Monday, April 11, 2011

The Corruption Within..

What a beautiful day it was when the twinkling Reye saw its first daylight, amidst noisy celebrations all around. As months passed by, Reye soon discovered that it was part of one big family. A little wise chap was the Head of their family. Although small in size, Head was powerful enough to exercise control on the rest of the family members. The rhythm and pulse of the family however, was harmonized by another pretty little hard-working chap called Heart. The Head and Heart team were both strong and sensitive drivers of their family. Other members resembled a wide array of characters from an action-packed romantic comedy thriller. The two little brothers, Lear and Rear were known as the best listeners in their family. It had a detective sniffer uncle, an intervening fellow of sorts, that everyone called Nose. The most talkative person was easily Mouth aunty. However, Reye too could communicate a thing or two with a glance, as could its twin sister - Leye, without uttering a single word! The two muscle men and bread earners of the family were Larm and Rarm. And then there were Rfeet and Lfeet, who did most of the running around, indoors and outdoors. It was one large family with many other distinguished members, big and small, most living their lives routinely, untiringly and silently. They all were valuable active contributors towards the well being of the family. What was noteworthy was that most family members did their jobs without any recognition or reward, whatsoever. In a way, quite a few were taken for granted.

In its early days, the family was very poor and had to literally struggle feeding itself. Initially, Head and Mouth had to work really hard to obtain food from their neighbourhood. Many a times, it required extra efforts to cry and beg their neighbours for food and care. Fortunately, there were two very kind and giving neighbours – Mom and Dad, who always seemed to be there to lend their support and love. Gradually, food started being served freely at regular intervals. The family now had time and energy to explore and enjoy other activities too. Lfeet and Rfeet quickly started crawling, and soon learnt to walk and run. They also got used to falling down and getting up, every single time they fell – an habit that would serve the family well in the long run. They used to take the family around many times during the day. Rear and Lear specially enjoyed the place near the piano and the music system. Reye and Leye although, were fond of the balcony where they could see a plethora of wonderful things moving around such as insects, birds, swaying trees and cars. Nose had a liking for the kitchen as well as the garden amidst flowers and fruits. But there were times during the day, when Nose used to be forcibly carried by Lfeet and Rfeet, a couple of times Nose hated the most – a place called the toilet! Life eventually seemed to trot along as a daily celebration for the family, amidst their sessions of eating, walking, running, talking, and singing, dancing, learning, enjoying growing up.

And then one day, their celebration got rudely interrupted when they all landed in a place; the Ear heard was called a Hostel. The family was, simply dropped by their most trust worthy neighbours, Mom and Dad, in this unknown surrounding. Amidst their outpouring protests and vehement cries, Mom and Dad left, just like that. It was not that there had been no forewarning, but it probably did not sync-in until the moment of truth stared the family in its face. A tsunami of shock, disbelief, sorrow, frustration, anger and hate destroyed the palace of trust built, ever so lovingly and caringly, between the family and the neighbours over several years. Amidst gloom, the family soon realized that there were other families too around them, bigger and smaller, suffering the same pain, but coping with it in quite different ways. It took several weeks for the family members to gather themselves together, and get adapted to this new life, albeit in their own different ways.

Head took a more pragmatic approach, having learnt one big ugly lesson in life, of misplaced trust. Heart thought was not as unforgiving. It refused to reconcile to the sorrow situation. It continued to hope that there must be something good that none of them were aware of, and their erstwhile neighbours would soon be back to take them home. Loud Mouth suddenly seemed to have developed a liking for remaining silent, unless drawn into a conversation. Leye and Reye gradually saw the futility in shedding tears and instead teamed up with Lear and Rear to curiously explore their new surroundings. The rest of the family members recovered quickly, and continued to do their work, as usual. Everyone though had noticed the subtle difference in perception and attitude that Head and Heart had exhibited, in response to the sudden change in their lives. Unknown to them was the fact that this subtle change was the beginning of an era of a much larger conflict about to unfold within the family, over the next couple of decades.

Hostel life was like a string of routine activities tied to the hands of the family clock. Gradually, life changed from being a creative unpredictable daily celebration, into a disciplined, predictable, activity and result oriented daily routine. Head adapted itself remarkably well. In fact, it started liking the routine unlike Heart. Heart continued beating in ever undying hope that the erstwhile neighbours would come back one day and rescue the family out of this routine, mundane mess. When things did not change over several weeks, Heart often felt frustrated, only to be consoled and momentarily convinced by Head, that it was important to live the moment that cry out of it. Many amongst the family could relate with Heads practical, point of view. However a few members including Leye, Reye and Mouth seemed to have thoughts in sync with Hearts point of view. Both Head and Heart respected each other, as did the rest of the family. They all knew that both were equally essential for the smooth functioning of their family. However, despite their hope, the situation seemed to gradually slide into a hopeless, silent divide.

Head wanted to stay put and make the most out of their situation. Heart seemed to be strongly inclined to run away, back to their earlier neighbourhood – convinced that they would be welcomed back warmly and lovingly. Head wanted the family members to start pursuing excellence in their areas of interests such as sports, poetry, music, dramatics, academics and whatever was feasible within a given framework and timeframe, amongst dozens of activities and pursuits. Heart, on the contrary was more inclined to build relationships with other families around, in the hope that one day, it would gather enough support to cause a rebellion of sorts, to break all the rules that existed. This, Heart thought, would create an ideal situation that would enable it to go back to its beautiful, creative neighbourhood, while either destroying or running away from its “prison” Hostel. As members within the family started aligning themselves, the fault lines started widening. Life, for the family, was no longer the beautiful harmony from the past. Every day, it witnessed scenes of each one pushing and pulling, in conflicting directions.

Despite the conflicts, the family stayed together as one cohesive unit. Head gradually became a powerful decision maker and had the support of most of the family members. Over the weeks, Heart and its supporters too fell in line and in the process lost their natural rhythm, creativity and hope. Head understood this completely and did its best to get them around to see reason in its point of view. Head had quite a success stories to narrate from the various activities that its supporters had won recognition in. In a way, the Heart had no choice but to start believing what it saw, rather than continue dreaming about the reality that it would have liked to see happen. Over the months, the differences within the family seemed to have swept away by the waves of success. However, only the Heart truly knew how deep the divide had grown deep down, under the calm surface. The family had transformed itself into a unit well in sync, amidst the regiment of other families.

So strong was the transformation, that even when the family had several opportunities over the years to return back to their erstwhile neighbourhood, they all seemed to feel out of place in their old undisciplined environment and longed to return back. Surprisingly, Mom and Dad were only too happy for the family and the neighbourhood too was very proud of them all.

The family eventually moved from one Hostel to another, and then from one city to another. While their neighbours had initiated them into this journey, many years ago; it was now a way of life for the family. All along, it continued to pile up its success stories - initially in the world of academics, sports and extra-curricular activities, subsequently in the corporate business world of product/services, profit/loss and later on in the power play of politics, fame and fortune. Success, in the initial years had been a celebratory outcome in their journey through hard-work, dedication and co-ordinated efforts put in by respective family members, towards achieving goals being pursued by family members. While success used to be a celebration, failure too would be an occasion to celebrate some other neighbouring families’ successes, while reflecting on their own shortcomings, before they all moved on in life to the next competition or challenge. However, none within the family got to know when their journey transformed from a celebratory pursuit of joy and learning into an aggressive pursuit of a destination called success.

Not known to anyone, Head had secretly conspired and made Success, the only way of life to be pursued, by all means, by all members of the family. It had started in little ways, such as copying small answers during examinations; or stealing bits and pieces of luxury items such as fragrance bottles and imported toiletries from other families. Soon, the success goals became bigger and the means meaner. Lies were available for use freely; money was borrowed without any intent to pay back. Relationships were formed purely based on their momentary ‘val-use’ rather than long cherished values. Trust was just another piece of secret weapon to be used or rather misused, purely to achieve the desired results. Gratitude did not matter; all that mattered was an only-win attitude. Success was measured using the two magic words – Fortune and Fame. The silent disease of corruption within was now full blown, irreversibly. But who cared, as long as the world applauded its success!

Then, one day – Heart suddenly felt a severe jolt that shook the family as well. Head had no clue about what had happened. The entire family got into an emergency huddle. Each one reflected on their journey so far. Head remembered the moment of truth that had stared the family in its face many decades ago, and how it had led the family out of its gloom into their astonishing journey of success, fame and fortune. Despite that, no one now seemed to have any means or the resources to protect the Heart and the rest of the family. Head realized that although Heart remained loyal to him and the family, the stress of “success by all means”, had been rather too much to bear. Heart kind of exploded like a dormant volcano suddenly erupting. The prized life of success achieved through the path of corruption within, seemed to now have a price tag that was unaffordable and rather too painful. Head had nowhere to hide its misery. Every success felt worthless. But it was a bit too late in the day for the family. Heart went to sleep, one last time and the rest of the family members had no choice but to followed suit. Reye, was the last to sleep forever, sadly not able to twinkle anymore, at the beautiful world around.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Measuring the unquantifiable!

Measuring almost anything has become an intrinsic part of our lives. If you spare a thought on what all do you do in your daily routine, chances are that an overwhelming amount of your routine and other activities are performed using some form of ‘measure’. Some examples are what ‘time’ does your wake-up alarm buzz, your ‘cup’ of tea/coffee, the ‘distance’ you travel to your workplace, etc.
 Here is something interesting that you can try and do. Take a piece of paper and list down all the activities you do on any given day, in a column – at least twenty activities. Aside each of these activities, write down the ‘measure’ of that activity. A generic example table is provided here for your easy understanding. You can write down any ‘measure’ you can think of.
A generic example table
Getting Up in the Morning
Alarm at 0500 hrs
A cup of tea with a spoon of sugar
Morning Walk/Exercise
30 minutes/2 miles
A bucket of water (20 litres!)
Omelette (2 eggs), with 2 slices of bread
Drive to work
90 minutes, listening to radio channel 98.3FM
Meetings lined up for the day

Only a few curious souls amongst you would have cared to take this activity sportingly and are ready with your table list. A majority of the souls however, would be in the ‘know it all, nothing more to learn’ category OR simply lazy and laid back enough, not to attempt this. Well the good thing, is that there is a learning for all, irrespective; and hence you may wish to spare a thought on your ‘table’ before you proceed further.
Each individual will have his or own such tables that he/she is the executive chairman of, every single day in life. Some of you have just written it down, some of you haven’t; but are certainly now relating all your daily activities to their measures, in your mind.
Here’s the learning!
You will notice is that your brilliant, well educated and mature mind would have come up with a list of activities with their corresponding measure of value parameters. [Time, Distance, Weight, Volume, Frequency, Quantity]. If anyone amongst you has genuinely come up with something different, beware – you might just be amongst the privileged minority!
Well, this learning is for those in the majority as well as in the minority. Often in life, one gets too busy and immersed in it, that we often drown in its frenzy and fail to pause and think. Think differently!  Think laterally! Here is another interesting activity.
Keeping the same list of activities column, can you now come up with a different measure to attribute to each of the activity in your list? Confused? Great! You are well on course, in your learning! Here is an example:
Getting Up in the Morning
With a stretched body and smiling face
Enjoy the moment with my family (not the news paper)
Morning Walk/Exercise
Practise deep breathing the fresh air as I walk, feel the energy flow through the body
Play with water, sing my favourite songs
Smell the rich taste of the serving.
Drive to work
Make sure that I do not honk even once today
Meetings lined up for the day
Seven Goals for the day

Aha! Does this seem interesting and different (perhaps enjoyable as well) enough for you to maybe re-consider the way you go about living your daily routine? Be honest! If you are feeling embarrassed about not having done this before, you can keep this little secret with you and start practising it.  However, if you have learned and are not shy about ‘having learned at this age’, please do share your experience and give something back, for once!
Wondering what this exciting measure is all about. Well, it is the measure of Values! It opens up a whole new world of refreshing possibilities. Heard your cry, “But this does not seem to be a quantifiable measure!” Well, who says all things that can be measured should mandatorily be quantifiable? They need not be. Life isn’t, maybe it is if you decide to just count the life in your years, but perhaps it isn’t if you decide to create the years in your life!
Without much ado, I have enlisted below, a simple table as an example. An example of how one can replace the measure of value table, with the measure of values.
Measure of Value
Measure of Values
Majority Prevails
Truth Prevails
Rule of Law
Rule of Love
Fare Well
Counting the years in your life
Creating the life in your years

And, now you will agree that the curious souls who did take the effort, and are already with their tables, have a head start! Get set, Go. And if you insist on wanting things to be quantifiable, well let me surprise you by emphatically stating that values are indeed quantifiable. And following the measure of values almost automatically makes the measure of value follow you.
If you find this blog article interesting, do share it with people who you want to prepare their 'measure of values' table, besides you! Do not forget to share your comments, suggestions, and thoughts on this blog article. For priority attention do write to me at (personal) or (professional)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Your Money Just Vanished!

The first day of April, 2011 was yet another hot, sweaty, chaotic, and busy summer morning in Mumbai. Sharon was up early in the morning, running against time to get her two children ready for their school. It was exam time and they had to reach school by 7am, after a twenty minute bus journey from their home. Sharon’s husband had left early that day, to participate in his company’s three day business planning summit at a hill station resort in Shimla. Sharon’s maid had fallen ill and not reported to work. The school bus honked repeatedly at the gate of their multi-storeyed building, before Sharon got her children to board the same, just in time. Phew! The elevator wasn’t working since the previous night, and she was already feeling exhausted as she climbed the stairs to her fifth floor apartment. As she walked back in to her house, she could see the two lunch boxes of her children on the table, almost mocking her lively spirit into meek submission due to guilt and frustration. She almost panicked as she climbed down the stairs with the lunch boxes thinking, “Oh God! That seals my fate. I am certainly going to be late today for that crucial meeting at work”. ‘Beep’, her phone beeped, as she sat in her car. It was a short message - “Your Money Just Vanished!”, from her colleague, Mohit.

As she drove speedily to her children’s school, she just could not make any sense of what Mohit meant. One of her little girls was sobbing at the school reception, with a teacher consoling her. The child’s sob erupted into a loud heart wrenching cry, seeing her mother. It was ten precious minutes before normalcy was restored and the child returned back to her class for her exams, feeling secure. Secure that her lunch box was not lost or stolen and there was nothing to worry about mummy scolding her! Almost instinctively, Sharon picked up the phone and tried reaching Mohit a couple of times. She then tried reaching her husband a couple of times and then her parents as well, without success. Her calls just wouldn’t connect, to anyone. The clock was ticking by faster than usual, it seemed. Sharon got ready to go to work in double quick time. She was certainly going to be late to work and realized that she had run out of cash as well. She got down at an ATM near her office, and couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw no queue at the ATM. “At last something positive today morning!”, she thought. As she attempted to withdraw money, the message on the screen ominously flashed “Your Money Just Vanished!” Sharon stood stunned, shocked, scared.

She gathered herself together and simply ran across to her office building round the corner, leaving her car where it was. An empty reception and an empty office greeted her. It was around that time that Sharon fell down, unconscious. She was not alone in her panic. It had spread world over. People, organizations, governments, banks and anyone who had anything to do with money, found that it had vanished, just like that. People found their wallets empty. Their banks reported zero cash balances across the counter all over for everyone. There was no money in the bank. There was no money in the government mint. There was simply no money to be seen anywhere. None of the back-end information systems reflected any records of any money existing anywhere. Credit/Debit cards were now mere junk. Money had vanished. The shock and disbelief took a toll on many people, like Sharon. The world and its well oiled systems were not prepared for an eventuality like this. The world simply collapsed under what seemed like the mother of all calamities, that no one could make any sense out of, except bear the after-shocks.

The effects of this event were far reaching and beyond most people’s comprehension. None of the living generations knew what life was like without any Money! An entire mass of humanity seemed to have suddenly lost the ground under their feet, almost in an instant. People just did not know how to react and who to seek assistance from. Entire masses of people were literally on the streets, trying to make sense when nothing at all seemed to make sense. Food, Shelter and Clothing – basic necessities of life, all available in exotic forms in exchange for money, could no longer be bought or sold for money.

The rich and wealthy were extremely concerned. The huge middle class of all types too were seriously concerned. It was probably only the poorest of poor and the several herds and tribes living far away from the “real” monetary world, who did not seem to be affected due to this development. Off course, the beggars merely changed their demand from money, directly now to food, shelter and clothing – a change that most found easy to adapt to. Money could no longer be made or earned by any means, money could no longer be exchanged for anything, money could not be saved or spend or stashed away into legal or illegal ‘safe’ havens. And whatever money existed anywhere had vanished. Money lost its value completely.

In an almost striking contrast, everything else apart from money still existed. This meant that people still had houses that they lived in. If it was their own, they still owned it. If the house was a rented premise, the ‘rent’ was something that they no longer could pay or receive. The rental agreements were still in place and legal, except that the value of the rented house happened to be demanded the form of money that no longer existed and hence in that interpretation, the house was for ‘free’. Food items stocked in houses got consumed as they naturally would. Perishable food stocks could no longer be bought or sold and hence was left free for anyone to make use of, while it lasted. Non-perishable food stocks were hoarded by people who had it, for future needs. There were those millions who had not stocked any category of food, at all and they were scurrying all over in search of food and water , consuming whatever was anyways ‘freely’ available; besides begging, borrowing or stealing some of it from hoarders. It took a few days for the stock of food, shelter and clothing to start depleting from people’s home and market places. A lot of people simply perished due to the shock of emptiness that money famine caused, despite food being available in abundance. Organizations could not function, despite all their infrastructure, suppliers, distributors and customers being available, simply because there was no money and also because they had systems in place where nothing would move forward or backward without money transactions, be it sale, purchase, or cost and accounts. Power stations stopped, information and communications networks collapsed. Airlines, shipping, road and rail networks failed to function. Fuel stations and water taps ran dry, everywhere. Slowly but surely, entire nations came to a grinding halt. Life, suddenly transformed itself into what existed nearby and surrounding you. If at all people could give or take assistance, it was only through anything of value, being sought or offered by anyone else in the neighbourhood.

Sharon had a twin sister Simone, who had almost nothing in common to Sharon except her parentage and looks. Simone had long ago eloped with a young boy who had nothing else, except a god gifted ability to paint pretty pictures. The boy had met Simone at their arts college where they both studied. While Simone had liked his paintings, it was his earthly nature and innocence that really captured Simone’s imagination. Just after graduation, they both decided to live life together and expressed their thoughts to their families. Sharon was not very impressed and neither were both families. The couple in love, gradually faced resistance at home to their affair that eventually became unbearable, leading to their decision to elope. They both travelled thousands of miles away and settled down in unknown territory, amidst nothingness. Their families made contact with the couple, but with neither side willing to budge, their drift widened over the years until all contact was lost.

The boy was pretty good at nature paintings and the countryside offered an array of colourful creativity throughout the year. The village where they settled however did not care much about these paintings and the couple was forced to take up odd jobs and work in the fields as well as in the local school and military base. They both shared everything, including their intense struggle and adjustments in the initial years. Over the years, they managed to win the hearts of the villagers and soon had their own little house to stay, one which also had a small bright room – their exclusive workshop for paintings. Officers from the plantations and the army base would visit the workshop, albeit infrequently. The couple had a lot of admirers of their art amongst the officers. Soon, their art found buyers and their admiration spread far and wide through word of mouth. People from nearby towns started coming to their village to have a look at their work. Soon, the village started being included by tour operators, as a unique nature spot for tourists from across the country and world over. What started as a trickle grew into a flood of visitors through the years. The villagers were only too happy to see it grow, since they started earning more than ever before, from the basic amenities of food, shelter, clothing and other local village produce, that the visiting tourists lapped up in their day’s stay at the village.

Despite the increase in demand for their work, the couple continued to charge nominally for their work, ensuring that it was affordable and delivered good value to its buyers. Most of the admirers and buyers who purchased their paintings, not only liked what they had bought dearly, but also saw their money investment in art, grow manifold over time. Most buyers developed a unique relationship with the couple and they all often returned their gratitude in other material forms. The couple and the village got enriched in several ways through this route. The entire village got electrified, and all houses got water connections at their door step. The couple became members of several art societies that called them to deliver guest lectures and conduct workshops. Art material, books, gadgets, equipment, and many more things kept pouring into the couples home as well as into the village. The couple became iconic to the extent that their life inspired values, created value and enriched life for many simpletons far and near.

And then, the news of money having vanished reached their village. All hell broke at the plantations and the army base as well as amongst the villagers. Simone and her husband too got worried a bit, but not unduly. They were already a part of the well knit community in their village. They took the lead to have all the villagers gather at the only school in their village to discuss the impact of the situation facing them. The village was primarily a farming hub with a majority of villagers engaged in farming throughout the year, on land that they owned or someone in the village did. The village folks did depend on power mostly for their water pumps to run in the farm, but over the years, solar and wind powered smaller pumps had proliferated across the farms, generously donated by well-wishers of the couple and visiting tourists. The village also had solar lamps on their streets as well as their homes. Experiments by agriculturists and visiting researchers and academicians had thankfully saved the villagers dependence on fertilizers and pesticides. In fact, the village was something of a role model for others in terms of its complete use of naturally cultivated soil, rich in minerals and content essential for several crops. The village also relied on traditional and ‘inefficient’ ways of tilling their land using bullocks, horses and other animals. At an hours’ walk from the village was the local Khadi Clothes Weaving and Stitching Centre, where several of the men and women folks from the village, not working on farms found employment. The Centre had over the years, benefited equally from the tourists visiting the village, since it happened to be their last destination in the day’s tour itinerary, known especially for super value shopping. The villagers enjoyed a special endearing status and relationship with the centre, and both benefited from it richly.

In the discussions that happened at the school hall, these facts were once again brought to the fore, and went a long way in comforting the villagers of their acquired self-sufficiency for basic needs of life such as food, shelter and clothing. And the discussion then eventually transitioned into what the villagers could do, to assist people in the nearby villages. Villages, that relied heavily on the power of money, to achieve faster progression. A simple to execute plan was chalked out. All villagers took the responsibility of spreading the same through word of mouth, as well as executing it well. The beneficiaries would include neighbouring villages, as well as the Khadi Centre, the military base and the plantation workers and whoever else could be included in the local support framework. There was nothing that the villagers expected back “in return” or “in exchange” of their services! Over the weeks, it was a huge success and achieved magnificent synergies in terms of a give and take amongst the locals in that region. The lack of money simply did not matter to them.

A bright array of lights blinded Sharon’s sight as she slowly opened her eyes. As she looked around, she found herself lying on what seemed to be on a hospital bed, in an independent, well equipped nursing room. She was surrounded with a lot of equipment and tubes running all over her. She noticed a bell switch near her bandaged hands and could press it a couple of times. In rushed her husband and children. They all had a smile on their faces and tears in their eyes. Within an hour, she was discharged and noticed her husband paying their hospital bills as well. She was feeling dazed on her way home, but soon got hold of her hand phone, looking for Mohit’s message. It was there - “Your Money Just Vanished”. She checked with her husband if all was well and if there was enough money at home and if all their savings and investments were intact. She got a loving caress from her husband, stating that all was well. Sharon had pursued a successful career and had married pretty late in life, around the age of thirty-two. He continued comforting her that she had only sustained minor injuries during her fall, with some loss of blood, and she needed to relax, take things easy. She then shared Mohit’s message with him. He laughed and said that there had been plenty of folks who had received this “April Fool’s” message and many had succumbed to this prank. She persisted that it was not just the message from Mohit, but the bank’s ATM machine too had flashed the same message that day. Her husband once again reassured her that nothing like that may have happened since, he himself had withdrawn money that day at the airport and all was truly well.

Sharon was very confused and in a state of disbelief. She cross-checked with Mohit who wished her a speedy recovery and was apologetic about his prank message as well. In the next couple of days, Sharon found the strength to search her attic for the dairy that had Simone’s last contact details. It had been around twenty years since her last contact with Simone. The dairy reflected a school address against Simone’s name. A number of calls to several people followed, until she could get the school’s current phone number. She called and enquired and the person at the other end was most respectful in his confirmation about Simone’s living in that village and provided her with Simone’s number. An emotional conversation lasted for almost an hour and soon enough, Sharon and family travelled the thousands of miles to visit Simone and her village, not as visiting tourists, but as a family reunion. Sharon explained to Simone whatever had happened and how she had probably dreamt about Simone’s beautiful life evolving despite the absence of money. All that Sharon narrated to Simone were affirmatively confirmed as being true by Simone, except for the news that money had vanished. Nothing to that effect had happened.

The bonding between the two sisters and their families grew exponentially over the week that they spend together. The two husbands got along very well and the children too had a great time. For Sharon, it was a week of enlightenment that completely changed her perspective of life. She realized having chased money for over two decades. Presumably thinking, money was the only real tool that could buy her, her desired world of happiness. Her reality stared at her like a bad dream, and her dream suddenly seemed like her distant image of a real life that she would love to pursue. After coming back home, she discussed this with her husband and also with her children. They were all encouraging in their feedback, but it all seemed to be a facade aimed probably to help Sharon feel good and recover completely. Over the next few months, they all settled down to their routine hectic lives in the city. The dream of life’s opportunity lost out to the mirage of life’s reality. The bank’s ATM never again flashed the message “Your Money Just Vanished” and promptly provided cash, always, forever.