HEART LANGUAGE OR THE LANGUAGE OF THE TONGUE?

“How are your eyes, Amma?”, I asked over the phone.

“No Amma, we are not eating much rice these days. We have limited our diet due to health issues”, replied my mother-in-law.

It wasn’t that she had not understood my question. I realised that she had merely misheard my question. I repeated the query, this time with child-like clarity to which she replied appropriately and we continued the rest of our conversation heartily.

Its a joy to converse with my parents-in-law everyday though miles separate us and our respective mother tongues seem to pose barriers. But, we do not allow linguistic barriers to obstruct the unalloyed outflow of love that emanates from the deep recesses of our hearts.

On one of my visits, my mother-in-law and I got into packing goodies for relatives. At a particular point, forgetting that I am still an infant in Telugu, she gave me a series of instructions in Telugu. I kept staring at her, unable to decipher a word and then went on to do the things exactly the way I had been doing before. She stopped me unapprovingly and said, “Oho…no, not like that.” I looked at her blankly and then we both burst out into peals of laughter.

No doubt common spoken language helps articulate the message of the mind, but understanding the human heart resonates beyond the horizons of spoken and written language.

I enjoy my father-in-law’s hearty laughter each time I ask him, “How are you, Daddy?” The other day, I asked as usual. He replied in his usual style, “We are well, Amma. God has given us enough strength to go about our daily activities. That is enough for us.” “No, Daddy you are not well. What happened?”, I asked with concern. He seemed very surprised and asked, “How did you know?”, as he went on to admit that he was indeed unwell, having been out the whole day in the scorching summer sun the previous day.

The linguistic diversity across the length and breadth of India is one of its unexplainable precious assets that binds hearts and encapsulates the mind. Having had the exposure to people of many Indian languages, I didn’t think interacting with my South Indian in-laws would pose a problem for the East Indian me. We enjoy a bond of love that expands way beyond our linguistic limitations.

On one occasion, my mother-in-law said, “Please learn Telugu. I want to talk a lot with you.” “You can talk Amma, I can understand koncham koncham (little little),” I replied. She laughed and shared a similar experience from her job days when a team of Hindi-speaking North Indian supervisors had visited her workplace and started conversing in Hindi and she had replied in English, “I know Hindi thoda thoda (little little).”

I can go on sharing several such anecdotes as a testament of our bond of love, but I would limit myself to just these for now as I attest the fact that the language of the heart is nothing but the language of love, which when built upon creates unshakeable towers of relationships, but, which when nibbled at, gradually causes relationships to dissipate into thin air.

OF SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

“I wish I was a deaf and dumb person! If I was deaf, I wouldn’t have to listen to all the derogatory things said to me. And if I was dumb, I wouldn’t talk stuff that irritate others. Better still, I think I should die. That would be the end of all my problems.”

An excerpt from a 10-year old’s chat which I received last week after she received a mouthful from well-meaning, but frustrated parents.

As adults, many of us have learned in the course of time to give a deaf ear to the harsh words of others or to mend our ways after getting a dose of constructive criticism which might not necessarily be music to the ears. But, is it the same for children?

There were times when spanking wasn’t really frowned upon. Rather, it was considered to be one of the corrective measures needed to discipline children. There were times when severe scoldings from parents, teachers, and elders made children rethink their actions and mend their ways. At least it was true for a majority of the population, with only a few scattered here and there who took the rebel route.

But, times are different now. We have highly observant children now who don’t hesitate to talk back. Call it genetic evolution or the influence of media or civilizational progress, children today are sharper, argumentative, rebellious, curious, independent, and thoughtful than those of the previous generations. They are not as compliant and submissive as most parents would want their darlings to be. To top it all, they are so very touchy!

There are numerous pieces in newspapers of late, of suicides by children who were either reprimanded for a wrong or refused access to gadgets – all which parents thought are measures of disciplining their children. But, the consequences proved to be disastrous thereby imparting strong messages to society and numerous amendments in Child Laws at the cost of precious lives.

So, what do we do? Give in to the whims and fancies of our children? Stop disciplining them? Use only sugar-coated words and ignore their wrongs? Keep worrying about their feelings and emotions all the time without caring for their holistic development? If our children are always kept in an aura of positivity, how will they learn to take negative feedback in their stride?

These and such other questions are bombarded by worried parents. Well, the approach to negative feedback is different for children and for adults. I will not dwell on those in this write-up. While adults are not expected to be childish in their response to negative feedback, children must also not be expected to behave in overly mature ways in response to criticism.

‘Sensitivity’ and ‘sensibility’ are the two words I want to leave behind for all to ponder upon. Criticisms, negative feedback, reprimands – all are parts and parcels of life. The way they are accepted depends most of the time on the way they are delivered and the outcomes they generate.

A PIGEON’S MISCARRIAGE

On opening the door to my residential quarters after a month long absence, I was greeted with a bearably faint musty odour, a thin film of dust on all surfaces, a few cobwebs here and there – signs of briefly uninhabited premises! As I flung open the connecting doors and windows to let the chilly winter breeze do a few oscillations and ventilate the house, I was glad that there wasn’t really much cleaning up to do after all. This relief was about to last for just a few seconds!

No sooner had I opened the door to my bathroom, that I took a step back at what I saw. A pigeon’s nest had fallen from an open vent above right on the toilet seat!!

Well, there was work after all!

As I picked up the twigs, small branches and dried leaves, I looked up sensing a brief movement. Lo and behold! Mama pigeon was cozily sitting on her eggs, having built a brand new nest.

It took some time for me to clean up the mess during which the nesting perseverance of the pigeons was something I pondered upon.

As I resumed official work the next day to be greeted with heaps of pending files, Mama pigeon and the nest was the last thing on my mind!

It wasn’t meant to be that way for long, though.

I returned home after the day’s work only to find the new nest broken (and yes, fallen on the toilet seat, to my great displeasure). Having no other way out, as I started clearing up the clutter, I found a broken egg amidst the dried leaves and twigs.

Who knows what instincts would have crisscrossed Mama pigeon’s mind, having had two broken nests and one broken egg. Will she build her nest again? Will she give up? Will she be able to have any squabs this season? Ah well! That’s the pigeon’s life!

This drove me to think about the countless women worldwide who miscarry their unborns. For every baby that is born there are many fetuses that get miscarried and many still-borns who remain as bars on the tally charts leaving many women to gulp their crucibles of sorrow silently. How many of them get cared for by their partners, family and friends before they heal up – physically and emotionally?

The Mama pigeon’s miscarriage might have stirred up her instincts with probably none of her kiln having an inkling to it. We humans can surely do much better!

MENTAL HEALTH FOR ALL

American gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the Tokyo Olympic floor final earlier this year to focus on her mental health. She has not minced words in documenting her struggles with mental health in posts on her social media accounts. Mind you, she has been a reigning champion – a superstar!

Of late, mental health has been drawing the much needed attention from several quarters. Celebrities coming out to share their mental health struggles has immensely furthered the cause, which is otherwise considered to be a stigma in most parts of the world.

If you are a person who still thinks that there is a lot of unwanted fuss being made about ‘mental health’ and that there are other issues that deserve more attention, then you really need to rethink. Just as one would nurse a bruised limb in case of an injury, a wounded mind also needs to be nursed.

Be it about the physical, social, spiritual or psychological issues, we humans focus more on the seen than on the unseen. And this shapes our behaviour most of the times. However, what is unseen is more crucial than what is seen!

Have you ever attended a Puppet Show? Not only children, but adults too are attracted towards the colourful talking, singing, jumping puppets. But, what attention would puppets draw without puppeteers or marionettists doing their jobs well, behind the screen? The voices of the puppets and their movements are all regulated by the puppeteers. Puppets look attractive, but without voices and movements, they won’t be any different than dolls or other toys that kids play with and no one would accord them much attention. What is unseen is significant to the visible performance of a Puppet Show and that by large determines the success of the show!

We humans focus so much on what we consciously perceive, that we ignore the major preconscious and unconscious zones of our minds. What is concealed comprises of more than what is revealed. And, this concealed zone influences the revealed zone greatly.

This article is not about training the preconscious and unconscious minds. Rather, the intent of this article is to drive home the point that since a person is more than what you and I see him or her as, and since a person’s behaviour is regulated by factors more than what is seen in the external environment, we need to be sensitive to each other’s mental health.

Who are the target groups?

Everyone.

Starting from foetal stage till grey hairs right  upto the grave – each one needs mental health care.

Mental health deterioration in a person (if it happens) starts from the time s/he is conceived owing to environmental stressors and genetic predispositions. When we ensure sound mental health of an expectant mother, we ensure sound mental health of the baby that is born. If the foetus growing within the mother is indirectly exposed to environmental stressors be they in the form of physical/ psychological/sexual/substance abuse, domestic violence, workplace harassment, maternal distress and sicknesses, poor nutrition – the baby that is born either develops a hardy personality (i.e., extreme resilience to stressors and a remarkable ability to cope with them) or develops a vulnerable personality (i.e., extremely sensitive to stressors and ill-equipped to cope with them). Besides purely medical conditions, the genesis of mental ill-health begins from this stage. Hence, foetal mental health is of utmost importance.

Children’s mental health needs a lot of attention too. The way children are shaped and cared for reflects in their adult lives. While the mental health of all children is crucial, those who suffer from disabilities and consequently from low self-esteem, those from single parent or parent absent families, those from war torn parts of the world, those subjected to abuse, those exposed to trauma and other disturbing life events – need specific mental health care.

Adolescent mental health care is crucial as the youngsters leap from childhood into adulthood and dabble with identity, acceptance and self-esteem issues. As they experiment with looks, relationships, careers and largely detest the tons of parental advice that are heaped on them, as they taste success or meet failures – there mental health needs attention. If the adolescent suffers from physical or psychological disorders/ disabilities, targetted mental health care is essential. This is precisely the stage when adolescents need to understand and accept that it is absolutely vital to seek good counsel.

Healthy adults shape up a healthy world. Numerous factors can mar an adult’s mental health. Starting from a lack of social acceptance, repressed childhood memories, to job hazards (harassment, exploitation, deprivation of rights and entitlements, unhygienic environment, layoffs), personal or familial ill-health, financial crises, family disputes, domestic violence, substance abuse and many more such additions to the list – an adult’s mental health requires a lot of care.

During the sunset years of life when one lies in a phase of apparent relaxation, mental health needs to be cared for. This is the time when most aged people are left uncared for, given menials and in many cases given the least attention. This is the time when they feel unwanted, when their desires are left unmet and their thoughts wander without expression. This is the time when most of the aged suffer from various illnesses. While a seed that promises to bear fruits needs care and nurturance, a tree that has borne fruits and flowers throughout life needs to be proffered due dignity.

So you see, all stages of life require mental health care just as they require physical health care.

With this I come to another important aspect which I would urge everyone to ponder upon.

Is mental health consideration meant for the educated and the affluent alone? What about that tramp on the street, the maid in the house, that ragpicker, the child labourer, the trafficked girl in the brothel and all those who find themselves at the receiving end of educational, social, economical deprivation? Those whose primary concerns are two square meals a day, a few old clothes on the body and perhaps someone’s doorstep for shelter? Who cares for their mental health, if at all?

With an unprecedented pandemic hitting the world which was at the helm of economic, technological, social progress like never before – mental health has suffered severe battering. In the last one and half years, there have been reports of increase in crime and domestic violence of humungous proportions – a majority of which have been under reported or have gone unreported. Millions of people have been rendered jobless. Thousands have lost their loved ones. Children have been orphaned.

While mental health professionals are doing their bit to help a wounded world, what can you and I do?

  1. Recognize the need for sound mental of those around you – your spouse, parents, children, siblings, neighbours, colleagues, superiors, subordinates, domestic helps, caregivers, service providers and anyone who you come in contact with.
  2. Cater to their mental health to the extent you can – Understanding words, appreciation, encouragement, connecting to legal/ medical/ mental health professionals as the requirement may be.
  3. Be sensitive – Do not share sensitive details of one person with others without their permission.
  4. Take care of your own mental health – In order to cater to and be sensitive to others’ mental health, one’s own mind needs to be in good health. Take a break when required. Do things that relax you. Arrange for like-minded caregivers to fill in for you in your daily chores as you care for your mind.
  5. Pray – Health is a blessing from God. He alone can grant the serenity and well-being of the mind when the tides rise against us. Whether you are in bliss or in the tumultuous tempests, pray that God keeps your mind tranquil and supple.

God’s plan for mankind was never chaos and destruction. But since we have driven ourselves into it, our mental health has suffered a severe beating. Seeking His strength, we can collectively work together for our own and others’ psychological well-being. May the theme of Mental Health Day 2021 be our focus for life: Mental Health in an Unequal World.

THINK DIFFERENT – THINK WISE

Had man not thought to shelter himself from the vagaries of weather, he would not have built huts, cottages and houses.

Had man not thought of making locomotion easier, carts would not have come into existence.

Man is a thinking creature and hence is referred to as being a ‘higher order primate’ many a times.

Only sometimes does he act before thinking and hence, needs a reminder to THINK.

THINK was Apple’s very first tagline.

But then, not always is it sufficient to think. At times it is essential to THINK DIFFERENT.

Creative Thinking is a booming market where thinking out-of-the-box is encouraged, recognized and honoured. Most organizations have posts of Creative Manager, Creative Head and Creative Director. The task of such personnel is to take decisions that are new and novel, to troubleshoot problems using never-before-used strategies, to suggest ways and means of growth for the organization that would be a win-win amidst existing competition. Their task is to think differently.

Imagine, if Thomas Alva Edison would not have thought differently about the production of light! We would’ve probably never had our rooms illuminated by incandescent bulbs. What if Nick Holonyak wouldn’t have thought differently? We wouldn’t have had the shift from incandescent bulbs to LED lights lighting our homes today. Had Joni Eareckson Tada not thought differently after a diving accident left her a paraplegic, she probably wouldn’t have been the author, painter and motivational speaker that she is today!

Be it the innovations that we see around us and marvel in awe or the people who have risen from ashes and reached the upper echelons of success or those who overcame their broken lives and went on to spread their fragrance around – all of these are the outcomes of people who dared to THINK DIFFERENT and strived hard to make their thoughts bear fruits.

So then, are there a different class of people blessed with the ability to think different?

Its a firm NO.

Each of us has the ability to think different. Some have scope of expressing and experimenting their thoughts and so come into the limelight, while for many others, such thoughts get snuffed out before fruition. Some have their unique thoughts flowing out naturally and freely, whereas some others need to be trained and encouraged to let their creative thoughts flow out.

To what extent can one THINK DIFFERENT?

The reigns of the mind once let loose, can scale heights and depths of limitless dimensions. Should the mind be bridled? Or left to run scot free?

Probably the Creative Head of Apple would have thought on similar lines!

Apple’s new motto now reads – THINK DIFFERENT – BUT NOT TOO DIFFERENT.

Railway tracks confine a train’s wheels to run along its surface so that the train can reach its destination unhindered. One wheel out of the track, and you know what would happen.

While each of us have been blessed with enormous cognitive faculties to stretch them far and wide, there also need to be certain boundaries within the latitude of acceptance so that human civilization progresses without much tumult.

THINK about it.

THINK DIFFERENT.

THINK DIFFERENT – BUT NOT TOO DIFFERENT.

. . . if you wish to follow the footsteps of Apple.

FORTY WINKS TO BETTER PERFORMANCE

“To meet any eventuality and to ensure smooth management of relief and rescue operations which may arise out of flood-like situation due to the heavy rainfall occurred in this district, it is hereby ordered that all officers shall remain present in their respective headquarters including Sunday. Any absence will be viewed seriously and action such as deemed proper will be taken against the defaulting person.”

Orders such as these are not uncommon in my line of work. But, what made me smile on receiving this order two days before was the fact that just few minutes before receiving this order, I had seen a WhatsApp message to write on the topic – ‘REST’ for CandlesOnline. I had volunteered to write for Monday, thinking that I could write leisurely on Sunday. But, what an irony it turned out to be! Leave alone write an article, my rest day was gone! Though losing a day’s rest usually makes one cringe, in emergency situations the call of duty is supreme.

Emergencies emerge every now and then in each of our lives – a loved one suddenly taken ill, a road accident, an unexpected death in the family. These are exceptions requiring occasional adjustments in our schedules for temporary periods during which our rest gets affected. Our bodies adapt, accommodate and rebound without much effort in responses to situations such as these. However, continual deprivation of rest is a silent killer!

Rest (it includes sleep and relaxation) is an integral part of longevity. Research shows that people deprived of adequate rest have a reduced life span, score lower on the performance scale and aren’t able to sustain for long. Machines made to run for durations longer than their performance capacity, often break down. They then need oiling and repair before they start functioning again. Without repair, they simply rust and rot due to disuse.

We humans are so much more than mere machines!

While it is important to find rest times for ourselves, it is equally crucial to identify the need for rest in the people around us. A humanized world is rapidly getting mechanized in a widely expanding digitized world! So much so, that we are increasingly losing sensitivity to the need for rest and relaxation in ourselves and others.  

Heard of the boss who comes to office at mid-day while issuing a whip for his staff to reach office before working hours and makes them to stay on beyond official working hours? An insensitive boss! The rest-deprived employees then vent out their frustration before their families, thus creating an unhealthy environment of depression, fear, anxiety and continual friction. Insensitivity breeds insensitivity!

From of years old, we all have been used to seeing wives and mothers working day in and day out to care for their families. Taking care of sick children, helping in their studies, cooking as per the taste buds of the family members, dusting, cleaning, attending to guests and some even balancing a job alongside. No gender biases, but cultural stereotypes world-over mostly accord the household chores to females, and hence the division of labour. That’s beside the point, since this article is not about gender equality or stereotypes. Be it a man who is engaged in heaps of chores or a woman, each one needs adequate rest. It is not justice for one person to slog for hours together without resting, without any one else lending a helping hand.

Human capital is a rich resource. It contributes aplenty to economic development. Apart from skill and training, the other important factor in assessing and tapping on to valuable human capital is ‘efficiency’. Efficiency is in turn assessed by performance. Performance is directly impacted by rest or the lack of it. Do you see the sequence here? Rest and relaxation indirectly impact economic development big time.

An organization having overworked employees will be an under performer in the long run, compared to organizations offering adequate rest, relaxation and recreation times to employees. Yes, each of us need to be on the toes in a fast-paced world – be it students in their studies or adults at work and home. None of us wants a night’s slumber at the cost of falling behind. Yet, it is wise to let the body clock tick away gracefully rather than pave the way for the clock to leap before time. Recognising the need for adequate rest and unwinding, some work places have a scheduled time for power naps or relaxation avenues like gyms, cafeterias, etc.

Two quick take aways:

DIVIDE AND DELEGATE

You may be a person who can multitask efficiently. Still, identify people around to whom you can delegate some of your tasks. If you are a mother, delegate some tasks to your children. If you are a team leader, delegate tasks to your team members. If you are one of those meticulous perfectionists, who cannot rest in peace without micromanaging, work on yourself to let go of obsessive management and look for smart ways of management with optimum productivity. Use the time saved, for a siesta. A burnt out candle gives no light. It just leaves behind smoky remains. Divide and delegate tasks so that you can continue to glow and shine in the world.

SHARE AND CARE

Look around you for overworked people. It doesn’t mean that you go snooping into others houses, offices or even into other people’s lives. Start from your immediate surroundings. Start at home. Check with your relatives and your immediate community. Share responsibilities so that others get time to rest. Accept delegated tasks without a grumble or a murmur when you have spare time. Awaken the spirit of sensitivity and the sense of realization that people around you need adequate rest. Sharing of responsibilities is a vital indicator of caring for others.

We can contribute towards a healthier world with happier people if we learn to rest well and realize that others need to rest too.

A STORY OF VALOUR

A story of courage that I had read and heard in my childhood, has stayed with me over the years and continues to inspire me even today is the account of David and Goliath. Call it a slice from Israel’s history or a portion of literature, a shepherd boy without formal training in warfare or the weaponry daring to fight a well-equipped giant and defeating him has always been an awe inspiring narrative for me.

It was during one of those times when the Philistines used to attack Israel intermittently, that a giant from the Philistine side came out to openly threaten the Israelite army. It was quite natural for the valiant of all Israelite soldiers to quiver in fear at the sight of a well-equipped more than nine-feet tall giant. No one dared to venture out to face the champion of the Philistines because a defeat was imminent. Day after day the Philistine army led by Goliath continued to threaten the Israelite army. It was at this juncture that David, a shepherd boy who had gone to the Israelite army camp to enquire of the welfare of his brothers who were in the army, got to know the details of what was going on.

David dared to do a few things.

Firstly, David dared to take the decision to fight Goliath.

Secondly, David dared to go before the king and declare that he desired to face the enemy army whom the king’s warriors hadn’t been able to.

Thirdly, being a non-army man he was uncomfortable with the weapons of warfare and the attire that the king asked his men to equip David with and so dared to venture out to the war zone in his shepherd’s clothes.

Fourthly, dared to trust God to be his power-giver.

Finally, David dared to proclaim victory on the face of the giant even before fighting him.

This isn’t merely a story of exemplary courage. On the face of it, it may seem unwise or cowardly for an unarmed lay man to be daring enough to face an equipped army. But, what makes the difference here is the source of David’s courage. David’s courage did not arise from his extraordinary abilities or expertise at warfare or a profound sense of confidence or an adrenaline rush. But, his source of courage came from his deep faith in God who he knew would ensure him victory in this venture.

The account of David and Goliath is a constant reminder that no matter how tall the giants in our lives may be and no matter how ill-equipped to face those giants we may be, with God’s power, we can have the courage to put them flat on the ground and lead victorious lives.