Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some of the people who made a difference to my life-II

Golf courses are known to be the playgrounds of the rich and the famous and I have heard that people strike big business deals there. For me the experience was entirely different when during an idyllic Sunday in early 2000, while playing at the Annadale golf course, my path crossed with Brig. R. C. Shard on the 8th hole.

He said “Son seeing you for the first time on the course, you seem to be a promising golfer”.
And that was the start of the most beautiful relationship that is my most treasured treasure till this day.

Brig. Shard, then Col. Shard was the Col.Q for Army Training Command and had recently moved into town. He subsequently invited me home for a dinner and rest as they say was all history. Even while I called him a friend he endeared me as his son right from the very initial days of our acquaintance. I was the General Manager of a hotel but longed for a home as my jobs and travels had kept me away from my parent’s home since 1992. Mrs. Ira Shard would call me home now and then whenever she would make ‘Rajma’ (kidney beans made in a certain style and extremely popular with north Indians – which I loved to eat) and later I would simply tell her that I wanted to eat ‘Rajma’ and she would smilingly oblige.

The affection that both Mrs. And Brig. Shard bestowed on me was unusual and early in those years, our friendship graduated to a level of close relationship and not a single day would pass when we would not meet or chat. He would share his plans, ideas and thoughts with me and I was touched beyond words when he first introduced me as his eldest son in a public forum. And his love and affection matched his words and to this day I enjoy the respect and the honour of being the eldest son of Brig. R. C. Shard.

It so happened that he moved to Binagudi as a Brigade commander when I had just taken up a challenging assignment in Assam and once in every few months I would drive 8 hours to spend a few days with them. The bond became stronger.

Very few people have the luxury of 2 sets of parents, Biological and Foster.
It was always a hard choice at every opportunity, whether to go to Chandigarh (my hometown) or to go to Brig. Shard’s home.

During the lower ebbs of life there was always a sound advice and emotional and physical support. Mrs. Shard encashed her bank bonds to finance my MBA and made up for the shortfall. Such are times that one can easily differentiate between friends for a reason, season or a lifetime.

While I was away in the UK, they would check on my mother’s welfare and would call mom to give her strength frequently. Till this day the degree of mutual trust and respect has ensured that no major decision or a function can happen without mutual consultation.

Wealth for most is a function of zeroes in their bank balances. For me wealth is quality of relationships in my life and support system that my near and dear ones provide all the time, unconditionally.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Decoding the festival of lights - Diwali

Diwali is a festival of lights as light is a metaphor for knowledge and darkness represents ignorance. Therefore this festival of lights symbolises the destruction, through knowledge, of all negative forces- wickedness, violence, lust, anger, envy, greed, bigotry, fear, injustice, oppression and suffering.

People distribute sweets among friends and relatives as a token of affection and bonhomie, visit each other’s homes and symbolically start a new year. But lately this festival has acquired enormous proportions and is seemingly the best time to grease the system. Economic activity is at its highest because Diwali allows people to accept gifts (it’s no longer considered bribe during these couple of days). What was traditionally an exchange of sweets (with negligible commercial value) has evolved into baskets full of gold biscuits of considerable sizes, iPods, gift vouchers of premium stores etc. And of course it’s Diwali so it’s all acceptable. Govt officers visit offices even on their off days because they would not want to displease their visitors by not being there and it’s wrong to deprive someone of the opportunity of giving gifts.

And talking of mythology, Lord Rama isn’t getting pleased with the fact that spend on crackers over a single night is over $2 Billion and the industry employs 90% child labour in unsafe and hostile conditions in the cracker industry. All put together by conservative estimates, Diwali costs are close to $10 Billion.

It’s been over 20 years now that i haven’t spent a single penny on crackers – instead I prefer to give monies to a few needy around me or to people who struggle to make their 2 ends meet. It gives me happiness and satisfaction that I haven’t burnt up money in crackers causing noise and environment pollution.
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