The Benefits of an Emotional Culture at Work

I thought I would write today about the wonderful benefits of an emotional culture at work. I think the more we foster feelings of affection, compassion, caring, and tenderness among our co-workers, the stronger our bonds are, and the higher our feelings of satisfaction. I call this ‘Companionate Love.’

Let us all collaborate with each other side by side, expressing caring and affection towards one another, and safeguarding each others’ feelings. Let us show tenderness and compassion towards each other when things don’t go well, and support each other in work and non work matters.

Let us feel free to express ourselves, to share our struggles, perhaps use the power of touch to communicate feelings of warmth and love.  Let us use every opportunity to celebrate each others’ lives, be it birthdays, anniversaries, or anything else.

A strong culture of Companionate Love will keep us in a healthy frame of mind, looking forward to work, and enjoying beautiful bonds with our co-workers.

We often discuss intellectual concepts such as fostering innovation, creativity, or transparency in a work environment. Those are important, but equally important is to encourage a positive emotional culture, and we will find ourselves experiences unimaginable support, strength, freedom, and a sense of safety and security in our daily lives.

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Anniversary Wishes to Shri LK Advani

It was my pleasure to meet with Shri L.K Advani on the auspicious occasion of his 50th wedding anniversary on 25th February 2015.

Sir, on behalf of the entire Asha family I send you and Mrs Kamla Advani our warmest congratulations and best wishes on your golden wedding anniversary. Over half-a-century you have enjoyed a close companionship through the thick and thin of life, which indeed is very special.

Wishing you many more blessed years of togetherness!

On this happy occasion, I would also like to thank Shri Advani for promising to chair an Asha event in March to celebrate the academic excellence of students from the slums. We look forward to host you, Sir!

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Experiential Consumption vs Material Consumption

When we are on our death bed, we never wish we had bought more material possessions. We often wish we had more experiences. People talk more about their experiences than their material possessions. Material gratification goes down very quickly, whereas experiential gifts last much longer. There are so many rich and beautiful stories that come from experiences. They become a bigger part of who we are. They connect us more to others.

In fact, we are the sum total of our experiences. Whenever we look back and think of what we are grateful for, we find that we are always more grateful for experiences than we are for our material possessions.

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The health benefits of the practice of gratitude, and ways to practise gratitude

Following on from my previous reflection on the power of gratitude, I would like to share my thoughts on the health benefits of gratitude. The consistent practice of gratitude has remarkable effects on our health and longevity. We have a much better sense of well being, much lower anxiety and depression levels, and higher levels of optimism. We also feel much more socially connected, and much less likely to be angry. Our sleep quality is much better. Our resting Blood Pressure is lower. Rigorous scientific research has demonstrated that our levels of good cholesterol (HDL) are raised, and those of bad cholesterol (LDL) go down. Furthermore, our Serum Creatinine levels are also kept low, keeping our kidneys in good shape.

One of the best ways to practise gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. You can write 5 things you are grateful for every day, and then notice the effects on your health and happiness levels over time. In fact, you can decide to do this as a family, and keep gratitude lists together. You can also write a gratitude letter to someone who means a lot to you. Kids can be encouraged to write gratitude letters to their teachers or mentors. I think it’s very powerful when you go to the person and read out the letter you have written. When you do this, it establishes a meaningful social connection, and that leads to an experience of joy. With kids, you can encourage them to tell you three things they are grateful for every night before they go to bed. Throughout the day, they will keep thinking of the things they are going to talk about.

The practice of gratitude is therefore a skill that can be acquired through training, and yields wonderful results!

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Meeting with Mr Arun Jaitley

Asha Student Ambassador Usha and I were honoured to meet the Hon’ble Finance Minister of India, Mr Arun Jaitley on Saturday, 17 January. I introduced him to the work of Asha, particularly the Financial Inclusion and Higher Education programmes, and how they have impacted thousands of individuals over the years. Usha also explained her background and achievements, and said that she represented thousands of Asha students with similar backgrounds as she stood before him. She presented him with a gift on behalf of all the students that was graciously accepted by him.

We also invited him to be the Chief Guest at Asha’s Celebration of Learning 2015, to which he agreed. Mr Jaitley promised all help and support, and it was decided that the function would be held in either March or April 2015. His office would soon be in touch with a proposed date.

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A Meeting with Mr LK Advani

Along with an Asha student Usha, I had the joy of meeting one of the tallest leaders of the ruling party, BJP, Mr LK Advani this morning. Usha and I conveyed him New Year greetings on behalf of the entire Asha family. One of India’s greatest and most highly respected statesmen, Mr Advani has been an elected Member of Parliament for the past six decades. He is a prolific writer and blogger, putting down his thoughts with great lucidity and clarity on a vast variety of subjects. He has been a loyal supporter of Asha for the past 12 years, and is a constant source of encouragement to us all.

Meeting with LK Advani

Thank you Sir for making the time to see us and for the presentation of a signed copy of your book ‘My Take’ to Usha. We are eagerly looking forward to your presence at an Asha event in March.

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The Power of Touch

As we approach the wonderful season of Christmas, I have been reflecting with great joy on the ‘Power of Touch’. In Matthew 8, we read, ‘When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said,” Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing”, he said.” Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy….’ It was a leper Jesus touched – a man nobody touched. Think of this. For years this man had not felt the kiss of a child, or the embrace of a friend. Jesus touched him. There was healing in his touch. There was comfort in his touch. There was reassurance in his touch. There was life in his touch. Jesus touched people physically and emotionally. And people touched him in the same way.

Did you know of the remarkable scientific benefits of touch? Did you know that the skin is the largest organ of our body, and enables touch to become a powerful method of communication? Scientists have discovered specific neurons in the skin that process information about touch.

DAB 071

Touch conveys a whole range of emotions. The immune response is triggered in the skin through touch, which is why we live longer. When we touch someone, we activate certain parts of our brain that provide feelings of reward, of compassion. Touch builds up cooperative relationships. It also signals safety and trust. Touch soothes. It calms cardiovascular stress through reduction in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Touch spreads a tremendous amount of goodwill, and is highly contagious.

The hormone oxytocin is released in response to touch, and this in turn produces care giving behaviour and generosity. It also promotes monogamy. We read emotion better, and discard cynical views of human nature. We respond with stronger compassion.

Touch is an unbelievable mechanism of social well being. Regular physical contact with premature babies helps them get a huge boost in weight gain. Lots of touch results in better sleep, reduced irritability, and increased sociability among infants. Touching patients with Alzheimer’s leads to a precipitous drop in their symptoms, and to a remarkable reduction in depression.

Let us go a step further. Did you know that hugging is healthy for the body and for the soul? How often do we hug our children, our family members, our friends? Hugging boosts self esteem and brings about a sense of security in a way no word can. A warm hug can touch our soul. Hugging strengthens our bonds with our children. We can never hug our children too much. They feel a sense of acceptance, their self esteem is boosted, they become more confident, and it brings them great happiness. To connect is more important than to correct. I read a wonderful quote by Virginia Satir, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Truer words were never spoken.

There are times, whether during intense grief or anger, or in ecstatic moments of joy or love, when only the language of touch can fully express what we feel. Let us reach out this Christmas to our family and friends with the gift of this wonderful language given to us by God. May we cherish the joys of this language forever.

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Thank you Ms Julie Bishop for welcoming me to the Parliament Buildings in Canberra

I had the great joy of meeting the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Government of Australia, Ms Julie Bishop on 2nd September, 2014.

She remembered her visit to Asha earlier in the year with much fondness and was filled with admiration for the work and for what the students had achieved. She was delighted, when I presented her with a group photo of herself with a group of Asha university students and gave it pride of place on her photo wall right next to a picture of herself and Barack Obama.

Ms Julie Bishop

She promised continued help and support for Asha as well as for Friends of Asha Australia in the times to come. She also promised to wear the stole that I draped around her, especially at Indian events. She is a lovely human being filled with warmth and kindness.




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A lovely interaction with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, UK

It was a matter of great joy and delight for me to meet Mr Edward Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, UK on Monday 25 August 2014.

My team and I welcomed him to an Asha slum community called Kanak Durga colony. What a wonderful engagement we had!

The atmosphere was charged with energy and enthusiasm and he showed great interest in the work of Asha.

Mr Edward Davey

Here is a short clip of the minister’s comment from his visit:

He played a lot of cricket with some of our university students, hit a few sixes and finally got bowled.

Thank you Minister Davey for visiting us!

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A wonderful interaction with Mr L.K Advani

Recently, I had the privilege of once again meeting Hon. Mr LK Advani, Senior Leader, BJP Parliamentary Party along with my team members and Asha students.

It is sheer joy to see how he has always opened his doors for these bright students from Asha communities. The students were thrilled beyond words as Mr Advani welcomed them to his residence and listened to the stories of their accomplishments and impediments they faced.

LK Advani congratulates new university entrants from Asha slum communities

LK Advani congratulates new university entrants from Asha slum communities

I feel humbled to share such a wonderful relationship with Mr Advani, who has visited Asha communities and chaired various Asha events in the past. His commitment towards Asha is a source of inspiration and encouragement for not only the communities we work with, but also for me and my team on a personal level.

As the new leadership of the country begins their work, I can only hope and pray they would continue to support Asha as we strive to assist the urban poor transform their lives.

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