Friday, 27 June 2014

A Refreshing Walk Among Nature

Yes, like everything else, research now tells us walking among natural surroundings boosts creativity and reduces stress. Must the last of our pastimes be validated too?

'All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking'
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Any case, there I was on one late afternoon, enjoying a walk among the greens.The weather was just right: a light breeze blowing, rustling of tree leaves, the peculiar scent of the reddish-brown mud, bright butterflies flitting by and the chirping of birds was the only sound I could hear. I was all by myself. Idyllic setting! 

Enjoying these surroundings, drinking in all the sights, smells and sounds is a great experience: it helps me become one with nature and immerse myself in God's creation.

I must have walked for half an hour, lost in my own world when the noises began piercing the silence. A group of tumultuous young boys was running in toward me from the opposite direction. Laughter, shouting and the buzz of activity interrupted the tranquil landscape. I chose to continue waking on, knowing that they would walk past me in a short while, and let me enjoy my reverie once again.

One of the boys stopped and pointed at a large tree. He picked up a stone and hurled it at the tree. 
All hell broke lose then. He had stirred up a bee hive and the angered bees set after the boys. The terrified boys scampered away as fast as they could. I don't know whether they managed to outrun the bees or the the bees got to them first. I chose not to panic. I remained still. 

After a few minutes, things were back to normal and I walked on. I came across a small stream and sat on a large boulder watching the gurgling water. Couldn't help thinking of the incident. Of course, boys will be boys, I smiled to myself. Aren't we all often guilty of the same in our ways?

I realised that this incident was an excellent metaphor for the way our minds work. The walk among nature symbolises mindfulness, the ability to enjoy our immediate surroundings, take in the small joys, live in the now. One can excuse the small boys' misdemeanor to childish mischievousness.

Think about what we do to our minds. Do I need to be walking among the greens to be relaxed, fully enjoying the moment?

Thoughts are the honeybees that we ourselves stir up to destroy our tranquility.
Think we must, undoubtedly. However, is there any point in stirring up thoughts that rake up negative emotions, painful memories: that too without any provocation? Aren't we sometimes 'predisposed' to falling into this trap? Of trading away the peace of mind for an army of thoughts which will take us nowhere.

Sitting there, as I watched the stream flowing by , I said to myself: why don't we allow our past to go by us? Water which once passes downstream does not return, does it? Why do we choose to hold on to our past, refuse to let go of it?

Why then, do we this to ourselves almost everyday of our lives? If it is not the past or negative emotions, our next pastime is worrying about the future. I am guilty of this as any of you might be. To a certain extent, Meditation has helped me detach myself from such 'toxic thoughts' even when I am not meditating.

The reset button brings my serenity back.
A virtual walk in the woods, with or without the bees.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Father's Day Makes Me Feel So Special!

Two moments of life have been extra special. The first one was when the nurse handed over the bundle of joy to me at an unearthly hour: we were at the Hospital, my mind was in a stage beyond nervousness..around predawn, my baby was born.

'It's a girl' the nurse informed us. It was an anti climax of sorts. Mom and I were fervently wishing that Khyati would give birth to a baby girl. Sis and Khyati wanted a boy. Now here I was holding the little baby in my arms, I had prayed to God it be a girl and girl it was. She had been born without a fuss, just as we would have wanted. Maybe it was all the adrenalin in my system that had now drained me of all emotion. Happy? Yes. Delirious? No. Too benumbed for that.

About the second moment:The baby was less than a month old when I used to wrap her tightly

in a cotton cloth as many Indians do. It was evening time and I was pacing about in the room, holding her, the baby's head nestled against my shoulder. It was an exquisite feeling: realising that I was actually a father, she was my child, our child! That I had fathered a child at an advanced age (I had crossed forty at that time, Khyati thirty nine) made me value it more. For some reason, my connection to Diti was its most intense at that moment. I felt blissful holding the beautiful baby.

Life was never the same again after Diti's birth. I sensed I had to be more responsible, caring and sensitive to the family's needs.

Meanwhile, how swiftly the nine years have flown by is simply amazing! Watching her grow has been a source of joy and pride. Her first step, first words, her eagerly trying to form sentences....and my waiting for when she could have a meaningful conversation with me..

Vacations and activities have become centered around Diti. As I have been working from home since a number of years and my work hours are flexible, we get a lot of time to spend with each other. Being a Bipolar, I sometimes wonder if the child misses the life she would have otherwise spent with a 'normal' father? I comfort myself by reassuring myself that at least I am trying my very best to be a good father. She is not a demanding child, though. We have a playful, fun filled relationship. If I'm separated from her for even a few days, it's tough to bear.

I am sharing what I had posted on Facebook when Diti was on a long vacation last month and work pressures meant I could not join them. These words sum up my bonding with her.

Missing you Diti.
You and Khyati have been away just for a week,
yet the week seems stretched like a year
Have never been separated from you beyond a few days
Can't wait till you come back next week
Although I know you are having the time of your life,
Playing with snow which you have never set your eyes upon!
Away from the summer heat, surrounded by icy peaks
Your sweet voice on the phone is no solace
Craving to hear stories of excitement and fun!
Just can't wait for you, darling
those few days till I can hug you to my heart's content.
Until then, play on with the snow...

Thank you Khyati for a gift I'll ever cherish, thank you Diti, you made me a father.

Happy Father's Day!!

Friday, 6 June 2014

God, my Robot Anita and I

Anita, my personal robot keeps arguing with me on just about anything our minds can grasp. This time it was about whether God exists or not.

'Look, I am a child of science', she said with pride. 'Made in a sophisticated laboratory and powered by the wonders of technology. I believe what I see, what science can prove. My master is the one who created me. I don't believe your God exists'

I swiveled in my chair and pointing to a painting, asked Anita.
Do you see this? Describe what you see.

'It's just a portrait of a lady. Let me see..' She walked across the room to have a closer look.
'What's the big deal? It's just a piece of canvas mounted on a wooden frame.
Any case, weren't you trying to prove God's existence? Why are you side tracking the issue now?'

Be patient. What's on the canvas?

'There's oil paint: many hues, many layers of it'

Go on.

'Well, the subject is a semi clad woman: if she had  known that a man like you is ogling her, she's have had the sense to be dressed up! She's got two eyes, a face, two arms, two legs and what should have been covered if she had been half decent, two ------.'

That'll suffice, you see, we are a family blog.
Would you agree the lady is exquisitely beautiful?

Now this made see Anita see red. A woman is a woman even if she is a robot. Her vanity had been challenged~ 
she was a finely crafted, graceful piece of work herself.

'What's so beautiful about her? You men find almost every woman beautiful!'

I turned to my pretty vivacious, Sheilla, who had been listening to our banter in amusement while 
sitting by my side.  

Isn't the lady in the painting stunning? The artist's fine use of light and shadow, the infinitesimally delicate brush strokes.. Just look at her eyes, her half smile..she takes me to another world..sublime!
I smiled.

Our experience of God is similar. A bit like appreciating a fine piece of art.
Excessive analysis and logical thinking drowns the voice of the soul and distances us from God. The soul sees the picture in its entirety. The whole magnificence of it. The whole naked truth, as truth always is. The sheer natural beauty of it that it drinks in with love and awe.

We can experience God's beauty only through the eyes of our souls.

So, Anita, show me where is your soul. Did your creator gift you with one?

Saturday, 17 May 2014

A Momentous Day In The History Of Independent India

Narendra-Modi.  Pic courtesy

May 16, 2014 will go down as a day that could well change the fortunes of modern India forever: for the better. The General Elections have voted the BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) under the dynamic leadership of Narendra Modi, to power with a resounding majority.

Whereas the BJP needed 272 seats (out of the Lok Sabha's 543) for a clear majority, it won a stunning 282 on its own! As a pre-poll alliance, NDA (National Democratic Alliance), of which the BJP contributed a lion's share, tallied 334. The Congress suffered the ignominy of not even troubling three digits: it plunged to a historic low of 44 seats.

To put things in a perspective, in Uttar Pradesh alone the BJP beat the Congress' National tally by winning 71! Some of the big names bit the dust in this process.
This comprehensive infographic is a good guide to Ellections2014 Results

The stand outs of this win are:
  • Narendra Modi is set to be the first Prime Minister to have been born in independent India
  • Modi has led his party, the BJP, to its highest ever LS tally.
  • For the first time in 30 years since the 1984 elections, a single party has managed to secure an absolute majority.
  • His charismatic, focused leadership has been the key to the NDA's spectacular victory.
  • Modi cleverly leveraged the power of Social Media and the Internet on a scale unprecedented in the annals of election campaigning in India: this extended his reach to the youth who in turn became willing campaigners on his behalf. The build-up began more than six months before D-Day!
  • The results are a crushing blow to the ruling Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
  • While there were clean sweeps by BJP in Gujarat and Rajasthan, their traditional strongholds, the totally unexpected 71 seats in Uttar Pradesh have been a crucial swing in favour of the BJP.

Stats apart, what do the results signify?

After decades India has a stable government at the helm, unfettered by destructive coalition politics. The outgoing UPA govt. often lamented about how 'compulsions of a coalition' hampered their decision making and stalled progressive reforms.

One can accuse Modi of anything but indecision. His three terms as Chief Minister of Gujarat have been marked by a strong administration that has facilitated rapid growth of infrastructure and industrialisation of the state: a development model that has been the envy of its neighboring states.

Modi's inspiring story of a meteoric rise from a tea vendor to successful CM of Gujarat and now finally, Prime Minister of India is the stuff that could fire the imagination of fiction writers. This has also endeared him to the populace as him being 'one of us'.

Most importantly though, it is his spotless, corruption free image that makes Modi stand apart and has possibly been the single biggest factor in his landslide win (I say 'his' win because without his charismatic leadership, brilliant track record to support his agenda, administrative skills, the BJP stood little chance of scoring this big.) The UPA-2's rule was marked by one corruption scandal after another. The fiasco of the Commonwealth Games, the 2G auctions to 'coal-gate': all of these scams ran into tens of thousands of crores: a colossal drain on National resources.

Added to this, poor governance under the UPA, callousness toward the needs of the country, sky rocketing prices and economic policies (or rather the lack of them) that crippled growth had alienated the electorate to a point of no return. Therefore in addition to being a 'Pro-Modi' mandate, which it undoubtedly is, it is also a resounding 'No' to the Congress led UPA. All the scams and non-performance made the path to New Delhi easier for Modi.

As a people, what should we expect and demand from our to be Prime Minister?

  • Firstly, secularism has been the foundation of India: every effort needs to be made to make the minorities feel secure, give them a reassurance that they are wanted in India.
    The radical elements within the alliance as well as those who lend the NDA critical support from outside it are a concern. 
  • Often in the past, brilliant opportunities have been frittered away by Governments who have abused their majorities in the LS. Under the leadership of a visionary like Modi, India is at the cusp of an incredibly exciting time. His biggest advantage is not having to depend on any coalition partner to get important legislation cleared. Also, his undisputed leadership of his own party is a big plus.
  • Long overdue economics reforms need to be addressed at the earliest:those pertaining to Insurance and Pension sectors, Labour laws, Land reforms, boosts to FDI, Power sector reforms. Transparent, fair and stable policies will stimulate growth.
  • For long, entrepreneurs and industry have been crushed under vexed taxation laws, land acquisition issues and most importantly, poor infrastructure. Massive investments neede in Power, Ports, Roads and Highways and Airport areas.
  • The bugbear of India which has haunted the common man the most at every level has been corruption. Although it is virtually impossible to weed out this malaise from a people who have been brought up on giving and receiving bribes to make things easier, the least that could be done is that the people at the helm are seen to be honest.
After the dust has settled, Modi will first have to ensure that the egos within party are suitably dealt with while forming the cabinet. The next step would be to undertake a massive repair job: undoing the extensive damage wreaked on the country under UPA's misrule.

A challenge of mammoth proportions. If any single person could take India to the next level of progress, leapfrog over the quagmire it finds itself in, Modi is that man.

Mr. Modi, over a billion people's hopes, including mine, are now pinned on you.
As a people, we too have a responsibility~ having given you such a stunning mandate, we need to rise above partisanship and divisive interests and support you in the immense task ahead of you.

This time around, I have a feeling you will rise to the occasion. Looking forward to a resurgent India!

Jai Hind!

Friday, 9 May 2014

A Fine Day To Express Gratitude

My sister and I share almost the same values yet manage to contest just about anything the other says! 

'Why does one have to express gratitude is beyond my understanding'
She challenged me. 'gratitude felt from the heart is good enough'

As usual, our thoughts differ on this one too! 
To me, Gratitude, one of the most powerful enablers, has three stages.

  • Acknowledging a person's contribution, however small it is in your life
  • Feeling it from deep within.
  • Expressing it: how else do we communicate to the recipients?
    Imagine deeply respecting and loving your parents but never thanking them for what they have done for you!
" If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough” ~ Meister Eckhart
What makes this a special day to be grateful? Actually, everyday is just about perfect for expressing gratitude. Have been wanting to get down to this on my Blog for a long time, decided there has been enough of the procrastination. (Grateful for my ability to act now!)

1) Grateful for the abundance in my life, that I do not have to scrounge for food, have a roof above my head and in a country where the quality of life of the majority is abysmal, our family has at least the basic material comforts we would need.

2) Grateful for all the wonderful teachers in my life. Some in a formal role at school (one in particular who towered about the rest of them, Brother Murphy) and in college (Principal Kodolikar), others who taught me great lessons of life without being assigned any role.

3) Grateful for my uniqueness. 
That I am the only one of my kind in this universe. With all my imperfections, my skills, my strengths: I am me, would not trade myself for any body else. 

4) Grateful, eternally, to my late uncle: (do read the tribute to this great man in the linked tribute!) for taking care of us when we needed you the most. Not a night passes by without you blessing me in my dreams.

5) Grateful for my challenges. They made me humble and compassionate, outward looking from the self centered me which I originally was.

6) Grateful to my wonderful immediate and extended family including my cousins, aunts and uncles.. all of you have supported me through thick and thin, the very reason I have not turned completely altruistic: your love and my responsibility to all of you make me pragmatic and a realist. Mom, Sis, my wife and daughter: love you all!

7) Grateful to all the Doctors who have kept me alive, helped me live a life as full as I am now

8) Grateful to my selfless Mentors and Gurus: special mention here to magnanimous souls who are shaping my life: 
  • Jennifer Sertl, "may your story be fire and we'll wish for wind . . ."                    Grateful for your encouragement and inspirational mentoring!
  • Dr.Amit Nagpal, Personal Branding Guru, more power to you!
  • Puneet Bhatnagar , we did start the fire!! (apologies to Billy Joel).

9) Grateful for my ability to embrace the 'big' in life, to rise above issues and problems that could have bogged me down, to instead dream big, bigger beyond my own dreams!

10) Grateful to all my colleagues and associates of my previous careers, who are still very much a part of my life. You gave me the belief that I could compete with the best, your expectations of me raised the bar.

11) Grateful for the one skill that has liberated me more than any other: writing and of course, you readers: your feedback and support has helped me chisel out any doubts about my ability.

12) Grateful to Social Media! The thousands of friends and connections on various platforms, the groups and communities: you have enriched my intellect, made me wiser, expanded my universe manifold.

13) Grateful for the ability to be of service to a community that desperately needs it what with an estimated eighteen million Indians afflicted with the disabling Bipolar Disorder. Having recovered from it, I am now in a position to share my insights and leverage support for this cause: of course, it does not at the borders of this country. The vision is global

14) Grateful for my ability to take risks, huge risks at times. Have switched careers, taken life changing decisions, seemingly impulsively but more often than not, my gut instinct was borne out by the outcome.

15) Grateful for my ability to smile, be empathetic, find calmness through meditation and reflection.

16) Grateful for all the resources that shaped my thinking: all those inspiring books, movies, conversations, comic books, places...

17) Grateful for my ability to forgive and move on. It so happened that in my childhood, I had expended the bulk of anger and grudges on my late father whom we were separated from.
Maybe, there was no more anger or resentment left in me. Without being forgiving how can one be grateful?

18) Grateful, finally, to you God. You lifted me up during all crises, send me guardian angels who I only now recognise as Your messengers. You led me on the path of spiritual cleansing, a path that made me rise above the entrapment of this material world, made me realise what was truly worth cherishing.
You enlightened me about my purpose in life, a purpose that I have embraced with relish.

 After having completed this Blog post, 
I turned to Sis.
'Before I forget, am grateful to you.' I said 'You stood by me like a Rock of Gibraltar through thick and thin and continue to guide me. Without your prompt intervention, I doubt I would have survived my health crises on so many occasions. Your selflessness, wisdom and sensitivity inspire me. Thank you!'
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