“Never Fail To Look For The Light, Despite The Dark.”
15 years back I had a very comfortable life, my husband was earning well and kids were doing good too. My role was that of a provider to the demands like housewives in our country are expected to do. I always aspired to be a dancer but with marriage, I packed my aspirations in a bag on the way to my new address. And really never got a chance to open up that sealed bag (smiles). Responsibilities piled up so does the monotony and mundaneness of life. At the end of the day, I had this feeling of being hollow from within. But no matter what, I had (still have) this habit of visiting the local library every 15 days. There I met this stranger. She was searching for a book on Indian classical dance. And coincidentally I was reading the same genre. She came to me and quietly (almost in a gesture for we were in a library) asked, “in which corner did you find this?”. I showed the directions and got busy with my book again. In a few minutes, she came back and sat reading. As we lifted our heads from our respective reads we passed smiles at each other.
She was very young, around 20 years. Now I saw her more often at the library. We slowly became friends despite the age gap between us. I found out she had an inclination towards Indian classical dance like me. She was pursuing her dreams. I was in awe of her. I told her “Roshni (so apt to her which means light) you are so lucky to be able to live your dream. I am in awe of your family too.”
She smiled and said “I don’t have a family. Born to a sex worker, rescued by a good samaritan, called names by the society, it has always been a struggle to survival. But that has made me strong only, strengthened my resolve to make it better for myself and likes.“
I was left dumbfounded. I could only say and all this while I have been complaining about my life when it is so comfortable. She chuckled hard at my words. Days passed and I eagerly waited to meet her again at the library. But she never turned up again, instead of left a note with the librarian addressed to me.
“Don’t belittle your problems by stopping to dream and only complaining. Thank the hurdles in your way, thank the taunts and insults hurled at you for they might appear to be stoned but you can make them into stepping stones to your success and happiness. They might appear to be dust and twigs directed towards you but you can make them your wings. A comfortable life never always means a happy one too. If you’ve got one such life make better use of it and don’t waste it slogging through years. Your happiness is your responsibility. And show your gratitude towards God by being a good human and having humanity.”
Chaya finished her diary writing and glanced at the state award she received for her exemplary work in the field of humanitarian service to the sex workers and their kids and yes beside that award stood her achievements as a classical dancer, she always dreamt of. And in her heart, she thanked Roshni again “Thank you for the wings”.
It was one of the usual afternoons for Mrs. Mintington since the time her old man had left for his heavenly abode. Though she found her loneliness heart-wrenching at times, she kept herself pretty much occupied with anything that her hands could lay on.
“Grandma, not again!”
This is Sally. The bubbly teenaged granddaughter of Mrs. Mintington.
Ah! It seems the kind old lady had once again invaded her granddaughter’s privacy and had set her messy room in order.
“Ha Ha Ha, my dear princess, I will continue to intrude into that little storm-hit-of-a-kind room until you learn the art of keeping things tidy and organized. You remember the deal, right?”, quipped the wise old Granny even as Sally threw her hands up in the air and stomped into her room.
“Freshen up and come in here quick. I want you to lend me a hand with the dinner preparations. You know we are having guests over tonight, don’t you?”
“Yeah, coming”, shouted Sally from her room.
Meanwhile Mrs. Mintington took out her prized porcelain and silverware from the cupboard. It was one of the four times of the year that she took them out. Not many people take out time to visit others these days. Holidays provide the much needed break from work and are usually spent in catching up with household chores. Entertainment is available just at clicks, taps and swipes. Visiting family and friends, is thus, quite occasional.
With age slowly bringing out the aches and pains in her once agile frame, Mrs. Mintington found it quite a task to travel anywhere these days. But, she made it a point to have her loved ones over for a weekend four times a year. A get-together every three months! And, no one complained! They all made it a point to be there.
Her two daughters along with their husbands and children drove in one after the other and the otherwise calm house sprang into animated conversations, fun and laughter.
“Mama, you will never listen. Huhh! When we had told you we’ll be getting enough food to probably last us all a few days, why did you have to strain yourself to prepare all these,” said her younger daughter Queena with fake annoyance as she helped carry the food from the kitchen to the table.
“My girlies and boys and their cubs would come and I would be sitting on the rocking chair and keep rocking away all through the day, without shaking a finger! Can it ever be possible, my darling”, answered Mrs. Mintington with a faint smile curving her thin lips.
“And, how the children love her banana brownies and mint-flavoured ginger ales! It would be disservice to rob them of Mama’s delicacies”, said Sheena the elder one as she helped lay the table.
“Wait, wait, wait, do you guys think Grandma has made these all by herself? An absolute NO! Let me tell you . . .”, barged in Sally just at that moment.
“Ah! Yes, Sally of course has been of such help, you know”, said Mrs. Mintington with a wink of her left eye and they all burst into a thunderous laughter.
“This laughter is what keeps me going my dearies, else life had almost come to a stop that day when Roby and Ruth met their fateful end, leaving my little sleeping princess to my care.” (Roby was Mrs. Mintington’s son who had died in a car crash along with his wife, Ruth thirteen years back when Sally was a toddler.)
“How grateful I am to God for this precious gift of family – for each one of you! And so, I will continue celebrating for you all till there’s breath and strength enough to keep me going.”
“So, what’s the date for the next GRATMEET, my girlies and boys?”
He hadn’t allowed everything that I had wanted
But He made sure, I sleep at peace without any fright.
For Him, my heart fills with gratefulness
Who strengthens and sustains me day and night.
When I think of Your mercies untold,
My heart fills with gratitude manifold.
When I remember the prayers that You have answered,
Humbly in worship, I surrender this insignificant self.
When I count the sins of mine that You have forgiven,
I realize how uncountably numerous they have been.
When I bring to mind the love that You have showered upon me,
How assured I am of that fathomless flow even unto the end of time!
When I imagine my tiny puny self before a Majestic You,
Can’t think if I would bow or fall prostrate in Your view.
Oh! with what Love You have loved me,
And with what Grace You sought me!
What made You take my sin upon Yourself,
To be mocked, stripped and scourged for me?
Can I ever repay the debt of Your love?
Or give You the praises You deserve?
Forever I remain imprisoned by Your everlasting arms,
For in them I am cushioned against all of life’s harms.
I am giving him too much credit. And he will never let me forget this. In every future confrontation of ours, he will bring this up. Knowing the risk, I am still narrating this small incident of my life. (Maybe I won’t show it to him)
A couple of years back my husband started his own company and I started working with him. (I am telling you not a good idea). I will give you a brief background about myself. Before starting this work with him I was a housewife (right I too hate this term) for the last 10 years. So even though my degrees stated that I had all the required skill for an office job my great talents were obviously a bit rusted. My husband on the other hand was fresh out of the Corporate world with grand ideas about his startup. His expectations were of that MNC level.
My hubby dear used to turn into a typical demanding boss as soon as we started working. I on the other hand was still a bit laid back. Mind you I tried my best. But still, slip-ups were bound to happen. If he got angry with something I had missed and shouted at me I used to feel how dare he speak to me, his wife, like this. I gave him back good and ended up with both being upset. Almost every day we used to fight.
Letters to be formatted in a certain way, customers to be handled in a specific way, records and filing should be up to date all the time. Records should be available on the click of a button. Seriously I was scrambling to keep up with his bossy demands. And mind you we were a Startup and really understaffed. So, it was a struggle. He shouted, I shouted and then I cried (my best defence). But it hardly changed his stance. Eventually, I did understand his way of working and the number of incidents reduced a little. But his standards never came down.
Few years down the line he closed down that business and moved on to another business. And we decided not to keep all our eggs in the same basket. So, I took up a regular admin job in a school.
Believe me when I tell you that it took me very less time to impress my current employers with my skills. And every time I get praise here for a job well done, I secretly thank my dear hubby for training me so well or at least for polishing my skills a bit. Really grateful for that period in my life now. It didn’t seem like a blessing then but has really helped me in the long run. Because it is the times of necessity and pressure that teach us the most important life lessons.
I got discharged from the hospital last Friday. A week of running around by the whole family with me lying in the hospital bed gasping for breath was a traumatic experience. All of us needed rest. My mom and mom-in-law were on toes all through the week and they deserved to go back home and relax.
So two days after I was discharged, my mom said she was taking Aarnav (my 3 yr old son) with her. The idea was to give me some rest. Obviously, I rejected the idea upfront. The mom in me was not able to approve the distancing of my child, depriving him of mother’s love, making him sleep without those cuddles and kisses and overall other mom duties. However, this decision was forced on me by the whole family. Much against my wishes I had to give in. I waved my son goodbye with a heavy heart and tried to console myself by thinking at least he didn’t cry. It’s a different story that he didn’t know he was supposed to stay without his mom for a week.
The first day was difficult. I missed him terribly. I cried. But I fully trusted my mom’s judgement and believed in the idea that he will be fine without me.
Cut to today:
It’s been 5 days and my little munchkin is happy at nana-nani’s house. He is getting that extra pampering, is not bound by any rules and is having a gala time. He is the apple of their eyes. My mom shares his pictures and videos because I terribly miss him but more because she wants to instil that confidence in me that Aarnav is now ready to take baby steps to come out of my wings and prepare to fly.
The exact same thing that I was cribbing about as to why a decision is enforced on me is something that I am utterly grateful for today. These 5 days not only gave me much needed rest, but it also ensured full concentration at my office work, no additional breaks for baby duties and thus wrapping up work on time. It also gave me some “ME TIME” which I don’t seem to have got in a long time now. More importantly, it showed me that Aarnav is slowly becoming independent, that my baby is growing up. I do feel the mom guilt but there is very little that can be done for it. Guilt and motherhood go hand in hand I suppose.
Anyway, the bottom line is – Lot of times we question the happening of certain things in life. We hate those times. We feel betrayed, shattered or even breakdown. But that happening could be a blessing in disguise. If we are able to manage the breakdown and negative emotions we may experience the blessing in coming time for which we would be ungratefully grateful.
One can either be grateful or ungrateful, but is it possible to have a cocktail of both?
Well, there are instances when one can be gratefully ungrateful or ungratefully grateful. It depends on how one wishes to interpret such episodes.
Have you ever felt thankful for that heavy downpour because of which you could have a day off from work? There you go – you have at least once instance of being ungratefully grateful!! That rain which clogged roads and may well have been a barrier for some others, was indeed welcomed by you!
In my Post Graduation years, I had to take the intercity bus for a 30 km ride each day to the University and the same distance back again. Classes would invariably be over by 5 P.M. every day. I had four other friends for company (which made the travel a little less difficult). Bus-hunting was a daily routine. Buses did stop by the bus stop at intervals. But, we looked for less crowded buses to board (crowded buses are nightmares for all – but a lot more for females). Also, there were buses which had conductors who were reluctant to give the student fare concession. In this way we had certain criteria.
One fine evening, we had been waiting at the bus stop for more than 40 minutes without any of our familiar buses stopping by. Eventually, when one did come, it was jam-packed. My friends decided to board it anyway as there was no surety of another one coming by anytime soon. I was too reluctant – to the point that I asked them to leave if they wished to and that I would wait for some more time for a less crowded bus. One of them already had a foot on the bus and another had a had on the door railing ready to board. But, seeing my stubborn reluctance, they returned (wonderful companions) and so all five of us waited desperately for another bus to come by soon.
It was another 15-minute wait before we boarded a bus, much to our relief! The long frustrating wait of a humid summer day finally came to an end. We had hardly been seated for 20 minutes, that people began curiously looking out of the windows. I could hear the word ‘accident’ from the many voices that were commenting animatedly on the view outside. Just then, a passenger seated behind me gestured outside and said, “the bus which you were reluctant to board, but your friends were insisting, has met with an accident.” I was stunned as the information sank in! There was no loss of lives, though. The driver had lost control and the bus had skidded off the road and had rammed into a building nearby.
The passenger who gave me this piece of information had also been waiting for a bus at the bus stop and had been overhearing and watching the little drama that had unfolded among the five of us (you are being watched without your knowledge – beware!) much to his amusement, and had later got on the same bus as I and my friends did. “Had you all got into that bus, you would have met with an accident today”, he added.
I was so grateful to God that day! I had been ungratefully grumbling within myself as to why the bus that came after a long time had to be so crowded that we couldn’t board it. I also felt a bit guilty when my friends let the bus go only to stay back for me. But now, I was grateful beyond words!
I was grateful for the delay. I was grateful for the crowded bus. I was grateful that my friends got delayed because of me. I was grateful for all those events of that hour and a half, for which I had felt so ungrateful, minutes before.
Truly, there are events that come by unplanned, unasked for and entirely undesirable. But, when we put two and two together, the picture becomes quite understandable.
Since I firmly believe that each and every event in our lives happens under God’s sovereign control, I also believe that those people or events in our lives for whom/ which we are most ungrateful are the ones for whom/ which we will be grateful in the long run (only if we perceive our lives in their entirety and not in fragments).
Being grateful while the world crashing around us is always difficult. At the beginning of this year, as we still struggle with many issues, I am happy that we are concentrating on gratefulness. Thanks to Geetmalini and Rajnandini who have been planned out this month so very well.
There was no writer for tonight but I was not in a mood to leave this slot go just like that. So I thought to quote a few outside bloggers and writers who have spoken a lot about this expression called, gratefulness.
Let’s visit their minds and hearts to check out their perspectives about gratefulness:
I thank the Lord for giving me a platform to write
the things that I want to air out the things that I can air out. I have avoided my friends because answering the question “how are you” is just the hardest one to answer right now. There are things that I can’t talk about, not with my parents, not with my friends — things that hurt so much to speak about. I thank the Lord for being the one whom I can always call unto– someone who won’t get tired, someone who won’t be burdened by my burdens! Someone who hears me unconditionally, someone who won’t blame me, someone who won’t say “I told you so.”
I so relate myself to the author, Ms. Janis who so beautifully wrote this article.
Ms. Betul Erbasi says in her blog: “… focus on what is lacking is not healthy and it gets me nowhere. I can’t get my family here, nor can I go stay with them. The only thing I do to myself in this case is just make myself sad. This sadness in turn makes me irritable and unproductive.”
She was right. If our focus is always on the negatives then we can’t be of sound mind at all. We can’t focus on the things that are important in our lives, for ourselves and for our families.
Mr. Ashok rightly points out what I said in my article a week ago. He says, “Once we become grateful for every circumstance, every situation, every happening in our life: we shall always be joyous and at peace. And that this gratitude should not be kept only for big and momentous happenings of our lives, but should be expressed in our day to day blessings. We take so many of our blessings for granted, as our birthright!”
In the end, I want to conclude with this last quote from Dr. John Persico Jr. At the end of his article he poses a few thought-provoking questions for the readers, for all of us and I am quoting them all here:
Time for Questions:
What are you most grateful for today? When was the last time you expressed your gratitude to someone you care about? How often do you stop to think about how much you have to be grateful for? Are you grateful for the things that really matter in your life? What if you took time each day to be more grateful for your life? What are you most ungrateful for? How can you get rid of your ingratitude?
Life is just beginning.
Interesting all of the above writers and their articles, right friends! Do visit their blogs and learn more about the heart-condition named gratefulness.
Standing on the hypothetical rock by the river as I look back and keep opening the difficult pages of my life, I don’t regret about them, but I feel grateful to God that He took me through them.
Did I sound too filmy and general?
Let me then take you on a ride in my time machine revisiting all those pages of my life now…
Grateful for Heartaches & Vulnerable Moments
I had soft corners for many girls in my life. But I chose only one out of all to express my love, even though she turned down my proposal. And others were those whom I could not have proposed or expressed my feelings. At that moment, I cursed myself as I went through those vulnerable moments. But I was clear in my heart and mind that my vulnerability was not an excuse or platform for me to take those refutable steps at those moments of life. I was murderous each time I choked those forbidden feelings and emotions. Trust me, they were utterly painful moments. They were almost like the pain of a woman going through abortions, killing those feelings after conceiving them within yourselves.
I was so ungrateful and regretting about everything while I passed through those events in my life. I even questioned God at that time, “Why did you let me go through these?”
But today, when I look back, I feel grateful for those ungrateful moments, because of those hurts and heartaches, I could understand the matters of heart better than others. I can feel the pain of a person who go through such succumbing turmoil within himself or herself.
Grateful for Taunts and Assumptions of people
“Huh! You be quiet. Sitting at home, you can’t understand how hot it is outside.” It is true, I don’t go out, I won’t be able to understand the pain of working outside in summer times but I do know the fact about how it must be feeling in summer and I deserve to place my opinion as well.
“You are too fearful. Don’t talk about pain so much, trust God and you will be fine.” But the truth is, people talk about trusting in God, and I lived out my life till now trusting God.
“Nothing will happen, you can do it by God’s strength.” Again, that’s a half-truth. I have been and will be doing things by God’s strength but while in pain and suffering. The words like, ‘nothing will happen’ has no meaning for me. Because something or other have been happening to me all through my lives yet, I am not broken but leading a joyous life even with whatever is going within me. That’s a fact, that’s the truth.
“Hey, look at his nails, they look so weird. They are so big.” I hear whispers like this many times when I come across people who are unknown me. If I get a scope, I usually smile at them in response and explain why they are so otherwise I look away or divert my mind from those looks of people.
All these comments, remarks, taunts and assumptions about and for me were utterly unpleasant and discouraging. At those moments I was so ungrateful to all of them whoever uttered those words. But now when I look back, I feel grateful because those words, whispers made me tolerant and resilient.
Grateful for indifferent and insensitive behaviors
Being sick, I am always left out from most of the activities or events where physical strain is a must. We talk about old people being so isolated during Covid19 times. But I have been isolated like them as well. Not only about this difficult time, but also in general I never go out on trips and events often.
During my life when I used to be alone, I used to feel extremely bored and search for people to talk with or do something that will keep me hooked. But nothing was possible at that time. There were no mobile phones, no Facebook or anything that can make me distracted. But when I joined the office, I had everything yet the level of desperation and loneliness changed and the needs deepened. When I fall sick, I suffer the most. “You behave like a kid when you are no okay.” Someone told me once I approached or showed how needy I was. I know the intention of the person may not be bad, I took it differently. I felt neglected, ignored and unwanted while I was in desperation. Sometimes people don’t count me in the decision-making group because I won’t be active in things we plan.
The lifestyle I led made me feel lonely, ignored and deserted many times. But when I look back, I feel grateful about those moments because those are the moments when I reinvented myself, discovered my creative skills and became very observant about things and people around me. Those moments and behaviors made me to be more sensitive towards others. They moulded me to become an empathetic person and thus, I am grateful for all those ungrateful behaviours that I had been receiving from many.
God has His purpose in making me while He took me through all these very ungrateful events, moments and emotions. But I am thankful and grateful for everything that I went through acknowledging them as my training sessions. I keep surrendering myself again and again into God’s mighty hands while going through things that are unpleasant even these days. I will be the same, tough and flexible at the same time.
God has been my strength and portion as it is written in the Bible,
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
But God will only be the strength and portion of all those who surrender themselves to Him.
I want to quote someone who surrendered herself to God and then decided to be grateful for everything: “I’m done crying, I’m done asking why, and I’m done waiting. Lord take it if it isn’t mine. I promise not to question you anymore. I promise to be thankful instead.”
So friends bring all those ungrateful and bitter experiences in your life. Surrender them all to God and He will grind all those in His grace and let you drink everything. You will gulp them easily which you found difficult to swallow previously. I gulped it, so can you. 🙂
Helping others is a basic gesture known to humanity, bonding together and helping a fellow man or woman. In times of tragedy, the stories of those who help others are inspiring. It includes stories of people who have helped the nation recover from national disasters and terrorist attacks. Some men and women sacrificed their lives to help others. Our, Armed forces and the police force safeguards our country, and many risk their lives for the common good.
But…I believe there must have been a phase in each of our lives when we have expected help from our near and dear ones, but we got no help. I know how disheartening that can be. You expect support and encouragement from people you consider close to you only to be completely rejected, criticized, or laughed at.
It can be tough to swallow all the “noise” around you. It literally boils down to learning how to not care so much about what others think and, conversely, trying to comprehend what goes on in their minds.
Sometimes when people don’t support what you’re doing, it may be more about them than you. Maybe they are insecure or jealous! Or maybe it could be plain ignorance.
It is wise not to take their words to heart. If their criticism isn’t constructive in any way, they may be discouraging you by painting a gloomy picture before you.
Don’t let others’ objections become your truth and limit you from creating what you want in life. Don’t grumble; instead, be grateful! Because anything is possible if you believe in yourself and work hard. Tell yourself you can do this without their support.
It’s very natural to want support and encouragement from the people around you, but it is possible to do what you want to do without it. Next time someone denies extending their helping hand, thank them in your heart; constructively use the denial and do the work yourself!
We all are aware of the lessons that 2020 taught us- like how to be optimize resources, how to live with the bare minimum, how to work to the best of your capabilities and a lot more. One of the biggest lessons that everyone has taught all of us is Gratitude. While my 9-year-old was cribbing about his online classes and the pandemic altogether, I kept telling him to be grateful for what we had, rather than complaining about what we were missing. We were safe, together, at home and eating well.
Of course, life isn’t a piece of cake, but when we are in a tough situation, we often feel like that is the worst thing to have happened, but often forget to realize that something worse could have happened.
One of my friends recently lost her mother. It was devastating for her obviously, but she was contented that she could meet and talk to her on the last day.
Be grateful and express gratitude is what I wish to practice personally. Before going to bed every night, I say a small prayer and end with this line- ‘Thank you God for everything’. We are forever grateful to God and mother nature. During the pandemic, I was in terrible stress, like most of us. I started thanking the mother nature and felt so much better. I literally used to start my day by drinking water and thanking water. I thanked the Sun, the wind too! Though I was aware that everything was created by one living God. Watching clouds and birds became my favourite pastime and I captured some good shots too!
We are grateful to our family and friends, but we often take them for granted and overlook the good deeds they do for us. Life is short, is what I always say. Be grateful for what you are today, be grateful to those who have been with you and express your gratitude to them, don’t wait for tomorrow, for tomorrow may never come.
Mr. Cold was busy in his laboratory developing a variant to be introduced in the human body. His intention was to unleash something so dreadful upon the world which is no less than an apocalypse. He had his mutant ready but so eager he was to test it in the real environment that he didn’t bother to have the antidote ready for it.
He released the virus “NOGRAT” in the air and sat back to see the drama unfold. As the virus spread in the air and inhaled, it instantly froze the hearts of people by squeezing out the warmth. The very source of warmth – Gratitude evaporated. And a different psychological cycle started operating. No one felt thankful to anyone for anything.
The privileged were thankless for what have or acquired hence the very emotion of service to give back to society extinguished. The already existing wedge in the society between the haves and have nots widened beyond imagination.
Children are not thankful to their parents for providing them a safe haven. Students were not thankful to their teachers for showing them the right path. As a result, respect breathed its last.
Friends, Family, Relationships all shed gratitude and don new robes of brand “ungrateful” and forgot every sweet and kind gesture they have been bestowed upon. Care, Love, Loyalty – burnt to ashes and buried deep down.
People devoid of gratitude towards God, towards fellow human beings, were soon bereft of all emotions that had gratitude as a breeding ground – love, care, sense of belonging, benevolence, sense of commitment, loyalty, respect, the intent of service. Meanness, Greed, Lust, Hatred, Jealousy now active in frozen hearts turned them into mechanically working robots. The air of ingratitude now started engulfing nature as well. Droughts, cyclones, famines, and fury everywhere. These extreme conditions made the inhumane humans devoid of all godly emotions devour on each other.
Mr. Cold was enjoying this sitting in his laboratory as the world sans gratitude was crashing because of his virus “NOGRAT”. As he let his hair down after a devilish experiment his pet dog came to him running from outside. It inhaled the same air that everyone did. He loved his pet dog. As he tried to snuggle with the dog it bit him.
He cried in pain as he shook off the dog away from him calling the dog “You UNGRATEFUL creature!!” and it was the very moment when he realized what havoc he created robbing the world of happiness as he stole the seed itself – Gratitude. And the horror is haunting him as he locked himself in a dark room, slowly inching towards death away from any help from the monstrous world which was once beautiful and helpful…
My alarm rang and I snapped out of that dreadful and scary dream. It’s beyond the contemplation of my wisdom to imagine a world sans gratitude! Gratitude isn’t a singled out emotion, but an ecosystem in itself, a gamut of various positive emotions. Being thankful for the almighty is the beginning of the thread that weaves the bonds between human souls. Being grateful in itself is great, it teaches humility, love, responsibility, loyalty – differentiating a human from just man – food for thought.
Think of the last time someone expressed their gratitude towards you.
I’m sure you felt good, even if you might have modestly brushed it off your shoulders with your feet firmly implanted on the ground! To receive an acknowledgment or appreciation or recognition for something that you have done or said generates an inner pleasant feeling. This is to a great extent due to the constructive neurotransmitters secreted by the brain as a recognition of the expressed gratitude.
So you see, a Thank You does a whole lot more than is overtly evident!
If you take some time to recollect all those incidents in which you deserved gratitude, but they simply didn’t come your way, you would also remember the accompanying strong or faintly sinking feeling which was either momentary or long-lived.
Gratitude is an attitude of the heart. It can never be coercively eked out from anyone. At the same time, it can never be imposed on anyone. Not everyone has the attitude of being grateful. And, not everyone has the heart to graciously receive gratitude.
However, considering the lot of good that gratitude does to self and others, it is an attitude worth cultivating.
A couple of days back, as I walked past a particular lane in my vicinity, I saw heaps of bricks on one side. A house was being constructed nearby. My thoughts instinctively drifted off towards the poor workers at brick kilns in not-so-welcome environments, facing exploitation, bondage, deprivation, and abuse from their owners. And I thought, would the owner of the house that was being constructed ever think of the source of the bricks that are being used to erect his house?
An old Vietnamese proverb says –
“When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree.”
In the fast-paced consumeristic world that we live in, we either don’t take the time to look back and be grateful or we make much ado out of the gratitude that we express or we flow with the tide of the formal exchanges of gratitude. The spontaneity of the heartfelt expression has become a rarity!
G.K. Chesterton says –
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
Gratitude sure is a catalyst for happiness. It gives happiness to the one who expresses and to the one who receives.
Family is one such social circle where gratitude is taken for granted. I have heard people say that there need not be such formalities within the informal environment of a family because it makes relationships appear distant. I choose to differ. Within a family are individuals whose need for appreciation, recognition, and acknowledgement is as profound as those of others we come across in the world outside. It sure would seem hypocritical to organize formal Thanksgiving ceremonies, while having a gratitude-starved dear one within the family!
Another significant area of starved gratitude is in the authority-subordinate equation. Words of gratitude are seldom heard from people in authority towards their subordinates on a day-to-day basis. The work done, targets met and tasks accomplished are taken for granted. A word of acknowledgement with a smile would surely do wonders for the boss as well!
How to cultivate the attitude of gratitude?
If gratitude doesn’t come to one spontaneously, it needs to be cultivated. Here is how you can work your way towards cultivating the attitude of gratitude:
First, reflect upon your life and acknowledge the things bestowed on you – by God, by family and friends.
Second, recognize the inner need for gratitude in yourself and others.
Third, consciously decide to express gratitude. An unexpressed feeling of gratitude can be more stifling than no gratitude at all.
Fourth, think of ways to express. It can be by way of spoken or written words, by small or big acts of recognition, or by any gestures that convey the meaning.
Fifth, defeat your ego or coyness as may be the case. Put your guard down.
Finally, just go ahead and express it!
As you make this a habitual pattern, you will sense the spontaneity of the overflow of gratitude in your heart. The more you express gratitude, the more you will notice things that you need to be grateful for.
One of the best personal practices is to be thankful to God each morning and at the end of each day, for the world runs along by His might and grace alone, though we keep chugging on with our share of responsibilities.
The wise Psalmist writes –
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
In Candles Online, we have dedicated this month to explore different facets of Gratitude. This week our writers would continue with writing on the impact of gratitude on happiness. Enjoy reading!
Embarking on a new journey must be an exciting one, right? How according to you is settling into a new city? Would involve a lot more responsibility, isn’t it? And what about starting a new session, joining a group of completely different people, entering into a new year, or go on a solo trip, etc.? Must be fun enough. Well for me this year it’s all at a time. I didn’t even realize how steadily my school days passed and I entered into my dream college. So obviously, with this new year comes a sense of responsibility, resolutions, planning and ideas, and a lot more than expected.
From the past few days of my life, I am recollecting hundreds of memories of mine just to figure out what went wrong somewhere. Why couldn’t I achieve what I wanted to? Could I be in a better place? Is what am I doing good enough? Shall I be at peace? Will I be happy reminiscing the time and place where I am now? And the list goes on and on. By now, many of you might have understood what my problem is. Yeah, it is ‘overthinking’ indeed.
People who know me well are of the opinion that my face says it all. However, it’s not every time they are right. I’m a very sensitive person actually. I take time to open up and don’t speak much though I am fluent when it comes to writing. I do raise my voice in public whenever in need but beyond that, you would always find me calm. A peace-loving girl I am and not much into social media, group chats, etc. Many of the people who see me upset don’t bother much thinking it’s none of their business, some of them do want to take the initiative but they don’t; thinking I should share it myself and that hardly happens. Only a very few of the people who believe in giving rather than taking dare to ask and help me out with what I’m going through.
And I want to change this habit of mine. I don’t want to seek any empathy from people. Overthinking is what makes the situation worse. Instead of finding a way out of the problem, it pushes you into the well deeper and deeper. You even begin visualizing the things that have not even happened in real. Your focus remains limited to the problem and doesn’t shift to the solution. You don’t feel like doing anything, cry out for no absolute reason and end up hurting yourself, and everyone around you. That’s the reason why you don’t have a group of friends to accompany you in whatever you do and wherever you go and you distant yourself from your family as well. I want to give up on such emotions and habits of mine. I wanna enjoy my life to the fullest, trying out new things, traveling and visiting new places, make good connections with everyone around me, and helping somebody in need.
So in this new year, I have decided to stop watering the dead relations that didn’t stand the test of time. Better to take the next step and let it go. Holding on to something that’s not yours would only hurt your self-esteem. For any problem in life put in your best efforts and never ever think about the results. Believe in yourself, learn to say no, and overcome your fears, meditate, take a deep breath, connect to God, and surrender. And yeah, one more thing to take into consideration is never caring what other people say. Their actions should not affect you.
In Closing, I would also like to share a beautiful quote by Erma Bombeck,
“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.”
It would be deceptive if I won’t pen my flaws down…
All the time, each human appears in their exceptional camouflage. Isn’t it? Though this French slang “camouflage” was included in common English during World War I, as it was the well-known military visual deception combat tactic of that time yet it won’t be wrong to say, this habit is deeply rooted in human nature since its existence. Whether it is about penning or preaching, we prefer to take the reference of our good human nature. Mostly we prefer to hide our bad habits, evil thoughts, and devilish lifestyle. Of course, who wants to be off from the good book! The Bible perfectly frames it –
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
But pathetic part of our camouflage lifestyle “we cannot hide the REAL ME from self.” Such one from many bad things inside of me – MY TONGUE!
The scripture puts it this way, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” And going deeper it says, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In one-liner – whatever there is in our heart is expressed through our tongue.
In a few hours, I will be stepping into a new year with many hopes, many new professional life strategies, some new plans for personal life but as I take a flashback tour, one of the biggest struggles, I had through this year is “controlling my tongue” which of course resulted in hurting, breaking hearts, and unpleasant and unnecessary situations. Alongside I need to reason what made me fail in controlling my tongue.
THE EGO – None of we human will ever desire to fail or find the self as less important at any place. Desiring always to be at the upfront, our ego gets a hit if we find ourselves blamed or ignored. As the repercussion of such experience, the haughty spirit within us impulsively bashes upon our counterparts. Being arms down and blamed, our heart speaks out rudely and hurts others. Since every action comes has its own reaction, how can we run away without facing the terrible consequences? That’s why the Bible warns,
“A quiet mind is the life of the body, BUT ENVY IS A DISEASE IN THE BONES.”
THE ANGER – My mom and my sibling always tell me; you know you might not punch someone at his face but the words of your mouth can easily pierce the heart and bones, which is hard enough to forget in a lifetime. And my Uncle suggested to me whenever you feel anger, run away from the situation, have an alone ride, and chill your mind by eating some delicious food. It might be an instant relief from anger. But reasoning the anger, often when we feel tempered, the ME inside of me goes wild and does all that possible to punish the causer and prove justice by self-attempt. Our tempered mind weakens our ability of reasoning and quickens our haughty spirit. The tendency of which is, we spurt unethical and immoral words that victimize others.
Being our Creator and Sustainer, God understands our physical inability to control anger. That’s why God of the Bible suggests us,
“If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day. Moreover, don’t give in to worry or anger; it only leads to trouble. He who is slow to anger is better than a warrior, and he who controls his temper is greater than one who captures a city. “
BEING TALKATIVE – Recently, one of my good friends lovingly said, “you always love to explain things. I can understand your fear of the misinterpretation of your words and thoughts. Yet it would be much better if you would prepare your mind with a concise script what exactly you need to share.” As evidence to his counsel, recently in one of my meetings, in the flow of my talk, I just posed the right word at the wrong time which literally made my presentation faulty. As a result, the meeting didn’t fulfill the agenda. I realize the Bible says, “The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.”
Concluding, I would say to myself, “CONTROL YOUR TONGUE” because the Bible says, “THE PRUDENT HOLD THEIR TONGUES.”
Just one day left in this pathetic year by every means. World is already looking forward to welcome 2021 with high spirits. With vaccines being rolled out already in many countries world is back on track of hope. Hope of leaving behind the scared memories of losing near and dear ones, hope of bouncing back from the losses – be it a job or relationship, hope of a better life, hope of a healthy environment, hope of freedom (from mask counts first 😁) – Many Hope’s on this new year menu😁. What’s your stake?
No matter how much we despise the current year, it did one thing for sure – brought the entire world on the same page where people actually Hoped that everyone should be fine. Something that God wants us to pray for but we have built some strong walls of greed, jealousy, selfishness and ego around us that made us go completely deaf to our conscience. This pandemic has re-engineered the basics of human nature – Humanity First!!
With learnings and hopes stacked at one table, we are at that time of the year where we make resolutions. Lose weight, quit smoking, quit drinking, learn a new art, more time to hobbies, read more………… cutting it short – to be a better “ME”, isn’t it? Talking about myself I am really bad in keeping up my resolutions. Everything that I have mentioned above were and are on my list for ages (exceptions of smoking and drinking fortunately) and now making me introspect myself, “why haven’t you made it yet?”.
As I spoke about re-engineering previously, my self introspection handed me an answer to my question – I need to re-engineer myself. I have to chuck out Procrastination and Self Pity at once. These are the elements in me that I want to leave behind on this side of threshold before entering the new year. I have spoken many a times about my habit of procrastinating things. Let me be more succinct – I am LAZY (being rustic in addressing an issue helps find solution rather quickly😁). Delaying things have many a times conditioned my mind to search for excuses and sound not-guilty of the consequences. A petty example from my routine : during school days I have to get up around 5 AM in the morning to make sure my son catches his bus at 7 AM and doesn’t leave without his breakfast. Alarm makes its presence felt from 4:45 AM itself but I more often than not stretch the stay at bed till 5:15. With fifteen minutes lost in transition it’s always a run against the time. And if something unexpected happens then I switch on my self-pity mode “I had headache”, “don’t I deserve a 5 minutes extra sleep”, “after doing so much I have to endure the taunts”. For me so far it has been a visicious circle of Procrastination and Self Pity.
Over a period of time I have realised this isn’t doing me any good, in fact doing more damage. I could have learned more, grown more, done more to my family and society – only if I wasn’t as lazy as I am and suffered from self pity. Out of the two if I have to choose one to be abolished first from within me it has to self-pity. There are many instances where I get inspired from people around me, take an initiative to do something but on failure I go back thinking about the circumstances that I had faced in the past and telling myself “had it been not that ways it was then”. And at the end of the day I remain a failure.
I also wrote once “Statutory Warning: Self Pity is injurious to health” for Candles Online long ago. I believe it completely but sometimes we are unable to come out of the cast-it spells because we don’t realise we are suffering from it. Now that I have I have a path carved for me in front of me “Chin up, accept the weakness, acquire strength, learn from failures, taste the success, never give up”!
I used to think accepting or adopting something new or alien is difficult but now I feel that leaving something behind or quitting or getting rid of things is much more difficult. We are aware of the fact that how difficult it is for an addictive person to get rid of his/her addictions. Recently, I was so challenged to quit something that was necessary for my life but it was difficult for me to decide it.
“One thing that you want to leave behind this year in 2020?” I asked this question to 35 or 40 odd relatives and friends of mine and I got the following answers:
One young girl responded – my makeup products. I know many girls get addicted and busy beautifying themselves but at the end of the day, they feel guilty about spending a lot on it. That was an honest answer.
Another brother said, “Controlling my tongue. At times, my words are too rude to tolerate“. That is quite a confession. In the time we are in now, we really don’t care what we do, what we say, or how we express ourselves to others. We are so irresponsible about our behaviors but the attempt to leave behind that attitude is truly commendable. I applaud it.
Another woman said, “The partiality of relationship, gender, and love. My house has a lot of it”. Sibling rivalry, partiality in the families are very common but these are more prevalent these days so it is a constant struggle for all of us to stay positive and sane in a sinful world and be the change agent we are called for. I think the one who poured it out to me knows that she has to deal with it with love, care, and a lot of responsibilities. All the best, my sis.
It was shocking for me when I heard this from her, “Relationship“. But as she didn’t explain what kind of relationship it is not wise for me to speculate it much. It is true, living in a toxic relationship is a big pain in life these days. I struggle thinking about how to really find a way for people who are going through such problems in their marriages or families.
My niece replied, “A bad habit of complaining.” No, I am not going to say which niece of mine said this. But jokes apart, I know a few people who constantly complain about every other thing or people they come across. Though, my niece expressed all her complaints to God only. I was really happy that she kept it limited only to God because only He can really bring any changes to all the things that worry her or disturb her. But if we have a complaining habit or attitude, it is necessary to get rid of it for our good only.
Two people replied with the words like, “None” and “Nothing“. They are probably happy with whatever is happening within and around them or they are ready to accept everything that comes in their ways depending on God’s divine strength.
Another niece responded and said, “Maybe I could be a little less lazy I guess…, and by that I mean a little less sleeping.” So she wants to leave behind her excessive sleeping disorder ( it is just her habit though). That is like leaving behind a blessing in today’s context. I struggle to sleep for long hours these days because of stress and Netflix. See, I was honest. 😛
All the best sweetheart, try hard not to be lazy and sleep a little lesser.
One of my oldest friends who is lean and thin replied, “I want to avoid sweets as I have put on weight… But I know I can not.” I joked when I read her answer and she wanted to prove that she has really put on weight recently. But she also confessed that she can’t leave behind that habit of having sweets. It is good for her not to leave it behind. 🙂
One of my eldest sisters whom I respect a lot said, “Indisciplined schedule.” That was shocking again from a person like her. But I had asked to be honest so she did and that is commendable. I have always struggled in this area of having a disciplined and organized way of living, rather than following a very laid-back lifestyle.
Another buddy replied, “My loneliness… Want to move in with my hubby…“. I feel for her. Sometimes our professional requirements and adjustments of today’s world ask a big cost to pay in life. So if she is thinking of leaving behind this lifestyle and live together with her spouse then it will be the best thing that can happen in 2021 for them. Please do consider it and be successful in leaving it behind in the coming year, Buddy.
A co-writer and close friend says, “The worst me… I want to leave and get a better me.” A good attempt but it is very difficult to act upon something which is not specific but very broad.
One of my sisters-in-law says, “Bad sleeping habit😬.” Stop watching Netflix and Prime. That much I can say to her… 😛 But yeah, on a serious note, having a good night’s sleep really helps to take most of the wisest decisions.
One of my (adaptive 🙂 ) sisters said, “The tension and constant struggle I have with my Mother in Law.” I can understand how bad it can be when there are constant struggles between the two most important members of a family. They were supposed to be making a house HOME and the struggles between them are difficult to create that atmosphere in the family. If one of them is quiet and tolerating just for the sake of peace in the family then how painful it will be for her to go through it. I can’t really imagine. She had shared her heart with me before and I feel for her. But it is a tough thing to get rid of. Take care sis, and think well before acting on it.
“I am an overthinker and a control freak…. this year has been especially bad on this front… if I could I would love to dial back on this anxiety of mine.” I love you, my sis for such an honest response to my query. I quite relate to this too and I believe most of us struggle with this attitude.
Even another sweetest girl says, “For me, it’s overthinking.” Thinking is really good, but overthinking is useless and sucks a lot of our energy. So it is a good decision to get rid of it before stepping into a new year.
Taking things and people for granted is the worst thing and habit. Because taking for granted is kind of misjudging or miscalculating things or people which is really dangerous. One of my co-writers replied honestly, “I want to leave behind my habit of taking things for granted at times.” Good job girl, fight it out and get rid of it.
During this pandemic time, many suffered financially and there were many suicide cases. But those who stayed strong holding onto their grounds are to be applauded and worthy of everyone’s praises. One of my closest friends writes back, “The stress of not having financial security for my family…“. You can fight it out, buddy. Do get rid of this and you will be victorious.
Another close friend writes, “I want to leave procrastination and self-pity.” Oh, let me tell you, my friend, we all relate to this. Postponing is so fun but I really want to get rid of it myself as well. 😛
The last response was – “The original answer is a few family members… But the real answer is my bitterness… I became too bitter this year…I don’t like this version of me…I wanna go back to being the sweet, gullible ignorant fool. I was much happier that way… Now it feels like I have no well-wishers. Like everyone is there for a selfish purpose. It was easier when I only saw things at face value and didn’t judge people. But some people’s true faces made me lose all my trust. I actually mourn for old me.” Someone very close to my heart responded to me when I asked her the question. She has been struggling a lot in her life. She has talents that people can only dream of but her present state of mind worries her as well as worries me. And I will be praying unceasingly as she tries her best to get rid of her present self and get back to her old good self.
Ending my long compilation of what different people want to leave behind or get rid of, I want to share my One Thing that I want to leave behind before moving forward in the new year 2021. Only two people dared to ask me back, “What is that you want to leave behind”?
I really want to leave behind my dependency on people instead of doing things on my own depending on my God, the sustainer of my life. Let me give you the lowliest example of my dependency on people… During this lockdown period when I was unable to go anywhere, was secluded from all, and suffered because of my health conditions for months, I literally looked for people to talk to or chat with me. And I hated the feeling of being denied of their availability to entertain me. I am good at creating things for my own entertainment but instead of working on them, I was too laid back to rely on people. I truly, want to get rid of that attitude and move into the new year with my God-given creativity and full dependency on my Saviour.
In the end, I can quote a Bible verse and hold onto the same –
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal…”
I will press on towards my goal, leaving behind my dependency on people as you all will be trying your best to leave behind what you wanted to.
Exactly 16 years back I bought my first mobile phone. It was a second-hand phone at Rs.2000, that I bought from my cousin. If someone will give me the same phone free of cost today, I will not accept it because it is an obsolete product it has lost its value forever. But that time, it was so precious to me.
Now, if I look back on my journey of buying different phones in the last 16 years then if I am not wrong, the phone in my possession now is the 10th phone. Surprisingly, the phone I am using now has already stepped in its fifth year with me. This means the previous 9 phones were bought within a span of 11 years. BAD!!!
Maybe, I can blame on the evolution of phones which made me keep on buying the recent ones progressively. And I stopped buying any more after I reach a point where I can’t afford to buy another having better features in it than what I am using now.
So the question I asked myself after I read Aastha’s article on this topic, “Why did I stop buying phones after 2016?”
Is it because I learned a lesson about using my money wisely or because the price of the phone I want is not so pocket friendly for me?
I was repeatedly coxed to buy a new phone and was offered money even but I just didn’t go for it but to be honest, a number of times, I had been tempted to just go for it and buy a brand new phone.
I truly do not have greed for a lot of luxury in life. I don’t want clothes, a house, any furniture, a vehicle, home appliances, and a TV, etc. But when my eyes fall on any stationery or gadgets or phones especially, I feel the greed demon dancing within me, coaxing me to give a thought about arranging money and buying them.
But each day as I am maturing I am trying to focus on self and spiritual disciplining. I want to quote the Bible verse that has always made me understand the deeper meaning of acquiring and accumulating wealth and assets.
The verse reads –
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
I understand very well that I should not worry about my life, what I will eat or drink; or about my body, what I will wear. Because I know that life is more important than food, and the body is more important than clothes? Different cuisines won’t improve my life or all different fashionable clothes won’t make me stay healthy. In fact, I should worry about things that are more important for my life and body.
So if I am challenged with the question – “Why don’t you buy a new phone”, I am strong enough to say, “I will buy a new phone only when the present phone is out of order or I will enjoy a new one if you are buying one for me.”
I have learnt to say NO to my greed and the desire to accumulate. Have you?
One question: Have you spent less after the pandemic lockdown till date?
My answer to this question is a profound yes.
It actually did surprise me. Let me tell you, I was never an over spender. My parents never gave any pocket money. I think they did me a big favour by not giving me any money. Obviously, I never threw any birthday parties or such sort of things. I have never been to a movie with friends either. All this might sound very insane to some. My parents are very protective. I am from a very conservative family too. I have never seen my parents indulge in luxury. Anything more than need was very well thought about before we bought. I learnt that money is very valuable and important as well.
From my early years in college, there was a wrist watch I really wanted to own. It would cost some 4000 INR to purchase that. My first salary was four times more that the cost of that watch. I didn’t buy the watch. Not for one month or one year. Four years into my career, in one of the conversations with my colleague I realised that this wanting of mine has not been fulfilled yet. The very next month, I bought that watch. I was very satisfied with that purchase. I realised, I still follow what I learnt from my parents.
One more thing I always spared myself from owning is a car. I have two favourite cars till date, the Chevrolet Spark and the Tata Nano. It was always in my power to own those. There were times I was so tempted to buy them. Once I stood outside of the Tata showroom glancing at the Nano fore more than an hour. That day it would have taken just a few steps and a swipe of my credit card to own the car. I resist that temptation by asking myself the need to have a car for myself. I am not at all a greedy person. There were days when I paid my credit card bills that were close to 1 Lakh INR. I can own an Audi, but, I won’t. If car really becomes a necessity, I would buy something reasonably good than spending a hefty amount on an Audi.
I have a credit card. I owned one from the time I started working. I wanted to have the most convenient means to spend but still have that control on how much I actually spend. One might say it is tough to be so, but I would say that requires tiny bit of self discipline. I don’t drink. I don’t party. I don’t visit fancy restaurants. No fine dining. I don’t buy ornaments. I don’t go to parlour for any beauty treatments. Please don’t judge me by what I said, because none of them give me happiness. I find joy in travelling, trying different cuisines, dining at offbeat places, trying local food etc. All this is expenditure too. These are not necessarily needs all the time, sometimes that is just our “me” time.
I think as humans, we have to balance between when we spend and when we shouldn’t rather than what we want or need. There is no particular thin line or thick like that differentiates need from a want. That depends on many other factors. Sometimes, it helps to just go handsfree and buy whatever we like. This definitely helps improve the mood and make us feel better but, this cannot become a habit. The other times it is just better to not spend. At the end of the day, what makes us happy could be different on different days.
Coming back to the question I started the article with, yes, I almost completely stopped buying clothes or shoes for more than 6 months. Just this month, I went ahead and bought some stuff. I bought clothes, some plants, some area rugs for home. It felt nice spending after a long time. If we can control our urge to not overspend, we won’t fall prey for consumerism at large.
“A person buying ordinary products in a supermarket is in touch with his deepest emotions.”
I still remember the day I got my first salary. It was Rs. 18234/- on 29th September’2006. I even remember the ATM where I checked the balance and for the first time a bank account in my name had so much money. Even though the amount was expected, I was delighted beyond limits. I couldn’t sleep that night because of happiness. Initially, I didn’t even know how to spend this money. I never got more than Rs. 5000/- from my parents, so I was obviously not used to having so much money in my account. And then I entered the malls of the cities and got the taste of wearing branded clothes and shoes, eating in exotic restaurants, buying expensive branded cosmetics and whatnot.
Fast forward to year September’ 2007 – my salary was slightly higher than the first salary that I had received but I was now used to the fact that by 20th of each month – I would be left with a few hundred in my account and I would somehow manage for the rest of the month. I started using credit cards which was a huge mistake. I realized that mistake only when I ended up not paying credit cards bills completely over the years and eventually was indebted like crazy.
Fast forward to the year 2020 – my salary is way higher than the year 2006. However, the situation is not very different. Of course, I have bigger responsibilities now like home loan, car loan, school fees, investments etc. – but money is still not enough. I have realized that even if my income is 100 times what it is today, it still won’t be enough. There is no point running after money and this has really changed my perspective towards life. The work that I do, I really do because it makes me happy and because the sense of achievement is much greater than the amount that gets credited to my account at the end of each month.
The year 2020 has made me go a bit towards spirituality. And I have learnt the following about materialism from the various spiritual books and videos that I am into these days:
- Materialism without any spiritual direction will lead you in a very negative situation. We all know that a lot of money makes you lazy. Problems like diabetics, obesity, drug or alcohol addiction are a few examples of having more money than your needs. Your wealth is supposed to make you happy and not miserable. If it makes you miserable, then there is something terribly wrong because your own hard-earned wealth is not working for you.
This concept is something that I have accepted. There is some amount of spirituality needed in life to ensure that I don’t flow down the gutter only to realize that I have wasted my life. If I don’t have my own goals sorted in my head, it is very easy to just sway away with what is happening in the world. My spiritual journey helps me stay on track and not lose control over my own thoughts, feelings and emotions.
2. One cannot give up all materialism because that is not practical. However, there should be a balance between materialistic and spiritual life so that we stay on the right track. The ideal balance is – Be as materialistic as if you are alive only for this day. Be as spiritual as if you are going to live for eternity.
This concept is very confusing to me. If I earn only as much as I need today, what about all the money that I am saving for my retirement, for my son’s education etc? I guess this concept is too idealistic. So, I have made my own balance. For every paisa that I have to spend, I ask myself if this is really needed. For every extra effort, I make only to earn another paisa, I ask myself if I really need to earn more money. More often than not, I know the answer. I must admit this balance is very delicate. And for every person, this balance is very different. As long as I am grounded with my spiritual energy, this balance is just an intuition or a feeling. It is not judgment or prejudice. It is not like depriving yourself of joy. In fact, this balance is supposed to make me joyful and if it is not, then the balance is not right.
Over the years I have learnt to make peace with money (or lack of it). I have learnt that money is never enough because desires are never enough. I have learnt that spirituality does not mean giving up entirely on the materialistic aspect of life. Spirituality means to make my materialistic aspect bring joy to me (not misery). I have learnt that if I let the world take control of my life, the material aspect of my life will go out of control because the world is largely driven by consumerism.
Most of the 90’s kids have grown up in an India of limited means. During our childhood, we have all seen a cousin or a friend from UK or States who had those Hershey’s Kisses, Mars bars or the heavenly smelling microwave popcorn, Coke cans, the Nintendo games, the colorful jackets with Disney characters… Whereas we were still stuck in the world of Parle G and Gold spot. Our parents provided for us but there was always a limit to spending and availability of things too.
A decade down the line we have become parents now and by God’s grace are earning well. And we decide that our kids won’t have to yearn for small things like we did during our childhood. This futile effort of ours to live our own childhood through our children makes us go overboard. So now the kids get everything branded. Cost is no bar as mostly there are only one or two children in a household and both parents are earning.
Another decade down the line these children are teenagers now. We thought we gave them all the luxuries in life. But these are basics of life for them they yearn for more… And the story goes on…
I see this as a vicious circle in which we will be caught generation after generation… In order to feel that we are much more successful and accomplished than our previous generations. We fall into the trap of materialism… And this deluded search for happiness never ends.
The more we accumulate,
the more we tend to self-suffocate.
The more we give away and distribute,
the more we gain a generous repute.
It is not about just earning a name,
But about a godly value to boldly proclaim.
We live in a largely polarised world, with respect to the economy. On one extreme, we have the least developed countries of the world with abysmal GDPs. Many of the Sub-Saharan countries and a few Asian countries would be found at this polar. On the other extreme, we find the highly developed countries with GDP figures envied by those at the other extreme. Most Western and a few Middle-Eastern countries come under this category. Whether consumerism rises up and thrives or rises up only to wither away or doesn’t rise up at all, is thus, polar-specific.
What then is needed for a culture of consumerism?
A high GDP, high levels of purchasing power parity, availability of a fertile market, great advertising strategies, consumers’ desire to attain more, moderate to high levels of competition for acquisition, an I-do-not-care-much-for-others attitude and a collective societal outlook to ascribe success to materialistic prosperity.
Does Consumerism mean well or is it a curse disguised in glam garbs?
The answer to this is not an absolute one.
If we analyse the phenomenon of consumerism from a viewpoint of the economy, it is a wonderful blessing! A consumerist society pushes its country higher up the ladder of economic prosperity. With high purchasing power parity of a given population, a high demand keeps the supply chain rolling with increase in manufacture, increased engagement of the labour force, more employment opportunities, more innovations and inventions leading to more capital investments in diverse ventures and an even bigger boost to the economy in return. The cycle goes on. In fact, this is how the big economies of the world have come to be known as ‘big’. A developed economy signifies a progressive culture.
Coming to the flip side of it, it puts a toll on the environment (think of the millions of trees that lose their lives to give us paper and stationery of various makes and designs or the tons of non-biodegradable waste that are generated due to high consumerism or the huge quantities of chemicals that are churned up in laboratories to come to the aid of the cosmetic industry), depletes traditional values (substituting personal ownership in place of collective ownership thereby increasing unhealthy competition), creates a false sense of need (when you go to a mom-and-pop store you ask for all that you have scribbled in your list, but when you leisurely stroll across a mall trolleying your basket along there is more likelihood of buying items that are not necessarily on your purchase list), creates a false sense of deprivation (a FOMO feeling), an incorrect understanding of life and self (defining self and others in terms of possessions, acquisitions and wealth rather than in terms of character and personality traits), increases animosity, jealousy and envy (owing to cut-throat competition to thrive in a competitive market) and lastly, leads to a spiralling of psychological disorders (starting from commonplace insecurities, insomnia, anxiety to various psychosomatic disorders and so on).
My analysis above brings forth more of the adverse impacts than the boons of economic prosperity and harnessing of creative potential. Consumerism is here to stay. With the world powers delving deep into economic growth, we cannot rub consumerism off our backs any time. Rather, we would see ourselves being sucked into the whirlpool of an even intense cycle of consumerism.
How to deal with it, then? How do you curb it when shopping is just a mouse click or a phone tap away? How do you protect your gullible self from falling prey to luring advertisements? How do you keep yourself from not trying new products? How do you keep yourself away from not availing lucrative discounts and offers which hoodwink you into believing that you sure need/ would need a product? Would you be willing to keep yourself one step behind your counterparts?
The key is self-control. Knowing what you want and going in for only that though other lucrative stuff may catch the eye, is vital.
The world economy is at its crippling worst now, because of Covid restrictions. But then, didn’t we all survive with only basics at our disposal for months together at a stretch? Didn’t we survive without spending endlessly on mindless wants, by only sticking to our needs? Everyone did. Crib, cry, struggle or whimper – all of us lived without the wants that we had so far mistaken to be our needs.
While it is not wrong to indulge occasionally, it is definitely not beneficial to ride on a consumerist spree. In an attempt to boost up the economy, the individual losses need not be miscalculated.
The next time you are tempted to buy that one product simply because you would get another one free, think twice. If you are bitten by the green-eyed monster and get the adrenaline rush to acquire something that has pushed another someone up the societal ladder of prosperity, pause and rethink. By all means it is wise to wait for Sale Seasons and Discount Offers to shop for essentials, but to spend money and buy irrespective of requirement is nothing but engaging in the thankless job of boosting the economy at the expense of one’s personal well-being.
It is unwise to define success in terms of mere material prowess bereft of priceless human values. So while it is important to do our bit to keep the circular motion of money intact, it is equally pertinent to make wise choices for expenses and investments without being deceived by the quagmire of consumerism.
Demand and Supply run the dynamics of the modern-day world or simply put Economics. Modern-day politics, policies, relationships – be it at the micro or macro level are governed purely by economics. “Size of the market” influences the amount of leverage any nation gets. To influence consumers or say lure them to buy a product, widen the market share is an old practice. With the world becoming a global village, competition is cutthroat and marketing is a serious business. At the end of the day it is to make a consumer believe – BELIEVE US, BUY OUR PRODUCT, HAPPINESS GUARANTEED!! And this is called Consumerism, to make (attract) the consumers believe that their happiness quotient in life will be enhanced if they buy a certain product.
Is Consumerism Bad? From a purely economic point of view, it is not. The entire machinery of the economy runs and depends on aggregate demand; the percentage of income spent by the consumers against the percentage saved. It is the demand/expenditure that determines the GDP of the economy. The higher the previously mentioned factors higher will be the GDP, hence a better economy. Therefore the focus is on influencing the demand of the consumers.
How Exactly It Works? A petty example: A consumer is attracted or influenced to buy a pair of jeans from a particular brand of clothing and he purchases that. It is direct income to the brand. Let’s see the trickle-down effect of demand / anticipated demand – it creates income for the raw material supplier; for the workers working in the factory producing the final product; rent for the premise holder; salaries for the showroom workers; income for the marketing teams; income for the factories producing petty items like zips & buttons. One demand creates a multiple fold impact. And when the aggregate / collective figure is taken it is huge. And not to mention every time income is created it is again pumped into the economy by respective parties via spending.
How Good It Is For The Consumer :
1.With the advent of concepts like liberalization, globalization, free markets consumer is enabled to make choices from the plethora of goods available in the market. Which means more choice.
2. Monopoly doesn’t work anymore, consumers got a say indirectly in fixing the prices suitable to their pocket.
3. Providers have to eventually take care of the quality of the goods provided because sub-par products get replaced easily and their market share will be grabbed by their competitors.
4. Mass production helps reduction of costs of production. Reduced cost of production provides the makers with a scope to attract buyers with better offers.
To put it straight Consumer (customer) is the king.
The Flip Side of Consumerism: On a weekend I would rather beat my coffee than beat around the bush. Coming straight to the point Consumerism encourages unnecessary consumption that has no impact on the life of the consumer if omitted. Simply the attraction to the colorful advertisements, the urge to show off, inferiority complexes brewing inside, insane levels of idolizing the celebrities makes people purchase the things which they certainly don’t need. From a fairness cream to a hatchback everything is pushed down the consumers’ (unmindful ones, whose number is multiplying fast) throat, making them believe – this will change your life for good. And when such demand arises it has its own negative points, hard to neglect:
1. Increase in conspicuous consumption results in multiple fold production which means more stress on resources, more waste disposal, more pollution.
2. Purchases made to show off an elevated standard of living often leads to financial crunch situations. Easy availability of credit cards / online shopping methods inspiring more such conspicuous consumption.
3. The psychological impact to keep up with the hollow standards of beauty, fashion, lifestyle is pushing people to depression and anxiety.
Can there be a “better” Consumerism? Considering how the whole concept of consumerism works if the onus to promote “good” goods is taken up by the producers that can make a great impact. For example, if healthy eating habits can be promoted via bio/organic products, made available to every stratum of the society possible, that could mean something because after all health is wealth. If celebrities are conscious about the brands or products they are promoting they will be doing a great service indirectly to the people who follow them blindly.
Role of Consumers: With the information on every product thrown at our face available consumers should educate themselves and be well informed before making any expenditure. It’s a matter of health – be it physical or psychological and of course hard-earned money!!
Consumerism is all about consumers and how they are influenced to buy. And they buying run the economy of any nation. So why not scale-out the thorns and keep what’s good and beneficial. We as a society need to move from conspicuous to conscious consumption.