Manoj ++, A Global Citizen in its making…!


25 April 1998, it is neither the birthday of my current girlfriend nor the wedding anniversary of my past girlfriend.  It is just a random date to grab everyone’s attention.  An attention grabbing opening is essential for a great writing, correct?

Let me stop kidding, that was an unforgettable day in my career life.  On that day, I had my first performance appraisal discussion with my manager.  I was excited; my salary hike was going to be decided based on that discussion.  But my manager had different plans; he didn’t allow me to talk on that meeting.  Instead, he bombarded me with advices.  The essence of the advice was – Manoj, we are living in a global village.  Be a global citizen if you want to survive in this industry.  Be ready to embrace other cultures.  You are compared against the engineers from other countries.   When my manager paused for breath, I informed, I’m ready to embrace anything if that leads to a salary hike.

Immediately I started searching in Google for books titled, ‘Global citizenship in 24 hours’, ‘Global citizenship for dummies’, but couldn’t find any.  I searched, searched and searched until Google was tired. At the end, I developed my own four steps plan to become a global citizen. Though none of the universities had offered me an honorary doctorate, I was pleased with my plan. Here starts mission Manoj++.

As first step, whenever I had an opportunity to cite an example during office meetings, instead of using names like Rajesh or Suresh, I started using Brian, Charlie, Monica etc…  My own wordings preceded with; ‘Brian mentioned’, ‘Charlie stated’ and ‘Monica proclaimed’ was very well accepted by my teammates. Frequent usage of such names gave an impression to the team that I was started thinking like a global citizen.

I heard my friends murmuring; ‘Manoj started thinking globally…’

Second, I made a revolutionary observation about Indian office premises.  I wrote a detailed e-mail to senior management about their lack of vision in making Indian employees think globally.  The unavailability of toilet papers in India office toilets is blocking Indian employees to think from a global perspective.  To initiate any cultural change, I know, the best way is to lead by example.  I bought two rolls of toilet papers and kept at my desk.  During team meetings, I promoted myself as a marketing executive of toilet papers.

I heard my friends whispering; ‘Manoj started thinking globally…’

Third step was to marry a foreign lady.  That was the best way to show the spirit of a true global citizen.  I published my profile in different country’s matrimonial portals.  Hollywood heroes are muscle men.  So before meeting someone in person, I joined the best available gym in Bangalore.  First day, I was confused with the wide range of devices available in the gym.  I approached the master and informed my requirement, “I want to impress a foreign lady within two weeks’ time.  So which device can I start using”?  Master took me near to the window and showed a device on the ground floor and stated, “You start using that device to impress a girl either from India or foreign.  With lot of expectations I rushed towards the ground floor, but to my surprise, it was as an ATM.  After that I dropped the even plan to get married.

As part of fourth step, I changed my eating style.  Being an individual from a remote village, I was comfortable to eat with my hands.  To become a global citizen and to progress towards a salary hike, I decided to change my eating style.

One fine morning I met my manager in office cafeteria.  I took a nearby table and kept all devices collected from the counter – four types of spoon, two forks and a knife.  I brutally cut the idaly into twelve pieces,  took one piece of idaly on a fork, dipped it in a bowl of sambar then took half t-spoon of chatni and carefully rolled it over idly, with the precision of Picasso moving his brush over a canvas.  I was enjoying the color combination of sambar mixing with chatni on an Idaly canvas.  How beautiful was that?  I was about to eat it, but my manager had already moved towards the wash area.  I rushed to his side and exchanged pleasantries.

We were walking back to our work building and I noticed a short old man at the corner of cafeteria and licking his fingers after his breakfast.  I felt that was a good occasion to discuss my progress towards global citizenship and avail the pending salary hike.  I told my manager,

look, this old man is still not ready to embrace other cultures like me.

Manager stopped walking and stared at me as if I have two heads.  I turned towards the side mirror and checked, no I have only one.  I waited there, like a batsman waiting for third umpire’s decision.  After few minutes he asked,

do you know who is that old man sitting at the corner?

I don’t know him but I’m sure, he is not flexible enough to adapt other cultures like me.

This time he put his hand over my shoulder and informed,

that is the owner of this organization who brought business from different countries.

Mission Manoj++ dragged me into an isolated stage where I became Manoj–.  After all, wisdom comes from experience and we gain experience from our mistakes.   The series of mistakes I made in pursuit of a salary hike helped me to reinvent myself.   After that, I never change my character for money or honour.  I learned to analyse situation and act accordingly, which gradually helped me to progress in my career.

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Travel for the sake of travel!


How many of you are thrilled with your office work?

I failed again.  I felt discouraged, disappointed, and depressed with my job.  My managers strictly monitored, managed and manipulated the work.  The environment sealed my freedom to take decisions, swathed my flexibility to air my opinion.  My actions, inactions and reactions diminished the pleasantness of the work culture.  My office environment tainted like recent Kashmir issue.

Friends, I needed a break.  I do not want to fish in the troubled water.  I needed a pause from deadlines, a pause from targets, and a pause from pitiful rivalry.

I realized travel as the best medicine for the situation.  As the Scottish Novelist, Robert Louis Stevenson said; ‘I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.’

When I reached railway station, it was crowded like a theatre screening Kabali.  Where should I go? The announcement of a train’s immediate departure broke my thoughts.  I rushed to the platform and jumped into the moving train as if my heroine already boarded in that train.

Passengers jam-packed in the compartment as bees in a beehive.   Some of the passengers crushed themselves as pieces of baggage on the upper-berth.  Few of them sat on the floor.  Those who blessed with a seat, kept luggage at their lap and sheltered it as their baby.  A group of gentlemen stood near to the door and smoked negligently.  Those sat beside windows kept shutters down to avoid rain.  Passengers experienced the ambience of a room for steam bath.  Children cried together as if it was a completion event.  The smell of urine blended with cigarette smoke caused suffocation to most.   I tried to move to centre of the compartment as an invader.  ‘Hey… stay there!’  An old lady shouted as if she fenced the area for her next generation.  I begged for some space to place my legs like Pandavas in front of Kauravas.  She adjusted her old cloth bundle and gave me space to sit on the floor.  I sat there and realized it was wet.  Is it due to the water dropped through the window or overflowed urine from the nearby toilet?  The whole day and night; I sat there like a puppy, slept there like a baby and observed others like a researcher.

I did not have a deadline, I did not have a target and I did not have a destination.

At night 02:30, I got off at a small unknown station.  When the train left, I was alone at that platform.    I could smell the chilled breeze stabbing at my face.  An eerie silence engulfed the station.  Only sound I perceived was my blood rush through my vain.  I felt, I own the entire railway station, but a dog howled to register his disagreement. I wandered through the station like a boy searching for Pokémon.

I did not have a deadline, I did not have a target and I did not have a destination.

I sat on a broken bench and slept till sun kissed my eyes.  Morning, I walked through the streets, smiled at strangers as if we were friends for long time, sung my favourite songs, danced with the crowd, babbled with all those came on my way, glanced through the open windows of shops and houses, assessed their decoration and gave marks out of ten.  I travelled like a gypsy from one station to another.

I did not have a deadline, I did not have a target and I did not have a destination.

When I’m back to office after three weeks of travel, I developed a new outlook for life.  The solo trip helped me to come out from my comfort zone and reinvents myself.  Travel brought colour, compassion and communication to my life.  My work has not changed; my work environment has not changed; my managers are not changed.  It is my approach to work has changed.     Travel has the ability to lift even the saddest of moods.  Travel redefined the landscape of my life.  If you are trapped with work or life, I urge you to travel – travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  Travel for travel’s sake. Travel will teach you some of the hardest lessons in its simplest fashion.

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Compassion unlimited plus action


The road was empty for few minutes. Seventy year old vegetable merchant pushed his hand-cart and tried to cross the road.  This unexpected act provoked police officers.  They rushed to his end and pushed his hand-cart aside.  Vegetables from his cart spread all over the road.    There were lot of pedestrians, spectators and passengers but no one came forward to help the old man.

I was part of the first set of vehicles blocked by traffic police to provide way for VVIPs.  I was uncomfortably resting inside my car’s comfort zone.  One side of the traffic was blocked for the last 30 minutes.  I was restless that I’m going to miss my scheduled meetings today.

***

1990, June 23rd 8.30 PM, I was in front of my TV set.   I’m sure; most of my friends were also in front of their TV sets.  We all were waiting for the pre-quarterfinal match of FIFA World Cup between Columbia and Cameroon.

I was eagerly waiting to see the Columbian goal keeper,  Higuita, in action.   Higuita had a different approach to the game.   He was not ready to restrict himself under the bars, rather a goal keeper who was looking for opportunities to score goals.  No doubt, Higuita was my hero.  I lived in a society which always gave guidance for a predictable lifestyle.  Here in a world cup match, a goal keeper breaking all conventions and dribbling the ball around the field to score goals.  It was beyond my imagination.

***

Convey of vehicles rushed through the vacant road. The vehicle wheels crushed the old man’s vegetables spread over the road.  Strategically placed protesters tried to wave black flags.  The old man didn’t understand what is happening around; he tried to pick the spoiled vegetables from the road like a mother picks her son from an accident spot.   Police was not ready to leave the old man.  They took him by his collar to beat him. There were lot of pedestrians, spectators and passengers but no one came forward to help the old man.

***

After the world cup, Higuita faded in to the dark corners of my memory.  But the different imageries of a goalkeeper portrayed by Higuita often disturbed me.  Why can’t I do something different in my life?  There were several occasions where I could have helped others but I was not ready to change my priorities and lifestyle for others.  I was more worried about the fate of my scheduled meetings when the old man was beaten-up by the police.  If a goal keeper can break the unwritten rules in a world cup match, what is blocking me?

If someone would have come forward to help the old man, I would have joined with him.  But no one came forward to help the old man.

I realized the solitude of a goal keeper under the bars.  A goal keeper betrayed by other players spread his hands like wings of a bird to face the penalty kick.  The fifty thousand people in the stadium were silent; they were waiting for that moment.  Whether the goal keeper can save the kick?

I opened the doors of my car and ran towards the old man.

***

Friends, if someone would have posted that old man’s photo in Facebook, I’m sure, I would have added comments to register my protest.  But I’m not comfortable to break my conventional life style even though the situation demands it.  I keep sympathy, compassion and kindness only in my thoughts and words.  Whenever there was a need to act, I carefully found reasons to avoid them.

I’m not sure, how many of you are like me.  If you are like me, we just have to understand, in reality, pity is not enough. Sympathy is not enough. Even compassion is not enough.  We must ask this question every day, “What I have done today to help others?” If we have a simple answer to this question, it is a good beginning.  We don’t need to be Higuita; we don’t need to be a hero; we don’t need to be supernatural to change our priorities for others.  It requires a positive mind and determination.  After all, one kind act is superior to thousand praying lips.

Note: Inspired by N S Madhavan’s short story Higuita.

http://profkurakar.blogspot.in/2012/06/n-s-madhavan-contemporary-malayalam.html

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12724850-higuita

 

 

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Aurangabad – Where history comes alive…


The objective is to pen-down my experiences of an unplanned solo trip from Kochi to Aurangabad.  Most of the historical descriptions below are taken from a brochure that I got from Aurangabad railway station information counter.

The historic city of Aurangabad, on the Deccan Plateau, has many tourist attractions and could easily stand on its own charm without being overshadowed by the world-famous Ajanta and Ellora caves nearby.

Founded in 1610 on the site of a village called Khirki by Malik Ambar, the prime minister of Murtuza Nizam Shah II, this city was renamed Fatehpur after Nizam’s son Fateh Khan succeeded the throne in 1626.  When Prince Aurangzeb became Viceory of the Deccan in 1653, he made the city his capital and re-christened it Aurangabad.

Why Travel?

Travelling is not a competitive event.  The best way to have a successful journey is to travel without any success criteria, that helps to have a relaxed mind and provides opportunity to explore things as and when it arrives.

For me, opportunity to travel is an opportunity to meditate. The free time I get in bus and train is a perfect juncture to contemplate about my thoughts and actions.   It helps me to rejuvenate and overcome the feeling of being abandoned and isolated in this crowded world.

Travelling to different places gives opportunity to meet different people, culture, geography, food habits and new learnings which would eventually lead to new beginnings.

How to reach Aurangabad from Kochi?

As I’m from Kochi (a city in Kerala state,  India) and started my trip from there, I thought the following information would be helpful for those who plan to travel from Kochi.  The cost effective way to travel to Aurangabad from Kochi is by train, but (un)fortunately there is no direct train from Kochi to Aurangabad.  Yet I would consider that to be an opportunity to visit more places.

Train No: 12617 – MANGALA LDWEEP – will help to start your journey from Ernakulam Jn (ERS) railway station and reach up to Manmad Jn (MMR) railway station.  Aurangabad is only ~118 KM away from Manmad Jn.  You will get plethora of buses and trains from Manmad Jn to Aurangabad.  Manmad Jn is like Shornur Jn railway station in Kerala where trains will stop for relatively longer period to change engines, fill up necessary supplies etc…

Since I had an unplanned trip and tried to book ticket at last moment, there was no ticket available in Mangala Ldweep express.  I travelled up to Panvel (PNVL) in a train and realized that there is no connecting train from Panvel to Aurangabad.  As per the information received from Panvel station, I booked a ticket from Thane (TNE) to Aurangabad.  There are enough suburban trains from Panvel (PNVL) to Thane (TNE) or Panvel (PNVL) to Mumbai CST (CSTM).  Trains to Aurangabad starts/passes through Thane and Mumbai CST stations.  Distance from Thane to Aurangabad is ~315KM.

If you have good company of friends or relatives, it is worth considering driving from Kochi to Aurangabad which is ~1597 KM away.

If you are not constrained by budget, you can consider the option of travelling through air.

Accommodation facilities in Aurangabad

There are hotels near to Aurangabad central bus stand and railway station.  Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has a guest house ~ around a KM away from railway station.  When I enquired, the guest house office informed me that the rent is Rs.1000/= per day and from their tone, it seemed negotiable.  There are decent hotel rooms available from Rs.500/= for double occupation and Rs.400/= for single occupation per day.  You can try your luck/skill in bargaining for reduced rates.

I reached Aurangabad railway station by around 12:30 AM and got a bed in the railway station dormitory facility, which was decent enough to spend few hours of night.  It cost only Rs.50/= for that night.  For the second day, I took a room near to bus stand that cost Rs.400/=.

Food options in Aurangabad

I saw many restaurants with ‘Pure Veg’ board in Aurangabad.   All types of food are available in restaurants, among which, Rajasthani or Punjabi thali meals are common, which cost between Rs.100 to Rs.150.   I didn’t see restaurant prominently displaying non-vegetarian items in restaurants. As non-vegetarian food is not mandatory for me, I didn’t bother too.

Travel in Aurangabad

You may need at least two days to visit different places in Aurangabad.  One day for Ajanta and next day for Ellora and other nearby places in Aurangabad.  MTDC has air-conditioned Volvo low floor buses to Ajanta and Ellora.  You can avail the service of taxi cars to visit different places depends on your customized needs.   You will get MTDC bus from the central bus stand.   The drivers of these MTDC buses are very friendly and they explain historic value of each places in English/Hindi/Marathi.  There are local buses and other conducted trips available to various locations.

The charge in MTDC buses varies depends on the crowd.  When I travelled the in the bus to Ajanta, there were only 9 passengers in the bus and it cost Rs.720/= and to Ellora and other prominent places in Aurangabad, there were only 5 passengers in the bus and it cost Rs.280/=

A taxi driver I contacted demanded Rs.1500/= for Ajanta and Rs.1200/= for Ellora and other prominent near-by places in Aurangabad.   If you are going as a group, taking taxi might be economical too.

Places to visit in Aurangabad

Ajanta is located about 107 KM from Aurangabad city.  Dating from 200 BC, these caves were excavated in two distinct phases and reportedly took more than 800 years to complete.  They comprise of Chaityas (shrines) dedicated to Lord Buddha and Viharas (monasteries) used by Buddhist monks for meditation.  The paintings and sculptures depict incidents from the life of the Buddha and various Buddhist divinities, with the Jataka tales, illustrating stories of Bodhisattva, being the most famous.

There were not enough lights inside caves and, my old mobile camera didn’t perform a good job inside the caves. The cave ceilings and pillars have colourful paintings; some of them are three dimensional.  One of the caves has explanation on how those colours were created; there were no chemicals used in those colours and those were made with natural materials.  Even though the paintings have damages due to old age, it is heartening to understand that tourism department has taken sufficient steps to protect the remaining.

Ajanta will be closed on all Monday’s for maintenance work and visitors are allowed from 09:00 AM to 05:30 PM on rest of the days.

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Ellora is about 30 KM from Aurangabad, known for their Buddhist, Jain and Hindu cultural influences.  There are 34 caves containing shrines, monasteries and temples.  The Buddhist caves were carved during the period 200 BC to 600 AD.  These were followed by the Hindu caves (500 – 900 AD), and finally the Jain caves (800 – 1000 AD)

The Kailash Temple at Ellora is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is the greatest monolithic sculpture in the world.  It is caved from a single, mammoth rock. Ellora will be closed on all Tuesday’s for the maintenance purposes and visitors are allowed from 09:00 AM to 05:30 PM on rest of the days.

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Daulatabad is about 15 KM from Aurangabad, on the way towards Ellora Caves, is the hill fortress of Daulatabad.  Once known as Devgiri, meaning Hill of Gods, this magnificent 12th century fortress was the capital of the Yadava rulers.  It was renamed Daulatabad (City of Fortune) in the 14th century by Mohammed Tughlaq, Sultan of Delhi,  and forcibily moved the entire population of Delhi for two years before it was abandoned for lack of water and Tughluq was constantly known for shifting the capital from Delhi to Devagiri and Devagiri to Delhi.

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Bibi-Ka-Maqbara: In 1679, Aurangzeb’s son built the inspiringly beautiful Bibi-Ka-Maqbara as a tribute to his mother, Begum Rabia-ud-Durani.  It is a replica of the Taj Mahal of Agra, the only piece of Mughal architecture on the Deccan built towards the end of the Mughal Era in India.

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Personal Experiences

  1. On the first day morning at Aurangabad, I walked to the MTDC guest house which is one KM away from railway station and enquired about the MTDC bus service to Ajanta. The response was not so promising, ‘you can wait here, bus may come at 08:00 AM’. By the time a taxi cab driver waiting at the gate came inside and tried to convince me to travel in taxi than MTDC bus to Ajanta. Though I didn’t travel in taxi considering the additional expenses it can generate, I promised him that I will use his taxi whenever I visit Aurangabad next time with family.

I was really fascinated by his persuasive skills; though it was impromptu, he used a well- defined structure in his speech to convince a potential customer.  He started with the advantages of travelling in taxi than a bus – trip can be customized and can be stopped at any view point to take photos, I can spend sufficient time in each locations and no need to wait for other passengers.

I informed him that the expense to travel in taxi was high and since I came alone, it is a luxury for me to travel in a taxi.

After hearing that reply, he started talking about his problems – as there are very less tourists in this season, he didn’t have trip for last four days.  He needs to pay EMI (Equal Monthly Instalments) for his car loan and also have to take care of household expenses.  Government has recently given permits  to 60 more tourist taxi cabs in the city and that increased the competition.  He was ready to reduce taxi charge to a bit and provided a cost break-up structure.  As per that, he will get only Rs.400/= by end of the day which I also felt is reasonable for his effort.  He showed his ID card given by tourism department to gain the confidence of a potential customer.

Since I don’t have a plan in my wildest dreams to travel in a cab, I was hesitant to his arguments.  He realised it quickly and informed me that the bus might have cancelled for today as it is already 08:15 AM.  He also informed that the bus was cancelled its trip 4 days in the last week due to not insufficient number of travellers.  He emphasised on the problems that I may encounter if I still wait for the bus.

He advised, ‘it is not prudent to waste time by waiting for the bus’.  He also educated me on how successful people take quick decisions based on situations (that prompted me to revisit few of my life situations and I silently agreed with him that I’m lacking that quick decision making skills).

At the end I informed him that if MTDC bus is not available, I will go to bus stand and will take local bus from there.  He explained the drawback of such a plan as Ajanta is spread over ~5 KMs, local bus will not help to see all the places in Ajanta.  He suggested me to find ways to reduce expenses at other places to compensate any additional expenses that may needed for a taxi trip to Ajanta.  I wondered, how quickly he was coming with solutions for the problems.  By the time he might have realized the mean character of his potential customer, he decided to temporarily end the persuasive effort and gave his visiting card to call him if needed.

He used information, emotion, historical data, and plausible risk mitigation plans in a credible way which is essential for a persuasive speech.  I learned a lot from him.

I waited there till 08:30 AM and once again enquired about the MTDC personal available at the counter and he explained he didn’t have any control over the bus.  Since nobody is picking phone at the other end, he cannot comment on the availability of bus.

I took a shared auto and went to Aurangabad central bus stand.  The MTDC to Ajanta was waiting at bus stand.  While entering in to the almost empty bus, I felt guilty for not agreeing with the taxi driver.   I comforted myself that if I get an opportunity to visit Aurangabad again, I will travel in his taxi.  I kept his visiting card safe.  But I know, that might not solve his current problems.

2.  Next day, on the way to Ellora, we were only five passengers in the MTDC bus. The other four passengers came together for the trip were friends. Later I understood that they are working in Bangalore at a LED bulb manufacturing factory and their hometown is at AndhraPradesh. I joined with them and amazed by the way they treated me. Within no time, they started considering me as one among them and whenever they were buying eatables or water bottles they bought one for me too. When I tried to repay, the answer I got was, ‘Friendship is above everything’ which was an eye-opener for me. While it was time to part, we had tea together (during they allowed me to pay the bill) and we exchanged WhatsApp numbers to be in touch.

3. From Aurangabad I took a bus to Shirdhi which is just Rs.140/= away from Aurangabad in an ordinary MSRTC bus. Morning I went to the temple and as expected it was crowded, I stood ~ 3 hours in the queue and reached near to the idol of worship. An individual standing near to the idol by controlling the crowed showed some mercy towards me by inviting me to stand near to him and he was pushing others out as quickly as possible. After a minute he held my hand and informed the priest to perform a Pooja for me which I declined. He was not ready to leave me without performing the Pooja. As I had a similar experience in Puri temple, I realized the need to pay ‘dakshina’ after performing Pooja and informed him that, I didn’t need any Pooja and forced to release my hand and marched towards exit door of the temple. While walking out, I was thinking about the reason for holding only my hand and allowing others to go. Only reason I could think was, others were holding some Pooja materials such as flowers in their hand, but my hands were empty.

4. As I was walking towards Shirdi railway station (1.5 km walk from the main road), I saw an elderly person wearing traditional Maratha white pants, shirt and a Gandhi cap waiting for me on the side of an empty narrow road. I gave a casual look but he smiled at me as if we know each other for years. I couldn’t resist and smiled back. I looked at him from foot to head and felt he was tired and was returning after working in mud. He resembles Anna Hazare at a glance.

He greeted me and informed that he was waiting for me (in Marathi). I was surprised and informed him that I know only Hindi (which I doubt, but in unavoidable circumstances I’m accustomed with such lies). He informed, he is from a nearby village and not so comfortable with Hindi language which gave me more confidence to talk in Hindi.

His name is Sampath (which means prosperity or wealth in Malayalam) but he talked about his poverty. He has four daughters and wife at home. He came to Shirdi to get a job but didn’t get any for today. He also informed me that he used to earn Rs.150/= per day if gets a job. He showed his tired pants as an evidence of his poverty. When I started quizzing him with my broken Hindi, he invited me to his village and house to stay for a day. Initially I believed all those but as conversation progressed he told, he has to spend Rs.30/= for train to reach his house. That means Rs.60/= per day for train which I felt odd for a person earning Rs.150/= per day. I didn’t dig much and asked him about his expectation from me. He asked if I can give him Rs. 20 or 30, that will help him to go back to his village. I thought about the difficulty of washing my black pants and asked him about the need for wearing white dress while going for work but he educated me about the tradition and pride in wearing white dresses. I saw lot of elderly Maharashtrian gentlemen wearing the white dress and Gandhi cap while travelling in train, which is the symbol of a proud Maharashtrian.

By the time we reached railway station, I gave him Rs.xx/= and took a selfie with him.  After receiving the amount he wished all the very best for my kids and informed me to convey his regards to all in my family.

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What makes you Happy? and Synthetic Happiness


Few days back, I was attending a job interview. It was a technical interview but in between interviewer mystified me with a question – “Manoj, what makes you happy?”

Why does someone want to make me happy? That is the first question came to my mind. I need a job, that is my expectation while attending the interview. I don’t have a quick answer for the question as I couldn’t find a polished reply to enthrall the interviewer.

Once I come out from that room, two questions are around me 1) why does somebody want to make me happy? 2) What makes me happy?

Finding answer for the first question is tricky; it requires inputs from ‘someone’ which is difficult and even if I get answers that might not be true inputs. So I’m leaving that question for the time being and will try to find answer for the second question which solely depends on me.

After few hours of thinking, I realized I really don’t know what makes me happy or in other words there are too many things made me happy in different situations. The object/service that made me happy in certain period might not make me happy now. In short, my happiness is not constantly depends on a single object. My concept of happiness is also not constant. Even I started asking, who am I? I don’t have a constant answer for that as well. I don’t know much about myself. So it is difficult for me to answer, what makes me happy. My concept of happiness is evolved through different periods of my life. I realized, I’m not going to get an answer for – what makes me happy. As perplexed with these thoughts, I started Googling. [These are situations I feel ashamed about myself; I’m depended on Google to find answers related to me… But in certain situations it helped me to widen my awareness in that area].

I’m stuck on a concept called ‘Synthetic Happiness’. Yes, it says we can manufacture happiness as we need. Happiness researcher, Daniel Gilbert also says, ‘frequency of your positive experiences is a much better predictor of your happiness than is the intensity of your positive experiences. We imagine that one or two big things will have a profound effect. But it looks like happiness is the sum of hundreds of small things. ’
You can read more on this from

http://www.mbird.com/2012/01/daniel-gilbert-on-synthetic-happiness-and-the-difference-between-a-challenge-and-a-threat/

Another site has an elucidation; ‘those who are having lesser complaints are the happiest and thus richest in the world’.  I like to believe that, it is the only way I could find my name in Forbes magazine’s world’s richest 100 people list.  Don’t know Forbes magazine will accept this definition for ‘richest’ though.

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Accessibility and Usability in serving dishes


When I was a school kid, elders in house used to impose dos and don’ts for almost all daily activities.  As one among you guys, I found hidden pleasure in violating the dos and experimenting with don’ts.   Whenever they found the kids were not doing things as suggested, they used a proverb – ‘Moothavar chellum muthu nellika adhyam kaikkum pinne madhurikkum’  [Advices from elders are like gooseberries, its first taste is sour but it gets sweet later].  But who cares? 

 As part of Kerala culture, we used to have sadhya [Feast] for almost all festivals, family gatherings etc…. These feasts are mainly served with vegetarian dishes [called curry] and served in plantains.   We kids used to serve the dishes for elder people and guests.  My Grandma used to say, there are specific location for each dish and it should be served in those specific location in the plantain.  It was very difficult for me to digest, what will happen if those location changes?  It is totally illogical for me to follow such an advice.

Years later, I got opportunity to work in software design and development.  As part of career, I came to know about User Interface Design concepts like Accessibility, Usability etc… , at that time those concepts were eye openers for me.

 Image

Now I can relate the accessibility and usability concepts in my Grandma’s advice on positioning of dishes.  As per the order she told, less frequently used dishes like pickles, chips, banana etc…marked 7 to 14 in the picture were to be served at the left top corner of the plantain which is the most difficult position to reach in the plantain.   Frequently used curries – marked 1 to 6 in the picture – were to be served in the right top area of the plantain and rice – main dish – have to be served in the middle portion of the plantain.  That makes easy access for those who are sitting in front of the plantain. 

As part of the culture, there is lot of importance in keeping the guests happy by serving tasty food in friendly manner.  Specific locations for dishes might have came from that mindset but I was not good enough to understand that in my school days.

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A Hall where Anyone can Walk-in…


When I entered in to that hall, there were around 20 people inside. It was not decorated but looked neat.  Through the near by window, I can see ~50 people working in the paddy field.  What should I do next?  Not sure.  I followed those in front of me.  Wrote my name and address in a book and they gave me a number, Devotee #: 256.  Not a big number, I may be one of the early birds here.  

An old man approached me and asked,

“What ritual would you like to perform? “

“I don’t know” was my reply.

 “That’s good”,

The old man smiled and showed me a list of rituals people usually follows there.  I glanced through the list of rituals, interestingly I was not considered any of those are as rituals.   With great curiosity I asked the old man, how much do you charge for performing these rituals? 

This time old man had a good laugh. “There is no priest here to perform the rituals, so you have to do it by yourself.   Since you are doing it for all of us, you don’t have to pay for it. ” 

I selected ‘working in kitchen’ as the ritual; the old man took me to the kitchen.  It was a big hall and lots of people were working in the kitchen.  I joined with them.  All were friendly but I was not aware for whom we were preparing these food items.  

It was around 12 noon when the ritual was over and I was tired.  When I come out from that kitchen, I saw lots of people were standing in a queue for food.  I joined that queue and had food. 

I noticed some of the devotees were going out and some of them were going back to the paddy field to continue there rituals, some new set of people were coming in and selecting a ritual which they would like to perform.  

I came out from that hall and tried to find a board which says what that building is or what is happening inside.  I couldn’t find one. 

When I woke up in the morning, I couldn’t realize what was happening.  But before getting in to bed, I was thinking about going to a nearby prayer hall.

 

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