Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Flower Show

Here are the photos of some of the flowers/foliage in my garden. The last but one is that of pumpkin-flower with a honey bee hovering over it and the last photo is that of a baby pumpkin.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The First Grey Hair

In my school days, I had come across an Odia poem, two lines of which, translated freely, read like this:
He need not be knowledgeable,
Who has a head of grey;
One who pursues knowledge even in youth,
People call him wise.
So, when one day, about fifteen years ago, the wife, to her great delight, discovered the first grey hair on my head, she did not consider me to have grown wise but only grown old. She was delighted, nay, overjoyed at this great discovery because the first streak of grey on her head had appeared long before that and over the years, half of the hair on her head had shed its shiny black colour and had turned grey.(She was a junior in my college and it was her long flowing dense and silky black tresses which had first attracted me towards her.) My ideal of womanhood is Sita not because of any thing else but because she is reputed to have had long cascading silky and lustrous jet black hair which swept the floor when loosened. It is said that the legendary Shakuntala(meaning a lady with good hair) was named as such because she had long, luxurious and lustrous hair flowing down to her ankles. Even now, my eyes instinctively move towards a lady whose back is adorned with long black shiny hair, plaited or allowed to hang loosely.
Now, back to my first grey hair. On her great discovery, the lady of the house(L O H) danced and sang with uninhibited glee and called out to the daughter. The latter, who as usual was listening to an unbearably loud music with an open book in front of her, rushed out and was very much surprised to see her mother’s face beaming with uncontrolled joy, a face which used to almost always wear a frown as an inseparable ornament, as if the frown was born with her face and body, in the manner as Karna in the Mahabharat was born with the kabacha and kundala (the life-saving vest and ear-rings respectively). The kabacha was perhaps the earliest version of modern-day bullet-proof vest.
The L O H, with sparkling eyes, poured the 'GREAT BREAKING NEWS' to the daughter, with great enthusiasm. But to her utter disappointment, the daughter did not share her joy, nor did she show any sign of the ecstasy which the lady had reached. Indeed, the daughter was crest-fallen. :((((( A great sense of loss was writ large on her face. Our daughter loved my visits to her school. Whenever I went to her school, she, with an air of superiority, used to point out to her friends, my crown with a shiny crop of black hair, as a contrast to the grey and graying heads of their fathers. She used to tell me after each of my visits, how her friends turned green with envy because the hair on the heads of their fathers had turned grey years before that. And because of this, she wanted me to visit her school as often as possible, with or without any purpose. Now her disappointment was total. She looked at me and her sad eyes told me that I had let her down. The two pairs of eyes, those belonging to the mother and to the daughter respectively, were a study in contrast!!!
Presently, the two ladies went into a conference. I was a half-hearted listener. There was an animated discussion between the two, as to what was needed to correct the disaster. The older member of the self-appointed High Power Committee suggested sympathetically that I should use henna to dye my hair as she was doing. I immediately shook my head as I hated (and still do) that foul-smelling potion and I did not want to wear a saffron cap. The younger member did not suggest. She ordered that I must use some good hair-dye. Otherwise, she said, she would not be able to show her face to her friends. When I quietly but firmly shook my head once again, she barked her alternative order in a rather loud voice, the loudness surpassing even that of her favourite music – “NEVER COME TO MY SCHOOL AGAIN.”
Even after reaching the venerable status of a senior citizen, I have a fairly black stock of hair on my head, with a few strands of grey on my temples on either side, highlighting the dark shed on the top.
Indira Gandhi with her unique and famous streak of grey
Men with silver in their hair look distinguished; women with silvery hair look extinguished!!!
(This rule cannot be applied to Indiraji. She had a glow in her face during her aging years.)
During the of Emergency years 1975-77, when she had established her authoritarian rule, Indira Gandhi had been described by a foreign journalist as "the only 'man' in a cabinet of old women".


You know you are getting bald when it takes longer and longer to wash your face!

Addendum II - Doosri Sita or The Modern Day Rapunzel
The Times of India of 09.12.2011 carries a photograph showing the 8.3 feet long hair of Ni Limmei of China. She stands on a chair while her neighbours comb her hair.
The Odia newspaper The Sambad of the 13th Dec. carries another photo of Ni Limmei standing on her balcony and combing her 2.53 meter long, and still growing, hair cascading down to the lower floor of the building. The paper adds that her compatriot Zai Kiuping holds the world record of having 5.627 meter long hair recognised by Guinness Book of World Records in 2004.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Responsible Mother

I am surprised by the total transformation of Daughter II. From a fun-loving, carefree, tempestuous, whimsical, happy-go-lucky and globetrotting girl (once, she even went off to Pakistan for a book-promotion programme), she has suddenly donned a completely different robe, that of a very responsible, very patient, very caring mother who has created a new world, a very small world, a world centered around a gurgling and whimpering tiny creature keen on intermittently kicking the world with all her four limbs and with all the strength she can muster.

As a teenager, wherever my daughter would go, it would seem like a tornado had just ravished the area. Patience, calmness and responsibility were words I would have never associated with her. And look at her now! The catalyst for the change has been that my rebellious and self-willed girl now has a girl of her own, whom she says she has 'made'. The tiny 'bundle of joy' has bound my daughter's hand and feet!

I feel as if I am looking at a complete stranger. I am surprised by the numerous and unending stream of terms of endearment showered by her on her baby. She knows that the baby laughs when paper is torn in front of her or when her mother claps. She now knows that when the baby cries in a particular way, it is time to feed her and when the baby whimpers in another way, it indicates that she needs a nap. I asked her,"From where did you learn all these?" Smilingly, she replied, "From her." And her 'teacher' peeps out with bewitchingly blinking eyes from a bundle of well-set clothes.

Sometimes, when I go near the baby, my daughter seals her lips with her finger and shoos me away with a "Shhhh, she is sleeping." She keeps on reminding me that her baby has a very light sleep and that she wakes up even by the sound of rustling leaves.

Once hesitatingly, I asked her, "Don't you feel anything while changing the dirty diapers?" The reply, with a smile again, is, "It is a pleasure." !!! So are cleaning up when the baby throws up and also having to wake up at night for the baby's needs.

In myriad ways, she tries to make the baby comfortable and happy.

In myriad ways, she tries to find out what the baby needs at which time.

A line I saw in an advertisement for baby food runs, 'It feels like someone has taken out a part of you and yet has made you complete.' How true!

It happens to every new mother; yet it seems to be a new thing every time.

A question comes to my mind - why has God made human babies so helpless and entirely dependent, unlike the young ones of other living beings? A calf starts walking and frolicking within an hour of birth. It takes so long for a human baby even to turn, let alone sit up or take the first tentative steps!

The initial total dependence of the human baby is perhaps deliberately programmed for human bonding and formation of human society.

Tail Piece

I am reminded of a few lines from a poem by Byron:

And what am I?
A child crying in the night,
A child crying for light,
With no language but a cry.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Fungi Nail Nailed by Lemon!

This happened when I was to leave India for Singapore to visit Daughter II. The wife is already with her and we are to return after a fortnight.

About a week before my departure for Singapore, I experienced a slight pain at the corner of the thumb on my right hand. I didn't take it seriously and thought that I had probably wrenched the small piece of thread-like skin near the corner of the thumb and that the pain would go away after a couple of days. However, even after 3 days the pain persisted and had actually increased. I discovered that there was a little swelling on the spot and the the area had become very sensitive. I referred to a book on home remedies and found a suggested cure to the problem. The book recommended slicing off the top of a lemon and inserting the affected finger into it. I wanted to try it out but I did not want to be seen with a lemon attached to my thumb in the aircraft and be a sight. Moreover, I was not sure how long the healing would take. Time was running out, as I was to board my flight in a few days. So I telephoned a doctor-friend and sought his advice.

He prescribed a medicine to be taken for 4 days, one tablet twice daily. He added that this medicine would cause a side effect. It would cause diarrhoea! To overcome that, he prescribed another tablet to be taken along with the first one. The problem persisted even after 4 days so on his advice, I took another set of tablets, one to address the main problem and another as an antidote to the side effect of gastric disorder. After a week, the problem had appeared to wane and I was happy. But the side effect was still troubling me. By this time, I was already in the flight to Singapore.

Two days after landing in the island of my daughter's residence, the problem disappeared completely. I heaved a sigh of relief at the thought of avoiding being in pain in a foreign country and putting my daughter and son-in-law into the consequent inconvenience.

However, my sense of relief was short-lived. :(((((

The day after the right thumb became right, the left thumb left me in trouble! I experienced a similar pain at the corner of the left thumb. :(((

All of us, including my 5-month old granddaughter, became worried. Then I told my daughter about what I had read in the book on home remedies. The daughter took charge. She searched on the Internet and found that the remedy was indeed supposed to be effective. She found out that the cause was fungus, the result of my gardening and handling soil with my bare hands.

She promptly took out a lemon from her refrigerator, sliced the top off and asked me to insert my affected thumb into it. She advised me to keep the thumb in it for 8 hours a day for 3 days. I complied.

Thumb up!

I kept it like that for as long as possible, except while taking a bath and sleeping.

Lo and behold! The irritating problem had disappeared into thin air precisely at the end of the 3rd day! :)))))))))

The problem on the right thumb was remedied with a cost of over Rs 400 and in 8 days with the attendant non-monetary cost of loose motion and gastric woes. The irritant on the left thumb was fixed in 3 days sharp and with S$ 0.50 (about Rs. 19). This would of course be much cheaper in India, where a lemon costs Rs. 1.50 or Rs. 2. Of course, the average size of lemons in Singapore is more than twice that of lemons of India.

The daughter has since purchased a large pack of gloves and has ordered me not to even look at my garden without wearing gloves.

Happy home remedies. :)))))))

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Monkey Bite

It happened in August 2008. At that time, I was working at Visakhapatnam. I was deputed to Vijaywada for two weeks. Had I been there for this whole period, I would have escaped the accident. Because of an urgent piece of work at Visakhapatnam, I was called back. So I was made to be present there on that fateful day.

A monkey was roaming in our area for quite some time. It appeared to be harmless. It was more or less friendly to humans. It stole food from our kitchen on a couple of occasions and I shooed it away. Then one day, I was returning from my morning walk with two plastic carry bags -- one containing milk packets and the other, flowers for the wife's puja. (Don't get me wrong. I didn't say wife-puja, although I did almost worship her during those heady initial days of our newly wedded life.) As I was climbing the stairs to our first-floor apartment, I saw the monkey coming down the same staircase. I was face-to-face with her. (I learnt later that it was a female.) Our eyes met. I saw indignation, anger and aggression in her eyes. Terrified, I threw the milk and flowers and and beat a hasty retreat, climbing down the stairs backwards. Then I fled from the scene.

However, I realised that my image was fixed in her eyes. She was not harming anyone else but whenever she spotted me, she used to run towards me and snarl in an aggressive way. I was afraid of coming out of our house. During my morning walks, I started carrying a long stick, causing people to throw queer looks at me. To known persons, I would explain why I was carrying the stick. Normally it would be dark by the time I returned from the bank and I was scared and feared her attack. So I kept a stick in the car too.

I sent a written complaint to the Municipality. To be fair to the authorities, they sent a squad twice to catch her but failed. The monkey refused to take the bait and enter the vehicle. Then the Municipality wrote to the local zoo to catch her. In that letter, the Municipality had mentioned that they had to catch her with care as she was pregnant!!! They had sent a copy of this letter to me in reply to my complaint. When I telephoned to the zoo, they said that it was not in their jurisdiction. They said it was the duty of the Municipality and if the Municipality brought the monkey to the zoo, they would accept it.

I was at a loss about what to do. A couple of days later, when I was returning from my morning walk, one of the young men staying in the ground floor of the building, suggested to me to try to befriend the monkey. "Otherwise, how long can you avoid it?", he asked. I threw a piece of roti at her. She did not take it. Then the young man suggested that I should come down and offer the roti to her. I did that and she accepted it. I was coming back but the young man suggested me to stay there for a while so that the monkey would become familiar with me and accept me as a harmless friend. I did that and she did not react. Then the youngman suggested that I should wander around a little to create confidence in her. I did that. AND THEN IT HAPPENED. Suddenly, she charged towards me and attacked me. With my back pressed against my parked car, I could not run away. I was wearing shorts and she started scratching and biting my exposed legs. The young men who had gathered around, were too horrified to do anything. Then another person passing by came to my rescue and drove the monkey away by simply shooing her!!!!!!!!!!!

The young man who had suggested me to befriend the monkey, took me to a nearby hospital on his motorcycle. I had to take anti-rabies shots and it took about 15 days for the wounds to heal.

I continued carrying the stick.

A fortnight thereafter, the monkey simply vanished mysteriously!!!

Was it pre-destined and pre-ordained?

First, I was called back when the monkey was roaming in our area. Then it was I who came face to face with her on the staircase. She was friendly to all except me. Then again, I was advised to offer food to her. And when she had accepted the food from me and I wanted to come back, I was advised twice (of course with all good intentions) to linger there for some more time. Were my bank authorities and my friendly young neighbour the agents of fate?

I pride myself in saying that I do not believe in fate or destiny. What was it? Were all those causes mere coincidences or was the script pre-written somewhere?

I am in self-doubt. ???!!!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Singapore Horse-shoe Crab

I am in Singpore now. As usual, in the morning I went for a walk on the beautiful beach here. When I was enjoying the stroll, an object attracted my attention. At first sight, I took it as some dead sea-animal. On closer examination, I found that there was a movement of one of its tiny legs. So I presumed that the animal had been flipped on the shore by a big and strong wave and had turned upside down.

On the Flip Side

I felt pity and decided to help. I prodded it a little with the help of the umbrella which I was carrying. I turned it and it came to its normal position and started crawling. :)))))

Crawling Back to Life

But it was crawling away from the sea. So with the tip of the umbrella, I pushed it a little and changed the direction of its movement. It started moving towards the sea. After a while, it stopped moving. I felt it had lost its energy because of lying on the dry sand and in the unfavourable surrounding for long. I decided to help it further. Gently, with the help of of the tip of the umbrella, I pushed it a little further. It started moving but again stopped after a while. So again I pushed it slightly. It moved a little and stopped. We made a joint effort. I and the animal repeated the process about 3 or 4 times. Finally it reached the tip of sea and then swiftly and gleefully swam into the water. :)))))))))

Reaching Home At Last!

I could observe it only for a little while but to my disappointment and to its utter delight, it disappeared into the sea.

I came back home and learnt that these animals are called horse-shoe crabs.

The incident provided a happy moment to me.

Friday, 16 September 2011

I am OK; you are OK

It is an irony of life that man cannot live without others and yet, he cannot live with others. Along with love and fellow-feeling, human society is replete with conflicts. ‘Transactional Analysis’, a method of Group Therapy developed by Eric Berne, helps us to live and let others live, with minimum conflicts.

In this analysis, a ‘Transaction’ is larger than both conversation and communication. It includes all forms of contacts between people – social, and psychological, material and spiritual. A transaction consists of a stimulus by one person and a response by another which response in turn, becomes a new stimulus for the other person to respond. A transaction includes facial expressions, word-intonations, body movements, gestures and postures.

Transactional Analysis is the analysis of an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It helps us to understand our own behaviour and to predict how others would react to a particular situation.

When we observe the behaviour of a person at different times, it appears as if there are different people inside one individual. At any particular time, one or the other of these different people seem to be in control of an individual’s total personality.

Ego State

In the analysis of Berne, every one’s personality has 3 Ego States, namely Parent, Adult and Child. Here, ‘Ego’ has nothing to do with ‘ego’ in the ordinary sense; it has nothing to do with pride. It is an identification of a particular state of mind.

The Parent in a person contains the attitudes and behaviour incorporated from external sources like parents, peers, teachers, T V and other role models. The Parent is critical, mature and prejudicial. The response of this aspect of a person is automatic, almost as if a pre-recorded tape is being played in person’s brain and is directing his words and actions. He acts as he has been taught and learnt. It is a Taught concept.

The Adult in a person wants facts, gathers information, reasons things and estimates probabilities. It is cool and collected and takes decisions unemotionally. The response is analytical. The responses are well thought out. It is a Thought concept. The Adult can evaluate the Parent and the Child and can examine what is right and what should be changed.

The Child contains all the impulses that come naturally to an infant. The Child is inquisitive, affectionate, playful, selfish and manipulative. Feelings dominate the responses. It is a Felt concept.

Each of these 3 types has its sub-divisions. The’ Critical Parent’ is filled with opinions and prejudices about religion, politics, traditions, life-styles, proper dress, ways of speech etc. It is a bossy ’know-it-all’ whose behaviour intimidates the Child in the other person. In the positive side, the Critical Parent sets rules, regulations and limits which give our life stability, solidarity and a sense of security.

The ‘Nurturing Parent’ is sympathetic, protective and comforting. Its positive aspects are that it stands by the weak and encourages them to take its support and improve. However, it spoils others and makes them dependent.

The ‘Natural Child’ is what a person would be ‘naturally’, that is, if nothing influenced him. It is affectionate, impulsive and curious. It is also fearful, self-indulgent, self-centered, rebellious and aggressive. It contains a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

The ‘Little Professor’ is the unschooled wisdom of the child. It is intuitive, manipulative and creative. Little Professor and Adult make a good combination.

The ‘Adapted Child’ is the modification of a Natural Child’s inclinations due to emotional shocks, traumatic experiences and significant authority-figures. The natural expressiveness becomes covertly inhibited. The Natural Child adapts itself to the uncomfortable environment. Features of an Adapted Child are complying, withdrawing and procrastinating.

When a person is in any one of these Ego States, he exhibits certain manners and gestures which can be used as clues to identify his state of mind at that time.

All ‘Transactions’ can be broadly classified into 3 categories, namely, Complementary, Crossed and Ulterior.

Complementary Transaction

A Transaction can be called ‘Complementary’, when a message sent from a particular Ego State gets the expected response from the particular Ego State in the other person. The response ‘complements’ the stimulus. A complementary Transaction may occur between any 2 Ego States.

It may be Parent-Parent when two persons are analyising any subject critically:

Sender- Do you know how much fee I am paying for my son in LKG?

Receiver- May be, it is more than the University fee for P G Course.

It may be Adult-Adult when fact-finding:

Sender- What is the time?

Receiver- It is 10.30

It may be Child-Child when having fun:

Sender- How about going for a movie?

Receiver- Oh, yes. I am ready.

Complementary Transactions are parallel and can occur between Parent-Child, Adult-Child, Adult-Parent etc. As long as the response remains the expected one, the Transactions are Complementary and tend to continue. Communication-lines remain open.

Crossed Transaction

When a stimulus receives an unexpected or inappropriate response, the Transaction is ‘Crossed’.

Sender- What is the time?

Receiver- Can you not buy a watch?

Sender- Have you seen my pen?

Receiver- I am busy.

When Transactions are crossed, the person who initiated it experiences frustration. Communication breaks down and some times unpleasant clashes follow. Here the stimuli in both the cases came from Adult and the response was expected from Adult. However, both the responses came from Critical Parent and the conversation ended abruptly.

Ulterior Transaction

A transaction is called ‘Ulterior’ when a critical message is sent in a hidden but socially acceptable communication.

Salesman- This saree is really better but I do not know whether you can afford it.

Lady-This is exactly what I want to buy.

Here the message of the salesman is directed towards the Adult of the customer, whose Adult reply would be, “You are right; I cannot afford to buy it when my earning is so low.” However, at the psychological level, the Child in the lady is hooked and it feels, ‘Who is this fellow to decide my capacity to buy? I shall teach him a lesson.’ However, without revealing the inner feelings of the Child, the Adult comes out with the reply.

Crossed Transactions become a source of pain and result in unpleasantness. Therefore, we should analyse our own behaviour and strengthen the Adult in us. By this, we shall be able to manage our own behaviour and to influence others.

When we feel that some one is speaking from his Parent or Child Ego State, we should continue to speak from our Adult and try to hook the Adult in him. After some time, the Adult in him is bound to be aroused and the conversation will come up to an even level.


Infants will not grow normally without the touch of others. Something about being touched stimulates the infant’s mental and physical growth. As the child grows, the early hunger for physical touch becomes a hunger for recognition. A smile, a nod, a word, a gesture begin to substitute for touch. Every person, whether a child or a grown up, has the need to be touched and recognized. This hunger for touch and recognition can be appeased by what are called ‘Strokes’. Strokes can be given in the form of physical touch or by some symbolic form of recognition such as a look, a word, a gesture or any other act which says, ‘I know you are there.’

Life Positions

Depending on their childhood experiences, children develop certain concepts about their own worth or that of others. There are 4 possible life-positions that the individual assumes about himself and others:

  1. I am not ok; you are ok.
  2. I am not ok; you are not ok.
  3. I am ok; you are not ok.
  4. I am ok; you are ok.

This crucial decision is generally taken around the age of 5 years. Once finalized, the child remains in his chosen position and it governs every thing he does. It stays with him for the rest of his life, unless he consciously changes it.

I am not ok; you are ok.

This is the universal position of early childhood. The ‘Not ok’ feeling is the result of feelings of inferiority on account of his small size and helplessness. The ‘Ok’ feelings about others come from the positive ‘strokes’ received from parents during the first year.

The individual, who continues to remain in this position, feels he is powerless compared to others. He considers himself inferior and wants to get away from others. The Child Ego State dominates in this position.

I am not ok; you are not ok.

If the stroking disappears after the infant learns to walk, if mother is cold, if punishments are harsh and frequent, somewhere in the third year, the child will conclude, ‘I am not ok; you also are not ok’.

Such an individual gives up seeking strokes. He gets nowhere either with life or with others. He loses interest in life. He stops using the Adult in him. He concludes, ‘I am not ok and so are you; let us destroy each other.’ Such people end up either in mental hospital or in jail.

I am ok; you are not ok.

This is the life position of an individual who was brutalized by his parents and others in his child hood. He has not received any positive Strokes. The severity of the punishment drives the child to feel, ‘I will be alright if you leave me alone; I am ok by myself.”

The individual, who had such experience in childhood, strikes back when he grows up. He never accepts even genuine Strokes. Many criminals occupy this position.

I am ok; you are ok.

The individual, who operates from this life-position, is able to free himself from his original ‘not ok’ feeling. He is able to find the ‘ok’ in others and gets along well with others.

“I am ok; you are ok’ is a position and not feeling. The only way to get to this position is to expose the predicaments under the first 3 positions.

The ‘not ok’ feelings recorded in childhood cannot be eradicated completely but the effect can be reduced. An individual can acquire the ‘ok’ feeling about himself and others by assuming ‘I am ok; you are ok’ position and by activation of his Adult Ego State.


I’m Ok; You’re Ok by Thomas A Harris MD, is a best-selling self-help book

Oll Korrect., Bye Bye …. Ta … Ta J))))))))))))))

Monday, 12 September 2011


The way we see the outside world, need not be the same as the world really is. We tend to see the world as we want to see it. Reality is not what it seems. We do not see reality; we interpret what we see and call it reality. We hear what we want to hear; we see what we want to see and we forget what we don’t want to remember. We never forget to do what we really want to do; we forget to do only those things which we don't like or want to do. We don’t really see or hear; we perceive. Perception, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the observer.
Perception is the process by which we organize and interpret the stimuli received by us through our 5 senses, to give meaning to our environment. We perceive what gets registered in our mind. Understanding perception helps us to understand and manage ourselves and to manage others’ impression about us. 

Three main factors determine our perception. The first one is self – the perceiver. The way we see the world depends on our attitude, our motive, our interests, our past experiences, our prejudices and expectations. Two students in the same class may view the teacher’s ability differently. In a social gathering, a plastic surgeon is more likely to notice an imperfect nose than is a banker like me! In the presence of a dog, a dog-lover would experience a positive feeling whereas a person who hates or fears dogs would experience a negative feeling. A third person who is indifferent to dogs would not experience any feeling. And the dog remains what it is, a dog! To take another example, when a a poet, a botanist and an entrepreneur come across a beautiful flower, they see it differently. The poet may think of composing a sweet poem about its beauty. The botanist may think of tearing it into parts, to understand its physical structure. The entrepreneur may look at it and wonder if he could develop a good market for it.

Talking of prejudices takes me to my experience when I was appearing at the Test for Admission to M B A Course. A question in this Test was like this:
Presume that the plus sign + means division, the minus sign – means multiplication, the multiplication sign x means addition and the division sign % means subtraction. With these changed signs, do the following sum.
45 + 34 x 2 – 7 % 3 = ?

Can we do this sum as easily as doing it with the signs with conventional meanings?
This is similar to what prejudices do to us. Like the conventional arithmetical signs, prejudices are deeply embedded in our mind and it is very difficult to shed them while seeing or judging situations or people.

The second factor influencing our perception is the target being perceived. For example, in a group, loud people are noticed and listened to better; extremely attractive or extremely unattractive people are noticed more than ordinary-looking people; moving objects are noticed better than stationary objects (That is perhaps why young ladies and girls prefer danglers as ear-rings and older ladies wear fixed studs on their ears!). In the same way, we notice better, objects which are lager than we do smaller objects.
The third factor is the situation. We notice subordinates wasting time when the boss from the Head Quarters is in the town, more than we do on normal days. A Bank Branch received a windfall deposit of a huge amount just after a new Manager took charge. It was a walk-in deposit and a pure coincidence but the bosses perceived it as an indication of the business-capturing ability of the new Branch Manager! Three employees left an organization in quick succession, for different reasons soon after a new boss took charge but it was perceived that there was something wrong with the new leader.

Thus perception is always selective.

A lady went and complained to her neighbour that the latter’s son was ringing the former’s door-bell frequently and then running away. The second lady argued that her son was not doing any such thing but the first lady did not stop quarreling and accusing the boy of all kinds of mischief. Just then another resident of the same building came and hearing what was being told, said to the first lady, “I have seen your daughter frequently coming out, ringing the bell and rushing inside.” At this, the frown on the first lady’s face disappeared and smilingly she said to the visitor, “You know she is such a playful and fun-loving little girl.” Then she hurriedly withdrew into her apartment.

Also, there are two things which are called ‘Halo Effect’ and ‘Horns Effect’. Halo Effect refers to the effect of one single good characteristic such as intelligence, sociability or appearance, in the mind of the perceiver in drawing a general impression about an individual. Angels, Gods and Goddesses are believed to have a halo around their faces. If we are struck by a single impressive characteristic of a person, it puts a halo around the person and influences our total impression about him or her including his/her other characteristics which may not be that impressive. The person is perceived to be a strong personality even in his/her weak areas.
Just as angels are supposed to have halos around their visages, devils have horns on their heads. When there is one ‘rotten’ aspect in a person’s character or personality, it makes him a total devil in our mind and vitiates our whole impression about him even on traits where the person is likable or strong. If the boss is not happy with an employee about the latter’s performance in one major area, it creates a permanent block in his mind and the concerned employee is condemned as a non-performer even in areas where she performs well. In an interview, as the candidate entered, the Chairman of the Interview Committee noticed that a button on his shirt was missing. Even though his performance was very good, the Chairman thundered, “When he cannot manage a button, how can he take care of the Company?”
And, there is what is called the Gallo Effect. The billionaire wine-maker Ernest Gallo used the power of perception to a great effect. He would pour two glasses of wine for potential buyers telling them that one cost 5 Cents and the other, 10 Cents. Customers invariably chose the second one without knowing that the wine in both the glasses were from the same bottle!
Most consumers treat the price of a product as an indicator of its quality. Clever marketers use this to boost up profit. A company manufactured a new lock of very good quality and decided on its price by following 'Cost Plus' pricing system in which the price of a product is decided as a little above the cost of its production, taking into account other expenses and a reasonable amount of profit. To its disappointment, sales were low. It hired a consultant to do a market-study. The consultant did a market survey and advised that the price be trebled. Reluctantly, the Company did that. To its pleasant surprise, the sales zoomed! The consultant explained that the original price being relatively low, the product was perceived by potential buyers, as being of low quality. Higher price 'meant' better quality!!!

Since perception is always selective, it affects our communication. Often, what a person wishes to convey does not reach the receiver in the same form. It gets distorted due to some elements in the speaker and some elements in the mind of the person to whom the message is conveyed. This leads to a lot of misunderstanding and communication gaps. The speaker may mean something but the other person understands something completely different!
Once we accept that there can be different view-points from which to perceive the same thing, we can manage our emotions. And once we manage our emotions effectively, we perceive better, our relationship with our bosses, peers, subordinates, spouses and all others improves automatically.

Understanding perception helps us to understand and manage others’ impression about us. Since perception is always selective, we can think how we can manage others’ perception about us. Before we say or do something, we must take time to think how our words or deeds will be perceived at the other end.

Here is an example how a situation distorts perception. An accomplished danseuse was to present a well-planned dance number. A mischievous person planned to spoil the effect. Before start of the programme, he put a small stool in one corner of the stage, placed a glass tumbler at the edge of the stool, half of the base of the glass remaining outside the surface of the stool, and fixed it with the help of transparent adhesive tape to prevent it from falling off. At the end of the show, most members of the audience, when asked, said they had not observed the intricate nuances of the dance. Their attention was fixed on when the tumbler would fall off the stool!!

The key words are worth repeating: we do not see reality; we interpret what we see and call it reality.

The following poem 'Blind Men and the Elephant' by John Godfrey Saxe presents the matter succinctly:



 A picture of 6 blind men feeling an elephant for the first time and what they are imagining in their minds.

John Godfrey Saxe's ( 1816-1887) version of the famous Indian legend,

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach'd the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he,
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Tail Piece

Wife : Have you seen what your neighbour does?
Husband : No. What is that?
Wife : He kisses his wife daily before going to work. Why can’t you do so?
Husband : How can I do that? She doesn't even know me!

2. It was a 'hit and run' case. A car hit a pedestrian and sped away. A policeman arrived. He asked the pedestrian whether he (the pedestrian) had noted the number of the car. The answer was "No." Then this conversation followed:
Q. What was the colour of the car?
A. I was under trauma and have not noticed the colour?
Q. What was the Make of the car?
A. I have not noticed.
Q. Who was driving?
A. A lady. She was young and beautiful. She was wearing a pretty saree. She wore her hair  
     long. She had a cute black mole over the left side of her lips.

Moral: We don't see reality. We see what we want to see. We hear what we want to hear.    

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Income Tax Extra

Almost 30 years ago, I constructed a modest-sized house with a loan from my Bank. My job took me all over India and till my retirement, I did not have the opportunity of living in that house built with a mixture of the loan-amount and a lot of my sweat. I had found a good tenant soon after the construction was over.

After a few years, this first tenant moved to his own newly-constructed house. I was lucky in finding this tenant within a week of completion of construction but when he moved out, I went through an unenviable experience. The house was found to be too big for the middle-income group and too small for the higher income group!

Family after family inspected the house and told me that they would come and inform me “tomorrow” or “within a couple of days” but that tomorrow or those couple of days never came.

I felt like the parent of a girl of marriageable age, when families of prospective bride-grooms come to ‘see’ her, are fed well and leave, promising that they would convey their decision “within a week’ that never came. (Of course, I did not have to feed my prospective tenants.)

I could realize the plight of parents who get tired of ‘showing’ their daughters to the prospective grooms and hordes of their relatives.

I do not know how my house felt when she was rejected but I could imagine the state of the mind of a girl who had been ‘inspected’ by an unending series of prospective grooms but was still waiting for her prince charming.

Then there was the question of the rent-amount. Naturally, I expected the amount to be a little more than the earlier rent. I had to take into account the Union Finance Minister’s share in the rent by way of Income Tax.

When I told the rent-amount including the Finance Minister’s share, a few prospective tenants turned away.

I poured out my woes before a friend who happened to be an Income Tax practitioner. He listened to me patiently and suggested that I should ask such prospective tenants whether they had purchased packaged products any time. To my questioning look, he replied that till a couple of years before that, every packaged product stated the price on it and an addition ‘Local Taxes Extra’. “Similarly”, the friend suggested, “you quote your rent and add the words ‘Income Tax Extra’. If the prospective tenant says that such a practice had been abolished and the price includes taxes, you say that the Rules about indicating the price including taxes on packaged products relates to Sales Tax and not Income Tax!”

Of course after some time I did find a family willing to share my Income Tax burden.