Boring Can Be Interesting Too, If You Make It So!

I am not the first parent to believe that it is difficult to get children to clean their room and perform other household chores. And neither am I going to be the last one. But we can’t really blame the kids if they refuse to do the chores– after all, kids are unlikely to pick up something as boring and mundane to do. Kids like doing interesting and exciting things which brings them satisfaction and learning.

I am quite finicky about cleanliness and get my head spinning every time I see my house in a mess, which is very often these days – After all, I have a four year old son, Tanav and a Six months old daughter, Sohana. Besides, and of course, I also have my wife!  I am being mean to include her and not myself in the list of people who create the mess, for which she will hate me. But I will leave it at that for now.

I also have my sister’s children come over some times, and when all kids are together and having fun, the house appears like there had just been a Tsunami visit our place.

Well, kids are kids and I love each one of them to death. Having said so, I do want to instill in them, the habit of cleaning the place after they are done. I have failed at this for some time now. I have tried telling them things such as, “Put the toys back in the place where they belong.“, “Clean the stuff, please!” and so on and so forth. I even tried to trick them into doing the chores, but kids are smart -They know very well that it’s a trap and get around it easily. You just can’t trick kids into doing something they don’t want to do.

So that’s how it has been so far!  I fetched Tanav from his school bus stop yesterday and on the way back, when he finished having his favorite snack – CRAX, he asked me, “Where should I throw the empty wrapper, Papa?

I thought of this as an opportune moment and put the question back at him – “Where do you think is this empty wrapper’s Home?

He thought for a while and said, “Is it the Trashcan?” to which I said, “Yes, and you know what, everything has a home and for those things that don’t have a home, there is a Home for Homeless.

I asked him a few other questions about the homes of things such as shoes, toys, clothes, books, and he knew their Homes very well. I was finally able to strike a chord with him on this subject. It was still left to put this Gyan into action.shorack

When we got home and after he was done with his lunch and TV time, I gave him a bundle of small red stickers and asked him to put a sticker on top of everything in his room that was not at its ‘Home’, the place where it belongs. These red sticker items were supposed to go back to their Home before Sleep Time, like we humans do.

He was taking the things to their Homes and loving putting the stickers on those that couldn’t be taken right away.

It was bizarre to see so many things slowly treading toward their Homes.

All the shoes, from under the bed, on the table, beside the almirah, were slowly moving to their Home, the Shoe Rack. Ditto for Books, they were slowly but steadily moving to the Bookshelf. Ditto for almost everything else.

Tanav and I planned to come at Ten o’ clock, (before sleep time), and count the stickers on the objects and penalize the owner with most red stickers for not being  caring enough. Along side, Tanav was helping me remove the spider webs, place the mosquito repellants and rat medicine so all the worthy residents including us could be safe in their Homes. We were all set and things were working out. It was fun, learning and interesting.

I don’t know how long can I carry on with that game to keep Tanav motivated to clean the place and do the chores, but I do know one thing – When this doesn’t work, I got to do something new to make it interesting yet again… and again. I guess that’s what life is all about.

I had to now put Tanav to bed, and made up a story about how the rats, spiders and mosquitos had hated us for cleaning the place. Their Kings conspired to attack us to take revenge. We did our best to fight because we are strong and drink Complan Milk, but yet it was bad. Our enemy was attacking us from Land, Air and Water. Land – Rats, Air – Mosquitoes and Water – Spiders in their little Spider Ships. We fought with all valor but still were going to lose. Then something magical happened – All the Homeless who we had taken to their homes, the shoes, the toys, the books came to join us to fight our enemies. We won at the end. It was the victory of cleanliness over mess, and interesting over boring! Tanav super duper loved the story. I could see that through the tinkle in his eyes.

I am sure you have your own ways to make things interesting, sometimes it works and a lot of times it doesn’t. But don’t give up, keep working at it. It’s worth the effort. You can make the boring stuff interesting, if you choose to do so!

Look Under The Covers

I generally get the gas filled in my car every fortnight, and make it a point to get the tyres pressure checked along with that as a ritual. Air pressure is complimentary service that most gas stations provide, although people sometimes tip a rupee or two to the overly ill-dressed guy who fills the air who looks rather more poor than he really would be. My general observation has been that since this is a free service, it is hard to get. This guy is usually indifferent and missing from the scene and there have been several occasions when I have driven off without the pressure checks, in frustration.

I hadn’t been able to get the air pressure checks since last two visits to Gas station and this time I was desperate. But as usual, the guy was not there. My usual practice is to blow the horn several times, and after that, I would come out of the car showing madness on my face, and shout around – “Where is this guy?”. No one listens I think and even if they do, they don’t respond. If they do after a lot of pushing for an answer, it has always been a, “We don’t know!

The above hasn’t given me positive results ever I guess, but I follow the same steps always nonetheless. That makes me fit into the definition of Insane people according to Einstein:

[fbq] “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” –  Albert Einstein [fbq]

So this time around also, I repeated the above steps and was about to leave in frustration, and that was the time when a Eureka moment must have happened to me. I think I realized I had been acting insane and I must do something different. I observed more closely that I had done in the past. There was a small shack just behind the Air machine. It had a thick curtain which must have been made of a blanket. There was nothing such as a door to know so I removed the curtain covers after making a “Knock Knock” sound. And there he was, the guy who fills air, was relaxing to glory and oblivious to the world around and apparently his own job. It is what it is, but I had found the guy and more importantly I had learnt a bigger lesson – “One that one has to look under the covers!”

This story is actually a metaphor for the mistakes I so often made in other spheres of life as well. I guess that is also true for others. In the face of a challenging problem, we would go running to someone else for a solution even without giving it the required time or thought ourself. We are so troubled in the face of a problem that our knee-jerk reaction is to quickly find someone else to address it. Let me shout around and if no one responds or listens, then I can easily be frustrated and say that it’s not my problem and just that no one helps here and people are in general very selfish.

Well, that’s the exact CHANGE of mindset I want to suggest in this post. I am also reminded of some Managers in the past, who would simply forward the mails to the whole 300 people team, the moment it arrived, with nothing added and no clear direction, that is with no value add. That is never going to help, at best it is going to leave 300 people reading something and trying to interpret it in 300 different ways ultimately leaving the same Manager frustrated and mad.

Look under the obvious covers and see if your solutions are hidden under. Chances are that they are. This seems so obvious but we still keep forgetting it. I started writing this blog day before but couldn’t finish it the same day. I can’t believe I myself forgot the next morning about it and had to stop myself and remind myself of it. My wife and I had decided a diet plan which meant we have bananas at the start of the day, before we had our bed tea. I went out looking for bananas but didn’t find them on the table where I expected them. I was about to run back to my wife shouting where on earth were they kept. Fortunately I recalled the lesson I had learnt the previous day and decided to do my homework first. I looked in the kitchen and in the living room, and finally in the fridge to find the bananas there.
Before you decide to shout…, stop and think – and look under the covers. It will be worth it!

No Cabs In My Company

One of my dear friends back from the days of St. Stephen’s college, Amit Kumar, used to be a dynamite. He was so energetic that it used to be irritating for me at times. But thinking back today, I can appreciate that same quality about him. He used to be an expert in hitch-hiking for rides to the college, bus stand and sometimes when he was too lucky, he would also get a ride all the way from home to college and back.

He was the same even in the classroom. He was so full of energy and couldn’t wait for the teacher to finish describing the problem to solve. He would write with his pen so hard that one could start having mercy on the paper being written upon.
He would speak so fast I missed most of what he said. When I wanted to understand, which was not too often, I would have to stop him and ask him to repeat over (and over sometimes).
Not only in hitch-hikes and studies, he was very good at many other things – sports, extra-curriculars such as debates, general knowledge, reading, clarity of thought et al.
What you may be wondering is that – “What has hitch-hiking got to do with the other things that Amit was good at ?”.
Well, Everything! That is the point I am trying to make in this post. He used to start his day with so much energy, and the same would rub off on everything else he did. His start of the day was to get ready and run towards the road to showing his thumb to the cars coming his way asking them to give him a ride (lift). He never gave up when many didn’t bother to stop or worse still, even abused or showed their middle finger to him. He kept going. It must have taken a higher sense of being from him to forgive such people and move on despite these seemingly big obstacles. The kind of joy he felt when some one stopped after repeatedly attempts would probably give him a sense of victory after a lot of struggle. Whatever it was that kept him going, the point is that he toiled, he struggled and he kept his energy levels high at the beginning of his day. Only you can do that, yourself. It is up to you.
Drawing a parallel, I see most of the people working in IT industry in Delhi coming to office in the company provided cabs. These cabs pick the employees up from their doorstep and drop them at the basement of the building where they work. One just has to take the minimum pain of lifting oneself up from their home into the cab and from the cab, into the elevator which is a spitting distance in most cases. I see most of the people travelling in these company cabs asleep, when they are getting to work. No doubt the distance is long usually generally ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours at times, but regardless, I would estimate that at least 90% of these people travelling by cabs are asleep on their way to work.

  • Can you expect these people to be productive at office?
  • Can you expect them to run around pushing for something to happen urgently?
  • Can you expect them to be all rounder’s at everything they do?
  • Can you expect them to be like the Amit I knew?

I think you know the answer, NO, and a BIG one at that!
Even if I discount this by some percentage assuming that some people may have other ways to keep themselves energized, still I have at least 80% of my workforce starting off lazy, continuing to be lazy and ending up being lazy to end their day. This despite what is said about mornings being the most productive time of the day if used well.

If you still don’t believe me, ask a random sample of the people who travel by Cabs to take a hitch-ride to home on their way back or when coming to office the next day. Chances are they would think that is too much. Then, ask them to come to work any which way but not their regular transport, just for a day. Having tried this myself, I can bet they would either give up but if some one does take up the challenge, he or she would be a very different – much more energized person!

If you still don’t agree, I wish you good luck and success, but if and when I start my own company, I am very clear – There won’t be any CABs for my employees, at all! If they can’t make it to work on their own, my company doesn’t need them. They may think that’s a perk too less, but honestly its not a perk less, it’s a small push to them to energize themselves right at the beginning of their day. This small push is intended to keep them energized and awake not only at work (which I most certainly want to benefit from) but even at their homes for a better personal life!

Hello World!

The phrase “Hello World” holds a special meaning for people born in my generation who happened to be students of computers. This was the name of the first computer program we wrote when ever we learnt a new computer programming language. It used to give me and all of my friends a sense of joy and accomplishment to see these words showing on the blue computer screen on ‘executing’ our programs.

I still get the same sense of joy on having my site up and running today, and more glad to see the same text on my site as it launches – H E L L O  W O R L D.

Today, world has changed and my 4 year old son, Tanav, is sitting next to me, assisting me with the teething problems using this site while in parallel playing on the i-Phone which he knows like the back of his hand. I doubt if “HELLO WORLD” will ever hold any relevance for his generation or generations to come.

As for me, it has taken my Rocket a lot of energy to attain this Escape Velocity, and it will need your love and support to keep spinning in an i-orbit around the planet where it can be used for some blessed purpose. Amen!