June 30, 2008

2008 is half way through... already!

As always, time seem to fly. I remember distinctly the day when I wrote the piece to start off this year. Then, the year ahead looked very bright. Now, it looks even brighter. Had to take the toughest decision of my life earlier this year and am happy that it is paying off, as of now. I started off the year seeking a more peaceful mind. I'm happy that I've found it. I have found time to do a lot of things that I wanted to. I've managed to contribute meaningfully towards causes that I believe in. I have been able to devote more time to think, write and feed my mind.

As I sign off the first half of 2008, it's time to aspire to be happier! Much happier. It's time to have fun, smile, enjoy the moment, feel peace, read, write, sing, dance, laugh (and I do it 'awfully' well) and dream. And as always, dream BIG. Very big...

My venture is going smooth, touch wood. On an auto-pilot mode actually, where most things are happening without me actively working towards it. I am fine with that. I will start to be more active when this laid-back life becomes boring. Come to think of it, it has been more than 4 months that I have been 'at home'. I have never felt bored during all this time. Had quite a lot to do most of the times. If not, then was happy whiling away time sleeping :)

A lot of people have asked me how it feels to be self-employed. It would be incorrect to say it is something that every one should desire. I mean, it is a matter of perspective. More importantly, temperament. Not every one can be happy just working for few days a month. One should be a more laid back person to enjoy such kind of a lifestyle. Of course, if I actively scout for more assignments, then things will be more hectic.

Personally, I always yearned to be free. Free, not in a sense of being irresponsible. But to be more choosy about when I want to do what, to be able to decide on my own routines. This, to my mind, is the biggest plus of being self-employed. Apart from it, revenues and satisfaction level are higher.

The negatives? You do not meet a lot of people every day. You might get lazier and lose the focus of what you want to achieve since there is no one around you (like colleagues) to benchmark yourself against and help you feel pepped up each day. I know a lot of people who feels energised when working with a team of like-minded professionals at workplace.

Let me share something that happened just this morning to emphasize on the main plus. I woke up at 11am today, and saw a missed call from a business contact. I called him back and told him that I could not take the call since I was sleeping. Had slept late last night after seeing the Euro 2008 Finals. Something that he said from the other side felt like music to my ears - 'Lucky you'. I guess, that sums it all :)

Keep smiling guys :)

June 29, 2008

Me thinks...

...will I ever be humble and modest?

June 25, 2008

An evening to remember!

For the first time in my life, I happened to experience a live concert. That of Hariharan's exclusive ghazals. I have been a huge fan of Jagjit Singh for years now. A day is incomplete without hearing him. I have a decent collection of such ghazals.

But Hariharan is a class again. Superb voice, extremely talented, brilliant stage presence. The concert was a stunning one. I was mesmerized. He must have delivered about 12 odd ghazals.. and how!

We got to buy the passes after the main auditorium was filled. So we were issued something called stage passes. We were seated on a carpet on the floor in the stage with the performer. About 10 feets away from the performers. It was amazing. Being able to see their expressions so well, hearing their whispers to each other, the subtle waah-waahs coming out instinctively from the musicians.. wow. It was bliss.. jannat. The musicians - Shaadab (tabla), Dhiren Raichura (guitar), Liyakat Ali Khan (sarangi) and Akhlakh Hussain (harmonium) - were brilliant. The tabla-wadak was out of this world. Others were stunning too. Gifted. Too good.

In between, for about 10-15 minutes during the two and a half hours concert, Hariharan seemed 'possessed'. He came out with such amazing variations. Can't express in words how brilliant they were. Must hear it to believe it. Was in a trance.

I was thrilled to see the gathering for the evening. A decent crowd, acknowledged by the maestro himself.

To put the overall experience in few words, I really felt that my life was being refreshed, literally. I am sure you would played many computer games where the character gets some options to revive his life by gulping down some bottles of medicines that he finds at various places in the adventurous maze. As if I could now start a NEW, FRESH life from that moment onwards. It was unbelievable. Really splendid.

If you want to know what an excellent live ghazal concert is all about, listen to Jagjit Singh's Parwaaz. This one was not at par, but nevertheless nothing substantially lesser.

June 23, 2008

Please thyself...

It's no secret that I'm damn selfish as a person. I do not do things to please others. Yes, I have made few compromises for my parents over my life, but I am proud of those moments where I kept their interests above mine. I fear I may not be able to do it always. I really fear those moments that are in waiting.

Now, I am selfish by choice. I guess every one is. I was having a discussion about life and related abstract things with a very close friend of mine. I kept saying that the essence of living is in being 'selfish'. And she protested every time. Points of contention? The expected ones - that one has to think about others, the world at large, etc. Well, these thoughts are great but if one does them to please others, he or she would never remain a happy and satisfied person. In other words, if I talk to someone just because I have to, it does not serve any purpose at all. Sans few situations that are, at best, exceptional.

I have worked in few organizations over the last 5 odd years. I was never ‘really’ happy. Yes, there were moments of satisfaction and excitement, but it was not sustained. Those moments were scattered across time. When I decided to move on and be a freelancer or better, entrepreneur :), the feeling was great. It was not short-lived. I am still very happy to be doing so. Not because the pay-off of the decision is better, but simply because I do not have to please others any more. Initially, this decision did not go well with a lot of ‘stake-holders’ in my life, but they are pretty comfortable now. If I would have decided to stay back in a ‘steady income’ job, surely would have been brain-dead by now.

Similarly, I have been teaching CA students for about 4 years now. Every week, week after week, without major breaks. I enjoy doing it. I thoroughly love it. I don’t know why, but I don’t care about the reasons. Again, it has nothing to do with money. I am surprised myself to see the enthusiasm still intact. In fact, the excitement of taking lectures just keeps going up in phases. All this, for a person who has changed 3 jobs in over 4 years!

The point I am trying to drive home is that you are always happy doing things that YOU want to do, and not what some others want you to. Some others here could mean the society at large too. Let’s not fool ourselves. A majority of us are doing certain things in life just to be tagged 'social'.

I look forward to take lectures every week because I love it myself. May be this is not a great theory to write about, but it surely is a plot that a lot of us are missing in day to day life. Is this not what they call passion? Ceteris Paribus, an A.R. Rahman or a Roger Federer is perhaps far happier than an investment banker or an engineer who happened to become one.

Philanthropists do not do charity to show off. They do it because such acts of charity makes themselves happy. Probably, happier than the beneficiaries of such acts of charity! If a person gives away few bucks to a cause because she has to, then such acts won’t be sustainable.

Acts done to make thyself happy are the one’s that last. Don’t fret over things to please the world.

Be selfish, be happy!

I expect a lot of flak for this piece! Over to you, guys...:)

June 19, 2008

Choices ain't always good

Shweta and Rahul were married for 3 years. Though an arranged marriage, both believed they had indeed found their soul mates. The three years of marriage just flew by amidst splendid moments spent with each other. Both were simply and genuinely happy. They planned for a new member in their lovely lives.

Rahul remembered the day when Shweta called him to say that he was to become a father soon. They had made a long list of names to choose from – both boys’ and girls’. They debated for hours about many aspects of life after the new member graces their lives. Shweta wanted a baby girl. Rahul wanted Shweta to remain happy, always.

He was now waiting outside the theatre for the operation to get over. Doctor had just informed that it will be a caesarian. Rahul worried for Shweta. After many anxious minutes, the doctor broke out the news that there were some complications. The baby was still-born, and was immediately kept on a ventilator. It was a baby girl. Shweta’s desire had come true...almost. There were signs that the baby was responding, but it would be too early to decide on her fate. Someone had to break this news to Shweta. Rahul did. Neither spoke for few dreadful moments. Someone had to. It was the nurse. Doctor was calling Rahul for a small chat.

The baby girl was breathing fine now, though with a support system. But a part of brain cells were shown dead in the tests. Those cells controlled the muscles of the body. Meaning, the body can never do anything that needed any muscle to be utilized. And that included eating and drinking. Never in her entire life!

10 days had passed since the nightmarish day. The support system still kept the baby live. Baby’s name was to be kept Shreya. Doctors had freezed on what they finally thought. Shreya could live without support after few months. But she would never be able do anything on her own. A tube will be used to feed her too. She won’t be able to speak, tongue being a muscle too. She had to be taken care of always. Every living moment.

Doctors wanted Rahul and Shweta to make a decision – should the support system be taken off?

Yes? So that they could take all the future pains of Shreya on themselves. So that they could avoid a day when Shreya perhaps would want to know why they decided to let her live like a piece of furniture?

No? And struggle to give whatever they have to make her life as beautiful as they could. Shreya was their baby end of the day. The baby that they had waited for months. Basically, avoid feeling guilty anytime in the future and let Shreya take her part of the pain?

What would you have decided?

June 14, 2008

The Road Not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost

Very few things have inspired me in my life more than this amazing poetry.

June 12, 2008

Nice thought

If I am always comparing myself with other human beings, I will either suffer from ego or jealousy.

June 11, 2008

Small-town syndrome

I had mentioned about this syndrome in one of my earlier posts about my trip to Kanpur. Small town need not mean a very remote place from the city and all. Basically, it’s a fairly relaxed and laid back place relative to our own Mumbai. Actually, any city would look ‘small’ in that sense relative to Mumbai. Any way, I am sure you got what I meant to say.

My role at my previous organization was to give gyaan to whosoever needed it! Not quite everyone… Well, my job was to analyze few markets/countries and educate clients, team and counterparts regarding the same. I also used to go out with my sales team to meet clients and share our views to them. More of support role to the sales function, yet very crucial when it comes to reflecting on our domain expertise.

But in many cases, the real objective was to present a new face to the client who might have got bored meeting the same sales person! Unless, of course, that specie is a hottie… At times, my role could also be to iron out a slightly strained relationship with the client due to some not-so-profitable trades that he did through us. Some other time, it could be to try and push him to buy a trade after the initial efforts of the sales person.

Many of such clients were really, really interesting. There was this guy who thought he was the king of this world and a big tiger, whereas the fact is that he was a stupid fool! And worse... (Sales madame, are you reading this??? :)). Clients I met also belonged to the small towns that I am referring to in this piece. They treat you well, will welcome you as if we are their personal guests with that ever-lasting smile on their faces. A large part of the discussion would be unrelated to business. It would surround weather, my background, his visits to Mumbai, his recent vacation to some exotic place, the shopping his wife did there (madame, remember?) and everything under the sun not even remotely related to the purpose of the meeting.

Finally, we would get down to business, and I play my ‘role’ of being a guru who understand everything and suggest him to buy a deal that my sales person would have already discussed. The background to this is the fact that the sales person would have threatened me to sell that trade/view to the client before-hand! And dare I not oblige!! Yet, the client will assign a lot of weightage to what I say because he might think I ‘care’ for his interests! How naive... how can he forget I work for the same bank my colleague works for and our interests have to be similar. Nevertheless, they would not let this get reflected in their face/talks.

Client: So Menonji, you think this deal would work for my portfolio? Me: Yes Sir, definitely. (Did he expect me to say… No Sir, my colleague is trying to strip you off some money?) Client: Hmmmmm (scratching some part of his body, generally a part of his face). It works well on the risk-return profile Menonji? Me: Yes Sir, it does. Client: Hmmmmmmmmm. Chalo, let’s do it. Menonji itni door se humse milne aaye hai, to kuch karna hi padega. (This is a dialogue I heard often in the North). Never thought traveling a certain number of miles was good enough to get a trade done. But who’s complaining any way.

Eventually, me happy. Colleague, happier. Client, hmmmmmm.

Talking of client meetings, I remember an incident very, very distinctly. If the person in reference would not have been a dumb, we would have definitely lost the account. Me and my sales colleague are in their office to discuss markets and views. This guy is sitting with his boss, trying to act smart. He looked a bigger idiot that way than what he was. He could have been much better off remaining silent... or even better, if he was sitting about 50kms away from us!

Before any of us could even think of talking, this guy was already half-way in explaining what he thinks of the market. As if that mattered to the rest of us! His tone and throw of what seemed like English sentences were annoying. And with a face and voice that he somehow manages to possess, even Mahatma Gandhi would have attempted to kill him. But end of the day, he is the client. Me and my colleague nod our heads and smile. Our hearts feel for his family members, especially wife for obvious reasons. Poor souls...

Enough of the description of this creature...let’s go to the incident. At one point in the meeting, my colleague is busy explaining a deal to this guy’s boss. She is writing something to explain him and every one’s silent waiting for her to complete. One, two, three... and the guy starts again. You know what Mr. Menon, I got promoted last month. We all look at him... no, not with any admiration but his stupidity to bring that irrelevant topic up. Oh, many congratulations Sir, we had to say. I have been promoted to Senior Manager after 5 years in this organization. We are amazed about how the organization still existed to see this day. Miracles do occur.

Now, check this out. His boss looks at this guy with a doubtful face and asks, you got promoted as senior manager? I was about to laugh, but the thought of my colleague’s reaction after that stopped me. This guy is clearly taken aback. Kya Sir, aap hi ne to promote kiya aur ab aap hi yeh pooch rahe ho! All this with a very dirty smile... eeeeks. His boss nods his head. My colleague still working on something. Silence all around for few seconds.

I break the silence and say – 'Hope your boss did not realize that promoting you was a mistake'!!! Yes, I said it. Yiippiieee... My colleague looked up, stunned and surely wanted to kill me. But the boss was the first to laugh, followed by me and then my colleague. Now, it did not mater how the guy felt. I felt on top of the world to have been able to slap this guy... literally.

I still cannot forget the stare of my colleague after we came out of the meeting. To be frank, she looked cute that way. Hehe... Deep down, she was elated! :) Right Madame?

June 10, 2008

Whatchoo talkin' 'bout?

The topic of discussion in We the People in NDTV this Sunday was blogging. The why's and what's of blogging were being discussed in an attempt to find out why people blog and whether their views should be censored/regulated. That made me thinking as to why I blog. In fact, I was asked this question by few of my friends when I started blogging.

There are few reasons why I blog. Firstly, I love writing. As I had mentioned in my first piece in this blog, I had started to miss writing, something that I stopped after leaving school. Secondly, I see this page as my journal, a place where I want to write key events/incidents/thoughts/views so that after many many many years, I can read what I used to think many many many years back. Our views and perspectives change over a period of time and I want to leave a trail of mine.

Then why not just write it in a personal space? Simple, I want people to know what I think! Why? Just like that. No? Perhaps I could create a fan base and utilize them in the future when I enter politics or write a book. Uh? Okay, I want to be popular, or rather more popular! :)

So my blog talks about what I want to convey to the world, the way I want to convey it. I love to write about events that touch me; movies, books that inspire me; people & personalities whom I consider special; thoughts that I want to spread among the readers.

On an unrelated note, loved this line which I read in the signature line of a friend's mail:
Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.
-Arthur Schopenhauer

The title of this piece is the famous one-liner of Arnold Jackson, in the popular US sitcom Diff'rent Strokes during the late 70's/early 80's.

June 9, 2008

A first in my life! Rather, a couple

Disclaimer: This piece has shades of arrogance and boasting! And it’s deliberate :)

For the uninitiated, I freelance for few days in a month as a corporate trainer. The trainings are in various areas of finance for different set of learners, right from inductees to market professionals. For one such training, I happened to go to Kanpur last week. The training was on derivatives and structured products, a concept I love. The audience was members of the Kanpur Chartered Accountants’ Society (KCAS).

Now, Kanpur is not well connected by flights. So I had to take a flight to Lucknow, and then travel to Kanpur by road – a journey of about two hours. Again, Lucknow is not well connected by flights too, just relatively better than Kanpur. The person I am, caution and preparedness is in my genes, thanks to my ever-hyper tensed dad! So I left about 3 hours before the scheduled flight time from home to reach airport on time. Still, the first of the two firsts in my life happened – I missed the flight!

My first miss – and what a flight to miss... one which is the only one to Lucknow for the day! A journey from home to airport that should have taken about an hour and half, took more than 3 hours. The Eastern-express highway was all messed up due to some road repair works. The silver lining in the entire episode was that I was extremely relaxed even when I was sure that I am not going to reach the airport on time. I was joking with the driver about few things. That’s quite uncharacteristic of me actually... I surprised myself!

So yaa, I missed the flight and was clueless for few minutes after I reached the airport. There was no flight to Lucknow/Kanpur for the day. Then after some discussion with the company on whose behalf I was doing the training, I went to Delhi, stayed there overnight and then took an early morning flight to Lucknow the next morning. For the session that was to begin at 9.30am, I reached the venue at 8.45am. And as they say, all’s well that ends well.

The registrations and formalities were to begin at 9am, followed by breakfast. And the session to start at 9.30am. But the quorum arrived at 9.20am, and the majority of the 60 enrolled participants by 9.40am! My students would tell you about my obsession about punctuality. Still, I had to wait till 10am to start off the session.

Though the crowd was all CAs, most of them were FCAs and had cleared years and decades back. Most were, hence, clueless about derivatives. And that is my breeding ground, literally. The session went off well. The crowd was cool... interactive and inquisitive. A super combination for any batch. With a lunch break of an hour in between, the session went off till 4.30pm. Quite a grueling session indeed and many were sloshed by the end of it.

Then, the second of the two firsts of my life happened. I got a standing ovation for the session! Yipppiiieee…. It was quite an amazing moment. Senior CAs acknowledging the efforts, and how! It was not really overwhelming nor did I have any goose-bumps, but yet the feeling was great.

To be fair, I had done the same program for a MNC bank a week back and was more satisfied with my efforts. Still, I am not the one to complain, hehe... Actually, it’s the small-town syndrome where things are a tad less ‘professional’ and they get a little too friendly with these things. The way they treat you, their hospitality is quite different from the Mumbai circuit. I have experienced it many times as a part of my role in my ex-organisation.

The two firsts obviously are quite different in terms of magnitude and importance, still they are the firsts and hence notable.

June 3, 2008

The woman in your life

This piece is from the web, forwarded to me. I know many, many guys who must read this.. who have different yardsticks of expectations from themselves and their wives.

Tomorrow you may get a working woman, but you should marry with these facts as well.

Here is a girl, who is as much educated as you are;
Who is earning almost as much as you do;

One, who has dreams and aspirations just as you have because she is as human as you are;

One, who has never entered the kitchen in her life just like you or your
Sister haven't, as she was busy in studies and competing in a system;

That gives no special concession to girls for their culinary achievements

One, who has lived and loved her parents & brothers & sisters, almost as much as you do for 20-25 years of her life;

One, who has bravely agreed to leave behind all that, her home, people who love her, to adopt your home, your family, your ways and even your family name,

One, who is somehow expected to be a master-chef from day #1, while you sleep oblivious to her predicament in her new circumstances, environment and that kitchen

One, who is expected to make the tea, first thing in the morning and cook food at the end of the day, even if she is as tired as you are, maybe more, and yet never ever expected to complain; to be a servant, a cook, a mother, a wife, even if she doesn't want to;

and is learning just like you are as to what you want from her; and is clumsy and sloppy at times and knows that you won't like it if she is too demanding, or if she learns faster than you;

One, who has her own set of friends, and that includes boys and even men at her workplace too, those, who she knows from school days and yet is willing to put all that on the back-burners to avoid your irrational jealousy, unnecessary competition and your inherent insecurities;

Yes, she can drink and dance just as well as you can, but won't, simply because you won't like it, even though you say otherwise

One, who can be late from work once in a while when deadlines, just like yours, are to be met;

One, who is doing her level best and wants to make this most important relationship in her entire life a grand success, if you just help her some and trust her;

One, who just wants one thing from you, as you are the only one she knows in your entire house - your unstinted support, your sensitivities and most importantly - your understanding, or love, if you may call it.

But not many guys understand this......

Please appreciate her!

One simple piece of advice to every guy. If you expect your wife to do all what the above piece talks about, then find someone who would be happy doing it. DO NOT change the way she lives just because you want to. DO NOT marry a girl who you know wants to work and build a career and expect her to leave her job after marriage.

June 2, 2008

There are times...

There are times when you’re happy,
There are times when you’re at peace...

There are times when you’re gloomy,
There are times when you’re subdued...

There are times when you’re lonely,
There are times when you’re excited...

There are times when you want to do so many things,
There are times when you want to stay put doing nothing...

There are times when you’re in the past,
There are times when you’re in the future...

There are times when you want everything,
There are times when you want nothing...

There are times when you miss others,
There are times when you miss yourself...

There are times when you dream,
There are times when you hope...

During all these times if there is just one person you always need besides you,
Then those are the times when you are deeply in love.