Sunday, 2 December 2018

HOPE YOU HAVEN’T CHOSEN HELL.



I was at a very quiet and peaceful coffee shop sipping the hot beverage and taking in the fragrance of the crushed beans. In the background, soft beautiful songs could be heard and they certainly enhanced the beauty of the environment. The song which got my thoughts rolling was not one of the kind one gets to hear at a coffee shop but strangely here it was being played; and as my ears took in the words my mind began to think. The song was ‘God’s Love,’ the one which is mostly sung as a nursery rhyme for children. As I looked around, I could see people present smiling; perhaps because each of us was transported to a classroom of the past and childhood memories have a carefree breeze around them. The words were as follows, ‘God’s love is so wonderful. So high, you can’t go over it. So deep, you can’t go under it. So wide, you can’t go around it. God’s love is so wonderful.’ With every sip of the hot beverage I took, I couldn’t but help wonder that if this love of God was so very wonderful, why was God’s earth in trouble of perishing. Why was there suffering and pain for some, while others had their cups filled with fun? And then suddenly an answer came hitting me hard in my ears.   
Love demands freedom. Be it any relationship, if it is on the basis of love then it desires freedom. Even a married couple needs their own personal time of freedom to enjoy. Similarly God or the Unknown Power or the Force behind creation allows us to defy, discard or rebel against what is right or correct in the original sense. It’s not the ‘Go to hell’ kind of approach, but one which allows us to ‘Choose our own hell, if we so want it.’
Sounds strange because it makes us wonder how anyone could ever choose a different way from that of goodness, happiness and harmony. However strange it may sound, the thing is that people do love hell and prefer to live in it on a day to day basis. Every time we use words of bitterness, anger and hate, every time we ridicule someone, we know that we are doing the wrong thing but we still continue to do it and live in the vibes of negativity. It’s a personal hell which we make, enjoy it for a little while and then crib about it later. It’s an addiction which seems fun momentarily and then has lasting painful effects.

Religions offer us a capsule remedy for getting to heaven or hell; the capsule being rituals. But rituals can't efface hatred and war; it's only kindness, love and peace which could help and make a heaven right where we are. 

According to the song, God's love is infinite, but it gives man ultimate freedom to make his own heaven or choose his own hell. He is a loving father who always gives his children all they wish for. He warns and informs about the negatives but if the child so insists, then the father perhaps cries at the wrong preference; but never takes away the power to choose. There is no might or manipulation in love. It always has room for decision making. We always get what we want.
Picture Credits: Google

Saturday, 24 November 2018

REMEMBERING TUKARAM OMBLE - WE NEED TO ASK 'THE QUESTION'.


In his random thoughts of a one page short story 'The Question', Rabindranath Tagore dwells on a simple and yet the most thought provoking question a child can ask about his mother.
When the father comes back from the crematorium, his seven-year-old son asks him, "Where is Mother?" The father pointing to the sky says, "In heaven." The father then cries himself to sleep but the world goes on as usual. "The lantern glowed dimly at the door. A pair of lizards walked the walls." The child however remains completely bewildered and longs to ask someone about the way to heaven. But whoever knows the whereabouts of death? "The sky failed to respond; only the tears of the silent night twinkled in the stars."

Today, even after ten long years, assistant sub-inspector Tukaram Omble's family continues to not celebrate any festival. This brave man had succumbed to the bullets of Kasab when he had daringly pounced on the terrorist to overpower him. His daughter even today feels very lonely and misses him every day.

Death of parents due to illness or accidents or terrorism is a crime against their little children. These deaths offer no explanation to the children and many a times they go into denial of facing the truth. It simply becomes indigestible.

If we as a family of humanity wish our world to be a blissful and harmless place, we need to take care of our children. We need to keep the parents because without parents children grow up in an insecure world. Their emotions get blown to pieces when they lose a parent. Their grief gets an overcoat of anxiety and soon anxiety gets buttoned up in depression.

Whenever there is a terrorist attack anywhere on the planet, the world of a child gets shaken. No amount of security then feels safe; no amount of protection gives the feeling of a sanctuary. As Tagore says, "The houses all around, with every light switched off, looked like shadowy sentries in a demon-land, sleeping even as they stood guard."
Pic Credits: Google

Thursday, 22 November 2018

THERE IS ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY



Whenever we would sit facing the waves, she would have a standard dialogue; “I feel like walking into the sea.” Initially I had felt curious on hearing such words. ‘Was she so troubled to kill herself?’, was a primary thought that flashed through my mind; but when those same words would get echoed with smiles and giggles, I realized that she was not suicidal. Thank God for that! Perhaps it was a desire to get soaked in the rush of waves, to be drenched in salt or to be hugged in a smooth embrace. Honestly I never got to the core of the reason and the best part is that she is alive and thriving today.

For me however, it was never a walk into the sea. What fascinated me was standing on the sand and allowing the waves to come and massage my feet. It was an intimate moment with nature. As I stood there, the universe spoke to me secrets of the transient nature of life. Like the waves of the ocean, life too came with great force and then suddenly receded. There was nothing left and then again there was new birth; the cry of living could be heard again. It was so very distinct from the sounds of parting. There was always a sorrowful departure and then a joyful arrival.

As a child on a beach holiday, standing on the wet sand was always exciting. I had to keep moving my feet to prevent them from sinking deeper and deeper into the soft and wet mud underneath. The clapping of hands and the screams of joy came so naturally and energetically. Some waves came big and strong to knock me off my balance and taught me to stand strong, solid and firm.  And when I learnt that, even though the water engulfed me right up to my waist, I continued to stand unmoved.

Troubles too like these waves come to entice us with fear. We scream and shout and often clap our hands to draw attention of everyone around us at our plight. If though, in that performance we forget to stand firm, we get knocked off real hard. But then the waves do recede and we get another opportunity. Isn’t that wonderful?
Pic credits: Google

Saturday, 22 September 2018

LET'S CONCENTRATE ON 'MADE IN INDIA'.



On 20th September 2018, the Supreme Court told the media to tread cautiously in reporting rape. However it admitted that though there cannot be a blanket ban on reporting sexual abuse, molestation cases and rape cases, there has to be a line drawn somewhere to prevent sensationalising such incidents.

About a month back the world heard the screams of little girls from the Muzaffarpur shelter home in Bihar. Overnight this place of asylum became a place of alarm to be investigated into. A place intended to give refuge to the abandoned and the neglected, had sexual predators roaming free in it. The stories which began to leak out of the walls of lust shocked the world momentarily and then like always the world turned to look at other sensational stories. Media today bombards our breakfast, lunch and dinner tables with stories which give us indigestion and gradually build our immunity to horrible feeds.

The story of the 34 of the 42 girls, who had sought shelter in this horror home, was one of being drugged, violated physically, tormented and raped. Even a disabled four year old wasn’t spared the lust of some disgraceful men. Such savagery couldn’t have been possible without the loud screams of the victims breaking through the walls and today we are told that the residents living in the vicinity were probably conscious of the crime committed and yet preferred to let their conscience hide under a cloud of fear of the powerful few who often rule the many nincompoops.
The Muzaffarpur case is a sharp directive to the position of women and young girls and sadly even little baby girls in India. Being a developing country it has focussed on a lot of external developments. The present government has in fact invited the world to ‘Make in India’; but what our government needs to pay attention to is what is already ‘Made in India’ – HER MEN! A mass surgery needs to be done on the pervert eyes of many men of this land. I assume that I would be right in saying that there will not be even a single girl or woman in my country who has not been winked at, touched inappropriately, rubbed against in crowded public transport or stripped naked with dissolute eyes. Every woman has sometime or the other experienced any one or all of the above nauseating moments.

It is here, not the ‘Fault in our Stars’ kind of a story but ‘Fault in our Upbringing’ that has brought us to the level of transforming refuge homes into repulsion homes where a  place set up for protecting the unprotected becomes a ghost house as every inmate has a haunting story to share from there.
The world is evolving and her women are surfacing to be loud and bold. Women are today encouraged to be confident and ready to fight for their rights. And so we see them at various junctures demanding their freedom to wear short skirts or give up on the Dark Secrets, or to put it mildly, the traditions which are painful like FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and the like. Since years now, Indian families have learnt to be proud of their daughters. The number of baby girls aborted or thrown into public waste bins has definitely lessened; but this progress has been one-sided. While the girls have had an upward journey, the boys have been neglected and a large number of them are yet struck up in their past dominance. The ‘He for the God and She for the God in Him’ sketch in the heads of a majority of the male members today desperately needs a face lift.
Generation after generation now, a majority of our boys are stuck in the era of the Sati Age. In those days young widows would be forced to jump into fires which consumed the body of their old-men- husbands and today also, worse still, little boys, young men and old men continue to burn the emotions of many a women.

However, not all men are left in the age old backyards, for instance an ex-student of mine urged me to write this post. He was horrified enough by the Muzaffarpur case to push me to write this piece. Probably he was taught right by his parents to respect women. Probably his mother taught him to cook like his sister, to take care of his younger siblings at home, to appreciate working women in his surroundings, to wash dishes and to take care of an ailing grand-parent. He was probably taught that all responsibilities had to be shared by both men and women. Probably he was taught to set his way of living right, to prioritize the other, even if she wore a skirt, tight jeans, a burkha or a bikini.
Today, I think that the Supreme Court needs to warn all parents to bring up their sons like Gayaz Khan, my ex-student. We have a few such Gayaz Khans, but the need is for many more in order to eradicate horror homes like Muzaffarpur.

Thank-you Gayaz.

Image Credit: Google

Thursday, 20 September 2018

THE ENTANGLED TIGER



As a child I had heard a story about a tiger who wanted to be the king of the jungle. This tiger was miserable and clothed in jealousy. He wanted all the love, respect and glory the Lion King got from all the other animals in the forest. His desire made him mad with envy and he tried to convince all the other animals in the forest about his greatness. But he realized that he could do that only if he demeaned the lion and so he tried hard to do just that. He like threw acid on the character of the lion and some foolish animals heard him out and believed his lies; but the wise ones kept a safe distance from the tiger’s burning jealous desires. As usual in stories evil cannot supersede good and so was the case with this tiger and lion story. Depressed about his inability to be one over the king of the jungle, he decided to leave the place and search for some other destination where he could rule like a king and get the same amount of respect he so much envied. He went to the sea and pondered about swimming across to reach an island where he could be the alone king, like the lion. He soon realized his incompetency but just then a whale swan towards him and asked him where he had wanted to go. The creature then obliged him by giving him a splashy ride through the waters to the island. On reaching the island, the tiger felt his stomach hungry for food; but there was nothing over there for him to eat. He had to endlessly wait there, a captive of  his own thoughts, till a ship anchored there and a few men came and put him in a cage and took him away to be shown to the world as their priced collection. He was now fed well but he had become a prisoner behind bars never to be set free to live a life of freedom.

This story probably holds an answer to the envious and jealous people in our world. They are like the tigers who want to be treated like the lions but have neither the royal capacity nor the self worth. They then go about being a menace to civilization and finally get caught in the prison of contempt.

Amazingly, the story revolves round the tiger who is the villain of the tale and not the lion who in fact is the king of the jungle. The question here therefore is not all about the tiger. The story teller doesn’t speak about the lion because it is well understood that the lion is the crux of the tale. I suppose the writer has not spoken about the lion because the lion in himself is great and needs no push or pull to hold ground. He is the modern day ‘I Am’. He stands unshakable and knows too well that the tiger is neurotically insecure.  He is like the eagle that remains unperturbed by the small storms and holds the ability to fly above them when the tiger is busy creating drama of pure lack of self-confidence.

The sad part of the story is that the tiger is a tiger by birth and no matter what, he can never bring about a transformation in his being, but the good news for man is that: “Being male is a matter of birth. Being a man is a matter of age. But being gentleman is matter of choice.” – Vin Diesel
Photo credits:Google

Sunday, 16 September 2018

CAPTIVATING NETS OF THE WORLD



It was in the year 1993, March 12th when a few college girls had planned a movie at the Satyam Theatre at Century Bazaar, Mumbai. This was a secret plan of theirs without the knowledge of their parents. To their bad luck, when after the movie they were waiting at the bus stop opposite Century Bazaar to go back home, the world of their parents got shaken up as the place where they were standing got blown up with RDX explosives. This was the worst ever terror attack faced by this city.

A friend of theirs had however not agreed to their plan and stayed back because she had felt it not right to go without informing her parents like they had decided to do. Till to date she thanks herself for the decision she had taken 25 years back because today unlike her friends she is alive to talk about it.

This temptation of lying had a sad ending. But don’t we as human beings often fall prey to temptations of lying and deceiving others, little knowing that the real battle is inside of us? We very well know what’s right and wrong and yet get pulled into the erroneous because of luring enticements.

 I recently came across a story about a little girl who gives us a very unique and invaluable perspective of living life beautifully. She expresses her everyday struggles and happenings in prayer to God. Though at the surface, all her struggles appear very naive and charming, they mimic the struggles every adult faces on a day to day basis. Like arresting nets, attractions imprison us in them forever. To keep ourselves safe then, we too like the little girl need to be more prayerful and have more conversations with God and wait on Him to cover us with His peace.

At one point, she talks to God telling Him how angry she is at her sister. She puts all the blame on her sister as she complains about her and expresses her desire for revenge. As the conversation grows, she realizes that she has been very petty to fight over silly things and begins to understand that she needs to be tougher, kinder and more uncomplaining to become a better person.

In the adult world too, people suffer from similar troubles. Holding on to bitterness and being revengeful or nursing a grudge against someone who has hurt us comes easily to adults. Hitting back or being bitter comes as largely natural to most people. Such small feelings become a big struggle for many. Petite unpleasant situations outside don’t take time to become big internal struggles. But the story tells us to take a correct approach to problem solving.  The little girl gradually decides to take no quick and rash decision as a backlash. Instead, she talks to God and waits to hear Him talk back to her. She patiently stays peaceful till His peace cleanses her negative emotions.

This story encourages us to have a realistic dialogue with God and not get weighed down in misery in various captivating nets of the world. As humans, we face conflicts and do things which we later feel sorry about; these could vary from person to person. For a college student it could be to attend class or bunk; for a young woman who has made the decision to lose weight, it would be whether to eat an extra piece of cake or leave it untouched; or it could be the keeping up with fashion; and deliberately wearing something in trend but unsuitable and uncomfortable. It could also be a longing to belong to a group for the desire to be accepted by people who appear to be bold, attractive and forceful. That’s obviously a clearly wrong choice of companionship and a very dangerous up gradation indeed!

These are then the times, where like the little girl in the story, we need to be more prayerful and have conversations with God.

“Watch with me and pray lest the Tempter overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak.” Mark 14:38

picture credits: Google

Saturday, 1 September 2018

LISTENING TO THE MELODY OF LOVE


Many believe that Krishna lived a full life of a 125 years and was 89 years old when the battle of Kurukshetra was fought. The Mausala Parva, one of the shortest books in the Mahabharata, describes the demise of Lord Krishna in the 36th year after the Great War had ended. It also mentions how the city of Dwarka got submerged when the sea broke its boundaries and rushed into it covering everything in it. It was only in a matter of a few moments before it all got over. There are many debates regarding Krishna’s existence as a reality or a myth. Some scholars believe that it was the Europeans who in the 19th century began questioning the beliefs the Hindus had held for millennia, because they wanted to spread Christianity. However, without getting into the intricacies of history and without bothering to get involved in the jargon of the historians, we could allow ourselves to profit from the life or story of Krishna as an analogy of living.

The story of Krishna tells us that he was born in a dark cell where his parents had been imprisoned and yet when he was born, the guards waiting at the cell fell asleep and the locked doors miraculously opened. Despite the turmoil regarding the actuality or the nonexistence of krishna, if we were to take his image as a symbol of Awareness, we could be benefited tremendously. In spite of all the darkness of man’s heart and the darkness of the world created by man’s selfish and destructive nature, if he were to allow Krishna- AWARENESS, to be born in his heart, he would be able to destroy the darkness of negative thought processes in which he has confined himself like in a prison cell. It would definitely not be an easy task because he would have to break open the door of Ego which had successfully imprisoned him for long; always thinking about himself and about the people or things which concerned him. The Chains which had kept him locked up were never gentle. They had the locks of pride of his belonging to particular Caste, Religion or even his Profession. These were old and unused locks which had collected rust from generations of ignorance and could only be opened with the Key of Knowledge which would need the oil of Understanding to wash off the rust and also hammer out their stubbornness with the help of Awareness.

Krishna is often depicted dancing with beautiful women; the Gopis who leave all their duties the moment they hear the music of his flute which never fails to invite the melody of love in their hearts. Today our ears have got accustomed to the sounds of war which often are the cause of lust, greed and anger; here we once again need awareness as the need of the hour, which is to shut our ears to sounds of hate and open them to the music of love. And like Krishna, we too don’t need to be young or strong in body to fight a battle with the wrong because it is not our age that determines whether we must fight or not, or can fight or not; it is our principles which give us the strength to face the conflicts of life bravely. If we could help ourselves to develop this Krishna consciousness and build the Krishna strength, we too would continue to live in the minds and hearts of people long after many Dwarkas were drowned in time.
HAPPY JANMASHTAMI. MAY ALL EARS LISTEN TO THE MELODY OF LOVE.
Picture Credits: Google

Thursday, 30 August 2018

RELATIONSHIP DETOX


I came across a strange concept of ex-cravings today. Always having associated the word ‘craving’ with food, it was puzzling to understand the prefix ‘ex’ with it.

I learnt later that just as when on a diet or a fast, one could experience cravings for food; one could similarly also experience cravings when one had closed a relationship chapter. The desire or the need to once again indulge in talks, or the need for proximity would be natural but they would only open a probable can of worms shut tight otherwise and kept away for good.

It would however depend upon the reasons for which the relationship was severed. If it had been too painful and bitter in the past and had crossed limitations of forgiveness or forgetfulness, then it wouldn’t make much sense in reliving it in hope, since it would in all probability lead to despair once again and this time the misery could come twice over. Yes, distance does make the heart grow fonder but some distances are equally important for the health of the heart.

The question however is, what if the ex-cravings began to get too loud and demanding? Well, just as one needs a detox diet for the cleansing of an abused system, a detox in relations is equally needed and if this is not done and the abuse continues, it could be detrimental for the system’s functioning.

Every relationship if not built on the cornerstone of love, would sometime or the other prove a failure. It is therefore important to differentiate between love and dependence. A dysfunctional relationship would be shattering and therefore it would be important to recognize one’s self worth. Improving on one’s self-perception would be of great help to elevate the intrinsic value buried under the weight of depression. It is also important to remember that just as we demand respect from others for ourselves, we also need to get the same admiration from our self for ourselves.

We need to let go of those who have hurt us and not cling to them in hate. After all, rolling in the muck is no way in which we can clean ourselves.

So a real detox from an unhealthy relationship would happen when you would gather courage to stand up and take a walk; away from pain.
Picture Credits: Google

Thursday, 9 August 2018

STILLNESS IS A RETREAT TIME WITH YOURSELF




Stop! Don’t let the world move on you and crush you in its speed.
Eckhart Tolle has said that when we lose touch with our self, obviously due to too much of external activities, we lose our self in the world. This overwhelming world outside, in which a large number of us want to be participating, has actually proved to be the cause of anxiety to many. This world is like a racing car which crashes on us when we lose control of it. The result is not only physical damage, but also emotional and sometimes worse still, a mental one.

This result oriented society seems to be driving many on us crazy. It has injected us with the drive to collect everything in large numbers and at a quick pace; even when it has really no value for us and we long to go slow. It’s simply probably the ‘more syndrome’ at work here. Some of us have got onto this bullet train of accumulation of degrees, success or power and strangely to a certain extent have realized that they don’t make sense; but now, we are unable to get off this speeding train. It sure would need courage to jump off this speedy and noisy worldly cacophonous machine and sit still and silent in nature.

Such accelerated lifestyle honestly gets us nowhere. We need to not only understand but also accept that our movement not necessarily gets us somewhere. In fact, our society has confused motion with progress. As Alfred A. Montapert says, “A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” The question we now need to ponder over is, ‘what does progress mean to us individually?' If all activity is done with the intention of reaching a satisfactory goal, then a cushioned bed should help better in the comforts of rest than a plain mat. However, a stressed mind roughing up its mental peace to gain the rich couch may have troubled sleep, but a simple tranquil mind may have heavenly slumber on a coarse rug instead. It’s the vision and perspective of happiness here that makes all the difference.

A restless mind is often tossed on the rough sea of life while gathering its materials of comforts; but a silenced mind is like an anchor that saves one from self-destruction. The Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzu put this as, “When there is silence, one finds the anchor of the universe with oneself.”
Picture credit: Google

Sunday, 5 August 2018

BEING FRIENDS WITH YOURSELF



This friendship day, let’s be friends with ourselves too. The ways of the world today have made many of us hate ourselves. Let us therefore become our best friend, an intelligent one who can tell us the difference between what we need and what we want and not just make us want what the world wants us to want; a friend who will always be there with us and never leave us with feelings of loneliness. How often have we heard people say, “I hate myself for what I am”? We have always been taught to forgive and forget but have continued to be harsh with ourselves. It’s great to have friends whom we love but it’s equally good and much needed to recognize our self worth and inculcate self respect.

Of course it takes time to build friendship with our self and work on intelligently towards respecting it. Many of us may have been insulted by many camouflaged incompetent people, who out of envy or simply their habit of putting others down caused us an almost irreparable damage. They probably did their job to perfection when planting seeds of lack of confidence in us. Well, we need to recycle that waste generated in us to get the best by unlearning self detestation and replacing it with self respect. We are not worthless, undeserving or not amiable just because we are too dark skinned or too thin or too fat or too tall or too short or just too different in all ways. We need to give time to ourselves and value ourselves.

Our intelligent inside has been neglected enough in the gathering of external friends, and we have almost forgotten that there is someone within who wants to talk to us and guide us. Many friends outside are like dots on an art paper which we keep connecting in the hope of getting a perfect picture. It often crumbles though.

This reminds me of a lovely story of a student who once went up to his Master and asked, “Teacher, tell me how many friends does a man need? Would one be enough or many are needed?” The Master smiled and pointed to an apple tree in the orchard and said, “I’ll give you the answer but before that bring me an apple from the highest branch of that tree there.”  This made the student sad because the fruit was too high for him to reach. So the Master told him to take help from his friends. The student then called a friend who came readily to lend his shoulders. Standing on the shoulders of his willing friend, the student attempted to reach the target but was unsuccessful. The addition of friends began. One after another they made a pyramid to reach up to the highest branch. But the apple was yet too high to reach and the student had by now run out of friends. Also, due to exhaustion, the pyramid too crumbled.

The Master looking at the failed experiment, smiled and asked the student if he had got the answer to his question. The student nodded and said, “Yes sir, I have understood that man needs as many friends as he can to solve all kinds of problems he may face in life” and with a smile he added, “such as in this case, to reach the apple.”
The Master shook his head in disappointment and said, “Oh no! You didn’t need so many friends to reach you to the top by sacrificing their shoulders and go through physical pain. You only needed one good and smart friend who would understand that you needed a ladder!”

May be we need to think about where we are heading with the pyramids of friendships we are building today and ignoring the one inside us who is waiting to help us when we are alone. The pyramid out there looks wonderful, but will it stand the test of time or will it crumble under the weight of trials life often offers? Probably like the Master said, we need an intelligent friend; the one who is within us always and waiting to be acknowledged to help us reach the top. Perhaps we need a friend who can help us by bringing a ladder of understanding to recognize our own worth. This friendship day let us then look forward to meeting a friend who will introduce us to the one waiting in the interior to help us be acquainted with him instead of leading us to drown in a tsunami of acquaintances?


PIC CREDITS: GOOGLE

Sunday, 15 July 2018

BEWARE THE TALE TWISTERS



 There are stories that change the brain and yet there are brains that change stories. There are story tellers and there are story twisters. Stories can be used to enhance understanding of life. In fact they are the best teachers in the world. Sadly though, there are people who strive to make waste even out of the best. My last post on the sad situation of our present day education system which is stifling the natural growth of our children, led me to understand a group of people who promote suicide by romanticising it. An artistic depiction in my post of a child metaphorically described to be a free bird in heaven who desired to come to earth, took a wrong turn with a reader. The line was, ‘Rabindranath Tagore had perhaps envisaged the troubles of this little child long ago when she was probably a tiny free bird flapping her way through heaven wondering if our planet would be a good place to visit. Obviously her choice proved her wrong.’ An intelligent, angry and suffering reader brought it to my knowledge that there are people out there who are made to believe that angels come down to earth and get so dissatisfied down here that they commit suicide to shorten their visit. It may sound dreamy to some but it’s definitely not a pleasant romanticism.


My next thought was regarding the why and the how of the inception of an idea so romantically destructive to be born in the mind of individuals to convince weaker minds to embrace death. My search led me to an interesting story from the Hindu Mythology. In the story, there is Narada, a Vedic sage mentioned in the Puranas who is famous and known in the Hindu traditions as a travelling musician and storyteller. He is the one who is often heard carrying news as well as enlightening wisdom. The story is about a day when this sage happens to hear the gods and the angels in heaven expressing their desire to visit the earth because they feel that their life in heaven is quite boring when in contrast the people of the earth seem to have a lot many things to enjoy. Narada understands that unless they see the reality of the planet, they will not be convinced that their heaven is more peaceful and a better place to be in and so we see the picnic arranged. When the whole lot of foreigners come down to our settlement, they get a shock of their life when they see people conniving to get to one another. The deception, lusts, anger, frustrations, vengeance, hatred and sorrows of the earth people make them realise that we humans are like birds captured in golden cages of wealth and physical comforts and that we have as victims of the fashions of the world, trimmed our wings self-destructively and now are unable to enjoy the most simplistic joys of nature . Sorrowfully and disgustedly they then leave to return to their heaven. 
The gist of the story here is that though the earth has a lot of apparent joyful attractions on it, it also has a lot of self-inflicted as well as people-inflicted pain and sorrow on it. To twist this understanding and make people believe that those who find it difficult to live over here are probably angels or gods from heaven and need not continue to live over here and wouldn’t be wrong to desire to go back to their original home is a manipulative plot of the evil to destroy a lovely life. Life is a gift which must be cherished and worked hard upon to make better every day.

If we are made to believe that suicide will put a stop to any chances of our life getting worse, then we need to also know that while considering suicide, we are shutting all possibilities of our life from getting better.

There is a thin line between truth and fiction. Truth is bare and naked and fiction wears a transparent cloth. The reader of the story therefore has to look deep to see truth through the translucence beauty of the narrative. Creative writings often have psychological symbolism. The descriptions are to be read, not literally but metaphorically. My tiny free bird’s realisation that the earth was not what she had figured out in her mind, was an attempt to understand  it as a place of troubles on it and not just some weekend resort full of fun and frolic. Existence is a full course meal; the presence of bitter gourd on our plate can never however affect the taste of chocolate in our mouth.

Life is beautiful, never think of destroying it. Work on it to make it better each day instead of tearing it down. Live to tell your story and help others. 




Wednesday, 11 July 2018

WHEN THE SKIES BREATHED A SOULFUL NOTE



When the 14 year old sat on the 8th floor of her residential building in Kandivali, I wonder what thoughts must have run through her mind just before she took the plunge from that height to end a beautiful life. What problems could a ninth grade student studying in a good private school have faced to take such a drastic step? Was the burden of her bag of text books too much on her frail shoulders? Had she fallen in love at that early an age and then experienced a heart-break just like they show in films? Did she face an unpleasant environment at home where expectations were mounting at a speed she couldn’t keep up with? Thoughts kept scratching at the door of my heart and my mind hoped to get some reasonable answer at least, but to no avail.

Rabindranath Tagore had perhaps envisaged the troubles of this little child long ago when she was probably a tiny free bird flapping her way through heaven wondering if our planet would be a good place to visit. Obviously her choice proved her wrong.

In his story, ‘The Tale of a Parrot’, Tagore had long ago visualized kings who would find all birds simply pecking away at the fruits in the forests as useless. The free bird in Tagore’s story needed to be trained. It was believed that a simple nest made of straw and grass would not be able to hold education and therefore a golden cage appeared like an epitome of learning. Even if there was not much learning, the cage looked remarkable and the bird was considered fortunate to have got an opportunity to study in it. Texts then were shoved down his beak till there was no space for a scream or even a single song to escape his throat. If he ever gathered courage to peck at the bars of the cage, his wings were clipped as a punishment for his ungratefulness. Grieved the poor bird finally died and the erudite declared his education complete. There would be no more flying or singing. When then, “The King poked at the bird. It didn’t open its mouth or make a single sound. But the dreary pages of textbooks rustled noisily in its tummy. Outside, the fresh green leaves whispered a sigh into the southern breeze of spring – and breathed a soulful note into the skies.”

The little girl today is no more. Her family and friends today continue to grieve her death. Her teachers look sadly at the empty seat in the class. People keep wondering about the why of it all and probably the skies felt the load of the death of innocence to an extent to pour out their tears and drown the city in a deluge.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

THE WORLD THEN AND THE WORLD NOW



Recently, while researching a bit on ancient Greek temples, I came across an interesting story of the ‘big blow up’ which developed in Ephesus in 57 A.D. and it made me realise that nothing really changes completely. This story is interestingly also recorded in the Bible in the book of Acts. In this story we learn of the temple of goddess Artemis (also known by some as goddess Diana) which was a Grecian magnificence and was known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
There was at that time a silversmith who employed craftsmen to manufacture silver shrines of the Greek goddess Diana. His name was Demetrius and his ground was shaken when one of the first few disciples of Jesus, St. Paul gave him a hard time when he visited the city of Ephesus in 57 A.D. With this  disciple of Jesus going about telling all about real worship in spirit, Demetrius felt shaken regarding his business which brought him and many other business proprietors like him a lot of income. When the people there got to learn from Paul that handmade gods were not gods at all, the volume of the sales of these businessmen came crashing down. They were worried that, “There is the danger, then, that this business of ours will get a bad name. Not only that, but there is also the danger that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will come to mean nothing and that her greatness will be destroyed – the goddess worshipped by everyone in Asia and in all the world!” Acts 19:27
The city was soon filled with uncertainty. To think of it, confusion prevailed in the old world as it is at its most potent menace today. In our modern space we certainly have many flyovers around us but hardly any courage to wear wings to overcome stubborn beliefs. Our world today like that of the old is a business centre. This business does not only go on in big conglomerate houses but also in human relations. Some call it the ‘Way of the World’; and if we are bold enough to step out of such business deals then the human race very characteristically label us a loser in the deal of human affairs. The businessmen of the world, with their crafty ways lift up mundane images of clay and place them on the altar of our hearts for worship and if we refuse such reverence in products or relations they begin to chatter; chattering being their usual habit and pastime activity. In fact most of them are lost themselves, unable to understand what is happening around them or why they are present where they are. “Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another – everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn’t even know why they were there.”Acts 19:32.
So many people can be seen crowding fashion, human company and places where they really don’t want to be; mainly because they are worried of ‘What will the world say?’ And life continues to offer us many such gatherings of worldly glittery hubs. The choice is always open: to stay with the world and join the confused crowds or be the daredevil to step out of conventions. As Paul told the Greeks that they needed to be careful with all that they had understood and not succumb to the pressures of the ignorant and cunning world. “I know full well that after I leave you, false teachers, like vicious wolves, will appear among you, not sparing the flock.” Acts 20: 29
If we do not hold on to the right word inside of us, the wrong word of the superficial, like a wolf, will not hesitate to convince us that the way of the world is right. At this juncture, a modern day story comes to my mind. Actually it’s a story for children with a lesson for adults. The story urges the reader to beware of hypocrites. It has a very interesting character of a fox who while searching for food gets trapped and in his struggle to set himself free, losses his tail. Now he is worried about everybody laughing at him and feels so very sad that he even contemplates suicide. But then he soon thinks of another plan to survive. He goes about persuading all the foxes to part with their tails telling them that the tails are a nuisance, heavy and tiresome. Soon however, to his bad luck, one cleaver fox catches his trickery and asks, “Sir, would you have said the same about our tails if you had had one of yours?
The worldly wise can very easily distort the truth and capture a following. And so we need to be on guard to not get fooled into the way of the world. “Some of you yourselves will distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out.” Acts 20:30.  
So like then or now, we either live in the prison of hypocrisy and fear, or collect guts to get out of it and face public ridicule. We either choose between public opinion or the opinion of the Silent Whisper.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

YOU NEVER HAVE TO KILL JUDAS. HE KILLS HIMSELF



Theodore Rubin, an American psychiatrist has said, “The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.”

There is a much ignored viral threat in our world today, which seems to be getting the least attention. It is the bite of depression which is leading many a seemingly happy people to self destruction.

Recently there have been two Page 3 personality suicides in news; that of the Madhya Pradesh spiritual leader Bhaiyyu Maharaj and the renowned television personality and chef, Anthony Bourdain. Both these limelight personalities in spite of having all that a common man would love to possess had gloom hanging over their heads which the glitter of their lives hid from all who saw and admired their popularity. May be death was an easy release for them from the burden of some guilt; the fault of having it all and yet missing out on something crucial. If life is a journey, then they chose a simpler way to cross it; due to the erroneous belief that it would be easier to die than to live. Of course, this is the teaching of the world; which reiterates that life is very complicated to live, and death brings freedom from strife. What better understanding can one expect from a world that thrives on wars? This is a world that promotes isolation and partition rather than closeness and unity. This is a world that follows the law of chastisement and not of improvement. Unless this world changes, quick deaths will continue to be the norm; there are however less chances of the world changing and so the next option is to change oneself; but the question looms, ‘How?’

The answer can be found in the book of wisdom - The Bible; with the stories of two sinners namely Judas who betrayed Jesus for just a few coins and Peter who denied Jesus three times out of fear of condemnation. Yes Peter sinned out of fright and denied his master but after his third denial of having anything to do with him, he felt regret and looked towards his master for help and it says, “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter.” It was that look of forgiveness and tender pity in spite of all its sadness that helped Peter to survive unlike Judas. It was a glance not of anger but of sorrow for the mistake committed. This story is recorded in every Gospel because Peter never shrunk from letting everybody know of his guilt and cowardly conduct; but instead wanted the world to read in his life, proof of mercy and pity.

The story of Judas however, speaks more about the world in which Judas lived than about Judas. “Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ And they said, ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’” Matthew 27:3-4

There isn’t much difference in denial and betrayal. Both are terrible and both Peter and Judas repented and were sorry but Judas received the preaching of the world which said ‘Save yourself’. There was no comfort in this saving; only neglect. The preachers of that world like ours were not bothered about the death of an innocent man; the only botheration they faced was in whose bank account would the money be deposited in.

A world that is fake to the core can get to a man sometime or the other like it did with Judas then and now with Bhaiyyu Maharaj and Anthony Bourdain. May be, like Judas who had invested in the glory of the world and sought relief from it, they too with all their enrichment of the world, searched for help from it. But a world that itself is helpless could of course be of no assistance to them.
No gift of God needs money or any kind of earthly investment. To love someone, to emotionally care for someone, to pray for someone, to admire nature all around, all come free; but the gifts bought with intelligence, pride and money fade away leaving behind emptiness; a deep hollow and a feeling of sinking and uselessness in spite of everything. No going to temples made by human hands gives relief till it all culminates into a desperate moment of get it all or lose it all. The turning point comes only at the moment of decision. The direction of advice one turns to makes or mars life. There are two roads: one of the world and the other of the Superhuman. The way of the world says, “You messed it up, now face it!” The face of the Superhuman says, “I love you”.
So at the end it is where you looked for help that makes all the difference.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

IT’S NOT FAILURE; ONLY INCOMPLETE SUCCESS



The results are out and yet a lot of learning remains. Most important of all is the knowledge that though we may set unreachable standards for ourselves and try to achieve them, we remain human and humans may be perfectly imperfect.  

There is a beautiful story in the Bible with the help of which we can reflect on our failures and dwell on the saying which encourages us to do our best and leave the rest to God.  It was at Lake Gennesaret that the disciples had let down their nets but failed to catch any fish. They had worked all night but the results were nil. Later we learn that Jesus after speaking to the crowds turned to Simon and told him to go deeper and lay down the nets assuring him that he would catch a lot of fish. It was obviously human for Simon to reply that he had already done that the previous night and caught nothing. But Simon didn’t stop there. What he did was to ‘not give up’ on the words of the Lord. What he said is what we need to focus on: “But if you say so, we’ll try again.” As author Stephen Richards says, “The true measure of success is how many times you can bounce back from failure.” It is this trying again and not giving up, that does the trick. The choice is always ours; whether we wish to dive deep in depressive thoughts of failure or we wish to fly high in the joy of hope is for us to decide.
While those who have achieved what they aspired to or more than that, there are quite a few who have been left behind wondering what went wrong. Well, it’s absolutely normal to not get what you want and in fact that leaves space to try again because it’s not the end of the world of learning. Even though one may practically be done with academic learning, life is an institution which has exams at every stage where the scores on paper don’t matter. What matters is our willingness to try again like Simon who said, ‘if you say so, we’ll try again’. The fun lies in what happened next.  “And this time their nets were so full that they began to tear!”

A lot of our present day learning is limited to classrooms and question papers. But the world is a creation made out of great imaginative powers and if our system of education does not have any creative ability to admire and adjust to this creation, then our unimaginative super scores are of no guarantee to fetch us happiness; may be success in its dry sense, but without any flavour of joy in it. For in this creation, things change and every season has its own beauty. Nothing is permanent except our relationship with our creator. The Buddhists believe that everything in life is impermanent; even failure. When a disciple, after a year of listening to the Master’s lectures expressed his inability to understand and asked if all the teaching could be put in a nutshell, the Master simply said, “Everything changes” and asked for another question.

So now, what happens to all those thousands of students who have not done well? Must they give up on throwing their nets again into the water or must they without any distraction of disappointment go ahead and try all over again? The earth has a lot of trials and sorrows in it; but it is good to know that there is someone who has overcome the world.
Image credits: Google

Saturday, 9 June 2018

DON'T LET THE BEHAVIOUR OF OTHERS DESTROY YOUR PEACE



Sometimes in life we come across thick problematic situations leaving us with no choice to a solution but just the delete option. To make it more plain I’ll reflect on an amusing piece. ‘A teacher wrote down a complicate problem for the class to solve.  It read: 36x +yx, 2/3yx + 3x (66y +12x/.b = 0.  He then asked them to find the solution. One smart fellow picked up the duster and simply cleaned the board and declared the problem solved. This may appear jocular but believe me it’s the only option left at times in real time.

Coming back to reality, what happens when someone out of the blue comes at us with daggers for no fault of ours? How do we react? Do we get defensive, explanatory or get stabbed? Sometimes people can come at us with a sword, a gun, a pistol and a dagger because they have been unhappy even before we entered their zone. Damn it! It could be a first time interaction and yet there could be venom spilling out of a hissing tongue into our ears.

Let me first brief you with the ‘floating emotions’ concept in psychology. If one were to shred a book into bits and then throw all of it out of the window, the bits of paper would fly out in all directions and settle down on anything that came in their way. Similarly, an angry human torn apart by various moments of triggered anger may come at anyone to settle on with his load of grief. You could then become a victim of such an infuriated bloke whose angry emotions could be floating out from his eyes, nose and mouth. To try to put sense in such aggressive behaviour would be senseless. If we want approval and admiration from such an ......., then we certainly would be looking in a wrong direction. The individual is so very caught up in his own fretfulness that he is really not looking out for a solution but only a venting. If we then don’t let this outpouring empty itself, it will drown us in its force of evacuation. So the next best thing to do is not to fret over something we have no control over. It’s best to allow such individuals to enjoy their anger alone and move out.

I recently experienced a similar plight of a man caught in the tight grip of the spirit of destructive anger raging out of his grief of denial to get a good bargain as per his view point. I moved away a safe distance to protect myself from such a clawing personality. However, I probably was subconsciously affected by his harsh words and angry face.

Later that night, a strange thing happened. I had a dream which was very weird and strange. In my dream, I was sitting at a computer and though I hadn’t fed anything into it, the printer was dishing out paper after printed paper into my face. I just couldn’t understand what was happening and felt helpless with the waste falling onto my workplace when suddenly I heard a voice loud and clear, telling me to take it all and throw it away because it didn’t belong to me.

I suddenly woke up realizing how one man’s anger could bring in tons of waste into our life; but remembering the dream I decided to throw it all away because it didn’t belong to me. I had no reason to collect it, file it or save it.

The voice saved me from getting drenched in the stormy rain of misdirected annoyance and soaked me instead in the shower of grace.

Image credits: Google

Thursday, 31 May 2018

OUR EYES REFLECT OUR HEART



 “I have come into the world to give sight to those who are spiritually blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” John 9: 39

Frequently we come across people who are annoyed with situations around them. They scream angry at various moments. “I loath to see such horrifying traffic jams.” “I simply can’t understand why these people can’t use public transport and make our lives easy on the movement.” “Look at our streets! There is so much litter everywhere. Haven’t these people any civic sense?’ ‘The monsoons are beautiful but our government transforms them into disappointment making us panic even at the first showers which cause water logging. I dread floods! God save me!’ ‘This government is useless. There is no end to dishonesty in it.’

Such ranting goes on endlessly. These are the able people who throw all responsibility for correction to others. They are blind to the ‘My Step Contribution’ method. Their eyes, have as if got conditioned to observe confusion, and their hearts have no courage to change situations. They continue to grovel in the muck of disgust but won’t dare to get up and clean even a little bit of it themselves.

In contrast, there are some others who are not as able as those angry long legged birds. I remember meeting a young blind girl who always seemed to wear a smile on her face. It was strange to see this consistency of pleasure being expressed in the midst of grumpy faces; and so I one day went up to her and asked whether like the others, she too hated something. 

Her smile widened at first and then suddenly it vanished giving her a sad look and she said, “I hate my eyes. I hate that they can’t see the raindrops falling on the ground every monsoon. I hate that I can’t see the wind kissing the branches of the trees. I hate that I can’t see the branches shying away at the touch of the wind. I sense that I’m missing out on the original romantic film running daily shows in this world. I hate that I can’t see people loving their pets and cuddling up to their children.”

Her hate speech brought an awakening in me and a sudden thought flashed across my mind. Her spiritual eyes were so bright and throbbing with vision to appreciate her creator’s creation as compared to the others who had in their guilt of their surroundings gone internally blind and failed to appreciate beauty all around them.

“If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But your guilt remains because you claim to know what you are doing.” John 9:41


Image credits: Google

Monday, 21 May 2018

ARE YOU READY TO THROW A STARFISH INTO THE WAVES?



"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world.” 1 John 4:4



It’s most likely that in life we have sometime or the other been disappointed with someone or something. It could be the behaviour of someone we know or do not know personally, that has disenchanted us. What matters however, is what we do with our feelings. Though we wish for change, we very rarely exercise our powers of reformation.
The moment of anger and dissatisfaction could be at a personal level which may have led to a heartbreaking moment or it could have been at a societal platform. It could be that we had gone through moments where nothing seemed to budge in the direction of change. 
At times like that we could be everyday waking up with our eyes sparkling with stars of hope and yet at night having to go to sleep with unsatisfactory pillows of world-weariness. But then, such are the times we need to hold on to our strength of belief in ourselves, because every sunset has the hope of something beautiful coming up the next day. If we are just and composed, we need to have faith that the one in us is far stronger than the one outside.

If at all we let go of this hope in the authority in ourselves, it is because we make assumptions about ourselves; not truly knowing our own capabilities. Such false beliefs then become a load we have to bear along our walks in life and they being heavy, make our journey nothing less than an affliction. Such assumptions therefore need to be scrubbed off to allow the light of our capacities to enter and brighten up the window of understanding, opening it to the fresh breeze of hope in our inner strength. We need not let people or situations or circumstances rule our calm judgement but instead awaken ourselves from the dream of failure and open our eyes to the reality of success;  our birthright.

A classic example of such sense of strength was seen in the present day’s beautiful Royal Bride, Meghan Markle’s feminist activism at the tender age of eleven. This young lady then felt something terribly wrong with an advertisement of a dish soap manufactured by Procter &Gamble and voiced her concern by writing letters to the company expressing her feelings when she heard the words, ‘Women are fighting greasy pots and pans with Ivory Dish Soap’.  The young Markle was so very annoyed regarding the compartmentalizing of women into the kitchen job, that she corresponded to anyone who would listen to her, including Hillary Clinton. She could have thought, ‘whoever is going to listen to my expressions, it’s all so silly and useless’ and let it be just that, resting as a grumbletonian. Then of course, nothing would have changed; but her action in spite of little scope of hope for change did wonders. The commercial was changed and the word ‘women’ was replaced by the word ‘people’.
Markle was alone in that campaign and many of us are today alone in our campaigns; but we can fight for our beliefs and hope to succeed. For what else would life be but a long scrap of experiences falling our way if we had no corrective reactions towards them!
This reminds me of the story, ‘The Starfish’, where  a young boy throwing stranded starfish from the sandy beach back into the ocean, caught the eye of an old traveller, who asked him the reason for such activity. The lad answered that if he were not to help those echinoderms, they would die when the heat of the sun would dry up all the water. The traveller felt the boy was ridiculous because there were millions of starfish on the beach which stretched for thousands of miles. He shrugged his shoulders completely unconvinced by the answer and voiced his pessimistic opinion, ‘It doesn’t matter how many you throw in; you can’t make a difference’. But the boy simply smiled, picked up another starfish and threw it into the water and said, ‘But it makes to this one’.
Change doesn’t always need to begin with a big number. Even a little can make a big difference for someone.
Image Credits: Google

Friday, 18 May 2018

HOW OLD ARE YOU?


   
“They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.”
Psalm 71:9

On the 9th of this month as I sat in a taxi in Kuala Lumpur, the driver had lots to share with me. It was the Election Day there and the man was angry with his government and the corruption his country had been going through for years and yet was hopefully happy that the polls held that day would bring a clean change with the new Prime Minister. He proudly showed me his coloured finger to state that he had voted for transformation.

Mahathir Mohamad, who had once ruled Malaysia with an iron fist from 1981 to 2003 had now got a comeback by a commanding majority to the opposition. His second innings today, is no ordinary success story because he is the oldest elected leader in the world at the age of 92.

This just proves that age is only a number, which we need not keep concentrating on. In fact as we grow older we must be happier that we have the capability to give up silly distractions which would otherwise eat up a lot of our precious time in all their immaturity. We must be proud that our grey streaks can help us to focus on things valuable to us and others.

I happen to be acquainted with an octogenarian who is battling his way through cancer with a smile. Unlike an otherwise youthful man he does not spend time worrying about his future though he is all by himself. He is a ripe bachelor and has no family to love him back or miss him. But that does not deter him from being happy. He believes in dealing with what has happened rather than being stressed about it. He is an educator in real life, who has taught me that I can choose to adapt to any situation; seen or unforeseen. He has taught me that I have a choice to be knocked down by things happening to me or to stand strong and face them boldly. This is a lesson in adulthood; it’s not about what I can achieve when I grow old but what I can accomplish because I choose to reach it in spite of my age. It’s a different vision of the whole dilemma which makes it into a possibility of overcoming the hurdle and collecting pleasant cookies of a new understanding.

Mr. Maathir Mohamad’s success today teaches us that we need not bury our passions as we age; but instead, we can reinvent ourselves in a better light of newness. He has taught us that our life is a product of what we make of it and that we can add pages of new brands into it.

Ageing therefore, can be made beautiful with new moments of opportunity and vigour and less of dwelling in regrets. It’s good to remember your birthday but as Satchel Paige would ask, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” In 1959, this baseball player’s mother announced to a reporter that her son was 55 rather than 53, and that she was certain about it because she had written it down in her Bible. Paige wrote in his autobiography, "Seems like Mom's Bible would know, but she ain't ever shown me the Bible. Anyway, she was in her nineties when she told the reporter that, and sometimes she tended to forget things."

Wouldn’t you call that the spirit of youthfulness?
Picture Credits: Google