January 28, 2008

Unconditional Love

Two of my friends, who also read my blog regularly, happened to tell me that I have a flair for writing and I should seriously think upon considering writing as an option at some point in my life! Ironically, both of them opined this during the last one week in two separate instances. Needless to say, I was thrilled to get that feedback for my musings. I did give these feedbacks a serious thought and since I had not received any negative feedbacks yet :), thought will give a shot towards short story writings! So here I produce my first of hopefully many. By the way, the title of this blog is the title of the short story.

Rajiv was a bright young kid during his school days. He was the only son of his parents. Rajiv’s father was a clerk in a government office and really strived hard to manage the financial affairs of the family. Indeed, there were times when they found the cash box nearly empty about a week before the month drew to a close and before the next salary arrived. Rajiv’s father had worked extremely hard to reach wherever he was, given his modest educational background. Rajiv’s mother was a simple homemaker whose universe was restricted to her husband and son. She was happy managing the chores of the home and lending support to her husband during lean times. Rajiv was their only hope of a bright future and they prayed to the Almighty that Rajiv be given the best in life.

Rajiv was good in studies and topped his class almost every time. He loved his parents a lot like any other kid. Being the only child, he was pampered too. Don’t they say GOD gives us shoulder to perfectly align with the responsibilities we have. Rajiv too demonstrated that he realized his responsibilities. He had witnessed his parents discussing the sad state of finance at home many times. He had seen his aunt coming home and handing over cash to his mom. He had particularly observed the modesty in his mom’s face when she accepted the money. Gradually, he started realizing the realities behind the parents’ talks and discussions as he grew up.

Something surprised Rajiv a lot. One fine morning while he waited for his next door friend to accompany him to school, as was the routine, his friend told him that he has been gifted a new bicycle by his father the previous evening. That is, Rajiv would now have to walk alone going forward. This is not what made him think. What did was the reason why his friend had got a bicycle – he had secured 62% during the recently concluded examination. Why did this surprise Rajiv? Because he had just absorbed his mom weeping and scolding him for securing just 78% in the same examination and losing the first rank to somebody. Rajiv was 12 years old then, and did not quite realize that performance is always compared against expectations! When he was old enough to realize this, he had a tough time in convincing himself that it is socially and universally perfect to gauge one’s performance against somebody else’s expectations. He did not question how his friend’s dad managed to do so well financially even despite having the similar job as his father. He had heard his mother discussing this with his father one day. Apparently, uncle used to study after office hours and teach what he learnt to a group of students during the weekends. The tuition earned him more than what his job presented him. Rajiv’s father, however, was not thrilled with such idea of teaching without having a proper degree since it amounted to cheating and misrepresentation in his mind-book.

Rajiv did not encourage all such thoughts beyond few hours at best. He kept demonstrating his willingness to respond to his parents’ expectations. He topped his school in the all important public examination. He did not demand a bicycle from his dad even then. But he was thrilled and overwhelmed to see tears in his mom’s eyes and the pride in his dad’s face. Rajiv was a happy little boy then.

Rajiv was an avid reader. He had cried inconsolably when alone, reading about stories of selfless and unconditional love and affection that parents shower on children. He remembered all the times when his parents had done so many things for him all these years. He vouched to keep his parents happy at all times.

Rajiv decided to take up a job so that he could support his father’s meager income. He used to study along with his job and made the most of his time and energy. He was determined to improve the financial state of his family. Many of his friends took up engineering and medicine, the fashionable and lucrative courses of those days. The only hitch was the exorbitant cost of such courses. Rajiv decided to become a graduate and continue working to avoid putting his parents into a tight spot with demands to take up such courses. Slowly but steadily, the family came out of the mess and his parents were able to repay all their obligations to relatives and friends.

Rajiv’s father had retired when he turned 27. He was doing well as a senior accountant in a trading firm in the nearby town. However, he wanted to fulfill his dream. A dream that was well-hidden amidst his journey towards financial freedom. A dream that he had nourished as a little boy... His dream was to become a school teacher. He yearned to interact with little kids and help them shape their future. However, that would mean quitting his better paying job. More importantly taking up something that was considered the least socially desired option and becoming a school teacher was taken up by people considered useless. Rajiv ignored the social stigma and ventured out to express this desire to his parents. His father did not talk to him for days together after that. His mother cried uncontrollably for days. They pounded Rajiv for being stupid, arrogant and selfish. How could a young able educated boy take such a stupid decision, they contended. What would the neighborhood family think whose son had gone on to become a doctor and was earning handsomely well. They opined that Rajiv was being outrageous. They suspected that he was an under-performer at his work and hence wanted to quit. They almost concluded that he was a lazy loser.

Rajiv could not push himself too much against the expectations of his parents. He could not, though, wonder how slightly fewer salary impact his family condition now since they are doing fine. He argued in his mind that he had not thrown tantrums and had not complained when his father was not able to earn as much as his uncle or when his mom not being able to cook as well as his aunt. However, like ever before, such thought did not stay in his mind beyond few hours.

Rajiv went on to become the chief accountant of the firm. He was earning twice his earlier salary. At 30, he was the only man in his family history to be at such a responsible and socially appreciated position. His parents were extremely happy then. The end…

Concluding thoughts: Are most of us yet another Rajiv? Aren’t parents supposed to be the closest representatives of unconditional love? Wasn’t Rajiv demonstrating it better? OR should Rajiv thank his stars for having such matured and practical parents who could guide him out of a blunder in life? Don’t the parents deserve much better lifestyle for all the nard fought years they had seen through?

January 24, 2008

Loved this

Read this somewhere - apparently the reply that a 3rd grade child gave to his friend when asked 'What is adoption?':

Adoption is when a child grew in its mommy's heart instead of her tummy

Super thought indeed, irrespective of the source.

January 17, 2008

Two Choices

What would you do? You make the choice. Don't look for a punch line, there isn't one. Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice?

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After praising the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: "When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?"

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. "I believe that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child."

Then he told the following story:

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they'll let me play?" Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, "We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning."

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. His Father watched with a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, "Shay, run to first! Run to first!" Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second!" Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball ... the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, "Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay"

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third! Shay, run to third!"

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, "Shay, run home! Run home!" Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

"That day", said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world".

Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy, and coming home and seeing his mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the "natural order of things." So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it's least fortunate amongst them.

P.S. This piece of brilliance was forwarded to me by my lovely niece Shreeja..

January 11, 2008

Jumbo & Nano!

Literally, two contradictory words... but two words that epitomizes Brand India in the world today at the current juncture.

Anil Jumbo Kumble has personified the grace of a true captain over the last one week when Team India is amidst controversies down under. To the contrary, Ricky Punter Ponting is under severe criticism from all nooks and corners. What a paradox, thankfully favoring India.

Kumble has been a superb team player for almost one and half decades serving the country selflessly. His grit and determination has earned him a lot of accolades and fans, one of them being myself. There would not have been a single soul in this country who would have felt negative/bad about Kumble being elevated as the test captain of the country couple of months back. And this, in a country where every pappu, bablu and chotu has an opinion on cricket. It simply underlines the fact that Kumble has been one of cleanest and most respected player in the game... passion, hard work and dedication all rolled into one.

In retrospect, I cannot stop wondering whether Dhoni would have been able to handle this situation with as much grace and appropriateness that Kumble has demonstrated. I don’t have an answer, but many a times experience is a more useful trait than talent and flamboyancy.

On the other side, Ponting has reiterated that his side is rude, arrogant and indifferent. It is not just this incident that is attracting a lot of flak from every cricket observer, outside and more importantly within Australia. Over the years, the arrogance of Australian team has been increasing in direct proportion to their success. Generally, the former follows latter... but they choose to believe that their ‘attitude’ is a precursor to their victory.

I will not be surprised if Ponting is sacked after this series if he does not make necessary amends immediately. Surely, he will be under the lens during the rest of the series.

Now to the other part of my title – Nano...Tata Nano! Unlikely that anyone would have missed reading/hearing about it. The news is all over the place. Amidst all oppositions and cynics, Tata has achieved to deliver on what it had dreamed and promised – car for the common man. Indeed, priced at something little above Rs.100,000(approx. USD2500), Nano is aam aadmi’s car. Though the commercial feasibility check is pending, this launch is a mega success in the history of the global auto industry. Hats off to Ratan Tata and the Tata Motors team for delivering on this. This is clearly going to revolutionize the Indian auto space… similar to Reliance changing the demographics of the Indian telecom industry.

What struck me the most is that over the last 4 years, from the date this idea was conceptualized, the input costs have gone up steeply, some of them easily by about 50% during the period! Despite this, to deliver on the price of 1lac is marvelous. Of course, critics will be quick to retort that if even at current prices the manufacturers are earning a margin, then the original margin would have been steep and hence treacherous. However, let’s not even look at these critics now. This day belongs to Tata group and Ratan Tata.

As Ratan Tata put it, a promise is a promise... This will surely be a historic red lettered bold line when anyone looks at Indian corporate history even decades down the line from now. The image of India Inc. has received an undeniable boost in the global canvas….

Long live Jumbo and Nano!

January 2, 2008

A new beginning

A new year, filled with hopes and dreams is already underway.. I have started off with some soul-searching and by clearing up the cobwebs in my mind. Preparing for what will surely turn out to be a fantastic year, full of joy and excitement. I can sense it, feel it.. literally can see it.

No New Year resolutions yet, but have started off with a simple thought - make the most of each day! Sounds simple, but it is not. I want to go to sleep happy everyday and looking forward to the next day. GOD bless me :)

Got this fantastic New Year message from my boss - Sir Edmund Hillary on failing to conquer Everest twice said.. I will be back. As a mountain, you cannot grow. As a human being, I can!

Brilliant way to put things in perspective. Off to a brilliant year.. Happiness, here I come. Indeed, today is the first day of the rest of my life...

Have a rocking 2008!

Keep smiling :)