Thursday, January 4, 2018

Demons from Heaven!

Article for Bethlehem Matrimonial - Jan 2018

I remember seeing an advertisement a few years back. A young father is shopping with his son in a supermarket. The little boy keeps a big packet of chocolates in the shopping cart. The father keeps it back. The son promptly returns the packet to the cart and stands there with his arms folded as if challenging his dad. The father keeps the packet again on the stands. The kid takes a deep breath and starts screaming on the top of his voice. The whole supermarket comes to a standstill and stares at the kid but even more at the dad. The ad ends with the face of a completely helpless dad with a caption showing the brand of a contraceptive urging the viewer to use it!

The above scene is not completely alien to us. We all must’ve seen or experienced similar scenes while shopping. There are quite a few couples in the world today who get influenced by the message passed on by such an advertisement and decide not to have kids in their lives. For them, kids are nothing but a nuisance or little devils. There are also a few couples who decide not to have a second child for the same reason or think that they have served their purpose as parents in this world by having one child. Ads like the one I mentioned above masks a complete spectrum about kids from the viewers. A prospective parent or a bride and groom to be who sees such an ad won’t see the other side of fence. Though having kids can be argued as a purely personal choice, here are some of the thoughts related to parenting.

Yes, kids can be demons at times, but they are demons from heaven! No kid in this world has ever asked their parents to bring them to this world. It is a choice that the parents make. Hence as parents it is not ethically correct for us to blame the kids for their behaviour which by itself is inherited from us or our ancestors.

One quite interesting fact which many of us don’t realise about parenting is that both the ‘parents’ and the ‘child’ share the same age, especially with the first child. A parent is born on the same day as the first child. Parenthood is a completely new experience for the couple who till that day didn’t experience a third person in their life. The magnitude of change that brings in with this new status in their life is huge, most often a bigger change than getting married itself! Obviously it will take a long time for anyone to get adjusted to such a change.

Your second child arrives and a magic happens! Without you even realizing it, you mature yourself as parents. You are no longer the same novice parents when you had your first child. Being more matured as parents equips you to handle the tantrums of kids better. What’s even more interesting and at times embarrassing is the truth some of us realize that you could’ve loved your first child even better if you’d known what a child really needs. It is very similar to getting experienced in a job that makes you do the job better than having no experience at all.

There is more to parenting than just the experience of being a parent. You will become better in managing finances since you’ve to now plan for additional member(s) in the family. Every other expense in life will now be multiplied with the number of kids you’ve. Decisions on careers many a times get influenced based on kids. Some of us stop working altogether whereas others have to shift jobs to ensure financial freedom and security. Without these little devils we would’ve just continued working where we were earlier. The choices you make on almost everything in life get influenced with kids. The movies you see, the cars you buy, the vacation you plan or even a simple decision as a restaurant to have dinner are just a few examples where kids directly or indirectly influence your decisions.

All these and more are nothing compared to the beautiful sight of your little ones hugging you dearly and sleeping peacefully looking forward for another bright and beautiful day where they can spent time with the God that they can see in this world, that’s none other than you!

Here is wishing you a beautiful parenting experience which is nothing short of being one with God.

Wish you all a very happy new year! God bless! 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Licence to Love

Article for Bethlehem Matrimonial - Dec 2017

One day during a casual walk I noticed an elderly couple coming from opposite direction. The husband was walking ahead in full stride with the wife slowly following him with a half drooping head. This picture reminded me of a common sight from yester years with respect to the bedroom arrangement for a couple. You may have even seen this in some of the movies from the past as well. There will be a bed which is used by the husband whereas the wife either sleeps on a mat on the floor or on another bed placed separately from husband’s bed.

Those were the times when there were clearly marked boundaries for expressing your love towards your sweetheart. Times have changed and life now zips through a fast lane where new trends get set with the blink of an eye. Even in such a jet setting time we still have people around us who believe in limiting the display of love to the person they chose to share their life with!

A lot has to do with how history influences us with respect to how we express our love to dear ones. Before the colonial era people living in the present day India used to have an absolutely free way of disclosing their love. With colonisation quite a few constraints came into place and we being a product of such a constrained society, continue to follow most of these customs even today. Hence many such acts including an innocent kiss or a hug or an embrace is considered as taboo or non-acceptable in most part of Indian society till date.

Being afraid of these social norms, a lot of us restrict ourselves from truly sharing the emotions we carry deep inside, even to the ones with whom we are licenced to love. Ask yourselves these questions. Do I knowingly or unknowingly stop myself from expressing my love to my better half? Do I ever think that I need to express only this much love towards him or her? If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of the above questions probably it is time that you start thinking about a change that you need to bring in your life.

We live in 21st century now and who is stopping you from displaying your genuine love towards your loved one? Why do we need to still adhere to the rules from colonial era that stops us from opening up our hearts and let the most significant other in your life know how much you love them?

We all live in a time when we dedicate ourselves more towards the social media that revolves around us than those innocent souls that long for us. We make it a point to post in Facebook about our recently acquired model of phone, but find it odd to acknowledge our love for dear ones on a special day. We shout from our roof tops about the recent movie we’ve watched but find it difficult to even whisper in the ears of our better half how much we love them.

Let us wake up and realize that the world is in need of much more love than what it gets today. The moment you exhibit your love for your dear ones you are sending a positive note especially to the little ones in your family about the need for love and care. This is the only way we empower them and the next generation to realize the value of love to make the world a better place to live. Teach them the need to love and that too unconditionally. Share with them stories of care and compassion so that when they grow up they too will spread the wings of love for those who are in need.

May the social taboos not stop you! May you be able to open up and make yourself believe in the power of love! Realize that through holy matrimony you are even more empowered with a license to love. Let that be the guiding force that motivates you further not to hold back but to embrace the need of this world to experience candid love.

Love as much as you can because you'll never know till when you are given time in this world to love and be loved.

God bless!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Multi-million lottery!

Article for Bethlehem Matrimonial - Nov 2017

“Getting a good partner is like winning a lottery. Ensure that you pray really hard to win such a lottery”. I remember my mom advising me long back about the importance of prayer to win the greatest lottery in life! Looking back after being married for almost 8 years I totally agree with my mom. I would like to make a significant addition to her statement though. It is not just enough to win the lottery but is equally important that you win it every day of your life and keep praying for this to happen.

There is a major difference between someone who wins a regular lottery as against a person who wins the ‘matrimonial lottery’. The first one becomes rich overnight whereas the next one will become rich over a period of time, only if he or she works on it. If you choose not to work on your matrimonial lottery you might end up in the same boat as the guy who won a multi-million lottery one day but lost the ticket the next day!

Here are some of the tips that may help you win the lottery in married life. As the case always is, there is no concept of ‘one-size-fit-for-all’ in marriages. Hence you need to find what works out well for you and design your winning strategy accordingly.

Listening Vs Hearing: Listen to your spouse and you are an instant lottery winner! Ensure that you focus your full attention when your dear ones speak to you. If you are doing something really critical do inform them about it but more importantly tell them what time will you be able to have the conversation they wanted to have and remember to have it. Listening is an active task whereas hearing is merely passive.

Honesty: This is one skill that is important in all walks of life, more so in marriage. The moment you say ‘I do’ you are promising each other to share your life in all its honesty. Think about this. If you are all alone in a room and facing the mirror, will you ever be able to tell a lie to your reflection that you see on the mirror? Let us remind ourselves that our spouse is our reflection in a married life. Hence for you to look good in the mirror ensure that you are honest to yourself and your spouse. Who knows, you may even stand a chance to double the prize money of your lottery with this!

Teamwork: There is hardly a substitute for this, being a husband and wife. The most beautiful families are where the partners work as a team. There is enough and more to do in a family on a regular basis. Short, mid and long term plans keep driving the life forward. The only way you could ensure happiness of achieving these goals are by holding the hands together and helping each other. The moment you decide to do things your own way, you risk the possibility of losing the lottery ticket.

Prayer Power: This is the closest we’ll get to experience the supernatural power in our family that drives the whole universe. These are the days when each one of us are quite busy in our own worlds carrying out significant tasks, at least that’s what we think ourselves. The time spent together for prayer is when you bring a synergy in everyone. Nothing short of miracles will happen in our lives the moment we decide to spent time together to pray. This by itself, needless to say, is winning a lottery!

Love: A simple four letter word. We can’t possibly imagine the power that this word holds within. It is an all-encompassing feeling that can be stated as the glue that connects everyone in the family. Learn and remind ourselves to apply this feeling in everything we do daily. Believe it or not, this is something we forget accidently or conveniently a few years into married life. This is even more significant with your family getting bigger with kids taking up a considerable part of your time.

What I’ve listed above are just a few sample tips. Give yourselves some time to think about these. I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to come up with hundreds more like these which will enable you to win that multi-million lottery every other day. Keep in your mind that this is one lottery that brings you luck only if you work for it.

May the good God bless you to figure out the ways to win the matrimonial lottery and more importantly to keep winning every other day in your life! 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Chamber of Secrets

Article for Bethlehem Matrimonial - Oct 2017

I remember reading a story about how two people saw a dead dog on their way back home and described the scene to their spouse. The first one said, “I saw a dead dog today. The dog must have got run over by a car that its eyes were bulged out and the corpse had blood all over which had an intolerable stench as well.” The second one said, “I saw a dead dog today. You should see its mouth that was wide open. What a beautiful set of teeth it had!”

It is quite short a story but one which conveys volumes about perceptions. The way people perceive the same incident and more importantly the way these people influence others with their description. I’m sure you can easily imagine the facial expression of the first spouse in the story as against the second one. Who do you think felt better listening to the story of a dead dog?

The situation is not entirely different in many of our families too. We all have our own families where a lot of incidents happen on a daily basis. Many of us have the practice of sharing these incidents with our relatives and friends. Just bear in mind the story you just read and imagine the perception you create among the people with whom you share incidents that happen in your family.

We need to realise the definition of ‘family’ while deciding on what to share and what not to. You, your spouse and your kids form your immediate family. Your parents, siblings and their families form your extended family. Anyone other than this, is beyond your extended family.

It is quite natural that negative emotions get registered with people faster and it is quite easy to form opinions based on these compared to the positive ones. Hence the moment you share an incident or a story about a dear one in your family, keep in mind that you are creating a perception in the listener about your dear one. Negative perceptions are easily created and lasted than their positive counterparts.

The person with whom you’ve shared the incident will further think about it with their own perception. If it is a problem, they’ll try to either provide you with their version of solution or may even share this further with their extended family. We need to keep in mind that there are quite a few things in our lives that we need not necessarily share with everyone around us. There has to be a chamber of secrets in every family that needs to stay within the four walls of the family. There should be an honest attempt to resolve issues within the family first. The moment you open the doors to your chamber of secrets, it ceases to be your personal problem to solve. Though there are times when this may lead to solutions, there could be others that opens a whole can of worms.

What could pretty much be resolved between a husband and a wife should ideally be achieved that way. The moment you bring in parents, relatives or friends into a private issue, things could get complicated. You’ll never be able to really predict how either of the affected party will react to the situation. It may even get out of your hands and you’ll totally regret why you even bothered to involve a third person. We need to remind ourselves that if one solution didn’t work we should attempt an alternate one. If and only if you’ve hit a hard wall, try reaching out for helping hands.

If you are one such person who can’t live without sharing your life with others, ensure that you not only share the challenges you face about a dear one but also project the good deeds done by them. At least this will help in creating a balanced perception among others. Else it’ll be like driving through a one-way lane. It is quite natural that people will never get the complete picture of the challenge since the picture you paint in front of them is all what they probably see. They’ll most likely never get to know the other side of the canvas. 

It is important to share. It is more important to know what to share, when to share and with whom to share. May you be blessed with the prudence to maintain the chamber of secrets in your family and the wisdom to know when to open it up for others!

God bless.  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Power of Smile

It has been a quarter of a century since I learned the power of smile in business. 25 years back was when my dad started Adens, an ice cream parlour in our small home town named Changanacherry in Kerala, the southernmost state of India. For the kids in the town ice cream only meant a cup, a cone, a stick or in its fanciest form, a ball! Nothing more, nothing less.

It was something in lines of a revolution at that time to introduce various flavours in different shapes and sizes and more importantly ice cream sundaes that tickled the taste buds with a never before experience. The freezer that displayed different flavours neatly placed in square shaped boxes became an instant hit among the customers. It was a sight worth framing to see people flocking around the freezer to decide which flavour they’ll try that day.

Dad loved travelling and he did it extensively right from his young age. The greatest thing he got back from these travel were the experiences and uniqueness from each destinations which he promptly applied when he started the business. The shamiyana bordered palm leaf thatched seating area, the pointed white coloured fence seen in Ooty, trash cans named ‘Use Me’ at arm’s length from customer’s table, a beautiful garden with a multi-coloured fountain in the middle etc. to name a few.

All these were good when you start a new business. The bigger question is how do you sustain the interest and keep the customers happy. That’s when I saw dad along with my mom unveil the power of smile to captivate the customers and implemented beautifully the principle in management that retaining a customer is far less expensive than gaining a new one. Their achievement is even more praise-worthy with no formal management education to their credit. A classic case of naturally bred managers!

Every customer who walked into Adens were welcomed with a smiling face by my dad or mom. My brother and I did whatever little we could. He was 15 and I was 11 at that time and I presume it helped to create that ‘complete family experience’ in our customers’ minds when they walked in. The menu was extended, orders taken and the end-product was served, all wrapped with a beautiful smile. When I look back I think our customers didn’t walk in just to have an ice cream. They came in for an experience, one which offers an ice cream along with it. I also distinctly remember dad personally seeing off the customers as they take this experience back home with them. This was his way of ensuring that our patrons felt wanted and made them feel like coming back for more. Needless to say he did that with a smile again.

The picture was not always this rosy. We had our share of unhappy customers, for different reasons. Each time they were dealt personally and their concern addressed. They were reassured about the service promised by Adens and guaranteed them happiness. Most of them who initially had concerns, later when walked out, did so with a smile.

My management books emphasized the need to make customers happy. What I learned from my dad and mom with their style of management was a real-life practical example of how to do this. What they also did was to ensure that the practice not just stops with them. Knowingly or otherwise they were teaching each one of us associated with the business to practice this. Concepts of business continuity were applied without them even being aware of it.

We live in an era were human interactions are becoming lesser and lesser with each passing day. We get almost everything done online now through a world of apps and machine supported offices. I don’t even remember the last time I saw the face of a human being when I paid my electricity bill or telephone bill. Even the customer service many a times are now driven through Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems. At the end of your transaction the system or a recorded voice asks you to rate your experience by selecting a smiley that is apt for the quality of service you received. End of service.

In such a totally digitized world, I recollect with happiness, the power of smile my dad and mom had on our customers. It provided a human touch in business to ensure that our patrons come back for an experience that is closer to the heart than the non-personal customer experience modern day offers! 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Business of Analysis

Quite often I come across people who have no clue about what a Business Analyst does. I try to tell them in simple language about understanding business requirements and solving business problems by providing them with right solutions. Each time I explain these fundamental concepts to these people, my mind keeps telling me that there are more to this Business of Analysis than what a traditional definition tells you about this role. Here are a few quick thoughts from my experience as a BA.

Beyond the tools: As an analyst you invariably end up using quite a few tools to do your job. The techniques for gathering requirements, methods of analysis and documentation tools to name a few. Do these really matter for your customer? The primary question she’ll have in her mind is does this person understand what I need? Can he figure out the pain I go through so that he provides me with a solution to get rid of it. The business does not really care if you use Tool X or Y, all what they need from you is to empathize with them, understand their challenges and help them solve the issues they face. The primary intention is getting the problem solved, anything extra will be a bonus that adds to the customer delight.

Know the end game: Most of the times the business point of contact you may have are not the end users of the application. It is expected that you develop a sense of understanding about the challenges from an end user perspective before proposing any solution. Hence it is quite crucial not to miss to include end users in discussions so that you don’t miss the boat. The expensive rework that you see sometimes can be attributed to non-compliance of this idea.

Own it up: Yes, it is a business challenge you are trying to solve. But the moment your customer feels that you consider this as your problem as well, you’ve won the customer halfway. Ownership of challenges and co-creation of solutions are quite critical in terms of business acceptance.

Listen & Talk: This is a tricky one. You need to realize when to talk and when to listen. Even the friendliest customer you ever had can get annoyed if you do not maintain a balance between these. There is no shortcut for this except to use your common sense.

Befriend the devil in detail: Never forget the golden rule that the devil is in the detail. The one point you may have missed to elaborate may turn out to be the most critical part needed for the right solution. Hence don’t shy away from shaking hands with this devil. All what you need to ensure is not to get lost in the details which again can be quite easy.

Blind spots: Never leave your customer stranded. Good news or bad, let them be aware. For all that matter your customer may have a solution for your trouble. Business analysis is all about mutual understanding and trust.

Row together: Finding solutions for business challenges is not a game that you play alone. You need to row the boat together. Learn to respect the person at the helm and get this going. You’ll never know when you need to fire from a more powerful shoulder.

Empower the weak links: One of the most important aspects of Business Analysis is to keep your extended team in confidence. Architect, Technical Lead, Developers, Testers and many more. They all play crucial roles. Business Analysis alone has never delivered any solutions ever! You can play a pivotal role in empowering any of the weak links of the chain thereby empowering yourself.

I remember telling one of the interviewers a while ago that Business Analysis is not a rocket science. I still share the thought with the added flavor that Business Analysis is an art of getting into the brain of people not forgetting to understand the science of how they run their business. You need to be an artist and a scientist at the same time in order to achieve the delicate balance of providing a cost-effective solution and winning a delightful customer! 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

So near, yet so far

Article for Bethlehem Matrimonial - Sep 2017

I still remember the letter box on our gate back home, as one of the most cherished sights during my school days. The walk to the box to find if there was a letter in it was always been filled with mixed emotions. It was a heart wrenching feeling to see an empty letter box. On the other hand, the feeling was unexplainable when the box was not empty and the happiness multiplied if there were letters from dear ones.

Many of the letters may have been posted weeks before with updates about events that happened even months back. All these may probably sound strange today to a new generation of kids who may find it difficult to relate to the depth of emotions attached to a piece of paper found or missing in a metal box filled with details of something that happened sometime in the past!

Years went by and we now have technology that enables us to know and see events as and when they unfold. Anything less than a live update is considered stale news these days. News channels and social media thrive on ‘breaking news’ or latest updates. A swipe to refresh the updates on an app is all what is required to see the most recent post. It is quite interesting to observe that the emotions related to seeing or not seeing a letter in a letter box can be related to an update found or missing on a social media app.

These apps today allow you to reach out to your dear ones as you wish and no news will have to wait for days or months to be shared with people whom you care. Any event can now be broadcasted live using these apps. If not a live streaming, we at least sent quick updates in the form of pictures or videos as soon as it happens. An update screams itself on our phones in the form of an alert which when selected unveils the latest news from the sender.

For people like me, who have seen the best of both worlds, old and new, somehow get this feeling at times that an update I’ve received as an ‘inland letter’ or an ‘airmail’ carried more love and warmth than the updates through the present day social media. Even when the former gave me an update about something that happened in a dear one’s life sometime in the distant past I distinctly remember the genuine love and warmth I experienced reading that as against the most recent update through one of the modern day apps.

Though it is practically not easy to replicate that beautiful experience from the past, my wife and I decided to do something similar this time during the summer vacation. Fortunately we got a few days extra to plan and execute the idea as well. We decided to take some time from our vacation days and visit our dear ones at their homes and spend some quality time with them. It will be an understatement if I say, the feeling of love we experienced was nothing compared to the hundreds of messages exchanged over WhatsApp or Facebook with the same people!

It was a reiteration that human beings are designed as social animals. For us, meeting and spending time with people gives us the much needed motivation to take our life forward. There are quite a few things we learn by interacting with similar social beings around us. I strongly believe that all these and many more may not be achievable through the modern day apps though we have given them a pet name ‘social media’!

If you’ve been one like me where you think social media indeed is helping you being in touch, try meeting these people in real life. Spend a few minutes with them. You’ll be surprised to see the difference these interactions bring in your life as well as theirs! These are the good things our previous generation tried teaching us but have slowly gone into the oblivion as we’re living in those times when people are digitally so near yet emotionally so far apart!

May you realize this fact sooner than later and may you be able to plan your next visit to your dear ones at the earliest to experience the bliss of being social in its true sense.

God bless!

Demons from Heaven!

Article for Bethlehem Matrimonial - Jan 2018 I remember seeing an advertisement a few years back. A young father is shopping with his s...