INESCAPABLE INTRUDERS

The first cries of a new born baby pronounce him/her having ‘passed’ the examination of healthy normalcy. Wow!! What an age to begin appearing for exams!! Poor little infant doesn’t even know that the series of examinations has only just begun!

And from then on, no shying away from appearing for the exams that life doles out at various stages in myriad ways!

When I was preparing for the Indian Civil Service examination, the enormity of the syllabus overwhelmed me. The prescribed syllabus was just a pointer to practically everything under the sun. That’s why there goes a common expansion to the acronym UPSC as Un-Predictable Service Commission 🙂 (it’s actual expansion is Union Public Service Commission). The syllabus is unpredictable, the questions are unpredictable and the result is the most unpredictable of all!! But, still lakhs of aspirants from all over India slog to compete for this exam each year and many don’t quit till the last attempt is over.

Unlike educational exams, the tests of life are not choices that we tend to make voluntarily. Life’s examinations are the results of permutations and combinations that we find ourselves a part of. No matter how challenging or alarming, the tests of life are elusive to none. The interesting outcome of life’s examinations is that one still proceeds on to the next stage of life irrespective of the result. So you see, unlike career examinations, success and/ or failure cannot and do not stop life from moving ahead. But yes, they do impact how life moves ahead.

Who is the Examiner?

Though it might be tempting to believe that God conducts all of life’s examinations and He is the one who would give us the certificates with the remarks ‘pass’ or ‘fail’, ‘well done’ or ‘you need to work harder’, it is not true. To give an example, a person driving on the highway sees the wide smooth road ahead and seeing no sight of man or vehicle decides to accelerate the speed beyond the limits. In no time there appears a vehicle from the opposite direction and baaaaanggg – both vehicles collide!!! The driver gets arrested for overspeeding, has to pay a hefty penalty and his driving license is suspended for a three months. To conclude that God put this driver through a tough examination is absurd.

There are many such struggles in our lives which we drag ourselves into either because of our faulty thinking and decision making or at the behest and provocation of others. Though God does not lead us into such wrestling matches, He sure is the Shepherd to steer us out into pleasant pastures if we admit our folly and choose to seek His help. (God never imposes His help on anybody)

However, there are some other examinations that God in His wisdom allows in our lives. They may be the likes of sickness, unemployment, difficult marriages, childlessness, an intolerable boss, job posting away from home, special needs children, poverty, affluence (yes, even prosperity and affluence test us) and many such ordeals over which we seem to have no say. There can be three human responses to these rough winds that blow on our faces.

  1. To curse God and lose faith in Him.
  2. To take things in our own stride
  3. To surrender to His will and seek His intervention.

When we choose to respond in the first way, i.e., blame God for our difficulties and turn away from Him, it fills our lives with bitterness and self-pity, creates inroads for addictions and sicknesses and ultimately drives us into self-destruction. Life goes on, but with emptiness.

When we take things in our own stride without blaming God but not wanting His assistance to tide over the rough patches either, we tend to lose time and efforts in trial and error strategies – going round and round weighing the options and thinking of probable correct answers and sometimes even failing to hit at the solution.

However when we rely on God and seek His intervention, He does the impossible in our lives. Yes, the impossible! Or miracles, if you would like to think that way. Test Him on this if you will and you will know for yourself.

I remember reading about a God-fearing affluent person who lost a majority of his wealth in one day. To add to his misfortune, the roof collapsed and killed all his children while they were partying at a venue. In course of time, he developed a kind of incurable skin ailment which filled his body with sores and stinking pus. Even when his wife smirked at his foolishness for holding on to his faith in God in spite of all the struggles that they have had to go through, he did not let go of God. Things continued that way for a long time, after which gradually God blessed him and restored his health, wealth and blessed him with children to fill the void in his household.

Not all events of seeking God’s intervention in life’s examinations result in such tangible successes, however. At times, struggles go upto the very last breath with alternating jostling episodes of leaning towards God and withdrawing from Him in utter frustration and helplessness. In such times, the deliverance from such continuous phases of examination can be experienced only in eternity.

If you are going through a bitter life trial which you find difficult to endure or escape from, I entreat you to put your faith in God and see the difference for yourself.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

EXAM! HOW TO DEAL WITH IT?

Every evening while on my way back from the office, I always see a cute little girl with her Dad at the bus stop. Every time, the girl will be holding a chips packet in her left hand and her Dad’s finger in her right hand. Her Dad will be holding her big schoolbag and waiting to get a taxi or bus. The girl looks happy, feeling very safe and relaxed from studies, she appears to be in her own world and talking something non-stop. And usually, her Dad’s response was “yea…yea. Yes… okay… good”, keeping her busy in her imaginative world. Meanwhile, most of the time I used to be on call with my cousin explaining her the moves of this cute girl and the beauty of her cute little fancy frock. I just love that scene. Every time our talk about that girl used to end with one wish – “Wish we could time travel to our school days & make a permanent stay there. There will be no rigorous life exams, no worries, no heart-aches only eat – study – sleep and play. What a blissful moment, we lived!” As I resonate with my present feelings looking at that schoolgirl, it reminds me of what I was thinking in my past looking at an adult. I used to think – “When shall I become a grown-up man, there will no exam pressure, absolute freedom to roam anywhere I want and enjoy life to the fullness.

One among the greatest urge of every human mind is,

“Life would be filled with comforts & the availability of Easy-go for Prosperity”.

There was a rich man having a big business empire, in his entire career he always malpractice for success. In fact, he was so shrewd and skillful in malpractice in his life that never ever any of his teachers were able to catch him red-hand. Finally, he becomes one of the most recognized successful businessmen in his city. To celebrate and showcase his luxury, one-day he invited his school friends and the school teacher for a dinner party at his home. As the party began, he started boasting about his cunning ideas to success and the final point of his boastful talk was – “There is nothing wrong to cheat and succeed in life. Since life is a competition, cheating to succeed is always welcome. As a matter of fact, ‘cheating is a skill’.” After his talk, his school teacher said, since all your school batch mates are here, let me test your intelligence. If you pass, then I will agree with your statement. Someway, the billion-dollar businessman was able to cheat and succeed again. The businessman criticized his school teacher publicly. As the feast was over, the school teacher made a personal request to the businessman asking him how did he manage to cheat everyone in the test. The businessman took the teacher into his bedroom and explained his cheating tactics. As he finished boasting on his cheating tactics, immediately the toilet door opened and his 10-year old son came-out and looked at his father with a cheeky smile. Tears dropped from the billion-dollar businessman’s eye and both the teacher and the son departed from the room.

Despite the veracity, voracity & the variety of examinations from the classroom desk to the real-life, it cannot be denied that examinations always trigger intense mental and emotional pressure (sometimes resulting in physical pain) and an immense amount of challenges in life. In order to get rid of the clutches of pressure and for the easy-go for success, we tend to take short-cuts in life. In concern to it, renowned Christian author Ravi Zacharias tweets,

The shortest route is not always the best route,

because often times it can bypass life’s most important lesson.

In examinations, short-cuts/shortest routes to success demand breaching of the ethical and moral boundaries in life. India Today research says, more than 52% of men and women between 25-50 age living in metros consider copulation with higher authorities is a shortcut to professional success and it’s okay. Well, some of our Bollywood movies (ref: Corporate, 2006) have accurately presented the consequence of the use of such strategies from all angles of life.

The Bible says,

“Wise lives among many counselors and he listens to them whereas the fool rejects counsels, his ways are right in his eyes. The wise fear the LORD and shun evil.”

Furthermore, the depth of knowledge and the timely implementation of knowledge decides who is wise. Since God understands the finitude of the human mind and the need for knowledge during the time of the test alongside our hard and honest work for success, He (The God in the Bible) has promised us –

“Ask Me and I will give Wisdom, Knowledge & Understanding. I will give you Wisdom and from My mouth flows Knowledge and Understanding.”

Featured Image source: The New Yorker Post, EICHMANN IN JERUSALEM-1

GOOD LUCK . . . FOR THIS EXAM!

Whenever my husband is really stressed he gets different versions of this dream . . .
It’s his school final exam . . . He is late . . .  And try as he might he is not able to reach on time…

Or he reaches the venue and realises that he has prepared for a different subject and exam is of a different subject…

The most hilarious one is that he has prepared himself completely to cheat in the exam but in the examination hall he cannot find the parchees (the small chits of paper used for copying). Next day morning we have a hearty laugh on the struggles he faced in his dreams. This way or that he says my struggle with exams is not getting over even decades after I have given my last exam.

There is another one . . . If everything goes well the question paper is out of syllabus.
I believe it’s the same with life. It’s an exam but the syllabus is not provided so the questions are always out of syllabus and we have to use our thoughts and experiences to ace it.

Another quote that Google gave me and I completely agree with is –
Life is the most difficult exam..
Many people fail because they try to copy others
Not realising that everyone has a different question paper..
Yes we all are giving a different exam, fighting mini battles at different fronts. Winning some and getting wounded by some. That’s how life is!

I once commented to someone that my life is pretty ordinary nothing extraordinary in it. Its like a straight path. I had this fairy tale notion that it should be like a wave with crests and troughs. Of course at that time I had been thinking only about the highs and not the lows. And life took my words literally with only a minor change. My wave began with trough rather than crest and I hit rock bottom. About two and a half years ago my husband lost his job and that taken for granted salary at the end of each month suddenly vanished. Since then it’s the biggest exam we have ever faced as a couple. During this time we have had many new experiences – struggling to keep a business afloat, looking for a job, fallout with friends, worrying about the big expenses cropping up suddenly in life. I was not prepared for this at all. I have led a rather sheltered life till now. Worrying about money was never on my agenda. Okay, we were not millionaires but there was enough to go buy. Looking at others I used to despair. Why am I facing these hardships while others are enjoying? (looking at your FB newsfeed its very easy to assume that everyone is having a gala time in their life). 

It took me some time to come out of my self-pity but then I realised that its not only me; each and every one of us is giving an exam. Only his or her question paper is different. They may not be struggling in the areas as us, but they are surely fighting the battle on a different front.

These exams / struggles / troughs do change you. I think I am a more confident person now. Gone is that scared girl who used to turn to her father and now her husband at the first sign of problem. I think I can handle things better. Even though the peak of my crest is a long long way away. I really think that at least the ascent has begun.

Wishing Good Luck to everyone for this exam…

P.S. : Since we are on the topic of exams just wanted to share that we as a family are entering that crucial year when both my children would be facing a Board exam at the end of the coming year. And all of us who are familiar with the Indian education system know how stressful it can be. So, keep my kiddos in your prayers and send your good wishes.

LIFE IS LIKE AN EXAM – THEN WHY MANY FAIL?

Let us first understand – why life is an exam?

Is it really an Exam?

Who is judging you?

Do you have any say on this?

It is true that life is challenging, but we all have different challenges to deal with. I might not be dealing with what you have, neither you will be dealing with what I have to. We all have varying hurdles to live through our daily routine.

We all tend to overlook into others lives, and make our life much more challenging by complaining about what we lack, ignoring what we already possess.

So why do we fail in the exam called life? Ever thought on the same?

There are several reasons, why we fail in life :

  1. We all are scared of failing.
  2. We listen more to others than our innermost desires.
  3. We compare ourselves with the better, assuming that we are just nothing.
  4. We just want to be a copy of others, than being different.

Being Scared of Failing 

If we try, then only we can decide, whether it is fun or not. Without even trying, assuming things to be difficult is the first step of failure. Take life as a challenge that is when you will cherish every moment of it. Wade off the fear of failing and prepare yourself to experience a new you.

Have you ever seen a baby stopping to try to walk, upon falling several times?

It is simply because, the baby is not scared to walk, even when it might fall a couple of times. Success is not an easy thing to achieve.  Growing up, most of us have lost that inquisitiveness in life.

Turning Deaf to the innermost feelings

Taking advice from the wrong is going to lead you into much more trouble. We all tend to take advice from people who do not have a single knowledge of what we do. And finally, even when our heart desires a lot, we just break away from those innermost feelings.

Don’t you think that is the worst part of being in a challenge? 

If you want to make life challenging, challenge the people around you who are stuck in monotony and show them how life can be happier with a choice that glows your heart.

Comparison- The slow poison on life

Even though we all know that we have varied things, aims, desires, dreams, passion, lifestyle everything including habits, we still tend to compare.

Yes, Comparison kills the joy of life.

One may have, a luxurious life but may not be completely happy. At the same time, a poor one may not have the luxury but has a peaceful life. It is all about how you take things. Identifying what you actually need and what makes you sufficient is important.

The moment you realise that you are different from others and you chose to be different, then it is a grand success.

We all even must have encountered several instances wherein parents compare children with other children and forget that their own child possesses something unique. In such cases, the child loses its self-confidence and even fails at many things. Little do they realise that comparing the child to another one, is killing the joy in their life.

Let them be what they want.

We all are Copycats 

We all just try to be a copy of the one near us or known to us. We never try to even change a little bit, because we assume that , something that is being called perfect among us is an epitome to be followed.

Being different is a challenge.

Life throws different challenges to all, and we all try to copy, forgetting that we all have different question papers to solve.

As I was saying, 

Life is an interesting challenge to endure. Making every moment challenging is even much more fun.  The moment we push ourselves outside the glass wall of others’ expectations, we are going to make life interesting.

At least at one point of life,  choose to take up a challenge. It might change your perspective of life.

 

 

HOPE FOR THE BEST BUT PREPARE FOR THE WORST

Life is beautiful, it feels like an adventure everyday. While all of it looks good, feels great, going in the right direction, there are times where we have to be prepared for the worst. What we plan for may or may not happen, and odds are bound to happen, putting us in situations we aren’t prepared for.  There are broadly two types of events in life, known and unknown.

Moving from high school to graduation, getting our first job, marriage, having kids, these are known events, the plan was laid and we have known these events would happen. Loosing a job, falling ill while we are on a financial set back, unwanted pregnancy, loss of loved one, breakups, we would have never known of these earlier than they could occur. 

Sudden change of plans due to unforeseen circumstances of life is a bitter reality. Everyone of us have setbacks, heart burns when such events happen. Most of us are wise to an extent that we plan for the expected, but we crumble when the unexpected happens. 

It has nothing to do with weak hearted or strong, it has to do with how we take what happens to us, how planned were we, more than plans how prepared we are.  Life has never been as they would have planned for any one who have ever lived. The reality of life is hard to accept, lot of people feel very apprehensive to even think that something wrong might happen, if we are afraid of thinking about it, how would we be prepared?

I have known a lady who is full of life, I was always puzzled at how amazing she is at handling the unexpected, she never even complains. She was an ace badminton player, in her academy everyone thought she would make it to international level some day, until she lost her left leg in an accident. A man fell in love with her, post marriage they discovered she can never have babies. An year and half after marriage she lost her husband in a plane crash. That’s life! Was she expecting all this? No… This is only one instance, there are many such instances all of us would have come across in family, friends or even in the news. Disasters happen, and often families are unaware of the future. The emotional drains of life are hard to handle. 

We will feel very stressed and fearful when such things happen. Often, it so happens that other people are busy with their own lives while we are fighting hard, our world has crashed down and everything else seems normal. It can be quite scary to think of the future. There are certain ways in which we can be prepared.

  • Be self-reliant: Soak in life’s lessons, when we raise kids we have to teach them everything. Like while we were in schooling, we have learnt so many subjects but we hardly put them to use, exposure is very important. Exposing ourselves to various skills, learning all that we can without being biased on how it is going to help us is very useful. 
  • Have a plan which has room for unforeseen: Life happens all of a sudden, leaves us with no time to react. When we plan we should always have a contingency or alternative plans, nevertheless we cannot plan for everything. 
  • Do not over prepare: While preparing is important, overdoing it is of no use. Some people continue to plan for ever and actually execute less. At times, we may feel we are not yet prepared to take the next step, it’s OK, there is a first day for everything and we would learn while we are on the job.
  • Live life as it unfolds: No amount of preparation can help some times, calm down, think through it and let life be. If it’s new, it is and the only thing we can do is to deal with it. We cannot run away or escape from it but face it.

I believe that everything in life happens for a reason, now we may not know it, but it has a definite place in the future.  Everything we go through prepares us for the next level.

“There is always a part of my mind that is preparing for the worst, and another part of my mind that believes if I prepare enough for it, the worst won’t happen.” 

― Kay Redfield Jamison

 

BY FAILING TO PREPARE YOU ARE PREPARING TO FAIL

“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail” – These are the words of Benjamin Franklin which ring true for people of all walks of life. Whether you are a sports person or an actor or a mother or a lawyer or a teacher preparation is a must for all.

Taking the time to prepare and plan is an essential part of being able to execute your aims. I’ve become more and more convinced that mindfulness and planning are keys to happiness.

It is very evident in the case of a sportsman. For him winning a game or match is not only because of the performance he gave on the field that day. But it’s actually the culmination of the preparation he did for days, months or years. He has to practice his game, prepare his body in terms of nutrition, strength and endurance to win in the actual game.

I would like to share a poem I found on the net about importance of practice and preparation in a sports person’s life.

Practice like you’ve never won,
In everything you do;
Success isn’t made overnight,
Let it be well done by you.

Perform like you’ve never lost,
Do all the best that you can;
No need for wasting time,
Show that you are the man.

Practice like you’ve never won,
Losing shall pull you down;
Exert extra effort to prevail,
Becoming a talk of the town.

Perform like you’ve never lost,
Don’t be scared to make mistake;
Learn lessons from failures
To taste the icing on the cake.

Discipline is all you need,
Days of negligence are gone;
Triumph tomorrow shall shine,
Practice like you’ve never won.

Bernard F. Asuncion

Another aspect of preparation is to be prepared to face any adversity or disaster in life. Plan ahead and don’t wait for the axe to almost fall before taking any action. Like the famous saying goes “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark”. He anticipated the approaching danger and started preparing for it. If he had started the work only after flooding had started then the whole mankind and animal kingdom would have been doomed. Preparing ahead is so important.

This kind of planning is a must in every routine work also.

  • Like it’s so much easier to face an exam in school or college if we have started studying or preparing for it many days in advance.
  • Early morning rush and routine is so much simpler and sorted if the menu of the school tiffin is already decided by the mother and preparation for the cooking is already done.
  • The office executive makes such a good impression in front of his boss if he has worked out all the facts and figures and the supporting documents for them. His preparation for the meetings goes a long way in helping him climb the corporate ladder.
  • If there is a cyclone warning in your area it makes life much easier if we are already prepared for power outages and got all the essential things stored with us.

This list is endless. Every single work we do needs some kind of planning, preparation and attention for details from our side. Otherwise it ends up being a sloppy work which no one appreciates.

Being a mother there is another kind of preparation that I have come across. Preparing someone emotionally to face the changes in their life. I think most mothers will relate to this. When the second child is about to come into this world the mother has to prepare the elder sibling emotionally to accept the new baby. Otherwise they end up considering the baby as their adversaries who are just hogging their mother’s attention and time.

Or when the child is going to join school for the first time the parents try to prepare the child for what to expect and also to be able to stay away from home for a few hours without a tearful meltdown. And I must say these preparations make the life so much easier for the toddlers their mothers and the teachers.

So in short I would just say “Fortune Favours the Prepared.” So be prepared.