SPECIAL FIRST TIMES!!!

First times are always special because they make you either confident in continuing what we want to do or they make us really scared to go ahead in that venture. There are many things that have gone well for me when I think of my first times. Although there have been goof-ups too, sometimes because of me and other times not. 

The very first memory that I have of a goof-up is when I was going to the school in Dehradun for the first time. I was born in Gujrat and my parents had been staying there for almost 18 years. When I was 6 years old, my father got transferred to Dehradun and we packed our bags to come to this new city which was quite different. My father and one of his colleagues had got the transfer together and hence we were travelling together. I was 6 ready to go in 1st standard and my sister was 13 ready to go in 9th standard. And the other family also had two kids – elder one going to go in 4th standard and younger one was my age. 

We had shifted mid-session so getting admissions in the school was a challenge. Somehow we managed to get admission in a school named Scholar’s Home which had 3 branches. The farthest branch was quite far off where my sister was supposed to go since she was going to High School. The first branch was quite a big school but we did not get admission there, we younger ones got the admission in the second branch which was only the Primary school. The schools were quite far off from our home and there was a school bus that would take us there. 

I don’t remember a lot of it but I remember being dead scared. It was a brand new city, new school and away from home. I don’t know if I cried but I know that the only relief I had was that I was not alone going to that school. So, the goof-up happened when the bus conductor got confused about which branch he is supposed to drop us at. There were no mobile phones or landlines at that time. My sister was on the other bus. We three kids got dropped at the first branch which was not the school we were supposed to be at. I remember kept telling the bus conductor that I don’t think this is where we are supposed to be, but who takes a 6-year-old seriously? 

As soon as we came in, the teachers were surprised to see us as we weren’t even expected. I started crying and so did the other two kids with me. We spent the whole day sitting in the Principal’s office. There was no way they could get the confirmation from anywhere either our parents or the other school. We did not know which bus to take us back home, so we waited for long 6 hours or so for the school to get over. Once the school got over, we were escorted to the school bus. The bus was waiting there and I was so relieved to see my sister on the bus. I remember telling her the whole story and then repeating it for my parents multiple times about what really happened. I don’t know how scared or worried they got. 

Now as a parent, I feel that it was a pretty bad goof-up. We could have been lost and I can imagine the state of my parents once they came to know what really happened. Later on, till the time I was at that school – it was a pretty funny story to tell other kids that how I got dropped at the wrong school.

The first-time event isn’t always goof ups. They are also memories for a lifetime. And there is one more first time that I would like to share which was rather special – it was the first time I travelled abroad. It was an official trip to the US and I was just 22 years of age. That opportunity was rather an unexpected one but I was quite thrilled that I got a chance to stay there for 3 months. During the journey, I kept listening to the song from the movie Chak de – “Badal pe paon hai”. It did feel like I am cloud 9 and everything around was so very exciting. The first experience of explaining a Mc Donald’s cashier that I wanted to have a vegetarian burger was quite funny. After a while, I asked them if they could make a burger without meat and the lady looked at me as if I had asked for all the trash in the restaurant. Just by her look, I left the place after having fries and coke. 

At the Denver airport, I was quite nervous at the security check for a simple reason that I had to take a domestic flight now. I had heard quite a lot about their security checks. I did the regular drill of taking off the shoes, socks, coat, specs, etc. Unfortunately, my mobile was still in my pocket. So when I went through the metal detector, it beeped. And I realized that those guys take the metal detector beeps way seriously than I had ever seen. The security personnel there looked quite scary and he asked me to step back. In all my nervousness, I did not understand him at all. He had to say this thrice for me to get it and my eyes were fixated on the gun that he had taken out because I wasn’t listening to him. Of course, once I stepped back they checked me thoroughly only to find a harmless innocent mobile in my pocket and then they let go of me. I was trembling by the time all this got over, but now I knew how to handle the security there. The more nervous you are, the more trouble you are in.

We were a group of Indians working together on a project while my first stay in the US. Our project manager was an old American lady who was a workaholic. She once came to me and said – “Prabhjot, I have trouble communicating with some of our colleagues”. I was a bit puzzled if my friends were in some trouble. 

She said “Every time I ask a question to Anand, he always nods his head sideways. I cannot make out if he is saying a Yes or a No. What does it really mean?” 

I couldn’t help but laugh at this. She was sincerely quite embarrassed in asking this question and it was her first time working with Indians. I told her it is not just you, we Indians also get confused with each other. And then I had to tell my manager to sensitize the team to not use nods and communicate very clearly in Yes or No. 

Well, first times are special. Not just first time events but also the first time objects are super special – like first salary, first address of your own, first house, first car, first pet and the list goes own. My husband gets quite frustrated every time we cross the ATM where I withdrew my first salary from – because I always remind him that this is the ATM where I saw so much money in my account for the first time and what a thrill it was.

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Feminism is the most misused word in today’s world
and it worries me a lot
because I am not sure what kind of education
we are giving to our little girls
who are growing up in a world where “being a feminist is cool”.

HAVE A MUNDANE IDENTITY

My recommendation: don’t be special; don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Choose to measure yourself not as a rising star or an undiscovered genius. Choose to measure yourself not as some horrible victim or dismal failure. Instead, measure yourself by more mundane identities: a student, a partner, a friend, a creator.”
Mark Manson

This is one of the stories I read in the book named – “The subtle art of not giving a *#@&”. Don’t go by the language of this book because when I started reading it, it totally changed my perspective in so many different ways. It helped me look at things really objectively, outside of the view of my value system.

So, here goes the story (of course in my words and with my take on it)

In 1983, there was a metal rock band group which was gaining a lot of popularity. They got their first debut to be recorded in New York. The lead guitarist of the group was also one of the founders of heavy metal, but the rest of the band was fed up with his drinking and drugs problem. Although he was highly talented, they decided to fire him.

It was in April’1983 that Dave was woken up by rest of the band members. He was in an ugly hangover. He was told directly that he was now out of the band. It came without any warning. They had already hired a new lead guitarist. When he was asked for his flight tickets, he was told that they would drop him New York Port Authority Bus Terminal and he is taking a 4 hour bus to California.

It was still one hour to go before his bus would depart. He had total of 5 hours to reflect on what had happened. He was definitely furious. He was fired from a band that he had co-founded. The rest of band was moving on to recording their first album for which he had written majority of lyrics. He felt cheated, betrayed and fumed. However, in those 5 hours – he got over his self-pity and decided that he would take on his ex-bandmates with a revenge and make them regret this decision.

By the time he reached California, he had decided to find his own band and also wrote the lyrics which later on became one of his famous songs. In the coming few years he worked like crazy, he hired new musicians and created his new band. This new band named Megadeth turned out to be a huge hit. It sold over 38 million records worldwide and earned platinum certification in US for five of its fifteen studio albums. It also received 12 Grammy nominations.

However Dave wasn’t satisfied. Never felt successful. Because the band that fired him was Metallica. And it was indeed way ahead of Megadeth. Metallica had sold 125 million records, won 9 Grammy awards, nominated for 23.

Dave is a strong man because he could turn around a negative experience into a productive one in just 5 hours. He put his entire heart and soul to what he wanted to do. He has money, fame, power. He is ranked as one of the best heavy metal guitarist in the world. Yet he fails to feel success inside him. Because for him, he always wanted to beat Metallica which he could never do.

Two decades earlier in 1962, one more similar incident happened. A guy named Pete Best was fired from his band. He had performed for 2 years with them and the band was at the brink of stardom.

The manager of the group called Pete in his office just before their first recording, and asked him to leave because other bandmates did not want him. He was heartbroken, he never met any of his bandmates again. He quietly left for home. In the coming years, he joined multiple bands and but it was no success. He struggled with depression while his bandmates were selling millions of copies worldwide. They came to be one of the most successful bands of the time – The Beatles.

In 1965, Pete attempted suicide from which he was saved by his mother and brother. His mother’s words put in the sense in him. “They want you to die. Think about your wife and your daughter. What would they be without you” she said. He then realized that suicide was a mistake and promised that he will never ever do that again. He took up a job as a civil servant and just worked 9 to 5 job. His main focus now was to be a civil servant, a good husband and a father. In late 1980’s, he picked up music again. He founded his very own The Pete Best Band.

Pete is a happy person because he found solace in being mundane. He found success in serving people and just being a father and a husband. He did not expect more from life and even though depression hit him hard but he could get over it.

He had met his wife when he was still “The Beatles”, however she did not leave him when he was kicked out. They got married and Pete found solace in being with her – knowing that one of his fans is his wife and even though he isn’t popular any more, she still chooses to be with him.

On the other hand, Dave Mustaine made it a mission of his life to beat Metallica. And even though he attained a huge success as a celebrated artist – he is far from feeling content.

The reason this story hit me hard is that even though you might have great ambitions to be famous and successful – your identity should not be that ambition. There is much more happiness in these mundane titles like a good mother, a good daughter, a good father, a good friend, a good public servant can give a lot more success than being a great businessman, a sportsperson, or a rich man.

I do not intend to say that being ambitious is not right. But making that ambition the whole reason of your existence is wrong. Your existence is worth much more than a few billion dollars that you might make in your lifetime. The real value of your existence is known only to your near and dear ones and not to the millions of fans that follow your work.

Follow your passion, earn lots of money and fame but do not let it become your value system. You and I might be laughing at Dave Mustaine because in spite of earning millions of dollars and fans, he still considers himself a failure. This is because you and I have a very different value system than that of Dave.

Look inside your value system. What are you really running behind? Is it really worth it?

The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and most ordinary ways possible. This often means giving up some grandiose ideas about yourself: that you’re uniquely intelligent, or spectacularly talented, or intimidatingly attractive, or especially victimized in ways other people could never imagine. This means giving up your sense of entitlement and your belief that you’re somehow owed something by this world.
Mark Manson

PERFECT EXAMPLE OF LIMITLESS CREATIVITY

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 Candles online). 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.

Just like his first article gave me strength and inspiration, even now I browse through his articles when I am looking for strength. Often I have tried to analyze what it is about his writings that I am so attracted to. I have realized that he is God loving person, he draws his strength from his belief in Jesus. I have always been a non-believer, non-religious person hardly ever resorting to prayers when I am in distress. His articles mostly talk about his belief and love for God. The kind of person I am, sometimes I also used to find his articles a bit irrational (usually when my super logical mind takes better of me). However, almost always I find his articles very soothing and comforting. I wouldn’t say that I have started believing in God now but something inside my belief system has shaken after knowing him for so long and working with him.

As a friend, I know what his hardships have been, but the article “Reinventing self is finding joy in our hardtimes” really brought tears to my eyes. I realized how one person’s belief can help him pull through even in worst of times. My hardships may be different than his. My ways of searching for comfort are also very different than him. But there is connect that I feel when I read this article which is very comforting. There are many more of his articles that define his concept of God so clearly. And even though I don’t have a strong belief, it helps me a lot to get going during hard times. When I am lost in this chaotic and super confusing world, his articles gives me that ray of light that I know if I follow I would be taken care of. This is enough to pull me up together and move on.

On a lighter note, he also writes good humor. Among many of his light-hearted articles, my favorite is “How on earth am I in the midst of babies”. This one is really funny and I like the way he manages to bring out humor even in the situation that was painful for him. The way he has told his tale in this article is very simple and funny.

It is not just the articles but the way this person brings out the creativity in each of us with his great ideas and close to perfect execution of these ideas is commendable. He initially came up with face 2 face interviews, a great way to connect with different people and bring them in the spotlight for our readers. My favorite interview is “Kalpana Vogeti – A woman who believes in smiling from within” To extend these interviews he even came up with an idea that all writers must interview each other and that resulted in a week of Spotlights named “Discovering Self”, this makes me feel like closely knit family of writers who are quite daring to bring out their lives in open for the world.

A few months back, he started the story relay – this concept turned out to be a great hit among the writers and readers. We started with the story “What is Home?” However, my favorite is “The Road to Home”.

To keep the readers (and writers) engaged, he also started with FB Best Caption and Charlie’s Wish. Needless to say, this man’s creativity is limitless. He is not only a great writer but also a great leader and an awesome friend. I am so glad to be the part of this team which is no less than a family headed by our dear Charlie. His name is Chiradeep and he is often referred to as Boss or Charlie in our group. He is the glue that keeps this family together and Candles burning forever.

(Dedicated to @chiradeepnf)

PEEK INTO YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS

Dreams have always fascinated human beings. They have had many varied interpretations over the ages. Some used to consider it a message from GOD, others considered it the future, and there were many kings and rich people who used to call dream interpretations to interpret their dreams since they believed that dreams carry answers to all their quests.

It is amazing what a complicated amazing piece of engineering our body is. And this is depicted through our ability to dream. This ability tells us that there is much more than what we just see through our eyes. It has happened with me multiple times that I got the answers to some of the problems in my dreams. As a kid, I have also figured out the solution to my maths problem in my dream. There have been other times when I kept playing my favourite video game in my dream and figured out some intelligent way of crossing that level. Then I have also seen many nightmares that woke me up in the middle of the night sweating. Other times, in my dream I realized that I was dreaming and could control it.

What really are dreams?

Our brain has only 20% conscious part and there is an 80% part which is called the subconscious. The conscious mind can only remember events, names, experiences for a limited time, but subconscious mind can store the experience of almost everything for an entire lifetime. Every event of our life and our daily activities create imprints in our subconscious mind which are usually not saved by a conscious mind. When we sleep, we go into a natural state of switching off the conscious mind. But the subconscious mind is still working. It shows us the images of whatever it has recorded in our lifetime. Sometimes these are the real images, many times these images are not something that we have seen.

So, there really is no need to be scared of dreams. They are just a projection of what we have perceived from the world. Even the worst nightmares are the projections. We might have seen or imagined those scenes sometime while watching TV or reading books.

The important part is that dreams are not logical. The images that we see do not have any logical connection to each other. We might just see our parents as our boss or our siblings as our colleagues or we could travel to different places in no time or just any random images. This is because logic is controlled by the frontal lobe of our brain which is a part of a conscious mind and is switched off while we are sleeping.

I was once very fascinated by the idea of recording the dreams. The only way to do this is to write them down as soon as you wake up. So I used to keep a diary next to my bed while sleeping and anytime when I would wake up, I would write down whatever it is that is I remember. I write down my feelings, the images, the emotions of other people and anything that I can. When I did this for a long time of 6 to 8 months, I started seeing a pattern. The dreams were interconnected. They were like the episodes of a TV series with jumbled up episodes. It was very interesting to solve those pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. The best part is that I found a lot of solutions to the current issues that I was facing. I also came to know of some things that were stressing me out which I did not realize consciously.

Below are the steps to keep a dream diary.

Keep a diary, pen by your bedside along with a table lamp. Make sure the room and bed are comfortable in all ways. While sleeping, clear your thoughts of daily routines. Close your eyes and relax all your muscles. Keep saying to you “I will remember all that I see and feel”. And then just go into a deep sleep. When you wake up any time during the night or in the morning, switch on the table lamp and write all that is there is your mind. Describe the images that you saw, the objects, the place, and people, also write your feelings at that point of time and write down any noticeable exhibit of feelings or emotions on other people in the dream. Maintain this diary for at least 2-3 months and start reading it. When you try to interpret them you will be able to see the connection between the dreams and whatever it is that your subconscious mind is trying to tell you.

It is quite a fascinating world of dreams. I would suggest everybody to keep a dream diary and follow it like a ritual every night. It works amazingly. It will give you solutions to your problems in a way that nobody else can. There is a saying “Look inside for solutions, not outside”, which is true to the core. Look at your subconscious for solutions, not the outside world. Your brain knows everything and it can do and create anything it wants. Use the unlimited power of this brain and access its energies by interpreting the dreams.

MY FAVOURITE SPOTS

The earliest memory that I have of a place where I could just lose myself is when I was 6 or 7 years of age. There was one place in the house which never failed me. Especially when it was raining, I had to be there. We were living on the 1st floor of a two-story building. These were government quarters in a colony named IIP Colony. It was one of the best places to grow up ever. The window of my room used to open to large empty space that had a lot of greenery and trees. Beyond the green trees and grass, there was a little road on which occasionally any vehicles were seen. The trees bore heavy fruits during respective seasons. We had mango, litchi, guava and chakotra (Pomelo) trees to be most common in that area. I loved that window. It had horizontal bars which were wide enough for my legs to fit in. So, I used to climb that window, put my legs between the window sill and first horizontal bar, hold the above bars for support and just sit there for hours. I would that particularly during rains because then my legs would be out in the rain and I loved it.

That window was where I did most of rhymes recitation, sing songs, thought of the world (the way a 6-year-old would think). It was my spot and I was never to be disturbed there. I am quite sure that my legs will not fit in that small slot anymore but I wish I could go back to that colony and house.

After a year or so, we shifted to a similar house on the ground floor. And I lost that favourite spot of mine, but only to find a new spot in the new home. Since this was on the ground floor, we had our own kitchen garden which my dad loved. He used to spend a lot of time gardening, something that I never liked because I was scared of earthworms!

Here my room had a window that opened to the front of the house. My study table was right in front of the window and apparently, that became my favourite spot. We moved into that house when I was in grade 2 and stayed there till I finished my grade 10. So, of course, I spent a lot of time studying on that table. But more than that I also spent time daydreaming about a lot of things. That spot was the one where I not only studied my textbooks but also studied different novels and developed a habit of writing. I still remember that yellow coloured table clock that used to be on that study table. Every time I got distracted from my studies, I would look at the clock and decide the number of minutes that I will day-dream before I started studying again. That spot was where I grew up from a tiny girl to a messed up teenager. The study table was not always at the side of the window. Earlier our bed was at the window, then I used to love looking outside at the moon and stars before sleeping. So, maybe my spot was not the table but the window again.

Later on, after my sister got married, we moved out of that colony to our own house. It was very disturbing for me because that colony was a warm and cosy place, I had to leave all my friends behind to come and stay at this new home. At this place, my favourite spot was a weird one. It would be difficult to explain without a picture but I would still try. On the first floor, we had two terrace – front terrace and back terrace. Beyond the railing of the front terrace, there is a slanting roof to cover a small porch on the ground floor. It is a slanting roof with no railing. From the front terrace, I used to climb onto that slanting roof and sit there for hours. Mom used to scold me a lot because that roof would become slippery especially in rains. And if I fell from that roof, I would be badly hurt. But I still loved that spot a lot. I have written a lot of articles and stories sitting there. I have listened to a lot of music at that place and have also worried about my future. My parents still stay in that house, but now I don’t dare to climb that roof. Maybe because I am not 17 years old anymore. I am visiting my parents in a couple of weeks. I think I would try once to go there and see if I still get the feeling of freedom at that place.

ONE OF MY MAGIC WORDS

Mumma, what are magic words?” asked Joey.

There are three magic words – Thank you, Please and Sorry. And you know where to use which magic words, right?” I asked.

Yes, but why are they called magic words?” Joey asked again.

Because whenever you say these words, it does magic on the other person and other person feels very good. And in turn that gives you happiness too.” I tried to explain…

Ok mumma, I will try to use them.” he ran away immediately after uttering these words…

The same evening when Joey had a fight with a friend over sharing his favorite, he apparently hit one of his friends who went crying back home. When I asked him to say “Sorry”, he stomped his feet, shouted on me and started crying hysterically. Well, these are the everyday stories of being a mother.

Later when he calmed down –

Joey, why didn’t use the magic word when I asked you to? You know your friend would have felt so much better if you would have.” I told him gently…

Mumma, I don’t like ‘Sorry’ word. I like the other two, but not this one.” He told me innocently.

Why is that?” I asked him hoping that I don’t probe him too much.

I don’t know.” He looked at me expecting that maybe I know why he doesn’t like just this magic word.

You know what, it is difficult to use this magic word. Because this magic word makes you realize that you did something bad. It makes you feel guilty (I know for sure he doesn’t know what this word means). And you have to say it when probably you are getting too angry or frustrated with the other person. That’s why you don’t like it.” I told him almost sure he didn’t understand.

Then why do I have to use it?” this time he asked with tears in his eyes.

Because as soon as you use it, you will feel much better. And you can be friends again with your best friend. Isn’t it? Do you want to play with your friend again?” I asked

He nodded.

Then you have to give up your anger and apologize to him. Once you do that, he will also become happy and you can be friends again.” I told him

He called up his friend immediately and apologized. It hardly took 30 seconds for them to reconcile and they were back again to being best friends. They are just two 4-year-old boys who struggle to get over their anger and ego to apologize.

At work, we follow agile methodology of software development. That basically means that we plan the work only for 2 weeks and at the end of the two weeks, the whole team meets and discusses what went really well in last two weeks and what could have been improved. It is also an opportunity for the team to appreciate each other.

My role in the team is to define the plan for these two weeks and set the right priorities for the team. So, if I mess up – the team ends up working on something that might not be needed. And I do have messed up at times which made the team suffer. It isn’t a good place to be at. And when such things happen, I dread the session at the end of the 2 weeks. Because I know that I would be put on the spot and will be questioned on my decisions.

To prep for these sessions, I only tell myself that “It is ok to mess up, but it absolutely not ok to make excuses for it. If I messed up, I need to own it up and apologize and take the corrective actions. There is nothing else that I can do better to rectify.”

Every single time that I have owned up my issues and decisions – it has worked wonders. Sometimes working with other teams, I really struggle when another person is not ready to own it up. You got to own up and apologize – that is the only way forward. Otherwise, it is only a blame game and we adults look worse than the two 4-year-old boys who keep blaming each other for not sharing, snatching and hitting. Somebody needs to tell us, adults, that magic words really work – use them appropriately and you will save so much time and energy.