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Thursday, 30 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 30: Keep the hope going....

I had planned to end this NaBloPoMo 2017 blogathon by thanking everyone and sharing the feedback I got from many of you. But at the penultimate moment, I received a story from a young engineer who happens to be my husband’s cousin’s son. Part of the same extended family from where Dheepak and Nappinnai come… But Vijay A. Ramani being my relative isn’t the reason why I’m putting his story here. It’s because of the message in this story that holds value for each one of us because it says so eloquently that one must never give up hope…….

Being patient is a good quality for an individual person. Everything comes to you at the right moment. Be patient. Even if a situation doesn’t appear to be good for you at that moment, just wait for the right key to open your door. 

Here I am going to share my personal experience which made me realise why it’s important to not lose hope.

In 2010, I started my B. Tech IT graduation as a lateral entry student and time ticked by quickly. When I entered the final year, placements started.

Initially it was product based companies who visited our campus. Here’s how I fared:

1st company – couldn’t qualify the 2nd round (GD)

Next few companies – didn’t qualify either 1st or 2nd round

Day by day, each of my friends got placed and I was trying to get through each company but failed somewhere.

Then, top MNC companies came to recruit us

With Mindtree, I went up to technical round, then got rejected

Accenture, Wipro, Bosch – I wasn’t able to get through 1st round

CTS – got rejected in final round; same happened for iNautix.

By now, my 7th semester was over only few companies were left to come for placements during the 8th semester. I wrote TANCET exam to be on the safer side (to help for govt jobs or further PG studies within TN) and was able to get 9782 rank out of 3,00,000 people.

In the 8th semester, I got selected by a company but I rejected the offer since they wanted me to sign a bond for 4 years.

College life was over with good memories, but now, fear started building up as I found myself competing with lot of VIPs (Velaiilla Pattadharis – Tamil for 'unemployed graduates').

And yet, I simply held on to the thought inside me that someday or the other the sun will shine on me, too…..

I started applying to all companies through job portals, referrals and walk-in interviews.

I was referred to Caterpillar by Sampath Periappa’s relative for a software engineer position and couldn’t qualify the 2nd round at Bangalore.

My job search continued….I interviewed with nearly 20 companies and still couldn’t get through! And yet, I waited patiently, hopefully, for the key that would open my door. This finally materialized in November, 2013 when I got placed in a small concern of 10 to 15 employees referred by my maternal uncle Srinivasan (Cheenu Mama).

After consulting my mom and dad, I decided to join work. Thus started my IT career at Bangalore with less stipend which latter turned to be a good one. Simultaneously, I was applying to other jobs. I stayed with my maternal aunt’s (Geetha chitti) family for a few months.

Being in Bangalore, I got a good exposure and finally, my friend referred me for HR backend support position. Hurray!! I was offered employment at Caterpillar Bangalore in September 2014, where I’m working till date.

I am happy now for what I am currently.

What I’ve learned through these experiences is that all situations may not turn out good for everyone nor may results be positive every single time. But it is important to be patient and keep trying to find the right key that unlocks your door..

Here, I’d like to thank my dad and mom who always keep encouraging me during my learning days. I’m grateful to all my relatives, friends, cousins and neighbours who helped me by referring me to their known contacts in the IT industry, which helped me to learn and improve myself at each stage.

Patience is not about doing nothing. Patience is about constantly doing everything you can. But being patient about the results.

Now you understand why I couldn’t put this off for the future, don’t you? And I’m sure you’ll give me just one more day – tomorrow – to wrap things up with your and my own views of what the blogathon has done for all of us…………

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 29: Trivial things together make perfection....

After reading many of the posts, it is quite natural to feel in awe of people who’ve battled difficult circumstances to come out winners. Sometimes, along with the sense of being inspired, there’s a corner of the mind which wonders if your journey is somehow lesser than theirs because you’ve not had such hardship. Let me set your mind at rest. Just as it’s more difficult to be a gruhastha (householder) than a sanyaasi (renunciant), it’s more difficult, in some ways, to go through an ordinary life than a troubled one.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not belittling the struggles of those who have challenges in their life, What I’m trying to say is that when you have huge troubles, your motivation to overcome them is equally strong. That drives you ahead. For minor troubles that are not actually troubles, it isn’t so easy to stay motivated. Like for example, if your husband is facing losses in business, you will struggle to find alternate sources of income. But if your major trouble is getting irritated with your husband throwing the proverbial wet towel on the bed……you get my point, right?

Which is why it is important to pay attention to the small things we do. Make tiny changes in your life. By itself, each of these things may not be anything great. But put together, they can be a standard operating procedure to reboot the way you live.

So, here are the small little things that readers sent me as replies to my initial question on the 1st of November, 2017.

Shri. Srivatsa and Smt. Shilpa (husband’s cousin and his wife)
To ignore and let go has helped us rather than being caught in the trivial things, sulking and eventually blocking our vision of growth. This has definitely put us on the path of growth curve. This does not mean that we are shying away from responsibilities. We are there wherever required. We have been doing things by reasoning and questioning the need even more. This has helped us personally and also professionally to gain momentum in our business.

Smt. Vijayita (a friend and reader whom I’ve never met in person)
I finish my dinner latest by 7:30. Just one small change has improved our lifestyle and health a lot.

Smt. Preetha (a friend from my counseling course)
It is smile that has made a world of difference to me. I have practised it over years, positivity follows..

Smt. Ranjani ( a nutritionist I met through Shilpa, on the phone, but not yet in person) Meditation

Smt. Aparna Parinam (a good friend, college senior)
I believe in treating and respecting people as I would be treated and respected. And this has helped me.

Ms. Susan (old school friend)
Let go of anything that hurts you and move on. This is my belief and I live that way.

Smt. Mamatha (old student, now teacher)
I start my day with positive affirmations . That changed everything in me. I started to listen to Ramayana and Bhaagavatham also. These things brought changes my life.

Lakshmi Maami (mother-in-law’s sister’s sister-in-law…there’s another relation too I think but not sure) I don't have any special habit that has changed my life. But one thing that has uplifted me is the Sreevaishnavam practice and knowledge gained through attending the kalakshepams (spiritual discourses) and learning about our Granthams deeply. Definitely it has brought me to what I am today…a drastic change.

Smt. Reshma Nayak (VP of Wellthy Therapeutics for whom I write diabetes-related articles. Another of those on my want-to-meet-someday-in-person list)
As a child, I did a lot of chores at home. And whenever I dusted or cleaned, my parents would always tell me one thing that's stuck with me and become my philosophy in life. If you see dust anywhere, get rid of it. Don't keep it for later. I apply it to all spheres in my life

Shri. Sunder (acquainted through DISHA; conducts personality development workshops for schools) Listening to others especially in school setting I learnt a lot. And that has made me a better person today than last 5 decades!

Shri. Sreenivasan (husband’s cousin)
I will never forget in my life time how our uncle uplifted all our family members. If you take as a case study, he has worked tirelessly for the upliftment of sisters’ families. Without our great uncle we wouldn't have grown like this. Hats off uncle. In addition I never treated my Ranga mama as my uncle. He is more like a friend to me. Great person in my lifetime.

(The Ranga mama he refers to is my father-in-law. And I’ve promised to write an entire post on this topic as a tribute to him!)

Smt. Malini (sister-in-law’s husband’s cousin)

My habits are very normal ones-but have brought in lot of changes in my life.

Prayers in day to day life,networking with people of positive attitude
A walk for about 20 to 30 minutes
Always having an urge for learning various aspects -might be new or old

Listening to music for 1/2 an hour everyday
To put it in a nut shell -ALWAYS KEEPING MY MIND AND BODY BUSY

Ms. Shiny (previously student, now colleague, a teacher)
My personal experience is letting go off something that you can't hold is the best thing one could do to themselves. Especially when it is for something that's stealing your peace of mind royally and something which isn't worth to be wasting time on. When you move on and let go of that, you become exactly what you always wanted to be, you become a better version of yourself. It teaches a lot of patience, you get molded into a better person, you become matured. You will be able to face anything with a cool mind ,all that you need to do is trust God and believe this is a part of His divine plan to make you a better person for future.

Also love yourself unconditionally because it's the best gift you can give God. When He breathed life into you! We could be anything else a flower, a bird or an animal but he has chosen us to be humans that is so special and is a blessing!! So in life we should let go of things which are not worth holding onto and those things or people who steal your mental peace and just leave you with pain !! I guess we need to go through this and grow through this and endure this just to be a better person and to tell your own self that you are totally worth it!!

Dr Rati Santhakumar (sister’s college mate, paediatrician in Thrissur) I have cultivated a method of not looking back and delving into the past. Because that gives too much unhappiness. So keep my mind blank and live for each day.

Dr. Kalaranjani (Ayurvedic physician, friend from counseling course) Do people know the real value of life... Theirs or others...??? I think about it at least one or twice in a day...When I see people talking on phone while driving, jumping traffic signal, drinking soft drinks with heavy meal...

Ayesha (old student)
I think my strong will power and never give up attitude helped me a lot...when people said I can’t do this or that I proved them wrong in some way...I mean, some people said I won't be able to do jobs...they were like it’s not easy to do and started demotivating me...but in spite of that I tried and got it...This is just one example but there are still few other things...I tried to prove them wrong.

Shri. Sriram (husband’s cousin)
I have cultivated a habit of giving positive responses to whatever I am asked. This helps in creating an atmosphere with no friction. Suggest you write about your husband's maternal grandfather who was an incomparable human, lived like a saint. I’m slowly trying to inculcate his behaviour although it’s difficult.

Each of these tips is a nugget that can expand into life lessons. And I hope that although I haven’t written about them in detail, you, dear readers, will pay attention and adopt at least some of these in your life.

As to those who couldn't write in this time, do feel free to do so anytime you feel like....

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 28: Two tips to keep the peace....even in the corporate world...

When I’d asked people for their insights at the beginning of this month, a cousin of my husband said she would write back to me shortly. When there was no reply for a long time after, I was wondering why it was taking her so long to send a few thoughts along. And then, one fine day, this document landed in my inbox and I knew why it had taken time – because she had made the effort required to write it in a ‘ready-to-publish’ form.

Read on to know what Vidya Suresh, who works for an IT major in Chennai, has to share….

When I think about success, I don’t really feel I can share my practices as success tips…they are more like tips for peace of mind, which, in turn can lead to success.

According to me success is something that varies from person to person even for the same competition of Birth to Death. Like getting a heavy breakfast is success for someone who’s deprived of food, and replacing heavy breakfast with a mild one is a success for another person who’s aiming at weight reduction.

So considering peace of mind, I can mention 2 things that have worked for me.

1. Find positivity in everything you see and undergo

Though I started with this accidentally, I have tried to retain that habit within me after realizing its benefits. Generally, for any working person, promotion is one of the key morale boosters and of course, partly a money booster as well. More so when it has been pending for quite some time.

I lost my promotion, on a minor margin of just 30 days. The other candidate had been waiting for it for the past 17 months, whereas I was waiting for it for the last 16 months. Not my fault. But as per company rules, it could be given to only one person and so, it went to the other person. It was quite a disappointment for me since I felt that the management could have tried to make an exemption and provided recognition to both of us. But it did not happen.

Later, when I analyzed it, I realized that I couldn’t have done anything more than what I had already done by performing well. My manager was of the same opinion as well. When I was trying to get over this disappointment, when it struck me, “I did not get the promotion, but I’m lucky to have got a good manager, who shared the fact openly with me, which is a really positive thing.”

If you think about it, you can grow without material benefits, for some time, but never without good people around you. So, learn to look at and appreciate the supportive people you have around you.

Losing a promotion provided me an opportunity to understand that there are people around you, who care for you, share the truth with you. That gave me the peace of mind to move ahead. 

2. React to mistakes of others like you would to your child.

This is the second attitude that I am currently practicing. When things don’t go well with someone and they make mistakes, or rather, when I think they make a mistake, I try to treat them as my closest ones, young ones, like a mother or father handles a small kid.

When my kid is making a mistake, what do you do? You don’t just get angry and move away from him or her, right? Initially, you get angry, yes, but you can’t ignore the matter; you need to resolve it. But how?

You pacify the kid, explain things, if he is not accepting on first attempt, you keep telling the same, and try to explain again. If it doesn’t work out, you reach out to someone else, who can help resolve it.

When we practice this with our kids, we end up raising good children. When we practice it with others, we end up retaining the relationship and bring up a matured soul within our own selves.

I am practicing both these attitudes with other people to the maximum extent possible. In official as well as personal matters. Because, at the end of the day, relationships are what matter the most!!

Well….what’s left for me to say that Vidya hasn’t already !!

Oh yes…one thing…that I’ve ‘discovered’ three potential writers in the family!!

Monday, 27 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 27: Being honest with kids

Ms. Ranjini is a psychologist and I met her during the contact classes that were being conducted for the Counseling and Psychotherapy course that I was pursuing. In fact, it was she who recognized me from my participation in the DISHA programs at Ammanni College in Malleswaram, where she was employed as a counselor. Even after finishing the course, we’ve kept in touch and so, Ranjini responded to my question at the start of this blogging month. 

She wrote to me about two things – one, her experience as teacher, and two – an important aspect of parenting. The teacher experience I will have to keep for another time because it’s a topic that requires detailed, nuanced handling. The parenting aspect is what I’m writing about today.

Ranjini wrote: “One lesson I learned from my kids is to never lie to them. My daughter caught me a couple of times when I had lied to her, of course, in her good interests….but it was very embarrassing for me and from that day, I have been practicing to be as truthful as possible with my daughter.”

I really appreciate Ranjini for her honesty in sharing this and even more for letting that embarrassment drive her to change her approach.

I’m sure many of us have had similar situations when we’ve been forced to be economical with the the truth – all in the name of protecting our children from harm, or to give a simplistic explanation for a complex situation they aren’t old enough to understand. Of course it isn’t possible to be 100 percent truthful all the time and you need to be sensitive to the impacts of your truths on the child, too. And yet, it's better to say, "You are too young to understand this now. I will tell you later" rather than fibbing.

But I think the broader point Ranjini is making, is that of avoiding lying to children out of our own sheer laziness. Especially if your kids have a lot of questions, it can be a long-drawn procedure to explain something to them – more so when dealing with the gray areas in the realm of human relationships. And yet, we owe it to our children to take the trouble to be as honest as their understanding permits, and not take the easy way out just to save ourselves from heartache.

When we try explaining things to them, it actually helps clarify our own thought processes, and can be a wonderfully insightful exercise. The innocent “why” or “why not” of a child can be the beginning of a deeper soul-searching for us parents. Also, by adopting this method, we are training our children in how to reason things out and take decisions.

Writing about this reminds me of my own experience. When our son S was about 3 or 4 years old, my husband had to occasionally travel out of Bangalore on official work. Given his obvious attachment to his Appa, we all assumed S would be miserable to know Appa isn’t going to be around for 2 days. So, whenever S asked for his Appa, he was told that his father was going to be coming later, or that Appa came and went when he was napping in the afternoon, and so on…For a few days even after my husband returned, S kept showing signs of anxiety whenever Appa wasn’t near him.

Realizing this, the next time my husband went out of town, I decided that we wouldn’t lie to S. Before he left, Appa told S that he was going to be away for one day, and that he would be coming back on such and such day. Later during the day, whenever S asked for Appa, I reminded him of what he had been told. Of course there were tears, and of course he pined for Appa off and on, but by and large, he wasn’t as cranky or anxious as the previous time.

That incident set the foundation for what continues to be an honest two-way communication. Even today, when he doubts what someone is telling him, he turns to me with questions, knowing fully well that his Amma will give him the true version and even help him understand why that other person wasn’t being honest. By God’s grace, so far, I have been able to do just that….And this openness from our side has led to him cultivating the same direct approach. He trusts us and we trust him.

I pray that Ranjini's efforts at being truthful with her daughter will pay equally rich dividends...

Sunday, 26 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 26: Do people change with time or is it our perception that changes?

The other day, I heard two people – let’s call them A and B talking about a third person C.

A: Have you noticed some change in C?

B: Not particularly. Why?

A: He’s kind of ignoring me. He doesn’t reply to my texts and even when I call, he seems to be always in a hurry. Maybe getting that promotion to Manager has gone to his head…

B: Maybe he’s busier now and has less time to respond?

A: No, no… even before, he used to be more interested in talking only when he wanted some help. You know what they say, “It’s not that people change, it’s the mask that falls off!”

Of course, because I wasn’t acquainted with any of these people, I have no information to say if A was correct in his assessment.

But to me, it sounds like several possibilities exist…

1. C is indeed an opportunist (what people in Goa aptly describe as “Kaamaa purti Maamaa”) and has really grown aloof because it does not suit his purpose to spend time talking to A.

2. C has grown busier and with lesser time, he’s choosing his priorities – and talking to A may not be one of them – tough on A but justifiable from C’s point of view.

3. A is secretly jealous of C and looking to find fault with him so he can justify his bad feelings about C.

4. C has always been reserved, but A never noticed because he was busy taking the lead in conversations. So the problem is that A’s initial perception itself was wrong; now that he’s ‘seeing’ C with blinkers off, he notices what he didn’t earlier. But since he can’t accept his error in assessing C, A is finding fault with C.

I’ve seen many people sharing quotes on Facebook in the spirit of what A was feeling….

“People change and often, they become the person they said they will never be.”

“Time flies, people change. You’re not always needed. There are times to move forward and places to let go.”

“Don’t trust people who change their feelings with time. Trust people whose feelings remain the same when your time changes.”

You can see that all these feelings arise mostly from a sense of hurt….hurt pride, to be specific. You thought you were important to someone – and realizing that you aren’t comes as a shock, setting off a chain of emotions right from anger to depression.

I’ve generally noticed that people who are self-sufficient in their emotional needs go through such trauma less frequently than those who depend on others to feel good.

Thankfully, I belong to the former category, so I don’t really know what it feels like for people in the latter category. But I do know that learning to avoid over-attachment to others can be the key to keep away from such heartache.

Overhearing that conversation between A and B reminded me of my own experiences. For example, it’s been months since I spoke to some good friends who earlier used to be very eager to talk. Then there are some people who are very engaged as readers of my writings for some time – then, they seem to drop off the face of the earth. Neither of these gives me any negative feelings about the concerned persons.

For two reasons.

First, I have a kind of detached approach to these things. I’m happy if people want to interact, but it’s not as if that interaction is the only thing that validates me or my writing. Second, and more importantly, I have this belief that ultimately, all is guided by divine will and all happens for the best – we all get the interactions that are best for us at a given point of time.

So, the next time you find someone “ignoring” you, don’t waste your energy or break your heart in the negativity of how they have changed. Instead, trust that the Universe is keeping you away from those interactions because they are not really necessary for you.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 25: Creating your destiny....

I’m always amazed at how we take people and things at face value, and realize almost nothing about their back story, unless they choose to reveal it themselves.

Today, I’m presenting one such back story that a reader shared. She does not wish to reveal her identity because she says her intention is to not hurt anybody after all these years. And yet, despite the risk of being recognized, she’s willing to share her experience because she hopes that her story will help women realize the importance of being not just educated, but also self-sufficient. So, here’s the story of K as I would like to call her….

I was an average student at college not because I was not intelligent but because I was not disciplined and did not know the value of education. You can gauge my immature approach from the fact that I was just waiting to get married so that I can stop studying! Fortunately, I was married into a so-called rich and highly educated family, at 21, soon after my basic degree.

Dreaming of eating whatever I want, sleeping whenever I want and a generally easy-going life, I could not believe my luck. I stepped into the family, thinking I was a FREE bird now. Little did I know what was in store for me. 

Forget about freedom of doing or talking, no individual of the family was allowed the freedom to even “think”…. 

I had been born and brought up in a middle class family, full of love and freedom. Here, after marriage, I needed permission to even sit and stand, and had to blindly follow instructions, and do only what was told – no freedom to use my mind, also….

That was when I slowly realized the true value of education. I waited for more than a decade to muster courage to put my foot down and finally started expressing my wants and likes and more importantly – started studying again.

So, I went back to college, did my Masters, stood first in the University and went ahead to do a dozen certificate and diploma courses in my chosen subject and finally completed my PhD.

I was someone who complained of food not being tasty when my mother lovingly cooked and fed me each day and yet, I did not bother to study despite all the comforts and care given to me. After my marriage, when I finally did all these courses, it was with a lot of hardship. I had to do all the work and cooking at home, and take care of my children, their studies, games, and activities.

I realize now that I had undermined the value of being educated. It has brought so much courage, confidence and respect that the very same people who once looked down upon me, now look up to me for everything.

Every woman has to be educated to ensure her own safety and not be abused, in any way.

My purpose in sharing this story is not to blame the ones who abuse. Rather, I am blaming myself for not being responsible enough. Once a woman is educated, chances of people abusing her in any way, are less, and she can stand up for herself in any situation, is what I want to convey.

Like Swami Vivekananda said, "Stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny."

I got acquainted with K through a friend’s friend, when I was sourcing information for an article for a new website. It was supposed to be a regular assignment and I was happy to meet K because now, I had a credible source for my articles. But after a month or two, all communication from that site ceased and I never did get to know if those articles were published or not.

I’ve always felt bad about this unexplained silence of that website, because I wasn’t able to get back to my sources with a link to the article that quotes them. And I also pondered - what could be the purpose of this seemingly random episode. 

Today, after reading K’s story, that I knew nothing of when I interacted with her previously, I think I know the answer. That random episode was yet another serendipitous event to put me in touch with an inspiring person whose story is sure to be a motivation to many others….

Friday, 24 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 24: Snippet from my life

It was my son’s first birthday and we were to celebrate it with the customary rituals in the Ram Mandir at Malleswaram. All relatives from both sides of the extended family had been invited, along with workplace colleagues and friends.

Unfortunately, my husband S had hurt his leg and been advised a few weeks immobility – a hairline fracture, I think, can’t remember exactly after all these years. Also, S’s maternal aunt who had been diagnosed with cancer a few months before, was struggling with her ailment and the side effects of the therapy, and my in-laws were totally occupied with caring for her besides also taking care of a paralyzed-from-the-waist-down, bed-ridden Tatha (my mother-in-law’s father).

A few days before, after consulting my parents and in-laws and the vaadiyaar (officiating pandit), I had compiled a list of things we would require, and kept everything ready. The evening prior to the birthday, I went to the hall alone to check on the arrangements and make the last minute purchases of flowers and fruits. One of my brothers-in-law came after some time and together, we bought the vegetables from the nearby market and got the cook and his assistants settled in. My parents and sisters would be coming early the next morning to help set up everything for the rituals.

The next morning, I packed everything, and with my sister-in-law P, took an auto and reached the hall. S and his parents would come with our son a little later. While we were in the auto, P was appreciating how I had got everything organized on my own and made a statement that made me go blank for a while. She said, “At first, we were all worried because during your wedding, we heard you were slow in your work. But seeing how you’ve been doing everything so efficiently, it’s a great relief.”

Overcoming my shock at hearing that, I asked her from whom they had heard it and when the answer came, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Laugh – because that person who had passed judgment on me didn’t really know me well, and had hardly ever seen me in action despite being a close relative, because there hadn’t been scope for too much interaction. Cry – imagining how wrong my new family had been in believing the inputs from someone who was not just ill-informed, but also relatively quite young.

But there was no time to spend thinking of it and so, this news of my supposed lethargy and laidback attitude got pushed to the back of my mind.

Many days later, I remembered this again and then, pondered over why that relative may have made such a damaging statement to people who were yet to discover me. It struck me that maybe it was something said in jest, because my sisters would always tease me about how, when I was in 11th and 12th standard, I used to leave home much earlier than required. Everyone knew it was to avoid the rush in the buses which was more as college time approached, still, it was one thing they used to pull my leg about. Probably this person had heard this joke and reported it equally in jest, not realizing the impact it could have…

And yet, even in this situation with so much potential for damage, I could sense Krishna’s grace….because:

- My in-laws family had heard this judgment and yet, never used it to throw barbs at me

- They hadn’t let their knowledge of this supposed insider information to prejudice their minds and were willing to form their opinions based on what they observed of me

- I got to know of this in a positive setting, at a time when my own relationship with my new family was relatively well-cemented, so there was no chance of me feeling hurt by the disclosure

- Except for an initial sense of being let-down, I never felt any kind of anger at the relative who’d played Brutus

- One more thing I realized years later…..

……….when a relative on my in-laws side was talking about my son’s first birthday. She expressed how sad she had been at that time. Because from her point of view, all the problems that existed then were depressing – S’s fracture, his aunt’s cancer, Tatha’s health condition, and seeing me running around alone to get things arranged.

Hearing her say this, I realized that I’ve been blessed with something that has made the biggest difference all through my life.

The inability to see difficulties where others see them.

It’s like I’m literally numb - lethargic and laidback 😉- when it comes to sensing personal discomfort.

Never feeling bogged down by the magnitude of things I have to do.

The attitude that nothing is a problem – its only a question of getting used to stepping out of my comfort zone…..

….And with Krishna always guiding me, I know there’s always a way out of the trickiest of situations….

Anytime I find myself confused about how to act or respond to something, I call into play my moral compass, which is what my spiritual guide told me long, long ago, a few days before I was to get married. "Whatever your situation in life, never ever forget that you are a sadhak (spiritual seeker)." Today, more than ever, I realize that acting as per this advice has made all the difference to my life...

Thursday, 23 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 23: The Jyothy who glows and spreads light...

About two years ago, a friend put me in touch with a group of like-minded ladies by adding me to their WhatsApp group. A few months after this, I sent this group an invite to a DISHA training program. 

One of the ladies who attended the training was Mrs. Jyothy Menon. Ever since, we kept in touch, even coordinating the farewell gift for the friend who first got me in touch with the group, who was now leaving for the US. 

Jyothy keeps sending me information about certain programs – parenting workshops, self-development seminars, Bhagavad Geeta lectures and so on. Every single time, it turns out that she is involved with organizing the program in some capacity or the other. 
The latest program Jyothy is involved in organizing...if you're in Bengaluru and interested, do make time to attend!

So, beyond the fact that she is a dynamic woman with deep faith in the teachings of the Geeta, I knew next to nothing about Jyothy's personal life. 

Which is why I was dumbstruck when she shared her story with me, with the preamble, “When I decided to take full responsibility of my life and to be a provider than a receiver, things started to change for me.”

Here’s the rest of her story, in her own words….

17 years back I was in a very bad state. A young jobless lady with a son with congenital problem, husband’s business in ruins , ill treated by close family…..

I got exposed to life’s realities in a very hard way.

Got married at 21 without any social interaction other than convent school and college. In a year, had my son with lot of issues. My parents - both government officers entrusted me with a businessman hubby, saying he would be able to provide much more than a salaried person .

Business crashed within the same year and tons of liabilities piled up.

I had no clue on how to get a straw. I worked as guest faculty, earning a meagre sum.

I got rejected in many interviews for government jobs in the very last round- due to my lack of confidence, introversion, and of course - job reservation criteria.

Then I decided that I should take full responsibility of my life- which I had not done so far. My marriage decision was 100% by my parents. Child decision by my hubby and his mom. All the decisions made without my involvement had proved to be disastrous. So, I decided to get involved.

I moved to Bangalore in search of a job because in Kerala, it was near to impossible for a mother to get a stable job.

Ever since I started working in Bangalore, I have been the best performer in the various companies in which I worked….. even today it continues.

I provide for my family, for many special children and for tribal children. I help people to get jobs, do family counselling, draw vastu compliant low cost house plans , interior designing, life coaching, organize Satsang programs, do fund raising for dharmik activities - all with a full time job, with support from my husband.

To those who ask, “How do you do so many things?” my standard reply is- I’m like a rocket . When your a** is on fire, you cannot sit. You can only move up.”

Jokes apart, it is just because of the realisation that - you will have everybody, when you have everything, and the converse is equally true….you won’t have anybody when you don’t have anything... You will be valued only as long as you are a provider/ giver…

Something I really appreciate is congruence of thoughts, words and deeds. At a stage when I had nothing good to hope for, I decided to provide Hope to those in need.

This has helped many….

And Bhagavadgita has always been and continues to be my only Guru – that’s the life manual for me….

Today, I’m successful on my own terms- influencing and impacting many lives in a positive way.

Once, when I didn’t know Jyothy very well, I’d heard someone in the group praise her, saying she knows the whole Bhagavad Geeta by heart. I remember wondering if she only knew the words, or practiced the teachings in her life too. Now, after reading what she’s shared with me, I know the answer….and I feel blessed that yet again, God’s grace has put me in touch with such a positive and inspiring person. 

Today, when I asked Jyothy how she has so much energy to give to so many activities, her reply was, "Nimitta Maatram" (merely an instrument in the hands of the Lord).............

If anyone facing some kind of difficulty is reading this post, I’d like to say to him or her, “Learn from Jyothy’s example that nothing is impossible if you set your body, mind and soul to it.”

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 22: Lessons in emotional intelligence

“Where is K waiting? Didn’t she say she would be at Y circle? Now, should we go in this direction? No….that’s a one-way, let’s go the other way!! Wait, why don’t we phone her?”

Three or four voices speaking all at once. The taxi driver G slows down and waits for us to decide, without getting agitated or accusing us of creating the confusion with a, “You should have told me before” or “I didn’t know that’s where you wanted to go.” Instead, in the middle of our confusion, he calmly suggests we call K and find out exactly where she is.

Finally, we make our way ahead and pick K up. Next and last on the list is J. He’s told us he’s near a popular local hospital and we tell that to G. He says emphatically that he knows where that place is and drives fast to take us there. But in our combined anxiety, it seems like except me, no one else has heard him, and we keep wondering aloud about whether we’ve crossed that place, J said it was near to point X and now we’ve come quite far already…blah blah blah….

Even when one of us tells G to pull over to the left and drive slowly, he’d be justified in using a dominant voice and telling us he knows the place and will we please stop worrying so much. Yet, he doesn’t do that. He slows down and moves into the left lane although he knows the pick up point is still quite far ahead.

After having successfully picked the entire team, we zoom on the highway, only stopping for breakfast. After breakfast, P asks G how much more time it will take to reach the destination. Someone else chips in and says about how it will be a problem to reach later because then, the program will get delayed. 

Again, G is the epitome of confident calm – all he asks, very politely, is, “What time do you have to be there, Sir?” and on hearing the answer, he promises, “Don’t worry, I will get you there within that time.” And indeed, without seeming to drive rashly, he does ensure he covers the distance in record time, and gets us to our venue right in time.

Later in the day, we have to go elsewhere, to a location that’s not familiar to us. G doesn’t know the place well, either. By the time one of us suggests he switch on Google Maps, he’s already trying to do it even as he’s driving. When he finds he can’t manage both, G asks K to do the needful and she tries, but somehow, the navigator isn’t working. 

So, G stops and asks for directions; a little later, he suggests we again ask for directions; a third time, when we want to re-check, he calmly stops the vehicle and asks another passerby. At no point is he hassled or grumpy or making any sarcastic comments.

The next day, we are delayed by a good 1.5 hours from the scheduled time of departure. And yet, when we fret over the fact that we’ll probably reach back later than we planned to, not once does he crib or say we should have finished our program earlier. 

And….wonder of wonders….thanks to G’s driving skills and the grace of God who ensures we don’t get caught in traffic, we end up reaching at exactly the same time that we’d wanted to be back, despite the one-and-half hour delay in starting the journey.

Even in the face of his obvious remarkable feat, there’s no gloating or boasting or even a mention of it from G. 

This account is of Team DISHA’s travel to Hassan from November 21-22 to conduct workshops at two colleges there. Part of the workshop was to help students learn about emotional intelligence through case analysis.

Even as I reach back home about 38 hours after I had left, I’m quite tired by the journey, all the activity, and the fact that I’m still coughing from a throat infection….even wondering if I will be able to write today’s blog. But then, all tiredness vanishes as I realize that I can write about the emotional intelligence of G who took us to Hassan and brought us back safely – a living example of the principles of self awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 21: Can we learn to be kinder???

A few days ago, I got this text from someone who’s been an avid reader of my blogs. She’s put across such an insightful message that is sure to make all of us think about whether we can be kinder than what we are in situations which we breeze through without a second thought…

What she’s written and called “a rough text to express my feelings” is so perfect in itself that I have posted it as such, with minimal changes…

I thought of something, when I read your coffee post...

There are cab drivers, security guards and those people who are cleaning washrooms and restrooms in my office.

My office has three towers. Tower A, B and C.

We have security barriers at Entry gate , inside Tower C and at Exit gate too.

Entry gate has many guards while Exit has only two security barriers and Tower C has four.

I work in night shift and there are nearly 8000 employees in our organization.

My office is on the 5th floor of Tower C. Nearly 90 to 95 % of the crowd doesn't have the access card.

So, the security has to provide the access for the employees to enter the premises. I thank the security guard every time he helps me with his access card.

My cab mates used to tell me,”The company is paying that person for this job and why are you so concerned about it and thanking him everytime you cross the barrier?!”

I felt very bad for their mindset. He is paid for his job. I know it but this person helps me to enter the premises and I feel like thanking him.

I see a smile for at least a second in his face when I say it and he smiles back. To the least, I at least make his muscles feel relaxed for a second This security boy is Rude by the way

This bhaiyya at Tower C tirelessly helps people to get into the lift area... I thank him and he says, “Welcome Mam”.... Everytime... This makes me happy

Exit has only 2 barriers.

He has to help all those 8000 people to reach their cab at 3.30 am. He looks so tired every time and yet, he replies a sleepy, “Thank you” to me when I reach my cab...

Those ladies at the restroom enquire, “What’s special?” whenever I drape a saree, and cheer me up whenever I look dull because I talk to them whenever I meet them in the restroom.

They used to vent out their ire about work issues and the way they get treated by few other employees.

I used to tell them like, “Indha kaadhula vaangina thaney, Akka, innoru kaadhula vittudanum? Indha kaadhula vaangavey vaangadheenga” (Only if you take things in with one ear, you have to let it go out from the other. Why not stop taking it in itself?)

Not listening to others is bad but when someone blames you every single time for something that isn’t your fault, you should ignore it for your own inner peace, I guess.

Many people ill treat these Akkas just because of their job nature.

What if a person who is in a higher position walks right away and shouts in public to a person who is the lowest in the hierarchy?

We shout out for our rights.

Why isn't it given for these people who work to help us throughout our day!

I doubt if such people, who look down on the support staff, are really educated... They wear all those nice dress and look pretty with the make up 🏻

I guess thanking drivers, security guards, maids doesn't affect our dignity in anyway and I teach the kids to do so.

I thought of telling this when I saw your coffee post…..

The person who sent me this is someone who has featured in one of the posts this month….can you take a guess as to who it may be???? 

Its the same girl who wrote this post....

Monday, 20 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 20: The power of "Maybe"...

I’d like you to take a few minutes to watch this video. After you’ve finished, please read on ahead.

Video courtesy: The Sustainable Human 

Like the farmer, we too face many such incidents in our lives – and people around us will exclaim about how lucky or how unfortunate those are. The only difference between us and the farmer in this video is that unlike him, we too get carried away like the people around us and as a result, keep floundering between the highs and lows of joys and sorrows.

If only like that wise farmer, we learn to say “Maybe,” and view every event with an open mind, maybe our struggles would be less difficult.

If we go one step further and learn to accept that everything happens as per Divine will, our heartaches would be fewer.

Caught up as we are in the web of “Sveccha” (Sva + iccha = own wish), we want to have everything happen as per our will. But if we wish to progress to a state of mental equanimity, we must be willing to give up this stubbornness in favour of listening to someone else, and giving in to their way which is called “Pareccha” (Para + iccha = other’s wish). Doing this over a period of time will allow the mind to mellow, lose the sense of attachment to the action, and take us further to the level of “Ishwareccha” (Ishwar + iccha = God’s wish).

When we learn this kind of a faithful acceptance, like the farmer, we will say not just “Maybe” but even “God’s will be done.”

Sunday, 19 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 19: Giving of a different kind....

The door bell rings. My son opens the door and I can hear him speaking to someone. I’m in the kitchen, rustling up an evening snack. Within a minute, he calls out, saying someone wants to talk to me. I switch off the gas stove and walk out to see a smiling young man standing in the doorway. He tells us his name, says he’s part of a campaign that has tied up with the Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan and asks if I have time to listen to what he has to say. 

I invite him in, get him seated, and ask him to go ahead.

He pulls out a booklet of a particular NGO and tells me about how they are working to build homes for the poor, in rural and suburban areas, in order to provide them with sanitation. He says this is an attempt to ensure the hygiene and safety, especially for women.

I listen to him as I flip through the booklet, and casually ask him if this is an Indian organization or a foreign one. He says, “Indian” right as I turn to a page where there’s a picture of an American politician who started this cause. He immediately modifies his answer to say how that guy started it, but now it’s got offices all over the world and shows me the Indian film celebrities who are supporting this cause.

I’m a little wary of donating to these NGOs that have a foreign hand. Because after researching this topic, I know that quite a few of them are in the business of religious conversions of poverty-stricken, gullible Hindus. I haven’t yet come across the name of this particular NGO and so, I decide that I want to look into its activities a little more in detail before I make a donation.

And so, I use the time-worn excuse that most Indian women do – I say I must ask my husband about this and can’t decide on my own. He’s currently busy with other things, and so, I’ll be able to say a yes or no only after a few days.

The guy has been trained well, I can see…because he immediately tells me, “Madam, I really appreciate that you wish to take a joint decision with your husband – it shows you have a good relationship. But there are so many other housewives I’ve already met and seeing what a good cause this is, they have independently contributed although their husband wasn’t there. Do consider donating now itself.”

Many years ago, I was a volunteer with a spiritual organization and as part of service or seva, we used to solicit donations from corporates, businesses and the general public. So, I know for sure the limits of how much money housewives would be willing to contribute without their husband’s involvement – and Rs. 2400/- (which is the minimum amount the guy’s brochure lists) is definitely far beyond those least for most middle-class Indian families who're likely to donate.

Indeed, it is that past experience of mine that makes me give a patient listening to anyone who knocks at my door – except at times when I’m in a real hurry. I know how it feels to be turned away with a door banged in your face, a smirk, a sarcastic comment, an insult, or just pure indifference. And if it is indeed a genuine cause, I do end up contributing whatever small amount I can at that point of time. Because I am a firm believer in the concept of what the poet-musician-saint Purandaradasa sang in his famous krithi – 

“Kereya neeranu keregey challi, varava padedava rante kaaneero, Hariya karunadolaada bhaagyava Hari samarpaney maadi badukiro.”

“Pouring the water from the lake, back into the lake, be seen as blessed persons; the good fortune you’ve received by Hari’s grace, live your life by offering it back to Him.”

Coming back to this volunteer, when he insists I consider donating right now, I tell him about my reservations. About how I want to find out more about this organization he represents, because I do not want to end up indirectly contributing to convert one of my fellow-Hindus into Christianity.

His face falls. But he graciously seems to understand what I’m saying and gives me the website details where I can get more information. I ask if there’s an option for an online transfer of funds and first, he says yes. A little later though, he tells me that even if I pay online, I need to fill in the details of that into the form he has. I don’t say anything to him, just nod, but I have a feeling that maybe he needs to show his superior that he has been instrumental in getting this donation, maybe they have targets to meet and it counts for a rating of his performance as a volunteer.

So, I ask him to come next week and say that by then, we will have made our decision. To be very frank, “we” have mutual trust in each other's judgment when it comes to making such contributions. We may differ over some things, but those differences do not spill over into this area.

So, I will study this organization and its work, ask a few friends who are in the NGO field, and then, if all is well, make my contribution. Because the world needs people who are comfortably placed to reach out a helping hand to those who’re not so fortunate. 

As Swami Vivekananda so wonderfully conveyed, 

“Do not stand on a high pedestal and take five cents in your hand and say, ‘Here, my poor man’; but be grateful that the poor man is there, so that by making a gift to him you are able to help yourself. It is not the receiver that is blessed, but it is the giver. Be thankful that you are allowed to exercise your power of benevolence and mercy in the world, and thus become pure and perfect.”

Saturday, 18 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 18: Give freely of your appreciation

A friend from Poona, Mrs. Mythily, wrote to me in response to my query of what has made the biggest difference to her life. She says:

“Appreciation is one thing we all like and look forward to. I, for some reason was very stingy in appreciating. Basically a very positive person, it took me a lot of years to realise this flaw in me. Once I realized, I started going out of my way to thank and appreciate people for even little things they had done, not necessarily for me, but for a general cause. I started this with persons known to me. Then it was easy to appreciate even strangers. For example, the cab driver who did not breach the red signal in spite of the loud honking. The municipal sweeper who braved the biting cold to keep our roads clean.

It not only made the receiver happy, but I too got immense joy and felt nice . So much so that now, I seek out a chance to laud. This habit helps me to see the postive in people around me and also has earned me a lot of friends. I don't know if this has made the biggest difference in my life but it has certainly made a BIG difference.”

What a lovely viewpoint, don’t you think?

If only we can momentarily even step out of the cocoon we’ve created around ourselves – my family, my child, my job, my goals, my dreams, my problems– and take a look at others around with new eyes, how much is there to learn and feel happy about

We all know how good it feels to receive appreciation. And yet, we’re very kanjoos (stingy) when it comes to giving it out. Like Mrs. Mythily pointed out, it may not be that we’re deliberately avoiding it; maybe the thought never strikes us.

But once it comes to our attention, we must try to adopt this in our lives. Along with all the other results that Mrs. Mythily has talked about, I’m sure that over time, it will completely change our outlook on things. Even in situations when there seems to be only gloom and doom, we will begin to look for the positive.

And, as the “Law of Attraction” says, the more you seek of something, the greater is the force with which you attract it into your life. If you look for things to crib about, you’ll have more of those; if you look for things to feel happy about or to praise, you’ll find more of these.

This attitude of appreciating people can work wonders in all your relationships too. Not only because your praise makes the other person happy, but also because focusing on praise-worthy things in someone helps you see them in a new light - a more positive one.

Right from when he was old enough to speak, I taught my son to say, “Thank you” to the auto driver when we exited the autorickshaw. At first, I had to keep reminding him every time. Later, it became an unconscious habit that continues to this day. And I always notice that even the most gloomy or grumpy auto drivers never fail to smile back when he says this. I like to think that by this small expression of gratitude, we’re creating one tiny bright spot in someone’s day.

I’d like to end this post by appreciating Mrs. Mythily for sharing her insights with us. And to think that this wonderful person is someone I met by serendipity during a chance encounter that lasted less than 10 hours! If you’d like to read about that encounter, do read this post of February 2016.

The more I notice the way my life is panning out, the more I come to realize that throughout my life, I’ve come into contact with several people who have enriched my life directly and indirectly. It convinces me that nothing is a chance encounter….it’s all Divine will to make me a better person….maybe someday I should write a post on this!!

Friday, 17 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 17: Learning from Hard Knocks

When I asked THE question before beginning this series of blog posts for November, I received replies that covered a very broad spectrum. Of all these, there were a few that surprised me. One that came from my old student Arfa, I’ve already shared in the post about forgiveness. There was another one in this same category, which said, 

“What I have understood is that we waste our time in searching for happiness. I feel that happiness is within ourselves and we don’t have to search anywhere. Success is just a part of happiness. Overall, I can say that as per my little experience, higher expectation is the key to unhappiness or a peace-less life. If we expect higher, and then, we fail to reach that level, we get depressed in such a way that we feel it difficult to get back to normal life. So, my approach is this – do what you want to do with full heart and then, whatever ups down come, accept it equally and continue to work without accepting failure. Instead of trying to impress others, we must live for ourselves.”

I’d like you to try and guess how old a person needs to be to reach these realizations. Quite probable you said 40 or 50 – because that’s the time when generally, we graduate from the School of Hard Knocks of Life and finally begin realizing these truths.

What if I told you that these are the words of yet another ex-student of mine called Ramya K.? Someone who’s in her 20’s? Would you be just as surprised as me to realize that not all youth conform to the stereotype we have of them as people who don’t realize the meaning of what’s important in life?

For a little while, after reading this message from her, I felt a little sad. To think that people are enrolling in the School of Hard Knocks of Life so early nowadays. If you remember how much heartbreak you have endured to learn your own lessons, you will understand what I mean. And yet, that sad feeling soon passed. Because I was able to see that in learning those lessons, she had proved herself to be bigger than those hard knocks. That’s when I felt proud of Ramya. And happy. Much happier than I had felt at her scoring high marks in college.

Often, we dole out advice, give suggestions, monitor what is happening and indulge in some or the other form of helicopter parenting (which, in case you haven’t heard the term, means to hover anxiously around your children – although it can be anyone else too, not necessarily only children). We want to save the people we love, from difficulties that they will face – so we try to warn them and keep them away from tough situations. But that's as futile as the efforts of Siddhartha Gautama's father....

One simple fact we fail to accept is that some things don’t register by vicarious learning. Each one has to fall himself or herself and learn how to get up and brush off the dust and walk again. Some people will ponder over the meaning of it all the very first time, and quickly learn how not to stumble. Others will need a few more falls before they learn. A few rare souls may never learn at all. 

In my own life, I've noticed that I keep stumbling in some areas until I've thoroughly learned all the lessons that need learning. Once I finish learning, it's as if all those stumbling blocks have just disappeared.

As onlookers to others' stumbling, we must be able to adopt that don’t-expect-too-much concept that Ramya spoke about. We must be able to be there, ready to help, if called upon, without waiting to say, “See? I told you…”. We must be able to deal with not being called upon to help, too. Other than this, perhaps the only other thing we can do is pray – for the loved one, and for ourselves, too….

Thursday, 16 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 16: Of Bears and Kings.....and Juliet, too!

You must have seen these small quizzes that circulate on WhatsApp. They have some emoticons arranged in a sequence to mean a word that you should decipher. Each set is made of particular items – movie names, movie song’s first sentence, places, personalities, sweet dishes, and other foods.

Today, one such quiz about food items was shared in a friends group. Everyone took turns guessing at the dishes. 

Take a look at No. 2. It has a picture of a bear and a king’s crown. A friend said it was “bhalushah or something like that.” Another person on the group pointed out that it’s actually called ‘Balushahi.’ Then it struck me….this was that brown, thick, succulent sweet they serve as “Baadushah” in marriages and other functions in Bangalore!

I couldn’t help exclaiming on the group chat, “Oh God! These Tamil and Kannada people call it Baadushah!!”

The lady who had pointed out the correct name laughed.

But within the next minute, I had an epiphany (sudden revelation) and was shocked at my choice of words. I, who think of myself as being very inclusive and non-discriminating and unbiased !! The way I said ‘these Tamil and Kannada people’ as if I was different from them….and to someone else, I may have sounded like I have some superiority complex too and am looking down on Tamilians and Kannadigaas…

Of course, when I thought a little more about it, I realized the reason why my words came out like that. Being born in Goa and only later transplanted to Bangalore, I had tasted this sweet only here, and heard this word “Baadushah” only from the Kannadigaas and Tamilians here. And because I had never seen or heard of this sweet in Goa, I only knew of this version.

I decided to write a blog on this today – to say that how, without our knowledge, and without intending to, we err in ways that escape our notice. And when this happens often, and we don’t bother to correct it, it leads to unhealthy stereotyping and prejudice and can set off conflicts based on some sort of group identity…

A little while later, indeed, there was a comment from another person on the group, who’s a Bangalorean, in response to my exclamation. She said, “Yes we do. There are variations in pronunciation across the country for various names. I don’t see the problem.”

Immediately, I clarified that I had just found it funny, the way the name had got corrupted, and didn’t intend to offend anyone. To her credit, she wasn’t offended and went on to say her mother tongue is Telugu, but she’s born and bred in Bangalore!

But during this conversation, what took the cake was a comment by another pucca South Indian. She said this was the first time she came across Balushahi and went on to say that somehow, she couldn’t bear to associate her “Badshah” with a bear!! What’s in a name, after all, she opined.

She’s right – the way we respond to something is dependent on so many factors and it’s name is just one of those. Like Shakespeare’s Juliet argued, if “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” why can’t a Balushahi by any other name taste just as sweet????

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 15: Lessons from Grass

Once, a VIP, was heading to an educational institution to deliver a talk. As per protocol, he was provided security cover. 

As the journey began, through the windshield of his car, this VIP noticed one of the members of the security detail was standing in the moving gypsy just in front, scanning all directions. The VIP was pained and kept requesting that the officer be asked to sit down; his request was rebuffed in the name of security concerns. 

Finally, after a long drive lasting a few hours, when they reached the destination, the VIP asked to speak to that ‘standing’ security officer. This person was apprehensive, wondering what wrong he had done to be so summoned. To his surprise, the VIP shook hands with him, thanked him, asked if he was tired and wanted something to eat, and apologized, saying, “I’m sorry you had to stand so long because of me.” 

Can you guess the identity of this VIP?

Full marks if you said Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.

Just minutes before he breathed his last, delivering a lecture on “Creating a Liveable Planet,” Dr. Kalam made time to thank the security officer who was part of the convoy that journeyed to IIM, Shillong.

We couldn’t learn of the ideas of Dr. Kalam on the topic. But frankly, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this hero’s entire life has been a lesson on that topic. And, as we tell students during the DISHA workshops, of all his admirable qualities, the one that stands out the strongest, as in the example above, is HUMILITY.

I remembered this yet again when Kavitha Athreya, one of the DISHA coordinators wrote to me recently saying that at different points in time, she has tried to follow the principles of humility. Very humbly, she says, “I do not claim to be successful. But often, it boils down to the point that no matter what people say to you, you get back to them, with respect.”

Kavitha also sent me a beautiful video that explains this concept with an apt example.

Do watch this video. Can we all try to practise this?

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 14: Don't Wait for Tomorrow - Start Today!

Have you ever thought about how your life will be, say 10 or 20 years from now? Frankly, I haven’t given much thought to it. Except for looking forward to having more time to do the things I want to, but can’t right now because of obligatory demands on my time. 

But I know of people who have their future roughly or entirely mapped out. And in today’s world with experts to guide you in ‘Retirement Planning,” we’re forced to think of it even if we don’t really feel enthused to do it ourselves. It’s good to know where you are going – because it makes you take the steps you need to take today to get there tomorrow.

Quite a few of us think that once we’re retired, we will make the time to volunteer for some social cause. 

That’s not a good idea, actually. 

For the simple reason that there’s no need to wait. You can start today itself. 

For, to be honest, who knows what tomorrow has in store for us? Will we even have a tomorrow? And will an ageing body and mind cooperate?

Sometimes, a chance encounter can set us thinking on these lines. And pearls of wisdom may be found when you least expect it, from a person whom you never looked at in that angle. This is exactly what Shri P. Venkatesh learned from an encounter with – wait for it – his barber in Coimbatore.

This barber, Shri. Subramanian, was running his saloon on all days of the week except Tuesday. On that day, he had made it a point to visit a home for the destitute, and provide 25 cuttings. He also would carry sweets or fruits he could afford, and take it for the kids in the home. Further more, he expressed his firm resolve to keep running the saloon until his two daughters were settled; after that, he had plans to take up residence in the home itself, so that he could render service full-time there!

Shri. Venkatesh, who is a Chartered Accountant by profession, had written about this on his blog. Do read the full post here to get into the feel of how it inspired him.

When I asked people for inputs for NaBloPoMo 2017, Shri. Venkatesh, who is my husband’s cousin’s husband, responded with the story of Shri. Subramanian. He told me that inspired by the latter, he has started volunteering on Saturdays with a home for children called Project Krushi. He says he got associated with this place through his friend who’s part of the project. Shri. Venkatesh intends to slowly get the children to learn basic computer and accounting skills.

I’m very grateful to him for sharing his experience and the story of Shri. Subramanian, and pray that God blesses his new resolve and helps him serve with dedication.

Shri. P. Venkatesh with two of the kids at Project Krushi

Monday, 13 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 13: More things about forgiveness....

Last night, I put up a post about forgiveness. Despite the late hour, messages pinged back and forth on WhatsApp; later, there were some comments on the blog itself, and on Facebook too. I will try to address most of these today. 

But before I do that, let me just say how thankful I am for these comments – it shows that people care about what I write and they think about it, and feel moved enough to share their thoughts/experiences/feelings.

First off was an old student, saying, “It's too difficult to do Ma’am. The persons who hurt me will continue to be happy; only I will continue to be unhappy. What’s the use of forgiving them, Ma’am?”

Valid point. One that strikes us all when we start on that particular journey. The answer I gave my student – we need to do it because we’re actually doing it for ourselves, not for the person who has hurt us. The more you hold on to hatred, anger and other negative thoughts, the more you burden yourself with things that will burn you up inside. Should you give another person in the world – that too someone who hurt you – so much importance, that, because of them, you lose your peace of mind?? Worth thinking about….

Second – A friend of a friend sent a similar query. What must one do when despite us trying to be forgiving, the other party does not show any regret or repentance but acts as though he/she is right? Isn’t this how an ego problem arises?

That’s right. Just because you are being forgiving, it need not evoke a sense of guilt in the other party. In fact, if you forgive because you expect such a response in return, it cannot perhaps be real forgiving – it’s more of a calculated move in a battle of minds….and such battles can go on endlessly, without any end in sight….

On a deeper note, though, one must again consider WHY he or she is being forgiving. Again, I repeat, if you choose to forgive, do understand that it is for YOUR OWN BENEFIT. Forgiveness is not a tool to control other people; it is a tool for bettering oneself.

Third – A friend wrote on Facebook: I would say only forgive because what’s the point if you don’t remember why you have forgiven.I think forgiveness should come from acceptance not ignorance.

She’s right too. Forgiveness should IDEALLY come from acceptance not ignorance. But there are two points here:

One – not all of us are at the stage where we can right away accept and forgive. But why suffer until we reach that stage? Start by trying to ignore (forget)…after some time, your abilities to accept will increase. Also, as my sister Maithili V. also pointed out on Facebook in a subsequent comment, it’s important to ignore the situation but not the person….a delicate balancing act….

Two – remembering why you have forgiven is a double-edged sword. It’s useful because as I wrote yesterday, you must remember so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes again and again. But it can be dangerous if you keep reminding yourself that you have been so great to forgive someone – because it can tend to increase your ego….which is exactly what another friend pointed out as below…

Fourth – a friend wrote on the blog: I have been following this for years now....and it works... It's not the absolute behaviour that causes the hurt in the first place, but our response to it that coils up like a servant within and unleashes the negativity....Let go..breathe..,.what I'm a trifle uncomfortable with the technique you have shared is that it focuses on the I...I forgive you..I think the aham (sanskrit for I and ego both...perhaps for a reason) is the root cause of all the sufferings... The moment you acknowledge that it isn't about the I but a larger eco system and the positivity and well being thereof, you've crossed that barrier.. Also, by attributing to others the underlying cause of a negative situation, in that, it was They who hurt you, you are externalising the problem and that's where I love the part about remembering what was it about Us that drove them to that acrid behaviour..

Again – perfectly pointed out. It is indeed our response to certain behaviours that cause us hurt. As to the technique of saying “I forgive you,” while there is a real danger of the ego this guy pointed out, it’s important to remember that when we’re just starting out on this journey of being forgiving, that’s a risk worth taking because let me first get rid of the negativity of holding grudges; then I will tackle the negativity of ego that arises from the thought of 'I am forgiving.' Also, there’s a way to avoid that ego: focus on the word 'forgive' instead of on ‘I’ or ‘You.’ In short, the journey from being someone who can’t let go to realizing it’s a part of a larger ecosystem is a huge one for many of us – it has to be crossed in small steps that are within one’s capability.

Regarding the second part – about not externalizing the problem but looking at what we did to drive them to such acrid behaviour….I’m definitely all for first introspecting into one’s own contributions and trying to reduce those. 

But as all of us will testify from personal experience, there are quite a few boorish people in the world who, for no fault of ours, will hurt us. In such cases, no amount of soul searching will help and in fact, it may lead to an unhealthy guilt that becomes the root of maladaptive behaviour. In such cases, externalizing the problem, laying the blame where it is due, is essential. Yet, at the same time, it need not become the albatross around our neck – to such people, saying “I forgive you” with the sense of acceptance, may be the only solution left to us……

…which is exactly what another friend pointed out …she wrote “The irony is that certain things that are meant to be, will be, and it just doesn't matter if we forgive or not in the first place.. we just need to get used to it.” THIS is unconditional acceptance…the stage that’s pretty far down the forgiveness lane…

Sixth – a friend wrote to say she can neither forget nor forgive certain persons responsible for some major negative events and that she prefers to keep them at one arm distance….

That’s ok. We all have our own threshold level for how much pain we can carry – once we cross that, we’ll start feeling the pointlessness of it all – that will be when one will be ready to embark on this particular journey.

The one thing here that I wanted to clarify. Keeping people who hurt us at one arm distance may be an actually good policy – because we don’t really know what are the limits of our own ability to forget or forgive. If you remember the post about letting go, the reader who wrote about the property dispute etc said that finding other avenues to grow themselves helped them stay away from heartache.

Finally, here are two messages that I got which reaffirmed my faith ….

First, a friend shared her experience:

"I was carrying a lot of anger towards my uncle. Due to some family dispute and property issues, we were not on talking terms despite living right next door. When he was nearing his end, I told myself that I HAVE to forgive him, and met him. I saw a strange expression in his eyes which I had never seen. When he died I prayed for his soul and thanked him for teaching me this lesson. After this incident, the way I felt, I can't express in words. So from then on, I am applying this where ever necessary. But mind you, we do get stuck up sometimes and I am still working on it. I just remembered this when I read your article."

I’d like to note here – when she says “I HAVE to forgive him” it’s not as if she is a God who’s going to forgive the other person for his wrongdoing. It’s rather the spirit of saying, “I must let go of my anger towards him.”

Second message made me marvel yet again at how beautifully the Universe puts things together, letting one person’s words be an instrument to heal another person…

A relative of mine wrote within minutes of posting the blog:

"I was badly hurt by a person. I could only cry. When I read those last lines, I seriously stopped crying and I didn't know a blog post can do this much to a person...Now, my mood has levelled up. I am calm and composed and I really feel far better now after reading this."

What more could a writer ask for ????