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Thursday, 2 August 2018

Think Biggest

This image circulates a lot on social media.

Every single time I see it, I wonder what the poor boy meant when he says, “I want to become like your brother.”

At first glance – especially going by the caption of “Think Big” – it looks like the boy is aspiring to be as rich as the brother being discussed. A guy who is so rich that not only can he afford to have an expensive car, he can also afford to gift it to someone.  

But every time I read this message, there’s another interpretation that comes to mind. And that is based on an observation I’ve made over the years, looking at people who grow richer over time. Of course, there will be exceptions to my generalization but many times, I’ve found that as the capacity to give increases, the willingness to do so, decreases.

So here’s the alternative interpretation I find in this picture.

I like to think that the boy is aspiring to become like the rich brother who isn’t attached to his possessions, his riches – a person who has no qualms about giving an expensive gift…one who thinks so big, that there’s no concept of holding on to something saying “It’s mine – only for me.”

Another vignette that keeps circulating on social media says it best.

A person chanced on a saint. Looking at the sparseness of the saint’s hut, he asked, “Where are your possessions?” 

The saint had a counter-question, “You don't seem to having a lot of luggage?” 

The traveler laughed, “Why would I ? I’m just passing by!” 

To which, the saint smiled and whispered, “So am I.”

Perhaps we can't all be the saint....but maybe we can at least travel light like the passer-by?

Friday, 27 July 2018

Flowers for Keshava

July 14th, 2018

We’re going tomorrow to the temple of Lord Soumya Keshava at Nagamangala. I need to buy flowers and a flower garland (maalaa) to worship the cow whom we’re going to donate to the temple’s goushaalaa. So, I hurry to the flower vendor opposite the Ganesha temple. 

I buy the jasmine flowers but am confused about what type of garland to buy. So I call my mother in law for advice and make my choice. 

The flower vendor couple (Latha and Bettappa are their names, as I later learn) have heard my side of the conversation and as they pack my purchases, they ask me which temple I’m going to. I tell them, and then, Bettappa has a murmured conversation with Latha. She thrusts her hand into a huge plastic cover, draws out and measures about three metres of the arali flower string, and ties it up into a neat garland, and hands it over to me. 

Arali flower maalaa. Pic taken from Youtube because I didn't want to take a picture of the maalaa before it was offered, and no pictures were allowed inside the temple where it was offered.

“Please offer these flowers to Perumal on our behalf,” Latha requests.

“Whenever someone tells us they’re going to a temple, we send some flowers with them, to be offered to the Lord,” Bettapa says with a humble smile.

I find myself struggling for words as I thank them, and reassure them that I will definitely pass on their offering. I’m struck by how happily they’ve given away something that would have fetched them at least a few hundred rupees! 

The devout couple - Latha and Bettappa

As I walk away, I’m drawn by the strong scent of the delicate jaaji flowers being sold by another flower vendor. I tell her to measure out two armlengths. She does, and there’s only a little more left over, which she insists I take, without charging me extra!

By then, one of her regular customers, an elderly woman, comes to take her stock of un-tied flowers. As the vendor lady hands over a cover with the flowers, telling her she only has this small amount saved for her, this buyer insists she should measure it accurately, and take the correct amount. 

To my utter surprise, the discussion is not about how the vendor will cheat the buyer, but that she may give extra flowers at a lower cost, and incur a loss! 
To which, the vendor makes a strange comment,

“Yellaa lekkaa aa Thathappa nodkotaaney!” (Translation: That grandfather will take care of all the accounts)

I’m intrigued by this, and ask her whom she is calling ‘Thathappa.’

“Sai Baba,” she replies, informing me that the elderly customer is a devotee who regularly buys the un-tied flowers, strings them up herself, and offers to the Sai Baba temple nearby.

Mulling over these eye-opening experiences, I make my way home. I’m worried that the flower vendor from whom I regularly buy un-tied flowers will have gone away because nobody’s home. A tiny disappointment ensues, because I too wanted to offer some flowers tied by my efforts.

A little later in the night, someone knocks, and I open the door. There’s a plastic cover with un-tied flowers left hanging on the door handle. I rush out to see who knocked, and standing a little away is a flower vendor who rarely comes to my road, and from whom I’ve bought flowers only once before.

“I don’t know why, Madam, but I felt I must come and give the flowers to you today,” he blurts out.

“Thank you so much. I’m going to a temple tomorrow, and I wanted the flowers, but couldn’t buy it from the regular guy because I came home late,” I say as I pay him.

“Even if you hadn’t been around to give me the money, I would have left the flowers and gone,” he says, and leaves.

A little later, the door knocks once again, and I open it to find my elderly neighbor. She’s come to ask me if I want to take the ‘Brahma Kamalam’ that’s bloomed in the pot outside. I hadn’t noticed it but her request fills me with greed. I want this exquisite, rare bloom too, for my Krishna! 

Brahma Kamalam. Pic taken about a year ago

As Aunty plucks the flower, she tells me that the last time two of these flowers had bloomed, she had allowed some ladies from our road to take the flowers to the temples they visited. I cringe inwardly with shame, for, I had felt a little aggrieved that Aunty had taken both the flowers, and I didn’t get even one.

My eyes grow misty as I’m overwhelmed by gratitude at how Krishna cares for petty souls like me and the smallest of my wishes. Not only did He let me have my heart’s desire of bringing Him flowers, He even arranged for me to learn the true spirit of offering and devotion from all these flower vendors and Aunty. 

Pic courtesy: Temple Advisor website, because photography inside the temple is prohibited

Wishing you all a blissful Guru Pournima! Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum!

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Weekend Trip Down Memory Lane

Going on a trip is easy - writing about it is not! It takes time and energy and the right frame of mind - and getting all three to synchronize is growing more and more difficult by the day. I've been on 3 trips in 4 months and not managed to write about even a single one. 

Which is why, this time, I decided to try something different using a video slideshow with pictures and text. 

I'd like to apologize for the watermark that appears throughout. That's the disadvantage of using the free trial version of the video creating software. 

If I get positive feedback on this video blog, and I find myself going on many more trips, perhaps I will consider signing up for the paid version. 

Ramanathpura is a village in Arkalgud taluk of Hassan district of Karnataka. My paternal uncle used to live there till a few years ago; it was the place where I spent a major chunk of childhood summer vacations. My last visit to this picturesque place was at least 17 years ago - so going back here now, with new eyes, so to speak, was an experience to cherish. 

Here are a few moments I captured on screen and while they cannot do justice to the spirit I soaked up, they will, at least, serve as reminders... 

There have been many times when I've not attended family functions that are a mere 7 kms away from home. This time, I went 207 kms away and returned, having re-discovered memories that I had forgotten even existed.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

God knows best, indeed !

Six or seven years ago, I was bitten by the bug of wanting to teach something more than just “pharmacy subjects”. I approached an organization that dealt with corporate training, and asked to be associated with them. Their main trainer was gracious enough to spend an hour talking to me. At the end of that conversation, I realized this area would not be the right fit for me at that time. Trusting that God knows best, I gave up on that goal.

Over the years, I found myself slowly trying to be a good guide to my students, taking an active interest in supporting them beyond just their studies. Often, there isn’t much I do beyond simply listening. Which is why I’m surprised and humbled when I see something like this..

Arfa Nasrine was my student two years ago. I haven’t taught her anything ever since she joined the post-graduate program. Not much interaction either, and no role absolutely in her activities. But she’s put this into the ‘Acknowledgement’ section of her M. Pharm dissertation. 

Yet again, I’m left surprised and humbled and grateful for being given the opportunity to help.

Google Maps vs Auto Driver: Whom do you trust?

“Will you come to Mariyappana Palya Metro Station?” I ask.

The auto driver agrees, and I get in. We reach the end of the road and he asks, “Shall I go left?”

I’m familiar with the right side route, but not the left, so I tell him I’m okay if he takes it, provided he knows where he’s going, because I don’t.

“I’ll go your way only, Madam,” he insists, saying that it’s his policy to not argue with customers because otherwise, later, some of them get into a quarrel. As we move on, he starts narrating one of his recent experiences.

A guy had boarded his auto at Palace Guttahalli and wanted to go to Sarjapur Road Fire Station. He was very particular that the driver takes the route shown by Google maps, so the latter agreed. In the words of my auto driver, “We went, and went, and went, and went…and kept going for close to 3 hours. At the end of it, the meter reading was for Rs. 747 rupees. He sheepishly slapped 750 rupees into my palm and rushed away. Had he let me go my way, it would have taken us a mere 1 hour 15 minutes, and as per my estimate, the fare would have been only Rs. 320 or so.”

This story sounds a little far-fetched, so I discreetly open the Uber app on my phone, and key in the starting point and destinations the driver mentioned. He’s been spot on with his estimates – Uber tells me the drive will cost about Rs. 295, and a Google search says the distance is about 20 kilometres, and should take not more than 90 minutes.

I laugh along with the auto driver at the bravado of such travelers who would rather trust an app (or their reading of its instructions) than a human with real life experience.

If any of my readers are incensed by what they perceive as a cavalier attitude on my part, my apologies. Oh yes, I do get that to someone who’s an outsider, or a newcomer to a city, it may be difficult to trust an auto driver. Given the number of even local residents who get cheated by auto drivers, it may not make sense to be very trusting of them. But I’m going somewhere else with this example, so please bear with me. 

Later in the day, I’m talking to a dear one, and the conversation veers around to monthly incomes, and she asks me, “How much are you earning now?” I tell her, and thoughtfully, she asks if it doesn’t bother me that ‘XYZ’ (whom we both are related to) earns about 5 times the figure I quoted. She then qualifies her comment, “Especially considering that you have the potential to be earning so much more than you do now.”

I’m not ruffled, and I simply shake my head, trying to explain that it bothers me not one bit.

Because I’m so happy doing the things I do – teaching, counseling, and writing, and I wouldn’t have time to be doing all these things if I tried to fulfill that earning potential…

…because ‘potential’ applies to so many aspects of one’s life beyond wealth – education, professional success, fame, respect earned, contributing to society…..

…because I’ve chosen to do justice to my ‘potential’ to give meaning to my existence beyond just earning for myself a fat package that will give me access to luxuries that will in turn increase my attachment to ‘maya.’

…because I’m more enthused to discover and push the limits on my ‘potential’ to make a meaningful difference to people whose lives I touch.

And finally …. because I’m trying hard to focus on growing my ‘potential’ to go beyond the momentary joys and sorrows of everyday life to a state of equanimity….

A little after this conversation, my mind flies to the morning’s auto incident and draws a parallel. People around me are using their apps – plans they’ve drawn up to use their ‘potentials’ – to get some place they want to get. I too want to get somewhere, but it’s not a very popular destination – some people don’t even know it exists. To make it worse, against the trends of today, I have decided to put my full faith in the auto driver to take me there correctly. Perhaps it is because of the belief that the universe reflects back what you put out, I’ve found this works for me.

I’m not sneering at or ridiculing the app-users. We all have our own journeys to make and my path won’t be your’s. All I’m trying to do is plant a thought in your mind. Maybe, just maybe, if we temper our constant urge to do the back-seat driving, whatever our chosen destinations, Paarthasaarathy will help us make good time ?? 

Thursday, 26 April 2018

The Sands of Time

We’re generally so busy in the present that we don’t really remember the minor events of the past. But sometimes, an event in the present can trigger a memory of the past, burying you in the nostalgia of how different life used to be. 

I went to this place yesterday evening. 

It was quite deserted because of the showers a few hours ago. The training had probably been canceled due to the rains. Looking at these cricket practice nets at the Malleswaram 18th cross playground, I remembered my summer evenings of 7 years ago.

Rushing from college to ferry my 8-year old son to cricket summer camp. 

Must thank my sister for clicking this with her camera
Waiting with the other mums for the 2 hours, interacting little with them, and mostly drowned in some or the other book.

Craning my neck occasionally to catch sight of my kid’s doings.

Observing how he always tried to position himself at the end of the line of kids to be trained. Wondering if he lacked confidence. Then realizing how he used all the waiting time to observe what the coach was explaining to each kid, and using it all to give his best shot when it was his turn.

No smartphone to take pictures to capture events on the spur of the moment. 😄

My return to this ground yesterday made me realize how much had changed in the intervening period.

The focus of summer vacation has changed from cricket to football.

No more ferrying. The 8-year old is now a 15-year old who travels all over Bangalore city on his own, by public transport.

I've gone to the playground only on this one day to pay the camp joining fee and talk to the coach about future plans.

My teenager (green shirt in the picture) is confidently holding his own and taking the initiative in the midst of players even senior to him.

I now have a smartphone to take pictures when I feel like it.😄

Yesterday, as I waited o
n the sidelines, I wasn't reading any book. Instead, I was thinking all these thoughts, and feeling the urge to blog about them. 

Yesterday, it suddenly struck me from deep within, that time does truly change many things - especially perspectives and behavior. 

Yesterday, I also realized that there was actually no reason for me to worry or fret over how things would turn out. This gave me hope for the future, too. It taught me to trust in the process of life, without hankering for instant answers and solutions.

Mostly, it reminded me to be grateful for the fact that these 7 years have been filled with so many blessings. 
Then......sis took this pic
                                                                                                 Now ..... we used a selfie stick

And I couldn’t help praying that 7 years hence, when this teenager is a 22-year old professional or post graduate, I will have equal, if not more, reasons to feel as content and blessed as I feel today.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Win-Win or Win-Lose?

This is about a young person I know and met again recently. He had been selected for a new job and was keen on joining at the earliest. But there was a hitch. An important event was coming up at his current employer’s worksite. It was around a fortnight away. 

I asked about what was going to be his contribution to the upcoming major event. He said he had a crucial role to play.

He felt uncomfortable about throwing his current employer into a tizzy by quitting now.

But he was equally (if not slightly more) worried about whether the new employer would wait for him, or employ someone else in his place.

He wanted my advice on what to do.

I asked about his current employer’s policy regarding quitting. No question of serving notice because this chap is still under probation – he just needs to inform them 24 hours before he quits.

I asked about when the new employer wanted him to join. Turns out they had left the choice completely in his hands – he could join the next day or by the end of the month. The joining letter would be given only the day he joined.

This chap said he was confused about when to join.

I asked how he felt about putting the current employer into a tight spot. Uncomfortable. But he had to look at his personal interests too, and didn’t want to pass up the new opportunity that meant good for his future career.

If this had been my dilemma, the answer would have been a no-brainer. I’d think it a mortal sin to ditch my current employer at such a crucial time. I’d take my chances on the new employer waiting for me, philosophizing that if it was meant for me, God would make it happen, but I must never do what’s unethical.

But this was not about me. 

It was about a 22 year old in today’s competitive times, with conditions different from mine. Listening to the chap, and comparing his attitude to what is often the trend among young graduates today, I mostly felt grateful that he, at least, felt uncomfortable, and was pondering over the choice.

I suggested he get in touch with his prospective employer and explain the situation, and ask them to wait till this upcoming event was over. That way, he’d also be giving them a glimpse into the kind of employee he would be with their company. Then, after the event, he could call them once again to confirm if the job offer still stood. If it didn’t – accept it, and continue at the same place without breathing a word of it, waiting for the next opportunity. If it did - hurray, give in the 24 hour notice to his current employer, and join the new company.

This, of course, was my analysis of the situation.

I don’t know if the chap is going to do as I suggested or disregard it and do as he pleases.

But I’d like to know what you – the one reading this – think. Was I correct? Was I wrong? Is there a better way out? Do share your thoughts…who knows, perhaps there will be some valuable piece of advice I can pass on to the chap?