One & Only…Field Marshal Manekshaw

On his 102nd birth anniversary…Sam1

It’s true when they say God doesn’t make ’em like him any more. India’s first Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, popularly known as Sam Bahadur, was truly a quintessential soldier and a gentleman. Those who are part of the armed forces of India and their families will know of this great man. Those outside, may not even be aware of what his contribution is to the history of India & Indian Army.

Without delving too much into his early life, I would like to share some incidents & situations that made him who he was – a legend. Spanning four decades, his career began in pre independent India. Capt Manekshaw, fighting in WW II, led his company in a counter-attack against the invading Japanese Army and despite suffering 50% casualties the company managed to achieve its objective. In the counter attack, Capt Manekshaw got hit in the stomach by a machine gun fire. The General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Division, Maj Gen David Cowan, having witnessed Capt Manekshaw’s valour, rushed to his side. Fearing that the young officer would die, the general pinned his own Military Cross ribbon to Manekshaw saying, “A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross.”

Capt Manekshaw was evacuated to Rangoon, and, when the surgeon asked what had happened to him, he replied that he was “kicked by a donkey”.

In 1961, his outspoken frankness got him into trouble with Defence Minister V K Krishna Menon and Lt Gen B M Kaul. He refused to toe Menon’s line and was sidelined, albeit temporarily.

Manekshaw was vindicated soon after when the Indian army suffered a humiliating defeat in North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), now Arunachal Pradesh, the next year, at the hands of the Chinese leading to Menon’s resignation. Prime Minister Nehru rushed Manekshaw to NEFA to command the retreating Indian forces. This had an electrifying effect on the demoralised officers.

In no time, Manekshaw convinced the troops that the Chinese soldier was not “10 feet tall”. His first order of the day said, “There will be no withdrawal without written orders and these orders shall never be issued.” The soldiers showed faith in their new commander and successfully checked further ingress by the Chinese.

In 1964, he took over as Army Commander, Eastern Command in Kolkata. He successfully responded to the insurgency problem in Nagaland, dealt with the Mizo uprising and strived to bring normalcy to the North East. It was here that my father, serving as ADC to Maj Gen KP Candeth, ( commanding 8 Mountain Div) met his Army Commander for the first time. This interaction also taught a lesson that my father has handed down to the next two generations in our family. It so happened that after the day’s work, both Maj Gen Candeth & Lt Gen Manekshaw were relaxing that evening in the GOC’s quarters. My father, being the ADC wheeled in the bar trolley and lifted the bottle of whiskey to pour a drink for both Generals. Lt Gen Manekshaw saw the way this young captain was holding the glass and the whiskey bottle and asked him a question, “Young man, how long have you served with Unni (GOC’s nickname) and do you have a girlfriend?” My father replied, “I have been with Gen Candeth for 8 months Sir. And no Sir, I don’t have a girl friend.”

The Army Commander winked at my Dad and said, “It shows that you don’t have a girl friend by the way you hold the bottle. Remember, always hold the bottle by the neck and your girl by the waist. Never the other round…you will get a kick in the wrong place.” That priceless lesson was handed down to my brother and me and that was the first thing I noticed when I fell in love with my man. He got the permutation right!

As the 8th Chief of Army Staff, Gen Manekshaw’s experience was going to be put to test in 1971 when we went to war with Pakistan. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was yet to understand her Army Chief. When she asked him if we were ready for war, Sam Bahadur’s classic reply was, “I’m always ready, sweetie.” It makes me smile every time I think of the PM’s reaction to a statement like this. Having said that, he also pointed out that our armed forces had to be readied for war and that would take time. He said he could guarantee victory if she would allow him to prepare for the conflict on his terms, and set a date for it. The PM acceded to this and thus, Bangla Desh was born. When the PM asked him to go to Dhaka and accept the surrender of Pakistani forces, Manekshaw declined, magnanimously saying that the honour should go to his Eastern Army Commander, Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora.

He was the epitome of soldiering with dignity. After the 1971 War, he was visiting our injured soldiers in hospitals. He met a young man who had three bullet wounds and quipped, “You received three at this age; when I was of your age, I received nine bullets and look—today, I am the commander in chief of the Indian Army.” He ensured that the 93,000 prisoners of war were treated with utmost respect. Officers who served with him were told to maintain the dignity of the captured soldiers. He personally supervised some the PoW camps, which led to even some of the Pakistani officers salute him for is humane approach.

Handsome, charismatic and a razor sharp wit characterised Field Marshal Manekshaw. That he held politicians in disdain is no secret. He was blunt about the views he held of them, the most famous one being, “I wonder whether those of our political masters who have been put in charge of the defence of the country can distinguish a mortar from a motor; a gun from a howitzer; a guerilla from a gorilla, although a great many resemble the latter.”

On another occasion, PM Gandhi asked him whether he was planning to take over the country. Pointing to his long nose, the General replied: “I don’t use it to poke into other’s affairs. I don’t interfere politically as long as nobody interferes with me in the Army.”

Suave in all his social interactions, Sam Bahadur could charm the pants off anyone, including Bollywood stars. This incident was in Nov/Dec 1999 in Mumbai. A talk & ceremony was organised to honour the heroes, martyrs and war widows of Kargil. The theme was “Lessons from Kargil” and Field Marshal was the main speaker that evening. My Dad had the opportunity to share some of his thoughts and we were in the audience. Some of our Bollywood stars like Raveena tandon & Nana Patekar had visited Kargil just before this event and were also present. It is was an emotianally charged atmosphere and Raveena in her exuberance declared that all soldiers of the Indian Army were like her brothers and wanted to tie a rakhi to Sam Bahadur. He promptly got up from his chair, hugged her and said, “Raveena, a pretty girl like you should tie rakhi to this young General and not me. You and I are friends.” The young General was my father, pushing sixty at that point!

Such a hero was treated shabbily by the government as they did not give him his dues as Field Marshal. His death also showed us how this country views it’s soldiers. Irrespective of how he got treated by the politician & bureaucrats in his life or death, Sam Bahadur will always be loved and respected by the likes of us who have known him or known of him.

And to think he wanted to become a gynaecologist when he was 15 years. When his father refused to send him to London to study, Sam Bahadur rebelled and applied for the entrance examination of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) Dehradun.

Thank you Uncle Sam for rebelling when you did…because India got one her best and most celebrated army officer!

Quintessentially Indian Army…

“You have never lived until
You have almost died,
And for those who choose to fight,
Life has a special flavor,
The protected will never know!!!”
-Capt R Subramanium Kirti Chakra (Posth)images

Happy Army Day!

Saluting the Indian Army, to which I owe a lot in my life, I have put together some amazing facts for everyone to read. The more I dug into my research & reading, the more I found…I can’t really do justice to what this proud institution has done for Indians & for India. This is merely an attempt to educate the people out there…

  1. Indian army has close to 1.3 million soldiers, making it the second largest army in the world. Numbers do matter.
  2. Indian Army is located in some of the most inhospitable terrains of the world and have never buckled under pressure.
  3. Every scenario encountered in these terrains have been battled and faced by our armed forces.
  4. It is a united army not based on any social, economic, religious or cultural divide.
  5. We are considered to amongst the best in high altitude & mountain warfare.
  6. We are regarded as the best army to deal with counter insurgency operations.
  7. Indian Army controls the highest battlefield in the world – Siachen Glacier.
  8. We have fought four major wars and helped in the creation of an independent Bangla Desh.
  9. The Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 ended with the surrender of about 93,000 combatants and officials of the Pakistani Army. This is the largest number of POWs taken into custody since World War II.
  10. The Portuguese ruled Goa for more than 461 years until 1961. They refused to hand over Goa to India even after the Indian independence. The locals were resisting the Portuguese, but even after many diplomatic efforts, Portugal did not alter their stand. in 1961, India with a massive force outmatched the Portuguese force 10:1 and annexed Goa in just 36 hours.
  11. Battle of Longewala was fought in December 1971 between India and Pakistan, in which just 120 Indian Soldiers with 1 jeep mounted M40 recoil-less rifle held the fort against 2000 Pakistani soldiers backed by 45 tanks and 1 mobile infantry brigade. Indian soldiers held their grounds the whole night giving the Pakistanis the impression that there were around 500 Indians soldiers. When the fire was brought from the sky by Indian Air force in the morning, Pakistani soldiers fled their positions leaving behind 34 tanks.
  12. The Indian Army built the highest bridge in the world. The Bailey Bridge is the highest bridge in the world. It is located in the Ladakh valley between Dras and Suru rivers in the Himalayan mountains. It was built by the Indian Army in August 1982.
  13. The Indian army has a horsed cavalry regiment. It is one of the last three remaining of such regiments in the world.
  14. The Indian Army is respected because it is one army that knows, understands and fights terror on its own soil, daily. We have combat commanders that actually experience  others shoot at them, and soldiers who actually experience the sheer chaos when thousands of men and machines try to kill each other.
  15. Indian troop commanders develop doctrine-strategy-operations-tactics based on their actual combat experience.
  16. India’s unique positioning allows its army to enjoy some of the best of what both West and East have to offer.

The Indian Army is a powerful one, not just in terms of numbers, but also in its resilience siachen-1and ability to handle stress. Our soldiers complete a minimum of 2 years tour of duty as opposed to the American system of 6 months. I have always wondered whether soldiers from other armies would actually survive a 3 month tenure in Siachen?

Leadership in the army by and large focuses on the psychological & emotional well being of the soldiers. Yes, I know the question of soldier suicides is bound to come up here. Very rarely is this work related. Most of these cases are related to problems at home pertaining to spouse, family feuds & financial dealings. It is here that the rich tradition of regimental life has stood the test of time and the strong bonding woven in an army unit, results in high levels of camaraderie. For those interested in reading more about this, I would recommend Lt Gen Ata Hasnain’s blog – http://www.ibnlive.com/blogs/india/lt-gen-syed-ata-hasnain/why-the-indian-army-handles-stress-better-than-all-other-armies-14405-1153882.html

Indian Army has its share of problems and challenges. However, I do not think this is the 20141213_LDD-VSK-MN_POP IMA-11a-1-kuFD--621x414@LiveMintday to highlight those. Today, we celebrate the 68th Indian Army Day and raise a toast to all those who fight to keep us alive.

When you see a soldier…
Be sure to shake his or her hand,
Let that soldier know you’re grateful,
For the protection the military affords our land.

But most of all express your thanks,
For every soldier’s personal sacrifice.
In order to serve our country,
They risk their entire lives!

Jai Hind ki Sena!

The Making Of A Leader…Part 1

In a life where I straddle two worlds, the corporate/business world (fetches my bread, butter, jam & cheese) and the world of armed forces (upbringing, passion & love of my life), I have always looked at what best practices can be used from both to lead a better life.

Having worked with human resource management teams in various organizations, implemented and imparted training at different levels to employees, including leadership, I have always felt the corporate world can learn so much from a military leader.

Military Leadership & Corporate Leadership

“I will never quit. My nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to fight my enemies and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”
― Marcus Luttrell, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL.Mil leadership

Leadership is both similar and yet so different in some aspects of the military & corporate. An army officer starts imbibing leadership traits from a junior level and these skills get honed at every level, in every post he/she holds. The precepts and practices of the military leadership world over are almost common. They all promote & implement the same value system – lead by example, know your job, value team spirit, complete loyalty to the organization, importance of moral & physical courage & the capability to take decisions. 

Geoffrey Webb in his article “5 Things You Could Learn from Military Leaders” puts it succinctly and says these are the aspects missing in most corporate organizations.

  1. Developing Junior Leaders – developing evaluation/judgemental skills in junior leaders is critical. As a result, they are empowered to take initiatives & flexibility in making decisions through decentralised execution. This builds the right attitude & skills required to cope with an ever changing environment. This is missing at the junior levels in a corporate environment, in most organizations.
  2. Leverage Leader’s Intent – planning is everything, according to military leaders. A platoon, unit, brigade, division & corps in the military is very clear about the intent of their leaders – purpose, key outcomes & desired results. Followers, therefore get an opportunity to adapt, develop & succeed in accomplishing their on ground goals. Very often, this kind of alignment between organizational & self goals are often at a conflict in the corporate environment.
  3. Organization of Tasks – number of teams & missions are not equal in the armed forces; specific teams are created for specific achievements. However, standards are universal and the men are trained in a way that they are able to operate globally, irrespective of where they are. In contrast, the focus on high degrees of specialisation in corporate organizations, compartmentalise employees & does not enable them to multi task or even build multi functional capabilities.
  4. Use of Operators as Trainers – imparting training in the armed forces is the responsibility of the operators, and, not the human resource department as seen in the corporate world. In fact, what corporate organizations term as human resource functions are skills in – built in every officer right from day one. Man management is the bedrock of the military.
  5. Mission First Always – mission of the military & its leaders is of foremost importance. It supersedes personal interests as the very ethos of the organization is to serve the country & its people.

Military In The Corporate

leadership-and-leaders

A lot of the leadership training we see in corporates today find their origin in the armed forces. Military organizations have been in leadership development training much earlier than the corporate world. The military operates in a highly uncertain environment, involving high risks. To deal with & work in such an environment, men & women in uniform are trained in a way that ensures 24/7 readiness & commitment to deliver. Similarly, business leaders must be schooled & groomed in adaptive leadership practices to survive & succeed in the increasingly unpredicted business climate.

Leadership effectiveness in the military is totally evident because the personnel have actual leadership experience, especially in crisis situations. This prepares them in a more concrete way to handle staff, consult, analyse or strategize. A 22 – 26 year old leader in the armed forces gets an opportunity to lead around 100 – 120 persons in crises, which basically exposes them to several aspects of leadership skills, grooming them for various contingencies. This experience  – building very rarely happens in the corporate world, thus, giving an edge to young military leaders over their corporate counterparts. In some cases, these young officers (short service commissioned officers) have moved out of the armed forces and have become immensely successful as authentic leaders in the outside world.

Building Mindful Leadership

In a world that is increasingly focusing on the self, it is only in the armed forces that we still see a semblance of leadership of integrity. The leaders that are trained & groomed in the military can be termed as authentic leaders – leaders who are genuine in their intentions and understand the purpose of their leadership is serving their country & people, and, not their self interest.
Military-Leadership-Quotes-Wallpapers-3

 

 

Living…with a dash of sass

There’s something about the year end that puts most of us in an introspective mood. This year end is no different. There have been ups & downs, mostly ups, which include my girls doing well in their respective lives, a brilliant holiday we all enjoyed together, setting up a second home in another city and the launch of a couple of new businesses. The downside is realising that we are fast losing one generation of people to the inexorable process of ageing. While on one hand, I understand this is part of life’s cycle, it nevertheless saddens me that this process deprives us of one of the most extraordinary generations that India has seen. The veterans of World War I are no more and the people born during World War II are in their late 70’s or early 80’s.

I have spent time with that generation. I have sat through their stories of growing up in an India that you and I can only visualise and never experience. This is not to undermine any other generation’s experience. I am writing to share what I have learnt from these septuagenarians and octogenarians. This particular blog is dedicated to all those who belong to the 15th Course of the National Defence Academy for you all have influenced me to lead a rich life!

Find Ways To Do

One of the easiest and simplest thing is to find reasons why we can’t do things. They are called excuses. My biggest lesson from these stalwarts is to find one simple reason to do things. That one overwhelming “why” that will ensure the barriers come crumbling down. Living in different cities, leading hectic lives make it difficult to meet close family & friends. However, the older generation has taught me that it’s important to cherish those relationships. I still see them make an effort to be a part of everyone’s lives around them. new-year-quotes-07

Share Your Life

My parents have shared their lives with my brother and me. It just made communication so much more easier for all of us. I never had a problem expressing to my parents what was going on in my mind and why. I also realise that this was only possible because they were genuinely interested in our lives and shared activities with my brother and me. A lot of things I do now in my life are because of activities initiated by my Dad and his friends, while I was growing up.

Choose Happiness

Almost everyone I have met in that wonderful age group focus on quality of life and they choose happiness as the one determining factor. Most of them have gone through some kind of illness/surgery/treatment in the recent years. They see a sense of fragility that belongs to these experiences as directly contributing to their ability to savour life. “Tomorrow is unknown, future uncertain at our age. Lighten up and live life completely today.” Wise words from wise people. Rythm

Accept Life & Connect With Yourself

The terrace at my parents’ place offers a lovely view of the green canopy of trees in a quiet residential area. A wall of windows at my second parents’ home overlooks a lovely verdant patch of lawn bordered by flowering shrubs and lemon tree. Having spent ample time in both places, I see that later life has brought all four of them a sense of wholeness, acceptance, and the ability to enjoy small pleasures. They love the place they live, people visit them and are always welcomed, they entertain the way they want to and not because they are expected to…a complete sense of liberation & contentment.

Build A Life With Someone You Respect & Love

It sounds simple. Yet, very few can say this. Most of the couples I know, in their grand old 70’s and 80’s are the ones who have celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. What I have observed and learnt can be succinctly shared in the following words…you have to like each other. Be friends, try to get past the initial heaving and panting, and make sure there’s a real friendship underneath that. I don’t think identical interests are important, but shared values are. That is the bedrock of the relationship. And critical. Build on that a set of dreams that both cherish & work towards.

And as my soul mate and I complete three decades of knowing, understanding, accepting & loving each other, I can happily say, we both love certain kinds of things. We both love movies, good movies, and part of our courtship involved staying up all night and talking out what an Ingmar Bergman film really meant. We both love to read, and we love to talk about what we read. A similar sense of humour — that is a very important part of our life together. The ability to make each other smile and laugh has seen us through some difficult times. story3

Here’s wishing all of you all a magnificent 2016 and praying that Santa Claus fulfils your dreams (incidentally, I still believe in magic and miracles for my life has been so). I sign off with C Joybell C’s quote, “The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”

 

 

 

The Year That Was…The Year That Will Be

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.” – TS Eliot

There’s something about the end of the year that makes a lot of people sit up and take stock of what has happened in their lives. I include myself in this. This is the time to dig within, and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. At least, this helps me do my part. To me it is an affirmation that I am interested in fully living life in the year to come. new-year-quotes-07

Life to me has always been a simple journey, filled with adventure and excitement, to be enjoyed with people who want to be art of your life…not just with people you want in your life. The last week I have been pondering about what to write as my last blog for 2014. The year ending and a new year beginning is all about you or me, its about expectations, aspirations and our relationships we nurture, build and carry with us. Hence, the acronym YEAR made perfect sense…therefore, the year that was and the year that will be!

YOU

Every year begins with you and ends with you. It’s all about you! People get you presents for some occasion or the other, but, your best present you get never changes: Your own existence! It is also your best present to others!

What the new year brings you will depend on what you bring to the new year. I bring new hopes, new dreams and desires, my ability to aspire and therefore, inspire. I will build more this coming year based on the foundation laid last year and the years before that. That is the bedrock of my life.

Every single year we become different people…all of us, one way or the other. I don’t think we are the same person all our lives. In 2015, I will learn to love the new person I have become a little more…maybe a lot more. For if I don’t love myself, how & why do I expect others to love me? Will you promise to love yourself a little more this year?

I hope that in 2015 I’m not afraid to make my share of mistakes. When I’m making mistakes, I’m doing new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing myself, changing myself, changing my world. Will you do things you’ve never done before? Because, then you and I are Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do It.

EXPECTATIONS & ENTHUSIASM

My biggest lesson in life – You can’t base your life on other people’s expectations.  I try not to listen to the shoulds or coulds, and try to get new-year-quotes-2014-beautiful-cards-to-send-your-wishes-brad-paisleybeyond expectations, peer pressure, or trying to please – and just listen. I believe all the answers are ultimately within us. It definitely would not make sense to lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations.

When Steve Jobs realised that he had limited time on this earth, he said something very profound, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Expectations for me are all about what is truly important for me in life, that makes me happy and enable me to keep my loved ones happy.

It’s faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living. My lesson is enthusiasm come from my Labrador, Whiskey. His unfettered enthusiasm to do everyday activities is so infectious…it teaches me how to live life daily with that passion. Enthusiasm spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.

I read somewhere that it is better to arouse enthusiasm in people than in teaching the facts. The facts may change, but that enthusiasm for exploring the world will remain with them the rest of their lives. Go where you want to go, where your dreams and desire take you…but, go with enthusiasm and passion. My experience has been when dreams are combined with passion, they become a reality for us.

ATTITUDE

Attitude is that one little thing which makes a big difference. The older I get, the more I realise the importance of attitude. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a person… a group… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.

Attitude to me, is the magnet that attracts people to you. When you are joyful, when you say yes to life and have fun and project positivity all around you, you become a sun in the centre of every constellation, and people want to be near you.  Lets-ring-in-the-New-year

A positive, sunny attitude is what gets me through the grey or dark clouds of life. My disposition determines how I lead my life, not my circumstances. I may or may not have control over my circumstances, however, I have control over my disposition. I choose an attitude that enables, empowers & enhances everything in my life.

So, what does the new year bring? 2015 brings me at least 365 new opportunities.

 

RELATIONSHIPS

Unless a man starts afresh about things in the new year, he will certainly do nothing effective. This is also true for our relationships. In the past year, we all would have forged new relationships, strengthened some old relationships, messed up some old ones…  The time has come to heal those by starting anew. Lots of things can be fixed. Things can be fixed. Relationships can be fixed too, provided the respect and trust is there. Love alone, may not suffice.

Relationships are mysterious. We doubt the positive qualities in others, seldom the negative. You will say to your partner: do you really love me? Are you sure you love me? You will ask this a dozen times and drive the person nuts. But you never ask: are you really mad at me? Are you sure you’re angry? When someone is angry, you don’t doubt it for a moment. Yet the reverse should be true. We should doubt the negative in life, and have faith in the positive.

And, that, my friends will be my commitment for 2015. Trust the positive, the laws of the Universe, have faith in the general goodness of mankind and believe that one day, we will have peace that we, as human beings really deserve.

 

2015 MANTRA

Work on containing the toxicity around by adopting an enthusiastic and positive approach to life, people and circumstances. Of course, it is going to be tough. I can assure you it will be worth the while. You will be ready to embark on your journey in 2016 in a lighter, more carefree manner.

2015 is for  the new you. You can pass through another year, coasting on cruise control. Or you can step out of your comfort zone, trying things you have never done before, & make 2015 as the year that you elevate from where you are & soar high.

Make it happen! Because I am going to!

WISHING ALL YOU WONDERFUL PEOPLE A GREAT NEW YEAR DESIGNED AND CUSTOMISED TO FULFIL YOUR DREAMS AND DESIRES!

 

 

 

 

 

Life – A Series Of Stories

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” Phillip Pullman story4

I love listening to stories & story telling.There is a lot that we take away listening to stories. Some stories impact us immediately and some crop up at different intervals in our lives and leave their footprints. I have believed that everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes us what we are. We build ourselves out of that story. Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here!

I would like to share some stories that have impacted & inspired me and I carry them with me now. I know as a story teller I must think of who is hearing or reading, for a story has as many versions as it has readers. Everyone takes what he wants or can from it and thus changes it to his measure. Some pick out parts and reject the rest, some strain the story through their mesh of prejudice, some paint it with their own delight. A story2story must have some points of contact with the reader to make him feel at home in it. So, I am hoping that these resonate with you all in some way.

Food For The Soul

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer, a building contractor, of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.

His employer was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but it was easy to see that his heart was no longer in his work. He had lost his enthusiasm and had resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

When the carpenter finished his work and his boss came to inspect the new house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.”

What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.

So it is with us. We build our lives in a distracted way, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up less than the best. At important points we do not give the job our best effort. Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we are now living in the house we have built for ourselves. If we had realized, we would have done it differently.

Think of yourself as the carpenter. Think about your house. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Build wisely. It is the only life you will ever build. Even if you live it for only one day more, that day deserves to be lived graciously and with dignity.

 

How Great Love Is

Once upon a time, there was an island where all the feelings lived: Happiness, Sadness, and all of the others including Love. story1

One day it was announced to the feelings that the island would sink, so all repaired their boats and left. Love was the only one who stayed. Love wanted to persevere until the last possible moment. When the island was almost sinking, Love decided to ask for help.

Richness was passing by Love in a grand boat. Love said, “Richness, can you take me with you?” Richness answered, “No I can’t. There is a lot of gold and silver in my boat. There is no place for you here.”

Love decided to ask Vanity, who was also passing by in a beautiful vessel, “Vanity, please help me!” “I can’t help you, Love. You are all wet and might damage my boat,” Vanity answered.

Sadness was close by so Love asked for help, “Sadness let me go with you.” “Oh…Love, I am so sad that I need to be by myself!” Happiness passed by Love too, but she was so happy that she did not even hear when Love called her!

Suddenly, there was a voice, “Come Love, I will take you.” It was an elder. Love felt so blessed and overjoyed that he even forgot to ask the elder her name.

When they arrived at dry land, the elder went her own way. Love realizing how much he owed the elder, asked Knowledge, another elder, “Who helped me?”

“It was Time”, Knowledge answered.

“Time?” asked Love. “But why did Time help me?”

Knowledge smiled with deep wisdom and answered, “Because only Time is capable of understanding how great Love is.”

 

The Fence

There was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Then it gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad or worse than a physical one.”

 

Big Rocks Of Life

A while back I was reading about an expert on subject of time management. One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.  story3

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”

By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!” “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.” The title of this letter is the “Big Rocks” of Life.

What are the big rocks in your life? A project that YOU want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all.

So, tonight or in the morning when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the “big rocks” in my life or business? Then, put those in your jar.

The last one is a personal favourite, as a lot of people ask me how I pack multiple activities in my life. My response to them I have found my big rocks…time to find yours now 🙂

 

Truth…Uncomfortable & Unfamiliar

The Matrix has a scene in the movie where Morpheus offers Neo a choice of seeing the truth in all it’s discomfort or continuing to live in the constructed, unreal dream world of machines, where you are enslaved so much that you don’t even know it.

 

Many of us live life by taking the equivalent of the blue pill. This is a harsh fact…. We don’t want to see the truth…because the truth is unfamiliar, so it is uncomfortable. Therefore we continue to live a life that is not really free!!! Except that we don’t even know it. However, we always know the truth in our hearts. We know the direction we should take, we know our potential. We may be afraid to break free, but, deep down  we always know.

 

Every event in our life is like a blue pill, a potential teaching. Whether we are open to it or not, is not the Universe’s problem. The more uncomfortable or troubled you are by life’s events, the bigger the lesson life teaches you. So when we face difficulties in life, it’s best to remember that we were sitting in the classroom of life. When the lesson is learnt for that particular episode in life, the discomfort will stop. Most of the times, the level of discomfort involved will weaken us and we may get tempted to ignore the lesson learnt.

 

Some of the ways in which we commonly avoid or prevent ourselves from learning the nuggets are here:

1. Completely ignoring the issue by saying, “What? Why should I worry?”

2. Playing the victim. “What to do…why do these things happen to me?”

3. Becoming angry with someone else and blaming them. “It’s all your/his/her fault”

4. Becoming angry with life. “Life is miserable. It is unfair.”

 

All the above are variants of the same blue pill. What is a better option in life then? Become self aware. It takes a lot of practice. It does not happen as easy as it sounds. Or even as easy as Neo swallowing the red pill. My experience is that my awareness keeps me growing as an individual. And in the process of growing, I have shed a lot of inhibitions…internal and the self imposed external ones.

 

I know my freedom reflects in my life today…because a lot of people ask me, “How can you keep smiling under all circumstances and where on earth do you get that energy from?”

My only answer is, “I don’t know where on earth you can find it…I know I found it within me.” 🙂 🙂 🙂

Understanding My Calling….

The past couple of weeks I have met a lot of youngsters…in the 17 to 22 year age bracket. It was as part of youth entrepreneurship workshop that I met them. Some were clear about what they wanted to do in life, a sort of road map, but came to the workshop to see if the network of people could help them further.

While talking to this enthusiastic lot, a thought that struck me over & over again was, I hope the dreams & clarity these youngsters have continues in their lives and they don’t let go. On the other hand, there were a lot many of them, who were seeking…seeking answers because they did not know what to do.

That leads me to write today about how do I understand my calling in life. How do I look for that elusive something…these are somethings that have personally helped me.

1. Deal with the present

A lot of us keep thinking only about the future…”what should I do when I am doing my graduation, post graduation or what kind of a job should I get or which company do I work for or what sort of business do I start?” While it is good to have a big picture first, think about what you will do today, to get to the big picture. Remember, people become fat one bite at a time, and we become adults one hour at a time, so what we do today matters.

2. Look, browse & shop around

Unless you try on the outfit, you’ll never know if it fits. Do the same with vocations, avocations, hobbies and skills. You’ll need to sample every flavor to know your true favorite taste. However, you need to be smart about this also…keep in mind your pocket and budget.

3. Go for odd opportunities

Look around people who have achieved what they want to achieve…whether it is a recognized person or an unsung hero…they have all done something different. Why be one among the herd when you can lead the pack… 🙂

4. Burn your plans

Life doesn’t go according to the blue print we create. Nobody’s life has ever…so why should yours? So don’t worry if you get off track. The track was imaginary anyway. It’s perfectly alright to get on to another track.

5. Do not follow someone else’s dreams

Everyone will have expectations of us. What is my expectation of myself…is a question I need to answer constantly. You can’t please everyone, but if you do what YOU think you should, at least you’ll be able to sleep at night.

6. Blend your talent

All of us have a variety of talents, only if we allow ourselves to discover them. Mostly, we end up working on only one skill…and become a super specialist. Nothing wrong there…the only thing I can say is a person who has developed a variety of skills is far more interesting than the other! 🙂

7. Seek out people you actually like

It’s fun to work with people you like. Creating something different with a bunch of like minded people can be amazingly productive and satisfying…not to mention the fun part! I work my business with friends & family and we have a great time not only earning…also the relationships!

8. It’s ok to change your mind

Most of us decide on a career when we are in the age group of 18 to 20. We learn a lot things as time goes by…about the world & about ourselves. So, if you discover something different and want to work on it…please do so. It can bring more satisfaction & happiness. I changed tracks after 18 years of human resource related work. Today I have something more important in my life…time to spend with my family & friends because of this change. And am definitely not complaining about the money 🙂 🙂

9. Read, read, read…

Roam a library or a book shop frequently. Books have always been my best friends. You never know which book, author, or topic will speak to you from the shelves. You might just find what you didn’t even know you were looking for.

10. Spend time before you spend money

Invest in reading and talking and finding out before you put down a ton of money on a degree or a certification or a relocation. You might find that you don’t have to write a check to compose your future.

11. Your purpose & your job may be different

If you are working to support your family, they are your real bosses. If you are working to further a goal or idea, don’t let your paycheck (however plump it is) become an obstacle to it. Prioritize what you want in life, but, do not lose focus of the end objective.

12. Be genuinely uncool

Stick with what you love, even if others sneer at it. This is also referred to as integrity. We all tend to do things because our peers consider it cool…is that really what I want? What I want maybe be considered uncool, but if I am genuinely uncool, people will respect over a period of time.

The dozen pointers are things I have done myself in my life…so it’s easy to write about these. However, a couple of other lessons I have learnt in life…very few people are the very best in the world at anything. What helps me is when I do my best and push myself a wee bit more. Unhealthy competition with others leads to anxiety, collaboration leads to assets.

Today, everything I do in life is based on one question…”What I’m doing now, will it contribute to my epitaph or only my resume?”

Life’s Little Lessons…

I have realized that most of us like listening to stories and of course we love telling stories too…:).

We hear stories and we hear stories.  I always wondered whether I would be able to narrate as well as my Mother & Grandmother did. Then to my surprise I realized that my daughters inspired me to act out stories. So we would trade stories every night before going to bed :).  It automatically led me to look for more & more stories. The messaging was loud and clear when we traded stories…a tradition that continues even today as a family!

I am sharing some of the stories that have had a profound impact on my thinking over a period of time.

Empty Your Cup

A seeker of truth goes to a Zen Master. The seeker’s head was full with ideas about the truth, life, spirituality. It was read by the The Zen Master’s eyes.

The Zen master started pouring the tea in the cup, he continued to pour the tea even after the cup was full and the tea began to spill over from the cup. The seeker on seeing this pointed out to the Zen Master that cup was full and the pouring more tea was pointless.

To this the Master replied, “Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

The Burden

Two monks were returning to the monastery in the evening. It had rained and there were puddles of water on the road sides. At one place a beautiful young woman was standing unable to walk accross because of a puddle of water. The elder of the two monks went up to a her lifted her and left her on the other side of the road, and continued his way to the monastery.

In the evening the younger monk came to the elder monk and said, “Sir, as monks, we cannot touch a woman ?”

The elder monk answered “yes, brother”.

Then the younger monk asks again, “but then Sir, how is that you lifted that woman on the roadside ?”

The elder monk smiled at him and told him ” I left her on the other side of the road, but you are still carrying her.”

The Other Side

One day a young Buddhist on his journey home came to the banks of a wide river. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on just how to cross such a wide barrier. Just as he was about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey he saw a great teacher on the other side of the river. The young Buddhist yells over to the teacher, “Oh wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river”?

The teacher ponders for a moment looks up and down the river and yells back, “My son, you are on the other side”.

The Lost Key

One day, people saw Mulla Nasruddin out in the street searching frantically for something. The inquisitive nature of man was at work. “What are you searching for, Mulla?”
“I’ve lost my key” replied Mulla.
The helping nature of mankind was at work.So everyone joined him, trying to help him
After some search someone had the urge to ask the place where exactly, the key was lost. So that more condensed search could be made. So, the enquiry was made to Nasruddin.
“I lost the key in the house,” replied Mulla matter-of-factly.
“Then why are you searching for it in the street?” was the obvious question asked to him.
“Because there is more light here.” replied the Mulla!
It is for us to draw the lessons from these little stories…and of course pass it on to the others…for man is a born story teller!
Here’s wishing you an eventful day…so you have your own story to tell! Do share your stories 🙂 🙂 🙂


My Guide Of Destiny…GOD!

Guide Of Destiny…GOD!!! I have been at two different events over the last few days…seemingly different, yet the same. The differences are not what I am writing today. My focus is on the commonality I saw and that is to have someone in your life who will hold your hand to the finish line.

 I am not writing about mentoring as a process    today…I love telling stories and am going to share some experiences here…personal & others.

Pallavi’s story personally touched me. She was the one who coined the term “Guide Of Destiny”. After a very successful career, achievements &  glory, she decided to take a break. The break became a challenge for her.  By the time she recognized this 6 months had gone by and then she desperately started seeking for help. A couple walked into her life to handhold her and bring her out of her despair. They enabled her to see opportunities that she may not have seen otherwise. So, the first takeaway I have here is you need to become a seeker. Seek & you shall receive…but seek with your heart!

Harrison’s experience brought out another dimension for me. Growing up in northwest Montana, he was fortunate to have an innovative neighbor who encouraged him on a weekly basis. One morning, six year old Harry, walked over to Mr. Clawsonʼs garage to see what he was building. That day, he was working on a contraption to clean up oil spills in the ocean. Mr. Clawson showed Harry how his device worked, talking to him as an equal. He then asked Harry to critique his design and offer suggestions for improvement. This genius was asking a six year old for improvements on an invention that would clean up oil spills! That simple gift of encouragement from Mr. Clawson changed Harry’s life forever. Harry realized that his own thoughts about the world had value & was on cloud nine for days and felt he could pursue anything and be successful. The second takeaway is as a mentor to be genuinely interested and to listen to what your mentee is saying.

A mentor is someone who guides you because of the experience he/she has and not necessarily because he/she is a subject matter expert in your field. My own mentor is someone whom I liked from the day I first met him. Binod & I clicked as individuals when we met and I thought initially that it was because both of us are people oriented. As days passed I realized that everyone connects to Binod & that is his unique quality. He has remained more committed to my success than I have been at times. And when I have felt low, he has been a sounding board & a punching bag. As my Guide Of Destiny, he continues to stand by me, giving me that firm yet gentle nudge to take the next step & move ahead. As a mentor Binod gives me so much that I have no choice but take a leap forward. Here is the third takeaway – you need to be a Go Giver.

Lastly, here’s my own experience of being a  mentor to a young cousin who subsequently became a business partner also. Seema spoke to me about pretty much every aspect of her life & looked for advice, suggestions, etc. I only realized I was put in the role of a mentor when her parents (my Uncle & Aunt) started telling me about her actions at home…she was implementing most of things that I had encouraged her to do, to the extent that today a lot of people call us mirror images of each other in thought & behavior. That brought home another point…the absolute trust that a mentor & mentee enjoy with each other & duplicating what the mentor says & does. 

We will all have challenges, both as a mentor and as a mentee. However, I end with a very insightful statement made by Dev Wadhwani, a phenomenal human being & entrepreneur I have had the opportunity to know & learn from…

“Are you a victim of your challenges or the master of your destiny?”