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.

Beware Of The Impact Of Kindness

An act of kindness is universally respected as a good deed. Every religion teaches us to be kind and helpful. We praise generosity and we elevate compassionate people to a God-like status. Then, why did I warn you to be wary of the result of kindness?
Let me tell you a story to explain the statement.

There once was a village of wealthy and prosperous people. All the people of this village were blessed with good health, wealth and abundance. The villagers were grateful for their fortune, they shared it freely with those who were less fortunate. Once a sickly poor mendicant came to their village asking for charity. Everybody donated freely to help the poor man. Soon, with all their kindness, the beggar’s health improved. He was able to save enough money to stop begging. He took up a job in the village. Seeing his development, more beggars started to visit this village. The kind citizens continued to help everyone who came. But some of the villagers observed the sudden increase of beggars, they stopped being so generous. Soon, the rest of the families too started to make the same observation and stopped giving alms as freely as before.

The new beggars did not like this change. They started to demand charity, instead of requesting it. If anyone refused to help, they would get agitated at them. As the situation worsened, more and more families stopped helping. This made the beggars riotous.

Observing all these changes, the village elders and the chief called for a meeting. They wanted to settle this conflict, so they sat down to discuss the concerns. Through this discussion, the chief realized that the whole ruckus was a result of their own kindness.

The villagers were kind to everyone who asked for help, they never checked if the person deserved help or not. They blindly served everyone who asked. Their unquestioning attitude and kindness attracted all the freeloaders and lazy people around. The village became a haven for lazy and good for nothing people. Their begging was no longer a request for help, it became a demand for money. Later, it became the responsibility of the villagers to feed this bunch of beggars.

If you think that this is just another imaginary story, then think again. Transpose this story onto your life and analyse. Often, we try to be helpful to friends or family just because they are our friends or family. We go out of the way to help them, but our friends take the help for granted. God forbid, if we refuse to help them for any reason, they start to get agitated and emotionally blackmail us. They make statements like, ‘how can you be so cold-hearted?’ or ‘is our friendship not worth the trouble?’ They guilt-trip us into going beyond our limits to help them.

It is not just with our friends and family, we see this trend even with certain charitable and social organisations. They make us feel guilty for our well being and use this guilt to manipulate us into donating more than we can afford.

I will not persuade anyone against compassion. In fact, the world could use more kindness, but beware of whom you shower it upon. Not everyone who asks for help deserves it. Do not fall prey to false propaganda and manipulative lies. Stop and check the veracity of any problem before you start to help them.

Use Writing As Therapy

Writing is often considered a good habit to cultivate, many use it as an avocation. Some might even turn it into blogging as I have. But, I feel that penning down your thoughts is the best form of therapy. This is not an original thought; many psychologists have recommended that we maintain a journal of all the events that affect us. I never quite understood the benefits of this exercise until I tried it myself.

It all started with an interview of a famous celebrity, I will not name him as he is a controversial figure with many people glorifying him and just as many reviling him. In this interview, he was asked to advise students who study away from home and fall into depression.

He gave the following simple exercise for all students who feel alone or agitated on any event or issue. ‘Every time you face an issue that disturbs you, write it down’. Find a peaceful place to sit and record the complete incident from your memory in that book. After writing it once, if you do not feel calm, write the same incident again. Try not to revisit what you wrote the first time, but write the whole incident freshly as you remember it at that moment. Repeat this process of writing until your mind cools down. He said it is a way of removing the incident from your mind and getting rid of it.

I tried to follow what he advised and found some interesting things about myself. I realised the first time, I described an incident that hurt me in great detail. I wrote an essay that was 20 pages long describing my emotions, my pain and all hurtful words. The next time I wrote it, the number of pages came down considerably, so did the description of all the emotions. By the end, I wrote about the event 5 times and my fifth attempt was only half a page.

I read back at all the 5 essays that I wrote and I was startled to see the change in tone with each attempt. At first, it was all centred around me and my feelings. The next attempt was slightly less about me and more factual. The third time I became a bit critical of my self. By the last time, I narrated the incident from a 3rd person pov.

I found this technique very helpful and therapeutic. It was also a kind of analysis into my way of thinking too. I want everyone to try this method of self-therapy before we pass judgement on it. Tell me how it works.

Understand the problem before you set out to resolve it

We always speak about identifying the problem and working towards resolving it. But, there is an important step in between both of them and that is ‘Understanding’ the problem. As a matter of fact, understanding the issue is the biggest part of resolving it. I’ve heard many people say, “what can you gain by understanding it, just get rid of the issue”.

By not understanding the predicament, we run many risks. One of them is that our resolution to the issue might be incomplete. We could give the wrong solution that might check the trouble, but not resolve it. We could also end up repeating the mistake that caused the issue in the first place. 

Here is an example of an actual problem that was aggravated because of lack of understanding. An uncle in our neighbourhood developed a cough. Since it was winter, the doctor attributed the case to be simple cold and treated it accordingly. The cough persisted, so the doctor increased the dosage of the cough medicine. The issue was not resolved even then. The uncle changed many doctors over 3 months with no results. He got multiple chest x rays, blood tests, and cultures done to check for an infection. Due to the prolonged cough, he developed redness and soreness of throat along with severe pain in his chest muscles. He was not able to eat anything much and was feeling very weak and miserable.

In the meantime, he went to another doctor to try his luck. As it turns out, he was lucky. This doctor asked for all other symptoms apart from coughing and pains. He also reviewed food habits and considered the past history of my uncle’s health. Once he got a clear picture, he started his treatment. My uncle was cured of his cough. We were ecstatic and we asked the doctor the reason why his medicines worked while all else failed.

It turns out the reason for my uncle’s cough was not in his lungs or throat or any infection. My uncle had an acidity problem and suffered from acid refluxes. His throat was damaged because of the acid reflux and this irritation in his throat led to cough. When the doctor gave him medication to cure his acidity, it removed the root cause and his cough was alleviated. 

This example of acidity causing cough might be a one-off situation. However, it helps to highlight the point that understanding the problem is the best way to resolve it. Try not to rush to solve the problem rather, take time to understand what is transpiring and why it is occurring. Then formulate your plan to save the day.