Friday, October 28, 2005

Well, will I get any perks for flaunting my weakness today!?
May be the perk would be learning how not to consider it as a weakness anymore.
Anyways, I am talking about my ‘No’-disability! For some reason, ‘No’ was one of the most difficult words for me to pronounce. So most of the time, I opt to skip it and use the easy ‘Yes’ instead. Have I landed in to any problems because of this? Yes, a whole bunch of it, but as I say here, it was all temporary and was never a part of my worry set. My worry set will always include simple things like procrastinating a research assignment or dinner for that matter. So, its just trivial things I worry about, and in most cases, the bigger things are never even considered as a problem in the first place.

There is not a single instant I have said a ‘yes’, when I get this smallest speck of thought on the consequences, which could be huge, but at the same time, it takes an eternity for me to tell a ‘No’ there, even when it is quite obvious from the first instant.

This could have been in one of Wonder Years story, but I guess it would be a great example to deliver my No-disability. I will try and make this short to make life easy for you. Anyways, this happened in the year 2002, I knew this American couple from one of my leadership adventures with the Indian association here. And the couple was not just a normal couple, instead they were living together..... and they also had a kid. Everything is fine, except for the fact that both of them were girls. And the kid was a result of their association with a donor (if you know what I mean). I did not know about this, until I knew them pretty well. Well, doesn’t matter, I don’t discriminate people based on their sexual apparatus, so I was myself as always.
Few months down the lane, an electronic shocker was sitting inbox, in the form of a request. They asked me if I was broad minded. As usual, I lied, I said “Yes”. The next email was something that I should have sent to my ancestors, to show the respect that someone from the western culture had on our cultural values and family traditions! The logical theory was at its best, I knew there has to be unbearable request attached to the much hyped email about India and Indian families. Yes there was! Poor scientists are still not able to figure out a direct way to make babies from the same-sex marriage. So the only option they had was to ask a donor, and since they were in love with the Indian tradition, they asked for it to yours truly. And my response was

I am honored beyond words. I know that this is a big decision for you, and so it is for me. Its going to take a little while before I tell you my decision,but for that I need to know more about what you exactly have in mind…..

A simple “No” would have ended the whole issue then and there. Instead I prolonged it for a while and finally after a bunch of hiccups I had to tell it in a different way. Diplomacy helped, but why was the delay in the telling the obvious NO with much contemplation on how to convey it.
When we say a ‘NO’, we feel like we are letting the other person down if we say it. We feel GUILTY even before we respond! So there we go, a Yes instead of a No. Or sometimes a prolonged NO.

What do we do? How do we get rid of this thing? Is there a way to do it? The only way to do it is to be insensitive? Or could diplomacy help?

Well, my niece, almost 3 years old, thinks for 0.0123 secs before responding with a No. May be that kind of a little knowledge on people’s sensitivites would help!?
Its easy to respond with a No for someone who is trying to sell a crappy T-shirt across the street. But it is not easy to tell a No to some friend who is asking you do something during the busiest span at work. Even just the considerations of sensitivity factors would hinder the No answers.

Or it’s the bond with the consequences of the “Yes”. For example, my friend would never let anyone touch his most priced possesion. Ofcourse that’s his bike (motorcycle). He just hates to see any of the freaky technical changes that he claims to happen when someone else other than him uses it.

Atleast from the professional side, may be we can do this, Practice. Think before we answer. Think about the requests, whether they're for our time, energy, money, or something else? How does it feel to say yes? How does it feel to say no? Which feels better? And when we say it, we should do it with grace – a matter of truth. If you can, refer them to someone else who can help them or show them how to do it for themselves.

Initially, apologies, excuses and guilt would be a part of it. But practice would demolish it. And people will start accepting the fact that we don’t yes all the time. Saying No to things that we don’t want helps us in a lot of ways and gives us loads of time to say yes to things that we want to do.

How to do this to our personal side of life? Teach me! If we can deal our personal side and the professional side in similar ways, may be it will be easy. But as for me that isn’t life. May be the inability of the “No” is what binds people together in the personal life. So on the personal side may be we opt to say 'yes' and stay with minor troubles for major happiness.

PS: Don’t tell me to read Don't Say Yes When You Want to Say No: Making Life Right When It Feels All Wrong by Herbert Phd Fensterheim, Jean Baer. I have been trying to find the book and time together for a long time now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


My life with roomies started from my first year of collegiate education - 1996….sounds like a long time ago! Since then I have never experienced an “alone” stint for more than few weeks, and when I do there is always someone I will find my fun with! Be it a roommate or a friend who shares the same thought process, the fun part will always appear, getting rid of the “alone” feeling!

Well, with roomies, the seemingly idealistic case is when we spend the few months/years of together time that we have and peacefully part with or without the sentimental bull and promises to stay in communication grounds, spending the rest of the lives trying hard to keep it in tact. Or sometimes we end up as great friends for the rest of our lives. But things doesn’t always flow this smooth! Sometimes turbulence prevails in every step we take!

“Don’t try to teach me how to live! I think I can manage at 22”

“I don’t think I can be with you guys any more. I can’t stand the way you guys make fun of me, and just me all the time”

Right after the regular Wal-Mart grocery shopping, “Well, I guess its time separate grocery bills! I don’t think I will eat chips, so I don’t want to share that in the bill”

And this happened even before the invention of cell phone, “I won’t receive any phone calls! So I guess I won’t share the phone bill”

All these quotes were from people who claimed to be my roomies one time or the other. So you can see I was not the best roommate in the world and so were they. Considering the fact that I had quite a lot of roomies (you are bound to when you have such a long student life) and only a few have lodged the first information report, I can claim to be a reasonably good human! May be all these roomies are the most important reason for the little patience that I think I possess. Anyways, let me step out of this autoroomiography and make this generic to make it an interesting reading material.

It is amazingly true that a good friend doesn’t necessarily have to be a good roomie and this holds true the other way too! The constraint holds good only when your character is almost framed, and is definitely false when you are stepping in the so-called character development stage. Most of the roomie problems start with the daily chores or stuff that involves money. I have seldom had/heard of roommate problems during my undergrad days when neither money nor the chores is a headache. Perhaps it’s the age thing, or may be it’s all those other petty stuff that derives this enormous amount of importance.

But life without a roomie wouldn’t be fun as well. Both from the monetary as well as from the fun perspective, it is easy with a roommate. I have seen loads of people who fail in the “adjustments-0001” course. The examination revealed that these people were never passed through the “life-with-a-roommate” phase and have learnt just to demand and not to accept. Life with a good roomie shows you lot of good things and life with a bad roomie teaches you even more. Again, good and bad is a personal definition so there is no point in arguing which one is right.

On the other hand, how could we create peace? As I said earlier, I have had several roomies and there is atleast one quality that I would like to learn from each one of them. And that attitude certainly sowed the seeds of harmony under the roof. This learning process was mutual most of the time, and I had my way through by making them believe that I might have one. More the qualities that we look for, more the harmony we derive. Sometimes, if we keep looking for those qualities in vain, it creates chaos as well. So it’s highly necessary to accept what they have and not expect a lot of what they don’t have. If we try not teaching life rather than learning it, I guess roomies wouldn’t be such a problematic term.

Remember to derive fun in everything we do. I had this roomie who was amazingly adept in cooking! Ofcourse it’s sarcastic! He had once displayed all his talents in the art of making something he claimed to be sambar. Everything was fine with that except for one thing. What he made was a bread sambar. Yes! you read it right. Bread was the major ingredient. Right off the bat, it was horrible. Couldn’t resist, but finished the dinner with curd rice et al without even going near the untouchable. Till date we cease his energy with this! Whenever he is in high state making fun of everyone around him, this story pops to shut him up! Like my soppu story. That day would have been a mess if we had irritated him as well as ourselves for making that sambar. Instead, we waited to appreciate his effort and not the product and till date its fun to get back and see how bad it was.

I don’t want to compare roomies to co-passengers in the life-train, where they get down as they reach their destination. Roomies are beyond co-passengers, sometimes they teach how to live and sometimes how not to! Either way it’s a positive progression. So you derive something with them and remember it unlike what you do with co-passengers.

When you are miles apart and even if you live and die with your cell phone and other communication devices, a “personal-comfort” is always priceless. Be it from a friend or from a roommate, it is worth beyond the words of expression. So when we claim that he/she is a bad roomie or a good roomie, be aware of the fact that it reflects what you are with him/her.