This and that

Spiritual Business

Spiritual Business

I have just returned from a Heartfulness Training Workshop in Vrads Sande, Denmark. During His talks Master twice made references to ‘Spiritual Business’. My 12 year old daughter who was in the adjacent room heard the reference and later asked me why Master referred to our spiritual journey as a ‘Business’.

For her business was a give and take thing – venture which entailed profit.  Competition is integral to business, and emotions are very likely to be trifled with. To her understanding, a spiritual journey was exactly the opposite. This path is that of pure love, sacrifice and volunteer work – a zero profit venture. This is the noblest path to follow, one where emotions dictate everything. Thus, this comparison with business was a mismatch according to her opinions.

Actually, when Master first used the term ‘business’, even I felt somewhat nonplussed, because my comprehension of the word ‘business’ was exactly what my daughter had voiced. So, what was the ‘profit’ element in Spirituality? What was the transaction? What was I trading in this business? I was here for myself, to know myself and become a better human being. I was here to lose the layers of samskara I had accumulated over the years and many past lives too. This practice helped me peel the layers, become wise, and hopefully become discerning. This was all about me and me alone. If I practiced diligently, I stood to gain.  If I was lethargic, the loss too was mine, that I remained stagnant. So where was the transaction, with any outside party as such? Who was I getting into a trade with in this spirituality business? So, why did Master repeatedly refer to this as a business? Where were the profit /loss for anyone apart from the person concerned? What was the risk?

If I did consider this as His, my Master’s, spiritual business, then He stood to lose the most. This path has no entry fee. This path knocks on doors and volunteers introduce the Method free of cost.  The workshops are conducted by volunteers and are all free of cost too. Our annual congregations in India are free of cost. Apart for the travel expenses, boarding, lodging and food is free.  This is the same for every activity in India and every workshop or event we conduct; everything is free.  Even after everything being offered keeping in mind the comfort of the aspirant, there is zero guarantee that the aspirant will reap the benefit by understanding this path and what it truly has to offer. So what did the Master stand to gain? Of the innumerable seeds He has sown, scattered everywhere He set His foot, how many will He reap? Most of those seeds will die as seeds, or grow a bit and wither away. Maybe one in a hundred will become a tree and bear fruit. Would He be amongst us to see the one odd tree bear fruit? Probably not; yet He continues to sow seeds, invest His time, effort and energy in this assured loss venture. So from His side also I saw no reason for Him to call this a ‘Business’. Why would one talk about an assured loss?

So, how could I explain the term ‘Business’ to my girl? What profit was Master referring to when He said Business? Thus, with my limited understanding, I attempted to answer my daughter’s question. I tried to explain how this spiritual journey was ‘Business’ for me! What I have gained from this path, and continue to gain every day, is so crystal clear that my profit and loss statement is tilted heavily on the positive side. For me this was a sole proprietary business. I stood to gain or lose in direct proportion to my involvement, diligent learning and honest implementation of the same. So this remained an individual journey; a sole proprietary concern. That said, my next question popped up immediately.

For every aspirant at an individual level this path or any spiritual path is a sole proprietary business. The day we become wise enough to comprehend that this profit needs to be dispersed, a new business begins. The risk of being lethargic was heavy; I could lose my Self or remain ignorant about the Self.  I think I will term that as a partnership business where we share a mutual brotherhood; a sincere yearning to share our profits. This learning has to begin to reflect at home and amongst other family members.  Learning left in the locker like a fixed deposit sum fetches no interest nor does it grow. So there is a need for this sole proprietary concern to spread its wings and become a partnership. Then this spiritual business can flourish profitably. This was a funny sort of business where individual success became imperative for the whole Mission to succeed and prosper. The sole proprietary concern flourishes and aspires towards a successful partnership. It should continue to share profits and grow into a Global Mission.

Master is at the helm of the affairs and for Him the whole Mission is a sole proprietary concern! One person, one unit, one family is what we are for Him, the Mission is one. This repeated reference to spiritual business suddenly started to make sense to me!

In today’s world, profit and loss are the kind of terms we tend to comprehend faster. We are wary and reluctant to acknowledge any philanthropic work but we are all ears the minute a ‘business’ idea is talked about! The day we ‘see’ profit in ‘spirituality’ we will probably start taking it seriously. We will give it the place and priority it needs in our lives.  This is actually the most profitable business venture with the potential to make every other venture profitable eternally! But we never look at this spiritual path as a ‘business’ venture; probably because tangible profit is not visible. The risk of ‘loss of Self’ is intangible; hence we remain oblivious to this risk too. The second reason may also be that for every other venture we depend on ourselves more, our efforts are consistent and focused. We have a vision and a goal. Whereas in spiritual business because the profit is intangible we feel like we are either groping in the dark for too long or we are dependent on someone (Master) too much. And the subtle change, the inner change that is happening is met with resistance on the outside, making it worse for us. One small hurdle, clash or friction on the outside and we abandon the path or drop it like a hot brick.  We set off in search of a different venture, a more tangibly profitable one.

Only if we started thinking and considering our spiritual journey as our prime ‘business’ and repeatedly strove to maximize our profit in this ‘business’ will the purpose of this life be served, the goal be achieved.  And that is His intent. He wants us to take this spiritual ‘‘Business’ seriously. And if ‘business’ is the key, magic word, that helps us take this path seriously, so be it.

NOSTALGIA…

NOSTALGIA…

As we (my better half and I) started to pull the car out of the drive way to get some shopping done we saw the mailman drop a post into the neighbour’s mailbox and walk right past our door. I noticed this and commented, “Aww! No mail for us; which means no one is thinking about us!”

Pat came the repartee from my husband, “You should be happy we don’t have a mail! It means no taxes and no bills to be paid yet! No one is asking for my hard earned money!”

Now, that was a new way to look at it, I thought. The emotional me was being woeful about no ‘letters’ coming from any near and dear ones and here he was, my ever practical better half; happy that no expense statement was pending.   The thought that in this day of emails and ‘Whats app’ and ‘Twitter’, where the news of the world is at our fingertips and available in current time; anyone would bother to write a formal letter, is ridiculous.

The world’s best technology working at the beck and call of every single person in every household, toddler included; it transported me to my ‘good old days’ of when I was studying in college. The last two decades have wreaked havoc in our personal lives in the name of advanced technology and the revolution of information dispersal. Most of the allure of waiting, the charm of expecting for a special moment is lost today. These are such sad times of instant gratification that anything which requires patience and a little bit of waiting have lost charm.  We have forgotten ‘how to wait ‘and as a result we run short of patience, high on temper and our temperament is very ‘snappish’. Everything has to happen at the ‘like the click of our fingers’ else we can easily move on to something else, because this takes too much time.

Before leaving home for college studies my dad wrote me a ‘loooooong’ letter,  full of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’.  He bought me a dozen Inland letters and I was asked to write a letter once in every 3 days, and call him once a week.  If I sent a letter with my results, I used to expectantly wait for the post man and dread my dad’s’ ‘reply’ and what further advice, admonishing was in store for me! We used to go out and wait in the queue of STD booth and make our weekly calls back home. They had implicit faith in us and in their upbringing too. Else, how could they have survived without speaking to us for six long days?!

This apart, even when I got engaged my fiancé used to send post cards and write 6 page long declarations of undying love! I have a huge folder still, a collection of all his love letters.  He used to call at specific times and I had to wait by the Land line; the one and only phone at home.  It had its own charm I think.

Even after marriage he used to travel a lot. We did not even have a landline then. I had to take permission from my Landlady and wait by the phone at the appointed time. My landlady would discreetly make herself scarce, yet I used to feel very conscious of the time and uncomfortable about intruding their privacy. The end of every call would begin my second wait for long letters detailing about his times away from family and how much he misses us.

Today also he travels a lot; but the wait is missing for many reasons.  The best reason is of course, the great strides our wonderful technology has made! From no phone days, we have come to the day where ALL of us have the latest phones! So communication is instant. We have to wait for nothing and no one, in fact if he( my better half) for some reason gets delayed or fails to inform me that he has reached a place or is about to leave from a place, I get angry!! I am not totally blaming advanced technology for the increase in my expectation and decrease in patience, but it does have a big role to play.

I have not written a letter in years now. We all have learnt to text each other with great alacrity and absolute dexterity in the best of abbreviations possible! My handwriting (which used to be like a ‘string of pearls’ –my 8th class teacher’s compliment I cherish till date) is reduced to some doctor’s prescription legible to none at all! So, letter writing is an unthinkable option today. The second big loss I have suffered because of these phones is ‘memory’!  Once upon a time, long long ago, I held the esteemed post of being the official directory for my family, friends and extended family. I could rattle off phone numbers, birthday dates, anniversaries and other important ‘first meeting’ dates with ease. Today, I suffer from selective amnesia! My hi-tech phone has a reminder setting, and the ubiquitous Face book declares every personal detail awfully publicly. So, the need to remember has ceased and my memory bid adieu too!

The sad thing about this technology is that we seem to live a public life and yet a very lonely one. When I had to wait for my husband’s call and go to the Landlady’s house, I worked hard to maintain a good rapport with her. This was a good exercise for my social skills.  Then, I did not hesitate in seeking her help. If I sought help from her, I used to be conscious that I be ready to help her too, when and if she ever needed me.  Today, I have the world at my finger tips (my latest 4G enabled phone) needing favours from anyone has become a bit far fetched.  Everyone does home delivery, everyone has a mobile, an e-mail Id and a website of their own in some cases! Be it my grocer, my hair dresser or my favourite restaurant guy! If all of them fail, I can always summon my better half! He dare not refuse to appease to my demands and I need not be polite either nor do I have to repay the good favour! Why bother getting dressed, put on a smile meet my neighbours or anyone for that matter?  My life is so boringly limited (yet exceedingly rushed) to the phone that I lack the time to meet anyone. This one gadget has managed to rob me of my flawless etiquette and my natural charming demeanour and reduced me to zero social skills!

There it is, my woeful state of vegetated existence, a small walk down the memory lane, all because ‘I haven’t got a mail’. All I have is my Smart PhoneJ

Dublin Diaries-2- TACSAI’

Dublin Diaries-2- TACSAI’



MY SILLY LOGIC

 

My journey in this city has many experiences; each more endearing than the other. Most of these experiences are with my commuters, the Taxi- drivers of this enchanting city. So, this one is about TACSAI’ (Gaelic for Taxi)

The first Taxi we boarded was to the Immigration office.  It was a wet, windy, cloudy, cold November morning! Our short hiatus in London had prepared us for the rain and gloom; we were gently getting acclimatised to the London cold too, so we were surprised to be caught by surprise! The wind took the wind out of our sails! It went right through us. Barely a few seconds in the open and we were shaking like leaves.  Hurriedly we bundled ourselves into the taxi (here we need not pre – book our cab like we used to do in London; you can ‘hail’ them with the wave of your handJ! Like we do back home, in India) and our very cheerful cabby greeted us thus, “Good morning! A Little wet today, eh! Where do you wish to go?”

The three of us looked at each other with the same thought reflected on our face, “Little Wet! This was ‘little’ wet for him.  He was very unfazed and admirably retained his cheerful demeanour!”  I always believed that the weather of the place dictates the mood and nature of the people living in that place.  Okay, I think I am veering away from the title. But, I must explain this.

For example, in India, Delhi has extreme weather (it is 45 degrees hot or 2 degrees cold, both summer and winter are harsh and inordinately dry) and the people are also extreme in their behaviour. They are extremely street smart, flashy, competitive and have the killer instinct. Whereas, Bangalore, with idyllic weather prevailing all year long, (it rains before it gets unbearably hot and the sun shines before one needs to go and shop for heavy woollen wear) the people here are laid back.  They believe in a calm, frog in the well kind of life. In the last 15 years that I have seen of this place there is minimal change, just the bare minimum they need to do to maintain the place. God has bestowed this place abundantly and made the people also very easy going. To take this analogy a little further; Maharashtra’s capital Mumbai is the financial capital of India. With so much money and glitterati the weather of the place dictates a sense of basic ethics. It has no extremes and yet it always keeps us on the verge of having to try! (I am unable to describe the Mumbai weather properly). The rains are heavy yet come in a very informed predictable way so people are prepared and plan accordingly. It has all the seasons. Summers last the longest and the rest of the seasons are interlaced with this one season. Similarly, most of the people, rich, poor, economically forward or backward, they all seem to find a place in this city. They all come together and all are hard working. The weather dictates toil, discipline and hard work and that is how most of the Mumbai people can be best described. I can go on with such analogies about people and places. Cold places usually have rigid, unyielding and a hard working lot. Whereas, in warm places the exuberance of the place and the life the people breathe into such places is palpable.

London and most of the people in London seemed to follow my dictate, the logical conclusion I had arrived at after years of close observation, about the weather dictating the behaviour and nature of the people residing in that place. Thus, when Londoners rarely smiled, or seemed to be drowned in their phones. Nose buried and eyes boring holes into their shoes; it was not very surprising for me.  With that weather, wetness and gloom how much could anyone muster cheer and stay cheerful?! The rains lashed predictably every day, it was either dark , grey or cloudy , gloomy this was the little variation in the weather with which this magnificent city was endowed and in this variation how much cheer was possible? London’s weather and the people were in symmetry.

Dublin makes silly of my logic, defies it and its people are an absolute contradiction to my self – discovered profound theory.  To begin with the friendly cabby, who had not a care in the world and was unmindful of the rain, wind and cold. It rained incessantly for almost 3 months; a 30 minute or one hour respite may have occurred, when the God’s decided to catch their breath maybe; otherwise it was downpour, showers, drizzles or pitter- patter. But the people we met, all of them, no exceptions at all here (that is another endearing and surprising fact about this place) are cheerful, unmindful of the wetness and gloom. They greet each other, carry animated conversations, have a ringing infectious laughter in their voice and go jogging with raincoats on, their pets racing behind them, equally oblivious to the wetness around.  This scenario reiterates every time I step out of the house for a walk. There cheer and ability to just ignore the gloomy weather amazes me and I too have learnt to ignore the weather nowJ! ‘Wear the right jacket, my friend’: friendly Irish advice!  And it works!

How could I stop myself from drifting away from my TACSAI’ stories? Such is this place. It keeps breaking my self-made theories and never allows me to make a predictable guess.  This is just the tip of the ice berg. Irish food also deserves a separate article. Narrating my experiences and learning’s from the cab driver’s will follow first and then the rest will follow…

Foe to Friend

Foe to Friend

Anger- our enemy

Anger is the single most dreadful disease a human being can suffer from. This singular emotion leaves the person totally incapacitated and helpless, more like an invalid. Anger robs the person of discretion, reasoning, sanity and most importantly love. It breeds hatred, guilt and fear in the person. An angry person is afraid from within and feared by the outside world too. It is a double loss to the individual. The reasons for anger are many but the result is the same always; it gets a hold over our reasoning and wisdom. For any personal progress (physically, emotionally and spiritually) getting a grip over this vicious vice is imperative.

If we can fathom the reason for our anger; it is half the battle won. Each one has their own unique triggers and we get an intuition even before we are actually in the situation. Anger gives a premonition and tells the person that we are walking into the red alert zone. All we need to be is awake, alert and read the signs correctly. We can avoid the traps and move away from that place till the storm subsides and re-enter with a sane frame of mind. So you are proactively addressing the crisis and the chances of a positive result are enhanced instantaneously. The individual triggers need to be addressed first as compared to the events on the outside, which arouse anger in the individual. Unmet expectations is the most predominant and common cause of anger and very controllable too. Start keeping a lower bench mark and try and make it negligible over a period of time. The normal or calm state of mind stays with such people and one rarely encounters them in a ruffled state.

 

Managing anger

Self help books recommend ‘count to 10’ therapy and later have changed it to; “counting to 10 only aggravates the condition, count to 100 instead!”

I have been a victim of the dreaded disease for long. Thus, what I cite below is what has worked for me and it was not counting to 10 or 100! I needed to do a lot of learning, re learning before I could boldly write this article and state, “Yes! This works!”

Learn to be forgiving: I am mentioning this first because this is the most difficult part. Anger makes us do and say things we regret later and it becomes very tough to forgive and forget. It may be possible to forget the other person but the real test and challenge is to forgive oneself. If we are able to recall the pain of forgiving oneself then getting a hold over that anger trigger will seem an easier hurdle to overcome. Personally, this has been my toughest battle. I am totally unforgiving and very vengeful by nature. Getting angry was equivalent to raising hell and severing ties with the person totally. Am a better and more self forgiving person now, anger still comes but goes away real quick. Turning my biggest foe to become my friend, this is where I began, befriended myself and forgive myself first!

Find an acceptable outlet for yourself: Getting angry is not so abnormal, but getting out of control when you are angry is the worrisome part. If we have a reasonable, more acceptable channel to release our steam it is a safe bet to go for it. This activity or outlet must be easy and something that comes spontaneously to the person concerned. If the person has to seek an outlet which is not very close to the heart then it never pops to the mind when the person is getting angry. Like I said before; most self help books advised me to drink water, count to 10 or switch off mentally. All the three were not my cup of tea! I could never think of water or even manage counting and switching off was impossible when I was so boiling with rage! I decided what worked for me was, leave that place. Just get away and revisit it when you are calmer. I was always afraid of saying too much if I continued to stay in the same place and simmer! Instead, I stepped out or crawled within; (Needed to befriend myself urgently!) So, seek your own individual outlet, friends. Else you will get angrier at not being able to control your anger!

Go out for walks: This is the most therapeutic way of getting off the steam, and least harmful. Walking takes the person away from the place of action and also gives the person time to think, come back to a calm state, start thinking reasonably and do some introspection. This and what I am about to write further worked wonders for me.

Regular dairy writing, prayer and meditation proved to be my panacea. I did this with dedication ;( in fact I am still doing all the three), for 3 months and I could see a change in myself. I would sit and write about the situation, and what exactly caused the anger to surge in me. I realized that nine out of ten, it was something very frivolous and easily ignorable. All I had to do initially was to move away, and with time I could mentally switch off myself. At times I still used to get angry, react, and then write about it in my dairy. This worked as an introspective tool for me. I would read it through and promise to myself to put an end to this. It took me 3 months of sustained efforts and a conscious deliberate determination on my part to overcome my anger. I am not saying I have conquered this vice but I am on the right track and my foe is today a friend, not my best buddy yet; but I have successfully rendered my foe powerless.

Despite these individual differences we all are not so different really, because in the end we do get angry and are afraid of losing control. So, see what works for you and walk on the right path right away. Letting go of anger gives us an inner strength and courage like never before and we feel less burdened; in fact we may feel light enough to be able to fly maybe! Good luck and new beginnings to all of us.

 

Dublin Diaries :  Videsi – Desi

Dublin Diaries : Videsi – Desi

Finally about Dubiln! That entire prologue was imperative just so you all know my state of mind! How this mind and heart tug war has continued to create havoc with its perpetual state of decision and indecision.

Here goes, no more dilly-dallying. We (my daughter and I) were not particularly eager to make the shift from London to Dublin. We had come to London with the mindset of staying for a year at least. Barely 3 months down the line and my husband was getting fidgety yet again!

My daughter had just settled in her new school, made a few friends and started to get some recognition and rewards. Secondly, after a lot of gripe, grumbling and cold –war (with better half of course) she and I had adjusted to the London weather. We had rather painstakingly familiarised ourselves with the bus routes, tube and DLR services and were pretty much independent now. We had done a major share of the sightseeing on our own with the able guidance of Google Maps. So, this big shift was again too soon and much unasked for. Whoever we chanced to ask and get some information on Dublin, we used to get a very standard response, ‘Wetter and windier in Dublin! Buy an extra raincoat and umbrella love!’ That itself was so depressing for us.

We enquired about local transport (the biggest plus point that we had ticked off in London), they said, ‘Dublin is a small place darling! Having a car is better!’ What would we do with a car! I do not drive and my husband is barely in town to chaperon us around!

So, we were basically going from a wet, cold, dull, unsmiling place to a wetter, colder, duller and thus concluded a definitely ‘sad’ place!  Why in the world did my husband make such decisions (yet to figure that one out)?

Anyway, two ‘grumpy grumblers’ and one ‘cheerful under duress’; we boarded the flight to Dublin.  It was very cold, and needless to say, raining cats and dogs when we landed. Every prophecy seemed to be coming true! With a sinking feeling and a glacial look at my husband, I hugged the coat tighter and braced myself to step out of the airport; to face the cold-wet-windy ‘new abode’ of ours.

Surprisingly, there is absolutely no similarity between the weather and people of this extraordinary place! The first person we spoke to for our rental car was welcoming, jovial and in sunny spirits! He was not just being courteous or polite, he was definitely very friendly, eager to help and interested in our wellbeing! He was totally untouched and in contrast to the cold, wet and windy weather! His disposition was warm, sunny and very soothing to my frayed nerves!

Ah! Maybe it was because he was in such a line of work; if he is not well behaved he won’t get customers! (My cold, sneaky and suspicious thought process!). I should not jump with joy, not yet.

The hotel staff was the same; happy, cheerful, smiling and ever ready to help. My thinking-, “Even they are in such a line of business! Etiquette is their bread and butter!”  Okay, so still no need to jump with joy! Real Dublin and its people HAVE to match the weather! How can they be so unaffected and unfazed and stark opposite; defying all odds, logic and reasoning? I need to see more of this place and meet more people before making any conclusions and forming a definite opinion.

We went for our GNIP card the next day, same story. Our taxi fellow was most boisterous, helpful and genuine.  We went house hunting, apart for one real estate agent (he was not cold or stiff, he was the typical ‘sales agent’ formal and to the point) the rest of them were like family; sweet, unassuming and gentle.  I was never made to feel out of place. They all seemed interested in my opinion and had time to chit-chat; no hurry whatsoever.  This was all strange and stranger by the day!

The last straw came on my first day of walking. In London ( I apologize, but I must make this comparison) we walked miles and miles ( my daughter and I, and we had fun too) but not a single time has anyone even stopped us to ask for directions, much less to smile or give a cursory nod even.  Here, I barely reached the main gate and someone passed me by with a broad smile and, ‘Hello, How are you? Lovely weather today! ’

I literally turned back to see if someone else she knew, was behind me. She couldn’t possibly be talking to me! But, she was talking to me, smiling so beautifully.  I cheerfully greeted her and said, “Hello! Yes, beautiful day!” and we parted ways.

I went further down and some other total stranger pleasantly greeted me and moved on. By the time I returned home my jaw was stretched and hurting with the amount of smiling I had done in the last one hour!  This had not happened even in India; forget London! For a while I forgot that I was the ‘videshi’ here. I was at home.

It is cold, it is damp, it is cloudy, there is no sunshine for a whole week at times; it gives full room for everyone to walk around with a long, gloomy face, with nothing to look forward to. Yet people here are happy, in competition with no one, very content with life.  Everyone is warm, welcoming, uninhibited and open. The air here is filled with inherent joy or the attitude to seek and spread happiness. The people stole my heart and I feel at home!

I know I am a’ Videsi’ yet my heart feels very ‘Desi’ here. This place has taught me many things. I discovered that Ireland and India have a lot in common. But all that is my forthcoming articles. Please continue to read, ‘Dublin Diaries’

Decidedly Undecided!!

Decidedly Undecided!!

Before marriage it was my dream to settle in Canada, (anywhere abroad, really!).  This fancy had taken such a feverish pitch that my father warned every prospective groom that if he (the groom) did not have plans of living abroad; at least travelling abroad was imperative; I would assuredly refuse to marry that boy! So, if the groom liked me and intended to woo me and succeed, the safest bet was to say, “I am going to settle abroad after marriage!”Today, after 20 years of married life and few stints abroad I have definitely come a long way.

The man I married is a travel freak and always on the move! Thus, though we did not go abroad the first 7 years we travelled a lot in India itself. He refused to settle down! He must have changed 6 jobs in the first 7 years. Every job was in a new state and thus we lived out of suitcases for the first 6-7years! We would just about start getting comfortable at home when some crazy new opportunity would present itself and we would be packing our bags again.  The good side about all this was that we covered Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in great detail! Every temple, landmark, and place worth visiting known or unknown; we have been there! With so much travelling the thought that I wanted to settle abroad did not come to me. His next job opportunity took us to Singapore.

Singapore is not exactly ‘abroad’ ‘abroad’ if you know what I mean. It is typically mini Tamil Nadu! The length and breadth of the country can be covered in probably 3hours! So, I was abroad but not abroad really. I learnt to speak Tamil in Singapore; (Definitely not abroad). Technically though, it was abroad and we would be NRI’s. We had all plans of continuing to live abroad permanently. That was the mind set with which we left for Singapore. Finally, my dream of becoming an NRI was going to come true.

Very soon though, some disconcerting truths about being an NRI and what it really entailed came to light. My thinking and perception changed and I really understood what it was to be an NRI and the verity hit me that I did not want to be one. I started to wonder why in the world I wanted to settle abroad in the first place (back to indecision)!!  In Singapore I was searching for Indians! (Luckily, Indians are many in number, and enjoy a global presence). I was not very comfortable making friends with the Singaporeans because I was clueless about their culture, language, customs everything! Why would they want to befriend me? Like they had nothing in common with me, I had nothing in common with them either.

A new facet about me came to the fore front. I wanted to live abroad but among Indians! (What was this? I don’t know!)  This was one part; the second part was Indians abroad are different from Indians back home! The second truth was very disconcerting to me and I was unable to adjust to this for a long time. (I just needed to blame my ‘indecision’ on someone-something!)  I had a very different opinion about families which lived abroad! I used to think that they would be starved for their ‘own kind’ and welcome with open arms people from their own country, somewhat like they way they show in the Bollywood movies (what a load of falsity! such movies should be fined – banned- sued-something-everything!!!!). The other truth is with our booming population every 5-6th person you pass by anywhere in the world will be; has to be an Indian! So being starved for ‘our own’ was a far cry! The residents of any and every country may soon be starved to see ‘their own’ faces in their own country, an inevitable fact! We have over stepped rather extravagantly over the last 50years!

Amidst all this deciding and re-deciding and changing decision yet again, so on and so forth for the nth time and last time; we checked out our options of settling in Australia too! Singapore was a definite ‘no’ (I had decided!) because it was very close to India and had too many Indians! (The reasons I have, honestly! Till date I continue to wonder about my own sanity and maturity!). It did not feel like ‘abroad’ ‘abroad’. In that 2-3 year stint my husband explored his opportunities in Sydney, Australia and tried to convince me that if I did not fancy Singapore we can also consider moving to Sydney, bag and baggage. My state of mind changed again and this time it took an absolute about turn! I did not want to settle any where abroad! I wanted to go back home, to India.

We spent almost 9months in this state of suspended animation. My husband gave me a few other options, Malaysia, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide were a few of them.  He intermittently rubbed in my ‘original ardent dream’ of settling in Canada and may have also hinted that from here, as in Singapore or where ever I finally agreed to stay on; fate might lead us to my dream destination! Who knows? It was foolish to come abroad and go back to India and restart! It was easier going to a different country when one is out of India. The life style is better. The money is more. People abroad have a great work culture and follow the life-work balance exemplarily well.  So, he would be able to spend more time at home! He must have given me all plausible temptations and brownie points in favor of foreign residency. But to no avail. I had decided, I wanted to go back. That was all. I no longer cherished a foreign dream.

My spouse has another way of describing my ‘decisive stance’. (I am like the ‘kingfisher’; I stand on one foot and relentlessly hound him till he succumbs and yields to my decision.) So, the ‘kingfisher’ got her way and we moved back home (India), to Delhi! Our longest stay so far has been Delhi. We did do a bit of house shifting from a rented house to own house. We rented a house in Delhi and later bought a flat in Delhi (NCR) which is actually Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. In NCR we shifted again from a smaller own house to a bigger own house. We did stay put in Delhi – NCR for 9 years but did not stop our travelling. These nine years we covered the Northern states of Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (the now Uttarakhand too), Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh.

The day we came to a point where our travel wheels came to a grinding halt (our son had entered his year of board exams and such short stints and getaways were no longer feasible) my better half got a work assignment abroad! Atlanta, in the much sought after US of A; and the time to decide came to the fore again!

The two years our son spent deciding his future; college and the stream he wanted to further his college education in, my husband and I kept weighing our options on whether we should move to Atlanta, bag and baggage! We were still undecided and seeing our perpetual indecision, fate decided on our behalf.  The Atlanta assignment got over and a new opportunity opened in London this time! I was continuously reluctant to move abroad (finally decided) . America, Europe made no difference, and I was happy in India.

This time the decision was not in my hands though, and we shifted to London. My short stint of 6 months in London I was still unwilling to settle down abroad. Finally, I could decide that I was too ’desi’ to settle down anywhere in ‘Videsh’. I needed my comfort level and the freedom of indiscipline (Western world is too disciplined; scares me totally!). It was no longer about Indians and others. Everyone behaved the way the place dictated their behavior; “when in Rome do as Romans do”.  It was about me, I wanted to remain ‘desi’ in ‘videsh’ and kept forming opinions about others!

Like I said, I had definitely come a long way. This long prologue is to prepare you all for my ‘Dublin Diaries’…my mind set (not so ‘desi-desi’  anymore)  has decidedly changed (once again) after coming to this extraordinary place…

Thank You Salesman!

Thank You Salesman!

I recently went shopping to pick some dresses for my daughter. She was not with me, so I looked at a dress and buzzed her to check with her, if she liked it or she preferred some other color. This was taking sometime and the salesman got a little vexed (I think) with the delay. He had to wait on one customer for long and that may be taxing his commission (my thinking yet again!) He watched this sequence between my daughter and me for 3-4 rounds and blurted, “Beti apki hai! Usse kya pooch ke khareedna! Jo marji pehnayiye!” (She is your daughter! Why need you ask her opinion? She should wear whatever you buy for her!) I was a little taken aback by his tone and the way he made that statement. I did not call my daughter again. Whatever I had already chosen, I hurriedly selected and made a rushed exit!

This small interlude took me back a few years. We were having a discussion on the role of parents or parenting and someone had given this description: “The boon given by God to play God!” I remember being very surprised and totally in disagreement with that description. How could parents be elevated to the status of God? Especially the present generation parents; most of the middle class income group has both the parents working and the time spent with the children is negligible and devoid of any influence on the progeny. So, do the parents really get to play God for their children in this day and generation too?

The statement this salesperson made brought back the whole episode back and my introspection commenced yet again.  Everything that happens with me leads me to this one activity, introspection! (One ‘chewing the cud’ kind of person I am)

What kind of a parent am I? The exasperated air with which the salesperson gave his dictate definitely made me conclude that he considered himself to be God for his children! But, where was I? With my repeated calls to my daughter I had managed to irk him and my daughter too. She was happily watching some favorite show and my calls were an irritating interference for her. She was polite the first two times and after that she barely looked at the dress. Honestly, the salesman lost his cool before her; another call and I am sure she would have said, “Ma! Stop disturbing me! All are beautiful! Buy anyone of them!”

So, where was I? Taking her opinion and picking a dress of her choice seemed ‘stupid’ to the salesman. I was asking my daughter so that she could have a dress of her choice or liking and I did not dump something on her head forcibly. Children these are very choosy and like to wear clothes of their choice. Bearing that in mind; like a ‘good’’ broad minded’ parent I was giving her the freedom of choice!  Both boomeranged badly, leaving me to wonder about my stance. I definitely disliked the God status, so I had consciously stayed away from ‘trappings’ of that esteemed post.

Asking for my daughter’s opinion for every dress; that too when she was not remotely interested and would have been happy with anything I chose for her; I felt like I was more of a ‘guilty’ ‘over-compensating’ kind of a parent. Was I seeking her opinion because I was not confident about my choice? No! Whatever I have purchased in the past she has never complained. So, what had changed? Introspection time again.

My time with my daughter had changed!  We had a very busy schedule in the past; yet we (my son-daughter and I) managed exclusive ‘together time’ always! Now, we have shifted to a new country and it is just the two of us here, no work and loads of free time. Yet, we barely seemed to spend any time together. We both have an independent time table which has no together time in it!

This being a new place, school, friends, language, culture and everything else was a fresh start for her. Similarly, the place was new for me too. She got busy with her new friends at school, at home and whatever free time she got she was busy chatting and ‘connecting’ with her friends from India. I got busy ‘connecting’ with my friends back home and …. nothing! I was perpetually on the ‘wats app’ ‘connecting’ and getting most disconnected with all else around me! We would have continued this disconnected – connection pattern for longer if I had not made this short shopping expedition I think!

I was asking my daughter for her choice because as I stood looking at those dresses it hit me that I did know what clothes she had! I was clueless about what she needed! Whether she needed or not also I was unsure! What was happening in her life? She always seemed busy. School was good, at home she was seemed more than happy to be on her own with her I pad or phone or laptop. These were her constant companions.

Where were I ‘together’ times? In that busy schedule, back home, I had managed to keep abreast of everything that was happening in her life. Here, we had so much free time, yet we never seemed to do anything together. Introspection done it was time to act now; make the corrections before I really feel guilty and over compensate to assuage my guilt!

We made a timetable, a together timetable. We go walking together, if that is not possible for any reasons then I meet her halfway on her way back home from school and we ‘talk’. We have lunch together and ‘catch-up’ (she used to eat lunch watching some show on her I pad, and I used to continue ‘connecting’L).Now, I consciously stay away from my phone second half of the day, once she is back from school.

I now know what she is happening in her life. She plays cricket! Has learnt to play foot –ball and is getting better at hand ball. She is a good runner and is teaching her friends some ‘Indian –games’. She gets hurt way too often to be bothered about such silly scrapes and wounds now! She teaches Hindi to her classmates and has learnt a few Irish-Gaelic and Spanish phrases. She writes ‘fantasy thrillers’ (that is her area of expertise she claims!). I suddenly realized I have an ‘all rounder’ extraordinary daughter! She can just about do anything she sets her mind to.

These 2 hours of together time has changed many things for us. She and I share many things and enjoy each other’s company. That salesman did me a big favor. I never wanted to play God, but I don’t want to feel guilty and over compensate either! I hope to be her best friend and if possible help her feel successful, accomplished and competent in anything she chooses to do.

So, thanks to the salesman, parenting tips for you allJ. Spend time with your children. Connecting with the world at the cost of disconnecting with your dearest and nearest is …. I don’t have the right epithets.

Shades of Grey…London Hues

Shades of Grey…London Hues

About London again, this is where I am presently residing, (I am posting this article from Dublin, Ireland; wrote it when I was in London!!!)  the discovery is ongoing and a daily affair.  I started my sojourn in London with a heavy baggage of misconceptions. Thus, my learning starts afresh every day. I am enjoying breaking my own misconceptions and I am also enjoying confirming a few home truths I received before I landed here. Even with so much preparation and warning some things about this place continue to strike me odd and still continue to surprise me.

The first is the rain in London, it surprises me still. God simply decided to pour in these parts of the world; for reasons best known to HIM alone, that is all I can say. Every day, very expectantly, my daughter and I check the weather status, praying for some sunshine and a respite from this pervasive wetness and gloom.  There is a silver lining on some days and we excitedly plan our day. It happened twice in the last three months. Nevertheless, the gloom failed to mar our indefatigable good spirits and my daughter and I toured London in the rain. Rain became our constant companion. We started enjoying the rain and the wetness. It came to a point where we stopped checking the weather report. It did not matter anymore.  In an auto mode both of us planned our day, packed our kits, raincoat, jackets, cap, hood , umbrella et all and headed out to paint the town red!

Paint the town RED! That brings me to the second aspect of this city which continues to amaze me. The color of the houses or buildings in this wet land, they are all grey, all of them! God decided to give this city a gloomy, dark, dull, wet weather round the clock. The residents decided to augment the gloom a bit more by coloring all the houses, office buildings and shopping complexes uniformly in one of the most drab, lifeless colors one can ever imagine, GREY! Being one of the oldest economies of the world, the History of this place is Ancient! Almost every alternate building is marked as ‘Historic’ ‘Pre-Historic’ ‘Ancient’ or ‘Heritage’!  They all are a part of the past and look aged too, so it is very acceptable that they are all colored in the typically stone grey color. Many have moss or fungus covering because of the incessant rains. Stonhenge, National Maritime Museum, London Bridge, London –eye these are all old –old sites and are in ‘grey’ which is very understandable to me. But the newer constructions like O2 (Theatre complex where the likes of AR Rehman perform!), Shard (The tallest building in London which a panoramic view of the whole city from its terrace) the metro stations; all of them are grey or tinted grey glass finish! How weird is that! Houses, we re-do our interiors every 3-5 years, right? How many of us repeatedly paint them the same color; that too of all the colors why choose ‘shades of grey’ every time? India has a ‘pink city’, a ‘golden city’, a ‘blue city’ and these three colors are from the same state, mind you!

It’s as if just because God gave them a grey climate to live in, and live with; they have acclimatized so beautifully that they need no second color at all! They abide by the God’s dictate! The most popular jackets in London are Black or white! In the initial days my daughter and I used to be jumping and eager to visit the shopping malls, Harrods, Zarah, Debenham’s. Two trips were all it took. We searched high and low, every section of these places, clothes – black or white or some mix and match shades in between like off white , cream, grey etc. very very rarely we spotted a pink or a –sea green ( we bought those!). That is all. Even their crockery cutlery is mostly white! No second color choice in that section! My daughter’s school dress is Black! My husband’s office attire is Black and blue (the company he works for has color Blue; nothing to do with London preferences hereJ). The umbrellas are mostly black in color and the raincoats too! Goodness!

Funnily, the sports shoes come in all colors you can think of! From fluorescent orange, to dark green, to light pink, to a deep magenta and you are spoilt for choice! That was the surprising part! Now, when we visit a restaurant the usual practice is to remove the coat and hang on the coat hanger. Then, settle down comfortably in the cozy ambience and have your meal. When you are about to leave you reclaim your coat. The first time we were five of us, all in black coats, and all hung in the corner. Imagine my plight when I went to collect our coats…  I took one look at the endless black, black and black coats; beat a hasty retreat and sent my better half! If he picked the wrong one he had only himself to blame! I was safe!

The best is yet to come! London is such a wonderful place that sightseeing is kind of mandatory! Staying indoors because of rain, distances etc is a shame and a total loss to the visitor. So we did do a lot of sightseeing, and sightseeing entailed the next natural event of ‘memory collection’; or photographs! The first day we went out, we clicked many pictures and put them on Face book, sent to ‘family’  ‘wats app’ group and received many compliments ‘wow’, ‘beautiful’, ‘amazing, etc . Next time we went sightseeing, we again took pictures and as we started to upload the pictures we realized that they looked the same as last time! The first set was near Thames River (near our house, in Greenwich area), it was raining that day, so the jackets were there, and it was my daughter and me! The second set was near London Bridge, so Thames River again, raining too (obviously) so jackets were the same and it was my daughter and me again! Both set of pictures looked exactly the same!! Same people, same clothes, same place too, uh! So much for seeing London and different places in London!

I told my great pati-dev (spouse) that I now no longer needed dresses! I needed jackets and more jackets in all shades, every possible shade of black-white – grey. Till then, no pictures for family and friends, only happy sightseeing of this history enriched wondrous place which never ceases to surprise me!

Ki – Ka vs Ka – ki

Ki – Ka vs Ka – ki

From Black and white times to the present day coloured; High Definition; multi dimensional times India cinema has maintained one common thread; they all are bizarre! Most of them are surreal, bearing zero connection to realism. Some seem to start a bit on fantasy and a bit on a realistic note, but somewhere along the line they lose the plot or forget where they started; and what they wanted to convey to the audience. Some are so hard hitting and a stark naked ‘real’ that they scare me to death! Thus, without fail ALL the movies have this ‘idiosyncratic’ link. Despite this ‘common quirk’ hits and flops; highs and lows and making and breaking of careers have happened in the past and will continue to happen in the future too. Indian Cinema is bizarre and probably successful globally because of this unique attribute! The more unrealistic and away from the truth the movie is the more successful and alluring to the audience it seems to be!

Even though I still remain an avid movie watcher I have steadfastly stayed away from commenting on our Indian cinema’s diapason for this singular reason; the common thread! But the recent past or maybe the last decade has seen change. A blend of more realism and less fantasy, some value and more thought provoking genre of movies have started to see the daylight. I used to remember the songs and the intense acting in the black white era;  then nothing in between , nothing at all really, and then in the recent past I used to return home with some ‘food for thought’ or some light hearted humour to share with my friends or nothing yet again!

I was kind of getting used to the ‘less bizarre’ ‘more natural’ segment and suddenly comes ‘KI & KA’ ! It was advertised as a very ‘present day relevant’ ‘novel’ ‘most intelligently made’ ‘must watch’ ‘4-1/2 stars’ and the list went on…needless to say we waited for its release with bated breath. I sat through the whole movie waiting for the moment where I could connect to the raving reviews it received! If could have nodded in the affirmative to even one review I would have yet again stayed away from commenting. But it was way too big a letdown to let this pass just like that!

Thus this article, for the first time, about a movieL!! To escape controversy and debate I put the disclaimer beforehand; this is strictly the way I perceive the movie. Read and feel free to say ‘Yes I relate with your views’ or ’No, I do not agree with you’; that is all. That closes the topicJ.

“It is not about ki-ka or ka –ki, It is about the self and ME!!”—If the Mother had ended her last line with this dialogue, even then I would have shut up! Not commented and you would have been spared of this long article! Uh! Let me begin from the beginning now!

Give me one Indian man who is IIM (B) or IIM from anywhere or with any such ‘glorified’ qualification and the same mind set as this lead guy in the movie! Okay, let’s take it that there is such a person, not one person but many such Indian men are out there! What a waste of talent, mental acumen and business skill! And I would have said that for any IIM qualified woman too! One studies hard, competes and clears the IIM level of exam and competition with a dream of ‘home –making’!!  That itself was stretching it a bit toooo far for me! ki-ka all forgotten! Sensible human being won’t do it, should not be allowed to do it! Give the seat to someone else, and you prove your mettle elsewhere!

Let us pass that, now from the women’s side, how many women really have such exemplary culinary skills!? 9 out 10 women I know can cook well, true, but to be able to be recognised at the national level kind of cooking?!! That is a totally different thing to reckon with. (I am keeping my lips sealed on the TED talk!) And from the lead lady’s side, I don’t know a single woman who can’t cook at all! Every woman can cook! Full stop! One dish at least and NO woman lives out of ‘ordered food’ this is again something highly unpalatable for me!

Now for another angle, when in need of funds, the home maker here resorts to becoming a trainer! Makes me wonder, ‘He is an IIM guy; can’t he start a consultancy? Train in some other areas where he can create women entrepreneurs’ or something!’ ‘Start a cooking class maybe, given his culinary skills!’ He had to become a physical trainer! What a mind numbing boring job! And he is a success in that too! Showing that ki-ka is irrelevant! He can work and also be an excellent home-maker with equal panache’. When he got busy, the house had no food! How likely is that now? I know most women world over who are working; come home from work and cook! Most urban-living, present day families have working partners and both chip in! If the husband is busy the wife cooks and vice –versa! The movie lost me in this aspect also! I am still trying to get a grip over the movie when the last straw comes.

He is famous and she is jealous! She dishes out the choicest of foul mouthed epithets, he swallows them politely, and very dejectedly packs his bags (2nd or 3rd year of marriage mind you) and leaves his house! I am stumped now! How many Indian women relate to this? Better question is: How many Indians relate to this? He left his house, (he is the wife; remember) because she is jealous! Realistically speaking, a man can leave the house (this was the ONLY true thing) a woman will leave her career, sit home and kill her life but may not be allowed to leave her home! (if it is still the traditional background that we are talking about) and if it is the modern set up then she would still have held her ground, filed for a divorce, really ‘robbed’ the ‘pati’ off his finances via alimony and then gone her way! So, on both counts the lead guy leaving the house was, I don’t know, don’t have the right word yet!

So what to make of this movie? I am not sure what they wanted to show or what message they wanted to give their audience. I am sure it is a big hit and even if it is not, it definitely made good money!

From where I see, none of it is ki-ka or ka –ki; it is and always has been about the self, ME! All of us want to feel ‘worthy’ of ‘some use’ and that is what drives us. Working women seek appreciation at their work place and if they do not get it there, they search for the same at home! Similarly, a non- working woman (or a home maker or house wife) wants to be appreciated for what she is doing to keep the home together! If the self –esteem of a person (man or woman) is continuously trampled upon that becomes the problem. Indian women are hungry to become working women only to prove their ‘worth’ because ‘housewife’ is not appreciated anymore! A man who is not appreciated at his work place will be as embittered as a housewife, maybe more and vent it at on the wife!

Irony of the movie is, he is invited by Mrs.Bacchan, and he goes to meet Mr.Bacchan! Mr.Bachhan is very grumpy about having him over and Mrs. Bacchan is writing a note praising Mrs. Lead lady! Talk about confusion !

Man managing the house willingly is perfect and a woman managing office willingly is also perfect as long as the roles they have adopted earn them the requisite sense of ‘value’ and ‘self –worth’. It is really not about who brings the money or who is who in the eyes of the world. It is all about how valuable I am to ‘me’ and what is my real self worth. I am self reliant and self aware, I am fine, that’s ‘me’ it has nothing to do with ka-ki.

 

London Journal

London Journal

My London days have just begun and so bear with me, readers, all my writings will now be the hues of London. To be candid, I came here with many prejudices and misgivings. England had ruled my country for 200 years, looted, plundered and left it with a begging bowl. Today we are a third world nation and London is the land of developed rich. Thus, England never featured in my good books and I have a very cynical view of anyone who settles here. Probably why God decided to send me here, to be able to wash away all this idiocy and be realistic, live in the present and enjoy what is, rather broods about what was.

I settled in with great enthusiasm and gusto, new country and living up to his reputation my husband chose a very beautiful locality to reside. We are very close to The Thames River and the Greenwich Meridian, the 0 longitude – Latitude line is a place we pass by everyday!  This is very historically rich and every road has a story to tell kind of a place. And, lucky for us, we could come in the summer months, where the weather is at its best behavior.  The first month flew by speedily. My daughter and I were at our adventurous best and managed to visit the important landmarks. We downloaded the app for bus routes and found our way.

This sightseeing month we did manage exemplarily well because we had the app on us. The timings of the bus, the directions, the next stop, route everything is marked and comes up immediately on this app ‘City Mapper’. All we used to do was type the place we had picked for the day and press ‘search’. In a flash, viola! All the options come up with  beginning with how long it takes to walk, then the bus- train routes available, then in case we wish to hire a cab what would that cost us.  A rain safe route also is given and that was our biggest thrill; discovering this ‘city mapper’.  This is the fun of a developed country.  Within a month though we had exhausted most of the routes and the city mapper has worn its charm. This is a vice of a developed country! Boredom sets in even before the enthusiasm can bid adieu properly.

We now knew which bus to board, where to alight and what time the next bus came and so on and so forth.  So, we had shifted to our next interesting task on hand, observing the other passengers.  A very interesting observation was: ‘people here rarely smile’. Most of the faces look hassled or brooding.  Everyone had their noses buried into a book or the damn phone. Everyone had earphones plugged in as if it was a part of the ear itself.  Phone and earphones are ubiquitous and people talking to each other are like the appearance of ‘Hailey’s comet’! Babies had the pacifier stuck into their mouth; so the most crowded bus also is usually eerily silent. So, apart for an occasional ‘sorry’ (when someone is asked to make way) and ‘thank you’ (when someone vacates a sit for an elderly person) our 50 minute bus ride was in absolute silence and stiff boredom.  “Nobody looks at anybody anymore, even if they do; they have suspicion written all over their faces.” (This was a co –passenger mumbling to himself; I was totally in agreement with his disgruntled mumbling)

 

In India, asking for directions and making friends on a journey is like second nature to everyone. By the time we left our house and reached the destination we would have made friends with the taxi driver, the security guard, and asked directions after every 5-7 minutes and made friends with all of them too. I am not that social a person to begin with and I definitely do not ask every second person for directions either. But this sharp contrast of totally relying on the phones and never ever asking anyone for help had me stumped. I spontaneously would look up and smile or try to strike a simple conversation and the response is very akin to London weather; cold and windy (not forthcoming to say the least). They have people from all over the world and maybe that makes them very hesitant too, the lack of awareness of culture and rules of the place is a handicap. And when the technology is so advanced and omniscient they may wonder why this harried looking silly – smiling woman is trying to chat up with them. What could they possibly know which the phone in my hand could not answer?  Funnily, the bus drivers also are strictly aware of their routes and their stops only, ask them about any other route or if this bus is close to some area, they look blank and clueless.

Now, my present test is, by the time head back to India, will this place rob me off my smile or will I succeed in making a few friends and pass the smile on. Will keep you all posted as it goes; latest is I am kind of blending with the place or adapting to London ways. My daughter has earphones glued to her ears and I have started to read on the bus. Let’s see when the weather changes and I can dazzle this place with my sunny smile. Wish me luck.

Disclaimer: The picture is a download! but I have many answers for that question:)