AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER – III

13 years ago, I was in love. I adored him. But, he broke my my heart. No, he didn’t cheat on me. He deceived me. Well, more than a decade has gone by. And, I’m no longer as  hurt as I was then. Perhaps I was too naive to read beyond the face!

 Of late someone has made me realise that its worth to turn over a new leaf. That someone for whom my heart skips a beat is always in my thoughts. I’m afraid . . . I guess I’m falling for him! But, wait . . . once bitten twice shy. Should I give wings to my feelings? Or should I just nip them off? Ummm . . . unable to decide . . .

Tempted to let my guard loose. But, holding myself back. Too many ‘what ifs’ echoing in my ears. Should I give love a second chance in my life? Should I unchain my chained heart? Or should I tighten the shackles not to let myself break free?

Is it love that’s beckoning me? Or a mere illusion that I’m falling prey to? I fail to comprehend. All I know is that my heart is on him. Something within, tells me I won’t be disappointed this time.

‘To be or not to be’, wrote Shakespeare. The same I sigh today!”

This had been Radha’s short blog of the evening. As soon as she hit the Publish button, she felt a bit foolish. After all, how and why did she make her feelings and dilemma public? Did she expect the thousands of strangers who were merely followers of her blogs to influence her life’s decision? Was that what she wanted?

Not exactly . . .

She wanted that one reply – that one voice to influence her decision. How and when she had allowed this person to have a say in her life, she herself didn’t know. Just that she longed for either a nod of approval or a nay of disapproval from him.

Radha woke up to the repeated blaring rings of her door bell. One glance at the cuckoo clock on the wall and she leaped from her bed, a squeal escaping her throat. It was 8 A.M.!!! She ran to open the door to her maid who was understandably irritable as she had come twice already at 6 A.M. and again at 6:45 A.M. – her usual timings on Radha’s working days and holidays respectively. And now, she rang the door bell on her way back from her second work, to just check if all was well. Else, she was determined to call on the police.

Thanks, Ambika . . . thank you”, said Radha and banged the door on her maid’s face as she rushed to the bathroom to freshen up.

Out there, Ambika twitched her face voluntarily and stomped away muttering to herself.

Radha reported for work at 9:30 A.M. every day without fail. She was the first to enter the office building as the work hour started only at 10 A.M. Nobody knew Radha to be late for work ever. And today, her records were going to be broken. There was no way in which she  would reach before 10 A.M. that day! The Mumbai traffic was not expected to have mercy on her.

As she scurried down the stairs of her apartment at 8:30 that morning, having skipped her breakfast and leaving her bed unmade, no thoughts of the previous night made their foray into her mind. Not even when she found Vansh waiting in his car near her apartment, to give her a ride to office that morning. “This would save you from the overcrowded local trains”, he had said. She found no words coming from her mouth, save her hand opening the car door to let herself in. All she could think was to reach office on time at least, if not before. Vansh was Radha’s colleague from another department in the same office. Both knew each other only by the exchange of pleasantries on occasional official meetings or if they happened to pass by each other in the corridor, save for one discussion that they had had along with a group of other colleagues when Radha was animatedly talking about an upcoming mall near her apartment.

Relax”, said Vansh. “I’m the one driving. Your tension cannot make you reach office in a jiffy. You have to rely on me as I wade through the traffic. So, just sit back and rest your mind and body.”

Ah! Well . . . I woke up so very late today and that messed up everything”, whispered Radha calming her breaths while breaking into a faint pleading smile as if she was expected to explain herself.

Suddenly, she realized how unthinkably she had jumped into Vansh’s car a few minutes back. By the way, what was Vansh doing near her apartment? Surely, he couldn’t be passing that way! She very well knew that he lived in the other end of Mumbai. So, what exactly was he doing near her apartment at that time?

Intending to enquire of his detour, she started, “Vansh, what . . .” 

Didn’t sleep well last night?”, her words were drowned by his deep husky voice.

Yes . . . ummm . . .” and soon the events of the previous evening came flooding into her mind.

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COMMIT TO COMMIT

To commit or to refrain,
The very thought often causes anxiety and pain
The constant dilemma,
Makes decision-making a huge enigma

Isn’t it better to be free sans commitment,
To have no strings attached in any involvement?
Seems wiser than to face disappointments
And nurse one’s wounds amidst songs of lament

To commit is to give your word
So stand by it whether come storms or sword
To commit is to take responsibility
Shirk not in the pretext of some inability

Commitment does pose challenges,
As it cuts a part of ‘self’ – the ‘me’ that rules,
But it doesn’t aim to devalue you
It aims to add value, instead

Think before you commit
Don’t let any pressure shape your commitment
But when you do commit
Live by it till your last breath permits.

HOW TO HANDLE YOUR TEENAGER

It has been long said that teenage is a phase of stress and turmoil. Skip a few generations back. When one transitioned from childhood into adolescence and then into adulthood, was scarcely demarcated. It just happened! That’s all that was known. Also, with lack of technological advancements and a dearth of understanding into the human psyche at various phases, there wasn’t any specific attention devoted to different stages of development, except for infancy.

However, the situation is different today. Each individual is more aware of his/her rights, self-esteem and choices. Speaking of today’s teenagers – they are way smarter and well-informed than many of us can think of.

So then, how do parents and caregivers handle teenagers?

1. Your teen may be better informed, but you remain the boss. Do not pass on control into your teen’s hands. How then should you retain control? While parents need to encourage their teens to participate in important decisions involving their own lives and that of the family, they need to reserve the final word for themselves. This is how your teenager would learn to have a say while accepting parental authority. Also, make sure that parents voice the same tone before teens, irrespective of their differences so that your smart teen doesn’t get the space to play games.

2. Do not give in to emotional blackmailing. This is something that needs to be nipped in the bud at childhood, when your child throws tantrums and makes you dance to his/her music. However, teenage emotional blackmailing is a bit different. That’s because teens don’t simply sulk when things are not done their way. They can resort to quite disturbing tactics – like refusing to eat for days together, refusing to go to school/college, getting into disruptive activities with friends, playing ear-blasting music, threatening to commit suicide, and the like. While all these are alarming, none of these should bring you down to your knees. Most importantly, do not lose your emotional balance. Take care that you do not slip into bouts of depression, panic attacks or spells of anxiety, because some teens can be quite a handful and drive you crazy!

3. Always keep communication lines open. Teenagers do not run to parents to get their shirts buttoned or to get their shoe laces tied or to get their tears wiped after hurting their elbows at play, as they did as children. With age and development, they become self-reliant in many aspects of their lives. This is something parents need to accept. However, this does not mean that it’s time for parents to start fading away from the lives of their children. Your children remain your children even when they go on to have children of their own. What is to be understood is that, you need to give your teen the space s/he needs and yet be open for all types of conversations at all times. Do not get antagonistic if your teen shares with you about a boyfriend or girlfriend or confesses a blunder that s/he has committed or asks you questions about sex. If you do so, you will shut a doorway into your teen’s life and cause outsiders to actively intrude in. Respond wisely and calmly.

4. Be role models. While no one is and can be perfect while in this mortal life, it is of utmost importance that parents model a family that they would want their teen to have in future. If your teen sees you drink, then your endless sermons on ‘Don’t drink’ would serve no purpose. If your teenage boy sees his father speaking roughly to his mother or resorting to physical abuse, these traits get unconsciously implanted into his psyche and are likely to surface in later years when he gets married. If your teenage girl sees her mother spending money thoughtlessly, she doesn’t learn to manage money wisely. Be the person that you want your teen to be in thoughts, speech and action. 

5. Commit your teenager into God’s care. Though I am writing this point at the last, I won’t frame it as ‘last but not the least’. Rather, I would put it as ‘first and foremost’. Yes, first and foremost put your teen into God’s hands daily. You cannot be with your teen everywhere all the time. You cannot be a nagging parent prescribing dos and don’ts always. Your teen will commit his/her share of mistakes and will have to face certain consequences which you may find hard to bear. But then, experience is a strong teacher! You need to permit your teen to develop a certain sense of independence and responsibility as s/he grows. You need to have your teen be a person of good character, sound personality and wise choices. And so, you need to commit your teen into the hands of Him who has given him/her life and breath. God alone can mould people from the inside out. He is more concerned about your teen than you. So, each moment commit your teen into God’s hands – for protection, for health, for strength to resist temptations, for studies and career and for prudent choices. You’ll see how He would work wonders!

Accept the fact that your teen is not like you and may not necessarily become like you. S/he is an individual in his/her own right. Maybe you transitioned smoothly across life’s varying phases, while your teen wrecks havoc each day. Look for reasons, but do not blame yourself without reason. Look for ways to manoeuvre yourself and your teen wisely while keeping your calm.

While handling each teenager requires specific strategies that may be case-specific, what I have enlisted in this article entails certain general points that apply to all teens. An equation to sum up: HANDLING TEENAGERS = LOVE + DISCIPLINE + REASONING

Hope this ‘how-to’ article comes of help to parents in this ‘how-to’ week in Candles Online!

FIVE DUMPLINGS FROM MY BOWL OF COUNSEL

As we peregrinate across life’s meandering pathways, certain facts come alive to us – some that have been passed on by wise people of the yesteryears, some that trusted elders have shared over generations and some that we ourselves discover. While all such pearls of wisdom do not come in a one-size-fits-all garb, there are certain generic overarching ones that are meant to be the guiding lights for everyone’s feet.

There are five such messages that I would like to share with the readers of Candles Online – those principles that I myself strive to practice and profess at all times seeking strength from God.

  1. Love all – Two heavy weighted promising words, advised with ease but need to conquer too many battles of the mind to attain fruition. Love is an attribute instilled in the human heart by the Creator who is Love. Because God is Love and He has created man in His image, there is always the yearning inside every soul to love and be loved. No exceptions to this! Think for a while, when you want your desire for love to be fulfilled by people around you, isn’t it also imperative that you strive to fulfill the same desire in others? However, we tend to cage love within self-drawn boundaries. There are times when this seems best. Think of someone by whom you have been hurt. Doesn’t it seem impossible to even think of loving that person ever again? But, this is what God expects of us. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” It is no big deal to love those who love you and care for you. (Well, actually even this is falling short in the world today!) But, to love those who hate you, seems to be an other-worldly attribute that is too hard to think of. This is where human strength and understanding need to tap on God’s strength to show the same grace to others that He shows unto us day by day in spite of our iniquities.
  2. Increase your latitude of acceptance – Each of us has a different set of values, thoughts, attributes, beliefs, and lifestyles. What is commonly observed is that we find difficulty in accepting anything that doesn’t match ours. With rising intolerance in the world around us, differences are projected as reasons for exclusion. Affinity is often defined by similarities. However, it is prudent to note that God has created each person differently, blessed each one with certain strengths and weaknesses and put everyone together. God is not foolish in His design. He accepts us as we are and loves all! He causes the rain and the sunshine on all without discrimination. If the Creator doesn’t show the disparity in His love and acceptance, who then has taught us to differentiate and segregate? Do spare a thought about it in quietness. The only areas of non-acceptance and non-compromise ought to be sinful ways – because sin is against the nature of God. Let us accept people with differences and learn to love them. Love permeates barriers of all sorts!
  3. Strive to know the truth – Children are taught values and mannerisms by parents. And, they carry them forward. That is how customs and traditions are born and sustained generation after generation. This is what makes each family, each culture, each race unique and different from others. While imbibing what is passed down to us, it is important to know things for ourselves as well. In a day and age of rampant consumerism, commercialization, and digitization, many mindless practices are in vogue. To top it all, every action is rationalised. To give an example, last week I came across ‘July 29 – National Lipstick Day’. Well, nothing against wearing lipstick; I too wear them. But, something called National Lipstick Day seemed to be a bit too much (my personal view). As I researched into it, I didn’t find much reason for the day’s observance. We are part of such and many other beliefs and practices. It is essential to know the truth behind all things before following, observing and aping anything that is passed down to us or is being practiced around us.
  4. Prepare for failure – With loads of motivational videos, self-help books, and success mantras, everyone is eager to conquer peaks. While there is absolutely no problem with this, it is also prudent to realise that failure is an inevitable part of life. We all fail in various areas of our lives. One may be a successful entrepreneur but fail in managing relationships. Another may be a doting wife and mother, but fail in finding employment. Failure in one or more life areas doesn’t make one complete failure. Once we understand and prepare ourselves for this, no failure can bug us. No matter how many times we fall, we will rise up again. But, we need to be prepared for failure so that we can cope with it when required. This is where many of us fall short leading to undesirable consequences. Think of the many people who have grown bitter because of the refusal of a love proposal or the many youngsters committing suicides by the years because of examination failures or unemployment. While we cannot evade failure, loss, rejection – these are never the endpoints of life.  The preparation to accept failure has to start as early as in childhood when a child is refused chocolate or a toy or permission to go out and play on occasions as and when parents feel the checks and balances necessary. This is when children learn to accept ‘no’ while understanding that nothing else changes – their parents’ love remains intact.
  5. Guard your tongue – Though the tongue is small boneless part of our body, it has the power to build lives and to tear apart others. Words have immense power. So, the wagging tongue needs to be controlled. Many an unwanted word has caused widespread damage in all ages. Avoid gossip, slander, backbiting, lying, false accusations, abuse, dangerous plotting and blasphemy. Let each word that comes out of our mouths enabled by the tongue be words of edification, encouragement and prudent admonition.

Each of these points is one that I have learned at some point of time in my life. These are not mere lofty idealistic advices. No matter to which part of the world you belong to, I’m sure that with a little thought you will agree to each of these.

Stay tuned for thirty more words of advice from the Candles Online writers!

Attention, affection and gratitude
are the three fuels that energise positive human behaviour.

Passionate exploits help win battles,
Compassionate endeavours help win hearts.

Tough circumstances do not necessarily mean
that the worst is soon going to be over;
they are preparations for tougher struggles.