ABC Challenge #2- B for Bad Bosses

It is often quoted in work circles by the Management preaching junta, that employees do not quit organizations, they quit bosses. A boss can make you or break you. The power that a person in a role of authority wields is dangerous thing. A boss’ responsibility does not end with just delegating tasks and ensuring that they are completed- it seeps down- unconsciously- to an emotional level. He can make you enjoy the most mundane of tasks- or make you abhor the most interesting and challenging ones. Most bosses have no idea about the way they influence every action of their subordinates.

The B-school had one entire semester devoted to ‘project’, which involved us picking a problem area, doing the necessary background study, coming up with questionnaires, getting a sample population to answer it applying thought and formulae to process the answers…and finally coming up with a solution to the problem. The three line description- when I read it now terrifies me. Imagine the magnitude when we actually sat down to do the whole thing!

So we were assigned guides for assistance and I was not really convinced with the guide I was assigned to (young, foolish, I was), because he was the Finance prof and I had chosen to do a project in Consumer Behaviour. The real reason however was that I sucked at FM and Accounts and used to flee at the sight of this man. Now I had to work with him for six whole months! We had barely exchanged more than a few sentences over the past 1.5 years!

So I marched into the Head of Department’s room to request that he change my guide. I had a long list of reasons- most, I reasoned, were sensible ones. My HOD looks like a small version of Dumbledore. A wizened man, full of wisdom. He heard me out and said, ‘Okay, young lady, you remember this. I can change your guide now, but I wont. Because you need to get used to the idea of working with people you don’t really want to work with. You do realize that tomorrow when you join work; you will have no freedom to choose your boss, don’t you?’ So I sulked away..but the project was a hit and was considered for publication and all that. (hee)

Post joining work, I have had the privilege of working with some wonderful people, and because there can never be perfection in the world, I have worked with some really mean beings as well. I have had bosses who have been patient with me, who have stood by me, for me, who I could be friends with. They listened to me, gave suggestions, knew how to handle my outbursts and tried to accommodate my ideas and aspirations to whatever extent they could. These are bosses who make you re-think quitting your job- you don’t want to quit simply because the boss is just so amazing!

Then of course, I have worked with some others who personify ‘mean’. Those were black days that I wish to stub out of my memory- working with such people made me question my own capabilities, my sense of self worth and esteem. Today I see some friends stuck with horrible managers. They bitch about them with an intensity and passion that startles even themselves. Such managers, like I read in an article about Arnab Goswami, ‘ rent a place in your head. They are present in your facebook status messages, in your Blackberry messages, and their memory dominates your conversations’. They make life miserable- emotionally, physically and psychologically. They control not just your work life, but also whatever you do outside of work. The amount of negativity that they spew- bogs you down and extends into your living room and bedroom as well. Picking on you, giving you mundane tasks, making you feel worthless..such vindictive people need to be warned about.

Most people crack under this. I cracked too. But it is all about how you pick up the pieces and stand back on your feet that make you stronger and worthy of respect. Once the storm is over, once you quit- that is when you learn appreciation. You learn to appreciate a decent boss, you learn to appreciate the joy of getting approval for a vacation..you learn to value praise..you learn to be grateful for the many, many small things that come with work, that life will never be the same again!

Thanks to all the not-so-nice people that I worked under, I now have a list of things I-will-never-be and things-I-will-never-say in place. A bad boss teaches you many things- the most important of which is what I will never want to emulate, ever.

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Lost

Recently, a dear friend of mine confessed that he had harboured feelings for another mutual friend of ours- of course, we had a hunch that something was cooking between the two, but neither would admit it.

And this had been going on for THREE years!

I can’t wipe his expression of pain off my memory- as he wrung his hands helplessly, saying, ‘I told her- I told her I will take care..no matter what, I will face it for her.. but her parents simply cannot stand the thought of a north Indian son-in-law..society..caste..bullshit’

What her parents don’t know is that they can never find a man who will take care of their daughter as well as my friend would.

But of course, this is unthinkable- what would the world say?

What I have realized is that the world will have a zillion opinions..but the grief that we end up carrying all of our lives will not be eased one bit..in the end, it will be a whole bagful of if only’s and why didn’t I’s and memories.

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“Nothing grieves more deeply or pathetically than one half of a great love that isn’t meant to be.” – Gregory Roberts, Shantaram.

Image: Vinod VV Photography

Postscript: The image used in this post belongs to Vinod Velayudhan, a photographer who records beautiful moments and delivers precious memories. Visit his site http://vinodvv.com to view his pictures.

ABC Challenge- A for Amour

With this post I am taking up the ABC Challenge which is blogging about a series of topics (of my choice) – in alphabetical order- starting with A through Z.  Here is my first post- on Amour- Love 🙂

Thanks Ashwini CN, who passed this onto me 🙂

The Harry Potter wave hits you when you least expect it. Saturday saw me wasting my long-looked-forward-to weekend reading ‘Harry potter and the Deathly Hallows’. It did not stop there. Monday evening I got home from work to an empty house, so I promptly turned the laptop on and watched both parts of the Deathly Hallows movie, all over again.

I never realized I would say this about Harry Potter but every time I read the book, I realize something new, or some line would make my skin tingle. This time it was something that Dumbledore says to Harry, towards the end, in the supposed Kings Cross Station. ‘Do not pity the dead, Harry, but pity the living, and above all, pity those who live without love..’ Love, sigh. Love is immortalized by the little red hearts that float around the whole week leading up to February 14th. But like Dumbledore says and all the Chicken Soup books capitalize on- we hardly ever pay any attention to the love that we take for granted- love shared with one’s friends, with one’s parents and with one’s siblings. This disparity will need a whole post, so for now I will only talk about what I call- the ‘little red hearts’ love.

They say love makes the world go around. The grass looks greener, the sky looks brighter, the flowers look prettier and yeah, you get the drift. There are more reasons to smile. Spilling breakfast on your shirt is not a big deal- you hum a song as you change into a fresh set of clothes. Your boss’ yells simply bounce off you, and nothing, it looks like nothing can ever screw your day!

And when things don’t work how we want it to, the exact reverse happens. You don’t care what you wear or how your hair is. You rarely smile, and when you do, it is a strained smile- and- read this somewhere, it would be one of those days when even a pen falling off your desk is enough to make you break into sobs.

It is strange how much an impact we allow a relatively new, second person to make in our lives. Unfair. We tend to value another person’s judgment of us – over ourselves, and allow it to make or break our day. The thought that you are worthy of someone’s love is unsurpassable, and in the same vein, being told that you are not worthy enough of it plunges you into a bottomless pit of sorrow. Love, the bards say- is worth the pain. The hurt it inflicts on you is sweet, and as you cry into your pillow you tend to smile at how foolhardy you had been.

It brings us to a state where we start depending on someone else’s approval to remain happy with ourselves.

Such sadness.

Personally, I feel nobody- not a soul apart from my own self- must have the right to dictate the way I think and feel. It takes a lot of conditioning to get to this place- and the first step towards it is falling in love- with yourself. Your nose might be too big (like mine). You might not be too tall or might be too thin or too fat. You could go ahead and hate yourself for this- and hope fervently that the next person who comes into your life might overlook the supposed irregularities. What you are actually doing is voluntarily moving your own centre of gravity to a point outside of your body- it is a sure shot sign that you are going to trip and fall flat on your face.

The irony is- when you are not able to accept yourself the way you are, it is illogical to expect somebody else to accept you for the person you are. You are a masterpiece- there can only be one ‘YOU’ in the entire universe! How unique is that?! There are certain things that only you can do- in your own way- and there will always be a bunch of people for whom you will mean the world, no matter what- regardless of the colour of your skin, or the size of your waist. You are awesome in your own way- and when you realize just how awesome you are, you will know that you do not need somebody else’s appreciative nod to make you feel great.

Things might work fine, but at times, things might not. BUT. When you walk with your head up, with your chin in the air, you will know-that though the fall might not be smooth, it will be hurt less. You will see, for the awesome person that you are- it is not your loss, and it will never be.

Teacher-less Tomorrow?

Recently, I came across this immensely successful experiment called ‘Hole in the Wall’. It was proposed by Professor Sugata Mitra, who then, was the Chief Scientist with NIIT. The experiment itself swims around the philosophy of ‘Minimally Invasive Education’ (MIE). It involves setting up unsupervised, freely accessible computers near slums- otherwise inaccessible, under normal circumstances.

What the research concluded, every single time it was repeated was that children who came up to the terminals and tried to use the computers taught themselves enough English to use e-mail and instant messengers. Their English pronunciations improved on their own. Their math and science grades had a marked change. Such kids were able to form independent opinions and their social interaction skills showed tremendous improvement.

But they did not stop there. According to the theory behind MIE, ‘learning is a process you do, not something that is done to you’. It suggests that sometimes, most times- students fare better without the ‘intervention of teaching’- by teaching themselves. Everybody has a different pace of learning; no two learning graphs can be same. It is the management and teachers who do not understand this- and instead brand a child who lags a little behind the rest as someone with a ‘learning disability’.

It is a scary proposition, but can any of us imagine education without a teacher? I will be very, very apprehensive about sending my child to a school where he is asked to learn on his own. Yes, he will learn to read and write. He will learn to speak as good as the rest of the kids. He will score great grades, I know, for certain. But. Is that what learning and education is all about?

I read one of Malcom Gladwell’s theories about why the standard of education has been significantly dropping over the years. He said that once upon a time, women had only two choices when it came to occupation. They could either serve as nurses, or they could teach. All the dedicated, best minds went into teaching- and that was when schools offered their 200%. Slowly avenues opened for women, they had choices- they could enter the until-then-closed portals of law, medicine, engineering and research. Gladwell claims that with this, all the best minds and dedication flowed into this vaccum, leaving only the mediocre for the previously competitive field of teaching. And with that began the decline.

I wouldn’t entirely agree with the findings of this research- personally, I have had some of the best teachers a kid could ever have. My mother is a teacher, and I know firsthand, have heard and still hear kids raving about her. A lot of what I remember about these teachers is not the math or biology or literature that they taught me. I remember being told off for walking with my feet out, ‘un-lady-like’. The first time I used a swear word in school (how cool can one get?), I got the dressing down of my life- I still think twice before I swear. My teachers used to command respect. When I started college, out of habit, I used to wish professors when I ran into them in corridors, their eyebrows would raise in surprise, and they would immediately ask, ‘Which school are you from, child?’ I remember my teacher from class five laying a book on the ground and teaching us the ‘lady-like’ way of picking it up- not ‘bending down and showing the world what you are wearing beneath your skirt’.

We learnt to be polite. We learnt to say ‘excuse me’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘please’. Today I work in an organization where I am flabbergasted by seeing some managers- and senior managers avoid these words. We learnt to respect one another, we were taken to the lake called religion, and given a choice. We were raised with the fear that ‘God is always watching’, and how better off we were without lying or cheating.

Now imagine- being raised without a foundation as such.

Recently I had read a piece of writing by somebody who was educated, working as a software engineer- in Bangalore. Look at that- a total of eighteen years of education. The author almost as good as justified how women being assaulted/ raped- fully asked for what they got. The first reactions after the Delhi gang rape incident was posted in newspapers online were- ‘she asked for it’ – educated people, computer literate people, typing sexist comments- in English.

The role played by a teacher in shaping a child’s life is immeasurable. A child spends a greater part of his formative years in school than home. Why, to most of us, even today, more than one teacher is always retained in memory as a role model. But yes, today I also do know that teaching-in general it is not as great as how it used to be. We had more fun and better teachers- they never owned mobile phones, for one. My brother tells me tales of professors- who teach at engineering colleges, swearing in Tamil and calling students names. Not nice at all.

I am fishing for an (abrupt) apt conclusion and have just realized that I have tried stringing together more than I can handle. I think in the end, it all boils down to how one was raised, and what role models one had. MIE sounds great, computers do wonders- but without the channeling that only a teacher can provide, we would only produce a generation of sleek, uncaring, impolite and disrespectful men and women who can probably curse better in English. Nothing else.

A Hello Note :)

After a lot of contemplation, I decided to move to WordPress from Blogger. My reasons for the same hang somewhere between more privacy and more options. Oh yes, we have the x chromosome, don’t we?

WordPress gave me the option to port my old blog- but for some sounds-too-lame reason, I am not doing so- Mirth, Masala and More is and will always be special, I am not going to insult her memory by copy-pasting stuff here. Told you, lame reason.

Feels good to be here 🙂

Welcome!