Failure is the Biggest Teacher

Number 8

I learnt today –

Failure is a far more powerful teacher than success!!

Perhaps for the first time in my life, I am feeling immensely proud of having failed. I would have never learnt so much if I had succeeded.

Death of the Farmer buried in the Farming Vision

house on river

I sat through a high energy leadership session at a leading IT company, hearing future leaders talk about their dream; the one thing that wakes them up every morning; the one thing that doesn’t let them sleep at night. I was juggling between other office notes and chat messages on the side, expecting this to be just another vision mapping exercise. I thought I knew what most of them wanted – settle in USA, buy a Ferrari, and a home in Hollywood. Isn’t this what this generation is really working for? Isn’t this why they slog at their desks 24 * 7, have zero family life and have children who would rather play with a dumb electronic gadget than a real loving friend?

As these leaders starting narrating their dreams, I was forced to give up on my phone and turn my full attention to the conversation. Someone was talking about increasing crop yield and building water canals. I was confused. How did this align with buying a Ferrari? Another leader spoke about his 20 acre, ancestral, barren land that he wanted to transform into a fertile farmland. He wanted to set up an IT back office and do consulting right from his farm. They talked about their love for the land, love for farming and giving back to the community. The entire room was charged up with ideas, plans and passion towards agriculture as the source of livelihood. Yes, there were few others who wanted to take up spirituality, writing and health as their vision, but I didn’t hear a single leader talk about Ferrari, USA or Hollywood. Hmmm, I was outdated about my approach about this generation. These intelligent, passionate people were really not here for the money. They all had a bigger dream, which went bigger than money, power, cars and luxury holidays. Money, in their eyes, was just an enabler to their final dream. It was not the end goal in itself.

Fair enough! I was out of touch with the dreams of this generation. I could handle that. But how could this generation which had spent the maximum time, energy and finances in educating themselves, go back to farming? What happened to all the Technology Revolution, the IT infrastructure? Farming as a vision?? How could that be?

After a few hours of brooding about this dream, I realized the passion was real. They really wanted to give back to the mother earth. They wanted to go back to their roots and make a difference to the world which feeds each one of us. At this point, my wonder turned to anger. If, at least, 30% of the educated, intelligent, upper middle-class generation of this country is passionate about farming, then how come so many farmers of our country are committing suicide, each day? How is this passion in the heart not converting into action at the ground level? It sounds beautiful to talk about big vision statements which will materialize 15 years from now, but unless they start working on their vision in a small way, each waking day, how will this vision turn into a reality at the end of 15 years?

Yes, they have a truck load full of excuses that they do not have time right now. Their job is the utmost priority and they cannot be distracted from it. But in my angry mind, I just think they do not have what it takes to put action behind their vision. What if they fail? What if they lose money? These questions stop them from starting on their vision even before they can fail. If uneducated, poor farmers can sustain themselves and their families livelihood just on farming, imagine what WE could achieve given technology, connectivity and finances. In spite of all this, if this generation is still unsure of giving up your comfortable jobs and take up “Farming” as a full time career, they can at least think of how they can help the Farming Community in the world, today, through their education, technology and connectivity. They can build mobile apps for seed collection, weather forecasting, farming best practices, knowledge sharing, etc. They can volunteer for Government Projects in research and development. They can join NGOs trying to promote organic farming. If this is also not possible, they can at least buy food only from Farmers Markets in place of fancy supermarkets. They can take Farming vacations in place of comfortable, luxury vacations.

Essentially, they can do so much right now, while still continuing in their high pressure jobs to work towards their dream of “Farming”. In order to make this small contribution, they need to change thinking about their vision as a dream of one individual. They need to think of it as a need of the larger community. We can do so much more, right now, by leveraging our passion and our experience. We do not need to wait 15 years. We can organize funds, get the stakeholder buy-in, make a difference even today, provided we can answer this one question positively, “Is Farming really a part of our long-term vision?”

 

Read more on best practices in Agriculture:

 

The First First Love

Toyna and me

We all know the importance of “First Love” in life. We swear by it. We live by it and we can even die by it! While the term is often used in a romantic context, remembering those from the other sex (or same sex as one would prefer), in my opinion, first love extends beyond romantic vision only. I vividly remember that pink lace dress, the grey lean cycle, the new Maths book or even the busy Mumbai city that I fell head over heels in love with. Essentially speaking in every sphere of life that we enter, we are bound to have First Loves. I think these small things play a vital role in helping us learn and grow into the next phase of life. I, therefore, believe that there are many First Loves in our lives. But amongst all these, which is actually the First First love? I found my answer a few days back hugging a wet Yog in the middle of the steps. This is how the story goes:

Few days back, as I was readying Toyna for school, Yog woke up on his own and started crying for me. As he started his journey from his bedroom to the kitchen where I was readying breakfast, he met his Nanny in the middle of the steps. His Nanny tried to hug and console him, but he rudely brushed her away and insisted on finding his Mom. As I was still busy in the kitchen, I requested Toyna to go and take care of Yog. As Toyna approached Yog, he got even more furious. He only wanted his Mama, first thing this morning. I abandoned the dough on the rolling plate and went to meet Yog standing in the middle of the steps, tears flowing down his cheeks and his pee making a nice, big, warm waterfall on the steps. I gathered him in my arms and hugged him tightly. He hugged me back like there was nothing else in the world that could matter more to him than his mom.

It was on this day that I realized that no matter who we are and where we come from, our Mom would always be the First Love of our lives. I used to think that it is not really love, it is dependence that causes children to be so close to their Moms. But as Yog outgrows the stage of physical dependence, I realize his need for me cannot be explained merely as dependence. He just loves his mom because I was and I will always be his First First Love. Even before he fell in love with motorcycles, blankets, puzzles or laptops, he was already In love with me. In fact even before he tasted his first food, or had his first milk, or even before he was born, he was already in love with me. This is not just about the relationship that Yog and Toyna have with me. This is the same story that all children are bound to have with their mothers.

This is why the bond between a child and a mother can never be explained. No matter how far a child might step away in the world, the invisible umbilical cord will still keep them connected with their Moms. In my experience of being a daughter to one mother and a mother to two children, I can say the relationship between a mother and a child is probably the most beautiful relationship that God created. I thank God for making me a woman so that I could live this relationship many times over.

Accessories for a Good Sleep

catching finger

Yog has the habit of catching something in his hands before he goes to sleep, ever since he was a small baby. In the initial months, he latched onto my finger for comfort. Slowly, he transitioned to a soft Teddy bear and then to his fleece blanket. As his tastes and preferences advanced from just comforting items to items he could use to play and explore; he moved on to watches, scissors, sticky tapes, hair brushes, books and latest of all pencils and sharpeners. I realized early on that there was no point in trying to extract these items before he went to sleep. All I could possibly gain from this futile exercise was heartache, tears, screams and a few slaps and bites (meaning Yog actually hitting and biting me in his frustration). I decided to let him catch whatever he wanted to carry to his bed before he went to sleep. As soon as he drifted to sleep, I could easily remove them from his bed to ensure that he did not hurt himself while sleeping.

Today, as I readied him for bed, he quickly went on the grab an assortment of stationery items (3 pens, 1 pencil and 2 sharpeners to be exact). This was a little too much for his tiny fingers to maneuver, but as always, he insisted in catching all of them into bed. As he climbed up on the bed, the pens and pencil slipped out of his fingers on to the floor. He immediately bent down from the bed to pick them up. In order to prevent him from falling off the bed, I bent down from the bed myself and committed the biggest mistake of my day – I touched the pens before Yog had been able to touch them. As soon as Yog realized that his priced stationary had been violated by his mom’s touch, all hell broke loose. He jumped off the bed, sat down on the floor and banged his hands and feet on the floor. He then lay down on the floor and rolled around screaming as if the biggest injustice of the planet had just been done to him. I instantly retracted my actions and offered for Yog to pick the pens himself. But it didn’t work. Yog continued on his theatrics. I picked up the pens and the pencils and offered them to Yog, but it was too late. The damage had been done. The heart was broken. The trust was defied and the world was just about to end in the next two minutes (at least from the way Yog saw it).

 

In a vain attempt to console my baby, I held him in my arms and sang a lullaby for him, hoping he would calm down. I rocked him for a while, tickled him, tried to tell stories, but nothing worked. He continued to increase his pitch and play victim. The more I tried to console him, the more he increased his intensity. After about 20 minutes of the melodrama, I could almost sense the neighbors stepping out from their balconies and peeping into our home, to check if everything was OK. I decided that I would need a different strategy to calm him down today. I picked him from my lap and set him down on the floor calmly telling him that he could cry as much as wanted to on the floor. Mama was tired and was going to sleep.

 

With that, I lay down on the bed pretending to be sleep. Yog went into shock for a moment. How could this happen? How could his mom desert him in his darkest hour? Still sobbing, he climbed up on the bed, snuggled next to me and closed his eyes. Slowly his sobs settled down and he softly asked for his pencils again. Without a word, I handed all his pens and pencil assortment to him. He clutched them tightly and dozed off to sleep in the next 5 minutes. After another two minutes, all the pieces fell from his hands and he moved into deep sleep.

 

I removed the precious stationary from the bed, adjusted the blanket and kissed him on the forehead before leaving his bed. As I left him sleeping peacefully on his bed, I couldn’t help but wonder that we, adults, are pretty much the same as tiny Yog. We fight, scream and hurt each other over small materialistic things that we can carry with us till we go to sleep in our final sleeping abode. But just like Yogs pencils, all our materialistic assets are going to fall from our grasp as soon as we fall asleep. Yet, each waking hour we are struggling to acquire a little bit more of them. The only difference between little Yog and us is that Yog genuinely thinks that he can carry these items to his dreams and use them even when he is sleeping. But we of course know better.

 

In spite of all the spiritual enlightenment and the scientific advancement, if we cannot stop ourselves from picking and packing the stones that line our path, how can I ever expect little Yog to understand that he will not be able to use the pencils once he goes to sleep. While I brood over this thought, I enjoy the look on Yogs face as he sleeps contently, his eyes closed, his hands open and empty.