Nine years ago, we rented premises for our business. It was a four-storey building and we had it done up according to our taste. For its upkeep, we engaged a housekeeping agency that supplied us with the right staff. We were happy that we didn’t have to worry about our non-core business, about training, retaining, and the rest.
For a bit of extra money, an external agency was accountable for all that. I sat down with one of the guys who was responsible for dusting my office, let’s call him AJ, and explained to him how I wanted it cleaned. Use swiffer here, wet wipe there, a soft cloth here and so on.
AJ nodded throughout and carried out his task to perfection. I was impressed with this young man who seemed at the fag end of his teens but displayed the maturity of a senior manager. There was only one problem though. Every time, he cleaned my office, the whole cabin would smell of very strong body odor. I found it unbearable. AJ was one of the four housekeeping guys and I thought of replacing him with one of his colleagues but I didn’t want to offend him.
I wasn’t sure how to broach the topic without hurting him. I asked one of my managers to gently ask AJ to take a bath every day before coming to work. AJ just nodded. A few days later the problem still persisted. I was beginning to get edgy at his gross neglect. Once again, our operations manager had a chat with him and AJ apprised him that his agency only issued him two shirts. Instantly, we spoke to the company agreeing to pay more provided they issued five shirts to each of their employees on our premises.
The problem was solved for a few days and then resurfaced. Our office was fully air-conditioned, so the doors were mostly closed and every time he came to my cabin, I found it difficult to breathe for several minutes after that. We got deodorants for everyone and it only made matters worse as far as I was concerned. Firstly, the strong scent of a deo would trigger my allergy and my asthma flared up. Secondly, deo mixed with his BO (it rhymes!) produced this unearthly smell of some nether world or whatever. You get the idea.
Finally, I thought I would talk to him myself. For, seeing that the issue was unresolved, I (mistakenly) felt that my people didn’t understand the gravity of the issue here. I called AJ. He was looking scared.
“I’m very happy with your work, AJ,” I said to him. “We all are.”
A big smile broke across his face. “Thank you,” he said.
“Everyone has body odor,” I tried to explain. “Do you wear fresh clothes and take bath every day?”
Suddenly, his smile disappeared and he lowered his head. It took a fair bit of cajoling and prodding before he would speak. I told him repeatedly that I wasn’t angry with him or firing him, that I just wanted to understand and resolve this issue.
“Even if I want to, I can’t wear a fresh shirt everyday,” he said. “I do wash my face everyday when I come here.”
The mercury can really soar in India, things can get hot and sweaty very fast. I was appalled at his complete absence of hygiene.
“Sorry, AJ,” I said sternly, “but, you must take a bath before you leave your home every morning. It’s non-negotiable.”
“But, I don’t have a home, sir,” he said and began sobbing.
“Excuse me?” I said, feeling as terrible as puzzled.
“I don’t have a home,” he reiterated. “I live in a shanty. It’s made of tarpaulin and nine of us live there.”
“There is only one water tap in our slum that has more than 500 residents living in 50 shacks. Water supply comes for two hours in the morning and evenings. Even if I wait a whole night to be in front of the queue, the big guys there will beat me up. They always get to bathe first. Even before them, the priority is given to the women filling buckets for drinking and cooking. By the time, they are done, there’s no water left.”
“That’s awful,” I said, shocked. “But, we pay you enough so you can afford to rent a proper place, at least shared accommodation. You get two days off every week and Rs. 9000 per month. I’m sure you can manage a better lifestyle.”
He went onto tell me that he only got one-third of that and that he rarely ever got any day off. On his days off here, his housekeeping agency would deploy him at the owner’s home for cleaning, gardening etc. or at some other place.
I got on the phone to the housekeeping agency and blasted them.
“Ever heard of this thing called employment laws?” I said to the owner. “You guys are not running a company but a cartel.”
The owner wouldn’t admit any fault and kept on saying that there must be some confusion. Frustrated, I hung up. We got all the housekeeping guys together and gave them direct employment that very instant. I offered to pay for their education, further reduce their working hours so they could go to school, college or wherever. None of them was interested in studying nor could I make them see the value of education. Beside gross exploitation and having to live endure such inhuman conditions, their complete disliking for education was the saddest part.
On a lighter note, the BO problem was finally solved. Nevertheless, we arranged for a shower too in employees’ washroom. AJ moved into a rental place three weeks later. It took some effort on everyone’s part to find a landlord who would rent him the place because he wanted to move in with his seven family members.
I learned a big lesson from this episode: looking at another person, we can never tell what all they are going through in their lives. Many people around us live in extremely difficult, challenging or abusive environments, often for no fault of theirs. Putting the law of karma aside, I don’t think AJ ever wished to be born in such dire circumstances, or growing up he ever imagined that this was the kind of life he had signed up for. Besides, no matter what might have one done, no one deserves to be mistreated.
Therefore, in my humble view, our first emotion towards anyone should be compassion, let’s give them the benefit of doubt. Due to our upbringing and the way our brain functions, we can’t stop judging people. It comes to us naturally. We look at a man lying by the roadside and we believe he must be drunk, whereas he might have just suffered a heart attack. Based on race, appearance, clothes, speech and so on, we quickly label the other person. This unwholesome way of making sense of our surroundings and people around us is non-spiritual and unreasonable.
If it is spiritual progress you aspire for, the virtues of compassion and gratitude, of empathy and humility have to be inculcated and practiced. There is no other way. You can be firm, you can say no, you can deny a request, you can do all that and much more without foregoing compassion.
If nature has blessed you with so much that you can afford to read this blog on a phone, tablet or a computer etc., somewhere then, it becomes your duty to do your bit to make this world a more beautiful place. I’m not denying that the luxuries you enjoy in your life, you must have earned them with hard work. That’s all the more reason to do something for others. For, if you can accomplish so much, you can easily do just a wee bit more.
While boarding a train once, Gandhi’s shoe came off his foot. He managed to get on the jam-packed train but the footwear was left behind. A few yards into his journey and he quickly took off the other shoe and chucked it on the platform.
“Why did you do that for?” A co-passenger asked him.
“At least, whoever would find them will get a pair,” Gandhi replied. “Of what use is one shoe to anyone?”
There is no reason for us to forsake our goodness, to not count our blessings, to not help others, to not be gentle. What a blessed life we have, let’s allow others to dip into our joys and resources. The path of goodness is most rewarding for the one who seeks enlightenment.
“Living life” is a concept alien to most of us. We are so engrossed in our worries and everyday problems, we have forgotten to live life. Here below, let us address the every day things that are stopping us from living life.
We are all afraid of aging/old age. How to address the hardest thing about living life?
“I’m afraid of aging,” someone said to me the other day. “I don’t want a wrinkly face or a stooped body. I am paranoid about slipping and falling in washrooms or losing consciousness as I age. I bring to you three principles of aging gracefully with purpose.
As long as the desire to live is alive, so long as there’s something you aspire to learn, you are not old. Read more here.
Living life to the fullest - How can one do this?
An unfailing sign of a fulfilling life is when you have made your reality as beautiful as your dreams, when you devote yourself to creating something that uplifts you and inspire others. Read more here.
Living Life - The secret to a fulfilling one?
If you wish to live your ideal life, first devote every ounce of energy and enthusiasm to your present one. Before long, you’ll know your purpose in life which in turn will lead to a deep sense of fulfillment. When you put your heart, mind and soul into whatever you undertake, it liberates you. A liberated soul alone walks through the journey of life effortlessly and gracefully, like a master swimmer pierces through water. Read more here.
How would you be living life if you did not have any worries?
We are not on this planet to waste our life by constantly worrying about this and that. Worrying takes the life out of our life. Somewhere, one must gather the courage to set oneself free, to be where one wants to be, to do what you’ve always longed to. This is how fulfillment is going to come in your life. This is how life is going to feel complete. Work will never end. There’ll always be a list of outstanding action items. But, in all this, we must not forget to live. Adequately. Gracefully.
Life doesn’t need to be full of worries when it can be bubbling with happiness and joy. Let’s not sit and whine about what life could or should be. Instead, let’s see for what it is and transform it into what it can be — a marvel, a wonder. Read more here.
Living Life - how to say yes to life once and forever
I hope you know that more than the external factors, it is you, yourself, who stops you from living, living your life of dreams. A lot of people are afraid of saying “Yes” to life. And why are they scared of opening up, to spread their wings, to scan new horizons? After all, who in their right mind would say no to joy, bliss and happiness? Do you know why?
Go here to learn why. A life of peace and meaning is far more precious than an exquisite symbol of death. Now is the time to live.
The joy in my life is lost to everyday responsibilities. How can enjoy and start living life again?
Living in this world, most things are like clockwork, people are born, they grow up, get an education, get a job, get married, have kids, look after them and themselves, get old and pass away. Do they enjoy life?
No matter what you do in the world, feel free to enjoy life, be yourself, but do not uncouple yourself from the source, the Divine, the primordial energy, the quintessential seed you have sprouted from. Any freedom you gain by disengaging from the source is short-lived and temporary.How to find out if you are still connected to the root? Read more here.
Living Life - What is the key to lasting happiness!
Arjuna once asked Krishna, “Who is a true yogi, Lord?”
“The one who finds contentment in the present moment and knows the way of moderation is the greatest yogi.”
Krishna did not call a meditator a true yogi, he did not call his devotee a yogi. He did not say that those who follow a certain belief system or practice rituals are yogis. Instead, he just simplified it. If you are content and tranquil, you are a yogi. Read more here.