How True Are Our Prayers?

“Atmasuddhi leni acaramadi ela ?
bhandasuddhileni pakamela
chittasuddhileni Sivapujalelara ?
visvadabhirama vinura Vema !”

This poem was written by Yogi Vemana. Yogi Vemana is a famous Telugu ascetic. He wrote a series of poems that spread wisdom, morality, and ethics based on the social fabric of south Indian society in the 17th-century. His poems highlighted the flaws and inconsistencies in society in his times. Sadly, they are relevant in society today as well. The above verse is close to my heart, I hope you see the wisdom in it too.

This verse in Telugu, speaks about wholeheartedly understanding and supporting your beliefs. Vemana points out the futility of your faith when your heart and mind is not invested in it. He tells that there is no sense in following the ceremonies when the heart and soul are not invested in it. It is the same as cooking a fancy meal in a dirty kitchen with soiled utensils and impure ingredients. He questions you about the purpose of all your prayers when your intentions are not genuine.

This poem rings true in most of the current situations that the world is facing. We have laws, constitutional rights, being used and abused to serve evil intents and purposes. We also see god’s gospel is misused to spread the wrong message. People are following the rule of law in word, not in spirit. We see people offer insincere apologies, offer assistance that will only hurt you more than it helps or offer a helping hand while pulling the rug from under you.

Do Your Duty, Leave The Rest To God

We all aim to succeed at every endeavour we take up. We plan, strategize, work hard, make all necessary corrections and wade past every hardship only with the intent to succeed. Yet, despite all our good intentions, good work and effort, there are many instances where we are faced with failure. The first advice or consolation we receive in those situations is ‘You did your best, the rest was up to God’.

Growing up, this statement was a sore point for me. I always thought that when we do our best, then we should get the best results. If I work to succeed, then I should succeed. In my naivety and limited life experience, this was my outlook towards everything. I never considered all the factors that are out of control, yet contribute to the success of a task. As my experience increased, I learnt that all the hard work, good intentions, and best efforts are worth nothing when something is not meant to be. Not just good intentions and hard work; Even the evilest plans, wicked intentions, cruel efforts can be thwarted when something is not meant to be. In the grander scheme of events, my success at a particular task may be trivial, or sometimes my failure may be necessary.

Needless to specify, later in life, I faced a tough time unlearning this perception. We can only be 100% prepared for the task, but we can never be 100% sure about the outcome. The whole meaning of life is to navigate the twists and turns, face unexpected challenges etc. The goalposts are shifting all the time, and we need to change accordingly. As long as we remember this fact of life and contribute wholeheartedly to every task, every outcome feels like a success. Before the pandemic, better pay, promotions, a bigger house, latest gadgets etc, may have been the parameters for success. I planned to shift jobs and look for a more challenging role. However, now job security, steady flow of income, good health, being alive and healthy have become parameters for success.

There is no guaranteed equation for success or failure in life. What may appear to be a failure today is only the framework for greater accomplishments. In fact, they are not failures, but simple lessons in our path to victory. They will prepare you with priceless lessons that will take you to greater heights. Even the solar system failed with numerous planets and moons before it successfully created life on earth. However, that does not make all the other planets less magnificent or important in the grander landscape of the universe.

Keep An Eye On the Backdoor

One lazy afternoon, a cat softly walked up to the backdoor of a house. The door was left ajar; he stood there for a few tense moments assessing the danger level. When no one noticed his presence, he quietly stepped into the house and quickly sneaked into the kitchen. Within the next few seconds, he climbed up the countertop to lap up all the milk in the container.

The lady of the house caught him red-handed and chased him. The startled cat jumped to the ground and instead of exiting through the backdoor, he ran into the dining room. The lady went yelling and, running after the cat, but he kept dodging her. To escape her, he ran under the dining table and rushed into the living room to hide under the couch.

All through this chaos, the lady’s daughter was fascinated and excited by the cat. She protected him by not revealing his hiding place. After some time, the little girl started petting the cat. The cat quickly recognised the friend and the foe. He avoided the lady who chased him to spend most of his time with the little girl who befriended him.

Gradually, he made the house his home and soon two other cats joined him. All attempts to get rid of the cats were futile. Even if the lady chased them away, they found their way back into the house. They knew the little girl was ready to accommodate them. The little girl even suggested that these cats could get rid of the rats in the house. But, nothing of that sort happened. The rats and the cats all lived in the same house.

Art By Sharda

All-day long, they purred at the girl and relaxed in her lap. They stole food from the kitchen and slept on piles of freshly washed clothes. If anyone tried to get them out of the house, they showed their temper. They did not spare anything in the kitchen; they clawed the couches, destroyed the plants, knocked things down, and generally speaking, created a mess.

I have nothing against cats but observing the events in the above story, I can draw parallels to other events in our lives. When the cat first entered the house, it was totally accidental. If both the mother and child chased away the cat with the same fervour, the cats would have avoided the house. Because the lady chased them away, yet the girl encouraged them; the cats made the house as their home.

Bad habits enter into our lives in the same way as the cats did in this story. The first time is usually an accident or a coincidence. It is how we react to this event that decides our fate. If we chase the habit out of our life, then chances are that the habit will exit. But, if we cover them up or defend them, it will become impossible to get rid of the bad habit.

Just as one good habit attracts other good habits, one bad habit also attracts many other undesirable habits. The bad habits could be as simple as being lazy/procrastinating or something as serious as drug/alcohol abuse. Be mindful of what is entering through that backdoor silently. It might, at first, look innocent and harmless but eventually, it will show its true colours. Like stray animals are always prowling around looking for a quick meal and a comfortable place to settle in, the same way at every stage in life we are prone to several dangers. It is important to recognise them early and nip them out of our life.

I used the analogy of a cat’s behaviour in this story to explain my point about bad habits. However, I don’t want anyone to think that cats are bad nor should anyone ill-treat cats or any other animal for that matter. Cruelty to animals is a bad habit in itself. All I’m saying is keep an eye on that back door; all things evil and undesirable sneak in from there. If you liked what you read, please let me know. Until next time, Stay Safe.

The Irony of Life

When we are young, we just can’t wait to grow up. I used to scan through my mother’s cupboard and admire her collection of sarees. My sister used to try out my aunt’s high-heel sandals. She even sprained her ankle once while walking in them. Sometimes we imitated the behaviour of grown-ups during role play.

Today, after leaving childhood far behind, I miss those days. My cousins and I reminisce about those wonderful times and unforgettable anecdotes with great pleasure. It is ironic that when we were actually going through those early years we never paid attention to the present, our sights were set on the future. We never thought that we would miss those times. Future seemed rosier than the present.

Childhood is the age of innocence. We laughed and smiled as easily as we cried and threw tantrums. Bitterness was forgotten as soon as we saw something sweet. Even a false compliment took us sky high and perched our spirit on the treetop. If we had friends to play with and treats to fill our pockets with, then we were rich. Back then, we felt quite powerless and looked up to the older folk and envied their authority.

With age came understanding. My company of friends is now filled with wise-brained adults. Something as simple as a smile can be interpreted in numerous ways, depending on the facts and circumstances. We seldom cry, at least not as often as in childhood. Compliments are dissected to see what’s behind the words. False compliments are now called ‘flattery’. We exercise authority over the children in our house yet we envy their carefree life. This is the irony of life.

The age of innocence was filled with curiosity about every aspect of being an adult. Our heads were filled with “Why?, How? When?”. As all queries met their answers, curiosity died. Life turned into one big chore. Today, excitement is not a feeling we experience often. For this, we were desperate to grow up!

Now as our legs are racing to the future, our heads turn back to see what we are leaving behind. The heart still longs for that beautiful world of innocence. Now we try to bring back to life the little child inside us that we left ignored for decades. This is the greatest irony of life.

Originality

“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”

  • Herman Melville

I have recently come across this quote from the American novelist, by the name Herman Melville that said, ” It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation”. He is basically saying that it is better to be an original loser than to be a successful copycat.

I know it sounds severe when I put it that way. But, when you ponder upon it, it makes sense. Though being unsuccessful is bad, you can at least take credit for your original thought. This unique thought will further act as the foundation that you can build upon until you are successful.

The same cannot be said for imitations. When you pick up someone else’s idea, you are automatically limiting the scope, to what the original thinker foresaw. Please remember that imitation is different from using the inventions or ideas of others to create new products or utilities of a product.

In today’s world, plagiarism is a real concern in literature, music, arts and even scientific research. The creativity, innovation and intellect of a person are being taken away from him/her. It is almost like stealing the person’s individuality because our thoughts and ideas are what distinguish us in a group. To imitate one’s ideas and pass them off as our own is an insult to our intelligence. It is a way of accepting that I am not smart enough to think on my own. 

I remember, my aunt used to let us off easy, when we gave her original and innovative excuses. Not that she did not detect a lie, in fact, she would point out the flaw in the story and laugh it off as a joke. We were made to feel sufficiently embarrassed so that we did not repeat the mistake. 

The sad thing in the world is, success is given more emphasis than originality. Copycats are running the world and unless we start valuing diversity and uniqueness, the situation may not improve.

Comics That Coloured My Imagination

I grew up in South India and back then, there were no smart/mobile phones. The internet was unheard of, and general households did not have computers. There was no such thing as cable T.V, and all we had to rely on for entertainment was Doordarshan, the national channel. My main sources of entertainment were going out to play with friends, pursuing my hobbies and reading a storybook. 

 During this phase, out of sheer boredom, one day I dared to glance through the pages of the large and unmanageable (for my age at that time) newspaper. I was delighted to discover a tiny comic strip titled “Scamp“. I fell in love with the cute little dog who had floppy ears. I pestered my mother for more comic books, and that’s how I discovered a treasure trove of cartoon characters from Walt Disney. Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, Donald Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Beagle Boys etc. Every time I read the comic book, I used to get transported into that imaginary world where all the characters came to life and played their part as per the story. I could easily forget my worries when I had a comic book in my hand.

 One evening, my father came home from work with the day’s newspaper in his hands, and it seemed much bulkier than usual. When I unrolled the paper, a copy of ‘Tintin In Tibet’ rolled out. From that moment, my love for the famous comic series started. 

 Soon, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Porky Pig all became part of my addiction. The more comics I read, the greater was my craving. I went on to read Richie Rich, Little Dot, Little Lotta and Casper. Even to this day, I cherish those wonderful and carefree days. As I read, I admired the creativity of the writers and illustrators who created these characters.

 Looking at my interest in reading, my mother rented children’s magazines and comic books for me. That’s how I was able to read all the popular children’s magazines of the day, that were circulating in India. I read Champak, Chandamama, Balamitra and Tinkle. Every month, my sisters and I scrambled to get the latest copy and each of us wanted to read it first. Tinkle was our clear favourite. After all of us finished reading we recollected some of those jokes and laughed again and again. 

 Back then, magazines were popular and they thrived in the absence of cable television. Most of them published a few comic strips that I fondly followed. The Sunday newspapers carry a special page of comics, and I eagerly waited to read them. Tintin, Asterix, Blondie, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, Denis the Menace, Hi and Lois, Garfield, The Lockhorns, Calvin and Hobbes etc. were the order of the day.

 One summer, I visited my uncle’s house and stayed there for a week. I was thrilled to discover that he had a treasure chest of comic books. No, I am not talking metaphorically. He had a large, old, metal trunk filled with comic books. I spent the entire week reading all the comics. I returned to my uncle’s house for the next few summers and spent a week there just to read the comics from his collection. He had a very large collection of Amar Chitra Katha comics, Panchatantra, Jataka tales, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Flash Gordon, Archie, Tarzan, Spiderman, Superman and many more.

 Today, many years later, I am lost in my world of work and deadlines. But, I see that my son is enjoying his journey in the world of comics. It’s a different set of characters that have taken over his world. Marvel and DC characters are colouring the imagination of young minds. If you are also a lover of comics then, tell me which comic characters are your favourite.

Doing What You Want, When You Want To

All of us would love it if we could do whatever comes to our mind or takes our fancy at that moment. Alas, the truth is that we cannot do it most of the time. Propriety, social decorum, law, family obligations, moral responsibilities etc, are always holding us back. Having said that, we come across people who manage to pursue whatever takes their fancy. I am not talking about those who plan and prepare to pursue their dreams, nor am I speaking about the immoral pursuits of criminals who steal, pillage or wreck others lives. I am speaking about those impulsive beings who manage to do just what they want. They speak their mind without consideration of consequence, pick and drop jobs as per fancy, travel around like a gipsy, try everything interesting etc.

Such people are a distinctive set who usually, is the life of every party. They are everyone’s BFF, the apple of the eye to their parents, the only ones to get away with mischief, etc. Spontaneous people have many admirers and just as many enemies. I do not have any personal enmity toward them. However, their reckless behaviour has left me feeling like a fool, on one too many occasions. Let me narrate what happened.

I am the kind of person who plans their actions before starting anything. I like to be prepared for any eventuality, I think through on most of any decisions before acting on them. However, my friend was the exact opposite of me. He is the most spontaneous person who makes decisions on the fly. I was accustomed to this attitude until this incident. We had discussed at length, whether we should apply for a certain job opening or not. We then decided that we would go ahead and apply for the job. On the day of the interview, my friend did not show up. I was there and passed all the rounds to get the job. Later, I asked my friend why he did not show up. He said that he did not see himself doing a 9 to 5 job, so he did not bother to come to the interview. Though I felt bad that he did not inform me beforehand, I did not mind it. What really set me off was his unexpected decision to go backpacking. He decided to become a travelling photographer after watching a video on Youtube. His decision shocked everyone. His parents looked at me with accusation in their eyes, for not consulting with them. They did not believe that even I was not informed either. I was just as astounded as them. After my friend took off on his trip, I was left to face the music.

This is a common occurrence with him, and I hate it. Yet, I envy him because he gets to follow his dreams while I do the mature thing. Spontaneous people are fun to be around until we face the negative consequences of their actions. Such impulsive people are often expressive and dramatic, so they create a great following of friends everywhere they go. It almost feels like they keep spare friends just to be prepared to lose a few along the way.

Do I sound like a resentful person? Well, I am merely distrustful of such persons. I have realised that we all want to do whatever crosses our mind without concern for the fallout. Yet, we cannot do it as we are restrained by our family, friends, job, colleagues etc. This sense of obligation stops us from doing reckless things. Even when we make a hasty decision, we are fraught with doubt and remorse. Every future decision we make has a shadow over it. This sense of duty and commitment is what keeps me from being extemporaneous myself. It keeps all temptation in check, as I cannot deal with the guilt and fallout later. This is my way of justifying myself. Please feel free to share your point of view and your opinions too.

My Thoughts On The World Right Now

Hello, Friends! I apologize for not posting any new blogs in the past month. It has been difficult for all folks around the world with the Coronavirus pandemic. I would like to thank all those who are working on the frontline as doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, police and security personnel, armed forces and all the other health workers and delivery workers.

I praise them, not just for their dedication and service, but more importantly for their mental fortitude and resilience. They work tirelessly in the face of grim statistics and grimmer predictions. Despite staying at home and working from the safety of my house, I still fear for the future. It is not just the virus that is cause for concern. The blaming games, the ‘he said..they said’, and oneupmanship that we see in the news, now a day is really saddening.

It disheartens me to see that man cannot let go of petty politics, conspiracy theories, spreading fake news and taking cheap potshots in the name of social justice/responsibility. Every side wants to use this pandemic to make the opposite side look bad. It makes me wonder, is our pride and ego bigger than life? Can we not let it go and work together for once? I know that I am speaking of a utopian world that has no link to reality, but one can hope, can’t we?

All this sad news aside, I have realised that everyone is just doing what they are best at. The doctors, nurses, police, governments, opposition parties, news channels, our bosses, everyone just going about handling the pandemic the best way they can. So, why shouldn’t I? Why am I getting worried or feeling depressed? I came to the conclusion that to help with this situation, I should also get back to doing my job of staying at home and working to make things easy for the ones who are fighting it. There is no point in going on the streets protesting, spreading hatred, conspiracies and fake news. The best help I can give is to stay out of the way and not cause problems.

Perseverance

I found this quote the other day. I felt that it was telling me to rethink an earlier post I had made regarding quitting. Quitters Are Not Losers.

Reading this quote, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”, by Calvin Coolidge makes me rethink my strategy.

Quitters Are Not Losers

Many of us have it drilled into our head that quitting is equivalent to failure. We all have heard the proverb, ‘Winners never quit and quitters never win’. So, what exactly is quitting? The dictionary might term it as, to cease an action or course of action. Everyday parlance refers to quitting, as giving up or throwing in the towel or accepting defeat. However, is it that simple?

We are told to, ‘Try and try until we succeed’. But, how long can we keep trying, while the whole world carries on and leaves us behind? It might seem like an achievement that shows our determination and willpower to continue trying. However, what is the cost of all the attempts? What about the opportunities missed while we kept working on one goal? What about the time lost in all these failed attempts to succeed? Is any single goal worth all this?

Some might say that a few goals are worth the cost and that our scientific community and innovators would not have achieved half the world’s greatest inventions if they quit after a few attempts. We can pick any of the greatest innovations of our age, and say confidently that they were achieved only because the scientist did not quit.

Now, coming back to the meaning of quitting; to quit does not mean to give up without making a wholehearted attempt. For any task or goal or aim, we need to plan our path to success and execute the plan with dedication and determination. When faced with obstacles, we should go back to the drawing board and find a way around the roadblock. Then, proceed on our path to success. If we quit at the first sign of difficulties, then we can term the act as giving up. This is wrong and this attitude will never lead to success.

However, despite going back to the drawing board multiple times, if we are not able to find a workaround or if we continue to fail, it may be time to step back and pick another choice. It is evident that with the available resources, you cannot achieve success. It is wise to stop trying until you can find new resources or new ideas. I would not call this quitting or losing or giving up.

Repeatedly trying to walk into a wall and expecting it to become a doorway is not a wise thing. We needn’t stop every time we face a wall. Instead, we should stop this course of action and plan a new way to get to the destination. Just because we quit using plan A does not mean that we do not have a plan B or C to succeed.

It is Time I Make My Own Decisions

How many of us can honestly say that all the decisions we make in our life are our own? Not me. I have been asked this question and I realized that most of the decisions that I make are not my own. I merely do what the situation demands or what I am obligated to do. Are you in a similar conundrum?

All the women would be thinking, such is the life of a woman. As children, our parents make decisions for us. As teenagers, our friends and boyfriends hold the strings. After marriage, our husband dictates our life and later our children do it. But, here is a shocker, men don’t fare much better either. It is either parent, peer pressure, society, a boss, familial pressure that dictates most of the decisions we make. Basically, everyone is being managed and manipulated into making decisions that we don’t agree with them.

A most common example to this point is the college course that one chooses. Most would think that the course would depend on our strengths or on our dream jobs. However, many of us end up taking up a course that is considered to be a popular choice or one that our parents wanted to take up. We end up with the responsibility of fulfilling their dream at the cost of ours.

The clothes we wear are often prescribed by friends and society. Whether we like them or not, we end up following some fashion trends, just so we can fit in. The office we work and our post is mostly determined by peer pressure. How many times have we heard the words, “Your cousin has already got promoted to a manager, how come you are still a…..?”, “We are planning to apply for XYZ interview, why aren’t you applying too?.

Recently, I met my cousin, who went over budget to buy an apartment in a particular locality. Even though the whole place is stuck in litigation due to environmental issues, they bought it. When I asked them why they did not check all this before booking their apartment, their answer astounded me. Apparently, many of their co-workers had purchased property there. They convinced my cousin to go ahead despite the court case. Their logic was when so many people have bought land there, the court will rule in favour of the majority. I found their justification warped, but my cousin could not escape the constant stress from her co-workers.

These are just a few simple examples that I have quoted here. Many of us make more risky and damaging decisions because of family obligations or societal demands. The latest trends of TikTok challenges, Facebook challenges are a case to this point. We have seen many teenagers and children buckle under the pressure of friends groups and take up drinking, drugs etc. So how does one avoid this? How can you become immune to this pressure?

I have observed that self-aware people, confident people, focused people are immune to this pressure to a large extent. When you are aware of your inabilities, more than abilities, you can make an informed decision for yourself. You will not fall prey to emotional blackmail when you are confident in your decisions and abilities. One more way to avoid peer pressure is when you are focused on your goals. Your determination to achieve goals will keep you from being distracted and helps you stick to your course of action. A supporting and understanding family will also go a long way in avoiding these stresses and wrong decisions. At the end of the day, everyone will have to find a way out of this by themselves. There isn’t a straightforward solution that works for all, we need to find the right mix to treat each problem differently.

Depression is Not Always A Psychological Issue

Depression is often seen as a psychological disturbance where a person is persistently sad. The other symptoms include having trouble with concentration, getting easily annoyed by small things, unexplained anxiety, a negative perception of every situation, morbidity etc. The description I have given here is not the textbook explanation of depression or any symptomatic guide to detecting depression. These are traits that I have seen in a few patients of depression that I have encountered.

In fact, I have endured most of these very symptoms at one time in my life. My continuous work stress led me to believe that I might have a serious issue on my hands. So, I booked an appointment for myself and visited the doctor. After hearing my case, the doctor just prescribed a mild antidepressant and some sleeping tablets for me. He did not bother explaining my problem to me or tell me why I needed those pills. I was dismayed at this behaviour, but I still took the medicines. I tried them for 2 weeks and found no improvement. Moreover, I was always sleepy, which got me into trouble at work. When I went back for a followup visit, the doctor wanted to increase the dosage. I was not convinced, so I decided to take things into my own hands.

I did some research on the matter. There were many articles about the seriousness of the illness, the stigma attached to it, the symptoms and possible treatments techniques etc. But, most of the information was only from a behavioural and psychological standpoint. I wanted to avoid taking antidepressants and sleeping pills. I turned to yoga, meditation, walking, and other hobbies to keep my mind stress free and relaxed. It helped to a certain extent, but every now and then, my mind would take a turn into that dark alley where the shadows lie.

This is when I found an article about how nutritional deficiency leads to mood swings, anxiety, depression, fatigue, irritability etc. All these symptoms point towards depression when they persist over a long period. This got me thinking, I immediately booked a lab test for myself to check if my problem was less psychological and more to do with nutrition.

I was having B complex deficiency along with being anaemic. This meant I was having a deficiency of iron, vitamin B9, B6, B12 among other things. The article I had read suggested that a deficiency of all the above vitamins along with magnesium, selenium, iodine, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D etc tend to lead to depression. I took the results to a local doctor and he prescribed a set of vitamin supplements and a new diet plan. Within a few weeks, I was feeling more like myself and eventually, I made a full recovery.

What shocked me about this episode, was the psychiatrist that I approached at first, did not ask for any such tests. He did not check about my general health, my eating habits or any other symptoms apart from psychological ones. He was in a hurry to just prescribe antidepressants. My initial research always spoke about the psychological factors and aspects and hardly ever spoke about the impact of nutrition and food habits on our mind. They speak very vaguely about eating healthy food and avoiding junk food. But I had no idea, a simple vitamin or mineral deficiency could disrupt our mind, behaviour and attitude as well.

I was lucky to get out of this mess without any damage done. I want everyone to become aware of the impact of nutrition and healthy food on our body and also our mind. If you suffer from depression, anxiety or any such psychological problems, make sure you also check for any vitamin/ mineral deficiencies and hormone imbalances. I am sure your doctor would have checked on this, unlike mine. But, it is always better to be informed about all the aspects.