Nothing Comes Easy

‘I wish this topic was easier’, ‘why do these exams have to be this difficult’, ‘why can’t all my problems just vanish away like the fairy tales’ and so on. Every one of us has complained like this at some point in our life. We all crave a smooth road with no bumps, blind turns or speed breaks. Such a turn of events is an impossibility, yet we dream of it. We even pray for it to come true.

Imagine, if life suddenly removed all obstacles in your path and it became a smooth ride for us, would we be able to enjoy it? This very thought made me think, and I had a fun discussion with my family about this.

If life suddenly became easy, I would not trust it for quite some time. I strongly believe in the saying, ‘if everything is coming your way, you are probably in the wrong lane’. I would be suspicious of everything that happened. I cannot enjoy something that I have not worked for because I have a constant fear that it will be snatched from me.

My mother said that if it happened to her, she would enjoy life for a little while. Finally, life would be an easy path after a lifetime of difficult decisions. Eventually, she would lose her sleep if she did not have anything to worry about or any crisis to resolve.

My sister said she would grab it with both hands and run. Considering how hectic her life is, I was not surprised by her answer. She did not believe in staring a gift horse in its face. She spends her day running around her two sons, so she waits eagerly for a slow day.

When I asked dad about his reaction to such a situation, he said it is impossible to get a smooth road. He would not bother to waste a thought on it.

My niece felt that if all obstacles were eliminated, there would be no learning. Since she is young, she believed that she would miss out on the experience and the fun in dealing with tricky situations.

Based on all these reactions, I can only conclude that most of us will not really be happy if life removed all the obstacles in our path. Complaining about our problems is a fun process in itself. We just wish life would go easy on stacking up problems all at once.

The Bondage of Debt

Recently I read a story from an old Indian children’s magazine called Chandamama. I was so impressed by it that today I want to share it with all of you.

Long time back, there was a night watchman. His job was to roam the streets of the village at night and look out for thieves. Every now and then he alerted the villagers to be on their guard. He was married for several years but was childless. When he approached a wise, old sage about his problem and asked for blessings. The sage explains:
“Runanubhanda Rupena Pashu Patni Suta Aalaya ,
Runakshaye Kshyayaanthi Tatra Parivedana.”

It means that cattle, wife, children and home (such attachments) are bondages that result from one’s previous birth. The relationship with these attachments ends once the debt is cleared. It can be settled in the form of service to these attachments. Enjoyment of these attachments ends the pain and suffering.

The watchman decided that to have a child, someone needs to be indebted to him. Thus, he made a pair of slippers and secretly left them on the roadside. He hoped that someone will accept them, and thereby a debt-bond is created. The same sage was walking down that street one day, and his feet were burning due to the heat. When he saw the slippers, he wore them. He inquired the whereabouts of the owner to pay for the slippers. But no one knew anything about it and later the sage died.

Due to this debt, the sage was reborn as the watchman’s son. He was aware of the debt, as he was a wise and holy man. The watchman was also aware of this. Out of fear of losing his son, the watchman and his wife never accepted any benefit from their son.

Several years later, the watchman fell sick one night and requested his son to do his job for that night. The son accepted it gladly. While on duty, he alerted the villagers with this verse:
Mata nasti pita nasti nasti bandhu na sahodhara
ardham Nasti gruham nasti tasmat jagrata jagrata.

This verse means, not mother, not father, not relatives, not siblings, not wealth, not house nothing lasts forever. Nothing follows you after death, these are bondages of present birth. All these relationships, wealth and property are merely worldly attachments, hence be careful.

After a few hours, he alerted the neighbourhood once again with another verse that spelt wisdom:
Kama krodascha lobhascha dehe thishtanthi taskarah
Jnana ratnopaharaya tasmat jagrata jagrata.

This means desire, anger and greed that reside inside the body are thieves that steal one’s precious knowledge. So, be careful.

Finally, in the last part of the night, he alerted the people with this verse:
Janma dukham jara dukham jaya dukham punah punaha samsara sagaram dukham tasmat jagratha jagratha.
This verse means that our birth into this world is one filled with pain suffering. Old age is torture. This entire life is an ocean of struggles. Hence be careful.

People who heard these words of wisdom were astonished by the sagacity of this simple night-watchman. They wondered how he acquired so much knowledge at such a young age. Anyhow, the young man returned home with his wage. Although the watchman refused to accept it.

One day a fire in the neighbourhood was engulfing all the houses. One after another all the houses burned, including that of the watchman. He and his family, quickly started to salvage whatever they could before the flames destroyed everything. While his wife and son brought things out of the house and handed them to him, he set them down, at a safe distance from the burning house. During that commotion, the young man handed everything to his father, and the last thing he gave is the bag of money he earned from the night shift job. The watchman grabbed it absent-mindedly and hurried. The son walked back into the house, never to return.

As realization dawned, the watchman collapsed to the ground in despair and agony over the loss of his beloved son. By the next day, the flames died down, while he stared at the ashes carried by the gentle breeze, he remembered the wise words uttered by the old sage and his son during the night shift. He understood that the debt was repaid.

This story touched my heart, I was moved by the philosophy it teaches. The Sanskrit verses in this story are taken from Vairagya Dindima by Adi Shankaracharya.
Adi Shankaracharya was the great Indian philosopher from the 8th century. His works enlighten our mind and show us the path to moksha or freedom from this cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

Are We Reading Too Much Between The Lines

Reading between the lines is a phrase that loosely means, to grasp what has been left unsaid, to uncover the truth behind the half-truths. In the past, it was an intelligent trait that only a few wise people possessed. The ability to read between the lines was a highly respected quality, people flocked to such wise ones for advice. By closely observing the body language, past history on the matter, the attitude of people involved and other socio-economic situations at that given point, one would make an educated guess about the intended meaning and unsaid story in a message.

The reason that I have raised this point today is that I have noticed that nowadays, we have stopped listening to what is being said. We see social media platforms abound with crazy conspiracies and theories that are based on seemingly innocuous interviews, discussion and press tours etc. Even mainstream media has stopped reporting facts and started producing conjectures and their analysis of what is said rather than giving us a chance to decide for ourselves.

We are so busy looking for the underlying message that we have stopped listening to what is being said. When we listen to someone speak, we closely observe every minute change in expressions, variation in pitch, tone of voice, line of vision of the speakers etc. Every time we see any fluctuations, we scramble to decode its meaning. We argue and debate to find an explanation. When we find it most of the time, it is the most perverse and unreasonable explanation we can think of.

As a result of all this ‘reading between the lines’, simple conversations are a thing of the past. Slowly reading between the lines got transformed into conspiracy theorizing. This intelligent quality got morphed into the petty and unhinged babbling of a conspiracist. You can visit any of the social media platforms and get 10 different versions and analysis of the same interview. While one site reads the meaning behind the message as a prediction of doomsday, another theorizes it as a ray of hope, and someone else says something totally tangential to both. Everyone tries to connect the dots to create different images while the viewer is left with a headache.

I miss the good old days when news channels only reported news and left the analysis to us. They stated only facts and the storytelling was left for grandmas. I miss the days when only a few wise souls could ‘Read between the lines’.

Do Not Judge Based On Appearances

Near my house, an old lady lived in an old house. That house was the ancestral home of her family, so she wanted to keep up the tradition by living there. The problem was, the house was old and ugly. The backyard was overrun with shrubbery, the front yard was not well kept either. The main building in itself was strong, but it needed urgent repairs. The windows were broken and needed replacement, the paint was peeling, and the house had an eerie look to it. The old lady of the house added to the weirdness of it all.

Growing up, we called it the Haunted House of the neighbourhood. We told stories of strange movements and sounds from the house. We were all scared to pass by the house on our way to school and back. If any of us dared to get closer to that house, to check what was wrong, the old lady from the house would shout at us, and we would scramble from there. We lost many cricket balls, footballs, and toys in the yard of that house. Sometimes the balls accidentally fell into that yard, or sometimes a stay animal ran away with our toys and hid in that yard. It is safe to say that as kids, we all hated that house. We wished for it to be torn down, we prayed it would be demolished. Yet, nothing of that sort happened, we grew up and learnt to ignore that ugly house.

Recently, on a bright and sunny morning, there was a flurry of activity at the house. We were all surprised to see life and movement in that house. Nobody bothered about it for all these years until now. Over that week, we saw movers come in and remove furniture and objects from there. Later construction crews started to demolish the house. All the trees in the yard were cut down. All the waste from the yard was set aside to be disposed of. In that waste, we saw many of our old toys and more than a dozen balls too. We were all relieved to see the house go, but at the same time, we wondered why it was being brought down now.

Later we got to know that it was because the old lady had died. As long as she lived, her children did not demolish the house out of respect for her. Now that she passed away, they were free to remove this old building and build a new and swanky bungalow. We were all happy to see the change, but we also felt sad to see the old house go. Our joy was dampened after getting to know that the old lady of the house died. That was the reason for demolishing the old house. We wished for that house to be torn down without realising its significance to that family. To us, the house was just an ugly old building that was a nuisance and eyesore. But to the family, the house held a whole world of memories, heritage and nostalgia. Just because we did not like the building, it did not mean that the building has no value.

Isn’t this the case with life in general? Many times, we disregard, shun, or insult people, things, books and such, just because they do not live up to a certain standard. We refuse to dig deep to find their importance, we just discard them as waste. By doing this, we lose many people, things and items of value, we recognise their worth only after it is lost. In the story that I narrated up here, the house did not have any importance to me. Just because the house was in a dilapidated state and looked ugly, I was quick to judge its value. I have learnt my lesson. Don’t let this happen to things and people that are important in your life.

Image Courtesy Of Canva.com

Beauty Is Not Just Skin Deep

We have all heard the age-old adage, beauty is only skin deep. It is a way of saying that external beauty is superficial and true beauty comes from the heart. It was drilled into us when we were young and impressionable. It was taught to us, not to be deceived by the charm of a person, but we should learn to see the honesty behind the facade. We should all strive to be good-natured, hard-working, honest and loving to succeed. Then, why did I title my post as ‘beauty is not skin deep’??

As a child, I might have accepted this lesson, but in actuality, the matter is not straight forward. Beauty is not just about having lustrous skin, clear complexion, slim physique, glossy hair, perfect posture, excellent bone structure etc. These are the parameters used by many to decide on beauty standards. But, to achieve these standards of beauty, we require more strength and character than we realise. To appear beautiful and maintain this image over a while, a person needs to make an effort, both mentally and physically.

Our health and inner emotional turmoil can be kept hidden, yet they manage to find a way to reveal themself. Our eyes, appearance of wrinkles, pimples, skin texture, hair quality, weight, posture will give away our state of mind and impact our beauty. Lustrous skin that is free of acne and wrinkles is a dream for most women and men. Every time we have mood swings or stress, our skin ages by a year. Lack of sufficient water can add to skin problems. Hair fall, oily scalp, dull, lifeless, thin and damaged hair are a result of sudden stress, emotional upheavals, bad sleep and bad eating habits. While we correct our posture, the way we walk or sit can be controlled with exercise, yet close observation will reveal any tensions or depression.

With these indicators ready to give away our state of mind and body, can we honestly say beauty is only skin deep? Beauty treatments, spa sessions and cosmetic surgeries can only do so much to hide the truth. A balanced diet, stress-free mind, good exercise, proper water consumption can do more to our beauty than we imagine.

Drinking at least 4 litres of water every day keeps our body hydrated. Water flushes out most toxins and gives us glowing, clear skin. Rigorous exercise for 30 mins daily helps us sweat out toxins, burns the extra fat and tones the muscles while it gets rid of stress in the mind. Regular meditation and deep breathing techniques remove tension in the muscles and help us relax. A balanced diet with the right amounts of fat, carbs, protein and minerals goes a long way in improving our physique and posture.

The suggestions I have made are not revolutionary concepts. They are not novel concepts that we never tried. Yet, we often overlook the importance of such simple activities that make a vast sea of change. I hope that I have reminded you to get back into these habits daily. I am sure many of you have many more simple tricks that help you daily. Feel free to share them with us and help others too.

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.

It Is The Season To Spread Joy

It is Christmas time. I know, most of you are thinking, ‘no shit Sherlock’. My point is that it is Christmas time and it is the time to spread joy, love and brotherhood. If you are a feminist, then it is sisterhood too.

Most of us immediately run to buy gifts, clothes and cards when we speak of spreading joy. Moreover, these gifts are shared with friends, family and loved ones. I know that this is a tradition, it reminds us of all that family time.

But, I ask you whether this is the true meaning of spreading joy. As far as I can see, most of us me included, share our love with the people we know. We mingle and spend time with loved ones. How is that spreading joy? When we say spread the joy, it should go outside of our known circle of people.

This Christmas, try to reach out to that friend or neighbour that we are no longer in touch with. Try to speak to those that we usually choose to ignore. Make an effort to mend fences with an estranged member of family or friends. I believe that would be the true meaning of spreading joy and love.

By doing this, you are reaching out to those you don’t exactly love. You are including and expanding your circle. Your friends and family get your time all year long. It is time someone new also gets your love and a share in your joy.

I plan to practice this and hope you do too. Tell me in the comments about how successful you have been.
Merry Christmas!!

Rainy days are gloomy days

For the longest time, I never understood why people called rainy days gloomy. People generally love rain, so I figured it should be a paradise when it was raining all day. After the rain, the air feels cleaner, everything looks bright, the birds are singing their hearts out and the weather is more cheerful.

The above statement would contradict the title of my post. So, let me tell you how I realised that rainy days are gloomy.

If it rains once or twice and then the sky clears up, it would be a fun kind of weather. It sets up a holiday mood and everyone wants to go for picnics or at least a long drive on a winding road. The trouble is when the rains continue for days on end.

I’m not even speaking about the water logging or flooding in rivers. The damage to property or infrastructure is a different issue. I am complaining more about the big puddles that splash water on us, wet and sticky seats in buses and trains, the fungus and flies that gather on food that is left outside, slippery surfaces, etc. Footwear getting stuck in the mud, dirty water stains on clothes etc are just a few embarrassing instances. The list is endless. Everywhere one goes, you can smell wet and moist clothes. The absence of the sun makes everything look dull. The moisture makes the air heavy.

With so many complaints, it is only obvious that our day will be gloomy. So, what is there to love in monsoon season? Sitting comfortably, wrapped up in a warm and cosy blanket with a hot mug of coffee sounds enticing. Staying dry and clean at home while watching the rain from the windows also sounds good. Another famous Indian pastime during the monsoon is hot and fried snacks, preferably savoury. Let me know if you have better ideas.

No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent – Eleanor Roosevelt

‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’. This is a very powerful quote from the former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. This quote conveys that unless we allow insults and words to affect us, they cannot harm us. The opinion of people will not matter to us unless we take them seriously. I do not intend to say that we are inviting the insults. I do not mean that we have to brush them off like dust either. I only mean that we should not believe them to be true.

To explain my point; let me take an example. We all know and agree with the fact that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. We believe in this fact so strongly, that if anyone tells us otherwise, we do not believe them. We will not accept any explanation to prove otherwise. We take it for granted that the speaker is either making a joke, trying to deceive us or is simply stupid. The person may even show us photographs or videos, but we will still disagree. That is how strong our faith is in the fact that the sun rises in the East.

We should have such a strong belief in our ability that no matter what anyone says, we know the truth. We know our true worth, and we will not let people state otherwise.

The same applies to praises and accolades too. When we know and believe in our ability, even flattery and false praise will not affect us. Isn’t that a kind of Zen-like state of mind.

There is an old proverb in India, which loosely translates as follows: A wise man is like a lotus leaf. He can stay in mud, slush and dirt all his life, yet stay unaffected by it. You can dunk the Lotus leaf in dirty water, have a frog sit on it all day long. Yet it comes out unaffected by the dirt. I know that such a strong mind is not easy to maintain. But, what is the fun in easily achievable goals? True enjoyment of success is after some struggle. So, let us work to make our mind and self-belief strong enough to withstand the world.

Are You Living With a Depressed Person?

Every time we talk about any mental health issues, we only talk about the patients. We talk about their mental state, their emotions, their needs and we prioritize on them. However, it is very important to talk about the people supporting these patients as well.

Mental health issues in themselves are difficult to handle because of all the stigma associated with it. A patient is generally not willing to seek help because of the fear of ostracization and ridicule from society and peers. And this fear, ridicule and alienation are faced by the people taking care of them as well. In fact, I would say the caregivers face a bigger challenge than the patient themselves. They do not have the wounds to show, but they have to bear all the pain and stand strong for the patient and take added responsibility.

I have had the misfortune of witnessing the kind of responsibility faced by the family or friends of the patients. The most common statement they hear is, “You should have been more responsible when you know the situation”. It is almost like it is their biggest curse for being the caregiver. It does not matter how difficult the patient is being, the caregiver always ends up taking the blame. The worst part is that we do not have to verbally blame them or say anything. Their conscience will not let them rest for even the slightest of mistakes. That is generally an enormous strain for anyone. It could end up causing problems for them in the future too.

I do not have a solution or suggestion for this concern, as I am not a qualified professional to deal with mental health issues. I can, however, bring to light this concern and hope that those in the know can show us the way forward. Please leave comments and suggestions if you have any.

Are We Truly Independent

Independence is one of the most coveted aspects of our lives. For many of us, independence can be considered a perk that is bestowed upon the blessed few mortals. What is independence? Most people would say that it is the lack of control over our life, freedom to make decisions and choices. But, I feel that we all are missing the single most important aspect of independence. It is the lack of dependence on anything or for anything. You might ask me, what is the difference? And I will say, there is a lot of difference.

If independence were only a matter of freedom to make our decisions and to choose, then it becomes an external force that we have to fight. To remove the control of others is something that we fight outwardly and against others. However, when we talk about independence as a lack of any dependencies, then the fight becomes an internal struggle. Now, we have to fight ourselves to overcome these impediments, and that is not an easy fight to win.

When I speak of dependencies, it includes various types of them. It can be a financial dependency, emotional, substance abuse, physical dependency etc. One might have the deepest pockets and a steely grip on all aspects of their life. Yet, being a slave to approval from loved ones and general public opinions can cripple our mind. Something as simple as being dependent on coffee, to start the day, has a far-reaching effect that most don’t realize. A day without coffee can make you grumpy, slow and generally irritated. But we laugh off such dependencies. Some of us can’t function without constant reassurance and approval from friends and family. I may be a free spirit that is waiting to fly, but my dad/husband/obligations/debt is holding back the money I need.

It is time we all take a closer look at our life and analyse; are we really independent? Have we been living the life of a slave, a glorified slave, all this time?

Don’t We All Just Hate Free Advice

The title of my post must have made it amply clear that I hate free advice. The fact that most free advice is just common sense makes it even more irritating and frustrating. The whole thing makes one feel like they are too stupid to figure out a matter of simple logic.

Incidentally, the other day, I was sitting and complaining to my friend about a meddling neighbour of ours who cannot seem to mind his own business. Lo and behold, my friend’s neighbour comes up and starts dispensing free advice about being patient and tolerant. She tells me that there is no point in arguing with a stupid person and I almost blurted out, “I know aunty, that’s why I am not replying to you.” She literally gave a detailed reenactment of meddling neighbours and proved the reason for my rant.

I might sound like a rude and arrogant person right now but think about it. Most of the time, when a person is ranting, they are just letting out their emotions. We sit down with our friends to rant about the problems in our lives, we are not looking for solutions. We are just venting out emotions and frustration. At such a time, when someone gives unsolicited advice, it only fuels our anger more.

The next time you hear a person telling you their problems, just listen to them. Don’t try to give advice. Many of us are not clueless about how to handle our life. We are just looking for someone to listen, someplace where we can speak our mind out loud so that we can declutter our thoughts. I, luckily have my blog to declutter my mind. Every once in a while, I pen down all the things that I want to say out loud and post a ranting article.