LISTEN, BUT TO WHOM & WHY?

In the grandeur of our time, we the men of the 21st century have not left any stone un-turn in shaping our imaginations to reality. Whether it is stepping out of our terrestrial boundary, artificial insemination, cracking of human genome, harnessing of nuclear energy, artificial intelligence, defining the black hole, invention of teleportation, in so on and so forth we have done our best to define anything that our human mind can conceive evendefining God the way we wanted Him to present Himself”. You ask any average age person or an illiterate homeless man or a scholar, everyone has a definition for everything. Even a man who sells betel (Panwala) can define how the IB should operate and how to play diplomatic immunity. Now, one of the biggest issues (especially of young people) is, “WHOM to Listen and Whom NOT to?”

When confusion becomes the epitaph, how life looks like:

SHADE: I

I learned from one of the prestigious schools. My parents have always fulfilled everything that I wish, they gave me every pleasure so that I won’t feel their absence. I don’t lack people to hang out with me. I just need to log-in my social page and ask anyone I like “let’s hangout, that’s it!” My driver is always ready to take me anywhere I want, none can dare to question me on anything. Most of my friends wish to have a life like me yet… ‘I know what I go through, I know how I go to bed and when I rise-up how my eyes look like’. Apart from me, my Heineken cans, my bedroom’s sea facing balcony, my wardrobe and bedsheets knows my thoughts. Whom can I trust and share my inner-pain? Whom shall I listen? Will he sound relevant or again some more Gyan (knowledge) and flamboyant sacred words!

SHADE: II

For me, it’s a dream to afford a 2BHK flat. I studied from govt. college and was fortunate enough to work in this Call center. I think it is good for me to meet my friends in the nearest City Centre, in fact, I prefer my office cab to drop me there. Though funny yet painful, “I lie to them, I live in the next apartment to the City Centre”. I, the sole bread earner of my family had to look after my aged parents, younger sister’s future and who cares about my future. I think it’s better not to dream some good dreams when your fate has a different story altogether. Whom can I trust and share the things within me? Whom shall I listen? Will he sound relevant or again some more Gyan (knowledge), some more words of comfort and some more flamboyant sacred words!

One of the best-selling authors of the New York Times, Steven Furtick Jr. says

The direction of our lives is mostly determined by the voices we respond to.

Indeed! Listening is not just pitching of the stroke of a word into our ears. When we “confine listening to just listening” it affirms the age-old joke, “God, has given us two ears on both sides. One to listen and other works as exit door”. Listening is not just the entry of mere sounds into our ears, moreover, it begins with looking for an answer outside of us, it is the reasoning of thoughts came from the other end and finally ends as we internalize it. On the other hand, when we decide to listen or look for an answer (a voice outside of us) all that we primarily intend – “I must hear what I want to hear”; “It must sound contemporary” and “Instantaneously aid my wound”.

After a week-long meeting, I came back home and was completely worn-out, discouraged and fed-up with the office policies. I convinced myself to quit the next morning. When my Dad came to know my condition, his answer was beyond my expectation. Both of us are of completely different professional background yet his voice on that night saved me from a mistake. He said, “you have the right to write your resignation but prior to that think are you there because you deserve it or it is a grace of God that took you there?” After a couple of weeks, one of my mentors, a very humble, God-fearing and man of honest character put another huge task before me. He said, “take everything into prayer and wait on the LORD. He is God and has ordained all your days. He knows which is better for you. Refrain from what your mind instructs you.”

The Bible says, “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end, you will be counted among the wise”.

Often, we face such topsy-turvy situation in life which cannot be explained to anyone alongside we do not know what to do. When guilt and loneliness drive life, self-destruction comes riding on the horse. Exactly, that day I decided to end it all. Mind instructed, “it’s your life and you muddle up. You Die”. Apart from Me and God, no one had any idea what’s my next step is. Great is this assurance – GOD IS NEVER LATE. It’s He (Jesus) whispered, “you took your freedom and see today yet if you will follow my voice, I have better plans for you”. Lo, here I am, Today. 😊

In the Bible, God says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear my voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

The world is filled with the knowledge of good and evil. Voices from within and without are too many. LISTEN, BUT TO WHOM & WHY is an individual decision putting life at risk. God does speak. He never refrains from speaking to us through creative means and His voice is always, TRUST-WORTHY!

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THOSE TWO FRIDAYS

One was the 29th October 1999 and another was after 20years, the 3rd May 2019. Before day govt. noticed all institutions and workplaces to shutdown till further notice. Someway the workaholic life got vacation, families planned for good meal and enjoy the time together. As usual the sun rises on the east, the sky was more cloudy than normal days and the cool breeze giving the warmth of the feeling of romantic poet. A kid wakes up lately giggling such a cool and windy weather outside and holiday. The early morning day light falls through the glass window and cool breeze flows from the balcony, the young newly married couple gleams at each other, pulls the bedsheet and snuggles back to sleep. A mother wakes up quietly, covers her kid and husband making them sleep comfortable and takes her morning cup while enjoying the weather she prepares her menu chart for the day. Oh, what a package blissful moment of togetherness at once! What more a busy workaholic routine life wishes for days & years together?

Yes, mostly that’s how both of those Fridays we started but as the darkness get darkened, the fear of death engulfed gradually, we heard people screaming for help, doors and windows battering to fall down and the rain was pissing down. Huge trees uprooting and shattering down like a pile of cards, no electricity and was darkness all around, it was just one candle struggling to burn and lighten the whole house, drainage pipes are blocked, food on the dinning congealed, unidentified objects are flying all over and crashing down at our doorpost, moreover the ghastly sound of the windspeed at 260 km/h & 180 km/h was roaring like a death angel visiting every home. All that we as a family was left to do is to lock ourself from inside and praying God to save us. Thank God, He saved us, the night crossed and lo, it was another morning but life wasn’t the same at all. There was heavy waterlog, most of the riverside slums looked like a pile of wasteland, roads are blocked with broken age-old trees, electric wires and uprooted electric poles, broken hoarding flown from different ends of the city, dead body of animals and humans all around, poisonous reptiles swimming in the drain water and shifting of people to highland in boats. A couple of days back, while I was returning from school there was heavy traffic on the same road but now people are sailing boats, ODRAF, NDRF & CRPF sailing motor boats to rescue us. I questioned myself, is this my hometown? A night-mare for all of us in the Coastal part of Odisha.

29th October 1999, the strongest ever recorded tropical cyclone “The Super Cyclone” from North Indian Ocean landfalls on Paradip coast (83.2 km from my hometown) elevated the sea-level more than 20 feet, sea waves wiped away more than 100 of blocks giving water grave to uncountable people. The govt. calculation says, nearly 10,000 people died in the Super Cyclone and the private surveys estimates more than that. Then I was studying Class – VI, after a decade when I started my professional carrier, I was assigned for the Child development work in exactly those blocks/areas. As I went there, I personally meet the local people and had spent many nights with them. They always shared their stories – Father shifted the wife and children to the school roof top and when he tried to climb suddenly the wave rubble him into the depths and in a fraction of second, he went invisible from earth. After weeks as the water went down some kids found their parents rotten dead bodies being eaten by vultures. I pray, no one should ever experience such cataclysmic moments in their life.

Just two decades later, on 3rd May 2019, at 8:30 A.M the strongest summer time tropical cyclone in last 45 years “Fani” from North Indian Ocean landfalls on Puri coast (81.6 km from my hometown) elevated the sea-level to 6.8 meter, the sea waves sand painted numerous hotels of the Puri city. Though the Odisha govt. did historical human evacuation operation, evacuating more than 1 million people to safe places within 24 hour prior to the storm landfall yet it adversely affected 1,65,00,000 people in 159 blocks of 14 districts, the death rate rises to 64, more than 100 human causalities and 34 lakh livestock casualties according to the govt. of Odisha report. Away from home, the whole day I was in touch with my parents and couple of my friends enquiring about them. By God’s grace all were fine though they had to live without electric, network and scarcity of water for a week and yet in some places especially Bhubaneswar and Puri is almost in the same condition. During that time, I received a huge number of pictures and videos of Fani devastation but one picture that really broke my heart – A marginalised young man is holding his small daughter in his arm and holding his wife’s hand in the other hand and the wife holding the son’s hand and all three of them are running out of their house. At the same moment, the wind blows up their asbestos roof cracking the wall of the house. How heart-wrenching moment it must be!

Whether it is Fani/Phailin/Hud-Hud/Aila/the monstrous of all – the Super Cyclone or any sort of natural calamity it may be, in the darkness of these catastrophes one profound revelation is “The Earth is cursed & Our Life consists between the thin-line of a passing wind!

Long Bible story short, a rich man having more than of everything in his life thought, I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now, chill! Eat, drink and be merry”. But God said, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?”

Who knows what will happen to our world tomorrow? Life is unpredictable but death is certain and after death there is a life, hence where is our concern of venturing of investments – a mere transitory life on earth or the eternal existence of soul we hold within?  

I FEEL SORRY – IT’S A CALL

One of my favourite speakers Ravi Zacharias quoted someone –

The 21st century is the bloodiest century in human history. We have spilt more blood on the soil than the previous centuries put together”.

As I ponder on his statement, it is quite evident, there are more than 40 active conflicts around the world at the moment. Bangalore one of the smallest Tech cities in the world records 25 plus divorce cases filed every day, over one and half a million people are violently murdered each year throughout the world, 800,000 people commit suicide every year and 17% out of them are Indian residents. 2018 records 34,600 rape cases in India which are reported, there still lies thousands unreported. NCRB report says, 22,955 human traffic victims are found in 2016 alone.

I feel very sorry for such states of my country,

but is my being sympathetic enough to do!

Irrespective of our financial and social stature one common platform from where we deal our life is – “Problem and Struggle”. A pauper has problems and struggles to meet his daily needs, alongside an affluent has problems and struggles to maintain his flamboyant social stature, for the sake of which often each of them compromises with the ethics and morals which causes grievous inner wounds – some of them are visible and some of them go invisible in the bright spotlights and grandeur.

Some of the beautiful souls whom I met in Candles Online fraternity is Kalpana, Preeta, Payal, Vipra and of course Chiradeep. Each of them is from different background and struggles every now and then to meet their own life requirements but whenever I am down in emotion at least one of them will surely pop-up to enquire. A couple of weeks back, both Vipra and Payal were on chat and they emphatically asked me one question – How are you Bhaiya? Even after my reply, Payal counter questioned “Pakka (Are you sure?)” and that was something truly meaningful. Often it is hard enough to express the inner pain but being empathetic and aiding with little affection and care is enough for a blissful touch. About feeding the poor, aiding the physically wounded and supporting the financially downtrodden, they are somehow managed to push up from their sorrowful state but how about the one who goes through with inner struggles and is unable to express it to anyone!

I feel very sorry for that state of life of a person, I think I can take a step to be empathetic…

According to the Bible, the two greatest commandments for humans are –Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ And the second is, Love your neighbour as yourself.” All the other laws hang around these two commandments. Taking the second law, the intensity of the love towards our neighbour is the way we love and take care of ourselves. When I am in a problem, I always do my best to resolve it, and if I have to be empathetic for my neighbour who is going through the problem I will have to do the best to resolve his problem. It is my deepest love towards my neighbour or friend that compels me to go beyond than just feeling sorry and mind my own business.

The Bible says,

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.”

Feeling sorry is not just an emotion that sprouts in our hearts as we find someone in difficulty. Rather it is far greater than that, as a matter of fact, it is the call of God for us to empathize and go beyond our limitations to enquire and care for people.

Theodore Roosevelt rightly said,

“Nobody cares how much you know,

until they know how much you care.”

HAND – THE REFLECTION OF OUR MIND

Have you ever thought about your life without hands?

Well, it may sound weird but that’s a reality! On the streets, in our train journeys, and at differently-abled homes, we meet such amputee sports people. As we meet such people, we feel compassionate, we quietly intercede for them, if they beg, we give a few coins but does the story end there?

God has uniquely created us. He has wonderfully weaved each of our body parts that it exactly works like a supercomputer which is finely tuned or programmed to meet a definite set of purposes daily in our lives. It reflects the beauty of God’s handiwork in our body and as we gaze upon the beauty of the magnificent work, we tag it “PERFECT”.     

The works of Potter’s hand gives me my required vessel.

The work of the Painter’s hand brings beauty to my living room.

The work of the Carpenter’s hand designs my choicest furniture.

The work of the Chef’s hand feeds me my choicest food.

The work of the Writer’s hand enlightens my mind with knowledge.

The work of the Computer Engineer’s hand makes me technologically advance.

So on and so forth…

Well, what about them who do not have hands? Who are accidentally or by birth amputees, how about life for them? Who is responsible for their loss? Is their life imperfect and ugly?

In school, when the teacher calls my roll number, the sound of his speech beats my eardrum and alerts my mind to process the received information and my mind instructs my hand to raise up and respond “Present Sir”.

At the bus stop, I was waiting for the bus to the office. While my mind was instructing me to catch the bus for office, my eyes saw the moving object “bus” proceeding towards me and it immediately signalled my mind to read the route description on its dashboard and as I read the route description, I raised my hand to ask for a lift.

Wow, amazing! So much of technicality is happening in just a fraction of seconds!

Every output is the reflection of some input stored in the finite memory space. Yes, the translation of it is the “WORK OF MIND”. The hand is designed to give the output of our mind and the mind is designed to input information for a definite action intended for a definite cause.

When I joined the upper primary school as a newcomer, I hesitated to mingle with my classmates. During free hours, I preferred to eat my tiffin and sit alone observing the activities of my new classmates. In my observation, I found them using their hands for a particular sign language to express their anger to dominate the opposition team in the Cricket match and in my tender mind I thought to learn it for my survival in the group. Gradually, after one year I found myself using different vulgar hand sign languages which brought a bad reputation for me. Thank God, I was able to overcome as earlier as possible.

Irrespective of the nature of work the most important organ to reflect the knowledge of mind in our action is “hand” which plays a vital role. A creative thinker thinks creatively whereas his creative thinking is only confined within him but his creative thinking is recognized as Creative work only after the work of his hand. The hand is meant to work but dealing with the roots, it is the mind that instructs the hand how to work and what to work on.

The Bible always prompts for the renewal of the attitude of our mind because it is apparently the renewal of thinking reflects in the works of our hands.

Work on the mind for the work of the hand…  

May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.
– The Bible

IS IT EASY TO REFRAIN FROM WRATH AND FORGIVE?

The expression “Virtue + Vice” is deeply pertinent in human life and the Bible profoundly affirms this truth – “No human is perfect, not even one. Each of us in some way or other is fallen by nature and by works as well”. Our contrary characters have always been the factor of the disintegration of our emotions which causes wrath and emotional vacuum in our relationships. At such peak of emotional brokenness, often it is suggested by godly counsellors to ‘FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER’. Is it that easy to forgive someone?

I know Mom and Dad don’t like her now but I’m pretty sure her love and care for them can convince them in the future. What can be more valuable than having a companion like her? In her, I see my future, she is the perfect lady with whom I can fulfill all my dreams, it is with her I can face any struggle. It’s not just a day’s happening; we are in a relationship since so many years. But… how come it is so easy for her to turn me down, were those promises I believed in,  fake? Till yesterday evening she was there for me but what happened this morning? Is a relationship just confined to physical satisfaction, financial stability and fame?

Is it easy to refrain from wrath and forgive?

With endless promises, sacrifices and in the presence of witnesses in the holy sanctuary we tied the nuptial knot but how come only within a couple of years life has become hell? What happened to those promises and commitments? Is it the same guy in whom I built my trust and dreamt to fulfill my dreams? God has forgotten me, how can I tell Papa about the home violence, the marital rape, my character assassination, the cuts and cigar burns on my body, so on and so forth?

Is it easy to refrain from wrath and forgive?

He is the most sincere, truthful and hardworking guy I have ever met in my life. I think, he is the right guy to be given the power of attorney in my absence. Alas… after a month when he returns from the foreign trip, his company is sold and he is under bankruptcy!

Is it easy to refrain from wrath and forgive?

My dream is to make him what I could not accomplish in life. What more I want rather than his happy life. I trust he will hold my shivering hand; she will be my daughter, not daughter-in-law. Oh, how joyous it will be to be called as Grandpa and to hold those tiny little fingers and walk in the dusk light. Well, some dreams won’t be fulfilled, this old age home probably being the last roof!

Is it easy to refrain from wrath and forgive?

Well, the world is not only filled with evil hearts, internal scheming, and abhorrence. The world exists because of the God-fearing hearts, love for one another and forgiveness against wrath. Moreover, by the grace of God.

Thomas a Kempis says,

“Know all and you will pardon all”.

After 10yrs of married life and becoming the father of a girl, the husband always felt insecure and jealous of his wife’s beauty and influence. In his mind, he always thought people give him importance because of his wife’s credibility. As days went by his insecurity and jealousy became giant and finally erupted to crime one evening. Though it was just a fight for extra sugar in the tea but it ended him in jail and her in the hospital and made the daughter a one-parent child. Erupt with anger he threw acid and disfigured her face. After 15yrs to the incident, when the man was on his death bed in the prison, he wrote a letter to her asking forgiveness and making his last wish to spend the rest of his life with her. Out of love, she forgave him but it was difficult for the grown-up daughter to forgive and accept him as her dad. But greater is the power of love that helps to forgive one another. 😊 The final goal of forgiveness is to restore the broken relationship and gives way to renew the lifestyle.

Another remarkable story is the ghastly attack of 23rd January 1999 in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha state. Some religious fundamentalists burnt alive the Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons Phillip (aged 10) and Timothy (aged 6). The court of law convicted the alleged killers for their brutality. But the statement of Gladys Staines (w/o: Graham Staines) is exemplary for the entire human race irrespective of caste, creed and religious boundaries. She in her affidavit before the Commission on the death of her husband and two sons stated, “The Lord God is always with me to guide me and help me to try to accomplish the work of Graham, but I sometimes wonder why Graham was killed and also what made his assassins behave in such a brutal manner on the night of 22nd/23rd January 1999. It is far from my mind to punish the persons who were responsible for the death of my husband Graham and my two children. But it is my desire and hope that they would repent and would be reformed”. It is our forgiveness which gives an opportunity to the other person to correct himself and walk in righteousness which is never possible by taking the path of wrath.

The Bible says, “Forgive one another, as the Lord God forgives your sins. And as we forgive others and leave the wrath unto God, God takes the vengeance and establishes justice for us which can never be hidden to human eyes.”

Yet, the choice is in your hands “to forgive or take the path of wrath”.

HOW IMPERATIVE IS OUR RECOGNITION?

One of the buzz words of our 21st Century is ‘EQ (Emotional Quotient)’. It is the emotion which is the invisible power bank that rejuvenates the human mind and drives him through a particular state of feelings that he experienced from the second person’s response. Moreover, recognition is that emotional feeling that the person experiences when he (as an individual) and his actions both are equally respected individually and publicly as well. The incentive package comes later to the desk but primarily it is the employer who recognizes the success of his employee, then the emotion which is stimulated through big handclap from the floor makes the executive feel recognized in his company. It is then that he gets the identity of being at the forefront and alongside it intensifies the feeling of  being a trusted employee.

BUT what happens to yesterday’s recognition as someone fails to reach today’s expectation? How can a brand ambassador become a stranger overnight? Why the lifetime achievement award for landmarking contribution turns to a regret?

Often recognition is approved on the basis of productivity which exists within a particular timeline. Whereas, the deeper level of understanding of recognition is, the experience and the confidence which we built initially in our individual relationship and later on, it becomes the reference for our trust in that person. Relationship plays a pivotal role in the process of recognition.    

Children expect their parents to recognize their sentiments  

Parents expect their children to recognize their sacrifices

Spouse expects their spouse to recognize their love & feelings

Friend expects his friend to recognize his love & concern

Employee expects his employer to recognize his skills & sincere work

Politician expects his people to recognize his contributions in nation-building

Society watchman expects to be recognized with a smile in return

ABOVE ALL, the first and foremost is the Expectation of GOD:

God expects the human (His Creation) to recognize His agape love for them

and to restore into a righteous relationship with Him.

Without the proper understanding of the relationship, recognition becomes a business affair confined within mere mouthful of verbal acknowledgments and the very intention of the employee to give the best effort is for the credit of benefits. For the sake of personal recognition and personal benefits, it seems fine for the employee to breach the ethical and moral parameters and on the other end, the sacrifices and the contributions of the employee seem worthless to the employer on the present context.     

Recognition is not only the badge of honor and words of appreciation in response for the extraction of productivity rather it is the reflection and the appeal of hope and trust that the person has built in you as he recognizes you.

The previous week, I was discussing some personal life issues with one of my contacts. In the midst of our conversation, she texted – “Bhai, I thank you for your contribution to my life and I trust you more than anyone else on earth”. As I read the line, tears flooded my eyes and I was immensely happy to find myself recognized by her but alongside there was a tender voice (a reminder/a warning/an appeal) to maintain that trust in the days to come.      

“THE EXISTENCE OF RECOGNITION IS FIRMLY FOUNDED ON THE UNDERSTANDING OF OUR RECOGNITION”

A compilation of few of the Bible verses puts it across very nicely;

“To live a Godly life is to encourage each other’s good work and build each other. Acknowledge who works hard, cares for you and admonishes you in the Lord.”

WHAT TO DO WHEN IRKED – GRUMBLE?

I grumble when the cashier says “Link Failed, Wait”, though it’s been an hour since I’m in the queue. I grumble when my mom sends me to get bread from the shop at the 15th over of IND-PAK T20 match. I grumble when my boss assigns me to lead the least successful team in my company. I grumble when my friend does not reply after the blue tick in the midst of some important WhatsApp conversation. I grumble when I see a seat just vacated exactly where I was standing in a crowded metro. I grumble when my co-passengers start talking on Indian Politics. I grumble when someone walks into my bedroom or kitchen without removing his muddy shoes. I grumble when my grandmother keeps repeating the same question again and again.

Human life is time-framed. And the two foremost distinct in this big picture is the finitude of human life and “the persistent fluctuating nature of time”. On the contrary, human nature is, I love my comfort zone, please don’t DISTURB! Every man loves to fine tune to the comfort zone as it always feels amusing and secured. When such of our cloud nine feelings are irked we get irritated and grumble.

Being irked in the daily dealings of life is well-expected. When we deal with two or more people, the difference of opinions and understanding and challenges are very logical though it won’t sound as well-tuned.

When I joined my previous organization, I found everything good and problems just seem like challenges. For a couple of months, I enjoyed the work, somewhere I felt like I’m in Cloud Seven though not exactly the Cloud Nine experience it was. Gradually, as I faced new challenges and some masks, I started grumbling. Like every other time, I prayed and consulted with one of my mentors. When I shared him everything in detail, he gave me one of the wisest advice. He said, “Avinash, don’t think every time things and people will go your desired way. In fact, mostly it will be contrary to your views. Hence, in the obviousness of being irked the biggest solution for us is – take everything into prayer. Because God is the Creator who has destined our future and in order to lead us there, often He pushes us to the varieties of challenges in order to teach us new things, to renew our mind, to strengthen our potentials and to unlearn our old ways of living. As we will progress towards the future we will be matured enough to live a God-oriented life then and there”.

The Bible says,

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky

In the world of difference of opinions and worldviews, our grumbling and arguing attitude might subject us to blame and impurity. At extreme, it entices us to project faulty testimonials and finally we lose our glory of life on the earth.

Let’s renew our mind, think wise and refrain from grumbling.