Sunday, 29 June 2008

Does this happen with u……..

You are watching TV and you see something at the extreme edge of your vision…maybe something moving, maybe something solid or like a bug. You swing ur head to see what it is & its not there. It happens quite often with me.

I always attributed it to an incident which happened to me when I was small.
Location: Kerala.
Occasion: Summer Hols.
My aunt was cutting wood & my 3 yr old cousin was irritating her by simply crying for no reason. My aunt was patient for a while but got angry when there was no letting up from my cousin’ side. She took this huge piece of wood & advanced to beat her with it. I was sitting in the sidelines & was watching the proceedings with great interest. I was hoping my aunt would give the brat a sound whacking. When she started to beat her, I realized she meant business & jumped in to rescue my cousin. My aunt swung the wood upwards like a bat, bringing it down to connect my cousin’s backside, in the same instant I bent down to pull my cousin out of harms way and the piece of wood hit my eye….. and the world went black.

When I came to, I realized I couldn’t see with 1 eye. I still remember, as a remedy they brought some lactating mother’s breast milk, peeled open my swollen eyelid & poured droplets into my eye every 4 hrs for the next 2 days. My relatives(my parents were not around) also took me to a doc after a day(when they realized that my eyesight was not coming back by itself). The doc said there was nothing to worry as the eye was responding normally to all the tests he conducted. It was just shock & so prescribed bedrest.

My sight was back the 3rd morning & all was well. But it is after this incident I ‘feel’ I started seeing this distraction…….sometimes just a ant-sized something at the corner of my vision & sometimes a shadow.

But I find it strange that an incident that happened so long ago(more than 25 yrs back) can still be affecting me. So I’m wondering if any of you have experienced anything like this.

p.s- In case you r wondering whether I hold it against my aunt….. Nope. Not one bit. Infact I’ll always be grateful for the fact that she took the piece of wood to beat her daughter & not the axe she was cutting the wood with.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


I love Harry Potter……………yeah well I know he does not exist. So I transfer my attention to the next nearest related being. I absolutely adore JK Rowling. There…..I said it aloud at last. It’s out in the open….all those emotions bottled up in my heart.

I had vaguely heard that her 1st 2 books were good but never bothered to get hold of them. It was only when her 3rd book was out I wanted to know what the fuss was all about and my sister got me the same as a birthday gift. There was no turning back after that. I expressed my satisfaction volubly and so my sister got me the 1st & 2nd book also. Read them again this time in chronological order.

And I was like “Damn, she’s got Imagination”. What was more amazing…she could translate her imagination into lucid text..........there was so much clarity in her writing . And the endings always fit neatly together like a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

I mean, just think - boggarts exist in everyone’s psyche but have anyone of us given it a name till today….like “BOggart”. See what I mean? Maybe we’d have called it monster or fear or schizophrenia but she coined the word “boggart” & boggart it’s going to remain. I bet all the dictionaries around the world have already included it their list of new words.

And the word “toerag”………what delightful thoughts it conjures….there’s something so satisfying about calling a person you detest a TOERAG. “You filthy, stinking TOERAGGGGGG”. Aaah the satisfaction it gives.

To put it in a nutshell…………I have all the 7 books & I’ve read, reread and re-reread all of them, savoured them, treasure them & yes, I do feel like an idiot sometimes for attaching so much importance to them.

I would love to continue but then I’ll be guilty of digressing coz this post was created specifically to post her speech to the graduating students of Harvard. It’s a bit long, peppered with anecdotes of her life and how she urges all of us to make more out of our lives. I think it’s brilliant….. so here goes

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination
Harvard University Commencement Address / J.K. Rowling / June 2008

President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates,

The first thing I would like to say is 'thank you.' Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I've experienced at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and fool myself into believing I am at the world's best-educated Harry Potter convention.

Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can't remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.

You see? If all you remember in years to come is the 'gay wizard' joke, I've still come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock. Achievable goals: the first step towards personal improvement.
Actually, I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today. I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years that has expired between that day and this.

I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called 'real life', I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination. These might seem quixotic or paradoxical choices, but please bear with me.

Looking back at the 21-year-old that I was at graduation, is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has become. Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me. I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that could never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension. They had hoped that I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages. Hardly had my parents' car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor. I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom.

I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.
What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.

At your age, in spite of a distinct lack of motivation at university, where I had spent far too long in the coffee bar writing stories, and far too little time at lectures, I had a knack for passing examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers. I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an existence of unruffled privilege and contentment.

However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person's idea of success, so high have you already flown academically.Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.

Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone's total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

You might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department at Amnesty International's headquarters in London. There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to think independently of their government. Visitors to our office included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had been forced to leave behind. I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness. And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just given him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country's regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.
Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard and read.
And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before.

Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people's minds, imagine themselves into other people's places.
Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise. And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.What is more, those who choose not to empathise may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people's lives simply by existing.

But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people's lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world's only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

I am nearly finished. I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children's godparents, the people to whom I've been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind enough not to sue me when I've used their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister.

So today, I can wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:

As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.
I wish you all very good lives. Thank you very much.

p.s – did you guys know that she is a pro at Minesweeper. Her best time for expert level is 101 seconds. Unbelieveable……………….but then this is no ordinary woman we are talking about.

Monday, 23 June 2008

TAGging along

I am: an Aquarius

I think: aloud sometimes

I know: my limitations

I want: to stand on the table in my office and shout "I want a RAISE"

I have: a salwar I bought 10 years back & I still fit into it(so what if it was a bit loose then)

I wish: my kids would stop jumping into my lap everytime I sit down

I hate: cockroaches

I miss: my husband everytime there are household chores to be done

I fear: God

I feel: under my pillow before I go to sleep

I hear: the AC straining to keep the room cool

I smell: conspiracy all the time…….yeah the kids

I crave: chocolate. I’m worse than the kids.

I search: for my keys all the time.

I wonder: if my husband will find out that he gave me 500dhs extra last week by mistake.

I regret: hurting people by saying the wrong things

I love: coming to office…yes really

I ache: when I see another person in pain

I am not: a fair-weather friend

I dance: with the kids when they get bored and cranky(the wild elephant stampede kinds…thud, thud, thud)

I sing: familiar tunes with my own made-up lyrics

I cry: whenever I see Kamal Hassan trying to make Sridevi remember him in the movie Sadma

I dont always: understand Rocket Science

I fight: with words

I write: my father’s name after mine……yes even now.

I win: bets, most of the time

I lose: track of time when I’m having fun

I never: eat Idlis.

I always: lock the door when I go to the loo

I confuse: the world by acting confused

I listen: hard when the kids are very quiet

I can usually be found: ROFL

I need: to stop believing in fairy tales

I am happy about: the normalcy in my life

I imagine: how life will be once the kids get jobs & start giving me pocket money

I tag: Bins, ISH, Lan, Prakhar, Shades of Grey, Sunshine, Wannabe, Winnie

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Dear Mama,

1. Do you remember the glass of milk which I used to drink every morning?

Remember you gave me a beating when you caught me pouring my milk into the sink. What you don’t know is that I had been pouring the milk down the drain for 2 yrs before you caught me at it.

2. Remember the Kissan Orange Squash you used to keep locked in the fridge?
Well........I had this flat hair pin which could open the fridge. Whenever the coast was clear, moi would open the fridge with this flat pin and pour the 3 inches of Kissan concentrate into a glass.
Then open the cold water bottle which was kept just next to the Kissan Squash and pour 3 inches of water into the Kissan Squash Bottle, & carefully close the lid & keep it back.
Then pour some water into the glass of orange concentrate. Replace the water bottle back in the fridge.
Then relock the fridge with the flat pin and disappear with the glass of yummy OJ into the darkest corner of the house.

3. Remember that gold earring in the shape of the 3 petal flower ….it fell down & you & I spent 2 hrs searching for it under the washbasin & behind the fridge…….

Ummm……I actually lost the earring on my way to school. I was so scared to tell you, so I cooked up a story that it ‘just’ fell down now.

4. Remember those unavoidable, once in a while extra classes which lasted upto 5.30pm, and I came home only by 7pm.

Well, Galaxy(you remember…that movie theater near Corner House) had these afternoon shows which started only at 2.30pm, so……

5. Remember that study trip to a Castor-oil factory in
Kodaikanal …..

Errrr…..there are no castor-oil factories in Kodaikanal.
And those photographs with lots of students, which are there in the album…..that, my friends & I just gathered a random number of people to lend authenticity to our photos.

6. And remember I went to Mysore for a 1 day training when I was working at EDIT

By now u've got the jist.......ok, read the actual version here

P.s - I can tell u some more Mama……………but wanted to leave you with a few illusions.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Compliments Galore

Everyone loves a compliment. Especially if the compliment is sincere and is based on something they are really good at.

Management studies have shown, for example, that one of the greatest motivators for employees is to be complimented in front of their co-workers for a job well done.

For many people, a compliment in front of their co-workers motivates them more than a cash reward. It gives them a feeling of accomplishment and a validation of their own work. It makes them feel good and helps them feel better about coming to work each day.

When someone delivers a service for you—like a bank teller or a grocery clerk—paying them a compliment costs you nothing, but can mean a lot to the person you’re complimenting. They might remember it for weeks. It helps them take pride in their work and makes them feel good about their jobs. And, in return, they’re going to be more likely to remember you and give you good service in the future. It’s a win/win situation.

When you compliment someone on a job well done, it tells that person that you saw something special in them. It says you paid attention to something they do well, and that you valued that skill in them. If they’ve spent time getting good at something, it reinforces their belief in themselves when someone else notices and compliments them on it.

In personal relationships, compliments can play an even more important role. When you pay a compliment to your spouse or significant other, it communicates that you value them as a person. It tells them that you’re paying attention to them and you’re noticing them.
  • Couples that compliment each other help bring out the best in each other and they bring out the best in their relationship.
  • If you have children, complimenting them helps show your approval and helps build important self-confidence in them.
  • Complimenting your parents helps build your relationship with them and communicates how much you love them. Imagine how a mom feels when one of her children says, Mom, I just want to tell you what a great mom you’ve been! Thank you!

So why don’t we compliment people all the time? Why don’t we take advantage of this simple, free way to help build our relationships? Well, most times we just don’t think about it. We’re busy and on a tight schedule and we don’t take or make the time.

So here’s a challenge: For the next 30 days, make it a practice to pay someone a compliment each day. Be disciplined and don’t miss a day. It’s not hard and you will be surprised at the benefits and reaction you’ll receive.

And after 30 days, you’ll find that paying compliments is more natural and easier for you. You will have developed the habit of paying compliments to people. You will have developed the habit of looking for things in people to pay them a compliment on.

And what you will probably find is that the person who gains the most from the compliments you pay is ................YOU.

Compliments: Author unknown

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Birthday Blues

We went to the hypermarket yesterday, to do our weekly shopping. As I was picking up some doughnuts at the bakery section, I could hear a strain of “Happy Birthday to U” being sung in one of the lanes by some kids.

Smiling, I walked towards the sound of music to see who was singing it. The voices were gaining in momentum at every step I took & a sense of familiarity overcame me. I quickly turned the corner and came upon 2 children ……my own flesh & blood, belting out the Happy Birthday song.
Kids of all ages were rushing towards the area to catch a slice of the action.
Parents of these kids & other people were grinning at each other in amusement.

And my kids……they were standing in front of a yummlicious Birthday Cake on the display stand and giving it the respect it deserved.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

A beautiful Convocation speech - Being a Happy and Successful Lawyer

Stephen C. Ellis is the managing partner at the law firm of Tucker, Ellis & West.
What follows is the commencement address he gave at Case Western reserve School of Law in Cleveland, Ohio on May 19, 2008.

The title of his remarks is "On Being a Happy(and Successful) Lawyer"
Thank you Dean Simson. Even after that gracious introduction, I can guess what most of you are thinking. Who is this guy?

The most informative parts of my background are not in my public bio, so let me tell you a little more to help set the stage for what I’ll be talking about. First, I am a lifetime Cleveland resident. I am married to my high school sweetheart of 40 years ago, and in 1972, I graduated from this great law school.

Other than talking my wife into marrying me and our terrific sons and grandchildren, attending this school is hands down the most important event of my life. My three years here changed everything for me. The sort of squared away corporate type you see standing here this afternoon bears no resemblance to the bell bottomed, lamb chop side-burned college kid of 40 years ago. I look at photos of me and my friend back then and it looks like we were transported here from a strange place very far away.

Before showing up here in the fall of 1969, I was the fun guy your parents wanted you to stay away from. In fact I essentially majored in fun at Denison University, and with graduation looming I was looking for something to do besides start working. A bright enough student bored by academics, I took the LSAT’s on a flyer, slightly hung over (to my earlier point), and did great, good enough to get me on the waiting list at Case. Back then, when Case was just starting to become a highly respected school, the waiting list was pretty short and didn’t take long to clear, so I got in.

By the third week I was totally hooked. I loved law school and the idea that I would know the rules of how society worked — like someone gave me the back of the Scrabble box. I did very well at our school and for the first time, started to think of myself as someone who could actually accomplish things.

In the summer of ’71 I took a job as a summer clerk at what was Arter & Hadden, a 70 lawyer Cleveland firm. Starting as a trial lawyer. I went on to be a transactional M&A/finance type and was able to build a successful, really fun practice. At the too early age of 43 I became managing partner, and ran the place for ten years as it grew to a nearly 500 lawyer firm. In 2000 a friend and colleague took over as managing partner and three years later in 2003, that nearly 160-year-old firm, and my only job for 30 years, collapsed.

Now if it’s true that we only learn from our mistakes, with all the degrees that surround me, I am without a doubt the best educated person in the room. But this story has an unbelievably happy ending, because the Cleveland office of Arter & Hadden didn’t scatter and collapse into finger pointing lawsuits like virtually every other failed firm. Our lawyers turned down all sorts of great offers to jump ship. We put our money up, signed personally for the bank loan to get started, and chose to stay together as a team. All but perhaps 5 or 6 of our partners, associates and staff, maybe 200 people, threw their lots in together, and we formed Tucker Ellis & West, which is a truly great place to practice.

So, it’s been 36 years since I was sitting where you are, waiting for someone like me to finish, and I still love being a lawyer. Every day brings new issues to wrestle, I spend my time with bright, completely engaged people, and all of my clients are people I’m proud to call my friends. I find myself very close to my lifelong goal of not spending one second doing things I don’t want to do or being with people I don’t want to be with.

I tell you all of this not to brag - well at least that’s not the only reason - but because our new firm rose out of some hard simple truths about what’s good and not so good about being a lawyer today.
The fact is our profession has become increasingly unhappy over the past couple of decades. I am convinced the vast majority of that unhappiness derives from a singleseemingly innocuous event in the late 1980’s: The American Lawyer magazine began publishing the AM LAW 100, and listed the profits per partner of the 100 largest firms. Virtually all of the firms in this country immediately bought in to that statistic as the only credible measure of success. The game was on - we lawyers would now take our measure almost entirely from money, at least in terms of what was publicly discussed. Without question, integrity, service and professionalism were important, but how we measured ourselves was money

This was a terrible mistake and now, more and more of us see its dark implications: the bragging rights on how many billable hours we charge (and the matching lost weekends and evenings); rates that are topping $1000 an hour; and clients who believe their files are being worked to death by armies of inexperienced associates. All of this so the largest firms can bump their statistical rankings and everybody else can compare themselves to the published stars.

But the worst of all this is: that we’ve chosen simply money, as our measure of success. It’s too simple to say, “Money is the root of all evil” because it’s not. And I know that the absence of money is a pretty good predicator of unhappiness. But money, just money all by itself, does not provide a sense of worth or accomplishment, or even peace of mind. The fact is, it’s in our DNA to always want a little more, and getting more only feeds the need to get a little more.
Here’s the formula on personal budgets that if you don’t already know, you soon will. I know all of your parents know this. And you should write this formula down because it’s as immutable as a law of physics. Your monthly expenses always equal your monthly income plus $300. No matter what, we’re all looking for “just a little more”.

Now we’re going to do a ten second experiment. Take a moment and reflect on the occasions when you felt truly happy - and please don’t name ‘listening to this talk”. [8 seconds of silence]
I submit that not one of you is thinking about money or material things. Our best times are always with people we care about, doing things that bring us closer together. But knowing that, we let ourselves climb on this treadmill, running harder and harder, like that donkey trying to catch the carrot on a stick.

I believe this is beginning to change, at least in the arena where lawyers have to keep increasing the hours they devote to work. Hours are being recognized as an irrational measure of value. Nobody calls a lawyer asking them to please spend twenty hours on a project. Clients want to pay us for what we do, not how long it takes us to do it.
In fact, a growing minority of lawyers and clients are starting to move away from hours as the basis for fees. The feature of Tucker Ellis & West about which I am most proud is that we have no billable hour requirement. We value our people for what they accomplish. And that decision has been hugely liberating for us.

I submit there’s much more to being a satisfied lawyer than making a lot of money. Back when I was running Arter & Hadden I would speak to our incoming class of associates and suggest that if their career goal as lawyers was to get rich, they should seriously consider a career change. My point was that most law practices by their nature are designed to produce a comfortable living, not make us rich. We don’t take big financial risks, we don’t make critical business decisions, we are fundamentally well educated consultants.

If you’ve decided to become a lawyer solely to make money if to you it’s simply a job I fear you’ll hate it. As a career and a calling it’s great, and unbelievably interesting, but as simply a job, it’s way too hard and stressful. It’s the people, the pace and the endless puzzles of the law that make being a lawyer fulfilling. If you want tons of money for working twenty hours a day and nausea-inducing stress, Wall Street investment banking may be just the thing . In that business the grand old men are burnt out at 45.

Over the past few years I’ve come to some conclusions on finding guideposts that will give us lawyers the best chance of being successful, in the sense of truly enjoying our lives and careers as lawyers. They are simple, some might say “trite”. But 36 years of listening to happy and desperately unhappy lawyers and watching colleagues succeed as lawyers and people, and some fail, I know that these may be cliché’s, but I also know they are true.

I’m going to talk about a handful of these “truisms”, only a couple of which I’ve made up, on being a successful lawyer in the sense of being fulfilled. Just so you know how close I am to wrapping up, there are nine of these, and they’re pretty short.

First, be someone others count on. Most folks talk a good game; very few come through. Clients come to you because they have a situation they cannot solve on their own. Most are not looking for an analysis of the law. Most want you to solve a problem. So solve it, don’t add to their problem by being hard to find, by missing deadlines, or by simply describing their problem back to them. It’s like going to the dentist when you have a toothache. You want it fixed and you want it fixed now. That’s what a client wants every time they talk to you. Walk in with a problem, walk out with a solution.

What they want is someone they can count on to make their lives simpler, to accomplish what they want accomplished. If you can simply do that, you’ll be sought out as an extraordinarily effective lawyer. And there is a real difference in your sense of self between being simply a resource; somebody who knows the law, and the person that people count on to solve their problems.

Second - be an interesting person, for your own good and so that clients think of you as more than a lawyer. A decent definition of hell is a dinner party companion who is a first year lawyer on the day after his or her first trial. Law stuff is interesting mostly to lawyers. In fact, it’s real interesting to lawyers, so that’s what we talk about all the time, just like you talk about law school all the time.

Force yourself to do be able to talk about more than law - read books, go to movies, be part of politics, go to lectures. You’ll meet people, you’ll be able to talk about things that other people find interesting, and you won’t burn out on your job.

The horror stories you hear about associates working 2500 hours a year? You will be surprised when you see how much of that is self imposed. These young lawyers get caught up in the chase and find that what they’re doing more interesting than anything else- so they become that boring self absorbed dining companion. The world’s full of great people with jobs and hobbies that are just as demanding and just as fascinating as yours, (assuming you make yourself get a hobby). Learn about them. You’ll be happier and much more fun to be with.

Here is another obvious but ignored truth. Look out for yourself. Nobody cares about you like you do except maybe your parents, and you won’t be working for them. My late and very wise father used to tell me to not worry about what people were thinking about me, because they weren’t. They were thinking about themselves.

Your employer may have a mentoring program, but nobody is mentored into a success. Mentors are important, but they are only a resource. Accept that you are in charge of your success.
So if you think you need experience in an area, make it your business to go get it. Ask somebody; don’t wait for it to come along. Don’t wait for somebody to notice that you’re missing an important skill. Ask for a promotion - people aren’t watching what you do as carefully as you think or hope.

Also, determination matters. It matters more than intellect. The streets are littered with directionless geniuses with unexecuted good ideas. . Woody Allen had it pretty dead on when be said that 90% of success is simply showing up. You won’t suddenly have a great career. Nobody ever does. The secret is simple- great careers are the result of day after day deciding to do good work and being someone who others count on.

Be enthusiastic. Because we deal in rules, it’s real easy to fall into cataloging all the reasons something won’t work or why somebody shouldn’t do something. In fact, we lawyers take pride in being the first one to find fault with an idea. Makes us look smart. In my days as managing partner I would roll out a strategic initiative, and I could see my partner’s eyes starting to spin. Who would get the prize for being the first one to spot the flaw?

Clients want to do things - they don’t call you so they can not do things. They want to stay in the borders of the law, but they want to be told how to do what they want to do. And they want to know that you’re happy to be part of what they’re doing. There is no better way to end a client meeting than saying “This is going to be great” and to mean it. It’s fun to be charged up - to add energy to every conversation.

Trust yourself. You are a very bright person or you wouldn’t be here today. I think among the most important conclusions I came to as a young lawyer was that if I didn’t understand something, it was because the thing in fact didn’t make sense, not because I was stupid. Most of the times I’ve found myself in hot water it’s because I let a conversation continue past the point where I understood what was being said. And virtually every time I would say “stop, I’m not following this,” someone would come up to me after the meeting and say “Boy I’m glad you said that. I had no idea what we were talking about.”

Get involved. Organize the reunion or the bicycle race. Chair the church committee. Help people who have not enjoyed your good fortune. You have spent three years learning how to organize your thoughts, analyze a situation, and articulate action plans. Use those skills everywhere in your life. Stuff will get done, people will appreciate your initiative, and you will derive great satisfaction from making things better.

Here are my final two unappreciated but clearly true truths: The toughest lawyer is not the one who is the most obnoxious. Clients will say they want a tough son of a gun to make somebody life’s miserable, a real bulldog, etc.
Don’t be that person. It’s been my 100% uniform experience that the bulldog only adds time, expense, stress and confusion to an otherwise inevitable result. Even clients can’t stand them after a couple of months. You want to be tough? Have the best preparation on the facts, the law and the strategy. Judges care only about those things, not a whit for bluster. Bullies are jerks, they wreck the profession for everyone, and you can beat them every time.

And finally and hands down most importantly, and please pass this on to your friends and your children, because it’s really important — Be nice and have fun. Just doing that makes life better for everybody, mostly you.

And now really finally, and this is not a truth, but what I think you should do - thank the people who have helped you get to where you are today, and fully enjoy this moment - you have earned it.

I am honored to have this opportunity today and I wish all of you good fortune, and fun, in this great profession. To each of you, “This is going to be great.”

If any of u want to read the original, click here

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Red Plastic Chairs

The kids both have their own kiddy chairs. Red plastic chairs. Both
are almost the same except that Naina’s chair has a
Mickey Mouse on the back of the chair.

They are always…..

..standing on the chair,
...sitting on the arm of the chair,
….throwing the chair across the room,
…..using it as a civil wall for their house-house game,
…...using the chair to climb up somewhere to take something,
…….fighting for the chair “Don’t take my chair, take your chair”
……….kneeling on the floor and drawing a picture on the seat of the chair

I have NEVER seen them sitting on their chairs.

…..ok I’ll cut the exaggeration. They sit on the chairs sometimes, but it is mostly when I threaten to stick them in with glue.

AND I have noticed one more thing…..

……when they sit on it, the four legs of the chair are NEVER uniformly on the floor. The hind legs of the chair are always floating in the air.
If by any chance the hind chair legs are touching the floor then you can bet your last penny that the front chair legs are up.
And sometimes I see 3 legs in the air and almost immediately I find that chair & its occupant on the floor.

I stand there and look…………daring them to cry.

The individual on the floor start grimacing, looks up immediately to catch the expression on my face and smoothen her facial contours to a “nothing out of the ordinary happened” expression and announce to nobody in particular “It didn’t hurt one bit”.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Pins and Needles

Last night the landlord’s driver came to drop off the tenancy contract papers of our apartment.

The landlord, an old Arab depends on this driver to act as interpreter. A Pakistani by nationality, the driver is a course-looking man who acts more like the landlords personal assistant than his driver. While he was explaining some Arabic stuff written on the paper to my husband, I noticed a safety pin in his mouth. My eyes zoomed in on just the PIN and watched with a sort of morbid fascination the pin moving up & down while he was talking. I wanted to tell him to take it out but he was talking so fast and explaining some stuff to my husband. Just then the kids came out to see who was at the door, I took them back in & by the time I went back to the door he was gone. I fervently hoped he didn’t swallow the pin.

This reminded me of an incident which happened when I was 6yrs old. It was around 8pm. I was sitting with my mom in the bedroom; she was sitting on a chair & and I was sitting on the wooden post at the edge of the bed. I had this safety pin in my mouth which I was opening & closing with my teeth. My fingers were lightly holding the pin at the edge for support. My mom was talking & I was intently listening to her when all of a sudden the electricity went off. I fell backwards onto the bed in shock & in the process swallowed the pin. Gosh I still remember that moment & my thoughts so clearly….

“Mummy, I am doing to die” I remember saying.

“Don’t worry, It’s only the electricity. Let me light a candle”

“No ma, I swallowed a safety pin” I said, all the while waiting to crash on the floor and die.

“WHAT?” my mother roared.

But before she went to get the candle, the electricity came back on and my father also came back from office. Together they searched the entire room for the safety pin incase it fell on the floor by mistake.

My father took me to the hospital where they took an x-ray and the pin was clearly outlined in the intestine. By God's Grace the pin was closed. The doc gave me a lecture about how serious the consequences could have been, had the pin been opened. The doc, then prescribed a diet of Bananas for the next week & he hoped the pin came out the natural way. I ofcourse was quite disappointed with the whole outcome. Clearly I wasn’t satisfied with the near-death experience.

After 3 days my mom fished out a discolored safety-pin out of the poop and yes they still have that X-ray stashed away. Every time they are searching for something, they are sure to come across this film & ofcourse they stop to reminisce about the incident.

Another time, my mother was stitching up a slipper with a BEEG needle & green twine when the fishman hollered from outside “Meeeeeeeeen, Meeeeen”. In her hurry to catch the fishman, she left the needle sticking up from the slipper right in the corridor and I ofcourse stamped right on the needle, hard. 3/4th of the needle went up my sole & my vocals cords lost their restraint. My mother immediately guessed what must have happened and came tearing in. But I wouldnt let her touch my feet for 5 minutes. Finally she pretended to ‘just’ look at how deep it went & yanked it out. I howled in agony and looked down expecting to see a pool of blood. But there was just a tiny spot of red on the sole. After 5 minutes I wanted to show somebody the injury and would you believe it the exact spot where the needle went in couldn’t be located. I was so hopping mad(pun intended).

But there was another incident which did not end happily. We had a German Shepherd named Toothie who swallowed an extra large marble(the normal playing marble, only a size bigger) while playing. When she fell sick, we took an x-ray & found this marble near the mouth of the small intestine. We fed her so much bananas that she must have thought all her Christmases came at once. After 2 weeks we took 1 more x-ray & this time the marble was wedged inside more firmly. The doctors offered no hope & told us to put her to sleep but we brought her back home & persevered. Nothing worked. She died exactly a month after she swallowed the marble. We buried her in the corner of our garden. It broke our hearts, u see she was our first pet.

Even now all these 3 things give me a very uneasy feeling no matter who is handling it. I try to keep the 1st two items just for necessity sake and the 3rd item is banned in the house along with chewing gum.

Chewing gum????????? That’s another story.

Just kidding, its not. Its something my husband thinks, is not safe to eat…for the kids atleast.