Don’t allow or suffer injustice

On this Podcast, I share a very personal experience. Learning from my own inability to have stood up for Vaani, I champion why our women must be respected and given dignity. It begins in our homes. When we see injustice happening, we must always remember we have a choice not to suffer it.

Listen time: 8:32 minutes


Celebrate Life by Celebrating technology. Don’t just Cerebrate Life and technology!

Things are incredibly simpler yet why are our lives more complex than ever before? Because, instead of using it, we are getting used by technology!
Today’s my daughter’s 21stbirthday! Vaani and I made a film (by ourselves; with no outside help!), with a selection of pictures from her Life, on Windows Movie Maker, to commemorate this special day. We hosted it on a private channel on YouTube. And sent the link to key family members across the world on a WhatsApp thread.
Can you imagine this being possible just 20 years ago? This is a new era. A simpler era. Where Google, and not Britannica Encyclopedia, is the fountainhead of all knowledge. Where, whether it is about cooking a meal with quinoa or it is about decoding an acid reflux situation or it is a query relating to the original Neerja Bhanot, you can source, all that you want, any time you want, in a nano-second. It is also an era where you can buy a movie ticket, a plane ticket, book a hotel room or order a book or pizza, from your mobile device. And you can also transfer money from one phone to another! You can stay connected with me__or someone who you may have never met in ages or ever__using Facebook and Twitter__without intruding on their time or privacy!
Illustration Courtesy: Internet
Copyright with original creator
The world’s so much smaller, so much closer, things are so amazingly simpler, yet, the billion buck question is, why are we still struggling? Why is it that we still ‘don’t have time’ for our families, our passions and our dreams? Why is it that we are not living fuller, more complete, fulfilling lives, if things have only gotten simpler? The problem is not with the information technology revolution. It has done its job__made Life simpler. It is we humans who have not learnt to adapt and usetechnology.
Schumpeter, a weekly column in The Economist  once described this state that our race finds itself in, and argued its causes, fabulously well: “…for most people the servant has become the master. Not long ago only doctors were on call all the time. Now everybody is. Bosses think nothing of invading their employees’ free time. Work invades the home far more than domestic chores invade the office. Otherwise-sane people check their smartphones obsessively, even during pre-dinner drinks, and send e-mails first thing in the morning and last thing at night. This is partly because smartphones are addictive…Employees find it ever harder to distinguish between “on-time” and “off-time”—and indeed between real work and make-work. Executives are lumbered with two overlapping workdays: a formal one full of meetings and an informal one spent trying to keep up with the torrent of e-mails and messages. None of this is good for businesspeople’s marriages or mental health.” Schumpeter recommended digital dieting. A kind of rationing of tech-led work time for freeing up more Life time.
I would like us to go the extra mile. My two-penny worth: Celebrate Life by Celebrating technology. Don’t just Cerebrate Life and technology!

Here’s how I do it. 1. Wear you Life and your attitude to Life on your sleeve. Let people know__even it is bosses, clients or children__who you are and how you live and work. 2. Never allow technology to slave-drive you. You can choose, and therefore please do, to be the Master. 2. Define your quiet or silence or ‘mouna’ periods. About an hour every day. No voice calls. Just remain silent. Focus on whatever you are doing. Whether it is walking, watching a movie or even preparing a report. Just because you are accessible, need not mean you are available. 3. Check your mails, your text messages, your Facebook or Twitter account but don’tbe trigger-(keyboard)-happy. Choose whether and when to respond. Mull over the information streaming in. If it is bad news__a client feedback, an exasperated boss’ rant, a project disaster, a child’s agony__deal with it with patience. Treat the information as an opportunity to spiritually train yourself not to react. If it is good news, don’t exult either. Again spiritually evolve with the opportunity. 4. Flag as favorites some inspirational web pages (such as this one, J!) and visit them each time your mind wavers and grazes on negative emotions __ worry, anxiety, stress. 5. Do all non-core stuff__like paying your bills, transferring money, booking tickets and hotels__online, at times of the week or day when your energy is low. That way you save time for more value creation when your energy is the highest! 6. Take backups of all important data weekly __ phone contacts, mails, computer hard-disk data __ that’s a sure, and the only, way to beat technology letting you down. 7. Remember: An intelligent Master is one who can use the slave, technology, to live a better Life! 

So, if you find yourself stressed out on any morning by 10 AM, when you are technically supposed to be starting your work day, know that you are to blame for the complexity that defines your Life. And the only way to make your Life simple, is to simply take charge __ of your Life and the technology you have! You will live happily, healthily, soon, after you become the Master again…..! 

A Life lesson from Neerja’s father, Harish Bhanot

Don’t allow anyone to do injustice to you and don’t suffer injustice.
Rama and Harish Bhanot – both have passed on
Picture Courtesy: Neerja Bhanot Archives/Internet
Yesterday, I watched Ram Madhvani’s brilliant biopic on Pan Am flight purser Neerja Bhanot (1963~1986) – ‘Neerja’. And I cried twice. Once, at the theatre, when Neerja (Sonam Kapoor in an unforgettable performance) reads out the letter that her first husband Naresh, undoubtedly a poor human being and an MCP, wrote to Harish Bhanot. And the second time I cried when I thought about that scene again, later in the evening, while sitting on my couch at home and nursing a drink. The letter is a cold, brutal, factual expression of how women are treated in our country, in some of our families. I cried the first time because I could relate to every word in that letter – because that’s how my mother has always treated Vaani. I cried the second time because I felt guilty that, in the early years of our marriage, I had not succeeded in fighting the injustice that was meted out to Vaani and me. And that’s precisely what Harish Bhanot teaches his daughter, Neerja: “Never allow injustice to happen and never suffer it.” I wish I had known this back then – that I must not just stand up, I must stand firm, even if it was against my mother, for Vaani. I wish I had stood firm the very first time that Vaani was treated unfairly.
I am not saying this by way of justifying my insufficient action at that time. But the context in a typical TamBrahm – perhaps in most Indian families it is so – family of the 60s/70s/80/90s was that the daughter-in-law shall slave it out. And the mother-in-law will dominate. The son shall not speak up to the parents even if it meant standing up for his companion; because how dare you let down your mother in front of your wife? Besides, this lousy logic that ‘all mothers-in-law will have problems with their daughters-in-law’ and ‘it happens in every home’ was used to smother the fires. In our family particularly, no one dared to question the source of all things fractious and manipulative – my mother! And every time I tried, whenever an episode of injustice happened, I failed miserably. Each time I tried to protect Vaani, I would be shouted down in a long-drawn, physically draining, and often-times violent too, completely uncivil war of words. That my mother and I had a poor chemistry, that in deference to her wish, we are staying in ‘their’ home in the first 18 months of our marriage, didn’t help matters one bit. We had to pay for phone calls that Vaani made to her parents and we had to pay for the food that her family members consumed when they visited her. Vaani was never allowed to use the washing machine and she had to wash everyone’s clothes by hand. The maid was sacked on the pretext of being a perpetual latecomer – but the ‘real’ reason was that since Vaani was now expecting a baby (Aashirwad) and was going to be at home, ‘let’s save the maid’s salary and put Vaani to work’. There are countless horror stories that can fill a book and that consumed several nights of our early, young, adulthood owing to the domestic strife we had to face.
It is possible that I may be appearing to be petty recalling all this here, after all these years. It may also look like I am being uncharitable to my mother who may not necessarily have grown up, though she’s certainly grown much, much older. To be sure, for my own inner peace, I have forgiven her long ago. But the truth about Life is you can forgive people but you can’t always forget what happened to you (I have shared more on how this can practically work in my Book ‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’; Westland, 2014). That part of ‘Neerja’, the letter-reading scene in particular, brought back painful memories that I did not want to ever revisit. Yet, this is not about my past, this is not about how heartless and remorseless my mother’s behavior has been, this is about a lesson that no one taught me then. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a lesson. But upon reflection I feel everyone should know this one lesson – even if you don’t learn anything else in Life: You, and only you, are responsible for your inner peace, dignity and happiness. Don’t allow anyone to do injustice to you and don’t suffer injustice.
You don’t have to always fight – as I foolishly tried to for years – with a view to avenge your detractor or change the person, you can simply walk away. The biggest power we all have, the simplest option we all have, is to get up and walk away from a situation or a person that hurts us or makes us unhappy. We don’t exercise this option because we wonder how society will look at us, we think of how that person will feel if we walked out. I have learnt, from experience, that how you feel is most important to your inner peace and happiness. If you feel something’s not right, something unfair is happening, stand up, say no, and leave.
It’s time all of us made a sincere effort to change our lives and our world. Especially the way we treat our women. Spouses, companions, friends, parents, siblings, family – whoever you are, if you must stand up for your lady, do that. As the father of a young, adult, daughter today I can relate to the pain that Vaani’s parents must have felt seeing her go through what she did and seeing me so helpless – they knew I loved her do deeply. I definitely don’t want my daughter to ever go through what Vaani had to experience. And this time, I know I will not just stand up, but stand firm.

There’s a part of all of us that is always wanting to be warm, willing to adjust, open to accommodate and ready to tolerate. But let all the warmth, adjustment, accommodation and tolerating happen at a practical, material level. And let it stop there please. Don’t allow anyone to affect your dignity just because they are older to you or more powerful – whoever they are. Because when you allow that you end up becoming unhappy. Your inner peace and happiness are the only wealth you have – protect them till your last breath!