A NOTE OF GRATITUDE TO MY ALMA MATER

My dear Alma Mater,

I entered inside your huge gates as a tiny tot of three and a half, holding my parents’ hands. The sudden familiarity and comforts of the home were soon replaced by strange faces all around. I never could understand why my parents had to leave me with you every day and then pick me up after some time. As the A-B-C-Ds and the 1-2-3-4s started sinking into my mind, I realised that it wasn’t that bad after all to spend some time in the company of strangers!

Within a year, I was made to understand that you were to be a part of my life for many more years. Though it was difficult to fathom what that actually meant at that time, the picture became pretty clear when I saw the Report Card at the end of each year.

I am grateful to you for all the sweet and sour memories that I have had with you that have played a crucial role of shaping me into what I am today. It goes without saying that I am grateful to you for having such expert teachers who instilled the subject knowledge into me. I still remember some of those difficult formulae of Maths and those experiments in the Chemistry lab which would invariably end up with someone breaking a test tube resulting in severe reprimanding.

And yes, these days when I see people going crazy for physical fitness regimens, I often remember the compulsory PT (Physical Training) classes each week, which we would often look for convincing excuses to skip (but could hardly ever succeed to escape from the vigilante team that were assigned the task of exposing such escapists). I find many of those exercises I did at school then, in the fitness training modules today. A salute for incorporating such ageless fitness regimens!

I am grateful to you dear school, for training me in three languages so well. I can vouch for every student that our English, Odia and Hindi speaking, writing and reading abilities are among the best. It is such a misconception in our country that English-medium schools compromise with regional languages training. But, a school like you wonderfully dispels such doubts by churning up multi-lingual scions.

I am grateful to you for the discipline and values that you have imparted, that actually made you one of the best in the city. Rules were a bit too harsh, I must admit. But, they have moulded and made me.

As I am grateful to you, I am so much more grateful to my parents for introducing me to you – one of the best decisions they have taken for me!

I can go on writing letters running into pages to express my gratitude, dear School, for what you have been to me. But, more on it when I meet you in person in the Alumni Meets!

Gratefully yours,

Rajnandini

THE GRATMEET

It was one of the usual afternoons for Mrs. Mintington since the time her old man had left for his heavenly abode. Though she found her loneliness heart-wrenching at times, she kept herself pretty much occupied with anything that her hands could lay on.

“Grandma, not again!”

This is Sally. The bubbly teenaged granddaughter of Mrs. Mintington.

Ah! It seems the kind old lady had once again invaded her granddaughter’s privacy and had set her messy room in order.

“Ha Ha Ha, my dear princess, I will continue to intrude into that little storm-hit-of-a-kind room until you learn the art of keeping things tidy and organized. You remember the deal, right?”, quipped the wise old Granny even as Sally threw her hands up in the air and stomped into her room.

“Freshen up and come in here quick. I want you to lend me a hand with the dinner preparations. You know we are having guests over tonight, don’t you?”

“Yeah, coming”, shouted Sally from her room.

Meanwhile Mrs. Mintington took out her prized porcelain and silverware from the cupboard. It was one of the four times of the year that she took them out. Not many people take out time to visit others these days. Holidays provide the much needed break from work and are usually spent in catching up with household chores. Entertainment is available just at clicks, taps and swipes. Visiting family and friends, is thus, quite occasional.

With age slowly bringing out the aches and pains in her once agile frame, Mrs. Mintington found it quite a task to travel anywhere these days. But, she made it a point to have her loved ones over for a weekend four times a year. A get-together every three months! And, no one complained! They all made it a point to be there.

Her two daughters along with their husbands and children drove in one after the other and the otherwise calm house sprang into animated conversations, fun and laughter.

“Mama, you will never listen. Huhh! When we had told you we’ll be getting enough food to probably last us all a few days, why did you have to strain yourself to prepare all these,” said her younger daughter Queena with fake annoyance as she helped carry the food from the kitchen to the table.

“My girlies and boys and their cubs would come and I would be sitting on the rocking chair and keep rocking away all through the day, without shaking a finger! Can it ever be possible, my darling”, answered Mrs. Mintington with a faint smile curving her thin lips.

“And, how the children love her banana brownies and mint-flavoured ginger ales! It would be disservice to rob them of Mama’s delicacies”, said Sheena the elder one as she helped lay the table.

“Wait, wait, wait, do you guys think Grandma has made these all by herself? An absolute NO! Let me tell you . . .”, barged in Sally just at that moment.

“Ah! Yes, Sally of course has been of such help, you know”, said Mrs. Mintington with a wink of her left eye and they all burst into a thunderous laughter.

“This laughter is what keeps me going my dearies, else life had almost come to a stop that day when Roby and Ruth met their fateful end, leaving my little sleeping princess to my care.” (Roby was Mrs. Mintington’s son who had died in a car crash along with his wife, Ruth thirteen years back when Sally was a toddler.)

“How grateful I am to God for this precious gift of family – for each one of you! And so, I will continue celebrating for you all till there’s breath and strength enough to keep me going.”

“So, what’s the date for the next GRATMEET, my girlies and boys?”

AN ODE OF GRATITUDE TO MY LORD

When I think of Your mercies untold,
My heart fills with gratitude manifold.

When I remember the prayers that You have answered,
Humbly in worship, I surrender this insignificant self.

When I count the sins of mine that You have forgiven,
I realize how uncountably numerous they have been.

When I bring to mind the love that You have showered upon me,
How assured I am of that fathomless flow even unto the end of time!

When I imagine my tiny puny self before a Majestic You,
Can’t think if I would bow or fall prostrate in Your view.

Oh! with what Love You have loved me,
And with what Grace You sought me!

What made You take my sin upon Yourself,
To be mocked, stripped and scourged for me?

Can I ever repay the debt of Your love?
Or give You the praises You deserve?

Forever I remain imprisoned by Your everlasting arms,
For in them I am cushioned against all of life’s harms.

MISSED YOUR BUS? BE GRATEFUL!

One can either be grateful or ungrateful, but is it possible to have a cocktail of both?

Well, there are instances when one can be gratefully ungrateful or ungratefully grateful. It depends on how one wishes to interpret such episodes.

Have you ever felt thankful for that heavy downpour because of which you could have a day off from work? There you go – you have at least once instance of being ungratefully grateful!! That rain which clogged roads and may well have been a barrier for some others, was indeed welcomed by you!

In my Post Graduation years, I had to take the intercity bus for a 30 km ride each day to the University and the same distance back again. Classes would invariably be over by 5 P.M. every day. I had four other friends for company (which made the travel a little less difficult). Bus-hunting was a daily routine. Buses did stop by the bus stop at intervals. But, we looked for less crowded buses to board (crowded buses are nightmares for all – but a lot more for females). Also, there were buses which had conductors who were reluctant to give the student fare concession. In this way we had certain criteria.

One fine evening, we had been waiting at the bus stop for more than 40 minutes without any of our familiar buses stopping by. Eventually, when one did come, it was jam-packed. My friends decided to board it anyway as there was no surety of another one coming by anytime soon. I was too reluctant – to the point that I asked them to leave if they wished to and that I would wait for some more time for a less crowded bus. One of them already had a foot on the bus and another had a had on the door railing ready to board. But, seeing my stubborn reluctance, they returned (wonderful companions) and so all five of us waited desperately for another bus to come by soon.

It was another 15-minute wait before we boarded a bus, much to our relief! The long frustrating wait of a humid summer day finally came to an end. We had hardly been seated for 20 minutes, that people began curiously looking out of the windows. I could hear the word ‘accident’ from the many voices that were commenting animatedly on the view outside. Just then, a passenger seated behind me gestured outside and said, “the bus which you were reluctant to board, but your friends were insisting, has met with an accident.” I was stunned as the information sank in! There was no loss of lives, though. The driver had lost control and the bus had skidded off the road and had rammed into a building nearby.

The passenger who gave me this piece of information had also been waiting for a bus at the bus stop and had been overhearing and watching the little drama that had unfolded among the five of us (you are being watched without your knowledge – beware!) much to his amusement, and had later got on the same bus as I and my friends did. “Had you all got into that bus, you would have met with an accident today”, he added.

I was so grateful to God that day! I had been ungratefully grumbling within myself as to why the bus that came after a long time had to be so crowded that we couldn’t board it. I also felt a bit guilty when my friends let the bus go only to stay back for me. But now, I was grateful beyond words!

I was grateful for the delay. I was grateful for the crowded bus. I was grateful that my friends got delayed because of me. I was grateful for all those events of that hour and a half, for which I had felt so ungrateful, minutes before.

Truly, there are events that come by unplanned, unasked for and entirely undesirable. But, when we put two and two together, the picture becomes quite understandable.

Since I firmly believe that each and every event in our lives happens under God’s sovereign control, I also believe that those people or events in our lives for whom/ which we are most ungrateful are the ones for whom/ which we will be grateful in the long run (only if we perceive our lives in their entirety and not in fragments).

AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE – A PROPELLER TOWARDS HAPPINESS

Think of the last time someone expressed their gratitude towards you.

I’m sure you felt good, even if you might have modestly brushed it off your shoulders with your feet firmly implanted on the ground! To receive an acknowledgment or appreciation or recognition for something that you have done or said generates an inner pleasant feeling. This is to a great extent due to the constructive neurotransmitters secreted by the brain as a recognition of the expressed gratitude.

So you see, a Thank You does a whole lot more than is overtly evident!

If you take some time to recollect all those incidents in which you deserved gratitude, but they simply didn’t come your way, you would also remember the accompanying strong or faintly sinking feeling which was either momentary or long-lived.

Gratitude is an attitude of the heart. It can never be coercively eked out from anyone. At the same time, it can never be imposed on anyone. Not everyone has the attitude of being grateful. And, not everyone has the heart to graciously receive gratitude.

However, considering the lot of good that gratitude does to self and others, it is an attitude worth cultivating.

A couple of days back, as I walked past a particular lane in my vicinity, I saw heaps of bricks on one side. A house was being constructed nearby. My thoughts instinctively drifted off towards the poor workers at brick kilns in not-so-welcome environments, facing exploitation, bondage, deprivation, and abuse from their owners. And I thought, would the owner of the house that was being constructed ever think of the source of the bricks that are being used to erect his house?

An old Vietnamese proverb says –

“When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree.”

In the fast-paced consumeristic world that we live in, we either don’t take the time to look back and be grateful or we make much ado out of the gratitude that we express or we flow with the tide of the formal exchanges of gratitude. The spontaneity of the heartfelt expression has become a rarity!

G.K. Chesterton says –

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

Gratitude sure is a catalyst for happiness. It gives happiness to the one who expresses and to the one who receives.

Family is one such social circle where gratitude is taken for granted. I have heard people say that there need not be such formalities within the informal environment of a family because it makes relationships appear distant. I choose to differ. Within a family are individuals whose need for appreciation, recognition, and acknowledgement is as profound as those of others we come across in the world outside. It sure would seem hypocritical to organize formal Thanksgiving ceremonies, while having a gratitude-starved dear one within the family!

Another significant area of starved gratitude is in the authority-subordinate equation. Words of gratitude are seldom heard from people in authority towards their subordinates on a day-to-day basis. The work done, targets met and tasks accomplished are taken for granted. A word of acknowledgement with a smile would surely do wonders for the boss as well!

How to cultivate the attitude of gratitude?

If gratitude doesn’t come to one spontaneously, it needs to be cultivated. Here is how you can work your way towards cultivating the attitude of gratitude:

First, reflect upon your life and acknowledge the things bestowed on you – by God, by family and friends.

Second, recognize the inner need for gratitude in yourself and others.

Third, consciously decide to express gratitude. An unexpressed feeling of gratitude can be more stifling than no gratitude at all.

Fourth, think of ways to express. It can be by way of spoken or written words, by small or big acts of recognition, or by any gestures that convey the meaning.

Fifth, defeat your ego or coyness as may be the case. Put your guard down.

Finally, just go ahead and express it!

As you make this a habitual pattern, you will sense the spontaneity of the overflow of gratitude in your heart. The more you express gratitude, the more you will notice things that you need to be grateful for.

One of the best personal practices is to be thankful to God each morning and at the end of each day, for the world runs along by His might and grace alone, though we keep chugging on with our share of responsibilities.

The wise Psalmist writes –

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

In Candles Online, we have dedicated this month to explore different facets of Gratitude. This week our writers would continue with writing on the impact of gratitude on happiness. Enjoy reading!

CONSUMERISM IS HERE TO STAY

We live in a largely polarised world, with respect to the economy. On one extreme, we have the least developed countries of the world with abysmal GDPs. Many of the Sub-Saharan countries and a few Asian countries would be found at this polar. On the other extreme, we find the highly developed countries with GDP figures envied by those at the other extreme. Most Western and a few Middle-Eastern countries come under this category. Whether consumerism rises up and thrives or rises up only to wither away or doesn’t rise up at all, is thus, polar-specific.

What then is needed for a culture of consumerism?

A high GDP, high levels of purchasing power parity, availability of a fertile market, great advertising strategies, consumers’ desire to attain more, moderate to high levels of competition for acquisition, an I-do-not-care-much-for-others attitude and a collective societal outlook to ascribe success to materialistic prosperity.

Does Consumerism mean well or is it a curse disguised in glam garbs?

The answer to this is not an absolute one.

If we analyse the phenomenon of consumerism from a viewpoint of the economy, it is a wonderful blessing! A consumerist society pushes its country higher up the ladder of economic prosperity. With high purchasing power parity of a given population, a high demand keeps the supply chain rolling with increase in manufacture, increased engagement of the labour force, more employment opportunities, more innovations and inventions leading to more capital investments in diverse ventures and an even bigger boost to the economy in return. The cycle goes on. In fact, this is how the big economies of the world have come to be known as ‘big’. A developed economy signifies a progressive culture.

Coming to the flip side of it, it puts a toll on the environment (think of the millions of trees that lose their lives to give us paper and stationery of various makes and designs or the tons of non-biodegradable waste that are generated due to high consumerism or the huge quantities of chemicals that are churned up in laboratories to come to the aid of the cosmetic industry), depletes traditional values (substituting personal ownership in place of collective ownership thereby increasing unhealthy competition), creates a false sense of need (when you go to a mom-and-pop store you ask for all that you have scribbled in your list, but when you leisurely stroll across a mall trolleying your basket along there is more likelihood of buying items that are not necessarily on your purchase list), creates a false sense of deprivation (a FOMO feeling), an incorrect understanding of life and self (defining self and others in terms of possessions, acquisitions and wealth rather than in terms of character and personality traits), increases animosity, jealousy and envy (owing to cut-throat competition to thrive in a competitive market) and lastly, leads to a spiralling of psychological disorders (starting from commonplace insecurities, insomnia, anxiety to various psychosomatic disorders and so on).

My analysis above brings forth more of the adverse impacts than the boons of economic prosperity and harnessing of creative potential. Consumerism is here to stay. With the world powers delving deep into economic growth, we cannot rub consumerism off our backs any time. Rather, we would see ourselves being sucked into the whirlpool of an even intense cycle of consumerism.

How to deal with it, then? How do you curb it when shopping is just a mouse click or a phone tap away? How do you protect your gullible self from falling prey to luring advertisements? How do you keep yourself from not trying new products? How do you keep yourself away from not availing lucrative discounts and offers which hoodwink you into believing that you sure need/ would need a product? Would you be willing to keep yourself one step behind your counterparts?

The key is self-control. Knowing what you want and going in for only that though other lucrative stuff may catch the eye, is vital.

The world economy is at its crippling worst now, because of Covid restrictions. But then, didn’t we all survive with only basics at our disposal for months together at a stretch? Didn’t we survive without spending endlessly on mindless wants, by only sticking to our needs? Everyone did. Crib, cry, struggle or whimper – all of us lived without the wants that we had so far mistaken to be our needs.

While it is not wrong to indulge occasionally, it is definitely not beneficial to ride on a consumerist spree. In an attempt to boost up the economy, the individual losses need not be miscalculated.

The next time you are tempted to buy that one product simply because you would get another one free, think twice. If you are bitten by the green-eyed monster and get the adrenaline rush to acquire something that has pushed another someone up the societal ladder of prosperity, pause and rethink. By all means it is wise to wait for Sale Seasons and Discount Offers to shop for essentials, but to spend money and buy irrespective of requirement is nothing but engaging in the thankless job of boosting the economy at the expense of one’s personal well-being.

It is unwise to define success in terms of mere material prowess bereft of priceless human values. So while it is important to do our bit to keep the circular motion of money intact, it is equally pertinent to make wise choices for expenses and investments without being deceived by the quagmire of consumerism.

“Human life is not a pixel in spatial isolation,
But, a coming together of a million pixels
to create a whole image.
YOU impact others!”