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MY SEARCH FOR A DIFFERENT SUCCESS

Few days back I was gliding through my LinkedIn page. One of my distant relative updated her status “promoted to the position of Director”. I was happy to see her succeed but in another moment started self introspection “what I am doing?” , ” Where I am standing?”, “Will I ever succeed in my life?”. Basically I was anxious about “will I ever be able to EARN?” A question that I am struggling for a longtime now.

But is it just about money? Answer is an absolute NO. It’s about my craving for Identity. My thoughts at that (on many occasions) point were convoluted. I want to earn, I want name for myself, I want financial independence. I kept applying for jobs. Many applications were rejected outright, few made for interview round but success still eluded me. It was not just the applications that were being rejected but a piece of self was slowly dying inside. One of the reasons that prompted me to start blogging was to put forth my opinions and earn (I am not ashamed of admitting that). Five years now and the kind of success I supposed it would fetch me is still a distant dream. Who and what shall be blamed? No one except me and nothing except my lack of regularity, missing niche (my work doesn’t stick to one genre).

Am I a complete failure? Last week my friend’s husband came to dinner (we are careful enough to follow the social bubble 😁). Out of nowhere he asked me “how’s your blogging going, seems you have a good fan following”. I dismissed him with a smile “No, nothing like that” . To this he told me that one of his friends sent him a link of one my blog (never before he read any of my articles) and praised it too. His friend liked the subtle manner of explanation, relatability of issues/situations mentioned. And as a matter of fact I never met or spoke to the “friend”. There was a certain sense of euphoria for me at that moment. That night I decided to once again go through the comments on my articles. That was the moment of realization for me. My success is not in the additional perks of followers, hits on site and money but how well I can connect to the people. How well I can communicate, how I can impact, how can I be a part of lives of those reading my words in some or the other way, how well I can motivate myself to reflect positivity in my work, Am I making any difference, Am I putting forth a good message relevant to people, Am I honest while voicing my opinions, Am I trending the path I talk about or refer to – My parameters of Success. Falling short of even one criteria renders me unsuccessful in my judgement! And I believe that’s the worse.

What inference my failures have given me? I was looking for “success” in the form of an offer letter, a designation and a certain amount credited every month to my bank account. What if I get them at this moment, would it put an end to my quest and thirst for “success”?. I might have been aiming for a higher pedestal everytime. Nothing wrong in that, absolutely. But what is wrong is getting bogged down if your plans and results aren’t in linear correlation. Wrong is deeming yourself to be worthless. Wrong is inability to draw inspiration from people and incidents showing us a different way and zest to live life as we are too consumed by a bubble we have created in our minds. In short wrong is inability to respect life and the designs almighty have for us ( I may be professionally unemployed because someone else might be more competent, qualified and in need – it’s that simple). And identity of a person is about the perception and ideologies one owns, can never be defined by a designation or job role. And people knowing me by my work irrespective of the level of fame (non existent 😁) I might have acquired is purely my Success!

I Have Decided My Path: I will keep writing, I have stories to tell, I have messages to deliver. In that process if I earn materialistic success I will receive that. In case not I have my own yardstick to measure success – Have I made you think? If yes I am SUCCESSFUL!!

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BE DIFFERENT TO GET A UNIQUE JOY

We all are in a pressure cooker life. Hope you know what i meant.
Yes, from the time we are born, we are asked to do things, meet the expectations of others and much more. In this hurdle, we forget what we like to do exactly and what we want from life.

I remember the time when i was in my twelfth standard and my results were out, i did score good marks, but again my expectations from life were different. I didn’t want to go for a normal medical /engineering stream, I wanted to explore something different in my life. My parents like other parents did not force me to, they let me choose what I wanted to study. I didn’t want to burden them with my choices too. Hence I chose a normal degree course which did get me the best time of my life, the best job i could land in and much more.
It was indeed the best choice, that going with the current flow of engineering and medicine which almost half of my class did. Glad that I was not in the rat race.
The same thing I apply for my kids, I don’t want them in a rat race and choose what they like not what society is expecting them to do. It does bring in joy, a fullness of contentment which nothing else can give me.

You might not be in a better position, but you will be in a happy position with your choices because you chose them for your self no for anyone else.
Joy comes into our lives in different ways, one is through the choices we make. The more we stress upon unwanted things, the more we damage the joy of life.
You need not go with the crowd, just because they are doing things in the same manner, which went on for years. There is no harm in choosing something you like. All it does give you is peace and joy.

Choose yours wisely.

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DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY GIVES JOY OF A DIFFERENT KIND

Aquifers of joy spring from within and are manifested in many things that we do which further escalate the inner joy. Since joy is more intrinsically motivated than extrinsically, it carries with it an unalloyed innocent desire to bring joy to others around.

Being in a high ranking state government job, never was a deterrent to getting involved in family matters for my father during his career years. As his immediate family members, we have seen him as a workaholic as far as his official responsibilities were concerned. At the same time, he has been an involved family man.

On days that my mother took ill, we had my father don the apron, wield the ladle and dish out delicious food for the family. Yes, delicious! I mean it. The perfect sugar, salt and oil in whatever he decides to cook. He isn’t great at non-vegetarian preparations or desserts. But, all items of the daily cuisine have been mastered by him. In fact, there have been a few cooking tips and recipes that I have learnt from him, and not from my mother. Pickles are his forte. Coming to tea – by the fragrance I usually make out that he has made it. But, he only cooks for us – his family. It gives him immense joy. There are days in which my mother returns later than usual from work – only to find a full meal ready in the kitchen (well, this doesn’t happen always, but three out of five times for sure).

Not only cooking, he is great at cleaning too. When I was a child, I learnt many of the stain-removal hacks from him. Now we have so many stain removal chemical agents for our convenience, but I have learnt from my father which stains are removed by rubbing lime, which by petrol, which by kerosene oil, etc.

Once a neighbor uncle saw him cooking and asked him about it, assuming that perhaps my mother is an unwilling cook or a lazy bird for household chores. My father replied that he gets immense joy in doing the household chores for his family no matter how busy his official works may make him. It his family after all, and not someone else’s.

Not many men would be so involved in household chores. No matter whichever part of the world we see, household duties are considered to be a woman’s responsibility, not a man’s. It doesn’t matter how egalitarian the society is, gender role stereotypes prevail almost everywhere. And, not many want to break these stereotypes, no matter what the reason.

A part of this societal stereotyping and its aftereffects are there in my father. He doesn’t like it when we tell anyone about his expertise in handling household chores, for an apprehension of criticisms. At the same time, he joyfully continues to do all things for his family – even now in his retirement years.

I have never seen him grumble about any household chores that he does. One reason of course is because he does them out of his own free will. (And, before you think that my mother must be so blessed to have him help around, I must also mention that there are days she has had to chase him out of the kitchen or other work areas for messing with her plans and schedule or for adding on extra work for her because of his ‘help’.)

Doing things differently indeed gives immense joy!

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JOY – A TREASURE WORTH ACQUIRING

Snow, rain and hail soak the ground enough to create underground water reservoirs. These underground water reservoirs take the form of natural springs and aquifers and replenish the earth while adding to the aesthetic beauty of the surroundings. Scanty rainfall reduces the groundwater level and dries up wells, springs and aquifers.

Joy is such a well spring that has its source from up above. It is a divine attribute, which unlike happiness doesn’t depend on what you and I do or don’t do. When our lives are soaked with the living waters from up above, the wellspring of joy rises from within.

If I am to give a reason for joy in my life, it is primarily because of the relationship that Jesus Christ has bestowed on me. Nothing that I do or don’t do, nothing that happens to me or doesn’t happen to me, nothing that I get or don’t get impacts that joy ever. It is different altogether.

There have been circumstances when storms have torn apart and ravaged through life, when injustice glared squarely in the face, when failures have sunk the spirit low, when weariness have pressurized the mind and suffocated thinking – all unhappy phases of life – but I have known the joy to have remained untouched. Tears have streamed down and the mind awfully rattled, but a strange joy overpowering them all has become prominent.

I have known, felt and understood that when the presence of God indwells a person, it generates joy from within. Manifestations of joy are different. It is not true that someone who can laugh heartily and make others laugh is a jolly person. Hence, external manifestations are not always good deciders of ‘joy’. A joyful person has a smiling countenance, but not all smiling people are joyful.

Is it possible to be joyful at all times? What about times of pain, sickness, bereavement, disappointments and loss? Can one be joyful during such times?

The Bible says, “Rejoice in the Lord always”. It is a command. I used to think of the all possible permutations and combinations of life situations that are likely to rock our lives and wonder if it is indeed practically possible to be joyful in such and such situations. That is when I understood that joy isn’t of human origin after all!

It is extremely difficult, but yes, one can be joyful during such times only by allowing oneself to be soaked with the living waters. That is why, it is a rarity to find joy and to be joyful in the truest sense of the term at all times, just as it is not common to spot wells, springs and aquifers on all grounds.

However, once joy permeates lives, it cannot be robbed by anyone or anything, unless one voluntarily gives it up. Such is its powerful presence. A treasure worth acquiring!!

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MANTRA FOR JOYFUL LIFE

Mast Raho”, used to be my brother’s favorite dialogue. Whenever I would approach him during a problematic solution, he would calmly access and solve it, saying, “Mast Raho”, which means be carefree. Years down the line, he still solves all the problems easily. Easily, not because the problems aren’t grave, but because he looks for solutions, instead of worrying.

I was quite opposite and used to take tension the moment a problem would pop up in front of me. And I took a lot of time to shun the practice of worrying about all the big and small things in life.

There used to be a poster in my room, during my late teens:

Why Do You Worry?

You are either going to live or die.

If you live, there’s nothing to worry.

If you die, you are either going to heaven or hell.

If you go to heaven, there’s nothing to worry.

If you go to hell, you will be so busy shaking hands with your friends,

 that you won’t have any time to worry!

So, basically, the crux of the message was that there’s no point in worrying.

As we grow older, we get into the nitty gritty of the life complexities and so getting tensed or worrying is quite natural and unavoidable too. However, I have actually experimented this that when you pray to God, with all your faith, He listens. So, now instead of worrying, I have started praying.

So, ‘don’t worry, just pray’ has become my mantra.

Another thing that I have started following is- ‘don’t try to change others’ and simultaneously have accepted the fact- ‘to each his own.’ We all are born different and so have different interests and likings. So, if a person does what you don’t like, just ignore and accept that choices might differ! Yeah, that sounds difficult and even I am gradually trying to get this into my system! 

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LIFE IS ALL ABOUT LIVING HAPPY

Finding joy in life is essential. But how do we go about it?

As it is said that one joy is a sorrow for the other. It is impossible to keep the scale balance the same for all. So how do we find what is true joy or what exactly is the principle for finding joy in life. 

It is hard, but again not impossible. 

Find out what truly gives you joy? 

Can you do that?

For some it is the joy of giving, for some, it is the joy of taking away. It is all about finding joy in your own way. We cannot blame the other, just because them attaining joy is a little painful for us. ?

Even a random smile from a stranger, care from a nurse or even the slight touch of a baby on a moms face, does bring in joy. 

Once you find out what exactly can give you a bundle of joy, then focus on it and work on it. As for me, writing is a joy. I forget my sorrows, my pain, my anger everything when i write and it is indeed the best thing in my life I ever discovered. 

Through my writing, I give people the joy of reading. But again there are few, who might not be happy with it, as they assume it is just a waste of time. They can’t be blamed, as it’s their perspective, not mine. 

But I do what I chose, As it gives me content and in turn a special joy. Finding what gives you content is important when it comes to joy. The moment you sacrifice your peace of mind, you lose the piece of joy from your life. Most of us are in a hurry to satisfy others, losing the conscience, but we all forget that the moment we find that keeping our conscience true and enjoying what we do is the true bliss of being joyful.

My cup of tea is my conscience, to which when I add the right amount of everything, it gives me the perfect sip which takes my stress away. And that’s my true joy.

I always follow these principles:

  • Always express gratitude in everything you receive. 
  • Be happier and forget the ones who hurt you. 
  • Carrying the grudge doesn’t help anyone but it only damages your soul. 
  • Do something, that brings in a smile within you. 
  • Work out or take a perfect walk outside into nature.
  • Feel the joy of giving.

Life is all about living, why waste it over something which never keeps us happy. 

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BALANCE SELFISHNESS AND SELFLESSNESS

My friends used to make fun of me because for me, mantra for a good life is “Balance”. They used to call me a true Libran – yeah, because I like to hold a scale in my hand and balance stuff all the time. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I am an expert in attaining Balance. It just means that I believe with the right balance between black and white, we can find the right shade of Grey that works perfectly well for us. Every person has his/her own shade of grey and “one grey fits all” is never true.

Joy – What really is Joy? For me it is a state of being content with life. A state where I believe that every aspect of my life is going perfectly well. My relationships, my health, my finances and my work – all aspects of my life are adequately moving on as per my expectations. It doesn’t mean that all aspects of my life are easy and without any problems. It means that there are problems enough to keep me challenged and motivated, however the amount of problems have not exceeded my resources to solve them and hence my cortisol levels stay in control.

How do I intend to achieve Joy in life? I am far from being joyous in life currently. Of course, I have had moments where I felt extremely joyful but those were temporary moments. But I do strive to achieve Joy in my life at all times. This means that I am always trying to sort of juggle between different aspects of my life to ensure that no one area is making me too stressed. I believe all of us have our own ways of doing this.

One of the important ways for me to achieve this is to ensure that I am not sacrificing my own needs in order to achieve something else. Every time I have made myself a lesser priority than others, I have suffered. I don’t want be a typical protagonist of a typical Indian Soap wherein the lady of the house is always giving up so that her family can have the best. Neither do I want to be a typical vamp of a typical Indian Soap who is ready to kill anybody anytime in order to achieve her selfish goals. I want to somewhere in between of these extremes. I could sometimes oscillate between these two extremes too if the need comes. But overall, I need to find that balance (that perfect shade of grey that works for me). This is my only mantra to ensure a Joyous life!!

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KNOW THE ART OF DETACHMENT

Have you ever left food on stove and forgot to turn off at the right time? I am sure not an alien situation. What happens then? Smoke all around, burnt food, burnt vessels, an uphill task of cleaning the mess and not to forget taunts / reprimands 😁. This is exactly close to what happens to us in life if we don’t know the art of detachment in our lives. Anxiety surrounds us as smoke, the vessel that is our body faces the burnt of such anxiety & related issues. Food that is a result of our anxiety & attachment driven actions are highly marred by negative emotions of greed, lust, anger, deception, lies and everything in that cadre. Food or lives, there’s no need to explain how people remember if it isn’t a right(eous) one. If we can’t turn off the fire in time or detach ourselves from the worldly pleasures and bonds then surely we will be charred.

What are the attachments we as human beings have?

* Materialistic Attachment

* Emotional Attachment

* Attachment with our fears

Let’s take on them one by one:

Materialistic Attachments: I will quote a simple example here. A person has a favourite coffee brand that he has been drinking over years as the first thing in the morning and anything else would leave him irritated throughout the day. Due to this reason he would plan his trips with coffee on his itinerary, even it means to going to someone else’s place. We can call it addiction or obsession but it is his attachment to that product that’s causing him this unnecessary trouble. This is an example where the repercussions might not impact others. But then as we move up the ladder (read more inclined towards accumulation) of materialistic attachments like that of money, land, gold etc. – our better sense is slowly replaced by seeds of greed, lust, deception. Why do you think why scams happen? Food for thought, isn’t it?

Emotional Attachment: A small story I would like to narrate from our epic Mahabharata – Guru Dronacharya, the teacher of Kuru Princes loved his son Ashwathama very much. His entire life he toiled to give a better life to his son and see him happy. His constant worry and misconception about Loving one’s kin even made him fight the righteous Pandavas. But the question is was his emotion truly can be defined as Love? No!! Love enables endurance, showing the right path by trending it even if it hurts for a while, love acts like a medicine that might taste horrendous but heals eventually. Let’s take a leaf from the present scenario. A mother punishing a young child for misbehaviour is surely love but the same mother trying to whitewash the same child’s image after few years if he / she picks up a wrong path is not love but emotional attachment.

Fear & Us: Our attachments feed our fear to say the least. If we don’t earn “enough”, if our kids don’t lead a certain patterned life, if we don’t fill in the already set norms of the society we will be ostracized. If we speak up the truth we will be mocked and we will end up sounding not relatable. We have to fit ourselves somehow in the places carved , even if it means denying our conscience. We don’t want to be robbed of our deemed valuables, we fear losing, we fear old age, we fear death, we fear estrangement from loved ones. This is our fear only that results in complications in our relationships feeding our egos. And in this run to the mill the only thing we don’t fear is “losing ourselves” and “sense”. Strange, isn’t it?

Where’s the liberty? Attachments impact us beyond a speck of doubt. But does this mean we take up asceticism right from the word go? Not possible as when born with this human abode we have a set of responsibilities towards our family and society. They need to be discharged with utmost care. But every once in a while we must care to answer “Who Am I?”, “What’s my purpose on this earth?”, “Is making merry the sole purpose of life?”. These questions to yourself will shed light on a new perspective of and towards life. That’s the illuminated path of righteousness where the almighty wants to see us shining in his light. Once that truth dawns upon us we will slowly try to distance ourselves from these attachments that shackled our souls. Our attachment shall be like a pearl of water on the lotus flower, it seems to be attached but never really stick together.

Practice Tip: All of us must practice silence, absolute silence!! No phone, no book but time with you. Start with 10 minutes a day. You will soon find the clutter that clogged our minds is getting decluttered. This silence is a teacher that teaches us we can be alone and don’t have to entertain “unnecessary” bonds. That will fill us with the ability to speak the truth and what is right the without fear of being judged. When fear leaves our hearts it is filled with joy.

Go ahead first simmer down and then switch off that stove, let your lives be filled with flavour of Joy. I am your company in this process 😊.

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A GRATEFUL HEART SOWS SEED OF JOY

It was in 1996-97, a group of kids in the age group of 10-12 years were having fun at the marriage banquet hall. It was all colorful and merry. And the food stalls, the important attraction of every marriage other than the groom and bride were just set up.

Hot piping coffee, tangy street food, scrumptious Indian desserts, colourful indo-chinese noodles, Indian cuisine ranging from north to south, enticing ice cream and everything that spells “delicious” was being served.

Kids rushed to the food counters to make the most of it (what else marriages could have meant to kids in that age and that period of time). As they were filling their tiny tummies with one delicacy the other one was winking at them as if saying “mind space in your stomach, won’t you try me“. Amidst all the fun and frolic they saw two pairs of eyes watching them in utter silence standing at the front of the gate outside the marriage venue. Faces worn out, clothes torn out, eyes filled with hunger coming directly from the burgling stomachs. Their faces moved these kids standing on the other side of the fence. They huddled together, had a brief chatting and soon were hopping from counter to counter to fill their plates. Anyone who had a look at their plates could tell something was wrong, the proportions on plate were nowhere proportional to their appetite.

With four overflowing plates they made a move towards their counterparts and slightly gestured to come and have food. But to their surprise those kids ran to their parents who were sitting on the pavement there. It was a reflection of values despite their economic status. Values aren’t reserved parking areas, affluent involved in scams and poor people returning bags full of money proves it. These kids followed them with food. They offered the food to their parents, at first instance they also refused “free food” (unlike people fighting for free food and abusing delivery men 😜). But the group of kids insisted them on accepting food as it was clear that they were hungry for days now. At the end parents gave in for they can’t see their kids go hungry for one more day. This group made turns to the venue to get more food till all of them were full. They blessed these kids with folded hands.

That was enough for the kids to come back with hearts filled with joy. Joy of being blessed, joy of satiating hunger, joy of giving when you clearly have more than enough. I am fortunate enough to be in that gang of carefree kids. We at that time may have acted out of impulse but thinking about that incident over a period of time have shaped two of my principles in life – Respect Hunger and Be grateful. I have already spoken about my viewpoint about hunger in one my article on the same platform:

Coming back to the second one – being grateful, I strongly believe that unless a heart is filled with gratitude it is devoid of LOVE. It is incapable of giving back, hence it is incapable of maintaining an equilibrium in the society. Just like other values and hunger, gratitude ain’t a prerogative of a specific class or section of society. I know people from both ends of the spectrum. There are people who despite of accumulated riches always have a frown on their face. Whenever asked how they are doing, their standard reply “don’t ask, what an hard time we are having, just surviving”. They are in one tone frame of mind that the world around them, from their house maid to the prime minister of the country is conspiring to rob them. They really find it difficult to part away with things.

Well, let’s make a 180° turn as the ungrateful souls are not our point of focus as of now. Our inspiration should come from the likes of Shri Ratan Tata, Shri Narayanan Krishnan, Shri Sundarlal Bahuguna etc and many unsung heroes from our own families and surroundings. Gratefulness must not be only restricted to having the purchasing power (read economically sound). If you are capable of bridging the gap between the mouth and hands, be grateful. If you are healthy, be grateful. If you have a square meal, a roof and clothes to keep you safe be grateful for there are wars being waged for the same.

While this all sounds preachy that too at a higher octane the simplest way to say “Thank you” to the almighty is “give what you can”. If you are rich and powerful create avenues for many to earn their livelihood. If you are moderately well off then make charity a part of your budget, no one needs to know it. We have national and international organizations like UNICIEF, WHO, RED CROSS SOCIETY working towards a better tomorrow, be a part of it (this is my personal practice, you can choose what suits you). The best thing about such association is that you will never get to know whom you are aiding, secrecy is joyful too. Involve your kids in such noble activities (read @preetacreations article, she has done a wonderful job). If budget system doesn’t suit you, give away whenever you can – be it food, educating the underprivileged, even a glass of water matters. If materialistic things are something that you yourself are struggling to attain then the least is a kind words of encouragement, a simple prayer that everyone should be happy and peaceful or just a smile ( @Chiradeep a man of great qualities, a lot to learn from him, go check his article), there’s simply no dearth of ways to show our gratitude.

Next time when you sulk about not having the latest version of I-Phone remember there’s someone who needs aid to convey his or her emotions as they are devoid of voice!!!! And yes if having something makes you fortunate then being able to give away makes you fortunate and joyous too – double bonanza, isn’t it?

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SWITCH ON THE ‘AC’ TO HAVE A COOL AND JOYOUS HEART

I was a mere teenager then and my great grandmother told me something which I will never forget in my life. She looked at me and said, “Son, when I look at your smiling face, my heart fills with peace. Never ever stop smiling“. While going through tough times in my life for the last couple of years, I keep wondering about this fact and keep asking myself, “Does my face really look the same now which she saw at that time of my life?”

There’s a man who comes to our office to repair our computers. He always says, “Chiradeep Da, you are always so calm and composed even when you have so much tension on your head.” I don’t know what he saw on my face.

I believe when we are negative about everything around us, we lose to have a joyous heart and acquire a cranky heart, complaining heart, and a heart full of bitterness. I have been dealing with people who are so unable to take things positively or assume negatively about people – what they say, how they say and why they say. Two things I have learnt in my life about situations and people I face in my life. I have learned to ACCEPT the situations and CONSIDER the people I encounter. And believe it or not, I find my peace and joy remain intact within me. I agree that I am not so calm and positive about everything. But most of the time, I stay calm and joyous while the world around me is in a mess.

This journey was not an easy one. I literally had to train myself over 30 years to be skilled in switching on this ‘AC’, that is Accepting and Considering in any given situation or while dealing with any kind of person I come across. Sometimes, I have found my ‘AC’ fuming, smoke coming out of it and getting out of order but the good thing is, I am always very quick to get it repaired for just to be able to stay on track, holding onto my inner peace and joy. To stay joyful I keep practising it, cultivating it on a regular basis.

In my study of joy, I have also noticed that joy is more complex than a feeling or an emotion. It is something one can practice, cultivate, or make a habit.

Pamela Ebstyne King

This habit of mine made me good at interacting with people making them feel safe and comfortable with me. They receive comfort and consolation from me and I receive immense joy making them comfortable and consoled. While striving for more joy, I continued to interact with people, give them comfort and receive the joy in return. Whether it is on a chat window of Facebook or WhatsApp or Instagram or over the phone or in-person, the more I utilised my skills of listening and comforting the people, the more I felt at peace and joyous.

Now if you ask me how do I manage to comfort and console the people I interact then I would definitely have to mention that it is not restricted to listening to their heartaches only but I try to walk a mile or two extra alongside them.

How do I do that???

I try to write a poem for them, I post a small note for them, make a poster or video for them to make them feel special, happy and valued.

And I can’t explain the exuberant joy that I feel deep inside my heart when I see them happy, comforted and smiling, acknowledging my little something that I do for them.

I have been struggling in my life in every way. If I would have held onto all the struggles and sufferings I went through and still going through then I would have been the saddest person on earth. But I had a problem of staying grumpy sad and with a long face. I wanted to be smiling and joyful all the time, proclaiming God’s grace for me and letting the world know He is always good to me. I accepted every situation that God took me through and considered all kinds of people without judging them. Yeah, I kept switching on the ‘AC’ to keep myself cool and joyous. 🙂

Stay Blessed!

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THE SIMPLE ‘JOY’S OF LIFE

I need not look too far… for Joy begins from the very 4 walls of our home – my dad. There must have been a very good reason his parents chose that name for him in the first place. Many years later he chose a life partner named GLADYS (doubling the JOY with gladness) – Talk of a PLAN! …and ofcourse many many years later, I was born… you know, to balance it all out.

How then, could I let go of an opportunity to write on the one topic that is probably closest to my heart?

When it comes to me, I’ve always chosen joy over the more materialistic things like money, gifts and physical benefits. However, this topic – today, gives me the wonderful opportunity to talk about the joy of teaching (I do think training sounds fancier) As many things of my life has happened out of sheer trial and error methods – teaching did too. Yes, I call myself an ‘English Educator’ and I train students/company employees or any ethusiastic person wanting to improve their communication skills.

What started as an option, developed into a passion and now earns my daily bread. From young kids (as small as in the 3rd standard) to money-earning adults and retired men/women, I’ve had the pleasure of training them all – in what they call the Queen’s Language – English

Did I just hear Chiradeep say, “Savio, Why don’t you put a flier or two up here?

Teaching/Training has never felt like a job, its just hours well spent in a place other than home – interacting with different ages, personalities and not to mention a few characters (that for some reason are found mostly in classrooms) It gives me so much joy to impart something that I am good at, to someone who needs the skill to improve quality of life. Because my teachers always told me, if one wants to learn/improve his/her speaking ability, and if you are in a position to help them out – DO IT.

you aren’t just helping them to learn a language but also to aquire a much needed SKILL

and I’ve always been of the belief that:

when you’re good at something, you shouldn’t keep it to yourself – you need to share it with the world.

If it so happens that you make a career out of it, you’ll never have to to work a day in your life – you’ll be getting paid for something you truly love and enjoy doing. And what’s better doing something that makes you smile with minimum effort. Sounds like a great idea – doesn’t it?

Teaching does take effort, more so the preparation that goes into a lesson that needs to be taught, but when your students who equally enjoy the task of learning as much as you enjoy teaching it, come together – the joy of being in the same room is instantly doubled – and I live for those moments.

Life need not need to be complicated or strenous, if we only know how to make a moment, a situation, an event joyous – it doesn’t take much effort – a little kindness, a genuine smile with a healthy conversation and we’re good to go.

Back in the day, when I was in college – it was the much smaller joys that brought friends together – bonding over oily samosas, tying of friendship bands, sharing ice-creams,  leaving our bikes at the bus-stand  just so we could travel by the same bus to college together. How fortunate for our generation, that we got a chance to do these little things. Aren’t we like the luckiest people ever?

The generation-now/Millennials need to understand this more than ever.

Binging on Netflix and playing online games don’t come close to giving one joy that an outdoor activity could give, however small it may be. Sometimes doing the simple things, goes a long way in living a quality life.

People actually remember the smaller things and tend to forget the bigger events – or is it the other way round?

As for me, I’ll remember the food, the music and where the chairs and tables were strategically placed but the chances are very high, that I’d actually forget the married couples name (incase of a wedding reception) – but then again, that’s ME.

See, I told you – the food items are the smaller joys to an otherwise larger event called the Wedding Reception.

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TINY JOYS OF LIFE

We often forget the little things of our early life because our brain only has limited conscious memory and it continues to make choices at every moment of life. It constantly deletes the old memories that have never been used to make way for the new memories that are more important for the current situation. 

For example – I was one of the toppers in my board exams but today I will probably faint if I am handed over a Physics examination paper of Class X which used to be my favourite subject then. I might still vaguely remember some concepts that are probably used in day to day lives but I sure don’t remember the formulas and solutions to those complicated questions. 

However when I was given this topic to write on “Joyous moments” – one particular memory stood out that still hasn’t faded even after years. 

When I was in Class VI, I and one of my friends was very fond of cycling (as most kids of that age are). We used to cycle a few kilometres daily, even used to try a few stunts on the cycle. We were living in the IIP colony in Dehradun which is a place of uneven terrain. This made cycling even quite a challenge and we loved it. The distance between the colony where we lived to the IIP Guesthouse was close to 1.5 km and we used to do multiple rounds between these two points. 

One day while we were busy cycling, we saw an old Uncle (must be in mid ’50s) and his daughter (might be early twenties) walking from the IIP colony towards the guest house. They had some luggage with them and had no clue as to how far the guest house was. They asked us for the directions and the distance, we happily told them and moved on with our cycling. After a few mins, we realized that it was really a long walk for them in this terrain, carrying all the luggage. So, we decided to offer them help. We had been strictly instructed by our parents to not mingle with strangers and hence there was some hesitation on our side. 

Finally, we made up our minds and we offered to carry their luggage on our cycles till the Guest House. Uncle also hesitated a bit but looking at the distance and their luggage – they agreed. We had to do a couple of rounds on the cycle to be able to transfer all the luggage. And when we bid them goodbye in the Guesthouse, Uncle and his daughter filled us with gratitude. Uncle even gave us a packet of some small eatables like chips and chocolates which we happily took and went on our cycles again. 

This particular incident is so important to me because for the first time in my life I experienced the JOY of GIVING. Yes getting chips and chocolates without asking was a big deal at that age but we did not offer help out of greed of receiving something from them. We just did so because it felt right. In spite of all the warnings given to us by our parents, we went ahead and helped a couple of strangers and in return, we received so much gratitude. 

This incident had such an impact on me. It made me aware of the infinite joy the Universe offers to us when we selflessly help the ones in need. It was a tiny incident of my life but had a lifelong impact on 10-year-old me.

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COUNTED OR NOT, GIVING IS JOY

I recount the days when this pandemic started early last year. The whole year went on lockdown and we all were shut inside. It was the last week before the lockdown began for school. As parents, we were supposed to send small sanitizers and mask with our little kids just to be on the safer side. I brought each of them a sanitizer and then packed them to school. As always I had a bunch of instructions on not to waste the sanitizer and also when to apply. Like any other time, they listened i believe and went to school. 

By afternoon, when my little one was back home, I was removing her lunch boxes and asking her how was the day.. she went on and on when I suddenly spotted the almost empty sanitizer bottle. Before i ask, she said, “mom, my friends didn’t have sanitizer so i was sharing.” For a moment I just didn’t know what to react, but the way she said that i did enjoy it. There was a huge scarcity of sanitizers that month, it was hard to get any. But we were so happy that she did share, even if there was nothing more to share. Again their dad decided to go get another bottle of it since this was empty and we had yet other days to go. As he went to the shop, again because of huge demand it was hard to get one. I told her, dad called and told me it seems, no sanitizer available right now and she was unhappy indeed.

After few minutes, he called up and told he got one. As he was saying, i felt like it was an invisible hand of God that came in to help because of her goodness. He narrated to us, that when he went into the last shop on the row, for sanitizer, the shop owner said there is no stock left, he just even told one another person standing next to him to the same. But again he insisted him just to take a look once again.. and to his surprise, there he found one last one just meant for her. 

All I wanted to tell you was that giving what we have even when we know we might run out of it, makes you get more of it. 

We all do little things in life that matter to someone. We might not know or be aware of it, all we do is keep on doing what we are meant to without expecting any favourable outcome. Everything comes in your favour with time.

Like I keep writing quotes and random rumblings everyday, i didn’t know whether it was worth sharing or even someone reads it or not. But I keep sharing even if it doesn’t matter to any sometimes. Again some days I write contradicting my state of mind too. But finally, when someone comes to me and tells me that they value when they read my words and does influence them, I am delighted. 

Sometimes all you need to do is, give even when it is not counted or counted. Joy is not measured or counted, it is infinite and immeasurable. All you need to do is be the source of joy. Embrace the little things in life and joy comes in your way.

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HANDS OFFER WHAT THE HEART GIVES

Joy is intrinsic. It doesn’t depend on circumstances. Yet there are times when tiny acts of love generate joyousness within.

One such account comes to mind.

As a child, I have had my parents and family always teach and encourage ‘giving’ and ‘sharing’ with the needy. We had a pouch of coins in a known spot of our house, which all the family members had access to in case a needy person came calling.

In my hometown, Cuttack, there are specific days of the week in which the poor and needy visit different specific areas of the city and go door to door for alms. The area around my house was visited on Tuesdays.

I used to wait for Tuesdays eagerly to run down the stairs from my second-floor quarters and give coins to these people when they came calling. They usually used to come between six to eight in the morning. Each one’s call was in a unique way. Some would sing songs, some would call out to the ‘kind and benevolent mothers of the houses’, some would shout out loud in a chorus to the ‘big men of big houses’ (bada ghara ra bada babu), some would call out to the ‘ladies of the houses of big men’ (babu ghara maa) while some would be silent beneficiaries in the group.

In my Tuesday trysts, I developed a heart connection with two of them in particular. One was a leper man on a wheel chair and the other was a man who used to push the first man’s wheel chair. The affection I developed towards these two men was reciprocal. There were days when on one shout from them, I would rush to the window signalling them to wait and that I was coming. And, they waited till I went down and gave them a measly few coins. We smiled at each other in this brief meeting of a few minutes. That gave the joy!!

I used to see my neighbours throwing coins from their first floor and second floor houses which these beggars gladly collected (because the poor have always been made to believe and accept that, such treatment is what they deserve). Somehow, I never had the heart to give that way. I always went down the stairs and whenever I was unable to, I had my father and sometimes my mother go down the stairs and give them the alms.

Because of this shared affection, there were days in which they kept calling looking up in the direction of my window till I or someone appeared from my family in acknowledgement. Seeing my affection for these two people in particular, my mother kept a packet of puffed rice for Tuesdays so that I could give it to them. There were days when they were late to come and I had to leave for school before they came. My mother would tell me in the evening that they had come and were given the needful.

They never asked for more. They were satisfied with the little that they got. There wasn’t any greed, nor did they ever try to take advantage in any way. To my tender mind, it was pure joy to meet them with a smile and put the coins and food in their bowls.

I was really sad when they didn’t come for a while, after which only one of them came. The leper man in the wheel chair had passed away. So, till my family stayed in that colony the lone beggar frequented my lane only to stop by my flat and then went away as soon as he received alms from me or someone from my family without waiting or calling on other houses.

Giving for the sake of giving or giving to ensure that one is doing something good, doesn’t always give joy. Had it been so, famous philanthropists of the world would have been the most joyful people. Hands merely offer what the heart gives. When we give cheerfully, intentionally and sacrificially, there is abundant joy. There are times when we give fearfully, grudgingly,reluctantly, ritualistically, out of certain compulsions or out of our excesses. Such giving or helping is limited to the act itself and does not yield any joy.

God loves a cheerful giver.

Its amazing to experience the enormity of joys that ooze of tiny deeds, and to impart the same to the generations that follow.

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LITTLE STEPS CAN DO WONDERS

Gratitude is riches’, ‘be grateful with what you have ‘, is what I keep telling my children. We often fulfil our kids’ demands and they don’t realize the importance of resources. So, a couple of years back, I took my elder son along to one of the schools in my hometown, where one of the teachers, Ms. Gayatri, had started a social cause of teaching the underprivileged. 

We both used to teach in a private school, nevertheless, she was my senior and a very humble human being. Years later, she joined a government primary school, where she persuaded the children from poor families to join the school and study instead of begging and rag picking. It wasn’t an easy job to convince the parents, who thought their earning hands would be a loss for the families of those kids who went to school. Yet, she overcame the challenge. Apart from these children, there were also a lot who didn’t have any valid document to prove that they were living below the poverty line. So, she started teaching them too at her own expense. Not only academics, but she also takes care of their creative and physical development too. I was so impressed by her initiative that I donated a few storybooks for her library. I was touched by the love and respect that I got in her school by the little curious minds. I showed my son that even with little resources they were so happy and full of enthusiasm to learn. 

This year too, more than a week back, I was in my hometown and it was our younger son’s 5th birthday. To mark the occasion, we decided to gift some stationery to those children. Since the schools have been closed due to the pandemic, Gayatri Ma’am goes to their colony to teach them, using makeshift classrooms. Gathering all the stationery stuff in bags, I handed them to ma’am, who thanked me immensely. I told her that instead of thanking me, I should thank her for all her efforts and good deeds. 

One night, a couple of days back, I picked up my phone to check the sudden message beeps one after the other. It was Gayatri Ma’am.  As I opened my WhatsApp, I was overwhelmed to see the pictures and videos of the children with the stationary items I had given.  And that was not all. The children had sung birthday songs for my son and even made beautiful birthday cards. Ma’am told me that the kids were too happy with the stuff they got and it was visible in the photographs. Seeing their ear-to-ear smiles and eyes gleaming with joy, my eyes were moist. I couldn’t believe myself that with just a handful of stuff the children got, could make them so happy.

It was indeed an emotional moment for me and it also made me realize that our little steps can truly do wonders for someone. This was a moment and a small step that truly filled my heart with so much joy. Let’s explore and express as we began this new week writing on those small little things that fill our hearts with joy.

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EXPECTED OR UNEXPECTED, OUR TIMES ARE IN HIS HANDS

I was four years old when I first encountered death in the family. It was my grandfather (my father’s dad) who faced death in 1979. The funeral was already done when my parent’s reached home with me in their arms. I had no understanding of how it feels to lose someone you love, at that time of my life.

But it was when my granddad (mother’s father) passed away unexpectedly within the three days of his sickness it felt quite hard and deep in my heart. I was a witness of his falling off his bed till his life going off his body. I was close to him and his contribution and investment in my life were huge. He was instrumental to bring me up with love, care and good health. He died of heatstroke in 1998 and it was very pathetic because one afternoon he fell down from his bed and never opened his eyes till he passed away after three days. We really were broken in the family of seeing a righteous man dying so unexpectedly but as the Psalmist testifies about God, “My times are in your hands”, we know, we had no control over that particular time of our lives.

Next, it was when my Badima, passed away when her sugar shot up so high that she had a massive stroke. It was so shocking and unexpected and was so heartbreaking. She was the soberest lady in the entire world who never even reprimands in the softest way ever. It was truly very difficult to pass through those days with lots of Why questions in our minds but at the end of the day we all knew and remember the same Bible verse as the Psalmist recites, “My times are in your hands”.

I still remember that morning when I had a lot of hope that he will bounce back and I will hear the good news that he is doing better, but God had different plans for him, for his parents and for all of us. This was the worst death in our family that literally dried all the joys from our lives for a few months.

It was at 3:30 am in the morning on 28th January 2011, when my Mom called me. I was shocked to see her number flashing on my cell at that hour of the night. I answered her call in fear and she told me crying, “Danny is no more…”

On 25th Jan 2011, my 21-year-old cousin met with an accident. His bike slipped and he went under a running bus. The back wheel of the bus ran over his hip. He was waiting for help for almost an hour on the road in that condition. When he was being carried to the hospital by his friends and other people, he was searching for his father before becoming unconscious.

Danny was such a wonderful boy. He used to play the guitar in his church. He was an ever-smiling guy and was very helpful, caring and adorable. He was a dog lover. He loved them like anything. I can’t believe or imagine till now that he is no more with us.

How does one cope with the loss of someone you had expected to live longer?” When I was reading Pradita’s article and came across this question that she posed, I remembered my baby brother who is not with us anymore. The experience was horrific for all of us and we took months to come out of the trance we were in. Whenever we used to meet, it was not a smile but tears became a common medium of greeting each other between us for months. We used to weep remembering him but used to keep consoling and encouraging each other. We used to read the words of comforts from the Bible and pray for each other to cope with the pain we were experiencing after Danny’s sudden death. Even after 10 years, we all feel that sorrow deep down our hearts even when we know and understand that our times are in His hands.

Recently, I lost my dad, in the horrific year of 2020, though not in Covid but he suffered a massive heart attack. It was my parent’s anniversary yesterday and my mother expressed while I was talking to her, “he never let anyone to serve him a bit”. I still could not believe that when I will return home I won’t find him beside me on the dining table but when he died, my heart was in so much peace knowing that, my father is safe and secure as his times were in His hands.

I have been going through a lot of pain and suffering since my birth and have experienced many more deaths in the family that had saddened my heart momentarily, whether for a shorter or longer time but all I have learnt to cope with death in the family by knowing, all our times are in His hands.

Stay Blessed!

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DEATH: THE EXPECTED INTRUDER IN THE PATHWAY OF LIFE

Between transience and intransience is a deep river that all must wade through. There is no bridge. There is no parachute. None can lend a helping hand. Each to his own respite! There is no other way into the intransience. Most importantly, there is no choice to refuse to wade across the river. Clinging to the transient doesn’t help. Denial of the intransience is self-delusional. The river has to be crossed over!

There is fear of stepping into the river. The depth is unknown. But, there is no option of turning back either. There is no trail behind.

This is precisely the imagery of ‘death’.

Would you ever leave a newborn in the banks of a river knowing that the river waters would soon invade the banks and take along all that is there along the bank? Or for that matter, would you ever leave your parents or friends or spouse or any of your loved ones or even an acquaintance in such a place? Given a choice, most people wouldn’t.

But the thing with death is that, it offers no choice. The magic potions of immortality are best enjoyed in the pages of mythology and then left at that, without expecting precious vials of such potions to mysteriously land up beside the bedside of the blessed. Death is inevitable!

Death is an expected intruder in the pathway of life – ‘expected’ because we know it would come, ‘intruder’ because we don’t know when it would sneak in and put an end to life.

When we talk of being prepared or unprepared to meet death, we mostly think of the emotions, finances and social consequences as loved ones left behind to cope with the loss. We mostly think of the life that could have lived a few more years or of a life that lived to the fullest. We write flattering obituaries and speak fondly at memorials. We accord utmost respect to the departed soul and avoid remarking negatively during solemn times as these.

We often attempt to push death as far as we can within our means – by having the right lifestyle and avoiding known dangers. Modern medicine has enhanced life expectancy hugely. Knowing the inevitability of death, we strive to live life to the fullest potential. However, having strived well, we still have to wade through the deep waters of death.

Scary, isn’t it?

No matter what is the belief system of cultures across the world regarding ‘after death what?’none can afford to disprove death itself.

Death carries with it the ghastly fear of the unknown.

Parents often worry when their children go out on their own. But, when they know that the child is not alone, when then they know where exactly the child has gone, they feel assured, though their hearts (quite understandably) continue to flutter till the child reaches back home.

The fear, anxiety and grief accompanied with death is largely because of the lone journey into an unknown realm – none can accompany, the destination is uncertain.

But, what if the destination is known?

What if there is someone to lead the way?

Is death, a journey – or the end of all journeys?

Is there a destination involved, at all?

Thoughts and philosophies from centuries of old provide explanations for death. Hence, beliefs about life and death are relatively culture-specific and variant.

If life is perceived to be only physical, death would be the end of all journeys. Nothing beyond.

However, life does not merely comprise of the body – but is the union of the body, spirit and soul. We take care of our body, obey traffic rules and steer our vehicles in the chartered path so that our bodies don’t dash against anything or anybody and we don’t end up getting hurt. But, how careful are we about steering our souls and spirits in the right way, so that they are not hurt?

The question might sound a bit uncanny!

Especially because, it is widely believed that death puts an end to all hurts and pains. Does it really?

Death puts an end to physical pain. There is no doubt about it. None would dispute it, because it is visible and cognizable. In fact, we often heave sighs of relief when people in pain without a cure, pass away!

But, what about the soul and spirit?

We often wish peace for the departed soul. Will the departed souls be at peace simply because we wish so? Are those souls in utter disquiet, for whom no one wishes peace?

We also hear people wishing happiness for the departed souls wherever they may be. Would the souls be happy if we wish thus, or they would be unhappy if we don’t?

What can you and I do in preparation to transition into death?

  • First, believe that death is an intruder. It seldom comes announced. And so, preparation is essential to meet this intruder.
  • Second, believe that life is more than just the body. After death, the body ceases to be. But, the spirit doesn’t cease. There is an endless eternity for each of us to face.
  • Third, the preparation has to do more with self than others. We do need to have our house and finances in order well before dying. But, we also need to array our own souls well.
  • Fourth, we need to be prepared to face the Judge of all creation regardless of our belief systems while on earth.
  • Fifth, we need to acknowledge and repent for our sins while on earth. A peaceful death doesn’t ensure a peaceful eternity. Regardless of a turbulent or a peaceful death, we can be at peace in eternity only if we are forgiven.

I often remind myself of the popular statement – ‘Live each day as if it is your last’. To live in love and amity with fellowmen, to live in repentance of sin, to live with the assurance of being forgiven by God, to live in the joy of living, to live with the assured hope of a glorious eternity – is a worthwhile preparation for death.

Would such a preparation, offer any consolation to the loss of a precious one? Not always.

In his book ‘A Grief Observed’, C.S. Lewis writes about the loss of his wife of four years. In fact, he has converted his journal of those grief-stricken days into the book. He shares of his struggles, the memories, the longing to have his wife by his side again, remembering the nitty-gritty of their brief time together, trying to reason with God and then coming to a resigned acceptance of reality. It is a book I purchased when I was searching to gift such a book to a dear friend who had lost her younger sister at child-birth after giving birth to twin daughters.

There were too many questions with the family? Thee young man who dreamt of a happy family, was now broken – having lost his wife and a mounting task before him to raise two children single-handedly. Knowing that his wife led a life of love and preparation for eternity, provided no immediate solution to his woes.

There can be no one-size-fits all type of solution to deal with death. Some of us learn to cope, some repress the loss down the deep recesses of the mind while some never cope with the loss of their loved ones at all. A shoulder to cry, a hand to wipe away tears, ears to hear repeated narration of memories – make losses bearable.

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DEATH – A ‘STEPPINGSTONE’ TO THE BETTER?

While I’m sure everyone out here associates death with a negative emotion – because of what we’ve been told by the generations gone by and of of course seen as well – how people react to death – with tears, sadness and morose.

But what if I told you;

Death could also be – well, not a happy emotion – but a transitional phase that is necessary – simply because, along with all the sadness that death brings with it, it more importantly comes with a realization, a different kind of responsibility and a whole new window to a life above and beyond…. the concerned person (who has passed on) has now become your pillar on which you build/strengthen and base your life principles on.

Does that sound like a bad thing?

Stairway to heaven

No one can take away the associations, memories or the learnings from people who have passed on… their wisdom/knowledge will always be in-valuable – especially if they are our close family members. But when we hold on, for too long – that’s where the situation of a transition may take much longer than it should.

Have you lost someone who has been very close to you?

Many of us will have a ‘Yes’ answer to that question.

Well, I haven’t, at least not as yet: the people who are closest to me are still around, and I couldn’t be blessed more for the same. I know it will happen someday, and whether I’d be prepared for that day – is anyone’s guess.

While some of my friends mock me saying –

“you talk about death… like you know it. You don’t know it unless you go through it.”

And while I don’t mind their words, as harsh as it sounds – maybe they are right, but I do also have my own thoughts on the subject too.

Death according to me – is an eventuality, we all WILL get there eventually – so why do we give it so much importance anyways?

A lot of people have died around – neighbours, friends, acquaintances etc, but none of who I had any special relation with, so it could be that this post, may turn out just the way I’d want it to – not emotional, but a very practical take – addressing the topic at hand.

Surprisingly, I would happen to know more about death and talk about it, to otherwise in comparison to any another subject. However, my family members do not approve-more so my dad. He thinks, the mere mention of the word ‘death’ is of a person being in a negative state of mind. The old Generation, I tell you!!

It is in times like these, when the Indian head movement can actually be put to good use, not necessarily in agreement but.. you know… “go ahead, I am listening till you finish what you have to say.

Coming to the actual person who has passed on (died), we clearly do not know what lies ahead in that journey, but what we do know is – it is supposedly the better life on the other side, which strangely reminds me of a Netflix show I watched, by the name of ‘The Good Place’ – now that was one show, I could resonate with totally, not because I understood the whole dynamics of life before and after death, but just that the show spoke aloud about…. well, I’m not going to tell you the story, you will just have to go and watch it yourself. You’d surely love it – that’s a guarantee.

Living life is all about the process, and the one chance we get at living it – if we do a good enough job, the eventuality, that is Death, need not necessarily stand for sadness, it can otherwise be a Celebration a celebration of leading a fulfilled life, a life full of happiness, satisfaction and joy – and if we think deeper, isn’t that what we all strive for in our everyday life?

Death is the END, but then again the end doesn’t happen without a grand entry and the dance in-between. Do all that well and the rest will look after itself.

To Death!… and the life beyond it.

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WHY SO SOON?

There have been two deaths so far that have moved me deeply.

The first was the death of my brother’s best friend, and the second was the death of a stranger. In both cases, the deceased died young. I’ve lost family too who I loved dearly, grieved for as well. Every loss was monumental in its own way, but these two people, though they weren’t family, hurt me the most because it seemed unfair that one should die so young. I’m aware that the statement sounds foolish, hurtful even. How can anyone’s death mean more or less. The loss of life is great anyhow, in every case. But the ones who lose the most are the ones who are left behind. And the way I see it, behind these two deaths are grieving families who still wonder – why so soon?

I once read somewhere the heaviest coffins are the smallest ones, and I couldn’t agree more. Those coffins, the bodies that are cremated on the smallest of pyres, they carry the unseen weight of years that were to come, of opportunities lost too soon, of memories robbed before they were made.

I still remember that day in the hospital where I was soon to be admitted for the birth of my daughter. I was waiting near the NICU for a check-up. I remember wondering, “Why are there so many people thronging its doors? It’s a NICU; its unsafe for the babies in there.” The doors slid open and an aged, gaunt man came out with a bundle wrapped in white cloth in his hands. The throng followed him, all of them crying and yet there wasn’t one sound in that hospital corridor but dead silence. No hysterical sobbing, no wailing, no keening. Just dead silence. People stopped doing what they were doing. Every head was bent low and everyone moved aside to let the grieving family go to the exit.

I averted my eyes. I couldn’t bear to look at that bundle, and the one feeling that permeated was shame. I felt ashamed sitting there because I had hope from my swollen belly, while that baby’s mother cried over the loss of her own. What dreams would she have made, what hopes she must have had from the birth of her child! All snatched away within hours from her. I couldn’t imagine then how heavy a load that family carried in that bundle, just as I couldn’t imagine the weight of my brother’s friend’s loss for his family.  

He was all of fifteen or sixteen – a good student, a dutiful son and a loving big brother. My brother and he were inseparable. We were also good neighbours which meant he was always around. He was always very respectful toward me and I would joke with my brother that he was the only sensible one in his gang of friends. When news first came of his sudden sickness, I didn’t pay much regard. I knew he could kick it off. He was so young! One doesn’t expect someone so young to be in grave danger. But he was gone within days of his hospitalization because of Meningitis. Even when they brought him home, he was covered from head to toe in gauze because his skin was covered in rashes and his parents couldn’t bear to see him that way. I have never cried so much for someone who wasn’t family as I did that day. The only thing that went around in my head was – but he was so young!

His mother is still excellent friends with my family. A few weeks back, when I called her to congratulate her on her daughter’s wedding, she still teared up saying, “How happy he would have been to see her married.” He would have indeed, but no one will ever know, because he went away too soon. He will never know what it’s like to graduate from college, to get his first pay check, to fall in love, to make a family. Everything that we seem to take for granted in life, seems amplified manifold from his perspective because he will never get to experience these things.

I know a few other people who lost husbands who were fathers to young children, my father-in-law being one such unfortunate person; of mothers who had just given birth; of a college senior who had a tumor in his brain and couldn’t survive the chemo; of a classmate who was raped and left to die. In all of these cases I have felt that life was grossly unfair to them and to their families. Everyone expects to die someday, but none prepare themselves when they are young. 

I am not saying that the death of the elderly is any less significant. But most people live full lives before they go into the final sleep. Both my grandmothers suffered for years before death took mercy on them. I grieved heavily for both of them, but it was a relief for us to see them go because we knew they had lived well and wanted to die. Most families can at least take succour in the fact that their dear one lived a complete life. What succour do the families of these young ones have? Do they ever stop grieving for all those times they could have had memories with their children, but can’t? Do they ever stop grieving at all?

I didn’t have to cope from these two deaths because they weren’t personal and I don’t even want to be in a similar position. If these unfortunate families have come to terms with their losses, I suspect only time helped them dull the pain. I can’t see how anything else could have helped, save resurrection of their deceased loved ones.

How does one cope with the loss of someone you had expected to live longer?

You occupy yourself with other things. You focus on a future that you still have even if they don’t, because you owe it to yourself and to them to keep living. You find strength in yourself and in the family you shared with the deceased. You learn to value happiness more now that you have known so much sorrow. You make new connections and new memories. You keep going forward so you don’t have to look back. But most of all, you just learn to let the bitterness go because what else can you do? It is unjust, but it is what it is.

I leave you with this quote that sums up all of what I’ve been trying to say through this post –

Somethings cannot be fixed; they can only be carried.

Megan Devine.

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DEATH – THE HARSH REALITY OF LIFE

We all are very well aware of the fact that whosoever comes onto the earth has to leave also. Yet, we mourn and cry over the loss of our loved ones, the loss that is irreparable. It’s a strange process that God has made. Soon after the birth, a person makes so many connections, develops love and affection and when the time comes, the invisible cord is just snapped, leaving behind only memories.

A few years back I lost my cousin brother. His death was a shock for all of us. But, for me, it was an eyeopener, as if trying to reiterate the fact that death can arrive at any time. I was there for the funeral with my cousin Prabhjot and we felt sorry for our older generation who watched the dead body on a pyre, crying helplessly. It was the first time in my life that I witnessed all the last rituals being performed, right in front of me. I stood there, remembering my cousin brother’s laughter, the way he used to tease me, helping me out of the way and all the good and bad times we shared as a family. The next day, as a ritual, we had to go to the funeral site again for phool chugna, i.e., collecting the last remains of the body- bones and teeth. Since there was no one else to accompany our fathers, Prabhjot and I went with them. I couldn’t stop my tears from falling down as I searched the ‘phool’ from the ashes. The bone in my hand could have been his finger that held me when I was little. The tooth that I found reminded me of his smile. The huge body who once guarded me was down there, turned into ashes. For a weak-hearted girl like me, that moment was overwhelming, but it suddenly filled me with strength, making me realize that my cousin was near me and he would feel bad to see us all cry. So, now, whenever I miss him, I talk to him in my heart.

As they say-

Those we love don’t go away

they walk beside us every day,

unseen, unheard,

but always near,

still loved, still missed,

and very dear”

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DIFFERENT STAGES OF GRIEF

Blog - The Death Of The Headphone Jack: Seven Stages Of Grief

It’s been one full year since Reena lost her younger brother in a bike accident. And today as she sits down with her cup of coffee, she is bombarded with the memories of that unfortunate day. The crying, the grief, the stress, the blood, the dead body, the frantic calls, the guilt, the police case, the hospital, the crematorium and so much more that she wishes nobody had to ever experience. 

Nothing has been more painful for her than to see his brother’s body lay their lifeless. The moment she heard the news from a stranger calling from her brother’s phone – she was devastated. She wished and prayed that this was some sort of a misunderstanding or horrible prank but when she reached the accident spot – she immediately identified the bike and then the helmet, it was indeed her brother’s. Then she saw the clothes smothered in blood, she identified the Levis Jeans and the UCB tee that was supposed to be blue but now was entirely red. And she screamed her most painful scream when her eyes met the face. 

Her eyes welled up and she shut them close as she remembered the moment. She shut her eyes so tight in an attempt to shut the pain but that never happens. Even after a year, the pain seems to be so deep – it is like being killed a million times. She kept her cup down and moved towards the bookshelf. Picked up the book called “Stages of grief”. She had read it so many times in the last one year. She opened the first page and it said “May this give you the strength. Love Sujata”. This book made her aware of 7 different stages of grief which she now knew by heart. But she had no clue which stages she was in now. It sounded quite easy to understand these stages in the context of somebody else. But when the grief is your own, it is almost impossible to know if you are in the Depression stage or Pain and Guilt stage. 

Reena was slowly getting aware that she was past the stage of “Shock and Denial”. She had spent weeks after the funeral believing that all this was just a bad dream and that if she just calls him, he will be right there. She sent countless messages to him on WhatsApp, it always had just one black tick. She left many messages on his Facebook profile (which was now declared as a Memorialized account) and those were only responded to by others who shared her grief. She would keep calling his number over and over again even though she had witnessed his lifeless body being burnt. 

Reena had also very clearly experienced the stage of “Anger and Bargaining”. Her brother was going to meet his girlfriend Kritika when he was hit by a truck. Reena blamed Kritika for months and wondered if there was some way to stop him from being on road at that time. Multiple “what if” and “if only” statements kept crossing her mind. She completely stopped communicating with Kritika even though they had been good friends earlier only because she held her responsible for what happened.

“What if I had called him that day?” 

“This wouldn’t have happened, if I would have agreed to go out with him and Kritika for the movie” 

“What if he would have taken that job in Kolkata, maybe he would still be alive.”

These hypothetical scenarios kept doing the rounds in her head. 

There were days when Reena felt really at peace. She would just close her eyes and accept that her brother was gone and even though this is one of the worst things that have happened to her – it has indeed happened. And she needs to live with this forever. She would remember all the good times that she had with her brother and believe that he is always around no matter what. This was the stage of “Acceptance and Hope”.

Then some days the stage of “Depression” would come lashing back at her. She would stay silent mostly, not thinking anything. Just sitting at one place for hours together. After multiple rounds of this stage, she now knew that she needed help to get out of depression. Sujata was the only person she would call who always succeeded to bring her out of this abyss. “Look at your bright life. You are just 27, you have a promising career and an amazing set of parents. Your brother would have always wanted to see you happy and successful, don’t make him unhappy.”

Today Reena saw a new hope when she read an email from Sujata that made a lot of sense. The email said –

“Dear Reena,

I have new understanding of what death is and I would like to share it with you. Maybe it will help you. Imagine that a bunch of kids are playing with bubbles and they are competing with each other to make the largest bubble that can stay for the longest time. The moment they blow the bubbles, they all start screaming – see my bubble is going so up and so fast. Each bubble is holding some amount of air in it and once the bubble breaks there is no boundary around the air. Now no kid can identify his/her bubble. 

Our body on this planet is just like a bubble. Once this bubble breaks, we get mixed into The Creator and cannot identify with our worldly identity anymore. However, the human body is much more complex than a soap bubble. It has layers of existence. The physical body (blood and flesh) is the outermost layer of this bubble and this is what we identify with the most. Once this physical body is gone, there are other layers that are perceived in many different ways in different cultures. These layers continue to exist for as long as they are not ready to break. Once these layers break, the soul dissolves into The Creator. 

In case of sudden deaths, these inner layers might be strong and the essence of that person might still be lingering around for quite a few days. For people who died peacefully at an old age, the inner layers also break along with the physical body. Their souls can dissolve into The Creator within a couple of hours of death. 

Maybe your brother is still around you and taking care of you and maybe he is gone into The Creator only to be reborn into a fresh body from a womb. Either way, you must seek closure to what you feel for your brother. Do some meditation tonight. Try to feel his presence and if you don’t feel anything then just let him go because he needs to be liberated even from your thoughts. 

Love,

Sujata”

Reena cried hysterically when she read this. She wasn’t clear what she felt but it felt like somebody had lifted a huge weight from her shoulders. She meditated not just that night and every single night. It gave her peace and warmth and gradually she believed that she was ready to let go of him. This most probably is an “Upward turn” and she wouldn’t fall back into the “Depression” stage again.

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DEATH NOT THE END

Zindagi toh bewafa hai ek din thukraayegi,

Maut mehbooba hai, saathi leke jaayega”

These are the lyrics of an old hindi song that I have heard decades ago. It translates to “life is a betrayer, will leave us midway but death is a darling that will surely take us with it”. Profound, isn’t it? Death is the ultimate reality of life. That reminds me of a particular scene from a regional movie – a mother whose son died pleads her husband to do something and revive her son’s life. He agrees but asks her to do one thing “go and get some black sesame seeds from a house / family that haven’t witnessed any death“. She runs from door to door but receives only one answer “SORRY, We just mourned loss of someone”. She collapsed of fatigue but realized one thing Death Is Inevitable! Hence that realization granted her strength to send off the departed soul – detachment from the attachments.

But ironically death can only put an end to the life cycle but not to the LIFE itself. People depart but their presence lingers on, Memories is thy name.

My share of memories: My father left us in 2014. He battled cancer for almost two years. I was with him when he was diagnosed with throat cancer. I witnessed his pain, the pain inflicted by hunger, by numerous surgeries, by harsh chemotherapies. He lost his voice and was reduced to a bag of bones towards the end of his life. With energy drained out all he did was to watch us in silence and helplessness. I left him in care of my mother and brother as I had to leave for Brussels. Within few months I got a call that he wants to see me as he almost had a premonition about his departure. I couldn’t get tickets before the third day from that call. But it was too late, he breathed his last the very next day. For all the suffering he has undergone he passed off peacefully in his sleep. He longed to see me but unfortunately that didn’t happen, I couldn’t pay him the last visit. And that remorse still haunts. But he still visit me in my subconscious state of mind, my dreams and it seems nothing has happened, nothing has changed.

I know that I have shared this episode quite a lot of times on this platform. We as a family were prepared for this truth check of life. Though it was painful for us yet we found solace in the fact that he was liberated from his agony.

Shocking News: When someone in the family suffers with any kind of terminal illness, rest of the family is mentally prepared for the outcome though not leaving their optimistic approach. All they want is relief from the pain either ways. Even when people reach old age, their demise leave people mourning with grief, grappling with memories but as time moves, life moves on with the acceptance of the fact – it was supposed to be this way, the only unchanged truth of life!! But sometimes death knocking out life when it is not even expected to be anywhere round the corner. Two such instances I would like to share here:

  • A 35 years old daughter of one of my relative died last year due to covid. She had just delivered a baby girl and weakened immunity in after delivery phase made her contact covid. She was kept on ventilator as her lungs were too weak. And despite of every effort she couldn’t sustain. That was a shocker for us. A baby lost her mother and a mother lost her daughter. If this wasn’t heart wrenching enough that mother also lost her husband to cancer just an year ago.
  • In another incident few years ago, another relative lost her 25 years old son in a gruesome accident. He left home saying “I will be back soon mom” but few hours later what she received is a butchered body. The plight of that mother is something beyond my words could ever explain.

These were really very painful for those who were left behind. Prepared or caught off guard, we all get hit by this certainty. If emotional attachment is something that grips us as trauma then there are cases where the kith and kin are physically, economically dependent too. For instance in the above mentioned incident the lady who died due to corona had a new born baby and a ten years old boy. Such situations mark the loss with lot of vulnerabilities rocking the lives of survivors.

What can motivate to live, continue living? Shouldn’t we be paying the minimum respect to the creator and the ultimate truth of the cosmos “everything that is born will have an end”. Ok this is quite preachy and may sound really harsh. We can’t teach this to a grieving family. But then the responsibilities of a family or a position that might have dropped our shoulders before with fear act as catalyst to face, carry and continue. A mother has to fill in shoes of the departed husband for kids; son has to shoulder the responsibilities his father was discharging; successor in line has to take oath to serve just as his/her preceding person did; grandparents need to once again don the hats of parents. There’s a plethora of such examples. Because this is a token of respect and love to the one who just made an exit from this stage.

What about the vacuum created? As I mentioned it’s only we have to fill those materialistic spaces of responsibilities. And their memories in turn fill in the space in our hearts, can there be any denial to this?

A fact check: Forgetfulness is a bliss!! As we cope up with the loss of our loved ones and gear up ourselves to face the life and it’s struggles again the mill of the time keeps ticking. And passing through that we undeniably forget our trauma (not the person). Remembering the good times spent with the desceased in our good times, walking the path they showed us- isn’t this a perfect ode to them? Think over.

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WHY DO I LOOK UNREASONABLY YOUNG?

In 2000, I began to work. I was 24 then. My aunt’s colleague visited our house and when my aunt introduced me to her, she spoke nicely and asked, “Are you in 12th class?” And my aunt clarified by saying that, I finished my Post Graduation and almost after a year he has got a job locally, in Cuttack. The lady was amazed. “You don’t look like you are 24.”

I was a 34 years old man then when there were a couple of guests in our office. My boss and my surnames are the same. When I introduced myself, one of them got too excited and asked, “Oh, so you are Mr. Patra’s 17 years old son?”

I shook my head with a grin and said, “No Sir, I am 17 years older than Mr. Patra’s 17 years old son.” And we all had a good laugh. He further commented, “Chiradeep, you seriously don’t look like 34 at all”. And I agreed to him wholeheartedly.

My sisters were always queried whether I am their younger brother or what… And the youngest one replies, “Oh no, he is 11 years older to me…” And the other sister replies, “He is 6 years older than me.”

Trust me, it’s a blessing in my case – I look much younger to my age. Nilla, my co-writer here says, “Chiradeep, you have a baby face”. And I am lean and thin because of my health conditions. I never grew fat or chubby with a paunch like other men.

While most people worry about how bad or old or fat, they are looking with every passing year, I keep admiring myself for every additional inch that I put on and how handsome I am looking at every passing day. So to speak, ageing has always been a boon for me instead of a bane.   

There is another psychological factor that works here while I transition to my gray-hair-stage. And that is, when most people concern about ageing, I worry about looking younger unreasonably at a certain age which is a severe disadvantage for me as people do take me for granted a lot of time thinking I am not old enough in certain matters (not for all the matters though).

But there’s a serious question that popped up in my mind in regards to my unreasonable younger look – “What makes me look younger to my age?”

I used to think that my lean and thin body structure makes me look younger but I realized there are many old looking men who are lean and thin like me. So, the physique of a person is a partial truth with respect to looking young. I understand some are born with a younger look and I praise God for bestowing me the same. But I feel there are three more very important factors that make me look younger and will definitely help others to look young as well.

Smile always: “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face.” A joyful heart always brings a smile to our faces and the reason behind a joyful heart is accepting life’s problems wholeheartedly. And I know how I have lived my life; I accepted every difficulty with a smile and it became easier for me to smile and look younger. We need to remember, the curve on our lips, erases the wrinkles on our skin. An older person smiles lesser to maintain gravity but a young person usually smiles without caring about maintaining that so-called personality.

Stress-free lifestyle: “But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” And when the spirit is broken, we don’t feel young anymore but we feel tired, weak and old. So, it is important to lead a stress-free life. Do you know why everyone in the world today is so stressed? It is all because of the rat race and the unnecessary competition that we get engaged in every aspect of our lives. Why fret about something on which we have no control? Why to stress when we can simply do what is possible on our part?

Sleep well: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for He grants sleep to those he loves.” And He loves those who trust in Him. Impractical, is it? I have been doing this amidst all my pain and suffering and still sleeping well. But sleeping well doesn’t mean sleep all the time and spending in laziness. It means neither too much nor too less sleep but proper sleep. And proper sleep always makes us happy, less grumpy, stress-free and makes us feel rejuvenated.

For the last two-three years have really sucked off all my agility and youthfulness from my very being. Even a man like me has started to feel old. I stopped smiling; I have been spending sleepless nights because of carrying heavy stress and life’s burden that I can’t really help it. But this year in 2021, I promised myself to get back to my original streak. I want to follow what I have been doing all through my life to look unreasonably young. I don’t want to be generic but would love to be different and special. Of course, with the grace of God.   

In closing, I pray the same prayer as the Psalmist prays in the Bible –

“Now that I am old and my hair is gray, don’t leave me, God. I must tell the next generation about your power and greatness. God, your goodness reaches far above the skies. You have done wonderful things. God, there is no one like you.”

Stay blessed!

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WARDROBE-GING

She always dresses up as a behenji…

Hey gal, c’mon, be a sport! Dress up in brighter shades! You are young . . . if not now, when?

Here comes Babu moshai! He always comes dressed to college as if he is attending a job interview! Chill dude! Be cool!

Ever heard such remarks?

You guessed it right – attires define looks and looks define age. We may argue vehemently in opposition but cannot deny the stereotypic perceptions of society (which includes all of us too, by the way).

My mother’s generation wore saree when they transitioned from school to college. It was compulsory! This was the time between the late 1970s and early 1980s. Some schools had the girls wear sarees in Grade 9 and 10 as well. The percentage of female literacy was abysmally low, then. To be able to complete schooling and enrol in colleges was not a privilege all girls were blessed with (some still aren’t even now). No doubt, girls were married off as early as fourteen! And so, they were categorically reminded that they were big now – of marriageable age – hence they need to dress and behave like ‘women’, not as carefree ‘girls’ any more.

This, in my opinion, was essentially a social transition from teenage to adulthood minus adolescence – a taught and learnt consciousness that ‘you are no longer a girl now, but a woman and have to dress up accordingly’. Thinking of it today, I fail to imagine how the psychological transition would have been! How would it have felt to skip one stage of life (as delineated today), without even having any inkling to it!

In this day and age, with the market entering almost literally into our wardrobes, the dressing sense of boys and girls, men and women have drastically broadened and are no longer socially definitive as earlier (though there are exceptions). But, I must say the community that one lives, moves and operates in, plays a vital role in defining one’s attire and consequently one’s social age.

I am presently stationed in rural India – a place which is essentially a cake of conservatism topped with the frosting of modernism. I dress up in traditional Indian salwar-kurtas to work. And yes, not to miss the dupattas!! While within the comforts of my residential quarters, I laze around in T-shirts and trousers or other similar comfy casuals. Two seven-year-olds of neighbor families often visit me and address me as ‘Didi’. As lockdown ended in June last year, a neighbor guy got married and brought home his newly wedded wife who remained draped in beautiful sarees with her head covered all the time. These kids duly addressed her as ‘aunty’, much to my amusement (both the husband (who though in his late twenties has started balding) and wife are much younger to me in age and are promptly addressed as ‘uncle’ and ‘aunty’ and I am called ‘Didi’). You can well understand why!!

Well, I don’t know what the couple feels, but I certainly am amused each time the kids call us out loud!!

A friend narrated this hilarious incident a couple of months back in which her five-year-old daughter declared before guests once, that she would organize her mother’s marriage in a grand way. After the round of laughter died down, her mother (my friend) tried explaining to her that she (my friend) is married to her (my friend’s daughter) father already. The kiddo refused to accept that her mother is married, citing the reason that married women wear sarees (just as her grannies do), but she has hardly seen her mom wear sarees!!

Our attire defines our age, much more than we can think of. But yes, this applies more to women than to men. Though we don’t have many dhoti-clad men in India now, we would not see as many aged men with designer denims as youngsters too! But if we do come across a few such men, it would do nothing to define ageing in men. Visible ageing in younger men is usually evident from receding foliage on the head or a paunch or by strands of grey hair.  

Women often shift to shades of pastels as they age or when they lose their husbands or if they are separated from their husbands (this has got to do more with a latent or even at times manifest societal compulsion than with one’s personal feelings). I had this schoolmate who had lost her father as a toddler. Her mother dropped her and picked her up from school every day. She used to be attired in bright coloured sarees with her usual make-up on. Once I overheard someone remark ‘Look how ABC’s mother dresses up even though she is a widow; it would unnecessarily draw the attention of men’. I was a 15-year old then and could very well understand what they meant. Somehow, I felt a supportive heart within me towards my friend’s mother that day!

Attire and marital status have the potential to lessen the social age of an ageing individual or age a relatively younger person. No matter how we see ourselves as the years pass by or how others see us, keeping the soul and spirit young and agile beats the fragility of the body. 

“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like
curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.” 

Albert Einstein
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GROWING OLD VS GETTING WISER: MY TAKE ON AGEING

I once wrote an article on my birthday about my five gray hair. Yep. Five! I fretted all over the post about how it shocked me and how I was trying (‘trying’ being the operative word here) to take it positively. Fast forward to now, I’ve lost count of how many gray hair I have. I care more of course, but I can’t snip at a fact of life with a pair of scissors. So, I’ve given up on cutting them off. Why bother when it has to happen, right?

Does it make me feel old? Of course, but I would be stupid to believe that I will never age and I am not stupid. I should thank my five feet nothing height for the times when I get mistaken for a twenty-something but that doesn’t happen often, I assure you. There are other things about me that give away my real age. When you have a child who hovers around you, it automatically earns you the moniker of ‘Aunty’ in India. So does the propensity of the body to gain weight and look softer around the edges as we age. I am quite adept at looking soft around the edges, you see. I’ve given up on wearing clingy clothes in exchange for the more accommodative empire waists and peasant tops. I’m a bona fide Aunty now, no matter how many filters I use to take my selfies, and I am just fine with it.

I read somewhere, middle age is when the broadness of the mind and the narrowness of the waist change places. If that’s the case I’m heading in the right direction, except I feel smarter. It feels good to know that I’ve got something right in my thirty-five years of existence!

So, what is it that makes me feel old?

I have crow’s feet on the sides of my eyes, laugh lines, gray hair sprouting here and there, a receding hairline and an increasing waistline. All of them bother me, but the ONE thing that makes me feel my age is when my body doesn’t keep up with the younger person within me. When I hit the treadmill, I can’t go from level 3 to 6 in under five minutes anymore. I have to amble along for at least ten now or risk an injury. When my daughter insists I race her, I can’t win anyway because my heart threatens to jump out of my chest if I try too hard. Late-nights are OK only if I’m in a prone position, parked in front of a screen. Coffee is a MUST to carry on through the day. Parties that go well into the night are a no, no. In fact ALL late-nights in my life now are only because I have work to do. An evening hog-fest over chaat WILL induce diarrhoea in the morning. Don’t even get me started on sickness. I have always hated being sick but have only realized in the last three years that recovering takes longer and it’s frustrating that I can’t just shrug off a bout of the sniffles with some pills. I actually need TLC now.

And as if that isn’t enough, there will always be someone who will rub it in your face –

“Arey, pehchana nahin aapko. Bhari-bhari lag rahin hain na, isliye.”

(Sorry, didn’t recognize you because you’ve ‘filled up’).

According to Google, middle age starts somewhere around forty-five. I feel I am already in my middle ages because I’ve slowed myself down in the last few years. It has been a deliberate attempt because I have figured out that there is no point fighting against it. My body demands more care and I’m happy to oblige. I don’t think it’s right to call it growing older. I call it getting wiser.

I bet you’re thinking, she’s aging faster than her real age. So what? My theory about aging is –

If your body can’t do it, don’t force it… unless your physiotherapist says so.

Ageing happens not just in the body but in the mind too. But that’s the beauty of ageing – your body gets frailer but your mind gets sharper. But there are some old souls who have never been young… like me. At twenty, I did things that people much older than me did. Even now, I don’t like to waste time kidding myself that thirty is the new twenty, because it is not. I quite like how better-equipped I am now than when I was in my twenties.

The way I see it, we start ageing the moment we are born. But it’s how wise we are that makes the process of growing old worth it. While middle age does not mean that one slows down, it is definitely a time to wisen up and make some decisions about the future. By forty no one can just sit around waiting for life to happen. You have to take matters in your own hands, be it about health, or family, or career or about one’s life in general. The best thing about ageing is that it filters out the unnecessary in your life and reveals that which matters the most to you. By forty, most have figured out what they want to do in life, and if you haven’t, you’re getting there, don’t worry. That’s what the thirties are about.

This is the best thing that has happened to me since I turned the better side of thirty. I have understood that it’s not about looks but what lies within you. That show-off is a waste of time. That I can’t be responsible for everyone in my life. I can’t be a superwoman and tackle too many things in one go. I can’t please everyone and I most certainly should not try to either because I exist not to please other people, but to live for myself.  

Ageing teaches you to conserve your energy and resources and utilize them for things that should matter. An older person will seldom waste energy on showing off his moves on the dancefloor, but will expend energy in playing with his children. An aged person may not spend time party-hopping, but will spend a weekend with close friends instead. There is nothing wrong with showing-off or party-hopping (unless you’re a politician too). There is just no need for it after a point in life. When you realize that, that’s called being wiser, not ageing.     

Of course, ageing brings its own problems, mostly health-related, but it equips you to handle these issues better because now you’re armed with experience. Life comes with everything in a balance. If youth brings energy, it is retarded by lack of knowledge; whereas the converse is true for old age. If not for this balance, the young would trump the old every time and there would be no need for the old in the cycle of life. It’s all about give and take. The elderly give the young guidance in return for their support.

I won’t give you advice on how to tackle ageing. It’s your own journey. What makes you wiser may make someone else stupid. This post wasn’t meant to preach anyway, but to tell you what I feel about ageing. I will conclude with this – I can’t say now how I will feel once I am older but one thing is for sure, I’ll be a lot smarter than I am right now, and in my book, that is more valuable than an array of make-up on the dressing table.  

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MY STORY EVEN AFTER FOUR MORE DECADES

Aging? Why am I even writing about it..? Haven’t experienced it yet. I mean this is something that affects the older generation..  Not me..  I have completed only four decades on this earth a couple of years ago.. What do I know about ageing…?

Uh oh…  Don’t look at me like that..  I haven’t put on weight.  No no no..  I have just smoothly transitioned from medium to large to XL to XXL…  That’s the basic growth of a human being. 😊  Just yesterday we had a Saree day in our office.  Why these people come up with impromptu Saree plans?  Don’t you know how much effort goes into wearing a Saree? The first thing that comes to my mind is which blouse will I fit into…  Deep in thought, I was mulling over this issue when the WhatsApp University provided me with an answer…  God bless those people who keep forwarding random messages.  You never know which one will hit a home run. 

So here goes the gyan… (piece of advice) 

Ladies
You don’t have to fit into the blouse,
The blouse has to fit you..
And if it doesn’t get a tailor; not a dietician 😀

Well then I am definitely prospering from all sides but I am surely not ageing or putting on weight.. 

Next thing I know you will point to my crowning glory…  Now understand the streak of white in my beautiful hair shows a sign of maturity beyond my age. I mean people take you seriously if a little white is showing in your hair. You are not considered frivolous.

And smart that I am, I take a little help from Loreal and ensure that only a little white is visible. The stubborn white roots that keep showing up are beautifully hidden under the dark brown hair colour. Who can make out the difference? No one I am sure.

Now I know you are feeling jealous. I agree that the lady in the beauty parlor keeps reminding me to get regular facials. But that is not because of any lines showing up on my face. No you got it all wrong. It’s because she wants more business from me. Its economics not aging. Got it?

I found a gem of a poem on the Internet. It was by Wanda B. Goines of Cave Junction, Oregon. She was a beloved mother to eight children, grandmother to 15, and great-grandmother of four. She passed away in 2016 at the age of 92. Her poem was actually forwarded to me by some kind soul. And this is going to be my story even after four more decades…

I looked in the mirror and what did I see,
But a little old lady peering back at me,
With bags and sags and wrinkles and wispy white hair,
And I ask my reflection How did you get there?
You once were straight and vigorous, and now you are stooped and weak,
When I tried so hard to keep you from becoming an antique.
My reflection’s eyes twinkled as she solemnly replied
You’re looking at the gift wrap and not the jewel inside.
A living gem and precious, of unimagined worth
Unique and true the real you, the only you on Earth.
The years that spoil your gift-wrap with other things more cruel
Should purify and strengthen and polish up that jewel
So focus your attention on the inside not the out.
On being kinder, wiser more content and more devout
Then when your gift wrap is stripped away, your jewel will be set free,
To radiate God’s glory through all eternity.

Underneath I have attached the video link of the poem recited by her… Watch and Enjoy. Thanks!

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AM I AGEING?

This is often a question almost every middle-aged man or woman asks. Am I ageing? Is my skin getting dull? Am I losing hair? Am I gaining (or losing) weight? Are my energy levels the same? Yes, it is obvious. I ask those questions too but very careful not to fall into the abyss of anti-ageing scam. 

I could never understand somebody would want to reverse the process of ageing or would want to look like a young adult all of their lives. Of course, it makes sense to ensure that one is living a healthy life but it is definitely not recommended to use all sort of chemicals and surgeries in order to look younger. 

Recently, I read a random article about the clothes that a woman should not wear after she turns 40. I am not sure why somebody would write an article of that kind. Why is it awkward for a 45-year-old woman to wear ripped jeans (for example) or polka dots maxi dress (maybe)? Probably because they are considered age inappropriate. But again the problem is that our Media is very youth-oriented. The models that dress up (in any media) for any kind of fashion are often young 20’s something girls with size zero Barbie doll figures. None of the media really shows up models of different ages that are dressed up in “age appropriate” dresses. How would a 40-year-old woman who is of a certain structure decide what suits her body? How would she find out if her experiments with a different kind of fashion are working or not? 

Ageing is a biological process that needs to be respected. Fighting ageing is like fighting time – it will always be a lost battle. If you only wear confidence, your wisdom and your experience on your face – you will look graceful. 

Don’t be scared of ageing, instead embrace ageing. Take up your hobbies and passions that you never had time for in your younger years. There are something’s that you can never find time for till you are 40. One of my dear friends took up learning Bharatnatyam at 44 along with a 10-year-old daughter and now is performing across multiple forums in South India. My Mother in law who is nearing 60 beat me and came first in a 5k marathon. My dad bought a geared cycle at his 70th birthday and starting cycling a few kilometres every morning. 

Such people embrace their age and make sure that they make most of the time that they have. They don’t try to anti-age, they only embrace their age and indeed they age gracefully. 

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UNCLES AND AUNTIES – THE ‘RESPECT’ FACTOR

“I think we all want to get older—we just want to age well.

Continuing from the whole ‘Aunty’ & ‘Uncle’ take from yesterday’s article – I’m not gonna lie – I’ve had my share of being called ‘Uncle’ myself BUT let’s be honest here, (I’ve been called out by much younger boys and girls – more like half my age) it actually made me feel that I have grown up, and that there exists people who are younger to me…

The thing is:

You get actually get work done when people actually think you’ve reached the Uncle-Aunty phase, like have someone offer you a seat in public transport or come up to you for advice or simply look up to you as their role-model. I’ve had these privileges, I’m not complaining and I haven’t even touched 40 as yet!

However, in India it isn’t so much about ‘age’ when we talk about transitioning to the next level, its just that with age – we take up more responsibility, find ourselves in mature relationships, earn money to sustain ourselves and with the stress that comes along with the above three factors, we tend to look different – either not looking after ourselves health wise due to lack of time or because we have more important priorities to life than beauty.

Of course, when we talk about men, beauty doesn’t necessarily play much of a role – while we still have thick levels of hair (on our head of course) and a minus-paunch body, we’re good to conquer the world. Any other look besides that… and life gets tough. The Bollywood movie ‘Bala’ immediately comes to my mind, that was such a relatable movie on so many counts.

“There are many theories of aging. My theory is I’m more awesome.”

Life has its own way of showing us, how we evolve and transition from one phase to another. We tend to look back at the one we’ve passed, more than looking forward to the one we are transitioning into. At the age we find ourselves now, it is probably the age where-in all the magic happens. We’re slotted right in the middle, we aren’t young enough to live the carefree life nor are we old for lives to be dictated by medication.

We are embarked on a wonderful journey of life, Yes! They’ll be the ups, the odd down’s .. but that’s life’s way of carving an individual out into the amazing people we turn out to be going ahead, changing, transforming and transitioning ourselves, getting ourselves ready.. to what’s coming next!

While living in India – the Uncle and Aunty culture is well rolled out in the DNA of every growing child, so, the next time, we’re are called out by that ‘tag’ – be proud that we’ve grown out from that young adult phase into a mature human being, and that a child is actually showing/giving us the respect, WE deserve in the first place, and if we’re lucky enough… returning home from a tired day at work or from the market place with a heavy bag of groceries and the sweet boy from the building asks you:

Aunty, can I help you carry your bag?

Go ahead and accept the generous offer, you might as well take it – such offers don’t come out too often from today’s children.

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HEY! DON’T CALL ME AUNTY

What hurts a woman the most? The word “hurt” is making this an emotional saga and definitely, I am not in a mood to tell one. So let’s change it to ” Enrage”. Yes, that makes it powerful 😉. So what can enrage a woman and invite her ire almost at the drop of a hat? Call her a bad driver she can still pardon you. Call her a nagger, you still have chances to watch that football match with friends. Illogical, argumentative, gossip lover – you still have bleak chances of making it safe. But one thing that guarantees a woman’s “you are so dead” look is calling her Aunty!!!!!

(Picture Credit – Google Inc.)

**Important Note: Don’t try the above-mentioned stunts at home**

Imagine a 25 year old lady who just delivered a baby and haven’t shed the extra kilos gained during her pregnancy is called Aunty by some random odd 50+ old salesman at the shop counter. This is exactly what happened to someone really close to me, it was me only 😂😁. Standing just 5 feet 3 inches from the ground, weighing around 81kgs I seriously looked like a sack of potatoes. But in my head, I was no less than a Greek Goddess who has draped a beautiful saree. Having an illusionary parallel world is important it seems, at the end of the day a happy mind scores over a svelte figure. Though I was 25, the different changes my body has just experienced I looked older than I was. Kids in their late teens started calling me Aunty, vendors who were double or triple my age replaced the sophisticated “Madam” with “Didi” which means elder sister. Elder sister to a man who crossed six decades !!!! That was heartbreaking, demotivating to say the least 😁. I was not “ageing” but looked aged😱.

Blame it on pregnancy or hormones in play, gaining weight isn’t the only concern. A double date of pimples with wrinkles are so determined to make sure I am grounded well. 35 years of age (can we trend 10 years challenge again? Just asking 😁), my ageing process has been a roller coaster ride. Dresses that look fabulous on catalogues poke me with sarcasm in the trials and the mirror shouts “any flat tyre there, we have a spare here”. Then only the swollen under eye area shouted “we have carry bags too”. Acne scars in late thirties so adamant to leave lecture me freckled face is in. And I am like ” you no freckle but a damn pimple”.

Being Called Aunty is still ok: Since last year for god only knows reason hormonal imbalance has added another feather in my cap – excessive facial hair growth, especially the chin area. Slowly I have come terms with being called Aunty. I explained to myself – it’s ok sabka time aayega (no one is going to stop ageing). I might have aged a bit too early and fast. Let it sink. And I moved on in life until I realized what if people now start calling me Uncle due to the stubble I am growing😂😂. I would like to thank my mask here for masking my imperfections as well. That reminds of an incident that happened 18 years ago – a time when I was not introduced to the magic of Salon yet. A friend of mine made fun of how I am having a moustache, my kids would be confused whom to call papa. Now those ghosts haunt me again 😂. Damn these hormones😡😡.

Dr. Google consulted: The moment I realized my face has too many folds on its linen I consulted Dr. Google. I have been prescribed everything – from dripping egg to sticky honey; from colourful turmeric to plain white rice powder along with tomatoes, cucumber, potato and possibly everything under the sun used in the kitchen. Results were not visible but my face told me “idiot you missed the pan, leave me alone first get your eyes checked”. When you hit panic buttons you are eager to try everything with an anticipation of quick results. Acceptance of the fact that you are ageing is one thing and earnest efforts to make sure it isn’t visible is another ball game that everyone participates in. So did I. So what if I had to wipe the entire kitchen floor after my beauty treatment; so what if my 5 years old called me a monster and tucked in blanket; so what if the application literally impairs me from speaking or laughing to avoid more wrinkles and all I could do is mumble to add to the annoyance of others (read husband). Say no die is the mantra😂.

How to keep oneself motivated: To lose weight, to have that youthful look on face, to let the world guessing what your age could be one needs to have a disciplined regime and diet. Walking, cardio, lifting, protein diet, yoga – in short whatever our celebrities say they do to look flawless and carved. I charge up myself for such meticulous plan, determined to push few pounds and years back. Salads graced my plate until an ice cream enticed me towards it. One scoop, two scoop – and the drama begins.

Brain : what are you up to? This isn’t the plan.

Heart: how naïve you are dear brain! Let her eat and enjoy till she can. At the dusk of life this is not possible. Life is so short to curb oneself from little pleasures.

Brain: What about her plan to look like that celebrity?

Heart: Lol, celebrity has to stay in limelight, it’s business, showbiz, completely professional. We shouldn’t mix personal and professional things – I mean her personal with their profession. Does it make sense or not?

Brain: (gave up) ok then don’t complain later 😏.

And I savoured the third scoop!😁.

Moral of the story : I have come up terms with life. Aunty, Behen ji, Didi – no problem, I am sport for everything. Sab Moh Maya hai (everything is illusionary). Ageing is inevitable, for someone way too fast and early and for some a bit restrained, nonetheless it happens. What matters is health – physical and mental. And for everything else : Beauty is internal 😁❤️.