A QUESTION THAT KEPT ME AWAKE

Just another day, another page from mother-daughter diaries: A few days back I was having a regular “to/before bed” conversation with my daughter, who was as usual raring to go with her canon of questions. From her “Why, Who, What, When, and How” kitty she pulled out a gem that set my mind on a quest for I was unable to provide her with a convincing answer. And before I could answer her, she slept but I couldn’t stop thinking. Introspection ensued. Her question was “What is the most important thing in this world?”

The world is going in a loop – needs once fulfilled are replaced by wants, and once wants are also satiated heart wanders to new avenues to spread its wings, to know, to explore, to get, and the cycle continues. This is how we witnessed advancements in human history, be it territorial expansions of kingdoms or the technological amelioration that we are enjoying. Lives (perhaps lifestyles) have definitely been improved. Now let’s focus on an analogy: Imagine the world to be an airplane propelled by the fuel of desires, and dreams to perch higher and higher, scaling new altitudes of success with every flight. What would happen to the aircraft if the coolant is missing, if the fuel is adulterated with impurities or if it doesn’t have a ground to land on? The fire ignited to provide an elevation might devour the entire structure, isn’t it? Coolant here is satiation and content. Impurity is greed that when mixed with the fuel of dreams/desires can clog the entire machinery dooming the flight. Peace is the runway that every flight needs when it lands on its wheels of love and compassion utilizing the shock absorbers of realization, enlightenment, and wisdom. Well, that might seem to be quite a convoluted explanation. I shifted my focus to a handful of examples from human history:

  1. Before King Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire became Ashoka the great and he resorting to Buddhism, spreading the message of peace all over he was like any other tyrant king whose purpose was to conquer and amass strength. It was after the Kalinga war, the massacre rendered by his own army shook him to the core and he retracted from his old ways and accepted Buddhism to trend the path of peace.
  2. Before England was one country, there was a long trail of blood and gore where innumerable innocent lives were sacrificed to ever-rising flames of power hunger and ego. It was Alfred the Great (King of the West Saxons from 871 to c. 886 ) who had nurtured a vision of unifying the war marred land and establishing peace so that lives could thrive and prosper in every manner. Ironically blood was the price that was paid but nonetheless in the end after many decades his dream did come true (Athelstan, grandson of King Alfred was the first king of unified land called England).
  3. European Union is a great example of modern history where different countries agreed to set aside their bitter rivalries, and make amendments for the larger betterment of people suffering the aftermath of world war. The EU was originally created with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours, which culminated in the Second World War. The Schuman Declaration, which encouraged the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community, laid the foundation for the European Union as we know it today (source: Google)

These are a few examples from medieval and modern history where the world has to finally resort to peace for the longevity, and prosperity of human beings.

Is the peace absolute or just a pact? The ground of peace has been purchased at a hefty price of numerous sacrifices, amendments and clauses, and a mutual understanding/ respect of territories and boundaries. And the fear of breach begets flexing muscle power in a bid to maintain the status quo. The recent example (in my petty knowledge) of Indo-China border tension speaks volumes about the price that nations have to pay for attaining peace. In my hindsight, I believe it’s more of a pact and order that the world is following to avoid disarray and disaccord. The bliss of absolute peace is still at bay.

Fulcrums to the Peace that we need: Compassion, satiation, actions motivated and guided righteously, and enlightenment – these are the fulcrums to leverage the peace in every human being and thereon at a macro level. I understand that this statement is quite a beaten one over and over but a truth that we deliberately or otherwise ignore. A petty example: We casually body shame or mock people for their weaknesses under the pretext of lighter note fun. We have no idea and literally don’t care about the negative impact we possibly could create on the other person’s mind, what havoc such a mockery is capable of creating in the longer run, and how it messes with the sanity of one’s mind. We avoid and hate “crime” that is punishable under a law that is documented. And those that are not, we make our souls obscure to nature’s unwritten law of embracing the differences. With oppressed, raging, and conflicting souls, where is the peace?

The whole night I spent introspecting if my answer is right if peace is indeed the most important thing the world needs right now? In the morning I asked my daughter if she has an answer to her question from the last night, and she smiled as she said “Yes I know the most important thing in this world – “You & Me”. And that kept me thinking again….

ARE YOU ADAPTING OR FORCED LIVING?

Modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence under the conditions of its environmenta heritable physical or behavioral trait that serves a specific function and improves an organism’s fitness or survival.

merriam-webster

The adaption chapter in school text book used to be my favourite when I was a kid. I used to enjoy studying about the animals and birds who try their best to adapt to the situation or environment they are in. And those who are successful in the process of adaptation survive and live on, but the others face death.

Isn’t it the same way about us who try to fit in a social setup, a family, a college, a workplace? We try to get accustomed or adapted to the rules, the way of living and thinking of the people in that setup. And after a certain period of time, we become one of them. Sometimes it works the other way around. The individual who comes into a group of people influences so much they get adapted to his or her ways. Whichever way it is, adaptation brings peace and harmony.

On the other hand, when we try to force ourselves to fit into a group or family or gathering either we struggle to continue for sometime or simply quit. When we don’t have the desire to adapt we can’t adapt. When we can’t adapt, we force and pretend. At some point of time, we even rebel against our given environment or situation. Life becomes really tough for the person resisting to adapt.

That’s why Jennifer Guttman Psy.D. says rightly, “Adaptation is a natural next step in personal growth.

Most common example that I can give is about a newly wed bride who comes to a new family. The quicker she mingles or adapts in the family, the easier it becomes for her to live amidst them. Though adaptation should happen both ways. Frictions are inevitable when we interact with one another, but there won’t be any conflicts if there’re people adapting to each other quickly.

There are a few quick symptom trackers to analyse a person adapting or force living. A person who finds it easy to take a NO from the other person, he or she is adaptable or adapting. But when he or she makes a fuss out of it is not ready to adapt or accept the situation around him or her. If it continues for over a period, he or she leads her/his life forcibly. Insecurity, grumbling and complaining are major indicators of a person force-living instead of adapting in a family or workplace or any other social group. Force-living always brings unhappiness and frustration but adaption brings togetherness and ownership.

A word of caution before I end this article: Always try to get adapted to things that are positive, good and godly because adapting to evil is quicker and dangerous.

So friends! Are you adapting well or struggling and force-living? Keep pondering…

Stay blessed!

CONNECTIONS

I cannot describe the feeling, when I come across a person who can just “airlift” me to a whole different level, just by their sheer presence or a simple candid conversation over a phone line.

Some of us call it having a deep conversation, I like to call them ‘intellectually stimulating conversations’ because not only are we just brushing the surface, which generally happens at the beginning of any conversation, it is when we find the #MeToo’s, is when a person realizes…hold on, there’s more to US here….and the more we talk, the more we get to know small facts about the other person – and

right there – you feel closest to that other person. I know it coz I’ve felt it.

Have you ever felt at that very moment, that you wish you could pull that person out of a screen or your phone and give that person a ‘big hug’? ..and though I’ve never actually said it in actual words, Yes, I’ve fallen in Love – with ‘you’there’s LOVE right there…that moment, that person, the exchange…. and the best part: it just happens, all we can do is enjoy the feeling.

…and probably this is why it is always said “A Boy and a Girl can never be ‘just’ friends” – I’m still trying to wrap myself around that statement, on the one hand, I want to believe that sentence makes total sense, however on the other side, it sounds wrong on so many levels. I guess that’s also how the term ‘Unrequited Love’ was originated.

I’ve read somewhere on the internet, that when two people kiss or indulge in the physical act of love, is when people exchange energies with each other, what about when people talk then? A whole lot of exchange is done here too….and at much higher speed and bandwidth, It is one heart directly connecting with another how does one explain a smile appearing on the face of another simply by a sentence spoken/typed? No face-to-face interaction and yet a simple compliment can bring joy to another person sitting miles away from you. That’s the power of WORDS, mixed with a generous dollop of kindness and a whole heap full of Love.

Buses, trains, stations, and airports… some of the more common places to meet people and forge friendships, Yes. But that’s not me – I wouldn’t do that… at least not make the first move. That said, in India, one cannot afford to be silent or not engage in some kind of conversation – that is almost a given.

I may be sitting in my living room, in my flat, in the smallest state of Goa, in a country far far away from you, and yet I could be saying the words you might exactly want to hear… we may be perfect strangers, and yet we’ve connected in a way that no one can understand.


I am a language Trainer having knowledge about a few languages spoken widely across countries and continents, but when it comes to the Language of the Heart; most times than not – I prefer being a student because, in an ever-evolving world, the language might remain the same, but the ways to show it..certainly change!

MY JOURNEY FROM BONJOUR AND MERCI AND BEYOND

Je parle Anglais?” which translates to “I speak English” but the question here is why there is a question mark if this is a plain statement. Well, to answer that I must take a few steps back into the past when I was a newcomer to the city of Brussels and the French language was more alien to me than my relationship with it now.

It all began in the year 2009. Thanks to the extremely busy schedules of my husband back in those days (there were times when he used to leave home at 7:45 AM and won’t see it back till 3 AM the next morning, I was left at the mercy of television and internet connection to spend my days. But for how long. Slowly I started despising my loneliness, the damp and gloomy weather of the city where the sun won’t greet people for days together added to my woes. Calm Sundays where the city would come to a halt made me miss India very much. That’s where I decided I must take things in my hands rather than just sitting back and cursing and sulking.

I began with a small walk in the direction of my nose (a subtle way of saying that I am pretty bad at remembering routes, have to literally register landmarks strongly lest I would get lost). It was a good walk of around 40 minutes and of course a good change for me. But what made me sweat profusely wasn’t the walk but the fact that I was unable to open the main door of the building where I used to reside. I believe the mechanism was somewhat different (anyways let’s not get into the practical details). I stood there for quite some time now, unable to open the door before I finally decided to seek help from someone. The first thing that came into my mind was what if the person whom I will request for help isn’t convinced with the situation that I am narrating, in short, what if he thinks I am an imposter trying to break into some random house. And to make the matters worse I didn’t know how to converse in French. But I had to seek help. I stopped someone who was crossing the street, and greeted him with the only word I knew back then in French “Bonjour“, he smiled and waited for the reason why he was stopped by a stranger. I gestured at the door and showed him the keys and continued in English. I was about to break into tears anytime now. He seemed to have understood and helped me get into the house. There was another incident where a heavily pregnant me was suddenly very low on sugar and was about to collapse with my groceries. A lady who was passing by stopped to check on me. I couldn’t explain myself but then it seemed she didn’t need my words anymore, she took out a juice from the groceries I was carrying and opened it for me, made me sit comfortably, and left me only after I was feeling a bit better. All I could say was “Merci” (another staple word in my french vocabulary then).

These and many other petty incidents made me realize the importance of the ability to converse in the local language. I narrated the entire episode to my husband. He said to start the conversation with “Je parle Anglais” but I misunderstood the word “Je” for “You” in English (Tu & Vous are used for addressing the same). Here starts the fun. I did my little work at home on petty words and went out confidently. I used to start my conversation with the sentence I mentioned above with a tone and expression of a question mark and now writing this piece I realize how puzzled I left people then. They definitely might have thought “okay good for you if you speak English, why bother us“. But the moment they heard me speaking, in fact struggling to strike and start a conversation they would start speaking (their tryst with English) in a way to take the conversation forward. That’s how I made friends with the supermarket staff around the house. I realized if I put an effort to learn a particular language that would show my intent – intent to mingle, intent to converse. Apart from making day-to-day life easy, I believe putting efforts to learn the language of the land you reside in is a small token of respect and gratitude.

Now after nearly 12 years, I am able to converse less hesitantly, and more confidently. On a personal level over the years I understood a conversation is more about getting a grip on the emotion people are sending across to each other. And for everything else, there’s a smartphone and google translator that’s always handy. (***Note: back in 2009 I didn’t have that help outside the IP range of my home:))

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.

CHENNAI TALKS!

I was a kid when I visited Chennai. I spoke Hindi at home and English at school. The concept of learning more languages wasn’t popular till then. And even if it were, I would have never learned Tamil.

My father had tight business connections with Tamilians and visited Chennai twice a month. I was a Daddy’s Girl through and through, but the thought of learning Tamil out of sheer curiosity never appealed to me.

I have stayed in Chennai for three months, not in one go, but three month-long trips in three consecutive years. The adventures were as colourful and varied as an artist’s colour palette. The first time we stayed in a spatial guest house by the beach. Next to the house lived a rich neighbour in an exquisite bungalow. His name was Mr Kartik Narayanan. I don’t remember if he had a wife or kids, but he knew my father and invited us over for dinner at his place.

I accompanied my parents with utter fascination because the first luxury car I had ever seen was parked in his driveway. It was a Contessa. While my father talked to him in perfect English and we were served dinner, I never spoke a single word. I was so desperate to take a spin in the car that my stomach ached, and I could eat nothing.

Mr Kartik Narayan was in his mid-50s and was a very busy man, but when we were leaving his house after dinner, he told my father to wait, and he asked me in Tamil, “You love this car, don’t you?” I didn’t understand a word he said, but I caught the feeling.

I smiled, and my father laughed because he knew I didn’t know Tamil. He told my father to take the car out for a spin, handing him the keys. My father felt embarrassed to see me drooling over the beautiful car but accepted the gesture.

When we returned, he smiled and asked me in Tamil again, “How’s the stomach ache now?” Without understanding anything, I knew what he was asking and hid behind my father, blushing red.

The memory of the joy I felt while I took a spin in the car has faded, but I won’t ever forget the man—the benevolent, kind businessman. He understood a kid’s desire without having any conversation.

It was time for another trip to Chennai. This time we stayed in another guest house owned by the company. The house had a lawn, a kitchen garden, a back garden and a housekeeper called Appan. Appan was a poor local with no knowledge of English.

In the one month I stayed there, Appan gave me many memories that would last with me for a lifetime. He didn’t know how to make calls and used to hold my hand, make me sit on the sofa next to the landline and hand me a phone number, and he would gesture for me to make a call to his village. I used to make his calls and watch him talk in his colloquial language. The expressions on his ebony skinned face told everything he spoke.

My mother taught him how to make chapatis. He would roll out the dough, take the circular steel lid, and cut out the Chapati like a stencil. That was absolute fun to watch.

He used to call me ‘Amma’. I haven’t seen a more pure and innocent man in my life, or maybe I was never that pure and innocent ever again. But Appan used to make me omelettes and Maggie noodles and play with me. I loved him for that.

It was weird that I never felt that we didn’t talk, that we didn’t know a single common word except ‘Cobra’. Yes, as per him, at night, a cobra came into the guest house from the kitchen garden and slid into the place under the kitchen’s backdoor. He even claimed to have seen the snake’s prints on the wet soil.

I don’t know how he made me understand this, but I never once slept on my extra bed on the floor after that and insisted on sleeping on the bed, or the cobra would swallow me alive.


It was my third trip to Chennai, and we were staying in yet another exotic guest house. I remember it was overrun by lizards. But I had a refuge there. My father had a colleague, Mr G.S. Bala, who had a daughter just one year older than me, Deepa.

My father used to leave my mother and me at his house, and both men would drive away to the office while we, my mother, Deepa and her mother, were left together.

My mother and her mother had no language to communicate, but they used to talk through Deepa. Mom would say something to Deepa in English, and Deepa would tell the same to her mother in Tamil. Then her mother would reply to something in Tamil, and she would translate it for my mother in English.

But her mother was the kindest and most loving person I had ever met. She taught my mother how to make Dosas. My mother taught her to knit. She used to take us sightseeing at beaches, markets and places.

Deepa used to have a massive swing in the middle of her drawing-room, and I wanted to play on it. Her mother removed every piece of furniture from the room and gave it to us to play with for one whole month.

I used to sit with Deepa on the swing and tell her to take it higher and higher till our feet touched the ceiling fan. I don’t know how Deepa understood me back then, my English was bad, and I was too small. But Deepa’s laughter and Auntys’ fond smile are frozen in my memory forever.

Today I don’t know where are they, Appan, Mr Kartik Narayan, Deepa or Aunty, but their memories are still fresh in my heart, bringing tears to my eyes.

They all taught me a fundamental lesson.

When hearts communicate, language is not needed.”

I loved them beyond their colour, caste, religion, and social stature, and they loved me back many times more.

GROWING UP… DAUGHTER-MOTHER DIARIES

“Mom I have a doubt,” said my 6 years old daughter. “What’s it dear?” I asked, to be only left stumped by her question. “Why papa loves you when your face is full of spots?”. I am not even exaggerating, those were really her words. And I don’t blame her for she is growing up with fairy tales where the princess is all fair and flawless. I can understand with the kind of exposure kids of this generation have the kind of questions they might ask seem to be too soon, too early, and to be honest too much too. I wanted to give her a reason, perhaps a lecture on what true love (ironically beyond the gamut of reasoning) means but considering her age my explanation would be “Too much” for her to comprehend.

I simply asked, “Don’t you love me with all these blemishes on my face?”. And she didn’t budge as she said “I love you, Mama, you are the best” and she gave me a kiss as she hurried to get into the school before the final bell rang. Perhaps one day I will be able to provide a better explanation to satiate her query.

Raising kids (generation alpha) as my dear friend @sizzlybizzly (Rajnandini) has explained in her article OF SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, could really be a tight rope walk. Explaining them to react and behave differently in apparently similar-looking situations is quite a task. For instance, as a family with a reasonably comfortable life, I encourage my daughter to help the poor and needy and that seems to be well embedded in her thoughts. But on the other hand, I also warn her against falling for tricks of people who pretend to be needy to avoid sweating it out. And reasoning (explaining how to and why to differentiate) such situations in my personal capacity prove to be difficult ones given the fact that my daughter is a bit impatient. The moment I start dissecting the matter for clarity she says “I don’t understand what are you saying” or worse “enough Mama, not now, just play with me”.

As a parent, I want to clarify every doubt that dwells in my child’s brain. Sometimes I have substantial corroboration to my answers that I can give her instantly, for example why plucking fruit from the tree isn’t the same thing as butchering a goat, when both are done to serve the same purpose – to fill up a hungry stomach. Sometimes I am at a loss of my reasoning abilities altogether. Like why the letter U hasn’t been pronounced the same way in “Put”, and “But” because I never questioned it (maybe my friend @theextraaaamile, Savio has an answer to this 😃). And then there are moments I have reasons to support my reaction/responses but as I mentioned earlier they could be too complicated for a child to comprehend. For example, when I tell my daughter to be social & adjustable to and under different circumstances, and be independent (not seeking validation from others) at the same time. That’s a tough call as I have to hand out her reasons sans ambiguity of any sort.

All said and done I have realized that in the process of parenting I am growing up too. My role as a parent is a reason enough to be a better version of myself every day. With so many sources of information and influence around, kids surely need a security filter, a cushion to rely on. And that’s where the power of reasoning comes in handy. Valid the reasons are, better the chances of nurturing mature minds. It’s really important that doubts of any nature shouldn’t be squashed away under the pretext of “nothing concerning you”, especially when we impart the knowledge of DOs and DON’Ts to shape their personalities and ideologies.

My journey with the extra “administrative” responsibility of Reasoning has just begun as my daughter has just started questioning. I should be better prepared for the bazooka of questions blazing at me, she hasn’t even scratched the surface yet and there’s an ocean to dive in.