Thursday, April 19, 2018

Q - Quality

Are you a quality freak? Do simple things such as spelling mistakes irritate you?

In today's times of texting, I observe the growing popularity of abbreviations, sometimes to the extent that one cannot make out the actual word.

I was always someone who is obsessed about correct grammar, spellings and all minute details. My schooling had ingrained this in me, wherein the correct formatting and punctuation was given a lot of importance. Today, when a document produced by me is applauded for its overall appeal as well as its content, I silently thank my teachers who drilled many qualities in my mind.
My training as an architect enhanced this inclination even more. Not only does every line have a meaning, their thicknesses also vary with their relevance. I remember working with an architectural firm which made me draw 26 sections of a kitchen of a small apartment, to explain all the necessary details, architectural, plumbing and electrical.
During my teaching days, once I was examining answer scripts of Architecture, I had to try hard to control myself from deducting marks for careless mistakes, and focus on the technical aspects.

I always tell people whom I can influence, such as my friends, juniors and students to put in their very best shot and try to not give anyone the opportunity to criticize. It may or may not meet the requirement or achieve the desired result, but at least, you have the satisfaction of having given your best. Also one must observe and learn from mistakes to improve.   

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

P- Pressure

What does the word “Pressure” remind you of? Force per unit area? Work pressure? Blood pressure?

As I pose this question, it intrigues my mind wondering about different kinds of pressures we operate under on a daily basis, some affecting us subconsciously. Can we release all of it just like the whistle of pressure cookers in our kitchens?

I see children being pressurized to study harder and harder, take tuitions, etc leaving them with very limited time to play or engage in other activities. What are they being made to run after? Cases of students committing suicide are on the rise, mostly just because they cannot handle the burden of studies, and peer pressure.

We being social beings, are often guided by what others may think. However, we tend to forget that we have no obligations to satisfy the so called “others” and in truth, we really cannot do so. It is actually an art to politely face questions about when one wishes to get married or have children, career options, and likewise.

As professionals, we have to operate within tight deadlines and also manage different responsibilities. The work environment also plays a critical role, affecting our productivity. Coupled with age and gradual degeneration of our general health, adapting oneself to changes and keeping things going is a very big challenge.

Have you ever thought about this?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

O- Options

I am someone who wants options for almost everything I wish to go for, be it shopping, investing money or choosing a career, preparing a dish, etc.

One should always check out the choices available before making the final decision, isn’t it? Sometimes, just by trying out alternatives, you discover that something you had never thought of venturing would actually work for you. For example, it is usual to assume that a journey by flight would cost you much more than that by train for the same pair of origin and destination, but it is always a good idea to check out both, especially in today’s times of dynamic pricing. There have been times when flight journeys have cost me less than by train, and because the time taken is much less, it has worked for me very well.

However, it is not always a good idea, because often I may be able to close in on my shortlisted alternatives, but cannot pinpoint what would be best for me. My husband hates me for it.  He refuses to join me for shopping because he says I end up buying much more than what I had initially planned for.

What about you – Can you choose from your options easily?

Monday, April 16, 2018

N- Numbers

I always had a strong numerical aptitude. This does not mean that I was good in mathematics – but numbers get imprinted in my memory very easily, especially phone numbers and birthdays. So in days before contacts could be synced with Google accounts, when losing one’s phone or diary would mean havoc for most people, I would not be affected much. I knew most numbers by heart, and anyways was not dependent on any kind of record.

Once I lost a smartphone too – but I did not know about syncing with Google and all my contacts were gone. However, I could manage reasonably till the time I could restore my phonebook.

And this is not true for phone numbers alone. Let me share a story: While preparing for an exam, my friends and I had gone through a mathematical problem with randomly assumed values. While revising, I said that I had grasped the process till the value came out to be 4148.43 and requested a friend to explain after that. Much to my surprise, I saw they were looking at me critically. “Why would you memorize random values?”, they asked. I couldn’t convince them that figures get imprinted in my mind effortlessly.

My mind can process simple calculations easily as it can almost visualize them. This is useful even today, and comes in handy at times.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

M- Month End

 Do you look forward to the end of the current month? Or do you hate it?

Well, maybe there are good and bad sides to everything. The good side to the end of a month is that it’s pay day – the message from our bank informing that salary has been credited brings a smile to our faces.

However, for most of us, this also means that we should allocate amounts for various heads, such as rent, monthly instalments, credit card and phone bills, fees, salaries of our domestic help, etc. What is left behind is what we have to survive the next month with.

For me, at the end of every month, since I am the operations manager, I have to review the performance of bus routes in detail. Also, I get reports from various sources which tells me the number of complaints received in a month and also the pendency. Thus, the first few days of the following month means a lot of work for me, as my usual responsibilities also have to be attended to during this period.

Needless to say, operation of public transport services throws up most unexpected challenges and surprises, and most need immediate attention. Can you imagine my state when these situations arise around a month end?

What are your month ends like?

Friday, April 13, 2018

L- Letters

Letter writing has become an obsolete art with the growing popularity of e-mails, texting applications, social media and more. But this has been part of life since my childhood.

I have grown up watching my Granny write letters to my Uncle who lived in England, and waiting for his replies. When Granny was ill, I would be her scribe – she would dictate, and I would transfer the spoken words verbatim to the letter. When I was in Delhi pursuing higher studies, Granny would send me letters full of guidance and love. I still have most of them preserved with me.

I also developed a fondness for letter writing – I had few pen friends. I had never met them, and we would not be able to recognize each other had we crossed paths ever. But we used to pour out our hearts, perhaps because the fact that the other person would not be judgemental provided a comfort cushion.

Letter writing is not only about writing few words on a paper. A friend of mine used to write amazing letters, mostly in graphics – creating tiny sketches depicting each aspect. As children, we had fancy for writing letters in code language, sometimes in invisible ink, etc.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

K - Kitchens

Sounds strange, coming from me, is it? I am someone who is unwilling to devote too much time in the kitchen and would prefer doing all other housework other than the regular day to day cooking. I am fairly good at preparing certain dishes and take interest in trying out new recipes, but it has to fulfil the sole criteria of requiring optimal time and effort.

Other than  I am an architect and the design of a kitchen interests me much. If I visit someone, I would seek permission to visit the kitchen, to observe how it functions and look for new ideas. [I have done this in some restaurants too!]

Say what we may, do whatever we want, our kitchens are the most important part in our homes. Especially for me, because my day begins from there – from the very first glass of water in the morning to checking the gas connection for the last time at night.

Nowadays, modular kitchens have become popular as our utensils and related accessories can be stored in a neat and organized fashion. Dining spaces are often an extension of the cooking space – so that food can be served hot. Even new colour schemes have changed the way kitchens integrate themselves with rest of the apartment.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

J- Jack of all trades

You must have heard of the popular phrase, “Jack of all trades, master of none”. This was actually used to convey that one should attain expertise in one subject. If he tries his hand in everything that he comes across, he would not be able to specialize in anything and would have little value.

However, I have never been able to agree to this idea – my personal view is that one should have working knowledge of many aspects to be able to survive. Let me explain this. Isn’t it enough  know how to cook, although I may not be able to churn up exotic dishes? There are some preparations which are my forte, and that has come with time through rounds of preparations, improvisations based on feedback, etc.

Similarly, in today’s world, with changing technology, to keep oneself abreast with the industry, we have to quickly upgrade ourselves – we have to know important aspects to keep ourselves updated, although we may not be experts.

I am not denying the value of being an expert at any particular profession, but there is no harm in knowing little bit about other ways of life as well.

Would you agree?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I - If

I hate to crib about any situation saying “If only things had happened my way..”. When in crisis, my attitude is that “Ok, so now I am in a (major) fix. What can I do from here?”

Only until a few years ago, you would have found me saying similar stuff as the former statement. I would blame my crisis situation to external factors, such as economic recession or unpredictable traffic conditions. However, one day, I just asked myself, “What could I have done better?”

For me, this was a big realization. I almost felt like a person who could go around counselling people, helping people face challenges thrown up by life.

On a serious note, thinking deeply, I realized that there have been indications of trouble long before the situation actually happened, and I had ample opportunity to respond to those signs. For example, I was aware of high traffic volumes on certain stretches and I should have started with cushion of some time in hand. It is alright to reach early rather than being late.

From fairly simple to complex situations, I don’t say “If..”, even if the externalities are out of my control.

What about you?

Monday, April 09, 2018

H- Holidays

Amidst our busy daily lives, a thing to look forward to is an upcoming holiday, isnt it?

It could even mean the weekend. On weekdays, I am running against time right from getting up in the morning to dropping back to bed at night, after a tiring day at work, travelling, etc – it seems there are so many tasks so much to do and such limited time. Weekends are mostly synonymous with lots of housework, but these are the days I can catch up on missed sleep, find time for shopping and doing things I like.

Because my parents and most of my relatives live away from me, I look forward to taking a break and going home from time to time to catch up. I love being in my hometown, Calcutta (nowadays Kolkata) and hate coming back.

And if we are not going home, my husband and I plan trips where we can relax and rejuvenate ourselves.  Preparing for such trips is also so much fun – gathering information, evaluating options, preparing itineraries and more – the excitement begins right from the day both of us arrive at a consensus of destination.

How do you prefer to unwind?
Read about the things my life revolves around: A, BCDEF

Saturday, April 07, 2018

G - Glitches

My Dad’s favourite phrase is “Man proposes, God disposes”.

How true this has been in my life. Life seems to go on smoothly when I do not plan, and go on with the natural flow of daily activities. But much to my disappointment, things would go haywire when everything appears to be in place and I am sure that I have it all sorted out.

Just one example will tell you this. We had planned a weekend getaway in August, well after the monsoons in Delhi. But it rained so much that day that my co-passengers could not reach in time. I cancelled the tickets, learning the hard way that Plans do flop ! (Do read it)

I have experienced and witnessed many tales of missing flights, absolutely-made-in-heaven-marriages being called off, data not showing during important meetings, etc. etc. .. mostly for reasons completely out of control and completely unexpected.

How does one deal with glitches??

Its not as if I don’t plan. I still prepare, to the best of my ability. But now I have accepted that the most immaculately made plans may go wrong too. I try to have a Plan B too, if my plan A goes wrong.
What is your strategy?
Read about the things my life revolves around: A, BCDE, F

Friday, April 06, 2018

F- Failures

Scene 1: I sat staring at the score against Mathematics on my Grade V report card, wondering what to tell my parents.

Scene 2: About five years later. I hold up a marksheet, smiling broadly, pointing at the score against the same subject. A perfect 100/100 seems to shine over all the other subjects.

It sounds as cliche as ever, but it is so true. Failure is indeed the pillar of success.

People narrate their success stories, I tell tales of my failure too. These are experiences that stay with you, and let you think over, realize what you did wrong and try to correct it.

However, let me confess, things don’t always work that way. I am someone completely in love with myself – In retrospect, when you are supposed to be truthful to yourself, I tend to  glorify myself to my own soul, telling myself that “whatever I had done was the best I could do, and the most sensible thing to do. If the situation did not work out in my favour, it is unfortunate and not really my fault.”

What about you? How do you cope with failure?
Read about the things my life revolves around: A, BCD, E

Thursday, April 05, 2018

E- going Electronic

E-mail, E-payments, E-Commerce and more - our lives revolve around these nowadays.

I still remember the day my friend told me about Electronic mail, and how sceptical I was to accept its utility. Nevertheless, she dragged me to a cyber café, which was rare those days, and made me create my very first e-mail account.

The Indian Government is also oriented towards making transactions digital, which has had a very strong impact on my life.

Today I seek for electronic options for everything I do – be it paying bills, shopping, booking tickets, hiring cabs and more. It saves so much of my time and allows me the flexibility of multi-tasking – I can take care of many responsibilities through few clicks. If I have to make a payment, however small, I’ll go for the electronic option if available, use my credit card or e-wallet.

The very mention of credit cards makes me realize that making payments has undergone a paradigm shift in my life. The use of credit cards, online transfers, apps and likewise rule the way I choose to complete my transactions.

Also, my work profile also essentially revolves around e-mails and meetings over video conferencing.

I have gone very electronic. Have you?
Read about the things my life revolves around: A, BC, D

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

D - Durga Puja

A year in a Bengali’s mind is typically from one Durga Puja to the next one, irrespective of exact dates. This is the biggest festival of West Bengal and Bangladesh – mythological background being when Goddess Durga visits her parents on Earth.

It signifies the overpowering of good over evil, wherein the Goddess is usually portrayed in a pose slaying the mighty devil, Mahisasura. Along with her, her four children (Goddess Lakshmi and Saraswati, Lord Ganesh and Kartik) can also be seen.

Creativity of artisans is showcased in beautiful idols, pandals and overall decorations. Would you believe it that preparations start months ahead of the festival, and watching the city get decked up gradually in anticipation of all the fervour is an experience in itself. There are many awards to recognize such amazing skills, given by various companies. These add to the excitement!

Only one leave in my yearly leave plan is fixed – my visit to my hometown, Kolkata during this ten-day festival. This is the time to catch up with family and friends, go around the city watching the decorations, eat, drink and create many fond memories. Not to mention, a complete overhaul of my wardrobe!
Read about the things my life revolves around: A, B, C