Friday, April 11, 2014

The Tough Art of Apology

Courtesy Mark Twain, we know that forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the feet which crushes it. Which is a lesson good learnt and easily executable. What is more complex, more difficult is the task of seeking apology. 

It takes a great soul to forgive, but it takes a greater soul to seek apology. Even more complex is the task of seeking apology when none is necessary, even when logical. We do not seek apology to assuage the feelings of hurt party but very often to assuage our own ruffled soul, which stares at us with those innocent, unbelieving eyes. We surprise ourselves with our greatness many times. But as a contrary corollary, we also shock ourselves with shallowness of thought which we never thought we were capable of. We laugh empty laughs, discover flimsy reasons, and stay up for nights saddened of the evil we have perchance discovered in our own souls. Our sleeps are troubled and souls are fractured. Only merciful solution which can make us reach some solace is apology. 

It is so difficult to apologize. It amounts to the admission of the fragility of our morality, admission of the presence of evil lurking from the dark corners of our mind. It is humiliating. But it is only liberation that we can hope for. Of course, the inner turmoil after an immediate moral slip will fade away with time. But it will require you to cultivate an duplicity of conscience to bear it for a time long enough for it to fade away. And that duplicity will haunt you for the rest of your life. 

There could be other instance when you know for sure that you are a victim of interpretation and inherent dislike of your being as a person. In such cases your ego will stand in your way of apology. You are a victim of unreasonable evaluation of those who have, in any case, no assigned job to weigh you. But they do. I have written in many a blog posts that ignore those small souls whose only way to greatness is to shorten your stature. I am not going to deviate and ask you to apologize for something which isn't your fault. You ought not apologize to please those who seem to have been waiting for you to fall, so that they may pounce over you with a feral righteousness. 

You ought to, however, apologize if you slip off your own measure. That could be even when you are not the reason for such a slip. It takes a grander, larger heart to apologize for things which you have no control over. Be clear in your mind, not to feel criminal or victim over the failure which was incidental.  Be very clear that your admission of failure does not offer the lesser soul an opportunity to pounce over your soul. Apologize for the act, not for the person you are. Apologize with a straight spine, for you are the brave, blessed child of God, who has both the nobility and courage to say sorry. 

How to do it?
1. Plainly, without justification. Don't beat around the bush, just do it. Never ruin an apology with an excuse- Benjamin Franklin

2. Do it quickly. The more you delay it, the more the noise will be, the more it turns into personal affront, and more difficult it will become. This doesn't mean you do it in a rush, with a secret hope that no one hears you making it. Do it boldly, with serious intent, not shoot-and-scoot. 

3. Taking responsibility. Standing ahead of a team to get credits of good work is so easy, taking charge and saying sorry for the failure of the team is so difficult. That is what leadership is all about, even when it is Robin Sharma's oft-quoted Leadership-without-Title. 

4. Without shame: Don't let the apology haunt you for the life. That is the purpose of apology- to move ahead, to leave the past behind. That you could go beyond petty ego and cleaver justifications, makes you a nobler person. An apology doesn't define your relationship with the person in front of you, with yourself and with the world at large. An apology doesn't mean you need to remain apologetic for the rest of your like.

Remember, you are doing it for yourself and the fact that you are able to do it, makes you a better man.

Post-script: The post arises out of a sense of immense emancipation which I felt after writing in apology note to a customer, whose deliveries got delayed and who almost waited for the slip to happen. It was a disaster for sales people when your phones are always designed to send message of "I am in a meeting" simply because you have no answer and the other party has no respect for reason. I had no way to hasten the deliveries and I do not know I am forgiven. The best part is, I do not care anymore. I breathe a free man.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Thoughts on Martyr's Day? In the Backdrop of 2014 Election

Notwithstanding the guilt-trading post which became viral on the valentine day, which yours truly was shamefully guilty of forwarding before being scolded to sense by some enlightened and better-informed soul, 23rd of March is the Martyr's Day of Bhagat Singh. Not that I am presuming for a moment that my lack of knowledge was representative of many in today's world, but the term Martyr's day has been used so loosely that it is rarely a surprise that the confusion hounds most of the citizens. In India, we do celebrate Martyr's Day on 5 occasions at the very least, depending on the ideology we follow and our allegiance to the political ideology. 

Such abundance of symbolism has killed any thought which might justify the observation of Martyr's Day- any or all of them. The greatness of souls which died is not based on the fact that they are dead today. It is based on the greatness their soul ensconced, the thoughts and values that they stood by when alive, even at the risk of being dead. The observance of the Martyr's day is to not sit in gloomy obeisance, with heads held down, rather to dig into the history to know what went into making of this nation which is today struggling against corruption of a magnitude which makes us wonder if we are the same people who could at one point of time in history give birth to such great souls as Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru. It is the celebration of defiant voice of reason, which will not be cowed down by the mobs of the time.

We take pride in our modest sacrifices and our shallow intellect. Intellectual discourse does not stand by any value today. Most often what we read is not aimed at shaping public opinion, rather follows public opinion. It is reportage which clouds our thinking, not thought-building and thought-provoking ideas. The intellectuals of the day, look for the direction in which the wind might be blowing and than write in the direction where the wind might be carry least amount of sand. We have of late, observed a great rising against corruption in the country. The interesting thing about this whole India Against Corruption was the timid opposition it faced. I wonder if we, the generation of the day, could have withstood an opposition more fierce or an uprising, if I may call it so, more prolonged. Even baton-charges were seemingly orchestrated for least damage to either side, not taking into account the midnight assault on unsuspecting protesters led by Yoga Guru, Baba Ramdev. India against Corruption was fueled by typical youth rebellion and that it came with a fashion statement and very less to be placed at stake, with a possible chance at power, made young men and women join it in hordes. The Common man, having had the Cappuccino in Cafe Days, felt enlightened enough to come out in the street and jump over the chance opportunity. It was a two-minute-noodle revolution in making which was to smoothly slip into a pursuit of power, crushing and humiliating any dissenting thought or intellect which went into initial creation of the movement as it were (Ex- General, Ex- Police Officer). Anything longer, stiffer, I suspect might not have kept up with ever-shifty attention of today's youth. 

We take pride being the generation of 21st century, being an informed and intellectually alive society. Information has replaced intellectual discourse in today's world where every dissenting voice is shouted down. We are so starved for heroes that we jump at every impostor with a foolish hope. Irreverence is considered as intellect. It is true that Arvind Kejriwal carefully places the framed picture of Bhagat Singh behind him in most interviews, but given that he considers it necessary to wear a skull-cap while discussing the roadmap for Indian Muslims, I can not fathom it to be anything more than a symbolism, trying to leverage the emotional feelings of citizens for his electoral gains. I can only hope Mr. Kejriwal found time between his thermodynamics classes in IIT to read "Why I am an Atheist" by Bhagat Singh which is an interesting read. All the religions in this world are not sufficient to counter the ills of religion. When religions escapes your mind and heart and tries to overwhelms the space of public governance, it starts getting disfigured. I wonder if the AAP roadmap for Indian Muslims speaks of Muslim only roads and Islamic electricity and on the counter-point, if Modi speaks of Hindu electricity which chants Ram-Ram every time a bulb is switched on. Governance is secular by nature and it should remain thus. The insistence of citizens to be treated as separate from fellow citizens is stupidity and the agreement of leaders to succumb to such desire of interested parties is callous, calculative, uninspiring and saddening. It leaves no hope for future. It creates mobs and offer them legitimacy. It allows them to frame the rule. I wonder an India in which Salman Rushdie is banned, Bhagat Singh could have escaped trouble after writing "Why I am an Atheist?" 

Even Bhagat Singh lamented our own lack of capability to throw ourselves in for a cause in face of ridicule, opposition and threat for life. He wrote,"We highly appreciate the situations of pain in their (Russian) stories, but we do not feel the spirit of suffering within ourselves.We also admire their passion and the extraordinary height of their characters, but we never bother to find out the reason. I will say that only the reference to their resolve to bear pain has produced the intensity, the suffering of pain, and this has given great depths and heights to their characters and literature." Of course, he was referring the times in Russian politics before Crony-capitalism and Communist Billionaires appeared on their scene. Those were different times and the failures of Communism were yet to come out. He might have thought differently today and attempts by people on either side of the left-right divide to appropriate Bhagat Singh's legacy is saddening. One can not but be mesmerized by the depth of thoughts of a young man of twenty three. 

It takes great intellectual strength and great spirit of wisdom to place it on record (nothing off the record, Mr. Kejriwal, here) that "This is a struggle dependent upon middle class shopkeepers and few capitalists. Both these and particularly the latter can never dare to risk its property or possession in any struggle." He goes on expressing fear that "the present struggle is bound to end in some sort of compromise or failure." I as a mugwump need to see intellectual uprising that goes beyond the Namo chants and skull caps. We need anarchists with defined intellectual moorings. 

We need people who can rise against the popular opinion and stand for what is right, and no, it will not be a two-minute noodle. We can not have a fast-food freedom. We need to restructure our thoughts. We need to have policies for education which is beyond setting up of schools. We need to have infrastructure policies which tells citizens the roads which will be made, village which will get electricity, and we need tall leaders who come out and say that they will not be able to offer televisions because they need that money to build roads and provide electricity and clean water. We need leaders, not the status-quo-ists who are bothered by skull caps, and for that we need to become the citizens who are not bothered by such symbolism either. We do not need school buildings, we need educational policy, we need the teacher hiring programs. Why do we have teachers being baton-charged all across the country? Where is health care? Health care, schools - they are not about civil work and festival for contractors, they are about people who man them. In a Billion plus population where people are desperately looking for jobs, can't we find manpower good and sufficient enough to run these organizations. We can no longer afford to be satisfied with symbols. We can not gloat at Sanskritized re-naming of aged and retired Russian equipment and be a self-proclaimed global leader, when our soldiers are beheaded on border and we are worried about what to wear on the head. One merely needs to go through the structured plan made by the brilliant intellectual Bhagat Singh was in the days of unstructured freedom struggle and understand how lacking we are today. We need to look beyond 300 litres of free water and free electricity. We need to ask on economics why the country with largest coal reserves is biggest importer of coal and also at the same time ask on probity as to why people who make hosiery are getting license to mine coal. It is time to ask brave question and not be intimidated. Let us try to inculcate a little bit of intellectual courage of twenty three year old. Times are less trying, just a little bit will do, but even just a little bit is so difficult to come by these days. It cannot be rushed. It will not happen in a hurry.  As Thomas Paine said, "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. 'Tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven only knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; And it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated."

Internet Resource: 

Friday, March 7, 2014

On International Women's Day

There's nothing international about the woman who taught a three year old alphabets at the doorsteps of a kitchen, handed rolled paratha on way to school. 

There's northing international about the woman who held a young man's hand in a smouldering summer day and sat in a lonely prayer outside an ICU fourteen years back. There's nothing international about the woman who took a part of her being and handed me over the most amazing of her creation six years back. There's nothing international about the woman who struggles to keep her space in a hostile and competitive world and still try to teach alphabets to her child, at the kitchen door and hand her over the rolled paratha as she leaves for school.

 There's nothing international about the woman who ties a thread to my arm every year, and looks at me as if I were a guardian and protector of her soul. 

There's nothing international about the woman who reads what I write and sometimes, even loves it. There's nothing international about the woman who makes me wonder how she writes so well as if there were a Virginia Woolfe's proverbial room with a window in her soul.

There's is nothing international about the woman who tolerate my mediocre talent, and makes me believe in my unknown possibilities. There's nothing international about the woman from whose guarded stories rises like butterflies and color the skies. 

There's nothing international about the woman who looks at unyielding life in the eyes and whispers through a determined mouth, " Was it life? Give me once more." 

They don't carry higher causes. They are not in the newspaper. They everyday fight with their own demons, and come back home with weary souls and winning smiles. They diligently work in their small ways, and make grand changes to the world. They offer a soft, silent strength to me which whispers in magical voice in my loneliest and weakest hours. They believe me, even in the moments when I have lost all the belief. 
They are the women in my life, they are the Constant Spring. I wish you all A Happy Women's Day. All the days of the year belong to you, but this day is to be grateful for all those other days blessed by you.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Mind of A Mob

The mob is an outcome of fear. It feeds on fear and emanates fear. That is the basic anatomy of mob. It resembles a people rising, which is nothing but a pathetic attempt to cover an evil, selfish and feral rising. What differentiates the two is a distinguishing cause and a well-defined decency. People uprising is a chorus of empathising voices rising in a perfect harmony, while the mob is a cacophony of voices trying to outshout every dissenting voice. The line between an overwhelmingly beautiful note of music and the shrill noise is insanity if often very thin. The possibility and dread of falling to either side is always available to each mass of men (and women) coming together.

The mob becomes an end to itself and threatens to muzzle those who do not agree. It no longer seeks to convince or convert. It demands slavish surrender of every voice of reason. It tries to crush you into supplicant subjugation.

Unfortunately social media offers another platform of anonymity to people who are infatuated by the power of number. Those who inherently lack both courage and conviction to kill or die for a cause, set themselves on pulpit, urging others to kill. They let spite spill over the media and pounce for blood on anyone who bothers to respond. They are necessary for the mob. The mob on one side needs another equally belligerent mob on the other side. They need to invent it even if the real opposition were non-existent. They progress through their Quixotic movement. It would wilt and die if it doesn't continue to look at the people at other side of the fence as a uniform mass, with homogenous thoughts. Any independent thought confuses it and threatens its bearing. Therefore, it tries to threaten every independent voice of reason to join a mob that it could then hate and fight against. 

An individual's only choice is to stand alone with his own voice. This would keep them confounded. That is only safety that the individual has. Also it is so much fun. 

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