HOW I EXPERIENCED THE POWER OF GRATITUDE

When our organization declared permanent Work from Home on 18th of March’2020 – I was delighted. No more traffic jams. I can sleep till 8 am. I can nap in the afternoon. I can work late in the night. WFH was a blessing. Within a month, reality hit like a slap on my face. I was dying to talk in person to somebody of my age (I live with my in-laws and my son). I wanted to feel the fresh air. I even started to miss the never-ending traffic jams. Work-life balance was totally off the charts. There was no time to even take a bath. There were days when I would realize at 7 pm that I forgot to take a bath or even comb my hair. 

Soon after depression hit. I started to look at every aspect of my life negatively. As a means to cope with depression, I started binge-watching TV series and eating junk late at night. My health started to suffer. To further vent out, I wrote many anonymous blogs complaining about every aspect of my life. Anonymous because I didn’t want my people to judge me, yet I had a strong need to vent out. 

This went on for a while. Arguments and discord were on all high at home. I was raising my voice and my hands on my son for every little thing – soon enough I hit the rock bottom with no way out in sight. Work pressure was only increasing and that was the only relief. Frankly, work was my escape path, I could work late nights to get away from my negative thoughts. But of course, that was just a temporary escape and not a solution. 

Then one day while browsing social media – I came across a post from a lady named Preeti Kamat. She introduced herself as a “Life Coach” or “Law of Attraction Guide” and she was offering a WhatsApp course on Emotional Mastery. It sounded interesting but I ignored it initially. Later that day after a nasty argument at home, I just picked up the phone and sent a message on WhatsApp her asking for information on joining this course. 

I am not going into details of this course or many other courses I have done with her till now, but I am just going to talk about one little thing that she made me do and it totally turned around my life. Among many other things – she asked me to 

  • Write 10 things that I was grateful for every night before sleeping. 
  • Remember 3 things in the morning that I am grateful for

Trust me, it was a challenge initially. It couldn’t find more than 1-2 things that I was truly grateful for. And usually, those 1-2 things were also work-related. But I forced myself to write. Slowly gratitude started to flow. And within one week I could count 15-20 things that I was truly grateful for. In no time, I started sleeping well, I stopped binge eating or watching junk stuff, my overall well-being improved. And as these things happened, I had more things to be thankful for. I was on a continuous upward spiral.

Today things have turned around so much that we as a family are going on trips together, eating together, giving gifts to each other and working to make each other’s lives easier in every way possible. If there is one thing that I need to be thankful for is the fact that I built a beautiful and most amazing relationship with my in-laws during the lockdown. This would have never been possible if I didn’t have so much time to spend with them under the same roof. This time turned out to be a blessing because I chose to live a life of gratitude, without which it would have been filled with deep misery. 

“Whatever you appreciate, appreciates”. What I experienced and witnessed, was no less than a miracle and I am truly amazed at the power of Gratitude. 

MATERIALISTIC ME AND SPIRITUAL ME

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:

  1. 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. 

AND CANDLES ONLINE HAPPENED….

When journey begins with simple conversations

Close to 7-8 years back, I was going through a period of distress in my personal life. Writing greatly heals me so I started my own blog for which I wasn’t getting any readership. I started browsing looking for platforms where I could publish my blogs. I came across an interesting article on Wrytestuff.com (another blogging website like Candlesonline). The article spoke about how connecting with God really helps. Since I was going through a hardship, I found the article really helpful. I posted a comment on the article thanking the author for bringing some inspiration in my life. Along with this, I too registered myself as an author on wrytestuff and started blogging endlessly.

For a few weeks, I did not get a reply on that comment. I was checking it quite regularly because I really wanted to connect with this author. I almost thought this guy must be some established author, maybe too arrogant to reply to a petty comment on his article. But one day he replied and to my surprise, it was a very warm and friendly reply. He mentioned that he was away and had not logged into this website for certain reasons. He too became regular with his blogging and we started following each other quite regularly. Wrytestuff had certain assignments for the writers, I remember waiting for his article so that we could talk about it. There was no whatsapp those days, so we used to chat over Facebook and gtalk.

Needless to say we had endless discussions, debates, generation of new ideas and fun together. One thing led to the other and I contributed to Candles for the first time on his request. At that time candles was a printed version. I was very surprised to see his dedication over getting Candles printed and distributed as much as he could in his personal capacity. Eventually in July 2015, candles online was born. And he catered to it like a baby. Right from designing the logo, bringing up the website, hunting for writers, keeping the writers family close and connected, basically being a great leader to Candles – he did everything. I am so glad that I am connected to him as a friend. Of course, I am talking about Chiradeep.

I wrote one of the first few articles. At that time, the Candles family was really a small one. Chiradeep used to discuss the topic for next week and we used to brainstorm together. A couple of years later, I got really busy with my work and my contribution to Candles reduced. However, by then the Candles family had grown with a lot of talent. We kept churning out articles every week and reading was such a pleasure. We did story relays, debates, picture captions. All credits to our boss – Chiradeep for coming up amazing ideas. I am so proud to be a part of this family. We have fun with each other, we tease each other, we support each other and we write together.

CROSSROADS – V

Riddhima didn’t want to remember any of it. Suyash’s cold behavior, his insensitive attitude and his bitterness towards her. It was over. That chapter of her life was closed and she desperately wanted to move on. But something kept holding her back. Why was she still awake at 1:15 am? 

Enough is enough. I got to get some sleep.” She thought. She drank some more water and put on her headphones that was playing some light jazz. And she desperately tried not to think of Suyash. Her mind slowly and gradually drifted to deep sleep. 

Riddhima is sitting with her colleague Mahi and having a cup of coffee at the office cafeteria. Her eyes randomly searching for somebody and she finds Suyash sitting in one corner of the cafeteria alone. He looked like he was upset or maybe he was crying. Riddhima just wanted to go and give him a nice tight hug and shower him with love right there. Suyash is mine, he is not supposed to be sad ever as long as he has me. Mahi catches her staring at Suyash. 

You really like him, don’t you?” teases Mahi

Yeah, sort of. But I don’t know if he feels the same.” Blushes Riddhima.

Go and find out for yourself. He is right there – go and buy him a coffee” says Mahi with a big smile.

Riddhima a bit unsure of herself still goes and gets another cup of coffee for him. She slowly walks towards Suyash and sits next to him. She looks at Suyash and is immediately startled. It wasn’t Suyash. It was Avi. 

Avi, you? What are you doing at my office cafeteria? I thought I saw Suyash.” Screams Riddhima. 

It doesn’t matter Riddhi. You just need somebody to be your love. How does it matter if it is me or Suyash.” Says Avinash with tears in his eyes.

Riddhima jumps out of her chair spilling coffee all over her. And when she looks down at her dress, it was covered in green algae. She looks at the spilled coffee around her and it is not coffee but it is green algae. She feels disgusted and runs to the washroom to wash herself. 

In the washroom, when she looks at herself in the mirror. She sees her mother standing behind her. She turns around. “Mom?” 

Its ok beta. It is only me. Suyash is a good boy. You must get married to him. Other girls of your age are having babies, I don’t know what is wrong with you. People have started talking about you now.” Says her mom. 

Suyash and Avinash are also standing next to her. They both say – “Yes Riddhima, you should get married. You need a man to make you feel loved. Why are you running away?” 

Riddhima runs out of the office on the road and runs as fast as she can. She realizes that there are some cars and trains chasing her. She runs even faster but looks like her home is nowhere visible. She realizes that these vehicles chasing her and finally going to hunt her down and she collapses.

Riddhima wakes up. She finds herself sweating profusely and out of breath. She jumps out of her bed and drinks some water. She feels like puking and runs to the washroom. No puke comes out but she feels sick to her gut. What a horrible nightmare! What does it mean? Mom, Suyash, Avi, Mahi, the cars, the trains – what does all this even mean?

She washes her face multiple times and looks at the clock. It was only 1:55 am. She had hardly slept for 30 mins and this horrible dream woke her up. She now knew that she has to see a doctor the next day. This insomnia and these nightmares would make her go crazy otherwise.

NEW NORMAL

New Normal phrase has become synonymous with the COVID period, however, if I look back there were various times when normal way of living was altered drastically and yet it was never named as “New Normal” because such things are expected. 

When mobile phones suddenly became popular over no period of time, it changed the way we lived. I was studying engineering at that time and we had to wait long queues at the STD booth to call up our family or friends. Every time we received a call at the hostel landline, the security guard used to shout in the loudspeaker so the whole hostel would know who received how many phone calls in a day. It was a very different way of living and with the mobile phones getting popular amongst students, the normal way of getting in touch with your family changed completely. 

Similar example would be for how emails replaced the handwritten letters, how digital cameras (or phone cameras) replaced the film-based ones, how ola and uber changed the way we book cabs, how UPI changed the way we deal in money transactions and so many more examples. I think the world is changing so fast that it is hardly possible to define a normal. Every day, every month and every year there are new innovations coming up which are bound to change the way we live. 

One personal New Normal that I will never forget is what happened immediately after I got married. I lived with 2 of my flat-mates for about 4 years before I got married to the guy I love. Of course, I and my husband started living together after marriage as expected – not very far away from the home that I lived in with my flat-mates. After about a month, my husband’s brother moved in with us as he had just started his job hunt in Bangalore. So in a very short span of time, I went from living with 2 girls to living with 2 boys. And yes, it was a very drastic difference. 

I suddenly realized that in my new home now I was the only one who was interested in cleaning up and buying groceries. I also realized that there was no space (or respect) for my beautiful pair of earrings that had always adorned a part of the wall in my previous home. I realized that my collection of shoes looked very different next to the boys’ shoes. I figured that I was expected to cook and cook all the three meals. Suddenly, there was no space in my life for my own likes. I had to hunt for time to do what I wanted to do. And I realized that this is what my life is going to be. I liked the change and I had a lot of fun with boys. But there were periods when I just wanted to go back to my older home to my girlfriends and live with them again. 

So, the feeling of a new normal hasn’t been new really. But now it is being used to denote a time that we never expected to see – the corona period. Of course, the new normal is going to change a lot and transform all of us beyond our imagination as a society. New normal is just a feeling of getting out of your own comfort zone and that indeed is always tough. Let us adapt to this new normal for now and hope that this normal gets evolved to better new normal.

ME – A PEACEMAKER, NO WAY!

Well, I don’t have a very good experience of being a peacemaker mainly because I usually avoid conflicts. This has been a feedback for me since quite some time in my yearly appraisals that I need to learn to resolve conflicts among my team members because it is an important aspect of being a leader. So, as part of leading my team – I need to ensure that they can work well with each other. But I find it very difficult because I feel that being a peacemaker really drains my energy. I feel so exhausted if I have to deal with it. 

The only peacemaking I do is when my son gets into fights with other kids in the neighborhood that is the only time that I gladly step in to resolve a conflict. Only because it is fairly easy to resolve the conflicts among kids because they really do listen to you. I have dealt with adults who are probably much more immature than my 5-year-old son. 

There is one peacemaking that I am doing actively but reluctantly these days is between my husband and his parents. Yes, you read it right. I am the mediator between my husband and my in-laws for a lot of things. The situation is that my husband is away living in another city and I am living with our son and my in-laws since last almost 3 years now. Apparently, I have managed to build up a good rapport with my in-laws wherein my husband is not involved in the equation.

My husband is a bit of a free spirit. All of us know that he is quite careless about things. Losing his precious items and forgetting important events is very common with him. And a person like him is now staying alone in this Corona period. All of us are quite sure that he doesn’t take as many precautions as required. He might not be washing all the groceries and packages that he receives, he might not be immediately changing his clothes if he comes home from outside. 

On the other hand, my in-laws are practically paranoid about Corona. All the grocery items, veggies are washed thoroughly. Any electronic items or books that cannot be washed are kept at a corner of the house for a couple of days till we are sure that they are free of any virus. We are obviously not stepping out of the house at all. If we have to step out at all – only eyes are visible (preferred to be covered with specs). As soon as we step in, everything needs to be washed. 

Imagine the amount of conflict between my husband and my in-laws. Parents keep complaining that he is not paying enough attention to the Corona cleanliness and my husband has an attitude – “Jo hoga dekha jayega (We will deal with whatever happens), I cannot stop my life”. And I am stuck somewhere in between trying to pacify both sides. Multiple arguments on both sides totally exhaust me and now I have come to a situation where I tell both parties – “Please deal with each other directly, don’t talk to me about it”. 

Tell him to take a bath as soon as he reaches home” My mother in law would tell me.

Tell her I have taken bath thrice since morning” my husband would say that with a laugh on the other side. And I know for sure that he is not telling the truth. 

Well, I just hope Corona ends soon without affecting my family so that this conflict is over forever. 

Just got reminded of a meme I read recently – “Corona has divided this world in two groups. One group is extremely aware of Corona cleanliness and does everything possible to ensure that virus doesn’t enter their homes. Another group who take minimal precautions and believe that they would deal with it if it happens. And the funny part is that both the groups think that the other group is foolish” 

In my family, both the groups exist and I am living with the two groups. God, save me!

PURPOSE OF LIFE

Mamma, why is my soap always white? Why do you have colorful soaps?” asked 4 year old Mohit while his mother was giving him a bath.

Because your soap is the baby soap and my soap is an adult soap which comes in various other colors?” replied Anusha

But I also want colorful soaps.” Said Mohit stomping his foot hard on the wet floor of the bathroom while Anusha ignored his tantrum and continued to clean him. 

Later in the day, she logged on Amazon and ordered few of those colorful, animal shaped baby soaps for her son – just to avoid any more tantrums and so that he could enjoy the bath time. 

The trick worked and first soap that he got was a yellow colored lion shaped soap. He loved it so much that he started taking bath himself. He would make lion roars in the bathroom, would talk to this lion and keep it nicely in the soap case after every bath. Bathing time became the most enjoyable fun time for little Mohit. 

A week later, the detailing of lion’s face started to fade off. A couple of weeks later – it became just a soap, it wasn’t a lion anymore. 

Mamma, where is the lion now? Why can’t I see him?” said Mohit staring at the yellow soap which now was just a soap. 

The lion got dissolved in water.” Anusha said smiling nicely to her son.

Mohit had tears in his eyes now. “Why did the lion dissolve? Did I hurt him?” 

No my dear, you didn’t hurt him. You just helped the soap fulfill its purpose.” Said Anusha.

What is a purpose, Mamma?” asked Mohit

Purpose is something that you are supposed to do in your lifetime. The soaps are made so that they can dissolve themselves in order to cleanse others. This particular lion soap was created not only to clean you but also to entertain you. It did its job well. You loved the lion for the last two weeks, didn’t you?” said Anusha 

Can I get an elephant this time, please Mamma?” asked Mohit with a twinkle in his eye

Of course, I will get it for you once this lion is completely gone. See, even when the face of the lion is gone – its body is still there. You got to use it and when it completely disappears, I will get you an elephant.” Said Anusha.

Ok, Mamma.” Said Mohit now busy with the lion once again.

Anusha continued to wonder about the important lesson of purpose she had just imparted to her son. Every soap is made with a purpose to clean others and in that process it selflessly dissolves itself. While fulfilling its purpose, it completely vanishes and then is replaced by another soap. 

Similarly, we are sent on this earth to fulfill our purpose and while doing so we spend all our energies and one day we just vanish only to be replaced by our next generations. Life goes on this way for ages and ages. And there cannot be a better purpose than to cleanse others of their dirt while dissolving our own life little by little each day.