About Sharanya Dinesh

Hello all, I am a Behavioral Counsellor and Psychotherapist as far as my academics and professional acumen goes. But inherently I am simply a seeker. A seeker trying to better myself everyday. Living my life to the fullest before death catches me by surprise. I attribute my whole life and its learning's to my spiritual guru. Almost all the articles are personal experience or inspiration derived from great seers words Meditation has dynamically changed my life. And I feel duty bound to mention the websites so that all my readers feel the urge or get inspired to go through them and change their lives too. Even one person who attempts this is a very small token of Gratitude from my side for showing me the way of Life. Not just living but being Alive, even after you die... Love always. http://www.sahajmarg.org/ http://www.heartfulness.org/ I am also an online therapist, you can meet me on : www.proventherapy.com

Posts by Sharanya Dinesh:

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?

Game of Life

Game of Life

Game of Life

The most controversial game I have ever played in my life is Snakes and Ladders. It was never simply a game for me; it was a play of human emotions. It commenced on a cheerful, friendly banter note; one sibling teasing the other, and culminated into a raging emotional outburst! One of us would be livid or cry, leave the room in a huff; sulk. This was the only game where every player had a fervent prayer; either for their own victory or for the opponents’ loss. We have played Carrom, Chess, Chinese Checkers, Cluedo, Monopoly, Business, and many more board games, but Snakes and Ladders evoked something different in all of us. Every other game, we teamed up, helped the other person win; gave a grace chance or bent the rules a bit; it was all sportsmanship and game for fun.  Can’t say for sure why this game evoked none of those feelings of camaraderie and kindred spirit; as if the venom from those snake pictures poisoned us even before we started to play. One fine day, unable to resolve an ongoing dispute, dad threw the culprit (game) out of the house. I am sure he was worried sick of seeing his children ready to kill each other over a silly game.

Many years later, the dreaded game made its re-entry. Our darling daughter, used to love board games. Much to our dismay, she was not an avid television fan; within 10 minutes, she needed a new distraction. Even her favorite shows, she wanted one of us as company; listening to her narration! None of us could endure the torture of ‘Thomas the Engine’, or ‘Oswald’ or ‘Cee-Bee Bees’; thus, a new game every week became imperative; our only escape route. That is how Snakes and Ladders got reintroduced into my life.

She and I used to play for hours; and as a mother I was not competing with her, I was happy if she won. It made her happy too and I had a chance to sneak in a few other quick chores, multi-tasking was a feasible option. Her brother and dad also took my cue and she became the sole monarch of the game! Resultantly, she grew up not knowing how to accept defeat and overconfident that this was her game, none other was entitled to be victorious, ever. Our daughter’s sand castle crumbled, and her victorious spree was throttled when she began playing with her granny. Like her, her granny also, always, plays only to win, be it her grandchild or anyone else, and unlike us, she was putting her life into the game. Watching the intense play of emotions and brazen rivalry; it was deja’vu; I was transported to my childhood. The first time my daughter lost she took it sportingly and hid her shock well in front of her granny; she cried her heart out to me wailing, “Granny cheats! She is not a good person, she does not know that in snakes and Ladders I am the only winner, she won!” It was a string of epithets and wails, uncontrollable tears due to her first ever defeat!

That set me thinking; I definitely did not want to throw the game out of our life, like my dad. There had to be a way to win over this seemingly harmless, yet viciously disruptive board game! How come we all behaved so unpredictably when it came to this game? I could not let the game win over our humane side; that would be a true loss. I could convince and coax the granny to allow her grand kid to win; but that served no purpose.  what after that? How was my daughter ever going to learn to accept defeat?

Another revelation that came was; I had blundered badly; in my lethargy and escapist attitude I had inadvertently affected my daughter’s outlook; for which she may have to suffer for the rest of her life. I was unable to pacify my little one that day, just hugged her and kept thinking what my next course of action should be. She obviously did not go back to playing snakes and ladders with her granny, not in that trip, and I was glad. It gave me a reprieve; and time to introspect.

We sat down to play after a short hiatus; and whilst playing came my moment of epiphany. I had to treat this game as ‘The Game of Life’; win or lose, we have to accept both with equanimity, that was the spirit and attitude I wanted nurture in my daughter. Marshalling my defenses; ever so cautiously, I rolled the dice; and at every turn I spun a yarn.  When her soldier landed on a snake, she immediately looked at me askance; hoping I overlook, give her another turn, like I used to. It broke my heart not to. But I smilingly refused to succumb to those pitiful looks, instead I introduced a new story for every ladder and snake.  A ladder came when she was honest, able to compete, play fair, not feel jealous, and think that this is a game and every game is to learn, enjoy, win some, and lose some too! She lost to granny and she did not like it, and similarly I lose every time I feel sad too and would hate to play and continue to lose! A snake bite was when she was getting angry, ready to cry because I was winning. Demanding an extra turn so she could win or even teasing me if she was on 98 and I was miserably stuck at some stupid 10; not being humble, a snake if she could not cheer my previous win and so on and so forth.

It took time, some very patient, long drawn, exceedingly intense games before it finally dawned on her that she had to learn to play, enjoy the game, win or lose; every game had a lesson and in the end, it was a game, enjoy and have a good time.

She plays all games with the same ease and grit now, to win always, but willing to roll a quarter over to the winning side and congratulate the opponent too! Snakes and Ladders had arrived with a bang in my house, teaching my daughter and myself the game of life.

Dangal

Dangal

Dangal

This is not about the movie friends! This is about the ‘Dangal’ which rages inside my head because of the comments, responses, posts on FB, ludicrous forwards on what’s app and opinions that come for everything and anything that happens or is likely to happen, globally. It makes me realise that we have a lot of free time. We are the ‘know it all’ omniscient lot who have a say in every affair pertaining to anyone other than our own self.

When the Presidential Elections were going on in America, every Indian became an American. People who may never step out of the comfort of their home in India were glued to the television sets watching the Presidential Elections and actively discussing the future of America. I could understand the excitement and furore when Narendra Modi got elected as Prime Minister. This was a natural keenness and well deserving too. He holds the reigns of our country and is at the helm of affairs, every decision he takes affects us, the residents of India.  But being equally or more concerned about American politics, spending the whole day debating their future; that triggers this ‘dangal’ inside me!

If it had been just about America and overly concerned with American politics, it may have been palatable. But, we seem to be putting our head into everything. More bizarre and inconsequential the incident, the more interested we are. We are passionate and fiercely vocal about everything which does not concern us even remotely. The more the remoteness the stronger is our connect and our awareness of that subject.  Saif ali Khan named his kid ‘Taimur’. That’s his personal choice but we have to voice our opinion. We simply cannot let it pass, it is an issue of such immense magnitude, Saif suddenly plays the biggest role in our lives. What he does, who he chooses to marry, divorce, re- marry, when, where and why, all of it very closely affects us, concerns us and we most definitely cannot allow any detail to slip through our fingers! We have to be aware and make India aware of Saif’s life and whereabouts! So, there we are, diligently putting posts, forwarding messages, writing lengthy articles and participating in never ending debates; a ‘dangal’ in the making…

 We are willing to forget Saif; Aamir Khan released his latest movie! So, all the focus now shifts to Aamir Khan.  We are not really concerned or interested in the movie per se. A good movie or bad movie; we all talk more about Aamir Khan and what he does and why he does and a long character assassination program ensues. We appreciate movies like ‘ae-dil hai mushkil’ and give rave reviews. (My honest review of ae-dil… is ‘a boring display of the promiscuous lives the bored elite live!’)  We make no bones and criticise a recreation of a true story! How ludicrous is that? Let’s criticise, that’s our birth right; to opine uninhibitedly.  But, do we stop with that, no! We yet again forward articles, put up posts and drain the storage space on phones! Dangal brews a bigger dangal, eh!

The overnight demonetization drama took our country by storm and brought to fore many mixed reactions. Half of India seemed to resonate with the sentiment of our dear Prime Minister, some were diffident and unsure as to how this would fructify, some others were strongly against this move and marked it a fiasco, a debacle which may well mark the end of the Prime Minister’s reign, even before it could take off properly. Living abroad, all this news was very interesting and refreshing too. Every Indian across the Globe seemed proactive, keen and expectant as to how things would finally turn out for their country. Did the largest Democracy of the world show true signs of progress, or was this really a sham, how would things pan out for our leader? These were the common questions we all were asking each other. This was all very justifiable and deserved pages after pages of information, blogs posts, nothing sufficed. The topic was such, and the person involved is a very integral part of every Indian household.  What perplexed me is that not a quarter of that drama happened when this very dear person acquiesced to a Shivaji statue in the Arabian Sea!  

“The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in Mumbai in the Arabian Sea on Thursday. The rupees 400crore project will be built on a 16-hectare rock, identified at 1.5 km away from Raj Bhawan and 4km from Nariman Point”.

 Personally, I was devastated when I heard this news. We have a Buddha Statue in the middle of Hussainsagar lake, in Hyderabad. After an expenditure of US $ 3 million the statue stood at 58 feet (18 m) and weighed 350 tons, making it the world’s tallest monolithic statue of the Buddha A concrete platform measuring 15 feet (4.6 m), now referred to as the “Rock of Gibraltar” was constructed in the middle of Hussain Sagar to aid in erecting the statue. It has done usmore harm than good. The stench from the lake (till February 2016) is so over powering; I was forced to hold my breath through the whole stretch of Tank Bund road. That statue is beautiful but standing in the centre of the lake, most of the international, national boating races and other events are no longer a possibility. And with the stench and dirt, that whole place is a big breeding ground for mosquitoes. It is said that to clean the lake and the silt accumulated will take 4years!  So, this mammoth amount of money going in to build another breeding ground for things we are trying to get rid of; it deserved some dissenting voice. I kept praying, ‘someone please say something, ask some questions’. The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

 

 Makes me wonder about us and what really matters to us. American politics, movies, the core issues of our country…  when do we reveal this fiery spirit of ours? What kind of issues pique our interest? For what are we willing to wage this ‘dangal’?

GEN- Y

GEN- Y

My dad’s ideology and what he envisaged of the future forced him to drive us all to become someone more than a ‘mere’ housewife.  Despite this futuristic, modern thinking, he remained doggedly traditional and orthodox in his value systems and his upbringing methodology. His standard ‘caution quote’ for us sisters was, “Always remember, whether the leaf falls on the needle, or the needle falls on the leaf, it is the leaf that gets hurt and torn apart.”  

Back then, I found my dad’s advice very contradictory, frustrating, and hypocritical. If we step out of the house, work, earn money, then invariably we encounter a mixed group. We cannot dictate to the group all the time nor can we live like an island and isolate ourselves from the group. We must keep up with the social demands. When the other girls wear modern clothes, it seemed ridiculous to always show up in traditional attire! Yet, my father’s rigid rules saw us always dressed traditionally! He never yielded, not once. He stoically emphasised that if one really wanted to outshine and get noticed, it better be because of something more permanent than clothes and appearances as fashions come and go.

Today, I am grateful for all those rigidities. They help me remain uncompromising when I set the ground rules for my children. I grew up rebellious, confused and floundered every step of the way! But what I grew up with and inculcated helped me make sense of it all when I stepped into my dad’s shoes. Most of my logic and reasoning stems from my dad’s one liners.  Without his rules I would still be floundering and setting a bad example for my children.

Another memory that has always stayed with me is what my uncle once said to me.  A few years ago, we sisters had a reunion. We were meeting after a decade maybe. Thus, we were meeting our extended circle also after ages and the first question all of them invariably asked was, ‘what do you do?’.  When my turn came, I answered, ‘Housewife, uncle.’

The way he looked at me and added, ‘Just a house wife is it’; drove a dagger deep inside and I felt insulted.  This happened almost a decade ago and is still fresh in my mind. So, imagine the impact this ‘JUST’ had on me then!

Call it fate or God’s own way of keeping me humble, I entered a family through marriage which gave precedence to being at home; raise the kids and work only if imperative. I did work (my streak of rebellion and financial independence agenda) but the situation was never conducive and I was back to home-management; grudgingly. I am reconciled and happy today. When I see today’s woman; their attitude, I am thankful I remained ‘just’ a housewife.

Recently, I saw an interview of Pepsi co CEO, Indra Nooyi.  She is amongst the most successful and accomplished woman of Gen –Y; hats off to her. Addressing a huge audience, she acknowledged that her life is ruled by her work commitments, top 3 priorities she listed were Pepsi co, Pepsi co and Pepsi co, then came her children, followed by parents, in-laws and then somewhere at the bottom of the list was her husband. All this was fine, her priorities, her call. Her husband made this observation that he was always last on the list; to which her laughing repartee was, ‘Be thankful your name is even there on the list!’ She said this in jest and very wittily, the audience laughed and the husband (seated in the front row) also gave a self-conscious smile. That statement, I felt, did not befit her, her stature. She sounded vain and belittling her husband’s  ungrudging contribution to the family. Once again, I was grateful that God did not allow me a career. I don’t know, with my strong-headed and independent streak, a similar statement or something worse was a guaranteed repartee of mine; and I would have felt small, after. 

Family life is all about adjustment, togetherness, compromise, modification, letting-go of the I-ness, focus in a very forced way at the ‘we’. Men have taken it for granted that the wife takes care of the house and family affairs. The women held it all together; played their role to the hilt; and then they decided to step out, and they have in a very big way. Because of this financial independence that woman of today hunger for, the feeling of ‘I-ness’ is more in family life. It is less of ‘we’ do ‘together’ and more of ‘I’ do what I want and you do what you want scenario. Funnily enough, men have adapted to the role of house-husband with less strife. They have kept their ego in their pockets much better than we have been able to keep our arrogance and new found financial independence in check. Financial independence has not only emboldened us, it has made us power crazy and brazen. We could not retain our modest demeanour and humility.  In all this dual working, money making spree, the progeny comes out as the worst loser. Their future and fate is getting nurtured and designed by hired care takers, crèches and gadgets, (add, giving permission to over-ride the partner’s rules, being unnecessarily lenient; over exposure to guilt-gifts from a very vulnerable, impressionable age). 

We women inherently knew how to serve without feeling servile. For Gen –Y, service also needs to be a profitable venture. We have either stepped out of the house and the house has a very desolate, guest-house look, and if we are at home we have converted the house to some business enterprise. Conclusively, today, I am not very pro-women’s liberation and equal rights for women. We have handled financial independence badly and caused more ruin than good. Lastly, I request women again, take a pause, think again, which way are we headed, why and at what cost? I am not saying we should stop, but I definitely feel , it is high time we took a pause, pondered …

“O Women! May you not be disturbed by the crooked and violent men, and ye men! May you not be disturbed by crooked and violent women. Never abandon one another, never cross the limits of respect never hurt the other. This is to be followed by both men and women. This sweet water, food and fruits are available for both of you who should remove the grief of one another.” (Rig Veda 1/183/4)

Chitter -Chatter

Chitter -Chatter

Chitter- Chatter

 

The constant chitter chatter of my brain

Like this ceaseless Dublin rain,

The monkey hopping from tree to tree

My brain flies too, forever breaking free.

Oh! this constant chitter chatter of my brain

Stop wandering, and get on board a single train

It never sleeps and hungers for all it sees

Its lured, knowing all is truly a mere tease.

Because of this constant chitter chatter of my brain

The Self has more to lose and nothing to gain

If only it stayed and focused, it would easily find

The treasure lies in the heart, not in the mind.

The constant chitter chatter of my brain

The hopping monkey I am unable to train…

Women O women

Women O women

My Dad used to be, still is, very ambitious for all his children. He goaded us into picking up subjects which offered bright career prospects (only Maths or Science!). Becoming a ‘mere’ housewife was a forbidden thought not to be entertained ever. According to him, the days of women sitting at home; tending to children, cooking for husband; ended with their generation. Times had become such, that with a single income the family would perennially survive in a state of ‘hand to mouth’. If one aspired for a better life, some comfort and luxury (with pious earning, legal methods); it could be possible only if both the partners worked.  This ideology was drilled into us and this is the verity I see today.

Most probably, every middle – class government employee those days thought alike. That is the only plausible reason I can think of as to how most of our generation women are working women today. Our parents, in search of greener pastures, migrated from their villages and settled in the cities. Today, we encourage our progeny to seek their fortunes abroad.  But, that’s digressing from my main topic. This article is about the Gen Y, women of today.  

 Vishaka Hari, the prominent music vocalist and established exponent of Harikatha, said in one of her talks, “Without fever if you take a paracetamol, it will only cause side effects; when everything is going on smooth. Only if you have a problem, you need a solution. In the West, women were not treated on par with men. They were brutally abused and until very recent years they did not even have voting rights…..Millions of women were burnt, they were treated like dogs. They were used as objects, as amusement articles and therefore there was a need for upsurge of women liberation associations. But in India, right from our Gods, Bramha has Saraswati on His tongue, Narayan has Lakshmi in His bosom, and Shiva, I told you, has Shakti as His other half!  Where is the need for the Women’s Liberation association; if we can follow the Ancient Vedic Indian culture? Only if we want to follow and adopt the western ideals, we always take the worst from all the nations; that’s India’s best. We always want to take, every nation has its own good and bad, we always have that beautiful idea, that concept of taking the worst from all the nations and present the worst of ourselves. When we have everything in ourselves we don’t know how to glorify ourselves, that is the weakness of Indians. We have so much in us, we have so much of treasure in us. We Nava Yuga Stree, present generation women. Gen Y, what we would prefer to be called; we just have our husbands name after our names like vishaka Hari, or Vanita Siddharth or whatever it is. But you know, our Lords had their names after their wife’s name! Gouri Shankar, Lakshmi Narayan, Sita Ram, Janaki Vallabh, just …(she laughs) That is the truth. Uma Maheshwar, you name it; Radha Krishna; you name any God, they went a step further, they had so much of reverence for women, and we are trying to bring it down more and more. So, the problem is not only with the other gender, it is with the women also. So, it calls for a synthesis of both the gender to behave well so that they would respect us well. Real beauty lies in dignity and decorum not in ridicule and derision. It is the present generation society which is treating women as just entertainment parts. you see any ads,…television serials, …journals, any woman would be just featured as an amusement article. And that is not beauty, you think it is beauty? Real beauty does not come from that, it comes from dignity, rights versus reverence. You always lock up Gold in your almirah, you don’t do that to stainless steel. That’s why generally when women ask that they have not been given the equal rights vis-a’-vis men, I tell them; you are Gold, they are stainless steel; that is why you have less rights and they have more. Or whatever you respect more, you lock it up, you carefully preserve it. So, that is not a question of being ill- treated at all. The more you revere a person, the more you respect a person, the right comes down. That’s what happens to you. And that’s why we have taken up a few inspirational stories of women who have brought about positive change throughout the world by their wisdom by their will by their courage by their noble qualities and their nobility has crossed all gender, all caste all creed and all nation.”

Everything is verbatim; considering the length, I did delete a few words and phrases. The sentiment is the same; maybe stronger even. To augment and fan my ill-feeling further, movies like ‘Ki-Ka’ or ‘PINK’ receive acclaim. It makes me wonder if we Indian women are not going a bit over board with our equal rights for women, freedom for women et’ al. Don’t get me wrong, please. I am all for women, women’s lib, our rights and equal share of glory and sunshine. But, when I see the present generation, urban born and brought up women; they seem to have totally lost the plot! On one hand, they are in a mindless, competitive race amongst themselves and on the other hand they are pushing it to extremes to surpass men. Worse is, in this competition they expect special consideration for being a woman (why are they competing with men then?). They want to be judged leniently, treated with kid gloves; take umbrage playing the fairer sex card with impunity.  

What has education done to us? The adage ‘Vidya dadhati vinayam’ is vice-versa with Gen -Y. Women’s vidya seems to have obliterated their vinayam! Resonating Vishaka Hari, we are aping the West for all the wrong reasons. This mindless mimicry is costing us our integrity and innate beauty.  Our strengths have become our weakness and we no longer seem to be sure what this Liberation and equal rights is all about. We have long crossed the bridge of equality, we are racing to the finish line with a killer instinct of winning; with zero consideration for what is being left behind.

Ever wonder why in our Hindu weddings the man and woman always walk one behind the other? Also, in the Saptapadi, why the woman walks behind the man for the first four ‘pheras’ and then leads the husband for the remaining three vows?  We (the couple) can support the floundering partner only if we are one behind the other, not if we are neck to neck and trying to compete.  As for the wife leading the husband; the fifth ‘phera’ is for progeny and their well- being, the sixth signifies control over mind body and soul, to bring longevity to the couple’s relationship and the seventh step, vow, is to remain loyal and true companions for life. Our real duty (Vedic) was always to complement the man, steer him in the right direction so that he never goes astray, stop him from falling by being behind him, willingly. Wonder when this complementing become competing, and at what cost?

Long gone are the days when we used to hear, ‘Behind every successful man there is a woman’! Today the most successful man is the one who is alone or has escaped the clutches of woman.

Probably, it would be the apt time to take a pause; just that, pause awhile; not stop completely, but simply pause, and re-evaluate. Which way are we headed and why? 

PS: Dear Readers, blaming it on Vishaka Hari and her eloquence; Her talk was all this article could accommodate, leaving me with lots more to regurgitate!! With an awful lot still churning inside me; please expect another article on ‘GEN Y’ very soon…

FASTING

FASTING

Amongst all the rituals I have practiced, my longest association as a practitioner and an observer has been with fasting! For as long as I can remember my mother fasted on Friday; ‘Santoshi Ma vrat’. This weekly ritual continues; because of her health and growing years, she has given herself some latitude. Presently, she does not eat anything sour; tomatoes, lime and the like are banned on Fridays, and she has her dinner before sunset. Luckily, for devout Hindus, dieting is a piece of cake.  We have a God assigned for every single day of the week and to appease them we fast on their day. Call it hilarious or illogical or just the whim of a staunch devout (an impressionable child who believed in the power of prayer);  I started fasting when I barely 16years old. Since I did not have a specific favourite God, I fasted on Saturday (the day I am born). This day is said to be ruled by Saturn. So, to appease the devil Himself to keep me out of harm’s way; I opted for this day. I very judiciously continued this ritual till I got married. Apart for the fervent hope that I was guarded from the evil influences of Saturn, fasting helped me stay slim. I was diligent, judicious and had absolute faith in what I was doing. Every Saturday, I woke up earlier than usual, went to the temple to offer my prayers before beginning my day. When in college hostel, my friends very concernedly had something nice and warm waiting for me when it was time to break my fast. Call it fate or that my years of fasting had rendered Saturn effectively powerless; I entered a family where food plays the most pivotal role. Thus, ceased my days of fasting.

Many years later, my colleagues were fasting for ‘Karwa chauth‘; and my reconnect happened. On an impulse, even I fasted that karwa chauth. This is a fast women keep for the longevity of their spouse. I was transported to my childhood days; my mother fasting, sitting in front of our temple singing bhajans, cooking prasad and humming a bhajan to herself, she used to be smiling and engrossed. Despite the empty stomach and extra work her countenance glowed; devoid of stress and zero sign of weakness. She read the ‘katha’, explained the significance to us; she had knowledge of the why of every small ritual. It was a very learning experience for us; and I probably wanted to relive all that, after so many years. But, throughout the day our discussion revolved around how hungry we were, what gift we would receive from our spouse, would our spouse return home early from work, was the spouse also keeping a fast for his wife, whether the moon would rise early (to be able to offer prayers and break the fast) or it would be a long arduous wait. So many discussions, yet none revealed the reason why this fast was so important. It threw no light on the essence nor the significance of this fast. It was about new clothes, jewellery, mehendi, the torture of fasting… To make it even more hilariously meaningless, my dear husband (totally distraught that I had kept a fast for his long life!) bought me a beautiful gold necklace set but could not make it home till past midnight! So, I ‘broke the fast’ sans ‘pati-dev’, happily ate dinner with the kids and was fast asleep by the time he could get away from work. Such was my reunion with fasting.

The next day, my guilt ridden better half made many snide jokes about this ritual, saying it was a big sham, fasting itself is a big sham, as per him. Even though he sounded disrespectful and was very rudely questioning the veracity of a very sacred ritual; his statements were undeniably true. He was voicing what I had experienced yesterday. Where was the faith; the simple honesty with which we practiced such rituals?  None of us seem to dwell on the reason anymore. We superficially follow ‘old traditions’ and grumble about the inconvenience such rituals cause to our daily life.

This lack of knowledge has made a mockery of these rituals. We keep fasts today for krawa chauth, vat savitri, bhai dooj, chhatt… but we all look drained and weary; our heart is not in it. The glow and radiance my mother had on her face; I have not seen it in a long time. Thus, began my journey of trying to figure out the true reason for fasting; the etymology of fasting; if I can call it that.

Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from food, food and drink too (absolute abstinence) for a period of time. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism or Hinduism, every religion has one common denominator for advocating fasting. Fasting is a way of purifying oneself. Abstinence from food, drink and physical proximity is a way cleansing the body, mind and soul.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity says, ‘The purpose of fasting is not to suffer, but according to sacred tradition to guard against gluttony and impure thoughts, deeds and words. Fasting must always be accompanied by increased prayer and almsgiving. To engage in fasting without them is considered useless or even spiritually harmful. To repent for one’s sins and to reach out in love to others is part and parcel of true fasting’.

Islam believes, ‘By fasting, whether during Ramadan or other times, a Muslim draws closer to God by abandoning bodily pleasures, such as food and drink. This makes the sincerity of their faith and their devotion to God (Arabic: Allah) all the more evident.

Jainism states that, Self-starvation by fasting is supposed to help shed karma. Santhara (Self- starvation leading to death), the individual gets ample time to reflect on his or her life. The goal of Santhara is to purify the body and, with this, the individual strives to abandon desire.

Buddhism advocates the Middle Path, asking the followers to avoid extremes of indulgence and self- mortification too.

Sikhism is the rare path which does not promote fasting. ’Human mind requires the wisdom, which can be achieved by contemplating on words and evaluating it, torturing body is of no use’.  If you keep fast, then do it in a way so that you adopt compassion, wellbeing and ask for the good will of everyone: ‘Let your mind be content, and be kind to all beings. In this way, your fast will be successful. (Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 905; 299)

One religion realized how farcical this sacred ritual would become and decided to stay away from it altogether. We stopped contemplating long ago; torturing our body without understanding the wisdom; fasting has become a mere charade.

Sources: wikipedia