Saturday 31 August 2013

Nehru Park, New Delhi - Perfect Venue for Live Musical Performances

One aspect I like a lot about Delhi is that it has been hosting a variety of live musical performances. This has definitely brought some shape to an otherwise fading culture of the city. I am writing about one venue in particular...not because of its own attractions alone, but also because of the vast variety of musical performances it hosts - Nehru Park!

Delhi's Nehru Park has been a welcoming venue for Pandits & Ustads of Indian classical music, the second generation / up-coming classical musicians, a 3-day international Jazz festival and a 3-day pan-India Bhakti Sangeet Utsav. The most interesting thing is - neither these performances are ticketed nor are they limited by 'entry by invitation only' crap, all are invited...all are equally welcomed. 

'Music in the Park' is the name given to Indian classical musical performances. These are early morning or evening performances...normally scheduled between October to March (keeping the weather in mind). In last few years, I have been lucky to see & listen to some of the greats of Indian classical music, some who are sadly no longer among us and no one can see them perform live anymore! I am not naming anyone here because in order to name all - I will take a lot of space and naming just a few won't do justice to the ones I don't mention. I credit MITP for turning me into a fan of Indian classical music.

Delhi already had an upmarket Jazz Yatra. A three day long festival, it is organized at expensive auditoriums, demands an equally expensive ticket price...but does invite some of world's recognized Jazz artists. The fact that it is Jazz, the fact that it is expensive to attend...meant this was almost an event for the elite of Delhi. This suddenly changed with Delhi Jazz Festival coming up at Nehru Park in 2011. This festival offers Jazz to all its fans and treats all as offers fans, music of not so well known international and Indian Jazz offers these groups, an honest audience that is there for the love of music!

The biggest surprise for me has been my interest in Bhakti Sangeet Utsav...I thought breaking barrier in my mind for Indian classical music was a victory in itself...but, live musical performances at Nehru Park broke down yet another barrier for me. Artists who perform at this festival, invited from various parts of India, are masters in bhakti the term suggests, music for the Gods! The effect of sitting there, listening to bhakti sangeet, is almost trance-like...irrespective of language and even style of music.

Nehru Park plays an ideal setting for live musical performances...tranquil surroundings...a vast garden, greenery all around offering fresh air...a venue that's centrally located...a venue large enough to host thousands (and thousands do come). I think there is no music lover in Delhi who does not make it a point to attend as many of these performances as possible. Every time I have attended a musical performance there...the combination of atmosphere and music have taken me on a flight...where both, the journey and destination, have been equally exhilarating, fulfilling and all-consuming.

Friday 30 August 2013

Why Do I Write?

I have been asked this question in few different ways, by few different people...this has made me take the base question seriously - "why do I write?". The instinctive reaction I have is that I write for myself...but it is not that I write for me to read. It is neither a platform for me to only vent and cool-off nor a 'dear diary' per say. There is a definite joy I get by writing...but there is something more than just joy, which makes me write!

There are a couple of incidents from recent past that probably will help explain why I write. I was talking to a friend (please keep in mind I do not use the term 'friend' lightly / loosely) and he made the following comment about me: "normal people can't understand you easily"...I would like to take his words as "normal people can't accept and like you easily". Second - a friend saw my blog and commented - "I like the way each blog post of yours gives insight to who you are.. Who you were who you are becoming." I think these two statements about me, truly describe why I write.

Essentially, I believe I am a complex being - I do like to turn simple things into over-complex scenarios - I do like to over-think on issues and I do have an opinion on things that concern me.

Despite being an extrovert, I do not share much about me. Despite enjoying company of friends, I do not enjoy large groups. Since I don't share much easily - I feel there is a lot about me that many around me don't know, let alone understand. In essence, I write for myself - partly for the joy I get from writing and partly to share some parts of my thoughts with others. Also, because I can't sing / dance / express, thus I write! 

Almost like the caveman in the cartoon above, I write to leave my mark behind - something that's the true writing is an extension of me...for those who would simply don't matter!

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Key for a successful marriage: for men to understand

It was at my wedding reception that I was told of the two golden rules of successful marriage. Both came from an old man - who had a successful 43 year marriage and I knew any wisdom that he shares would be worth a lot.

First golden rule: marriage is about communication - as long as communication channels are open, no door shall close forever

Second golden rule: be a henpecked husband

I was initially shocked when this old man came up to me and shared his rules for a successful marriage - that too on my wedding day! "Henpecked" had me confused to no end...

Today, after nearly 7 years I see the reason for these rules to be shared. It's simple really - most boys are nothing but pampered-mama's-boys and married life without these rules could become a rude shock!

It starts with smaller and easier-to-manage issues - helping in household chores, treating kitchen more than a place that food comes out of...go grocery shopping...keeping a tidy room...things that are generally no where on a single guy's radar, but things that become extremely important right from day 2 of married life.

Men can live like pigs...this I do not state with pride, but am merely stating a simple fact. Pigs don't go seeking dirt all around, they are just at home with dirt all around. It is who we are...the challenge kept in front of us is not only to kick old habits and learn new ones...but to do all of it instantaneously.

Challenge isn't that a husband is expected to share chore-load...because in all fairness marriage is all about sharing...the biggest challenge for the guy is not to simply complete a task...but to internalise the task, make it a part of his daily life and live by it as a sacred code of conduct.

For the husband who was uninitiated on the 'golden rules' - once he has managed to become bearable for his wife on the above...comes the second rude shock of his married life...the 'my-way-or-the-highway'!

At anytime when habits are kicked and new ones are taken on, arguments are but-natural. The uninitiated guy would try and reason, put forth his views, believe he is an equal part of the equation...only to learn the hard way that life's unfair...there's no question of being an equal and thus, his point of view / his logic / his reasoning - all are just as worthless as another drop of water in the ocean.

The initiated guy would struggle as well, he will take sometime to understand how it all works...just that he will realise (sooner than the uninitiated guy) the equation at work. The equation isn't about equals, isn't about balance of power...but that of emotions. This is where the uninitiated guys fall the hardest...normally, not many are in touch with they are married to them. This is where being 'henpecked' helps the initiated guy accept everything that's happening around...even if not always managing to understand the emotions at work.

In my understanding - the 'golden rules' are not to be taken literally...the initiated guy will understand that for a successful marriage a guy has to hear his wife's view and that, he needs to do everything in his power to keep his wife's happiness above everything else...always!

Now that the old man is nearing the landmark Golden Jubilee of his marriage...I asked him the key to a happy married life. He smiled as he understood that I have grasped his rules for a successful marriage. The old man looked at his wife of fifty years, held her hand...and answered - "it's a tripod of love, lust, loyalty".

I will take sometime to completely grasp this key...but am keen to think about this. Will share once I have formed my understanding of the old man's tripod on which his marriage has happily balanced itself for five decades.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Life is unarguably unfair...but so are we!

If I had a penny for every time I thought to myself or someone around me exclaimed "that's not fair!!!" or "life's unfair"...I wouldn't need to work for money. There is no doubt that often outcomes are unfair, situations and / or people are partial (against us) and all this is frustrating.

For any scenario we face, there are choices in front of us in order to deal with it. In the instance when life seems unfair, we could get frustrated and feel bogged down...leading to heart burn and nothing positive coming out for us. Or we could try fighting unfairness, which may not bring about desirable results still. Another option is to accept this as some sort of a balancing plan that is beyond our current understanding. Needless to say, ideal is anyone who can work within these three and manage a healthy mix - situation to situation.

The most common cause of frustration is our general inability to strike a work-life balance. This is one of the trickiest vicious cycle...we work hard to make our life more comfortable...but work hard enough to not enjoy life! At times we intentionally focus more on one just to escape from the other.

Since it is not possible for us to get what we want, when we want and how we is easy to understand where this 'unfairness' originates from. It is nothing but our own judgement of a scenario against how our own projection of the outcome.

No one's one's got the perfect formula to live one can claim to even have a formula close to perfect...there isn't a handbook anywhere...there aren't any notes from our seniors that we could refer to...essentially, we are on our own to figure out our life. 

We never take a moment to think - when a decision falls in our favour, life could appear and actually be unfair to someone else. We never take a moment to think - how unfair are we being in our demand that all our wishes come true, all the time!

I belong to a unique generation

It is quite interesting these times, generations change in a matter of years and not necessarily decades...on many matters, my wife (younger to me by 2 years) complains that I am the older generation and believes there is a generation gap between the two of us. She may not be entirely wrong...I do think that I belong to an older generation for today's youngsters.

I don't see this as a negative really, getting old or being old hasn't been of any significance for me. I wouldn't want to swap places with today's youth, I am glad to stand where I am...I am glad to be a part of my generation...I actually say that my generation is unique. The last group to claim "born in the 70's"...the last group to have seen and used things that are already obsolete.

Does this make me / my generation richer in experience, better at judgement...does it mean we become guides and path builders...does it bring up some sort of responsibility on our shoulders...well, no! Not because we shouldn't or wouldn't, but because the younger lot is a lot smarter, stronger and faster. They know themselves better than we used to at their age, which is quite a strength to hold.

I just think that I am lucky to have been born when I was...I see my seniors and feel they had it rougher...I see my juniors and feel they may be losing out on a lot of human emotions due to the pace at which their life moves. We hold the value system of our seniors and still have the hunger that matches the young. It is this 'being-in-the-middle' of the mix that makes me call my generation unique...My generation is uniquely the 'young-old'! 

Friday 23 August 2013

A Smile Can Change the World!

When the heart cries more than the eyes
When things are unbearable and pained
When nothing seems to comfort
When the feeling leaves me waned
I hope just for you to smile make everything alright!

When all hope is lost
When Sun doesn't shine
When clouds of despair loom large
When all happiness seems to be left behin'
I hope just for you to smile make everything alright!

When everything’s twisted & broken 
When I lose sleep and stare into nothingness
When nothing goes right...nothing fits
When I am surrounded only by darkness
I hope just for you to smile make everything alright!

When confidence is low and shoulders are drooping
When the spark’s gone amiss
When loneliness strikes hardest
When I have hit the abyss
I hope just for you to smile make everything alright!

When the world finds me wrong
When my own don’t talk to me
When I don’t know who I am anymore
When I look in the mirror and see a different me
I hope just for you to smile make everything alright!

When things are better again
When you have made my day
When I am ready to fight...take the world head-on
When my fears are gone all the way
I hope just for you to continue smiling keep everything alright!

Sunday 18 August 2013

Being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely!

Being alone...all by neither a regular feature for me, nor am I completely unaware of how it works. It started in school, I used to get a few weeks took me to Jaipur (before I got married) and now, being a married guy, it happens rarely, still I manage a few days of alone time.

For me to say that being alone is not necessarily being lonely, may be a misplaced...but this is how I feel. For our generation, there are greater distractions, tremendous work pressures and general ease of managing life with technology and services available. Living life with a partner, though may still be an ideal scenario, but is no longer a need!

Traditional roles of partners have changed, which has been a gradual change. This points me to understand that traditional need of a partner has changed as well. The need transcends constant physical long as there is an emotional one available.

Many fear this attitude...many see this as the evil of western culture eroding our sacred Indian culture...many actually believe this change could bring down the curtains on mankind on its own...but many thinking / believing in one thing at the same time does not make that thing correct! I treat being alone as part of evolution...something that's becoming normal...something we need to accept because nature will find a way to bring out a balance with this change as well.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Music on headphones is emotional therapy for me

My 18th b'day, my first year in college and my first set of headphones...obviously with my first walkman. I used to be with my music doing almost anything and everything that didn't disallow use of headphones...would even sleep listening to music, with headphones plugged in. I actually used to ride my bike with music as my companion...

To have a walkman at that age, which allowed me to listen to music at anytime, any place and as loud as I felt a strange sense, seemed to liberate me from the otherwise negatives around. Music blaring on my headphones almost always managed to clear the clutter in my head!

My 34th b'day (this year)...and I get another first of my life...a set of Bose headphones. My wife knew exactly what I feel about music and headphones...when she saw one of her colleagues use Bose headphones, she decided the gift she would get me this year.

Almost all nights I find myself listening to music on headphones - whether working, blogging, playing games or just lying down trying to sleep. Blaring music with headphones on still manages to clear the me a shot of positive energy and I consider it is an emotional therapy!

Friday 16 August 2013

I am a Cynical Indian

I used to be patriotic...used to have a romantic idea about India, believed that this country had some method to its madness and had the means to grow from strength to strength. All this changed - I am now more of a cynic than a patriot. I do see the good here and accept that a lot is done right, but I can't appreciate all that good because I can no longer remain ignorant about everything's that's not good and is not done right here (but can!).

My parents and their generation believed in India - most of them served in the government, were either themselves born pre-independence or had a sibling from that era. Their parents had first-hand experienced British Raj, in many cases had participated in the freedom struggle. In general, my parents' generation's roots were a lot stronger with India, than my generation's. The net result for me - as a kid I heard my parents and grand parents talk positively and passionately about this country - making the 'young-me' a patriot.

Patriotism is a dying virtue in India and it seems increasingly difficult to instill patriotic emotions amongst the young. The question is - what will the young hear and see from their parents to feel the passion about this country? What is that one thing that binds us - that makes the youth feel connected across length and width of the country?

I am told that one gets the deepest sense of patriotism during Beating Retreat ceremony at the Wagah border. Well, the other is when Indian cricket team wins...though both are true and should be source of pride, but are these enough for an average citizen of a nation that's 66 years old?

Having said that, there is one thing that I just can't part with: the goosebumps that I experience every time I hear our National Anthem and when I see the National Flag being hoisted. I believe it is my own cynicism that is clouding my judgement and making me over-critical. I just hope there was something more concrete that I could see, which would allow me to beat this cynical attitude and get back to romancing India.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Cliché Statements - Bored with them; Can't live without them!

Be it an official meeting or a social it one on one interaction or one to it a thought shared via social media or expert opinions - there is no dearth of clichés used. Problem is not just lack of originality, but the greater problem is boredom-cum-switch-off that I suffer hearing one too many.

As students, we are still keen on originality. At that age it is truly difficult to believe in statements such as: "everything happens for a reason" OR "grass is always greener on the other side". Try explaining a teenager nursing a broken heart that everything happens for a reason and for the good. Or - tell a management student the issue with perception error in green-ness of grass, when he is in bottom 10% of his batch's pay-scale. At that age, we truly want to prove these statements are wrong. Blame it another cliché: common sense is not so common!

Regular usage really starts in work-life...where we have a meetings that somehow become about one-upmanship. While we hear many statements such as: "throw a wrench in the works", "did your homework", "all in a day's work"...we forget that using more of these statements doesn't make us sound smart, instead we appear to be unimaginative. This is exactly what my grade VII English teacher warned against and wanted better for us - she wanted us to answer questions in our own language, not how it was written in the text book.

Irrespective of how I feel about using clichés, I have realised that avoiding them all together is a difficult ask. With age, I have come to believe is many and thus see the need for using them at an apt moment. Some of them have almost become part of my natural thought process. I am guilty of using "everything happens for a reason and for the good" the most.

I can't completely place my finger on it, but I believe I would be better if I could take sometime and think outside the box. But with my fingers in many pies, I don't get enough time...I end up burning the candle at both ends and still barely manage. I see light at the end of the tunnel though, I will manage to make ends meet and somehow achieve work-life balance.

Cliché Statements - Bored with them; Can't live without them!

Monday 12 August 2013

Expectations - The Business End of Relationships

Every relationship can be looked at and dealt with in a manner of a business relationship, i.e., something that has give and take involved. The way certain businesses are long running and successful, some are short-lived and unfruitful - same is true for relationships. It is not my intention to promote managing relationships as businesses, rather it's exactly the opposite!

There are various ingredients that are mixed together to form a bond between two individuals, which then is called a relationship. Based on the mix, each relationship is formed, developed, rejoiced, continued, cherished...

My interest is specifically in one ingredient - 'expectations'. This I consider as one of the key ingredients and call it the business end of relationships. To expect something in return for an action taken - it is this transaction that brings equations, degrees, more / less into a birth of give and take! Expectations are often inexplicable, difficult to even verbalise, easiest to be misjudged with and most difficult to be met at all times.

Like in business, things are looked in terms of balance sheets - where credit and debit have to balance...we tend to develop expectations (in our minds) keeping this balance in mind. And it is right here we take a step in the direction of changing over from being in a relationship to shaking hands as business partners.

It is natural to expect, it is natural to want something from others and it is absolutely okay to do this. But burdening the ones we love with our expectations - is not only stifling, but also counter-productive for relationship's growth. Be it any relationship.Either our expectations crush others, or leave us said earlier, it is most difficult to meet anyone's expectations at all times.

Just try lowering your expectations from everyone around...try this for sometime...and see how different you start feeling yourself. You will feel relieved and you will feel less hassled...without anyone else even lifting a finger. 

If you haven't called a friend in a long now, don't wait and expect them to call. If you are expecting to be treated...step out and treat yourself...if you are expecting a raise...well don't! My mantra is - lower your expectation, give as much as you can and see the world change for better! After all, at lowest expectation levels - people can only do more than you expect from them :)

Saturday 10 August 2013

Big Fish in Small Pond or Small Fish in Big Pond

In our age, leading a generally dissatisfied work-life is quite common. Mostly this stems out of mismatch between what one expects to do / learn / earn and what that person actually does / learns / earns. There are other parameters that play a role as well - competition, both within the organisation and with friends out side the organisation / imperfect ability to manage work-life balance / supposedly poor & partial boss etc. I have been there, I have felt the frustration, I have allowed my professional frustration to eat into my personal peace...but the key to note here is: "have been".

As most management students prepare for work life, there are certain organisations / industries that come up as most sought after...for various / societal pat on the back / stature etc. For me - the reasons were not too different...along with money / stature - I wanted to work for organisations that made my parents take pride in to see where their son had reached.

Before completing 4th year of my work life, I was already in my third job - spending 22 moths and 20 months in my previous two jobs respectively - essentially running away on one pretext or the other. Within 9 months of my third job, I had put in my papers!

A friend helped me understand that most of my frustrations were coming from being ignored and my views going unheard. Also, how the same person could become big and small depending up on where he decides to fit. My friend's intention was to make me see that it was probably time for me to look at smaller ponds, where I would have a say - where my opinion would matter and where my work would mean something.

Having spent nearly 4.5 years in big ponds, I started seeking a small pond! Didn't take long to find one and now, I have been in the same small pond for 6.5 years...yes! Been working at one place, building it from scratch, taking it places...going places along with it.

The idea of writing this post is to share with all that it is helpful to know what kind of fish you are and which size of pond do you feel most comfortable operating in. There isn't any correct / incorrect answer to this...just that this kind of self-realisation goes a long way to improve the quality of life we lead. It is because of this self-realisation that today we see an unprecedented increase in number of entrepreneurs in India, most of them coming from middle-class background, giving wings to their dreams!

A Sobriquet of Substance

I was visiting a friend at one of India's premier management institutes and was introduced to an interesting group...all group-members had a superpower and were named thusly. These were not superhuman powers, they were not what we understand as Batman / Superman...but superpowers in their own sense still.

'Logic' came in first and it took me more than a few minutes to understand that Logic was actually a person's name (given to him by his peers). This was a bespectacled guy, who by his looks oozed the brainy-ness about him, but I couldn't imagine he could be called Logic...that someone could have logic as a superpower! After my introduction to him, I could easily understand when I saw a guy responding to a word than a name...Strat (short for Strategy) / Law / Calculus...there were a few more - Excel / Powerpoint / Hacker included!

What impressed me most about these guys (yes! this group didn't have a single female member - not sure if by design) was that they all had identified and / or developed at least one strength in them that would make them stand apart! The sobriquet was more than just was almost a title that each group member took pride in holding. The idea of using such strengths as sobriquets, in my opinion, did two things for that group. One, it made each member realise that they had a strength that they excelled in (everyone needs to know that they are special) and two, it made all others work harder on their own-skillsets in order to challenge current title-holder in a particular strength category - almost like different weight category championships in Boxing.

Allow me to share what I was called by my peers...Muddy Buddy...mostly because I used this word, buddy, a lot and it went well with converted version of Mudit - Muddy. I definitely believe that 'buddy' couldn't have been identified as my strength - I am not the easiest to make friends. But I do wonder what could have been that one skill / strength / title for me! Prof. maybe ;)...

Thursday 8 August 2013

I am strictly against music / movie piracy

I am an outcast amongst my friends - I still pay for the music I listen to...I never watch a movie using illegal means (no downloads, no pirated DVDs)...I don't share what I have paid for and don't ask for things from my friends that they downloaded for free!

I actually take the high ground and say that I am strictly against piracy - how would I feel if my efforts don't getting paid...a fact that I think is just as easy to think about and realise - but my friends don't seem to be bothered about it. The general attitude is - if it's not happening to me - I don't mind doing it to someone else.

I agree that being tech-handicapped makes me dislike the entire idea of understanding torrents, understanding how to seek trust-worthy source to download from...I have been, until recently, the guy to walk into a music store and purchasing CDs. The last few that I bought were Adele's 21 and Best of Def Leppard. It has only been a few days that I opened my mind to legal internet downloads - iTunes.

Ever since I saw what all is available on iTunes and the prices at which legal music is available - I am further disappointed with my friends who feel it is okay to download it all for free, just because it's available for free somewhere! Let me give you examples:
      - I paid Rs.395 for Adele's 21 CD at a music store; this album is available for Rs.120 on iTunes
      - I downloaded an entire album of Hootie & The Blowfish for Rs.30
      - I have the freedom to actually select individual songs from an album, downloaded a single of Meatloaf..."I'd do anything for love (but I won't do that) - all for Rs15

I used to wonder how cheap my high-earning friends were to download music for free, when I used to think that the comparison was with buying CDs (which are more expensive than what's available on iTunes)...but now - I think it is just lame and pathetic for these guys to continue disrespecting and abusing someone's efforts so blatantly.

Since I am taking a high ground here...allow me to highlight a bit of hypocrisy of my own: there is no legal licence I have to use the cartoons that I have used on my blog...these have been downloaded from the internet for free, without any form of consent from their creators. Well...I guess no one's perfect!

Hindsight - A Necessary Evil

Wouldn't life be simpler if we just moved forward...if we didn't have to deal with our past...if we weren't questioning the choices we let go of or made instead...if we weren't looking at our past with a general sense that we could have / should have / would have done it better? A life where we are free of looking back and building an alternate life in our minds...

I often revisit the younger me of various phases of my past - some more than others. It's more than just's actually part-judging my present - based on evaluation of decisions taken, choices made, my ability (or inability) at that time, my understanding (or lack of it) of life and ways of the world. Occasionally, I even partake in building alternate life scenarios...basing this on things I could have done, but didn't...feeling - if only I knew better...if only I had balls to take hard decisions...if only I understood things then that I understand now...if only...!

At every such instance, challenge for me has been to separate thoughts that bring me down from the ones that push me forward. I understood that though evaluating past is important, but creating alternative life scenarios isn't. The fact that I started building alternate scenarios meant I wanted to paint a picture better than what I have today. This could never push me forward.

What constantly pushes me forward is short and simple: I see that I took my own decisions...I see that I had it in me to face flak for poor decisions...I see the confidence people around me had in me...I understand why I act / react in a particular manner...all in all, looking at my past makes me more in control of me in today's life.

Having said this, I still get bouts of self doubt when, in hindsight, I believe I could have / should have / would have done it better...that's the evil part of hindsight. I call it necessary because hindsight is all I have to understand the person I am...what defines me today.

The popular saying - "hindsight is 20/20", isn't incorrect. If we wish, we can see things with absolute clarity in hindsight - thus realising our mistakes & our strengths. It is up to us to choose whether to make use of clarity that hindsight offers or get bogged down by it.