Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Saturday scrimmage at Costco!

"Honey, can you go to Costco and get a few things?" my wife asked this past Saturday.
"Sure," I replied. "Give me the list." I was happy. I was relaxed . On Friday evening, we were at a mini-concert where we heard melodious, soft ghazals (love songs). The lilting music still reverberated and the mood was still with me.

I drove towards Costco at a leisurely pace, at peace with myself. And then I entered the Costco parking lot and was rudely woken up from my reverie. It was almost chaotic. I got a parking spot which was probably the farthest from the store. There were folks scurrying around as if there was no tomorrow, pushing carts as if they were in a race against time. There were cars following people with carts as they exited the store to their cars, to get that parking. I almost got run over twice.... by carts!.... one of them being pushed by a sweet old lady, whose head barely reached above the handle bars of the cart. And all this happened even before I got into the store!
"Is there something going on inside Costco?" I asked an elderly gentleman, just outside the store. "It seems crowded."
He looked at me as if I was from another planet. "Son, its Saturday and this is Costco." He then walked away, shaking his head. I had a very ominous feeling that time. I almost turned back. But what would I tell my wife? I got a cart and charged on.

If the parking lot was busy, the store inside was a madhouse. There were people and carts every where. People walked aimlessly, ogling at the merchandise, leaving their carts in the middle of the aisles. Then a cart shoved me and my cart hit a lady right in front of me. The lady turned and glared at me, I turned around and glared at the 11-yr old kid who had pushed the cart into me, the kid turned around and glared at his dad walking behind him. The dad was all of 6 feet 5, about 300 pounds and he threw the glare back at me. I looked away quickly and tried to disappear into the sea of humanity!
Then I ran into this line that extended about half-way around the aisle. "What's this line about?" I asked a young lady.
"Oh... it's the free food samples," she replied.
Are you kidding me, I thought to myself. People stand in line for ten minutes to get minuscule amount of food that would barely touch the palate of a chihuahua! And by the way, none of the people standing in line for the "free" samples had their carts with them. So where were the carts? Probably the ones choking the next aisle! Why is it that we just have to get anything that's free?

Anyway, I survived the Saturday Costco challenge. I'm already getting excuses ready for the next time my wife asks me to go to Costco on a Saturday.

Shopping is a women thing. It's a contact sport like football. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase. ~ Erma Bombeck.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Green is the color of 'Social Competitiveness'!!

Competition among siblings, friends and family is a part of our lives. And most of the times it's healthy, as it should be. The complex social environment we live in, tempts a lot of us to follow a more aggressive, unhealthy competitive streak. And the competition can be about anything under the sun. Cars, houses, jewelry, vacations, furniture(!)....... you name it, and you've got instant comparisons, comments and some serious competition! And none of us will ever admit anything like that exists, but we all know it really does. We all see it everyday amongst family, friends and co-workers.

And to be truthful, till about a decade ago, I used to be a part of the competitive social game. At that time, a close friend advised me not to compete socially. "Try not to compete for one month, but try it seriously. Just be happy with what you have. Be happy for people you love and celebrate their success." Well, I tried it for one month. It was tough, but I stuck with it. The experience was so exhilarating and I felt liberated. Life was more rosy, less stressful and much more enjoyable. And I haven't traveled that competitive road ever since.

Being socially competitive is an inborn human trait. The bigger the ego, the more the competitiveness. Sometimes, it will lead to envy. Philosophers define envy "as a drive which lies at the core of man's life as a social being, an urge to compare oneself with others." Simply put, envy is the art of counting the other fellow's blessings instead of your own! It is a symptom of lack of appreciation of our uniqueness and self worth. Each of us has something to give that no one else has. There is no way to be happy and envious at the same time.

A person who is at peace with himself will seldom fall a victim to envy. People who envy you, will talk about you and the life you live. Pay no attention -- you affected their lives, let them not affect yours. The fact that they talk behind your back just shows that you are two steps ahead in the road of life. Unchecked and unbridled envy will lead to jealousy. And that's when social chaos ensues. Jealousy is simply and clearly the fear that we do not have value. Jealousy scans for evidence to prove the point - that others will be preferred and rewarded more than us. There is only one alternative -- self-value. If we cannot love ourselves, we will not believe that we are loved. We should take our eyes off others and turn the scanner within and put all the energy into building our own personal and emotional security.

"Blessed is he who has learned to admire but not envy, to follow but not imitate, to praise but not flatter, and to lead but not manipulate." ~ William Arthur Ward


Sunday, August 16, 2009

So what is your sleep number?!

Whenever I hear that advertisement on the radio, it makes me shake my head. The first few times I heard it, I really thought it was one of those corny pick-up lines! These days, we are coddled so much that we seek convenience and comfort in every conceivable way. I remember as a child, in India, we used to sleep under the stars. We were given a bed sheet, a blanket and a pillow. There were a number of charpais (beds) laid out on the terrace and you tried to grab the one nearest to the fan. That was it. And the generation today will grow up on sleep numbers! For those of you who don't know what a "sleep number" is; it relates to the softness or firmness of your mattress, on either side.

In today's world, we are used to everything good and great in life. Instant gratification is the essence of life. When we want something, we want it yesterday. And we want it with all the bells and whistles. If its a car, we want the "Limited" edition; if we want marble in the house, it has to be "Italian"; if we want a perfume, it's got to be "French". Have you recently been to the grocery store to get bread? There are twenty different kinds of bread, for God's sake. Well, now we are paying for our excesses to some extent and getting a much needed lesson about restraint. You always try to improve what you have, whether it be materialistic things or relationships. But the important thing is to be content and happy with what we have, rather than being miserable about what we don't. Yes, contentment can kill ambition. So it is important to strive hard towards what we want to have, but we should stay within the realms of reality and circumstances.

As Charles Dickens once said -- "Vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess." There is something unnerving about the words "more than enough". When we have more, it is never enough. It is always somewhere out there, just out of reach. The more we acquire, the more elusive enough becomes. An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit.

"Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age, a great many of us are possessed by our possessions." ~ Thoreau


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Is Vanity all in Vain?

The other day, while driving to my office early in the morning, I observed something interesting. There's a stretch of about 2 miles that has about 6 traffic lights. At the first light, which happened to be red, I glanced at the car parallel to me and saw a middle-aged, tired looking lady in the driver's seat. She had a make-up box opened on the passenger seat and was frantically rubbing something on her face. The traffic was slow and we crawled to the next light, which was again red. The same car was parallel to me and I glanced at her again. She had another lotion that she was applying on her face. It did seem to make her face glow and now she decidedly looked less tired. Coincidentally, all the 6 lights were red for me that day. This lady's car was always next to mine at all of them and she was constantly doing something to her face and hair. By the fourth traffic light, she looked about 10 years younger and started to look familiar. By the 6th light, I knew who she was. She was actually the young secretary in the suite next to our office!

What a difference a few traffic lights and some make-up can make! She looked a whole lot younger and a lot more energetic compared to the middle-aged lady I saw at the first traffic light. Most men complain when their significant others take a lot of time to get ready. But men are vain too, maybe not to the degree that the fairer sex is. But if you can look a bit younger, more energetic and feel good about yourself by smacking a few lotions & potions on your face, why not? Maybe vanity is not vain, after all, if it stays within the confines of common sense.

Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us. Being too vain leads to arrogance, as some mistakenly believe that that their looks add to their stature.

"Love measures our stature: the more we love, the bigger we are. There is no smaller package in all the world than that of a man all wrapped up in himself."
~ George Elliott

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Silence is sometimes deafening.....

Recently, I was at the airport to receive someone. A fascinating scene unfolded in front of me as passengers picked up their baggage and met people waiting for them. A young lady, probably in her mid thirties picked up her bag and looked around for her loved ones. A gentleman of about the same age, went running by me to greet her. He swept her in his arms and hugged her. After a few seconds, they both took a step back and communicated frantically with each other in sign language. Then they would kiss and hug again...... and this went on for a few minutes. There was not a word spoken between them, yet there was so much said. I know its wrong to stare, but I couldn't help it. The silence of their greeting was deafening. As they walked past me, I stole a glance at the sticker hanging from their baggage and it read: "Hearing & Speech challenged".

Seeing them, I knew they cared for each other. Words, though important, are not always necessary to express your feelings in a relationship. Our actions, our eyes, our deeds can say much more than words at any given time. Being loud is not always convincing to get a point across. There's a common Sicilian phrase, that "The loudest person in a room is the weakest." I don't think this is always true, but an insecure mind does constantly seek attention. The only time we really need to be loud is when we defend our friends. As Martin Luther King Jr. said --"Hear no evil of thy friends, for after a fight, we don't remember the words of our enemies, but we do remember the silence of our friends."

It is important to be a good listener. The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.

Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying, but the never needing to say is what counts.