The Lady In Red

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(Photo by Ronaldo Santos from Pexels)

Thirty minutes before the downpour the sky was as clear as any object could have been after a merry scrub down. Lest I be drawn into a dialectic debate, let me hasten to clarify that the allusion was strictly metaphorical. A magnificent and almost spotless canopy of blue punctuated with a few wisps of leisurely floating clouds accorded one the deceit of a promising day.

Soon the rain came down in thick and purposeful sheets and the sheer force made the water bounce off the marble tiles surrounding the condominiums. While people with foresight and prescience unfurled their umbrellas, the more lackadaisical ones were either forced to run full tilt risking a slip, and more than a few broken bones, or to take refuge in the lobbies of residential complex.

I am not sure whether I heard the scream or the thud first. In fact, the scream might even have been the squall accompanying the rain. The steaming hot cup of tea dropped from my hands as I saw the flailing arms and legs fly past my very own eyes. My voice was hopelessly stuck in my throat. Although hurtling down at a dizzying pace, the girl seemed to be floating down in slow motion. She was all in White. White and wet. Shirt. Trouser. One wildly whirling arm even seemed to wave at me.

Contact. White turned red as I turned away. Later on, someone told me it took three days for the stains to be completely wiped out.

(Word Count: 250)

#TellTaleThursday withAnshu & Priya

For more stories for the week, please click HERE

 

Rat Race & Ruin

A Bridge 3 Far cp

(Photo Credit: Crispina Kemp)

This was a bridge over nothing and leading nowhere. The connected had long ceased to have any connection since the connectors themselves were homage to a relic. The worn and faded floorboards creaked and groaned like the scratching of a wooden chair on the floor. An ugly asymmetry revealed itself as at random intervals the nails hammered into the floorboards prised open.

A profusion of moss had made the railings it’s home. The sturdy metal beams forming what was once a delectable overhang were ravaged by the vagaries of nature and vacuity of neglect. The colour of rust displaced the original paint and a gaping hole bore into one of the pillars.

The proposed gateway to commerce neither saw exchange nor bore witness to transport. An internecine rift between the two provinces, and the play of vote bank politics had ensured that this was a bridge built too soon.

(Word Count: 149)

Written as part of the Crimson’s Creative Challenge #17 More details regarding this challenge may be found HERE.

Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us – Seth Godin

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Long before Googleplex tickled the febrile imagination of a techno-cult, a man calling himself a ‘Maverick’, instituted a set of pyretic work practices that made the global corporate culture sit up and watch. It also upended the conventional, taken-for-granted, staid run-of-the-mill approaches to work. Ricardo Semler, the CEO and majority owner of Semco Partners, a Brazilian company, saw revenues under his ownership surge from US$4 million in 1982 to US$ 212 million in 2003. This was made possible, amongst others, due to a set of revolutionary work practices which set Semco apart from the rest. Workers’ share of profits was increased to 39%, management salaries were cut by 40% and employees were given the right to approve every item of expenditure. In Semler’s own words, “At Semco we did away with strictures that dictate the “hows” and created fertile soil for differences. We gave people an opportunity to test, question, and disagree. We let them determine their own futures. We let them come and go as they wanted, work at home if they wished, set their own salaries, choose their own bosses. We let them change their minds and ours, prove us wrong when we are wrong, make us humbler. Such a system relishes change, which is the only antidote to the corporate brainwashing that has consigned giant businesses with brilliant pasts to uncertain futures.”

In his best-seller, “Tribes”, Seth Godin, the founder and CEO of Squidoo and one of the world’s foremost business bloggers, talks about ‘heretics’, such as Semler who not only act as catalysts of change but also inspire an entire ‘clan’ of followers. In other words, these prophets of radical reforms lead their own “Tribes.” A tribe is simply, “any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have sought out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical. It’s our nature.” With an explosion of technology and a dramatic reduction in the cost of computing,  a majority of the global populace not only has access to an astounding gamut of information, but also the tools required to transform the users into heretics and leaders. In other words, one can have her own “tribe.” As Mr. Godin points out, from the prolific Joel Spolsky who has altered the domain of software programming to the Grateful Dead, who have toppled received wisdom hitherto treated as gospel in the music industry on its head, harbingers of change and their faithful tribes are all around us. The prosaic methodologies which held employees and managers in a fell clutch of manuals, best practices and sacrosanct rituals are now being challenged and dangerously so by a new breed of principles that brook neither fear nor favour. This invasion of intruders is changing the world of work and leisure. “Stability is an Illusion” says Mr. Godin. “” Established 1906” used to be important. Now apparently it’s a liability.”

The standing of the heretics has undergone a sea change. “They burn heretics at the stage. They also drown them, denounce them, ignore them and hang them from the rafters. …. None of that is true anymore. Now we invite heretics to Davos. Heretics get elected to Congress. Heretics make a fortune when their companies go public. Heretics not only love their jobs; they get a private jet too.”

Drawing the readers’ attention to the work of Jerry and Monique Sternin in helping starving children, Mr. Godin emphasies on what he terms “the most important practical idea in his entire book.” “Find leaders (the heretics who are doing things differently and making change), and then amplify their work, give them a platform, and help them find followers – and things get better. They always get better.”  How does a leader go about accumulating and improving his tribe? Over to Mr. Godin: “…it takes only two things to turn a group of people into a tribe:

  • A shared interest
  • A way to communicate

The communication can be one of four kinds:

  • Leader to tribe;
  • Tribe to leader;
  • Tribe member to tribe member;
  • Tribe member to outsider

A classic example of communication nurturing tribes is the medium of Twitter. In a short burst of 280 characters, one can subtly, succinctly and strongly convey one’s intentions and since the medium being online real time the message spreads like wildfire – literally – and before one can say “Amen”, one has a million doting and eager ‘disciples’ looking up to the originator of the tweet for guidance and advice. Mr. Godin strongly urges all of us to avoid what he calls, “Sheepwalking.” Sleepwalking, “is the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them brain-dead jobs and enough fear to keep them in line.”

Is there a particular number that forms a traction for the tribe of a leader to bloom fully? Mr. Godin explains that a leader does not actually need many follower fans as long as he she can engage and interact with the ones following her. It could be less than a dozen or a few hundred. Some of us would love to lead millions but would probably settle for 1000. In this Mr. Godin derives inspiration from Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired. As Mr. Godin writes on his own blog, ““Some people will read this and immediately understand. Others will read it and start waffling over the meaning of “true.” My expansion: you need to alter what you do and how you do it so that 1,000 true fans is sufficient to make you very happy.””

Before concluding, Mr. Godin goes on to identify what he argues as constituting “the elements of leadership:”

  • Leaders challenge the status quo;
  • Leaders create a culture around their goal and involve others in that culture;
  • Leaders have an extraordinary amount of curiosity about the world they are trying to change;
  • Leaders use charisma (in a variety of forms) to attract and motivate followers;
  • Leaders communicate their vision of the future;
  • Leaders commit to a vision and make decisions based on that commitment;
  • Leaders connect their followers to one another

Jacqueline Novogratz, Gary Vaynerchuck, Mich Matthews, Thomas Barnett, Niklas Zennstrom, the founders of Lulu.com and Scott Beale all stand out because they dared to dream. They refused to be cowed down by intrinsic doubts and external fears and proceeded to live according to the dictum laid down by them. This made them leaders with a fanatical base of tribes.

As Mr. Godin reiterates each one of us have the potential to become a leader just as the ones referred to above. And yes, with our own tribes!

The Rendezvous

(Photo Credit: C E Ayr)

Two parts Schadenfreude, one-part guilt. This was exactly how Marlisse felt as she briskly half-walked half-ran to the rendezvous point. Coming around the corner, she could spot the back tire as well as the ubiquitous yellow number plate of Robbie’s half hidden bike. Green was not the only colour that Marlisse saw as she neared her meetpoint.

Shrieking hysterically, Marlisse trembled violently as her small briefcase tumbled upon the cobblestoned road. Robbie lay motionless and contorted in a pool of blood. A note pinned to his chest courtesy a dagger running through its side, read, “To Marlisse, with love”

(Word Count: 100)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

 For the complete list of entries, please click HERE

The Gatecrasher

It was the smell. The rambunctious laughter reverberating off the walls in the confined space transformed into a peculiar silence. Mass sniffing of nostrils and uncertain shuffling of feet represented the only antidotes to the quietude. As the inebriated and the incongruent alike attempted to discern the cause of the involuntary interruption, their efforts were aided by the permeating stench which had now found its strongest place of preference and positioning near the makeshift bar.

A man looking as though he was at the Cul-De-Sac of his life was struggling to find his bearings as well as the nearest bottle. Both these endeavours however, were taking a toll on him. He was wobbling on unsteady feet that ended in a tattered pair of boots, like a thin reed being mercilessly buffeted by an unkind storm. He had blank and lifeless eyes that seemed capable of looking nowhere and everywhere at the same time. A feeble attempt to comb back a growth of unkempt and unruly hair had ended disastrously. His unwashed overcoat, the unbuttoned shirt beneath it and a creased and rumpled trouser, let off a stench that was a vile combination of sweat, grime and urine.

The guard came bursting into the room. Catching the Gatecrasher by the scruff of his neck he tried to drag him out. The intruder’s legs gave way and he came crumpling down upon the floor. My wife suddenly spoke in a voice, brittle and broken, “Please don’t hurt him. He is my husband.”

Word Count: 250)

#TellTaleThursday withAnshu & Priya

To access all the stories for this week, click HERE

The Cleave

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(Photo Credit: Crispina Kemp)

Eleven broad mossy steps separated prosperity from poverty. Eleven stony ice cold steps. Neglected by both nature and nurture, these represented a cleave between hurt and happiness. Going up the eleven prosaic steps led a traveler on a path towards squalor and stupor, whereas coming down the same broad steps steered the traveler in the direction of prosperity and peace, in plenty.

This divide seemed to be eternal. A plague that brooked no eradication. A scourge that tolerated no exorcism. Yet the two co-existed, collided, coalesced and crisscrossed wonderfully and woefully, wantonly and wistfully.

Ironically the squalid slums with their stench and suffering looked down upon resplendent abodes that represented, in the eyes of the beholder, a ‘vulgar display of wealth.’ The accumulators of wealth, used to looking at the world with rose tinted glasses looked up at their neighbours with derision.

Yet it was one world and one humanity.

(Word Count: 150)

Written as part of the Crimson’s Creative Challenge #16 More details regarding this challenge may be found HERE.

Notes On A Nervous Planet – Matt Haig


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On a short and impromptu holiday in early 2017, I found myself in a non-decrepit ‘budget’ hotel in Seoul. Flanked by a row of convenience stores to its left and a gleaming new plastic & cosmetic surgery centre to its right, the hotel was a constricted cubbyhole of rooms which seemed to bend upon themselves and shrink to such an impossible size that their physical dimensions ended even before they began. A row of sophisticated looking and exorbitantly priced watering holes lined the alleys behind the hotel. However, what came as a shock to me was the fact that this cramped, claustrophobic and constrained hotel also doubled up as the convalescence centre of choice for all those patients who had procedures performed upon their bodies in the neighbouring Cosmetic surgery centre. This delayed and accidental realization led me sharing the lobby, elevator and smoking rooms with a whole horde of modern day mummies. Aquiline figures with their breasts tightly bandaged in rolls of white, curvaceous beauties with entire faces (with the exception of the eyes) swathed in bandages and in some extreme cases, Barbie-like artificial looking beauties being wheeled in on account of their entire visage being enveloped tightly by the same pristine bandages in white. A steep price to pay indeed for altering what was bestowed upon by both genetics and habit.

In his new riveting and introspective bestseller “Notes From A Nervous Planet”, Matt Haig in a freewheeling manner, refreshingly brings to our attention the changing priorities necessitated by a fast moving, technology immersed world and the attendant challenges, physical, mental and spiritual. Mr. Haig should know, having overcome a debilitating bout of depression and anxiety himself – the subject of his previous bestseller, ‘Reasons To Stay Alive’.  In an unstructured but eminently readable manner, Mr. Haig details the perils, pressures and predilections assailing us and provides a few practical solutions to retain our sanity. “I am trying to write about the messiness of the world and the messiness of minds by writing a deliberately messy book,” asserts Mr. Haig conceding the unstructured format of his book. And yes, it is messy. Jumping from one topic to another unrelated one, Mr. Haig goes about like a metaphorical whirlwind upending the conventional and uprooting the conventional.

The array of subjects covered in the book is vast. Ranging from a dangerous addiction to smartphones to a sobering realization that a lack of sleep has now become a steeply niggling issue, Mr. Haig tries to tackle each of these issues by offering unvarnished, raw and candid examples relating to his own experience. For instance, a panic attack which rendered him helpless, cowering and blabbering in the centre of the hustle and bustle of a supermarket, provides an enlightening insight into the insidious workings of a depressed mind. For people who are beyond the remit of such unfortunate episodes – fortunately – such attacks might be shrugged away as more a mental ailment than a more complicated physiological disorder which it actually is. “In writing this book I have tried to look at the human psychological cost of the world by looking at the only psychology I truly know—my own,” I have written about how we as individuals can try to stay sane within a maddening world. The fact that I have had mental illness, though a nightmare in reality, has educated me on the various triggers and torments of the modern world.”

We are inhabiting a world where our bodies and minds are held to ransom by greedy and unsparing marketers. We have become walking billboards and wafting endorsements. From the lure of enhancing beauty to the promise of embellishing fairness, humanity keeps leaping from bleach to botox. An irresistible urge to possess sculpted abs and seraphic looks ensures that we unwittingly play right into the hands of these unscrupulous marketers who employ the “FUD” technique to exacerbate our gullibility.

Standing for fear, uncertainty and doubt, ‘FUD’ is a tried and tested method used in sales and marketing to dissuade customers from buying competing products and solutions by providing information that triggers fear and uncertainty, or sows seeds of doubt, about current customer thinking.

Things that may be suggested include:

  • That competing products are problematic.
  • That competitors have operational problems.
  • That promised competing products will not be delivered as suggested.
  • That competitor companies are financially unstable.

So what is the way out of this confusing spiral of competing products, confusing priorities, contrary choices and chaotic living? Are we doomed to spend the rest of our lives like a mouse on a hamster wheel? Or is there a faint stirring of hope?

Mr. Haig’s solutions range from the simple to the systematic. Suggesting a mix of conscious breathing techniques, meditation, walks in nature, etc. Mr. Haig also proposes activities that are simple and not requiring the expending of rigorous efforts. Reading books is one such prescribed activity. Some of the notable physical and psychological remedies offered by Mr. Haig include:

“Accept yourself. If you can’t be happy as yourself, at least accept yourself as you are right now. You can’t change yourself if you don’t know yourself.”;

Find a good book. And sit down and read it. There will be times in your life when you’ll feel lost and confused. The way back to yourself is through reading. I want you to remember that. The more you read, the more you will know how to find your way through those difficult times;

Enjoy the internet. Don’t use it when you aren’t enjoying it. (Nothing has sounded so easy and been so hard);

As Yoda nearly put it, you can’t try to be. Trying is the opposite of being;

Shop less;

Don’t try to pin yourself down. Don’t try to understand once and for all, who you are. As the philosopher Alan Watts said, ‘trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.’

Overcome by depression and anxiety, Mr. Haig almost hurled himself off a verdant cliff off the coast of Ibiza. It is a miracle that not only did he dissuade himself from such a catastrophe but now he is striving his best to prevent a multitude from resorting to such a tragic endeavor.