Monthly Archives: October 2015

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:)

Memories

Memories

Last two years have been a sort of transit or ’preparing for the big shift’ kind of years for us. Our son was on the threshold of ‘flying out of the nest’ and enters hostel life; join a college. And our daughter and I were to shift to a new country. So the last two years most of our conversations, (son-daughter –I) revolved around ‘memories’. What we would like to take with us and what was best forgotten, left behind.

I have always been an avid souvenir and memory collector. Any new place we visit I would insist upon  family photos, just the siblings, all together starting from having breakfast in the resort and winding up with  going back to the room and retire for the night. Everything had to be captured; pictures taken and savored for a future date; fond reminiscences for our leisurely time, old age. I collected innumerable small inconsequential trinkets of sorts, just as a ’memory’ of that place. Going shopping for such nondescript things used to be an exciting event for me and harassment for all the rest. Even photographs became a joke amongst us. We used to then travel a lot and so pictures seemed a time waste for the children. They used to get irritated and hide their face, make jokes and run away whenever I pulled out the dreaded camera. According to them I was being silly, wasting time and none of this really mattered so much. This memory thing was more of an individual fad than a collective consensus.

With time I too lost interest, stopped taking pictures and our last few trips we went and returned, with zero pictures and no souvenirs either! Finally I had succeeded in changing my mindset to suit theirs and they were happy too. Moreover, our travelling also came to a standstill the last five years. Increased studies for my son and my husband being posted abroad the room to make these trips were nullified. My husband travelled crazily because of his work and all he wanted to do at home was stay in, rest, rejuvenate and not travel again. It came to a point where presently, when we were packing up none of us had any memories. We had no recent trips, no pictures, and no souvenirs to pack and take with us to our new homes.

I gradually disposed all the old memories and had never created any new good ones and the quintessential memory of my life was missing. My son had his farewell and he took those pictures, but when it came to the house, and his family he also did not have a single family picture. He was not very concerned then. He was excited about going to hostel, making new friends and new memories were just around the corner for him.

My daughter, though, created a huge (must be a girl thing) collection of’ memories’. She took a lot of pictures with her friends, made presentations and video recorded her time with her friends. She created and gifted an album for her brother too, pictures of his cousin’s and growing up years.

It so happened that the one person who longed and cherished memories, namely me, had none to take with me, neither of the house nor of the people in the house! I, half angrily and half in an attempt at ‘emptying’; the house and the mind; had done away with photos and souvenirs. Nothing cherish able came to mind and I was more a realistic, pragmatic person packing the house and making the shift. This was in stark contrast to the emotional and sentimental fool that I used to be in the past.

Last week my son revisited the old house and messaged this to me; ‘Ma, went to our house. It was so vacant and lonely; looked totally barren. I took pictures of the empty house; my memories. I felt very sad.”  This message set me thinking, what do we human beings hang on to in the name of memories? I so fondly used to collect trinkets over the years and yet today I rely more on my memory for memories! I have nothing tangible for all those good times and yet many spring to the mind the second I close my eyes. The bad ones and the good ones alike seem to have found a permanent spot in the brain’s hardware. Unfortunately the good ones seem to have found a connection to the tangible ‘memories’ I had created for myself, whereas the bad ones somehow seem to have embedded themselves into my subconscious self.  I needed photographs to look, recollect my good days and moments whereas try as I might the sad ones became permanent residents. They had followed me to my present house too. I could not leave them in this big shift that I made. I had ‘emptied’ myself of the good and ended up paying excess baggage for garbage.

On the other hand, my son seemed to be more mature, he was enjoying his present and simultaneously collecting memories of his past. He had photographed the empty house and was taking with him his good memories. My daughter too had settled herself well in the new house and is enjoying everything. She speaks to her old friends and tries to meet new people with the same enthusiasm and gusto. Her tangible and intangible memories were the same, happy and within reach.

I, unconsciously, had developed the habit of storing unwanted memories and the attitude towards cherished good memories seemed to be very slack. I lost the habit of appreciating the small good things that were happening in my daily life. I was hanging on to memories with a very wrong attitude. My memories seemed to depend on photographs or trinkets. The good ones were dependant on tangible things whereas others (which should have been forgotten) were leaving indelible marks on my present. Memories were good or bad depending on the attitude I had towards them. The lonely house was a memory for my son, he remembered more about all the trips we made in the past. And here I was; I could recall barely anything of any place or moment.

My dear son, in his own sweet unassuming mature way had again given me a profound insight into my attitude and thinking of ‘memories’. I surely needed to press the reset button and quickly build an arsenal of beautiful memories, independent of  photographs and souvenirs.

 

100% Character

100% Character

There is a channel called UNIVERSAL Channel, here in London (where I reside these days) and I watch a few shows on that channel. Apart for the shows, which are a very apt ‘time waste strategy’ for my bored soul; the most inspiring part of that channel’s telecast is the advertisement or their tagline, if it can be called that;  they telecast in between every show.

They have different starting lines and questions; and they feature a different person, trying to share their story and inspire the audience.  Some of the questions are –“What does it take to keep your head when your heart is broken?” or “what does it take to smile and help others when your own life is a miserable mess?” Or “what does it take to speak up for those who are afraid to?” or “what does it take to win, when the world has already declared you a loser?” or “What does it take to keep your cool when you have the hottest temper?” or “What does it take to bend the line but never break it?” or “What does it take to show compassion yet be firm?” or My favorite thus far; “What does it take to find the why behind the who?” Many more such introspective questions and the answer to all of them is 100% character! This representation of character, and advertising it the way they did, touched me. The shows are all mundane, uninspiring and typical thriller or domestic dramas, and every few minutes this advertisement comes like a breath of fresh air. For me, this advertisement became the pivotal point of interest. In no time the show was a mere time pass and I looked up from my work only when I heard the background score of that advertisement. I eagerly wait for the new question and the new person they feature every time.

Many revelations have revealed themselves through these simple 100% character advertisements and there many ambassadors. To cite a few that appealed most to me; I always found jogging stupid and an activity which only mindless and jobless people indulged in! What did jogging achieve? And when that person said the exact same lines I was thrilled to the core! But what followed was the inspiring bit, instead of mindless jogging he went ahead and started a jog for a cause foundation! How creative and how honorable the gesture was. This person started delivering newspaper, milk, medicines and the basic essentials to the people in his vicinity and free of cost, on a daily basis! He became the jogger deliverer. And very soon others came forward and now the group has about 1000 joggers doing the same service in their neighborhood. He made a difference and showed 100% character, right?

Another story which is gripping is about a gymnast, who missed winning her Gold medal in her youth and has returned to claim the title after 12 years. She is past her thirties, single mother with a daughter who is 9 years old, a very improbable age to be in gymnastics let alone aspire to win a medal. But stubbornness put to good use is how she says it; “I am a stubborn person and I like to prove people wrong”. She has already won the local and state level championships and is on her way to prove her mettle during the forthcoming 2016 Olympics. When everything goes wrong and baits you to quit, yet you continue to follow your heart, it does take 100% character.

How this connects to me or what has this taught me may be the question in the reader’s mindJ.  This move to London has shown me many chinks in my own so called ‘perfect character’. I had a busy life back in India and I kept complaining to my better half about our move to this Godforsaken cold country where I knew no one and had nothing to do. I spent my first month watching the idiot box and these advertisements caught my attention. All their ambassadors have lived a life far more challenging and adverse than mine. My cribs seemed like the whines of a spoilt, luxury indulged kid when pitted against their real life battles. I did have a busy life in India, but today I am here, in London. So, there must be a reason as to why I have come to this place. I assuredly have a role to fulfill and something to accomplish too. I just have been wallowing so much in my own self pity that I have not figured it out. I am now putting an end to this self -delusion and learn the qualities of 100%character… do things I always wanted to do or chase a dream which thus far seemed out of my reach. If jogging can become purposeful, I am sure I can do also do something worthwhile and meaningful. All looks bright and chirpy again in this dreary London weather, figuring out “What does it take to find the why behind the who?” 100%Character:)

More to health

More to health

Health is not a matter of doing; it is a matter of being- Abraham Maslow.

Most of the couples I come across have one common grouse. Either the husband or the wife or both keep fighting the battle of the bulge. They longingly look at their wedding pictures and compare their weight, beauty and radiant youth and bemoan its loss with the lapse of time. Most women have the excuse of motherhood as the big reason for looking flabby and unbecoming.  Whereas, men are inclined to blame the culinary skills of the wife ,  work stress , mounting responsibilities which  lead them to health adverse habits like drinking –smoking or binge eating.  My observation has been that these natural physical discrepancies or variances become an obsession and result in mental ill health and long run psychological problems.  Women tend to get depressed and insecure and men are more prone to irritability, aggression and anger.  The package deal solution is psychiatrists, counselors  and beauty parlors on one hand and the innumerable  diet schemes, gymnasiums, aerobic centers and yoga institutions are the best business ventures to start nowadays. They flourish utmost and are eternally in peak business.

Whenever I switch on the television within a span of 30 minutes I see minimum 5 advertisements showing weight loss programs, diet plans giving quick ways to burn calories, new kinds of yoga combined with aerobics, Pilates and I don’t know what else.  All the programs talk about losing weight, looking beautiful again and being happy. The key to being happy is looking thin. The source of happiness lies in being thin. The path to success, self esteem, and confidence, everything one can envisage seem to lead into a health food store, a gymnasium or both.  We have lost touch with reality. We are so rushed for time; we are in a rush to lose weight also in a hurry. The focus is so much on losing weight the short way and effortlessly. Best results with least effort; more expensive the program more is our faith in its being effective.  The spiraling number of these programs and the ever increasing gymnasiums are a testimony to this.

Many cars are parked in the driveway of our gymnasium and people packed inside, walking on the treadmill to burn calories, with earphones plugged in playing some loud music. As if they are afraid to be alone, listen to the heart. No one has the time to meditate, sit calmly and introspect, even though it is free of cost. We are so dependent on health for everything we have forgotten how to heal internally.  Where our true happiness lies we are unsure, who we really are, we don’t know and what our true worth is, we don’t have the time to figure out. In no time visiting a psychologist or having to go for regular counseling sessions may become the trend and also the need of the hour. None of us is fit mentally and we all are running to gain physical health hoping that will bring a balance to our mental state too.  A person can be as physically fit as he/she is mentally fit. This toxic success has resulted in languishing people who live in the illusion of a superficially happy life moaning every second within.  They spend money in hope of a better tomorrow and forget to live today. They want to change the world and remain oblivious to the truth of their own insipid life. Are looks really so important; and if yes, for who?  Why has this focus on the external self become an obsession, killing the inner self?

Choosing the middle path saves us the money and mental tension too. Yet we work ourselves to the extreme. Moderation needs to be advocated instead we go to extraordinary lengths and spend on gymnasiums, diet programs and pay exorbitant fees to counselors and psychologists.  Introspect and be aware, listen to the voice within.  We rely so much on someone else, some other person on the outside, our true self lies cocooned, suffocated with all the external therapies being pumped in time and again.  Meditation imparts discipline and brings in the potential to listen to the voice within. The voice within advocates moderation, eat everything, do everything in moderation. Conclusively, meditate and stay healthy free of cost; panacea for all ailments, mental and physical.