Thursday, August 30, 2018

Are You Phubbing Me?

Have you used your phone in the presence of others, ignoring them? If yes, then you have Phubbed them!

Phubbing is the modern day word simply meaning snubbing someone else by ignoring them while using phone in their presence.

Phubbing is very very common these days and each one of you reading this article have either phubbed someone else or have been phubbed, or both. Phubbing is an annoying behaviour - a result of smartphone addiction.

Everyone phubs these days and at every odd place possible. You see kids phubbing each other at home at parties in presence of other adults. At times parents keep talking to the child and the kid simply does not respond because he/she is glued to the smartphone playing games, chatting or simply watching a video.  They are actually phubbing you!

You find guests visiting your place phubbing you and at times guests find their hosts phubbing them. Annoying, isn't it.

Then you have couples phubbing each other. Friends, married couples, dating couples sit next to each other and keep phubbing.

People even phub at work. Boss phubbing his reportee or people phubbing during a meeting is not very uncommon.

People phub at home, cafes, social meetings, offices, and where not.  I have heard people phubbing even at funerals.

So phubbing is an global epidemic, much as Smartphone addiction is! The new behavioural problem. Why it is a problem? Because it affects relationships as it breaks down conversation,. cuts communication channels and makes people feel ignored not getting enough attention.


How does one stop phubbing? It is not going to be easy. We are all addicted to Smartphones. They are our modern day indulgence. We are almost slaves to notifications that keep popping up every now and then, tempting us to pick-up our smartphone and check it one more time, and then again one more time and ...the cycle is never ending. There is a sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

Phubbing is an annoying modern day behaviour and it needs to stop. And the only way I can think that phubbing can stop is to train our minds to resist the temptation of checking our phones again and again. Mindfulness is important and staying focused on what one is doing in the moment is every important. Living in the moment, as they say, makes every moment fruitful and enjoyable.

So what's your phubbing moment? If you have phubbed or have been phubbed, please leave a comment about your phubbing moment. And yes, please share and like the post.

And yes, if you are phubbing someone when you are reading my article then please close itnow and read it when you are not phubbing. Stop Phubbing, Please. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Do not 'Make My Reward'

Recently the travel app Make My Trip gave me INR 4000 in my MMT wallet as a reward of my loyalty as a customer. As the notification popped up on my smartphone, I was thrilled at the prospect of a weekend getaway with my family. Being at office, I immediately called up my wife and told her of the unexpected bounty. We were excited and decided to visit the princely city Mysore for a night. It was a good way to escape the madness of the metropolis for a day. However it was only at the time of hotel booking that I realized that I had not read the fine print well. 

The terms and conditions of the use of wallet amount was complicated and loaded against the customer. It simply looked like a ploy to make you spend more, nothing more than a sales gimmick. To just give you an idea, I needed to spend close to INR 25000 to make use of the entire INR 4000 in my wallet. Worse this wallet money was valid only for about a week. This meant that I had to spend 25K in one shot immediately to ensure that I do not lose out on my wallet money. This was such a cheap sales stunt. 

Was this a reward for my loyalty and the fact that I had helped MMT become richer or a trick to ensure that I make them even richer? The answer is a no-brainer, I suppose. An enquiry with the MMT resulted in a call from customer care who repeated the same terms and conditions and further expressed his helplessness to do anything more, but promised that he will escalate my concern to his seniors. Much time has passed and I have received no further clarification or response from MMT  which pretty much means ‘take it or leave it’. 

We on our part have decided to give a pass to this wallet bounty generously showered on us by MMT. Our Mysore plan shelved for another time, but more than that I think that MMT experience was better without this sales trick in the garb of a reward. This ‘reward’ spoiled my MMT experience and left me feeling a bit short-changed. 

Something is better than nothing, but isn’t nothing is better than Nonsense.

How many times have you we received gifts on our birthdays or anniversaries that we have no idea why it was chosen for us or what to really do with that gift? I am sure it has happened with all of us and keeps happening every now. Such gifts are better not given.

I recall the stainless steel water pitcher, or an antique candle stand or at times even some cash being given to me on my birthdays by guests at the party when I would be a 9 or 10 year old boy. I did not know what to do with the steel water pitcher or with the candle stand or for that matter with the cash, although it was slightly better option that the other two. On the other hand a simple tennis ball or a small pack of chocolate was much more meaningful and joyous for a school going boy.

Gifts are after all reflection of the presenter’s feelings and intended to bring a smile on the face of the recipient to make him/her feel special. The material worth of the gift hardly matters. The intention of the presenter does. A meaningful gift is also a reflection of the amount of thought and time spared by the person for the one for whom the gift is intended. And that is what makes it even more special. On the other hand, meaningless gifts reflect the ignorance of the person buying the gift and total disregard for the person for whom it is meant.

The same thing happens with rewards and recognitions (R&R) plans in companies. A well-intended and well-thought reward and recognition program can always make employees and customers happy and engaged. Such R&R are honest and provide a sense of worth, joy and motivation to the recipient. However a poorly designed R&R falls flat on the face of purpose and worse, they can be de-motivators and disengagers, proving to be counter-productive.

Why Manabi was forced to resign?

Beyond Just Words

Transgenders have been mostly ignored, and, worse mocked at, ostracised by the society and organisations. I think the biggest problem is that we just talk. everyone talks about inclusivity but no one really does anything on the ground.

Like on World Environment day, we write do not cut trees, print the same on paper and stick it. Such a paradox, isn't it? Beyond talk, the inclusivity needs to be in actions. 

It is only recent that we have started taking about a third option as 'others' in the application forms against gender. Otherwise it used to be just male or female. So it boils down to actionable items - Are we hiring transgenders in our organisation? Have we sensitised our culture to include transgenders? Are we giving them equal opportunities?

I had written about this issue on my blog way back in 2012.

Change Culture, Sensitise People

Some organisations that take the brave first step of hiring transgenders forget to sensitize their culture and people and the transgender hires are subject of cruel jokes and ridicule that force them to exit. Take the case of Manabi Bandopadhyay who became the first transgender principal of a Kolkata school. The news was received with much euphoria and circulated by the media with drumbeats. The reality after 18 months is that she was forced to resign because of the extremely uncooperative attitude of the college staff. That's why changing the culture and mindset is important.

On the positive front India's first transgender school has opened. But will these students be accepted in the society, higher education colleges and later in the workforce is a big question that looms at large. You cannot create a different world for transgenders. They have to be assimilated in our society organically.

We need to realize that physical anatomy has nothing to do with the IQ or EQ of a person. They can be as talented as we are may be sometime even more. and when we ostracise them, they feel as hurt as we do if someone does it to us. When you see a transgender begging at a traffic junction, it is perhaps because people like us never allowed them to get a job and live a descent life.

Fundamentally nothing will change till our mindsets change and that is possible only when we try and impact the culture. It has to be through training, workshops, various campaigns and drives.
It will take time, but every small change adds up.

Let us all make a beginning in our small ways, not just by good words but by actions that can inspire others to do as well.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Fighting Depression Using Empathy

Depression Kills

Monday morning shocker came in the form of a news – 36 year old TV presenter with a national news media television channel committed suicide by jumping off her residential building, leaving behind a 14 year old differently abled son. Radhika Reddy who had been recently divorced from her husband, reportedly left behind a suicide note that clearly indicated that she was suffering from acute depression. Radhika, who was also a millennial, took the extreme step of self-harm that snuffed life out of her at a time when she was in her prime years.

What could drive a successful professional like Radhika to take such extreme step?
Analysis of suicide note left behind by Radhika, that read ‘mind was her biggest enemy’, by experts from Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Erragadda,  revealed that Radhika might have immersed in multiple thought processes which she couldn’t control and, due to the depressive disorder, she might have ended her life.

Radhika is not an isolated case of depression related self-harm. The statistics of depression related suicides is scary among youngsters.

When Arjun Bharadwaj a 19 year old student committed suicide by jumping off a high rise hotel in Mumbai last year, the statistics rolled out once again. Between 2011 and 2015, i.e. in a span of 5 years 40000 students had committed suicide. Most of them depression related deaths. Arjun Bharadwaj was reportedly struggling with poor exam results and also battling a drug addiction.

According to the 2012 Lancet report India has one of the world’s highest suicide rates for youth aged 15 to 29.

Unfortunately around the world, suicides claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined. Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Over 50 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If alcoholics who are depressed are included then this figure rises to over 75 percent. 

SAMHSA reports that in 2016, 9.8 million US adults had serious thoughts about committing suicide, 2.8 million adults made suicide plans and 1.3 million adults attempted suicide.
Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. According to the latest estimates from world Health Organization (WHO), more than 300 million people are now living with depression.

Paradoxical Life of New Gen and Emergence of Depression  
Millennials (Gen Y) and now even Generation Z (born 2000 or after) are the ones who are affected by depression the most. Various reasons ranging from exam stress to back-breaking professional demands, failed relationships, financial stress, unrealistic expectations and unmet aspirations etc. are cause of rising depression among young.

The new generation lives a ‘paradoxical life’. In my latest book. The Life of Y: Engaging Millennials as Employees and Consumers’, I have outlined, based on my research findings, as to how mutually conflicting and opposing demands on their lives makes them more vulnerable to stress and depression. The emergence of paradoxes in their lives, which in most cases millennials have no choice but to live with them, has resulted in a dip in their wellness. Material wellness, Social Wellness, Physiological Wellness and Emotional Wellness all are on the wane resulting in ‘reversal of their happiness quotient’. The effect of this reversal is often catastrophic. More than anything it impacts the mental health, resulting in depression. The result of this depression is often suicides, hypertension, coronary diseases.
In less than 7 years from now millennials will make close to 75% of the world’s working population. Are we going to hand over the reins of this world to a generation that is battling with depression or are we going to do something about it and help them deal with stress and emerge out of it unscathed and unscarred?

Understand, Not Blame
How to deal with this rising depression is often a question that is asked in various forums. In most such forums I have seen that the blame ultimately points towards government and its’ abysmal budgetary allocations on mental health. That is not completely untrue. India currently spends 0.06% of its health budget on mental health, which is less than Bangladesh (0.44%). Most developed nations spend above 4% of their budgets on mental-health research, infrastructure, frameworks and talent pool (WHO, 2011). This means there is acute shortage of mental health professionals. According to IndiaSpend report of 2016, there is India endures an 87% shortage of mental-health professionals.
Experts analysing Radhika’s suicide also stated that Radhika had followed psychological therapy properly, this would not have happened. Depression these days is 100% curable. This is really sad.

Proliferation of mental health professionals can definitely deal with more depression related cases and save previous young minds and their lives. That would need more governmental budgetary allocations.

While such a solution seems to be the most immediate one needed to deal with depression, government or mental health professionals cannot alone be the panacea for this ever-growing and alarming ‘epidemic’.

I have often realized that many of such depression related suicides are preventable if there was one ‘significant other’ in the lives of those who chose to take the extreme step, who could truly understand them, without judging them or blaming them. 

Often the ones who can help such depressed people are at arm’s reach. However lack of understanding often makes them feel that they are alone in their battle and somehow see a dead-end from where turning back I impossible. That perceived dead-end often is an end to the road of their lives too.

Younger generation live a different life than ours and there is a need to understand the complexities of their paradoxical life. Understanding is the precursor to engaging them and keeping their minds and hearts connected and intact. Through my research and my writings I have only tried to create this deep empathy about the younger generation who I feel is largely misunderstood. I have a vision to see that the society and the agencies understand the new generation better and in the right way, paving a way for healthier and engaged world where depression has no place, except in the Oxford English dictionary.

Radhika would have alive today and many more like Radhika who killed themselves had we tried to understand them a little better and help them deal with their depression. But for that we need to educate ourselves a bit more on the #thelifeofY and #thelifeofZ.

Each one of us can make a difference for there can be one like Radhika or Arjun near us – in our family, among our friends or peers. Look around and see if you can show a better understanding and help a young mind come out of depression.

A bit of understanding goes a long way in beating depression.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Happy Birthday Kirmani Sir

Syed Mujtaba Hussein Kirmani, India’s legendary wicket keeper and cricketer celebrates his 68th birthday today. Kirmani Sir, as I call him lovingly became a household name after India won the 1983 world cup. His exploits behind the wickets, the stunning blinders that he his gloves never missed, the breath-taking stumpings that he executed with equal aplomb had been known even before India’s historic win. But the world cup victory changed it all. Padma Shree, Arjuna award Winner, best Wicket Keeper in the world winner, recipient of BCCI’s Lifetime achievement Award, the list of recognition that he has received is quite long and an exhausting one. And as much each of these awards have recognised his achievements and feats, these awards have become richer by bestowing themselves on a person who comes across as a man filled with humility and grace, despite the halo that goes with his name.

My first meeting with him was this year, 34 years after he and his team members conquered the ‘Lords’, thanks to his nephew Kumail, my one time student and now a very successful entrepreneur. I was a mere nine year old boy when Indians conquered the world at Lords. 

Meeting such a legend can be a bit unnerving. We were waiting for him in his living room. It took less than two minutes of wait before Kirmani Sir came to greet us. I was dumbstruck for some time. It was as if one of those posters that used to adorn my walls during my childhood days had come alive. My ears were ringing with words of the radio commentators – ‘And Kirmani pulls off a stunner… another wicket for India…’Those days we did not have television at home and radio commentary was the only way to keep in touch with what our team was doing away on foreign soil. 

Most people remember Kapil Dev our captain or Mohinder Amarnath who was the man of the match in both semi-final and finals for their role in helping India win the world cup. Undoubtedly contributions of Kapil and Amaranth are superlative but there is small but very important part of history that was not recorded on camera and as the saying goes, out of sight is also out of mind. It was one of the league matches of India against Zimbabwe, unimportant for many, but very significant for India, as that loss would have eliminated our team from the tournament itself, forget about even contending for the title. Indian team was tottering at 17 runs for the loss of 5 wickets. Indian loss seemed imminent. But what Zimbabweans and the world little knew that two men – Kapil and Kirmani will change not only the course of that match from their onwards but pretty much of the whole tournament. Kirmani joined Kapil at this juncture and while everyone has made an effort to remember the 175 run knock of Kapil in this match, almost everyone has sadly forgotten that Kirmani stood rock solid at the other end for a record 126 ninth wicket partnership. Although Kirmani scored 24 runs in this partnership, had he not planted himself at the other end, Kapil’s feat and India’s comeback win would never have been possible. This match unfortunately was not recorded on camera (in those days only important matches would be recorded and broadcasted by television companies). Alas! A video of this match would have been such a wonderful testimony to the grit and determination of Syed Kirmani. He played the role of sheet anchor and while Kapil took away the applause, Kirmani was content with having done his bit for his nation. Everyone remembers Neil Armstrong as the first person on moon. Few remember that Mike Collins and Buzz Aldrin also accompanied him in this successful landmark mission. Kirmani’s contributions were pivotal in India winning the world title, something that changed the perception of the world towards our nation and made the world sit back and take note of this merging global power. A measure of his contributions can be gauged from the fact that it took a good 27 years for India to repeat its feat and win the championship again.

It took a while for the feeling to sink in me that I was indeed sitting next to one of my childhood idols and a legend. However Kirmani Sir has an uncanny way of making you feel comfortable and at ease immediately. His humility and straightforwardness is extremely appealing. A few minutes with him and you will feel that you have known him for years. I have met him two times after that and every time he has left me awestruck by his magnetic simplicity and aura.

I consider myself fortunate that he wrote an endorsement for my book ‘The Life of Y – Engaging Millennials as employees and Consumers’ and even agreed to release my book. His words and presence made my journey as an author so very complete and worthy. The feeling is incomparable and it will remain etched as some memorable moments of my life.

As this legend celebrate his birthday today, we wish that almighty blesses him with long life, good health and lots of happiness.

Happy Birthday Kirmani Sir. Many, many happy returns of the day.

You were, You are and You will remain the true ‘Lord of the Lords’.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Power Mongers Versus Power Custodians

The more I think about it, the more I get convinced about it... the more I see it happening around, the more I tend to believe it... that Power should be always be entrusted with people who do not want it, do not yearn for it; and not to those who want it badly.

Those who want power, who haggle for the same, get almost immediately drunk by it once they are given power or they acquire the same. I call them 'Power Mongers'.They love to dominate, play power games, create & display power symbols, impose opinions, show utter disregard for other's opinions, expect everyone to seek their consent before saying or doing anything, create their 'yes men/women' (sycophants) group, engage in negative politicking.. and whenever someone challenges them for their mistakes or wrong doings, these 'Power Mongers' use their group of sycophants to bully the one who challenged their actions or behaviour. They do not hesitate to mock, public ridicule and hit below the belt whoever stands for just and right.

I encounter 'Power Mongers' in public life, social life and in personal life. I am sure all of you do.

'Power Mongers' are found everywhere - among politicians, bureaucrats, organizational leaders/managers, union leaders, fringe group leaders in society, community associations and even in families. Well, in the age of technology you can even find them in social media, whats app groups and where not...

Using politics, manipulating words and actions, double talk and standards are natural strategies for 'Power Mongers' who are driven by a constant desire to dominate, hog the limelight, grab all the credit (even what others rightfully deserve) and ensure that all advantages are turned to them and disadvantages to others.

On the other hand, those who do not wish or want to have power, when they are given the same, they become guardians of the same. They treat power with a great deal of responsibility and are always self-aware that every time they use power, they could be potentially benefiting or harming others, their interests and creating, strengthening or breaking relationships. They use power with discretion and caution for a defined common purpose and seek to balance the benefits in such a way that it puts no one to disadvantage and every deserving person gets a voice, care and share. They voice their opinions but know to respect others, have the invaluable gift of listening and wisdom. I call them 'Power Custodians'.

Unfortunately we have far more 'Power Mongers' in this world, the root of most problems; whereas we need more of 'Power Custodians'.

Photo Credits: ( )

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Change Room Politics

The Virat-Kumble spat is much public and the row between the Indian cricket captain and the now ex-head coach of the team has been officially documented in the resignation letter of the latter. Kumble quit of grounds of irrevocable set of differences with the Indian captain. While, leaks about Kumble over-bearing character and his alleged coercion of the players who performed poorly have been doing rounds.

Virat who is in the eye of storm had maintained his silence. In the latest World is One News (WION) interview he refused to spill the beans of what actually transpired between the two referring the same to the sanctity of the “Change Room”. Virat swears by the ideology of  ‘what happens in the “Change Room”, stays in the “Change Room”,  a supposedly consciously constructed culture of the team, which he does not intend to flout.

Virat achieved three objectives by using the “Change Room” defence for his no comment –

> One, by refusing to discuss details he has successfully created an impression that Kumble flouted the “Change Room” culture by washing his dirty linen in public.

> Second, he also rose above the ordinary by not allowing himself to follow his coach’s footsteps.

> And finally, he also put a shroud of mystery on what actually happened inside the four walls of the “Change room”, thus further fuelling public's interest in the same. Public attention is after all good marketing. 

However Kumble and Kohli both have played the "Change Room" politics. - the former by disclosing the contents to the public, the latter by refusing to do so under the garb of ethics. 

Kumble's behaviour amply shows that in he power struggle, he has lost the game and enjoys little support from the board , captain and the players. Kumble took to the gallows not before desperately throwing the knife at Kohli's throat. He perhaps feels a bit vindicated by taking a snipe at his tormentor. 

Kohli on the other hand is definitely one up in the power equation. His silence is a sign of his security and also his growing smartness. He enjoys support and to an extent the board and players are dependent on him to lead the cricket team for the time being.  

In public eye, Kumble has emerged as a sore victim and Kohli as a resilient leader who does not believe in burning bridges or malicious finger-pointing in public. We will leave the debate of who is to fault for this fallout between the two to the Indian cricket board, but for now it is Kohli -1, Kumble - 0  when it comes to public perception. Kohli though will have to now bear the immense load of public expectation, now that he has a free hand.

Power and politics and behaviour have an interesting relationships. Politics is mostly played behind curtains that might manifest itself as "Change Room politics" or "Board Room politics", "Dinner politics" or the more murkier bedroom politics. Who wins the 'game' depends not that much on who is right; more on who creates more dependency that fosters power and sways public perception in one's own favour. this is exactly how politicians get away by many times doing something that is wrong and unpleasant. 

Niccolo Machiavelli, a late 15th century political advisor and political theorist, explained this beautifully in descrbing 'Machiavellanism' personality trait.

Watch -