Follow by Email

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Keerthi's Questions

Last Sunday, little Keerthi who’s studying in Class 2 came home for Golu. Saying she wanted to look around my house, she pulled me along, asking a string of questions.

Every time we entered a room, she asked, “What is this place? What is it used for?” Then we entered the kitchen and she fired a salvo, “Why is this place so messy today?” I was stunned into a momentary silence by two things – one, that her observation was painfully true and two, that she’d been so open and matter-of-fact about stating it. I tried explaining that it had been a busy day, with the festival cooking and guests coming over with no time to clean the place up. She nodded as if the answer didn’t really matter to her – she was excited just looking at a new place, observing it and asking her questions.

She peered into the cupboard in the room, looked towards the mirror on the other side and armed with my answers, declared her understanding, “Ok, so Suresh Uncle keeps his clothes here, and gets ready there.” I found myself laughing, silently thankful that she didn’t use the adjective she’d used for the kitchen.

I wondered if little Keerthi has learned this in school as part of some modern education method of collecting and storing information. When I asked my niece who’s into educational psychology, she told me about something called the 5Ws and one H method that’s taught in some schools as part of speaking skills. Later, I looked it up on Google and found this technique has quite a few applications from communication and journalism to project management and Six Sigma. 

My interest in the topic is quite different though, for I realized these questions are a formidable tool to get to the very basics of an issue.
Ever since Keerthi demonstrated this method, I’ve found myself using it with commendable results.

When some place is cluttered, I ask ‘What is this place? What is it for? What needs to be here?’ ‘What does not need to be here?' Answering these questions not only helps me clear up the place in a jiffy, it also helps me avoid the irritation that comes with unanswerable questions like ‘Why does it always have to be me who has to clear the mess’ or ‘When will people learn to keep things in their place’

But the most effective use of these questions has been in clearing mental clutter. What is my mind meant for? What is this unwanted stuff fluttering around here? How can I get rid of it? What is the best way to look at this particular situation? How much energy does this feeling or thought deserve?

What I’ve found even more critical is the way Keerthi used the word ‘today’ while asking why the kitchen was messy. When you ask yourself why you’re feeling upset today or sad today or angry today or let down today or lethargic today – the ‘today’ is important. Because it lets you realize that the feeling is a temporary one. You’re not doomed to always feel that way. And that has to be the most uplifting of feelings – to realize that you won’t always feel this way, that tomorrow or the next moment can be a better one, and that you have a role in making sure tomorrow turns out different.

Little Keerthi’s parents will most likely read this and shake their heads in amusement (and maybe wonder) at what this writer has conjured up from the tiny simple questions their kid asked. Some day when she grows old enough to understand, I want to show this to Keerthi and thank her for the role she played in my taking yet another tiny step towards being a better person. Who knows, reading it may even help her rediscover the power of asking the right questions in a way she may have long-since forgotten.

This lovely frame is from Incidental Comics...


  1. hi. yes. i have found this very useful in management consulting. i call it the H4W principle. it helps a lot in making people understand the small steps they have to take to complete the big picture. thanks for making me think over it again and whether i should make it H5W...cheers

    1. Thank you, Dattaprasad..glad the piece helped you re-think !

  2. Hi anu.... Yet another thoughtful article..... Nicely written.... It is good if we think 5 W's and one H in every work we do.... As u said.... Life will be much easier

  3. Wow! There is always some learning happening all the time if only we keep our eyes ears and... mind open😀!

    1. Indeed...thank you for spelling it out so clearly !

  4. Awesome and well written thoughtful article .everyday is a new learning like this!

  5. Simply superb article Anusuya, a new dimension towards thoughtful thinking..

  6. Nice one..the point I liked the most is why "today" it gives us a confidence that how badly we may be placed today, keep trying and tomorrow could happen to be a good turning point..nicely articulated.


Do share your thoughts on this through the comment section. All you need to do is click on the hyperlinked word "comments" at the end of the blog and then enter your message in the box that opens up. If you so wish, you may also get in touch with me through email: