Hidden behind the wise words

It is 3:15 in the afternoon. The room is still filled with over 20-25 odd people who believe that sitting through this seminar would change them forever. In a scenario where you are supposed to address an audience whom you have tricked into believing that you have the answers, you know it will be fun as usual. Captivating an audience is a performers’ mandate. If she cannot hold participants, the performance, however worthy it might be, holds no reason to get another opportunity. Till the day money buys food and shelter, productivity alone will ensure the survival of arts. So after refreshing the tone of the seminar to prepare them for the final 2 hour session, I was supposed to leave with them with a sense  of achievement. Our program posters promised,  ‘explore the truth within’. The event was supposed to teach people how to create happiness in their daily lives. We would tell them how they can empower themselves to make happiness live forever. Their problems will vanish. Their issues will be sorted out and they wouldn’t even know how we did it. The only fact that will remain would be, their own sense of conquest.

The seminar drew a good audience of around 80 people. The participants mostly consisted of middle-aged men and women, most of them, from wealthy families. Our participation token of 8000 INR ensured that we had only those people who frequent posh restaurants and in all probability drove their own car. We were to start at sharp 10 am. The seminar would be split in 3 2-hour sessions, with 2 tea breaks and a lunch break. The token money was pegged at an amount which would let us find a seminar hall in a reasonably good hotel. One of the prime factors of driving people to ‘explore themselves’ is to keep such explorations in a fine location. An air-conditioned hall with a domed pathway leading out of it, helps create its own sense of achievement. Another crucial aspect in deciding the venue is the washroom. The washroom should have a clean mirror and under no circumstances, should it be left unattended. A small clean eating area with well-mannered waiters is a must. A proper restaurant is a plus. If you can afford a theme based restaurant, then you probably will have to work on engaging the audience, even less. So when we zeroed in on choosing the place for our seminar, we managed to get a place with a small kitchen which served tea and light snacks.

At sharp 8 am on the day of the seminar, I received a phone call. It was my manager from work. One of my customers had withdrawn a major deal. The tone of the conversation was furious to say the least. The combination of a fresh morning and an irritated, ill-mannered, key customer, clearly didn’t make anyone’s day better. I was on an official leave. I had prepared for this seminar for about 8 months now. I knew I wouldn’t let anyone spoil the day for me. With these thoughts, I listened to the manager for another 20 minutes. His last words were, meet me in my office at 10… click.. toooonnnnn. The phone disconnected.

I tried calling again but received no response. I left a message that I will be able to meet him only the next day. This day had bigger engagements. I knew somewhere deep down my heart, that this could cost me my job. But this seminar could well be a success and provide me an alternate occupation. With high hopes and numbed mind, I left my place to take a final look at the arrangements.

It is 3:25pm. Another 5 minutes to the final lap of the performance. The conversations around the tea counter are positive. I had paid extra bucks to ensure that the tea and cookies were not compromised on quality. The poignant thoughtful faces on the audience reassured me that they did a fine work there.

When I am in the performance, I know my role inside out. I was always a good motivational speaker in school. Any debates on controversial issues saw me enchanting my peers by my pitch, antics and voice modulations. 7 years in my sales job, I had worked hard to refine my skills. I would have stayed with that profession, but for the fact that sales needed more that just convincing once. The problem of a good orator like me is that I cannot perform if the audience size is less than 5, they haven’t paid in advance, or they already know more about my play, than I do. So you see clearly, that Sales wasn’t for me. This seminar was different. I could control the external factors and create the internal factors to leave my audience enchanted by presenting packaged happiness.

At 7 pm that evening, I called my manager. He agreed to meet me the next day. The fury of the morning’s conversation was subsided. He spoke matter-of-factually. I apologized in all sincerity and offered to visit him, first thing in the morning. In the morning I made it a point to stop by at the fruit vendor to buy a pack of kiwis. Fruits are good for everyone in the family. They help you create better relations. The costlier, the better; these 7 years had taught me this. Even if he asks for my resignation, this is one of the lessons that will stay with me forever. My future profession after all, is all about, how to keep oneself happy, and forever!



Pin-drop Silence

Everyday at lunch, I wish someone from the table would start a conversation. Basically because awkward silence is more apparent than an awkward conversation. So every time I meet that quintessential silence in a room with more than 2 people with nothing else to do but hopefully talk, I try real hard to come up with something to share. This is one reason, I am more comfortable around extroverts. In all probability they will have an anecdote to share. They don’t seem to be bothered by the lack of words where it’s due, because well, they are mostly on a look out for some space to express their latest sentiment.

‘Quiet’ has a compulsion of imposing its character. It imposes itself with such impact that you cannot even miss a pin drop. It allows you the space to listen to your head in clear tone. That apparently is a more unpleasant conversation for many, than a real one with someone else.

This afternoon was somewhat different. When the lunch was served, I was the first one to open my lunch box. As others joined in, some small talk ensued. But about 5 minutes later, suddenly, as if some one broke an unpleasant news, everyone in the room fell silent. The only noise in the room was of the spoons meeting the plates at blunt angles. I moment later, if one concentrated enough, one could even listen the movement of the gums and the food as it made it’s way down the throat. Just then, the door bell rang. ALL the eyes darted in the direction of the door. In came a gentleman from another team. The conversation that started at that moment, belonged to the category, you would rather excuse yourself from. Most of the members on the table joined in either with agreement reflecting nods, small double meaning grins or sharply listening yet somewhere questioning eyes. Though we had almost finished our lunch, another couple of minutes passed, as we vacated our seats for the next lot. When this gentleman left us, there was an exchange of glances between those who were more friends than the rest. More than a couple of eyes smiled seemingly agreeing that they were glad the gentleman left, though not pretty sure if they all were disgusted or disagreed with the same parts of his story.

While I too exchanged a glances with two of my colleagues, my internal conversation was a proud celebration of my introversion. Would I ever chose to fill a silent room with jab, than letting the silence be? I don’t think so.

The thing about voice is, it fills the emptiness of the room with a lot of ‘apparent’ alternatives to think about. When a conversation is on, there is less chance that people will observe others. And that is some how a very desirable ‘break’. So while everyone can hear an awkward silence, in a stupid conversation, people can chose to:

  • feign interest in it, or for all they know,
  • concentrate on finding nitpicking opportunities,
  • pull off interesting points from the conversation, or
  • make fun of the speaker or situation.

Of the top of my head, I can only say, the tendency of avoiding the truth, that the conversation is stupid, is far greater than missing the pinch of an awkward silence. I chose to let the realization stay if that indeed is the case. Guising it up is not my style.

The awkwardness of forced socializing

Human beings are social animals. When my civics book claimed that, I could see how it made sense. I could not enjoy my lunch all by myself. It was always fun to have as many members in a pitthu team as possible. When my best friend left town to meet her grandparents, it made me upset. So it fell into a completely logical place. I think this blog itself to one extent is a reflection of this desire of being social, albeit digitally.

What I fail to see however, is why would someone force socializing on another being?!

Here is what I am talking about: My parents would have endless friends. Most of them would have kids in my age group (+- 4). The worst times of the childhood were when we kids would meet, not get along and would still be bound to ‘go and play’ almost once every 2 months. So while I recognize that unwarranted gatherings will invariably be there, I have always been looking at ways to get past them.

Societal games

My parents got me a lot of board games. I can say beyond doubt, board games are a comfort, at least in situations when you don’t really understand what else you can ‘play’ within the house, without breaking a glass. Also, my parents loved buying educational games. So the likes of Memory, Word boggle and Branvita easily got added into my favourites. I was quick and sharp in these games. So these social gatherings became more tolerable. But it wasn’t always true for the other party (the other kid). For all you know, he might suck at those games and would want to play carrom. Then that became a question of who was the host of the party. If you are partying in my home, you have no option but to play what I offer. So even though you see the carrom board peeping from behind the almirah, I cannot remember where I kept the stricker. And since it’s my territory and we are both forced to stay within it, you got to play by my rules. That I think is rule of of handling the social gatherings.

The situation always favours the host. There are times when I have witnessed exceptions though. For instance, if you are the host, but your parents tend to favour the other’s child over you. Though this will not happen very often and I would never wish this upon any kid, I think at times it happens when your parent’s perception of an ideal child is met more closely by the other kid. In that case, in their attempt to ‘help you become better’ they may intervene and favour the external party. Too unfair. That moment either makes the two of you, enemies for life, declaring a cold war, or if the parents are lucky, you actually get their point.

Subconscious reactions

There are days when you meet your friends and wish your parents and their parents got along. That would mean more time to spend with the people you like! Even though you try real hard and it may in turn become a reality for one off case, it is a difficult bet. So the mind starts plotting its own zone of comfort in unpleasant social situations. l remember counting the number of balloons in one such birthday party. I would estimate a number and see if the actual matches the estimate. Their can be any version of the balloon story the minds develop. But one thing is sure, you sub-consciously develop your own dialogue when you can’t have one outside, without sounding offensive. Another way of enjoying the moment is when people are able to create their minds space in their surrounding. For instance, when I met these ‘friends’ I would wait for the discussion to move to ‘how I am a good girl’ or ‘how my school was amongst the best in the city’. Those were things that concerned me. I had an opinion about them and I get the opportunity to share my mind. Another case would be, when I downplayed the fact that I wasn’t the host, and got my way of spending the evening. This last one wins for being the best possible scenario!

On growing up

With time, you have to consciously get involved in forced gatherings. You know they are ugly. They don’t relax you. The spoil your TV schedule and eat into your ‘me’ time. But they are all around. Of so many people I meet at so many different places, not many seem to enjoy, unless they are their my their own will. But they are trapped their like a mouse in a trap, only entering it by choice. Choosing against will, is one of the traits of growing up. So while childhood has taught me multiple ways of turning the perceived drudgery into a fun time, I do have some key guiding principles.

  •  The larger the gathering, easier it is to excuse yourself.
  •  Closer the relationship dynamics, larger the role of mutual consent.
  •  For unavoidable situations, offer yourself small enticements.
  •  Always keep some board games.

Choosing your best way to turn an unwanted meeting into a pleasant time is one of the timeless arts one should not have to do without. It takes some experience, experimentation and an inevitable role of gut. The character that it builds is another key dimension you would seldom appreciate. But if you pull this well, there is one thing less to fret upon. Looking at the frequency of such situations one encounters, the subconscious weighs mastering this art over the risk of going gaga. But for all the mastery and lessons, those occasions that fail to attract you, as a grown up you can choose to reject. THAT indeed is growing up!

The unacknowledged creativity of wits

One thing that didn’t dawn upon me until recently, was this: If I were to choose from being a producer or a financer, what would I choose?

The owner class

When you have made a product, you want it to stay. You wish to see it go big and grand. When you own the product, you have seen its birth. But more than that, you have nurtured it, and its dream, even when you weren’t working on it. Creation is a very passionate and emotional process. Just like an artist would savour his painting, sculpture or design, any product is developed through the same mesh of dedication, dreaming and the intense desire to ‘build’. So whenever I meet people who have generated an idea and given it a form, I see their love for the product in their demonstration. It will be technically precise and sharply placed in a bigger picture, as that piece of a puzzle that will now complete the maze. The sense of conversation prompts you to wonder if you agree that there was indeed a missing piece. If there was indeed, then you may wonder if this product really is the answer. That product guy might have similar thoughts and will tend to question himself a million times about how that piece really fits into this invisible puzzle. Eventually, if the prototype manages to attract enough attention and find its practical utility to pay back the expenses that went into the process of shaping it, it might be onto something. From that point, begins the journey of the creator, into the unknown adventurous path to immortalise his identity.

The observer’s lens

People work hard to make ends meet. With ever increasing scope to own things and establish new levels of comfort (and eventual discomfort), money becomes the key to a lot of problems (and solutions). So when this ‘creator’ wants to grow big, he meets one of those who have an appreciation for this process of creation and hopefully sees the potential of commercializing it. By the way, I think there is nothing wrong with the idea of commercialization. It in fact, is an obligation upon the artists to create value for their work. So unless the world finds an alternate means of exchanging goods, attracting money will remain an essential ingredient to the potpourri of living. So this dear person, the investor ensures that the business concept gets funded. He also looks into the process which brings the product in the most easily consumable and widely desirable form. The love of the product remains seated only as deeply, that it can wither some clouds of uncertainty. At the end of the day, this person is here to make money. So, for all the parallel lines he may wish to draw in the organizational structure, the process of commercialization alone reflects his merit. The moment this piece of art loses starts losing its monetary value, the investor knows he made a wrong decision. This one wrong decision may cost him his money, reputation and credibility. He believed in the claim of the creator-that-and insufficient scrutiny are his career’s nightmare.

The believer class

The creator will remain the originator and face behind the product. If the product fails, its short lived fame may still leave him fulfilled with an eternal sentiment of having made a contribution. But this investor, who didn’t own the product, risked his money, placed bets on the traction, is left empty handed. So even before he enters the game, he knows his risk. So very simply, he can only be that much involved with the product. The process of discovery for the investor is to establish validity in one of the dreams and take that idea to be a monetized success. It involves the complexity of creating a business and striking a balance between the product and its demand. This person can be as dedicated as the founder himself. But at the end of the day, he needs to remain objective. Also, living all by himself, untouched by the sacred bond of ownership, he knows the value of his gamble. But gambling is another art all together. A bet where there is no product to establish the validity of wit. The only testimony to a successful execution is money.

Which side would I rather be? I would choose being an inventor, the creator. Betting has never been my stronghold. Neither has been objective detachment.

100 Writing Days

So I really liked the way #100happydays created true value of happiness in so many individuals (and their friends on social network, especially facebook)

When I talk to myself, I know, for me, it can only be a ‘100 writing days’ challenge that I would love to take up and make it through.

I am sure I am not the only one who feels it is difficult to write everyday. Even though our lot yearns to express themselves through writing, it is difficult, because it needs a lot of dedication. It needs that undying spirit to not be able to go to bed before writing your piece. So I am starting with #100writingdays

It’s my way to keep up with my life by giving in to the fantasy of being able to share by writing and reading.

I think I will make a quick rule book for myself, so that the blog, despite being an attempt to instill discipline, does not end up being a drag. So here is what I promise myself:

1. Every entry shall be re-read twice before it is posted

2. I will try to keep it over 200 words everyday

With this, I declare, #100writingdays OPEN!