Winds of Change

 when the winds of change blow chinese proverb - Google Search:

 

Many years ago, before the advent of civilization, there lived a man (rather a primitive man) Bhikhu. He used to hunt and gather, but he was almost happy. Only problem was that, day by day he was growing tired of his nomadic existence. One day he met a group of others like him and they planned to live together. They settled down near a serene flowing river and started practicing agriculture. Gone were the days of wanderings. The stability of the structure attracted many others and gradually they formed, what is now called a village. They worked day in and day out and were able to grow enough, to meet their ends. The collaboration and teamwork had just started to show results, and now they were even left with the surplus. Nobody knew what to do with the surplus. Then some wise folks came up with an  idea that it was actually not necessary for all of them to be involved in cultivation. Some folks got the liberty to try out other avenues like crafts, pottery etc. There also emerged an opportunist class who volunteered to take the surplus to the newly formed markets, with the promise to return the exchange to the real custodians after keeping a commission for themselves. They were the service providers of those times or aptly called managers/administrators now. With the increase in the expanse of the civilization, it was time for someone to maintain and provide the public facilities. That led to the formation of primitive governing body or government. Question arose that who will pay the funds for the maintenance?

The likes of Bhikhu were waiting for their share to arrive. The manager now, even promised a percentage of sales(exchanged object) to the government as well. All were happy. Days went by, but little came. All this while the manager was stashing his godown with surplus and exchanged objects. Bhikhu was shocked and governor was furious. Bhikhu neither  got what was promised, nor was he able to see any progress in his surrounding paraphernalia(infrastructure).  The government then came up with the offer for the manager to transfer the surplus in its (government’s) treasury with a promise of future return, but the manager refused. The governor, a wise man as he was, warned the manager about a swarm of locusts inching towards his godown and tried to assure him about the safety of the state-of-the-art technology which governor had. The manager paid no heed. The swarm arrived and destroyed everything. Nothing remained and the civilization collapsed. Bhikhu and many others like him, got back to hunting and gathering.

In the light of recent developments in India, the plight of a common man is no less than that of Bhikhu.  The bubble was to burst if status-quo was to be maintained. Instead of doubting the intentions, we can welcome change in the right direction. Instead of paying allegiance to any person or party, we should judge every individual idea in isolation. No person, no party is perfect. Likewise no person or party is absolutely bad. Won’t it be a better situation when we leave our ego aside and blind allegiance to camps and call right a right and wrong a wrong. A nearly perfect person can take wrong decisions, similarly, a not so good person can take a right decision at the right time. The person we saw yesterday, is not the same person today. People can change, their motivations and intentions can also change, maybe for the better or for the worse. A better way would be, to not judge the person but to judge his/her each step or intention in isolation. Blind trust doesn’t indicate a rational mind but it is very much driven by one’s ego.

Also, another issue which has been brought to the forefront is that this world is going to be very dynamic. Cash, gold, land etc may no longer be means to achieve security. A currency note ultimately is going to remain a piece of paper. Gold is just a piece of metal which is just valued for its supply-demand mismatch dynamics. A brief period of time was there in history, when aluminium gained immense value and gold was left useless. Land is just a vast expanse of mud on which we aim to build castles of our dreams.

The security for which everyone can aspire is to have knowledge and right education. Knowledge can be the only hope to tide over the dynamic environment,  and relevant education can act as a precursor before a person becomes really conscious to acquire that knowledge.  The role of deep and meaningful relationships can also never be understated in these times. Remember, alone we all are Bhikhu, the hunter/gatherer, together we are a family, a society and a civilization. People give us memories and memories are priceless, as they never become redundant. Last but not the least, we can derive a sense of security from our surroundings and environment. We need to be more aware, vigilant and sensitive towards our environment. It is changing fast in front of us and behind our backs. I studied about Beijing Smog is class 7th or 8th and could never imagine that we will face such a situation ever in our country in this lifetime. Inaction feeds either upon our ignorance or “it can never happen to me” attitude. In this fast changing world, both are nothing less than suicidal tendencies.

The winds of change are blowing, I can feel the freshness in me and in many others like me. Some say that it is utterly stupid to be over hopeful but what to do? The optimist in me is happy, atleast now, in viewing this beautiful world through rose coloured glasses.

” When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills” ~Chinese Proverb

Advertisements

No More Sympathy Please…Give me something better!

 

shoes

It was a hot summer evening. We were rushing to a Metro station. My husband joined the long queue, at the ticket window and I got busy in my phone (the antidote to boredom). As I stole an occasional glance up from the screen, a very peculiar scene caught my eye.

A baby, not more than 7-8 months old, was lying carelessly on the floor. The luggage and belongings were strewn across. A dirty feeding bottle, half-filled, was also rolling through the floor. The baby was surrounded by passersby, who were quizzically examining every detail of the infant and were amusingly listening to the constant wailing of the poor little fellow. A man in torn clothes, must be in his twenties, was haggling bravely with a bunch of cops. I had to really strain my ears, in order to grab the content of their conversation.

The man was claiming himself to be the father of the baby and cops were not willing to buy his story. Taking breaks from their arguments, the man was repeatedly trying to slide the feeder bottle into the lips of the infant, which to his dismay, was being thrown out forcefully by the kid, in order to continue with his wails. With each failed attempt, the wails grew even louder. The man finally gave up and held the infant lovingly in his arms and continued with his explanations. The cops were constantly interrogating him about his whereabouts and were constantly threatening him, to put him behind the bars, on charge of stealing a kid.

We (the Public), were enjoying a free ticket show and everyone was quick enough to pitch in with their words, laden with “Sympathy” towards the poor little thing. Someone called him a “bechaara”, while others had their hearts, welling up for the father. A gentleman jibed that it is futile to bear children, if one can’t bring them up properly. Some even went up to the extent of saying that the child must be motherless. We were either sympathizing or were busy judging the father-son duo.

I also came to know, that the man had no money to buy tickets, and feed further the little fellow. He was pleading but to no avail. The Sympathy being passed on to him was not enough to buy him a ticket. Probably, the sympathy was of no good to the man, but could make the crowd feel good about themselves, for in our society, being sympathetic is a sign of goodness within us. But what good could it do to a world, if it just lies hidden within us and just provides a psychological comfort to the owner.

They say, every black cloud has a silver lining. There is a ray of hope, in darkest of circumstances. Suddenly, a security guard came forward and passed on a currency note into the hands of the man and casually said “Rakh le yaar, main samajhta hoon”. The man grabbed the note, bowed before the policemen, arranged his stuff in order, held the baby and got lost into the crowd. The end of our little story coincided with my husband finally off the ticket window, with tickets to our destination and I boarded the train with a heavy heart.

The journey, provided me with ample time to reflect back upon the incident. A very important lesson was hidden there for me. What was it that differentiated us (the crowd) from that security guard? Why any normal person will have respect for that guard but apathy for the jeering crowd? The answer was simple yet doesn’t come easy to many of us. The answer lies in two simple words: Sympathy and Empathy. The words are rhyming but express altogether different emotions. What we were directing at the man and kid was plain vanilla Sympathy. Sympathy is a typical human emotion, as in animal world, probably only humans are capable of expressing it. But this is also an emotion which divides us. While we are being sympathetic towards anyone, that very moment a rift crops up. A feeling which portrays “Look I am better off here, you are a non-entity now and all I can give you is, my thoughts mourning your loss or absence of something”. So, basically to me, Sympathy brings in inequality between any two equal human beings. Whereas, what guard had showed was “Empathy”. An emotion much superior than sympathy. For in order to be Empathetic , one has to first come down from the castle of one’s superiority and has to think at the level of the other person. One has to think of himself, being in someone else’s shoes. The moment we start showing empathy, our actions are not guided by our ego but our directed by our very true self. So, Empathy strikes the balance in the equation and equalizes the transaction between the man and a man. Sympathy divides, Empathy unites. Empathy can turn us into comrades.

If you still can’t make out the difference, then remember the times, when we occasionally struggled with a mathematics sum in class. The class was full of people jeering “Oh! You don’t know this, tch tch, so easy”. And there were couple of fellow who used to come forward and actually helped us with that tricky sum. No wonder, those fellows we go on to respect more, as we progress through life!

The world is so full of Sympathizers, it’s time that we now pave the way for Empathy!

In Search Of God; A Journey Of Lies!

Searching.jpg

Siya, as she was called adorably, once she was given this name by her grandma. The name was chosen from Indian mythology, after so much discussion and deliberation. Siya, another name for Sita, the beloved wife of Lord Ram. So, that is how Siya’s initiation into religion started. Siya was born in a staunch Hindu Brahmin family, of highest order. She was the eldest child in the family and was the cynosure of every eye. The pampering and love flowed on her from both maternal and paternal households. Life was bliss and everyone was pouring in, packets of their wisdom, into her tender mind. The day started with usual chanting of shlokas and bhajans, which Siya grasped fast and utter them word by word on the slightest provocation. The grandma could not hide her smile and the grandpa used to kiss her forehead, totally smitten by the sheer intelligence and aptitude of the child.

Her bedtime stories were full of gods and demons, fables from Upanishads and other holy scriptures. So impressed and mesmerized was the child, that she found characters of those stories everywhere. The monkey down the street was revered Lord Hanuman, the pet Tommy was the companion of Shanidev. Growing up, the child got so overwhelmed by the variety of gods and was awestruck when somebody told her that there were 36 Crore Hindu gods, not to forget their“avtaars” too. She learnt soon that every god had a favourite day. Monday was reserved for Lord Shiva, Tuesday for Lord Hanuman, Thursday for Saibaba, Friday for Goddess Santoshi , Saturday for Shanidev. Thankfully, Sunday was a holiday and that too was reserved for Guruji’s satsang. Everyone in the family had their favourite gods too. Grandma was an ardent follower of Lord Ram, Grandpa followed Goddess Durga, Mother was serving laddoo gopal (Lord Krishna) and Father idolized Lord Shiva. The child was faced with this dilemma, from a very tender age, as to which one should be her favourite god. There were plethora of choices available as far as temples were concerned. Siya, never had to throw a tantrum to visit one. To her, these temples were like picnic spots, teeming with activity, bhajans and kirtans, rounds of delicious prasadam, followed by community meals. She was told that god would fulfill her wishes and so she prayed and cajoled different deities in different temples, mentally keeping the count of her wishes from various gods. Sometimes she promised a box of ladoos for getting an A1, while sometimes she promised a shroud for getting a bicycle. In the hustle and bustle of religious centers, with crowd pushing one another, she used to have some seconds for getting the glimpse of the lord’s face and to blurt out her long list of wishes, worried that she shouldn’t forget any. Sometimes when she had no wish to ask for, then she would ask the god to do the best for her, after all how could one go to a temple and not ask anything in return from lord.

The years of mentoring had trained her mind that she couldn’t excel in life if she neglected her daily pooja, it didn’t matter as to how mindlessly one carried off the rituals. She grew up with daily chantings of shlokas, daily lighting up the holy lamp and followed festival specific customizations that were required. Everything was perfect, till the day they had new neighbors. She could make out the whispers being exchanged between family members. Obviously, her mind could comprehend the topic of those discussions, which was none other than the Khans’. Innocently she asked one day “ Ma, when are we going to visit Khans’? Why you and grandma didn’t attend their housewarming?”. To this Ma replied that it was none of her business and she was too young to understand this. Later that evening, she popped up the same question in front of her father and he coldly replied that their religions were not same. They were Muslims. The child fearfully asked “ What is religion? Who are Muslims?”. The father said that they were different from them. They followed a different god and had different customs. Siya asked “What makes their god different from ours dad? Were we both created by different gods? You mean there are more gods than our 36 Crore gods?”. The father was baffled by the inquisitive mind and pushed matter under the carpet by just saying that “You will figure it out one day”.

Soon, Siya was enrolled into a good convent school, for her parents didn’t want her to lag behind in any walk of life and wanted her to be well versed with English language. A girl as smart as she was, she was fast to learn all the hymns and carols. She was also exposed to teachings of Jesus, which she happily absorbed and blended with the teachings of her family gods.

She grew up finally to be a fine lady and started working in a multinational firm. There she got the opportunity to interact with different people and came to know that this problem of multiple religions was not only limited to her own country but was global. She travelled the length and breadth of her own country and was astounded to find that after every 50-100kms, language, culture and religion followed different dynamics. The more she travelled, more insecure she grew. She wondered if the view she held so close to her heart, for all those years, was just an incomplete piece of truth, out of the whole puzzle of microcosm. She feared, if her entire life had just been a paradox? She was disappointed with the years that had passed by, during which she held such a parochial view about the almighty. She was upset, because no one in the family was willing to accept her newly found wisdom. She was alone, terrified and empty. She was clueless about life. She was disillusioned and was like a fish out of water. She was like ship that was looking for its anchor.

That day she realized the travesty of fate. She realized that man though is a gregarious animal, is very different, as he is capable of thinking. With his thinking only he has fragmented the society into compartments, obviously for his gains only. The choice lies within, whether to mindlessly wander here and there with the herd or to apply thought and logic. The day we stop to think, that day we stop to live, that day we stop to evolve. Siya had realized her life’s lesson pretty early, as not everyone is as fortunate as her. She now has a daunting task to find her calling and make peace with her inner self. We wish her all the best in her endeavor.

The Man Who Lost His Soul

01-Awakening-Soul-Spirit1

That day, i was reading out this story “A fisherman who lost his soul” by Oscar Wilde, to a class-full bunch of bright students, that a curious boy asked “Can a person survive by losing his soul?”. I pondered for a while, as i didn’t want to answer and didn’t want to lie either, as a right answer is not always the perfect answer. I  tried evading the question but then gave up by  just answering “NO”. I lied, because the correct answer would have been too much for his age and beyond the scope of his little mind, but one day he will figure it out for sure, as we all do someday, as i did. A person can survive without soul but probably, he cannot live without it!

We grow  up with this notion in mind, that body and soul are inseparable entities, until we  die. I also harboured such notions till a few years back, but now the fog has cleared. I know now, that what does it mean to lose one’s soul, while still being alive. I know it now, from my experiences and by perceiving the experiences of others. It can cause unfathomable devastation,  and if only you are lucky, then may be, you can get yours’ back, in this life itself.

Any idea, what does it feel like to lose one’s soul? Do you know, when do we lose it?  We start losing it from the very moment, when we do some activities  day in and day out, while our heart tells us otherwise. It happens by being unkind to someone when we really want to be kind.  It’s when we want to fly but are told to crawl. It’s when  we want to laugh but are told to shut up. So, basically,  when  a person can’t exercise his/her free-will, then the life-force gradually seeps out.

Unfortunately, the world we live in today, is an apt place to lose ourselves in bits and pieces, for it feeds upon negatives like competition, aggression, materialism, capitalism, misplaced notions about wisdom, beauty etc and eventually these negatives make a  feast out of us. Haven’t we encountered such soul-less bodies ever? Biologically, god has been kind, and with his grace and resources, we manage to grow physically, but even lord doesn’t want to  interfere with our free-will, as spiritual evolution is our personal journey.

Back then, when i was a kid,  we were taught about importance of excellence and religion ,but very few of us were taught, that the ways to pursue that excellence and religion can be different. Little did we know, that excellence is not a commodity  which can be manufactured in  institutions, religion is not a sculpture which can be crafted in temples.We were  taught the content with boundaries and nothing was left to figure out, to explore. In a world so obsessed with success, we were taught not to accept failure, not to take “NO” for  an answer, not to fall down ever.

Little did  i know then, for i know it now, so i’ll  make it my priority, to teach my children, the  things which they really need to seek in life, come what may. The world  encourages give and take, but what sort of bargain would it be , if we get something by paying back for it with our soul?

Every act of hatred, injustice and unkindness, cannot go unnoticed. It is noticed by the light that kindles inside, each one of us and our acts have the potential to make it grow bright or to make it go weak.

What would we gain by losing  a bit of ourselves, with each passing day? What would we lose by gaining things which are transient? What kind of society do we want to build, what kind of children do we want to raise, what kind of world do we want to leave, when we go,  what do we want to be remembered for?Well, the choice lies within, whether to run after the transient or to lead a  soulful existence!

 

 

Parenting the Parent!

parents

I could never say this to you

For, I am beginning to learn,  your point of view,

I had some wrongs,  you had many rights

For I am now a mom, Let’s end these fights,

Friends for sure, we now can  be

A request to which, you  will  agree,

I could never say  this to you

That  I am not always well

and home is the place where my heart  dwells,

I could never say this to you

That I am there

No matter what, that I will  care,

I  Could never  say this to  you

That I will remember to call

Summer, winter and in fall,

Thank you  for everything, that you did

I hear your words everyday, in my heart beats!

Majority of  us share a love-hate sort of relationship with our parents.  Don’t we? Haven’t we all found ourselves torn between these two extreme emotions towards our creators , at some point in our  lives. We love them to the core, no doubt,  but sometimes their idiosyncrasies are not in line with ours.

We love them for their unconditional love, support and care, for it came when  we needed it the  most. This gratitude matures even more, as we age. I think this maturity comes from empathy,  after we become parents, for then  we can place ourselves in their shoes. Suddenly, the wall of generation gap starts crumbling and we start appreciating similarities. We grew up with our differences but learn to make  our peace,  finally after parenthood knocks us down.

The wailing toddler at 2 AM, busy in throwing  tantrums, falling sick, yelling and shrieking, make us wonder about all the brave front  that our parents must have put forward  in order to  make a human out of us. The first part  of our lives is spent in holding them in wrong and balance shall be spent,  in figuring out,  how they were right. In the process, we may  realize, how different things could have been, may be for the better or for the worseJ Amidst this wondering, patching up, the realisation strikes like a  bolt of lightning, that the relationship that we share is no longer the same. They don’t say and we take them  for granted but the parent in them wants  their  share of parenting themselves from us. Their needs are though unlike ours. They need our love,  they  yearn for our company, sometimes they just need the assurance  of our voice. Increasingly,  we can sense that the faces which were once brimming with  confidence are suddenly so unsure about  themselves. The trees  which once provided  us with all the shade and  helped us to tide over the worst storms , have become all the more melancholy . We  forget that howsoever strong the  tree may be, yet it depends upon  the birds and  insects, which  inhabited  it , for pollination and seed dispersal. Absence  of these activities can be catastrophic.  If we won’t nourish them  now, where would we seek our shelter , in this world and the next.

Parenting the parents can sometimes  be  draining and demanding but don’t we keep up with the demands of  our own children? We can show a little patience, we  can agree to disagree sometimes and above all , we can just be there for them whenever  they  need  it the most!

 

 

 

 

The Black Sheep

 

it_photo_100177 (1)

I remember clearly, that classmate of mine, who  sat on the last bench, with bent posture, lost in his own world, twiddling with his pencil and scribbling religiously on a piece of paper. I remember, how he was disliked and made fun of, by every teacher and student. The teachers were trying to teach him the  world view and he was  busy in sculpting his own world. While  we all were being taught to communicate in a conventional manner, he was communicating through his art. When  teachers were trying to find  meaning in his grades, he was trying to find meaning in his passion. He was prodded and questioned, day and night. The pain and suffering  must have been too much to handle. We were young and couldn’t understand. The  frustration that my friend must have  been going through,  can now be  felt by me, in my veins,  in my heart. The blank expression and lurking questions in his eyes are so clear to me now. The thought of being a black sheep in a flock of snow white can be devastating.

Sounds familiar? Haven’t we  all come across such black sheep in our  lives  ever? Yes, we  all have, one time or the other.  We all have had them in the form a classmate, a friend, a colleague or a neighbour. Haven’t we? Our immediate response to them is that  of disdain and worst of all, we conveniently ostracize them. We don’t even care, to give them atleast a chance in the mainstream.

We  applaud success stories of those, who took the road less travelled but can’t tolerate a black sheep in our homes. Sometimes we do understand,  but yet we feel ashamed to own them up as our very own.  We fail to understand that behind every non-conventional success  there stood a supportive dad or a hardworking  mother  or a mentor, who augmented the world view of that  child, howsoever inconsistent  it might have been with the norm.

Every child is unique and is  a bundle of possibilities. As a caretaker, our main aim should to be provide those possibilities a chance to bloom and not to stifle them. As a teacher, probably we get so busy teaching thoughts to the children that we  sometimes  put our own thoughtfulness  at the back-burner. Are some random alphabets on the progress report so important that they  solely can determine the life’s trajectory of our children? Ten years down the line, the grades might be of little relevance but can make  the child scarred for life. Does our superiority comes only from the  fact, that we can play with the self-esteem  of a child,  the way we want?

Our children have come through us  but they are not us. They have their destiny  and a journey of their own. We are  here to accompany them, to make their journey a memorable  one  but that cannot be achieved by obstructing their free-will. Remember, that child sitting on the last bench,  can be the next business tycoon. That girl dancing in the rain, can be the next dancing sensation.

Need is to set them free. Let them gaze at the night sky indefinitely,  allow  them to run after the butterflies,  join them while they play with sand. Let’s not limit their understanding with our pre-conceived thoughts and knowledge. Let’s not kill their spirit. Let them bloom and explore!

(P.S. By the way, that friend of mine is doing quite well  for himself :))

The Tiny Windows To One’s Soul

Nothing fascinates me more than  looking at the eyes of a person.  Eyes, are for sure the windows to a person’s soul. Almost every other part of our existence can be covered up in some  disguise or charade but eyes  are  exception. They connect our world within, with external world. They  are somehow the  only  part which can’t hold any pretence and can bare one’s thoughts, aspirations, joy and grief to one and all. I am here not talking about the external shape or racial origin but something that is difficult to put into words; a surreal , mystic and inexplicable dialogue that captures their essence.

If we browse through  photographs  of a  person  clicked at different stages of life,  then this transition can be realised for sure. The eyes of children  are  like a placid lake. Literally we can see our own reflection in them and figuratively our world  moulds them in different forms. Compare the eyes of a child who doesn’t know what it’s like being not the chosen one with a child who doesn’t know what blessings are. A child who  is molly-coddled everyday against a child who is subjected to domestic violence day in and day out . A child who is excelling in every subject   against a child who is struggling, no matter how hard he tries. A  child who is aspiring to join every new hobby class in summer vacations against the  one who is fearful about his  being expelled  from school  anyday , due to lack of funds. A child whose parents are together   in every sense, against a child whose parents are just divorced  or contemplating  divorce. It’s always a pleasure to look at the former, while a pain to look at the  latter, as it makes one realize the duality that exists everywhere. It makes  one realize that life is  not just about roses but it also has thorns in abundance.

Similarly if you look into the  eyes of some elderly  then one  can gather many insights about that person.  Personally I find emotions ranging from a life well lived to a life full of grudges and regrets.  It’s very interesting to chat with the rearguards about their  lives and experiences. Some are very passionate in narrating their accounts while others carry a strange hostility towards their past. The books which are open, they spread the maximum light against the books  which are closed and prefer to remain  so. I have come across  many, on whom life threw lemons and they preferred to make lime-juice out of it and serve the sweet nectar of their life to the world. While  there are few who were given roses by life but they made their own wreaths. In some eyes, one can see lifelong accumulation of wisdom, joy,  purity and  insipiration while some carry thick layers of accumulated  malice, charade and regret.

Of all the categories, it’s  really  difficult to decipher a youth,  for the  changes are fast and carry  myriad of emotions. There is rarely a pause which can make them more comprehensible. Partly because, Youth is  the master of his/her fate. He is more agile, malleable and energetic who can choose or change the course of his journey. The youthful eyes  are  the most vibrant and like a  swift flowing river.  Ofcourse, the worldly reflections last in them but  their thoughts continue to chase their dreams like a  flowing river. They are lucid, sparkling and there is no singularity about them. They are constantly changing  and accumulating experiences which would define their journey later. Experiences which will get transfixed in their gaze and will get  carried away with them across the realms of time.

 

While looking at a  mirror, won’t one prefer not to look into the eyes? Howsoever well dressed we  may  be , but the tiny  windows to our soul strip us all.