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Sunday, 27 March 2011

'Happy, Jolly and Oh So Lively'

'Are you gay?'

Was the totally out of the blue, indignant question.
Which resulted in my customary stuttering and obligatory lispy tone reply,

'What do you mean, kinda really happy, as in jolly & gay, in which case YES, I'm always happy,  jolly & oh so lively and oh so GAY'
(immediately, I'd realised the 'oh so' part of my reply wasn't necessary!!)

Let me set the scene, decadent bar in a luxurious hotel, in central Paris. Surrounded by incentive winners and the person intrigued by my 'oh so' gay-ness, a seasoned business leader, who constantly preaches not to prejudge!!!

'No, no, no I don't mean that Mike, not Happy, I mean do you bat for the other side?'

'What ? Like play cricket for India, no I'm not very sporty and I hate cricket'  was my, digging myself further reply.

'No Mike!!' clearly getting frustrated, edgy and (unfortunately), louder and attracting attention from others,  'I'll ask you straight, are you a homosexual??'

Suddenly, there was SILENCE in the otherwise rowdy bar (it seemed at least to me), you could have heard a pin drop...........Slight pause, wry smile, no direct reply, but a question instead.

'Interesting question, one which I'll gladly answer, if you tell me why you ask'

Now it was his turn to stutter and not look so confident.

'Err not like I'm interested or anything, as you know I'm married'

Well that was a sigh of relief!! Not that I was asking that!! Anyway, he continued (probably wishing he'd never asked in the first place!!)

'Well Mike, it's like this, you're well dressed, you're politely spoken, you're not afraid to wear bright colours, my wife never feels uncomfortable around you and loves talking with you and oh yes, you never talk about your private life, so that's led US to believe you're probably gay'

At this moment in time (especially as the whole bar now seemed interested), thanks to the ounce of common sense that intervened, the words that came to mind were not the words that materialised through my mouth.
After all, I didn't want to insult this esteemed leader, even though he had just demonstrated a complete lack of tact, judgement and general people skills.

'You said US, you mean there are more of you, oh you tease, I'm just glad you didn't know, I soooo love musicals, have the entire Gloria Gaynor and Diana Ross collections, oh and of course, I'm such a FABULOUS dancer too'

Unfortunately, that sentence came out in an extremely camp voice (well you try and say it ANY other way!!)
At which point, people laughed, he was red-faced and clearly wished he could disappear, I walked (some would say 'minced'), off  with my double Babycham!!

(Incidentally, the only reason his wife didn't feel uncomfortable around me, was because I was one of the few men that didn't stare at her breasts...........well not blatantly anyway!!)

PRECONCEPTION & PREJUDGEMENT, surely two mindsets that can deviate the mind into incorrect thoughts and feelings, which could result in the wrong actions being taken.

Yet it's so unavoidable, we're programmed with EVERY thing that happens to us from the moment we're born, not to mention poisoning from the media and the influence of all the people we meet during our lives.

A colleague of mine introduced me to their new partner, who just happened to be wearing a brown cord jacket, instantly I thought, DULL Geograpgphy Teacher.
Why? Because somewhere in my tiny mind is a memory of a dull geography teacher who wore similar clothes, therefore my brain had recalled such memories and associated them to this person.
On this occasion, I was RIGHT - totally DULL!! Or was it that with my prejudging he never got a fair chance from the outset, I had already decided he was going to be dull, hence my interaction with him may have been lack-lustre, which may have resulted his being the same in return.

In fact, I can guarantee YOU have made hundreds of such prejudgements just this week, ones which have directed, coloured and channelled your views, actions & emotions.
People say don't prejudge, that's a VERY tall order and one that goes against EVERYTHING we've ever learnt during the path of our lives, (both consciously and subconsciously). Yet imagine how different things could be if you could take everything and everyone, on their own individual merit.
Think of some of the decisions you've made in the last few days, there is no doubt 100% (rightly or wrongly), have been based on preconceived ideas & emotions.
Think further, imagine the difference in the world - there are major conflicts, loss of lives and huge wars caused by prejudging.

The answer isn't simple, except to consciously assess almost EVERY thought you have and by doing so teach your mind to question it's own learning, try it for a DAY, question every idea, every feeling and every action you take - undoubtedly you will THINK, SEE and ACT differently.

The way we view others can seriously affect our personal and professional lives.
It's an area of human nurture, learning & mindset I find fascinating and one that is almost impossible to conquer - let me know how you get on and how you personally try and change the learning's of a lifetime (either publicly through this blog or you can email me at Michael.Khatkar@SKY.COM)

In the meantime, I fancy some dancing to a rousing rendition of Gloria Gaynor's 'I am, what I am'


Monday, 14 March 2011

Fat & Tired!!!

'You've put on weight and you're looking tired'

Thanks for that, whether I have porked out a bit or not, or whether or not I need more sleep, I really didn't need to hear that as I've just arrived at a party, in (at least in my mind), wearing my best clothes and looking good.

Two things to consider here.
1. The effect of that comment
2. The person and reasons that person makes such comments.

I know you've all heard one or both of those comments at some point, or if not those precise words, other equally as damning statements.
Whether they're made naively, innocently, honestly or with complete intent, you've been told something similar.
Worse still, you may have made, or regularly say such things.

Back to my party, with the thought that I'm putting on weight and must look crap because I'm not sleeping enough, my entire mood changed, from the anticipation of a good night to keeping my fat fingers off the crisps, getting home, planning my diet and getting to bed early!!!
Actually, as much as I detested hearing those words, it (on this occasion), wasn't too bad, because my instant retort of 'Thank you, if people like me didn't look so s**t, how could people like you look so good', left the 'lacking in social etquette' a**e, slightly bewildered and confused, wondering whether I was being disingenuous, sincere or just plain sarcastic.

Anyway STOP telling people they're looking tired, overweight, wearing naff clothes, unsuccessful etc, etc. UNLESS you're a partner, a close relative or a very close friend. Of course, you may want to say such a thing because you genuinely care for the person and you're concerned about their welfare, in which case choose your moment carefully, in other words not in earshot of others and certainly not just before they're about to enjoy a night out.

The GOLDEN RULE: 'If you haven't got anything POSITIVE to say then SHUT THE F**K-UP'.

If you naively make such comments, then just remember, how do you feel when someone makes such a statement to you ? I'm certain it's NOT an uplifting experience. In other words don't deflate others with your words. You don't appreciate it, why would they??!!

Naivety and a natural lack of social skills is almost acceptable, after all life is a learning process and sometimes common sense isn't always common to everyone.

What about the other kind of purveyor of such commentary, as was the case in my fat & tired situation?
Well that's a different kettle of (insecure), fish altogether!!

I know (and I'm sure you all do), people who HAVE to make a personal statement about you , which is sometimes embarrassing, rude or just downright ignorant, EVERY time they're in your vicinity.
You almost expect it from them and without fail, they ALWAYS deliver.


Quite simple really, in my opinion it actually makes them feel better. In other words, every time such a derogatory put-down (sometimes disguised in a caring voice!!!!), is made, it's almost a mental air-punch for them, while shouting out a long loud 'YEEESSSSS'.
Okay, they may not all mentally punch the air, HOWEVER I'm telling you, it releases a surge of subconscious, feel-good chemicals and they enjoy the feeling.
Don't get me wrong, some don't do it JUST to feel good, they do it to compensate for their own insecurities and as a result it compensates for their own lacking, hence as a default they feel better.
There is also another reason for their behaviour, they might just be intimidated by you, they may feel inferior to you and such actions, once again compensate for their inability to cope with someone who is perceived as better than they are.

THINK about someone who fits the bill, someone who cannot resist telling you you're getting fatter, or your clothes are unfashionable, or you're looking unwell etc, etc, in fact when you think of such a person you will recall they have never (or rarely), complimented you.
Think hard, you'll realise the person is probably quite an insecure little individual (who has built some of their confidence by using you and others as a pin cushion).
Sometimes, the comments aren't even usually said in a nasty manner, they're disguised as comedy comments or rarely, as caring comments.
The worst thing is, some of you have just identified some of your so-called friends who fit the description.
I guess in defence of these monkeys, there are a small handful who are so subconsciously addicted to the feel good factor of f***ing anther's day up, they don't even realise they do it anymore.
Nevertheless, I suspect those unaware types are few and far between. The rest are contrived, mental air-punching, socially inadequate no-marks!!! AND if you think of them in that way, their puerile and irrelevant comments won't bother you as much.
Alternatively, you could just have a repertoire of killer replies, which will ensure they don't ever utter another word to you, such as 'f**k off you insecure no-mark', only joking, don't ever stoop to my level and don't EVER just give in and agree with them or get all defensive.
Sometimes, JUST letting the comment flow over you with no reaction, almost like you haven't heard it, may even be the best remedy.
Naturally, when such a person does it to ridicule you in-front of others, it's more difficult to ignore.
If it EVER bothers you too much and you can't spout out a comedy return or let it just wash over you, a private word in the ear of the purveyor will result in you feeling better and them knowing better in the future.
Remember, you NEVER need to feel less than brilliant thanks to someone else being insecure & inadequate.
These people NEED pin-cushions to prick their little poisons into, it's the only way their confidence is boosted (remember they're not all like that, as I said earlier some are just a little naive and socially unaware).

If YOU, regularly use this behaviour (especially to prop up your fragile persona), with other people, you're really not making friends or influencing people, in fact I suspect most people just see you as a jumped-up bully, with a fairly low level, uninspiring personality. In fact, if you do it enough, you're probably becoming a parody of YOURSELF.
I could be wrong, however isn't that how you would feel about someone, if the roles were reversed??

Anyway, the world is full of completely insignificant, no-marks, who use other people to prop, build and compensate for their contemptible, unimportant and minuscule personalities.
Nevertheless, they CANNOT make you feel inferior or less than amazing without YOUR consent.

Me, I'm off for an early night and Weight-Watchers in the morning!!!


Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Ground Zero effect

New York - June 23rd 2010.
Filming a promotional video for an incentive.
We're on a helicopter flying around the Statue of Liberty, it's an exhilarating sensation, the rush of take-off, the jaunty ride, I'm amazed at this monument, an almighty symbol of Freedom & Security standing so proud and saying so much (all my life I've seen it trashed in films from Godzilla to Cloverfield, every monster, every alien, every stray meteorite, every disaster has hit Lady Liberty and here she finally is, feels like I've known her all my life!!).
The mood is bordering on delirious, I just know our Network will be thrilled with the New York incentive and to take in the enormity of the place this Helicopter ride will be the icing on the cake.
The camera is rolling, I'm fluffing my lines as per usual, the banter is fantastic and we're musing about how we've fallen in love with old New York.
OMG, how could we have forgotten about it ? How did we fail to mention it during the last 48 hours, since our arrival in NYC ?
A clump of insignificant cranes on an everyday, unnoticeable building site, almost invisible among the heady skyscrapers that surround it.....That is, until the pilot pointed and said 'that's Ground Zero'. Total Silence.
The building site with half finished buildings, blocks of concrete, deep dug foundations with iron girders sticking out of them, builders milling around as they would on any building site, became the most significant square in the world, let alone in Manhattan.
This was the area that made the whole world come to a complete standstill on September 11th 2001. Suddenly thoughts & images that we've seen and remembered a million times since that date came flooding back....Twin Towers, sketchy video footage of the planes striking, the plume of smoke coming from the point of impact, the collapse of both buildings and thousands of people that lost their lives, thousands others searching and grieving for ones they lost - endless images of despair and destruction.
We're all in total disbelief that this is where it all happened, there is a spooky presence about the place, it's almost scary and haunting, so much happened here in the space of a couple of hours that altered the world forever and yet there is a strange sense of optimism and hope, remembering the courage, affection and camaraderie of the aftermath.
The helicopter returns to the helipad and there is time to film a closing scene, my lines are worse than usual, my mood has changed, I can't stop thinking about the 9/11 building site I've just seen and how it's probably more important and iconic than any other monument in New York,
By now my goal to return to NYC has another condition attached to it - Next time, I really want to go to Ground Zero rather than just fly over it. I can't explain why, it's not morbid fascination, I didn't lose anyone personally, I think it's because in my life, like in the lives of millions of people around the world, it became a significant & emotional event, it really has been a case of 'do you remember where you were on September 11th 2001 ?' and almost everyone can recall their precise location, feelings and disbelief.

New York - 20th February 2011 
A goal achieved, I'm back in (what became after my first visit, last June), my number one destination on earth.
This time it's bitterly cold, but just as energetic, wild, amazing and exhilarating as my first visit, this time it's a personal* trip, there is no film crew following, no lines and no microphone.

Sunday afternoon, 20th February, Ground Zero on foot.
It's all boarded up, but you can see the cranes towering above, there are ambitious plans to re-open the site on the 10th anniversary this year (OMG has it already been 10 years??!!).
The outspoken man in the info booth, says it WILL be done, followed by the comment 'I was here when there were bits of planes & limbs scattered in the streets and I will be here when it re-opens, it's all about HOPE & LIFE'
Indeed, once you walk around to the vast viewing area (from inside another building), there is a sense of HOPE, you find yourself mesmerised and staring at the sprawling mess of girders, trucks, concrete, cranes and activity. Bizarrely, everyone else looking through the viewing window is equally fixated and focused on the sight. People of all ages, creeds and nationalities just staring but not saying much at all.
A school trip of girls arrives, the teacher assembles them, they too stare in silence, the teacher gives a brief outline and then finishes with the line 'Thousands of people innocently went to work on September 11th 2001 and never returned. Ground Zero represents moving on about rebuilding, about belief, about living your life no matter what adversities you encounter, don't ever forget today is a gift, that's why it's called the present, value your life' at which point I almost applauded her.
What an amazing sentence to tell her pupils, it clearly went over some of their heads, but for me, it was the most poignant statement I'd ever heard from any teacher. I had this feeling, she was relaying her own sentiments and need to fulfil, enjoy and live her life through her touching sentence. Nevertheless FANTASTIC!!!!
That was the 'Ground Zero Effect', summed up by this NYC teacher, talking to her pupils,
I'm certain there are many human travesties and tragedies with death and destruction, that happen on a daily basis (the tsunami in Asia springs to mind - a terrifying natural disaster, that killed thousands of people), that one can think about and then relate such sentiments to, however most of us saw this happening live, it affected us, it bothered us and it's still a regular reminder and you can physically watch it all being rebuilt.

I guess, my question is, why does it sometimes take something as vast as Ground Zero or in fact any of the other tragedies, happenings etc to help us question & value the importance of LIFE & existence.

Is it because we get caught up in just living and the rigmarole that ensues, with the routine of each day just passing time by ?

Is it because some of us are so busy planning for the future that we forget to live TODAY ?

I don't really know, I just know what happened when I was in NYC - it made me question life and the things I do, not to mention the pertinent question of 'where has the last decade since September 2001 gone?'

Maybe we need to do more to appreciate TODAY, maybe sometimes we're too quick to snatch a moment of pleasure we should/could have, forgetting that TODAY is the most important moment we have, that TODAY is a tragic time-bomb ticking away, one which could explode at any given moment, one which we have absolutely NO control over, one which is dangerous and volatile.
One of my best friends, worries on a daily basis as to what he will do when his Interest only mortgage expires, substantiated you may think, considering when it's term is complete he will have to find a huge chunk of money to pay the mortgage back, or risk losing his home, however there is another 20 years before it expires, so why is he killing himself today? I often say to him, 'why bother living, you're already dead' (and I'm his friend - who needs enemies with a friend like me!!!)
I'm sure there were people who went to work on September 11th 2001, or people who were in Sri Lanka when the Tsunami struck in 2005, that had similar burdens and worries - in a matter of moments, their worlds came to an end.

I love a Vanilla Latte with an extra shot of espresso (camp but tasty!!!), and I have about five a week.
However, I recently read a brilliant self-development book (I won't mention which one), which outlined how the compound effect of not having such a small daily pleasure (and a daily coffee was the exact example), could save a vast amount of money (in my case a yearly saving of 5 x £4.00 x 52 weeks, which equals a grand total of £1040) - Great!! However, my  5 times a week tiny unadulterated, personal pleasure, vastly outweighs the yearly saving of £1040 (to be precise that's almost 260 moments of pleasure!!!) A Vanilla Latte with an extra shot of espresso, may be a ridiculous, puerile example of living your life (and that example from that book may be slightly out of context), but nevertheless outlines the thinking of how important TODAY is, even if it is a tiny pleasure.
The self-development book in question is fantastic and has guided and improved much of my personal thinking, however don't ever forget 'LIFE IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU'RE PLANNING YOUR FUTURE'
There is no doubt we have to plan the future and think about what we need to do, I just don't want to forget about TODAY and how ALIVE I am in the present (after all it's a GIFT!!).

Closing line from one of my favourite poems (Camp but appropriate)

'Each minute be with pleasure passed:
Were it not madness to deny
To live because we're sure to die?'

Enough said - LIVE your LIFE!!

I'm off for an irresponsible VANILLA LATTE, while I plan my FUTURE!!!!