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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.