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Archive for February, 2014

Thought Catalog

1. Start off the day with a full glass of water. Help clean your system of yesterday.

2. Begin your meditation habit. Today. Just five minutes of observing what kind of thoughts shoot through your brain all day. They always leave their mark…

3. Journal your experience. You may find you are being surprisingly hard on yourself. Most people are.

4. Practice mindfulness. Keep coming back to now. Remember that worrying about the future and ruminating about the past make you more miserable than you already may be and do nothing to support you. This habit may take a lifetime to break but every step in the right direction will be worthwhile. Here is a Ted talk about the basics of meditation and mindfulness.

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5. Throughout the day stop and check if you are internally (or externally…) talking to yourself as you would to someone you love…

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Abstract

The human race has come a long way in attaining its present state of evolution. From a single cell amoeba to the complex mechanism of our present-day physical bodies, one can look back at the journey so far with some reverence and pride.

But what does the future portend? What would be the salient features of the next level of our species? This article is an attempt at answering this query through the haze of our present-day myopic vision and limited capabilities.

 

As you read this, possibly with a steaming cup of coffee by your side and soothing music playing in the background, little do you realize the kind of miracle you and I represent.

One, we are both uniquely configured. As a physical body, we stand alone. As mental beings, we carry a unique set of beliefs and value systems which define our thoughts, actions and words. Our nature carries the baggage of all our habits and prejudices acquired during all our previous births, as also the ones freshly added from this one. Unknown to us, these determine the frame of reference we have in this lifetime. This in turn determines the perspective we have on whatever we encounter in life.  04

Two, we have been singularly lucky.  All our ancestors were successful in finding a soul mate and ended up furthering the process of procreation. Whether it was a random outcome of Cupid’s arrows or a decision which was governed by social norms prevailing then, we may not know. We ourselves are the veritable proof that we have appeared after a long drawn out series of successful reproductive endeavors of our ancestors.

Three, a million years back, even the most prescient of magicians could not have forecast that we would eventually evolve into a species known as Homo Sapiens. When it came to evolution, we have repeatedly enjoyed biological benevolence and good fortune. In the process, what an amazing transformation we have gone through! We were possibly the first organism to have been bombarded on earth by a meteoric shower originating from Mars. From a single cell structure, we have today become a highly sophisticated machinery which willy-nilly is aware of its own existence.

In the interim, we have undergone repeated transformations. We have never been attached to a particular type, shape, color or size for too long. We first developed a liking for oxygen. We then frolicked about in the deep oceans, before trying to rule land in various forms. We bore our way underground and climbed on trees. We took wings and enjoyed the freedom of mobility, often backed by a highly effective GPS. a1 1 (8)

We became as big as a zebra or an elephant and as small as a lizard or a rat. We attempted several hissing and slithering forms and showed exemplary flexibility in adapting to newer challenges from the environment. From bonobos and apes to Homo Sapiens has been a logical jump for us, and we know that we have indeed arrived.  

We now roam about all corners of the solar system. We keep messing up the fragile environment we have been gifted with. We have possibly come to believe that the journey of evolution is over. We think we can now rest on our laurels and remain content with inventing newer and better means to destroy ourselves.

Well, past experience does not support this line of thought. We are apparently on a journey the destination of which is still far away. The forces of nature are inexorably leading us towards further evolution, possibly into a kind of species which would be far more sophisticated and intelligent than we can presently imagine.

Sure enough, the seeds of our appearance and growth had been present amongst bonobos and other primates. Likewise, the seeds of the species to come must already be within us. More significantly, we do not have a choice but to ascend to higher planes of consciousness and physical perfection. The life force which has propelled us so far shall continue to do so in the times to come.a1 1 (13)

Let us consider this hypothesis further. What would be the salient characteristics of the next level of our species?

We might take a leap beyond logic. Intuitive powers may dominate our day-to-day living. We might become more aware of our souls and simply enjoy the bliss of pure and benign thoughts, leading to that elusive glow of inner happiness and an all-pervading joy. Our dependence on outer sources and gadgets for our happiness may see a gradual reduction, thereby freeing us from the incessant flow of our desires, as at present.

Our capacity to absorb knowledge may multiply manifold. The physical body might become much stronger and also capable of healing itself. A specialist may be able to ‘treat’ us in a distance mode and maintain our well-being. Visits to health centers may become less frequent, except in cases where organ replacements become essential.

Changes in our biological systems may come about. Our psychic powers may get more refined. May be, we shall become so evolved as to be less dependent on our sensory perceptions. We might be able to converse with each other without having to speak. We might be able to intuitively know how the other person is feeling and tailor our response and behavior accordingly. In other words, languages may start becoming extinct. a1 1 (11)

In evolving further, we are bound to face challenges. But the incessant process of evolution itself might present the solutions we shall need – not only to survive but to do even better. The struggle of the good ones amongst us to out-survive the bad ones shall continue forever. As we evolve further, the need for a spiritual outlook shall only grow. 

As the miracle unfolds in the centuries to follow, our heads shall bow in reverence to the mighty and inexorable forces of nature and nurture which continue propelling us on the highway of evolution. On our part, a focus on spiritual practices might hasten the process.

(Grateful acknowledgements are due to a spiritually evolved guide, friend and philosopher; paintings courtesy M F Hussain and Huta.)

(Published in NAMAH, the Journal of Integral Health, Vol 22, Issue 1 dated the 24th of April, 2014)

 

 

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Here is a treasure trove of movies we need to catch up on!

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Ah, Valentine’s Day: flowers, candy, gifts, overpriced dinners, and wildly outsized expectations. And we can blame the movies for most of those expectations; few genres are as unfairly fantasy-based as the romance, and as prone to send jaded viewers like us into fits of gagging. But we’re also not made of wood; there are a good number of romantic movies that get us right in the old ticker. As a matter of fact, there are about 50 of them.

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If you are a Plum fan and wish to delve deeper into the psychology of the individual, Plumtopia is the site to head to!

Plumtopia

Psmith and Eve Halliday in ‘Leave it to Psmith’

Rupert (or Ronald) Psmith was one of P. G. Wodehouse’s earliest heroes. He made his memorable first appearance in 1908 in a school story serialised in The Captain as ‘The Lost Lambs’, better known to many readers under the 1953 title ‘Mike and Psmith’.  Alongside his bosom school chum Mike Jackson, Psmith (the P is silent as in pshrimp) made a successful transition from school stories to adult fiction in two further novels – ‘Psmith in the City’ (1910) and ‘Psmith Journalist’ (1915), before his final appearance in ‘Leave it to Psmith’ (1923).

It is clear from comments in the growing Wodehouse Facebook community that my own love for this character is shared by many others, so it seems apt that when Wodehouse cast him as a romantic lead, he created Eve.

‘She was a girl of medium height, very straight…

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Come Valentine’s Day and the air is fragrant with thoughts of love, caring and compassion. The movie buffs amongst us are literally spoiled for choice. For example, we can catch up on one of the breezy romcoms, like 50 First Dates (2004, Peter Segal), Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008, A Match Made by God, Aditya Chopra), No Strings Attached (2011, Ivan Reitman) or Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013, Crazy Youth, Ayan Mukerji). Movie 50 First Dates

Or, we can delve into our personal collections and rediscover classics such as Gone With the Wind (1939, Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood), Mughal-e-Aazam (1960, K Asif, The Emporer of the Mughals), The Sound of Music (1965, Robert Wise) or Guide (1965, Vijay Anand).Guide_poster

We also have the choice of curling up on a love couch and savoring romantic escapades of the mature and ripe kind. Here are some movies which are some of my personal favorites in this category.

Doctor Zhivago

Movie Dr Zhivago

The romance between Dr Yuri Zhivago and Lara Antipov has an ageless quality about it. The underlying message appears to be that true love does not amount to a bondage; on the contrary, it means letting go. (1965, David Lean)

Anubhav and Avishkaar

Basu Bhattacharya gave us a unique insight into life of couples who are married for about seven years. The relationship has turned stale, devoid of any spark and zing.

movie anubhavAnubhav saw the arrival of a college time friend of the heroine leading to the romantic flame getting reignited. The care the heroine took of the hero when he falls sick and is confined to bed for some time also helps. (1971, Experience)

movie avishkaarAvishkaar had the couple reminiscing about their college romance, when they would meet – all decked up to impress each other – for limited hours. They realize that a 24 by 7 exposure in married life has resulted into their taking each other for granted. Romance gets rekindled. (1974, Invention)

Aandhi

Movie Aandhi

When political ambitions of a wife need to be reconciled with the need for togetherness and love, a way forward is eventually found, reuniting the couple in a rather unconventional way. (1975, Storm, Gulzar)

Ghar

movie Ghar

The rehabilitation of a victim of rape with loads of love and affection provided by a caring husband make this one unique in more ways than one. (1978, Home, Manik Chatterjee)

Khatta Meetha

Movie Khatta_Meetha_(1978)

The versatile Ashok Kumar and the effervescent Pearl Padamsee come together in old age, complimenting each other’s needs. How their grown up children get reconciled to each other and eventually get united in face of adversity forms the rest of the plot. (1978, Basu Chatterjee)

Baghban

Movie Baghban

The couple’s yearning for each other’s company, when separated due to family obligations, could not have been essayed more poignantly. When children turn out to be unreasonable and insensitive, the couple chooses to live together independently. (2003, The Gardener, Ravi Chopra)

Pyaar Mein Twist

Movie Pyaar_Mein_Twist

Invoking the on-screen chemistry of the lead pair in their younger days in the hugely successful Bobby (1973, Raj Kapoor), this movie saw them battling opposition from within their respective families to live together. (2005, Karan Kapoor)

Mamma Mia!

Movie Mamma Mia

Her upcoming marriage prompts a daughter to identify her father out of the three former lovers of her mother. Misunderstandings get clarified and a new beginning is made by the mother. Great music and lots of fun and frolic. (2008, Phyllida Lloyd)

Dedh Ishqia

Movie Dedh_Ishqiya

The movie is all about deception, crime, suspense and passion. The senior pair epitomizes love on a platonic plane, backed by soulful poetry and intense gazes overflowing with mute passion. The junior pair is more intimate on the physical plane. However, it turns out that the women have other plans in mind. (2014, Lover Boys, Abhishek Chaubey)

A normal romantic flick usually ends up on a happy note. In Hollywood, either a natural disaster has just been faced or a misunderstanding between the couple has just got resolved. As the sun sets, the simpering beloved runs into the arms of the hero.

In Bollywood, the dashing hero has just clobbered a dozen or so goons who had evil ideas of their own. The police arrive, but only after the hero has had the chance to demonstrate his martial skills. The kingpin of the villains is promptly handcuffed and driven off to some unknown destination. As credits start rolling, we give up our willing suspension of disbelief and saunter off to some mundane task of life, happy in the firm belief that the couple would live happily thereafter.

The movies I have listed above are scripted differently. Some capture the post-matrimonial phase of a couple’s life. Some speak of the raw chemistry between men and women who discover each other in the mature phase of their lives. The trial and tribulations they go through, the compromises and adjustments they make and the manner in which they rediscover each other when at close quarters – these aspects have been etched out in some detail. Such movies do not fall in the candy floss variety of romance. Instead, these depict a genre of romance which is mature, ripe and deep.

This Valentine’s Day, take your pick.

 

 

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I have had the privilege of observing several business leaders at close quarters. Most of them are professionalsLEADERS who have become true blue leaders purely by merit. Some of them are owners and entrepreneurs who have built up a business empire by sheer innovation, risk appetite, organizational ability and hard work.

Here is a listing of some unique traits and habits which I believe make them exceptionally great leaders.     

1.   A Four-Dimensional Thought Process

Any issue being faced by great leaders is viewed through a four-dimensional lens. They possess the unique capacity to be able to see not only the spread, the reach and the depth of the problem at hand, but also its likely evolution over a period of time. They have good intuitive faculties.

Being both a visionary and a thorough person is important. All the four dimensions of a problem are intricately entwined. A great leader’s vision would be rooted in something big and motivational; it would also be backed by a detailed implementation plan, a contingency plan, and, of course, loads of hard work.

In other words, their vision and broad mental sweeps are matched by finer details. Their attention to detail could be annoying at times. Send them a note/mail with a typo and you are sure to earn a gentle reprimand. Attend a client meeting with them and your pencil color and tie pattern had better match that of the team!

Opening a sealed envelope and double-checking the figures and totals in a statement are habits they tend to have. Ensuring that an important letter is put in an envelope with the correct name, title and address of the recipient is another dimension of their spirit of perfectionism.

2.   Good Speakers but Better Listeners and Readers

Leaders who charm us would perhaps never be at a loss for words. They would conduct meetings with great finesse and nudge the discussion in a productive manner. But they would also know how to listen. Don’t be surprised to find them walking around with small cards to take notes when people talk.

Send them a well-drafted mail on a matter of critical importance and we can be rest assured it would be read with all the attention it deserves. A well thought-out response would invariably follow, if not a phone call or an invitation for a personal meeting.

For matters which are of a strategic nature, or involve a policy decision, they are never in a hurry to hit the send button.

Strong leaders like to hear alternate viewpoints. They have neither time nor patience for sycophants. Irrespective of the time or venue, they are always willing to listen. Of course, the final call on any issue is their own.

3.   A Hardened Love for People

They just love people, though it does not mean they cannot be hard on them. Understanding people and their problems comes naturally to them. In most cases, it is empathy at work and not sympathy.

If there is a personal problem, they would go to great lengths to assist us in finding a solution. If a mistake gets repeated, we can be sure of their coming down like a ton of bricks on the real defaulter amongst us.

Great leaders are invariably fair when it comes to apportioning blame. The policy they follow is that of praising in public and rebuking in private. The focus is always on finding a solution and not on witch-hunting.

They would never select a wrong person for the organization. Interviews for new recruits would be detailed and exhaustive. An exhaustive background check of a successful applicant would be done before a formal offer is made. A meticulous induction program would be in place. They would elicit feedback at all stages of our progress through the company and intervene in matters of career advancement wherever necessary.

They would not shy away from fixing tough targets. Performance would be their primary consideration. They would neither delegate nor avoid meetings where a negative feedback has to be shared with an employee. A person found wanting on initiative has no place in their scheme of things.

Zero tolerance for a breach in values and ethics happens to be one of their prime qualities. A case of immoral conduct would get settled quickly and effectively. It would not matter if it involves either a great performer or someone who has been ‘loyal’ to the organization all along.

4.   A Commitment is a Commitment

It is not easy to extract a commitment out of them. But once they commit to something, they would move heaven and earth to deliver on their promise.

Likewise, if we agree upon a target with them, we would do well to deliver on our promise. If we fail, the consequences could be disastrous for our career progression.

Each one has a unique follow-up system in place. Some have the habit of pulling out small scribbled notes from one of their pockets to check on the progress of tasks assigned and agreed upon. Some are sticklers for maintaining and updating their diaries – manual or otherwise. Once we appear on this follow-up radar of theirs, we would not find it easy to squiggle out of it till the time the task is indeed accomplished.

5.   A Stronger Moral Compass

Great leaders live by example. They create a culture which is at once innovative and results-driven, entrepreneurial and collaborative, socially responsible and pragmatic. To them, their moral and spiritual compass is as important as their business and financial compass.

At the core of their moral compass is an intra-preneurial approach. They might be employees themselves, but their vision, actions, behavior and responses would be totally entrepreneurial. They would walk around behaving just like the true owners of the business they are meant to govern. Try to fall foul of them on their basic value system and you could be getting a pink slip earlier than you think.

Smart leaders are also aware that gender diversity facilitates better decision-making at all levels of the organization.

6.   Straddling the Digital Divide

They have also perfected the art of balancing the digital world with their real world. They answer every email addressed to them. If they are part of the hapless ‘cc’ brigade, they do not hesitate to intervene if and when a multilateral dialogue on the mails becomes either unproductive or political in nature.

Somehow, they always find the time to communicate face-to-face. They strongly believe that if something is worth communicating, it is surely worth over-communicating.

We would not find them coming up with knee-jerk solutions to problems. Dispassionate at heart, they have somehow mastered the technique of always maintaining their equipoise, radiating positivity all around them.

Management can be learnt; leadership is basically inborn. The good news is that there are several leadership traits which can also be emulated and learnt.

Imbibing such traits needs a great deal of focus and sustained effort. The journey could well transform us into becoming better leaders, whose style would trickle down the organization. This would improve employee morale and behavioral consistency across the entire set up, thereby making the organization more effective.

 

 

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In old age, lust gets mellowed down and wisdom acquires a brighter shade of orange. Holding hands and physicalVeryGoodJeeves contact gets relegated to the background. Instead, common ailments and related medications and therapies rule the roost. At times, the lining of the stomach paves the way for a couple to start sharing the trials and tribulations of life together. One of the stories where P G Wodehouse puts this across succinctly is the one titled ‘Indian Summer of an Uncle.’

Uncle George is unduly attached to the pleasures of the table. The lining of his stomach is no longer in a good shape. Twice a year, his liver lodges a formal protest and he goes off to Harrogate or Carlsbad for some rest and recuperation.

He is contemplating a matrimonial alliance with a much younger Miss Rhoda Platt who happens to be a waitress at his club. Jeeves is of the firm opinion that Uncle George is experiencing an Indian summer. This is how he sums up the situation to Bertie Wooster:

‘One must remember, however, that it is not unusual to find gentlemen of a certain age yielding to what might be described as a sentimental urge. They appear to experience what I may term a sort of Indian summer, a kind of temporarily renewed youth.’

Uncle George’s plans to saunter down the aisle with a girl from the lower middle classes face a serious glitch – that of a stout disapproval from Aunt Agatha. After all, family honor is at stake. She promptly gives a blank cheque to Bertie who is expected to rally around and pay off the girl so as to secure a ‘release’ for Uncle George.

The family remembers that years ago, long before this uncle came into the title, he had had a dash at a romantic alliance. The woman in question then had been a barmaid at the Criterion. Her name was Maudie. He loved her dearly, but the family would brook no such nonsense. Eventually, she was paid off and the family honor protected.

Enter Smethurst – Colonel Mainwaring-Smith’s personal gentleman’s gentleman. He happens to be in love with Rhoda, who has to make a choice between love and ambition. If Bertie succeeds in his mission to wean off Uncle George from the influence of the young woman, she would possibly refrain from permitting herself to be lured by gold and the glamour of Uncle George’s position. Such a state of affairs would be a consummation devoutly to be wished by Smethurst.

Bertie does call on the young woman but instead ends up meeting her jovial aunt. The aunt is a kind-hearted soul, but definitely of the people, what with her orange hair, the magenta dress and the verbose outlook on life. Her intention is to continue residing with her niece after the latter’s marriage. 

Bertie’s nerve fails him and the matter is put in the hands of a higher power – that of Jeeves. His suggestion is to arrange a meeting between his lordship and the aged aunt. Once the two meet, this reflection might give his lordship pause.

Aunt Agatha takes a dim view of the proposal to arrange a lunch meeting of the two, thereby lowering the prestige of the clan by allowing menials to get above themselves. However, Bertie and Jeeves decide to proceed with their little act of doing good by stealth. However, Jeeves has a deeper purpose in mind – that of assisting Smethurst.

Bertie describes the meeting thus:

There was a stunned silence as he went in, and then a couple of startled yelps you hear when old buddies get together after long separation.

‘Piggy!’

‘Maudie!’

‘Well, I never!’

‘Well, I’m dashed!’

‘Did you ever!’

‘Well, bless my soul!’

‘Fancy you being Lord Yaxley!’

‘Came into the title soon after we parted.’

‘Just to think!’

‘You could have knocked me down with a feather!’

I hung about in the offing, now on this leg, now on that. For all the notice they took of me, I might just as well have been the late bw, disembodied.

‘Maudie, you don’t look a day older, dash it!’

‘Nor do you, Piggy.’

‘How have you been all these years?’

‘Pretty well. The lining of my stomach isn’t all it should be.’

‘Good Gad! You don’t say so? I have trouble with the lining of my stomach.’

‘It’s a sort of heavy feeling after meals.’

‘I get a sort of heavy feeling after the meals. What are you trying for it?’

‘I’hv been taking Perkins’ Digestine.’

‘My dear girl, no use! No use at all. Tried it myself for years and got no relief. Now, if you really want something that is some good –’

I slid away.

So, Uncle George and Aunt Maudie were like deep calling to deep. Between the sweet and cheese courses, their engagement gets announced.

Aunt Agatha is told that his lordship is going to get married to a Mrs Wilberforce. While she is trying to figure out which branch of the Wilberforce family the woman of sensible age belongs to, Bertie and Jeeves plan to quickly get off over the horizon to a place where men can be men. This appears to be the only way to avoid facing her fury when she learns of the lower middle class status of the future Lady Yaxley.

In most of his works, P G Wodehouse regales us with the topsy-turvy romances of couples who are invariably in the impressionable phases of their lives. The narrative in ‘Indian Summer of an Uncle’ (Very Good, Jeeves) somehow celebrates a seasoned romance. Gone are the impulsive break-offs linked to sharks, moustaches and beef puddings. Nor are we treated here to an impetuous affair kick-started by the heroine’s cat being saved by a chivalrous and dashing hero. Instead, we are allowed to bask in the soft glow and warmth of a long drawn out romance the embers of which get rekindled after several years – thanks to Jeeves and the lining of the stomach!

(In response to the fruity initiative of Plumtopia: http://honoriaplum.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/wodehouse-fans-needed-for-valentine-series-the-great-wodehouse-romances)

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