Abbreviated

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In formal academic prose it is considered bad form to abbreviate words simply to save space, time or energy. However, in this digital age not only abbreviations but acronyms are thriving. Every now and then I have lost the context of the conversation while texting in a group chat. I wonder, is it just me? Is there a generation gap? Am I too old? or is it just a pretence that someone is trying desperately to fit in?

Let’s take an example:

“Didiji” or “Bhenji” (didi/bhen – sister; ji – respect) is used to call out your elder sister in Punjabi (my mother tongue). 

Its just a six letter word. I don’t feel the need to cut it out or abbreviate it further. But, you won’t be surprised if I told you that this word is down to two letters now to “di” and quite popular on social media. I am not sure if it really means sister any more and certainly there is no form of respect attached to it.

The word “ji” (respect- Punjabi language) or “san” (respect – Japanese language) is something we add to pay our respects for the person on the other end of the conversation.  We don’t subtract it just to save time. I do understand that when you lose respect for the person, this piece is the first thing you are going to drop while addressing her. But until then, keep it intact. Perhaps the habit of giving respect might hold you back from going too far in an altercation.

You can call me old school, but sometimes the abbreviations might not be the way to preserve the rich culture you have.

What do you think?

 

LATTE!!

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We Listen to the customer, Acknowledge their complaint, Take action by solving the problem, Thank them and then Explain why the problem occurred.

I stumbled on this LATTE method while reading the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. It reminded me that unknowingly I have been using this mantra for a very Long time. Of course I am not perfect in all the L. A. T. T. E but I like to believe that I try everyday.

A Starbucks routine that employees are taught to  use during the stressful inflection points, is also one that I had to master during my career. Every day is not a bed of roses, but if you are trained to handle the stress and are prepared to deal with the criticism, LATTE would help you have a beautiful evening.

Let’s start with the first letter “L”. Listening is an art and I have admired those who can do this well. I am a bit short handed here. Since I know my weakness, I rely on tiny notes and drawings to contemplate the crux of problem which the person sitting right in front of me has put on the table.

“A” acknowledging is simple, if you believe that the person sitting next to you, trusts you to help him solve his problem. It might be way too much to handle in one go. In this case, it’s time to wear your glasses and split this one big problem into manageable chunks. One piece at a time and you will get there.

“T”, taking action can be tricky if you are not completely convinced that it is a problem or an action is necessary. At times you have to master your fear. You might not understand the big picture but if you are determined to solve it, you might land up in paradise you never expected.

“T”, the most important part of success. Thank him, who helped you conquer your fears and lead you one step closer to success.

“E”, explanation is not just for the requester but for you as well. It helps you understand why this problem originated and how you will handle it if it reoccurred again. Not to forget that sense of accomplishment is all yours.

I love my LATTE Xtra HOT, how about you?

Honey! A writer must be READ

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I was watching the movie “The Wife” based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer where this quote was a piece of an advice from one writer to another “Honey! A writer must be read” instead of the common notion that a writer must write. This made me think that it is the audience that feeds the beast (in this context the mind of the writer).

Without an appreciation, how long do you think a writer would last.

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We all crave for small doses of appreciation every day.

“Thank you”, I bet you love to hear this magic word from your neighbor, for whom you held the elevator door earlier today. The elderly couple to whom you gave directions. The cashier to whom you returned the extra cash when he miscalculated the balance for you. The lady for whom you lifted the box of corn flakes from the top shelf of the retail store.

I do believe that we all keep ourselves in check from being swayed by flattery.

But, what about the absence of appreciation? Is this more harmful than flattery? Do you think we can lose talent merely to the lack of acknowledgement and appreciation?

 

 

 

21.1km

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Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 11.24.50 PMThere was no gunshot at the stroke of midnight, but we, OSIM Sundown half marathoners singing to the tunes of our host started our journey. This was my first race at night and my first half marathon. I am an average runner with a decent will power. But this time it was different.

A week ago, I had over exercised and my knees were a bit shaky. The pain from my ankle injury had returned and to top it up Achilles was back too. I had rested and massaged painful spots, but I knew it was not going to be easy this time.  I bandaged my ankles, my heels and my knees. I had compression pants on and finally the singlet. “Sleep Can Wait” the catchline of this race made me believe that I can sacrifice my sleep for a day.

I was one of them, one of the OSIM Sundown half marathoners. I knew if I can do it today, shatter that mental barrier, I will be ready for the big leagues. And so cheering each other and giving space to the fastest runners we all picked our pace and pacers. I managed a non stop first hour and was determined to go this way for another one. I stopped for a while to use the toilet, the first one in the left lane.

Although, the pain in my ankle was starting to show signs, I gave myself another boost of encouragement and picked up my pace for the second hour. I was thinking about my colleague who must be getting ready for his marathon at this hour. I was excited about his race, and prayed he could give his best too. Maybe somewhere our paths might cross in this race.

It was dark, but far ahead I could see the sign read “Marina Barrage”. This was DXC Runners Club favorite spot. I started reminiscing about our weekend runs to this very spot. It’s beautiful in the wee hours of the day but at night you could barely see anything. I join the runners often over the weekend, but sometimes embarrassed to slow them down. Some of them would even sprint back or wait for me at the turning points. We would relish Vietnamese breakfast after our weekend run and it would be nice to have it today. My watch told me it’s 2:00am and perhaps I needed something else to distract myself.

I was lucky that a pacer just came along. I managed my 17 kilometer mark with him and decided to take a short break. “Listen to your body”, the sound of the MC was echoing in my brain. I saw a lady, a few feet away, wobbling side to side and I wondered if she missed the last hydration point. I was afraid, I might be dehydrated myself. It was extremely hot and humid. And there was no sun.

I was desperately trying to distract myself from sleep, body aches, nausea, you name it. Even quitting the race after reaching the 20th kilometer mark came to my mind. Every step was like lifting lead shoes. The best part was I could see the finishing line. The nausea was hitting me over and over, but I knew I had to bear it for just few more minutes.

I could see the photographers lined up, loved ones cheering up, couples holding hands to take the last step together, friends taking selfies and volunteers lined up to offer assistance. Then there was a gentleman who saw me struggling and came a bit closer so I could hear him say just 50 meters ahead dear, you can do it. He gave me a big smile and I went off my last steps.

The pain miraculously vanished as I touched the finishing line.

It was just seconds later everyone rushed towards me and I was taken aback. What was going on? There he was, the first marathoner who was behind me, crossed the finishing line. Of course he started an hour later and had finished a full marathon. But I was elated to witness an epic event.

I slowly walked to collect my energy drink, water, banana and medal. I managed to find a spot stretched a bit, removed my shoes and slept on the street.

It was almost about 2 hours later I realized that something was moving near my face. It was some specie of caterpillar trying to wiggle its way into my ear. I quickly woke up and shove it away. It was still early and there was no train back home yet. So, I decided to find another spot. This time just beside the big screen playing “Wonder Woman”

Another hour down and I had a baby caterpillar crawling over my arm. Even though I was deprived of sleep, my reflexes were good. I shoved it away too. I didn’t want to sleep on the street anymore, but there was no other place to go. The benches were packed and the grass had its own ecosystem of insects. I waited for the clock to strike 6:15 and I headed to the train station to ride back home.

I learnt about RICE recently. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. To recover quickly from today’s exertion, I must rest, apply ice to my sore ankle, wear compression bands and finally elevate my feet.

After all, I have another race to go in just about six months.

Digital Footprint

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apps-blur-button-267350.jpgIs your wife expecting soon?, I asked my friend

Yes, she is. How do you know?

Were you researching about epidurals?

Yes, I was. But how did you know? We haven’t spoken for ages.

Well, this was a conversation I had recently with my friend and yes, his wife was expecting. Congratulations to both for being blessed with a healthy baby.

Unbeknown to him, his research left a digital footprint and I stumbled upon it. You must have noticed any search or research on google results in an overwhelming advertisement in your promotions or social mailbox. Does google learn about you from you? What about Facebook? Does it perform behavioral analysis behind the scenes? Is this leading to some form of data analysis? What is really data analytics?

Perhaps, unraveling the mystery behind copious data is called data analytics. Data has become an invaluable possession. It beholds the secret of demand and supply.

For businesses, it is a powerhouse. What about politics? Do we leave digital footprints that lay down the grounds for gerrymandering?

What if I don’t want a digital footprint but still want to stay connected?

Do you know a way?

Selfless Service: Sewa

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Gurpurab also known as Prakash Utsav, celebrates the birth of the Sikh Gurus. Sikhs had ten Gurus and each year there are at least ten events to celebrate besides Vaisakhi-the birth of Khalsa.

Langar is something that excites me the most about these events. Langar is the term used in Sikhism for community kitchen in a Gurudwara where a free meal is served to all visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, color, gender, economic status or ethnicity.

My favorite part is to take a small portion of the dough, roll it between the palms of my hands, form a ball, and then flatten it to form a 6-inch circular disc. It is then passed on to the ladies standing beside the hot iron griddle to cook the chapattis. Every disc of dough that I flatten is better than the one before. It is a self-challenge and the results are strikingly visible.

The only key is to find a seat in the kitchen. There are so many devotees willing to help in the preparation of the meal; it is never easy to get the role you desire the most. Kids mainly play the part of kneading the dough or rolling balls from the dough, but adults get a chance to flatten the balls into a disc. Some ladies prefer chopping the vegetables while the others like to stand beside the hot griddle to cook chapattis. Men prefer assisting in lifting heavy weight pans and pots filled with curries or perhaps stirring the curries while they are being cooked with giant spatulas.

Besides the selfless service, each one of us has the opportunity to make new friends, share our joys and seek advice from elders on some of the troubling circumstances be it work or home. The younger generation learns from the adults and the adults learn from the elders.  It all happens under one roof. The system worked its magic especially for a generation heading towards nuclear families.

Nowadays, I hardly see this congregation in India. The interaction between toddlers and teens, teens and adults, adults and elderly and all the other permutations have been wiped out by just employing the chefs to cook the meal for the community. The service that was done by the community for the community has dropped down to an astonishing degree. The scale of patience has dropped, interaction is limited, stress levels have surmounted and divorces are no longer a rarity.

Is it just me feeling this loss or is it really losing its touch. I wish we can all get together and revive this tradition. Once again we can all mingle and laugh and share our joys and sorrows together under one roof listening to the mesmerizing music.

Hydroponics

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If you search Wikipedia, you will find the definition of hydroponics as a subset of hydroculture, the method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solution in a water solvent. My cousin brother’s recent inclination towards growing rare plants hydroponically got me curious as to what this field is all about. Is it close to growing organic fruits and vegetables or synthetically produced meat?

To find out more my father and I visited him and were excited to see his prototype. He had grown lettuce (romaine and iceberg), tomatoes, mint, coriander, parsley, capsicum and even strawberries in his patio. His customized irrigation system could manage both the speed and frequency of water being administered. The seeds had germinated and some plants had fruits too.

It was a delight to watch his garden.

There was one thing though that bothered him the most- some plants were not growing to maturity. He was worried if there is a nutrient that he might have missed out.  Since this is his first experiment, we encouraged him to study and contact as many people as possible before plunging into commercialization.

I was wondering, if I could grow some of the plants in my home hydroponically too. Perhaps the mint, curry, coriander and parsley leaves. Maybe celery too.

Do you have experience in kitchen gardening? What about hydroponics? Do you buy the nutrients or prepare them yourself at home?

 

Special Thanks to @Angad Singh

 

 

Savior of Would-Be-Mothers

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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!!

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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

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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.