Sunday, November 29, 2015

Slow down.... take a deep breath....

"I get exhausted even before I leave the house in the morning, Doc." This was a 30 some-year old young man telling me his complaint. I was surprised. All his blood tests were normal.
"All your results look good, you don't have a fever. Are you sleeping enough at night?" I asked.
"Oh yes, Doc. Go to bed at about 11 every night and I am up at 6 am. And then I am out of the house at 8:30."
 "Leave at 8:30? And you are up at 6 am. Are you exercising too much before you leave for work in the morning," I said.
"Exercise?! I don't exercise at all, I don't have time. I can barely get ready on time!"
"Is that right? It takes you two and a half hours to get ready in the morning? Why is that?" I asked curiously.
"You really want to know? Okay...After I get up, I go to the bath---"
"Let's skip that part," I cut in hastily.
"Okay. After that, I have to put on the facial scrub every Monday and Wednesday, and leave it on for seven and a half minutes, then wash it off. Then comes the skin peel lotion Monday through Thursday, which stays on for exactly three and a half minutes. After that, its the collagen building skin cream Monday through Friday, and that stays on for 5 minutes before I wipe it off. In between I have to check my facebook account every 10 minutes for new posts and updates. And then comes the skin softening lotion--"
"Hold on, hold on......You are still not done with your lotions and creams?! How do you keep track of all this!" I was amazed.
"That's not a problem. I have the algorithm on my i-Pad. So that's the first thing I turn on so that I can follow the sequence and timings exactly. You want me to tell you what else I do in the morning before I pack my i phone, i pad, lap top--- ?"
"No..no, thanks," I interrupted him. "I get the picture." 
I was exhausted just listening to him! Now I knew why he was tired before he left his house every morning.

Now I admit this guy was a bit extreme, but I know a lot of us have just too much going on in our lives. We try hard to look good, to look young, to lose weight, to stay connected via social media, among other things. Human beings are social animals, and hence the innate need to seek approval of our social sphere. The more insecure among us will try the hardest to please everybody. And I haven't even mentioned work, "kitty parties", social obligations etc. Maybe this is our life these days. How about taking a step back and reconsidering our priorities off & on, lest the forest gets lost among the trees? 

Life is simple, it's just not easy to be simple.

"Simplicity is realizing what you need, rather than what you want." ~ Apoorve Dubey

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Humility : A lesson in humanity !

The elderly patient was a little hesitant. I knew there was something on her mind.
"Is there anything else I can do for you?" I asked.
"Well...please don't take it the wrong way, doc," she started. "But the specialist that you sent me to..."
"Yes," I said. "What about the specialist?"
"I am not going back to that doctor again," she said.
"You don't have to. Would you please tell me why, though?" I asked.
"That doctor is very arrogant. No humility at all," she said firmly.
I was taken aback. "But he is a great doctor," I said defensively.
"I am sure. But not a great person. And that really matters to me," she replied.

I don't know what put that elderly lady off. I didn't press her for any more details. So what is humility? The dictionary defines it as a -- "Disposition to be humble, a lack of false pride."

It's not bad to have pride. A lot of us are deservedly proud of our accomplishments, whether it is professional or in various aspects of our personal lives. The problem comes up when, and if, we start flaunting our success. A lot of people are put off by those who toot their own horn all the time. These are the "know-it-all" people. The toughest three words to elicit from them, as Somerset Maugham so eloquently put it -

It isn't until quite late in life that some people discover how easy it is to say - "I don't know"!

We often forget that at first, we are human beings, with our own unique mixture of virtues and vices. And second, we have our profession, which requires acquiring the appropriate skills. Here is where the confusion starts. We need to realize that our skill set, whatever it may be, can earn us respect, but not love and affection. It is our humanity, underneath that skill set, that earns us the love and affection of people around us.


Many people believe that that humility is the opposite of pride, when, in fact, it is a point of equilibrium. The opposite of pride is actually lack of self-esteem. Is it difficult to be humble? If we are secure in ourselves, humility would be natural. So the corollary would be that people who ooze arrogance, who consider themselves superior and are constantly engaged in endeavors to garner attention, are probably the most insecure.

Be careful at social gatherings, because the more you talk about yourself, the more you will be talked about when you leave! It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help. Our society comprises of an intricate web of relationships. Success, in any shape or form, is generally never one individual's alone. Family, friends and co-workers, among others, are a part of that success.

The man who thinks he can live without others is mistaken; the one who thinks others can't live without him is even more deluded.


"Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less." ~ C. S. Lewis 

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Monday, November 2, 2015

"From Bombay to Bangalore......"

Sudha Murthy is the Chairperson of the Infosys Foundation. She often writes about real life experiences. The one below is one of her own. Please read it till the end......it will be worth it. 
It was the beginning of summer. I was boarding Udyan Express at Gulbarga railway station. My destination was Bangalore. As I boarded the train, I saw that the second-class reserved compartment was jam-packed with people. I sat down and was pushed to the corner of the berth. Though it was meant for three people, there were already six of us sitting on it...
 
The ticket collector came in and started checking people's tickets and reservations. Suddenly, he looked in my direction and asked, "What about your ticket?"
"I have already shown my ticket to you," I said.
"Not you, madam, the girl hiding below your berth. Hey, come out, where is your ticket?" I realized that someone was sitting below my berth. When the collector yelled at her, the girl came out of hiding.
 
She was thin, dark, scared and looked like she had been crying profusely. She must have been about thirteen or fourteen years old.She had uncombed hair and was dressed in a torn skirt and blouse. She was trembling and folded both her hands. The collector started forcibly pulling her out from the compartment. 
I stood up and called out to the collector. "Sir, I will pay for her ticket."
 
The collector looked at me and said, 'Madam, if you give her ten rupees, she will be much happier than with the ticket.'
 
I told the collector to just give me a ticket to the last destination, Bangalore, so that the girl could get down wherever she wanted.
 
Slowly, she started talking. She told me that her name was Chitra. She lived in a village near Bidar. Her father was a coolie and she had lost her mother at birth. Her father had remarried and had two sons with her stepmother. But a few months ago, her father had died. Her stepmother started beating her often and did not give her food. She did not have anybody to support her, so she left home.
 
By this time, the train had reached Bangalore. I said goodbye to Chitra and got down from the train. My driver came and picked up my bags. I felt someone watching me. When I turned back, Chitra was standing there and looking at me with sad eyes. 

I told her to get into my car. My driver looked at the girl curiously. I told him to take us to my friend Ram's place. Ram ran separate shelter homes for boys and girls. Infosys Foundation supported him financially. I thought Chitra could stay there for some time and we could talk about her future after I came back from my tours.
 
Over the next few months, Chitra adjusted well at the shelter. Ram suggested that Chitra could go to a high school nearby. I immediately agreed and said I would sponsor her expenses as long as she continued to study. I left the shelter knowing that Chitra had found a home and a new direction in life.
 
I got busier and my visits to the shelter reduced to once a year. But I always enquired about Chitra's well-being over the phone. I knew that she was studying well and that her progress was good. I offered to sponsor her college studies if she wanted to continue studying. 
"No Akka," she said, "I have talked to my friends and made up my mind. I would like to do my diploma in computer science so I can immediately get a job after three years." She wanted to become economically independent as soon as possible. Chitra obtained her diploma with flying colors. She also got a job in a software company as an assistant testing engineer. When she got her first salary, she came to my office with a sari and a box of sweets.
 
One day, when I was in Delhi, I got a call from Chitra. She was very happy. "Akka, my company is sending me to USA! I wanted to meet you and get your blessings but you are not here in Bangalore."
 
Years passed. Occasionally, I received an e-mail from Chitra. She was doing very well in her career. She was posted across several cities in USA and was enjoying life. I silently prayed that she should always be happy wherever she was.
 
Years later, I was invited to deliver a lecture in San Francisco for Kannada Koota, an organization where families who speak Kannada meet and organize events. The lecture was in a convention hall of a hotel and I decided to stay at the same hotel. After the lecture, I was planning to leave for the airport. When I checked out of the hotel room and went to the reception counter to pay the bill, the receptionist said, "Ma'am, you don't need to pay us anything. The lady over there has already settled your bill. She must know you pretty well." I turned around and saw Chitra standing there.
 
She was with a young white man and wore a beautiful sari. She was looking very pretty with short hair. Her dark eyes were beaming with happiness and pride. As soon as she saw me, she gave me a brilliant smile, hugged me and touched my feet. I was overwhelmed with joy and did not know what to say. I was very happy to see the way things had turned out for Chitra. But I came back to my original question. 
"Chitra, why did you pay my hotel bill? That is not right," I said.
She started sobbing and hugged me. "Because you paid for my ticket from Bombay to Bangalore..."