Many of you might remember the old NCERT textbooks which had one page right at the beginning sharing the Talisman propounded by Mahatma Gandhi.

At the time, I didn’t completely get the meaning of his words which are now crystal clear.
What Gandhiji meant when he gave us that mantra was – there are always people more unfortunate than us and that every step, every action undertaken by us should be carried out keeping in mind the welfare of those less fortunate ones.

My piece here lays down no such lofty ideals. I just want to underline the fact that each of us thinks that the troubles and trials of our lives are unique and beyond endurance. But in essence, life isn’t easy for any of us. We just have to make the best of what is given to us.

There are people who are enduring terminal illnesses, there are some who have been turned out of their own homes by their own flesh and blood, others still lead lives of penury and want, there are many who are either too fat or too thin, some suffer physical handicaps others mental ailments, there are yet others who have no talent or scope for education and few who are low on luck despite the degrees, some are financially well off but have no mental peace others can’t make their two ends meet. For some there are marital troubles for others relationships are difficult. Some are in agony because they are childless some worry because they have too many mouths to feed. There are some for whom their sexuality or gender is a cross, they are born that way, others still whose choices society doesn’t accept.

In nutshell, as long as we have human lives, we have desires. These desires are the root cause of pain. The unending want for more create a gloom and unhappiness that is beyond our control. We suffer because we always want something that has not been served to us. We suffer because we constantly compare our lives with others. For us grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. We don’t acknowledge the fact that the grass is greener where it is watered.

We cry and make a hullabaloo about the suffering we have to sustain. We pray to our Gods to alleviate our burdens. We cut corners, we try and cheat fate and hoodwink our destiny. All in vain.

We have been given one life. True, it has some challenges. We each have our crosses to bear and carry but if we do so with a song in our heart and a smile on our lips, won’t it be more convenient and bearable?

In any case we have to live through the entire span of life given to us. Why not face it headlong without complaining and cribbing about it.. Why make it tougher than it already is? We can strive to improve our lot in life, that’s our right and prerogative but there really isn’t any use lamenting the things we lack or the burdens we have to carry. We won’t die before it is our time so why not live it up despite the tests assigned to us.

Think about it!

Advertisements

The incident, I am about to narrate, goes back to the year 2009 or 2010, I was teaching at a residential school then. We had an English department full of experienced and knowledgeable teachers, each more impressive than the next in terms of vigour, zest or plain perspective.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. Some of us were sitting in the staff room carrying on with our respective tasks when Ma’am Santosh Ahlawat entered. I was in awe of her personality. Tall and distinguished, she seemed to be at complete ease in her skin. Her smiling face and radiance gave the impression of a person who had things under control and one who was sure of herself in every way. Nothing seemed to bother her or ruffle her feathers. She had great ideas too. It may seem like my personal ode to her but the fact of the matter is that I didn’t know her well enough and all the attributes, I have just mentioned about her, have only come to my mind now that I have sat down to write.

The only thing that I truly and vividly remember about her is what she told us that day and which has somehow stuck with me over the years. A simple thought but of great import. She had just come to the staffroom after taking an impromptu class with grade 9th. As it was an unscheduled period, she just gave them a random idea, wrote it on the green board and asked them to ponder over it. Her notion, though basic, was extremely profound. On the board she had written – LEARN TO LISTEN.

This tiny piece of sparkling wisdom has stayed with me since then. I keep telling the people or students I come in contact with, ‘to listen’ as much as they can. Over the years, I have benefitted a lot by cultivating this miniscule, seemingly random, bit of virtue.

It’s true that we learn new things only when we shut up & listen to new ideas and perspectives. People feel respected around us if, all we do, is listen to them make their point. We pick up new languages when we listen to natives speaking them. We earn the respect and admiration of our colleagues and subordinates when we let them make their case by giving them a chance to speak. For teachers and parents, earning the trust and devotion of their students or children is the greatest achievement, which is possible only when we listen to them. Not only these practical, day to day things, we also appreciate nature more when we sit quietly and observe its various bounties. We may have gathered and accumulated a lot of knowledge and experience but that doesn’t make us all- knowing.

Each of us has a lot to learn about the blessing that this human birth is, about the people around us and how to treat them, about nature, God, life, our work, relationships, about things that are said but not meant or others that are meant but never said, about situations that we find ourselves in and the tight corners that we have to manoeuvre around, about events that are evident but not real or real but not apparent or discernable.

Our lives would seem inadequate or insufficient in terms of time or length if we decide to pay heed to whatever there is to learn. But if we have to grow, that is the only path to take. Books and success stories can only teach us as much.

We genuinely learn from our environment and that too only when we give it an opportunity to make an impact on us. The easiest and the most pragmatic course of action would be to Listen. Listening is not just hearing but paying attention to not only the words spoken but also to those meant. Listening is not a stimuli for answering or replying or hitting back, it is a stepping stone for comprehension, reformation and change.

Recently, I was reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and I read that the only thing that made Homo Sapiens different from other Humans and animals was the size of our brains. We are the wise ones. Ours is a chosen species. What we choose to do with this life is upto us! We can either stick to the comfortable and stay happy in our ignorance or else venture out of that safe zone, step into the unknown and find bliss that would add meaning to our mundane lives.

Wasn’t it Anand (Rajesh Khanna) who said, “बाबू मोशाय , ज़िन्दगी बड़ी होनी चाहिए, लंबी नही“ Life should be meaningful (big/large) not long (as in years without any real wisdom)

The one thing that we can all promise ouselves to do in our ordinary lives is to be open to learning and that would be possible only when we learn to listen.

Just a thought!

via ” Admit Your Role In A Failed Relationship ” Without Blaming …

What is the gravest loss a person can incur? Someone frivolous would say- Money, someone with greater depth and realisation about how life runs would say – passing away or passing on of loved ones is a loss that can never be repaired. True that!

But while we are living, we learn to survive with or without people. Even if they pass on, we can find solace in the fact that they loved and cherished us as we do them.

In my very humble opinion, the greatest loss a person can lay oneself open to is the loss of respect, whether it is in the eyes of our loved ones or in our own judgement.

It isn’t rocket science to understand that not all of us are destined for great things, not all of us would be remembered by a multitude, not all of us would earn the celebrity status, few amongst us will earn a handsome living but there runs a common thread between the greats and the ordinary ones, like us.

All of us have one Life and we need to prioritize it in such a way that we make the extraordinary come alive even in the mundane. We may not be a Ratan Tata, an Indra Nooyi, an Amitabh Bachchan, a Lata Mangeshkar, a Mark Zuckerberg or a Steve Jobs to inspire an entire generation but we are humans too and it is upto us to be exemplary atleast to our own children.

I have written time and again about how I look upto both my parents for everything in my life. The way they have led theirs, their experiences and conduct even in the face of adversity, their even temperaments, their integrity and honesty have far surpassed any flaws that are bound to seep into a human character. I am proud to be their daughter although sometimes theirs are huge shoes to fill in.

It’s not always that, parenting goes right. I may not be the most appropriate person to talk about it but I have observed, at close quarters, children losing respect for their fathers or mothers. It used to baffle me because it was a completely alien concept for me. How could one hate one’s parent? Way back in my school days, I had some classmates who rarely spoke about or to their mothers. Being an impressionable child myself, I had spoken to my mother about it and she had wisely advised me not to be judgemental or take sides, better still to mind my own business and not put my nose where it wasn’t required.

With years and age came maturity and a kind of experienced comprehension of human nature. During my teaching years, I came across a couple of girls who hated their mothers. For one it was easily explained – she had a step mom and the girl had never warmed up to her but there was another who just couldn’t tolerate her own natural mother. Try as I may, I couldn’t understand that kind of hatred.

Some years on, I moved back to my hometown to be with my parents and thus nearer to my extended family too. True, it is trying, living with people of a generation that doesn’t understand your reasons and don’t approve of your way of doing things and true, there are disagreements too but at the end of the day, they are our parents and we learn from their experiences. Wherever necessary, we also tell them a better way of handling things. Hate never enters this equation. Not with the parents atleast. But that’s me and my life. Not everyone has the same circumstances.

Today, more than anything, I understand the wisdom behind my mother’s words when she had told me not to be too inquisitive about the lives of my friends and more specifically – never to judge. ‘You don’t know their truths. Not the same applies to everyone’, was her constant reply to my curious wonderings.

I have seen grown men losing respect, losing face in front of their own kids. They can’t handle the ever increasing pressures of modern day living and give in to vices like drinking to drown their sorrows, gambling to earn an easy buck, borrowing to pay back previous debts. It is a vicious circle. Instead of facing life headlong with grit and determination, they succumb to weaknesses of the body and soul which eats away at their family lives.

Far from being heroes or inspiration to their kids, they become embarrassments for their families. The impact on the children is life altering. They either become copies of their fathers, taking up those vices as their own or end up hating their parent and going against anything and everything they suggest. Either ways, lives get ruined.

This is the problem, but is there any use writing about the problem without suggesting a solution? My solution is simple and has to come from within.

Marriage is not just a social obligation that we have to perform when the time is right, instead it is a responsibility which should be taken only when one is ready for it. Becoming a parent makes one accountable. We don’t have to lead extraordinary lives in order to earn the respect of our children, we just have to make our decisions on the basis of what will be right or wrong for our family as a whole.

Seemingly ordinary lives can also be remarkable if the children come out cultured, if they value their resources, are intellectually & morally sound and most importantly if they respect their elders, effortlessly.

We should give them reasons for that respect. Just because they are our offsprings is not enough cause for ‘demanding’ respect. How we conduct ourselves, goes a long way in shaping the lives and characters of our children. We cannot expect them to outshine us when all we are giving them is a lot of negative energy.

Having said that, we have one life too and at times we also can be reckless and experimental. We may enjoy our little indulgences but responsibility towards our children wins the round, hands down. We cannot drink ourselves to hell at the cost of our family just because we happen to enjoy our daily pint. We cannot smoke away to lala land without a thought about its impact on our family. We may take calculated risks to earn big time but cannot be reckless enough to go beyond our means and set up a debt for our children to repay. That’s not how exemplary lives are lead.

It’s never too late to make amends. If our intentions are right and if our hearts are in the right place then we know what is the most important thing for a person- it’s the love and respect of the ones closest to us. And make no mistake, we have to work hard to earn that. The first step is to acknowledge our mistakes and then try to mend our ways as best as possible. Even if we don’t succeed in bringing in more money or stability to our lives atleast we can be content that we tried our best and that too with integrity.

Wouldn’t it be endearing to be remembered as a good human being, once we are gone? Why just talk about being remembered once we are gone!! Wouldn’t it warm the cockles of our hearts if people look up to us even in life? Wouldn’t it be remarkable to leave a legacy of righteousness and morality for our kids to follow and pass on?

Start making amends today. We don’t know what is in store for us tomorrow.

It was just that sort of a day when you need to remind yourself of who you are and what your core is made of. Actually, it’s been a series of such days end on end.

Being a bibliophile, I try and find answers in the written word. For me, there is nothing that a google search can’t throw up- from books on recipes to countering depression, from what to watch in which mood to what to wear and where & how to travel, from ailments and their cures to the composition and impact of medicines, I find everything when I look for it and more often than not, I end up reading on everything that goes on in my mind. That’s how much words rule me.

So, it wasn’t surprising when I noticed some discrepancies in my general behaviour and reactions, I immediately looked up the reason for the change and found out that there is something called ‘working depression’ & that I was quietly but steadily moving towards it. On delving into the problem further, I found out about (surprise, surprise!) a book- Pilgrimage of Desire by Alison Gresik.

Generally, I don’t read self help books but this is something that all of us can benefit from. I am still on it and I feel better because I realise that we are not alone in this. All of us go through lean patches and we have got to believe that there is a way out of them. And once we are out of them, we shine brighter. We may not come out unscathed but they are just battle wounds, the scars that leave a memory and a lesson.

Years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the marvel, that is, Jon Bon Jovi and one of his songs that is etched deep into my psyche is ‘Welcome to wherever you are’, the other being ‘Walk like a man’. I may have spoken about the latter in one of my previous pieces but the former is the one that inspires me in my current mood.

I leave you with the lyrics and will try and attach a link to it too.

Happy listening!

Maybe we’re all different, but we’re still the same..

We all got the blood of Eden, running through our veins.
I know sometimes it’s hard for you to see.
You are caught between just who you are and who you wanna be.

If you feel alone, and lost and need a friend
Remember every new beginning, is some beginning’s end.

Welcome to wherever you are
This is your life, you made it this far.
Welcome, you gotta believe
That right here right now, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Welcome, to wherever you are..

When everybody’s in, and you’re left out
And you feel you are drowning, in a shadow of a doubt.
Everyones a miracle in their own way
Just listen to yourself, not what other people say.

When it seems you’re lost, alone and feeling down
Remember everybody’s different
Just take a look around.

Welcome to wherever you are
This is your life, you made it this far
Welcome, you gotta believe
That right here right now, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Be who you want to, be who you are
Everyone is a hero, everyone is a star..

When you wanna give up, and your heart is about to break.
Remember that you’re perfect, God makes no mistakes.

Welcome to wherever you are
This is your life, you made it this far
Welcome, you gotta believe
That right here right now, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be
Welcome, to wherever you are.

Welcome to wherever you are

Where do you plan to go this vacation? How are you bringing in the new year/ your birthday / your anniversary? What do you plan to do in future? Are these the right courses for what you have in mind for your life? Why are you going out with this person, do you see a future with him or her? Have you been saving for a rainy day? Have you ensured that your children won’t want for anything in their lives? Have you made sure that they have a sound financial backing as long as they live?

Sound familiar? The mental checklist!!! The grocery list for life. We have all been taught not to disregard it. We have all been brought up to think and over think like that. We think and think and then think some more. We plan, we propose, we toil, we execute and in the end we have successful lives with enough financial security to last us a lifetime and some of us even go beyond that and take care of our next generation too.

We marry, have a family. Sometimes we fall in love too and then again we analyse whether that (person /relationship) would work in our lives or not. We hold on to it if it fits with our master plan and let go if it doesn’t.

All of it is highly rational and responsible behaviour. We have to keep up the family name, its legacy which is the biggest thing we pass on to our children. It cannot be tainted by impulsive acts or decisions, can it be?

But just for a moment think, what if we could lead our lives without planning ahead? What if, we concentrated more on OUR lives alone not burdened by the family name, or what people would say or what will happen if plan A fails!! We have been brought up to think of all possible scenarios. We have a master plan A, if that fails we fall back on Plan B, God forbid if that fails we either have a workable Plan C or we give in to despair. Assign it to fate. Lose hope. Sometimes we muster courage to pick ourselves up and fight back. Isn’t that what all great success stories, that we keep hearing for inspiration, are about?

What I am suggesting here is something completely different. Something, few have the courage and audacity to take up. I am referring to a Super Plan S, where S stands for SPONTANEITY. What would it be like to live life as it comes? Wouldn’t it be more meaningful if it is led as God wanted us to lead it- without frills & attachments. It would be a great relief if we could start a relationship, a job, a move, an education without thinking— WHAT NEXT!!

Isn’t it enough that we are living it up in the moment?

How many of the ‘successful’ people, we look upto, have lived their lives without compromises? It’s a cliché choice – happiness or success. I am not posing that question here. It is perfectly alright to want to be successful in life. It is great to be ambitious but not the same rules apply to all people.

For me success might not mean money. For me happiness might not mean success. I may be happy in a relationship without a future. I may find contentment even in the absence of high living. I might be fulfilled without a soul mate or in some cases a life partner.

It is different for each person and it is alright for him or her to make those choices without pressure from family, relatives or well meaning friends. We are not going to take back anything from here. Not the money we earn, nor the good deeds we perform.

We are here to keep our Souls happy. We form attachments along the way- some we are born into, others we cultivate but our prime responsibility is to ourselves. We cannot pour from an empty cup. To be able to give happiness, we have to be happy inside. There is no perfect recipe for it which suits all palates. How we find it, nurture it, is upto each individual..

What happens when we first learn to drive a car or ride a bike? After the initial apprehensions, a sort of over confidence sets in and combined with the zest of youth, we tend to forgo speed limits, we test our boundaries, we take chances, we know that we would be able to control the vehicle even at that insane speed. We feel a special kind of independence at being able to do things on our own, a self reliance, if you may.

Once the novelty wears off, it becomes routine. Driving or riding may still be synonymous with liberty but the thrill is gone. Gone is the urge to take unnecessary risk. It merely becomes a means of getting things done. At this stage we are more aware of the potholes, the traffic and the wisdom of slowing down and letting others pass. We are surer and more confident of our skills. We learn how to manoeuvre our ride around tight corners, we become adept at getting by without applying abrupt brakes..

Yes, life is a lot like driving.. Infact it is just like driving!

Look, look, Guttu! Look at the color of her hair”, Mishti, my six year old niece couldn’t hold back her excitement when she saw an old lady with hair as white as cotton wool, nearly the same texture too. I explained to her how a human body ages and loses its vigour with time. She went into deep contemplation and didn’t bring up the topic again until the next morning when we were riding towards her school astride our new activa. We happened to chance upon a fallen tree spread across the whole road. We had to careen awkwardly to make our way past it. She was curious as to what had happened to it. I again told her that it had aged and lost its strength and thus fallen down – dead. She was quick with her repartee, “Aged- just like the old woman we saw yesterday.” I was overwhelmed with tenderness at her innocence and struggled to grapple with the fact as to how the notion of aging would be such an alien and enormous concept for a six year old.

At 38, I myself don’t get the process completely. I do understand the weathered bodies, the sluggish gait, the dimming eye sight, the hardness of hearing, the memory loss, the confusion, the irritability & the failing health. What surprises me daily is the unbent, unyielding spirit residing in those broken weathered bodies, the strength of their spine in face of adversity, the far sightedness, the willingness to hear the opinion of their children, the things that they remember from a life well- lived, the patience and the untiring care they have for the family.

It is as if they refuse to wilt away like dying flowers. The indomitable human spirit puts them far higher on the totem pole than any other living thing.

True, there are moments of despair and helplessness in the face of circumstances, events or even physical disability but I see people rise above them by dint of sheer courage and lifeskills that they have mastered over the long years of their existence. Ailing parents can be as stubborn and uncompromising as children but they have the virtue of experience and forgiveness that gives them an extra edge.

It is obvious that a long lifetime means a lot of experiences- some good, some bad. Some memories are worth cherishing and there are others that turn into grudges and regrets. The idleness and inactivity of old age brings all of that, forth. It’s not just the body that withers, the mind also crumbles and some of us tend to become grumpy with age.

I am amazed when I look at my septuagenarian father. He has had a tough life. He faced the society headlong while in his youth, took unconventional decisions, looked after the entire extended family, made something of himself with little or no help from people around. He became who he is, on his own steam. A lesser man would have given in, in face of all that he went through. But he stood tall and strong and proud all his life. There are times now when he loses faith, thinks of himself as a toothless tiger but he always, always fights back. He gets up, dusts himself off and does what he does best- Dominate.. Age might have slowed his reflexes a bit but his mind stays razor sharp and his eyes miss nothing. After all these years, he still has his exclusive outlook on everything. He is opinionated, strong, honest and an idealist to the core. He calls a spade a spade and doesn’t like to mince his words with nary a bother what the world would think of him. He overthinks. His belief in family and the concept of kith and kin is rock solid, despite the many blows & setbacks. At 72, he is still the anchor that holds our craft together.

For every child his/her father is a source of constant support & inspiration. For me, despite our occasional differences, he remains My Hero, who has surmounted innumerable odds and survived.

And what a life it has been!!!!

Someday Mishti will also know what aging with style and on one’s own terms means, thanks to her NANA..

💫Conundrum💫

Posted: February 24, 2018 in Life as I see it...
Tags: , , , ,

If we try and hold on to everything at the same time, we lose everything in the process..

How many times have we read and heard it spoken, yet it hurts when it actually goes down.. There is no perfect world out there. Every moment in our lives comes with choices. Sometimes they are simple and easy to make and give us a freedom to go with what suits us best but there are times when we don’t want to take the fork. We want the paths to merge so that we can have it all.

Every writer, worth his or her salt, has a Muse. Whether they know it or not, something or someone always acts like an inspiration or a cornerstone of their writings. They lay the foundations of their pieces around it and weave their magical yarn.

Our words flow when our Muse is somewhere in our minds.

To me, writer’s block comes when I lose that vision or thought on whose foundation my words stand. It’s true that I wrote earlier too but my writings started making sense to me with that presence in my mind. I realized quite late where the word flow came from. There was an extremely dry spell when I couldn’t put my thoughts into any coherent sequence and I quit trying to write for those few months because even if I did try, it came out as a forced effort. Not honest, not sincere!

What that sabbatical from writing did, was another blessing. I found my Voice in the mean time! I found that writing was not the only thing that could be cathartic if you had a willing ear to hear you voice your opinions.

But life happens when you start settling down to change. When you start to get comfortable in the little haven that you have created, BAM! life hits you with a test. And it is cruel at times. It gives you the choice of Either Or.. It’s more of a conundrum than a choice, actually. Either Or exists only when both the choices are hard to give up on. That’s the whole idea behind it.

By some turn of fate, if I get back my Words, why should I be posed with the threat of losing my Voice?

Why can’t both stay?

In a perfect world, they would!

Years back when I had just joined the teaching profession and was brimming with fresh ideas and ideals, I remember feeling indignant when a cousin of mine spoke to me about the caste card he would play to, in the upcoming elections. My cousin had some years on me and had pretty clear ideas how democracy worked at the grassroot level. I was shocked and indignant because his ideas did not match the ones given in the text book.

Some years on, when I had gained some worldly experience and knew of rage, oppression and fate dealing a lame card, I was still shocked when an extremely mild- mannered colleague of mine belonging to a marginal community, spoke harshly with an almost wolfish snarl what he thought of being secular. His venomous hate for an entire community, though coming from personal experience, did not feel justified to me.

Quite recently, the brouhaha about the release of a movie on a long dead queen also felt unnecessary and roguish to me.

But isn’t this where we make mistakes? What may be clear as crystal to me, may not even ring a bell with someone else. It’s the perceptions that we form that make us the people we are. And even if it has taken me years to get this simple fact straight, I now realise that respecting other people’s way of looking at things makes life uncomplicated and hassle free. We cannot expect even our closest ones to feel exactly as we do on issues, both ideological and otherwise.

The more we read or expose ourselves to unfamiliar notions in any form, through any medium, the more we grow as a person.

While going through Adolf Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf, I got to know why he hated the Jews so much. I may not agree with his beliefs, ideas & deductions but he wasn’t wrong in his own eyes. His perception gave way to the Holocaust, the biggest genocide the world has ever experienced, and yet he was convinced that he was right all along.

Our beliefs are rooted in our own experiences. However bad a person may seem to the multitude, he is worth praising if he sticks to his beliefs. The ideas and notions of some may be repugnant to us or many others but they are there because they stand on the firm ground of experiences of that individual. That doesn’t make it wrong. They may not be justified but are true for them.

What I don’t get is being so impressionable that you can be swayed from what you truly believe, by dint of great oratory, fine language or the personality of a person.

Some of us have it easy. We haven’t had bitter experiences to shape up our thinking but for that very purpose we have been endowed with the faculty of brains, cognition, comprehension, logic, deductions and free will.. If only, we could use them instead of being blind followers to anyone that can wield and plant a thought in our minds, the world would be a more peaceful place and our relationships more transparent.