Self- Imprisoned

Self- Imprisoned

‘If we are not progressing, it is because we create problems inside ourselves, by ourselves, for ourselves.’ -Shri. P. Rajgopalachari

A decade ago if anyone mentioned the word ‘Meditation’ and started to explain the need for meditation, I would have scoffed; looked incredulously at the speaker and walked away. In this day of rush, competition and buzz, who is foolish enough to meditate? Moreover, who has the time or luxury to sit for meditation? Instead of wasting an hour sitting with their eyes closed and building sand castles in the name of meditation; a wise person can achieve some other tangible, productive goal.

Today, for every ailment, physical or emotional, the only panacea that comes to my mind is ‘meditation’. On the surface of it, I am very much the same person; I am still studying books on psychology, albeit the reading has now shifted from pure Behavioral Psychology to psychology and the role it plays in Spirituality. I still practiced counseling; work as an online behavioral therapist; yet my suggestions have changed. Earlier I used to suggest some therapy, now all I can recommend, talk about, suggest or advise is ‘Please experience Meditation’. I seem to have forgotten all else, no therapy comes to mind!

Any ailment I have; psychological or physical, I resort to meditation. I need to know the reason as to why it happened, the psychology behind the physical manifestation of the problem and then alone do I accede to proper medication. Somehow meditation answers everything for me, it gives me all the options, throws light on the path and I feel enabled because of this awareness. Knowing myself is possible only through meditation and unless I try to ‘know’ I remain stagnant.

I wonder if this is not the same thought that crosses every mind? Don’t all of us seek to ‘know’ and after knowing, should we not try to ‘change’ or attempt to become a better person? I find it strange that anyone would deliberately shy away from meditation. Why do we resist change, what is our fear?

 ‘The root fear is the fear of death, namely the fear of psychological death, or the death of ego.

The root fear, not being mastered, manifests itself in a quantity of secondary fears: fear of others, fear of liberation and even of course, fear of love, of the Real love of the Master, since it is going to consume us…

Another way of saying the same thing is to consider the desire to retain desires as the main cause of our ambivalence and our resistance to change…’ (Psychology and its role in Spirituality- Ferdinand Wulliemier)

A few years ago my sentiments matched verbatim with the author. I was unwilling to relinquish my Self. I used to see my life as a utopian one. where was the reason to change such a life? My complaints were many and for every complaint my search for a solution would start afresh. If it was a physical problem visit the doctor, if it was an emotional one then simmer in it and blame the world, and how unjust the world is. After a few days of such simmering and moaning I would compare my situation with some less fortunate person (according to my myopic understanding) and get back to feeling happy. Today, I realize that I resisted change because I had imprisoned myself. All my battles were momentary and situation based. With lapse of time or some external adjustment the situation changed and I presumed (very incorrectly) that all was well again. The change never happened. It remained a cyclical state.

 I thought I had it had all. Because, any outsider who saw me and the life I lived, continue to live; would say it was, is, hunky -dory.  With everything in my favor, my persistent feel was one of dissatisfaction. I did not feel perfect nor did I feel I was competent and complete. When the complaints are from others we can ignore them. We can bring to the fore a few extra flaws in that person and pacify ourselves. It is easy to find fault in others. It is easier to overlook our own faults and compare ourselves with others and feel good. The problem starts when the self begins to complain. That’s when knocking on doors outside of the self, for answers, becomes futile.  Something kept nagging, I continuously kept facing some physical aberration or the other which made me wonder and dig deep within.

Meditation introduced me to this ‘dig deep within’ and thankfully I am able to feel more ‘free’ and ‘self-aware’. I still am self -imprisoned, yet to break free totally, especially in the emotional attachment and ‘expectation from others’ category. But, meditation has made me aware of the simple fact that: ‘If I refuse to face you in my inside, I have to face you outside’ – P Rajagopalachari.

This sentence glares at me every time I feel intolerant, irritated, simmer with anger. Such feelings get actualized with some relationship issues or some physical ailment surfaces. This inner discontentment with the self reflects on the outside and triggers conflicts with family and friends or some health issue escalates and I am forced to confront my ‘inside’.

I meditate and learn that my discontentment with my inside is not a valid reason to misbehave with others outside. If my inside is resolved and I am brave enough to ‘know’ and tackle my inside, then the outside takes care of itself. So, as long as I refuse to face my inside, I will be forced to face it on the outside.

I need to get rid of this self -imprisonment, to be ‘free’ in the real sense.  And the prison is mine, so the first conscious step and the remaining journey too, the initiative to break free of these shackles needs to stem from me, and me alone.

 

 

Moodily Sweet

Moodily Sweet

‘Writing comes from you, what happens when there is no more ‘you’?’ – Dr. Paul Pearsal

I have not penned down a single line in the last two months and once again I am stumped. That’s the reason the above line springs to mind. All my writings, almost all, come from some personal experience, learning, reading or interaction with others and their experiences from which I learn. In a way, I can acknowledge that my writings are my mirror. They reflect my mood, state of mind or my level of understanding, growth and maturity.  Writing is my way of sharing my learning and also keeping myself busy. Me busy means a happy, cheerful, smiling me. A me with some purpose and a progressive goal for my tomorrows.

I have never thought of myself as the ‘author’ of my life. Author is one and one only, God. But, I can definitely be the editor of my life, and that’s what my writings help me improve; be a proactive, daily editor of my life…. Now, that brings me back to the first line! I have not written in more than a month.  Which brings me to my next question, had I stopped editing my life? Had my life become stagnant? Or had my life come to a utopian, changeless state? The answer is a big ‘NO’ to both. Neither is my life stagnant nor is my life utopian yet, so why had the editing come to a pause?! 

For every anecdote I share with you all, travelling down 4 decades of memory lane is exhausting, yet I can’t help it. Most of the baggage I am unloading now, or have started to unload in the recent past; I seem to have lugged it since ages. Like even this adjective ‘moody’; I remember wondering why I was called moody from the time I was probably 7 or 9 years old! Which is again 4 decades ago! Most of my family, friends and acquaintances described me as ‘Sweet natured’ and ‘moody’.  Sweet natured and moody seemed and still seem contradictory to me.  Moody and broody seem a likely combination. Sweet natured and smiling seemed to go together. Personally, I never thought I was moody. I was always smiling and sweet natured (that’s what I thought).

To bring a semblance to the above topic jumps; this phase of writing, not writing, lapsing into long sessions of oblivion and suddenly resurfacing and becoming very proactive; all this starkly highlighted the word ‘moody’. ‘Sweet’ was a polite addition (more to not hurt my feelings). Thus, a mature, unbiased look at the mirror did reveal a very moody and less ever- smiling pattern to me! Most of life oscillates between these two emotional states and thus it was no wonder that people described me as ‘moodily sweet’. Thus, the mystery about me unraveled itself after so many decades and I know where that adjective ‘moodily- sweet’ comes from.

No, no; I am not trying to recommend meditation yet again! (though this understanding and clarity is because of meditation). I am saying I understand myself better today and I try to change myself with a better understanding of why I need to make the change.  I now see the need to change myself for my own self and for my own mood management. Next time someone tries to describe me I aspire to be described as ‘sweet’ and not ‘moodily sweet’.

What I write comes from me; all the moodily sweet learnings make me the person I am today. In this sweet mood phase I am attempting two articles, both interconnected. I hope to explain my state of mind and also my learning. Meditation has helped me know myself and it continues to show me my true nature. I know what makes me moody and how I can temper my mood. Meditation helped me acknowledge that I am a ‘moody’ person. It is meditation alone which has enabled me to articulate myself. These writings, if they can help any one person enquire about meditation, it is half the job done for me. And the day one person joins the path to self- discovery and begins meditation, then I will consider myself a successful writer. My writings are my learnings and my teachings too.

‘It is my opinion that many really good teachers do not come from joyful households where all was easy. They come from a place of much pain and suffering, and they’ve worked through the layers to reach the place where they can now help others to become free. – Louise Hay’

Dublin Diaries – 3: TACSAI’ Tales –  Finally!

Dublin Diaries – 3: TACSAI’ Tales – Finally!

Writing about the Irish Independence took me through all the wrong alleys and made my last article a very serious one. I am keeping that part on hold and starting afresh on a lighter vein. So here comes, my Tacsai’ Tales.

I have already shared our first Taxi experience, on our way to the GNIB office (Immigration); the cheerful disposition our cabby had. Despite the horrible wind, rain and cold the taxi driver was cheerful, helpful and exceedingly smiling. That was the first time and I thought, he probably woke up on the right side of the bed, or had won a lottery, that’s why he could afford to smile through the unpleasant weather. Moreover, this weather must be like second nature to them so they can afford to be unconcerned was my last lame excuse.

Forget the weather and their ability to retain a cheerful demeanour through that unbecoming cold and extreme wind. That is just one tiny part. The other experiences I had with them reveal a ‘perfect character’. They exude a warmth which I have not been able to sense anywhere, world over. Not even in India, the country which is most known for its hospitality and giving nature.

Within a month of coming to this city my daughter and I bravely dropped off my son to the airport at 4:30am. This is such a feat for me because I would not have dared this even in India. I am very apprehensive about cab drivers, to travel alone in their company that too at such odd hours made me very afraid.  My daughter and I hailed a cab and gingerly tried to ‘see’ if the cabbie ‘looked’ safe or not. But all that was not necessary at all; the cabbie greeted me warmly (another thing I am still trying to get used to, they all greet you, wish you and smile with a natural ease) and started a simple conversation to put me at ease!

Cabbie: ‘Hello there! Early morning flight is difficult, eh?’

 Me: Smiled agreeing.

Cabbie: ‘This is the safest place, you can travel at any time and be safe. Nothing to worry in this country!’

I could only smile and nod. Yes, this is a safe place and the cabbie was reassuring me; helping me be brave and stop wringing my hands daughter out of nervousness.  In my flurry, I forgot the right turn to my house. The cabbie very patiently took an about turn, no show of temper or irritation.

One other instance that comes to mind is my first visit to my meditation centre. Like it always is; it was raining incessantly, horribly cold and was still dark at 7:45 a.m. Being a Sunday the roads were totally deserted. This time I was alone, not afraid anymore. I did carefully map the ashram address on my phone; yet the horrible rain and poor visibility made me nervous. I was unsure if I could ask the driver to hunt the exact gate, so that I need not have to step out in the rain and dark and find myself in the wrong gate! The driver himself took care of my predicament. He drove up and down the said road almost 4 times till we did not locate the exact gate. The huge gates were closed and I was actually embarrassed to ask him to wait for me, I wanted to check if the centre was open, else I could return home in the same cab! The cabbie read my mind; he waited till I did my cross checking and confirming, saw me safely inside the gate, wished me ‘Happy beneficial meditation’ and drove away with a smile.  How could my heart not flip for such genuine people?

They have a lovey sense of humour too. Once we (my husband and I) had to go to the social security office. After our work was done my husband headed straight to work and asked me to a taxi home. I was expecting he would drop me home and then go to work; so this change of plan mildly irritated me and I plonked myself into the taxi in a huff. The cabbie probably noticed the small altercation we had and the way I bundled into the taxi.

He cheerfully greeted me, ‘Lovely day, eh!’

I was in no mood to notice the ‘lovely day’ but not wanting to be rude I said, ‘Yes, it is! But my boss says I need to go home! So not so lovely anymore!’

Cabbie, ‘No young lady! You are the boss! How dare your man not obey the boss!’  

I already forgot my irritation and smilingly said, ‘No, no, in my country Man is the Boss, not the wife.’

Cabbie, ‘No young lady, you are wrong here, wife is the boss! Not the husbandJ! Like in my house; my wife is the Boss! World over women are the ‘Boss’!’

I started to laugh, his words did not apply to my house but they were so soothing and I still had hopeJ. 

He sweetly continued, ‘Look at me, we were in London, had a good job and life! My wife was bored there! She ordered that we move here, where the whole family lives! Now, I have to drive this taxi, earn for her!’

I laughed out loud now and asked,’ your wife must be working and earning too though?’

He turned back and gave me a grave look and said, ‘My wife is the Languishing Lady of luxurious shopping and lunches. That’s all that she does dear, believe me!’ I could not control my outburst anymore.

A cabbie informed me that Dublin (which means the ‘dark pool’) is the English name for ‘Baile Átha Cliath’, meaning “town of the hurdled ford“. He even tried to teach me some basic Gaelic.

Another cabbie said, ‘India and our country have a lot in common. We started the first rebellion against the British and Gandhi carried forward the baton to India.’

These are a few ‘Tacsai tales’. There are many more; every time I step into a cab I step out with some new knowledge or a smile on my face, or both.

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.