Sunday, July 24, 2011

Attitude adjustment needed --- for 'Stars' and 'Stargazers' !!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to an Indian Music (Bollywood) concert. But the real experience for me was a day before, at the pre-concert dinner. That event was at a local Indian restaurant. It was an average sized hall, but with surprisingly few people. I went to over the bar and looked towards the stage. And I knew who the "star" on the stage was....instantly!

This guy had dark shades on, (it was about 9 30 pm and indoors!) And the attitude was typical of a 'spoilt brat'. And then in a few minutes, I guess it was time for him to leave. A cordon of about 12-15 young men appeared around our star and closeted him. Then they herded him out of the room, all the while forming a tight circle around him, pushing away imaginary crowds! And there was NOBODY within 20 feet of our star! It was quite a spectacle.....almost comical.

Later on in the evening, we were sitting around a table with a few close friends, waiting for the next star to show up. We discussed how people feed the ego of our stars, which is already humungous, and make it "Super- humungous". They all agreed with me. And then the next star showed up.... and in the next two seconds, everybody on my table disappeared! I found myself alone on the table, except for the entertaining company of my 3-yr-old godson! 

I think all of us (including me) are a part of the reason why most of our stars have an air about them, some of it deserved, but mostly not! We belong to a culture where any connection, no matter how remote, to any celebrity gives the person a 'leg up' on his peers. For example, (read this slowly) knowing the "celebrity's sister's husband's cousin's neighbor" will get you a lot of  "oohs" and 'aahs"!

And finally the concert itself-- the star with more humility was the one who rocked the crowd. She did not have an irritating attitude, was very friendly and her performance was par excellence! The other "star" with all the attitude -- was terrible. Now extrapolate that to the real world. People with an 'air' or 'attitude' about them.....are they just that? Just a lot of 'hot air' and no substance or sincerity? 

"A humble, healthy attitude is contagious but don't wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier." ~ Jawaharlal Nehru


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Absentmindedness......good, bad or natural?

Stories abound about absentmindedness. Mostly professors, eccentric geniuses, people near their golden years........and occasionally (relatively!) young,  intelligent, bright people like my friend who was flying home from a business meeting. He got to the airport with his friends. He was to board from gate 6, at 4 pm. 
"What time is your flight?" his friend asked him.
"I have plenty of time. My flight's at 6 pm, from gate 4," my friend replied, looking at his watch.
So what happened? Some neuronal circuits got swapped in his brain? And believe me, he is one of the brightest people I know. He had a flash of  "absentmindedness" that resulted in the ensuing confusion. How does that happen?

We all have been absentminded at one time or another. These are called action slips or mental lapses. Ever rushed upstairs and forgot why you were there? Or went grocery shopping and forgot the one thing that you really needed? (that's my specialty!) I have seen people look for their spectacles or shades which are actually perched on their heads.

So what is absentmindedness? Is it inattentiveness? Lack of concentration? Neuro-scientists insist that about 6-7 "mental lapses" per week are normal. And that is during routine, stress free circumstances. Increased stress, mental or physical, will inevitably lead to more absentmindedness. Busy lifestyles, the deluge of information-- e mail, internet, facebook-- definitely puts more demand on our time and minds. Sometimes, absentmindedness will graduate into forgetfulness. We all worry when we forget occasionally, that we are getting "old". Please don't -- its normal. Just ease up on the facebook time, cut down on the web browsing and see how much better your memory will work!

"I forget what I was taught. I only remember what I have learnt." ~ Patrick White


Sunday, June 26, 2011

The "easy way out" is not always easy!

"Hey doc, I want you to help me," a young patient said to me last week. He was my first patient that morning.
"Okay," I said. "How can I help you?"
"I need a pill to lose weight. I have to lose 10 pounds in the next 15 days."
I looked at him a bit more closely. He was one of my pleasantly plump patients. "So you have to lose 10 pounds? I've been trying to tell you the same thing for the last so many years. Why the sudden urgency?" I asked.
"Well, I have a bet with my wife -- to see which one of us will lose 10 pounds first," he didn't seem to have any guilty feelings.
"So you want a weight loss pill. You think that's a fair bet?" I asked
"Everything is fair in love & war, doc. And this happens to be both!" He was very animated.
I couldn't help smiling. The extent to which people will go to lose weight and to impress the fairer sex! Its a constant "battle of the bulge"!
"There's no such pill, it just has to be diet and exercise," I said.
"You can't be serious! We can go to the moon, we have the i-pad and skype, and no pill to lose weight? That sucks." He was really disappointed.
His statement gave me pause. He wanted quick results, like most of us. These days life is fast, the cars are fancy, the houses are big and the egos even bigger! And as we all know, ego has a voracious appetite. The more you feed it, the hungrier it gets.

Preferring the easy way out is the norm in our culture these days. And it is not limited to losing weight, it extends to all facets of our lives. In real life, success is often not a result of talent, but a matter of hard work and tenacity.  The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking spots, the key is not to lose focus. Success is more permanent when you achieve it without destroying your principles.

"I am a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." ~ Thomas Jefferson


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Traveling "elite"!

This past weekend I took another flight. I don't fly much and I really am not a savvy traveler. We got to my favorite part -- the security check! I was surprised there were so many people that early in the morning. I removed my shoes and my belt, took out my wallet, my keys, my phone and some change in my pockets etc. The line behind me grew by the minute and there were a lot of impatient faces, taking quick glances at their watches. Then I had the choice of a stranger patting me down or an unseen stranger doing my whole body scan! And God knows what they can see in that scan. Well, I eventually made it past the security check and waited for my stuff to roll out on the belt.
"Who's bag is this?" A voice boomed and the gentleman pointed sternly bag!
"That's mine," I said, hesitantly.
"Sir, do you have a laptop in this bag?"
"Well, it's an i pad," I said.
"Sir, you need to take it out," he said, as he handed me my carry on bag with a disapproving look.
"Oh...I'm sorry," I said, quite embarrassed. I proceeded to take out the i pad. The line got held up and there were quite a few stares directed at me, with a whisper traveling the length of the line -- "He didn't take it out...he didn't take it out..."!

We finally made it to the boarding area. When our rows to board were announced, I hurried to the gate.
"Are you traveling first class or business class?" The petite lady at the gate asked me, quite crisply.
"No--" I replied.
"Are you a club-world, platinum-club, club-elite, world-elite, silver-club or silver-club-elite member?" She rattled off. My head was spinning!
"I..I don't think so," I replied nervously.
"Well, sir, then you shouldn't be standing on the red carpet," she said sharply, pointing to the ground.
I looked down and I was indeed standing on the red "elite" side of the boarding walkway. I gently stepped two feet to my right on the "grey" side of the walkway carpet, apparently for regular folks like me.
"Welcome to flight 289 to Houston, your seat number is 29 C." It was a bright smile now!
When we disembarked, as we walked out of the plane, the now familiar red and grey carpets were laid out on the walkway. Nobody was watching me, so I casually walked onto the red carpet and waited for that "elite" feeling to sweep over me. But nothing happened! Regular grey or the elite red, it was the same.

"The first step towards a life of simplicity is to learn to let go. Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." ~ Confucius


Sunday, May 29, 2011

A flight to remember!

My wife and I recently went on a trip to Las Vegas. It was a last minute plan and when I booked through an online travel agency, I thought I got a good deal. We got to the airport and at the curbside check in, I shelled out $17 to check in a bag. I really didn't have problem with that.
"Could you please seat us together?" I requested.
"Well....," the young lady at the counter said and handed me the tickets. As I walked away, I saw the seat numbers -- 1A and 6A. I was back at the counter in a second.
"I requested to be seated together." I was a little annoyed.
"The computer assigns random seats, the only option I can put in is to put people in the same row."
"The same row? You have us in row 1 and row 6!"
"Sir, you both are in row A."
"Row A?! Row A extends from 1 to 26---"
"There is another option. You could buy choice seats."
"Choice seats? What are choice seats?"
"For a nominal charge, we can give you seats together."
"Oh, alright. Let's do that."
"That will be $15---"
"That's not too bad---" I started.
"---for each seat, one-way," she continued.
I was peeved, but I paid up anyway. I would rather pay altogether in the beginning rather than paying small amounts in ten different steps. We made it to our "choice seats" and before take-off, the stewardess started with her safety monologue. It was very early in the morning, and my eyes were getting heavier.......

........"We also have a beverage service for your convenience and pleasure. Wine is $5 per serving, sodas and water for $2.... there's a surcharge of 50 cents on each of these if you want the flight attendant to smile while she or he serves you--"
I turned to my wife, who was snoozing. "Did you hear what she said! There's a 50 cent charge if you want the flight attendant to smile---"
"We live in tough economic times. A 50 cent smile is a real cheap smile though......" she said, as she dozed off again.
"Hey miss, at this rate you'll soon be charging us to use the restroom," I joked to the flight attendant as she walked by.
"Sir, the first 150 seconds of the restroom usage are free," she said. And she was not smiling.
"What? I was just kidding!"
"Well, I am not," she said frostily. "After the first 150 seconds, you put a quarter in the slot by the toilet seat, every 30 seconds."
"And what happens if I don't have a quarter?" I asked, almost afraid of the answer.
"In that case, sir, you will get a five second restroom grace time. After the 5 seconds expire, the locks will release and the door will automatically swing open."
"God! You are kidding, right?"
"Never been more serious in my life. For your comfort & convenience, this aircraft is equipped with change machines right outside the restrooms." And she walked off, still without a smile.
Wow! Was this wild or what?.........
And then my wife woke me up. "Hey, we are in Vegas. Let's go and win that million dollars!"

I don't know how much of the above occurred in dreamland. The next time you take a flight, please take some quarters with you, just in case.......


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Being 'ONE' as a family......

This past weekend, my wife and I were fortunate to be a part of a celebration of a young lady's graduation from medical school. It was just family and a few close friends. It was one of the most memorable evenings for me. And the reason for it being so special was the "informality"  of the evening. It was a cozy basement. The atmosphere was all about love and affection for the young lady, and wishing her the best for the rest of her life. One could feel the warmth of the cocoon her family had provided, and they were 'ONE' that evening.

There were no highly strung divas strutting around, flashing their diamonds or the Type A gentlemen talking about their big condos or even bigger bank balances! And thank God for that. This gathering was far from that. It was all about heart, respect and pulling together as a family.

We go through a lot in life, with its numerous ups and downs, but we always start and end with family. It is a well known fact that children belonging to stable and close knit families will always do well in life. This kind of nurturing produces a strong character.

Anybody who tells you that they never have disagreements  or arguments within their family, is probably not being entirely truthful. Friction is an integral part of the definition of family. But deep down in our hearts, we know that we can never turn away from those with whom we spent our childhood and with whom we shared those special memories & secrets growing up. Always remember that "Families are like fudge---mostly sweet, with a few nuts!"

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one." 


Sunday, April 17, 2011

The facebook "Contract"?!

"Hey, why don't you have a facebook account?" a friend asked me the other day.
"Just the time factor," I replied. "I know I am in a small minority of people who are not on facebook."
"Well, if you do get an account, don't sign that contract," he said.
"Contract? There's no contract when you get an account with facebook." I was pretty sure.
"Some people do sign a contract," he said and sounded sure too.
"What kind of a contract is it?" I asked.
"Where you promise facebook to put up pictures and details of wherever you went, whatever you do," he said.
"Are you sure? I don't think there is anything like that." Or was there? Now I was having doubts.
"But then why would some folks put up pictures of where ever they go? And sometimes while they are still at that party or place!"
I thought for an instant. I had heard of people putting up pictures and details of almost everything they do...but not because they had to, its because they want to.
"That's not because of a contract! That's just because they want to share with friends," I said.
"But their friends are with them at all these places," my friend said.
"I think its for those 'friends' who are not there. I 'm sure there's no contract. They just want to share the fun they had," I replied.
"Hmm. If there is no contract, then its more like showing their 'friends' rather than sharing with them. That's 'targeted sharing'," he said.
"Targeted Sharing!' I almost laughed out loud. "I've heard of 'Targeted Advertising'....but you do have something there. Showmanship is a part of our lives and culture."

He made a great point. I think facebook is a revolutionary innovation of our times. People have found long lost friends and connected to folks all around the globe. But some do take it too far. Posting everything (often with extra spice!) about what we are doing on a daily (sometimes hourly!) basis is a bit of a stretch. The inherent brilliance of a person is a direct reflection of his or her simplicity, without the the extra showmanship and glitter.

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication!" ~ Leonardo Da Vinci  


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Those whom the Gods love, die young...........

The headline you see above is probably true...... But it's no solace for me. This past weekend I lost a friend and my son lost his first coach and mentor. This one-in-a million individual completed his earthly journey at a very young age and passed on to be among angels. And believe me, he won't be out of place there, because he was an angel in real life too.

My association with him goes back about ten years. He saw my son playing soccer and talked to me to get him on a "Real Team"-- his own! That was Ty Lewis. Passionate about the game of Soccer, his team, his "boys". And no wonder his team players idolized him....and still do......and always will.

There are a few people who have personalities that leave a lasting impression on whomever they meet. And this individual was one of them. He will be missed by everyone who had ever met him.

As the age-old saying goes -- "Every man dies -- not every man really lives."  

Well, Coach Ty lived, and almost to perfection. From now on, every time I look up to the stars in the night sky, I'll know he's up there, looking out for the people he cared about the most, especially his "boys".


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Is common sense.......uncommon?!

I have written about this topic before, but something happened last week that I just have to share. This past week I wrote a prescription for a patient, whose last name was "Veerakallinambipoona"-- (I have changed the name to protect patient privacy, but it had exactly the same number of alphabets and sounds similar).
About a couple of hours later, I got a call from the patient.
"Hey doc, they won't fill my prescription. Can you please talk to the pharmacist?"
"Sure," I said. "I'll hold." After a few moments, the pharmacist came on line.
"Hi doctor," he started. "We have a problem filling the prescription for this patient."
"So what's the problem?" I asked.
"His name does not match the one on the prescription."
"Really? What's the name on the prescription?" I was confused. Had I given this patient somebody else's prescription?
"The last letter of the last name is not the same," he said.
Now I was even more confused. "What do you mean?"
'Well, the prescription you wrote is for Veerakallinambipooni, and the patient here is Veerakallinambipoona. So I can't fill the prescription. It could be somebody else."
I burst out laughing. "Somebody else? You can't be serious! How many patients do you have with names even remotely similar to this guy?"
"None. But I have to follow rules," the pharmacist replied.
Well, I couldn't fault him for that. We sorted that one out and the patient got his prescription.

I know we should all follow rules. That makes the world so orderly and easy to negotiate. But when rules are formulated, one cannot predict all the variables and scenarios. But in a situation like the one above, you think one can bend the rules a bit? You decide!

"To act with common sense according to the moment, is the best wisdom I know." ~ Leonardo da Vinci


Sunday, February 13, 2011

The "Valentine" bug !

Well, February 14th is here again, like every year. There will be a lot of flowers and chocolate making rounds. Romance will be alive and well on this day. What are the origins of Valentine's day?

There are a number of theories, but the most likely dates back to ancient Rome in the fifth century A.D. The Roman Emperor at that time, Claudius II, banned marriages as he wanted single men to join the Roman army. A priest named Valentine continued to perform marriages secretly. As per historians, he was jailed when the Emperor found out, on Feb 14th.

Over the years, this day is associated with the celebration of love. Hence the flowers, candy, chocolate, lovey-dovey cards etc. According to The Marriage Bureau statistics, a lot more couples tie the knot on this day than on any other day of the year. This year the special day falls on a Monday, so all of you who are not ready--- there's no excuse. You had the whole weekend to prepare!

But looking at the bigger picture, relationships do not depend on a bouquet or candy on one particular day, however important, sweet or cute it may be. Its the numerous little things that we can do for the person we care about, day in and day out. Not everyone is born a traditional romantic. Trying to create a fictionalized version of romance does not always work. Being thoughtful and making each other laugh will make every day special.

But above all, sincerity and trust are the foundations of any relationship and lead to love. Love is a condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

"You know you are in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams." ~ Dr. Seuss

Sunday, January 30, 2011

To be kind during "Normal" times......

The DC metro area experienced its first big storm of this winter this past Wednesday, followed by the usual traffic hassles. A friend of ours was also caught up in snowy mess that snarled traffic in this area for hours. As he stood by his vehicle that refused to move on the icy road, a car pulled up and the young driver asked if he needed a ride. That young man took him to his own house and then along with his wife, eventually dropped our friend to his house at about midnight! And there are numerous "feel-good" stories like this one. People paying for gas for a complete stranger because the gas station only accepted cash that stormy day, others helping stranded commuters in a variety of ways. Makes you feel good, doesn't it? In a world full of cynicism and "to each his own" mentality, these kind of stories and anecdotes are refreshing.

Its a well known fact that during times of adversity, people will come together and go the extra mile to help fellow human beings. How about during 'normal', day-to-day, routine times? If we all show each other just 10 percent of the civility, kindness and courtesy that comes up spontaneously during tough times, would the world be a kinder, gentler place?

A lot of times, my day starts on a good note just because somebody opens the door for me as I walk into my office building and says "Have a great day!" with a smile. That attitude is contagious and catches on. Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns. One part of living a perfect day would be to do something for someone who, you know, will never be able to repay you.

"Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true." ~ Robert Brault


Sunday, January 2, 2011

A 'Desi' New Year Eve experience!!

We made last minute plans to go to a New Year Eve party. As soon as we entered the party hall, I almost got run over by a pack of screaming 10-year olds. And as is usual in all desi parties, there was no place to sit. After exchanging pleasantries with a few friends we met there, my wife and I decided to get drinks.

I tapped a gentleman on the shoulder and asked him where the bar was.
"This is the line for the bar," he said.
"Really?" I said. "But I can't even see the bar from here!"
"Its a long line," he said, as he shrugged his shoulders.
That was an understatement. The line seemed endless. By the time I would be able to get a drink, it would be the new year already!
"Let's go down and get drinks at the restaurant," I said to my wife.
So we walked to the restaurant, a floor below the hall and bought a few drinks. In spite of the fact that our ticket to the "Grand Party" included unlimited drinks. After a while we thought of going back up to the party. A security guard blocked my path as I tried to walk up the steps. I held up my wrist and showed him my entry bracelet.
"Sorry sir, can't let anybody go up there," he said.
"What?! We have tickets," I said.
"I'm really sorry. The fire marshal's orders, there are too many people. Nobody is going up."
Well, that was that. I looked at my wife and we both burst out laughing.
"So let's get this straight," I said to her. "We paid a lot of money to get tickets to this party, we couldn't find a place to sit, we bought our drinks ourselves and now we can't even get into the party. This has to be the mother of all Desi parties!"
"Let's just go out for a walk," she said.
So we stepped outside the hotel and walked onto the Reston Town Center. The weather was nice and people were dancing outside, to the music from the numerous restaurants lining the streets of the town center. It was one big party. So we joined in at a couple of places. This was better than the party we had paid for!
After a while we decided to head back to "our party". This time they let us in, and we were able to connect with our friends and kids inside before the start of the New Year. The food, as expected was gone, but luckily, our friends had saved some for us, so we would not go hungry.

All in all, we had a good time in spite of the chaotic organization, enjoyable because my family and friends were with me. And at the end of the day, that is all what matters.

"At every cocktail party there are two kinds of people. Those who want to go home and those who don't. Trouble is, they are generally married to each other!"

P.S. "Wishing you all a very happy & healthy New Year!"