Guess what is the most underestimated, most readily available thing that can brighten our day in an instant?
If you said humour, you’d be right.
What better than a good dose of laughter to get on with life? Continue reading
Nothing works better than the much-needed holiday to give one a break from the routine and the mundane, away from the noise and the clamour! In fact, if you’ve read my recent guest post, you’ll know how much traveling means to me and my better half, Jay. In fact, I’ve just returned from a short family holiday, recharged and envigorated after a relaxing break.
Every year, during this time, we get away from the city because of the Diwali celebrations, and the rising pollution levels that trigger serious respiratory ailments for our son, now 13! This year, we’ve also had a particularly stressful time as a family and have been looking forward to a family vacation, to unwind and recharge with that much-needed holiday.
There was enough downtime to get rested and to relax, and catch up on real-time conversations with old friends we were meeting after nearly two decades—so different from virtual communication that we’re so used to most of the time. We got to explore a gorgeously beautiful city for the first time, and check out the local cuisines that we never knew of! (I’m not disclosing the details. More coming on my travel blog soon!) The learning came as a result of the discovery of yet another way of life, of people from a different culture, and realising how, everywhere, despite the differences, human emotions and relationships work in quite a similar fashion, bringing in a sense of commonality in the way we view life and how we perceive our wants and needs! The best part of it all was getting away from social media during the six days that we traveled, soaking in new experiences and reliving every minute of our experiences, as best as we could! In fact, we couldn’t have asked for anything better.
Vacations are great that way, because they offer us not just an occasion to unwind and rest but also make us realise how minuscule we are in the grand scheme of things, and what an insignificant place we occupy in this amazing world that we belong to; of how little we know our fellow beings from other cultures, and their lives, far removed from our own insular existences. A lot of learning and unlearning happens as we travel and once we return home, it dawns on us how our visions have broadened and how we no longer view things the way we did earlier— at least, not without being altered a little in our minds and hearts!
As always, every trip makes me deeply grateful for being able to leave the comforts of my home to experience the indefinable joy of seeing new places and meeting new people— an opportunity that is denied to many others and it humbles me beyond words. Gratitude makes me enjoy all that comes my way during the travels, with an open mind and a smile! ‘Take nothing for granted”, reminds my soul, from time to time and I quietly follow through!
Like most Bangaloreans, I’m grateful today, we’ve got the much-needed respite from the ongoing rains and flooding, that has been wreaking havoc in the city, nearly everywhere. A partially overcast sky feels so much safer today! Homes will not be flooded, people won’t get washed away and commuters won’t get stuck on the road. Praying that it stays that way for the rest of the week! On that note, I sign off.
Here’s to a happy week ahead for all!
There was a time several years ago, when I used to read out to my little one, perched up on my lap, all cozy and warm. During the long story reading sessions, we would break for impromptu discussions, once in a while when we would discuss the most random things under the Sun, before resuming again.
One day, while we were reading the Jataka Tales, my little one was a little quieter than usual. He kept listening to the stories, but did not ask me any questions. I noticed something was bothering him. After a while, I sat him down next to me and finally asked him the reason for his quietness.
After some initial hesitation, he replied,
“I was thinking —why do people die?”
“Hmm. So this is what is bothering you,” I said. I knew I had to put him at ease with his thoughts but it was hard to explain the concept of death to a child. I thought for a moment and then, said,
“You know, there is something common about everything we see in this world, and that is— everything changes. The law of nature says that all living beings that are born must die. Me, you, our families, our friends, our plants and trees and the animals around. Everything must come to that state we call death.”
His next question was,
“Does it hurt a lot when we die?”
I hugged him tight and kissed his forehead. I had no answer to be honest, but I made the bravest face that I could and told him,
“No, it doesn’t.”
And, then, for some reason, I veered him away from that topic to something else and the topic was forgotten. Over the years we never spoke about it again.
Last week, we came upon this topic again by chance. The news of yet another teenager killing himself over the notorious Blue Whale challenge has been sending shockwaves around the country. As a mother of a teen, I know my apprehensions are not unfounded. I’ve always kept the lines of communication open with Arjyo knowing how trying things can be when you’re caught in a limbo between childhood and adulthood. After his evening snack, we got down to talking about how his day went. We spoke on all and sundry until we came upon the topic of death and how everything we are connected to, is only short-lived. The mood and tone of our chat suddenly turned solemn. I decided to tell him a story again, reminiscent of the early years. Maybe, I was missing those story-telling days more than he did.
I narrated the story of the Buddha and how one day a woman with a dead baby came to him asking him to bring the child back to life. The Enlightened One, of course, would not give sermons. So, he sent her to go looking for a mustard seed instead, which alone could save the child’s life, but on one condition—it should come only from a house where death had not touched anyone. Over time, and after a couple of visits, the woman realised that there was not a single household where death had not visited even once. She came to the realisation that her only way forward was to accept that death was inevitable in everyone’s life. The Buddha, full of compassion for the welfare of mankind, must have already seen it! She said to her son,
“Dear little son, I thought that you alone had been overtaken by this thing which men call death. But you are not the only one death has overtaken. This is a law common to all mankind.” So saying, she cast her son away in the burning-ground, uttering the following words.
“No village law, no law of market town, No law of a single house is this—
Of all the world and all the worlds of gods
This only is the Law, that all things are impermanent.”
Arjyo listened to the story with a maturity that was well beyond his years and a vulnerability that was a sign of his young mind trying to come to terms with the concept of loss and impermanence. Never an easy topic to discuss with your teen, mind you. Knowing that he was on the verge of that uneasy stage in life when emotional turmoils run high, I said,
“Everything in this world is temporary— me and you and everyone we know. But should that stop us from living life? NO. Even our favourite things are here today, gone tomorrow….and so are all our lovely moments of happiness and so are the hard times and the painful things that we find difficult to endure. So, if you are happy, enjoy the moment because it is short-lived and if you are sad, know that this too shall pass soon.”
He has always been a child with a certain philosophical bent of mind and he has always been a quick observer of things around. While he confessed the other day how that chat of ours made him sad, he also acknowledged the fact that it made him wise enough to understand that this was a “fact of life.”
I recalled how I had stumbled upon this profound truth in my Philosophy class in college—one of the foremost teachings in Buddhism that says everything in life is impermanent. Buddhism’s main concern has always been freedom from pain and the path to that ultimate freedom consists in ethical action and in direct insight into the nature of “things as they truly are”.
According to the teachings of the Buddha, life is like a river. It is a successive series of moments, joining together to give the impression of one continuous flow. But in reality, it moves from cause to cause, effect to effect, one point to another, one state of existence to another.
So, what makes this knowledge relevant to us?
Perhaps the fact that our inclination to cling to things we are attached to is one of the major reasons for our suffering. When we are aware of the ever-changing nature of reality and appreciate the present moment we are able to accept that nothing will stay with us forever, that all things including our moments of happiness and pain are ephemeral.
The river of yesterday is not the same as the river of today. It changes continuously from moment to moment. Everything we see around us is there only for a moment. In the very next, something will change and so will our life. The only way to align our lives with this reality is to accept the impermanence of life and make the most of living in the moment.
It happens to be one of those days when I have too much on my plate and nothing seems to be moving at all. I woke up with a sore throat this morning and a slight touch of feverishness. I admit I did fantasise about curling up with a book and reading all day. But, of course, it wasn’t meant to be! Continue reading
The countdown to the New Year began well ahead of time for most of us. We’ve all been planning to make a fresh new start, get into a fitness routine, drop that baggage, lose weight, get rid of old habits and change old ways of doing things. In short, we’ve all been looking at this time to start everything afresh. Begin a new chapter. When the New Year finally arrived, we were happy to bid adieu to the old and promptly, came out our New Year Resolutions. Continue reading
(This was selected as a featured post for #FridayReflections)
Courage comes in many forms. Sometimes, courage can be that quiet unassuming person you meet down the road who surprises everyone by braving all odds, defying the norms and achieving the impossible.
Does the name Arunima Sinha ring a bell for you?
Some of you might remember reading about this gutsy girl when she was awarded the Padma Shri in 2015, for climbing Mount Everest. So, what is it that makes her a true champion?
Climbing Mount Everest is a dream come true even for the most confident adventurer because of the sheer number of odds that pose a challenge to anyone daring to reach the top of the world. How much more challenging would that be if the climber was an amputee with a prosthetic leg?
The year was 2011. Twenty-four-year-old Arunima Sinha, a national level volleyball player, was thrown off a moving train by thugs for refusing to hand over the gold chain she was wearing. The compartment was full of people, but no one came to the rescue of a girl being robbed and attacked. What happened thereafter took a matter of seconds. Her left leg came under the wheels of a train on the opposite track.
As she lay bleeding and calling for help, almost 49 trains passed by her. Sadly, help arrived much later. By then, unable to bear the pain, she had already passed out. Her leg was in such a critical condition that it had to be amputated.
The girl refused to give up. For someone who never thought she’d never survive that night, a new surge of hope came when morning dawned. While dealing with pitying murmurs of, “Who will marry you now,” and the absurd conspiracy theories that followed, she had made a decision. She would climb Mount Everest.
A meeting with the famous Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest proved to be the much-needed boost for Arunima. Pal’s words propelled her forward – “Know that you have already conquered your inner Everest. Now you need to climb the mountain only to show the world what you are made of.”
In 2013 she did just that, becoming the world’s first female amputee, and the first Indian amputee, to achieve this feat.
That was just the beginning of her achievements. In fact, Arunima stunned everyone by taking on the Mission Seven Summit, which saw her conquer five of the seven peaks of the world, one after another, proving once again, that no challenge was impossible if one was as determined as Arunima was.
I bowed to that courage. I just had to. Arunima’s story of grit and determination came to me at a critical time in my life when I had been fighting a battle on many fronts for months and was nearly giving up. When I read about the way she faced the odds, it made me realise how powerful and indomitable the human spirit could be. Her story and her fight gave me renewed hope and faith in myself in a way that few things did. To be honest, I felt my troubles were absolutely nothing in comparison to what lay before her and I pulled myself up by the bootstraps, so to say, ready to face my fate.
Giving up has never been an option for me. Not for a moment. Not even in my dreams. This time, after the recent setbacks, even more so.
So, what it is that keeps us going and never ever give up? What propels us forward to try just one more time?
Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around.
To tell the truth, obstacles are the very reason why we end up doing something. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself. Haven’t we all had a time when something insurmountable has come into our lives and we faced the horns of the dilemma for the umpteenth time…to keep trying or quit?
Chances are, most of us have thought about giving up on something. All of us have. When expectations haven’t been met and disappointments add up, that is where something threatens to snap within us, that makes us forget about the beauty of the vision and dream we once saw behind it. It suddenly feels like the goal you were once aiming for is no longer worth the effort. Why fight then? Let’s just give up on it.
Perhaps it seems like it will take a lot out of us and we are afraid of doing so. It is tempting to give up. So, that we can accept it was not meant for us.
But, that is my point.
That is precisely when we must not give up. Because that is when we are already very very close to achieving whatever it was that we had set out to achieve.
A student once asked Thomas Edison how he managed to not give up during his 5,000 failed attempts of inventing a functioning lightbulb. Edison answered something like: “What do you mean? I didn’t fail at all, I discovered 5,000 ways of how not to do it!”
So, what is it that stops us from learning new ways to achieve our goals? If, for instance, the previous plan didn’t work out as we wished, what stops us from trying a new approach? Fear and frustration build their home within our minds first. That is where the battle begins and sadly, often where it ends too.
Life is a struggle. It will through curveballs at you and humble you. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference.
That is when people like Arunima come along to prove that nothing is impossible. Arunima’s story has since been published in a book, titled – Born again on the mountain. Her poem beautifully sums up her thoughts in the following lines:
“Rehne de aasma, zameen ki talash kar,
Rehne de aasma, zameen ki talash kar
Sab kuch yahi hai, kahin aur na talash kar
Jeene ke liye, ek kami ki talash kar.”
[Let the sky be and seek the earth,
Let the sky be and seek the earth,
All is here, search not elsewhere,
To live beautifully, seek life in dearth]
Life lessons are learnt from one another. We all become better at things by trying. That is when we must listen to that quiet voice within us, that incorrigible optimist in our hearts to guide us on, to keep trying and never give up. Never ever give up!
My day starts at 5am every weekday morning. Preparing breakfast and lunch for Arjyo, before he leaves for school, occupies me until 7:15, after which I take a ten-minute break for some quick meditation. The ten minutes rejuvenate me as nothing does – an absolute necessity for me to get on with the day. Continue reading