Thursday, October 2, 2014

Clean India can come with Clean Habits

I had shared my my views, emotions and questions regarding how India can afford (the huge cost) and sustain (the capability to hold this initiative forever) in my blog "Swatchh Bharat mission - can India afford and sustain?"  followed by a little deeper insights in discussing India's problems associated with the 'dirty image' through "Dirty India-root cause analysis-potential solution"

I have no room for two mistakes (there are many more) when I'm in the company of my children.  Firstly, jumping a traffic signal and secondly, throwing a piece of paper even accidentally in a public place.   They catch me on the spot!!!  Why is that?  its because as parents my wife and I have taught them that these actions are "Red" and never to be done.  They strongly believe this and it was possible due to the constant reinforcement from us.

By 2020, India is set to become the "youngest country in the world" - the median individual in India will be 29 years - I read somewhere.  To bring a cleaner India image and a transformation in the country, we must target the children and the young Indians by constantly talking to them about the green and red actions, reinforcing the good habits, teaching them the value system and even demonstrating better civic sense.  Once they learn, they become aware, they follow and even stop us and others from doing.  They are not afraid of correcting the behavior of elders.  We the elders learn from them in the process and are cautious about not doing or repeating them.  

This will certainly take us towards a cleaner country.  Once we have our surroundings clean - our mind will be clean and we can focus on our personal and organizational growth resulting in a greater growth of the nation.

There are so much buzz going around implementing 5S lean methodology in organizations.  5S is a Japanese methodology to drive work place cleanliness and efficiency.  Many industries and factories religiously follow and greatly benefit from this.  

There are 5 pillars in the 5S methodology that can be applied to this mission,
  1. Seiri - Sort (dry vs. wet garbage segregation)
  2. Seiton - Set in order (streamline)
  3. Seiso - Shine (clean workplace and home, inspect and adapt)
  4. Seiketsu - Standardise (maintain high standards in cleanliness and orderliness)
  5. Shitsuke - Sustain
We can also adopt such principles at homes, schools and apartments too, to achieve cleaner environment.

Where shall we go from here...

  • lets segregate, reduce, recycle and reuse, follow 5S
  • build awareness, avoid plastics - start from self, family, neighborhood
  • educate children - we already know why its important
  • lead by! children copy every single action of ours...good or bad
  • build clean habits or add them to your value system, help others
  • join hands, partner and collaborate
To conclude my thoughts - two things that I would like all of us to watch for!!

Lets not become popular by cleaning!!

Lets not get an identity that "India is clean because its cleaned" but rather "India is clean because we the Indians have clean values and habits"

"India has a great future and all these small habits can even bring back all the Indians (read it as dreaded!) staying abroad and missing the best of India with a notion that India is not a clean country to live in...."  I took the liberty to borrow this statement from my wife. 

Dirty India-root cause analysis-potential solution

The Swatchch Bharat Abhiyan initiative flagged off by our Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has created a new wave of energy in the minds of the Indian Citizen.  In my earlier blog post Swatchh Bharat mission - can India afford and sustain? I had touched upon whether India can really afford and sustain such an expensive initiative.  For the solutions discovered for every single problem to sustain what we require a comprehensive fix and not band-aids. I have tried to apply the famous 5 why technique of problem solving to understand the potential causes and to get to the root of the problem.

  1. (first) Why Swatchch Bharat? because the country is dirty
  2. (second) Why the country is dirty? because there is garbage everywhere, people defecate in open
  3. (third) Why garbage everywhere? Why do people defecate in public? because the city is not cleaned, there is no scientific ways to dispose tons and tons of garbage, poor urban planning, over crowding...corruption, dysfunctional public access to clean toilets...etc.,
  4. (fourth) Why tons and tons of garbage? because people have the bad habit of throwing garbage everywhere
  5. (fifth) Why do they have bad habits? because clean habits are not reinforced, practiced, followed by all - children lack role models, education system doesn't talk about the modern day waste management
Its quite interesting that in the above assessment the real root cause of this problem is not due to the dirty streets or lack of toilets but its due to "why should I care" attitude, poor habits and values.

Can a grown adult change his / her habit and build on better value system?  Why are good habits difficult to form?  Why are bad habits difficult to give up?  

Aren't the acceptance to change' and the 'attitude to change' is very important?

So what is a habit?  Let's see the word definition from Merriam-Webster dictionary. 


 noun \ˈha-bət\
: a usual way of behaving : something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way
Mahatma Gandhi said this beautifully,

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, 
Your thoughts become your words, 
Your words become your actions, 
Your actions become your habits, 
Your habits become your values, 
Your values become your destiny.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

No wonder Gandhi was honored with the "Mahatma" title.

What is so obvious from this?  thoughts to words to habits to value to make the clean habits stick, to become our value and to further to shape India's destiny; the citizens and the system have to go through a huge change and its a big transformation.

The second favorite quote regarding habit was written by the famous Stephen R Covey,

“Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).” 

― Stephen R. CoveyThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Again, its obvious that only the knowledge, skill and desire will take us to places.  There are so many wonderful quotes are written on this single word Habit...some of them can be found here...

Are we all ready to go through this transformation?  Can clean India can come really from Clean Habits?

Swatchh Bharat mission - can India afford and sustain?

Why do we need to take all the efforts in cleaning the country when we can all avoid building piles and piles of garbage in our neighborhood.  Its like every single drop of water make a huge ocean...every single piece of paper, plastic, filth can count to a big pile of garbage.

I've visited various cities in the most modern and clean countries like Singapore, Switzerland, Germany etc., even there, people do throw soft drink cans, tissue papers, cigarette buds and used napkins in bus stops and food courts.  Interestingly, Singapore is one of the cleanest and I believe its because its cleaned every hour, every day and every week.  It can even afford washing the streets and apartment complexes - the government has policies, will power and money - people also are scared of being caught and the severe punishments imposed.

Can India afford this?

I'd like to share what I have learnt about the Swatchh Bharat Mission so far.
Firstly, What is Swatchh? - its written as स्वच्छ  in Hindi which has several clean, neat, fresh, cleanly, silvery, spotless etc.,

Secondly, the "Swatchh Bharat Mission", comes with a tag of the biggest ever cleanliness drive initiated in India, the largest democracy.  The mission calls every single citizen to voluntarily carry out cleaning of their office, residential premises inside and outside, neighborhood and common facilities. The estimated cost is a walloping 1.65 lakh crores (roughly 19 billion USD $) which will be spent on building toilets across the country. 

I came across a website describing this mission (doesn't appear to be an official one).  The mission is all about ending open defecation by 2019.  Year 2019 was chosen because it will be the mark of Mahatma Gandhi's 150 birth anniversary year.  Even though the initiative focuses on toilets for everyone - the mission is appeared to be a wider focused one. ."........towards a cleaner India"

While more details of this mission is awaited answers to the following questions would help us understand India's future better,
  • How exactly the segregation of waste, garbage handling and recycling is expected to improve?
    • How much does this mission focus on building the entire chain of infrastructure right from collection to disposal of waste across the country?
    • How will this be maintained or sustained - especially keeping the toilets clean and hygienic?
    • Whats the governments thinking beyond this mission?
    • On 2-Oct-2014 alone, throughout India, few thousand metric tons of garbage would have been collected in addition to the daily collection.  Thanks to this mission and the enthusiasm shown by the entire country.  How would this additional volume of garbage be handled? this question is important since the garbage dump yards barely have any space or blocked by the local villagers where they are dumped, especially in Bangalore?
    Can India sustain this?

    What could be the solution?

    Read my other blogs related to the same subject....

    Dirty India-root cause analysis-potential solution
    Clean India can come with Clean Habits

    My emotions - Swatchch Bharat

    Today my wife and children joined 40 other like minded adults and little ones to clean the dirty streets and the village surroundings at Nagenahalli-Harohalli in Yelahanka, Bangalore, India - where our most modern apartment complex Sobha Althea-Azalea is located.  Even though it was a fulfilling experience the whole experience marked a deep ambivalence in me of being happy and sad at the same time.

    Why was I happy?

    • It was a special day for India due to the birthday of our own Father of the Nation who always promoted cleanliness - equated cleanliness to godliness.  He was a great role model for the entire world and always led by example.  He went about cleaning toilets on those days and building a deeper awareness among across the society.
    • I was able to play a very small role in the vision set by our prime minister Mr. Modi to see a cleaner India through the "Swatchh Bharat Mission".  Mr. Modi is a passionate leader and I salute him for the courage in picking this dirty topic and making an attempt to bring a paradigm change in this country.  There is a nationwide trigger for this mission.  I was fortunate to join many residents from my apartment complex to clean the surroundings, pick paper, plastic, bottles, tetra packs, candy packages, milk plastic covers, used bags, tires, foot wears finally clearing clogged rain water drenches.  All that we needed was a pair of surgical gloves, few sacks and a great attitude to do this.
    • I was able to go around the village and interact with the villagers to bring in awareness to keep their home and surroundings clean.  
    • After about an hour, I had realized that we were not alone; a group of enthusiastic, organized and disciplined RSS volunteers (children and adults) joined us to clear the muck and garbage, stopped every single passerby, politely asking them to join the cleanliness drive.  The best moment was when I interacted with their leader; he assured and showed a lot of interest in repeating this frequently through community collaboration.
    • The best one was when I was forced (a planned one by my friends? :)) into providing a speech at the village school about cleanliness and garbage segregation.  I was fortunate to deliver this in a little funny way to a bunch of wide eyed young school children.  I was able to impress them to bring in a change in their home - "not to mix wet and dry garbage" - through my garbled Kannada.  I was lucky this time to get an easy topic something that I've learnt (and practicing) through the green initiative drive in our residentialcomplex. When we departed every child repeated after me "from now on two bins at our home".  I've realized that this reinforcement must continue to educate them to segregate further.
    Why I felt sad?

    • It all started with a small conversation in the morning near the railway signal next to my residence.  I was the first one to reach the railway cross where this Swachh Bharat drive was about to be flagged off by the local MLA.  I met the man who guards the railway gate and said hello to him and asked him if we was aware of the local MLA's visit.  He denied any knowledge and asked me what the special occasion was.  After briefly explaining him I said there were going to be people gathering in a short while to clean the village streets and also educate the villagers.  His response shocked me and made me sad.   He said,  "Sir, my surrounding is already clean.....and why to worry about the streets?"  
    • All of us know that garbage pile is a serious environment issue, an eyesore, something that has already tarnished the image of the nation and is an embarrassment to all Indians whenever we take around our foreign friends and colleagues.  
    • Such a mission appears to me as just a Band-Aid to a deep rooted problem. I'm might sound pessimistic here but this is the reality.  It’s a shame that we need a mission like this to change the country and its image.  How is this different from fighting obesity due to poor life style through medication but not fixing the ways to lead a healthy lifestyle?
    • Even after so many years of shouting and screaming by all the social workers and government bodies, placing public messages for not throwing garbage, keeping warning signs, placing garbage bins - people continue to do what they are comfortable with.  It’s common to see many apartment dwellers living in the higher floors throwing bags of garbage from their windows (they even choose to do this during the night times in fear of being caught).   I've seen people throwing used diapers, garbage, cigarette packets and buds outside of their moving cars into roads and rivers. It doesn't matter whether the people in the car are educated or not; rich or poor - I'm surprised by this irresponsible, idiotic and callous attitude.
    Can this situation improve? 
    What transformation a mass cleaning effort like this, executed across the Indian continent, on one single day alone can bring to the entire nation?
    What is root of this problem? 

    Saturday, September 27, 2014

    Is running making me a better employee?

    I recently read a blog written by Oliver on why runners usually make great employees.  I totally enjoyed reading it and thanks to Oliver for reflecting what I truly believe in - link here....

    I started running since 2011 and never stopped after that.  I've run over 5000 kms so far and ever since I started running, many positive things have happened in my life.  

    What did running do to me and to my life? 

    Did it change anything to my work life?

    1. a disciplined person… plan, practice (train harder), execute – my races, learning, projects

    2. camaraderie, appreciation for people and their work and not to compare with others which is totally meaningless.  If there is one, its only within me vs. what I was a month, a year or even a decade before –  greater appreciation for my fellow runners and their capabilities, however week or strong they are vs. appreciation towards my colleagues. I cheer for others when I run and I cheer my fellow colleagues

    3. how to achieve something in my personal and professional life which is complicated, longer, tougher not to forget very painful my tough races vs. challenging project situations to deal at work

    4. better risk manager - participating in any event, 1000+ things can go wrong...rain, weather, terrain, blisters, fuel, hydration, shoes… - during my runs or while running or at my profession career

    5. how to set complicated goals and chop them into bits and pieces - work towards achieving them successfully my race plan and preparations vs. my life / career plans 

    6. smile when in pain…and try my best to bounce back really fast - when I’m injured or hurt during a misunderstanding 

    7. celebrate every milestone… - whenever I touch the finish line or whenever I complete a task successfully, small or big

    8. run towards conflict or anything that I never thought that I could do....continuously indulge and learn something, totally enjoy everything that happens on the way, be it success or a different result  - coming out my comfort zone and starting something absolutely new at work or. ran the Comrades in 2014 I was fortunate to complete till Drummond (the half way point) despite my foot injury that kept me away from my last one month of training.  I've already signed up for the 2015 Comrades up-hill run.

    9. exerciser patience and endure to success - my grueling training and races vs. approaching a tough assignment

    10. be fit - both physically and mentally - I always believe in getting fit to run than run to get fit....this belief help me in working on the fundamentals

    Lastly, I started enjoying nature and its beauties on my way…and also managed to inspire a few...and a million miles more to explore...

    Is running making me a better employee?  I don't know about it - but it certainly making me a better person.....


    I would like to remember and give credits to the three cheerleaders of my life, my wife Meera to be the best critic, my son Aditya to inspire and get inspired by me (a fine athlete in making too) and my sweetest daughter Anjali who totally enjoys funny workout sessions with me along with her friends

    I'm neither poor nor that entitled

    The insightful report that I read today on how students background affects the performance made me think about my own life. "Wealthy...