Savior of Would-Be-Mothers

Weekend Projects

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You will find this verse on page 473 of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy book of Sikhs.

I have loved this verse since I was a child. It reminds me of the importance of women in our lives.

She is blessed with the gift of reproduction. She is the one who can conceive a child. She is the one with whom a man is married to, to  continue the cycle of life. 

She is a friend and she is the one who can set the course of future generations. Once she dies, a man looks for another woman to be part of his life. Why do we abuse women who are the mother of Saints and Kings?

She is the only one who can give birth to a man or a woman and there is no man who has come into this world without her touch. Almighty is the only one who is not born out of a woman. Guru Nanak Dev Ji, explains us that the man who praises the Almighty always, is blessed and revered in His court.

Whenever I came across this verse, my eyes sparkled. I felt respected and felt the same for all the women in my life. In Sikhism, the women are not only praised, but are given deep respect. Yet, I was shocked to hear that these days Sikh families too, abandon their girl child. Although, there are laws to punish the doctors who reveal the sex of the offspring, not much can be expected in a country like India engulfed in corruption. On the other hand, there is no check on the people who threaten the doctors to commit the heinous crime and abort the child if the sex is not male.

My recent vacation took me to one of the charitable institute. It was a multi storey cream building with the name of the institute written in black on a large board painted yellow. There were several workers fixing the tiles of the ramp at the entrance and they directed me to the main office.

I was greeted by a young lady. She was dressed in pink and had a pleasing personality.

“Please take a seat, the principal will be with you shortly. Would you like to have some tea or coffee?”

“Tea, please.”

The main office had a huge black ebony desk with a black ergonomic office chair, a cupboard, couple of sofa chairs and few plastic ones. There were several young girls about 2 or 3 years old running in and out of the main office. I smiled at one of them and she ran towards the young lady who just returned with some tea for me and those waiting for the principal to arrive.

“Thank you”

She sat beside me and shared that one of their students is getting married in a few days. The principal is out shopping for her wedding and will arrive soon. She gave me a multi paged pamphlet to read and learn about the institute. I was keen to view the facility and requested her for a tour.

She was delighted and I went with a couple of others to view the facility.

Each of the floors, three including the basement, had large rooms that could house three to six beds including closets. We met some of the girls studying together and one of them mentioned she has chosen “Arts” and would like a career in that stream. We managed to peek into the new kitchen and serving hall that was under construction. It was beautiful, even though there was much work required until it is functional. We met some of the girls who helped in the preparation of meals. The campus  was neat and tidy, but surely you could sense that donations weren’t enough to run the place.

We returned to the office and had just started chit chatting that the principal arrived. She was tall, pious, beautiful lady in her forties. She was not wearing any makeup or jewelry, but there was a calm radiance on her face. She greeted us all and apologized for the delay. She had been with us for barely five minutes that four young girls ran across the room towards her calling her “Mom”.

One of them wanted to sit on her left lap and one on the right. One wanted to sit on the table and the other wanted to swirl her chair. They were asleep when she went out shopping for the wedding and the young ones were curious what she brought for them. We were all watching her negotiating with all of them and not once did she lose her temper. She requested her senior girls to manage the toddlers for a while and convinced the toddlers that they will receive their gifts.

The interaction was so pure that all of us were convinced that this institute is doing something right. We learnt from the principal how the girls landed in her institute. One of the toddler was found in the dump. She was barely a day old. Some of them were orphans, some had parents undergoing divorce, some parents were handicapped or disabled to take care of their girl and some who were just abandoned because of their sex. Most of the stories fell in the last category.

The current strength of the institute was around 200 and she was proud that she has managed to take care of all of them from day one until they get married. One of the principles of the institute was to educate every female child. Some of the brightest students had opted to become Lawyers and Doctors. We were amazed to hear that the institute was running purely on donations.

It was for the first time that I did not hesitate to donate. It was for the first time that I felt being seated few feats away from someone who is blessed and has the courage to follow her mission. Her mission, to give each one of them a unique identity, to love them, to give them security, to make them feel at home and encourage them every step of the way..

Kudos to you Sandeep!!

 

Cultivating New Habits!!

Weekend Projects

I am nervous, anxious and sometimes even feel responsible to fill the silence of the room. The stress of nothing activates the palpitations of my heart and it is sometimes unbearable.

My brain is working at an accelerated pace and I sometimes miss collecting my own thoughts. If I start speaking out loud I’ll start to swallow words and things become difficult to comprehend for the audience. I can relate to all things perfectly, but my audience is left stranded.

I want to calm down, breathe, listen, absorb more and then share my thoughts. I requested a Friend to hear me out and help me deal with the situation.

The realisation is the first step and he congratulated me on identifying the challenge. But this was not enough, I had burning desire to act immediately, so I asked him to help me lay down an action plan.

Rules

First, I must consciously remind myself of the habit I want to cultivate. “Listen More”, “Listen Attentively”, “Active Listening”.

Second, I must learn to let the conversationalist finish first. “Do not interrupt unless absolutely essential”

Third, I must reiterate to have a better level of engagement or write it down if I want to come back to it later. “Reiterate”, “Take Notes”

Each step sounded like a new habit for a talker like me. But I had the recipe crafted in few minutes.

This is an investment worth every penny.

Do you have any more tips for active listening? Share with me.

Gift

Weekend Projects

Meditating about God

To secure a good harvest, a farmer prepares the land, sows the seed, irrigates the land, monitors the growth of the crop, adds fertilizers and sprays pesticides to protect it from any infestation. Each step in this cycle determines the quality of the end result. Good quality seeds offer a promise of healthy harvest but, poor irrigation or lack of fertilizers or even weeds competing with the existing crop can turn the tables around.

In IT parlance, the stakeholder plays the role of the farmer. He has the vision to do better for his business. The challenge, however, is exponential as we are dealing with human beings. The seed cannot think for himself or call for help if the irrigation is insufficient. It is the farmer who needs to know how much and when to irrigate the land.

A human being on the other hand has a gift no other species has.

The power to Think.

Like minded people can accelerate the success of a business. Yes, failures are inevitable, but the power to do better than before keeps us going forward.

Manipulation

Weekend Projects

fad-diet

I have learnt it the hard way that a new fad diet in the market with a flashy punch line “Lose 5 pounds in a week” will not work and neither will the electronic gadgets causing perspiration. However, the exceptional desire to achieve the dream size has clouded my judgement every now and then. The infomercials are contrived with great conviction and appeal to many like me.

Today, I hit the gym or the road for a long jog and try to control my diet to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

I am covered pretty well under my company health insurance and that has been sufficient until now. To be honest, it was only a couple of years into my job that I realized, I was paying my medical bills that my company can fully reimburse. Thankfully, none of the bills were too heavy. But, I saw a pattern that as my colleagues progressed to a higher position, stress levels resulted in hailing one or the other health problems. High blood pressure being the common denominator.

When I shared my observation with my financial agent, he suggested me to buy a health care plan that would take care of me not only during my old age, but also during the premium period. Fear is a powerful motivator and an equally powerful manipulator. To reduce the lurking stress, I was sold to the idea of insurance.

Reciprocal Altruism

Weekend Projects

img_2209The concept of “reciprocal altruism” is defined as an act of helping another individual with the expectation that the other individual will act in a similar manner in a reverse situation.

Lending a helping hand to a younger brother on his holiday homework, endorsing a peer on LinkedIn, complimenting your spouse for a delicious meal, congratulating a colleague on her wedding, recommending a friend for a job opportunity, offering discounts to potential clients and even donating money to political candidates are all examples of fostering goodwill.

I was having a casual chat with my sister on this subject when she shared her recent journey by bus.

“An old gentleman, probably around 70’s, boarded the bus packed to its full capacity. In the absence of a decent straphanger, he grabbed the handle of two seats to stay put and embraced the bumpy ride. I couldn’t watch him balance the bounce for long and offered him my seat. He smiled and thanked me several times as he sat down.

He reminded me of “Pitaji” (Father). Someday, someone might offer his seat to him when he needs it the most.”

I was touched by her random act of kindness and taking reciprocal altruism to a whole new dimension.

Do you believe in reciprocal altruism?

Be your own Shrink

Weekend Projects

whyI was listening to the audio book “Start with Why”, by Simon Sinek earlier today and I came up with the idea to examine every decision I make today. Perhaps it might exemplify my inherent virtues.

I went for an approximately 10km jog today. Why?

The step challenge on my “Garmin” watch reminded me that I am 10,000 steps short for my week. I didn’t want to craft another excuse to rationalize my failure so, I geared up and went for one. I also knew that if I wear my gear and shut the door behind me, I will easily surpass the desired score.

Monitoring is the key and gold stars feed the upholders* like me.

I called my parents. Why?

I call them every other day, but today is a holiday so I thought of calling them a bit earlier, not at our regular hour. Maybe hear from my mother what is she cooking for lunch? Did I tell you, she has magic in her fingers. She can come up with a wonderful dish even when there is nothing in the house. And it was true today as well. She had varied vegetables that can’t be mixed together. But, she prepared a thick flour batter with the greens and fried them to prepare an aromatic curry. I was drooling when I heard the recipe.

Relationships are important, especially with your parents. In one way or the other we all try to emulate what we love the most.

I declined a friend’s request to watch a movie today. Why?

The reviews are good and there are very few in a year that are worth the trip to the theatre. Most importantly, I like the protagonist. The plot is great, but I am a bit tired after the early morning jog. I wanted to get some rest. I scheduled it for another day.

Exercising is important and so is recovery. I like to hang out with my friend, but sometimes my selfish desires -recovery in this case, takes control. 

I changed the setting of my room. Why?

It’s just refreshing. There is not much furniture in my room, but I like to rotate it once in a while. Clutter magically disappears and it feels like I have entered a whole new place.

I like to have a decent amount of cleanliness around me and might have an inclination towards interior design.

I’m enjoying this game of playing shrink. Let’s listen to the remaining half of the book. I might discover another secret.

*read about the upholders in the book Four Tendencies, by Gretchen Rubin

A Dialogue on Chinese New Year!

Weekend Projects

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What is Chinese New Year?

It’s the new year as per Chinese Lunar Calendar.

How many days is it celebrated?

Well, in Singapore it is celebrated for two days, Vietnam a week, China two weeks. It really depends.

What do you do at Chinese New Year?

We try to meet all the near and dear ones. It is a chance to meet all the family members and eat together and perhaps gamble.

Gamble?

Yes, a lighthearted game within the family.

Do you have any special preparation before the new year besides food?

Of course, we deep cleanse our house. But you must remember not to touch the broom or mop on the eve and few days into the New Year.

Really?

Yes, the belief is to sweep into the house. Basically, you start from the main door and sweep into the house. Luck “CAI” must stay inside the family or house. But preferably don’t do that on the eve.

Is dust associated with wealth?

It’s a symbolic reference. But, who would want to sweep away good luck?

Any other superstitions?

You bet there are. Eating porridge, cutting hair, needlework, to name a few. Porridge is considered a poor choice of food or say not a royal breakfast. Cutting hair is a sign of depleting wealth. Needlework or working with sharp tools can result in accidents and you might be rushed to hospital. It is a bad omen.

What is considered good?

Wearing bright clothes, especially Red is considered good. You must have noticed all the “AngBao’s” (or envelopes) are in red color.

So, all of you receive “AngBao’s”?

All the unmarried children in the family receive “AngBao’s” from all the married couples.

Interesting? Singles must feel very lucky.

Yes, but you must be prepared to answer the impending question “When are you getting married?”

Apart from “AngBao’s” do you exchange gifts?

Yes, we do. A pair of Mandarin oranges is presented to the host. Sometimes an extra pair is offered to the grandparents too.

New Year eve is considered one of the most sacred event in Chinese tradition and it is spent with immediate family. We even stay awake until midnight in the belief that it would bring longevity to the parents.

Since you are leaving for vacation, I must wish you a very Happy New Year! 

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Brief exchange and Immense Joy

Weekend Projects
Digital eye and cross

Close up of eye with digital lights and Christian cross

I was waiting for my turn outside the eye OPD when the nurse announced my name. I jumped out of my chair and hurried to the optometrist room. He asked me to cover my right eye and read the alphabets approximately 20 feet away. Then repeat with the left eye. I read almost all the rows with great agility except for the last few words that appeared hazy. A bit unsure, but I read them as “W” and “M”.

He scribbled on my card 6/6 and asked me to concentrate on the tip of his pen. He moved it from left to right, top to bottom, far and near constantly reminding me not to move my neck around just the eyes. Pleased with the results he asked me,

What brings you here?

I came for a regular examination.

Disbelieving, he asked, where are you from?

Oh! I just live across the street.

Well, not many people visit us just for a regular examination. It’s a rarity he affirmed.

I smiled agreeably not revealing that I came to the city for a short vacation.

He asked me to wait outside for the senior doctor to examine my retina. He also explained that the nurse will administer a few sets of eye drops to dilate my pupil.

I took some magazines from the rack to read, but the chatter in the room was quite distracting. I was not carrying my smart phone today, so there were no games, no videos, no emails and neither social media to connect to. Well, I just have to wait.

I was gazing at the people around when I noticed a three-year-old boy wearing a red tee and khaki shorts just a few seats away watching me closely. When I matched his gaze, he shyly turned around and hugged his mother. Almost instantly he looked back to see if I was still watching him. This time he smiled and I reciprocated.

Acknowledgement, admiration, compliments followed by a session of peek-a-boo laid the foundation of our friendship.

The couple seated beside me started smiling too, and the next one and the next. I neither knew this young boy’s name nor did I know where he came from, yet I felt a connection. He had livened up the entire room. It was way more than watching a movie, more than playing video games and certainly more than being connected on social media.

The nurse announced his name and he walked smiling into the Doctor’s room with his mother.

Happiness in this brief exchange was indeed contagious.

Perspective

Perspective, Weekend Projects
child holding balloons standing in front of fantasy storm,illustration painting

child holding balloons standing in front of fantasy storm,illustration painting

As a developer, I have written several programs varying in technology, complexity, scope, platforms, etc. I studied the scope and build the logic to satisfy every permutation and combination of the known scenarios. I was also aware of the potential vulnerabilities and did my best to cover all known grounds. I would rate myself pretty good, but there was always more to be done when the code touched the hands of Testing Nazi’s.

As a test analyst, all my energies were channeled into breaking that damn (pardon my French) piece of code. Not here to gloat, but I managed that quite well too. When I stepped on to this side of the arena the dynamics of the game had changed. The little things that were so hard to remember as a developer were my bread and butter. A simple navigation in different browsers and I could easily report double digit issues.

I wonder, which category does a hacker falls into?

A hackers dream is to write an algorithm that beats the security of NASA or Defense or perhaps any Bank. A cent doesn’t hurt anyone and one cent from all over the world from billions of accounts, Voila!! I don’t even know where to start counting. One of the ransomware that could spread to other hosts on the same network was “WannaCry” -a clever amalgamation of words chosen to create a notorious identity. I believe it certainly made many people cry. When the intention is to hurt someone that’s where the subject takes a turn into the dark alley.

I wonder if the passion of hackers can be sublimated into Artificial Intelligence and create a whole new arena of skilled jobs. Maybe their research can find a cure for fatal diseases or not so fatal, but comfort those living on the edge.

I Crave, I Like, I Enjoy and I Love

Weekend Projects

Every day I challenge myself to do something different, something unusual, something I have never tried before. Recently I was introduced to non vegetarian food and trust me, I almost ate my fingers away. My friends were skeptical and almost disbelieved watching me swallowing the fish, enjoying the oysters and cracking the crab.

I admit, I am never going back to the other side.
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I tried to learn a new sport, kayaking. How hard could that be? I was fortunate that my gym provided paddle simulation equipment. The best part was there was a game flashed on the monitor. The more energy you expend in rowing the paddles, the greater distance you covered and the fish (or perhaps the boat) swam faster. Interesting, isn’t it? The first day I barely managed to paddle for 2 minutes. I had excruciating pain in my back. I must not give up. The next day I tried again, 2 minutes. Well, I increased the speed and resistance gradually. It was amazing that it was less painful. My body was adapting to this pain. Next week I managed 10 full minutes. I was elated and called my friend to go for an actual kayak expedition. 2 hours, can you believe it. We did kayaking for 2 straight hours.

Kayaking! Yes, anytime.
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I like to sing. I am not really a stage performer but I like to sing for myself. I have always loved certain hymns that have touched my heart. And there is no better place than my bathroom for practicing the various notes. The acoustics are amazing and fear of none. I can sing out loud, scream and test my pitch to its limit. Not to forget the water from the taps and hissing of the shower administer a perfect rhythm. I also record my voice here and there and it is hilarious to hear myself.

Sing to your heart’s content.
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I am fascinated by the English language. Words are its true power. Words are born, mature and die and sometimes are re-born again in a different century with a different perspective. These tiny packets packed with TNT can spread the love or wipe out humanity. I want to learn, love, adopt and be comfortable around them.

It’s only words and words that all I have to take your heart away –Bee Gees

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How do you challenge yourself? Do share!