Archive for December, 2011

The Christmas Spirit …

Posted on December 27, 2011. Filed under: Business, Guide Posts, Personalities |

This Story was sent to me by a friend ….

I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie. I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn’t sure I wanted one. He was short, a little dumpy with the smooth facial features and thick-tongued speech of Downs Syndrome.

More importantly I wasn’t sure how my customers would react to Stevie. My trucker customers may not care who buses tables as long as the meat loaf platter is good and the pies are homemade.

But the four-wheeler ones were the mouthy college kids traveling to school – the yuppie snobs who secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of catching some dreaded “truck stop germ!”

Also the pairs of white-shirted business men on expense accounts who think every truck stop waitress is a flirt.

But Stevie was different. After the first week, Stevie had the staff wrapped around his stubby little finger and within a month the truck regulars had adopted him as their official truck stop mascot.

After that, I really didn’t care what the rest of the customers thought of him. He was like a 21-year-old kid in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to please, but fierce in his attention to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible when Stevie got done with the table.

Our only problem was persuading him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were finished. He would hover in the background, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty. Then he would scurry to the empty table and carefully bus dishes and glasses onto his cart and meticulously wipe the table up with a practiced flourish of his rag. If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with added concentration.

He took pride in doing his job exactly right and you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.

Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer. They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truck stop. Their social worker, who stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks. Money was tight, and what I paid him was probably the difference between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home.

That’s why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work. He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochestergetting a new valve or something put in his heart. His social worker said that people with Downs Syndrome often have heart problems and there was a good chance he would come through the surgery and be back at work in a few months.

A ripple of excitement ran through the staff when word came that he was out of surgery, in recovery, and doing fine. Frannie, the head waitress, let out a war hoop and did a little dance in the aisle. Marvin Ringers, one of our regular trucker customers, stared at the sight of this 50-year-old grandmother of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table.

Frannie blushed, smoothed her apron and shot Marvin a withering look. He grinned. “OK, Frannie, what was that all about?” he asked. “We just got word that Stevie is out of surgery and going to be okay.”

“I was wondering where he was. I had a new joke to tell him. What was the surgery about?”  Frannie quickly told Marvin and the other two drivers sitting at his booth about Stevie’s surgery, then sighed: “Yeah, I’m glad he is going to be OK,” she said. “But I don’t know how he and his Mom are going to handle all the bills. From what I hear, they’re barely getting by as it is.”

Marvin nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried off to wait on the rest of her tables as now the girls were busing their own tables. After the morning rush, Frannie walked into my office with a couple of paper napkins in her hand and a funny look on her face.

“What’s up?” I asked.   “I didn’t get that table where Marvin and his friends were sitting cleared off till after his friends left. When I got back to clean it off,” she said. “This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup.”

She handed the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell onto my desk when I opened it. On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed “Something For Stevie.”

“Some other customers asked as to what it was and I told them about Stevie and his Mom and everything and they ended up giving me this.” She handed me another paper napkin that had “Something For Stevie” scrawled on its outside and two $50 bills were tucked within its folds”.

Frannie looked at me with wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply: “Truckers!”

That was three months ago. Today is Thanksgiving and the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work.

I arranged to have his mother bring him to work. I then met them in the parking lot and invited them both to celebrate his day back. Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn’t stop grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where his apron and busing cart were waiting.

“Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast,” I said. “Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate your coming back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me!”

I led them toward a large corner booth at the rear of the room.  I could feel and hear the rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers join the procession. We stopped in front of the big table. Its surface was covered with coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins.

“First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean up this mess,” I said sounding stern.

Stevie looked at me and then at his mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had “Something for Stevie” printed on the outside and as he picked it up, two $10 bills fell on the table.

Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the tableware – each with his name printed or scrawled on it.

I turned to his mother. “There’s more than $10,000 in cash and checks on that table – all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems, “Happy Thanksgiving.”

Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and shouting, and there were a few tears, as well. But you know what’s funny?

While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other, Stevie, with a big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the table.

Best worker I ever hired.

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A Different View of the Hindu Religion ….

Posted on December 23, 2011. Filed under: Indian Thought |

Some one has said that Hinduism is a way of life rather than a religion. Here is some more by a Hindu Scholar on similar lines.

The paradox of being a Hindu lies in your freedom to be who you want to be. Nobody can tell you what to do, or what not to do. There is no central authority, no single leader of the faith. No one can pass an order to excommunicate you, or like in some countries, pass a decree that orders your death by stoning for walking with a strange man.

We don’t appreciate our freedom because we can’t feel the plight of others who aren’t free. Many religions have a central authority with awesome power over the individual. They have a clear chain of command, from the lowliest local priest to the highest central leader. Hinduism somehow escaped from such central authority, and the Hindu has miraculously managed to hold on to his freedom through the ages. How did this happen?

Vedanta is the answer. When the writers of Vedanta emerged, around 1500 BC, they faced an organised religion of orthodox Hinduism. This was the post Vedic age, where ritualism was practiced, and the masses had no choice but to follow. It was a coercive atmosphere.

The writers of Vedanta rebelled against this authority and moved away from society into forests. This was how the ‘Aranyakas’ were written, literally meaning ‘writings from the forest’. These later paved the way for the Upanishads, and Vedanta eventually caught the imagination of the masses. It emerged triumphant, bearing with it the clear voice of personal freedom.

This democracy of religious thought, so intrinsic to Vedantic intelligence, sank into the mindset of every Indian. Most couldn’t fathom the deep wisdom it contained, but this much was very clear. They understood that faith was an expression of personal freedom, and one could believe at will. That’s why Hinduism saw an explosion of Gods.

There was a God for every need and every creed. If you wanted to build your muscles, you worshiped a God with fabulous muscles. If you wanted to pursue education, there was a Goddess of Learning. If it was wealth you were looking for, then you looked up to the Goddess of wealth — with gold coins coming out of her hands. If you wanted to live happily as a family, you worshiped Gods who specially blessed families.

When you grew old and faced oncoming death, you spent time in contemplating a God whose business it was to dissolve everything — from an individual to the entire Universe.

Everywhere, divinity appeared in the manner and form you wanted it to appear, and when its use was over, you quietly discarded that form of divinity and looked at new forms of the divine that was currently of use to you. ‘Yad Bhavam, tad Bhavati’… what you choose to believe becomes your personal truth, and freedom to believe is always more important than belief itself.

Behind all this — was the silent Vedantic wisdom that Gods are but figments of human imagination. As the Kena Upanishad says, “Brahma ha devebhyo vijigye…” — All Gods are mere subjects of the Self. It implies that it is far better that God serves Man than Men serve God. Because Men never really serve God — they only obey the dictates of a religious head who speaks for that God, who can turn them into slaves in God’s name.

Hindus have therefore never tried to convert anyone. Never waged war in the name of religion. The average Hindu happily makes Gods serve him as per his needs. He discards Gods when he has no use for them. And new Gods emerge all the time — in response to market needs. In this tumult, no central authority could survive. No single prophet could emerge and hold sway, no chain of command could be established.

Vedanta had injected an organised chaos into Hinduism, and that’s the way it has been from the last thirty five centuries. Vedanta is also responsible, by default, for sustaining democracy. When the British left India, it was assumed that the nation would soon break up. Nothing of that kind has happened. The pundits of doom forgot that the Indian had been used to religious freedom from thousands of years.

When he got political freedom, he grabbed it naturally. After all, when you can discard Gods why can’t you discard leaders? Leaders like Gods are completely expendable to the Indian mindset. They are tolerated as long as they serve the people, and are replaced when needs change.

It’s the triumph of people over their leaders, and in this tumult, no dictator can ever take over and rule us.

Strange how the thoughts of a few men living in forests, thirty five centuries ago, can echo inside the heart of every Indian. That’s a tribute to the resurgent power of India, and the fearlessness of its free thinking people.

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Is it a frame of mind or a value system ….

Posted on December 18, 2011. Filed under: From a Services Career, Guide Posts |

I had gone over to see this Doctor friend. She had asked me to wait in her office while she went across to see a patient.

The office was bare but on her table was her name plate.

Nearly half a century earlier I used to visit this guy forork or the other. He was a sharp sensible guy, and by and large a fair man and he did go onto great achievements. I always remember his office table and name plate thereon.

I often had need to go to him for some work or the other and he rather liked me. How ever when I or any other went to him and asked him for something or other, he would while listening one out seem to be absentmindedly playing around with his name plate. Then he would seemingly, inadvertently turn it around.

One could then read on it, “What have you done for me lately?”

I was reminded of that and I smiled as I turned around this name plate. Written on it as if to remind herself was –

Cure Sometimes. Treat Often. Comfort Alwaysl

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Sarcasm at its Biting Best …

Posted on December 14, 2011. Filed under: Quotes, Searching for Success |

Thomas Carlyle observed – “Sarcasm, I now seem to believe, is the language of the devil. Hence I have long since renounced it”,

That notwithstanding, here are some notable uses of sarcastic wit used to flatten ’em! 

An MP  to Disraeli, “Sir, you shall  either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease”, only to hear Disraeli respond, “That depends, Sir, whether I embrace your policies or your mistress”.

 “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend, if you have one.” – George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill, who replied,  “Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second  – if there is one.”

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” – Oscar Wilde.

  “He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” – Winston Churchill.

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”  Clarence Darrow.

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” – William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.” – Moses Hadas.

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” – Mark Twain

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends..” – Oscar Wilde.

“I feel so miserable without you. It’s almost like having you here.” – Stephen Bishop.

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” – John Bright.

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.” – Irvin S. Cobb.

“He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.” – Samuel Johnson.

“In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.” – Talleyrand.

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.” – Forrest Tucker.

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?” – Mark Twain.

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” – Billy Wilder.

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening.  But this wasn’t it.” – Groucho Marx

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O’ Ye Vain Punjabis Move Over! Here come the Gujjus’ …

Posted on December 11, 2011. Filed under: Indian Thought |

Like the Texan, India’s Punjabi is a loud mouthed, proud, arrogant, vain guy.  But here is a look at the Gujju Bhai.

The National Council of Applied Economic Research named Surat as the richest city in India with an average annual household income of Rs 0.45 million (over  $11,000 per year). Incidentally the fifth richest city is Gujarat’s capital, Ahmedabad.

Eighty per cent of all diamonds sold in any part of the world are polished in Surat’s 10,000 diamond units. The only non-Jews in the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem diamond bourse (stock exchange) are Gujjus.

Between 2004-5 and 2008-10 Surat’s middle class doubled in size and its poor reduced by a third. Why? Because Gujaratis DO NOT believe in meaningless strikes, hartals and the like. So of Gujarat’s 18,048 villages, 17,940 have electricity.

The world’s largest oil refinery is in Jamnagar. It refines 660,000 barrels of oil every day and will double that this year.

Thirty per cent ofIndia ‘s cotton is grown inGujarat. Forty per cent of India ‘s Art-silk is manufactured in Surat. The world’s third largest Denim manufacturer is in Ahmedabad.

Gujarat’s GDP has been growing at 12 per cent a year for the last 12 years – as fast as China’s!

India’s wealthiest man Mukesh Ambanis is a Gujarati. So also Azim Premji.

Some of the best and  shrewdest business communities inIndia viz Parsis, Jains, Memons, Banias, Khojas and Bohras – all speak Gujarati.

Gujaratis number 55 million, five per cent of India’s population, living on six per cent of surface area but hold 30 per cent of all Indian stock and account for 16 per cent of all Indian exports and 17 per cent of GDP.

The coup d’ grace  is of course that  both Gandhi and Jinnah were Gujjus; a Bania and Lohana/Khoja.

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