Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Letter to a 16 year old daughter


Dear Daughter,

Happy Birthday Baby. I love you now and always will. 

As the clock struck in the midnight, one sixteen year old was added to the world.. ....and more importantly, to our world. It sure changed things for us. How does it feel to you? Any different from what you felt yesterday or day before? None, is it? You are sixteen. That’s what turning up a certain age is all about. It’s like you have the license to do many things but don’t know what to fuss over or where to go. You are like an empty page on which many stories await to be written (could turn into a bestseller someday, watch out for it honey). Then there would be things beyond your care while others will be question of life and death. Each emotion will demand equal attention and the whole world will be out there to be conquered. Different people and issues will pull you in different directions. Guys around you will tell you things which you would willingly believe. Nothing wrong with these, sweetheart. Perfectly natural, I would say. However like all products (with or without “i”), age too has its instructions for handling and do’s and don’ts. Nothing wrong with this either. With each passing year, there would be so many other things you would want to try and accomplish. You will, I am sure.

We never realize when we grow that each passing day is adding to that one most important thing in life - experience. Each deed is added to this repertoire called "as per my experience". Always remember you are the person you are today because of all that you did yesterday and on all the days that you have lived so far. Good or bad, doesn’t matter. Those are labels depending on how you view it today and nothing else. Experiences are like one of those things – whether you like it or not, want it or not, appreciate it or not – they just, plain, happen. However you can always choose to script it the way you want. Celebrate your successes but be proud, sensitive and respectful to your “near misses in life” because achievements are applauded by all. Bloopers can be appreciated only by the one who makes it. Give equal importance to both if you want to have the wings to fly but would want a perfect landing on every return. Think from your mind but always listen to your heart. It might be on the wrong side but always shows you the right path. Some say that intelligent learn from others mistakes but then you get to grasp only the result. You miss out on the story that lead to it and all the other learning’s associated with it. So choose carefully where you would like to test waters first before you leap and where you would like to take the plunge at the word go. Most importantly, pray for the wisdom to know the difference!! It’s my firm belief that all lives are well lived. Results may or may not be as desired but the journey can never be in vain.

When we walk on the path called life, we mostly stop to take rest which is when we celebrate our birthdays each year. Good day to party. Then on passing certain places, we stop just to look around and take in whatever we can, to carry them in our hearts to inspire us. There are times when we also need to sit back and pause and look back on the life lived. Looking back on a lifetime of meaningful existence. That’s when these milestone years like 16, 18, 21, 30 etc. come to be truly understood. When they happen, we celebrate but don’t experience any immediate change. The change is not in us but in the way people treat us or view us when we turn a certain age. Remember, you are beautiful and incredible in all ages. When growing up, different ages will demand you to be courageous, mature, hold on, let go and make choices, sometimes difficult too. Being courageous doesn't mean that you have to be fearless all the time or let nobody see your emotions or take tough calls. It just means that there are important things in life which will have to take precedence over others. While you start doing something’s, you might have to stop doing others. Love for some things or people will be stronger than others. In the landscape of your life some objects will have brighter colors or hues than the others. That’s what aging is all about, my love.

So don’t let any pressure bog you down or any hurt keep you from giving your all. Don’t let the fear of losing keep you from playing the game of life. It takes courage to give all that you possess for that one passion you want to pursue. It takes lot of strength to give love when nobody cares. It takes nerve of steel to be true. It takes attitude to be who you are and not feel guilty about it. So be you. Just be you.

I guess I should stop now. I could go on forever, you know.

Once again, happy birthday girl.    

Love 
           

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why now......


It’s for the first time that I am writing on a current issue on my blog. The reason being the barbarianism and the horrific act that the nation woke upto, is very much a product of the absence of values that I have been talking about. Why blame the police or the law makers or for that matter even judiciary. This is a systemic failure at one level but the root cause is somewhere else. When you point one finger at others, three are pointing back at you. Want to know where? Us. Our homes. Our up-bringing. Shocked? I am not.

For last 48 hrs everyone worth his or her salt, from civil citizens to media to journalists to opinion makers have been crying hoarse against the lapses in protection of the women in public places. Has anyone bothered looking inside homes? What about our safe and secured residence? I am not talking of sexual abuse at home. It’s a gory and a separate issue.

In this entire noise, what amazes me is the “blind spot” that people have regarding their own lives. It was rightly pointed out by one of the panelists in one of the shows that this act of assault has got nothing to do with sexuality. It’s about dominance. It’s about proving one’s superiority as the stronger sex. It’s about “teaching lesson” to women who do not toe the line. It’s about having fun at the cost of a girl. Are the Munni’s, Shiela’s of the world listening and watching?

Every time a mother gives an extra spoon of ghee to the son and not to a daughter, she is telling the son – “you are more important and need strength”
Every time there is an expectant mother or mother- in-law rejoicing at the birth of a son and not so happy on birth of a daughter, she is telling the society – “see now I also have a male heir and he will carry forward the family mantle.” 
Every time a mother advocates for a son to be admitted to school and daughter is made to stay at home and help her, she is telling the son – “you need to be educated because you will go out in the world and earn a living”
Every time a mother shields a son who is coming late (not for any legitimate reason) drunk, she is telling the son – “it’s ok. After all you are not creating a scene outside and everyone needs to chill out and how does it matter as long as he is home.” 
Every time a mother-in-law looks the other way when a daughter-in-law approaches her after being abused and not being shown the respect she deserves as a wife, she is telling the son – “you are not doing any wrong by neglecting and not supporting/respecting your wife, after all she is the one who picks up fights and wants to be treated respectfully and shown consideration to. What big dreams! What expectations! ” 
Every time when a married son (who could be alcoholic too, how does it matter anyways) with a family to feed, sits at home and is fed while a daughter who has passed the “acceptable” marriage age is made to feel miserable every day, the mother is telling the son – “don’t worry, you will get a job today or tomorrow but this girl is a huge burden on my head. Why doesn’t she go or better still die?” 
Every time a mother is very proud of the fact that she splurged and gave a huge “dowry” to her deserving and caring son-in-law in marriage, she is telling – “even if my daughter is educated and has spent equal number of hours (or may be lot more) in making a mark for herself, you my son-in-law are superior to her, so I need to show off the entire world how fortunate I am to land such an eligible groom for my daughter.”  
Every time a mother-in-law gives preference and shows more concern for a daughter-in-law who has come with more dowry or whose parents have splurged in the marriage, she is telling – “see how capable the parents are to have given away the daughter in such pomp and show. It’s not what the daughter-in-law will turn out to be but what she got with herself that matters. Content does not matter, the covering does.” 

It does not end here. Look within the family, you will find many more cases in point. Male dominance, who starts it all? Ask yourselves. Who reinforces it? Ask yourselves. These Frankenstein's are all in-house productions/creations (with lots of blind love and irresponsible caring) and not landed from Mars or Jupiter.    

Where does police come in this? Where does public administration come in this? Where does the strict law and penalty come to play in this? We are talking about corrections and preventive measures in the civil society, what about the culture at home? As women please observe your families, immediate as well as extended, and I am sure you will spot them everywhere, either budding or full-grown.

Do we raise voice when a brother abuses the sister-in-law? 
Do we raise voice when a relative or a father or a brother or a husband or a son indulges in corrupt practices? 
Do we report insults or violence perpetrated within the four walls of our “temple” called house? 
Do we raise voice and ask about the whereabouts, when a son comes home, sloshed and in an inebriated state, late in the night? 
Do we raise voice or stop our four year old kids from dancing and singing “laga le saiyyan fevicol se” or “tu cheez badi hai mast mast” kinda item songs. So cute is the reaction and it will be recorded. 
Do we raise our voice and educate our children in respecting women when they refer to them as “maal” or “kya item hai” on the streets? 
Do we raise voice when we see our husband, son or brother indulging in rash driving and having no regard for the law of the land? 

Again the instances are endless. However, the precautions and preventions are not.

Instead of looking around for legislation and laws, start from home, family, and building etc. Laws will prevent crimes perpetuated by adults but the beginnings or the roots lie in our very households which require no police or constitutional law. We are the law makers in our families. If we can’t control our own family with few members, why blame others my dear “civil and cultured” friends. Art and literature are mirrors of what is acceptable and not acceptable in a society. You cannot create more than you can see or think. In name of entertainment and creative freedom, when the lines of decency are crossed, why shout when same happening on roads? 

It may sound harsh but it’s the truth. Only when we start punishing and controlling deviant and dominating behaviors’ at home, can we start shouting slogans or holding demonstrations in the public. Gandhiji said “be the change you want to see in others”. After committing crime culprits rush home or take shelter with the known. Please act then. It’s someone else today. It could be me or you tomorrow. Stop now and report before it’s too late.

 Mother of a 12 year old daughter

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What happened to me?


It’s that time of the year when one starts preparing a report card of how did the year go by. Very few would grade themselves as A+ or A. Most of us would put B or C because we feel that things did not go as desired or expected. Something more could have been achieved or accomplished. This is because grading is always done with the mind. Listen carefully, the heart says, not to worry, New Year is coming, and then you will do better. “Next year toh, I will give my best and things will be great”. Pause and watch. This conversation does not happen with a stranger or a neighbor or your boss. This is what we tell ourselves.  After all New Year resolutions are legendary.

The enthusiasm is infectious and the hope assumes larger than life status. Nothing wrong with this feeling but somewhere in all this planning we lose focus on what we have already brought to fruition. What we are today is because of what we did yesterday and day before and so on. Even the heart misses this important truth at times.

For us, everything automatically shifts to a time that will come and with a whoosh of a magic wand make everything right. Everything has to work with precision. Clock-work precision is how I would put it. Every moment and act has to be accounted for. Breathing is happening but not living. Do we ever stop for a second and ask ourselves “what happened to me?” The most difficult search is the search for oneself. For all the rest searches you might find an address or a clue but if “me” is lost, it’s very difficult to find. Hold on to it.

If we are given an opportunity to appraise our lives (not work), I am sure most of us would always find an empty corner that requires filling. Sometimes I wonder why we are so hard on ourselves even when we know that we shouldn’t be. I have many a times experienced that the more I resist any emotion or person, the more it is in-face. It’s everywhere I go. The moment I am like “ok, tell me” or “fine, I am not happy and very angry”, it turns around and just goes away. Vanish. We are able to step away from a person, anxiety, fear (for that matter any emotion) only when we can accept it as it is. Literally “step-away”. Look at situations, feelings, people as if you are having an out of body experience and you are observing yourself. You may ask “Is this what I want” or “Is it all that I have” or “Will these things really make a difference to my life 5 years down the line” or “Is this the set of people with whom I would want to age or spend time with, for the rest of my life” etc. The day you find answers to questions like these, you will feel calmer. Believe me if we knew that today is the last day of our life, the entire perspective to living changes. Priorities change. Like and dislikes change. Even people with whom you would want to hang out will change. If we accept death as the only truth in life, we can start living.  

Acceptance of what is there with you and around you are what bring meaning to life. Things and people we can see and touch and feel. What is not there in your hand is not there at all. What is not in front of your eyes in not there. Money stashed away in far away lockers or apartments bought in distant lands or having big, wealthy friends will never give you the kind of happiness which will last. It’s only your family whose love and trust comes with a “no expiry date” stamp. They will stand by you when everyone else leaves.

So we can go easy and enjoy what we have accomplished so far in this year and keep the next year free from the burden of any expectations. Just bring it in. We should learn how not to get into a space in life where we will be forced to ask “what happened to me”.  

Ma

Monday, November 26, 2012

I can see clearly....

It’s a beautiful and warm morning when I am sitting to write something to you. Everything is clear and I can see everything. It’s not just visual but also got to do with my own thoughts. It is moments like these that you seem to have the power to overcome any obstacle, solve any problem or live through the downs that may appear in your way. I was just mulling over whether these “bursts of clarity” have anything to do with the time of the day or are these just…sparks which appear and disappear at will. The answer my friend was just blowing in the cool morning air. The key is to continually question and find the answers. On your own.

There was something that had caught my attention a few days back when I was visiting an army cantt. On the entrance gate were these words painted “Respect All, Suspect All”. This kept coming back to me time and again specially when I was leaving or entering the premises. The significance of the words was not in its meaning but in its simplicity. You need to respect people before you suspect them. How often do we do this in our daily life, in the same order? Why is it that some things bother us more than others? Why some problems make us think while others make us turn our backs on it? Does it have anything to do with respecting our problems before we start suspecting that it would be negative?  

Problem never says that I am easy. Problem never says that I am tough. Problem never says that I am going to destroy you. Problem never says that I am here to open doors for you. Problem never says that I am your best friend. Problem never says that I am your enemy no. 1. Problem never says that I am the beginning and definitely problem never says that I am the end. They are just plain, simple “problems”. Waiting to be solved or closed.

The moment we take out the meanings we attach to this hourly sometimes daily phenomenon (to the unfortunate, monthly), it does not paralyze us. Problems can never be bigger or more important than you or your mental/physical/spiritual being. So solve it and move on. Big deal. Just take it for what it is and close it. Life would be easier if we did not have problems but then what about being interesting and the surprise element. So embrace your problems and take it on, buddy. Surprise problem before it does the same to you.       

I guess bright, pristine mornings do this to you. Get up and find your own questions to answer.  

Ma

Sunday, November 04, 2012

A little bit of "extra" in all that we do...

Long after all is won or lost we think of that little "extra" that could have made the difference to winning or losing. I often wonder how powerful is this “extra”? Nothing is complete or just right as there is always room for “extra”. It sounds familiar. Come to think of it, it makes a grand difference to everything - be it food, sports, academics and most importantly life. We as individuals are never satisfied with what we have. Maslow's 'self-actualization' is a distant dream for most people if not all. Everything “extra” that others have or different from us is unabashedly craved for (jewellery, wife and car top the list – exception here being our own child, who is always better than others). Most perceive grass to be greener on the other side of the fence. My humble advice to all my sane fellow human beings is if the grass is greener on the other side, in all probability the water and electricity bill must also be higher. Please check. It will make you happy, at least for some time. 

In one of the scenes, in the movie “Kung Fu Panda” (yes I love watching animation movies), Master Oogway (the tortoise) provides helpful advice to Master Shifu (the red panda) when he says “there are no accidents”. This sentence struck a chord with me. Kept mulling over it and could see the point he was trying to make - nothing is by chance. Everything has a rhyme or reason. There is a rhythm to life. Success is never an accident nor is failure a fluke. You either work your way up or really work hard for your way down. Yes there are no accidents. Observe yourself carefully, I am sure you will either see the signs of becoming a hit or identify the symptoms for an impending crash. Maybe our conscious is not aware and the unconscious is at work. It is this unconscious or sub conscious or whatever you may refer it as which is giving the “extra” to make things happen. By design or default we do manage to give that “extra” for things to happen. Even madness has way of happening and “extra” could take it to another level altogether.    

The other day I was thinking (try this exercise sometimes, good for the grey cells) about why is this "extra" so important in all that we do. Why can't just doing something be as great or as gratifying for me as an individual? No extra. "Just do it" as one of the brand asserts. I have actually tried this on many occasions and believe me it just doesn't feel the same. "Extra" is required. It does add that bling and zing to all that we have accomplished. It gives a sense of satisfaction that cannot be replaced by anything else. No victory is complete without the realization that we gave that "extra" bit, nor is any defeat free of the angst that some "extra" effort could have made the difference.

It is my firm belief that anything when given “extra” makes it worth living or at least pretending to die for. This credence is further strengthened when I think of the possibility this “extra” holds for our relationships with children and elders. Yes both ends of the spectrum called life. When given to children it teaches them to push themselves a lit bit more for what they choose to be. It may or may not make their world go round but the experience would be worth it. Similarly, when shared with an elder makes him/her happy believing that they have led an “extra” ordinary life and can now rest in peace with this realization. A much needed emotional support at their age.

As I always share, it is very important to build faith in this “extra” in your growing up years and always push the envelope and go that “extra” mile for making difference to your life as well as others around you. The difference between the people on top of the ladder and down below is that “extra” they bring to all that they do or don’t do. 

Think about it.

Ma 



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Everyone is doing it!


I am sure you must have experienced this age old cliché generously thrown our way at some point in time (mostly to ‘save our souls’ not an SOS situation at all), “Arre, everyone is doing it!” Sounds familiar to you? It has to.

It’s in the air and everywhere we can ‘hear’ around. It’s fairly normal to use it whenever caught doing something ‘out of the way’. Like if you have the good fortune of catching the person who jumps the signal (traffic my dear friend - education or no education; rich or poor; young or old; gender no bar – no traffic sense leave alone other ‘civic’ senses), ask him/her why he/she did so. Answer is “see around, everyone is doing it”. You don’t have to try hard as you will find so many using this everyday for myriad reasons, usually petty ones.

Now transfer this to our situation as parents specially whose ‘young adult/s’ are in the delicate “dabba” age (term coined by my mother, when we were growing up, for people between 12 to 17 yrs of age who are either none or hardly any substance inside, but capable of making lots of noise; after all teen – tin – is a kind of dabba only - no offence meant sweethearts).

The everyday issues; debates; behaviors; acts of these “dabba-agers” are justified by this very logic - “everyone is doing it”. It’s perfectly normal and this immaturity is understandable from these young adults. They are still growing up, well provided for and only see what they want to see - world is restricted to school, school mates, TV channels etc.     

My question is how far is it reasonable for parents to fall back on the same excuse? Are we shying away from our responsibilities as parent and trying to save our skin and effort in engaging them when we see them doing things inappropriate for their age but still agreeing because “everyone else is doing it”? I don’t know. 

I experience this all the time. Being parent is a tight rope walking, very demanding, very delicate. Day in, day out the source of our dilemma is constant but the effects innumerable and unpredictable. Dealing with children is in no way a stress-free event but then who said parenting is easy. 

Can you blame the children for something they learn from us? Do we really make them realize that life requires mental and physical strength? I don't say we need to expose them to extreme brutalities. However, most of the time we are busy shielding them from the difficult but true facts of life. They should not grow up seeing the world with rose tinted glasses. Life is a playground and we need to give our children the proper equipment/s to play with.

When they are of impressionable age and can be molded, we put them in front of TV for few hours of relief. After some years they grow up and get addicted. Then begins our screaming sessions and feeling of helplessness. Come to think of it, who started it all? We take our kids to various fast food outlets, feed them junk as per our convenience, have birthday parties in these outlets and then when they are not taking green vegetables or healthy food, we crib and try force feeding them. Come to think of it, who started it all? When the child is not able to take failures or cope up with denials in their adult life, as we have always showed them the "well protected, hunky dory kind of lifestyle", who is to be blamed? Come to think of it, who started it all? 

Most parents' reply for why they do what they do would be "what's wrong, everyone else is doing it”. 

Are we forgetting that we are the rule makers for our family and we don’t have to follow what others are doing. Every family has its own principles and similarly every child unique. We understand our kids the best. So why should collective immaturity of many  other parent influence my child's upbringing? 

Another thing, what kind of example are we setting in front of our children when we indulge in all those lifestyle activities which we don't want them to indulge in? When we do ‘A’ thing we just can’t expect our children to appreciate the worthiness of ‘B’ thing.  Its just so wrong. Kids will learn what they see, not what they get preached on. "Child is the father of man", they are much more smarter than us. Please remember. No gains without pains pal. You have to invest time and energy.     

My daughter has turned 12 and I have started getting the same response on lot many matters where I take a stand. The conflict within me is always whether I should say a firm “no” for things I don’t approve of as a parent or should I say “yes” to all juvenile demands and get down to being a cool mom, flow with things. Not an easy choice. 

On one hand is the opportunity of being popular with my child and be termed as “the bestest mom”. On the other hand is the possibility of rubbing my child the wrong way on many issues and thus earning the tag of “you are the worst mom in the world or you are always saying no.” Not an easy choice, I know. Reactions to our yes or no can take the children in any direction. Have a reason to back your yes or no. That’s parenting. Before kids are born we have our own notions on parenting and after they are born, we have just “children”. The beginning of yet another theory!

You know what I would rather want my child to respect me as an open, firm and sensible mother than a cool and gullible mother. Being friends and understanding my child has got nothing to do with me being firm. Children will talk to you when they know you will listen. We can be their greatest support system and most objective sounding boards if we prove ourselves worthy of this perception - "my parents will always stand by me". That is the confidence which needs to be built in the child.   

We can’t expect to get “mangoes” when we are seeding and growing “bananas”. It’s a pretty harsh statement but definitely food for thought as parents. Choice is always ours to make. We are shaped more by our upbringing than by our birth. I guess, Watson would be happy and Freud not. My choice, anyways. I am a parent and I intend to remain as one for my child.

However the question remains whether we as parents are prepared to take this fine balancing responsibility or not? Perhaps that is why Yashoda is remembered more than Devaki as Krishna’s mother. Bringing up is always tougher because every day we are forced to make choices between easy way and the best possible way. There are no theories to fall back on. We evolve as we go along parenting.

Think about it.

A Parent

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Silence

Every zero put on the right side of a figure increases it ten times. Come to think of it, in literal sense zero denotes nothing. In life everything begins from a zero and ends in a zero. There is a kind of nothingness in it which makes it great. The power of this "nothing" amazes me. When I come to reflect, there is abundance in zero because you can start anything from zero. Nothing else gives you this power. Even a one added will make it either a one or a ten depending on where you place it, left or right of zero. The result has to be more than zero.  Silence for me is that zero from where anything can be started. Life too can be scripted, once again.

Long time back in an in-flight magazine I had read an article written by a Chinmaya Mission Acharya. What I remember of it is that he had described silence as “not just inability of the mute to speak or of the talkative to keep shut or absence of any sound”. I still recollect as it had got me contemplating on this beautiful concept on my entire trip.

I am experiencing the same pensive disposition ever since I have picked up a book given by a friend on the gifts that we have in our lives. Not many books have the ability to stay with you for a long time after you have closed it. The book dealt with the concept of appreciation for all the gifts that we have been bestowed by life on us. We lose sight of these gifts in the humdrum of existence. We need to be silent and get them back.

After closing the book, I just sat back to think as to what was that one most important gift that I have got from life, at no cost. Silence perhaps. Silence for me is zero noise, zero turbulence, zero traffic of conflicting thoughts, zero remorse, zero regrets, zero high and; so on. It’s the only state where I can be more than what I appear to be. It is the only state where I can take note of myself and do away with any external noise. Where I am doing nothing and yet achieving the best this life has to offer.

We are so accustomed to being surrounded by something or someone that we have actually lost touch with what it is like to be oneself. All kinds of noises, external or internal, are forcing us to do away with this company. It’s the same thing we are teaching our children. We never tell them to just sit quite for some time and spend time with themselves. We never pass on the message that it’s ok to do nothing and just “be”. Why should we teach our children that they should make all attempts or rush to fill-in all the empty slots in a day or for that matter even life. Let there be space. We don't realize that in this process, later in life, our children will also run after attaining that “oneness” which we could have given them right from inception. No one gets into trouble for being silent. Use silence as your strength. One can convey a million emotions or make a point through one state, silence. Silence takes nothing but gives you peace and concentration, important ingredients for a happy life.

I believe that some part of the day should be just for you. “No entry” for anyone or anything, strictly. Do things which make you happy, silently. Read books which make you a better person, silently. Listen to music which touches your heart, silently. Look around you and soak the surrounding, silently. You will see the difference in yourself. Be in the ‘zero’ zone for some part of every day. Rest will follow. Believe me.      

Ma

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Why? Its only Human Nature

A small get together of friends over soups, snacks and dinner turned into a “sensitivity workshop”. Not intentional but more out of freewheeling discussions and sharing. The basic content of the conversations hinging around favorite topics like me and my sacrifices; me and others; me and my husband and more on similar lines. The conversations that were happening were self gratifying, self engulfing, self motivational, self glorifying, and self satisfying etc. Some samples - “I did so much for him then why did he not reciprocate in the same way.” “I gave up everything for him but he still doesn’t support me in front of his parents.” " My spouse does  not stand by me but chooses to look the other way on things that hurt me." “I made all adjustments and went out of my way for my in-laws but they still favor my sister-in-law who doesn’t do even 1% of what I did.” “I gave up my career and dreams to build a home for others but no one cares for me.” “I taught him love but he never gave me back the same love.” “I married a different person than whom I loved”. “I was forced to leave my baby and come back to join work”. “I take care of all the needs of his parents but he doesn’t bother about mine”. "This is all, you know what I went through when….". It seems like a never ending story. Each one trying to out do the other in their attempt to show how dismal their existence has been after their "fairy tale marriage". 

I call this story session because the incidents are always real but all the stirring incidents/facts which made each friend sob, sympathize or cry had been sensationalized with added embellishments and element of pathos. Since they were the writer of their “original, never been heard before” sordid, pathetic, moving stories so they had all the liberty in the world to shape and present it the way they wanted. Nothing wrong with that. After all each story is as unique as the rest. Its like every soldier returning from a war wanting to share “one of its kind” story with the world.

When I come to think of such a “story telling session” I am amazed at its potential for self destruction and pathos. This makes me step back and think to myself. Why is it that some people are always surrounded by their miseries and will not let anyone get in their way of self pity descent? Does having suffering give some kind of power over others? What is the age old romance with pain and playing victim to circumstances? Why is it that our own sacrifices always appear looming and unattainable compared to others? Why my daddy is always strongest compared to others? Why is my love for my spouse and his family always more than his/her for mine? Why is my child more special than others? These are some questions which I am sure “Google” will also find difficult to answer to satisfaction.

So as self help would demand, I am putting together all my learning’s, reading, associations with others, training, sermons from mother and others and making a humble attempt at answering in order to put these thoughts to rest to some degree at least. 

"Accept all and move on". Everyone cries, everyone has gone through pain, everyone has been hurt at some point in life and everyone does "extraordinary" things for the supposedly undeserving, please listen to others too or better still watch re-runs of "Satyamev Jayate"No one can lock you in chains of emotions if you don’t desire yourself. 

There are constants in life which are there to stay and will be there even if you adopt “an ostrich approach”, so recognize them and start living your life beyond them. In every relationship one is the giver and the other a “less giver”. We love someone out of our own choice so if they change it’s to be accepted. If you have been let down once perhaps others could have been responsible for it but if you make a habit of being let down then honey let’s face it - it’s your fault. No one will value your 'selfless sacrifices' if they have not asked you to make one. No one in authority will ever accept a decision in which they are not involved and no one below will follow if they don’t have respect for you. If barriers created by others are high, please grow taller. If you feel that all that was dear to you and rightfully yours is being taken away from you, please run faster to get them back. Every problem has a solution which needs to be worked out – no free lunches in this world. For value addition to life, create opportunities and find creative solutions. We can’t run away from taking responsibility for our self created “Frankenstein’s”. Everything has a time and place so have patience to let the tides turn in your favor. No one in the rational world can take your rights if you are strong. Will and resilience to survive and fight back cannot be ordered from 'Flipkart' by courier. In this big, bad, mad world there is only one person who has your best interest in mind, will not be manipulative, will see and appreciate your point of view etc. – its “YOU”. Revelation. So either make use of this absolutely free, 24/7 available resource or stop wimping, cribbing and whining. Get going sweetheart! Life is waiting for you with open arms.

Ma

Monday, September 03, 2012

End: For a New Beginning

Sometimes ending is the most important thing for making new beginnings. Some relationships are such where the best way to "let them be" is by moving out of it, mentally and emotionally. Not all relationships are meant to have forever tag attached to it. This is true not just for romantic relations but true for any family, friendly relations between people. Expiry date is mentioned for most, we sometimes miss it. Or may be choose to ignore it because of weaknesses of our own. 

As far as family relations are concerned, its by birth, so there is very little that you can do about it. You will always find some are giving more to the relation than the others. This begins to hurt when you know you are being taken for granted. Only people don't realize that if the relations are stretched too far for comfort, they will break. May be for better. Sometimes people commit the folly of thinking that family members can't see through the designs of the  opportunist or "extra friendly and warm" relatives. Sadly its not so. Hypocrites can never display the genuineness of a pure soul. They can't understand either. I guess most people have the understanding to know whom to trust and where to alienate. There are no compulsions. If you sense that some people are deliberately looking you down or ignoring you, please step back. Everyone has eyes and most of them the maturity to see through the "smarter" ones and gauge their level of commitment to maintaining the respect required to sustain a relationship. Try locating the smooth operators during family occasions. Also always remember, never take sides during family discords. Have your own stand and maintain your dignity under all circumstances. Birds of same feathers will always flock together so don't get sucked in.  

However even if the foundation of relationships are based on mutual trust and liking, somewhere along the way people drift apart. It has got nothing to do with giving 100% to it or having enough respect for each other to help it survive. I feel sometimes giving space in a relationship creates the vacuum that cannot be filled by anything that you have to offer. That space becomes a black hole which has the capacity to suck everything without a trace. Moreover when two people believe more in what others have to say and not what their friendship has to offer then this distance is bound to come. It is one of those distances that cannot be covered or traveled no matter how much strength or strong will one has. No distance is greater than this distance between two people. 

Most of the times in order to hold on to something or someone, the most important thing is letting go. I think birth and death also give us the same message. When we are born, we have our fists clenched, hands close to heart, legs all folded up. As we grow we loosen up and open up. In death we are completely free. Hands open, spirit free, no sensation. So in relationships, when they begin everything is closed and drawn together but as it grows it starts to become free and is open to all that it has to absorb while it lasts. End brings numbness, no feeling. A sense of freedom that has the potential to create something new. A new beginning.

I feel that as part of growing up it is also very important to back out of relations where you are not welcome especially within family. Backing out is not being negative but becoming more positive for all the other relations in life. One bad experience has the potential to ruin so many other relations in your circle. Signs are always there. Keep your eyes open. I believe that not everyone will have all relations working for them all the time. Accept the ones that are there with you and let go those where you are not invited or involved. Withdrawal is not defeat. It only means that you have run out of all that you had to offer. Its not the number of relations but the depth in each one of them that matters more. Life is all about change. Accept that people change, priorities change, objects of affection change, friendships change, family relationships change, need to be together change etc. 

You have to move on in order to keep the relations that you don't want to go bad. Love happens by chance and not through coercion. Give your best but let go when you see the signs. I have learnt it the hard way but sharing with you the easy way. When there is pain in any relationship don't wait till the moment it has completely destroyed you. Never let anybody walk all over you. See the writings on the wall. Walk out before it is too late. 

Learn to differentiate between people who make you feel comfortable and those who make you feel that you were somewhere else to have that feeling of comfort. World is full of wonderful people. You just need to have the eyes to spot them and the heart to feel their goodness. Go and discover and make beautiful and happy relations of your own.

Ma      


Monday, August 20, 2012

Time

The most precious commodity and unfortunately the least respected in most quarters by most people. Today I was reading an article on punctuality and it struck that how very few consider it a value to live by. The notion of "IST" - Indian Standard Time - is so very ingrained in us. Being on time means acceptable delay of 15-30 mins. Its normal and forgiven if you ask people. Some organizations do try to build their culture around being on time for everything but then it is looked as an aspect of being professional and not personal belief so much. Personally I strongly feel that punctuality reflects character.  We do not have the right to waste someone else's time as I would waste mine.     

In our day to day existence, we are so casual about time as if it is an inexhaustible resource. In reality it is in "limited edition". In our growing up years we were guided by importance of finishing the task at hand 'right now' and not wait for the 'waking moment' to commence our work. Being punctual is considered 'oh-so-not-happening'. You give the impression of having nothing better to do than to come on time if you are punctual for an appointment. It has permeated into all aspects of our life. Poignant but true.

If we know that we are 'habitual late comers', then effort should be to rectify it and not gloat about it. You can never gain respect of self made individuals when you don't respect time. Being on time means that you know the value of time. Every possible value creation is based on its shelf life. In other words till what time it will last. Similarly punctuality is a virtue to be lived and not an accessory. 'On time' means being 5 minutes early. The known variables that can affect your punctuality are limited. Hence planning ahead and keeping plan B in place is not an unnecessary effort. When you start being punctual you will realize how strong you are. You are able to manage a resource which is not only scarce but also non-renewable. Even if no one appreciates it, it will give you a sense of accomplishment and being responsible. Your first responsibility for practicing any personal value is with yourself. Start keeping appointments with yourself before expecting from others. 

So be on time and don't try because there is nothing like "I will try to...". Either you do it or you don't do it.

Ma


Friday, August 17, 2012

Value your support system

Your formal education will equip you with all the knowledge, skills and traits required to lead a successful professional life. Living a fulfilling life is possible only through learning to value your support system. Attitude to learning to respect these pillars of strength will give you an advantage which cannot be quantified. It will show in your output and your general way of being. In times of our parents or before that, we had the joint family system which is perhaps the strongest support system that one can have. We take our parents for granted in many such cases without realizing how important they are for our being able to build lives outside home. That's a separate philosophy which I will discuss some other time. 

However in today's times when we have to step out and move away from our homes to create our future in new cities, this support system has acquired names like Mukta mausi, Seema tai, Noor, Pinky, maharajji, driver saab etc. They are real and are here to stay if you treat them properly. You know I have always employed management theories and learning from workplace to running my household. It seems to work beautifully. To share a few - build trust and show respect; not everyone performs at same levels on all days; people are working with you and not for you; everyone has both good days and bad days; 'me time' is not the privilege of educated and rich alone, everyone needs that for rejuvenating themselves; all helps today have options and its their choice that they are with you, so learn to value them; its a transaction - you have money power, they have physical power; reward behaviors you want to strengthen and have regular review/feedback discussions; take out time and have informal discussions about their family; show you care; take their inputs when planning things in the house or kitchen - build ownership and engagement; be cognizant of their existence as humans, not just employees and so on. 

In any relationship, the person who is more educated and matured is expected to work things out instead of being petty and reactive. In this case it would be you. If things don't seem to work out even after repeated attempts, shake hands and part ways. Like in business world there are no permanent friends or enemies. Its all matter of time. As Gandhiji said "do unto others as you want them to do to you".

When you have a household of your own, implement these...and experience for yourself how it works. 

Ma         





Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What Independence means to me


Freedom without responsibility is anarchy (not said by me). I have always treated my independence as my birth right, a privilege accorded to me without any effort from my side. It’s as natural as breathing, walking, talking, sleeping etc. Every year we celebrate this day with a lot of pageantry and show of emotions anywhere and everywhere. 

However this is perhaps the first year when I really got down to thinking as to what independence really means to me as an individual. Is it just a date, a journey, a holiday, an emotion, a privilege, right et al? All these words have importance in context to Independence Day but they don’t resonate with my being. Am I really free? I am afraid of helping an accident victim on road, I am afraid to report abuse if I come across one, I am afraid to step out of the house at night, I am afraid of refusing a bribe for getting work done, I am afraid to help a stranger in need, I am afraid of saying no to things which have social importance attached to them, I am afraid to yearn for things beyond my means, I am afraid to walk out of discussions which are hollow but obligatory. The list is unending. With so many fears in my heart and mind, how can I claim to be independent? Then what does independence mean to me? I am still struggling to come up with answers that would enthuse me to celebrate this feeling as a person.

So what does independence mean to you? Start thinking now before its too late.

Ma

Friday, August 03, 2012

Right ys Wrong


The two simple words which define all our actions – Right or Wrong. For most of us we are always striving to be on only one side – right! All others are on the wrong side. More importantly our entire life is spent on just deciding which the right side is and proving others to be perpetually on the wrong one. Normal when you come to think of it.

There are as many definitions of right and wrong as different people who have lived, are living and will be born to live on this earth (may be elsewhere in the galaxy too). However many a times I sense uneasiness about the whole thing. Why are we struggling with thoughts as to where will our acts place us in the two halves of life? Doesn’t it stifle our natural style of being? We are always holding back from giving the “me” in everything and coming up with what is expected. The casualty is true self. It is lost in all this translation and normalization.  

Today I want to share a secret with you. There’s nothing called right or wrong. Never ever get into this trap. It’s a whirlpool. The more you struggle, the deeper it pulls you. You will not be able to bring out the best in you if there is already a preconceived notion of right or wrong defining all your deeds. Never try to compartmentalize your life. But as social beings we have certain norms to live by. My right to freedom of thinking/speaking/doing etc. should not impinge on someone else’s right to freedom of thinking/speaking/doing etc. Our limits end where others’ begin. If you are able to understand this distinction I am sure you will never have to think twice before living your life, the way you want.

Always keep in mind that there are different shades of grey in between black and white. Life is in these shades and many a times outside it. Don’t restrict yourself with “I can do this”, “I cannot do this”. Free yourself from these boxes and then you will experience the true meaning of living. Living is not about breathing. It’s about being one with the universe and yourself. Always remember everyone’s truth is true for them. Respect them and move on.      

I often question myself as to whether I have been able to seed this thought into your mind or not. Let’s see how you shape up.


Ma 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Appreciation


When you stop complimenting what is beautiful, you stop thinking what is beautiful” (from RD).  

I feel that this art of appreciating others will die a natural death unless we as individuals do something about it. When I think of appreciation I don’t mean a simple selection of the “Like” button in FB. I personally feel many a times we do this even without comprehending what the person is trying to convey in her/his post or picture. It seems more like a socially desirable behavior on part of the FB community to like others as you would want them to like you. Bitter but true. 

When you appreciate someone or something it means that you have eyes to see, nose to smell, ears to hear, body to touch and most importantly mouth to speak and hands to write those lines. All our senses are being put to a beautiful and substantial use. The point I am trying to drive home is that appreciation as a mode of communication and motivation is steadily disappearing. How many times have we made an effort to pick up a paper and write down our pleasure and admiration for something that has touched our hearts and stirred our souls and sent it to the beneficiary? It applies to all us as friends, siblings, husband, wife, child, parents etc. 

Most of the autobiographies or biographies of great events in history, men and women who have shaped the destiny of countries are replete with exchange of letters of positive perception, admiration, putting up individual perspectives on the issues of the time etc. They truly mirror the thought process of the person and give us sneak peek into the psyche of the writer or the times that the writer is reminiscing about. 

The process of letter writing (not email) I guess has already died and long forgotten. So with it, the art of complimenting. Either we are living in too skeptical times or are weary of acknowledging the good work. A paradigm shift is required for sure to make this change. Recently on death of a superstar, the news channels were abounding with the piece of information that millions of girls used to send him letters written in blood. The frenzy I am sure beyond the comprehension of the millennium generation. Those were the times that we lived in. People did not have to look at their calendars to see friends or make time for that little something. 

The hand written notes are becoming one of those rare articles which in a few years time would become extinct. Compliments are not just about “hey this is awesome”, “OMG its so cool” etc. but going beyond. We are so lavish with our criticism but very prudent with our admiring remarks. This is human, I know. We can change, that’s also human. So always try and slip in a thank you note to your friend or a simple thank you to your household help or a rickshawwalla or a “I appreciated when you……” to someone whose gesture or deeds have moved you genuinely. I am sure it would make a humongous difference to the recipient. Its like a chain reaction - making happy everything that it touches. It would provide you also happiness I am sure. Small notes tucked here and there go a long way in building relationships and strengthening the emotional bond. Every time you pick up these small bits of paper you live those moments again. It’s like owing a piece of somebody for life. No hard disk crashes or changing of handsets etc. can take that away from you. Try it. Acha lagega !!

Ma

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Survival Guide for Parents


I am not sure whether parenting was as difficult 20, 50 or maybe even 100 years ago but am certain modern-day parenting has assumed distinctive proportions and status in minds of most people. Parenting from being an art has slowly transformed into being a science. “Every action has an equal (mostly magnified) and opposite reaction”. It is one of those things which can be appreciated and understood only by those who have either lived through or are living. Once a parent, always a parent, I say. Technology I guess has a major if not the pivotal role in bringing about this revolution. Children find it much easier to communicate with the devices rather than indulge in the age old human-to-human contact (read interacting with parents). Not a day goes by when I am not reminded by my daughter “how she is a product of 6 billion years of successful evolution” and I should treat her like one. How about acting like one, my darling by-product?

Couple of months back I had the privilege of attending a workshop with my daughter where in one of the sessions we were asked to listen to the anguish of this generation “Z” (generation Y will feel outdated in sometime I can bet). One child shared, “how can you understand what is the fun of computer games or apps on our mobiles / iTouch/iPads when you have not encountered these things during your growing up years”. A very valid observation and an equally solid argument, I must admit. Well afterwards we were taken through more sessions where the point – “we can’t be perfect parents, so we should stop expecting perfect kids” – was illustrated. Clear situation of customer delight gone wrong from both ends.

After the workshop I had my eureka moment. Realization dawned that we can either be successful or unsuccessful parents but never good or bad or perfect or imperfect. All parents are good because it’s always the well being which is at the heart of all our actions (that’s what we like to believe, don’t we). I had read in Reader’s Digest a couple of decade’s back – “All mothers give birth to great men, it’s not their fault if life disappoints them later” – it has stuck with me since then. Such quotes take off a lot of pressure off my shoulders and conscience. 

This realization and several other pearls of wisdom which I have had the opportunity of collecting in my quest to be a successful parent has resulted in my coming up with multitude of competencies for achieving the equivalent status. However, covering all would really prove to be a sort of laundry list that we would not want to go through. So I have narrowed them down to just 5 core competencies which we would require lifelong. These need to be practiced and observed in terms of behaviors’. Believe me we will not be able to survive more than these anyways in real life situations. I am not getting into the technical competency mapping but just going with my gut and limited practical experience so far. If life blows me later I don’t know.  

We get ample opportunities to internalize and utilize these, once our angels discover feet, hands and most importantly “mind of their own”. For the seasoned ones I don't need to pass on. Sharing from experience my dear Watson.

Ambiguity Tolerance:

This is the ability of the parents to work with incomplete, inconsistent and/or conflicting data (these are our children for god sake) in order to achieve the desired results. No one has understood them and no one will ever be able to tame them. We know what we have produced so then we cannot go on blaming the product. Right. So in order to deal with  this self created situation, we need to develop ambiguity tolerance. Pray for the best but be prepared for the worst. Your child would abhor all healthy foods at home by employing every possible trick up her/his sleeves to avoid having them. But lo you go visiting some friends over dinner and the way your child swoops down on the same dishes will make you want to hide under the “invisibility cloak”. Now I understand why Harry Potter's parents must have got it in the first place. Adding injury to insult is the statement, in front of all those people “mom why don’t you make these dishes at home”. Ambiguity is directly proportional to growing up. One goes up, the other goes up much faster.

Consequential Thinking

This competency is the ability of the parents to visualize a series of next steps for any particular decision involving the child. For example the parents have to think through (logic and obvious will definitely not work here) the effect of saying no to T.V viewing after coming back from school. Therefore we adopt a course of action which we think is doable, best possible and not too difficult to follow. However, all these precautions and preparedness need not necessarily bear the anticipated results. It could pull you into a new space, where your ambiguity tolerance will play a major role in handling the pressure. No amount of goodwill gained in the past will work here. This too shall pass.

Creative Solution Mindset

This is the ability to come up with unheard, unexpected and innovative solutions which will satisfy your child/children without making a dent in your peaceful existence or otherwise stable mental state. We as parents are expected to come up with bizarre and completely out-of-box solutions at all times of the day and of course night to deal with diverse posers thrown by the children. They believe in variety and higher the shock value for us, the more satisfied they are. For example at 9 in the night your child says “I have a science project on cell structure to submit tomorrow”. Great. If you are one of those who have not seen science books ever since your tenth board, then having this competency will help you tide this unforseen situation.  All the best.

Children Environment Sensitivity

The competency requires parents to work in a dynamic, constantly changing environment created by kids with understanding and sensitivity. You might have obediently followed all the diktats of your parents and understood their point of view, most of the time. However with this generation you are expected to display the same emotional stability and sensitivity. You can’t pressurize them unnecessarily. They have so much to handle – T.V, computer games, sleeping, eating and last and the least of the worries’, study. Come on guys, be sensitive. These kids need to visit spas and not us.

Stretch Ability

This is the ability of the parents to continually work beyond standard expectations of parental performance. Your tolerance threshold needs to be considerably high to sustain such stretch outs. This is one competency which comes to play in sailing successfully, without any major accidents (yours, not your kids), through each day. For example during the summer vacations the constant pressure of “I am getting bored” should not take you to the break point. It needs to be tackled with lot of patience and slowing down.

Take a deep breath and get going parents. Remember it’s a 28/7 job.

I forgot to tell you. My daughter turned 12 last week.

Ma


P.S share if more competencies have been identified  by you. 



Friday, July 20, 2012

To Be or Not To Be


I am often reminded of my childhood days when I used to visit my grandparents. My maternal grandfather was a doctor, social worker, writer and most importantly a good human being. He had a story for every night and all the lessons we needed to take. I remember when we used to go to his place he would tell me so many things. He knew “Bhagwad Gita” by heart. He was a doctor by profession but never stopped himself from indulging in hobbies that he loved. He loved music, art, social work etc. He always believed in giving back to society. There is no age to fulfill your hobbies. You can learn playing guitar when you are in your 30’s, go for trekking to unknown places when you are in your 40’s etc. Never ever stop yourself just because you are of certain age. Just remember there are no age limits for learning and for stopping to have fun. Until and unless you bring this balance in your life, work and play, you will never be a happy person. Always keep something’s just for yourself. Do them because you are happy doing it. You will see how much difference it brings to your life and mind. 

You know the most important thing that I learnt from both my maternal and paternal grandfathers was “to be myself”. Both never changed for anybody. They had principles by which they lived and those were never compromised for anyone. They were humility personified. 

My maternal grandfather did his studies and became doctor against his fathers’ wishes. He would take tuitions, do part-time jobs to finance his studies and fulfill his dreams. He went to England and studied medicine and then came back to India to practice in his village. He started his career with his stethoscope. 

My paternal grandfather had a very tough time growing up. He had to walk barefoot for 10 kos to reach his school. He never gave up studies because he knew that without education you stand no chance to lead a life that you want for yourself. He was a very honest Government officer and a much disciplined person. All his life he would get up at 5 am in the morning and take bath and then carry on his daily activities and retire by 8:30-9:00 pm. My father has shared with us so many times that our grandfather would fly down in his chartered plane [yes he had an official plane of his own for making trips all over Bihar] to Patna. From there he would come on his official vehicle to our Muzaffarpur house and leave the vehicle there. He would then board the “bailgadie ”[bullock cart] from his home to go to our village. He was never ashamed of his roots. His humble roots were what gave strength to him. All the values he learnt, he practiced them. I had the opportunity to spend lot of time with both of them and learn so many things. Some of things did not make sense then. My father and mother have always practiced what they were taught by their parents and never felt shy of abiding by them even in adverse times. Now I realize the importance and value of these principles. Having principles does not make you prudish. It only provides you with that “invisible line” which must not be crossed even when you face undesirable situations or people.

Always remember there are no short cuts to success. Every story has its own journey which has to be travelled to be able to comprehend its importance and beauty. You can learn from others but your story my darling has to be scripted, directed and acted by you. 

So don’t change yourself ever for pleasing anybody else. If there is to be a change, it should be because you want it for yourself. Change is the only constant in life. If we have to survive we have to change. Change however doesn’t mean giving up on who you are or what you believe in. Never ever give up on what you stand for. Always make your rules and stick by them.

Ma