Spot the Differences Around You – Celebrate Them

Renuka Kamath

Author: Renuka Kamath

Date: Mon, 2017-01-02 22:33

Spot the differences and likely you will end up seeing many more similarities, quite like the two pictures game we play even today. What do we do? We carefully look for the differences and count them, usually six.

Isn’t life similar? Stop for a moment and look around. I did and found around me very similar beings, more a validation of who and what I am. There was a time it comforted me, it still does. Isn’t there something very comforting in seeing a validation of who we are? Reassuringly so.

All through childhood in school then college, I found myself making friends who were like me. It was so heartening when in a crowd I found at least one person who could speak the ‘language’ I did, laugh at the same things and pun away (a quality I still find stimulating in people) much to the incredulous look of others. Moreover, if what they read matched my list, that person skidded to the top of my chart! It was interesting to talk about life’s philosophies and judge people unlike us. That’s what I thought was the best yardstick to making friends – if it matched mine, we’d stick around and the bond would be stronger. At times when there was a crisis, I’d run to them and they assured me that my decision was the best and that they’d do it the same way. I argued with those who didn’t agree with me and marked them for future reference to see a pattern. 

Work life began and that was when utter strangers became my travel mates, month-end target mates but sharing the joys and travails wasn’t easy any more. Even then I found good buddies whom I could relate to, some of whom became friends for life! But slowly a change was happening. There were people around me who were so different from me. Some of them had a passion for things alien to me that left me fascinated and curious. I learned to read books that were completely out of my genre of reading. I watched movies that were uncomfortable. Did I begin accepting the differences? No! At least not obviously so.

Some of the best lessons I have learned are (and these are only a few):

  • From the cashier of a retail store on Park Street, Kolkata, who told me how the bill book works or doesn’t and let me into secrets of accounting
  • From the coolie who loaded refrigerators onto trucks, when while smoking his much needed beedi told me how stocking at the warehouse could be optimized or manipulated
  • From the theatre artist I met in Lucknow who told me how she interpreted Mirza Ghalib’s pain in his poetry
  • From the 8 year old child who told me why he holds secrets from his parents
  • From my go-getter pushy, confident sales officer, who showed me how being in sales can be fun…a riot!
  • From my student who told me why she hates going back home from the hostel
  • From another student who taught me how to enjoy the joys of sketching small stuff whenever you get the time or when life gets you down
  • From yet another student (a very special one for me) who made me go back to reading history (I detested it as a kid), made me re-visit World War II, read Greek mythology (and so much more).

...and so on. Can the people on this list get any more different? As different as they can get, somewhere the change had begun and I began accepting differences. It wasn’t easy. I look back and realise I was severe with people who were unlike me; didn’t agree with me, but they are the ones who made me who I am.

I’d say, surround yourself with people who are different and celebrate the differences. Learn to patiently accept that life can’t always give us a slide that is smooth – much like the play ground slide we glided on, during our childhood, where there was a bend or a bump to make us slow down so that we landed with a soft thump!

Let a different new year begin….

 

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I am deeply thankful for having come across this blog post. This is a topic that has been revolving in my mind ever since I have started my MBA stint here at SPJIMR. All my early life I have often been surrounded with, either intentionally or unintentionally, people who have thoughts and point of views which are very similar to mine. As pointed out in the blog, we tend to make friends with those who resonate with us, who share our passions and likes, who have common traits with us – essentially those with whom we are comfortable being our self. This is how we tend to judge who we can get along with and who we choose to interact with. On thinking, I realised that I am no different. Even I have also followed a similar technique and there was a pattern in those whom I considered as my closest friends and colleagues. I noticed that they all had fundamentally similar ideologies and way of living which matched with mine. So maybe there is, in fact, something highly reassuring in seeing a validation of our choices in someone else. And that is why we choose to keep such like-minded friends close to us. I also noticed that not only would I find it easier to get along with them but I often would not interact with others with whom I sensed major differences simply because it was convenient. However, thanks to working in a multi-cultural office environment for more than two years, I have opened up to understanding the advantages of learning from each other’s so called ‘differences’. Working across diverse teams helps in expanding your horizons and broadens your perspective. It showcased the different point of views of my colleagues. One of my fellow team member, Rahul, was on paper a complete opposite to me. I am an introverted, quiet person and he was highly extroverted who enjoyed mixing around with everyone. Even our working styles and background was completely different. However, it so happened that over the course of two years, we became the best of friends. And I learnt a very important lesson from this – that often what we feel is ‘different’ is not so. Instead there can be more similarities hidden in the depths which we do not notice. This is something I have observed even more here in college. The diversity of people – students, teachers, guest faculties, staff and many more with whom we interact daily here is immense. This is a great opportunity for us all to learn from each other’s differences. By doing so not only do we improve upon our strengths but also experience things that we would have never expected to. And these differences go a long way towards making us more well-rounded individuals.

Madam, what a wonderful way of putting forward a thought we all know but may not be able to follow! Celebrate the differences around us. At this stage, I can completely relate to each and everything mentioned in the blog. A girl who would not go beyond her comfort zone during school days was exposed to a whole new world when she stepped in her college. People who spoke ‘different languages’, people who came from different financial and family backgrounds; people who looked at life in a different way and above all people who, according to her, were smarter than her in many ways. Suddenly, she was out of her comfort zone, trying to adjust to new surroundings. Yes, it was me. My college days exposed me to a different world and indirectly made me identify the differences, deal with them and react to the differences. And the differences do not stop there. Then you start your work life and meet another set of people; different people. At SPJIMR, I stay with people who speak the language I know in a different way; who eat different food and are generally ‘different’ in many ways than me or people I was surrounded with. However, I have learnt a lot from all of them. Moreover, I am enjoying this process. Further, although there are different people around, I found that the core values do not depend on the language you speak or the region you are from; it is all about what priorities you have inn life. I believe that at all stages of life, we meet different people, but the best way is to accept the differences and learn from the ‘different’ people.

Ma’am that was indeed an intriguing read. I can unreservedly resonate to the idea that you have tried to present here through this blog. All of us are conformist in some way and we look for some sort of validation for ourselves in time-to-time. That is probably the reason why we find comfort in presence of someone who shares a common interest or a passion or a dream. But then, from where did we learn about other things in life. As a child we obviously had specific interests but the pool of these interests definitely proliferated as we grow older and experienced the diversity of life. I wonder how all the ‘learning’ happened for me. The most prominent reason might be the different outlooks we encountered while growing up. These outlooks challenged the then existent thinking of us which made us curious about them. This is the core idea that stuck to me in this blog. The real life examples you have used are very similar to our personal experiences and there are many aspects of life in which I can relate to these. For instance, what happens when we travel? And mind you, I am not talking about vacationing. Travelling for me is the ultimate art of learning. When we come out from our comfort areas and explore the surroundings, we experience, we learn and we apply ourselves. When we see different cultures unique in their own different ways it gives us a different perspective of life. All these experiences shape our being, our personality. And yeah! We owe them big time. And as you have mentioned these differences are not restricted to just different personalities. It can be movies, music, varied cuisines and what not. For example I learnt a lot about western culture during my undergrads just by watching movies and TV series. But Ma’am you have also suggested us to ‘surround ourselves with people who are different’. I would just like to state that we cannot be conscious about it always. In other words, we need a proper balance of similarities and dissimilarities in our life. At times we want that comfort of a like-minded person but there are times when we want some challenge from someone unlike us. I believe we just need to keep ourselves open to the happenings around us and the learning falls in place automatically. It is imbibed in the flow of life. But for now this blog has made me retrospect on my life. In my own senses I thank everything in my life that has made me who I am.

Thank you so much, Ma’am, for this article where you have not just mentioned about how one should celebrate the differences in others but also how similarities exist in starkly different people. I still remember one of the things that my school principal once told us how every individual is made in the image of God and if you cannot respect the other person you are paying disrespect to God. This line has stuck with me and when I look back, I realize the meaning she implied through the above sentence which was that we should be respectful of the differences in other people. Human beings have a tendency to follow the idiom “Birds of a feather flock together” and as a child, I was no different. I used to be quite a studious girl during my school days and hence was friends with all the rank holders of the class. I would spend most of my time with them as a result of which, we would study even during our free classes. And there were others who would play basketball, volleyball during the free classes and win trophies for the school. No matter, how much I wished to play like them I could never form a part of their group and thus could not learn these games. Had we been more flexible in forming our groups back then, everyone would have benefitted. At that point in time, we stuck with each other because of the similarities, but today, when each one of us has a different career ranging from a doctor to a journalist, from an engineer to a teacher-we are still together. There are differences not only in our careers but also in the thought processes, views, and opinions. Yet, this does not stop us from making a plan to meet at least once in a year or having a conference call on each one’s birthday. Another thing that I really liked about your article was when you mentioned how people you severed with on account of differences were the ones who taught you the most. We are just 3 months into the course at SPJIMR and have participated in so many case study competitions and in each of these, we have formed groups with people from diverse educational backgrounds. Coming from an engineering background I don’t have the knowledge of accounting but I have learned the most of it from people who are from commerce background. I have realized that these differences not only help in bringing a holistic perspective to the case but also helped me in understanding concepts which I would not have understood from an engineer. As we set out to hold a managerial role in a few years down the line, it is of utmost importance that we not only realize that each person is different but also respect that and celebrate those differences. For me, differences don’t break you; they help in making a better version of you.

Ma’am as I read upon your blog, I am enlightened by your retrospect of the life’s journey and the people around, the changing perspectives and accepting differences. I too reflect back and feel I have evolved and learnt through the differences around me, the diverse people, the unique cultures, the divergent places, and the sundry environment. I have spent my 4 years of engineering in Himachal Pradesh. Where on one hand the engineering demanded diligence and perseverance on the other hand the place feast quietness and contentment. A rebel as I am, I did not accept the fact that I was in a quiet place among simple people, and I wanted excitement in my life like every other college goer. But slowly change was happening and I became not only accepting but also appreciating the serenity. When I met my hometown friends a year later, they could see tranquillity in my attitude. My personality now had a new dimension to it. When I came to Pune for job, I experienced a fast-paced life. Totally different place, disparate personalities around. As I kept exploring the vast dissimilarities in Indian culture and states I explored myself in the journey. And finally here at SPJIMR, Mumbai, everyone talks about diversity of this college, but few lucky ones like us experience it. Living with people from Bengal, Tamil Naidu, Sikkim, Orissa, I have crafted myself in these 3 months more than any other time. I never thought I would enjoy Kerala’s Onam so much or look forward to Gujarati Garba!! I have developed traits and perspectives, shared my similarities and celebrated the differences through my past endeavours. I share a very “different” repo with my mentee. When most of the Mentors teach their mentees and make them learn, I have got the brightest and most contrasting mentee to mentor. She loves football, I love dance, she plays chess, I haven’t ever played, she wants to learn History, I want to do English. I don’t make her learn, we learn together. She teaches me Chess tricks and I teach her dance moves, we learn about World Wars and Mughal Empire. This is the beauty of differences. They make you see the spectrum of divergent differences through better lens and expand your horizons far and beyond. The world is itself becoming more accepting. Brazillian Beer SKol has started a digital campaign where it identifies the skin colour in their profile picture and then they can make a toast to diversity by choosing a can with a different skin tone. International Queer Film festival, Mumbai explores the theme of LGBTQ community. In the fight for an equal society, basic human rights and against laws that criminalize and discriminate, it is our shared values that bring us together. The diverse shades of the rainbow remind us that as people we are all different and we are all unique. We are strongest when we come together, when we embrace one another’s uniqueness and celebrate our differences.

This is one of the most relatable blogs that I’ve read. Just like you mentioned, same was the case with me. Almost all my school life I’ve always been surrounded by like-minded people. It is like a magnet that pulls you toward the people who have the same interests and thinking as I do. Because of this reason I developed a behaviour where I only used to speak when I thought that the people around me would be able to relate which is why there came a time when I would be completely silent in groups of different people. Then the change when I started accepting and enjoying the differences in people came when I joined my under graduate college. That’s when I realised that different people give you varied learnings and experiences which you otherwise would not be able to get. I could think of instances in my life after every line of the blog. Like it is conveyed in the blog, it is indeed true that we don’t really start accepting differences just like that but only after the different kind experiences that we gain from different kind of people, do we realise that we actually enjoy these differences. I really liked the way this idea was presented in the blog by citing examples of learnings from people belonging to different walks of life. Surrounding yourself with different people gives you a chance to get different perceptions about life and view the world through different angles. It is a way to soothe your inner-self and bring peace to your soul, especially if these different people are positive people who only have positive energy and aura to give out. Oprah Winfrey said, “Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.” Thus at the end our aim should be to be with the right people, who will push you in the right direction, no matter from where they come or how different perceptions they hold.

No five fingers are alike. This is what my mother use to keep saying when I went complaining to her about a friend or cousin with whom I got into a fight. At the time, I didn’t understand why is she saying what she is saying. And I never bothered to ask for an explanation. As the years passed by, I understood what she meant by this. Like the five fingers, no two kids in the same house are alike. On this note, I did like to share a personal observation that is related to the subject matter. I firmly believe that the individual we become as we grow older is an outcome of the kind of childhood we have had. Children who grow up with siblings are more social and open to make friends with people who hail from diverse background and possess different thinking and set of values as compared to single children. Few others traits kids with siblings acquire at an early age are – team-work, conflict resolution, healthy competition, analytical thinking - no I'm not kidding. Having to see what your sibling's next move is can cause your brain to work in a pretty sharp manner. Irritating each other, requiring witty comebacks for arguments uses a lot of grey cells. Single child simply misses out on all the fun! I can vouch for this from my personal experience. I belong to a conservative household where it was all about what to eat and when to study. Being a single child I was shy and extremely sensitive (I still think I am though I did like to believe that I have become tough with time). In my growing-up years, making friends and speaking my mind at an open platform posed as a challenge. More often, I seeked solace in hanging around with people who were my mirror image. The turning point in my life came when I stepped out of my comfort zone – home sweet home – to pursue my higher education. Since then, there has been no looking back. Spotting different initially was faced with a lot of resistance but then every new change is. I wanted to go running back home and at that point I absolutely hated growing up (I still do sometimes). Encounters with people from diverse background taught me a great deal, more importantly few imperative survival lessons. Having shared my observation, I also want to add that not all single kids are how I described above. There are a few exceptions. Finally, the joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

Dear Ma’am, The topic has been very well put forth. I liked it as I think it is something I can relate to. Growing up I always found it easy to stay close to people who were like me. Say, being friends with people who liked to play cricket or talking to people who could understand me and could relate to things the way I do. I had a set of people for everything. Friends I could play with. Friends I could talk to. Friends I could study with. Different people for different purposes depending on who had a similar sense of a respective thing as I did. Getting out of college and into work and through my working years, I started realising how your interpersonal relationships are not simply controlled by you but so much by the people in it and various other circumstances. We, at times, have to move far from people who are close to us. We have to spend more time with people who aren’t so close to us. You make new friends, you make new acquaintances. And the closer you get to people, the more the differences in people start surfacing. This is when you realise, there is so much to people than you thought. Each and every person has his or her set of likes, dislikes, passion, tastes, thoughts, aspirations, hobbies, dreams, feelings and habits, that are so different than yourself. Sharing a space with a person starkly different than you presents you a surprising experience. An experience that is rich in terms of a lifestyle you couldn’t have thought of had you not seen the person so close. The differences have a way of giving you new perspective. Teaching you things. These start giving you a sense of individuality. Differentiate you from other, the others from you. It gives you things to call your own. It gives every person a sense of strength. A feeling of being special. Most importantly, it gives you a reason to lead a life with your set of convictions as no one else would do it the way you would. Well by that one must indeed spot the differences and celebrate them!!

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