Up yours, Mr. Terrorist

Beacon of Hope 22 months has passed since terrorists held the Taj Hotel in Mumbai (and the entire nation as they watched in horror) hostage to one of the most heinous acts of terrorism in India. 22 months since 173 people martyred, hundreds injured, and crores of property destroyed. 22 months and still no justice for the victims.

But one man has done what the politicians, the media and the law could not do – restore a semblance of dignity and hope to the victims.  Ratan Tata – a giant among men, an icon in the business world, and a great humanitarian. When his HR team brought forth a proposal on what the Tata Group could do to compensate the victims (an amazing list by itself), Ratan Tata asked – “Are you sure we are doing enough?”

Enough Mr. Tata? You got to be kidding right? In a nation that treats its politicians and actors as Gods, citizens as dust, and citizen rights as negligible as the fly in your khichidi, you are indeed a beacon of hope. I am not going to recount the entire list here, but present 3 cases (The Week – October 3, 2010 – The Cover Story – “Healing Touch” and “Wah Taj”) that moved me, and let you imagine the comprehensive program the Tata group has implemented not just for its employees who were affected by the attack, but to even the “pav-bhaji” vendor across the street.

  • Manoj Thakur, 29, was working at a roadside shop when the firing at Leopold Cafe injured him. He got Rs 5000 from the Taj Public Service Welfare Trust (set up within days of the 26/11 attack by the Tata Group) for six months, and then got a job as a waiter at the Taj President in Colaba, Mumbai. His children’s education is taken care of by the Trust. So is his wife’s higher education.
  • Diagnosed with terminal illness while being treated for injuries sustained by the taxi blast, Shyamsundar, 36, was given Rs 10,000 for a year, and his entire medical bills are being paid by the Trust.
  • This is not to say the Trust forgot employees of the Taj who died in the attack. The families of these 12 employees will get the last drawn salary as long as the spouse is alive. This is apart from the lump sum amount (in lakhs) paid to the family, free education for their children, and complete medical insurance.

The list goes on. Ratan Tata and his company has touched the lives of every victim of this attack, and ensured their families  get to live a life of relative peace and security.

True, none of these efforts will undo the work of the terrorists on 26th November in Mumbai. None of these efforts will bring back the dead. But these efforts are bringing back hope. Hope, that in a nation of cynical, corrupt leaders, there is someone who cares. Beyond borders. Beyond doubt.

If there is one quality that separates terrorists from people like you and me, it is a feeling of hopelessness. When you lose hope in the system, in yourself, and in your God, that is when you decide your fellow human beings are not worth the air they breathe.

But what the terrorist forgets is that when they kill someone, they are not killing a Hindu or a Muslim, or an Indian or an American, but a son, a father, a husband, a brother and a human being filled with hope, dreams and aspirations for his family.

This blog is dedicated to Mr. Ratan Tata and the Tata Group of companies. For caring. For showing those terrorists that while they can destroy lives and property, they cannot destroy hope.

Up yours, Mr. Terrorist.

Sources:

http://wadias.in/site/arzan/blog/the-tata-gesture-post-2811-mumbai-terror-attacks/

(Unfortunately I could not get an online version of the print articles, but did find the above link that comes close to what the Tata Group is doing for the victims and their families.)

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Are we running for our life?

If I’d known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself.  ~Leon Eldred

Yesterday, September 26, was World Heart Day. I decided to do my bit by taking part in the Kochi Marathon.  Since I am fond of living, I decided to stick to the safe 4 Km run instead of the main event – the 21 km mini-marathon.

Though I registered early, I was still worried about how well the run would be organized. If Delhi can goof up, why not my small home-town Kochi? So I got up well ahead of time, stretched my sleepy muscles and headed for the grounds by 6:30 AM on sunday morning. An amazing feat considering that the last time I woke up this early on a Sunday was when my 12-year-old was a colicky infant…

I was in for a very pleasant surprise though. When I walked in, there were millions, sorry thousands, sorry hundreds of energetic men and women ready to do their bit for their Heart. What was even more surprising was that the event started on time.

The first batch to be flagged off were the mini-marathoners – fit athletes, mostly cadets from the Southern Naval Command. Ladies, sight for sore eyes indeed! If nothing else, waking up early was worth it for this breath-taking view alone!

Ahem. Moving on, I found out that individual women were clubbed with senior citizens and children under 15. While my friend was grumbling about this “ranking” I was grateful since it meant I would not be the last one at the finish line. But let me tell you this, I was no match (not even close) for the bubbly children and the even bubblier and competitive senior citizens who almost crushed me in their haste to get going. 

Imagine my horror as I found out that the ambulance (crawling at snail’s pace) was always right behind me. To heck with cramps – I picked up my pace and started leaving the ambulance behind when this senior citizen bounded past me. Adding insult to injury, he turned and waved to me and said, “Come on, buck up!”

I drew satisfaction from the fact that at least my 79-year old dad was way behind me. Ha, that should teach him for making fun of my walking habits all these years. (He walks 5-6 kms everyday from 5 AM to 6 AM. Without fail. Ever since I can remember).

The last stretch was over this beautiful, old drawbridge (Venduruthy Bridge) that connects mainland Kochi to the Wellingdon Island and the Southern Naval Command center. I have gone on this bridge thousands of times, but this was the first time I was running (well, crawling!) over it. As the sun rose on another beautiful day, construction workers banged on the new train track coming over the bridge, the fishermen were  returning from the sea after their early morning fishing session, and the world looked beautiful. I completely stopped in awe when I saw this white-beaked eagle swoop down to the waters and carry away a wriggling, pink fish. This is what they mean by poetry in motion.

I waddled in through the finish line exactly 7 minutes before my dad (who had his quadruple by-pass surgery 4 years ago) sauntered in. I nearly had my first heart attack! While he chatted with his friends and exchanged time/duration/speed statistics, I ran towards the snack counter and downed a couple of gallons of lemonade. Luckily for me, everyone else seemed to prefer water!

As I said goodbye to my fellow-runners, we promised to do more for our hearts. And our health. A retired teacher (who ran the 4 kms) dropped us back to the grounds so my dad and I could pick up our cars. As I waved good bye to my dad and limped back to my car, I prayed for everyone to have a healthier and a nicer heart in the coming years.

So what did I learn from the race yesterday? Apart from the fact that you can never underestimate a senior citizen’s zest for life? Apart from the fact that there is something about being with a group of like-minded that energizes you instantly?

As I watched the laborers race to catch the bus so they could reach their work place (on a Sunday), this is what I learnt. While I am one of the lucky few who gets to run for their hearts, there are still millions out there in this world who HAVE TO RUN (or fly or swim) for their lives. My measly 4 km walk is dedicated to their health.

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Stop all these meaningless surveys about Facebook

Yesterday I blogged about the meaningless surveys produced by companies all over the world that adds no value to our life.  I decided to replace those meaningless surveys and conducted one of mine instead. I surveyed the one person whose opinion is of paramount importance to me. Me.

Want to know more? Read the complete blog at our Content Crossroads Blog and let me know what you think.

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Business is Business

My brother sent me this joke last week.

A teacher in a school in London announced a reward of 10 pounds to the kid who could correctly answer the question ‘ “Who is the most famous person in the world?” The Jewish kid said David, the Muslim kid said Mohammed, the Buddhist kid said Buddha, but they were wrong. Finally the Hindu kid got up and answered – Jesus Christ.

He got the money. The teacher was curious and asked him why he answered Jesus Christ even though he is a Hindu. The boy quipped, “In my mind I know it is Krishna, but business is business!”

When I related this joke to my mom, I was shocked when she stated this was no laughing matter, and that it applies to all of us.  When it comes to real Life, we ignore the truth. And look the other way.

She is right. Brutally so. In our mind we know what is the right thing to do – eat right, exercise, speak the truth, stay away from bad influences, be patient, avoid anger and jealousy, respect authority… The list is endless. All of us have been indoctrinated with the right thing to do, but end up doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Think about it – bribe an official, mumble excuses when you are late for work, get impatient every time things don’t go your way, lie to save your face. Agan the list is endless.

In our hearts we know what is right, and aim to teach our kids the right thing to do. But guess what happened when I witnessed an accident between a bike and a car owned by an ex-judge of the High Court? Guess what I did when the Judge’s driver insisted that our car’s hasty arrival at the intersection caused him to brake suddenly and hence the bike hit his car’s rear? Guess what I did when the Judge insisted that I pay half of the damages? Did I bluntly ask him to file an FIR? Did I gather all the witnesses who agreed our car made no mistake? Did I hire a lawyer to go ahead and complaint on my behalf?

Nope. It took me all of 5 minutes to be convinced (by my driver, my husband and the lawyer friend) to pay up for the damage done to the Judge’s car. After all, in a court, whose word will they believe – mine, my drivers’, the Auto driver who witnessed the accident or the ex-Judge? Pure common sense told me to just pay up and leave.

If we introspect our actions daily, I am positive we will find hundreds of examples where we did not do the right thing and took the easy way out simply because it was practical. Or expedient. Or simply safer and simpler. And when we come home, what do we tell our kids? Follow rules. Respect authority. Bribing is an offence. Truth shall protect you. God does not like us to lie or cheat.

I think my kids’ faith in the entire system took a big hit when they listened to what happened yesterday. But sadly for me, their belief that we, as parents, will always do the right thing took a bigger hit.

What can I say? How can I explain to pre-teens that Life is not fair? That if you play by the rules, you will get knocked down? And that in the final analysis, business is business?

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Pests Free Zone

I love nature, as much as the next person. I love watching Untamed Uncut on Discovery, traveling into the interiors of the Amazon (or is it the Florida everglades?) with Steve Irwin, and trekking in the Nilgiris to catch a glimpse of the rare flying squirrel. But my love for Nature stops just outside my home. I do not like Nature so much that I invite her in.

Why is that, you may ask. Well, it is rainy season in Kerala. The best time to commune with Nature, in all her pristine glory. But certainly not the best time to keep your house free of nature.

Don’t get me wrong here. I am not talking about mosquitoes, lizards, flies, cockroaches, ants (the white ant and the red and the black ant) or even the occasional stray dog. No matter where you live in the world, I defy you to tell me that you have never seen these inside your homes. So, I am not concerned about these occasional guests who come and go. I am talking about the “others”.

Take the slug, for instance. It literally creeps me out. I know it cannot outrun me but maybe it doesn’t know that? They are okay crawling on my lawn or sleeping on my car, but I draw the line when “Sluggy” wants to get into my shoes or use my toilet.

And what about the “pooram”? I have heard horror stories where this slippery centipede has forced itself into a small boy’s ears and laid eggs, causing brain damage! I know they are all your creations, but God, do I have to sleep with them?

Finally what about the water snake? Uh? What is it about me, and my house, that attracts these pests in such variety and quantity? And don’t get me started on the neighborhood tabby using my lawn as her potty every other night. Right now my lawn is living proof that Erma Bombeck got it right with her book “The grass is always greener over the septic tank”.

Slug? check. Water snake? check. Cat? Check. Have I forgotten anyone? Ah, yes. I can excuse all these creatures, but what in Heaven’s name was a rat doing inside my Hyundai  Santro? It ate bits of my steering wheel, my seat covers in the rear (Or were my kids responsible for that!) and the side casing on my battery. I paid Rs. 1500 to get the entire thing fumigated and cleaned.

So the next time I see a pest, I am going to scream – Stop! right there, right now. This may be a free country and you are all God’s creatures, big and small and large and beautiful, but please crawl back to the gutter you came from. I have  enough pests at home to deal with. Until they go to College atleast!

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The greatest joke of all times

Last week my 8 year old dressed up as a witch for her class assembly and read out a bunch of spooky jokes.  I watched proudly from the audience and chuckled whenever the assembly broke out in laughter. After all, they were really good ones. My favorite from the dozen or so she read? Get ready to laugh – when do Ghosts go to work? On MoanDays and FrightDays!

This joke got me thinking. I think the greatest joke of all times is us human beings as we scurry to work, week in and week out. Imagine an alien landing on Earth on a Monday morning intent on invading us. He would see us scramble to get ourselves and our family ready, reach work after a crazy commute where we scream and curse, sit in the narrow confines of our cubicle, strategize on to-do lists and action plans, sit in endless meetings, consume unmentionable amounts of caffiene, fret and fume over deadlines while our blood pressure shoots up, get back home stressed out and physically tired…. In 12 hours,  we start all over again.

And we pride ourselves that we are the most intelligent species the good God made. Nope, as Agatha Christie states, (or more specifically my darling Detective, Hercule Poirot) men are creatures of habit. We love to do the same things again and again. So if the above-mentioned Alien watches the human race at work for a week, he would flee in boredom never to come back.  In fact, Nations should forget arming ourselves with nukes – just play a video of the human race going to work and back and see if the aliens don’t surrender in sheer boredom.

So what can we do about it? Well, practically nothing that would change things in the near future. In fact even in the Space Family Robinson, the father goes to work everyday and is faced with similar challenges as us humans in the 21st Century.

So is there a point to this blog, you ask. Hold your horses young lady, am coming to it. Yes, the point is that what we do daily is absolutely hilarious and not without much of a point. So maybe we should start taking ourselves less seriously. Maybe start treating this entire “work” thing as a joke and relax a little. Since this is something that we will be doing 70% of our life, let us learn to treat going to work as ONE BIG JOKE, reduce our stress, and just enjoy the work.

So from this week onwards we will stop treating our work days as Moandays, Sadderdays, Frightdays, Cursedays etc. and turn them all into Fundays. Who’s with me?

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The Greatest Player of all Times – Fedex

The Greatest Player of all times
Yes, he has done it

After January 31, 2010, there is no doubt in any one’s mind as to who is the GOAT of Tennis – the Greatest Of All Times. ROGER FEDERER.

Fedex, as most of the banners scream out, is on a roll indeed. After winning Roland Garros in 2009, he completed his Grand Slam in Tennis – only one of the 5 players in the history of Men’s Tennis.

Then he went on to win the Wimbledon in the same year and beat Pete Sampras record of 14 Grand Slams.

Then as a new dad of two beautiful twins (Myla Rose and Charlene Riva) he almost made it as the first dad to win a Grand Slam in the US Open, but Del Potro had other plans.

You know what they say, you can never keep a good man down forever. Australian Open, 2010, became the platform for Federer to add one more to his record – the first dad in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam. He beat 5th seed Andy Murray in straight sets without even breaking a sweat.

Yes, he is the greatest tennis player of all times. Sorry Pete. Sorry Agassi. And Sorry Rod laver.

But what about Nadal? The mischievous imp sitting on my shoulder whispers. There is this niggling doubt in everyone’s mind (including mine sometimes) that the only reason Federer could do this is coz Nadal was out nursing his injuries (and his ego when he faced a shock exit in the fourth round as Defending Champion in Roland Garros 2009 against Soderling).

What about him, I ask? And I hold up Federer’s ultimate Ace up his sleeve. Something no player has or ever will be able to match anytime in my lifetime.

Yes, you know. A record 23 consecutive appearances in Grand Slam tennis semifinals or better since 2004. Simply put, no matter what his injuries, he has always reached at least the Semifinal of a Grand Slam in the last 5 years.

Ha. Double Ha. And he is only 28. And you want to know why he is the best?

Coz he is a Leo, with the traits of the Cancer. Watch him in action on the tennis court and you will understand. Like the crab, he moves sideways and forward constantly. He does not rush into anything quickly. He waits, he sidles, he dances, he side steps. And when the prey is assured, he pounces like the Lion. (Birthday -August 8). Like the Leo he has a Royal Confidence he will win. And in the likelihood of the match slipping away from him, he raises his game a notch. Just a notch.

So by the time his rival has matched him, Federer has already uppped his game, step by step like the crab. If he does not have to, he doesn’t. He lazes back like the Lion and lets the victim tires himself. If he has to, then he comes blasting out on all four cylinders (but mind you – like a crab, quietly and forcefully).

How do I know? Well, just Crab instinct.  (yup, am a Cancer/Leo cusp). So, celebrate Federer as the Greatest GOAT of all Times. Even if he does not win a single match ever again in his life (Ya, right!) in my books he is absolutely THE  BEST. It should be in yours too.

Hail Federer.

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New Year, New You and New Me

I am sure you have made your New Year Resolutions and have probably broken a few already. As I was pondering on my Resolutions, I decided to categorize them into 2 main categories. (Project Management skills die hard!). So here goes my resolutions for the new year and I hope you will adopt them too.

I have made resolutions on TWO fronts only – Hope & Health. Under each category I made 3 resolutions making it a total of 6 resolutions I plan on making or breaking this Year!

Hope –

  1. Read the Bhagavad Gita Everyday. By doing so I HOPE to draw from the Wisdom and Experience of all ages which should instruct me on how to live my today
  2. Drop my baggage. Jiggi Vasudev (of Isha Yoga) asks – Will you watch a boring movie or a sad book again and again? Then why would you relive your sad or bad memories at the drop of a hat?  I HOPE to carry forward happy memories everyday and drop those that burden me
  3. Laugh More.

Health –

  1. Will not wake up early! – Yes, NOT WAKE UP EARLY – Waking up early is a habit I have not acquired and do not plan to acquire starting tomorrow morning.  I will wake up when I want and if need be, will drive my daughter to school when she misses the school bus. So there!
  2. Will not DIET anymore – From now on I will only watch my diet, not DIET. A whole different way of looking at something you are going to do all your life. Incidentally the word DIET refers to what is eaten in a particular culture/region as in Indian Diet or Mediterranean Diet and not to removing all good taste and flavor from your food. Nor will I beat myself up for having literally inhaled “Death By Chocolate” as I watched Federer beat Pete Sampras’ record for the highest Grand Slam Singles Titles during last year’s Wimbledon Finals. It was worth every crumb.
  3. Will not watch TV anymore –  Except for Tennis and Indian Cricket of course. Every other show/program falls under the category of “crap”. At last count I have 142 channels on my TV. None of them have added even a modicum of knowledge or happiness to my life. Sorry Mr. President, Yes, you can fool all the people all the time. TV channels do it 24X7X365 ad nauseum

Sorry – did I vent too much? Am done. Now to “walk the talk”.

Wishing you all a 2010 filled with Health, Hope, and Happiness.

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Take a morning walk with me

Since I claim to be a health freak, I try to walk as often as I can. Seeing myself in the mirror every morning is enough to motivate anyone to get out there and burn some calories, so I head out once the kids are safely on their way to school.

So most weekday mornings, if you live in Kadavanthara in Kochi, KERALA (yes, God’s Own Country), you can see me power walk around 8 AM. For those of you who think walking is a safe and enjoyable routine, I beg to differ. Read on to find out why…

Walking in India is more hazardous than being a Christian Missionary in Taliban Afghanistan. If I can dodge the herd of cows as they amble past me, the fighting street dogs take over. One morning I had the dual pleasure of being chased by an angry bull and a snarling dog. Once you get past the four-legged animals, you run into the lady drivers who are learning to drive. Certainly not for the weak-hearted. As the instructor hurls abuse and curses at his students who can barely figure out left from right and the brake from the accelarator, I start praying and quickly start a jog that would put Usain Bolt to shame.

Hold on, my walk is not done yet. The neighboring construction workers start walking in and start staring at me as if they have never ever seen a human being. Some of the braver ones start humming old Malayalam songs from movies. Do these roadside Casanovas really think humming a tune created 40 years ago would melt our heart and turn us into instant admirers? Really?

Past the four legged and the two legged animals, I come now to the most dangerous part of my walk. These old men who are sitting and smoking beedis suddenly jump up and have this instant urge to pee as I walk past by. Enough said about that!

So why don’t you just go to the gym, pointed out my friend. Nah, too lame! For sheer adrenalin surges and adventure, give me a morning walk in India any day….

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