Tuesday, June 27, 2017

HOPE

In the letter that Andy wrote to Red were the words "Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe even the best of things, and no good thing ever dies". This was towards the end in the movie Shawshank Redemption (1994). These words have stayed with me for years now and still have the power to make me look at the bright side of life now, and always. Every morning when I get up I hope to have a great day. Every time my child waves to go to school I hope she has the best that the day has to offer. Every time my spouse leaves for work I hope he would come home with a smile. Every time my family calls I hope there is some comforting news to be shared. Every time my friends come over I hope we will have a great time together. There is hope. Hope never dies and I never let it go. Hope is like a never-ending story. 

Do I build faith or keep hope? I have often struggled to distinguish between these two and without exaggeration have arrived at the conclusion that somehow hope has the longevity that faith does not. Faith can move mountains but hope just urges you to move on and look beyond.  If you think hard there could be many such moments when our faith could be fragmented, broken, shaken, shifted, dimmed and same could happen to hope but then hope just refuses to die, unwavering and unconditional. The dictionary meaning of faith is - 'complete trust or confidence in someone or something' and hence has the inherent susceptibility to get eroded or shattered since its core is trust.  Somehow hope has a certain eternal and ethereal quality that it just goes to live on and on. It can start at any point in life, for the silliest of thing and anywhere. Its a desire for something to happen. Faith is a very strong feeling and may require strong mind to build and attain but hope is something which even a weak heart or feeble mind can sustain. Language too has a flicker of hope not faith. We are prepared for the worst and hope for the best. Our prayers are full of hope even when there is no proof that someone up or out there is listening or cares.

I believe that hope is built on memories. Our memories are what make us. I feel that having an elephants' memory is a double edged sword. To put it like a lay person, memory just retains anything and everything that comes its way and does it in different compartments after we have experienced. To me memory is like a ocean. It keeps within it all that has been thrown in it. But like oceans, memories too throw back everything at us from time to time. Hence its our choice whether we want to take the bad ones right back in from where it came or just look at it and decide to leave it out. I hope to never let hurtful memories come back even if they come crawling. I hope to shut all the doors of my heart to such memories and even hope more so to come out of them. In every situation I hope to let the memories be that person who I was or could be right now. That's it. We need to just live with it or end up dying in absence of it.  

The Frank Capra timeless classic 'It's a Wonderful Life" (1946 - starring James Stewart) sends out a truly wonderful and beautiful message of how important is our being born to someones' life. We never realize. Whatever goes down,  should come up. Its not me its science. I have had my share of moments where I had hoped I was not born but then I just forgot all the life blessings that I got while growing up. Its despair that has the potential to weaken hope. I hope that all of us could have the magical power to retain memory from the time we were born. To see the look on faces of parents when they held us for the first time, to see the happiness we created as we moved in life, to see the difference we made to the lives of people we met etc etc. I hope we realize all that would have never occurred had we not touched the numerous lives we came upon. 

Sometimes I feel its very important to just let it be. Hope is a good thing and good things never die. Hope might be frail but it will be impossible to kill. 


Ma       


      

Friday, May 12, 2017

Its My Choice

Don't you feel that individualism has slowly and steadily permeated all walks of our daily life and everywhere this same bomb is exploding in our faces - 'its my life.' Well I certainly experience it and nothing wrong about it. I call this a bomb because like bombs they might be dropped at a particular coordinate but the impact area is far and beyond. It not only hits the target but also affects the surroundings. This simple 3 word sentence can change the entire meaning one attaches to everything - for better or for worse but it does. Not to forget this sentence has embedded within it a very important fact - taking decisions or making choices or calling shots etc.- whatever the nomenclature. All point towards the person who is responsible for doing this - ME, MYSELF and I. You can't escape.

A couple of weeks back I had read it in the news paper how Shikha Sharma (CEO - Axis Bank) during her convocation speech at IIM(A) quoted Dumbledore's advice to Harry Potter - "its our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities" - with respect to importance of choices in defining success in professional life. This quote is what got me thinking as to why only professional life? Our professions are not dissociated from our personal life so the choices I make touches everything that makes me, me. I as a person am a sum total of all that I choose to do, read, hear, see, think, feel, create etc etc and perhaps more if not less. This advice holds true for everything that happens to me from the time I wake up till I hit the sack. 

Choices I make should reflect what I am made of and what I am made from should influence my choices. Period. A fairy tale story book ending may not be there for everyone but that should not stop me from attempting to write the story of my life the way I want. Its very important and I say this because I have personally experienced it. This however doesn't take away the fact that we need to have good listening skills and an open mind to accept the learning which comes with experience shared by others. My mother always told us that before taking a decision think 10 times, if required may be 100 times but once you have made a decision - stand by it. Even if you are proven wrong you know it is the best you could do and accept in order to move on. Many a times in life we feel that we have been forced to make choices and hurled in directions we ought to have found on our own anyway. However, if you look back you will agree that those forced choices were the best possible ones even if we had been given freehand or if there had been no compulsions in the first place. This is what I tell my child and with every passing day my belief has reaffirmed it to be the best piece of advice I can pass on to her. 

In my 4 decades of living and learning I have come to accept that there are no right or wrong choices when it comes to life. Every decision has its own destiny. Every decision or choice has its own trajectory and meets its own end. There are always more than one possibility for every situation. All situations that I face or have encountered in my living years never gave me the luxury of trying out all possible scenarios in "a controlled and simulated game like setup" before narrowing down on one most suited/safest choice to make. I chose the one I thought was the best possible among all the available options in my real life situation. There were hits and misses and many times clean bold with stumps and bails flying in the air for all to see but still there are no regrets. I made a choice and that's where the story ends. Life circumstances play their own games, with their own rules but that should not stop us from throwing a spanner every now and then by making the choices which we can. Rest assured life will go on whether we like it or not. So be proud of the choices made today.

I read this book "One" by Richard Bach (of Jonathan Livingston Seagull fame) in my impressionable growing up days which explored aspects of quantum mechanics - quoting from the book - "every instant the world we know splits into an infinite number of other worlds, different futures and different pasts...alternate worlds sliding alongside this one." Discounting philosophy, for me the book opened the realm that there could be innumerable possibilities for every decision that we take or do not take, in shaping our life and if only we could meet those "others" of ourselves in alternate worlds, then perhaps we would appreciate the decisions that we take for ourselves in this life, NOW. 

Everything has a context and we should perceive it within that framework. If our decisions are based on values instilled in us, believe me no matter how drastic or distant the context or paradigm shift, the decision we take will always turn out to be the best possible for my situation. We should strengthen the personal values that we pass on and more importantly demonstrate to our children. We could strive to make sure that its the value proposition of every decision that should shape their choices and nothing else.   

My present is the best one that is possible and my past is the best one possible and my future will be the best one possible because that will be the best possible choice. There is a lot of truth in the saying 'every cloud has a silver lining'. When I was faced with life threatening diseases, circumstances (which I have had more than anyone could desire for in a lifetime) my first instinct had always been to take the oft beaten route of 'why me'. However I stopped myself from this 'victim syndrome thinking' and considered all those things that could have happened to me if not this. I feel gratitude for all the possibilities that did not touch me. Anything which cannot break you, ends up making you stronger. It all depends on how you perceive any situation or person. The best of intentions and knowledge cannot save you from what may or may not happen. Choice is the only tool in our hands to shape ourselves. Nothing right or wrong about any decision. Rest all will take its natural course as a consequence. 

The only thing that can give you sane and peaceful moments is the conviction that this is the best I am choosing for myself. I have tried it and believe me 'its my choice' has always been the best possible choice. 


A Mother                 










Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Happiness is just a teardrop away !!

Happiness is just a tear drop away. This was the way of being for perhaps most of us from "pre millenial generations." All that happiness stood for or all that could help us achieve a happy state of mind had to be earned. Toil or tear whichever was applicable or whichever came first depending on the stage of life we were in. We got what we deserved and needed. That's how most would remember our childhood and growing up from that era.  I wonder where those days have gone or should I say those people have gone. It was a simple give and take. Give love, respect, consideration, help, time etc etc and get the same in return. "Input is equal to Output" theory. This was life and this is how it should always be. And sooner we teach our younger ones the better it is for them. In the last decade this emotion called happiness is keeping us on our toes and wide awake else we might miss it. Ignorance is no more bliss.  

When did happiness become a goal and more importantly why? Is it a product which comes with a step-by-step manual and new versions being released for upgradation? Is it a service with long term AMCs (annual maintenance contracts) with renewable features? Is happiness a person or a destination? Is happiness key to success and peace or is it the other way around? What is happiness? Why is it so important for me to be happy always? Why has this single emotion in conjunction with another condition called peace/calmness taken precedence over all other emotions? These thoughts keep me awake. To compound the complexity of this matter we have plethora of 'self-help books' and even larger number of self appointed 'self-styled gurus' with specialization in different streams that constitutes happiness. Each of these 'self-helps' claim to be the best way possible to get what you want. They show the path and ask you to do as they say (not doing themselves on most occasions except a handful). Instead of resolving this concept they add in making it more complex and elusive. Its almost attained the status of being most desirable and mostly beyond reach. 

After reading books, listening to pseudo emancipated, self actualized people and learned but not so sought after people called parents I have come to the conclusion that happiness cannot be bought, read, learnt, memorised, seen, experienced etc. We are basically born as happy people. That's how nature has created us. If we look around, everything which makes me happy is either within me or within my reach. It is not possible for any human being to be in a constant state of happiness. This has to be interspersed with different other emotions. Sometimes negatives too. When I look hard I see that life actually happens in between these emotions. If all emotions are plotted on a graph we would have continuous bell shape curves. Highs and lows. Waves. Beautiful ones. The only time we get a straight line on a graph is when we are dead. I am sure you must have seen in movie after movie that a straight line on a life support monitor is what pronounces the end of a character. Now we don't want that. Do we? So why this constant 24x7 bombarding of 'positive thoughts for the day' and thereby build an expectation that everyone should always be happy. No I don't want this. As an individual I would want to experience all emotions. I have the capability. I just need to build the capacity.   

I have evolved as a being with higher intelligence after billions and billions of years of survival. Why should I deprive myself of the range that I am capable of experiencing? Its ok not to be happy on several occasions. Too much of anything is toxic. Both science and spirituality has proven this.

If I fail I need to stop looking for the positives in it. This is important otherwise where will the learning' come from? If I fall sick and experience pain I need to stop looking for the benefits. This is important otherwise where will the cure come from? If I don't succeed I need to stop looking for excuses to look good. This is important otherwise how will I know where to stop and think and drop and move on in most untoward situations? If I am betrayed and hurt by people I trusted and love I need to stop looking for excuses to forgive them. This is important otherwise how will I be able to distinguish genuine ones from the fakes in future.  The answer my friend is blowing in the wind only if we take time to see and internalize. In order to earn happiness, somethings have to be given away. Life is a pursuit of happiness and it's perfectly ok if it comes as seasonal welcome showers and not necessarily as floods. All or none is not what happiness is all about. 

The Fairy Godmother said to Fiona in Shrek -"Happiness is just a teardrop away." Not all lives are supposed to have a happily ever after ending. Not everyone can be a hero. Somebody has to sit on the pavement and clap as they go by. So be happy that you are not happy always !!  It means life is happening to you.        

      
Ma

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Unforgiving Sixty Seconds

1 year 2 months 23 days. This is no statistic or a cryptic riddle. This is how long I have been living since I defeated my brain condition to come out 'normal'. A new kind of normal. As most would agree the real journey of life begins when the surgery is over. Its my journey and I have to walk it for the rest of my life. I came out and living is the greatest achievement for me. How I made it, is a separate story and a long one. I will write it someday for sure but right now there are more important thoughts that are keeping me awake.

As per psychologist Maslow and his theory one can attain self actualization only after all the other lower levels have been conquered. I am not sure whether I have crossed and conquered all the levels but what I know is that I am at a stage where I can see things clearly. Crossing or no crossing the levels. This clarity has come about after a lot of pain, soul searching, help, realizations etc. The truth has been overwhelming and tough to say the least.

For quite sometime now life is forcing me to take decisions I ought to have taken anyway. These decisions or stands have pushed me towards paths less travelled and sometimes unknown altogether. In either scenario I have not been comfortable because I didn't know how to walk on them. At every corner and turn I have been searching for familiar faces, events, landmarks but have been disappointed most of the times. All that I learnt through my growing years has been challenged. I will not lie that on so many occasions I have been completely lost and defeated. Today is one of those days. The poem IF by Rudyard Kipling couldn't have been more relevant to me in my present mental state than at any other time. This is where the lines of the poem come to my rescue.

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
    And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
    If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Source: A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1943)
   
This poem has the same relevance to me what teachings from my parents or any guru or learned person would have. It has pushed me to introspect on everything that I have held so dear to me. Its like the essence of all my growing up years reading and soaking from the good people around me. I just forgot it all in the storm of life I had been living. Dealing in lies was never taught to me and nor did I practice. A good human being and a survivor for all seasons is how I had viewed myself. Life threw so many surprises when I least expected them. I could take them all in my stride. Just can't understand how did these people crawl in and I got sucked-in. I know no one can make you feel inferior without your permission. I know I gave the permission and so the fault rests with me. 

Now I have to bear the truth I spoke twisted by knaves to conveniently meet their ends. My truth. Now I have to pick up worn out tools to build what I broke. My tools. Now I have to start at the beginning and not say a word about my loss. My beginning. Now I have to fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run. My minute.   

Its like I have started my walk yet again on a new path. Long and winding with no end in sight. This time its taking me back to my fundamentals. There is no fear because I can't go wrong with my basics. Its really important to disconnect with all that doesn't agree with my being. As famously said by Rick in the movie 'Casablanca' - "I stick my neck out for nobody"....