Piece Of Mind.

My regular readers will recollect that about a month ago, I had written on another topic suggested by me for the weekly Friday LBC post – “Peace Of Mind“. When we had suggested the topics for the LBC, immediately after Peace Of Mind, my mind jumped to Piece Of Mind and I had suggested the topic. And now that the time has come to write on it, I am stumped! I am sure that the other blogger Shackman will come out trumps on this one and you can see what he has to say at his blog.

When I googled for “piece of mind idiom”, this is what I got. “(idiomatic) To express one’s opinion strongly; to voice one’s disagreement or dissatisfaction, especially with another person; to scold or rebuke someone”.

Using that definition as a guideline, I can vouch for one difficult to understand fact. I have not been able to give a piece of my mind to anyone in decades! Retirement has made it impossible. It is not as though opportunities do not present themselves but discretion plays its part and I refrain from letting go.

Pre retirement days as a Manager, there were many occasions when I had to give a piece of my mind to somebody or the other and in retrospect even those now seem to have been tempered with factual letting go, rather than diatribes. Perhaps I am just made that way.

I expect that my spiritual pursuits have something to do with this ability to let go and resort to giving pieces of my mind to anyone as I find myself quite placid and equanimous in most stressful situations. Here too, perhaps I am just made that way.

How about you dear reader? Do you often let go and give a piece of your mind to others?

Response To A Response.

Within my facebook family, I belong to a small group of people, all from an alumni group where a lot of ribbing and leg pulling goes on.

I recently had an occasion to participate in one such trail of comments. I published one cartoon photograph of a dog in a yogic position and asked two practitioners whether it was their pet. Both of them practice and preach/teach yoga.
yoga kutta

Another friend, not one of the two yogis in the group commented that it must belong to a famous yoga teacher Ramdev who is a source for much humour in the circle. When that comment appeared, I posted another cartoon of a dog wrapped in a shawl and asked in that case, this must belong to another character much lampooned by most of us bar one great supporter Shekhar.
AK dog

My friend Mukund promptly came up with this comment – “I am sure Ramana you had both pictures ready and were waiting for the Ramdev comment. Amal bit the bait faster than Shekhar”

Shekhar responded – “Ramana posted a shawl pic which means …. ha ha!” The reference being to Ramdev who once escaped from a rather embarrassing situation by wearing a burkha instead of his normal attire.

I responded – “Shekhar, clever, very clever. Actually, I could not lay my hands on one in a burkha! I now have.”

This entire exchange took me back to 1969 when I was stationed for a couple of weeks in my then employer’s head office to complete a project. I had just been confirmed in my employment in the Management cadre after completing my Management Training and one particularly unpopular senior manager decided to teach me some fine aspects of management before I left the head office on my posting. This manager was very affectionately called the prawn and that should give my readers a general idea of his personality.

On the first day that I was there, I had to liaise with him to complete my own work and he asked about some letters that I had written before I had reached the office personally. On discussion, he decided that he should teach me how to write letters and demonstrated to me how corporate communication should be entered into. He pulled out a letter that he had received from a branch office, to which he had responded and the response was going out that day. He asked me to read both and I duly did. He then proceeded to dictate another letter to his secretary in my presence while asking me to listen carefully. After that dictation was complete, he said that the dictated letter was in response to the reply that he would get to the letter that was going out that day. When I asked him how he knew what that would be like, he said that was what management was. Anticipating responses to responses and being ready with further responses. I was quite amused though I could not show that to him. I told him that I was very impressed and went off to handle my own project. Two days later, he came to the room where I was working on my project to show me the response that he had received and triumphantly announced how accurate he was! Frankly while I was quite impressed with the entire story, I just could not understand why he could not have finished the matter off by eliminating the last two letters through being proactive in the first instance. I was then enlightened by some other knowledgeable colleagues that had he done that, he would be left with that much less work! Typical bureaucratic approach to problem solving!

I wish that I had been senior enough then to tell him, like I told Shekhar, “Prawn, clever, very clever!”

Shouting In Anger.

I thank Arvind for this little story.

A Hindu saint who was visiting river Ganges to take bath found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples smiled ‘n asked.

‘Why do people shout in anger shout at each other?’

Disciples thought for a while, one of them said, ‘Because we lose our calm, we shout.’

‘But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner.’ asked the saint

Disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the other disciples.
Finally the saint explained, .

‘When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance.

What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small…’

The saint continued, ‘When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper ‘n they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other ‘n that’s all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.’

He looked at his disciples ‘n said.

‘So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant, Do not say words that distance each other more, Or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.’

There is a little twist to that tale in my life. My father is hard of hearing and refuses to wear hearing aids as they are uncomfortable. I therefore have to shout so that he can hear me and he inevitably concludes that I am excited and/or angry.

What should I do?


Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where twelve of us write on the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Conrad, who has chosen to drop out of the LBC for a short while. The ten other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Magpie, Maria SF, ocdwriter, Padmum, Paul, Rohit and Will. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too!

Please spare under twenty minutes to watch and listen to this video to get an inkling about the topic for today.


Another Friday, and the consortium is back in business. For those readers who are mystified, please visit Grannymar, Conrad and Ashok for simultaneously published posts on the same subject.

Communication is the process of establishing a connection between two or more entities using words or signs using a variety of means. It has a great deal in common with the word communion. Common unity on a particular subject, value or idea. Communication is the process of establishing that.

Till I went to Business school, I did not realize the seriousness of the word as I had the “gift of the gab” and was a reasonably successful salesman/supervisor/human being. I did not need formal theoretical explanation for something that was already happening. The thought never crossed my mind.

In Business School, in the very first semester we had to compulsorily take a course called Written Analysis of Cases (WAC). It should not take a great deal of imagination to know what the students called the course! The lady Professor who taught the course was every student’s fantasy come true! So, we paid a great deal of attention to what she taught us and till today, I give credit for my writing ability, for what it is worth, to that lady.

In the process of teaching us how to write, she also introduced us to the concept of ‘Communication’ as a subject by itself. Subsequently of course it was a tool to use to assess abilities of people and to spend time being an effective communicator etc.

Like most people, I flatter myself that I am a good verbal communicator. What I mean is that, I go looking for captive audiences where I can hold forth on whatever takes my fancy. The trick is in finding that elusive audience. With experience, most people in my circle of friends and relatives, find ingenious ways of avoiding me. It is that singular lack in my life that prompted me to take up to blogging. Here too, I find that though I pontificate, some posts get a great deal of comments and some fall flat. It is however a learning experience and I am enjoying that.

I was once told by a Facilitator in a workshop on Effective Communication that my physique and the tone of my voice was very intimidating and strangers would feel hesitant to establish two way communications with me. I took him up on this and took him out of the hall where the workshop was being held into the lobby of the hotel. I walked directly up to the first person sitting on a sofa and extended my hand and introduced myself and asked him what he thought of my approach. He stuttered and stammered and said that he felt intimidated. That was my moment of epiphany. It was then that I realized why my employers had sent me to the work shop in the first place!

So, I had to reinvent myself and learn to moderate my body language, tone and bearing to be more effective in my verbal communications. The point of sharing this story is that there are many improbables in the art of communication and most of us do need some training to be more effective than we are.

I came home after that workshop and shared this incident with Urmeela and she asked “Have you noticed, I don’t criticize you any more?” I answered, in all honesty, “No, I have not.” And she continued – “Of course not, you never do!” I was completely taken aback and sat down and for the first time in perhaps twenty odd years of being married to her, discussed my behaviour with her and her impression on my communication skills with her and others. It is a measure of the kind of marriage that we had that we could have this conversation and I could learn a great deal from it.

Malcolm Gladwell in his fantastic book “Blink” talks about psychologist John Gottman who has spent a life time studying behavior patterns that establish whether effective communication between married people takes place or not and has developed an instinct for identifying marriages that are doomed to fail. He has narrowed down to four, from many traits that lead to ineffective communication taking place between husband and wife. He calls them the four horsemen! They are Defensiveness, Stonewalling, Criticism and Contempt. In fact, he identifies the last, Contempt as the most important factor leading to breakdown in communication and subsequent failure of the union itself.

When I read this, I was amazed at how true it is that these factors play a vital role in determining one’s own communication skills even outside the institution of marriage. If we can consciously observe our own action/reaction in any communication to identify if the inner emotion is any one of the factors, we can take corrective steps to ensure that we overcome this, what Gottman calls negative emotion override, by a positive one. Similarly, when we are at the receiving end, we can take such steps as necessary to identify the negative emotion overdrive, and react in such a way to make it a positive one.

Since reading the book three years ago, I have consciously tried to do that, and on many occasions have succeeded in turning around very nasty situations within the family and among friends. In the recent past, since my father moved in with me, it has been a great tool to identify my own negative emotion overdrives and to ease the inevitable tension that his presence and behavior has on my equilibrium. The root cause is the fact that he is the father. He expects to exercise power and control over me. Depending on the particular situation, I used to through one or more of the four horsemen without fail and have now learnt to identify such reaction and handle it to ensure that I do not tie myself into knots. A kind of communication with myself as it were. Which brings me to that wonderful phenomenon of communicating with oneself, as being of vital importance in retaining one’s sanity in troubling situations. This is an aspect of communication that does not receive the attention that it deserves and with this post, I hope to impress on my readers the importance of that.

If we can keep an open mind, we can learn many things from our near and dear ones and become more effective in our communications. What prevents that from happening however, is that we are so full of ourselves, at least I was then, that we think that we are God’s gift to mankind and we do not need to change our ways. I used to feel like that and occasionally do so even now.

From all that formal and informal training the one thing that I learnt is that to be a good communicator, one needs to take in more than giving out. Listening more than speaking, asking questions, seeking clarification and simply paying attention, makes one a great communicator than the opposite of all that I have written here. Difficult, but with conscious practice, possible to achieve.

Before my audience gets bored with my communication today, let me sign off with a fantastic statement from a fellow Senior Citizen. What great communication!

senior citizen


When my stepmother passed away recently, I suggested to my father that he moves in with us instead of living alone. He readily agreed and is arriving tomorrow evening.

Getting our home ready for his stay has been quite taxing physically as we have only one bed room in the ground floor which has been used by my wife and me. Since my father is 91 years old, we felt that it is best that he stays downstairs and that we move into one of the bed rooms on the first floor. Shifting, rearranging wardrobes, getting new furniture etc have all been completed just a while ago.

This has meant that one of the topics of conversation in our evening meetings at the park, has revolved around the impending arrival of my father as well as all that it has implied. One of our friends whose daughter lives in the USA just mentioned this during a regular phone call and the following email is the outcome of that tele-conversation between mother and daughter.

“Dear Neelam,

Your mother conveyed to me your surprise when you came to know about the impending arrival of my father to stay with us and your query “Does Ramana Uncle have a father?”

Your mother, as she is wont to, went into peals of laughter as soon as she finished that quotation and I was quite puzzled. It then dawned on me that she was amused at her phrasing of that question as well as yours.

Let me assure you that I am not born of immaculate conception. I am not the Son of God. From all accounts, my mother conceived me as all mothers do, and just as you too did. My father confirms to me that he was very much responsible.

I may give the appearance of being a Supernatural Being, but that is due entirely to my own efforts and my parents are not responsible for that outcome.

If you want any further clarifications, please do not hesitate to ask. I shall be brutally honest in my replies.

With love to the four of you,

Ramana Uncle.”