Hush!!!! Professor! Professor!

 

Vipin smilingly asked his colleague in the staff room,”He is younger and weaker than you. You are more powerful than him, then why do you have to assert it on him again, like everyday?Give it a break man, you are acting like you are back in college!”

21 year old Raj enrolled at an Engineering course, came home looking flushed, thoughtful and worried for a few weeks. His course was due to be over. Though his mother thought it was usual for him to be occupied with something, it seemed intense and worrying this time. Raj’s father had been diagnosed with diabetes and the family was frequenting the hospital and the supermarket for supplies of a change of diet. Raj’s mother close to 50 years old had to shuttle the younger brother to school and back home. Clearly the family was too busy for a sit down discussion. Raj had nobody to talk to.

“You be my slave, I like you. You think you are like me, you are my slave”

Pressure of family had been crushing him. He wished to be useful. Raj had to prepare for his exams and finish his course. He had to think of his future and get set for the Masters. He could not concentrate. Why?

Problems at college.

He had accidentally picked up enmity with a Professor known for friendliness but notorious for revenge if angered. Worse, all his classmates with whom he was always friendly, were convinced he was a problem and had stopped talking to him. He had to face scornful eyes and an eerie loneliness in class everyday. He had to face embarrassments when getting bills and books signed. He tried getting help from a friendly professor, but he had thrown up hands saying nothing can be done. Friends asked him to ignore it. Obviously he was in depression. He lost appetite and shed eight kilograms of weight in a month. His stomach flushed with fear and loneliness everyday in class. Even people who knew he was innocent didn’t speak to him for they feared they would be targeted too, some even openly admitted it.

“He repeated in class through real-life examples in his lessons, he warned me indirectly and embarrassed me silently, still, only I could understand the “double-entendre” in his sentences. To everyone I was the villain. He emotionally drained me everyday, walked past me often to make me feel nervous. He said ugly things about me to professors of other departments. Everyone thought he was a nice person. Only I knew that I was the VICTIM and I was alone.”

 

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Clearly, the victim he had become.

Another similar incident befell a girl student at a private university down south. This time, the particular “Professor” was pervert enough to give her an immodest reputation among other male professor friends of his, who stared at her with scornful looks every time she entered the canteen or passed the corridor. It was a little contradictory, given the “fatherly” image the professor had painted for himself among other students. But who could prove what? Nothing. The obvious seemed the truth. Forever.

“Every  time SHE had a problem with a student SHE boldly told him, “Let me see how you finish your degree!”

The duty of a teacher was to help a student get a degree. Not work against it.

Friendly to some, terrible to others, does not paint a very civilized picture of today’s Indian teaching community. Too bad that the Masters’ Degree could not put some maturity into educated decision making of these educated people.

“They Police us. Who Polices them?. They watch us. Who watches them?”

TWO DIFFERENT TAKES

1.Ms.K, an academician says, “I teach math. I tell them what they need to know to get through the semester, where performing well is up to them.I don’t try to be friendly in class.I don’t try to be strict either. I teach, I clear doubts, I give assessments. I leave. I never let it get personal, whether favoritism or hatred. I don’t see the need. I just do my job.”

2. Another Ms D says, “We need to be strict, we need to remind them that it is us who is running the show here, or they ‘sit on our heads’, they disrespect us.We listened that way to our professors. We had fear, this generation doesn’t, not over us, not over their degree.

Yes! we have our favorites. Only if we applaud a student, the others will learn to behave and perform like them. What is the harm?”

In a student- teacher scenario the rules of respect and fear may apply, but do those rules hold well when a human rights scene sets in? Not so much.

Many may forget about a Chennai based Naval education academy incident where a particular student’s job call letter was confiscated and the student set to mental torture and blackmail by college authorities ending in his suicide. Rohit Vemula will remain a modern myth of an out-spoken student community.

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTOR

Some teachers cause indignation to students because they are themselves afraid of indignation.It is the same way politics, military and governments work. Something needs to be imposed on someone to keep them weaker or keep you in power. The same pattern that “Ragging” by senior students follows.People need to keep power, hence imposing fear.

THE TIGHT-KNIT COMMUNITY

A friend of mine at a renowned university has a different take at this, ” We do most of our learning by ourselves and take it to the professors only when we really cannot understand something or for assessment, so there is hardly room for too much personal interaction or scrutiny or threatening.”

“Students should stick together” He says, “When the student community is tight-knit, one single student cannot suffer in silence. We never let that happen in our college.”

“IF YOU LISTEN TO ME, YOU WILL PASS”

“Power corrupts” is too blunt an explanation for this widespread behavior among the teaching community. India is mushrooming with newer and newer institutions. Statistics point out that too many of our institutions still fall short of basic level facility and standards to churn out knowledge-rich graduates. Learning therefore becomes too much Professor-dependent like it is in many Anna university affiliated institutions in Tamilnadu. We do a cat and mouse chase behind level-1 knowledge and take so many shortcuts to achieve only what is preliminary. We sit dependent on classrooms rather than  libraries hence paving way for the fear and dependence factor,  “GETTING NO FURTHER THAN WHERE SOME  PROFESSORS WANT US TO BE”.

If “bench-mark” was transparent enough to understand, the student can himself work the standard out. But again we wait for Professors to tell us, what knowledge is “enough” and what “isn’t”. Colleges admit too many students, most with no aptitude for the particular course giving way for Professors only to set standards and rules in the classroom where the course, student and his knowledge should actually be doing the job of standard setting. Many people in the teaching profession take away two points of independence as a bribe for every point of favor run to a student for his “passing”, for his “well-being”.

Everyone keeps reporting things. Professor politics and favoritism keeps churning story after story somewhat on the likes of Police Brutality. Question is. Who is acting on them? What change of rules may help? Let us think. And more importantly,

ACT. 

 

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THE MODERN WOMAN’S FREEDOM

A recent issue of Esquire magazine featured actor Tom Hanks being interviewed by actor and UN Goodwill ambassador for gender equality, Emma Watson. The discussion involved family, feminism and films. She put forth a question on the relatively poor screen space occupied by women in films (as of 2013 30% of all speaking characters) and the mere requirement of women to be either hot or nurturing/supportive in their on-screen roles.

Tom Hanks replied “Because the art form of cinema becomes less of an art, and no longer holds the mirror up to nature when women are reduced to being only hot or nurturing.” .

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“When rules of gender and character dictate what stories are told and by whom……..

……. they are no longer fully dimensional humans”- Tom Hanks as told to Emma Watson

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The LA times had reported that 76% of Academy voters were male. As far as we are concerned, even on the silver screen, Gender Equality has a long way to go. Cinema always seems to think that it mirrors the society and offers what the audiences “prefer” or “want”. Even in the “sexualization” battle it is always women who seem to be running in circles. We as women need not compete with men in essentially every square. But the squares of need and right to happy living?. Yes. Apart from the battle of Gender equality, we have battles to fight within ourselves, with the same sex group- The battle of confidence, of looks, of desirability so that we do not want to feel “Left out”. Most of our apparel lines and salon chains run this dogma, “Do not be left behind”.

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In a documentary titled ‘INSIDE OUT’ on gender issues by TISS alumni and National award winning documentary  makers Dhivya Cowasji and Shilpi Gulati, Shagufta Waqar Khan, one of the women featured in the film states -“For all the talk about women progressing, they seem to be going that much backwards”.

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IS IT ALWAYS TRADITION PINNING US DOWN?

Human rights being denied on gender and traditional grounds have always been the point of concern and debate, the world over. We often blame old traditions and practices. But in the developed and developing worlds, where women are nurtured and encouraged, where education and access is equal for both sexes, when parents are equally welcoming of a daughter just like that of a son, who has made a woman feel vulnerable? who makes her feel she has to be white-skinned,skinny, and flawless? who makes the “barely-there” dress wearing girl the boldest of all?- Getting all the appreciation probably a talented woman director must equally get?.How have we become a good look obsessed society, just like animals discriminate members of their species?

Hollywood? Bollywood and the fashion industry?- What about us-The receiving end? How have we interpreted what is popularized?. We have made ourselves Anorexic with loads of hypocrisy.Period.

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There are times when a job vacancy was filled by an attractive woman with moderate knowledge as opposed to a not-so-attractive woman with a lot of skill and knowledge-  A Software and OS tutoring veteran.

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“Ugly” is now an equally offensive world as calling a woman “a slut”. We women have accepted the transformation into an “Object of Beauty” first “A person” next.The object fights a mental battle every day and night inside of herself, in front of the mirror, in the untimely hours of Facebook, staring at other girls, hotter, more “followed” than her, waiting to be “Liked” by a 200 people to convince herself that she “Looks Great”.

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” ‘Not-so- good looking’ girls are more likely to be publicly insulted or embarrassed as other girls in my college. Wherever they go,whatever they do, it is like you have to be beautiful to be respected or at least heard” – A second year B.com Student, Coimbatore who does not wish to disclose her name

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THE “SANSKARI” FAMILY TO BLAME?

The thing that we so often lose perspective of is that perhaps it is not just age-old traditions and customs and what we call “the family pressure” that seems to be taking away a girl’s freedom, her free breath. Besides, it is family  that raises the girl, gives her education, protects her interests, mentors, cares and presents to her what she would call community, aunt, uncle,cousin and celebration. She can demand “Freedom” from family. Not from the society. To get it from the society, she must either protest or plead. Should we waste time demanding from the society or begin change within ourselves first?.

OUR PROBLEM

The vulnerable image, the over-sexualization, the requirement to be “hot” so as to be accepted, the desire to be more “wanted” than to be loved, the need to be protected when beautiful, when being followed, when being stalked,  when traveling, when alone, when one wants to be independent and free-all constitute the psycho-social issues that plague “The freedom of the modern woman”, which is more of safety, self confidence, discovering herself than just a permit to nightclubs and the freedom to smoke. (Forget morality here, when you pit up WANT against NEED).

FREEDOM OF THE SELF

Accepting oneself the way she is, is the primary step of all- if one feels one must.

Love yourself and do not let others define your preferences. Shop for yourself, not for your friend or popularity nemesis. Love your imperfections, they define you as much as your gifts.

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It would feel great if one day, I let my looks introduce me, Not define me entirely, for I am more complex to be merely scanned at.”-ANON

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THE ABSOLUTE DEFINITION OF BEAUTY

The Dove Campaign for real beauty for our daughters who suffer from self-esteem issues.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dove_Campaign_for_Real_Beauty

Shades of India Line of clothing launches the Baiyu collection, featuring real life women achievers as diverse as Praveen Nair, Divya Cowasji and Anjum Singh from all age groups and backgrounds as opposed to super models setting novel role-model standards.

 

P.S . Love yourself.

Shades Of India unveils BAIYU collection

 

 

 

 

 

That cup of Chai.. <3- for tea lovers

 

I Love Chai. Simply for its color, the mild bitterness, the aroma, the warmth and calm disposition in a foam topped, cream crowned,  cozy tea-cup that tells me ” With me, you can do much better than you do already”. I had been an avid tea- drinker and a fan of caffeine for many years now, hunting for that best brewed cup ever since my early teens in the Hills of Nilgiris. Even in warm and windy June at Thoonganagaram Madurai, the love for that steamy cup to start my day and get the day going as a busy stay-at-home wife of a busy office-goer, the amour for that re-assuring cup had not faded. So post marriage I decided to do a loving post on lovely Chai Tea!

 

Tea. Popular beverage, ever shelf- sitting kitchen companion, elixir of refreshment and brewed energy booster and caffeine and polyphenol-laden motivator. Camelia sinensis (Tea) boasts itself as the second most consumed beverage in the world, losing only to water.( Not to confuse with coffee the second most traded “commodity” second to crude oil. Over 3000 varieties of tea exist to date.

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http://www.itoen.com/all-things-tea/major-varieties-tea

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Food today is allowed to be so innovative and versatile with non-barricaded cultural exchanges (which are welcome because we need VARIETY), that a regional dish is allowed to undergo many improvisations before incarnating as something new, something loved by people (with what may seem like no limits to morphing food’s flavors with each experimented recipe, sometimes totally off-track than the usual way of cooking a dish).

Chefs now are as much a celebrity as star- sportspeople.There are Australian restaurants that brew the perfect “Chai-Latte”, and there exists a version of Chai Tea Ice Cream. (Perhaps we Indians thought Kulfi was the ultimate spiced dairy frozen dessert)

 

tumblr_nqrsd1ysQa1tuqkmto1_500We shall lunge upon the facts and facets of tea and  “Chai”- the seemingly  Indian drink of black tea brewed in milk, optionally with spices.tumblr_mnsfq5AR5p1stj94jo1_500

 

Here are a few steamingly heart warming Tea and then Chai facts:

1.Tea seems to have originated in South-West China and popularised as a MEDICAL DRINK.

2.An accountable mention of Tea is in a 3rd Century Medical record by Ancient Chinese Physician ,Hua Tuo.

3.The English commercially popularized Tea in India.

4. Tasseography is the art of reading tea leaves. (Must have already known it if you are a potterhead).

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Tasseography is a divination or fortune-telling method that interprets patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments. Source: Wikipedia

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5.There are four main types of tea (All from the same plant)- Black, Green, White and Oolong. The treatment of the leaves gives them different characteristics.

6.Afternoon tea, called low tea was introduced by Anna, the Seventh Duchess of Bedford to entertain guests with sweets and tea in an attempt to reduce the gap between the afternoon meal and dinner. It is called low tea because it was served on low tables.

7. Chai Tea is black tea brewed into milk with sugar or popularly Masala-Chai tea with spices and herbs as versatile as vanilla, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, coriander, cloves and fennel seeds that are roast and ground and pre-mixed with black tea or added to boiling milk and brewed. Other versions of black tea boil down tea to a decoction, infusing milk later.

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Source: we-all-scream.tumblr.com

8.”Chai” comes from the Persian word “Chay” which again roots back to the Chinese word “Chá” which means tea.

9.Chai is now prepared with so much variation and versatility and consumed as “Chai Latte”, “Chai Tea Spice Cappucino”, “Chai-Nog” with Egg Nog,  “Chai Cup-cakes”

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Chai flavored cup-cakes

10.The blend of spices brewed hot is believed to increase peace of mind, release unwanted body heat, aid digestion, reduce nausea and stimulate the mind. If you feel its worth the time- Go grab that cup of Chai!

 

 

5 rules of RE-CLAMENG (reclaiming) -lost territory

Situations where the below rules can be applied
  • office politics.
  • Institutional politics.
  • Cheated over money
  • Shamed. Insulted. Ditched
  • Lost influence
  • Lost girl-friend
  • Stolen boy-friend

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Yes. Tough time.
But it’s not over. Not fully.
You can  get back things*. Just play smart** and get those hurt feet back on the dance floor( With caution, protection and practice)

 

       *Conditions apply
                          **Minimal or no violence                    

Read on , for black comedy Soodhu Kavvum (2013)’s  “5 rules of Ke(i)dnap(p)ing” inspired  rules for,

“RECLAIMING LOST TERRITORY”

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  #The rules of kednaping (Kidnapping)
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1) IT’S NOT OVER, YOU START OVER.

What is gone and done is done and gone. You don’t ponder over how this happened and why people did this to you. They will repeat the same thing this time with a more practised “Evil smile”- “YOU ASKED FOR IT… YOU DESERVED IT”. You can’t change their opinions by explanation. Hence, YOU DON’T. You do not just act and behave as a new person- you BECOME one.

 

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“Le Focus”

2) STUDY THE GUY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, MORE

Learn the nuances of their likes and dislikes, how they behave with people. Do they have other enemies? Talk to them. Have they done this before. Is their dangerousness habitual or accidental (only to you?). The more habitual it is, the more you learn their M.O (Modus operandi) , fingerprint and trademark behaviour. They become predictable. (Human beings are REPTILIAN MINDED . They adapt, learn and act defensive. So careful there. You don’t get more than knee deep unless you are dying for revenge).

 

Vijay Sethupathi, Sanchita Shetty in Soodhu Kavvum Movie Photos
#StudyInTheBackdrop

3) PLAN OUT, DECOY, THEN SURPRISE

It’s all in the “unpredictability”. Surprising people undermines their confidence/ over confidence. You wait. Bait. Hit. Surprise. Bingo! You give them something to think about. You make them believe you are as bad and stupid as they think. While they get drunk in their judgement, you strike. And you do it publicly so that your acts have witness and hence you are protected. Witnesses must be good people or who don’t take sides or must be neutral people so you will have someone to negotiate with them (If you are accused of something) .While they ponder over the first, you hit them again, again with all proof that you were right. Just make sure your circle and boundaries are tight enough. You don’t want them to see this coming.  

 

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#GottaPlanBroAndAppreciate
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#NoEasyPickingTeam

4) DO NOT PROVOCATE IDIOTS

In the process of getting back what is yours just make sure you don’t turn unnecessary stones or pull into unwanted enmity with someone totally unrelated to your business. You will have double trouble else and even worse, the enemy may use him as his first line of defence against you or to see you more hurt.

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#ThisGuy
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#AndThisGuy

5) FINISH WITH EPIC BGM 

 Finish with background music, figuratively or literally ( but realistic BGM recommended). The music does a decent finale. It also increases dopamine  production in the brain when you get a limelight reward for your work. ( Don’t forget that rugged indifferent look)

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#ThisFrame

 Note: Watch your step.

 

DESTINY-My tryst with temples, belief and the stars

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“Just when you think you have understood life, life changes”

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“The worst things and best things in your life- they are unfortunately interlinked”

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What  was the point of believing abstract things, I thought. People who got past me using dirty short cuts, people who used my favours, loud mouthed, gossiping double standard people around me did not believe things that I believed:

Karma, Fate,  “God is watching”,  Love happens,  Everything happens for a reason ,Domino effect ,Hurt nobody (unless they hurt you).

Why would I believe all these when those people got the better of  me?. Pointless, it seemed. The world seemed deaf to pain and frustration. To me and people like me.

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There are perks of having a horoscope chart of problems. You get to travel to enough and more temples and get intoxicated in the historic serene feel of lesser known and old temples.  So, however hot and tiring the drive on the highway roads down south would be, I was happy.

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After a year of visiting the various Navagraha temples (Dedicated to the 9 planets that influenced your chart and life) in 2013 touching up to the historic ancient port of Poompuhar,  I was at the foothills of Marudhamalai in the June of 2015 at a little residential area nearby, visiting a  famed astrologer Mom took me to.  The winds were roaring rummaging the windows of his newly and neatly built home. We waited  in his little but neat office as he finished lunch.

 

Seeming in his thirties he wore a rather wise look.  Trophies and certificates of his accomplishments in Master of Arts, Astrology, sat beside his little shelf full of pictures and little statuettes  of deities. He sat down at his computer that automatically generated a person’s horoscope (You needed to feed Date of Birth and time first).

He predicted what all went on in our lives rather accurately. I didn’t believe astrology back then but had no choice. I didn’t like much of what he said. He often scanned my face to check how I reacted. “Kalathra Dhosham”  he said. If it was Love marriage, it would end on the rocks. Marriage however must be completed within the end of “Guru palan” period.  I had eight months.  Mere Eight months  to countdown. He said “ Go to Paapanasam, I’d be there for a yagam, join me, early morning with family,  you can pay within a week.”

We left. He came dropped us till the gate for some reason (could be habitual), but it seemed rather “Serious” for me.

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Mom however decided we take a detour to Kooduthurai, Bhavani, near Erode. “Sangameshwarar Temple” and we would attend a pooja there. My prayers were of different intentions but I cooperated. The temple was painted and well maintained, and had a rather queer legend. It  had the usual serenity and a “you are being watched “ feeling of a Shiva Temple. People had lots of things to say about who Shiva was. I,  however felt he was more than what hymns , sculptures and paintings depict. He was more like the Lingam.

The “Shivalingam” something elusive and beyond human form, yet powerful, yet all knowing and all hearing.

Sangameshwarar temple was built on the banks where there was a “Sangamam” or mixing (confluence)  of three rivers, Kaveri ( I rather worshipped her because she was so much associated with the Chola land), Bhavani ( Coincidentally originating from Silent Valley National Park in Kerala a three hour drive from where I lived, Ooty) and the mystic Saraswati river. It was a scorching afternoon when we finished pooja for “Kalathra Dhosha Nivarthi” or “relief” and I changed into dry clothes after a holy dip in the banks of the “confluence of three rivers”. I often slipped on the algae laden stone stairs of the banks and wished so much they kept this place more neat. I watched water birds hunt the untouched banks of the temple. I was squeezing my head to analyze the reliefs to see if they were Chola built. They seemed so. They looked so 3D. Must be them I thought. Browsing didn’t help as there was no mention as to who built it. (Whatever looked grand and good, I assumed it was the Cholas). I prayed for people I cared about in the Vishnu sannidhi.

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I looked at  Lord Shiva, the lingam in the main praharam of the temple. I told him in all his glowing glory of oil lamps, I’d marry whomever he decides I must. Nothing else escaped my mind. For some reason, though I could have easily asked what I wanted. It didn’t seem like justice to just “want” things, without knowing the consequences it would have on people. Lord Shiva faced the river banks. Little did I know, there would be a CONNECTION between me and the temple, and me and Bhavani.  I thought it was a co-incidence, but doesn’t seem much like it. (ABOUT THIS I’D BLOG SOMEOTHER TIME).

 I tried offering a banana to the mid-sized elephant who was having his nails painted( varnish? I think). The mahout forbade me anyway. I glanced at the jumbo once again and left .

I looked tired but on the inside rather nostalgic. Escaping heat of the warm footstones made me feel at home, all temples did. I didn’t know if I was lucky or unlucky. I often thought about Raja Raja Chola. About what went on in his mind all his life. I admired him. Wished they had photographs back then. Wished he wrote a book or had a journal. Little is known about him as a person. We only know his Emperor side.

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http://aalayamkanden.blogspot.in/2011/08/sri-sangameshwarar-temple-erode.html

http://www.bhavanisangameswarartemple.tnhrce.in/

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Few months later, we hit the National Highway 67 again this time to Paapanasam, passing tollgates. I saw how the look changed from plain scenery to little green hillocks dotting the landscape like how Balakumaran describes the Pandya country in Udayaar. It got greener and greener when we hit Tirunelveli. It was a different kind of green when compared to the delta regions of Thanjavur. The look of the towns seemed a little forward and modern touched whilst I noticed Kumbakonam and inner Thanjavur had remnant buildings of the past. I crossed Einstein college of engineering without knowing I did and reached Thamirabharani lodge, a neat place with a small brook running around it (wonder why). The moon was up  while we arranged for my grandfather a room to stay on the ground floor. Mom and I picked a corner room on the upper floor. The lodge was filled with guests who would visit Paapanasam temple the next day.

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A mono colour painted Gopuram or temple tower, huge trees with protruding roots that often dropped fruit to the ground and shadowed the tower from far, chirping birds and monkeys,  vendors who waited to sell their merchandise from toys to hairpins to sacred thread , rushing of the Thamirabharani river water below, devotees from all walks of life, old and young, rich, poor and very poor, the temple had the aspect of “ancient oneness and all welcoming feel”.  Perfect place for a Shiva devotee.  Located close to the temple was the Agastiyar falls. We attended the morning Pooja for the Main deity. The temple had the “closed feeling” of the deeper mind associated in its architecture with low roof. Stone, of course.  The place smelt Vibhoothi and was getting more and more crowded.  They followed a unique Saivite ritual of blowing horns and drum when the pooja was conducted. You knew whose lair you were in. The sound of it would give you goose bumps and run a spine chilling feeling. I looked at the lingam again. He was clad in Vibhoothi. I said the same thing. I thought of my brother.

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The holy dip followed. Thamirabharani’s water was different. Thamiram meant “copper”. It was said the water had higher rates of copper.  Little and older, all kinds of people offered their hearty prayers and took dips. Mothers helped crying babies get a dip in the special river. I understood I was weak with flowing water. I had strange scenes come and go by my eyes as I took my breath -held dip. I thought of my brother again.  I looked at the Temple tower from below the stairs. Here I wished they kept the front of the temple cleaner. (They had neat paid changing rooms).  Here used and disposed clothes were neatly collected in a large metal holder/stand in one of the mandapams on the banks. It was green. Green everywhere. We finished pooja in a hall were they actually cooked food for the temple. I went a little dizzy (may be sleepy) as the mantras were chanted and prayers offered. We left the rice balls to be offered at the river by the priest. We had tea and Idlis in the eatery outside. Mom disagreed to my plan of visiting Nellaiyappar temple. We hit the NH road again back home satisfied, yet oblivious of the future.

What was I going to do? Bask in the glory of rebelliousness  or shun it for greater good?.  Passion or sacrifice?. A life I wanted but couldn’t get or acceptance of what cannot be changed?. I had to let go of my beliefs, desires, it was difficult. The only one to bear the heat anyway would be me. It was the best thing to be done. I had to get things straight. How, I did not know. Every home, however little, however poor was your empire. You are the Prince or Princess of your house . You needed to do justice to your role. These thoughts rooted themselves too strongly after my visit to these two amazing Shiva temples. All life is a dance. Humans were just a performance in the passage of time, sometimes lucky or clever enough to leave something behind. But what did the stars have up their sleeve for me. I was going to find out.

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——————————————————To be continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Inside of performance- Interviews’ season

Corporate university at Aramex

Now

This was and is a season of anticipation, sudden increase in competition manifold, the final year and penultimate semester of Bachelors in Engineering. The campus recruitment fever was all dressed up to set itself on the campus soon with some people already having faced and emerging successfully out of the rather unpredictable process- GETTING RECRUITED. 

To put it simply, it was a time where most things that seemed to be will not be. People on whom great expectations are placed may falter and rather those who seem to be the least of competition may prevail. Just accomplishments and reputation were not going to get anyone anywhere. This is exactly the time of the year that I discovered two things

1) The pattern of events that lead to one doing pretty well

2) The pattern of events that lead me to either “Good performance” or “Utter failure”

Both of what I discovered did not seem to be too well the news for me. I would have rather not noticed if it was not for the  296  page in-genius best-seller by Malcolm Gladwell- Blink.

 “Why is the why” and “Who’s the who of what”

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                                               The only one who is capable of stopping you is – YOU

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This year was a challenge to most of us for the simple reason that we did not have “Many options to choose from”.  You could hit bull’s eye on a target you didn’t want to call yours and you may stage a flop in a place where you badly wanted to do well. Expertise, experience and skills were one set of things. There were other factors that played important cards on your life’s course here-

1 Ability to make quick and right choices

2)Ability to juggle different work under pressure

3)Ability to keep eyes and ears open and pick the “RIGHT FIT” for you

4)Ability to perform well no matter what.

There was one person whom I knew , whom I’d  call “NK”, he seemed to me the only one doing all these things well. You ask him and he always shook his head saying  “I am not doing much”. He handles praise well. Ok. Humble. Ok. But what would account for a consistently high graph and a very social nature with a sense of humor that would not put him under the don’t- touch- me- I’m the serious guy– category?

One explanation is that he sets really high standards for his work. But that does not explain his very social nature and never quenching thirst for doing things without over doing them and without making it look like he was doing big. The thing that draws people to attention is this one and only attribute that I felt was praise-worthy– the ability TO NOT let HIS SURROUNDINGS AFFECT HIM-BADLY.

Peer Pressure, as author Malcolm Gladwell puts is a big factor when compared to hierarchical pressure.  All of us know what these are- time management, multi-tasking ability, art of saying no, balancing rest and work, aptitude to solve real world problems, negotiating, believing in self, making and keeping contacts.  We all know it is important to keep our cupboard organized and files in specific folders, we all know overloading our phones with data can prove disadvantageous at times of emergency . But how many of us can actually put doing the right things in real practice? How many of us can say “these individual unique practices are addends to my success?” . But these are the tiniest habits or bunches of them in which the successful person becomes a step ahead of the ordinary man.

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Every successful entrepreneur or techie or writer would have a habit they would follow/practice even if they were the only person on the face of the planet to do so. It’s  The ability to find out what works for you and stick with the habit despite pressure-be it peer or hierarchical. But how all can you be under peer pressure?

1) Pressure of being too scrutinized and observed-negative feedback

2) Pressure of being expected a lot from-positive feedback

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                                        Failure has not spoiled men as much as success has.

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What did I find wrong with me?

1) 2013, Training session, Seminar hall,  A company I’d call RP, Mock Group Discussion.

                                Trainer calls me to the stage with cushion chairs set in a semi-circle expecting I’d do well because she liked that I dressed modest and formal and was also listening to her raptly. A feel good signal goes across my head, the kind of high you get when someone trusts your ability and I know I normally gather verbal data and present forth without a problem. I walk forward and find a seat.  Topic- rather-very- simple- ‘Broiler chicken vs organic chicken’. She says “start” with the microphone in hand and steps back dramatically. I was supposed to start. The hall was not full. No scary people. Lots of friends there. Yet with a mild opening  and few lines -I faltered . I suddenly became cautious that many eyes were on me. My own voice echoes in drowned itself in the new lines I spoke. My perception of space increased- the hall looked bigger, heartbeat rose. I was listening to others raptly but I could not come up with words. I was rather taken by the shock that I could not think well. The trainer “Ms J” later said it was because most of our hands lacked “animosity” so we did not sync well with words and became nervous.

But I knew it was more than just that –it was a mix of factors that scared me. I did not know what. To somebody to face an interview soon that was not bad luck-it means Disaster.

 

2) 2015, Final year, Final installment, My classroom,  a company I’d dub “Favorite” ,Mock Group Discussion.

Trainer says “Now time for GD, bring  armed plastic chairs”. He says, “Volunteer and come forward, I’m not going to force you”. A few of us look at each other, signal “Let’s go” and walk forth. Everything seems fine. Mildly nervous.  All positioned. Everyone looks okay.Simplest of topics – “Effect of Cinema on today’s (Indian) youth”. Something chilly runs down my spine when I begin counting seconds to the start. Everyone scribbles down points. I’m not able to. Something tells me I can speak in the moment. Trainer says “Start” and moves away without scaring us. Somebody has to start. Seconds running by. I do. In the first few words that I speak, I discover to my shock that my voice is in the wrong pitch- the low tone that is not supposed to be. Same story in the past repeats.

I was told the reason was I was conscious of being watched. Yes. May be. I knew it was more than just that. This time losing all faith of figuring it out on time.

Did I ever do well?

Yes. I was not a veteran. But I had been on stage several times since childhood, made critical announcements, presented and left stage with people smiling at me.  This is the problem with success, it leaves no room for retrospection. You pride yourself, you say, you practiced well, you say you were lucky. The truth may be entirely different. Nothing can make you dumber than fail at the very things you once prided yourself at. But let’s not get emotional. Let’s get to the details. Like I said, it was “Blink” the book that opened my mind to rather less-noticed but powerful factors- the subconscious and unconscious.

When did I do well?-

When did the perception of space, the vulnerability of going blank not undermine the time I did well? -When I was subconsciously motivated by the following.

1) Thinking I was doing this for the first time and hence it is very important to me

2) Desire for expression- “They have to hear me out and I will make them”

3)No time to draw comparisons- “I don’t care who is better than me and who is not”

4) Not conscious of expectations- “I don’t remember what others think or say of me”

Trying to be over-good at the first start

.Expectation- an image- a reputation you already have can dangerously undermine you at the wrong time. Not just the expectation others have about you but the high expectations and dramatic performances YOU expect of yourself .It prevents you to see things differently and puts your mind into a rehearsed stereotyped mode. It fails to weigh the dangers and make you analyze the arena. It makes you think, “Its just one of the many things I know well, I can’t possibly go wrong”. When you go into field thinking you are first-timer, you inevitably bring all your resources to conscious focus. You become alert. Alert in making you analyze the subtle details that form the frame-work of your delivery. Again, ALERT-not nervous.

To naturally do well without much practice we must let the subconscious and conscious to be conditioned to “fit” in the role you are playing. There are two ways-an algorithm of do’s and don’ts– You must know why you are there instead of someone else, what you have to convey, whom you are conveying to, what would be the expectations of those hearing you out, how you can convince them that you are fairly right. You must be able to be present in the moment and be conscious of “what you are saying” rather than “who is watching what about me”.  This algorithm of “what to do” clearly was not present at those  moments that I failed. I had a biased clouded judgment that I would do well because I had, before.

The other way is the NK way and powerful it may seem, not everyone can put it into practice.- Focus on the bigger picture

Why do we place high expectations of the self?

We bite off more than we can chew because we think we must. This happens when there is sudden great prospect of success and lots to choose from, that we feel lost even one opportunity slips by. For instance say– I live rather unnoticed for a long time. I decide to do something fine and gather skill, opportunity comes, another opportunity comes, I suddenly involve myself in lots of projects and obviously expectations are placed on me.-in results . Hence I place even greater expectations on myself –in efforts so I can put up with the first set of expectations. I face peer influence because I am suddenly working with lots of people.- people whom I have to convince that I am good at things, people whom I have to convince that I can work well with. Hence now I have two sets of expectations and two sets of people to convince that my natural-but averagely good working mode is rather buried. That is the foundation of all my good work. Now how do I do “really good work” when  I have forgotten how to do “work”?.  Bigger prospects can rain success or spell disaster.

Why to play natural?

To play natural means to play by what methods that work well for you. Anything learnt new may or may not let you down. But what methods have already worked for you are already in your conscious, subconscious or even the unconscious aspects of your mind. They offer backup. When bigger opportunity comes a Tennis star can’t forget Tennis and completely immerse himself only in Product promotion. That is highly unlikely but forgetting your own roots, not admitting what you are bad at and becoming something you are not will not make you any better. It is like throwing away your degree(with all the good and bad) and starting up with something new all over again. Remember to love yourself with all the flaws and embarrassments you had. They are things only you can put to good use. I didn’t play natural there, I suddenly wanted to “Prove myself”- Did I?- Not at all.

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The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes

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What goes on with nervous people?

How did my friend NK perform in the similar GD situations? NK is motivated by the “Bigger Picture”. While I sit here reverse engineering the entire performance aspects,  he would rather see the Group Discussion as- A TICKET -“ I need to do this well, so I can get where I want”- SIMPLE. That reduces the anxiety of performing and puts it practical and straight- JUST GIVE YOUR BEST IN THE MOMENT. We, as kids would do things when motivated by incentives or “rewards”. He saw career as a REWARD for whatever he did now. He was not analyzing something too much that did not need analysis. So whether he did five things or ten things, all of them were tailored towards THE LARGER GOAL. The Bigger Picture. This would help you prioritize everything that you do. Once he hit a hot streak, he kept up with it. Nervous people(like me) would sit basking in the newfound light and miss consequent opportunity. If there were setbacks the NK kind  would change route but not the destination. They keep things simple.

The socializing and balance between rest and work?- Goes into WORK mode when WORKING, NORMAL mode when work is done. This is not too hard if you are not pushing yourself hard in every direction. He takes heuristic decisions and does not wait too long to make a quick jump where necessary. Why do we wait too long then?- Because we wait for the perfect  opportunity/ solution that never comes. We become a bit too scared of the consequences that we do not generate results at all. We are all too scared of the unknown. So we pick exactly what people around us pick. We are afraid of risks.  People like NK are afraid of the unknown too, but they plunge forward to face it. We try avoiding the unknown.

Peer pressure- the problem of generalization

Everyone in your life who give you pressure face peer pressure themselves. Even the grinning ,over-confident kind. The Pareto rule being 80% of your happiness comes from 20% of the people in your life- we give too much importance on the remaining 80% insignificant people in our lives imagining and worrying about what goes on in their minds about us. There are people who just cross our day once and make a lasting bad impression. We get stuck with that. We forget the remaining 20% important people. We generalize that the world is a bad place. We drain our own energy. We imagine and hypothesize what we don’t know. We get trapped in their “opinions” which we imagined ourselves. We think people think too well of us-though we don’t know that and try fitting into the peer expectation than focusing on the job at hand.

All those times that I failed, I was living in the minds of everyone else except my own. I betrayed my own mind that needed attention so it could tell me what it knew- be it about Broiler chicken or the effect Cinema had on youth. When my mind finally took my focus back to itself, it took a few seconds to analyse the vast space and the seat I was in, the silence rushed in more adrenalin with heart rate up. Normal thinking – now scrambled. The 20% time of willful thinking that would affect 80% of my performance was then drowned in adrenalin rush. I knew I was done.

The same can be generalized for a good work- rest balance. 80% of the results come from 20% of your work. This helps greatly when studying. 80% of the answer is contained in 20% of the studying material given and if you master that pattern- you understand the lot. (This cannot be generalized to exams though).

It’s the few of our choices that lay foundation to bigger results of our lives. The challenge is usually to find which is the which and who’s the who, sometimes we need deeper analyses , when  the details given are lesser to us. And sometimes (As in Blink, Malcolm Gladwell) , when you have to process lots of information to make a decision, going through all of it and making an instinctive decision often works best. Sometimes we fail in picking out the 20% side of the Pareto rule by drowning in over expectation of the self, peer pressure and not being yourself like what I did. And I’d never want to do it again, ever.