he asked her! She was intrigued. Exactly the reaction he had planned for. After another glass he had the next four evenings planned.

Next 4 days, he took care of Rachel, he loved her, bought flowers for her, took her for shopping, dinner to Indian restaurants. He opened his heart out to her. He told her about his childhood memories, good and bad. Heard her talk about her life, her dreams. He made her feel special, important.

After dinner on Friday night, he asked her if she was able to make up her mind and she said “you are 4 years late”. That meant an uncertain yes, but he wanted a definitive yes.

Later in the night when he dropped her at the hotel, he gave her a hug, a warm hug. And he knew he had succeeded. Rachel held him, she didn’t want to let go, she wanted more. At that moment, when they were so close yet so far, he knew, she meant “yes”. He moved away delicately.

They waited for a while in silence and then she went inside the hotel and he drove back home.

When the plane landed, and Rachel turned off the airplane mode, all she wanted was to see his reply. Her phone kept beeping, so many texts, from Pete, from her mom, finally she found what she was looking for, “4 days were enough, thanks Rachel”.

He saw the blue line, she had read it, he hugged Samaria and looked into her eyes. He was happy with himself, he could still make a woman fall for him. Some day, Samaira will also love him.

Note: If you liked the story and want more from it, then do leave a comment 🙂

No Strings Attached – Part 1

They sat next to each other on the corner table. Restaurant was surprisingly packed with diners for a Monday evening. Rock music was playing they could barely hear each other. It had been a long day at work and they were still discussing about the work they we’re supposed to handle together in the coming months or years if it lasted that long.
She was visiting India for the first time and apart from work, she also wanted to explore the city. Food being at the top of her list.
“Can you suggest some good eating joints near my hotel where I can try out some Indian delicacies?” She asked him.

“If you are ok with spicy food then you could try the Rajasthan special thali” he suggested.
Discussion went on about different Indian cuisines and she was amazed that how much one can do with a set of spices to add flavours in food. She couldn’t wait to try out all the possible flavours in next 5 days.
Conversation slowly drifted towards life in India and US and she realized that he was not only an intelligent coworker but also a very interesting person. She wanted to know more about him.
As if he read her mind, he asked “are you happy in your life?”
“What’s your definition of happiness? And in what context are you asking? Work? Life?” She found herself more an more comfortable talking to him.
Or was it wine playing tricks. She already had a jet lag.
“I meant in life, in marriage?” It wasnt a secret that she was married.
“Yes I am, off course there is lesser couple time now, but we have built a life together and so far I haven’t met anyone whom I could love more than him” she meant it.

“That may be because you haven’t spent as much time with anyone else” he gave her an expectant look.
“I spent 8 hours with you today and we are still together for another 2 hours I guess” she laughed and poured herself another glass of wine.
“Hmm…that’s not spending time. What do think about me?” He was being direct.
She kept looking at him, he couldn’t be serious. She was unable to judge his intentions. She was good at reading people, it was difficult to disguise your real self from her. But today she was at loss. She was intrigued by him.
“What should I think about you?” She was getting confused.
But he was not to be budged, “could you love me more than him?”
There it was, out in open. She had not expected this. The dinner was taking another course, in an unknown territory. She was used to casual workplace flirting but this was different. Was she willing to give an answer to his question, was she even aware of the answer?
“I will need more dates with you to be able to answer your question” she said as a matter of fact, hoping that he would end it there.
“Done! We have 4 more dates, starting from tomorrow evening” his eyes were gleaming.
He had planned it very smartly. And she had fallen for it.
Did she mind being duped? “No” !

Friday evening, when he paid for dinner, he asked, “so were you able to make up your mind?”
She smiled and said, “you are 4 years late”.
“I am ok to give you 4 years then” he grinned.

In her comfortable business class seat, sipping the sparkling wine, she sent a text, “4 years won’t be enough” and set the airplane mode on.

To be continued…..

Why is work life balance Not a Leadership principle in Indian Corporates?

Now, you might be thinking that why is she writing about leadership and related topics all the time? I have been reading a lot about some great leaders and also trying to decipher the leadership code by talking to colleagues, friends and people whom I consider leaders in their respective field of work. I have been bitten by leadership bug, not that I am trying to transform myself into a leader, but only my curiosity to understand this whole “hullabaloo” about leadership.

Wrong choice of word? Yes, I call it hullabaloo (fuss) for various reasons which I will probably explain in my next blog. Today’s blog is dedicated to a very keen observation that I have had over the years, working in Indian Software Industry.

A few disclaimers: This blog is not targeting anyone or any policy of any organization.

It was valentines day (Yes! yesterday). I wanted to leave early (read “on time”) from office. I had no plans for valentines day, but my car-pooling gang was waiting for me because I had told them that I would be able to leave early in the evening. Its a pain to get a cab in Bangalore during traffic hours and I didn’t want them to go through it.

As soon as I expressed my desire to leave early, a comment popup up, “Yes, we know its valentines day”. And we all laughed out loud. I didn’t try to clarify about my urgency to leave, neither was I asked. Anyhow….because we were done with other work, AND because of my repetitive reminders, I left almost on time.

However, another colleague (a male colleague) also packed his laptop with me, and got up to leave and immediately he got all the attention….”Hey man, where is the valentines day date”, followed by a roar of laughter (from me and others).

This incident for sure was a joke for everyone and it should be considered as harmless office humor. However, its also true, that personal life and choices are least valued in Indian corporate houses. I must also emphasize on the fact that men have more impact on their personal lives due to missing work-life balance because they have no right to leave early (on time). Women are excused mostly because “they have to cook” (pun intended). Men, sadly, have to compensate for their female colleagues who have to leave office “on-time” due to household duties.

Anyways, the whole idea of putting this incident on paper was to trigger a few thoughts:

  1. Why are our leaders not bothered or let’s say, do not respect their and our day-to-day work life balance?
  2. Why is finishing your work and leaving ON-TIME not valued?
  3. Why is staying late, beyond working hours, considered more competent and flexible?
  4. Why is a college graduate told during his/her induction to project, “This is the time you can learn, so don’t look at your watch or days, just stretch, work and learn”
  5. Why?

In this blog, I discuss some of these questions and I write mostly for my male colleagues, because again, “women have to cook”.

During my starting years of work life, when I was not married, I used to finish my work, including learning and implementation, with in my working hours. I was never addicted to tea/coffee/smoke and so, breaks were short, mostly water or washroom breaks. However I used to stay back for aerobics classes in office which was my stress buster and also my way of staying fit.

Once in a while I got to hear comments like, “Generation these days is not interested in learning, its a just 6 PM and floor is empty”. And I wondered, what kind of examples our managers wanted to set? I felt that an employee like me, would never be good enough because I left at 6 PM, I wanted to stay fit, I wanted to pursue a hobby, I wanted to be idle for sometime of the day.

It is sad, that Mr. Narayan Murthy’s beautiful message about “not staying late” in office has made several rounds on social media over the years, and still died without much impact on the working culture.

Moving on to middle years of my career, I got married and realized that aerobics had to be replaced with workout in society gym because time spent with my husband was important to build a strong foundation of our married life. So my 6 PM schedule remained.

But that does not mean that I was not flexible when there was an urgent release. I have worked late nights when I had WORK to do. I have learnt something new until whee hours of morning because learning is important, because I felt responsible for my work, not because someone was keeping a count of my “online” hours.

And now, when I have a kid, I still try to maintain the same routine, because, future of my child, and an entire generation depends on me. My duty is not only towards my work, but also towards the lives that define my existence and whose existence is dependent on me.

This was my story (so far) in short.  On the contrary, many male colleagues of mine gave up their personal life very soon, because they thought that working late and ignoring hobbies/friends/family was the key to success. For sure, their Linked In profiles prove, that they were right. However, I wonder, what kind of leaders would they be now? Probably, replicas of their own managers, wanting their team to stay late, ignoring their families?

A few days back, I had a chance to chat with a senior manager of a firm and he mentioned that, “It is so difficult to find employees with right attitude these days”. I can’t agree more with him, because over the years, WE have ruined the attitude, WE have created an impression to our next generations that dedication is not valued. Who is to be blamed?

Ironically, when we travel to other parts of the world and observe that how much “work-life balance” is valued there, we boost about it. In Germany, when an employee says, “I have to attend my daughter’s annual day”, he is encouraged to leave early because people there are aware of the fact that “happy moms/dads make happy employees”.  However in India, when an employee says, “I plan to leave a little early today, because my son has a rock music concert”, he is given a “don’t even think about it” look. How can we then expect our employees to not think of their jobs as “9 to 5 jobs”?

The other day, talk on the lunch table was about being a fit leader and how one might loose out on his progression due to fitness issues. The only thought that came to my mind was that, until 10-15 years of work life, everyone talks about working late, stretching at work and then everyone wants fit team members and leaders. Its similar to giving chocolates to a person until he turns diabetic and then asking him to give up on sweets.

Basically, I see the entire system collapsing, and any amount of perks and HR initiatives will not help our industry, unless WE re-define our leadership principles. Passion will be seen at work, only if a happy and content life exists, outside office premises.

So what shall we do? I thought of some simple ToDo list to start with:

  1. Reduce number of meetings, specially non-conclusive meetings. DO NOT name, unnecessarily long meetings as “Brainstorming sessions”
  2. Stop presentations. Microsoft power point is indeed a great tool, but do we really need a slide for everything that we have to convey?
  3. If you want to smoke, then smoke alone. Meetings over smoke sessions not only kill time but also people. Do you remember that passive smoking is more injurious to health?
  4. Keep the work bays lively and vibrant, not the coffee areas. A simple coffee maker & water dispenser would do.
  5. Learning is not an after office task. Plan tasks to include time for learning and innovation.
  6. Remember that we are human beings, the most intelligent life form on earth and not donkeys (bad use of words, can’t help it)
  7. Understand and follow that nothing (apart from nation) is more important than family.
  8. A bug not resolved today will be resolved tomorrow because it was created by you (I copied this line from a colleague)
  9. Trust (DOT)
  10. Valentine’s day is the day of love. Celebrate it and spread some love (I couldn’t help putting this one at the end :D)

And to sum it all, I will say, office is our second home, and let it not overshadow our first home.

I found the post from Mr. Narayan Murthy which is so apt, only if we could follow it.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/message-from-mr-narayan-murthy-all-infosys-employees-satish-babu

 

Image Source: https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-work-life-balance-image18087828

 

Leader or Ladder?

4 years back, I was travelling to Germany for an assignment. Lufthansa terminal was bustling with activity. I could see that a lot of Indian professionals were taking the same flight to Frankfurt.

I found myself a chair and took out my novel to read. It has always been a habit to read a book while travelling. There were two men sitting behind me, their back facing mine. I could clearly hear their conversation which went like this…

“Raman, are you also booked in Holiday Inn?” asked one of the guys in an authoritative tone.

“Yes, I am in 501”, Raman answered.

“Good, then as soon as we reach, lets review the presentation. I don’t like how the content is all scattered right now. I have some ideas in mind on how I would like to present this topic, lets align the presentation exactly to my thoughts”, said the authoritative guy.

“Sure”, Raman replied and discussion ended there.

I was surprised, it was one sided conversation, where in, Raman was just told to do something and he agreed. I wondered how experienced Raman was, may be he was just out from college and was not as experienced about business presentations as his “bossy” colleague.

Anyhow, boarding announcement happened soon.

As I got up, and turned to pick up my bag, my eyes met Raman and I tried to give him a reassuring smile and he reciprocated in the same way. After boarding, I realized that we were neighbors. “Its going to be interesting”, I thought to myself.

It took a while for the plane to take off and after settling in my seat, I took out my book to continue reading. Raman took out his laptop. I didn’t mean to pry but my curiosity got over me and I asked him, “Looks like you are going for a very important presentation, I heard the other guy talking to you at the terminal. Don’t you want to get some sleep? I guess you have to work as soon as you land in Frankfurt!”

“Yeah, that was my boss. It’s very difficult to please him, that’s why I want to work on the presentation and complete it before we land”, he just said, clearly in awe with his boss.

“Please him? I don’t think you were trying to please him. And anyways he is going to change your presentation as per his ideas, so why are you so worried about completing it?” I knew it was not a very professional comment but I was clearly not understanding his point of view.

“No, its not about completing, but if I put in a little more thought and make it as per his idea then I will be able to prove that I can think in the same lines that he does. That’s what leaders look for, team members who their vision”, he clarified himself.

“Really? So if you are able to make this presentation similar to your boss’ idea, the idea that resides in your boss’ brain as of now, you will prove yourself worthy of this job or whatever you are travelling for? Moreover, that’s how you will gain his respect?”, I was flabbergasted.

“That’s how it works in our organization”, he said as a matter of fact.

“Ah, and we talk about creativity, innovation, empowerment and leadership”, I muttered to myself.

This incident was one of the many that I decided to pen down today, which have got me thinking about corporate leadership. I write from Raman’s perspective. His boss was absolutely right about delivering a great presentation, because that was his job, to get business for his organization. However, was his behavior towards Raman justified? Was it expected from a true leader? I would have respected Raman’s boss, if he had given Raman an insight into his idea and then discussed about it, instead of giving an order and putting Raman into a self-doubt mode.

In my opinion, a leader is not someone who is given that title officially. A leader, according to me, is a person, whom we observe, interact, work with, are inspired by his/her actions not because, he/she holds the position of “more” power than us, but because his actions make us believe in his/her vision.

Great leaders, that I had a chance to work with, had one trait in common, “Humility”. They were all so modest about their knowledge and achievements. Over a period of time, I realized that this very trait helped them expand their knowledge base and achieve the most difficult targets. In none of the discussions, they ever projected that “I am Mr. Know it all”, or say something like, “leaders have decided” because true leaders don’t say that “they decide”, even though they do. Leaders show a vision and work towards it and their team eventually starts sharing the same vision. Its not by force or fear. In presence of true leaders, I never had to “mind” my words, or keep my opinion to myself, or have a moment of “what will he think of me”, because they were humble enough to listen to me and at times also learn from me.

Many a times, humility is considered as a weak trait of leaders. Many “leaders” assume that being arrogant means portraying a confident character. However, researches and studies are now revealing that humble leaders are most sought after and also achieve their goals faster and in most satisfying manner. Humble leaders have a self realization of their strengths and weaknesses and they don’t fear to seek support to bridge the gap. True leaders are not called “boss” by their subordinates.

Bosses like Raman’s tend to believe that, as a Leader, they hold the authority and right to intimidate their team members. However they fail to understand, that intimidation can only lead to an annoyed team which doesn’t take much time to collapse.

As the title of this blog suggests, there is a subtle difference between, being a Leader and a Ladder. A leader is a lone fighter, he doesn’t need people to follow him, but nevertheless, people follow him by choice. And when a leader transforms himself into a ladder, he just becomes a path, that people needs to take, no matter what, to fulfill their own ambitions. That’s when a leader looses his identity, work becomes less important and sustaining the Leadership title becomes highest priority. Hence the aim should be to build a ladder and not be a ladder.

Many organizations are driving themselves with leadership principles these days and I fail to see “humility” in the list. My limited interaction with top leaders in some organizations, tells me that  a lot of work is still required, if organizations want to become really great, in terms of business, numbers and people.

Its high time, organizations re-form their leadership principles and ingrain “Humility” from top to bottom, so that true leaders evolve and not transform into mere ladders of short term success for people. Whether leaders fly or not, they should give wings to their followers to fly high.