Guest Post : Lessons to be learnt from Hanuman


Image courtesy : Google Image search
Image courtesy : Google Image search

My ex-manager and a really good friend of mine has written this post about corporate and real life lessons that we all can learn from Hanuman and his exploits in the great epic Ramayana.

Given that the monkey god is an all-time, all-weather favorite of all Indians, I am sure that this post will resonate with all the readers.

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As my elder girl is named after Hanuman’s mother (Anjana), Hanuman somehow seems less a God and more a family member to me! Regardless of whether you consider Hanuman to be real or a character from a story, there are some endearing qualities about Hanuman that deserve our attention.

Sundara – Hanuman’s birth name was Sundara. Can a monkey face be beautiful? Beauty truly lies in the eyes of the beholder. Every one of us is beautiful to our mother, our spouse and our children. Don’t ever judge a person by his or her looks.

Guru Bakthi – Hanuman’s guru was Surya. When Hanuman learnt all that was to be learnt, he duly requested Surya to name his Guru Dakshina (Fee). Surya refused initially citing that teaching Hanuman was a pleasure by itself. When Hanuman insisted, Surya asked Hanuman to be Sugriva’s minister. Hanuman happily obliged. Education or mentorship can never be a commercial transaction. Knowledge can be acquired only if it joyfully imparted and respectfully accepted. Treat your managers with respect. They may still have something to teach you.

Humility – Hanuman carried his titles & achievements lightly. I have seen too many of our associates attitude take a turn for the worse after a promotion and a corner cabin.

Be Inspired – Hanuman was cursed by a Rishi that he will not remember his strength. When the ocean needed to be crossed, Jambavan had to remind Hanuman about his powers before Hanuman took the leap. Know who your Jambavan is. He is your well-wisher who knows more about you than you.

Differentiate – While crossing the ocean, Hanuman encountered obstacles from Mainaka, Surasa and Simhika. Yet, he tackled each one differently. Mainaka the mountain was a well-wisher who just wanted to be hospitable to Hanuman. Knowing that he will be delayed if stayed too long, Hanuman respectfully took leave from Mainaka and proceeded with his journey.

Hanuman met Surasa next. Surasa had previously obtained a boon that any living thing crossing the ocean would be food for her stomach. Surasa sought to swallow Hanuman. Hanuman realized that Surasa was just doing her dharma (duty). Without wasting any moment, Hanuman increased his size. Surasa opened her mouth wider. Suddenly, Hanuman shrunk his size, quickly entered Surasa’s mouth and exited before Surasa could react. Hanuman had done what Surasa had asked for and Surasa now sportingly let him go.

After this, a Rakshashi called Simhika caught hold of Hanuman’s shadow and tried to eat him. Hanuman realized the threat from Simhika and killed her right away before continuing to Lanka.

Learn to differentiate a friend, a professional rival and an enemy. Don’t behave in the same manner with everyone!

Kanden Sithai (Saw Sita!) – Hanuman spoke to the point. Knowing that Rama was anxiously waiting for news about Sita, Hanuman conveyed to Rama the news about Sita succinctly. Too many of us beat around the bush. Learn to write crisp, easy to understand e-mails!

We can read (and treat) Ramayana as a story or we can treat it as history. The word ‘Ramayana’ means Rama’s journey (‘ayana’). Treat Ramayana as Rama’s blog posts. The people Rama encountered,  the places he went and the things he did, have a lot to teach us. Ramayana is incomplete without Hanuman.

I read Lesley Hazleton’s book – ‘The First Muslim’ which is on Prophet Muhammad’s life. Though the word – ‘Jihad’ has so many negative connotations today, the true meaning of ‘Jihad’ as meant in the Quran is ‘striving’! The first person to have realized Prophet Muhammad’s divinity was a Christian monk! Religions have more in common than we think.

Don’t mistake the messenger for the message!

None of what I have tried to explain above is my own original thought. I am just trying to make sense of the world around during my ‘ayana’. 🙂

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Although I enjoyed the whole post quite a bit, I personally enjoyed the few paragraphs about the tactics that Hanuman used to overcome the various obstacles in his flight to Lanka. There are just so many lessons that all of us can learn from those few paragraphs, which the author has quite succinctly summarized with one word – differentiate.

That word, used in this context, is loaded with so much gravitas and meaning, isn’t it.

Guest Post : An Idiot’s guide to Beauty Parlors


Image courtesy: Google images (modified)
Image courtesy: Google images (modified)

My favorite Guest Author is back again, and this time with “An Idiot’s guide to beauty parlors”. All you men out there reading this post (I know you are a minority group), this is your go-to-resource for managing the regular visits to the Beauty Parlors to keep your better halves from becoming ‘bitter halves’, if you know what I mean 😉

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My wife and daughters are regular patrons of Kanya in Mylapore. Kanya was started by cine music director MS Viswanathan’s daughter – Latha about 30 years back. Thanks to helpless fathers and husbands like me, they have now expanded to other locations within Chennai and Bangalore. They seem to be doing quite well and have now started more upmarket salons called Bounce and Oryza. I consider Kanya to be upmarket enough, I don’t dare to imagine the rates in Bounce and Oryza.

Rules of Conduct

The surest way to win your loved one’s heart is to accompany them on a parlour visit and patiently wait for a few hours till they are done. Yes, and don’t show any expression while you settle the bill. You will certainly be asked for feedback from your loved one. Offer measured praise. If you go over-board and praise too much, you are implying that they really needed the parlour treatment. If you praise too little, you are implying that the whole thing was a waste of time. Take the middle path.

When to schedule

The ladies don’t need an excuse for beauty parlour visits. It will generally happen whenever there is any social event coming up. The event need not be a marriage or a party. It can even be a PTA meeting as well. With a wife or daughter at home, you are likely to be doing a lot of picking up and dropping to the parlour almost every other week.

Help your loved one to schedule it at the right time. If they visit the parlour much before the event, the effect will be lost in Chennai’s heat & dust. If they schedule it at the last minute, they will look like plucked chickens. Please understand this – while the ladies love visiting parlours, they don’t want to make it seem obvious. Everyone wants the casually glamorous look.

Services offered

Beauty Parlours offer everything that can make a lady feel good. I am just laying out some basics here so that you are not looking completely lost while discussing a beauty regimen with your loved one.

Bleach – This is done before a facial. Cream, Oxy, Powder bleaches are generally offered. It makes the face look bright. Restrict to a face bleach if you want to save money.

Facial – Lot of varieties available at different rates – fruit, pearl, gold, diamond, chocolate etc. There are mud packs as well. It makes the skin look fresh for atleast a week or so. A must do for ladies in their thirties.

Hair – Hair Spa is the in- thing these days. Simply put, ladies with curly hair try to straighten it. Ladies with straight hair try to curl it. Those who have black hair color it brown. Those who have brown hair try and turn it black. No one is happy with the hair they have got.

Pedicure & Manicure – What a nail-cutter can do at home, will be done at the parlour with great effort and expense.

Massages – Major stress buster. Gift your wife this one at least on special occasions. Don’t make it a habit.

My Beauty Secrets

After a lot of persuasion from my wife, I moved from my usual barber shop to a beauty parlour in the neighborhood a few months back. Though the beautician points out various flaws in my skin and hair, I restrict the services to a hair trim, shave and hair wash. The bill rarely exceeds Rs.150/-. That & a dab of Gokul Santol powder on the face, I am all set to conquer the world. I fail to understand why Jairam Mohan thinks I look like Powerstar. In fact, from a certain angle, you may find in me a certain resemblance to Ajith (of Mankatha fame). But, I am digressing. One good thing about being in the forties is that I have made peace with myself and with the way I look. I am not in the race and I know it. You can’t expect Tendulkar to be at the nets everyday now that he has retired.

What’s the message?

Though memory fades, the girls I lost my heart to, were the nice ones. (Just in case my wife’s friends are reading this, now my heart is firmly at home. I am leading a rather blameless life these days. I am talking about long time back here.) I don’t remember what they wore or whether they used make-up, but I do remember that they had a lovely smile.

If there is anything that I want every girl to understand, it is this – your biggest beauty regimen is your smile. I hope you are blessed with one forever! 🙂

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Given that I also have a daughter who will surely want to go to beauty parlors probably sometime in the next 8-9 odd years, it helps for me to have friends like these who dish out unsolicited advice once in a while. And hey it also doesn’t hurt if we all laugh once in a while, do we 😀

Guest Post : Are you bored?


cartoonboredom

Another lovely post by my favorite Guest Author who also happens to be my ex-manager and a good friend. In this post he talks about how one can never be ‘bored’ if he finds enough interesting things to do. The challenge is in breaking away from all the useless clutter and distractions that we have today and find something interesting enough. Read on.
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When I look back at my life & career, the stupidest things that I have done were when I was bored. Changing jobs when I should have stuck on, calling someone I shouldn’t have, buying things that I didn’t need, fiddling with the remote instead of leaving it alone – the list is endless. In my case, truly, an idle mind has been a devil’s workshop.

On one hand we have several things to distract us – the social network, reality shows in TV, our smart phones with lot of fancy apps but on the other hand, these things don’t provide us the intellectual rigor to keep our minds and skills usefully engaged. There is something in the human gene that craves for excitement. Gone are the days when people’s hobbies were reading, stamp collecting, singing or dancing. Today we want to be seen doing stuff that others look upto. Look at the hobbies/passions that folks mention in their profiles and you will get what I am saying.

All parents cherish the ordinary, boring, predictable routines. The kid feeds on time, poops on time and the school van comes on time. These things make a parent’s day feel fulfilling. All of us need excitement in life. But, it should be a like spices in the kitchen. A pinch of it is good enough for a tasty and enjoyable meal.

My previous boss advised me to take up a role that has a 90% – boring 10% – exciting mix. The 90% ‘boring’ component is the cash-cow that pulls in the revenue & justification for having me on the payroll. The 10% ‘exciting’ component is what I love to do that I try doing within the contours of my job in Cognizant. It is working so far.

Being professional is not about having a B School education or wearing a suit. It is about doing a good job whether we like it or not.

My driver is my inspiration. While he waits for us in the car, he reads newspapers & magazines from cover to cover and is well aware of all the happenings in the city. I fail to do that despite my expensive Magzter subscriptions.
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I especially love the part where he says that being professional is about doing a good job irrespective of whether we actually like what we are doing or not, and that is a motto that I have lived with all my working life. I would really love to hear your thoughts on what ‘interesting’ things you do on a daily basis and how you manage to balance that with the regular monotony of daily life.

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Verses for Introspection: 8

वदन्ति तत्तत्त्वविदस्तत्त्वं यज्ञ्ज्ञानमद्वयं ।

ब्रह्मॆति परमात्मॆति भगवानिति शब्द्यतॆ ।।

vadanti tat-tattvavidas-tattvam yad-jnaanam-advayam

brahmeti paramaatmeti bhagavaan-iti shabdyate

Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.11

Meaning:

The knowers of Truth speak about ‘that’ which is the knowledge of the non-dual consciousness also known as Brahman- the supreme reality, Paramaatma-the supreme self and Bhagavan, the supreme Lord.

Inspired by Swami Bhoomananda TirthaJi’s talks and satsangs. 

Guest Post : A suitable boy


Yet another awesome post from my all time favorite Guest Author, my ex-manager and close friend. This time around he takes us through his pointers on finding a suitable boy (read groom) for yourself or your daughter, as the case may be.
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Image courtesy : Google Image Search
Image courtesy : Google Image Search

Flashback

A client-side manager (an Indian we will call Mr.X) had invited me for his wedding in Chennai. I could not make it to his wedding for some reason and about a month later I was at his office for a team meeting. I was mentioning to our associate there that I wanted to wish the client manager on his getting married. Our associate said – “Thank goodness, you told me! Mr.X has just split from his wife!” Though I could not attend his wedding, I did make it to his break-up party. It made me realize how fragile the whole institution called marriage is.

The Present

I don’t know about our share prices, but marital prospects of our associates has just zoomed after our stupendous Q3 results. My community magazines (Narasimha Priya and Ranganatha Paduka) will need separate supplements just to list out classifieds from our eligible associates. None of the IT companies (ours included) prepare our campus-hires for the realities of life. At best, our Academy trains them on basics of Java and let them loose on innocent project leads.

So here are a few pointers for those looking to tie the marital knot –

1. Ask not what the boy’s job title is, ask what his role is. Most job titles have no connection with what the boy does at work.

2. Ask not what the boy’s compensation is, ask how much he saves. I have seen too many double income IT families struggling to pay their house rent because of an ill-advised foreign holiday or a fancy car that they cannot afford.

3. Looks are important, but not that important. The guy looking like actor Surya now will look like Powerstar after a few years.

4. Your parents will look for marital alliances from our Tier-1 competitors. Do they run better, run different? I don’t think so. There are bad apples everywhere.

5. Don’t splurge on a lavish wedding. Everyone will enjoy at your dad’s expense but you.

6. Don’t take a stand on joint family Vs. nuclear family without knowing more about your would-be’s family. They might even be better than yours.

7. Learn to cook. For God’s sake at least now! Too many couples have split after endless days of cup noodles.

8. Stay away from married ones. Their spouse will send out a Predator Drone to take you out.

9. First impressions are not always correct. My wife never tires of reminding me that I dressed like a clown the first time I met her. She had all the reasons for rejection, but she took a chance with me. It has turned out OK, I think!

10. Marriage is about companionship for the rest of your life. Look for a friend and you will have found your spouse.

11. I couldn’t resist this as I am in the testing practice. Trust, but verify all claims!

I just finished reading Devdutt Pattanaik’s book – ‘SITA’. It is the story of Ramayana from Sita’s point of view. In short, Rama and Sita are comfortable with each other whether they are in the palace or whether they are at the forest, whether they are together or whether they are apart. That’s why in TAM BRAHM weddings, the girl’s father chants –

Iyam Sita Mama Sutha, Sahadharmachari thapa Pratheechcha Chainam Bhadram Thae Pannim Grihneeshwa Paanina

‘This is Sita, my daughter. She will be with you in all your endeavors. Please accept her. I invoke all blessings to ward off evil. Hold her hand in marriage’.

Now you know why Superstar planned a Vaishnavite wedding ceremony when he gave away his daughter to Dhanush. So far, it seems to have worked out well.
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I personally loved all the points and had to completely agree with him a hundred fold on every count. However, given that this is an extremely Tam Brahm (read Tamil Brahmin) oriented viewpoint, I would love to hear from you readers as to what your pointers in this regard would be.

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Verses for Introspection: 5

अव्यक्तादीनि भूतानि व्यक्तमध्यानि भारत।

अव्यक्तनिधनान्यॆव तत्र का परिवॆदना।।

Avyakthaadeeni bhootaani vyaktha madhyaani Bhaarata

Avyakta-nidhanaanyeva tatra kaa paridevanaa

–    Bhagavat Gita 2.28          

Meaning:

Beings unmanifest in the beginning and unmanifest again in their end seem to be manifest in the middle, O Bharata. What then is there to grieve about?

Points for Introspection:

The futility of human life is explained in the sloka.

Inspired by Swami Bhoomananda TirthaJi’s talks and satsangs. 

Guest Post : Surviving matrimony


My favorite Guest Poster, my earlier manager, mentor and friend has put up his latest post “Surviving Matrimony” which he graciously agreed to allow me to post here.

The picture below is my only contribution to this post and the rest of it is published as is without any editing.

tiny-tidbits.blogspot.com
tiny-tidbits.blogspot.com

I will soon be completing 13 years of marriage. It’s time I share with you some of my learnings. Why a post on marriage in an office blog you may ask. In office, we are surrounded by twenty somethings who know not what they are getting into.

Before getting married

1. Arranged marriages are better. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it is true. In an arranged marriage, there are many folks interested in keeping the marriage going. The support you have from the family is enormous.

2. In the case of love marriages, know the difference between infatuation, passion and love. The shelf-life of each of these is different.

3. In either case (love or arranged), don’t believe in stack-ranking attributes. My uncle retired from Indian Statistical Institute and wanted a perfect bride for his son. He put together a spread-sheet which listed attributes (Height, Weight, Colour, Income, Family Background etc) for each of the girls they evaluated and assigned scores (1 to 5) for each of these attributes. They would have seen more than a 100 girls. Subsequent to all of that, my cousin has gone through two divorces and is now on to his third wife. This marriage seems to be lasting a little longer.Touchwood! In her book – ‘Art of Choosing’, Sheena Iyengar says too much of choice is overwhelming. She is right.

4. Looks are fleeting. My college buddy and I exchanged notes on what our college-mates have turned into. Some of the folks whom we thought of as great lookers have after tweny years, been ravaged by age, ill-health, hair-loss and worries. Folks whom we thought of as run of the mill have turned out rather well in the looks department. Some of us blossom early. Some of us blossom late. Do remember, these days everyone photoshop’s their Display Pictures (DPs).

5. It is best if you and your would-be spouse have different hobbies and interests. The more dis-similar you both are, the better it is. This way, you will not keep running into each other. Looking for similar likes & dis-likes in a would-be spouse is a disaster in the making. (“Why are you again & again taking my Tintin comics? You are spoiling the covers!”)

6. Be wary about office romances. Flings in the office seem to add spice in an otherwise bland work-life. But, they rarely last. Relationships in the office have under-currents. People who want to call/meet you 3 times a day will abruptly change the moment you take up another role or job. College or School romances are more innocent and enduring.

6. Don’t make pre-mature announcements to the world in case you plan to get married. In the last 3 months, I have come across quite a few marriages that have been called off even after the formal engagement was done. Take your time before you decide and only then let everyone know! I am a great believer of ‘Drishti’ (loosely translated as the ‘evil-eye’).

7. How to know if you have found the right one for you? Here is a litmust test. If you are comfortable sharing your happiest moments and your saddest moments with your would-be, then you have found the right one for you. Go ahead and all the best!

After getting married

1. Joint families are better. This again sounds counter-intuitive, but it is true. In a joint family, your spouse will have many other people to crib about. When you are nuclear, you are on your own. Everything will be your fault.

2. Don’t invite your friends home too often. Invariably, they will have poor manners and will irritate your spouse. Your friends are unlikely to impress your spouse and do be prepared for some harsh criticism about your circle of friends.

3. Don’t seem to be too interested in your spouse’s friends. You are expected to be courteous but a bit aloof. Know to strike the right balance if you want to avoid mishaps.

4. Have kids early in your married life. Kids make for many great shared memories and they make families complete and happy. My friend is 42 years and is expecting a baby in a couple of months. He worries if he will be in good health when his kid grows up. Some folks wrongly think having kids reduces the romance in a marriage. It only multiplies the fun.

5. Don’t buy anniversary gifts from Flipkart or Caratlane. You are expected to take the trouble of going to a shop and buy a gift. Also, these gifts are not supposed to be practical. (Mixie, toaster, TV etc are strict no-nos).

6. Don’t ‘friend’ your spouse in Facebook. sooner or later, you will post something that you regret. Have separate ‘social network’ lives.

7. Don’t go on frequent holiday trips. I mean it! Holidays can stress out your spouse. You will stop with making an online booking and then you will make your spouse pack all the bags and handle the logistics. The flight will get delayed, the hotel will be lousy and the kids will be irritable. It will be tiring and your spouse will long to get back home. Only travel agencies and tour operators talk about holidays where a couple can un-wind. It doesn’t happen in real life. If you want to give your spouse a holiday – send the kids to school, pack off your parents (and in-laws) to a pilgrimage, order food from Dominos and hand over the TV remote to your spouse.

8. Offer to watch your wedding video and photo album along with your spouse atleast once in 3 months. You are supposed to keep demonstrating that your wedding ceremony was the best part of your life.

9. Love is subtle. All through their married lives, I only remember my parents quarelling about everything. Four years ago, my mother passed away. My father misses her and every place, every thing brings out a reminiscence from him about my mother. In their own way, I think my parents were made for each other. Love is expressive and seems obvious only in tamil movies.

My younger one fancies Maddy (Actor Madhavan who sports a grin that for some reason seems to fascinate girls of all ages). My elder one assures me that she will not leave us after she marries and that she will ask the boy to move in with us. I guess my post-retirement fantasies have to wait till both my kids find someone suitable. 🙂