Volunteering 2016- Day 4-Chennai Middle School, Kosapet

Today was a fun day- Started from my home in my Activa-took the bike out after ages and went to the Chennai Middle School in Kosapet.

A big bunch of chirpy little ones-boys and girls from class 6 to class 12- we had a crafts class for these children on Saturday. They learnt how to make a star using chart paper- the chart , glue and material were provided by Chennai Volunteers.

It was so much fun listening to them chatter. Some of them would not participate and they needed some special motivation. So talking to them and making them participate was a superb experience.

We plan to have more sessions in the school-Waiting to see how it unfolds.

Volunteering 2016-Day 3 – Thakker Baba Again

Today was yet another reading session with Robin, we read for sometime, he wrote down notes and later I dropped Robin where he worked.Before we left, Mr Uthrapathy from TB gave me a huge guide and said he needed the whole guide to be read and recorded for someone who has an exam next month.

I hope to do justice to that guide…I have started and was able to complete reading two lessons.

Visited “Dialogue in the Dark”. I could not go inside…but took Robin to the Food Court-which is on the same floor where he works- and we ate a small meal. Robin was a little shy to eat in public since he thinks he eats in a messy way-he was not at all messy except a few rice pieces which he spilt on the floor.

Robin and I have become good friends now and I hope to help his reading and writing as much as possible.

Volunteering 2016-Day 2- Dialogue in the Dark

Hey we do not need sympathy….Maybe a bit of empathy and some thoughts from our point of view could help us”….was Robin’s first sentence to me…..
Robin Surin, a 26 year old handsome chap with an electric smile….he is pursuing his graduation in History from the University of Delhi – he works in the Express Avenue Mall in Chennai. And I was his fortunate “reader” for the day…I had to read out notes and he would write them in Braille. For Robin has never seen light….right from his birth..
“Hey lets read and write until 11.30 am after that I have to head to work, we can spend ten minutes getting to know each other…life is not just about reading and writing right?”…I could only nod my head which felt highly dumb at the moment and say “Aye aye sir” 🙂
Robin is extremely smart, very astute ,has excellent conversation skills, speaks impeccable English and he is self dependent. “Technology helps us, we have software that can turn text into notes we can play and hear, we don’t really need readers all the time. I can operate the computer as well as anybody with vision can….We people who can’t see, we just need to learn shortcuts in the keyboard and we are good to go”…
So, I get on with reading his notes..he stops me now and then and asks me to repeat. So I read out a sentence and then ask him “Should I repeat” he says “Ill ask you if i need it”….and I continue …smiling…..And together we learn about the United Nations and its policies..
” We are seven of us siblings, I have five brothers and one sister. I am the youngest of all and I am the most educated in my family. I will also be the seventh person to graduate from my district-it is called Golaghat near Jharkhand. We have no good schools or colleges and people do not graduate. I will be the seventh ” says a proud Robin with a wide smile..And I ask him about his siblings “No -all of them are normal, I was the only one who was born without vision”…. “And none of them graduated? “ I ask… “No- they lost interest along the way, they are all school drop outs….But I was very clear, I do not want to sit idle and be a burden to my parents. Anybody who is differently abled, gains nothing by giving up and sitting idle…they’d rather benefit by doing something, learning something”….
He goes on to explain about the Braille to me…He says “See this chart paper we use, its expensive. We’d rather write on old magazines they are available for free for us. Can’t afford this chart paper all the time” “I want to learn to write Tamil in the Braille. I am very keen” he adds.
I ask him “How did you become proficient in English?” He says “ I went to St. Montfort which is the equivalent of St. Louis institute you have here for the blind. I started school when I was nine years old and I used to talk only Assamese or Hindi. Thanks to my teachers who made me kneel down everytime I did not talk in English. Knelt down for 45 days and finally picked up the language-Thanks to them I can speak with confidence today”..
So I ask him about his work. He says “ We are on the third floor at Express Avenue Mall. Its just opposite the Escape cinemas. Its a place where people with vision get to experience what it is to not have eyesight. Its a dark place where you explore things in the dark. Its fun-you must visit sometime with your friends..” I ask “Have you ever gone for a movie at Escape? He says “Would love to but have never been there, I can hear and experience-Most places we go for the experience,to get a feel of how it is”..
And as we complete the reading and writing, its time for him to leave. I say “Robin I want a snap with you, could we take one today or later? “ Pat comes the reply “ Why …Don’t I look neat today? “ he grins. I say “No no….I don’t want this to be the first and last reading session, I want to read more for you which is why I asked if we could do this later”. And he posed excitedly for the snap. I asked him “Has anyone told you, you have such a wonderful smile? You are a picture of happiness” and he grins even wider.
And as we walk, I ask him the question “Do you ever get depressed?” He says “ I used to ….when I was younger….but now I have people reporting to me….Cannot afford to get depressed. I tell them it doesn’t matter if they do not have vision. All our other senses are intact, aren’t they? “
I tell him about someone I know who has partial vision. He says “Never mind. Ask them not to worry….Approach this organisation called “Enable India” in Bangalore, they are the best in the country-they provide training for differently abled people. Someone with normal vision met with an accident and lost his eyes at 45. This is life. Anything can happen to anyone, anytime. We must always be prepared”….
And I take his permission before taking leave “Robin, can I write about you on facebook? Some of us are thirsting for some inspiration. Please?” He gladly accepts. “Please write. I am also on facebook. Find me and add me NOW” he grins.
P.S: The place Robin works is called “Dialogue in the Dark” at Express Avenue Mall. Run by differently abled people. To get a feel of how the world will be in the dark, when we lack vision or eyesight. Please do visit if interested!

Volunteering 2016-Day 1-YWCA

Yes I know volunteering is considered to be an added qualification in avenues like LinkedIn because it apparently suggests we are “giving back” to society! Might I admit I do sometimes need these credentials when I am struggling to get placed….

But not always do we do certain things to add credentials to our CV. Sometimes certain activities provide genuine happiness and a genuine “kick” in life and that’s exactly where I would peg my thirst for volunteering.

Visited the Chennai Volunteers office in Eldams Road today and enquired about the summer camp they were hosting for school kids. And while we got talking, came to know of an opportunity to teach “Spoken English” at the YWCA. Between 2.30pm and 4 pm. Classes here were being conducted daily by various volunteers -and today (Tuesday 26th April 2016) was the turn of Chennai Volunteers.

I got 5 students allotted to me-one elderly lady and four school going girls, the oldest was 60 plus and the youngest was 13, in my class of five 🙂

I had reading sessions, words and pronunciation, constructing sentences using words, constructing conversations and reading them out etc. The activity I had given them was to write 100 words about something that was very close to their heart and talk about it without reading the paper. I hope they get interested in this activity and do well in the next class-which is next Tuesday.

I felt super energised after teaching this group of people, and it was such a pleasure to be able to teach under the shades of a tree and by a private pond in the sprawling campus of the YWCA Chennai.

The HR professional

Having been a human resources professional in India for more than a decade now, I often wonder how exactly to define what I do. A lot of people ask me several questions on my work. You are an HR professional? What do you do? Are you a recruiter? What exactly is your work?

I often fumble to answer.

Not because I do not have answers but just that my answers cannot be as specific as ” I code to create a platform for an insurance client” or ” I sell so many properties in a month” or “I am an investment banker and my role is business development”. Those sound like specific answers and sound oh-so-professional.

But to say “I contribute to the retention of people in my organisation but my contribution becomes invisible at the end of it all” or ” I ensure that people at my workplace are taken care of” or ” I am the human face to my otherwise blood sucking organisation”, seems very superficial and superfluous! Of course I can say I take care of performance management, employee retention, rewards and recognition, employee engagement, sometimes recruitment, sometimes training and development and the like.

But I am sure many HR professionals would agree that it is extremely difficult to complete what we do in a line. We can never compress all of our work into a few words-That is how vast and therefore how vague a HR professional can seem to the world.

To me Human Resources management is a skill. It is much like a skill like being able to sing or to play an instrument. It sounds easy and it sounds like just about anyone can create the excel sheets that HR professionals create or deliver the presentation a HR professional delivers. But to go beyond that, to create that “human” element and to “connect” with people from a HR standpoint and to ensure your people and people managers run to you for solutions-THAT is a skill, an art that is inborn and cannot be obtained by imitation or quick learning.

It is part of one’s personality, one’s social skills, his/her ability to relate to people and their issues, his/her quickness in response, one’s ability to build trust for oneself in the organisation and to ensure that business trusts HR as a “People Partner”

That skill, doesn’t come with a fancy HR degree from a top B school or with a certification or with exposure. Nor does it arrive to you simply by observing other “HR professionals” It is to a certain extent inbuilt! Which is why the advantage that not everyone can become HR professionals. And a disadvantage that any people manager thinks of himself/herself as possessing “HR” skills.

You got to have it in you to be a HR professional as much as you got to have music in you to be a professional violinist!

Human Resources

I have been a human resources professional for the past 11.5 years yet most of my writing has been on my other passion-Music.

So here is an attempt to put forth my thoughts on the Human Resources learning I have acquired over a decade.

Active posts to duly follow meanwhile here goes my hello to the world!