The Promise

The early morning august air was heavy and humid. The sun was yet to come out and darkness still enveloped all around. A gust of chill wind swept through, attenuating the undercurrent of tension among the crowd which had gathered on the wide road. Not everyone was tensed though. There was also a sense of festivity among some of them. Once could see groups of people meeting and greeting each other, talking to each other in animated manner, performing some kind of tribal rituals, having fun, and generally preparing for something that was about to start.
Beside the wide road, there was a pandal over which some people had assembled. Light and music were arranged. The glow of the blue-green lights cast a soothing magical charm over it. The rhythmic beat of the music induced an atmosphere of hypnotic trance. Some people were dancing just below it. There were announcements being made from over the stage. I found myself in midst of what seemed like a celebration of some sorts. But I was lost in a sea of people. There were many happy people, tense people, young people, old people, and people of all types and of all stripes. Among them I was searching for any familiar face to start a conversation with.
This was the day that I had been waiting for. This was the day that I was preparing to meet, over the last six months. And this day, there I was, standing alone, afraid and uncertain if I could make it or not. I would be lying if I tell that I was not tense. In fact I was quite apprehensive. A sliver of fear had stabbed into me. And that was all the more reason that I wanted to talk to someone desperately. I had to dispel that fear. I was attempting to do something which I never had done before. I was there to prove something to myself. I was there to keep a promise that I had made to myself few months back. And I was not willing to let myself down at this last hour.
Unable to spot any familiar face, I embarked upon surveying the lay of the land. There was a park besides the road where several tents and stalls were put up. In the dim light, I could see frenetic activity going on. In front of some of the stalls, there were people lined up in queues waiting for something. Others were huddled in groups doing some drills. Some people were alone talking to themselves under their breath in some kind of a self-talk, probably trying to please the spirits of the other world to help them in their pursuit. Others were sprinting and stopping and then sprinting again. Most of the people being quite busy and self-absorbed, did not notice my presence among them.
"Hi Braja", suddenly someone called out from within the crowd. I was surprised to hear my name and turned back. Kishore was there with a group of his friends. Instantly, I felt a bit relaxed. We exchanged greetings and I joined their group. There were 2 others with him who were there for the same purpose as I was. We discussed our plans. In a few minutes of discussion with them, all my fear and misapprehension disappeared. I regained back my confidence and was raring to go for my dream.
A little more than a year back, I was a fat and lazy couch potato. But, I had resolved to change that and took to running. On 26th of January this year, I ran a 10K successfully. Swamped with the feel-good endorphins after the race, I had decided and promised myself to participate in a half-marathon and finish it with panache. I chalked out a meticulous plan and strived to follow the plan religiously. I was quite successful in being able to stick to my plan till July. In July my confidence levels were high. My fitness was optimum. I was good to go. But over the last one and half months, something unexpected came up. As a result, my training suffered. Though I managed to run a couple of times a week, I could feel that my conditioning was going down. Having invested so much time and effort, I knew I had to start. I could not let all of it go to waste. And also I wanted to finish and finish with panache. But, I seemed to have lost the confidence that I had earlier. An annoying voice in my head was talking incessantly and tormenting me of not being prepared enough. That was the reason I was tensed.
Back with the group, the demon of apprehension receded back to some corner of my mind. I got busy in the light banter and warm-up exercises, exchanging tips from experienced runners, looking with awe at the elite runners and generally commenting on the scene around. We spent the next hour or so warming up for the run while the sky cleared up a bit and the darkness of the pre-dawn was making way for a cloudy morning.
The Airtel Hyderabad half-marathon is a grueling 21 KM route starting at Necklace road, going over the Khairatabad fly over, through the Rajbhawan road, and again taking the Punjagutta flyover to Banjara hills road and then through Jubilee hills to Madhapur from where it went to Gachibowli and culminated in the Balayogi stadium. Anyone familiar with the topography of Hyderabad would know that it is a tough route. Banjara hills and Jubilee hills, two of the most posh localities in the city, are home to undulating wide roads and rolling hills. Couple them with the killer flyovers on the route; it would make this course a really challenging one even for an experienced marathoner. Though mindful of the challenge ahead everyone was still eagerly awaiting for the gun to start the race.
It was announced that the race will start in a few minutes and people started to assemble near the start point. The faster ones took their spot towards the front. Lesser mortals like us stood behind in the crowd so as not to be pushed and shoved by faster runners. There was a countdown and then the race started. People around me were just walking lazily. I realized that unless people in the front move out, it will be difficult for us to start to run. So, I also walked slowly, allowing others to start running so that there will be enough space for everyone to start running.  It took me almost 2 minutes just to cross the start line. And I was still walking. I was not in any hurry as were most people who were walking along with me. None of those walking along with me were in for winning the race. It was a race that each was running against his own self. Maybe everyone who was participating in this run also had made a promise to their own self, which they wanted to keep. Otherwise, what mad person would pull him out of bed at an ungodly hour in the early morning, drive for 20 KMs or so from his residence to reach the start point, and then keep running for a punishing 21 or 42k in a lazy Sunday morning?
Slowly the crowd broke into a jog. The ones in the front had dispersed a bit now and there was more leg room for the ones in the behind to jockey around. I also started to fall in the rhythm. The slow jog gradually became a brisk jog and after some time, almost everyone was in a run. In a few minutes, we were at the base of the Khairatabad flyover when someone running beside me remarked to look up at the flyover. When I looked up, I could see a sea of runners sweeping over the flyover. The sight was something to notice. Though the Khairatabad flyover posed the first threat to the runners, everyone was full of energy and could take it pretty easily. The run continued onto the Rajbhawan road. There was a water station and I was not feeling thirsty and did not want to stop for a drink. I kept running. I looked around and saw many people who had come out of their homes. Some were staring at us, unable to fathom what kind of madness had taken over these few thousands running amok. Some of them understood our passion and were cheering at us and encouraging us to forge ahead.
When I was pulling up the Punjagutta flyover, I could feel a mild pain in my left leg. Seemed like a minor muscle cramp. I ignored that and pressed ahead. In Banjara hills I came across the second water station. I stopped for a few seconds, had a sip of an energy drink to quench my thirst, and pushed off. By that time, I had gotten into the groove and started enjoying the run. The sun was still not out. We had covered almost 5k by now. Some runners had started to stop and walk on the way. I could hear another runner running ahead of me who cheering and encouraging others. I got up to him. He was a small built man with thin but strong legs. He was wearing a white runners’ shirt and shorts with running shoes. “Hi”, I said. He acknowledged. Looking at his face I realized he must be a senior person. I asked him, “Sir, how old are you?”  He gave me a cold look as if I had insulted him. He did not tell anything. I thought I must re-phrase my question. I asked him again – “Sir, how young are you” – 59 he said. I was amazed. He was 59 and was able to run 5 km in 30 minutes. I congratulated him for his perseverance and he wished me luck. Yes, I needed loads of that!
I was pushing on fine in the race, just near the KBR Park, when I heard a gunshot. And then, like a three dimensional net moving in the sky with a will and purpose of its own, hundreds of pigeons took to the sky in a big swarm and covered the entire morning sky. They all went around several times creating a maze of interesting shape in the sky. It was another sight to behold.  With all these scenes, my leg pain had disappeared and I again was on a roll.
 I had almost crossed the 10k mark somewhere between Jubilee hills and Madhapur when a light drizzle started. Unmindful of the same, I kept running. So did the other runners.  By the time I was on the way to Gachibowli from Hitec City, the rain picked up pace. My sweat drenched body almost took bath in the rain. It was quite a pleasant experience to run in the rain. By the time I crossed the 15 km mark, I was pretty confident that I could easily go on running like this for any distance.
There was a long flyover, the last big challenge at Gachibowli. I could sense tiredness was taking over. My legs were begging me to stop and take a walk. But I had a plan for myself. I had planned that if ever I stop, I will stop at a water or aid station. I will not stop or walk anywhere in between unless I am feeling so bad that I would fall down. Somehow I kept on at it and managed to cross over to the downward slope side of the flyover. I did not know if I was feeling hungry or not, but when I saw one volunteer offering bananas, I grabbed one and ata it while in the run, thinking that it will give some energy to me. Someone told me 19k is done. The rain had stopped. I was talking to myself that it is only 2k more and that I would be able to do it easily. But my pace had come down and my running was more like a jog than a run. Every minute, a part of me was thinking of stopping and walking, while another part urged me not to. I heeded the second advice.
It was almost over when I trudged into the stadium gate. I knew I had almost reached home, but not yet. The run around the stadium itself, though hardly about 1 km, seemed endless. I felt as if I did not have any energy left and have to walk in the last mile. There were only a few people ahead of me. I looked at them and saw them running. I decided to continue. Thankfully, I could hear some music wafting and people cheering. I was making way into the red running track in the stadium. I could see the crowd and people at the finish line. All of a sudden, all my fatigue vanished and I picked up fresh steam. I ran with all the force using my hand and driving my legs hard to a stylish finish. And then I could hear an announcement– “A very energetic runner is just coming in”. I finished in 2 hours 22 minutes and few seconds.
Someone put the finisher’s medal on me. I was feeling jubilant. But at the same time, I was also thoughtless. My mind was empty. I kept running for some more time. Then I remembered that old voice. I tried to find the demon in my mind that was tormenting me in the early morning. I could not find that. Somewhere along the way, probably, it jumped out of my mind and took shelter in a lone tree hollow along the road.  While doing my stretches and cool down, I put the soul of the demon to rest.
Post run, I was famished. Brunch was good. I waited for others to finish. One by one, I could see known faces tumbling out of the crowd. Some had finished earlier. Some finished later. There was no competition with anyone. Everyone was happy that they had finished. They had been able to keep their own promise. So was I.

Article without topic

Need a topic to write on. I am still wondering. Just rambling around …aimlessly? Will I get any topic to write about? This has to flow through. Something has to be written. It will flow out slowly...yes; I think I am getting into it.  To me it looks like this is just like running. When you run, someone has said, the longest distance you run each morning is from the bed to the floor. For me the most challenging part of running has been going from the bed, wearing my shoes and hitting the road. Once I hit the road, the flow automatically comes.
And today, this is one such experiment in writing. I didn’t have any topic to write. There was no idea. I kept wondering since the morning...trying to get topics, ideas, stories that I could write on. Now it is 9:00PM in the night and then I realized that if I don’t write something right now, I will not be able to post this week’s blog. So grudgingly, I started writing. Just poured out my thoughts and now I think I am ready to write more.
So many times, we promise to do something regularly. Say writing a blog or running regularly. Let’s take the running example. We start out with a big bang. Depending upon our past lifestyle, we may or may not like running for the first time. But assume, somehow we persist for long enough that we get a kick out of running. Then we become quite regular as we start liking it. But then after a few months, monotony creeps in. We do not get the high that we used to get earlier. Slowly, it is because of habit that we keep running.
One fine day, some other high priority activity demands our attention. We stop running for a week or more. We think it is ok. The other activity is of higher priority. Or that I have no other choice than to stop running. Other times, we do not go running because we do not feel like it. We think that may be the time is not right or that the weather is not conducive. We cook many excuses in our mind to somehow fool ourselves believing that it is ok if we skip it. So, who is the culprit here? Who takes the decision to stop doing something that we are supposed to do?
I believe the mind is the culprit here. It works in mysterious ways to make us believe what it thinks is right at that moment. Some other time, it may think something else is right and will try to fool us in believing the other thing. You may be a bit confused here. Who is fooling whom you might ask? Isn’t our mind the same as we are? Well, I don’t think so. The mind is an instrument given to us whose primary function is to think. But we are not our mind. Just as we are not our hand or feet or any other part of our body. The mind is only that part which helps us in thinking among other things. Since thinking is such an important and critical activity in a human being, it is able to influence us the most. It is able to shape our attitude in the short run and our character in the long run.
Most of our activities are dictated by our mind. These activities may be generic involuntary activities or voluntarily conducted activities. But isn’t it true that any activity, whatsoever type it may be, starts as a thought in the mind. The thought floats as waves on the surface of mind. Slowly, that thought embeds itself deeper and deeper into the walls of our mind. Among the innumerable thoughts we may be thinking in a day, only some thoughts seep deeper in our conscious mind. If we focus on them and think more and contemplate on them for a longer duration, it may even go to the next level of sub-conscious mind. Still holding the same thought in mind for even longer duration allows it to seep even further into the unconscious mind.
And when something goes into the unconscious, it has the maximum effect to shape our attitude. But the most interesting thing is that, though that thought in our unconscious mind dictates and builds our attitude, we are not aware of it at all. We never really realize why our attitude is as it is.
Is there a way to be free of the stranglehold of mind on our life? Yes, there is. It can be done in many ways. But again the way is though the mind. Here, the mind is used as an instrument to free us from the mind-hold itself. For example, if we want to change our attitude, it can be done by changing our thoughts. A mind that is under control is able to think only on need basis.
But what happens if someone decides to be really free from the clutch of his mind. If we want to really free ourselves completely, it can be done by having a thoughtless mind - a mind without thought. Such a person is not even influenced by his own thought process. He is the truly the most independent and free man. A man whom none can influence; not even his own dogma or paradigms; cause he doesn’t have any. This is the pinnacle of freedom. But isn’t this eerily similar to the description of a madman? A man with no-mind?
By the way, now I am at the end of today’s post. I think I have been able to free myself from the clutch of my mind which had been thinking the whole day today that I don’t have anything to write.  Small victory though. I think I have been able to write something coherent in spite of not feeling like writing anything throughout the day today and even when I started writing just about an hour back. And now when the time comes to name the title of today’s article, my mind suggests me to use “A mind without thought”.  It says that this will complete the hat-trick of having the word without in the post title in the last three posts; however unrelated the trilogy. But I may want to name it, “The Culprit Mind”. What say? Comments please!

Tryst without a Cell Phone

Rushing out of the radio cab at the Hyderabad Airport, I barely realized that my mobile phone was slipping out of my grip.  It fell on the grey tarmac below and all its components got dismembered. I picked up the disassembled parts of the lifeless phone, put them in the travel bag, settled the cab and proceeded towards the departure gate.
Check-in was a breeze. The security check was also quite swift. In a short while, I found myself in the waiting area near gate 25B. I glanced at the boarding pass to re-confirm the departure gate. It was correct. Soft music was playing there. People waiting to board the aircraft were busy with their phones and other hand held devices. The LCD monitor hanging in the waiting area displayed the arrival and departure time of the various flights. It told me that I still have few minutes before the boarding gates were opened.
I had unfinished business on my phone. These devices have now become a part and parcel of our lives. Few minutes or hours without them, one feels as if one is cut-off from the world. There is this unknown attraction of the beep of the notification from face book, email and various other apps, which keeps us guessing and hoping - guessing on what the update would be; hoping of something to turn out the way we want it to. The ringing of the phone has an even greater impact on our psychology. The phone ring re-assures us that we are still needed and valued by others. We feel honored when we realize that someone is trying to reach us.
Fishing out the parts of phone from my travel bag, I got on to assembling the unit. I would have done the same hundreds of times and I knew exactly which part went in where. Basically, you have to place the battery correctly in the phone, and then slide the external cover softly so that the bottom pair of latches clicks to set. Finally you need to press on the top of the cover to lock the third latch. The phone looked smug and good. I loved my phone. I had got it only a few months back. It was pitch black in color with a big display as most smart phones have. There were shiny metal parts on it like chrome on a car engine grill. The other day, a friend had compared the look and finish of my phone to a luxury vehicle; black, sleek, and exotic. Though I realized that it was the height of flattery, I liked it anyway. I was happy with my choice of the phone. My reverie of indulgence over my phone was cut short with the announcement that the boarding for my flight has started. Airline regulations do not allow your mobile phone to be switched on while in the aircraft. So, I restrained myself from switching-on my phone for a few minutes.
The flight to Indore was at best staid. There was nothing special or remarkable to write about. The airlines crew went on about their duty in a clinical manner. The pilot mumbled something incomprehensible on the speaker. I looked for something in the seat pocket to read. There was none. I thought of the next day ahead and wanted to prioritize the things to do. But laziness got the better of me. I slowly snuggled into a sleep like state.
Indore Airport was a small nondescript patch. There was just one ATR standing in the airport. Few ground crews were moving about. There were a couple of vehicles to haul the luggage-boxes. The passengers deplaned and took a short walk across the tarmac to enter the airport building.  In a few minutes, the luggage started tumbling on to the carousel in the baggage claim area. After collecting my suitcase from the lone baggage belt, I took my phone out which was still lifeless and pressed the shiny metal switch on the top to bring it back to life. It made the soft buzzing sound as it makes when it springs back to life, calmly re-assuring me that my trusted friend is at my service.
Modern day devices have idiosyncrasies of their own. My phone takes its own time to get ready. It has to complete various tasks before it can actually be of service to me. It has to boot its Operating System, prepare the SD card, search for a friendly network, initialize the phonebook and perform numerous other things in the background including transmitting my location to various service providers and satellites around the world. What a remarkable device. Small and handy, but can track you down anywhere on the face of earth.
I waited patiently for my phone to complete its rigmarole of routine. But then, unexpectedly, it let out an unfamiliar wail of pain and went blank. I was puzzled. I tried switching it on again. It showed signs of revival. But no sooner than it got to the operating state, it died down again, emitting the same high pitched siren to signal its death. As users of modern day gadgets, we all know how our lives are dictated by the juice in the battery. Muttering something under my breath of taking things into my own hands, I started walking towards the Airport exit.
I did not have to walk further. The airport ended as soon as it started. There were very few people waiting outside the airport. Some of them were having placards in their hands to receive guests. I scanned the placards in the hope of finding my name written on one of them. The exercise went in vain. Without a working cell phone on me, I was wondering how I would contact the person who would have come in to receive me. A smart thought lined up to my rescue. The plan was to look for a pay phone booth and call up my contact. I looked around; there was none. The plan B was to borrow someone else's phone and make a call. This was a feasible one. As a knight in shining armor, I myself had lent my phone a few times to damsels in distress in desolate airports. So, it was my turn now to reap the benefit of the good work I had sown earlier. Providence should be with me. But alas, how do I get the number of my contact? The number was stored in the phone memory, which had by now, in spite of all my cajoling and caressing, completely refuted to get back into action.
While these thought ran across my mind, I felt someone gently touching my shoulder. I turned around and found a big and tall man smiling at me. He introduced himself and we exchanged pleasantries. I was relieved.
On the way to the hotel, I asked him how he could recognize me. He had been trying to reach me on my cell phone several times, but he was told that it was switched off. So, he was checking all passengers who were walking out of the airport building and saw my travel bag which had my organization logo. Using that as a cue, he approached me. I thanked my stars for having carried that travel bag. I told him about the state of affairs of my beloved phone. Assured him that the next morning, I will have it fully charged and it will be up and running.
The Sayaji hotel was great. I liked the ambience. The room was spick and span. Post dinner, I retired to my room in order to make a few phone calls to inform folks of my whereabouts. I brought out my phone and dug out the charger from the bottom of the travel bag. Found a socket on the wall, plugged in the charger in the socket and other end of the charger wire to my smart phone. The phone made a whirring buzz signaling that it was getting ready to spring up to life. I let out a sign of relief and left it on its own device to get a bit charged.
I switched on the TV and rummaged through the various channels. There was an audio channel playing old songs. I could set up a play list and it fascinated me and I was lost in that. When it was time to sleep, I checked my phone to set up the alarm. And lo-and-behold the phone was still dead. I tried all tricks that I knew. I pulled out the charger. Dismantled the phone, re-assembled the parts, and plugged in the charger again. It still did not buzz. I tried pressing all the metal switches at the same time. The phone showed a little flicker of hope. But then it died even before the hope registered on my mind. My dream machine, the so-called exotic luxury car had at the right moment decided to ditch me. I was dejected.  Few thoughts went through my mind. May be the battery is gone. Someone had told me that reliability of smart phone battery is really dubious. When they fall down, they have a knack of going out of order. I silently re-counted how many times my phone has fallen down from my hand and from others hand as well. May be I should change the battery. Or has the operating system become corrupt by the fall. Or some circuitry has broken. …
I used the old fashioned land line in the hotel room to announce my plight to my wife. I remember her number anyways. For the others, I was incommunicado.
Mobile Phones are not only instruments of practical communication; they have evolved over the last decade or so also into instrument of emotional satisfaction. For some, they are basic needs and for others they are status symbols. But in most cases, they tend to fill in a gap which I realized only after I was forced to stay without a working phone. Without a phone, we lose the sense of being in touch with others. We lose the feeling of being in control. We basically feel naked and open to the vagaries of the world. We feel insecure. We feel that there is no way to connect with others and re-assure ourselves of our worth.  How is it that our sense of security has been changed by the ubiquitous presence of this little device? This is a thought that we all need to think through.
I made through the rest of the 3 days without having the cell phone. I worked in the old fashioned way of using the land line whenever needed. There was no hurry to see the text message or the face book update. I re-lived how corporate world worked years ago when there was no cell phone and instant communication. Life did not change much in those 3 days. People understood and I was able to communicate whatever was needed. Those who had to contact me found out other ways of getting in touch: sending a message through someone or via scheduled calls over a landline which I had sporadic access to. Their messages reached me. If I had to reach someone, I could use the landline.
Back in Hyderabad, I tried one last ditch effort to revive the phone. I did something which is known as a hard reset. And surprise of surprises, the phone muttered, quivered and in an all out effort inherent to all living beings with love of life, it blinked, buzzed and resuscitated back to life. 

A Recipe without Spice

As the Bombardier Q400 screeched to a rattling halt at the airport on the cold rainy night, Arun’s train of thoughts were derailed. He did not like it. For a moment he felt uncomfortable. In fact, Arun did not like anything that intruded his thoughts. His mind was the sanctuary where he was safe and secure. Brushing off that feeling, he prepared himself to off-board.
Coming out of the arrival gate, it was not difficult to spot the cab driver who was holding a placard with his name written on it. After a quick chat with him, Arun settled himself in the car and they headed directly to the hotel. The rain drops were still falling on the car glass and that did not allow him to see the surroundings clearly. Slowly he found himself drifting back again into the safe cocoon of his thoughts. He tried to summarize the trail of thought which was broken with the landing of the Spicejet.
Past experience prejudices our expectation of the future. We are conditioned to expect things to unravel in a certain manner, based on our own experiences in similar environment and settings.
Arun had been thinking of the last two occasions where he had attended workshops similar to that which he was going to attend this week. He never doubted the intention of such programs. They were for his capability development and for the larger benefit of the team and organization as a whole. It consisted of like minded folks, people in similar industry and background. But somehow, he was rather concerned on the efficacy of such events. Efficacy is the ability to produce the desired change that is intended. And he was not convinced that such workshops could ever bring about the change.
The next morning, Arun found himself amongst 10 others folks who were from diverse academic, cultural and professional background. He was meeting all of them for the first time on this day. There was a soft spoken writer with a stately stance, an effervescent manager who could as well be a great actor, a financial genius with a desire to share his knowledge, an expert seasoned in all aspects of software development, an intelligent young man from marketing with a regal voice, an affable people person with a soft smile diffusing goodwill, an independent thinker with a penchant for quality delivery, a nurturing painter who fosters learning & culture, and a practical and seasoned black-belt process consultant. Only one of them was from the same office as Arun. The irony was that, they met for the first time in a different city. He was not surprised. Since they were from different departments, their paths had never crossed earlier.  But there was one common thread that brought all of them together. They were all in the same workshop.
The workshop was a mixture of many things. Activities, readings, discussions, observations and reflections on variety of topics were done as part of different sessions. Interactions were encouraged and people started relating to each other. As the days went by, an overall structure seem to emerge. They had a perfect take-off and a smooth flight and all the passengers enjoyed it. The entire 5 day event was orchestrated without a glitch by the flight directors. The pilots were amazing. A competent co-passenger even got a chance to fly and steer the aircraft. Everyone enjoyed it. Everyone cooperated and participated.
It is difficult to expect what can happen when you take a few people, put them in a stimulating environment, sprinkle in some great ideas, pepper them with a challenge, and ask them to find the solution from within. The experience may vary from individual to individual. But for most, it would be a journey of self discovery. For some, it is discovering their strengths, for some it is getting to know their areas of improvement, for others it is to understand how to handle a difficult situation.
The lessons from this workshop were as varied. Though the days were long and hard, at the end of it no one was tired, rather everyone felt at peace, happy, and energized.
The Spicejet Bombardier Q400 was waiting at the quaint little airport. The atmosphere was relaxed. The rain had stopped. The air outside was smelling fresh and passengers were walking in a queue to board the flight, eager to get back to their homes after a hectic week. Two friends walked up the ramp and entered the aircraft.
They took adjacent seats and immediately resumed their conversation. They discussed many things in their life and their experiences. The conversation flowed effortlessly. Both of them learnt many things from the other.  Somewhere along the way, their talk also took a philosophical turn as well.
Their conversation was punctuated when the airlines crew came along to offer some sandwich and juice. And then the conversation as in an auto-pilot mode veered towards their lessons over the last 5 days. They recounted how they met, their expectations, how things unraveled and what they learnt and liked the most.  Arun told his friend how cynical he was of the efficacy of such programs while he was on his onward journey. He retold his past experience in attending such events and his unenthusiastic takeaways. But somehow he felt that this particular one was different. There was at least one ingredient which made all participants lose their inhibition and open up which made the workshop really an engaging experience. He had never ever felt it that way in other workshops. His friend also agreed and told him about similar workshops he had attended before and that somehow their effect was not as powerful. Both agreed how "Richer" have they become with the experience.
There was a deep silence for some time. When the interior lights in the cabin of Spicejet dimmed, most passengers dozed off to sleep. The friends slipped into a deep reverie thinking of what happened at the workshop and why the effect was so powerful.
Then, both realized something. They agreed effect of the workshop was amazing. Each one of the participants contributed openly to everyone else. Though all of them came from diverse backgrounds, diverse culture and had diverse education and work profile, everyone accepted the other as they are. Since the group was so diverse, there was never a sense of threat or insecurity within anyone in the group. Not a single one of them was ever competing against the other. Ideas and suggestions flowed smoothly and everyone was open to accept the feedback. People could see and understand everyone else that they were just like the other person, with similar vulnerabilities and similar doubts.  While discussing this, in a flash there was an epiphany. As the Zen Master would have said, it was simple, but profound. The epiphany was that – When someone is grounded in his own self worth and does not pose a sense of threat to the other – the other person also becomes secure and reciprocates. In this group, a sense of security prevailed. Unlike in other workshops, there was no point to be proven, no game of one-upmanship was to be played and no scores to be settled. The absence of these spices, in fact, made the whole difference. That did not make the recipe bland, but in truth made it quite appetizing and delicious.

The Spicejet landing was gentle and smooth. The friends got off the plane, picked up their bags, shook hands and parted ways, still basking in the afterglow.