WHAT I DO TO PICK MYSELF UP

Last year I had a brief spell in my life when everything turned upside down. Despite all the light around me everything seemed dark. A small term paper submission triggered an avalanche of self-doubt in me and for a week I was mentally paralyzed. I began to wonder what the hell I am doing with my life.

I had left my job for pursuing my masters in English literature as I wanted to rebuild my career, start from scratch ,and do something I actually like and care for. The term paper submission got me all tensed and worked up and I started to rethink about the decision I had taken. I even tried to find a way if I could get back my old job. I had almost made up my mind do drop out from the course and look for another job if I could not get back my old job.

I was living alone and did not have anybody to share this with. My parents would get too worried for me and my situation was such that only a few could understand my agony. A friend who had made a similar decision helped me out and calmed me down. His conversations helped me a lot. Another thing which kept me strong during this phase was taking long walks. I would wake up and go for long aimless walks till my legs hurt. And I did that even in the evenings. I would have walked 5 kms on certain days. And those were the only times I did not think of my decision.

Apart from definite health benefits walks can be very helpful to our emotional and mental well being I believe.  Whenever I am at home in Siliguri I take long walks to the nearby “fafri” forests. The sight of the tall Sal trees, the sound of the morning birds, the sight of the mischief-making monkeys, and the company of strangers clears my head and prepares me to face another day. When I was in Tezpur, a quaint town on the banks of Brahmaputra in the state of Assam, I would always take a walk during the evenings to Ganesh-Ghat and sit beside the quiet waters of Brahmaputra and contemplate. It was soothing and relaxing at the end of a taxing day.

Another activity which pumps me up is listening to music. This is especially on holidays when I’m feeling very lazy and also at times when I feel low. I never keep a readymade playlist at hand and usually listen to varying genres across different languages. One common thing across them is that I look for uplifting and relatable lyrics along with good music. The well-written songs carry stories and episodes which can really lift up your mood and elevate your mind.

Deep conversation with select-few friends, either in person or over phone, is a blessing which I relish whenever I get a chance. A very personal thing I try to do, whenever I have to cope up with a situation beyond me, is to pray. At times in my room or go to the church, sit by myself, close my eyes, and just soak in the quietness, the solemn atmosphere, and let myself feel all that comes my way without inhibition and leave it at the hands of the almighty who is my sign of hope, love and life. I just feel light within, as if a burden has been lifted off me, and it gives me the courage and strength to continue to fight my battles.

An extra tip: Indulging in your favorite food can also work a charm when you are down in the dumps. A margarita pizza or an amazing misti-doi (you can google it) with semi-mashed himsagar mangoes does it for me.

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​HELD IN MEMORIES

Whenever I see a graveyard or visit one it fills me with melancholy, certain sadness, a feeling of desolation. Although, I have happily eaten stolen litchees in a graveyard under a moonlit sky, the graveyard always reminds me of the ultimate truth of life, death.  We all will die one day and no matter how rich or famous we become, how many medals we win, how well or bad we act, we end up as dust.

All that remains are memories, may be few lines on an epitaph, or if we are lucky enough, our being gets etched in the hearts of the people we have been able to impact in a special way. When I reach my end in this beautiful world I would like to be remembered in a certain way even though saying this is futile since as people, we tend to forget with time.

I want to be remembered as a good son. I don’t know how much of it I have been able to achieve it yet. I know my mom thinks I’m not so bad but my father is a little hard to please. We have come a long way but even then he always gives me a feeling I have lots to do before I impress him. I sincerely wish that they see me as a loving son, a son who had his faults, but had his heart at the right place.

I want to be remembered as an amicable friend; a friend who was always ready to have a deep conversation over a cup of tea, or join for an aimless walk towards nowhere;  a friend who was never too tired for a game of football and was always willing to join for a game; a friend who forgave and forgot instead of hanging on to petty differences; a friend who tried his best to accept the other as he or she is; a friend who always lent an ear and tried not to judge.

The above is how I want to be remembered as a son and a friend. As a person I want to be remembered as someone who loved the natural surroundings more than man-made wonders, as someone who enjoyed the simple joys of life and had a carefree soul, as someone who believed that people can still be good in this unforgiving world, as someone who held on to hope even in despair and darkness, as someone who tried to fulfill his dreams without being inconsiderate. And when I become a teacher, I wish that my students would remember me as their mentor and guide, as someone who understood them.

I don’t know if I will become all that I want to be remembered as.  My flaws would be enough for some. We can’t please everyone. I have a long way to go to be deserving of the legacy I have painted for myself. I know I will always try.

TUNES FROM HOME

*In a city*

Roshan Toppo stared at his phone which rang for the 3rd time within 10 minutes.

He couldn’t have ignored the call for ever. But he wanted to avoid it, having a feeling if he picked up it wouldn’t be the words he would want to hear.

Hello!

Mr.Toppo, why are you not picking my call?

Roshan hated that tone.

Sorry, sir. The phone was on silent.

Ok, listen”, the voice softened a bit. “I have bad news for you.

There was a pause.

I can’t grant you the leave. I am sorry.

Roshan sulked. He wanted to shout back but he controlled himself.

But sir I applied early. I have to go sir.

The stern voice continued, “I am sorry Roshan. Vijay has had an emergency. I need a stand-in. I can’t let you go.

*In a Village*

An old woman pours out a grey-coloured liquid from an earthen-pot into the steel glasses. Her forehead is creased and she has a tattoo of a cross on it. It’s a plain tattoo, two small dark lines at a right-angle. With the help of another woman she distributes the glasses to the men and women who are seated on the floor in the open space outside the house. She greets each of them as she hands them a glass.

The men and women converse with each other. They share a laugh. And then a man asks this old woman if her son is going to come home.

The old woman’s eyes go full, but she stops her tears. She says, “Dharmes hi ondrna raee hole emaan eraage baros jun” (If God willing he will come to see us).

She continues her chit-chat cheerfully and then all of them break into a folk-song. It talks about a bird which has flown away and the keeper wonders if he will ever see it again.

In the village akhra (dancing ground) the boys beat the mandars and the nagadas with great vigor and enthusiasm. The Karam tree is at the center. The village girls, married women and elderly women hold each other’s hands forming a chain and sing along and dance rhythmically to the beats around the Karam tree. The steps are simple, well-synchronized and the whole group moves in such cohesion. They keep singing even after their throats strain.

*In a city*

Roshan sat in the cafe sipping a glass of cold coffee.

He felt guilty. He thought he should have tried harder to get leave. Not only this time but before too. How could he not visit his home, his mother for such a long time.  He was fed-up playing the nice guy trying to work harder and harder all the time. Promotion, which wasn’t guaranteed, would mean more work but what was the point of working if one could not even see his family.

I think you should go home,” His friend broke his thought handing him a paper-bag of French-fries .

Yeah I want to. But my boss never lets me go. And that nasty Vijay always does this.

His friend chuckled, “You should speak like that more often.

What? Curse more?

No, no. I meant you should let your feelings be heard.

Roshan nodded munching the fries.

You really should visit home. It’s been long. And it’s an important festival of your community and it would be a great time to be at home.

 *In a Village*

Roshan stepped down from the bus. The smell of the soil freshened him up.  The beating of the drums and the vibrant tunes of the songs thrilled his ears.  But a familiar sound jarred and spoiled the moment. Just for a while. Roshan saw the number. He switched off the phone.

The old woman with the wrinkled face and the cross tattoo on her forehead lighted up. Her eyes were watery and this time she couldn’t stop them.  She embraced Roshan.

THE ROAD TO HOME – V

Samar had difficulty sleeping that night. He twisted and turned on his bed but couldn’t find rest. Finally his eyes closed out of exhaustion. His slumber was deep and Samar looked peaceful as if all his worries had been put aside.

Samar could see her, his mother, playing with a little boy. She pulled him close to her and nuzzled her nose against his. She lifted him high up in the air. The little boy’s eyes beamed with excitement and belief that her mother would definitely catch him. Samar saw that little child’s face. It was him. He was so happy and his mother loved him so much. His dad was there too waiting for his turn.  He would bring him toys and take him out for walks after he had learned to walk. Samar could hear his parents singing him a lullaby.

He could see his mother’s face clearly. Her radiant, compassionate face and then he saw his father approaching him. But as he drew closer his face distorted. It became a blur and he could not recognize him anymore. He could only hear a voice saying, “HE IS NOT YOUR DAD! THEY ARE ALL LIARS!

Samar woke up with sweat on his forehead. He had to do something about his past. He could not go on living like this. He gulped down a glass of water. The dream was fresh in his mind. He tried to understand Sagar’s reaction the last time he had seen him. He tried to remember his own feelings and his reaction towards his mom and his stepdad whom he had thought to be his real dad all along. He remembered how they had loved him and brought him up. Of course the job kept them busy but still they tried their best to spend time with their kids. And he thought about Sagar, his little brother, his friend; how was he doing? Will he ever be able to make things right with him again? So many things rushed through his mind.

The last ten years of his existence had been no less than a punishment. It was like living in an exile away from your home and your family. Samar had left everything behind. He wanted to meet his mother. He wanted to see her and ask her lot of questions.  The next day he sent his parents a lovely bouquet of red-roses as an anniversary present. And along with that he also sent a note for his mother. It read, “I want to see you mom”.

REGRETS HAVE NO VALUE – V

Ankit tried to listen carefully to the speaker. He was attending a seminar on self-development which the company he worked for conducted quarterly with an aim to help the employees to deal with issues like stress, work-life balance, and workplace setbacks. Ankit doubted if these sessions ever impacted the people holding the managerial posts in improving their behavior in certain instances, but he did realize that these were necessary. It helped people if they knew that the others too faced problems of a similar kind. And the sharing really helped the employees to feel better and build more meaningful connections with their co-workers.

The speaker called out if anyone wanted to share anything. Ankit raised his hand. He spoke on gratitude. When he spoke the audience felt Ankit believed in everything what he was saying. They seemed to enjoy it.

Ankit’s positivity endeared him to the people. It had always been his strength. He ended with a quote by Rumi, “Wear gratitude like cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” Ankit beamed as he saw the people smiling at him.  He felt privileged to feel happiness once again.

The episode with Nina had left Ankit heartbroken. He had genuinely loved her but for some reason she rejected him. Ankit often thought if Nina had been honest with him. There was something in her refusal which he felt was out of place. Nina had carefully, cautiously uttered a “yes” when he had asked her if she loved someone else. And if she had really loved someone else all that time the two wouldn’t have developed such an immense chemistry. With time Ankit became sure Nina had lied to him and there must have been a different reason which made her refuse him.

Whatever it may be Ankit chose to move on. He did not hold any sort of grudge against Nina. He did struggle initially after his heartbreak. His mom’s love and affection had prevented him from falling into depression. After leaving his job he immersed himself into poetry for a while. He had always loved poetry: Hindi, Urdu, English, all of it. Poetry made him take up English literature for his undergrad and he really loved it. Although, content-writing wasn’t as interesting or creative as poetry it helped Ankit to pay the bills. He was very sincere, hard-working and great company to be with which helped him to find employment again. And when there was a good position available, and due to his past affiliation, he joined back the company where he had once worked with Nina.

(Image Source: Google Inc.)

Love finally made its way into Ankit’s life again. And five years after his tryst with Nina, Ankit tied the knot with Nisha. Nisha interestingly shared Ankit’s love for poetry and taught English. There was something in Nisha’s mannerisms which reminded Ankit of Nina which made him irresistible to her. He made sure he was honest with Nisha about his past. He wasn’t sure if this revelation would work in his favour but he wanted Nisha to know about this. Nisha was flattered and surprised but accepted the past. Where Nina lost, Nisha had found herself an endearing partner for life.

LOOK BEYOND THE END FOR NEW BEGINNINGS

Most people reserve the New Year to make new resolutions and set goals. On the first day of the New Year people are ready with resolutions which they hope to fulfill in the upcoming months. Most hope and only a few actually plan to attain their goals.

The New Year symbolizes a fresh start, a break from the past. Although every day, every moment we live, is a new one compared to the previous moment or day.  And then there is life which presses the reset button without our consent and we have to start again in our lives. A death of a loved one, end of a relationship, loss of job, change of place causes us to restart our lives in one way or other. It’s not always easy and we have to stay strong.

New beginnings are symbolic of the cycle of life and death. All good things come to an end. One may say all that begins has to end. It’s the law of nature. In a movie I recently watched “Tangled” (It’s a Disney movie released in 2010 based on the fairy-tale of Rapunzel). In a particular scene, Rapunzel is excited to see the lanterns which have fascinated her since her childhood. But when she is very close to find the source of the lanterns she becomes anxious.  First, she is unsure if she will actually like it and second, she does not know what she will do if she likes what she sees. Eugene tells her that if she likes what she sees then she has to find a new dream.

Change is the only constant in our ever-changing world. And our ability to adapt becomes very important to face the diverse situations and challenges. As I mentioned earlier it’s not always easy to take control of our lives especially in times of immense heartbreak, sorrows and failures. These are the occasions when the affected person needs our help.  People who can’t cope up are termed as weak, failures and losers. When people say they are in depression they are not taken seriously. Certain friends would invite them to a party and ask them to forget their sorrows. Parents just say that one has to be strong and they had faced tougher situations in their lives. This is not exactly the right approach.

People suffering from mental breakdowns and depression can find it really difficult to get their life back in order. In a society which does not take mental illness seriously the impacted individuals need human understanding and compassion.  They require constant encouragement and instead of criticizing they should be allowed to embrace their feeling which helps them to cope up and let go of their losses gradually. Spiritual guidance often becomes very significant and effective in such cases because God has always taught us compassion and love.

Another case which is highly prevalent in our Indian society is the high expectations parents have from their wards to perform in the examinations.  Poor results result in suicides in some cases and parents fail to see beyond the report-cards of their children. A sister of my close friend took her life owing to a poor result.  A child is deemed a loser, a failure, an idiot incapable of doing anything with one’s life just because one fails in an exam or does not secure an expected grade. Parents should realize that their wards can always start fresh. Instead of heaping their expectations on them, they should rather act as their guides and share their wisdom.

Life does not exactly run in a linear course. There are always ends and new beginnings. Life is convoluted and flows like a wild river. Smooth sailing has to be enjoyed but inevitably it gets rough and sometimes we have to go the river-bank to fix the sail and start again till we reach our destination.

THE GIFT OF FREE WILL

What’s the meaning of life?

I don’t have a definite answer to this profound question asked by many a people over eons.

Philosophers have debated over it and there has never been a one-for-all answer. May be that is what makes this question intriguing and yet so infuriating at the same time. Man has tried to answer this question since the beginning of time and this search has led to much philosophical, theological and scientific speculation. The diversity of this world and its cultures presents a myriad collection of answers different from each other.

Pico, in his famous “Oration on the Dignity of Man” published in 1486, states that God placed man at the midpoint of the world and addressed him thus:

Adam, you have been given no fixed place, no form of your own, and no particular function, so that you may have and possess, according to your will and your inclination, whatever place, whatever form, and whatever functions you choose…by your own free will, in whose hands I have placed you, will determine your own nature…You will have the power to degenerate into the lower forms of life, which are bestial. You will have the power, by the judgment of your soul, to be reborn into the highest forms of life, which are divine.

Pico sees this free will as the supreme generosity of God through which man will himself become the fruit of whatever he cultivates. According to him this is what qualifies man as the most supreme creation of God.

Any living being on our planet primary goal is survival. Man is not any different in that matter but because of his rational faculty he tries to find something more than merely survive. This is what makes us more than an animal and adds color and flavor to our world. Finding the meaning of life in general seems like a futile exercise. If you look at the whole, the idea of finding or attaching a meaning to our life in this complex world appears pointless.

For every good act there is an evil equivalent. For every honest person there are plenty of dishonest persons around. An honest politician remains an oxymoron. Innocence and purity are shunned since the innocent and pure of heart are inevitably duped and exploited. Our faith which is meant to elevate us closer to God is used to divide us, and used against us. Instead of getting us closer to the divine it brings out our bestial nature. As you can see our world is imperfect. But does that mean that we cater just to our own self-interest and don’t try to look beyond ourselves?   

 The free will gives us the power to not succumb to this world’s corruption and find our personal meanings of each of our lives. The materialistic world which runs on ostentatious displays of wealth and merriment makes us afraid of delving deep into ourselves. All that is cared about is the superficial appearance and every achievement has to be measureable. I too have joined the pursuit to find the meaning of life—my life. I am sure that in due time I will find something but I can’t be sure if it will be worth it or not. One thing I am sure of is that the experience will be of personal benefit and that in itself is a reward.

Oliver Sacks, when he first discovered his diagnosis of terminal illness: staring death in the face, he wrote, “Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

Let’s not lose hope in these dark times we live in, and let’s choose to believe that our life has a purpose and a meaning, whatever it may be. If we persist enough, our brief-lives on this earth can be worthwhile and we can definitely make at least a teeny-tiny positive difference to our surroundings.