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.


  1. I read this article and believe me, its really gripping and makes you all go all the way down till the end.
    I really enjoyed reading this piece.

    1. Thanks Rupish for stopping by my blog. Your kind words are a source of encouragement.

  2. Hi, this is very good writing. I loved it :)


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