Focus on issues, than on people – and always say it as it is!

When you must, simply speak your mind. Keeping your views to yourself is a good idea if you have learnt not to grieve. But if you are the sort who simmers when you are unable to express yourself, it’s best to say what you want to – openly, candidly.

Tharoor and Modi: Picture Courtesy/Internet
The papers are full of stories of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) wanting the Congress High Command to reprimand Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor for “praising” Prime Minister Modi over Modi’s pet project – the Swach Bharat campaign. Clarifying that he wasn’t pro-BJP, Tharoor has said this in his defence: “The Prime Minister pitched his appeal as a non-political one and I received it in that spirit. I am a proud Congressman and a proud Indian. In short: not pro-BJP, just pro-India.” But the KPCC mandarins would hear none of this and is seeking that Tharoor be chastisized.

I am not bringing this up here to talk about the inner-party discipline of the Congress or even comment for or against Tharoor’s sense of political propriety. I believe the incident, if you peel away the political affiliations, the overtones and the personalities, gives us an opportunity to understand how we can be focused on issues than on people. The issue here is not Tharoor or Modi, or Congress or BJP – it is about a clean India.

The tragedy though is that almost always we focus on people and miss the issue – How can I say this to him? How dare she speak to me like that? How can I bring this subject up – what will happen if my intention is misunderstood? We fear the repercussions of our being open with family, friends, in social circles, at work and often even in issues that concern our nation or the world. The reason this happens is because of a subconscious tendency that all of us humans have – which is, to be nice to people and to be seen as being nice. So, whenever there’s an opportunity to flag an issue – and debate it, we let it go saying “it” won’t be taken well or that this is not the “right” time. Resultantly, we end up grieving without having been able to express ourselves. Honestly, all of us have felt this way at some time or the other in our lives.

I have learnt it the hard way too. For several years, I tried to be content being tactful than being truthful. But I was very uncomfortable in all those situations when I was unable or I had chosen not to express myself. Over time, I have learnt that if I have an opinion on an issue, I will express myself – saying it as it is, without sugar-coating things, no matter what the issue is or what the context is. And in situations when I choose not to express myself, I also decide not to grieve or complain about the situation. I simply accept things the way they are, I accept my inability to speak about it and I move on.

Recently, we had some maintenance work being undertaken by the owner of the apartment above ours. The owner lives in Dubai and had entrusted the work to a contractor. The contractor did not bother to follow certain procedures laid out for maintenance work by our building’s management. So, for weeks on end work went on, literally above our heads, noisily, for over 18 hours daily. Towards the end of the maintenance project, the owner came from Dubai to review arrangements for a house-warming that he planned to conduct at his “new, improved” apartment. He visited us too. He apologized for the “inconvenience” that we had to put up for over four months. And invited us for the house-warming event. I told him that I could not accept his apology because he was merely saying it for the sake of saying it. I pointed out to him that he could not be “genuinely” apologetic because he has not felt our pain or understood what it means to have someone banging away at the floor above your head for weeks on end. However, I did tell him that if our schedules permitted, we will join in their house-warming ceremony.

This is what I mean when I say focus on the issue. And never on the people. When you focus on the issue, you can express yourself clearly. And candidly. It is when you bring in people and relationships (could be with anyone – between friends, in a family, with a boss, or an organization) that you become emotional and wary of expressing yourself. At the end of the day, it is always better to speak your mind and get it out of you. Or if you choose not to express yourself, also choose not to grieve. Bottomline: Don’t grieve over anything. Definitely not over your inability to say what’s on your mind!  

For every seed of hatred sown, plant a grove for humanity

The more we allow parochial thinking to lead us, the more divided our world will be.
Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza
Picture Courtesy: Internet 
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) yesterday opposed tennis star Sania Mirza’s appointment as Ambassador of the newly-formed state of Telangana. Subramaniam Swamy, the redoubtable BJP leader, was quoted in the papers as saying: “I agree with the BJP leaders that when people have divided loyalties, we cannot expect them to represent the country or any part of the country faithfully. So, the BJP stand is well taken.” Sania came under attack from VHP and BJP because she is married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. In fact, Telangana BJP leader K.Laxman called Sania “Pakistan’s daughter-in-law”.
Such thinking is gut-wrenching and numbing. Sania is a successful sportsperson. And Malik is another successful sportsperson. The two decide to marry. Where does, and why should, nationality play any role in this? Mercifully, both belong to the same religion. Else the self-styled mandarins may have had added more logs to the fire.
Interestingly, in October 2009, when former Pakistani pacer Wasim Akram’s wife, Huma, was being flown from Lahore to Singapore in an air ambulance for treatment for renal failure, she developed complications when they were overflying Chennai. An emergency landing was mandated. And doctors at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, treated her for a few days, before she passed away on October 25, 2009. Dr.Venkataraman, the doctor who treated Huma, is a Hindu. As are several of the fans who gathered outside Apollo Hospitals that morning to show their support for Akram and condole his loss. About a decade earlier, fans at the M.A.Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk, in Chennai, had given Akram a standing ovation, after he led Pakistan to a memorable win in a closely-fought Test Match.
So, in reality, the common folks, people like you and me, don’t ever get swayed by religion or by partisan thinking. Humanity and the spirit of sport – of letting the best team or player win – rules higher in our minds than anything else. Even so, the games politicians play, often for petty gains or even for demonstrating one-upmanship, are divisive. Not only should we be wary of them, we must express our secular and objective views on all such occasions.
There’s an ad playing on TV promoting the 2014 season of KBC. It shows how a boy from a Hindu family, calls his Muslim neighbor, with whom his family has been having a rift, to ask for the meaning of “as-salaam-alay-kum” using the phone-a-friend option. He gets the right answer and wins the prize money. The jingle in the background goes somewhat like this: “Jab Lahu Ek Ho, To Rang Kaise Do?” meaning, “When the blood is the same, how can it have two colors?”. I believe that the ad’s, and the jingle’s, message is something we must all hold dear in all contexts. We are just one world, one people. We have the same blood in us. The color of our skin may be different, as may be our national flags, or our religious affiliations. Even so, we have the same feelings as another in any given situation – all of us have the ability to love and be compassionate; and all of us feel pain when we lose someone we love. So, for every seed of hatred and divisiveness that is sown, let’s plant a grove for humanity. As Bob Marley (1945~1981), the Jamaican reggae singer, famously said, “The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”

The pre-paid nature of our creation has no flaws!

Don’t analyze Life too much. Just take it as it comes.
Union Minister Gopinath Munde died tragically in a car accident yesterday, the 3rd of June. His two brothers-in-law, Pramod and Pravin Mahajan, died in different years, but again on the 3rd of a month. Today’s papers quote a member of the Munde-Mahajan family as saying, “I dread the 3rd of every month now.” This reaction is symptomatic of over analysis. And, in my humble opinion, and from what I have learned from Life, such a reaction is what breeds insecurity and fear.
People are superstitious from conditioning or from analysis or from both. Either way is uncalled for. When you are superstitious about something you are setting some conditions to the way Life must happen to you. Thursdays are good. Tuesdays are bad. This comes from conditioning. So, even if you get a new job, you will not accept it on a Tuesday – because that’s the way you have been raised! You will say, “Can I take the offer letter on Wednesday?”. A few things going wrong – or not meeting your expectations – and you start connecting, analyzing, all that you did that led to this outcome. You conclude that you were wearing blue on all those days when things did not go to a plan. So, blue is an unlucky color for you. So on and on, your mind, your circumstances, your friends, your family, society – everything and everyone tries to make you believe that numbers, colors, days of the week, times of the day, seasons, or whatever, are responsible for your “misfortune”, for your “fate” and for your everything “that’s wrong” with your Life. Nothing can be further from the truth.
If you make an attempt to understand Life, you will realize that it happens on its own accord. No color, stone, month, season, time can change the way Life happens – to you, to me, to anyone. You build your own insecurities by expecting Life to behave differently – because you are thinking, you are wishing, for it to be so. When you wear a stone – a ruby or a coral or whatever – to “ward of ill-luck”, or when you place a water fountain on the north-eastern, open, corner of your home, you are actually saying to yourself, “Now that I have done this, let everything happen to my plan.” When it does, you exult. You conclude that your “belief” systems have worked. But what when it doesn’t? Then gemology is wrong, Feng Shui is wrong, and you imagine you have been “led up the garden path”. Wear a stone if you like wearing one. Keep a water fountain if you like the sound of flowing water. But don’t expect anything – a number, color, date, time, day or season – to change anything for you. Because whatever is due to you will come to you, no matter what. Whatever isn’t due to come, will never come, again, no matter what you do or don’t do!
Remember, we are all like pre-paid SIM cards. Our “features” are pre-programmed by the Network, in this case Cosmic, Operator. We will function only per that pre-program. Unless the Operator wills and sanctions, even if you are offering to pay more for additional benefits, no changes can be made to the program, and therefore, to our “features”. Most people call that Cosmic Operator God. I believe it is Life that leads us. So, I bow to Life’s Master Plan for me, and for each of us. And I know, from my limited experience, that this Master Plan, with the pre-paid nature of our creation, has no flaws.
Life, as I know it,  is simple. It is just a series of happenings. A set of experiences. You must experience each one fully. If it gives you pain, feel it and learn from it how not to suffer. If it gives you joy, celebrate the moment, savor it, knowing fully that it won’t last forever. Life doesn’t call for analysis. It calls for living – fully, in the moment!