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To special people who make us feel special

2012 – I went home for my birthday. Daddy was very excited. He always was about any of our birthdays – be it my mother’s, sister’s or mine. It meant a lot to him. He’d do anything and everything to ensure we had a great birthday. I remember when I was a kid I used to invite friends for my birthday almost a year in advance, dream of what kind of cake would I get, how many chocolates to buy etc. Clothes were the best part – Daddy used to get me the most exquisite dresses from the best of places. I remember one of my birthdays he got me a beautiful golden brown frock that I absolutely cherished for years. Every time I wore it, even strangers would stop to compliment me. I had my first Puma shoes when I was 3 years old. I had matching pink shoes for a pink frock. The best part was I never had to ask at all. Daddy used to get us the best of stuff during all his travels. I used to be so excited when I knew Daddy was coming home and used to literally wait for him at the doorstep so I could tell all my stories and also excited about what would come out of his suitcase. He always had something for us. Something awesome!

Anyways, back to my birthdays. It used to be like the most special festival for him. I had a guitar cake, Mickey Mouse cake, turtle cake, house cake and what not. So when I grew up, and started studying and working, being away from home, I used to always head home for my birthday. Because I love to see the delight in Daddy’s eyes trying to do everything to make me feel super special. I wouldn’t miss that for anything in the world. My Mom would make specials, he’d go shopping and get my favorite food, invite people over or take me out somewhere, buy me the best of clothes – ah! What a special time! Why would I ever miss that? So, until 2012, I was with Dad and Mom for all my birthdays. 2013, I couldn’t go home because I had to go for a training. 2014, I decided to not make a big deal of my birthday so I had a very lonely and quiet birthday in Bangalore. And then life struck a different chord. Suddenly Daddy fell ill and by end of 2014, he moved on. 2015, on my birthday, I felt bad – I was looking at the old pictures of my last birthday with him in 2012. If only I knew that I wouldn’t have any more such chances to see the delight in my Dad’s eyes, I would have perhaps rushed home for my birthday on 2014 too and spent it with the person I love the most and the person who loves me the most.

Likewise, his birthdays were the biggest festival for me too. No matter where I was and what was happening, I always went home for Daddy’s birthday. Nothing in the world was more important. I’d wait for this festival all year round – planning and dreaming of how to make it special. I remember I stayed up all night blowing 50 balloons for his 50th birthday. On another one, I gave him a surprise by coming home from Mumbai, early in the morning, even before he woke up. When I wished him, he thought it was my sister and turned around. Imagine his surprise when he saw me standing there. He jumped out of his bed and was super thrilled. The entire day, whoever called to wish him, he kept telling them, “Narmada came all the way from Mumbai to give me a surprise at 5.30am.” And each time he said that, I loved the delight in his voice. There was only one birthday that I missed of his in my life and I sent him a very special something that day. As soon as he received it, he sent me a message saying, “You are mad, in a sweet way :).” I had a big smile on my face when I read that. I saved the message.

Today I know Daddy is around me somewhere. While the body is gone, the soul lives on forever. But I miss seeing the twinkle in Daddy’s eyes when he wished me. I miss his charming voice – and the wonderful, elaborate, heartfelt words he used to say to wish me the best of everything in life on that day and always. I miss the excitement he used to generate to do so many things on my birthday. I miss his excellent choice in selecting the best of dresses for me (he never bought me 1; he always bought me multiple dresses for any occasion). I miss the warmth and positivity that he exuded. I miss the way he made me feel like I am his little princess – not just on my birthdays but every day! He always used to say festival is anytime when we are together. And he ensured we stayed together amidst all the transfers. It was only at a much later stage in life when I had to go elsewhere to study and to work. But I used to go home every other weekend. We couldn’t stay without seeing each other for too long. When I went back to my place of stay and called Dad to say I reached, the first thing he used to ask was, “Nana when are you coming again?” And we both would start planning my next trip. 🙂 He believed that people may forget what we say, but they never forget how we made them feel. He always made me feel loved with his kind and gentle presence. Never a foul word or a bad temper. Pleasantness personified. I was always fascinated by him and I wish to be like him.

For some strange reason, last year November 16th, I began drawing a Disney princess and wanted to write on it, ‘Daddy’s little princess’. I just started coloring it, when I got a call from Mom that he had a fall and was badly injured. I was in tears and rushed to the airport and reached the hospital. The wind-down started and in 45 days, he left his body. Life is full of strange signs and signals. I thought I’ll write about how I miss my Dad on my next birthday in 2016. But then I thought what about others who may be having their birthdays between now and my next birthday? What if my message goes out a tad too late for someone else? What if you have someone very special in your life and you have a special day coming up, and you are wondering what to do? What if this story could play a role in influencing that decision? Because we always choose to learn from each other’s experiences, we can make better decisions before life calls ‘the end’ on either.

Below is a picture of those brightly lit up eyes and that million dollar smile of my handsome Dad on my birthday. Priceless isn’t it?!!

Dad n Me

Complimenting is an art!

We have all received compliments at some point of time or the other. Some we remember, some we don’t. And then there are those few that we cherish – the ones that bring a smile on our face anytime we think of them. It could’ve been years back, but every time we think of them, the same feeling of happiness comes by again. What is it that makes a compliment tick and stick for so long? Here are a few things that made the difference:

1) How they feel depends on how you say – Firstly, like everything else, complimenting too is an art. And art means expression. Consider half the job done, when you say it with expressions and communicate your energy and enthusiasm behind the compliment. It is such that it lifts the emotional state of the receiver in an instant. Passionately communicate rather than merely stating. Compliment is an expression of praise or admiration not a generic talk.

2) Make it an identity – Anything positive can be made to an identity level statement. For example, you are a terrific orator (instead of, ‘you speak well’); you are a great singer (instead of, ‘you sing well’). This will help them get associated with a positive word for themselves and repeat their excellence in other contexts too.

3) Remember & recall – It is important that you are explicitly quoting what you liked the most. That way, you are giving evidence that you were fully there and focused; and by stating specifics, you are also helping the person understand what the best part about what they did was and help the other person bring their unconscious excellence to their consciousness. Hence repeating this behaviour will be easy for them in the future.

4) Don’t stop just yet – Stating one sentence is easy. But, if you really liked something and truly want to appreciate, be generous with words. If their actions blew you away, the least we can do is sweeping them off their feet with our words, isn’t it? This is one place where we wouldn’t leave a person wanting for more. Let’s just give it to them since they deserve it.

5) ‘Buts’ can be parked – Following up a compliment with a ‘but’ is as good as negating. It is said that whatever precedes ‘but’ is bullshit. Think about it – “I like you…but…” And you don’t even want to hear the rest of it because you know the first part is not absolute. A compliment is strong enough to stand alone. It doesn’t need the support of advises or suggestions. Let’s park them for a later date if required.

6) Stick to the present rather than the past– Sometimes, when we like something about a person in the present, we tend to compare it with the behaviour of theirs from the past which we didn’t appreciate as much. This can backfire at times. Also, rather than spending more time talking about a past that wasn’t appreciated, we might as well focus on the present that we appreciate. The golden rule is ‘stay put with the desired behaviour’.

7)  You could be better, but that is for later – It isn’t about you, so fully focus on the other. Even if you have done something similar, or if you were the one who is responsible for their excellence right now, that is not most important right now. Be magnanimous and selfless in appreciation of the other. A simple sentence like, “See, I told you” or “I did something very similar” can reduce the effect of a compliment. You can’t appreciate and advice someone at the same time!

8) Compliments don’t need cousins for comparison – Rather than telling someone that they were better than another, appreciate them for who they truly are. That way we are truly celebrating excellence without putting down another. When we compare we may forget to see their uniqueness.

9) Don’t miss the moment – As much as the compliment, the timing is also important. Say it as soon as you experience their excellence. Say someone won an award and if you wish them after 3 months, even when you had the chance to wish them the same day …!!!

10) And then stop – Anything in excess loses its credibility. Saying the same thing in different variations isn’t effective. In fact, it makes people think that there’s no depth or content in the compliment. So, it’s good to know when to stop just as well.

As much as it is a joy to receive a compliment, there is just as much in giving a compliment and lighting up someone’s day too. Intent is always right behind a compliment. Getting it right hence, becomes easy. There could be more things to make a good compliment a cherished experience. Feel free to share. And, have a wonderful day ahead!

A bug called ‘Comparison’!

A lot of times, there’s nothing wrong with our present. Everything is fine, until… we get bitten by that bug called comparison. Read on…

Situation Comparison Effect
On a holiday. Checked in to a hotel – Neat, clean, spacious room. Pretty good. On a previous holiday, the hotel had more cool features and a bigger bed Happiness goes down a notch. Can’t appreciate the hotel for what it has. Immersed in thoughts of what else could’ve been better.
Birthday party. Lots of people wishing & celebrating. Cut a cake. Last year I cut 3 cakes and had a surprise party. The joy of this year’s celebration goes down a notch
Posted a picture on Facebook. A lot of people ‘like’ it. A friend’s picture has more likes. Unhappy that the popularity is not as great as the friend’s.
Good review rating and great increment for the good work done in office. Very happy. A colleague gets promoted Engulfed by sadness as to “Why not me”?
Bought a new house. Really put in lots of efforts & money to buy it. It was a dream come true. See pictures of a friend’s house, much more lavish and beautiful. Start feeling burdened by how much more hard work is required to get there. Completely miss out on the goodness of the present house.
Food cooked by spouse is really great. Enjoy the luxury of home-cooked healthy and tasty meals Not as good as Grandma’s food. Fail to appreciate spouse for the good food every day.
A child does a really cool piece of art work. Impressive. Just saw another kid who had done something more creative. Don’t feel as excited in appreciating the child’s work anymore.
A healthy body. Indeed something to be grateful for. Not as pretty/handsome as the person next door. Totally miss out on experiencing the joy of having a healthy body.
Getting into a meeting feeling very confident. Suddenly you see someone you think as very smart and impressive and a senior leader in the organization. Starting to feel more nervous and less confident.
Delighted to be enrolled in classes to learn a new skill. Speed of learning is not as good as someone else. Completely miss out on the joy of learning. Instead, land up feeling pressurized.

Quite often, we aren’t happy not because what we have isn’t good; but because we compared it to something that was apparently ‘better’ in our opinion. If the bug called comparison is a recipe for your success and drives you to do more, go for it. But if isn’t, drop it. Imagine this – you put in a lot of effort to do something but someone doesn’t appreciate you because they compare you to another. It doesn’t feel right, does it? It is only fair that people appreciate you for what you have to offer rather than compare you to others and miss out on your excellence.

Sometimes comparison may be a strategy to regret. A mechanism to feel bad and tell yourself you are not as good as someone. And this someone will always be there. But should that prevent you from being happy with yourself and what you have?

Note: Being happy with yourself does not equal to being complacent. One can be happy and strive for greater things in life. The pursuit of excellence comes from a place of knowing your own potential than anything else. And a happy person is more likely to get what he wants. Just remember to enjoy the ride while aspiring to reach your destination.

Winning without Arguing!

What do you do when you are faced with an idea that is opposing to yours? You want to do something while the person wants you to do something else. What happens next? The battle begins. An argument starts.

What we may lose sight while arguing is the actual issue at hand. Our focus moves from the issue to the person with whom we are arguing. We try to win over the person rather than talk about the situation.

Source:Commons.wikimedia.org

Let’s say – I want to go for a party and my father doesn’t agree. What happens next is the drama triangle: I play the role of a victim and say, “You never let me do what I want. You are always telling me what I should do.”

Now this is a tempting invitation for my father to get into the role of a persecutor. “You never listen to me. You are always arguing. You don’t know what is good. Is that party more important than me?”

If you see now, the issue is out of proportions. It looks like someone is deliberately trying to restrict me or that I am intentionally being rude. That is far from reality.

Instead, imagine this – when we had a difference of opinion – if I stick to the issue at hand and address only that – “Dad, I really want to go for the party. I know you are concerned about my safety, and here’s what I am doing to ensure that I am safe. Let me know what else I can do to make you feel comfortable. I understand that this may not be very important but I have really been looking forward to it and it would mean the world if you agreed.” Asking the right questions and addressing the point of disconnect is what is usually most beneficial.

This kind of discussion keeps the drama out and steers us away from an argument. Eventually, whether the person agrees or not is a different thing. At least you are approaching it from a clean space. The likelihood of someone agreeing to you is greater when you explain yourself in rapport than when you go down to a personal battle of words. It also usually invites the other person to explain their rationale just as neutrally. Then it isn’t about winning or losing, it’s just about whether or not to go about something in a certain way – while acknowledging the other’s opinion. It isn’t necessary for someone to lose for us to win. It’s just wonderful to win and have others along with us in it.

Give Graciously, Live Joyfully!

We all give. We are constantly in a state of giving love, care, money, time, efforts, dreams and so much more. Giving goes hand in hand with living no matter who we are or what capacity we are living in. And there’s a joy in it. But if everyone is giving, how is it that some of our giving is celebrated while the others aren’t? How is it that some of our giving is joyful while the others aren’t?

Going deeper, while ‘giving’ is a part of our DNA, ‘joyful giving’ may not be as much a part of us sometimes. And that is something that really makes a difference. When I say giving, I am also referring to ‘giving in’. You must be quite familiar with this.

For example: You really want to do something but a significant other in your life is opposed to your idea. If you give-in here, ‘how you give-in’ makes a huge difference. Do you give-in with joy, that what you did makes someone you love happy? Or would you go around with a pumpkin face?

On the other hand, if it is really important for you, are you willing to pay the price? If you are, then take the efforts to explain what’s important about it and go ahead. If it is important enough, fight for it. Else, let it go freely. Holding on to something with half a heart and willing to let it go with another half only adds to the list of ‘un-accomplishments’ or complications.

Choosing to be unhappy because you gave up your dream (OR) choosing to be unhappy because you went ahead with your dream, but someone else is not so happy – is a lose-lose situation. You are then, essentially making a choice to be unhappy either ways. Can you instead, choose to be happy? If you choose to be happy – you can do either and still be happy.

Whatever you do, do it fully and freely. This will enable you to experience the joy of giving or receiving. Halfhearted giving or halfhearted receiving isn’t going to keep you happy or do much good anyway.

You always know why you are doing what you are doing. If you don’t, then stop and ask yourself that question. In that answer rests the key to many other choices and decisions that you may have to make.

If you are letting go of something you wanted, you must be letting it go for a reason. Are you consciously aware of that? Could be because someone’s feelings are more important to you than what you want; could be that you are not ready to do what it takes to get what you want; could be that the price you have to pay is not worth what you wanted or it could be anything else. When you lose sight of the reason, resentment may set in. And that can make a joyful feeling resentful or sad.

If you have decided to donate money for a noble cause, you might as well give it happily. If that’s difficult, don’t bother giving at all. What’s the point of giving and feeling miserable about it or making others feel bad about the fact that you gave? End of the day, people can only influence you. YOU can decide what to do and choose whether to be influenced or not. So holding others accountable for our actions is a strategy to feel unhappy. To experience the true joy of giving, give joyfully and respectfully.

High Five!

I was sitting with a dear friend of mine at work and we were talking about what makes us happy and how does our work contribute to our happiness. She mentioned that although she had many accolades at work, none of them ever featured in her list of happiest moments of her life. She said that happy moments for her would be a time when she went for a walk in the nature or had a great conversation with someone or when she travelled by herself. Curious, I looked within to see if that was the case with me too. Did my work not contribute to my happiness in my larger scheme of life?I figured that for me I had moments from work, from creativity, from people and extraordinary situations that counted for my happiest moments. It was clear that what truly, deeply mattered to me was creativity, people and a sense of accomplishment and what truly, deeply mattered to my friend was a quiet, peaceful time with herself or someone she loved. This insight was so intriguing that I carried it further with another friend asking him what were his happiest moments. He, true to himself, had a balance of people and accomplishments in his list of five happiest moments so far.

It felt like one of those Eureka moments for me. Although when I spoke about it, it sounded so commonsensical. Nonetheless, I figured I’d like to write about this and explore more. The reason why I thought this is so important is because it very clearly gives me an understanding about what matters the most to a person. And for self too, it gives a perspective on one would or should rather spend their life’s energies on if they are in pursuit of happiness. There’s a theme that we find in these 5 happiest moments. Therein is the key or a guide for our future actions.

Think about your day today? How was it? How many moments count for happy ones today? Could that be a feed for your tomorrow? Else, what would you want to add on a daily basis, that can add up to your happiness factor in a day (could be based on something from your happiest moments in life). It doesn’t have to be that if my day of marriage was the happiest – I’d want to get married everyday! J It could just mean that there is something about the person who I married or about the marriage itself that makes it count for my happiest moment. So how can I add to that factor in my everyday existence is the thought.

Think about your colleague or loved one. If you know their five (or key) happiest moments – you’ll know that as a person they are happiest when they deal with challenges and emerge – or when they are with people – or when they are by themselves doing something or the like. That would give you a clue in terms of how you could engage with them in a way that makes them happy and productive too. We don’t have to necessarily ask. People keep talking about things that make them happy quite often. Are they activity based, people based, situation based, recognition based, place based etc? You can know the criteria for motivation for that particular person. What a powerful way would that be to influence someone positively? We can create experiences that would matter the most to a person. So, I know when my friend comes home the next time, all I need to do is take her for a walk and engage in great conversations as we usually do. 🙂

Immensely Influential YOU!

When I was studying in Mumbai, I was happily walking in to my hostel one day and said “Hi, how are you?” to one of my hostel-mates. I went into my room and the girl came right behind me with tears in her eyes. Surprised, I asked her, ‘what happened?’ She said that she really felt good that I took the time to notice her and greet. She was feeling lonely and thought that nobody cared in this big city. I sat and spoke to her for some time. By the time she left the room, she had a lovely smile on her face. I was pleasantly surprised that something as simple as a hello had such a deep impact on someone. From then on, I made it a point to be more intentional while greeting people.

We might think that our role is only that of a father/mother, son/daughter, brother/sister, boss/team member, friend, neighbor etc. But if we pause and look at a different perspective – our circle of influence is much larger than that. For example, if you had a fight in the morning with someone at home, it leaves an impact on them and you (consciously or sub-consciously). When they meet other people your impact is getting extended to them in some form. In turn, when the others meet many others the scope of your impact extends further. This means that each of us, even in our tiniest and minimalist of interactions, impact or influence at least tens of people each day, without even our awareness. This, when expounded into days, weeks, months or years, actually means we impact many, MANY lives in our lifetime.

Think about the incidents that have stayed with you from your childhood or any phase of your life. Situations that may not have been significant for others may have had a deep impact on you. And those may have influenced your personality, thoughts, beliefs or actions in some form.

Likewise, when we hit or even verbally abuse a child, it’s not just about that child or that moment anymore. It impacts the adult that the child is going to grow into and that adult will impact many others. It isn’t the best of memories for that child. It may have created a sense of fear or helplessness. Think about a time when you said something in a moment of anger or irritation that you did not mean. It would’ve left an undesirable impact for a long time. Somehow, our mind has the capacity to store the not-so-positive incidents with greater intensity for longer time. If you receive 10 compliments and 1 criticism, where are you more likely to place your focus on?

It’s not just my parent, my sibling, my child, my spouse or my friend anymore. Things have a long lasting impact on the world around us in many subtle ways.

If one person breaks a queue, we suddenly see many others wanting to do the same.

If one person tries to squeeze their way on the wrong side of the road, many others soon want to follow.

Each of us is aware of how someone else has impacted us. Are we aware of how we are impacting others through our words, actions or humor?

We may not be able to change anyone but ourselves. But we CAN, and ARE always influencing others.

What is the influence and impact you wish to have?