MY DISCOVERY WITH CANDLES ONLINE

One of the blessed days of my life book is the 10th of January 2016. As we were driving back from church, it was my first ever personal time with Chiradeep Patra. Probably, it was his 2nd/3rd question where he enquired about my hobbies and I replied, one of them is writing quotes almost on a daily basis. Without giving a second thought, he proposed to me to write for CandlesOnline and being speechless for a while, I was like “How on earth is it possible for me?” But he didn’t give up on me! He insisted you give words to your thoughts, for the rest, I am there. Lo and behold, the first-ever article of my life “HOW GOOD IS OUR MASK OF PRETENCE?” got published on @CandlesOnline and last month I was able to post my 116th article for @CandlesOnline blog “RELIGIOUSNESS OR RIGHTEOUSNESS – WHAT DO WE NEED TO LOOK FOR?“ Summing up this blissful experience I would say,

“God, at His time, gears you to your way

He makes you something out of nothing

For His glory, in His way.”  

One of my favorite songs is Chris Rice’s famous song “There is a Candle in every soul”. Apparently, my journey with CandlesOnline aces the same. On a personal level, if someone knows us much better than us, undoubtedly, He is God! Since God loves us, he has gifted us with numerous talents, some we know – some are still in that unknown darkness. Possibly once at a time, God sends someone to lit up a candle in our unknown darkness to make His sacred gifts known to us.

His sacred gifts are for His glory

Whereas it all seems inadequate and misty

But like a sculptor out of a mere stone,

He chisels and shapes me, gives me the beauty and maketh known.

Well, that’s the picture I would drop as a referral for my journey with candles. God’s sacred gifts which are our talents that always come in a raw form, primarily it appears to us as inadequate. We feel our talents are incompetent, we struggle for relevance and finally, as we dearth of enthusiasm, we feel bored enough to give up. In spite of, this boredom as we stay put to our talents, learn from our experience, our talents proceed to excellence. Since the gluiness of comfort doesn’t allow a man to grow, God puts the man in discomfort to chisel and shape his learning experience and builds him for excellence.

Sow a seed, water enough the plant

But all it may become extraneous

If the thorny bushes chock, making it impotent     

While speaking to a crowd, Jesus used the parable of seeds to explain why some people do not grow in the Word of God while others do grow. And one of the reasons He mentioned, using the instance of the seed that fell among the thorns, went unfruitful because of its environment, it was choked by the thorny bushes. On contrary to the picture is, what I feel being in the CandlesOnline community. It won’t be wrong to say, CandlesOnline is of my extended virtual family. In which, there is always someone out there to care and support spreading out positive vibes. In the Candles Online group, I always experienced everyone is too good and gracious enough to make you feel friendly. Refreshing a couple of my experiences, whenever I felt low and it reflected on my social media posts or in personal connection whether it is Chiradeep, Preeta, Kalpana, Rajnandini someone in some way always enquired my negative state and had comforted my soul. Going further, friends like Sreepriya, Kuljeet, Sriram, Astha, Sakhi, Sony always makes you feel friendly and alongside respectful. How can I go unmentioned about the three tiny peepers Aparna the first Bengali girl who addresses me as Dada; Payal whom I never meet physically but time to time made her presence vital through reasoning on some facts virtually; and topping all Vipra, my Choti Doctor Sahiba, always trusted and lavished her affection through enquiring about my health condition and also scolding on having late dinner. She never gives a prolonged gap to our virtual chats that had always brought smiles to my face. Putting right my experiences I would say, the best place to grow in your talent is being in a positive environment and that’s each of the Candles Online community made me felt.

God out of His infinite riches

Gifts and Grows our talents.

He gifts out of many purposes

It’s all for His glory through impacting lives.

God gifts us talents, equips us through life experiences to excel in our talents, and provides us a community to grow with positivity, God’s way of work always denotes God has a Purpose in whatever He does! And God’s purpose is we may have a personal experience in our personal relationship with Him and encourage others to have a taste of the same experience and as we continue to do so God’s name is glorified. This perspective becomes more evident as we look at our life situation through the Word of God (Bible). It reminds me of the Bible verse,

“The Word of God (Bible) is the mirror for our souls”.

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF SIMPLE ‘HI & HELLO’

I live in a housing complex where there are 64 families living inside it and out of them I meet one or two everyday either while going to my office or coming back to home. And each time we meet we either exchange a gentle smile or few words with each other if we have little time and patience to stand for some time. But apart from occasional exchanges of words we really never tried to build a deeper relationship till now that would benefit us for our life.

So is it a useless exchange of words and smiles between us? NO, not at all…

That ‘Hi,’ ‘Hello,’ ‘How are you’ have so much value in itself that we really cannot imagine. They rejuvenate our minds from a bad mood to good or worst to little better. Somehow it makes us feel that we have people around us and we are not alone. It also makes us feel cared when sometime people ask, “Mr. So and so why do you look so disturbed today?”

These ‘Hi & Hellos’ are like potential seeds for building or establishing a strong tree of lasting relationship if they are sowed at the right way, in right proportion and watered with care time to time with the warmth of concerned heart.

These exchanges of ‘Hi’ and “Hellos” can be in persons or on a virtual platform. A perfect example is my friendship with Prabhjot (& Sulagna)… I know… I know… I have talked about her a lot on many of my articles here… But unlike Sulagna, Nilla Ma’am, Saak, Kalpana and all others the friendship with her took a very long time. All of these friends became very close to me only after we started with a simple “Hi” and “Hellos”.

I don’t remember exactly… I think probably Prabhjot commented first on one of my articles published on a writers’ community 5 years back in 2012. There was no scope for chatting on that community and asking for numbers or Facebook profile link right away was not a good manner. So our interactions were limited to the comment boxes underneath each other’s articles. We understood our values and mindsets. Then I remember that I invited her to write for Candles Booklet which I used to print those days… And finally we got our emails shared though I don’t think we were that good friends to know each other personally. It was still a ‘Hi’ & ‘Hello’ friendship… which continued for couple of years. But… since the time I launched Candles Online in July 2015 our friendship changed its gears.

So never underestimate the power of a common man… I mean Halwaii… Oops… I mean the power of “Hi & Hellos” in our daily life. Prabhjot did not understand when I said I am mentioning her in my article… Her immediate response was, “Am I your Hi & Hello friend?” with an angry emoticon.

We never used to like Hi and Hellos but they are the foundations of every relationship that exists in this world. I like the westerners in this regard because they never cross a person without saying a ‘Hi’ whether they know the person or not.

So friends, next time you see somebody crossing your path don’t forget to say a Hi or Hello with a warm and wide smile.

Stay Blessed!!!

ARE FRIENDSHIPS KEY TO WORKPLACE HAPPINESS ?

I moved to a new team recently at work, and I must accept that I have struggled to find a friend. I never realized how important to have friends at workplace is, in my earlier teams, may be, only because I’ve always had friends. Very good friends, with whom I can be unbiased when I share my personal life or professional frustrations. They always helped me deal with everything with ease by supporting me when I needed them.

The day I moved to my new team, I really felt very lonely. As days and  months passed, I started feeling more and more effected by the fact that I don’t have anyone to talk with. Talking and being able to express our feelings is a basic need and especially professional conversations can be sensitive. It is very important to have a friend who can be trusted for the information you share and he/she is supporting in all the right means to have a happy, fulfilling day at work. I am still struggling with how I can make things better at workplace, it depends on people around us. As all other relationships, friendships are not a one sided affair, it needs two people pouring in the efforts to make the friendship work.

Friendships play a very important role in our lives, both personal and professional. Being a working professional we do spend a majority of our lifetime at our workplace. Though the main objective of being at a workplace is to work, to learn, to excel in what we love doing and to grow as an individual, having a friend at work can lead to greater satisfaction.

Friendships create a more enjoyable workplace, which promote greater engagement and individual productivity.

Professional friends can provide timely feedback to help us perform better

Work gets stressful and talking to friends who have similar responsibilities provides us with positive outlets to release frustrations and reduce workplace stress.

A friendly work environment yields creativity because we feel comfortable being there and are able to think more freely.

If we know the other person well at a personal level, it may help us be more effective and efficient considering what the other person may be going through.

Where workplace friendships can be great, we have to be very careful when sharing our personal information. Sometimes, this may lead to favoritism or negativity impacting our careers in a big way.  

Take your time, don’t be too exclusive on whom you have your everyday lunch with (your boss might be observing or co-workers may get jealous), try to keep your personal and professional lives separate and enjoy yourself!!

​THE TWO AMONG MANY…

My extrovert and friendly personality always worked as an instrument to earn lots of friend! I am emotionally much closer to many of my friends and contacts. They shared their lives and secrets to me and have put their trust on me. First I thank Jesus for making me a channel of blessing to them and with humble heart I thank you my beloveds’ for trusting and giving me such an important place in your life. Along with such happiness I have also some nightmares in the past few years. The Psalmist, Israeli King David (1010-970 BCE) said in the Bible, “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread has lifted up his heel against me”, in the nightmares of my life, I also find such people! 

I have some fantastic friendship experiences. Some are like, Café Coffee Day Friendship (story ends with last sip); Tissue-Paper (used to throw); Social Media (just chill) but some are really GOOD BOOKS (they make you better every day). In my life there are TWO such GOOD BOOKS among many!!!

Those TWO GOOD BOOKS are my two great and loving friends. One friendship started on the first day of my primary school and another friendship started on my 25th birthday. I want to ping them in their pet names which I have given them… one is my #Party and another is my #sweetTubelight .

God has taught me many things in and through both of their friendship and the most precious thing is God used them as a tool for my recover from my brokenness. With a broken life when I was struggling to keep my foot straight, it was my #Party whose tight hug and a single line counsel strengthened my feet. He said, “Leave everything, move on & do what you’re called to do”! This of his simple counsel brought smile on my face and helped me to see the beauty of tomorrow.

C.S Lewis rightly said, “Friendship… is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others”. 

But here my story didn’t end!

Though I started smiling and living my new life but every day of my new life was a burdensome for me. I used to put smiley on my lips through-out the day but in the darkness of night my pillow was often wet. My past memory started eating me like slow poison everyday. Though then I was living but it was just pretense of “I’m fine of not fine” life. While going through such grisly time I met my #SweetTubeLight on my birthday. After few days of our friendship when she started reading me closely, she always counsels me with another powerful line -“Flush your past. Until you do so, you can’t smell the fragrance of your bright future”! Though it was tough for me to flush my past but it was her scolding and counseling that helped me to do that. The Bible says, “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense”

Today both of them are miles away from me, but the time we spent, the counsels they did, the emotions we shared and the pious love we have for each other is in our hearts. Nobody can steal it, nobody can snatch it, and never will it end!

Thank you my #Party and my #SweetTubelight, I wrote this because of you both!!!

Keep reading…

Avinash

ASL, PLEASE?

Her: Hi
Him: Hey There
Her: ASL, please?
Him: How are you doing?
Her: Is that your ASL?
Him: NO, but age is just a number
Her: Well, I am 27, I am from Delhi
Him: WOW, a Delhi girl, today is my lucky day
Her: You a flirt?
Him: No, just an average man, 28/US. But I was a Delhite too once
Her: Oh, were you? I am a dancer
Him: Gawd, Can this day get any better?
Her: Yes, if you are a Guitarist
Him: You never know, I could be
Her: LOL, are you? Seriously ?
Him: Nah, I can’t even hold one correctly, though I tried, sincerely
Her: You know, I know that feeling, I worked hard to learn Piano, but no luck
Him: I have a feeling we can be good friends….
Her: I have that feeling too…..’

This is how it starts every time. Two people are meeting, finding sync and becoming friends. It all seems unlikely to people who can’t relate to a relationship named or unnamed made virtually.

I was living a life of completeness darkness in January 2016. All hope and positivity had eluded me for long enough to leave me completely devoid of optimism. And on the verge of a psychotic break when I decided I need to talk and to vent. I needed to interact with people. Enough of PC games and enough of bots. And in March 2016, disgusted with life and lonelier than I have ever felt I went to the chat room.

Simply_Me was my id cause I didn’t know what will better define me at that moment. And requests started to pour in. I chatted with many Tom, Dick and Harry. But I was not able to find what I was looking for, a friend, a real friend in that virtual world. And then one day I got a message from a Peace_Lover. He was interesting. He told his name was Rahul, I told him, yeah, sure, every other boy is Raj and Rahul thanks to SRK. His name was genuinely Rahul, and he became my best friend.

He and I haven’t met till date, 31st is his birthday. But he is such a patient listener; I told him all about me, A to Z, thought the name I gave him was not my real name, reason being chat sites tell you to keep your personal details to yourself, especially if you are a girl; Later I was so afraid to lose his friendship that I never told him my real name, but now he knows. And never once he complained. He accepted me as I am. I never thought that I would find someone so special online. I don’t know if I helped him in any way or not, but he helped me loads, and I am no more lonely cause we talk daily, be it just for few minutes.

We don’t know who sits behind those screens, is he good or bad, boy or girl. But I believe that behind that screen is a heart, a mind, a human being who wants to connect. I know that virtual friends and virtual relationships are hardly a lifetime thing, or sometimes they even turn out to be a disaster, but I also know that in real too all friends are not meant to stay forever and heartbreaks and mishaps are waiting to happen between real time friends as well.

You must have heard that money and materialism spoils all things good. That is one more thing that makes virtual friends real special. I know that my virtual friend and I won’t be exchanging any gifts or letting financial status stand in between us. It brings peace to be able to chat with someone on the same lines, all that matters when you chat is the rapport you share.

Today I have numerous virtual friends, and a handful of them are real close to my heart. A couple of them have changed my life 180 degrees with timely emotional and psychological support. I think I would have made a huge mistake if I had not let them come near me owing to the prejudice that having virtual friends isn’t a healthy practice and can hamper my growth in real or bring me harm.

When I can fall in love with Ben Affleck, someone I have seen just on screen, never talked and never interacted with, when I can be awed by Khaled Hosseini, a writer I never even saw, but just admired his works, when I can have love for an RJ, just cause he makes such good pep talk in his deep voice then I think it is so much more obvious to be friends with someone online, someone I never saw or heard or met. But rather someone I felt and knew could feel me and all that is going on my mind.

Image result for virtual friendHaving virtual friends is a blessing for people like me who are introverts and find themselves looking for lonely corners at parties and feel dumbstruck when they need to strike a conversation. But while I am chatting, I feel like the most open and outspoken person, the obscurity helps me come out of my shell and spread my wings. I don’t like to call my online friends as my virtual friends, especially once I exchange numbers with them. They are as real to me as my school friend is. They are not a figment of my imagination written in binary codes of 0 and 1. They aren’t an OS, they are blood, and bones and flesh too. I am proud that I made some very true friendships in a very fake and unstable world. I love them, and they love me back.

There are many pros and cons to such bonds, one of them is the perception of time. While in real friendships grow slow and nurture slow, in virtuality time moves many times faster. If I am friends with you for the past one month, I am your good friend, if it’s been two months, we are thick as thieves, if three, we have been friends a long time, if four, we are friends since forever. Cross the six months barrier, and you are entitled to call yourself a lifetime friend. And this is the very reason that most online endeavours are short lived. One more drawback is I need to be real sensitive, I have to just close my eyes and feel your hugs, your smiles, your laughs and your tears through the emoticons you send. This at times leads to a misunderstanding as out radar can’t always catch your mood. The one that really kicks me is, you can’t send FOOD. Lol…

That green light that blinks next to my friend’s name when he is online brings an instant smile to my face, and I know that now I will be talking to him and exchanging my happy and sad moments with him and he will listen and even thought he might not be able to help me in any way, he will always tell me “I am here for you.”

YOU GAVE MEANING TO MY LIFE

When I joined the WhatsApp group there was a huge discussion on ‘Sholay’ going on and I was a surprised yet a silent spectator. Next day they were sharing pictures of all sorts of delicious food. Laughing and teasing each other. Writers were supposed to be the serious intellectual types. Right? But here everyone seems almost normal, I mean quite similar to me!

longscreenshot_2017-01-31-12-13-08Yes these were my first thoughts when I joined the Candles Online group. I was almost afraid to say something lest I look like a fool among all the scholarly kinds. I only knew them from the articles they had written. Some of these articles had profound meaningful thoughts, others had a solid backing of research and huge data.  How could I ever match up to them?

But as I got to know everyone I realised how wrong I was. These were such beautiful souls handpicked by Chiradeep, who never judged anyone. I was accepted whole heartedly into the group. Each and every member is so emotionally enriched, some of them have conquered huge personal tragedies and made a place for themselves in their domain. A motley group of varied age groups, diverse backgrounds, spread across the globe with a common aim – To churn out motivating, heart touching or rather life altering articles week after week.

Being a part of this group has given a new meaning to my life. Every week’s topic gives a new leash of life to my thought process. The way Chiradeep creates a healthy competition among us by ‘popular votes’ or ‘most viewed articles’ makes this whole process even more exciting. Each and every like and comment on my article puts me on cloud nine. So far the journey has been beautiful and I am sure it will be even better in the future. Thankyou fellow Candelians, you are my friends for life.

When we were kids and growing up in our native places life was very different. Festivals had a significance when the whole family used to get together and celebrate. We have memories of our childhood of various rituals and celebrations in each festivals. But now that we have moved away from our home town and living in nuclear families. We are so caught up in our routines that the sparkle in our celebrations has dimmed. I thought we were depriving our kids of some beautiful experiences and memories. With this thought in mind a few of our society members came together and formed a cultural committee. We started very small but slowly and steadily we grew. Now we are organising 10-15 events in a year ranging from the national holidays to the festivals lohri, Pongal, Navratri, holi, Diwali, Christmas, dahi handi, Ganpati etc. and also fun fair and sports events in the society premises itself. And our children get first-hand experience of how some of the major festivals of India are celebrated.

This PPCC group is like a family now. Sometimes we are haggling with the vendors for best price, at other times we are covering up for some last minute goof ups, collecting money from residents, arranging the catering, games, entertainers overall it’s an exhilarating experience.   We all are juggling this hobby along with our family and work responsibilities. What bring us together is the fun we have in the whole process. We laugh together, we fight and get upset too, we face criticism together. But nothing beats the adrenaline rush before the event is about to start and the immense satisfaction of a job well done after all the hullabaloo is over. Jhumur, Ritu, Krishna, Rajshree, Venkat, Ramesh, Riddhi, Sapna, Sushantu and Shubhomoy thanks for getting together and giving me a sense of purpose.

FRIENDS FOREVER

There are some people who are still such an important part of my life and they have been important since years now. These are the people I have bunked classes with, had samosas in the canteen, sang songs, and did crazy things in the name of combined studies. These are the people who know me more than me – because they have seen me fall, rise and grow over the years. These people are my “Friends forever”

And I told him “I miss being your friend! Can we also be friends?”

He agreed “Yes, we can and we should. We are friends first and spouses later”

I married my college sweetheart. Well, it wasn’t really all that sweet. We hated each other, fought with each other, cursed each other and finally fell in love with each other. Love was possible because all throughout the hatred, fights and curses – there was a little devil called Friendship existing somewhere deep inside which made us care for each other.

Over the years of marriage (almost 7 now) which was preceded with a long distance relationship – the friendship reduced over time. And it takes a lot to revive the old friendship – it is not impossible though.

Even though I value my husband a lot – I value the friend in him even more.

 “I love you both so much” I said and hugged them both.

These two people had just admitted their love for each other. Over the months of phone calls and late night talks – they finally accepted it. What was in future for them? Nobody knew at that point of time. But I was happy for both of them. After all, she is my sister – Preeta Bhatnagar and he is one of my best friends – Anuj Bhatnagar

Few years later, they both got happily married and now they have their two little cute sons. I so wish that they relocate to Bangalore. I will have my best friends living close to me.

While Preeta knows me as a little sister since childhood, Anuj knew me as a close friend in college. Well, what else can I ask for, when my family has my best friends?

 “I think it has been 15 years. No.. Wait, I think more than that”

“Anyways, I have stopped counting the years now. It doesn’t really matter”

Yes, we stopped counting the years because people usually got surprised when we told them that we have been friends for more than 15 years now. Not just – stay in touch friends, but real friends. There is nothing absolutely, nothing under the sun that I cannot tell her. She has been there with me through thick and thin. We have had our own share of bad times but we never stopped trusting each other.

My heart melted when she prayed for me every time I struggled in life. My BFF she is since we were 13 – Hina Tandon Kapoor. Now she is in US and I miss her so much.

“I am so used to living with you; I don’t know how we will live with our respective husbands”

And she just gave me a funny smile as though I just told her a joke. It was the year 2010, when I was preparing for my marriage. I had been living with two of my college friends since last 7 years. First 3 years in college as hostel room-mates and then next 4 years in Bangalore while working together.

She is the quietest of all and has been there for me since ever. She has seen me in my struggles and supported me endlessly. Nirmala Goswami Sachan is her name and I miss her terribly now since she is happily settled in US.