Monday, September 30, 2013

It is a small world

I was on a trip to USA a few years ago.  One evening my cousin, with whom I was staying, took me to a party hosted by his friend celebrating the fortieth wedding anniversary of his parents.  When we reached the house, I was introduced to the father of the friend, and surprisingly I found his face was very familiar.  While I still could not recall the connection, his face brightened with joy and he shouted, “You are Varadha, no?  I am Vaidyanathan.da.. We studied in the same class in SIWS School in Mumbai”.  Immediately I could recall my friend Vaidyanathan’s face when he was in school.  We were meeting after fifty years.  And with the passage of time, his looks had completely changed .  Needless to say that during  the rest of the evening we spent a lot of time, going down memory lane and trying to connect from where we had left off.

* * * * *
On another occasion, I was in Singapore on a holiday and was visiting Sentosa Island with my wife.  I had gone to the toilet to relieve myself when I found that much to my irritation, the gentlemen in the next urinal, was repeatedly peeping at me over the dividing wall.  When we both stepped down he said, “I think you are Mr. Rajan, we have met before at a CII Conference in Mumbai.  I am so and so”; and he extended his hand, which I scrupulously avoided as both of us had not yet used the wash basin to clean our hands. Needless to say, we got talking later and found many common friends we knew. He suggested that we  meet over a drink one evening while in Singapore.  Of course,  my wife ensured that I did not waste an evening on a stranger I met in a “loo”!

I  have had many such experiences of meeting total strangers in trains, airports, at parties, visiting places in India and abroad to find that they were either related or connected to scores of people I knew.

* * * * *
The betrothal ceremony of my brother’s daughter held recently became very memorable because of the many pleasant surprises it had in store for all of us.

My brother had found a good alliance for his charming daughter through a well known marriage portal.  When the family details were exchanged we found that the father of the bridegroom was already known to us, as an old client of our advertising agency.  While one of his elder brothers in Mumbai was a celebrity in the corporate world, I had known another elder brother living in Chennai  for over 40 years, initially as a client and later as a Round Tabler.  As the Big day approached we found many more such connections.

My elder son-in-law’s cousin was related to the groom’s family.  One of my office colleague’s eldest sister, was related to the groom’s family.  On the day of the event we not only found more  relationships but also common friends.  When I met a long lost friend at the ceremony, whom we had not invited, he told us that he was an old friend of the groom’s family living in the same neighborhood for some time.  I met many other common friends at the function.

By the end of the ceremony we realized that what started off as an alliance between two strangers turned out to be a happy union of two families, already connected with each other in more ways than one.

Anyone can have such experiences. More so if one is involved in voluntary organizations or belong to a large family whose offsprings are spread all over the world.

Come to think of it:-It is a small world indeed!

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Monday, September 16, 2013


A friend was lamenting that his son who had moved to Salem on a job transfer was unable to get decent accommodation.  He asked me if I could help.  I said, ‘no problem’.

I went through my contact book and located the name of an ex- Round Tabler based in that city and posed the problem to him.  I had known this Tabler friend very well during my active days in Tabling but had been out of touch for over two decades.

He was delighted to hear my voice and we connected instantly from where we had left off.  After exchanging the usual pleasantries, he said he would get back to me in a day.  Surprisingly he reverted within a couple of hours giving me the contact number of a leading real estate man in Salem who was well  known to him.

I passed on the message to my friend hoping it would be of some help to him.  Within the next two days my friend called to tell me that, thanks to my contact, his son had found an accommodation, in a central locality for a reasonable rent.  He thanked me profusely.

On many occasions, I have been able to help desperate parents get admission for their children in good schools using a friend’s clout in that school.

On other occasions, I have helped youngsters get jobs through my contacts or helped others with any problem they have approached me for.

During the last four decades of my professional career, I have never said `No’ to anyone seeking any form of help from me, owing largely to a huge network of friends I have developed because of my involvement in several voluntary organisations.  All that is required is a telephone call from me to a friend and 80% of the time, my networking has benefited someone.

‘Networking’ is two-way traffic.  Just as you seek help from others, you must also help others when they seek your help.  It calls for continuous investment of time and effort on our part in cultivating people.  Becoming a member of a voluntary organization or professional body certainly helps.  However, you have to work hard to prove your sincerity and dedication to the organization so that people notice you and you slowly become a part of the network.  I have experienced this phenomenon in my own life.

I had a problem of moving up the ladder early in my advertising career because of my lack of social contacts, as I came from a lower middle class family.  On the recommendation of a friend I joined the Round Table, a voluntary association of young men with service & fellowship as its prime objectives. Round Table opened up a whole new world to me.  For the next fourteen years I was deeply involved in that wonderful association, making new friends across the country and  contributing my might to several avenues of service of the association.  Round Table India even thought it fit to confer the Distinguished Service Award on me.  During my membership with the association I had not approached any one for business. However, when I was at  the cross roads in life, ex-Tablers helped me start and sustain my new advertising agency; with business, finance and other  needs  too; that is something I can never forget in my  life.  Thirty years after leaving that association (due to age limit), I find that even today, I can count on an ex-Tabler for any help I may need.

Many people join voluntary organizations with the sole motive of furthering their business interests. Many of them have personal agendas. They think that just by becoming a member of an organization, they will automatically have people waiting to use their services.  I remember a lady Rotarian, who was heading a travel agency; join my Rotary Club thinking that all the frequent travelers in the club will shift their loyalties to her.  When nothing happened, she felt disappointed and left the club within a year of joining.

Networking can help people in many ways. But it has to be based on sincere friendship to be effective!

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Baby Sitting Online

Thanks to technology, the world seems to have  shrunk. Distance is no more a barrier to reach out to our near and dear ones living in faraway lands.  Not once a day but as often as we want; at virtually negligible  costs. I saw this phenomenon in evidence when I went to spend a couple of days with my brother in Hyderabad.

Like many parents of Non Resident Indians, my brother and his wife, keep their ‘Tablet’  in the on mode in the evenings, awaiting a call from their daughter living in New York.  As soon as they hear the ringing sound, they run to the gadget to see their daughter and their 18 months old grand daughter on the screen, ready for a chat.  The chat can go on for hours.  With their grandchild demonstrating new words she has picked up or a new game she has learnt to play, prompted by her mother, providing endless delight to her grandparents.

Suddenly she becomes cranky and starts crying.  The grandparents promptly try to divert her attention with a new trick. Their daughter says, “I think she is hungry, continue to play with her, I will be back in five minutes” and heads for the kitchen to get some food for the baby.  While mother is busy in the kitchen, the baby is kept engaged by the grandparents. This happens several times during the 60 minutes that the grand parents were on Skype and almost every evening this show is repeated!

Their screams of `Ohs` and `Aah’s and clapping of hands in excitement is an indication that they are having a ball, temporarily forgetting all the pains and aches which are their constant companion otherwise. It is almost as good as the grandparents spending real time with their grandchild.

I thought this is a classic example of “Baby Sitting Online”; a far cry from the days when parents had to wait for their NRI children to visit India or themselves go abroad to play with their grand children.I know of many old parents who have stopped feeling lonely because of this ability to communicate with their children living abroad on a daily basis.

The Skype (or Google Hangout) technology has other advantages too! Like my friend who is a “Mridangam Vidwan” has a couple of students in U.S.A. to whom he teaches mridangam online, at fixed times/ days of a week, earning a good income in dollars every month. Thanks to the Rupee falling against the dollars in the last few months I am sure he  must be making more money! Many others with similar talents are exploring ways of earning extra bucks through this virtual teaching method.

Today it is not unusual for boys and girls to explore each other through this wonderful medium before they agree for a marriage proposal.

Similarly, if a near and dear one living abroad is unable to attend a marriage or any other important functions back at home – no problem.  He or she can watch the event live online thanks to technology.

I understand that you can now use your mobiles to transmit visuals and sound bytes of interesting places you see on a holiday, in real time to your folks back home, through mobile to mobile streaming. Mobiles are revolutionising the way we can communicate with people

Today technology can help us communicate with people for various other reasons too saving on valuable time and money; like Video conferencing, online teaching - the list is growing by the day.

But technology is a double edged weapon. Undoubtedly it has several advantages which has made living easy. But, if misused, especially by children, it can lead to disastrous consequences.