Public Transport

I grew up in a city with an extensive public transportation network, and have used it for as long as I can remember. I was four when my first bus trip was cut short by a wave of nausea with my mother scrambling to get us off the bus before the inevitable happened. My ability to handle motion sickness has since improved. And while my love-hate relationship with public transport continues, it is my preferred mode of travel. I’m sure a lot of you have questions and apprehensions. Isn’t public transport dirty and crowded? Isn’t it slow and unreliable? My answer to the first would be, “Very often”. To the second, I’d say, “Sometimes”.

My mother is a big proponent of public transport primarily because it’s the cheapest way to travel. When I was younger, owning a car was a luxury. Auto rickshaws and cabs were expensive. Trips with my mother usually involved multiple hops on buses and trains to reach our destination. Saving time meant running to catch the first available bus or train. As a result, I was often exhausted at the end of our journey. After a while, I dreaded my outings with her. If the destination was too far, I would prefer to stay at home. My father joining us was rare but always good news. When we exited our building, I would look longingly at the auto rickshaws lined up outside our gate silently imploring him to make a concession. He would take the hint and ask us to get into one.

I admit my perception of public transport has come a long way since then. And, while part of it has to do with how environment-friendly and cost-effective it is, the other part is probably because of how stress-free I find it. Plus, I don’t really enjoy driving and have never taken the initiative to own a vehicle. You may doubt the part that says “stress-free”. The more accurate thing would be to say that I find it less stressful.

There are different kinds of stress associated with using public transport and driving your own vehicle. With the former, the challenge is in catching a bus or train and, reaching your destination on time. There are several things beyond your control like the availability of the transportation medium and the speed the driver will drive. This is mostly applicable to buses. Trains are more punctual and reliable in this aspect, at least in my experience. In fact, if you live in a city which is known for its traffic woes, travelling by train will probably save you a fair bit of time. In some cities, however, boarding or alighting from crowded trains is a challenge in itself.

Another reason for preferring public transport is the flexibility that it offers. There have been times when I have come across severe traffic jams when travelling by road. This could be either because a vehicle broke down, an accident, bad weather or even construction work. In these situations, I have found it prudent to alight from the bus and find an alternative. If I were driving my own vehicle, I would have no option but to wait until the traffic cleared up. This can be both frustrating and a big waste of time.

The overwhelming factor, however, is that once I get into a bus or a train, I don’t have to worry about the road. While this may not seem like much for those who drive every day, being on alert for almost every second of your journey can be exhausting. Especially when clogged streets are a norm and most of the other drivers are concerned with taking shortcuts to reach their destination faster than obeying traffic rules. I’ve seen enough accidents and near misses to want to avoid being in one. Once I board a vehicle, my only job is to purchase a ticket and wait for my destination to arrive. It doesn’t matter how others are driving because there is someone to take care of that. I can, meanwhile, listen to music, read, plan for things to be done when I reach my destination or even take a nap. All of these seem like better ways to use my time than worrying about a vehicle that might appear out of nowhere or cut me off.

I concede that if you’re travelling by road, you’re likely to reach your destination faster by driving your own vehicle than taking the bus. But I don’t mind the extra time spent if my sanity is preserved at the end of the journey.

Thanks for reading this. Please feel free to share your preferences and your experience with public transport.

Enter your e-mail address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.

Money Matters

The first thing I learnt about money was that it doesn’t grow on trees. And that became a lesson for life. Okay, I admit I’m a miser. How much of a miser? Not enough to starve or deprive myself of necessities, for sure. But enough that the rational side of my brain trumps the part which wants something almost every time, especially when I look at the price tag.

Frugality is part of my genetic inheritance. My parents are both cautious about monetary spending, and their attitude shaped my understanding of the difference between wants and needs. They have their reasons. They grew up with nothing. Both my parents were raised in rented two-room houses with a kitchen for cooking and a living room for everything else. My father shared these quarters with my grandparents and three other siblings. As the eldest, he started helping at my grandfather’s store at the age of ten, balancing school and supporting the “family business” which yielded barely enough to make ends meet. He wanted to pursue a degree in science but switched to arts because the time spent in the lab reduced what he could give to the shop. Jobs were scarce, and he continued working there, leaving when he found a decent job – a couple of years after graduation.

My mother had it even worse if that was possible. Eight other people called where she lived home. Her father didn’t have a steady job. My grandmother took up things she could do from home like tailoring and repairing umbrellas to ensure that there was enough food on the table. The children assisted in whatever capacity they could. The house didn’t have a water connection. Water had to be filled in pots and carried up a flight of stairs to the house from a nearby community tap. This tap was functional for a few hours each day, and you had to queue up for your turn. “New clothes” were, often, donations by my grandfather’s employers. At times, there wasn’t enough money to pay for school.

In comparison, my childhood was very comfortable. Growing up, my brother and I never lacked for anything. We never worked during our time as students. My parents, like others, were determined to give their children a better life. They scrimped and saved for our education so we would never have to compromise on our career choices. We had everything we needed, but my mother ensured we didn’t get everything we wanted. My father, on the contrary, indulged our indulgences. But he had to travel for work, and our stay-at-home mother managed all our expenses.

We were not living hand-to-mouth by any means but avoided extravagance at all costs. Cars were a luxury and my mother dragged us everywhere by public transport. We never went to the movies and, rarely, if ever, dined at restaurants. We were reprimanded for our carelessness if we misplaced stationery provided for school. The need to build a safety net fueled part of this, and a strong desire to not return to the circumstances that plagued her childhood accounted for the rest. We saw that any expenditure on us came at the cost of our parents’ needs. When we got brand-new clothes, they wore the same ones until they faded and were beyond repair.

Even when things got better, she made us believe that we only had enough to survive. The primary reason was to teach us the value of money and the hard work that goes into earning it. My father missed a lot of birthdays and holidays because of his job. The constant travel took a toll on his health. She made sure we realised this so wouldn’t take his sacrifices for granted. The second was to ensure that spending never exceeded earnings. Credit wasn’t as forthcoming as today, and living with debt was not an option. Finally, she hoped that if things ever went south, we would find our way out of it. It was her way of preparing us for the worst-case scenario.

My mother was instrumental in moulding my monetary policy. We didn’t get allowances while in school. She expected us to ask for something when we needed it. Inquisitions followed requests for money and expenses sanctioned after much consideration. Initially, I found this difficult to understand because all my friends got pocket money and spent it on things they liked. When I entered college, I got a small allowance for travel and other expenses. But I had to provide a full account of the money spent to assure her that it was not “wasted”. Over time, I became so used to it that the minute I returned home, I would start reciting what I had started with, what I had spent on and how much was left. My mother was left red-faced one day when I, unthinkingly, did it in the presence of a relative who had come over to visit. Once the guest had left, she told me I didn’t need to give her an account anymore because she was confident in my ability to spend it “the right way”.

But this hasn’t affected their generosity. No one who comes to our home leaves empty-handed. They never hold back when sharing what they have with others. Their past has, also, made them empathetic towards those who are not as fortunate. Their miserly attitude affects them, and no one else. It’s another quality we seem to have inherited from them. I wouldn’t think twice about splurging on a gift for someone else.

My father once told us it is easy to upgrade one’s lifestyle, but difficult to go back. I beg to differ. After years of pinching pennies, despite being financially independent, I find it difficult to let go. My parents don’t want us to struggle the way they did and encourage us to make our lives comfortable. But I’m always looking for ways to save as much money as possible. Sometimes, this comes at the cost of time, health and, even, happiness. I’m hard on myself if I’ve overpaid for something, and I feel like a fool for obsessing over something I can not change. I’m still inclined to count every penny rather than splurge, even if I can afford to. I don’t own a credit card and the thought of a loan, even for something essential like a home, feels like an axe hanging over my head.

Have you bought something without looking at the price tag? I wouldn’t be able to. I have not learned to spend freely and don’t know where to start. What would I do if I won the lottery tomorrow and had enough money to last me a lifetime? Probably put the winnings in a bank account or invest it for better returns than spend.


Enter your e-mail address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


Thirteen Lessons on the Job

This post has been in the drafting stage for a while. Unfortunately, every time I thought I’d publish, one more item made it to the list, making me wonder if it was complete. I finally decided that enough is enough and, if I’ve missed something, I’m sure my readers will be kind enough to let me know.

These lessons are based on my experiences and observations. I thought sharing them might help others avoid the mistakes I made and, also, allow me to learn from others. So, here we go.

  1. Don’t work in a place where you’re not appreciated. When you put in your best and find that you’re not valued, silently leave. Don’t waste your time and effort in a job that doesn’t deserve it. Staying and hoping that this perception will change is a mistake. A good manager will recognise your worth and give you reasons to stay. A bad one will not care, which makes leaving a smart choice.
  2. Learn to Say “No” when you’re not comfortable with a task entrusted to you. If you’re asked to work on something that’s a complete departure from your skillset, and you feel like you won’t be able to do it justice, don’t take it up. If you are pressured to, communicate your limitations at the outset and limit expectations so that you’re not at the receiving end if things don’t work out.
  3. Be wary of whom you trust at the workplace. It may be nice to have a sympathetic ear for your frustrations and grievances but be careful of who you share your thoughts with. Not every person you confide in is worthy of your trust. Some may casually pass on what you have told them in confidence while others might throw you under the bus when it works to their advantage.
  4. Always remember that work is only a part of your life, not your whole life. Sacrificing health, hobbies and personal relationships because of the drive to do well at work comes at a cost. The success and adulation that recognition brings can be addictive. But, unless you’re very fortunate, there will be a time in your life when, despite your best efforts, you will find yourself disenchanted with work. And, if you don’t have something else in life that brings you joy, you will find yourself staring down a long dark tunnel.
  5. Don’t stay at the office longer than you have to. While this may seem like a repetition of the previous point, it’s not. A lot of people stay back after work hours just for the air-conditioning, internet, meals and other monetary perks. Sometimes, managers think that such employees are going above and beyond and expect the same from others creating a toxic workplace culture. While this may reap rich rewards in the short run, they are not sustainable later in life.
  6. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. The fastest way to learn is from the knowledge and experience of others. Experience matters because those who have it spent time and energy learning what works and what doesn’t. They also know how to get things done in an optimum manner, which saves the management a lot of time. When you interact with such individuals, you learn from them and avoid the mistakes they made.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. When we don’t understand something or have doubts about what someone tells us, it’s only natural to ask for clarifications. But, sometimes, either because we are afraid of what someone will think about our intellectual prowess or because of our ego, we tend to keep silent. There is no shame in admitting that you don’t know or understand something – whether you are fresh out of college or have spent years working in the field. Silence only furthers ignorance rather than addressing it.
  8. Always welcome change. While achieving mastery in the field of your choice is a worthy goal, the world is constantly evolving as is technology. If you don’t keep up, you risk being antiquated and expendable. Keeping abreast of the latest developments is just as essential as the ability to learn and unlearn as you go forward. As we all know, change is the only constant. And the ability to adapt is half the battle won.
  9. Never compromise on integrity. No matter how much you feel pressured into doing something unethical, bear in mind that if things go south, you’ll end up being the scapegoat. No amount of promotion or compensation is worth a ruined reputation. If you get fired or demoted for not following orders, you can always find another job. But bowing down to unscrupulous commands can mean anything from the end of a career to a long stint in jail.
  10. Respect everyone – whether it’s your subordinate, the office boy or the housekeeping staff. You may be a genius, but if you fail to understand the basic rules of courtesy and decency when it comes to treating others, it all comes to nought. Some people treat their peers or superiors with respect while showing disdain towards the rest. How you treat people who are not as knowledgeable or privileged defines the person you are. You have to give respect to get respect.
  11. Share your knowledge freely. Too often, insecurities, such as the fear of losing our importance or our job, prevent us from sharing what we know with others. Openly exchanging thoughts and ideas overcomes challenges, solves nagging problems, and all the participants learn and benefit from the resulting synergy.
  12. Never take credit for someone else’s work. It is unfair and unethical to use someone else’s efforts to further your career. Put yourself in that person’s shoes and think about how it would feel to be cheated out of the fruits of your labour.
  13. Always give your best to your job – even if it’s your last day. Just because you are serving your notice, doesn’t give you the license to put your feet up. As long as you are paid for your time in office, you owe it to yourself and your employer to do a good job. Your employer may not be able to do much, now that you are on your way out. But your work ethic will stay with the company long after you have left. And you will be remembered for your professionalism and the job you did when you had nothing to lose than the effort you put in for the sake of a raise or a promotion.

The world is not as big as we think and people have longer memories than we’d like. A positive and professional attitude can go a long way in furthering a career.

These are some lessons I have learnt over the short span of a decade-long career. I would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences. Please feel free to share them in the comments section.


Enter your e-mail address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


Back to Square One

Hey Everyone! I’m back. I’m sure most of you have forgotten me. Some of you might be wondering how this message ended up on their feed. Yes, it’s been a while since my last post – more than a year to be precise. But, unfortunately for you, you haven’t heard the last of me.

There were a lot of reasons for my absence. I was, suddenly and unexpectedly, thrown into the middle of a very strenuous exercise that left me depleted and lacklustre. Personal priorities, abrupt transitions and laziness account for the rest.

During this time, I admit that I logged onto WordPress a few times but couldn’t bring myself to write. Part of me felt like I’d lost my way in the world of blogging stats and figures. And, blogging had become a source of stress rather than enjoyment. I have, since, realised that while writing is most fulfilling when people read what’s written, the purpose is to tell your story and put a piece of yourself out there for others to see. Ultimately, how many do, doesn’t matter.

The one thing I missed most was exchanging thoughts and ideas with the assortment of people who have become part of my blogging world: like-minded and otherwise. And, maybe, the state of the world around us made me realise that life is too short and I still have a lot to say before I die. Even if it kills me or others die of boredom from reading my posts. Death by writing, somehow, seems a lot more agreeable than death by a killer virus. And like they say, once the writing bug bites, it is an itch you need to scratch.

I’ve had three stints in my blogging past – the first one lasted for two posts, the second barely one and the last one stretched for a span of a few months. This attempt will be my fourth. The plan is to write at my own pace this time, rediscover the joys of writing and not worry about the rest. While it feels like I’m starting all over again, here’s hoping this one lasts for a long time to come.


Enter your e-mail address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


 

On “Scientific Research”

I don’t claim to be a “health nut”, but I like to eat healthy barring the occasional indulgence. Whether it’s reducing the consumption of refined grains or adding more fruits and vegetables to my diet, nutrition is a priority. This means reading up on the health section of the news to keep abreast of the latest developments.

I suppose I inherited this quality from my father who obsessively follows research in the health and medical fields. But, lately, I find myself very confused. The following will illustrate why. My family hails from the coast. Coconut is an integral part of our diet primarily because it is natively grown and abundantly available. Whether it’s grated coconut, coconut paste or coconut milk, almost every dish, savoury or sweet incorporates it. Coconut oil has traditionally, also, been the preferred choice for deep frying, sautéing or, even, as a dressing. In other words, the way Mediterranean cuisine uses olive oil is how we used coconut oil. I say “used” because this is no longer true. The reason was some research about thirty years ago which stated that coconut oil is very high in cholesterol and terrible for heart health. When my father picked up on this, the consumption of coconut oil in our home dropped drastically. We switched to alternatives for a lot of preparations. Now, almost three decades later, coconut has become the new superfood with ringing endorsements of coconut oil. The jury is still out, however, with some touting it as a panacea and others calling it “poison”.

It doesn’t stop there. Breakfast is a topic that invites contradictory opinions from the scientific community. Some call it vital while others say it’s dangerous. All of these people are scientists with exemplary credentials holding positions of importance in regulatory bodies and academia. For the consumer though, whom or what to believe, that is the question.

I am no scientist, but I wonder how such contradictory results are possible on the same topic. This resulted in my own bit of research. Here are some findings. To begin with, independent studies are few and far in between. A lot of these studies are funded by big industries to malign a rival product so that its consumption drops and, then, promote their own as a “healthier” option. The results are biased in favour of the industry or lobby that sponsors it. Sometimes, the purpose is to hide the ill-effects of their product by exaggerating the so-called “hazards” of another. A case in point is how the sugar industry funded a study in the 1960s to highlight the contribution of fats to heart disease and downplay the role of sugar. This was only discovered as recently as 2016. The fact that this was hidden from the general public for about half a century is a cause of concern. And, when reputed organisations claim that something is dangerous, it is natural for people to think twice about what they eat.

Sometimes, the number of participants in a study is in single digits. How, then, can the results be applied to the general population? No wonder terms like “may” or “could” are frequently used in the title so that if the findings are debunked tomorrow, they are covered and can shirk all responsibility.

In my opinion, there is another factor to be considered – genetics. Studies are often carried out on a specific section of the populace in a particular region. Olive oil, for instance, is healthy and highly recommended. I don’t dispute this. Food habits, at least the traditional kind by which I don’t mean McDonalds or KFC, are cultivated based on crops favoured by the soil and climate. Olive oil is a product of the Mediterranean. People who reside there have consumed it for centuries, and their digestive systems have adapted to it. When it is promoted in Asian countries where other oils are more common, will the results be the same? The same applies to coconut oil which has, only recently, been adopted by the west.

Superfood is the new buzzword in the health industry. The minute something is categorised as such, people rush to buy it. Sometimes, in the quest for health, the consumption of these products gets out of hand. People don’t realise that sometimes too much of a good thing can be counterproductive. Another thing that skyrockets is the price. If you don’t believe me, check the cost of a product when a study declares that it is the best thing for you. Everyday items become unaffordable when they are branded “healthy”. When prices shoot up, you wonder whether it is because of the demand, or sellers trying to make a quick buck out of the next “superfood”.

As health conscious individuals, we are always seeking ways to make our lives better by adopting good eating practices. However, we unwittingly end up playing into the hands of lobbies whose only objective is financial gain. We, all, need to be careful about what we decide to consume based on what is termed as “scientific research”. In a world where business often takes precedence over public health, there are reasons to be wary. Beyond headlines, there are a lot of things that need to be considered with studies about health and nutrition. Sources, researchers, industries, sample sets and target populations are just a few. Because I am not sure what to believe, I have stopped taking these headlines seriously. Consume everything in moderation is one piece of advice that has persisted over time. And, for now, it seems like the sensible thing.


Enter your e-mail address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


 

Being a Social Pariah

The inspiration for this article is a blog post in which the writer describes how limiting time online has had a positive impact on her life.

The Internet has transformed the way we gather and assimilate information. Social networking has made it possible for people across the globe to connect seamlessly. But, somehow, the trend of being online hasn’t found favour with me. People find it strange when I say that I’m not on WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Truth is, very often, I don’t even know where my cell phone is. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a recluse by any means. I enjoy conversation and good company. I, just, avoid social media like the plague. Call me old-fashioned, but I find it intrusive and impersonal. And, though it may not always be possible, I prefer to call or meet in person with friends and family. There are times when months pass by before I talk to a friend, which is not ideal. But on the flip side, there is so much to catch up on.

Many people share every part of their life online. But if people know about everything that is happening in your life, what do you discuss when you meet them? When I attend social gatherings, I end up feeling like a social pariah. To begin with, I get the overwhelming sense of being a dinosaur because while I am seated there wondering where to start, everyone else is glued to their phones. I’m not sure whether people want a conversation. Also, everyone else seems to know what the other is doing except me. I don’t know whether the lack of interaction is a result of being on social media or the other way around. But, the art of conversation seems to be heading towards an early demise. What irritates me most is when I am mid-sentence, and people pick up their phone to find out what’s changed since they put it down a couple of minutes ago. I don’t know whether this is because of a constant need to be updated or the fear of missing out. There is nothing more cringeworthy than asking a question only to hear, “Oh, you don’t know? I had shared that on WhatsApp/Facebook?” Forgive me for expecting information from conversations rather than a bulletin board.

Even when people are travelling, they are so engrossed in their devices, they wouldn’t know if their own parent was standing next to them. For some people, the need to be connected is so strong that they carry their phones to the toilet. I fail to recognise the urgency. Will someone not understand if they’ve taken a break to answer nature’s call? Social media aims to satisfy the innate curiosity that most individuals have about what’s going on in others’ lives. It is also an outlet for those who like to shout from the rooftops about every little thing. Whether the desire is to be appreciated or envied is open for debate. But, in my opinion, living so much of your life in the public eye is not just invasive. It’s outright exhausting. It’s human tendency to turn things into a contest which makes it easy for one-upmanship to creep in. And, in an intensely competitive world where so much value is placed on professional accomplishments, the last thing you want is for that to extend to your personal life.

I prefer to live by simple rules. If there is an event in my life that I wouldn’t call and tell someone about, then it is not worth sharing. Period. Just because there’s a medium that allows you to put this information out doesn’t mean you should. Every piece of information you share is being used by someone to target you – for better or for worse. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. I understand that it is cheaper and convenient to use social media than to call someone. You can use apps to make calls on the internet. But when was the last time you did that?

Children, nowadays, learn to use the cell phone before they start talking. They are handed electronic devices at an age where they should be learning to play and bond. Will this not affect their ability to communicate? Social media prevents the cultivation of deep-rooted relationships by reducing our interaction with colleagues, friends and loved ones. The more time we spend online, the less time we spend talking to them. Our bond with those around us is dependent not only on shared thoughts but also on shared experiences. Then, there are people from the previous generation who are not tech-savvy and rely on conversations for exchanging ideas and emotions. Their inability to use social media results in them being ignored, isolated and lonely. Ask them what they prefer – messaging, Skype call or a visit.

Social media was created to make it easier for people to communicate. But if we use it as a substitute for personal interactions, the purpose is defeated. If a medium makes you contented with messaging or broadcasting a part of your life rather than making a call, where is our future headed? A conversation is about more than what is said. The spoken word has a tone, an expression, an emotion that a message cannot capture. For me, there is no substitute for the sound of a person’s voice. But it is second best to sitting across from them as you spend hours in conversation because nonverbal cues add another dimension to dialogue.

So, take a break from social media. Pick up a phone and call someone who you haven’t spoken to in a while. Better yet, have a face-to-face conversation and forget about your cell phone while you’re at it. You’ll be surprised at how much you enjoy yourself. More importantly, you’ll realise what you’ve been missing all this time.


Enter your e-mail address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


 

Types of Managers

I have worked with my fair share of managers over the years and thought it might be fun to write about them. Here are some types based on my experiences.

The Micromanager
As the name suggests, they are control freaks and have a hard time trusting anyone to perform their job. They always want things done their way and will not be open to others’ ideas and opinions. Obsessed with details about their employees’ work, they have a hard time letting go. They frequently ask for updates and monitor their subordinates and their activities to the point of being overbearing. They focus too much on the small details and miss the big picture. Status meetings involve individual discussions of such minutiae that the rest were left twiddling their thumbs. Needless to say, these meetings always exceed their designated time slots and fail to achieve desired results.

The Slave Driver
They take pleasure in pushing their employees to extract as much work out of them as is humanly possible. They demand nothing short of complete dedication from their subordinates with no room for a life outside work. No matter how hard the employees work, they expect more. They like their team members to work for long hours, frown on requests for time off and frequently boast about how they work 24×7 and never take vacations. Showing appreciation isn’t easy for them, but they are always first to find faults. Meetings are strategically scheduled in the evenings and always extend beyond working hours. People leaving on time will be asked if they are “leaving early” loud enough for everyone to hear. With this type, “urgent” tasks have a tendency to pop up when you’re about to leave for the day.

The Hands-On Manager
This kind is the proverbial techie. They play an important part in decision making but allow their subordinates the freedom to decide on implementation. In constant pursuit of technical excellence, they focus on new and innovative solutions to resolve a problem. They will step in when the situation demands and back off when they are not needed. Technically sound, they can be counted on for advice with challenging problems. But they have high expectations from their team and may not suffer fools gladly. Though they are masters of their field, managing people may not be their forte.

The Hands-Off Manager
These managers know their technical limitations and will give free rein to their employees to accomplish their tasks. Their strength is people management with assigning responsibilities and tracking their status their primary focus. They believe in “live and let live”. As long as things are on track, they do not interfere with the activities of their employees. But when things go south, they panic and find themselves helpless and unable to remedy the situation. They will listen to their employees’ concerns but can not be expected to solve technical problems when the situation demands.

The Selfish Manager
The sole purpose of this kind is the preservation and promotion of self, and they will do anything required to accomplish this goal. They will mollify their employees if they need to or cast them aside if the situation demands. When things go right, they are quick to take credit. When they don’t, they’ll be ready with a scapegoat. They will ensure that they are always in their superiors’ good books even if this is achieved at the expense of their subordinates. As long as things work to their benefit, they persist with their employers. The day this stops, they silently move on.

The Inept Manager
These managers are neither technical managers nor people managers. When technical challenges arise, they are clueless about dealing with them. When conflicts come up, they think that pretending they don’t exist will make them go away. They are usually found in organisations which value loyalty over excellence. Survival is more important to them than advancement. They are not willing to take risks or break conventions and will smother, and even punish, subordinates who challenge them. Because they are insecure, they like being addressed as “Sir” or “Ma’am” by their underlings which makes them feel important.

The Know-It-All Manager
As experts in their field of choice, these managers exhibit supreme confidence. Unfortunately, this sentiment tends to overflow to other areas making them think that they know everything and can do anything. As a result, they try to showcase their “knowledge” in areas they don’t fully understand and make a fool of themselves. They tend not to listen, constantly interrupt others and attempt to draw attention to their understanding of the subject under discussion. They attach more importance to their domain and trivialise the rest. To sum up, they always try to prove that they’re the smartest person in the room.

The Supermanager
These managers are a dream to work with. They are technically capable architects and excellent people managers. They set the course of the project and provide a free hand to their subordinates to achieve targets. They are quick to understand the nuances of implementation and provide guidance when required. They make their resources feel valued and promptly address any concern raised. Always willing to share their success, they accept responsibility for failures and insulate their teams from pressures from higher-ups. They bring out the best in their subordinates and always exceed the expectations of the management.

I’m sure you recognise one or more of these types. Please share your experiences in the comments section. If I have missed one, feel free to let me know.


Enter your e-mail address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


 

The Story of a Diamond

In the heart of a woman, lies a story untold
Of her trials by fire, her fight to break the mould
Through all her sorrows, through all her pain
She believed her struggle would not be in vain

From the ashes, she rose, stronger and wiser
The power of the universe, alive, inside her
The strength of the ages, the fire of the sun
The purity of love, the depth of the ocean

Dreamer, Achiever, Giver, Nurturer
Warrior, Protector, Conqueror, Healer
She is, but, one woman
And, yet, she is every woman

Her heart in her hands, the world at her feet
She knew her journey was far from complete
Rising above the world, she took her place in the sky
Yet, bonded to the earth by an unbreakable tie

She reached for a star, shaped it into a stone
Adding dimensions that mirrored her own
She honoured every scar caused by a dark night
With every cut she made, the jewel grew bright

Her power filled the diamond with possibilities untold
Unleashing brilliance, no cage could ever hold
You feel her spirit, there is nothing she can’t do
How do you know? Because she is You.


Enter your e-mail address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


 

Living with OCD

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
– Ernest Hemingway

I read this quote recently and decided to put my vulnerabilities out there for others to see, and possibly judge. If you are obsessive-compulsive, it won’t be difficult to understand what I’m talking about. The rest of you will question my sanity after reading this post.

I knew I had a problem. What I didn’t know was, it had a name – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I know I wasn’t born with it. But I’m not sure what triggered it or when the first tendencies showed.

It doesn’t keep me from doing things in my life. I was not clinically diagnosed. That’s impossible in a country where visiting a psychiatrist is equated with having a severe mental defect. Mental disorders that do not pose a threat to others are not considered grave. The definition of threat, however, is open to interpretation. Most ailments are swept under the carpet or considered self-manageable. As a result, sometimes things get significantly worse before they can get better.

When it first reared its ugly head, I didn’t think there was anything unusual about my behaviour. It felt natural to check everything multiple times. So, work emails had to be read repeatedly before being sent out. I had to ensure that the electric switches were off and the door was locked, at least three times before I left home for the day, among other things. Blog posts and comments had to be read and reread to death before they were posted. I thought I was being thorough. But, with time, I realised that it was the result of my inability to trust myself. I was paranoid about making mistakes. A voice at the back of my mind kept insisting that I do these things. If I didn’t, I could have no peace. The only way to get that voice out of my head, albeit temporarily, was to follow its command.

It didn’t stop there. Next, came the fear of contamination. The constant feeling of uncleanliness and the need to wash hands on contact with any surface perceived to be tainted. Very often, this resulted in the skin peeling off my hands. But, that didn’t stop me.

The last straw was when, in my effort to be clean, I started imposing my ideas of “cleanliness” on the people around me. The lucky winners – my immediate family. Noncompliance with my dictates, knowingly or otherwise, would result in me flying off the handle. I say dictates because I behaved like a dictator in this regard. If the person at the other end rebelled, which was understandable, it resulted in a full-blown meltdown. It is not difficult to comprehend the stress this can put on relationships.

But the worst part is having to deal with it outside the confines of your home. You have no control over your compulsions. But you suppress the part of yourself that expects others to comply because you risk being isolated or laughed at for your behaviour. Let alone losing friends, you might have trouble making any in the first place. People who don’t suffer from this condition can not understand it. I don’t blame them because I know my behaviour is irrational.

Years have passed, but I know I am still a long way away from overcoming my problems. I struggle with my condition every day. I continue to make my life difficult and others around me miserable. “Freak”, “Paranoid”, “Mental” and “Crackhead” are terms my husband uses to define my neurosis. My mother keeps reminding me that it’s not healthy for everyone involved if I continue down this road. The sad part is, I know I’m driving people up the wall. But I find it very difficult to control myself. I’m, just, lucky that people around me have put up with my unreasonable ways and not run for the hills.

For people who don’t suffer from this condition, I don’t expect you to understand why I do what I do. In fact, I pray that you never have to. I just hope that if there is such a person in your life, you will understand that their actions come not from anger or spite but from an underlying mental state. It’s an understatement to say that living with a person who has OCD is difficult. I know because I have to live with myself every day.

Just so you know, I proofread this post eight times before publishing it.


Enter your e-mail address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.


 

An Open Letter

To the people I love,

You know who you are because you’re reading this letter right now. Some of you have known me for a long time, others not as much. But no matter how long we’ve walked together in this journey called life, please know that you are important to me. I don’t know whether it was fate that made our paths cross or coincidence. Either way, I am grateful.

The ties of the heart go deeper than blood. All the ups and downs that we have been through have, only, made that bond stronger. When I was happy, you rejoiced with me. When I was in pain, you shared my suffering. When I had doubts, you believed in me. When I was afraid, you allayed my fears. When I was weak, you were my strength. I could share my thoughts with you knowing you would speak your mind. You could always make me laugh. Even if, at times, you didn’t intend to. I know there were times when I caused you pain. But you never held it against me. Somehow, you were always able to see the good in me. And, I will not forget that.

Life may have taken us away from each other. We may have chosen to embark on different adventures. But, even now, when I hear your voice at the end of the call, it is as if we spoke yesterday. There are no awkward silences. Seconds become minutes and minutes stretch to hours. The conversation flows, and we lose track of time. That, my dear, is a testament to our bond.

Thank you for being there for me. My life is better because you are a part of it. I have lost count of the number of times you have brought me back from the brink of insanity. All the times that I have been hopeless and lost, you have been my guiding light. You have fought for me when no one would. You have seen the best and the worst of me. You have embraced all of me – the good, the bad and the ugly. I am who I am because of you. You mean a lot to me.

You are my family.


Enter your e-mail address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.