Breaking Out With Passion

Breaking Out With Passion

Over the past few years, I have excessively indulged myself in looking in the rear view mirror of life with the aim to avoid repeating the mistakes that I have made. Recently, I realized that it crossed an extent where I was obsessing too much over the past, ultimately losing track of the present, as well as the future. After all, it is entirely human to dodge anything that gives us pain and embarrassment. It is also very common for us to drag ourselves down in this routine of avoidance, ultimately holding us back in life. A mental construct so harmful that it has kept many talented people from achieving their true potential.

Since childhood, elders and peers alike have given me the feedback on my potential to do something great in life; a potential ‘x’, that I am yet to figure out. I think failures, and the fear of more failures, contributed a lot towards my current mindset of looking back and contemplating excessively. Once in a while, it is a healthy habit to stop and look back. Self-reflection helps avoid repeating the mistakes, provide valuable inputs on areas where one is doing well, and charter a course of action for further self development. Thanks to a very dear friend, who very recently inquired me about my current passions in life, I realized that over the course of multiple setbacks – some life altering ones, obsessing over the past, good and bad, had become a habit and a ritual. This habit not only altered my thought process semi-permanently, but almost set me up for possible future failures, at a point, where my only passion was procrastination.

Contemplation and obsession over the past come with losing sight of the present and future, often, fogging crucial decision-making skills, altering emotional and mental peace, and increased distress. These are self-woven mental and emotional constructs that are very hard to break out from. Unknowingly, an honest question from my friend about my passions made me realize that being truly passionate about something is the beginning of breaking out of it. In words of Matthew McConaughey, having something to look forward to everyday and to chase something in life is one of the best ways to keep yourself away from this alternate reality.

Even though Matthew’s words do not provide an answer to where my passions lie, they do provide an insight into keeping a healthy mindset and to work towards something that you really enjoy and aspire or have aspired to be. So, if I were to ask you the same question today, what would your answer be? What are you truly passionate about to make it your future?

My Goal For The Next Two Years!

My Goal For The Next Two Years!

As I sit down and write this post, Billionaire by Bruno Mars is playing in the background on a random playlist. It is only a co-incidence that this track is on while I draft this blog.

Since the beginning of the year 2018, I have been on a train of thoughts on how to proceed further in life and what I want to achieve ultimately? By no means have I not put in a lot of thought earlier. I believe it is my inherent nature to think and overthink, sometimes. And it is not bad, at all. Thinking and planning, as an exercise, should be done annually and the results compared at the end of the year. For such a reason, starting this year, I will be keeping track of my progress on all fronts on a weekly basis. More about that in another section.

After much thought, sifting through plethora of websites, blogs, books, articles and magazines for guidance, I have finally come to a conclusion. With the attention span of a monkey and interest levels spanning various multitudes, considering we have so much to do in this world, the most important block all of us, including me, face is the ability to ensure a constant and consistent stream of finances to upkeep our lifestyles.

While filtering through all the guiding materials, I came across one article about a guy who was sent to prison for 10 years and who, now, runs an extremely profitable business. In this article, the said guy – Billy B. mentions that he enjoyed his prison time for one specific reason and for which he wants to go back to a similar lifestyle – his ability to do whatever he wished to, without worrying about the money. This really struck home with me, as well; as I am sure, it will with you.

Being a millennial and a guy in his mid-20s, financial independence and the ability to work on things that I am passionate about are probably the two most important items on my checklist, when it comes to life. With the extent of opportunities and speed with which the world is graduating, we simply cannot be dedicated to one item for the entirety of our lives. It may look like something to frown upon to a certain extent but a majority of the population today understands this. A lot has been said by leaderships and partners of corporate giants about millennials and our needs and how to keep us happy. These items usually prop up on the top 4 ways to keep ours, and the generations following ours, happy.

By no means, I want to be a billionaire (even though I would love to). However, I am psyched by the idea of financial independence, considering it would provide for a perfect platform for the activities that I want to really be involved with. The ability to build around my childhood and current passions and dreams, and the everlasting urge to do some good for the society calls for an expedited approach to attaining financial independence. I understand that this is not going to happen overnight, and therefore, as part of my goal setting process for the next two years, I put it on the top of my list. As of now, I am off to prepare the plan around it while you have some food for thought! I do have some ideas that I am developing on. Do reach out if you want to discuss and, possible, help me with it.

Until next time!

M

Southwest Airlines – Unfurling Wings of Transformation

Southwest Airlines – Unfurling Wings of Transformation

Case Type: Industry and Competitive Strategy, General Management, Service Management, Organizational Behavior, Company Life-Cycle

Case Source: Thunderbird School of Global Management (2005 Version)

Industry Coverage: Commercial Aviation


Original Case Abstract

Through three generations of leadership, conservative management and aggressive expansion have guided Southwest Airline’s legendary growth. Herb Keheller, founder and industry revolutionary, introduced a business model that transformed the airline industry; Keheller passed the baton to James Parker and Coleen Barrett, the first man-and-woman team to run an airline, who maintained direction and focus. The company soon experienced cracks in its façade, especially in the wake of 9/11 terrorism, spiraling fuel prices, labor unrest, and new entrants like JetBlue. After reorganization, former CFO Gary Kelly took the helm and gave a speech in which he told employees that the Southwest brand was under attack. Kelly had to weigh many issues if he was to continue the 33-year profitable operation track record. Could Southwest preserve the Herb-centric culture, and was this culture critical to their future success? Would Southwest lose its leadership position to copycats, or, worse, have to copy the copycats to meet customer expectations” What would Southwest do to maintain their cost advantage in light of spiraling fuel costs, costly labor concessions, and intense competition? Finally, was it time to reinvent the 40-year-old company?


Pointers Addressed in Final Composition:

  1. Comparison of Southwest Airlines’ performance to the U.S. airline industry’s overall performance.
  2. Overall competitiveness of the U.S. airline industry.
  3. Southwest Airlines’ strategy (operational factors, non-financial performance indicators, link between corporate culture and strategic choices).
  4. Whether Southwest Airlines’ competitive advantage is based on differentiation or low cost.
  5. Main reasons for imitators to fail where Southwest Airlines has succeeded.

Final Composition:

Since long, the U.S. airline industry has been plagued with high operating costs, recessions, labor strikes, fuel crisis, air-traffic delays, security issues and lower profits often leading to the filing of bankruptcy by major aircraft carriers. Through such times, Southwest Airlines shot up the charts with its futuristic management policies and marketing strategy prowess. In an oligopoly of major players, where fares were determined by the cost incurred by company rather than the customer demands, and where price competition was unheard of, Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 ensured that the market opened up to new entrants bringing about a much needed change in the industry and challenged the already existing giants, further, forcing them to review and revise their business models and to cater to a larger group of stakeholders.

 

Southwest Airlines is a success story of an airline service that launched itself as a low cost carrier and managed to maintain a steady growth rate and profit margins during a decade when 8 out of 11 major and more than 150 small carriers either went bankrupt or merged into other airlines challenging the pre-set norms of the airline industry. The strategies and policies used by Southwest did not just give a fierce competition to the already established giants but also inspired many to launch their own carriers on the terms of Southwest’s business model. The only two airlines that successfully managed to thrive on Southwest Airlines’ business model were Morris Air and JetBlue – both headed by David Neeleman. Morris Air was acquired by Southwest as part of their expansion plans leaving JetBlue as the only airline inspired by Southwest’s model, by the year 2005. While JetBlue successfully managed through the tough times, many of Southwest’s competitors, big or small, were unable to identify the distinguishing factors to Southwest’s success. As such, within the first 34 years of its operations, Southwest’s small fleet of four Boeing 737 air crafts serving three cities in the state of Texas with annual customer base of a mere 108,554 passengers, in 1971, grew to a whopping 417 aircraft serving 70 million passengers throughout the nation, in the year 2004, ranking it among the top 8 airlines in the US industry in 2004.

 

Before the Airlines Deregulation Act, the US airlines industry did not have varied pricing strategies to appeal to the customers and all the operating costs were passed along to them as increased fare prices. Each market had between two to three aircraft carrier services that formed the oligopoly which ensured that the prices were regulated as per the industry demands with no competition among them. Due to this, every market was segmented into two segments – people who could afford to fly and people who could not. In 1978, after the government policy change and entry of new players in the markets, the industry giants, that once formed the oligopolies, were forced to cut down on fare prices, that were mostly composed of fixed costs (nearly 80% fixed costs), bringing down the average fare price from 10 cents per domestic air mile in 1975 to 4 cents per domestic air mile in 2003. To cover up for the revised fare prices and to sustain in the competitive market, the major airlines took severe measures in their business operating model. As many as 20,000 airline industry employees were laid off throughout the industry in early 1980s, while the productivity of the remaining employees rose 43% during the same period whereas the average employee wages dropped sharply leading to massive distrust, job insecurity and dissatisfaction among the airline industry unions. Major airlines like United, American and Delta tried maximizing capacity utilization by trying to increase the revenue earned per available passenger seat. To do so, a hub-and-spoke patterned network was identified as a suitable fit, in which, passengers were redirected to major hubs from outlying airports from where they were redirected to their final destination. Such a network would often result in delayed flights caused by yet-to-arrive passengers leading to additional costs of rescheduling for these carriers alongside additional flight time for their passengers. Establishing a hub was, in itself, a costly affair with terminal construction and gate acquisition charges reaching as high as $150 million for a single terminal on a major hub. Increasing fuel prices, additional aircraft maintenance costs due to new government norms post multiple aircraft accidents and increasing debt added to the woes of these major aircraft carriers and adversely affected their already low profitability.

 

Southwest Airlines began its humble and unconventional journey with four Boeing 747s providing services to three cities in late 1970. Herb Kelleher along with Rollin King established Southwest Airlines as a low cost, short-haul, point-to-point high frequency flights’ airline. Southwest segmented its market into business travellers (people who valued time efficiency) and leisure travellers (people who valued price efficiency). To cater to these two segments, Southwest introduced $13 fare for leisure travellers after 7PM and on weekends and $26 fare for business travellers until 7PM on weekdays. This was a perfect example of their impeccable pricing strategy. While Braniff Airlines tried to imitate their pricing strategy, Southwest further showed its brilliance at marketing mix by offering its customers a bottle of Chivas Regal scotch whiskey for an additional $13 making it a win-win situation for all its stakeholders. As such, Braniff Airlines was forced to abandon their oldest route ensuring that it no longer acted as a threat to Southwest’s low fare business model.

 

Southwest Airlines had a much deeper understanding of the operations of the airlines industry than its competitors. In general, the hub-and-spoke approach was a cost-saving approach due to its operational efficiencies whereas the point-to-point approach was considered cost-ineffective, in case of insufficient demand. Southwest used the short-haul flights approach to its advantage by flying each airplane for an additional 3.4 hours each day, making 8 trips daily – twice the industry average, making Southwest Airline’s cost per available seat mile as the lowest in industry, at a time when other airlines’ planes spent most of their time on ground, waiting for their passengers to arrive from different spokes to the hub. In addition to this, Southwest also ensured that the turn-around time for each flight was reduced to the bare minimum by asking its employees to work on additional tasks. Southwest’s no frills approach of not offering fixed seats or meals to its customers further saved on flight boarding time helping in keeping up with the schedules. Such an approach saved Southwest on any rescheduling costs that could have incurred. Their ticketing policies saved them a lot of money (costs dropped nearly 66%) helping them pass on this benefit to the customers in terms of further reduced fares. Additionally, where each airline carrier formed its own hub, Southwest leased already developed terminals or secondary airports; that were usually closer to the downtown, for their everyday functions, making it more favorable for the passengers to opt for Southwest’s services.

 

Southwest’s futuristic people policies and its ability to brand itself as a people’s airlines added as a distinguishing factor among its many imitators. Catering to its internal stakeholders and keeping them content with good pay, job security and their unorthodox people programs ensured that a cheerful corporate culture was formed and maintained. At a time when airline industry employees were unsure of their future and airline labor unions were unhappy, Southwest formed its own labor union to assess and understand its employees and to further improvise on their quality of life. The CEO – Herb Kelleher lead the team by example by freezing his salary for five years when there was a need to bootstrap their finances rather than acting as a corporate boss at a time when airline industry employees were being laid off due to bankruptcy or were being forced to accept lower pay. The trust factor of the employees in their management and a sense of belonging clearly showed how Southwest was ahead of time in their people’s policy from the rest of the industry. From the point of view of a customer, the frequent flyer program, their over-the-top services, good nature and good humored flight staff and the freedom to choose their seats as part of first-come-first-serve basis became the perfect blend to make Southwest became the most desired airline for 7 straight years. None of the imitators and competitors took notice or considered of value of this Southwest culture that Southwest took pride in and gained heavily from.

 

From being knocked off the charts even before it started, to the top 8 airlines in the US industry, Southwest’s journey has been nothing more than phenomenal. With cost control methods to brilliant people’s policy of esprit-de-corps, Southwest did everything by the books, if one refers to Fayol’s principles. The good use of extended marketing mix and the tendency to stay conservative in an otherwise risky industry is the reason why Southwest Airlines was counted among the top 8 airlines in the US commercial airlines industry, where its competitors failed to learn from Southwest’s success stories. While some of the airlines did try to imitate Southwest’s operational model, many lagged the spirit that Southwest and its employees carried with them. Indeed, Southwest unfurled the wings of transformation in the airline industry and set and example of the need to have good people’s policy alongside an optimal operational policy, by staying profitable while taking care of its own employees.

Joy Foods Goes Hyperlocal To Procure Materials For New Setup In India

Joy Foods Goes Hyperlocal To Procure Materials For New Setup In India

Case Type: Comparative Analysis, New Business Setup, Metrics

Consulting Firm: Corporate Executive Board (CEB)

Industry Coverage: Hyperlocal, eCommerce, Delivery, Small Business


Case Scenario

The CEO of Joy Foods has approached you for advice. Joy Foods is opening a pilot French bakery in your neighborhood. Originally a European brand, they are well-known for their fresh produce. They plan to procure all raw materials and equipment for the bakery via e-commerce websites. The staff in India will be using the suggested e-commerce website to order the daily requirements. But the staff has very limited time and are not very technology-savvy. The Operations Head also informs you that Joy Foods has huge capital tied up in their brick-and-mortar setup, and some of the raw materials they plan to procure can only be sourced from outside India (for e.g., UK, US, etc.).


Problem Statement 1:

Using a simple framework, complete a comparative analysis of the below e-commerce websites:

  1. Amazon.in
  2. Delightfoods.com
  3. Flipkart.com
  4. Zopnow.com
  5. Nature’s Basket

Based on your analysis, recommend one website you think is the most effective platform for Joy Foods.

Instructions:-

  • Present your analysis and recommendation in one slide PowerPoint deck.
  • Do not exceed beyond one slide.
  • Font shouldn’t be less than Arial 12.
  • Your deck should include :
    • The comparative analysis
    • Your recommendation
    • Any Supporting evidence in the form of graphics, charts, etc., if required

Problem Statement 2:

Articulate five key performance metrics and their drivers the team should use to track success of the bakery business. Also provide your rationale for choosing these metrics.

Instructions:-

  • Keep your answers bulleted
  • The final word count should not exceed 500
  • Include graphics, charts, etc. as supporting evidence where required

Solution:

Solution to Problem Statement 1:

Solution to Problem Statement 2: 

For any business to run smoothly, it is imperative for the managers to understand the importance of setting up metrics that help in identifying whether a business is headed towards the sky or a gorge. For a French bakery business, these metrics become of even more importance considering the perishable nature of the produce.

To help the business managers identify the trend, the following performance indicators can be used:

a. Gradual increase in sales: 

A for-profit business requires that the sales must always be on an increasing trend. According to Small Business, an annual increase of 30% is a decent sales target.

b. Repeat customers with repeat orders aka consistent footfall: 

For a bakery business to identify itself as successful bakery, it is important that the customers come relate themselves to a specific product and come back to the bakery often for their “regular” order apart from trying newer items.

c. Turn-around time for the product – lesser time on shelf indicates a better sales strategy: 

Products being produced in a bakery should be cleared off the shelf prior to their expiry. Such a strategy determines that there is no extra produce and that the bakery is up to date on the daily requirement of fresh stock. A product that is being thrown out as waste due to expiry suggests excess production; and may need intervention on the marketing aspect of the product.

d. Ability to keep up with the demand by keeping enough stock: 

No bakery must ever run out of stock for an in-demand produce. This key performance indicator is necessary to understand the supply-demand structure for each product category and to ensure that the customer does not end up dissatisfied due to lack of supply.

e. Quality benchmarking: 

One aspect that keeps a customer coming back to the bakery is the quality of the produce. Quality benchmarks are a vital part of any business to ensure that a negative marketing does not take place. Bakery business being close to a consumer’s heart require stringent quality checks in place to ensure that each batch of produce matches or exceeds the set quality benchmarks.

That being said – a bakery business may also have issues like system downtime and lack of understanding of customer requirements. Equal emphasis must also be put on operational and human resource function to keep the business sturdy. Poorly trained workers or unkempt and non-maintained machinery can add to the costs rather than support the production side of the business to boost profits. No business is ever immune to problems and that is where performance indices help keep a track of all the bottlenecks and provide for a timely intervention.

Attention! You may not survive this article…

Attention! You may not survive this article…

…without losing focus!

Apologies for the click-bait title, but it was important to grab your attention since that is exactly what I am going to talk about here.

In this post, I am going to show you how screwed up your attention span is!

 

Let’s take a quick test!

Ready?

Alright, then!

Try to read the next excerpt without looking away from your screen.

 

*By the way, did you look at those cute cats on top right in the header of this post *

 

Ever find yourself jumping from task to task or thought to thought? Attention span refers to the amount of time we can focus on a task before we start to “zone out”. Although a distracting background or a really boring lecture/meeting can definitely make anyone’s attention span run thin, for some people focusing on even the simplest of tasks for a few moments can be torture. The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects of an increasingly digitized lifestyle on the brain. Researchers in Canada surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs). Microsoft found that since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds. The survey also confirmed generational differences for mobile use; for example, 77% of people aged 18 to 24 responded “yes” when asked, “When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone,” compared with only 10% of those over the age of 65.

 

How did you do on the comprehension?

If you read through the entire paragraph without losing focus – CONGRATULATIONS! You have a great focus!

If you were able to go through more than 60% of the article without losing focus – Good enough! You are still better than a majority of the population.

If you, like me, had to try really hard to not lose focus, it is time for us to lose our phones and other devices and work on learning focusing techniques and meditation.

 

Content Fragmentation to keep attention

As you already read the facts stated in the excerpt (if you finished reading it) – our attention spans have phenomenally reduced in the past couple of decades; all thanks to mobile devices and computers.

In case you noticed, I have divided this post into fragments not exceeding a few words per paragraph.

Marketers, content specialists and influencers are using this technique excessively to keep the attention of their readers on the content and make a point before the readers drift away from the post.

This post was inspired by one such article.

Digital Marketer Neil Patel uses this technique in all of his posts and without a doubt, even the longest of articles on his blog can be read within a few minutes of quick skimming.

 

Increase in Reading Speed

So far, you would have read through (or skimmed) this post pretty swiftly except the paragraph on the attention test.

To state a quick fact – The word count of this post is 707 words.

However, the reading time for this post (considering that you are an average reader) is around 3-4 minutes which is quicker than what it would normally take you to read that many words.

 

Marketers and their tools to content marketing

Our short attention spans and how to get and keep our attention has always been every marketers focus.

With mobiles, computers, internet, virtual reality and augmented reality entering our daily lives, our attention span has shortened for the worse.

As such, for content optimization, there are tools (such as Readable) and tests (Flesch Reading Ease Test) that are helping marketers improve their content quality scores to keep our attention.

 

Time to unplug

For some people, reading an entire book has become a task due to the decrease in attention spans. I am one of the many facing this challenge.

I believe, it is high time that we inculcate meditation and focusing techniques into our daily lives (if not already there) and teach our younger generations on how to deal with short attention spans.

It is a time to Undigitize!

 

*Excerpt taken from Time and Psychology Today.

Stairway To Heaven

Stairway To Heaven

There he stood – The Fighter, The Warrior,
Bare, with his armor broken,
a silhouette of the dreams of the King and the Queen;
scaling the mountain highway of the hell that had been.

There he fell – The Fighter, The Warrior,
Glistening and shining – majestic scarlet on the head,
a heart of sandstone – flaunting his acidic erosion of the will,
trailing the mountain highway of the hell sans a skill.

As the moon took charge to light their skins,
and the dogs had fun like hyenas akin.
The lonely warrior battled his fallen kin,
made his way atop the graves of their sin.

It was his stairway to heaven,
he went home to glory.
He preferred the serene woods,
stayed away from words of his victory story.

He was the warrior, He was the knight,
with his determination and grit, he had survived that night!
His countrymen’s fascination with victory became his plight.
Glorified scars became his weed,
as he reaped the fruits of his victory seed.

No-Shave November – MOVEMBER – A friendly reminder!

No-Shave November – MOVEMBER – A friendly reminder!

It is almost every guy’s childhood dream to grow a beard and a classy mustache that will woo the ladies and declare that a child has finally grown up to be a man and done puberty right. As cliched and regressive as it may sound, it does take a man to grow and maintain a beard and a mustache considering the time, effort and patience the entire process requires. It is definitely not a child’s play.

If you are with the trends and if you have been keeping alive, I am quite sure that you must have heard of the term – Movember or as it is popularly known – No-Shave November! The month for every guy to keep the excuses aside, let the laziness draw in and the hairy faces un-glow. Off late, this trend has caught up with the male society extremely fast and one can find majority of the men sporting fancy facial hair, especially in the month of November. Unfortunately, for those bearded guys, not many know the actual reason behind all the fuss. As the month comes to a close, this will act as a handy guide to the misinformed.

Q: What is No-Shave November or Movember?

A: No-Shave November or Movember is a worldwide month long campaign to create awareness regarding men’s health issues, including mental health, prostate and testicular cancer and men’s suicide. It involves creating awareness by growing facial hair and changing their appearance. The money that is typically spent on shaving and grooming is donated to cancer societies and charities.

Q: I heard that Movember and No-Shave November are organized by two different foundations. Is that true?

A: Yes, it is very much true! Movember was started by Movember Foundation in 2003 in Australia where the aim is to grow a classy mustache without a beard to alter appearance. On being asked about the new look, a Mo-Bro (as they call the participants) can and must educate the other person about why they are growing a beard and discuss men’s health issues. The money generated from Movember is donated to Movember Foundation.

No Shave November, on the other hand, was founded on Facebook in the year 2009 that later entered into a partnership with the American Cancer Society and the money that would otherwise be spent on grooming and shaving the beard or mustache is donated to the American Cancer Society.

Q: How can I participate? Can I also participate even though I am a woman?

A: You have read this far and you have probably already grown that beard the entire month. You definitely know what you have to do. Go out there, educate more people and donate some money to the cancer foundations / men’s health foundation.

Women can ideally participate by donating a month’s worth of money spent on salon and parlor. For the ones who do not want to let go without action – No Shave November organizers suggest that you do not shave your legs (or whatever) the entire month to show support.

Q: I am not done yet! How can I make it a bit more fun?

A: One fun way to end the month long awareness campaign will be to go out and auction that beard. Yes, you read it right! Get the highest bidder for your beard and let the winner choose a new beard / mustache style that you can keep for a day before you ultimately shave it off. After all, all’s well that ends well (with a little humor). This is not really a part of the campaign but a suggestion from my end. 🙂

Your own research is a must before you try to educate others to avoid miscommunication. May the mustaches and beards grow even more elegant every year!

Can we have some silence, please?

Can we have some silence, please?

Sometime ago, I read an opinion blog on The Hindu’s (newspaper publication – in case you are not aware) website by Sundar Sarukkai – Can we have some silence, please? The article mainly focused on the noise (not to be confused with sound) that surrounds us in our everyday lives. As an Indian, it is even more evident in our country since we are a population of over 1.25 billion and growing that we will have certain sounds that are not favorable but yet we must bear with in our everyday lives.

The everyday noises

If you stay in a city in India and not necessarily in a gated society or somewhere on the outskirts of the city, you would have heard the common morning pandemonium consisting of the garbage collector (kabadi-wala, as we call him), vegetable hawkers, the milk distributor, water-motor sounds, school bus honking, auto rickshaws, loudspeaker noise from places of worship making their usual banter and other varied commotion.

Within your home, you may have a news channel, music channel or a religious channel playing on your TV with volume loud enough to make you go deaf if you keep listening at same volume for a few hours. As the day progress further, you are introduced to other noises from outside your home – cars honking, ladies chattering, sometimes sound of construction work and so on. Evenings are anyhow reserved for the loudest music, cars stuck in traffic blaring their loud horns, city buses and auto-rickshaws dropping their morning travelers back home and places of worships declaring their supremacy over natural peace in the form of loud verse-reciting and music all over again.

These decibel levels go on a roll during festive and marriage seasons when loud DJs add to the pollution with their regular tunes. These are some of the very common sounds that we usually encounter. I am quite sure that you will have a ton of items to add to the list of unwanted sounds that disrupt the natural peace.

Cultural issue

Our culture promotes being loud because in order to get attention of people in such a huge population, you ought to have an advantage over others in some sense. For example, in more developed countries, it is considered rude to honk at fellow drivers whereas in India, it is a customary to honk before you pass by someone as a way to acknowledge your presence. This practice has become so prominent that if you walk on a road in a city and record a video, you will hear these loud horns more than the person itself.

Stop HonkingTo corroborate my claim, according to a 2014 survey, Citiquiet lists Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata among the top five noisiest cities in the world. Majority of Delhi city did not clear Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)’s standards of noise control of 55 leq dBA (linear equivalent of Decibel A) since the average noise level on road is about 73 leq dBA. DailyMail’s article on this issue in Delhi also highlights various effects of extremely concerning levels of noise in Delhi. Unfortunately, we also promote a culture of using earplugs or headphones to avoid the general public which has also been the cause of many deaths throughout the world.

Am I a victim?

To identify whether you are also a victim of noise pollution, I suggest the following experiment for you. Tinnitus – one of the adverse effects of noise pollution is a loud ringing or buzzing in your ears. Ideally, a person will have this to a certain extent. However, a person with very obvious issues will hear this sound more prominently. Go to a quiet room and turn off all the appliances nearby (including fan and air conditioner) and calmly try to listen. If you hear a buzzing or ringing, you may be a victim of noise pollution. You may alternatively use free tools over Google or visit a E-N-T specialist to identify the same.

Let’s pledge

However, still my biggest concern is the culture of honking at passersby. It is something that is very much under our control and a culture most of us can change by being a little conscious of our actions. Let go of that 3 seconds’ instinct of honking at that person driving recklessly or slowly; after all, it does not really help much. I have pledged to not honk at people and have been following this for the past 1 month now. This will be my little effort at bringing about the change in the country that we all crib about over social media. Will you join me in bringing this change? Quoting Hellen Keller

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

 

When a Metro coach smiled…

When a Metro coach smiled…

Usually, I board the designated cab to office every morning. Sometimes, when I am late or when I feel the need to keep my sanity intact, I use my car or take the public transport (a ride on auto rickshaw and Delhi Metro) to commute to work. On these days, I am at my very best since I interact with strangers – consciously or sub-consciously as part of the traveling. Being a part of the society has always been something that I have enjoyed since it opens up your mind to so many perspectives. Yesterday was one of those days when I was late and decided to use the Delhi Metro. Monday mornings are slow for most people. However, little did I know that it would be one of those happy Monday mornings that you once in a while come across where everyone is happy.

It was just another morning and nothing was particularly different about it except a light cool breeze which was a welcoming change to the otherwise heated June. I believe that was the setup for the event that was about to take place. Just 30 seconds after I entered the lightly crowded metro coach, I noticed a sharply dressed young gentleman in his mid-30s standing and reading a book instead of the customary smartphones that most are comfortably glued to (one’s own or someone else’s), in a Metro coach. Being a paper book lover, I could not help but smile to the view. Nothing special though, I have seen people read newspapers as well and it brings a smile on my face even then. However, at the next stop, one seat got empty and this young gentleman politely asked the other guy who was standing next to him whether he would want to take the seat? This got my attention. A guy offering his seat to another guy, inside Delhi Metro, who is of the same age as he is, is a rare gesture that you can see in the man-eat-man attitude that majority carry in this city. I smiled a bit more and could not help but admire the man for his politeness.

It is my habit (and probably a bad one) to try and figure out what books people read when I see them reading in public, hoping that I may be able to strike a conversation or just make a mental note to find out what the book is about and maybe add it to my reading list if I find them interesting. I was trying to do the same when this generous act took me by surprise. In the process of trying to figure out the name of the book, I noticed that the guy was smiling through his reading. Now, I know that laughing is contagious; however, I learned yesterday that smiling can be equally contagious. I could not help but smile after that and with my smile, I made 10 other people who were looking at me – smile. That smile of the guy spread like a wildfire and eventually, all of the people inside that Metro coach were smiling, regardless of whatever mood they were in when they first boarded the Metro, by the time I got down at my station.

It was indeed a good Metro ride and eventually a happy morning, thereafter; but what grabbed my attention is the fact that a writer who worded his thoughts, worlds, emotions and expectations probably never thought in their wildest dream that the smile that their words would put on the immediate reader’s face could actually have made over a hundred people smile at the same time without them ever knowing what has been written. Imagine the power of those emotions so strong that poured out of the book for the non-reader to have the same effect on them as well. I realized yesterday that written words can be as powerful as spoken and non-spoken words. It is truly amazing how this world works. The kind gesture and a little smile changed the mood of an entire Metro coach. Imagine, the harm that the opposite would be capable of doing. So, smile, be generous and spread the cheer wherever you go. After all, would you want to be just another person spreading the negativity or would you want to be the spark of joy for everyone around you?

Cheers!

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