Desi fundas 101: Education – a fundamental driver of Indian success abroad

The big red letters on the front of our school used to read, in two languages:
In Punjabi: “Vidhya insaan di teesari akh hai!”
In Hindi: “Vidhya insaan ki teesari aankh hai!”

Meaning: Education (or knowledge) is the 3rd eye for a person.

Growing up, we all knew that some of the rules should not and could not be questioned; rules like:

  • Respect your books. Stepping on a book, even by mistake is a sin. A book never belongs under your feet.
  • Education is your priority number one.
  • Respect your teachers….

Continue reading “Desi fundas 101: Education – a fundamental driver of Indian success abroad”

Hinglish of India – Indian idioms and phrases

Hinglish: Indian English lost-in-translations abroad – Idioms and phrases from India

“What is your good name, sir?”
“It is nice knowing you, Steve Ji!”
“Hey Boss, are you enjoying the fair?”
“Simply! Enjoying to the maximum!”
“How was the movie?”

“I will give you a ring over the week-end.”
“OK boss”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this conversation as long as both parties are on the same page. The exchange above is perfectly understandable between two Indians in certain Indian regions.

English in India is spoken very differently as compared to the same language overseas. Our Indian mother-language and the grammar has significant impact on English – taught as a second or third language throughout the country. Sometime, the Indian English – due to the influence of Hindi and other local languages – is also called Hinglish.

Just like the conversation above, ‘Hinglish’  is quite common within Indian communities, ( “Tired, kya?” = “Are you tired?”). There is no harm, no foul if both sides understand it.

However, we tend to include some ‘Hinglish’ even when talking to American or English audience abroad. That is where we run into trouble, some miscommunication to say the least.

Many English words, Idioms and Phrases have different meaning in India or are used only in India. When used overseas, they don’t feel right or mean something entirely different.

Here are some of the common idioms and phrases, and their closest (or alternatives) usage in proper English when outside India:

What is your good name?: A polite way of asking someone’s name; it comes from translation of Hindi phrase – Shubh naam (good name). Politeness still intact, ‘May I know your name’ or ‘You name please?’ is more appropriate in non-Indian settings.

Eve teasing: It refer to sexual harassment of females, or taunting them – as in schools or colleges or in bazaars etc.

Poor Joke (pj): ‘Poor joke’ is not a commonly used phrase, a more common way of conveying the same thing is ‘bad joke’!

Time-pass: Relates to doing something trivial or of little importance – something that does not matter. ‘Nothing important’ is one of the many alternative way of responding, instead of ‘time-pass’.

Time-waste: This is worse than ‘time-pass’, doing something you don’t even enjoy. ‘It is a waste of time’ is a similar expression often used in Western countries.

Himalayan blunder:Very big mistake, a mistake of the size of Himalaya mountain. Blunder generally means ‘big’ mistake..may not need too many adjectives that are not commonly used overseas. Continue reading “Hinglish of India – Indian idioms and phrases”

How to improve your communication skills

Communications – the ability to share and exchange ideas and thoughts – consist of a wide range of skills. You cannot be a good communicator just by being a better speaker, or just by being a good listener.

And, if the conversation or exchange is not in your mother tongue (the first language) – such as some one from India living abroad – it takes some extra efforts to be good at it. For improving your communications skills, here are some of the main areas to consider :

Know what you are talking about: A communications or an exchange of ideas or the conversation is hollow and empty if it has no substance. Subject-matter knowledge helps with a meaningful discourse. And, if it is just a friendly ‘chat about nothing’ – the small talk – that can also be improved, just read on!

Be a good listener: Listening is the first and foremost part of the communication. It helps with understanding the topic of discussion (‘Know what you are talking about’ – the step above). A good listener also earns the respect or the speakers and is always in-tune with the discussion. For details on improving this skill, refer to the article titled ‘how to improve the listening skills.’ The importance of listening is highlighted in a separate article linked here.

Improve verbal communications: Along with listening skills, equally important is the ability to deliver the message – the talking part. A good command of the language, a good vocabulary and ability to effectively speak are the desired attributes for being good at verbal communication. Those with mother-tongue (the first language) different than the communication language often struggle in this sector. If English is your second language, or if you need to improve your accent in the new language, make sure to consider the tips and suggestion in the article titled, ‘A self-help guide to lose your accent.Continue reading “How to improve your communication skills”

Whatcha say? – Importance of Communication skills

At home or overseas – Importance of communication skills

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”~ Lee Iacocca

“They don’t seem to fully understand me”
“Am I speaking a foreign language or something?”
“How come no body is listening to me?”
“Is it my accent that is limiting my range of communication?”

Your ability to communicate defines you as a person. You can be the most knowledgeable person around, but if you cannot share your ideas – if you cannot communicate – your knowledge may not mean much.

One of the main hurdles in adapting to a new place or becoming a part of the new culture is the difficulty of integrating into the new society. Our ability to effectively communicate with other is very important in adjusting to a new place, or a new culture. In fact, our success or failure in any walk of life often depends on how well we communicate with others. Any business, any workplace, any relation, any family, any society… built around communication.

In the basic sense, a communication takes place when two or more people share or exchange information, ideas, gossips, knowledge etc. The main ways of communications include:
Verbal or oral communications: This is where we talk and listen. The ideas are exchanged, the rumors are discussed, a mother sings a lullaby to the little one, a leader delivers her vision to the followers…..Most of our daily communications are oral, unless you are a writer hiding in the basement – writing away your ideas or fantasies, waiting to be discovered. The oral communication almost always involves personal contact with the audience, with some exceptions such as talking on the phone.
This is the area – the verbal exchange – where most of us struggle in a new place or in a new culture. The verbal communications are often different place-to-place, even if the same language is spoken. Every place has its own ways of communicating:

  • local slang
  • local style
  • local dialect
  • use of local terms that an outsider may not understand

Continue reading “Whatcha say? – Importance of Communication skills”

12 Self-help tips for Indians to improve English language command

Self-help suggestions and tips on improving Indian-English or Desi-English language abroad

“Are you enjoying the movie?”
Translated literally from Tamil, simply means absolutely.

There is nothing wrong with the above conversation if both sides know the intended meaning. Now, move that conversation to somewhere in USA or Canada or England, with someone who does not know the ‘Tamil-English’, the actual meaning is lost in the translations. 🙂

English language and English grammar is a bit tricky for those who are not used to it, for those with English as a second language. The basic mistakes we make are when we ‘think’ in our mother-tongue, and then translate in our head (Many of us say ‘translate in my mind 🙂 ), and then speak in ‘translated’ English. Here are some self-help tips on improving desi English overseas:

1. Knowing and Having – the problem of the progressive tense: many Indians often translate and speak with excessive and often inappropriate use of progressive verb form.

For example, consider this:
“I am having a fever.”
“I am having a small family”
“I am knowing that you are having a party without sending me invitation.”

Of course, the correct way of saying is:
“I have a fever”
“I have a small family”
“I know you are having a party without inviting me.”
Continue reading “12 Self-help tips for Indians to improve English language command”

Karma and Rebirth – The logical choice

This is a guest post from Vanamali Thotapalli, sharing thoughts and views on Karma, Rebirth and Life

Karma and Rebirth is the only logical choice – no more Hell, thank God! This can be proven by the following examples:

A child continues to misbehave in a store despite the admonitions of his parents. Eventually he breaks a product. Do the parents simply forgive the child? Then the child learns nothing. Or do you give him a beating? Use physical violence against a child? In the olden days this was quite common, but today this action might get you jail time! So, what do present-day parents do? Today we talk to the child, make him see why his actions were wrong, have him apologize to the store owner, and then make him do odd jobs to help pay for the cost of the product. This way the child learns the right lesson, imparted by loving parents using non-violent methods. This is essentially Karma and Rebirth in action! If a Hindu were to commit an error but was unable to correct it before his death, he is given another chance to do so in the next life. He is not going to be physically punished, but he is not going to get away with his error either.

A second example: A driver makes an error on the highway resulting in horrific consequences. He dies; the occupants of the other cars survive but endure terrible injuries. They go through multiple surgeries; some of them lose their life-savings and houses, and are forced to live in home-less shelters. Some religions teach that God forgives everyone, but can one be so callous as to enter heaven knowing that the victims of the accident are suffering? This brings to mind some of the henchmen of Hitler who escaped to countries like Argentina and lived a happy life while their victims were left to deal with the pain and suffering.

What if God gave you a choice? Either go to heaven or be reborn and maybe help the victims of the car accident or others in a similar situation? Which option would you choose? For me, honestly, there is only one option. Karma and Rebirth is the only logical choice. Continue reading “Karma and Rebirth – The logical choice”

How to change a perception

How to change others’ perceptions about you!

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” ~ Warren Buffett

“My boss thinks I am lazy!”
“Well, you are always last to the office in the morning.”
“But, I am always last to leave in the evening.”
“Yeah, but she is already gone by then, she wouldn’t know that.”
“I seriously need to do something to change her perception about me!”

Perception is you mind’s eye:
A perception is how we ‘see’ something or someone in our own mind. The common beliefs or assumptions play a role in the existing perception. Based on many factors including social and environmental surroundings, this is the way our brain ‘perceives’ something or someone. True or false, a strong perception is no less than the real truth. This is how we see things in our ‘mind’s eye’.
Once established in our brain, a perception becomes a part of our thinking, a part of our life; it is hard to change.

How to change the perceptions:
So, how do you change others’ perception about you?
Some perceptions are easy to change. For example, in the conversation above, the boss has a perception about one of her employees of being lazy. That perception can be easily changed by being proactive, by showing up to the office before anybody else does EVERYDAY. Note that to change a perception, you have to be consistent -again and again.

The most effective way to change a perception is to prove it – the perception- wrong consistently. Show everybody that what they believe is very different from the reality. Here are a few common approaches for changing a perception

Create awareness: Let everyone around you know that what they perceive is not true. Share the facts; share the information to prove your side. Nobody denies the facts – unless you are dealing with someone whose mind is already made-up no matter what; in that case, it is not a perception but a deep rooted bias and prejudice. Continue reading “How to change a perception”

The problem with Positive Thinking!

Theory of ‘Positive Thinking’ is fundamentally flawed!

Everybody is preaching ‘Positive Thinking’ these days. You probably receive these fancy quotes and messages in your email. Positive thinking is a fashion now.

Imagine that you are very sick and every part of your body hurts; you are in constant pain, and have no energy to even move. However, a medicine-man tells you to keep smiling and stay positive….
A single mother loses her job, her only means of income for her family. A motivational speaker tells her not to worry, not to be depressed; …. Everything will be okay…..
You are falling off a cliff. Well, don’t worry about your skull about to be crushed. Think positive!!….

Are you kidding me?
Stay positive and be optimistic all the time? Keep smiling even when I know that things are bad, and about to get worse?…

It seems like we are trying to find every excuse in the book to avoid the reality. Instead of facing the true situation, the advice is to ignore it –‘look at the beautiful sun-rise, isn’t it beautiful? Don’t worry even if you are not doing well! Just admire the nature- the moon, the stars, the rainbow…!!’
How could you think about the sun-rise if your own world is tumbling down?

The sad truth is that the reality of our mortal existence does not guarantee a rosy season all the time. Along with the sunny days, we are bound to encounter some storms, may be many more storms and cloudy days. That is how it is; just look around yourself, you can find many examples in your everyday life.

The fact is, you cannot stay positive all the time. You and I – all of us- are bound to go through highs and lows of life. So is the nature of the world; so is the life.

We – all of us – always have something to worry about. Even the kings worry constantly. Bigger thrones have bigger problems – more worries. That is how the world works. You cannot be happy ALL the time. If you are happy all the time, underline this – there is something wrong with your head. Continue reading “The problem with Positive Thinking!”

Life after Diwali

How to handle the after-Diwali blues! 🙁

“The past is behind, learn from it.
The future is ahead, prepare for it.
The present is here, live it.”
~ Thomas Monson

The Diwali celebrations are over. It is about time to clean-up the remains of the burnt candles, put away the party supplies, tidy up the kitchen and rest of the house….

The left-over sweets and treats are disappearing, at least the tastier ones. The festivities are over; back to reality!

For those of us who are lucky to get Diwali holidays or time off, the vacation is over. The kids have to focus back on the school and deal with the burden of homework once again. The grown-up are heading back to work; the boring and monotonous routine of 9 to 5 jobs resumes. It is a struggle every morning to get out of the bed and face the new day.

Welcome to the real world again, the daily grind!

With the winter knocking on the door, it is not uncommon to go through this depressing cycle and mood swings after Diwali celebrations.

Now, how can you boost your spirits again? What can we do to minimize the Diwali nostalgia?

Well, to help deal with this post Diwali syndromes, there are a few adjustments we can make in our thinking and the attitude. To help with the after Diwali blues, here are some of the changes you may want to focus on:

1. Thank God it is quiet again: Think about it. Now that it is all over, you can finally take a break from all the running around. No more chaos; no more decorations to worry about; no more cooking the special feasts. The deafening sound of loud music and fireworks is a past history. Continue reading “Life after Diwali”

How to overcome the Culture Shock abroad

10 tips on how to overcome the overseas culture shock

The overseas culture shock is common for anyone traveling or migrating abroad. Some of us are quick to adapt, willing to accept the change. Others hate it and don’t like customs or traditions of living a life different that what they are used to growing up.
The fact is that it is not a matter of one or two days; if you plan to live abroad, you should be willing to adapt to what comes with it – the new culture, a different society and an entirely different everyday life.

Adaptation is not a quick or overnight thing; getting used to the new place can take a long time. However, here are 10 tips on how to overcome or minimize the culture shock abroad:

1. Accept the change: Change is part of life; it is a part of the journey. Don’t resist something just because it is different. Give it a try. Millions and millions before you have gone through the same experience abroad. You may actually like the ‘new you’ if you try.

2. Learn the local language: This step is very important, actually the most important. If you really want to adapt to the new place, learn the local language, the local way of communicating. This includes getting used to the new accent and losing the old accent; the local way of pronunciation and the local slang – the whole nine yards. And, don’t forget to learn the art of small talk in a new society.

3. Venture out and try first hand: Don’t isolate yourself from the local culture. Expose yourself to the local common places where social life breathes. The shopping mall, the hair salon, the barber shop, the community center, the local parks….. – go be a part of the day-to-day outdoor life. The best way to adapt is by trying it firsthand. Continue reading “How to overcome the Culture Shock abroad”

15 Tips on how to make a lasting first impression

“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances” ~Oscar Wilde

The first impression is what others perceive or think of you as soon as they first see you. The first impression matters; it is part of human nature to judge a book by its cover.
So, what can you do to leave a good and lasting first impression? Here are a few tips:
1. Be punctual: Be on time, always. Let the other person or other party know if you will be running late. Making others wait is considered rude, and it leaves a bad first impression!
2. Appearance and Dress code: Dress the way you want to present yourself for a given occasion. Your appearance – head to toe – matters. It includes the dress, the hair, the body-language…
3. Introduce yourself: Introduce yourself first, shake hand warmly. A hug is okay if you are sure that the other person won’t mind, or if it is a part of the culture or tradition.
4. Be confident, but calm: Don’t be nervous. Stay calm and collected, but carry yourself with confidence. The idea is not to come across as over-confident or trying too hard. Continue reading “15 Tips on how to make a lasting first impression”

10 Simple but useful life lessons from Gandhi

Simple but very useful tips from Gandhi’s life

It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi

Today is Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday. On this day, here are a few simple lessons that we can learn from his journey and his life:

1. Believe in the power of simple logic: Want to succeed in something? – Then work hard for it. Want to get something done? -Just do it! We complicate our lives for no reason. Keep it simple!

2. Let go of the ego: Our ego is our worst enemy sometimes, well, most of the times. We are not so special all the time 🙂 ! What we think of ourselves is not always what others think of us. We should always try to stay grounded and be humble.

3. Discipline in diet to control/lose weight: Looking for a way to maintain healthy weight? According to most of the studies done, the body weight is most dependent on our eating and dietary habits. Have a will-power to say no to the food, especially the yummy ones! Find a cause and fast for it, like Gandhi did! May be not to the same extremes, but you got the idea, right? 🙂

4. Be kind and caring: Don’t bully anybody; be kind to one and all. Don’t harm others – humans or animals; don’t hurt anyone’s feelings…. All this is also good for our own peace of mind. It keeps everybody around us happy, and makes us more conscious as a human being. Continue reading “10 Simple but useful life lessons from Gandhi”

Crossing the language barrier abroad!

“The language barrier is probably the most difficult and takes the longest to overcome.” ~ Stephen Lee

Most of the times, the phrase ‘Language barrier’ refers to the difficulties people face during communicating if they don’t speak the same language; or if the speech or accent is too different to communicate effectively.
Almost everyone who ventures out to the worlds far-far away, the language barrier is one of the many hurdles encountered in the new land. For people migrating from India, even though they speak and understand English in most of the cases, the communication problems still exist. The fact is that spoken English in America or other Western countries is not the same as in India. The style, the slang, the acceptable norms…everlasting is different. One is bound to feel out of place in the beginning of the overseas journey.

The key issues surrounding the language barrier and the best ways to approach or alleviate them are:

The language knowledge: Knowledge of the English language is the most important step toward adjusting and adapting to the English speaking culture and society. The understanding of grammar and a sound knowledge of vocabulary are necessary to build a reliable foundation for any language. For people from India, this is not a major issue because most of us learn English in the school and have a good command of the language itself.

The ‘thick’ accent: The accent is natural; this is how we talk and speak in our native country growing up. The Indian accent of English –commonly called ‘thick’ accent- is very different from the way they speak English overseas. While there are ways to soften the accent or dramatically reduce it by practice and with conscious effort, it takes time to lose the accent. For details on this topic, refer to the previous post titled ‘A self-help guide to lose your accent!’. Continue reading “Crossing the language barrier abroad!”

Fight Procrastination Day – Do Something!

“Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week.” ~Spanish Proverb

Today is the day to stop and fight procrastination

Okay, today I cannot procrastinate. There is no way, not today!
Every First Wednesday of September is ‘celebrated’ as Fight Procrastination Day. Today is the best day to get my acts together and start working on the projects and things I have been postponing for ever, today is the day to find ways to stop procrastination. I am already feeling good about myself….

There are many things I have been lazy about. I guess the best approach would be to make a list of all those tasks and attack them one by one without any further excuses.
BTW, can’t they come up with a smaller word? It takes for ever to type it…no wonder I am lazy about…you know this long word… proc..
Anyways, without further delay, let me put together a list of things-to-do that have been sitting on the side for too long:

Exercise: I am always lazy about going to gym. I need to find a way to break this bad habit. But, I have been under the weather a little since yesterday. It is probably a better idea not to stress my body any more, and rest and relax. I will resume it as soon as I feel up to it, I promise, most likely by this week-end.

Organize the office: The things are all over the place in my office. The books, different gadgets, half full boxes of all kinds of mail that I never emptied…. The drawers need organizing; there are charge-cables all over. I need to get this going. Let us slate it for the week-end, because this could take some time!

Clean the garage: I cannot dare to start this one right now. I am not sure how long it will take, or what else I am going to stumble into in there. This is not one project, but many projects hidden under the mess. Need almost half day. So, may be this week-end. Yes, this week-end, for sure.

The garden fix-up:Need to trim the plants in the backyard; many areas need mulch and weed-control spray. I will certainly work on it once the weather gets better. It was so hot until last week, and now it is chilly all of a sudden. The week-end is supposed to be nice and sunny, so I can plan for then.

Organize the bills and papers: The mail and papers are every where – the kitchen table, living room, office and some even in the bedroom. This could get very time consuming, will do it first thing on the week-end.

Okay, these are the main things. I have my list to fight procrastination:

Things-to-do List:
Exercise: Start this week-end
Organize the office: This week-end
Clean the garage: This week-end
The garden fix-up: This week-end
Organize the bills and papers: This week-end.. Continue reading “Fight Procrastination Day – Do Something!”

The fastest growing jobs and occupations in USA!

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of US Department of Labor, has a very interesting and comprehensive study on the jobs and occupations projections. The report titled ‘Tomorrow’s Jobs’  is quite telling in terms of expected growth in employment over the period of 2006 to 2016.
The chart/graph here provides a snap-shot of the fastest growing occupations in USA – the change in the total employment by occupation groups projected over 2006 – 2016.chart 6_99
The top occupations that are expected to enjoy the highest percentage increase are:

Professional and related occupations: These occupations cover a wide range of skilled professions. Professional and related occupations are expected to increase by 16.7%. Among the top beneficiaries include:
-Computer and mathematical occupations,
-Health-care practitioners and technical occupations,
-Education, training, and library occupations

Services: Employment in service sector is projected to increase by 16.7%, tied with professional and related occupations for the fastest rate of growth. The services occupations that are expected to grow the fastest include:
-Food preparation,
-Serving related occupations
-Health-care support occupations
-Personal care and service service occupations

Management, business, and financial occupations: The employment is expected to increase by 10.4% by 2016 in this category. Among top growth projections are:
-Construction managers
-Accountants and auditors and business operation specialists
-Financial analysts and personal financial advisers Continue reading “The fastest growing jobs and occupations in USA!”