Monthly Archives: October 2010

7 simple things to do this week….. to make it special

Buy a canary from the nearest Pet market Tomorrow and then set it free.

On Thursday, take your kid and his friends out for an unplanned dinner to Pizza hut.

Buy a small gift and send it to someone on Friday in a way that he will never know who the sender is…

This Saturday, spend a few minutes talking to the security guard in your building and get to know more about his family.

Buy a good book on Sunday and gift it to your boss.

On Monday, come up with the names of three people you love the most…. And tell them that you Love them dearly.

And Today……Call up that special person with whom you have had a problem and request him to facilitate a new beginning for both of you.


Filed under Till sunset and beyond

Are you a Bad Boss ?

(Adapted from one of the best books I have read – A Survival Guide for Working With Bad Bosses by Gini Graham Scott)

So… you are vying for the Best Boss award? Do a quick reality check. Read the list below and tick the ones (be honest) that resemble your style at work.

Too aggressive
Weak and wishy-washy
Too controlling and manipulative
Not controlling enough
Too organized and structured
Too rigid and inflexible
Too uncertain
Too emotional
Lacks compassion and empathy
Too much of a micromanager
Doesn’t provide direction or instruction
Makes impulsive or bad decisions
Too nosy and invasive
Shows a lack of care and concern
Yells, screams, and is rude and insulting
Can’t be trusted because he/she makes promises and doesn’t keep them
Unfair, in playing office favorites or not giving proper recognition or credit

Ha Ha… I know what you are thinking. There is not one positive point in there.

But if you have ticked any, then u should jump out of the nearest window.

If your sheet is blank, just don’t start rejoicing yet. Ask your subordinates to rate you using this questionnaire and then draw conclusions.

If you are reporting to one who has one or many of these, then look out for my coming posts. I may have some valuable tips for you.


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Go ahead, say NO for a change…

In a Time Management course that I facilitated recently , I had asked the trainees to list the biggest road blocks that stood between them and the timely completion of their worthy goals. There were a couple of hot favorites. But the Numero Uno spot went to “The frustrating need to accommodate requests and errands of others” . And when I enquired about the root cause of this item that got the top slot, they unanimously chimed – “Our inability to say NO”. So in this post, let me share with my favorite readers, the secret of saying NO to this inability.

First of all, you don’t have to say No if you don’t want to. Even if the accommodation of that last minute, highly resource draining, outrageous request can make your own projects overshoot their runways, say YES emphatically, if this affirmative can grant you worthier outcomes in the long run. But be 100% sure. Don’t let an inherent streak of submissiveness convince you that the mirage is real. And when I say “long run” , it could be in here or in the hereafter. “I don’t have to do that….and I know that he will not reciprocate. But I do it for the bounty from my lord”, is a perfectly valid argument.

But what if the driving force behind your “YES” is fear? Then you have a problem. You teach the world how to deal with you and akin to the case of wringing water out of a towel, people will keep wringing till the towel stops dripping. So ask yourselves the question from the classic “Who moved my cheese”- What would you do, if you didn’t have fear ?.

If you want to say NO, do so. When you say No to others, you are saying YES to yourself and all your unfinished dreams screaming for attention in the dusty attics of your life.

And here is the technique to do it- SURDNO (sounds like a karate chop, doesn’t it ?)

S stands for YES (Don’t look at me like that… I mean it. To say no to someone, you have to start with an emphatic YES combined with a million dollar smile and a body physiology exuding hospitality and acceptance)

U stands for conveying your understanding. After the disarming “YES”, you go on to explain the rationale behind his request. Go on…. Don’t be stingy here. Say it from his perspective. Sneak into his shoes and give every justification for his request.

As he will look at you with a dazed look, expecting you to start working on his project right away, change tactics.

R stands for showing your reluctance. Phrases like “But I have a problem, I am afraid, there is an issue” will do. Try your own thing. But make sure that you start taking up a more defiant body posture from this point onwards.

D stands for describing the reasons. This is the phase for freaking out, verbally that is. Don’t hold back. Come up with every reason (rational, tearjerker…) for why you can’t say YES. Go on… take 10 minutes. It’s your time to hog the limelight.

N stands for NO. Say it…. Look into his/her eyes and deliver that message without any trace or hint of any apology. This is not the time to beat around the bush. Say it clearly and directly.

O stands for counter options. Be careful here… Offer options only if you really really want to. Don’t get back into the towel –wringer routine. Remember- You teach the world how to treat you.

Quite simple isn’t it ?- SURDNO.

So let’s work an example out together…read each word carefully and consider the implications. You are about to say NO (probably for the first time)

You work in a department with many others. Life has been hectic recently. You have promised to take your family to the show that evening that is running its last night – they have been sitting bored at home for many days. Your boss comes and asks you to stay late that particular night. How do you say no ?

Here it goes

BOSS: ‘I want you to work overtime tonight’

S: Yes (smiling)!!!!!

U: We do have workload, there are many things to be done, projects to be completed..blah blah….

R: But I have to tell you something

D: I have not seen my children very much this week and tonight I promised to take them to the show…. blah blah..

N: So I cannot work overtime tonight

O (only if required) : Would it be helpful if I stayed tomorrow?

Now I don’t assure you that this will start working from the first instance onwards. He may still succeed in twisting your arms and your kids may miss the show anyway. But you have started the process of making him unlearn his unfair ways of dealing with you. You taught him over a period of months or years may be. Unlearning will also take its own time. But eventually, he will stop wringing the towel and will move on to another submissive victim- who hasn’t read my post yet.

So all the best with SURDNO. Let me give you something for the weekend. Try this case out…..

You work in a department with many others. Its crisis time. When you joined you were promised a raise within 6 months of starting. This was not given. It’s now 12 months. You have scored well in your appraisal and have been given more responsibilities. However the boss refuses to give you a raise.

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Here is your Chance

For a change, let me do this without a prologue……

Take a paper and a pen and write down the 10 most important things that you did in the last week (Oct 9th to 16th). “Important” doesn’t mean that it must be costly or must take a long time. Feel free to define that word yourself. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the world considers it insignificant. If you think it’s important, put it down.

Now consider (Just consider) that the coming week is going to be your last. You are going to disembark from the flight of your life on the 23rd of October, say at 10.00 A.M.

What are the 10 things that you would do with the time and the resources that you have. Give it some thought…. Be realistic…put it down.

Compare the two lists. Are they different? I bet they are. And I can also bet that some of the points on the second list are things that you can do today, or any day for that matter, at any time…. without having to postpone it to that unforgiving and unrelenting last week. Trust me… No one knows whether you will be taking off the dress that you are wearing right now or whether it will be taken off by someone else from your dead and stiff body. You might not even get a minutes’ notice… let alone a week.

I want you to check these videos out…..
Life is Too Short

Big Rocks

If you have been filling the jar of your life with too many small stones, you will have no place for the big rocks in there. And your second list clearly tells you what the big rocks in your life really are.

So let’s make the coming week different. Fill up the table below, with all the roles that you play in life. And next to each role, list one or two activities that you will do in the coming week that will make life special for all the big rocks of your life…

I am sharing my table with you for reference. Do yours today and do what you have listed down. Who knows? The next week might indeed be your last. But I am sure that you will feel at least a trifle better than usual at that fleeting moment when you realize that your time has finally run out.

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A bedtime story from uncle Ibrahim…

A long while ago in a faraway land, there existed a beautiful garden. It had the prettiest flowers on earth ,lovely singing streams , lush green meadows and trees kissing the clouds. And this garden was inhabited by exotic animals and birds of every kind.

What made this garden unique was a very old tree that stood in its very midst. The tree gave blossoms all around the year, as if spring was forever in its old heart. And it gave the sweetest fruits, the aroma and taste of which stood unparalleled in all worlds….

Beasts of every land and clime would visit this garden to feast on these heavenly fruits. Be it summer or winter, day or night, the garden would be bustling with activity, abuzz with seekers from every corner of the earth.

Now the land around this magical tree was owned by a group of pure bred horses, a very powerful and strong herd of animals who ruled the area with a tight hoof. They demanded heavy compensation from the seekers for getting access to the tree. Fearing their wrath, every one obliged and as seasons passed, the herd became the unchallenged masters of the garden. As their power increased, so did their tyranny. They enslaved other animals in the garden and forced them to slog for them. They broke every rule that were passed down to them from earlier generations. The garden eventually became a haven for a privileged few who lorded over the helpless downtrodden.

In these troubled times, their lived a caterpillar who was extremely pained by the oppression around him. He was always trying his bit to help his poor brothers. He would often try to dissuade the aggressors, but to no avail. Since he was the epitome of love and care, he was adored by all the embattled animals and birds in the garden.

Once in a while, this caterpillar would perch itself on a shrub and ponder over the sad state of things. He would remember the rules about kindness and love that he had heard from his parents and would eagerly dream of a time when oppression would end and all animals would live together in peace and harmony.

On one such occasion, as he was musing intensely about his lost garden, he found himself getting surrounded by a shroud. Greatly Alarmed by this, he tried pushing his way out. But the shroud kept pressing itself on him until he was fully covered by it.

Summer changed to autumn…. Winter came along and then the icy winds gave way to the first signs of spring.

And one fine day, the shroud cracked and there came out a being that was never ever seen in those parts of the world. He wore a cloak that resembled the rainbows that occasionally flashed across their skies. His cloak had every lovely color any garden could boast of and when he flashed his wings…. There spread all around him, the glow of a million dewdrops and the scent of every flower in the valley.

As all the animals and birds of the garden came out in amazement, the butterfly flew to the top of the magical tree and announced at the top of its voice…..

“My fellow beings…. Listen to me. I bring to you tidings from the one who has created this garden. Obey his rules and stop all oppression. A day will come when this whole garden will be destroyed and each of us will be judged according to our actions. And then the best of us will inherit forever a garden greatly better than the one we have and the worst amongst us will be doomed to live in pits of pain and misery”

The horses and their accomplices laughed at the butterfly. They scoffed and ridiculed him for his ignorance and audacity. But some of the oppressed ones were so relieved by his speech that they looked at him in awe, relishing every single word. The minds of some of the oldest animals in the garden seemed wholly taken up with reminiscences of past tales told by their forefathers on how a similar being had come into their world and had changed it for good.

The butterfly fluttered all around the garden spreading his message. With every flash of his lovely wings, the number of his detractors and supporters grew. But all his detractors were from the strong and powerful and his supporters from the weak and oppressed.

Finally the horses started getting threatened. They unleashed a reign of terror on the being and his followers. Many animals and birds were wantonly killed. But they kept on spreading their message without fighting back. As the oppression became unbearable, the butterfly decided to move out of the garden and fly away to another grove far away from his own.

In this new glade, the they created a world that respected all the age old rules of the garden . Every animal and bird , big and small, lived in harmony, loving and caring for one another and spending their time worshipping the gardener.

The horses and their accomplices couldn’t sit idle. They repeatedly attacked the grove. But every time, they had to retreat, greatly humbled. Though they were vastly outnumbered the butterfly and his companions resisted the onslaughts and won each time….

As time passed, the grove began to swell with believers. With every passing day, beasts from every land came flocking to him. And one day, all these animals and birds set out to reclaim the garden from where they were expelled.

The horses gave up without a fight , seeing the sheer strength of the being’s companions.

The butterfly took over the magic tree and changed all the oppressive rules for ever. All the horses and their accomplices were forgiven. They gratefully accepted the being as their leader and they all went on to live happily ever after……in peace with each other and their gardener.

Years passed….. The being, his companions and their descendants were all buried under the sands of time. Rules were broken again… Oppression raised its head again. Though a small herd of animals still held on to the rules, they were vastly outnumbered. Tyranny and anarchy reigned.

One day the earth shook. Trees tumbled. Springs overflowed…… Cracks appeared in the meadows, hills overturned and before sun set the whole garden was completely reduced to rubble…

Whether a long time passed… or a short spell… no one knows… but all the birds and animals found themselves awakened from their slumber. And they stood facing their gardener… and at his side was the butterfly.

The oppressors were dragged into dungeons of misery and pain…. doomed forever.

And the ones who followed the being were lead gracefully to a garden, the likes of which they could never have imagined.

Good Night…….And may you inherit that garden… one day

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One of the most enthralling movies I have ever seen….

Racing Stripes is the title. It’s an old movie, released in 2005 (5 years is a long time now a days, isn’t it?). I watched it on HBO the other night and man!!!!! It was really inspiring… Truly, life changing if one manages to read its message without getting lost amidst the cute graphics, slapstick situations and a catchy background score.

The protagonist is a zebra who was abandoned (accidentally perhaps) by a travelling circus that is rescued by a retired race horse trainer. (Forgive me for not including names in the narration… remembering them have never been my forte). The trainer brings him home, to an ailing and semi neglected farm inhabited by a wonderful bevy of talking animals. His co inhabitants try their best to make him comfortable and acclimatize him to the easy life in the farm. One day he casually happens to see the Race course that runs alongside the border of the farm. He gets quite excited, seeing the galloping horses, the drive of the Jockeys, flash of the camera bulbs, din and the bustle and the thumping excitement of thorough bred horse racing. The poor thing believes that he is one of them convinces himself that he is destined to be a race winner. Very soon, he takes to racing full time around the farm. He even races against the mailman, the flock of visiting birds and even the young foals practicing on the other side of the fence.

His enthusiasm catches the fancy of the trainer’s daughter whose greatest ambition was to become a jockey. But she was strongly forbidden from riding as her mother had died in a racing incident- the tragic event that had led to the Trainers retirement and his self imposed exile from the course. The young girl and the zebra form a team and they start training together. The trainer comes to know eventually and though he tries his best to stop them, their enthusiasm finally wins him over.

Lot of things happens in quick succession. An old race track gambler sees the duo practicing and comes over to support the team. The thorough breeds, threatened by the progress shown by the zebra across the fence tell him what he really was and convinces him that a clumsy Zebra can never win against race horses. Though our hero gets totally de motivated and almost gives up, his friends come together to convince him that he has a winner’s heart and that was all that mattered, when it comes to winning and losing. Braving direct attacks by the horses and the jeers and insults of the race course authorities, the zebra- girl team gets into the race….

In a nerve racking heart thumping climax that takes up almost 20 minutes… the duo, beating all odds , challenges and even foul play by the competitors, go on to win the prized trophy. The last scenes had me sitting at the edge of the sofa, biting my nails and cheering loudly as “Racing stripes” crosses the finishing line first.

A wonderful movie…. It’s more convincing than any book or training (even mine… ha ha). Tells us that though genes and pedigree matter… attitude and hard work matters more… and with the heart of a winner, even a clumsy zebra can outperform any thorough bred…. Any day…

Don’t miss this movie and watch it with your kids….

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Life is/in an Elevator

A man stays on the 45th floor of a skyscraper. But every time he wants to go up, he presses the button for the 15th floor and then takes the stairs all the way till his floor. can u explain Why ?
Well…. hmmm….. he was a midget and hence couldnt reach the button for the 45th floor.
I am really sorry to throw this P.J at you. I heard this one in school and havent forgotten it due to its sheer “poorness”.

But Alhamdulillah, all of us are full blown adults. Yet, we deliberately choose to press low lying and easily reachable buttons in the elevators of life. We simply dont dare to press the ones that are higher up, slightly above our reach. Those that demand a little stretching. Every day we see people who have risen up just because they have done just that. But we attribute their success to luck, “Wasta” or “the silver spoons that they were born with…”

Life is just like an elevator. It takes you where you want it to take you. Sometimes it brings you down instead of up. But you dont have to get down at the ground floor and stay there for ever. Consider that as a free ride and wait for the next opportunity to jump in and press the top most button.

And flash your best smile always , make small talk with your co travellers and be courteous…. Make sure that you hold the door ajar for all those lovely ladies. But also make sure that you dont miss the bus….

And most importantly, never forget that life is as brief as any elevator ride and what u do in that brief sojourn decides whether you reach the terrace amidst the clouds or the basements filled with muck…….

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He who angers you conquers you…..

I am pretty sure that you wouldn’t disagree with the title of my post. If a teeny weenie child does something that doesn’t feature in your list of acceptable behaviors…. would you allow hot steam to gush out of your ears ? I doubt it. But if the same thing is done by an adult who could match your biceps and triceps fiber to bulge….. it would be a different story altogether. And If the offender fits in the heavyweight and you are in the featherweight category, it would be a third story. I am not suggesting that Anger is a bad thing. Getting angry at the right person for the right purpose to the right degree at the right time is indeed a very good thing. But we often do just the opposite.

Some of the typical things that I have seen Homo sapiens (Including myself) do are… Screaming/Throwing things/Hitting people/Cursing/Banging ones head

To make a long list short, let me put it this way. Anger isn’t bad. But Aggression during anger is….And this behavior comes from the same instinct that our forefathers who lived in the jungles once had. They used to paint their faces red and plant bones and plumes into their unwashed hair, to scare potential opponents away. So even today we try the same antics… this just proves that Aggression is really fear in disguise. So if you scream at your wife, it is another way of telling her that you are scared of her. I am sure that my loyal male readers would scoff at this suggestion. Come on, let us be honest. Fearsome lions we are for sure. But inside our dens, it’s another story…

Sick jokes apart, Medical research tells us that a person with continual episodes of anger has a five-time greater chance of dying before age 50. Divorces, Job losses, broken ties and relationships….. In other words, ANGER is just one silly letter away from DANGER.

Allah’s Messenger said: “The strong is not the one who over comes people by his strength. But the strong is the one who controls him while in anger.”

God promises Jannah to those to repress anger….The holy Quran says….

“And march forth in the way to forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Paradise as wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the righteous; those who spend in prosperity and in adversity, repress anger, and pardon men. Verily, Allah loves the good-doers-The Family of Imran Al ‘Imran Aya 134”

I am sure that you are all in perfect agreement with me so far. And all of you want to interrupt to tell me “THANKS FOR THE LECTURE. NOW TELL US- HOW ON EARTH CAN WE MANAGE OUR ANGER ?, especially since we run into million provocations of every hideous variety every day”

Well, there are many effective tools. Learning and applying Transaction Analysis is one of them (I will cover T.A in a subsequent post Insha allah). But today I want to introduce you to the Great Anger Log, a surefire way to become aware of your anger triggers and an even greater way to learn how to manage it. It’s a very simple tool..

Find a cozy corner, take a steaming cup of coffee and proceed to fill up this table. Take your own sweet time. Make sure that you cover the most frequent anger triggers and map your behavior to these (You will not be impressed). Then go on to rack your brains and come out with alternate ways of behaving non aggressively to each of these triggers. Just by doing this, you automatically program yourself sub consciously to remind you each time this trigger happens. And you will be surprised to find yourself responding differently.

Keep revisiting the log and adding on to it. In due course of time, you will find yourself deleteing entries as you would have taught yourself to respond gracefully to certain triggers…. Give it a try. It’s definitely worth the effort.

Let me leave you with this Saying of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) about anger..

Allah’s Messenger said : a believer is never allowed to stay angry with his brother over three days, because if he who does that, he will go to hell (FIRE) . (This is reported by Abu Dawood)


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Bhakthi instead of Shakthi

So the verdict is finally out.

And how do I feel? The word “I” in the preceding sentence is stressed because I have taken the liberty to assume that I represent all educated, forward thinking Indian Muslim fundamentalists- deeply religious souls who abhor rabid communalism. If you want to know my interpretation of the difference between R &C, please read an earlier post.

Point 1:

The court says that the site is the birth place of lord RAM. Well, we all know that this cannot be proven empirically. However this has to be respected since millions of people believe it to be so. And beliefs are important. We believe that the sun will rise tomorrow. We believe that good will triumph over evil. We believe in our parentage without resorting to DNA tests. There is a slight discomfort since a court which has to go either by empirical data or circumstantial evidence has chosen to base the verdict on beliefs instead. This is really strange and I sincerely hope that it doesn’t set a precedent. But confusion notwithstanding, I reiterate… beliefs are important and must be respected.

Point 2:

The court says that the mosque was built after demolishing a temple. Well, even if the Archeological Survey of India has judged that a Massive Temple existed at that very site, it cannot be proven that the mosque was built by demolishing it. This is particularly confusing since there is ample documentary evidence to show that Babur, the invader generously patronized certain other temples and shrines. Yes, a Temple existed at the site. But No, there is no evidence to prove that it was demolished to build the mosque. If this was the case, the mosque would be an illegitimate structure built against the tenets of Islam and must be, by all means brought down. But In this particular case, I cannot say this with conviction. But let me; with lot of reluctance admit that the probability of that mosque being built after the demolishing of the temple does exist.

Point 3:

The court says that both Hindus and Muslims used to worship in the structure for ages, in different parts of the site though. This is a very comforting fact. Not so long before in time, we were able to enjoy our differences and seek solace in our respective concepts of godhood, side by side. It would have been so nice if we could have continued to do so…

So my Hindu brothers get 2/3rd of the site and the Muslim community gets 1/3rd. Though this is absurd from a legal standpoint for the obvious reasons stated above, I welcome the judgment since I believe that the end justifies the means in this particular case.

By accepting this judgment I get to…..

Respect the belief of my Hindu brothers

Feel good about my gracious beliefs particularly since I have chosen to accept the illegitimacy of the mosque based on a remote and very unlikely possibility

Go on a trip to Ayodhya and worship Allah standing next to a grand temple. By doing this I am sure that both the Muslim and Indian in me would be satisfied.

Feel safer since this verdict favoring my Hindu brothers has robbed the right wingers of a wonderful opportunity to create more mayhem and chaos. The problem will now shrink into its own self till it cannot be kindled further.

But let me also say this

The act of destroying the mosque in 1992 can never ever be condoned. It was a criminal act against the dictates of our democratic and secular system. The government of India must ensure that such acts don’t happen again… Never again… Nowhere.

There is no need for the Muslims to give away their 1/3rd share. It is their right granted to them by the legal system of the land. They should have a place of worship at that spot and must run it with the blessings of the local authorities and the temple administration. This is a definite challenge. But every Indian should work towards such an arrangement.

The building of the temple and the adjoining mosque must be done locally. No political party must make it a pan Indian affair by organizing rallies and meetings across the country. This will surely lead to inflamed passions and riots. Let the construction be a celebration of Bhakthi. Let it not degenerate into a vulgar display of Shakthi.

Let us all leave this incident behind and move on as soon as possible. We are stated to be the third largest economy by 2050. Let us equip ourselves to make the most of this boom. Let us all make our millions, share it with the have not’s and take our beloved country to greater heights…

I am sure that this will happen. My son and his friends were in the drawing room as the celebrated anchors in the various TV channels were excitedly dissecting the verdict. Despite the graphic pictures and the raised voices, neither Amaan, Rahul or Victor gave even one cursory glance towards it. They were too busy preparing for their upcoming exams…..

India has moved on….Alhamdulillah… Jai hind


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