Monday, December 13, 2010

"Horror Night"

Sometime ago, I saw a forum called ‘Horror nights’, where people shared their horrifying experiences at night. After reading that thread, I remembered this incident of mine, which dates back to the winter of 2002/03.

I was a 10th Standard student then and unfortunately an insomniac. One night, as usual, my parents and my siblings were asleep, but I was still rolling on bed, unable to get closer to the gate of dream world. Everything was calm and peaceful around. Since it was very cold, even fan was switched off and so there was a pin-drop silence in my home.

As an attempt of falling asleep, I said prayers, counted numbers and did all the silly tricks, I knew. As a result of all my tricks, I started feeling sleepy. Till this point, it was a sort of daily routine for me. Suddenly, I heard a sound (from outside my house), which I never heard before. I simply ignored it and tried to sleep. I was about to fall asleep when I heard that sound again, this time a little louder than before. My drowsiness was gone.

“Let me see if that sound repeats again. If it does, I’ll find out what it is,” I said to myself. After a minute or so, the sound was heard again, this time even louder than the previous two times, implying that ‘it’ was getting closer to my home. My imagination went to its peak. “What is it? Where is this strange sound coming from? Is it someone who is making that sound? Or is it a ghost? Or is it an alien? Or is it any supernatural power?” My heart started beating twice faster than normal.

There is no word in dictionary to express how I felt that moment. It was a blend of curiosity, imagination, a little bit of ego and above all, fright. “If I wake up my parents or siblings and say that I hear a strange sound, they may make fun of me. So, let me go out and see what it is.” I got up from the bed and went to the door silently, expecting to hear that sound again.

I was about to open the door when fear gripped my soul. “What will happen if I see a ghost or an alien? Am I not too weak-hearted to see anything paranormal? Am I not putting my life at risk?” With these kinds of negative thoughts popping up in my mind, I came back to my bed and tried to sleep. ‘It’ was heard few more times and each time the sound was heard, my heartbeat could have been heard by anyone meters away.

After sometime, ‘it’ was gone and slowly after some more time, I was asleep. The next morning, after I woke up, I said to my parents and siblings that I had heard a strange sound the previous night. My sister laughed at me and said that I was scared. Indeed, I was scared, but I could not accept it because of my ego.

My parents said that it could have been the sound of an owl or a bat. I was neither convinced nor unconvinced. I was an adolescent then, not a small kid who cannot even recognize the sound of a bird. It was most probably not the sound of a bird or an insect. ‘It’ was something else.

May be, I should have gathered all my courage and found out what it was, then itself. What I did might appear to be a cowardly act, but then, the sound was very strange that many adolescents of that age would have done similar to what I did then.

I don’t know whether to wish to hear that sound again or not. That was the only night I heard that sound; I haven’t heard it again till date. What was ‘it’? That remains to be a mystery for me.

P.S: In each of my previous posts, there was a kind of "lecture" from my end. :D Just to continue that 'tradition', here is a quote which I heard recently. 'Opportunity knocks the door only once, but misfortune keeps on knocking the door till you open it.' I missed out the (good?) opportunity of proving my courage then. :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Life is precious

“Once, during my college days, I returned to my room late night after watching a movie. My roommate said that my friend, Kumar waited a long time for me and left an hour ago. I thought that it was a casual visit and did not want to disturb him by calling him at that peak time. So, I slept peacefully without knowing then that I was making a grave mistake.

The next morning, I was having coffee when my roommate rushed to me and said with a quiver in his voice, ‘Kumar… Kumar committed suicide.’ I was shell-shocked. Hundreds of questions crossed my mind that moment. ‘Why did he do this? Why did he come and wait for me yesterday night? Did he want to say something to me before dying? Did he really commit suicide or was it a murder?’ I broke into a cold sweat. Coffee refused to go down my throat.

He used to say often that I was his best friend. Probably, his last wish was to see me once before dying. Suddenly, I remembered how much he was worried and upset a few weeks ago regarding his performance in studies, gradually becoming poorer and poorer. My conscience started pricking me. ‘Why was I so careless? Why didn’t I encourage him to perform better the next time, instead of worrying about the past? Why didn’t I soothe him then? I must have contacted him at least yesterday night. May be he would have changed his decision.’ Tears rolled down my eyes.

Not everyone will resort to the extreme step, but everyone will need care and support during their tough times. Show sensitivity and consideration for others. You may not be able to consider everyone to be your friend but atleast feel, just feel that everyone is human. Everyone will have their own emotions, opinions and feelings. We must care for those who are in need of it. The age-old quote ‘A friend in need is a friend in deed’ is true for all the ages to come. I failed as a friend. Please do not make the mistake I made.”

This story is based on a real-life experience of one of my friends. When he was narrating me this sad experience, for the first time, I could notice tears in his eyes.

I fabricate that incident and share it here, not with the intention of spoiling your mood or wasting your time, but to drive home the point that ‘Some things in life can never be reverted and there isn’t any penance for some mistakes that we make intentionally or unintentionally. When needed, take risks in life but never keep life itself at risk. After all, Life is precious. Take care of yours and that of others.’

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Communication Skills

“I know that you are good in communication skills, but there is always a scope for improvement. Try to improve your communication skills.” This statement came as a surprise to me as it was one of the very few instances in which I received a negative comment on my communication skills. I accept that I am not an expert in communication skills, but I am not very bad either.

Communication is a very broad term and can be classified as verbal communication and non-verbal communication. Generally (especially in my profession), non-verbal communication has less importance when compared to verbal communication. After all, why would we need to gesture to people when we have emails, phones, VC and more importantly a big mouth? Imagine how awkward it would be, if everyone wave their hands and say ‘Hi’ to their superiors. Would it be professional? Definitely not.

On the other hand, verbal communication is very important and can further be classified as listening skills, reading skills, writing skills and speaking skills.
The major hindrance to listening skills is prejudice. Even before someone starts to speak, we assume that we know whatever he/she is going to speak or decide that it is going to be a useless topic. Obviously, we’ll lose our focus and miss out the important points if there are any.

Reading skills are, in my opinion, the easiest of these four skills. I say this, because most of the times we have the chance of reading again and again till we understand.
Further, we have to refer meanings of words unknown to us. :) We may overlook if we read fast and hence it is preferable to avoid quick reading whenever possible.

Writing skills are more important than the aforementioned two skills. Optimum and appropriate usage of vocabulary with proper punctuation, grammar and unambiguous content is what I say as writing skills.
I still remember the example told in a training. “Hang him not, spare him” and “Hang him, not spare him” are two sentences with same words but are antonymous because of a single comma. Don’t forget that a small punctuation error can take a life!

Speaking skills are considered to be the most important and most difficult of verbal communication skills.
Many people misinterpret fluency to be speaking skills. It is totally wrong. If someone blabbers fluently for a question that requires a simple yes/no, is it speaking skill? The one who asks the question might even forget what he wanted to know!

Suppose that you have moved into a newly constructed house and on the first day, you open the water tap and see that water is not flowing from the tap. What would you do? May be you would check the overhead tank to see if it is empty and fill it. Even after filling it to the fullest, if water doesn’t flow from the tap, what could be the reason? Since it is a newly constructed house, it is highly probable that there is a block in the water flow from overhead tank to the tap.

It is the same with vocabulary. Everyone will have their level of vocabulary. Some know 1000 words, some 5000 words and some know tens of thousands. Though it is always preferred to have the water tank full, it is not a guarantee that water will flow. Similarly, it is good to have high level of vocabulary, but it is more important to remove the ‘block’ through practice.

There are a lot many ways to improve communication skills. To improve listening skills, watching movies with subtitles will help. To improve reading skills, reading newspapers, articles etc. and to improve writing skills, writing something of our choice and ensuring that the grammar, punctuation and meaning are correct will certainly help. (This is what I am doing now.)To improve speaking skills, as mentioned before, it is more with the ‘block’ than with the words. To remove the block, we can even speak with ourselves (but must ensure that others won’t consider us to be mad!)

Just knowing a ton of theory doesn't make one an expert. (I still remember few of the blunders I made, especially the one in my final year of B.Tech in an event Amalgam'09). If we are able to do what we know and stick to the fundamentals at all times, we can constantly improve. After all, knowing is only knowing. Doing is only doing. Knowing something and doing it is skill. Are we skilled?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lessons Learned in Intermediate

Almost everyone who has done Intermediate Education in A.P consider those 2 years as very strenuous and worst phase of education. Seeing the title of the blog, if you think that I am an exception and that I still remember the formulae of Physics, Chemistry, 1A, 1B, 2A or 2B (Mathematics), you would be totally wrong.

Apart from helping me secure a good rank in EAMCET and thus enabling me to pursue my engineering in a reputed institute, sometimes I wonder if those 2 years had any impact on my life. When I search the back end of my memory related to the times of my Intermediate, I realize that there was an impact on my attitude and thought process, the effect of which continues till date.

Our elders usually give us many messages on various occasions. Most of them enter through one ear and escape through the other, without making any difference. However, some messages are thought-provoking, inspiring and get embedded in our minds. Some of my Inter lecturers gave us a few such messages, which I still remember and follow with my own amendments.

My English lecturer, Koteshwar Rao Sir, was a wise, elderly man who used to say quotations or short stories to make the class interesting. In some context, he gave us this message. “It is important for you to be good and it is even more important that people believe that you are good. Build up a very good character in such a way that, one day, if someone falsely accuses you, none should believe that you could be wrong. It doesn’t mean that you should fool people into believing that you are good, though you aren’t.” I feel it’s very true. What will happen if you are very good, but people blame you to be very bad? You may even end up becoming bad, as you may get the attitude, “Anyway, people think that I am bad though I am good; then what is the use of being good?”

A spark is enough to ignite a fire. I didn’t know till then, that a spark of sarcastic comment could ignite the fire of patriotism in me. It was during my Sanskrit class that we once got an announcement regarding flag hoisting on the next day. Then my lecturer, Srinivas Sir said, “It is only twice a year that we get patriotism and tomorrow is one such day. So, attend the flag hoisting without fail.” I then learned, “Be patriotic always, not just on January 26 and August 15. As a sign of patriotism, attend flag hoisting on those days.”

Be it school or junior college or Engineering College, we have atleast one teacher/lecturer with whom we are very close. Our Maths (1B, 2B) lecturer, Ramnivas Sir was one such person. Bored of the hectic schedule, we asked him (just as a joke) on December 1st whether we all could take out a rally on the occasion of World AIDS Day. He then shared this experience of his.

“I once had to go to Bangalore and there I stayed in my friend’s room for few days. He was hospitable and close to me. I had a nice time there. Few days after I returned from Bangalore, I came to know that he was an AIDS patient. Had I known it before, I doubt whether I would have been as close as I was, during those few days of my stay in his room. What the AIDS patients need is not the rallies or the extra care and financial support. What they need is non-discrimination in the society.” I haven’t come across any AIDS patients till now (I hope I am right with this statement :D). In future, if I come across one, I will (try to) be normal and behave like I behave with anyone else.

In some context, out Maths (1A) lecturer, Kutumba Rao Sir compared the attitudes of Indians and Americans. “If an Indian earns 100 bucks, he tries to save 90 bucks and spend the remaining 10 bucks. If an American earns 100 bucks, he tries to spend 110 bucks by borrowing 10 more bucks. This small difference in attitude makes a big difference. We need to remember that our expenditure is income to someone else. If the rich are saving money without spending, the rich will be becoming richer and the poor the poorer. This is what happens in India.”

I wasn’t worried about the authenticity of his ‘facts’, but I came to this conclusion. Never be a miser. If you are saving money, let it be just to spend at one go, and not to pass on to the next generations. Spend as much as possible but do not waste money. (This statement might be quite confusing, but there is a difference between spending money and wasting money, isn’t it?)

Recollecting those wonderful messages and penning them down here, gives me an unknown excitement and happiness. These lessons learned in Intermediate turned out to become few of my principles of life. Each one of us learn something new even during our tough times and busy schedules, but we don’t recognize them as learning. Let us hope that we’ll be able to learn always and also realize that we have learned something new.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Love what you do

Responsibility - a fantastic word but too big for a guy of my age to write a blog on. However, I write this up here to let out the impatience and exasperation sedimented in me for long, seeing people not putting in their best effort in fulfilling their responsibilities. What is even more annoying is that sometimes I am unfortunate to be the victim of others’ irresponsibility.

I don’t mean to say that I am perfectly perfect, nor do I say that I have always put my 100% effort, but to the best of my conscience, I have never created a burden for anyone with my irresponsibility. This is probably what you too might be thinking!

Responsibilities are manifold: to teach well – the responsibility of a teacher; to study well – the responsibility of a student; to perform well at work – the responsibility of a job holder; to care for parents – the responsibility of children and vice-versa. This list is unexhaustive. But, how many of us work with dedication towards fulfilling all our responsibilities? How many of us put our whole-hearted effort in whatever we do?

The common excuse that many of us give is that we have passion for something else and hence we aren’t able to give our best effort at work. If we are passionate about something, we would be doing it, come what may. We would never settle down to do something else. Instead of saying passion, if we say that we have interest for something else and that’s the reason for our under-performance, may be, we would be right to some extent. There could be many more reasons, but being totally irresponsible is never acceptable. If we are doing something, we need it to do it with our heart, not just with our mind.

It is quite difficult, perhaps impossible, for anyone to be totally perfect, trustworthy, responsible, dependable, and dedicated in fulfilling all their responsibilities. But, we are fortunate enough to be bestowed with the power of imagination. How amazing would it be if everyone was ideal! How marvelous would it be, if everyone performs to the best of their potential! How fantastic would it be, if everyone enjoys fulfilling their responsibilities! How great would it be, if all this imagination becomes a reality!

I am not pinpointing at anyone by writing this blog. Do what you have to do. Love what you do. Do your best. Expect the best. Don’t worry about the rest. In short, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New York ;)

It was the night of 25th April, 2010. I boarded the Manuguru Express to Secunderabad and as the train started departing from my hometown Kothagudem, I felt nostalgic. As a consequence of my dad’s retirement, we had to relocate to Hyderabad and I realized that from then on, I wouldn’t be able to get to my hometown often.

As memories of the past kept flashing in my mind, I felt I was missing something. I felt something was gone. In fact, it is gone. Gone are the days when I enjoyed going to school with a bag overloaded with books. Gone are the days when I played cricket on the street road with my friends. Gone are the days when I laughed a lot for the childish jokes that we cracked. Gone are the days when I used to play Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Scrabble and Business with my friends. Gone are the days when I argued with my friends for silly reasons. Gone are those beautiful days. Above all, gone is the place which reminds me of all those sweet memories. To be precise, the place is not gone; I am gone, gone away from a great place to live.

My hometown Kothagudem has no multiplexes, no shopping malls, no apartments, no flyovers, no tourist spots, no MNC’s and nothing that could make it be called a big city. Yet, it was, it is and will always be a special place for me. After all, it was the place where I was brought up. It was the place where I spent my childhood, the best phase of anyone’s life.

Kothagudem is a serene place with greenery all around. It is one of the places where you don't even have traffic signals but never find a traffic jam. It is a place where you don't have any kind of pollution. It is a place which is an immense source of energy and enthusiasm for me.

It is rightly said that we don't know the value of something, until we lose it. If you are now in your hometown and are blaming it for some reason, believe me, you'll repent later. Enjoy everything possible when you are there.

After reading all this, if you think that I am a sentimental idiot, I don’t know whether you would be right or wrong. But, I know for sure that I am not a machine. I am human, a man with my own sentiments, emotions and principles. I long for those sweet memories of my life.

Before I conclude this blog, for those who wonder the aptness of the title, here’s my definition (translation) of New York. For me, Kothagudem is New York because in Telugu, 'Kotha' means New and 'Gudem' means York.* (Feel like either killing me or killing yourself for this definition? :D)

As I write this blog, I remember all of you,my childhood friends. Thanks for making my childhood something to cherish for my lifetime.

Monday, April 26, 2010

My 'Dream India'

The first point that comes to the mind of almost every Indian, when asked about how to develop India, would be to eliminate corruption, right from the grass root level. If the debate gets hotter as to who are responsible for this omnipresent and pervasive corruption, many of us tend to blame the politicians. But are they the only ones to be blamed of? We should remember that, to blame others, first of all, we need to be free from all blame.

We, ourselves encourage corruption knowingly or unknowingly, in some way or the other, at some time or the other. Haven’t we faced or seen a situation wherein a traffic constable gives us two options when we violate traffic rules: “Pay Rs.200 fine if you need receipt for the fine or pay just Rs.100 if you don’t need the receipt.”? Or haven’t we encountered a situation when an employee in a government office says to us, “Pay a few bucks more and your work will be done soon.”? In such instances, we generally prefer the easier way, though it is illegal. Why don’t we remember then that we are contributing to corruption? Sometimes, even if we aren’t willing to, we are forced to bribe, because we are left with no other option.

As a common man, there is nothing much I can do than to follow the norm. So, let me place myself in the shoes of Prime Minister of India and this is how I would approach the situation.
As a first step towards my ‘Dream India’, I will introduce a new wing of the Anti-Corruption Bureau called ‘D-Wing’ (Disguise wing). This wing will comprise of officials who go in disguise and find out the corrupt officials in all government offices. I will introduce a toll free number 111. Dial 111; mention the office/location where you see someone corrupt and officials from D-Wing of ACB will be there to catch the culprit red handedly.
In the last decade, none of us imagined of ‘108’ service, which is now implemented successfully and being appreciated by everyone. Similarly, the concept of ‘111’ service may seem to be a wild idea now, but I am sure it will reach the heart of public.

As a consequence of the introduction of the D-wing, the number of cases in the courts will add to the pile of pending cases already present. What is the use of pronouncing judgment after some decades, when the accused/victim is old and about to die or already dead? Hence, I would introduce additional benches of all courts. I would also introduce additional shifts for the courts.

By the implementation of the above, employment opportunities will be increased in courts, police stations and ACB. This will create a need to increase revenue for the government to give compensation for these new employees. The best way would be to hike the penalty for all the crimes, especially for the corruption cases. This would solve our purpose of increasing the revenue besides discouraging crimes and corruption.

I would start concentrating on social welfare activities, once the corruption starts to be on the decline, because welfare activities do not reach the needed people, in a corrupted environment. This is what is happening at present. The government keeps on introducing many new welfare programmes but most of them are not reaching the people who really need it.

Illiteracy is another point of concern. The literacy rate in India has been growing at a very slow pace. In order to increase the literacy rate, I would develop the existing government schools to provide at least the basic amenities, so that there won’t be any drop outs. Then I would explore all the possibilities of construction of new schools, free education for all and financial assistance to the needy for higher studies.

Riots are another hindrance to the development of India. Communal riots have lead to the loss of public property, worth hundreds of crores. We may be different by our customs, culture, traditions, regions and what not, but not so different that we cannot get along with one another. At this juncture, I would like to share a short story.

A ten-year-old boy went to an ice-cream shop, sat at a table, and asked the waitress, ‘How much is an ice-cream cone?’ She said, ‘Seventy-five cents.’ The boy started counting the coins he had in his hand. The he asked how much a small cup of ice-cream was. The waitress impatiently replied, ‘sixty-five cents.’ The boy said, ‘I will have the small ice-cream cup.’ The boy ate his ice-cream, paid the bill, and left. When the waitress came to pick up the empty plate, she was touched. Underneath, were ten one-cent coins left as the tip.”

The young boy had consideration for the waitress before he ordered his ice-cream. He showed sensitivity and caring. He thought of others before himself. If we all thought like the little boy, we would have a great place to live – a peaceful place without any riots and crimes.

There is one more thing to be changed, the most important above all and that is the attitude of the people. “Attitude is a small thing that makes a big difference.” Even after ‘111’ service is introduced, if the people prefer the illegal way, what can we do? I would do my best to change the attitude of the people by ordering the media to voluntarily publicize the need of a corrupt-free society and the purpose of '111'.

Finally, let me get back to reality! First of all, I am not a politician and I don’t aspire to be one, even in future. But, I hope that, one day before I die, I’ll have a friend or an acquaintance who is an honest politician – one who has the earnest desire from the bottom of his heart to develop the society, one who would listen to my ideas and look into the feasibility of its implementation and one who has the courage and dynamism to implement it. Then, I am sure I’ll be able to see my ‘Dream India’- The India in which there is no corruption, no illiteracy, no unemployment, no riots and in which only peace and harmony prevail everywhere. Jai Hind!

If you are the one who is going to make my dream come true, kindly get into touch with me for more of my thoughts. :)