Friday, August 28, 2009

Please say "Please"

Well, this is an interesting incident that happened when I was doing my master's in UK. Personally, for me it is probably the smallest incident that has had a lasting effect, in my life, at least until this moment.

The year was 2003 and it was a cold February/March day (not sure exactly which month). While I was doing my master's I was also doing part-time work with a catering company. The job was to work in 4-6 hr shifts mostly during weekends and sometimes on weekdays. As a student you know how tough life can be and how you try to save every penny that you can and when you can. So most of the time I used to walk from the hostel to my work place (about 30 mins) instead of spending ~3 pounds for the bus fare. (Hey, Of course 3 pounds was big money when I was a student...!!!)

Anyway, on this particular day I was on a 6 hr shift, I believe from 12 noon - 6pm. My roommate had asked me to get some milk on my way back which I gladly agreed to do. So on this cold winter day after finishing a 6 hr shift, I started walking back towards the hostel totally tired and just wanting to hit the bed and relax.

I had almost forgotten to buy milk until I was near my place and saw the grocery shop. So I went inside picked up couple of milk cans and went to the cashier.

She billed them and asked me "Do you want me to put them in plastic bags". I said "Yeah".

She gave me a wierd look, that I can still remember, without actually putting the milk cans into the plastic bags. I had no inkling of what was going thru her head neither did I have the energy to think. After a few seconds, she said "Say please". Then it struck me that I missed the magic word. So I corrected myself and said "Yes, Please".

By now she had put the milk cans into plastic bags and gave them to me. I took them but noticed that she actually did not let go the bags. Again, I had no inkling as to what she was trying to convey now. Before I could ask her for that she said "Say thank you". It was like "You missed it again". So I then said "Thank You" and was on my way out of the store walking towards the hostel.

As I was walking, I was thinking about what just happened and was wondering if I was wrong or was the cashier expecting me to request for what she should be giving (plastic bags) to me and also expect me to acknowledge for doing so. It looked to me like such a small incident and why did she ask me to explicitly say "Please" and "Thank You". Anyway, given my state of mind I did not heed much attention to this and just went about doing my tasks for rest of the day. But the incident was for sure sitting somewhere at the back of my head.

As days went by, every time I have to request anything from anybody or acknowledge anybody for anything this incident would immediately glow in my head like a flash light and I make sure to say "Please" or "Thank You". What I noticed every time when I said these magic words was the smile that the other person would have on his/her face no matter how small or big was my request. Slowly, I made it a practice to use these magic words as much as I could.

The point I wanted to make here is, having been brought up in a middle class indian culture what in UK or even in most other parts of the world would have been considered as a basic courtesy looked to me like something that the cashier was asking for too much until I slowly realized the importance of these magic words.

Back in India, generally not many would use these magic words but would just assume that people would do things for them. First time when I used these magic words with my wife she was also surprised and said “Why do you say ‘Please’ and 'Thank You’ to your wife”. Probably she assumed that it is the duty of the wife to serve the husband and the wife should not be expecting a request or acknowledgement for the same.

I could throw a different light on to this behavior by stating that probably because India was ruled by other countries for a long time and people generally tend to have the master-slave mindset. But I do not want to get into that angle and leave it to the reader's discretion.

Furthermore, now that I have moved to the US I see quiet a few indians using these magic words more often than not. I am pretty sure most of them if not all of them had the kind of experience that I had in UK. This is good. But I still do not see most of the other asian community people not using these magic words that often. Hopefully, things will change for good.

To summarize, by human psychology everybody feels happy to be requested to do something than be ordered. On the same lines, would appreciate a kind acknowledgement for the work done rather than just say "OK". So please use "Please" and "Thank You" as much as you can and you will be surprised to see that people will be happy to help you more than ever.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Its been longgg time...

Yep, its been longgg time since I blogged here, almost 6 months, other than announcing the arrival of my daughter, Teerthaa in June. Anyway before I start blogging about "My Thoughts" again here let me write about what I have been up to during this time period when I was not blogging much here. I will write more of "My Thoughts" from the next blog onwards.

I know I took this blogging experience as my New Year's Resolution for this year and just as I had mentioned in one of my initial blogs, usually people tend to lose the spirit of resolution after a month or two. I do not blame you to place me under that category going by the dates. The last blog I wrote about "My Thoughts" was on Feb 18, 2009 which is just about 6 weeks from the start of the new year.

But reality is that a series of events, as listed below, led to me not being able to concentrate on blogging here.

1. First jolt of pregnancy (February, 2009)

My wife and I were expecting the birth of our first daughter in June 2009. Exactly one week after Feb 18, 2009 we experienced our first major jolt of the pregnancy in the form of gall bladder pain for my wife. It was a terrible experience for both of us. Being the first pregnancy for my wife both of us would hit the panic button when ever anything that is not normal happens to her. This being a severe pain in her abdominal area we obviously hit the panic button and got scared if it was pre-term labor pain.

After emergency calls to the hospital, few tests and overnight stay at the hospital, it was diagnosed to be gall bladder pain and that it is common amongst pregnant women, in particular. Doctor's advised that there is nothing to be worried about and more importantly that the baby was doing good. As I had mentioned earlier this was an eye-opener of an experience for us as my wife's pregnancy was proceeding fine until that day. It took us few weeks to come out of that jolt as we had to be extra cautious with my wife's diet so as to ensure that the pain does not recur.

2. House shift (March, 2009)

With the arrival of a baby comes the need for additional space. So when we confirmed my wife's pregnancy, we knew that we are counting our days in a 1 bedroom apt and we have to move to a 2 bedroom apt pretty soon. We decided to move around end of March, 2009 time frame and so we did. As you can see that about a month after the gall bladder experience we had to shift houses.

During that one month we were busy looking around for a 2 bedroom apt and always praying that the gall bladder experience would not recur. At the end of our apt search we settled for a 2 bedroom apt in the same complex that we were then residing in. Then started our search for an economical mover. You might ask what is there to move when you are shifting within the same complex. Hallo...!!! still it is a shift from one house to another and things have to be shifted. With my wife being pregnant I had to take care of everything and make sure that she does not do much but just rest.

3. Settling in the new house (March-April, 2009)

After shifting to the new house it took us almost 3 weeks to fully settle, the reason being,
• It was around this time that I also finished a project at work and started on a new one. Excellent timing...!!!
• As stated earlier, with my wife's pregnancy I had to take care of everything and the only time I could find to do that was primarily during weekends and may be in the evening on some week days

4. Arrival of my in-laws (May, 2009)

As it is customary in Indian culture to have the pregnant women be taken care of by her parents, at least for the first pregnancy, so did we invite my wife's parents to come over to US and help us out as we were getting closer to the D-day of our daughter's birth. They arrived in the last week of April, 2009 just about a week after we fully settled in the new house. I understand that your question would be as to how come that stopped me from writing blogs. Very valid question. The answer is "No that did not stop me from writing blogs here". But that combined with the following events contributed to me not being able to focus on blogging.

5. Shopping for baby items (May - June, 2009)

By now it is less than 2 months for the arrival of our daughter so we were pretty busy in listing down the items that we have to buy for the baby. We used to make a list, scrap it make a new list go thru it once again and then adding/removing items, discuss it, re-discuss it almost every other day, all with the intention to buy only the best for our little one. The confusion was primarily due to the number of options that we had for every product that we wanted to buy. There are so many options to choose from and every item has its own set of good and bad reviews. We used to pull our hair at times being unable to decide as to which one to buy and which one to ignore. It used to be a group discussion every day between my in-laws, wife and myself.

Finally we prepared our list of baby items to buy and then we realized that we cannot get all that we wanted under one roof but would have to visit different shops in different cities. And so almost every weekend, right after lunch, we used to pack-off for shopping. It was a memorable experience.

6. Teerthaa's arrival (June - August 2009)

On June1, 2009 our daughter Teerthaa was born giving us immense pleasure to be able to see, feel and hear what we have been only discussing about over the past 9 months. Since it was a C-section delivery for my wife, it took couple of weeks for her to recover to an extent where she was not dependent on me. During this time frame Teerthaa was also getting used to life outside her mom's womb. This means getting up every 2 hours and we being sleep deprived for most of the time.

During the first 2 weeks it was very stressful as from a person used to minimum 7-8 hrs of sleep during night time you are suddenly being forced to wake up every 2 hrs, be it day or night, and you really do not get sound sleep. Being sleep deprived for a prolonged period is stressful for any individual. It is not that after 2 weeks the baby will sleep well but it is just that you get used to being sleep deprived... :) It took almost 10 weeks before Teerthaa started to sleep a minimum of 6 hrs at a stretch during night time thereby letting us also to sleep that long.

7. Parenting

Entering parenthood has been a tremendous experience. First of all, the joy of seeing your little angel sleeping, smiling, kicking arms and legs is something that cannot be explained in words but has to be experienced. Though I have written about being sleep deprived but all those sleepless nights becomes endless joy when you see your little one smile back at you. As part of parenting, every parent wants to do something different for their off-springs and so did we. We decided to create our family website wherein we could post her photos, write (blog) about Teerthaa's progress as she crossed every milestone in her growth chart and about our parenting experience. This is our way of maintaining an online diary, sort of, that we could probably sit together with Teerthaa, in the future, and feel nostalgic about parenting her.

Well, you could ask why not a general blog page. Agreed, but we wanted to create our own space in the internet and so we decided to buy our family domain name and maintain our website rather than just have a blog page under a blogging website.

Even though I could not concentrate on writing here, I made sure that I write in our family website about Teerthaa and our parenting experience as that is more important to me as a parent. Priority changes when your little one arrives... :)

8. Work pressure

To top all the above events, the work pressure on my new project was at its peak around the time when Teerthaa was born. It was around March - April, 2009 that I started on a new project at work and never expected it to be sooo hectic as it turned out to be. Even though the work pressure was manageable initially, it peaked around the end of May, 2009 and stayed that way till end of July, 2009. Think about being sleep deprived and still had to work around 12 hours a day for over 2 months at a stretch. Obviously, I was drained out. The project was successfully delivered in August 2nd week and then I decided to take a week off just to relax at home and spend time with Teerthaa.

So here I am writing this blog in the 4th week of August, pretty much the first time when I really have some time to relax and concentrate on writing blogs other than in our family website.

Now that I have listed out what has been keeping me busy away from here, I hope to be able to write more here at least until I start on with my next project which I hope will take another 2 - 3 weeks.

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