Monday, June 23, 2014

Parenting LOL ( Or , what Lessons of Leadersip, aptly - LOL - Can you learn with a diaper on one hand? )

Sunday Evenings that you spend on long intercity drives are very dangerous. It gives you time to think of weird aspects of life, and try to connect some really abstract dots. I was traveling back from Bangalore to Chennai last evening. Over that long drive, with my daughter asleep on her mother's lap ( and the mother also nodding off to sleep ), it got me thinking.

My communication with my baby is pretty much one way. Unlike what "Look who's talking?" would have me believe, I am sure she has no clue of what I am saying - and yet, I try my level best to understand her, to communicate to her, and to make her feel "taken care of". And I was wondering - Isn't that something that we expect from our leaders too ? So, are there some lessons for us here?

1. It is not about you ( No it is not, even though you are the leader :) ) - When you have the child, one thing that you will hear many times is "now your life will change. Everything has to revolve around her" . How true! Even though you are the parent, the breadwinners, the more intelligent ones, the more capable ones - you are not the center of that universe. Your child is. It doesn't matter what you are doing at any given moment, when your child needs you, you attend.

That's how leadership is. You are a leader ( and a good one at that ) - because others felt that you are more capable for that role. But remember, it is not about you, or your capabilties. It is all about the team that you lead. Always have their needs as priority one. Not yours.

2. Be Kind and Considerate -  You do not get angry when your child cries - instead  you try to understand why she's bringing the house down. So why would you get frustrated when your team approaches you to solve a problem, again and again? . A Good leader understands why the team is upset - and how you can help to solve the problem.

3. Leadership cannot use Cookie cutter solutions - The toy that helped stop your child's crying one day, cannot help her to smile every time. You need to try different things at different times. The funny part is, we don't get angry when the child is not satisfied with the same toy. We smile, say to ourselves "oh she's bored of that!'  and move on. So, why would you think that the same solution that worked before with your team would work now? Different situations need different solution. And yes, time does change the situation - even if everything else is the same.

4. Encourage, and Nurture - You cannot force your child to walk when you want  - you will probably end up casing permanent damage through bent legs. But you can encourage her in all she does. What you can achieve with attention, focus, smile and words of endearment and encouragement can never be achieved by force. And amazingly, your child would try harder, better to achieve - understanding your encouragement.

So will your team.

5 Explore Quick. Establish well. And Build from there - When my child cries, I "entertain" and question her with various different things. I point to the milk bottle, and check if she stops crying, show her the water bottle. In same situation, we would also check for any injury, we check the diapers, and also calculate in our mind time from the last feed and sleep. We would show her multiple actions, to see which one takes her attention. And once we know what works, then we continue on that line, engaging her, to slowly lead her in the action that we want her to do - be it sleep, or play, or eat.

As good leaders, we ought to do the same with our team. Explore a lot of options. Find the common ground between us and the team. And then, use the common ground to build a relation. Leading start from there - empathizing. Establish the ground where the

6. Be Calm - Sometimes, inexplicably, your child will be cranky. You would try everything in the book - feed, play, walk, hold, swing, laugh, make faces. Everything. And she will cry. You have no idea why she is crying. Sometimes your team would also be the same. When you expect that logically everything should be well, you would see your team cranky.

Try everything in the book to get the team to start performing again. When you are in the last page, try more. :)

It is tough to be a good parent. It is tougher, I think, to be a good leader.

Be Calm. :)

Do you think these are good LOL ? Do you have anything that you would want to add to this? Please comment and let me know.

(Picture from: - No copyright infringement intended. Please let me know if I am violating and will remove the image

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Exploring new worlds (or how did the Teddy Bear get it's name ? :) )

Another day, Another cliché :) "It's amazing how things change when your life starts revolving around your baby"

But no, this is not the standard gushing post ( or atleast I hope it's not :) ) - I have started to explore a lot of new "why?" s around stuff that relates to the baby.. And the flavor of the day?

Why is a Teddy Bear called a Teddy Bear? :)  Apparently there is a very interesting story behind it.

Cut to 1902. The then Us President Theodore Roosevelt was in Mississippi wanting to take a break from White House duties with a little Bear hunting. Day 1, Everyone enthusiastic, but not a single black bear could be spotted ( Hmmm - did they have prior information ? :) ) Day 2 also wasn't very successful. But the hunter dogs did corner one black bear, and the hunting guide, gave a knock on its head and tied it to the tree.

He then used his bugle ( I wanted to say blew the bugle - but is that correct? :) ) to call the President, who had by then given up and retired to the camp. But when Roosevelt saw this really underweight, dazed, poor female bear tied to the tree - he couldn't bring himself to shoot it. So, he asked that this bear be let loose.

Within no time, the media converted this into a now famous cartoon. And the toymakers, made the bear in the cartoon immortal by making a plush toy out of the bear and calling it - drumroll please.... - Theodore's Bear , or The Teddy Bear. ( and of course, the bear in the cartoon looked so helpless that you would want to immediately protect it - See for yourself :) (Pic from Library of Congress Archives - )

So if the President hadn't drawn the line in Mississippi, my daughter wouldn't have got her hugging toy more than a 100 years later :) As she leaves the plush toy, tired of playing with it, and as my gently puts her to sleep singing her a lovely Malayalam Lullaby, my mind is now starting to wonder - Why do Lullabies put a child to sleep? More on that, next time :):)

(And thanks to this wonderful TED talk by Jon Mooallem from where I learnt about Teddy Bear: )

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wait until the first time the baby grabs your finger....

I am big fan of F.R.I.E.N.D.S - the TV series. And I couldn't have agreed with Ross more, when he says these words to a pregnant Rachel ( If you haven't seen it - watch it - )

And it is Magical. Truly so. But wait, wait...

Wait until the first time, the baby puts his/ her hands around your neck, and rests her head on your shoulder drifting off to sleep.  Everything will suddenly seem alright with the world.

Ah yes, I am a proud father now. I wake up every day next to an adorable princess who stretches her hands, shakes her head, opens her eyes, and gives me that smile when she sees me next to her.

That smile. You know that smile, don't you? :)

PS: I hope I can start writing again, regularly, now that I have someone whose experiences I can chronicle. :)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Million years before I go to School!

I spent my last weekend with some of my oldest friends - almost from an era gone by - from my school life. A rather unfortunate incident had crated this union. One of my friend's son had an unfortunate accident and had broken his hand. Whatever shock and worry we had, was dispensed with, when i realized that he still had his sense of humor intact.

I had this seven year old sitting on my lap, and me trying to small talk him..

"So, Aadi, Don't you go to school now?"
"Nope" Comes the half smiling reply pointing to the pretty awful cast on his arm.

"Ooooh!", say I, " so when do you have to go to school again?"
"When this cast is removed.."

"Oh! So when do you think this cast will be removed?"
I was stunned by the reply.

"In a million years!"

Yeah right. That's called Wishful thinking! :):):):)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Our children - The sad state of what they are growing up with

I wanted to start this post with something as interesting as "This weekend was an eye opener for me". But i don't think so. I think i have been seeing these all around me, but i have just been avoiding seeing them. So in my mind, i divide this post into two - What i saw, and what i think i should do about it.

Section 1: What i saw:

My wife's sister and her two kids ( one aged 10, and the other, half his age ) had come to visit us during this weekend. So Along with McDonald's and Domino's, we also planned some "learning" time in our own Birla Planetarium. ( Oh yes, Namma Chennai has a planetarium, located behind CLRI on Gandhi Mandapam Road ). The first thing that hits you, while you walk are the trees, the vegetation and the serenity of the place. The opportunity to re-explore the wonders of science along with my two eager nephews. Imagine my shock, when i turn the corner into a rusting, broken, dilapidated science center. Here are the highlights:

  • A playing park, conceptualized extremely well, holding play things and toys that explain scientific phenomena, rusted, broken, missing parts, overgrown with weeds, corrugated, and obviously not working at all! - More than that, given the condition, they are a hazard to children's health
  • Huge spacious marble tiled halls, filled with scientific exhibits - that show, hold your breath - a cube replica of a "modern day bedroom" - no i am not kidding - what do you expect kids to learn from showing a model of the new age bedroom and bathroom? There are exhibits of plastic pipes and taps ( the common variety ) that you see in every hardware shop. Why? What imagination do we plan to kindle in a young child's mind with plastic pipes?
  • A 3D show that has an entertaining, Alice in wonderland movie and also a instructional, journey through a human body ( done a la the Inner Space Movie ), but executed, once again in a theater with terrible acoustics, and a voice overlay of heavily American accented English. Right, the children who come there know what is Alice in Wonderland, and can understand the American Accented commentary while they show the human body! :(:(:(
  • Finally, the planetarium experience - Not too shabby, and definitely the best of the experience. At least the show was good, was decently executed, and the voice over was conversational. I think for a child, that would be interesting. I have no gripes there, except for a wish list that they could probably maintain the planetarium theatre well - and make the shows a little bit more fun!
The government officials cannot complain that they do not get visitors. Apart from seeing many honeymoon couples (??!!??) we saw that the place was full of school children. There were at least 6 school buses on Saturday and at least one more school trip on Sunday. Which makes it even more sad and outrageous - here we have a potential to engage and get children interested in studies - there is opportunity, there is place, there is time and there are resources, and we are shamelessly letting all of these pass by. I am not saying that all million children will become eminent scientists inspired by this visit ( maybe they will, who am i to underestimate?) but even if there are 100 children who could potentially have been kindled into this thoughts, we are not able to bring that transformation.

Sad. And terribly disappointing.

Section 2: What can i do about this?

There is a disclaimer as seen in the movies. What you read further can shock, as it shocked me when I realized it. Let me start with an anecdote. Sometime back i was driving through the roads of Kerala with my mother in an air conditioned car. Outside, in the sweltering heat, there were people pulling loaded carts, sweating and straining. My mother looked at them, and mentioned to me painfully " Oh my God, every time i see them, i feel pained - I feel sad, and i feel guilty to ride in this comfort."

I nodded in silent agreement. After few seconds she opened up again" I think i am a hypocrite. One one side, i yearn for such comforts - i want them, and while i enjoy it, i look outside this cooled glass and shower sympathies to the other side of the world. That is not fair or good ( for those who know Malayalam, these are the exact phrase she used " Nalla saamarthyam, enikku" - I am not sure if i can translate this directly into English ). I guess more than the sight of those people leading tough lives, what troubled her was that she, as a person, was not doing anything for them.

I find myself in a similar situation. I feel terribly sad about the condition. In fact, this post is the third time i have ranted about in the last one day. And i know i can do something about this, if i pain myself to change my life. But here i am , going ahead with my life, taking the path of least resistance of commenting about this sad story, clicking my tongue, shaking my head, .. and looking on my android phone for further twitter updates. Shameless! :(

In someways, i feel that this dilapidated condition of the planetarium is just a symptom of a larger issue - Solving this symptom wont cure the disease - but then, at the same time, we can't boil the ocean.

I introspect. I don't think i deserve to ask "What can / should i do?" As an educated person, i know what i should be doing. It's not that i do not know, just that I haven't yet taken that step. I am already feeling very guilty and hopefully, i will take a step. Soon.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Sound Horn", Please!

While the world spends tons of money for ways to solve problems, we Indians find interestingly simple ways to solve the problems. What, you don't believe me? Let me take something simple and prove that .. "looks around.." ah.. there you go, lets take the poor simple horn fit in the Indian Automobiles .. Cars, trucks.. ah, yes, the same old horn... what could you do with this? Wait till you hear what all we do with it.

In india, the horns have many, many uses:

  1. Remote Garage opener - I have seen many a foreigners having a puzzled look on their face, when in India, they see a car honking at a close gate.  Rarely do they realize that we are using our garage openers. And like a child pressing the button of the remote until the TV starts, our drivers just sit there, continuing to press the horn, until someone comes out to open the door - Even if all it takes for our driver is to get out of the car and walk two steps to open the door, and it takes 5 minutes for the guys inside the house to reach the gate. After all, you have invested so much i this technology, it better work! While the automobile companies in the west invest more and more money in making better garage openers with long range, we simply go ahead and fix ourselves a louder horn. When we want a seamless drive in experience, we just continuously honk right from the turn of the street. Apparently, we have the ability to tune out this incessent noice, if we don't belong to the household of the car owner.
  2. Calling Bell - "No way" you say? Let me invite you to stay with me. I live next door to a family who have school going kids. A Van comes about 7 A M in the morning to transport the kid(s?) to school. I think he has stronger hands than legs - If he doesn't see the kids waiting for the van, the driver, instead of using his legs to run up and ring the calling bells, decides to use his hands to sound horn. If you want to know where the phrase "blowing one's trumpet" originated from, you have to listen to this. Now, here's the weirder part. Somehow most of the parents have taken the horn to be a signal to start feeding breakfast to their kids. I believe they think that it is better to hear the horn rather than the the TV noise. unfortunately, i don't! :(
  3. Blind spot Indicator - While the newer automobiles in the west spend much on ads that tell the drivers "Hey! you don't have to turn around and 'painfully' check your blind spot now - We have neat indicators in the rear view mirrors that indicate ( what else would indicators do? :P ) if another vehicle is in your blind spot", we at India, simply use our horns. That ad campaign i mentioned above will not work in India, because we anyways don't turn to check who's in my blind spot. If you are in my blind spot, you better sound horn! and God forbid, if you do go and have a small "car to car kiss" with someone on your blind spot, you get down and blame the other guy " abey! Why didn't you horn? Careless driver!" 
  4. Traffic Light Indicator - "Now I have gone too far", you say, "how can a car horn replace the traffic lights at the roads and junctions?". Well, then you haven't driven enough in India. When you are on the road, and you see the light ahead of you turning to Red, you simply start honking continuously, telling everyone around " I am coming, i am coming". Somehow it has got into our minds that if we honk continuously at a signal turning red, it will turn back into "Green" for how many ever seconds it takes for us to cross the light / junction. and if by chance, any other driver on the intersecting road didn't notice that, you screech your brakes, take a wide turn to go around this nuisance, roll down your window ( all at once )  and shout at the oncoming driver "Abey, can't you hear my horn?"

Now, you believe me? We use our horns so much, i think we should call ourselves a "Horn"y country. ( No puns intended :P )

Image courtesy: ( If there is a copyright around the image, please do let me know, and i will remove it immediately )

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Failing, and Learning

They say that failure is your biggest teacher. And if you can learn from other's failures, all the more bravo! :)

Two of our IVF cycles have been unsuccessful, and i thought it might be good to write about some cause of IVF failures., ( Like every blogger, i imagine millions and millions of readers, who are simply waiting to read my blog :) ). Sometimes knowing about the reasons for being unsuccessful can help you cope with it better, at least in the case of an IVF. So Here goes.

An oft quoted reason for IVF Implantation Failure owing to poor egg quality. Implantation Failure occurs when pregnancy does not occur, even though fertilized embryos are formed in the test tube. What confuses here is, you would think that once the fertilization occur and embryos are formed, how can quality of eggs be blamed for failure? Here's how it works. You see, the egg performs two functions - first it enables formation of embryo after fusing with the sperm, and once embryo has  been formed, acts as the battery that powers the cell multiplication in the embryo. ( i love this battery analogy :) )  Something has to fuel the cell multiplication within the embryo - the egg is this "something". So if the egg Quality is bad, the egg would run out of battery power even before the cell multiplication within the embryo reaches the critical mass to cause a pregnancy. Imagine a line at which the group of cells in the embryo crosses over to becoming a small living organism. The egg has to provide external power at least till this line, at least. If the battery dies down before this line, well, we go back to square 1.

The easiest way to resolve this would be to undergo medication for making the egg quality better. As with our Dr, i think every Dr would have a standard set of medicines to get this effect. Generally this would take a cycle of 3 months.

Another oft mentioned reason is  "endometriosis" ( am a little lost here :), for generic aspect of this reason. ).  As the Drs say, we cant always pin point the reason, but we could analyze the data to find the most probable cause. Owing to endometriosis, our Dr said that that there was some amount of blood while doing the implantation ( which is a common symptom in endometriosis patients ) - But then, this is not a confirmed Villain. Apparently, endometriosis patients with indication of blood while embryo transfer have also had successful IVF. But it looks a "most probable cause". As the doc says, for a woman, there are only two things that matter for an IVF - The uterus and the egg quality.If the egg is of good quality (which will show up in the growth of the embryo, especially if you do the 5th day transfer) , it might be receptive environment of the uterus and the presence of blood that could cause an IVF failure. "Might have" :)

If Dr quotes this as the reason, the usual way to handle this  would be to give yourself time for couple of months with medically suppressed periods. This would remove this issue of having blood spots during the IVF cycle after this gap.