Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

140. Significant

After returning from any office travel, one of the important tasks is to clean the papers. Some of the papers need to be thrown away and some need to be preserved for future use. After a week- long travel, today evening I was engaged in this routine task and I came across an envelope. This envelope had remained unopened for a considerable period. This particular envelope was given to me by an Institute, a very prestigious Institute in the country.

This renowned Institute had invited me as a guest speaker. I was very busy that week – had returned from North East and had plans to travel  the next two weeks -  first to Uttarakhand and then to Andhra Pradesh. So, I needed some time for myself, for documentation, for preparation. When my reporting officer called me to ask whether I could go to deliver this lecture, I was for a moment going to say NO. However, I have been always lucky enough to have reporting officers, who never order me. They generally ask me politely whether it is possible for me to take on additional workload and I almost every time end up in taking that. One of my friends says that, “This is the management skill. They know that if they force you, you will rebel, but if given choice, you will take on additional responsibilities.” I am not sure whether my friend is right, but yes, I like to be treated with dignity. And I reciprocate such gift in my own way.

So, I prepared on Sunday, traveled on Monday evening, did the job on Tuesday and returned same evening. It was a mixed experience. The place was a beauty, to be near Himalaya is a luxury and I fully enjoyed that. This was an opportunity to learn about the Institute and I was overwhelmed by the aura of the place. The speech was received well by some and had good interaction with the audience. Overall, it was work –cum- break and I loved that.

This particular envelope was given to me along with memento at the end of my speech. In the rush of other activities I had not opened it.

I open it, read it and it irks me. The letter says:

Logo of the Institute                                          Address of the Institute

Dear Ms. ……….

It was indeed a great pleasure having you with us at the ……………… to deliver a talk to the Officer Trainees of the ……………………

Your talk was extremely well received and the trainees appreciated the issues and points highlighted by you during the session. On behalf of the …………….. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for having taken time off from your busy schedule to visit ……………….

I hope you enjoyed visiting the ……………. I wish that your association with the …………….continues in the future as well.



If my guess is right, you are wondering why I am irritated with such a nice letter.

Let me share some more facts with you.
  1. 1.    I never met the person who signed the letter, we talked on the phone and that was all.
    2.  The person never attended my speech, so there was no point in she giving the feedback that the trainees appreciated the issues etc.
    3.   The letter was handed over to me immediately after my speech. That means the content of the letter was written even before I had delivered the speech.
    4.   This means that this is a standard letter – irrespective of the quality of my content and delivery. Even if it was worst speech of my life, the Institute blindly certifies me!
    5.    Why does the institute think (howsoever renowned it might be) that I need a certificate by someone who never listened to me?  
I can’t help thinking:

Why are we so formal? Why are we so dishonest? Why are we so artificial?

Why are we so dispassionate about the work we do? Without participating in it, how can we act as if we have participated?  

Why do we appreciate others without meaning it? Why do we need appreciation by others? Do people remain associated because there is some paper which expresses the wish to remain associated?

Why do people sign the paper for the activity in which they did not participate? Why can’t they just delegate it? I do not mind such a letter from one of the persons who attended my speech – though probably it still might be dishonest and formal!

Why are we more for records than feelings? What if the Institute never gave me this letter – would it change my experience? Would it lessen my joy of being there?

I know it is just a formality. It is a routine for them and I also should treat it as one of the insignificant matters of life and ignore it.

My problem is: there are too many insignificant things in life, and if I keep on ignoring everything, one day I might find that my whole life was insignificant.

If I am involved in any act, for me at least is should be fully significant – no matter what others think about it. Life is all about bringing in significance to whatever we do, or better leave it. Life is actually an art of making insignificant more significant.  

Life becomes significant only by involving oneself in this never ending process.


  1. yes yes yes...
    there are so many formal routine things that we are expected to be part of. And raising a question about those things is considered pointless and overcritical.
    so many times we are told that these are trivial things and should be ignored. but then if it really is trivial, why do it?! why put your mind and energy into it?
    Are there not enough trivial things already being forced upon?! what is the cost of human thought, emotion, patience and time?!
    When people get into the groove of such formalities, often lose sensitivity and liveliness of spontaneous appreciation. days just drag on for them, and they think it is life, when they have already killed life.
    worst part is, they expect you to be like them. being honest, awake and sensitive is an alien thing!

  2. ohhh. that's bad. a pre-written standard letter!!!
    u r right in raising those questions. it does hurt esp when you've been so passionate about the lecture n the interaction with the officers.
    m a trainer n i'd feel offended too. but in this part of town they dont really give such letters. they usually mail u few days later thanking u or a participant gives a vote of thanks n a bouquet after the session

  3. haha! that letter is a good one! something to remember and publicise!

  4. Anu, it is bit tiring initially, but one gets used to it and stops asking questions to oneself - that is more dangerous!

    Sujathaajee, yes, a mail after a few days is certainly much better than such a pre-written letter!

    Satya, that is what I did exactly! Publicized it :-)

  5. Standard automated response. You are lucky, you did not get it before the lecture.

  6. When we start deriving pleasures from things outside or external for us..rather than from things which are true to us and doing things which mean to us...then...life is nothing but a bunch of events...inter connected with imaginary, insignificant threads...which after being broken, everything will become...meaningless.

    Doing things just for its pure pleasure....and inner happiness...that is life..I think..


  7. Rajeshjee, maybe next time I will get it before the lecture :-)

    Kunaljee, I fully agree with you.

  8. Things to ponder upon. Nicely put and I loved the last few lines.

    " Life is all about bringing in significance to whatever we do, or better leave it. Life is actually an art of making insignificant more significant. "

    Thoughtful... :)

    As far as the formality is concerned, well we are living along with it and I am afraid, we will continue to do the same. I am not saying that we shouldn't try changing but sometimes, it makes us follow the suit. There are few who seek and can digest the honest reactions - and I must say you seem to be one of them.

  9. Suniljee, your point that formality has its advantages - is thought provoking. Thanks for pointing the other side :-)

  10. I think that our lives are too precious to waste on others who are not intelligent enough to understand how towork, or may be who don't love their work or whatever reason.

    If I receive such a letter, to be angry with the person who wrote it would mean giving too much importance to him/her and they do not deserve it.

    I would rather think about how I felt about my work, how did the interaction with participants go, did they enjoy it, etc.

    Our lives are too short to waste even one minute on such persons or things.

  11. Suniljee, I fully agree with you - life is too precious to waste on aspects that we don't like.

    I guess, I just re-lived it to write this post - that is all. Once I write, I forget such moments. That is the award of writing; that is why I actually write :-)

  12. hehe see i was going to say sumthing abt ur post bt den i browsed thru d previous comments n caught d part abt 'once i write i forget such moments'.

    n i cant help thinking- hw quaint!!
    i mean wont u cum baq sumday n read wat uve written?
    or is it just like a rant n once told, its out of ur system?
    i find dat so odd!

    n yes woww ur a guest lecturer too? i jus hope dis wasnt d CA insti or sumthin cos dey r certainly capable of dis kind of goof ups.

    another thot dat cums to mind is- yaar dis aativas must surely b very old den. minimum 35. :D
    i kno dis is inappropriate talk so abt d write up n fr real dis tym, i haaaate xcessiv formality, false flattery n fake smiles.

    n d funny thing is, dere stil wil b sum guy who wud hav cum in b4 u to lecture n may hav thot on d lines of- i gave dem my time n dey cudn even acknowledg it wid a cert!
    dere r tonnes of ppl like dat! :o

  13. Hi Sadiya, when I have to read your SMS type of language and ensure that I understand its meaning right, I feel much more older than I actually am :-) Along with blog writing do you also guess people's age? Well, you are right - I am distanced from you in and by years!

    Well, I would come back and read this post sometime in future and I would certainly feel foolish! But that is the way I have been feeling all along - that only shows that I am normal - normal by my own standards :-) And yes, there are always other people and other perspectives!! No problem!


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