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It's important to be silly, to be serious, to be strong, to be frail...for what is life if we only shared a mask?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Buzzing in my head

Thought I would pull together some of my more popular status updates

Embedded in the arrogance that we cannot learn from others, lies the insecurity of the emperor with no clothes

Forget the sisters of regret...shoulda, coulda, woulda and their brother "if only"

Within each seed lies a journey to be birthed. And to each a journey as unique as a fingerprint

It is important to be silly, to be serious, to be strong, to be frail, to be yourself. What is life if we only shared a mask

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


In the land of make believe
There is no hurt
There is no one
To deceive

Air brushed kisses
Static smiles
Hits and misses
Paid by plastic

Echo has no voice
A reflection for Narcissus
Entwined in a dance
Undone by Nemesis

Would that the heart
So deeply
Under layers of dirt

Like Beauty asleep
In soul less slumber
Refusing to weep
Unable to remember

Slowly the child
After years of knocking
Stays silent
Never to speak

---Shaku Selvakumar © 2009

Sunday, April 5, 2009

On Report Cards and Performance Reviews

My daughters got their report cards recently and our pulse quickened wondering how they fared. Call it the PTS – the “parent teacher syndrome”. You can be a CEO or you can be a check out clerk. In the classroom, the teacher rules. Make no mistake about that. It turns out that the girls were doing fine and met their "targets". We looked at it, hemmed and hawed. Not telling them that they did better than us when we were in school :) High fives, had to keep promises that were made earlier in the school year all slowly depleting the family riches or lack thereof. I might have to take a deep breath and commit to adopting a dog.

In the adult world, most companies are doing their performance reviews. Did your work matter during the fiscal year? Did you contribute to the company’s bottom line? What are the success metrics? Who did better in the group? After all the bonus pool is finite. Benchmark this, benchmark that. Now if you are very organized, you would have kept a journal and starting January 1 of the previous year. You would have meticulously noted everything that you contributed. If not, you have to rewind, pause, record. The end result, a performance grade that will either reward or rankle for the rest of the year.

The point is that we are constantly being assessed. From birth to death. There are external parameters being laid every step of the way. As a newborn baby, you have APGAR tests and others. You come home all swaddled and you are compared to other babies, toddlers. When did she start talking? Is he walking? What about gross motor skills, fine motor skills. At school and college, your grades define you. You graduate and start work and your bosses provide the measurement. And those companies with the 360 reviews give you the opportunity to rate your boss. At home, your children or partner will give you the 360. Or this constant need to keep up with the Joneses. A bigger house, a more expensive car, exotic vacations and the list gets longer and the compromise continues.

At some point, you stop believing in yourself and start mirroring the opinions. An ex boss once told me when he was doing my performance review 8 years ago “Perception is reality, because people believe in it.”

History, however, is peppered with stories of heroes who defied perceptions and created their own reality.

This anonymous quote sums it up nicely. “Excellence can be obtained if you care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible."

Here's to those who feared less and dared more.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On Living, Birthdays and Taking Stock

Ironically we seek to live when we are reminded about death. So when a birthday approaches, I typically tend to let it be...and many birthdays have slipped away like a thief in the night.

This year however, three incidents took place in close proximity. The first instance was early March, when we found out a good friend lost his sister suddenly to a random illness. The second was Natasha Richardson, actress, wife and mother of two who goes vacationing, hits her head on a ski slope and without warning this becomes fatal. Does it make sense? Absolutely not. She probably thought that bump on her head would be nothing serious. A perfectly normal day. She probably woke up looking forward to a relaxing vacation. Finally, my good friend Ron Todd who having survived melanoma got double whammied once again by the deadly C and is fighting to kick this monster.

It seemed like a wake up call this month. Questions that surface like bubbles on still water. Where are we heading and how do we make the most of our time on earth. What do those 3 blind sisters holding the scissors have in mind...what discussions are they having right now and about whom?

Coming back to living and an urge not to let another birthday slip away unnoticed by myself. To look at aging another year in the eye and say "I see you and I raise a toast to you!" And reminding myself that I do need to look into my bucket list and start working on it. Can we rewind, no? Can we fast forward, sure...when we refuse to pause to enjoy. Emerson states simply but succinctly "We are always getting ready to live, but never living."

Which led me to...taking stock of what was, what is and what may be. And you realize that it matters naught what you have but who you hold in your embrace. Who you touch with your love, your words, your actions, your thoughts. Without judgement. Four hundred people attended a prayer vigil for Ron last Tuesday in California. There is another vigil being held in Austin this Tuesday. Regardless of the outcome, Ron is already a hero to many.

As Thomas L Odem Jr says "If the essence of my being has caused a smile to have appeared upon your face or a touch of joy within your heart. Then in living - I have made my mark."

Here's to facing mortality by leaving immortal footprints.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama Inauguration: Today is about possibility

Tomorrow about responsibility.

There is euphoria in the air. Hundreds of thousands from all over the United States have gathered in DC making this, as the newscasters call it “the journey” to witness this day in history. There are many who have traveled from outside the US. A group from the Bahamas calling themselves the Bahama Obama Mamas. People hugging, singing, cheering. Millions watching the broadcast from all over the world. From a city called Obama in Japan, to Indonesia, Hong Kong, India, Australia, Middle East, Europe there is much vested globally in this historic inauguration.

I am reminded of David Whyte and his insightful poem:

Loaves and Fishes
This is not
the age of information.

This is not
the age of information.

Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.

This is the time
of loaves and fishes.

People are hungry
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.
-- David Whyte from The House of Belonging ©1996 Many Rivers Press

One good word is bread for a thousand. This is not about race, religion, politics, class or caste. This is about humanity uniting to save the world aligning under the banner of hope and possibility. This is about belief that “we did not inherit this earth from our ancestors. We have borrowed it from our children.” 2008 was a wake up call that we have to collaborate fiercely to co create the new world. It is about the opportunity that today holds for the future. It is about belief. Yes, we can.


In Loaves and Fishes
In Silver Conches

Faded dreams
Unused gifts


In one
In all
---Shaku Selvakumar © 2008

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Looking back...moving forward

Strangely enough I don’t have any resolutions for 2009 save one…to simplify. By the time last year came to a close, I was running ragged, exhausted and worn out. 2008 for moi, was the year of the hamster. Spinning on a treadmill trying to play some sort of weird catch up. There was no balance.

December came by and I hugged my vacation days close to my heart hoping to complete a hundred pending tasks, read a few books and rearrange everything. Instead, I just let go. I did what I could and everything else fell by the wayside.

I didn’t buy the furniture. I didn’t finish my mailing. I didn’t paint those rooms. And I didn’t feel guilty. I started a list of things to do and I threw it away.

Unlike summer vacations, winter holidays are about closure and preparation for the year ahead. For some of us, hibernation is a good way to prepare for the new year. Many will remember ‘08 as a year of global transformation. If you think of Hercules cleaning the Aegean stables, you will understand that the muck has to be cleared out. Anything built on shifting sands will not stand the test of the future. That much we know.

Personally speaking, 2008 was like a lightening rod catching sparks and passing tremors. I moved jobs within the company. We renovated our old home and bought a new home that came with a complimentary posse of hens and roosters. The kids went to new schools after dramatically bidding adieu to familiar faces. Family that played together and stayed together. Ike came to Texas and left some serious destruction. Palin scared me but Obama won. Yes, we can. Summer vacation and winter staycation. Mumbai hurt and we were horrified. We became the proud sponsors for Nayantara, a 14 year old Bengali girl through Children's International.

And then there is 2009 which is about accountability, responsibility and careful consideration. It is the year of the squirrel. It is also about hope. Hope for peace, for resurrection, for forgiveness. So as I write this, I have decided that along with simplifying my life, I will also continue to be unabashedly sentimental and mushy. And no…I don’t intend to hug trees. Maybe next year :)