Monday, January 7, 2013

Unsung Heros!

Some time back on a visit to Adelaide, Australia, I saw a man sitting on a beach bench feeding the Pigeons.  It was a cold Saturday morning and yet this man wrapped in woollies sat there feeding the birds. Surely there were a lot of option this gentleman had on how to spend his hard earned Saturday but he chose to put the welfare of these birds over his own comfort and pleasures.  Given the fight for survival, the competitiveness and the complexities in this world of ours, it is a wonder that we still find people who care for others and put them before self. I call these people the unsung Heroes. We rarely hear about such people because their act of kindness goes unnoticed by our busy eyes on the move. 

Occasionally the media captures them and brings them to our attention. We may marvel these unsung Hero's unselfish intentions and may even wonder what makes them click but soon they are forgotten and we hit our roller Coaster world of schedules and activities. The incident soon opened up for me my memory files and I recollected having met many unsung heroes through my life.  The first person that I remembered was a one Mr. John, he was a busy corporate executive but every time there was a need in our community be it a wedding, sickness, death, Mr. John would be there quietly working in the back ground to organise whatever was needed for the occasion. I rarely heard him speak but he always had a smile. He was well respected in the society and could have been the busy body or the chief to boss over everyone to get things done but he chose to give unselfishly of himself and all that he had to help others whatever the occasion was.   Over a period of time his reputation as a rock to lean on was well established and at one home I heard the priest tell the elderly lady who just lost her husband, that John had been informed and that he would be soon there and take care of all the arrangements. 

Among others who danced through my mind were a do gooder uncle, who witnessed a hit and run case. He was driving in the opposite direction and had to drive almost a mile to find an exit to get to the victim on the other side of the road. Even though more than five minutes had passed no one had come forward to help the bleeding lady. This uncle of mine picked the unconscious victim and rushed her to hospital. Unfortunately the police charged him for running down the lady! He had to fight a tough case to prove his innocence. Even at the end of that he said if there is another such incident, he won't hesitate to rush the victim to the hospital!  Then there was a Samaritan on a train that I had hurriedly boarded with a platform ticket hearing that my mother was seriously ill to reach our home town. The ticket inspector had asked me to occupy an empty seat and told me that I could purchase the ticket from him later. An hour or so later when he came around, I realised that I had no cash!  I apologised and was ready to get off at the next station but a fellow traveller who did not know me at all came forward and paid the substantial first Class fare and later in the night he even brought me dinner!  Even though I wired him the money on reaching home, I have never been able to figure out how someone can pay the first class fare of a stranger! 
In recent times I have become aware of four unsung Heroes who have been serving me for a while now. The first is an elderly man I buy fish from. It has been 12 plus years since I started buying fish from this particular man. Over the years I began appreciating this simple man and the way he serves me. He is always happy to see me and has a big smile for me. The trust I have in him frees me from asking about the price of the fish or how fresh it is. I normally tell him what I want and then drive away to the vegetable shop. When I come back 40 minutes or so later the fish is cut, cleaned and packed and kept for me. To this day I never had a problem with the freshness of the fish, weight or price. On many occasions he refused to give me the particular fish I point out to him because it was not fresh!
Ditto for the vegetable men, there are two of them, both greet me with such respect and attend to me as though I am royalty! They treat everyone who comes to their shop in the same manner. They are not owners, just employees and yet they go out of their way to give us an experience that we all cherish. Here too they will never give me things that are not fresh even if I say that a particular vegetable looks OK and I am willing to take a chance. After I finish buying they will carry out all the bags and put it in my car dickey. They don’t expect any tips and feel offended if any one tries to tip them. The fourth person is my hair stylist. With his gentleness and care he makes me look forward to the haircut and the time with him. At times I fall asleep while he is cutting my hair, he never complains and makes sure the job is done the way I like it. I come away from his saloon relaxed and marvelling at the patience he displays and the Peace that surrounds him.    

All four of them are pleasant and provides a pleasant experience which is rare in today’s world of hustle and bustle.  They are simple people with limited education and many challenges but they touch lives and inspire many. I salute all these unsung heroes and it is my desire that I too could be like them and touch the lives of the people I come across!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

There is Life After Christmas & New Year !

Ken my son pointed out to me that the Season of Joy is over and that I should change my status message in Google chat “Looking forward to the Season of Joy!" I had put that message in the beginning of December in anticipation of all the good times to come in the month. Yes the Season of Joy is over and it is back to work and the routine.

We took out the Christmas decorations and dismantled the tree over the weekend and boxed it away. The house does look a little dull having been stripped of all the Red and Green Christmas deco along with the tinsel.

After a month of great food, fun, bonding activities with family and friends at home and in church, suddenly life too may look a little dull. Most people who celebrate Christmas and New Year go through this feeling of emptiness or even sense of depression after the first day or two of the New Year. Some bounce back quickly others struggle through till they reach the starting of another exciting event like a Holiday plan or a weekend do etc. Having gone through the emptiness spell post Christmas and New Year in the past, I thought I would share with you some thoughts to keep the excitement alive in life regardless of which month it is . . .

To start with focus on the Gift of the New Year that you have been given. Plan on what you will do with it, both on the Professional and Personal front. Next break down your plan into activities and events spread over the 12 months of the New Year. Remember that you have been given a new canvass and it is an appropriate time to kick off a lot of change, find new ways of doing things, Look for smart solutions, take risks and achieve lofty Goals! Once you have a robust plan in place, throw yourself into it and get busy to make it happen.

Ideally the plans should be made before the New Year just after Christmas, so that you have something to look forward to post the New Year day but it is never too late to get on the planning mode even now. Mundane plans and activities will not excite you and so make sure to attempt something really big in the New Year. It could be in the area of finding an exciting new job, skilling up for it, or using your talents to make significant difference to those who are not that privileged or it could even be kicking off a personal transformation journey to be a light to all those around you!

In addition to your exciting New Year plan, work on events or activities that will bring back the excitement through good times, the fun times, the family times and personal times on a weekly basis. For me personally, even though I have been married to Bina for 28 years, Fridays are very special as I have a date with Bina every Friday evening and I look forward to it. Saturday morning is personal time and I indulge in some of the things I love to do (see my earlier post on things I love to do) Sunday is family time at church and home and we enjoy the fellowship over lunch at home with the extended family.

When the weekend is over I never feel sad for I have an exciting plan to pursue come Monday morning at work! So a combination of weekend plans and your exciting New Year plan can take the empty feeling away and keep the excitement alive for you. Try it!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cooked with Love!

I love food and enjoy a delicious meal eaten in leisure with family and friends around the table. We do this every Sunday afternoon when our family and the extended family get-together at our home after church. Most of us look forward to this time of the week when we can relax and enjoy the food and fellowship. What makes the Sunday Lunch a success is the amazing ability the lover of my life has, to rustle out mouth watering dishes in a jiffy! Being a busy professional, she normally has no time to cook but in the weekends and when we have guests, Bina takes over the kitchen from the housekeeper and waves her magic wand!

During the week the house keeper uses Bina's recipes to feed us but it never comes out like Bina's signature dishes. Often when Bina is home, our children request her to do a makeover of what the housekeeper has produced. Being a very kind hearted soul, she never says 'No'. Even after a hard day’s work when such requests come she breezes into the kitchen chops some onions, cuts a couple of green chillies and gets to work with whatever other magic ingredients she uses to create those 'Wow' dishes.

Recently our housekeeper took off for a week and Bina took over the kitchen as she had a break from her tight schedule. I just loved it, for every meal that she cooked and served us was a delight! After a week of this Tasty, appetising, Scrumptious, Yummy, luscious, delectable, mouth-watering offerings I asked my love, what her secret was and she responded with a smile, "It is Cooked with Love!" Suddenly it dawned on me that yes, it is indeed cooked with love and that is what gave her the edge. Beside the talent, when she gets into the kitchen she puts her whole heart and mind to create something extraordinary for her loved ones. For her there is nothing called 'just another dish' in her vocabulary . . . she strives to make everyone of her creation, finger licking good for her Raj and our three precious children.

The lesson for me from that conversation was the fact that if we put our heart and mind into everything that we do, we are bound to delight our Customers. Total dedication and commitment is what produces excellence!

I praise and Thank God for Bina and for her many talents. We are fortunate to have her and We Rejoice!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Treasure Chests

It all depends how you define treasure, if it is to do with Gold, Silver, Precious Stones or Money, you will be disappointed with this post. For me treasure is what money can't buy . . . I treasure many memories that are priceless from the time I was a little child. I hold on to those memories or special moments because it touched me and shaped me. In addition it also brings back the Joy I experienced at that point of time.

These memories cover my growing years with my family, extended family, friends, Schools, Colleges, vacations, festivals and even at work. At times some of these memories get triggered by an incident or when I get together with people who co-created those memories. I also revisit these memories by design and come away refreshed and rejoicing. The process is simple . . . from a very early age I collected and preserved some physical item related to a particular memory. These are stored in boxes and all that I needed to do is to open a box to visit the memory! Of late the boxes are overflowing and I am in the process of finding bigger quarters for the memory objects also called ‘Raj's treasures’!

There are photographs, badges, letters, books, cards, plates, souvenirs, paper fans, Menus, Match Box etc. There is also a very special shirt which one of my teams gave me in recognition of the value I added to them. Another one is a Prefect's badge belonging to a school prefect- The girl I fell in love with and eventually made her my life partner. The badge takes me down the rich memory lane of our getting to know each other and falling in love forever.

Visiting the memories also reminds me of what determination and prayer can achieve. There were enumerable times when I set out on some really impossible Goals wondering if I was taking on more than I can bite but in the end Success was mine even if it was through failures!

My heart goes out to those who gave me these memory treasures or co created it with me and I have begun to ask, "Am I creating great memories for others so that they too may enjoy visiting them in times to come?” If we can create memorable occasions for others, it will be a great tribute to those who gave us such priceless treasure of memories.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Objects Of Beauty!

As I travel around the world, I get excited to see how mundane day to day utility items from the past and even present has been preserved and exhibited so creatively. The wagon in this visual displayed in Haandorf village, near Adelaide, South Australia is one example. I also found a small old car in one of the traffic islands in Sydney used as a plant stand. The car minus the engine and bonnet has been preserved well and colourful flowering plants grow out of where the engine once resided. Across the world there are many more examples of such creative and beautiful display of things that touch your heart and are a feast to the eye. Every time I see such a display I rejoice that in our busy world there are people who still think outside the box and delight fellow citizens or the tourists. My heart fills with gratitude to the people behind the initiative . . . The idea person who thought of it first, the team of people who actually installed it and finally the caretaker who lovingly looks after it and takes special care day after day to preserve it. Unfortunately these are unsung heroes who do not get any recognition and yet they toil on with their mission.

One might be tempted to dismiss them with the thought that it is their job or they are paid for it etc. Even if they are employees in the rolls of the city council I strongly feel that just doing their job would not result in an object of beauty. I have also seen in some cities various displays that just stand there with an apology either because it is poorly executed piece of work or has been forgotten by its caretakers and is grounded in dirt. Such exhibits clearly tell you that it is the handiwork of those with 'I just work here' attitude.

That brings me to the thought that every output of ours is a show piece, be it a financial statement, a project report, a dish, a product, service offering etc. It is meant for the delight of someone and that person who uses our output will only be delighted if we create it passionately with all our heart. I believe that our purpose in life is to use our talents to create show pieces or offerings that add value to our customers and delight them.

I have started taking a call on what I do, to make sure that I am not just meeting deadlines and creating outputs that meet the minimum requirement of utility. I want to make sure, what I create are Objects Of Beauty!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Joy Of A New Day !

Are you excited when you wake up in the morning? I for one love waking up and realising that I have been given the gift of another day. . . A full day to touch lives, add value and fulfil the purpose of my life. Not only that with every new day, we get another opportunity to be different, to mend our ways and make this world a better place to live in!

The rut sets in when we take each day for granted and believe that there is an unlimited supply of days in our life. Having something in abundance is always a problem as we either get bored with it or look for other attractions that we think can bring us more excitement. It is true that given the life expectancy of at least 70 years for a healthy person, you should have 25, 550 new days in your life! Now that is a lot but the tragedy is that the supply runs out fast and many only becomes conscious of the gift of a new day in their golden years waiting to meet their maker. Others start appreciating this gift when they come to know that all of the 25550 days was not meant for them because of some deadly decease that they have been diagnosed with.

Fortunately for me I have been conscious of the 'Present' that I get every morning as I wake up. I tell myself “Wow it is a new day" and get all excited about the immense possibilities that the new day brings. Each day is precious and waking up is a Joy! On week days I have trained myself to jump out of the bed as soon as I wake up. Having got a gift I want to unravel it and not stay in bed merely looking at it. After the morning cup of tea, quiet time and the other rituals I am ready for work by 8 AM and all excited to use my gift. Having started well, my day goes well. I do face challenges and pressures that can derail my day but I don't allow my negative thoughts to turn into feelings of hurt and act in a manner that I regret later or wreck my gift.

Over the years my audience in the various forums, where I speak have challenged me to tell them how anyone can appreciate a new day, if they have nothing to look forward to or if they are stuck in a coercive relationship, boring job etc. My response has always been about changing our mindset. Surely we need to find things to do that we love and are passionate about and have relationships that rock, but the key is to focus on our purpose in this world. Self centred activity will bloat the ego but selfless pursuit to add value to others or make this world a better place to live will fill you with Joy and make you look forward to every day.

Who knows, with the change of mindset the Joy that fills your heart from selfless activities may soon transform your relationships and your uninteresting jobs! So rejoice that the sun rises every day and we get the gift of a new day!

Monday, March 29, 2010

It is Broken but I will take it!

The other day I was at the grocery checkout patiently waiting for my turn when I overheard the cashier at the next checkout counter pointing out to the customer that one of the 12 eggs that the Customer had picked up and packed was broken. The Customer to my surprise said it did not matter and requested for billing the same. The cashier offered to get one of his colleagues to pack a fresh set of 12 eggs and even called out to his colleague but the customer was adamant and paid for the 12 eggs he had packed with the broken egg. Why would anyone want to carry home a broken egg? Besides being a wasted effort it would also add work in terms of cleaning up the other 11 eggs!

I couldn't get an answer immediately but a few seconds later I realised that I had just witnessed an act of integrity and selflessness. The Customer held himself responsible for the breakage and wanted to pay for the egg. When he packed it, it was good but the heavy potato bag which went over it in the trolley may be the culprit. You might say "well he could have paid for an extra egg and taken the offer of a fresh set. That is where his selflessness came through. He did not want to put additional burden on the staff or fellow shoppers by slowing down the line while they get him a fresh dozen.

Contrary to this the same evening a movie that I was watching showed the heroine drop and break a glass doll accidentally in the supermarket. She looked around, seeing that no one had seen her, picked up the broken pieces, balanced it together and left it on the display counter and walked away!

As I mulled over the two incidents the focus turned to me and the question that got my attention was, "what would I do?”. In the first instance I think I would take the offer of the cashier to have the egg replaced justifying myself that I did not wilfully break the egg. In the second instance, I would bring the broken doll to the attention of the staff and offer to pay for it.

I was not very proud of myself . . . I wished that I could be like the Customer with the broken egg. An egg does not cost much but then integrity is not based on the value involved but rather it is a practice, every day practice that makes it a way of Life! This incident opened my eyes and challenged me to take my integrity quotient to the next level . . . Integrity in all dealings even if the value involved is negligible!

I Salute the customer for his high level of integrity and rejoice that we have people like him a light to others!