story

Weaving culture through stories

Inanimate objects have a way of jumping to life when a story is woven around them. It is simple, isn’t it? Context determines the attention that we give to an object. When we get to know more about the context, the object jumps to life. There is much power in stories. In fact, paying attention to stories and culture will help us live rich lives.

Sample this.

The other day, my mom bought a saree and gave it an affectionate caress and whilst marveling its intricate pattern said, “that’s 41 years of experience that’s got this out”.  Intrigue got the better of me and I soon found this card with her.  This card came with the saree, she said. Whoever had thought about it, has a brilliant mind.

Truth be told, my appreciation of sarees is next to zero and the role often is limited to being the man in tow, when a saree is being bought. The card helps me view the saree as a product of human effort now. An object that I can relate to much better.

The power in stories.

That there is power in stories is a given. In the above instance, the saree, an inanimate object, came alive to me because of the added context. A human being with all life experiences is a carrier of stories. A power-packed repository, if you will. So power packed that tapping into them can completely alter the perception about the person. Often times, bringing alive our own biases and themes in our mind.

Lincoln, once famously said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better”.

Stories and conversation.

If stories are at the heart of it all, it is conversations that bring them alive. In whichever form or shape, it is conversations that are active carriers of stories. In the ‘everything-needs-to-be-measured-binary-digital-transactional-world’, conversations have been reduced to transactions. The richness that lies nestled within us evaporates like the hope expecting parents had for a stillborn child.

Edgar Schein, who I have written about earlier, through Humble Inquiry and Humble Consulting espouse practical ways of empathy and connection.  A connect that has curiosity, discovery, and conversation as basic tenets to build on.

As I interact and work with leaders across the board and around the world, there is one thing that emerges ever so clear to me. The ability to create the climate for conversations to thrive is a competence modern day leaders must work on. There is much work that needs to be done in this space. Therein lies the space for us, our stories and our conversations.

Is there anything that we can do in our daily lives to be able to foster this. A bunch of things stand out for me. Here are two. These need to be expanded on.

1. Take on less: Keeping empty spaces in the calendar is, in the modern times, seen as inefficient planning. For all those who run a “return on investment” calculation on conversations: Returns that come from deep conversations are non-linear, long lasting and disproportionate in the long term. To go deep is necessary to expand.

2. Deep conversations have a lot more to do with questions, deep listening, and curiosity than sharing. Not that sharing is not important. Just that it becomes a natural part of evolving conversation.

Here is a fantastic blogpost that I discovered. Titled 52 Questions to Bring You Closer Together it is a keeper. I love the methodology behind the questions as much as the questions themselves, for it has lead me to work on and add on to the list.

Here is another story

Come September, along with my friend Stephen Berkeley,  I am running a one day workshop titled “Building Bridges Breaking Walls, One Story at a time” in Osaka.  At the Asia Conference of the International Association of Facilitators, we hope to stir some conversation.  Just as we did last year in Seoul, South Korea.  The workshop last year got us some feedback that flattered us beyond our imagination. Sitting at the lobby of the hotel in Seoul, still chuffed by the kind words that participants had for us, we promised ourselves last year that we would think through and prompted us to think and offer a more holistic offering.  That’s exactly what we have put together for this time.

For starters, we have gotten a lot more committed to the idea of encouraging a greater coming together. We intend continuing this conversation well into the future.  Through portals, platforms and one conversation at a time. We are aware that the role of leaders in creating a space for genuine deep conversation is something that we seek to explore even more.

That this conversation must develop is something that we are convinced of.  In organisations, communities, civil society and every other place, people have to be able to sit down and talk to each other. And hear each other out. The times we live in has seen building walls of all kinds catching the fancy of the world. But if we were to fancy our chance of passing the planet on to generations that come, we have to invest in our each other. Through our stories!

We look forward to your support.  We will keep try and aggregate our thoughts under the #story2story hashtag. Please dive into the conversation. In the meanwhile, listen to someone’s story. You never know what it can do to you. Or to them.

Of Borders and lines

For a trickle of Korean Won, we could peer through fixed telescopes and look into North Korea. To the clank of the coin settling into the metal box, I peered on. Blue skies. An occasional soldier. Green mountains, and fluttering birds. It could have been some nature reserve. But I was standing at the Korean border at Imjingak and staring into North Korea.

The Demilitarized Zone ( ‘Dee Emm Zee’) is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula separating the two Koreas. It is 250 kilometers long and 4 KM wide. With wire fences, watchful eyes and guns on either side its brought with it a side benefit. There are no apartment complexes, flyovers, malls with their attendant parking lots and the like. You get the picture, don’t you? Who doesn’t know the rampant poverty that ‘development’ ushers in the world over? The DMZ though is green and lush. Perhaps no other piece of green is as protected and watched by the rest of the world as much as this strip! Dark cloud, silver lining and all that.

Beyond the Demilitarized Zone is one of the heaviest military presence. And heavier posturing perhaps. The posturing and the promise of war have given life to some of the most endangered species thriving. DMZ plays host to some of the most exotic and endangered species. Like cranes, leopards, tigers, and bears. Perhaps these species, have over the years, learned to live under the gaze of the guns in the air and landmines beneath their feet.

That silver lining apart the DMZ is a dark area. It stands as a bright testimony to the limitless potential of human avarice, greed, and one-upmanship. The two Koreas have shouted at each other with loudspeakers ( actual loudspeakers belting out propaganda) across the border. They have tried to outdo each other building tall flag poles and sent balloons with leaflets across the DMZs. All these of course, when they weren’t busy staring each other down. Incredulous it seems. But from 1953, peace has reigned. By and large.Imjingak resort - Looking into North Korea

 

Mangbae pagoda at the Korean border - Imjingak. Yearning for reunification

The Korean border at  Imjingak which hosts the telescopes offers may a pointer. ‘Mangbaeddan‘ is one such. It’s an altar to pray for ancestors and their families. People from across South Korea whose origins were from somewhere in the North, come here to bow down. It’s a bowing down to their parents and ancestors as a sign of respect during new year and other important festivals. Parents who stayed back. Or could not be contacted. One whole country that is a black box. Not even a snail mail service.

There is a plaque that captures the sentiment than my words can. “After 36 years of Japanese colonial era rule, our country was liberated on August 15, 1945, thanks to the sacrifices of service personnel who fought for the nation’s independence and for an end to the Second World War. Before celebration could break out, however, Korea was arbitrarily divided into north and south according to a unilateral decision on the part of larger powers regardless of the desire of our people. Mangbaeden is a permanent alter established by the government at a cost of 500 million won (supervision by the Ministry of Home Affairs 5 North Korean Provinces, execution: Paju Country Office ), at Imjingak, overlooking the lands of North Korea.  

Five million people left their home in the north, where they had lived for generations, to avoid the Soviet army and the North Korea Communist Party’s persecution and brutalities. The refugees built a temporary altar at Imjingak on every Chuserok (Korean Thanksgiving day ), held an event to honor their ancestor and parents who had been left behind in North Korea, and longed for a permanent altar. In terms of scale and form, the censer and altar are located on a 400-m site. The Mangbae pagoda at the center represents the earnest longing for the reunification of the country and prayer for the welfare of those in North Korea. The characteristics of the historical remains, institutions and customs and mountains and streams of the 5 North Korean Provinces, and the non-reclaimed area, Gyeonggi and Gangwon were carved in seven granite stone-folding screens around the pagoda to ease the homesickness of the refugees.” 

A friend who was with us spoke with eloquence about her mom, who several years ago, had to be held back by border guards. As she dashed towards the border at Imjingak, sorely missing her mother who got left behind beyond the border.  I listened to the story with a keen ear and a pounding heart. The cruelty that permeates several lives in the planet needed explanation beyond borders, flags, and territory.

Madmen fire rockets and ramble from podiums around the world about destruction as though it were a lollipop. Even as the rest of us duck for cover, there are some who wonder if there is a silver lining somewhere.The dark clouds sprouting to the sky seem imminent. Costly, ghostly dark clouds. Will there be silver linings or will it too little, too late? Opinion is divided but hope springs eternal.

Figure of Eight Knot - Korean border Imjingak

 

There are citizens who yearn to be united. The “We are One” installation in Imjingak for instance, portrays this yearning for a peaceful reunification. “Installed by the Paju Government on February 14, 2006. This sculpture embraces our desire to achieve peaceful reunification. The joining of the two separated parts by the figure of 8-knot embodies the unification of North and South Korea. The height is 280 centimeters which represent the 28 metropolitan cities and provinces in the Korean peninsula”

Nothing perhaps captures the tragedy of the separation more than the bullet-ridden testimony that the engine of a steam locomotive that plied between the North and the South. The tracks from that time remain. The station names call attention to the staid tracks and lost ways. The bullet holes stare with vapid eloquence amidst the cackle of tourists, selfie sticks, and cameras. Somewhere in between the point of all suffering seems distant and removed from the priorities of the present day. Steam engine - Korean border Imjingak

Rail signboard - Korean border Imjingak

 

As I try to pack my memories from Imjingak into a neat stack, I realise they elude fitting in. They spring in different directions. The tears of separation and sadness seem to take away the sheen off the silver lining. That leaves me with a simple line and a dark cloud.

Ever since visiting Imjingak, any image of leaders and armchair commentators waxing eloquence on twitter or from podiums gets me ever more present to what it is on the ground. The stories that are not told. Stories about living through separation and war. It is 2017 and the world has made serious progress in several dimensions from electric cars to space travel. But can there be a greater travesty that vast tracts of the human mind continue to let the future to be held prisoner by the mistakes of the past?

Must not the imagination that has fuelled ‘progress’ also help us extricate us and co-create a better future? Even if it meant a slow, painful extrication? As I sat in silence at the Mangbaeddan, Tom Brokaw‘s commencement speech to the class of 2006 wafted in from memory. More than a decade old now, but has relevance.

Border guards - Korean border - Imjingak

Here is one part of his speech.

“So, welcome to a world of perpetual contradictions, welcome to a world of unintended consequences and unexpected realities. Welcome to a world in which war is not a video game, … in which genocide and ancient hatreds are not eliminated with a delete button. You won’t find the answer to global poverty in Tools or Help. You cannot fix the environment by hitting the Insert bar. You cannot take your place in the long line of those who came before you simply by sitting in front of a screen or at a keyboard.

The pace of change in your lifetime is at warp speed. We live now on a smaller planet, with more people, many of them on the move these days in a desperate search for economic opportunity and political freedom, a world of ever-diminishing open spaces, disappearing natural resources, with great seismic shifts in political, economic and cultural power wherever you may be on this planet…..

We cannot ignore them, and as the last four years have demonstrated in tragic fashion, a military response is inadequate. If … hostility is not addressed in a more effective manner in the West, and in the Islamic world as well, we will live in a perpetual state of terror and rage on both sides of the equation.

So a primary challenge of your time is to bank the fires of hostilities that are now burning out of control, to neutralize that hatred, to expedite not just global competition economically and politically, but also global understanding, and especially global opportunity.

To do that requires more than a fresh political strategy or imagination.”

The full text is here. The context has shifted a bit. But the fundamental contradictions remain. Only exacerbated by a new crop of leaders who whose jingoism and sabre rattling divides people even further.

Imjingak is a reminder that we need to look beyond the narratives that the unreasonable madness in the political leadership of the modern day. We need to search for and connect to a deeper humanity in each other. Cliched it may sound. There aren’t easy solutions. But the absence easy solutions must not get us lean towards letting the dark clouds loom from the ground. We still have several silver linings today. The capabilities that are present in us to operate from ‘imagination’ is one such. Perhaps we could start there.

 

Earlier Post on my Korean travel is here

 

Building Bridges & Breaking Walls. One Story at a time.

August will be the curtain raiser month of sorts for me. I along with Stephen Berkeley will be working with interested and interesting participants at a one day Pre-Conference Workshop at the International Association of Facilitators‘ Asia Conference and exploring the power of stories in bridging the world.  The IAF Asia Conference 2017 is happening in Seoul in August 2017.   What better of a setting for a topic like  “Building Bridges and Breaking Walls. One Story at a time”! I think it fit to build context the IAF Asia Conference 2017 Seoul Pre Conference Workshop titled: “Building Bridges and Breaking Walls, One Story at a time” through a series of posts here.  This then becomes a space for conversation and dialogue on the power of stories.

IAF Asia Conference 2017 Seoul Pre Conference Workshop

IAF Asia Conference 2017 Seoul Pre Conference Workshop “Building Bridges and Breaking Walls, One Story at a time”

Stephen and I have been bouncing ideas off each other for a while now on a variety of topics. From Systems Thinking to organisational structures. The power of local communities.  Change processes in organisations. Process facilitation. And a variety of other topics. Even as the conversation evolved, we realised that we were very different individuals with a different take on most topics that we discussed. United only by a strong idea of staying engaged with pursuits that are meaningful.

Even as we discovered more of our worlds we saw how similar they were, despite having completely different contexts. Set in different times, time zones. As much as we had our differences, we were united in our openness to share and exchange stories from our respective worlds. Over time this became to be the fulcrum of our friendship. It was but obvious that the willingness to listen to and share each other’s stories bridged gaps.

One day as we sat on a rock after a small hike, a little idea came upon us.  We perhaps could work with larger groups to explore the power of telling and listening to each other’s stories too. Perhaps, we thought, that would bridge larger gaps in the world that surfaced in our conversations many times over. We ran a few experiments, ran the idea past friends and colleagues.  The idea seemed to have currency. It kept growing. We wondered why and came up with our own set of hypotheses.  The set is only growing.  Here are the five that I connect to the most.

a. There are too many wedges in the world we live in. Cultural. Political. Generational. Economic. The trouble is that those wedges are seeming to appear like irrevocable divides. Walls of steel, so to speak!

b. The world has newer tools and additional power to communicate in the modern times. Sadly these tools find increasing use in amplification of these divides.

c. Listening to each other’s stories helps understand points of views and helps explore our world views.  Examining these with an open mind brings greater awareness and possible shifts. Stories are integral to these shifts.

d. Shaping and shifting of the narratives and stories, both inside our minds and in the world around us will determine the shape of the world our kids will inherit

e. When whole systems engage in deep listening to each other new realities emerge for the whole system that can be infectious. Systemic change will bring about lasting impact for the system and its constituents.

For now :

Armed with the first-hand experience of leading change initiatives in large organisations and communities, we seek to further the conversation to see what more is possible. Would it be a new set of skills and abilities? Perhaps a deeper understanding of the process of change? Maybe a clearer way to harness what emerges from a story? We don’t know for sure what else the questions are. And thus begins this journey.

While it is a personal journey to take the ‘story of the story’ to newer areas, new bridges will perhaps get built. In the telling and retelling of the stories, new ways and connections have greater chances of emerging. All of us who jump into participate are going to be better off depending on how much we are willing to give and take.  Seoul in August ’17 will be the first pit stop. And we intend continuing the conversation, armed with whatever comes from the previous pit stops. This space will curate the journey and will continue to evolve.

This is work in progress. And this is far from complete. Wonder if we will all ever be. So, do jump into the conversation. Spread the word. Let’s see what stories emerge.

Tell Well!

The word ‘story’ means different things to people. Am sure an image pops up in your head as well, as soon as you hear ‘story’. In a kid’s world, no other word can bring a wide eyed stare of possibility as much as the word ‘story’ can!

Stories excite children, widens their eyes and brings about a smile, every time they hear the word. Sometimes, they are ready to be lulled into sleep, exchange their favourite toys and have the food that they detest, all in exchange for a good story. The power that stories carry in them, is massive.

Let me pause here and add, that stories have a rather telling effect in the business world too. The same, if not better, than the effect that it has on kids.

Good stories, craftily told, carry with them tenor of playfulness yet manage to stoke imagination and possibly see a future in the mind that isn’t ordinarily visible. Stories help see parallels. Extrapolate the present into the future. Visualise scenarios. Connect a set of disparate events on a timeline. Sometimes, they are wonderful capsules where bitter pills are packaged as interesting accounts.

If they are peeled one more layer and understood better, stories help in translating abstract numbers, concepts and even contexts into more digestible chunks. In that they have a very unique and powerful role.

If stories have such a place of pre-eminence in the business world, imagine the importance of the ability to tell a good story. I could go out on a limb and proclaim that amidst several aspects, the ability to tell a good story is perhaps the most underrated and valued amongst leaders.

IMG_1184

Good leaders instinctively understand this and cultivate great story-telling capabilities. Capabilities that inspire large teams and more many times are successful in engineering hard action today, based on the image a story of the future that the leader is able to paint.

All of us tell stories. To ourselves. To others. We may not see them as ‘stories’ per se. But all of us do! To be able to tell it well for a predefined effect and intended result gives it a very different dimension.

If you are an entrepreneur out there, your power to weave the future, emanates from your story! The Elevator pitch is a story. The pitch to investors, customers, potential employees, employees..well, the list is long indeed. That list can be a story in itself. Joseph Levitt told it like none else, when he said, “The universe is not made of atoms. Its made of tiny stories”

Anyone with an internet connection and a device can find thousands of websites reeling out a zillion ways to tell good stories. Here are three top elements that come to my mind, in all my ears of telling and listening to great stories and working with some of the coolest leaders who were giant story tellers.

1. Preparation is key! As simple as it sounds, sans preparation, even the greatest of stories flounder without good storytelling. Getting the story aligned to intended outcomes is key. Most importantly, constantly staying on the lookout for good stories is what will add to the stock that can be deployed at will.

2. Great story tellers always leave their audience curious to know more. They leave them energized, thoughtful or sometimes very reflective. To keep the stories short, simple and contextual works. A dose of humour, as and when appropriate, works.

3. The stories that go a far longer distance are those that are REAL, told in first person and told with a degree of ‘authenticity.

Story telling is not an optional extras. It sits the very centre of good leadership skills. Besides if you want to build a great cohesive team with a defining sustained culture, stories look no further than the story that’s currently playing loudly and the ones that you would like to hear. That’s a very different topic and a giant story by itself!

Polish your story! Yet again. It helps.

This was my contribution to Sheroes.in a while ago.

Running the learning function – #PhilipsHRTalks

Philips HR Talks is turning out to be a powerful medium for conversation, sharing and exchange of ideas. Put together by the wonderful combination of Yashwant Mahadik and Gautam Ghosh, this has indeed taken shape as a platform for sharing ideas, thoughts, experiences in Human Resources.

This is an evolving niche. and Yash sets the context for the Philips HR Talks here. #PhilipsHRTalks has acquired a niche of its own generating great interest in the HR community, students and academia in this geography.
When Gautam invited me over to share thoughts on Learning in the modern day context, I was only more than happy to participate. I chose to title the talk “Running the Learning Function”, keeping my own experience of running a marathon to give a narrative coherence.
Here is the full video.

It had to be straight forward and simple. At the same time, I endeavoured to bring to fore the challenges and dilemmas that accost every learning leader and aspects that perhaps will help in building a ‘learning organisation’ of sorts.
The aspects that I thought pertinent, include
1. The importance of keeping ‘learning’ simple and helping people ‘see through’
2. The need for chunking and keeping learning in small chunks
3. Elements of collaboration and its impact on learning
4. Building commitment and the aspects that aid in that journey
5. The need for building choice inherently in the system
6.  The seeking for creating meaning
7. The critical role of community!
As much as these are aspects of learning this indeed are the components of my story of running! I had great fun putting it together. Do give it a look. The warm and generous feedback has been beyond my expectations. Thats given a very happy ring to it.
Long after I completed the talk, a good friend and fellow runner passed this video to me. I wish I had seen it before. For these perhaps are the stages in running the learning function as well!

As always, would love to hear your views.

Story power !

Oxfam is betting on a new way.

Imagine having to sell second hand goods. Say, used furniture. Or other items of daily use. Like sunglasses. Or combs. Or radios. Whatever.

That effort is not going to fetch anything more than a small sum, unless ofcourse those belonged to a celebrity.

Ofcourse, the celebrity quotient is comes from the story that can be told.

“This hair strand is from Elvis Priestly”.

“This coffee cup was used by Sachin Tendulkar”.

Surely, the strand of hair is not worth so much if its not associated with Elvis. Nor the coffee cup with Tendulkar. These are stories that give life to random inanimate objects.

So here is Oxfam’s very interesting game plan.

Second hand goods gain a meaning when they come with a story. If there was a way of sharing a story about a second hand product with a prospective buyer, well, the chases are more for a purchase. (Every item on second hand sale will carry a story along with it and tagged to the item using a QR code. Any prospective purchaser would get to know of the story behind the item on sale. )

“Someone might donate a record and add that it was the song that they danced to at their wedding to its tag,” The chances of a purchase brightens with the story! (Not that it would result in a purchase everytime).

Stories have great power in them. Almost magical. Every individual carries his or her own stories and it becomes easy to relate to other stories that are told .

The humdrum of everyday corporate life makes it difficult for us to take the time to listen to stories or narrate our own. But when we do narrate or when we find a patient ear, what a difference it makes.

Methodologies like Appreciative Inquiry, inherently seek story telling and can create organisation wide energy. Every story holds significance and the very act of both telling and listening to a story can be sources of great energy.

Unfortunately, language creates its own complications and the word ‘story’ can sometimes lead to the narrative being thought of as a flippant waste of time. Call them what you will, stories have in them an inherent quality that brings alive people.

Grandma and her tales !

Personally, many of us would have grown up with stories. As children stories fascinate us. For many years, I grew up with stories that my grandmother used to tell me. Those gave a huge fillip to imagination and also, in retrospect, brought a contextual understanding of morals and values that was required in the family. The best thing about them, was I always used to look forward to hearing those ‘stories’!

In the corporate world the power of stories is often underrated. Grossly.

There are exceptions though. Coca-Cola is one that I know. Coca-Cola Conversations, the blog that Coca-Cola runs is a fine example of how corporate stories build or augment a brand. Infact, Coca-Cola has a historian and archivist with them : Phil Mooney.

Only, in the modern times, technology has given consumers the opportunity of contributing their own story to the brand. That is not only more interesting, it is as authentic as it can get.

Blogs, wikis, tweets all are available for imaginative use.

Within the organisation stories from the organisations past : accounts of successes / failures / decision points etc when told with a degree of authenticity and simplicity not only aid a great deal in building a culture, they are extremely non-invasive and interesting for employees.

So much for stories ! And by the way, they work. Very nicely !

 

clicking shiking !


This is a picture Iclicked. O a falling rain drop, saying hello to streaming rain water running away from a tiled roof. This snap has very little connection to this post.


He crossed his hands and tilted his head, barely concealing a smirk. I had just replied “OF COURSE’ in a tone that could be mildly described as ‘violently affirmative’, to his question. Which was, ‘Are the pictures that you upload on Facebook, your own or do you have download them from somewhere ?’

How dare, I thought.

Within moments however, I quickly broke into a smile within myself while maintaining a stiff exterior. The thought that he, and his well ordained intelligence entertained the possibility that someone better would have clicked them, was a compliment aterall. I gloated with ‘orgasmic ecstasy’.

I trust you will indulge in my confessions on photography !

My dabbling with photography, started a few years back, when I first dabbled with blogging. In the first year of blogging I thought it quite a natural God given right to use any of the images that Google threw up in searches. Like how an average Indian male thinks of the whole of India fit to down the zipper or loosen his drawstrings of a striped underwear to empty his bladder. Naturally !

Life was good. Nobody read the blog, save myself. Or so I thought. I wrote for writing’s sake. Added a picture or depending on the whim of the moment, and shut the system down and reached out for a hot cup of filter kaapi ! I did this for what seemed like two centuries.

Until one day, someone wrote in. Asking a question, which I read in a rather polite tone. The question was simple : Should I not have the decency to check with the ‘owner’ of the snap, before using it? Or something to that effect.

My first reaction was of sheer delight! Someone was afterall reading the blog. I thought.

After a couple of nights of insane partying to celebrate the fact that the blog had indeed caught someones eye, deep remorse filled my heart and I went without food for three days. Ofcourse, I exaggerate. On both counts.

Truth be told, one of those days after receiving that mail, sitting in a hotel and diving into something tasty I wondered if I should click every picture that would get to the blog. Every picture that will get to the blog will be OWNED by me!

As a matter of propriety, I must confess here I also thought this ‘owner’ship of such pictures were perhaps one of the few ownership decisions that I could afford without a loan and an Equated Monthly Installment.

Before you could say, ‘in a flash of a few months’, I had migrated. From writing a post and clicking a picture to suit the post (which took a long time. Even Vajpayee spoke faster), to the exact opposite. Keep clicking pictures and writing blog posts on the photographs that catch my fancy.

So I clicked http://healthsavy.com/product/diflucan/ whenever I was in the mood. Or wasn’t. For that matter. From the photographs, came alive many stories. I ‘invested’ in a Canon S5 IS ! Which is the only camera that I have. A camera that I Iearnt to use by trials and errors suitably grabbing guidance from online well-wishers who now have heaps of karma in their account with the old man up there.

So I clicked whenever I was in the mood. Wrote whatever I chose. Getting filled to the brim with a deep sense of gratitude whenever people wrote in, appreciating the post.

On the same keel I was engulfed in guilt when people appreciated the photograph. And my protruding paunch ached with laughter whenever good friends asked sincere questions about something called ‘aperture’ or ‘focal length’ , ‘shutter speed’ and such else.

It was simple. I don’t know a goats horn about such stuff but for some bare essentials. There are well meaning colleagues who discuss their outstanding photographs through a set of numbers! ‘105 X 37 ?’ they would ask when I showed them a snap that took me some time to click. Or something to that effect. All numbers seem the same to me.

To my ‘picture seeking – story telling mind’, the moment they do that, they morph from being insanely articulate to inanely accurate. That’s precisely when I peer at cobwebs in the corner of the ceiling.

Call me hare brained, but let me confess to you and get it out my chest. To me, photography is about story telling. It is about inclusion and exclusion. To include in a frame and to exclude! That includes light and shade.

If an image, at the spur of the moment feels like it is a prospective story, the finger fiddles with the few buttons and bingo, there is an image. Ofcourse, I over simplify. But by and large, that’s the idea. Some of the outputs occupy the space that Zuckerberg chap created. A few come to the blog here with an appropriate post.

Some snaps swell my chest. Like the one that you see here. When rain water streaming away from the roof, said hello to a rain drop.

I told all of this to a well respected friend who listened to my meandering rant with an inebriated silence. After soaking it all in with several rounds of chicken tikka laced drinks he spoke at length.

The sum and substance was this. In his own dismissive way he has asked me to put an end all this ‘dramabaji’, stop this ‘clicking shiking’, buy a real camera and ‘go learn photography’. With another minute of silence and one more stiff drink in his system, said, ‘Your snaps. They are good’.

Since then, I have looked up real cameras and such else. Looking at their prices, I have now commenced looking for a venture capitalist with a kind heart.

First there are stories. Then ofcourse, there are stories of stories.

All stories.

Recognise your song !

When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child.


They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they return to the tribe and teach it to everyone else.


When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child’s song to him or her. Later, when the child enters education, the village gathers and chants the child’s song. When the child passes through the initiation to adulthood, the people again come together and sing. At the time of marriage, the person hears his or her song.


Finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family and friends gather at the person’s bed, just as they did at their birth, and they sing the person to the next life.


To the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.


The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.

A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it. Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself.

They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.


You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn’t. In the end, we shall all recognize our song and sing it well !

________________________________________________________

This post is a straight “Copy-Paste” from a Good Morning mail that Swatantra sends each day. I found it moving and extremely profound.