TO BE REMEMBERED OR NOT TO BE

There are approximately 360,000 babies born per day and 15,000 births per hour worldwide. That is more than twice the number of people who die each day – meaning 180,000 people die each day, approximately. That’s statistics!

But to each family, a birth or a death is an event to remember. And when the one who is born accomplishes some remarkable feat, the world remembers him/her for years together.

History engraves the likes of Einstein, Edison, Newton, Marx, Graham Bell, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther, Maradona, Pele in its glorious pages. We also have the likes of Osama bin Laden, Fidel Castro, Hitler, Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and such others enshrined in the annals of history.

Think of the doorkeeper at your office – would you remember him several years after you quit your job? Umm . . . may be or may be not . . . not unless there is something significant about him or you’ve had some interesting conversation or a really nasty altercation with him! Isn’t it?

To etch ourselves in the memories of others, we need to be significant or do something of significance. Or at least, that’s how the common perception goes.

As I fast forward a few years of my life and then look backwards, to observe whether or not the footprints that I have made along the shores of my earthly life have withstood the tests of time, what do I see?

A portion of the Bible comes to my mind, which deals with this very issue. It is an allegory of a building that has been built on a strong foundation.To paraphrase it in my words –

Each one should build with care. If anyone builds on the foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is. Fire tests the quality of each person’s work. After the work goes through fire if what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss . . . but may himself survive the flames.

Do I want my works to be razed to the ground and relegate into oblivion? Or do I want my works to withstand the tempests of time and gaze loftily heavenwards?

What do I want to leave behind?

This life of mine has been soaked by the immense love of my Saviour, to whom I owe my every breath. His grace abounds in my life. Having no goodness in me whatsoever, I bask in His love and grace each day each moment.

In this life, I attempt to showcase this love and grace towards my fellowmen to the little extent doable by me. In a world largely bereft of love, I strive to awaken the love chords in human hearts. In times of vastly degrading values, I seek to make each precious one aware of the rich values that they are endowed with. Where each one competes to win the race shoving the others aside, I attempt to pick the fallen ones up and enthuse into them the zest to rise up and run again. To put my arm around those who long for an embrace and to give a reason to smile to those whose faces are streaked with dried tears – that is what I strive to do each passing day.

These are easier said that done. At times, I think to myself – why do people have difficulty in understanding love? Why do people have difficulty in accepting grace? These virtues of love and grace don’t cost anything in tangible terms . . . in fact, the world is hungry for love. Somehow, there is an unseen barrier that prevents people from exhibiting these qualities of the head and heart and also from responding to them.  

Whether or not I am remembered for these, I may not be there to see. How far I can do justice to these deeds of mine, I do not know. I may not reach the heights of the great ‘who’s whos’ of the world and get my name etched in golden letters or be eligible for a wax statue at Madame Tussauds. But, the impact it would cast on a few precious lives will far outweigh the remembrances and accolades.

William Wordsworth pens his famous lines in the poem ‘Lines written a Few miles above Tintern Abbey’ –                                                 

His little, nameless, unremembered acts 

Of kindness and of love. 


Such little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love are what I would strive to cast on the sands of time in the course of journey along life’s shores.
 

 

 

Advertisements

RAISED FROM THE PIT – II

Arunima was hurrying to work that day. She had taken half the day off from work as she had been quite unwell the previous day. Now she had to reach school before the recess time was over.

‘Mumbai is so different from Kolkata’, sighed Arunima to herself, applying the brakes of her car, as the traffic light turned red. She was blessed enough to find this job just a month after shifting to Mumbai. But, the hustle and bustle of the tinseltown soon started wearing her off.

As she was going over the events of the last few months, she thanked God to have gifted Arnab as her husband. His transfer orders came suddenly and they had only a week’s time to pack up and leave. Arunima had never been to any city outside her home state before. Though she was a smart young woman of the day, she was quite apprehensive. Afterall, so much is heard about big cities being unsafe. Moreover, she would be so far from her family, friends and the surroundings in which she had spent her life till then. But, Arnab had been so very supportive in preparing her to embrace the change.

A faint smile spread across her lips as she remembered how loving Arnab was. It was then, just then, that her eyes caught this thin young boy moving from car to car with a few bunches of red roses, apparently trying to sell them. Immediately her friend’s words came to her mind – “Don’t entertain any strangers and don’t get swayed by any seemingly poor person in Mumbai. There are big rackets operating there. They know how to identify gullible people like you.”

As the boy approached her car, she quickly raised the glasses of her car window. The boy knocked for sometime on the window, trying to draw her attention. But, Arunima didn’t even look in that direction. After a few seconds, the lad turned away and walked to the car next to hers.

Arunima gazed at the boy’s retreating figure without any emotion. Just then the traffic light turned green and she sped away to her workplace without a second thought.

The next day, Arunima saw the boy again at the same traffic junction – the same red and blue chequered shirt and loose black trousers with bunches of red roses in his hands. The way he was approaching the people stuck in traffic was so different. Arunima observed from a distance, that the boy didn’t make a pitiable face. His demeanour was one of confidence, yet with a child-like innocence writ on his face.

He approached Arunima’s car. Today, she did not raise the glasses. ‘Ma’am would you like a bunch of roses for any loved one?’, the boy asked in chaste Marathi. Arunima had started picking up the nuances of the language of the city, a little. She looked at the boy and shook her head. Her eyes met his innocent eyes for a minute as he smiled understandingly and turned away.

That day, Arunima couldn’t take the boy out of her mind. Those innocent eyes, that dry smile pounded her heart.

Each day as Arunima left home for work, she would have the boy in her mind, hoping in her heart that he would be there at that traffic point. Even though she had not yet bought flowers from him and shook her head each day when he approached her car, the sight of him somewhat relieved her.

She grew curious about the boy with each passing day and thought of discussing with Arnab.

THE SAGA OF THE LOST POSITIONS AND MEDALS

To not have something that you wish, is a loss.

To let go of something that you cherish, is a loss.

To have something, yet not have it entirely to yourself is a loss.

Myriad are such experiences that life brings across!

 Life often spins mixed blessings. It was the day my Grade 12 results were to be declared. I was waiting with a lot of anticipation as I had worked very hard at my studies. My teachers were expecting me to make it to the State Merit List and I as well as my family were hopeful for that to happen too. In my heart of hearts, I was secretly hoping to see my name as the state topper in Humanities – though any position in the State Merit List would bring satisfaction! The result was declared by the State Education Minister and was telecasted LIVE. Along with the statistics, the name of the topper was declared. It was not me! While there was a sinking feeling, I knew that I would surely be in the List. It would still take some more time for the result to be available on the internet. So, my loving father sped to my college where generally the result list is made available. A few hours later, he entered the colony gate honking his bike as much as possible. As I rushed outside, he showed two fingers. My joy knew no bounds to realize that I was in the second position in the State Merit List.

My teachers called to congratulate me and asked for my detail marks. As I told my marks to one of my teachers, she was astonished at my internal marks in one particular subject. Six marks had been reduced from what the examiner had given me!! And I had missed the first position by just two marks. Everyone was very upset. The initial joy dampened. Heated discussions went on in my college. My parents were very sad. Talks of an enquiry, made the rounds – as it was a clear cut case of deliberate tampering.

That is when, I put my foot down saying that I thank God for whatever He has given me. God is in control of the entire universe and of every aspect of my life as well. Out of 1.6 lakhs candidates who appeared the exam that year, if God could take me to the second position, He could have very well prevented the misdeed and taken me to the top. If He didn’t, it was for a purpose known best to Him. So, no need for any enquiry.

And thus, I missed out on a Gold Medal!

What came to my mind as a 17-year old then was – Did I do something wrong because of which God kept back this blessing from me? I did some soul-searching, because after all, as children we are taught that God punishes us for our wrongs. But, then God reminded me a verse from Psalm – If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” And then another verse – as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Both these verses together spoke to me loud and clear that time.

While there is a human consequence for every wrong action, God does does not deal with us as our wrongdoings deserve. Had He been dealing with us as our actions deserve, none of us would have survived. Sin is so grossly disagreeable with God! Rather, God deals with us with immense patience and grace, teaching us to depend on Him and trust Him for everything against all odds.

Three years later . . .

I was waiting for my Graduation result. The result was declared. I had topped the University in my subject. I was thrilled. But, here too there was a dampener! My University awarded Gold Medals only to few subjects which had sponsorship. My subject was not on the list.

Yet again, lost the opportunity to be awarded a Gold Medal . . . this time, even after being the University topper!!

Two years later . . .

I completed my Post Graduation. The examination was tough, but had gone well for me. I was the only one in my department to have done an empirical research as my Dissertation, while all others in my batch had done Review work. My work was appreciated by the external examiner and has been published in a national journal (http://medind.nic.in/jak/t09/s1/jakt09s1p40.pdf). Everyone knew that I would be the highest scorer that year. But when the result came out, I was devastated to know that I was in the second position and my friend whom I had helped a lot during the preparation phase, was  the topper. That day, I broke down! I just couldn’t believe it. It was next to impossible.

Years later, I got to know the inside story. A tiff between two of my Professors had led to one of them reducing my marks even after the result was finalized.

Lost a final opportunity to get a Gold Medal!

That is when God comforted me by reminding the verse from the Bible from the book of Revelation that speaks about Heaven – Each of the twelve gates was a solid pearl. The streets of the city were made of pure gold, clear as crystal.” I told myself, that accomplishments in this world would last for a while. Each year there would be some new person who would be awarded a medal . . . and my name would soon get replaced with someone else’s. Moreover, I would leave behind the accolades when I die. So, what is it to crib and cry if I didn’t get to wear a Gold Medal around my neck! I was joyful in praising God for His bountiful mercies . . . as He made me realize these precious truths.

Dear reader, you may have lost something very precious in your life – something/someone that is irreplaceable. Don’t be dejected. God is in complete control of your life. It may not make sense now perhaps, as you count your losses. But, if you believe in the assurance of His control, His peace will reign over your heart, as was in my case.

TEAR DOWN THE BARRIERS THAT SEAR THE HUMAN HEART

The silent tears of a heart torn apart often stir the soul than many an uttered word.

Ever observed the tear of a mother sending her son into the Armed Forces to safeguard the nation – proud, yet fearful? Ever observed the tear of a young widow by the casket of her beloved husband, her world ripped apart? Ever observed the tears of a sick and ailing helpless man unable to fend for himself or his family – wallowing in abject poverty? Ever observed the tears that wet the pillows of lovers unable to break societal barriers and bring their love to its desired destination?

The welcome tears of the cry that tear across the din of the hospital wards and the anxious hearts of to-be-parents and relatives, marks the beginning of our tryst with tears. And life’s unending travails make sure that the lacrimal gland functions to its optimum potential amidst situations both joyful and sad.

It is a hard heart that doesn’t shed a tear when the circumstance so demands. ‘Boys don’t cry’ is the opinion of a culture that shuts the doorway of normal expression of intense feelings, so much so that generations become insensitive and rigid to their own biological make-up. And such a thought makes ‘cry-babies’ of girls/women, who give vent to their emotions through harmless streams of tears.

I once heard someone say – ‘Men are men only if they are aggressive; and women are women only when they know how to cry’. I pity the lack of understanding of human emotions this person had! Men of character, all through history are men who have known how to shed a tear. The inability to shed tears is not a test of manliness!

Without getting into gender battles on this ground, it is the need of the hour to be sensitive and sensitize each one to the tears of others.

Tear down the dogmas that bring tears in the eyes of others. Sometime back, I watched a horrific video of some upper caste women stripping two lower caste women naked in front of fellow villagers, tying their hair to each other’s and kicking them. The crime? The two women had taken water from the place belonging to the upper caste people because there was no water in their area! Broods of brutes were watching and filming the episode, but for a long time no one had the sense and sensitivity to step in and raise their voices, till the authorities were informed. The tears of the two women had no effect on the crowd! How those two women sighed later that – dying of thirst would have perhaps been more honourable than quenching our thirst at the cost of such humiliation which is worse than death itself! If your dogmas cause misery to others and bring painful tears to their eyes, tear down those dogmas.

Tear across dividing lines to spring open oases of joy in parched hearts. Nothing ever can stop you from making your way into human hearts that yearn for showers of love, care and tenderness. All that is needed is the desire to look beyond – to look beyond ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’ and ‘mine’. Wipe someone’s tears before you think about yours. Provide for someone before you worry about your wants. Look for opportunities, look for aching hearts, look for ailing people, look for lonely ones – and you’ll be surprised how less painful your aches will be and how less lonely you will feel. Sensitize yourself to look beyond the dividing lines – to venture into less trodden territories.

Let’s do our bit. Will my sensitivity change the world? It may not. But, tiny drops of water make mighty oceans. The ripple effect which your and my sensitivity will create will help wipe the tears from many eyes. We cannot create heaven on earth, though our hearts so much long for it. However till we experience heaven in reality, let us open its gateway for ourselves and for others in planet earth.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” – The Bible

This is the promise of Heaven!

 

CONNECT WITH CAUTION

When I was in the Third Grade, I enjoyed the companionship of a wonderful friend in my class. Her father, being a doctor with the government had been transferred to the city where I lived and she had got admitted to my school. We shared two years of beautiful friendship. And then when we were in Grade Five, her father got transferred again. We both were very sad to part with each other, never knowing whether we would ever meet each other again.

Those were not the days of easy and cheap accessibility to mobile phones and internet. WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype and the like were not even in the picture. All houses were not privileged to have land phone connections also. But the good news for both of us was that we had land phones in our houses. So we exchanged our addresses and land phone numbers. And thus, began our exchange of long and short letters. We were learning letter-writing in our respective schools that time. Naturally, our letters to each other were strictly in the format that was taught by our teachers – with all the formal salutations and all. (I would never write a friendly letter so formally if I were to write one, today!)

Though we had land phones, the connectivity was not easy. Intercity calls had to be Trunk Booked. (To explain those of this present generation, intercity calls had to be routed through a common operator who would in turn connect to the required number and call you back. And so you could speak for some time with a person from another city or state.) These STD calls were tariffed at a higher price than the normal calls within the city. But, the tariff rates were much low very early in the morning and late at night.

I remember waking up at 5 o’ clock on weekends to book a call to my friend. To prevent my parents from waking up, I used to reduce the volume of the phone so that when the operator called back with the connection, the ring of the phone won’t disturb the sleep of others.

Connectivity seemed cumbersome then. But, it was exciting. The wait of a whole week to be able to chat with a friend was richly rewarding in terms of the joy and satisfaction it gave.

Fast forward twenty years . . .

The Digital Age where connectivity is just a click away has made it possible to access loved ones anytime anywhere. The whole world seems to be so small, after all. People can even participate in weddings and social functions from different parts of the world over the web. The regret of physical absence can be compensated by emotional fulfilment of one’s virtual presence on such occasions.

Its more than twenty years now, since my friend and I wrote letters to each other and made STD calls to hear each other’s voice. I have recently shifted from one city to another. Now, I no longer do I have to wake up early to book calls to my loved ones in the other city, nor do I have to write letters. ‘I am just a phone call away’, I had told them while parting. Mobile phones, WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. make sure that we remain connected to each other and are a part of each other’s joys, sorrows and other life events.

While it is so exciting to get to know who is upto what, to display one’s talents and achievements, to share one’s thoughts and views, to mobilize public opinion on issues of social nature, putting personal data on the public forum is scary indeed. No matter how tight your security settings are, those in the business know how to have access to it. And no, I’m not referring to hackers only. Professional data collecting agencies can get unprofessional too. The big scandal of the Cambridge Analytica is an example that speaks for itself.

It feels so nice to see Facebook compile the whole year’s events that you have posted and present a video clipping at the end of the year or send you a reminder of what you had posted on the same date five years back. However, it is scary to realize that there are minds who are analyzing and scrutinising our posts – and they are NOT in our ‘Friends List’!

My purpose is not to scare you to an extent that you shun all social networking sites and confine yourself to your room. The intention is to caution you – ‘Beware of what you Share. What you Share, stays in There’.

Be wise enough not to share anything and everything in the social networking sites. More than the satisfaction from the number of ‘Likes’ you get, you create memories for analyzers doing their job. The information which wouldn’t harm you or others even when it gets into the hands of other parties can be comfortably shared. So, use your discretion. Don’t be hasty to upload something just because you are feeling bored and have nothing to do. Exercise restraint.

Technology sure, does make life easier and brings closer those who are miles apart. But it also pushes those who are close, far away from each other.

Let’s be wise in keeping technology under our control and not end up being controlled by it. Connectivity is an essentiality in the world today. No longer do people travel by ships for months together to cross continents. A few hours in an airline of your choice, and you can land up in any part of the world. That’s the ease and blessing of connectivity. Wisdom lies in NOT making it an excuse to increase the distance between each other, before looking for means to bridge the gap.

COMING OF AGE – XII

“Now what?”, snapped Rishi. “Till now the going has been smooth. But with exams soon approaching, I don’t want to be a part of all this anymore. This doesn’t seem to be getting over anytime soon.”

“So smart of you! You walk in to the party and have your slice of the cake and walk out irrespective of whether others have a bite for themselves or not. So . . . so . . . selfish! That Miss Dumbie Tanya was right about you – mean is what your nature is. Disgusting . . . Huhh!”, Aditi retorted in a single breath.

“Guys, lets plan for the next turn of events quickly. And you two, better stop this infighting. This would give us away. United we stand, divided we fall,” chipped in Priya.

Rishi, Aditi and Priya were having a video conferencing chat from their homes.

Tanya had taken the day off. The events of the last few days had created a slushy mesh in her mind. After her conversation with her mother that morning, she saw her mother’s gentle side – a mother’s concerned heart, which she had not seen earlier. Or may be her mother had never shown earlier, busy that she was with her own life.

She regretted allowing the fleeting emotions of teenage to drive her feelings to an utter mess. How easily had she played into the hands of someone – the one she only knew as her secret admirer! And how easily, had she gone on that blind date! The thought of it all sent a shudder down her spine.

“How to get out of all this now?”, she said aloud. “With whom shall I share this stupidity of mine? Mom may be the right person. But, she will remind me of this idiocy of mine constantly in the days ahead. I can’t think of anyone . . . I feel as if my brain will burst out of my head. What to do? Oh God!!”

God . . .oh yes . . .God! He can help me. No way that He would pester me with this episode after all this is over. He won’t judge me as Mom may. It will be easier telling Him because He has been a silent witness to it all, already – thought Tanya.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

So thinking, Tanya sat up from her reclining position. Knowing that there was no one in the house that time, she took the liberty of talking out aloud to God. “Dear God, well, I haven’t trusted you much. But, now I am in a situation in which I need your help. Please don’t refuse. Please help me find out who my secret admirer is and what this Aditi girl is upto. I am really really confused and I can’t sort this out on my own. Umm…yes, I am sorry I didn’t think to seek your guidance before. But, now please help me out.”

Tanya stretched her arms and legs and got down from the bed. She turned the Music Player ON and thought to sweat herself out on a few aerobic numbers before heading for  a shower.

“You were the one so very desperate to bag the first position and somehow beat Tanya – the unbeatable. And now that you think she is distracted enough not to be able to focus well on the upcoming exam, you want out! Your goal is on the way to be achieved, so it seems . . . But, ours is not yet achieved. So hear it well Rishi, you have no choice. You cannot back out now. You better not!,” said Aditi with a menacing threat sharply evident in her tone.

COMING OF AGE – II

Are all moms so difficult? Huhh!!”, muttered Tanya softly to herself as she unlocked her car. Her car had become her buddy since the last two months. It was a gift from her parents on her eighteenth birthday – yet another proof to testify their love – Tanya had thought then. But whatever, this status symbol had given Tanya the respect and attention among her peers which had definitely boosted her self-esteem. Oh how much she loved to flaunt her granite sedan each day, as she honked her way past the college gate towards the parking lot!

May be it was during those haughty entry times that her secret admirer had noticed her. The thought of her secret admirer brought a shy smile on Tanya’s face. With butterflies fluttering in her stomach, she changed the gear and accelerated the speed of the car. There was still a long way to drive. They had agreed to meet in Family Kingdom – an Amusement Park in the outskirts of Delhi – a place which was frequented by families and picnic groups. It was a two-hour drive for Tanya and she hadn’t driven that long ever.

She was careful not to exceed the speed limit as she still had only a learner’s license. The more she tried to focus on the way the Route Navigator was guiding her, the more her thoughts pulled her towards that unknown admirer for whom she had developed a fond likeness by then.

Who could it be, after all?”, Tanya pondered aloud for the tenth time that morning. And as in all the previous times, she shrugged her shoulders with disappointment quite evident in her face. Is he finally the one she had been waiting for, all these years – the one who would sweep her off her feet with his genuine love and affection for her?

A strange fear crept into her mind suddenly. What if he turned out like all those who had portrayed that false impression of love, earlier? She had been cautious before allowing the words of those letters to mean something to her. But, somehow the words in the letters were full of warmth and truth. She couldn’t ignore.

And so, it was she who had suggested that they meet. She was sure that it must be someone from her class or one of her seniors. “Whoever the person is, must be a genuine person indeed!”, said Tanya aloud with an increased anticipation of meeting her admirer.

She was now driving on the highway. She lifted her hands from the steering wheel and stretched them on either sides, with a feeling of confident satisfaction lighting across her face. It was just then that she noticed the white Baleno behind her. It struck her that the car had been trailing her from the time she left home some time back!

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

An eerie fear gripped her. She frantically searched her handbag with her left hand while taking control of the steering wheel with her right. After a few seconds of poozling, she fished out a can of pepper spray and placed it on the dashboard. “It will come handy,” her friend had said while urging her to purchase one. She then looked for the Police Helpline number and kept her phone in front of her.

Tanya decided to play a few mind games with the driver of the other car. She alternated speeding up and slowing down to almost a snail’s pace. No matter what she did, the car trailing hers did the same. A cold sweat broke down from her brow and the feeling of happiness gave way to pensive fear.