Sunday, July 11, 2010

When Life Offers you Balloons

(Dedicated to Chetna, Indian Ocean and Helium)

There is something fascinating about balloons. They are free spirited, cheerful and fun. And here I am clearly referring to Helium balloons. Not the lame CO2 balloons that my generation had put up with in all childhood birthday parties. You'd waste copious amounts of breath getting them filled up. You'd need to find strategic high places in the room to tie them up to make them look fun. If left unattended, they'd just sink to the bottom, hiding under the chairs. There's never a bad time to have silly regrets - So here goes: I wish I had helium balloons in my birthday parties while I was in School. More kids would have flocked to my party and the surge of popularity would have changed my personality forever. I'd have grown up with a cool title like 'That Balloon Dude'...

Anyway, I'll sort out my life issues later. This is about cooler Helium Balloons and the lessons in life you can learn from them. Because of an office event (not relevant to this article) on Friday evening our floor was filled with balloons. Like Ross and his museum muffins, this unplanned act unlocked unhappiness never seen before. People were ecstatic, smiling, getting work done and not snapping at each other. I don't have the figures, but I am sure if required the HR department would have exact details on how productivity surged on Friday evening after 5pm...

So on Friday at 6pm while Chetna clicked, deleted, approved and got some work done, I sat next to her holding a bunch of balloons, trying to improve her productivity. I don't remember the exact retort, but it had something to do with looking stupid. Right then I proposed the possibility of carrying the balloons out of the office all the way to the Indian Ocean performance we were planning to attend later in the evening. Chetna disapproved the idea instantly. Like Barney Stinson I stood up boldly and said, "Challenge Accepted". And the challenge was broadly defined as "How far can you travel with balloons in Singapore without giving up out of embarrassment or being stopped by authority?"

The rest of the article is about the bold journey with balloons and the shallow lessons we need to learn from it.

Lesson1: There's never a bad time to enjoy balloons.

People form opinions about you all the time. If you pause and take out time to enjoy balloons, you'd at best look stupid and at worst retarded. That's not a bad spectrum to be in at all. So if you enjoy balloons, let no social stigma deter you.

Hence, on Friday at 7pm, I along with mildly embarrassed friends enjoyed a pleasant walk on a windy evening from the office to restaurant across the road.

Lesson2: Be selfish. Irrespective of your age you deserve to enjoy them as much as kids.

At Aromas of India restaurant we chose the center table. As the 'special kid' in the group, I was given the corner seat right next to the balloons. Apart from our group there was another family in the restaurant with kids, who were suspiciously eying the balloons - Lazy 2010 generation who went through no struggle in life. One kid was bold enough to even point at it and say 'Balloon!'. What audacity! Sure, I could have untied one balloon and handed it to him. But how would that help the kid? Would it be a good lesson for him? Life is a struggle. As Winston Churchill said, "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm". And looking at his pictures, I can guess that he didn't have any balloons in life too.

Hence I ignored the kid and kept all the balloons to myself.

Lesson 2.a (for the kids): Life is a struggle.

Lesson3: The government does not want you to enjoy balloons.

We chose to visit a museum right next to the Indian Ocean venue. That's when we discovered that the 'Asian Civilization Museum' in Singapore officially does not allow balloons inside. It makes you wonder what our government official was smoking when he was writing these guidelines. But that's the truth. The guard specifically told us "Sir, we do not allow balloons inside the Asian Civilization Museum". As a consequence, I had to store the balloons inside a locker and pick them up later at the end of the museum visit.

The Indian Ocean performance was very enjoyable. As a mark of respect for all fans, I stood away from the centre so that I didn't block the view for anyone. I'd have liked to just let go of the balloons and stand in the centre and cheer...But...

Lesson 3.a: Sometime you need to just let go.

Lesson 3.b: Sometimes balloons can be a pain too.


Finally the balloons were carried all the way home where they eventually lost their spirit.

Lesson 4: Everything that has a beginning, and balloons, have an end.

So in summary, life is short. And you need to make the best of it. If God gives you balloons, enjoy them. If you don't believe in God, enjoy that too. And finally, get your HR to do events involving balloons. It's worth it.