Webbed Independence

Webbed Independence

I have always had, (still have) this independent streak in me. I try my utmost to accomplish every task solo; without bothering a single other soul. Not because I don’t wish to seek outside help or that I shy away from stretching my hand to ask a favour of someone. Just that, it has been that way with me; I need to do it all myself! With every passing day, a realization keeps showing its true face to me, teasing me about my illusory independent accomplishments. The verity is that life is rife with webs. We live a webbed life striving to achieve that elusive independence.

How can I be independent? Dependence begins with birth and goes on.  My mind is forever juggling more than one thought process, my heart is experiencing more than one emotion at a time and my physical self is an expert multi tasker, it barely ever shows one singular symptom at a point of time. One thing is dependent on the other within me, in me I have a web, and I am at the centre of this web, breaking free. Forget about my association with the world and its connections; that is a bigger, wider net and little introspection will reveal, that this is a web I can be free of, gain independence from; if I so choose to do so.

I never really gave all this much thought; because this independent streak always limited itself to doing things, accomplishing the worldly deeds and pursuits in a self-reliant way. That was my struggle and definition of being independent; breaking free of the web outside. Now, this independence is also a pseudo independent state, don’t you think? Because, everything I wish to accomplish, there are many interlaced events and people involved who have to participate on my schedule and whim, to bring the event to timely fruition; my way. This, I realised only when I came across many stumbling blocks in the recent past, and my daughter commented about how ‘my independent decisions’ were affecting her life and decisions because she is dependent on me!

Apparently, my interdependence was not as harrowing nor did I have to make any big sacrifices like her. Since I was too busy to commit to 2 days a week to collect her after school; she was forced to forego the exclusive choir group in her school (only 16 girls from the whole school were hand -picked and she was one of them). The poor girl swallowed the bitter pill with great equanimity, yet I was gently reminded of her sacrifice more times than I care to recall. And all this occurred because of her dependence on me. Ah ha! I thought, all this doing solo and not getting in the way of anyone else is a big sham; I am dependent on everyone and everything for everything.  And so is my poor kiddo! We are a part of this huge web and in that the only independent space is the individual space! All else is knotty and intricately knitted, well-crafted work of God almighty, so we cannot Break -Free! And thus, came my moment of epiphany…

My umpteen failed attempts to be regular with my blogs and posts is yet another example worthy of mention. The first step towards this was to be regular and disciplined; and this is where I have consistently boomeranged!  I had a finger in every possible pie; something pressing always took precedence and writing remained on the ‘to do’ list.  With dedicated prioritisation, I finally committed to one post per week, and then I realize I forgot to pay the fee for my website, and thus the website was inactive. So, I patiently wait and get that work done, then my editor gets busy and goes on a sabbatical, so another setback, unfazed, I decided to put up some poetry and unedited posts (at the risk of quality versus continuity) then my website goes on to some maintenance and is offline yet again! It was as if the world had conspired to stop me from being regular, try as I might, my interdependence would not allow me to accomplish this job ‘my way’. I was webbed; and I had to lump it.  This is just a very small instance, which I noticed because of my daughter’s comment. We all have such webbed moments, and I am sure the feeling of being independent is very illusory. Maybe that’s why the most common sigh we have in our moments of frustration is,’ Oh! when will I be free of all this!’

The above aberrations did not make me feel webbed; I could be independent and interdependent; this was the revelation I had. If I could be emotionally free, detached and unaffected, all the other webs (social and worldly) hardly bothered me for long. They were small speed breakers on the road, part of the journey, and probably imperative too, to maintain my speed, and help me see the view on the way. My daughter’s gentle reminder of ‘her sacrifice’ brought to the fore what I personally was trying to break away from; the emotional burden we carry for every action we take or escape.  The constant nagging and having to ask, seek permission, being judged, is what the heart wants to break free from; physically we don’t mind the dependence, on the contrary, we welcome it! It gives us a chance to pass the buck, and have a ‘shared burden companionship’ feeling. It is the emotional clutter that we hanker to clear and yet unwittingly latch on to.

Whenever I feel webbed, I clean the clutter of the house, throw unwanted things, clear the cobwebs, make a schedule; get things under control (as much is possible)! This external control over things helps me put a leash around my free- spirited thoughts and the clearing makes my heart ‘see’ better, I think.  I learn to enjoy the webbed independence state, independently.

Loneliness and Solitude

Loneliness and Solitude

Loneliness and Solitude

Recently, a friend lost her husband. A hale and hearty man waved goodbye to his wife and kids; went to work and it became the last time! He is no more; she has to live the remaining days alone; raise the children alone, fend for herself alone, seek companionship from within, the one closest friend has deserted her, with no warning, no preparation. She is amidst family members, friends who are helping her cope with her grief and loss, but for how long will this companionship serve to be an effective distraction?

Another friend lost her dad; a dad she dearly loved, who was a role model for her. She emulated him, looked up to him; would consult him for every small concern. How does one cope with the loss of some who means who more than life itself? Is it possible not to feel devastated; is it possible to move on? I don’t think so, forgetting is impossible, and being stuck and not moving on is not an option either! So, how does one cope?

My cousin was hospitalised and has just about managed to escape the clutches of lord Yama; she was battling for her life alone, in the ICU. On the other side of the door the whole family prayed fervently for her recovery, each alone with their thoughts and fears. Having witnessed a spate of such incidents with people near and dear, it has brought to fore this million-dollar question, ultimately; ‘Aren’t we all alone?’  It is moments like these which make me wonder; we crave company all our life, want to be surrounded by loved ones, why? Is it because we are afraid to be alone? Or is it solitude and what solitude entails that makes us afraid? We are always alone, so we cry about our loneliness and seek companionship, but solitude means that we acknowledge being alone, and at the cost of stunning the world (the world does not understand the difference between solitude and loneliness) we cannot pretend being sad because of our loneliness.

The Geeta explains loneliness and solitude beautifully; here is a humble translation: Loneliness is the biggest punishment in this world! And solitude is the biggest blessing/gift. These two words appear so similar, yet cannot be more apart, like heaven and hell. “Loneliness is suffering, and Solitude is relaxing. Loneliness is fear, and Solitude is peace/Shaanti. Till we look for solace in the outer world we will experience loneliness. But when you look for it within you, you start experiencing solitude. This life is nothing but a journey from loneliness to solitude. A journey, in which the path is us, the traveller is also us and so is the destination.”

Personally, I am in agreement with the thought that we are all alone, our attitude and experience of the word is what differentiates and gives it meaning, being alone or in solitude. Like it is so beautifully elucidated in The Geeta, alone or in solitude makes the biggest difference. Unknowingly we crave solitude but we are terrified of being alone.

My husband’s observation about me is that I keep insisting that I be left alone! ‘Don’t work from home, go to office so I can have my space!’ ‘All of you go, I will stay back.’ I am sure most of us, especially housewives like me, share the sentiment. We are hounded by our filial duties and a chance to get the house all to ourselves is a chance we would not miss for the world. We do not want this for long though, definitely not, juts for an hour or so, for us to be able to put our feet up, unwind. I also have this craving for being alone, and till I did not read the above explanation I never realised I was actually craving for solitude, being alone was as unsavoury as ever; but solitude is what the heart wants and longs for.

A very close friend’s mother is unwell for some time now, and is bravely fighting a losing battle. The whole family has surrounded her, trying to give her strength, courage and moral support, not just to the mother, but to the dad too, to be able to fight this battle. I speak to this friend every day and I sense that her parents are alone in all this. The presence of family members or the lack of it is a superficial balm to an inner wound which cannot be healed by any one. They smile for others sake, they pretend all is well, things are going to be better, but the verity cannot change just because we decide to wear rose tinted glasses. I sense that they are party to all the smothering they receive and yet experience profound loneliness. How can one let go or be able to let go of a partner of more than 50 years? The time when we finally learn to live comfortably with one another, seems to be the time when we may verily be alone, by one Self! Again, live alone or live in solitude? Probably answering this question may help make the right choice, allow the ‘let go’ to happen, give precedence to the loved one’s interests, cope with grief better? Solitude is what helps us live at peace with our Self, practice attached detachment and heal.

Transformative creativity is a constant need to change, every day of life, to last day.  Inner weather changes and we are unwilling to adapt. We need to be courageous to see my Self, which is possible only if we meditate. The subtle yet yawing difference between loneliness and solitude can come to light only through meditation, there is no other way.

Meditation is all about self-awareness. Being a true companion to the Self; praying for Nature’s forces to conspire and help us get better, make us better beings. Meditation has taught me the subtle difference of being able to appreciate solitude in those alone moments; moments which seemed dreadful earlier are matter of fact today, even joyful and insightful.

Dilettante’

Dilettante’

Dilettante’

‘Keep asking yourself; ’My future comes from where my time goes; so, where should my time go?’ :Mahatria Ra.

The above question is borrowed from the book ‘Most and More’ and another set of three questions the author posed for daily introspection are, 1. ‘Am I doing justice to my potential? 2.Year after year, in how many more lives am I becoming useful? and 3. Day by day, am I living my life in ways by which I am moving closer and closer to my God?’ Needless to say, the book is replete with wisdom and plenteous food for thought. I am forever cursing these learned people and their sermons; because I can neither leave them nor live by them cent percent!

The above question stood out because of it was not the typical run -of the mill question that I read in most self-help books. ‘Go with the flow’.’ Don’t resist’. ‘Things happen as they are meant to happen.’ This is the gist of all that most learned people have to say. They ask you to introspect, meditate, know your goal, rather broad – spectrum stuff.  But, here this person was asking me to track my time on a daily basis, because my life ahead depended on it. Today, I am on the doorstep of half a century and I am oblivious as to where my time went, (I was going with flow, remember?!) and where it is going to go. So, how do I aspire for a future for which I have no plan in place.  

All this learning I gently transfer to our son, in the hope that something will register, and he will have lesser hurdles on his life-path. He dabbles in everything (like me) loses interest before he has mastered it completely (partially excelling is the same as mastering, like me, again!) and he is already in search of something more exciting, challenging (unfortunately, again, like me). That brings me to the title, ‘dilettante’.  A single word, 10 alphabets in all and yet, it aptly describes me!  English Cambridge Dictionary gives the meaning for this word as: ‘A person who is or seems to be interested in a subject, but whose understanding of it is not very deep or serious’.

 A trivial example is a new app; ‘HABITICA’ which our son downloaded and egged us on to follow suit. Like with everything new, my daughter and I excitedly downloaded the app and set our goals, dailies, to-do’s and reminders.  First few days we called and messaged each other to keep a tab on our progress, Gold earned, levels crossed etc. The first one to slip was me, I could not make head or tail of the challenges, and the tasks I had assigned for myself seemed more like pseudo challenges, I succeeded every time, that became a bore. Our son suggested that I increase the difficulty level; but I had already lost interest and I noticed that the very next day our daughter forgot to update and that was that. Our son fell sick and he was forced to discontinue for a week.

So, in a span of 3 weeks we had downloaded an app, tried to inculcate a good habit and also had given up on it, that was the speed with which the habit made an entry and exit from our lives. This is a very inconsequential matter; the sadder revelation was that this was a recurring issue!  It was not just ‘Habitica’; many other activities (learn a new language, Skating, Keyboard) we had started everything with aplomb and dropped them with equal panache’.

This search for something new, this craving for the excitement has led us to have a very small threshold for patience, and sustenance. Mahatria writes; “Under the pretext of wanting to avoid boredom, monotony and repetition, using the context of change, variety and versatility and variation, you guys don’t stick to anything long enough.  When a seed stays rooted in the soil long enough it will develop roots and eventually grown into a tree. However, if I keep unearthing the seed every few days, and keep re-plating it in different places, it will not even become a plant.”

Another fable with the same moral is, a man dug 15meters deep in search of water, and upon some other person’s suggestion, tried his luck at some other spot. Like this he dug 15meter deep holes at some 20 places with no sign of water. A wise man smiled and said, “If you had listened to your heart alone, and not to every passer- by, you would have continued digging in one place and struck gold by now.”

This ‘gold-fish attention span syndrome’ is ubiquitous.  Rarely do we find a person who pursues his or her dreams and see them come to fruition. Rarer still is a person who waits and deliberates long enough to realise what exactly is their dream, every passing fancy is a temporary dream, half accomplished and cast aside. We have this fancy to be Jack of all trades, and have no patience to become ‘master in one’. Every child today is taught music, dance, some instrument, a marital art, some sport, drawing and all this is apart for regular school. We, as parent are as unsure as our parents were (about us) I think, we don’t know what choices the child may finally make and we want to cram everything, in tit -bits so that the child can pick up anything! And the bizarre irony though is that most children go ahead and pick nothing that they have already had a brush with; they seek something new! So, again all that half -baked knowledge, half -hearted attempts finally go down the drain to be replaced by some new fancy which has piqued the kids interest, temporarily.

“If you feel it is a repetition then you are not growing through that experience. Only when you stagnate, you start viewing experiences as repetition. …. The mind needs variety. It thrives on new circus.  A time for everything and everything in its time; that’s what discipline is all about and it absolutely suits the body. But the mind feels suffocated by such monotony. “what is the point if today is just a repetition of yesterday?” the mind wonders. So, the mind pulls you into undisciplined indulgence. Th every desire of the mind to get away from monotony draws us towards intoxication.  The internal drama due to intoxication is entertaining to the mind, and thus it eggs us on towards more forms of intoxication.”

 “Expertise comes with time, but you need to stick to the job long enough, precision come with time, but one has to follow the process long enough; perfection comes with time, but we are happy with superficial excellence.” So, I reiterate, where is your time going? Because, your future goes where your time goes’.

Life is not about what you do, it is about the quality you bring to everything you do. 

Dharma – Artha – Kama – Moksha

Dharma – Artha – Kama – Moksha

Dharma – Artha – Kama – Moksha

Wikipedia says, ‘Puruṣārtha (पुरुषार्थ) literally means an “object of human pursuit”. It is a key concept in Hinduism, and refers to the four proper goals or aims of a human life. The four puruṣārthas are Dharma (righteousness, moral values), Artha (prosperity, economic values), Kāma (pleasure, love, psychological values) and Mokṣa (liberation, spiritual values).  All four Purusarthas are important, but in cases of conflict, Dharma is considered more important than Artha or Kama in Hindu philosophy.Moksha is considered the ultimate ideal of human life.’

All the sites I browsed, explain the ‘goals of life’, ‘object of human pursuit’ as is. Bar wikipedia and a few others, none give much significance to the order. Thus, even though I have heard the above 4 terms explained countless number of times, I never really gave much thought to the order in which they come, and if that order had any significance at all.  

I think I mentioned the serial, Upanishad Ganga, many times already. The epiphany moments whilst watching this show are ceaseless. Upanishad Ganga has dedicated 4 episodes trying to elucidate ‘the goal of human life’ and the first Purusharth explained is Dharma. Why Dharma should come first; the significance of the order, how Dharma is interlaced with the following purusharths is beautifully brought to light in these episodes.

The life of King Harishchandra is exemplified to depict Dharma. Harishchandra not only foregoes his kingdom, crown, riches and name; he sells his wife and child to uphold Dharma. The chandala employed Harishchandra as a worker at his cremation ground. He directed Harishchandra to collect fees for everybody cremated there: a part of the fee would go to the chandala, a part would be given to the local king, and the rest would be Harishchandra’s remuneration. Harishchandra started living and working at the cremation ground. One day, his queen stood crying before him; she held the dead body of their son, who had died of a snake bite. The queen readied to cremate the dead body of their son. But, Harishchandra told her that he would not let her do so without paying the fee. He was bound by his Master’s word, fee for everybody cremated. Even though it was his own son, and even though his wife was too poor to pay any fee….“ Thus, was the struggle of Raja Harishchandra to uphold Dharma.

I thought the story was a bit too extreme, I mean, putting oneself to so much trouble, pain and grief to uphold Dharma; was Dharma really that pivotal?

“In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviours that are considered to be in accord with rta, the order that makes life and universe possible,and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘‘right way of living’’.In Buddhism dharma means “cosmic law and order”,but is also applied to the teachings of the Buddha. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for “phenomena. Dharma in Jainism refers to the teachings of tirthankara (Jina) and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, the word dharm means the path of righteousness and proper religious practice.”

The first lesson we learn is Dharma: duty, our duty. Verily, it is bound to come first. It is the foundation stone on which the edifice of our life lies.  The first thing we are taught is ‘know your duty’ and ‘do your duty diligently’. At the tender age of 8 our duty is to study, be a person of moral character and abide by our parents’ words. As we grow older the duty changes, we are duty bound to earn a living, enter the second pursuit of life; Artha. Making a livelihood with legal means within the bounds of our duty, ethically. Profiting off someone else’s loss, earning for the sake of a better life, more than the someone else, in competition with others; these are prominent reasons why we lose our power of discernment and behave contradictory to our true nature. It is Dharma which is the fine line standing between, need and greed. Subtly, it highlighted again that without Dharma, Artha can become a war for power and wealth, sans the foundation of ethics or values.

The gradual progression from Dharma and Artha is Kama, the third Purushaarth. The world is in chaos, misguided probably because of the preference this Purushaarth has been given! The youth today falls in love first, decides all other duties and responsibilities later. People are asked to vote at the age of 18-21, the driving license is issued at the age of 18years, but to fall in love there seems to be no such age bar. What happens when we practice and live life in the reverse order is the plight of the world today. Once again, Dharma helps us ennoble ourselves with love, rather than fall prey to lust. These subtle differences which prepare us for our last Purushaarth, Moksha, have to be followed in the said order. A confusion or transgression of the order keeps us away from our goal. It is by design that only on following Dharma can we be aware of the true goal of life; a life led with Artha and Kama deviod of Dharma are bereft of the last purushaarth.

 “Our discriminative faculty is so much over-shadowed by the hankerings of the mind that we have become quite blind to the real value of things concerned with in life. As a matter of fact, everything in life is for our ultimate good; only we have to learn their proper utilisation so as to turn them to our advantage.” – (Complete works of RamChandra, Vol 2- Ram Chrandra of Shahajahanpur,UP)

Somerset Maugham ends his book, ‘The Razors Edge’ with “The difference between the sublime and the foolish is that of a Razor’s Edge”.  That’s what life is I think, with Dharma in place it can be a life of a sublimity, else of one living in a fool’s paradise. Life may remain successful, infused with joy, wealth and prosperity; yet the goal may elude us, the true goal of life. 

The 4 Purusharth’s are interlaced; Dharma being the foundation on which the edifice of life stands defining the choices we make, and who we become.

 

http://www.ekatvam.org/liberation/dharma-artha-kama-moksha.html

http://swamij.com/purusharthas.html

King or Pawn

King or Pawn

KING or PAWN

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

William Shakespeare

Did you know that chess is our gift to the world? Some 1500 years ago! Our predecessors played this game to devise war strategies. In the 6th Century during the Gupta Empire time, it was known as Chaturanga, which translates to four divisions (of the military): the infantry, cavalry, elephantry and chariotry. They evolved into our modern-day Pawn, Knight, Bishop and Rook. From India, the game travelled to Persia and was a part of Persian nobility. When Arabs conquered Persia, the game travelled its way into the Muslim land. For the Arab Muslims, the word ‘ch’  and  ‘ng’ were negative terms and thus came into being our present-day name ‘Shatranj’. ‘Shah’ means king in Persian and Mat means ‘helpless’; the king is helpless and thus defeated; this term is used even today; ‘Check-mate’  in English and ‘shah aur mat’  in our country. 70% of our country men play this game. No, no; relax. I belong to the remaining 30%.

Despite instigating an ill feeling and acting as a catalyst to many fights, I always preferred to play Snakes and Ladders and shied away from Chess. My chances of winning this game were never in question; how badly and how miserable would be the loss and how I would salvage my bruised ego, these were the worries.

I tried hard to feign interest whilst my siblings waged war; 64 squares of black and white and the power struggle to trap the King. It never was a quick game though (like it is said that it used to be in the good old olden days); some tactical maneuvers and a ‘check-mate’; game over; that would have been to my liking. Rather, it went on forever, a long- drawn strategic planning ensued; my clever siblings continued to plot and scheme and bore the audience to death with their tortuous thinking and eyes boring a hole into the board, willing to burn the opponent’s King. Yet, I persisted. The more I watched the more the game revealed itself to me. I realised that the most powerful piece around which the whole game revolved, the king, verily, happened to be the most powerless piece. The queen had all the powers, could move in any direction, any number of squares and a force to reckon with. If the queen is trapped and ousted from the game, a quick closure was imminent.

The Queen, Knights (horse) and Rooks (elephant) and the Bishops (camel) all are powers to protect the king and help their Queen trap the opponent King. Yet, they are confined to that singular power vested on them; a horse cannot play the role of an elephant and the bishop cannot jump two and a half squares like the knight. They all are forced to play their part, die their part; trapped in it unto death. A bit better than the life of the helpless King; nevertheless, a handicapped life. The surprise super powers in the game though, were the Pawns; the soldiers. The queen if dead, she was out of the game, the knight the elephant could play just their part, they did not have the power to become a queen, or any other power. But a pawn, had the potential to become a queen, the most powerful piece in the game, give a losing game a fighting chance and a victory too, maybe. A pawn trudges, inches its way slowly up to the opponent’s side, 6 squares away from either protecting his own King or on the way to becoming a power player!

 

What Shakespeare says reveals itself in this game. The powers have greatness thrust upon them; the knight, bishop and rook. But for some unknown reason the game is designed thus; it symbolises these powers as animals, lower forms of creation. They are born to a nature, very early in life, adapt to their intrinsic nature but the growth stops there. That’s why animals function the same throughout their life cycle. That’s their boon or curse (whatever one chooses to consider it as). The greatness thrust upon these powers in chess is the same, don’t you think so?

Same goes for the King! He is born to greatness, by virtue of birth, the King’s first born ascends the throne and wears the Crown. Likewise, the poor queen is also unwittingly caught in the game. By virtue of being the king’s wife; she has greatness thrust upon her and she too must play her part. Both may suffer or enjoy their part, yet they have to live up to the role they have been assigned. Now, where is the handicap, you may ask. Can the King ever be anyone other than a king? No! They are unfortunately born to that nature and will die within that nature itself. That is there fate, greatness which they were born with and will die in.

Some achieve greatness: is those Pawns, the soldiers in the game, standing in the frontline; guarding the powers. Both, my sister and brother were easy to sacrifice the pawns in the first half of the game; but as they started to lose their powers; the focus shifted. They kept a close watch over the remaining soldiers; slyly inching the corner most pawn up and up into the opponent’s side; hoping they could revive the dead queen; regain power. The pawn has the potential to become someone great; someone who he is not born into, a garb not thrust upon him, can be earned by this pawn. Is this not the same for us; the middle class; or the common man? We all are born to a nature, yet, only we have the ability to transcend our nature. We may fail; yet we can aspire for success. Like pawns, we are born to a nature, but need not leave this world in the same garb; we have the power to choose, aspire to become someone worthwhile. We are a few steps away from our cherished dreams and aspirations; and step by step, we move closer to achieving our aspirations.

The unnoticed pawns in this game fought by powers and super powers; working their way up, from the periphery; and having the potential to come out a winner; achieve greatness. Fascinating game; intricately woven craft, daring us to seek out the simplest truth!

Alone – Together

Alone – Together

Alone Together

The thought of this title has been playing on my mind for a really long time.  I see the above state played, replayed and lived almost every single day in almost every urban household. I am still trying to frame and articulate it aptly with equanimity and fairness, about what I see and what I feel about this life. We, “the urban and developed”, tech savvy generation have come to lead today; ‘Alone Together’.

 It all started when a couple of weeks back, we were enjoying a face time call with our cousin. He started with the lord of the house (my husband), exchanged a few pleasantries, and asked for me. I was in the same room, right by his side, distractedly overhearing every word, yet busy on my phone, texting someone else, on a totally different topic. So, the phone came into my hands and he was a little surprised that I was right by my husband’s side, yet absorbed in my miserable gadget. Then came our daughter’s turn, and to make matters worse, and drive the wedge deeper into my already bleeding heart; there she was; right next to me, on her I pad, watching some idiotic show! Trust our dear cousin to make note of this too and he remarked ‘Oh! you are the perfect modern family, alone together.’

That’s that, the final nail in the coffin! I have often complained to my better half about his being glued to the phone. The gadget barely the size of a palm is  his heart, the phone being his life partner, best buddy and I can go on…but that caustic observation from our cousin brought to light the simple truth we all are avoiding today. We all are uncomfortable alone and worse; we are unknowingly more uncomfortable together.

Technology has robbed us of the pivotal, key ingredient of life and living; comfort in togetherness. We send texts with ease, because the message is devoid of physical proximity. The true essence of the meaning that we wish to convey is at the mercy of the befuddled receiver. We post pictures on Face book of every possible occasion, and fearlessly share our treasured moments with strangers. The immediate family is the last to know, or may get to know from ‘following’ the family on Face Book. Speaking to our extended family and relatives have become a weekend ritual.  We are more connected on what’s app group chats and when must speak over the phone, we procrastinate, tentatively rehearse our lines, and hope that by some fluke chance we can postpone it to the next weekend.

On the other hand, we prolifically text friends, seek new friends on the net, bare our hearts, confess to some faceless friend of the moment, here today, gone tomorrow. The importance of family, togetherness, being able to speak to a person, face to face, these have become outdated and obsolete.  With family, we are walking on thin ice; with strangers, we are on solid ground. With family, we are afraid, snappy, irritable and judgmental; with strangers we are bold, pleasant, eager to please and understanding.

Secrets are reserved to be kept from family members; but world can know all about us, and we care two hoots. The family should be kept in the dark; that’s more important. The world does not judge us, and even if it does, we don’t go back to live with the world, do we? We return to the family; thus, the need to hide from the family and be in their good books is essential. It sounds mighty hypocritical, but isn’t this a fact? Maybe that’s why we are fidgety around the known, and at ease with unknown.

Long gone are the days when we used to have a family lunch, or a simple get together for no reason at all. The fact of being together and looking forward to enjoying each other’s company was the prime intention. Nowadays we do have our lunches together, but we all have our friend in our pocket, tucked closest to the bosom, and we seek umbrage almost immediately after the perfunctory greetings are out of the way. Of course, we all sit together and watch a movie, but we all also have the phone stitched to our palm or an I pad on mute playing some other random, personal choice video. That’s the togetherness we have today.

We make weekly calls to my mother in law who stays all by herself. However, the funny part is that her loneliness is a constant worry for my husband. She is  in fact cheerful, happy,and coping very well with her way of life. She is  perpetually busy with her huge circle of  friends and many social engagements. Yet, he worries for her. Realistically speaking, I feel she is more engaged and together inspite of living so far away. We are right next to each other, yet we are lonelier. Listening to the cousin and my husband’s worrying rant, the profundity of that phrase ‘alone together’ hit me.

‘The less you have, the more they are worth.’- This was a toast raised for friends, on some Television show, I forget the name. It has become defunct today, won’t you agree? With the advent of Facebook and other social sites, the world is replete with stranger friends. We have no dearth of friends, so the real worth of a friend remains a mystery. Secondly, the world is our friend, so the more you have the more the confusion as to who is worthier! ‘The more you have, the less they are worth’; bring us back to the title; we remain alone, together.

It is best of both worlds really, we are together physically. We live under one roof, we seldom argue, because we never talk to each other, about each other.  We talk about the world or still better, we don’t have to talk at all! That sense of commitment and belonging is missing. We nurse our pain and misunderstanding and heal ourselves through help from strangers. Together, we wind up embittered, vitriolic and want to be alone. And alone, we are unhappy maybe, but the world worries about us, and that pseudo concern makes us happy? I am not sure, this is my ruminative rambling. We seem to be happier alone together, and we want to leave it that way.

ME – WE: WE – ME

ME – WE: WE – ME

ME – WE: WE – ME

In every religion, marriage heavily emphasise on the ‘big shift’; making the big move. We are forced to acknowledge the imminent change in status, from ‘ME’ to ‘WE’.  Be it the Christian couple saying ‘I do’, or the Muslim tradition of accepting ‘Qubool hai’ or the traditional Hindu Saptapadi; they signify only one thing, I am no longer ‘Me’. From this moment on I take the big step and acknowledge the life of ‘We’.

Christian weddings have the tradition of hosting a bachelor party. Known as a Stag Party ( USA and UK) or Buck’s night ( In Australia)  which is held for the” to be married” groom, before he enters the  holy matrimony  to celebrate his ‘last night of freedom’ and bachelorhood. They have something called a Bridal shower for the soon to be married girl, which used to be a traditional ceremony. The girl received gifts from family and friends, things she may need in her future life. In this generation, even the girls hang  out with their gal pals and enjoy their last night of freedom. In this generation we tend to marry at leisure, after living a few years of independent working life. In the western world, almost everyone marries more than once, and almost everyone has a pre-nuptial agreement signed and sealed. The threat of divorce looms large, even before they make their vows of eternal togetherness.  All these pre-nuptial agreements, over enthusiastic ‘stag nights’ predict a failed marriage and gives this mind shift of ‘me to we’ a very small window of opportunity to fructify.

“Marry knowing that it is for love and not money. This prenuptial agreement (also known as a pre-marital agreement) allows you to plan how you will divide your current and future wealth between you and your husband, wife or partner should you decide to divorce or separate in the future. It will help you control your ownership of important assets such as your house, sentimental possessions and your business.”  Lawyers have this pre-designed agreement, offered to the clients for 44 Euros! Kind of preordained, right? ‘We’ has zero chance of survival because the ‘me’ is already cognizant of the ephemeral life of ‘we’.

I don’t think Muslims have a ‘stag party’ tradition.  Moreover, this religion accepts polygamy. Even the laws of remarriage for women are not very stringent. They have a philosophy and practice which is different from the rest.

Let me come to our Indian, Hindu weddings; we never had anything like a prenuptial agreement. I do not remember ever having a ‘stag party’ tradition either.  Our upbringing was such that the girls were prepared for this mind shift right from our childhood. My parents had the same advice for us sisters, ‘That’s your family now, your first home. What they believe and practice is what you abide by.’  Education, ambition all were cast away in the wake of upholding this one relationship. Despite having complete awareness of the trials and strife that came along with this mind shift, the ‘me to we’ mind shift was natural. In a married life, nothing stays hunky-dory for long, but jumping to divorce for every disagreement or difference of opinion was never the option.  We were taught to make it work, this was no longer a ‘me’ scenario. Everything automatically became a ‘we’. We agree to disagree and walk the middle ground. Except for exacting situations ‘we’ survived. We fight, come close to parting ways, we are on the brink of killing the spouse, almost everything one can imaginably think of, happens; yet me survive the ‘we’.

However, the rising divorce rates in our country today, tell a very different tale. The advice our parents gave us was always for the girls. The result is; disillusioned mothers egged their girls to fight for their own rights, demand an equal share and prove that they could compete with the boys. To make matters worse, we, as parents, failed to teach the boys how to behave or how to be a co-operative, respecting adult. Thus, men are clueless and women are outraged. Gone are the days when women accept or follow anything that is thrust upon them. They are independent and free spirited women capable of making a mark in this competitive world. They want to succeed in both the worlds and refuse to give up on their dreams and ambitions. Like for every other belief; even for marriage, Indians find the western culture more worthy and adaptable. We want a married life, but a life, preferably with zero encumbrances and minimum sacrifice too. Else, we are very willing to walk out of the marriage, the willingness to live the ‘me’ life is far more alluring than having to live a burdened ‘we’ life. Thus, the increasing interest in prenups amongst the youth of India, especially amongst the affluent citizens.  My master says, ‘Married life is all about heart and ego!’. It used to be about our hearts and his ego then, now it is all about ego, his and hers.

We have adapted very well to the ways of the west. We have bridal showers and stag parties now. We have started to draw up pre-nuptial agreements, maybe not as flamboyantly as the westerners do, but we are not far away. Today, with great trepidation and discomfort we give marriage a thought; and we ensure that we don’t give up on the ‘me’, ever. We are unwilling to risk the loss of ‘me’ at any cost. It seems to be a very big sacrifice, a steep price to pay for a life which we are vehemently running away from.

That’s what it is coming to today, we have stopped teaching our children a life of togetherness, sacrifice and acceptance, which is what a life of ‘we’ really demands. Instead, we teach them to fight for their rights, be unyielding, be bold and ambitious enough to choose the ‘me’ over ‘we’.  We have walked the whole nine yards; from ‘Me to We’ and today we prefer ‘We to Me’.

The above saga stemmed from my stoic refusal to learn driving! I miss out on many things because of my immobile status. I have to ask my husband to be my chauffeur. Incase he is busy or not in the mood to drive then I am stuck at home. I agree it is an inconvenience. I also agree that my husband will be the happiest person if I learn to drive (he can make me run his errands too!).  I am tempted too, it is a very freeing thought to be mobile and do your own things  without having to ask anyone. Yet, this dropping; picking and shopping together is probably the only ‘We’ errand we have today. The day I begin to drive this will also be gone, I run my errands; I don’t have to ask him and I may very soon stop telling too! He is busy with his life, I am busy with mine, children with their lives, and with a different time schedule and his extreme travelling, we have no common time, apart for these drops and picks! This is when we catch up on what is happening in our ‘me’ lives! I definitely am not risking losing out on this time.  He gets irritated, I get angry; we agree to disagree and it goes on… Still, no driving for me, ever!

Dublin Diaries – 6

Dublin Diaries – 6

Still Smitten

I think I am smitten by these affable people and the fascination gets augmented with each passing day. Why am I so smitten; what about the Irish fosters this feeling in me? This time around let me attempt a macro comparison. India – Ireland comparison make me melancholic. Ireland is a joyous place and so is India. So, I take a bit of detour this time.  Bitten by the travel bug, I can claim to be cosmopolitan. I have been in and out of many countries and transited through many more airports. I will limit this episode to my experiences at different airports. Practicing the ‘Last in First out’ approach I recapitulate my freshest anecdote first.

Last May, my daughter and I visited Vrads Sande in Denmark, for a meditation workshop. Our flight had a stop-over at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam; we had to pass through the whole immigration rigmarole and then board a different flight to Bilund, Denmark.

One thing I find most disconcerting about Non-Indian airports and comforting about Indian airports is the people! If I have a doubt or a question all I need to do is tap someone’s shoulder and ask! There is people everywhere and all have time to listen and assist. Anywhere else I am forced to read the whole notice board, look at signboards, follow the arrows, am sure you get the drift of my predicament here. This cautious following of arrows is very stressful and with another impending departure to my destination; these immigration lines are harrowing and unnerving, always. So, after dutifully following the labyrinth of arrows and notice boards my daughter and I were standing in this Schiphol Airport immigration line. I freeze at the mention of looking at maps and finding directions; my mind goes blank; hence I won’t describe my state of mind again.  

The officer looked at the passport, then looked at me, and again looked at the passport. I smiled, a natural reflex for me, even though I was inordinately nervous. He looked past my smile, unmoved and asked, ‘You are going where?’

I said, ‘Vrads Sande.’

Officer, ‘How long?’

Me, ‘Two days’.

Officer (with a very skeptical look), ‘You going back to India in two days?’

Me, ‘No, I am going back to Dublin, Ireland, which is where I am presently living.’

Officer, ‘You Indian, here for 2 days ONLY…. Let me see your return ticket!’

Now, his scrutiny and his unreasonably cold voice was getting on my nerves. I was getting a bit miffed with his looks and highhanded attitude too. Yet I calmly pulled out my return ticket and handed it over to him. He took his time scrutinizing and reassured himself that we were really returning! He asked my daughter also, the same set of questions.

I felt as if my integrity was being questioned. I was merely transiting and this person was making me feel distinctively unwelcome. I calmly took my stamped passport, mentally making a note to tell my husband NOT to book any more transits from this pricy place.

I was still simmering from the recent experience in Amsterdam when we stood across the Bilund airport immigration check. The officer was not as stiff as the Schiphol officer, but equally cautious and took her time inspecting my passport, Visa stamp, return ticket and all. In the span of just 3hours I felt unwelcome and totally robbed of my dignity.  I am sure, they were doing their duty.

These two episodes were like a déjà vu. I remember feeling the same way when we went to Singapore, at Changi airport, years ago.  And worse when we went to Adelaide, South Australia. Singapore, I did not mind that much. The queue was too long and most of the people before me were having language problem, understanding simple English in a different accent is a huge headache if you have frayed nerves and are tired from a long flight.  It was tempers galore and I was happy to just be done with it.

Adelaide is a different story. It was a long uncomfortable flight. Squashed in the middle seat with my seven-month-old daughter on my lap for 9 hours, was, needless to say, a one torturous flight.  We were going to meet my sister. It was Christmas time and my first visit to Australia. I had painstakingly bought gifts for every member of the family and carefully gift wrapped and named them.  Secondly, travelling with my seven- month daughter; the packing had only two sections; carefully wrapped gifts or my daughters milk powder cans, diapers and other accessories.  I was glad when we landed at the Adelaide airport, I would soon be able to stretch my legs, change my daughter pooh loaded nappy!

This is the only airport where I have seen sniffer dogs. Every suitcase is ripped open and every item searched thoroughly. This again is procedure, I agree; yet, having all my gifts getting ripped open and commented upon, left a bad taste in the mouth. Obviously, they found nothing suspicious. I kept requesting them to check through a few items; I had a screaming, restless 7month old in my arms, but to no avail. They stringently did their duty. When all was done, the opened bare suitcase was cast aside and I had to bundle everything back into the suitcase and shuffle out. Weary and exhausted I was almost in tears.

Now coming to Dublin airport.  We have been here a year now and been in and out of that airport about a dozen times.  The immigration officers are smiling and very friendly, that’s the first distinctive difference. They make you feel at home. They also ask all the necessary questions; the tone and attitude is not menacing though. My husband travels a LOT; lives more at airports than at home! The Dublin immigration officers recognize him and remember his name.

After checking my passport, the officer asked me how long we will be staying in Ireland.

I said, ‘Maybe three years or so, not very sure, sir.’

The officer smilingly said, ‘That’s great! Welcome, and hope this country treats you well!’.  

Now, that was the first time I was being welcomed so lovingly! Now you must forgive me if I continue to be smitten by this place and its wonderful people.

Dublin Diaries – 5

Dublin Diaries – 5

Purpose of Life

Our actions mar or make us… we are children of our own deeds…

Whenever I attempt to bring an awareness about the need for meditation, I get to see the other, non-receptive, guarded side of these otherwise wonderful, magnanimous, smiling, sweet natured countrymen.

Last month, I approached the senior librarian (our local library), seeking permission to conduct a meditation session, he looked at me rather quizzically as if asking, ‘Really! Meditation! Did I hear you correctly?’  He gave me one single ‘check’ session, and in February; after a month’s deliberation.

Whilst conducting the session, I was very conscious of my accent and struggled for the apt words so as to convey the message in its true essence. As it is I had only one chance and if I lost that too because of accent and language…  So, instead of relying on my vocabulary and accent I thought it best to do a small experiment and let them find the answers for themselves!

Here is the experiment: I said, “My sister gifted this beautiful scented candle sometime in April 2016!  Now, what is the purpose of a candle?”

They answered: “To spread light”

I continued, “I am still hanging on to this for many reasons; but have I allowed the candle to fulfil its purpose?”

They answered, “No”

“Similarly, I hope you will all agree that you all are born with a purpose?”

“Yes”

“What is the purpose of our life?”

This is where they were all silent for a minute; contemplating over the exact, correct answer, maybe.  I did not want to put words in their mouth and elicit ‘my answer’ but I also wanted to lead them, so I prompted; ‘Do we acknowledge that we have a purpose?’

 ‘Yes’

‘Could it be only making wealth and more wealth or something more than that?’

‘It is something more than that’, came the prompt response.

I was more than happy; they were at a juncture where they were willing to admit the need to do something more than just amass wealth in this life.

All I said was, ‘That’s exactly what we learn today. Meditate and try to know the ‘purpose of our life’.’

A mere 4 registered; I would have been happy with one person too, so 4 was an achievement.

Like every other developed economy, they juggle work and home; complain about ‘no time, stress, pathetic quality of life’ and yet whenever I mention meditation they shy away. That’s the key difference I noticed amongst this developed country and the others. They are facing the same issues and tensions every developed nation is struggling with, yet they seem to resist change with all their might, which personifies a developing nation.

This makes them similar to my countrymen, a developing nations ambitious new generation; gripped with the inane urge to amass wealth at the loss of wisdom and simplicity. They have come to be regarded as a developed nation but the mindset is still that of a developing economy. This country is steeped in religion and appears to thwarts all else as sacrilege. They may not frequent the church, but they remain closed or have a sceptic view of other ideas and philosophies. India is also steeped in religion and resists change with all its might. Most of our spiritual leaders have been able to spread the word and the penetrate hearts of the people in the developed countries and failed abysmally in their own homeland. They have more acceptance abroad than at home. It reveals a sad lack of open mindedness, or an unwillingness to seek the truth.  Or maybe no money and the constant juggle to make ends meet gives precedence to nothing else. But that’s an excuse which can work for India.

This expedition of mine, to spread awareness of the importance of meditation, has allowed a peek into a different persona of this country. Almost all are working people, be it part time, full time, a few days a week, all work, and I am talking of my generation and my mum’s age group here.  They did have a joint family structure but today it is disintegrated totally. They live within the radius of 3-5km so that they can meet for holidays and occasions. And, the grand parents can look after the children in case of dire need! (This is exactly how India is shaping up today, and I am so against this practice).

There is a straggling array of take away’s and eat outs and get your food online apps; all are always very busy always. The rise in obesity is almost 10 times in the last 2decades. The rise in divorce, single parenting and cases of alcoholism, depression, suicide, ALL the vices of the wealthy, developed cultures are evidently on the rise here. it is a matter of grave concern to them, they keep discussing, analysing and share thoughts on open forums. Radio talks and TV shows are dedicated to discuss these issues, bring awareness and put their heads together to combat these widespread epidemics. They shake their heads despondently, cursing how development had ruined them, and suffering has increased manifold.  So, on the surface this is a very developed economy.  Scratch the surface and a developing, confused, defiantly letting go of the old traditions, complacently hiding behind ‘stress’, ‘busy life’ and continuing to complain and whine; resolutely refusing to change; that’s the new visage I encounter.  

Not to be discouraged, I went back to the library, to seek permission to continue once a week at least. The librarian was a bit stumped.

His first question was, ‘what was the turn out last time?’

When I said, ‘4’ The look was incredulous!

He very gently, not wanting to hurt my feelings, said, ‘Every week is impossible.’

I persisted, ‘I just want some continuity, so once in a fortnight would also be helpful.’

He again gave a long pause, went into the senior manager’s chambers and came out after 10minutes with, ‘We can give you 4 sessions, coming 2 months. Then we need to see the turn out.’

I nodded vigorously, (something is better nothing) and quickly confirmed my dates.

I have a long road ahead of me. Progress and ‘purpose of life’ are inversely related. That’s my understanding.

 

Defiantly Complacent

Defiantly Complacent

Defiantly Complacent

Recently,  I went for a training program  where I happened to be the only Indian amongst all Irish abhyasis. They were curious or keen to know about my country and countrymen. The sheer diversity of the largest democracy and how we Indians could be best described. Their main query was how we experienced and stayed in sync  with all such diverse cultures, languages, cuisines, religion. While I was trying to tell them about my country and what made us the way we are today, the above title sprung to my mind. I feel, these two words best describes us….’’Defiantly Complacent” I think those two words describe my Indian mindset! They were appreciating the fact that Indian husbands are so accommodative and understanding (my husband took me to the venue which is almost 180kms away, spent the day with our daughter, returned to pick me up in the evening). Had it been an Irish male he would have refused to budge out of the bed on a Saturday morning. I had a very complacent look on my face, but my mind had many defiant reasons to counter their appreciation. I complacently accepted the gesture that he drove me all the way, back and forth. My mind defiantly countered, ‘These foreigners! they want to be independent about everything and yet want an accommodating partner too! It takes two to tango. Whenever,  we wave the independence flag, then we end up having to do everything independently! What do we need anyone else for!’ I did not know how to drive and my understanding husband had graciously done his duty. I was defiant that he had to be specially appreciated for doing something he should have done spontaneously! Am I making sense? I was defiantly complacent at the same time. This emotional tug of war is akin to my country folks. As a country reflects the sum of individual faces and philosophies, isn’t it? I think I have already cited few examples of inconsequential or not so relevant issues where we have been profusely vocal and defiant (the ones that play ‘Dangal’ with my mind!). Then a few issues which I thought had merit and concerned us. The people of the country and we accepted those decisions without a demur, very complacently.   Another recent episode that comes to my mind and takes me on my thinking mode  is Amma’s demise. Half of Tamil Nadu went into mourning and the other half was keeping a hawk eye on who would be the heir to her abundant wealth. She left no apparent heir and has wealth enough to buy the whole nation. As she was the leader of a state, her wealth belonged to the state and not to any one person or successor of her political party. Neither it belonged to her ‘so called’ illegitimate daughter whose pictures were all over the internet. But, the funny thing was, we whole heartedly were shedding tears and mourning our sad loss. Her despicable wealth was such a big issue. We all knew in our heart of hearts what kind of a person she was, yet we cried our heart out and very complacently did nothing about which way her amassed wealth finally goes. It may very well have landed into the wrong hands yet again, and we would very humbly accepted it. Not a whisper about any of this amidst all the teary blogs, twitters and media posts.   The other instance that sprung to mind concerns the very popular show ‘Koffee with Karan’.  One of the guests (it is always a cine world person) said, ‘this is all we talk on the sets, in between shoot break, in the make-up vans and the buzz is all about who said what about who on this show’. Now, this made sense to me. They belong to that world and it is their life and they wish to keep themselves updated.  What puzzled me was the ensuing posts that popped up from everywhere else! We seem to have no life of our own, we have too much time on our hands. We are clueless about how to put this abundant free time to some constructive and productive use. Thus, we idolize these movie stars, emulate them, judge them, for their deeds or misdeeds. Their life somehow seems to add sparkle to our otherwise drab lives and makes it more purposeful.  It somehow gives me a feeling that we thrive on other people’s affairs; the more distant and disconnected the person the more is our curiosity to pry and be aware. After all, they lead a happy, rich and fulfilled life, and we squabble about them and miss out on our life. The fact that we don’t even argue about worthy stuff, is my other concern.  When Sania Mirza married the Pakistani cricketer, we had nothing to say. She happily got on with her life and keeps coming on the cover pages of glossy magazines, not sure how popular she is in Pakistan, she is a big role model in our country. Even our beauty pageants make a beeline for acting as if it is the  only career option for them. Their behavior affirms that “Beauty is skin deep” and young minds get convoluted with all the glamour and show. Why no one ever puts a ban on these beauty queens from taking up acting as their career choice is beyond me. With all the mindful  and meaningful interviews they give and all  the brand endorsements they would have signed, they should prove their point doing something more worthwhile than run of the mill acting! Yet, we have no say on this either.   We get very angry that people from other states have encroached and robbed the original residents of good jobs. We go on endless strikes trying to stop Karnataka from giving water to Tamil Nadu. We have divided our states for whatever political reasons. We stage dharana’s trying to put an end to the influx of people from Bihar and Jharkhand to Mumbai, Maharashtra. Within our own country, we are unable to share our resources, give umbrage, we become defiant. The gross truth is that we are not very tolerant, we are not as secular as we pretend to be, either. Yet, almost the whole state of Andhra Pradesh has gone and set camp in America; we are very complacent. We are entitled to go abroad, we encourage this move and are very defiantly too.  What sort of a logic is this? How can one explain this is beyond my understanding?  Are we not a very contradictory lot? Hypocritical too, if I may add.  We turn a blind eye, become defiantly complacent and take everything for granted in all the aspects pertaining us. And very defiant when things don’t affect us at all, how bizarre are we?